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.......

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