Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Jeremiah 30 – Here towards the end of the Book of Jeremiah, the lack of historical continuity becomes a bit of a problem for readers. Chapter 30 begins what my Jerusalem Bible calls The Book of Consolation; it was written sometime between 622 BC and the death of Josiah in 609, at the very beginning of Jeremiah’s “career” as a prophet. The Assyrian Empire was in decline and Josiah made an attempt to retake the lands of Samaria and Galilee that had been lost at the end of Solomon’s reign in 922 BC. There was a sense of optimism that a unified kingdom faithful to the monotheistic vision of the prophets might come to pass after centuries of turmoil. Jeremiah here gives voice to this optimism. The tables will be turned, Jeremiah assures the people. Those who oppressed Judah and Israel will now be oppressed. “The Lord says, ‘I will restore my people to their land and have mercy on every family; Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and its palace restored” (30:18).
2 Corinthians 11:16-33 – This next part of the letter is interesting in that Paul pretty much confesses that he is just angry, not speaking from what the Lord has prompted him to say but just from his own gut. These other “apostles” are apparently charging money for their preaching and making people feel they are getting something of greater value than what Paul delivered to them? Paul preached for free, supported by the congregation in Macedonia. They apparently are claiming to be more “Jewish” than Paul, for he reasserts his “Jewish” credentials here. They may also be claiming to have worked harder, but he here boasts of his on-going ordeal in service of the Gospel. He has been in prison more, been whipped more, been stoned and shipwrecked. He has endured dangers of all kinds, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst and exposure (11:25-29). Lastly he tells them of his amazing escape from the hands of the governor of Damascus, “let down in a basket through a window in the wall” (11:33).
There is a lot of emotion in this letter about the rivalries, divisions, boasts of superiority and travails suffered in these early days. So, the divisions in the church are from the beginning. Still, we must try to settle them, overcome them. If Paul anguished over this, it is something still worth working on.
It is also interesting that this reading from the New Testament is so similar to the reading from Jeremiah that is part of the day’s reading. Paul anguishes over the destructive influence of “false apostles” as Jeremiah does over that of the “false prophets.”