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

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Color of Fire: II Esdras 14 with poem by John Dryden, Inspiration of the Bible

Daily Readings
Psalm 146, Esther 9, II Esdras 14, Revelation 12

Daily Text: II Esdras 14

The Color of Fire
In the seventh vision, II Esdras 14, Ezra under inspiration rewrites the holy Scripture in twenty-four books, and writes 70 books of apocalyptic writings. The twenty-four are what we know as the Hebrew Scriptures, the seventy put emphasis on the many Hebrew apocalyptic texts, which were then in dispute. Obviously, the author feels that they are full of wisdom and ought to be retained and studied by the wise. Ultimately, these were rejected by the Pharisees of this author’s time [cf. 539:272].

Ezra is seen as a second Moses in this passage, God speaking to him from the bush, and then taking forty days to write the 94 books of Scripture. Only Ezra writes in a field, while Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. (Fascinating, that in Matthew 5 ff. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is also seen in Luke 6 as the Sermon on the Plain.) In this chapter Ezra is translated as were Enoch and Elijah and perhaps Moses as expressed in the pseudephigraphic book, The Assumption of Moses. The cup of liquid, something like water, but the color of fire, puts Ezra into an ecstatic state that lasts day and night for forty days. References like ‘tongues of fire’ in Acts two seem to be in correlation with this ecstatic note. Ezra is ever after credited with inventing the modern square Hebrew letters, even by Jerome [cf. 543:623]. While, Ezra’s attitude has changed from being critical in chapter 3 to trusting God in everything in chapter 14, still his purpose in requesting that he be able to reproduce the Scripture was to give his fellow Israelites a ‘map’ for negotiating the evil world, death, and judgment. He wants humankind to have every opportunity for doing what is right and ending in the presence of the Most High. We should feel in concert with his concern.

Inspiration of the Bible
John Dryden

Whence, but from Heaven, could men unskill’d in arts,
In several ages born, in several parts,
Weave such agreeing truths? or how, or why,
Should all conspire to treat us with a lie?
Unask’d their pains, ungrateful their advice,
Starving their gain, and martyrdom their price.

If on the book itself we cast our view,
Concurrent heathens prove the story true:
The doctrine, miracles; which must convince,
For Heaven in them appeals to human sense;
And though they prove not they confirm the cause,
When what is taught agrees with nature’s laws.
Therefore the style, majestic and divine,
It speaks no less than God in every line:
Commanding words; whose force is still the same
As the first fiat that produc’d our frame.
All faiths beside, or did by arms ascend;
Or sense indulg’d has made mankind their friend:

This only doctrine does our lusts oppose:
Unfed by nature’s soil, in which it grows;
Cross to our interests, curbing sense and sin;
Oppress’d without, and undermin’d within,
It thrives through pain; its own tormentors tires,
And with a stubborn patience still aspires.

Collect for the Day
God our creator and redeemer, inspire your people, in prosperity or adversity, to turn always to you, eternal source of life, health, and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[476:905:146 Psalm prayer]


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