Criticism and Flattery, So THAT’S the Covenant Formula, Adam’s Naming of the Animals, Newness of Spirit and Oldness of Letter, Testimonia

1.  Dale Carnegie, How to win Friends and Influence People, pages 19-38:

What I got out of today’s reading was that we shouldn’t criticize people, for that can offend or hurt them.  Rather, we should encourage them, without resorting to insincere flattery, which most people can see through.  How do we avoid insincere flattery and offer people the genuine appreciation that they so deeply crave?  We take our minds off of ourselves and think about what’s good in others.

I think there’s a lot of wisdom here.  I know that my criticism of others has produced damaging results.  It also makes sense to me that people have a desire to be appreciated, since I know that’s true of myself.  I think that there may be a time and a place for criticism, however, since we may need to tell others what’s bothering us in order for something to be done about the troubling situation.  Later in the book, Dale Carnegie discusses how we can do this tactfully.  As far as encouraging others is concerned, I’m not that good at it.  Even when I try to think of positive things about people and tell them about their assets, I come across as insincere, as if I’m trying to become friends with them primarily to help myself.  But there have been times when people have appreciated my compliments.  It’s sweet when I can compliment a person, without seeking anything in return—when I can simply tell a person what I sincerely admire about him or her!

2.  Rolf Rendtorff, The Covenant Formula:

I’m getting an idea as to what the “covenant formula” is.  It refers to passages that describe God’s covenant with Israel.  Some passages say that God will be the God of Israel, while Israel will be his people.  Some throw the Promised Land into the mix.  Some say that God will dwell in Israel’s midst.  I’m not sure what Rendtorff does with this information, but we will see.  He has a chapter on exegetical context, and a chapter in which he makes a theological survey.  I’m looking forward to reading these chapters, which constitute the meat of the book.

3.  R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, page 63:

From the so-called primary words there is but a step to the question of the origin of words: do words exist as a product of nature…or as the result of convention?  [T]he question is who first gave names to things.

I’ve thought some about this issue in light of the story of Adam in Genesis 2.  Adam names the animals.  I’ve seen animated Bible stories about this.  Adam usually notices something peculiar to an animal, and he names the animal according to that characteristic (or, more accurately, the author of the story makes a forced connection between the animal’s English name and his characteristic!).  But here’s the problem: we don’t call the animals what Adam named them!  Adam named them according to his language.  We name them according to ours.  So words are a result of convention, right?  Maybe.  I have a question: do our names for animals descend from the earliest names for them, whether you believe in the Adam and Eve story or not?

4.  R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, pages 250-251:

The case of Levirate marriage cited by the Sadducean interlocutor of our Lord (Matt. 22:23-33) Origen allegorizes so that the woman is the human soul and two of her husbands represent the letter of the law (which dies) and the ‘spiritual law’ (which the soul marries).

Romans 7 says that we Christians serve God according to the newness of the Spirit, not the oldness of the letter.  What’s this mean?  Ron Dart once gave a sermon in which he said that, for many laws in the Old Testament, Christians are required to observe them in spirit, not in letter.  For example, I Corinthians 9:9 takes the law that says we shouldn’t muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, and draws from it the conclusion that Christians should support their clergy.  According to Dart, there are cases in which we can fulfill the Old Testament law without adhering to its literal, “to the letter” meaning.  This would apply to the law of mixed fabrics, which (if I’m not mistaken) Dart applied to the principle of not becoming unequally yoked.

But Ron Dart does believe that certain laws should be observed according to their letter.  Many Protestants (and perhaps Catholics) would say that we should observe the Sabbath in a spiritual sense, by finding our rest in Jesus Christ.  Dart, however, supports the literal observance of the seventh-day Sabbath, which includes rest and worship on that day.  Dart and most Christians would agree that there are laws that should be observed spiritually, not literally, by New Covenant Christians.  But they don’t entirely agree on which laws fall under this category.

There are some laws that every Christian thinks should be observed literally and spiritually.  We are not to kill, but we are also not to hate, which Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says is a form of murder in itself (Matthew 5:21-22).  In this case, the existence of a deeper spiritual meaning in “Thou shalt not kill” does not dispense with the literal, surface level of the law, which bans actual, physical murder.

Ordinarily, I disagree with the “New Covenant” types who contend that Jesus dispensed with the Old Testament law and replaced it with a New Covenant, which has some of the same basic standards as the Torah (don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery).  When I read the New Testament, I see cases in which it appeals to the Old Testament law as an authority (Romans 7:7; I Corinthians 9:9; Ephesians 6:2).  I prefer to believe that we keep the law, but certain parts of it have been fulfilled in Christ, so we no longer need to do those parts literally (e.g., sacrifices, maybe the Sabbath, etc.).  But the New Covenant perspective makes some sense in light of Romans 7’s insistence that we serve God in newness of Spirit, not in oldness of letter—unless that means that the Spirit is what enables us to observe the law, whereas, under the oldness of letter, the law may have given us instructions, but we could not obey them because of our weak flesh.  As Hebrews notes, the existence of sin offerings attested to our propensity to sin! 

5.  N.F. Marcos, The Septuagint in Context, page 269:

The testimonia are collections of biblical texts without a commentary, correlated by a common theme…The discovery of collections of testimonia in the Qumran literature (4QT) requires us to go back to a pre-Christian origin for this literary form.  However, where it developed most was among Jewish Christians around central themes of the new religion such as messianism, eschatology, the Law, the cross, the rejection of Israel, the vocation of the gentiles.

I found this interesting.  It calls to mind my studies on the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament.  Sometimes, the New Testament includes a bunch of OT passages from different places.  Is it imitating testimonia when it does this?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to Criticism and Flattery, So THAT’S the Covenant Formula, Adam’s Naming of the Animals, Newness of Spirit and Oldness of Letter, Testimonia

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