Signposts, 30th October 2013: Joel 2:23-32; Ps. 65; 2 Tim.4:8-16; Luke 18:9-14
Joel seems like an oddity* as the second of “The Twelve” short Prophets that finish up with the Old Testament. The people of Judea had been naughty and God had sent a plague of locusts to punish them. But they answer the call to repentance (2:15-17) and are no longer sneered at by neighbouring nations (2:18-20). Our reading ends at the end of chapter 2, but chapter 3 is fiercely revengeful; 3:10 is a horrible turning upside down of a very fine quotation.
I wondered how a reading of such un-Christian thoughts could get into the lectionary, until I noticed “Acts 2:17-21” in the margin of the First Testament, and looked it up. I found that Peter had quoted Joel 2: 28-32 word for word (or someone told Luke he did) in the first Christian sermon ever preached. Which is a good example of the way that you can prove anything is true if you know where to look in the Bible!
The sweet friendly words we have from 2 Timothy are so homely that it seems a pity to say that they weren’t written by Paul. So I reached out with my right arm to pull my Greek/English New Testament from the bookshelf, to find what the key words are that prove that they weren’t. I opened the book at the end of 2 Timothy and found the Greek letters are now too small for me to read. So I pulled out my Lowther Clarke from a shelf I can only reach on tip-toes. That gentle priest, who was writing more than sixty years ago, was saying very politely even then that Paul didn’t write it.
The story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is so well known, and has such an obvious meaning, that I don’t have anything else to say about it, except that neither of the other two synoptic gospels have it in the same form. That makes an interesting oddity. Why? The next six stories in Luke have “parallel Matthew and Mark” in the margins. Clever Biblical scholars will say or write that it tells us something about the way that New Testament came to be written and put together. Actual it’s amazing that it was collected and passed on at all.
*Jonah is a more odd oddity, and who put it there must have his tongue in his cheek.