Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Maccabees 11:1-37 – Ptolemy VI tries to take possession of Alexander’s kingdom even though he is Alexander’s father-in-law. Ptolemy tries to win Demetrius’ cooperation by promising to give his daughter [Alexander’s wife at this time] to be his wife instead. The next sentence says that this actually happens right away.
Next, Ptolemy enters the city of Antioch and “assume[s] the crown of Asia” (11:13). When Ptolemy and Alexander finally engage in a decisive battle near the Lake of Antioch, Ptolemy’s forces are victorious even though Ptolemy himself is mortally wounded. He dies three days later. Alexander flees to Arabia and someone there kills him, cuts off his head and sends it to Ptolemy [now deceased]. So now both kings – Ptolemy and Alexander - are dead.
Demetrius becomes king of the Seleucid Empire in 145 BC.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Jonathan musters the “mean of Judea for an assault on the Citadel in Jerusalem” (11:20). The Citadel is a fortress of the Seleucid empire, which has now fallen into the hands of Demetrius, a ruler not allied with him as Alexander had been. Demetrius writes to Jonathan and asks to meet with him in Ptolemais. Jonathan continues to besiege the Citadel, but takes “the deliberate risk of taking silver and gold, clothing and numerous other presents, and going to Ptolemais to face the king, whose favor he succeeded in winning” (11:24). “The king, Demetrius, “treated him as his predecessors had treated him, and promoted him in the presence of all his friends” (11:26). Furthermore, “Jonathan claimed that the king should exempt Judaea from tribute, with the three Samaritan provinces, promising him three hundred talents in return. The king consented, and wrote Jonathan a rescript covering the whole matter” (11:28-29). Clever man, this Jonathan.
2 Peter 2 – The church will face what the gathered people of God under the Old Covenant faced, “false teachers, who will insinuate their own disruptive views and disown the Master who purchased their freedom” (2:1). This kind of departure from the road God wants us on has been part of the story from the beginning. Even the angels rebelled from God’s way. God did not spare them even.
Then there was the flood, then Sodom and Gomorrah. But in all these stories, God also show he “rescues the good from the ordeal” (2:9).
People who “insult what they do not understand are not reasoning beings” (2:12). They will suffer for the evil they do. They are “dried-up rivers, fogs swirling in the wind, and the dark underworld is the place reserved for them. With their high-flown talk, which is all hollow, they tempt back the ones who have only just escaped from paganism, playing on their bodily desires with debaucheries” (2:17-18).
Those who have been won to the Lord must be careful not to permit the “world” to entangle them again. It will go hard with those who relapse.
The tone of this letter is not “Pauline” at all. It is much more designed to raise fear in those of the community about these false teachings they are fighting. I think Paul’s approach is more encouraging, more from his own experience of Christ’s saving power and less “us and them,” but it is true that the problem of false teaching is ALWAYS a problem. The question remains how to create any human endeavor that is “fool-proof.” I don’t think it’s possible.