The Pharisee was amazed (Lk 11:38-11:38)

“This Pharisee

Was amazed

To see

That Jesus did not

First wash

Before dinner.”

 

ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου.

 

Luke said that this Pharisee was amazed to see (ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν) that Jesus did not first wash (ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη) before dinner (πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου).  There is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 7:2-5 and Matthew, chapter 15:2.  However, the complaint there was about the disciples of Jesus, not Jesus himself.  Matthew said that these Pharisees wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus did not wash their hands before they ate bread.  They said that this action was a violation against the tradition of the elders.  Mark said that these Pharisees and Scribes had noticed that the disciples of Jesus were eating bread with defiled hands, because they did not wash their hands.  These Pharisees and Scribes wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus did not live according to the tradition of the elders.  Originally, this practice of washing hands before eating was what the Levites did in the Temple to practice ritual purity as indicated in Exodus, chapter 30:17-21.  Yahweh had told Moses that there should be a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing.  Thus, Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet when they went into the meeting tent or the altar.  The penalty for not washing your hands and feet was death under this perpetual ordinance.  However, the Pharisaic oral tradition, or the tradition of the elders, had extended this practice to individual homes.  Thus, they were violating the tradition of the elders.  Wash your hands!  Do you wash your hands before you eat?

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This woman anoints the feet of Jesus (Lk 7:38-7:38)

“This woman

Stood behind him

At his feet,

Weeping.

She began

To bathe

His feet

With her tears.

Then she wiped them dry

With her hair.

She continued

Kissing his feet.

She anointed them

With the ointment.”

 

καὶ στᾶσα ὀπίσω παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ κλαίουσα, τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν, καὶ κατεφίλει τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ.

 

Luke said that this sinful woman stood behind Jesus (καὶ στᾶσα ὀπίσω), at his feet (παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ), weeping (κλαίουσα).  She began to bathe or wash his feet with her tears (τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ).  Then she wiped his feet dry with the hair from her head (καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν).  She continued kissing his feet (αὶ κατεφίλει τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ).  Then she anointed them with the Myron ointment (καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ).  Mark, chapter 14:3, and Matthew, chapter 26:6-7, said that this unnamed sinning woman approached Jesus with an alabaster jar full of very expensive imported Indian nard ointment.  This was an anointing oil or as later Christians would call it holy oil, “Myron (μύρου).”  She broke the alabaster jar of ointment.  Then she then poured it on his head.  However, here the emphasis was on the feet of Jesus.  This woman washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her loosened hair, and then anointed his feet with the oil or Myron.  This was a highly unusual gesture.  Have you ever had your feet anointed with oil?

The lepers at the time of Elisha (Lk 4:27-4:27)

“There were also many lepers

In Israel

At the time

Of the prophet Elisha.

None of them

Was cleansed,

Except Naaman,

The Syrian.”

 

καὶ πολλοὶ λεπροὶ ἦσαν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπὶ Ἑλισαίου τοῦ προφήτου, καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν ἐκαθαρίσθη εἰ μὴ Ναιμὰν ὁ Σύρος.

 

Luke then cited another unique story about the prophet Elisha, the prophet who followed Elijah in the 9th century BCE.  He too was well known for his exploits in the first 13 chapters of 2 Kings.  This episode was about Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army, who suffered from some kind of leprosy.  Naaman asked his king if he could go get a cure from a prophet he had heard about.  Elisha told the king to send Naaman to him so that he could cure him.  He told Naaman to wash himself 7 times in the Jordan River.  This made Naaman very upset.  Finally, he went and immersed himself 7 times in the Jordan River.  Thus, he was cured of his leprosy, as found in 2 Kings, 5:1-14.  Luke said that there were also many lepers (καὶ πολλοὶ λεπροὶ ἦσαν) in Israel (ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ) at the time of the prophet Elisha (ἐπὶ Ἑλισαίου τοῦ προφήτου).  None of them were cleansed (καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν ἐκαθαρίσθη), except Naaman, the Syrian (εἰ μὴ Ναιμὰν ὁ Σύρος).  Syrian and Aramean are almost the same.  The key idea was that someone other than an Israelite was cured.

The washing of cups (Mk 7:4-7:4)

“They do not eat anything

From the market place,

Unless they wash it.

There are many other traditions

That they observe.

They wash

Cups,

Pots,

And bronze plates.”

 

καὶ ἀπ’ ἀγορᾶς ἐὰν μὴ ῥαντίσωνται οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἄλλα πολλά ἐστιν ἃ παρέλαβον κρατεῖν, βαπτισμοὺς ποτηρίων καὶ ξεστῶν καὶ χαλκίων,

 

Mark alone continued with his elaboration about the Pharisees and their traditions to his gentile non-Jewish audience.  He said that the Pharisees do not eat anything coming from the market place, unless they wash it first (καὶ ἀπ’ ἀγορᾶς ἐὰν μὴ ῥαντίσωνται οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν).  There are many other traditions that they hold or observe (καὶ ἄλλα πολλά ἐστιν ἃ παρέλαβον κρατεῖν) about washing cups (βαπτισμοὺς ποτηρίων), pots (καὶ ξεστῶν), and bronze plates (καὶ χαλκίων).  It was obvious that the Pharisees had a keener sense of cleanliness or purity than most gentiles because washing or purification was an important religious practice.

The tradition of the elders (Mk 7:3-7:3)

“The Pharisees,

And all the Jews,

Do not eat

Unless they wash

Their hands.

Thus,

They observe

The tradition

Of the elders.”

 

οἱ γὰρ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἐὰν μὴ πυγμῇ νίψωνται τὰς χεῖρας οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν, κρατοῦντες τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων,

 

There is nothing like this elsewhere, because Mark was explaining this Jewish practice to his gentile Christian readers.  Mark said that the Pharisees (οἱ γὰρ Φαρισαῖοι) and all the Jews (καὶ πάντες οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι) did not eat. unless they had washed their hands (μὴ πυγμῇ νίψωνται τὰς χεῖρας οὐκ ἐσθίουσιν).  Not washing hands was considered to be not upholding or a violation against the Jewish tradition of the elders or priests (κρατοῦντες τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων).  The importance of this tradition was clearly seen in Matthew, chapter 15:2, in this more Jewish Christian writing.  It is not clear that all Jews followed this tradition, but the Pharisees certainly did.  Originally, this practice of washing hands before eating was what the priestly Levites did in the Temple to practice ritual purity as indicated in Exodus, chapter 30:17-21.  Yahweh had told Moses that there should be a bronze basin with a bronze stand for washing.  Thus, Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet when they went into the meeting tent or the altar.  The penalty for not washing your hands and feet was death under this perpetual ordinance.  However, the Pharisaic oral tradition, or the tradition of the elders, had extended this practice to individual and their own homes.

More paradoxes (Sir 34:28-34:31)

“When one builds,

Another tears down.

What do they gain

But hard work?

When one prays,

Another curses.

To whose voice

Will the Lord listen?

If one washes

After touching a corpse,

Then touches it again,

What has he gained

By his washing?

So if one fasts

For his sins,

Then goes again

And does the same things,

Who will listen

To his prayer?

What has he gained

By humbling himself?”

Sirach cites various paradoxes in life. One man builds and another tears it down. What is this except a waste of time and labor for both of them? Who does the Lord listen to, if one person prays and the other curses? If you wash after touching a dead body, then you go and touch it again, what was the point of washing in the first place? If you fast for your sins, and then go out again and sin, who would listen to your prayers? What did you gain by humbling yourself?

The innocent (Ps 26:6-26:7)

“I wash my hands in innocence.

I go around your altar.

Yahweh!

I sing aloud a song of thanksgiving.

I tell all your wondrous deeds.”

David once again maintained his innocence. He washed his hands in innocence in some sort of liturgical worship action in the Temple. He walked around the altar of Yahweh. Theoretically only a Levite could do this. He sang a song of thanksgiving that told all about the wondrous deeds of Yahweh.