Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Clones of the Corn King

Some see one key source of theological belief as the agricultural cycle. This is connected to the idea of a living and dying god. This god is then seen as personifying the life and death of the crops. Jesus is therefore regarded as just one more example of this theme. How should this be looked at?

There is a worldwide idea of a god or hero who is involved in a battle with death. It is found in wildly different forms. It includes Orpheus, who tries to save his wife Eurydice and fails. Rama conquers, and his followers, who consist in talking monkeys, are resurrected. Balder is killed and comes back to life again. These seem to have nothing in common except the bare idea. There is also the very common idea of some kind of sacrifice, generally an animal, to pay for sin.

Now the Scripture says that God spoke to human beings from the very beginning. Therefore it is not surprising that the first events are found, in some form, in a number of cultures. But God also promised that there would be One who would be the seed of the woman, who would crush the head of Satan the bringer of death, but would do so by suffering a wound of being crushed on the heel (Genesis 3:15). There was also the early idea of the need of sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-5). I suspect there was more told to people than was actually recorded. We are not informed how they knew to bring an offering or the difference between clean and unclean animals (Genesis 7:2). But we have a broad picture of a god or hero of abnormal birth, who would at some cost to himself conquer death, and an idea of sacrifice. It is not surprising that this was connected to the harvest cycle. I am convinced that in the seasons God intended to offer a picture of death, burial, and resurrection. The cycle of Jewish festivals was based around the harvest cycle. Jesus was resurrected on the feast of firstfruits and is the firstfruits of those redeemed from death, and their salvation is the firstfruits of the future life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; Romans 8:23; James 1:18).

But Jesus is more than just another clone of the corn king. He appears in the full light of history, not in some long ago and far away or even imagined country. He brings together the ideas of death, sacrifice, and resurrection by being the One who pays the price for sin so that we might live (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He accomplishes this by being God who becomes Man to carry these things out (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18). He brings all the pieces together and makes them make sense. If the whole world is expecting the coming of the One who will conquer death, should we be surprised when He arrives?  

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