Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Talbert’s Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Parallels

The fifth parallel given in the list is the correspondence of 11:14-36 to 17:11-37. Both contain a healing followed by a discussion of the signs of the Kingdom of God and a warning about the last judgment.

The seventh parallel is the correspondence of 11:37-54 to 17:1-10. Both contain an exhortation to rebuke one’s brother if he sins.

The seventh parallel is the correspondence of 12:1-48 to chapter 16. Both elements contain three themes: the threat of hell, riches and stewardship. The two elements of the seventh parallel are balanced. However, as Plummer noted, the conduct of the unjust steward is commended by the master and thus is a role model for rich men who neglect to distribute alms and ignore the beggar at their gate.

Copyrighted 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Reading Plummer

You may recall that in Parable of the Dishonest Steward, this man was commanded to give an accounting of his stewardship in preparation to handling it over to someone else because he had been wasting his master's goods. There have been a number of solutions proposed for the interpretation of this most enigmatic parable. In his book, Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as pedagogue of the oppressed, William R. Hezog suggested that perhaps the parables of Jesus were neither theological nor moral stories but political and economic ones. Plummer, in discussing the Rich Man and Lazarus, indicated the unjust steward showed what good results may follow from the wise use of wealth while the rich man shows how disastrous are consequences for failing to make wise use of wealth. Reading the Unjust Steward and the Rich man & Lazarus together (even though separated by 11 verses) makes sense of the Parable of the Unjust Steward.

Although I like Plummer's interpretation, I still believe that the parable is best understood as being directed to most excellent Theophilus since he as the High Priest had the ability to make changes in the distribution of alms accumulated by the temple establishment. The more I think about it, Plummer's interpretation strengthens the devastating criticism directed to most excellent Theophilus. The lesson is, paraphrasing Plummer, Theophilus, who is merely a steward of the wealth accumulated by the temple establishment, should be more like the unjust steward.

I plan to revisit the Unjust Steward and the material between the two parables.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Religious Value Voter

One of the most interesting results of the 2006 election is not the “revolt of the middle” but the emergence of the religious value voter as a swing voter. This is recognition that “No one has a corner on values.” Everyone noticed that the Catholic vote returned home to the Democrat Party. The Democrat Party selected faith friendly candidates such as Bob Casey, Jr. in Pennsylvania, Health Shuler in North Carolina and Ted Strickland in Ohio. Perhaps the Party remembered the success of Bob Edgar in winning six congressional races in Delaware County Pennsylvania at the time arguable one of the strongest Republican organizations in the country.

A number of individuals and groups redefined religious values to be not only abortion and same sex marriages but also the war in Iraq and corruption in Washington. These religious value voters are also very interested in the issues that affect the quality of our lives such as peace-making, poverty relief, environmental preservation and tolerance. They are the ones most likely to say, I think and believe in the power of one therefore I exist.

The religious value voter must not be deceived by party or church leaders who attempt to redefine themselves. The most notorious example was when the man they called The Senator ran for the US Senate on the Prohibition Party. He was later exposed as the person who controlled the largest boot-legging operation in the United States. Ironically his bill which passed the General Assembly in May 1933 provided for the state convention to vote on the 21st Amendment and the enactment of the omnibus bill for liquor control and the establishment of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the largest single purchaser of liquor in the USA.

Groups within the party, or for that matter within the church, who feel they have been neglected by the party or the church, need to redefine the issues so that their block is noticed by the party or the church as a block of swing voter. It is not always necessary to vote with our feet. We can redefine the issues.

I for one redefine the issue as pro-quality of life.

Copyrighted 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

Blomberg's Criteria for Detecting an Extended Chiasmus

In his article in Biblica on The Chiastic Structure and Meaning of Paul’s Letter to Philemon, John Paul Heil recognized that his argument would have no validity unless he first demonstrated that his methodology was sound. Heil said: “To be truly convincing a chiastic structure must adhere to rigorous criteria and methodology. It must be evident that the chiasm has not been imposed upon the text but actually subsists and operates within the text.” Heil is just one of a number of scholars who have utilized the list of nine criteria set forth by Blomberg for detecting an extended chiasmus. This list states “(1) there must be a problem in perceiving the structure of the text in question, which more conventional outlines fail to resolve; (2) there must be clear examples of parallelism between the two ‘halves’ of the hypothesized chiasmus, to which commentators call attention even when they propose quite different outlines for the text overall; (3) verbal (or grammatical) parallelism as well as conceptual (or structural) parallelism should characterize most if not all of the corresponding pairs of subdivisions; (4) the verbal parallelism should involve central or dominant imagery or terminology, not peripheral or trivial language; (5) both verbal and conceptual parallelism should involve words and ideas not regularly found elsewhere within the proposed chiasmus; (6) multiple sets of correspondences between passages opposite each other in the chiasmus as well as multiple members of the chiasmus itself are desirable; (7) the outline should divide the text at natural breaks which would be agreed upon even by those proposing very different structures to account for the whole; (8) the center of the chiasmus, which forms its climax, should be a passage worthy of that position in light of its theological or ethical significance; (9) ruptures in the outline should be avoided if at all possible.”

Blomberg is not the first to create a criteria for detecting an extended chiasmus. Nils Lund in his classic study, Chiasmus in the New Testament (1942) proposed seven laws of chiastic structures. These laws for some represent a good beginning while others view them as a foundation. As noted, a number of scholars have attempted to provide an adequate outline of the central travel section of Luke using chiastic analysis. It appears to be a hit or miss project. The most common criticism of these attempts to provide a criteria for detecting an extended chiasmus has been the uncertainty about the beginning and ending of a particular chiastic structure. Perhaps using Blomberg’s criteria may be a means of both testing the criteria and Talbert’s list. This criteria was selected primarily because it recognizes that the center of the chiasmus must be worthy of that position. This particular criterion was separately addressed in my blog earlier this year.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Talbert’s Second and Third Parallels

The second parallel given in the list is the correspondence of 10:25-37 to 18:18-30. In both Jesus is confronted with the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The two different responses which Jesus gave to the same question to two different individuals on two different occasions are to be considered together. In both elements, the five words of Greek that constitute this question are identical and therefore there is no question that Luke intends the two passages to be linked together.

The third parallel is the correspondence of 10:38-42 to 18:9-14. In both stories the conduct of the individual Pharisee is subjected to criticism. In second, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the tax collector is the unexpected model of exemplary behavior. Thus the second explains the first and provides a model.

Copyrighted 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Talbert’s List

A major chiastic structure identified by Talbert, more than thirty years ago, in which the “the elements (parables) are balanced in chiastic fashion” is not easily described in words. Set forth below is the list created by Charles H. Talbert, “though it conforms at many points with the contentions of Goulder and Morgenthaler.”

Luke 10:21 to 13:30 . . . . . . . . . . Luke 14:1 to 18:30

10:21-24 . . . . . . . . . . . 1 . . . .18:15-17

10:25-37. . . . . . . . . . . .2 . . . .18:18-30

10:38-42. . . . . . . . . . . .3. . . . 18:9-14

11:1-13. . . . . . . . . . . . 4. . . . 18:1-8

11:14-36. . . . . . . . . . . .5. . . . 17:11-37

11:37-54. . . . . . . . . . . .6. . . . 17:1-10

12:1-48. . . . . . . . . . . . 7. . . . Ch. 16

12:49-13:9. . . . . . . . . . .8. . . . 14:25-15:32

13:10-17. . . . . . . . . . . .9. . . . 14:1-6

13:18-30. . . . . . . . . . . 10. . . . 14:7-24

13:31-33. . . . . . . . . . . 11. . . . 13:34-35

The first parallel given in the list above is the correspondence of Luke 10:21-24 to 18:15-17. In both elements, the Kingdom is accessible only to babes.

Luke uses the Greek word nepios in 10:21 and brephos in 18:15. In most translations, nepios is translated as babes while brephos is translated as infants. Plummer translates verse 15 as follow: "Now people were bringing to Him even their babes." However Plummer does not mention Luke 10:21-24 in his discussion nor does he discuss why he chose to translate brephos as babes rather than as infants which is the choice of most translations. Yet Plummer, whose translation is not incorrect, implicitly links these two pericopes closer than anyone else. For, instance, Bock in his discussion of children and faith 18:15-17 does not mention Luke 10:21-24.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Elements Balanced in Chiastic Fashion

In Persistent Prayer, wherein I examined the fourth parallel in the list, I stated that Talbert noted more than thirty years ago that these two parables were part of a major chiastic structure (Lk. 10:21 to 18:30) in which “the elements (parables) are balanced in chiastic fashion.” In discussing these two parables, Marshall had made the statement that the interpretation of the first parable was derived from the second that the author had linked together with the first in these words: “the parable is meant to depict the character of God by contrast with the unwilling householder. It is true that this lesson is not explicitly drawn in the text; the justification for it is to be found in the parallel parable of the unjust judge (18:1-8) in which the point is clearly made, and also in the appended teaching in 11:9-13, especially v. 13 where the comparison between men and God is clearly made.” Marshall at 462. Thus Marshall had linked the second together with the first based strictly on content. Marshall did not discuss the use of a chiastic structure to create this linkage.

Would an examination of the 11 pairs of elements (usually parables) in the chiastic pattern identified by Talbert consisting of Luke 10:21 to 18:30 confirm the intentional nature of the structure wherein the second element further elucidated the lesson of the first? How should this examination be conducted?

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Orderly Account

Luke describes his undertaking in 1:3 “to write an orderly account” for Theophilus. He says to Theophilus: "it seemed good to write an orderly account for you...that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed" (Luke 1.3-4).

Luke calls his account an orderly one (kathexes). For some this means he wrote in chronological sequence. But such a meaning is unlikely here. He has done some rearranging of the order of events for thematic or literary reasons (for example, 4:16-30; the order of the temptations in 4:1-13; the placement of John's arrest in 3:19-20). Fitzmyer says this is “a literary systematic presentation.” Plummer notes that Luke “does not propose to give a mere collection of anecdotes and detached sayings, but an orderly narrative systematically arranged.”

In Reading Luke Chiastically, I discussed the use of chiasmus in ancient writings and in the writings of Luke. Thus one needs to ask if Luke is calling attention to the carefully constructed symmetrical chiastic structure he has created in using the word kathexes in his two part writing?

Over at Hypotyposeis, Stephen Carlson, last Tuesday when everyone was voting, posted his comments on orderly account.

Copyrighted 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Persistent Prayer

Luise Schottroff in his new book, The Parables of Jesus, (2006) has linked together based on content the Parables of the Insistent Friend (Lk. 11:5-13) and the Stubborn Widow (Lk. 18:1-8). Talbert noted more than thirty years ago that these two parables were part of a major chiastic structure (Lk. 10:21 to 18:30) in which “the elements (parables) are balanced in chiastic fashion.” Both parables, according to Talbert, treat the theme of God’s willingness to answer prayer. Schottroff makes no mention of chiastic patterns. Both parables, which are unique to Luke, are clearly intended to be an incentive to shameless boldness in persistent prayer.

Although both parables speak to prayer, the differences between the parables should be noted and appreciated. In the first parable, theimportance of the network of solidarity among human beings is shown by the hospitality exhibited. The second parable provides encouragement to those engaged in the resistance to structures of injustice.

Copyrighted 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership

There is a problem of leadership failure in the Christian community. Ted Haggard joins a proliferation of significant leadership failures in the last twenty-five years. A list of individuals that includes Jim and Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swiggart and many other celebrity clergy would also need to name the numerous pedophile priests identified in the last several years. It seems that the very driving forces that lead to tremendous success are also the negative factors that need to be suppressed.

I do not pretend to know anything about the dark side. I suspect all of us are aware of individuals who are our relatives, friends or acquaintances suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction or mental illness. Their condition places them on the dark side and when they suffer you suffer with them.

There is a very strong emphasis in the writing of Luke on both the need for persistent prayer and demonic conflict. It never occurred to me that persistent prayers were needed then to address the demonic conflict and are needed now.

Copyrighted 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mission Training Center

Do churches have mission training center? Many Christian denominations claim to be evangelical and I am not disputing that claim. I am merely asking which religious groups have mission training programs to prepare candidates including lay members for the mission of recruiting new members.

Do remember to vote tomorrow.

Copyrighted 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

When did the Democrat wave begin?

A number of respected independent analysts, including Stuart Rothenberg and Charles Cook, have predicted that Democrats could gain 35 seats or more in the House and 5 to 7 seats in the Senate. This has prompted numerous people to ask me when the Democrat wave began. I suggest that it started when the Philadelphia Zoo announced that they were closing its elephant exhibit and shipping their three elephants to other locations without any protest from Republicans. When the independents and fence sitters noticed this, the wave began.

Seriously. When did the wave start building? Was it Kelso? Katrina? Iraq? Or sex scandals?

Incumbents in State of Denial are claiming they will not only retain control of Congress, they will increase their numbers. The Republicans are actually claiming they are winning because they are in a purple state. No one has explained what is causing this condition.

Do you remember the Republican Contract with America? It contained, inter alia, these two paragraphs:

“This year's election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.”

“Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act ‘with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.’ To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.”

This tidal wave is the self inflicted curse imposed by the party of family values and no budget deficits. Gingrich and DeLay had said if The Party breaks the Covenant they made with the people, there will be a tsunami of historic proportions and all the redistricting arks they have built will not be enough to save them. The Prophets have repeatedly warned them that if they did not turn from their evil ways, they will experience expulsion from their man-made temples and premature unemployment because they have breached their Covenant with America.

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation. -- Thomas B. Reed (1886). Today voters do not believe that legislation will make democracy safer! At most people hope the government does them no harm.

The wave started building when people one by one realized that the government does do them harm and that hope is not enough. People vote with their feet and on Election Day they will be walking to the polls no matter what the weather is because they have finally realized that one person can make a difference. Be bold and speak the truth to the power. Let them know they breached their contract with you.

Your vote does make a difference. Vote early on Tuesday to avoid the stampede.

Copyrighted 2006

All Saints Day

A saint is a dead sinner whose life has been edited. Therefore we need to be careful who we proclaim as a saint. We need to recognize that the traditional view, “the resurrection of the righteous” has been changed by the Lucan Paul in Acts 24:15 so that not only the righteous but also the unrighteous will be raised. It is far safer to proclaim all the believers as saints. Perhaps we are all saints.

Copyrighted 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This is the feast of victory

In 1978, a new Lutheran Book of Worship was published containing an innovation to the eucharistic liturgy of North American Lutherans. "This Is the Feast of Victory" was written as an alternate Song of Praise for inclusion in Setting One. It is now widely published in at least 30 recent worship books in North American, Canadian, and international publications.

"This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia. Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God. Power, riches, wisdom, and strength, honor and blessing and glory are his. This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia. Sing with all the people of God and join in the hymn of all creation: Blessing and honor and glory and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen. This is the feast of victory for our God, for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia" (LBW, 81-82).

Virtually all the wording and concept of this modern hymn was taken from lines and phrases of the New Testament book of Revelation. Since Lutherans do not even read the Book of Revelations, let alone acknowledge its existence, it can be said that a love of the Book of Revelations was not the reason the hymn was included in the eucharistic liturgy. Consequently, I have wondered if the inclusion of this hymn in our eucharistic liturgy is attributable to the influence of Swedish Lundensian theology and a belated acknowledgement and recognition of the victory motif present in the writings of Martin Luther.

Copyrighted 2006