Monthly Archives: December 2011

Buffy and the Russian General

PROFESSOR: Now, Rasputin was associated with a certain obscure religious sect. (Buffy taps her pencil on her desk. The girl next to her glares. Buffy sees her and stops tapping the pencil but continues fidgeting) They held the tenet that in order to be forgiven, one first had to sin. Rasputin embraced this doctrine and proceeded to sin impressively and repeatedly. The notion that he was in fact evil gained strength years later (Buffy fiddles with her pencil, drops it, shrugs and doesn’t pick it up) when the conspirators who set out to kill him found it nearly impossible to do so.

BUFFY: (to herself) Nearly impossible?

PROFESSOR: I’m sorry, there’s a question?

The students look at Buffy.

PROFESSOR: (sighing) Miss Summers, of course.

Buffy makes a pained face, stands up as the professor gives her a disapproving look.

BUFFY: I, uh, about, you know, killing him … you know, they, they poisoned him and, and they beat him and they shot him, and he didn’t die.

PROFESSOR: Until they rolled his body in a carpet and drowned him in a canal.

BUFFY: But there are reported sightings of him as late as the 1930s, aren’t there?

PROFESSOR: I can assure you there is near consensus in the academic community regarding the death of Rasputin.

BUFFY: There was also near consensus about Columbus, you know, until someone asked the Vikings what they were up to in the 1400s, and they’re like, “discovering this America-shaped continent.” (Professor looks annoyed) I just … I’m only saying, you know, it might be interesting, if we …. came at it from, you know, a different perspective, that’s all.

PROFESSOR: Well, I’m sorry if you find these facts so boring, Miss Summers. Maybe you’d prefer I step aside, so that you can teach your own course. Speculation 101 perhaps? (The other students laugh) Intro to Flights of Fancy? (The students laugh more)

BUFFY: I only meant-

PROFESSOR: What was it you were going on about last week? Mysterious sleeping patterns of the Prussian generals? (Buffy looks annoyed) Now, some of us are here to learn. Believe it or not, we’re interested in finding out what actually happened. It’s called studying history. You can sit down now. Unless you have something else to add, professor?

via Checkpoint – Buffy Episode 90 Transcript.

So when I watched this recently, I heard “Russian,” not Prussian.

I have no idea if this is the source, but here (pdf download) is what immediately came to mind:

 Two things revealed by the composite Tolstoy-Caulaincourt narrative struck me with peculiar force. The first is that from the moment Moscow was captured and occupied Kutusov seems to have known exactly what Napoleon was going to do. Moreover, it is clear that he was the only one who did know. Caulaincourt shows beyond peradventure that through the whole month spent in Moscow Napoleon himself had not the faintest idea of what his own next move would be; nor, naturally, had anyone on the French side, and of course no one but Kutusov on the Russian side had any idea of it, especially in view of circumstances which I shall presently mention…

The essay is entitle “Snoring as a Fine Art” because, according to Albert Jay Nock’s two sources (Tolstoy’s War and Peace and then a journal by a Frenchman, Caulaincourt), General Kutusov seems to have done nothing but sleep through staff meetings, ignore all advice and sound reason, and then give strange orders that always worked to destroy Napolean.

I have no idea what to think of this; so naturally I’m sharing it on my blog.

Creation always wanted Jesus

Thomas (ST II-II, 2, 7) argues that every saved person, including Adam, had explicit knowledge of the incarnation of Christ: “the object of faith includes, properly and directly, that thing through which man obtains beatitude. Now the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion is the way by which men obtain beatitude . . . . Therefore belief of some kind in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation was necessary at all times and for all persons.”

Yet the content and shape of the belief in the Incarnation differed according to differences of times and persons.” Prior to his sin, Adam “believed explicitly in Christ’s Incarnation,” but only in a specific respect: “in so far as it was intended for the consummation of glory, but not as it was intended to deliver man from sin by the Passion and Resurrection.” For Thomas, then, not only was Adam destined to be consummated with a glory that he did not yet possess, but this hope for glory required “Christ’s Incarnation.”

How could Adam have known this? Thomas points to Paul’s quotation from Genesis 2:24 in Ephesians 5:32, and particularly to Paul’s comment that “this is a great sacramentum . . . in Christ and the church.” Thomas comments, “it is incredible that the first man was ignorant about this sacrament.”

via Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Adam’s sacrament.


I don’t know what Adam knew. But I do think there was a creational design that aimed toward the incarnation quite apart from sin.

For one thing, Paul writes in Romans 5.14 of “Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” He speaks of Adam’s sin, but in context I don’t see how Adam could have failed to be a type if he had triumphed over the temptation.

But there is a much more explicit statement in Ephesians 1. The background to it is in Genesis 1 and the second day of creation:

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

What is missing from the second day, uniquely, is God seeing that what he had made was good. He doesn’t call the “expanse” good. What could this lack of goodness mean? We know from Genesis 2 that when God said something about Adam was “not good” it meant he was incomplete. God made Eve to complete Adam. But he could have made Adam and Eve together. Instead, he made Adam alone to discover his need and receive provision.

So there seems to be a similar need embedded in the division between heaven and earth. Creation had a need for Heaven and Earth to come together.

And Jesus did this, as Paul writes to the Ephesians and others:

In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

I’m surprised Thomas didn’t mention this because the word “mystery” sacramentum is used in the passage. Jesus not only came to save creation from sin, he came to complete creation in glory by uniting it together with the heavens.


The red, white, and blue god

This is upside down!

Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote in support of laws that ban flag-burning: “The flag is not simply another ‘idea’ or ‘point of view’ competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions of millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical belief they may have. I cannot agree that the First Amendment invalidates the Act of Congress, and the laws of 48 of the 50 states, which make criminal the public burning of the flag.”

One oddity, one glaring oversight. The oddity: Rehnquist did not describe America’s diversity in religion, only in “social, political, and philosophical belief.” How often do Americans divide over “philosophical beliefs”?

The glaring oversight: By Rehnquist’s own argument, it would seem that the Establishment clause would prohibit protection to the flag. How does a ban on flag-burning not amount to an establishment of a “mystical” flag-cult? I suspect that the question would not occur to Rehnquist, since patriotism doesn’t qualify as a religion – even if he cannot avoid religious language in describing it. Yet he seems to half-recognize that the US does in fact have an established religion, whose sacrament is the flag and whose creed is the Declaration of Independence.

via Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Mystical flag.

So, can we now keep them out of church worship? Can we stop flying them in front of our buildings?

And how in the name of all that is holy do we get off actually elevating it above the Christian flag?

Quoting myself: if Jesus needed to pray how much more do we?

The contrast between Jesus and Peter could not be starker. Peter is confident that he will stand in the coming trial and he sleeps. Jesus, the very Son of God Himself, is torn up with temptation and prays prostrate on the ground…If Jesus needed to pray, how much more did Peter, James, and John? How much more do we? (Mark Horne, The Victory According to Mark, p 177)

via Jesus the Firstborn « NEW HOPE CHURCH.

Are all people God’s children?

31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus *said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

via John 8 NASB – The Adulterous Woman – But Jesus went – Bible Gateway.

So that settles it. Only believers are God’s children. Not every person is God’s child.

Except… Paul told the Athenian unbelievers that they themselves knew that they were all God’s children.

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Paul is referring to creation here. It it worth pointing out that, in Genesis 5.1-3, being a son and bearing an image of the father are related to one another:

1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.  3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

Luke 3.38 explicitly tells us that Adam was God’s son, but we could infer it from Genesis 5.1-3 even it if he didn’t spell it out for us. In systematic theology, Christians have affirmed that even unbelievers are still made in God’s image, though the image is distorted. Wouldn’t this also require an affirmation that unbelievers are still God’s children in some sense?

Then there is the parable of the prodigal son. Notice how it is the son who believes he can no longer be anything but a servant to the man who was his father, and the father does seem to affirm that, for a time, the child’s status of sonship was gone:

17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

One other piece of data, from Matthew 21:

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They *said, “The first.” Jesus *said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

Now here is my question: if one of the sons was not really of son of the father, wouldn’t his disobedience be less serious and less sinful? Here, denying sonship would not mean condemnaton but, to a degree, exoneration.

Of course, there are also other passages that link up with John 8 (Ephesians 2 might apply in a similar way, for example). Some refer to Israel as distinctively God’s son, which would probably have something to do with the way Jesus spoke to his fellow countrymen in his parable of the two sons in Matthew 21.

So which is it?

I don’t see why we have to decide. Why would the Bible have to use the same language at all times and places to communicate. It seems to me that language and imagery communicate just fine without having a universal code in place for every image or metaphor.

This is how I see it:

  1. If you proclaim that God is the father of all people and that all people are His children in order to give unbelievers false hope that prevents them from repenting and calling on Jesus, or that discouraged Christians from evangelizing, then you are lying.
  2. If you proclaim that God is the father of all people and that all people are His children to give unbelievers hope that they will be received if they repent and believe, and to impress Christians with their obligation to evangelize, then you are telling the truth.
  3. If you proclaim that God is only the father of believers in order to discourage unbelievers from repenting and calling on Jesus, then you are lying.
  4. If you proclaim that God is only the father of believers to encourage unbelievers to come back and be adopted, and to encourage believers that God has save them, then you are telling the truth.


John Murray on Christian Baptism

Baptism is not an addendum to discipleship but that by which discipleship is consummated…Since discipleship is not consummated without baptism we must regard baptism as an indispensable mark of the church. The person who refuses baptism and declines the reproach of Christ, which it entails, cannot be received as a member of Christ’s body.

via Not an Addendum | Resurrectio et Vita.

Explaining Baptism to Hindus in the 19th Century


Things seen are temporal, says St Paul, but things unseen are eternal. Yet though our faith goes beyond sight, and the hope, which fastens our souls as an anchor amid storms, has its holding ground behind the veil of sense, it does not follow that in this temporal life things visible may not be pledges and symbols to us of what is to come. God, who shews His eternal power by the worlds which He upholds, shews also His life-giving purpose in His Son, and ever renews His work, not only by the Spirit which animates the Body, but by words and symbols of what was done of old. Thus the words of Scripture still express the motives which Apostles felt, and which we should feel. The prayers of ancient sufferers for the truth still waken in us a daring or a patience such as theirs. The washing with water, (which curiously resembles the religious bath spoken of among Hindus,) still represents to us the saving health of Christ, and the cleansing of His followers’ souls from stain. The pledge we give in this rite, either with our own lip or by that of others, is still the Christian vow of holiness; the promises, repeated in accompaniment, still pledge to us in a way the Divine faithfulness; and by coming, or bringing any one, to such a rite we both express our faith in Christ [Thus Baptism was anciently called “the sacrament of faith.”], and bind ourselves to whatever prayer or education on man’s part can make the Divine work effectual in the soul.

“You have asked me to explain the connection, briefly hinted at, between baptism and original sin. The idea, then, of Christianity is deliverance. Christ shews what kind of a Deliverer He is, by teaching us to pray, Deliver us from evil. The greatest evil is sin, which causes chiefly the entanglement and misery you deplore in the world. He who becomes subject to Christ is free from sin. We even say, with something of figure, that He is dead to sin and alive to God. Here then are two states, one of bondage to evil, and all that it involves, and the other a glorious deliverance from whatever debases or alienates our souls from the God of our health. But every such state has a beginning. If sin were only outward crime, we might say the bondage began in mature years. But if sin has root in some principle or shortcoming deeply ingrained in us, we have its capacity, or nature, so soon as we begin to be. Thus Man seems born from the womb like a wild ass’s colt. He brings with him into the world the seeds of a disease. He has tendencies in him, which, as natural forces, are capacities of good, but which require, like volcanic elements, to be bound down and subjected to the will which gives them limit for a good end. Thus nature, which, if left lawless, becomes the enemy of the Divine purpose, must be brought into the kingdom of God, and become an instrument of grace, its discords being thus blended into harmony. Such tendencies and such needs seem to begin with our beginning. Again, if our soul’s health were our own working, it might begin in mature life, or at any arbitrary term. But since it is the gift of God, and is also to be wakened with the concurrence of human instruments, its capacity may most fitly be said to begin when we are first commended to the grace of God, and born into His Church. Thus we think, a child new born partakes of Adam who fell, or of man who falls, and one baptised is a member of Christ, and an heir of His kingdom. We do not mean that the first is a murderer, like Cain, or the second a saint, like St John; but the one is in a way of being ruined, and the other in a way of being saved.

The same doctrine may be also stated variously. Those who lay hold most easily on things external, will lay stress on the natural birth, and on the religious rite; while those who see more with the eyes of the mind will think rather of a disease of the soul, and of the saving influences by which our Deliverer heals us from it. But if there is deliverance in a house, it may be said that the door delivers us. Thus the Mosaic law might be called (as by St Stephen) ‘the covenant of circumcision,’ and baptism, as the ritual admission into a better covenant of the grace of God, may be said (as by St Peter) to save the soul, or to wash away sins. Our righteousness, you will remember, is shewn in our Lord’s prayer to begin with the Divine forgiveness. Again, if a man accepts a gift, or becomes subject to some gracious Lord, he must not be ashamed of professing his acceptance or allegiance. Thus we count no man a Christian until he has enlisted himself by open baptism in the army of the cross of Christ. We do not doubt that whoever thus comes to God is in no wise cast out, but receives from Him every grace needful to his soul’s health. With our own people, indeed, where we have fair reason to hope for Christian education, we baptise little children; for Christ said, Suffer them to come unto me; and the mercy of God is like an overflowing cup, and outruns our answering capacity, or accompanies its least beginnings. But with strangers, and with all who have wandered far from God in any idolatry or darkness, we require knowledge of our faith, and signs of sincerity in it. For our service, as St Paul teaches us, is a service of the reason, or a worship of the mind. St Peter too declares, that the baptism which saves is ‘not the putting away of filth of flesh only, but the answer of a good conscience towards God.’ But whatever human being is thus rightly consigned to the grace of the Eternal Spirit in the body of Christ’s Church, we earnestly believe that the God of all comfort is both able and willing to serve him to the uttermost; and this belief is a sufficient answer to the charge of arbitrariness which was brought against us. For we do not proclaim as good news a remedy from the Healer of souls, and then say that it is a mockery to any one; but we make its powers of healing embrace every human soul, to which on man’s part it is rightly applied. It is true that the words healing, and deliverance, or redemption, imply a disease not less than the general sinfulness of our race; but there is no greater difficulty in this than in the existence of evil in the world, which you not only admit as fully as we do but even rather exaggerate.

“Baptism then is an expression of human faith, and a pledge of Divine faithfulness. It goes upon the idea that there is such a disease as human sinfulness, and embodies the promise of God to heal every one who comes to Him in the Spirit of His dear Son. As an external rite, it may be said to admit men only into the visible Church; but it is a symbol of something deeper, and admits into a fellowship of promises which concern the soul. Thus to our mingled being, with our necessities of sensuous apprehension, the rites which speak of Christ and dedicate us to His service, are what faith and the strong crying of the spirit are to our innermost man. They are not then unworthy instruments of Him who embodied His Word in man, that He might lift us into spiritual life. For in these things we see as it were again our Master, and while we give ourselves to Him are assured that He is given to us. Nor what God has joined in spirit and form can man rightly put asunder.

What about Job’s other friends?

Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.
My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague;
And my kinsmen stand afar off.
Those who seek my life lay snares for me;
And those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction,
And they devise treachery all day long.

via Psalm 38 NASB [verses 9-12] – Prayer of a Suffering Penitent A Psalm – Bible Gateway.

We all know that Job’s three friends were false. And we know his wife tempted him to renounce the LORD and die.

But Job held regular feasts. What about all his real friends. Where were they in his time of trial?

As far as we can tell he was abandoned by every single person that he knew.

It makes me wonder, once Job was restored, how he felt about his invited guests at his feasts.

The Myth of the Old Testament

Perhaps I should expand on something I wrote about the hexeteuch, Genesis through Joshua:

The Penteteuch refers to the first five books of the Bible, commonly called the books of Moses. (I suspect that Genesis is a compilation of ten books written earlier than Moses but which come to us through Moses). The Hexeteuch refers to the first six. It is rather easy to see the Penteteuch as the first “Old Testament” and then Joshua as the first “New Testament.”

Of course, it can be divided more finely: One could see Genesis as the first OT and then Exodus through Joshua as the fulfillment record–the NT.

Or one could take all the books of Genesis except the last one (Genesis 1.1-37.1) as the first OT and then the story of Joseph in Egypt as the fulfillment. For it was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.

Despite the qualifications I make, I still think the most obvious way to interpret the Hexeteuch is with the Penteteuch as the first OT and Joshua as the first NT.

In fact, the transition from Moses to Joshua is treated in the Gospels as a pattern for for the transfer between John the Baptist (the greatest of the prophets) to Jesus, as I wrote in 1997:

John the Baptist as the Final Moses

Let’s start with some seemingly random observations about John the Baptist. Notice that John confronts a king (Matt 14:3; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:19) and stays in the region of the Jordan (Matt 3:5; Luke 3:3) in the wilderness (Mark 1:4) across from the Promised Land (John 1:28; 10:40).

Now a few of these details do remind us of Elijah. He too confronted an evil king (1 Kin 17:1; 21:17-19) and spent a lot of time outside of Israel proper (1 Kin 17:3, 9). But he also did more. He called down plagues on the Land (1 Kin 17:1), called down fire on his sacrifice (1 Kin 18:38), was fed by angels in the wilderness (1 Kin 19:4-7), and met God at Mt. Sinai (1 Kin 19:8-14).

I don’t think it is too hard for people who know their Bibles at all to begin thinking about Moses when they notice these things. Moses confronted Pharaoh and called down plagues on Egypt. Also, he’s the first person in the Bible to call down fire from Heaven onto an altar (Lev 9:24).

So far, this has been pretty sparse, but I do think that Elijah stands out among Old Testament prophets as a new Moses. No one else I know of was met by God at Mt. Sinai. It is a unique marker in the Bible. Incidentally, both Moses and Elijah end their careers by ascending-Moses up a mountain to die and Elijah in a fiery chariot. In both cases, this happened across the Jordan from Jericho (Deut 34:1; 2 Kin 2:4-8).

There is more to the connection between Moses and Elijah and John, however, when we consider their successors.

Jesus the Greater Joshua

Elisha accompanied Elijah when he crossed the Jordan from Jericho (2 Kin 2:4-8; 15). When he ascended into Heaven, Elisha was granted a “double portion” of his spirit (2 Kin 2:9-11). Elisha then walked through the Jordan on dry ground (2 Kin 2:14)

Centuries earlier Joshua walked through the Jordan on dry ground, leading the Israelites into the promised land to conquer Jericho (Josh 3:14-17; 6). Just as Elisha was Elijah’s successor, Joshua was Moses’ successor. Furthermore, before Moses had ascended to his death, he laid his hands on Joshua so that he “was filled with the spirit of wisdom” (Deut 34:9; Num 27:18-23). Moses also prophetically gave Joshua his new name, which had originally been Hoshea (Num 13:16).

The similarities between Elisha and Joshua also show interesting redemptive-historical contrasts. Elisha, too, marched through parted waters to Jericho. But he miraculously healed the water there so it was fit to drink (2 Kin 2:19-22).

Now in the Gospels, Jesus goes to the Jordan to be baptized by John, and there the Spirit comes upon Him visibly (Matt 3:13-17). Like Moses and Elijah before him, John says that he must become lesser as Jesus becomes greater (John 3:26-30). Just as Joshua entered the Promised Land, leaving Moses behind, and just as Elisha re-entered the Promised Land with a double-portion of the Spirit, so Jesus as the true successor to Moses and all the prophets begins His ministry after being baptized by John (see Matt 11:7-15). Jesus is the true Joshua, going into Israel conquering and to conquer–though here we see an even greater transition from wrath to grace since Jesus conquests were over demons and disease by His word and Spirit, not over people by fire and sword as was done by the first Joshua.

So the generation that Joshua lead over the Jordan had the five books of the recently-departed Moses. A few decades later, when Joshua was ready to die, they received another book which detailed the history of how God had fulfilled the promises made by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, by giving them the land.

That is what I meant by saying that “It is rather easy to see the Penteteuch as the first ‘Old Testament’ and then Joshua as the first ‘New Testament.'”

But we can go further. For a three centuries or more, the Hexeteuch was Israel’s Scripture. But eventually God started to transform Israel, beginning with the Prophet Samuel. He writes a history of Israel’s decline (Judges), a vindication of God’s faithfulness to the tribe of Judah to provide a king (Ruth), and the story of the establishment of Israel’s Monarchy (First and Second Samuel–finished by Samuel’s successor).

These were new books written by God’s inspiration for Israel.

But there was more. In addition to these books on Israel’s history, other kinds of literature were written for Israel by God’s inspiration. Before Second Samuel was completed, David and Korah and others began writing Psalms.

God’s work in Israel included not only establishing a royal dynasty for Israel but living among them in a new way, in a palace rather than a tent. So the history continues in the book of kings, recording Solomon’s construction project and then the failure of him and his sons to fulfill their duties. Thus we have First and Second Kings, taking us up through the exile of Israel.

And with the reign of Solomon came other literature to add to the Psalms: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, and probably Job at this point.

Let’s stop here for a moment.

During the years leading up to exile in Assyria (Northern Kingdom) and then Babylon (Southern Kingdom), an Israelite had a body of literature consisting of an earlier period an (Hexeteuch) and one from a more recent period. There was an “Old Testament” setting up a confederation of tribes under judges. Then there was a “New Testament” setting up the present order of Monarchy with a Temple and orders of choirs and other new developments.

And this second body of literature breaks down rather easily into two types of work: a history of what happened and documents from that history. This should seem familiar to us. What we call “the New Testament” also has the same types. The four Gospels and Acts give us the history  of Jesus and the beginning of the Christian Church establishing a new order; and the documents produced during that history: the letters of Paul and otherr NT writers.

Now lets return to Israel’s exile.

When God brought Israel back from exile, a new history was inspired. First and Second Chronicles are a new version of the history of the kings, and then Nehemiah, Ezra, and Esther. Leading up to that period we have the prophets.

This is rough. For all I know, Isaiah was recognized as Scripture before the Exile.

But, roughly speaking, it seems quite possible that we should view the Bible not as two testaments, but as four–four groups of literature that come from periods of time that are separated from one another. In each of these times God creates a new order and leaves the old behind.

As the final “Testament,” the Greek Scriptures understandably view all that came before as what was left behind. But to understand that older history fully, we should realize that it was not all the same. It involved transfiguration. Indeed, these transformations were themselves not only necessary preconditions leading up to what God finally did on Christmas and then Easter and then Pentecost. They were also prophecies, types of the final Returne from Exile and final Exodus that God would bring about through Jesus Christ.



Giving without being driven by necessity

God doesn’t need the incarnation any more than He needs the world. He would be the same infinitely joyful, infinitely lively and infinitely satisfied God if we had never existed and if Jesus had never been born.

God doesn’t need the incarnation, but the incarnation is not alien to God. God is boundlessly good, with a goodness that is infinite love. He is a ring of self-giving love from Father to Spirit to Son to Spirit to Father. Philanthropy – love for humans – comes naturally to the Triune God, the fitting expression of the goodness God is.

via Peter J. Leithart » Blog Archive » Eucharistic meditation.

I think this matches some of what I was trying to say to refute the reasoning of Apollinaris.