Friday, January 21, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
Any church that wants to last more than one generation is going to have a problem with this line. Indeed, the proto-orthodox church had to brand ascetic sects as heretical in order to continue receiving tithes after the initial converts were made. The greek for the word in question is εὐνοῦχος (eunouchos) and it is rooted in the word for bedroom, which makes sense in that men with large harems would use castrati to guard their women, thinking that the lack of testes would render these guards uninterested in sex with their charges. This evidently was not the case (see Ulpian in the Roman Digest of Law or Hammurabi's Code.) In any case, it's pretty clear that Jesus is talking about someone doing something painful or difficult to himself to make it hard or impossible to procreate. Even clearer is the message that it's better not to get involved with women at all, but it's undeniable here that he teaches that someone who is dedicated to the Kingdom of Heaven will not get married.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
25For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: 26The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. 27But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. 28And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs. 29And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.
Monday, January 10, 2011
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Ouch. First, you're supposed to leave your wife and family to fend for themselves to follow this guy, and then you're going to "trade up" as it were in kingdom come. Perhaps this is why there is so little shame in having a new "trophy wife" today among so many politicians who confess their allegiance to various charismatic groups.
What's interesting is that just 18 passages before this, Jesus makes the act of leaving your wife out as the one sin that might be seen as unforgivable (Mark 10:6-12. Oddly, this is the passage most often cited as objecting to homosexual activity and same sex marriage-but again, that's for another post at another time.)
This is one of those little gems that is almost word-for-word copied in Luke (18:28) and Matthew (19:27) so scholars tend to give it a lot of weight in terms of likelihood of having been a real exchange. In any case, it appears that to Jesus the sanctity of marriage is violable under some circumstances-namely, that you use following Jesus as an excuse for it. Conceivably, that means it would be perfectly acceptable to join a monastery or become an itinerant preacher if one got tired of providing for one's family.
"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.