Again, here is a summary of what we learned in bible study today, covering Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew.
I didn't get nearly as much out of the study this week as it seemed we went over things that most people know. However, Father Echert did mention again, the first thing he said, was that Matthew's gospel is the earliest gospel written and said that Church Tradition supports this and internal evidence within Matthew points to this also. Period. That's all he said, so the debate from the last lesson is still unresolved as to whether Mark or Matthew is the earliest. If anyone has any insight, please leave your comments, no matter how long or involved, in the combox. I would love to hear what you have to say.
But, having Father mention this, which is a point Karen of Gem of the Ocean, and I had discussed from the last lesson and then also mention the Charismatic Renewal, made me wonder if Father Echert had been reading my blog. I would wager a box of diapers that this isn't true, but Father, if you're out there, please clear up the matter of Mark and Matthew for us!
As an aside, a comment Father made on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Charismatic Renewal is, "[The Gifts of the Holy Spirit] are an independent activity of the Holy Spirit, not dependent of sanctifying grace." He was referring to Balaam's curse of the Israelites in Numbers 23, where Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites but he can only ever utter a blessing, showing that God can bestow gifts on a corrupt man and work through him. Interesting.
The magi, the word being the origin of the term "magic," were not magicians, but scientists, along the lines of astronomers/astrologers. That's why they understood about the star. I had never heard they were magicians, but some people in my discussion group said they have known people who thought that. Hmmm.
The gifts of the magi, as you probably know, signify Christ's kingship (gold), priesthood and divinity (francincense) and humanity (myrrh). They were the first Gentiles to recognize Christ.
Father Echert did go into the history of Herod (the Great) a bit, which was interesting. If you haven't read into the history of Herod, click on the link to get a mere overview of how evil he was. Killed his own sons and a wife just to ensure his own political power. Was responsible for the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.
Seems Herod was one paranoid dude, and rightly so, since he was partly Jewish (although descended from Esau and an Edomite) and knew of the prophecy that came from the very attempted curse that became a blessing of Balaam - "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed, Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossess, while Irael does valiantly. By Jacob shall dominion be exercised, and the survivors of cities be destroyed." (Numbers 24:17-19). Herod knew the writing was on the wall and tried to avoid it by slaughtering the Holy Innocents.
Caesar Augustus knew Herod was a bad dude and commented, "In such a situation, it would be better to be Herod's swine than Herod's subject." Meaning that Herod wouldn't think twice to do away with anyone who got in his way and it would be safer to be a pig in Herod's kingdom, because at least Herod would leave you alone.
Herod left a will about how he wanted his sons to rule over his kingdom upon his death, but Caesar Augustus wasn't too keen on the whole deal and had Herod's son, Archelaus, removed after six years and during the ensuing upheaval and removal of the rest of Herod's house, more Romans were appointed to rule the area, including Pontius Pilate.
Lastly, a comment about Joseph and Moses. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years because the Israelites were unfaithful, but Joseph was able to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and back in far less time because they were faithful. I took this as an analogy as to not being able to clearly see things because of original sin.