Chapter 3 (Peace or Fellowship Offering) pages 74-86
North’s question and answer (page 75) that
‘Must man surrender unconditionally to God, or must God surrender unconditionally to man? The irreconcilable conflicting answers to this question constitute the essence of the war between Christianity and humanism’
is worthy of full acceptance. Humanism is devoid of any real acknowledgement of God except in the areas where it expects that God might provide it with some advantage and it has at its base the belief that man is able to solve his own problems, denying God entry into human affairs except when supporting man’s will.
The Bible’s insistent statements that it’s only God who can put the world back the right way up (and, indeed, that He’s provided for that exclusively in Christ) is anathema to the humanist. If any movement had to be chosen as being the prime example of the antithesis of christianity, humanism seems to be the winner hands down.
On page 75, North notes that
‘The peace offering...corresponded to point three of the biblical covenant model because it dealt with boundaries: the boundary separating God from man’
is, as noted above, too restrictive upon the Biblical narrative. For example, we can quite easily see the sin offering as dealing with ‘the boundary separating God from man’ along with similar interpretations for the guilt and burnt offerings.
By restricting the offering to a single interpretation that’s imposed upon the text, the fulness of the Biblical legislation is never going to be fully realised.
North appears to have got confused as to the structure of the peace offering and what it both could and couldn’t be used for. He states (page 75) that
‘The peace offering was not tied to a vow or an oath’
contradicting the Levitical instructions in 7:11-18 which gives three specific reasons why a peace offering could be offered - either as a thanksgiving (v.12), as a vow (v.16) or as a freewill offering (v.16). These three reasons for the offering meant slightly different methods and additional offerings but they were all labelled as ‘peace offerings’.
He also seems to be confusing the Scriptures by stating (page 80) that
‘The peace offerings in Lev 7 was what in modern English phraseology would be called a free-will offering’
Although this statement could be considered to be correct, the sacrifice of the peace offering as a vow was a result of a promise made to God and therefore the offerer was obliged to bring it to the tent (even though the initial vow was a matter of the Israelite’s free choice). But the main reason why it’s confusing is that it uses terminology which includes all three types of peace offerings when the Bible uses the label to denote just one of the three different applications.
Throughout the remainder of the chapter, North is only considering the thanksgiving aspect and therefore, again incorrectly (page 75), makes note that
‘...leaven had to accompany the peace offering. But the offering had to include unleavened bread as well’
a discussion of the reason for this follows a little further on from page 77, when he again repeats (page 78) that
‘...the peace offering required leaven’
The legislation makes note (7:12-13) that it’s only with the thanksgiving offering that
‘...he shall offer...unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well mixed with oil...he shall bring his offering with cakes of leavened bread’
and one cake from each of the three cereal offerings was to be offered to the Lord, though this ‘offering’ represented no more than handing the items over to the officiating priest for his consumption (7:14).
He also states (page 79) that
‘Leaven was not burned on the altar...’
failing to notice that, in the context of the peace offering, both the cakes made of leaven and those made without were not to be burnt on the altar.
The Scriptures concerning the use of fat on the altar of burnt offering seem to have been confused, though it’s quite possible that I’m reading too much into North’s statement (page 76 - my italics) that
‘The Israelite was not allowed to eat fat or blood when making this sacrifice. Normally, fat was regarded as a blessing...’
which says to me that North believes that it was only the peace offering which restricted the consumption of the fat and that, logically, it could be consumed on other occasions. But again the Scriptures are plain (Lev 7:22-27) that
‘You shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat...’
The fat of an animal that hadn’t been offered in sacrifice could be used for other reasons - as a raw material in the production of some goods that were beneficial - but it could not be eaten. And, further, the legislation goes on to note (7:25) that
‘For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which an offering by fire is made to YHWH shall be cut off from his people’
which could mean either that the fat of any participatory offering could not be eaten or that the fat of any animal that could be used in sacrifice could not be eaten (whether actually offered or used to feed an Israelite away from the tent of meeting) which appears to be the intention here.
Fat was most definitely regarded as a blessing (as noted by North above), a blessing that was seen fit only to offer to God.
North quotes Milgrom (page 76) in saying that the word translated as ‘sacrifice’ in the Levitical passages on the peace offering
‘...always means “slain offering whose meat is eaten by the worshipper”’
but the word, though usually being used to link with the peace offering, does not appear to inherently mean what the quote would have us believe. Certainly, because of its association with the concept of the ‘peace offering’, it came to be regarded as such, but it does not have to be used as representative of the peace offering when it stands alone and when it’s used as being distinctive from the peace offering (in, for instance, Joshua 22:27).
Additionally on Milgrom as a source, North notes (page 76) that
‘Milgrom argues that [the peace offering] was eaten inside the sanctuary’s boundaries...There were probably special halls for eating the sacrificial meal...(I Sam 9:22, Jer 35:2)’
If the peace offering was seen to be a participation ‘with God’ in a covenant sacrifice, then the first sentence is necessary to maintain this concept, and even North’s own uncertain statement (page 76) that
‘…the priest ate the meal with the sacrificer and his family and friends’
is reasonable. But the second sentence is flawed by quoting I Sam 9:22 when Samuel enters a hall to eat the sacrifice that has just been offered. Unfortunately, we cannot be certain that the Tabernacle was sited here at this time, the last known resting place of the ark prior to this being Kiriath-jearim (I Sam 7:1-2). The Tabernacle may still have been at Shiloh (I Sam 1:3) but it appears at Nob later on (I Sam 21:1-6) - so it was probably on the move (it may even have been that time in Bethel judging by I Sam 10:3). Besides, in the set up of the Tabernacle and its courts in the wilderness, there doesn’t seem any possibility of there having been any special enclosed area in which the meal could be eaten.
The cited verse Jer 35:2 concerns the Temple in which we know that there were rooms and chambers - but the point needs to be proven for the Tabernacle in the wilderness before it can be accepted.
Besides, the reason for Milgrom’s proposition of the sanctuary eating rooms is, according to North (page 76),
‘...why there were rules governing the offerer’s uncleanness...’
but there is an alternative explanation as we shall see.
We now turn our attention to North’s reasoning concerning the leaven that was a part of the thanksgiving peace offering (and which, it must be remembered, North asserts was offered with every peace offering - see above). Firstly, on a purely factual basis, North’s statement (page 77) that
‘Leaven was the best that an Israelite was able to offer God from his field’
is quite obviously wrong (probably another ‘slip of the pen’) as leaven/yeast was not grown as an agricultural product - it being obtained through leaving a small part of the dough formed in the cooking process to ‘decay’ before being added to the next batch of dough. But I’m unsure whether North meant ‘leaven’ to be read as ‘grain’ or ‘cereal’ or whether ‘from his field’ should be removed.
North points to leaven as being (page 77)
‘...the symbol of expansion in history...’
rather than being (page 77)
‘...a principle of evil...’
He therefore sees the presence of leaven as being indicative of the set up in the universe (page 77) that
‘...God’s leaven progressively replaces Satan’s leaven in history’
going on to teach in the context of the Passover’s requirement of no leaven being used [actually the commandment says that no leaven was even to be found throughout Israelite territory] (page 78) that
‘...there are two kingdoms in history, God’s and Satan’s’
concluding that the traditional interpretation in seeing leaven as something representing ‘evil’ being ‘incorrect’ (page 78). Certainly, the traditional interpretation seems impossible to reconcile with the peace offerings’ requirement of two batches of cakes without leaven and one batch of cakes with leaven. There certainly appears to be a conflict of definitive teaching that God should command both diametrically opposed symbols.
But the one problem with North’s teaching here is not that he provides a rationale for the leavened cakes not being commanded to be used in the ‘thanksgiving’ peace offering, but that he hasn’t addressed the instruction that the unleavened cakes were commanded to be used as well. His concluding statement (page 85) that
‘This meal required the eating of leaven’
is only half the truth (I accept that the implication of the Scripture is that the remaining cakes after the Lord’s portion had been removed were for the consumption of the offerer).
Both leavened and unleavened cakes are offered to God so that, in North’s scheme of things, historical discontinuity and historical continuity would have to be seen as parallel teaching in the offering. The description of what this unleavened bread could represent would have to be, in North’s words (page 79), a demonstration that the offerer was moving
‘...from wrath to grace’
But this is the teaching that under scores the burnt offering (as has been previously seen) and here we’re looking at a sacrificial offering that secured no atonement. The transitional symbol would not, therefore, fit - just as the traditional interpretation that leaven represents corruption does not appear to fit here either.
North’s statement (page 80) that
‘...Jesus described His Kingdom as one of righteous leaven’
is absolutely correct (the reference is Mtw 13:33) but Jesus did also refer to leaven in the context of a corrupting influence (Mtw 16:6) as Paul did later on (Gal 5:9, I Cor 5:7-8) - a fact that would indicate that leaven is capable of being a symbol that can carry with it more than one meaning. Quite obviously, North’s ‘symbol of expansion in history’ does not fit in with Paul’s usage of the term. Therefore, North’s absolute statement (page 79) that
‘Leaven has no ethical connotation; it does not represent any taboo’
North’s assertion that every area of the world is under the influence either of satan’s ‘leaven’ or God’s is not altogether wrong, even though I’m yet to discover a New Testament reference that speaks of satan’s area of rule as a ‘kingdom’ (the notable exception is Mtw12:26, Mark 3:24 and Luke 11:17-18 which refer to one and the same event - but here it is not necessarily affirming the existence of a demonic kingdom but arguing for the existence and authority of God’s in language that His listeners can understand).
Having said this, his further teaching on the conflict in the world between satan’s dominion and God’s Kingdom is fairly coherent and accurate - with the notable exception of two occasions where he mistakes the Greek word transliterated as Hades being representative of satan’s dominion (page 84 last paragraph in citing Mtw 16:8 and Rev 1:18) which it’s not – it’s used in the New Testament as being a place of punishment with no escape for the unbeliever that exists between the time of death and the final judgment.
Concerning the Lord’s Supper (communion - the bread and the wine), North makes two puzzling and worrying statements.
Firstly, he says (page 82) that
‘Any church member...who has been excluded from the table by the church, receives a formal declaration from God: “Guilty!”’
If we were to look back into Church history, we would see occasions when the established church of their day excluded certain christians from participating in the bread and wine of the communion table because the individuals were seen to be pulling away from sound doctrine, only to be vindicated years afterwards that it was the ones who’d excluded the individuals that God had declared ‘Guilty!’. I can’t think that North means to view these cases in favour of the rebellious church, but there’s no qualifying statement to safeguard us from accepting that possibility.
Secondly, he says (page 79) that
‘...Christians are supposed to eat leavened bread when they celebrate Holy Communion. It is a symbol of conquest’
or, perhaps more accurately, of ‘growth moving toward completion’. This would certainly be in keeping with North’s interpretation of the symbol of leaven but we don’t find the command to include leaven (or a command not to include leaven) in the New Testament (see my explanation of the bread here under Appendix 3 part b iv - Mazzah).
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