Mark Progress

August 30, 2008

I haven’t written for a while or reache any huge conclusions, but I wanted to let you know what I am currently studying.  Last week, after quite a while in Genesis and Philemon, I decided I would like to revisit one of the Gospels, finally settling on Mark (which I just haven’t read for a long time).

Just barely in to the book (two verses to be exact) Mark quotes Exodus 23:20, Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 lumping them all under the introduction, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet…”  Sidestepping Marks strangely singular label on this clearly multi-referent  quote I have been considering Mark’s use of Malachi in particular.

Following the portion Mark quotes in Malachi 3:1 the author goes on to note how the Levites, Judah and Jerusalem will face the purging judgement of God when he comes, resulting in their reformation and the bringing of an acceptable offerings.

Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, 4 like a launderer’s soap.  He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering. The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in former times and years past.

What I have been wondering as I have continued to read through the book is this: Is Mark building his book on any of these ideas?  How does Jesus place in the book portrayed as God’s refining coming?  How are the Levitical figures of Mark portrayed as offering unacceptable offerings?  Does Mark want us to see Jesus as the acceptable offering of the Levites, Judahites and Jerusalemites?

Right now I am at about chapter five, working to chronicle the interactions of Jesus and the religious elites.  We’ll see how things go…


Solomonic Perspective In I Kings

May 6, 2008

As I read through the early chapters of I Kings I cannot help but notice the varying perspective discrepacies which seem to be littered across the Solomonic landscape.  As a reader I find myself repeatedly asking, “Who is endorsing this message?”  I want the uber-clear statement of today’s political ads: “My name is Yahweh and I approved this message.”  Seldom do we hear this message, and I, for one, am left languishing. 

The problem, in my estimation can be boiled down to the reticence of the author/narrator to evaluate Solomon’s actions in a number of spheres.  Here are a sampling of the place I find Solomon’s actions to be either ambiguous or outright wrong:

  1. I Kings 2:24 Solomon views God as having established him on the throne “and established dynasty for me as he promised”–did God promise that? 
  2. I Kings 3:1 “Solomon made an alliance my marriage with Pharaoh, king of Egypt; he married Pharaoh’s daughter”–Dt. 17:16
  3. I Kings 3:3-4 In the key passage where Solomon is supposed to have attained wisdom from God the text describes Solomon as going to “the most prominent of the high places”–which is the discrepancy between David and Solomon cited in I Kings 3:3.
  4. I Kings 3:5 God appears to Solomon…in a dream.  Reliable source or no?  (note especially the beginning of I Kings 3:15)  This is the only time from Joshua through Kings where a dream carries God’s authority (except I Sam. 28 where Saul is expecting God to speak through dreams).
  5. If the previous is cast doubtfully, the I Kings 3:15 must also be so for the people “realized that [Solomon] possessed supernatural wisdom…”
  6. I Kings 4:26  Horses.  Dt. 17:16 clearly states that the king should not accumulate horses for himself.  The question is at this point is, “Is Solomon ‘accumulating horses’?”
  7. I Kings 5:5 Was God’s original promise which Solomon is quoting (II Sam 7:13) really about the Temple or about dynasty?  In my reading the answer to this question is put in doubt by divine statement in 6:11-13 (“As for this temple you are building…”)–which happens to be God’s first input on the project, and comes just before Solomon finishes the building (Begging the question: Did God have a say in the matter?)
  8. I Kings 6:38-7:1 Why does Solomon’s house take almost twice as long to build as the Temple?
  9. I Kings 8:24 Solomon views his temple as fulfillment of God’s promise–the narrator never statedly agrees (that I recall)
  10. I Kings 8:56 Of course therea are promises made through Moses which were unfulfilled at this point! (unless Solomon views himself as the Messiah!)
  11. I Kings 9:28 Solomon is accumulating gold…(Dt. 17:17)
  12. I Kings 10:14-11:5 Finally, the clearest statement in all of Kings against Solomon list his rebellion in deafening clarity against the clear backdrop of the kingly description of Dt 17 .  Ouch. 

How am I intended to view Solomon?  What is the interplay between Solomon’s self-portrayal, the people’s perception, YHWH’s decrees and the author’s portrayal?  As far as I can tell the author of I Kings has chosen to tell a somewhat mixed story of this Son of David…Why?

Further study: What of Solomon’s career does YHWH endorse?