Torah recreates an impeccably precise and honest work that never existed before


The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” The Mitzvah מִּשְׁפָּטִ Mi-Shephah-th of God goes from his lips שפה Shephah. Things happen through twelve שבט Shebah/tribes/walking sticks of Israel as they walk to the Promised Land.

Torah is alive, not a dead group of letters on papyrus parchment. Torah as narrative/metaphor is a theme Brueggemann likes to use in his books. Torah, in the Hebrew understanding, is three things. It is the first five books of Moses; it is Torah, Prophets, and Writings; in Aristotelian terms, it is the formal cause of the world. Before the return from the Babylonian Exile, it was anathema to put it to writing. Before the third century of C.E., it was anathema to put Midrash, Mishnah and Gemarah to writing. It is too alive for that. Israel takes the mystical formal cause of the world and makes it concrete. Aristotelian implies Greek, and late development.

A metaphor is an onion. Each generation from Adam, through Jewish and Church history, is one thin layer to the living onion. As diamond, Torah has many facets, creative voices teaching how they lived their lives and struggled with God. Israel translates “Struggled with God.” We each bring our own facet to interpretation, so we need to join community to compare facets, and gain a complete appreciation of the Torah and Gospel diamond.

Torah is Haggadah, or story. Torah is Halakha or walk-of-life, getting from our Egypt, our current oppression to the Promised Land. This is a two-step process. Haggadah comes first, and then Halakha. Deuteronomy 5 lays out that process, “Moses summoned all Israel, Hear Israel, the customs, and precedents, I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them.” The two key words are “custom,” and “precedent.” Custom, the collection of traditions comprising each layer of the onion, by definition comes from below.

Precedent comes from Moses, giving these rules, directly and through the kings, and prophets. After Deuteronomy, the Priests, the followers of the NAME, and those of the Northern tribes, followers of Elohim started writing their traditions, a process-taking generations. Genesis 18 makes the most sense if it is refuting Deuteronomy’s dietary laws. The word of God is living, a dialectic within Israel, struggling to understand God.

What was new and surprising was not the existence of the Documentary Hypothesis, related to the Great Assembly Theory. The process and these men’s motives were new, and surprising. It was putting personalities, if not faces to the men of this group. Also new was their recreating an impeccably precise and honest work that never existed before,i using competing traditions that drove the creativity of Torah, creating a work of enduring value. Last, were the discussions of covenant reality versus royal consciousness, and Passover importance. Semitic culture is a brash, rebellious culture. It shows in the way they pray to God, in the Magnificat, and in the way, Jesus deals with the leaders of his day and even with his mother.

Near the end of the Sixth Century B.C.E., 11 Eretz Israel was a small community of followers of the NAME. That community was responsible for major portions of Torah, including Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jonah, Third Isaiah, and Malachi. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah were pedigreed priests of Jerusalem. 111 Jeremiah represents the culmination of a long interpretive process IV begun in a sensitive and imaginative work, culminated in a vision informed by Deuteronomy, and deeply derivative of Hosea’s and Moses’ traditions. Jeremiah represented those Jews who remained in 587 or went to Egypt.

Ezekiel centers his faith V on the temple and the otherness of God. VI Chapters 40–48 present his description of life after the rebuilt temple. The preference for “The Name” over the Name of God used by Brueggemann and the class comes from Ezekiel’s tradition of the otherness of God.

Hebrew, like Latin, uses letters for numbers. When Jews write 15 and 16, they do not count 10 + 5 and 10 + 6; they count 9 + 6 and 9 + 7, to preclude writing the name of God and have it pronounced in error. Believing in Shekinah, the Divine Presence, the Mitzvah of God goes from his lips and things happen, as related in Genesis 1 and the Psalms. He envisions God’s return to his temple. There is place only for a prince or leader.

The first century was a time when people looked back at their traditions/prophecies, looking for a redeemer. Jesus and the apostles, also looked back at these texts to show Jesus was that redeemer, Goel/Gill. Zechariah relates, “The NAME showed four carpenters.”

Later tradition identifies them as Elijah, Messiah Ben Joseph, Messiah Ben David, and Melchizedek. It is not clear if this tradition comes before Jesus. Oral tradition makes correct dating impossible. Rabbis wrote Mishnah in the Fourth Century. Messiah Ben Joseph dies in Jerusalem from Gog, Hebrew for roof, and the temple is one big roof. He rises from the dead from Messiah Ben David.

If the Sanhedrin was aware of this tradition, the consequences are staggering. If Jesus is Messiah Ben Joseph, or if he is not and believes he is, and the Sanhedrin acquits him, he brings destruction to Israel. If he is Messiah Ben Joseph and they convict him, they are Gog. Using Frege’s Truth Tables, the only safe route is to convict him and he is not Messiah.

For Haggai, the reconstruction of the temple  VII is integral to life in the land. Haggai believes in the importance of restoring David’s monarchy. Zechariah’s visions offer an option, between the hierocracy of Ezekiel and Haggai’s monarchy. Zechariah sees symbols representing “the two anointed ones,” and advocates leadership shared by political and religious leaders.

The precedents of these men look back from 587 and ask what happened and why. Brueggemann reads Torah chronologically and tries to understand the books of Joshua and Judges’ violence. These books imply Joshua wiped out the Canaanites, a biblical truth not consistent with history.

Reading backward from 587, we see Freudian transference, from the dreaded Babylonians, to the Canaanites. “If only we had engaged in ethnic cleansing when we had the chance with their El and  Baal…God would be with us.”

Adlerians give us five rules governing behavior. People are social beings who need to belong. Behavior is on a holistic basis, goal-directed and with purpose. People understand themselves through how they see themselves in their situations. Torah writers wrote in terms of how they saw themselves in their situations, referring to each layer of the onion. Each looks on their heritage and reports it to the next generation. Each generation is goal-directed, and their writing reflects this. VIII Torah transmitters were holistic, reporting their understanding as a concrete whole.

This applies to Covenantal Relationship versus Royal Consciousness dialectic. Life in Egypt was life in Royal Consciousness, attributing to Pharaoh, IX social and cosmic order. Pharaoh protects persons and communities from the dangers of anarchy. Pharaoh sees his  vision as the well-being of Pharaoh. X Passion for the need of his being filled takes over. Pharaoh rules in the land without revolution, change, or hope. XI He creates and thrives in Pleasantville.

Moses opposes Pharaoh with God’s covenantal relationship. Were the Hebrew people ex-slaves from Egypt or the farmers in conflict with established town people? Torah says they were from Egypt, but reports they made bricks. Egyptians built with stone. There are no volcanoes in Sinai; Torah depicts Mt. Sinai as volcanic. Mecca and Medina is the site of a volcano, shaped as a sword/Horeb, but no research reports it as active when the Hebrew people passed. There is no archeological evidence of a migration from Egypt to Israel. As we interpret Torah and Gospel, we say as much about ourselves as we do about the people living the events. Saying whether Moses rescued Hebrews-literally homeless people, from Egypt says more about us than Moses.

Breck, in his book, “Scripture in Tradition,” states, what really happened does not matter. Torah is a living tradition, and the tradition is what matters. In discussing type and anti-type, he states it is the living spiritual meaning that matters, and in the case of the escape from Egypt, this is covenant relationship versus royal consciousness.

We live in a land of enlightenment, where everything is objective, cold and measurable. We move to a world of post enlightenment, XII where we move to see faith as a component of how we perceive reality. Narrative helps us to look past this cold enlightenment to a new post enlightenment , where we also measure with our hearts.

Bernard Lonergan in “Method in Theology” XIII gives the example of maps and surveyors to show how all science-knowledge is based not just upon experience, but also upon belief. Without this holistic understanding of how we perceive reality, everything is to be objective, cold, and measurable. With God’s help and direction, we move toward the post enlightenment day when we see the world as inter-related.

Moses’ vision is the egalitarian, creation centered ideal of God’s Social Contract/Brit. All identify with suffering, and live under Shalom, not Solomon. Religious and secular narratives and metaphors function to enliven, IVX energize, and make effective the workings of practical reason. Great speakers use narratives, metaphors, puns, music, and rhymes to draw pictures. To create the alternate reality of God’s reign we need to do the same.

Brueggemann tells us in, “Praying the Psalms,” VX We should take the image of pit, (the suffering of Job), (Jesus’ tomb), and locate those experiences in our own lives.” Life’s occurrences help us move past them. The power of God brings us out of the pit to new life, which is never the same as pre-pit existence. As a person who has gone through transformative experiences, I can testify to how things can never be the same again.

God’s redemptive activity VXI in the Exodus experience is set in God’s purposes as Creator of the cosmos. Exodus points to Creation theology. Exodus 1:7 places the prospering of Israel in Egypt as the fulfillment of the creation mandate to “be fruitful, and fill the earth.”

Pharaoh’s killing of the first born, and Babylon’s devastation oppose this plan. Theological meaning of Exodus grows out of these oppressive contexts.VXII Human resources seem defeated by empire’s oppressive power? God’s power is a source of hope and possibility for new life.

The word “today” occurs with prominence in Deuteronomy. VXIII In each generation, Israelites reading Deuteronomy think these “words” are relevant to them “today.” Deuteronomy 6:20-25: “When your children ask…, ‘What the testimonies, the customs and the precedents the NAME, our This One, commanded you?’ you will tell them…”

The themes of creation, brokenness, promise, deliverance, covenant, and wilderness XIX are constant throughout Torah. Creation corresponds to Orientation. Brokenness and wilderness correspond with Disorientation and Deliverance and Covenant with Reorientation. Ezekiel envisions a future with a renewed creation. It parallels to the vision of creation in Genesis 2:10-14, as it speaks of a stream of living water that flows out from below the threshold of the temple. The temple is creation embodied in Jerusalem.

Brueggemann makes much of the great promise of the land. Throughout most of Israel’s history they have been Hebrew/Homeless. When Torah ends, the people are outside the land. The Torah writers lived in Babylon, outside of the land. You mentioned the class experiment where students expected America to collapse, yet for them to live happy and content middle-class lives.

The national consciousness fills with foreboding; if we survive these courses, we will become middle-class and all will be well. We cannot have both. Corporations pay top executives in cash and stock options. We can limit executive salaries. In the chess game of life, they simply shift their pay to their dividends. The current economic system is not redeemable.

We cannot beat them, but can make them irrelevant. “Give Caesar all which is Caesar’s”; give him all his coins. Don’t be co-dependent. Don’t be Essene, but do not buy their stuff.

Fundamentalists love their rapture. This makes sense in light of our national sense of foreboding. They deny Global Warming, pollution, and over-population. Things cannot continue as they have. The end time must be here, or so they reason. If the world is a car, it is salvage-value only. Therefore, it is OK to run it into the ground. If God cannot trust us with the old beater, why should He trust us with the new Lexus of the world to come? Video games and movies focus upon when America is not. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets have the feeling of foreboding, now present, but for Israel. For Isaiah it is for the Northern Kingdom. Jeremiah and Ezekiel have the same sense of foreboding for Judah.

St. Mark, the first Gospel writer, reflects how Haggadah, comes first, and Halakha, second. St. Mark has Jesus working through healing. Jesus’ great homilies come in St. Matthew and St. Luke. Torah being a creative work, reflecting divergent groups with divergent interests is noticeable in the Gospels. St. Matthew reports the Bethlehem star scholars believe was seen in the spring and then in the fall. Tradition says Messiah comes on Yom Kippur. Jesus is born at the second sighting of the star, Yom, Kippur, the fall.

St. Luke reports Zechariah is in the Holy of Holies, Yom Kippur. Nine months later is June. Jesus is six months younger than John the Baptist. Jesus is born December 25th. St. Matthew and St. Mark report Jesus dies around 40 years old, if we take Jesus’ temptation as the thesis for the works. In St. Luke, Jesus is 30. St. John equates Jesus with the temple, and says the temple is 46, Jesus is not yet 50.

When the life expectancy was less than 50, 50 is a very old man. Thirty is the prime of life. To accuse a 30 year old of being almost 50 is insulting. If St. John equates Jesus with the temple, St. Matthew equates him with Israel. Jesus enters Egypt, as did Israel. Jesus has dreaming Joseph, and spends 40 years in the desert of this world, as does Israel. Jesus gives Mitzvah, as does Moses. Jesus wants, as the prophets, covenantal relationship. Jesus speaks within Moses’, the Prophets’, and the Rabbis’ tradition.

St. Mark has no nativity story. Docetism comes around and claims from St. Mark? There is no nativity story because, Jesus, being an image, was never born. St. Matthew and St. Luke write nativity stories, in light of their traditions, to account for Jesus’ birth. Docudrama approach to faith-writing presents the real Jesus Christ, not historical approach.

Each generation relives Exodus, for the first time, each time, they celebrate Passover. The Exodus is Physically Present, just as Jesus is Physically Present in our Eucharist, a feast when Jesus commemorated Passover. In the anamnesis, we remember being there, our rescue. We get that knot in our gut. When we see others suffer, we do something.

Greek thought has body/spirit dualism, which Semitic culture does not have. Modern science and management follow the enlightenment, separating body and spirit. The Gospel writers derive their idea for “Logos,” the word, from Mt. Sinai, and the Shekinah as it descends upon Mt. Sinai.

Ezekiel reports the Presence of God as it descends upon the temple, and is free to come and go as it pleases. “The wind blows where it will.” The Aramaic word for “Word,” and for “Lamb,” is “Omer.” Through the lamb, the Omer becomes incarnate, put in flesh, literally. St. John uses the pun as he writes John 1:1. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the deviation of the world.” Exodus 34:6 discusses God’s image.

The NAME passed before him: The NAME, the NAME, as this one merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, forgiving transgression, simple error and crookedness…

The scriptures were the word of God, XX and God’s word is an effective word. God speaks, “Omer,” the world, becomes; God gave His word that Israel would inherit the Promised Land, and they did; Christ told people of their healing, and they become healthy. Like Torah, the Gospel’s meaning changes over time in order to remain the same. The context changes, the hypostasis remain the same. The Greek and Latin nations came to the Gospels, and read, “Logos,” assuming it meant their “Logos,” which is very impersonal, Jefferson’s Deism.

The word for the Stoic ideal is “Apathetic,” the word Gospel translators translate “disobedient.” The Judeo-Christian God is not the Greek stoic god all knowing, all-powerful, all present, and all transcendent. Our God is passionate, imminent, and calls us to mold ourselves in His image. Our God wants brutally honest communication with Him and others through feeling and thought. That is the Torah legacy, and the legacy of the prophets and writings.

God calls us to create an alternate reality. St. Luke’s nativity mentions Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, in another story making a profound point. Zechariah translates, “Remembrance of THE NAME.” Elizabeth is “Oath of Elijah.” John is “Gracious,” Gabriel, “Strength of God.” Because Remembrance believes the Oath of Elijah is sterile, Gabriel strikes him mute.

When we believe our heritage is sterile, our words come out mute. John’s birth brings the dead nostalgic memory to life. Zechariah/Remembrance becomes alive and waxes poetic with the Canticle of Zechariah. He begins the process leading to Jesus, Salvation, conquering almighty Rome. In the resurrection, Zechariah, through John and Jesus/Salvation creates a new world, and brings it to fruition. We can too.

Johannes Metz explains how to win, with the cross of Christ. “Christianity as a community of redeemed in Jesus Christ, is a community of remembrance and narrative. Tell our story; be people of color; look for others who suffer as we have.” Christ calls Christians to take the formal cause of the world, the Omer of God, make it a lamb, a concrete reality in the world.

[1] 4 Ezra 14:20-21

2 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 433). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition

3 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 348). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

4  Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 337). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

5 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 432). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

6 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 349). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

7 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 432). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

8 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 399). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

9 Brueggemann, Walter (2001-06-26). Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 33). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition

[10] Brueggemann, Walter (2001-06-26). Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 34). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition

11 Brueggemann, Walter (2001-06-26). Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 35). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition

12 Brueggemann, Walter (2001-06-26). Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 35). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition

13 Lonergan, Bernard (2012-05-23). Method in Theology: Volume 14 (Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan) (Kindle Locations 761-764). University of Toronto Press. Kindle Edition

14 Don Browning. Fundamental Practical Theology (Kindle Locations 221-223). Kindle Edition

15 Brueggemann, Walter (2007-05-01). Praying the Psalms, Second Edition: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit (Kindle Locations 938-939). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition

16 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 102). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

17 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 103). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

18 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 299). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

19 Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition . Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition

20 Martos, Joseph (2013-05-27). Doors to the Sacred (Kindle Locations 761-767). Liguori Publications. Kindle Edition

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