Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Quick Study Of Herod and His Dynasty

Trace the history of Herod the Great and the Herodians.  What were their major contributions to the history of Judaism and the Jews?  What were their main failures?
            According to most scholars the Herodian dynasty lasted from around 40 B.C through the year 100 A.D. This of course began with the man himself Herod the Great who was the first ruler of the Jewish people after the Hasmoneans. Herod’s father was Antipater II was a man who supported Hyrcanus II, while appointing his son Phasael as governor over Jerusalem and Herod as governor of Galilee.[1] Herod’s rule is usually broken up into three parts consolidation, prosperity, and turbulence. The time of consolidation lasted from around 37 B.C. until the last of the male representatives of the Hasmonean family were gone in 25 B.C.[2] When Herod first came to power he was respected by the Romans and the Jews, however over time he became more and more paranoid and eventually he ended up having numerous people in his family murdered; including his wife and several of his sons.  After the death of Herod the mantle would pass on to three of his sons; Achelaus, Philip the Tetrarch, and Herod Antipas.
            While Herod the Great may have been an evil murder of a man, he was also a great architectural mind. He would build many great things but his crowning achievement would be the Temple in Jerusalem which was completed sixty-seven years after his death. According to Lea and Black, “The temple was redecorated with white marble, gold and jewels and became renowned for its splendor and lavish appearance.”[3] He would go on to make Jerusalem strong again by building or repairing a strong wall around the city, and then create a new harbor city which he called Caesarea after the emperor Caesar.[4] While under Herodain rule there was stability in the land, which was important for Rome because it was a buffer state between them and the Parthians. The Herodian rulers did fall in love with certain aspects of the Hellenistic lifestyle but were aware of Jewish religious sensitivities, which is something Roman rulers lacked and there was unrest in the region under their rule.[5]
            Even though the Herodians may have kept the official heavy hand of Roman rule at bay they were no saints. One of the worst things they could have done was exactly what they did. They were abusing the office of the high priest. This was originally an office established to be passed down through a family line and served in for a lifetime. However, that is not how Herod and other Roman officials saw things. According to Scott, “…they installed and deposed chief priest at their pleasure. Josephus lists twenty-eight different persons who held the office between 37 B.C. and the suppression of the revolt in A.D. 70.”[6]

[1] Criag A.Evans, and Stanley E. Porter,  Dictionary of New Testament Background. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000)485.
[2] Ibid., 486.
[3] Thomas D.Lea, and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003)25.

[4] Ibid., 25.
[5] Bruce M.Metzger, and Michael D. Coogan, . The Oxford Companion to the Bible. (New York: Oxford Press, 1993)284.

[6] J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995)92.

A Brief Discussion of Hellenism

Discuss the origins and influence of Hellenism in Israel during the Intertestamental Period.  Be sure to identify any problems this movement caused for the Jews and describe the Jewish response to these problems.  Which Hellenistic rulers most aggressively tried to influence Jews with Hellenism?  How did Hellenism positively and negatively impact the Jews?  What modern movement parallels the rise of Hellenism?
            For most of us who are studying some form of history when we hear the term Hellenism, I assume it brings to mind the reign of Alexander the Great. He is the person most often associated with the spread of the Hellenistic way of life. In fact that was his goal as he sought to conquer as many lands as possible and make them more Greek. According to Julius Scott, “Alexander deliberately set out spread Greek culture. His army was accompanied by city planners and architects, literary figures and philosophers, biologist and botanists, musicians and actors, and other purveyors of culture.”[1]
            With Hellenism coming into Jewish culture that posed a big problem because for the Jews the way they lived demonstrated their faithfulness to God and their status as his “chosen people.”[2] The Jewish people faced two major crises in the sixth and fourth centuries; one was military and political and the other was cultural. With the rise of Hellenism the way Juduaism was practiced changed dramatically, it went from being a religion built upon the temple and ceremonial worship to a religion of morality and ethics.[3] One of the biggest changes that was noticed is that in this period the temple is no longer the only place to worship because synagogues are becoming more prominent.
            In order for a town to establish a synagogue it need to have at least ten men. Another reaction that took place was a heavy defense of the authority of the Scriptures for their time. Because if they allowed those to be desecrated it would have vast implications on everything they understood about God, life and everything else.
            There were some very different reactions to the rise of Hellenism in the Jewish community. They ranged from those who were willing to completely dessert their Hebrew roots and adopt paganism even if it meant hurting their own people and culture.[4]  Scott emphasizes that,
At the other extreme were those who, like the original Maccabees, fought against the incursion of the new, or at least parts of it. Between the extremes were those who withstood but without violence, resorting to passive resistance or apathy toward Hellenism. Some groups and individuals seem to have emphasized, or maybe overemphasized, Hebraic distinctive against Greek influence. Hellenist Judaism represents the road of compromise, the attempt to be both a part of the new world order and a loyal Jew at the same time.[5]

Antiochus IV was more determined than some other that Judea was going to become Hellenized one way or another. The spread of Hellenism allowed the Jews to become more involved in trade because of the use of a common language throughout the region. It also allowed the books of the OT to be translated into Greek which would allow for the possibility of more proselytes.
            The only movement that I can think of for this time frame that would be anything like Hellenism would be Islam; I say that because of the way the laws are enforced and how when it consumes a region it changes everything around it.

[1] J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995)112.
[2] Ibid., 118.
[3] Ibid., 122.
[4] Ibid., 145.
[5] Ibid., 145.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review of Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission

This book was a little slow for me. There were times it was hard to get into but once I got going I found the book to very informative and was even able to use it to quote in a recent sermon. This is not a book I would recommend to a new convert, or a young Christian. However, if one is eating meat than this book is well worth the look. It is not a fully exegetical look at 1 Peter but uses it as a guide in how it breaks up the material. They make a great point about suffering in this life and how far to often people expect life to be full of warm fuzzies and ice cream. According to Chester and Timmis, "Rather than assume we should have a voice in the media or on Main Street, we need to regain the sense that anything other than persecution is an unexpected bonus,"(pg35). This work is full of great quotes and I would recommend you check it out.

I was given a free copy of this work from Crossway in exchange for my fair and honest review and did not have to give a positive review.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Review of Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

          Pastor Tim Keller became more recognized for his work after publishing The Reason for God. It was with this work I became acquainted with him, and have enjoyed his material ever since. When we look at the work for the freedom of self-forgetfulness we can say this is awfully short to be a book. What it was originally was a sermon that was transcribed and made into a book that is merely 46 pages long. The work is easy to read and delight to your heart if you ingest what the pastor is trying to gently serve you.
            In our culture we want to be the top dog. Most people in the secular world have no qualms about stepping on the next guy to get a leg up. What lies at the root of all this is pride; no matter what form it may try and take. And pride has the tendency to make us think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. Surprisingly though Keller tells us that it runs both ways when he says,

“A superiority complex and an inferiority complex are basically the same. They are both results of being overinflated. The person with the superiority complex is overinflated and in danger of being deflated; the person with an inferiority complex is deflated already. Someone with an inferiority complex will tell you they hate themselves and they will tell themselves they hate themselves. They are deflated. To be deflated means you were previously inflated. Deflated or in imminent danger of being deflated—it is all the same thing. And it makes the ego fragile.”(21)

          This rings so true for most of the people I know who are worldly and even some Christians. We do have an answer and it lies in Scripture, we are not to think of ourselves to highly. Keller goes on to say, “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking of myself more or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”(32) Take a moment and think about that last thought. It hit home for me to remember to put the needs of others before my own. Just a Jesus Christ put us before Himself to be able to draw us near to him.
            This is a great little book; I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to feel closer to Jesus, because you will stop worrying about yourself and more about Him.

Live Long, Pray Hard, Die Well!