Saturday, 29 September 2007
Yes it's Sukkoth (sue-coat), a.k.a. the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. Not that anyone in the post-WCG tradition constructs booths from branches, or even sets up a bunk bed in the garden shed, but that's another issue.
This afternoon I listened to a stimulating address which included some provocative references to Tabernacles/Sukkoth. Lest anyone fear that I've de-apostasized (to perhaps coin a new term) and am presently holed up in a motel, attending some obscure COG sect services, hanging on every precious word, I hasten to add that I was sitting in a pew at the very Anglican neo-Gothic St Matthew-in-the-City in central Auckland.
Again, please don't leap to conclusions. Anglicanism is a far stranger fish, in my opinion, than anything that came out of the COG tradition. Stained glass, brass eagles, silly clothes... each to their own. I was there to listen to retired American bishop John Shelby Spong talk about the Jewish Jesus.
Spong is the embodiment of evil to many fundamentalists, which constitutes a glowing recommendation in my opinion. He also has the unnerving gift of talking in everyday language, which is a rare skill among conformist clergypersons.
Among other things today, the bishop put the case for rethinking the time of Jesus death in Jerusalem. The gospels all agree that it was at the Passover, but then again, maybe not.
For one thing there is that "Palm Sunday" procession. Wrong time of year for leafy branches. There was however just such a tradition associated with - you guessed it - the Feast of Tabernacles (Psalm 118:27, Bind the festal procession with branches...) Indeed, you can read the famous phrase used in the New Testament (Blessed is the one who comes in the name of Lord - John 12:13) right there in that same psalm (118), which was read at Sukkoth (verse 26).
Psalm 118 is a Tabernacles psalm? Somehow I don't remember that bit of information coming out when I did the Feast of non-Booths thing with WCG.
Then there's the fig tree that was cursed. There are no figs on the trees in the Passover season, but Jesus in a fit of pique curses the plant anyway, and we get the impression that he was a jerk. The tree was just doing what fig trees do (or don't do) around March.
Figs are on the trees at Tabernacles.
To catch the full discussion you can read it in chapter 14 of Jesus for the Non-Religious. It's part of a wider discussion that is well worth reading.