Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mark 7:1-8; 14-15; 21-23

Summary:  This is a grand set of verse for Lutherans.  It shows a bunch of unclean people eating bread and learning from Jesus; it rebukes the piously proud; and intensifies the law so greatly that we all must confess our sins.  As easy and good sermon is clear.  I wonder if the challenge is helping people understand how to distinguish between the commandments of God (which Jesus does not abgrotate) and the dictates of men.  To put it another way, I think we will all preach a good sermon on law, Christ and forgiveness.  But what about that thorny issue -- what out there in the religious soup we call consumer Christian America is from God and what is from humanity?

Key Words:
κοινος  ("common" or "defiled", 7:2, 5 and 15and 20 as a verb)  This word can have a range of meanings.  "Koine" Greek, for example, refers to the Greek everyone held in common.  "Koinonia" means Christian fellowship of the highest degree.  But "koinos" in this case means common, as in unsanctified -- common to the point of being unclean and unfit for duty.  It is worth pointing out that Jesus does not abolish the idea of common/holy.  He rather intensifies it by including a laundry list of sins.

συναγονται ("gather", from συναγω, 7:1)  I love this verb!  It will come into English as "syagogue"  The image here from Mark them is a bunch of people, unclean sinners, gathering around Jesus to hear his teaching and eat bread.  The pious are rebuked, but all recognize their guilt.

κρατουντες ("hold", from κρατω, 7:3, 4 and 8)  This word will come into English in words like "democracy"; it means "hold" but even "sieze" or "rule."  We certainly have met people who cling to the law.  See Obama's campaign mistake from 2008.

παραδοσις ("handed over", 7:3,5,8,9, 13)  This word also means "betray" -- literally give over!  The idea is that the tradition is passed over from generation to the next.  And lest you think the Bible doesn't like tradition, our whole Communion ritual, Paul declares, is tradition handed over to him. 

υποκριτης ("hypocrite", 7:6)  The root of this word is theatre, that one answers from stage.  Jesus doesn't want us to be actors of the word, but doers.

Translation:  meaning of Greek uncertain
The phrase:  εαν μη πυγμη νιψωνται
means little to the Greek translator.  It literally means "except by washing with the boxing fist."  We have no idea what ritual is described here, other than some form of washing.  Even with big fat lexicons, sometimes you just don't know what the author of 2,000 years ago meant!  Fortunately in this case, the meaning of the passage is not altered.

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