procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Herod Chiasm (Luke 23.7-11)

in contrasting Mark with Luke and the Pilate account (Mark 15.1-15, Luke 23.1-25), what is noticeable is the absence in Mark of the Herod account in the middle of the Pilate narrative (Luke 23.7-11).

The 'sandwich' technique is well known in the gospels, placing one story within another, perhaps to emphasise the centre, or even just to enhance memory in retelling the passage.

In Luke it seems both the Pilate and Herod accounts are important, but for different reasons. With Pilate, the flow of the narrative is what stands out: the mounting innocence of Jesus but the guilt of Barabbas. The Herod account however wishes to emphasise Jesus' innocence, but the guilt of the scribes and chief priests - and this is what the following chiasm reveals:

A 23.7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod...

B     8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him...

C         9 So he questioned him at some length,

D             but he made no answer.
D’             10 And the chief priests and the scribes stood by,

C’         vehemently accusing him.

B’     11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him.

A’ Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate.

Thematically, we see:
A: To Herod
A': From Herod

B: Herod's joy at Jesus
B': Herod's contempt at Jesus

C: Questioning Jesus
C': Accusing Jesus

D: No intervention from Jesus
D': No intervention from the scribes

like some chiasm action? get some more here!

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

sunset or scum?

we were given a couple of marriage books - one good friend gave us The Good Marriage, we bought Married for God, but at the moment we're reading one another good friend gave us, The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason (Multnomah, CO: 2005).

what i was challenged about most recently was the way we think about people. chatting with someone about the work they used to do, i was taken back to hear the language used to describe their clients. sure, they were repeat offenders, you could even say stupid in their actions, but there is still a way you talk about fellow human beings, recognising their value as worthy of value and honour and respect, due not to themselves, but to their createdness, to their being God's image bearer.

but when reality kicks in, we see this doesn't shape our actions and our time - i would much rather walk in the forest, watch a sunset, watch nature documentary - than hang out in a dodgy venue in King's Cross, at night in the back streets of Macquarie Fields, in any number of the world's slums and ghettoes.

Mason writes:
The conclusion is inescapable, that to be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset.
[T]here is nothing in the New Testament about beautiful sunsets. The heart of biblical theology is a man hanging on a cross, not a breathtaking scene from nature. For the Bible is centrally concerned with love, and the wonders of nature [...] touch only remotely on love. We cannot really love a sunset; we can love only a person.

pp46-47. emphasis added.

create in me a new heart, o Lord, that i might see things as you see them.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Robert Alter - Illustrated

two translations of Robert Alter have been all the rage at college - The David Story (1&2 Samuel) and this year his translation of the Psalms.

the psalms is particularly good - his translation methodology is admirable - particularly the way he strives for terseness, in homage to the underlying Hebrew.

he has also written a great book the art of biblical narrative and translated Genesis

last year however i read an article he'd written in the New Republic called Scripture Picture. It's a four page article about the new illustrated Genesis by Robert Crumb using his translation (Crumb is probably quite famous in graphic novel circles, in others not so - check out the film Crumb where he plays himself, or even American Splendor [sic] for someone playing him in a minor roll - it's a good film!)

the article really is a good read. it's a fascinating discussion about what you do as you illustrate the bible, or depict anyone in another form. who are you when you hit the page in picture? it's hard enough to identify with yourself in print (ever critically read your own CV?), without having that then exported to another medium altogether.

there is something permanent-ising, objectifying, about turning the scriptures into pictures. the ambiguity is gone, the imagination, rather than engaging with ideas, is left to other devices - perhaps joining frame to frame in their head, filling out the missing action/movement.

and i wonder, do we do the same when children are read the scriptures as a child (i'm thinking big picture bibles)? why are we so fixated on the need for images to convey a message? do we not trust that people will do the imagining themselves?

(i think i was originally going to procrastinate about whether to buy Alter or Crumb - if you have an opinion, let me know in the comments. Cheers!)

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