Wowowowow! This is my third day in a row posting about my Bible Reading Plan (I had only planned to post once a week), but this one is too good to pass up. D.A. Carson is commenting on Mark 7 and what Jesus has to say about “traditions”. First he makes the very helpful distinction between how we moderns distinguish which traditions are good or bad. This, we tend to do on the basis of social acceptability rather than what is true in scripture. He writes:
In short, we make distinctions on the basis of the social effects of traditions, not on the basis of whether or not they are true. But in the New Testament, traditions are praised or criticized not on the basis of their social function but in light of their conformity or departure from the Word of God.
Now, why is this so important? Well, this is one of the main complaints Evangelicals have against liberals who prefer the social function of a particular interpretation of scripture, or tradition, over what conforms to the Word of God. Which obviously is a problem. But Carson also turns it around brilliantly. All I can say is… Ooohh.. That cuts to the heart.
We must recognize that confessing evangelicals who nominally eschew tradition sometimes embrace traditions that effectively domesticate the Word of God. These may be traditional interpretations of Scripture, or traditional ecclesiastical practices, or traditional forms of conduct that are “allowed” in our circles but that are a long way from holy Scripture. In every case, fidelity to Christ mandates reformation by the Word of God.
(D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol. 1, p. 341).
30 November 2011
Jesus and Judaism: The Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that existed for approximately three hundred years between the second century BCE and the end of the first century CE. Little is known about the sect; and in fact, the term “Essene” does not even occur in the New Testament. Nonetheless, important Greek and Latin writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Pliny describe the sect in their writings. Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 at the Qumran caves on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea, many scholars have tended to associate the community living at Qumran with the Essenes.
The Jewish historian Josephus provides the most extensive descriptions of the Essenes. In his work The Jewish War, Joseph describe the Essenes as a group living out strictly disciplined lives: “These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue.” They also seem to prefer solitude and celibacy; so their means of growth is primarily through enlisting “other persons’ children”. They don’t however seem to reject marriage altogether (or at least part of the sect did not). They do reject wealth, choosing to live ascetic lives, and holding their property in common (in fact, this was a law in the community). They seem to also take purity laws seriously, allowing it to affect what substances they come in contact with and how they dress as well. They do not seem to have a centralized location, but are scattered through out various cities, though they do move around from time to time. Continue reading