Seven, ten, or thirteen? Scholars are still deciding.

We raised the question on Sunday.

The last 3 weeks we have read from “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians” in our worship. In the discussion on Sunday (7/29/12) Stan and I raised the question about who authored the letter to the Ephesians. In part, our question arises from our reading of commentaries and essays by a variety of scholars including, most recently, the scholarship of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

Quote . . .THREE PAULS

Mainstream scholarship as it has developed over the last two centuries has concluded that some of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul were not written by him. Rather, they fall into three categories.

First, a massive scholarly consensus: at least seven letters are “genuine” – that is, written by Paul himself. These seven include three longer ones (Romans, I and II Corinthians), and four shorter ones (I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon). Written in the 50s of the first century, plus or minus a year or two, they are the earliest documents in the New Testament, earlier than the gospels (recall that Mark, the first gospel, was written around 70). Thus the genuine letters of Paul are the oldest witness we have to what was to become Christianity.

Second, an almost equally strong consensus: three letters were not written by Paul. These are I and II Timothy and Titus, commonly known as “the pastoral epistles” or simply “the pastorals.” Scholars estimate that they were written around the year 100, possibly a decade or two later. The reasons these are seen as “non-Pauline” include what looks like a later historical setting as well as a style of writing quite unlike the Paul of the seven genuine letters.

Thus the letters to Timothy and Titus were written in the name of Paul several decades after his death. In case some readers may think that writing in somebody else’s name was dishonest or fraudulent, we note that it was a common practice in the ancient world. It was a literary convention of the time, including within Judaism.

Third, letters about which there is no scholarly consensus, though a majority see them as not coming from Paul. Often called the “disputed” epistles, they include Ephesians, Colossians, and II Thessalonians. We are among those who see these as “post-Paul,” written a generation or so after his death, midway between the genuine letters and the later pastoral letters.

From Chapter 1 of their book The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon. Chapter 1 is online at: Paul: Appealing or Appalling?

In your reading and study have you formed an opinion? What role does the Holy Spirit play in the writing, preserving, handing on, and interpreting of these letters? What role does the Spirit play as you grapple with this kind of information? Let’s keep the conversation going.

We are in this together

An image from the fire that destroyed St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, ND
A July 25 nighttime fire destroys St. James Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

The Epistle for Proper 8 Year B read on July 1, 2012:
7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you —so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something— 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written, “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.”  2 Corinthians 8:7-15

Quote . . .How believers use their resources — time, money, talents, and attention — is a reflection of what they believe about God and God’s actions in the world. Furthermore, how those resources are used preaches a message to others. Paul wants the Corinthians’ actions to be a reflection of the gospel in which they believe.

This passage fits in a larger section of 2 Corinthians (8:1-9:15) that is chiefly concerned with Paul’s collection for the Jerusalem church.…

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul gets more mileage out of the Macedonian success story by shaming the Corinthian church into acting.…

Before he resorts to shaming them directly, he reminds the believers that their actions to support the Jerusalem poor demonstrate the earnestness of their faith (2 Corinthians 8:8). Paul reframes the whole collection as the gospel enacted. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul retells the good news through the lens of generosity. Christ gave up extraordinary riches so that others might receive the abundant wealth of God’s grace.

Professor Carla Works on WorkingPreacher.com a commentary on the Epistle for July 1, 2012

From the Episcopal News Service (ENS)

A July 25 nighttime fire has destroyed St. James’ Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Sioux County, where Cannon Ball is located, is one of the poorest counties in North Dakota and among the top ten poorest in the nation

“At 10 p.m. Central Time a parishioner who lives across the road from St. James’ saw that there was smoke and fire coming from the church,” said the Rev. Canon John Floberg, who has served as St. James’ rector for 21 years and is canon missioner for native ministry in the Diocese of North Dakota. “Flames spread quickly through the parish hall to the church itself, and by quarter of eleven the whole structure was engulfed in flames. It’s all ash today.” Read more: NORTH DAKOTA: Fire destroys St. James’ Episcopal Church

I propose that we take up a collection in the Sunday Morning Forum for the people of St. James Episcopal Church. With the Apostle and the with the Professor I believe that how we use our resources tells a lot about what we believe about God and God’s actions in the world.

More information about St. James in Cannon Ball, ND and about the Standing Rock Episcopal Community of North Dakota. I remind you: we’re in this together.

Texts of terror

Sacred Scripture, Violent Verses: How Should We Read the Bible’s Texts of Terror?

The sacred scriptures we use contain lots of violence (just recently our Sunday lectionary texts have featured a number of beheadings and this Sunday 7/15 we hear Mark’s account of the death (by beheading) of John the Baptist).

Daniel Clendenin explores our sometimes uneasy relationship with scripture, especially these “texts of terror” a term first used by Phyllis Tickle to describe them. Go to Sacred Scripture, Violent Verses: How Should We Read the Bible’s Texts of Terror? This is the essay for the week on Journey with Jesus (a weekly E-zine I frequently visit; the archived material is wonderful, too). ~dan

Christ Resurrects the Daughter of Jairus, 1815, Pen/ink and Watercolor, Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 8, Art for July 1, 2012

In the early nineteenth century there were two, often opposing, stylistic directions in art; Neoclassicism and Romanticism. Neoclassicists turned to the works of the Greeks, Romans, and the Renaissance as the basis for their work and made art an intellectual pursuit. It was the official art of the academies in France but the romanticists of this time preferred to follow their hearts and often painted subjects having dramatic content. Friedrich Overbeck was born in Germany where a tendency toward romanticism was strong. As a mature painter his subjects were usually Biblical and like the romanticists, they contained emotional content but he lived in Rome and as seen in Christ Resurrects the Daughter of Jairus, he was influenced greatly by the classicism found in Renaissance painting.

As a young man, Overbeck studied art at the Vienna Academy and it was during this time that he recognized his desire to bring a spiritual quality back into art. In 1909, while still a student, he and others of likeminded values founded a group called, “The Brotherhood of Saint Luke,” and imagined being like medieval guild painters. A year later he and his friends went to Rome where they decided to live in a former monastery and remain somewhat in seclusion like monks. They were joined by several other German artists who shared Overbeck’s desire for spirituality in art. Because they affected Biblical manners in their clothes and hair styles, they soon were dubbed, “Nazarenes.” Rome became Overbeck’s adopted home and he lived there for the remainder of his life.

Overbeck had long admired the work of Albrecht Durer and when he arrived in Rome he studied the works of Raphael as well. The influence of both of these artists is evident in Christ Resurrects the Daughter of Jairus. The robes are very much in the style of Raphael and, in the tableau-like dramatic setting and composition it has elements in common with Durer’s woodcuts. Overbeck’s subject for this painting (which is primarily a drawing with added watercolors) is based on accounts in the Gospels in which a patron of the synagogue, Jairus, asks Jesus to come to heal his dying daughter. By the time Jesus was asked, however, his daughter may have been already dead. When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home, a wailing crowed was there and they laughed when they were told the girl is not dead but asleep. Jesus sent them out and took the girl’s hand saying, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Overbeck’s painting depicts the moment when the girl rises up in bed looking pale and gaunt. Her eyes are still closed.

In this painting, the figure of Christ gets our attention immediately; he is in a dark blue robe and placed in the center of the painting. The figure of Christ also serves as a visual barrier that keeps our focus on the left half of the painting where the miraculous event is occurring. Jesus is holding the girl’s hand and at the same time he is looking directly at her face. Behind the girl with his hands clasped is Jairus and off to the right and away from the immediate action is a passive group of figures that came with Jesus; they are waiting quietly as Christ takes the girl’s hand and asks her to get up. Farther back are figures leaving as they exit through an arched opening; it is likely these are the last of the people told by Jesus to leave. Like the neoclassicists, Overbeck has kept his composition cool and uncluttered; our eyes move to different areas of this painting with ease but we always return to the interaction between Jesus and the girl.

This exceptionally well-balanced composition does not break new ground in art, yet in Overbeck’s painting there is subdued color that gives it serenity. It gives us a story without overwhelming us with details. There is a sense that he wanted to depict this event simply and honestly without taking attention away from it with excessive visual effects.
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© 2012 Hovak Najarian

When Goliath looked David over, he sneered at David because he was just a boy

And it’s no wonder he sneered. Goliath stood almost 10 feet tall and had been a warrior a long time. Of course this just sets the stage for God’s actions (then and now).

This Sunday (6/24/12) one of the appointed readings is the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Our Forum member, Wendy, in an informative post titled: Child Capacity: Human and Divine, leads us to these questions:

These biblical passages speak to a “both/and” view of child capacity. Children BOTH have far more capacity than modern theories have led us to perceive AND they have limitless power when they are acting in the Spirit of God. How does this understanding speak to us as children’s teachers and pastors? How does this understanding speak to us as adults learning to walk with God?

I encourage you to read the entire post. You will find (in good Episcopal fashion) a lot of questions inviting you (and me) to a deeper understanding of God and children and faith.

Come back and share what you think, your own questions, observations you’ve made over the years, anything at all to keep the conversation going.

Seeing beyond outward appearances

Samuel was tasked by God to anoint a new king. The tone was set in Samuel’s first ‘interview’ as “the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7

This week, we shared the story of Samuel, of David, and God that grew into the wisdom of Paul…

…we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 2 Corinthians 5:16 …

…becoming part of our Baptismal Covenant

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

May we have grace to see beyond physical appearances perceiving the integrity of the heart, God’s gift to us all.

What verses from Sunday’s (6/17/12) lessons spoke to your heart? What verses prompted questions and posed challenges? Let’s continue the conversation here.

“So, Mom, how do these seeds grow?”

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,…” Mark 4:26

The Gospel text appointed for Sunday, June 17, 2012 is Mark 4:26-34. What follows is the opening paragraph of a reflection on Mark posted by Ynot on the Catholica Forum Blog.

Quote . . .Mark was finding it hard to concentrate on the papers spread across the table while a noisy group outside the door debated methods and strategies for proclaiming the kingdom. Get the message sorted out first, some were saying, to make sure everyone follows the same line. Others were talking about picking out the most likely converts. Then they started on the obstacles blocking the message, secularism, materialism, relativism in the Greco-Roman world, the hot-blooded youth who wanted a messiah to lead them against the Roman occupation back home in Palestine, and the biggest problem of all, the lack of spiritual hunger, seen in the poor attendance at synagogue, the waywardness of the young, the blindness of the pharisees. Finally, the leaders of the synagogue who didn’t care for the people. Some were even saying that you’ve got to start with the children and fill their young minds with the Way of Jesus before anything else. Mark threw up his hands in frustration. “They just don’t get it!” he muttered to himself, and put his head down to his work. He knew the key to all their searching was staring him in the face. How have they all got it so wrong? It’s not like organising a social revolution, it’s not like setting up a reform movement, it’s not like force-feeding the young, it’s not like an occupier’s re-education program among a subject people, it’s not indoctrination: It’s like sowing seed!  Read the entire reflection

After reading through this reflection let our Forum know what you think. Ask a question or leave a comment. We would like to continue the conversation.

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Image from the blog Phil0logy on WordPress.

Some questions to try out today

We’ll gather in our Sunday Morning Forum at 9am PDT this morning and take up the questions posed by our Forum Member, Wendy:

“Life and peace. Good life. We are invited to access it by freeing ourselves to be open to and led by the Spirit of God to become children of God (Romans 8:14 NRSV). Through our Western lens, to become spirit-focused seems to ignore the real world and to become a child almost seems to be a condescension, but are either of these fears accurate?

“Perhaps the greatest question to ponder is the destiny of a child? Is it to become an adult? Or, according to the Bible, here, is it to become in close relationship with God? Is the child an incomplete adult or is the child an image of one in closest relationship with God in Spirit? Here in Romans, we are invited to become as a child to enter into the Spirit of God. ” from Children of God by Wendy Sanders

  • What images (verbal or otherwise) come to mind when you hear that you are “a child”?
  • “Paul, you are such a child.” Can you imagine Paul’s reaction to that statement? What kind of response might he give?
  • Is it the destiny of a child to “become an adult”? Explain.
  • Is it the destiny of a child enter into “a close relationship with God”? Explain.
  • Have you ever used the word “Abba” in your prayers? If yes, please share what you experienced.

To the Trinity be praise!

To the Trinity be praise!
God is music, God is life
that nurtures every creature in its kind.
Our God is the song of the angel throng
and the splendor of secret ways
hid from all humankind,
But God, our life is the life of all.

–Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

The endless gift of Pentecost

Continuing in the breath, wind, and fire of Pentecost here is the meditation of one of my favorite bishops. Brian Prior is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. You’ll want to read the whole post, of course, but here is how it starts:

It is illusive…but ever present.

Many expect to experience it only  as a lighting bolt while missing the still small voice. There are those who believe it is always manifested in a radical, almost “other- worldly” way, while the ‘everyday-ness’ goes unnoticed. Others have no expectations while the truly miraculous goes unacknowledged.  Some assume that it is brought forth by their own volition all the while it is unquestionably a gift.

Yet once you have had a moment, an experience, an awareness or an openness to its movement in your life…

Keep reading on the Bishop’s Blog.