Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dei Verbum and Divine Pedagogy (Part 2)

Be sure to read Part 1.

Dei Verbum 15 affirms that the Old Testament, though inspired Scripture, contains "some things which are incomplete and temporary." As we saw from Paul's explanation in Galatians, this view is consistent with the New Testament. In fact, Jesus also makes this point.

In Matthew 19, Jesus is asked a question about divorce and remarriage. Of course, in the book of Deuteronomy Moses makes provisions for divorce. Jesus responds by saying, "“For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt 19:8).

The allowance made for divorce in Deuteronomy is a great example of divine accommodation and pedagogy. From the beginning, "it was not so," however, Moses had to make a provision for it in Deuteronomy. Why?

Well, ancient Jewish and Christian writers had an answer. Thomas echoes it in the Summa. He writes, "As in the Mosaic law it was allowable by dispensation to grant a bill of divorce in order to avoid wife-murder..." (Supplement, Q. 65, A. 5). Moses had to allow divorce? Why? Because he knew that if the Israelite men were told they could only have one wife at a time they would kill their wives to marry another.

Keep in mind, a person could only be convicted of murder if there were at least two witnesses (cf. Deut 17:6). A requirement like that would make it very easy for a husband to "get away with murder." So, as Jesus explained, Moses allowed divorce for Israel's "hardness of heart."

In fact, Deuteronomy makes a number of concessions--containing a number of things not found in the books of Exodus-Numbers. For example, Deuteronomy allows for harem warfare--the command to slaughter ALL the inhabitants in the land, including children. Why? It has to do with God's divine pedagogy. To explain this though we need to look more carefully at Israel's relationship with God in Exodus-Deuteronomy.

After leading Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea, the Lord brings His people to Mt. Sinai. Here He seeks to make them a “holy nation” and a “royal priesthood” (Ex. 19:6). God gives Israel the 10 Commandments, which were written by God's own finger into the stone tablets. In addition, He gives them civil laws, telling them how to deal with certain criminal actions. Israel offers sacrifice to God and Moses seals the covenant by sprinkling the blood of the slaughtered animals on the people. Moses calls the blood, “the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you” (Ex. 24:8). The people swear: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (Ex. 24:7).

While Moses is up on the mountain, Israel reverts back to the idolatrous practices of the Egyptians. The people construct an image of the Egyptian god Apis, a bull god. Israel rejects God and reverts to the gods of Egypt. From this we see that though God brought Israel out of Egypt, taking Egypt out of Israel would prove to be even more difficult.

Moses comes down from the mountain and, upon seeing the idolatry of Israel, smashes the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This symbolizes what Israel has done: they have broken their covenant with the Lord. Moses asks, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” (Ex. 32:26). The Levites respond. Moses instructs them to kill the idolaters. 3,000 Israelites are put to the sword. Moses then tells the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, that he may bestow a blessing upon you this day” (Ex. 32:29).

No longer is Israel a nation of priests--from now on only one tribe of Israel will serve as priests, the Levites. As we shall see, in all of this we see God's Fatherly pedagogy...

To be continued...

1 comment:

Maria said...

Very good. Looking forward to next installment.