Still Tithing?; P and Ezekiel; No Pre-Exilic Messianism; Second Coming; New Seasons Tonight

1.  I read more of Jacob Neusner’s Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah.  On page 82, Neusner states, “The basic notion at this time between the wars was that priestly gifts remain required, even though the priesthood has momentarily lost its liturgical justification.”  So Jews had to give gifts to the priests between 70 C.E.—the time when the Romans burned down the Jerusalem temple—and the Roman defeat of Bar-Kochba in the early second century C.E.  Were Jews after that point no longer required to tithe?

2.  I started Avi Hurvitz’s A Linguistic Study of the Relationship Between the Priestly Source and the Book of Ezekiel.  Hurvitz, like many other scholars, notes linguistic similarities between the priestly source in the Pentateuch and the Book of Ezekiel.  In this book, he tackles a question: Which came first, P or Ezekiel?  In accounting for the similarities between the two writings, should we hold that P drew from Ezekiel, or vice-versa? 

On pages 8-9, Hurvitz says that he has argued in the past that P was pre-exilic, but that he’s open to modifying his position.  If P is pre-exilic and Ezekiel is exilic (roughly speaking), that would mean that Ezekiel drew from P, right?  I’ll see where Hurvitz goes.

3.  I started Randall Heskett’s Messianism Within the Scriptural Scrolls of Isaiah.  On page 3, Randall attempts to define Messianism.  He views Messianism as a belief that God will restore the defunct Davidic dynasty to power.  Under this definition, Messianism could not have existed in Israel’s pre-exilic period, when the Davidic dynasty still stood, but only in her exilic and post-exilic periods, when it did not exist.  Randall acknowledges that there’s more nuance to Messianism, however, for there was a belief within post-exilic Judaism in a priestly Messiah.

In a big picture sense, I agree with Randall’s definition.  But I wonder if Judaism only viewed the Messiah as a restored figure.  Yes, rabbinic Judaism believed in a Messiah who would be a Davidic king, emerging after a long period of time in which the Davidic monarchy was dormant.  But there’s also a rabbinic tradition that King Hezekiah blew his opportunity to be the Messiah, the Davidic king who would reign over an era of peace (see The Messiah in Ruth Rabbah).  Hezekiah was a pre-exilic figure, yet a rabbinic tradition thought he could be the Messiah, even though he didn’t live in a time when the Davidic monarchy was inoperative.

4.  At Latin mass this morning, we had the priest who speaks about love.  He said that we shouldn’t fear the Second Coming of Christ.  Yet, he asked us: if Christ were to come soon, what would he find?

This reminds me of what I used to hear in Seventh-Day Adventist churches: “Are you ready for Jesus to come back?  Don’t get ready.  BE ready.”  How do I get ready for something like that?  Become morally perfect?  Like that will ever happen!

I agree with the spirit of what Jesus talks about in Matthew 25: I should conduct myself in a manner that won’t disappoint my Master were he to return unexpectedly.  I shouldn’t oppress people.  I should help others when I can.  I guess I should use my talents rather than burying them in the ground.  These are good ideas to follow, whether or not Jesus is returning soon.

On the other hand, I’m at the point where I’m jaded by intense eschatological expectation.  Why should I assume that I’m living in the last days?  Numerous people before me have believed that Christ would return in their lifetimes, and he didn’t.  Several (but not the more conservative) New Testament scholars have contended that Jesus believed the end was near when he lived in Palestine about two thousand years ago.  But it wasn’t—at least not as I understand “end.”  Life went on.

Like the scoffers in II Peter 3, I wonder at times if I should even buy the Christian notion that Christ will come back.  The notion has usually accompanied fear—that I’ll be persecuted, or end up following the Beast, a dilemma I don’t ever want to face.  It’s also been an excuse for some Christians to dodge trying to improve the current world—through voting, or (if you don’t believe voting accomplishes anything) through helping make society better.  After all, why rearrange furniture on a sinking ship? 

But I hope that life won’t be forever horrible—that a good God will intervene in this world to bring forth justice and to end suffering.  I believe in a loving God, so I can’t envision him not doing so at some point.

5.  A new season of Desperate Housewives starts tonight.   Paul Young has returned, and Felicia Tillman will be coming along at some point this season.  I hope this season isn’t a rehash of Seasons 1-2, in which they continually fought.  I love their characters, but I want to see new plot-lines, not recycled old plot-lines.

Vanessa Williams will be an addition to the cast, playing a rival to Lynette Sciavo.  I would never want to be a rival to Lynette, for she could destroy me!  But I haven’t watched much of Ugly Betty, so I don’t know how ruthless Vanessa Williams’ characters can be.

Brothers and Sisters also starts another season tonight.  Saul has HIV.  The Rob Lowe character dies.  I’m saddened by that, to be honest, since Rob Lowe was a big reason I started watching Brothers and Sisters.  I loved him on the West Wing, in which he played a Democrat, so I wanted to see him play a Republican, which he did on Brothers and Sisters.  And I just liked him: he’s funny, he’s approachable, his characters are principled, even if they’re a tad-bit intellectually arrogant.  I’m going to miss him.  But I love the other characters by this point, and so I’ll live.  But I’ll still miss him.

Brothers and Sisters will fast-forward years into the future, as Desperate Housewives did a few seasons ago.  I hope Sarah has dropped the French guy by then!

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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