Jeroboam, Son of Nebat

Though he is far from a household name, Jeroboam, son of Nebat is one of the most important figures in Biblical history.  As the first king and founder of the independent northern kingdom of Israel, he became the paradigmatic wicked king.  He is, in many way, the first schismatic and heretic in the history of God’s people.  In addition to creating the northern political structures, he began an alternative religious system that would not only endure in the northern kingdom throughout its existence, but even make inroads into the southern kingdom of Judah.  Under the later Omride dynasty, the kingdom which he founded would become a regional power and at least for a time far surpass the southern kingdom of…

One God, the Father and One Lord, Jesus Christ

It is a commonplace in St. Paul’s theology for the apostle to refer to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as a unified phrase (cf. Rom 1:4, 7; 5:1, 11; 6:23; 7:25; 8:39; 15:6, 30; 16:20; 1 Cor 1:2-3, 9-10; 8:6; 15:57; 2 Cor 1:2-3; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2-3, 17; 5:20; 6:23; Phi 1:2; 2:11; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 1:1, 3; 5:9; 2 Thess 1:1-2, 12; 2:16; 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Phil 1:3).  Within the context of 1 Corinthians 8:6, St. Paul makes this formulation based on integrating Christ into the shema of Deuteronomy 6:4.  This formulation ultimately became the basis for the phraseology of the Nicene Creed.  The relationship between these two persons, the Father…

Biblical Monotheism

It is common in the contemporary world to speak of Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Islam as ‘monotheistic faiths.’  This categorization is intended to imply that, over against polytheistic religions, these three religious traditions have a similar view of God.  Sometimes, this perceived similarity is taken so far as to argue that these three religious traditions worship the same God.  Monotheism, as a term, refers of course to the belief that there is only one God.  Polytheism, on the other hand, describes any religious tradition in which there are many gods and goddesses who are the object of worship and devotion.  Less commonly discussed, and occupying a middle position between these two categories, is Henotheism, which is the view that there…

Paradise

The garden of Eden, the place where God dwells with his divine council, is known in Greek translation as Paradise.  The word Paradise is a Persian loan word to Greek which refers to a particular type of walled garden.  Likely the most high profile example of a paradise garden in the world today is the Taj Mahal, built according to Persian custom.  An aerial photo of the Taj Mahal reveals even four waterways in parallel to the Biblical description.  Modern literalism has sought to locate this garden somewhere on the planet earth, with the assumption that at some point, usually the flood of Noah, it was destroyed.  While a ‘this worldly’ interpretation of Eden is attractive to many, it fails…

Pentecost, Birthday of the Church

In previous posts, the formation and renewal of Israel through Pascha and Pentecost have been discussed.  Israel as a people came into being through a mixed ethnic group around a core of descendants of Jacob being marked out by the blood of the Passover lamb, delivered from Egypt through the sea, culminating in the reception of God’s covenant at Sinai with the sprinkling of blood.  Subsequent generations were integrated ritually into Israel through the celebration of the Passover and Pentecost within the yearly ritual cycle.  After most of Israel had been dispersed to the nations, she was resurrected with Christ at the second Pascha by the reintegration of the nations around a core of the remnant of Judah.  The culmination…

Renewed Israel

In the previous post, the brief history of Israel as God’s people in the Old Testament was outlined, from its creation to its ultimate dissolution.  Despite that dissolution, the prophets promised that God would one day restore and redeem not only the remnant of Judea, but the entirety of Israel.  This had been made seemingly impossible by the fact that the ten northern tribes had been ‘lost’.  They had not been lost to history.  There is clear historical record of the cities and regions in Assyria to which the Israelites had been deported.  Rather, over generations of intermarriage and assimilation, the people of the northern tribes became indistinguishable as a particular people.  Their identity as a people had been dissolved…

God’s People Israel

Though it is the name used for the people of God in both Old and New Testaments, ‘Israel’ as the name for God’s people had only a limited historical span.  As a united people freed from Egypt, depending on one’s dating of the Exodus, Israel existed for between 300 and 500 years.  Only the last century of this period represented an actual kingdom under a human king.  Following the fracturing of the tribes at the end of Solomon’s reign, it was the northern ten tribes that existed under the name ‘Israel’ for very roughly 200 years before its complete destruction at the hands of the Assyrian Empire.  Even during those two centuries, the northern kingdom was better known as ‘Ephraimite’…

The Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John

The figure of St. John the Forerunner looms large in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, even long after his death had been recorded.  This reflects his great historical importance in 1st century Judea, as reflected in the writings of Josephus amongst other places.  His coming as the forerunner of the Messiah was prophesied within the Hebrew scriptures and the return of the Prophet Elijah, St. Elias, was one of the markers of the coming of the expected Christ well-known to Jewish communities of the era.  This prominence is reflected in the Orthodox iconographic tradition in which he stands at the left hand of Christ enthroned.  He serves as the link between the Old Testament prophets and the…

Psalm 68 and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The scripture readings assigned to the Sunday after Theophany in the Orthodoxy Church, Ephesians 4:7-13 and Matthew 4:12-17 are bound together thematically by Psalm 68 (67 in the Greek numbering).  This Psalm is quoted, and slightly adapted, by St. Paul who gives to the Psalm the interpretation which would later enshrine it in Paschal liturgics.  It also, however, connects to the geographical themes set out by St. Matthew as Christ’s public ministry begins following his baptism by St. John the Forerunner.  Understanding the way in which Ss. Matthew and Paul use this Psalm to characterize the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ is important to understanding the very meaning of the term ‘gospel’ as it is applied to our…

Theophany and River Gods

The Orthodox Church has always taught that the background against which the scriptures and scriptural events are rightly understood is preserved within Holy Tradition.  Holy Tradition is the life of the Holy Spirit within the church, but how precisely this functions is often misunderstood.  Sometimes it is thought to be some sort of secret additional knowledge, beyond the scriptures or the public proclamation of the church passed down orally.  This sort of idea, however, is roundly condemned by the Fathers in their contest against Gnosticism.  What separates Christianity from Gnosticism, they argue, is that Christianity has always publicly proclaimed the same faith delivered once and for all to the saints.  A prime example of how tradition ‘works’ can be seen…