Chpt 17 "Adoption in the Bible"
by David L. Bartlett
David Bartlett says, "While it is clear that the Old Testament presupposes that people will take almost parental responsibility for offspring not their own, it is not clear that ancient Israel had formal adoption practices. Many of the examples of adoption in both Old and New Testaments involve or suggest the adoption of adults..." [TCITB p. 375] He looks at adoption as " an image of the life of faith." I think he looks at this from some different angles, particularly the practices of the times the scriptures were written. [TCITB p. 376]
He examines passages about adoption from the Hebrew scriptures, the 1st century Greco-Roman world, and passages from the New Testament. He looks at God and His relationship to king David and to Israel [TCITB p 378-381], Moses, Esther, Joseph's sons. He looks at the roles of men, women, and extended family in providing custodial care and the long term benefits, reiterating that it's not clear that there were formal adoption proceedings. [TCITB p. 381-383] Hebrew families dealt compassionately with orphans and "elders took responsibility for people who were biologically the sons and daughters of other people." [TCITB p. 383] Roman adoption was quite different.[TCITB p. 383-385].
It's easy to forget that Joseph not being Jesus' biological father - Jesus was adopted. [TCITB p. 385-7] The author reminds us that there is no birth narrative for Jesus in Mark's gospel [TCITB p. 383] and wonders God's words during Jesus' baptism (Mark 1:11) suggest "an adoption formula." [TCITB p. 386]
The author explores "The Adoption of Believers" beginning in the Gospel of John. [TCITB p. 388-9] He discusses Paul's references to adoption. [TCITB p. 389-394] Drawing on other sources, he reminds us that Paul uses imagery for both adoption and biological fathering in his letters. [TCITB p. 393-4]
The author concludes 1) "Adoption is the free gift of God, and it brings together disparate people ...2) "Adoption includes inheritance, and therefore there is a strong eschatological component. . ." 3) "Adoption is sealed and certified by the Spirit. . ." He says that "Ephesians 1:1:5-13 strongly suggests baptismal formulas and themes. . . " He says, "The significance of a biblical image cannot be measured by the number of times biblical writers use that image" but rather it's ability to shed light on "a wide range of biblical literature and its "capacity to provide insights for the lives of interested people in every age." [TCITB p. 394]
The author explores implications for our faith communities. He reminds us that our "membership in God's family is always the result of God's activity" as opposed to our making it happen. [TCITB p. 395] He says, "Adoption is a powerful image because adoption transcends the boundaries and barriers set by biological and ethnic identity." [TCITB p. 395] It can apply to both individuals and peoples. There is naming involved and he says, "It reminds us that the identity of faithful people is in the identities God gives us rather than the identities we give ourselves." [TCITB p. 395] There are past, present, and future implications for adoption. Adoption involves both discipline and unconditional love. [TCITB p. 395] He elaborates on these implications for the people of God. He shares some really interesting thoughts about baptism (infant and believer's). [TCITB p. 396]
Interesting conclusions. Given what we know from the scriptures, he challenges the two parent, traditional male-female standard for adoption adding ". . . God of course is the prototypical single parent." Before you jump down anyone's throat, read his whole essay. [TCITB p. 396] I think he asks some realistic and tough questions of the Church as he ends this chapter - realistic and tough questions that challenge us to put policy, action, financial, and community support behind our verbal convictions. [TCITB p. 396-398]