Apr 21, 2009

Only God is Good: A Response to Mrllgoode

The second half of Mrllgoode’s comments in response to my post on Clement of Alexandria appear as follows:

“ The Most Hon. Elijah Muhammad teaches that partial and half truths are worst outright lies, tell the truth Jesus was a jew. I was born and raised a christian but in essence it is the cult of chirst. Please tell me where in the bible that the great man Jesus told the people to pray to him or worship him, do he not say "that their is none good but the father". “

Mrllgoode, you asked me to tell you, “where in the bible that the great man Jesus told the people to pray to him or worship, do he not say “that there is non good but the father” I will answer your question, Mrllgoode,but Jesus never said, “there none good but the father.” That is a false assumption where we are reading our patriarchal western preference for referring to god as a him when in the original greek text of the two gospels you are quoting, the word “father” (patros in the greek) does not appear.
Come, let us reason together: here are the quotes that you are referring to:

Mark 10:18 (NIV)- "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone
Luke 18:19 (NIV)- "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone.

In neither of these passages, nor in the chapters that these verses are found in, do we even find the noun “father” in the context to referring to the divine. So, from the beginning of your arguments, your misquotation of the New Testament reveals a weakness.

Now, why would Jesus say, “No one is good—except God alone.” In both contexts of these passages, Jesus is talking to the a rich man, who asks Jesus “How can I enter eternal life?” (Luke 18:18 & Mark 10:17 respectively). We cannot draw any conclusions about what Jesus is saying about himself simply by quoting him whenever we feel like he is saying something that may or may not agree with our religious beliefs. That is called proof-texting and it does real damage to the author, the story, and the person who is at the center of the narrative; in this case I am referring to Jesus the Messiah. What one could do in this situation, since these are not a simple passages to understand, is to examine these passages in light of their place in the respected chapters they are found in (Luke 18 and Mark 10). Now, was Jesus talking about himself as he is answering this rich man’s question? No, he is only, in the context of his conversation with the rich man (Mark 10:17-22 & Luke 18:18-25) teaching the rich man, the audience, and then his disciples, how to enter into the kingdom of God (what I call the empire of God, in the greek, basileus tou theou can mean empire, commonwealth, reign of god/the divine).

Now, the authors of Mark and Luke, are trying to create a picture of Jesus and the 10th chapter of Mark’s Gospel as well as the 18th chapter of Luke’s Gospel are definitely portraying Jesus as divine. How do I come to this conclusion, you may ask?

Well, I will provide on example from Mark’s gospel, which can just as readily be applied to Luke’s gospel as well. The author of Mark in Chapter 10 does something really interesting, where he contrasts a rich man mid-way through the chapter who is exposed as an unbeliever (Mark 10:22) in opposition to a poor blind man Bartimaeus who believes in Jesus and receives salvation (Mark 10:52) [The same story can be found in Luke 18, refer to Luke 18:23 versus Luke 18:42-43].

Now, there is a huge difference in the way that the rich man addresses Jesus and the way that the blind beggar approaches the LORD. The rich man calls Jesus “good teacher,” in the greek the noun for teacher is didaskale. The rich man see Jesus as just one teacher among many of those who hung out in the Jerusalem temple. There is nothing special about a teacher who sits around and debates without a divine mission. Even Nichodemus in John 3 recognized that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. Now, if we fast forward to Mark 10:51, we will see that the blind beggar refers to Jesus as Rabbi, which means either Great One or Teacher. At first, there would seem to be nothing messianic about this title. But we must realize, like you said that Jesus was a Jew, and not only that, but a participant in Second Temple Judaism. Second Temple Judaism had a lot of diverse views when it came to the Messiah. The Messiah was seen as a Davidic King, the pre-existent Son of Man found in Daniel 7, but the most neglected of these images is the Aaronic view of the Messiah. The Aaronic view of the Messiah saw the Messiah as a priestly-figure who would teach Jews how to worship God and, according to the tradition found in the last seven chapters of the book of Ezekiel, the priest serves as a high priest (or prince, but not a king) who makes sacrifices in the new temple. I have argued that Rabbi is a messianic title, and not just a religious title for a Jewish leader The Priestly View of the Messiah. So, the blind man, at the end of Mark 10 confesses Jesus as the priestly Messiah coming to teach us how to worship and live. Therefore, both Mark 10 and Luke 18, with their strong emphasis on the Son of Man traditions (Mark 10:33, 37, 45 and Luke 18:8, 31) as well as the royal title of Son of David (Luke 18:38-39, Mark 10:47-48) along with the messianic title of Rabbi [as opposed to being called didaskle in the greek] (Mark 10:51), we can be confident that Jesus’ divinity, as well as his divine mission as the Chosen One, the Messiah and Savior of the world is affirmed in these two passages.

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