Gospel according to St. Luke chapters 7-12 from a Paradigmatic Reader’s Point of View

Posted: December 28, 2011 in General

“Thanks for this helpful description of Paradigmatic Reading (PR). This is what TI (theological interpretation) requires/allows”. (Michael Gorman, Professor of Sacred Scripture and Dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland. For more details about Prof. Gorman, go to: http://www.michaeljgorman.net/about/).

Luke 7: (1) A Paradigmatic Reader (PR) is/will be one ‘concerned’: firstly, when s/he finds treasures within the text; and secondly, when the text provokes her/him in order to activate them appropriately to the context. For a PR, the activity of reading is not simply a ‘passive observation’; but, rather an ‘active engagement’ with the text. Here, “reading means living out”. (2) In vv. 1-10, Jesus turns away from his activity of ‘sayings’ in chapter 6 (or people’s ‘hearing’; v. 1) to ‘acting them out’ (especially in 7:1-17). A PR is not merely a ‘speaker’/’hearer’ of the text; but also one who puts them in reality. (3) In vv. 11-17, Jesus is pictured as one who is compassionate, one who utters ‘Do not weep’, and one who looks favourably on his people. For a PR, Jesus is a paradigm for her/his own ‘live’ context. (4) In vv. 18-23, Jesus says: “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them”. A faith-constrained reader receives power from these utterance-units of Jesus and channelizes the power toward the surroundings. (5) In vv. 36-50, a rich Pharisee’s hospitality is contrasted with a poor sinful-woman’s devotion. The narrative begins with the Pharisee’s invitation to eat (v. 36); but ends with the concerns of the sinful woman and her ‘faith’ (v. 50). A PR may not consider the rich Pharisees as a model of discipleship; rather s/he may consider the sinful woman as a model of discipleship.

Luke 8: (1) A Paradigmatic Reader’s (PR) heart is, metaphorically, similar to “good soil”. In the process of reading, the word falls into her/his heart and bear fruit ‘with patient endurance’. In her/his heart the Word of God grows and produces a hundredfold. A PR’s heart will never be like a ‘path’, or ‘rocks’ or ‘thorns’, where there is no chance of fruit-bearing. (2) Jesus says: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it” (v. 21). A PR is one who ‘reads/hears the scriptures and does it’. Here, ‘reading/hearing’ is synonymous to ‘doing’. (3) Jesus asked the disciples: “Where is your faith?” (v. 25). This question of Jesus is pertinent in a context when the disciples were toiling hard sans exercising their faith. Jesus’ question is posed as a critique that their faith and work are not going hand in hand. A PR is one, on the one hand a ‘faith-affirmer’ and on the other a ‘workologist’. (4) Jesus said: “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me” (v. 46). A PR acquires ‘power’ by way of ‘reading the narratives/scriptures’. In the societal interactions s/he witnesses that ‘liberating power’ goes out from her/him. (5) Jesus, a paradigmatic reader of the scriptures, begins his public interactions by way of reading the scriptures (Luke 4:18-19). Now, he puts the scripture powerfully into practice by healing a demon-possessed man, by liberating a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages, and by raising Jairus’ daughter who was dying.

Luke 9: (1) Jesus gave the twelve “power and authority” and they “departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere”. They did “take nothing for their journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money–not even an extra tunic” (vv. 1-8). A Paradigmatic Reader (PR) understands that good news is the primary thing and all other things are subsidiary and relational. (2) Jesus spoke to the crowd about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured (v. 11). Our speaking/reading/hearing should result into praxis. (3) “And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he (Jesus) looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd” (v. 16). Before feeding the five thousand, there was a time of blessing and breaking. A PR must take the ‘blessing and breaking’ aspects seriously before beginning the liberative/praxis initiatives. (4) “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory” (v. 26). A PR must understand that Jesus’ words are not subject of shame but of pride. (5) The voice from above: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (v. 35). Listening the voice from above (or of Jesus) is one of the characteristic features of a PR. (6) Jesus asked: “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” (v. 41). Again, a call for faith-to-action initiative. (7) “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands… But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it” (vv. 44-45). A PR is not: (a) one who does not understand; (2) one whom the meaning is concealed; and (3) one who could not perceive. A PR struggles to understand the text and finally achieve greater grasp of that.

Luke 10: (1) Paradigmatic Reading (PR) is text-emphatic and contextual; but, in it context is secondary to the text. A ‘Paradigmatic Reader’ can be defined as one who is a believer in/follower of Jesus Christ. In the process of reading, s/he may emphasize the ‘here and now’ aspects of the text. (2) Jesus’ Mission Discourse in vv. 2-16 makes more sense when one reads paradigmatically. As the discourse is composed in ‘active voice form’ it has more readability to the contemporary context. It gives an impression that Jesus is ‘here and now’ and ‘just in front’ and he moulds the reader as a ‘labourer for harvest’. In that sense, ‘the time of reading can be considered as a time of transformation’. (3) A paradigmatic reader is one: (a) who believes that s/he has authority over all the powers of the enemy; (b) who rejoices; and (c) who believes that her/his name is “written in heaven” (v. 20). This assurance gained in the process of reading persuades her/him to “go” and engage in the praxis of “liberation”/”transformation”. In this, a reader cannot consider ‘the activity of reading’ as a pastime/leisure/entertainment/hobby; rather, it is a time of ‘power-acquisition’ for praxis. (4) A paradigmatic reader is a “faith-led” or “innocent” reader. S/he may not consider her/him as wise/intelligent and to whom Son chooses to reveal the Ultimate Reality (cf. v. 22). (5) A paradigmatic reader is one who sees/hears what many prophets and kings desired to see/hear. Reading the text helps her/him to see multifarious scenes and to hear multiple voices. (6) A lawyer comes with a few questions and a dialogue develops. Jesus asks him: “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” The lawyer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself”. Jesus: “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live”. Lawyer: “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus: “A man was going down… Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (vv. 30-36). Lawyer: “The one who showed him mercy”. Jesus: “Go and do likewise”. JESUS Says: “reading” alone is not sufficient; but, “doing” must follow “reading”.

Luke 11: (1) Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. A PR considers the “Lord’s Prayer” as a paradigm for vertical-horizontal relationships on a day-by-day basis. While the prayer statements “Father, hallowed be your name” and “Your kingdom come” direct a PR to the heavenly theatre (v. 2), “Give us each day our daily bread”, “Forgive us our sins” and “Do not bring us to the time of trial” are whispered from her/his own earthly theatrical necessities (vv. 3-4). (2) A PR connects the imperative expressions ‘ask’, ‘search’, and ‘knock’ closely to her/his worldly realities (vv. 9-13). The expression “persistent asking” is well-connected to “Lord’s Prayer” (vv. 2-4; cf. vv. 5-13). (3) Jesus says: “if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (v. 20). A PR understands that miracles/signs/wonders are expressions of the kingdom of God. (4) A good ‘makarism’: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it! (v. 28).” A 21st century reader ‘reads the word of God’ rather than ‘hears the word of God’. In Jesus’ utterances, ‘hearing/reading’ is preceded to ‘obeying’. A hearing/reading-to-obeying sequence is well-maintained here. A PR begins with the ‘hearing/reading’ aspect and then moves to the praxis aspect; not the other way around. (5) As a PR Jesus begins with the scriptural stories (i.e., stories of Jonah and Nineveh, and the Queen of the South and Solomon) as signs for his own original hearers. Hearing of the ‘proclamation of Jonah’ resulted into repentance among the people of Nineveh. While Jesus says “something greater than Jonah is here!’, he introduces himself (i.e., a PR) as a prime topic of ‘paradigmatic reading’ for the successive generations. Readers of the New Testament fulfil that great task. The narrator, here, reaffirms that “reading is result-oriented”. (6) Jesus says: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness”. A PR attempts to develop a ‘healthy eye-sight’ (of both ‘external’ and ‘internal’) through her/his reading. (7) The Lawyers were reading/writing/teaching without practicing (vv. 45-52). Paradoxically, a PR is one who reads/writes/teaches and finally initiates to put them into practice.

Luke 12: (1) Paradigmatic Reading is ‘theological’, ‘positivistic’, ‘hermeneutical’, ‘implicatory’ and ‘applicatory’ in development. It is also ‘inclusivistic’, “open ended” and “theory-to-praxis” oriented. (2) A PR is one who is redeemed from the evil of hypocrisy. In her/him, there is no contrast between: (a) ‘what is said’ and ‘what is heard; and (b) ‘what is whispered behind closed doors’ and ‘what is proclaimed from the housetops’ (v. 3). Paradigmatic reading is ‘straight-forward’ in practice. (3) A PR is ‘faith-centric’ and ‘pneumatic’ in the process of reading. S/he attempts to keep aloof from the tenets of blasphemy (vv. 8-12). (4) A PR considers the words, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”, as a paradigm for her/himself in societal existence/relationships (v. 15). S/he is one who “does not store up treasures for her/himself” but “does rich towards God” (v. 21). (5) A PR is encouraged to come out of her/his “little faith” (v. 28) and “strive for God’s kingdom” (v. 31). The moment one initiates to increase her/his faith is also the moment for striving for God’s kingdom on earth. Reading enables her/him to get involve into the activity of praxis/liberation/transformation. A PR may not be one who “remains in reading forever like a ‘bookworm’”; rather one who extends from ‘reading to action’. (6) A PR is just like a ‘slave’ who is always on alert in order to please her/his master. S/he is like one who “sells her/his possessions”, “gives alms”, “dresses for action”, “waits for the master” and “opens the door for the master as soon as he comes and knocks” (vv. 32-38). (7) A PR is just like a “faithful and prudent manager”, one “who is found working when the master comes” and one “whom the master puts in charge of all his possessions” (vv. 41-44). A PR must understand that “much reading requires much action” (cf. v. 48). (8) When a PR extends ‘from reading to action’, a casual reader (CR) remains within the textual framework and grasps peripheral outlook of the text. This antithetical parallelism broaches disharmony between PR and CR (i.e., CR against PR; cf. vv. 51-53). A PR is “one who knows how to interpret the present time” (cf. v. 56b).

By Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India


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