Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Alright, I’m still struggling with this, where the struggle is the best, most interesting, most fun, most useful, most helpful, most clarifying aspect of working it out. May lead to a broader grasp than I arrived with, and hopefully a “floating understanding,” which is shifting and far short of certitude. Certainty being the greatest sin.
A winter morning, 76.3°F 48% on the Florida Gulf coast, the first day of February 2017, my grandson Nicholas is thirty-two today. Happy birthday, Nick, happy birthday. I remember the day: we were in Mobile for the diocesan convention, It’s early evening, I’m gazing out toward the battleship USS ALABAMA and the phone rings. It’s Joe: you have a grandson, Nicholas Kevin Weller. It was the beginning of the magic of being a grandfather, and wonderful years of Nicholas being with me in Apalachicola. Saturday evening: “Granddaddy! We forgot to change the hymnboard.” Any evening before bedtime: “Granddaddy! We forgot to take our walk.” Holding a little boy in the dinosaur exhibit at Tallahassee Junior Museum as the tyrannosaurus rex swings around and, open mouth and enormous teeth inches away, glares at us, “Granddaddy, let’s get outta here.” I have loved in my life. In my life I have loved very dearly. Happy birthday, Nicholas.
So anyway I’m still struggling with Wiesenthal on confession and absolution, where Jewish theology is layered and complex, Christian distressingly simple. Time and space distant a Roman Catholic cleric relates to the confessional and done. Near or far, a rabbi’s response is far deeper. Where is Bubba, is my struggle. Because a fight this personal is not DThos+ it’s Bubba just.
Here’s where I’ve taken myself this morning since predawn darkness, the proper place to start. There’s that scriptural dialogue where at Matthew 18:22 Jesus answers Peter, “Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.” Literally, “Not I say to you up to seven-times but up to seventy-times seven.” I looked at four NTGreek sources because sometimes they vary and especially sometimes the TR is different; but all four (BibleGateway) are practically identical (TR has αλλ for but, others have αλλα, which may be just a slough-off of the last syllable, IDK but not significant to me), so practically identical here means identical. Then I’m stuck to struggle with whether ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά means seventy times plus seven = 77 or seventy times seven = 490. I don't think Matthew has Jesus doing his multiplication tables, but whatever, Jesus simply means “don’t keep count,” but translators have rendered it both ways. After struggling with a Greek adverb lesson this morning, I’m going with that Matthew’s NTGreek is a way of counting occurrences that, not quite the same as our English way, means seventy times plus seven = 77. Regardless that Luther renders it siebzigmal siebenmal, which I take literally “seventy-times seven-times. And I love Schlachter 2000 with the wonderful Deutsch word string “siebzigmalsiebenmal”.
It all still means, “don’t keep count.”
But I’m at least slightly off track down a side path where the briars start, so back up.
Couple of things. One, at least some contemporary scholars* whom I respect attribute Matthew 18:22 to the slightly later church community, time of Q, putting this saying on Jesus’ lips. Well, that doesn’t bother me, it’s quite common especially seventy-odd learned scholars voting by dropping a red, pink, blue, grey or black marble in a box, a decision concept that also does not bother me.
Second, Jesus at Matthew 18:22 is answering Peter’s question about an interpersonal one on one transaction. “How many times shall I forgive ἀδελφός μου my brother (brother of me)”, not “how many times shall I forgive my neighbor” and not “how many times shall I forgive them”, and not “how many times shall we forgive them”. (put the period quotation marks combo wherever you please and so shall I).
And it’s not how many times shall I forgive him for murdering me, or how many time shall I forgive him or them for murdering my family, or how many times shall I/we forgive him/them for genocide against my people. You see, the Matthew 18 exchange has no idea of, nor any relevance to, the enormity and monstrosity of Wiesenthal’s struggle. Wiesenthal’s case narrative is the first part of his book. The second part, dubbed “symposium”, has the responses of many men and women from many times, places and backgrounds. Confession and remorse are not enough to warrant forgiveness, especially if there is/are injured parties. As it is, I agree with all that Wiesenthal did, including his evident compassion for Karl and later for his mother; and especially for Simon’s moral struggle, which actually seems, than clear cut Jewish as Simon’s fellow prisoners, more a struggle in Christian theology. Simon did the right thing in all its entirety throughout the case. Karl on his deathbed died having felt “heard.” The boy’s mother was not destroyed. The God of Israel, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was present in all his mercy.
But, somewhere between, no, among, Elohim, God, YHWH, Adonai, Kyrie, Dominus, Lord, and Jesus, I am still, nevertheless and all, convinced that my own church’s approach to confession, direction, absolution, forgiveness and reconciliation is far, far too cheap, free and easy dispensing the grace of God. Which is free, but the cost is earnestness, sincerity, and true repentance. "Ye who do truly and earnestly repent," but it's rote without a second thought.
As for Wiesenthal and me, agonizing uncertainty is holy ground.
Matthew 18:22 King James Version (KJV)
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Matthew 18:22 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.[a]
a Matthew 18:22 Or seventy-seven times
end of footnotes
Matthew 18:22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven[a] times.
a Matthew 18:22 Or seventy times seven
Matthaeus 18:22 Luther Bibel 1545 (LUTH1545)
22 Jesus sprach zu ihm: Ich sage dir: Nicht siebenmal, sondern siebzigmal siebenmal.
Matthäus 18:22 Schlachter 2000 (SCH2000)
22 Jesus antwortete ihm: Ich sage dir, nicht bis siebenmal, sondern bis siebzigmalsiebenmal!
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 18:22 1550 Stephanus New Testament (TR1550)
22 λεγει αυτω ο ιησους ου λεγω σοι εως επτακις αλλ εως εβδομηκοντακις επτα
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 18:22 1881 Westcott-Hort New Testament (WHNU)
22 λεγει αυτω ο ιησους ου λεγω σοι εως επτακις αλλα εως εβδομηκοντακις επτα
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 18:22 1894 Scrivener New Testament (TR1894)
22 λεγει αυτω ο ιησους ου λεγω σοι εως επτακις αλλ εως εβδομηκοντακις επτα
ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ 18:22 SBL Greek New Testament (SBLGNT)
22 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.
ἑπτάκις seven times
ἑβδομηκοντάκις seventy times
κις a suffix often used on adverbial forms of Greek numbers as when counting occurrences. As in once, twice, τρίς is thrice or three times, κις starts being suffixed on at four times, ἑπτάκις is seven times, δεκάκις is ten times. ἑβδομηκοντά is seventy but ἑβδομηκοντάκις is seventy times or seventy occurrences.
Certain of nothing, I’m thinking that Matthew, not multiplying but adding, meant to have Jesus say by ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά is literally seventy-seven times, a symbol for an infinite number of times.
DThos+ wasting Time in Stoppage Time as I will never likely do when/if I make it back to +Time+
* The Five Gospels (The Jesus Seminar) and also Synopsis of the Four Gospels in Greek (left page) and English (right page) (Aland)
Posted by Tom Weller at 9:45 AM