Couple of thoughts I had after last class session, which I found challenging and exciting:

1.  We talked about the appeal of servant atonement Christology in the Church in spite of limited references in the NT, and concluded that its connection with sacrifice might be the key.  I’m wondering if for Lutherans it may also be rooted in our emphasis on justification.  While dikaiow is a juridical term and by itself has no sacrificial implications, Paul in a key verse we read every Reformation Sunday (Romans 3:25) connects it with hilasthrion,  whose precise meaning is disputed, but which the LXX uses in Lev. 16: 13-16, to translate “mercy seat” of the Ark on which the blood of the bull was sprinkled on the day of atonement.  So in the Romans verse justification hinges on the gift by God’s grace, through the setting-free which is in Christ, whom God displays or offers (protithhmi) as a place(?) or means of atonement.  An easy homiletic jump from that ambiguity, which is difficult to preach,  to a courtroom drama in which God the Judge, who would otherwise pronounce a death sentence upon us, instead places it upon our public defender (what, you think we can afford a lawyer?)  who willinglly bears the sentence for us (once you make that jump, the domino link is Is. 53:5, although as Mark mentioned, Paul never goes there or uses pais) so that we may be declared not guilty and set free.

 2.  We touched on the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) in terms of verse 16, the rebuilding (restoration) of Israel.  But it also, I believe, contributed to some of the apparently anti-Jewish rhetoric we noted in Stephen’s sermon (7:51-53), other places in Acts (13:46-50; 28:25-28) and other NT passages.  The major decision of the Council was to declare that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised (and hence come under the Jewish law) in  order to be received as Christians (“to be saved” vs 1).   The major consequence of that decision: Chritianity could no longer remain as a group within Judaism, for Jewish identity is inseparably tied to circumcision (letter from a rabbi in this week’s Time magazine makes the same point about Jews who are currently questioning the practice for other reasons).   Jews who had become Christians would now need to make a decision about whether to continue in their new found faith in Jesus as Messiah; those who did so risked expulsion from their familiar synagogues (John 9:22).  One can only imagine the pain and anger that ensued as families and communities were divided.  It’s against that background of family struggle (Norm Beck, Mature Christianity  uses the model of young people trying to establish their own identity over against the established traditions of their parents) that we can best understand this “anti-Jewish” rhetoric and so avoid the hermeneutical error so prevalent throughout church history where preachers, writers and theologians (including Martin Luther – see my uncategorized blog “Beyond Trypho”) directly applied the rhetoric to Judaism of their own day.


Published in: on November 26, 2007 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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