Open Blogging: 05/20/2023

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59 Responses

  1. Terry says:

    Matthew 18-6-9
    “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

    If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

    I had always compartmentalized this passage into two parts, like you see above. The first part is about woe to those who stumble new believers, the second is about steps we believers need to take to avoid sin.

    On my recent reading, I read it straight through as a continuous thought. Woe to whoever causes my followers to stumble, even if that means the follower himself. If I lead myself into sin it would be better if I grabbed an anvil and jumped into the sea.

    Here I a choose to embrace the stern warnings rather than 1) judge some villainous stumbler guy out there (how dare he!) or 2) fear my own body parts for their potential of falling to temptation.

    Has any man ever read this passage and not thought what we all think I’m writing about? Is anyone reading this with one eye or scrolling with their remaining hand, having taken extreme measures to avoid sin? Would self mutilation have ended the temptation?

    The takeaway: I judge myself for causing me to sin just as seriously as I judge that person who got my friend’s son hooked on meth as a teenager. But I also show myself mercy as I would that dealer if they were now seeking forgiveness.

  2. JanetLinn, BrideofChrist says:

    That’s a very profound interpretation of those two passages! I’ve never made the connection that you just made. Very illuminating!

  3. Eric says:

    The 3rd century Christian scholar was reported by one historian to have castrated himself, but this is doubtful. Probably some have tried though.
    It’s about the only amputation you could carry out that could conceivably reduce your appetite for sin and otherwise continue normally with life, so that’s the most literal way anyone could follow Christ’s instruction with some possible benefit. If there were an easy/painless way of doing it, it would be a more popular option.

  4. Alan says:

    Jesus spoke in hyperbole to create a fear of the LORD that causes us all to depart from evil. But your point is well-taken.

  5. Terry says:

    Eric – I came close to suggesting that – “If your **** causes you to sin.” But of course that’s not what Jesus was saying, because of…

    Alan – Hyperbole, to create a fear of the Lord. Which is also why I don’t believe in a literal eternal conscious torment, but instead Conditional Immortality (what some call Annihilationism).

  6. Alan says:

    Terry,

    We would agree about that. Though I am always willing to be convinced otherwise. I have recently considered whether Jesus severe indictment of remarriage also consisted of hyperbole. That one has always troubled the mind.

    Grace and peace.

  7. Officerhoppy says:

    So, how does one determine what was literal, or what was hyperbole?

    If Jesus spoke in hyperbole, You’ve made my Bible reading very difficult and dangerous for the garden variety Christian.

  8. Michael says:

    The Scriptures are full of hyperbole and other figures of speech.
    The dangerous part is not recognizing that..

  9. pstrmike says:

    For me, the problem is not “the garden-variety Christian” attempting to understand scripture as it is our culture as a whole is ill-equipped to understand anything other than either a hyper-literalism or a that rejects past comprehension and attempts to redefine everything.

  10. Captain Kevin says:

    So how do we know if the Bible’s words regarding hell are meant to be taken literally or as hyperbole?

  11. Officerhoppy says:

    Michael
    True. But the metaphors are mostly, clearly metaphors like Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.”

  12. bob1 says:

    There’s a book by the late Gordon Fee “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth.” Beyond that, it’s hermeneutics. Don’t think any blog entries could do this question justice…

  13. Michael says:

    The Christian church has had the Holy Spirit instruct teachers for 2000 years. The consensus of those teachings with very few exceptions has been that this is a case of Jesus using hyperbole to make a point.

    Many commentaries explain the reasoning behind this conclusion.

    I cannot overestimate the value of having a large and diverse set of commentaries, both ancient and modern.

  14. Michael says:

    ■ 29–30* The addition of vv. 29–30* confirms that Matthew understands v. 28* as a radical demand of obedience. At issue is not simply a mirror of the soul that reveals one’s own sin. There is no tendency apparent here to moderate the demands on a practical level. Matthew speaks—perhaps unlike his source—first of being led astray by the “eye,” because that immediately follows vv. 27–28*. In rabbinic texts, however, the hand is also regarded as an instrument of adultery and of unchastity.50
    Are the logia meant realistically or symbolically? A “realistic” interpretation is possible to the degree that occasionally cutting off the hands is demanded in rabbinic texts precisely in the case of sexual offenses.51 Admittedly, there is little evidence that it was actually carried out. In the history of interpretation the literal interpretation was for all practical purposes unanimously rejected.52 An interpretation of “tear out” and “cut off” as hyperboles was more likely. The sense then was that one is no longer to use the eye and the hand for sinful purposes. As the interpretation of the ancient church already recognized,53 however, the problem with such an interpretation was the addition of “right” (δεξιός) to the eye. Why should the right eye play a special role in the seduction to sin? “Right” symbolically represents “good,” “costly,” “important.”54 The double saying may be a warning against sin attached to established expressions:55 in order to avoid sin one is to give up everything, even what is most important and most treasured. The perspective is one of judgment that makes even physical integrity a matter of secondary importance. The original saying was probably not limited to sexual offenses; such sayings can be applied to many areas.
    With these logia Matthew wants to introduce his readers to a radical way of living free of compromise. Probably of special importance for him was the reference to the concluding condemnation in judgment (cf. vv. 25–26*). It is no accident that the word “Gehenna” (γέεννα) appears in the first and second antitheses and that both of them end with the prospect of possible condemnation in the last judgment.

    History of Interpretation

    The church’s tradition has interpreted the sayings allegorically and in so doing has been especially interested in the meaning of “eye” and “hand.” The church’s interpreters have discovered fields of application for these verses beyond the area of sexuality. Here they were influenced in part by 18:8–9*. The most common interpretation refers to the covetous spirit, evil thoughts, and false objectives of the will, all of which one must abandon.56 Under the influence of John Chrysostom the interpretation frequently refers to false friends, perhaps even family members and other relations from whom one should keep apart for the sake of the gospel,57 even if one has special affection for them.58 Finally, we must mention the interpretation in terms of the body of Christ, the church, which in certain circumstances must abandon some of its members for the sake of the life of the whole body.59 Of course, based on the literal meaning of 5:29–30*, these areas of application discovered with the aid of allegorical interpretation miss the mark. They are important, however, because they call attention to the openness of the two logia. In addition, they are hermeneutically interesting, because they show that the ancient church has fundamentally understood biblical texts as open texts and has worked out their various possible applications with the help of allegorical methods of interpretation.

    * 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.l
    30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.m
    Bible:Mt 5:29–30 (NRSV)

    * 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.l
    30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.m
    Bible:Mt 5:29–30 (NRSV)

    * 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
    Bible:Mt 5:28 (NRSV)

    *

    * Concerning Adultery
    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
    28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
    Bible:Mt 5:27–28 (NRSV)

    50 Cf., e.g., Rabbi Eliezer in b. Nid. 13b: “It says: your hands are full of blood (= Isa 1:15*), those are the ones who whore with their hands.” On the interpretation of the rabbinic texts cf. Deming, “Discussion,” 131–36.

    51 M. Nid. 2.1 and b. Nid. 13a–b (13b expressly as a legal punishment and not as a curse formula); b. Šabb. 108b (= Str-B 1.302–3); b. Sanh. 58b (for perpetrators of violent acts; Hona is said actually to have caused the cutting off of the hand); b. Pesaḥ. 57b (because of lese majesty; an anecdote); Philo. Spec. leg. 3.175, 179 citing Deut 25:11–12*; for additional sources see Davies-Allison 1.524; for Hellenistic parallels see Betz, Sermon, 238, n. 343.

    52 Democritus (in Plutarch 2.521D; Tertullian. Apol. 46.11 = LCL translation [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966] 203) is said to have blinded himself in order not to be distracted from philosophy by women. In modern interpretation Gustav Stählin (“κοπετός,” TDNT 3 [1965] 859–60; cf. 853) is the most important advocate of a literal interpretation. Against the idea August Tholuck (Ausführliche Auslegung der Bergpredigt Christi nach Matthäus [3d ed.; Hamburg: Perthes, 1845] 208) already notes with horror that the practice would make the “Christian church a house of invalids” [citation not in ET. Trans.].

    53 John Chrysostom 17.3 = PG 57.158.

    54 Walter Grundmann, “δεξιός,” TDNT 2 (1964) 37–38.

    55 There are examples in Hellenism of a similar usage; cf., e.g., Heliodorus Aeth. 2.16.1ff.; Plato Symp. 205e (ἐπεὶ αὑτῶν γε καὶ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ἐθέλουσιν ἀποτέμνεσθαι οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ἐὰν αὐτοῖς δοκῇ τὰ ἑαυτῶν πονηρὰ εἶναι); Aristotle Eth. eud. 1235a; sayings of Sextus in Origen on Matt 19:12* = GCS 40.354 (πᾶν μέρος τοῦ σώματος τὸ ἀναπεῖθόν σε εἰς τὸ μὴ σωφρονεῖν ῥῖψον); Seneca Ep. 51.13; Ovid Ex Pont. 4.14.17–18.

    * 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to courtk with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
    26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
    Bible:Mt 5:25–26 (NRSV)

    * 8 “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire.
    9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hella of fire.
    Bible:Mt 18:8–9 (NRSV)

    56 John Chrysostom 17.3 = PG 57.258 (will, understanding); Ps.-Clem. Rec. 7.37.3–7 (sensus and cogitatio); Ephraem 6.7 = 126–27 (bad thoughts); Isaac of Antioch Homilae 36 (51) = BKV 1/6.166–68. Bengel (45) expands it and speaks of “sui abnegatio.”

    57 John Chrysostom 17.3 = PG 57.258 (the two interpretations often appear together); Isidore of Pelusium Ep. 1.83 = PG 78.240 (relatives).

    58 Augustine Serm. Dom. 1.13 (37): “illud … quod ita diligis ut pro dextro oculo habeas” (FC 11.56–57: “Whatever you love so much as to prize it as highly as your own right eye”).

    59 Hilary 4.21 = 939; Origen 13.24 on Matt 18:8–9* = GCS Origenes 10.244.

    * 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.l
    30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.m
    Bible:Mt 5:29–30 (NRSV)

    Luz, U. (2007). Matthew 1–7: a commentary on Matthew 1–7 (H. Koester, Ed.; Rev. ed., pp. 246–248). Fortress Press.

  15. Officerhoppy says:

    Appreciate the references. There is no question that Jesus was not talking about literally removing appendages from the human body in Matt 18. If he was, there would be a lot of people in America on disability!

    I guess my point was regarding metaphor and hyperbole in general. I think, in most cases, it’s obvious when scripture is metaphorical hence my Psalm 91 reference. I think most readers of scripture can identify it when used and can understand it.

    I believe the Bible speaks plainly (although there are a lot of the plain things in scripture that I don’t understand). And metaphors is a powerful tool.

    But I sat under a pastor who was very metaphorical. He used it as a tool to reinforce his personal perspective. So when the word hyperbole or metaphors are used regarding scripture, my antennae go up! Because with metaphors you may be right in your understanding and interpretation, or you may be wrong.

    When Jesus or the Bible use these tools, it’s important to grasp their intent. But we can’t make the Bible say something that it never was intended to say.

    Appreciate the conversation

  16. bob1 says:

    “Everyone’s a literalist until it comes to gluttony.” Rachel Held Evans

  17. Alan says:

    Bob1

    Yikes

  18. Josh says:

    I don’t like the idea that Jesus used hyperbole to create a fear of the Lord. If the Lord is worthy of fear, why not just tell the truth in plain language. No need to exaggerate. When we have to inflate our case to make the object seem more daunting, it begins to sound like the Wizard of Oz.

  19. Josh says:

    One of my issues with religion is that we use fear to try to control behavior…

    but maybe that’s what Jesus was doing?

  20. Michael says:

    There are many places in Scripture that tell us that those who reject God and His plan for human flourishing should be very afraid.

    It is utterly beyond me how anyone could find this objectionable…justice demands that there be a cost of unjust behaviors…righteousness demands that things be set right.

  21. Michael says:

    Jesus was addressing a first century audience that came with a preconceived set of religious values…He used hyperbole to stress the seriousness of sin and to make His hearers understand that righteousness was not just an external issue, but an internal one.

  22. Reuben says:

    I’m planning to go back to rehab after a heart procedure is performed on my wife later this week. Alcoholism is real, folks. My whole day is planned around getting to the liquor store after work. My work performance is being affected badly. I am no longer able to handle the epic benders like I used to. I could drink 1.75 liters a day of Jack Daniels and perform at absolute optimal efficiency. I could work insanely hard, go to intensive meetings and coordinate crews of 35 guys carrying out my every order. I could sweat 100% pure grain alcohol all day and feel like a champ. But it’s caught up with me, and now I can’t remember what I was doing 5 minutes ago. My thinking has slowed. My physical functions are falling apart. When I used to be able to heroically drive home with a BAC of a million, now it’s hard to drive home with a BAC of almost nothing. I am eating B-12 like candy, and it helps sometimes, but my cognitive functions are falling apart. I can’t live like this.

    On the other hand, and on a lighter note, living and being in Colorado today is an epic experience. The “Joker” is likely the best NBA player alive, and we just shut out, as in swept the Lakers! We owned in NHL, and now we won in NBA! Let’s hope the Broncos experience a “come to Jesus” this year and own that too!

  23. Michael says:

    Reuben,

    Praying you get the help you need to overcome this…and praying for your wife as well.

    Jokic is the best player in the league…

  24. pstrmike says:

    I wish you well, Reuben…..

  25. Alan says:

    Jokic is the best and he’s an absolute agony to watch…ugliest excellence you will ever see.

  26. Reuben says:

    Alan, he is agony to watch! And he is ugly! Haha! Proves the point that the book”s cover does not prove anything! His answer to the question last night was nothing short of absolute gold. He pointed to nothing but his team. What a gentleman. The way he plays with his team is pure unadulterated sportsmanship. I don’t anticipate any man will play in the NBA like this again. Colorado collectively begs god for the final big win for this man alone!

  27. Officerhoppy says:

    Reuben
    Very happy you will go to rehab. I am sure your liver will thank you. Jokic was amazing against the Lakers. Loved watching him play. He’s tall like a center but can play and shoot like a guard.

    Hoping to see Denver play Miami

  28. Josh says:

    “It is utterly beyond me how anyone could find this objectionable…justice demands that there be a cost of unjust behaviors…righteousness demands that things be set right.”

    The idea that there are consequences doesn’t bother me. The idea that Jesus exaggerated his argument to make people more afraid of God bothers me deeply.

  29. Josh says:

    Reuben – Hang in there man. Nothing…not one single thing…about this life is easy. At this point, I still think its worth living. Would love to see you taking a victory lap in the near future. Would give me hope.

    I love Jokic’s game and am all in on the nuggets now.

  30. Captain Kevin says:

    Hey Reuben, I’m praying for both you and your wife.

  31. Michael says:

    Josh,

    In the context of the passage and the time, Jesus was speaking to religious leaders who had no fear of the Lord and had twisted the faith into a tool of spiritual oppression.

    They needed to understand Who and what they were dealing with.

    Today, a great deal of the problems we have with corruption and abuse in the church and society begin with a lack of fear of the Lord.

  32. Michael says:

    In fact, I would be all for God revisiting the “Ananias and Sapphira” scenario when these politicians and “prophets” claim that they carry His imprimatur…

  33. Josh says:

    But why the need to exaggerate? Why not just speak unfiltered truth?
    Most of my religious upbringing was “Don’t do this or god’s gonna get you”, which was exaggerating God’s involvement to get me to act a certain way. And Jesus does that here too.

  34. Michael says:

    Josh,

    You’re taking a translation of a translation of a 1st century encounter and reading into it 21st century religious manipulation.

    You are basically imputing the sin of Baptist hillbillies to Christ.

    Hyperbole (and parables) were recognized forms of communicating truth in those times and His hearers would have known exactly what He was saying and why.

    That’s why they killed Him…

  35. Alan says:

    Destroy this temple and in three days …

    Someone pass the hammer

  36. Josh says:

    Probably. I am steeped in Baptist hillbilly for sure. But I’ve lessoned my grip on the need for everything in the bible to fit or make sense. I’m fine with not liking this passage.

  37. Em says:

    bible? NNNNNNNO
    Bible

  38. Josh says:

    Is that correcting me for not capitalizing the B?😂😁😁😂

  39. Terry says:

    Josh – I know it’s not the same thing as hyperbole, but Jesus said in Matt 13 the reason he spoke in parables was so that some people would NOT understand. There is an intentional “veiling” of the message, so that the Spirit is required to reveal the meaning to some and not others. He went on to explain some of the parables to his disciples, but not all.

  40. Alan says:

    Allow me to celebrate just a little. 49 years ago today my beloved wife and I vowed to share our life together. I say life because we are one. I honor her. We enter the 50th year with joy and the same hope that led us into covenant.

  41. Michael says:

    Alan,

    That is wonderful….I honor and envy you both.

    May the Lord give you many more together!

  42. Officerhoppy says:

    Alan
    Great job! It takes work to remain married and even more work to be happily married for so many years. This august my wife and I will celebrate 48 years of marriage.

  43. Josh says:

    I signed my divorce papers this week!

  44. Josh says:

    Terry – true that some things were hidden to some people at some times. More stuff that doesn’t make sense to me, but again, it doesn’t have to.

  45. Michael says:

    I’m sorry, Josh…I grieve with you for the loss.

  46. Officerhoppy says:

    Josh
    Heart breaking man. Sorry you have to go thru this

  47. Josh says:

    Thanks guys. And really, congratulations to Alan on 49 years, and Hoppy on 48. Weird. Everything just hurts now. I was married 24 years.
    God is going to restore all that I’ve lost, but I’ll admit that I have no clue how that could possibly happen at the moment.

  48. Alan says:

    I didn’t want celebration to occasion pain and yet it does. Sorry Josh.

  49. Officerhoppy says:

    Josh
    24 years! O man, that must hurt like hell!

  50. Josh says:

    Alan, you should never have to temper your celebration because of the bad fortunes of those around you. You’ve got it good! Enjoy it. Just be thankful every day. Congratulations friend, I mean that

  51. Josh says:

    Hoppy- I can’t even explain it. If I’m being honest, I’m surprised that I’m still here..

  52. Captain Kevin says:

    Congratulations Alan and Hoppy!

    Josh, I’m so sorry. I get it. My wife and I made it just one month shy of 30 years when our divorce was final.

  53. Officerhoppy says:

    I’m feeling for Josh right now. Kind of a sh#@ty deal

    I didn’t mean to rub it in talking about my marriage.

  54. Josh says:

    Hoppy – You weren’t rubbing it in. You don’t have to hide your happiness. Just cherish the relationship all the more.

    Dang Captain – It’s tough, huh?

  55. Captain Kevin says:

    “Dang Captain – It’s tough, huh?”

    That’s for sure. Almost 4 years later, my mind and body are still reeling.

  56. Josh says:

    I’m just a year out and feel haunted. Absolutely everything I do has some tie to the past. Those memories sneak up and crush me at the weirdest times. Dropping my son off last night and he was telling me how he and my daughter were making buffalo chicken wraps. I cried my eyes out because I want to be with them so damn bad.
    I played bass at a church last weekend and some people were worshipping up front and it caught me like a sucker punch. At the same time, I miss it and feel totally out of place.

  57. filistine says:

    I’m thinking ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep’ can be a simultaneous thing–every occasion that we celebrate can jar others with grief. I think our Lord was much more aware of that than we’ve ever been…and yet as you’ve all alluded to, one doesn’t have to temper either emotion for the other. It isn’t a right vs. wrong thing, it’s a love thing, where our awareness and sensitivity allows for grace to really flow. Josh, Capt., OffHops, and Alan all exemplify…

  58. Dan from Georgia says:

    No words for your suffering Josh, just a heavy heart here.

  59. Captain Kevin says:

    What Dan said.

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