22 February 2010

Today's Treasury Reading

comes from Dr. Luther's early Reformation piece, *The Babylonian Captivity.* Some helps in sorting it out:

"Woman who should bruise the serpent's head" is based on the old Vulgate reading of Genesis 3:15 where "she" (not "he") crushes the head. Medieval Christians took this as a reference to Mary. This was often depicted in art as in the picture in this post. Luther would later notice the problem as he translates the Hebrew and disagree with the Latin, siding with the Hebrew and the Greek translation: our Lord, not His mother, tramples the serpent!

"For such a promise, being the truth of God, preserves even in hell those who believe it and wait for it."

"Hell" here is not simply the place of torment for the unbelievers; it is the place of the dead - Hades, the place where BOTH the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead were kept - think of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Part of the early church's belief was that Christ descended to Hades, to Hell, in order to rescue these OT believers who were waited in faith for the day when the Promised Seed would descend to rescue them and bring them up with Him. This is what Luther refers to here. He also refers to this belief in his famous sermon for Holy Saturday in the House Postils - "rescuing the prisoners."

Read Hebrews 11 in light of this, especially vs. 13, 39, 40. Also our Lord's words to Nicodemus in John 3: "No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man."

Hope that helps in sorting out the reading for the day!


NBeethe said...

Pr. Weedon, thank you for the assistance. It made the reading for today much clearer.

William Weedon said...

You're welcome, Nathan. I had an email about it earlier today and thought: I bet a number of people are wondering about this.

Debbie Theiss said...

I was wondering! Thanks!!!

Josh said...

Yes, indeed, Pastor Weedon, thank you. I had to do a couple of double takes on the reading to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me.

Past Elder said...

The belief that there was no-one in heaven until Christ released them from "Hades" is still commonly held in evangelical circles. The idea is, while they were not damned, Satan had a legal right to them before Christ.

BTW, my Orthodox (Jewish, not Eastern) chumash gives the pronoun as "they", a reference to the offspring of the woman, Man collectively, an assurance of the ultimate victory of Man over evil and Satan, and regards either "he" in the Greek or "she" in the Latin as an unwarranted christological reading-into.

Father Robert Lyons said...

Following on Past Elder's comments, there is strong evidence that the Early Church believed almost exclusively that nobody was yet in heaven or hell, since Paradise could not refer to either. The 'Good Thief' could not have entered heaven, since Christ did not enter heaven after his death, and Christ promised that he would be with him.

As a result, with the occassional view that Martyrs were excepted, most of the Ante-Nicene Church believed that Christ had descended into Abraham's Bousom, preached the Gospel to the souls of the righteous waiting since the days of Noah, and then burst the gates of heaven for them upon his resurrection.

In turn, many of them also believed that when we die, we go to paradise to await the day of the Resurrection.

Of course, this argument has some serious flaws too, but it is far more universal in the ancient Church's mind than any idea of going directly to one's eternal reward.

Ah, the joys of studying patristics!!!


Past Elder said...

Or, the joys of Donnie Swaggart with some Holy Ghost preaching, who recently preached on just this (adding though, Enoch and Elijah as the only two in heaven, since they had not tasted death) with Sister Tareva and the group with "Your Grace and Mercy" at the same time.

Ablaze! ain't got a clue about ablaze.

Past Elder readers may get a chance to hear it, as I am thinking of a series of a little Gospel music for your mid-week Lenten edification, this one possibly for Reminiscere.

(Fr Rob, I am not sure whether my fondness for Gospel confounds the chant crowd or my fondness for chant confounds the Gospel crowd more!)

Father Robert Lyons said...

Past Elder,

Interesting that you mention Enoch and Elijah. A few weeks ago, while visiting a WELS congregation (I was on a family trip), I heard the pastor referring to Moses and Elijah on the Mount at the Transfiguration being described as they were because they were both dead and enjoying eternal life in heaven.

I have always been curious about the Lutheran view on Elijah (and, by extention, Enoch). Is he (are they) dead? Must he (they) return to earth and die before the end?

I am aware of a school of thought (namely Jack Van Impe) that regards the two witnesses of Revelation as Moses and Elijah, but I always felt that if one was going to pull OT folk into this particular prophecy, it would make more sense to be Enoch and Elijah.

Anyway, I'd be curious about the Lutheran view on the past, present, and future state of the pair.


Past Elder said...

I'd better let PW speak for the "Lutheran view", or PTM if he's lurking out there.

But in my own shy, retiring, and unassuming way, I may offer the following:

There is a long standing tradition in Judaism that Moses was assumed into heaven, and that that is why Scripture speaks of no-one knowing where he was buried -- he wasn't.

Jude 1:9 refers to this, and goes on to quote the Book of Enoch (verses 14-15).

In the "Inspired Version" of the Bible used by Mormons and other churches in the Latter-Day Saint movement, there is a long section held to be restored by inspiration to Joseph Smith re Enoch which details his being seen no more.

As to Elijah, all I'm gonna say is if you don't put out a cup for him you ain't doing it right.

As to Jack van Impe, not to mention Rexella, I'm not sure what his old boss Billy Graham would think of him now, but I think he gets way too wound out about end of the age stuff for a minister of Him who said we know neither the day nor the hour.

BTW, being from Omaha, here's a little vintage Husker Humor for you, from the days before Coach Osborne got his national titles and was thought of as not being able to win the "big one":

Q. What do Billy Graham and Tom Osborne have in common?
A. Both can get a whole football stadium going "Jesus Christ"!