On the impossibility of describing God: the weird of Ezekiel

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

Ezekiel may be one of the longer books of the bible, but there are comparatively few readings from his prophecies which occur in the lectionary. Those that do tend to reflect the most straightforward aspects of his message. Right from the beginning, however, Ezekiel draws his listeners in to bizarre descriptions of his visions. Perhaps fortunately for readers and preachers, these are omitted from the Sunday cycle of readings.

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The gift of Wisdom

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

The Book of Wisdom, or the Wisdom of Solomon, is another of those books whose place in the bible is disputed. Like several of the uncontroversially canonical wisdom books, it links itself with the proverbially wise king, Solomon. Unlike them it was written very late, probably a few decades before the time of Jesus. This means that it also offers evidence of the sorts of beliefs that were important to some groups of Jews at the turn of the eras.

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Cultural imperialism and the rebel alliance: 1 & 2 Maccabees

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

Some historical events leave a deep footprint. Alexander the Great’s conquest of much of the world, as known to the people of the Mediterranean at the time, was one such event. While the political empire he established fragmented quickly among his squabbling heirs, the linguistic and cultural empire – an accidental by-product of his victories – lasted centuries longer. Greek became the common language of the ancient Mediterranean world, and Greece’s culture, education and philosophy became the ones to admire.

For some time this was also the case in Jerusalem, many of whose leaders aspired to the Hellenistic city state model. The writer of First Maccabees attributes this primarily to the beginning of the second century BC. He sees it as yet another example of religious and cultural compromise. The leaders seeking cultural assimilation are backed up by the forces and laws of the king, Antiochus Epiphanes, who seems also to have had some delusions of grandeur. The Greek East was much quicker to treat kings or emperors as divine than the Roman West.

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