Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Cataphoric Pronoun

My thoughts on the Second Harvest soon wandered to the first five verses of the sixth chapter of Luke because the disciples were going through the grain fields for their own second harvest. Jesus then answered the question of the Pharisees by citing the story of David entering into the House of God and taking the presentation loaves to satisfy his hunger and that of his men.[i] Jesus introduced the story of David by saying “have you not by chance read this?”[ii] “This” is a cataphoric pronoun because it refers to something not yet mentioned.[iii] Steven Runge says it is “purposely used as a highlighting device.” Jesus then draws the principle from the story by adding an extra “and he said to them” to add prominence to the fifth verse containing these words, “The son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath.”

I suspect that “this” particular cataphoric pronoun does more than merely directing our attention to the story of David in the House of God. It also serves to remind us that David the King also exercised priestly functions. David entered the House of God and ate the “presentation loaves” which only priests could eat. David offered sacrifices [2 Sam. 6:13, 17-18; 2 Sam. 24:18-25; 1 Chr. 21:18-28; David exercised authority over the priesthood [2 Sam. 6:13], and David's sons were called priests [2 Sam. 8:18]. David even wore a linen ephod (2 Sam. 6:14) which was a priestly garment. David further exercised authority over the priests by reorganizing them in anticipation of the building of the temple (2 Chr. 23:18; 29:25-30; 35:2-6; Ezra 3:10; Neh. 12:24).

This reminder also confirms that the awkward phrase “second first Sabbath” in Luke 6:1, which introduces the five verse pericope, is temple language. Luke dates the event of the plucking of the grain at a particular time near the mid-point of a Sabbath year. I believe that the first Sabbath of the month of Tishri is being identified. The usage of temple language introducing this pericope suggest that something more is being communicated.

Danker, citing Ezekiel, noted that “a latter day David is to feed his flock and be their shepherd. God’s sanctuary is in the midst of Israel, with David as her prince.”

Because cataphoric references are few in number, it is important that we not miss the significance of the usage.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

[i] Luke cites the story of David found in 1 Sam. 21:1-6 LXX and uses the same Greek words for presentation loaves as found in verse 6.

[ii] The translation and comment by Francois Bovon indicates that “Luke’s phrase is clearly ironic.”

[iii] The normal, more common, function of the pronoun is to refer to something that has already mentioned.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Second Harvest

In yesterday's newspaper there was a story of a farmer who allowed the public to harvest what was missed. 40,000 people showed up and took away hundreds of baskets of food.

The operation manager for the 600 acre farm estimated that the people harvested 600,000 pounds of produce. The sheriff said there were probably 11,000 vehicles parked on 30 acres of land. Allowing people to collect the gleanings is based on a biblical custom. It is comforting to know that there are people like Joe and Chris Miller.

There is a miraculous aspect to the story that the newspaper reporter did not appreciate because we no longer believe in miracles.

While you are enjoying your turkey, and recounting your blessings, think about the Second Harvest.

Copyrighted 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

The bailout of the automakers

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are now standing in line for their share of the bailout money. For the first time, Congress is actually discussing imposing conditions. Some would like to require that the money be used to design and build vehicles providing higher mileage and less pollution. Most of the recipients have been receiving the bailout without any real conditions.

I have a simple proposal. No cash bailout. Instead, I suggest we address the number one reason why American automakers are not competitive in the world market: health insurance. Medical costs add an estimated $1500 to the cost of every American automobile. I suggest that the employees of the three automakers be included in the same federal health insurance plans as federal government employees. I would also include the members of congress in these same plans. My proposal would be the first step in implementing national health insurance for all Americans. This proposal would make the three automakers competitive in the world marketplace. The foreign automakers do not have to pay this cost because their employees have national health insurance.

I prefer to provide help in a way that changes the economics of the manufacture of automobiles. This would create real change that makes it more likely that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler survive as automakers.

My two cents.

Copyrighted 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dining with harlots

The title is as provocative as the incident where the Lucan Jesus dines with Simon the Pharisee. Unexpectedly an unknown woman enters the dining area to wash the feet of the famous guest. Simon considers the uninvited intruder to be a sinner, but more importantly, that the woman threaten the purity of the household. Simon does not have the woman evicted which would be the expected response if the intruder was a harlot. Instead Simon waits and sees what the reaction of his guest will be to the presence of the woman. The silence of Simon is puzzling. Did Simon not react because he realized that he too was a sinner? In fact, it is also puzzling that at the end of the story we do not know the outcome.

Jesus administered shock therapy to Simon the Pharisee as well to the lawyer who was forced to recognize that the Good Samaritan was his neighbor. There are a number of stories where Jesus forced his interrogator to acknowledge a troubling truth but left us hanging as to the outcome. Did either Simon or the lawyer become a follower of Jesus? I assume that this “hanging outcome” technique is a rhetorical device employed by Luke.

There is a notable exception. Jesus ate meals with sinners throughout his ministry. The Good Thief was not of those who had the opportunity to dine with Jesus in his lifetime. He was however given entry to paradise where he would join Jesus at the messianic banquet.

Shock therapy has also been administered by those writers who have demonstrated that we have no basis for assuming that the woman was a harlot. Luke tells us that she shed tears as she began her task. This detail which only Luke includes is important. Her tears said more than words. Her sins were forgiven. We do not need to know what her sins were. Tradition does tell us that she became one of the many women who served Jesus.

The title is now inappropriate.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Serving Communal Meals

240,000 Americans lost their jobs in October 2008. Unemployment is now at 6.5%. There are numerous ideas floating around but most of them do not make any economic sense. I have noted that the only solution that will work when the economy has a debt crisis is the forgiveness of debt. Another stimulus package merely creates more debt. Hopefully the politicians are studying the solutions that have worked in prior debt crises. However I am more interested in what the response of the church will be and whether or not the response will be theologically motivated.

Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity discussed the impact of Christian theology on the growth of the church. The Jerusalem community survived the famines of the forties no doubt due to the unusual kind of love it practiced. This radical idea is that God loves and cares for people and thus they are expected to love and care for each other.[1] Stark does not connect the practices of the Jerusalem community depicted in Acts 2:41-47 and 6:1-6 with the practices he described as attributing to the growth and success of the Christian Church. These practices included “making sure everyone had enough to eat, rejecting abortion and infanticide, nursing the sick through plagues and epidemics and the physical hazards of ordinary urban life simply meant that more people survived and had longer life expectancies than the general population.”[2]

Finger quoted Stark: “It was not simply the promise of salvation that motivated Christians, but the fact they were greatly rewarded here and now for belonging. Thus while membership was expensive, it was, in fact a bargain. That is, because the church asked much of its members, it was thereby possessed of resources to give much. For example, because Christians were expected to aid the less fortunate, many of them received such aid, and all could feel greater security against bad times.... Because they were asked to love others, they were in turn loved.... In similar fashion, Christianity greatly mitigated relations among social classes --- at the very time the gap between the rich and poor was growing.”[3]

Finger has thoroughly examined the Jerusalem “community of goods” tradition, challenging traditional interpretations of the Jerusalem church and proving that the communal sharing lasted for hundreds of years longer than previously assumed.

Restoring the practices discussed in detail by Finger and Stark is something the church ought to consider. The church that implements such a radical act of love deserves to be called a community of love.

Copyrighted 2008

[1] Stark, 86-88.

[2] Finger, Of Widows and Meals, (2007), 142.

[3] Stark, 188.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Communal Meals in the Book of Acts

In the late nineteen sixties in a nearby school district, more conservative than my current school district, there was a nasty school board election. The issue was quite clear and was one that was provoked by a rhetorical question asked by a high school teacher to his class. Was Jesus a Communist?

We are receiving robo-telephone calls warning us about wealth redistribution policies of one of the presidential candidate. In the neighborhood of my youth, the telephone calls would be well received and will no doubt gain McCain a few votes. After all everyone in that community voted against McGovern when he promised everyone ten thousand dollars. But in this neighborhood, perhaps one of the most liberal communities in the USA, home to nearby Swarthmore College, George McGovern was elected. No one told them that he lost everywhere else.

Today I was thinking, between robo calls, about communal meals and what it means to break bread together. Thinking about sharing possessions evoked memories of that nasty school board fight. The idea of sharing is still too radical to discuss.

Earl Kautsky, who expanded on the ideas of Friedrick Engels, recognized that the Acts of the Apostles revealed valuable information about the social and economic conditions of the times. Kautsky indicated that Matthew writing later revised the class hatred in the Gospel of Luke to attract wealthier and more cultural persons. Thus according to Kautsky, “the poor” in Luke became “the poor in spirit” in Matthew. Daily communal living made sense given their situation. Kausky’s economic analysis of early Christianity is quite accurate.

I now suspect that the communal meals depicted in the Acts of the Apostles are an application of the teachings of Jesus including the message of the parable of the unjust steward and a partial replication of the communal meals of the priests working in the Temple. Certainly, it is the new community of love’s attempt at its form of institutional almsgiving without the temple bureauacy.

Copyrighted 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

McCain’s Extra Hour

John McCain dropped into my neighborhood today at the Strath Haven High School’s gymnasium to catch a few votes. We were all wondering if this would happen since Barack Obama made his appearance at this same high school during the primary while classes were in session. All the seniors were able to attend; most of them are voting for Obama. This may be the only high school in the country to host both major presidential candidates. It demonstrates that Pennsylvania is a keystone state and that Delaware County is perceived to be the key.

I suspect that the McCain campaign was looking for the Reagan Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton in large numbers. They do not live in Strath Haven. Although Hillary carried Pennsylvania by 10%, she lost Delaware County. It has been many years since this area voted for a Republican candidate for president. I have not checked but I suspect that George McGovern carried this neighborhood.

The hour could have been better spent.

Copyrighted 2008