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BR: NT 2

This is a continuation of the topic BR: NT 1.

Club Read 2018

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1dchaikin
Nov 1, 2018, 7:13am Top

Notes on a non-religious read through the NT, part 2.

2dchaikin
Edited: Nov 3, 2018, 10:47am Top

If you're interested, I tried to explain what I'm doing here in part 1, post 2. See: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6494178

3dchaikin
Edited: Jan 14, 9:01am Top

Links to all the previous threads.

from le Salon:
Prep: http://www.librarything.com/topic/127545
Genesis: http://www.librarything.com/topic/129966
Exodus: http://www.librarything.com/topic/131811
Leviticus: http://www.librarything.com/topic/133405
Numbers: http://www.librarything.com/topic/135184
Deuteronomy: www.librarything.com/topic/136380
Joshua: http://www.librarything.com/topic/137927
Judges (same thread as Joshua, starts on post #69): http://www.librarything.com/topic/137927#3452932
Ruth (same thread as Joshua, starts on post #142): http://www.librarything.com/topic/137927#3478722
1 & 2 Samuel: http://www.librarything.com/topic/139684
1 & 2 Kings: http://www.librarything.com/topic/142552
1 & 2 Chronicles: http://www.librarything.com/topic/146697
Ezra and Nehemiah: http://www.librarything.com/topic/154880
Tobit & Judith: http://www.librarything.com/topic/159435

from Club Read 2014:
Ester http://www.librarything.com/topic/168909
Job: https://www.librarything.com/topic/171374
Psalms: https://www.librarything.com/topic/179892
Proverbs: https://www.librarything.com/topic/183854

from Club Read 2015:
Ecclesiastes: https://www.librarything.com/topic/187190
Song of Songs: https://www.librarything.com/topic/188278
Book of Isaiah: https://www.librarything.com/topic/189974
Book of Jeremiah: https://www.librarything.com/topic/191443
Book of Lamentations (same thread as Jeremiah, post 50): https://www.librarything.com/topic/191443#5208549
Book of Ezekiel: https://www.librarything.com/topic/193044
Book of Daniel: https://www.librarything.com/topic/195257
Book of Minor Prophets: http://www.librarything.com/topic/200241

from Tropics (this is a private group)
query on moving to the Tropics: https://www.librarything.com/topic/276726
Additions to the book of Esther: https://www.librarything.com/topic/279671
Wisdom of Solomon: https://www.librarything.com/topic/279671
Ben Sira: https://www.librarything.com/topic/285961
(The remaining apocrypha/Deuterocanon are in one thread. Links go to the posts)
Baruch: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6413585
Letter of Jeremiah: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6420187
Additions to Daniel: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6422092
1 Maccabees: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6471030
2 Maccabees: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6471903
1 Esdras: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6472042
Prayer for Manasseh: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6484302
Psalm 151: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6484328
3 Maccabees: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6484368
2 Esdras: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6484415
4 Maccabees: https://www.librarything.com/topic/288372#6487967

Club Read 2018:
part 1 thread:
Matthew: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6496842 (post 14)
Mark: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6519908 (post 59)
Luke: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6552978 (post 82)
John: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6568714 (post 113)
Acts: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6583053 (post 148)
Romans: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6588607 (post 187)
1 Corinthians: https://www.librarything.com/topic/292076#6608685 (post 220)
part 2 thread:
2 Corinthians: https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6617970 (post 4 here)
Galatians: https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6635305 (post 21 here)
Ephesians https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6637704 (post 33 here)
Philippians https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6639287 (post 41 here)
Colossians https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6642913 (post 46 here)
1 Thessalonians https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6646346 (post 52 here)
2 Thessalonians https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6646972 (post 57 here)
1 Timothy https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6647118 (post 59 here)
2 Timothy https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6647276 (post 61 here)
Titus https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6647573 (post 64 here)
Philemon https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6649497 (post 65 here)
Hebrews https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6659931 (post 67 here)
James https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6664465 (post 75 here)
1 Peter https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6665476 (post 81 here)
2 Peter https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6665648 (post 86 here)
1 John https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6666064 (post 88 here)
2 John https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6689229 (post 95 here)
3 John https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6689240 (post 96 here)
Jude https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6690481 (post 97 here)
Revelation https://www.librarything.com/topic/298222#6693455 (post 99 here)

4dchaikin
Nov 1, 2018, 8:54am Top

Second Corinthians - an introduction

Wikipedia and the the Literary Guide to the Bible had so much to say about Romans and 1 Corinthians, that this epistle and others seemed a little neglected. That maybe helped me appreciate this a little more because it had me thinking maybe there isn't all that much new in these other letters. But there is a lot of interesting stuff here, and Paul waxes a bit in interesting ways. This is actually the first of the Pauline letters I kind of enjoyed and found entertaining.

Most of the discussion around 2 Corinthians seems to be about whether it was one letter (which few scholarly people seem to think), two or several pieces stitched together. Reading it and knowing this, I wasn't sure this was necessary until two aspects came up near the end where the time perspective seem to shift in regards to visits to Corinth by Titus and Paul. At one point in the letter Paul is writing that he has sent Titus to Corinth, later he seems to be responding to what Titus found, and then he ends with plans for his own trip. That's difficult to explain in the same letter. So scholarship has set off with several different breakdowns, where every time the tone changes, a new letter is assumed to have been stitched in. But there are some connections in implied themes that I thought tied the supposedly different parts together.

5dchaikin
Nov 2, 2018, 7:32am Top

notes from The Literary Guide to the Bible, chapter by Michael Goulder

Looking this over, I see I didn't remember this so clearly. Goulder loves 2 Corinthians. He writes, "2 Corinthians perhaps contains more that is sublime than any other letter." And he ties it to understanding Romans, which he sees as written next.

Overall, he notes that it's possibly composed of several letters, but "the parentheses, disjunctures, and violent swings of mood can be seen as effects of the disaster Paul has sustained." That is Paul is on the defensive in parts, apparently against Jewish Christian influence in Corinth. Goulder notes "A soaring piece of scriptural allegorizing in chapter 3", and then ""In 4:7-6:10 he has recovered his poise and rises to heights of pastoral eloquence...". These four chapters, 3-6, are what made this book enjoyable to me. And Goulder sees the sarcastic or bitterly ironic chapters 10-13 as a switch in tone, his "hurt feelings of years" spilling over.

6dchaikin
Nov 2, 2018, 7:51am Top

notes on 2 Corinthians from wikipedia

wikipedia dwells on how many letters Paul wrote, and what we can determine about this from within 1 & 2 Corinthians and what the possible chronology of events are. Basically the page argues for four letters from Paul to the Corinthians - 1. a warning letter referenced in 1 Cor 5:9, 2. 1 Corinthians, 3. letter of tears, which now exists as 2 Cor 10-13, and 4. the rest of 2 Corinthians. To make it more confusing, that doesn't clear up any of the time perspective conflicts regarding Paul and Titus's visits.

2 Corinthians structure

1:1-11 Greeting
1:12 - 7:16 Paul defends actions and affirms affection of Corinthians
8:1 - 9:15 instructions for collections for Jerusalem (and sending of Titus)
10:1 - 13:10 polemic defense of his apostleship, the bitter irony section. And Paul's planning for his visit.
13:11-13 closing greetings

Wikipedia's chronology

1. Paul's first visit to Corinth, Acts 18:11, lasted 18 months, c ~50 ce
2. Paul in Ephesus for 3 years, Acts 19:8,10, 20:31 (roughly 53-55 ce)
3. Warning letter referenced in 1 Cor 5:9
4. 1 Corinthians, c ~54 ce
5. Paul's second visit, from Ephesus, references in 1 Cor 16:6, and 2 Cor 2:1
6. Letter of Tears, 2 Cor 10-13
7. 2 Corinthians, after leaving Ephesus, so ~55 ce. Referenced in Acts 20
8. Paul's third visit to Corinth, referenced in Acts 20:2-3 and Romans 16, and planned in 2 Cor 13. He stayed about 3 months

Other notes:
The letter is to reassure Corinth after an apparently painful 2nd visit where Paul felt attacked. He compares this to his visit to Galatia where he was embraced. And he defends his points with teachings on forgiveness and a new covenant with God.

Wikipedia notes the letter shows the individuality of Paul, but so far you could say that about any of these first three letters.

7dchaikin
Edited: Nov 2, 2018, 8:53am Top

Wikipedia doesn't spend much time on some of the actual moving aspects of letter, aspects that I liked better than anything in Romans or 1 Corinthians by far. My study bible entry makes the same mistake.

Notes on 2 Corinthians from the introduction in the HarperCollins Study Bible

Almost the notes are basically on the timeline and apparent composite nature of the letter. In a book where introductions are typically about a page and half, they spend a full page going over seven different theories on how the letter was put together. In sum, every time the letter changes tone, someone has suggested a textual suturing.

Two additions to the wikipedia timeline above

- between 1 Corinthians and Paul's second visit, Timothy visited Corinth, was criticized, and reported back to Paul in Ephesus (Timothy also helped compose this letter, per the first line.)

- between the supposed Letter of Tears and 2 Corinthians, Titus was send to Corinth

So, the date doesn't change. The study bible likes 54-56 ce.

One last note - I think all these theories about the letter are mostly silly. I can easily accept that it's document from pieces, because of the changing timeline perspective and nature of how texts were freely manipulated in that time. But I find it hard to believe that it wasn't intended to be read as one letter once it was in it's final form (or mostly final form). So, regardless of origins, I tried to read it as one letter.

8dchaikin
Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 11:19am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 1

This chapter begs for context. After a brief salutation, Paul goes into thanksgiving blessing where he repeats the words affliction and consolation over and over again. "...the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God." Then he immediately references "the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself." Then Paul begins to explain why he as postponed his visit to Corinth, which he intended to visit before and after visiting Macedonia.

And, I should add, Timothy is identified in the first line as a co-writer, after Paul. And Silvanus is mentioned as part of Paul's group - that's Silas from Acts 15.

So, what the heck is this all about? It seems Paul has recently left Ephesus, in modern Turkey, and is now in Macedonia. And it seems he might have fled Ephesus for Macedonia, hence messing up his plans. Acts 19 tells the story of Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, starting a riot against the Christians in Ephesus. And perhaps that is the event. But, it's not all that clear, nothing here is all that clear. But this is Paul's reference to the circumstances and purposes of his writing this epistle.

9dchaikin
Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 11:37am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 2

Paul's explanation continues with lines that beg context and elaboration.

"So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit." - wait, "painful"? Why was his last visit to Corinth painful? What does this mean?

"For I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears" - what did Paul write Corinth, before? (This is, of course, interpreted as a reference to the Letter of Tears, which is sometimes assumed to be Chapters 10-13 here in 2 Cor)

"But if anyone has caused pain...now instead you should forgive and console him" - So, is this about one bad person in Corinth? Is Paul, maybe, referring to himself in 3rd person and asking forgiveness?

"When I came to Troas...I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia." - So, maybe he didn't flee Ephesus and all of the traumatic stuff is another story altogether. Anyway, we have established Macedonia as the place of composition.

----

So, if you're like me, you're now thoroughly confused. Instead of clarity, Paul changes the tone and topic, and begins some of what I think is his best writing, well eventually. But it does start here with a reference to a Roman general's triumphal procession:
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;"

10dchaikin
Nov 4, 2018, 12:01pm Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 3 - Paul's new covenant

This is my favorite chapter, but it's a difficult one to summarize because Paul works from imagery to imagery, and it all ties together not through some logical summarizable steps, but through the overall impression he leaves as he uses the imagery for transitions and to tie things together. That impression can't be captured through my summary.

In a nutshell, Paul is calling Judaism an old covenant, one overshadowed by the new covenant, so that Judaism is essentially dead, a deadend that leads to nowhere. Or, as he puts it, it leads to death, where as this new covenant leads to life.

Some quotes:

"You yourselves are our letter {of recommendation}, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."
...
"Now if the ministry of death, chiselled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face"
That's how Paul references Judaism.

Paul pulls this into a reference of a veil Moses put over his face, as a veil of Judaism over god. "...but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed." That, is, I think, a marriage reference, as in marriage to God. Here at the wedding, Christians pull back the veil to see the bride. I see more references on this theme of marriage to God ahead.

11dchaikin
Edited: Nov 5, 2018, 7:55am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 4

my notes say: "elegant, but I have no idea what it means."

But my study bible notes say:
4:1-6: The revelation of the glory of God in the apostolic proclamation of the gospel
4:7-5:10 : The trials and triumphs of Paul's ministry
4:7-15: Apostolic weakness and divine power

Re-reading, it actually make perfect sense now. What I had trouble with was identifying when Paul was talking about himself, or about "us apostles", which he doesn't always flag clearly. In any case:

v1-6 Paul is basically saying we apostles stay transparently good and sin free to be more effective.

v7-12 apostles bringing gospel are like a treasure in clay jars - except that the apostles aren't so fragile, they're pretty tough and have dealt with and overcome a lot: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed"

v13-15 - "we also believe, and so we speak"

v16-18 - "So we do not lose heart." Our apostolic lives wear us out, but "our inner nature is being renewed day by day"

12dchaikin
Edited: Nov 5, 2018, 8:30am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 5

study bible notes:
4:7-5:10 - see above
4:16-18-5:10 - A discussion of present affliction and future glory using terms and concepts drawn from both Helenistic popular philosophy and Jewish apocalyptic.
5:11-6:10 - Apostolic existence as a ministry of reconciliation

v1-10 presents our bodies as an earthly tent that we live in while we wait for heaven. But, the inference is our spiritual nakedness inside and this seems to lead to a symbolic consummation of our marriage with God, which I link to the veil in chapter 3. That's not in my notes anywhere, but here's the text: "For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee." Maybe I'm over-interpreting "groan"...

v11-21 - Paul preaches reconciliation with God. In ancient thought reconciliation was entrusted to an ambassador. Here, Paul is the ambassador, but God is his own reconciler, and he's offering a blanket amnesty.

13dchaikin
Edited: Nov 6, 2018, 7:11am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 6

Study bible notes:
5:11-6:10 see above
6:11-7:16 After concluding the lengthy discussion of his reconciling ministry (2:4-6:10), Paul now makes an appeal for the church to be fully reconciled with him (6:11-7:4) and with the one who wronged him (7:5-16)

v1-10 after heightening the text with talk of how "now is the day of salvation", Paul goes into a lengthy and curious portrayal of the apostles:
"...as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
v11-13 roughly a partial conclusion saying, we apostles have spoken frankly, so please listen, or "our heart is wide open to you ... open wide your hearts also."

v14-18, & v7:1 An off-topic interlude on not pairing with unbelievers (whereas marriage to an unbeliever was OK in 1 Corinthians). The argument is tied to a long quote on purity from Isaiah. The random placement of this section may indicate it's a later insertion.

14dchaikin
Nov 6, 2018, 7:14am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 7

- Back on topic with 7:2, as if 6:14-7:1 never happened.

- There appears to be a simple practical message here. Paul reports he has spoken to Titus in Macedonia. Titus had visited Corinth and reported on his visit to Paul. It's all very confusing, but it seems Paul had upset the Corinth community with a letter and that the community was grieving (because of the letter?). But Paul is now relieved because of Titus's positive report. "Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us."

- Paul also indicates going to Macedonia was difficult - which fits with the idea that he fled Ephesus for Macedonia. "For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—disputes without and fears within." But, apparently it's all good: "I am overjoyed in all our affliction."

So, this concludes Paul's section on the apostles and the ministry of reconciliation and consolation. Concluding roughly, "Make room in your hearts for us." He ends with praise of Corinth...in the next chapter he's asking for them money.

15dchaikin
Nov 6, 2018, 7:30am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 8

Paul is asking Corinth for money and he has sent Titus back to Corinth, with two others, to collect it. It's not clear to me why, but the study bible explains: "The collection for the Jerusalem church was intended not only address its economic need but also to ratify the unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians." I think that means Paul's gentile converts are looking for recognition. Anyway, it being Paul, the request comes across as a lecture on giving.

2 Corinthians Chapter 9

more lecturing on giving in which Paul expresses hope Corinth won't humiliate themselves before Titus and the two others.

16dchaikin
Nov 6, 2018, 8:53am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 10

The tone takes huge change here as Paul gets angry, and stays that way right up to his farewell greeting at the end of the letter in chapter 13. My study bible calls this, 10:1 - 13:13: "Paul's struggle with Satan's ministers and his appeals to the Corinthians." And chapter 10: "Paul's defense against criticism and attack on his critics." Like most of these summaries, it's not clear in the text, and while I'm sure it's exactly the right summary, I couldn't provide a better one. It worth pondering why he would follow up an appeal for charitable funds with this.

But, re-reading this chapter, it's not so bad. Paul gives a strong offensive defense of apostles, and some criticism of someone presenting themselves as a leader without...Paul's/God's approval(?) But it's not really bitter or with any vitriol: "We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ." ... "If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we. "..."For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends."

17dchaikin
Nov 6, 2018, 9:12am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 11

study bible summaries:
11:1 - 12:10 - A heavily ironic "fool's" speech
11:1-15 - Paul's opponents as Satan's agents
11:16 - 12:10 - Paul boastfully compares himself to his opponents in regard to both credentials and hardships

v1-15 - so the attack opens with a marriage reference.
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ."
Paul is worried only about these ministers of Satan, false apostles, luring people away. But the marriage reference it interesting to me because I also see marriage references in chapter 3 with the veil and chapter 5 with the earthly tent, and so I think these connect. Here Paul maintains his position as father of the bride (or groom), but now there are, if you like, marital problems, a wandering eye. If I'm right about all this, then I think it shows there is a thematic connection between the early chapters and this later section - possibly indicating it is all, at least to this point, actually one original letter, or at least was intended to be read that way.

v16-33 - one of the most quotable sections of this book, and a wow. Not because of elegance. Paul is boasting he is better than false apostles, and these false apostles appear to actually be Jewish Christians, ie, just competitors. Not particularly Satanic. Anyway, this must be quoted:
"But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?"

18dchaikin
Edited: Nov 7, 2018, 8:53am Top

2 Corinthians Chapter 12

study bible notes:
11:16 - 12:10 - see above
v1-7 - Paul in ecstasy
v7-10 - Paul in agony
12:14 - 13:10 - Paul's preparation for his 3rd visit to Corinth

Paul reports his visions, but he reports them in 3rd person. Actually I assumed he really know someone who said they had visions. My study bible says he's actually talking about himself: "I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat."

His agony is referred to as "a thorn...in the flesh", whatever that means.

Paul's prep for his 3rd visit to Corinth begins with blasting Corinth as if the city had not appreciated him enough. Then he worries over all the problems that might occur during his visit - all of course would be caused by the Corinth Christian community - like un-repented licentiousness.

What caught my attention is that he says "Titus did not take advantage of you, did he?" This may be a time shift, but actually I now realize it might not be. Early in the letter he apologized for not coming to Corinth, now he's planning a visit. Same letter, but not exactly a contradiction. Then earlier in the letter he sent Titus, and now he's commenting on Titus's visit. But, I had forgotten, Titus was sent on a return visit, so he had actually been there before. (The study bible only notes the first almost-contradiction.)

19dchaikin
Nov 7, 2018, 8:55am Top

2 Corinth Chapter 13

Paul basically says, I'm coming and "I will not be lenient." It's a clear threat, even if kind of paternal sounding. " Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith."

His closing is three verses, which is quick work for him.

20dchaikin
Nov 7, 2018, 9:05am Top

Going through these notes changes my perspective on this a bit. Paul is so difficult and never straight forward. I have trouble ever figuring out what his point is, because first, he probably doesn't mean anything exactly as he says it, and, second, even if he did, it no longer has that meaning in the biblical context. Why preserve these rambling no-longer-relevant letters if they only mean what they say on the surface? (goodness, that's a Pauline kind of comment!!)

When I just read them straight through I was moved by the wording in the chapters 3-6. His wording is elegant and I like the image of having written not on stone, but on the human heart (chapter 3). His list of sufferings in chapter 11 is memorable ("Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once...") But I find it frustrating to try to come up with any interesting summary. He's ultimately just ranting about how great he is, and how limited this community in Corinth is. Even chapters 3-6 are really just a long praise of apostles - he being the apostle.

21dchaikin
Nov 21, 2018, 8:29am Top

Galatians - an introduction

Was this really just a six chapter scolding lecture? Paul writes complaining that this community, which he converted to Christianity, now wants to follow Jewish law. Well, he typically says circumcision, but he mainly means all Jewish law. Roughly, he says the law is meaningless, not good or bad, but then gets very angry about his converts following it.

Paul mixes in a few autobiographical hints, including about some interaction between him and Peter, which leads to a lot of speculation as to what that means about Paul and about the context of this letter and how we can tie it into Acts. But ultimately he's too vague and not exactly consistent with Acts, which is probably not very reliable anyway. Also, it's not clear who he's writing to. The other three letters I've read were addressed specific Christian communities, allows a narrowing of the context. Galatia was a vaguely defined region in center of Anatolia and likely had several Christian communities during Paul's life time.

22dchaikin
Nov 21, 2018, 5:45pm Top

notes on Galations from The Literary Guide to the Bible, chapter by Michael Goulder

My own notes don't say much other than that Paul's on the attack, writing against circumcision and faith over law. That he uses law court references and tries to undermine some of the certainties in the OT. And, how Christ's death brought Freedom.

But, for a little more color, a quote: "Galatians begins without a thanksgiving: it is haughty ("I marvel that ye are so soon removed," 1:6), aggressive ("let him be accursed," 1:8-9), abusive ("false brethren unawares brought in," 2:4), sarcastic ("these who seemed to be somewhat," 2:6; cf v. 9), and self-justifying. Only at 3:1 does the real Paul reassert himself with the more winsome "O Foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?" (cf. 4:19)"

23dchaikin
Nov 21, 2018, 5:55pm Top

For some geographical context, a map of Paul's journey to Rome, showing Galatia (in Anatolia, modern Turkey). Also, for other letters, Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica, and Philippi.

24dchaikin
Edited: Nov 21, 2018, 6:23pm Top

Notes on Galatians from wikipedia:

- article intro claims: "Galatians has exerted enormous influence on the history of Christianity, the development of Christian theology, and the study of the apostle Paul."

- Generally considered an authentic letter by Paul, but there is some controversy

- dates the letter from 47 to the late 50's, based on different theories.

- the rough theory is that Paul, converting gentiles in Anatolia, Macedonia and Greece, is working out a battle with Jewish Christians centered in Jerusalem. Jewish Christians want to maintain the Jewish traditions and honor Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Paul, converting non-Jewish peoples, wants to discard all the Jewish laws, and allow Christ to mark a new beginning where the only laws are, roughly, to be a good faithful person and follow the golden rule.

- Galatians 2:1-10 describes a council in Jerusalem and some meeting between Paul and Peter and others (maybe James, brother of Jesus). The obvious connection is with the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15:2-29 where Paul, Peter and James have a prolonged discussion on eating kosher and circumcision. It's not a perfect match, however and this has led to other theories, including one where Gal 2:1-20 covers Paul's earlier visit to Jerusalem from Antioch during a famine (Acts 11:30, 12:25). And there are other ideas. I'm not going to go into that except to mention that Acts isn't a reliable reliable historical guide. (The study bible intro puts it better. I'll add that below). Also, note that Galatians fits in well enough with 1-2 Corinthians and Romans. So, it's not necessarily older or younger, but probably best looked at as from roughly the same time period.

Wikipedia's outline
1:1-5 - Salutation
1:6-10 - No other gospel: Paul expresses displeasure that the community has turned from the gospel
1:11-24 - Pauls past including his life in Judaism (1:13–14), his "apocalypse" from God, often understood as the Conversion of Paul (1:15–16), and his early ministry (1:17–24)
2:1-10 - a meeting with the "pillar apostles" in Jerusalem, possibly the Council of Jerusalem reported in Acts 15
2:11-14 - The Paul/Cephas Incident at Antioch, where Cephas backed down from his previous table fellowship with Gentiles
2:14-21 - Paul's speech expressing that Jews, like Gentiles, are declared righteous by faith
3:1-14 - A Consideration of Law or Faith
3:15-20 - Law and Promise
3:21 - 4:17 - Slaves and Sons, Sons of God (3:26)
4:8-20 - Concern for the Galatians
4:21 - 5:1 - Allegorical Interpretation of Hagar and Sarah
5:1-15 - Christian Freedom, and Love thy neighbor (5:14)
5:18-12 - skipped in wikipedia ??
5:19-21 - Works of the Flesh
5:22-23 - Fruit of the Spirit
6:1-10 - The Law of Christ (where my notes say: Paul turns nice)
6:11-18 - Final Warning and Benediction (6:11–18)

Most famous line: 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

significance : This letter is where "Paul clearly takes his Christ movement out of the orbit of Judaism and into an entirely different milieu."

25dchaikin
Nov 22, 2018, 11:05am Top

Galatians - notes from the Study Bible intro

- "bitterly polemic"

- goes through the same theories on matching with either earlier or later Paul in Jerusalem parts of Acts. However the study bible notes: "Both reconstructions presuppose a positive view of Acts as a historical framework within which the Pauline Letters can be placed. The internal evidence of Galatians, however, offers no basis for determining either the geographical location of the churches or the Letter's date of composition. Some scholars regard Galatians as the earliest of Paul's Letters (perhaps 48-49 ce); others place it during the mid-50's ce. The Letter's many thematic links with 2 Corinthians and Romans favor the latter view."

26dchaikin
Nov 22, 2018, 11:22am Top

Galatians Chapter 1

Opening salutation does three things besides the greeting. It notes the letter is from Paul and a group ("all the members of God’s family who are with me"), it establishes Paul's authority, his apostolic authority, and it defines Christ as one who liberates from "the present evil age." This break with the past is essential to his argument later.

Then Paul immediately goes on the attack. There is no thanksgiving. The next line begins "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel..." That is, these Galatians are abandoning Paul.

Then Paul narrates his conversion. Here, it's not clear he was on the road to Damascus, because he immediately goes to Arabia and then "returns" to Damascus. Three years later he finally returns to Jerusalem and spends 15 days with Peter (here Cephas), seeing only Peter and James. Then he was off again, to Syria and Cilicia.

27dchaikin
Edited: Nov 22, 2018, 11:41am Top

Galatians Chapter 2

A lot more narration, which I'll try to reconstruct:

- 14 years later Paul returns to Antioch, in response to a revelation. He goes with Barnabas and Titus, who is a gentile, and reports on this mission to convert gentiles. This is a pretty major thing.

- James (brother of Jesus), Peter and John (Zebedee) are all there and, according to Paul, bless his mission to the uncircumcised as long as "we remember the poor".

- Later Peter comes to Antioch. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas had established the first Christian church there, but that's not mentioned here. Anyway, the implication is that this time Paul and Peter had a major clash over circumcision. Barnabas takes Peter's side and James is identified as influencing Peter. Paul tells Peter: “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

- And that's it, the end of the narration. Take what you will, I guess. But remember, circumcision has multiple meanings - the physical thing itself, all Jewish law, and, most likely, it has some racial/cultural line overtones of some sort too.

- Paul concludes: "we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ"

- "For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me."

28dchaikin
Edited: Nov 22, 2018, 12:12pm Top

Galatians Chapter 3

Here Paul makes a complex argument from scripture that God always intended salvation for gentiles.

But first he addresses the Galatians - "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" I originally read this as an attack, but reading it over now, it's not so clear. NRSV writes it as an attack, but it could also be an affectionate or friendly insult.

The argument opens with Abraham who "believed God". And it reworks blessings from Genesis* to all people as “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”

- Then Paul argues that those who follow Jewish law do so because they are under a curse to follow it.** But "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us..."

- Paul goes through a legal kind of reasoning where Abraham was given "promises" for his "offspring", meaning Jesus Christ. And the law, "which came four hundred thirty years later", does not nullify the original promise

- So, why the law? Paul explains: "Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. "

- But now: " There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

---------------------------------------

Paul's apparent old testament source material

*the three key lines from Genesis (not directly cited by Paul)
Gen 12:3 "and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Gen 18:18 "and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him"
Gen 21:18 "and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves"

**curses in Deuteronomy
Due 27:26 “Cursed be anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by observing them.”
Deu 28:58-59: " If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will overwhelm both you and your offspring with severe and lasting afflictions and grievous and lasting maladies.

29dchaikin
Nov 22, 2018, 12:25pm Top

Galatians Chapter 4

- "My point is this:" And then Paul gives another analogy of God's children as heirs, enslaved to their parents requirements. "while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spiritsa of the world."

- So, Galatians, now that you know better, "how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?"

- The he gets personal again. How could the Galatians turn from him now? Paul also notes something prominent about his own physical infirmity, but doesn't explain what this is.

- The an interesting but bewildering allegory with Sarah and Hagar and their children. I can't explain, but roughly Hagar's son Ishmael was born a slave, a child of the flesh, and Sarah's son Isaac was born free, a child of the promise. And, after some convoluted reasoning, Christ has set us all free.

30dchaikin
Nov 22, 2018, 12:37pm Top

Galatians Chapter 5

- Paul drives his message home. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.... I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!"

- "For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

- "Live* by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. ... Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these."

- "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

---------------------------------------

*Live is literally "walk" in Greek

31dchaikin
Nov 22, 2018, 5:00pm Top

Galatians Chapter 6

"My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness." My notes say, Paul turns nice. This next section is on mutual responsibility and support in the Christian communities.

"See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! - Apparently Paul wrote this last part in his own hand, instead of using a scribe. It's a brief summary, linking circumcision to flesh and hypocrisy. Then a one-line benediction. Mixed in there is a blessing in v16 for those who follow Paul's advice; it counteracts two curses in 1:8-9 aimed that those who counter Paul's guidance.

32dchaikin
Nov 22, 2018, 5:03pm Top

It's interesting to me how negative this seemed while I was reading it, and yet it seems kind of mild as I went through and typed up these notes, and balanced with a variety of curious ideas. I had roughly the opposite reaction with 2 Corinthians. But, ultimately I don't have much to say in conclusion. Next is Ephesians and two more Pauline letters.

33dchaikin
Edited: Nov 24, 2018, 3:21pm Top

Ephesians - an introduction

Ephesians wasn't written by Paul, even though it is traditionally ascribed to him. It's one of several pseudo-Pauline letters. I thought this was really strange, until I thought about it and realized it's no more strange than everything else in the bible. The only books that have real authors are the real Pauline letters. Still, it's an oddball thing. The other odd thing is that it was not composed for, specifically, the Ephesians. That was a bummer because in Acts Paul spent several years in Ephesus and his real letters refer to that time, so I was hoping for some insight. But "in Ephesus" is apparently a latter addition to the first line, and there is nothing else in the letter to determine place, time or author other than, "you gentiles".

I slept on that information and then read Ephesians this morning at the car dealership while my car got it's 5000 mile oil change. (The service guy asked if I was minister...) I think my mind was open, but there isn't all that much here, other than one body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one god and so on. It's just very...well, two things - liturgical, with apparently random life advice/commandments thrown in, like what is found in the wisdom books, but replacing the idea of "this is friendly advice from your wise elders" with "do" and "do not" kind of demands. It has a nice structure anyway. I'll try to explain below.

34dchaikin
Nov 24, 2018, 3:53pm Top

Ephesians - notes from wikipedia

The Literary Guide to the Bible has a chapter on the Pauline letters (which I've read) and chapter on Hebrews (which I haven't read) but as far as I can tell, it doesn't have anything on the pseudo-Pauline letters, or on those ascribed to Timothy, Titus, James, Peter, John or Jude. Maybe they're in the essay on Hebrews.

So, from Wikipedia

Main themes
---- the church as the body of Christ, with Christ as the head.
---- unity in practice, especially of Jews and gentiles ("you" being the gentiles. The theoretical "I" is supposedly the Jewish Paul)
---- be imitators of God and Christ, meaning keep yourself pure and holy, but in the ways specified herein.

Composition
---- traditionally by Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, 62 ce (like Colossians and Philemon)
---- conflicts with Paul in syntax, terminology and eschatology. Paul has salvation imminent, but here Christ has already saved you, if you're faithful.
---- theorized to be written in the later 1st century, but really no one knows when or where it was composed.
---- since it wasn't originally addressed to Ephesians, there are theories on which community it was addressed to. Possibly several churches or communities. Some think Laodicea (I don't know why)

Outline
---- 1:1,2 - The greeting, from Paul to the church of Ephesus.
---- 1:3–2:10 - A general account of the blessings that the gospel reveals. The whole of the section 1:3–23 consists in the original Greek of just two lengthy and complex sentences.
---- 2:11–3:21 - The spiritual position of Gentiles as a result of the work of Christ. An account of how Paul was selected.
---- 4:1–16 - on unity in the midst of the diversity
---- 4:17–6:9 - Instructions about ordinary life and different relationships. 5:22-6:9 are the domestic code
---- 6:10–24 - The imagery of spiritual warfare (including the metaphor of the Armor of God), the mission of Tychicus, and valedictory blessings.

Parallels with Acts Acts 20:18–35
---- This is where Paul landed at Miletus, met Ephesian church elders and delivered a message. See wikipedia for a list of parallels.

Disgraceful parts:
---- wives should be submissive to your husbands, per the domestic code herein
---- And, on slavery, 6:5 - "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ"

35dchaikin
Edited: Nov 24, 2018, 4:54pm Top

Ephesians - notes from the study bible introduction

The intro says a lot of interesting things that don't really mean much to me. For example, it says this letter presents the most comprehensive and cohesive portrait of God's plan and purposes of the Pauline letters - but the Pauline letters don't really try to do that, and neither really does this letter. So, why manufacture that context?

But it does re-present the outline with an interesting structure:
"The perspective of Ephesians moves from a vastly cosmic picture of God's plan (1.3-23) and the believers' inclusion in it (2.1-22), to the role and mission of the church and life within it (3.1-5.20), to a depiction of relationships with the household (5.21-6.9), to a final description of how, with prayer, each believer stands battle-ready in God's power."
Now, that's quite elegant and beautiful, but it's interpretative and implies there is a lot more here than there actually is. For example, "God's plan" is really just an effusive, kind of liturgical praise, "Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places..." and so on.

36dchaikin
Nov 24, 2018, 5:06pm Top

Ephesians Chapter 1

After a two line salutation, from Paul to Ephesians (both false) the text turns into what my study bible calls "an ancient Jewish prayer form". It feels liturgical and captures the main Christian ideas herein. As this is where thanksgiving normally goes, I find this basically that, thanksgiving for these Christian things - god, Christ, our redemption, etc.

Then it switches to a prayer by Paul, where he does give thanks to the recipients faith, and wishes for them to be rewarded with wisdom, revelation and enlightenment. These are no really Pauline things, but more in line with the Jewish wisdom literature.

It crosses my mind that to view this intro as a Jewish Christian effort to usurp Paul and bring his no-laws Christianity back into the fold of the Jewish range of acceptance. If that were true, I should point out, it's not asking anyone to follow Jewish laws.

37dchaikin
Nov 24, 2018, 5:17pm Top

Ephesians Chapter 2

The first part says roughly, "You were dead through the trespasses and sins...{and we were} in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath", but now by grace you have be saved through faith in Christ. ("saved" - past tense, not Pauline)

The second part, to "you gentiles", notes that now that Christ has abolished the law and commandments, the two of "us" (you Gentiles and we Jewish Christians) can become one.

38dchaikin
Nov 24, 2018, 5:36pm Top

Ephesians Chapter 3

"This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles..." - a theme here, Paul is imprisoned by his commission to spread this message.

Then he goes on about this mystery to which he has brought understanding and wisdom, and which, through the church, will be made know to rulers as part of the plan, or "eternal purpose".

Then Paul prays that "you", strengthened by Christ, will have the power to comprehend "what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of something in God and Christ. That's a 4-dimensional space, and I'm assuming the extra dimension is intentional.

39dchaikin
Nov 24, 2018, 6:03pm Top

Ephesians Chapter 4 - "I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called..."

Then unity of the Spirit: "There is one body and one Spirit, ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."

Then he pushes gentiles to see themselves as renewed. And he follows this with an oddball list of behavioral rules: speak truth, don't sin, don't steal, don't speak evil etc.

Ephesians Chapter 5 - "Therefore be imitators of God..."

Then the list changes tone a bit - no fornicating, avoid false teachings (paganism?), avoid the darkness and be the light, don't get drunk

Then a section on the unequal relation of husbands and wives. Basically wives should be subject to their husbands, and husbands should love their wives.

Ephesians Chapter 6

The theme continues. Children should obey parents and slaves - oye - see the bottom of >34 dchaikin: for 6:5.

The letter closes on an elaborate section on the Armor of God. "Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Each piece of armor is a religious characteristic, like the breastplate of righteousness or the shied of faith. The study bible notes these are pulled from a text in the Dead Sea Scrolls - the War Scroll.

Finally, there is a closing, where Paul (the "ambassador in chains") says pray, and that he's sending one Tychicus, and finally two line doxology.

40dchaikin
Nov 24, 2018, 7:03pm Top

I feel like I should post some closing thoughts on this letter, but I'm not really sure what to make it. There are some things in here that will be meaningful to a variety of people in a variety of contexts. hmm. I guess I can leave it at that.

41dchaikin
Edited: Nov 27, 2018, 7:08am Top

Philippians - an introduction

This was an easy, almost pleasant read. Nothing offensive, an elegant hymn, and a sense of the writer, Paul, as a person...I mean, well, not really. Anyway, I feel good after reading it, encouraged to get through the rest of these.

version 1: Philippians was one of the letters Paul wrote while under house arrest in Rome, c 62 ce, shortly before he was executed. There are others of these and they can viewed as his last words, although all indications in the letter imply he expected to be released. It's a simple letter to a community he felt close to - Philippia being both his first European community (per Acts 16) and a very Roman city with thoroughly Roman character. It also includes an elegant and powerful description of Christ (Philippians 2:6-11), which some have proposed is the foundation of Christology - that is of interest in who Christ was as a person. I should mention that as I work through these letters, I've begun imaging Rome as the actual center of the religion and it makes more and more sense. The writings, the religion, the ideas are foreign, but it's in Rome they may have all been collected and spread out again. And so it makes sense that's smaller letters from Rome would be preserved and of some influence. And, since these Pauline letters are the oldest NT texts, they influence everything else. So, in a sense, it's possible that everything in the four gospels about Christ had as their originated idea and inspiration this Pauline hymn to Christ (Philippians 2:6-11). So this letter could mark a major foundational text.

version 2: Unfortunately that's all purely imaginative (except that Philippia was thoroughly Roman). We don't know where Paul was when he wrote this, and therefore don't know when, only that he says he is writing from prison and that he writes affectionately. (No angry tirades here). It's just a letter, a preserved text generally believed to be authentic, addressed to Philippians, but otherwise floating without any factual mooring. And the moving piece on Christ, (Philippians 2:6-11), it's probably just a hymn Paul included and not really a big deal.

But as far I know, version 1 could be true.

Philipia was near a port in Macedonia and named after the father of Alexander the Great. See map in >23 dchaikin: for the location.

42dchaikin
Nov 27, 2018, 7:30am Top

Philippians - notes from Wikipedia

summary: The Philippian community sent one Epaphroditus to Paul, who is imprisoned, with some kind of gift, or contribution. Epaphroditus then got really sick, but has recovered. This is Paul's response, which includes he gives thanks and tells of his plans, which include sending Timothy and a possible future visit, and some comments about Epaphroditus. He then sent the letter back to the Philippians with Epaphroditus.

Wikipedia has a very detailed outline, but also this more general outline: Paul's optimism in prison, possibly in the face of death (1:18-26), exhortations on theme of imitating Christ (2:14-18), comments on Timothy and Epaphroditus (2:19–30), counsel against some spiritual advisers and internal conflicts (3:1-21, 4:2-3), notes his "gift" from the Philippians (4:10), a thanks, and he offers what Wikipedia calls "his promise of a divine accounting" (4:17–20)

---------------------------------

Notes from the Study Bible

The study bible highlights that Paul, in bad circumstances, expresses a lot he is thankful for - the gospel's spread, his relationship with Philippian's, Epaphroditus's recovery, and the coming of Christ. The word joy is used several times. He notes some issues too, mainly concerns with what he calls "dogs", "evil workers" and "enemies".

43dchaikin
Nov 27, 2018, 7:46am Top

Philippians Chapter 1

A brief salutation from Paul and Timothy, and then an effusive thanks, and prayer for the Philippians: "And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, ..."

Paul tells of his imprisonment in the light of being thankful. First, because he's imprisoned, he is spreading the word "throughout the whole imperial guard." Second, as he thinks of possibly he dying, he thinks of his own deliverance. "For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain." And then he encourages Philippians to "live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ". The last part, to the Philippians, has a military command tone, which appears especially appropriate here because Philippia was a Roman military garrison.

44dchaikin
Nov 27, 2018, 8:40am Top

Philippians Chapter 2

Where he tells the Philippians:
"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The NRSV prints this as hymn in verse, which I found distracting, so I took out all the formatting. But there is a structure to it, it's has a simple two parts - the first on extreme humbling of Christ - to slavery and human crucifixion, and the second, in counter, where now everyone praises Christ.

This is prep for what follows where he encourages Philippians to "shine like stars" in a "crooked and perverse" world. "It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you..."

Then, his blood having been poured as a sacrifice, he moves on to sending Timothy ("I have no one like him") and Epaphroditus - who maybe gets a backhanded criticism in that, one, we've just been told he's not like Timothy, and two, in less than enthusiastic phrasing (maybe it's a translation issue) Paul writes, "I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus." We also learn Epaphroditus was ill and nearly died.

45dchaikin
Nov 27, 2018, 8:54am Top

Philippians Chapter 3

In section titled in NRSV "Breaking with the Past", Paul changes tone and writes, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!", the last a reference to circumcision, making the whole a reference to those Jewish Christians who want gentiles to follow Jewish law. Then he tells of all the positive Jewish aspects of Paul, including his righteousness under the law, "Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ." He goes on to criticize "them" and emphasize the Christ transformation and tells Philippians "join in imitating me."

Philippians Chapter 4

Mostly an encouragement of Philippians to keep being good Christians. He also drops some names, his coworker, Clement, and two women he wants the community to help, Euodia and Syntyche. He gifts thanks for the gift, emphasizing he doesn't need it, but welcomes it. Then a final greeting.

46dchaikin
Nov 30, 2018, 7:30am Top

Colossians - an introduction

A letter to the small town of Colossae, as well as the surrounding towns of Laodicea and Hierapolis (>23 dchaikin:, but the two nearby towns aren't shown). These are communities Paul did not found and never visited - and Paul didn't write the letter either. Actually there is some controversy about that, but it has all the signs of not being from Paul. This is a lot like Ephesians, with similar religious ideas and codes. The letter centers on a mildly interesting hymn-like description of Jesus as part of creation, there from the beginning and then vaguely confronts other religious traditions - maybe pagan, maybe Jewish. The core argument seems to be that you don't have do anything weird or extreme to be a faithful Christian or to find Jesus, you already know him, the "Christ in you."

47dchaikin
Edited: Nov 30, 2018, 9:17am Top

Colossians - notes from Wikipedia

The Wikipedia article is, unfortunately, a bit messy, with some random commentary and missing citations.

- the letter claims it's from Paul, who is in prison, with Timothy. The wikipedia article, and other sources, say the authorship (Paul or not) is controversial. Main issue is religious, with Christ shown as present at creation, something Paul doesn't say elsewhere. Also, linguistic. For example, it has 48 words not found in other Pauline letters

- has similarities to Ephesians and Philemon (which comes later)

- two parts - first doctrinal, and second on conduct.

rough outline
1:1–14 Introduction (Greetings, Thanksgiving, Prayer)
1:15-23 Doctrinal Supremacy of Christ
1:24 - 2:7 Paul's Labor for the Church
2:8-23 Freedom from Human Regulations through Life with Christ (Warning to Guard against the False Teachers (2:8–15), Pleas to Reject the False Teachers (2:16–19), C. An Analysis of the Heresy (2:20–23)
3:1 - 4:6 Rules for Holy Living (actually on submission of wives and slaves)
4:7-18 Final Greetings with lots of names

- highlights shadows - as in how past (Jewish) practice was a shadow of what's to come

48dchaikin
Edited: Dec 1, 2018, 4:04pm Top

Colossians - study bible introduction

- The study bible notes the letter was written to deal with a controversy in Colossae, a community apparently founded by Epaphras, who is named in the letter.

- It's assumed not to be Pauline because of these three key non-Pauline elements
---- 1. Here believers share in Christ's resurrection. Paul places their rising at a later, future time
---- 2. Here Christ is the head of the church, not a Pauline metaphor
---- 3. Uses phrase "forgiveness of sins". Paul writes of freedom from sin, singular, and as a power.

- other non-Pauline elements, but ones found in non-Pauline NT books
---- 1. Christ is present at creation - in Hebrews and Revelations
---- 2. Christ seated alongside God - in Acts, Hebrews and Revelations
---- 3. The contrast of shadow and reality - found in Hebrews

There are several elements that are similar to Ephesians, including long complicated sentences (broken up in translation), and guidance on home life and family and slave/master relations

- The controversy
---- The intro argues there is a controversy being addressed here over access to God. The letter may indicate there were demands on the community to follow some ascetic practices and reach visions to reach Christ. (It's kind of subtle, I think). The author argues that you, Colossians, already know Christ after the baptism and rebirth, and there is no need for these rituals.

---- The letter centers around a Christ hymn (1:15-20)

- It seems there is no way to give a date or place of composition of this letter, except to argue it came after Paul (after 62 ce).

49dchaikin
Dec 1, 2018, 4:48pm Top

Colossians Chapter 1

After a greeting where Paul, with Timothy, says they have heard that "you learned from Epaphras" and have been praying for these Christians in Colossae, there is this hymn:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."
That, to me, sounds a lot like the Jewish wisdom books on the Jewish god, but my study bible only has one citation from Proverbs. Then, it continues,
" And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith..."
And there, in those sections combined, you have the core of the book's philosophy/meaning. Then Paul talks about himself (or pseudo-Paul talks about himself as Paul), where he says basic things to establish his authority and that he means well and can be trusted. In the midst of this, he says,
{to saints like me} "God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
"this mystery, which Christ in you" - that's the baseline for the book's purpose. If you're faithful, the mystery is found in you. The implication, the point he will make later on, is that you don't have do anything special to obtain this mystery, it's already in you.

50dchaikin
Dec 1, 2018, 5:16pm Top

Colossians Chapter 2 where these mysterious opponents are attacked.

He preps:
"I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments."

"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ."
And, in his arguments has this curious line
"He {Christ, in his crucifixion} disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it."
The later he appears to get to the point:
"Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking..."
The first two lines are attacks on the Jewish traditions, and the second line is also his entire bit about the shadows that have been built up upon through the traditions. But the rest of this are attacking other traditions. The study bible confidently identifies this as the controversy the letter is addressing, meaning that some group is asking or demanding those in Colossae to do these things—self-abasement, worship of angels, visions—to be good Christians. These are not Jewish things, so it's curious what the letter is referring to. Anyway, the study bible understands this letter as arguing, roughly: forget these weird things, just have faith in the Christ in you. I think it's worth questioning whether this is the correct interpretation of the letter, because it's not stated that way. Not that I have better interpretation, only that I think it's of value to note that this all of this is very interpretive of the text. It's not straightforward.

51dchaikin
Dec 1, 2018, 5:34pm Top

Colossians Chapter 3

"seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth"
This is the good behavior section where the community is urged to avoid "whatever is earthly", meaning the bad things like fornication or greed. Actually, they are told to strip off these things, as if they clothes, and become one with the rest of the community, and "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience" and so on.

Then the ugly stuff, corresponding the Ephesians 5 & 6
"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

...

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything...wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.
"
Colossians Chapter 4

A few more lines requesting the community pray, including prayers for Paul who is prison. And that's the letter. The remaining part of this chapter are various greetings with numerous names: Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus ("my fellow prisoner"), Mark ("the cousin of Barnabas", whom Paul split with in Acts), "Jesus who is called Justus", Epaphras, Luke ("the beloved physician"), Demas, Nympha, and Archippus. And he mentions the nearby communities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.

52dchaikin
Dec 3, 2018, 3:03pm Top

1 Thessalonians

This is short letter without much to it, so hopefully I can keep my notes short. In summary, it's generally considered actually by Paul and his earliest letter. It ties in well with Act 16-18 where Paul visited Thessalonica, then left, then sent Timothy there and then caught up with Timothy in Corinth. So, the letter is viewed as from Paul, in Corinth, in response to Timothy's report.

The Literary Guide, Wikipedia, and the study bible view this letter as praise in response to a good report from the Thessalonian community. And there really isn't much more this short letter. However, it's worth noting the text praises the maintenance of faith in the community after a worry of persecution. That's Paul's concern, the faith, but it's not the same as saying, you have great community and I hope you are all healthy and doing well. Did this persecution happen? The letter doesn't say. So, quickly, I can think of three extremes of context. (1) There was no persecution and Paul is just praising the community for doing well. (2) There was some harassment, perhaps some people were hurt of worse, and Paul is praising the strength of the community's faith in light of this adversity. (3) The community underwent a major persecution, and maybe people were hurt and killed, and Paul is praising them for maintaining this faith under these circumstances. Not that I think this last scenario happened, but it's something possible they way the letter is written. The letter is demanding good behavior, even tying it to a soft passive-aggressive threat "For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord."

53dchaikin
Dec 3, 2018, 3:14pm Top

1 Thessalonians - notes from The Literary Guide to the Bible chapter on Pauline letters by Michael Goulder

Goulder's whole chapter is based on the 1 Thessalonians being the earliest letter, the one that came before any problems with Jewish traditions, or unfaithfulness or other challenges his authority within the communities he founded. He notes Paul is full or praise and writes in "his triumphant joy of their faithfulness." And he notes Paul has two worries, the first is that persecution would lead the community to give up their faith. The second is whether they are "walking blameless in holiness".

54dchaikin
Dec 3, 2018, 3:21pm Top

1 Thessalonians - notes from Wikipedia

Not much to add here other than a date (52 ce) how it has nothing on justification by faith or on gentile-Jewish relations.

2:13-16 is highlighted because this is where Paul claims Jews killed Christ, something he contradicts elsewhere. It's sometimes considered a later interpolation, although I'm sure on what grounds other than discomfort. It does, for the record, fit in well with the flow of the text.

Outline:
1:1-10 - salutation and thanksgiving
2:1-20 - Paul's past with this community
3:1-13 - on Timothy's visit and the community's faith
4:1 - 5:25 - various admonitions and guidance
5:26-28 - closing

55dchaikin
Dec 3, 2018, 3:23pm Top

1 Thessalonians - notes from the study bible

- Thessalonika was a Greek town with a Greek cultural character, but committed to Rome
- dates this to 51 ce
- Pastoral, warm and affectionate throughout
- draws on Greek philosophy
- no Jewish or OT references

56dchaikin
Dec 3, 2018, 3:24pm Top

1 Thessalonians - skipping the chapter notes

I don't really have anything to add to what's above.

57dchaikin
Dec 4, 2018, 10:03am Top

2 Thessalonians

There is a lot of fun but kind of silly debate about Second Thessalonians because, while it doesn't exactly contradict First Thessalonians, it does appear to correct an aspect of it. In First Thessalonians there is a section where Paul tells the Thessalonians to stay always in anticipation of that second coming of Christ, which could happen any moment. It's just one of those things he tends to say. Second Thessalonians makes a point of noting all these things that need happen before that second coming can happen. It basically says, whoa, chill a bit, don't get overexcited about this second coming bit, it could be a while...at least it says this if put next to the First Thessalonians.

And this all leads to a debate on authorship. Did Paul write this letter? The scholarship is split. If he did, it's kind of like he sent the first letter and then thought, oops! Or he sent it, then got word of an over-zealous reaction in Thessalonica and thought he better try to nudge them back to reality a little bit. This letter mentions the importance of work, and the implication may be that those who felt they were on the cusp of the second coming stopped working... (2:10 says "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.", a line picked up by Lenin and packaged for that non-Christian Revolution as, "He who does not work, neither shall he eat.")

The other idea is that communities were getting impatient waiting for this second coming. This letter filled a need, a way to reinforce a long-term patience. It was written as if by Paul to strengthen the argument. In this case (my preference, but really, who knows) the authors took First Thessalonians, a key culprit, and mimicked it, copying its structure and much of its wording, and then centered this letter on a little correction - indirectly, of course.

What's interesting to me about the debate is that there is an argument that if we just has one or the other of these letters, there would be no debate on authorship, it would be simply considered Paul. It's only when the two letters are placed side-by-side that the problems, if they are problems, appear.

What's only interesting in terms of its insight into oddities of humanity, is that some authors based their argument on authorship on line 3:17: "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write." So, clearly Paul wrote this if he says so in the letter 3 times in one line. Very convincing.

58dchaikin
Dec 4, 2018, 10:12am Top

I won't got through usual notes, but I'll quote the heart of the letter (2:1-12):
"As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned."
The lawless one is Satan, or satanic in some way. As to why he's being restrained when he paves the way for the second coming, or what the removal of this restraint means, this the letter is a little vague about.

59dchaikin
Edited: Dec 4, 2018, 2:24pm Top

1 Timothy

Can't say I like this one. The main theme is respect your ruler, subservience of women and slaves and don't rock the boat. The letter, which is written as if Paul were addressing Timothy, appears to apply to a church organization that post-dated the era of these two. It quotes Luke (as scripture), cites Acts and appears to be cited in 120 by Polycarp, so that narrows the date of composition to roughly 90-120. So a non-Pauline letter designed to reinforce church and cultural structures.

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus make up the Pastoral Epistles. All appear to date from the same period and, as all are from an apostle to another Christian religious leader,so they are all about religious organization-related kind of stuff, and, at least here, especially on reputation.

60dchaikin
Edited: Dec 4, 2018, 3:04pm Top

1 Timothy - notes:

- wikipedia and the study bible note is appears to argue against gnosticism tendencies - but that's all mainly based on line - 4:3, "They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods"

- Traditionally Paul is writing to Timothy in Ephesus about the Ephesian Christian coummunity

- The Pastoral Epistles are consistent in style, vocabulary, theology and content, but distinct in all these from the other Pauline letters.

- They were probably a set, but order is unknown. Canonically order is longest to shortest (as are all the other Pauline letters. I didn't realize that.)

- Date limits are roughly 90-120, and the study bible like's Trajan's reign as the time for composition - 98-117

Chapter 1
- Paul tells Timothy to remain in Ephesus and "instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine"
- "we know that the law is good" - this seems like an aboutface to me, but Paul does praise the law elsewhere.
- Tells Timothy to "fight the good fight"

Chapter 2
- prayers "for kings and all who are in high positions" (ok, there's an "everyone" in there too, but only these are specified)
Then:
"Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing..."
(Adam wasn't deceived? Women submissive, but saved through sex...I mean childbearing.)

Chapter 3
on bishops and deacons

Chapter 4
- The supposed anti-gnosticism reference
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will renounce the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods..."
- Timothy should show godliness and be public about it.

Chapter 5
respect elders and care of widows who fall within certain acceptable parameters, and elders should drink wine

Chapter 6
- slaves should be submissive to masters.
- Then:
"Whoever teaches otherwise (then all the above) ... has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain...For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."
- Then back to Timothy, who should do good.

61dchaikin
Dec 4, 2018, 6:30pm Top

2 Timothy

OK, I hated 1 Timothy. And the notes I read explained how 1, 2 Timothy and Titus were all similar, all kind of part of one thing, these Pastoral Epistles, which left me dreading this letter. So, having prepped myself to force my way through this, I started reading the wikipedia page on this...and I was really confused. These notes were on a completely different kind of letter, one that might have actually been written by Paul. The study bible intro had the same thing. So, why did these same sources previous describe these Pastoral Epistles as one thing with all these similarities? Then I started reading the letter and was a bit surprised to discover it has some substance. I have no idea what Paul's actual role in this letter was, but it's one of the better Pauline letters. This was decent reading.

So, this is traditionally considered Paul's last letter because he writes as one imprisoned and condemned to die. He mentions several names, and they have all either abandoned him or happen to be away (from Rome, presumably) - except for one who...maybe something bad happened to. Paul says all his friends deserted him. But he's writing Timothy on the endurance of faith and on Timothy's holding down the leadership and dealing with competing teachings. It's moving and interesting...and absolutely nothing like 1 Timothy.

62dchaikin
Edited: Dec 4, 2018, 7:21pm Top

2 Timothy - notes

- theme is endurance of faith, with a farewell from Paul, imprisoned, and near execution, and without support as his friends have all deserted him (some by chance, not by design)

- different from other Pastoral Epistles (no clue why it's grouped with the other two)

- wikipedia says it has parallels to Philippians, but doesn't explain how.

- mentions Linus - the traditional second pope, after Peter.

- wikipedia says authorship is controversial, so 62 or 65 ce or later. (65 ce has to do with the idea of a second imprisonment of Paul in Rome). My study bible says it's pseudographical, so later.

Chapter 1
- has a nice blessing and some other words for Timothy:
"Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

...

... join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.

...

Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me"
- Paul says Asia has turned away from him, but mentions one Onesiphorus: "when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—may the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!" - What does that means, and what happened to Onesiphorus?

Chapter 2
- tells Timothy to be a good soldier then talks of his own endurance in faith, the "word of God is not chained" (like me). Then he has this:
"If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
"
- He follows this by asking Timothy the present himself well and avoid the theological debates. He mentions, in frustration, two who claim resurrection has already taken place. Which is interesting because Ephesians and Colossians pretty much say this too (They are not considered authentically Paul)

63dchaikin
Dec 4, 2018, 7:20pm Top

2 Timothy - more notes

Chapter 3
- Lists a variety of sins of the last days and then Jannes and Jambres. These two are the traditional names given to the pharaoh's unnamed magicians in Exodus.
- Then, to encourage Timothy, Paul goes over what he's suffered and the endurance to faith he's shown

Chapter 4
- tells Timothy to be persistent and patient: "For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths."
- then what sounds like a farewell:
"As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day..."
- the letter closes with a blitz of names of people who has deserted him, or just aren't around. Some were sent away. Demos is pointed out for deserting, Alexander for opposing his message, Luke is with him (in prison, I guess), and Crescens, Titus, Mark, Tychicus are just away. And there are greeting for others, including Linus.

64dchaikin
Dec 5, 2018, 8:37am Top

Titus

This is kind of like 1 Timothy condensed, but directed to Titus on Crete...and there's not much else to say.

notes:

- Titus has three mentions:
----- Galatians 2:1-10 - he joins Paul in Jerusalem as a gentile
----- 2 Corinthians 8:6,16-24 - he helps Paul collect for the church in Jerusalem
----- 2 Corinthians 2:13, 7:5-16 - he serves as Paul's emissary to Corinth

- In the tradition he goes from Corinth to Crete and, although he continues to travel, he stays there for the remainder of his life. When Crete fell to non-Christians in 832, Titus's head was carried to Venice.

- Traditionally, Paul is writing from Macedonia to Titus in Crete in roughly 66-67ce - this is between his first and second Roman captivity.

- The letter itself has instructions for Titus on his community in Crete with concerns about false and Jewish teachings.

Chapter 1
- Explains that Titus is a good person and should find other good people to be elders, and warns of deceivers and those teaching Jewish traditions
- cites famous line from Epimenides - how a Cretan said all Cretans are liars, which causes a logical paradox.

Chapter 2
- on behavior of elder men, elder women, younger woman, Titus and slaves
- includes a theological bit that the study bible breaks down saying: incarnation of Jesus shows god's grace, and the second coming show's god's glory.

Chapter 3
- obey rulers, with this curious bit:
"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit."
- then insists Titus be good so his believers will do good things, and that Titus avoid dissensions and quarrels.
- then a bunch of names: Paul will send Artemis and Tychicus, and asks for Zenas the lawyer and Apollos to come join him in Nicopolis where he will winter.

65dchaikin
Dec 7, 2018, 9:06am Top

Philemon

This little letter might provide a some insight into the nature of Paul's writing. Paul is writing Philemon in Colossae about his slave Onesimus. It's just 23 lines. Traditionally this letter is viewed as Paul asking Philemon to forgive the enslaved Onesimus for having stolen money and run off to freedom, but the letter doesn't say that. Actually, it's curious in that in it's written in such a way that it's not clear what Paul is doing or why. Onesimus is thought to have run off based off the line, "he was separated from you", and he is thought to have stolen money because Paul wrote, "If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account." One prominent theory proposes that Onesimus was not a slave of Philemon, but a brother, even though one of the clear things in the letter is to identify Onesimus a slave.

It seems to be carefully vague and one can read this in several ways and contexts, the nature of the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation varying on your perspective. The study bible calls this a "masterpiece of church diplomacy." Paul manages to appear to be demanding something from Philemon, but in such a way that Philemon is flattered, valued, seems under no-pressure to do anything, but is maybe really pressured and if he wants to comply, and all the details are in there. That is the letter can say a great deal, or, really nothing at all - an example of Paul's writing that is worth thinking about when reading his other letters, the authentic ones.

One can read the letter as Paul's wanting Onesimus, requesting Philemon free him so Paul can use him, and, if Philemon feels there should be a price, Paul has offered to let Philemon charge his account - whatever that mean in this context. (Does Paul actually have the ability to pay?)

notes :

- this is considered authentically Paul

- the timing is unclear. Paul says he's imprisoned, but aspects of the letter imply Paul can get to Colossae, which means he's probably closer than Rome and hence not imprisoned there. But none of his other known imprisonments appear to work either.

- This letter is viewed both as a foundational document justifying slavery and as playing a key role in humanizing slaves and hence ending the practice.

- In the structure of the letter Paul first flatters Philemon, next prepares him for his request, next kinda sorta makes the request, follows with maybe practical aspects and then a greeting.

- Paul's prep includes some deft lines:
"...though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love" ... "I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this* is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord."
*"this" - so he was separated from Philemon so Philemon could get him back?

- Before the final greeting Paul mentions asides about "charge that to my account" and "I will repay it", without actually referencing a purchase. But that's why it seems to me he is offering a purchase if Philemon chooses to read the letter that way.

66dchaikin
Edited: Dec 7, 2018, 8:34pm Top

My Pauline Epistle summary. This is also posted on my regular thread

Pauline Epistles
written authentic letters written 52-62 ce, pseudographical letters generally before ~120 ce
format: 126 pages in paperback version of The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, Including the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books With Concordance
acquired: 2012
read: Sep 29 - Dec 5
time reading: 19 hr 50 min, 9.5 min/page

A summary table with: my rating, the letter, whether it's authentically by Paul, a possible date, the number of pages in my study bible, the dates I read it and a whole bunch of html space characters to try to line things up.

***  Romans              Authentic          ~56 ce                 23 pages, read Sep 29-30
**½ 1 Corinthians      Authentic          ~54 ce                 24 pages, read Oct 17-20
***  2 Corinthians      Authentic          ~55 ce                 16 pages, read Oct 25-31
**    Galatians            Authentc          ~56 ce                 10 pages, read Nov 9-16
**    Ephesians           pseudograpical   date unknown        9 pages, read Nov 24
***  Philippians          Authentic          ~62 ce                   7 pages, read Nov 25-26
**    Colossians          pseudograpical   date unknown        7 pages, read Nov 28-29
**    1 Thesselonians  Authentic          ~52 ce                   6 pages, read Dec 2-3
**    2 Thesselonians  pseudograpical   date unknown        4 pages, read Dec 3
*      1 Timothy          pseudograpical   date unknown        8 pages, read Dec 4
***  2 Timothy          uncertain           ~62 ce or unknown 5 pages, read Dec 4
*      Titus                  pseudograpical   date unknown        4 pages, read Dec 5
***  Philemon            Authentic          ~57 ce                   3 pages, read Dec 5

One possible order:
1 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, Philemon, (2 Timothy), Philippians

I post on these four epistles posted on above (links go to those posts): Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians

--------------------------------------------------​

I decided to lump all the Pauline letters into one "book", causing some havoc in all my various reading lists, and numbering, which is now partially fixed...mostly fixed. The Pauline letters are the oldest texts in the New Testament, the closest Christian documents that we can get to the life of the founder. As such, they have a huge value both historical and religious, as they set the framework for all the later thinking and writings, including all the canonical gospels. Unfortunately and oddly they don't say much about Jesus himself, his life or his thinking. In Paul you get a basic framework that says the Messiah has come and given the world a restart, come put your faith in this, be reborn through your baptism and join in - except that his letters are written to Christians - so they say it more like, we, who were given a fresh start and cleansed of our sins through Jesus when we were baptized...and so on. So what was he doing and why are these writings, writing that are essentially practical works for at-the-time diplomacy, preserved, or kept holy?

You may have heard of the idea of Pauline Christianity, a phrase with broad and multiple meanings, among them the idea that Paul redefined Christianity in his own way, somehow taking it away from this "meek will inherit the earth" peaceful Messiah who saved souls. And maybe he did, but since the Sermon on the Mount came after Paul, we can't really say. It also refers to a type of Christianity. Paul is about forgetting the traditional laws, and focusing on your salvation. But he's not against all rules, he demands a maintenance of conservative cultural norms (which at the time probably weren't considered conservative). So, he is passionately against crimes like fornication, but he also wants to preserve the social order with slavery and submissive wives. His imitators who wrote in his name would demand woman be subservient in pretty disturbing ways and some of that is preserved in the pseudographical Pauline letters. Anyway, social conservatives, especially American style, like Paul and are much more comfortable with him than with those pushing social justice with the gospels in mind.

Maybe, essentially, Paul represents the true foundation of Christianity. The initial Jewish Christian sect probably didn't have a great future because Judaism has largely been a blood religion, pushing bloodlines over conversions. So, Paul, born Jewish, turned his back on Jews, but not really, and focused entirely on the world of gentiles. His Christianity is free of all Jewish tradition, even if he says the traditions aren't harmful, because the need for these was wiped away by the crucifixion. And, actually, Paul viewed anyone pushing these laws as a competitor corrupting the message—even though the laws aren't harmful, they maybe are, or something. Anyway, this followers don't need to worry about them, they can follow Paul's Christianity without having to adopt any strange-to-them customs. Or maybe he rode a movement that was already spreading and put himself in a prominent position. But it's fascinating to imagine him carrying the torch of this eastern cult and spreading its message everywhere he went, bravely, suffering various horrible punishments, and managing to completely capture a group here and there, groups that would have to turn their back on all other religious traditions. It's probably the way most Christians imagine him, and it's a image worth thinking about, maybe even focusing on.

What's odd about reading Paul's letters is that you can't pin him down exactly on much of anything. He's vague and inconsistent and frustrating to follow and try to come to any conclusion. It's not a wandering frivolous inconsistency, but carefully crafted hovering on both sides of the fence. The last and shortest epistle, the one to Philemon, expresses this most clearly, as Paul carefully conceals what exactly he is asking for so well that today we don't really know. He was, to put it another way, a master diplomat and always that. Never one to be cornered.

But Paul isn't fun to read. Having spent all this time with Paul and his imitators, I'm left feeling that he almost turned me off of reading this NT altogether. Why suffer through all these twisted logics that are ultimately, for one reading this for something other than religion, uninspiring? I, of course, am not concerned with the obscure details of Christian faith, as long as Christians are happy with their religion and not too abusive about it. So, these details—goodness, do people spend their lives twisting out the mystical meaning in this? Ultimately, the gospels are way more fun.

67dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2018, 12:59am Top

The Letter to the Hebrews

The few notes I read before I started Hebrews gave me the impression that it was a really elegant work in Greek but a really boring one in English. It was actually ok. Gabriel Jasipovici, in the Literary Guide to the Bible, calls it the most sustained exploration of the relation of Jesus to the Old Testament (I'm paraphrasing from memory). It has an odd theme of showing how Jesus is better than anyone in the Old Testament, even comparing him to angels, and also how he represents a renewal. What was most interesting to me is first that it provides an interpretation of various aspects of the Old Testament, although mostly to reduce the OT. And, second, that even as it kind of denigrates the OT, the letter gains some literary power from the OT text. It builds a lot on Genesis 14, one of the most interesting non-talked about part of Genesis, a chapter full of mysterious historical references. And it also builds on Psalm 110, a curious war psalm. If you read those two sections before or while reading this letter, then suddenly this comes alive and there is some impact here.

The letter is traditionally ascribed to Paul, but no one ever thought Paul wrote it. The style is completely different. It reads kind of like an updated, mainstreaming of Paul's style, as if to make Paul's format more universally palatable...and, admittedly, much blander. And, like Paul, there are no clear references to the canonical gospels. When Jesus is "quoted" here, the letter is actually quoting psalms from the OT somehow ascribed to Jesus. My casual analysis is that if the gospels had been around, this letter would have quoted them - so I'm dating it post-Paul/pre-Gospel (roughly 63-70 ce). Experts date it to before 95 ce, when a non-canonical letter quotes it.

68dchaikin
Dec 18, 2018, 8:08am Top

Hebrews - general notes:

- lots of silly theories on authorship, including that the author was Priscilla (a prominent follower of Paul) but that her role as author was repressed because she is a woman. (In my casual analysis, there is no reason to think that any one author sat down and uniquely wrote, or dictated, this. I prefer the idea that, like the gospels, it accumulated within a community of some kind of atmosphere partial to kind of thinking.)

- Another idea is that that author was mediating between sects of Judaizers and antinomians (because we need more jargon) -- that is between those who wanted non-Jews to become Jews first, follow Jewish customs and then become Christians, and those who wanted nothing to do with Jewish traditions. Kind of like a Peter vs Paul argument. But, actually, it more latter, more Pauline, because it expresses the idea that Christ has fulfilled the Jewish prophecies moving us on to something new.

- dating also has silly theories based on unlikely interpretations. One theory has that this text must have been written before the Jerusalem temple was destroyed because it mentions the customs in the temple as if they were ongoing.

- audience is unknown, even though it says it's addressed to the Hebrews. Lots of theories - Maybe Jewish Christians thinking of giving up the Christian part, or for doubters or to prevent apostasy or, you know, just another early exploration of Christianity.

- Wikipedia has the themes as Christ the person and his role as mediator between God and humanity. And also Christ in a dual role as the divine son of God and an eternal high priest.

- Some focus on Melchizedek (mentioned without much context in Gen 14 and Psalm 110). Melchizedek was the king of Salem, and made peace with Abram (before he become Abraham). He Genesis 14 "he was priest of God Most High" and blessed Abram. In Psalm 110, Abraham, unnamed, it told, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” This led to myths around Melchizedek, some found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. And here, in Hebrews, the priest forever is actually Jesus, not Abram.

quoting from Wikipedia:
"The Epistle to the Hebrews is notable for the manner in which it expresses the divine nature of Christ. As A.C. Purdy summarized for The Interpreter's Bible (1955):

We may sum up our author’s Christology negatively by saying that he has nothing to do with the older Hebrew messianic hopes of a coming Son of David, who would be a divinely empowered human leader to bring in the kingdom of God on earth; and that while he still employs the figure of a militant, apocalyptic king... who will come again..., this is not of the essence of his thought about Christ.

Positively, our author presents Christ as divine in nature, and solves any possible objection to a divine being who participates in human experience, especially in the experience of death, by the priestly analogy. He seems quite unconscious of the logical difficulties of his position proceeding from the that Christ is both divine and human, at least human in experience although hardly in nature.
"

69dchaikin
Dec 19, 2018, 8:44am Top

Hebrews - more general notes

from Gabriel Josipovici in The Literary Guide to the Bible

--- "...the Epistle to the Hebrews is the most profound and sustained exploration in the Bible of the relation of Jesus to the Old Testament, and of 'now' to 'then'."

--- He follows at some depth a theme on how within the NT, the OT is reworked and redefined to fit into a certain view of Christianity. He mourns how it's simplified, how complicated nuances are reduced to black and white meanings. After pointing out some examples where Hebrews simplified Jeremiah, he writes: "It's not so much that an old meaning has been subsumed into a new one as that a new meaning has blotted out the old."

--- That can be said about the bible anytime it cites itself. The meaning is always changed. It does make some sense to go over that here in this letter, but it means he doesn't really go into Hebrews itself.

--- on the same theme, he quotes Mary Douglas from Natural Symbols on the "thin" connections between the texts cited and how they are re-defined:
"We arise from the purging of old rituals, simpler and poorer, as was intended, ritually beggared, but with other losses. There is a lost of articulation in the depth of the past time. The new sect goes back as far as the primitive church, as far as the first Pentecost, or as far as the Flood, but the historical continuity is traced by a thin line. Only a narrow range of historical experience is recognized as antecedent to the present state."


70dchaikin
Dec 19, 2018, 9:18am Top

Hebrews Chapter 1

"Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" - So the letter opens, framing on "these last days", and discusses Jesus as the Son, how he replaces the prophets and is higher than angles "on high", emphasizing the later with several OT quotations

Hebrews Chapter 2

"It was fitting that God...should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings." - It is because Jesus suffered that he is able to help "those who are being tested"

Hebrews Chapter 3 (through 4:11)

- "Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession...is worthy of more glory than Moses"

- Then Psalm 95 is quoted on how Moses and his followers could not enter to promised land because breeches of faith in Exodus.

- (Actually, it's misquoted. Unfamiliar Hebrew places names were translated as Greek words. So "O that today you would listen to his voice! Do not harden your hearts as in Meribah as on that day at Massah in the wilderness" becomes "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion as on the day of testing in the wilderness".)

- The rest of the chapter, through 4:11, explains the psalm. The conclusion is roughly, have faith and don't doubt. Or better: we also heard the message, in our case through Jesus, but will be actually benefit from it because we have faith, unlike those wandering Israelites.

Hebrews Chapter 4

aside from the above, chapter 4 also introduces the idea of eternal rest, an eternal sabbath. Then more on Jesus, as divine high priest who has experienced humanity, is much better than a human and flawed high priest.

71dchaikin
Edited: Dec 20, 2018, 7:15am Top

Hebrews Chapter 5

God is quoted as saying to Jesus: “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” That's from Psalm 110, and the unnamed "you" was originally Abraham (then still Abram), but here is redefined as Jesus. Melchizedek is from Genesis 14. Then, "About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding.", and they do have much to say about it.

(side note: if you're reading Hebrews, now is good time to read Gen 14 and then Psalm 110)
(side note 2: if you're reading Hebrews and are board, Gen 14 will help you regain some reading momentum :) )

Hebrews Chapter 6

This is basically a prep chapter to get the readers attention. First the reader is warned against apostasy, then encouraged (God "will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake"), then given assurance that what God promises is a certainty.

"When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear..." - sorry, just found that quote amusing

Hebrews Chapter 7

Explains Melchizedek, Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. Here the name Melchizedek is translated to mean, “king of righteousness.” (Actually it meant "Zedek is my king". Zedek was a Canaanite deity)

On Melchizedek: "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. See how great he is!" (yes, the text says, "See how great he is")

Jesus is then compared to this Melchizedek: "It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life." ("legal requirements of physical descent" references that Jesus was not a Levite, but form Judah...well, and God. But only Levites could become a priest.)

in a nutshell, Jesus is the high priest forever.

72dchaikin
Edited: Dec 20, 2018, 7:51am Top

8:1-10:19 make up the central part of Hebrews

Hebrews Chapter 8

Jesus as high priest offers a newer and better covenant. The text quotes a long section from Jeremiah about a new covenant, predicting this. (Jeremiah was actually referring to the renewal of the Jewish covenant.)

Jeremiah, as quoted:
"The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah;
not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors,
on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord
"
Hebrews Chapter 9

Christ's "heavenly" sacrifice inaugurates the new covenant - that is Christ sacrificed himself " at the end of the age to remove sin". The chapter includes an interesting description of the tent of worship for the wandering Israelites (a summing of Exodus 25-31,36-40) as set-up. But mainly it compares Christ's sacrifice through his own crucifixion with Moses's sacrifice for the Jewish covenant. Where Jewish tradition required annual blood sacrifice by the high priest, Christ's sacrifice is a one-time all-accomplishing renewal.
"But when Christ came as a high priest ... he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

...

Hence not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been told to all the people by Moses in accordance with the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the scroll itself and all the people, saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.' And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins
"
Hebrews Chapter 10

The first part of chapter 10 is summarized in the study bible as "A final reflection on Christ's sacrifice indicates how it inaugurated Jeremiah's promised covenant: as an act of conformity to God's will." - That is, it restates chapters 8 & 9 and closes this section.

The next section than applies these ideas to their audience, emphasizing faith, hope and love
"... and since we have a great priest over the house of God let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds ..."
The chapter ends on a note about enduring persecution. This endurance will make up a central theme of the last three chapters

73dchaikin
Dec 21, 2018, 12:40am Top

Hebrews Chapter 11

Opens with a definition of faith:
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible."
Then the letter does a quick run through of OT figures, with comments on each what they accomplished by faith - Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, even Jericho and Rahab. Then: "And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets..." and so on. This is a fun section with a lot of obscure references. For example, "they were sawn in two" references the Isaiah, who by legend died this way. Or " By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death" references Genesis 5:24 , " Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him."

Hebrews Chapter 12

Then Jesus, who is shown as the prime example of faithful endurance (through crucifixion). This is followed by a warning, of sorts.
"You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (...Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, 'I tremble with fear.') But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God ... Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews Chapter 13

The letter ends with a section on basically being a good person

74dchaikin
Dec 21, 2018, 12:47am Top

It's interesting, going through this letter again, and reviewing all the errors in translation on top of the active manipulative misinformation on/reworking of the OT. The first time through all the OT references stood out and made this letter very interesting to me. This second time through I find myself dwelling on these errors, and wondering whether this letter becomes a mockery of its intentions under the scope of modern scholarship. What really makes it hard to take this letter seriously is that the main point is very light - basically believe in Jesus because he's better then all these other characters. The Greek may be eloquent, but the actual meaning is shallow and leaving the mistakes to loom large.

75dchaikin
Dec 22, 2018, 10:10am Top

The Letter of James

This is basically a list of proverbs, or at least along the same idea. Traditionally this was viewed as a letter written by James, brother of Jesus, and hence viewed as an early work and a window into a largely unknown but apparently real historical person key in early Christianity. And, why there is no clear reason or evidence to prove this false, there is also no real reason, sadly, to think James the person had anything to do with it either. (For one, it's written in a very clean Greek, and James probably wrote in Hebrew or Aramaic)

The letter is probably most famous for saying, "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." This might seem like a contradiction with Paul, but it really isn't. Paul preached faith alone, but he meant this in reference to Jewish law, he made clear Christians still need to be good people. For Paul, the two go together, just as that statement implies. However, it certainly is a line Paul would never say, and so it probably hints that this letter comes from a different Christian tradition.

My take on this is that it's limited but still interesting view into the Christian miscellany of the late first century.

76dchaikin
Dec 22, 2018, 10:27am Top

Notes on James

-- "thematic essays" (i.e. a few lines on each theme)

-- theme of patient perseverance through trials and temptations.

-- no references to the death and resurrection of Jesus, or of his being the son of god.

-- wikipedia says it parallels 1 Peter, 1 Clement and The Shepherd of Hermes - all late 1st century works

-- some consistency with gospel - especially on the rich and poor. Here the rich are sinners and damned and the poor are spiritually rich (one wikipedia source cites 30 direct references to the Q source...no word on what that author was inhaling when writing. This letter has nothing to do with Mark or Matthew)

-- The idea stated here the faith must be joined with good works (called justification of faith) was considered heretical by some ancient commentators.

-- James was a late addition to the Christian canon.

-- The idea that James wrote it leads to interpretations on the Paul-James (and Peter) tensions, and on how this letter could have been written in response to Paul.

-- According to wikipedia, it includes "the chief biblical text for the Anointing of the Sick." (5:14-15)

-- My study bible notes that it presents a distinct theological perspective. It argues the style indicates a Greek origin, but the content may indicate a Palestinian origin

-- And the study bible notes the perfect God vs. corrupt world theme, and highlights the themes of endurance, solidarity with outcasts (and criticism of the rich), and the idea of the perfect law - mixing faith and a good lifestyle.

77dchaikin
Dec 22, 2018, 2:24pm Top

James Chapter 1

Addressed to "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion", the first thing that struck me about this letter is that topic changed every four lines. So, in 26 more lines we have (1) trials, faith and endurance (2) wisdom, faith and doubts (3) raising of poor, withering of rich, (4) temptation, (5) the gift of living from god, sorta, (6) listen and don't judge, (7) be a doer, (8) "bridle" your tongue and (9) pure religion.

For what it's worth, I think we revisit all these topics. So maybe this is a summing up.
"But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing."


James Chapter 2

on favoritism - why do we treat the rich stranger better than the poor stranger. ("Is it not the rich who oppress you?")

"whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." - that is you have to follow all the laws, not just some. A curious comment in light of Paul. But the examples given are from the ten commandments, which are aligned with Paul. So, it's not clear how far to extend the word "law" in this case - behavior yes, but what about Jewish traditions? (probably not)

Then immediately, this:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
"
What to make of all that? The question is probably the heart of the letter.

78dchaikin
Dec 22, 2018, 2:51pm Top

James Chapter 3

On teaching and watching what you say (bridling the tongue): "How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! the tongue is a fire. ... no one can tame the tongue"

On wisdom and how "envy and selfish ambition" corrupt it, "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy."

James Chapter 4

On crimes from temptation: "You want something and do not have it; so you..." Then follows: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. ... purify your heart ... Humble yourselves before the Lord"

On not judging others.

If the Lord wishes: That is, have in mind for any future plans, that things will go as god wishes.

79dchaikin
Dec 22, 2018, 2:53pm Top

James Chapter 5
"Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you."

"Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord."

"Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."
(admittedly, I don't exactly know what that last line means, but it sounds interesting)

Then on prayer and the anointing of the sick:
"Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up;"
The prayer section includes a bit on Elijah and Rahab. Rahab is the whore in Jericho who helped the Israelite spies. Not sure why she referred here, and also selected out in Hebrews. She must have been popular.

The letter closes
"you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."
That's it. No greeting or benediction or whatever, it just stops there.

80dchaikin
Dec 22, 2018, 2:55pm Top

Nothing to add here, other than to note that James is clearly a wisdom book and that the first chapter really does seem like a summation of the rest of the book. That became more clear reading it over again - a little structure in what is otherwise kind of random.

81dchaikin
Dec 23, 2018, 8:58am Top

The First Letter of Peter

I never took this one. Instead, my thought process was along the lines of wondering, at some point didn't the group putting the canon together consider the idea of filtering out redundancies? This letter is supposedly by Peter from Rome (the letter says Babylon, a Christian name for Rome after the 66 ce rebellion). Of course, there is nothing that specifically identifies it as not Peter, but at the same time there isn't really any reason to think he actually wrote it. If he did...then he wrote this letter for Pauline gentile communities in Asia Minor, about dealing with a lot difficult issues that early Christian communities had to deal with. And if didn't, then it's just another letter demanding Christians behave no matter how good or bad their emperor, their civic leader, their husband or, if a slave, their masters are. They should always keep good behavior as that's part of being Christian. And if they are punished for no good reason, it will be an honor of sorts for them come the second coming.

82dchaikin
Dec 23, 2018, 9:14am Top

1 Peter notes

- author was a well-educated in Greek (so, probably not a Galilean fisherman) and influenced by Pauline letters

- The letters is attested to Peter in two early sources: 2 Peter and in the letters of Clement (late 1st century)

- addressed to five areas in Asia Minor, covering most of the region: Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, "Asia", and Bythynia.

- a lot on steadfastness and perseverance and patience, especially with undeserved suffering, and on the morality of Christians. The perspective is that these communities were small and under suspicion and so the leadership was asking that they make themselves blameless of any real crimes.

- Jesus speaks to the "spirits in prison" (3:19), which has led to a lot of commentary. It's connected to the idea of the "harrowing of Hell", or the idea of the decent into Hell.

- also a lot of commentary ties this into the context of Pliny's letter on Christians, a key insight in the nature of Christian persecution in the early 100's (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliny_the_Younger_on_Christians )

- both wikipedia and my study bible claim the nature of the suffering points to a late 80's date of composition. Seems like a really weak argument since we really don't have a good sense of the nature of Christian suffering at that time.

83dchaikin
Edited: Dec 23, 2018, 12:09pm Top

1 Peter Chapter 1
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:
"
That's the opening. The text then gives what is essentially a condensed definition of Christianity, something Paul tended to do. It's interesting mainly in light of the other letters. For example, James didn't have anything of this sort and may not have agreed with that summary. So, it's possible the authors weren't merely putting their version of a nice summary in, but also making a point that they felt these particular things were the correct beliefs.

Then the text goes into salvation and how Christians should prepare by being holy, with quotes from Leviticus and Isaiah. Where Isaiah has "the word of the Lord endures forever." (Isaiah 40:8), we are told here, "That word is the good news {or the Gospel} that was announced to you."

1 Peter Chapter 2

The first part talks about ridding yourself of malice, envy, insecurity, slander etc so that you can be ready for salvation. Then there a section on living stones:
"Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
Not exactly interesting in itself, but the play on stones leads to quotes from Isaiah on the cornerstone and the stone as a stumbling block - two concept prominent in Mark and Matthew.

Then the text switches to how Christians should always be honorable to authority, even the emperor, even, if a slave, to a harsh master.
"For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval."
My study bible explains that the intention is to view the Christians as the slaves, suffering like the suffering servant (Isaiah 53), meaning like Jesus.

ETA - I forgot to mention, on the stones, that of course Peter writes about living stones. Peter's name references rock (in Aramaic. Also, later in Greek and Latin using the same root that led to English words like petrology...and petroleum)

84dchaikin
Dec 23, 2018, 9:51am Top

1 Peter Chapter 3

The bit on slaves leads to parallel view of wives being subordinate to their husbands.

Then
"Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing."
So, another touch of Matthew. This leads to
"For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him."
Mixed in those curious run-on sentences is the underlined phrase, "spirits in prison". Thanks to the nature of the sentence and other reasons, it's not very clear what that means. What kind of proclamation? Was it a bad one? Anyway, this has become a key citation in the explanation of Hell as the place sinners go to.

85dchaikin
Dec 23, 2018, 9:55am Top

1 Peter Chapter 4

Like Christ, suffer, live not by human desires, but by the will of God. No more licentious behavior (which apparently these followers did before conversion). The end is near, and suffering as a Christian will glorify you.

1 Peter Chapter 5

The author suddenly fronts himself, using I, and defining himself as a respected elder. He writes begging other elders to be examples - humble, steadfast, disciplined and so on. My study bible calls this a congregational code. The letter ends noting Silvanus has the letter and with a greeting from " my son Mark"

86dchaikin
Edited: Dec 23, 2018, 12:46pm Top

2 Peter

This is the letter where the author, who clearly is not Peter, claims to be Peter and then condemns false teachers. It's also the letter where the author addresses complaints that the second coming should have come by then. Of course, we don't know when then was. Finally, it's the book that Peter predicts his coming death and then complains of false teachers of sort that probably could only have existed after Peter was apparently executed by Nero (~68 ce). So, that's two prophecies.

notes:

- Uses a lot of lines from Jude, the assumed earlier work

- References Pauline letters directly. It's vague and wikipedia claims the reference is somehow (maybe through their own miracle) linked to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. My study bible claims it's too vague to know. No other NT books cite Paul.

- wikipedia and conventional scholarship puts the authorship late, as in the latest book in the NT (100 to 150 ce). The study bible editor, Richard J. Bauckham, puts it at 80-90 ce based on the second coming commentary. (His theory is there was a period where Christians had to adjust from anticipating the 2nd coming anytime to waiting a really long time. The commentary put this book within that transition period.)

- some ancient authors expressed doubts about the authorship, especially Eusebius, maybe also Origen (died 253 ce).

- wikipedia has this odd note:
"Tartarus is mentioned in 2 Peter 2:4 as devoted to the holding of certain fallen angels. It is elaborated on in Jude 6. Jude 6 however, is a clear reference to the Book of Enoch. Bauckham suggests that 2 Peter 2:4 is partially dependent on Jude 6 but is independently drawing on paraenetic tradition that also lies behind Jude 5–7. The paraenetic traditions are in Sirach 16:7–10, Damascus Document 2:17–3:12, 3 Maccabees 2:4–7, Testament of Naphtali 3:4–5 and Mishna Sanhedrin 10:3."
I'll leave to others to look up what Tartarus, the paraenetic traditions, the Damascus Document or the Testament of Naphtali are... (ok, Tartarus is where Zeus sends the Titans...see Hesiod...or Plato)

Outline

2-line greeting
chapter 1 - exhortation to Christian virtue
chapter 2 - condemns false teachers
chapter 3 - delay of second coming
2-line closing

- my study bible notes it's presented as Peter's testament (like a last will and testament). Emphasizes strict Christian morality, which maybe was a problem within surrounding cultures.

87dchaikin
Dec 23, 2018, 12:58pm Top

2 Peter Chapter 1

On escaping from the corruptness of the world, and from things like lust, and how virtues tie together - goodness leads to knowledge, leads self-control, leads to endurance, leads to godliness, leads to "mutual affection", leads to love.

Peter predicts his upcoming death, and he point out his witnessing of the transfiguration of Christ. Then:
"So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."
The rising morning star is, of course, Jesus.

2 Peter Chapter 2

Extensively on false teachers with several lines pulled from Jude. Has this, which begins with 2:4 :
"For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell {Greek Tartaros} and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot..."
The point being, God knows how to punish the wicked and save the righteous.

2 Peter Chapter 3

Delayed second coming and interesting reference to Pauline letters:
"First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, 'Where is the promise of his coming?' ... But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. "
And, later,
"Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand*, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."
*true that.

88dchaikin
Dec 23, 2018, 6:47pm Top

1 John

Just finished the almost painfully black and white First Letter of John, which is kind of like the Gospel of John, except more extreme in it's all-or-nones, which means that it's a little mentally stressful when it seems to contradict itself. Maybe I just need to understand better...not sure I want to though. Anyway, I'm not sure I'll get the notes in today, and if not, they will have to wait a bit.

89dchaikin
Jan 3, 7:48am Top

I'm not ready to bring this over to the 2019 thread. I might complete my NT notes here.

90dchaikin
Jan 3, 7:56am Top

Notes on 1 John

Since it's been so long since I actually read this, I'm more dependent on my notes than normal. Let's see what they say.

- traditionally by John, son of Zebedee in Ephesus, but actually written later, probably after the gospel of John
- stylistically consistent in some was with the gospel of John, 2 John and 3 John
- no opening or closing greetings, so it's not really a letter.
- mentions "people who went out from us", vague enough to lead to many ideas on split movements
- and, connected with that, it also begs the reader to stay with what you have heard "from the beginning", supporting the idea that the letter is discouraging anyone from joining a split-off movement.
- a right/wrong black and white kind of text
- "God is love" - this line is probably the main message of later religious interest.

91dchaikin
Jan 3, 8:04am Top

more notes on 1 John

1 John Chapter 1
"We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life

...

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
"
The first quote is the opening line, showing a view of a simplified world where everything can be clearly placed. Also, "from the beginning" seems to tie this with the opening line of the gospel of John. The second quote I leave here because it seems straightforward, emphasizes the black and white quality with truth and lies...and also seems to be contradicted later in the text.

92dchaikin
Jan 3, 9:26pm Top

1 John Chapter 2

hmm. black and white with circular reasoning. Maybe best just to post some quotes.

"Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist;

...

I am writing you no new commandment ... Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him

...

... all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world

...

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.
"

93dchaikin
Edited: Jan 3, 9:55pm Top

If you were wondering, no commandment not-new new commandment was given yet. It comes at the end of Chapter 3, 45 lines of pronouncements later.

1 John Chapter 3

Just more pronouncements. My notes say: love one another or you're a murderer, and maybe that's a good enough summary. I kind of find it hard to take this stuff seriously, sorry.

"Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed."
...
"No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him."
And yet, earlier the letter tells us "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" So, how does one abide in him and not deceive themselves? I'm not sure the answer lies within.

And, finally, the not-new new commandment:
"And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."

94dchaikin
Jan 3, 10:28pm Top

1 John Chapter 4

The short version, without all the circular back & pronouncements:

1. "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God"

2. "God is love" (that's 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16)

1 John Chapter 5

This chapter has a summary of sorts, then this interesting bit:
"This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree."
The underlined part on the trinity in called the Johanine Comma. It was inserted in the 1400's.

For the rest: Water=baptism, blood=crucifixion, and spirit=truth

Then there's an epilogue, but I don't really know what to make up it. I'll just drop a quote:
"We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."

95dchaikin
Jan 5, 12:41pm Top

2 John

At all of 13 lines, there isn't much to this. Traditionally considered written by the apostle John, son of Zebedee in roughly 60-65 ce, and quoted in works from ~115 ce. The author, date and place of composition are unknown beyond, but sources tend to like ~100 ce in Ephesus.
"The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth, and not only I but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever"
That's the opening line which covers most of the essentials - from an elder to a church ("elect lady") and its members ("children"), with a theme of love and truth.
"Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard"
And that seems to be the point, leading to theories that this letter is against split branches who don't believe Christ was ever human, but always a divine spirit (Docetism).

96dchaikin
Jan 5, 12:54pm Top

3 John

Very similar in most essentials to 2 john. It's 15 lines, but less words than 2 John, making this the shortest book in the bible.
"The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth."
You get the point. There are three other Gaius's in the NT (Acts 19:29,20:4, 1 Corinthians 1:14 and Romans 16:23), but this is probably another one.

The letter than goes on to criticize one Diotrephes, not on theological grounds but because he "does not acknowledge our authority", and then it recommends one Demetrius. That's about it.

Some interesting aspects:
- there is no doctrine
- I doesn't include the name Jesus Christ, but instead used the Greek word for "name", Onomatus.
- The second line, where the elder wishes Gaius well, is often cited for the prosperity gospel. (In NRSV the line simply says, " Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.". Other translations slip the word "prosper" in there.

97dchaikin
Jan 6, 9:28am Top

Jude

Whoa, mentality shift. Jude, at all of 25 lines, caught my attention partially because it's an interesting and curious letter, and partially because it's so different than any of the other epistles. Here, writing against "ungodly" "intruders", a brief inclusion of colorful language and clever OT references. In a sense, especially after the brain-dead John letters, the intelligence has increased, or it's just demanding in different and more entertaining ways. Worth a look, for those curious: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jude+1&version=NRSV

98dchaikin
Jan 6, 9:49am Top

notes on Jude

- It's a somewhat controversial letter because it quotes directly from 1 Enoch, a non-canonical book (except in Ethiopian Christianity) (v14-15)

- It references many OT sources and an otherwise unknown story of Michael and Satan arguing over the body of Moses (v9)

- The author describes himself as "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James", which should mean he is the brother of Jesus. Jude has five mentions in the NT. Three as Jude the Apostle (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13 & John 14:22) and two as "Jude the brother of Jesus" (Matthew 13:55 & Mark 6:3)

- The study bible editor of this letter, Richard J. Bauckham, thinks it's possible this is an authentic letter written by Jude in Palestine. I think it's ridiculous thing to suggest. What I think it he actually means is that (1) there is nothing that clearly contradicts that idea, (2) that the style is closer to 2 Esdras than other works and that the sense of OT references is different from other Christian works, and (3) that Bauckham see Jewish methods of interpretation within.

- wikipedia cites the high quality of the doxology (v24-25). In English it seems pretty simple.

- A lot of lines in Jude are found also in 2 Peter (chapter 2). The general sense is that 2 Peter copied Jude, and edited out the Enoch references, and hence that Jude is older original. Of course, as far as we know, Jude may be quoting 2 Peter. From a reader's perspective I'll note that Jude is really interesting, and 2 Peter is not at all, so I like the idea of Jude being the original.

99dchaikin
Edited: Jan 8, 9:01am Top

Revelation

I'm kind of wowed by what I'm reading about Revelation. So, putting down some of this into notes before I start reading the letter itself

So, Apocalypse, or Revelation by John of Patmos, written ~96 ce...

- It's named after the first word, Apocalypse. That's Greek for "unveiling" or "revelation" (And, hence, not Revelations, with the ending 's')
- The author names himself John, writing from the island of Patmos. No one knows who this is. Traditionally, this is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. The scholarship tradition is to call him John of Patmos.
- wikipedia insisted this was written during the rule of Domitian 81-96, but they don't present evidence and I didn't look it up.

It is partially made up of pre-Christian Jewish texts which were translated from Aramaic, and then had references to Jesus inserted.

- That's the theory put forth by James Tabor and Dr J. Massyngberde Ford
- Tabor was involved with trying to defuse the David Koresh group. Part the technique - providing an alternative interpretation of Revelation
- The Greek is considered awkward, supporting the idea this Revelation is largely a translation

This book has some famous stuff

- Four horsemen of the apocalypse
- a 1000 year reign leads to millenarianism - that is, the end of the world idea, an apocalypse.
- 666 and many sevens - churches, seals, trumpets, spiritual figures, bowls, and heads on a dragon
- perhaps making The Pixies This Monkeys Gone to Heaven the prefect theme song
- and something centered on the River Euphrates, which, of course, leads to more Pixies: River Euphrates

And it has numerous interpretations

- including literal ones that see the judgment day immanent - hence David Koresh
- Protestant views sometimes see the Pope as the Antichrist (and idea put forth by Martin Luther, but only after he tried to discard the whole book and got a ton of blow-back)
- most views see this as symbolic with spiritual meanings

100dchaikin
Jan 8, 9:12am Top

Revelation - more notes

In the Literary Guide to the Bible, Bernard McGinn provides a history of the interpretation of Revelation.

Some highlights:
- Seems to be influenced largely by "intertestamental" Jewish literature
- notes that it's cyclic and repeating, with opaque imagery.
- Theme is Crisis-Judgement-Vindication, so lends itself to those under persecution. Also, it's very black & white
- "By tapping into the deep mind of myth in order to give meaning to history, apocalyptic literature introduced ambiguity and polyvalence that increase fascination while compounding obscurity..."

Some history
- was probably mysterious even to its earliest audiences
- St. Augustine represents a shift from "mythically immanent" to "fictionally immanent" judgment. That is he saw this as a book for spiritual reading.
- Go through names like Origen, Methodius, Victorinus of Pettau, Joachim of Fiore, Tyconius and others, where one big discovery is the revisits the same story - it's "recapitulative", i.e. it recaps)
- "On the eve of the Reformation there were, then, three broad ways to interpret the book: the Tyconian-Augustinian model (recapitulative, moral and ecclesiological, but resolutely ahistorical and anitmillenarian); the Joachite (also recapitulative, moral and ecclesiological, but progressively historical and millenarian); and that disseminated by Nicholas of Lyra and his followers (linear-historical, ecclesiological, and antimillenarium)"
- then Martin Luther (see previous post)
- Later - two views affected by the scientific perspective , literary and fundamentalist
- "...the rise of fundamentalist interpretation in the nineteenth century, a kind of inverted scientific approach in its adherence to a crudely literalistic reading as providing the only truly 'objectivity'"

Finally, he notes those who think the book should be viewed as a poem: "Where a book, through thousands of years, stirs up the heart and awakens the soul... there must be something substantial, whatever anyone might say." - citing Herder, whoever that is. This is the view I'll try to bring into my reading

101dchaikin
Jan 12, 6:26pm Top

Finished Revelations this am. Overall, it's very odd, listing off a trail of fantasies in anticipation of readers taking it seriously. I was left at an emotional remove, listening in, so to speak, but just interested in the oddities... wells, the ones that stood out more. Revelations is tied to Daniel and Ezekiel, and I think it's safe to say it's aligned with 2 Esdras and Jude. It feels very unchristian in intent. There were chapters where every reference was to an Old Testament ideas, and long sections where Christ was an afterthought or absent altogether. Christ feels like afterthought for the whole book. For the record, I hate Daniel, my namesake, because the "coded" language is so simple, the books feels dumb. Ezekiel is more interesting (I mean, there's wheel, that's wild, but I'm really referring to the rest of the book). 2 Esdras is kind of fascinating. This, Revelation, is better than Daniel, but is fundamentally limited by it's impossible concrete assertions. Of course, we should read them in code, but it's not like the code is very sophisticated, and like Daniel, it's very awkward.

I'm feeling a closure. I started the OT on Jan 1, 2012. I haven't liked the NT since I finished Acts in September. I've pushed through, and my mindset has been ok with this, but still. I'm mentally done. But, of course, notes. Thinking of a simpler way to do the notes, a less wordy method, but nothing is coming to mind...this wordy thread not being promising.

102dchaikin
Edited: Jan 12, 7:28pm Top

Revelation - an outline from wikipedia, but abbreviated

1:1-20 The Revelation of Jesus Christ

---- The Revelation of Jesus Christ through John of Patmos's visions.
---- seven stars and seven lampstands represent the seven Christian churches. (1:14–20)

2:1 - 3:22 Messages for seven churches of Asia

---- Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, & Laodicea

4:1 - 5:14 The Throne of God appears, surrounded by twenty four elders,

---- four creatures are introduced
---- A scroll, with seven seals, is presented

6:1 - 8:6 Seven Seals are opened

---- for seals 1-6 four horsemen of the apocalypse, then souls of martyrs, then earthquakes and whatnot
---- an Interlude: The 144,000 Hebrews are sealed, and a great multitude stand before the Throne of God clothed with robes made "white in the blood of the Lamb" and having palm branches in their hands.

---- Seventh Seal: Introduces the seven trumpets
-------- "Silence in heaven for about half an hour"
-------- Seven angels are each given trumpets
-------- An eighth angel takes a "golden censer", filled with fire from the heavenly altar, and throws it to the earth

(7th seal reveals contents of scroll, which makes up the rest of the book)

8:6 - 11:19 Seven trumpets are sounded

---- First Trumpet: Hail and fire
---- Second Trumpet: a volcano falls in the sea
---- Third Trumpet: A great star, named Wormwood, falls from heaven and poisons rivers and springs.
---- Fourth Trumpet: A third of the sun, the moon, and the stars are darkened
---- Fifth Trumpet: The First Woe with locusts who are "given power like that of scorpions of the earth"
---- Sixth Trumpet: The Second Woe where the four angels bound to the great river Euphrates are released with a hundred million horsemen.
---- Interlude: The little scroll that John in instructed to eat
---- Outside the temple, at the court of the holy city, it is trod by the nations for forty-two months
---- Seventh Trumpet: The Third Woe that leads into the seven bowls

12:1 - 15:8 The Seven Spiritual Figures. (Events leading into the Third Woe)

---- A Woman is pregnant with a male child.
---- A great Dragon (with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns on his heads)
---- The Dragon waits for the birth of the child so he can devour it. However, sometime after the child is born, he is caught up to God's throne while the Woman flees into the wilderness
---- War breaks out in heaven between Michael and the Dragon, dragon goes after faithful
---- A Beast (with seven heads, ten horns, and ten crowns on his horns and on his heads names of blasphemy) emerges from the Sea, having one mortally wounded head that is then healed
---- Then, another Beast emerges from the Earth having two horns like a lamb, forcing all people to bear "the mark of the Beast", "666".
--- a bunch of angels and gods wine bowl of wrath

16:1-21 Seven bowls are poured onto Earth

17:1 - 18:24 Aftermath: Vision

---- The great Harlot who sits on a scarlet Beast by many waters
---- New Babylon is destroyed. (18:1–8)

19:1-10 The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

19:11 - 20:15 The Judgment of the two Beasts, the Dragon, and the Dead

---- The Last Judgment

21:1 - 22:5 The New Heaven and Earth, and New Jerusalem

22:6-21 Conclusion

103dchaikin
Edited: Jan 12, 7:27pm Top

Revelation - Chapter 1: The Revelation of Jesus Christ through John of Patmos's visions.

- a pre-salutation of sorts introduces the book as an "apocalypse" or "revelation" and tells us "the time is near"

- "John to the seven churches that are in Asia" - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, & Laodicea - all within a 100 miles of Ephesus

- " I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
---- persecution, patient endurance and John's exile to Patmos probably say something about the audience. Patmos is somewhat near Ephesus.

- John is called to report the vision, which is this book

---- seven stars and seven lampstands represent the seven Christian churches.

-
"I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force."
- This is pulled from the image of the Ancient of Days in Daniel (7:9)

- The number 7 is used 57 times in Revelation.

104dchaikin
Jan 12, 8:14pm Top

Revelation - Chapters 2 & 3 Messages for seven churches of Asia

- each has it's own actions praised, its own challenges characterized, and it's own aspects criticized

----- Some are praise for rejecting or criticized for accepting Nicolaitans. No one knows who they are, even if many want them to be Gnostics
----- Antipas "martys", meaning "witness". This martyr is a source for the word martyr.
----- Thyatira has a Jezebel, not otherwise named
----- Pergamum has "Satan's throne", probably a reference to the Great Altar of Zeus there

Revelation - Chapters 4 & 5 The Throne of God appears, surrounded by twenty four elders,

---- 24 elders for 12 tribes and 12 apostles
---- these elders are constantly falling their faces to praise god. Not sure it's a really a desirable role.
---- four creatures are introduced, each with a different face - a lion, ox, human and eagle. Later these would be associated with the gospels. Mark the lion, Matthew the ox, Luke the human and John the eagle.
---- The creatures resembles those from Ezekiel, where each one has four faces of the same animals.
---- A scroll, with seven seals, is presented and lamb that was once slaughtered, with 7 horn and 7 eyes, steps forward to open it. The lamb is, of course, Christ.

105dchaikin
Jan 12, 8:41pm Top

Revelation - Chapters 6, 7 8, 9, 10 & 11 Seven Seals are opened and Seven trumpets sounded

- Four horseman of the apocalypse
---- 1st seal - white horse with rider conquering - the horseman of war
---- 2nd seal - red horse with rider who removes peace - the red representing blood
---- 3rd seal - black horse with rider measuring overpriced food - representing famine
---- 4th seal - pale green horse ridden by death and Hades

---- 5th seal brings up the souls of martyrs, anxious for judgement day
---- 6th seal begins judgement day with earthquakes and storms and four angels from the corners of the earth begin to bring wind.

- an Interlude
---- an angel pauses the destruction to mark god's servants
---- 144,000 Hebrews are sealed
---- then a great multitude stand before the Throne of God clothed with robes made "white in the blood of the Lamb" and having palm branches in their hands.
---- one of the 24 elders explains the multitude

- finally the 7th seal
---- 7th seal reveals contents of scroll, which makes up the rest of the book
---- 30 minutes of silence
---- Then 7 angels are each given trumpets
---- An eighth angel takes a "golden censer", filled with fire from the heavenly altar, and throws it to the earth

- first 6 trumpets
---- 1st trumpet - hail, fire and bloode
---- 2nd trumpet - something like a volcano falls into the sea, which turns to blood and kills all sea creatures
---- 3rd trumpet - star falls to the earth, called wormwood and poisons rivers and springs
---- 4th trumpet - 1/3 of sun, moon and stars darkened
---- an eagle cries "Woe! Woe! Woe!"
---- 5th trumpet - a series of weird events leads to a host of locusts coming from a hell of sort and torturing the damned alive for 5 months - the damned are those that were not "sealed".
---- 6th trumpet - 4 angels from River Euphrates are released with 200,000,000 cavalry. Horses breathe out fire.

- Interlude:
---- An angel comes with thunder that John is asked not to record the meaning of. The angel presents a little scroll that John and he is instructed to eat it, which he does)
---- Outside the temple, at the court of the holy city, it is trod by the nations for forty-two months
---- two prophecy (Elijah and Moses?)
---- two olive tress and lampstands that kill when fire comes from their mouths (the word of God)
---- these are all OT references. The olive tree was Joshua the priest and the lampstand represented Zerubabbel, heir of kingdom of Judah

- Seventh Trumpet: The temple is heave is opened

-extra notes
---- The trumpets bring out parallels the plagues in Egypt - namely fire hail, bloody water, darkness and locusts
---- Ezekiel also eats a scroll. It's a cool symbolic taking in of the message, and kills the source document so that we are forced to trust John.

106dchaikin
Jan 12, 8:46pm Top

from chapter 9
"And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given authority like the authority of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, with stingers, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
"


107dchaikin
Jan 13, 6:07pm Top

Revelation chapters 12, 13, 14 & 15 The Seven Spiritual Figures.

Chapter 12

The pregnant woman and the dragon:
"A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days."
That is apparently the birth of Apollo converted to the birth of Christ, with this Mary beings a form of Isis. (It's definitely not Mark, Matthew or Luke's take). The seven heads of the dragon seven Roman emperors (counted in various ways), the ten horns are ten kingdoms subservient to Rome.

Michael and the dragon fight a war in heaven. When the dragon loses and is tossed to earth, he becomes known as Satan or the devil. Then there's a celebratory poem:
"Rejoice then, you heavens
and those who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
for the devil has come down to you
with great wrath,
"
Yeah, so yay, heaven is spared. But us humans get kind of a raw deal. Mind you, it is judgement day.

Chapter 13

Next two other beast to serve the dragon. One from the sea (also with seven head and ten horns) and one from the land, with two lambs horns. The land beast marks all his followers with 666. The sea beast represents Roman sea power. It has a wounded head, then died and came back. This represents Nero, who is expected to come back to life. It parallels with the Leviathan from Daniel 7:3-7. The land beast represents the priesthood of imperial Rome, hence it has followers. It parallels with Behemoth from Daniel. The number 666 may be the numeric value of Nero's name.

Chapter 14

Then a section of 7 angels. Turns the 144,000 marked are all ritually pure men (the text says virgins, but the notes say just purified). We have angels flying, torturing those conveniently marked 666, reaping with golden sickles, an gathering grapes to make the wine of God's wrath.

Chapter 15

Then seven angels with seven plagues, "for with them the wrath of God is ended." Then a Song of Moses pulled from Exodus and Deuteronomy.
"After this I looked, and the temple of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, robed in pure bright linen, with golden sashes across their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever; and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were ended."

108dchaikin
Edited: Jan 13, 6:17pm Top

Revelation Chapter 16 - Seven bowls are poured onto Earth

I won't go into detail, but a bunch of bad stuff happen to followers of this Roman Satan. Then armies gather for a great battle at "harmageddon", which would roughly translate to "mountain of Megiddo," a strategic city near Judea.

For some flavor, there is a celebratory poem that seems to relish the destruction:
"You are just, O Holy One, who are and were,
for you have judged these things;
because they shed the blood of saints and prophets,
you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!
"
Anyway, the bowls are poured and it gets really bad when the last bowl is pours and "It is done."

109dchaikin
Jan 13, 6:38pm Top

Revelation Chapter 17 & 18 Aftermath: Vision

---- The great Harlot who sits on a scarlet Beast by many waters

"many waters" works for Babylon or Rome. Anyway, she causes the earth's inhabitants to be drunk. And she has a beast with seven head and ten horns and so on. Repeating a bit, I guess.

---- New Babylon is destroyed.

Leads to several poems of celebration and mourning. I thought this was interesting:
"And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives."

Revelation Chapters 19 & 20 The Marriage Supper of the Lamb & The Judgment of the two Beasts, the Dragon, and the Dead

Three hallelujah songs. What I found interesting is that these are the only Hallelujahs in the NT.

Then this:
"Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”"
Not the standard image of Jesus. Anyway, this army kills the sea and land beasts (land beast is the "false prophet") and all their followers.

Revelation Chapters 21 & 22 The New Heaven and Earth, and New Jerusalem & a Conclusion

The dragon, Satan, is locked up for 1000 years. He will then be released and lead an army with Gog and Magog and they will lose and then all the dead will be judged with the ones not marked in a Book of Life tossed into a lake of fire. There is a Book of the Wicked too. This is all unique to Revelation - it's not pulled from known other sources

Then, with everything destroyed, a new heaven, earth and Jerusalem is created. The Jerusalme is a city of jewels and gold with a beautiful wall. There is no temple, sun or moon, and nothing profane. All light comes from God. There is a river of the water of life, with the tree of life on its shore with 12 kinds of fruit

That kind of ends the vision, but it's not a clear end. There is more prophecy and finally a warning not to doctor this text.

110dchaikin
Jan 15, 7:53pm Top

This closes my NT read (of course, if there are any readers, feel free to comment). I have a review on my 2019 thread: https://www.librarything.com/topic/301619#6703466

Group: Club Read 2018

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