Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Golden Calf is the Anti-Tabernacle

From a paper due tomorrow:

The narrative of the golden calf, spanning chapter 32 to 34, is placed spot in the middle of the instructions concerning the tabernacle, and its being built. This “intrusion” of the calf narrative “is thus seen to be powerful, and as such it becomes a sort of commentary on the text”1.

1) The instructions for the tabernacle conclude with instructions for the sabbath, and the construction of the tabernacle begins on the sabbath. As Dumbrell notes, “the concept of rest becomes increasingly significant as the biblical goal of redemption is seen as rest in God’s presence.”1 Just as the tabernacle is to be the locus of God’s presence, so it “was conceived to initiate a new era in the life of the community of Israel” and the rites performed within it “thereafter [affording] every Israelite the possibility of spiritual renewal and moral regeneration.”2 God’s presence is a foretaste of a restored creation.

Yet, the golden calf is manufactured after a protracted absence of Moses from the camp. While the cloud of God’s presence is visible to the people of Israel (19:9), it is Moses’ absence that they are worried about, “as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (32:1) Access to Yahweh is cut off, and so they make Aaron produce “gods” for them. After obliging, Aaron then declares a “feast to Yahweh.” (32:5) The command to make a calf is a more subtle idolatry than simply a whoring after new gods and a rejection of Yahweh. As I will argue it is the demand to have this God immediately accessible on their own terms.

2) Yahweh is above all gods, and is holy and inapproachable. Indeed, when the elders, along with Moses and Aaron, ascend the mountain after ratifying the covenant they see, “the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.” (24:10) Because of this all the people are vocally commanded to “not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above…for I Yahweh your God am a jealous God.” (20:4-5) More specifically, Moses is given as the first section of covenant law that “you shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.” (20:23) Media used in worship is not the problem, chapters 25-31 are devoted to it. The problem is that the people in making the golden calf, have “[associated] the manufactured image with the God who brought them out of Egypt.” The “object emblematic of the divine presence” that they demanded of Aaron, “was precisely what the Tabernacle was meant to fulfill”3, rather than a mute idol. Sarna, along with Cassuto understand the golden calf not as the object of worship, but the footstool for the invisible God, Yahweh, which the Israelites presumptuously supply for themselves. In this picture, “the calf serves the same purpose as [the cherubim] do.”4 However much syncretism may be present here, the Israelites are not content to loyally wait on Yahweh for his instructions for worship.

3) Just as the Passover was celebrated with a meal, so after the covenant was ratified, the elders, Moses and Aaron “beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Ex 24:11) The covenant ratification is celebrated by a feast in God’s presence. This fellowship sets the pattern for the many festivals celebrating God’s continued loyalty to the covenant. Yet the feast Aaron declares ironically is contrasted to all other feasts that precede it. Rather than sealing and celebrating the covenant in the presence of Yahweh, they have egregiously broken the covenant in the presence of a god of their own making. It is this feast to which Paul makes reference, in order to warn the Corinthians.

1N. Sarna, Exploring Exodus (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 215

1W. J. Dumbrell The Faith of Isreal (Grand Rapids, MI: 1988), 37

2N. Sarna, Exploring Exodus (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 214

3N. Sarna Exploring Exodus (New York: Schoken Bookd, 1986), 217

4So U. Cassuto Commentary On Exodus, (Jerusalem; Magnes Press, 1997), 407, and N. Sarna, Exploring Exodus (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 210, 218ff.


Scraper Bike!

A friend sent this to me today. Its officially going to be my summer project

Implications of I Corinthians 13, Part 3

Part 3, the hardest for me to swallow) our own gifts (however dubious the equivalence between our supposed list of gifts and Paul’s) leave us empty and barren if they are not for the benefit of the church.

3) In combination with the many other places in this letter alone where Paul speaks of the way he conducts his ministry, this text serves as an indictment of our ambition and career-driven approach to ministry. There is no reason to doubt the motives of most in ministry, or begin searching for profiteers under every leaf. In fact, all humanity is driven toward this sort of ‘zeal’ for our own fame, this ‘self-seeking’. We don’t have to look further than our own lips and thoughts to see the shallow and harsh ambition that pushes us to cheapen fellowship with the body of Christ for our own ends, for "τα ἑαυτῆς". Sadly the Corinthians own ambition was not checked by, but was blinded to the gross sins that filled the body. Our ambition has such a powerful effect on our imaginations that we are easily blinded to our own heinous sins.
Rather than our gifts securing our position as deserving, or superior (as many in Corinth did cf. chapter 8), we ought to seek the good of our neighbor (10:24). We ought to imitate Paul, in "not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved" (10:33). Indeed the "more excellent" (12:31) way to use our gifts and roles in the church is to "seek to abound for the edification of the church" (14:12). To use our gifts to our own ends and for our own glory is to totally pervert the Lord’s intention in giving them to us. This tendency is the same that was present in Adam and Eve. We ought to be careful then to meditate on the love God has shown in Christ who showed us patience and kindness, did not envy the glory of earthly kings or of Satan, did not brag, did not puff himself up, was not rude to the rude disciples and followers and Jews, did not seek his own but that of his Father, and did not hold against them humanities rejection and crucifixion of him, but prayed that they might be forgiven. Paul’s own summary of his relationship to all of this is helpful to remember, "Yet for this reason I found mercy so that in me as the foremost (sinner), Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life." (I Tim 1:16)

Implications of I Corinthians 13, Part 2

Part 2) This passage reminds us that the purpose of the Spirit giving gifts to the church is for the edification of the body, and not for the fame of the possessor of the gift, and therefore that the value of some charismatic expressions in the church are left without ‘witness’ (biblical support)

2) It is quite common in many pentecostal denominations for there to be a wide expression of the Spirit’s movement. Without taking on a supposed position of supremacy (we are guilty of a complete absence of these expressions), we ought to be careful to not ‘baptize’ all spiritual expressions. It is clear that I Corinthians chapter 12 is a wide-reaching list, but is not exhaustive, especially when compared with similar lists in Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11. Yet, there are some clear examples(holy barking) which ought to at least make us scratch our head, if not also worry us. Some ‘gifts’ are plainly more an expression of the excesses of excitement or even desire for attention than for the edification of the body. With love, prayer and wisdom, we ought to seek to discern the benefit for the body of Christ which a particular charismatic expression renders; if no fruit comes of it, pruning may be in order.

Implications of I Corinthians 13, Part 1

This is the conclusion my group recently composed for our project on I Corinthians 13. The next two points in the conclusion will form Part 2, and 3.

There are three issues here that the modern church is in need of hearing: 1) this passage cannot function as a justification for a cessationist view of gifts, or cannot be used to argue against the manifestation of charismata 2) this passage reminds us that the purpose of the Spirit giving gifts to the church is for the edification of the body, and not for the fame of the possessor of the gift, and therefore that the value of some charismatic expressions in the church are left without ‘witness’ (biblical support), and lastly, 3) our own gifts (however dubious the equivalence between our supposed list of gifts and Paul’s) leave us empty and barren if they are not for the benefit of the church.

1) Revelation 22:18-20 would serve as a much better text for a self-referential closing of the NT canon: "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! " (NASB) While it is clear that I Corinthians 13 places the ceasing of gifts at the appearance of Christ, this does not necessarily mean that there is no ground for that view. The point here is this: I Corinthians 13 is a testimony against our "cerebral version of Christianity in the West," as Fee calls it, which elevates the lack of gifts as a sign of maturity. If only our maturity were so great that our love for our brothers stood out clearer, then this might be more plausible. This text is an alert to us that our particular flavor of Christianity may be very far from what the Lord calls us to.

Horse Feathers

We saw Horse Feathers last night at the Bililken Club (St. Louis University’s Student Club/Eatery). They were there with a couple other local acts (Theodore and Carolin Smith) who were both quite good. Horse Feathers were outstanding. Their beautiful melodies were crisply performed. They loved making their music, and you could tell. It was one of the best shows I have seen in a while……. And, it was absolutely free!! Unbelievable.


Came down with a stomach bug last night. …. Bit of a rude awakening. It has made studying today a bit more problematic; not much mental capacity left.

This all makes me quite thankful for the times when I am able to fully function. It also makes me think of the passing nature of the mind. When old age strikes, the mind goes. There is not much glory to reap from a gift, which will eventually pass away.

"But what do you have which you did not receive?" (I Corinthians 4:7)

The mind is to be used for the benefit of the church and the world. This would seem to safeguard from arrogance.

Unsettled on Account of Christ

“We are foolish on account of Christ, but you all are reasonable in Christ; we are weak but you all are strong; you are distinguished, but we are dishonored. Up until now, even the present hour, we are hungering, and are thirsting, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated and are unsettled and while, working, we labor with our own hands, when we are reviled we bless, when we are persecuted we endure, when we are slandered we exhort, we became as the refuse of the world, the scum of all, until now (even now).” I Corinthians 4:10-13

Unsettled – astateo – to be without permanent residence, be unsettled, be homeless… of Paul’s way of life (BDAG)

This has been an encouraging word to translate and read. Paul doesn’t say that he had no house to sleep in. Or that he was constantly moving from town to town, never staying more than a week. Rather, he stayed in Corinth for some time (a year or more), and Ephesus for 3 years. Some places he left quickly, but where he could he did stay. To say that he had no home might have been offensive to the people who gave him housing when he came to town. Rather, Paul is unsettled. He is nomadic, having no ‘home’ in the most significant sense of the word. Paul didn’t seek a hard life, he received it willingly as part of his ministry, “on account of Christ”.

We have a home of our own. But it is difficult to name where ‘home’ is. ‘Home’ has changed several times. And it will likely change again once we finish seminary. This hasn’t been horrible, just…tiresome. Its good to know we have company with Paul (and everyone else who is, or has been, in seminary, or done missionary work). We are very grateful that most of the other items on the list are not true of us. God is gentle to his more fragile servants. But it is good to be reminded that our God has been using people in this way for a long, long time.

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ESPO and Albers – Partners in Crime: Graffiti is the Best of Abstract Art

I’ve been thinking about art recently. Here is my best attempt at a definition:

Art is a reflection of beauty found in creation which carries out or demonstrates the value or related normative implications of that aspect in the world.

So abstract art, while on the surface seems to completely lack any reference to the world, or any beauty(some might say), it actually reflects some basic structures of creation and aesthetics by its method. As much as it might try and strip itself of particulars (whether a deliberate image of an object, person, or use of many colors to render that object) it nonetheless still uses line theory or color theory and so depends on the way we are created to see. I don’t know if you have read Josef Albers, but he has a book, The Interaction of Color, that goes into huge detail about how colors look differently in different juxtaposition. Its an obvious point, but he draws it out in detail.

Graffiti, though borne by words, rarely has any reference to the words themselves. I think that’s clear from guys like ESPO, or even Cycle, whose words may or may not have normal English meanings. The words are used with only a slight reference to some real world fact (I think I remember KR having something to do with him being Korean, or is it a her?). Really, the main thing that is valued is the use of lines and structural contrast (the Germans get real excited about all this). Its almost like a topographical map, displayed publicly, and usually dynamically interacting with the space its in.

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Fee on I Corinthians 13:12 – Our knowledge of Christ is partial but true

"a poor reflection as in a mirror"(648) This literally reads "we look through a looking-glass in enigma/έν αἰνιγματι". The setting or Corinth helps to sift out the particular nuance that seems to be intended. "Corinth was famous as the producer of some of the finest bronze mirrors in antiquity." Thus it is unlikely that "έν αἰνιγματι" is to be understood as a puzzle, or riddle, nor as a poor reflection as if the image of mirror produced was qualitatively deficient because of the mirror. Rather, the emphasis ought to be understood as emphasis falling on "the indirect nature of looking into a mirror as opposed to seeing someone face to face." This means that Paul is not degrading the craftsmanship of the Corinthians, nor is he suggesting that we have "a distorted image… in Christ through the Spirit". Rather the knowledge of Christ that we have is "indirect, not complete", and yet is not thereby any less accurate or true.