Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek (Luke 4)

Here's where I'm really going to feel like I'm repeating myself, as this scene in Luke 4 doesn't change much between the Gospels.

Jesus goes off into the wilderness and fasts for forty days. Note that it doesn't say that he drank nothing, only that he ate nothing. As it happens, I have known people who have gone on a forty day fast from solid food, but really, that's beside the point, as Jesus is meant to be understood as being rather exceptional. If a guy can walk on water and bring people back from the dead, going for forty days with maybe only water should be a cinch.

When the devil takes Jesus up on a mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, I never took it as being a literal thing, but more a sort of a vision. Even if the world were flat, you can only see so far, so I don't think this passage is suggesting such a thing.

Who is the Lord of all the earth? As is implied by this passage, the devil is, but then why all the verses saying that God is? Rather than a contradiction, this is a sort of complicated feudal matter; God is Lord in the end, but for some reason that's never fully explored in the Bible, when Adam ate from the tree in the garden of Eden, a certain amount of control over the earth was given to Satan. Anyway, if I remember from the first time I addressed Jesus' misquote, yes the word "only" doesn't appear in the verse Jesus is quoting, but it's strongly implied. So yeah, technically a misquote, but Jesus hasn't changed the meaning of the verse.

Can God be tempted? I answered this at length once before; let me try to give a short answer this time: You certainly can try to tempt God, but that doesn't mean it would be effective. Is it OK to test (or tempt) God? Generally no, but clearly there have been exceptions. Not only is it not a hard-and-fast rule, but the page on the SAB is missing an important verse, Malachi 3:10, in which God commands Israel to test him! (Perhaps the SAB will add the verse once this goes up? I think it's a big one for this issue.)

The SAB has a few issues with the comparison of Luke 4:18-19 to Isaiah 61:1-2. First of all, the SAB claims that the verse in Isaiah refers to Isaiah, and not to a future prophet. While yes, the verse does refer to Isaiah, that does not mean that it's impossible that it might have another layer of meaning. It actually comes up a lot in the New Testament that a verse that people thought referred to a past event is reinterpreted to have a secondary fulfillment; that's what's going on here. Secondly, the SAB points out that this appears to be yet another case of Jesus misquoting Scripture, and asks idly if Jesus made the mistake or if Luke added it in later. I don't know how to answer that question, but I do have some insight into what's going on here. In Jesus' time, Greek was a very commonly-spoken language, and a lot of people read their Old Testament from a Greek version known as the Septuagint. As is happens, the Septuagint does mention "typhlois anablepsin" or "recovering sight to the blind" in this verse. Jesus could have been reading from the Septuagint, or Luke could have gotten his verses from the same, but we don't really have any way of knowing for sure. Admittedly, this does still leave the verse open for questioning in a number of different ways. Is the Septuagint a bad translation? Was it wrong for whoever quoted from the Septuagint to do so? If Jesus actually read correctly from the Hebrew text, and Luke substituted the Septuagint, what does that imply? These are all potentially big issues that I admittedly don't have answers for; although its not a contradiction, it is an inconsistency, which some people may consider just as bad. Please feel free to share your thoughts one way or the other in the comments.

How long was Elijah's drought? The SAB claims a contradiction here, but I seem to be failing to see it. The Old Testament doesn't seem to be at all specific as to the length of the drought. I'd be curious as to where James and Jesus got three and a half years.

In verse 38, there is mention of "Simon's wife" which implies, as the SAB says, that the "first Pope" was married. I don't know what Catholics believe about this, or even if it would be an issue, as I'm pretty sure that celibacy among clergy was not a thing practiced in the early church. The SAB also implies that Simon Peter abandoned his wife to follow Jesus, but I don't know that one could say that with certainty. Sure, it's possible, but just because verse 5:11 says "they forsook all" doesn't mean that it should be taken quite so literally; at the very least one might assume that they didn't leave behind their clothes, and if they took something at all, who knows what they may have taken overall?

In the rest of the chapter, there's a lot of healing and casting out "devils", and while the SAB marks all of this as absurd and/or scientifically wrong, we're talking about miracles once again. Just because Jesus cleared a fever by rebuking it doesn't mean that the Bible is saying that's standard medical practice. As for the casting out of devils, the SAB brings up a question that I don't have a good answer for.

No comments: