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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sinners

Should you care - and indeed why should you - I have an article out in the Fourth R, though as it's just out it doesn't seem to be on the online version just yet. The article is 'Jesus and the Wealthy Sinners'. It is a less technical version of chapter three (Jesus and the Sinners) of the last book so Fourth R publication should make the argument much more accessible. The chapter upon which the article is based looks at virtually all the different (and relevant) words for sinners in the the relevant texts in Gk, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac. The term(s) can be used in a number of ways (e.g. those deemed non-observant, those deemed beyond the covenant, generally wicked, gentiles and so on) and they will (probably) be punished eventually. But what is overwhelmingly clear is that whenever socio-economic status is mentioned they are wealthy and usually wealthy in a particularly nasty sense (1 Enoch is a particularly good example of this). The idea that 'sinners' was a term used for the general populace just cannot be the case. In the synoptic tradition (John, interestingly, drops the term) notice that sinners are associated with tax collectors, notorious for being rich and unpleasant. This, I suspect, is part of the conflict. Of course, the idea of something relating to law observance in the synoptic tradition can hardly be ruled out (I certainly wouldn't push for mutually exclusive interpretations in the synoptic tradition) and this may well be another aspect to the conflict. One of the key reasons for retaining the stories of 'sinners', I would argue, is that they rhetorically play the same role as gentiles in much of Jewish literature and indeed the term is, of course, used of gentiles (see also Gal. 2). But that link was another argument...

An honourable mention needs to be made of the rabbinic tradition here. The language of 'sinners' remained more or less stable from the Psalms to the late rabbinic period but there are some particularly notable stories. Arguably most entertaining (and deliberately so?) is the retelling of the story of Sodom in major traditions like BT Sanh. and Gen. Rab. Here issues of sex are minimal at most and it is the issue of sinners as very nasty wealthy types that gets discussed in great detail.

I've done a few of these word analyses over the past few years and I always like doing them, even if I couldn't do this sort of research all the time. I also did them before I knew of the existence of Accordance and Bible Works or any compter thing. This meant going through concordances (and, believe me, not all are reader friendly) which in turn means my soul is fundamentally pure or something like that. Anyway, while I'm slowly starting to see the benefits of computer programmes, I still wonder if going through all those concordances and tallying the material up with texts is actually better for improving languages? I've never tried serious word searches with the computer yet but using the traditional concordances did seriously sharpen languages.

How about that for a pompous blog entry?

3 Comments:

Blogger Judy Redman said...

I don't think that using a computer for word searches can entirely take away the need for a reasonable grasp of the language. You still have to be able to make an intelligent assessment of the information the computer finds for you and that still requires you to look carefully at the context of each example. I think a computer just saves you some time in the original search, but it may highlight things that someone doing a manual search would have discarded along the way.

March 13, 2008

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

Oh yes, I agree. I just think that using some of the old rabbinic concordances, for instance, can improve Hebrew by virtue of the sheer effort required because there no English in sight. But, yes, I agree.

March 14, 2008

 
Anonymous Adrian Pyle said...

The article is certainly a very accessible form of the material and one I enjoyed reading very much! It move me to think (probably because it is related to the sort of work we do with our team here in Australia) about the missiological significance of what you say in 2008. I quite often see people make a reference to "I understand Jesus had a bias towards [insert particular demographic] and so I have shaped my ministry around [insert same demographic]" For some reason I always find myself a little sceptical of causal links between Jesus' time and modern ministry. Not fully rejecting ...just sceptical. Your article, even if it wasn't your key intention, has expanded our thinking and our conversation on this front.

March 25, 2008

 

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