Bible and Bible Study: July 2004 Archives

More on Judging Others

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I am really struggling with this point, and I hope to faithfully articulate why shortly. But in the meantime, dipping into Koine Greek and trying to make sense of the various understandings of a key passage in Matthew, I was aided by the passage in Romans cited below.

Many contend that the judging that Jesus precludes in Matthew 7:1-2 and Luke 6:37 is judgment that results in condemnation. That indeed we are called to judge people, but we may not condemn them.

However, the Greek argues against this, and it was only in the passage from Romans that I discovered this. The Greek word for judging in the general sense of how we presently use the word judging is krino. In Romans, we find both this word and the word for condemnation—a most interesting construction katakrino (from kata—bad, krino—to judge.)

Thus what I may conclude, which is not conclusive, is that Jesus’s use of the word judge in the passages noted above was not restricted to the judging which condemns but was more universally the word as a whole. I would argue that if he intended the restricted meaning of the word “judge” he would have used the Aramaic for “katakrino” not the more general word.

Now, as the Greek New Testament is not in the original language that Jesus spoke, I must admit that there is the possibility that the Aramaic had no word for “condemn” and used only judge. This seems very unlikely to me, but I am not an Aramaic scholar, I couldn’t possibly begin to advance an opinion . However, if I am to believe in both the inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture (which I do) I am forced to ask the question as to whether so key a point would have been left to chance. I rather think not, but that thought is not conclusive.

One last point, in the interest of complete disclosure, the sense of “krino” does not seem to include the notion of passing sentence, but it does include the idea of censuring or judging as in a civil case. So it is possible that krino could contain within it the meaning of katakrino. My thought there is that one would tend to the more accurate representation of the thought—thus if Jesus had meant condemn, he would have used the word.

Later: In the interest of full disclosure, most of this post was made possible by extensive consultation and perusal of the On-Line Interelinear Greek New Testament (gateway here, , actual reference source here)with study notes. Hence the assertions i make are based on the efforts of others, not on my own knowledge. I am sorry for any confusion that I may have caused by this. Note to self: remember to credit ALL sources.

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I have to admit to being a bit nonplussed over some recent discussions regarding judgment and the licitity of participating therein. This issue is very near and dear to me for any number of reasons, perhaps both good and bad. And I do intend to make a non-scriptural argument for my position later. But right now is confession time.

As I read through scripture, I’m certain this issue was stuck in the back of my head. I was certain that folks who argued for the propriety of judgment were wrong. Well, lo and behold, as I was reading Romans, I stumbled upon this passage:

Romans 2: 1-4

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
[2] We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things.
[3] Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?
[4] Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Isn’t it amazing how the Lord comes to your rescue if only you are paying attention? And while I’d like to leave it there, it wouldn’t be entirely honest of me. I clung to these verses awhile and relished what they were saying TO ME. And I think that is a key issue here. Scripture speaks to us where we are and informs us of the thing God requires of us individually. If you read scripture with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will find with billions of others, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119.)

And I do believe that this passage reconfirms my mission and my message. However, to claim that it was written in support of my contention that one should never judge a person is patently false. This I discovered as I researched exegetes throughout time and how they viewed this passage from Romans. First, they took it with the next seven verses. Secondly the read the whole probably as Paul originally intended it, to be a blast against the cultic Jews who regarded their salvation as assured even as the pagans of the time were condemned. Paul was excoriating those Jews who pointed out the faults of the pagans while participating in them themselves. They were, in fact, doing what they were condemning in others. And the laws they cited against the pagan were, in fact, reflecting back on them.

Now, scripture is both in time and timeless. This passage was written to Roman Jews and Christians at a certain moment in time to address certain issues that had arise in that society. But the meaning of scripture is not confined to that time, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speaks through all of time to individuals and to the collective Church.

Nevertheless, while I would contend that the message provides support for my contention, proper study and interpretation of the literal meaning and intent of the passage certainly indicates that it was not what Paul originally meant nor intended.

This is the danger of citing scripture for your own purposes. It isn’t so much that you might be wrong in what you are saying (although that is certainly true) but there is always the possibility that what you are saying was meant for you alone or you in the execution of the task God has given you. Scripture has definitive universal meaning, which the Church preserves and helps to convey to all peoples and all generations. But scripture also has personal application and intent, revealed to an individual by the Holy Spirit. One must discern carefully in interpreting scripture that even the personal application does not fly in the face of Church teaching and the preserved revelation of the fullness of Scripture and Tradition handed down by the Church. Nevertheless, one must read and understand scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is intended to give life to our faith.

For a while, I was tempted to post this as a unilateral endorsement of my general theory of human conduct. I was tempted even after I knew the truth of what the passage intended. This temptation reflects Shakespeare’s contention (was it in Othello?) that , “The Devil can cite scripture for his own purposes.” To use scripture as a weapon, a bludgeon, or even as support for a good argument in defiance of the revelation of the Holy Spirit is a work of the devil. We must be honest and careful about how we use Scripture. It isn’t ever licit to use it as a trump card or as “the winning hand” in an argument. On the other hand, it is perfectly appropriate to present scriptural support for an argument.

I suppose I must admit that sometimes the desire to “win” an argument or sway opinion can overcome better judgment. It didn’t in this case. Scripture is a love-letter not a cudgel or a bludgeon to be wielded as we see fit.

Always beware scripture citations in support of an agenda or an argument. They may well be valid, but they may reflect a selective culling and consideration of the Holy Writ for the support of some cause. Any good cause so supported is diminished by such an irresponsible use. Any other cause simply proceeds from that which would always confound the Church given the opportunity.

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Rebuilding the Temple

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Following on a quotation from Saint Augustine noted by TSO yesterday, I turned my reading back to the Old Testament last evening, once again to savor the richness of the salvation story. Throughout this testament God's love is made manifest in His gift of the prophets. So I'll share with you a little reflection that came from reading one of the prophets less often read.

Haggai 1:2-9

2: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: This people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD."
3: Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet,
4: "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
5: Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
6: You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes.
7: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.
8: Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the LORD.
9: You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house.

Sometimes I am awed and in deep wonder at what the Lord allowed to come down to us in the Bible. The words here seem so irrelevant to us today. Haggai is told to tell the people of the exile now returned home to rebuild the temple of the Lord. What relevance does the rebuilding of the temple have for any of us today? Why do we hear this word?

I think it's fairly evident that the temple spoken of here is two-fold. There is the exterior temle, which is a powerful sign of God's presence among the people and the interior temple, which is also a shambles. In rebuilding the exterior temple, God is setting in motion a work that will help to transform the interior temple. By using the labor of their bodies, the people of Israel work within their souls to realize how lost they have been.

Look at the words of the passage above. How much more relevant could they possibly be for today? Verse 4: "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? " We build for ourselves (at least in this country) comfortable, perhaps too-comfortable lives--lives that are in many ways so comfortable that service to the Lord is an inconvenience--an arduous necessity that we do because we have to, but it really gets in the way of our rhythm. I know most St. Bloggers don't feel that way most of the time, but I know there are times when I would rather be doing anything o ther than Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer or any number of things I do to get in touch with God.

Look at verses 6-7 again: "You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared."

I toil at making more money at getting more things. I eat and eat and eat myself into oblivion. I live in a hypersexualized society that seeks to deaden the interior emptiness, the ruins inside, with progressively more perverse passtimes. Our modern fashions dress us in expensive clothes that reveal more and more skin--they don't keep us warm, but they keep us fashionable. And I never, never, never have enough of anything. As a society, we are morally bankrupt. We are attempting to gild the exterior of the ruined sepulchres that many have as souls. We seek to fill the emptiness inside with thngs from outside. We want to be full and propsperous and happy and we go about it in all the wrong ways.

If first I were to "Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the LORD" (verse 8), I would be rightly ordering things. Jesus says later, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." When I build God's temple first, when I please Him, I am starting down the right path. Building His temple by actions in this world, helps to sets to right the ruins inside. Yes, prayer and fasting and attendance at Mass are all necessary and fruitful, but I am enjoined to real action in this world. I must go to the hills and bring the living wood of souls who have not known the joy of the gospel message. I am to build God a house of humanity that worships Him and rejoices in His glory. It is in this substantive work in the world that I set to right what has gone wrong. (Keep in mind, this is all in cooperation with God's grace, I don't mean to say that I do it.)

Finally, in verse 9, it is again summed up. "You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house."

Perhaps I have looked for much outside of what is right and proper for me. Perhaps I have not looked for much in the right direction. I've looked inside to myself, rather than inside to the enthronement of the King. All of this comes to nothing. I gather these shreds of self, and the first zephyr that strokes my cheeks sends it all to ash and dust.

And why is all of this true? Because I have neglected God's house, the interior castle in which, too often, my Gracious King sits alone on a cold throne in an unlit room, while I scurry about attending to the emptiness inside by filling it with things, thoughts, and experiences. All the while I neglect my service. I do not render my humble homage of love, my duty of keeping company with the Lord of the Universe.

What can I expect other than the person that I am?

So perhaps Haggai is sent to remind the people of Israel, and the people of today, what the priorities are. Perhaps his words come down to us because they are words for every people of every age. They are a literal prefigurement of Jesus's profound teaching that God must come first. The throneroom must be decorated, lit, and kept warm to welcome Him, and we are to be constant attendants, servants always to the King who reigns over our souls. We are to build a suitable house through the offering of ourselves and those we meet each day. Only in this way will the chllly emptiness we try so desperately to fill be vanquished. He is King if only I will make Him King. He will not force His rule upon me. And I may only make Him King, if I treat Him as such, if I build His house in the world and in my soul.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Bible and Bible Study category from July 2004.

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