Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Matthew 9-12

Matthew 9-12

Jesus continues his healing tour and rounds out his apostile line up.

Is there a timeframe that is given anywhere that tells us how long Jesus was wandering around healing people and collecting his entourage?  From the reading so far I get the impression that is was over a very short period of time.

10:32 to 10:38 is the classic 'I don't come in peace, I come with a sword" line that many Atheists like to use against the peaceful Jesus.  Sadly (to some, but not me), within the context of the rest of the chapter, it fits and is not the horrible statement it's made out to be.  It's not nice, more Old Testament like actually.

Jesus gives his men marching orders and lets them know that it's going to be a rough job and some of them aren't going to be coming back.
To paraphrase Jesus, 'Don't fear the men that will destroy your body.  Fear me, the man who will destroy your body AND soul!
I'm guessing some of them are now wishing they had stayed on the boat.  ;-)

John the Baptist, still sitting in prison, sends out his own disciples to check in on Jesus.  I got the impression that maybe John was having second thoughts on Jesus being the messiah.  Did he think that Jesus couldn't possibly be doing all these great things,  or was there some professional jealousy going on?

I find chapter 12 very interesting in that Jesus had earlier stated that men should keep the laws of Moses;

5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven...
And yet not working on the sabbath isn't important anymore.  I believe that killing the man for collecting wood on the sabbath was the first judgement that man did in defense of the 10 commandments.  Can someone explain the seeming contradiction?

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  1. Most estimates on the length of Jesus' ministry end up to be around three years, give or take a year. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tend to arrange their material topically or geographically (i.e., all the stuff Jesus did in this region, followed by the stuff he did over here, apart from chronology), giving the impression that Jesus ministered for a short time. Those who are aware of cultural markers (timing of religious festivals, etc.) read John, though, and note that Jesus made at least two annual trips to Jerusalem. So, the time was relatively short, but it's to be measured in years, not months.

    As to the Sabbath stuff, some Christians have continued to keep it, though in a different way. For example, Reformed Christians (like me) have understood the Mosaic law to be divided into three divisions: moral, civil, and ceremonial (like Adam explained in an earlier post). While most of the regulations given in the Pentateuch are considered to fall in the latter two categories, Reformed Christians consider the Fourth Commandment to have abiding moral implications for our lives. Different people will disagree on specific applications, since the New Testament doesn't break it down as clearly as the rest of the Ten Commandments, but the point is that at least some Christians do away with the "contradiction" by believing that God never abolished the Sabbath principle.

    In that interpretation, Matthew 12 doesn't contradict anything. If you remember the OT regulations for the Sabbath (and, hey, who doesn't have all those memorized!), God never forbade what the disciples were doing. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus and his disciples were breaking their traditions that would later be codified in the Mishnah (this same thing will come up again in chapter 15). Jesus, then, isn't negating the OT; instead, he's setting the Pharisees straight about what the law is actually teaching. The problem isn't with the OT, but with the Pharisees' interpretation of it. According to Jesus, true piety begins with faith and repentance, not outward conformity to non-biblical tradition.

    And, of course, don't miss how the story ends. By claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus is making a pretty clear claim at his deity.

  2. More good stuff - Jesus is definitely rolling now.
    3 notable verses in chapter 9  - 9:6 he declares power to forgive sins, 9:18 the "certain ruler" predicts that Jesus will raise his daughter from the dead (the ruler seems kinda magick his own self!), 9:27 two blind men follow him, indicating that Jesus was a slow, very loud walker.
    A sequence in chapter 11 left me a liitle mystified: 11:14 "And if ye will receive [it], this is Elias, which was for to come" - this seems to be immaterial to the verses immediately preceding and succeeding. I peeked ahead, and Elias appears several more times, but I can't remember why. Any insights?  

  3. @Skepticali,

    "Elias" is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name "Elijah" (modern translations reflect this). The Old Testament ends with a promise that he will return before the coming of the Lord (Malachi 4:4-5). This was fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist, who paved the way for Jesus' ministry.

  4. @Christian - thanks ... Is there a reason they don't align these? I'm reading KJV - maybe other versions attempt to eliminate the mismatch?

  5. Skepticali,

    There are prophecies in the OT about Elijah aka Elias Malachi 4:5,6. Also John gets Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 This is in context because it's those prophecies which were foretold by the prophets and Jesus is letting the listeners know that they have been fulfilled. My question is how many of them received it?

    See also Luke 1:16,17

    A large crowed followed Jesus around, makes it easy to know where he is. :-D

  6. @Skepticali,

    I'm not sure why they didn't match up the names. Virtually every English translation in the past one hundred years does read "Elijah" instead of "Elias" here.

  7. @Christian,

    It's the translation technique used. All the modern translations do dynamic equivalence. (aka worthless man's opinion on what they think Gods' Word should say). The KJV used formal equivalence (we give you the best English word for this Hebrew/Greek word.) Elias is Greek name for Elijah in the Greek text of the NT. Some things are just transliterated this being one of the words/names. Well that is what i have read. :-D

    There is a false religion today that this tripped up. :-D

    Mark 9:13

  8. @Edward,

    In English, Elijah's Hebrew name would be pronounced "ay-lee-YAH-hu." A very literal rendering of Elijah's name into Greek would look something like "Eliau" (there is no letter in the Greek alphabet that corresponds to the English "h").

    The Jewish translation of the OT into Greek, called the Septuagint, translates Elijah's name two different ways: Eliou and Elias. The first form is used 84 times, and the second form is used 38 times. It's worth noting that Elias is the form used in the translation of Malachi, which Jesus is obviously alluding to in Matthew 12. So, since the first people to read the Gospels in the first century would have been familiar with the Septuagint, and since they probably would have been familiar with the passage in Malachi, it would have made sense to call him "Elias." Why the KJV translators stuck with it is a different question!

    Also, not all modern translations follow dynamic equivalence. There are several produced within the last fifty years alone that follow formal equivalence (English Standard Version, New American Standard, etc.).

    This is neither the time nor the place to discuss translation theory, but I do think it's worth pointing out that all translation involves fallible human opinion. Even if we grew up speaking Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, we would still have options as to how we would understand the original words of the Bible.

  9. @Christian,

    Thanks for the added info, as for the ESV and NASV check what they used for their source. And you are correct This is neither the time nor the place to discuss translation theory Especially seeing that publishers have produced an average of two new versions of the English Bible each year since 1900. You can even read the lol cat bible. So you don't even need to know Hebrew/Greek, just have a computer and some space on the internet.

    I encourage you to study more on this, maybe we can discuss it sometime.

  10. re: 10:38 "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me."
    I'm sure I remember reading recently (can't remember where) that this passage is thought not to have been part of the original gospel, but added later by an editor wanting to emphasize the whole divinity/resurrection theme.
    The reason given was that, at this point in Matthew, there has been no mention of the crucifixion, so the reference to the cross would have no meaning to the disciples.

  11. @Dorothy,
    That's an interesting conjecture, but there's no evidence to support it. It also assumes that the Gospels underwent a redaction process, an assumption that relies entirely on presuppositions and is without any hard evidence.