November 14, 2006

And the results are in...

I recently finished my paper and presentation over Luke 22:35-38, which you can read in the below post. I settled down on one conclusion, although I think there exist two possible and strong interpretations.

Interp. #1:
Jesus is trying to prepare the disciples of the impending danger and hostility that they are about to face, because they will be viewed as transgressors for following Jesus. Although, this is not the best interp, I think that Luke may have had this in mind when writing his gospel to the gentile community which was receiving hostility from many different angles, Jewish Christians (not real harsh), Romans, and Jews (pretty harsh).

Interp. #2:
The disciples are betrayers of Jesus, and this question, answer device reveals their hearts. Jesus is quite ingenious in asking the disciples and then commanding them to get swords, because they reveal that they have already lost faith in his earlier commands from Luke 9 and 10 to take nothing with them on mission. The fact that they already have swords means that they are treacherous. This theme of treachery fits well with the 3 preceding pericopes which all fit together with similar elements and also form a farewell speech.

Why would this be important for first century followers of Jesus? These men who have following Jesus bettrayed him by preparing themselves for violence. As the times erupt with violence with teh destruciton of hte Temple, Christians will be forced into a hard place. The correct reaction is not violence, and Luke wants them to know this.

How badly we need this message. The correct reaction to violence is not violence, but rather a different way. The Christ way of the cross. Sounds unfamiliar, sounds unAmerican, but it sounds biblical. We as a Christian church need to pick up this devotion to Christ so that we can have the kinds of hearts that will not prepare for violence, but rather prepare for grace.


Steve said...

The plain reading of the dialogue is that the Lord was serious about them getting a sword.

There is no rebuke for the two swords that they have.

Luke's intent is not the issue. Luke was led by the Spirit to write what he did. The Lord's intent is the issue.

To guess at the agenda of a Biblical writer is to walk out onto thin ice, for we cannot really support what we think their intent was. But we do know what the intent of the Holy Spirit was.

JoeBum said...

i guess i don't understand what you mean by "plain" reading of the text.

plain= what the first readers interpreted this to mean?

and you don't think the agenda of the writer could be the same as the Spirit?

and do you think that Luke served certain purposes for the Lukan readers? Matthew? John?
if not, then why are they all so different?

Steve said...

Hi Joe,

What I mean by the plain reading is that with any literature the plain reading is almost always right reading.

When we read of David and Goliath, the plain reading is that David whooped him. It makes sense because it reads that way.

The same is almost always true in all literature, unless is readily apparent that their are forms of speech (hyperbole, metaphore, etc.) being used.

That's all I meant by it.

You are right, Luke and the Spirit could have had the same agenda. But since Luke never names his agenda we are left with guessing what it was. Thankfully John names his agenda.

Luke had an agenda, for all writers do, but unfortunalty we can't be precise about it. Yet we can be precise about the Holy Spirit's agenda.

That was what I was trying to say about that. Sorry I wasn't clearer.


JoeBum said...

but still, the question stands, what is "plain" reading.

i think we as a western society are at a lost to plainly read scripture, that is why we need to know the historical context. you ask someone from africa, where they still have farewell speeches, and he would say that the plain reading here is not metaphor, but farewell speech, but its because we are western, and unfamiliar with farewell addresses that it is lost on us.

plain= what? (can anything be read plainly, don't we always read OUR historical baggage, OUR worldview, and OUR literary devices into it.

and why can't we be precise about what Luke meant? I think if we can identify the Spirit's agenda, can we not identify the writer's?

i speak from someone who used to say the same thing, all we need is the literal, plain, or most obvious texts, but now i realize how harmful this can be to the text and interpretation.

JoeBum said...

oh, and if you would like, I could email you the paper so you can dig deeper into what i'm talking about to see if the paper can make more sense than a few paragraphs in a blog post.

Steve said...

Hi Joe,

Yes, I’d like to see the paper. Thanks. “”

You are right, some plain readings are not plain in the least.

But most are. If we read the newspaper or a magazine, we don’t think twice about what is being said. It just rolls of the paper and we read along absorbing it. If we read a novel, we read and get captivated by the plot and the characters, and we don’t think twice about the meaning, because it is obvious.

Scripture is literature. When Jesus says to someone to go show yourself to the priest, the plain reading is just that. When Paul says that he was shipwrecked, he meant just that. When John says the Elders worshiped God, he meant just that.

Your Africa illustration is very valid, but thankfully we’ve had the Scripture translated for both english readers and multiple African readers, and those translators have done a good job with translating it into the culture of the reader.

It hit me yesterday, that Luke does say his agenda for writing his gospel. It is found in the first four verses of his book. And I think is it safe to say that by his professed agenda (“an orderly account”) the dialogue about the sword is just that, an orderly account about a conversation about getting a sword.

You’re also right about baggage. We all bring it to what we read. Which is why the plain reading is always the safest reading. We should let words mean what they naturally mean. When we depart from this, anyone can change the meaning to what their baggage is.

I hope this makes sense, and doesn’t throw fuel on the fire.


JoeBum said...

I still think that Luke writes with an agenda with purposes in mind for his readers.

If not, how do YOU explain Luke's placement of the tearing of the Temple Veil before Jesus dies, when the other synoptic gospels place the tearing after Jesus dies?

the plain reading, contradicts the other two gospel's plain readings.

Also, just because something is translated, hardly makes it interpreted. Every thing we read must be interpreted. I think we don't really have to think about reading the paper, because it is very formal and basic writing, written within our 21st century understandings. novels are not as easy, b/c authors have agendas.

I agree that scripture is literature, but i do not agree with your assessment of literature, nor how to read it. I think much is lost when we just read things "plainly." that's because all kinds of literary devices are used to convey meanings, which can be lost on readers of different mindsets, especially when separated 2000 years.

you so we should let words mean simply what they mean, but how do we do that when we are reading texts written in greek, originally 2000 years ago? you have to understand the word back in that context before you understand the word in our own.

When we think world, we think round, they think flat. we think disease, we think science and doctor, they think demons and prayer. when we think jobs, we think college, choice, and careers; they think familial roles and systems. our definitions, do not exactly necessitate the meaning the authors of the Bible mean. we translate the greek into words that are close, and sometimes exact, but not always. what one greek word means may take 3 or 4 english words or vice versa.

whether or not the Bible is translated into english or african, if Luke meant for this to be in the genre of farewell addresses, he meant for it to be just that. the problem is that we as americans are not familiar with farewell discourses, but africans are not. africans then, will much easier recognize the significance of this passage, because they can pick up on the literary device easier; that's my point. It doesn't matter which language it's in

Steve said...

Hi Joe,

I got your emails this morning and quickly read through your paper. I didn't know you were a Baylor student. I watched a few of your games on TV this year. You guys started out so good! I think Baylor is in the wrong conference.

You paper makes sense, if you stay with your sources. Another paper could be written from other sources. Which just muddies the whole thing.

Anyone can make any piece of literature mean anything they want. That is not an attack against you, by any means.

There are so many sources out there and so many opinions that it becomes hard to know what to believe.

This passage in Luke has long been disputed. Your position on it is well documented and is the more popular understanding.

Yet, to me, it doesn't hold up. And a literal reading is more than acceptable.

To me, it doens't hold up because the terms purse and bag are read as literal, but sword is not.

Jesus is well known for setting the disciples straight when they misunderstand him, but he doesn't correct them here.

To me, Jesus is changing what he told them before, when they didn't need to take along such things. Now things are changing and they need to be take care of themselves.

The sword is of a dagger type and would be common for their day. They are still to turn the other cheek, but as love demands there might well be a time protect someone close to them. It is defensive, not offensive.

Peter is rebuked for lopping off the ear and rightly so, for nothing was to stop Jesus' mission. His love for them was higher than their protective love for him.

And they would die by the sword if the lived by it, for they were to not live offensivly with such things, but only defensivly if such a dire need arouse.

Neither of are positions are new, this has been debated for centuries, yet I think I hold the safer position.

Having said all this, I'll stop here. This is your blog and I'll quit pushing. I want to remain brothers and be able to discuss future posts without undue strain.

I am interested in your response, but I'll let you have the last word. Perhaps in heaven we can buy Luke lunch and give him a hard time for not being more clear for us.

I hope Baylor has a good basketball team this year.

JoeBum said...

baylor has a ways to go in football, especially after the loss of itis QB, Bell. I'm at Truett, which is pretty disconnected, but still a part of baylor. And of course baylor b-ball will be good, at the ladies anyways.

now to the text...

i think you're reading a theological interpretation into the text. the assumption is that it is ok to defend ourselves from physical harm, and that this is what Jesus is referring to here. I don't think this is a good interp. b/c of several factors.

The first factor, is that no where in the NT, especially in Luke's 2nd work, Acts, do the apostles or the church act defensively. The sword was not to be used either one. "turn the other cheek." "love your enemy." The early church, not included in the scripture, but in early church history did not react defensively either. Christians allowed themselves to be led to death and be persecuted.

I think we as American Christians have a hard time swallowing this, b/c we are taught that its ok to react defensively. We equate this nation with a Christian nation, so when we are attacked, and defend back, ie. 9/11, then this is the example we should follow, even as Christ followers.

The church should be loyal to One Kingdom only, not America. Our example is of a defenseless Saviour hung on cross, and of a heavily persecuted church who didn't defend itself either. It's a matter of how literal we want to follow Christ's command.

I think in this passage about two swords we want to take it literal, even though its a bad reading and interpretation, but try to explain away Christ's words of "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek."

so that being said, you do hold the safer position, b/c its the American, Western position.

And feel free to comment away, I don't want this to be anything but a conversation. Trust me, I enjoy this kind of conversation. Mostly because I don't take this personal, and know that online conversation can be hard to understand or whatever, and that we learn together this way.

Steve said...

Hi Joe,

Just one quick comment.

I am with you. They were to turn the other cheek. I just did't say it well. The daggers were to protect others, for love demands this (1 Corinthians 13). Which is what Peter was doing for Christ.

That was what I was trying to say in that part.

JoeBum said...

yeah, i think this discussion just about opened another can of worms, but we'll leave that one for another day.

thanks for the lively conversation, made me think.

one of the challenges to the blogosphere is conversating, because we cannot read tones or sometimes its easier to be hard to another in a way we wouldn't in person. So with that, I hope i didn't offend in any way. Again, I really enjoyed the your time, and hope you stick around and drop a comment when you feel like, even if you disagree.