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Re: the poor in spirit

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  • Dan Eumurian
    Dr. Longstaff: 1. Did not Jesus did address some of the external expressions of piety to which you refer, although perhaps from a different perspective than
    Message 1 of 11 , May 14, 1999
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      Dr. Longstaff:

      1. Did not Jesus did address some of the external expressions of piety
      to which you refer, although perhaps from a different perspective than
      that of some of his fellow Jews?

      2. Is there not a theme in the Hebrew Scriptures regarding internal more
      than external piety? A few examples could be the "uncircumcised hearts"
      of Lev. 26:41, the "meaningless offerings" of Isa. 1:10-20, and "Rend
      your heart and not your garments…" in Joel 2:13.

      > Furthermore, Paul's letters still do not seem to me to be a good
      > source of information about first century Jewish piety. . . .
      > Furthermore, I know of nothing in Jewish piety that would be even
      > remotely close to Paul's statements about circumcision in Romans 2, > I Corinthians 7 or Galatians 5 & 6.

      See Deut. 10:16, the Leviticus reference mentioned above, and a word
      study of "heart" in the OT. In psychology, as I recall, "higher-order
      thinking" refers to internal rather than external motivation. If I may
      be allowed a personal example, a young woman of my acquaintance years
      ago came back from a weekend religious conference with her parents
      having forsaken all I had tried to teach her about freedom and
      responsibility in favor of a distressing, ineffective legalism. I can
      relate to Paul's dismay and anger.

      > Would any Jew have seen those uncircumcised, non-kosher, non-Sabbath > observant Christians in the Pauline churches as examples of Jewish
      > peity? (sic)

      Would Abraham and the Hebrew Prophets have approved of reducing piety to
      circumcision, kosher observance and Sabbath observance?

      > Are you serious? In Paul and Matthew (indeed in most of the
      > Christian tradition) piety involves following Jesus, often expressed > as taking up the cross and following Jesus. It involves baptism,
      > participation in the eucharist, the confession that Jesus is Lord,
      > the affirmation that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and much
      > more.

      I submit that these expressions of Christian piety are not merely set
      forth as arbitrary substitutions for outward expressions of Jewish
      piety, but touch the heart and spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures. The
      substitutionary atonement, I suggest, fulfills the sacrificial system,
      which is no longer practiced in Judaism, to my knowledge. I have
      wondered for some time whether the "I ams" (EGW EIMI) of GMark (6:50;
      14:62) related to those of GJohn, esp. 8:58, to Exod. 3:14, and to the
      confession that Jesus is Lord. [Comments welcome.]

      > To identify Jewish piety this way borders on Christian triumphalism, > ignoring important elements of Jewish piety which do not carry over > into Christianity.

      The triumph of Jesus over sin and death is intended to benefit Jew and
      Gentile by engendering a piety, devotion and love which sum up and give
      deeper meaning to the LORD's commandments.

      > Your view seems to require a certain centrality for messianic
      > expectation. To be sure, messianic expectation is central in
      > Christianity. Do you find evidence that it is equally central in
      > Jewish life? While it is undeniable that there were messianic
      > expectations in Judaism, it is not at all clear that they were as
      > central as they became in Christianity.

      Thou sayest. I submit that Jesus fulfilled not only the messianic hope,
      but the typology of animal offering (Gen. 3:21) and sacrificial Lamb
      (Exod. 12), prophet like unto Moses (Deut. 18:18), king forever in the
      line of David (2 Sam. 7:16), and more. Pardon my musical reference, but
      see the musical cantata "God With Us" from Integrity Music of Mobile,
      Alabama, USA, and Isa. 9:6-7.

      > It seems to me to state, as you do, that early Christian pietism is, > in turn, simply Jewish pietism either strips Christian piety of its > central affirmations of faith or imposes those affirmations of
      > faith, in a triumphalist fashion, on first century Judaism.
      . . .
      > Matthew's "Blessed are the poor in spirit" does stand in contrast to > Luke's "Blessed are you who are poor....but woe to you who are
      > rich," and may well focus on piety rather than social (economic)
      > justice. The interesting question would then be whether this is (1) > an expression of Jewish piety (I tend to think not because of the
      > later statement, in the same context, "Blessed are you when men
      > revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you
      > falsely on my account" - the last three words of which connect this > to "following Jesus")

      Are you suggesting that a reason for refusing to call a statement an
      expression of Jewish piety is that the speaker warns that those who heed
      him will face opposition? Exit Moses, Abraham, David,….

      > "'But he hasn't got anything on,' a little child said."
      > --from "the Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen.

      "They stripped him…." Matt. 27:28
      "but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,…" Php.
      2:7
      "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can
      become rich; and white clothes to wear,…." Rev. 3:18

      > Dr. Thomas R. W. Longstaff
      > Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies
      > Colby College
      > Waterville, ME 04901
      > Email: t_longst@...
      > Office phone: 207 872-3150
      > FAX: 207 872-3802

      Dan Eumurian, B. Mus. in Mus. Ed., M.A. in Theol. St.
      1634 Barlow St.
      La Crosse, WI 54601
      (608) 788-8637
    • Thomas R. W. Longstaff
      Please note: I have replied to Dan Eumurian off-list since the discussion has changed from one relevant to an analysis of the synoptic gospels to a debate
      Message 2 of 11 , May 15, 1999
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        Please note:

        I have replied to Dan Eumurian "off-list" since the discussion has changed
        from one relevant to an analysis of the synoptic gospels to a debate over
        theology in which I found myself responding to what I understood to be
        "successionist" or "triumphalist" forms of Christian faith.

        As one of the moderators of this list, it seemed to me that the thread
        had gone on long enough and was probably evolving into a debate not
        related to the purpose of the list.

        Dr. Thomas R. W. Longstaff
        Crawford Family Professor of Religious Studies
        Colby College
        Waterville, ME 04901
        Email: t_longst@...
        Office phone: 207 872-3150
        FAX: 207 872-3802
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