Archive for the ‘Antiochus Epiphanes’ Tag

Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Map of the Empire of Alexander the Great

Obtained from the Macedonia FAQ website.

A project of Macedonia.org

URL: http://faq.Macedonia.org/

http://faq.macedonia.org/history/alexander.the.great.html

Resistance, Diversity, Assimilation, and Uniformity

NOVEMBER 18, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Maccabees 1:1-15, 54-57, 62-64 (Revised English Bible):

Alexander of Macedon, the son of Philip, marched from the land of Kittim, defeated Darius, king of Persia and Media, and seized his throne, being already king of Greece.  During the course of many campaigns, in which he captured strongholds and put kings to death, he traversed the earth to its remotest bounds and plundered countless nations.  When at last the world lay quiet under his sway, his pride knew no limits; he built up an extremely powerful army and ruled over countries, nations, and princedoms, all of which rendered him tribute.

The time came when Alexander fell ill, and, realizing that he was dying, he summoned his generals, nobles who had been brought up with him from childhood, and divided his empire among them while he was yet alive.  At death he had reigned for twelve years.  His generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

An offshoot of this stock was an impious man, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus.  He had been a hostage in Rome before he succeeded to the throne in the year 137 of the Greek era.

At that time there emerged in Israel a group of renegade Jews, who inveighed many by saying,

We should go and make an agreement with the Gentiles round about; nothing but disaster has been our lot since we cut ourselves off from them.

This proposal was widely approved, and some of the people in their enthusiasm went to the king and received authority to introduce pagan laws and customs.  They built a gymnasium in the gentile style at Jerusalem; they removed their marks of circumcision and repudiated the holy covenant; they intermarried with Gentiles and sold themselves to evil.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, the abomination of desolation was set up on the altar of the Lord.  In the towns throughout Judaea pagan altars were built; incense was offered at the doors of houses and in the streets.  Every scroll of the law that was found was torn up and consigned to the flames, and anyone discovered in possession of a Book of the Covenant or conforming to the law was by sentence of the king condemned to die.

Yet many in Israel found strength to resist, taking a determined stand against the eating of any unclean food.  They welcomed death and died rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant.  Israel lay under a reign of terror.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

9  Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10  Why should the heathen say, “Where is your God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

11  Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12  May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13  For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Luke 18:35-43 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging.  Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening, and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  Then he called out,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

The people in front told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.  When he came up Jesus asked him,

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

He recovered his sight instantly and followed Jesus, praising God.  And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Historical Note:

According to the footnotes in my copy of the Revised English Bible, here are the Greek dates mentioned in the text of 1 Maccabees, with current labels:

137 = 175 B.C.E.

145 = 167 B.C.E.

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Alexander the Great thought that he had a mission to share the benefits of his Greek culture with others, even if they did not want that.  Like imperialists of other ages, he believed that he was doing the colonized a great favor.  Many of the rulers of the successor kingdoms held the same mindset.  Unfortunately for observant Jews in Judea, Antiochus Epiphanes did.

Since I am a Gentile and a product of the Christian Church, the words of Peter and Paul regarding Jews and Gentiles, things unclean and things clean, ring in my ears and echo within my skull.  And, as the book of 1 Maccabees continues, we read that rebel leaders “wiped out apostates” and executed those Jews who had eaten pork–as a former student of mine said, “death over a ham sandwich.”  If you love peace and love, you will have some serious and justified issues with much of the content of 1 Maccabees.

The real issue here, however, is that observant Jews, in their homes, faced death for living their faith, as they understood it, while acting in private.  King Antiochus Epiphanes decided that the private would become a public matter and a capital offense.  Nevertheless, he failed in his policies of assimilation.

Often we fear those who are significantly different from us, for we do not understand them.

What is wrong with these people,

we ask ourselves,

why aren’t they more like me?

Is it possible, however, that we are the ones who  need to be more like them?  Sometimes yes, other times no–but think about it.  Alternatively, sometimes a difference is just that–nothing more or less.  In these circumstance diversity makes the world–or our piece of it–a more interesting place, in a positive way.

Cultural Anthropology 101:  both universal cultural relativism and universal ethnocentrism are falsehoods.   This rule makes great sense to me.  But here is a universal rule to follow:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And everybody is your neighbor.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/resistance-diversity-assimilation-and-uniformity/

Week of Proper 21: Friday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  Map of the Seleucid Empire in 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Obedience and Persistence

OCTOBER 4, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Baruch 1:15-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You are to say:

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us.  From the day when the Lord brought our ancestor out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice.  And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today.  Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

9  Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10  Why should the heathen say, “Where is your God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

11  Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12  May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13  For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Luke 10:13-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high in heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.

Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, became the ruler of Palestine in 332 (having been king in Macedonia since 336)  B.C.E.  After he died nine years later, in 323, his vast empire broke up into competing factions, including the Ptolemaic Empire, headquartered in Egypt, and the Seleucid Empire, based in Syria.  The Ptolemys governed Palestine from 301 to 198 B.C.E. then the Seleucids took control of the region.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163), a monarch hostile to Judaism, profaned the Second Temple and outlawed basic Jewish practices in 167 B.C.E.  He banned circumcision, outlawed keeping the Sabbath, burned Torah scrolls, devoted the Temple to the Olympian gods, and forced Jews to eat pork and participate in Hellenistic religious festivals.

The writing of the Book of Baruch occurred in this context.  The author drew on the paradigm of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E., four centuries before his time.  The book opens with a prayer of confession (part of which is the first reading for this day), moves along to a plea for mercy and deliverance, recalls divine compassion and promises, then praises divine wisdom that people cannot possibly understand.  It concludes with an affirmation of hope.  Thus the purpose of the Book of Baruch is to encourage faithful Palestinian Jews suffering under the Seleucid oppression.  God has not abandoned his people, the book says; God will deliver them.  And nobody understands the mind of God fully, so nobody ought to try.  The task of the faithful is to obey the Torah of God and persist in obedience.

The reading from Luke, with similar lessons in Matthew and Mark, fits well into this theme.  Jesus rebukes First Century C.E. unrepentant Jewish communities, saying that Gentile communities would have repented already.  This message is consistent with comments such as those to the effect that some prostitutes will enter Heaven before certain professional religious people.  In other words, socially-defined religious orthodoxy will not save one from the consequences of one’s own sin.

So, once again, we have the intersection of judgment and mercy.  And, as Peter says to Gentile household in Acts 10:34b-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

This message is positive, especially if one is a person who fears God and “does what is acceptable to him.”  But what if you one just thinks that one does, but is actually mistaken?  Into which category do you fit?  Into which category do I fit?  I do not know, and you might not, either.  Fortunately, A Brief Statement of Belief (Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1962) offers a summary of our hope:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

I am not a Universalist; there is a reality called Hell, just as there is a reality called Heaven.  Just as there is mercy, there is also judgment.  There is always something of the ways of God that remain hidden from us.  Among these mysteries is the extent of mercy, something I do not question.  Rather, I rejoice in it.  This is the mercy by which God delivers me from myself and you from yourself.  This is the mercy by which God cancels out measures of judgment.  But there is judgment, too.  Let us never forget that, but without neglecting the reality of mercy.  May we have balanced perspectives.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/obedience-and-persistence/