Sunday, July 23, 2017

Honoring the Christian Faith of Haile Selassie on the 125th Anniversary of His Birth

Blessed Earthstrong to the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God, Defender of the faith. Today, 23 July, 2017, is the 125th Birthday of His Imperial Majesty. On our blog, we honor H.I.M. as "Defender of the Faith." The Emperor had a deep and abiding love for our Lord Eyesus Kristos, and for the Holy Scriptures. His Imperial Majesty demonstrates his Christian faith by 1) His Daily Practice 2) His deep and abiding faith 3) His love of Eyesus Kristos, our Lord and God, and desire to evangelize others 4) His devotion to the Holy Bible and it's message.

1) His Imperial Majesty did not just pay formal lip-service to the Christian Faith. He was a devout practicioner, who was very disciplined in his daily prayers and practices. On our sidebar (on the upper right side panel of our blog), we post the following tribute from an Anglo-Catholic priest:

"The late Emperor spent many hours daily in traditional Prayer Books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. He would have been saturated with the Apostolic teaching and spirit. Bishop Paulos Mar Gregorios spent enough time at the great Emperor's court to observe these habits and wrote about them. I was surprised at the devotion of His Imperial Majesty, and I hope to achieve similar heights of spiritual life...."

2) The Emperor speaks of how his deep and abiding faith has sustained him:
"There are many instances in my life where the belief in The Almighty and the Christian Faith have sustained me, times of troubles and difficulties. No matter what may befall a human being he can always succeed in overcoming it in time if he has the strength of faith and praise to God, for inevitably He comes to the assistance of those that believe in him and those that through their work live an exemplary life."

3) His Imperial Majesty was devoted to our Lord Eyesus Kristos, and believed in evangelizing other of the Good News of Kristos:

“I know I am saved , not by anything that is of character or work of the human heart, but by the blood of Jesus alone.” (African Challenge Magazine, Nov 1960) His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie the 1st, the Last King of Kings of Ethiopia.

“The love shown by our God to mankind should constrain all of us who are followers and disciples of Christ, to do all in our power to see to it that the message of salvation is carried to those of our fellows for whom Christ our Savior was sacrificed but who have not had the benefit of hearing the good news.”

4) Finally, His Imperial Majesty was devoted to the Holy Bible and it's message:

"From early childhood I was taught to appreciate the Bible and my love for it increases with the passage of time. All through my troubles I have found it a cause of infinite comfort.

 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11.28)' who can resist an invitation so full of compassion?

 I have the highest respect for the Bible as a whole...We find that in all the periods of the Old Testament, in the time of Patriarchs, Kings, and Prophets, great miracles were done. On the other hand, the time in which Our Lord HIM-self gave the command to go to all the world and to preach is also of high value. Then, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,- the four gospels in which the sayings of our Lord are recorded- are pillars for all men on the earth. Therefore the Bible should not be cut into portions.

Because of this personal experience in the goodness of the Bible, I was resolved that all my countrymen should also share its great blessing and that by reading the Bible they should find truth for themselves. Therefore, I caused a new translation to be made from our ancient language into the language which the old and the young understood and spoke.

Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumbling before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realise that the Bible is his refuge, and the rallying point for all humanity. In it man will find the solution of his present difficulties and guidance for his future action, and unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great Message, he cannot hope for salvation. For my part I glory in the Bible."

Sources: Decision Magazine, Africa; the famous "Bible Speech" in H.I.M.'s address on literacy to the United Nations; and his interview with Dr. Oswald Hoffman, December 25, 1968, on the Lutheran Hour

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cubicle Wall of Saints

On my cubicle at work, saints and some of my spiritual heroes- Clockwise, starting at the top/middle: Armenian Martyrs; Our LORD Jesus Christ (Ethiopian Icon); His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, panel of Haile Selassie, Abune Yesehaq, & Bob Marley; St. Sharbel (Maronite); Dr. George Lamsa, Translator of the Peshitta Scriptures; Bede Griffiths, O.S.B., and Spiritual writer and director of the Shantivanam Asrham in India.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jesus and the Older Testament, the Word of God

Jesus and Torah, the Word of God

Jesus tells his co-religionists in John chapter 5: “Examine the scriptures; in them you trust that you have eternal life; and even they testify concerning me. Yet you will not come to me, that you might have life everlasting.” - John 5.39,40.

Jesus tells them that belief in the Sacred Scriptures proceeds faith in Him (See  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” - Romans 10.17.

Jesus hits on this theme several times in the Gospels:

In the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31), Jesus concludes by saying, “Abraham said to him, If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe even if a man should rise from the dead.” - Luke 16.31.

In his debate with his co-religionists in John chapter 5, Jesus says:

“For if you had believed in Moses, you would also have believed in me; for Moses wrote concerning me. If you do not believe his writings, how then can you believe my words?” - John 5.46,47.

It is important for Christians to not take these passages above as condemnation of the Jews, as often very tragically has been done. Rather, Jesus’s words are an admonition for all to believe the Word of God. Saint Paul tells Timothy, in the classic text on the inspiration of the Scriptures:

“knowing that you have learned from your childhood the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All scripture written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness; So that God’s people may become complete, thoroughly perfected for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3.15-17.

Remember, in the passage above, Paul is only referring to the Older Testament. The Older Testament was THE Bible for the first Christians.

Jesus makes parallel statements about the eternal nature of the Word of God, both in the Older Testament and in His teaching.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to weaken the law or the prophets; I have not come to weaken, but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth pass away, not even one yoth [Yoth is the smallest letter in Aramaic and Hebrew.] or a dash shall pass away from the law until all of it is fulfilled.” - Matthew 5.17,18.
But Jesus also makes the same claim for His own teaching: "Even heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away." - Matthew 24.35.

The disciple of Christ must be dedicated to studying the whole Scripture, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." - 2 Timothy 2.15 KJV.  Again, the passage just quoted refers to the Older Testament.

Finally, the one who studies the Word of God must not only read and study it, but do it.

“While he was on the way, a man came running and fell on his knees and asked him, saying, O good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit life eternal? Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? There is no one who is good except the one God. You know the commandments? Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not murder, Do not bear false witness, Do not oppress, Honor your father and mother....” - Mark 10.17-19.

We should not assume that Jesus is merely being rhetorical or ironic here; He is in fact telling the young man that these are the requirements for everlasting life. He will of course, go on tell the young man that he must sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, in order to be perfect; but we must not kid ourselves that obedience to the commandments is optional. Jesus warns us "It is not everyone who merely says to me, My Lord, my Lord, who will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven." - Matthew 7.21; (see also Psalm 62.12; Matthew 16.27; John 5.29; Romans 2.6-11; James 2.14-26; Revelation 20.12 & 21.14) .

Jesus admonished His disciples to obey the Word, both written (the Scriptures) and Living (Himself). He is the Word made flesh:

"So the Word became flesh and blood, and lived for awhile among us, abounding in blessing and truth, and we saw the honor God had given Him, such as an only son receives from his father." - John 1.14 Goodspeed.  

Unless otherwise indicated, the Bible passages above are from the Lamsa translation of the Peshitta Scriptures.

The Three Prime Languages of the Sacred Scriptures

"There was also an inscription which was written over him, in Greek and Roman and Hebrew, [Aramaic, the language of the Jews.] THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." - Luke 23.38.

The picture above features three of my favorite Bible versions/editions, the Orthodox Study Bible, the Lamsa translation of the Peshitta (my daily reading Bible as of late), and the Confraternity version New Testament (the 1941 modern revision of the Rheims N.T., translated from the Latin).

They represent three main languages the ancient Scriptures were dispersed in: Aramaic (represented by my Lamsa Bible), Greek (represented by my Orthodox Study Bible), and Latin (represented by my Confraternity Bible). The Eastern Churches- the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syrian and Indian Orthodox Churches, the Chaldean and Maronite Catholic Churches, all have the Peshitta (Aramaic for true, and straight) as their traditional Bible text. The Greek-speaking Churches have the Byzantine or Traditional Greek text for the New Testament, and the Septuagint Greek text for the Older Testament. The Western Catholic Church’s traditional text is the Latin Vulgate, as translated by Saint Jerome.

My Preference

I think it is very significant that Mar Eshoo Mashikkah (Our LORD  Jesus Christ), had posted in writing by Pilate on His cross, “King of the Jews” in these three languages. For He is the Living Word of God, He is the Torah and the Scriptures embodied.

Lately my daily reading Bible has been Lamsa’s translation of the Peshitta. Aramaic is the the language of Our LORD. The Churches of the East received the Scriptures primarily through the Aramaic translation, the Peshitta:

"With reference to....the originality of the Peshitta text, as the Patriarch and Head of the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East, we wish to state, that the Church of the East received the scriptures from the hands of the blessed Apostles themselves in the Aramaic original, the language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that the Peshitta is the text of the Church of the East which has come down from the Biblical times without any change or revision."
Mar Eshai Shimun
by Grace, Catholicos Patriarch of the East
April 5, 1957

Bede Griffiths, the great mystic, theologian, and abbot, and one of my spiritual heroes, has this to say on the primacy of the Aramaic for the Gospels:"the first Gospels themselves are translations into Greek from the original Aramaic, interpreting the original message in the light of a new situation, yet always remaining faithful to the original mystery." - Return to the Centre, page 73.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Other Eastern Churches- from the Christian Century

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians outside of St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa. Photo © David Stanley via Creative Commons license.

This article, at least as of this writing, is not behind a pay wall. The Oriental Orthodox Churches are Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syrian, and Malankara (Syrian Orthodox in India).

Read the whole Christian Century article here: The Other Eastern Churches

"Chalcedon was widely rejected in those ancient Eastern churches that had the best claim to direct continuity from the apostolic age...Although the Orientals still reject Chalcedon, differences between the various communions have faded dramatically over time. In their liturgical and devotional life, these churches still have an immense amount in common with the Orthodox. Even on key theological issues, tensions have diminished enormously. Over the past century, productive conversations between Chalce­donian and Oriental communions have shown how slight were the actual differences between the two sides and how misleading were the stereotypes each side once had of the other...Much of the ancient disagreement was technical, semantic, and symbolic."