According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Christmas Story of Common Sense and Baby Jesus




A Nativity Scene was erected in a church yard and during one cold night it received a lost and cold visitor. An abandoned dog was looking for a comfortable, protected place to sleep. He chose baby Jesus as his comfort station. When discovered during the night, no one had the heart to send him away, and so he spent the entire night there until the next morning when church staff brought him to a rescue shelter (this story was submitted by that same shelter).

The moral of the story: "We should all have the good sense of this dog and curl up onto Jesus' lap from time to time where His everlasting arms are ever open to the lost, the abandoned, the despairing, and unfound." He is as far away as the sigh of a heavy heart sent in prayerful cry and need. And as close at hand as the nearest passerby whom God will send to meet those needs.

Lastly, it should be noted that this dog's breed is a German "Shepherd." Patently driving home the idea to any onlookers not recognizing the significance of the Christ-child - borne in a manager, heralded by angels, worshiped by shepherds of the field, and come to be the Good Shepherd of mankind on a cold winter's eve.

R.E. Slater
December 11, 2011

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The Birth of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1.18-25, ESV)

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

 23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel"

(which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.



The Birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2.1-20, ESV)
1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 "Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.





My JEDP Observations of Biblical Cultural Preservation



My Observations
The Continuing Balance Between Holism and Accuracy
[Extracted from an earlier submission]
R.E. Slater
December 1, 2011

The following JEDP discussion (below) must be broached if only to show that God's revelation through Abraham and Moses, and Israel's later tribes and monarchies, was as complex a process as can be imagined. A process that endured the split of the monarchy into two separate kingdoms with their own separate traditions and beliefs. And later, two separate exiles (one for each kingdom) into foreign pagan countries which only added to the complexity of the textual/source transmission problem of Israel and Judah's epistemologies and culture.

During that time much of Israel's 1st Temple period traditions were lost due as much to their own negligence and nonobservance as to the massive exiles suffered by both the Northern and Southern tribes on separate occasions. Later, under Ezra (and others) the ancient institutions of Abraham and Moses were reconstructed and re-instated during the 2nd Temple restoration period. Many schismatic groups arose during this time, each perceiving some element, or other, of significance necessary to the preservation of their perceived traditions. (As example, John the Baptist's own Essene movement in the NT would be an instance of one of those of groups).

This early "redactionary" effort lasted from the 2nd Temple period into the InterTestamental period, and then through the time of the New Testament, until AD 200. It felt incomplete (as witnessed to by the many sectarian groups that arose in disagreement with one another) and was not standardized by any officiating priestly bodies as observed during Jesus' day of the early 1st century. Here we have the start of incipient (very early) "Rabbinicized" thought occurring in its incomplete construction of a Jewish "orthodoxy" as they debated each other - as demonstrated with Jesus and His disciples - over lost Mosaic traditions. Including their ancient Jewish culture which has already been said to have been lost due to the Israelite and Judaistic tribes nonobservance of their traditions, and because of the displacement of each disobedient tribe from beyond the "Holy Land of their birth."

[Please permit me an aside: ...Interestingly, "Holy Land of birth..." is a problem that continues to this day. One that falls under the Semitic idea of "birthright and inheritance." Rather than learning to live together as blended cultures (regardless of one's location on this planet) we as humans must discriminate and empower our un-loving actions towards other groups different from ourselves, as rights of fiat and control over "competing groups" to our own sociological group. In this case, the Jews have elevated their rights over-and-above their Palestinian, and later, Muslim neighbors. Each struggling with the other for land rights, political recognition, and safety - though the same could be said of any country around the world that has competing groups within, or outside, their borders (America not excluded). Each struggling for ascendancy over the other rather than cooperating with each other and using their cultural differences as added strengths to their continuing blended corporate identities rather than as detracting causes for separation and disharmony.]

Much later, in the late 2nd century, around AD 200, the Rabbinic tradition was codified having established the Torah with its separately perceived Jewish traditions that is observed by conservative Jewish worshippers of today some 2000 years later (again having morphed and endured millenia's of exile and cultural assimilations throughout Europe and the Middle East from the early centuries to the middle ages to today). This codification / ratification process was probably necessary due to the very popular reaction of regional Jews to the Jewish-Christian spread of the Gospel. As well as to its early influences within the early Jewish-Messianic church itself that had arisen in popular acceptance of Jesus radical teachings to the perceived notions of early Rabbinicism's Mosaic understanding of God, the Mosaic law and grace, mission, ministry and life. Meaning that, even in Rabbinicism's early days Jesus had told the Pharisees and Scribes that their perceptions of God, God's law, their faith and worship - even how they went about reducing their dogmatic perceptions into their culture - was misguided. Focusing on the rules of religion rather than the God of their religion. Jesus rebuked the religious bodies time-and-again for guiding their flocks into religious legalism and  austerities rather than into the grace and life of His Father's Gospel.

And lest we Christians think we're "off the hook" here it is Emergent Christianity's observation that whether Emergent, Denominationally Progressive, Evangelic - or whatever Christian group that we prefer to be affiliated with - these attitudes still persist today. We have taken the Gospel of Jesus and have usurped God's love and grace into rules, rules, and more rules. Rules that appeal to our self-righteousness. Rules that appeal to our pride. Our legalisms. The old man of our flesh. The deceits of our hearts. The lies of our tongues. And the blindness of our eyes. We have missed the simplicity of God's Gospel in Christ by making a "religion" out of it rather than a "life" out of it. God did not intend His grace and love to be hard. Its as clear as personal sacrifice. Personal service. And personal sharing. To follow Jesus' example is to follow a life that is selfless, giving and transparent. Its no harder than that. Our faith should be living. And it should be living-out God's love and grace to one another. Not systematized. Not legalised. Not legitimized. Not worship'ized. Not dogmatized. Not.... anything! Jesus is the ground zero of the Christian example. His atoning life, death and resurrection gives our faith its reality and energy. We are His disciples and follow Him in obedience as His disciples. It is no harder than that. And it is as simple as that despite all that we would do to confuse and muck-up the purity of God's love and grace by our more human interpretations and demonstrations of "service, worship, love and duty."

And so then, I'm sharing below the JEDP effort of source criticism more to show how difficult it was to preserve both the oral and written traditions over millenias of religious tradition, personal interpretive preference, understanding and constitution when it was especially misunderstood and neglected even in its earliest years before tribal feuding began in political earnest. Through the books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel alone we see disruptions of faith occurring through simple inobservance and education of their faith, let alone the local and regional wars that dissembled their collective knowledge and process of learning. Prophets came and they went decrying Israel's lack of attention to Torah and worship of YHWH. They were ignored or killed. Making us ask, just what are we attempting to "collect" in our eternal pursuit for the original autographs of the Word of God - even amongst Israel's earliest histories of political formation?! For it seems that what we can collect is only what's left to collect. Which is Israel's own history of understanding her ancient God through the millenniums of her struggle to apprehend the divine. A collective knowledge that perhaps presented together can lead today's postmodern church to hearing Jesus' words more clearly  than through our own creeds and confessions and church traditions built up over similar millenias of inobservance and misapprehension.

So that when we speak of God's "Word" our only credible evaluation of it now must be through Jesus and His disciples as they understood and interpreted the much older Abrahamic and Mosaic faith which had been lost and gathered-in as much as it was possible after Israel's return from their Babylonian exile. Verily, traditions and cultures by their nature can (and will) be lost due to time's ravages and the human psyche's perchance for selective memory. But the salvific truths of God's love and grace endures  however they are passed on to the next generations for all time. And this is the nub of our observations here. It's not in the lost details that we wish to re-discover and interpret, but in the plain evidences that we still know - and have preserved right before us - that actually are the remaining legacies of Israel's ancient faith. That God is actively involved in His people's lives to preserve and protect their living faith so that it may be shared with their friends and enemies alike. A faith important enough to be shared of God's love and forgiveness to all men and women everywhere. What has been lost has been lost. And in a sense is not necessary to recover because of the larger thematic themes left before us. But in another sense if recovered will show the durability of those sames themes in ages past of God's patient love, willing forgiveness, austere holiness requiring atonement, the necessity of redemption, of belief, of faithfulness, of mercy, wisdom and good judgment shown to ourselves and to our neighbors around us.

And it is these elements that are the rockbeds of faith's persistence. Not how long a priestly skirt should be. Or where a temple vessel should be properly placed. Or how many times one bows to the East or to the West to praise God. Those are man's weak cultic attempts to appease his legalistic spirit and sin's blinded prevarications of religious division and pride. God has given to us the freedom to worship Him within the infinite totalitarity of our enterprising human spirit and boundlessly creative imaginations. He is neither less pleased, nor more pleased, with our efforts to grasp and live His love and grace, truth and Spirit. It is for us to follow, obey, worship, and behold the splendor of His creation. From its many forms of suffering to its many forms of delight. We do not need to muck-it up with the overburden of our guilts and ignorance.

So that regardless of cultural proscriptions and approbations - including those ancient Jewish customs of yesteryear, or today's more recent heritage of Gentile/church traditions - all men everywhere may enter into the Kingdom of God without cultic formality except by the blood of the Lamb and the holy breath of the Spirit of God! It is not important whether we worship God as a Jew or as a Gentile, with bells on our dress and headpieces on our bearded heads - or shaved heads for that matter! What God is looking for is our heart's devotion - whether it has been circumcised in Christ and betrothed to the Cross of Christ. For it is in the heart that our worship ultimately lies. Not the color of our skin. Nor the traditions we observe. Nor how worn our knees are from following the religious traditions of our church's prescripts and liturgies. For the Kingdom of God is trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-temporal in all of its behaviors and inclinations. God is our birthright. He is our inheritance. And it is all made possible through Christ Jesus His Son until He comes again in the renewal of all things at some future day of final resurrection and infinite grace.

Amen


Section 3
HISTORICAL TIMELINES OF
OT & NT TEXTS
(Click on Picture to Expand to a Series of Gallery Views )











 The JEDP Old Testament
Documentary Hypothesis

The documentary hypothesis (DH) (sometimes called the Wellhausen hypothesis), holds that the Pentateuch (the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses) was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors (editors). The number of these is usually set at four, but this is not an essential part of the hypothesis.

Diagram of the Documentary Hypothesis.
*includes most of Leviticus
includes most of Deuteronomy
"Deuteronomic history
Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings
The documentary hypothesis assumes that the text of the Torah as preserved can be divided into identifiable sources that predate its compilations by centuries, the Jahwist (J) source being the oldest, dating to as early as the 10th century BC, along with the Elohist (E), the Deuteronomist (D), and the Priestly source (P), dating to the 8th to 6th centuries. The final compilation of the extant text is dated to either the 6th or 5th century BC.

In an attempt to reconcile inconsistencies in the biblical text, and refusing to accept traditional explanations to harmonize them, 18th and 19th century biblical scholars using source criticism eventually arrived at the theory that the Torah was composed of selections woven together from several, at times inconsistent, sources, each originally a complete and independent document. The hypothesis developed slowly over the course of the 19th century, by the end of which it was generally agreed that there were four main sources, combined into their final form by a series of redactors, R. These four sources came to be known as the Yahwist, or Jahwist, J (J being the German equivalent of the English letter Y); the Elohist, E; the Deuteronomist, D, (the name comes from the Book of Deuteronomy, D's contribution to the Torah); and the Priestly Writer, P.

Julius Wellhausen's contribution was to order these sources chronologically as JEDP, giving them a coherent setting in the evolving religious history of Israel, which he saw as one of ever-increasing priestly power. Wellhausen's formulation was:

While the hypothesis dominated biblical scholarship for much of the 20th century, it has been increasingly challenged by other models in the last part of the 20th century. Its terminology and insights continue to provide the framework for some modern theories on the origins of the Torah.

History of the Canonization of the OT

Theorized Transmission of OT Text based upon ancient JEDP Sources:
From the Judahistic (Yahwehistic), Israelite (Elohim/Elohist), Deuteronomic, and Priestly traditions.
Then proceeding from Redactors JE, to JED, to JEDP, and finally canonized into the today Torah.


[from Wikipedia continued]

After Wellhausen
Distribution of materials of Jahwist, Elohist and Priestly sources,
as well as Redactor's contribution in the first four books,
following Richard Friedman.
For much of the 20th century Wellhausen's hypothesis formed the framework within which the origins of the Pentateuch were discussed, and even the Vatican came to urge that the "light derived from recent research" not be neglected by Catholic scholars, urging them especially to pay attention to "the sources written or oral" and "the forms of expression" used by the "sacred writer". Some important modifications were introduced, notably by Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth, who argued for the oral transmission of ancient core beliefs—guidance out of Egypt, conquest of the Promised Land, covenants, revelation at Sinai/Horeb, etc. Simultaneously, the work of the American Biblical archaeology school under William F. Albright seemed to confirm that even if Genesis and Exodus were only given their final form in the first millennium BC, they were still firmly grounded in the material reality of the second millennium. The overall effect of such refinements was to aid the wider acceptance of the basic hypothesis by reassuring believers that even if the final form of the Pentateuch was late and not due to Moses himself, it was nevertheless possible to recover a credible picture of the period of Moses and of the patriarchal age. Hence, although challenged by scholars such as Umberto Cassuto, opposition to the documentary hypothesis gradually waned, and until the 1970s it was almost universally accepted.

This changed when R. N. Whybray in 1987 restated almost identical arguments with far greater consequences. By that time three separate models for the composition of the Pentateuch had been proposed: the documentary (the Torah as a compilation of originally separate but complete books), the supplementary (a single original book, supplemented with later additions/deletions), and the fragmentary (many fragmentary works and editions). Whybray pointed out that of the three possible models the documentary was the most difficult to demonstrate, for while the supplemental and fragmentary models propose relatively simple, logical processes and can account for the unevenness of the final text, the process envisaged by the DH is both complex and extremely specific in its assumptions about ancient Israel and the development of its religion. Whybray went on to assert that these assumptions were illogical and contradictory, and did not offer real explanatory power: why, for example, should the authors of the separate sources avoid duplication, while the final redactor accepted it? "Thus the hypothesis can only be maintained on the assumption that, while consistency was the hallmark of the various [source] documents, inconsistency was the hallmark of the redactors."

Since Whybray there has been a proliferation of theories and models regarding the origins of the Torah, many of them radically different from Wellhausen's model. Thus, to mention some of the major figures from the last decades of the 20th century, H. H. Schmid almost completely eliminated J, allowing only a late Deuteronomical redactor. With the idea of identifiable sources disappearing, the question of dating also changes its terms. Additionally, some scholars have abandoned the Documentary hypothesis entirely in favour of alternative models which see the Pentateuch as the product of a single author, or as the end-point of a process of creation by the entire community. Rolf Rendtorff and Erhard Blum saw the Pentateuch developing from the gradual accretion of small units into larger and larger works, a process which removes both J and E, and, significantly, implied a fragmentary rather than a documentary model for Old Testament origins; and John Van Seters, using a different model, envisaged an ongoing process of supplementation in which later authors modified earlier compositions and changed the focus of the narratives. The most radical contemporary proposal has come from Thomas L. Thompson, who suggests that the final redaction of the Torah occurred as late as the early Hasmonean monarchy.

The documentary hypothesis still has many supporters, especially in the United States, where William H. Propp has completed a two-volume translation and commentary on Exodus for the Anchor Bible Series from within a DH framework, and Antony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien have published a "Sources of the Pentateuch" presenting the Torah sorted into continuous sources following the divisions of Martin Noth. Richard Elliott Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? (1987) and The Bible with Sources Revealed (2003) were in essence an extended response to Whybray, explaining, in terms based on the history of ancient Israel, how the redactors could have tolerated inconsistency, contradiction and repetition, indeed had it forced upon them by the historical setting in which they worked. Friedman's classic four-source division differed from Wellhausen in accepting Yehezkel Kaufmann's dating of P to the reign of Hezekiah; this in itself is no small modification of Wellhausen, for whom a late dating of P was essential to his model of the historical development of Israelite religion. Friedman argued that J appeared a little before 722 BC, followed by E, and a combined JE soon after that. P was written as a rebuttal of JE (c. 715–687 BC), and D was the last to appear, at the time of Josiah (c. 622 BC), before the Redactor, whom Friedman identifies as Ezra, collated the final Torah.

While the terminology and insights of the documentary hypothesis—notably its claim that the Pentateuch is the work of many hands and many centuries, and that its final form belongs to the middle of the 1st millennium BC—continue to inform scholarly debate about the origins of the Pentateuch, it no longer dominates that debate as it did for the first two thirds of the 20th century. "The verities enshrined in older introductions [to the subject of the origins of the Pentateuch] have disappeared, and in their place scholars are confronted by competing theories which are discouragingly numerous, exceedingly complex, and often couched in an expository style that is (to quote John van Seter's description of one seminal work) 'not for the faint-hearted.'"