Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30

OT: Daniel 7:1-28

As we enter our last month of reading through the Bible in a year, I have been pondering the value of the endeavor. Specifically, I am wondering about the value of just reading the books, without getting any background info. With the NT, I usually know enough about the books because of my background in the church. But there have been many OT books that I can't make heads or tails of. And I definitely haven't researched each of them like I should. My current belief is that reading un-researched books has very limited value in my life. It's like the Ethiopian eunuch--Scripture didn't have value to him until someone explained it to him. When I just blindly plunge into a book about which I am totally ignorant, I am not studying the Bible; I'm just reading the words. It reminds me of the phrase, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." If you don't know the background and context of the words, you can make them say just about anything you want.

I'm not sure where all that came from. Maybe it is because I didn't research Daniel at all, although the stories are familiar to me. Daniel is a good example of what I'm talking about, though. I do know that many (most?) scholars consider it to be apocalyptic literature written sometime during the Maccabean somethin'-or-'nother. I read all about it in my NT commentary last year, and the author (a believer, btw) made a pretty compelling case. I don't know if he's right, but I do know that there is nothing in the book of Daniel that overtly claims to be historical fact. It doesn't attempt to give historical details, like the Pentateuch and the histories do. It just skips around from story to story, with little or no intro to them. Today, for example, our story is set in the first year of Belshazzar's reign. Well, two chapters ago, we read about the last day of his reign. And the last chapter was set during his successor's reign. So it's not like any pains are being taken to maintain chronology or to relate historical detail.

So...what if it is apocalyptic literature? Wouldn't that mean that I would read it differently than if it were a history? Wouldn't that be something that I would need to have an opinion on going in? It just seems to me like we need to read books based on the standards they set for themselves, not on the standards my modernism and/or ignorance sets for them. If Daniel is apocalyptic literature, I shouldn't read it like a history. And I won't be able to decide unless I research it.

Which I'm not going to do tonight.

So...I guess I'll just enjoy the story? This one is less popular with the Sunday school crowd, perhaps b/c of its esoteric imagery. With all the weird animals and spinning wheels and strange details, I thought we were back in Ezekiel for a minute. Here's what I thought about, though, when I read the story (and what got me thinking about research again). If it is apocalyptic literature, then the author has specific kingdoms in mind, and those kingdoms would be based on the present historical situation at the time of writing. I can't remember who the Maccabeans revolted against (or were they the people the Jews revolted against?), but Rome helped the Jews, right? Something about Rome setting up the Hasmonean dynasty? Ehh...anyway, my thoughts kept going, b/c some parts of Daniel's vision seemed very messianic. Verses 13-14 speak of "the son of man" being able to come into the presence of God and being given authority and an everlasting kingdom. And that got me to thinking that, in terms of inspiration, it doesn't matter if the author is one of Daniel's contemporaries or some dude in the Maccabean period. He's still inspired, and he is still making messianic prophecies, even though he knows nothing about Jesus. One thing both the potential authors have in common were that they were both firmly in BC territory, chronologically speaking. So whether it is straight history or (perhaps more likely) apocalyptic literature, it is still inspired by God, and it still points to His Son.

NT: 1 John 1:1-10

Yeah, so I haven't researched 1 John, either, though I am very familiar with the content. I'm pretty sure the authorship is not in serious dispute. For one thing, just look at the language. To me, it sounds like clear-cut, see-Spot-run, light-loving, Johannine language.

Today, I particularly enjoyed the contrast between verses 5-7 and 8-10. Verses 5-7 really challenge believers with the idea that we cannot be in the light while still walking in darkness. It challenges us to leave sinfulness behind and to walk with Christ. But lest we become fooled into thinking that means we are supposed to be perfect, we have verses 8-10 to balance us out. Those verses maintain that we all have sin, and that we can be cleansed of that sin if we confess it. It's ridiculous (and dangerous) to claim that we are without sin in our lives.

Psalm 119:153-176

Random thought of the day: the psalmist cannot write an ode to God's word without interjecting his personal life and personal struggles into it (e.g. 153-4, 157-8). And that inability reminds me of...me, with this blog. I toyed with the idea of blogging straight Bible and keeping my personal life separate, but I found it completely impossible. Scripture means little to me apart from its application to my life. I have no interest in talking about it theoretically; I talk about it in the context of living it. It's kind of like this psalmist. His love for God's word is not some lofty, theoretical love. No, it is something he clings to in the midst of his personal suffering and pain. And for me, hearing about that pain enhances my understanding of his talk about his love.

Prov. 28:23-24

Against flattery and robbing your family.

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