Monday, January 30, 2006

The (Im)Permeability of American Borders: National Security and the Free Market

Following the events of 9/11, American is suffering from a complicated national schizophrenia. On the one hand, there is the "America Whose Business is Business". This American "personality" is characterized by the opening of American boundaries to international and global markets. American businesses are hastefully searching for cheap labor, tax "shelters", cheap materials, alternative market-places to participate in (and exploit)... Thanks to the free-market our boundaries are open and we are ready for business.
However, on the other hand, we find the "America Whose Business is National Defense". A phrenic personality of America that is hastefully withdrawing from the world. This side of America, now that the evil of the world has "slapped us in the face", is reacting immaturely and dangerously; "threating left and right, repudiating agreements, and angering friends." Thanks to the ever-growing shadow of terrorism our boundaries are closed and we are trembling in fear.
Can we have a permeable economic border and an impermeable geographic border? Is this a practical dialectic (that concerns two different aspects of American boundaries) within which the American national identity takes shape, or is it a contradiction that will eventually lead to a failure in either the market or in national security? Can our isolationist morality and (international/global) market dependence co-exist? Must we "assume a more humble posture in the presence of the global economy"?
"On the one hand, we have the future as a consumer's paradise in which everybody will be able to buy comfort, convenience, and happiness. On the other hand, we have this government's new future in which terrible things are bound to happen if we don't do terrible things in the present - which, of course, will make terrible things even more likely to happen in the future."
How, then, shall we live? But who, we?

(I'm thankful that I am neither the Secretary of Defense nor the Secretary of Commerce.)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

In Memoriam: George Orwell

"Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. ... By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. ... Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."

- George Orwell (June 25, 1903-January 21, 1950)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Late, Great Planet Jerusalem: A Historical, Canonical Reading of II Peter 3 (Part IV)

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (II Peter 3:14-18)
Throughout this study, multiple arguments have been made with little or no indication of synthesis; perhaps they even seemed to lack similarity. Presently, I will attempt to show how, I believe, these seemingly arbitrary arguments correspond and can be synthesized.
To begin, as posited above, II Peter 3 is referring to the imminent judgment on Jerusalem and the Temple. Jerusalem, as argued, is viewed as a microcosm “representing the whole creation in its hostility toward God”[1] and the Temple “[represents] the very structure of Creation”[2]. Therefore, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple “is portrayed as a judgment that is passed on the entire Old World Order.”[3] This coming judgment is not referring to a still future eschatological event, but the fall of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 A.D..
However, to identify this historical event as simply “judgment” somewhat misses the point. II Peter 3 is not simply a passage concerning judgment, but also parousia; the divine presence of God. Therefore, the use of the word “fire”, I argued, has a binary metaphorical meaning; referring both to God’s judgment and God’s divine presence. Furthermore, God does not become present exclusively or primarily to destroy Jerusalem and the Old World Order. As argued, Peter is also applying a binary meaning to λύω; representing both destroying and freeing. Therefore, God’s judgment on Jerusalem is a deliverance of the “New Jerusalem”. As Ansell writes, “The death-throes of the Old World Order marked the birth-pangs of the New Creation.”[4] Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the “new heavens and a new earth” is established. Similar to the prophecy in Isaiah of the destruction of Jerusalem in 587-586 B.C.E. and the subsequent establishment of “the new heavens and the new earth”, Peter is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the subsequent genesis of the “new heavens and a new earth”; the new creation within which we know live.
[1] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 415.
[2] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 413.
[3] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 415.
[4] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 416.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Late, Great Planet Jerusalem: A Historical, Canonical Reading of II Peter 3 (Part III)

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. (II Peter 3:11-13)
Again, in this passage, λύω is translated “dissolved”, however, this can again be read as “loosed”. This has implications later in verse 11, where Peter asks, “what sort of persons ought you to be…waiting for and hastening the coming (parousia) of the day of God…” In this passage, “hastening” is translated from the Greek σεύδω (speudo) which means “to speed”. σεύδω comes from πούς (pous) which means “foot” or “footstool”. This could be seen as alluding to I Corinthians 15:22-28, Psalms 110, and Psalms 8:6 which refer to placing all things under Christ’s feet. The reader’s of II Peter, the Church, the Body of Christ, are to hasten the parousia of the Lord, by putting all things under Christ’s feet. The reader’s of II Peter would have understood that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God as articulated in Mark 16:19, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” However, they would have also understood that the Church is the Body of Christ. Colossians 1:17-18 reads, “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church…” Likewise, in Ephesians 1:22-23, Paul writes, “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” As Ansell writes, “Paul, in describing Christ as ‘head’ of the body in Ephesians 1:22 (and Colossians 1:18), echoes the idea of Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold in Daniel 2:38 whose rule is to be continued by others.”[1] The Church is to both embody and continue, or “flesh out”[2] what Christ began. The Church, therefore, is to place everything under Christ’s feet. The readers of II Peter are to “hasten” the parousia; the parousia of which Peter is referring to commenced at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.[3]
In verse 13, Peter uses the phrase “new heavens and a new earth”, an obvious allusion to Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22 but the connection of II Peter 3 and the passages in Isaiah is not so obvious from our contemporary perspective. Again we must return to a study on Isaiah to understand the meaning Peter is attempting to convey. As argued above, when Isaiah is discussing the “earth”, he is referring to the Jerusalem which is viewed by his contemporary audience “as a microcosm of the whole world”[4]. Also, as posited above, Isaiah does not redirect his focus from the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of which he prophesizes to some still future, eschatological event. This also applies to when Isaiah discusses the “the new heavens and the new earth” in 65:17 and 66:22. Here, in Isaiah, “the new heavens and the new earth” is referring to the return of the scattered inhabitants of 24:1 from exile in Babylon to Jerusalem, and the subsequent reconstruction of a “New Jerusalem”. As Brueggemann writes, “It is Jerusalem that is imagined healed, restored, ransomed, forgiven (65:18-19).”[5] This “healed, restored, ransomed, forgiven” Jerusalem has again degraded and is the “present heavens and earth” found in II Peter 3:7.
Returning to II Peter 3, Peter writes of “new heavens and a new earth” which is connected to “the new heavens and the new earth” of Isaiah 65:17 and 66:22, not in referring to the same future event, but simply as an allusion to a similar historical and canonical event. Isaiah is referring to the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple[6] following their destruction at the hands of the Babylonians in 587-586 B.C.E., and Peter is referring to the construction of the “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2) and a New World Order following the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman Empire in 70 A.D. and the end of the Old World Order.
[1] Nicholas John Ansell, “Commentary: Genesis 1:27f, Daniel 2:35 and Ephesians 1:22f”, Third Way, Vol. 25/1, February 2002, 24.
[2] Ansell, “Commentary: Genesis 1:27f, Daniel 2:35 and Ephesians 1:22f”,24. “ In Ephesians 1, the fullness of the divine presence that is concentrated in Christ is extended to (and through) his followers, who embody and further ‘flesh out’ this messianic reality. This is what that all too familiar phrase ‘the body of Christ’ means.”
[3] The Church today, however, is still called to “embody and further ‘flesh out’” the Body of Christ, placing all things under Christ’s feet until God is “all in all”. I Corinthians 15:28 reads, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.” When the Church has put everything under Christ’s feet, the Kingdom will be fully realized and God will be “all in all”; “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Jehovah" (Numbers 14:21).
[4] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 413.
[5] Brueggemann, Isaiah 1-39, 2 and Brueggemann, Isaiah 40-66, 2. Emphasis Brueggemann’s.
[6] This reconstruction began in approximately 539 B.C.E. when Babylon was conquered by Cyrus who “subsequently issued a decree that provided for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple (Ezra 1:1-11).” Shanks, ed., Ancient Israel, 218.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Late, Great Planet Jerusalem: A Historical, Canonical Reading of II Peter 3 (Part II)

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. (II Peter 3:8-10)
In verse 8, Peter alludes to Psalms 90:4 to accentuate that the scoffers of verse 3 ignore that “judgment is God’s business and will be accomplished on God’s schedule.”[1] Peter reassures the reader in verse 9 that God “is patient…not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” and that, in verse 10, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief”.
Later in verse 10, Peter begins to describe the “day of the Lord”. Peter writes that “the heavens will pass away with a loud noise”. The Greek word that is translated “pass away” is παρέρχλέω (parerchomai) which is better translated as “come near”. This passage seems to be referring to the parousia as opposed to destruction. This can be supported by I Thessalonians 4:16, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” If παρέρχλέω is better translated as “come near” then this gives addition support to the thesis that “fire” signifies the presence of the God. The auf/gabe of God “comes near”[2]; God is present.
Peter’s next description of the “day of judgment” is that “the elements will be dissolved with fire.” Here in verse 10, “dissolved” is from the Greek λύω (luo) which literally means “loosed”. In Luke 13:12, λύω is translated as “set free”. Why “set free” in Luke and “dissolved” in II Peter 3:10? This could be explained by returning to the discussion above concerning Paul’s description of “the Day” in I Corinthians 3. This dissolving/loosing fire in II Peter 3:10 may be similar to the revealing/burning fire of which Paul is writing. Either the “elements” are tested and survive the fire and are “loosed” or they are tested, found wanting, and are “dissolved”. If II Peter is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D., as introduced above, we find, historically, that the Temple was destroyed.
In the subsequent phrase, Peter writes that “the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.”[3] Other versions of the Bible translate this passage differently; the New American Standard[4] and the New Jerusalem Bible[5] read, “will be burned up”, the KJV[6], “shall burn up”, and the NIV[7], “will be laid bare.” The Textus Receptus[8] uses the verb κατακαεσεται (katakaesetai) as the Greek word for “burned up” and this is used in all Bible translation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including the King James Version in 1611. The Textus Receptus translation was soon rejected, due to the discovery and publication of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, both uncial manuscripts of the fourth century. In these texts, the verb used in this verse is εύρεστεσεται (heuresthesetai), “will be found”.[9] If “will be found” is more accurate, this strengthens the connection between II Peter 3:10 and I Corinthians 3:11-15.
[1] Fred B. Craddock, First and Second Peter and Jude, Westminster Bible Companion, Westminster John Knox Press, 1995, 120.
[2] See Nik Ansell’s commentary on Colossians 3:1f in Third Way, February 1999, 12. “Sometimes, heaven and God become almost synonymous – so Matthew uses the term ‘the kingdom of heaven’ where Mark and Luke refer to ‘the kingdom of God’.”
[3] NRSV text note: “Other ancient authorities read will be burned up”.
[4] New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1995. NASB text note: “Two early mss read discovered”.
[5] The New Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday, 1985.
[6] The Authorized King James Version, 1611.
[7] New International Version. NIV text note: “Some manuscripts be burned up”.
[8] “Received Text”. First published in 1516.
[9]Albert M. Wolters, “Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10”, Westminster Theological Journal, 49.2, 1987, 405-413.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Late, Great Planet Jerusalem: A Historical, Canonical Reading of II Peter 3(Part I)

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!" They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. (II Peter 3:1-7)[1]
In this passage, the purpose of II Peter 3 is revealed. Peter is writing to combat “scoffers” who question the παρουσία (parousia) of Christ due to its supposed delay. The preponderance of English translations interpret παρουσία as “coming”, but, παρουσία (literally “with being”) would be better translated as “presence”. This may appear, presently, as an argument over epiphoric semiotics, however, translating παρουσία more accurately as “presence” has discursive implications later in this passage particularly in verse 7, where we read that “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire…”
Reading verse 7 in its canonical context, “fire”, throughout both the Old and New Testaments, refers to the divine presence of God. In the Old Testament, אש (‘esh) refers to the presence of God in the burning bush in Exodus 3:2, in the pillar of fire in Exodus 13:21, consuming the burnt offerings in Leviticus 9:24, God is called a “consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:24, Micah 1:3-4 reads that “the Lord is coming out of his place…[and that] mountains will melt under him and the valleys will burst open, like wax near a fire”, and Malachi describes God as a “refiner’s fire” in 3:2. Likewise, in the New Testament the divine presence of God is signified by “fire” (πυρ). In Matthew 3:11, God is symbolized as “unquenchable fire”, in I Thessalonians 5:19, Paul writes “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire (NIV[2]), and in Hebrews 12:29, “consuming fire” is used as a metaphor for God. Therefore, it seems that in this discussion of the parousia in II Peter 3, “fire” can be read as referring to the presence of God.
There is, however, another biblical use of “fire”; to signify God’s judgment. This metaphor is used extensively throughout the Old Testament[3]. “Fire” is also used to signify God’s judgment in the apocalyptic literature of the New Testament including Jude Revelation, and II Peter.
The question, then, is whether this use of “fire” in II Peter 3 refers to God’s judgment or God’s divine presence. However, canonically the use of the word “fire” gives the impression that it can refer both to God’s judgment and to God’s divine presence; for example Malachi 3:1-6 and 4:1-6. Therefore, the use of the word “fire” in II Peter 3 has a binary metaphorical meaning signifying both God’s judgment and God’s divine presence.
This, then, concerning the “day of judgment” of verse 7, begs the questions; when, where, upon what and upon whom is this judging presence of God centered? Traditionally, the answer has been that this “day of judgment” is centered upon the entire Creation at the eschaton. However, if II Peter was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. (as I believe that it was), then this judgment would, seemingly, be directed at Jerusalem and the Temple. Upon an initially reading, Peter’s phrase “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire…” in verse 7 would seem problematic, but, read in their canonical context, they can be interpreted to support this claim. In the Old Testament, Jerusalem “is viewed as a microcosm of the whole world, its Temple representing the very structure of creation.”[4] Perhaps the example of this that is most similar to the present study would be found in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 24:1 reads, “Now the LORD is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate…” A prominent interpretation of Isaiah posits that when Isaiah refers to judgment on the “earth” he is no longer referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587-586 B.C.E., but is then shifting to an eschatological prophecy. The note on chapters 24-27 in The Jewish Study Bible reads, “These [chapters] form a distinct section within the book of Isaiah. They refer to no specific historical situation but are concerned instead with a future time in which the world will undergo sweeping devastation, after which redemption will come to survivors from all the nations.”[5] However, the text does not seem to support such an anachronistic interpretation. Isaiah 1-39 is a prophetic passage concerning the impinging destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple at the hands of Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 587-586 B.C.E.[6]. As Walter Brueggemann writes, “It is Jerusalem that is under judgment and that draws the negating attention of Yahweh.”[7] Elsewhere, Brueggemann writes of chapters 1-39; “In these chapters we are made aware that God will judge the city and its wayward economic and military policies, which are rooted in unfaith.”[8] Jerusalem, in the book of Isaiah, is viewed as a microcosm “representing the whole creation in its hostility toward God”[9]. Therefore, judgment on Jerusalem is judgment on the whole Creation. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 587-586 B.C.E., of which Isaiah prophesizes, will have “cosmic implications.”[10] Thus, when Isaiah writes that ““Now the LORD is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate…” in 24:1, he has not redirected his focus from his prophecy of Jerusalem’s imminent destruction onto some eschatological event. He has, however, simply articulated the attitude of his contemporary audience concerning Jerusalem and the Temple. Returning to II Peter 3, “the present heavens and earth” that “have been reserved for fire” refers to a similar, but separate, historical and canonical event; God’s judgment upon Jerusalem (“as a microcosm of the whole world”) and the Temple (“representing the very structure of creation”) in 70 A.D. [11].
Finally, Peter states that this “day of judgment” is coupled with “the destruction of the godless.” In Paul’s discussion of “the Day” in I Corinthians 3:11-15, he writes,
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
Therefore, reading II Peter in its canonical context, following I Corinthians, “the Day” is less a day of destruction of godless humans and more a day of revelation of the quality of humanity’s work. Paul points out that the godless “work is burned up” and that “the builder will suffer loss”, nevertheless, “the builder will be saved”.
[1] All Scripture quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise noted. New Revised Standard Version Bible, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1989.
[2] New International Version, International Bible Society, 1973.
[3] See Genesis 19:24, Deuteronomy 9:3, 13:12-18, 32:15-43, Joshua 6:24, 8:8; 19, 11:6,9,11, Judges 1:8, 2 Kings 2:11, 6:17, Job 15:34, 20:26, Psalm 11:5-6, 18:6ff, 21:9, 50:3-6, 68:2, 78:21, 79:5ff, 83:14-18, 97:3ff, Isaiah 1:7, 5:24-25, 9:5, 10:16-19, 26:11, 29:6, 30:27-33, 31:9, 33:11-12, 33:13-15, 34:1-10, 47:14, 64:1-11, 66:15-24, Jeremiah 4:4, 15:14, 17:1-4, 27, 21:10-14, 34:2, 22, 37:8, 10, 38:17, 18, 23, 43:12-13, 48:45, 50:32, 51:58, 52:13, Lamentations 2:3-4, 4:11, Ezekiel 5:4, 10:2, 15:1-8, 19:10-14, 20:45-49, 21:28-32, 22:17-22, 23:25, 24:9-14, 28:18-19, 30:6-9,14,16, 36:5-7, 38:17-23, 39:6, Daniel 7:9-12, Hosea 8:14, Joel 1:19-20, Joel 2:3,5, 2:30, Amos 1-2:5, 5:6, Obadiah 18, Micah 1:2-7, Nahum 1:5-6, 3:13-15, Habakkuk 2:13, Zephaniah 1:14-18, 3:8, Zechariah 2:5-13, 3:2, 13:9, Malachi 3:1-6, 4:1-6.
[4] Nicholas John Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, The Annihilation of Hell: Universal Salvation and the Redemption of Time in the Eschatology of Jürgen Moltmann, ICS, 2005, 413.
[5] The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation, Oxford University Press, 2004, 829.
[6] Hershel Shanks ed,. Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of Temple, Bible Archaeology Society, 1999, 199.
[7] Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 1-39, Westminster Bible Companion, Westminster John Knox Press, 1998, 2 and Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah 40-66, Westminster Bible Companion, Westminster John Know Press, 1998, 2. Emphasis Brueggemann’s.
[8] Walter Brueggemann, Isaiah, The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible, Harper San Francisco, 2005, 982.
[9] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 415.
[10] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 413.
[11] Ansell, “An Apocalyptic Appendix”, 413.