The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for June, 2007

Check out my new blog site

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 26, 2007

I have spent quite a bit of time cruising the internet for online Catholic books and have, in the course of that search, come across several hundred works.  My plan is to establish on this site a list of those books grouped under various headings.  Currently, I have a few books up under two headings: 1. Bible Commentaries, Studies, Related issues; 2. Church Fathers and Ancient Christian Writers.

Other headings I have planned are the following: 1. Theology (including Apologetics; Church and Papal Documents); 2. Philosophy; 3. Church History; 4. Spirituality; 5. Lives of Saints and Holy People; 6. Catholic literature; 7. Audio Books.  If anyone knows of any online books or writings that fall under one of these headings, please leave a link to the site in my combox.

If anyone would like to contribute a review of a book they have read (not necessarily one linked on this site or even online) please post it in the combox and I will see that it gets posted on the main site (if appropriate).

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Posted by Dim Bulb on June 24, 2007

I’ve added three new topics to the link field found on the right side of this page. One topic is entitled ONLINE BOOKS (Theological) and links to many notable works, including Newman’s ESSAY ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF DOCTRINE; Tixeront’s HISTORY OF DOGMA (volume 1 only); Coppen’s A SYSTEMATIC STUDY OF THE CATHOLIC RELIGION; Adam’s THE CHRIST OF FAITH and, also, his THE SPIRIT OF CATHOLICISM; and one of the great works of the 19th century, Johann Adam Mohler’s SYMBOLISM: AN EXPOSITION OF THE DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS. Currently, there are 68 books listed, enjoy.

Another topic I’ve added is FATHERS OF THE CHURCH. Currently there are 34 volumes linked to. These works were put out by the Catholic University of America but are not part of their excellent ANCIENT CHRISTIAN WRITERS series. That series was geared towards a scholarly audience whereas the volumes I link to belong to a series entitled THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH A NEW TRANSLATION. This series was aimed at putting the average Joe into contact with our fathers in the faith; do check them out. Eventually, I hope to start a website which will contain brief quotes from the Fathers, along with some brief notes and thoughts of my own.

The third topic is HISTORY ONLINE.

Please note you must scroll down to find these topics (the links under the heading CATEGORIES will not take you too them). Also, as far as I can tell, most of the works are still under copyright or, at the very least, the online texts are copyrighted even if the works themselves are in the public domain.

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The Guardian of Stupidity

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 23, 2007

The Guardian, a British publication which likes to pretend it’s a newspaper,  recently published and article about the alleged, impending conversion, of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Catholicism.  Its not surprising that it took the opportunity to engage in some snotty comments.  I just love it when a reporter tries to use the malignant growth in his/her head as if it were brains.

There are many questions I’d like to ask him. Like, what happened to limbo? It was just abolished. Were people who believed in it for centuries because the church told them simply wrong?

I’m sure this fellow (or fellette) still has some brain cells willing to work to overcome the malignant growth of his (or her)liberal pseudo-thinking, therefore I will try to explain why this question is so stupid.

The recent document issued by the International Theological Committee on limb has this to say in its opening statement: This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. IT REMAINS THEREFORE A POSSIBLE THEOLOGICAL HYPOTHESIS. (The Hope of Salvation For Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized)

What happened to limbo is simply this: It was, and still remains, nothing more than a theological hypothesis.  To speak about its being abolished is therefore false.  But since falsehood is the type of “facts” the media often deals in, this person’s ignorance is not surprising. This member of the sucular media would do well to remember the type of “facts” his (or her) profession deals in and give Mister the Blair the benefit of the doubt-i.e., that he is fully informed on the matter in spite of the kerygma of the press.

And now that it’s all right to eat meat on Fridays, are the people who did so before the ban was lifted still in purgatory?

Many liberal European countries have loosened their drug laws in recent years, legalizing many things once forbidden, should it now release those convicted under the old laws?  If the US were suddenly to lift the tax on liqour should it then release all those convicted of bootlegging?  Being a politician who presumably has some concept of law and order, I suspect Mister Blair’s response would be no.   Perhaps this question tells us more about the  author of the column than it does of Mister Blair, or Church discipline.

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St Thomas More

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 22, 2007

Today is the feast day of  Thomas More and John Fisher, saints and martyrs.  More is, without a doubt, one of my favorite saints.  Here are some online books by and about him.  There is also a link to the St John Fisher website.
Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation by St Thomas More  (written while he awaited his fate in the Tower of London.  This work deserves to be much better known.  The text offered here updated the archaic spelling and syntax of More’s day)

luminarium (a great site with many of St Thomas’ works available)
Sir Thomas More: (The Blessed Thomas More) by Henri Bremond.

Utopia by Sir Thomas More

The Life of Sir Thomas More by William Roper (Roper was More’s son-in-law)

The Life and Letters of St Thomas More by Agnes M. Stewart

The Wisdom and Wit of Thomas More (extracts from his writings)

Memoirs of Sir Thomas More by Arthur Cayley

St John Fisher website

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Holiness is Necessary for Future Blessedness

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 21, 2007

Here is the very first of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s famous Parochial and Plain Sermons.
“Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14)

In this text it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit to convey a chief truth of religion in a few words. It is this circumstance which makes it especially impressive; for the truth itself is declared in one form or another in every part of Scripture. It is told us again and again, that to make sinful creatures holy was the great end which our Lord had in view in taking upon him our nature, and thus none but the holy will be accepted for his sake at the last day. The whole history of redemption, the covenant of mercy in all its parts and provisions, attests the necessity of holiness in order fro salvation, as indeed even our natural conscience bears witness also. but in the text what is elsewhere implied in history, and enjoined by precept, is stated doctrinally, as a momentous and necessary fact, the result of some awful irreversible law in the nature of things, and the inscrutable determination of the divine will.

Now some may ask, “Why is it that holiness is a necessary qualification for our being received into heaven? Why is it that the Bible enjoins on us so strictly to love, fear and obey God, to be just, honest, meek, pure in heart, forgiving, heavenly-minded, self-denying, humble, and resigned? Man is confessedly weak and corrupt; why then is he enjoined to be so religious, so unearthly? Why is he required (in the strong language of Scripture) to become “a new creature”? Since he is by nature what he is, would it not be an act of greater mercy in God to save him altogether without this holiness, which it is so difficult, yet (as it appears) so necessary for him to possess?

Now we have no right to ask this question. Surely it is quite enough for a sinner to know, that a way has been opened through God’s grace for his salvation, without being informed why that way, and not another way, was chosen by the divine wisdom. Eternal life is “the gift of God.” Undoubtably he may prescribe the terms on which he will give it; and if he has determined holiness to be the way of life, it is enough; it is not for us to inquire why he has so determined it.

Yet the question may be asked reverently, and with a view to enlarge our insight into our own condition and prospects; and in that case the attempt to answer it will be profitable, if it be made soberly. I proceed, therefore, to state one of the reasons, assigned in Scripture, why present holiness is necessary, as the text declares to us, for future happiness.

To be holy, is, in our Church’s words, to have “the true circumcision of the Spirit;” that is, to be separate from sin, to hate the works of the world, the flesh, and the Devil; to take pleasure in keeping God’s commandments; to do things as he would have us do them; to live habitually as if in sight of the world to come, as if we had broken the ties of this life, and were dead already. Why cannot we be saved without possessing such a frame and temper of mind?

I answer as follows: That, supposing even a man of unholy life were suffered to enter heaven, he would not be happy their; so that it would be no mercy to permit him to enter.

We are apt to deceive ourselves, and to consider heaven a place like this earth; I mean, a place where everyone may chose and take his own pleasures. We see that in this world, active men have their own enjoyments, and domestic men have theirs; men of literature, of science; of political talent, have their respective pursuits and pleasures. Hence we are led to act as if it will be the same in another world. The only difference we put between this world and the next, is that here, (as we know well,) men are not always sure, but there, we suppose they will always be sure of obtaining what they seek after. And accordingly we conclude, that any man, whatever his habits, tastes, or manner of life, if once admitted into heaven, would be happy there. Not that we altogether deny, that some preparation is necessary for the next world; but we do not estimate its real extent and importance. We think that we can reconcile ourselves to God when we will; as if nothing were required in the case of men in general, but some temporary attention, more than ordinary, to our religious duties,- some strictness, during our last sickness, or in our service to the Church, -as men of business arrange their letters and papers on taking a journey or balancing an account. But an opinion like this, though commonly acted on, is refuted as soon as it is put into words. For heaven, it is plain from Scirpture, is not a place where many different and discordant pursuits can be carried on at once, as is the case in this world. Here every man can do his own pleasure, but there he must do God’s pleasure. It would be presumption to attempt to determine the employments of that eternal life which good men are to pass in God’s presence, or to deny that state which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, may comprise an infinite variety of pursuits and occupations. Still so far as we are distinctly told, that future will be spent in God’s presence, in a sense that does not apply to our present life; so that it may be best described as an endless and uninterrupted worship of the Eternal Father, Son, and Spirit. “They serve him day and night in his temple, and he that sitteth upon the throne shall dwell among them…the lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of water.” Again, “The city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it.” These passages from St John are sufficient to remind us of many others.

Heaven then is not like this world; I will say what it is much more like,-a church. For in a place of public worship no language of this world is heard; there are no schemes brought forward for temporal objects, great or small; no information how to strengthen our wordly interests, extend our influence or establish our credit. These thing indeed might be right in their way, so that we do not set our hearts upon them; still (I repeat), it is certain that we hear nothing of them in a church. Here we hear solely and entirely of God. We praise him, worship him, sing to him, thank him, confess to him, give ourselves up to him, and ask his blessing. And therefore a church is like heaven; because in both one and the other, there is one single sovereign subject-religion-brought before us.

Supposing then, instead of it being said that no irreligious man could serve and attend on God in heaven ( or see him, as the text expresses it), we were told that no irreligious man could worship, or spiritually see him in church; should we not at once perceive the meaning of the doctrine? viz. that, were a man to come hither, who had suffered its mind to grow up in its own way, as nature or chance determined, without any deliberate habitual effort after truth and purity, he would find no real pleasure here, but would soon get weary of the place; because, in this house of God, he would hear only of that one subject which he cared little or nothing about, and nothing at all of those things which excited his hopes and fears, his sympathies and energies. If then a man without religion, (supposing it possible) were admitted into heaven, doubtless he would sustain a great disappointment. Before, indeed, he fancied that he could be happy there; but when he arrived there, he would find no discourse but that which he had shunned on earth, no pursuits but those that he disliked or despised, nothing which bound him to ought else in the universe, and made him feel at home, nothing which he could enter into and rest upon. He would perceive himself to be an isolated being, cut away by supreme power from those objects which were entwined around his heart. Nya, he would be in the presence of that supreme power, whom he could never on earth bring himself steadily to think upon, and whom now he regarded only as a destroyer of all that was precious and dear to him. Ah! He could not bear the face of the Living God; the holy God would be no object of joy to him. “Let us alone! What have we to do with thee?” is the soul thought and desire of unclean souls, even while they acknowledge his majesty. None but the holy can look upon the Holy One; without holiness no man can endure to see the Lord

When, then, we think to take part in the joys of heaven without holiness, we are as inconsiderate as if we supposed we could take an interest in the worship of Christians here below without possessing it in our measure. A careless, a sensual, an unbelieving mind destitute of the love and fear of God, with narrow views and earthly aims, a low standard of duty, and a benighted conscience, a mind contented with itself, and unresigned to God’s will, would feel as little pleasure, at the last day, at the words, “Enter into the joy of thy Lord,” as it does now at the words, “Let us pray.” Nay, much less, because, while we are within church, we may turn our thoughts to other subjects, and contrive to forget that God is looking on us; but that will not be possible in heaven.
We see, then, that holiness, or inward separation from the world, is necessary to our admission into heaven, because heaven is not heaven, is not a place of happiness except to the holy. There are bodily indispositions which affect the taste, so that the sweetest flavors become ungrateful to the palate; and indispositions which impair the sight, tinting the fair face of nature with some sickly hue. In like manner, there is a moral malady which disorders the inward sight and taste; and no man laboring under it is in a position to enjoy what Scripture calls “the fullness of joy in God’s presence, and pleasures at his right hand fr evermore.”
Nay, I will venture to say more than this;-it is fearful, but it is right to say it;-that if we wished to imagine a punishment for an unholy, reprobate soul, we perhaps could not fancy a greater than to summon it to heaven, Heaven would be hell to an irreligious man. We know how unhappy we are apt to feel at the present, when alone in the midst of strangers, or of men of different tastes and habits from ourselves. How miserable, for example, would it be to ave to live in a foreign land, among people whose faces we never saw before, and whose language we could not learn. And this is but the faint illustration of the loneliness of a man of earthly dispositions and tastes, thrust into the society of saints and angels. How forlorn would he wander through the courts of heaven! He would find no one like himself; he would see in every direction the marks of God’s holiness, and these would make him shudder. He could no longer turn his thoughts another way, as he does not now, even when conscience reproaches him. He would know that the eternal eye was ever upon him; and that eye of holiness, which is joy and life to holy creatures, would seem to him and eye of wrath and punishment. God cannot change his nature. Holy he must ever be. But while he is holy, no unholy soul can be happy in heaven. Fire does not inflame iron, but it inflames straw. It would cease to be fire if it did not. And so heaven itself would be fire to those, who would fain escape across the great gulf from the torments of hell. The finger of Lazarus would but increase their thirst. The very “heaven that is over their head” would be “brass” to them.
And now I have partly explained why it is that holiness is prescribed to us as a condition on our part for our admission into heaven. It seems to be necessary from the very nature of things. We do not see how it could be otherwise. Now then I will mention two truths which seem to follow from what has been said.
1. If a certain character of mind, a certain state of the heart and affections, be necessary for entering heaven, our actions will avail for our salvation, chiefly as they tend to produce or evidence this state of mind. Good works (as they are called) are required, not as if they had anything of merit in them, not as if they in themselves could turn away God’s anger for our sins, or purchase heaven for us, but because they are the means, under God’s grace, of strengthening and showing forth the holy principle which God implants in the heart, and without which (as the text tells us) we cannot see him. The more numerous our acts of charity, self-denial, and forbearance, of course the more our minds will be schooled into charitable, self-denying and forbearing temper. The more frequent our prayers, the more humble, patient, and religious are our daily deeds, this communion with God, these holy works, will be the means of making our hearts holy, and of preparing us for the future presence of God. Outward acts, done on principle, create inward habits. I repeat, seperate acts of obeidance to the will of God, good works as they are called, are of service to us,as gradually severing us from this world of sense, and impressing our heart with a heavenly character.
It is plain, then, what works of service are not to our salvation;-all of those which have no effect upon the heart to change it, or which have a bad effect. What then must be said of those who thin it an easy thing to please God, and to recommend themselves to him; who do a few scanty services, call these the walk of faith, and are satisfied with them? Such men, it is too evident, instead of being themselves profited by their acts, such as they are, of benevolence, honesty, or justice, may be (I might say) injured by them. For these very acts, even though good in themselves, are made to foster in these persons a bad spirit, a corrupt state of heart; viz. self-love, self-conceit, self-reliance, instead of tending to turn them from this world to the Father of spirits. In like manner, the more outward acts of coming to church, and saying prayers, which are, of course, duties imperative upon us all, are really serviceable to those only who do them in a heavenward spirit. Because such men only use these good deeds to the improvement of the heart; whereas even the most exact outward devotion avails not a man, if it does not improve it.
2. But observe what follows from this, If holiness be not merely the doing a certain number of good actions, but is an inward character which follows, under God’s grace, from doing them, how far distant from that holiness are the vast multitude of men! They are not even obedient in outward deeds, which is the first step towards possesing it. They have even to learn to practice good works, as the means of changing their hearts, which is the end. It follows at once, even though Scripture did not plainly tell us so, that no one is able to prepare himself for heaven, that is, make himslef holy, in a short time;-at least we do not see how it is possible; and this, viewed merely as a deduction of the reason, is a serious though Yet, alas! as there are persons who think to be saved by a few scanty performances, so there are others who supppose they may be saved all at once by a sudden and easlity aquired faith. Most men who are living in neglect of God, silence their consciences, when troublesome, with the promise of repenting some future day. How often are they thus led on until death surprises them! But we will suppose they do repent when the future day comes. Nay, we will even suppose that almighty God were to forgive them, and to admit them into his holy heaven. Well, but is nothing more requisite? are they in a fit state to do service in heave? Is this not the very point I have been so insisting on, that they are not in a fit state? Has it not been shown that, even if admitted there without a change of heart, they would find no pleasure in heaven? And is a change of heart wrought in a day? Which of our tastes or likings can we change at our will in a moment? Not the most superficial. Can we then at a word change the whole character and frame of our minds? Is not holiness the result of many patient, repeated efforts after obedience, gradually working on us, and first modifying and then changing our hearts? We dare not, of course, set bounds to Gods mercy and power in cases of repentance late in life, even where he has revealed to us the general rule of his moral governance; yet, surely, it is our duty ever to keep steadily before us, and act upon, those general truths which his Holy Word has declared. His Holy Word in various ways warns us, that, as no one will find happiness in heaven, who is not holy, so no one can learn to be so, in a short time, and when he will. It implies it in the text, which names a qualification, which we know in a matter of fact does ordinarily take time to gain. It propounds it clearly, though in figure, in the parable of the wedding garment, in which inward sanctification is made a condition distinct from our acceptance of the proffer of mercy, and not negligently to be passed over in our thought as if a necessary consequence of it; and in that of the ten virgins, which so us that we must meet the bridegroom with the oil of holiness, and that it takes time to procure it. And it solemnly assures us in St Paul’s Epistles, that it is possible to presume on Divine grace, as to let slip the accpeted time, and be sealed even before the end of life to a reprobate mind.
I wish to peak to you my brethren, not as if aliens from God’s mercies, but as partakers in his gracious covenant in Christ; and for this reason in especial peril, since only those can incur the sin of makeing void his covenant, who have the privelge of it. Yet neither on the other hand do I speak to you as willful and obstiante sinners, exposed to the imminent risk of forfeiting, or the chance of having forfieted, your hope of heaven. But I fear that there are those who, if the dealt faithfully with their consciences, would be obliged to own that they had not made that service to God their first great concern; there obeidence, so to call it, has been a matter of course, in which the heart has had no part; that they have acted uprightly in worldly matters cheifly for the sake of their worldly interests. I fear there are those, who, whatever their sense of religion, still have such misgivings about themselves, as lead them to make resolve to obey God more exactly some futre day, such misgivings as convict them of sin, though not so much as to bring home to them the heinousness of its peril. Such men are trifling with the appointed season of mercy. To obtain the gift of holiness is the work of a life. No man will ever be perfect here, so sinful is our nature. Thus, in putting of the day of repentance, these men are reserving for a few chance years, when strength and vigor are gone, the work for which a whole life would not be enough. That work is great and ardous beyond expression. There is much sin remaining even in the best of men, and “if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” Their doom may be fixed any minute; and though this thought should not make a man despair today, yet it should make him tremble for tomorrow.
Perhaps, however, others may say:-“We know something of the power of religion-we love it in a measure-we have many right thoughts-we come to church to pray; this is a proof that we are prepared for heaven:-we are safe, and what has been said does not apply to us.” But be not you, my brethren, in the number of these. One principle test of our being true servants of God is our wishing to serve him better; and be quite sure that a man who is contented with his own sufficiency in Christian holiness, is at best in a dark state, or rather in great peril. If we are really imbued with the grace of holiness, which shall abhor sin as something base, irrational, polluting. Many men, it is true, are content with partial and indistinct views of religion, and mixed motives. Be content with notheing short of perfection; exert yourselff day by day to grow in knowledge and grace; that, if so be, you may at length attain to the presence of Almighty God.
Lastly; while we thus labor to mold our hearts after the pattern of the holiness of our Heavenly Father, it is our comfort to know, wat I have already implied, that we are not left to ourselves, but that the Holy Ghost is graciously present with us, and enables us to triumph over, and change our minds. It is a comfort and encouragement, while it is an anxious and awful thing to know that God works in and through us. We are instruments, but we are only the instruments, of our own salvation. Let no one say that I discourage him, and propose a task to him beyond his strength. All of us have the gift of grace pledged to us from our youth up. We know this well; but we do not use our privilege. We form mean ideas of the difficulty, and in consequence never enter into the greatness of the gifts given us to meet it. Then afterwards, if perchance we gain a deeper insight into the work we have to do, we think God a hard master who commands much from a sinful race. Narrow, indeed, is the way to life, but infinite is his love and power who is with the Church, in Christ’s place, to guide us along it. -John Henry Cardinal Newman Parochial and Plain Sermons.

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Catholic Bible Commentaries Online

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 20, 2007

The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide:

  • On The Gospel Of Matthew (and Mark)
  1. Chapters 1-9
  2.  Chapters 10-21
  3. Chapters 22-28 with all of Mark
  • On The Gospel Of John (with his letters)
  1. Chapters 1-11
  2. Chapters 12-21 and letters

The Life of Jesus Christ According to the Gospel History  (A bit misguided inasmuch as it tries to construct a “life of Christ” based on a harmonizing of the Gospel.  the notes however will be useful to beginners)

Christ in Type and Prophecy

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Notes on Hosea 5:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 19, 2007

Having indicted the priests for their guilt (4:4-14); and the people as well (4:15-19); the prophet now prepares to announce the consequences of their guilt. Before he does this however, he (speaking on behalf of God) calls for the attention of the ruling classes (5:1-2a). God, speaking through the prophet states that he will punish them (5:2b), and follows this up with the reasons why (5:3-7a). The passage ends with an announced consequence for their sinfulness (5:7b), which provides a transition to the block of material in (5:8-7:16).

5:1  Hear this, O priests, and attend, O house of Israel, and, O house of the king, give ear for the judgment is for you; for you have become a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread out over Tabor,  5:2 and a pit dug deep at Shittim; but I will chastise all of them

Hear…attend…give ear- Notice that the call to attention contains 3 imperatives directed to 3 different classes.  The first two imperatives precede the class to whom they are directed (priests, house [i.e. the people] of Israel), while the last imperative comes after the class it is directed to is named (the house of the king; i.e. the royal family).  Perhaps this switch is meant to call more attention to, or focus more attention upon, the house of the king.  In what follows, in 5:8-7:16 the dominant theme is the sins and failure of the monarchy.

the judgment is for you- Priests, people, and royalty are all under the judgment of God.  The Hebrew word mishpat  (judgment) has legal connotations and reminds us of god’s rib or covenant lawsuit against Israel.   The reason for a judgment being leveled against them is given in the words:

for you have become a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread out over Tabor, and a pit dug deep at Shittim-  The word snare in Hebrew is pah, and it provides a word play with the place-name Mizpah.  Snares, nets, and pits were instruments used for capturing animals.  Because of their sins the people have entrapped themselves (see Psalm 7:15-17).

Mizpah was the place where Saul was chosen to be the first king of the twelve tribes (1 Sam 10:17-24).  It was not forbidden for the people to ask for a king, so long as they understood that he was not to be a pagan-like king, but one dedicated to God’s law (see Deut 17:14-20).  When the people asked for a king, they asked specifically for a king “like the other nations have” and for the same reasons for which they had them (see 1 Sam 8, especially vss 19-20), this was seen as a rejection of God.  Saul ended up being a real stinker and so God replaced him with David.

The kings business was to ensure right worship and the upkeep of the temple, something none of the Northern kings did, thus they imitated Saul (1 Sam 13:2-14), apparently with the consent of both the people and the priests (see Amos 7:10-12).  This was the snare they set for themselves at Mizpah.

Tabor is a reference to Mount Tabor where a famous battle took place between certain of the Tribes of Israel under the Judge Deborah, Against King Jabin of Hazor and Sisera (see Judges 4:4-6).  In her victory song after the battle Deborah condemns certain tribes for not helping in the battle (see Judges 5:14-18).  A penchant for a lack of unity was the “net spread on Tabor.”

Shittim was located in the trans-Jordan region, and it was there that the men of Israel sinned by worshiping the Baal of Peor (Numbers 25).

A corrupt monarchy, disunity among the covenant people, and a penchant for pagan fertility rites, these are the traps the people of the Northern Kingdom have laid for themselves.  For this reason God says I will chastise all of them.

5:3 Ephraim , I know, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, you have gone a-whoring, Israel has defiled herself. 5:4  the things they do will not let them turn back to their God.  For their is a spirit of harlotry within them, and they have no knowledge of the Lord.

Ephraim was the largest of the Northern tribes, and the name is often used to designate the Northern Kingdom as a whole; such is the case here.  The verse exhibits typical Hebrew parallelism, with Ephraim paralleling Israel, and gone a-whoring paralleling defiled herself.  Again the theme of harlotry and sexual defilement come up, reminding us of the opening chapters of the book and of the fact that the covenant was often portrayed and spoken of as a marriage.  Since the word know (knew, knowledge) has sexual overtones in the Bible (see Gen 4:1) the statement that the people have no knowledge of God also should be seen in relation to the covenant.   The people are portrayed as having no real desire to return to God, like the harlot wife before her punishment (see 2:6-7), they are still in lust with their false lover-gods.

5:5  To his own face Israel’s pride testifies; Israel and Ephraim trip over their perversity; and Judah tumbles with them.

to his own face- face is a Hebrew idiom meaning “presence”.  Israel’s pride is know to Israel and testifies against Israel (guilty conscience?) but Israel’s pride will not allow repentance (see previous verse).

Israel and Ephraim trip over their perversity-  Like someone tripping over a snare (5:1)?  Perversity in Hebrew is avon, a word related to aven, which we saw was applied contemptuously to Bethel (Beth-Aven)  in 4:15.

Judah tumbles with them- Apparently, the prophet sees the continuing existence of the Northern Kingdom of Israel as a temptation to Judah (see 4:15).

5:6  With their flocks and their herds they shall go and seek out the Lord, but they shall not find him, for from them he has withdrawn himself.  5:7  For against the Lord they have acted deceitfully; for they have brought forth alien children.  Now the new moon shall consume them, along with their fields.

   they shall go and seek out the Lord- taking their herds and flocks they will seek the Lord in sacrifice.  This is the meaning of the word seek (baqash See Exodus 33:7).  As will become clear in the next post, the Lord withdraws from this search for it is not done rightly (see 5:15-6:6).  The statement brings up an idea already mentioned in 3:3: “You shall wait for me many days; and you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another; for myself, I will wait for you.”  God wants a right repentance, not a false show.  Such a show is the “spirit of harlotry which made Israel unable to turn back to God (see 5:3).

they have brought forth alien children- we are once again reminded of the programmatic narrative of chapters 1-3.

the new moon shall consume them-  the pagan fertility rites they were trusting in to make their field full and themselves fat will consume them; i.e. because of them, God will bring an end to abundant harvests which were his blessings, not the Baal’s (see 2:4-13).

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The Two Paths

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 17, 2007

I’ve posted my own notes on Psalm 1. Here I present you with a commentary from Father Patrick Boylan’s A STUDY OF THE PSALTER IN LIGHT OF THE HEBREW TEXT. The work is in the public domain. At the end of his commentary I present some NT texts for “Christianizing” the Psalm for meditations or sermons.


Introduction and overview

In this psalm, which serves as a sort of introduction to the Psalter, one of the most fundamental thoughts of Hebrew speculation finds expression. The just man, it tells us, prospers in all things, while the wicked man’s life ends in failure. The psalm, however, dwells rather on the success of the just than on the failure of the wicked. It depicts the ideally just man first negatively (verse 1), then positively (2-3), and then in contrast with the wicked (4-5). The just man show no tendency to adopt the ideas of the godless who set no value on the Law, or to associate himself with the sinners who openly oppose the Law, or help in spreading the corruption of those who sneer at the Law’s requirements. His heart is fixed on the Law, and he constantly murmurs to himself it precepts. His life is rich in works of the Law, so that it reminds one of the verdure of the tree that blooms and bears fruit beside the running waters of irrigation channels. As one might well expect, their is a blessing on all his toil, and his every enterprise succeeds.

Over against the continued prosperity of the just we see the instability of the godless. They are like the dust of the road in a storm, or like the chaff which the wind whirls away from the winnowing on the hill-top. They will not succeed in the great trial, nor hold place in the assembly of the just when the trial is over.

The loving eyes of God are on the path of the just; but the path of the wicked leads to death.

The psalm bears no title, and neither its date nor its author can be determined. The picture of the just man’s success, and the sinner’s failure is painted in the spirit of the ancient Hebrew belief, and may well belong to the Davidic age. Yet, it is not connected by a superscription with the Davidic or any other ancient collection of psalms, and many modern critics believe that it was written expressly by a comparatively late poet (possibly the first editor of the Book of Psalms) to serve as an introduction to the whole collection of Psalms. The extraordinary parallelism of Jeremiah 17:5-8 to this Psalm is regarded by many critics as proof that the Psalm is subsequent at least to the time of Jeremiah. It is interesting to note that in Acts 13:33, according to a reading of some importance, Psalm 2 is called the “first” Psalm.

Read the Psalm in either English or Latin HERE.


1) The three verbs, walk, stand, sit, are connected with the three things, counsel, path (way), seat (chair), and have the three distinct subjects, the godless, sinners and mockers (pestilence is a bad translation). A climax is, evidently, intended. As the good man is described as the man whose pleasure is the Law of Israel (the Law of Moses), so the various classes of the wicked are characterised by different degrees of indifference or hostility to the Law. Some seem to forget the law; others act openly against it; others carry on a campaign of sneering and contempt against it. The Hebrew text of the third clause may be understood of a circle or group of mockers, rather than of a teachers chair, around which mockers are gathered. The pious Israelite will separate himself completely from sinners and skeptics. This tendency to aloofness was carried to extremes by the Pharisees (“The separated ones”).

2) The just man, on the other hand, is quite taken up with the Law: It is a “torch for his feet.” (Psalm 119) It is always in his heart, and always on his lips (as prescribed in Dt 6:6-8). Meditates means, according to the Hebrew, not silent contemplation, but audible murmuring of the words of the Law. This verse and the following are echoed in, or are an echo of, Joshua 1:8 “This book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth, and thou shalt ponder over it murmuringly day and night, so that thou mayest be constant in acting as is prescribed therein: for then thou shalt make thy way to prosper, and then thou shalt have success.”

3) The decursus aquarum (Hebrew, “divisions of waters”) are irrigation canals such as might be seen in Babylonia or Egypt rather than in Palestine. For the comparison see Ps 51:10 (52:10); 91:13 (92:13).

4) The Hebrew compares the wicked with the chaff which is whirled from the threshing floor. The threshing, or winnowing usually took place on a raised ground in an exposed position (see Mt 3:1). The instability of the godless is often similarly suggested elsewhere in scripture. See Hosea 14:3-“They shall be as the morning cloud, as dew of the dawn that vanishes, like chaff that is whirled away from the threshing floor, like smoke from the chimney.” Again, Isaiah 17:12-“The nations…shall be chased like chaff on a mountain before the breeze.” See also the passage in wisdom 5:14-“The hope of the godless is like dust (chaff) swept along by the wind, and like thin (sea) foam scattered by the storm, and like smoke dispersed by the breeze, and like the remembrance of a one-day guest.” “From the face of the earth” is not in the Hebrew. It goes naturally enough with pulvis (chaff). The Greek can mean chaff or dust.

5) The trial is the great Messianic Assize, the final judgment where the wicked shall be set apart from the good in the sight of all. The way of the wicked is their path of life, or plan of action. The just will form and exclusive group after the separation; the wicked will have no part with them (see Is 4:3). The Hebrew has “will not stand in the trial,” i.e. will not prevail in it. “resurgent” (“rise again” with its suggestion of the Resurrection of the Just) is due to the Christian imagination of the translator.

6) God’s knowledge implies interest and approval see Psalm 36:18 (37:18). the just will live in the light of God’s face, but the way of the wicked will be through darkness, and will lead to death.

There is a striking parallel to this psalm in Jeremiah 17:5-8-“Accursed is the man who trusts in men, and makes flesh his arm; but his heart is disloyal to Yahweh. He is like a leafless tree in the plain, and hath no experience of prosperity. He dwelleth in the arid tracts of the desert, in a land salt-strewn and uninhabitable. Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, and whose hope is Yahweh. He is like a tree that is planted by the waters, which stretches out its roots to the brook; which feareth not when the heat cometh, whose foliage remaineth freshly green, which, even in years of drought, hath no care; and ceaseth not to bring forth fruit.”

For the contrast in the lot of the pious and the godless, see also Ex 20:5; Ezk 18.

HELPS FOR MEDITATIONS AND SERMONS. Here are some (by no means all) NT texts which relate to some of the themes and symbols of the Psalm.

A) One is not hard-pressed to find warnings concerning the avoidance of sinners and their false teaching. In fact, a number of the OT biblical passages Father Boylan quotes in his notes on verse 4 are echoed in the NT. For example, in Jude 11-13 we read: “Woe to them! They have walked down the road (path, way) Cain trod; and they have run greedily after the straying of Balaam in search of profit, and perished in Korah’s rebellion. They bring shipwreck to your love-feasts as they feast with you without fear, concerned only for caring for themselves. They are like clouds without water, driven by the wind; like trees in late autumn that bear no fruit. They are twice dead and rooted up. They are like savage waves of the sea, for they cast up like sea-foam their shameless deeds. They are like wandering stars for whom the black darkness has been eternally reserved.” (my translation). Compare with Hosea 14:3 and Wisdom 5:14 quoted above.

Many of these same images occur in 2 Pt 2:1-21. Of special note is the themes of “the way” and “destruction for abandoning the “command” (Law or teaching of the Gospel):

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, as false teachers will also be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. cb(2,2); 2:2 Many will follow their immoral ways, and as a result, the way of the truth will be maligned. cb(2,3); 2:3 In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn’t linger, and their destruction will not slumber. cb(2,4); 2:4 For if God didn’t spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; cb(2,5); 2:5 and didn’t spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly; cb(2,6); 2:6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly; cb(2,7); 2:7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked cb(2,8); 2:8 (for that righteous man dwelling among them, was tormented in his righteous soul from day to day with seeing and hearing lawless deeds): cb(2,9); 2:9 the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment; cb(2,10); 2:10 but chiefly those who walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries; cb(2,11); 2:11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, don’t bring a railing judgment against them before the Lord. cb(2,12); 2:12 But these, as unreasoning creatures, born natural animals to be taken and destroyed, speaking evil in matters about which they are ignorant, will in their destroying surely be destroyed, cb(2,13); 2:13 receiving the wages of unrighteousness; people who count it pleasure to revel in the daytime, spots and blemishes, reveling in their deceit while they feast with you; cb(2,14); 2:14 having eyes full of adultery, and who can’t cease from sin; enticing unsettled souls; having a heart trained in greed; children of cursing; cb(2,15); 2:15 forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing; cb(2,16); 2:16 but he was rebuked for his own disobedience. A mute donkey spoke with a man’s voice and stopped the madness of the prophet. cb(2,17); 2:17 These are wells without water, clouds driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever. cb(2,18); 2:18 For, uttering great swelling words of emptiness, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by licentiousness, those who are indeed escaping from those who live in error; cb(2,19); 2:19 promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for a man is brought into bondage by whoever overcomes him.cb(2,20);

2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. cb(2,21); 2:21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (WEB bible).

B) One should always follow the teaching and the way of Jesus:

7:13 “Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. cj(7,14); 7:14 How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.

cj(7,15); 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. cj(7,16); 7:16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? cj(7,17); 7:17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. cj(7,18); 7:18 A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. cj(7,19); 7:19 Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. cj(7,20); 7:20 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. cj(7,21); 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. cj(7,22); 7:22 Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ cj(7,23); 7:23 Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.’

cj(7,24); 7:24 “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. cj(7,25); 7:25 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. cj(7,26); 7:26 Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. cj(7,27); 7:27 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Mt 7:13-27 Web Bible)

Jesus himself is the way that leads to the father and happiness:

14:1 “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. cj(14,2); 14:2 In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. cj(14,3); 14:3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. cj(14,4); 14:4 Where I go, you know, and you know the way.”cb(14,5);

14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”cb(14,6);

14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. cj(14,7); 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.” (Jn 14:1-7

Since the risen Christ continues his mission in and through the Church, it can now be said that the Church teaches the way since it has been empowered to teach all that Christ has commanded: “28:18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. cj(28,19); 28:19 Go,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, cj(28,20); 28:20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:18-20;

C) Christianity is not simply a belief; it is a way of life based on that belief: “5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Whoever loves the Father also loves the child who is born of him. cb(5,2); 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. cb(5,3); 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. cb(5,4); 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world: your faith” (1 Jn 5:1-4 cb(3,7); “3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? cb(3,8); 3:8 Therefore bring forth fruit worthy of repentance! cb(3,9); 3:9 Don’t think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Mt 3:7-9 WEB Bible). Like a vine we must be rooted in Jesus, which means we must bear fruits of love: 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. cj(15,2); 15:2 Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. cj(15,3); 15:3 You are already pruned clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. cj(15,4); 15:4 Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can’t bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. cj(15,5); 15:5 I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. cj(15,6); 15:6 If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. cj(15,7); 15:7 If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you. cj(15,8); 15:8 “In this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so you will be my disciples. cj(15,9); 15:9 Even as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. cj(15,10); 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and remain in his love. cj(15,11); 15:11 I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full cj(15,12);15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. cj(15,13); 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. cj(15,14); 15:14 You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. cj(15,15); 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn’t know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you. cj(15,16); 15:16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you cj(15,1715:17 “I command these things to you, that you may love one another. (Jn 15:1-17

Note: The WEB Bible is a Protestant translation and the reference tools found on its site are likewise Protestant in their orientation.



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Notes on Hosea 4:15-19

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 16, 2007

In chapter 4:1-3 God, through his prophet, announced a rib (reeb), a covenant controversy with the Northern Kingdom of Israel for its bloodshed, faithlessness, lying, adultery-in other words, its breaking of the commandments.  In 4:4-14 an indictment of the priests of the kingdom was issued for not teaching the people rightly (vss4-10a).  It was this which was at the root of the peoples failings, including the failings of the children of the priests (vss 10b-14).  This chapter ends by confirming the North’s idolatry, and appealing to them to end it.

4:15  Though you, Israel, play the whore, let not Judah trespass, and do not pass into Gilgal, or go up to Beth-Aven, and do not swear, “as the Lord lives.”   

Let not Judah trespass-   The word asham refers to carelessness, neglect, or failure to perform a duty.   It is often used of  stubborn or out of control  animals and the description of Israel in verse 16 may have influenced the use of the word here.  The word is sometimes used for the incurring of cultic guilt; probably the intended meaning here.

Do not pass into Gigal, or go up to Beth-Aven-  The exact location of Gilgal is unknown, and, complicating things seems to be the fact that several places bore this name.  Almost certainly, the one referred to here is that which Joshua made his base of operation in Josh 4.  This was the place where the people of God crossed the Jordan to begin the conquest of the land.  As a memorial of the crossings of the twelve tribes into the land, 12 stones were set up at Gilgal, possibly giving the site its name.  In Samuel’s day, before the building of the temple of Jerusalem (see Dt 12:2-7), the site seems to have been considered a holy place.  With the advent of the Northern Kingdom, and its false worship (see 1Kings 11-13) the site seems to have become a rival to Jerusalem (see Amos 4:4; 5:5; Hos 9:15; 12:12).

Beth-Aven means “House of Iniquity” and is a pejorative term for Bethel, meaning “House of God.”  Bethel, which was originally called Luz, was located about 14 miles north of Jerusalem.  It is mentioned several times in the history of the Patriarchs, especially Jacob.  Abraham built an altar there (Gen 12:8), and it is the place where Jacob had his famous vision (Gen 28).  Like Gilgal, Bethel was a place where Samuel acted as a judge, suggesting that it was considered a holy place.  Jeroboam’s establishment of the post Jerusalem temple shrine there was seen as a sin against the cult (1 Kings 12:25-13:3).   It was maintained as a cult center throughout the history of the Northern Kingdom and was one of the motivations for  God bringing the Northern Kingdom to an end  (see Amos 3:13-5:9).

Do not swear, “as the lord lives”-  The symbolic name given to on of the illigitimate children in 1:8-9 was “Lo Ammi,” “not my people”.  This name was symbolic of the fact that Israel had broken its covenant relations with God.  Only with the action of God in re-establishing relations would “Not my people” come to be called “children of the living God” (see 1:10-11, and note the reunion with Judah).  As long as Israel is seperated from God, and stands as an enticement to sin for Judah, it has no right to swear by the living God.

4:16  Like a rebellious heifer Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like lambs in a large field? 

The Living Lord God is the source of life, but, since they have separated from him, they have separated themselves from his care.

4:17  Ephraim keeps company with idols-leave him to himself.

Forsaking the company of the living God they have attached themselves to dead idols (Hos 8:4b-6); in effect, they have left themselves alone (without gods) and so will be left alone by the one true God.

4:18  When their drinking comes to an end, they  then go a-whoring; they love their perversity more than their glory.

The text is uncertain and variously translated.  Drinking probably refers to libations to pagan gods, followed by sexual rituals.  This perversity stands in opposition to their glory.  Glory is a word often used to denote the Lord’s presence (see note on 4:7).  According to Isaiah 43:7 the people of God were created for his glory. The text goes on to say ‘Lead out the people who are blind though they have eyes, and those who are deaf, though they have ears.”  This was how the people who gave themselves over to idolatry were described in Isaiah 42:17-20.

4:19  The wind has lifted up her skirts, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

Almost all translations I looked at translated biknapeha as “Its wings”; the word is derived from kanaph and can have both meanings.  In keeping with the sexual overtones symbolic of idolatry, I think skirts is the right translation  (Go here and see footnote 2).

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Notes on the Gospel of John 1:46-51

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 14, 2007

Excerpted from a longer post.

Today I wish to look at the final section of John 1:19-59; namely, verses 46-51. However, a little summary of what we’ve seen so far might be in order.

First, recall that this first unit of the body of John’s Gospel is concentrically structured. That is to say that the five part text was written in the form of a reverse parallel; with part one paralleling part five, and part two paralleling part four. These parallels were built around the third or center part, thus giving the structure its name. Today I will comment on parts 2, 3, and 4. For the sake of the convenience of the one reader who seems to care, I will begin by reproducing the overall outline from the last post.

The following outline is in my own words but the actual structure comes from Peter Ellis’ THE GENIUS OF JOHN. Please not that the text in boldface type is meant to help highlight verbal parallels between the A1 and A2 sections, and the B1 and B2 sections. Text in italics is meant to highlight conceptual parallels
A1) The testimony of the Baptist that the Messiah might be revealed to Israel as the Son of God. Jesus is addressed as Rabbi. The first disciples are told to come and see (1:19-39)

B1) Andrew finds his brother Simon Peter and says we have found the Messiah (1:40-41)

C) Peter is brought to Jesus who predicts a future name change for him (1:42)

B2) Jesus finds Philip, who was from the same town as Andrew and Peter. Philip finds Nathaniel and says we have found… (1:43-45)

A2) Nathaniel, a true Israelite is told to come and see Jesus. He calls Jesus Rabbi and testifies that he is the Son of God and the King of Israel. Jesus speaks of further revelation (1:46-51)

In the previous posts we looked at the A1 section (1:19-39) and it was noted that the focus was on the testimony of the Baptist who, with the exterior aid of the spirit identified Jesus as the Messiah. There was also a focus on the mission and function of the Baptist. We then saw in the post on the B1, C, And B2 sections (vss40-45) that these passages foreshadowed the future mission of the Church exercised by the power and in the presence of the Risen Lord. This mission consisted in finding and bringing people to Jesus, who is proclaimed “Messiah,” and “The one written of by Moses and the prophets.” It was noted that at this stage of their experience with Jesus, these testimonies were not much to the point; for only in the light of the resurrection and with the Spirit can one fully understand what it meant that Jesus was the Messiah, the one written of.

A2 (1:46-51)

46 And Nathanael said to him, “is any good able to come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming up to him and said, Behold, truly an Israelite in whom no guile is found.” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How is it you come to know me?” Jesus answered, and said to him, “Before Philip’s calling you, I saw you beneath the fig tree. 49 Answering, Natanael said to him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered, saying to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? Greater things than these shall you see. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, from this time forth you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

The text in bold face type represents verbal parallels with the A1 section (1:19-39). In A1 Jesus invited two of the Baptists disciples to become his disciples with the words, “come and see.” Here in A2 the same phrase is spoken to Nathanael by Philip, and for the same reason. In A1 John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and said “behold.” This was the result of a special exterior revelation of the Spirit, for in and of himself the Baptist did not know who the Messiah was. In the A2 section, Jesus knows who Nathanael is; indeed, he saw him under the fig tee and knew him; No special revelation is attributed as being necessary for Jesus’ knowledge concerning Nathanael, he has it in and of himself. This confirms the superiority of Jesus over the Baptist, which the Baptist himself had spoken of in the A1 section. In the A2 section, in response to Jesus’ special knowledge, Nathanael declares him to be the Son of God, and, the King of Israel. Son of God parallels the Baptist’s title for Jesus in A1. In A1 the Baptist had said that he was sent so that the Messiah might be revealed to Israel. In A2 Jesus is shown revealing himself as the King of Israel to a true Israelite. But just as the Baptist needed to see the Spirit descend and remain upon Jesus in order to recognize him for what he was; so too, the disciples will see the angels of God ascending and descending Upon the Son of Man. That is, they will need further revelation to understand fully what it means that he is the Son of God, the Lamb of God, the King of Israel, and the one written of by Moses and the Prophets.

The words of the Lord about angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man are directed to all the disciples (“You shall see” is plural), but they build upon His description of Nathanael as “a true Israelite in whom no guile is found.” Jesus is alluding to the very guileful father of the twelve Tribes of Israel, Jacob, and his experience at Bethel, a name meaning “House (implication, temple) of God.” It was at this spot that the guileful Jacob began to dedicate himself to the Lord. Here is what the text of Genesis 28:10-17 tells us:

28:10 Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. cb(28,11);28:11 He came to a certain place, and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. He took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. cb(28,12);28:12 He dreamed. Behold, a stairway set upon the earth, and its top reached to heaven. Behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. cb(28,13);28:13 Behold, Yahweh stood above it, and said, “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed. cb(28,14);28:14 Your seed will be as the dust of the earth, and you will spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. In you and in your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed. cb(28,15);28:15 Behold, I am with you, and will keep you, wherever you go, and will bring you again into this land. For I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken of to you.” 28:16 Jacob awakened out of his sleep, and he said, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I didn’t know it.” cb(28,17);28:17 He was afraid, and said, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other than God’s house, and this is the gate of heaven.”

28:18 Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on its top. cb(28,19); 28:19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. cb(28,20); 28:20 Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothing to put on, cb(28,21); 28:21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, and Yahweh will be my God, cb(28,22); 28:22 then this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, will be God’s house. Of all that you will give me I will surely give the tenth to you.”

In many ways, Jesus’ allusion to this text is programmatic. In the Gospel passage which follows (Jn 2:1-12), Jesus will show himself to be the place where heaven opens by revealing his glory (Jn 2:11. Note, the opening of Heaven is a biblical phrase for revelation). In the passage after that (Jn 2:13-25) Jesus will show himself to be the House of God by declaring his resurrected body a temple. Of course, the temple was the place where God revealed his glory; so it is no accident that these passages concerning revelation (1:19-59), glory (2:1-12), and temple (2:13-25) follow upon one another. Neither is it an accident that he begins to reveal himself through the instigation of his mother, who embodied him; for “The Word became flesh, and set up his tabernacle (temple) among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Fahter’s side, has revealed him” (Jn 1:14, 18).


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