Their Table Made A Snare

The parables of Jesus still confound us after two thousand years. This is partly because they were intended to make us think very hard about the meaning of what He said. But it is also because we most often fail to take these stories in context: not their historical context so much as their legal, or Covenant, context. Joel McDurmon writes:

Most people don’t realise that many if not most of Jesus’ parables were intended not as general morality tales, but as particular pronouncements of coming judgment and change. Jesus was warning Jerusalem to repent and to accept its new King (Jesus) or else fall under ultimate condemnation of God. In fact, much of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels pertains primarily to that pre-AD70 crowd, and without reading it in this light, we misunderstand it. And when we misunderstand it, we misapply it.1Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51-20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel, 5.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a prime example. Its meaning has been hotly debated, since it appears to teach salvation by works. However, close attention not only to its historical and Covenant context, but also to its delicious literary allusions and meticulous structure, bears a great deal of fruit.


Luke 16:19-31

Parsed by Chris Wooldridge. Notes by Michael Bull.

OVERVIEW OF STRUCTURE

The overall structure of the passage recapitulates both the fivefold Covenant pattern and the sevenfold Creation pattern.

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It subtly prefigures the entire first century history, but more obviously, you can align each of these points with the first seven books of the Bible.

TRANSCENDENCE
(Creation) The Characters Named and Described
HIERARCHY
(Division) The Characters Separated by Death
ETHICS
(Ascension) Altar Curses and Table Blessings – (LAW GIVEN)
(Testing) A Great Chasm – (LAW OPENED)
(Maturity) Testimony Requested – (LAW RECEIVED)
OATH/SANCTIONS
(Conquest) A New Confession
SUCCESSION
(Glorication) The Rulers Cut Off

As usual, the text is a fractal, so if we zoom in we can see the same pattern repeated  in each of these major points.

TRANSCENDENCE

CREATION – ARK – SABBATH

TRANSCENDENCE
“There was a rich man
(Creation – Sabbath: Initiation)
HIERARCHY
who was clothed in purple and fine linen
(Division – Passover: Delegation)
ETHICS
and who feasted sumptuously every day.
(Ascension – Firstfruits: Presentation)
And there was a poor man named Lazarus,
(Testing – Pentecost: Purification)
laid at the gate and covered with sores,
(Maturity – Trumpets: Transformation)
OATH/SANCTIONS
who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.
(Conquest – Atonement: Vindication)
SUCCESSION
Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
(Glorification – Booths: Representation)
  • The rich man is not named because he represents Adam, “the Man” with Sanctuary access. (Various women in the Bible remain unnamed for the same reason: they represent “the Woman.”)
  • This is supported by the fact that Adam’s “robe” is both kingly (purple) and priestly (fine linen). In the architecture, this is the Temple Veil, mediating between God and men. This man is thus a stand-in for the “man of sin,” the Herodian High Priesthood, which used the Aaronic priesthood as a means of taking advantage of the people.
  • Thus, the rich man’s table corresponds in the literary architecture to the Table of Showbread, the “bloodied face” of the priestly man who can rise and face God, the faithful man who is willingly broken that others might draw near to God. Adam himself was created in the Land and lifted up like a Levitical “firstfruits” into the Sanctuary. Like Adam, like the sons of Eli, these ministers abused their priestly office for their own gain, seizing the Lord’s portion for themselves (1 Samuel 2:12-17). The Table represented the holy Firstfruits offered to God that He might pour out a “Pentecostal” harvest on the entire Land. Seizing what was devoted to God brought a curse upon all Israel. Their eyes were opened, and they were naked.
  • So, at Pentecost, instead of the sons of Abraham as kingly “stars,” we have Lazarus representing the cursed commoner, the servant suffering because of the tyrants who rule the Land.2The numerous mentions of “the kings of the earth” in the Revelation actually refer to the rulers of the Land of Israel. This analysis shows that the story is not simply about generosity but abuse of office. In Israel’s case, the people were once again exposed to demonic forces (Garden) and Gentile oppressors (World) because of the failure of the priesthood (Land). Moreover, the elites even looked down upon their own people, let alone the Samaritans and Gentiles, as those deserving of curses.3See When Judaism Jumped the Shark.
  • Significantly, the poor man is named, which is unusual for a parable. The name is thus itself significant, and another allusion to Genesis, since this is the Genesis/Creation stanza of the parable. Lazarus is derived from the Hebrew name Eleazar, the name of Abraham’s oldest servant, the man who would have been Abraham’s heir had the Lord not intervened and given him a son according to the flesh. Jesus’ purpose here is to show that the inheritance, the Covenant Succession, would be given to those sons who had the faith of Abraham, sons according to the Spirit, not the flesh. Claiming to be sons of Abraham, the Pharisees were mistreating, swindling and neglecting Abraham’s true heirs.
  • The gate was the place of judgment, where those who were condemned would be exiled from the city. As a beggar, Lazarus was neither inside nor outside the city. The Laws instituted to humble Israel and teach about sin were being abused as a means of exaltation and elitism.
  • Maturity is the step which speaks of multiplication or “swarms.” Regarding the Law, it meant either plunder for obedience or plagues for disobedience. Lazarus is bearing the curse of the rich man’s sin. The rich man has the plunder and Lazarus carries the plagues. Covered in boils, he is cursed like Job, but also rendered ceremonially unclean. “Covering” at Maturity speaks of priestly robes, and the false covering of Adam’s fig leaves. The priesthood has let Lazarus down.
  • At Conquest/Atonement, the benefit of the twofold approach for priesthood and people is limited to the elite. Lazarus is a scavenger, and all scavenging animals were unclean.4See “Dogs and Pigs” in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes. For Lazarus, the Temple veil remains closed, and the Land under a curse. It is no coincidence that Israel in the first century was suffering from demonic oppression and possessions. She had reached the end of her history, her “Day 6.”
  • The mention of dogs at Booths makes Lazarus the meat on the table. Indeed, Israel’s elitism would result in scavenging armies tearing her apart, a scattering rather than an “Ingathering.” But dogs are scavengers inside the city, Jewish opportunists, not Gentile ones, thus the term usually refers to false prophets.
  • Finally, aligning this Creation stanza with the structure of Genesis 1 reveals exactly how crafty is the Spirit of God in His architectural allusions.
FORMING: Priesthood FILLING: Kingdom
There was a rich man And there was a poor man named Lazarus,
who was clothed in purple and fine linen laid at the gate and covered with sores,
and who feasted sumptuously every day. who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.
Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.
  • Forming speaks of priesthood, and Filling of the resulting kingdom. Acting like kings in the Sanctuary (Adam, Cain, Lamech…) always results in the loss of true kingdom. Jesus’ ascension as our High Priest (Firstfruits) is what brought true kingdom at Pentecost.
  • Comparing the first stanza above with the Creation Week “Tabernacle” below reveals that something is missing from the order.
FORMING FILLING
Day 1: Light and Darkness (Ark of the Testimony) Day 4: Governing Lights (Lampstand)
Day 2: Firmament (Veil) Day 5: Swarms/Hosts/Clouds (Golden Incense Altar)
Day 3a: Land and Sea (Bronze Altar) Day 6: Mediators (Beasts & the Man/Bronze Laver)
Day 3b: Grain & Fruit (Golden Table) Day 7: Rest and Rule, Bread and Wine (Shekinah)
  • Although the rich man feasted sumptuously every day, in the architecture of the passage, the Table is missing. The rich man failed to offer his “tithe” or firstfruits to God, and spiritually-speaking was in fact feasting at the Bronze Altar which represented the four-cornered Land, that is, devouring those whom the sacrifices were intended to represent. As Adam’s devouring of the fruit “devoured” the fruit of the Land and the womb, so the failure of the old High Priesthood brought an end to the Land of Israel and all the children of Israel — the promises to Abraham — in AD70.
  • The Table is also missing when John sees the realities in heaven which the earthly Tabernacle furnitures were intended to represent. He weeps until He sees the slain lamb, the bread and wine of the world’s first truly meek Man.
  • Regarding the modern Western diet, it has been said that we are digging our graves with knives and forks. This was exactly the case with the rulers of first century Israel. Following the completion of Herod’s Temple, the Feast of Passover was celebrated in greater and greater glory, drawing Jews from all across the empire. The Romans besieged the city during one of these festivals. The table which they believed made them an exalted people instead of a humble people was made a snare, and the entire Land was turned into an Altar with bloodied horns, a witness that the Law had been satisfied.

And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia. (Revelation 14:20)

HIERARCHY

DIVISION – VEIL – PASSOVER

TRANSCENDENCE
The poor man died (Creation)
HIERARCHY
and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. (Division)
ETHICS
The rich man also died and was buried (Ascension)
and in Hades,
being in torment, (Testing)
he lifted up his eyes (Maturity)
OATH/SANCTIONS
and saw Abraham far off (Conquest)
SUCCESSION
and Lazarus at his side. (Glorication)
  • The New Testament consistently pictures first century Israel as not only a new Sodom and a new Babylon, but a new Egypt. For evidence, we need look no further than Matthew 2, with Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and the ironic protection of Jesus in old Egypt. The structure here makes the death of Israel a new Passover, one that would cut off the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, but free the true Israel from bondage (Mark 8:15; Galatians 4).
  • The mention of angels highlights their administration of the Old Covenant. Just as Israel, Yahweh’s “firstborn” (Exodus 4:22) was carried out of Egypt to Canaan on eagle’s wings, so Lazarus was carried to Abraham’s side as his true son by faith. Those whom Israel’s Aaronic priests had failed once again now had a new High Priest who was faithful in all things (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Abraham’s “side” is literally his “bosom.” Lazarus is not only carried like a precious gemstone upon the breastplate as a true son of Israel, he is part of the Bride, placed into a better Adam until the “open flesh” of the Circumcision was closed up.5See What Lies Beneath: The Architecture of Abraham’s Bosom
  • The Ascension here is ironic. The rich man does not ascend as fragrant smoke but falls into the Altar as ashes, something which is revisited later on.
  • The rich man now dies on the Altar upon which he feasted, but Jesus’ use of the darkness of Hades might suggest a “Gentile” grave rather than burial in the Land like Sarah. Being the place of shadows, this single use of Hades might also be an ironic inversion of the light of the Lampstand shining upon the Table as the “face” of the Man.
  • The fire of the light of the Law is his torment. Like idolatrous King Manasseh (and Adam, the first idolater), and Paul after his confrontation with Christ, his eyes are finally opened at Maturity. He understands good and evil.
  • Abraham is positioned at Division/Delegation (Circumcision – the womb) and Conquest/Vindication (the “second” Circumcision [Joshua 5:2] – the Land). As in Israel’s history, he serves as bookends, the Alpha and Omega of the circumcision, from earthly country to the heavenly one.
  • Outside of this, at the beginning and end of the actual stanza, is Lazarus. He is named at the end, not the beginning, perhaps to highlight his Succession as the true heir of the Covenant promises.

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez
Francesco Hayez, Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

ETHICS

ASCENSION – BRONZE ALTAR – FIRSTFRUITS

And he called out, (Initiation)
‘Father Abraham, (Delegation – Circumcision)
have mercy on me, (Presentation)
and send Lazarus (Purification)
to dip the end of his finger in water (Transformation)
and cool my tongue, (Vindication – Baptism)
for I am in anguish in this flame.’ (Representation)
  • We now come to the threefold Ethics section of the passage, the “blood, fire and smoke.”
  • The Bronze Altar stanza highlights the sacrificial thread of the matrix pattern: reconciliation (peace) through substitutionary bloodshed.
  • The rich man is now the penitent at the Bronze Altar, but it is too late. Just as he treated the least of Israel as sacrificial meat, so he is now himself the meat on the Altar.
  • Lazarus is now the “fiery Spirit” of Pentecost, the angelic messenger who can bring salvation.
  • The mention of his finger is a strange one until we see Lazarus as a prophet, one who “walks on the sea” of the nations. The fiery finger of God gives the Law at Ascension. The rich man desires grace at Maturity, the Law written on flesh.
  • The tongue is deliberately mentioned at Conquest/Vindication to reflect the Covenant Oath and also the Bronze Laver. The rich man possessed a stolen “tongue of gold” like Achan, but he desires a drop of water from the purifying Laver, the place where the priests and sacrifices were washed as mediators. Instead, like Isaiah, his unclean lips would be purified by a coal from the Altar.6See “A Tongue of Gold” in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes. But Isaiah was a faithful mediator, and for the rich man the time for mediation and testimony had passed.
  • Instead of the glory of Shekinah filling the Temple at Glorification, God is a fire who will return to consume the house once again.

ASCENSION – TABLE – FIRSTFRUITS

But Abraham said, (Sabbath)
‘Son, (Passover)
remember that you received your good things, (Firstfruits)
in your lifetime (Pentecost)
and Lazarus in like manner bad things; (Trumpets)
but now he is comforted here, (Atonement)
and you are in anguish. (Booths)
  • It is telling that Abraham, from his position of authority at Creation/Genesis, refers to the rich man as “son.”
  • Like the grain and fruit plants on Day 3, Ascension is always a taste, a promise, of greater glory to be possessed by faith (Day 7), bread and wine enthroned at God’s table as a friend, confidant and co-regent. Like Israel following the Firstfruits promise of the grapes of Eshcol, the rich man failed to interpret the promise and enter into God’s rest.
  • At Pentecost, the rich man failed to believe, rejecting the Spirit of God.
  • But Lazarus was like the new generation of Israel, the ones who saw the carcasses of old Israel fall in the wilderness, believed the promises and entered in.
  • The rich man’s anguish at Booths/Succession takes the place of the promised rest.

TESTING – LAMPSTAND – PENTECOST

And besides all this, (Creation)
between us and you (Division)
a great chasm has been fixed, (Ascension)
so those who desire (Testing)
to pass from here to you (Maturity)
may not do so, (Conquest)
and none may cross from there to us.’ (Glorification)
  • At first pass, it is strange to find a “great chasm” as the subject of Testing. It seems to represent the impassable distance between the true sons of Abraham as the (Day 4 / Numbers) stars of heaven, and the false sons whose Altar has broken into two and whose unclean ashes have been poured out. The first allusion is to the destruction of Jeroboam’s idolatrous altar in 1 Kings 13. The first century correspondence was the splitting of the rocks at the crucifixion, and the subsequent splitting of the entire Land through the testimony of the apostles, culminating in the destruction of the Altar in AD70. The second is to the rebellion of Korah the Kohathite in Numbers 16, whose members were consumed when a chasm opened up in the earth, much like the splitting of the Altar. The fragrant smoke ascends and pleases God, but the Adamic “dust and ashes” collected inside the Altar must eventually be emptied out to be consumed by the serpent.
  • At the central point, the “Pentecost,” is the word desire, which commonly appears here as either zeal for God, holy fire, or as strange fire, as offered by the sons of Aaron. Strange fire pictures idolatry in the Garden and adultery in the Land, a rejection of the Ethics of the Covenant.

MATURITY – INCENSE ALTAR – TRUMPETS

And he said, (Genesis)
‘Then I beg you, father, (Exodus)
to send him to my father’s house— (Leviticus)
for I have five brothers— (Numbers)
so that he may warn them, (Deuteronomy)
lest they also arrive (Joshua)
into this place of torment.’ (Judges)
  • Maturity is the ministry of the prophet, the man who has heard the Lord and now responds as His representative. Here, however, the rich man answers back. He still has not “received” the holy words. But the theme of testimony, legal witness, remains. He requests that Lazarus be sent from the dead as a prophetic witness to his brothers.
  • As the word “son” appeared at Passover, now we have Abraham addressed as “father.”
  • The position of the father’s house at Ascension gives us the location of the “Table.” It is Levitical.
  • Usually, the “brothers” appear at Trumpets, as mustered, united troops, a host. But the word for “warn” is diamartyrētai, and martyrdom (witness) always appears at Trumpets. So the five brothers must refer to the five brothers of Judah, as represented by the five visible planets (the other two “governing lights” being the sun and moon).
  • The Revelation pictures the ministry of the apostolic church in a number of ways, one of which is the “two (legal) witnesses” who are slain and resurrected as a testimony, repeating the sufferings and witness of Christ just before the Roman siege (Revelation 11:1-14; see also Acts 14:19-23). This is the context of Paul’s argument in Romans 9-11. The apostolic witness would awaken some Jews but harden others.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them;  let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” (Romans 9:7-10)

  • Just as Israel was dominated by Gentiles instead of ruling over them as wise judges, so the new age would be a place of torment for Jews. This is not to take anything away from the doctrine of eternal judgment, since those judged in the Jewish War will also stand before the throne of God.

OATH/SANCTIONS

CONQUEST – MEDIATORS – ATONEMENT

TRANSCENDENCE
But Abraham said, (Day 1 – Greater Light)
HIERARCHY
‘They have Moses and the Prophets; (Day 2)
ETHICS
let them hear them.’ (Day 3 – the Land)
And he said, (Day 4 – Lesser Lights)
‘No, father Abraham, (Day 5 – the Testimony)
OATH/SANCTIONS
but if someone from the dead goes to them, (Day 6 – Mediators)
SUCCESSION
they will repent.’ (Day 7 – Sound Judgment)
  • The context here is both Oath and Sanctions. The rich man desires a legal (Covenant) testimony, an Oath, that his brothers might not suffer the curses of the Covenant, the Sanctions.
  • The two witnesses had the power of Moses (turning water into blood) and of the Prophets (shutting the sky), that is, the waters below and the waters above.7This is why Moses’ body was hidden in the earth and Elijah’s was hidden in heaven. Here they are positioned as the Firmament, the sea waters parted for the establishment of a holy Land.
  • At Ascension, we the command to Israel to “hear,” and we know that the authority of Moses and Elijah was superseded by that of Jesus at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). Jesus raised another Lazarus, and of course Jesus Himself would be the first raised from the dead as a testimony to Israel. But His own words would be vindicated. They would reject Him.
  • Conquest corresponds to the Day of Atonement, the two cherubim flanking the sprinkled blood a picture of the angels in the empty tomb.

SUCCESSION

GLORIFICATION – REST & RULE – BOOTHS

He said to him, (Transcendence)
‘If Moses and the Prophets (Hierarchy)
they do not hear, (Ethics)
neither if someone from the dead should rise (Oath/Sanctions)
shall they be persuaded.’” (Succession)
  • The parable finishes where Old Covenant Israel finished: in torments. The fact that, even after the testimony of Jesus was resurrected, the Lord not only sent His Spirit, but gave Israel one final generation to repent and believe, shows that until the final few years Israel was not entirely like Egypt, or Sodom, or Babylon. There was always a faithful remnant (Romans 9:29), and the patience of the Lord was indeed Israel’s salvation (2 Peter 3:15).
  • The word “persuaded” or “convinced” is from the root word for “faith.”
  • Finally, notice that the last stanza is only fivefold, representing a Covenant scroll that has not been “opened,” that is, has not become incarnate, in obedient faith. Only the enthroned Firstfruits Lamb, the missing “Table,” could open the New Covenant scroll and pour out the Pentecostal harvest.

References   [ + ]

1. Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51-20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel, 5.
2. The numerous mentions of “the kings of the earth” in the Revelation actually refer to the rulers of the Land of Israel.
3. See When Judaism Jumped the Shark.
4. See “Dogs and Pigs” in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes.
5. See What Lies Beneath: The Architecture of Abraham’s Bosom
6. See “A Tongue of Gold” in Sweet Counsel: Essays to Brighten the Eyes.
7. This is why Moses’ body was hidden in the earth and Elijah’s was hidden in heaven.

The Gates of Hell

Jeremiah said the people would return to possess the Land, and he even redeemed some land as a sign. But before that event, the Land itself would be cleansed from idolatry by a flood. This is was not a physical flood as it was in the days of Noah, but a social one. The wild “Sea” of the nations would be united under Assyria and then Babylon, and sweep all the Canaanite kings away, including the idolatrous rulers of Israel and Judah.

Jonah’s prayer describes the grave
as a prison with gates or bars,
a stronghold where the dead
are justly incarcerated,
awaiting judgment.

The book of Jonah is the story of a prophet who was submerged just as Israel would be. Knowing Deuteronomy 32 (as all prophets would), Jonah understood that his being sent to a Gentile city was for the purpose of provoking Israel to jealousy. It was unlikely that his initial disobedience was due to a hatred of Nineveh. He realised that his ministry, what became “the sign of Jonah,” meant that Israel could then be judged by God under the Law of Moses.

We see the same process in the ministry of Paul, whose testimony to the nations preceded the end of Old Covenant Israel:1This observation is from lectures by James B. Jordan on the book of Jonah, available from www.wordmp3.com.

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)

Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” (Acts 28:28)

But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” (Romans 10:19)2These observations are from lectures by James B. Jordan on the book of Jonah.

The ministry of the prophets was Covenantal. Being God’s “repo men,” their job was warn Israel that the blessings of God, including the Land, would be “repossessed” according to the Law.3For more discussion on the shape of Covenant theology, see Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key. So it makes sense that the shape of the book of Jonah follows the Covenant pattern.

The book of Jonah is also structured as a symbolic death-and-resurrection, a process of planting and harvest. A single seed (Jonah) dies for the sake of a great ingathering. The strange ending of the book makes more sense when we identify Israel’s annual festal (harvest) calendar as its deep structure.

.    .    .    .    .

TRANSCENDENCE

Genesis – Word rejected: Jonah recognizes God’s directive to warn the king of Nineveh as a judgment upon Israel and rebels against it (Word to Jonah)


HIERARCHY

Exodus – Waters: Jonah exiles himself, embarks on a ship and passes through the sea (death of Nineveh)


ETHICS

Leviticus – Priesthood established: The Lord appears in a storm. Jonah reveals that his God is the One who made the Land and the Sea, and the Gentile sailors are converted. Jonah sacrifices himself for them (death of Jonah)
Numbers – A Jealous God: Jonah is swallowed by a sea beast and is “threshed” for three days (transformation in the grave)
Deuteronomy – Priesthood received: Like the Ark which plagued the Philistines, Jonah is vomited by the fish back into the Land. He preaches “the Law” to the brutal Ninevites (resurrection of Jonah)


SANCTIONS

Joshua – Waters: Jonah recognizes Nineveh’s repentance as a sign of judgment upon Israel— Assyria’s repentance would only make her stronger (resurrection of Nineveh)


SUCCESSION

Judges – Word rejected: Jonah is not happy with this ironic expansion of the kingdom. God shades him with a miraculous “booth” and then kills it from underground. He reminds Jonah of the purpose of the Feast of Tabernacles: Gentile salvation (Word to Jonah)

.    .    .    .    .

At the centre of the chiasm, Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the sea beast is not only chiastic, it follows exactly the same pattern. It alludes not only to the de-Creation of Noah’s flood, but also to the bondage of Israel in Egypt. Soon, Israel’s mountains would also be covered, by Assyria, and then by Babylon, and this desperate cry of Jonah would be the prayer of God’s people in captivity.

.    .    .    .    .

TRANSCENDENCE

Word (Lament) – Sabbath: I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.


HIERARCHY

Waters (sin covered) – Passover: For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.


ETHICS

Priesthood (given) – Firstfruits: Then I said, I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.
Wilderness (tomb) – Pentecost: The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
Priesthood (received) – Trumpets: When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.


SANCTIONS

Waters (sin expelled) – Atonement: Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.


SUCCESSION

Word (Thanksgiving) – Tabernacles: But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!

.    .    .    .    .

  • Notice the mirrored references to the Holy Temple on either side of the Testing holy fire. Just like Jonah’s “temple,” the captivity would transform Temple worship from rebellion against the external decrees of God concerning idolatry into a miraculous internal faithfulness. Israel never worshiped graven images again.
  • Jonah’s prayer describes the grave as a prison with gates or bars, a stronghold where the dead are justly incarcerated, awaiting judgment. King Hezekiah also used this language (Isaiah 38:10).
  • There was only one Man who could set these captives free. By repeating the sign of Jonah, He would bind the “strong man” guarding the gates, and then He would plunder the house (Matthew 12:24-29, 39-41).

ART: Jonah by Michael O’Brien www.studiobrien.com

References   [ + ]

1. This observation is from lectures by James B. Jordan on the book of Jonah, available from www.wordmp3.com.
2. These observations are from lectures by James B. Jordan on the book of Jonah.
3. For more discussion on the shape of Covenant theology, see Bible Matrix II: The Covenant Key.

The Language of Rainbows

Quantum Field Theology

“Show me your tomes and I will draw you a napkin.”

The usual way to approach a theological problem is to read just about everything written on the subject by just about everybody else, and quote just about every one of them in a book that almost nobody is going to read. And the result most often looks like the same landscape just slightly rearranged. There is little or no progress.1And some people even get paid to do this.

Although the value of such work should never be underestimated, true innovation in any field seems to be achieved by someone willing to attack its problems from an entirely fresh angle.

Visual Language

Mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John Nash (the subject of the movie A Beautiful Mind) was one such individual. Another, also a Nobel Prize winner, was physicist Dr Richard Feynman. His approach to science is very much like the approach of the school of biblical theology to which I subscribe. The scientist observing the laws of nature is like someone who does not know the rules of chess watching the game being played and attempting to make sense of it. Feynman said:

A fun analogy to get some idea of what we’re doing to try to understand nature is to imagine that the gods are playing some great game, like chess. You don’t know the rules of the game but you’re allowed to look at the board, at least from time to time, and in a little corner, perhaps. And from these observations you try to figure out the rules of the game and the movement of the pieces. You might observe, for example, that if there’s only one bishop moving around on the board that the bishop maintains its color. Later on, you might discover that the law for the bishop is that it moves on a diagonal, which would explain the law that you understood before, that the bishop maintains its color. That would be analogous to finding one law and later gaining a deeper understanding of it. You’ve got all the laws, and your understanding of chess is going well.

Then all of a sudden, some strange phenomenon occurs in some corner, so you begin to watch out for it so you can investigate it. This phenomenon is “castling,” something you didn’t expect. By the way, in fundamental physics we are always trying to investigate areas in which we don’t understand the conclusions. The thing that doesn’t fit is the thing that’s the most interesting—the part that doesn’t go according to what you expected. We can have revolutions in physics after you’ve been noticing that the bishops maintain their color and go along the diagonals and so on for such a long time, and everybody knows that that’s true, but then you suddenly discover one day in some chess game that the bishop doesn’t maintain its color, it changes its color. Only later do you discover a new possibility: that the bishop is captured and a pawn went all the way down to the queen’s end to produce a new bishop. That can happen, but you didn’t know it. So it’s very analogous to the way our laws are. Things look positive. They keep on working. Then all of a sudden some little gimmick shows that they’re wrong and then we have to investigate the conditions under which this bishop changed color, and gradually learn the new rule that explains it more deeply.

In the case of the chess game, however, the rules become more complicated as you go along. But in physics, when you discover new things, it looks more simple. It appears on the whole to be more complicated because we learn about a greater experience, about more particles and new things. And so, the laws look complicated again. But what’s kind of wonderful is that as we expand our experience into wilder and wilder regions, every now and then we have one of the “integrations” where everything is pulled together, unified in a way which turns out to be simpler than it looked before.2Richard Feynman interviewed in “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out,” a documentary filmed in 1981. (Edited for clarity.)

This explanation by Feynman struck a chord with me, because it is exactly what I am proposing is the case when it comes to the literature of the Bible. Theological libraries are filled with flattened forests of isolated observations about the Bible, gathered and labeled under terminologies designed to describe similarity of appearance. One thing missing from theology is a “unified theory” which actually makes the entire book simpler rather than more complicated. Systematics are some help but overall they are just isolated collections of similar data, not a window into the internal logic of the “game” of biblical literature.

What is also missing is a way to express this “unified theory,” and Feynman is a help here as well.

Known for his assistance in the development of the atomic bomb, and honored for his work in quantum electrodynamics, Feynman is also famous for introducing a new “visual language” to express quantum field theory processes in terms of particle paths: the “Feynman diagrams.” This “simplification” required a mind not only familiar with the intricacies of physics, but also at ease with the logic behind them.

This was Richard Feynman nearing the crest of his powers. At twenty-three … there was no physicist on earth who could match his exuberant command over the native materials of theoretical science. It was not just a facility at mathematics… Feynman seemed to possess a frightening ease with the substance behind the equations, like Albert Einstein at the same age, like the Soviet physicist Lev Landau—but few others.3James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.

So, what are the Feynman diagrams?

In theoretical physics, Feynman diagrams are pictorial representations of the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles. The scheme is named for its inventor, Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Richard Feynman, and was first introduced in 1948. The interaction of sub-atomic particles can be complex and difficult to understand intuitively, and the Feynman diagrams allow for a simple visualization of what would otherwise be a rather arcane and abstract formula. As David Kaiser writes, “since the middle of the 20th century, theoretical physicists have increasingly turned to this tool to help them undertake critical calculations,” and as such “Feynman diagrams have revolutionized nearly every aspect of theoretical physics.” (Wikipedia)

Though Feynman was not the originator of this visual language, he was the first to develop it fully and to teach other physicists to use it. What am I saying here? Well, of course, that I believe that what I refer to as the “Bible matrix” is such a language. It not only allows us to understand the complexities of the Bible’s history, architecture and theology in a simpler, more integrated way, but also to express them more efficiently.

Predictably, my “workings” need to be explained in long-winded prose for those unversed in this theological shorthand, but the visual solution itself is simple.

Old School Resistance

For Feynman, persuading the physics establishment to give up pages and pages of complicated calculations for simple diagrams was not so simple.

Feynman had to lobby hard for the diagrams which confused the establishment physicists trained in equations and graphs.4Leonard Mlodinow, Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life.

While many adults’ eyes either glaze over or else look daggers at me for teaching something “new,” children and teenagers most often “get it” straight away. The young not only pick it up but with little training are able to “speak it” quite fluently. It not only gives them an understanding of Scripture beyond their years, it explains the patterns of human life. As a friend commented to me, “Once you’ve seen it, you see it everywhere.” If the Bible is the Word of God, we should not expect anything less.

Thus, my dream is to see this “quantum field theology” with its simple diagrams become the language of Bible teachers everywhere.

Laws of Attraction

Though quite a few have dismissed this approach, I have been working on it for a number of years now and am more convinced than ever. The primary reason for continuing with it is, quite simply, it works. As Feynman describes, when the study seems to have hit a wall, or there is something which appears to confound the theory, further study reveals even greater unity and simplicity. There are now elegant—and extremely consistent—solutions to a growing number of supposedly complex theological debates which have occupied scholars for centuries. For every problem, I could sketch the resolution in a diagram on a napkin.

Layout 1This method almost always provides a fresh angle in approaching a problem, a “third way,” but this means I cannot fit into any particular denomination or theological framework, and explains why my take on many controversial Bible texts is unfamiliar. I can hear the heartbeat of the text, and it is a different drum.

But this “unified theory” also means that the logic behind every one of my positions, on every topic, is identical. What is more, they all gel together perfectly, just as they should. Readers often do not like my conclusions, but I defy anyone to fault my logic. Show me your tomes and I will draw you a napkin.

The second reason is that further study not only reveals greater unity but also more profound beauty.

I am no Feynman. Like Warhol, I take other people’s ideas, fit them together and repeat them endlessly to the annoyance of the establishment. But in doing this, Warhol changed our culture forever. Like Feynman, and like me, Warhol’s ease with the “mechanics” of his field was the result of his fascination with its beauty.

‘Do you know who first explained the true origin of the rainbow?’ I asked.

‘It was Descartes,’ [Feynman] said. After a moment he looked me in the eye.

‘And what do you think was the salient feature of the rainbow that inspired Descartes’ mathematical analysis?’ he asked.

‘Well, the rainbow is actually a section of a cone that appears as an arc of the colors of the spectrum when drops of water are illuminated by sunlight behind the observer.’

‘And?’

‘I suppose his inspiration was the realization that the problem could be analyzed by considering a single drop, and the geometry of the situation.’

‘You’re overlooking a key feature of the phenomenon,’ he said.

‘Okay, I give up. What would you say inspired his theory?’

‘I would say his inspiration was that he thought rainbows were beautiful.’5Mlodinow.


This is an essay from Inquiétude: Essays for a People Without Eyes.


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References   [ + ]

1. And some people even get paid to do this.
2. Richard Feynman interviewed in “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out,” a documentary filmed in 1981. (Edited for clarity.)
3. James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.
4. Leonard Mlodinow, Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life.
5. Mlodinow.