And he spoke to them in parables…

On Twitter, I started drawing analogies to the global financial system and then realized that it would be easy to adapt many of Jesus’ parables to reflect contemporary economic realities. For instance:

  • The global financial system is like a man who found a pearl in a field. He took out a loan, bought the field, sold the pearl, and skipped town.
  • The global financial system is like a woman who cleans her whole house looking for her lost coin, then her house gets repossessed.
  • The global financial system is like a shepherd who leaves behind 99 sheep to find one lost sheep, so he can sue it.
  • The global financial system is like if the Prodigal Son’s father hired him and gave him a payday loan (the service ineedmoneytodayasap.com provides, for instance) to help him get back on his feet.

Alex suggested I post them here, which has the benefit of preserving them for posterity and also allowing us to ponder other parables that can be adapted at greater length. Let us make such attempts in comments, dear readers!

Adventures in NT Greek: The persecutor at second hand

This summer, I’ve been alternating my language maintenance between German and Greek. Today I switched back to Greek and continued my long-suspended attempt to read the whole New Testament, which ran aground halfway through Hebrews. Today I worked on chapter 6 (Greek, NRSV), and though I didn’t get many specifically “Greek-based insights,” my slower reading pace made me notice something about this passage, which is often mobilized for sentimental guilt-trips in the genre of “by sinning, you’re crucifying Christ all over again.”

Continue reading “Adventures in NT Greek: The persecutor at second hand”

The Return of Greek: Hebrews 3

After an overly long break, I have returned to my work on the Greek New Testament, attempting to round out my reading of the NT epistles with Hebrews. Today I worked through chapter 3, the primary focus of which is Christ’s superiority to Moses. Commenting on Psalm 95:7-11, the author exhorts his readers not to harden their hearts like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

Here is a passage I have questions on, with highlights added: Continue reading “The Return of Greek: Hebrews 3”

A brief thought on questions of Pauline authorship

I’ve finally made my way through Paul’s undisputed letters in Greek and am now aiming to read all the epistles this summer (having already read 1-3 John, James, 2 Peter, and Jude — the latter two because of the recent discussion of sodomy). This has been an excellent exercise for shoring up my Greek skills, but the main intellectual result has been to soften or nuance some of my views on Paul. First of all, I realize that I went into this project believing that I would find some clear overarching “Pauline system,” but that ran aground in Galatians — there’s something about having to work through a text in agonizing detail that makes it very difficult to breeze over things, which I was predisposed to do whenever I came across the clear contradictions in Galatians.

The solution, it seems, is to recognize change and development in Paul’s thought, which seems a sensible enough position in retrospect but which was apparently unavailable to me initially because of an unreflected-upon “scriptural authority” that Paul the man, if not all the letters under the name of Paul, still had for me. Once it is permissible to assume that Paul’s position is evoluving, though, I wonder how much the question of authorship matters.

Continue reading “A brief thought on questions of Pauline authorship”

Paul’s Two Minds on the Law: Or, Paul’s One Mind on the Jews

In recent months, I have been advancing a fairly “strong” reading of the authentic letters of Paul, with Romans 9-11 as the guiding thread on his relationship to Judaism. As I’ve been going through the letters in Greek, though, my reading completely ran aground on Galatians. It seems clear that any attempt to get one consistent position from Paul on this issue is impossible, and that’s because Paul is always responding to events — as indeed his very mission to the Gentiles is a response to an event (the apocalyptic vision of Christ).

I’ve also been reading Gershom Scholem’s work on messianism in the last couple weeks, and based on what he says there, I’d say that Paul starts out as an “anarchist” messianist (as opposed to the kind of messianist who thinks the law will be intensified in the messianic age) — perhaps because the coming of the messiah required the ingathering of the Gentiles, Paul concludes that the law loses its force for the new messianic era. Continue reading “Paul’s Two Minds on the Law: Or, Paul’s One Mind on the Jews”

More on Galatians: “Living like a Gentile”

Yesterday vividly illustrated the dangers of diving into Paul after having gone through a Greek textbook by oneself — some readers have been put off by the seeming self-centeredness of the whole “we blog for our own benefit” thing, but in the Greek translation posts, I’m making up for my lack of formal classroom instruction in Greek.

I promised more on Galatians 2, and here’s something that doesn’t seem to require me to delve too deeply into the Greek text. Before the long monologue, Paul reports that he asked Peter the following: “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” The question I have is what “living like a Gentile” means in this context.

Continue reading “More on Galatians: “Living like a Gentile””