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The Paradox of Christian Discipleship (Mk. 8.22-38) II

July 17, 2018

Last Sunday we meditated on “The Paradox of Jesus’ Messianic Identity”. I said at the end that we need to understand and accept the paradox of Jesus’ messianic identity in order to understand and accept the paradox of Christian discipleship. Because we are the disciples or the followers of Jesus Christ.

I. Disciples and Admirers

Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and James and John to “follow” him (Mk. 1.16-20; 2.14). In other words, Jesus called them to be his disciples, not to be his admirers.

Who is an admirer?

In the 1st century there were many people who admired Jesus’ teachings and his miracles (Mk. 1.21-22, 27-28; 2.12). Even today there are many who admire Jesus’ teachings and his life of love, compassion and sacrifice. Some of them even attend church and are members of church.

However, an admirer is not a disciple.

Characteristics of admirers:

  1. Keep themselves detached. Keep themselves at a safe distance. Play safe;
  2. For them Jesus is like an actor;
  3. Willing to serve Jesus Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger;
  4. Only admire the truth, but do not want to follow the truth;
  5. Do not make any true sacrifice. Through words, songs, testimonies and even messages they are inexhaustible about how highly they prize Jesus Christ. But they renounce nothing, give up nothing, and will not allow Jesus to transform their life.

 

When there is no danger, when everything is favourable to Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a disciple. The admirer can be in the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing safe.

However, a disciple aspires and strives with all his strength, with all his will and with all his mind to follow Jesus Christ and is prepared to pay the cost for his commitment to Jesus Christ.

 

II. Christian Discipleship

 A. Definition of Christian Discipleship

Christian discipleship is going after Jesus Christ or following Jesus Christ: “If anyone would come after me” (Mk. 8.34). Following Jesus means “togetherness with him” (“To be with him” Mk. 3.14).

B. Initiative for Christian Discipleship

In the Gospels we find that Jesus Christ took initiative in calling certain persons for discipleship (Mk. 1.17, 2.14).

Though Jesus called certain persons for discipleship, Christian discipleship is voluntary: “If anyone would come after me.” It is a conscious and willful decision of the person, who is called, to the call of Jesus Christ for discipleship.

A disciple of Jesus remains as a disciple for life, unlike disciples of other Jewish teachers who later become masters who will have their own disciples. So it is a lifelong journey of learning from Jesus Christ and following Jesus Christ.

C. The Purpose of Christian Discipleship

There is a twofold purpose of Jesus calling for discipleship (Mk. 3.13-15):

  1. To be with him;
  2. To be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.

“Following” is possible only when the disciple is with the master, so that the disciple can see the life of the master and learn. The disciple also learns from the teachings and the deeds of Jesus Christ.

The disciples are also called to preach the same message of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached and to liberate those who are under the bondage of the ruler of this world, Satan (Mk. 3.22-30; Mt. 12.22-32). Therefore, disciples are to participate in the establishment of the kingdom of God through proclaiming the message of the kingdom of God and doing the liberative deeds with the authority received from their master Jesus Christ.

Empowered by Jesus for ministry, they did as Jesus did: preached, healed and exorcised demons (Mk. 6.7-13). The disciples were excited about the ministry they did and they came and shared with Jesus (Mk. 6.30).

The seventy two, who were sent to do ministry, returned and told Jesus Christ with excitement, “Lord in your name even the demons submit to us!” Jesus replied, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening” (Lk. 10.17-18).

Jesus becomes a model or paradigm for the disciples not only for the liberative ministry, but also for the sufferings.

 

III. The Paradox of Christian Discipleship

Soon after teaching his disciples what it means to be a messiah – about his sufferings, death and resurrection -, Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowd what it means to be a disciple: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk. 8.34).

Jesus’ own sufferings or cross becomes a paradigm to the self-denial, cross-bearing discipleship. There is an indissoluble link between discipleship, and self-denial and cross-bearing.

Therefore, the two conditions for following Jesus Christ are self-denial and carrying one’s cross.

A. Self-Denial

The word “deny” has two basic meanings. The first is “to disown” someone (Mk. 10.30,31 – The same Greek word “aparneomai” is used here). This is what Peter would do later in regard to Jesus Christ: he would deny knowing Jesus (Mk. 14.66-72).

The second meaning is “to act in a wholly selfless manner”. This is the meaning with which the word “deny” is used in Mk. 8.34. Jesus is essentially challenging them to set aside their agenda and to get on God’s agenda. “Denying self” means to submit one’s human thoughts to God’s thoughts…to his will, his plan and his purposes. You submit to what God wants you to think and to do. As Rom. 12.2 instructs, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.”

After Jesus predicts about his sufferings, death and resurrection in Mk. 9.30-31 and Mk. 10.32-34, the disciples of Jesus look for positions of honour (Mk. 9.33-34; 10.35-41), so that Jesus had to teach them about the nature of true greatness and the importance of service (Mk. 9.35-37; 10.42-45).

The attitude of disciples was one of self-aggrandizement, self-glory and self-seeking. So Jesus calls his disciples to follow him in self-denial.

Without denying oneself, one can not carry one’s cross.

 

B. Carrying One’s Cross

Crucifixion was a public spectacle accompanied by torture and shame. It is one of the most humiliating and painful deaths ever devised by human beings.

In the Roman world of the first century, a condemned person was crucified on a cross. In fact, he would even be forced to carry his own cross (or at least the cross beam) to the place where he would be crucified.

The phrase “take up his cross” is a reference to this practice. But why did the Roman government require a condemned man to carry his cross through the streets of the town to the place of his execution?

What does cross symbolise for the crucifying powers and the crucified person?

  1. The crucifying powers

a. The political power 

i. Crucifixion is a symbol of the display of the supremacy and dominance of the state or the ruling power

In the ancient world the supremacy and dominance of the state or the ruling power was displayed through various forms of punishment to criminals, insurrectionists, slaves and foreigners. In the order of increasing severity, the aggravated methods of execution were decapitation, burning and crucifixion.

Crucifixion was practiced throughout the ancient world. As a method of execution, crucifixion was employed among Persians, Indians, Assyrians and others, and later among Greeks, Jews and Romans.

Crucifixion was an act of nailing or binding a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross, or stake, or tree. The act of crucifixion was heinously cruel. The crucified person experienced slow death due to either shock or a painful process of asphyxiation as the muscles used in breathing were exhausted. That’s why Roman citizens, particularly members of the upper class, were generally spared from this form of execution, no matter what their crimes were. Crucifixion was largely reserved for those of lower status – dangerous criminals, insurrectionists, slaves and foreigners. The state or the rulers used it as a deterrent against open resistance to its authority and power.

The Roman authorities used the method of crucifixion in order to send a message to the conquered people not to disturb the status quo, and on the one hand to accept their dominance and authority and on the other hand to accept their (conquered people’s) subordination.

Therefore, crucifixion is mainly to maintain the status quo, and to exhibit the supremacy and dominance of the state or the ruling power through violence.

 

ii. Carrying the cross and crucifixion in a public place is meant to send a stern warning to the public

In order to send a stern warning to public, crucifixion was made a public affair. The condemned person was forced to carry the cross through the streets of the town to the place of his execution.

Naked and fastened to a stake, cross or tree on a busiest road, the executed was subjected to savage ridicule by passersby. Moreover, under Roman practice crucified was denied burial. The corpse was left on the cross as carrion for the birds or to rot.

Surprisingly, the early disciples understood Jesus’ crucifixion as lynching. Standing before the Sanhedrin Peter said, “The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5.30).

The condition of a lynched person is also similar. This is well depicted by the song titled “Strange Fruit”, which is about the lynched African Americans by the “White” Americans in the US during 19th and 20th centuries:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is the fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

In this way, the general populace was reminded of the fate of those who resisted or challenged the authority and power of the state or the ruling power.

 

b. The religious power

Among Jews, crucifixion was occasionally practiced during the Hellenistic-Hasmonean period. The Sadducean high priest Alexander Janneus (in office 103-76 BC) had 800 Pharisees crucified and ordered their wives and children slaughtered before their eyes as they hung dying.

According to Jewish law, the corpses of executed idolaters and blasphemers were hanged on a tree to show that they were accursed by God (Deuteronomy 21.22-23).

 

2. The crucified person

Whether living or already dead, the victims suffered rejection, brutality, shame and a degrading loss of all dignity by being bound or nailed to a stake or cross or tree in public view.

For the onlookers he is a seditionist and a cursed one of God. This is how the state and the dominant religion (Judaism) tried to present Jesus to the public by crucifying him: political pretender (“The King of the Jews” Mk. 15.26), and messianic pretender (“You have heard his blasphemy” Mk. 14.61-64; Gal. 3.14).

Jesus has already warned his disciples that they may face similar fate: “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (Jn. 16.2). This is what happened to the disciples of Jesus Christ. They suffered brutality, shame and degrading loss of dignity for being the disciples of the crucified messiah and for proclaiming that the crucified Jesus is the messiah (Acts 8.1-3; 22.4-5; 26.9-12; Gal. 5.11). The disciples were the victims of the religion, which promoted and practiced “sacred violence”.

Luke adds an important detail not found in other Gospels, “take up his cross DAILY” (Lk. 9.23). By being the disciples of Jesus Christ, we become objects of public rejection, ridicule, shame and suffering. That’s why Paul encourages Timothy, “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (II Tim 1.8).

 

IV. Paradoxical Climax

However, the culmination of the fate of Jesus and his disciples is not rejection, ridicule, shame, suffering and death.

It is victory!

Jesus says, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days RISE AGAIN” (Mk. 8.31; 9.31; 10.33-34).

The dominant religion charged Jesus Christ as a blasphemer and the Roman government charged him as an insurrectionist or seditionist. So the official story about Jesus Christ is – he is a threat both to the dominant religion and the state. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ expresses the official story about Jesus Christ that he is a security threat!

Barbara Brown Taylor says, “Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix.”

John W. Whitehead says, “I have studied enough of this country’s (the US) history – and the world history – to know that governments (the US government being no exception) are at times indistinguishable from the evil they claim to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentation or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.”

Most of the time the powerful try to silence those who are trying to disturb the status quo and they create a story justifying their violence against the victims. Both the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman officials did the same. But God raised Jesus from the dead and made him sit at his right hand, thus revealing that Jesus is not a blasphemer, but the Messiah, the Son of God!

  1. The resurrection of Jesus Christ exposed the lie – that the official story about Jesus Christ is FAKE.

We live in an age of fake news. TV channels like Republic and Times Now create fake news against those who are questioning the governance of the BJP and exposing the failed BJP government policies, failure of Narendra Modi in keeping his promises, and exposing the real issues facing in India today like oil prices, farmers’ plight, increasing state-sponsored communal violence.

So the resurrection of Jesus exposes the official fake news about Jesus Christ.

2. William Barclay says that the resurrection of Jesus proves that

a. Life is stronger than death;

b. Love is stronger than hatred;

c. Truth is stronger than falsehood;

c. Good is stronger than evil.

3. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has redeemed the silenced voice and language of the victim.

Now we hear the victim’s story shared by the victim of the sacred violence. This is what we hear as the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What Jesus’ resurrection expresses is, love, truth and goodness can not be suppressed and silenced for long. One day they will get back their voice and language!

A few years ago I read a book titled “Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions” written by Teresa Godwin Phelps. The book is mainly on the issue of justice. How justice should be understood in the context of violence? She analyses the Truth Commissions that were established by the latter democratic governments in South Africa, after the collapse of the Apartheid regime, and in Chile, after the dethronement of its military dictator Augusto Pinochet, to hear the experiences of the victims.

In this book the writer quotes the poem written by Antjie Krog, who reported the painful experiences of victims during the South African Truth Commission.

“Beloved, do not die. Do not dare die. I, the survivor, wrap you in words so that the future inherits you. I snatch you from the death of forgetfulness. I tell you the story, complete your ending – you who once whispered me in the dark.”

Silenced voices will regain voice and language to tell their stories! This is true in the case of Jesus and this will be true in the case of Jesus’ disciples! Because Love, Truth and Goodness will be the ultimate victor!

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The Paradox of Christian Discipleship (Mk. 8.22-38)

July 17, 2018
  1. Introduction

There are some paradoxical biblical truths or biblical teachings in the Bible. This statement states two things:

  1. Biblical truths: These are considered as truths by the biblical writers and the faith community.
  2. Paradoxical biblical truths: These biblical truths are paradoxical.

 

What is a paradox?

“A paradox is a statement that may seem absurd or contradictory, but yet can be true, or at least makes sense. Paradoxes are often contrary to what is commonly believed.”

A paradox is “a statement or situation that may be true, but seems impossible or difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics.”

For example:

  1. Less is more: This statement uses two opposite words that contradict one another. How can less be more? The concept behind this statement is that what is less complicated is often more appreciated;
  2. I know one thing that I know nothing;
  3. This is the beginning of the end;
  4. I love to hate.

 

Paradoxical biblical truths or biblical teaching:

  1. God becoming human and living among human beings and dying on the cross;
  2. Jesus – 100% God and 100% human;
  3. Jesus is a servant-king (Mk. 1.11; Mt. 3.17). That means God is a servant-king;
  4. A Christian leader is a servant. The great one is a servant (Mk. 10.43-44);
  5. Last is first and first is last;
  6. Lamb is shepherd (Rev. 7.17).

 

II. Paradox of Jesus’ Messianic Identity (Mk. 8.22-38)

The writer of the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus Christ in two seemingly contrasting portrayals.

A. Jesus, the Messiah of Authority and Power

The people in the synagogue at Capernaum were amazed at the teaching of Jesus, “for he taught them as one having authority” (Mk. 1.22). His teaching was followed by exorcism. Then the people said, “What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mk. 1.27).

The first three Gospels writers use the term “miracles” or “deeds of power” for the miracles that Jesus performed, whereas the writer of John’s Gospel uses the term “signs” for the miracles of Jesus. For Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus’ miracles are Jesus’ deeds of power, whereas for John they are signs or pointers to the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Mk. 6.2 “On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!” Further it is said, “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them” (Mk. 6.5).

The Greek word used for “miracle” in Mark is dunamis, from which the English word “dynamite” comes (Mk. 6.2). So miracles manifest the power of Jesus Christ.

One of the unique features of Mark’s Gospel is that whenever Jesus healed a person, he ordered  him not to tell others (Mk. 1.44; 7.36; 8.26 footnote).

Jesus could have used his healing miracles to advertise about himself and thus promote himself, as the present day televangelists and “healing crusaders” are doing in order to attract crowds. Contrary to what we are witnessing today, Jesus never used his miracles to attract crowds. Rather he discouraged the healed persons from telling others.

The reasons are:

  1.  “After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone….But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country, and people came to him from every quarter” (Mk. 1.43-45).

Some people followed Jesus because he was an exciting miracle worker and teacher (Jn. 2.23-25). Crowds followed Jesus for healings and other benefits, but not to become his disciples.

2. Jesus as the messiah of authority and power is not the complete identity of Jesus Christ. He is not only the messiah of authority and power, but also the suffering messiah.

The other identity of himself (i.e. the suffering Messiah) is revealed to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.

 

B. Jesus, the Suffering Messiah

After Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Messiah,” Jesus immediately started telling them about his impending sufferings, rejection, death and resurrection (Mk. 8.31-32): “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Matthew 16.21: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples….”

    1. Two Forces Opposing Jesus Christ
  1. a. Religious Force

The chief priests, elders and scribes represent the Jewish Sanhedrin, the official Jewish religious body.

Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin (Mk. 14:53-65), and they charged him with blasphemy because Jesus confessed that he was the messiah, the Son of God (Mk. 14.61-62). They “all of them condemned him as deserving death” (Mk. 14.64).

So the Jewish religious leaders charged Jesus as a messianic pretender.

In all this the Jewish religious leaders used the “lynching mob” against Jesus Christ. The “lynching mob” went with Judas Iscariot carrying swords and clubs to arrest Jesus (Mk. 14.43). They gave false witness against Jesus (Mk. 14.56-58). They were instigated by the religious leaders that their religious sentiments or sensitivities were hurt by Jesus by claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God (Mk. 14.61-64).

Jesus Christ was considered to be a threat to the existing system and therefore the religious establishment, with the active help of the “lynching mob”, wanted to kill him. I call this religious system as the system of sacred violence. Killing those, who are considered to have hurt their religious sentiments or violated their religious traditions or teachings, is considered to be their religious duty or sacred duty.

This is what we witness in the present day India where innocent Indians are killed with the pretext of cow-slaughter. The “lynching mobs” are very active in the India today.

 

b. Political Force

Jesus talks about his impending sufferings, rejection, death and resurrection three times (Mk. 8.31-32; 9.30-31; 10.32-34). In the third prediction the description is more and “Gentiles” are included. Here “Gentiles” denote the Roman government officials.

Since the Sanhedrin did not have power and authority to pronounce and implement death penalty, Jesus was handed over to the Roman governor Pilate and it was the Roman government that crucified Jesus Christ.

The Roman government charged Jesus as the political pretender. This is what has been nailed to the cross: “”And the inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews” (Mk. 15.26).

So the Jewish official legal body condemned Jesus as a messianic pretender (Mk. 14.61-64), and the Roman government charged him as a political pretender (Mk. 15.26). So Jesus was crucified as a messianic pretender and a political pretender! This is the official story about Jesus Christ!

 

2. Reaction of the Disciples

In response to the passion prediction, Peter, as a representative of Jesus’ disciples, rebuked Jesus saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (Mt. 16.22). Jesus’ disciples were happy to reconcile Jesus’ messianic identity with authority and power, but not with passion or rejection, sufferings and death!

Like the blind man at Bethsaida, who had an unclear vision at first after Jesus touched him, the disciples too had an unclear vision of Jesus’ messianic identity.

Most of us have this unclear vision of Jesus Christ. We prefer to accept him as a messiah of authority and power.

Today we hear the “prosperity gospel” or “success, health and wealth” or “name it and claim it” gospel. I don’t know how many of you read Bruce Wilkinson’s “success, health and wealth,” “name it and claim it” version of the Prayer of Jabez (I Chronicles 4.10). This version of God, gospel and faith is preached from the pulpits of mega churches and propagated by the Christian TV channels.

Paul calls such a gospel as “a different gospel” which means a different kind of gospel (Gal. 1.6-7). This gospel confuses and perverts not only the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also the identity of Jesus Christ and God.

Jesus says that this is human way of thinking! This way of thinking may be humanly appropriate and logical in human reasoning.

But Jesus says such thinking makes that person adversary to God and his will: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mk. 8.33). Matthew includes, “You are a stumbling block to me” (Mt. 16.23).

The Hebrew word of “Satan” means “adversary”. As an adversary, the disciples, due to their unclear vision of Jesus’ messianic identity, are stumbling blocks to Jesus and they are diametrically opposed to God’s will.

Like the blind man, the disciples and we need to have the second touch of Jesus in order to have a clear vision of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Mk. 8.25 says, “Then Jesus laid his hands again, and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” Then only we can see clearly Jesus Christ and recognise his paradoxical messianic identity.

Only when we see clearly the paradoxical messianic identity of Jesus and believe in this Jesus Christ, we can understand the paradox of Christian discipleship.

Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6.5-15) – A Prayer of Empowerment

April 23, 2018

Message on 15th & 22nd April 2018

Duvvuru Kamalakar

 

I. Context

Prayer is a pillar of spiritual life. That’s why we find “prayer” in almost all religions.

Prayer empowers Christians. That’s why “Lord’s Prayer” is found in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. After listening to Jesus’ sermon on the vision of the life of the kingdom of God, the disciples must have wondered how on earth can they, who are weak and vulnerable, participate in this vision of the kingdom of God (cf. I Cor. 1. 26). The Lord’s Prayer is an answer to their fears and inhibitions. It empowers them to participate in the radical vision of righteousness or justice (Greek word is same for both righteousness and justice) of God’s kingdom.

Prayer is a communication with God. However, this communication depends on one’s commitment to God or one’s understanding of God. Jesus mentions two groups: Jewish hypocrites and Gentiles (Mt. 6.5; 6.7).

Jewish hypocrites use prayer, which is supposed to be a communication with God, for self aggrandizement. For them prayer is putting on a show, or a religious performance in order to win the applause of people. They give an impression that their commitment to God is deep, but in fact it is shallow and not sincere. Prayer concerns God alone and is not intended for public display.

On the other hand, Gentiles chant holy names of their god and a list of what their god did, in order to get their god’s attention. It is like using flattery to get the hearing of a higher official! Eg. Baal prophets (I Kings 18.26-29). They follow the saying: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

It is in this context that Jesus is teaching them a model prayer.

II.  Lord’s Prayer  

A. “Our Father” 

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us how we are to address God.

  1. God is Fathe
  2. God is OUR Father

 

  1. God is Father

For a Christian God is “Father”. As a child approaches his/her father, a Christian can approach God with a spirit of confidence that the Father will respond.

What does Jesus say about the heavenly Father?

  • Our heavenly Father’s love is perfect (Mt. 5.48)
  • Our heavenly Father cares (Mt. 6. 26). “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Mt. 7. 11).
  • Our heavenly Father knows (Mt. 6.8; 6.31-32). A caring parent knows the needs of his/her children.

 

We pray to a loving Father who is caring and kind.

 

  1. God is OUR Father

God is “our Father” to whom we pray. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that we all belong to God’s family. We are not saved in isolation. We are born into God’s family. It is an acknowledgement of ownership and belonging. This is the privilege a Christian has.

Because we belong to God’s family, we also have responsibilities. We pray for “OUR daily bread”. Instead of thinking only about the things I need, we should pray for the daily needs of the children of God worldwide. Instead of thinking only about the things we want to receive from God, this prayer challenges us to consider what we should be giving and sharing so that we all have our daily bread.

Likewise “our trespasses” are not simply the things I do wrong, but our failures as a Christian community to be faithful to God, our Father, and to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters.

If we all live out the Lord’s Prayer, there is a possibility of removing hunger, homelessness and suffering to a certain extent.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, both the priest and the Levite thought, “If I stop here, what would happen to me?” Because the road between Jerusalem and Jericho is dangerous. Whereas the Samaritan thought, “If I don’t stop here, what would happen to the wounded man?” This is, as Martin Luther King says, dangerous unselfishness. This is what is required of those who belong to God’s family or the kingdom of God! God’s children can not be cold and insensitive in the face of suffering and injustice. God keeps calling us to open our hearts to compassion and kindness.

Pope Francis says, “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.” We pray for the hungry and suffering, NOT with the intention of reminding God of his responsibility towards them. When we pray for the hungry and the suffering, we not only pray to God to help them and meet their needs, but also remind ourselves of our responsibility towards them.

In this sense, prayer is not only a communication with God, but also a reminder that we are keepers of one another. God asked Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain answered, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4.9). Similar question God asks us, “How is your brother or sister?” When we pray for someone, it is a reminder for us that we are keepers of that person.

 

B. Six Petitions of Lord’s Prayer  

The Lord’s Prayer consists of six petitions. These six petitions can be divided into two groups of three petitions each.

  1. The first group of three petitions focuses on something that belongs to God: “Your name”, “Your kingdom”, and “Your will”.
  2. The second group of three petitions concerns three specific needs of those praying: “our daily bread”, “our trespasses”, and “temptations”

 

  1. The First Group of Three Petitions

 

a. “Hallowed be your name”

“Name” denotes the totality of God’s character.

It is a petition for God to act, “Father, you sanctify your name.” The Greek word for “holy” means “separate”, “different”.

So this is a prayer to God to show Himself separate or different from the other gods. In the Old Testament, God shows himself to be holy before all the people (Lev. 10.3; Num 20.13). The prophet Ezekiel emphasizes God’s promises to sanctify his name: “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name which has been profaned among the nations and which you have profaned among them” (Ezek 36.23). “I will show my greatness and my holiness and myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 38.23; 20.41; 28.22, 25; 38.16; 39.27).

Old Testament also teaches that human beings should also hallow God’s name (Lev 22.32; Is 29.23). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has instructed his disciples to live in such a way that others may see their good works and glorify the Father in heaven (Mt. 5.16). The name of the heavenly Father can only be honoured by right life of his children, or by living out the righteousness of the kingdom of God.

 

b. “Your kingdom come”

God’s kingdom has already come onto this earth through Jesus. The manifestation of God’s kingly rule is seen in the words and works of Jesus Christ. Jesus preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt. 4.17). Jesus healed those who are sick and liberated those who are possessed by evil spirits (Mt. 4.23-24). Jesus made it clear that he is here on this earth to bind the strongman and release those who are under his bondage (Mt. 12.22-29).

Recently we celebrated the Good Friday and the Easter. They point out:

  1. Victory of God’s kingdom over the kingdom of Satan and its evil forces.
  2. Victory of nonviolence over violence
  3. Victory of life over death
  4. Victory of truth over falsehood.
  5. Victory of love over hatred
  6. Victory of good over evil

 

If there is victory of God’s rule of love, life, truth, goodness and nonviolence, why is there still hatred, death, violence, hunger and evil on this earth? In the present day India the situation is worse. There is state-sponsored hatred and violence against the minority communities such as Muslims and Dalits. The attacks on Christians and churches have increased. The violence against peace-loving Christians has increased. Why?

Recently I was reading an article on Martin Luther King Jr, American Civil Rights leader, who was assassinated by a combined force of US government, the rich and the mafia. Martin Luther King fought for the dignity and equal rights of African Americans through nonviolent means. He fought for economic justice. He spoke against US wars against other countries. He fought for social, political and economic reconstruction of the US.

The author of the article writes, “Martin Luther King was a transmitter of a non-violent spiritual and political energy…(and) his very existence was a threat to an established order based on violence, racism and economic exploitation. He was a dangerous man… Revolutionaries are, of course, anathema to the power elites who, with all their might, resist such rebels’ efforts to transform society. If they can’t buy them off, they knock them off.”

A nonviolent revolutionary is a dangerous person to people and systems that perpetuate violence, inequality, oppression and exploitation. Evil forces try to silence such people by killing them.

The combined force of the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman Empire tried to silence Jesus by crucifying him on the cross, in order to put a stop to the onward march of the kingdom of God. Saul, who became Paul, tried the same thing: “Meanwhile, Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9.1-2). Paul confesses, “You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it” (Gal. 1.13). Saul used his religion to justify his violence against the nonviolent Christians (Gal. 1.14). To his surprise, Saul realized through his encounter with God and the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus road that God is with Jesus, who was the victim of the religious and political violence.

Easter declares that the kingdom of evil, hatred, violence and falsehood can not contain or defeat the kingdom of God of truth, love and nonviolence. One day the kingdom of evil will be fully defeated. The holy city, New Jerusalem, will come down from heaven onto this earth. Heaven and earth will become one, and God becomes the king of this transformed earth.

This is what we pray for when we pray “Thy kingdom come.”

So, as we pray this, for the world, we also pray for the church: make us kingdom-bearers; make us a community of healed healers; make us servants of the Lord.

 

c. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

God’s will is done when his name is hallowed and his kingdom comes. It is not a request for a modest improvement of conditions on earth. It is a plea for a total transformation of the world order and to bring about a whole new world order – Garden of Eden restored, a New Jerusalem descending from heaven, kingdom of God on earth where there will be justice, peace, joy and love (Is. 11. 6-9; 65.25).

 

  1. Second Group of Petitions

The second group of three petitions concerns three specific needs of those praying: “our daily bread”, “our trespasses”, and “temptations”. In these petitions those who pray the prayer ask God for the deliverance from the troubles that beset and threaten Christians – physical concerns, guilt, temptation and the power of evil.

In each case, the second set of petitions employs a first person plural pronoun: “give us” “forgive us” and “do not bring us, but deliver us”.

 

a. “Give us this day our daily bread”

The Greek text of this petition may be translated as “Our bread for the coming day, give us today.” “The coming day” does not mean tomorrow or the next day. Most probably this is an early morning prayer, where Christians ask God to provide provisions for the day ahead, with little thought of provisions for tomorrow and the days to come.

This petition reminds of God’s provision of manna to the people of Israel in the wilderness (Ex. 16). Manna was given to people every day and the people were asked to take the amount required for that day, except on the sixth day where they had to collect manna for the Sabbath day also. The people believed God and God provided for them food sufficient for that day.

With the same confidence the Psalmist prays, “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season” (Ps. 145.15).

Those who trust God to supply them with their daily needs need not be anxious. In Mt. 6.25-34 Jesus seeks to calm the fears of those who are consumed with worries about what they shall eat or drink (Mt. 6.25,31) or over an uncertain future (Mt. 6.34). In order to alleviate their anxiety, Jesus tells his disciples to look at the birds and flowers and how God cares for them. If God cares for the grass of the field and the birds of the air, how much more will God care for His children (Mt. 6:30)! And if evil parents know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will God give good gifts to those who ask (Mt. 7:11). He encourages them by saying, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Mt. 6.32).

God is mindful of our physical needs. When Jesus saw that the crowds had nothing to eat after being with him in the wilderness for three days, he fed them bread (Mt. 15:32-38; 14:13-21).

The prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” not only makes us recognise that God is the source of our sustenance, but also a critique of the current materialism. Jesus asks us to pray only for necessity, not for abundance.

The writer of Proverbs 30 prays, ““Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Pro. 30. 8-9).

Is our anxiety and worry more about our need or greed, necessity or abundance? What is obstructing us from seeking the kingdom of God and its righteousness (Mt. 6.33)?

 

 b. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”

Forgiveness plays an important role in relationships, and is necessary for reconciliation between two persons. That is why forgiveness and reconciliation are emphasized by Jesus. The altar may be the place where one goes to receive forgiveness and become reconciled to God. But Jesus says, “If you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5.23-24).

Christians should not expect to receive from God what they are not prepared to bestow on others. The axiom at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, if you are not forgiving, you will not be forgiven (Mt. 6.14-15), underscores this point.

The parable of the unmerciful servant reinforces the necessity of a merciful spirit (Mt. 18.23-35). Peter’s query about how many times he must forgive another who sins against him elicits the parable (Mt. 18.21-22). The magnitude of God’s mercy is illustrated by the king’s forgiveness of a monumental debt of a servant (Mt. 18.24). When the king is informed of the callous actions of this servant immediately after receiving such overwhelming grace, he is moved to anger. He declares, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt. 18.32-33).

Jesus insists that mercy that has already been received from God requires us to be merciful. We who profess that our infinite debt to God has been forgiven can no longer insist that others must repay in full their debts to us. Those who live by God’s mercy must, therefore, be merciful to others, forgiving others. The debt may be sin or money.

 

c. “Do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one”

As Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, disciples can expect the same onslaught from the evil one, Satan. They will be tempted to exalt their own names rather than God’s, to have their own will done rather than God’s, and to establish their own kingdoms rather than the kingdom of God. The Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that disciples will face persecution (Mt. 5.11-12) and will be tempted either to resist the evil one with violence (Mt. 5.39) or to fall away (Mt. 13.21; 24.9-10). Disciples will encounter the lure of mammon (Mt. 6.24).

Two of the temptations we get are despair and pride. Despair is the opposite of hope. It is the belief that no one, not even God, can help me. No one would want to be tempted to lose hope.

Pride, on the other hand, is the belief that I can do it all on my own even without the help of God.

With either despair or pride, what is at stake is our relationship with God.

The third common temptation most of us yield to is “control”. Jesus faced this temptation in the wilderness. “The devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” (Mt. 4.8-9). The temptation to Jesus was that all the kingdoms would be given to his control, if he worships the devil. Therefore, pursuit of control is the worship of Satan.

Control is different from empowerment. Being in control signifies that I have all the power, whereas being empowered can mean that I share power with others and that I use power I have to give power to others.

The gospel of the kingdom of God is to empower those who are denied the experience of abundant life by various bondages. That’s why Jesus said, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12.28). The gospel of the kingdom of God and the deeds of the kingdom of God are the divine acts of empowerment. Jesus’ healing miracles freed the sick from the diseases that contained them. By casting out the evil spirits from the people, Jesus unshackled them from the control of the evil spirits. By forgiving the sins of people, Jesus set them free from guilt and sin.

So the ministry of Jesus and the ministry to which we are called is the ministry of empowerment, not the ministry of control.  That’s why Jesus did not yield to the temptation of the devil.

However, many Christian leaders have yielded themselves to this temptation of control. They use their power to control others and keep them under their clutches.

The temptations will come! But the final petition makes us aware that we are unable to withstand the assaults of the Evil One without God’s help. Jesus tells his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray that they may not enter into temptation (Mt. 26.41).

The final petition is the prayer of the poor in spirit, the meek. It is a prayer of those who long to live out the righteousness of the kingdom of God, and desires that they may not be led into any situation that jeopardizes their relationship with their heavenly Father and with their brothers and sisters!

 

Conclusion

The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of empowerment.

Because:

  1. It gives us hope: One day the kingdom of God will come fully and Satan and his followers will be defeated completely. God’s name will be sanctified and His will will be done completely.
  2. It gives us confidence: We have a loving, kind and caring Father.

Message on Matthew 5.38-48

March 27, 2018

 

  1. Violence                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Why are human beings violent? Why do human beings hurt, suffer and kill each other?

There are two views:

  1. 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes thought that human beings are naturally violent. So violence is there in our genes!
  2. But 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau supposed that humans are naturally peaceful beings. It is the society or the environment that corrupts them and makes them violent.

What Rousseau says is, as individuals began to have more contact with one another, small groupings began to form. In this group-life a new, negative motivating principle for actions developed in individuals. This motivating principle drives individuals to compare themselves with others. Comparison leads to covetousness, a desire to possess what the other person possesses. This leads to violence.

Let me introduce a French sociologist. His name is Rene Girard. After doing research on human social behavior in various communities, including old tribal communities in Indonesia, he proposed a theory called “Theory of Mimetic Violence and Scapegoating”. This is the theory which I used for the study of the death of Jesus Christ in Galatians.

Mimicking or imitating one another is there in human nature. We desire what the other person has. Take the example of a child who is playing with a toy. The moment it sees another child taking another toy, the first one leaves the toy with which it is playing, and tries to grab the toy with which the other child is playing!

The entire advertising industry is based on this human nature of imitation.

In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve lived peacefully with each other, with God and with the rest of the creation. Into this peaceful environment entered Satan and motivated the early human beings to compare themselves with God: “You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil” (Gen 3.4-5). Satan, thus, arose desire in Eve (Gen. 3.6). The desire was to become wise like God, knowing good and evil. The early human beings desired what God possessed: wisdom to know good and evil.

This human quality of imitation to possess what God possessed led to rupture of relationship between human beings and God.

The same phenomenon may be witnessed between Cain and Abel (Gen. 4). Both Cain and Abel desired the same thing: acceptance of the person and his offering by God (Gen.4.3-7). God accepted Abel’s offering which led to jealousy and violence of Cain against Abel (4.8).

 

  1. Spiral of Violence

When violence is not controlled, it results in disproportionate revenge and a spiral or cycle of violence.

  1. Disproportionate Revenge

“If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Gen. 4.15; 4.24).

Revenge, as we know it, sets out to get more than what one suffered. If a person cuts off my ear, I want to cut off his head. If a person pokes in one eye, I poke in two eyes, or even take his life for an eye!

Lust for revenge, by its nature, has a thirst for injury and delights in bringing further evil upon the offending party. The avenger will not only kill but rape, torture, plunder and burn what is left, deriving satisfaction from his victim’s direct or indirect suffering.

 

  1. Spiral of Violence

The violence eventually spread to the entire earth (Gen. 6.11).

Revenge also spreads from an individual to the family to the caste community and ultimately to the whole nation.

  • I Samuel 13.1-29 – Amnon raped Tamar, and Tamar’s brother Absalom killed Amnon
  • Gen 34 – Sheckem raped Dinah, and her brothers killed not only Sheckem, but also his father and other males of Hivite community.
  • Tsundur massacre – A Dalit boy’s foot touched the foot of an upper-caste boy in a cinema theatre. There was a scuffle between them. This spread to the respective communities. On 6th August 1991 the high caste people attacked the Dalits which resulted in the death of eight dalits and many getting wounded. One more Dalit youth leader was killed in police firing.

 

  • Law of Retaliation

In order to limit retaliation and disproportionate revenge, and to contain violence from spreading to a larger community, Israel implemented a law called the Law of Retaliation (Ex. 21.22-25; Lev. 24.17-21).

Jesus is quoting this Law of Retaliation: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt. 5.38).

The present day legal system follows this. The Court decides the proportionate punishment, and the state, on behalf of the victim, punishes the perpetrator.

Although the law of retaliation not only limits revenge but also stops violence from spreading, it allows the victim to imitate the violence or violent means of the offender. According to the law of retaliation “Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21.23-25; Lev. 24.17-21).

But violence has no place in the kingdom of God. Then, how should a disciple of Jesus Christ respond to a violent situation?

  1. How to Respond to Violence?
  1. Respond with Good

But Jesus says, “Do not resist an evildoer” (Mt. 5.39). Whenever Jesus cast out evil spirits, he is resisting the evildoer (Mt. 12.22-30). Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Mt. 12.30). That means, whoever is with Jesus is expected to involve in the work of binding the “strong one” and liberating those in evil one’s bondage.

If so, what about Mt. 5.39 “Do not resist an evildoer”?

The Greek phrase for “an evildoer” is τφ πονηρω, which means “the evil person” or “by evil means”. Since Jesus resisted the evil person, the second meaning “by evil means” is appropriate in this context.

So the right translation is “Do not resist by evil means” or “Do not resist violently”. What Jesus is trying to say is, “Do not imitate the violent means which an evildoer uses”.

In the three examples that Jesus gave, there is no violence in the sense of inflicting injury or taking life.

The three examples are:

  1. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek”

It talks about the backhand slap. Backhand slap indicates insult. By slapping on the right cheek, the offender is insulting the victim, or telling the victim that he/she is “nothing” or “worthless”.

  1. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat”

This may be a reference to a rich or a strong person trying to take even the little that a person possesses.

  1. “If anyone forces you to go one mile”

This refers either to aristocratic imposition of power or to the common practice of soldiers in an occupied territory conscribing civilians to carry their baggage. In this case Roman soldiers forced Jews to carry their baggage for a mile, because Palestine was under Roman control. Eg. Compelling Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross (Mt. 27.32).

Although there is no violence in the sense of causing injury to the physical body or taking life, there is “violence” in the three examples in sense of violating a person’s human dignity and human value. If a disciple experiences such violence, Jesus is saying not to imitate the act of offender.

  • The disciples should not insult the offender. But they can question the behavior of the offender. Or else their silence will encourage such offenders.
  • Do not rebel or revolt.
  • Do not engage in an insurrection.

Therefore, what the disciples of Jesus Christ are to renounce is violent or vengeful resistance, NOT nonviolent resistance and NOT rights (Rom. 12.17-21; I Thes. 5.15).

This is reinforced by Paul’s teaching in Rom. 12.17-19: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Beloved, never avenge yourselves…Do not be overcome by evil”

The second part in the three examples, “turn the other cheek also”, “give your cloak as well”, “go also second mile”, should not be understood literally. By these responses the affected disciples are telling the offender that their human dignity and human value can neither be dented nor be taken away. Because their dignity and value are based on their being children of God.

By not responding in the same way as the offender, the disciples are taking initiatives to diffuse the violent situation in order for peacemaking.

Paul also commands transforming initiatives of peacemaking: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink…overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12.20-21; cf. I Thes. 5.15; I Pet. 2.21-23). Jesus teaches his disciples, “Give to EVERYONE who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Mt. 5.42). Generosity, even for those who are undeserving, can diffuse potentially hostile situations and lead to peacemaking.

So the people of God’s kingdom should use good means and not evil means, and return good and not evil.

  1. Respond with an all-inclusive love

It is not enough to love one’s neighbor (those of your own religious or caste or class or language or regional group), but one should also love enemies by undertaking positive action towards them (Mt. 5.43-47; cf. James 2.14-17). Prayer should be translated into action. Pope Francis once said, “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”

Loving one’s enemy is an intentional decision, not a matter of feeling kindly towards the enemy.

As children of God, Christians should reflect God’s character of all-inclusive love (Mt. 5.45; cf. Mt. 23.31; Jn. 8.39-47).

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5.48). It does not mean to live up to an ideal of moral perfection. It points to being whole, complete, or all-inclusive in love towards others, including enemies, as God’s love is inclusive toward the just and the unjust alike.

It may be costly to practice such transforming initiatives as praying for enemies or returning good for evil. But this radical living is expected in the kingdom of God.

 

 

 

 

Namratha Gas Agency, Kukatpally, Hyderabad

March 14, 2018

We have transferred our Indane gas connection from Sampally, Erragadda, to Namratha Gas Agency, Kukatpally, on 13.1.2018. On that day we have submitted xerox copies of all the necessary documents like Adhaar, Electricity bill for address proof, Customer’s gas book given by Sampally.

I have booked for gas cylinder on 26.2.2018 and the cash memo was generated on 1.3.2018.

But on 8.3.2018 we were asked to submit a copy of Adhaar, though we submitted it on 13.1.2018. We submitted it again. On 13.3.2018 we were asked to sumit copies of all the documents again. We did on the same day. We were assured that we will get the cylinder on 14.3.2018. But not delivered.

Yesterday (15.3.2018) gas cylinder was delivered, but receipt was not given, though I asked for it. The delivery boy said that receipt was not given to him, and told me to collect the receipt in the agency office.

Later we found that the real reason is that the agency has changed our address to Jagadgiri Gutta.

So yesterday I and another friend went and asked the person who did all this. At first he was reluctant to change to our address. But I insisted that I need the receipt in my address. He changed the address, but kept the PIN code of Jagadgiri Gutta. I noticed it and asked him. He reluctantly changed the PIN to our address. He gave me the receipt (or voucher) on our address with the date 1.3.2018.

Today morning (16.3.2018) the delivery boy gave another receipt with Jagadgiri Gutta with the date 1.3.2018 and all the same voucher details! This voucher is crumpled! That means, this voucher is not issued newly as the voucher given to me on my address.

Does this point to some fraud? Have they delivered my cylinder to somebody at Jagadgiri Gutta – sold in black for higher price? Did they intentionally not link up the Adhaar card number, so that we may not get subsidy, and they can sell cylinder on our name in the black for higher price?

I see a pattern of cheating in the service to customers. It looks that we are not the only customers who are being treated like this. When we were there, a lady customer came and shouted at them for such service.

Is there someone who looks after such complaints on cheating? The behaviour of those employees show that they are habituated to such conduct!

Two vouchers issued to us on two different addresses, one on Jagadgiri Gutta and another on Kukatpally.

Self –Identity of Christians in Apostolic Fathers

February 22, 2018

The Apostolic Fathers were written during a period (about 90 C.E. to 160 C.E.) when the church was subject to both internal and external pressures. There was internal strife within the church and the threat of being assimilated into the heretical groups and Judaism, which involved a threat to their Christian identity. At the same time, Christians were also responding to the political situation in which they found themselves as they came to the notice of secular authorities and the wider public.[1] In the face of these they attempted to give voice to what they understood were the essential characteristics or defining marks of Christian life.[2] In other words, it was a crisis of identity, which had necessitated the church to define its identity so that the members of the Christian congregations might not be sucked into other ‘heretical’ groups and Judaism.

Therefore the aim of this essay is to show how the church perceived its identity as reflected in the Apostolic Fathers. Even though it is impossible to know how representative of early Christianity the Apostolic Fathers are[3] they remain important witnesses to the emerging perception of Christian identity.

 I. Definition of Apostolic Fathers

The term “Apostolic Fathers” is used for a collection of non-canonical Christian works written between approximately 90 C.E. and 160 C.E. This term was coined by J.B. Cotelier and it referred to “those who flourished in the times of the apostles.”[4] Later it was generally accepted that Apostolic Fathers were an “arbitrary collection of writings,” which reflected views similar to that of established Christian orthodoxy in later times.[5] The most generous view would admit into this collection I & II Clement, Letters of Ignatius (seven authentic letters), Didache, Letter of Polycarp to Philippians, Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Epistle to Diognetus, Papius and Quadratus.[6] They are heterogeneous group of writings.[7] They covered a range of genres and perspectives. They addressed primarily specific situations of the Christian communities spread in Roman Empire.[8]

However, Apostolic Fathers are important because they are a primary source for the study of early Christianity, especially the period between the writing of the last book of NT and the beginning of Justin Martyr’s literary career (approx.160 C.E.), which is sparsely documented.[9] This is the period when a mounting danger from heresy and Judaism was exerting itself upon the church and hostility from the wider society was threatening its very existence.[10] These writings “enlighten us concerning the character of early Christianity, its external appeal and inner dynamics, its rich and significant diversity and its developing understanding of its own self-identity, social distinctiveness, theology, ethical norms and liturgical practices.”[11]

II. Definition of Self-identity of Christians

A person’s identity comprises a multiplicity of factors or even a multiplicity of identities, not all of which are relevant or most important in every situation.[12] There one cannot speak of one’s identity but rather consider what aspects of identity are being considered and why these are relevant in a particular context. Moreover, one must consider how any particular identity affects or defines other aspects of a person’s identity and social conduct.[13] In dealing with Christian identity we are dealing with social as opposed to personal identity and that means with identity based on belonging to a particular and defined group.[14] Tajfel and Turner defined a group as “a collection of individuals, who perceive themselves to be members of the same social category, share some emotional involvement in this common definition of themselves, and achieve some degree of social consensus about the evaluation of their group and of their membership in it.”[15]

According to Henri Tajfel,

Social identity (is)… that part of an individual’s self- concept which derives from his knowledge of his membership of a social group (or groups) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership…however rich and complex may be the individuals’ view of themselves in relation to the surrounding world, social and physical, some aspects of that view are contributed by the membership of certain social groups or categories. Some of these memberships are more salient than others; and some may vary in salience in time and as a function of a variety of social situations.[16]

The sense of belonging to a particular group by itself may create certain attitudes to those who, in relation to the group boundary, are categorized as insiders or outsiders.[17] Members of the group are seen and described in ways that emphasize their similarities, the features that bind them together, while they are sharply distinguished from outsiders. It was “a psychological requirement that groups provide their members with a positive social identity and that positive aspects of social identity were inherently comparative in nature, deriving from evaluative comparisons between social groups.”[18]

In some situations inter-group comparisons develop where comparisons become important for identity.[19] In the case of early Christianity, situations of perceived threat and of experienced hostility are the conditions under which the sense of particular group identity developed.

III. Factors that Influenced the Emergence of Self-Identity of Christians“We discover ourselves only in encounter: what is self and what is not self are disclosed to us in the same experience.”[20] Both internal and external conflicts may arise for particular reasons based on ‘local circumstances’ and may have an impact- both intended and unintended consequence- on the development of Christian identity. Conflict seems to have played a significant role in reiterating the self-identity of Christians.

The evidence for ‘local circumstances’ is, unfortunately fragmentary and incomplete, since Apostolic Fathers are the theologically committed writings of the early Christians intended not for the purposes of historical reconstruction but to encourage and exhort the members of the early Christian communities.[21] Therefore, literary presentation cannot be taken as directly mirroring external reality but frequently meets particular needs, internal or external to the literature itself. Also the particular situation may often shape the presentation, even when the situation is not directly addressed.[22]

  1. Heretical Teachings

Apostolic Fathers in general testified to the constant threat of heretical teachings, particularly Docetism, in the early Christian communities (Smyr.4.2; Did. 6.1,16.3; Hermas, 6.8; II Cle.10.3-5; Phil,7.1).  Terms like “heresy” (Eph. 6.2; Tral. 6.1)) “heterodoxy” (Mag. 8.1; Smy. 6.2) and “wild beasts in human form” (Smy. 4.1, 7.1-2) were used to describe them and the Christians were advised to “refrain from welcoming such people” “not even meet with them” or “not even speak about them” (Smyr. 4.1, 7.1-2). Docetists denied the humanity of Jesus Christ and so the reality of suffering of Jesus Christ (Tral.10.1; Smyr.2.1, 4.2, 6.1; Pol. Phil. 7.1, 8.1).[23]  “They abstained from Eucharist and prayer because they do not acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered our sins” (Smyr. 7.1).  That was why Docetists were criticized for lack of concern for acts of communal love, which was characteristic of Christians (Smyr.6.2).[24]

Thus, these heretical teachings were seen a threat to the centrality of the Lord’s birth, death and resurrection and consequently this threatened the unity in the church.

  1. Judaism

Apostolic Fathers reflect a certain amount of tension and hostility between Christianity and Judaism. This was evident in the rhetoric of Apostolic Fathers against Jews and Judaism. The very existence and the influence of Judaism on the Christian communities seemed to have become a threat to the identity of Christians. At the same time Jews were also presented as collaborators with the “crowds” against Christians.[25]

“Demonisation of the other” is typical of conflict between those who share the common heritage.[26] Jews become the main enemies of Christ and Christians in Apostolic Fathers. So they were described as “they” (Bar.3.6; 4.6, 7; 8.7; 10.12; 13.1, 3; 14.5), “the former people” (Bar. ch.13), idolaters (Bar.4.8; 14.3); “the men whose sins are complete” (Bar.8.1); “wretched men” (Bar.16.1); uncircumcised in heart (Bar.9.5). Jews were also portrayed as those who killed Jesus, which was set within a continuous tradition of murder of prophets (Ignatius, Trall.11, Smyr.2; Bar. 5.1112.10; 16.1) and any commonality with them was sternly denounced (Ign., Mag.8, Polycarp, Philip. 13-14).[27] Barnabas used Two Ways motif[28] to contrast between Jews and Christians (Bar. 2.9; 19.2; 4.2, 10),[29] probably prompted by some within the church, who held a view that “the covenant is both theirs and ours” (Bar.4.6). He further argued that Jews never understood the meaning of the scripture regarding their sacrifices (Bar.2.4-8), fasting (Bar.3.1), circumcision (Bar.9.4), food laws (Bar.10.2,9) and Sabbath observance (Bar.15.8) and were “transgressors” (Bar. 9.4, 14.4) and “sinners” Bar.8.1-2, 12.10); they lost the covenant due to their idolatry[30] and never received it (Bar.4.8; 14.1-4) and so were abandoned (Bar.4.14 cf. Bar.16.5).

Some Christians wanted to be both Christians and Jews at the same time (Mag.10.1-3 cf.Philad.6.1). They appeared to be involved in Jewish practices like Sabbath (Mag. 9.1 cf. Bar.15).[31] Ignatius dismissed Judaism’s claim for serous consideration for those who had left it to embrace Christianity (Mag.9.1, 10.2)[32] by saying that “Judaism” had been cast off as “tombstones and sepulchers of the dead”, “ancient fables” those were profitless (Ign. Phld. 8.1; Phld.10.2). Some Christians wanted their Christian belief proved to them from scripture (Phld. 6.1-2 cf.8.2).[33]

There was also a certain amount of tension between Christian communities and Jews. This is reflected in the charges of The Letter to Diognetus (4.1,5, 5.16-17)[34] and also Martyrdom of Polycarp of Jews’ association with the “crowds” against Christians (12.2, chs. 13,17,18).[35]  Barnabas talks about Jewish observances such as circumcision, food laws, Sabbath, sacrifices and fast, which were the boundary markers of Judaism[36] but scarcely about messiah. That means Barnabas had chosen his topics due to the challenge posed by Judaism and that was why he had to deal clearly with the interpretation of the scripture noting which interpretation was proper (Bar.1.5,2.9,3.6), as most probably it was attracting (Gentile) Christians. Barnabas could also be having apologetic purpose because for the Gentiles in the society it was Jews who were obedient to the scripture, not Christians, who were not observing most of practices prescribed in the scripture.

Thus it shows that Christian communities were facing the problem of Judaizing or the influence of Judaism (Phil. 6.1; Mag.10.3; Bar. 2.10).[37] Ignatius interpreted the threat of Judaizers as a threat to the centrality of the Lord’s cross, death and resurrection (Phild.8.2).[38] There was also hostility between the two groups.

  1. Pagans

Some of the Apostolic Fathers were critical about pagans and their culture. They were keen on condemning ‘idolatry’ (Diog. Chs.1, 2; Did. 6.3; Bar.20.1; Hermas, 98.3, II Cle.17.1).[39] The religion of the state was rigorously shunned by the Christians (Mar. Pol. 8.2). They rejected the pattern of practices, which were at the heart of the traditional religion. The attitude of Christians towards the local gods was uncompromising.[40] This was the allegation of the crowd against Polycarp that he was “the destroyer of our gods” (Mar. Pol. 12.2). In that process they became vulnerable to criticism of being “atheists”[41] having broken with their familial and cultural traditions (Mart. Pol. 3.2, 9.2-3, Justin, I Apol.5-6, Tert. Apol. 6.10, Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 7.1). Christians were also taught to separate themselves from the “vices” of Greco-Roman society (Did2.2-7, 3.1-6, 5.1-2).[42]

Thus, the detachment of these Christians from their wider socio-religious context and their formation of a separate group defined by their commitment to Christ constituted a form of protest that met with reaction not only from the general populace but also from the ruling authorities. There was the stigma of disloyalty to the empire. The fear of majority with regard to ‘deviants’ in their society was, probably, the main cause of hostility and persecution.[43] Because the Roman world was characterized by certain key concepts that epitomized the ethos of that world and chief among these was pietas or eusebeia, the whole complex of obligations and duties owed to “family, friends, fellow citizens, country and gods.”[44] This was crucial to preservation of the harmony with the deities and thus of the social order. Christianity was considered a threat to this pietas (Tacitus, Annals. 15.44; Pliny, Ep. 10.96.8).[45]

However, the government, with rare exceptions (Mart. Pol. 7.1; Eusebius, Hist.  Eccl. 5.1.8, 14) was not reported as persecuting Christians, if by that one means seeking out for punishment. Rather it responded to local accusations (Trajan to Pliny, Ep. 10.97) because for it the health and security of the society was the most important matter.

IV. Self-Identity of Christians

The early Christianity was defined by ‘faith’, which was given a distinctive christological content. Hence the focus of communal identity resided in convictions, its faith in Jesus Christ. It was the convictions themselves, which constituted the most novel feature of the Christian communities and their most essential bond. That was why Christian communities had to declare and reinforce their boundaries continually against the prevailing religious, social and political realities.[46] Their practices and moral ethos were grounded in this faith.

A. Theology

There are two ways in which the theology of the A.F. can be discussed: one way is to treat them separately, keeping in mind that they were written to specific communities with specific needs and the other is by treating them as a group and by laying emphasis on their common teaching. The latter has the advantage of drawing attention to their common Christian faith even though it tends to minimize their individuality and the differences in approach, which existed among them.

The Apostolic Fathers bore witness to the developing expression of Christian faith. They exhibited a clear desire to preserve sound teaching of apostolic doctrine. This concern arose due to a variety of internal and external pressures, which called for the ‘orthodox’ to be distinguished from the ‘heretical’.

  1. Christology

The common group identity of Christians was fundamentally defined by Christ and their faith in him. Apostolic Fathers reinforced the boundaries of their identity, particularly Christology, so that there might not be any ambiguity within the group and thus enabled them to have a greater sense of group identity, being bound to, and identified by, the very name that was the cause of conflict. In other words, the conflict increased the salience of this aspect of the insiders’ shared social identity, increased the extent to which this aspect of their identity defined their commonality and sense of belonging together.

  1. Humanity, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ

In most of the Apostolic Fathers there was an emphasis on the humanity of Jesus and his passion, death and resurrection (Mag.11; Phd.9.2; Tra. 10; Smy. 1-7; Pol. Phil. 7.1; II Cle.1.2 cf. Diog. 9.1-2; Mar. Pol. 17.2).[47] Virginal conception of Jesus was emphasized to affirm the physical, historical reality of the incarnation (Eph.18.2; Tral.9 cf. Smyr.1.1-2; Rom.7.3). Jesus’ passion was affirmed by portraying him as the suffering servant of Isaiah (Bar.5.2 cf. Is.53.7; I Cle. 59.1-3, Did.10.3 I Cle.16.7),[48] because passion and resurrection of Christ were the ground of faith (Sm.7.2; Phd.8.2). That was why “flesh and blood” indicated not only the reality of the passion and resurrection but also the seriousness of the commitment to faith and love (Tr.8.1; Rom.7.3).[49] Jesus was conceived as both the high priest (I Clement 36.1,61.3,64; Phild.9.1; Phil.12.2) and the sacrifice (I Clement 55.1) that was offered for our sins (II Cle. 1.2; Tral.2.1, Rom.6.1; Phil.1.2,8.1) and thus for the salvation of the people (I Clement7.4; II Cle.9.5; Smyr.7.1; Bar. 7.2,3,5; 14.5).[50] Therefore the access to the Father is only through Jesus Christ (Mag. Insci. Cf. Tra.13.3; Rom.2.2; Mag.5.2; Eph.4.2),[51] even for the OT patriarchs and the prophets (Phild.9).[52] The passion of Christ brings peace (Tral. Inscr) and eternal life (Eph. 18.1) to Christians. Christ’s blood was described in terms of its effects, as imperishable love (Rom.7.3) or eternal and abiding joy (Phild. Insc.), for it confirmed Christians in their love (Smyr. 1.1) and kindled their proper task of charity (Eph.1.1). Through it he called them as his members (Tral.11.2) so that they would become the fruit of the cross (Smyr. 1.2) or branches of the cross (Tral.11.2) and could be described as “nailed to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Smyr. 1.1).

Thus Christians were from the passion (Sm.1.2), which was the ground of their existence (Tral.10.1; Smyr.2.1, 4.2). It was in Christ’s passion and resurrection (Mag. 9.1 Smyr. 3.2-3, 7.1) that Christians would act and live (Eph.20.1; Mag.11; Tr.inscr; Sm.12.2) and have the hope of future resurrection (Eph. 18.2 cf. Tral. 9.2; I Clement 24.1; II Clement 9.1). In Christ Christians also have the hope of the coming kingdom and eternal life for them and the judgment for the evil ones (Didache 9.2,10.4; I Clement 50.3; II Clement 5.5; Bar. 4.12).[53]

b. Divinity of Jesus Christ

The divinity of Christ was highlighted (Eph. 19.3 cf. Eph. 7.2, 20.2; Smyr. 1.1; Mag. 8.2;Phil.12.2). At the same time a distinction was maintained between Jesus and the Father: God was the Father of Jesus Christ (Eph.2.1; Mag.3.1; Tra.9.2; Phld.7.2); Jesus Christ was God’s child (I Clement 59.4; Mart. Pol. 14.3, 20.2) and the scepter of God’s greatness (I Clement16.2); he was united with the Father (Eph.5.1; Mag.7.1) but he was subject to the Father (Mag.13.2); he was sent by the Father (Mag.8.2; II Cle.20.5). On the one hand, Jesus Christ was the revelation of God (Mag.8.2; Rom. 8.2; II Cle. 3.1; Mart. Pol. 14.2)[54] and on the other, through the ‘beloved child of God’ the elect had been called from the darkness to light (I Clement 59.2-3 cf. II Cle. 1.8) and God blessed Christians with spiritual food and drink and eternal life (Did. 10.3).

Thus through his passion and resurrection, Jesus established God’s covenant in Christians and made them the covenant people of God.

  1. Scripture

One of the major challenges for the church from its inception was its need to establish its own status as an ancient religion. This was important in a world where antiquity of the religion was important.[55] Otherwise it would not have credibility or recognition in the eyes of the then Greco-Roman world.[56] Church went to great lengths to emphasize Christianity’s roots were firmly in the Jewish religious tradition. In this regard the inheritance of Hebrew scripture was vital for Christians, as scripture was also closely related to the covenant and the Law. Church had to prove that the scripture belonged to them but not to Jews in order to convince not only Gentiles[57] around them but also those within the church and coming into the church.[58]

The Hebrew scripture was believed to be of divine origin and prophetic in character (Bar.2.4 cf.2.7,10; 3.1,3 ; 6.4, 13; Did. 14.3;16.7; Ign. Phld. 5.2; Eph.3.34,5.3; Mag.18.17). Scripture pointed to Jesus Christ and thus Jesus Christ was used as the hermeneutical key to understand the scripture.[59] The quotations from Pentateuch and Psalms were quotations from prophets (Bar.6.4f,6,13) and likewise Moses, David and Jacob were prophets (Bar.6.8;12.10;13.4-5)[60] and they prophesied about Christ (Bar.5.6 cf. Mag. 8.2). The prophets were looking forward to Christ (Ign. Phld. 8.2; Smyr. 7.2; Pol. Philip. 6.3). Spirit was also prophetic which enabled Abraham “to look forward to Jesus” (Bar. 9.7) and Jacob to see “a symbol of the future people” (Bar.13.5cf.6.14;12.2). Therefore scripture was prophetic and it mainly spoke about Christ[61] and also his sufferings (Bar. 5.1-6.7 cf. Is.53; Zech.13.6; Pss.21.19, 117.22).[62] Scripture also pointed to his new people (Bar.6.16). That means the scripture had found its fulfillment in Christ and his church. Thus Christians claimed the scripture by appealing to the continuity between Christianity and what was recorded in the scripture.

The covenant was linked to scripture and the ‘Beloved’ gave the covenant to ‘us’ (Bar. 4.8, 14.4).[63] Thus Barnabas claims the covenant and the law for Christians.[64] Similarly the institutions and rites recorded in the scripture were prophetic acts- pointing forward to Christ and his church:[65] the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement foretold the Lord’s passion and kingdom (Bar. ch.7); the true temple was inward and spiritual (Bar. 6.15) and it was Christian community (Bar.16.9); Sabbath commandment referred to the time of Lord’s advent (Bar.15cf. 6.19).

Therefore, the history of Jews was utilized by the early Christians to supply Christianity with an unimpeachable history. Thus the place and the interpretation of the scriptures[66]  played a central role in Christian self-definition over against Judaism.[67]

  1. Ecclesiology

 Most of the Apostolic Fathers were concerned with Christian community and its unity (I Cle. chs.21-23; Ign.Eph.7; Vis.3.5,3.9; Did. 4.3;15.3; Phil. 6.3, 10.1; Bar.4.8, 19.12),  for this is an expression of the distinctiveness of Christian community because of its relationship to God and Christ. [68]

The distinctiveness of the church was described by some of Jewish election labels: Christians were the “true Israelites” (I Cle. 45.1-7) “the called” (II Cle. 9.5), “the people” (Bar.13.1, 6) qualified by ‘new people’ (Bar.5.7; 7.5), “future people” (Bar.13.5) “holy people” (Bar.14.6) or “people of inheritance” or people of the covenant (Bar.14.4-5 cf. 6.19).[69] At the same time Apostolic Fathers also emphasized the essentially communal character of the church.[70] The terms henosis and henotes (Phd. 5.2,8.1) referred primarily to the solidarity of the Christian community in social and cultic terms (Mag.1.2)[71] because church was the body of Christ (Tr.11.2; Eph.4.2; Sm.1.2).[72] This communal character was also reflected by the description of the church as ‘body’ (I Cle.37.5, 38.1, 46.7)[73] ‘flock’ (I Cle.16.1, 44.3,54.2) and a ‘multitude’ in contrast to individuals within it (Eph. 1.3; Mag. 6.1; Tral.1.1). It is in this sense of an entire group that the word ‘catholic’ or ‘whole’ was used (Smyr. 8.2).[74]

This communal character of the church should be expressed by maintaining unity, which was central to the expression of Christian identity. “Since they are distinguished from the rest of humanity neither in land, nor in language nor in customs” (Diog. 5.1-4), communal activities played an important role in the self-definition of Christians.[75] For both Clement and Ignatius, probably echoing the language of Hellenistic political rhetoric[76] it was the pursuit of ‘peace and concord’ the fruit of unity (I Cle.60.4,62.5; Ign. Eph.4.1,2;13.1;Mag.6.1;15.1; Tral.12.2;Phild.11.2) and which reflected the divine calling of the church.[77] Because peace and harmony were characteristic of God’s universe (I Cle.20 cf. Mag.6.1; Phd. Inscr). Therefore God required Christians to express the same virtues in their community living (I Clement chs.21-23; Mag.7; Phild. 4; Sim. 9,13,5; Pol. Phil.10.1). Christians were also reminded that they had “one God and one Christ and one Spirit of grace poured out” upon them as well as “one calling in Christ” (I Cle.46.6). For this reason the importance of orderliness within the church was stressed (I Cle. chs. 37-38,40-44).[78] There was also a growing conception of church as universal body (Did.9.4 cf.Is.11.12; Jer.39.37; Wis.2.10).[79]

Even though the pre-existent church was thought to be a spiritual and perfect one (Vis.1.3.4; 2.4.1; II Cle.14.1-3 cf. Eph. 5.23-30; Papius. 10),[80] some of the Apostolic Fathers recognized the imperfectness of the church by acknowledging the reality of sin in their communities (Vis.3.11-13). That was why they stressed on the restoration of individuals to community (Pol. Phil. 11) through repentance (I Cle. 7f; II Cle. 8.1f).[81] They also recognized the final judgment of the believers on the basis of their moral conduct on the earth (I Cle. 26; II Cle. 9; Did.16; Bar.6.18). So the call was to persevere in the face of a final judgment (I Cle. 35.4; II Cle. 7.1; Bar.4.11).[82]

Thus, Apostolic Fathers’ description of the identity of the church reminded the church of its distinctive character and exhorted it to express this identity by maintaining unity and order.

Christian Ministry

Self-image has ideological and structural dimensions.[83] Some of the Apostolic Fathers like Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp (less explicitly), saw a strong connection between orthodox Christian belief and orthodox Christian organization, liturgy and conduct.[84] This was due to the situations where there was false teaching and schism in the Christian communities. So there was an emphasis upon the structures of Christian communities to protect right teaching and unity. For some of the Apostolic Fathers the maintenance of ecclesiastical unity is understood in terms of submission to an established hierarchy.[85]

  1. Church Order

The nature of ministry in Apostolic Fathers is diverse, even though this diversity is not very great.[86] The widest diversity occurs in Didache where we read of teachers, prophets, itinerant apostles, bishops and deacons. In I Clement there are bishops and deacons (I Cle.42.4-5), and the presbyters (I Cle.54.2); for Ignatius the hierarchy of the church consists of bishops, presbyters and deacons (Tral.3.1), all appointed by the purpose of Jesus Christ and established by him, by his Holy Spirit (Phild. Inscr.). Their presence reflects the heavenly order (Tral.3.1, Eph.4.2); Barnabas refers only to teachers and teaching (Bar.1.8 cf. Diog.11.1) and Hermas mentions only bishops, presbyters, teachers and deacons (Vis.3,5,1). Clement of Rome saw the hierarchy of the church consisted in a presbyterate, whose authority is grounded in apostolic succession (I Cle.42.4) and priestly practice (I Cle.43).[87] Whereas Ignatius’ assertion of monepiscopacy as the sole form of church government had nothing to do with “tradition” or apostolic succession.[88]  Christians were to serve God, each in his own rank, and were not to transgress the appointed rule of their service (I Cle.41.1). The office should not allow individuals to exalt themselves (Smyr.6.1). The church order was compared with Roman army (I Cle.36.3) OT priesthood (I Cle.40.5) and heavenly hierarchy (Mag.6.1).[89] Members of the community were called to submit to the presbyterate (I Cle.57.1 cf. I Cle.47.6).

Bishop took precedence in line of authority and his authority was believed to have been proceeded from God and from Christ (Eph.3.2; Pol. inscr.)[90] and presbyters and deacons were subordinated to bishop. Ignatius insisted on mystical connection between the bishop and the heavenly High Priest in which the bishop was the essential link between the Christian community and the Lord (Smyr.8). Therefore, without his consent the community was not permitted to act (Tral.7.1; Smyr.9.1) and his presence was necessary for communal events. It was the bishop who would lead prayer of the church (Eph.5.2), celebrate Eucharist and conduct baptisms and common meals (Smyr. 8.1-2), give counsel on matters of spiritual discipline and permit marriages to take place (Pol. 5.2-3), give homilies on various subjects (Pol. 5.1) and convene the councils of the church (Pol.7.2). Presbyter could celebrate the Eucharist if he was appointed by the bishop to do so (Smyr.8.1).[91] For Ignatius celebration of Eucharist and worship service was invalid without the authorization of bishop (Ignatius, Smyr.8).[92] Bishop only could celebrate the valid Eucharist (Phild.3f; Smyr.8) because he represented the faithful to Christ and Christ to the faithful (cf. Did. 10.6).[93] The sign of belonging to the church was belonging to the bishop (Phild.3). Bishop also had the responsibility to look after the problems and concerns of the community (Poly.1.2 cf. Sim. 9,27,2). Ignatius called for bishops to live according to the pattern of God (Tral.3.1; Mag.6.1), which was marked by suffering and service.[94]

Bishop was called the bishop of all (Mag. 3.1). The members were exhorted to be united with bishop and presbyters (Mag. 7.1, Eph.5.1) and to follow the bishop (Smyr. 8.1, Mag.7), because church was subject to bishop (Mag. 13.2).[95] The one, who would honor bishop, would be honored by God, for to honor the bishop was to honor the son, and to honor the son was to honor the father (Smyr. 9.1).[96] Thus a great emphasis was laid on the office of bishop as the focal point of unity and the remedy against schism and heresy (Eph. 5; Mag.7; Tral.2, 7).

In the letters of Ignatius the function of presbyters was not clear, whereas according to II Clement presbyters gave exhortations in the liturgical worship (17.3) after reading the scripture (19.1) and were to be obeyed (17.5). The deacons were entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ (Mag.6.1).[97]

The itinerant ministries include Christian prophets and teachers (Didache. 10.7). The prophets and teachers were allowed to say the Eucharistic prayer (Did.10.7) and they were only to be tested with regard to their conduct (Did.11.7-12). Both prophets and teachers, if they resided in a community, were to be regarded as workmen worthy of their food (Did.13.3,6-7). Teacher was the one who set forth the “way of the teaching” (Did. chs. 1-6) as well as liturgical instructions (Did.chs.7-10).[98]

Therefore, the authority of ministry, particularly that of bishop, was strengthened due to the prevailing situation in the churches.[99] Administration of discipline and refutation of heretical teachings demanded a single responsible official. Thus, Polycarp referring to his duties of teaching, instructing and refuting urged the recipients to obey the word of righteousness (Pol., Philip.9.1).

Liturgy

The Apostolic Fathers contain references to the liturgical worship of the early communities. Didache explicitly deals with baptism, fasting, prayers and Eucharist (chs.7-10.4); I Clement concludes with an extended prayer (ch.64); II Clement is a homily read in a liturgical context (17.3); Ignatius often discusses the Eucharist (Smyr.8); and the Eucharistic prayers are also found in Martyrdom of Polycarp.[100] The church order, though in form derived from Judaism, was developing its own Christ centered liturgy by the end of the first century designed to knit together Christians “from the four winds” (Did.10.5).[101]

Baptism was the initiatory rite into the church. It was given after the period of catechism (Did. chs. 1-6). The convert fasted with his baptizer for one or two days. It was given in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and in cold running water, if possible; if water for immersion is not available, a smaller amount of water may be poured three times on the candidates head (Did.7.1-3 cf. Justin. Apol. 1,61,2-3; Tertullian, Bapt. 4,3, 20; Cyprian Ep. 69, 12-14). In the ceremony the convert was sealed in his faith (Did.7.1 cf. Hermas Sim.9.16). Baptism was described as the equivalent of arms for use in the struggle against hostile powers (Poly. 6.2; Eph.13.1).[102] Jesus himself was baptized “so that all righteousness might be fulfilled by him” (Smyr. 1.1; Mt.3.15) and “by the passion he might purify the water” (Eph.18.2). Thus in Ignatius baptism and passion are closely related.

There was an insistence on a distinctive Christian practice i.e. the observance of Sunday rather than Saturday (Mag. 9.1; Did.14.1)[103] to break the bread and offer thanksgiving. The observance of Sunday was commended because on that day our life arose “through (the Lord’s) death” (Mag. 9.2; Bar. 15.8-9). Thus Sunday seemed to have been considered an identity marker of Christians.[104]

The Eucharist was the center of worship for Ignatius (Eph.5.2; 13.1; Phld.4; Sm.7.1, 8.1) because the flesh of Jesus suffered for our sins and was raised by the Father (Smyr. 7.1) and union with his flesh and blood would produce salvation.[105] Eucharist was associated with the image of the altar, which indicated solidarity (Eph.5.2; Mag.7.2; Tr.7.2; Phd.4) and this solidarity was signified by the presence of the Lord at or in the Eucharist.[106] Thus it served as the focus for a sense of the presence of saving power in the Christian community (Eph.20.2). The Eucharist had another function: the bread that was broken was in some sense the ‘medicine of immortality’ (Eph.20.2) and there was a connection between participation in it and believer’s resurrection (Sm.7.1). The celebration of Eucharist was part of Agape and only baptized Christians were allowed to partake in this.[107]

Christians were exhorted to fast not on Mondays and Thursdays, the days used by Jews, but on Wednesdays and Fridays (Did. 8.1-3 cf. Sim. 5.1, Clement of Alexandria, Satire. 7, 75, 2) in order to maintain their distinct identity.  For prayer, the Lord’s Prayer was to be used three times a day (Did. 8.2-3). Christians were urged to “pray without ceasing” (Eph. 10.1; Pol. 1.3cf. Pol. Phil. 8.1). The prayer was united prayer of the entire church (Mag. 7.1; Eph.5.2). Their prayers were to be offered for others (Eph. 10.1), even for their enemies (Eph. 10.2; Smy. 4.1).

B. Community and Ethics

Apostolic Fathers were in general concerned with both the individual and corporate morality of Christians.[108] Such a concern was inevitable in the circumstances under which early Christianity arose and in which it existed.[109] In creating the self-identity Christianity set itself against the values of the contemporary society. The main emphasis was both social and moral, i.e. the way the Christian community should conduct itself in the present.

For many of the Apostolic Fathers the distinctive communal identity of Christians is bound up with their moral conduct. Christians formed part of a wider picture of community life where they were bound to a life of mutual support (II Cle.17.12; Ignatius, Polyc.6.1).[110] Christian congregations could provide their members “a sense of belonging, fostered by the direct fellowship within an intimate group, warmth, closeness and mutual support.”[111] This sense of solidarity with the community provided a basis for personal sacrifice on behalf of the group and the passion of Christ provided a model and a driving force for them to maintain their separate identity as a self-giving community (I Cle.16.1,17; Bar.7.11; Eph.7.16; Tral.6,9,11; Phild.chs.2-3; Smyr.chs.4-5).[112] Martyrdom appeared as “the culmination of a far more prosaic process of un-selfing”[113] Therefore, Christian identity was determined by willing subordination to the interests of the group, ignoring social discrimination of all kinds.

The sense of solidarity of Christian community was manifested, particularly, in the gift of love (I Cle. 49.2;II Cle.4.3,9.6; Ign. Mag.6.2; Pol. Philip.1). Faith and love in Ignatius were the expressions of the Christian life (Eph.14.1).[114] From them would flow all that was good (Eph.14.1). So Christian community was marked by righteous deeds and not simply by righteous words (II Cle.4.2; Ign. Eph.14.1). Christians must acknowledge Christ as their Lord through their deeds (II Clement chs.1-5). Among them were acts of charity such as help for the widows, orphans (I Cle.8.4; Hermas, Vis. 2.4.3, 5.3.7, Man.8.10; Bar. 20.2) and the poor (I Cle. 38.2; II Cle.16.4, Pol.10.2, Did.4.8; Sim.2).).[115] Christians should give alms, which was better than either prayer or fasting (II Clement chs.14-16; 10.2 cf. I Cle. 8.4, Pol. Phil. 6.1 Sim.1,8; Did. 1.5, 4.5, 4.8,). Hospitality was characteristic of the servants of God (Man. 8.10 cf. Sim.9.27.2). Serving mammon implied adultery, seduction and deceit, all characteristics of this world (Did. 3.5; II Clement 6.4; Polycarp, Phil. 2.2, 4.1-3, 6.1; Sim.1.1.5; 8.9.1) and serving God for such world meant foregoing such things. Fornication, abortion and infanticide were condemned (Did.2.2 cf. Bar. 19.4-5, 10.6-8; Man. 4).[116] Repentance meant keeping the flesh pure and the seal (of baptism) undefiled, for the flesh would be raised by God (II Clement chs.8-11).[117]

Church and the World

Christians belonged to two different worlds. One was the wider political and socio- cultural world, which they shared with their Jewish and pagan neighbors. The other was “Christian world” which shaped their self- identity and gave meaning to their experience.[118] This was often at odds with the wider world. Their maintenance of identity as “Christians” through their beliefs and life sustained their sociological distinctiveness as groups set apart from the wider world.[119] At the same time the emphasis on the reality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ gave them a healthy, positive view of the wider world.[120]

For many of the Apostolic Fathers the world is a place where Christians were resident aliens (Hermas, Sim.1.1, Diog.5). Partly this feeling was due to the hostility experienced by Christians at the hands of non-Christians. This sense of a hostile world was expressed, at least indirectly, by the veneration of the martyrs (I Cle.5.            6;Hermas,Vis.3.2.1;3.5.2; Mar. Pol.ch.17) and the call to endure (Pol, Philip.8.2).[121] However Christians also distanced themselves from the world because their values were not the values of the world (II Cle.5.1,1.6,17.3; Bar. 16.7; Vis.1.3;Sim.4). Christian life and the life associated with the world were at polarity which was compared with two coinages one of this world and the other of God (Mag.5.1) and Christians could not speak of Jesus Christ and at the same time desired the world (Rom.6.1; 7.1).

However, most of the Apostolic Fathers were concerned about Christian testimony in the secular society (II Cle.13.1f; Ign.Tral.8.2; Poly.Phil.10.3). Christians were exhorted to live blamelessly among the Gentiles (Phil.10.2),[122] to cause no offence to pagans and  give no room for criticism (Tr.8.2)[123] and to prove themselves ‘brothers’ to the unbelievers (Eph.10.3cf. Diog.6.7).[124] Christians were considered to be the soul of humanity and so had the responsibility of representing them to God (Diog. 6).[125]

There was also a significant openness to aspects of pagan society and culture. Popular rhetorical methods (ICle.2.8)[126] and conventions of the Hellenistic letter writing were used.[127] Some of the imageries were used from medical (Eph.7.2,10.2; Pol.2.1), musical (Eph.4.1-2; Phld.1.2), nautical (Pol.2.3) and athletics (Pol.1.3,2.3,3.1).[128] There were some elements of Hellenistic city that were used: the council of elders (Mag. 6.1 cf. Trall.3.1, Phild.8.1), the theme of concord[129] (I Cle. Ch. 20; Eph. 4.1,2, 13.1; Mag.6.1,15.1), Roman army as a model for the church (I Cle. 37).

Thus, the early Christian communities not only saw themselves as a people set apart but also reached out to the culture of the Hellenistic city and had drawn some elements from it for their theological tradition.

Martyrdom

Martyrdom had an inherent relationship with group identity and self- definition.[130] It “(was) an ultimate statement of commitment to the group and what the group represent(ed).”[131] The confession “I am a Christian” (Mar. Pol.10.1, 12.1) bound the martyr with all Christians, for “Christian” encompassed the beliefs and the life style of the Christians. In the context of persecution Christians were defining themselves in parallel fashion to the Jews (II Mac.2.21, 8.1, IV Mac.4.26, 15.29). They refused to recant their belief and so their identity when Roman authorities gave them opportunity to do so to avoid death. It had an apologetic purpose.[132] Martyrdom was the ultimate demonstration of legitimacy of one’s religion and the illegitimacy of the religion of the rivals.[133] Martyrdom, thus, became a key element in Christian self-understanding, providing a context where their distinctive identity had to be articulated. This encompassed the language of discipleship, the imagery of imitation of Christ and an ethos of separation from the rest of human kind.[134]

Discipleship and imitation converge in the thinking of some of the Apostolic Fathers in relation to martyrdom. Mathetes was used to designate the martyrs as “disciples and imitators of the Lord” (Mar.Pol. 17.3.2 cf. Ig. Eph. 1.2.4; Rom. 4.2.4, Diag.11.1-2).[135] Martyrdom was a mark of their “loyalty to the master” (Mar. Pol. 2.1-2) and imitation of Christ (Pol. Phil. 8.1-2),[136] who was unjustly mistreated and despised. Thus, the significance of martyrdom was linked to the passion of Christ, which was presented as the touchstone of Christian self-understanding.[137] Martyrdom would vindicate a person as one who was a diligent and faithful servant of Jesus Christ and provided an occasion to prove the reality of his faith (Ig. Mag. 4.1.1) and the stance of the church (Rom. 3). Therefore willingness to be obedient, even unto death, was the evidence that a person was a Christian, a true believer, a disciple.[138] For Ignatius, the church as whole was a martyr in the context of the pagan world (Eph.10).[139]

Martyrdom was also presented as an occasion for the audience to witness the distinctiveness of the martyr. The behavior of the martyr was contrasted with that of those who opposed him: Polycarp offered food and drink to those who came to arrest him (Mart. Pol. 7.1-2 cf. Mt.26.55); he affirmed traditional Christian respect for the powers and authorities ordained by God (Mar. Pol.10.2). The miraculous quenching of the flames by the blood from Polycarp’s body served to witness to the crowds “the distinction between unbelievers and the elect” (Mar. Pol.16.1 cf. Mar. Pol.3.2).[140]

Along with “Christian”, “race/new race/race of the righteous” “God-fearing” “righteous” (Mar. Pol.14.1, 17.1; I Cle. 46.4) were used to describe Christians. “The description of Christianity as a race (did) not feature in the earlier Apostolic Fathers but (did) become part of Christian self-perception in the second century” (Mar. Pol.14.1; Sim.9.17.5, 30.3; Diog. 1 cf. Apology of Aristides 17.2).[141] “God-fearing” (theosebeia) was used in the face of the charge against Christians that they were impious (asebeia) (Diog. 3.1,3, 4.5,6,6.4).[142]

Thus they, particularly “Christian”, became central to the self-identity of Christians and defended them against outsiders’ use of them as a basis for attack.[143] The conclusive proof of discipleship was obedience to the point of death (Ign. Mag.9-10).[144]

Conclusion

Apostolic Fathers, thus, witnessed to the emerging self- identity of Christians in the socio- religious and cultural context of the then world. The church tried to define itself with boundaries and identity markers to maintain its distinctiveness expressed in its theology, community and uncompromising life-style.

Maintaining one’s distinct identity in a pluralist society itself is not negative or regressive.  Any community needs to define its identity and differences may be clearly preserved. However “Christian universalism linked to christological exclusivism, given power to enforce its will, can result in coercion or repression of all that refuses chistianization. It faces a severe challenge in the present pluralist environment in which differences and convictions have to be re-expressed or renegotiated in forms, which meet the requirements of civility and tolerance. Perhaps what is required of Christians now is an honest recognition of Christian particularity, … a commitment to exploit the world affirming aspects of the Christian tradition and a liberality which recognizes the complimentary contributions to human welfare, which are made by those outside the Christian community.”[145]

 

Bibliography

Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

Markus Bockmuehl and Mickael B. Thompson (eds), A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology in Honor of J.P.M.Sweet, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997.

Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I & II, Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Michael J. Wilkins and Terence Paige, (eds), Worship, Theology and Ministry in the Early Church: Essays in honor of Ralph P. Martin, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992.

Joanna Anneke Rummens, “Conceptualising Identity and Diversity: Overlaps, Intersections and Processes,” Canadian Ethics Studies, Vol. 35, Issue 3, (2003), p.2, Academic Search Elite, 01.02.05.

Anthony J. Blasi, Jean Duhaime, Paul-Andre Turcotte, Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches, Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press, 2002.

  1. Peter Robinson, (ed), Social groups and identities: Developing the Legacy of Heri Tajfel, Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1996.

Henri Tajfel, Human Groups and Social Categories, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

E.P. Sanders, (ed), Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol.1, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.

Georg Simmel, Conflict and the web of group affiliations, Glencoe: Free Press, 1955.

Lewis A. Coser, The functions of social conflict, New York: Free Press, 1956.

Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary, Vol.I, New York: Thomas nelson & Sons, 1964.

Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish- Christian Composition in the Second Century, Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996.

W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Christopher Rowland, Christian Origins: From Messianic Movement to Christian Religion, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1985.

William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

James D.G.Dunn Jews and Christians: The parting of ways A.D.70to135, Tubingen:J.C.B.Mohr, 1992.

Jonathan A. Draper, (ed), The Didache in Modern Research, (Leiden, New York: E.J.Brill, 1996.

Jo Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman social history, Oxford: Oxford university Press, 1998.

A.Y. Collins, “Vilification and Self- definition in the Book of Revelation,” in Christians among Jews and Gentiles,

Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner, Anti- Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

  1. Eugene March, (ed), Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers, (San Antinio: Trinity University Press, 1980.

R.D. Williams, The Wound of Knowledge, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1991.

End Notes

[1]  Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), p.15.

[2] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers” in Markus Bockmuehl and Mickael B. Thompson (eds), A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology in Honor of J.P.M.Sweet, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), p. 194.

[3] Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, (Cambridge, Massachussetts: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 11.

[4] However few would accept that the authors of these writings flourished in the time of apostles and in fact many of them referred back to the time of the apostles (I Cle.5.2, 42.1, Ign., Eph.11.2, 12.2, Hermas, Sim.9.15.4, 16.5, 25.2). Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 194.

[5] Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, pp. 12-13.

[6] Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, pp. 12-13.

[7] Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 11.

[8] For example, I Clement was written to a community which had ‘recently’ experienced a schism of some kind; Ignatius’ letters addressed churches in which the threat of schism was ever present; Barnabas was a response to a community which felt itself attracted to Judaism; Didache was written to a community which lived in close proximity to Jews and was a compilation from various sources in which a variety of traditional material, relating to ethics and church order, was brought together for edification of its addressees and Hermas seemed to have been written to a community which was at odds with itself over the question of post-baptismal sin.

[9] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship in Ignatius of Antioch,”  in  Michael J. Wilkins and Terence Paige, (eds), Worship, Theology and Ministry in the Early Church: Essays in honor of Ralph P. Martin, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), p. 296.

[10] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship in Ignatius of Antioch,” p. 296.

[11] Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, pp. 13-14.

[12] Joanna Anneke Rummens, “Conceptualising Identity and Diversity: Overlaps, Intersections and Processes,” Canadian Ethics Studies, Vol. 35, Issue 3, (2003), p.2, Academic Search Elite, 01.02.05.

[13] David G. Horrell, “Becoming Christian”: Solidifying Christian Identity and Content,” in Anthony J. Blasi, Jean Duhaime, Paul-Andre Turcotte, Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches, (Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press, 2002), p. 311.

[14] Horrell, “Becoming Christian,” pp. 311-312.

[15] John C. Turner and Richard y. Bourhis, “Social Identity, interdependence and the social group: A reply to Rabbie et. al.”  in W. Peter Robinson, (ed), in Social groups and identities: Developing the Legacy of Heri Tajfel, (oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1996), p.30.

[16] Henri Tajfel, Human Groups and Social Categories, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 255.

[17] In this categorization process two major principles emerge: “accentuation and assimilation: people tend to exaggerate the differences between the categories and simultaneously minimize the differences within the categories.”Rupert Brown, “Tajfel’s contribution to the reduction of inter-group conflict,” in Social groups and identities: Developing the legacy of Henry Tajfel, p.170.

[18] John C. Turner, “Henry Tajfel: An Introduction” in Social groups and identities, p. 16.

[19] Horrell, “Becoming Christian,” p. 313.

[20] R.A. Markus, “The Problem of Self-Definition: From Sect to Church,” in E.P. Sanders, (ed), Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol.1, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), p.3. Conflict is generally perceived as negative or destructive. But it is also contributive where “(it) may not only heighten the concentration of an existing unit, radically eliminating all elements which might blur the distinctness of its boundaries against the enemy; it may also bring persons and groups together…” Georg Simmel, Conflict and the web of group affiliations, trans. Kurt H. wolff and Reinhard Bendix, (Glencoe: Free Press, 1955), p.18.

Conflict often functions as group-binding and group- preserving one: “it may…contribute to the maintenance of group boundaries and prevent the withdrawal of members from a group.” Lewis A. Coser, The functions of social conflict, New York: Free Press, 1956, p.8.

[21] The image of the ‘opponents’ like heretics, Jews and pagans, found in Christian literature belongs to the building of the self-image and this process is very important in the second century. Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 284.

[22] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.2.

[23] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary, Vol.I, (New York: Thomas nelson & Sons, 1964), p. 55.

[24] Probably this referred to the love feast, in which sacrament was also a part. This love feast served as a means of caring for the poor. It was Ignatius’ contention that Docetism would inevitably lead to separatism and consequently neglect the acts of love. Probably what Ignatius criticizing was holding love feast and celebrating Eucharist without bishop, if we understood ch.7 in the light of ch.8.Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p.32.

[25] Apostolic Fathers, at times, seemed to have presented an image of the Jew, which would meet their own needs, social, theological or political and this process was already at work in second century or even earlier.  So their presentation had to be seen both as belonging to the literary construction of the text and as grounded in the text’s social context and function. Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.289.

[26] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.281.

[27] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.36.

[28] The Two Ways motif is found in many Jewish and Christian literature (Wis.1-5; T.Ash. 1.3-5.4; 1QS 3.13-4.26; Tg.Ps-J. Deut.30.15; Tg. Neof. Deut.30.19; Did.1-6).

[29] Barnabas makes a connection between the description of Jews and the description of the Way of Darkness in ch.18-20. In Jewish eyes the Way of Darkness is a description of paganism (Wisd. 14.22ff). That means Barnabas is placing Jews on par with pagans. In other words the traditional Two Ways concept in Barnabas no longer serves to mark the distinction between Jews and pagans but between Christians and Jews, who behave like pagans. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish- Christian Composition in the Second Century, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996), p. 141.

[30]Golden calf episode is an embarrassment in the history of Jews. Because it was seen as the sin par excellence (cf.Sifre.1 on Deut.1.1) and cause for exile (Exod. Rab.32.2; b. Shabb.88a). Forty years wandering was seen as a punishment for this sin (Exod. Rab.30.7; Cant.Rab.5.5). That is why Josephus deliberately omitted the entire episode from his account of the wanderings in the wilderness in his Antiquities. And in Synagogues the part where Aaron is charged with his participation is not read (m.Meg.4.10).This was first used by Stephen (Acts 7). Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p. 155.

[31] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p.54.

[32] Probably dependency on fables is a common accusation against Judaism. That is why Philo repeatedly denies the presence of myths in Jewish scriptures (De Opif. Mundi. 1.2, De. Migr. 76 cf. Josephus, C.Apion. 1.25,229,287). For these apologists fables or myths are the human creations, tied to the worship of idols and opposed to truth (Philo, De.dec. 7; 157; De Spec. leg. 1.51, Josephus, C.Apion, II. 256).

[33] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers), p.55.

[34] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984, p. 237.

[35] The Jews become a cover for intra- Church conflicts over the veneration of the martyrs. This and the related problem of an undue enthusiasm for martyrdom have often been associated with Montanism, against which Martyrdom of Polycarp may be waging a sustained polemic and thus “Jews” often become a cover for a number of internal ‘opponents’. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.283.

[36] Because the author mentions about sacrifices, some suppose that these statements are theoretical ones. However since Barnabas is arguing that Jews have gone astray, he is demonstrating that error which has not changed from the past till his time. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant: The Purpose of the Epistle of Barnabas and Jewish- Christian Composition in the Second Century, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996), p. 94.

[37] Lieu, Image and Reality, pp. 28-29.

[38] Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p.36.

[39] This, in fact, was inherited from Judaism.

[40]Christopher Rowland, Christian Origins: From Messianic Movement to Christian Religion, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1985), p. 298.

[41] It means literally god-less, more specifically image-less. Harold Remus, “Persecution,” in Handbook, p.435.

[42] The vices mentioned in this list are the Jewish perspective of the pagan society. Jonathan A.Draper, “Christian Self- Definition against the “Hypocrites” in Didache 8”, Jonathan A. Draper, (ed), The Didache in Modern Research, (Leiden, New York: E.J.Brill, 1996), p. 228.

[43] At the same time Christian atheism brought economic loss for the makers of images (cf. Acts 19.24-29) and for purveyors of sacrificial victims and their fodder (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.10). There was also suspicion in the eyes of general populace. The ‘shameful acts’ were associated with the name ‘Christian’ (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.2, Tacitus, Ann. 15.44). Cannibalism is one of the suspected shameful acts (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.7) along with that of incest (Justin, I Apol.26.7).

[44] Jo Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman social history, (Oxford: oxford university Press, 1998), p.2.

[45] It was considered to be ‘deadly’ (Tacitus, Annals. 15.44), ‘degenerate’ and ‘extravagant’ (Pliny, Ep. 10.96.8). By accusing Christians of ‘hatred of humankind’ (Annals. 15.44) Tacitus marks Christians off from Romans representing true humanity.

[46] John M.G. Barclay, Universalism and Particularism: Twin Components of both Judaism and Early Christianity, in Markus Bockmuehl and Mickael B. Thompson (eds), p. 220.

 

 

[47]  “It was anti-docetism that provided the major impetus to the development of the theological norms in the church and a clear line between sound and unsound teachers.”  Schoedel, “Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch,” p. 32.

[48] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p.136.

[49] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), p.24.

[50] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 117.

[51] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.18.

[52] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p.96.

[53] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 112.

[54] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.20.

[55] Judith Lieu, p. 280.

[56] A.Y. Collins, “Vilification and Self- definition in the Book of Revelation,” in Christians among Jews and Gentiles, p. 314.

[57] Judith Lieu, p. 280. In the public sphere scripture belonged to the Jews and it determined their self-identity. The early Christian writings were aware of this problem: the accusations of Jews as reported by Eusebius “They claim to be justly incensed against us, because we do not embrace their manner of life, though we make use of their sacred writings” (Demon.1.2); Pseudo Justin’s Exhortation to the Greeks “If anyone should object that these books belong to the Jews (since they are even now preserved in their synagogues), and not to us….” This shows that Judaism was alive and was using the same scripture and Gentiles associated it with the Jews. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p.145.

[58] William Horbury, “Jewish-Christian relations in Barnabas and Justin martyr,” in Jews and Christians: The parting of ways A.D.70to135, ed. by James D.G.Dunn, (Tubingen:J.C.B.Mohr, 1992), p. 335.

[59] According to Barnabas scripture has only one meaning i.e. the intended meaning (Bar.10.12 cf. Diog.11.6) that had been revealed to Christians (Bar.9.1,2,3,5; 12.4; 13.7; 15.1,2,). The above claim was supported by citations from the OT texts interpreted primarily by an allegorical or typological method. Even though Barnabas considers the events and persons mentioned in the scripture historical, they in themselves are prophetic or types. That was why the act of Moses during Israel’s war against Amalekites was to reveal something about God’s son (Bar. ch.12); the placing of wool among the thorns is a type of Christ (ch.7); God commanded Israel to offer a heifer to show a type of Christ (Bar.ch.8).

[60] Probably this was the reason for Barnabas in choosing words with prefix pro (problepo, prophaneroo Bar. 3.6;6.7;7.1 cf. Heb. 11.40, Mart. Pol. 14.2).These words were very rare in early Christian literature. Both words were used once: problepo in Hebrews 11.40 and prophaneroo in Martyrdom of Polycarp 14.2. They were also not found in Jewish writings. For eg. they are not found in Philo’s writings or in LXX with an exception of Ps.36.13. These words were used to stress that God had revealed everything beforehand. Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p. 103.

[61] Reidar Hvalvik, The Struggle for Scripture and Covenant, p. 104.

[62] That means the history of Israel was interpreted completely from the perspective of Christ. It was the history of how God revealed everything in advance about his son and apart from that it did not have any value. If Jews understood the scripture properly they would have recognized Jesus as the messiah. Lee Martin McDonald, “Anti-Semitism in Early church Fathers,” in Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner, Anti- Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), p.230.

[63] The Christian inheritance of the covenant was prophesied in what the scripture says concerning Isaac and Rebekah, Ephraim and Manasseh, and Abraham himself (Bar.ch.13).

[64] The second making of the tablets of the commandments was not mentioned. William Horbury, “Jewish-Christian Relations in Barnabas and Justin martyr,” p.330.

[65] Unlike the writer of Hebrews, Barnabas does not think about O.T. rites and institutions as shadows of things to come (cf.Heb.10.1).

[66] However, some of the Apostolic Fathers like Clement understood OT more in a Jewish way. The author’s explanation of scripture represents a Jewish attitude toward the scripture (I Clement 43.1). J.T. Sanders, p. 219.

[67] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.37.

[68] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,”  p. 195.

[69] Everett Ferguson, The covenant idea in the second century, in W. Eugene March, (ed), Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers, (San Antinio: Trinity University Press, 1980), p.138.

[70] Paget, p. 196.

[71] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.21.

[72] Even ‘concord’ occurs in cultic contexts (Eph.4.1,2; 13.1; Mag.6.1;15; Tr. 12.2). That means the emphasis was on the solidarity of the community. Probably here the Hellenistic civic ideal had made an influence on Ignatius. William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.22.

[73] The church was described as ‘one body’ consisting of both Jews and Gentiles (Smyr.1.2) and Christians as ‘members’ of God’s son (Ign. Eph. 4.2) – members united with him as members of a body to its head or as a bride to a husband (Ign. Pol.5.1).[73]

[74] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 124.

[75] Barclay, p. 220.

[76] I Clement uses the terms stasis, stasiazo to refer to the strife within the community and politeia, politeuomai to refer to the church as in some sense a body of citizens.

[77] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 195.

[78] Robert Grant, p.138.

[79] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 196.

[80]  Nothing was said about the nature of the church by Polycarp or Barnabas or Didache. Robert Grant, p. 135.

[81] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 204.

[82] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 205.

[83] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.284.

[84] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.284.

[85] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 196

[86] Robert Grant, p. 160.

[87] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 197.

[88] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 140.

[89] Robert Grant, p.163.

[90] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 196.

[91] Robert Grant, p. 170.

[92] Most probably liturgy, particularly Eucharist, was clue for the emergence of monarchical bishop. W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 140.

[93] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 140.

[94] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 197.

[95] There was a virtual interchangeability of God and the bishop as the sources of authority (Mag.3.1; Eph.5.3; 6.1; Smr. 9.1).

[96] Robert Grant, p.166.

[97] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 37.

[98] Robert Grant, 162.

[99] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.23.

[100] Grant, p. 173.

[101] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 142.

[102] Grant, p. 176.

[103] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p. 32.

[104] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, pp. 34-35.

[105] Grant, p. 179.

[106] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.21.

[107] Didache quotes the prayer for the consecration of the cup: “We give thanks to thee our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy servant. To thee be glory for ever” (Did.9.3). The prayers are close to Jewish table blessings of the time. That means there was prayer following the breaking of bread and the service concluded with the fervently expressed hope for the end (Did.10.6).

The prayers are close to Jewish table blessings of the time.

[108]The Apostolic Fathers reflect little concern of the church for outside world but more concern for their own good order and holiness. (Polycarp, Philip.10.2, II Cle.13). W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity, p. 125.

[109] Robert Grant, p. 183.

[110] James Carleton Paget, “The Vision of the Church in the Apostolic Fathers,” p. 199.

[111] Markus, p.2.

[112] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, Pp.55.

[113] R.D. Williams, The Wound of Knowledge, (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1991), p.14.

[114] William R. Scoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.25.

[115] These were the traditional duties of pious Jews.

[116] However there was no teaching to “sell all” (in contrast to Jesus) or to strive to abolish the slavery. Regarding slavery, Ignatius urged Polycarp “not to be haughty to slaves” but the slaves had to “endure slavery for the glory of God”; they should not be set free at public cost “lest they become slaves of lust” (Ignatius, Polycarp 4.3). In Didache the slave was told to “serve his master in reverence and fear” as “counterpart of God” (4.11). Thus slavery was accepted as a normal institution. The emphasis continued to be on “the household” with its servants and slaves as well as children and kinsfolk (Ignatius, Pol.8.2, Smyr.13.1; Hermas Man.12.3.6, Sim.6.3.9).

[117] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 37.

[118] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.277.

[119] Markus, p. 3.

[120] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives in Ignatius of Antioch, p.55.

[121] Lieu, p. 277.

[122] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.242.

[123] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.12

[124] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch, p.30.

[125] W.H.C. Frend, Rise of Christianity, p.236.

[126] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, pg.47.

[127] He uses the word parakalo for request and presenting recommendations, which is a Hellenistic practice or standard of politeness. William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, pp.47-48.

[128] Robert M. Grant, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 101

[129] This term does not occur in N.T. and among Apostolic Fathers only I Clement used it significantly in the context of church politics. This concept was used in the context of relations between the cities and between the citizens in cities of Asia Minor during this period  (Aelius Aristides, Orations 23-24, Dio Chrysostom, Orations 38-41).

[130] Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 82.

[131] Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 82.

[132] Lieu, p. 93.

[133] Lieu, p. 93.

[134] Lieu, p. 282.

[135] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship…,” p. 306.

[136] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship…,” p. 295.

[137] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, p.30.

[138] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship…,” p. 312.

[139] William R. Schoedel, Theological Norms and Social Perspectives, p. 45.

[140] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.62.

[141] Lieu, Image and Reality, p. 85.

[142] ‘God-fearing’ was also characteristic of apologetic literature of Aristide, Quadratus, Melito. In IV Mac. The ‘fear of God’ is that for which the martyrs suffer (7.22,17.15). Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality, p.84.

[143] Lieu, Image and Reality, p.86.

[144] Michael J. Wilkins, “The interplay of ministry, martyrdom, and discipleship …,” p. 304.

[145] John M.G. Barclay, “Universalism and Particularism…,” p. 222.

 

Paideia

October 26, 2017

The Greek term Paideia is used for “education” or “learning”. This refers to deep education, and not to cheap schooling.

Paideia is derived from the Greek term Pais, which means “child”. It refers to proper upbringing of a child. Paideia implies a holistic education that leads to physical, intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual maturity over the course of lifetime.

Paideia demands a person to engage in self-improvement and self-reflection (to look at one’s underside) or a profound confrontation with one’s self – “Who are you?”

Therefore, the education that Paideia refers to is cultivating the self in this life or to what stirs the soul that is transformative. In order to cultivate self, one should have critical consciousness.

Paideia is not simply acquiring vocational skills and knowledge. This education is transformative of deep feelings, ideas, views and assumptions, and courageous self-examination, as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In other words, education is nothing but cultivating one’s self – what kind of a person or human being one wants to be between birth and death.

That is why education, unlike schooling, is a lifelong activity. One’s education, Paideia, is something to be cultivated until death. Greeks were aware of that. Solon, the sixth century statesman, said, “I shall gladly grow old, learning new things.” Plato’s dialogues give evidence that Solon’s aphorism was widely memorised by Greek school children and that the attitude it described was widely acknowledged as a virtue.

How does a person engage in deep education, Paideia?

Plato says that philosophy, a love of wisdom, is a meditation on and a preparation for death. Montaigne says that to philosophise is to learn how to die. Seneca says, “He or she who learns how to die unlearns slavery.”

Death is not just an event at the end of one’s life, but the process of learning how to die existentially in order to be more mature and developed as a human being. One should learn to die to a life of trivial, superficial and stimulation. In the present day consumeristic culture people are just obsessed with superficial and titillating things like greed and wealth, and status and position. They never engage in learning what it means to be human, nor come to terms with more substantial things of life such as love, service, common good and public interest. More importance is placed on self-interest or economic interests of his/her group or organization. People tend to believe that the purpose of society is to protect one’s individual right to pursue his/her self-interest, than providing for the common good!

Several forces like media, movies, advertisements and religion promote the superficial culture, which has made people stuck in the frivolous and bling-bling. People are well adjusted to hedonism, narcissism and unloving lifestyle. For them injustice, inequality, exploitation and oppression are normal. This consciousness has gripped not only the elite, but also the marginalized. Due to this the exploiters, oppressors and unjust continue in their task without any moral dilemma. On the other hand, the exploited, oppressed and the marginalized yield themselves to their predators with little or no resistance, due to helplessness and hopelessness or lack of imagination of a better world.

Paideia demands a person to engage in the examination of his/her deep self. Since it is painful to examine the deepest corners of one’s own life, it requires a lot of courage to introspect one’s own life and see the ugly realities. William Butler Yates said, “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your soul, than it does for a soldier to fight on the battle field.” It definitely needs courage to call into question certain long held dogmas, worldview and pet assumptions and presuppositions.

This is called education, Paideia. It is unsettling, as a person’s worldview, assumptions, presuppositions, dogma and doctrine, which are held as valued and with which he or she is comfortable for so long, are thoroughly interrogated. It is a form of death. Death for rebirth! Death for regrowth! Courage is necessary to examine the deep corners of one’s life to find out who he or she is.

Self-examination is possible only when a person reads what others wrote and listens to other voices. Bouncing against others’ words and voices is a constant and endless process. However, one should be careful about various forms of blind conformity. Many people are satisfied to be imitators or an echo. Because they don’t muster courage to examine their life and find out who they are in order to be original.

A person told his colleague that his father had not had much formal “schooling”, for he had been forced out of school in the eighth grade. But the father had a thirst to continue his learning. During much of his free time he had read books over a wide range of subjects. There were serious books, like the Bible, that had an effect of cultivating the man’s sense of right and wrong, of what is truly of value in life. The coworker concluded the story by saying that his father had not finished school, but that he was one of the most “educated” persons he had ever known. The father was the possessor of “education”.

Self-examination and death, and bouncing against others’ words and voices lead to self-improvement as a person. Courage is the enabling virtue for the serious and deep education, Paideia, which in turn enables a person to grow into maturity as a human being.

Along with critical consciousness and courage, one should also have compassion to grow as a human being. Both head and heart need to be constantly transformed. One’s life is not complete without love and compassion. This is what is found in the Old Testament prophets and Jesus. They were sensitive to the cries and suffering of the poor, oppressed and marginalized. Amos prophesied, “Let justice roll down like waters; and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (Am. 5.24). He further said, “You that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…buying the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat” (Am 8.4,6). Jesus was moved with compassion by the request of a leper (Mk. 1.40-41). Both the prophets and Jesus resonated at the deep, human level to the sorrow and pain of people. The love and compassion shown by these people is a steadfast commitment to the wellbeing of fellow human beings, starting with the poor, widows, orphans and foreigners (James 1.27; Mt. 25.35-36). For God is the protector of the defenseless: the resident aliens, orphans, widows and poor (Ex.22.22).

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Drescher said that indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. George Bernard Shaw said, “Indifference is the very essence of inhumanity.” In other words, being human means being compassionately alive! Martin Luther King Jr said, “Love is the key to unlock the door to ultimate reality.”

Therefore, deep education, Paideia, takes place as a person thinks critically and examines himself or herself honestly as he or she engages in dialogue with the words and voices of others, and loves in the substantial sense – in the form of fairness and justice.

 

Source

  • Some of the thoughts are taken from Cornel West.

A Christian in a Culture of Consumerism (Christian and Consumerism)

October 21, 2017

Every human being has basic needs. These are called basic human needs.

Basic Physical Needs are: Food, Clothing and Shelter (material things);

Basic Psychological and Emotional Needs are: 5As – Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, Approval, and Attention

The basic psychological and emotional needs have an impact on a person’s self esteem (self worth or self value).

What is self esteem?

Self esteem or self value or self worth is how we see ourselves or how we value ourselves. But the problem is, most of us see ourselves with the eyes of others. We value ourselves on the basis of how others value us. If others accept us, if others show affection, if others express appreciation, if others approve us, if others pay attention to us – that indicates that we are valuable in their sight. That, in turn, makes us valuable in our own eyes!

Self esteem is very important to live a happy and satisfied life. If basic psychological and emotional needs are met or fulfilled, that person will have a good self esteem. If they are not met, that person will have a low self esteem.

If a person has a low self esteem, it leads to unhappiness and depression, and finally to suicide. So having a good self esteem is very important to live a happy and satisfied life.

Now the question is: how do I maintain a good self esteem?

There are two ways, and people in general follow one of the two ways.

A. By having (What I have)

B. By being (Who I am)

A. By Having

Majority of people want to satisfy their basic psychological and emotional needs by having more material things. They seek Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, Approval, and Attention on the basis of their wealth or material possessions. In other words, they want to measure their worth or value by what they have. So they want to accumulate more wealth, buy more material things, follow latest fashion, buy latest gadgets. In buying, owning, accumulating, eating and drinking they find happiness and satisfaction.

We all need material things to live. But they live to acquire more material things. This is called consumerism.

Consumerism is a way of life. It is a lifestyle.

Consumerism is characterised by high consumption, compulsive acquisition and instantaneous gratification.

In Luke 12.13-21 Jesus is addressing the culture of consumerism.

  1. Luke 12.13-21

A person comes to Jesus and asks him to settle his land dispute with his brother. In this context Jesus tells a parable of a rich man.

The land of a rich man produced abundantly. The produce is more than what is needed to meet his basic physical needs. But he wants to keep the entire produce for himself.

The parable exposes some of the characteristics of this person:

a. Selfishness/Self-absorption: 11 times he uses the words “I” and “my” (vv. 17-19). He is very much self-absorbed. He is not mindful of others.

One of the consequences of consumerism is “Chronic self-absorption”. The unremitting craving for things leaves people with little time and patience to think about others. Hence people become unmindful of the maladies of their society.

Mother Theresa once said: “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” It is poverty to live for oneself, ignoring your neighbour’s suffering, hunger and death.

b. Greed: He wants to keep the entire produce. He does not need the entire produce.

He does not have enough place to store the grain. That did not deter him. He wants to build larger barns.

When I am greedy, I just want what is there, whether it is needed or not.

Consumerism may create a vicious cycle wherein an individual repeatedly buys things to be happy or to keep up with neighbors. But that person must continue doing so to maintain happiness.

c. Why is he doing this? What is his rationale behind all this?

“Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Relax, eat, drink, be merry” (V. 19).

His conviction is: more material things, better life – stress-free (Relax), and happiness (“be merry”). He thought that eating and drinking will give him satisfaction in his life.

So his principle is: more material things more satisfaction!

This is what is driving the life of many people: more material things more satisfying life! Their life is strongly connected to material wealth: “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Lk. 12.15). That means, the life of the people who follow the route of having consists in the abundance of possessions! Their happiness and satisfaction lie in the abundance of material wealth. Because of that they ignore the cost and utility of their purchases.

 

The Driving Force of the Culture of Consumerism: Advertising

Advertising promotes the culture of consumerism.

How does it work?

Let’s try to understand the way it works from Genesis 3.1-6.

Gen. 2.8-9: God planted a garden in Eden and placed Adam in it. He made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. Along with these God placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Mind you, every tree is pleasant to the eyes.

Adam and Eve are living in the garden and they are watching the trees every day. They are enjoying the beauty of the trees, the company of each other and their fellowship with God. That is their normal life.

Into this life enters the tempter. Let’s notice what it does.

  1. Comes to where Eve is and initiates conversation

This is what the advertising does. It comes to the place where you are, and then initiates the conversation.

All Invasive: Advertising industry has invaded both public and private spaces. When you go out into the city, you come across billboards or hoardings. When you open newspaper or a magazine, switch on a TV or internet at home, you come across advertisements.

All Inclusive: They are accessible or within the reach of all – children, youth, adults and old, and men and women, and rich and poor. So no one is excluded.

2. It arouses desire

“When you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3.5).

a. Comparison

The tempter is comparing Eve’s status with that of God. God’s status is higher than that of Eve. Advertisements make us to compare our lives with those who have higher socio-economic status, more beautiful, and more fame.

By doing that it is trying to create discontent or dissatisfaction within Eve regarding herself and what she has.

The goal of advertising is to create discontent or dissatisfaction with who we are and what we have. It tries to make us believe that our teeth aren’t good enough, our vehicle isn’t good enough, our appearance isn’t good enough, and our life isn’t good enough.

b. Comparison leads to covetousness.

Covetousness desires what the other person has or possesses.

Human desire is mimetic or imitative. Mimesis is the basic human drive to copy what the other person possesses or finds valuable such as things, looks (external appearance), fame and status. It is the ambition to acquire as one’s own what is deemed desirable by the other or possessed by the other.

Take for example children. If a child, who is playing with toys, sees other child taking a toy and playing, stops playing with his toys and wants the toy with which the other child is playing!

The tempter showed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with God as the one who possesses the knowledge of good and evil. In other words, God is used by the tempter as the model to promote its product.

By using God as the model, the product (i.e. the knowledge of good and evil) is presented as a “status goods”. Possession of this “status goods” enhances the status of Adam and Eve: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil” (3.5).

Companies continue to stuff market with new “status goods” and promote them by hiring popular brand ambassadors to entice consumers to emulate these popular figures in order to reposition themselves on the social ladder.

People spend thousands of rupees on accessories such as handbags and sunglasses with the right labels to make statements about themselves. It is not that they want to spend so much of money on mere “things”. Money is spent on the value attached to some of the consumer goods in society. That is the reason for right labels, designer clothes, latest model cars and branded accessories.

Novelty (newness) also conveys our status – New electronic gadgets, new model vehicles, latest fashion.

Consumer goods are not mere stuff, but “language” in social relationships. Through things we convey with one another our identity, social status, social affiliation and feelings.

We continue to invent or reinvent our social identity and status through accumulation of latest “status goods” that have arrived in market. Novelty carries with it important information about status.

3. Arousal of desire leads to imagination

Gen. 3.6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.”

What is characteristic of modern consumerism is the central role imagination plays: “the basic motivation underlying consumerism is the desire to experience in reality that pleasurable experience the consumer has already enjoyed imaginatively.”

Marketing and advertising are formative in inciting the consumer to imagine the pleasure a given object may provide. The crucial role of daydreaming helps explain that consumers are continually striving, through material goods, to close the gap between their imagined and experienced pleasures.

4. Imagination leads to Realisation

Gen. 3.6: “She took of its fruit and ate.”

Imagination will not let you sleep till you possess it.

Result

  1. After buying what they desired, it gives them happiness and satisfaction for some time. It vanishes after a few days.

Because

  1. It becomes old and so is no longer attractive and loses its value.
  2. Advertising industry promotes new things.
  3. There will always be someone who has more things or better things than you do.
  4. A tragic aspect of consumerism is that there is never enough. There is always the desire for more because each purchase only satisfies for short while. Then there is the need for more and more.

So happiness and satisfaction become an illusion. Happiness can’t be purchased in the market place.

Consequences

  1. Over-worked

More things need more money. More money demands more work. So people are working longer and harder, because people need the additional income to pay for their increased consumption.

2. Over-stressed

Over-working leads to stress, because there is less or no time for rest and relaxation.

Even the unrealistic expectations cause anxiety, stress, depression, family conflicts, divorce and suicide.

3. New form of Homelessness

More work means less time with family. We have people living under the same roof, but hardly have time to connect with one another. Someone wrote a book with a title “Is there a home in this house?”

Things become more important than people.

4. Debts

Most of the time people buy beyond their means, which leads to debts. We have corporately and individually pursued a lifestyle of “buy now and pay later”

Companies have introduced Credit Card system for this purpose.

Haggai 1:5-6 says, “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’”

 

 B. By Being

Those, who follow the route of being, determine self worth or value based on who they are as individuals.

Who are we as Christians?

  1. We are valuable

We are valuable: a. as the possessors of God’s image; b. as children of God

a. Possessors of the image of God

Gen. 1.26-27 says, “Let us make humankind in our image…So God created humankind in his image.”

Possession of the image of God indicates two things:

i. Possession of the image of God gives us equal human dignity, human value or worth and equal human rights.

We remain to possess the image of God, and so our value or worth remains. Unlike the value of those who follow the route of having, it is not temporary or transient.

Therefore, no stress, no need to work to enhance our value.

Possession of the image of God should be the basis of our relationships. Since all human beings possess the image of God, all are valuable in the sight of God, and so should be in our sight.

That’s why there should be no partiality in the church on the basis of one’s socio-economic status, beauty, educational qualifications, job, family background etc (James 2.1-5, 8).

ii. Possession of the image of God makes us representatives or ambassadors of God on this earth.

What do we observe in God? (Gen. 2; Phil 2.6-11)

  • Humility, service, sharing/Giving, sacrificial love and compassion

These are the characteristics that define who we are.

The truths that we need to keep in mind are:

  • Humility does not lower our value. It is a divine quality.
  • Happiness and satisfaction do not result from getting, but from giving or sharing.
  • Jesus says greatness lies in service (Mk. 10. 41-45).

To have a happy and satisfying life one should have these characteristics: Sharing, service, Compassion, cooperation, Community

What is ignored in this world of consumerism is the fact that the real sources of lasting human fulfilment, security and satisfaction are stable family, healthy relationships, community and self-acceptance.

b. We are the children of God or the covenant people of God

I Pet 2.9-10 – “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.” Our identity and value is in being God’s people.

This is what God tells the people of Israel: Is 43.1 “He who created you, he who formed you…I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Is. 43.4 “You are precious in my sight and honored.”

So we have intrinsic value or worth as the possessors of God’s image. We also have value or worth as the children of God.

2. Contentment

Since we have value as the possessors of God’s image and as the children of God, our value does not lie in what we possess or what we have.

The sense of who we are should lead us to a life of contentment. Contentment is opposite of covetousness.

Paul says, “I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need, for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4.10-13).

Contentment describes a man of wooden impassivity, the man whom nothing could touch because in himself he has found a completely satisfying world. Circumstances have no power over a contented person.

A contented person’s happiness and satisfaction do not depend on circumstances, or what he has or what he doesn’t have. Paul’s contentment is grounded in Jesus Christ.

Church – A Community of Restored Relationships

September 10, 2017

Message by Kamalakar Duvvuru on 10th September 2017

Introduction

Last Sunday Bharathi has shared several important things about relationships. Some of the points are:

  1. The origin or basis of relationships and communication is the Godhead. The three persons on the Godhead are relational beings;
  2. Since human beings are created in the image of God, we are created as relational beings.

Though Adam had relationship with God and other living creatures, he was said to be alone (Gen 2.20). The remedy for human loneliness is fellow feeling.

Fellow feeling (or affinity or kinship) is not possible by having relationship with God or with other living creatures. Fellow feeling is possible only in relationship with fellow human beings. This is expressed in Adam’s poetry: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2.23).

To be fully human one needs to be in relationship with fellow human beings. If a person is living alone in a house, she/he is said to be living like a ghost. One of the severest of punishments is “solitary confinement”.

In the Guantanamo Bay prison, in some of the solitary confinement cells where so-called Al-Qaeda terrorists were kept, the prison guards observed blood splashed on the walls, because the prisoners after being kept in those cells, away from sunlight and fellow human beings, for long became depressed and insane. Due to that they banged their head against the walls. Some prisoners pulled their hair!

  1. Sin broke human relationships – with God, with one another and with the rest of creation. Greed, selfishness and jealousy have started controlling the lives of people. They have led to various forms of violence and spiral of violence (The basic definition of violence is violation of one’s human dignity, value and rights). This has resulted in widening the gap between man and man, which in turn resulted in human loneliness.

Let me add some more points to these:

  1. The broken relationships are restored by God through the salvific act of Jesus Christ. Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ restores relationships.
  2. Church is a community or gathering of restored relationships. This church is brought into being or existence by God through Jesus Christ and his gospel. So it belongs to God and to Jesus Christ. That’s why it is called the “church of God” (Gal. 1.13; I Cor. 1.2) or the “church of Christ” (Rom. 16.16).

Such a community or gathering is not simply a human association or a religious club, but a divinely created entity (I Cor 1.1; II Cor 1.1; cf. I Cor 10.32, 11.22; Rom 16.16).

However, what is the ground-reality within church?

  1. The Ground-Reality within Church
  1. In the Churches of Galatia

Paul founded the churches of Galatia (Acts 13-14; 16.1-6). These churches are composed predominantly of Gentile Christians.

As the Gentiles started to believe in Jesus Christ and join the church, two issues arose within the church: 1. what is the status of Gentile Christians? 2. What is the relationship between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians?

These issues are raised by the orthodox Jewish Christians, who are known as Judaizers. According to them, faith in Jesus Christ is not enough to become a part of the covenant community of God. Since circumcision is a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17.9-14), Gentile Christians should undergo circumcision in order to become children of Abraham. Judaizers went to other churches and preached the same. That means, a Gentile Christian should become a Jew in order to become a member of the covenant community of God.

If Gentiles don’t get circumcised, they are considered to be outside the covenant community, and so Jewish Christians should not associate with them, and have table fellowship with them (Acts 10.28).

However, the status of Gentile Christians has already been settled in the Apostolic Council or Jerusalem Council.

  1. Apostolic Council or Jerusalem Council (AD 48/49) (Gal.2.1-10 = Acts 15.1-29)

After much debate and listening to how God gave the Holy Spirit to the Gentile Christians and how God did signs and wonders among them, the Apostolic Council decided that both Jews and Gentiles will be saved by faith in or through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So the issue, whether Gentile Christians should be circumcised or not, has been settled in the Apostolic Council.

But the Judaizers did not accept this decision. They continued to preach that the Gentile Christians should undergo circumcision, and insisted that the Jewish Christians should not have fellowship with the uncircumcised Gentile Christians. This had created walls of separation among the believers and thus disturbed the unity within the church.

Paul calls this “a different gospel” (Gal. 1.6-7). This is a different kind of gospel. This is a perverted version of the gospel (Gal. 1.7).

  1. Perverted Version of the Gospel

The manifestation of the perverted version of the gospel is seen in Gal. 2.11-14.

The Antioch incident has happened after the Apostolic Council (Gal. 2.1-10). In the Apostolic Council it was decided that both Jews and Gentiles are saved by faith in Jesus Christ or through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. So both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are members of the covenant community of God. They both are children of Abraham.

That means, Jewish Christians can have relationship with Gentile Christians, and so can have food together.

Because of this Peter and other Jews were having table fellowship with the Gentile Christians in Antioch. The imperfect tense “used to eat” (sunēsthien) indicates Peter’s customary behavior of eating with the Gentile believers before the arrival of “certain ones from James”. Peter and the other Jews, by having table fellowship with the Gentile believers, expressed their conviction that because of their common faith in Christ Gentile believers are not to be regarded as “Gentile sinners” (Gal. 2.15) and that they are no longer separated, but rather united in Christ.

However, when people from James (i.e. Judaizers from the Jerusalem church) came to the church at Antioch, Peter withdrew from having table fellowship with the Gentile Christians.

Peter’s action of withdrawing from having table fellowship with the Gentile believers is considered by Paul as “hypocrisy”. Because it clearly contrasts with Peter’s conviction expressed by his customary conduct of eating with the Gentile believers.

Paul puts this inconsistent behavior succinctly: “If you, being a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal.1.14). The expressions Ioudaikōs zēs (“live like a Jew”) and Ioudaizein (“being a Jew”) are found only in Galatians. They denote the Jewish way of life that maintains separation from Gentiles.

Peter by eating with the Gentile believers before the arrival of the “circumcision group” followed a pattern of life contrary to the Ioudaizein lifestyle. By withdrawing from his usual practice of associating with the Gentile believers, Peter was, implicitly, “compelling” the Gentile believers to embrace the Jewish way of life. Paul, by using the same verb anagkazō (“to compel”) to describe Peter’s action, understands Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with the Gentile believers at Antioch same as the action of “false brothers” at Jerusalem (Gal. 2.3-5; the action of the teachers of the “other gospel” in Galatian churches is also same Gal. 6.12). The implicit pressure on the Gentile believers was to accept the Jewish way of life demanded by Judaism.

Paul, thus, questions Peter’s self-contradiction between his withdrawal and his conviction. For him, Peter’s behavior constitutes not walking straightforwardly according to the truth of the Gospel (notice the present tense orthopodousin).

Gal.2.13 says “And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

By deviating from the truth of the gospel, Peter took other Jewish Christians, and even Barnabas, who was chosen by the Antioch church for the ministry among Gentiles (along with Paul), away from the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2.13; Gal. 2.7-9; Acts 13.1-3).

A caution for a leader: If a leader deviates or strays from the right path, he/she will take many along with him/her.

  1. Indian Church

There are many walls of separation in the Indian church. Casteism or caste-based discrimination plays a major role in the Indian church.

  1. What is Casteism?

Casteism means prejudice or discrimination based on caste. It is a loyalty to one’s caste. In general, it may be defined as a phenomenon by virtue of which persons belonging to a certain caste group are either discriminated against or shown favour regardless of their merits and demerits, just on the basis of their caste.

Casteism exhibits a number of characteristics such as:

  1. Casteism signifies blind caste or sub-caste loyalty. It either ignores or does not care for the interests of other castes.
  2. For a casteist person “My caste man/woman and my caste only” is the principle.
  3. Casteism goes against the spirit of democracy. (Against spirit of Christianity).
  4. Casteism submits or subordinates one’s sense of justice, fair play and humanity to the interests of his/her own caste.
  5. Casteism creates caste solidarity to the extent that: a. one caste seeks to dominate over others; b. higher castes exploit the lower castes.
  1. Factors that contribute to the growth and spread of casteism
  1. Sense of caste prestige

Sense of caste prestige constitutes an important cause of casteism. People belonging to a particular caste try to enhance the prestige of their caste. In so doing they do not hesitate to employ undesirable and harmful methods.

  1. Endogamy

Endogamy signifies marriage within one’s own caste. Since people practice endogamy, it is quite natural that they develop a deep sense of belonging to one another within the same caste. This obviously promotes casteism.

  1. Social distance

Social relations of individuals are conditioned by one’s caste norms and values. Social distance between castes is maintained through restrictions of inter-caste marriage, inter-dining etc.

Along with casteism, we also witness in the church discrimination based on class (socio-economic status), education, language, region, and gender. Within the church they form as walls that divide the members. These discriminations come to limelight at the time of choosing leaders and choosing life-partners.

Jewish way of life in the early church and caste, class, gender based way of life in the Indian church, by dividing the community or breaking the relationships, promote sin in the church. Because sin breaks relationships.

So the Jewish way of life and the caste, class, gender based way of life is contrary to the truth of the gospel.

What is the truth of the gospel?

  1. Truth of the Gospel

In Gal. 2.15-21 Paul explicates the truth of the gospel, beginning with generally accepted position: “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.15-16). This is Jewish separatist vocabulary (“We are Jews”, “Gentile sinners”). Paul, by using this separatist Jewish language, echoes not only the conduct of the group “from James”, but also the behavior of Peter and the other Jews who withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentile believers.

It is in this social context Paul uses the term “justify”. Paul’s concern here is not forensic and ethical dimensions, but rather the relation between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. The term “justify” refers to the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles, who are separated by the “works of the law” lifestyle.

Leander Keck has proposed the translation “rectify” for the Greek verb dikaioō. The action involved in the Greek verb dikaioō is the idea of “rectifying” a relationship or righting the wrong. Justify depicts God’s activity of rectifying a relationship or righting the wrong. What has gone wrong in the world is relationship among human beings through construction of walls of separation. In the context of Antioch incident it is the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles through the practice of the Jewish distinctive ritual, dietary laws.

“Works of the law” signifies “living like a Jew”, and thus Jewish exclusionism. They refer to primarily the Jewish customs – circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and the Jewish festivals. These customs were given so much prominence that they became the identity markers of Jews, and doing these “works” was considered equivalent to obeying the Torah!

Paul reminded Peter and those who followed Peter at Antioch that although they were Jews they believed in Jesus Christ, because they knew that “a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.16). God justifying a person or making one right is through faith in Jesus Christ. This implies that he/she has died to the law, “a death to its ritually excluding aspects that undergird Jewish separatism.”

Peter being convinced that a person is justified by faith in Christ abandoned the “works of the law” lifestyle and had table fellowship with the Gentile believers before the group “from James” arrived at Antioch.

By withdrawing from fellowship with the Gentile believers after the arrival of the group and following the abandoned Jewish way of life, Peter demonstrated that violation of the dietary laws was a sinful action.

That means, his faith in Jesus Christ has made him to abandon the “works of the law” lifestyle, and thus transgress the law by eating with the Gentile believers. This is tantamount to making Jesus a promoter of sin or a “servant of sin” or an agent of sin (Gal 2.17).

For Paul, this is an absurd conclusion.

For Paul to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ means to be crucified with him (Gal. 2.19), and that means dying to the law as interpreted in terms of “the works of law”. Dying to the law is necessary in order to live for God (Gal. 2.19).

That’s why Paul refused to return to the Jewish way of life that demanded separation from Gentiles. Because God’s justifying act has broken down the walls of separation between Jews and Gentiles. If Paul returns to the Jewish way of life, it would amount to building the very walls that have been torn down or destroyed.

It would also make him a transgressor (Gal. 2.18). By withdrawing from eating with the Gentile believers at Antioch Peter demonstrated himself a “transgressor”. It means not only “to transgress, to violate”, but also “to deviate, to step by the side of”. Peter deviated from the truth of the gospel.

The truth of the gospel is that God’s justifying act through Christ has united both Jews and Gentiles, by demolishing the walls of separation.

God’s justifying act in Jesus Christ is a unifying act, unifying Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female into one single community (Gal. 3.28). This righting of relationships between the Jews and the Gentiles fulfils God’s promise to Abraham: “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you” (Gal. 3.8; 3.26-29). Therefore, for Paul no one is joined to Christ except together with a neighbor, and for Jew the primary neighbor is Gentile and vice-versa. The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by Paul is the good news that the promise of God to Abraham (that is, the unity of the nations) is fulfilled through the Christ event.

The death of Jesus Christ brings in the new creation where people irrespective of their ethnic, caste, class and gender backgrounds are united in Christ as the children of God, and possess God’s eschatological gift of the Spirit (Gal. 3.2).

Mark 14

March 24, 2016
  1. In the Gospels we find Jesus, through his association and actions, challenging the dominant system that subordinates human need and denies some their human dignity. Jesus ate with those who are considered “unclean”, such as sinners and tax-collectors (Mk. 2. 15-17). Jesus allowed his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath and satisfy their hunger (2.23-28) and restored health by healing the sick on the Sabbath (3.1-6).

 

In 14.3 Jesus enters and has table-fellowship in the house of a leper. It is not clear whether he is healed or still having disease. The lepers are considered unclean (decided by a priest Lev. 13.2-3) and are excluded from the worship assembly and from the community in general (Lev. 13.3, 45-46; Num. 12; Deut. 24.8). It is the purity code that protects the integrity and exclusive identity of the Jewish community. Lepers being unclean are a threat to the integrity and exclusive identity of the community and are excluded from any social interaction with the society. According to Josephus, lepers, poor, the blind and the childless are the equal of a dead person (Jewish Antiquities III, II.3). Lepers are socially dead. Jesus by entering the house of a leper and having table-fellowship is identifying and showing solidarity with him. Through this Jesus emphasizes the primacy of the human being over the system.

 

In the story of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand, Jesus is angered and saddened by the hardness of heart of the Jewish religious leaders (3.5). This hardness is an attitude that serves the system at all costs and sacrifices the human to the system. It is this dehumanizing system that is challenged by Jesus through his actions, because for him human being is more important than the system. That is why Jesus said man is not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath is made for man.

 

  1. When Jesus is having table-fellowship in the house of the leper, a woman enters the house and anoints Jesus’ head with an expensive ointment. Her name is not mentioned. An uninvited woman entering a place where men are having table-fellowship is unacceptable. In the OT prophets anointed the head of a king. It is a male domain. But this woman, by anointing Jesus’ head with ointment, is not only acknowledging Jesus as a king, but also entering into a male-domain, thus breaking away with the traditional system.

 

Some of those present scolded her for her act. They have brought an economic argument by saying that she could have used this money on poor, instead of wasting it this way. But Jesus, affirming that those who have raised the concern have an ongoing responsibility towards the poor, praised her act. This seems to be contradictory to his position taken in the story of Rich young ruler, where he asked the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor  (Mk. 10). When understood in the light of Jesus’ interpretation of her act as preparation of his body for burial, through her act, the woman, unlike the disciples, is not avoiding but anticipating Jesus’ preparation for death. In this she has done “all she could” and demonstrated her solidarity with the way of the cross. That is why she is praised by Jesus in 14.9, because she has understood the “gospel”.

 

  1. The story of the woman is sandwiched between the accounts of the attitude and actions of the religious leaders (14.1-2) and the action of Judas Iscariot. Judas goes to the chief priests, the guardians of the system, in order to inform them that he would betray Jesus. Mark, unlike Luke and John, does not invoke a theory of “satanic inspiration” to explain Judas’ actions. The transaction between Judas and the religious leaders is stated in monetary terms. Through this Judas is expressing that he considers Jesus as a victim to be sold. Money plays an important role in sacrificial system. By taking their money Judas indicates that he sees Jesus as another innocent victim of sacrificial system to be killed. The one (i.e. Jesus) who attacked this system (Mk. 11.15-19) is about to be bought as a victim. Judas is described as “one of the twelve” (14.10,20,43). It is an “insider” who becomes a collaborator to “sell” Jesus as a victim to be destroyed. The betrayal comes from within. It shows the duplicity of an insider. The follower of Jesus becomes a seller of Jesus for few pieces of silver.

 

The church is still perpetuating the sacrificial system, where money plays an important role. The church which is seen by the outside world as a community of Jesus has become a collaborator in “betraying” Jesus. It “sells” Jesus for monetary benefit. Jesus is a sacrificial victim. Mind you, it is the temple authorities that collaborated with the Roman imperial officials that “sacrificed” Jesus in order to maintain the status quo.

 

By interpreting cross of Jesus Christ as the atonement for the sins of the world, we have deliberately forgotten the other side of the meaning of the cross, i.e. violence of the religious and political system against an innocent victim (i.e. Jesus) in order to silence the “threat” to their power and authority or the status quo. This is the core of the sacrificial system, where an innocent victim is killed by the entire community for the community’s sins (Read Leviticus for the Day of Atonement). How true are the words of Caiaphas in John 18. 14: “It was better to have one person die for the people”.