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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Running Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, part 1

I am reading the gospel of Luke and thought some readers might be interested in random comments that occur to me as I go through. If you are horrified by my violation of the separation of church and libertarianism, just skip these posts. One last caveat: I am going to adopt a literalist interpretation of the Bible when I post these comments. It's not that I necessarily think every passage of the Bible should be viewed as an excerpt from a history book, but I'm no scholar in such matters and for simplicity I take the text at face value for the purposes of this commentary.

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In Lk 1:5-20, we learn the story of Zacharias the priest. The angel Gabriel tells him that his wife, though thought barren, will conceive a son who will turn many back to the Lord. In addition, the son (who shall be named John) will prepare the people for meeting the Lord. But because Zacharias questions how this can be possible, the angel tells him he will be mute until the predictions have been fulfilled.

Now what's interesting is that in Lk 1:34, Mary (Jesus' mother) basically asks Gabriel the same thing, when he informs her that she will bear a son even though she is a virgin. Yet Gabriel doesn't zip her lips, he instead gently explains to Mary that the Holy Spirit will allow this apparent miracle.

The way I look at these types of things, this apparent discrepancy serves (at least) two distinct purposes. First, there is a basic fairness about it. An older male, trained as a priest, is certainly more deserving of a rebuke than a young girl.

However, as God's actions always do, this morally correct move also had pragmatic benefits. Zacharias had to raise a very hardcore son, who would be intimately versed in Jewish law but also have the physical stamina of Rocky Balboa. Apparently, God decided to have Zacharias think about it very seriously for nine months before taking up such an important task.

In contrast, for whatever reason muteness was not appropriate to prepare Mary for bringing the son of God into the world.

One last observation: Jesus would not have had the impact that He did, were it not for the groundwork laid by John the Baptist. The Jewish people simply wouldn't have been able to process Jesus if they hadn't first been exposed to John's message.

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