Sunday, August 02, 2009

Even though she had to miss this evening's session, she recommended the lecture series to me ... and promised to be available to join me on upcoming Sundays. So I took the initiative, which isn't difficult for me in such things, and went over there, to Titusville, to hear Dr. Hutton. I was just late enough, sadly, to miss the introductions and it's so difficult to recover from that. At least for me it is. But I think the scope of these Sunday lectures is the Former Prophets, what we call the Historical Books.

His explanation of how the books are divided in the Hebrew canon seemed belabored to me who had the less familiar table of contents of my Tanakh clear in view on my lap, the Hebrew and JPS translation side-by-side on each page. He said things I liked, that the primary function of a Jewish prophet is not to predict the future, that Jeremiah wasn't quite accurate on the 70 years, and wondered aloud what the heck are Nahum and Obadiah doing in our Bibles!

He fell short of admitting to three Isaiahs when telling us which chapters comprise the major sections. If I had asked him when Daniel was written, I would have likely received a satisfactory response. At least in private. But I didn't test it. I will ask him about Amos 3:7 next time ... how those of us not of the Left Behind persuasion may make sense of it.

His profile of a Jewish prophet got bogged down when he broadened it to include Jonah and Daniel. It's not for nothing Daniel is among the Ketuvim. He pointed out the favorable nod Micah gets in Jeremiah 28. He reminded us of a recent reading from Amos (10th Sunday after Pentecost, according to his liturgical calendar, July 12; I remembered reading it) in which Amos rejects the label of prophet but explains his mission along those very lines. And, in fact, that everything in the Former Prophets sets the stage for the Latter Prophets and the rest of the Bible. Not unexpectedly, he affirms the wisdom of the Jewish order but allows the Christian order serves a different purpose, or Person.

To understand the prophetic office, he assigned us a couple of passages, 1 Kings 11:28-40 and 2 Kings 9:1-10 to read and discuss in small group. In the first passage, Ahijah tears a robe, it isn't clear whose cloak it is, into pieces (he said the MT and the LXX give a different number of pieces, but I can't track that down online. Maybe I'll look at some books.) to give Jeroboam the message about the coming kingdom division into north and south. His demonstration is physical and private. In 2 Kings, Elisha's disciple anoints Jehu over Ahab's house in revenge for Jezebel. Dr. Hutton pointed out that prophets were kingmakers ... and kingbreakers. That anointing a royal successor effectively dethroned the sitting king. That sitting kings didn't always take kindly to that and the successor often had to fight for the throne. And that it wasn't always easy to tell who was right and who was speaking for God. Deut. 18:21-22 has an ambivalent test but, consider the case of Micah whose prophecy took 120 years to be fulfilled. How much time is enough? And he admitted that we don't always know today who's right which I completely agree with. He's ELCA speaking to PCUSA's ... I don't envy them their denominations.

Next time he'll talk about the doctrine of the two kingdoms as taught by Luther and Calvin. I've heard reference made to that but I'm not very sure what it is. The lecture will be at Stockton Church which, as it happens, the pastor there first served at a church in East Bethany, very familiar from drives to my mother's house.

Now, so tonight, we met in Titusville on Route 29. I've skirted this area when I'd visit Jeff in Flemington; we went to New Hope once or twice. Along the Delaware River looked unique and yet familiar. That IS New Jersey: for all its variation, somehow everywhere the same. I passed Villa Victoria and caught myself daydreaming, "When it's just Ella at home, I'd have the luxury of driving her to any school, even here." But I came back to reality pretty quick, reasoning that I had just driven 50 minutes from home, through downtown Trenton on a Sunday evening. Imagine that route on any weekday. No, it would have to turn boarding school first.

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