Archive for the ‘Luke 9’ Category

St. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXX

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Acts 18:24-21:16

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The material for this post opens with St. Paul the Apostle back in Antioch in Syria, at the end of the Second Missionary Journey.

Meanwhile, we readers meet St. Apollos, a Jewish Christian recently arrived in Ephesus then in Corinth.  We read that Sts. Priscilla and Aquila (from Corinth) catechized him.  We also read that St. Apollos, who spoke boldly for Christ, had only experienced the baptism of St. John the Baptist.

Related to that point, St. Paul, en route overland back to Ephesus (where he had been recently in 18:19-21), encountered about twelve Christians who had never heard of the Holy Spirit.  This was not surprising; the religion was young, Trinitarian theology was in its infancy, and one could not purchase a catechism in a bookstore yet.

I know what I mean by “Holy Spirit,” but my understanding emerges from Roman Catholic tradition.  I even use the filoque clause, unlike the Eastern Orthodox.  Definitions of the Holy Spirit vary within Christianity.

I have read sufficiently deeply to know that St. Paul used “Jesus” and “Holy Spirit” interchangeably sometimes.  I posit that elements of St. Paul’s Trinitarian theology were heterodox, relative to the conclusions of subsequent, major ecumenical councils.  So be it.  Trying to explain more of the nature of God than we mere mortals can grasp (most of it) is a foolish undertaking.  Who am I to blame St. Paul for dying about two and a half centuries prior to the First Council of Nicaea?

St. Paul, who spent years in Ephesus, made powerful religious and economic enemies.  The growth of Christianity threatened the commerce related to the goddess Diana.  The town clerk (another good Roman official) talked down the rioting silversmiths, but St. Paul had to leave.

A few months later, at Troas, St. Paul and his entourage spent about a week.  One Eutychus, sitting in a window, fell asleep and feel three stories to his death.  St. Paul, like Jesus before him, restored the young man to life.

Sleep, in this case, represented moral laxity and spiritual dullness, as well as indicating a physical state.  Culturally, story legitimized Lord’s Day worship, in contrast to “nocturnal assemblies and associated immoralities” (to quote Charles H. Talbert).  These nighttime meetings were commonplace in the cultural setting.  St. Justin Martyr wrote of the pagan misapprehension that Christians at worship “extinguished the lights and indulged in unbridled sensuality.”  St. Luke took pains to mention that the room was well-lit (20:8).  St. Luke also used this story in 20:7-12 to refute allegations that Christians practiced child sacrifice.

Many ancient pagans harbored false notions regarding Christians and Christianity.  Frequently, correcting these misunderstandings would have required a minimum of effort.  The stubbornness of people in holding objectively inaccurate ideas has not ceased to be an element of human nature, sadly.

St. Paul, hurrying back to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, bid farewell to the Ephesian elders in Miletus.  His farewell speech, reminiscent of Christ’s predictions of the Passion, included excellent advice and interesting historical information.

Presbyters (elders) and overseers (bishops) were interchangeable at the time.  Mutuality defined the farewell address.  And the Lucan motif of the Holy Spirit was present.

St. Paul and his entourage evangelized on the way to Jerusalem.  They visited St. Philip the Evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:4-8, 26-40) and his four daughters, prophets, in Caesarea.  More predictions of St. Paul’s fate occurred, but the Apostle kept going to Jerusalem.  Like Jesus in Luke 9:51, St. Paul set his face toward Jerusalem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LIII

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Luke 24:50-53

Acts 1:1-11

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Given that I have written numerous blog posts about the Ascension, and given that they are available at this weblog, I do not seek to replicate them in this post.

As I continue through Luke-Acts, I notice a narrative contradiction.  Luke 24:50-53, read within the narrative context of chapter 24, dates the Ascension to Easter Day.  Yet Acts 1:3 dates the Ascension to forty days after Easter Day.  Interpretations of this discrepancy include:

  1. “Forty days” is symbolic,
  2. The forty days fill out the calendar, and
  3. Acts 1:3 corrects Luke 24 after St. Luke the Evangelist uncovered more information than he had when he wrote the Gospel of Luke.

I am not a fundamentalist.  Biblical inerrancy and infallibility are utter nonsense.  If St. Luke changed his mind, so be it.  If “forty days” is symbolic, so be it.  I do not know which interpretation is corect.

Forty is frequently a symbolic number in the Bible.  One may recall that the reign of King David lasted for about forty years, that the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years, that Jesus spent forty days in the desert, and that the mythical Great Flood lasted for forty days and forty nights.  Forty is a sacred number in the Bible.  It, therefore, recurs in the Bible for many more examples than i have cited.  Forty, symbolically, is a round number that designates a fairly long time in terms of human existence or endurance.

So, even if the forty days (Acts 1:3) are symbolic, they still contradict Luke 24, with Jesus’s resurrection and the Ascension occurring on the same day.

Anyway, “ascension” may not be the most accurate word for Jesus’ departure.  “Assumption” may be better.  Christ’s departure resembles the assumptions of Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11; Sirach 48:9) and Enoch (Genesis 5:23-24; Sirach 49:14b), with apocalyptic imagery added.

The priestly gestures and blessings of Jesus before his departure, followed by worship, close the Gospel of Luke fittingly.  Recall Luke 1:20-23, O reader:  the priest Zechariah could not pronounce a blessing.

The Lukan accounts of the Ascension of Jesus also draw from Sirach 50:1-21, about the high priest Simon II.  The account of Simon II depicts him as the culmination of Israel’s history, at the point of the composition of that book.  Luke-Acts, which postdates Sirach, depicts Jesus as the culmination of Israel’s history.

In Luke 24, the Ascension is the fitting end of the story of Jesus.  In Acts 1, however, the Ascension is the beginning of the story of the mission of the Church.  Placing the two Lukan interpretations side-by-side provides the full picture.

I also detect one of St. Luke’s organizing principles in Luke 24 and Acts 1.  Luke-Acts finishes focusing on one story before focusing on another one, although the stories may overlap.  Consider the focus on St. John the Baptist (Luke 3) before the focus on Jesus (Luke  4-24), O reader.  Then we come to a different focus, starting in Acts 1.

The story of the mission of the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, follows.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

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Rejecting Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins in Samaria, 1925

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXV

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Luke 9:51-62

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The Gospel of John gives us the three-year-long span of Jesus’s ministry.  In the Synoptic tradition, though, the ministry lasted for about a year.

Luke 9:51 changes the course of that Gospel; Jesus is on his way to die.  This is important to interpreting Luke 9:52-19:27 (the rest of the Gospel of Luke to the edge of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem) properly.

Jesus, not offering any excuses, accepts none. Discipleship comes with exacting and stern demands.

Discipleship does not consist in zealous punishment of those who reject Jesus and his mission; nor does it consist in qualified following.  All of this comes from the teacher who walks resolutely toward the goal.

–Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (1981), 827

The call to follow Jesus outranks even filial responsibilities.  In this context, the spiritually dead may inter the physically dead.  Following Christ requires uninterrupted focus and attention.

The words attributed to Jesus in this passage may seem severs.  Yet they are not unreasonable.  Consider, O reader, that Jesus gave himself for others, including you.  How much are you willing to give for him?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, CIRCA 351

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Posted December 31, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Luke 9

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Greatness   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ with the Children, by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXIV

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Luke 9:37-50

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First, I know that demonic possession does not cause epilepsy.  In this regard, I know more than people did in the first century C.E.  Reading ancient texts that carry discredited assumptions we moderns do not necessarily share requires one to ask, “What is really going on here?”

We read that, one day after the Transfiguration, Jesus’s disciples were not “ready for primetime.”  We read that they did not understand his second prediction of the Passion.  We read that, in contrast to the Twelve, someone else was “performing exorcisms) (whatever that means in current diagnostic terms) successfully.

…and everyone was awestruck by the greatness of God.

–Luke 9:43, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

And, among human beings in the divine order, the one who is least is greatest.  The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune recurs.

Ego is not necessarily negative.  A healthy ego is essential.  A realistic self-image is humility.  An inferiority complex and arrogance–opposites–lead to the same selfish results.  One places oneself at the center, at the expense of others and the common good.  One with an inferiority complex does so to feel better about oneself.  One with a raging ego does so because one imagines one is so important as to belong in the center.  Arrogance is appropriate in cats.  In the rest of us, it is sinful.

Status is a popular idol.  A relative few people may be immune to its temptations.  I am not one of these people.  Jesus still teaches us that the divine order is right side up and the human order is upside down.  Human psychology and sociology are consistent; human nature does not change.  Yet, in the divine order, the first are last and the last are first.

Luke 1:1-9:50 and 9:52f exist in the shadow of 9:51:

Now it happened that as the time drew near for him to be taken up, he resolutely turned his face toward Jerusalem….

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jesus did not value high status in human terms.  He came to serve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, CIRCA 351

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Posted December 31, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Luke 9

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The Identity of Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXIII

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Luke 9:1-36

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Who was Jesus?  That theme from Luke 8 continues in chapter 9.

St. Luke’s “orderly” account” is especially orderly in 9:1-36.  The question of Herod Antipas contrasts with the Confession of St. Peter and with the Transfiguration.  We read that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and consistent with the Law of Moses and the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  We read that Jesus was greater than Elijah.  We read that Jesus, who was the master of demons, gave mastery over them to his disciples.  We read that Jesus did feed people (see Luke 4:3-4).

Jesus is central.  The verses tell us of what he did and of what others did by the power of God.  However one may interpret feeding thousands of people with a small amount of food then having leftovers, the focus is on Jesus’s actions.  Attempts to rationalize these mass feedings by suggesting that people shared food they had brought with them shift the focus away from Jesus’s actions and miss the point.

A range of messianic interpretations existed within Second Temple Judaism.  (The Dead Sea Scrolls have discredited the old idea that one messianic interpretation was universal.  Nevertheless, that old idea has persisted, unfortunately.)  At the time of Christ, national deliverer was one of these hopes.  It was a common one, for understandable reasons.  The crucifixion was not part of most believers’ understanding of the Messiah’s role.  And the resurrection made sense only after the fact.

Taking up one’s cross–or having a cross to bear, alternatively–has become a trite statement.  “This must be my cross to bear,” one may say about an annoyance, for example.  In reality, though, taking up one’s cross indicates a reordering of priorities.  One should not seek self-fulfillment in indulging one’s ambitions and interests.  No, true fulfillment comes by loving self-sacrificially, as Jesus did.  How this plays out for each person may vary, according to circumstances.  If one is fortunate, one may not have to become a martyr.

Luke 8:27 makes sense if one interprets the Transfiguration (8:27-36) as fulfilling it, at least partially.  Otherwise, one must wrestle with objective reality.  Look around, O reader:  Do you see the fully-realized Kingdom of God around you?  I do not.  And I opt not to accept the easy answer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, CIRCA 351

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Fidelity and Spiritual Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXI

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Luke 8:16-21; 11:14-36

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In the Gospel of Luke, the Parable of the Lamp functions as an extension of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils.  Love and devotion to God accumulate within someone and draw others to God via that person.  The light shines.  Also, nobody has any secrets from God.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 355

The lamp in the parable had a spout, a cover, and a rounded body.  This was a small oil lamp.  It belonged on a lampstand, not under a bed or in a jar.  Theologically, a lamp stood for the light of God, shining in the darkness, in this parable.

The lamp is Jesus.  In other words, do not hide Jesus.

Luke 8:19-21, adapted from Mark 3:20-22, tones down the critique of Christ’s biological family.  In Mark 3, they think Jesus is out of his mind.  That, explicit in Mark 3, is absent in Luke 8.The Lucan version omits the relatives’ motive for seeking to speak with Jesus.  Therefore, the Lucan version presents them positively.  Nevertheless, the statement of fictive kinship carries over from the Marcan version.  The theme of hearing and doing, present in the Parables of the Sower/the Four Soils and the Lamp, continues here.  The biological family of Jesus functions as exemplars of hearing and doing in the Lucan version.

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox insistence on the perpetual virginity of St. Mary of Nazareth puzzles me.  Of course, given that I reject the Virgin Birth, perpetual virginity predictably puzzles me.  In the Greek language, brothers and sisters can also be cousins.  Or they can be brothers and sisters.

The Marcan version of the story fits well with that Gospel’s theme that supposed insiders are really outsiders, and vice versa.  The Lucan version of the story is consistent with that Gospel’s toning down of the Marcan theme, given that the Acts of the Apostles follows the Gospel of Luke.  So, the eleven apostles who survived the Gospel of Luke could not be dolts if their transformation in Acts was to be believable.  Furthermore, the depiction of the biological family of Jesus in Luke 8 flows from previous material, in which St. Mary knew who her (firstborn) son was, Luke 2:39-52 notwithstanding.

The challenge to we of today is to be members of Christ’s spiritual family, that is, to hear the word of God (what God says) and to keep it.

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“Master,” said John, “we saw a man who was casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following with us.”

But Jesus said, “Forbid him not, for he who is not with you is for you.”

–Luke 9:49-50, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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“He who is not for me is against me, and he who is not gathering with me is scattering.”

–Luke 11:23, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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Critics of Jesus did not understand that God was acting through Jesus.  The healings Jesus performed indicated the presence of the Kingdom of God, not evil. Judgment would come for those who slandered Jesus.

Likewise, when Jesus had removed evil from someone, that person needed to become filled with the word of God (what God said), or else evil would return in greater quantity than it had been when Christ had expelled it.

Luke 11:27 calls back to 8:19-21.  Regardless of how blessed and pious Christ’s biological family was, those who listened to and heard the word of God were blessed, too.  Loyalty to God, present in Jesus, takes precedence over family ties–no disrespect to relatives intended.  This is good news for the vast majority of us not of the family tree of Jesus.

Cutting through the symbolism and Biblical allusions in Luke 11:29-36, the message of these verses is:

  1. Repentance is crucial,
  2. The faith of many Gentiles contrasts with the faithlessness of many Jews,
  3. God seeks to attract all people, and
  4. The Christian life involves the whole body and all human action.

Seeking signs indicates a lack of trust in God.  Receiving a sign and not understanding it indicates obliviousness, at least.  Recall the Johannine version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6:1-14), O reader.  You and I may agree that it was an astounding sign.  Yet, recall the events of the next day, too.

Then they said to him:

“What sign, then, are you performing, so that we may see it and come to believe in you?  What work are you doing?  Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.'”  

–John 6:30-21, Helen Barrett Montgomery, The Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

Those who asked that question had fined at the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

We need not seek signs; they are plentiful.  We need merely to pay proper attention, understand plainly, and behave and think accordingly, whoever we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

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Followers of Jesus   4 comments

Above:  Icon of the Ministry of the Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XV

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Luke 6:12-19; 10:1-24

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INTRODUCTION

Jesus had many disciples.  There were, for example the Twelve apostles (6:13), literally, persons sent out.  May we not forget the seventy(-two) disciples he sent out in 10:1-24.

Some numbers were simultaneously literal and symbolic:

  1. Twelve symbolized the restoration of Israel.  There had been twelve tribes of Israel, with ten of them lost to assimilation.  The Twelve apostles were the nucleus of the new people of God.
  2. Seventy or seventy-two (depending on the manuscript of the Gospel of Luke one believes) calls back to Numbers 11:16, 25.  One may recall the story.  Moses had selected seventy elders with whom to share his burden of leadership.  The spirit of God had fallen upon the seventy elders plus two other men.  According to Luke 10:1-24, Jesus was the new Moses, and his seventy or seventy-two other disciples helped to lead the new exodus.

We have encountered the the themes of exile and exodus in Luke-Acts already.  Was the ministry of Jesus an exodus?  Was living under Roman occupation a form of exile?

Think about it, O reader.

THE TWELVE

Comparing the names of the Twelve, according to the canonical Gospels, yields superficially different names in some lists:

  1. The Synoptic tradition lists St. Bartholomew; the Johannine tradition lists St. Nathanael.
  2. Tradition associates St. Matthew Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27f), as the same man, but both “Bartholomew” and “Matthew” mean “gift of God.”
  3. Tradition associates St. Bartholomew with St. Nathanael, as the same man.
  4. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark list St. Thaddeus.  The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles list St. Judas, son of James, instead.

None of this disturbs me; a person can have more than one name.  In the New Testament alone, I point to some examples:

  1. St. Simon (Peter), a.k.a. Cephas;
  2. St. (Joseph) Barnabas;
  3. St. (John) Mark; and
  4. (Joseph) Barsabbas, who nearly filled the vacancy Judas Iscariot left.

The scholarly debate whether the Twelve were literally twelve in number marginally interests me.  Besides, the burden of proof is on those who argue that the Twelve consisted of more than twelve men.  I prefer to shave with Ockham’s Razor.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Luke 10:1-16 and 10:17-20 bear a striking similarity to Luke 9:1-6 and 9:10.

“…the kingdom of God is very near to you.”

–Luke 9:9b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In other words, the partially-realized Kingdom of God is present.  The fully-realized Kingdom of God remains in the future tense, at least from a human perspective.  According to Realized Eschatology, the Kingdom of God does not arrive; it is.  Given that God exists outside of time, so does the Kingdom of God.  Certain events make the reality of the Kingdom of God more apparent and, in so doing, up the ante.  Consider the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  Upping the ante increases the consequences for rejection and heightens responsibility.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One has a responsibility to respond favorably to grace, which imposes demands.

MY COMPLEX FAITH

I have asked myself a hypothetical question:  Would I have followed Jesus if I had met him in person during his earthly life?  I have concluded that I do not know.  Hypothetically, I may have found him objectionable, given my hypothetical attachment to certain “received wisdom.”  Or, hypothetically, I may have been receptive to Jesus’s teachings.

I wonder because I am a complex human being.  My faith is complex, not simple.  On one hand, I have a rebellious streak a mile wide, so to speak.  I delight in poking my proverbial fingers into the equally proverbial eyes of authority figures.  They have it coming!  I am, obviously, neither an authoritarian, a conservative, nor a likely member of any cult.  However, I balance my rebelliousness with a healthy respect for order.  Rebellion must serve a constructive purpose; it must resist and hopefully destroy an unjust social and political order.  This is why Luke-Acts and Revelation appeal to me; they speak of God turning the upside-down social order right side-up.  The unjust human order must fall before the divine order can commence.

As I age, I simultaneously moderate and become more radical.  My theological approach moderates; I remain a liberal yet have moved slightly to the right.  Yet, as I continue to study the Bible and internalize its ethics and morals (read in historical and cultural contexts, of course), the more dissatisfied I become with the human order and the Religious Right (of whom I have never been a fan).  The radicalism of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus appeals to me.

So, I wonder how I, hypothetically, would have responded to Jesus in person.  I question whether I would have favored order and routine or whether I would have supported the creative destruction God brings.

I invite you, O reader, to ask yourself the same question and to answer it honestly.  Then take the result of that spiritual self-examination to God.

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF FAITH

I, as a Christian at the end of 2021, owe much to the earliest followers of Jesus.  I stand on their shoulders.  My faith exists in part because of their faith.

How many people will stand your shoulders of faith, O reader?  How many will stand on mine?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

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Introduction to Luke-Acts   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. Luke the Evangelist

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART I

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The whole of Luke’s gospel is about the way in which the living God has planted, in Jesus, the seed of that long-awaited hope in the world.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 2

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The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a larger work.  The Acts of the Apostles is the second volume.  One can read either volume spiritually profitably in isolation from the other one.  However, one derives more benefit from reading Luke-Acts as the two-volume work it is.

Each of the four canonical Gospels bears the name of its traditional author.  The Gospel of Luke is the only case in which I take this traditional authorship seriously as a matter of history.  One may recall that St. Luke was a well-educated Gentile physician and a traveling companion of St. Paul the Apostle.

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.,. “give or take five to ten years,” as Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) wrote in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  Luke-Acts, having a Gentile author, includes evidence that the audience consisted of Gentiles, too.  The text makes numerous references to the inclusion of Gentiles, for example.  Two of the major themes in Luke-Acts are (a) reversal of fortune, and (b) the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God.  The smoldering ruins of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. inform the present tense of the story-telling.

Many North American Christians minimize or ignore the imperial politics in the New Testament.  In doing so, they overlook essential historical and cultural contexts.  Luke-Acts, in particular, performs an intriguing political dance with the Roman Empire.  The two-volume work unambiguously proclaims Jesus over the Emperor–a treasonous message, by Roman imperial standards.  Luke-Acts makes clear that the Roman Empire was on the wrong side of God, that its values were opposite those of the Kingdom of God.  Yet the two-volume work goes out of its way to mention honorable imperial officials.

Know six essential facts about me, O reader:

  1. This weblog is contains other blog posts covering Luke-Acts, but in the context of lectionaries.  I refer you to those posts.  And I will not attempt to replicate those other posts in the new posts.  Finding those posts is easy; check the category for the book and chapter, such as Luke 1 or Acts 28.
  2. I know far more about the four canonical Gospels, especially in relation to each other, than I will mention in the succeeding posts.  I tell you this not to boast, but to try to head off anyone who may chime in with a rejoinder irrelevant to my purpose in any given post.  My strategy will be to remain on topic.
  3. My purpose will be to analyze the material in a way that is intellectually honest and applicable in real life.  I respect Biblical scholarship that goes deep into the woods, spending ten pages on three lines.  I consult works of such scholarship.  However, I leave that work to people with Ph.Ds in germane fields and who write commentaries.
  4. I am a student of the Bible, not a scholar thereof.
  5. I am a left-of-center Episcopalian who places a high value on human reason and intellect.  I value history and science.  I reject both the inerrancy and the infallibility of scripture for these reasons.  Fundamentalists think I am going to Hell for asking too many questions.  I try please God, not fundamentalists. I know too much to affirm certain theological statements.
  6. I am a sui generis mix of Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican theological influences.  I consider St. Mary of Nazareth to be the Theotokos (the Bearer of God) and the Mater Dei (the Mother of God).  I also reject the Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception with it.

Make of all this whatever you will, O reader.

Shall we begin our journey through Luke-Acts?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN TUCKER TANNER, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTOPH SCHWEDLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIASCZYNSKI,POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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The Assumption and Legacy of Elijah   Leave a comment

Above:  The Assumption of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXX

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2 Kings 2:1-18

Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:14b-48:12a

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How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wonderous deeds!

And who has the right to boast which you have?

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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Elijah was one of three Biblical characters assumed bodily into Heaven.  The first was Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24).  The third was St. Mary of Nazareth, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven.

2 Kings 2:1-18 contains elements that may require explanation.  For example:

  1. The mantle (robe or cloak) was the physical means of parting the River Jordan, in an echo of the parting of the Sea of Reeds in Exodus 14.  Elijah resembled Moses in that scene.
  2. The request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit was the request to become Elijah’s recognized and equipped successor.  According to Deuteronomy 21:17, the eldest son’s portion of the father’s inheritance was double that any of the any sons received.  Elisha asked for the same right as an eldest son, but not regarding property.
  3. Elisha resembled Moses in a second parting of the waters in 2 Kings 2:14.

I detect nostalgic exaggeration in Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/Wisdom of Ben Sira 48:8.  As I recall Biblical stories, God (in 1 Kings 19) ordered Elijah to choose his successor and to anoint the next Kings of Israel and Aram.  1 Kings 19 tells us that Elijah chose Elisha shortly thereafter.  2 Kings 8 and 9 tell me that Elisha anointed the next Kings of Israel and Aram.

Nevertheless, Elijah was one of the most remarkable figures in the Bible.  He became a figure of great importance in messianic expectation.  Elijah also became a symbol of the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36) testified to the greatness of the prophet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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The Call of Elisha   Leave a comment

Above: Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXIV

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1 Kings 19:19-21

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And another said, “I will follow you, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  [To him] Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

–Luke 9:61-62, The New American Bible (1991)

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A prophet’s mantle (a robe) was his distinctive garment.  The mantle, made of skin and covered in goat’s hair turned outward, was also an object of power, much like the staff Moses carried.  The mantle of Elijah–later of Elisha–was an important element in some stories, including this one.  

God had given Elijah three tasks to complete in 1 Kings 19:15-18.  Selecting Elisha as his successor was the only one Elijah completed.  As I wrote in the previous post, Elisha completed the other two tasks in 2 Kings 8:7-15 and 9:1-15.

Elisha came from a wealthy agricultural family.  When Elijah arrived, Elisha was working as part of a team plowing a field with a dozen oxen.  His parents must have been upset to learn that Elisha had slaughtered valuable livestock.

Verse 20 contains ambiguous elements.

  1. Did Elisha visit his parents to say goodbye?
  2. Did Elijah rebuke him for asking to do so?

The long tradition of interpretation (both Jewish and Christian) includes many who have said “yes” and “no” in various combinations, as well as those who have answered consistently with “yes” or “no” to both questions.  After consulting commentaries and reading different interpretations, I am uncertain what the text says.  I am inclined, however, to apply Ockham’s Razor to the text.  In context, Elijah’s question seems like a rebuke.  And verse 21 is plain in its meaning that Elisha accepted the call to serve God.

The call to serve God overrides previous commitments that may get in the way.  This is also a theme in the Gospels.  When God calls, draw the boldfaced double lines through your life, O reader.  Label one side “before” and the other side “after.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES A. WALSH AND THOMAS PRICE, COFOUNDERS OF THE MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS; AND MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted October 27, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 19, 2 Kings 8, 2 Kings 9, Luke 9

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