Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Understanding perplexity

Last year I wrote a series of articles on Jonah and Luke. This past weekend I recognized the possibility that Jonah may be the key to understanding perplexity. One commentator listed Jonah 1:15 as a possible source for Luke 21:25 without setting forth his reasoning. This of course was perplexing to me.

Jonah 1:15 LXX states: And they took Jonah and cast him into the sea. And the sea ἔστη from its tossing about. The Septuagint uses the Greek words ἔστη and σάλου translated in verse 15 as “stood” and “tossing” respectively. The RSV translate the verse as follow: “So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.” But in Luke 21:25 the translation reads as follow: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

Does the usage of σάλου in the Jonah 1:15 provide us with the clue for understanding of the perplexing verse 25?

I had noted that the Greek words for “perplexity” and “the waves” ἀπορίᾳ and σάλου are both Lucan hapax. Unlike ἀπορίᾳ which appears seven times in the Septuagint, σάλου only appears in Jonah 1:15. Zhubert does note occurrences of the lemma.

Assuming that σάλου is a true “double hapax” appearing only once in the Septuagint and once in the NT, does its usage by Luke allude to Jonah 1:15? How does this allusion assist our understanding?

Luke 8:23-24 we read: “and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm.” The Lucan Jesus calmed the storm just as “the sea ceased from its raging” when they threw Jonah into the sea.

The perplexity verse uttered alludes back to Lk 8:23-24 and also Jonah 1:15 reminding the First Reader that Jesus “commands even wind and water, and they obey him?" More importantly it reminds the First Reader that Jonah and Luke are about repentance and unexpected reversals and that God seeks their repentance and deliverance from destruction. The final point of the story of Jonah reveals that the chief obstacle to the extension of Yahweh's salvation to the nations was Yahweh's own messenger, Jonah. Perhaps the First Reader is being reminded he too is an obstacle to the extension of Yahweh's salvation.

God sent Jonah to the city of Ninevah to preach to them the coming wrath. But the 120,000 citizens of Ninevah led by their king repented changing from their evil ways and God relented and did not impose the wrath that Jonah had expected. The Lucan Jesus is using the story of the sign of Jonah to persuade the First Reader to take the necessary steps so that the wrath is not imposed upon the people of Jerusalem.

In the same verse that the Lucan Jesus warns the people of the ἀπορίᾳ (perplexity; Lev. 26:16; Dt 28:22; Pr 28:27; Isa 5:30; 24:19; Jer 8:21; 29:18) to come, σάλου reminds the people that it is not too late for the coming wind and the raging waves and the distress of the nations to be rebuked.

I will discuss the use of ἔστη in another segment.

Copyrighted 2007


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