Church Write-Up: Spiritual Gifts, Roman Pedagogy, Constantine, Septuagint, Text Criticism

Here are some items from church last Sunday. I attended the LCMS church.

A. The theme was spiritual gifts. The youth pastor asked the kids if they have ever been on a team. If a person is on a basketball team, she may feel bad that she does not shoot as well as another player. But she may have her own strengths, such as defense. God has given to us by sending his Son to bring us salvation; similarly, we should give to others.

The pastor in his sermon said that, whether we are proud of our spiritual gifts like the Corinthians, or we lament that we do not have impressive spiritual gifts, the focus is on ourselves. In addition to I Corinthians 12:1-11, our text was John 2:1-11, the wedding at Cana. The wedding occurred on the “third day,” a pregnant term in Scripture, as that often indicates a time of dramatic divine intervention that changes things for the better. Jesus was bringing that. Our spiritual gifts should focus on Jesus’s love and forgiveness: what Jesus is doing. The pastor talked about things that the church is thinking of doing: following up on visitors to make sure they know they are welcome, and visit members who are going through difficulties.

B. I have four items on the Sunday school class.

The teacher talked about Roman pedagogy. Elite Roman children had pedagogues, tutors who taught them reading, writing, and rhetoric. Rhetoric was important if they were to go into politics. The pedagogues were highly educated slaves, often from Greece after the Romans “annexed” it. Some of them were harsh towards the children, acting as their disciplinarians when their fathers were away for war. When the Roman empire became Christian and Christians were the elites, the question was whether Christian elites should continue to read Homer’s writings, which were about pagan gods. Some Christians said “no,” but the Bible was deemed too unsophisticated to use: the New Testament was written in common (koine) Greek, not literary Greek. Public schools came much later. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, the vernacular, but what good was the translation if most were illiterate? Consequently, Luther appealed to the German princes to set up public schools. These would be for both boys and girls.

The teacher talked some about Constantine. The Roman empire had more than one emperor because it was too big for one person to rule it. There were heir apparents so there would not be civil war once an emperor died, but that did not work. Constantine receives a vision convincing him to rule the entire Roman empire. He reaches a deal with another emperor, the Edict of Milan, saying that the government will no longer hunt down Christians, though Christianity is still illegal. Constantine triumphs militarily though he is overwhelmed. Constantine may not have been totally open about his Christianity, but his empire incorporates cross imagery. Constantine returns property that was taken from Christians during the third century persecution, and, to make up for the burned Christian books, he orders twenty-five manuscripts of the Christian Bible to be produced with Christian money.

The teacher talked about the Septuagint. The Septuagint of the Pentateuch was produced in third century BCE Alexandria, Egypt. None of the synagogues in Alexandria spoke Hebrew or Aramaic; for that matter, Hebrew was rarely spoken in Palestine, which was why a person would translate aloud the Torah portion into Aramaic. Most of the synagogues then were Greek-speaking and outside of Palestine. There are different legends about how many translators produced the Septuagint, seventy or seventy-two. Legends say that the translators worked in separate cubicles and all ended up producing the same document, miraculously. The teacher doubts that really happened, but he thinks that Alexandrian Jews told this to Palestinian Jews because the Palestinian Jews treated them as second-class citizens and lorded over them. The Alexandrian Jews were saying that they did not need to use the Bible that the Palestinian Jews did, for the Septuagint was divinely-inspired.

The teacher gave us a taste of text criticism, but that will be the main topic next week. Ordinarily, he said, earlier manuscripts are more reliable, in terms of being closer to the original text. But what if you have an earlier Latin translation of a Greek Gospel? Or a later Syriac translation preserves an earlier line of text from Antioch?

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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