No one is greater (Lk 7:28-7:28)

“‘I tell you!

Among those born

Of women,

No one is greater

Than John.

Yet the least

In the kingdom of God

Is greater than he.’”

 

λέγω ὑμῖν, μείζων ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν Ἰωάνου οὐδείς ἐστιν· ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus, with a solemn announcement (λέγω ὑμῖν), said that there was nobody born of a woman greater than John (μείζων ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν Ἰωάνου οὐδείς ἐστιν).  However, yet even the least in the kingdom of God (ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Θεοῦ) was greater than him (μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν).  This saying about John the Baptist can be found almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 11:11.  Thus, this may have been a Q source about John, like many of the other passages about John.  Matthew had Jesus issue this solemn proclamation.  There was no other human being greater than John the Baptist.  Notice that he used his title of the Baptist there.  However, those who are the least, the smallest, or the littlest in the kingdom of heaven would be greater than John.  This was great praise for John.  Yet, being a follower of Jesus made them even greater.  Which would you rather be, the greatest human being or a follower of Jesus?

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Jesus compares sheep to human beings (Mt 12:11-12:12)

“Jesus said to them.

‘Suppose one of you

Has only one sheep.

If it falls into a pit

On the Sabbath,

Will you not lay hold of it?

Will you not lift it out?

How much more valuable

Is a human being

Than a sheep!

Thus,

It is lawful to do good

On the Sabbath.’”

 

ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Τίς ἔσται ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος ὃς ἕξει πρόβατον ἕν, καὶ ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ τοῦτο τοῖς σάββασιν εἰς βόθυνον, C

πόσῳ οὖν διαφέρει ἄνθρωπος προβάτου. ὥστε ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν καλῶς ποιεῖν.

 

Matthew has Jesus respond to the Pharisees with his own example about sheep and humans.  This is somewhat similar to Mark, chapter 3:3-4, and Luke, chapter 6:8-9, but Matthew was the only one who compared sheep to humans.  Jesus posed a question to the Pharisees (ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς).  Suppose a man had only one sheep (Τίς ἔσται ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος ὃς ἕξει πρόβατον ἕν).  Suppose this one sheep fell into a pit or a ditch on the Sabbath (καὶ ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ τοῦτο τοῖς σάββασιν εἰς βόθυνον).  Would this man not grab it and lift it out of the pit (καὶ ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ τοῦτο τοῖς σάββασιν εἰς βόθυνον)?  Just think, how much more valuable are human being when compared to a sheep (πόσῳ οὖν διαφέρει ἄνθρωπος προβάτου)!  Thus, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (ὥστε ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν καλῶς ποιεῖν).  If you help sheep on the Sabbath, surely you can help humans on the Sabbath.

The faces of the four living creatures (Ezek 1:10-1:11)

“As for the appearance

Of their faces,

Each had

The face

Of a human being

In front.

Each had

The face

Of a lion

On the right side.

Each had

The face

Of an ox

On the left side.

Each had

The face

Of an eagle

At the back.

Such were their faces.

Their wings

Were spread out above.

Each creature

Had two wings.

Each wing

Touched the wing

Of another.

The two wings

Covered their bodies.”

Each creature had the face of a human being in front. Then there was a face of a lion on the right side with a face of an ox on the left side. In the back was the face of an eagle. Interesting enough this is similar to the idea of cherubim in Assyrian and Babylonian times. They had a statue of a god who had the head of a human, the body of a lion, the paws of an ox, with wings. This same symbolism was later taken up as the symbols of the four Christian evangelists, as well as the 4 creatures of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. There is also the interpretation that these animal heads symbolize mobility, intelligence, and strength. Their wings were spread out above each of these creatures, so that they touched each other. Thus these wings covered the bodies of these creatures.

The treatment of slaves (Sir 33:24-33:29)

“Fodder is for a donkey.

A stick is for a donkey.

A burden is for a donkey.

Bread is for a slave.

Discipline is for a slave.

Work is for a slave.

Set your slave to work.

You will find rest.

If you leave his hands idle,

He will seek liberty.

A yoke will bow his neck.

A thong will bow his neck.

A wicked servant should have

Rack and tortures.

Put him to work.

Thus he may not be idle.

Idleness teaches much evil.

Set him to work,

As is fitting for him.

If he does not obey,

Make his fetters heavy.

Do not be overbearing

Toward anybody.

Do nothing unjust.”

Sirach accepts slavery as a fact of life, not to be disputed. This was a common biblical theme, so that the slave owners who cited the Bible could not be faulted. Slaves were slaves, so what? There was no sense of the idea of an equal fellow human being. In fact, it was clear that they should work hard as there was a comparison of a slave to a donkey. Just as the donkey was fed, whipped, and burdened, so too the slave should be fed with bread, disciplined, and worked hard. If your slave worked hard, you could get some restful idleness time for yourself. You should put a yoke and thong around your slave’s neck. If he was bad, you could beat him up. The slave should never be idle because that would lead to evil and his possible escape. If the slave did not obey, he should be punished. However, there was a limit to this brutality. You should not be overbearing or unjust. Of course, it was your decision to evaluate the situation.