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“it shall not be so among you”: authority and the bible

And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

– Mark 10:32-45

In the above passage, and its parallel in Matthew 20, we are told that James and John want to be placed in positions of high rank when Jesus conquers Jerusalem. Their fellow disciples are incited to anger. Jesus, however, in his usual style, redefines the nature of the topic at hand. Authority is used by the Gentile imperialists for violence and control, but disciples of Jesus are to enact something different, a servant authority, even to the point of death.

Such a vision of authority stands in stark contrast to the authority of the world. Read the rest of this entry

scripture: principles or narrative?

Does anyone think there is an problem when we treat the Bible as a set of principles?

After all, the Bible as a whole forms not a constitution but a narrative.

Stories are beautiful things. They draw us into their world and have  the potential to convey experiences. This transmission leads us in turn to partake of these experiences.

Stories thus preclude abstraction. It is somewhat unnatural to spin a story into an abstract esotericism.

None of this is to say that drawing principles from the Bible is necessarily bad. However maybe we need more care and humility; care that we do not profane the beauty of the narrative with constitutional exegesis, and humility so that we do not think our principles to be as inspired as the narrative (we can always be wrong).

Of course there are parts of the Bible that are more given to the derivation of principles – proverbs, the epistles – though is it not also true that such texts find their place in the larger narrative of God’s action in history, much like a monologue in a movie.

Perhaps we should worry less about drawing principles from the Bible, which are almost always altered by our worldview as they pass from the text to current reality. Perhaps we should worry more about letting the narrative of the Bible draw us into its world, so they we might partake of its reality and bring this experience to bear on our world.

MCA

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