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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seek and you will Find (2)

The "fulfillment" of Scripture, literally the filling up in Greek, is not about predictions. It is about how the life of Jesus provides the fullest meaning of the story of the Bible. While individual Bible verses do in fact correlate to 'the Jesus life' in most cases actually looking at the full context reveals that there is much more than a literal and simplistic "prediction-occurrence" proof. What God is doing is more wondrous and deeper and more meaningful than that. I do not use such words to undermine the facts, rather it is to open us up to the Truth. It is vital that we Christians understand that the "hard hearts" (which Scripture reports serve as a major obstacle to the relationship of God and His people) of the Jews are in us as well. They are not different from us. The same problems must be faced: we want God on our terms and that is not the way reality is structured.

So how does a 'Christian' read the text if it is not a prediction? There are many levels, e.g., theology (about God), morality (about behaviors), spiritual/mysteries (about the "more" than we understand) are three major areas. So we can read the plain/literal meaning (remembering the words plain and literal are defined by the ancient context, not our own!!!) but only if we understand that from the earliest days the spiritual/metaphorical reading was considered more important (see Paul). The three contexts for interpretation are also at play (historical event context, the authors' context, the context of future readers).

Yesterday we looked at Genesis 39-40 from a more plain reading approach. We did not discuss the author context (Briefly, this is probably written in its final form during the exile in Babylon; what would this story mean to people who found themselves in oppressed conditions in foreign lands where they had been taken as captives and forced to make a living under conditions where the power of Israel's God was under attack? did the exiles see Joseph as similar to them?)

Rather I want to do a Christological read of the Joseph story. We can see Joseph as a type of Jesus fairly easily. He is betrayed by those closest to him (his brothers// the twelve//the Jews) to foreigners (Egypt//Rome). He suffers for not sinning, so it is innocent suffering (Jesus is the Sinless sufferer perfected). What he suffers makes possible the salvation of others (Joseph temporal, Jesus perfect). Joseph figuratively dies (loses his identity, his freedom, etc.//Jesus literally dies) Joseph rises to greater glory (temporally//Jesus eternally) So based on this Jesus "Fills" the Joseph story with deeper meaning. When we read Joseph we "get it"  on a literal/plain level, but when encounter Jesus then we understand the deeper meaning of Joseph.

Another point, in the Joseph story there is the play on 'crestfallen' (literally face falling down) and the two dreams. Joseph's interpretations: the cup holder's head will be lifted up (to return to his former state) and the bread baker will have his head lifted up (executed and put on a pole). The cup and bread image are obviously easy to connect to eucharist//Last Supper. Jesus glorified and Jesus on a pole are also easy to connect (see John's Gospel). Jesus says that the Son of Man must be lifted up (and compares it to the serpent on the pole in Moses). Jesus is exalted (lifted up) on the cross and to His Father a both/and rendering in the Fourth Gospel. So we can say that Jesus fulfills/fills up the story of Joseph and two servants of Pharaoh Bread/Wine & Death/Exaltation. [That kind of fulfillment is closer to the actual text than the Virign with child or call my Son out of Egypt verse!]

Such a mystical (spiritual/analogical/symbolic) reading requires faith. In fact, one reads the Bible with the rule of faith (or credal belief) at hand so as to discover what is there. Once we know the Truth we are able to connect the dots. [This is a key in counseling. People frequently tell me, "now that I know 'this' I understand the things that have been going on the last six months"] Some may accuse us of making the Word fit our preconceived ideas. That is one way of looking at it. I prefer to see it as "unveiling" (apocalypse mean unveiling or revealing). What is hidden must be discovered or shown. The 'New' provides a model for reading the 'Old' by reading typologically, The "fact" obsessed scientific approach employed by Fundamentalist and Liberal (as official designations of theological parties) cannot be open to the more worshipful, mystery respecting approach of  the ancient church. [there is a place for literal/plain, and always has, it is just that there is so much more!]

In 2 Corinthians 3:14-15 we read when they hear the old covenant, that same veil is still there,since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

The atheist, the agnostic, the Jew or Muslim or Hindu, or the anything else, is not in Christ. Nor, are the minds and hearts of all Christians (me included) fully in Christ. He is the key to UNVEILING/apocalypse. He is the re-vealing/revelation of the mystery. The one without Christ cannot be convinced by argument because s/he is behind a veil. They literally cannot see what we see. This is why the discussions break down. "Don't you see?" we wonder...and they don't!

The search for Jesus (or the openness to be found by Jesus) is amplified by the ancient practice of the spiritual reading of Scripture. It saves us from a wooden approach to fulfillment (which is inaccurate) and opens us to the life of the Spirit beneath and within the Words. It gives us insight into how God works and the importance of our relationship with Jesus and an worldview shaped by the Rule of Faith are foundational to encounter God. And the benefit is we run across Jesus everywhere in the Bible, even in a dungeon with two slaves of Pharaoh and a boy sold by his brothers interpreting their dreams.

Hope this increases your desire to read the Bible with the Christians of the first six centuries (and to hang out with the Alexandrian school which perfected this model)!

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