With the fall semester looming, we’ve taken a look at our various commitments and decided to put the blog on a temporary hiatus. This is Michael’s second year of Ph. D. work and my final year in the M. Div. program. As we’ve been doing over the past several months, we will probably drop by to post from time to time, but other projects simply demand our time and creativity at the moment. We are always available for directed questions through email or phone. Thanks!
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
My wife clued me in to an online article worthy of comment. The article looks at two passages Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 in order to say that the Centurion was asking Jesus to heal his partner in a homosexual relationship. The article very badly misuses the Greek language in order to ‘prove’ that Jesus approved of the Centurion’s 'alternative lifestyle.' I don’t approve of homosexual practice, but it really grinds my corn when language gets abused to make anybody’s point. The article bases its conclusion, that Jesus approves of homosexual practice, on the use of the Greek word pais in the above passages. The most egregious comment in the article states: “But pais does not mean ‘servant.’ It means ‘lover.” I call baloney.
Allow me to justify my calling of baloney on this interpretation. It’s basic semantic range time, people.
Words have a ‘range’ of possible meanings. Consider the English word ‘trunk,’ and you’ll see a great example of a broad semantic range. It ‘means’ a lot of very different things: the back end of the car, the main axis of a tree, the nose of an elephant, a chest used to hold belongings while one travels, and so forth. The particular use of the word ‘trunk’ relies on the context in which the word occurs. Other words have a much narrower semantic range, like ‘George Washington.’ I realize it’s two words, but it refers to a single person, namely the first American president.
The same thing is true of the ancient Greek language used to write the New Testament. In the present example, the word pais is being considered. The author of the article claims that it ‘means’ lover without any consideration of the word’s semantic range. There are several ways to proceed: I could survey the lexicons from the Classical and Koine periods (boring) to show the possible range of pais’ meanings: (male or female child, servant or slave). But someone could argue for bias in the lexicons, so the more interesting way to deal with this claim is to test the article’s claim by applying their meaning of the word to various New Testament contexts in which the word appears (not boring).
Example number one: Matthew 2:16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
Here the word pais clearly refers to children two years old and under. These were obviously not homosexual partners.
Example number two: "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.”
Here the word pais is used in an Old Testament quote applied to the person of Jesus in his relationship with God the Father.
Imagine using the word 'trunk' in a similar way. If you say that trunk 'means' an elephant's nose, then confusion ensues every time you talk about the main woody axis of a tree, or when you direct your child to put his suitcase in the rear of a car. What will you pack your belongings in for a trip? A congested elephant takes up too much room, and I dare say that elephant snot is distasteful to cleanse from your laundry. Language has become absurd when semantic range is ignored.
There are other examples of pais in the New Testament, primarily in the Gospels and Acts, but you get the point. Words have a range of meaning. It may be possible that pais refers to a homosexual partner, but it is not necessarily so, unless information from the context leads to that interpretation. Of the 24 instances in the New Testament none refers to a homosexual partner and many references clearly refer to children. Thus the claim that pais means ‘lover’ is misinformed at best and intentionally misleading at worst.
Posted by Todd Frederick at 6:04 PM
Thursday, August 2, 2012
The Gospel of John is amazing. Not only for its revelation of the person of Jesus Christ, but also for its masterful literary composition. John plays with themes of light and darkness through the first half of the work, implicitly (and sometimes boldly) challenging the reader to make a choice: walk in the light or remain in darkness.
‘Walking in the light’ has become a stock phrase for Christians that means the correct understanding of God and proper application of His principles to daily life. John introduces this theme in chapter one, but then plays with it in chapters three and four. In chapter three, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and quite clearly doesn’t get it. He remains in darkness and ignorance. In chapter four, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman coming to the well to get water at high noon. Her responses indicate her growing understanding and as the conversation develops, she leaves her water bucket at the well and goes to tell her friends about Jesus! Her response indicates that she’s ‘walking in the light.’
Perhaps the most explicit contest comes when Jesus heals a blind man in John 9. The man was born blind and thus considered by many to be born in sin. His ‘inner light’ was quenched and he could not see. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding and sends the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. He returns able to see! The Pharisees (sort of like religious Grinches) are displeased and seek to explain away the miracle and discredit Jesus. The formerly blind man who is now ‘walking in the light,’ faces down the sighted Pharisees who choose to ‘walk in darkness’ and ignorance. As the chapter closes, the man worships Jesus.
John also uses the feasts and festivals to play with the theme of light and darkness. There are three named feasts in the book of John: Passover, Tabernacles and Dedication. Passover climaxes in the death of Christ, but the other two feasts prominently feature… light. In the feast of Tabernacles the Court of the Women in the Temple was illuminated by a giant oil lamp and featured a water pouring ceremony which involved … the pool of Siloam. The feast of Dedication memorialized the cleansing of the Temple. Not only was the Temple illuminated, but light featured prominently in everyone’s homes. In a literal sense, people were ‘walking in the light,’ but the metaphorical sense depends upon an individual decision. John asks, ‘what about you?’ Are you, ‘walking in the light’ or stuck in darkness? It’s a fair question and the Gospel of John deserves a close reading!
Posted by Todd Frederick at 7:30 PM
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
I find the Chick-Fil-A controversy interesting. If you’ve been living in a cabin in the woods for the past couple of weeks, the CEO Dan Cathey made a statement during an interview identifying his support for traditional marriage. Sensing a political opportunity, many sharks began circling to derive maximum benefit from a manufactured controversy. Mike Huckabee sponsored Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, when people who support: a. the right of a business owner to speak his mind or b. traditional marriage could come out to the restaurant and purchase a chicken sandwich. Some members of the gay community have decided to stage a kiss-in at Chick-Fil-A restaurants this Friday, where they go to the local restaurant and make out in public.
What I find interesting is that some members of the homosexual community just don’t get it. When they do something in public which intentionally offends other people to make their point, they lose influence among people who otherwise wouldn’t care what they do privately. There’s a lesson for Christians here as well. If our message of Christ offends someone, we don’t change the message. If our behavior intentionally offends other people, we obscure the message and dishonor our God.
Maybe one way to counteract the offensive ‘kiss-in’ is to ignore it and buy another chicken sammich. Maybe even buy one to pass along to a protester. Who knows what opportunities might come up.
Posted by Todd Frederick at 3:11 PM