Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Contemporary Exegesis

I have a final exam tomorrow in one of my classes. That's right, a final! We'll be done with this class on Weds, have a week off, and start another one the week after. Strange schedule.

First, I'll write about an article entitled, "Christ in Contemporary Exegesis: Where We Are and Where We Are Going" by Klemens Stock. He begins by outlining a few trends in exegesis:
  1. The gap between the "historical pre-paschal Jesus" and the "Post-Paschal Christ" is getting smaller. Exegetes are recognizing the problem with both extreme positions. Bultmann, at one extreme, thought the Jesus of history had nothing to give to us. All that matters is the saving act of Christ. On the other hand, we have Jeremais, who thinks that the only important thing is finding details about Jesus according to the historical-critical method and focusing on them. Bridges are starting to be built which recognize the "implicit Christology" present all through the Gospels. You cannot separate Jesus from Christ!
  2. The search for the "historical Jesus" continues.
  3. There is growing discontentment with the historical-critical method. Why? a few reasons. Let me list them... First, the method only offers hypotheses, it does not give people the bread of life. It does not help anyone make a decision about how to live their life in the footsteps of Christ. Secondly, the method is divorced from praxis, and turns the study of Christ into a cold, academic one. Third, the attempt to interpret Scripture from the point of view of depth psychology has not been very fruitful. [don't ask me what that means]
  4. There is a desire to reclaim the "Jewishness" of Jesus. These interpretations tend to dismiss other aspects of Christ as inventions of Paul.
  5. New approaches affect how we see Christ. Ex: Historical Impact (history of exegesis), Rhetorical analysis (text as a whole), Methodological Reflection (H-C method is critique, analogy, correlation- look at the problems with them).

Next, Stock gives us some guidelines for exegesis, assuming that we want to find Jesus, whole and entire and in Himself.

  1. Do less violence to the text. Just as we can see the effects in nature when we approach it with our own purpose and make it bend to our wills, Scripture needs to be approached in such a way as it is allowed to speak.
  2. Respect the Gospels as unique sources. Realize that you cannot separate Jesus of Nazareth from His followers. Christ preached a new way of life, a community. He did not display concern that His words and actions be written down as they went along; rather He was concerned about building a community. The Gospels are testimonies of faith, and this does not make them any less true. They are an inseparable weaving of what Jesus said and did and the effect that He had.
  3. Continue the historical work. We must respect the age of the text and the tools needed to understand it. This includes looking at literary form, language, intellectual background, context, authors & intentions, addressees & situations, and past interpretation of the text.
  4. Use the whole as a reference point. To illustrate this point, Stock presents the case of the Gospels of John and Mark. Do they point to the same person, even though one presents us a "High Christology" and one is less clear? (yes- look at the whole of Mark's Gospel and you will find implicit affirmations of the things John explicitly teaches us)

Basically, to find the real Jesus Christ, you must trust that God wants to speak through Sacred Scripture, that He can do that, and that He will help.

NT Passages on Marriage

(Part II of tomorrow's test)

Matthew 19:3-9
Perhaps the most important of all NT passages on marriage since here we have Jesus' own words addressing it. So what does He say when the Pharisees ask Him about divorce?

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?"

Note here that the Pharisees presuppose the lawfulness of divorce. They see marriage as a contract that is subject to the husband's will. The question, in their minds, is whether Jesus has a strict or loose interpretation of the law (for any cause).

He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?

Here, Jesus puts together the two key texts from the two accounts of Creation- Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. The first highlights the equal dignity of man and woman, and in the passage it highlights fecundity (be fertile and multiply). The equal dignity excludes dominion by man. The second account highlights the love between man and woman, and explains the existential change that occurs when the two are joined together.

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

This causal link between passages is original with Jesus. He also reveals the biggest refute to the Pharisees: it is not man's fickle will which joins two persons in marriage, but God Himself. The marriage relationship thus affects man's relationship with God as well. Therefore, all divorce is illicit. All!

They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"

Jesus has answered the Pharisees with texts that they had not anticipated. They did not link Genesis to marriage, especially since they had other texts to use to justify their current practice of divorce. What they refer to here is probably Dt. 24:1. When read in its context, however, Dt. 24:1 does not really sanction divorce the way the Pharisees have read it.

He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Jesus directs the Pharisees to the beginning, suggesting that it is possible to live in faithful love. Hardness of heart, sklerokardia, signifies a lack of love, a lack of faithfulness to the covenant. It is the breaking off of it, or the false performance of it. Hesed is the word for mercy & faithfulness. It is lacking in anyone willing to divorce his wife.

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia, and marries another, commits adultery."

Here we go. What some people call "the exception clause" Now it gets interesting! What is Jesus saying here? Many translations are "unchastity" but that isn't very illuminating. It's best to leave it in Greek and deal with it that way. Let's write it this way-- I say to you: whoever divorces his wife (except for porneia), and marries another, commits adultery. Porneia literally means prostitution. In this case, it seems to mean an illicit sexual relationship which cannot be a true marriage- an impediment, if you will. Fr. Sanchez explains it like this, "Whoever divorces his wife, and I'm not talking here about porneia, in which a true marriage doesn't even exist..." Hm! Some translations make the word "adultery." There are 3 good reasons that porneia cannot mean adultery. 1.) The Greek word for adultery, which Matthew uses in other places, is moikheia. If he wanted to say adultery, he would have written adultery. Duh. 2.) In the context, it would not make sense. The disciples' shock at this, and statement: "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry" shows that they get it. 3.) If Jesus did mean unchastity or adultery, it would basically mean that He agreed with the Shammai school of strict interpretation-- which would not be all that surprising and the Pharisees would have been satisfied that they got what they wanted to hear- which never happens of course.

Wow! I have two more passages to go over still. There is just so muchhhhhh!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bruderhof Communities


Saturday was our annual JPII Institute fall gathering at Dr. Schindler's home. In the past, it was held at his home in West Virginia, which was gorgeous, so it was a bit sad to be in DC.

At 12pm we began to set up, and a couple from a Bruderhof community in NY came to help as well. They have been sent out of the community to... well I don't know what exactly they're supposed to be doing... I guess just telling others about their community. They showed up at the offices a while back, so Dr. Schindler arranged for them to give a talk. I missed it, but had heard much so I looked forward to meeting them. They are precious. They taught us one of the songs they sing in a round, and sang another one for us as well. They had offered to come help set up because they "know community." I think they were pleasantly surprised to see that we Catholics "know community" too... in fact, can you fully know the meaning of community without the Eucharist? I don't know... I don't think so. And I hope they saw the beauty of family life and the value we place on it. I think the woman especially misses her 3 daughters- the youngest of whom is only 18 months. Isn't it strange that a Christian community would send you and your husband away from your children for an undetermined amount of time?! There's something wrong with that. I hope they could see it.

They have invited any of us interested up to visit. I would looooove to. It would be stepping into a different world, but one that I think human beings are meant to live in. One where you would not spend hours a day staring at a computer screen. Where you would actually use your body to do useful work, and spend your days in community. I guess I'm torn between this desire to escape and just form your own "perfect" community and the fact of living in this world and being called to transform it from within. But I can daydream about an ideal Catholic community, can't I? A place to gather all my friends and loved ones into one place and not have to say goodbye so much.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

See how they love one another

I was a senior taking Shakespeare, because I wanted to, so most of the class was composed of younger English majors. I agreed to join a little study group, knowing full well that I probably would not get much out of it (I was never a study group person until coming to JPII, where I need them because you don't get to practice articulating things except with each other). Somehow, the issue of friendships came up- guys' friendships vs. girls'. The guys expressed the opinion that girls are just terrible to their friends; they talk about each other, ignore each other, and are generally [insert bad word here]. The only other girl in the group said that she agreed.

I was completely baffled. Not that I haven't seen these kinds of friends before, or girls treating each other that way. But I thought, surely, this is not still present to such a degree that people have never seen true friendship among women.

How blessed am I. About 18 wretches, and many others, came to my house on Monday for a picnic. It was great fun all around but I want to focus on the fact that there are over 18 young women in my life that I can trust not to talk "trash" about me, not to make fun of me, and more than that, who affirm me and love me even though I am wretched. Some of them met for the first time that day, and in the way of true Christian friendship, you would think they had been friends for years. Sr. Lightning, for example, may be our newest member but she certainly belongs. We stood outside the campus apts coordinating rides just laughing and hugging and greeting each other. We sat in my living room and sang some praise and worship. Rarely will you hear a more beautiful sound. We are seeking holiness and encouraging each other on the way. We do not become saints alone.

There is potential to start a "fraternal order" in one of our brothers in Christ. It's kind of tempting. But I think there is something special to our sisterhood because of the aforementioned conversation and others like it. We really are witnessing to the truth and beauty of living in Christ by not succumbing to so-called "typical" female friendship patterns. I think there are about 26 of us in total so far... 26 young, normal, wretched women who will support each other on the way to Heaven. I hope to post a picture from the picnic soon.

Happy Birthday, Mary! What is it, 2018? :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


"God intended man to have all good, but in his, God's, time; and therefore all disobedience, all sin, consists essentially in breaking out of time. Hence the restoration of order by the Son of God had to be the annulment of that premature snatching at knowledge, the beating down of the hand outstretched toward eternity, the repentent return from a false, swift transfer into eternity to a true, slow, confinement in time. Hence the importance of patience in the New Testament, which becomes the basic constituent of Christianity, more central even than humility: the power to wait, to persevere, to hold out, to endure to the end, not to transcend one's own limitations, not to force issues by playing the hero or the titan, but to practice the virtue that lies beyond heroism, the meekness of the lamb which is led."
~Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fun with Patristics

I have my first class on Marriage and Family in Patristic Theology later today, so I thought I'd do a bit of the reading...

Origen: "Our inner man consists of spirit and soul. The spirit is said to be male; the soul can be called female. If these have concord and agreement among themselves, they increase and multiply by the very accord among themselves and they produce sons, good inclinations and understandings or useful thoughts, by which they fill the earth and have dominion over it... But now if the soul, which has been united with the spirit and, so to speak, joined in wedlock, turn aside at some time to bodily pleasures... She will be punished, therefore, like a harlot and her sons will be ordered to be prepared for slaughter."

No word on what happens to a man, spirit, if he strays.

St. Ambrose: "Accordingly, the Lord declared that it was not good for man to be alone, because the human race could not have been propagated from man alone... For the sake, therefore, of the successive generations of men it followed that woman had to be joined to man... God said, 'Let us make him a helper like himself.' We understand that to mean a helper in the generation of the human family-- a really good helper... even though in an inferior position. We find examples of this in our own experience. We see how men in high and important offices often enlist the help of men who are below them in rank and esteem."

Wow. This class is going to be interesting. When you read these things, it's easier to see where some people are coming from when they think that certain doctrines should change. It's amazing how much we know now, even just in exegesis, like the word used for "helper" and all it entails... If only we were better at communicating things...