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Archive for March, 2008

One thinks of the crowds thronging to Jesus because of his more dramatic performances, say, the noisy exorcisms and the healing of lingering diseases. Yet when Luke summarizes Jesus’ labors, he begins his abbreviation of the crowds’ vigor by referring to what they heard Jesus say:

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.

What words, what voice, what personal mystique must have touched them with such impressive potency? (more…)

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The careful observer of life’s nuts and bolts soon learns that he can put up with almost anything for a little while. When you can glimpse the end of pain, you become almost invincible.

So it might have seemed entirely plausible to the young enthusiasts who gathered admiringly around Jesus that they should accompany him to his destination. He had, after all, had problems in the Samaritan villages precisely because his face was set like stone for Jerusalem. Everyone knew where Jesus was headed. (more…)

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Gideon, a.k.a. Jerubaal, talks the anti-monarchic line that customarily went down well with the ancient Israelite traditions of the desert. The anti-monarchist tradition that shows its face regularly in the biblical texts finds it convenient when a heroic figure like Gideon rises up, achieves the military liberation for which the people clamor, then disappears into the rustic egalitarianism that admires a man who prefers the company of his brothers. (more…)

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Gabriel, ‘man of God’, has a busy year in the infancy narratives that represent more than any other material the writer Luke’s determination to set in order the jumbled accounts of Jesus’ life. He is twice sent to announce the unusual conception of Jewish boys. The responsive nature of his embassy as much as his suggestive name indicates that a higher power stands behind the events that begin to unfold promisingly in these lines. Gabriel, clearly, is doing as he is told. (more…)

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Unlike its pious custodians, biblical narrative that revolves around prostitutes and beggars rarely condemns its protagonists. At times they appear almost to be seers, people who glimpse what scowling passersby miss entirely. (more…)

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A young man comes close to swooning at unity’s bliss. It seems a euphoric thing, an unvariegated meeting of minds, the centering of disparate lives around a perfect truth. It is an idea with which he can fall in love, an intoxicating perfection, an abstraction that seems to him worth the whole world. (more…)

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YHWH broods darkly, both in the assessment he delivers to Moses regarding how quickly the nation will decline after its lawgiver’s death and in the song he commissions Moses to write. It is a virtual tour de force of ingratitude.

The main point is not complicated: YHWH did everything for these clueless people. They responded with breathtaking thanklessness and egotism. He will bring his sword down upon them for this. (more…)

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