Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Amish and the Pharisees

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, found only in Luke, was classified by Julicher as a parable of exemplary behavior. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector went up to the Temple to pray. Although the parable is about two individuals, it has been interpreted as if the individual Pharisee was representative member of his group and the individual tax collector was not.

Our information about the Pharisees of the first century is sparse. Saldarini has indicated that the Pharisees were a movement within Judaism devoted to observing Torah, including ritual purity, and to piety toward God. Josephus said the Pharisees were held in high regard by the people. Yet the prayer uttered by this particular Pharisee was mean-spirited and self-deceptive. The manner and content of the prayer was shocking. It was out of character.

When the comparison of the manner and content of the prayer is made with the prayer of the tax collector, a comparison that is actually invited by the Pharisee, the outcome is likewise shocking. Jesus in effect says the tax collector receives mercy and forgiveness and has re-established his relationship with God. God honors humility while religious pride is condemned. No statement is made about the conduct and business practices of the two individuals. The tax collector is not told that he need follow the example of Zacchaeus. What happened did not meet the expectations of those listening to the Lucan Jesus. In this parable, we see yet another example of Lucan eschatological reversal.

The Pharisees are credited with bringing religion into the home and making it part of everyday life. The house churches of early Christianity may have been inspired by the religious practices of the Pharisees. Although the term “Pharisee” means “separated one,” there is no real evidence that the Pharisees separated themselves from society living like monks. They in fact were active participants in society and noted for their works of charity.

The Amish first settled in Pennsylvania in the early 18th century and now reside in twenty-two states. Early in the 17th century, prior to their migration to the United States, the Amish separated from the Mennonites over the issue of how to handle discipline. In their endeavors to preserve elements of European rural culture of the 17th century, the Amish developed practices and customs which isolated them from American culture.

The Amish believe that no one is guaranteed salvation as a result of a conversion experience, baptism or joining the church. The Amish “would consider it arrogant or prideful to claim certainty of salvation.”

Perhaps the Amish better understand the meaning of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector than us “English.”

Copyrighted 2006


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever the Amish descended from doesn't matter. Today they are amongst the most peaceloving people on Earth. I just wish we could all be just a little more like them.

5:33 PM


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