Companion Texts

I was reading Morning Prayer today. The Hebrew Bible lesson is the story of Samson from his birth. Bishop Spong once pointed out that all the miracles in the Christian scriptures (the “New Testament”) have direct counterparts in the Hebrew scriptures (the “Old Testament”), only in the Christian case, the miracles are pushed even further.

For example, Moses parts the water, Jesus walks on it. Elijah enables the widow to have bread from a bare cupboard and Jesus feeds 5,000. You can pair every miracle story in the new book with another one in the old. As I read from the first book of Samuel this morning, I though of a very similar story in Luke.

Hannah, the mother of Samson, is old and beyond childbearing age. Her husband’s other wife has nine children and torments Hannah unmercifully about her barren condition. Hannah prays at the temple (Shechem) where she is noticed by the prophet, Eli. That scene concludes with Eli saying, “May your prayers be granted.” Hannah bears a son and returns to the temple at the beginning of today’s reading.

As Hannah dedicates her newborn son to the Lord, she prays “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. …The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.”

In a very similar tone, Mary, who is pregnant with Jesus, visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John (the Baptist). Here is Mary’s song called “The Magnificat” (from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer)

My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden: For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name. And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations. He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away. He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel: As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.

Two older, pregnant women with their firstborn son who will be dedicated to the Lord in both cases. Two women separated in time by 800 years. What is the likelihood they would say almost exactly the same thing?

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