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Teaching The Basics

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Posted by Harvey on December 6, 2004 05:24:47 UTC

I feel as though I must teach the very basics to Christianity to someone who should not need such a basic course, but I guess I have no other choice.

"Regarding the Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27 texts. I do see the same parable retold with some small modifications at the beginning and the end. I do not see two or three interpretations given."

Small modifications? Well, they share a common story with at least one common interpretation that God will reward good investment returns and will punish a no investment strategy. Beyond that, the interpretations that are provided are much different. In case of Matt.25, there are three servants to the lord who are given 5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent, respectfully. This was distributed based on their ability (verse 15). In Luke 19, there are ten servants to the lord who are given one talent each, meaning that they are not given the talent based on their ability, rather they all have equal opportunity (note: this is the first distinctive interpretation that is hinted at based on the parables). Another interesting feature of Luke 19 is that the other 7 servants who received talents drop out of the story. It could be that the 7 servants lost the money in poor investments, and they do not receive their lord's wrath because at least they tried to invest and make their lord money. Or, maybe they put the money in the bank and also did not receive the lord's wrath (this was suggested by the lord in verse 23). This detail is not provided, but it leaves the door open for this kind of analysis of that parable. Incidentally, this is why I feel I have to teach you the basics. Anyone with any knowledge of early Christianity and early Judaism know that oral and written discussions of the meaning of holy writ were common and those who studied holy writ were keen on such missing details. Jesus was raised in this culture, and was also mentioned in the New Testament to provide unique interpretations of the Hebrew scriptures which conflicted with the literal text. But, I don't think you know this, or if you do, then you are being especially obstinate. I'll leave that for you to reflect upon.

Anyway, the accounts also differ on how the man who didn't invest the money in terms of where he put the money. In the case of Matt.25, the man put the money in the ground (Matt.25:25), whereas in Luke, the man put the money in his handkerchief (Luke 19:20). What does it mean? Well, hard to say, but it would seem the man in Matt 25 was taking more precautions that the money wouldn't be stolen, whereas the man in Luke 19 was a little more lax in their duty (still it could have fallen out of the handkerchief very easily), so Luke gives a much more frivolous investor than Matt.25. It's also worth commenting that the investors in Luke 19 were better investors than Matt.25 investors. Two of the investors mentioned in Luke 19 had 900% returns, and 400% returns. Matt. 25 never exceeded 100% investment returns. That's important because the Luke investors actually got to manage cities (verse 17 and verse 19), whereas the Matthew investors were not told what they would rule over. The interpretations are already wide apart, and I haven't even covered the differences in Luke that are new plots to the parable...

For example, in the parable of Luke 19 we are told in verse 11 that the main purpose of the parable was to demonstrate that the Kingdom would not immediately appear. No such interpretation is provided in the Matthew account of the parable. This is important to the Luke account because Luke adds that the citizens rebelled and sent a delegation after the lord (verse 14), which shows that Humanity or the Church would start undergoing impatience with the length of time which the Christ would be away, so the investment strategies of the servants would have to occur in difficult times as servants to the lord. This meaning is entirely missing in the Matt.25 parable.

Punishments are also different in Luke 19 versus Matt.25. In the case of the guy who just kept the money and didn't invest it, he is the subject of the lord's punishment in Matt.25. In Luke 19 he only gets his talent taken away, but in Matt.25 this guy is thrown into outer darkness (verse 30). Luke shows its wrath toward those citizens who rejected the lord, and they are slain - not cast out of the city (Luke 19:27).

So, I'm left asking myself if you really read these parables, or whether you just won't (or can't) consider anything that you haven't been previously taught. Either alternative shows a disinterest in truth.

It is interesting to note the history at the time. The present King had gone to Rome to plead for the right to rule after his fathers death but a group of the local people who did not want him to rule also went to Rome to complain about him. The King did get his rule. One could imagine his anger towards the ones who witnessed against him.

What text are you referring to? This information is not in either Matt.25 or Luke 19.

I see you have noticed that I did not give a specific interpretation. That is because I do not venture beyond that for which I am able to provide a reasoned defense. I was attempting to help you get somewhere in the ball park of the correct interpretation with sound logic. Your statement that several other people in the world do not agree with me is surly true. If your saying that I can not be correct unless everyone agrees with me.... I can logically defend the position that I can be correct while others disagree about my opnion.

Duane, are you just being spiritually obtusive? Of course Christians saw hidden meaning in scripture which they saw the Spirit opening their mind to see. This is Christianity 101. What you are looking for logic to provide, God's spirit is to provide. I'm sorry to say that you need to understand the very basics. The reason that the Hebrew and Greeks who knew the scriptures did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah was because they could not 'see' the hidden meaning in many of the scriptures. In more than one instance the scriptures were 'opened' to those who could not see:

"Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

"This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.' Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked.
'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: 'He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.' The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?' Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus."

You have to have your eyes opened. That is, the scriptures were written in such a manner that new nuggets of truth are available to understand. There are of course boundaries of interpretation, but those boundaries are not as rigid as you suggest. Otherwise, the biblical prophecies of Jesus must be rejected as referring to him.

"The only similarity between man and beasts in Eccl. 3:18-20 is specified as both will die.
If you read Gen: 1:26 to the end of the chapter it is obvious that man is created different.


It's not a similarity, really. This scripture comes right out and says that God puts humanity in the situation so that they will learn about their evolutionary origins (verse 18):

"I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts."

In other words, it is for man to eventually see that they are part of the animal kingdom, and that 'seeing' is an evolutionary understanding of our origins.

In addition, Gen.1:26 is talking about potential of humanity as well as intelligence of humanity. It is not separating humans from the animal kingdom. In fact, Gen.2 (verses 7 and verses 19) it is showed that both man and beast were formed from the clay (i.e., Hebrew for 'Adam' indicates clay). Again, this is evolutionary since clay is one of the top contenders for the origin of life (http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/10/25/clay.life.reut/ ).

"Would not John be considered someone who is going to heaven, Jesus as being God and the children who would not play as people who are going to hell? Would not this parable instruct one how to avoid going to hell or how to get to heaven. This parable meets all the criteria which I gave."

I don't mind this kind of wide amount of interpretation. As I said, the parable of the sower (Matt.13:18-23) shows that God uses natural selection as a spiritual means to bring people to the kingdom of God. But, Paul makes it clear that the spiritual is a type of the physical. First the physical type and then the spiritual type:

"However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual." (I Cor.15:46)

I know you don't want to hear this, but if you understood the meat of Christianity, you would understand this basic universal principle of the religion.

I have noted that you do not argue with any of the logical steps I have used to come to a conclusion but instead scold me for having an opnion. I donít believe I have interpreted any of the parables, just stated facts about the ones which have an interpretation given and noted trends which I would expect to continue.

I scold you for thinking that interpretation of scripture is as you say it is. I tell you this honestly. If we were to use your rigid interpretation of scripture, then there are no Hebrew scriptures that prophecy Jesus' coming. Again, I know you will just disagree, but I think some things are beyond just debate, and some things need to be about providing understanding. In this case, it is important for you to understand that the whole basis of Christianity is based on a deeper understanding of scripture than what you are willing to accept. That's not good, to be very honest.

It is interesting that you are guilty if the very thing you are falsely accusing me of, that you can propose an interpretation of a parable without consent from others who disagree with you, even if Jesus himself disagrees with you or any logical argument from the text which disagrees with you.

I don't mind disagreement. What I don't like is someone who isn't interested in seeking truth, or worse, seeks to avoid truth by intentionally turning away from abundant evidence. My intention is to make it biblically acceptable for you to accept what is intellectually obvious so you don't have to feel that you are turning on your faith to remain intellectually honest. On the other hand, if you will not accept what your intellect must be telling you, then you are not being true to the scriptures that say that Christians should seek the truth and not hide from it. Clearly the scriptures are open to wide interpretation on some issues, and it's clear as day to me that with regard to evolution, the Bible is very open to it, and in fact, extension of Jesus' parables to the 'physical type' makes it absolutely required to believe.

"Anyone who questions your interpretation must be arrogant. I am not sure if this is your intent but please check yourself because it sometimes seems this way when I read your posts."

I don't think I am being overly arrogant because arrogance is related to how one treats truth. If one ignores truth, then they are susceptible to being arrogant. On the other hand, if someone treats truth as primary, then it is hard for that person to be arrogant because they are constantly forced to revise their thinking which humbles you considerably. As for my own history, I've had to go through many painful changes in my thoughts in order to correct the views that I had which were wrong in the past. I'm continually revisiting issues and my whole focus is to allow truth to change my views. And, I don't hide from truth, I constantly seek out theories and challenges so that I can see the errors in my thoughts, and make needed corrections. It's not easy to hang onto dear beliefs. Of course, arrogance is in everyone, even myself. Basically, what I'm saying, is that I fight arrogance the only way I know how, which is to be humbled by truth, and when you get humbled enough, you at least have a means to address any arrogance that might crop up. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but I sure work mighty hard to pull it up from the roots.

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