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O Come Emmanuel

Since coming to grips in my biblical studies with the implication of what a Jewish Messiah was to do and what they were to look like, and how Jesus both fulfilled and changed it, this has come to be one of my favourite Christmas carols.

In the 1st Century, The Jews had been in exile for nearly 600 years, and were wondering what God was up to, letting them toil under foreign oppressive evils for so long. They were constantly trying to remind themselves that God was still their god, and that his Messiah would come as promised. It was messy, since many ‘Messiahs’ came along and inspired many for awhile, only to fail miserably, like the Maccabees.

This song is a true advent song: It is all about the waiting and the hope for Israel and the World. Rejoice is reflective here, it’s a command: despite trial and oppression we need to rejoice in the coming of God’s Messiah.  Once more, this song illustrates how Jesus is the Emmanuel, the Messiah, and the Saviour, not just in the freeing of Israel the people, but of all people from Death.

In this day before the joy of the Incarnation of God, Emmanuel (God is with us), let us remember our need to rejoice out of obedience and not feeling, as we wait for the Second Coming of our Emmanuel, to help usher in a new creation and the fullness of his Kingdom.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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This entry was written by Will, posted on December 24, 2008 at 9:00 am, filed under Biblical Study, Christianity, Music and tagged , , , . Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.


One of my classes this semester is a Text and Interpretation class on Revelation. I haven’t really been that interested in the class, as there is nothing new or particularly shocking being lectured (for me, that is). At most, the thing that has piqued my interest is the literary component of Revelation – it’s various chiastic and repetitive structures that scream Hebrew Literature. I’d be more interested in the idea that Revelation is the summation of the entire OT (and NT) with its 640-odd references to the OT, but I just can’t invest the time to read interpretatively the entirety of the Bible to really understand Revelation at a deep level.  Interesting stuff, but nothing that has really hit me in the head to change my mind.

Until today.

Until today, I’ve been what you could call a preterist. That is, I believed that Revelation was primarily written to be a polemic against Rome for the persecuted Church in Asia Minor.  Everything that is in Revelation concerning Powers, Oppresion and Evil can fit well into Roman Empire. My professor has been trying to get across to the class that Revelation is timelessly written, with next to no temporal prophecy involved, framed within Rome as the ultimate evil to which we wage holy war with our weapons of praise, suffering, and witness.  After class today, that has changed.

In Revelation 17, we learn of the woman, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots.  Rome, right? Babylon is code for Rome, right? Wrong.  Throughout all of the OT, and all of our salvation-historical narrative history, Babylon was code for something older: Babel, the first worldly power that tried to overthrow God. Babel/Babylon is then every world power that has been mentioned in the OT: Tyre, Sidon, Assyria, Persia, Macedonia, Babylon, Rome, Egypt, etc.  On top of that, its crucial to see that Revelation’s Babylon is a mother of harlots – more Babylons. So here’s the thing, this isn’t the first Babylon, and it certainly isn’t the last. Rome is irrelevant.

This is far more polemical than before. Instead of acknowledging (though condemning and judging) the powers of Rome, Revelation casts aside Rome as just another temporary world power.

Revelation is about being a faithful witness through persecution by the powers of the World, which will lose in the end to the power of God.

Revelation just got interesting.

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This entry was written by Will, posted on November 12, 2008 at 12:29 am, filed under Biblical Study and tagged , , , . Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.

A Biblical Hardliner

In an effort to prove to my housemate Pat that I keeping with blogging this time around, I am going to make a statement that I hope others will comment on.

Here Goes:

There are things in the Bible that are concrete and not open for ‘interpretation’.

Time to unpack that statement.

The reason that I say this is because I’ve heard so many Christians tell me that God’s word is living and active, and if I say that something can only be a certain way, then I must be the most arrogant man in the Universe.

In the Universe.

Well I’m not.  (yes, I know that, in itself, is a hilariously ironic – and possibly even hypocritical – response) Having done biblical studies for two years now, I’ve decided that people need to start taking certain things seriously in their ‘interpretations’ of the good book.  For those who aren’t in biblical studies, we need to delineate between two kinds of interpretation: exegesis and hermeneutics.  Exegesis is the interpretation of what the text originally intended/meant.  Hermeneutics is the subsequent study of how to apply the exegetical work.

Essentially, the main/big difference between exegesis and hermeneutics is that exegesis should have one answer (albeit one with possible other layers, like any good author should be) and hermeneutics is far more up for grabs. Sadly, most people skip exegesis and move to hermeneutics or, even worse, blend the two into some horrific mind monster. That’s wrong. And this is where people get miffed at me.

This post is about the need for a correct exegesis of the Bible, of what it meant to the people of the time, (at which point I can, if I so choose, apply that knowledge to my life [hermeneutics]) but most Christians tend to get all existential (feelings-oriented) and New-Agey about their interpretations of the Bible. Case in point: Revelation is not correctly interpreted as pre-tribulation, pre-millenialism rapture promises and warnings.  I propose that this idea comes mostly from some guy getting a little loose and liberal with his theology, tradition and his scholarship and came up with what is now the 8-Bajillion-dollar industry we have today.

When it comes to application, go nuts.  Do whatever floats your boat.  But when it comes to what it says, there IS a right answer.

Deal with it.


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This entry was written by Will, posted on April 18, 2008 at 12:23 am, filed under Biblical Study and tagged , , . Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink.