Catching Up on Things I’ve Missed

I just read a wonderful Bible story that I had never read before. It is an Old Testament story that is referenced twenty-eight times in the New Testament, from Matthew all the way through to the Revelation. It is a picture of the Father’s only Son who find a Bride – a Bride who becomes part of the Father’s household. It is about prayer, worship, healing and spiritual warfare. It is about so much more.

The story is found in the book of Tobit. It has been read by Christians throughout the ages. Most Christians considered it a part of Holy Scripture for 1500 years. At the time of the Reformation, certain influential Protestant leaders decided that the Old Testament books that had originally been written in Greek rather than Hebrew should be set to one side. Not thrown out of the Bible, but clumped together at the end of the Old Testament. Calvin and Luther did not consider then canonical, but Luther’s Great Bible of 1539 and the Geneva Bible of 1560 included them, as did the King James Version.  In fact, every Protestant Bible included them into the 19th century.

Why, then, have they fallen into disuse by Protestants? Even those whose did not consider them canonical considered them “profitable to read,” as Luther put it – profitable enough that they printed and bound them together with the rest of Scripture. (Luther also considered Hebrews, James, Jude and the Revelation to be New Testament deuterocanonicals – of less value than the rest – but did not exclude them from his translation in the end.)

They originally fell into disuse in the late 18th century, so that when there was a paper shortage in the United States in the early 19th century, they were not printed in many Bibles. It is much later that the idea that they were Roman Catholic books and therefore unworthy of Protestant consideration crept in. That being said, the Anglicans have continued to use them as worthy reading and some are included the Lectionary to be read in services. But for many Protestants, there has been an assumption that the 66 books now contained in most Bibles is the way it has always been.

Despite my best intentions, I have not read all of these deuterocanonical Old Testament books. (“Deuterocanonical” means second canon, a term which could equally be applied to New Testament books that had a harder time of getting into the canon in the first place and were considered doubtful even by some Reformers, as noted above.) Despite their use in the New Testament by Jesus and the Apostles, I’ve not given them due attention.

As a result, for 47 years I missed out on the wonderful story of Tobit and Anna, Tobias and Sarah, Raguel and Edna, and Raphael. I think I may go read it again.

The New Gospel

8 Now there were in the same country voters living out in the towns, keeping watch over their wallets by night. 9 And behold, an actor of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.10 But the actor said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is inaugurated to you this day in the city of Washington a Savior, who is Barack the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a capitol wrapped in cloths and bunting, lying about everything.”
13 And suddenly there was with the actor a multitude of the Hollywood host praising Government and saying:
14 “ Glory to Government in the highest,
And on earth peace, free health care to all men (women and transgender individuals)!”

15 So it was, when the actors had gone away from them into Hollywood, that the voters said to one another, “Let us now go to Washington and see this thing that has come to pass, which the celebrities have made known to us.”

The Bible isn’t Biblical

A link from the WordPress dashboard took me to one of the many post-Christian, de-conversion blogs. I didn’t realise that’s where I was heading when I clicked on the link, but I find it interesting to understand better the loss of faith. Most of the people I deal with daily are of the never-had-faith type.

I think we all go through the dark night of the soul. Different people deal with it in different ways. Unlike well-meaning commenters on these blogs, I have no interest in Bible proof-texting them back to faith. In fact, I find most of these well-meaning attempts using an approach that has been directly rejected by the de-converting or de-converted.

I certainly haven’t seen lots of these blogs, so I don’t presume that the crisis of faith comes to each person in the same way. However, the ones I have seen seem to have a similar background. I have see ex-Catholics mostly describing their disaffection with things that’s aren’t actually Catholic dogma. However, most of the deconversion seems to be from Evangelicalism. The former evangelicals are sometimes pastors or other sorts of leaders. They are well-versed in the Scriptures.

Herein seems to lie the problem. They find internal inconsistencies – or have long been aware of what appear to be internal inconsistencies – in the Scriptures and finally admit that in their Protestant paradigm if the Bible fails everything fails. This exposes a weakness, not in Christianity, but in that Protestant paradigm.

The further a group eschews the Holy Tradition the more it has to adopt a sola scriptura approach. This means that the Word of God is exactly what the text says and the key to the Truth is in finding exactly what the text says. God specifically spoke certain words in Hebrew or Greek and we have to find out exactly which words He used.

Then He put them all together in One Big Book. Now it’s like a giant jigsaw and the work of the biblical scholar is to fit all of the pieces together so that there is a single internal consistency. That’s not to say that there is any consistency in the scholars – otherwise we wouldn’t have the vast discrepancies in commentaries, surveys, handbooks, and other reference materials that span the Protestant theological gamut.

The only problem is the the One Big Book view of the Bible isn’t biblical. The closest thing to a collective reference is Jesus’ reference to the Law and the Prophets. This does not refer to the whole Old Testament, as He makes no reference to the Writings (Ketuvim). References in different biblical sources to “the Word of God” do not somehow look ahead to 66 writings eventually recognised as canonical by Protestants, the 74 recognised by Rome, or even the 77 recognised by Orthodoxy.

Long before I was Orthodox, I realised that using verses like Proverbs 30:5-6 or Revelation 22:18-19 to refer to the unified Bible was completely non-contextual. That would somehow suppose that the Church did not have the full Truth before an agreement was reached over time about even the New Testament canon.

This does not mean that the Bible isn’t inspired by God. The Church, being led by the Holy Spirit, recognised those writings which have been specially inspired by the Holy Spirit. But this is why I don’t have a problem with Protestant Bibles. They may lack 11 writings used by Jesus and the early Church, but what they have is inspired.

As a quick aside. . . It’s not that the Protestant Bible has lacked these writings for a long time. Stories vary slightly as to when they were commonly removed – from just after the American Revolution to the 1820’s – but it seems to be universally agreed that the reason was to save printing costs. Because Protestants refer to them as the Apocrypha, put them in a separate group and sadly, as they were not read often, no one seemed to miss them. It is only post-Revolutionary homegrown American denominations and their progeny that completely rejected them.

But back to my point. . . Once you remove the One Big Book view, it doesn’t matter that there are different ways of saying things, or even times when the individual books say different things. Each book is a way of God telling us things, but God is bigger than all the writings.

The Heresy of Modern Marriage

As part of the RE curriculum, I teach about Christian views of marriage and family. Because the textbook – and the course, for that matter – is rooted in liberalism. It’s not called that, of course. It’s called modernity.

To balance out – or attempt to bump off – traditional views of marriage roles, they chuck the entire corpus of the New Testament aside in favour a non-contextual use of Galatians 3:28. Of course it is not within the purview of the syllabus to query how St Paul can intend to throw away everything he has said about the family with the use of one sentence in one of his letters in which he is not even discussing the subject.

But at the end of the day, that the best shot the “modern” view of the family has – a family with no head and no authority structure, no priorities and no defined roles. But even then, the theological ramifications are emmense. Modernist usually don’t have a lot of time for ramifications. Anything that stands in the way of fleeting selfish happiness is quickly pushed aside.

The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. The former is a lesser reality which shadows the greater reality. After all, the marriage of husband and wife is temporary, bound only by this mortal realm. The headship of Christ over the Church is eternal, transcending this realm. To deny the shadow is to deny the greater reality. It is to reject the headship of Christ. It is to reject the Church.

Just as a priest in the church is an icon of Christ, so is the headship of the husband in the marriage. Honour paid to the icon is honour paid to the reality behind the icon. To desecrate the icon is to desecrate Christ.

That’s why the husband’s headship isn’t dependent upon whether he is good enough or worthy enough.  The sacrament of the Eucharist is not valid based upon the worthiness of the priest who prays the epiclesis. Neither is the sacrament of marriage valid based upon the worthiness of the husband as icon of Christ.

In the Orthodox Church we view marriage as salvific. Heresies don’t save. To have a heretical view of marriage is to challenge salvation itself. The Orthodox Church sees marriage as martyrdom. Modernist don’t have a lot of time for martyrdom.

Someone recently told me that I would be much happier if I would stop living in the past and embrace modernity. To embrace so-called modernity is to embrace heresy, to embrace death. It is to reject Christ.

The BBC Version of the Bible

They made up their own version of the Passion, so now the BBC has decided they will re-write the Bible.

Well, not the whole Bible. They are going to dramatise what they consider to be the most important stories. According to reports in the Daily Mail, these will include Cain and Abel, Noah, Joseph’s coat of many colours, Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath. Other that those, I’m not sure what other stories the BBC considers important. It’s going to be a six-hour mini-series.

And if they can exonerate Pilate and Judas, how will they re-cast the Old Testament? It wasn’t Cain’s fault for killing Abel. It was his upbringing. And Delilah was an empowered woman – a proto-feminist. And Goliath was only upset because people made fun of his size. We need to understand the causes of bullying. And that whole war? The Philistines were only seeking a two-state solution, after all.

I only hope it isn’t a boring as the The Passion, so I can stand to watch how badly they’ve handled it.

Wisdom of the Two Jesuses (or, Adapting to the LXX)

I’m still getting used to using a Septuagint-based Old Testament.

It is one thing to deal with a different book order. It is another thing when the verses have been re-arranged. Of courser even saying “re-arranged” implies that it was one way and then changed to another. I have to remember to avoid an Masoretic-centric view.

Proverbs seems to be one book where there are quite a lot of arrangement differences. I was trying to see how Proverbs 16:18 in the Masoretic Text was translated from the Septuagint. However, clearly “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall,” is not the same as, “A man wise in his deeds is a discoverer of good things, but he who trusts in the Lord is most blessed.” Since I don’t have an concordance or electronic version of the OSB, I can’t find the verse for which I’m looking without reading the whole book.

It’s not that I’m opposed to reading Proverbs, but right now I’ve really enjoying Sirach. Speaking of which, this is an oddly named book. It contains the wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach as translated by his grandson. So really it should be called the Wisdom of Jesus, not the Wisdom of Sirach. Of course I could see where that might lead to some confusion.

Since it could be said that the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach is the wisdom of Jesus ben God, it could be called he Wisdom of the Two Jesuses. Admittedly, that would be even more confusing.

Anyhow. . . Before using the OSB to quote any Old Testament text, I will need to have my NKJV at hand (or Bible Gateway in a browser tab) so I don’t make a reference where all my faithful readers grab at Masoretic-based translation and collectively go, “Huh?”

A Real Disgrace

For the glory of a man is from the honor of his father,
And it is a disgrace for children to dishonor their mother.

Wisdom of Sirach 3:11

The truth of this verse was made evident by the elder son of Susan Pope. Mrs Pope was until recently the senior nurse at one of the most prestigious private girls schools in the country, Malvern St James. She was sacked for gross misconduct.

However, as has become increasingly common in this country, she was not sacked for anything she did or didn’t do at work. She was sacked for something that happened at home. The facts are not in dispute. Her ten-year-old son swore at her, and after giving him a warning that he would get a smack on the bottom if he did it again, he called her bluff. She was true to her word and applied the mildest discipline to his buttocks over his trousers.

Now most decent reasonable people would immediately recognise that she made a mistake. The warning was entirely out of order. He already knew that what he was doing was wrong. He had already made a conscious decision to curse his mother. This is unquestionably one-strike-and-you’re-out territory.

So all you need now is another rebellious son and a society in complete disconnect with reality. Mrs Pope has both. Her fifteen-year-old snatched his younger brother from the house and called the police. She was arrested and spent 32 hours in police custody. Not only that, her husband was also arrested and held for 32 hours and he didn’t do anything at all. That didn’t stop police questioning him for four hours. She was only questioned for 90 minutes. (I know, I know: on top of all this you are wondering why they were held for 32 hours to be questioned for so little time. That’s the way police do business in this country.)

Someone at the Crown Prosecution Service wisely decided not to charge Mrs Pope with any offence. But as I’m sure you know, Newton’s Third Law of Bureaucratic Motion requires that for every wise action there is an equally stupid reaction. Worcestershire County Council social services stepped in and put both the ten-year-old potty mouth and his eight-year-old sister on the Child Protection Register. They have been on the Register since this occurred last May. According The Daily Telegraph:

sources within the department indicated the Popes had not yet satisfied them that they had met the welfare criteria laid out when the children were placed on the register. “There are issues that still need to be sorted, it’s not simply about a child being smacked,” the source said.

In case you need a translation from the Bureaucraspeak language, the source said that the Pope children are still in danger because bureaurcrats do not believe the parents have accepted the re-education required of them. The State has decided how its children are to be raised and parents must realised that they are merely agents of the State.

So finally, you would think that a posh private school steeped in tradition would be above such things. Well, no. You would think that they would be aware of the character of their employee, but that’s not the issue. Denis Smith, the school’s bursar made the real issue plain in his letter to Mrs Pope informing her that she had been sacked:

The school’s reputation could be significantly damaged in the event that parents or potential parents were to discover that your children are on the Child Protection Register.

We do not believe that the school needs to accept this very real risk to its reputation, which has arisen directly as a result of your conduct.

That’s a lot of words when just two were required: pride and money. But if he wanted to be verbose, he should have just been honest and written something like: “You innocence is irrelevant. We don’t care if social services are completely off their rocker. It is all about appearances and the wrong appearance could cost us pride and money. We care much more about our pride and our money than we could ever possibly care about you, our devalued employee.”

The only positive outcome from this would be for the school’s reputation to be significantly damaged as a result of their conduct. If the values demonstrated by Malvern St James in sacking Susan Pope exemplify what parents want for their children, when they ship them off to be raised by this boarding school, then they should go ahead. Otherwise, they might pause to consider first whether they want their child to be inculcated with the opposite of the Golden Rule. They might further pause to consider whether the way the school treats its employees will be reflected in the way it treats its pupils. Before making a £25,000 per year gamble with the life of a child, perhaps that’s much more worthy of consideration than whether the school nurse smacked her sons bum when he swore at her.

After all, their child may come home thinking that it is okay to destroy the parents’ career if they don’t like being disciplined. Seems like there’s a lot at stake here. I hope the bursar at Malvern St James finds out they gambled the wrong way.