Thread: A Weird Passage Board: Oblivion / Ship of Fools.


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Posted by Gramps49 (# 16378) on :
 
Luke 17: 5-10

Topic--it is about faith, definitely.

Situation: Jesus taking his disciples to Jerusalem for the last time.

The disciples are very anxious. The request Jesus increasing their faith.

Jesus reply is very strange. I wonder if he actually said the next two parables in this context or if they were attached later to the request.

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can command a mulberry tree to replant itself in the sea.

Since mulberry trees don't seem to be replanting themselves, what does it say about the disciples' faith?

Then the parable about the servant. Seems to be saying just get on with what you are supposed to do. Stop worrying about how large your faith is. You by, the way is, plural.

Does the fact that the Greek word pistis can be also translated as trust, confidence, or commitment change how one can interpret this passage?
 
Posted by Nigel M (# 11256) on :
 
Didn’t want to miss this one – always useful to have an opportunity to delve into a passage to see why it is there. Constant reminder that the clean smooth snow the brain happily skis over year after year hides stumbling rocks underneath the surface that need investigating.

I am not a fan of the “later insertion” get-out clause for difficult passages. Seems rather that these are cleverly drafted works and the author intended things to run in a particular way. Also, if it originally made sense, why would a scribe insert an obfuscation and then for that to be accepted by a community?

So, leaving the “later insertion” to be a conclusion of last resort (when one is utterly despairing of a text), we have the following with which to grapple:

Luke starts the chapter - not that he had chapters! - with (using NET Version here)…
quote:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
It might be wrong to start here, perhaps we should have gone back further, but life is short. On the face of it there are a few apparently disjointed ideas here:
[1] Avoid causing innocent ones to fall away by putting problems in their path
[2] Stay alert and take care over how you behave
[3] Constant forgiveness

Then there comes verse 5f…
quote:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” So the Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this black mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled out by the roots and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Apparent discontinuity number
[4] You don’t need deeper faith(?)

Followed by…
quote:
“Would any one of you say to your slave who comes in from the field after plowing or shepherding sheep, ‘Come at once and sit down for a meal’? Won’t the master instead say to him, ‘Get my dinner ready, and make yourself ready to serve me while I eat and drink. Then you may eat and drink’? He won’t thank the slave because he did what he was told, will he? So you too, when you have done everything you were commanded to do, should say, ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”
[5] Just do your job.

What holds all this together – if in fact it was ever intended to be held together?

I think it is the case that Luke sees ‘faith’ in practical terms; it is what people do as a demonstration of their commitment or loyalty, rather than a state of being or belief. He records Jesus commending the faith of the men who grabbed Jesus’ attention by lowering their paralysed friend through a hole in the roof (5:18-20), he commended the woman who watered his feet with her tears (7:36-50), and the woman with the hemorrhage who touched Jesus’ cloak (8:43-48), and so on.

So when the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, are they asking him to give them the power to do things? Things that would take them out of the ordinary? Jesus’ response could then be to say that they only need to do the ordinary in loyalty to God, like the servant just doing his job, and God might then do the extraordinary (like Jesus healing the sick)?

If that holds together the ‘faith’ section with the following ‘service’ section, is there a fit with the preceding section about millstones, watching, and forgiveness?

Well, not at this time of night on a Sunday!
 
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
 
I'm not sure it was ever intended to "hold together" in the sense that, say, a novel is supposed to hold together. I have this mental picture of a guy sitting down to write this gospel, and he covers the beginning of the ministry, gets into the preaching, and at some point thinks "hey, I'd better get all this other good stuff in here before we get into the passion and so forth" and so he just dumps it in. AFAIR there is nothing to suggest that all of this was actually said at the same time on the same occasion. There are other places where a connection is clearly made, but IMHO this isn't one of them.

And I'm okay with that. Novelistic and-then-this-happened-next is not the only way to write stuff.
 
Posted by Og, King of Bashan (# 9562) on :
 
Our rector focused on the idea that Jesus is saying that faith cannot be measured, because the Kingdom of God does not work on human quantitative measures. Giving more to the poor does not take away from the rich, you get paid the same no matter when you start working, five loaves and three fish can feed thousands, and whatever faith you have is enough to change the world.

Which made me chuckle, because we sang at least two hymns and one anthem that plead God for an increase in faith. If this was another moment when the disciples totally missed the point, we can at least say that they phrased it well enough to fool people into thinking it was the message behind the Gospel!
 
Posted by Hedgehog (# 14125) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
So when the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith, are they asking him to give them the power to do things? Things that would take them out of the ordinary? Jesus’ response could then be to say that they only need to do the ordinary in loyalty to God, like the servant just doing his job, and God might then do the extraordinary (like Jesus healing the sick)?

While listening to the passage yesterday, I was speculating along these lines. I was thinking back to the bit from Chapter 9 (not that there were chapters...) where the disciples start arguing which of them was "the greatest"--and Jesus tries to turn them from thinking like that. They are to be servants, not overlords. Then the disciples want to call down fire to harm the Samaritans, and Jesus rebukes them. It seems that, in the disciples' minds, "faith" was just a code word for "exercising miraculous powers" (and, by extension, wielding earthly power).

So, in Chapter 17, we still have them lusting after divine powers. "Increase our faith" is meant as "increase our ability to do miracles." And, once again, Jesus corrects them. First, he makes it clear that even a smidgeon of divine power would be enough to make a tree uproot itself and go swimming. But to give them such abilities now, before their work is done, is like rewarding the servant before his work is finished. They have to continue to serve as they were called to do, and the reward will come at the end. And, even then, they should feel unworthy of it. "We have just done our duty."

Of course, as usual, I am doing such speculation without even a little bit of linguistic evaluation as to whether the term translated as "faith" is capable of being read as "miraculous power." Never let the facts get in the way of a good theory! [Big Grin]
 
Posted by Prester John (# 5502) on :
 
I was noodling on this last week. I notice that there is a change in the audience being addressed from v.1 to v.5. In verse one Jesus addresses the disciples. In verse five He seems to specify the apostles. Any ideas as to why the change?
 
Posted by Nigel M (# 11256) on :
 
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I have this mental picture of a guy sitting down to write this gospel, and he covers the beginning of the ministry, gets into the preaching, and at some point thinks "hey, I'd better get all this other good stuff in here before we get into the passion and so forth" and so he just dumps it in. AFAIR there is nothing to suggest that all of this was actually said at the same time on the same occasion.

I would think that there must have some pre-planning, given the resource it took to complete these works. The events described in the narratives may not, indeed, have taken place in consecutive order – particularly the parables and teaching material - but there was an order and Luke, for one, certainly seems to have had in mind a design for an orderly account (Lk. 1:3). Seeing as Luke gets a flow going from the start, I have to assume he had thought through what he wanted to say before he committed expensive quill to papyrus. Even if Luke was reacting to one (or two, depending on one’s Q-view!) of the other gospels – or using another gospel as a motivation to interpret God’s message for another audience – there is a desire to communicate so as to affect that audience in such a way as to effect a change. It just seems strange to me that this would be achieved by random collections, especially when the author has gone to the bother of setting a narrative framework with a chronological and logical thrust. We have, for example, the increased dissonance between Jesus and the Pharisees who are testing him out; this theme could be playing out when Jesus refers to stumbling blocks and millstones in 17:1-2.
quote:
Originally posted by Hedgehog:
Never let the facts get in the way of a good theory!

In the grand tradition of traditional historical criticism, let’s pile speculation on speculation.

‘Faith’ in an ancient near eastern covenantal worldview setting would make sense as action. The language of faith concerns a relationship of cooperation as much as belief. The junior partner to the agreement acts on behalf of the senior (serves, sends taxes, etc.) and the senior responds with supportive action (maintaining peace, fighting off intruders, etc.). So I could see this working along the lines of those protesting Psalms: when threatened, the faithful / loyal servant can demand superpower intervention from his overlord.

When the disciples are threatened with being swamped by waves in a boat, they cry to be saved, and Jesus berates them for their little faith: “I find your lack of faith disturbing” or words to that effect, which could then perhaps mean “Your loyalty levels are disarmingly low, so why expect me to pitch in on your side?”
quote:
Originally posted by Prester John:
In verse one Jesus addresses the disciples. In verse five He seems to specify the apostles.

Luke does distinguish between the wider set of Jesus followers - the disciples - and a subset that were called out by Jesus to be key message carriers (Lk. 6:13; 9:1) - the apostles. In chapter 17 Luke has that subset pick up on Jesus' teaching to the followers more generally. Perhaps again this is about that smaller group, knowing they had a commission, pushing for more than was necessary.
 


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