A network of highly cohesive details reveals the truth.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All the Discourse's a Stage..

...And all the participants merely players.

I'm reading a borrowed copy of Eugene Nida's "Contexts in Translation". On page 39 he says:
The audience of a discourse also serves as a context to highlight the meaning. For example, the parable of the Father and the Two Sons in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 15, there are two audiences: the repentant outcasts who gladly listened to Jesus and the Pharisees who were suspicious of Jesus and had contempt for the outcasts. The differences in the audience parallel closely the experiences and behavior of the younger and older sons.

I'm happy about that.

I think the overall message of Luke 15 has everything to do with what I'll call "The Priority of the Prodigal". Even God celebrates with a party when a lost one is found. So, I was quite pleased with his observation that the audience mentioned in Luke 15:1-2, indeed, all three participants with Jesus in the center, form one of many interpretive keys to the entire chapter.

On the one side we have the "sinners" and "tax collectors". 'Tax collectors" is a poor translation but it is hard to find a better. These people had bought at an auction a tax collecting franchise from the Roman government. By the 1st century CE they were limited to a certain extent at how much they could charge, but they needed to make a return on their investment. If you figure they made about 10%, the money they plopped down at the auction meant they were considerably wealthy to begin with. Perhaps, if measured by today's American standard of living, it would be above a half a million dollars. But being wealthy was not the problem with the "tax collectors"; Pharisees were also frequently wealthy.

The issue was the money they were collecting was Israel's money. And that money was being transferred to an occupying and unwelcomed government. In fact, the government was a Gentile government. Those people had different gods, bad gods. Their god was not the one true and living God--the God of Israel. Tax collectors, therefore, were traitors.

Sinners weren't any better. We now know from archeological evidence that some Jews ate pork. We know that because pig bones have been found in otherwise obviously Jewish homes. I think it likely these people were labeled "sinners". So, it was more than just a label of disdain. "Sinners" were just that--sinners. They broke Torah.

The Pharisees were the successful people of the day. They were successful in their businesses, in their religion, in their government which was centralized in the temple system. They were respected. Though perhaps a little pompous.

The Scribes, or what I like to call, the Torah Teachers, were the experts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Today, we would call these people Theologians or perhaps Scholars. Again, society respected them.

Jesus was in the center.

And he shamed himself by eating with...those...those...those "people."

I won't develop how the participants in the discourse play out in Luke 15 further, other than to say this: Read Luke 15:11-32 and compare the participants with: the younger son, the father, and the older son. I'll give you a hint: one thing you should observe is that the younger son, when he got a hold of his part of the inheritance did not bear his responsibility of taking care of his father. He "gave" it to the Gentiles. And, O! yes, the wonderful, wonderful father--it was quite shameful for an older man to run in public.

Knowing how the participants of a discourse play out in the discourse is one of the tools of good exegesis.

Our God runs.



Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Mike, I have linked to your post from one on the BBB. And if you install Trackback, I'll ping you too! I think you have found a good forum for the ideas God is gifting you with.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tax collectors:
A better alternative I have found is 'turncoat tax-gougers'.

Of course, at start, I had to open up a dictionary for the meaning of turncoat.


5:58 PM  
Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

"Turncoat tax-gougers" would have worked earlier than the 1st century CE if you just wanted to catch the sense. There were little if any Roman laws to prevent the gouging. By the 1st century laws were in place to help prevent this, though they appear to not be perfect (there's always ways around the laws, eg bribery). Also, if you want to capture the fact that it was a title, then "Turncoat tax-gougers" doesn't work very well.

It's a tricky issue. If we could capture the idea of a franchise owner as well as the fact that they collect taxes, that would work pretty well.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Bob Firth said...

Hi Mike,

looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I'm wondering if it's possible to get these blogs via RSS, does anyone know how to do that?


9:51 PM  
Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

Yes, Bob, there is a way. That is one of the things I want to look into. I'm still learning the blog thing. There's a couple of things in the queue ahead of the RSS, but please stay tuned.

Thanks for participating.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Bob, to get the RSS feeds from Mike's blog, first you need an RSS reader. I like the freeware one called RSS Reader. It is easy to install. You then click on the Add button in the upper left of the program screen. You will all Mike's RSS feed url which will is:


That's the standard url for Blogspot blogs, just add /atom.xml to the end of the blog url.

Follow the remaining directions on the Rss reader and before too long the reader will let you know what posts are on Mike's blog.

12:07 PM  
Blogger David Romano said...

Mike, interesting post! Look forward to more. :)

As for RSS, I recommend the Firefox web browser, as it has integrated rss capabilities. Check this page out to see how to use these capabilities. :)

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Bob Firth said...

Thanks all, the atom.xml info was what I needed, I probably should have been able to figure it out since I get your blog via Atom, but I just copied the link from your page, and didn't know if you needed to do something to enable it or whatever. :o)

Thanks for the info David, I prefer to read my news and blogs in Thunderbird rather than Firefox (seems like blogs/news and email relate closer in my head than news and browsing, for whatever reason).

11:38 PM  

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