I Will Put My Torah in their Entrails

But this is the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my torah in their entrails, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:33

Most translations hide the visceral imagery behind Jeremiah 31:33. The Lord, he says, will put his torah (teaching, instruction, law) in the qereb (entrails) of the house of Israel when he cuts a new covenant with them. Qereb is the same Hebrew word used in Exodus and Leviticus in passages that instruct the Israelites what to do with the entrails of sacrificial animals.

Many English translations have something like “in their inward parts” or “within them”, which is correct but abstract. Qereb does mean “inner thing or place”. When describing body parts, however, it specifically refers to the internal organs.  The Vulgate is more concrete. It translates b’qerebam into Latin as in visceribus eorum (in their viscera), and the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible (1899) gets it right with “in their bowels.”

A few translators render b’qerebam as “in their mind”, following the Septuagint version of this verse. (The Septuagint’s version of Jeremiah is all out of order when compared to the Hebrew text. This verse is 38:33 in the Septuagint.) The Greek word used here for qereb is dianoia, which does indeed mean “mind”. “Mind” however, is an interpretive paraphrase.

The ancients, of course, did not know about the brain and the nervous system. For them, the internal organs were the seat of both the reason and the emotions. To love God with the heart was to love God with the mind, the will and the affections. To have God’s law written on the inner parts is to have his will come forth naturally in one’s desires. All of this seems obvious in Jeremiah’s choice of language.

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Samaria and Samaritans in Luke-Acts

Samaria and Samaritans figure prominently in the twin books of Luke and Acts, at least when compared to the other gospels. The Samaritans are not a stand-in for all despised or marginalized groups of people. They are the Judeans’ estranged kin. Echoes of God’s covenants with Israel still reverberate in their land. For Luke, the incorporation of Samaritans into the church represents one step in Jesus’ renewal of the whole people of God.

Who Were the Samaritans?

The Samaritans, you will recall, were Judah’s separated brothers and sisters, at least in part. After the death of King Solomon, the people of Israel divided into two nations: Israel in the north, with its capital at Samaria and Judah in the south, with its capital in Jerusalem. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom in 722 BC, sending the leaders of Israel into exile and importing foreigners to settle among the remnants of the population. By the time of Jesus, Samaritan and Jewish religion had diverged as well. Jesus, however, did not look at the Samaritans and see only half-breed heretics. He saw them as estranged brothers and sisters, whom the Lord would enfold into a renewed and reconstituted people of God.

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Retributive Justice and Eternal Damnation in 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12

Relief for the Persecuted

In the first chapter of Second Thessalonians, Paul seeks to encourage a persecuted church to persevere in the faith. To that end, he promises the church two things: God will permanently relieve their suffering and he will bring their persecutors to justice.

Retributive Justice

“Someone needs to be accountable for killing my child,” a mother pleaded on the local news this week. People want those who have painfully wronged them to face justice. Every day, it seems, the press carries stories of families who demand that offenders “pay for what they’ve done.” This is true on a community level as well. Holocaust survivors still seek punishment for those who tortured them in concentration camps nearly 80 years ago. Minority communities still want violent racists who terrorized them decades ago to be punished in a court of law. They want the same thing for officers of the law who abuse them today. Justice often demands some form retribution.

Persecuted Christians long for justice as well. The author of Revelation records this vision: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?'” (Revelation 6:9-10)

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Jeremiah Buys a Field

Jeremiah 32:1-15

The prophet Jeremiah was in prison and the army of Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem. The citizens of Jerusalem were starving and disease was running rampant. The situation looked hopeless and the people were desperate. Soon the city would be burned, its walls destroyed and its citizens dragged a thousand miles across the desert to the land of Babylon.

It seems to me that buying real estate would be the last thing on anyone’s mind. So why in the world would the prophet Jeremiah decide to buy his cousin’s field in a village outside Jerusalem, a part of the country then occupied by a foreign enemy? Why, indeed?

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Like Angels and Eunuchs

Those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.

Luke 20:34-36 (// Matthew 22:30 // Mark 12:25)

Jesus’ ethic around sex, marriage and family is rooted in both God’s creation of this present age and in his promise of a new creation in the age to come.

Jesus affirms the vision put forth at the very beginning of the Bible in the Book of Genesis: God made men and women to live together as equal partners in unbreakable bonds of lifelong sexual and emotional intimacy through which succeeding generations are born and nurtured. This is the “one flesh” of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 19:4-6. This is the way of blessedness and happiness.

Marriage is one of God’s good gifts. Nevertheless, it is not for everyone. The sexual and procreative relationship of marriage is a this-age phenomenon. In the age to come, Jesus says, we will be “like angels” who do not marry. Presumably, Jesus is not announcing bad news for the blessed: “Tough luck folks; no more sex in heaven.” On the contrary, it suggests that human intimacy in the age to come will transcend even the intimacy of marital relations. The joys of heaven may be difficult for us to envision, but we can be certain that God will make our lives more complete when Christ gathers us to himself in glory.

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