Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't have a hissyfit

Don't get yourself into a tizzy

(this morning I won't be at HNEC as usual because I'm filling in for Father Chuck at St. Thomas by the Sea, Laguna Beach. Chuck is recuperating from injuries in a car crash last weekend.)

Matthew 16:13-20 (KJV) Confession of Peter
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

Above is our gospel reading for today. Matthew 16 takes it over from Mark 8, where it is somewhat problematic for understanding in light of Mark’s theme and agenda, which late 19th / early 20th century German Lutheran professor and theologian Wilhelm Wrede called das Messiasgeheimnis, which has come to us in English as the messianic mystery or the messianic secret. Matthew expands on Mark right off the bat by 

  • changing “who do men say that I am?” to “who do men say the Son of Man is??
  • expanding Peter’s response from “You are the Christ” to “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • adding Jesus’ response to Peter from no words to “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” which does not appear at all in Mark's original. 
What’s going on? 

Wonderfully, and as we might expect, scholars do not agree. The first issue is within Mark, at least a couple of things. For Jesus to center attention to himself, a self-effacing, humble man, seems out of character. Another, Peter knowing who Jesus was is counter to the Geheimnis that Mark features from start to finish for what are to me, clearly reasons of inspiring his frustratred hearers to dash out and proclaim Christ crucified and raised. For another, Peter knowing and confessing before the Transfiguration, which comes next but has not happened yet, seems asynchronous within Mark's own story. For still another, some scholars, take them or leave them, point out that use of the title Messiah (Christ, xristos) for Jesus is post-Easter, also asynchronous. These same issues come over into Matthew, who seems to have written perhaps a generation after Mark (c.a. 65-70 A.D.) when the fledgling Christian church was growing and needing divine sanction for its developing authority structure, with interesting implications for text criticism. 

Not good for the pulpit lest people in the pew be horrified, hyperventilating, fanning and fainting, these are nonetheless great topics for Sunday School or Tuesday morning Bible seminar. 


TW+

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