Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lead Us Not, a Sad God, Lest Ye Be Judged

I have three items for my write-up today on Hans Dieter Betz's The Sermon on the Mount:

1. I talked in my post here about a lady at a church that I attended who was concerned about the part of the Lord's Prayer that said "Lead us not into temptation". She wondered if that was saying that God could conceivably lead us into temptation, unless we asked him not to do so. Betz actually tackles this question. He says that it concerned some of the church fathers, who interpreted the phrase to be asking God not to allow us to be tempted, which absolves God from the charge that he himself would lead people into temptation. According to Betz, however, there was a notion that God tested people, and tests could easily become temptations unto sin. And so there is a sense in which God has to be asked not to lead us into temptation. And yet, does that not imply that God could do something wrong----that God does not have a good reason to test us, and thus should avoid it altogether?

2. On page 420, Betz states: "From the Roman point of view, the god of the Jews was a sad god...and the Sabbath was sad." Betz cites Horace, Sat. 1.5.101-3 and Suetonius' Augustus 76. I'm assuming that the first reference is to Book 1, Satire 5 of Horace's Satires. I checked here, and I did not see anything about the god of the Jews being sad. What I found was this:

"In the next place Egnatia, which [seems to have] been built on troubled waters, gave us occasion for jests and laughter; for they wanted to persuade us, that at this sacred portal the incense melted without fire. The Jew Apella may believe this, not I. For I have learned [from Epicurus], that the gods dwell in a state of tranquillity; nor, if nature effect any wonder, that the anxious gods send it from the high canopy of the heavens."

What this seems to be saying is that the Jews are superstitious to believe that a god does miracles, not that the god of the Jews is unhappy. But I could be missing something.

The Suetonius reference (see here) says the following about the Jews: ""Not even a Jew, my dear Tiberius, fasts so scrupulously on his sabbaths as I have to‑day; for it was not until after the first hour of the night that I ate two mouthfuls of bread in the bath before I began to be anointed."

This is saying that the Jews fast on the Sabbath. I don't know where Suetonius is getting that impression, however, for many Jews regarded the Sabbath as a time of celebration.

3. Matthew 7:1 says "Judge not, lest ye be judged." Betz appears to be open to the "lest ye be judged" part being about eschatological judgment, but he also proposes another interpretation: that, when we are critical and gossip about others, there is a greater likelihood that people will give us that very same treatment.

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