The following Scripture passages are offered to aid beginning fellowships. The readings and commentary for this week are more in line with what has become usual; for the following will most likely be familiar observations. The concept behind this Sabbath’s selection is orality versus inscription.
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For the Sabbath of May 19, 2012
The person conducting the Sabbath service should open services with two or three hymns, or psalms, followed by an opening prayer acknowledging that two or three (or more) are gathered together in Christ Jesus’ name, and inviting the Lord to be with them.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matt 25:31–46 emphasis added)
Bible study is not simply reading the Bible … reading the Bible is just that: reading the Bible, something that ought to be done daily. Consider the Bereans:
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:10–11)
When Paul and Silas proclaimed Christ in the synagogue where a copy of Scripture would have existed, the Jews of Berea (and later, some prominent Greek women and not a few men — v. 12) believed the preaching of Paul and Silas. But consider what these more-honorable Jews did: they first received the words, the utterances, of Paul and Silas with all eagerness. Then, after receiving the words of Paul, they examined Scripture to see if what Paul and Silas proclaimed could be true, with their examining of Scripture going beyond reading Scripture, for nowhere in the Old Testament will a suffering Messiah be found—the concept of a suffering Messiah is anathema to passages pertaining to the Christ; the passages Christians use to show that Jesus as the Messiah suffered (e.g., Isa chap 53) of themselves do not reference the Messiah but the righteous servant of the Lord (see Isa 52:13). It takes reinterpreting the words of Isaiah to link the Messiah that is to come with the resurrected Jesus. No person can read Isaiah and take from Isaiah’s words the concept that the Messiah is the righteous servant who would suffer, which is why most of Judaism never became Christians. To link the suffering righteous servant to Christ Jesus is reasonable, but Messiah was to come as King of kings and Lord of lords, not as a prophet, a doer of miracles that dies at Calvary. Even John the Baptist was disappointed in Jesus and asked if he and others should look for another (Matt 11:3).
If the Jews of the synagogue at Berea had simply read Scripture as even Sabbatarian Christians in the former Worldwide Church of God (WCG) read Scripture—with the pastors of WCG repeatedly referencing the Bereans—then the Jews at Berea would have rejected Paul and Silas as these two were rejected at Thessalonica. The Jews of the synagogue at Berea went outside of Scripture in their examination of Scripture: they went beyond reading. They performed critical analysis of a sort that 20th and 21st Century Christians simply have not done, to the shame of these endtime Christians.
If a person believes that Christ Jesus is Lord, the person will want to know as much as the person can about Jesus and will, as such, read Holy Writ to familiarize the person with the few narratives that exist about Jesus. The words Jesus spoke, the word of Jesus that He left with His disciples as judge of unbelievers, of doubters, was a one-time event. His words were spoken: they left no hard-copy of themselves. They were said, then gone. By the time Jesus finished saying whatever He spoke on any particular occasion, His words no longer existed here on earth. They had dissipated into thin air, for that is what all oral words are: modulations of air that are like rings on the surface of a pool of water when a stone is cast in the water. The modulations exist for a while, becoming weaker the farther they are from their source, the event that produced them. Therefore, the question of belief of God comes down to whether you, personally, will believe in what you cannot see, cannot hear for yourself, cannot handle, measure, ascertain its reality.
There is theory that holds knowledge cannot be lost, that on the event horizon of even a black hole, all that has been known exists in a smeared form that would bridge the event horizon, with the implication then being that every word uttered by every person can be recovered when the creation implodes upon itself and becomes nothing, a singularity. Therefore, every person will be held accountable for even idle words spoken for these idle words will be recoverable. But that day is not today. Hence, what was spoken is lost to us today and cannot be examined until it goes from being a word made with the mouth to be a word made with the hand.
Now, will you believe in what is effectively nothing; i.e., the uttered words of Jesus the Nazarene? And the answer should be, Yes, I will. And you will want to point to your Bible and say, I have His words right here, but do you, really? And before you are quick to answer, consider the converts at Berea—could they go to the Scroll, examine it carefully, and find a suffering Messiah? No they could not. Could they find a hard link to Jesus being the prophet Moses promised (see Deut 18:15)? No, they could not. Could they find a hard link to Jesus being the Elijah to come? Again, no. So what was it that they did find? And we don’t know: Luke doesn’t tell us. We will have to examine Scripture for ourselves for what the Jews of the synagogue at Berea found.
In a culture that has a high residual of orality, knowledge is accumulative, not subtractive: one thing is added to another thing whereas in a fully literate culture, knowledge is analyzed by taking things away so that what is at the core or heart of the matter can be seen. Academics practicing New Testament textual criticism practice stripping away assumptions that to believing Christians seem self-evident, such as Isaiah chapter 53 pertains to Christ Jesus … why do believing Christians link the Christ to being the righteous servant of the Lord “smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa 53;4)? Is it logical that the Messiah would be smitten by God and afflicted? Is it logical the Lord of hosts should call for the sword to strike the Messiah: “‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones’” (Zech 13:7). Yet Jesus declared that this passage pertained to Him
Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." (Matt 26:31–32)
Place yourself in the position of a 1st-Century Jew who is literate and can read the Scroll … where in the Scroll does it say anything about the Lord bearing the sword as the Messiah? Again, you cannot find the place. The Messiah is sent from the Lord to bear the sword against the oppressors of Israel; so reading, even close reading of Scripture will not get a Jew of the synagogue in Berea to the place where he will accept Jesus as the Messiah. This means that there was an element in what Paul and Silas proclaimed and which the Bereans received with eagerness that is outside of even close reading of Scripture. And [note the additive nature of my composition, a residual effect of coming to literacy after a long history in an oral culture—now doubly note the meta-text element of commenting on the additive nature of my composition] now comes the difficult part: why will you believe what you have not proven so? Why are you different from the Bereans, who didn’t simply read Scripture to find what they already knew: the concept of a suffering Messiah is contrary to Scripture. Why have you simply read Scripture to find what you already knew? That isn’t Bible study. That would be a good use of your time if you are a spiritual novice, an infant in Christ, a person who relishes in his or her immaturity, but if a person is to grow in grace and knowledge, the person will move beyond additive composition and begin to actually analyze both what the person believes and what Scripture says and is.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah because it seems the thing to do? Because your parents or grandparents believed? Because you have heard someone deliver powerful oratory, a sermon that caused you to give your heart to the Lord, itself a nonsensical expression … how do you give your heart to the Lord? The way Aztecs did: the priest quickly cutting open your chest and then holding up your still beating (but not for long) heart?
Concerning the man Jesus the Nazarene, there are two, three secular references to Jesus in the century immediately following His crucifixion. There are two references in Josephus, one of which has probably been altered. Otherwise all that can be known about Jesus comes from New Testament writings—and these writings were produced decades after Calvary. So the words of Jesus cannot be easily studied, and could not be studied at all if oral narratives had not been inscribed in the decade around the time of the destruction of Herod’s temple: none of the Gospels were inscribed immediately after Calvary. Despite a date as early as 35 CE being assigned in house (WCG) to the production of the Gospel of Matthew by the ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong, that didn’t happen: Matthew’s Gospel wasn’t written earlier than the first of Paul’s epistles. Nor was Matthew’s Gospel supposed to be written within a decade of Calvary, when there were still many eyewitnesses who could speak directly to what had occurred. There was no need for a written account to be produced: Jesus would return—this is what the first disciples believed—almost immediately … if you were one of Jesus first disciples, and if you sincerely believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, and that He who was with you but who now has gone ahead for only a short while and who will come to get you at any moment, would you be about writing down the words of Jesus? You would not. Nor did Jesus’ first disciples. It was only when the an unexplainable delay prevented Jesus from returning that you—certain of who Jesus was—would consider committing Jesus’ words, deeds, and life to words made with the hand, chirographic text [i.e., handwritten words].
Oral words cannot be studied: they cannot be recalled so that they can be examined critically. The act of remembering them precludes the simultaneous act of analyzing them. So only by remembering the words, then writing them down can they be studied. But if you wait twenty years, or forty years to write them down, how accurate is your memory—and we enter the realm of how important utterances are remembered in an oral society or a society that has a high residue element of orality in it.
Academics practicing historical criticism speak about a non-existent “Q” Gospel [Quelle] that is sometimes believed to only consist of Jesus’ sayings, and sometimes believed to consist of sayings, the preaching of John the Baptist, the temptation account, and the material found in the Sermon on the Mount. There was considerable doubt about whether a Gospel of only Jesus’ sayings would have been written, let alone why one would have been written. Then in the 1945, near the town of Nag Hammadi, Egypt, was found a Gnostic library in which was the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 “And he said …” sayings attributed to Jesus, just what a critic should have expected to be produced by illiterate or marginally literate followers of Jesus who would have used repetition to retain knowledge of what Jesus said since salvation depended upon Jesus’ words.
While in the Soviet Gulag, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn started to mentally compose a play that after his release would be published in 1969 as the Love-Girl and the Innocent. Because he had no access to paper to write down his play, he had to memorize his composition, which became difficult as the composition grew in length. Thus, he asked if he could have a rosary (he was a Russian Orthodox Christian), and he was allowed a rosary that he used as a memory aid so that he could retain his composition sequences. I have read the play in translation—and in translation, it is not one of his stronger works. Yet the feat of composing and memorizing a four-act play is remarkable, and a feat that would not have been possible without the rosary, each bead bringing to mind more of the composition in the way characteristic of orality, and the principle way a composition could be retained in a culture without writing or without members who could read.
Jesus’ words [sayings] would have been important enough that His disciples would have used oral means to remember them, a subject for study. But again, to study the Bible goes beyond simply reading the words on the page that didn’t magically appear on that page but were put there by someone, who was either born of God as a son or not so born.
Anyone with access to a copy of the Bible can read words, can memorize words, and can know what the Bible says without knowing anything about the Bible.
Study is, itself, based upon inscription—about turning the ephemeral nature of the speech-act into something that has permanency. Again, once a word is spoken, the word is gone … before a multiple syllable word is fully uttered, the first syllable of the word is gone; is no more. Thus, the spoken word is like heaven itself, a timeless dimension in which all things that happen occur in the same unchanging moment, with what happens erasing what was, leaving no trace of the previous.
Why didn’t Jesus come to temple officials as one of their own? Because these officials could read and write and would have committed whatever Jesus said to text that they could then study as they studied Moses. They would not have believed Him—
The Jews of Berea went beyond reading Scripture literally: if they had not, they would have rejected Paul and Silas. If they had written down what Paul and Silas said, they would have put Paul’s words against the words of Isaiah, and they would have believed Isaiah, not Paul. However, because they eagerly received the words of Paul and Silas and then, after receiving these words, they examined Scripture, not Paul and Silas’ words, they found in Scripture what they hadn’t previously found in a manner analogous of a Philadelphian finding the Second Passover liberation of Israel in Scripture.
Oral utterances can never fully be captured by chirographic representation: the hand simply does not move fast enough. So what the hand records is always a trimmed down version of an utterance, with memory serving as the filter that removes elements not deemed worthy of being remembered. And unfortunately, what Paul and Silas told the Jews of Berea wasn’t considered important enough to be retained so endtime disciples cannot know exactly what Paul and Silas said, which was probably the same thing that Paul and Silas had proclaimed at Philippi and at Thessalonica:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." (Acts 17:1–7 emphasis added)
Acting against the decrees of Caesar—were they, really? Were Paul and Silas saying that these was another king, one other than Caesar? This is a charge that stings Paul enough that he goes to extraordinary measures to refute the claim (e.g., Rom 13:1–3; Acts 25:8). But is not declaring Jesus the Christ saying that there is, indeed, another king other than Caesar? It is, isn’t it. So how were the Jews of the synagogue at Berea able to reconcile the concept of two kings simultaneously ruling whereas the Jews at Thessalonica were not?
Again, utterance cannot be interrupted and held so that it can be more closely examined: to study utterance, the utterance must be transformed from words made with the mouth to words made with the hand or words made with a machine [typographic representation] so that they can be closely examined and analyzed.
In last Sabbath’s Reading Luke’s Gospel that has the tearing of the curtain occurring before Jesus’ death whereas Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospel have the curtain being torn after Jesus died was briefly examined. The hearer of Luke’s Gospel as opposed to the reader does not have the luxury of going back and forth between the Synoptic Gospels to compare them, but must rely upon his or her memory to recall each Gospel heard—and then, the Jews at the synagogue in Berea would not have had any of the Gospels to examine: they would have had Moses and the Prophets and the Writings. For them, that was Scripture—and if they could believe without any of the New Testament writings whereas the Jews at Thessalonica could not, there is an element that was missed by one synagogue but caught by the other synagogue—and this element might well have been the structure of Hebraic poetry itself.
When the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn might be a little thing but it is a significant thing that can be easily missed by the casual reader; whereas when the curtain was torn will not be missed by the person who studies Holy Writ but must be addressed [wrestled into belief or rejected as unbelief] before the Christian can go on to larger things such as the nature or orality forming a shadow and type of heaven itself.
That too many Christians have not noticed that Luke’s Gospel differs in many ways from Mark’s and Matthew’s but also agrees in places, even to word-for-word copying of Mark, discloses that these Christian do not study their Bible but simply read them, some extremely casually, some a little more closely.
Why four Gospels? Why not five or twelve? … There are four Gospels for the same reason that David’s name begins and ends with four—and this is enough said about the matter.
Because Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel in places uses exactly the same words and phrases as Mark’s Gospel uses, critics have concluded that Mark’s Gospel is probably the source for these exact reproductions. However, this situation doesn’t preclude Matthew’s Gospel from being the source for Luke’s and Mark’s imitation. What probably precludes Matthew from preceding Mark is the dissimilarities: when a similar incident occurs in Mark’s Gospel that also occurs in Matthew’s and Luke’s, and Mark uses different wording but Matthew and Luke use the same wording, it would seem like Matthew and Luke used a different source than Mark used for the same event or utterance—and the question would be, Why?
Bible study is about transforming what is by nature ephemeral—heaven—into a thing that can be examined as if the ephemeral has substance. And by its very nature, Bible study will challenge a person’s belief. That is what study of any sort is about. A person doesn’t study higher math to learn to count, but to learn how to go beyond counting. In oral cultures (cultures that do not have a written literature), there is no need to understand differential equations: there are either caribou that can be counted or too many to kill. There will be one, two, or many. Likewise, for Christians who only want to feed themselves spiritually for the day, there is line upon line, here a little, there a little Bible reading, taught to them by a ministry that has descended from the drunk priests of Ephraim (Isa 28:1–13):
And the word of the LORD will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken. (28:13)
Is this the way that your former teachers taught you to study the Bible? Read a little here and a little there, going back and forth in a word search or in a theme search, taking a percept from here and adding it to a precept from there so that you can fall backwards, be broken, snared, taken, and perish in the lake of fire? That is how the drunkards of Ephraim taught. That is how the ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong taught. This is how the ministry of Ellen G. White still teaches. And this is not the way to study the Bible, for the context of the words [of any sign] is what gives meaning to the words so to lift a word or a phrase or an even longer passage from its context is problematic.
In primarily oral cultures, such as Israel from the days of Moses all the way through the kings—and what Jesus’ first disciples represented and the beginning of the Christian Church represented—inscription wasn’t readily available as a memory aid; thus, the mind of the person in an oral culture or in a culture with a high residual of orality organized information in a different manner than did/does a person familiar with inscription. The person in an oral culture uses clichés, repetition, rhythm, the rosary to remember thoughts that can only be uttered as events, occurrences that cannot be recalled for examination, that once uttered are no more.
Jesus could have written His words down for His disciples, but if He had, His writings would have become idols and the importance of His words would have been on this words themselves … what if He had made a spelling mistake? What sort of theology would have developed around that mistake? Remember Matthew’s Gospel contains an obvious mistake: Matthew misidentifies a citation—
Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, "And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me." (Matt 27:9–10)
But where is the citation Matthew cited found? Is it not found in Zechariah?
Then I said to them, "If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them." And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter"—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. (Zech 11:12–13)
Again, the basis for Bible study is the understanding that heaven is ephemeral [not physical] and functions as oral speech functions in that the last syllable of a word erases all syllables that came before so that speech cannot be held, stopped, so that it can be examined and analyzed. To stop the utterance of a word in the middle of the word doesn’t allow the word to be held and examined, but produces silence, the absence of sound, the erasure of the word. Thus, the principle reason why Jesus never wrote any text other than in the dust of this earth was to due the correlation between utterance and heaven: we, the dust of the earth, are His text. We—you and me—will be epistles in the Book of Life (2 Cor 3:3). And in wrapping your mind around that concept, we shall begin.
Bible study is about understanding the Bible, not as a historical document that is read frequently, but as a shadow and copy of the living Book of Life in which the Elect already have life and that some of greater Christendom will have life as well as some of the third part of humanity. Bible study is about salvation, which requires reconciling the head citation, above cited passage (Matt 25:31–46) that has salvation having nothing to do with professing that Christ is Lord with Peter declaring,
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:8–12 emphasis added)
Where in what Jesus said about doing what is right, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the stranger is there anything about salvation being in no other name/authority/character than that of Christ Jesus? Perhaps character applies as Peter’s intended meaning for <όνομα>, for Jesus’ character caused Him to feed the hungry, the four thousand and the five thousand. But authority is the most logical choice of potential meanings for what Peter said to the temple officials.
Jesus does not declare that there is salvation in no other name but His. On the contrary, He declares that what the person does when no one is looking determines whether the person will be saved. So what Peter declares is incomplete at best and is problematic to say the least … if there was only one grain harvest in ancient Judea, Peter would have been factually wrong. But because there were two grain harvests with what Peter declared pertaining to the first harvest and with what Jesus declared pertaining to the second or later harvest, both what Peter declared and what Jesus declared are true even though they seem contradictory.
There is, however, in the following verse in Acts chapter 4 a lacunae that can be used as the basis for study of Holt Writ: “Now when they [temple officials] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished” (Acts 4:13 emphasis added). … Uneducated, common men is code for illiterate workmen—and this lacunae allows a Bible study as opposed to a Bible reading to occur.
These Sabbath Readings are just that, readings. They have, for the past seven years, been readings that at times introduced the subject for a Bible study. And for the most part, these Sabbath Readings will continue to be readings that are too superficial to be considered as true Bible studies. But I would like to use this Reading to show a little of what a Bible study would look like …
If Peter and John were illiterate, their thought patterns would not be what ours are today in the fully inscribed culture in which we live. But America’s culture is in transition, with Hip-Hop music and Rap again removing the focus from chirographic and typographic words and returning the focus to utterance. The enthusiasm found in Pentecostal and in Charismatic Churches—the waving of hands and the blurting out of unintelligible sound when allegedly coming under the influence of the spirit—is another case returning focus to the ephemeral natural of utterance.
A Bible study would begin with comprehending what it meant for Peter and John to be illiterate workmen in the temple, the heart of inscription in the realm of Judaism? What did it mean for Peter to speak on Solomon’s Portico (Acts 3:12–26), not what do Peter’s words mean. For now, they’re not important. They can be read anytime, and probably have been read hundreds of times. Rather, what does it mean that an illiterate fisherman would cite Moses as his authority, and to cite Moses in Deuteronomy? Would you go into your local Circuit Court and quote the law to the judge? How do you think that would go over, especially if you sincerely believe that the judge doesn’t understand the law? Would you not need an example of why you are correct? Is this not what healing the lame beggar was, the example that gave to Peter and John credibility?
In conducting a Bible study as opposed to a reading, it must be understood that the words recorded in Acts 4:13 were not uttered by temple officials for their utterance was ephemeral and was gone, having dissipated into thin air by the time Peter and John heard them. So the words inscribed in Holy Writ are at best a representation of what temple officials actually said: the inscribed words were first written down decades after Peter and John heard the spoken works; for remember, if what the officials said was true, neither Peter nor John could then write. They would learn to write later, said with certainty based from understanding the models presented. Thus, at best the words recorded in Acts 4:13 are what either Peter or John remembered having heard the officials utter, but more likely, what is recorded in Acts is what someone else in the faith community remembered having heard Peter and John say what was said, with the memory being preserved via the parakletos, the spirit of truth.
Now, let us step ahead a short while:
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:1–4 emphasis added)
It seems obvious why the Twelve would devote themselves to prayer … but is the reason really as obvious as it would seem? Remember, Peter and John were still illiterate fishermen (common men). How does either know what Moses said, what is in Holy Writ, for neither can read inscription even after the Lord opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45)? How are they to understand what they cannot read? Who among the Twelve is reading Scripture to them? Or were the words made by hands (chirographic inscription) leaping off the page and landing in their minds where the parakletos was sorting them out and categorizing them into thoughts without the sound of these words ever being heard? Not hardly. Most likely what was occurring was what Milman Perry (1902–1935) addressed in his doctoral thesis concerning the question of orality in Homeric poetry: in his 1928 doctoral thesis, Perry argues that the distinctive features of Homeric poetry originate in the economy forced upon the Iliad and the Odyssey by oral methods of composition that can be recovered by study of the verse when the student puts aside assumptions engrained in the psyches of literate reading communities, these assumptions holding that prefabricated phrases are inherently bad. Thus, Homeric verse was composed from something analogous to a phrase book (e.g., Gradus ad Parnassum) from which the poet plucked whatever phrase that suited his purpose at the time. And this would have been how the first disciples orally remembered what Jesus did and said; for each of Jesus’ sayings no longer existed except as a memory in the first disciples’ minds.
The word Jesus left with His disciples that would judge unbelievers (John 12:48) didn’t exist except as memories; so the importance of Jesus’ word—of His sayings—must be preserved apart from the Passion Account and in addition to the Passion Account which was relatively easy to remember. Hence His disciples devoted themselves to prayer so that they could faithfully remember what Jesus said, meaning that they were orally composing narratives that could be likened to Homeric poetry in their construction.
The disciples, post-Pentecost, did what Solzhenitsyn did when memorizing his play.
The prayers of the first disciples were much more than simply reciting a “want list” that stretched from healing a sick person to having enough bread for today. These prayers would have been central to the preservation of the good news Jesus brought to humanity, and this preservation would have been entirely oral for a decade or so after Calvary. Only as memories were beginning to fade would the necessity of setting these narratives down in words made by hands (chirographic inscription) become apparent. Then there would have been an urgency to set everything down, but by then, the first disciples would have learned to read and write—and indeed, they would have schooled themselves, learning to write in one or both Aramaic and Greek.
To study the New Testament will require the person to deconstruct the written text, which is all that can be studied … Peter’s denial of Jesus would be unknown to endtime disciples if Peter, himself, had not revealed in oral narratives what occurred. But when did Peter deny Jesus? Do the Gospels agree as to when Peter denied Jesus?
Denying Jesus is not something that shows positive attributes of Peter; so could Peter have made his denial seem worse than it was? Certainly he could have, but why would he? Because he wasn’t at the foot of the cross with the women and John? Or is there more to Peter’s denials? Do Christians within the greater Church deny Christ Jesus today? They do, don’t they? They deny Christ by their steadfast refusal to walk as Jesus walked. Can they still be used by God to promote good? Peter was. And this leads to the Sacred Names Heretics, Sabbatarian Christians who deny Jesus’ pre-birth divinity as the Creator-of-all-things-made. Can they not repent as Peter repented? Theoretically, yes, but practically, no they won’t repent, not now, not ever. So the question should become, Why won’t they repent? Is it because the Father will not permit them to repent?
If God, Father or Son, will not allow a person to repent as was the case with Israel in the wilderness of Paran (Num chap 14) and as will be the case with Israel during the Affliction (2 Thess 2:10–12)—if a person needs permission to repent, then salvation has another element beyond simply professing that Jesus is Lord and believing that the Father raised Jesus from death (Rom 10:9), with this other element embedded in feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the stranger, keeping the commandments and teaching others to do likewise. This additional element lacks permanency: to feed a hungry person today does nothing for this person tomorrow. The person will again be hungry; so there is never enough a person can do to be saved. But without doing the person cannot be saved.
This is again enough for one Reading.
The person conducting the Sabbath service should close services with two hymns, or psalms, followed by a prayer asking God’s dismissal.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
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