Monday, August 15, 2022

Luke 13:10-17

This passage occurs in the RCL year C, most recently August 2022.

Summary:  I do not think our culture needs to hear words encouraging us to ignore the Sabbath.  Clearly we are in the entirely opposite place than the Jewish world of 2,000 years ago.  What is the consequence?  We are bound by our exhaustion, our stress and our love of our works.  Jesus comes to free this woman from Satan's chains and evil spirits.  I argue that if Jesus were around today, he would seek to free us from the chains that our lack of Sabbath structure imposes on us.

Key words of interest for this passage:
λυω (luo, "free"; 13.15;13:16): "...untie his ox; should not this set free."  This word appears in two consecutive verses, however, we likely miss this.  First because the English translators translate the word differently in verses 15 and 16.  Second, it appears in a slightly more difficult form as λυθηναι in 13:16.  The verb, which many of us know from all sorts of conjugation charts, means "to loose, to set free." Jesus makes a play on words here: You set free your animals; I set people free. 

This passage puts this illness in terms of binding and releasing in two other places.  We are told in verse 12 that Jesus απολελυθαι the woman.  This word, essentially a linguistic sibling to λυω means "release."  Jesus even says that the woman was in δεσμος (chains, 13:16; also used as verb in this sentence).

ανωρθωθι (from ανορθοω, "straighten", 13.13): "...she stood up straight"  This verb comes from the prefix/preposition "ana" which means upright or again and the adjective "ortho" meaning straight. It simply means straighten up or restore. It is not an especially common word in the Bible, but it recalls the words from the book of Psalms: "The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down (146:8)." [Technical note:  The Psalm translation is in a slightly different order.]

ασθενειας  ("weakness," 13.11)  This word does not necessarily mean crippled or hunched over.  It simply means "frailty, weakness, want of strength."  There is a certain power that we don't really know what her illness is.  It could be physical, it could be emotional, it could be spiritual, it could be communal.  It is unclear if the spirit was causing her infirmity; or she simply has a spirit that could be described as frail.  In the end, she will have multiple layers of healing
  • Physical:  She stands up
  • Spiritual:  She glorifies God
  • Communal:  She is called by name, by Jesus, in front of everyone (Child of Abraham) and restored to a place of honor.
παντελες (13.11): "could not straighten up at all..." The word builds "pan", meaning "all" and "teles" meaning complete together for a 1-2 punch, like a baseball announcer shouting "it could...go...all...the...way."  The woman was bound up over herself so she did not have the power to stand up into her full measure.

Other words worth reflecting on:
διδασκων (didaskoon, participle meaning "teaching", 13:10)  A reminder that Jesus is teaching on the sabbath.  He continues teaching until the end.  Perhaps a reminder that good teaching isn't just about content, but about transformation!  (Also last time Jesus in a synagogue!)

χειρας ("hands", 13:13)  Jesus touches her!  A reminder that the word is embodied and incarnate.  He speaks, but he also touches.

αγανακτων (aganakton, meaning "indignant", 13.14): "Indignant because Jesus..." The word here has its root in "agony." The people watching are in agony over Jesus performing a healing!  How easy it is to get upset about mercy!

εθεραπεθσεν (from θεραπευω, "therapy", meaning "heal", 13.14): "healed" The word began in Greek by meaning service to the Gods; almost like worship! It became to mean, it seems, service that the Gods could render, namely, healing.

υποκριται (hypocrites, 13.15):  This word came right into English!  (The rough breathing mark over the υ means it is sounded hy.)  The word literally means "down judge-er/answer-er." It comes from theater, where the person has to speak to the people from a different height than the others. It came then to mean someone who pretends.

Total breakdown of 13:11
και ιδου γυνη πνευμα εχουσα ασθενειας ετη δεκαοκτω και ην συγκυπτουσα και μη δυναμενη ανακυψαι εις το παντελες

NRSV Luke 13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

The sentence begins with "και ", typical for a Greek sentence and essentially translatable by either "and" or a "period."  It can also mean but, even, more, also, etc...

The next word is "ιδου " This word, like the Hebrew hennah means "pay attention!" It does not describe what happens in the narrative, but it is a direction for the reader.

"γυνη πνευμα εχουσα ασθενειας" Before we parse this, let's just stick in the word-for-word translations: "woman spirit having weakness." The specific cases (accusative verses genitive) help here, but one can probably deduce this reads: "a woman having a spirit of weakness." For modern readers we'd like to take out the word "having a spirit" and replace it with "illness" but this limits the connection we will make later when Jesus says that Satan had this woman bound.

The participle "εχουσα" looks like an aorist because it has an "s" toward the end, but this is a feminine marker! Sigh! How does one translate this participle? Because there is neither a "the" (definitive article) nor a helping verb anywhere near by, you can assume it is a circumstantial. If we then use the formula "A woman, under the circumstance of having, an ill spirit" we see we can toss out the formula and just roll with it, "A woman having a ill spirit."

"ετη δεκαοκτω" 18 years.

και ην συγκυπτουσα ; Here we come to a supplementary participle. You will come to love these because your brain in English already thinks this way.  If you see a form of a "to-be" verb (ie, ην) next to a participle, you can read it like in English -- just stick in the basic translation of the words -- "The woman was bent over." This is the very complex way in Greek of forming the imperfect tense!

και μη δυναμενη ανακυψαι: This is a train wreck by Luke! He basically continues to leave the helping verb, here δυναμενη (to be able) as a participle. This means he must use "μη " for a negative instead of "ou" (all non indicative no-s should be μη and not ou). He then connects it with an aorist infinitive. Ouch.  At the end of the day: "was not able to stand up"

εις το παντελες: This use of εις here basically makes the adjective, παντελες, an adverb because it now describes the action of standing up straight.  The way Luke writes this little tidbit here though leaves a very poetic end to the sentence:  "She was not able to stand up into completeness."  Her not standing up had an impact in her life beyond simply being hunched over.

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