Bible Readings for October 4 to 10, 2018

Bible Review: The NET Bible

The most important thing you need to know about the NET Bible is that you can read it free, online, at any time. The online version provides very extensive notes, which will help you get closer to the text. As they say, interpretation is your responsibility, and you should not let a commentator decide for you what a passage means. Here is a link to The Twenty-third Psalm to give you a sense of what the notes look like. They also have extensive study materials. In fact, the translation was undertaken for the specific purpose of having a Bible text that could be freely used in Bible studies. (It is expensive to license other translations; our use of the NRSV falls under one of the limited exemptiopns they provide.) Here is a list of pages on their site which relate to Psalm 23 Psalm 23 pages. Not all of them are for study, but a number of them are. The translators all come from the Evangelical wing of the church, but this has not affected the translation in any way. As they say in the introduction,

The NET Bible was not funded by any particular denomination or church. The translators and editors were free to follow the text and translate as faithfully and accurately as possible without any pressure to make the text read a certain way or conform to a particular doctrinal sgatement.

There are also printed versions of the NET Bible, including ones with all the notes. I personally use the NET Bible Compact Version. It has fewer and shorter notes that still illuminate passages and provide alternative translations. It has a lot of features that I like, including a system of bold italics for Hebrew Scripture passages quoted in the Christian Scriptures, and italics for allusions to Hebrew Scriptures.

The Wikipedia article on the NET Bible says this about the translation approach: Mid-range functional or dynamic equivalence prevalent in the text, with formal equivalent renderings very often given in the footnotes. For an explanation of functional and dynamic equivalce, see the Wikipedia artice Dynamic and formal equivalence. Functional equivalance is a thought for thought rather than a word for word approach. Here is an article with arguments for the functional approach arguments for functional equivalnce.

This week's Psalm of Preparation in the complementary series is the NET translation.

If you decide to buy the NET Bible Compact Version, please consider doing so through this link, which will benefit our work: NET Bible Compact Edition (New English Translation)

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Context of Our Readings

Our readings this week concern sexual ethics and divorce. Much of it may be difficult for modern readers, but if we look at what was written in the context of their times, it is less difficult. Like most Middle Eastern societies, the early Hebrews effectively treated women as property. The groom's family negotiated with the bride's over how much would be paid them for allowing her to leave their family and join her husband's. These talks might have taken place at the city gates, where much important business was done. For example, in Saturday's Hebrew Scripture in the complementary series, Abraham negotiates with the Hittites for a burial place for Sarah in “the presence of all who went in at the gate of his city.” From the time of the patriarchs through and beyond Jesus' time, assuring that a man's children were his own was of paramount importance. No family wanted its wealth passed down to the child of an outsider.

Gospels

The pivotal reading is our Sunday Gospel from Mark. The Pharisees asks Jesus if a man can divorce his wife, pointing out that Moses allows for it. Jesus responds with “[T]hey are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.” When the disciples ask him about his teaching, he softens it by saying that it is adultery if either of them remarries, which seems to allow divorce if there is no remarriage. In the dialog with the Pharisees, Jesus is quoting from the second creation story, part of which is our Sunday Hebrew Scripture reading in the complementary series. This is immediately followed by Jesus telling the disciples not to hinder children from coming to him. The Saturday Gospel, Luke 16:14-18, includes Jesus saying something similar to what he told the disciples in his teaching on divorce. It also includes a forceful denunciation of the Pharisees. The Saturday Gospel, Matthew 5:27-36, has Jesus' teaching on lust, adultry, and oathtaking.

Epistles

The Thursday and Friday Epistle readings are about the law as our guardian before faith and the law of the Spirit of life versus the law of sin and death. Friday's reading points up Paul's dualist view of the body versus the spirit, which I (for one) find difficult. The commentary I found most helpful was a definition of Paul's reference to the law's just requirement as obedience to the divine intent rather than simple compliance with the outward form. The Monday and Tuesday Epistle readings include some of Paul's commentary on marriage. The Sunday Epistle reading quotes from the complementary series Psalm of preparation with these compelling words:

When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place.
Of what importance are human beings that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind that you should pay attention to them,
And make them a little less than the heavenly beings?
You grant mankind honor and majesty. (NET)

Complementary Series Hebrew Scriptures

The Hebrew Scriptures on Thursday and Friday concern King Abimelech, Sarah, and Abraham. Abimelech took Sarah, but God prevented him from having sexual relations with her, telling him that Abraham was a prophet. When Abimelech confronted Abraham, he had this to say:

“I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.’”

You might know that Leviticus 18 forbids marriage to a half-sister, as Abraham did with Sarah. But Leviticus is traditionally ascribed to Moses, who lived in the thirteenth century Before the Common Era (BCE). Abraham lived sometime between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BCE, so at least three hundred years before Moses. Thus at the time of Abraham and Sarah there was no prohibition on the marriage of half-siblings. Fear of God means profound reverence and awe. In the Friday reading, Beer means well and sheba means both oath and seven.

The second creation story, our Sunday Hebrew Scripture reading, has often been misread to suggest that women are subordinate to men. Some scholars now suggest that God's first creature, adamah, might have been without gender, or perhaps androgynous. In this view, adamah is translated as groundling or as humanity. When God puts adamah to sleep and creates a second human, both genders exist. In other words, the feminine aspect of adaham is separated into another being.

Semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures

Our semi-continuous Hebrew Scriptures are all from Job. Here is an excerpt from an excursus in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary:

There is an ambivalance in the relation between Yahweh and the accusing angel [satan] that is important for understanding the development of this figure. The accusing angel is a subordinate of God, a member of the divine court who defends God's honor by exposing those who pose a threat to it. In that sense he is not God's adversary but the adversary of sinful or corrupt human beings. Yet in Zechariah 3:2, Yahweh rejects the accuser's indictment of the high priest and rebukes the accuser instead. In Job 1–2, Yahweh and the accuser take opposing views of the character of Job. As one who embodies and perfects the function of opposition, the satan is depicted in these texts as the one who accuses precisely those whom God is inclined to favor. In this way the ostensible defender of God subtly becomes God's adversary. (New Interpreter's Bible, Volume IV, p. 348)

The introduction to Job in the same commentary makes the point that the characters and events are described in hyperbolic terms, and the characters exemplify traits rather than undergoing development.

May these readings bring a blessing into your life. Thank you for all that you do to bring God's reign into being. Mike Gilbertson

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Summaries and Links for the week ahead

Thursday to Sunday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 8
Divine majesty and human dignity
Semi-continuous Psalm 26 Vindicate and redeem me, Lord. Your steadfast love is before my eyes.

Thursday: Preparation for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 20:1-18 Abraham and Sarah pretend to be brother and sister. King Abimelech takes Sarah as a wife, but God warns him that she is married.
Semi-continuous Job 2:11-3:26 Job curses the day he was born.
Both Galatians 3:23-29 There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, Abraham's offspring according to the promise.

Friday: Preparation for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 21:22-34 Abraham makes a covenant with Abimelech.
Semi-continuous Job 4 Eliphaz says Job must have sinned.
Both Romans 8:1-11 To set the mind on flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Saturday: Preparation for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 23:1-20 Sarah dies. Abraham buys a cave at Machpelah for her burial place.
Semi-continuous Job 7 Job claims his suffering is endless.
Both Luke 16:14-18 Since John came, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed.

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Genesis 2:18-24 The second account of creation, in which Woman is created from Adam's rib
Semi-continuous Job 1:1; 2:1-10 God allows Satan to test Job. Job asks, "Shall we receive the good from God and not the bad?"
Both Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 God has spoken by a Son.
Both Mark 10:2-16 Jesus' teaching on marriage. Jesus says "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Monday to Wednesday Psalms
Complementary Psalm 112
Blessings of the righteous
Semi-continuous Psalm 55:1-15 It is not my enemies who taunt me, but my friend.

Monday: Reflection on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 22:13-30 Laws about sexual relations, including punishments.
Semi-continuous Job 8 Bildad tells Job to repent.
Both 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Guidance for the married. If those who are unmarried cannot maintain self -control, they should marry.

Tuesday: Reflection on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Deuteronomy 24:1-5 A newly married man shall not go out with the army for one year.
Semi-continuous Job 11 Zophar tells Job, "You deserve worse."
Both 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Paul's advice on divorce.

Wednesday: Reflection on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Complementary Jeremiah 3:6-14 Faithless Israel called to repentance
Semi-continuous Job 15 Eliphaz accuses Job of not hearing God.
Both Matthew 5:27-36 Jesus' teaching on lust, adultery, and oath-taking.

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Selections from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings copyright © 1995 by the Consultation on Common Texts.

Unless otherwise indicated, Bible text is from Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books (NRSV) copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All right reserved.


Scriptures designated (NET) are from the Net Bible-New English Translation ® copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, LLC (www.bible.org) used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note: The links in the titles above take you to Amazon, where you can purchase them and benefit The Lectionary Company.