The Feast of Epiphany 2021, Part III

The Infancy narratives in the Christian story weave in significant passages from the Hebrew Scriptures.  Early Christians went hunting and gathering into their Jewish heritage, the Hebrew Bible, to create their own stories about the Messiah to apply to Jesus. 

Scroll of the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible. Photo by Pete unseth in Wikimedia Commons.

Among the Scriptural passages found in the Epiphany narratives are these:

Psalm 72:10f: “May the kings of Sheba and Saba bring gifts; may all kings pay him homage.”  Consider also Isaiah 49:7: “Kings will see and arise; princes will pay homage.”

Balaam was a seer whom King Balak asked to put a curse on Israel, yet he is praised in Numbers 22-24.  Called a magus (magi) by Philo, he is said to come “from the East” with two servants—thus a party of three such as the three magi.  He foiled the hostile plans of King Balak, for while the wicked king tried to use him to destroy Israel, the magus actually honored Israel instead.  As Brown remarks, “obviously this is very close to the story of Herod and the magi.” 

Among Balaam’s visions is this one:

“The Flight Into Egypt” Painting by Adam Elsheimer. On Wikimedia Commons.

I will point to him, though not now;
I bless him though he has not drawn near;
A star will rise from Jacob,
And a man will stand forth from Israel. 
(Num: 24:17)

The vision of Balaam from this story came in a dream—which parallels the Joseph and Moses story where dreams play a prominent role.  And of course the dream that Joseph, the father of Jesus, received that told him to go to Egypt to escape a new wicked pharaoh, Herod, agent of the Roman empire.

Isaiah speaks of a rising light in the context of Jerusalem awaiting a deliverer (59:20): “Be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for your light has come; and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”  Notice that glory or doxa is present.

“Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds.” Govert Flinck  (1639) from the Louvre Museum, on the Web Gallery of Art. Wikimedia Commons.

Again, “The wealth…of nations will come to you…all those from Sheba will come bringing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the salvation of the Lord.”  (60:1, 5f.)

Hosea 11:1 is invoked in Mathew 2:15: “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Jeremiah 31:15 is invoked in announcing the killing of the innocent—Rachel crying for her children (Mt. 2:18).

One can see in these many allusions to Jewish Biblical stories that the authors of Matthew’s gospel are smitten by imagination as they scour the Hebrew Bible for allusions to the Messiah’s arrival. 

“The Four Evangelists” Aachen Gospels folio 13r by a Carolingian illuminator c. 820 Photographer: The Yorck Project (2002) distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. On Wikimedia Commons

Imagination abounds, just as scholar of early Christianity, Bernard Mack, has pointed out–first century Christians underwent “an explosion of imagination that we would call mythmaking.”  Yet it was not this connection to Jewish stories that carried the day, but “the attraction of participating in a group experimenting with a new social vision.”

Is Epiphany 2021 a time for experimenting with new social visions?  To arouse moral and prophetic imagination to all new heights to deal with climate change, coronaviruses, destruction of the planet, and the economic and political shades of Herod-like oppression that still seek to dominate?

See Raymond Brown, S.S., The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke (NY: Doubleday & Co., 1977), pp. 198, 193-195, 187, 220f.

See Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 99-105. 

Also see Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 65-70, 123-128.

Banner Image: “The Flight Into Egypt.” Pencil drawing by Eugène Girardet. On Wikimedia Commons.

What does Epiphany 2021 mean to you?  Are you engaged in new social visions that offer alternatives to the dominant messages of Herod-like oppression toward the planet and her creatures and toward human efforts at making community happen?

The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.
“The eighth wonder of the world…convincing proof that our Western religious tradition does indeed have the depth of imagination to reinvent its faith.” — Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story and Journey of the Universe.

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus’ First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Bruce Chilton investigates the Easter event of Jesus in Resurrection Logic. He undertakes his close reading of the New Testament texts without privileging the exact nature of the resurrection, but rather begins by situating his study of the resurrection in the context of Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, and Syrian conceptions of the afterlife. He then identifies Jewish monotheistic affirmations of bodily resurrection in the Second Temple period as the most immediate context for early Christian claims. Chilton surveys first-generation accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and finds a pluriform–and even at times seemingly contradictory–range of testimony from Jesus’ first followers. This diversity, as Chilton demonstrates, prompted early Christianity to interpret the resurrection traditions by means of prophecy and coordinated narrative.

Upcoming Events

Creation Spirituality Gathering: Falling In Love with Earth & Each Other – Online – Friday-Sunday, 1/15-17 – join longtime leaders of the CS movement in a virtual retreat featuring body prayer, keynotes, small groups, art as meditation opportunities, and socializing, plus a special gala celebration honoring Matthew Fox and his legacy. Learn more HERE.
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2 thoughts on “The Feast of Epiphany 2021, Part III”

  1. Avatar

    Observing Trump’s antics for his entire presidency have revealed that he is a catalyst. The epiphany that just occurred not only displayed in graphic present time the dangers of a person in power who performs dark magic in creating and sustaining egregores, but also the awakening and stirring of integrity. I had a wise teacher who said that until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change, people do not change. There are many seriously deceived people who are in great need of reprogramming.

  2. Avatar

    Patanjali describes the qualities that occupy the mind: Comprehension, Misapprehension, Imagination, Deep Sleep and Memory – from The Heart Of Yoga – DEVELOPING A PERSONAL PRACTICE, 1995, T.K.V. Desikachar. It is unraveling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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