Wednesday, March 05, 2014

And when he knew it of the centurion (Luke 7)

Luke 7 opens with the story of a centurion asking Jesus to heal his slave. The story here is told differently than it is in Matthew 8, prompting the SAB to ask "Did the centurion ask Jesus directly to heal his slave?" In Matthew's telling of the story, the centurion comes in person to talk to Jesus, while here, he sends some messengers. (Note that in neither version does Jesus go to the centurion's house.) While I couldn't say for sure, my guess on this matter is that Matthew left out details and simplified the story. Even though this transaction involved messengers, it's still essentially the centurion who's asking for help.

More important perhaps is the issue of slavery here. As the SAB rightly points out, if Jesus was against slavery, this would have been a good time to say something, but he doesn't. The SAB has a page on whether God approves of slavery, but I think there needs to be a distinction made between slavery in ancient Israel (which I addressed here) and slavery in Roman times. That being said, just as when I covered this story in Matthew 8, I have to admit that I know very little about Roman slavery and so I can't say much about it. Maybe if I ever get to the book of Philemon (which is about a runaway slave) I'll have to force myself to do some research.

Did Jesus know everything? While a case can be made that Jesus did not know everything, I think the fact that Jesus "marvelled" at the centurion is more of a statement of Jesus' emotional reaction than genuine surprise.

Next in the story, Jesus raises a man from the dead, prompting two questions from the SAB: Is death final? While I'm sure I've dealt with this before, let me do it here. In general, death is a final thing, but there are occasional exceptions of people who are revived from death, and that doesn't even require a miracle; sometimes a knowledge of CPR is enough. That being said, there is that matter of the concept of the resurrection of the dead, which is always supernatural. In this case in general everyone will resurrected at the end of time to be judged in a new, perfect body. When Jesus died on the cross, he was the first to be resurrected, which leads to and partially answers the second question, Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead? The two verses in the yes column are referring to the resurrection, and not to people who were revived, nor to people whose spirits sent messages from beyond the grave.

In verse 19 we see "And John [the Baptist] calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?" The nature of this question is mostly a rhetorical one. John the Baptist already knows that Jesus is the Messiah, but he's confused about what Jesus is doing because like many other in that day, he expected the Messiah to revive the Israelite monarchy. Since Jesus seems to be just doing spiritual stuff, a lot of people are confused about his mission. (In other Gospel tellings of this event, John is in prison, and is confused as to why Jesus hasn't come to bust him out.)

In verse 28, the SAB asks, Who was the greatest prophet? Well, look at what those verses actually say: the Deuteronomy passage says there was never a prophet like Moses, not that Moses was the best. The verse in Hebrews says that Jesus was worthy of glory, but doesn't say that he was the greatest prophet (and really, even if it did, it would be fairly reasonable to assume that when Jesus praised John as the greatest, he was excluding himself from the comparison. So in short, John the Baptist was the greatest.

Were the Pharisees baptized by John? I don't think that the verse in Matthew 3 is saying what the SAB is claiming it's saying. When John said "I baptize you..." I believe he was speaking in general to the crowd, whether or not any one of them in particular were getting baptized, and the Pharisees were not.

The question Is it OK to use perfume? is, in my opinion, really one of the silliest that the SAB poses, and I'm not going to answer it again.

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