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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Problem of September as a Clue to Reading Scripture

So I was quizzing the three year old yesterday about what the new month is. After a brief and pensive pause the face lit up and in his own special pronunciation he declared, "September!"

Which reminded me; (Latin roots) Sept=7, Oct=8, Nov=9, Dec=10. September, the ninth month of our year means seventh. You gotta figure something is up (and the history of the calendar coupled with our loss of Latin has made the issue a non-issue). No one notices, no one cares. They are just names of months after all....

Today in MP we continue reading from John's Gospel. In the eighth chapter Jesus is having a conflict with the Jews. (Screeching tires as we come to a stop!) "The Jews?!?!?!" Why Jesus is a Jew. All the Apostles were Jews. Most of the people He preached to and healed and exorcised were Jews. In fact, in Matthew, Jesus is explicitly reluctant to even help a Gentile girl because His mission is to "the Lost sheep of Israel." The wording here is a strange as reading that the Pope is dealing with "the" Catholics or that in the US there are conflicts with "the" Americans.

Over time language reflects the audience. Originally, the historical Jesus was at odds with the Temple authorities (Priests and Scribes) and Herodians; and of course, the Romans. No doubt He debated with some Pharisees about theology, but much of what He taught they also taught. The Pharisees emerged after the destruction of the Temple as the primary authority among the Jews; and by then, the Pharisees who believed in Jesus (folks like Paul) were in the church and their descendants were probably born into the church. The Jewish Pharisees, who reject Jesus, are in a 'clear and present conflict' with Christians (and writings at this time emphasize their role in conflict with Jesus--both in the historical past and the historical present). Christianity continued spreading among the Gentiles and becomes a separate entity so that its Jewish roots are lost (in the minds of many who had never been Jews).

Remember, the early Christians believed Jesus was in and with the Church (recall Paul being asked, "Why do you persecute Me?" by the Risen and Ascended Lord). As such their language reflects that in the Scripture. Like the word "September," the Bible language reveals that there was an earlier time when things were different.

We know now that hating Jews has a long history and it is an ugly history. Currently, that hatred is being seen on a world scale. Knowing that the generalized "the Jews" in John's Gospel is not a condemnation of Jewish people is important. And it is why we, today, might need to see that word "translated" yet again into a contemporary context.

Jesus speaks to His own people. What if we read the text like this:
Jesus said to the Christian Leaders (or the Christians, or 'Me'): It is my Father Who glorifies Me, He of Whom you say, "He is our God," though you do not know Him. But I know Him...

That is the issue; it is the people who think that they know God who are confronted with the TRUTH of God in Jesus' ministry. People like us, whose minds are perverted by our own sin and the twisted nature of our culture. People like us, who in every generation must hear the words of Jesus with repentance, faith and conversion.

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