Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Prophetic Heresy: Bible Comment on Deuteronomy 13 with poem by George Eliot, Life's Purpose

Daily Readings
Psalm 70, Numbers 19, Deuteronomy 13, Matthew 18

Daily Text: Deuteronomy 13

Prophetic Heresy
Legitimizing the prophet by determining whether or not the message had integrity with the truths of God previously revealed, opens Deuteronomy chapter 13. The prophet spoke words that interpreted orthodoxy for the individual, the community, and the nation. Sometimes that interpretation was radically out of the ordinary, but it was not difficult to see whether or not it was within the theological, moral and ethical boundaries of the traditional faith. In an elementary way this was true from the beginning. Moses tells the people that if a prophet led them from YHWH to another god, even with unexplained portents and oracles, he was a false prophet. Prophetic heresy, however, is far more nuanced today. On the other hand, we have a textual tradition today, unavailable in Moses’ time. The new Gospel of Judas, for example, released by National Geographic in the past month, is one of the Gnostic Gospels long known to be in existence. But its ‘heresies’ are far from new, they were sorted out when the Christian canon was established in the third century and before. Whether or not this recently published manuscript is the ancient collection of myths and tales, or another hoax remains to be determined. Nonetheless, it need not concern the believer. Its attitude toward the God of the Torah is enough to help one realize that it is a false gospel on the same grounds as Moses instructions concerning false and true prophets in Deuteronomy 13. The text of the Gospel of Judas reportedly sees this “Old Testament God as no friend of mankind but, rather, the cause of its suffering” (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker April 17, 2006, p. 80). The typical Gnostic nonsense about Jesus being pure spirit in human disguise is, of course, endemic.

In the chapter the author addresses three ways the community might go astray from following the LORD God. These three ways are by following a false prophet, by following suggestions from a close family member and by allowing an entire community within Israel that has rejected the one God to follow other gods. The core message is that the interests of the LORD God must be set above all other considerations. This temptation today is no different from that of Moses’ day. How many of us will serve God when we earn more money, when the kids are out of the house, educated, married, have their kids raised, when we retire, after we acquire our inheritance? There is no end to the matters that keep us from making a whole-souled commitment.

Life’s Purpose
From “A Minor Prophet”
George Eliot

The earth yields nothing more Divine
Than high prophetic vision—than the Seer
Who fasting from man’s meaner joy beholds
The paths of beauteous order, and constructs
A fairer type, to shame our low content…
The faith that life on earth is being shaped
To glorious ends, that order, justice, love,
Mean man’s completeness, mean effect as sure
As roundness in the dew-drop—that great faith
Is but the rushing and expanding stream
Of thought, of feeling, fed by all the past.
Our finest hope is finest memory….

Even our failures are a prophecy,
Even our yearnings and our bitter tears
After that fair and true we cannot grasp;
As patriots who seem to die in vain
Make liberty more sacred by their pangs.

Collect for the Day
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. in your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. [476:795:70 psalm prayer]


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