24
Nov
09

Gates and Grace

Long week and longer weekend, but I’m home from the latest Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) meeting.  New Orleans is an interesting place.  Although I had a great many other things to do, I did make it a point to walk the three blocks from my hotel to Bourbon Street.  Hm.  Since this is a family-friendly site, I shall desist from saying more.

Anyway, I always learn a great many things at the SBL meeting but most of them are useless to normal people, or even to other-than-normal people who still have to function.  But one of the things I did run into that struck me with a strong sense of its power is a note about the gates of the New Jerusalem:

And the [New Jerusalem] has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.  Its gates will never be shut by day– and there will be no night there.

Its gates will never be shut!  At one point in my life I thought a lot about justice.  People ought to get what they deserve, you know.  But now I’m not so sure, because I’m quite sure that I don’t want what I, in most cases, deserve.  These days, I look forward to each new revelation of God’s superabundant grace.

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2 Responses to “Gates and Grace”


  1. November 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Interesting.

    “At one point in my life I thought a lot about justice. People ought to get what they deserve, you know. But now I’m not so sure, because I’m quite sure that I don’t want what I, in most cases, deserve.”

    I am not so sure if justice is really so much about people getting what they deserve, as much as it is about how we should treat other people. But, I guess, as a Kantian I think that all people deserve to be treated with human dignity. Yet, the desert is universal and all have claim to it.

    Well, now you have got me thinking on my first day off for Thanksgiving. Thanks.

  2. November 26, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Justice in the Apocalypse tends to be rather retributive, and yet there are exceptions. One of John’s techniques is the generation of a network of comparisons. Consider one, composed of the following antithetical pairs:

    God ///// Dragon
    Lamb //// First beast
    John ///// Second beast (false prophet)
    saints //// nations/inhabitants of the earth

    In this paradigm the saints worship God and the Lamb, to whom John provides a reliable witness. The nations worship the dragon, the beast, and the image of the beast under the deceptive (unreliable) influence of, among others, the false prophet. In the end, the three deceivers find themselves in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, while God, the Lamb, and the saints are in the New Jerusalem. But what of the nations who were deceived?

    One of the interesting things about the New Jerusalem is that it’s not as much a return to Eden as it is a new and better place to live, according to the canons of the time. For one thing, it’s a city that encloses a garden. In this garden there is not just one Tree, but many, and the leaves of the trees do not just heal, as in Ezekiel’s river-tree vision, but they heal the nations! And how do the nations get to these leaves? Well, the gates of the city are always open…


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