Our Traditions

Image by Manuel Darío Fuentes Hernández from Pixabay 

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10

James 1:17-27

Mark 7:1-23

1-5 And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem. They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands—meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing. [footnote] So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus, “Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with ‘common’ hands?”

[footnote] The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way literal Greek: “except they wash the hands with a fist,”, following a traditional rule. And they will not eat anything bought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”. And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs and basins. Phillips

I pulled verses 3-4 out as a footnote because that is the way it would be treated if written today. Mark wanted his Greek readers to understand the “strange” ritual of the pious Jews. I expect most of us grew up with parents who insisted on clean hands at the dinner table, and in this time of Covid concerns, more people are careful than even before. I wash all fresh produce as soon as I get it home, even if it is to be cooked.

The Greek word used for ‘wash’ here is based on the word for baptism, meaning that the hands and food are thoroughly cleaned. Just because your apples are in a plastic bag does not make them clean; in fact, they are more likely to be a health risk because of incubation in the enclosed bag.

What we need to understand is that washing hands and food is sound health policy, but it is not sound theology. No where in the 613 commandments are we instructed to wash before eating. It is reasonable to conclude that God wants us to do so given that there are several commandments that encourage cleanliness, but no command.

Also, notice how Jesus responds. He does not defend his disciples.

6-8 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote—‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’. You are so busy holding on to the traditions of men that you let go the commandment of God!”

9-13 Then he went on, “It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’ and ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death’. But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban—meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God invalid for the sake of the tradition which you hold. And this is typical of much of what you do.” Phillips

Korban is sacrifice, in the simplest sense. Giving time, money, talents, fall under the definition in ancient Hebrew context. What has Jesus so upset is the—apparently—common practice of Pharisees of dedicating all their wealth to God so that they could say, sorry folks, I have no money for you. And, yes, I left out an important point. The Pharisees dedicated their wealth to God upon their deaths, so they were free to spend it on themselves meanwhile. Talk about a nice tax loophole.

If you peek back at chapter 6, there was a lot going on; Jesus had to be getting tired after feeding 5,000+, walking on water, and healing countless people. And these wise-guys from the city want to challenge him on hand washing—ritual washing, no less—no wonder Jesus unloaded on them.

14-15 And He called the people to [Him] again and said to them, Listen to Me, all of you, and understand [what I say]. There is not [even] one thing outside a man which by going into him can pollute and defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him and make him unhallowed and uncleanAmplified Bible

This translation helps us to understand that Jesus was not talking about getting sick from eating tainted food. He is talking here about washing our hearts out of respect for God; about staying true to His Word.

Most modern translations do not include verse 16 because it never appears in the oldest copies—copies that have only been uncovered in the past couple of centuries.

17 And when He had left the crowd and had gone into the house, His disciples began asking Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, Then are you also unintelligent and dull and without understanding? Do you not discern and see that whatever goes into a man from the outside cannot make him unhallowed or unclean, 19 Since it does not reach and enter his heart but [only his] digestive tract, and so passes on [into the place designed to receive waste]? Thus He was making and declaring all foods [ceremonially] clean [that is, abolishing the ceremonial distinctions of the Levitical Law]Amplified Bible

If you read most modern English translation, you will see that they say the same thing that the Amplified version gives us. If we could read the Greek, we would see a less sanitized rendering than most of those translations.

Mark does include the footnote declaring all foods clean. Jesus did not say that as a part of this passage, but by the time Mark wrote the Gospel, Peter had received the first direct message in his dream where God told him to eat all that was before him, and Paul delivered the same message in his letters.

So, while God commanded, Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean. (i.e. shrimp, clams, catfish), Deuteronomy 14:9-10 we are now free to eat shrimp, clams, catfish, grubs, grasshoppers, and scrambled eggs-and-calf-brain.

20 “It is what comes out of a person,” he went on, “that makes him unclean. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come forth wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness…. 23 All these wicked things come from within, and they make a person unclean.” CJB

20 “It is what comes out of a person,” he went on, “that makes him unclean. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come forth wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness…. 23 All these wicked things come from within, and they make a person unclean.” CJB

Continue to wash your hands and your food, but never ignore God and His Ways.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Some of You Do Not Believe

1 Kings 8:1-43

Psalm 84

Ephesians 6:10-20

John 6:56-69

We need to start with a short (?) Greek language lesson. Beginning in verse 5, the verb phagōsin (eat) first appears (in chapter 6) for the feeding of 5,000. Forms of the word are found in verses 23, 26, 31, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, and 58; in each case it is translated as eat, ate, etc. The word is found 158 times in the New Testament.

The second word we need to look at is trōgō (crunching, gnawing, chewing) found only 6 times in the NT, once in Matthew [Matthew 24:38. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the arkNIV] and 5 times in John. We see it in this reading in verses 54, 56, 57, and 58. [John 13:15. I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against meNIV Psalm 41:9]

These last four verses use a harsher word. Here are a few examples. The one who feasts on meCotton Patch Whoever feeds on my fleshESV Most translate it as ate and the Expanded Bible has this note: Those who ·eat [feed on; Jesus uses a different Greek word for “eat” in vv. 54–57 than in the previous verses; but the difference is probably stylistic]

I began this rabbit trail because the NET records the early word as esthio. The word does mean eat, but I could not find the word used anywhere in the assigned reading. My conclusion is that someone made a small error. That’s one out of 60,932 notations.

56 The man who eats my body and drinks my blood shares my life and I share hisPhillips This is a statement explaining what Jesus is getting at. If we take in the words of Jesus (to eat his flesh) and imitate his life (drink his blood), we will live forever with God in all his forms.

57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of meNET This gives us another look at how we will be fed. God fed Jesus and Jesus feeds us. Remember that Jesus was human. To maintain his perfection, he had to be constantly refreshed by God. I don’t believe that Jesus was God. He is called the Son of God in the NT, but never God.

I think the Son of God is an expression we can get our human heads around. If we try to imagine God, who is both larger than the universe and not of this universe, becoming a human; it would be like stuffing an elephant into a baby sock.

God did something much more impressive. He created a fully human baby with perfection in his genes and allowed that baby to grow up in a human family; to be trained by the family and others much as any human would be, except his DNA allowed him to always hear the voice of God, his Father. Even as a fetus, he knew the presence of God.

All these sayings create panic in his followers.

60 Many of his disciples heard him say these things, and commented, “This is hard teaching indeed; who could accept that?” Phillips They seem to have taken Jesus’ words literally and were disgusted, grossed out. And we should be grossed out if Jesus expected us to chew on his tibia.

That was not his message. We are to feed on his word and drink the power juice called the Holy Spirit. It all comes from God.

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and lifeESV This is the lesson.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” NIV

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence