Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Sermon 2/25/13

A discussion recently raised the question of the historical nature of Christianity and Judaism. Judaism was characterized as the intrusion of God into history, the introduction of God in the word, the written word which matured through time. Unlike parallel oral traditions, this was written.

This week's readings highlight this history. The Old Testament reading is of Abram's covenant with God, Chapter 15 of Genesis. The New Testament is the Transfiguration.

The Old Testament reading is pivotal in its philosophy and its history. The Book of Genesis is a collection of chapters written at different times. Today's reading is really old. Ancient. And so is its vision of God. God is an unknowable and universal power who can not be understood or explained. This strange ritual Abram and God go through is equally primitive and universal; it could have occurred anywhere. Likely it is one of the early writings in history, probably from the time of Abram, 1850 b.c.. In addition to the very important covenant with God, this reading contains one of the crucial passages in Christian history, 15:6: "Abram believed God and it was reputed to him unto justice." ("Justice" as "righteousness.") This nature of man, as righteous or not, was a point of division in the Presbyterian separation from Catholicism. Most (especially Calvin but not Luther) felt man was so steeped in sin that man could not rescue himself; predestination emerged and good works were not redemptive.

The earlier books of Genesis, 1 through 12, were actually written after Chapter 15, probably at the time of the Babylon Captivity, around 600 b.c.. It contains elements of the Gilgamesh.

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