Saturday, November 29, 2014

All The Saints (part 10)

In addressing this question, it is necessary to revert to the Levitical code.  In the twenty-first chapter of Leviticus, restrictions are placed upon the priesthood, who are those that could serve in the Temple.  Beginning in verse sixteen one reads: “The Lord God spoke to Moses: ‘Tell Aaron, “No man from your descendants throughout their generations who has a physical flaw is to approach to present the food of his God.”’” (Leviticus 21:16-17) 

Notice the use of “present,” which also shows up in the key verse in Colossians that could very well be alluding to the Temple.  Continuing, “Certainly no man who has a physical flaw is to approach: a blind man, or one who is lame, or one with a slit nose, or a limb too long, or a man who has had a broken leg or arm, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or one with a spot in his eye, or a festering eruption, or a feverish rash, or a crushed testicle.  No man from the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a physical flaw may step forward to present the Lord’s gifts; he has a physical flaw, so he must not step forward to present the food of his God.  He may eat both the most holy and the holy food of his God, but he must not go into the veil-canopy or step forward to the altar because he has a physical flaw.  Thus he must not profane My holy places, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (21:18-23). 

Certainly, it is with little difficulty that one can compare the language here with Paul’s insistence that Jesus has presented those that were previously looked upon as completely unworthy, as described here in the Leviticus passage, as “holy, without blemish, and blameless.”  Of course, this is also the language of animals offered in sacrifice, which can lead to an equally valid discussion of the sacrificial nature of the Christian life and of unity in purpose with the one sacrificed. 

However, as the context deals with the inclusion of people under the covenant, the application can and should be here restricted to people and their entrance upon the covenant (their justification).  Importantly, in a period of time in which Gentiles (unholy, blemished, blameless) were not allowed to enter into the Temple proper, Paul is insistent (via Ephesians), that they not only enter into the Temple, but that they are a fundamental component of the Temple of the Creator God itself.   

To effectively make the point about the way of thinking then in play about the entrance of Gentiles into the Temple in the time of Paul, one can once again venture to the book of Acts.  As stated before, though Acts would have been composed after the time of the writing of the letter to Colossians or Ephesians, as a historical work with a deep and abiding theological concern, it does provide relevant information concerning the period, especially in terms of the general attitude of Jews towards Gentiles.  This was well demonstrated by the previous look at chapters thirteen and fifteen of Acts.  For purposes of this study at this point, it is necessary turn to Acts twenty-one. 

Here one finds the story of Paul’s return journey to Jerusalem.  To adequately appreciate the service provided by this chapter to the Temple-related assertion from Colossians, it is necessary to quote it at length.  Beginning in verse seventeen Luke writes, “When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly.  The next day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were there.  When Paul had greeted them, he began to explain in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry” (21:17-19).  

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