This post is inspired by this study plan. And with the second post of the day, I’m caught up!
I finally realized when I studied this prompt that the study plan is not following what Christ did throughout the week. The title of the study plan is “Hear Him!” The goal is to help us understand how we can better hear his voice, not commemorate the events of his last week. Obvious in retrospect? Yes. I blame kids. They are distractions I can’t remove.
Today’s topic is scriptures. I love the opportunity I have to read about God’s dealings with His people. I love the wealth of information we have at our fingertips through centuries of scholarship and study. I love the various translations and the light they shed on the many ways we can interpret these words.
It wasn’t guaranteed to be this way. Last year I read about Martin Luther. He lived at a time when there didn’t seem to be much point to reading the Bible itself. The great thinking and understanding of the Bible had already been done. The Church Fathers had written and their interpretation was all that was needed. Others had written commentaries on these works. Clergy, if they studied at all, spent their time reading commentaries of commentaries.
Martin Luther joined the humanists in calling for a return back to the sources. Luther, Erasmus, and others got the clergy to read the Bible again rather than commentaries of commentaries. They translated the Bible into languages so more than just the most educated clergy members could read it.
While some bemoan the various translations, I think they provide real benefits. In my History of Philosophy course at BYU, we studied a translation of the first chaoter of Genesis my professor had done from Hebrew. It opened my eyes to a very different way of reading the scriptures. By reading these familiar ideas in different words, I saw new patterns and gained a better appreciation for the structure of that first chapter.
Putting the ideas of God, whose thoughts after all are not our thoughts, into human words is problematic at best. It’s no wonder we’ve been arguing about what they mean as long as we have been writing them down.
I just want to finish with a commentary on an event traditionally discussed on Holy Wednesday: the woman annointing Christ. I love this story because of the love Christ shows for a woman – something notable for as patriarchal a society as his was – and for a sinner – something notable for any heavy religious group.
Christ allowed the woman to touch him, to wash his feet with her tears, to wipe them with her hair. He didn’t consider himself unclean. He didn’t avoid the touch of a woman. He only saw a person who loved her savior.
Similarly, he didn’t turn her away because of her sins. Christ’s gospel isn’t a purity gospel. It is not about maintaining a separate “pure” identity. It’s about getting out among the sinners and loving them, serving them, and calling them to repentance. It can be easy for the religious to get caught up in the call to repentance and forget the rest. But Christ loves and served even those he knew would fall back into their sinful ways. Even Judas, who he knew would betray him.