Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rachel’s Riddle- Pt. 2

Having covered Rachel’s misrepresentation of menstruation in the previous post, let’s move on to the actual Mense discharge (Leviticus 15: 19-24).

Now this actual Mense period was a period of uncleanness which appears to have been accounted as seven days.  As seven days regardless of how long the discharge actually lasted… but as mentioned, this duration is also disputed.

In the Jewish Encyclopedia  we see that the original time period was only seven days- but that later on it was extended to seven days past the period:
     The Pentateuchal code (Lev. xv. 19 et seq.) ordains that a menstruous woman shall be unclean for seven days from the beginning of the period, whether it lasts only one day or all seven.
These laws, however, have been extended in many ways and made more onerous, both by rabbinical traditions and interpretations and by customs…

R.T. France also asserts this phenomena in his Commentary on Matthew (pg. 450)-
". . . this voluntary making of the yoke as heavy as
possible, the taking on themselves as many obligations as
possible, was the ideal of Rabbinic piety."

A piety that is seen to be developing following the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Developing during the reconstruction of The Temple (2nd Temple Judaism of the 5th century B.C.).  A temple deprived of The Tabernacle. 

A false piety that continued to be developed by the Pharisees in the time of Jesus.  A piety developed by a people deprived of The Tabernacle.  A people deprived of a solution to their sin.  A people deprived of Grace.

And we often see this evolution of piety in the manuscripts of that period of deprivation.  We see this evolution in the less ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the O.T. An evolution which is evident in places like Exodus 19:15 and 1 Samuel 21:5- where the period of sexual abstinence was extended from 1 day to 3 days (KJV).  An evolution which was to be rejected by the New King James and later versions based on earlier and better manuscripts.

But back to the earliest text on Menses, it appears that a man may in fact touch his wife during this period and  only be unclean until evening .  However, he may not touch her in a “lying” sense (v. 24).  In essence, He may not touch her in a way that her menstrual impurity is upon his manhood (a loophole that Jews naturally enjoy operating around).  Blood being the operative factor here, of course. 

And if he actually does touch her in a “lying” sense?  Well, no sin offering is demanded since it isn’t a sin- yet he shall be unclean for seven days.  

“So what”, you ask?  

Well, apart from the hazard of contracting (and spreading) hygienic uncleanness by entering ‘her bloody tabernacle’ there was a far greater hazard… the hazard of entering The Holy Tabernacle unclean. 

In that chapter we see that the "unclean man" was commanded NOT to enter The Holy Tabernacle for those seven days. Using stronger language, he is not permitted todefile The Tabernacle with his uncleanness” (v. 31)!  The Tabernacle that he was expected to enter for various feasts 3 times per year (Exodus 23:14).  An expectation that was largely regarded metaphorically by geographically ‘distant Jews’. 

Yet these physical offerings and The Tabernacle are now long gone and irrelevant (Jer. 3:16).  Gone since The Tabernacle disappeared soon after Jeremiah’s ministry.  Disappeared after the destruction of Jerusalem in the 6th century  B.C. by the Babylonians.  And The Tabernacle became increasingly irrelevant after the fulfillment of numerous aspects of that prophecy cited by Jeremiah. 

The physical offerings of the Jews were then substantially diminished- since there was no place to offer them.   And these physical offerings were also quite irrelevant because the physical Mercy Seat (strangely called a Propitiation Seat in the Douay-Rheims version) was gone.

The offerings were quite irrelevant even with the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah in the following century.    Quite lacking mention when “both Judah and Israel” were cited to call Jerusalem “The Throne of the LORD”.   And quite lacking mention in the account of the 'Holy Vessels Restored' in Ezra 1 as well.

Indeed, The Ark of The Covenant was out of sight and “hardly came to mind” until a time of reformation (Heb. 9:10).  Until Christ appeared as The Mercy Seat.    Until Christ ushered in “the greater and more perfect tabernacle” (v. 11).  

A tabernacle that was ushered in with His blood (v. 14).  A tabernacle that we are now welcomed to enter into at all times.  Enter into both physically and metaphysically.

A tabernacle that was prophesied to be 'in the foreground. by Jeremiah.  And indeed- has very much moved to the foreground in the time of Christ.

So why would Rachel attempt to return to the background when the foreground is clearly here?  When numerous prophets in the background instruct us to clearly leave this background behind?  

An instruction also affirmed by Jesus. Affirmed when Jesus instructs us to leave those sacrifices behind.  When He refers back to Hosea 6:6 (see the NET study note) and says, “go and learn awhat this means, b'I desire 1compassion, 2and not sacrifice,'  (Mat 9:13 NASB)

Yet perhaps this is what Rachel was trying to learn in her retro mission. 

Was trying to empathize with the [misguided] sacrifices of the past.  Was trying to learn where the compassion is in not having sex for 12 [or 13 by some rabbi reckoning] days in a row.   Where the compassion is in not having sex for 'months' following childbirth (Lev. 12).   

So it appears to me that the operative reason that this abstinence is demanded is (as Jesus affirmed) for "compassion" reasons.   That the reason for at least 1 [or 3 if you prefer the less ancient manuscripts] day of abstinence prior to entering The Tabernacle is to enhance the passion.  An abstinence to be met with a far greater euphoria from The Mercy Seat.  A euphoria which would be dulled by a lack of abstinence.

So, getting back to Rachel’s now qualified riddle, What Hath Men to do with actual Menses?

Well, whatever learned Men wish to do with Menses.

As presented in the previous post,hygiene remains a factor (and is the only factor that present-day Jews seem to consider)- yet is far less of a factor than in the past. However, as covered in this post- “defiling the Tabernacle” is no longer a factor (since any sex might then be considered as defiling the 'indwelling' tabernacle).

And in fact, in a not-too-obscure metaphorical sense- entering into this ‘bloody tabernacle’ of women may now be seen as a celebration.  A celebration of the bloody tabernacle which we may now enter into at all times… the tabernacle of Christ.  
A celebration which may be just a distant memory for some of us older folks.  Yet a celebration which may be a present reality for many younger folks. 
A celebration which it appears a much younger Rachel may yet celebrate… if she wasn’t so “unlearned” in compassion and so obsessed with sacrifice.

I hope this post has ‘advanced the discussion’ for Rachel.  Has opened a tabernacle for Rachel.

Does this appear “more loving”, Rachel?  Or am I lacking in compassion?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Riddle of Rachel- Pt. 1

Rachel Held Evans seems to be creating quite a stir recently.  Rachel has been the object of some controversy with the large Christian retail chain- LifeWay. And has enjoyed considerable notoriety by misrepresenting them.  

She has also been the object of a great deal of amusement and ridicule in the Christian as well as the secular media.  And, I like amusing… so let’s address this riddle of Rachel.  Indeed, let’s have some fun and hold up this enigma of Rachel Held Evans for examination.

Now, Rachel appears to have been on some sort of a mission for her latest book.  She appears to have been challenged to assess various O.T. laws for her book.  To assess laws particular to women. 

Assessing them by slavishly practicing them for a year.  To see if there was any redeeming value to those laws.
And according to a recent interview on national radio  Rachel didn’t appear to find those laws all that redeeming or even pointing to a Redeemer.  And naturally, the non-Christian interviewer seemed only interested in the titillating aspects of her mission.  Interested in her hypocrisy as well as her dubious reasons for actually continuing to be a Christian.

Yet, Rachel seemed more interested in speaking of her ‘placing of God on trial’.   Speaking of her upholding the ‘onerous’ sexual cleanliness laws for a year.  Of not having sex with her husband for “12 days straight”/menstrual cycle as per Leviticus 15.  Of living in an ‘isolation tent’ and of travelling with a ‘butt isolator’ during this period.

Seemed more interested in speaking of the ‘terrible loneliness and embarrassment’ that she experienced during that part of her cycle.  Loneliness and embarrassment because she wanted to put the LORD to the test (and no doubt tested her husband’s fidelity as well).  

A test of ancient “feminine rules and roles”.  A test that appears to have yielded no answers to her feminist riddle.  And a test that just seemed to accelerate Rachel’s anti-patriarchal diatribe.

But Rachel’s feminism should hardly be so hostile to the patriarchs. Should hardly be so hostile to the Jewish patriarchal system, since it actually is a system with a strong bent toward patronizing women!  A far less hostile system than the expanding Sharia system.  And a far friendlier system than her feminism.  

But let’s only address one aspect of Rachel’s specific riddle here.  Let’s avoid the roles and focus on the rules in question.   Let’s address her riddle regarding the ‘redeeming value’ of those ancient menstrual laws.  And only address this aspect because I have already addressed them as ‘pointing to a redeemer here .

And let’s get beyond a rather shallow interpretation of those laws.  Let’s see if we can advance the discussion as Rachel actually requested.  Examine the text of Leviticus 15 a little better. And examine the context a little better.

Let's advance the discussion with an internally consistent interpretation. A comprehensive interpretation less intimidating, less embarrassing and far more redeeming than Rachel’s.  Something far more God glorifying than Rachel seems to have discovered. Advance the discussion with something that Rachel was ‘unable to discover’ in her current lamentations.  Advance this with an interpretation that radiates something considerably “more loving”- as was her want.

So, at the risk of seeming heretical, let’s consider quite a different interpretation.  An interpretation contrary to that of Orthodox Jewish tradition.  Indeed, an interpretation quite contrary to those overzealous Pharisees who promoted similarly unlawful stuff.  Who promoted unlawful stuff like Corban (Mark 7:11, 12) and ‘neglected the weightier provisions of the law’ (Matt. 23:23). 

And let’s name and frame this riddle of Rachel’s.  Let’s name this riddle as Rachel might like to name this riddle.  Let’s name this riddle, ‘What hath Men to do with Menses?’

And let’s see if we can frame it positively. Frame it as promoting healthiness and holiness rather than framing it as Cleansing Unhealthiness as NASB has unfortunately titled this chapter.  Frame it as “more loving” rather than “less unloving”.

But first, allow me to inform our readers- that men were also subject to the same admonitions in this Levitical text.   Rachel is just starting with the text that she thinks applies to her.  Rachel starts in the middle of this text rather than the beginning of this text.  Again, this admonition was not exclusive to women.   

This text starts by claiming that men are “unclean” due to a “bodily discharge”.    
 And insists that men were unclean for seven days following the cessation of their “bodily discharge”.  Not only that, but men were also instructed to offer a “Sin Offering and a Burnt Offering” following this period.  And that women were to keep their hands off their men during this period (v.7).  So quit yer’ whining about discrimination there, girls.  Guys have to follow the same rules.

Yet the text progresses to something quite different happening with respect to “seminal emission” (Lev. 15:16).  Regardless of whether this seminal emission is voluntary or involuntary (wet dreams are also covered in Deut. 23:10).   In this text it seems that “seminal emission” is in a distinctly different category than this “bodily discharge” alluded to in verse 3.

It seems that the period of uncleanness for “seminal emission” is only until the following evening.  And not only that, but no offering is required for this “seminal emission”.  Again, “seminal emission” is NOT like the distinctly different discharge alluded to previously.

And this distinctly different discharge applies to women as well.  As this text progresses there is clearly some distinction regarding a discharge of blood “NOT at the period of her menstrual impurity”.  A distinction of “a discharge BEYOND that period”.   That for this distinctly different discharge “she shall continue AS THOUGH in her menstrual impurity” (v. 25).  And it is for this distinctly different discharge for which an offering IS required.  Again, we see distinctly different categories being addressed here.  

Distinctions which are strangely not being observed by Orthodox Jews or by Rachel.  And as we shall see, they seem to be observing radically different time periods as well.  

Anyway, as regards the discharge- what might that distinctly different discharge be?

Well, the text suggests that internal (poop) as well as external (puss) discharges could possibly be in mind here (v.3).  With this euphemistic text even being so bold as to mention “spit” (v.8).  And these discharges are distinctly different- yet it is highly unlikely for this text to be speaking of such innocuous discharges… especially following such an extensive text speaking of something as serious as leprosy.  

And unlikely since it is understood from this text that the man is only required to wash in the evening for a “seminal discharge”.  Quite unlikely that a man would be considered unclean for seven days following a pee.   And unlikely since the man would soon be bankrupted by bowel movements.  And bankrupted much more quickly by providing offerings for his wife’s movements (they go to the washroom about 30% more). 

Remember also, that a Sin Offering and a Burnt Offering is in order here. So something else must be in mind here. Something of a less innocuous dischargesome kind of sinful discharge.  

And something of a less innocuous discharge for women as well.  A discharge of far greater import.  Something of debilitating import.    

Something of far greater import like STD discharges.  Discharges which were even prevalent during this Levitical period.   Discharges as historian-Morton relates were of far greater import, like “destructive ulcers” and “morbid outgrowths” exuding “genital excresences”.  
Excresences which are contagious and debilitating.  Excresences that read like a WHMIS label. Excresences causing blindness, infertility and death.  Unhealthy stuff.
Excresences derived from unfaithfulness to one’s sexual partner.  Excresences of infidelity.  Excresences common to a licentious and polygamous culture.  Unholy stuff. 
Excresences of sinful import. 

Import requiring a Sin Offering for the cleansing of self and a Burnt Offering to make atonement with God.
Offerings promoting repentance.  Offerings promoting faithfulness.  Offerings promoting something “very loving”.  Offerings in which God continues to say, 

For aI desire steadfast love1 and not sacrifice, bthe knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”-Hos 6:6 ESV.

For God is the author of faithfulness.  The standard of fidelity. 

The standard of Love that we are to imitate.  The background of Rachel’s riddle.
The background which we shall bring to the foreground.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beauty in Submission- pt.3

Offended by the above picture? Offended by a male usurping the role of breastfeeding?  

Seems the La Leche League is offended too.  Won’t let him become a leader of their breastfeeding League, despite his whining.  Whining like a girl… cuz he actually is a girl. 

Actually a gender bender.  Actually a transgendered woman.  

A woman whose “breasts aren’t big enough for latching anymore”.  And whose hormone supplements has messed up her internal milk production.  So she has to supplement her minimized mammaries with an external tube now.  Feed her child with another mother’s milk. 

A pity that she can’t have the best of both worlds. Let’s have a pity party.

And that’s just what the gender benders want- the best of both worlds.  But as we can see, it simply doesn’t work all that well.  It is an idealism of mythical proportions.  It is simply NOT pragmatic.  

Now I had mentioned earlier of a similar hypocrisy from Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) - that they want the best of both worlds as well.  But that simply isn’t possible.  And they really wouldn’t want it even if it were possible. 

CBE would not really want to promote equal custody of children.  And would certainly not want to promote equal custody of un-weaned infants.   It would be an affront to their mammaries as well as their memories.   

You see, CBE recognizes the traditional value of role playing as well.  They realize that perfect equality is simply not possible physically. 

And women generally recognize that there is some distinct metaphysical difference as well.  Generally recognize that there is some debilitating sort of spiritual disposition (“desire”) that women continue to be bound by (Gen. 3:16).    Although they find that admitting such a predisposition is “frankly soul crushing”.  

And what about non-Christian egalitarians?  Well, they are hypocrites too.  They wouldn’t know what to do with absolute equality on a good day- let alone a bad day. 

Pragmatically speaking, do you think that they would always grant their ‘significant others’ a 50% vote in the home?  A 50% vote outside of the home?  In the garage? In the bedroom? Whether to have a job or not?  Whether to have children or not? Whether to abort their fetus or not? 
Indeed, they also recognize that an equal vote simply doesn’t work in many cases.  Too many stalemates with their mates.  Too little life and too little love.

Equality is simply not a viable option.  Not in the womb and not in the tomb… but it sure is fun to pretend, huh?  Pretend that that a female can actually be a male.

But we started this series merely talking of Christian ministry, right?  Where Christian women are merely seeking ‘equal opportunity in the church’, right?  Equal opportunity to ‘minister’, right? 

Yet opportunity was never the issue… authority was always the issue.    And as BADG and Mounce claim, there actually is an authority structure in the biblical church…  and Elders are that biblical authority. 

Elders are that headship in the church.  And as Waltke essentially says, ‘Elders have never been women and may not be women’ [or transgendered women for that matter].  And Waltke insists that women remain bound by a certain heirarchy. 

Bound by the word of God in their walk.
Bound by their fathers in their youth.
Bound by their husbands in their marriage.
And somewhat bound by the Elders in their church.  Somewhat bound to the extent that they may be removed from that particular church.   

Now, it is my understanding that women may indeed be ordained with the keys of a certain kingdom by their church elders.  May indeed be ordained to “bind and loose” sin and Satan (Matt. 16:19) with the preaching of the gospel.  May indeed be ordained to preach the gospel of that particular church (yet, how many Sunday school teachers are ordained?).  But as Matthew Henry comments on this Matthean verse, ordained and endorsed “only if they turn the key the right way”. 

Now to show this binding hierarchy, let’s have a look at that often neglected passage that Waltke brought up in our last post.  Let’s look at Numbers 30.  Words that “the LORD has commanded” (v.1). 
Words that I do not see abrogated this side of The Cross.  Yet words that CBE seems to think that Galatians 3:28 abrogates [this verse is actually only referring to salvation].

So, in Numbers 30 we see that a woman’s authority is restricted by her most immediate priest.  Bound by her father in her youth and later bound by her husband in her marriage.   And her authority is restricted not only by her husband inside her marriage, but surprisingly also by her husband OUTSIDE of her marriage (“when she becomes a widow or is divorced”- v. 9). 

So having lower church Elders ordain a woman for “lifetime service” [as we mentioned CMA now endorsing] is rather problematic, isn't it?    

Problematic since this is a temporal service subject to change.  Subject not only to a higher biblical authority (scripture, father, or husband) but also subject to the key being turned the right way.

It is like an enclave of Cardinals electing and binding a pope for “lifetime service”.  Yet- we know that many popes turned the alleged ‘keys of Peter’ the wrong way. Many popes became mad with power, became heretics, abdicated and were also deposed.  Their “lifetime service” was considerably less than “lifetime”.

But in this peculiar age of enlightenment and entitlement- women complain that submitting to a ‘higher biblical authority is “oppressive”.  Yet, what we can see from this Numbers passage- is that submitting can actually be quite liberating.

Indeed, submission to a ‘higher biblical authority’ can actually liberate women of various problems.  As Numbers 30 says, liberate women of various problems caused by “loose lips” (v. 6, 8,). 

Can liberate women from oppressive vows or obligations (v. 7, 10) that they might “rashly” make. Might rashly make because they are predisposed to “desire” (Gen. 3:16), “gullibility” (1 Timothy 2:14), “weakness” and “fear” (1 Peter 3:6, 7).

Submission can liberate women of an oppressive ordination.  Can liberate women from an oppressive servitude (the Old Testament insists on the liberation of slaves).  Liberate women from an oppressive organization or even an oppressive church. 

And can bring her under the care and control of a loving priest.  A priest who is physically and metaphysically ‘closer than a brother’.  A priest who can “annul” those rash vows (v. 8, 12).  A priest who loves her enough to “bear her guilt” (v. 15).   “And the LORD will forgive her” (v. 5, 8, 12).

And can you beat forgiveness?  Beat that liberation?

Beautiful, huh?  Beautiful submission.
The submission that Christ exemplified on the cross.  

Go and do likewise.