Christian Bible Study

(303 Posts)
HoneyandRum Wed 29-Jan-14 21:54:19

Welcome everyone to Christian Bible Study week 1. For convenience we are using the Lectionary Gospel reading for each Sunday. Our reading this week is Luke 2:22-40. For anyone without a bible here is the reading, (quite long):

"And when the day came for them to be purified in keeping with the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord - observing what is written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord - and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is prescribed in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to the restoration of Israel and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

Now, Master, you are letting your servant go in peace as you promised;
for my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have made ready in the sight of the nations;
a light of revelation for the gentiles and glory for your people Israel.

As the child's father and mother were wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Look, he is destined to be a sign that is opposed - and a sword will pierce your soul too - so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.'

There was a prophetess, too, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came up just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Gaililee, to their own town of Nazareth. And as the child grew to maturity, he was filled with wisdom; and God's favour was with him."

(This quote is from The New Jerusalem Bible, a Catholic translation widely used in English speaking countries. If you have a different translation you would like to post please do, with details of the translation you are using.)

To fellow Christians: This is a place of fellowship, encouragement, gentleness and understanding as sisters and brothers in Christ. To help each other grow in faith, understanding of the scriptures and of each other's faith traditions in a respectful and loving manner.

Please share your reflections, inspirations, thoughts, questions, musings and findings from study here.

Shout out to those who dropped by showing interest in a Bible Study:
niminypiminy, wolfiefan, Dogonabeanbag, StressedHEmum, minniemagoo, lostblonde86, thegreenheartofmanyroundabouts, madhairday, thanksamillion, Loobingler, Tuo, Gingerdodger, ZingSweetApple, Cloutiedumpling, Gingercurl and AMumInScotland !

stressedHEmum Thu 30-Jan-14 17:26:13

Marking place with the thought that God comes to the poorest. You don't have to be rich, famous or important for Him to notice and love you. Also, I think that God reveals himself equally to both men and women (Simeon and Anna) if they have eyes to see him.

There is a lot in this passage, I will think and pray on it and come back later.

niminypiminy Thu 30-Jan-14 20:45:37

I came across this poem recently, and really loved it. It made me see Simeon with new eyes:

"Candlemas"
-Denise Levertov

With certitude
Simeon opened
ancient arms
to infant light.
Decades
before the cross, the tomb
and the new life,
he knew
new life.
What depth
of faith he drew on,
turning illumined
towards deep light.
As the dark presses in and the days get even shorter, I hope I "turn illumined towards deep night."

I love the idea of Christ being 'deep light'. I also find the idea that a sword will pierce Mary's soul incredibly moving.

cloutiedumpling Thu 30-Jan-14 22:02:30

I'm struck that the passage involves people who may have felt at the margins of society - two elderly people (including a woman) and young first time parents. That Christ came for everyone and not just the respectable middle aged middle classes.

Tuo Thu 30-Jan-14 23:19:17

'Deep light' is beautiful, niminy.

I am struck by the last line of the Nunc dimittis: 'a light of revelation for the gentiles and glory for your people Israel'. It strikes me because the context here is so Jewish (taking the baby at the appointed time to the Temple, making the sacrifice, doing everything according to the Law), and yet Simeon sees immediately, not only that this baby is the promised Messiah, who will be 'a glory for [...] Israel', but also that He will be 'a light of revelation for the gentiles', that His reach will be far greater than had been imagined or hoped for.

And the impact of that is reinforced by the fact that, as others have said, Christ is recognised and acclaimed here not only by Simeon but also by Anna. So the passage as a whole makes me think of Galatians 3: 28: 'There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus '.

At the same time, the reference to the sword that will pierce Mary's soul serves to remind me of Christ's humanity. It is because He is truly human (as well as truly God) that his suffering and death causes those who love Him such pain. It's such a powerful image because it evokes the vulnerability of a tiny baby and the instinctive protectiveness of a mother towards her son; but also because we know how it's going to end (with pain and death, but also the overcoming of death...).

Gingerdodger Fri 31-Jan-14 06:47:50

I have a sense from Simeon that he had a sense of peace once he had seen Christ whereas Anna seems to be filled with joy and excitement, both of these emotions seem to sum up what Christianity can bring. This coupled with what Mary and Joseph must have felt, which must have been a real sense of trepidation for Jesus and themselves, do seem to be reflected in how it can feel to be a Christian. There is also a real sense of anticipation too, none of those people knew exactly what would happen yet they all embraced this knowledge in their own way.

I did have to smile at the sentence that said Anna's days of girlhood were over and that she was 84. It did give me a sense of vitality for her though suggesting her days of girlhood were not far behind her even though she was very elderly.

I am really enjoying reading everyone's take on this passage, it's really interesting that everyone has taken slightly different things from it and is great to discuss and build up a greater understanding by seeing what others have to say about it.

thanksamillion Fri 31-Jan-14 07:59:41

'As the child's father and mother were wondering at the things that were being said about him'

I think that this is an interesting bit as well. Even despite all the things that they knew from Jesus' birth Mary and Joseph still seem a bit surprised at what's happening! It also seems to imply other things were said that what is recorded here maybe?

Dogonabeanbag Fri 31-Jan-14 09:49:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cloutiedumpling Fri 31-Jan-14 16:47:52

I've just thought - would Mary and Joseph have been nervous about presenting Jesus because they weren't married? I know Jewish customs were different and don't know if this is something that would have been frowned on or not.

thanksamillion Fri 31-Jan-14 18:47:17

cloutie I thought they were married by then. My understanding is that they probably married sometime before Jesus was born. This is based on the fact that when Joseph hears about the pregnancy and thinks that he'll call it off, the angel appears to him and he changes his mind, implying that he's decided to go through with the wedding.

I'm happy to be told I'm wrong (or for someone to explain it better!) grin

cloutiedumpling Fri 31-Jan-14 18:55:50

Good point! I've just looked at Matthew Chapter 1 again.

One of the things that strikes me about this passage is that both Anna and Simeon are old. They have waited a very long time and in the case of Anna that wait has been a hard one as she is widowed. If I were preaching on this passage (which I'm not) I would probably focus on this point and explore how waiting is something we aren't very good at any more wanting quick fixes and easy solutions. I'd also explore how the messiah came as a baby and not as a warrior king and so God comes to us in unexpected ways and to unexpected people so that being alert to the God of surprises is always a good thing!

Something odd is happening with time which is part of the poem above. The old and the young are meeting with a sense of continuity of the old with Anna and Simeon and something very new at the same time. The reference to the sword and Mary's future brings a sense of time folding in and spreading out and which looks forward to the cross and resurrection. A pivotal moment.

Random thoughts I'm afraid!

stressedHEmum Sat 01-Feb-14 15:25:15

TO go back to the Offering of the Poor, I find it very comforting that Mary and Joseph were just an ordinary couple, working hard to make ends met. Jesus knew what it was like to grow up without much in the way of material stuff, perhaps wondering about making ends meet or being able to meet religious obligations that cost money. He understands and can help us to deal with it when we are struggling. He gives us the strength to cope and to rely more on God and His provision.

I also really like Simeon's prophesy.

vv34-35 This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the hearts of many will be revealed

I think that we rise or fall depending on how we react to Jesus. He is the helping hand that lifts us up to be all that we can be. Ps40 says
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand

That, to me, is what Jesus does. He lifts me up from the mire and sets me on solid ground. If I were to reject Him and His love, I would just sink (fall) in the mire, cutting myself off from God.

I think that this passage has a lot to say about hope, as well. Simeon and Anna were both old but they still waited expectantly on God and on His Messiah. The years of waiting hadn't dimmed that hope, instead all their prayer, fasting, worship and waiting had kept it bright and alive. Surely that has a lot to teach us. it's easy to lose faith and be disheartened when life doesn't go the way we want it o or when God doesn't seem to be answering our prayers on time. But by prayer, worship and spending time with God we can keep our hope real and our faith alive and vital.

Mary and Joseph wondering about all that was being said about their baby always reminds me of the verses that speak of Mary treasuring these sayings in her heart. Jesus was their PFB and they were full of the wonder that we all feel about our new babies and they treasured others remarks about him. Even though they had been through the miracle of His birth, they didn't really understand His purpose or His mission, he was just their special little baby. I think it brings home the humanity of the whole situation. Even though Jesus was God, he was still a tiny, vulnerable, dependent human baby with parents who loed him just like we love our children.

HoneyandRum Sun 02-Feb-14 08:08:07

What came to me as I reflected on this passage was listening. Both Simeon and Anna were able to recognize God because they were listening to him. Simeon was prompted by the Spirit to go to the Temple, but he could have ignored that prompting. Anna, because she was in a state of constant prayer was able to recognize the word living in front of her when she encountered Jesus and his family. Also - all of the adults mentioned in this passage had had an immediate encounter with God which they were able to respond to because they were listening. Mary had been visited by Gabriel but she could've said "no" to the incarnation, as we all have freewill. Joseph could've ignored the experience of his dream and not taken Mary as his wife. So all were receptive to God, listening to God and able to respond - bringing them all to these encounters at the Temple. So there's the dynamic of all these people responding to God in their own way, in their own lives creating a powerful lived experience and witness to God.

Something different I was pondering was the physical reality. I'm not sure how far Jerusalem is from Nazareth but Mary would be breastfeeding her very tiny baby (40 days old) and they would be making their way when it was perhaps hot and uncomfortable (and she had already trekked to Bethlehem not long before when heavily pregnant). I imagine there could've been many people in and around the Temple, with all the sights, sounds and smells. I also wondered if other family members and friends were accompanying them. We often seem to imagine the Holy Family as a little nuclear family but as the passage in scripture regarding Jesus being missing in Jerusalem at 12 shows, they had travelled to Jerusalem at that time in a caravan of people. It was only when they got home they discovered Jesus was not with any of their friends, relatives and neighbors when they assumed he was in the convoy somewhere.

So I wonder if the encounters with Simeon and Anna were quiet events or very public with friends and family as witnesses. I like how much we know about Anna, who her father was and which tribe she belonged to. It makes me think she was well known and a publically revered figure. Especially as she is called a prophetess. Other people generally decide if you're a prophet - you can't really go around saying "I'm a prophet" as then I imagine people would generally mark you down as a nutcase. It has to be a gift that others recognize. And prophet did not meant to see into the future but to be able to recognize something in the present that should be acknowledged. So rather than saying Jesus "will be" Anna is saying Jesus "is" . The baby is our savior now.

Gingerdodger Sun 02-Feb-14 14:04:51

Honey I wondered that about whether it was just them there or whether it was a much larger occasion and what it was about Jesus that convinced them he was the right one? They must have received a very clear message from God or perhaps they were super tuned in.

I really enjoyed listening again to this reading in mass this morning. At mass the children on the sacramental (those children who will be confirmed and do their first Holy Communion) programme were also presented so real synergy there. It was lovely listening to the children reflecting on the passage and how they would have expected the Messiah to be a big strong adult, not a baby, which again reinforced how receptive Simeon and Anna were.

HoneyandRum Sun 02-Feb-14 15:34:27

Lovely thoughts Gingerdodger, also Mary herself of course was very young - maybe 16. St. Joseph is sometimes presented as a much older man but that doesn't seem to make much sense. Although he would've been old enough to have a trade and be able to support a family surely he would be maybe early to mid 20s. We need someone with knowledge of Jewish traditions and sociology of this period! But I think of them as a young couple, who have this information and knowledge about their child, yet at the same time just like us - going forward in faith, not knowing what this means or where it will lead. Yet having constant confirmation from the events and experiences they enter into.

TeacupDrama Sun 02-Feb-14 23:16:31

I doubt that they traveled from Nazareth, Jesus was born in Bethlehem at that time a mother would not have gone out really until she had been ritually cleansed which was generally 40 days (7 +33)after the birth, (leviticus12) he was circumcised on 8th day

Bethlehem is about 12 miles at most from Jerusalem, I think they would have gone to temple then; in fact in verse 39 it says after they had performed everything according to the law they returned to nazareth

there is no biblical evidence of the age of either Mary or Joseph, all we know is that he was a carpenter, then children were generally considered to move to adulthood at age 12, religiously at that age they were responsible for own sin etc although there is some historical evidence that girls were married young it was still rare for marriages to be as young as 12 most girls would have been 15+ and men maybe early twenties to afford a dowry, the recorded thoughts of Mary and Joseph seem to indicate some spiritual maturity

I am also struck that although he was the Messiah and that his parents knew that they still sacrificed according to the law, Jesus need no sacrifices but he followed the law saying I did not come to set aside the law but rather to fulfill it

I think the faith of all 4 adults is amazing, there had been no word from God in form of prophecy for 400 hundred years and most prophecies about the Messiah were older than that, yet they had not given up hope or thought that God was not true to his word, I think there are lessons in patience and faith there

niminypiminy Mon 03-Feb-14 09:13:17

I think this passage needs careful interpretation if we are viewing it as historical. This episode only occurs in Luke, and there's a contradiction between the Holy Family going to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple, and the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt (Matt. 2:14-15). Which is the case?

One way to see this is to think about these two episodes as having different meanings for the writers of the two gospels and the early Christian churches they were associated with. The flight to Egypt makes a link between Moses and Jesus, and emphasises the continuities between God's covenant with Abraham/Israel and Jesus as Messiah. The presentation of Christ shows Jesus being recognised as Messiah in the Temple, that is, in the centre of Jewish life and worship. If you like, they are two different ways of affirming the same thing, that Jesus fulfilled the longing of the Jewish people for the Messiah. But they can't both be historically true exactly as written.

One of the things that I think is really poignant about this passage is the sense you get of the longing for the Messiah -- and of course we know that during the inter-testamental period there was a great expectation that a Messiah, a liberating King, would appear -- and the paradox that he appears as a vulnerable, ordinary (but extraordinary) child. I think that confounding of expectations also extends to Simeon and Anna: they're not priests or scribes, they are not professionally religious, they don't have special status -- as StressedHEMum and others have said, they are people on the margins. It is the outsiders who recognise who Jesus is. I find it very hopeful: like Jesus's encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) which has been a very important text for me in my own faith journey.

The sermon at my church yesterday dwelt on 'a light of revelation for the gentiles', and the way Jesus's light is both actual (in the sense of photons) light and metaphorical light, and it shines onto us, and through us out into the world. It made me think again about one of my favourite verses from the Psalms, 'In you is the fountain of life/ By your light we see the light' (Ps 36:9). We see the light because of the greater, deeper light that is Jesus, and we are the light (as in the prayer after communion, 'May we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world') because we are in His light.

madhairday Mon 03-Feb-14 17:09:39

Just marking my place, not so well so not very coherent, but appreciating your thoughts, especially niminy's poem.

I like this bit in the Message translation

25-32 In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:

God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.

I like the 'prayerful expectancy' and the 'God revealing light'. There's a great depth about Simeon's faithful waiting. God sometimes asks us to wait, and it can be dark and cold and nothing-y. For Simeon and Anna is was years, decades, of prayerful expectancy. It can be hard to hold on to expectancy when waiting seems endless - easier perhaps to give up on the expecting anything to happen, so as not to be hurt further. But faithfulness in holding on God honours, as God honoured these two.

cloutiedumpling Mon 03-Feb-14 18:19:12

I've just thought - I wonder if Mary and Joseph knew Simeon beforehand? It may be a cultural difference but there's no way I'd have let a complete stranger hold my PFB!

HoneyandRum Tue 04-Feb-14 08:53:08

madhairday love that translation especially "release me in peace as you promised"

I would love to add something from the sermon on Sunday but it was in German and mine's not good enough to grasp what was said! However, I did go to Mass during the week and asked the priest about the part in this reading that really jumped out at me. That was the Holy Spirit. I was somewhat confused as I thought the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. I asked the priest and he said, well the Holy Spirit was never created but is always present through all eternity. Honey smacks head here - well of course! He had to run so I asked some good friends more about this. What was different about the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in comparison to before? Their answer was that before Jesus came the Spirit rested on, or by someone but at Pentecost and everafter we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

I have not had the time to sit down with a bible and the catechism and read if that is the case. I would really appreciate thoughts and comments on this point from those of you with understanding of scripture and theology. All I know is I have a constant experience of the Holy Spirit but would like the theological explanation too.

(Please be patient with me, I am a convert from atheism!)

madhairday Tue 04-Feb-14 09:29:57

Would love to hear the story of your journey to faith, honey smile

Regarding the Holy Spirit, that's pretty much as I understand it. The HS was present in creation ('brooded upon the waters') and present throughout the OT. Mentions are made of the spirit's presence on various people. Then Joel 2 v 28 says

'“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters.
Your old men will dream,
your young men will see visions.
I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants,
men and women both.'

- which is what is quoted at Pentecost, as a different kind of outpouring. It is evident that before Pentecost the disciples were running scared, but after this day something changed (ie 3,000 added to their number in one day grin) - they became bold as they received the HS. Jesus was filled with the HS - his baptism narratives tell how the HS came from heaven in the form of a dove and rested upon him - and Jesus talks about how much more would his Father send his HS to his followers.

So it does seem the HS was always there in presence, rested on some people and empowered them, then at Pentecost was given to all who asked.

HoneyandRum Tue 04-Feb-14 10:10:24

Well as they say madhairday

Why was Mary Magdalene at the Crucifixion, Burial in the Tomb and Resurrection?

Because she was a convert and went to everything.

grin

niminypiminy Tue 04-Feb-14 10:46:02

grin

madhairday Tue 04-Feb-14 11:32:06

grin

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