Monday, January 10, 2011

Matt 10:34-I came to start a battle between the parents and children of a household

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.35For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.36And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."

This is pretty straightforward "fightin' words." As J.D. Crossan (the charming grey-haired, bespectacled scholar you see in all the documentaries who makes you think "That guy should play the guy who runs the orphanage in every movie ever where the orphans are well treated" when you see him) points out, Jesus has a generational conflict in mind. If you look at who is against who (and take into account the norm that a woman would go live with her husband's family in that culture, thus exposing her explicitly to her mother-in-law) this becomes apparent.

This fits nicely into the apocalyptic context-the Messiah, after all, was supposed to be a great warrior-one who was anointed by God to lead the bitch-slapping the Roman overlords had coming to them (as opposed to the Isaiah 9:5 "Prince of Peace." And it's pretty clear that the "peace" expected in that passage was expected to come from a bloody victory-but that's another post.)

There's no indication that Jesus wants to come off as anything but a bad-ass here. He leads up to it with the language of judgement and follows it with the message to John the Baptizer, so he's pretty clearly in the apocalyptic vein when he says this.

What's probably most interesting is the way in which this appears to clash with the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12):

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."

I suppose you can be "at variance" with your father and still honor him, but given the ideal that Jesus appeared to preach that one should follow the spirit of the law and not just the word, again it seems that maybe to reconcile these ideas one has to make a few intellectual exceptions.

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