Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: bible’s major players (page 1 of 2)

Bible’s Major Players: Mary Magdalene

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Mary Magdalene is one from the New Testament.

Mary Magdalene is one of the few women who are named as followers of Jesus. Mary is often listed first among these names. She is often portrayed in movies, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, as a prostitute. Why? Mary Magdalene is often connected with the woman of the street who breaks the jar of perfume and washes Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. In Luke’s Gospel this woman is nameless. Mary Magdalene first appears in Luke 8. As scholar Fred Craddock points out, “Only popular legend has made her a prostitute.” Luke’s eighth chapter tells the reader that Mary was healed of seven demons. Craddock observes, “Demon possession caused various maladies of body and mind but not moral or ethical depravity.”

Monica Bellucci as Magdalen in Gibson's film.

Monica Bellucci as Magdalen in Gibson’s film.

Mary plays a significant role in the Gospel story. All four gospels account for Mary being present at the death of Christ. More importantly, Mary was the first witness of the resurrected Lord. In Luke’s account of the resurrection, the two men “in dazzling apparel” tell the women, “Remember how he told you . . .” (Luke 24:4,6). This assumes that Mary Magdalene and the other women were apart of the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. The dazzling men are under the impression that these women were present when Jesus predicted his death and resurrection (“Remember how he told you”).

Luke continues the narrative saying that the women “remembered his words” (24:8). The women are told to go and tell the disciples what has taken place. They recalled what Jesus had said and told the eleven and “all the rest” (Luke 24:8-9). As Craddock points out, these women were not “errand runners for disciples; they were disciples.”

Mary Magdalene, the woman saved from seven demons, is one of the first witnesses of the Resurrected Christ. Her role in being one of the first to communicate the resurrection to others, places her among the Bible’s major players.

How are you living as a witness of the Resurrected Christ?

Resources: Craddock, Fred B. Luke. John Knox Press, 1990.

Bible’s Major Players: Tamar

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. David’s daughter Tamar is one from the Old Testament.

Tamar was the daughter of Maacah and David. She is the only daughter of David’s mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. In an interesting story, worthy of Jerry Springer, David’s oldest son (and first in line for the throne) Ammon finds himself madly – madly – in love with his half-sister Tamar. He pretends to be ill and asks for Tamar to come and prepare food for him. Ammon is able to get  his half-sister with him and rapes her.

Ammon, however, does not stop outdoing himself. Now that Tamar is no longer a virgin, custom says that she must be married. Even if it his her half-brother. She pleas with Ammon to marry her, but he refuses. In fact, Ammon’s love for her has been replaced with hatred. He wants nothing to do with her anymore. It seems that he got what he wanted, and was satisfied.

source: http://thebricktestament.com

source: http://thebricktestament.com

Tamar is forced out the door and into the streets.

Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and walked away, crying as she went. (2 Samuel 13:19, Common English Bible)

This act outside of Ammon’s house, Virginia Stem Owens suggests, is a “symbol of her degradation.” The rape along was enough to humiliate and shame Tamar, but to leave her unmarried was worse. She would be lowered in the eyes of her society. She no longer, without the man who took her virginity, had the possibilities of marriage or children. Her future was taken from her and ruined.  And so, “Tamar, a broken woman, lived with her brother Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:20b).

How have you been left broken by others?

Resources: Owens, Virginia Stem. Daughters of Eve. NavPress, 1995.

Bible’s Major Players: David

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. King David is one from the Old Testament.

The Bible says that when Samuel anointed David, the “spirit of the Lord came mightily upon” him (1 Samuel 16:13). In the very next verse, the reader is told that an evil spirit in Saul replaces the spirit of the Lord. Barry Bandstra notes that in “the Hebrew Bible the spirit of God is the power God bestows on select individuals that enables them to perform their God-given task.” God had chosen David.

The first narrative of David is when he confronts the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). In this act of defeating the giant, David was able to gain much popularity with the people, including Saul’s own family. This began Saul’s rich jealously and attempts to kill David, failing again and again. David would spend much of his time in hiding from Saul.

toon119

While in hiding, David becomes something like a Biblical Robin Hood. As Walter Harrelson explained, David “gathers around him a band of desperadoes, and is able both to prevent capture by Saul’s men and to become the most feared and respected man in all Judah.” When he grows tired of being an outlaw and on the run, he and his “band of desperadoes” join the Philistine camp in their struggle against Saul. The whole time, however, they are raiding the tribes south of Judah. This only increased Saul’s determination to rid of David.

Meanwhile, the Philistines have pushed Israel back toward the Jordan River. Saul attempts to take a stand at Mount Gilboa. However, Saul and his sons die in this battle, leaving the throne empty. David would claim his divinely ordained role as King.

David, from the beginning of his kingship, would lead with what many scholars have called “political savvy.” At the news of Saul’s defeat and death, David made a point not to approve nor condone the death of Saul. As Bandstra points out, “He did nothing that might serve to alienate the loyal followers of Saul,” which made up most of North Israel.

michelangelo-sculptures-13

Michelangelo’s David

David would set his capital at Hebron in Judah. David would rule over the southern tribes, and after the northern tirbes fell apart under Ishbaal, he would rule the northern tribes as well. It would be the first time that all the tribes of Israel would be united. David then decided to move his capital to Jerusalem, so as not to give the impression that he was favoring the south, and called it “the city of David” to show that it was under his command. After chasing the Philistines out from around the city, he made another political move that would change things. He moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, setting the city as the political and religious center for the newly unified nation.

David’s heart became troubled after the nation was safe. He was living in a great house, while the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence among God’s people, was in a tent. David set out to build a great house for God. God, however, through the prophet Nathan, told David to not build such a house. Instead, God promised that God would build a house for David (2 Samuel 7:16).

This is a play on words, as Walter Brueggemann suggests. The word “house” can mean either “temple” or “dynasty.” Daivd would not build God a temple, but God would build David a dynasty. This will become the first dynasty of the Hebrew people.

As great as David was as a king, he would make some pretty bad decisions. Despite these mistakes, God still supported him. Although Samuel disapproved of the people’s desire for a monarch, God used the line of David to shepherd his people.

How has God used you through your successes and mistakes?

Resources: Bandstra, Barry L. Reading the Old Testament. Wadsworth Publishing, 1999. Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. John Knox Press, 1990. Harrelson, Walter. Interpreting the Old Testament. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

Bible’s Major Players: Samuel

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Samuel is one from the Old Testament.

Samuel is the son of Hannah, a wife of Elkanah. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah was able to give him children, but Hannah was barren and not able to have children. She prayed to God, asking for a son. God heard Hannah’s prayer, and blessed her with a son whom she named Samuel, meaning “God heard.” She gave the son back to God, devoting his life to the work of the temple in Shiloh. Samuel heard the voice of the Lord as a boy and continued to hear from God was seen as a prophet.

He is often viewed as the last and greatest of all the judges of Israel. One reason for this view can be seen in 1 Samuel 7:3-17. Prior to this episode, Israel has been at war with the Philistines. They had battled and battled, and then remembered that the Ark of the Covenant had been left at Shiloh. The act of forgetting the ark, the symbol of the presence of Yahweh, suggests that Israel, Walter Harrelson says, “has acted without consulting Yahweh at all.” After brining the ark out, the ark is captured by the Philistines – but not for long. Everywhere the Philistines take the ark, plagues follow.

Though Yahweh was not consulted, Yahweh is still in the battle. In the seventh chapter, Samuel gathers all of Israel together at Mizpah. He is the leader, one that is like that of Moses. In the midst of Canaanite culture and religion, along with the Philistine threat, the people are easily distracted and were putting their loyalty in other places. God called Samuel to refocus Israel’s loyalty back to Yahweh.

source: shrove.wordpress.com

source: shrove.wordpress.com

Samuel renews Israel’s commitment to God and the people start fresh. Samuel inspires new beginning. Samuel remained judge and leader of Israel until he reached an old age. It is his role, as Harrelson highlights, in the “establishment of the kingship” that marks “him as more than just another of the judges.”

As Samuel got older, the fun continued. The people requested that they have a king like all the other nations around them. They felt threatened by the growing, neighboring nations and did not have confidence in Samuel’s sons to be their judges. Samuel was not happy about this. How can they ask for a king to rule them on earth when their one sovereign God rules in both heaven and earth? Even so, Samuel seeks counsel from God.

God tells him to listen to the people’s request and give them a king. Samuel does so, but warns them first about what it will be like having a king (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Samuel concludes in verse 18 with a harsh truth:

In that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.

This statement makes it clear that Samuel did not approve of a monarchy. However, Samuel set aside his own personal thoughts and sought counsel from God.

How do you seek counsel from God?

Resources: Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. John Knox Press, 1990. Harrelson, Walter. Interpreting the Old Testament. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.

Bible’s Major Players: Jephthah’s Daughter

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Jephthah’s daughter is one from the Old Testament.

The story of Jephthah’s daughter is found in Judges 11. Jephthah was a great warrior.  He was the child of Gilead and a prostitute. When his father’s other sons got older, they drove Jephthah out of town because of who is mother was. He forms together a band of desperadoes and stay at a place called Tov – the Land of Good.

The Ammonites attack Gilead, and the elders ask for Jepthah’s help. He says he will after he is promised that he will be made head of the council. Before going into battle, he makes one last vow to God. He promises that if he is granted a victory over his enemies, he will offer the first thing that comes out of his door when he returns home as a sacrifice.

You see where this is going.

StoryOTB082_p207_JephthahMeetsHisDaughterHe and his band of desperadoes win the battle. When he returns home, the first thing to come out and great him is his daughter, “his only child” (Judges 11:34). Jepthah is heart broken! He cannot break his promise to God. Ironically, his daughter does not protest. The only thing she asks for is two months to be alone.

And so, she retreats to the mountains and wails for her virginity. A modern reader of this tale may find this strange that she would want time to mourn for her virginity. It would seem more appropriate that she would mourn her own death. This ancient society, however, puts a huge amount of importance on the woman’s role as child bearer. As Virginia Stem Owens writes, “One was protected forward in time on the catapult of continuing generations.”

When two months had passed, she returned to her father, and he did to her what he had promised. She had not known a man intimately. But she gave rise to a tradition in Israel where for four days every year Israelite daughters would go away to recount the story of the Gileadite, Jephthah’s daughter. (Judges 11:39-40, Common English Bible)

Jephthah’s daughter turned a tragedy into a tradition.

What women in your life have inspired faith traditions for you?

Resources: Owens, Virginia Stem. Daughters of Eve. NavPress, 1995.

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