Tuesday, August 02, 2005

It's Bible study time

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." Bertrand Russell
Matt 10:16: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (ASV)

3 comments:

Jason said...

My favorite, from Mark 12:28-34 (harmonized here with the brief parallel from Matt 22:34-40):

.......

Now when the Pharisees have heard that He muzzles (or strangles!) the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.

Yet some of the scribes answered and said, "Rabbi, you say well."

And one of them--a lawyer (of the Pharisees)--approaching and hearing them as they discuss, and seeing He answered (the Sadducees) well, asked Him a test:

"Rabbi... what is the foremost commandment of all the Law?"

Jesus declared to him with force: "The foremost commandment of all, is:

"HEAR O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD THE LORD IS ONE!! (the Jewish Shema from Deuteronomy)

"AND YOU SHALL _LOVE_ THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR WILL, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR POWER, AND WITH ALL YOUR UNDERSTANDING!!

"This is the great and the foremost commandment.

"Yet the second is similar to it:

"YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF!

"There is no commandment greater than these--upon which are hanging all the Law and the Prophets."

...and the scribe said to Him,

"On truth, Rabbi!--you have given the best sayings, that He is One; and there is no other more than He.

"And to love Him with all your will, and with all your soul, and with all your comprehension, and with all your strength--and to love one's neighbor as yourself--is excessively more than all the offerings of ascent, and the sacrifices."

And Jesus, seeing that he answered in understanding, said to him:

"You are not far from the kingdom of God."

.......

It is notable that in giving the Shema as the answer, Jesus introduces a word not found in the texts of this commandment as given: 'understanding'. Indeed, the story in GosMark turns on four uses of three different words for 'understanding'. (GosMatt does not include these, or the agreement between Jesus and the friendly lawyer/scribe; but it does include the utmost use of "mind" in love of God.)

The rabbis, who (at the time, and long thereafter too) put great saving merit on knowledge of God and the Law, would not have been inclined to cavil at this introduction--it was certainly part of what they taught and preached (to their own vast advantage, of course). This student of the Law accepted the introduction as being in the spirit of the First Commandment, but didn't lay special weight on it--showing, in fact, he understood that love (toward God and our fellow men) counts more than all rituals. (There is a teaching in the Talmud that parallels the lawyer's reply, if I recall correctly...)

However, it is also true that the gospel of the Gospels (so to speak) puts no premium on intelligence (though Jesus does insist on understanding). The intelligent have no inherent advantage over the simple, in regard to God's relationship with them--a very different teaching than what was prevalent among the early (and later) rabbis.

I stress this as one of the intellentsia myself {g}, following another one of the intellentsia among the followers of the Way, who wrote:

"If I understand all mysteries and all knowledge... yet do not have giving-love (agape)--

--I am _nothing_." (1 Cor 13:3)

Dennis Monokroussos said...
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