Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Behold! The rest of Matthew 4.

David has been timely on these posts, but I have been slack, what with school (we take our big break at Christmas time, not summer) and disassembling our church's library, and going swimming most days (2 hours out of my schedule). So, sorry for the delay. Here it is.

Matthew 4 PART II:

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.

Nothing in the text shows how much time passed between the temptation and John's arrest. Maybe the other gospels are explicit? 

No, not really.

I also wonder what's going ON in this period; again, maybe the other gospels will say.

Yes. We know John called Herod a sinner and Herod arrested him. Then due to a rash oath, Herod had to execute him. Delightful story- not.

13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

“Zebulun” is an extremely fun word to say. That is all.

Yes it is. I find several names in the Bible fun to say :-D

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

WARNING: We're about to go down a rabbit hole. Feel free to just skip to the next comment. Maybe read this first: “Checking this quote for context was really hard. Christian and Jewish translations of the source material disagree on fundamental points, so it seems likely that there's some hardcore grammatical weirdness going on with the original Hebrew. We're talking VERY different renderings, and I'm not really qualified to say who's more accurate.” But if you need the details, read on!

So, still with me? I don't know why you would be. But I /was/ very excited by this! THIS right here is why is why I cross-check the NIV with Chabad's translations. They agree on the second part of Matthew's quote (“the people living in darkness” etc), but boy-oh-boy do they clash on part one. Here it is from the NIV:

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan--”

(Source: Isaiah 9:1 in the NIV. In Hebrew versions it's Isaiah 8:23. It's also translated VERY DIFFERENTLY, which you're about to see.)

Here it is from Chabad:

For there is no weariness to the one who oppresses her; like the first time, he dealt mildly, [exiling only] the land of Zebulun and the land of Naftali, and the last one he dealt harshly, the way of the sea, and the other side of the Jordan, the attraction of the nations.”

I have to admit, if you place any value on clarity at ALL, Chabad's translation is AWFUL; the NIV committee did a much better job at making it readable. But there's not just a difference in style; there's a huge difference in content. So what's up?

The NIV version is interesting because, if you read it quickly, you think “oh, okay, the 'he' is God. It's secretly about Jesus.” But wait, when it's God, “He” is capitalized, is it not? But there's a lowercase h in the NIV. So who IS the mysterious “he?” We don't know. The NIV won't tell us.

In the Jewish translation, it's much more plain: it's the king of Assyria.

Well, I say “plain,” but obviously the Chabad translation was, how can we put this, difficult, and all it said was "the one who oppresses her". It needs explication. Fortunately, we can turn to Rashi's commentary, which puts the verse squarely in the context of the events of Isaiah's lifetime.  Based on Rashi's commentary, I wrote a paraphrase of the verse that hopefully gets the /actual sense of it/ across: 

“The king of Assyria is vigorous, unrelenting; with the sword he oppresses you. First he took the people of the land of Naphtali, in the fourth year of the reign of Ahaz. Then in the twelfth year, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half of the tribe of Manasseh. And in this he dealt with you mildly. For he shall come a third time and deal with you harshly: none of you are safe, not by the sea nor by the Jordan nor anywhere in Israel, for all of the nations are drawn to the land, wanting to possess it for themselves.”

Soooo... which translation is right? I have no idea. I'm not even a little bit qualified to answer.

But it still blows me away that qualified people could reach opposite positions on what the same Hebrew language means. I knew Hebrew grammar was weird, but not THAT weird.

Just as a sample:
New American Standard Bible
But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
King James Bible
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

A brief glance at the same verse in several Christian translations produces just as much confusion. Commentaries don't seem to help either.  

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Again: this is exactly John the Baptist's phrase. 

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 
19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 
20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

This won't be the first or the last instance of Jesus telling people to drop everything they hold dear and just follow him – they should make a total sacrifice of their social, familial, and economic lives in order to follow him. I'm not the first or the last person to note that when people say this TODAY, it means they're leading a cult.

True. But Jesus only said it to a select few. And a couple he says it to didn't follow Him. He never told the multitudes, the average believer to leave their lives, just love Him more than their own lives. 

I believe one of the other gospels says Andrew was already a full time follower of John and John told him to follow Jesus instead.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 
22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

So far, Christianity doesn't sound like a very family-friendly religion. 

The Romans actually fought a propaganda war against Christianity on that thought.

Was going to leave it at that and move on, but then I went: wait, how do people in the Christian patriarchy movement handle these verses?

For the unfamiliar (though if you're a homeschooling mother of 9, I'm PRETTY darn sure you're familiar): these folks believe that it's the will of God that unmarried children should be under the ABSOLUTE authority of their father, no matter how old the child is. Even if that “child” is 35. The family unit takes priority; God wants you to stay inside that family unit.

But here we have a Biblical example of children NOT doing that – in fact, they abandon their father “immediately” upon hearing a higher call. And clearly this is meant to speak well of the children. What's their response? “Jesus is a special case?”

Those who preach that all unmarried children are under their parents authority are actually a small- though very vocal- minority. Some even believe married children are still supposed to obey their parents (really hard to do if both the husband and wife still have living parents). 

Most of us in "traditional" families believe that minor children are under their parent's authority of course, but adults are responsible directly to God, especially after marriage. 

Now of course, if the adult child lives in their parent's home they should follow their parent's household rules. That's just right. "He who pays the bills calls the shots." If they don't like it, move out. My friend who lives in her grown son's house obeys his rules. That's just the right thing to do. 

I have no idea how the extreme Patriarchs explain this scripture. It would be interesting to hear, though it probably is along the lines of "Jesus is a special case."

Just a note, one of the other gospels says they left their father and the servants, so they didn't abandon an old man all alone trying to survive. He still had help.

Jesus Heals the Sick
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Also: I wish we had details on what Jesus taught in the synagogues. I would expect some scriptural explication, which would have been EXTREMELY valuable to have a record of, right?

Some of His sermons are mentioned later. It would be cool to have more.

24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 
25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

This is the first appearance of demons. It won't be the last. Which leads me to a question: how could someone at Jesus' time separate “the demon-possessed” from any of the other categories of sick people? The verse goes on to talk about “those having seizures,” for instance – well, ARE they just seizures? Or is a demon possessing them to stop them from fulfilling their religious duties (or tending to their families or whatever)?

Evidently seizures were part of devil possessions. Examples from scripture include what very much sound like seizures, a girl who could tell fortunes, a man who broke chains and regularly beat up the men in his town, even one man who beat up seven other men at once, stripping them naked! Possession evidently interrupted their entire lives. We would lock these people in mental institutions. Jesus (and later the apostles) cast the devil out and restored them to normal lives.

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