Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Jesus often used similes in his parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like. . . .” (See Matthew 13: 31, 33, 44.) In other places, the Bible uses metaphors for God, such as rock (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 62:3) and shepherd (Psalm 23:1; Ezekiel 34:11-16). Jesus describes himself metaphorically as the bread of life (John 6:35-51) and the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). The Spirit is portrayed as breath (Genesis 2:7; Job 32:8) and wind (John 3:8). Can’t literalists be honest and admit these are all fingers pointing to the moon? God is not literally a rock or an actual shepherd on a hillside somewhere, yet we need these images to “imagine” the unsayable Mystery.
Christians must also admit that the New Testament was largely written in Greek—a language which Jesus did not speak or understand—and the text was mostly written thirty to seventy years after Jesus’ death, centuries before the age of digital recorders. We have only a few snippets of Jesus’ precise words in his native Aramaic. We can only conclude that Jesus’ exact words were apparently not that important for the Holy Spirit—or for us. This should keep us all humble and searching for our own experience of the Risen Christ now instead of arguing over Greek verbs and tenses.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, an unpublished talk, Canossian Spirituality Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 3, 2016
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