Journal of Heresies

My search for truth in a world of deceit.

Location: United States

I have what is probably an insatiable desire to search out the answers to what may be impossible questions.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sorting out the heritage of Zadok and Abiathar

Some time ago, Dr. Claude Mariottini wrote in his blog a reply to my question about why he thinks that the priest Zadok was a Jebusite. I have now finally been able to devote some time to comparing his arguments with scripture and to drawing some conclusions on the matter.

Acording to the scripures, Abiathar is the only living relative of Ahimelech (1 Sam 22). Ahimelech is a descendant of Aaron's son Ithamar (1 Chron 24). And, Ahimelech was the priest at Nob who gave provisions to David when he was fleeing from Saul. Saul ordered that Ahimelech's entire family be slaughtered because of David. However one person, Abiathar, son of Ahimelech survived and fled with an ephod to David's camp. David felt responsible for the deaths and told Ahimelech to remain with him for protection. At this point, Abiathar must be old enough and know enough to run to David without assistance and while in David's presence the author of Samuel calls Abiathar 'the priest.'

If I can trust the timeline in my NASB, approximately 15 years pass between the death of Ahimelech's family and the beginning of David's kingship in Hebron. David reigns as king a total of 40 years, so from the time that Abiathar enters the protection of David until Davids death, 55 years have passed. By the time of Solomon's reign, Abiathar would certainly be far too old to serve as 'the' priest since the priest is to be between 25(or 30) and 50 years old. He could however continue to assist in temple duties. When David instructs on the division of the priests at the time he appoints Solomon as king, we find that Abiathar and his son Ahimelech are mentioned but niether are listed as 'the' priest (1 Chron 24:6). This strongly suggests that Abiathar was nolonger the high priest prior to his banishment to Anathoth, and rightly so since he was essentially retired at least a decade (probably two or three decades) prior.

In 2 Samuel 8:17, we find David expanding the kingdom and Zadok son of Ahitub is mentioned as the priest along with Ahimelech the son of Abiathar. Ahimelech son of Abiathar is also mentioned in 1 Chron 24:6. Abiathar's father and his son appear to be both named Ahimelech. If the son of Abiathar has become a priest and Abiathar is not mentioned as the priest, then it is quite likely that by this time Abiathar has already retired. However a son of Abiathar named Jonathan is mentioned several times elsewhere and it still appears that Abiathar is an important priest in 2 Sam 15:35 and in 2 Sam 20:25, so 2 Sam 8:17 and 1 Chron 24:6 may contain errors. Also, 1 Kings 2:27 states that Solomon dismisses Abiathar from the priesthood. Alternatively, the usage of the name Abiathar rather than Ahimelech during Zadoks priesthood may be an error if scribes were confused by both father of Abiathar and his son having the same name.

However, the fact remains that Abiathar is very aged by the beginning of Solomons reign. One suggestion regarding the line of Zadok is that Zadok was Abiathar's uncle. Given the age of Abiathar, this senario seems extremely unlikely. Also, when David assigns the 24 divisions of the priests, Zadok is listed among those descended from Eleazar, where as Abiathar is listed as those from Ithamar. (1 Chron 24) Perhaps Zadok could be an uncle through marriage, but not by biological descent.

The presence of two priests makes a lot of sense if Zadok is younger than Abiathar. Just as when a President of the USA retires he is still called 'President' so also would it be likely to continue to call the high priest the high priest even after he has 'retired.' Perhaps a one writing about that persons life would even refer to that person as priest prior to his acquisition of that office. For example someone might write: "President Bush was in college at that time." We would know that while in college he was not president, but writer simply uses his later title out of respect. So Abiathar would be the elder, retired priest; and, Zadok would be the current chief priest during the last 30 years of Davids reign.

We would then expect that after Zadok's 30 years of service, he too would retire. In 1 Kings 4:2 we can see that before construction began on the temple, Zadok's grandson, Azariah is 'the' priest; whereas Zadok and Abiathar are simply listed as priests in 4:4.

Another twist to all this is thrown in when one writer states that Abiathar was dismissed "to fulfill the the word of YHVH, which He had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh." (1 Kings 2:27) This suggests that Abiathar was descended from Eli, yet Eli does not appear in Abiathars genealogy.

Eli's lineage is far less attested than Zadok's. Who is Eli the son of? He had two sons, Phinehas and Hophni. Is his son Phinehas the same as the Aaron's grandson? If so, then the name Eli must be short for Eleazar. However, this is very doubtful because Samuel who was a child during the priesthood of Eli's sons was contemporary with David's father Jesse. So, Eli would be contemporary with Boaz (since he was rather old when Samuel came along) during the time of the judges. Then this Phinehas son of Eli would probably have been in the generation of Obed. Phinehas son of Eleazar on the other hand lived through the Exodus hundreds of years earlier.

I really can't see how any of this implies that Zadok was a Jebusite. If Zadok's heritage is of the line of Eleazar as scripture states, then his rise to pre-eminence is fitting with the statement in Numbers 3:32 that Eleazar son of Aaron (and probably his offspring) is to be chief over the chiefs of the Levites. There were a few other points that Dr. Mariottini raised, however this is getting very long already, so I'll leave that for another post if needed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

"What is Faith?" My perspective

The words for faith translated in scripture can also be translated as trust, firmness, belief. Faith is not something that you can possess like you can have a house or have an apple. Faith is something you 'have' by doing, or in the words of my dictionary "to have" in this sense is to "exhibit in action." The word faith today is often used in other ways; for instance, 'having faith' is often equated with being a Christian, and 'the faith' could refer to a particular set of beliefs.

Understanding the concept of faith is important. I think that many people when asked the question, "Do you have faith?" answer "yes" because they think they ought to and don't want to either disappoint others or don't want to bring attention to themselves. They would feel stupid or embarassed if they were to say, "I'm not sure, what is faith?"

I have a neighbor who is the almost 40 y.o. daughter of a now retired presbyterian minister. She was a preachers kid all her life. Several years ago she decided to leave her dad's church and go to a different one in the area. The new church is more active in helping the community and participating in missions. They enjoy studying the bible, and members actually seem to care about each other. Some members also 'move in the spirit' speaking in tongues, giving prophecies, being slain in the spirit, etc. Some of them have taking trips to the "Toronto Vineyard Church," which is basically a huge gathering of people expecting or hoping for some spiritual manifestation to strike them. She wants what they seem to have. She wants it so much that its heart breaking to watch her sway with her hands uplifted, petitioning God to send his spirit on her. Her self-image is now wrapped up in whether she has or does not have one of these spiritual experiences. She thinks she just has to have "more faith" and it will happen. Eventually, she wanted so much for an experience that she began to act as if she were, but her facial expression of deep pain shows this is not the case. Her obsession with seeking the spiritual experience is eating her away inside.

One day a few of the members delivered her husband of his demons (he has bipolar disorder). His condition had been stable for over 15 years. Because he and his wife believed he had been delivered, he stopped taking his medication. Within a week he was in the hospital because he became severely manic. The 'prophetess' who began this deliverance had told them that this was an attack of the devil, and if they stood firm (had faith) it would pass. He is back on medication and they are left thinking that they didn't have 'enough faith.'

Faith isn't something that can be measured by how magical you seem to be or what miracles you experience. Simon Magus wanted the spirit and would give money for it, but Peter rebuked him for trying to buy God's gift. Trying to acquire spiritual gifts by praying just the right way or believing just the right way is no different than offering money. In fact those who are seeking the gifts often do offer money. Willing yourself to 'have more faith' so that God will bless and love you more, is an attempt to earn salvation.

Israel eperienced many miracles at the exodus, not because they had a lot of faith, but because YHVH wanted to show them and all Egypt that He alone is God and he keeps his promises. The fact that they went straight back to idolatry demonstrates that they were not trusting in YHVH, yet YHVH still gave them manna to eat and gave them water in a dry place. He saved them from their enemies, moving the earth and sea not because of their faith, but because of His faithfulness. Yet after all He did for them they feared man more than YHVH and so refused to enter the promised land to take possession of it. Those who spurned YHVH through their disobedience to His instructions were not permitted to enter.

Salvation is by grace, not faith. Faith is our response to His grace, the acceptance of His gift to us. Everything we do and say (our work) is an expression of faith. Without grace we cannot be saved, without faith we do not receive His grace; without obedience we have no faith. Hebrews chapter eleven gives a long list of people who by faith walked in obedience. Simply put, our faith is our trust in action.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What is faith?

"Faith" is a word so often used in religious gatherings that sometimes we forget to talk about what exactly faith is. So, lets talk about faith. Leave a comment that you feel answers the question, "What is faith?"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Does it matter how God's name is translated?

Blind beggar left a comment on Dr. Mariottini's recent post on The Name of God in bible Translations. My reply to his/her comment was getting too long for the comment page as well, so I'm posting it here.

blind beggar said:

I’m not sure why it matters since Jesus told us to address him as Father. I don’t go around calling my father by his given name, he is dad.

I’m sure I must be missing the point (and I apologize for doing so), but does it matter how YHWH is translated?

This is an important question to consider. Here are my thoughts:

If someone asked you what your father's name is, how would you reply?

More importantly, however, YHVH's name clarifies who He is. He isn't just any god, He isn't Allah, or Zeus who both are viewed as fathers of gods and men. He is the One who is, the eternal One, Creator of all, the gracious God of Israel, and King of the universe about whom the Bible is written. Would it not be silly to write a book about someone and never say who that someone is? If you made a photo album for your grandchildren, would you only list your dad, as "Dad" or would you make sure that somewhere in there they saw his full name, and that they saw it often enough to remember it? Just as there can be many fathers, but only one who is yours (and whose name you yourself have as your own), so there are many 'gods' and 'lords', but only one who is YHVH. If a persons name is important, how much more important is the name of our God?

Those who collected the books of the Old Testament thought the name was so important that inclusion of the name YHVH was one of the requirements for canonization (which is why the inclusion of the book of Esther is sometimes questioned). Yet, ironically todays English Bibles hardly even mention the name.

Also, many people think that the terms LORD, Lord, GOD and God as used in our Bibles are equivalent terms. But the Hebrew distinguishes between these and sometimes knowing which Hebrew word was meant brings a better understanding of the passage.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling YHVH "Father," but allowing His name to be lost and relatively unknown to the world is in my opinion as tragic as taking His name in vain. I realize that the issue doesn't even come to the minds of most people, but that itself is part of the tragedy. We should not allow our Father's name to be blotted out of our books and ultimately our minds.

More about Yahweh's name in Bible Translations

The following are some of my thoughts in reply to Dr. Claude Mariottini's new post about using the name of YHVH in Bible translations and elsewhere. It seemed too long to post on his page as a comment so I decided to put it here. I have a previous blog entry regarding this topic which can be found here.

I personally wouldn't have a problem seeing the Hebrew letters, but I've endeavored to learn what they are and how to prounounce them. I suspect that one argument for keeping the Hebrew rather than using transliterated letters is because of the controversy in tranliterating the 'vav.'

Just using the transliterated letters would also produce the same issue as Dr. Mariottini has raised about using the Hebrew letters. The pronounciation of YHVH or YHWH is not clear to someone who has no background knowledge of the name. Its not even totally clear to those who do. Because of the controversy of proper pronounciation, I tend to use YHVH to represent the hebrew letters which allows people to choose which pronounciation they prefer. But when I say the name, I tend to say 'Yahweh' because that is the pronounciation that seems to be most agreed on by scholars. The fundamental problem with using YHVH is that christiandom in general would not readily recognize it as God's name either.

My point however is that Christiandom can learn the name in all its possible forms, and writers, editors and church leaders can and should facilitate the dissemination of that very important information. If that effort is made, reading YHVH, YHWH, Yahweh, or even its Hebrew form will not be too difficult for anyone.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The name of Yahweh in Bible translations

In this post by Dr. Claude Mariottini, he stated: "I agree with the decision to leave the tetragrammaton untranslated, but the use of Hebrew letters to represent the name of God will confuse many American readers who are not familiar with Hebrew."

Something I don't understand is the decision by nearly all american translators to continue the practice of using "LORD" to translate the tetragramaton. Most Bibles will include a very small explanation in their introductory pages stating that LORD is used in place of the name of Yahweh. Why is it that teaching the name to seminary students is quite simple, but teaching it to laity is viewed as "too difficult?" I think that if scholars and pastors and other spiritual leaders would tell people what the name is they would gladly use it. Those who have memorized verses the current way, may not switch to quoting with the name included, but they would still be enriched by knowing the name of their God. If Bible editors would not take away the name and then explain why previous versions did not contain the name, people would readily learn and appreciate knowing it.

I most often use the NASB study Bible. This version often mentions in the margin notes that LORD is actually the Hebrew YHWH. If there is concern that people will have difficulty with the transition, why not note in the margins "YHWH, God's name,rendered LORD in many translations, see page.."

The laity is quite capable of learning many spritual things. In fact scripture appears to indicate that new believers were expected to study and learn, and to proceed to do all that most christians now expect only pastors to do. The Israelites were at times read entire books of the Bible in a matter of a day or two. It wasn't enough for the priests or rulers to know these words. It was proclaimed in its entirery to everyone.

Pastors aren't some special elite group that are to do everything for everyone; and lay people aren't a bunch of morons unable to handle learning a few facts about their God. There were some times in history when church leaders made access to the Bible and religious material at best inaccessible, at worst, illegal. They claimed it was because the laity would misinterpret and promote heresies. Meanwhile, those same church leaders were full of corruption and teaching/practicing their own heresies. Had the laity been given full access to the Bible, they would be able to stand up to the people leading them astray. Today, we have access to a vast archive of materials and information. Why then in this age of information, is information still being held back? Is the pervasive attitude which considers laity to be stupid peasants and priests/pastors/scholars as the worthy elect the haunting whispers of shameful periods of church history? I hope that those who possess the power to correct glaring errors (such as denying people easy access to the name of their God) would make every effort to do so.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"The Gnostic Paul"

Last week, I finished reading a book called "The Gnostic Paul" There is more to the title, something about the gnostic exegesis of Pauls epistles. And its by a female author. Unfortunately, I don't have the book in front of me (I returned it to the library) to give you a proper reference, but I doubt there are many books like it, so it shouldn't be too hard to find if you are interested in it.

Anyway, its not a very long book, but it took me over a month to get through it, eventhough I am usually a very fast reader (I read the Da Vinci Code in 3-4 days). "The Gnostic Paul" was a challenging read because my beliefs are nearly as anti-gnostic as one can find. This book was basically a gnostic interpretation and commentary on Paul's epistles as represented in several sources especially the Nag Hammadi find.

Some people might wonder why I would spend time reading such a book. Afterall, gnosticism is a heresy right? And, we shouldn't learn false teachings right?

I think that many christians would be surprised at how gnostic our churches are. In fact, I suspect that most christians would have far less difficulty than I did in reading this book. I have been culturally a christian most of my life, and spiritually a believer since I was about 16 years old. Only in the past several months have I come to any understanding of what gnosticism is. Not only that, gnosticism is rather diverse and is easily cloaked by spiritualizing any popular belief. Without understanding what gnosticism is and teaches, how can anyone defend against it? Gnosticism isn't just a christian heresy, it is a way of seeing the world that can be found in any religion. To a gnostic, our great writings are not to be understood literally; everything is spiritual. All flesh is bad, everything spiritual is good. this is of course a simplification of gnostic belief. It is far more involved than this and sometimes surprisingly diverse. Or rather it appears diverse to literalists like myself, and I'm not even an extreme literalist.

Gnostics would readily identify with my blog description. For a gnostic, the place I am stuck is this fleshly world and the place I have alighted on is the spiritual world. A gnostic might expect from my blog description that I have become pneumatic, or spiritual. And that I feel bound to the fleshly world from which I will be fully released at death. They would however be sorely disappointed to find that in their opinion, I am only a psychic (or even of class of people they believe are destined to destruction).

I should explain I am NOT gnostic, regardless of how my blog description could be interpreted. I believe that the God of the "Old Testament" is the same God and Heavenly Father of the "New Testament" and that His name is YHVH. Gnostics believe that the Old Testament God was some evil being and a lesser "god" than the Father, God of the New Testament. In fact, I believe that that the teachings of the Old Testament are still valid and important for us today. I attempt to live my life in accordance with YHVH's commands. To a gnostic, all the commands found in Torah are irrelevent (and even oppressive) because they believe that they are saved by grace, the chosen and the elect who are sons of the Father, beings of light trapped in fleshly skin, and that their position in the kingdom is permanent and unconditional. To gnostics, they are essentially two people, a spiritual person, and a fleshly person, and whatever is done in the flesh is of no consequence because the flesh will die.

It is in fact my anti-gnostic beliefs that cause me to feel stuck, yet separate from popular beliefs. In the modern church's efforts to gain membership, it has become incredibly gnostic and has adapted gnostic technics, spirituallizing pagan and foreign practices so that it would be found acceptable to the cultures in which it resides. Gnosticism is alive and flourishing in churches today. It would be wise for christians to learn a little bit about it in order to stand against it. (I hope that those reading don't think they know everything about gnosticism by reading this journal entry... I have a very general understanding, and there is much more to gnosticism than I am writing about today.)

An obvious question that reading a book like this one would raise is: Was Paul gnostic? I don't think that anyone living today is really qualified to answer that question. Some might say that the heresy didn't exist in the church until a hundred or so years after Paul lived. Yet others would point out that Pauls epistles were highly favored by gnostics. The point of the book is to give a gnostic perspective of Pauls writings. Just because some people perceived Paul as gnostic does not make him gnostic; just as the description of my own blog could be perceived as gnostic but most certainly is not. Whether or not Paul promoted gnostic or gnostic-like teachings, the fact remains that many christian gnostics can easily refer to Paul as an esteemed representative and emmisary of their faith.

For those who aren't gnostic the important question is: Do the teachings of Paul agree with the teachings of the apostles, Yahshua and the Old Testament? It is clear from scripture also that all the apostles were capable of making mistakes. If Peter can be given "the keys of the kingdom" in one moment and called satan shortly thereafter, then Paul could certainly be walking in truth at times and speaking in error at other times. Its hard to even know for sure if the "errors" are Paul's or some scribes. Let every book of the Bible ('Old' and 'New' testaments) be a witness; those teachings that are consistant are those on which we can fully rely.