Post: Readers Respond
Just a note of deep appreciation for the last issue of Pietisten, Winter, 1988. I found every article of special interest.
Most of all, I want to commend you for the skills of writing and putting together such an interesting journal From Tommy Carlson's good translations of Waldenström, Peter Sandstrom's careful treading on explosive theological concerns, Phil Johnson's creative writing of "An Easter Story," together with an excellent reflection on Waldenström, and David Hawkinson's contributions from issue to issue — all of you are to be commended for a really significant undertaking.
Thanks, Norbert Johnson, Chicago, Illinois.
This is Holy Week, so I'm too busy to write — but I am anyway.
I read "An Easter Story" and "Requiem. . . . " Both the Christmas and Easter accounts are too powerful and meaningful to exhaust or "mine" to any significant depth without the use of imagination and story. The theological implications are simply too great for literalistic, straightforward "God-talk" used by so many of us. Thus the story is one good way of letting light in. Some years ago I gave a sermon on Christmas that tried to take some of the facts of the birth and use them for a highly imaginative conversation between the father and Gabriel, the archangel responsible for handling the announcement of the birth. What is the difference between midrash and such "santified imagination" (as Peter Marshall called such stories)?
By the way, there's another small fact that seems unaccounted for in the Gospel accounts and in your story. Both the crucifixion and burial by law had to take place "outside the wall." As you know Jerusalem, like other cities, was a walled city with a number of gates. The number would depend, at least partly, on the size of the city. There were no houses outside the wall, for they would be unprotected and vulnerable to roving Bedouin, robbers, and others. Where was the "home" Jesus' friends stayed in? Bethany and Bethphage? That would have been 2 miles, at least, through strong rugged terrain, including going down into and through the dark and dangerous Kidron valley to the nearest gate of the city. Would it have been locked shut for the night? At what time would the gate be opened? If they didn't go through the city to the tomb, it would have been a much longer walk (or run) around the city to the tomb. If they were staying in a Jerusalem house, they would have had to go out a gate to get to the tomb. Does anyone know the answer to the question were the gates normally shut and locked and guarded at night? If so, what would be the usual opening time? Could a person get a guard to open the gates at other times? Would the disciples and Mends have been concerned about the guards noticing their activity? (Bob sketched a little map showing that the Mt. of Olives and the Kidron Valley were between Bethany and Jerusalem and that the probable area for the crucifixion and the tomb were on the far side of Jerusalem from Bethany.) Robert McNaughton, Cromwell, Connecticut.
...While it is true that Rosenius is not simply Covenant, neither is he simply Lutheran, if by that is meant a primary adherence to the confessions and symbols as constitutive. In any case it would be hard to disagree with your implication that he deserves further study from us. He is an old well; the water runs pretty clear there. Do you have any suggestions for focusing a research effort? Zenos Hawkinson, Chicago, Illinois.
Thank you for the timely issue of Pietisten. I appreciated your article and I would like the midrash and the "midrash" on the midrash which you mention. Take care and keep up the good work. Glenn Palmberg, Olathe, Kansas.
I would honestly agree with Mr. Sandstrom that free thought has always been a part of Covenant Tradition and I am greatly humbled when I read in I Cor. 8:2, that no man knows "as he ought to know." However, I would like to point out that one ingredient of that free thought was the test: Where is it written?
I would suggest that we can know nothing of God — apart from his eternal power and Godhead as seen in creation — without a revelation. If the Bible is that revelation, it would appear we can approach it as a collection of campfire stories and metaphors (as someone has said) connected together in 66 box cars or we can approach it as a book penned over some 1500 years by some 44 writers with no demonstrated errors and that the Bible is one integrated whole.
I would contend that the Bible is God's word and revelation to us, that our disagreements stem from our lack of understanding, and that any apparent contradiction in scripture bears further witness to our lack of understanding and study. I would furthermore suggest that to the enlightened mind there is adequate proof, both internal and external, that the Bible is God's word and a reliable canon. All the above having been said, I have problems with Mr. Sandstrom's position as to the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. First, we have Luke's and Matthew's statements that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, a statement that does not lend itself well to interpretation — though I would be the first to admit that in Isaiah 7: 14 (RSV) the statement is made that a young woman shall bear a son. (I believe, though, that investigation of the Hebrew will indicate that the term "young woman" was used only of a virgin.) To state that because the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to in a number of different ways is a basis to discount the virgin birth appears rather thin. In fact it would seem to me that to follow that logic I would have to go to the Old Testament and discount the majesty of my God by virtue of the numerous different titles used. One final note: I do not believe Mr. Sandstrom would have to go to the Nicene Creed for the statement of one substance with the Father. Rather, John 10:30 states "I and the Father are one."
Again I praise God for Pietisten. It drives me to the "word" to see "whether or not these things be so." Reginald Johnson, Vandalia, Illinois.