Who is my neighbor? (Lk 10:29-10:29)

“But wanting

To justify himself,

This lawyer

Asked Jesus.

‘Who is my neighbor?’”

 

ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον

 

Luke alone went on to a further explanation about the question or meaning of neighbor.  He said that this lawyer wanted to justify himself (ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν) and his earlier question.  He asked Jesus (εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν) point blank, ‘Who is my neighbor (Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον)?’  This question has haunted Christians for centuries.  Were these very Jewish people their neighbors?  Were only those who believed exactly like them their neighbors?  The answer will be clear as this story unfolds.  Who do you think your neighbor is?

The apocryphal gospels

The most famous non-canonical gospel stories come from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Barnabas, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, the Odes of Solomon, and the Gospel of Philip.  Finally, there are a series of gospel harmonies, where the 4 canonical gospels were selectively recast as a single narrative to present a consistent text.  The Syrian Tatian (120-180 CE) compiled a harmonization called the Diatessaron around 175 CE.

 

The Apocryphal books

Over seventy different versions of gospels, acts, and epistles by various Christians appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but they did not make it into the official canonical Bible.  They are often referred to as the apocryphal, hidden, or lost books of the Bible.  Scholars have been interested in these books to help them understand what some Christian people were thinking about at that time.  These writings tell us more about the author’s attitude about Jesus.

The early Christian use of the Hebrew Bible

The Old Testament takes up two-thirds of the Christian Bible.  The Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, is divided into three major parts, the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim.  The Torah was known as the Law or instruction.  The works of the prophets was called Nevi’im.  Finally, the Writings were called Ketuvim.  New Testament writers used these three terms of the law, the prophets, and the writings when they referred to the Hebrew Scriptures, the only Bible that they knew.  Most of the final codification of the Hebrew Bible had taken place centuries before the time of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the Christians often referred to the law and the prophets when they were talking about the books of the Hebrew Bible.  These early Christians never referred to their own writings as the Bible.

A great fish swallows Jonah (Jon 1:17-1:17)

“Yahweh

Provided

A large fish

To swallow up

Jonah.

Jonah was

In the belly

Of the fish

Three days

As well as three nights.”

Here we get to the great story of Jonah and the whale that has delighted young children for centuries. First, is this the end of the 1st chapter or the beginning of the 2nd chapter? Is this a male of female fish? There are many interpretations about this fish. Was it a big fish or a whale? Was it a special fish just for this one occasion that Yahweh provided it? Is this just an allegorical story like a dream or vision? Most people have interpreted this large fish as a whale or shark. However, most whales could not swallow a whole human. Perhaps, it was a sea monster or a sea serpent. The obvious comparison between the 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the fish and Jesus in the tomb was not lost on the early Christians.

 

Yahweh calls the victor from the east (Isa 41:2 -41:4)

“Who has roused a victor from the east?

Who summoned him to service?

He delivers up nations to him.

He tramples kings under foot.

He makes them

Like dust with his sword.

He makes them

Like driven stubble with his bow.

He pursues them.

He passes on safely,

Scarcely toughing the path

With his feet.

Who has performed this?

Who has done this?

He is calling the generations

From the beginning.

I!

Yahweh!

I am the first!

I will be with the last.”

Second Isaiah wants to know who has summoned the victor conquer from the east for service. This victor from the east was Cyrus, the King of Persia from 559-530 BCE, more than two centuries after the time of Isaiah. Cyrus the Great created the largest empire in the world with present day Iran the last vestige of that realm. Cyrus took over many countries, trampling kings. He made them like dust or stubble with his sword as well as his bow and arrows. He pursued many people, but he was always safe with his fast feet that barely touched the ground. Second Isaiah points out that Yahweh was behind Cyrus. Who allowed him to do all these things? Why it was Yahweh, who interjected himself in the first person singular, saying that he was eternally the first and the last.