Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 167

The scriptures read are Ezra 10, Psalm 136 and 1 Corinthians 11.

Ezra 10. Turns out the exiles are only too willing to divorce their foreign wives. This is a somewhat disturbing end to this book. Contrast it with what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 about being married to an unbeliever; ie, if it's OK with the unbeliever, stay married and he may convert. (Still think Paul is all wrong on marriage?) I think it is harder to stay committed to God when your spouse is not but that's something major you should deal with before getting married, not after the fact.

Psalm 136. Obviously liturgical, with its repeated chant, "His steadfast love is eternal," this psalm is part of the Passover Seder and is known as the Great Hallel. If you'd like to hear what I think is a rabbinical student hypnotically chanting this psalm you can go here. For an orchestral setting click here. And I really like this Orthodox version here.

1 Corinthians 11. Paul sorts out some worship matters. Did you know that in Japan the neck is considered sexy? In the same way, women's hair was considered sexy in the ancient Mediterranean. A woman's head would only be shaved if she were a captive and slave. A respectable woman wore a head covering. But then as now, some women were deliberately provocative, (think Oscar nominees on the red carpet trying to have the most daring, most talked about dress) and, very much like Hollywood actresses, it was especially upper class women who liked to show off the latest fashion in hairstyles. So we have a culture clash here with upper class women flaunting their do's while women from the lower class were concerned about sexual propriety. Paul uses a lot of arguments that don't resonate much today but the thing you can take away from this is that ultimately, not human but God's glory is supposed to be on display here. (Human vanity being what it is, in some churches today women do wear hats but try to compete in who has the grandest church hat.)

BTW, notice that Paul's argument in verse 4 makes no sense unless women were allowed to pray and prophesy in public--with head properly covered, of course. Starting in 350 AD, we get church councils prohibiting women from being priests, elders and deacons. Which means they must have existed prior to the prohibition. Again people don't read Paul closely enough and thus misread him.

Also notice that Paul says in verse 11 that neither women or men are independent of one another. And we all come from God, who again is supposed to be the focus of worship.

The Lord's Supper or Communion or Eucharist was once part of a communal meal called the Agape Feast (agape being the Greek word for spiritual love). Apparently in Corinth this had degenerated into an excuse for gluttony and drunkenness. So Paul gives us the very first account of the Last Supper (remember he was writing this before the gospels were written). He emphasizes the connection with Jesus' sacrificial death for us. So this is to be a sober undertaking. And you can see in this the roots of the modern rite, divorced from a  feast or full meal. (That is saved for coffee hour, at least at my Lutheran church!)

No comments:

Post a Comment