Tag Archives: Richard Hays

Re the Daily Office Readings 4/16/2020

The Readings: Exodus 13:3-10; 1 Corinthians 15:41-50; Matthew 28:16-20

Exodus: unleavened bread to support Israel’s memory. Deuteronomy repeatedly stresses memory’s importance: the motor for trust in God (e.g., 8:17-18) and solidarity with the poor (e.g., 24:17-18). An honest memory: where does it need support today?

Paul’s argument for the continuity and discontinuity between our present and future bodies is dense, and complicated by challenges in translation. I find Hays helpful (First Corinthians):

“Yet the last item in this sequence is the one that he is driving toward: ‘It is sown a natural body [psychikon sōma], it is raised a spiritual body [pneumatikon sōma].’ (v.44, NIV). This is the nub of his argument. This last contrast, however, presents a vexing problem for translators… The phrase psychikon sōma is notoriously difficult to translate into English. The NRSV’s translation (‘physical body’) is especially unfortunate, for it reinstates precisely the dualistic dichotomy between physical and spiritual that Paul is struggling to overcome.…

“By far the most graceful translation of verse 44, and the one that best conveys the meaning of Paul’s sentence is found in the Jerusalem Bible: ‘When it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit. If the soul has its own embodiment, so des the spirit have its own embodiment.’ That is Paul’s point: our mortal bodies embody the psyche (‘soul’), the animating force of our present existence, but the resurrection body will embody the divinely given pneuma (‘spirit’). It is to be a ‘spiritual body’ not in the sense that it is somehow made out of spirit and vapors, but in the sense that it is determined by the spirit and gives the spirit form and local habitation.”

C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, a fantasy in which the heavenly is more solid than anything preceding it, may help imagine what Paul’s pointing towards:

“Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.” Submit to death: now what does that mean in the middle of COVID-19?

Matthew. Previous generations obeyed that commission, so here we are in the New World. And, perhaps in an exercise of the reach exceeding the grasp, the corporate and legal entity of the Episcopal Church is the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.”

Re Daily Office Readings 4/14/2020

The Readings: Exodus 12:28-39; 1 Corinthians 15:12-28; Mark 16:9-20

Some time ago we read:

And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: Israel is my firstborn son. I said to you, “Let my son go that he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.'” (Exod. 4:21-23)

And in today’s reading it all plays out. There’s a sort of brutal symmetry to it all. Pharaoh had commanded that all newborn males be thrown into the Nile (1:22); G-d or “the destroyer” (12:23) kills the firstborn, and the Egyptian army will soon perish in another body of water. Pharaoh sins; all the people suffer. Sarna: “The Torah recognizes societal responsibility; thus, the entire Egyptian people is subject to judgment for having tolerated the inflexibly perverse will of the pharaoh” (JPS Torah Commentary). Perhaps, but just what “the entire Egyptian people” were in a position to do is an open question, as it is in many other times and places.

Mercifully, all this is not the last word re Egypt. From Isaiah: “On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage’” (19:24-25).

“…how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” What’s at stake? Hays’ argument merits reflection: “The resurrection of the dead is necessary in order to hold creation and redemption together [italics his]. If there is no resurrection of the dead, God has capriciously abandoned the bodies he has given us. The promise of resurrection of the body, however, makes Christian hope concrete and confirms God’s love for the created order. God, the creator of the world, has not abandoned the creation. Furthermore, this teaching is consistent with what we have come to understand about the psychosomatic unity of the human person. Contrary to the ideas that held sway in much of Hellenistic antiquity, we are not ethereal souls imprisoned in bodies. Rather, our identity is bound up inextricably with our bodily existence. If we are to be saved, we must be saved as embodied persons, whatever that may mean” (Interpretation commentary).