During the 2017 Pentecost Season, alternative readings from the Hebrew Bible are offered. Scripture in Context will discuss both readings and the reading from the Christian Scriptures.
The Book of Exodus is the second book of the Bible, and covers the period from the slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh (around 1250 BCE, if the account is historical), the Exodus itself, and the early months in the Wilderness.
Today’s reading comes after Pharaoh’s 9th refusal to free the Israelites, and comes just before the final plague (death of the firstborn). It gives detailed instructions for the first Passover. Like Genesis, Exodus contains portions that were written around 950 BCE and parts that were written as late as 450 BCE by the Priestly writers. The directions here are presented as being given by YHWH to both Moses and Aaron (the first priest). Like almost all Priestly writings, it contains specific details as to dates for observances.
The sacrifice of the Passover lamb was integral to the deliverance of the Israelites, but was not as a means of atonement. The Fourth Gospel describes Jesus as “the Lamb of God” and the means of deliverance.
Ezekiel is one of the three “Major” Prophets – so called because of the length of the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest who was among the first group of persons deported by the Babylonians when they captured Jerusalem in 597 BCE.
The Book of Ezekiel is in three parts: (1) Chapters 1 to 24 are prophesies of doom against Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE; (2) Chapters 25 to 32 are prophesies against foreign nations; and (3) Chapters 33 to 48 are prophesies of hope for the Judeans written during the Babylonian Exile (586-539 BCE).
Here, YHWH is presented as referring to Ezekiel as Israel’s “sentinel” to warn the people to turn from their wicked ways (v.8). The emphasis in the Book of Ezekiel is on personal responsibility rather than seeing the acts of prior generations as the cause of the current situation. This was a new development in the Theology of Ancient Israel. Ezekiel also presents repentance as the way to a restored life.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is his longest, last, and theologically most complex letter, written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written. One of Paul’s goals was to reduce tensions and eliminate distinctions between the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome and Gentile Jesus Followers there.
Paul exhorts the Jesus Follower Community in Rome to follow the Commandments, particularly to love one another as neighbors. Like most early Jesus Followers, Paul believed that Christ would return soon (“salvation is nearer to us now”). Paul uses “the flesh” as his code word for the values of the world – values not consistent with living in the Lord Christ Jesus (v. 14).