Thursday, January 12, 2006

new post

There is simply too much going on to talk about it. The reading load is seriously intense. My writing may become sporadic. Can't...go...on...must...blog...

The stuff I'm most excited about is not very glamorous - things like the purity codes of first century Judaism. We haven't even gotten to studying anything from the New Testament yet. But I have this huge amount of new information that I'm just trying to take in. I'm going to write when I have a moment waiting for classes to start or during breaks, then compile when I have enough to share. This is the life of a student. A serious one. Hey, did I mention a prof asked if I'd like his help getting a paper from last quarter published? I'm super excited and honored.

Bartchy just walked in looking quite dapper in a little beret, black turtleneck and tweedy jacket. He's rocking his existential look today. He has a little gray goatee, too. Just needs a cigarette and we could be reading Camus instead of Josephus.

Actually we do get to read some philosophy in this class, although not 20th century obviously. We're going to study Stoics and Epicureans and somebody else I can't remember [note: Epictetus, but I guess he's a stoic]. The Stoics largely influenced Paul, you know. What I can't believe as I read the Mishnah and other Jewish literature is how much like Jesus (and Paul) it all sounds. That sounds very ignorant of course. But we so rarely actually ponder how very Jewish the whole NT is. And not. Well I mean what I'm learning is that it's Judaism turned on its head. It's the idea of what Judaism was supposed to be being changed radically by Jesus. Although all he's really doing is reminding people that God cares about the inside and our intentions or desires more than our outside actions. Hence the purity laws are actually less about following certain restrictions and more about being holy people. Which of course is there in the Old Testament too. God's quite consistent. Oops we're starting now.

When someone asks if you believe in God, make them spend 10-15 mins explaining what they mean by that concept, then you can safely say what you think is right and what is nuts about their conception. This is Bartchy's advice. If one's concept of God is purely according to only what Jesus of Nazareth said, fine. We learn about who God is from Jesus.

This provocative tidbit from Todd Johnson: a worship service may not be the best place for evangelism. If you go to the opera for the first time, you need to be prepped to understand what's happening, so you don't feel like an outsider. Same for church - individual friendships and small groups offer better prep before a person is ready for entering the very deep complex traditions of our worship services. Is this true? I think our worship, our prayer, is our belief. So yeah, maybe one's not ready for the meat of it right up front. That actually is a pretty high view of what happens in worship. Hardly the reality for many churches, sadly.

Back to Scott Bartchy: He tells us to look at the flood stories. In the Mesopotamian story, the gods are pissed b/c the people are loud and keep them awake and they can't get their sleep. But what does our God care about most, why does Yahweh send the flood? Because people are treating each other badly. Our God cares the most about how we behave toward one another! God is not the most offended by our giving an inferior sacrifice or praise to Her. She cares about how we love one another.

We're to love God and love one another - Jesus functions as a powerful anti-temple prophet, in spirit of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah. The elites in the first century (and the prophetic times) are running the show, ignoring the poor and the quality of life of others as long as they are happy and can sacrifice. This does not reflect God's concern! God wants us to care about each other. God wants our priority to be our neighbor's well-being...not our own. This is so not our culture today.

Woowee: I am on a major roll today! First I got the trip-you-up question in Gospels class: we were asked who can name where in the Gospels Jesus mentions Hannakah. Thanks to my reading for the other class, I knew and immediately called out the answer (do you know??). Wow, that knocked a few people on their asses (esp the man who tried to correct me and was shot down. Ha little man! You think you know so much more than the Episcopalian woman about the Bible! Eat my dust!).

Then in Bartchy class I asked if Plato's ideas about eternal forms being superior to material forms influenced the way Romans viewed emperor worship, which wasn't actually worship of the man but of the "genius" of the man. [I don't really have time to explain that now but I could if you don't follow...send me a comment if you want more explanation.] He said he'd never made that connection but liked it. He lauded my connection-making ability. Woohoo!

Maybe I'll do my paper on this topic - either the dualism thing or Platonic ideas influencing the NT. These are things J gets all riled up about. Would behoove me to learn something about them. I thought about doing Neo-Platonic influences on the NT but J says that's going to be incredibly difficult. Then again, I may be on my way to publication, and he sure isn't (after 4 year of doctoral work). Oh, snap!

I'm sorry, I'm a little bit drunk. [p.s. writing this bit at home, not in class!!!]

So here's the sermon Bartchy gave us, and a good one, that will probably have to become my carnival post b/c I haven't time to write much these days: Plenty of people say Jesus is the Son of God but those same people don't believe what Jesus says about God. If people really believed who Jesus says God is, there would be no more racism, sexism, no temples (mega-churches), nothing tied to your family or civil status.

The problem with churches is that they need people who can help pay off their huge building debt - that debt from building the ostentatious temple. He says, "You [the pastor] go three times to someone with money before you visit anyone on the street." Ouch!

But here it is: the Perversion of the American church. Because you need those people with the money, because you're in debt, and what do you know? Suddenly you've tied your tongue in the name of "keeping the peace"- pastors are unable to be prophetic about the necessary evils of our time because they can't afford to alienate the wealthy givers (who are usually conservative). This was prof's rant but I seriously get it. This combined with the flood thing above...this is no place for wimps, this church thing.

Jesus wasn't looking for people to bring their resources to the church. Jesus was starting a new world order and gave people new gifts.

Here's a funny thing: who likes the elite, the rich, the show offs with their ostentatious displays of devotion? Who loves the beautiful and the successful and the powerful? Who kicks butt? Who would make the Religious Right pee their pants with enthusiasm?

I'll tell you who. Zeus. Yep, I think Zeus is the man for Evangelicals.

The sad truth for the Christians is that our God was crucified. A regular old guy, Jesus, is the one who teaches us the most about our God. A holy eternal transcendent being is stuffed into the immanent flesh and blood of a potentially fallible human who suggests we go against the grain of power, of strength, of success. Who suggests we sacrifice for other people. Who wants us to die not for a belief, but for love.

Will you tell lies about God? Will you hold your truth because you fear what could happen? What your church may say about you? Who may not give?

Jesus is a seriously tough act to follow.

6 comments:

Pisco Sours said...

Because I'm just starting out in the Church and come from Orthodox Judaism originally, I'd love to read more about the similarities between the Mishnah and the NT. Where did you find this analysis?

The Feminarian said...

Although I'm sure it's out there, I didn't find an analysis. I was just reading the Mishnah itself and could see the parallels. I guess it's from knowing the NT pretty well (lifetime of Sunday School training).
The sections I read were found in CK Barrett's "Backgrounds of...Early Christianity??" Can't recall exact title but it's a book of primary source docs chosen b/c of their clear relationship to NT. It's full of fun stuff: oracles and philosophers and all the inter-testamental Jewish literature. Another good resource is "In the Shadow of the Temple" by Oskar Skarsune, which directly connects the Jewish roots to Christianity, and then Everett Ferguson's "Backgrounds" which is short vignettes about myriad topics.
But these are all history things, not so much theology. Honestly, like I say, I just see it there b/c I'm aware of the themes of the NT. It will be an exciting journey for you as you read the NT and find the similarities as well (I hope).
Welcome!

The Feminarian said...

Oops, Ferguson is "Backgrounds of Early Christianity" and Barrett is "The New Testament Background".

You can see how that would get confusing. :)

Adam said...

I love this quote: "Here's a funny thing: who likes the elite, the rich, the show offs with their ostentatious displays of devotion? Who loves the beautiful and the successful and the powerful? Who kicks butt? Who would make the Religious Right pee their pants with enthusiasm?

I'll tell you who. Zeus. Yep, I think Zeus is the man for Evangelicals."

Isn't it odd how little Jesus there is in North American Christianity? Thanks for giving me the words to quote back to Christians when I ask them about their God... "Oh I see, you worship Zeus". Spectacular.

Jenny said...

Thanks for posting stuff like this -- as someone who is not in seminary, I really enjoy reading about your classes, for real.

Also, belated thanks for introducing me to Gail Ramshaw, whose book, on your advice, I purchased and summarily devoured.

Jeanette said...

Hey girl! Isn't it fun to watch people take a double take when it is the Episcopalian who gets the "deeper" questions right! I used to love that at the hallowed grounds of FTS!!!

The classes sound great! We're knee deep in Reformation History this quarter - there's the potential of a project rather than another 12 page paper on a Reformation related topic in Church History/Theology class at Fox. I am trying to figure out how to do art and/or writing linked to it...keep going back to some sort of a post-modern icon with an homage to reformation roots...any ideas?