Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A healing without barriers

For three months I've been contemplating Biblical text that is unique to Luke.  The text; Luke 13:10-17, identifies a healing.  The healing occurs on a Sabbath, in a synagogue, and at Jesus Christ's own initiation.  It is perhaps unique amongst other healing stories for that combination of characteristics.  The healing is also special in that both voice and touch are used by Jesus.

free and unattributable

One puzzling aspect of the text had me searching for answers.

I was puzzled in that the separations of persons male/female, jew/gentile etc within the Jewish Temple were well identified in both Old Testament and new Testament.  However, such custom of separation of persons within a synagogue is not communicated within the Bible.  Indeed, the design of the Temple lent itself to separations of persons as the temple is a building that is compartmentalised.

The questions roaming around my head were:

What was the custom of separation of persons within synagogues?  What do we understand of the break in custom of the woman approaching Jesus and men who would be seated while Jesus teaches?   

The answer to those questions informs an understanding of the element of faith that the woman exhibited.  Did the woman, for instance, break custom in crossing a barrier to respond to Jesus.  By 'barrier' I was not imagining a physical one - as would exist within the Temple - but instead, a customary one.

Luke's account seems indifferent to place and time so it would possibly be quite difficult for scholars to identify exactly which synagogue Jesus was in.

A fellow dinner guest at a year-end dinner party, a highly regarded Biblical scholar at a nearby university, provided the answers.  The answers in point form are:

  • While much is known of the Temple design, and of Temple use, relatively little is known of synagogue design and use,
  • It is highly unlikely that the separation of persons, that is identified to the Temple, is identified to synagogues,
  • While it was known that some synagogues were enclosed buildings, some synagogues were perhaps in open air (or often had enclosed open air spaces such as gardens),
  • While the Temple dates to many hundred years before Christ, synagogues only date to about 300  years before Christ,
  • Teaching and worship in synagogue's probably adopted less formal structures than seen in the Temple.    The synagogue probably had a multiple number of uses throughout a week and on the Sabbath, and, 
  • While the Temple was a national building, synagogues were purpose built to serve the local community. 

Therefore, it is plausible that the woman crossed no physical or customary boundaries within the synagogue.  It is an answer that is very neat.  It is neat as it plays well with the whole of the text in that Jesus is challenged for healing on the Sabbath.  In this, the women did cross a barrier - a religious one - for a person was not to heal on the Sabbath.   The woman crossed the religious barrier in faith.  She crossed it to Lord of All.

And to God's glory the woman was healed.


Note: All links good at 26 December 2016

Note: The text internally has a clue to use of the synagogue.  The synagogue leader, by his rebuke, indicates that the people may come to the synagogue for healing on other days of the week (verse 14).  It is plausible that the synagogue was thus used for prayer and supplication on the non-Sabbath days.

Note: It is a true delight of the Bible that one can return to it again and again and ask questions of it.  The Bible makes for a seven course degustation meal where one may chew on every bone and suck every bit of marrow all while letting juices run down the chin!

No comments:

Post a Comment