Monday, July 25, 2016

Inheritance, Greed, and Living Toward God

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Luke 12:13-21, the gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday. There are many uncomfortable questions that this conversation and parable raise, most of which are at the level of interpretation rather than translation. It should be an exciting week for text study groups and sermonizing. 

13 Εἶπεν δέ τις ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπὲ τῷ ἀδελφῷ μου μερίσασθαι μετ' 
ἐμοῦ τὴν κληρονομίαν. 
Yet a certain one out of the crowd said to him, “Teacher, speak to my brother to divide with me the inheritance.”  
Εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἰπὲ: AAImpv 2s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
μερίσασθαι: AMInf, μερίζω, 1) to divide  1a) to separate into parts, cut into pieces
1. The word “teacher” is in the vocative case, meaning that it is a direct address and not the subject or object of a particular verb, preposition, or participle. I believe the word ‘vocative’ is rooted in the Latin word ‘vocare,’ which means ‘call.’ But, I’m not a Latinist, so maybe I’m not remembering well.
2. This is the first of three vocative addresses in this pericope: “Teacher” in v.13; “Man” in v.14; and “Fool” in v.20. So, a sermon could begin, “A teacher, a man, and a fool walk into a bar ...”

14ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἄνθρωπε, τίς με κατέστησεν κριτὴν ἢμεριστὴν ἐφ' ὑμᾶς; 
Yet he said to him, “Man, who set me a judge or a divider over you?”  
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
κατέστησεν: AAI 3s, καθίστημι, 1) to set, place, put  1a) to set one over a thing (in charge of it)  1b) to appoint one to administer an office
1. The word I am translating as “divider” (ἢμεριστὴν) has the same root (μερι) as the verb “divide” (μερίσασθαι) in v.13.
2. Before we get too “Don’t bother Jesus with those kinds of issues” here, we need to remember how much attention the OT law gives to inheritance and how much inheritance matters in Jesus’ parables. Inheritance was a fundamental part of enabling or ensuring livelihood in ancient cultures. I think we need to let what follows indicate why it is that Jesus is not willing to take on the role of the arbiter in this matter.

15 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ 
περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ. 
Yet he said to them, “Watch and guard for all greediness, because not in the abounding to someone his life is out of his havings.”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Ὁρᾶτε: PAImpv 2p, ὁράω, 1) to see with the eyes  2) to see with the mind, to perceive,
φυλάσσεσθε: PMImpv 2p, φυλάσσω, 1) to guard   1a) to watch, keep watch
περισσεύειν: PAInf, περισσεύω, 1) to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and  above a certain number or measure 
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
ὑπαρχόντων: PAPart gpn, ὑπάρχω, 1) to begin below, to make a beginning 
1. This is terribly awkward as a rough translation and I would never leave it in this form for public reading. Refined translations have phrases like the “abundance of possessions” (NRSV and NIV), which is readable, but it is surprising to see that “abundance” is a present active infinitive verb and “possessions” is a present active participle – not nouns. To me, this is the kind of verse that calls for long, meditative translation and would be worth every minute of it.

16 Εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων, Ἀνθρώπου τινὸς πλουσίου εὐφόρησεν ἡ 
Then he said a parable to them saying, “The region of a certain man rich man produced well.”  
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
εὐφόρησεν: AAI 3s, εὐφορέω, 1) to be fertile, bring forth plentifully
1. Like v.15 above, Jesus has shifted his audience from the man who asked the initial question to “them,” presumably the crowd itself. If the comment regarding “greed” in v.15 and this parable are directly related to the request that Jesus arbitrate an inheritance dispute, the use of “them” may indicate that the problem is not limited to the man and his brother, but is more systemic and general.
2. Many translations say “the ground,” but χώρα is consistently translated as “country” or “land” or “region” throughout the gospels. (It is the word in the parable of the younger son – also an inheritance story – when he goes to a ‘far away country.’)
3. If Isaiah’s words still have any effect, this “successful” man seems immediately guilty of “joining field to field” (Is. 5:8) in accumulating so much land. With his land producing well, the rich are getting richer. Such a situation could be advantageous to many, if it were a generous fiefdom. My sense is that under the Roman Empire, such fiefdoms were rarely generous and usually oppressive to the landless workers.

17καὶ διελογίζετο ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Τί ποιήσω, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχω ποῦ συνάξω τοὺς καρπούς 
And he was reasoning in himself saying, “What shall I do, because I do not have where I shall gather together my fruit?”
διελογίζετο: IMI 3s, διαλογίζομαι, 1) to bring together different reasons, to reckon up the  reasons, to reason, revolve in one's mind, deliberate 
λέγων: PAPart nsm, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  
ποιήσω: FAI 1s, ποιέω, 1) to make, to do  
ἔχω: PAI 1s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
συνάξω: FAI 1s, συνάγω, 1) to gather together, to gather 
1. This reminds me of the description of Hezekiah in II Chronicles 32:23-33.
2. It’s too bad that the lectionary pericope ends before v.24: “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”(NIV)

18καὶ εἶπεν, Τοῦτο ποιήσωκαθελῶ μου τὰς ἀποθήκας καὶ μείζονας οἰκοδομήσω, καὶ 
συνάξω ἐκεῖ πάντα τὸν σῖτον καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου, 
And he said, “This I will do; I will demolish my silos and I will build larger ones, and I will gather together there all my grain and my goods,  
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ποιήσω: FAI is, ποιέω, 1) to make 
καθελῶ: FAI 1s, καθαιρέω, 1) to take down  ... 2) to pull down, demolish
οἰκοδομήσω: FAI 1s, οἰκοδομέω, 1) to build a house, erect a building
συνάξω: FAI 1s, συνάγω, 1) to gather together, to gather 
1. I want to use “silo” to translate ἀποθήκας, although the Greek root for “silo” is actually σιρός, because when I hear ‘barn’ I think cattle and equipment, rather than grain storage. I would use ‘storehouse,’ but both ἀποθήκας (barn) and ταμεῖον (storehouse) are used in v.24.

19καὶ ἐρῶ τῇ ψυχῇ μου, Ψυχή,ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά: ἀναπαύου
and I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up into many  years; rest yourself, eat, drink, be glad.”
ἐρῶ: FAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἔχεις: PAI 2s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
κείμενα: PMPart apn, κεῖμαι, 1) to lie  1a) of an infant  1b) of one buried  1c) of things that quietly cover some spot  1c1) of a city situated on a hill  1d) of things put or set in any place, in ref. to which we often  use "to stand"
ἀναπαύου: PMImpv 2s, ἀναπαύω, 1) to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor  in order to recover and collect his strength  2) to give rest, refresh, to give one's self rest, take rest
φάγε: AAImpv 2s, ἐσθίω, 1) to eat  2) to eat (consume) a thing 
πίε: AAImpv 2s, πίνω, 1) to drink
εὐφραίνου: PPImpv 2s, εὐφραίνω, 1) to gladden, make joyful  1a) to be glad, to be merry, to rejoice  1b) to rejoice in, be delighted with a thing
1. After dialoging with himself in v.18, the man now speaks about what he will say to his soul.  
2. I have “rest yourself” because ἀναπαύου is in the middle voice and “be glad” because εὐφραίνου is in the passive voice. All four of the verbs in the last clause are imperatives.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός, Ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ: ἃ 
δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται;
But God said to him, “Fool, this night they are demanding your soul from you; yet the things which you prepared will be whose?”
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
ἀπαιτοῦσιν: PAI 3p, ἀπαιτέω, 1) to ask back, demand back, exact something due
ἡτοίμασας: AAI 2s, ἑτοιμάζω, 1) to make ready, prepare
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
1. Generally, I try to leave δὲ as neutral as possible (with ‘yet’), until the context determines whether it should be ‘then,’ or ‘and,’ or ‘but.’ In this case, it indicates a contrary thought, so I am using ‘but.’
2. identifies “Fool” ( Ἄφρων) as nominative, but identifies it as vocative, corresponding with “Man” (Ἄνθρωπε) in v. 14. I think the vocative is correct. The word is a-phron. “Phron” is the root of the word “phronesis,” which is often used for ‘wisdom,’ or ‘practical reason,’ in philosophy, so a-phron would indicate a lack of wisdom. As a noun, ‘fool’ works, but the other word for fool is moros, from which we get the English moron. Young’s Literal Translation has this “Unthinking one” which is probably closer to the word but much less effective.
3. The point of Ἄφρων seems to be the contrast between the man’s internal reasoning (διελογίζετο ἐν ἑαυτῷ, v.17) and God’s appraisal of his conclusions.
4. “They are demanding”: Many translations make this verb passive with “your soul” as the subject. The verb is active and it is plural, hence “they.” In addition “your soul” is accusative, so the object of the verb, not its subject. The question then is, “They who?”

21οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ καὶ μὴ εἰς θεὸν πλουτῶν
So the one who gathers to himself and is not rich unto God.  
θησαυρίζων: PAPart nsm, θησαυρίζω, 1) to gather and lay up, to heap up, store up
πλουτῶν: PAPart nsm, πλουτέω, 1) to be rich, to have abundance
1. This sounds like an aphorism because it has 2 participles but lacks a main verb.
2. Is the alternative to ‘gathering to oneself’ to give to God or to share with others? Or, are those the same thing?  
3. One question I hear is: Is all that money that I put into retirement – required by my denomination’s pension plan – an example of wise investment or an example of greedy hoarding that lacks faith in God’s continued provision?
4. Or, is this text about someone who is obscenely wealthy, perhaps even oppressively so, ergo one whose storage is at the expense of others’ present needs?

5. This story begins with a man asking Jesus to arbitrate an inheritance dispute with his brother – a fairly common dispute among agrarian peoples even today. Jesus hears it as a question of greed (v.15). In fact, Luke often adds a commentary of what a parable by Jesus means and in this case he frames the parable with two summaries, v.15 and 21. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Pray-er and Pray-ee of Prayer

Below is a rough translation and some preliminary comments regarding Luke 11:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary gospel reading for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost. While translating the text, it occurred to me that something that might be most valuable as a next step would be to outline the text, since it seems to be moving from one idea to the other along the way.

I am going to make a distinction, which will work a lot better writing than it would speaking, between the prayer (the actual message and/or request that one is putting out there), the pray-er (the person asking, seeking, knocking) and the pray-ee (the one who is petitioned, sought, or whose place one wants to enter.)  All of that may be rather obvious, but I want to use those terms consistently in my comments (not translation) whether the topic is ‘prayer as speaking to God’ or ‘prayer as asking someone for an egg.’ The older British use of ‘pray’ often had nothing to do with a religious exercise, but was essentially a firm, polite request (Like Sherlock Holmes saying to a distraught client who has gotten off track explaining a problem, “Pray continue your narrative.”) Sometimes I find it helpful to remember that, which prayer is not necessarily just ‘talking to God,’ it also is not necessarily a ‘religious’ act either.

As usual, your comments are welcomed!  

1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενον, ὡς ἐπαύσατο, εἶπέν τις τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν, Κύριε, δίδαξον ἡμᾶς προσεύχεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ Ἰωάννης ἐδίδαξεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ. 
And it happened in his being in a certain place praying, when he finished, a certain one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as also John taught his disciples.”
ἐγένετο: AMI 3s, γίνομαι,1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
εἶναι: PAInf, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present 
προσευχόμενον: PMPart asm, προσεύχομαι,1) to offer prayers, to pray 
ἐπαύσατο: AMI 3s, παύω, 1) to make to cease or desist 
εἶπέν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
δίδαξον: AAImpv 2s, διδάσκω, 1) to teach 
προσεύχεσθαι: PMInf, προσεύχομαι,1) to offer prayers, to pray
ἐδίδαξεν: AAI 3s, διδάσκω, 1) to teach
1. At least in the mind of this anonymous disciple, the idea that prayer is just “talking to God” or “saying willy-nilly anything that crosses your mind to God” is incorrect. This request – and the practice of John the Baptizer that he references in the request – presupposes that there is an actual, teachable skill to praying, as well as a disposition that is appropriate to the person pray-er and a disposition that the pray-er ought to suppose about God.

2 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Οταν προσεύχησθελέγετε, Πάτερ, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου: ἐλθέτωἡ βασιλεία σου: 
Then he said to them, “When you may pray, say, ‘Father, your name be hallowed; your reign come;
εἶπέν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
προσεύχησθε: PMSubj 2p, προσεύχομαι,1) to offer prayers, to pray
λέγετε: PAImpv 2p, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἁγιασθήτω: APImpv 3s, ἁγιάζω, 1) to render or acknowledge, or to be venerable or hallow 
ἐλθέτωἡ: AAImpv 3s, ἔρχομαι, 1) to come 
1. There is no “our” in the address to “Father” in this version of the prayer (see v.13, n.3 below), as well as no “who is in heaven” “your will be done on earth as in heaven.”  
2. These two phrases, “Your name be hallowed” and “Your reign come” are imperatives.

3 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ' ἡμέραν:
Our appointed bread give to us each day;
δίδου: PAImpv 2s,
1. The word typically translated as “daily bread” (ἐπιούσιον) is only used here and in the parallel prayer of Matthew 6. In its explanation of the word, Bullinger’s lexicon begins with this parenthetical note: (a word coined by our Lord, and found only as below).  It is not the same word as in the phrase translated as “each day” (καθ' ἡμέραν.)

4 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν: καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν. 
And forgive to us our sins, for also we forgive all who are indebted to us; and do not lead us into temptation.
ἄφες: AAImpv 2s, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  ...  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire  1c) to let go, let alone, let be  1c1) to disregard  1c2) to leave, not to discuss now, (a topic)  … 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 
ἀφίομεν: PAI 1p, ἀφίημι, 1) to send away  ...  1a1) of a husband divorcing his wife  1b) to send forth, yield up, to expire  1c) to let go, let alone, let be  1c1) to disregard  1c2) to leave, not to discuss now, (a topic)  … 1d) to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit 
ὀφείλοντι: PAPart dsm, ὀφείλω, 1) to owe  1a) to owe money, be in debt for  1a1) that which is due, the debt  2) metaph. the goodwill due 
 εἰσενέγκῃς: AASubj 2p, εἰσφέρω, 1) to bring into, in or to  2) to lead into
1. The word translated as “forgive” has a very wide set of meanings. It is typically translated as “forgive” when associated with “sins,” but it could easily be “release,” particularly in ‘releasing’ debts.
2. I’ve always wondered why we pray for God not to lead us into temptation (or ‘test’), since one does not typically imagine God leading us into temptation. I don’t, anyway.
3. On a side note: The phrase “Lord, we just …” is not found in this model prayer.

5 Καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἕξει φίλον καὶ πορεύσεται πρὸς αὐτὸν μεσονυκτίου καὶ εἴπῃ αὐτῷ,Φίλε, χρῆσόν μοι τρεῖς ἄρτους, 
And he said to them, “Who out of you will have a friend and will go to him in the middle of the night and would say to him, ‘Friend, furnish to me three loaves,
εἶπέν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
ἕξει: FAI 3s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
πορεύσεται: FMI 3s, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer
εἴπῃ: AASubj 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
χρῆσόν: AAImpv 2s, χράω, to furnish what is needful;
1. I am using “furnish” for χράω instead of “give” in order to distinguish it from other words the mean something like “give” throughout this text.
2. Immediately following the content of the prayer, Jesus turns to addressing the disposition of the pray-er, the praying one. The pray-er is like this friend of a friend who shows up unannounced and in need and asking for the pray-ee to supply what is lacking. That disposition would take the edge off of the imperatives that could otherwise appear very sharp and demanding. The oft-used phrase “asking for a friend” would actually work here.

6 ἐπειδὴ φίλος μου παρεγένετο ἐξ ὁδοῦ πρός με καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ὃ παραθήσω αὐτῷ: 
for my friend arrived out of a journey to me and I do not have what I shall set before him’?
παρεγένετο: AMI 3s, παραγίνομαι, 1) to be present, to come near, approach
ἔχω: PAI 1s, ἔχω, 1) to have, i.e. to hold
παραθήσω: FAI 1s, παρατίθημι, 1) to place beside or near or set before 
1. With this explanation, with the conjunction ἐπειδὴ (“for” or “because”) introducing a cause, the pray-er is indeed asking a favor at an inconvenient time, but only because s/he was put upon in an equally inconvenient way. The supposition is that the pray-er and the pray-ee both understand the value of hospitality, so that the pray-er needs supplies is not in question.
2. It seems important that the pray-er is not asking for her/his own sake,  but in order to serve another well. The pray-er’s need is grounded in the need of another. 

7 κἀκεῖνος ἔσωθεν ἀποκριθεὶς εἴπῃ, Μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε: ἤδη ἡ θύρα κέκλεισται, καὶ τὰ παιδία μου μετ' ἐμοῦ εἰς τὴν κοίτην εἰσίν: οὐ δύναμαι ἀναστὰς δοῦναί σοι. 
And he from within having answered would say, ‘Do not offer me trouble; already the door has been shut, and my children are with me in the bed; I am not able having risen to give to you.’
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἴπῃ: AASubj 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
πάρεχε: PAImpv 2s, παρέχω, 1) to reach forth, offer  2) to show, afford, supply
κέκλεισται: PerfPI 3s, κλείω, 1) to shut, shut up
εἰσίν: PAI 3p, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
δύναμαι: PMI 1s, δύναμαι, 1) to be able, have power
ἀναστὰς: AAPart nsm, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up  1a) raise up from laying down
δοῦναί: AAInf, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
1. The word παρέχω (offer) is now the third variation of words for ‘to give.’ We saw χράω (furnish) in v.5 and παρατίθημι (set before) in v.6 and we will see a fourth word, δίδωμι (give), in this verse. My word choices are selected in order to keep the verbs distinct and because I think the word δίδωμι would be the most commonly used in the NT.

8 λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰ καὶ οὐ δώσει αὐτῷ ἀναστὰς διὰ τὸ εἶναι φίλον αὐτοῦ, διά γε τὴν ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς δώσει αὐτῷ ὅσων χρῄζει
I say to you, even if he will not give to him having risen because of the being his friend, still because of his impudence having risen he will give to him whatever he needs.  
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
δώσει: FAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
ἀναστὰς: AAPart nsm, ἀνίστημι, 1) to cause to rise up, raise up
εἶναι: PAInf,  εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐγερθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἐγείρω, 1) to arouse, cause to rise 
δώσει: FAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
χρῄζει: PAI 3s, χρῄζω, 1) to have need of, to be in want of
1. There is surely some etymological connection between χρῄζω here and χράω in v.5. I’ll need to consult resources in my office to check up on that, but I am officially on vacation at the moment. Perhaps someone out there is a friend who will supply what I need. J
2. The NIV translates all of these pronouns in the second person, as “you” and “your.” I suppose they are trying to keep consistent with the second person language of v.7 and with the premise of the story, which began with “Who out of you…” in v.5.
3. Capturing the flavor of the word ἀναίδειαν (impudence) here seems a bit tricky. This is the only use of it in the NT and it carries a tone of shamelessness as well as persistence. “Impudence” may sound too strong and judgmental, but the point is that it is not simply out of kindness and friendship that the pray-ee gives in to the pray-er.
4. I just need to put it out there that this is a curious picture of God. Is Jesus relying on us knowing the claim in Psalm 121:4 that “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”? Or, is he sympathizing with the psalmists, whose experience is that God might be sleeping and needs to be awakened (Ps.44:23, 78:65)?

9 κἀγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, αἰτεῖτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: ζητεῖτε, καὶ εὑρήσετε: κρούετε, καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν. 
And I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek, and you will find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
λέγω: PAI 1s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak 
αἰτεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
δοθήσεται: FPI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give  2) to give something to someone
ζητεῖτε: PAImpv 2p, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find
εὑρήσετε: FAI 2p, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with  1a) after searching, to find a thing sought
κρούετε: PAImpv 2p, κρούω, 1) to knock: at the door
ἀνοιγήσεται: FPI 3s, ἀνοίγω, 1) to open 
1. Perhaps the impudence of prayer is what this story is all about. Remembering that the request was rooted in a need that arose because the pray-er needed to serve another, praying may be the holy and effective impudence of asking, seeking, and knocking, letting nothing stop us from serving one who has come to us requiring hospitality.

10 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει, καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει, καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγ[ής]εται
For everyone who asks receives, and who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will open.
αἰτῶν: PAPart nsm, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
λαμβάνει: PAI 3s, λαμβάνω, 1) to take 
ζητῶν: PAPart nsm, ζητέω, 1) to seek in order to find
εὑρίσκει: PAI 3s, εὑρίσκω, 1) to come upon, hit upon, to meet with  1a) after searching, to find a thing sought
κρούοντι: PAPart dsm, κρούω, 1) to knock: at the door
ἀνοιγ[ής]εται: FPI 3s, ἀνοίγω, 1) to open 
1. What keeps me asking for protection of black lives and police lives and for a modicum of sanity in our civil discourse in days as challenging as these past few years is this declaration that persistent, impudent praying will not go unanswered.

11 τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν τὸν πατέρα αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς ἰχθύν, καὶ ἀντὶ ἰχθύος ὄφιν αὐτῷ ἐπιδώσει
Yet which father out of you the son will ask for a fish, and instead of a fish will give to him serpent?
αἰτήσει: FAI 3s, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
ἐπιδώσει: FAI 3s, ἐπιδίδωμι, 1) to hand, give by hand 
1. The rough translation here reads very woodenly and need refining in later stages. Still, the point is easy to apprehend.
2. Speaking of the point, the perspective now shifts from the pray-er to the pray-ee, from the permission for impudence to the disposition of the one who loves and therefore will grant what is asked instead of pulling a deadly switch.

12 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν, ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον; 
And if he will ask for an egg, will give to him a scorpion?
αἰτήσει: FAI 3s, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
ἐπιδώσει: FAI 3s, ἐπιδίδωμι, 1) to hand, give by hand 

13 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὑπάρχοντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ [ὁ] ἐξ οὐρανοῦ δώσει πνεῦμα ἅγιον τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.
Therefore if you being evil have known to give good gifts to your children, how much more the father out of heaven will give a holy spirit to the ones who ask him.
ὑπάρχοντες: PAPart npm, ὑπάρχω, 1) to begin below, to make a beginning 
οἴδατε: PerfAI 2p, ἴδω, to see, to know.
διδόναι: PAInf, δίδωμι, 1) to give
δώσει: FAI 3s, δίδωμι, 1) to give
αἰτοῦσιν: PAPart dpm, αἰτέω, 1) to ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require
1. Well, pairing this verse with Luke 18:19 (“there is none good but God”) perhaps we can now quit pretending that Paul’s insistence on the breadth and depth of sinfulness is different from Jesus’ view of “I’m okay; you’re okay.” Particularly when considering the human life and love against the life and love of God, Luke’s Jesus has no qualms simply saying, “If you being evil …”  Of course there is more to the human story – a lot more – but both Jesus and Paul give us ample reasons for exploring both the sinfulness and the more. Still, analogy is how we think, so Jesus is comparing us (evil though we may be, yet also capable of loving our offspring and giving them life-sustaining needs as opposed to deadly things) to God, who love for us is “much more.” (In this, Luke’s Jesus also sounds quite similar to Paul, whose language of “much more surely” in Romans 4-5 is worth a lifetime of contemplation.)
2. The reference to God as a father and we God’s children hearkens back to the language of the prayer itself.
3. But, notice that in the oldest manuscripts – reflected in my translation but see the KJV for what other manuscripts contain – in v. 2 there is no reference to “Father in heaven” or “may your will be done on earth as in heaven,” or a conclusion of the “kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.” So, the reference to “father out of heaven” here is a new twist to the text. 
4. The referent to ‘a holy spirit’ (there is no definite article in the text, so I am hesitant to impose what sounds like a fully developed Trinitarian assumption on it) seems to arise out of nowhere. The asking, seeking, and knocking is about bread, fish, and eggs, but not about bread, fish, and eggs. It is about a receiving a badly needed holy spirit.

If we were to outline this text, I would suggest the following.

I. The Request                                               v.1
II. The Response – a Model Prayer           vv. 2-4
III. The Disposition of the Pray-er            vv. 5-6
IV. The Disposition of the Pray-ee (1)      vv. 7-8
V. The Promise of Prayer                          vv.9-10
VI. The Disposition of the Pray-ee (2)      vv.11-13

Monday, July 11, 2016

Martha's Anxiety: Struggling alone against many things

Below is a rough translation and some initial comments regarding Luke 10:38-42, the gospel reading for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost in year C of the Revised Common Lectionary. Your comments are welcomed.

For me, a very important interpretive question I bring to the story is “What exactly is it that Jesus is addressing in his response to Martha?”  

My question arises from hearing this story presented many times as a way of dismissing those persons whose works, gifts, and vocation of hospitality are compared unfavorably to more introspective, devotional approaches to faith. In that presentation of the story, Mary seems to be the ideal disciple because she spends her time in devotion instead of activity; Martha seems to be the hysterical woman who has lost perspective; and Jesus seems to be someone who takes all of his provisions for granted. I liken that presentation of Jesus to the preacher who goes on and on about not working too hard in order to take time to listen to Jesus, only to go home and sit at a dinner without any thought to how much work went into all that fried chicken on the table.

Because hospitality is an important virtue in Middle East culture and vocation in the Reign of God, I want to approach this text with a little more sympathy to Martha and what she is experiencing. In the end, the story makes it clear that it is Mariam whom has chosen the good and necessary part. But, does that mean that sitting is better than serving? Or, is there something else at play here?

38  Ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι αὐτοὺς αὐτὸς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς κώμην τινά: γυνὴ δέ τις 
ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτόν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν.
Yet in the continuing of them he entered into a certain village; then a certain woman in name Martha welcomed him into the house. 
πορεύεσθαι : PMInf, πορεύομαι, 1) to lead over, carry over, transfer  1a) to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on  one's journey  εἰσῆλθεν: AAI 3s, εἰσέρχομαι, 1) to go out or come in: to enter 
ὑπεδέξατο : AMI, 3s, ὑποδέχομαι, 1) to receive as a guest
1. The text from does not have “into the house,” so there is a textual variation in play.
2. Martha “welcomed” Jesus and his entourage into the house. The word is used four times in the NT. In addition to here, it describes Zacchaeus when he welcomes Jesus into his house (at Jesus’ command) in Luke 19; It describes Jason, who was dragged out with his household by an angry mob for providing hospitality to Paul and Silas; and it describes Rahab’s heroic work in welcoming Israelite spies into her house and enabling them to escape when James 2 looks back at an OT story to argue that faith without works is dead. At least in this introductory sentence, Martha’s act of welcoming puts her in good company with those whose hospitality is laudable.

 39 καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαριάμ, [ἣ] καὶ παρακαθεσθεῖσα πρὸς 
τοὺς πόδας τοῦ κυρίου ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.
And to whom there was a sister who is called Mariam, [who] also having sat at the feet of the Lord, was hearing his word. 
ἦν: IAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
καλουμένη: PPPart nsf, καλέω, 1) to call 
παρακαθεσθεῖσα: APPart, nfs, παρακαθίζω,seat one's self
ἤκουεν : IAI 3s, ἀκούω, 1) to be endowed with the faculty of hearing, not deaf  2) to hear  2b) to attend to, consider what is or has been said 
1. Most translations read “she had a sister,” instead of my “to whom there was a sister.” The word τῇδε is a form of the relative pronoun ὅδε, which is in the dative case, thus “to whom.” The verb ἦν is an imperfect form of the verb ‘to be.’ Perhaps together they make a colloquial phrase “she had.”
2. There is a bit of a narrative leap between vv. 38 and 39, moving immediately from Jesus entering the house to Jesus’ ongoing act of teaching. The perfect and imperfect tenses of ‘having sat’ and ‘was hearing’ move the narrative forward quickly.
3. Mariam is sitting at Jesus’ feet. This is the only use of παρακαθίζω in the NT with the prefix παρα. The verb καθίζω (sit) itself is used often. To sit at the feet has an interesting use in Luke/Acts. In Lk. 8:35 it describes the man who had just been liberated from a legion of demons and is now in his right mind, clothed, sitting at Jesus’ feet. In Acts 22:3, Paul uses the phrase to describe himself as a disciples of Gamaliel.
4. Please note that while I am looking at this text in order to present Martha in a more sympathetic light, I am completely on board with this powerful description of Mary as a genuine disciple.

 40  δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν: ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι  ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπεν διακονεῖν; 
εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.
Yet Martha was distracted around much service; then having stood over she said, “Lord, is it not a care to you that my sister left only me to serve?  Therefore, speak to her in order that she might jointly struggle with me.” 
περιεσπᾶτο : IPI, 3s περισπάω to draw from around any one, to draw off or away. In NT passive to be drawn about in mind, hence, to be distracted, over-occupied with cares or business.
ἐπιστᾶσα : AAPart, nfs, ἐφίστημι, 1) to place at, place upon, place over  1a) to stand by, be present  1b) to stand over one, place one's self above  1b1) used esp. of persons coming upon one suddenly 
μέλει : PAI 3s, it is a care 
κατέλιπεν : AAI, 3s, καταλείπω, 1) to leave behind  1a) to depart from, leave  1a1) to be left  1b) to bid (one) to remain  1c) to forsake, leave to one's self a person or thing by  ceasing to care for it, to abandon, leave in the lurch  
διακονεῖν: PAInf, διακονέω, 1)) to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon
συναντιλάβηται: AMSubj, 3s, συναντιλαμβάνομαι, 1) to lay hold along with, to strive to obtain with others,  help in obtaining  2) to take hold with another 
1. This is the only appearance of verb περισπάω in the NT. It is translated “distracted” by the YLT, ESV, NIV, and NRSV versions of the NT; and “cumbered about” in the KJV. (The NRSV, incidentally, also uses “distracted” for a different word, μεριμνᾷς, in v.41.)
I put part of the definition of περισπάω above in italics because the statement begins with “In NT passive …” as if there were some consistent pattern behind the use of this word in the NT, when this is the one and only usage.
2. For περισπάω , the prefix περι (“peri”) means around; the stem σπάω (“spao”) means to break, according to one modern dictionary. It is the stem for the English words ‘spasm’ and ‘spastic,’ which may be suggestive here. Would it help if we translated it to say that Martha was “totally spazed with all work she had to do”? The emphasis would not be on the industry or Martha’s work itself, but on how it has discombobulated her.
3. The narrator uses ἐπιστᾶσα (“having stood over”) to describe Martha’s approach to Jesus. (See below the uses of this verb in Luke.) One effect of this verb may be to contrast Martha’s and Mary’s postures. The possibility that this verb means to come upon someone suddenly suggests an outburst or that Martha aggressively confronting Jesus.
4. Most refined translation have οὐ μέλει σοι as “Do you not care...” At this stage of a rough translation, we notice that the verb is not in the 2nd person. It is in the 3rd person voice, then the pronoun is in the 2nd person dative, thus “is it not a care to you?”
5. The verb συναντιλάβηται is interesting and I am going out on a limb here a bit by translating it as “she might jointly struggle.” It is a compound of συν- with; αντι- against; and λάβηται- which is a form of λαμβάνομαι – to take. I am reading the αντι not to mean that Martha wants Mariam to work against her, but as a way to describe the distracting ‘much serving’ as a struggle, as in ‘to take against.’ If this is right, then from Martha’s perspective, there is much to be done, not in the form of a checklist, but more in the form of a whirlwind of needs to be met. Martha wants Jesus to speak to Mariam to join her in struggling to meet those needs.

 41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ  κύριος, Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ 
θορυβάζῃ περὶ πολλά,
Yet having answered the Lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and panicked about many,
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
μεριμνᾷς : PAI, 2s, μεριμνάω, 1) to be anxious  1a) to be troubled with cares 
θορυβάζῃ : PPI, 2s disturb greatly, terrify, strike with panic
1. I love the translation of Bullinger’s description of θορυβάζῃ as “to make turbid.” I am going to use ‘turbid’ in a sentence this week.
2. While the verb θορυβάζῃ  is only used here, the related noun θόρυβος, can mean an uproar (Acts 17:5) or wailing (Mark 5:39, Matthew 9:23).  In Acts 20:10, θορυβεῖσθε, it refers to the alarm that people had over someone who had fallen from an upper story window.
3. While the verb θορυβάζῃ is only used once in the NT, the verb μεριμνάω (anxious) is used often. Among other things, Jesus uses it repeatedly in Lk.12, teaching again “worrying.” Only this is not worrying about the small stuff, the first reference in 12:11 is to those who are brought before the authorities, who have the power to bind, imprison, and execute.
4. Putting μεριμνάω and θορυβάζῃ together, this seems to indicate radical anxiety that Martha is experiencing, not just the usual busyness of hospitality. Let’s not forget that in the previous chapter, Jesus has disclosed his forthcoming death to his disciples. Twice. Whether Martha and Mary were part of that disclosure is not clear. If they were, it would lend a perilous quality to Jesus’ visit and words, would it not?

42 ἑνὸς δέ ἐστιν χρεία: Μαριὰμ γὰρ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο ἥτις οὐκ 
ἀφαιρεθήσεται αὐτῆς. 
yet one is necessary; For Mary chose the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
ἐστιν: PAI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
ἐξελέξατο : AMI 3s, ἐκλέγομαι, 1) to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one's self  
ἀφαιρεθήσεται : FPI 3s, ἀφαιρέω, 1) to take from, take away, remove, carry off 
1. The first phrase of this verse, “yet one is necessary,” should be the end of v.41, contrasting the ‘one’ with the ‘many’. Incidentally, the ESV points out that some of the early manuscripts say “few things” not “one thing.” The word “thing” is supplied here as well as with the adjective ‘many’ in most translations. 
2. It seems that “the good part” is another way of expressing ‘the one necessity among the many distracting, anxiety-ridden things.’
3. 3. Other uses of the verb ἀφαιρέω (taken away) in Luke refer to God taking away Elizabeth’s reproach for having been barren; a master taking away a steward’s job; and a disciple cutting off a soldier’s ear. The issue seems to be that Martha is trying to take away what Mary has chosen.

Martha is overwhelmed at serving Jesus and his entourage (the text begins with the plural, ‘the continuing of them’). The language of this story amps up the volume a lot. Martha is having what looks like a panic attack. Not one that is rooted in a chemical imbalance or disorder, but one that is evoked by the overwhelming expectations she is facing as the host who is welcoming Jesus and his people. She may be on the verge of losing it. She certainly sees what she is doing as a struggle and she feels completely alone in it. Until we sympathize with the genuine challenge that Martha is facing, the internal ‘riot’ that she is experiencing, then we will only dumb down this story into “Martha, Martha” as a condescending pat on the head. She’s a wreck because she is trying to respond well to what Jesus has put before her. That’s the kind of stormy anxiety that we have to identify with in Martha. I’m not saying that we have to become Martha in all of her anxiety before we can fully appreciate Mary’s sitting. I am saying that we have to appreciate Martha’s position before we critique Martha. She really is panicking about the many things. Jesus does not say that she is irrational or wrong-headed. He merely says that he will not stop Mary from her sitting and hearing.

What I don’t hear is that being busy or serving or getting things done or even rushing from this to that are, in themselves, the problem. The problem is when the distraction of the many take away the ability to capture the one, the good part.

In the end, Mary has chosen the good part out of the many things by sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing the word. She is entitled to be there and not obligated to leave there – either because of her gender or because of the real, overwhelming work that calls to be done. She has chosen the necessary part. She needs to be there. The response to Martha is evoked by her insistence that Mary likewise be distracted from her choice by the overwhelming anxieties that Martha is carrying.

Here are the uses of ἐφίστημι in Luke.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of
the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord,
and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and
immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him,
and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to
serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the
people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests
and the scribes came upon him with the elders,
And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this
life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout,
behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

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