The Pope, Relics, and My Bathroom Window

Pope and Dave 2From my bathroom window I can see the local Catholic church two hundred yards away.  Yesterday, I noticed huge crowds in the parking lot, much bigger than I had ever seen, so as I was walking our dog Tig, I asked the gentlemen directing the vehicular chaos in the parking lot, “What’s going on?”

They said, “The relics of Saint Maria Goretti are on display.”

Now, the question you may be asking, is “Who is Saint Maria Goretti?”  I was very familiar with the name, since this particular church that I pass by literally several every day is named after her.

But I didn’t know her story, so I quickly went to The Compendium of All Knowledge (i.e., Wikipedia) and discovered that Maria Goretti was the youngest Catholic saint.  She was from eastern Italy, and at the age of twelve one of her neighbors, Alessandro Serenilli attempted to rape young Maria.  When she resisted, he threatened her, but she still refused, so he stabbed her with a knife several times.  Later, as she lay dying in the hospital she forgave her attempted rapist, reportedly saying that she hoped Alessandro would join her in heaven.  He was eventually arrested, convicted, and jailed, but after he release he became a lay brother in a monastery.  She became the patron saint of, among other things, teenage girls and rape victims.  I now know why her relics are so popular. If I had known her story earlier, I would have included it in my chapter on rape in Prostitutes and Polygamists.

We may ask if the Pope’s Catholic (particular for Francis), but there’s no question about me.  I’m not.  But I thought, I’m an empty nester now, I might as well walk the two hundred yards over to the church and check out the relics.  I stopped by at 8:30 last night, but the Mass had just finished and it was still packed, so I came back later about 10:30, which allowed most of the crowds to dwindle.

They had set up exhibits around the church, including one on “Relics.”  Now, I’m a bit skeptical about the whole idea of venerating relics, but I appreciated the message of this particular exhibit which made several valid points.
1) Relics are not “magic.”  Amen.
2) The relic doesn’t perform any miracles.  That would be God.  Great point.  
3) But God does use objects in Scripture to heal people: Elijah’s bones (2 Kgs. 13:21), Jesus’ cloak (Mark 6:56), Paul’s apron (Acts 19:12-12).  That’s true.

If you are interested, my “Zombie-interpretation” of the story of Elijah’s bones can be found here.

I probably won’t be spending my empty nest years chasing down relics, but I appreciated my short pilgrimage to Saint Maria Goretti Church, what I learned about her story, and how they support what they do with Scripture.

While I was at the church, Pope Francis stopped by to say hi, so I took a picture with him.  I may not always agree with Francis, but he is clearly a man who loves God, God’s word, and God’s people.  May God bless his visit to my city.

Prophets in the Former Prophets

The books of Joshua, Judges, 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings are known by three titles:

1) The Historical Books (along with a few other books).
2) The Deuteronomistic History (by scholars, because of connections to the book of Deuteronomy).  My dissertation was on the Deuteronomistic History.
Righteous Jehu and his Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession (Oxford Theological Monographs).
3) The Former Prophets (within the Jewish tradition).  The Latter Prophets are also known as the Major and Minor Prophets.

One of the reasons the title Prophets makes sense for these books is that there are a lot of prophets mentioned.  Well, not really in the books of Joshua and Judges, but in Samuel there’s a fair amount, and in Kings there are tons (literally).  Hundreds of prophets are mentioned in the book of kings.

As I study, research and write about these books, I like to make charts and tables.  Here is a link to my family tree of the Kings of Israel and Judah.

I’ve included a table below that will appear in some form in a couple of books I’m working on, but those versions won’t be in color.  The title: Prophetic Figures in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua-Kings).  Prophetic figures include people the text calls a prophet,  a “man of God,” and several prophet groups (sons of the prophets).

The left column lists all the biblical references.
The middle column includes the prophetic figures, in red when the text provides a name, gray if anonymous, and pink for prophetic groups.
The right column lists the king (only for Samuel-Kings) who reigned while the prophet ministered.  The color coding, green for United Monarchy, blue for the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and yellow for the Southern Kingdom (Judah), matches the color coding used for the Family Tree chart mentioned above.

What observations and patterns do you notice about these prophets and kings?  Add your thoughts in a comment below.  In my next blog in a few days I’ll share a few of my own comments.

If you know people who study the Bible seriously, send them a link to this table.  They’ll find it helpful.

Prophetic Figures in DH

Canine blood-lickers, avian flesh-pickers: the trash talking continues

Last time we saw Elijah trash talk Baal’s prophets, then slaughter them.  Jezebel then put out a hit on Elijah, who mysteriously flees and becomes suicidal (the other suicidal prophet is of course Jonah (4:3, 8)).  After YHWH told the depressed Elijah that he could replace him with Elisha (changing the plaque on the door would only involve a few letters), Elijah perks right up, finds Elisha and throws his mantle over him.

Some scholars think this mantle-toss counts as an anointing, but as anointings go, it seems pretty lame and Elijah’s words to his potential apprentice aren’t exactly encouraging–“Go back again; for what have I done for you?” (1 Kings 19:20).

Elijah disappears for a chapter (1 Kings 20), but after Jezebel orchestrates the death of their neighbor Naboth so her husband can take possession of his vineyard, he is called into action again by YHWH for some high quality trash talking (1 Kings 21:1-18).

YHWH tells Elijah to inform Ahab and Jezebel that dogs are going to lick up their blood (1 Kings 21:19-24).  During his interaction with Ahab, Elijah also tells him that if his family members die outside the city, the birds of the air will eat them.  That’s some nasty trash talking.  I’m still waiting for a good Christian book store to sell a poster of canine blood lickers and avian flesh pickers.

I’m sorry this is so graphic, but it is in the Bible and Paul tells us that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching” (2 Tim. 3:16).

So far, we’ve seen trash talking from David, Elijah and now YHWH.  So, why is trash talking in Scripture?  I’m still waiting for a good answer to this.  Maybe we don’t really think trash talking should be in there?  Or at least it’s not profitable for teaching?

We’ll have a few more installments from this OT trash talking series.