Luke 9 59-62: and mixed messages about how to treat one's family.

I've been trying to read the Bible in smaller sections, trying to properly visualise what I am reading, rather than just taking it at face value. This morning my reading included Luke 9 59-62

Here is Jesus talking to a man who wants to bury his father before following him....

"Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God"

Another man asked to say goodbye to his family, before following Jesus, and Jesus responds with.

"No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

I find these two passages quite brutal. Burying a parent is such a momentous and emotional thing to do. Often you are saying goodbye to someone who has filled your world for decades. How can Jesus ask someone to walk away from doing that? And as for just marching off and following Jesus, without any explanation or goodbye to your family, I think that is abominable. What are the family to think? That they have just been deserted out of the blue, for no reason? Probably they will start to make up reasons, like maybe the man was having an affair and has run off with someone younger and more attractive? They will then have to come to terms with the fact that the breadwinner has gone, leaving them to fend for themselves....

I feel this is all nonsense, rather than sense, and would welcome some different perspectives.
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Comments

  • I've heard it suggested that "bury my father" was an idiom, that the man's father was not yet dead and he wanted to wait until he had inherited and was head of the household.

    I've got nothing on the second passage, I'm afraid.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited October 19
    I started a thread about this a while back, and as I recall, there were numerous attempts to minimize the harshness of Jesus' command to skip the fineral. The one I remember best was someone saying that Jesus somehow knew that the guy's real reason for wanting to bury his father was to get the inheritance(some sort of "oldest son" thing, I believ") so the real message was not "me or your family", but rather "me or your future fortune", which obviously jibes a little better with conventional ideas of morality.

    I personally didn't find the apologia all that convincing, since even if we go with that interpretation of Jesus' knowledge, the fact reamins he was still telling the guy to behave in a fashion that would be incredibly taboo at the time(or now, for that matter), regardless of his private motivations.

    Plus, there doesn't seem to be any financial motivation for the other guy to say good-bye to his family, thus seeming to suggest that Jesus really WAS saying "Your loved-ones count for jack-shit, buddy". Which raises some uncomfortable questions about his state of mind at the time, eg. Did he think that families weren't worth worrying about because he believed the world would soon be coming to an end?
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    On a whimsical note, I've always thought it would be funny to have "Let the dead bury themselves" as the scripture reading at my funeral.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    I have heard it said that the burial practices of the time involved a two-stage process. The initial internment was to be done before the sun set on the day that he died, and the bones of the deceased would be placed in an ossuary about a year later.. It is not clear to me how solemn the second stage was seen as being. So I genuinely don't know whether the way to read this passage is as a call of urgency for the kingdom or a rebuke for "I've got a few things to rinse out" kind of excuses. My suspicion is that it may be a bit of both.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    I have heard it said that the burial practices of the time involved a two-stage process. The initial internment was to be done before the sun set on the day that he died, and the bones of the deceased would be placed in an ossuary about a year later.. It is not clear to me how solemn the second stage was seen as being.

    That interpretation kind of reminds me of the old chestnut about "the eye of the needle" being a narrow gate near Jerusalem. Which is obviously meant to make the passage in question a more comfortable read for rich people, rather than the stunning rebuke to wealth that it would be otherwise.

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    My first post on this thread was made before I had read Arethosemyfeet's. My post can be read as a reply to his, since he's saying the same thing as the other people were saying when this came up earlier.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 19
    IIRC, there is a 'Jewish hyperbole' about some of Jesus' teachings, which was common practice amongst Rabbis - that is to say, points were made by saying impossible/improbable things, in order to reinforce what was being taught...

    ...IYSWIM.

    I'm not sure how this might work with these two quoted examples...
  • @Arethosemyfeet @stetson @tclune

    Many thanks for your ideas regarding Jesus's urging that the man not stay for his father's burial. I had never heard any of these proposals before. Certainly if the man's tie to his father under these circumstances was more financial than a case of honouring him - that would make a difference.

    Even so, that fact that these two episodes are so close together, suggests a sort of shared urgency for both of them.

    I see that early in the next chapter Jesus says "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." Maybe this is relevant as to why Jesus may be encouraging people to follow him urgently?
  • @Bishops Finger

    That is an extremely interesting point! Thank you.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited October 19
    ^^^

    So, how would the scenes play out with the Jewish hyperbole factor at work?

    JESUS: No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

    MAN: Huh? So, I can't say good-bye to my family?

    JESUS: Oh no, you can say good-bye, I'm just kind of making a general point about how important the Kingdom Of God is. Go back, say good-bye, and catch up with us later.


    And why would Jesus pick that particular situation to make that point, if he didn't really want the guy to skip the farewells? It's not like there's really a third option between "saying good-bye" and "not saying good-bye".


  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 19
    It's rather off the top of my head, so to say, and I can't really give any useful references, but this link might help:
    https://tentmaker.org/Biblematters/hyperbole.htm

    I emphasise that I don't believe Our Blessed Lord was saying anything untoward, wrong, or whatever - just that we need to take into account the context, and that Hebrew works/worked rather differently, in some respects, to modern English!
  • Later in the Gospel, Luke relates a different set of sayings that are somewhat similar
    "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple"
    Luke 14:26
    I happened to be preaching a month ago when that came up in the lectionary. My sermon was a challenge to radically transform our lives, to form something new (I also had Jeremiah at the potters seeing a different pot take shape). That at least requires us to question the very deepest of the conventions of society, to ask whether they're compatible with following Christ. The Luke 14 passage brings the social conventions of love and care for our family into question, whether we should bury our dead is similar. What is it that distracts us from the gospel and the task Christ puts on us, the cross we all have to bear?
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    I think the "Jewish hyperbole" argument would work a bit better if the passages had involved Jesus reciting poetry, rather than the passages purporting to be examples of actual interactions he had with people.

    Of course, it could be that the passages themselves are poetry, or at least, fictional accounts of Jesus' actions, with hyperbolic details meant to illustrate the relative importance he attached to certain things. But your willingness to accept this might depend on how much of a literalist you are.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 19
    Thank you, @Alan Cresswell , for illuminating wot I just sed...!

    Jewish hyperbole, again...
    :grin:
  • stetson wrote: »
    ^^^

    So, how would the scenes play out with the Jewish hyperbole factor at work?

    JESUS: No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

    MAN: Huh? So, I can't say good-bye to my family?

    JESUS: Oh no, you can say good-bye, I'm just kind of making a general point about how important the Kingdom Of God is. Go back, say good-bye, and catch up with us later.


    And why would Jesus pick that particular situation to make that point, if he didn't really want the guy to skip the farewells? It's not like there's really a third option between "saying good-bye" and "not saying good-bye".


    Could it be that the story is for us - those who read the Bible - rather than being an historical rendition of what actually happened?
  • It's rather off the top of my head, so to say, and I can't really give any useful references, but this link might help:
    https://tentmaker.org/Biblematters/hyperbole.htm

    Absolutely fascinating. I have copied and pasted that article for future reference. So very helpful. Thank you!
  • Later in the Gospel, Luke relates a different set of sayings that are somewhat similar
    "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple"
    Luke 14:26
    I happened to be preaching a month ago when that came up in the lectionary. My sermon was a challenge to radically transform our lives, to form something new (I also had Jeremiah at the potters seeing a different pot take shape). That at least requires us to question the very deepest of the conventions of society, to ask whether they're compatible with following Christ. The Luke 14 passage brings the social conventions of love and care for our family into question, whether we should bury our dead is similar. What is it that distracts us from the gospel and the task Christ puts on us, the cross we all have to bear?

    Gosh, I am so glad I bought up this issue before encountering the Luke 14:26 verse!

    Thank you very much for explaining how you see this. I found what you had to say made a lot of sense. A lot of things are beginning to fall into place....
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited October 19
    Later in the Gospel, Luke relates a different set of sayings that are somewhat similar
    "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple"
    Luke 14:26
    I happened to be preaching a month ago when that came up in the lectionary. My sermon was a challenge to radically transform our lives, to form something new (I also had Jeremiah at the potters seeing a different pot take shape). That at least requires us to question the very deepest of the conventions of society, to ask whether they're compatible with following Christ. The Luke 14 passage brings the social conventions of love and care for our family into question, whether we should bury our dead is similar. What is it that distracts us from the gospel and the task Christ puts on us, the cross we all have to bear?

    I think that passage is an example where the hyperbole argument works better. In fact, I can imagine people these days talking that way, in a situation perceived as urgent.

    A: You need to come into the office this Saturday, we're WAY behind thanks to your screw-ups last week!

    B: But that's the day of my kids' soccer-game.

    A: F*ck your klds! You shoulda used birth-control!! Now I better you see in here at 9 o'clock sharp on Saturday!


    Obviously, the boss isn't literally saying he should have used birth control, just telling him his kids aren't the important concern in this situation.

    I don't think the hyperbole reading works as well in the "burying my dad" or "saying good-bye" passages, because those are situations where you would just tell the person exactly what you want them to do.



  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 19
    Ah - I cross-posted somewhat with @stetson , who makes some interesting points.

    Over to the rest of you, as to how those points are interpreted!
    :grin:
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    ^^^

    So, how would the scenes play out with the Jewish hyperbole factor at work?

    JESUS: No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

    MAN: Huh? So, I can't say good-bye to my family?

    JESUS: Oh no, you can say good-bye, I'm just kind of making a general point about how important the Kingdom Of God is. Go back, say good-bye, and catch up with us later.


    And why would Jesus pick that particular situation to make that point, if he didn't really want the guy to skip the farewells? It's not like there's really a third option between "saying good-bye" and "not saying good-bye".


    Could it be that the story is for us - those who read the Bible - rather than being an historical rendition of what actually happened?

    Indeed. Like I said at 1:09 AM, the stories make more sense if they're just hyperbloic fiction meant to drive home Jesus' values.

    (Though they also make sense if they're literally true, and portraying the worldview of someone with a highly elevated sense of his own importance.)

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Another thing that has to be said is that if Jesus really did tell the one guy to skip saying good-bye to his family, and the other guy to skip the old man's funeral, than Jesus was a bit of a hypocrite. Because on the cross, he seemed pretty concerned about making sure that his mother was well-cared for.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    tclune wrote: »
    I have heard it said that the burial practices of the time involved a two-stage process. The initial internment was to be done before the sun set on the day that he died, and the bones of the deceased would be placed in an ossuary about a year later.. It is not clear to me how solemn the second stage was seen as being.

    That interpretation kind of reminds me of the old chestnut about "the eye of the needle" being a narrow gate near Jerusalem. Which is obviously meant to make the passage in question a more comfortable read for rich people, rather than the stunning rebuke to wealth that it would be otherwise.

    I must say that I find no sense whatsoever in your view here. We know that the standard practice was to bury the dead on the day that they died, before sunset. The notion that the father had died that day and the son had the time to go to an event with Jesus rather beggars credulity, wouldn't you say? Given that we know that ossuaries were in common use, and we know pretty much how they were used, the "old chestnut" actually aligns with known facts -- which is a circumstance sorely lacking in the eye of the needle canard. Whether those facts throw any light on the Biblical story is a matter to be decided, but the notion that they aren't actually facts is just absurd.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    tclune wrote: »
    I have heard it said that the burial practices of the time involved a two-stage process. The initial internment was to be done before the sun set on the day that he died, and the bones of the deceased would be placed in an ossuary about a year later.. It is not clear to me how solemn the second stage was seen as being.

    That interpretation kind of reminds me of the old chestnut about "the eye of the needle" being a narrow gate near Jerusalem. Which is obviously meant to make the passage in question a more comfortable read for rich people, rather than the stunning rebuke to wealth that it would be otherwise.

    I must say that I find no sense whatsoever in your view here. We know that the standard practice was to bury the dead on the day that they died, before sunset. The notion that the father had died that day and the son had the time to go to an event with Jesus rather beggars credulity, wouldn't you say? Given that we know that ossuaries were in common use, and we know pretty much how they were used, the "old chestnut" actually aligns with known facts -- which is a circumstance sorely lacking in the eye of the needle canard. Whether those facts throw any light on the Biblical story is a matter to be decided, but the notion that they aren't actually facts is just absurd.

    Did the man meet Jesus as a result of going to an "event"?

    The exchange is part of a series of encounters that Jesus and his followers had "as they went in the way", which seems to suggest that he met the man by chance, not that the man had deliberately sought Jesus out.

    And anyway, I didn't say that it couldn't have been an ossuary burial: by "interpretation", I meant your speculation that the placement in an ossuary might not be such a big deal. I'd kind of assume that this burial, of whatever kind it was, would be a big deal, otherwise, what would be the point of relating a story where Jesus tells someone to skip it?

    Luke 9

    (relevant passages near the bottom)



  • caroline444caroline444 Shipmate
    edited October 19
    caroline444 Could it be that the story is for us - those who read the Bible - rather than being an historical rendition of what actually happened?

    stetson wrote: »
    Indeed. Like I said at 1:09 AM, the stories make more sense if they're just hyperbloic fiction meant to drive home Jesus' values.

    (Though they also make sense if they're literally true, and portraying the worldview of someone with a highly elevated sense of his own importance.)

    I'll go with the idea of hyperbolic fiction. In fact the extremes of the suggestions made in this verse lend themselves to it now seeming obvious......especially in the light of what Alan Cresswell said about Luke 14:26
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    This kind of thing reminds me of the jokes and cartoons about the Hebrew Scriptures:
    "You don't think people might take this literally, do you Moses?"
    "Oh come on! Of course not! How could they be so stupid?"
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited October 19
    I have no problem reading it as hyperbole. It seems to me that Jesus is making a point about making excuses, about putting off following him. (And is part of the point that following him is more about how we live than physically accompanying him? Notice that Jesus says to the man who wants to bury his father “go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” not “come now or don’t come at all.”)

    I can easily imagine the sentence recorded being followed with “and what will be the next excuse? When the kids grow up? When you’re financially secure? When you retire? I’m calling you to abundant life now. Don’t put it off; follow me now.”

    I hear echoes here of this offering from a group of singing nuns*, based on the parable Luke records just before the verse that @Alan Cresswell cited about hating family.

    *With a nod to @Amanda B Reckondwyth :wink:

  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Isn't the point, though, that we aren't talking about following Christ in the generic sense of 'being a Christian', but in the literal sense of 'following a prophet round the country living off charity and antagonising the authorities, who have no qualms about making their point with a cross'?

    In other words, it's something you really SHOULDN'T be doing if you have family commitments ...
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Isn't the point, though, that we aren't talking about following Christ in the generic sense of 'being a Christian', but in the literal sense of 'following a prophet round the country living off charity and antagonising the authorities, who have no qualms about making their point with a cross'?
    I’m not sure it so clear we’re talking about literal following around the countryside. Again, Jesus’s directive for following is “go,” not “come.” And I can’t help but wonder if there’s meaning in letting the “dead”—meaning those not in Christ?—bury the literal dead.

    Or to put it another way, I’m not so sure physical and spiritual following aren’t both being talked about here.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Jesus emphases the equality of Christian relationships with family relationships when He says, 'Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother' (Matt 12: 48-50).

    But He also criticises the Pharisees for their failure to honour their parents according to the commandments by their misuse of Corban (Matt 15: 1-9; Deut 5: 6-21).
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Ricardus wrote: »
    Isn't the point, though, that we aren't talking about following Christ in the generic sense of 'being a Christian', but in the literal sense of 'following a prophet round the country living off charity and antagonising the authorities, who have no qualms about making their point with a cross'?
    I’m not sure it so clear we’re talking about literal following around the countryside. Again, Jesus’s directive for following is “go,” not “come.” And I can’t help but wonder if there’s meaning in letting the “dead”—meaning those not in Christ?—bury the literal dead.

    Or to put it another way, I’m not so sure physical and spiritual following aren’t both being talked about here.

    I dunno, I can't see anything in that section that suggests anything other than literal following.

    The guy in v57 says 'I will follow you wherever you go', which implies literal following, and if the guy in v61 needs to say goodbye to his family, that also implies he was literally following Jesus instead of being with his family.

    Maybe I am Mr Cynical, but I think there's a tendency to assume that every verse in the Gospels is primarily intended as material for a Sunday sermon, and that every verse is therefore relevant to the immediate situation of the congregation. I'd say it probably isn't, unless some member of the congregation has decided that what the Lord really wants him to do is go off to Brazil and shelter street children, or similar.
  • @Nick Tamen I found all of that very helpful - including the You Tube song by the singing nuns....
  • Timo PaxTimo Pax Shipmate
    This is a note pretty commonly struck in early saints' lives as well, though: the martyr-to-be's pagan family begging tgem not to be so obdurate, holding out their family commitments as ties, and so forth. St. Perpetua's is the only name I can recall at the moment, but she's far from the only example of this.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    edited October 20
    stetson wrote: »
    And anyway, I didn't say that it couldn't have been an ossuary burial: by "interpretation", I meant your speculation that the placement in an ossuary might not be such a big deal. I'd kind of assume that this burial, of whatever kind it was, would be a big deal, otherwise, what would be the point of relating a story where Jesus tells someone to skip it?
    I would not disagree that Jesus' words were a big deal. The point at issue was that they seem uniquely brutal when viewed from our current perspective. The question posed by the OP AIUI was whether they were as harsh as they sounded or whether they may have existed in a context that has been lost over the centuries, making them less cruel than how they strike us today. My remarks were intended to suggest such a context, that may bring their severity more in line with the rest of Christ's exhortations and critiques. FWIW, I am not raising up an interpretation so much as a possibility. I don't know what was the real context, and I am not pretending to know.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    I think it's a bit like that Zen koan about 'if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him' - you don't need to be an apologist for Zen Buddhism to think it's probably not meant to be taken at face value, simply because it seems out of kilter with the other things Zen Buddhists say.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    And anyway, I didn't say that it couldn't have been an ossuary burial: by "interpretation", I meant your speculation that the placement in an ossuary might not be such a big deal. I'd kind of assume that this burial, of whatever kind it was, would be a big deal, otherwise, what would be the point of relating a story where Jesus tells someone to skip it?
    I would not disagree that Jesus' words were a big deal. The point at issue was that they seem uniquely brutal when viewed from our current perspective. The question posed by the OP AIUI was whether they were as harsh as they sounded or whether they may have existed in a context that has been lost over the centuries, making them less cruel than how they strike us today. My remarks were intended to suggest such a context, that may bring their severity more in line with the rest of Christ's exhortations and critiques. FWIW, I am not raising up an interpretation so much as a possibility. I don't know what was the real context, and I am not pretending to know.

    Excellent t. Including your previous comment about the re-burial. There is no way any Jesus told anyone to not go to their father's funeral on the day of his death or not even tell the missus and kids that he was abandoning them.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited October 20
    Unless Jesus is referencing the call of Elisha who did wait to say farewell to his parents before he followed Elijah (1 Kings 19: 20). Then the text may be making the point that NT discipleship is the call of the many rather than the few and underlining the urgency of the proclamation of the kingdom.

    I was very interested by Nick Tamen's points especially his suggestion that the 'dead who bury the dead' are not the actual dead but the spiritual dead.

    However, in the Book of Tobit the burial of the dead is highlighted as the moral deed of the righteous. And was combined with the words of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats to produce the list of the seven acts of Christian mercy by the medieval church.
  • I can't see why this isn't prophetic hyperbole. I also can't see why every word of Jesus's has to be teaching. This is ecclesiastical desperation projected back onto a real person talking to other real people. If I say to someone "knock yourself out", I'm not expecting concussion to result. If I say "they might just be better off dead", I'm probably trying to point out that what they are proposing to do is seriously stupid. Why must every word ever attributed to Jesus be literally applicable as a nice little improving saying?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited October 20
    Two thousand years later we are left wondering at times, 'What did Jesus really mean here?'

    And what did St Paul really mean here? (What is 'the baptism of the dead,' for a start).

    There are all the factors of Jesus' use of Aramaic figures of speech and hyperbole. And the linguistic translation of Aramaic into NT Greek and then into modern English. And the different historical and cultural contexts which separate us from C1st Palestine. So these can leave us with a gap in meaning which is hard to bridge. But very interesting to explore and well worth unpacking. They can reveal embedded cultural contextualisations in the texts.

    However, there is no doubt that in SOM Jesus intentionally reprioritised the Law to a different moral standard. And He may be doing the same thing here because the cost of discipleship is a key theme of the gospels. In the story of the Rich Young Ruler Jesus challenges the would-be disciples' particular attachment to material wealth. But family responsibilities can also be cited as a reason not to pursue the spiritual path.

    In the story of the denarius Jesus settled the dilemma pragmatically by saying 'Render unto Caesar what is due to Caesar and unto God what is due to God.' And in the Golden Rule He summarised the entire meaning of the Law and the commandments as the duty to love God and your neighbour as yourself. My own understanding would be that when you place God at the centre of your life then everything else falls into its proper place.
  • Why must every word ever attributed to Jesus be literally applicable as a nice little improving saying?
    I'd certainly agree that not everything should be automatically assumed to be "literally applicable as a nice little improving saying". But, the words we have in the Gospels were chosen by the Early Church as being important, so I also don't think we can easily dismiss them - even if we can't see what the Church saw in them. A lot of the time, IMO, what we have isn't teaching, rather it's challenge.

    As I said earlier, my sermon on a similar saying was that this challenges our priorities, and especially those determined by social norms and expectations. The word hyperbole has been used several times in this thread, and quite rightly IMO. There are lots of things in this world which are good and righteous, including love and care for family (including making sure there's a respectful farewell - in a funeral or when just going away for a while). But, if we're really putting following Christ as our priority then anything that gets in the way of that is a problem.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The gospels are quite sparse and unadorned texts. So you do have to add a commentary to then to understand the full meaning.

    The evangelists were writing for a C1st audience and assume a knowledge of the contemporary culture and language that we don't now have. So you have to factor that into your hermeneutic too.

    The Church historically constructed its doctrine by letting scripture interpret scripture and basing orthodox belief upon the consensus of meaning rather than the anomalous texts ('I did not come to bring peace but a sword'). But the anomalies can be quite revealing if you analyse what you think they are doing there.

    Scripture is also an ongoing revelation and so the Church revisits it from time to time to revise its theology and practice on the light of contemporary culture. Pseudo Paul says that Christian women have a choice between long hair and no hair. And as late as the 1970s women would wear hats to church. But modern society regards hair and hats as being incidental to the life of faith.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    I can't see why this isn't prophetic hyperbole. I also can't see why every word of Jesus's has to be teaching. This is ecclesiastical desperation projected back onto a real person talking to other real people. If I say to someone "knock yourself out", I'm not expecting concussion to result. If I say "they might just be better off dead", I'm probably trying to point out that what they are proposing to do is seriously stupid.

    In order for the comparison with "knock yourself out" to work, that phrase would have to be used as hyperbole, not metaphor, which is how Jeses was allegedly using the commands to ship the burial and the farewells(ie. as hyperbole).

    Telling the guy to skip the burial wasn't a symbol for an entirely different thing(eg. skip the burial really means don't eat pork), it was an exaggerated way of telling him that burying his father isn't that important. IOW, by the standards of conventional morality, then and now, he was being pretty damned offensive.

    And, again, it's not clear to me why Jesus would use that kind of command in an actual conversation. It would be the equivalent of parents saying to their son "We're too poor to give you any presents for your birthday this year", when what they really meant was "You're not goint to be getting as many nice things as last year". Hyperbole generally isn't used in those sorts of situations, unless it's the case that the listener would automatically understand that it wasn't meant literally.

    Which maybe is how Jesus was using it in those passages, but then, are we to assume that the guy just went back to the burial anyway, because he knew Jesus didn't mean it literally, and was just trying to impart the lesson that family isn't that important?

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Ricardus wrote: »
    I think it's a bit like that Zen koan about 'if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him' - you don't need to be an apologist for Zen Buddhism to think it's probably not meant to be taken at face value, simply because it seems out of kilter with the other things Zen Buddhists say.

    I would think, though, that that koan is meant to impart the idea that the actual person of Buddha is really not that important at all to the practice of Buddhism. The monk who came up with that was expressing contempt for the idea that Buddha is a figure who should be in any way revered by his followers.

    Is that the same sort of thing that Jesus was saying about family loyalties, ie. they are irrelevant, even detrimental, to living a Christian life? I could go along with that idea, based on the text, but there does seem to be some resistance to it, on this thread and elsewhere.


  • So much of scripture seems to me to be redacted and de-contextualized.

    Boy wants to bury his father.

    Jesus says "let the others do the burying, you go and be the bearer of the Good News."

    It just seems to me that Jesus is saying that boy has a different role to play in the funeral proceedings.

    Ditto with hand to the plough.

    Boy wants to join Jesus' disciples. He has stuff he has to set to rights at home and farewells to make.

    Without doing this, he will always be looking in the rear view.

    ISTM Jesus is saying "Yeah go do that because you will be useless to us if you don't"

    AFF

  • Rublev wrote: »
    The gospels are quite sparse and unadorned texts. So you do have to add a commentary to then to understand the full meaning.

    The evangelists were writing for a C1st audience and assume a knowledge of the contemporary culture and language that we don't now have. So you have to factor that into your hermeneutic too.

    The Church historically constructed its doctrine by letting scripture interpret scripture and basing orthodox belief upon the consensus of meaning rather than the anomalous texts ('I did not come to bring peace but a sword'). But the anomalies can be quite revealing if you analyse what you think they are doing there.

    Scripture is also an ongoing revelation and so the Church revisits it from time to time to revise its theology and practice on the light of contemporary culture. Pseudo Paul says that Christian women have a choice between long hair and no hair. And as late as the 1970s women would wear hats to church. But modern society regards hair and hats as being incidental to the life of faith.

    Wonderful points raised....I was especially interested in what you said in the third paragraph, about 'basing orthodox belief upon the consensus of meaning rather than the anomalous texts', and the example you gave about the sword. I also liked what you said about analysing those anomalies - which is what we are doing here. It is very interesting.
  • I can't see why this isn't prophetic hyperbole. I also can't see why every word of Jesus's has to be teaching. This is ecclesiastical desperation projected back onto a real person talking to other real people. If I say to someone "knock yourself out", I'm not expecting concussion to result. If I say "they might just be better off dead", I'm probably trying to point out that what they are proposing to do is seriously stupid. Why must every word ever attributed to Jesus be literally applicable as a nice little improving saying?

    As a comparative newbie, reading a Bible where all Jesus's words are in a red font, there does seem quite a lot of pressure to see most his words as stern teaching. It has been extremely refreshing (& liberating?) to question this, with the help of this thread.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    In C16th England the cultural view of women's dress was still in agreement with the NT view. And this is reflected in the figures of speech in the English language. A respectable Elizabethan woman only wore her hair down once upon her wedding day when it was her 'crowning glory.' To wear it down and uncovered on any other occasion was to be seen as a 'loose' woman. Loose hair was literally equated with loose morals. It is only fairly recently in Western society that cultural attitudes have changed.
  • caroline444caroline444 Shipmate
    edited October 20
    Gosh, that's fascinating.... I know that even when I was a youngster, it would have been considered very rude to go into a Catholic church without some sort of head covering...
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    There is an ongoing dialogue between scripture and contemporary culture. And in regard to the essentials and in essentials of faith. Jesus was quite radical in His broad minded acceptance. He had the longest recorded conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well whom His disciples didn't think He should be talking to at all. (And nor did she to begin with). He was willing to enter the house of a Gentile Roman centurion. He invited Himself to have a meal with the outcast Zaccheus. And He opened the doors of Paradise to the repentant Dismas.

    (Forgive us our tangents - as we forgive those who tangent against us).
  • Those tangents were hugely welcome!
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Given that Jesus is so remarkably tolerant and inclusive within the terms of His culture I think that should inform our hermeneutic of His words - even of His 'hard sayings.' Jesus was never angry with sinners and even refused to condemn the woman taken in adultery. He was only critical of those who thought that they were not sinners and rejected His offer of salvation.
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