Saturday, January 3, 2015

Paradoxes and ecstasy in the gospel of Luke

A paradoxical situation is a situation that seems logical or contradictory. There is a particular passage in the gospel of Luke (chapter 5) in which something paradoxical happens. It is the passage where a paralysed man have been brought to Jesus so that he may heal him. This ensues:

          Jesus saw the faith of the crowd

          Jesus says to the man: “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 

          The educated people of the time, the scribes and Pharisees,
          start to question what Jesus is doing:
              Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
              “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies?
          Jesus notices their questions and addresses them in a practical way:
               Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?
               Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?

          Jesus explains what he wants to show:
               in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins

           so he says to the paralysed man: 
                “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” 
           and the man stands up, in front of the people, takes his bed, and goes home.
           He goes home glorifying God.

           Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying,
                 “We have seen strange things today.”

Now, the last sentence is a very interesting sentence since to my knowledge it is the only sentence in the new testament that contains the world paradox. In Greek:

καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας, καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεόν, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου λέγοντες ὅτι εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον. (Lk 5:26)

These are several interesting things in this sentence. These are the reactions of people to the action of Jesus:

a)  ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν : They were taken by ecstasy, that is translated by amazement seized all. It is related to the trance or great amazement that happened when Jesus raised the young dead girl (Mc 5:26), or that that the women fell when they found the empty tomb. 
b)  ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεόν : They glorify God. What Jesus did was reckoned as the action of God.
c)  ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου : They were filled with fear. This is the trembling that accompanies being in the presence of God. 

So finally they say:

εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον : "We have seen a paradox today". It seems to me that it is not only something strange that they have seen but something astonishingly out of what they had expected, a paradoxical situation. And what was the paradox? I would say that it is not that someone was healed, but that the sins of a man have been forgiven by another man. The healing there was to prove the point of the forgiveness of sins. People went home with a paradox to mull over, something that apparently was logically contradictory had happened, which made them go into trance, worship God, and to stand before him in fear and trembling. 

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