The sword (Lk 2:35-2:35)

“The inner thoughts

Of many

Will be revealed.

A sword

Will pierce

Your own soul too.”

 

 καὶ σοῦ δὲ αὐτῆς τὴν ψυχὴν διελεύσεται ῥομφαία, ὅπως ἂν ἀποκαλυφθῶσιν ἐκ πολλῶν καρδιῶν διαλογισμοί.

 

Luke explained that Simeon warned Mary about her future suffering.  This is often thought of as the beginning of the many sorrows that Mary will endure because of her son, Jesus.  Luke said that a sword would pierce or go through the soul of Mary (καὶ σοῦ δὲ αὐτῆς τὴν ψυχὴν διελεύσεται ῥομφαία).  Simeon said that the inner thoughts of many would be revealed (ὅπως ἂν ἀποκαλυφθῶσιν ἐκ πολλῶν καρδιῶν διαλογισμοί).  Thus, the later medieval devotion to the Sorrowful Mother Mary is based on this passage and further developed in this gospel of Luke.

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Joseph of Arimathea (Mt 27:57-27:57)

“When it was evening,

There came a rich man

From Arimathea,

Named Joseph,

He was also

A disciple of Jesus.”

 

Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης ἦλθεν ἄνθρωπος πλούσιος ἀπὸ Ἀριμαθαίας, τοὔνομα Ἰωσήφ, ὃς καὶ αὐτὸς ἐμαθητεύθη τῷ Ἰησοῦ·

 

There is less confusion about this Joseph since he is mentioned in all 4 gospel stories.  This text is similar to Mark, chapter 15:43.  Luke, chapter 23:50-51, mentioned that Joseph was a member of the elder’s council in Jerusalem who had not voted for the plan to destroy Jesus.  John, chapter 19:38, said that Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus.  Matthew said that when it was evening (Ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης), a rich man from Arimathea (ἦλθεν ἄνθρωπος πλούσιος ἀπὸ Ἀριμαθαίας), named Joseph (τοὔνομα Ἰωσήφ), who was also a disciple of Jesus (ὃς καὶ αὐτὸς ἐμαθητεύθη τῷ Ἰησοῦ) came forward.  Notice that it was evening since no burials were permitted on the Sabbath or feast days.  Many legends have developed around this wealthy Joseph from Arimathea, a town in Judea near Jerusalem.

They deliver Jesus to Pilate (Mt 27:2-27:2)

“They bound Jesus.

They led him away.

They delivered him

To Pilate,

The governor.”

 

καὶ δήσαντες αὐτὸν ἀπήγαγον καὶ παρέδωκαν Πειλάτῳ τῷ ἡγεμόνι.

 

This is almost word for word in Mark, chapter 15:1, except there was no mention that Pilate was the governor, but just assumes that.  In Luke, chapter 23:1, there is just the simple statement that they brought Jesus to Pilate.  In John, chapter 18:28-32, there was a long discussion of Pilate with the Jewish leaders.  Who is this Pontius Pilate?  He was the rather cruel Roman ruler, prefect, or governor of Judea from 26-36 CE, the exact time frame of Jesus.  These chief priests and elders of the people tied up Jesus (καὶ δήσαντες αὐτὸν).  They led him away and delivered him to Pilate (ἀπήγαγον καὶ παρέδωκαν Πειλάτῳ), the Roman governor (τῷ ἡγεμόνι) of Judea who had jurisdiction over death penalties in the Judean territory, since Judea was within the Roman Empire.  Interesting enough, a whole literature and artistic presentation of Pontius Pilate developed in 20th century with movie and TV portrayals of him.  He was certainly a central figure in this Passion of Jesus presentation.

Anger and insults (Mt 5:22-5:22)

“But I say to you!

That everyone angry

With his brother

Shall be liable

To judgment.

Whoever insults

His brother

By calling him

Empty-headed

Without brains

Shall be liable

To the Sanhedrin council.

Whoever says.

‘You impious fool!’

Shall be liable

To the hell of fire.”

 

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει· ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ Ῥακά, ἔνοχος ἔσται τῷ συνεδρίῳ· ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ Μωρέ, ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός.

 

Matthew once again showed the importance of this saying of Jesus with “But I say or tell you (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν)!” This time it is about anger and insults. Anyone who was angry with his brother would be liable to the local Jewish council judgment (ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει). If he insulted his brother, by calling him, an empty head without brains (ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ Ῥακά), he was liable to the Jerusalem Sanhedrin Council (ἔνοχος ἔσται τῷ συνεδρίῳ). Calling someone a “Ῥακά” was a worse crime than a mere insult. If he called his brother an insensitive non-religious or impious fool (ἔσται τῷ συνεδρίῳ ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ Μωρέ), the punishment for this outrageous insult would be to be thrown into to the fiery hell (ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός). The Greek term “Μωρέ” developed into the English term moron. The Greek word for hell “γέενναν” or the English Gehenna was based on the Hebrew word Gehinnom that was the name of the valley south of Jerusalem where burning child sacrifices would take place. There seemed to be 3 stages of punishment, depending on what they had said to their brother. Insulting them was bad. Calling them empty-headed was worse. But worst of all was calling them an insensitive non-religious fool. Be careful what you say to your brother or sister.

Development of Protestant Fundamentalism

A particular form of American Evangelicalism developed in the 1920s to combat the secular culture after World War I, during the Roaring Twenties with its jazz age Gatsby morality.  From 1890-1920 over 20,000,000 people, mostly Roman Catholic Europeans, immigrated into the major American cities.  These new immigrants brought an end to the Victorian morals with their gambling and their bootlegging alcohol drinking during the Prohibition era.  The League of Nations and the growth of international communism were other factors.  Most fundamentalists were against the scriptural criticism of Protestant liberalism and the various other modernism trends.  They feared losing their world, because others were aggressively posing a threat to their traditions.  This was an apocalyptic view of history, where the past was great, the present cloudy and the future assured.

Form Criticism

The German theologian Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) first developed Formgechichte in an attempt to establish fixed literary patterns.  These patterns then could go behind the present text to help establish the meaning and significance of the literary pattern in its original context.  However, the meaning of form criticism has become fluid.  The study of the biblical texts using form criticism has revealed a marvelous multiplicity of literary styles, forms, and methods used in the Bible.

The Christocentric Calendar

Dennis the Short (470-544 CE) or Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk who worked in Rome, came up with the idea of dating everything from the birth of Christ, instead of the Roman counsels who had held office.  In 525 CE, he developed his Christocentric calendar, but he was off by a few years in his calculations, since Jesus may have lived from 6 BCE-26 CE.  His dating system was known as Anno Domini, the year of Our Lord.  This AD system did not become popular until the Carolingian Reform of the 9th ninth century and the promulgation of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century.  Since then, all world events have centered on the birth of Christ.  At the 2000 millennium year celebrations even non-Christian countries such as China and India celebrated the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.  In the twentieth century, Jewish and Christian scholars adopted the term CE, or Common Era, showing a neutral stance towards Christ.  Now practically every country dates things from the birth of Christ, whether they consider themselves Christian or not.  2018 CE means 2018 years since the birth of Christ, the Common Era.  The time before Christ is called BC, before the Common Era, BCE.