Making Sense of the New American Right

Keeping track of the Jacksonians, Reformicons, Paleos, and Post-liberals.

I like to start my classes on conservative intellectual history by distinguishing between three groups. There is the Republican party, with its millions of adherents and spectrum of opinion from very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, and yes, liberal. There is the conservative movement, the constellation of single-issue nonprofits that sprung up in the 1970s

  • gun rights,
  • pro-life,
  • taxpayer,
  • right to work

— and continue to influence elected officials. Finally, there is the conservative intellectual movement: writers, scholars, and wonks whose journalistic and political work deals mainly with ideas and, if we’re lucky, their translation into public policy.

Is Jeremiah 7:22 a Denial of Moses?

By some Skeptics’ thinking, Jeremiah 7:22 “stands in flagrant contradiction of what the last four books of the Pentateuch say” with their many commands of offerings and sacrifices. Presumably we are to think that Jeremiah represents some “anti-cultus” faction that denies the Mosaic heritage — some would say, that he is speaking against a recent forgery of Deuteronomy “discovered” in the Temple.

.. The simple answer to this notes that this is rather the use of hyperbole to effect a point. The purpose of this phrase is to show the relative importance of sacrifices, etc. in terms of inward attitudes. Indeed, were this not so, we would be constrained to ask how such an obvious “condemnation” of the sacrifices survived the so-called “cutting” since the very priests that Skeptics accuse of creating the sacrificial law for their own benefit were the ones who made the “cuttings” in the first place.

But history knows of no such opposition to the sacrificial system in Israel; while the temple machinery was often corrupt (as in the time of Annas), there is no indication at all that the actual sacrificial practice was disdained.

For some Skeptics, however, the text must be read “plainly” and to them, “plainly” this means Jeremiah was indisposed to the Pentateuch.

.. The people assumed that simply having the Temple around protected them – as though a modern person assumed that nothing bad could happen to them inside a church! In a sense the people attributed to the Temple and the sacrifices a sort of magical power to keep enemies at bay. Jeremiah’s message negates this idea: How can the people sin and think that they will still be protected

.. Finally, in our verse (22), a rhetorical negation is used to bring attention to the fact that internal posture is more important than external ritual.

.. As it is expressed in 1 Samuel 15:22 —

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

This sort of outrageous, rhetorical teaching technique was quite common to Semitic and ANE culture. Hence, we have Jesus’ parables, with outrageous images of a beam in the eye and a Pharisee swallowing a came

.. “God’s essential demands did not concern ritual matters, but the keeping of the Covenant stipulations.”

.. Likewise, Laymon [Laym. IntB, 380]:

Hebrew idiom allows the denial of one thing in order to assert another, and the intention here is not wholly to deny but only to relegate to second place.

.. The Skeptical case for disharmony is based upon his inability and/or refusal to grasp the passage in its socio-linguistic context

.. This sort of rejection would have resulted in an enormous split in Judaism that would have left reverberations even unto this day

..  Furthermore, generally speaking, negation idioms have a rich history in oral cultures around the world. Socrates was known for a sarcastic type of irony that employed negation idioms. Even today, we use forms of negation idioms, generally in the same sarcastic manner as in the OT. (An example: Someone observing heavy rain and saying, “What nice weather we’re having!”)

.. We have only ourselves to blame if we find the message of the Bible “unclear”: It is we who made our language less colorful and less idiomatic than Hebrew.

Calvin Commentary: Jeremiah 7:22

Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah seems to have condemned sacrifices too much; for we know they were designed for certain purposes: they were intended to promote penitence; for when an animal was killed at the altar, all were reminded that they were guilty of death, which the animals underwent instead of men. Hence God did thereby represent to the Jews, as in a mirror, the dreadful judgment they deserved; and the sacrifices were also living images of Christ; they were sure pledges of that expiation through which men are reconciled to God. Jeremiah then seems here to speak too contemptibly of sacrifices; for they were seals of God’s grace, and had been instituted to lead men to repentance. But he speaks according to the ideas of those who had strangely vitiated the worship of God; for the Jews were sedulously attentive to sacrifices, and yet neglected the main things — faith and repentance. Hence the Prophet here repudiates sacrifices, because these false worshippers of God had adulterated them; for they were only intent on external rites, and overlooked their design, and even despised it.

.. Absurdly then did the Jews offer their sacrifices, as though they could thereby appease God: and this is the reason why the prophets inveighed so pointedly against sacrifices. God says that he nauseated them, that he was wearied with them, that his name was thereby polluted, (Isaiah 1:14)

.. “What are your offerings and sacrifices to me.”

he says by Amos. Such declarations occur everywhere in the Prophets; we are told that sacrifices were not only of no account before God, but that they were filthy things which he abominated; that is, when the things signified were separated from the signs.

 

.. he says of God, that he gave no command respecting sacrifices: for before the law was published, God had ordered sacrifices to be offered to him; as, for instance, the passover; for the pascal lamb, as it is well known, was a sacrifice; and he had also spoken of sacrifices before the people were liberated. Moreover, after the law was given, a priesthood was established among the people, as Moses clearly shews.

.. He therefore makes a distinction between external signs and spiritual worship

Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Some would argue from hence that sacrifices were at first an invention of men, as papists and Socinians; and because they should not be used to idols, God gave way for the introducing them into his worship; but it is evident in Scripture that they have been of Divine institution ever since Adam, Genesis 4:3,4. As to the meaning of the words, God doth not condemn them, or deny them, save only comparatively in respect of obedience, not so much these as obeying his commands, 1 Samuel 15:22 Hosea 6:6, i.e. mercy rather than sacrifice. Negatives are often put for comparatives, Genesis 45:8 Exodus 16:8 John 5:45. Hence the Hebrew is, the matter of burnt-offerings; for sacrifices were not instituted for themselves, but for other uses, and to be signs of faith in his promises, and obedience to his commands, as in the next verse, where the condition, promise, and end are all set down.

 

.. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices – not contradicting the divine obligation of the legal sacrifices. But, “I did not require sacrifices, unless combined with moral obedience (Psalms 50:8; Psalms 51:16-17, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”). The superior claim of the moral above the positive precepts of the law was marked by the ten commandments having been delivered first, and by the two tables of stone being deposited alone in the ark (Deuteronomy 5:6; Hebrews 9:4; Exodus 25:16). The negative in Hebrew often supplies the want of the comparative: not excluding the thing denied, but only implying the prior claim of the thing set in opposition to it (Hosea 6:6). “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22.) Love to God is the supreme end, external observances only means toward that end. ‘The mere sacrifice was not so much what I commanded, as the sincere submission to my, will, which gives to the sacrifice all its virtue’ (Magee, ‘Atonement,’ note 57).

Jeremiah 7:22: Commentary

The first promulgation of the Law, the basis of the covenant with Israel, contemplated a spiritual, ethical religion, of which the basis was found in the ten great Words, or commandments, of Exodus 20. The ritual in connection with sacrifice was prescribed partly as a concession to the feeling which showed itself, in its evil form, in the worship of the golden calf, partly as an education.

 

.. The negative in Hebrew often supplies the want of the comparative: not excluding the thing denied, but only implying the prior claim of the thing set in opposition to it (Ho 6:6). “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (1Sa 15:22). Love to God is the supreme end, external observances only means towards that end. “The mere sacrifice was not so much what I commanded, as the sincere submission to My will gives to the sacrifice all its virtue” [Magee, Atonement, Note 57].

 

.. concerning burnt offerings, or sacrifices; these are not in the decalogue or ten commands; these are no part of that law or covenant, but are an appendage or addition to it; and though they are of early institution and use, yet they never were appointed for the sake of themselves, but for another end; they were types of Christ, and were designed to lead the faith of the people of God to him; they never were intended as proper expiations of sin, and much less to cover and encourage immorality; whenever therefore they were offered up in a hypocritical manner, and without faith in Christ, and in order to atone for sinful actions, without any regard to the sacrifice of Christ, they were an abomination to the Lord. These were not the only things the Lord commanded the children of Israel; nor the chief and principal ones; and in comparison of others, of more consequence and moment, were as none at all; and which are next mentioned.

 

.. Careful examination has shewn that in Jeremiah’s day the “Priestly Code” (P) which emphasizes and elaborates the sacrificial ritual had not been added to the earlier constituents (J and E). It is true indeed that those earlier constituents are not devoid of reference to sacrifice (see Exodus 23:14-19), nor is Deut. either (e.g. Jeremiah 12:5 ff., Jeremiah 16:1 ff.), but (in Peake’s words) “there is a very marked difference between the attitude of the earlier Codes and the Priestly Legislation. In the latter the ritual system is of very high importance, and sacrifice fills a prominent place, in the former sacrifice holds a relatively insignificant position.” See further on Jeremiah 8:8 as to Jeremiah’s view.

 

.. In general it may be said that obedience to the moral law always ranked first (cp. Jeremiah 11:4), and sacrifices were, as is here taught, wholly worthless when offered by the immoral. Moreover, the “outward ceremonial of sacrifice is discounted, in view of the danger of dependence on it”

 

.. On one occasion he tells them that Jehovah cares not for sacrifices; he means, as the context shows, the sacrifices of men without spiritual sensibilities. On another, that Jehovah never commanded their fathers to sacrifice; he means (may we not presume?) the mere outward forms of the ritual, divorced from the sentiment and practice of piety, which, as Hosea tells us (Hosea 6:6), Jehovah “delights in and not [equivalent to ‘more than’] sacrifice.”

 

.. According to it, the prophet’s denial is not absolute, but relative – relative, that is, to the notion of sacrifices entertained by the Jews whom he addresses. Of course, Graf’s view, that the denial is absolute, will equally well suit the context. The people were surprised at Jeremiah’s objurgations, because they thought they had fulfilled the claims of the covenant. Jeremiah’s purpose is equally well fulfilled whether his denial is qualified or unqualified, absolute or relative.

1 Corinthians 7 Commentary

The six questions treated in this chapter are:

(1) Should married couples continue normal sexual relations after becoming Christians? Answer: Yes, it is their duty to do this (1 Corinthians 7:1-7).

(2) Should single persons get married? Answer: Yes, in all normal situations; but for the gifted, such as Paul, celibacy was advantageous, especially in unsettled times (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

.. (6) May a Christian widow remarry? Answer: Yes, provided that she marry “only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39-40).

 

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (1 Corinthians 7:1)

The development of this paragraph a little later indicates that the question regards the conduct of Christian couples toward each other, a question no doubt related to the broader question of celibacy as a way of life,

.. “He is teaching that because of the persecution of Christians, it is better not to get married and bring children into the world to be killed and suffer persecution.[4] It should be carefully observed, however, that Paul in no sense advocated celibacy, except in certain situations and circumstances, and that even in those cases it was merely “allowable,” and not commanded. There is no disparagement of marriage here, Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:22,23, etc., making it abundantly clear that he held the institution of marriage in the very highest esteem

.. As Marsh said, “He is not writing a treatise on marriage, but answering their questions within the context of current attitudes and circumstances.”[5] Marsh translated this place, “It is WELL for a man not to touch a woman … meaning COMMENDABLE, but not morally or intrinsically better.”[6] It is true now, even as it was in the beginning, that “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). As Lipscomb noted, “Paul’s teaching here regards the persecution then raging against the Christians; and, on account of these, if a man could restrain his lusts, it was better not to marry.”[7]

.. Many of the Greek philosophers, such as Menander, held marriage to be “an evil, but a necessary evil”;[8] but the Jews, on the other hand, “absolutely required that every man should marry, and reputed those as murderers who did not.”[9]

.. But I would have you to be free from cares. He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.

This was the basis of Paul’s recommendation of the single status for those whose self-restraint made it possible, the unencumbered being able more wholeheartedly to serve the interests of true religion than those pressed down with cares and obligations.


Verse 33
But he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is divided.

Paul did not condemn man’s efforts in the secular sphere, but was pointing out the preemption of time and efforts required in the support of a wife and family, such a division of the Christian’s energies being inherent in such a thing as marriage. All of this was said as persuasion to induce any who could to avoid marriage during that “present distress.”

.. Paul’s personal preference for celibacy on the part of persons who were capable of it, and in certain circumstances, for more complete dedication, has always appealed to some in every age; and it is not right to depreciate such behavior. Shore pointed out that England’s Queen Elizabeth I was one who made exactly the choice Paul recommended in these verses, although for a different purpose, and yet a high purpose.

Elizabeth I declared that England was her husband and all Englishmen her children, and that she desired no higher character or fairer remembrance of her to be transmitted to posterity than this inscription engraved upon her tombstone: “Here lies Elizabeth, who lived and died a maiden queen.[53]

1 Corinthians 7 Commentary

The Corinthians in their letter had probably asked questions which tended to disparage marriage, and had implied that it was better to break it off when contracted with an unbeliever.
good–that is, “expedient,” because of “the present distress”; that is, the unsettled state of the world, and the likelihood of persecutions tearing rudely asunder those bound by marriage ties. Hebrews 13:4 , in opposition to ascetic and Romish notions of superior sanctity in celibacy, declares, “Marriage is HONORABLE IN ALL.” Another reason why in some cases celibacy may be a matter of Christian expediency is stated in 1 Corinthians 7:34 1 Corinthians 7:35 , “that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” But these are exceptional cases, and in exceptional times, such as those of Paul.

let every man have–a positive command to all who have not the gift of continency, in fact to the great majority of the world ( 1 Corinthians 7:5 ). The dignity of marriage is set forth by Paul ( Ephesians 5:25-32 ), in the fact that it signifies the mystical union between Christ and the Church.

.. 10. not I, but the Lord–(Compare 1 Corinthians 7:12 1 Corinthians 7:25 1 Corinthians 7:40 ). In ordinary cases he writes on inspired apostolic authority ( 1 Corinthians 14:37 ); but here on the direct authority of the Lord Himself ( mark 10:11 mark 10:12 ). In both cases alike the things written are inspired by the Spirit of God “but not all for all time, nor all on the primary truths of the faith” [ALFORD]

.. 25. no commandment of the Lord: yet . . . my judgment–I have no express revelation from the Lord commanding it, but I give my judgment (opinion); namely, under the ordinary inspiration which accompanied the apostles in all their canonical writings (compare 1 Corinthians 7:40 , 1 Corinthians 14:37 , 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ). The Lord inspires me in this case to give you only a recommendation, which you are free to adopt or reject–not a positive command. In the second case ( 1 Corinthians 7:101 Corinthians 7:11 ) it was a positive command; for the Lord had already made known His will ( Malachi 2:14 Malachi 2:15 , Matthew 5:31 Matthew 5:32 ).

.. the present distress–the distresses to which believers were then beginning to be subjected, making the married state less desirable than the single; and which would prevail throughout the world before the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ’s prophecy ( Matthew 24:8-21 ; compare Acts 11:28 ).

27. Illustrating the meaning of “so to be,” 1 Corinthians 7:26 . Neither the married (those “bound to a wife”) nor the unmarried (those “loosed from a wife”) are to “seek” a change of state (compare 1 Corinthians 7:20 1 Corinthians 7:24 ).

Blue Letter Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians 7

In Paul’s day, Jews considered that marriage was a duty, to the extent that a man reaching 20 years of age without having been married was considered to have sinned. Unmarried men were often considered excluded from heaven, and not real men at all.

.. An unmarried man could not be a member of the Sanhedrin.

.. So, what happened to Paul’s wife? The Scriptures are silent. Perhaps she left him when he became a Christian, or perhaps she died some time before or after he became a Christian. But we know that it was likely he was married before, and we know he was not married when writing this letter (and there is no appearance of a wife for Paul in Acts). Paul probably was a good one to speak of the relative gifts and responsibilities of both marriage and singleness.

.. Though Paul knew singleness was good for him, he would not impose it on anyone. The important thing is what gift one has from God, either being gifted to singleness or marriage.

.. Paul’s understanding that the unmarried state can be a gift is especially striking when we consider the Jewish background of Paul himself and the early church. It was regarded as a sin for a Jewish man to be unmarried. “Among the Jews marriage was not held a thing indifferent, or at their own liberty to choose or refuse, but a binding command.”

.. And whosoever gives not himself to generation and multiplying is all one with a murderer: he is as though he diminished from the image of God”.

.. “It is forbidden a man to be without a wife; because it is written, It is not good for man to be alone. And whosoever gives not himself to generation and multiplying is all one with a murderer: he is as though he diminished from the image of God”.

.. i. Though Paul preferred the unmarried state for himself, he doesn’t want anyone to think that being married was less spiritual, or more spiritual. It is all according to an individual’s gifting. Remember that Paul told Timothy that forbidding to marry was a doctrine of demons(1 Timothy 4:1-3).

.. Paul recognizes marriage as a legitimate refuge from pressures of sexual immorality. One should not feel they are immature or unspiritual because they desire to get married so as to not burn with passion.

.. i. Paul is not speaking about what we might consider “normal” sexual temptation. “It is one thing to burn, another to feel heat … what Paul calls burning here, is not merely a slight sensation, but being so aflame with passion that you cannot stand up against it.” (Calvin)

ii. At the same time, if someone has a problem with lust or sexual sin, they should not think that getting married will automatically solve their problems. Many a Christian man has been grieved to find that his lust for other women did not magically “go away” when he got married.

.. c. A wife is not to depart from her husband: The Corinthian Christians were wondering if it might be more spiritual to be single, and if they should break up existing marriages for the cause of greater holiness. Paul answers their question straight from the heart of the Lord: absolutely not!

.. d. Even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: Paul, in addressing a marriage where both partners are Christians, says that they should not – indeed, can not – break up the marriage in a misguided search for higher spirituality.

i. This connects with the two specific grounds under which God will recognize a divorce: when there is sexual immorality (Matthew 19:3-9) and in the case when a believing partner is deserted by an unbelieving spouse

.. ii. Jesus said the one who divorces for invalid reasons, and marries another, commits adultery;

.. e. If she does depart: A Christian couple may in fact split up for reasons that do not justify a Biblical divorce. It may be because of a misguided sense of spirituality, it may be because of general unhappiness, or conflict, or abuse, or misery, addiction, or poverty. Paul recognizes (without at all encouraging) that one might depart in such circumstance, but they cannot consider themselves divorced, with the right to remarry, because their marriage had not split up for reasons that justify a Biblical divorce.

.. a. As the Lord has called each one, so let him walk: No matter what your station (married, single, divorced, widowed, remarried, whatever), God can work in your life. Instead of thinking that you can or will walk for the Lord when your station changes, walk for the Lord in the place you are at right now.

.. b. I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment: Again, we are not to think Paul is any less inspired here. But because he is dealing with life-situations that differ from person to person, he cannot, and will not, give a command. Yet, he will give inspired advice and principles.

c. It is good for a man to remain as he is: Paul, in speaking to the never-married men, recommends they remain as he is – that is, either remaining single or remaining married.

.. i. Why? Because of the present distress. Apparently, there was some kind of local persecution or problem in the city of Corinth, and because of this distress, Paul says there are definite advantages to remaining single. Also, because of this distress, a married man should also remain as he is.

ii. What is the advantage of remaining single? We can easily imagine, how in a time of persecution or great crisis, how much more of a burden a wife or a family can be for someone committed to standing strong for the Lord. We may say, “torture me, and I will never renounce Jesus”; but what if we were threatened with the rape of our wife, or the torture of our children? These may seem far away to us, but they were not to the Christians in the first century.

.. iii. What is the advantage in remaining married? At a time of great distress, your family needs you more than ever. Don’t abandon your wife and children now!

.. d. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife: Paul is echoing the same principle laid down in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24: God can use us right where we are, and we should not be so quick to change our station in life.

.. i. Most significantly, Paul is never implying that being married or single is more spiritual than the other state; this was the big error of the Corinthian Christians.

.. But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none

.. a. The time is short: Some criticize Paul, or even declare him a false prophet, because he says the time is short. But Paul is true to the heart and teaching of Jesus, who told all Christians in all ages to be ready and anticipate His return.

.. i. Jesus told us all in Matthew 24:44, Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. We are to be ready, and to regard the time as short, not only because Jesus can return at any time, but also because it cultivates a more obedient, on-fire walk with Jesus Christ.

.. ii. Even without considering the return of Jesus, it is worthwhile and accurate for Christians to live as if the time is short.

.. b. Even those who have wives should be as though they had none: Paul is not encouraging the neglect of proper family duties, but encouraging living as if the time is short. It means that we will not live as if our earthly family was all that mattered, but also live with an eye to eternity.

.. a. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord: Here, Paul simply recognizes that when a person doesn’t have family responsibilities, they are more “free” to serve God. This was the main reason Paul considered the unmarried state preferable for himself.

.. b. He who is married cares about the things of the world; how he may please his wife: Paul does not say this to condemn the married person; in fact, Paul is saying this is how it should be for the married person. There is something wrong if a married man does not care for how he may please his wife, and something is wrong if a married woman does not care about how she may please her husband.

.. c. Again, Paul’s reason for explaining these things is not to forbidmarriage, but to put it into an eternal perspective. He isn’t putting a leash on anyone; he is merely sharing from his own heart and experience.

.. i. Significantly, for Paul, the most important thing in life was not romantic love, but pleasing God. For him, he could please God better as single, but another may please God better as married, all according to our calling.

.. ii. Though Paul insists he does not want his teaching here to be regarded as a noose around anyone’s neck, this has happened in the church. Roman Catholics insist on celibacy for all its clergy, even if they are not gifted to be so. Many Protestant groups will not ordain or trust the single.

.. d. That you may serve the Lord without distraction: For Paul, being unmarried meant fewer distractions in his service of God. Tragically, many modern single Christians singleness a terrible distraction!

.. c. But, because singleness does have its benefits, Paul will recommend it, not only to individuals, but also to fathers in regard to the marrying off of their daughters.

.. d. He who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better: For Paul, the choice between married and single was not the choice between good and bad, but between better and best. And for Paul, and the present circumstances, he regarded singleness as best.

.. b. At the same time, Paul believes such a widow is happier if she remains as she is ? that is, if she remains single. Essentially, Paul wants the widow not to remarry without carefully considering that God might be calling her to celibacy.

i. Again, Paul will affirm celibacy, but not because sex itself is evil (as some of the Corinthian Christians were thinking). Instead, the unmarried state can be superior because it offers a person (if they are so gifted) more opportunity to serve God.