Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, July 19, 2008

God With Us, Allegory and Matthew

Our Lesson Study Guide for this week begins with something very similar to that immortal line from Blazing Saddles: We don’t need not stinking Higher Criticism. You don’t believe…well ok here is what they said:

As Adventists, we work from the starting point that the Bible is the Word of God and that what it says about Jesus is the truth, period. We do not have the time to waste on all the nonsensical high-critical speculations about whether Jesus really said and did the things the Bible says that He said and did. As Adventists we believe those things because they are written in God's Word.

After all, if we cannot believe the Bible, what can we believe?

I sincerely hope that quote raises the hackles of most educated and most educators in the SDA church. Such circular reasoning is poor logic, The Bible does not claim to be the Word of God, it could not it was put together from various books written and various times compiled by human beings. Even if it did, say Hosea said somewhere in the book that it was the word of God that would not make the second half of Isaiah the word of God, or any other book. In fact the second half of Isaiah towards the end says we will go out from Sabbath To Sabbath, new Moon to new Moon and look at the corpses.

"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." (Isa 66:24 NIV)

Maybe the lesson only means it is the Word of God where it records things about Jesus? In which case the book of Matthew gives an account that is contrary to the account of the book of Luke. Luke says Jesus’ family left for Nazareth after the ritual in Jerusalem (Luke 2:39) this does not allow much wiggle room to have them go to Egypt after the Magi’s visit. The NIV study Bible notes says that the Magi probably arrived months after the Birth, but as per Luke the family would no longer be in Bethlehem. Luke has nothing about Jesus’ family going to Egypt in fact it says they went to Nazareth from Jerusalem. Luke has nothing of threatened children, the book uses none of the out of context verses which the book of Matthew does.

“where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." …"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Matt 2:15,18 NIV)

Here is where higher criticism comes in, what is the author trying to say and what are the techniques he uses to get his message across. We see that in the book of Matthew, at least in the first several chapters, an intentional literary device employed. The book tries to recapitulate the events of ancient Israel in the life of Jesus Christ. But there also seems to be a recurring theme if we look a little deeper at the verses that the author of Matthew uses. In the following verses the section used in Matthew are highlighted in bold.

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NIV)

The book of Matthew’s use of this verse is often only considered to be a prophecy of Christ. Even though there is no place other then Matthew that calls Jesus Immanuel. However it is not to the name Immanuel that Matthew wants to draw attention, it is to the idea of what the name means, “God with us”. In fact it was the idea of “God with us” that Isaiah had presented to the Israelites hundreds of years before. In our ardor to insist upon Immanuel as a Messianic Prophecy we often ignore the repetition Isaiah uses of the terms with the meaning of “God with us”. Besides the reference in Isaiah 7:14 he precedes to use it two more times:

And sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!" Isaiah 8:8

Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10 NIV)

God is with us is Isaiah’s words of comfort to a people about to suffer a major defeat by their enemies. And even when the enemies appear to be winning God notes that even the purposes of the enemy will not stand because God is with his people. So like the sign to Ahaz, the child born is a reminder that “God is with us”, though bad may come, God will not abandon his people, He does not leave them alone. In the echoes of Immanuel we see that though the people may have failed in their covenant with God, God has not nor will He fail. For we see an inherent promise of hope in Isaiah.

In the book of Matthew the author has taken this hope, this certainty of God with us and applied it to the person of Jesus Christ. Not because Jesus was to literally be named Immanuel and not even because of a virgin birth but because Jesus Christ was now seen as truly “God with us”. Remember the author is writing after all the events in Christ’s life had happened. He is going back in time to state his case as to why this Jesus is the Messiah. In some ways the book of Matthew is very much like the book of John. When they both begin to tell about the person of Jesus they both tell us that it is God with us, Matthew by means of Immanuel and John by means of the Logos, the Word become flesh.

After the proclamation of the good news that God is with us Matthew moves on to the recapitulation of the Messiah with Israel or some say Moses.

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:1-4 NIV)

Herod’s death decree against baby boys reminds us of the death decree Egypt inflicted upon the children of Israel in slavery "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live." ((Exodus 1:16). NIV)

Like the miraculous deliverance of Moses, Jesus is delivered from Herod’s evil also. Matthew then quotes Jeremiah 31:15-17 to show the sorrow of the people under Herod’s decree.

“ Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. 14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty," declares the LORD. 15 This is what the LORD says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more." 16 This is what the LORD says: "Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded," declares the LORD. "They will return from the land of the enemy. 17 So there is hope for your future," declares the LORD. "Your children will return to their own land. (NIV)

The verses in Jeremiah are referring to the exile of Israel and once again while the people must suffer the exile, God has promised relief, they are not abandoned, they can say, “God is with us”. While the verse in Jeremiah has nothing to do with Egypt or Herod’s decree Matthew has changed its setting to reflect the story he is telling. The story being told may has a much deeper meaning than a recitation of history. All the verses he has used reflect in their original context the healing and deliverance God offers. Matthew is a book that presents us with this Messiah, the anointed one who delivers his people from sin and its consequences.

The book of Matthew then moves a step farther then we today can comprehend. …and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene.”. (Matthew 2:23 NIV)

Since there is no Old Testament reference like this it may be that the author was using an expression of scorn used against the Messiah. Such as that expressed by Nathanael:

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip. (John 1:46 NIV)

Conceptually there may be some places which could offer the author the incentive to make the statement. Certainly the ancient history of Israel is filled with Israel’s scorn of the things of God.

But Matthew’s failure to reference something in the Old Testament while stating it was something said through the prophets is perhaps the key to unfolding Matthew’s intent in the second chapter of Matthew. The history might not be accurate, but the concepts are what the author found most important. The Messiah has come, God with us, the deliverer miraculously inserting Himself into mankind’s world. The precious pure gold of God presented to a world that would kill its very savior. So in the book of Matthew the author tells us of the myrrh given to child, an aromatic resin used for the preparation of a corpse for burial. The gift of incense, the sweet fragrance that for centuries was used in the worship of God, even the gifts of the Magi have deeper meanings.

Matthew 2 is not the simplistic story I was indoctrinated to believe. It is a piece of in depth literature with more allegorical substance then history. But then isn’t that the way of so much of the Bible. Literature, poetry, Chiastic Structure, and analogy all and more find themselves used within the Bible. Human creativity and God given inspiration can create amazing things. Yet we can in our excitement of discovery often trample all over what was written in our haste to explain what our tradition has taught us; leaving us to ignore the deeper thoughts and explaining contradictions by saying; “well those things were not important to that author.”

2 comments:

ElderChild said...

"Let There Be Light"

"In The Beginning" The Creator(Our Father) said,
"Let There Be Light, and There Was Light"

"LIGHT Begets Light!"
"The Beginning of The Creation of GOD!"

And the revelation that The Messiah received of
The Creator and gave unto the apostle John bore
witness to The Truth that The Messiah, was
"The Beginning of the Creation of GOD(Our
Father, Creator of ALL)"! (Rev 1:1, 3:14)

And The Messiah bore witness to His Brethren
when He testified, "My GOD is your GOD and My
Father(Creator) is your Father(Creator)."(Jn 20:17)

The Messiah testified "I have sent My angel to
you with this testimony for the assemblies. I am
the root and the offspring of David. I am the bright,
Morning Star(Light)"! (Rev 22:16) ) Peter testified
"We have the more sure word of prophecy; and
you do well to take heed, as to a lamp shining in a
dark place, until the day dawns, and The Morning
Star(Light) arises in your hearts."(2Pt 1:19) "But
you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, HIS own special people, that you
may proclaim the praises of HIM who called you
out of darkness into His marvelous Light."(1Pt2:9)

And the evening(darkness) and The Morning
(Light) was the First Day." (Gen 1:5)

"Let There Be Light"!

"The Beginning of The Creation of GOD"!

It is very important to both know and experience
The Messiah as He Is, Was and always Will Be,
and also to know the "glory He had with Our
Father" before He was born in "the likeness of
sinful flesh". (John 17:5, Rom 8:3) For what The
Messiah Was and Is, Is that which He will always
Will Be."The Only Begotten Son" of "Our Father"!

First, let me simply state that I do not believe the
"catholic" and "christian" theo'ry'logical doctrines
concerning "The Only True GOD, Father ALL". For
they "image"ine a three-headed "god" they call
their "trinity", or they declare their "christ" to be
their "god and father", or they believe that The
Messiah was but an exalted messenger(angel)
or prophet.

John The Baptist testified, "And I saw, and bare
record that The Messiah is the Son of GOD(Our
Father)."(John 1:34) Peter testified, "You are The
Messiah, The Son of The Living GOD(Father of
ALL)"!(Matt 16:16) And the Ethiopian eunuch
testified, "I believe that The Messiah is The Son
of GOD(Our Father)". (Acts 8:37) "Seeing then
that we have a great high priest, that is passed
into the Heavens, The Messiah, The Son of
GOD(Our Father), let us hold fast our profession."
(Heb 4:14) "These things are written so that you
might believe that The Messiah is The Son of GOD
(Our Father)". (John 20:31) The Messiah testified
that He was "The Son of GOD", and that His GOD
was "The Only True GOD(Father of ALL)".
(John 10:36,17:3)

And The Messiah also testified that He was the
"Son of man" and "The Light of the world".
(Matt 26:64, John 8:12)

It is needful to believe that The Messiah Was, Is
and always Will Be "The Son of The Living GOD",
and that there is but "One GOD, HE WHO is
Father of ALL". (Mat 16:16, Eph 4:6) The Messiah
bore witness to His Brethren when He testified
after being "raised from among the dead", "My GOD
is your GOD and My Father(Creator) is your Father
(Creator)" (John 20:17)

Is The Messiah's GOD and Father your GOD
and Father?

Who are The Brethren of The Messiah?

"Let There Be Light"

Once again, It is very important to both know and
experience The Messiah as He Was, Is and always
Will Be. The Messiah simply testified in John 17:5
"And now O Father, glorify Me with YOUR own self
with the glory that I had with YOU before the world
began".

Prior to that testimony The Messiah had testified,
"Yet a little while is The Light with you. Walk while
you have The Light, lest darkness comes upon
you: for he that walks in darkness does not know
where he goes. While you have Light, believe in
The Light, that you may be the children of Light."
(John 12:35-36)

And the apostle John testified: "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with GOD, and
The Word was GOD. (John did not testify that
The Word is GOD)The same was in the beginning
with GOD. All things were made by Him, and
without Him was not any thing made that was
made. In Him was Life; and The Life was The
Light of men. And The Light shined in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not. There
was a man sent from GOD, whose name was
John. The same came for a witness, to bear
witness of The Light, that all men through Him
might believe. He(John the baptist) was not that
Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
That was the True Light, which enlightens every
man that comes into the world. He(The Messiah)
was in the world, and the world was made by
Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto
His own, and His own received Him not. But as
many as received Him, to them He gave power
to become the sons of GOD, even to them that
believe on His name: Which were born, not of
blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will
of man, but of "The Only True GOD, Father of
ALL"." (John 1:1-13)

It is needful to realize that The Messiah testified
of "The Only True GOD" in John 17:3, and so it is
that The GOD and Father of The Messiah IS,
WAS and always WILL BE "The Only True GOD".

"The Only True GOD" is "Father of ALL".

And "The Father of ALL" is "Our Father", HE WHO
IS "The Only True GOD" and Father of The Messiah
and His Brethren.

And the apostle John testified in John 3:17-21:
"For Our Father sent not his Son into the world
to condemn the world; but that the world through
Him might be saved. He that believes on Him is
not condemned: but he that believes not is
condemned already, because he has not believed
in the name of the only begotten Son of GOD(Our
Father). And this is the condemnation, that Light is
come into the world, and men loved darkness
rather than Light, because their deeds were evil.
For every one that does evil hates The Light,
neither comes to The Light, lest his deeds should
be reproved. But he that does Truth comes to The
Light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that
they are wrought in GOD(Our Father)."

In John 12:34 the people asked, "Who is this Son
of man? Then in John 12:35-36, "The Messiah said
unto them, yet a little while is The Light with you.
Walk while you have The Light, lest darkness come
upon you: for he that walks in darkness does not
know where he goes. While you have Light, believe
in The Light, that you may be the children of Light.
The Messiah spoke these things, and departed,
and hid Himself from them."

Simply, "In The Beginning" The Only True GOD
spoke The Word, "Let There Be Light", "And there
was Light"! "And there was evening(darkness) and
there was morning (Light), The First Day". (Gen 1:5)
Certainly such "Light" was not "natural" light, for
"natural" light, the sun, moon, and stars were not
created until the "fourth day". (Gen 1:14-19)

"In the beginning", "The First Day", The Father of
All created "The Light", without which Creation and
Life, as we now know and experience it, could not
have been.

The First Day, "The Light", The Messiah, "The
beginning of the Creation of GOD(HE WHO is
The Only True GOD and Father of ALL)"!
(Gen 1:3, Rev 3:14, John 17:3, Eph 4:6)

And "The Only True GOD" created all "things" by,
through, and for "The Light", The Messiah, "The
Son of The Living GOD" and "Son of man".
(Col 1:15, Eph 3:9, Mat 16:16, Mat 12:32)

LIGHT begets Light!

And "The True Light which enlightens every man
coming into the world", was born as a child
destined to be The Messiah. (John 1:9, Mat 1:21)

The Messiah, "The Light of the world".
(John 8:12, 9:5)

The Messiah, "The firstborn of every creature
(all creation)". (Col 1:15)

The Messiah, "Begotten of Our Father",
"The firstborn among many Brethren".
(Heb 1:5) (Ps 2:7) (Rom 8:29)

The Messiah, "A servant of The Only True GOD
(Father of ALL)". (Isa 42:1-7)

The Messiah, "The Lamb of GOD".
(John 1:29,36)

The Messiah, "The firstborn from among the dead".
(Col 1:18)

Once again: "In The Beginning" Our Father, "The
Only True GOD" spoke: "Let there be Light, and
there was Light"! The Messiah, "The Beginning of
the Creation of GOD", "the firstborn of every
creature(all creation)". (Gen 1:3, John 17:3,
Rev 3:14, Col 1:15)

Thanks Be To "Our Father"!

The Messiah, The Creation of "The Only True
GOD, Father of ALL"! (Rev 3:14)

The Messiah, "made so much better than the
angels"! (Heb 1:4)

The Messiah, "The Light of the world"!
(John 8:12, 9:5)

"The Lamb of GOD", "The Light of The New
Heavenly Jerusalem"! (Rev 21:22-23)

Paul experienced "The Light " on the road to
Damascus. "And it came to pass, that, as I
made my journey, and came near unto
Damascus about noontime, suddenly a great
Light from Heaven shone round about me.
And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice
saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why do you
persecute Me? And I answered, "Who are
You, Master"? And He said unto me, I am
Yehowshuwa'(Yeshua, Jeshua) of Nazareth,
Whom you persecute. And they that were
with me saw The Light, and were afraid; but
they did not hear the voice of Him that spoke
to me. And I said, "What shall I do, Master"?
And He said unto me, arise and go into
Damascus, and there you shall be told all
things which are appointed for you to do.
And when I could not see for the glory of
that Light, I was led by the hand into
Damascus." (Acts 22:6-11)

Paul also testified, "At midday I saw in the
way a Light from Heaven, ABOVE THE
BRIGHTNESS OF THE SUN, shining round
about me and those who journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I
heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying
in the HEBREW tongue, Saul, Saul, why do
you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick
against the pricks." (The Messiah could not
have told Paul, "I am jesus" for He spoke in
the "HEBREW tongue") (Acts 26:13-14)

Paul saw "The Light" that was The Messiah
and he was blinded(naturally, not Spiritually)
for a time. Now when The Messiah was in
the "likeness of sinful flesh", born as "the
Son of man", He could only reflect "The
Light", liken unto the moon which but reflects
the light of the natural sun.

"Let There Be Light"

The Messiah, "The Light of the world"!

And consider the natural light provided by the
sun, which was Created on the fourth day.
Does not the natural light of the sun reveal
outwardly, all the earthly, natural things?
Consider what happens when that which you
thought was clean is exposed to the light of
the sun? Is not the least outward particle of
uncleanness readily seen in the light of the
sun? And so it is with "The Light" that is The
Messiah. For His Life, "The Life", reveals
and exposes all the uncleanness in "our"
life, the life that is of "our" own creation,
which is the "I(ego, id)" in all of us, the
product of "our" own vain "imag"inations!
So it needs be that "The Light" penetrates
deeply, even into the innermost recesses
of the heart, "rightly dividing the soul and
spirit", exposing all the darkness that the
"I" in all of us did not want to "see"!

Yet for such a cleansing to begin one must
"experience The Messiah(The Light) and
The Power that raised Him from among the
dead"!(Php 3:10) Oh, there are many who
know of a "messiah", yet who has
experienced "The Light"? For "The Light"
was "The Beginning of Creation" both the
old, which was natural and earthly and The
New, which is of The Spirit and Heavenly.
Those who "love this world and it's things"
yet desire that which "decayed, waxed
old and vanished away" (Heb 8:13) They
are of those "whose 'god' is their belly,
and whose glory is in their shame, for
they mind earthly things". (Phlp 3:19)

Sadly, those who "love this world and it's
things" yet love darkness more than The
Light and they will abide in the darkness
they loved forever ;-( (1Jn2:15,Jn3:19-20)

Sadder yet, systems of religion that are of
this world, such as "catholicism", "christianity",
"judaism", "islam", etc., have so perverted
The Testimonies, that today, as in the two
thousand or so, years gone by, "The Way
of Truth is evil spoken of"! All because of
the theo'ry'logical, heretical doctrines that
are of men! And especially those
theo'ry'logical doctrines which seek to
define "The Only True GOD, Father of All".
(2Peter 2:1-2)

All such doctrines are but the product of
mankind's "imag"ination and mankind's
"imag"ination is destroying and perverting
Creation(land, air, water, creatures, Light,
Truth, Love, Peace, Joy, Hope, .etc.)

Yes, sadly ;-( Creation is being destroyed
by self-willed men who could care less
about that which is of The Truth(What Is,
Was, and always Will Be), and care even
less about those things which they can
not comprehend apart from their
"natural" senses and mental processes ;-(

And The Truth testifies, The Creator "will
destroy those who destroy the earth(HIS
Creation)"(Rev 11:18).

Sadly, in this wicked world, those who
seek profit will naturally overcome those
who do not ;-(

Yet, There Is Hope!

For The Life is of The Spirit!

And Miracles do happen!

And Faith rejoices against profit(greed)
and theo'ry'logy(logic)!

Hope is there would be those who experience
The Miracle that is receiving "a love of The
Truth" for they will "see" "The Light".
(2Thes 2:10, John 8:12, 9:5)

And they will receive peace, in spite of the
dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world, for
they will clearly "see" that "The WHOLE
world is under the control of the evil one".
(1John 5:19) And they will clearly "see"
things as they are and not as "imag"inative,
world-loving humans would have others
believe them to be, for they will "see" The
Light that is The Messiah....... francisco

Bulworth said...

Were the Lessons always like this? I can't believe (OK, I guess I can) the Lesson would include that quote you referenced. But I clicked the link, and yes it did. Terrible.