Vengeance Is Not for Us, Rejoicing Is.

As the times grow ever more, uh, ‘challenging’, take time to reflect. Like medicine for the soul, reading and reflecting upon the Psalms can have a calming effect. It can be cathartic. I’m sure it was for David as he was writing at least some of his.

The Psalm for today is 58, one of David’s.1 Bear in mind “Sons of Men” here refers to kings, rulers, etc.

58:1 So you truly speak righteousness?

You judge properly, ‘Sons of Men’?

2 For even in your heart you practice lawlessness on the earth;

with your hands you weave unrighteousness.

3 Estranged are sinners from the womb,

astray from birth, they utter falsehoods,

4 their venom as that of a snake,

like a deaf cobra also plugging up its ears,

5 which hears not the sound of the charmer

or enticements invoked with skill.

6 God shall crush their teeth in their mouth;

The teeth of the ‘lions’, the Lord shall shatter.

7 They shall dissipate as water passing through.

He shall stretch His bow until they grow faint.

8 Like wax melted, they shall be taken away:

Fire rains upon them, and they cannot see the sun.

9 Before you fathom your thorns, the thorny bush as living,

as in wrath, it shall swallow you up.

10 The righteous shall rejoice upon seeing vengeance on the ungodly.

He shall wash his hands in the bloodshed of the sinful.

11 Then a man shall say, “Truly there is fruit for the righteous!

Truly there is a God judging them on the earth!”

____________________________________

1 Translated from the Septuagint/LXX 57. The main differences from the Masoretic Text (MT) are in verses 7b–9.

17 Responses to Vengeance Is Not for Us, Rejoicing Is.

  1. Excellent, Craig! I am always humbled as I meditate on the Psalms. I think of all the different books and genres in the Bible, believers don’t meditate enough on the divine nature of the psalms, by that I mean their inspiration and inerrancy. Thank you for sharing from the LXX as well, I didn’t see this when I emailed you this morning!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Craig says:

    This one began as part of the conclusion to pharmakeia article I’m STILL working on. As I exegeted part of it, it seemed like a good idea to complete it for its own separate blog post.

    I didn’t realize how much the MT varies here. By that I mean there is quite a bit for the textual critic to chew on. The LXX is markedly different in places; and even various English versions vary depending upon which MT reading(s) they adopt over others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is VERY true! God willing, someday I will get to be a part of a Bible translation team! These are fascinating studies!

    Like

  4. Craig says:

    That’s a lofty goal! Godspeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. SLIMJIM says:

    Thank you for this

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Craig says:

    You’re welcome. It was a fruitful exercise, to boot.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SLIMJIM says:

    Thank you Craig for all your thoughts the last few days on Acts 17.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Craig says:

    I’d like to think my comments were helpful, but I’m not so sure that’s so. I think most readers disregard others’ comments and only respond to the posts themselves.

    In any case, I didn’t want to bog your post down with too much info; however, I did/do have more thoughts. One thing we must keep in mind is that we have Paul’s words as recorded by Luke. Now, I’m not inclined to think Luke mischaracterized Paul, though some commentaries think so. But I’m not so sure Luke replicated it verbatim—not that I think it really matters much in the end. It’s just something one must consider.

    More to the point: From my skimming of the Bahnsen pdf, which claimed—if I have this right—that Romans 1 undergirds Paul’s Aeropagus speech, I will disagree in part. Sure, I think it’s safe to assume that Paul’s own internal theology as the speaker in Acts 17 is the same as his theology reflected in his epistles. Yet we must bear in mind that Paul’s letters were written to converts and not potential converts as we have on Mars’ Hill.

    By coincidence, I started an article awhile back that largely focuses on Paul’s Aeropagus speech. So, I had a bit of background in my head from that. Though I’d not actually sourced Fitzmyer in that unfinished article (strangely), just yesterday I looked up his views, which largely reflect my own here (emphasis added):

    …[T]he speech does sound different from the Pauline teaching about human beings estranged from God by sin (Romans 1–3), yet reconciled to God “in Christ,” justified and saved by divine grace, which is announced in the gospel about his Son that the apostle otherwise preaches.

    Nevertheless, there are in it some echoes of Pauline teaching, even if allusions to phrases found in the LXX (especially Isa 45:18–25) make the source analysis of the speech complicated. Some expressions do resemble Hellenistic philosophical teaching . . . but other elements in the speech echo not only Jewish belief, but OT phraseology. In effect, Luke makes Paul sound like a Jewish preacher addressing a pagan audience about the true God (save for the indirect reference to Christ at the end). Even the idea of “resurrection” would be a more Jewish way of speaking about the afterlife, whereas “immortality” would be the more Greek way of phrasing it, but that does not appear in the speech. True, the “word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18) does not occur in the speech, but that is because the speech is more praeparatio than evangelium. If Paul himself could write to the Thessalonians, “You turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God” (1 Thess 1:9), he could well have preached as Luke depicts him here in Acts. So the real Paul might well have tried to meet pagans halfway.

    -Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles, The Anchor Yale Bible; Accordance electronic ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 602.

    Now, though I wouldn’t go so far as claim Paul ‘met them halfway’, I DO think Paul’s idea here to was to provide a bridge for further communications (see the last sentence in 17:32). As such, it wasn’t Paul’s last word. And I think this sort of thing is prudent for evangelism. That is, one must know the crowd and speak accordingly, perhaps even saving some bits till later for those who show interest.

    So, again, I think we basically agree. As Christians doing apologetics, we are not to compromise (no neutrality) our own Christian theological views; however, we must know when to fully engage those views by ‘reading the room’.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SLIMJIM says:

    Thanks for the comment and sharing Fitzmyer’s views. I have appreciated his commentary on Luke, as a tangent…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Craig says:

    I found the following a bit amusing. It refers to Acts 17:18: Then also, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers argued with him. Some said, “What is this seed-picker trying to say?” Others replied, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign deities”–because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the Resurrection. Apparently, some commentators thought the audience took Luke’s accusative phrase ton Iēsoun kai tēn anastasiv overly-literally:

    It is not easy to determine the nuance that Luke associates with these words. An obvious sense is the one that any Christian reader of Acts would understand (about the resurrection of Christ), but that would scarcely have been the meaning a pagan Athenian would have comprehended. Perhaps such a person would have understood the fem. Greek noun anastasis as the name of a consort for the foreign deity, Jesus, “Jesus and Anastasis.” So John Chrysostom understood it (Hom. in Acta 38.1; PG 60.267), and many after him.

    -Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles, The Anchor Yale Bible; Accordance electronic ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 605.

    Now, I don’t find that plausible on a number of levels. First, Luke is writing this as bio-history to a Christian audience; so, he’s likely just paraphrasing and condensing as part of his narrative in setting up Paul’s speech at the Aeropagus. Therefore, it’s not as though Paul actually said that phrase ton Iēsoun kai tēn anastasiv (“Jesus and the Resurrection”) in the first place, in order for his hearers to possibly misunderstand him as saying “Jesus and Anastasis”. Second, in Luke’s narrative/quote “foreign gods”, we must not necessarily think the plural is intended. For example, in our culture it’s not unusual see a singular event and state something about it in the plural. I’d used this in a footnote to an article here a while back: Upon discovering your seemingly non-mechanically-inclined neighbor had replaced the brake pads on his car you respond, “I didn’t know you worked on cars!” Your neighbor had only worked on one car, yet the response pluralized to “cars”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. SLIMJIM says:

    Interesting. I’ve taken it literally In the past and assume because the Greeks misunderstood Paul that is why Paul gave so much OT doctrines to let them have the right Presuppositions to properly interpret him

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Craig says:

    I wonder if you’re following my point exactly, so allow me to paraphrase/restate and expand. Some commentators claim other non-Christian Greeks misunderstood that accusative phrase (or the general concept?–see next paragraph) as “Jesus and Anastasis”, rather than “Jesus and the Resurrection”. But they’d have to come to that “Jesus and Anastasis” interpretation if they read Luke’s narrative of Acts 17:18 as it is, in isolation. Would non-believers be reading the Book of Acts? I think it better understood that Luke was merely providing narrative as a preface to Paul’s Areopagus speech. Then 17:31-32 explains that this was actually the resurrection of Jesus to which Luke referred in 17:18 (in condensed form).

    In other words, those who heard Paul speak in the first century would much more likely have heard about Jesus and HIS resurrection, e.g., like Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:33 in their respective contexts. The likelihood that they’d have heard Paul speak the exact words ho Iēsous kai hē anastasis (or in the accusative, etc.) in isolation from Jesus Himself as the resurrection referent or a general future resurrection seems quite small. It was Jesus’ Resurrection they’d have heard Paul preach, or maybe the yet-future general resurrection of the dead (Acts 4:2).

    Their issue seems to be two separate things: 1) foreign god(/gods?) 2) the resurrection of the dead (over against the transmigration of souls, perhaps). Item 2 I interpret as the unfamiliar/strange things of 17:20.

    So, yes, the Epicureans and Stoics misunderstood Paul, but the question is what it was they actually misunderstood. Certainly Paul was taken up to the Areopagus to provide some clarity to them. But clarity over two gods named “Jesus and Anastasis”? I don’t think that’s correct. Paul proclaimed the UNKNOWN GOD as akin to God the Father who then raised Jesus from the dead in 17:31. From Paul’s speech (as recorded by Luke) no one would think Jesus was a god or God at all. They’d only assume He was a man raised by UNKNOWN GOD now made known by Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Craig says:

    I’m heartened to see Darrell Bock (Acts, BECNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007]) on this (Greek transliterated):

    The expression anastasin probably is not a reference to “Resurrection” as the name of a goddess, as some scholars suggest…Paul would not be that unclear…although it may well be that Luke ironically wants to indicate that some have no clue about what Paul is saying. Rather, Paul preaches a new religion with new ideas like resurrection and so in the listeners’ view discusses “foreign divinities.”

    …The crowd seeks to hear Paul on his “new teaching” and “strange things.” The second phrase refers to foreign things (xenizonta), which is what the resurrection would be for the Greeks…

    In verse 31 Paul alludes to Jesus, the man through whom God has fixed a day for judgment of the living and the dead…Jesus was named in verse 18 as the subject of Paul’s message. Paul leaves the timing of the judgment unspecified. God confirmed this position for Jesus by the attestation of the resurrection [pp 562–563, 570].

    I agree with everything, except, although it may well be that Luke ironically wants to indicate that some have no clue about what Paul is saying. I think Luke merely left off autos (of-him). I checked Comfort’s New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, and I found that the Western text (D, it{gig}) omits the final hoti clause. (Metzger does not mention this verse at all.)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. SLIMJIM says:

    I think your point “From Paul’s speech (as recorded by Luke) no one would think Jesus was a god or God at all” weighs against the interpretation that the misunderstanding held by Paul’s hearers was about anastasis as a divine being.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. SLIMJIM says:

    Man Craig you really dig deep into this

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Craig says:

    Yes, I did/do! I’m always thinking!

    I mean the following with the utmost respect, and I don’t wish to come across as in any sense negative toward you. Your position (and the position of many!) is predicated on your interpretation that anastasis refers to one of the “foreign gods” in this context. This necessarily entails that the Epicureans and Stoics also thought Jesus was a ‘foreign god’. But, under that pre-understanding (Jesus and Anastasis both as ‘foreign gods’.), Paul’s explanation doesn’t speak to Jesus’ as god/God at all, as he actually implicitly negates it by stating that Jesus was a man resurrected by God [UNKNOWN GOD].

    So, I contend this is not what Luke is intending to convey at all (and see now Bock).

    We must first ask if Paul would really be that unclear as to preach something that could be so badly misconstrued as regards anastasis. With that in mind, I think the Athenians primary issue was with the resurrection generally (“Jesus and the Resurrection”), and Paul made it clear that it was God (the Father [UNKNOWN GOD]) who raised Jesus—Whom Paul clearly refers to simply as “the man he [God] appointed…”. The Athenians surely would think of such a ‘god’ [the Father] as a ‘foreign god’, because the whole idea of resurrection was completely foreign to their world-view. This is why some sneered (v. 32).

    To reiterate the most important counterpoint: If they really thought there were two ‘gods’, Jesus and Anastasis, then Paul did a horrible job in his explanation by calling Jesus merely a man (raised by God [UNKNOWN GOD]), rather than affirming Jesus’ Deity. This must mean the understanding of the passage needs to be reexamined.

    To put more succinctly, if your understanding is correct, then Paul dispelled their notion of a goddess named Anastasis (in part by using the verb form instead of the noun in verse 31) by concurrently ‘dispelling’ the notion that Jesus was a god (or God) as well. That is obviously not correct.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Craig says:

    Coming from a different angle, which might be more helpful: Let’s assume the Athenians really did think Paul was preaching two ‘foreign gods’: Jesus and a goddess named Anastasis. Since we cannot get into the heads of the Athenians, this is certainly possible. However, if we take Luke’s narrative explanation because he [Paul] was proclaiming good news of ‘ton Iēsoun kai tēn anastasiv’ as explaining the Athenian position as “Jesus and Anastasis”, then Luke was concurrently agreeing with this position. In other words, Luke doesn’t say because THEY THOUGHT he [Paul] was proclaiming good news of ‘ton Iēsoun kai tēn anastasiv’. This must mean we should take Luke’s explanatory clause in the Christian sense of “Jesus and the Resurrection” instead.

    The Athenians clearly misunderstood Paul in some manner. But we cannot be sure exactly how. Yet we can be certain that Luke was not in agreement with whatever misperceptions the Athenians had. So Luke had to be explaining a correct Christian position in that final hoti clause.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: