Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Who was The Centurion's Servant?

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The healing of The Centurion's Servant is reported in Matthew 8 and Luke 7.

Matthew 8:6-13:
The centurion said,"Lord, my servant taliyy is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented....I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant taliyy will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, abdeh ‘Do this,’ and he does it."……
Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant taliyy was healed that same hour.

Luke 7:1-10:
He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant abdeh, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant abdeh . And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was worthy, "for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue."
Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant taliyy will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant,abdeh ‘Do this,’ and he does it."
When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!"
And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant abdeh well who had been sick.

There is an interesting detail that is hidden in the English translations, but clear in the original Aramaic text.  In both accounts there are two different Aramaic words used for 'servant':
abdeh which means a bond servant, and  
taliyy which means 'a young man or boy'.  The feminine of taliyy, talitha, is used to describe Jairus's twelve year old daughter in Luke 8 when Jesus says, 'Talitha, little girl, arise'.

In the reports of Matthew 8 and Luke 7, it is when the Centurion is speaking that he uses taliyy rather than abdeh.  Luke adds an apparently irrelevant detail that he was 'dear to him'.  So what?  It seems that there is more to the identity of this young man than is apparent in our English translations.

There are several clues that tell us about the Centurion:

1.  He was the commander of the Roman garrison stationed at Capernaum, and

2.  He had been there for many years because he had 'built a synagogue'.  

3. He was considered 'deserving' by the Elders of the synagogue probably because he was a proselyte, and had converted from the pagan Roman gods to the God of Israel.

4. He knew the Hebrew Sriptures evidenced by his comment, 'But say the word, and my taliyy will be healed'. This is a direct quotation from Psalm 107.20: They cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them.

5. He seems to be very concerned about whether he was 'worthy':
He sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading ... that he was worthy.
I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 
I did not even think myself worthy to come to You.
To be 'worthy' in the context of the Jewish culture in the first century, usually means 'to be ritually clean'. However, the repeated emphasis suggests that, for the Centurion, he was not 'worthy' for some other reason.

6. Luke's added comment that the Centurion's taliyy was 'dear to him' suggests, with the use of taliyy, that the young boy, taliyy, eas in fact the Centurion's son.  

7. His repeated claim that he was not 'worthy' might suggest that his taliyy was his illegitimate son born to one of his female servants, abdeh, during his time as commander of the Roman garrison.

In conclusion, what is the point of including the report of the healing of The Centurion's servant, or son, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. 

Perhaps the message of Jesus is summed up in His comment, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!   Therefore, Jesus is commenting that trust and belief in Him as Messiah is NOT limited to the Jews, but is open and available to ALL people.

The confidence and faith of the Centurion in Jesus as Messiah was rewarded with the healing of his son who was lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.......

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Wedding at Cana in Galilee: John 2

The                                                            The Wedding at Cana in Galilee

John 2.1-12:
1 On the third day 1. there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2.
2  Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.3.
3  And when they ran out of wine, 4. the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’
4  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’
5  His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’
6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, 5. containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.
7  Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’6. And they filled them up to the brim.
8  And He said to them, ‘Draw some out now,7. and take it to the master of the feast.’ And they took it.
9  When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.
10  And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’
11  This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
12  After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.

There are 7 points highlighted which will give us cluse that suggest The Wedding at Cana in Galilee was much bigger than we have traditionally thought:

1.        What is the significance of ‘the third day’?
Genesis 1.9-13:  God saw that it was good.
It is a Jewish tradition that ‘the third day’ of the week, Tuesday, is a day of special blessing because in Creation week, the phrase ‘God saw that it was good’ occurs twice.

2.        Where was Joseph?
Joseph is never mentioned during Jesus ‘s public ministry. Therefore, the assumption is that he had died some years earlier leaving Mary with at least 7 children: Matthew 13.55-56:
Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?

3.        Why were Jesus and His disciples’ invited since they were not residents of Cana?
 The traditional custom was to invite all the people in the village to a wedding. But ‘Jesus and His disciples’ lived some miles away.  Perhaps, the wedding guests were invited from all the region?  If so, why?

According to biblical scholars, the Cana of Galilee mentioned in John 2 was not at Kfar Kana, but at Khirbet Qana, a mound of ruins 8 miles NW of Nazareth, and about 3 miles north of Tzippori.
 According to Josephus (Life 235), Tzippori had a population of between 25-30,000 in 66CE: he called it ‘the ornament of all Galilee’.
Just a ten minute walk north of Nazareth brings one to the top of a ridge overlooking the Bet Netofa Valley. The hill of Tzippori can be seen 3 miles north, rising four hundred feet from the valley floor.

Was Jesus referring to Tzippori when He said, ‘A city set on a hill cannot be hid.’ Matthew 5:14

After Herod's death in 4BCE, the Jewish inhabitants of Tzippori rebelled against Roman rule and the Roman army completely destroyed the city.  Herod Antipas was made Tetrarch, or governor, in 1CE, and proclaimed the city's new name to be Autocratis.
One of Jesus' followers was Joanna, the wife of Herod Antipas' finance minister, Chuza.
It has been suggested that Joseph and his sons, being builders by profession, would have been employed in the rebuilding of Tzippori as Herod Antipas’s capital city of his Tetreachy.
Jesus, therefore, with his father and brothers, would have made the daily one hour walk from Nazereth to work in Tzippori.

So, Jesus and His disciples’ were invited to the wedding some 3 miles north of Tzippori because it was a big wedding for one of Herod’s noblemen, possibly for one of Chuza and Joanna’s relatives…

4.        Why did they run ‘out of wine’?
Since either the bridegroom must have miscalculated, or more likely, it was a very large wedding for which the wine calculation was only approximate.   
5.      What is ‘the manner of purification of the Jews’?
This was a ritual process of dipping one’s hands in the water of purification containing the ashes of the Red Heifer which provided purification from sin, in accordance with God’s instructions in Numbers 19.1-21:
Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a Red Heifer without blemish …. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered….then the Red Heifer shall be burned in his sight……
Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the Red Heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.

6.       Why did He command the ‘waterpots’ to be filled, rather than the wineskins?
From Encyclopaedia Romana:
Wine was the strongest drink of the Romans. Falernian was full-bodied (firmissima), with an alcohol content as much as 15%. Vintage wines could be kept for such lengths of time because they were stored in amphorae, which were large tapering two-handled clay jars, with a narrow neck that was sealed with cork, plastered over with cement, and held approximately 25 litres or about 45 pints, almost 6 gallons.
Wine almost always was mixed with water for drinking; undiluted wine (merum) was considered the habit of provincials and barbarians. The Romans usually mixed one part wine to two parts water, sometimes hot or even salted with sea water to cut some of the sweetness. The Greeks tended to dilute their wine with three or four parts water, which they always mixed by adding the wine to the water.
Therefore, Jesus commanded the waterpots rather than the amphorae to be filled, so that the ‘miracle’ wine could be poured into the amphorae and, as in Roman custom, then diluted with water.

7.      How much extra wine did He provide?
The text reads ‘each containing 2 or 3 metretes (measures)’
Possibly there were 3 waterpots with 2 measures, and 3 waterpots with 3 measures, making  a total of 15 Measures.
               1 metrete, or measure, was equivalent to 39.5 litres.
Therefore, 15 measures was 15 multiplied by 39.5, making 592.5 litres.
The wine would have been watered down by 2 parts of water to one part of wine by pouring the wine into amphorae and adding water. This would have resulted in 1777.5 litres of watered wine.

How many were there on the basis of an extra half litre each?
The wedding guests have already drunk some wine, so for them to have an extra half litre each might be generous!   This extra half litre each would suggest a possible total of some 3500 wedding guests.
This Wedding at Cana of Galilee was NOT a simple, small village wedding. It was a regional event of considerable size.
When the Queen and Prince Philip were married in 1947, there were 2000 invited guests. The Wedding at Cana was almost double the size!

What an interesting report in John 2 when we look at some of the details….