Yeah I’m sure plenty did… but Jesus seems to indicate that those leading them in his day had lost the forest for the trees; as per those verses I mentioned, and plenty of others I’m sure you could draw to mind. Sacrifice and burnt offerings had their place and by rote easy enough to perform but were no replacement for heart-felt reform in terms of their extended charity to their own and or those beyond… something Israel’s leaders were short on showing or doing.
Since we are talking about the Levites and Israelits. And to salute, all the Levite “experts” here:
We first need a Jewish article:
An encyclopedia article:
With an interesting sentence, that caught my eye:
The process by which the Levites came to fulfill their function as assistants to the Aaronic priesthood is the subject of much scholarly debate.
Maybe I’m missing something, in this “Levite” discussion. We are not really talking theology, are we? We are talking about what the Bible scholars… and history and archaeological scholars… tell us what the Levites, are all about.
Now for an appropriate song!
Yes, I fully agree that they often failed to do Jesus’ interpretation of “what the law was meant to do” (the “extended charity” or “justice & love” you cite, and which I summarized as the great commandment), and fell into rote obedience instead of “heartfelt reform” as constituting righteousness on their part.
My only caveat was that I sympathized with LLC’s perception that some of the apparently legalistic and external nature of the written code (that she baldly interprets as contrary to God’s real priorities) helps me understand why Jews would miss the premium that Jesus and Paul recognized as being put on “extending charity” to all, and think they were doing pretty good in observing numerous commanded ordinances even when their heart was not all that reformed. Thus, even a bright observer like Paul can testify that despite having little charity toward the lawbreaking folk beyond, he felt blameless according to the law (and confess that he now see that the coveting command was a killer, perhaps since keeping its’ non external nature involves a reformed heart).
For it seems that it took figures like Jesus and Paul who explicitly emphasized the calling to “love” in a way the OT seldom does, and reinterpreted or treated many external laws dismissively (leading to seeing many of what LLC regards as bad “seeds” as not needing observance at all), before even we could recognize what Jesus regards as the “weightier matters” of love as truly what “the law was meant to do.” But if I was a first century Jew, I would have read the text as saying that the minutiae of external rules and sacrificial details is “what the law was meant to do.”
What I try to do, is to balance the Eastern Orthodox position - of light and grace…with how others, can tap into - that light and grace.
Well, the Quakers got it right - with the inner light
But the Eastern Orthodox have a fuller view…with God’s energies and essence.
But there are some groups - outside of Christianity - that tap into this well. Like:
And perhaps someday, like Roman Catholic priest Richard Rohr - might allude to…They discover that the Cosmic Christ (the Christ of John’s gospel or the eternal Logos)…is the source, of the divine light.
Thanks HF, good article.
History already tells us what the Levites were all about. Their ways brought death and destruction to Israel.
Bob, I believe the situation was something more than this. It was a power struggle between men and God. You can see in the Old Testament where Moses is building a kingdom according to God. However, there seems to be a lot of opposition from the start. According to Numbers 16, Korah and many other men of renown " gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?”
No. They were not all holy. The holiness of this new kingdom was based on REAL holiness- don’t murder, steal cheat, lie, covet etc.etc. and love others as you love yourselves. The Levites and their followers wanted to continue in the ways of the world. Kings, priests and rulers were such because their fathers were kings and priests, they were wealthy, had friends in high places, or for whatever other reason.
This was not going to fly with Moses. Exodus 18:21 " select from all the people, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers…"
What this meant for many of these men was a loss of position, power etc. There was not going to be a family legacy or a name for yourself, but instead a name for God.
I believe the texts of the first five books of Moses are blended together as if they are the testimony of one faith. However, they were at one time separate. It seems odd to me that the Law Abraham was following is missing. From what’s written it was basically the Ten and the Golden Rule.
In Deut. 17:18 the rule for kings says, "also it shall be when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that the shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests. Where is this law that came before the priests?
According to Kings 8:9 :There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. Maybe there is lack of earlier writings because they were lost for various reasons and the Lev. law became the dominant belief. However, the books of Psalms, Proverbs, the prophets, etc.etc. do show the love of God for His people.
I think this calling to “love” was actually there in the OT and in Jesus was being renewed in his calling of Israel back to it in very real and practical terms…
Deut 10:16-19 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Such actions then on Israel’s part could avert otherwise impending judgement, of which the likes of Jesus and Paul gave prophetic voice…
Jer 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
And that is the rub, In my estimation, God was ‘changing’ or working through time (history) to usher people to a different place. Israel represented a basic first look at what God wanted and then as time progressed, the prophets evangelized, and then Christ came. So yes the Jews would see what you said Bob but God was all about as Bob Dylan said ‘The times they are a changing’
Davo and LLC,
I come from a different angle. You both appear united in theorizing from the OT text your two options as to how Israel got historically off track. (But regardless of how Israel developed, my own focus was on what first century Jews would perceive in the completed text it had received). LLC is creative, having a more skeptical view of the narratives’ reliability. But you both insist enduring core ideas were given to Israel, that Jesus continues to promote and critique them concerning.
Davo epitomizes this by arguing that Israel is essentially calling Israel back to the love for others that was “actually there in the OT.” But my minority NT reading is that this minimizes how radical Jesus was in appearing to call for a reversal of what most Jews understood that their text’s narrative reinforced
For sure, (in addition to prophets’ recognition of a heart problem), the term love gets mentioned (loving neighbors defined as fellow Jews is tucked amid Leviticus’ focus on external trivia, and a call.to love the stranger does appear. So Jesus is justified in picking up on this strand, and I like that he and Paul (like some of the prophets) argue that this embrace of others’ welfare is what actually fulfills the intent of the law.
But my sense is that these notes do not compare to the kind of emphasis every apostle expressly writes that love is the whole law, and loving others fulfills it all. And my sense is that it is no wonder that Jews who saw so many rules about external restrictions, ordinances, punishments and sacrifices, concluded that this Jesus influenced interpretation was blasphemous nuts that obliterated what the Law actually spent reams demanding.
They saw that Jesus boldly talked as if the particulars of many laws could be blatantly ignored. Go ahead and “work” on the Sabbath, touch and embrace the unclean, argue that the food laws are nonsense as to what defiles a life, and fail to excoriate sinners who obliterated such laws of God. And amid a tradition that celebrated God’s repeated enablement to violently exterminate Israel’s unrighteous enemies, the call to love them, seemed off the rails.
I.e. Jesus’ emphasis and view of love’s nature appeared to be an unbiblical non-starter. Thus for we AD folk influenced by Jesus’ provocative challenge and emphasis to look down on his Jewish audience’s difficulty seems like a cheap shot.
Thanks Bob… we’re really not so far apart
Bob, I agree that loving others as ourselves is the whole Law, and this means many things. However, I think you underestimate what the Lev. law was all about. To me, it was similar to the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, a means of power and control hidden behind the veil of holiness.
I don’t see Jesus’ teachings as all that radical. People have been preaching the New Testament for years now. We all know the words and they knew them too. For since the beginning of creation God’s attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. People just don’t obey. We rise and we fall, and when we fall, we remember God’s word.
I think that the “Levites” debate here…about what they did or are all about…has little relevance for today. The takeaway is that contemporary Jewish and, Christian faith traditions, try to follow some variation - of the ten commandments. Or as Christ puts it - for which I paraphrase: “to love God and your neighbor, as yourself”.
And other faith traditions, try to follow a variation of the ten commands. Like the Muslim faith does:
Isn’t it kind of like, debating this riddle - from the middle ages.(I mean, what the Levites were all about. And not what we do today)?
HF, I disagree. As 1Cor.10:11 points out, such things are written for our admonition. They serve as examples in our teaching and learning. When we study history, words and names like Hitler, the Gestapo,Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah etc.etc. carry negative connotations, things to avoid, and so it is with the Lev. law- the Leviathan.
Of course, the Old Testament…is part of our relationship to God. And folks like Elijah, Enoch, Moses, David, Moses and Joseph…are still relevant today.
And science might bring discoveries like this:
So the best approach is NOT to fight the zombies. But do as the Walking Dead Whisperers do:
Blend in with the Zombies. Not whether you, Davo or anyone else (like Got Questions, whom I side with) - got the Levites “right”:
The Levitical priesthood was never intended to be permanent (Hebrews 7:11). The death of Christ put an end to the Old Covenant and the Levitical priesthood, as evidenced by the rending of the temple veil (Matthew 27:51). Now Jesus Himself serves as the believer’s Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), called according to the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi (Hebrews 7:11–17). Through His death and resurrection, we have access to God’s presence, where we can freely enjoy Him forever (Hebrews 6:19–20).
And we can also, ponder questions like this:
Or even what Catholic and Evangelical writers, say on the Patheos daily newsletter:
Many Christians resist this notion of nonduality because they see it as an eastern concept — something that may make sense in terms of Buddhism or Vedanta, but not for Christians. Yet what Christians like Bourgeault, Rohr, Panikkar, and others are saying is that while the language may come to us from the east, the actual experience of nondual awareness is present in the Christian tradition, beginning with the Bible and especially articulated by great mystics like Meister Eckhart and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing . Indeed, in my post from 2012, Nonduality in the Bible… and Us. I suggest that we can find evidence for this nondual way of seeing in scripture itself.
I suggest that “the mind of Christ” that Saint Paul refers to (Philippians 2:5; I Corinthians 2:16), is, in effect, nondual consciousness/nondual seeing. It is marked by the capacity to see as God sees — which means to see everything with the eyes of love, the eyes of compassion, the eyes of mercy. It’s growing beyond the limitations of our ordinary way of seeing — which is to see things in terms of discrimination, distinction, “judgment” — red is red because it’s not blue. To see nondually does not erase the difference between red and blue, but they are seen not by distinguishing one from the other but rather simply by seeing what is, without the need to differentiate. Red is red because red is red, and blue is blue because blue is blue.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus makes it clear that God loves both the righteous and the unrighteous, and we are called to do the same. We can only do that by grace, which is to say, by allowing God’s love and compassion to flow through us. But this requires not only our submission to God, but even our participation in the divine nature (II Peter 1:4), which is to say immersed in the mind of Christ: the nondual consciousness that sees everything with love.
So, let’s say goodbye to the Levites and hello to the Zombies! NOT trying to “sell” some levite position, that might prove to be - a statistical outlier.
Like beauty, I suppose that how amazing Jesus is, is in the eye of the beholder. I find him and his message stunning and convicting.
Bob and LCC, how do you understand the word “radical.” Some folks have the idea that it means “extreme.” It doesn’t. It means “root.” The phrase “the square root of 2” is called a “radical.” But that use is not limited to mathematics. It figuratively means “basic” or “fundamental.” However, the mistaken idea of “extreme,” seemly because it is so frequently misunderstood, has now found its way even into dictionaries.
Paidion, I detailed to LLC and Davo what made Jesus’ message ‘radical.’ I then summed that up twice as epitomized in “calling for a reversal of much of what most Jews understood that their text’s narrative reinforced.” So yes, while it was radical in the sense of being Jesus’ view of the “root” of what matters, I also think it was understandably perceived as ‘extreme’ for the kind of issues I enumerated, even to the point of fueling a desire to lynch him.
Of course, what is perceived as ‘extreme’ will be governed by the vantage point of the perceiver. For me, Jesus’ approach to some things is ‘extreme’ compared to many other familiar outlooks that surround me, but of course, ‘extreme’ functions here for me as a good thing.
So while I do think Jesus was “radical” in the classic sense, I was using the term for the common usage that Webster cites as: " a : very different from the usual or traditional : extreme
b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions"
Thanks, Paidion. that’s very interesting. I can see were it could be a problem in understanding Bob’s point because I agree that loving others is the root of it all. I was thinking “radical” as in something that had never been heard before as Bob mentions it was off the rails. And He seems to confirm this in his response.
Bob, I still don’t see Jesus’ teaching as extreme. A lot of the texts in the Old Testament teach the same things. For ex. Isaiah 58:6-7 “loose the bonds of wickedness, and undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, share your bread with the hungry, bring the poor who are cast out into your house, cover the naked…”
The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule have been known for ages, and these rules applied to all, including the stranger. I think people interpret Jesus’ command to love your enemy to more of an extreme level than it was meant to be. I don’t love the KKK or any one else who shows malicious hatred towards others.
Yes, Jesus’ words are stirring, so is Martin Luther King’s " I have a dream" speech and the words of many others. But, these are all reminders of things we already know.
LLC has a point
As I said, such perceptions are in the eye of the beholder. I realize that you safely perceive him as just teaching “the same things” you & O.T. folk were familiar with. But you offer no case that he was lynched for too moderately presenting what they believed “had been known for ages.” Indeed, I find their Bible scholars saw him as a false prophet challenging what they ‘knew,’ and thus worthy of liquidation.
E.g. they, like you, already ‘knew’ that we are not called to love real enemies, those who show “hatred toward others.” But I’d say his “Father, forgive them” was showing love toward those who maliciously killed him, and that he did call Israel to love their severe and Roman enemies who hurt many.