PhD Dissertation Defense

Posted: April 2, 2014 in General

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PhD Dissertation Defense

Topic:

“The Nature and Function of Dialogue in the Book of Signs (John 1:19-12:50)”

Defender:

Johnson Thomaskutty 

Supervisors:

Prof. Dr. Jan G. van der Watt, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands (Promoter)

Prof. Dr. Kobus Kok, University of Pretoria, South Africa (Co-promoter)

Doctoral Thesis Committee:

Prof. Dr. C. H. Hübenthal, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands (voorzitter)

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Busse, Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Prof. Dr. Francois D. Tolmie, University of the Free State, South Africa 

Place:

The Aula of Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Comeniuslaan 2, 6525 HP Nijmegen, The Netherlands 

Time and Date:

16h30, 19 June 2014

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Exposition of John in the Context of Bangladesh

Place:

Church of God Convention

Church of God Mission Compound

Lalmanirhat, Bangladesh

Dates:

April 24-26, 2014 

Speaker:

Rev. (Dr.) Johnson Thomaskutty

Union Biblical Seminary

Pune, India

Thursday, 24 April 2014: Youth Seminar

Theme: “Youths, You Are Strong” (I John 2:12-14)

Session #1: John, Youths, Church, and Society (Part I)

Session #2: John, Youths, Church, and Society (Part II)

Session #3: John, Youths, Church, and Society (Part III)

Friday, 25 April 2014: General Gathering

Session #4: “I AM the Bread of Life” (John 6:1-59)

Session #5: “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12; 9:1-41)

Session #6: “I AM the Door/Gate of the Sheep” (John 10:1-10)

Session #7: “I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11-21)

Saturday, 26 April 2014: General Gathering

Session #8: “I AM the Resurrection and Life” (John 11:1-45)

Session #9: “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:1-12)

Session #10: “I AM the True Vine” (John 15:1-14)

Aargus 1General Theme: “The Gospel of John as Genre Mosaic”

Aarhus University, Denmark
June 23–26, 2014
The Student House Conference Center, Fredrik Nielsens Vej 4

Monday, June 23 (Venue: Preben Hornung Stuen)
John and Genre: Toward New Form Criticisms
3:00–4:00 p.m Arrival. Coffee/tea.
4:00–4:45 p.m Kasper Bro Larsen (Aarhus), “The State of Research on John and Genre—and Where New Paths may Lead Us.”
4:45–5:00 p.m Break
5:00–6:30 p.m Key note address: Harold Attridge (Yale), “The Fourth Gospel: Does Genre Matter?”
6:30–8:30 p.m Dinner
8:30– p.m. Sankthansaften (St. John’s Eve/Midsummer) at the bonfire by the sea (‘Den Permanente”)

Tuesday, June 24 (Venue: Preben Hornung Stuen)
The Gospel of John in light of Genre Theory
09:00–10:00 a.m. Sune Auken (Copenhagen), “Reading through Genre: Interpretation and Contemporary Genre Studies.”
10:00–10:15 a.m. Coffee/tea
10:15–11:15 a.m. Gerhard van den Heever (University of South Africa), ‘Always Historicize!’ Genre is not a Natural Object:
Communication Conventions and Theorising the Social Location of the Gospel of John.”
11:15–12:15 p.m. Ole Davidsen (Aarhus), “The Lover, the Lord, and the Lamb: The Gospel of John as a Mixture of Spiritualized
Narrative Genres.”
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch break

The Mosaic as a Whole: The Gospel of John in the History of Early Christian Gospel Literature
1:30–2:30 p.m. Colleen Conway (Seton Hall), “Genre and Gender: Revisiting the ‘Woman Question’ after Masculinity Studies.”
2:30–3:30 p.m. Jason J. Ripley (St. Olaf College, Minn.), “The Social Implication of the Genre of Biography for the Gospel of John.”
3:30–3:45 p.m. Coffee/tea
3:45–4:45 p.m. Eve-Marie Becker (Aarhus), ”What about John? The Fourth Gospel and the Current Debate on Early Christian
Historiography”
4:45–5:45 p.m. Hans Förster (Vienna), “The Use of Literary Devices and the Genre(s) of the Fourth Gospel”
6:00–7:00 p.m. Quick Dinner
7:00–8:00 p.m. George Parsenios (Princeton), “The Silent Spaces Between Narrative and Drama.”

Wednesday, June 25 (Venue: Meating Hall II)
The Tiles of the Mosaic I: Genre Readings in John 1–12
09:00–10:00 a.m. Michael Labahn (Halle), “A Narrow Gate to the Johannine Gospel? Rethinking the Relationship Between the
Johannine Prologue and the Gospel of John.”
10:00–10:15 a.m. Coffee/tea
10:15–11:15 a.m. Douglas Estes (Phoenix), “Rhythm, Rhetoric and Circumstance: The Impeccable Prose of the Prologue of John”
11:15–12:15 p.m. Ruth Sheridan (Charles Sturt, Australia), “Virtual Embedded Narratives in the Johannine Prologue: The Question of
Genre.”
12:15–1:00 p.m. Lunch break
1:00–2:00 p.m. George van Kooten (Groningen), “Heraclitus’ Axiom of Apollo ‘neither Telling nor Conceiling, but Signifying’:
Reading John Against the Background of Plutarch’s “The Oracles at Delphi No Longer Given in Verse”—An Ancient
Semiotic Interpretation of John’s “Signs” (σημεῖα), “Dark Speech” (λόγος σκληρός), and “Figures of Speech”
(παροιμίαι).”

2:00–3:00 p.m. Johnson Thomaskutty (Pune, India), “The Use of Dialogue as a Literary Genre in the Book of Signs.”
3:00–3:15 p.m. Coffee/tea
3:15–4:15 p.m. Tyler Smith (Yale), “Characterization and the Genre of John”
4:15–6:15 p.m. Visit to Our Lady’s Church in downtown Aarhus / Aros: Aarhus Museum of Art
6:15–7:00 p.m. Quick Dinner downtown
7:00–8:00 p.m. Bernhard Lang (Paderborn), “Lazarus, Come Out! Hidden Meanings in a Johannine Miracle Story (John 11).”
8:00–9:00 p.m. David Svärd (Lund), “John 12:1-8 as a Royal Anointing Type-Scene.”

AarhusThursday, June 26 (Venue: Meating Hall II)
The Tiles of the Mosaic II: Genre Readings in John 13–21
09:00–10:00 a.m. Troels Engberg-Pedersen (Copenhagen), “A Question of Genre: John 13-17 as Paraklesis.”
10:00–10:15 a.m. Coffee/tea
11:15–12:15 p.m. Gitte Buch-Hansen (Copenhagen), “The Farewell Speeches as Liturgical Texts: A Phenomenological Approach to the
Problem of Johannine Sacramentality.”
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch break
1:30–2:30 p.m. Meredith Warren (Ottawa), “The Cup Which the Father has Given: Divine-Mortal Antagonism and the Christological
Implications of Genre.”
2:30–3:30 p.m. Christoph O. Schroeder (Hamburg), “Jesus, Caiaphas and Pilate in John’s Passion Narrative.”
3:30–3:45 p.m. Coffee/tea
3:45–4:45 p.m. Kasper Bro Larsen (Aarhus), “The Recognition Scenes and Epistemological Reciprocity.”
4:45–5:45 p.m. Carl Johan Berglund (Uppsala), “History Intended to be Interpreted Spiritually: Genre Expectations and Genre
Reflections of Origen of Alexandria in his Commentary on the Gospel of John.”
5:45–6:00 p.m. Break

6:00–7:00 p.m. Final Debate. Moderator: Kasper Bro Larsen (Aarhus)
7:00 p.m.– Dinner and symposium with farewell discourses

For more details go here: http://nt.au.dk/the-gospel-of-john-as-genre-mosaic/

moloneyAfter reading his commentary and other writings on John’s Gospel, I wrote a word of appreciation to Father Francis J. Moloney. His response to my short write-up was persuasive. He wrote: “Dear Johnson Thomaskutty, Thank you so much. I am delighted that I have done something to make John speak again and again. I wonder if you have seen my latest book ‘Love in the Gospel of John’. I follow your postings, but am too busy (and may be too old) to become actively involved in everything that is going on. Blessings!” The above statements of a celebrated Johannine scholar are more than enough for me to be inspired for the upcoming years. I requested him to write a few paragraphs about his new book and he sent the following write up that was already published in the Baker Academic Blog. I wish Father Frank Moloney a very warm birthday (today the 23rd March).

[[From my earliest encounters with the Gospel of John it became clear to me that this story might be about the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, but its message was really about what God has done in and through Jesus.  Reading the Prologue (John 1:1-18) left me in no doubt, as it begins in God (vv. 1-2), and ends informing the reader (but not the characters in the story) that no one has ever seen God, but the Son, who always has his gaze turned toward the Father, has told the story of God (v. 18).  The remaining 20 (21) chapters are that story.  If the reason why the Evangelist wrote this Gospel was so that readers and hearers of the story might have life through belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (20:30-31), then words found in the prayer of Jesus involve God again: “This is eternal life, that they know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17:3).

As time went by I became further fascinated by the question of “what sort of God” does Jesus make known.  That was easy, I thought.  The great sporting sign in the USA makes it clear: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish bit have eternal life” (3:16). God loves so much that the later Letters would declare: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).  Jesus’ command that his disciples must love one another as Jesus had loved them was but a logical, and even missionary, consequence of Jesus’ task to make known a God of love (see 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; 17:21-26).

Only lately have I become aware that the loving process from God to Jesus to the disciple was all too easy.  I began to run into a strong critical rejection of the long-held admiration among Christians for John’s development of the theme of love.  Indeed, a veteran and highly esteemed Johannine scholar (Wayne Meeks) has suggested that the Gospel of John has only enjoyed its position as a much-loved book in the Christian tradition because it has been misinterpreted for almost a thousand years!  I was part of that history of misinterpretation.

9781441245748An increasing number of scholars, especially (but not only) in the USA began to see that the Fourth Gospel’s message on love was increasingly introspective.  Jesus, and then Matthew, Mark and Luke, teach love for God, for neighbour, and even for one’s enemies!  There is none of this in John, where the believer is never commanded to love God, neighbour or enemy.  Believers must love Jesus, and one another.  Only when this is in place, will they be swept into the love that has always united Jesus and his Father (John 17:24-26).  The Gospel of John was thus judged as the first and clearest indication that early Christianity was tending toward sectarianism.  We only look after one another.  Believers have a mission – to draw outsiders to belief … but not into a relationship of love.  As Jack T. Sanders puts it: “‘If you believe you will have eternal life,’ promises the Johannine Christian, while the dying man’s blood stains the ground” (Ethics in the New Testament: Change and Development [London: SCM, 1985], 100).

It was time to look again; Love in the Gospel of John is the fruit of that long, hard look.  Years of association with the Johanninestory led me to look beyond what Jesus teaches and commands about love in the Fourth Gospel.  All those words (and there are a lot of them) have their place within a narrative.  The problem with so much analysis of the Gospel of John (and biblical texts in general) is that we often forget the whole story as we focus upon particular words and commands.  I was as guilty of that as anyone, as I had been trained that way.  But love is best communicated by loving actions, not by loving words.  We all know that!  I have thus tried to interpret what the Fourth Gospel teaches about love by situating the words within their narrative context.  Both words and actions must go together.  In the end, actions really count when it comes to making love known.

This intuition has produced a study that features the unique Johannine message of the revelation of God in the lifting up of his son, so that all who gaze upon him may find love and life (see 19:37).  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13).  Christians and non-Christians experience loving self-gift most days of their lives.  Perhaps it is there that we should be seeking the face of God.]]

For more details about the book go here: http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/love-in-the-gospel-of-john/347641

For buying the book through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Gospel-John-Exegetical-Theological/dp/0801049288

For reading the posting at the Baker academic blog: http://blog.bakeracademic.com/francis-moloney-why-i-wrote-love-in-the-gospel-of-john/

Posted by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

johnWe started our journey of learning together from the Gospel of John in June 2013. When the eight student-friends in my company (of Master of Theology in Old Testament, New Testament, and Christian Theology) are preparing for their final exam, I requested them to write a paragraph about their learning experience all through the academic year 2013-2014. We started our learning experience by reading the Gospel chapter-by-chapter with the assistance of several commentaries of Raymond E. Brown, Rudolf Schnackenburg, Craig Keener, Andreas Köstenberger, Francis Moloney, C. K. Barrett, C. H. Dodd, Rudolf Bultmann, Leon Morris, Bernabas Lindars, Mark Stibbe, Alan Culpepper, Jan van der Watt, Paul Anderson, Moody Smith, Loius Martyn, and others. We discussed the gospel from diverse angles, i.e., from historical-critical, literary and narrative, and liberational perspectives.

In the second half of the academic year, the eight students were assigned to present two papers each (thus sixteen topics). The following were the sixteen topics we discussed in the class: (1) The Thought-World of Johannine Literature; (2) The Johannine Community Aspects; (3) The Similarities and the Differences between the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel; (4) Christology of the Gospel of John; (5) The Nature and Function of Signs; (6) Johannine Dualism; (7) Eschatology in John; (8) Metaphors in John; (9) Paraclete in John; (10) Johannine Sacramentalism; (11) The Sources and the Character of Johannine Passion Narrative; (12) The Formation and the Development of Johannine Resurrection Narrative; (13) The Use of the Old Testament in the Gospel of John; (14) Feminist Reading of John; (15) Dalit and Tribal Perspectives in John; and (16) Ethics in the Gospel of John. Moreover, they all attended my CMS Consultation presentation entitled “Glo[b/c]alization and Mission in the Gospel of John.” Now, you can read what the eight student-friends reflect in their own language below:

[One] M. Supongnungla, Department of Old Testament: “In the past several months of Johannine class I have been influenced by a New Testament lecturer who by his first class, taught a lot about what the book of John is all about/what I failed to see in John. I was fascinated by his vast knowledge about the book of John and at the same time awe struck at how precisely he quoted verses. I learned a mosaic of lessons from John’s literary devices and his style of writing (which kept me browsing through the text and for a time inspired me to think, write, and speak in literary terms). I never noticed that the book of John was in the style of a drama with a protagonist, antagonists and interlocutors. What’s more? The drama has a narrator, an audience, it has props, and it has dialogue and monologue which was spoken in performative language. I liked the style of double meaning, misunderstanding and clarification. The Gospel of John from Dalit/Tribal perspective? I never coupled them because I didn’t picture that the book of John could be read from Dalit and Tribal perspectives. It unlocked my mini brain to change the way I read the Bible. I also had a shift from the traditional understanding of Thomas as I knew him as the doubting Thomas and never looked at him out of the doubting box. Furthermore, I learnt that ‘Christ’ is the centre in John and ‘love’ is the centre of his ethics. To love inclusively, to be humble and to be the voice for the marginalized and the oppressed are some ethical traits I learned in Johannine literature. Finally, one peculiar thing about John is the way in which one can relate the Gospel to the Indian cultural background. The mysticism and the thoughts that are related to Indian religion are incredible. I will not forget the day when my lecturer told the class that the Gospel of John is considered as a Gospel with Indian spirit and that the best commentary can be written only by an Indian (I said to myself, ‘I wish and pray it’s you, Sir’). Besides all this, every class was a learning day for me (a new vocabulary, a new look at the passage, a new insight, a new inspiration). It has motivated me to think anew and enlarge my territory of knowledge and perspective. I thank my lecturer for his one hour forty minutes a week, for now I am inspired by the Gospel of John.”

[Two] Imlongchaba, Department of Christian Theology: “The study of the Gospel of John was very informative and helpful. First, to know the art of reading the text from various approaches such as reader-centered or author-centered approaches has helped me to approach the text in a grand new way. Importantly, the way of reading the text as a drama with different plots and with tragic and comic characters was something new that I have learnt from the study. Second, lessons on the techniques employed in the text such as the use of literary devices and other stylistic features were insightful. Third, the perspective in which the gospel was written is much clearer now and this has helped me to understand John’s theology in a new light. Fourth, the topics covered in the study were helpful in understanding the whole scheme of John’s theology – from academic as well as faith perspectives. Topics on the Feminist perspective, ethical, Tribal and Dalit approaches, and Christological understanding were very helpful in reflecting on the contemporary issues.  Fifth, emphasis on methodological precision in presentation of the papers has helped me to develop and improve in writing skills. Last, the study has not only helped me to learn lessons for academic exercises but it has also helped me to live a life of dedication and commitment represented by Jesus in John.”

[Three] Stephen Pangamte, Department of New Testament: “I have learnt many new things in the study of the Johannine Theology. Here are some points that I would love to mention: First, John writes his gospel from a post-resurrection point of view whereas Synoptic writers focus on the resurrection point of view. This was something new and important that I learnt in this very class. Second, in our Reading Assignment the employment of all those methods such as the use of literary devices, thematic development, plot structure, point of view, form, structure, and textual interweaving and many more which were new to me and all those helped me to know the text more meaningfully. Third, I have learnt concerning the thought-world of Johannine literature, Johannine community, and several themes such as Christology, signs, dualism, eschatology, metaphors, ethics, passion and resurrection. All the above mentioned topics have their own uniqueness within the Johannine narrative framework and provide more insights to reflect upon. Fourth, the contemporary reflections on John such as feminist/Dalit/Tribal readings persuaded me with more insights and knowledge to bring out the true meaning of the text and to contextualize the message in response to the contemporary challenges. Last but not the least, the study of Johannine Theology not only shaped me in my academic career but also strengthened my faith and gave better  insights to share and witness the true gospel to the world.”

[Four] S. Dhane Zhemai, Department of Old Testament: “The Gospel according to John is quite different in character and form from that of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It is highly literary and symbolic. To a much greater degree, it is the product of a developed theological reflection and it grows out of a different circle and tradition. The most logical reason as how John’s Gospel differs from the Synoptic Gospels is that John focuses on his message, primarily on Christ’s deity not on his kingship and kingdom. The prologue proclaims Jesus as the pre-existent and incarnate Word of God who has revealed the Father to us. The language of John’s Gospel is intentionally antagonistic at times toward Jewish tradition and toward Jewish sensitivities. The idea of the Passover of course is very Jewish but John tends to turn some of those ideas in a much sharper way against Jewish tradition. John’s Gospel is a witness to Christian traditions that move farther away from the Jewish traditions. The Gospel also attempts to reconcile varying religious traditions. In the Gospel Jesus declares, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (14:16). The author of the Gospel also takes pain to reveal that women are not inferior to men in the Christian community: the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4) is presented as a prototype of a missionary (John 4:4–42), and the first witness of the resurrection is a woman (John 20:11–18). In conclusion I would like to say that Ray Bystrom is correct in saying that John’s Gospel is like a river in which a Lamb may bathe and an Elephant swim – it’s both shallow and deep at the same time. As a consequence, both the new convert and the mature disciple will profit from a careful reading of the Gospel.”

JeevanDhara[Five] Sangeeta Adleena, Department of New Testament: “It was indeed a joy and great privilege to get acquainted with one of the most read and loved book of the Bible, the gospel of John. The journey through the text in the form of reading each chapter academically and discussing sixteen different themes of the text has greatly enhanced the understanding and shaped my thinking concerning the Gospel of John. The most important aspect of the getting to know the real message of the gospel is to know the authentic readers of the gospel. To whom the gospel was written? What was their background and what was the purpose behind the composition of the gospel? Yes, the study of the community behind the gospel- the Johannine community, has been the most beneficial in getting to know the whole essence of the gospel. The very nature of the Johannine community and the study of their internal struggles have greatly helped me in understanding the Christology, ethics as well as the eschatology of the Johannine gospel and the letters to a certain extent. This learning has though contributed to my knowledge so to say a considerable portion of the understanding of this vast book but the amount of interest that has been aroused will indeed go a long way in further digging deep to add to the knowledge of the text and to better interpret and apply it. I am deeply indebted to my teacher as well as my fellow-learners in this journey of Johannine study for their contribution in my learning.”

[Six] Zingyo Phungshok, Department of Old Testament: “The study of the Gospel of John has helped me to gain new insights and to look at the Gospel from new perspectives. First, I came to know that John is not only a simple treatise but also realized that it is complex in its composition and structure. It has enormous amount of literary devices to convey its message rhetorically. Second, deep study of the Johannine thought world, literary features and the community dynamics was enlightening. Third, I learned much about the uniqueness of the John’s Gospel, its vertical understanding of the eschatology, its semiotic function, and the peculiar feature of foregrounding the message beyond the cross. This has helped me to retrospect my faith journey relevantly. Fourth, I also learned how to read the gospel with an eye-view of an Indian Christian. I also learned to apply the perspectival approaches to the Gospel of John. Last but not the least, I have come to learn that John also has his unique teaching on ethics. The whole journey of learning the Gospel of John has helped me not only to learn the literary devices and the theology of the book but it also helped me to learn how to articulate and develop my argument of the studies.”

[Seven] M. D. Johnson, Department of Christian Theology: “Personally I could learn a lot from the ‘Theology of Johannine writings’ class. It provoked my thoughts and developed quest within self to learn further from the Johannine writings, in terms of its theological aspects as well as its relevance to the Indian context. Theologically the Johannine writings stimulated the thinking faculties to focus on God with deep insights. One among such is the ‘Resurrection of Christ’ which formulates core thoughts not only for John but for the entire Christendom’s credibility. Further, the themes such as ‘Passion narratives,’ ‘Christology in John,’ ‘The Use of the Old Testament in John’ and so on developed within me high regard for the gospel and motivated deep faith in Christ who is invisible yet visible in and through the Johannine writings. Finally the teaching methods of our lecturer were effective and informative in fact those added flavour to the ‘Theology of the Johannine Writings’ course. In short a marvellous heavenly dish in a clean Indian bowl satisfies and feels me proud to be a student of the theology of Johannine writings forever.”

[Eight] Lucy Zemy, Department of New Testament: “I would like to thank our lecturer for teaching us the course entitled ‘Theology of the Johannine Writings.’ Through the lectures, I learned a lot of which especially how to read the Bible critically. The lectures and reflections were very simple and informative that helped me to understand the text more clearly. What I learned new from the course are as follows: First, the Fourth Gospel reflects its influence from different thought-worlds/backgrounds, but a careful reading of the text teaches us that John composed the gospel in his own idiom. Second, the gospel shows us tenets of the existence of diverse faith communities side by side around the ethical and moral principles of Jesus. Third, some of the idioms, the narrative techniques, and the dramatic accretion show the unique style of John in comparison to the synoptic evangelists. For example, ‘sign,’ ‘figures of speech,’ ‘Paraclete-theology,’ ‘eternal life/abundant life expressions,’ and the like. Last, I understand that John developed his theology independently from that of the synoptic evangelists. Also I view that the theology of the Fourth Gospel is closer to that of the theology of the Pauline writings than that of the Synoptic Gospels.”

In recapitulation, the above post-Johannine class reflections of my student-friends encourage me to take further steps in my learning and teaching experiences of the Fourth Gospel and also the larger Johannine writings. I thank all of you for taking pain to write these reflections. Moreover, I am indebted to you for teaching me new lessons in the Johannine expedition.

Presented by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

poverty-5Another text Luke parallels with Matthew in 7:18-23. Putting Luke 7 in the larger context of 6:20-8:18, Bovon notes the mix of speaking (6:20-49; 7:18-35; 8:4-18) and action (7:1-17; 7:36-50), with a summary in 8:1-3 (cf. Bovon, 1989: 369). John the Baptist sends two disciples, since two witnesses would be necessary to attest to some event (vv. 18-19). The inquiry by the disciples of John is made after healings have been reported to him. The gossip network (cf. Luke 4:14-15) is reporting a new status for Jesus, and John seeks confirmation of it [1]. Word and deed progress side by side as Jesus moves through Galilee. While the words supplement Jesus’ actions, the actions in turn supplement his words. In that way, words and deeds are dynamically interlocked in Jesus’ mission. The arrangement is Luke’s, since there is a mix of material from Mark and Matthew, as well as unique Lukan material [2]. The Lukan passages have parallels in Matthew 11 and occur there in the same sequence as here, though with the omission of some materials that Luke uses (cf. Matthew 11:2-6, 7-11, 16-19; see Craddock, 1990: 99-101). Hence we are dealing with Q material again, even though Luke has modified or transposed some of it [3]. As we have already seen in the case of Luke 6:20 in comparison to Matthew 5:3, Lukan editorial tendencies are once again vivid in 7:22. The significance of the list in 7:22 (cf. Matthew 11:5) is that every activity is a healing of some kind, except the last item about preaching good news to the poor [4]. While Matthew presents the original Q material, Luke takes the passage to address an entirely different social context (see Stanton, DJG, 1992: 644-650). The sociolinguistic connotation of Lukan ptōchos is once again brought to the notice of the reader here.

The phrase ptōchoi euangelidzontai stands out in the list, not only because it comes last and so functions climactically, but also because of its distinct character. It alludes Isaiah 61:1 in Luke 4:18 and also looks to Luke 6:20, which gives a beatitude to the poor [5]. Craddock (1990: 100) says that, “Jesus is carrying out what he announced as his program in the synagogue at Nazareth, the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2”. The favor of which Isaiah spoke is being realized in the preaching and teaching of Jesus. Luke develops his specific message in relation to the contextual realities of his time (cf. Green, 1997: 295-297). The language he picks up shows the way he caricatures his surroundings. According to Charles H. Talbert, “both Luke’s choice of genre type for his message to the church and his development of the type chosen are rooted in the sitz-im-leben of his community” [6]. Thus, it is clear that Luke’s message was formulated out of his social context [7].

Jesus’ reply recalls the words from Isaiah, which he used in the synagogue at Nazareth. Here Jesus again refers to the poor; and, in addition to the blind, he also mentions those who suffer from lameness, deafness, and leprosy (cf. Green, 1997: 297). In the passage, the ptōchoi to whom Jesus announces the good news of the kingdom are a large group (cf. Davids, DJG, 1992: 701-710). They include not only the destitute [8], but also the illiterate, the socially outcaste, the physically handicapped, and the mentally ill (in the Gospel language: ‘the poor’, ‘the little ones’, ‘the tax collectors and sinners’, ‘the sick’, and ‘the possessed’) who form so large a part of the crowds that continually swarm about Jesus in the early days of his Galilean ministry (cf. Sean Freyne, Galilee, 1980). All these are the ‘poor’ (ptōchoi) because all are seen as victims of oppression—whether human (as with the destitute and outcaste) or demonic (as with the crippled, the sick, and the possessed)—which reduces them to a condition of diminished capacity or worth (see Green, 1997: 297). It is this diminution (whether social, physical, or economic), this being ‘bent’, this state of oppression, which is the specific feature defined the gospel ‘poor’ [9]. According to George M. Soares-Prabhu, “. . . the poor are a sociological rather than a religious group” [10]. Their identity is defined not by any spiritual attitude of openness, or dependence on God, but simply by their sociological situation of powerlessness and need. What Soares-Prabhu says here is more appropriate in the context of the Lukan poor.

Luke indicates that Gentiles were among those who benefitted from Jesus’ healing activity. Jesus also healed a relatively large number of women (cf. Scholer, DJG, 1992: 880-887). Luke indicates that Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever (4:38-39), that he aided a widow by raising her son to life (7:11-17), the he cured a woman who had long been afflicted with a hemorrhage (8:43-48), and that he healed a woman who had been beset by spirit that rendered her infirm for eighteen years (13:10-13; cf. Scholer, DJG, 1992: 880-887). Although Luke’s Jesus expressed a definite concern for the poor, the infirm, women, and Gentiles, it is also clear that Jesus is not portrayed as unconcerned about those not falling within these groups. Rather, universalism is a striking feature of Jesus’ social stance [11]. Again, it is noticeable that the term ptōchoi in Luke can accommodate all other vulnerabilities.

According to Luke, Jesus’ position is one of concern and compassion for people from all walks of life, but he does not passively accept values or practices that run counter to his own vision regarding healthy social relationships [12]. The sum total of six classes of unfortunate persons thus described in Luke 7:22 (i.e., tuphloi, chōloi, leproi, kōphoi, nekroi, and ptōchoi) stresses the kind of persons to whom the message of the Lukan Jesus is being brought. So the phrase ptōchoi euangelidzontai means good news to all those who are afflicted by social, economic, physical and other kind of oppressions (cf. Green, 1997: 297). Thus in both 6:20 and 7:22 Luke attempts to make the text socially relevant, and avoided the tendency of spiritualization of poverty. His social redaction of the text made it closer to the sitz-im-leben of the masses.

End Notes:

[1] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, 285. For more details about “Gossip network” in the gospel traditions, refer to Neyrey, The Gospel of John, 2007: 26, 55-56, 96-97, 193, 317, 319-320.

[2] F. Bovon, Das Evangelium nach Lukas: Luke 1:1-9:50, Vol. 1, Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 3/1 (Zurich: Neukirchener Verlag, 1989), 369. 

[3] Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX, 662.

[4] Boch, Luke 1:1-9:50, BECNT, 667.

[5] Ibid., 667f.

[6] Charles H. Talbert, Literary Patterns, Theological Themes, and Genre of Luke-Acts, Society of Biblical Literature Monograph Series, Vol. 20 (Missoula: Society of Biblical Literature and Scholars Press, 1974), 135.

[7] Further, James H. Charlesworth says, “. . . Jesus’ unique words were shaped by contemporary Jewish thought and especially by the interpretation of scriptures by his fellow Jews”. See James H. Charlesworth, “The Historical Jesus: How to Ask Questions and Remain Inquisitive”, The Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1, ed. T. Holmen and S. E. Porter.

[8] A fast growing population in the Palestine in Jesus’ time, where heavy civil and religious taxation led to large-scale rural indebtedness, the selling off of small land holdings, and the creation of a vast rural and urban proletariat, subsisting precariously on daily wage labor, begging, or banditry.

[9] George M. Soares-Prabhu, “Class in the Bible: The Biblical Poor a Social Class?” Voices from the Margin: Interpreting Bible in the Third World, ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah (New Delhi: Orbis Books, 1991), 156.

[10] Ibid., 157.

[11] Cassidy, Jesus, Politics, and Society, 24.

[12] Ibid.

Upcoming post:A Sociolinguistic Reading of ptōchos in Luke’s Gospel, Part VIII: ‘Lukan usage of ptōchos from Mark (18:22)’”

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

06kibas02_Iyer-Jesu_915994e(The author, V. R. Krishna Iyer, 99 years old, is a retired Supreme Court Judge of distinction, a former Cabinet Minister in the Kerala government, a great humanist, and a regular contributor to The Hindu. Republished from “The Hindu” Daily Newspaper, December 24, 2008)

[Was not the kingdom of god that Jesus held up but the forerunner to socialism, social justice, secularism and democracy? He was a raging egalitarian, an invisible socialist, and an economic democrat.

Jesus, born of humble parents in Bethlehem, rose as a glorious phenomenon. He became a world wonder of spiritual-temporal revolution against an imperial establishment and a corrupt priestly order. Judas Iscariot betrayed his master for a few pieces of silver. Every barbarity from those treacherous days still exists, indeed in magnified malignancy, to victimize the have-not humanity and slay the radical humanist and activist.

Lofty testament

For all of humankind, Jesus’ magnificent, yet militant, teaching was a lofty testament of egalitarian liberation from obscurantist faith, authoritarian politics, theological orthodoxy and big business freebooting. Similarly, the ring of his message constituted a de facto revolt against Roman imperialism, absolutist injustice and priest-proud godism. He stood for a higher culture marked by a sacred, sublime, compassionate ethos, and a divinity of humanity that is free from crass, class-mired materialism and gross, greedy, grabbing riches. This rare man of Nazareth resisted Jewish ecclesiastical domination, opposed discrimination among brothers and demanded, in God’s name, socio-economic justice. This is the essence of the Jesus jurisprudence of human dignity, inner divinity and fraternal obligation to help every brother in distress.

Born into a carpenter’s family, Jesus lived a sage and simple life and chose his disciples from a weaker section of society — indigent fishermen. He symbolised a revolutionary change in the theological-temporal establishment and advocated social justice and divinity, dignity and equity in the social order. Such a transformation was the truth of the kingdom of heaven, which was a challenge to the Roman Empire, the Jewish priestocracy and the arbitrary justice system that then prevailed. H.G Wells wrote: “This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought. It is small wonder if, the world of that time [and of our time, if this writer may add] failed to grasp its full significance, and recoiled in dismay from even a half apprehension of its tremendous challenges to the established habits and institutions of mankind.”

Rare daring

Jesus, the glorious rebel, proclaimed the reality of a universal moral order. He called it the kingdom of heaven and told the people that the kingdom of god was indeed within them. He outraged the hypocrites who did their commerce inside the temples and the shrines. He drove them out with rare daring. Now, right before our eyes, our temples and churches are again centres of big business.

Jesus, to the anger of the proprietariat, resisted the commercialisation of god and the commoditisation of man. Big temples, great churches, god-men, bishops, mullahs and acharyas are a mundane part of the capitalist establishment and are anti-Jesus in spirit. India’s Constitution mandates equality, secularism and economic democracy. What a marvel it was that Jesus preached ages ago — that God was equal in granting his favours to all, as was the sun. Jesus was a raging egalitarian, an invisible socialist, an economic democrat. Proof of this lies in his parables and preaching.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cast scorn upon that natural tendency we all obey, to glorify our own people and to minimise the righteousness of other creeds and races. In the parable of the labourers he thrust aside the obstinate claim of the Jewish people to have a sort of first mortgage upon God. All whom God takes into the kingdom, he taught, he serves alike. There is no distinction in his treatment, because there is no measure to his bounty. There are no privileges, no rebates, and no excuses. H.G. Wells has presented these propositions in The Outline of History.

Barabbas jurisprudence

The abolition of poverty is a socialist feature of the societal structure. In order to wipe every tear of grief from every eye, you need a social transformation and an economic regeneration, a special concern for women and children, and a rage against those who rob the people’s resources. This is the majesty and humanity of true spirituality that was absent during the era of Emperor Tiberius. It was his administration and justice delivery system, presided over in the region by Pontius Pilate, which decreed, with perverse judicial power and under pressure from the priestly class and in exercise of state authority that Jesus, who argued for the kingdom of heaven, be put to the cross. When treason was the charge and the priestly order was exposed by the accused, there was terrific pressure on the Governor-judge to sentence him. The same judge set free Barabbas. Even today innocence suffers state punishment and robbery rides state power. Barabbas jurisprudence is in currency even today.

Jesus spoke for all time and all mankind when he, bed-rocked on the spiritual philosophy of the kingdom of god, told that court this truth of human rights and social justice. His advocacy of the humanist culture as the ultimate value, as against obscurantist godism, is evident from the admonition that sabbath is for man, not man for sabbath.

Advocate of unity and fraternity

Jesus advocated the unity and fraternity of humanity, like the doctrine of Advaita that Adi Sankara propagated as an upanishadic fundamental. Not only did he strike at patriotism and the bonds of family loyalty in the name of God’s universal fatherhood and the brotherhood of all mankind, his teaching condemned all the gradations of the economic system, all private wealth, and personal advantage. He said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

To my mind, this glorious dimension of the kingdom of god is the forerunner to socialism, social justice, secularism and democracy. The life of Jesus was absolute simplicity, matchless humility, compassionate humanity, gender reverence and pro-poor egalite. He washed the feet of his disciples, he defied godist superstition. To share and care for your neighbour, even your enemy, were the fundamentals he taught. He was thus a pioneer of world brotherhood, who advocated freedom from dogmas and obscurantist cults. Such a universalism is the testament of Jesus. This is the Christianity to be practised daily — not the Christianity for a Sunday ritual, or for an alibi to hold the world under imperial might and big business power. Not showy charity coupled with mighty rapacity. The Buddha was a predecessor of Jesus. The Mahatma whom Churchill called “the half-naked fakir” was his successor.

Yet, Jesus if born today will meet Pilate’s justice yet again. Barabbas is in power everywhere again. Judas the pretentious disciple and arch-betrayer is a subtle and slight presence practising diplomacy — the Cross in one hand and nuke bomb in the other. The terrorist incarnation today masquerades as the ruler of the earth.

The resurrection of the world and the elimination of the sufferings and slavery of millions are desiderata for many a million honest disciples of Jesus. Even so, the finest teachings of Jesus have perished, and the world today suffers a grave decline in the values of humanism, compassion, morality and divinity. Greed, vulgarity and the collapse of the public good have been a shock and a shame, a terror and a horror.

Structural splendour

Resurrection, not in the lexical or biblical sense, but in the grand moral dimension of the term conveying the spirit of trans-material mutation, is the structural splendour of the world order. Peace, not war; stability, not subservience; high morality, not any grab-based acquisitive success, is the new ethic. Exploitation has become the rule of law, and equity and justice have become the vanishing point of international jurisprudence.

The hidden agenda after a unipolar world is the malignant methodology of insatiable accumulation of wealth. This terrible trend must be trampled under the foot by a triumphant and dynamic generation. This should be done with socialist convictions and a profound prognosis — of work, wealth and happiness for every human being. This should be the ‘developmental drama’ of the New World Order.]

Teach-Girls-End-World-PovertyScholarly studies suggest that the very earliest NT traditions which are reflected in the ‘Q Source’ (i.e., non-Markan material common to Luke and Matthew) provide us with the most radical presentation of the NT teaching on the poor and poverty. In ‘Q’ the priority attention is given to the poor and good news to the poor. This is evident from the first beatitude in Luke 6:20 (= Matthew 5:3) and then from Luke 7:22 (= Matthew 11:55; cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705; Schnackenburg, Matthew, 2002: 47). A sociolinguistic reading of these two passages provides us with insights concerning the Lukan redactional intentions and community applications.

People in different sociological environments operate with different linguistic forms. The interaction between their sociolinguistic perspective and the language of a text results in a unique understanding about the power and meaning of the text. One therefore should not expect that person in one sociolinguistic framework would interpret a text in the same way as people living in a different one [1]. We can see the process already at work in the NT. In Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, while Luke 6:20b, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705; Schnackenburg, Matthew, 2002: 47) [2]. According to Brian K. Blount, “while Matthew moralizes the ‘poor’, Luke, ever cognizant of the socioeconomic dichotomy between the rich and the poor, identifies a social rather than a moral reality” [3]. This is a tangible means through which we can identify the way different evangelists used texts according to their socio-cultural contexts.

It is a matter of debate about who changed the original ‘Q’ form of the beatitudes [4]. Luke’s Greek has the same first three words as Matthew 5:3, makarioi hoi ptōchoi, but the Matthean form continues, “in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. By adding “in Spirit”, Matthew has adapted to the beatitudes anawim among the early Jewish Christians [5]. It is more probable to think that Matthew added “in Spirit” to his text rather than to think that Luke omitted the expression. According to Matthew’s version, Jesus’ blessings might be taken to apply to those who were actually rich in possessions as long as they were poor “in Spirit” (cf. Craddock, 1990: 89; Schnackenburg, Matthew, 2002: 47). This is not the case with Luke. For not only does Luke’s version name the poor and the hungry without any qualifications, Luke also includes a series of “woes” addressed to the rich and the comfortable that contrast with the preceding blessings of the poor and the hungry (cf. Green, 1997: 267; cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705). The overall effects is that those who are actually poor and actually hungry are the ones to whom the blessings are addressed [6]. In that sense, one needs to understand that Lukan attempt is to bring a contrast between the rich and the poor of his society. That further means that the author’s attempt is to introduce a social critique in rhetoric format.

In the text, Lukan rhetorical intentions are obvious. In 6:20 the blessings of the ‘poor’ are followed by a blessing on ‘those who hunger now’. In the following woes the poor and the hungry are contrasted with those who are rich and well fed in this world [7]. According to H. Kvalbein, “the text no doubt refers to socio-economic poverty and physical hunger; those who now are poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted will be raised to glory and enjoy the abundance of the Kingdom of God” [8]. The first three makarisms [9] deal with ‘the general human conditions of poverty and suffering’ and the fourth makarism is oriented towards the specific situation of persecution of Christian community [10]. The four makarisms describe someone who has lost both material wealth (poor, hungry), as well as social standing (loss of kin, ostracism). This ostracism entails total loss of all economic support from the family (food, clothing, shelter), as well as total loss of honor and status in the eyes of the village (a good name, marriage prospects and the like). Such persons would be ‘shameful’ in the eyes of the family and village, but Jesus proclaims them ‘honorable’ (makarioi; cf. Craddock, 1990: 89) [11]. As a rhetorical masterpiece the text introduces a transfer of order in a society characterized by ‘honor and shame’.

The evangelist encourages the reader to take side with the poor and the marginalized and to stand in opposition to the oppressive social structures. His beatitudes are statements consoling and supporting the socially disadvantaged groups. The social ostracism in v. 22 is always the fate of the poor in agrarian societies. Luke suggests that social ostracism may become the fate of the rich who join Jesus’ groups that include the poor [12]. The Sermon on the Plain in Luke is, directed towards the ‘poor’, the hungry, and the mourning (cf. Green, 1997: 267). The laments about the rich are parenthetically calling out to an absent group of people. Not just the rich, but also all members of the congregation are supported to lend to the fellow humans without hope of return (cf. Craddock, 1990: 89). For this reason John the Baptist, Paul, and also Jesus are central figures in Luke-Acts acting as promoters of horizontal compensations of possessions. At the same time, the rich are particularly being asked to perform this duty of sharing goods [13]. According to Philip F. Esler, “. . . social and political factors have been highly significant in motivating Lukan theology; in other words, that Luke has shaped the gospel traditions at this disposal in response to social and political pressures experienced by his community” [14]. A total reversal of social status is envisioned, a point made even more vivid by the contrasting woes upon the rich in Luke’s Gospel (cf. Craddock, 1990: 89). These words are addressed to the hungry, powerless, and socially dispossessed people around Jesus [15]. Thus, the beatitudes promise satisfaction and laughter to the poor, which is exactly what the rich now have (cf. Luke 6:25; 16:19; see Green, 1997: 267). Lukan pragmatic theology is vivid at this point as elsewhere in the gospel.

In Luke 6:20ff, hoi ptōchoi includes the following groups of people: hoi peinōntes (those who hunger), hoi klaiontes (those who weep), misēsosin (hated), aphorisōsin (excluded), oneidisōsin (reviled), and ekbalōsin (thrown out). Green (1997: 267) states that, “‘Poor’ and ‘rich’ . . . are socially defined constructs—and Jesus is overturning the way these terms have been constructed in ordinary discourse . . . . By asserting that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, then, Jesus is redefining the working assumptions, the values that determine daily life”. Thus hoi ptōchoi is expressed here as a general term to address the above mentioned specific groups of people. Among the hoi ptōchoi living on the poverty line the am haaretz (i.e., ‘the people of the land’) are to be reckoned significantly. The hoi ptōchoi (and am haaretz) were overburdened with taxes, tithes, and rent and so often fell hopelessly into debt. Even worse of was those who lived either partially or fully on relief (cf. P. H. Davids, DJG, 1992: 704-705) [16]. Luke’s beatitudes address such a group of people. In recapitulation, the Lukan beatitudes, especially the one in 6:20, are carved out of his social realities.

End Notes:

[1] Brian K. Blount, Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 4.

[2] Abraham J. Malherbe sees a connection between the social patterns of the Palestinian context and their reflections in the literary works of the authors. Abraham J. Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity, Second Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 17ff.

[3] Blount, Cultural Interpretation, 4.

[4] The beatitudes (6:20b-23) and the woes (6:24-26) form the exordium of the Lukan sermon; they are like two strophes of a poem and correspond to Matthew 5:3, 4, 6, 11-12. See Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX, 631f.

[5] Cf. Ibid., 632.

[6] Richard J. Cassidy, Jesus, Politics, and Society: A Study of Luke’s Gospel (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1978), 23.

[7] H. Kvalbein, “Poor/Poverty”, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Eds. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner (Leicester/Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 2000), 689f.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Some of the beatitudes and other sayings of Jesus that are preserved in this sermon have their counterparts in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. In form, the beatitudes are related to makarisms found in Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Old Testament literature.

[10] John S. Kloppenborg, The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 173.

[11] Jerome H. Neyrey, “Loss of Wealth, Loss of Family and Loss of Honor: The Cultural Context of the Original Makarisms in ‘Q’”, Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the NT in Its Context, Ed. Philip F. Esler (London/New York: Routledge, 1995), 145.

[12] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, 285.

[13] Gerd Theissen, Gospel Writing and Church Politics: A Socio-Rhetorical Approach, Chuen King Lecture Series 3 (Hong Kong: Theology Division, Chung Chi College, Cuhk, 2001), 113.

[14] Philip Francis Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lukan Theology (Cambridge: University Press, 1987), 2.

[15] Walter E. Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1981), 58.

[16] Ibid., 43ff.

Upcoming post:A Sociolinguistic Reading of ptōchos in Luke’s Gospel, Part VII: ‘Lukan usage of ptōchos from the Q Source (7:22)’”

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

unnamedNepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is the world’s ninety-third largest country by land mass and the forty-first most populous country, better known as “the top of the world”. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the North by the People’s Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. My 2013 visit to Nepal was in every means a refreshing experience. It was my honor that I was invited as a lecturer on the Gospel of John at Nepal Ebenezar Bible College in Kathmandu. The four days’ interaction with the students and faculty of NEBC and the churches around contributed long-lasting results in my life. During my stay at NEBC, Mr. Caleb Yashwanth, the Dean of Academic Affairs, arranged a time of interaction with Nepalese New Testament scholar Rev. Dr. Ramesh Khatry. I was told that Dr. Ramesh Khatry is the first and the only New Testament scholar with a PhD in the Nepalese context. His contributions as a New Testament scholar and relationship with the extended Nepalese church as a Christian minister are significant things to mention here. The following details about him are gathered from my one-on-one interaction with him.

In 1976 Ramesh Khatry left Nepal in order to pursue his Bachelor of Divinity (BD) studies at The Union Biblical Seminary, Yeotmal, India, and in 1979 he completed his studies with a distinction. He grew up as a Christian in the Nepalese Hindu environment and that shaped his interpretative outlook of the New Testament. When he left the homeland in 1976 there were only about 3,000 Christians in Nepal. But when he returned back in 1979 the Christian community was rapidly grown to 12,000 people. From 1979 onward Khatry was involved as an active worker and founder of The Nepal Christian Fellowship, The Nepal Bible Institute, and The Nepal Bible Ashram. Through these initiatives he persuaded many Nepali Christians for scholarly pursuit.

In the year 1986 he started his research work for earning his PhD in New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, UK. In 1991 he successfully defended his dissertation and returned back to serve his nation. The dissertation was titled “The Authenticity of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and Its Interpretation”. He had completed his dissertation under the supervision of Dr. David Wenham. The dissertation seeks to demonstrate the authenticity (as dominical teaching) of the parable of the darnel (Matt. 13:24-30) and its interpretation (Matt. 13:36-43). The interpretation in particular is almost universally regarded as non-dominical, notably by Joachim Jeremias and his followers. But Khatry argues that the whole of Matt. 13:36-43 (and Matt. 13:24-30) should be seen as dominical. He also challenged the arguments of Geza Vermes and others that the Christological title ‘Son of Man’ was not used during the time of Jesus. His dissertation can be considered as one of the significant critiques toward the post-Jülicher interpretation of the parables.

Dr. Ramesh Khatry says that his five years of research toward his PhD taught him several lessons of writing. He authored the following seven books in the Nepali language: New Testament Background, A Commentary on Romans, A Commentary on Galatians, A Commentary on Revelation, A Guide to Biblical Interpretation, A Guide to Expository Preaching, and A Book on Paul. His contributions to the Nepalese churches and to the theological communities in the Himalayas are immense. He was principal of Nepal Ebenezer Bible College from 1992 till 1998. From 1998 he works as the Education Director of The Association for Theological Education in Nepal (ATEN). The primary purpose of ATEN is to upgrade and promote theological education in the country. ATEN has the largest theological library in Nepal with 19,500 books. Dr. Ramesh Khatry and his colleagues took active initiative to build theological foundation in Nepal. During the developmental stages of ATEN they had to confront several struggles such as lack of qualified students, faculty and research resources, financial barriers, and the problem of recognition and affiliation. Currently, ATEN authorities are in conversations with the Religious Studies department of Tribhuvan University for affiliation. My one hour conversation with Dr. Ramesh Khatry informed me the lessons of humility, determination, and scholarship. In rapidly growing native-church context of Nepal, Dr. Ramesh Khatry’s commitment for biblical scholarship has to be reckoned with significance.

See the Google Book here.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARev. Dr. Dan Nighswander, along with his wife Mrs. Yvonne, spent about six weeks in The Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, in order to work toward his forthcoming commentary on First Corinthians. We had a wonderful time with this couple. Dr. Dan was helping us in the NT studies department as a resource person. Dan has been the pastor at Jubilee Mennonite Church since August 2009. Before that he was a conference youth pastor, pastor at two churches in Ontario, part-time lecturer in New Testament at Conrad Grebel University College, denominational administrator for Mennonite Church Canada and missionary in South Africa. He holds Masters degrees from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Wilfrid Laurier University, and he completed his PhD in New Testament at Toronto School of Theology. He has a special interest in First Corinthians and he is writing a commentary on that New Testament letter. Dr. Dan and Mrs. Yvonne have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four grand children. The below questions and answers are part of our various conversations in the UBS Campus.

Question #1: Dr. Dan Nighswander, may you share with us your experience of combining the academic and ministerial aspects together?

Dan: After I graduated from seminary I started my first pastorate and my second master’s degree at the same time. Five years later I started my doctoral program, which I completed while pastoring a church and teaching part-time. For me, it has worked well to combine academic and pastoral ministry so that I bring my best knowledge to preaching and I bring questions from the congregational experience to my academic pursuits.God has called me to both pastoral and academic forms of ministry. For some years my ministry did not allow time for academic pursuits and that created a personal as well as a professional loss.

Question #2: Who were the two significant New Testament scholars influenced you the most in your academic life?

Dan: In my doctoral studies Dr. Richard N. Longenecker was one of many teachers who was influential. More recently I have been shaped by Dr. N.T. Wright’s books.

Question #3: What are the areas of your interest in preaching and teaching?

Dan: In teaching I am interested in Pauline letters, especially 1 Corinthians; also synoptic gospels and John. I have found social scientific questions to be particularly fruitful for my understanding. In preaching I am especially interested in spiritual growth (the experience of grace, prayer, and awareness of God),discipleship (hence, understanding Jesus), and creating a lively encounter with the Bible that will inspire people to love, read and obey it.

Question #4: Tell us about your current writing project.

Dan: I am writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians for the Believer’s Church Bible Commentary series. These commentaries are for pastors and lay leaders, and in addition to exegesis they include comments on “The Text in the Life of the Church” for each section of text. It brings together my academic and pastoral interests.

Question #5: In your opinion, how the Eastern New Testament studies are different from that of the Western?

Dan: There are aspects of the culture and world view of the Bible that Western Scholars don’t understand because they were set in the Mediterranean and influenced by the East. Examples would include family systems, the value of honor and shame, authority and power, political systems and others.

Question #6: Do you think that bridging the Eastern and the Western New Testament scholarship is possible? How?

Dan: I think it is possible if scholars are aware of their own perspectives and open to other ways of reading the texts. Western scholars have less experience with this than Eastern scholars because the weight of publishing has been in the West and Eastern scholars have studied in the West. It would help if Eastern scholars would publish with a self-consciously Eastern world view. As an example, some Western NT scholars have explored the influence of shame and of patronage in the Bible. Eastern scholars could contribute a lot to this perspective. Some other cultural aspects of the Bible are more like the Eastern mind (see the writings of Kenneth Bailey and others), and Western scholars should humbly listen to what Eastern scholars have to say. Eastern and Western scholars are asking different questions of the texts, and we can be stimulated by listening to each other’s questions as well as to each other’s answers.

Question #7: What is your advice to the upcoming New Testament scholars, preachers, and teachers of the Eastern world?

Dan: Explore your own cultural perspective on the texts and be confident in the wisdom of your experience. Publish your insights, and when you teach require students to read more Eastern than Western scholars. Focus your scholarship on the service of the church in your own context rather than on impressing other scholars.

Interviewed by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

widowThe following are reflections 11-14. See reflections 1-5 (here) and 6-10 (here).

Reflection Eleven: “The Dalits, the majority community of India, are politically powerless, socially untouchyable, economically poor, and religiously voiceless. Even today casteism is practiced in several parts of the country, by which the interests of the elite are protected. Dalit women of India are victims of patriarchal and androcentric customs as well as natural and accidental catastrophes. They are still victims of a cruel and oppressive socioreligious order. The customs of the society traumatized the feelings of women, especially Dalit women, in the past even now it hurts their identity. Many of them are homeless, jobless, starving, sick, oppressed, exploited, persecuted, robbed, raped, hungry, and dying. Today, the Dalits are eagerly waiting for a paradigm message of transformation and equality to overcome the dehumanizing structures. Mark 12:38-13:2 is just such a text which provides powerful insights for developing a Dalit Theology” (See Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251). The story of the woman in Mark 12:38-13:2 can be considered as a sharp rhetoric in the context of prevailing exploitation and marginalization in the India.

Reflection Twelve: “The widow in Mark 12 is a victim of an imbalanced society in which she was oppressed as poor, subjugated as a woman, and dehumanized as a widow; she was indeed suffering from triple-oppression. A Dalit Christian woman is a woman, a Dalit, and a Christian. There is in India a tradition defining what each of these identities involve which is so strong that a Dalit Christian woman can be described as thrice handicapped or thrice alienated on the basis of her gender, her caste, and her membership in a minority religious community (i.e., Christianity in India). The Women’s Movement in India has emphasized that Dalit women are the dust of dust in the Indian society—the thrice oppressed, brutalized, and abused not only by the upper castes/classes but by Dalit men too. In Mark 12:38-13:2, while the rabbis walked around in long robes, the widows ended up with tiny coins; while the rabbis were greeted with respect, the widows were considered a public disgrace; while one people group was comfortable with their best seats, the other was without a place to lay their heads; and while one constructed their own splendorous mansions including the temple, the other had their houses devoured. These caricatures go well with the context of lower caste—higher caste or poor—elite disparity in the Indian scenario. The presentation of the Markan widow over against the giant men can be taken as a symbolic expression of a social reality. The life-situation of the widow in the narratives of Mark provides paradigmatic rhetoric for us to apply to the life-situation of India” (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251).

Reflection Thirteen: “Dalit women who are victims of patriarchal constraints within the Dalit-fold itself are emerging as a volatile force to challenge the status quo. They are targets of sexual abuse by upper castes in a context of caste/class clashes, of state-sponsored violence in various forms, and of domestic violence in the hands of their own men. The widow of Mark is a living testimony for all the widows, oppressed women, and all the Dalit people in India and elsewhere around the globe. She must not be looked at merely as a historical monument; instead we must place her into the real-life situation of all the oppressed and exploited classes as a directive force for transforming the dehumanizing structures that are prevalent in the contemporary global scenario. Not only in this story but throughout all the Gospels, Jesus stood firm for the causes of the marginalized and identified completely with them. Just as Jesus sided with the vulnerable as a prophet of social transformation, so too in the present-day situation the church should raise its prophetic voice on behalf of the Dalits, especially the Dalit women of India” (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251).

Reflection Fourteen: In recapitulation, the story of the needy-poor-widow-woman is not merely a ‘descriptive’ event of the past but a ‘gnomic’ story that can rhetorically intertwine readers ‘here and now’ and ‘everywhere and ever’. The woman of Mark 12:38-13:2 functions as a symbolical character who can influence the Dalit women of India, Black women of America, Minjung women of Korea, and all the needy-poor-widowed-women in different parts of the world. Similarly, Markan protagonist Jesus functions as the savior of the world with ‘gnomic effect’. Jesus is the liberator of humanity from clutches. The church of God as the miniature form of the Kingdom of God must take this as the kernel point and should stand firm with the poor and the oppressed. Let this message flourish among the people of God so that all may become ‘servants’ rather than choosing to become ‘masters’.

Reflections by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

rich menThe following are reflections 6-10. See reflections 1-5 here.

Reflection Six: In Mark 12:44b Jesus says: “. . . but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live”. Two things are significant to note here. First, the poor woman has “put in everything she had”. She was putting out of her ‘want’ (Gk. ‘husterēseōs’) means that she was a needy-poor. She was putting ‘everything’ (Gk. ‘panta’) means that her contribution was complete in essence. She was putting ‘whatever she had’ (Gk. ‘hosa eichen’) means that she was contributing her lifelong financial balance. That further means that the woman was making a contribution par excellence. Second, the poor woman was contributing “all she had to live”. Her contribution makes a difference because she put ‘all’ (Gk. ‘holon’). The expression indicates that her contribution to the temple was ‘wholesome’. She was not contributing out of her ‘abundance’ (Gk. ‘perisseuontos’) just as the rich men were doing, but it was done out of her ‘life’ (Gk. ‘ton bion autēs’). That can mean that she starved in her ‘life’ (Gk. ‘bios’) to make this contribution an eventful one. In essence, her contribution was out of ‘pure devotion’, ‘self-denial’, and ‘righteous heart’. In Jesus’ sight, this needy-poor-widow-woman became a model of ‘true discipleship’ in comparison to the self-righteous rich men. 

Reflection Seven: Mark 13:1 reports that: “As he [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’” Three things are significant to note here. First, “Jesus came out of the temple”. The ‘coming out’ (Gk. ‘ekporeuomenou’) of Jesus has much to do with what has been happening within the temple. While the rich men were lavishing their money, the needy-poor-widow-woman was striving hard to make her life going. At the same time, the scribes those who interpret the scriptures, though key figures related to the temple, attempt to ‘devour’ the houses of the widows. The woman who put her two coins is portrayed as a symbol of struggling humanity due to the exploitative structures. In this structure, the temple itself was existing as an oppressive structure. That would have made Jesus furious and prompted him to step out of the temple. Second, the disciples who were silent witnesses within the temple now started to speak up. This reflects their slowness in understanding the real human issues and eagerness about the external aspects like the splendour of the temple. Third, one of the representatives of the disciples is amazed of the marvellous building. He says, “what large stones” (Gk. ‘potapoi lithoi’) and “what large buildings” (Gk. ‘potapai oikodomai’). His exclamation reflects his emphasis that is entirely different from that of Jesus. In essence, a starving woman within a splenderous temple, amidst of rich men, is a ‘double irony’. While the disciples were attracted to one extreme (i.e., the splendour of the temple), Jesus is able to visualize both the extremes such as the situation of the ‘needy-poor-widow-woman’ and the status of the ‘rich men’/‘splendorous temple’.

Reflection Eight: Mark 13:2 says: “Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’”. Three things are significant to note here. First, Jesus asks a rhetorical question to the disciple: “Do you see these great buildings?” The Greek word used for seeing is ‘blepeis’, that is derived from ‘blepō’. ‘Blepō’ means ‘to have a faculty of sight’, ‘to see’, ‘to look’, ‘to beware of’, ‘to cast a look on’, etc. Jesus’ question to the disciple is a critique toward his very activity of ‘seeing’. The disciple was not able to see the life struggles of the woman inside the temple; but he is able to see the splendour of the temple. Jesus does not appreciate such a partial and peripheral sight. Second, Jesus says: “Not one stone will be left here upon another”. Jerusalem temple was built upon ‘large stones’ (Gk. ‘potapoi lithoi’). Here Jesus utters a prophetical statement. He emphasises the fact that a temple that does not consider the matters of the poor cannot stand. While the rich men with their large sums and the scribes who ‘devour’ the houses of the widows are reckoned as esteemed personnel, the needy-poor-widow-woman stands out as a victim of an oppressive system. Third, Jesus says: “all will be thrown down”. The “large buildings” (Gk. ‘potapai oikodomai’) of the temple will be ‘overthrown’ (Gk. ‘kataluthō’). That means, in a context in which the worshipper(s) do not understand each other, the worship itself does not make sense. In a context in which the temple does not identify with the poor and oppressed, the temple itself does not make sense.

Reflection Nine: The story of the woman with two coins brings to the fore several contrasts between the ‘needy people’ and the ‘affluent people’. The woman was needy on several grounds. She would have been a ‘devoured’ person (12:40). The life situation of the woman is in several ways reminiscence to the situation of the woman of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:8-16). The woman of Zarephath was telling Elijah: “. . . I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar . . . we may eat it, and die” (1 Kings 17:12). The woman of Mark 12:41-44 has only two options left for her: first, she can spend her whole possession, i.e., the two coins, on a meal as her last wish; and second, as she does here, she can put the money into the temple-receptacle and leave herself into the hands of God. It seems that she had chosen the second option. She contributes the money out of her ‘life’ (Gk. ‘bios’). After putting the money into the receptacle, she remained as a penniless woman. She remained one among the most needy people in the world. Jesus was able to recognize her and her ‘needy’ situation. On the other side, the rich people were spending their money lavishly within and outside the temple. While the contribution of the men is portrayed as “large sums”, the woman’s contribution is mentioned as “two small copper coins”. As it is a story of “need” over against “affluence”, the characters remain symbolic. While ‘need’ is introduced as the protagonist of the story, ‘affluence’ is introduced as the antagonist. While the world considers the ‘affluent men’ as the blessed, Jesus considers the ‘needy woman’ as a person of worth and honor.

Reflection Ten: The story of the woman in Mark 12:38-13:2 is built upon ironies, contrasts, suspenses and surprises. The following three things are important to note. First, the story introduces a contrast between ‘men’ and ‘women’ of the First Century male-centered context. A context in which scribal/Rabbinic interpretations never considered women in equal terms with men, Jesus’ social transformative role is significant to note. In that sense, Jesus was gathering enemity toward him from the mainstream social class of his day. Second, it also brings a contrast between ‘widowed women’ and her ‘men’ counterparts. As a ‘widowed woman’, in the social set up, this lady was uncared, neglected, and even sexually targetted. The men stand here as symbols of an oppressive and imbalanced social system. Third, it introduces another contrast between the ‘poor’ and the ‘rich’. The unjust social, religious, and political systems of the First Century context made this woman penniless and that even led her to the verge of inferiority complex, shame, and poverty. The rich became more richer and the poor became more poorer. This is also true with the contemporary Indian social realities. In the globalized Indian context, the polarity between the rich and the poor became more visible and wider than ever before. The story of the needy-poor-widow-woman throws light to the unjust Indian social system. It gives a clarion call for engaged mission, eradication of poverty, upliftment of women’s status, and empowerment of the weaker sections of the society. [will be continued . . . Reflections 11-14]

Reflections by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

BlogDuring the last one week (3-9 February 2014) I was sharing at the CASA Community (an online church). Rafael Vallejo (PhD), minister and teaching elder at Queen St East Presbyterian Church, Toronto, Ontario, invited me to share with the community for a second time. An year before I shared some of my theological reflections with the same community for a week (i.e., fourteen reflections). This second time, he requested me to share from Mark 12:38-13:2 in relation to the poor and the Dalits in India. Rafael Vallejo suggested this topic after seeing my short reflection at the recently published Global Perspectives on the Bible (see Johnson Thomaskutty, “The Widow’s Offering and Dalit Theology”, Global Perspectives on the Bible [New Jersey: Pearson, 2014]: pp. 249-251). The following were my fourteen reflections (here, Reflections 1-5) from the passage.

Reflection One: Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:38-40 emphasizes three significant things. First, the scribes, though already a socially ranked group of people, attempt their best to increase their status quo by all means. They like to walk around in long robes as esteemed people. The ‘robes’ (Gk. ‘stolais’) they wear are long garments usually worn by priests, kings, and persons of distinction. They love to be ‘greeted with respect’ (Gk. ‘aspasmous’) in the ‘marketplaces’ (Gk. ‘agorais’). Marketplaces are the spots where both the rich and the poor often meet. The poor people are expected to greet the scribes in front of others, especially all those who come for buying and selling. As a custom the scribes would have visited the marketplaces in order to be greeted by the poor. They prefer to have the ‘best seats’ in the synagogues. The Greek word ‘prōtokathedrias’ means ‘chief seats’. From this one can understand that the scribes were aspiring to get first class seats on the basis of their social status. This tendency of the scribes often resulted in intra-synagogue classisms. The scribes also wished to have places of honor at banquets. Thus both in religious functions and in social gatherings the scribes attempted to maintain their hierarchy and hegemony. Second, they ‘devour’ (Gk. ‘katesthontes’) widows’ houses and for the sake of ‘appearance’ (Gk. ‘prophasei’) say ‘long’ (Gk. ‘makra’) prayers. The Greek word ‘katesthontes’ means ‘eat up’, ‘consume’, ‘make a prey’, and ‘plunder’. The expression here states that the scribes exploited, both financially and sexually, a considerable number of widows in Israel. The woman of Mark 12:41-44 can be considered as a victim of the evil practices of the scribes. In this context, their prayers are considered as ‘pretence’. Third, the scribes will receive the greater ‘condemnation’ (Gk. ‘krima’) from God. From the overall passage, we understand that the scribes were a group of people who exploited the poor and the marginalized of the society and for that the widow of Mark 12:41-44 is a living example.

Reflection Two: Mark 12:41 narrates: “He [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums”. Three things are observable in this verse. First, Jesus’ ‘sitting’ is not pictured as an accidental happening, but as an intentional activity. The Greek word used for ‘sitting’ is ‘kathisas’ that can mean ‘to cause to sit’ or ‘place’, ‘to be appointed’, ‘to be seated’, and like. From this peculiar expression one needs to understand that something ‘caused’ Jesus to sit down opposite the ‘treasury’ (Gk. ‘gadzophulakion’). Second, Jesus was not ‘seeing’ things accidentally, but intentionally. The Greek word used for seeing is ‘etheōrei’ that can mean ‘to be a spectator’, ‘to gaze on’, ‘to contemplate’, ‘to consider’, ‘to perceive’, ‘to watch’, or ‘to observe’. These English expressions show that Jesus was thoroughly watching people’s activity of giving in the temple. Third, Jesus parallels the ‘many rich people’ with their ‘large (sums)’. The Greek expressions ‘polloi’ (many [rich men]) and ‘polla’ (much [sums]) reveal that there were many rich people in Jerusalem and that the temple was affluent. Jesus identified the riches of ‘many’ and the financial stability of the temple. Thus the narrator of the story brings the following three things into the fore: first, Jesus was ‘sitting’ opposite the treasury with a purpose; second, he was ‘observing’ the people and their activity of giving unto God; and third, he was ‘identifying’ the ‘many rich men’ and their ‘much (sums)’.

Reflection Three: Mark 12:42 narrates: “A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny”. Three significant things can be noticed from this verse. First, the narrator introduces the ‘status’ of a ‘journeying woman’ over against the status of ‘many rich men’. She might be ‘coming’ (Gk. ‘elthousa’) after a tiresome long walk. She is a ‘widow’ (Gk. ‘chēra’), hence was not cared by anyone. She was a ‘poor’ (Gk. ‘Ptōchē’), hence was a needy woman. Second, the story-teller reveals her ‘activity’ of putting into ‘two small copper coins’ (Gk. ‘lepta duo’) into the treasury. Here ‘many rich people’ are contrasted with ‘one’ (Gk. ‘mia’) ‘poor widow’ and the ‘large sums’ (see v. 41) are with ‘two small copper coins’. Third, the narrator explains the comparative ‘value’ of the amount she put in. The two copper coins she put in worth a penny, which was the principal silver coin of the Roman Empire. Three things are observable in the story: first, the woman’s ‘status’ is comparatively much lesser than the status of the many rich men; second, the ‘activity’ of the woman is mentioned in comparison to the activity of the men; and third, the ‘value’ of her offering is brought to the fore in relation to the value of the offering of men. While the rich-men get collective attention (v. 41), the poor-widow-woman gets particular attention (v. 42).

Reflection Four: Mark 12:43 describes: “Then he [Jesus] called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury’”. We need to pay attention on three significant things. First, the narrator describes that ‘Jesus called his disciples and said to them’. Here Jesus’ ‘calling’ is intended to teach the disciples some new lessons. While Jesus was sitting and observing people’s activity of putting offerings into the treasury, the disciples distance themselves from Jesus and from the scene. They would have been engaged in their own business.  The Greek expression ‘proskalesamenos’ (i.e., ‘summoning’, ‘inviting’) provides us an implicit clue about disciples’ distanced position. Second, the woman gets all the ‘praising’ from Jesus as he reckons her activity with significance. Third, Jesus is ‘contrasting’ her activity with that of the activity of her male counterparts. The lessons we learn from here are: first, Jesus measures not as the world measures; second, he honors the dishonored poor-widow-woman whereas the honored rich-men dishonored; and third, the disciples learned a significant lesson from the life of the poor woman.

Reflection Five: In Mark 12:44a, Jesus says: “For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty”. Three things are significant here. First, Jesus groups ‘all’ (Gk. pantes) those men who contributed as one category over against the single poor woman. It was one of the customary practices that multitudes of people, all who were rich and honored, come and share their wealth into the treasury. This was one of the ways through which the rich people showed their affluence before the general public. Second, all (people) whom Jesus identifies contribute out of their abundance. They have enough at stock; hence they contribute a minute portion to the treasury. In that way, they do not risk anything in life at all. Third, the woman contributes out of her poverty. She doesn’t have a place to return, somebody to take care of her, or a portion of money to keep aside. She had only two copper coins and that she contributes to the treasury. That means, her contribution was hundred percent. She risks a lot of things to make this contribution happen. We can learn the following lessons from this verse: first, Jesus does not expect our ordinary donations, but extra-ordinary ones; second, a contribution that causes us to risk a lot is an extra-ordinary contribution; and third, Jesus takes side with the poor, needy, and the marginalized. [will be continued . . . Reflections 6-10]

Reflections by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

UTC Logo“‘Bible Darshan’-An International Conference”, under the auspices of The United Theological College, Bangalore, was held at the Ecumenical Resource Center (ERC), from 30th January till 1st February 2014. The central theme of the conference was: “Exploring New Frontiers for Post-western Biblical Studies”. Dr. J. R. John Samuel Raj, Principal of UTC, delivered the inaugural address. In his speech, Dr. John Samuel Raj emphasized the key word “perseverance” in relation to the scholarly pursuit. He opined: “Perseverance does not simply happen. It is an attitude and an approach to life”. Later on Dr. David J. Chalcraft, Dr. Chilkuri Vasant Rao, Dr. Monica Jyotsna Melanchton, and Dr. P. Mohan Larbeer welcomed the delegates. On 31st evening a Public Reception along with a Cultural Night program was organized in honor of delegates attending Bible Darshan at the Tagore Hall. The program was conducted with much effort and it was blessed with the presence of Rt. Rev. Dr. J. S. Sadananda, Rt. Rev. Dr. G. Devakadasham, and Rev. Dr. J. R. John Samuel Raj. Dr. Dexter Maben, the Head of the Department of Biblical Studies, United Theological College, was the coordinator of the whole Bible Darshan program. Dr. Dexter’s able leadership and hardwork deserve special appreciation.

The web-link of the conference explains the theme as follows: “The Bible continues to enlighten, renew and challenge individuals and communities, communicating the ‘gospel’ in diverse context(s). Glaring realities of identity, caste, poverty, plurality, and ecological issues continue to challenge, the study of the Bible in India/Asia. Biblical studies as a theological discipline, continues to evolve with positive contributions from the West. However, there is a need to move beyond the enlightenment framework, to rediscover cultural, religious and indigenous resources, which can make the Bible intelligible in our contexts, because they are closer to the Mediterranean world. Further, the need for an inter-disciplinary approach is significant than ever before, which can draw us closer to our cultural and religious heritage. The conference is an attempt to challenge biblical scholars in India and in the West to engage with one another, share insights with each other and evolve new frontiers for further research in India/Asia, thereby creating a new identity for biblical studies in the country”.For more details, go to the following web-link: http://utcbibledarshan.wordpress.com/.

The following were the twenty papers presented during the conference:

(1) “Sociology and the Study of Cultural Context in Global Biblical Interpretation” by Dr. David J. Chalcraft, Sheffield University, UK. Moderator: Dr. Daniel Jones Muthunayagom

(2) “‘The Other Side of the Coin’: Some Reflections on Post-Western Reawakening” by Dr. J. G. Muthuraj, UTC, Bangalore. Moderator: Dr. Gudrun Löwner

(3) “The Parables of Two Rich Men and a Beggar (Luke 12:16-20 and 16:19-31): Their Relevance for Interpreting the Bible in India Today” by Dr. V. J. John, Bishop’s College, Kolkota. Moderator: Dr. M. O. John

(4) “The Politics of ‘Invasion’ of Greek and the ‘Demise’ of Hebrew of Late Antiquity” by Dr. Royce M. Victor, KUTS, Trivandrum. Moderator: Dr. Evangeline Anderson Rajkumar

(5) “Holiness School’s Response to Economic Injustice in Leviticus 25: Its Relevance to Multi-religious and Cultural Context of India Today” by Dr. P. Joseph Titus, Bangalore. Moderator: Dr. Vasant Rao

(6) “Ephesians through a Postcolonial Lens” by Dr. Jayachitra Lalitha. Moderator: Dr. Lalrinawmi Ralte

(7) “Nation and Text: Britain, India and the Bible” by Dr. Hugh S. Pyper, Sheffield University, UK. Moderator: Dr. Joseph George

(8) “A Postcolonial Christological Shift in India: Converging Possibilities” by Dr. C. I. David Joy, UTC, Bangalore. Moderator: Rev. J. Jeyakumar

(9) “Biblical Prophets as Transformative Leaders” by Dr. Joy Philip Kakkanattu. Dr. Sahayadhas

(10) “Living in the Perilous Times: An African Reading of 2 Tim. 3:1-5″ by Dr. Olubiyi Adewale, Laos, Nigeria. Moderator: Dr. Nalini Arles

(11) “Pluralistic Hermeneutics” by Dr. Cherian Thomas, ECC, Bangalore. Moderator: Sr. Dr. Rani Joseph Mary Shruti

(12) “Reading Amos 6:1-7 in the Light of the Mizo Values and Ethos” by Dr. K. Lallawmzua, Aizwal. Moderator: Dr. Jacob

(13) “Can Anything Good Come out of India for New Testament Background?” by Dr. Sam P. Mathew, Allahabad. Moderator: Fr. Jerry Kurian

(14) “Biblical Concepts and the Religious ‘Other’ in India Today” by Ms. Anita Yadala Suneson, Uppsala, Sweden. Moderator: Mrs. Geetha Basappa

(15) “The Theme of Ordination in the Pastoral Epistles” by Dr. Reji Mathew, OTS, Kottayam. Moderator: Dr. J. R. John Samuel Raj

(16) “Reading Rizpah Across Borders, Cultures, Belongings” by Dr. Monica Jyotsna Melanchton, Melbourne, Australia. Moderator: Dr. George Zachariah

(17) “Creation and Human Movement: Prolegomena for a Biblical Migrant Hermeneutics” by Dr. Andreas Kunz-Löbcke, Hermansburg, Germany. Moderator: Dr. Mervin Shinoj Boaz

(18) “A Dialogue between the ‘Eastern’ and the ‘Western’ in New Testament Scholarship: A Proposal” by Rev. (Dr.) Johnson Thomaskutty, UBS, Pune. Moderator: Dr. Abraham Saggu

(19) “Text, Textures of Life and Diaspora: A Search for Theoretical Connections” by Rev. Sam Koshy, Kuwait City. Moderator: Dr. Allan Samuel Palanna

(20) “Marcan Apocalypse (Collapsarian Mark 13) as Jesus’ Prescience: A Post-western Critic” by Rev. G. Soleman, Salem. Moderator: Rev. J. Chellappa Packiaraj

Compiled by Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

JohnsonThe following are some of the significant questions I posed during Bible Darshan, an international biblical conference, organized by the Department of Biblical Studies, The United Theological College, Bangalore, India, from 30th January till 1th February 2014.

[The current paper is intended to develop a hypothesis that suits the contemporary context of integration and convergence. The ideology of globalization fosters liquid social functionalism and trans-nationalism in a higher proportion [1]. In such a situation, it is one of our primary hypotheses that “the NT writings should be looked at from a global point of view, without deteriorating the local points of view, by bridging the eastern and the western perspectives for a wider impact”. The following questions remain significant in relation to the basic proposition: Do the Eastern NT scholars lag behind in something to demonstrate their theological or interpretative discourses? How would a ‘local’ to ‘global’ accretion help us to invite the attention of the global audience/readers? How gnomic interpretative processes [2] in relation to descriptive processes help us to achieve the goal? Is there a dialogue possible between the eastern and the western NT scholars/hip? What are some of the significant tenets to be considered in this process? Analyzing the topic at the macro-level is beyond the scope of this discussion. Rather we attempt to discuss the issue at a micro-level in order to extend it further to the meso- and macro-levels. The following three aspects are given significance in this paper: first, analyzing the scholarly views with regard to the relationship or integration of the NT scholarship; second, observing the existent obstacles for a borderless scholarly pursuit; and third, suggesting a dialogical paradigm for the contemporary “global village”. The task of the paper is not to reach certain conclusions or to put an end to the discussion in an abrupt manner. Rather to propose something afresh in the challenging global situation and to keep the dialogue an ongoing and open ended one.

(The full paper has sixteen pages [A4 size])

Notes:

[1] My attempt here is not to deal with the aspects of globalization that indicate growing interdependence of countries and provinces through communication, finances and governance. Rather to explore the possibilities of a renewed framework for NT interpretation.

[2] I suggest here a gnomic present interpretation of the text; but it must always be done in relation to the descriptive presentation of the text. Daniel Wallace (1996: 523) states that, “the gnomic present refers to a general, timeless fact”. See Daniel Wallace, GreekGrammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996).]

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

JohnsonThe following are some of the questions I posed during the 20th Center for Mission Studies (CMS) consultation that was held at the Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, from 8th till 10th January 2014.

[In a world in which a growing sense of integration and convergence is obvious, the scripture has to be interpreted from an entirely different point of view.[1] The contemporary globalizing culture[2] fosters liquid social functionalism and trans-nationalism in a higher proportion.[3] As Christian theologians of the contemporary world, how do we prioritize the gospel message? When describing the genre of the gospels, Richard Burridge (1998: 113) considers them as documents “about People, by People, for People”. With insights from this important caption of Burridge, we here attempt to explore the gnomic significance of the Fourth Gospel. The present paper attempts to answer the following questions: Does John’s Gospel bridge the gap between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’? How does John attempt to present his theology with a gnomic intent? How does the Trinitarian theology of John contribute to the contemporary missional aspects? Does John contribute something significant to the contextual realities of the postmodern world? And how does John’s theology function at the micro-, meso-, and macro-levels of his narrative framework? Analyzing the entire gospel verse-by-verse is not the concern of this paper. Rather we will consider three important aspects seriously: first, the ‘global’ aspects of the gospel in relation to the ‘local’ concerns; second, the Trinitarian nature of John’s theology and its significance in a glocalized cultural context; and third, the mission theology of John in relation to a globalized cosmic order. The task of the paper is not analyzing the gospel as a whole. Rather to develop an interpretative frame for the gospel in a globalized social context.

The original script contains 16 (A4 size) pages.

End Notes:

[1] The word used to capture this new phase is ‘globalization’. Cf. Neil J. Ormerod and Shane Clifton, 2009: 3.

[2] Malcolm Walters (1995; quoted in Araujo, 2003: 230; cf. Steger, 2013: 1-145) defines “Globalization as a concept refers to both the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole . . . both concrete global interdependence and consciousness of the global whole”. In this context, Marshall McLuhan’s (1960: 97) idea of “the global village” is significant to consider with.

[3] Refer to George Ritzer, 2010; Emmet Russell, 1963/1987: 1069-1070; Steger, 2013: 1-145.]

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

Homeless children reach out from behind a fence as they wait to collect free clothes at a local charity in the northeastern Indian city of SiliguriSociolinguistics examines religion because it is another domain in human behavior where language is an important component [1]. In Luke 19:8, Zacchaeus’ act of distribution to the ‘poor’ is more religious in practice, but it has also sociological significance. The social reformer Jesus and a social sinner Zacchaeus can come to the same platform only in terms of a social issue like poverty (cf. Stegemann, 1999: 60). Here sociolinguistics is concerned with choices or decisions that speakers make: first, where the linguistic code permits; and second, where the choices have cultural significance (cf. Samaritan, 1976: 3). The motives for linguistic choices stem from factors such as place, time, topic of discourse, participants (i.e., role of speaker, nature and size of audience), and nature of the speech act [2]. Luke considers all these aspects while he narrates the story of Zacchaeus [3].

In the ancient Mediterranean world, the factors such as property, political power and influence, esteem, background, sex, occupational activity, education, and so forth were significant to consider people’s social position [4]. According to Joel B. Green, “Zacchaeus is like others on comparable quests who are faced with obstacles (cf. 18:3-4, 15, 39); Zacchaeus, like a widow, a toll collector, children, and a blind beggar, is a person of low social status” [5]. One can view how the secular literature and even the New Testament and the Rabbinic writings portray the aspects of the telōnai with negative connotations [6]. In the Roman and Hellenistic literature they were lumped together with beggars, thieves, and robbers. In the New Testament they are paired with sinners, ‘immoral people’ (pornoi, Matthew 21:31), and the Gentiles (Matthew 5:46; 18:17) [7]. Zacchaeus is characterized here in four different ways: first, a Jew; second, a ruler; third, a toll collector; and fourth, a wealthy (cf. Marshall, 1978: 694; Craddock, 1990: 218-20). In every sense he is sociologically stereotyped as a greedy and dishonest person and his credibility is zero [8]. The narrator of the story employs the available linguistic codes and choices to present the story in a rhetorical fashion (cf. Kennedy, 1984).

The rhetorical interest of the narrator is obvious through his linguistic choices. The main issue in v. 10 is the force of the verbs didōmi (to give) and apodidōmi (to give back). The usage of present tense can be taken as a descriptive of Zacchaeus’ current behavior [9]. In a society of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, Zacchaeus was isolated from both the extremes (cf. Johnson, 1991: 287; cf. Craddock, 1990: 218-20). While his economic richness caused him to loose the support of the ptōchos, the factor of the dignity of job separated him from the elite group. The ‘identity crisis’ of Zacchaeus is quite obvious here. Even though rich it was impossible for him to identify with the elite group. Only through distribution of wealth and coming down to the level of the ptōchoi he can eliminate his identity crisis (cf. Stegemann, 1999: 60).

The primary reason for poverty during the first century Palestine and other Roman provinces was due to heavy taxation imposed upon the masses. The various religious taxes (i.e., temple tax, tithe, firstling taxes and so forth), tributes and direct taxes (i.e., land tax and head tax), indirect taxes (i.e., wreath tax, salt tax, sales tax and the like), duties (i.e., import and export duties, harbor duties, tolls), fees, and compulsory labour which were imposed on the Jewish population in Palestine are brought together under the term taxes (cf. Donahue, 1992: 6: 337) [10]. Here Zacchaeus, as the district manager of the tax collecting company, earned his wealth mostly from the commission of the taxes. But his present activity of distribution of wealth is developed primarily out of confession of sins (i.e., transformation of mind). This is a healing story: the restoration of the abnormal or broken community relationships has been effected by the power of Jesus (cf. Donahue, 1992: 6: 337). The story is therefore not about Zacchaeus’ repentance, but about the curing of his illness. Here ‘illness’ can be defined as abnormal or disputed social relations [11]. According to Green, “. . . in a paradoxical way, this narrative unit provides a notable illustration of ‘good news to the poor’” [12]. Toward the end of the story, Zacchaeus is addressed as ‘son of Abraham’ (cf. Luke 16:23, 25, 29, 30) and his status in the society is elevated (cf. Marshall, 1978: 694).

The good news continues to reach the poor and the outcaste: the Kingdom is made up of people like helpless children (Luke 18:15-17); the blind beggar’s reception of sight fulfills the Messianic announcement of 4:18 (cf. Luke 18:38-43); and those who are ‘lost’ are being ‘sought out and saved’ [13]. The final story of Zacchaeus in the long account of Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem is meant to be a climax in the ministry of Jesus (cf. Marshall, 1978: 694). It is the supreme example of the universality of the gospel offered to tax collectors and sinners, with Jesus takes the initiative and he accepts the invitation to the house of Zacchaeus [14]. Thus, ptōchos is the connecting link between Jesus and Zacchaeus, the rich and the Kingdom values. In this level, we can see the significance of the story both at the descriptive and at the gnomic levels.

In the story the religious duties like almsgiving, distribution of wealth, and the attitude of sympathy mark a life of reconciliation in the society. Luke here uses ptōchos as a practical and linguistic code with cultural significance. He introduces ptōchos as a negatively affected community due to heavy taxation during his period (cf. Craddock, 1990: 218-20; Green, 1997: 666-73). Zacchaeus’ distribution of wealth is an invitation for reciprocal relationship between communities and thereby upliftment of the ptōchoi (i.e., endeavour for a classless society). In sum, ptōchos interacts within the pericope as a linguistic choice with social impact. The Lukan special source (i.e., ‘L’ source) deals with the issue of poverty in sociological terms (cf. Samaritan, 1976: 3). For the narrator the issue is not merely economical but larger and inclusive. In the ‘L’ he presents the real life situation of the people of the land in an innovative and rhetorical way than elsewhere in the New Testament.

End Notes:

[1] William J. Samaritan, ed. Language in Religious Practice (Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers, Inc., 1976), 3.

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Luke sets this scene with an important geographical reference to Jericho, located proximate to Jerusalem (about 20 kilometers away). Jesus is on the move, bringing the chronologically lengthy journey to Jerusalem to a close. The name Zakchaios (Hebrew Zakky), is an abbreviation of ‘Zachariah’, meaning ‘the righteous one’ (2 Macc 10:19). Zykamorea (Sycamore tree) appears only here (cf. 19:4) in the NT, though a related term Sukaminos (i.e., Sycamine tree) is found in 17:6. The tree is not the Mulberry fig of Western Europe, but more like an oak tree, only with a short trunk and wide, lateral branches that make for easy climbing.

[4] Ekkehard W. Stegemann and Wolfgang Stegemann, The Jesus Movement: A Social History of Its First Century (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 60.

[5] Green, The Gospel of Luke, 666.

[6] Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector (architelōnēs) at what apparently was a Roman regional tax center. Whether “chief” (archi-) means first of rank or simply a “major” (i.e., rich) tax collector is not clear.

[7] John R. Donahue, “Tax Collector”, ABD, Vol. 6, 337.

[8] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, 302.

[9] Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50, BECNT, 1519.

[10] Stegemann, The Jesus Movement, 113.

[11] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, 304.

[12] Green, The Gospel of Luke, 667.

[13] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 3, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 287.

[14] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Michigan, Eerdmans, 1978), 694.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

Minolta DSCLanguage and society are intrincically connected. A dynamic way of reading a given text reveals this fact. M. A. K. Halliday and Ruquiya Hasan see an interconnection of language, context, and text. A text is a product of the environment. It is a product in the sense that it is an output, something that can be recorded and studied, having a certain construction that can be represented in systematic terms. A text cannot capture the society in its entirety, but it can guide the reader toward the societal phenomena. It is a process in the sense of a continuous process of semantic choice, a movement through the network of meaning potential, with each set of choices constituting the environment for a further set [1]. While the text functions as a ‘guide’ to the societal systems, it is the reader’s sole duty to advance further to develop the understanding through various other means. In Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus was not a mere fiction, but rather the exact social representation of Luke’s time. The language and the semantics within the semiotic framework are developed out of the social psychology of the underprivileged (cf. Halliday and Hasan, 1985: 10). Hence, both the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of reading are important [2]. If we press a little further, a semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic interconnection in which the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ of the text are to be analyzed and perceived for extended results.

An extended study of the social world of Luke and his linguistic choices provides interpretative avenues. It is understood that the world of Luke was divided basically into two classes, the elite and the non-elite. As Green (1997: 605) says, “The stage of Jesus’ parable is set by the extravagant parallelism resident in the depictions of the two main characters”. The narrator uses his rich and typical style of language to make the social context obvious to the reader. The class structure is brought to the notice of the reader “first by the ‘gate’, then by the ‘distance’ (‘far away’, v. 23)”. The narrator depicts that “there was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen” (v. 19). This is contrasted with the condition of Lazarus who was “covered with sores” (cf. Craddock, 1990: 194-196). On the one side, “the rich man is depicted in excessive, even outrageous terms”, on the other side, “Lazarus [3] is numbered among society’s ‘expendables’” (cf. Green, 1997: 605). The contrast between the rich man and Lazarus is sharpened with the help of the narrator’s socially intertwined stylistic and linguistic phenomena. While the rich man’s clothing gets adequate attention, the clothes Lazarus wore receive no mention. Lazarus is covered with sores—a condition that undoubtedly marked him as unclean [4]. These are two categories of people who live in two different circumstances in a society that is categorized by the claims of the ‘honourable ones’ and the ‘shameful ones’. The narrator’s ability to caricature the social situation in his own linguistic style receives adequate attention from the paradigmatic reader of the story.

While the rich man “feasted sumptuously every day”, Lazarus “longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table” (vv. 19, 21). This is a significant portrayal of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ side by side. The narrator specifies that “even the dogs would come and lick his [Lazarus’] sores” (v. 21). Green (1997: 606) brings a parallelism between the story of the prodigal son and Lazarus. He says, “Just as the younger son had longed to fill himself with food reserved for pigs (15:16), Lazarus longed to eat what was apparently scavenged by dogs from the food that fell from the wealthy man’s plentiful table”. Third mention is made of their respective places of abode. While the wealthy man enjoys his life within the gated and safeguarded compound and in a splendid mansion appropriate to his station, Lazarus survives somehow as somebody thrown into the street. His life is outside of the wealthy man’s gate and is without any protection. As a ‘homeless’ and ‘crippled’ man (cf. Matthew 8:6, 14; 9:2; Rev 2:22), he undergoes a tragic situation [5]. Here, ptōchos means indeed not only those who lacking in money, but more comprehensively, the oppressed, miserable, dependent, humiliated, and the one who is deprived of the basic necessities of the society living called food, clothing, and shelter [6]. A translation by the Greek word ptōchos, the strongest available Greek word for social poverty, speaks in favour of this interpretation (cf. EDBW, 2005: 743). Lazarus, as a representative of the ptōchos/oi, is rightly placed opposite to the plousios/oi. In that sense, the story remains as a performative art carved out of the social realities of the First Century.

The wider possibilities of the word ptōchos has to be underlined here. The word reveals the social circumstances of two different classes of people (cf. Davids, 1992: 701-710). It appears twice in this story (vv. 20, 22) to address Lazarus. He is pictured as one who is outside the gate as well as the house, fully dependent on the rich man, ulcerated (Greek, eilkōmenos) [7], licked by the dogs, crippled, hungry, naked, and regarded as less than human, unclean, thorough-and-thorough an outcast, and one who was unburied after death [8]. All these categories of expressions add strength to the ostracized situation of Lazarus. The word ptōchos is potential to absorb all these categories as an inclusive expression. Degraded persons such as Lazarus constituted a considerable group of the population and most lived outside the city walls (cf. Craddock, 1990: 194-196). They begged in the city in the daytime but were put out of the city at night when the gates were locked [9]. Luke’s social vision is deciphered here with reality effects. That further means, ptōchos recapitulates a wide spectrum of aspects of the vulnerabilities of human beings. But, at the end of the story Luke brings a reversal of societal order by lifting Lazarus up to Abraham’s bosom [10], the ultimate hope of every Jew, i.e., a place of ultimate honour, rest, and bliss. Luke’s use of ptōchos as a socially constituted terminology provides rhetorical and pragmatic significance to the text.

In the story, Luke attempts to portray the real social situation of the poor with the help of semiotic categories. He describes a society characterized by richness and scarcity; in that sense it was, on the one hand, an “affluent society”, and, on the other hand, a “limited goods society”. It was a societal system in which the resources were not accessible to those who were at the lower ladder of the society. The access is controlled through power structure of the society, made visible in the system of unequal exchange in the patron-client relationship [11]. The semiotics Luke uses to fulfill the purpose of bringing out the real picture of the society is discernible to the paradigmatic reader. Bultmann wrote: “every literary category has its ‘life situation’ (Sitz-im-leben), whether it be worship in its different forms, or work, or hunting, or war” [12]. The sitz-im-leben is described as a typical situation or occupation in the life of the community. In the passage, a wider and inclusive meaning is attributed to ptōchos as per the social requirements and order of the Lukan community. Jesus as a story-teller initiates bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. His message was a social critique with the help of all the available linguistic categories. Through this rhetoric, his ultimate aim was to introduce a society that takes up the values and virtues of the Kingdom of God (cf. Davids, 1992: 704-710; Craddock, 1990: 194-196). A double-layered reading, first, within the sitz-im-leben Jesu (i.e., the very own life situation of Jesus), and second, within the sitz-im-leben kirche (i.e., the community life situation of Luke), will ultimately inform us how Luke re-interpreted the aspects of the ptōchos for wider implication (cf. Dibelius, 1919). In short, the story reveals its semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic intentions both through the points of view of the protagonist and the narrator.

End Notes:

[1] M. A. K. Halliday, and Ruquiya Hasan, Language and Text: Aspects of Language in Social-Semiotic Perspective, Specialized Curriculum: Language and Learning (Geelong, Victoria: Deakin University Press, 1985), 10.

[2] The language setting and the valuable strategies of utilization are typically social and best analysed by sociolinguistics. On the one hand, an individual person’s mental setting is psychological and best analysed by psycholinguistics. But both dimensions are involved in the process of reading. Hence, the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects to reading. For the language setting is interpersonal context, while the mental setting is intrapersonal context. See Halliday and Hasan, 1985: 10.

[3] The Hebrew name Lazar is a contraction of Eleazar and means “God has helped”. It is a fitting name for the beggar in this parable, who was not helped by fellow human beings, but in his afterlife by God. The poor man’s only claim to status is that he is named in the story; this alone raises the hope that there is more to his story than that of being subhuman. The name Lazarus also occurs in Josephus (Jewish War 5:13; cf. Exo 6:23). The wealthy man, on the other hand, has no name; perhaps this is Jesus’ way of inviting his money-loving listeners to provide their own. By way of filling in this perceived gap P75 gives name as Neuēs; the tradition of interpretation gives him the name “Dives”, from the Latin translation of “rich man”.

[4] In language familiar to us from the common theology of Job’s friends, surely God blesses the wealthy man while Lazarus lives under the divine curse. Cf. Green, The Gospel of Luke, 605.

[5] Ibid., 606. Cf. Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom.

[6] Davids, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 704-709.

[7] It is related to the noun elkos, “abscess” or “ulcer”. T. W. Manson would have us believe that Greek ptōchos, “poor” = Aramaic miskena, used as a euphemism for “leper”. See T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus Recovered in the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke: Arranged with Introduction and Commentary (London: SCM, 1971), 298.

[8] “Carried away by the angels” means, left unburied by human beings, he was carried off by heavenly beings. This seems to reflect the belief found in Shepherd of Hermas and till later in Diogenes Laertins.

[9] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary, 295.

[10] This designation is unknown elsewhere in the pre-Christian Jewish literature, finding its way into late Midrashim and the Babylonian Talmud. Cf. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke, Vol. 28A, 1132.

[11] Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom, 94.

[12] Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, tran. John Marsh (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1963), 4.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

stock-photo-feet-99245384Sociolinguistics would be better called a “socially constituted linguistics”, since the social function gives form to the way in which language is encountered in real life (cf. Wardhaugh, 1986). It is concerned about speakers, receptors, setting, context, form, and the relation of language to other codes. The focus is not so much upon the sentence or the text but upon the speech event as such. In other words, this is language in action [1]. It is very true with Luke 14. The entire unit is set at a Sabbath dinner in the home of a leading Pharisee. It begins in 14:1-6 with the healing of a man with dropsy and comment by Jesus about healing on the Sabbath day (cf. Green, 1997: 553-62). In 14:7-11, Luke tells the parable about those who choose places of honour at a marriage feast. Luke 14:12-14 is a saying about inviting “the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” to dinners or banquets (cf. Craddock, 1990: 177) [2]. James Resseguie suggests that the whole of chap. 14:1-33 should be viewed together as a narrative in which conflicting ideological points of view are juxtaposed and contrasted. One view is “exaltation oriented”, seeking to gain recognition before others, the other “humiliation oriented”, avoiding the self-promotion of the first outlook [3]. The overall message of the chapter can be summarized as ‘the replacement of the socially honoured by the poor’ (ptōchous).

The first century Mediterranean persons were strongly group-embedded, collectivistic persons. They were most concerned with family integrity. Since they were group-oriented, they were socially minded, attuned to the values, attitudes and beliefs of their in-groups [4]. Dinners were important social occasions that were used to cement social relations. It was very important who was invited. Moreover, accepting a dinner invitation normally obligated the guest to return the favour. Table fellowships across status lines were relatively rare in traditional societies [5]. Who sat were at an ancient meal was a critical statement of social relations. No one wants to come to a dinner unless he is confident that the others at the table will be “the right kind of guests”. Thus the people were mainly divided as those who have honour in the society, and those who are ‘poor’ in every aspects of their life (cf. Green, 1997: 553-62). In Luke 14, Jesus advises not inviting friends, family, relatives, and wealthy neighbours to dinner. Rather, invite those who are not able to pay back. Mē phonei (“do not invite”) depicts a habitual invitation and has the force of a command not to do this exclusively. But the more gracious action that Jesus suggests has bigger, more permanent, reward from God [6].

Jesus exhorts the Pharisees to invite not their friends, but the poor, crippled, lame, and blind (these four groups also appear in 14:21). As in the case of Luke 4:18, here also ptōchous takes the leading role and is inclusive of the other physically disabled, anapeirous, chōlous, and tuphlous. Philip Esler has astutely observed that, “it is surely through no inadvertence on Luke’s part that the types of people specified in Luke 14:21 as replacement guests are virtually identical to the groups promised the good news in Luke 4:18 and extolled as blessed in the beatitudes in 6:20-21”, namely, the beggars, the crippled, the blind, and the lame [7]. These people were excluded from the temple (Lev 21:17-23; 2 Sam 5:8). Qumran also excluded such people from their community (1Q 28A [= 1QSa = Rule Annex]; 1QM 7:4) [8]. Jesus’ association with this ‘classless’ caused reaction from his opponents (cf. Green, 1997: 553-62).

Jesus’ message overturns the preoccupations, presenting “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind”, notable examples of those relegated to low status, marginalized according to normal canons of status honour in the Mediterranean world, as persons to be numbered among one’s table intimates and, by analogy, among the people of God [9]. In sum, the concept ptōchous actively interacts in the passage against the existing societal functions and calls for a social reversal of order (cf. Craddock, 1990: 177-80). Thus the function of ptōchous is identified mainly in five ways: first, as the inclusive concept it represents every aspects of poor/poverty; second, as a social concept it introduces a socially constituted meaning; third, as a connecting particle, it relates setting, content, and form of the text with the sitz-im-leben of the receptors; fourth, as a dynamic linguistic code, it reproduces a language in action and resistance; and fifth, it gives a call for social transformation.

End Notes:

[1] Eugene A. Nida, “Sociolinguistics and Translating”, Sociolinguistics and Communication, UBS Monograph Series I, ed. Johannes P. Louw (Stuttgart: UBS, 1982), p. 2.

[2] Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, “Honour and Shame in Luke-Acts: Pivotal Values of the Mediterranean World”, The Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation, ed. Jerome H. Neyrey (Peabody: Hendricksen, 1991), p. 137.

[3] J. L. Resseguie, “Point of View in the Central Section of Luke”, JETS 25 (1982): p. 46.

[4] Malina, The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels, p. 64.

[5] Malina and Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary, pp. 285-6.

[6] Darrel L. Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Vol. 1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 1994), p. 1265.

[7] Philip F. Esler, Community and Gospel in Luke-Acts: The Social and Political Motivations of Lukan Theology, SNTS MS 57 (Cambridge: University Press, 1987), p. 186.

[8] Three of the four (“the lame, the blind, the crippled”) are mentioned (along with “one who has permanent blemish in his flesh”) as those to be excluded from the eschatological war of the “sons of light against the sons of darkness” in the Qumran War Scroll (1QM 7:4) and also excluded from the coming meal in 1QSa 2:5-6; cf. 2 Sam 5:8 (LXX). See, Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke, Vol. 28A, pp. 1047-9.

[9] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 553.

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India

1153313_profile_picOne of the leading Johannine scholars in America, Robert Dean Kysar passed away on October 31, 2013. He was 79 years of age, and following his retirement from the Candler School of Theology as the Bandy Professor of Preaching and New Testament (Emeritus), he and his wife Myrna spent the intervening years in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Bob was known for his command of the ever-growing field of Johannine literature, assessing trends and developments in biblical studies fittingly while also making biblical texts and their interpretations accessible to preachers and lay audiences.

As a tall, cheerful colleague at national and international meetings, Bob Kysar was known for his quick wit and for offering penetrating insights with a twinkle and a smile. He was friendly to all, and he was always happy to assist with emerging projects and developments. An encourager to emerging scholars, Bob Kysar also held seasoned scholars accountable to the biblical text and its apparent meanings, doing so with warmth and grace.

Author and co-author of over twenty books on the New Testament and some fifty published essays, Kysar’s impact on the world of biblical studies surged in the mid-1970s with the publication of The Fourth Evangelist and His Gospel: An Examination of Contemporary Scholarship (Fortress 1975), covering effectively the range of international Johannine scholarship andJohn, the Maverick Gospel (Fortress 1973), which underwent two further editions in 1993 and 2007.Combined with his magisterial 90-page treatment of Johannine scholarship in the Aufstieg und Niedergangder römischen Welt(2.25.3, 1985), updated in his Voyages with John (Baylor University Press, 2005), Robert Kysar earned a place as perhaps the leading analyst of Johannine secondary literature in the English-speaking world over the last four decades.

Kysar’s John, the Maverick Gospel was written for lay persons in a church setting, and yet because of its sensitivity to the larger set of issues and their implications for common readers of the text, this book became one of the leading introductory texts in undergraduate and graduate courses on John as well. In this and other writings, Bob showed us that complex ideas can be articulated clearly and in plain language, making otherwise technical arguments accessible to thoughtful readers in America and beyond. Perhaps his most popular texts for preachers include his John’s Story of Jesus and Preaching John (Fortress 1984 and 2002); his commentaries on the Gospel and Epistles of John were published in the Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament in 1986. Kysar also introduced postmodern biblical analysis to his audiences and addressed a number of relevant social concerns as a thoughtful biblical interpreter.

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska on July 6, 1934, Bob Kysar graduated with honors from Albertson College in Caldwell, Idaho in 1956. He received a Bachelor of Divinity degree with distinction from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1967. He conducted post-doctoral research at Yale University in 1973-1974 and served as a Visiting Scholar at Wesley House in Cambridge University in England in 1997. In addition to his distinguished service at Emory, Bob taught at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, and the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

Bob was an ordained Minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and he served several churches, including the United Methodist Church in New Haven, CT. He and his wife Myrna served as co-pastors at Christ United Lutheran Church in Gordon, PA and Upper Dublin Lutheran Church in Ambler, PA. He is survived by his wife, Myrna, and several children and grandchildren. He will be sorely missed, but his work will continue to be valued and appreciated.

Paul N. Anderson

Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies

George Fox University

Newberg, OR 97132