Tag Archives: Torah

Larry Hurtado's LORD Jesus Christ: Chapter Two

My Protestant Pheelings Phor Philo of Alexandria

This is my third post of my current series on Larry Hurtado‘s LORD Jesus Christ: Devotions To Jesus In Earliest Christianity:

See my first 2:

Larry Hurtado and Historical Criticism: An Introduction of sorts

Larry Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ: Chapter One

As we continue on with the second chapter of Hurtado’s work, we move into the beginning of his argument where he wants to start with the authentic Pauline letters. Hurtado contends that these are the earliest proofs we have of Jesus devotion, that the fact remains that the Gospels were written much latter, and Paul’s practices represents what Hurtado calls an early Jewish Christian set of practices and beliefs. Paul himself, according to Hurtado, has a mission to deliver a “Torah-free” Jewish Christian Gospel to the Gentiles (the Nations).  Hurtado wants to guard against the history-of-religions approach to the New Testament, the one that frames Jesus, and then his apostle Paul as scholars of Hellenistic philosophy. LH starts with Paul’s letters for this very reason, as well as to put into dispute claims made by persons such as Dominic Crossan who make the mainline Historical Jesus argument that Paul was a Platonist/semi-Platonist. For example, Hurtado stresses that the early Jewish Christian belief of Jesus as God’s Son has to do with the Davidic Kingship, and not at all with Jesus as some cog from Greek Philosophy. It is important to understand Paul as a faithful Jew dedicated to the Messiah, I would agree with Hurtado, but there was no  singular “purely Jewish” strain of Judaism. Hurtado knows this, that there were many Jewish parties, and understanding this is the keep. Paul himself, as his autobiographical statements suggest, was a member of the Pharisees, and so much of Paul’s teachings were still consistent with Pharisaical Judaism, such as the emphasis on bodily resurrection and the Torah (to this, I will come back to later).

Hurtado uses the example of Philo of Alexandria as the “typical Jew” of early Judaism, and I just think that’s just incorrect. In fact, Philo’s use of a revisionist Platonism, allegorical interpretations of the Septuagint, as well as his Logos theology WERE NOT the mainstream in early Judaism. Philo was a marginal, radical thinker for his day, so the contrast between Philo and Paul utterly fails. What one can say about these contemporaries is that Paul and Philo were creative, radical intellectuals dedicated to reinventing Hebrew philosophy and that they have more in common than at first glance.

Larry Hurtado goes on to argue that one of the markers of early Jewish Christianity under the influence of Pauline Letters is the belief of the Pre-Existence of Christ. It is a central confession of these early Christians where the pre-determined purposes of creation and redemption are intertwined. Hurtado rejects Wisdom literature and Paul’s use of it as a case for pre-existence, contra James Dunn. Dunn, who argues for example that the hymnology in Phillipians 2:1-11 is more about the story of Genesis with a connection to Adam-Christology. This would be perfectly suitable logic for Pauline theology scholars especially in light of Paul’s letter to the Romans, but ah, Hurtado disagrees. Pre-existence in Jewish theology comes by way of apocalyptic writings in Judaism, claims LH. No specifics were given or sources cited, just a couple of essays, maybe a dissertation, but I believe what Hurtado has in mind is the Son of Man passages like in Daniel or Enochian literature.

TORAH TORAH TORAH

When one considers Hurtado’s defense of Pre-existence (and being the faithful Alexandrian theologian that I am, I hold to pre-existence), I find it rather weak. It is weak because of Hurtado’s dismissal of Wisdom literature, and because of Hurtado’s claim that Paul is preaching a Torah-less Jewish Christian Gospel to the Gentiles. I found it not that convincing because, when one thinks about the meaning of the Messiah, Jesus as the Chosen Annointed One, we must give heavy consideration to God’s election of Mary’s body for YHWH’s divine enfleshment. Personification and Mary’s chosenness go hand in hand with Jesus’ election as Messiah. No body, no Messiah; know body, know Messiah. Therefore, any notion of Christ being pre-existent without a body is wrong, for that “being” cannot be called Christ as such, since Christ cannot be without a physical fleshly sack of meat and water. This is where the innovations of Philo come into play, with the person of Wisdom. Because Hurtado doesn’t get Philo, he gets Christology and Paul’s mission wrong as well. Paul DOES NOT present an antinomian Good News, for without the Law, there is no Gospel. The Torah is understood in some Jewish traditions to be Wisdom, God’s blueprint prior to creation. If Paul is presenting Jesus as Wisdom like in his letters to the Corinthians, then Paul is presenting the Torah, Jesus as the Law made Flesh.

Next up, I’ll take a gander at chapter three on Judean Jewish Christianity.

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The Africana Bible: The Torah

Words have a power all their own

PHAROAH AND MOSES DON’T KNOW NOTHIN’ ‘BOUT BIRTHIN’ BABIES!

Previous posts on The Africana Bible:Reading Israel’s Scriptures From Africa And The African Diaspora

Intro: Not a Commentary but Folklore;

The Africana Bible: Women, Art, Responsibility;

The Africana Bible: Judges and Dethroning Bishop Eddie Long.

How would Christianity be different if Christians read the Torah/The First Five Books of the Bible, as Diasporic Bric-A-Brac? The the Avengers’ Assembled! in the House of Israel, the collection of writings that make up the TORAH come from a variety of literary genres. The Torah, therefore, should not be read as purely “The Law” for there is poetry in it, and historical accounts cannot neatly fit into what narrative interpreters call “metaphor” or “story” (page 65). Speaking of story, just exactly whose story is it? Does the Torah belong to any one exclusive community? Am I asking that question from a privileged position as a 21st Century Gentile Christian with access to as many Bibles as I want? As disparate as the voices are in the First Testament, dare we re-claim Israel’s Scripture as the Word(s) of God, as a gift for Israel to share with the Nations? Possession is a tricky tricky thing: if it’s Israel’s or Africana’s Word, will we take responsibility for the war, rape, and incest in the text? If these scrolls do indeed belong to God, are we willing to accept a Malevolent Creator? Or do we re-define what it means for a sacred possession (the Good Book) to be in the hands of dispossessed people groups all together?

Genesis 9 & 10 as a possession of European colonizers was a “Table of the Nations,” more like a racist theodicy of sorts telling us why Black people were on the bottom rung of society, why whites were at the top, and how God divided the human races into three identifiable racial groupings. All of which was a social construct to begin with, but hey, the imperialists had to start somewhere, am I right? No where in Scripture did the terms Hamites, Shemites, or Japethites ever show up curiously. I have posted on The Curse of Ham in Genesis before [linked here] in the past, and this point further advances my argument that the Curse of Ham/Cain hermeneutic is inherently racist and beyond any redemptive use. Rodney Sadler goes on to contend that the Joseph Novella in Genesis 37-50 is a potential source of hope for those in the African Diaspora (76-78). I beg to differ; if Joseph/Israel is God’s favorite son, and he gets sold into slavery and had his integrity questioned which lead to his imprisonment, how does that speak liberation to young men and women of color in prison due in some part to racist public policies? Blacks are God’s favorite, therefore, whites can call Three Strikes and You’re Out, and throw away the key? It doesn’t make any sense from a theodicy or Christology stand-point IMHO, Christ is God’s favorite, is the only innocent victim, and his suffering love is sufficient enough where no BODY else has to die to break a curse or ransom her people.

Is Exodus a Re-Mix, another version of a song re-told by a group of people? Does the re-mix culminate into a Tabernacle-House Party, a God on the move for a people on the move (87)? Leviticus may be a book whose center is love and justice, but where is the love for persons who break the law and are given the death penalty? Where is the love, as the Black Eyed Peas once sang? Love wasn’t there when the Five Daughters got their father’s land, and then it was taken away from them in Numbers (in chapters 27 & 36). If Deuteronomy is right, orphans, widows, and aliens are always gonna be the recipients of charity (104).

Perhaps these questions wouldn’t be so problematic if we started back at the beginning, with Genesis 1:26, how God made earthlings, both male and female, in God’s image. It’s hard for us to imagine why Miriam and Aaron were jealous of Moses for marrying a Black woman. Could it be that blackness was the standard for beauty in the Ancient Near East? Hard to imagine, isn’t?

Not if you truly believe everyone is made in the Imago Dei……..

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Those Who Are Wise Will Shyne

Shyne, once made famous for being a protege of Sean “P.Diddy/Puffy” Combs and for his arrest, and subsequent 8 year imprisonment for shooting in the air in a crowded Times Square night club in New York, has a new name. The former Jamaal Barrow, is now legally Moses Levi and is a practicing Orthodox Jew.

He says,

“What are the laws?” he said, explaining his decision to adhere to the Orthodox level of observance. “I want to know the laws. I don’t want to know the leniencies. I never look for the leniencies because of all of the terrible things I’ve done in my life, all of the mistakes I’ve made.”

What attracts him to Judaism is its ordering of life, its laws where as before, his life in hip hop was chaotic.

He has an album out already, and has plans for a few more.

“There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” and “nothing in the Halacha about driving the cars I like, about the lifestyle I live.”

To read more.

What Mr. Levi does not say, as one of my friends pointed out, is the number of times that the Torah condemns the greedy or how it implores the rich to share their possessions or to treat the oppressed justly.

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