Monthly Archives: August 2011

Faith Stumbling, Protectionsim, & Mark 9:42

A somewhat recurrent them is that those young in the faith need protection. This seems to be backed up by Mark 9:42 where Jesus talks about not causing a little one to stumble and the millstone around the neck deal Many have used such a verse to such to foster indoctrination and/or sheltering from the beliefs of others. In some cases, such has even been used to justify the creation of falsehoods about others.

I’m of the opinion Mark 9;42 is connected to the rest of the chapter where in we have Jesus referencing body parts as to the cause of stumbling. I find it exceedingly interesting that the tongue is clearly absent from the adjacent text. Rather the adjacent text indicates body parts are key, the stumbling bit seems to be much more a physical thing… ie, using the eyes to lust or covet, and the foot and hands to run off and steal, kidnap or rape.

Likewise, the predecessor verses seem to indicate even others who are outside the group are not a threat… ie dudes were casting out demons in Jesus name, even though they were not “one of us”, and Jesus was cool with it, even though the disciples were not.

Going back a bit further back in the chapter, we run into Jesus coming down on the disciples for pride and arrogance as to who would be the greatest. To some extent, I wonder if ideological protectionism, sheltering, and indoctrination may be more of a power play than a anti-stumbling methodology?

Going beyond just scripture into reason and experience, it seems the practices of falsehoods, sheltering, and indoctrination more often than not does eventually cause little ones to stumble… the exact opposite of what such was intended to protect against. Such plays out every year to folks peril when overly sheltered, and indoctrinated young folks go off to college, followed there after by the casting away of their beliefs, where as other young students more often than not tend to stay the course they were taught.

I think only the bit that could be used to justify sheltering is where Jesus talks about salt loosing its saltiness in Mark 9:50 but such would be a substantial mis-interpretation. Salt in and of itself doesnt loose its saltiness. Bulk salt properties otoh are subject to change, with the greatest rates of change occurring when 99.999% sale is removed from its hermetic packaging. For background info, consider the bulk osmotic pressure differences between 99.999% NaCl and NaCl based road salt.

Granted a discussion of osmotic pressure differentials is far outside the scope of this article… but considering that we are not to put our light under a lampstand, and that hermetic seals are not forever… long term protectionism does not appear a wise course of action.

The Guise of Purity

@khad wrote the other day, “The guise of purity is a good mask for corruption. Perhaps mostly because it discourages inquiry.” I’m thinking how true this is… moral high roads present near impenetrable barriers , few if any question them, and if they do, bam they get shot down.

That is, until light eventually illuminates the road. At that point, one can see whether such is indeed a moral high road, or merely one heck of a good game show… and it does seem to be the case there are lots of game shows.

I ame across the following from Leontius, Bishop of Neapolis. He pretty much nails the guise of purity.

Those who are eager to pursue the worthy status which can be taught to others are obliged to demonstrate in their own life the teaching of still others and present themselves to all as a model of a way of living which is a virtue inspired by God, according to the divine word which says, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” [Mt 5:16], lest perhaps they are eager to chastise, reform, and guide others before they themselves are instructed and purified through working at the divine commandments, having failed to lament their own death, while concerning themselves with the death of another, and fulfill in themselves the truthful saying, so fitting to them, which says, “He who does not do and teach these things will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” [Mt 5:17], and again, “Hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye and then look to take out the speck in your brother’s eye” [Mt 7:5]. For this reason also the wise author of the Acts of the Apostles says thus concerning our great and true God and teacher, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” [Acts 1:1]. For this also Paul, the great vessel of election, wrote rebuking the Romans, saying, “You then who teach others, will you not teach yourselves?” [Rom 2:21] and so forth.[2]

Since therefore I am unable to present instruction and the image and model of virtuous deeds from my own life, carrying with myself everywhere the mark of sin, come, and from the work of others and their sweaty toils, I shall today….

He then proceeds to introduce St Symeon… who practiced a different sort of guise, namely a very pious and holy man in private, who puts on a great show of impurity and craziness in public!

Upon reaching the first church in his public ministry, he came in, disrupted the liturgy, threw nuts at the women, and then rolled the pastry tables.

It was also the saint’s practice, whenever he did something miraculous, to leave that neighborhood immediately, until the deed which he had done was forgotten….

Its a fascinating read… be forewarned, the text is translated from ancient manuscripts, it is not politically correct, it is likely to make conservative leaning folks more than a bit squeamish. A sanitized more pc description of St Symeon can be found at wikipedia.

I dont know that folks of God need to eat strange and/or disgusting food, hang out in the desert… or tie a dead dog to their robes, but certainly such an approach is a whole lot better than a guise of purity. There is only One who is truly pure.

Mirrors, Sex, and Purity Exodus 38:8

Hous was asking some questions concerning Exodus 38:8 on his facebook wall, so I just had to run with it. Its a fascinating piece of scripture, and also one that really seems way out of place with the rest of the chapter. Alas, it is in there, and just like Psalm 137:9 there likely must be some deeper meaning surrounding it.

The text of issue: Exodus 38:8 Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

It seems odd that only the women at the temple entrance were singled out as a group in contrast to the 600,000 + others in the building of the tabernacle. Rabbi’s, such as Rashi seem to tie in the bit about Miriams song of the red sea, and military victory as concerning this text. Likewise Rashi presents some additional background. Mirrors were used by women to seduce their enslaved and exhausted husbands in the field for purposes of childbearing. Such was exceedingly important, as Rashi interprets Pharaohs actions in keeping the enslaved husbands exhausted, and likewise away from their families at night, as methods to foster the demise of the Jewish people in future generations.

Like Rashi, I tend to think the mirror business is sexually connected. Unlike Rashi, I’m thinking the women at the temple entrance were using mirrors and such for prostitution. The use of mirrors in the field certainly makes sense considering the Jewish focus on purity and the focus on continuation of their people for future generations.. but it seems a major stretch of the text to fit a position. Ie, these women were not at the field, they were at entrance to the tent of the meeting. In addition, if we consider the following in combination with the historical context of temple prostitution.

1 Samuel 2:22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Granted, some could likewise say such is a bit of a stretch… scripture is not explicitly clear that the women were prostitutes, and likewise, history can vary from place to place. Thus the nearly 180 degree difference in my interpretation in contrast with Rashi. Continuing on…

If we then consider that Moses originally rejected the inclusion of mirrors, it seems a bit off. Ie, the symbolism of the propagation of future generations would seemingly be a righteous thing as recognition of God’s covenant with Abraham. On the other hand, if the mirrors had been involved in prostitution, Moses would seemingly be making the right call to reject their use… yet Rashi indicates God commanded their inclusion.

This inclusion of the women’s mirrors in the construction of the basin and its base could point towards Christ’s ministry and His focus on matters of the heart rather than the purity codes. The putting aside of the old and becoming new, being washed clean. Ie in giving up their mirrors, such could be symbolism of leaving prostitution behind. Likewise, such could point to Christ’s focus on sacrifice from the heart rather than sacrificial ritual. Ie, rather than giving $320 each, like the 600,000+ did, they gave away the tools of their profession. Lastly, the aspect of not causing another to stumble. Ie, they didnt sell the mirrors to others, but in being part of the basin assembly, no one else could use the mirrors for prostitution.

Then again… there is a tendency for us to look backwards in time. Its quite likely Christ’s ministry focus was the original intent of God all along. Purity and ritual were a means to reach the heart, rather than the disguises of righteousness used by the Pharisees.