Sunday, 16 December 2018

TL:DR: The Genesis Question part thirty-two

Hi, Everybody!


7 September 14

[Redacted personal stuff. If you REALLY wanna see it, go to Kitchener, pay Dave the 900 bucks, and look through the Correspondence Archive. -Matt]

Dear Troy & Mia; David & Marie:

In my Christian reading this noon hour: the Johannine Jesus uses the term "I am" in  John's Gospel chapter 13 verse 19 (addressing the apostles), chapter 18 verses 5-6 and 8 when he asks who the subordinates of the Pharisees are seeking when they come to arrest him.

Of equal significance is Peter's denial of the Johannine Jesus in the same chapter where he replies "Not I am" both in verse 18:17 and 18:25.  It would be interesting to know if he used the same phrase -- "Not I am" -- on the third occasion of the denial, but the text doesn't say.

The capstone reference is in chapter 18 verse 37 when the Johannine Jesus is being questioned by Pilate.  The lead-in is "The kingdom the mine not is out of the world this; if out of the world this was the kingdom the mine, the subordinates the mine were struggling likely, in order that not should I be given beside to the Jews; now _____ (however, the kingdom the mine) not is from here."  To which Pilate replies, "Not-therefore king are you?"  And to that the Johannine Jesus replies, "You are saying that king I am.  I into this I have been generated and into this I have come into the world in order that I should bear witness to the truth; everyone the being out of the truth is hearing of me of the voice."   

Ezekiel 33

Okay, as I read it, Ezekiel 33 is the nutcracker that results from the instruction from the YHWH in chapter 31 to "speak unto Pharaoh":

Again the  word of the YHWH came unto me, saying,

Son of man speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, A land when I bring a sword upon her, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman,

If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet and warn the people

Then he that hearing, heareth the sound of the trumpet and took not warning, his blood shall be upon him: but he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.  But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned: if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity: but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.

So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.

When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die, if thou doest not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity: but his blood will I require at thy hand.

Nevertheless if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it: if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity: but thou hast delivered thy soul. 

Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins upon us, & we pine away in them, how should we then live?

Basically, what the YHWH is telling Ezekiel is "I told you to go and warn Pharaoh and you didn't.  So, I'm going to require Pharaoh's blood at YOUR hand. And I also told you to warn the Jewish people and you didn't, so it's also your fault as Israel's watchman."  Ezekiel, I would guess, would not have been a happy camper at this point. 

God qualifies this, to a degree but (as I read it) still needs there to be a consensus view between the YHWH and God.  That's the whole point of having gotten to this juncture in human and theological history, so God has to tread carefully to make sure that he and the YHWH don't end up on different pages singing from different song sheets:

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn away from his way & live:  turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

I infer that it's futile and God knows that it's futile, as the YHWH knows that it's futile. And I'm pretty sure that Ezekiel knew that it as futile -- and was now being told that it would be his fault that it was futile!

Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness, neither shall the righteous be able to live in the day that he sinneth.

It's a conundrum:  how can the righteous transgress?  Doesn't the transgression of the righteous imply a lack of righteousness?  That's been the YHWH's position to now: man is basically evil.  There IS no righteousness.  All men are wicked -- "the imagination of man's heart evil from his youth".  That gets addressed in the next phase of human and theological history, Christianity, with the supposition that "all have fallen short of the glory of God" -- that everyone is a sinner and everyone has committed sin and is in need of God's "undeserved kindness" or "grace" -- but that there does still exist righteousness and that the commission of individual sins doesn't obviate that.  The next verses set the stage for that new way of looking at sin:

When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live: if he trust to his own righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righeousnesses shall not be remembered: but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.

The key phrase, as I read it, is "if he trust to his own righteousness".  It draws a distinction between ACTUAL righteousness and SELF-righteousness.  I doubt that people in Ezekiel's time would have recognized the difference or even, in fact, the concept itself.  They would have found the term SELF-righteousness impenetrable.  To them there was only righteousness and wickedness.  But, of course, today we understand that SELF-righteousness is, implicitly, a great wickedness in and of itself.  You wouldn't want anyone, today, to accuse you of being SELF-righteous. 

Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, if he turn from his sin, and do that which is judgement and justice:

The wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the Statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right: he shall surely live.

This is God's Law:  repentance and atonement lead to redemption.  You can do righteousness or you can do wickedness and every human being does both.  All that registers with God is which way you have chosen to go and then which way you go: what you are doing. Not what your intentions are but what you actually choose to do and then do.  Are you mostly wicked but then turn 180 degrees and do righteousness?  Then there's no problem.  Your sins won't even be mentioned because you stopped doing them.

Of course, this gets dangerously close to a schism with the YHWH's own "the imagination of man's heart evil from his youth" philosophy and the name of the game at this point is consensus, so God adroitly dovetails into:

Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.

It's sort of an impenetrable phrase:  "The way of the YHWH is not equal".  "Equal" in what sense? I would say that the way of the YHWH isn't equal in the sense that it doesn't add up.  It's very arbitrary and emotion-based and anecdotal and, for those reasons, difficult if not impossible to follow.  You need an immense law book and thousands of years of Talmudic scholarship to fill in the obvious blanks and extrapolate a law code out of it.  Even then, it doesn't add up. But, at the same time, you have to give credit -- and I think God gives immense credit -- to those who follow that extrapolated law as closely as possible.  Doing something extremely difficult to find favour in God's eyes, I would infer, is a basic definition of righteousness.  Even if it isn't exactly what God wants you to do.    

When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and commiteth iniquity he shall even die thereby. 

But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. 

Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal, O ye house of Israel.  I will judge you every one after his ways.

It's a non sequitur, as I read it, consciously avoiding addressing directly "the way of the YHWH" per se, in favour of a concise distillation of the nature of wickedness and righteousness, the general scope of how they work and the assertion that the standards are applied individually.  HOW wicked you are and HOW righteous you are is based on YOUR ways and how you are judged will centre on that -- not "the way of the YHWH".

Then things get more than a little wonky:

And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth, in the fifth of the month, one that had escaped out of Jerusalem, came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.

Okay, we have to infer from this that Ezekiel was no longer in Jerusalem when Jerusalem fell.  It's also difficult not to infer that Ezekiel himself was part of "the captivity" and that "the captivity" was now in progress for twelve years.  But, captive WHERE?  Had Ezekiel attempted to go to Egypt to tell Pharaoh what he had been told to tell him?  Was Ezekiel taken captive in Egypt? It's hard to imagine Ezekiel going anywhere else, as a prophet of God.  You're told to go and warn Pharaoh and even if you're thinking "How the heck am I -- as a Jewish derelict-looking fellow -- going to get an audience with Pharaoh?" you're going to be compelled to go where you're told.  I imagine him asking himself, "How did Moshe and Aaron do this?  Do you just walk up to the front desk and ask for an appointment?"  But I don't imagine him getting bogged down in the question.  You move in the direction that God (and Ezekiel would have thought of YHWH as God) has told you to move in and God will make it happen when you get there.  That's a BIG part of being a prophet, I think.  If you have any kind of doubt about God's ability to accomplish His purpose, He wouldn't have made you one of his prophets. 

I think it's safe to infer that Ezekiel was part of the captivity and he was part of the captivity for an extended period of time that could be measured in years.  No one told him to do anything else or say anything else or write anything else…so he didn't.  That, I think, is also a BIG part of being a prophet.  You don't improvise or second-guess or freelance.  You just do what you're told and if you aren't told to do anything, you just engage in your religious observance…and wait.  

Then things get more than a little wonkier:

Now the hand of the YHWH was upon me in the evening, before he that was escaped came, and had opened my mouth until he came to me in the morning, and my mouth was opened and I was no more dumb.

How long had Ezekiel been "dumb"?  Why is this the first reference to it?  I would infer: because Ezekiel was just doing what he was told.  He wasn't told to write a travel book about getting from Jerusalem into Egypt, he was told to go and warn Pharaoh.  That was what he was either doing or had attempted to have done. 

I would GUESS (and it's only a guess) that he was struck mute by God as a means of protecting him because -- as a righteous prophet -- as soon as he got to the border of Egypt, if anyone asked him what he was doing there, he would flat-out tell them:  "I've been sent by the God of my fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of heaven and earth to say to Pharaoh…" and then recite the rest of chapter 31. 

Which wouldn't, I don't think, have gotten him very far past the border and would either have gotten him imprisoned or executed or both.  That might be the captivity that he's referring to.  "I tried to get to Pharaoh to tell him what I was told to tell him and now I'm in prison. Now what?"  As I infer, at that point he would just have reverted to his usual religious observance -- whatever that was -- for however long he was "between instructions".  He would have just inferred -- correctly, in my view -- that his "mute" state was the will of God and would have thought no more about it. 

Then the word of the YHWH came unto me saying,

Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel, speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we many, the land is given us for inheritance.

I would infer from this that the YHWH recognized that, to say the least, he/she/it was now at a serious impasse of (I would infer) many years duration.  The YHWH recognized that "one that had escaped out of Jerusalem" was on a collision course with Ezekiel and that it was now time to say what was going to happen next: Next that is AFTER the Babylonian exile, AFTER the conquest of Egypt by Babylon, etc.

And I don't think the YHWH had clue one what that was.

So, basically I infer that the YHWH is prompting God (nice change of pace) by relaying what is now commonly said by the Hebrew people in their captivity/exile: "Abraham was ONE and he inherited the land: but we MANY, the land is given us for inheritance."  Okay, well, what's the answer to that, is what the YHWH is wondering?  The YHWH has promised the Jewish people the Promised Land, and God has promised the Jewish people the Promised Land. So, when -- and how -- does that start to happen. Obviously, God has the answer -- God has ALL answers -- which, in this case, is: 

Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD, Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood, and shall ye possess the land?

Ye stand upon your sword; ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife, and shall ye possess the land?

It's a very artful selection, because it strikes so close to the heart of the YHWH.  The equivalent in literature would be the Ghost of Christmas Present throwing Scrooge's words "Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?" back in his teeth when he's soliciting compassion for Ignorance and Want.  "Ye eat with the blood" was specifically prohibited by the YHWH so that the YHWH could drink the blood of the ritual sacrifices…

[short digression:  we're seeing this right now in the Middle East with ISIS.  Another artful YHWHistic construct:  ostensibly Terrorist Sunni Muslim (certainly that's what IT thinks that it is and that's certainly how it's behaving) but, coincidentally, having the same name as that of the Egyptian fertility "goddess" who was the wife and sister of Osiris.  In other words, Baal by another name, YHWH by another name.  You'll notice that when ISIS executes their prisoners or behead American journalists they do it out in the desert where the corpses will "bleed out" into the ground and feed the YHWH.  It's also worth noting that this is all taking place in the Fertile Crescent, "east of Eden" (actually northeast of Eden) which is where the first cities documented in Genesis 2 and 3 were founded. And also the home of the regional YHWH who thought that the whole world had been engulfed with water in The Flood because that YHWH's region had been.  Interesting to think that that regional YHWH might now be a Radical Sunni Muslim! Equally interesting -- to me, anyway, since I'm the only one who sees it -- is General Sisi in Egypt -- the home of the seminal Isis -- rooting out the Muslim Brotherhood.  Sisi -- the anti-ISIS?]

so it is of value (as I read it) for God to remind the YHWH of this: that the Hebrew people are both depriving the YHWH of the blood the YHWH craves and (perhaps even worse from the YHWH's perspective) consuming it themselves.  I have no idea what that DOES specifically in the grim, blood-thirsty and ghoulish context Isis and Baal and YHWH inhabit, but I do get the strong impression that it's not something the YHWH is interested in sharing with his/her/its worshippers.  Likewise with the reference to them turning "up your eyes toward your idols".  The idols are definitely competition for the YHWH with his/her/its failed attempt to institute worship of the golden calf through Aaron and the (ultimate) loss of the "brazen serpent" made by Moshe at the YHWH's behest to cure serpent bites.  It did become a separate object of veneration, but was ultimately destroyed by Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4) "doing that which was right in the eyes of the YHWH". 

And then to remind the YHWH that the Hebrew people still "shed blood" -- a promise of blood meals to come.  I'm not sure what "stand upon your sword" means, but "work abomination" and "defile every one his neighbour's wife" are definitely YHWHistic assertions of long standing.  Presumably exaggerated along the lines of "the imagination of man's heart evil from his youth": 

"EVERY one his neighbour's wife?" 

It's worth expressing that way, however, attached to the inheritance of the Promised Land as (as the YHWH would see it) a purely rhetorical question:  No, a people who do those things can NEVER legitimately inherit the Promised Land. 

So it's with great confidence that God can say, in unison with the YHWH's own theology:

Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD, As I live, surely they that are in the wastes, shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to devour him: and they that in the forts and in the caves, shall die of the pestilence. 

For I will lay the land desolation and desolation and the pomp of HER (emphasis mine) strength shall cease: and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.

And God leaves an opening for the YHWH's concurrence, which is immediately forthcoming:

Then shall they know that I the YHWH when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.

The YHWH then muses aloud about to Ezekiel about the impasse within which he/she/it finds his/ her/its self (which is, obviously, a condition shared with Ezekiel, to which Ezekiel himself isn't privy, presumably, until informed of it by the YHWH):

Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls, and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come I pray you, and hear what is the word that commeth forth from the YHWH.

And they come unto thee according to the coming of the people and they sit before thee, my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they make [loves/jests], their heart goeth after their covetousness.

And lo, thou unto them as a song of loves of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words but they do them not.

Basically, the YHWH is acknowledging Ezekiel as a faithful servant while also acknowledging that that service is all in vain:  no one is listening to what Ezekiel is saying.  Even the ones who do listen have no intention of doing what he's saying: repenting of their sins and wickedness and seeking to do righteousness.  Basically, they're the same sort of people that Westerners are today:  they don't think of it as "sins" and "wickedness":  just lifestyle choices.  This is what I like to do and want to do so this is what I'm going to do.  BUT!  I will go and listen to this prophet because that will make me righteous.  That's about the extent of righteousness in the context of the time:  people willing to listen to an alleged prophet. 

In the concluding verse, the YHWH is drawing an analogy between Ezekiel and David.  David, too, played on his stringed instrument and had a beautiful soothing voice.  But he lived in a different time period and a different context.  His Psalms brought people to the YHWH and to God and generated faith within them (a kind of David Birdsong!).  All that Ezekiel can do is to have the same effect on them that a love song does.  It's just a pleasurable -- but, to them, meaningless -- experience.

Ezekiel is the last of the major Jewish prophets and the context of the YHWH basically giving up, having -- in his/her/its view -- exhausted all theological possibilities.

The last verse in Chapter 33, as I read it, belongs to God and should either end with a colon or be moved to the beginning of Chapter 34 (I think) because it presages what God has in store for mankind as the next step in theological evolution:
And when THIS cometh to pass, (lo, it WILL come) then shall they know that a Prophet HATH been among them.  [emphasis mine].

God willing, on to Ezekiel 34, where, as I read it, God maps out the future.



PS:  In answer to your question, David, the translation of the Gospels that I'm using is the KINGDOM INTERLINEAR TRANSLATION OF THE GREEK SCRIPTURES which is actually published by the Jehovah's Witnesses. 

The primary basis of the translation is the 1881 Westcott and Hort text.  Both maintained that their translation was not at variance with traditional Christian teachings, which was certainly the safest position to hold at the time but, in my own experience, when you read only the word-for-word translation you are very seldom reading traditional Christian teachings.  If you read the word-for-word translation and then an English translation of that translation, it certainly prejudices you in the direction of traditional Christian teachings.  But the easiest way to avoid that prejudice is to not read a further corruption of the text: just the word-for-word translation and to infer what you will from what THAT says. I don't read the Jehovah's Witnesses' English translation, just the word-for-word translation.

I believe the Jehovah's Witnesses are exactly what they sound like:  YHWHists whose theology was generated because the YHWH was (and is) convinced that if people's attention is drawn to the distinction between God and YHWH, everyone will choose YHWH over God. 

This perceived interchangeability (mirroring the feminist misapprehension that men and women are interchangeable), it seems to me, is what the YHWH infers is the problem.

Whereas I think the actual situation is that the YHWH is so completely misguided and misapprehended that it is ONLY the fact that most people just see the YHWH as another name for God that keeps that misguided and misapprehended quality from becoming universally apparent.

But, who listens to me? 

Next Time: Bugs! Bugs! EVERYWHERE!!! ("Past" Matt!)


whc03grady said...

"But, who listens to me?"
About this stuff? No one. Why should they?

Damian T. Lloyd, Esq. said...

Dave's mind, without feedback except from itself, can really spin in upon itself.

-- Damian

Jeff said...

"If you really wanna see it..." "Pay the $900(US?)" "and dig into the correspondence files."

Boy, howdy! Been there, done that.

Her craziest letter to Dave was *identical* to the craziest letter she ever sent me. Word for word.

Of course, at the time, I just thought that she was ... creative.

Ah, happy times...

Tony Dunlop said...

Shut up, guys; Anonymous says nobody criticizes the Sunday posts.