Archive for the ‘Jeff Meyers’ Category

Chiasms in James

Hopefully, my commentary on James will be out later this year. But here are a few chiasms for your consideration. I think the James 5 chiasm orginally came from Doug Jordan.

The entire book of James is focused on how the pastors and leaders (“brothers”) of the church use their tongues.

The Whole Book

A. 1:2-8 – Trials, faith, steadfastness
  B. 1:9-27 – Suffering, patience, etc.
    C. 2:1-7 – Rich and “the poor man”
      D. 2:8-13 – Love, liberty, and mercy
        E. 2:14-26 – Justification [dikaio] & works
          F. 3:1-12 – The tongue
        E’ 3:13-18 – Righteousness [dikaiosune], Wisdom, & works
      D’ 4:1-12 – The members at war
    C’ 4:13-5:6 – Rich & “the righteous one”
  B’ 5:7-18 – Suffering, patience, coming judgment, fruit, etc.
A’ 5:19-21 – Wandering, sin, death

James 5:1-18
  A. 5: 7-8 – be patient, as a farmer waiting for rain, fruit of the earth
    B. 5: 9 – do not grumble against each other
      C. 5:10-11- prophets/Job example of suffering, v10 “name of the Lord”
        D. 5:12 – above all, do not swear
      C’ 5:13-15 – how to deal with suffering, v14 “name of the Lord”
    B’ 5:16 – confess your sins to one another and pray for one another
  A’ 5:17-18 – pray, as Elijah prayed for rain, earth bore its fruit

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There is a scene in Prince Caspian, the second in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia that helps explain why it is we have four Gospels, that is four accounts of the Good News of Jesus Christ—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is the account of Lucy’s longed-for experience of Aslan, the Lion, remember, who symbolizes Christ in these stories. Finally, Aslan appears to Lucy.

The Great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large, wise face.
“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” he answered.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.

This is a form of the old scholastic maxim adaequatio rei et intellectus—”the understanding of the knower must be adequate to the thing known.”

Thomas Aquinas put it this way: “Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the one receiving it.”

This “adaequatio” principle can be applied to our understanding of Jesus Christ. But not only is this true of individuals, but it is true of the church as a whole.


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Nobody posted anything today, so I may as well continue my reflections on the parables. I’ve had a busy day today, but I have about an hour of free time while the rest of the family watches Lost. I’m almost finished with the end of the third season, but not quite. By next week I should be caught up.

In my first post I noted that the parables of Jesus were not simply illustrative stories. They are really nothing like the kind of simple, homely illustrations that preachers often use to explain difficult concepts to their congregations. Just to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with illustrating one’s sermonic statements. Nothing at all. That’s just not what the parables of Jesus are. Parables are more mysterious than that.

The meaning of the word “parable” is somewhat elastic in the Scriptures. The word “parable” refers to a teaching device whereby two things are compared. It can refer to proverbs, wisdom oracles, fables, allegories, riddles, and even dark enigmatic sayings. We have to determine its meaning from its usage.

When the word appears on Jesus lips, it already has a frame of reference, a history. What might that be? The Hebrew Scriptures. The few examples of “parables” (mashal) in the old creation are very revealing.


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Once a upon a time, one Sunday morning, a pastor mounted his pulpit for the sermon and said the following:

A troubled young man walked into a downtown high-rise building. As he approached the directory on the wall, he took out a small booklet and looked back and forth from the booklet to the directory. Satisfied, he moved over to the elevators and waited so he could enter one by himself.

When an empty elevator opened, he entered and punched four buttons: 9, 35, 42, 46.

When the door opened on the 9th floor, he leaned out of the elevator and looked around. The floor appeared to be empty. He could hear many people talking, but could make no sense of the words. And the level didn’t seem to have a solid floor. Vertigo seized him when he looked down. He ducked back into the elevator and rose to the next stop.

Poking his head out again on the 35th floor he saw frenetic activity: people running, jumping, and moving the human body in every conceivable way. The confusion of colors and the noise of huge crowds made his head spin. So he allowed the door to close and punched button number 42.


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Mediated Authority

A few years back I read Lesslie Newbigin’s little book Truth and Authority in Modernity (Trinity Press, 1996). I was particularly impressed with his argument in chapter 2 “The Mediation of Divine Authority.” Now, maybe this is old hat to many of you, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put quite this way. The question concerns the kind of authority that modern people demand as justification for religious truth.

First, he asks about the intention of Jesus for the future of the Church, specifically the mediation of his authority to future generations. He identifies three important indications of Jesus’ intention: 1) He chose, called, and prepared a company of people to mediate his authority; 2) to them he entrusted his teaching; and 3) he promised them the gift of the Spirit to guide them in matters that were beyond their present horizons.


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Baptism is not Christian circumcision. There’s a lot of loose talk to that effect in Presbyterian circles; but it’s not accurate. The old world rite of circumcision was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism unites us to Christ and therefore makes us participate in the circumcision of Christ. Baptism is not, however, the new world equivalent or fulfillment of circumcision. The death and resurrection of Christ is.

Colossians 2, the only text that comes close to linking circumcision and baptism, actually links circumcision with the cross and resurrection of Christ. According to Colossians 2:8-13,

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by the putting off of the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your tresspasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him. . .

Baptism unites us to Christ so that we can be said to have died and to have risen with him. But the dying and rising of the flesh of Christ is the circumcision of humanity’s flesh.


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Most modern scholars recognize that behind Arius’s campaign to differentiate Jesus from God was the Hellenistic theological conviction that the high God cannot suffer. Rowan Williams argues that Arius had the right idea about divine suffering, but the wrong idea of God, which “puts the unavoidable question of what the respective schemes in the long term make possible for theology.” One must honestly admit, according to Williams, the “odd conclusion that the Nicene fathers achieved not only more than they knew but a good deal more than they wanted.” (Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition [London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 198]), p. 22). Now, what does that mean?

The Arians recognized the importance of the genuine sufferings and death of Christ as God. R.P.C. Hanson notes that “at the heart of the Arian Gospel was a God who suffered” (The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381 [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988], p. 121). Unfortunately, they would not (or could not) go the whole way with this insight because they too were under the control of the Greek philosophical impassability axiom. The Arians argued that God must have suffered in Christ, but only a god whose divinity was somehow reduced could suffer. Therefore, the Son was god (theos), but not the one high and immutable God (o theos). He was something of a demigod: created by the high God, but not of the same substance or being as the impassible God.

Although Hanson praises the Arians for not “shying away from the scandal of the cross,” in fact, their own theological program was its own attempt to explain away the scandal of the crucified God. If the Nicene theologians, as Rowan Williams argues, did not fully understand the implications of contending for the homoousios of the Father and Son, they nevertheless rightly emphasized the unity of the one Lord Jesus Christ in such a way that eventually the question of God’s participation in the suffering and death of Jesus would have to be addressed.

We’re still addressing this issue. Many Christians are uncomfortable with affirming that God the Son experienced death as a man (the theopaschite formula). They feel the need to distance God from the suffering of the man Jesus. This is a huge mistake. It’s pretty close to Peter insisting that what Jesus had said about his suffering and death in Jerusalem would “never happen” to him (Matt. 16:22). Jesus pushes Peter aside as a Satan, saying that he does not have “his mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (16:23). Indeed.

God the Son lived as a man, suffered, and experienced death. There is no Gospel if this is not the case.

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. . . and the whole thing gets muddled. The words we traditionally use to translate Hebrew terms in the “sacrificial” system are confusing and often convey the wrong ideas. If we are going to understand Leviticus and the old world system of sacrifices and offerings, the first thing we have to do is get the words right.

This was brought home to me again this past week at the AAPC lectures. Peter Leithart spoke on the “purification offering.” But, in fact, it’s really not an “offering” at all. And I don’t believe”purification” really best translates the meaning of the Hebrew term. I highly recommend Peter’s lecture. But even he could not avoid talking about all of the rituals in Leviticus 1 as “offerings.” It’s ingrained in us. It’s very hard to overcome. Let’s talk about it.

We use English words to translate some of the Hebrew terms in Leviticus that are not helpful, but are in fact loaded with all sorts of unfortunate connotations. The book of Leviticus is a book of rituals (mostly) and the Hebrew terms used are extremely precise. I believe our Bible translations make these rituals obscure because of traditional, but inappropriate designations.


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I’ll start things off here. This year I’m preaching through the Gospel according to St. Luke. Over the past ten years I’ve preached through the Gospel according to St. Mark, St. John, and St. Matthew (in that order) in our morning services at Providence. It’s been eye-opening for me; and I hope also for my parishioners.

Right up front, the prophetic songs of Mary and Zechariah have forced me to rethink some deeply ingrained presuppositions. Zechariah sings about being “saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” (1:71) and “being delivered from the hand of our enemies” (1:74). But who are these enemies? It’s common to say that Zechariah speaks for the Jews and that their enemies are the Romans. The Romans, we are then told, occupy the land of Israel. They are oppressive and cruel. But is that right? It doesn’t seem correct to me.


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