Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Luke 14:1;7-14

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, most recently on September 1, 2019.

At first glance, this passage seems practical moral advice with a heavenly reward. Jesus' use of δοξα (doxa) and δοξη (doxe) suggest something deeper is going on. δοξη is a fairly uncommon word meaning "banquet." In fact, in the OT, the people who throw such banquets are normally Persian kings! Also unusual is the word δοξα, or glory. Although it is a fairly common word, here it is translated unusually as "honor." This is possible, but really stretches it. The word is not really a word one would associate with mortals. In fact, the last time we heard the word in Luke's Gospel was when the angels announced Jesus birth. These two words, in other words, are fairly out of place for a typical meal. Which suggests that what is at the stake (and not steak) is hardly a common meal, but the feast of the humbled yet exalted one! He is the one to whom glory will be given.

Key Words:
δοξα (14.10; "honor"): Normally we think of δοξα as glory (Think OT and the "glory of the Lord"). Here, however, it is translated as honor...ςell, maybe. Luke only uses this word three other times. When Jesus is born and the angels sing (2.9 and 14) and when the people cry out during Jesus' entry in to Jerusalem. The context permits translating δοξα as "esteemed." However, it has such divine implications that it points us back to Christ, to the one to whom glory is given.

δοξη (14.13; "meal"): This word is very rare in the New Testament; only used twice. The other time it is in Luke when Levi, the tax-collector, invites Jesus to his house. When this word is used in the OT, it normally refers to banquets put on by Persian kings. In other words, this is a big, rich party that few can actually host.

If you put these words together, you get a very surprising twist at the end of the story:  Who is invited to this feast of glory?  Jesus commends us to invite those on the outside.  Jesus here is introducing table fellowship to the unthinkable.

Other words worth pondering:
ταπεινοω (14.11; "humble"): This word is often paired with exalts (υψοω).  In Philippians 2 and Hebrews 12, we are reminded that Jesus humbles himself that he might be exalted.

μακαριος (14.14; "blessed"): This is the word Luke (and Matthew) use for the beatitudes, "Blessed are..."

καλεω (14.7; used 7 times in this passage!; "invite") This word is used virtually very sentence. It means invite and call.

αισχυνη (14.9; "disgrace" or "shame"): One would expect to find this word quite frequently in the NT, especially given the 'fuss' about honor/shame societies. While this word appears quite frequently in the OT, it is rather rare in the NT. This might be an avenue for more reflection. Is Jesus neglecting this dynamic in his society?  Is it so much a part of the world that the writers do not need to mention it?  In this case, Jesus seems to be appealing to people's sense of honor and shame, telling them that seeking honor is itself shameful.

Aside: One of the places "shame" (αισχυνη) is used in the NT is Philippians 3:19 -- "their glory is their shame." Classic line.

Sentence deconstructed:
και εγενετο εν τη ελθειν αυτον εις οικον τινος των αρχοντων των φαρισαων σαββατω φαγειν αρτον και αυτοι ησαν παρατηρουμενοι αυτον

14.1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely.

και εγενετο : This is a typical way to begin a sentence. It simply means: "And it happened." It is unnecessary.

εν τη ελθειν αυτον : Technically this is an "articular infinitive with preposition." This means a couple of things. It combines a preposition (in) with an article (the) with an infinitive (coming). Literally: "In the coming." You have to translate the preposition as an adverb: "While he comes..." The problem with an infinitive is that it is, well, infinite. This means it is un-conjugated. You don't know who is doing the action. So, to indicate this, they stick the subject of an infinitive clause in the accusative. In this case, auton, or he.

εις οικον τινος των αρχοντων των φαρισαων: "into the house" is fairly straight forward. The rest is a genitive where we just put in a lot of "ofs": 'of one of the leaders of the pharisees.'  Worth contemplating that the Pharisees had leaders.  Those seeking holiness found a way to hierarchy very quickly...

σαββατω : The sabbath here is in the dative; here this is a dative revealing when something happens, ie, "on the sabbath." So you can combine this with the earlier infinitive (we are still in the infinitive phrase here): "When Jesus went on the sabbath into the house of one...pharisees...

φαγειν αρτον: Here we have another infinitive, which completes the other verb, "went" as in, "he went to eat." Oddly enough, the object of this infinitive phrase is also in the accusative, "arton" or bread. In an infinitive phrase, both subject and object can be in the accusative!

και αυτοι ησαν παρατηρουμενοι αυτον: Let's take care of the "autoi"s here. The first is plural, they; the second is mas. sing, him. 95% of "auto"s are not going to be translated as "self" or "very" but are simply pronouns.

ησαν παρατηρουμενοι: A really complex way of making a verb in the imperfect -- put an imperfect for of "to be" with a perfect tense participle. Used quite frequently with middle/passive verbs. But simple to translated: "were watching."

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Luke 12:49-56

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C.  Typically this passage occurs late in the summer, when pastors are on vacation or in the midst of a summer preaching series.  In short, no one likes to preach on this passage.  Most recently it occurred: August 18, 2019

Summary:  This is my 4th time seeing this passage.  Each time I cringe, especially in our current political environment.  I've included some thoughts about how we might understand Jesus difficult words about division.

Key words:
πυρ ("fire", 12:49)  Throughout the Bible, fire is associated with God's judgment.  Here are few verses that put them together, but you can find this over and over.

  • Isaiah 66:16 For by fire will the LORD execute judgment, and by his sword, on all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many.
  • Amos 7:4 This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land.
  • Revelation 18:8 therefore her plagues will come in a single day-- pestilence and mourning and famine-- and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
  • Hebrews 10:27 but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

The dominant and most natural interpretation here is the reminder that Jesus has come to bring judgment.

While this may seem strange in our society, which seems on the verge of civil war, I wonder if we too quickly throughout the baby with the bathwater.  Judgement is necessary, even for the ultimate goal of unity.  For until all realize that they have fallen short of God's glory, that the only line in the sand is those who have sinned and those who have not, we will always find ways to create other divisions in our culture.

διεμεμερισμενοι  (from διαμεριζω, meaning "divide", 12:52, 53).  Divide can mean divide like Rome: Divide and conquer.  But maybe divide has a different Biblical sense.  Especially when connected with fire.
Fire is not only used for judgement, but also commissioning, specifically the call of Moses (burning bush, Exodus 3:2), Isaiah (burning coals, chapter 6) and the call of Ezekiel (firey chariots, chapter 1).  In each of these cases, the fire produces a division, but this division is more of a setting aside.  The fire indicated a holiness that transforms the one who experiences it.  

This really comes full circle in the book of Acts, where the tongues of fire, divided (same word) rest on the apostles.  In this case, the early followers of Jesus have been divided from everyone else, but for a purpose, to share the good news.

Could we read this verse here as Jesus is saying he has come, not simply to judge, but to divide us from the rest, to call us into a new way of being?  This initial division will produce further division, but ultimately it serves a broader and unifying goal.

Lastly, I find it noteworthy that this whole section of Luke begins with a question about division, namely two brothers fighting over how to divide an inheritance (12:13).  Perhaps Jesus is reminding us that the real division isn't over money, but over loyalty to him.  Just like all other allegiances, this will cause division.

βαπτισμα 50