Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jesus and Laozi: sharing common wisdom

There are two different versions of Jesus' beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11 and Luke 6:20-26.

Matt 5:3-11 (NRSV)
5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Luke 6:20-26 (NRSV)
6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. "Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
Jesus' beatitudes have the language of reversal (deconstructive wisdom) that challenges the dominant view of success or blessings. That is, people in the culture of Jesus' day aim to be rich, great, filled with happiness, ambitious, self-reliant, self-exalting, and competent contenders of all riches and powers. But Jesus says that blessings come from seeking mercy, peace, and justice. 

Interestingly, Jesus' teaching echoes Laozi's (5th century BCE sage in China). Below is chapter 40 of the Tao Te Ching reputedly written by Laozi.

Reversion is the movement of the Way. 
Weakness is the function of the Way.  
All things in the world come from being. 
Being comes from non-being. 

反者道之動弱者道之用天下萬物生於有有生於無。

"Reversion is the movement of the Way" shows paradoxical truth that reverses common cultural wisdom in the day. In Laozi's time, people seek to be great and pursue power and wealth. But Laozi points out a better way of living a life by returning to the basics, which is none other than reversal or reversion of people's thinking or behaving. That is, people have to go against the culture of the day or popular wisdom that teaches only greatness. He goes on to say "weakness is the function of the Way," which is similar to Jesus' teaching about mercy or meekness. As we see above, Jesus and Laozi share a common wisdom based on reversal and weakness.

For more about Jesus and weakness, see the following book.



"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt 6:11)

"Give us this day our daily bread"
(Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον)

This is a part of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. 


Jesus taught about what God has done or what God is like in verses 9-10: "Our father, which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name; thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου, ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου, γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς.


In these verses 9-10 there are three things that are important to prayer: "our father and his name," "his kingdom," and "his will." First, God must be the holy Other ("in heaven") and take care of all (because it is "our" God, which is communal). God's holy name has to do with his character of love and caring for the world and people. Second, God's kingdom, better to translate the Greek noun basileia as "rule" than as "kingdom" because the point of the lesson by Jesus, as he says and does through the Gospels, is that God rules humans and the world. It must be God's activity or rule that is characterized by mercy, justice, and peace. Most important, God's rule comes in the here and now. It is not merely about future event or about a place. Third, in the end, with this coming of God's rule, God's will be done "on earth," as it is in heaven.


After a series of three godly things, Jesus asks to pray like this: "Give us this day our daily bread." Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον.


What is sought is "our daily bread." What is sought is a collective community that must survive with daily food distributed to all. "Our" means community and "daily" means each and every day. One cannot save for tomorrow. In Matt 6:25-34, Jesus talks about the importance of communal striving for God's kingdom and his righteousness.


More important, what is asked is not a million-dollar-table dish but the ordinay food. Bread means the most simple yet most natural food for the ordinary. What is asked for is not something luxurious or expensive. We should know how to be content with what we have.


[영어 신간소개] <약한 메시아: 약자의 눈으로 본 예수의 모습>




[신간]Yung Suk Kim, Messiah in Weakness: A Portrait of Jesus from the Perspective of the Dispossessed (Cascade Books, 2016)

이것은 영어책이다. 굳이 한국말 제목을 달자면 "약한 메시아: 약자의 눈으로 본 예수의 모습"이라 하고 싶다.


이 책은 약함에 대한 책이다. 약함은 헬라어로 astheneia이다. 약함을 어떻게 이해하느냐에 따라 예수의 모습이 달라진다. 흔히, 오랜 서구적인 전통을 통한 예수 해석은 “강자”의 눈으로 예수를 본 것이다. 즉, 하늘에서 온 “강한” 예수가 약자들을 대변했다고 보는 신학이다. 그러나 이에 대한 정면 반박으로 이 책이 쓰여 졌다. 즉, 땅에서 온 “약한” 예수가 약자들을 대변하였다고 보는 것이다. 예수를 약자의 눈으로, 약함이라는 새로운 정의로 바라볼 때 그의 삶과 사역, 죽음까지 잘 이해할 수 있다.


인간의 문제는 약함을 제대로 이해하지 못하는 데 있다. 인간은 죽게 되어 있는데 죽으려 하지 않기에 많은 문제가 발생한다. 인간은 본디 약한데 이것을 모르고 강하여지려고만 하는 것이 문제이다. 진정으로 약함을 안다는 것은 자기를 아는 것이며 그런 눈으로 이웃과 세상을 참되게 바라볼 수 있으며 하나님 앞에서 가장 인간다운 모습이 된다. 약함은 인간의 조건이며 미덕이 될 수 있다.

위와 같은 “약함의 시각”은 예수 당시 스토아 학파와 지배사회의 논리를 정면 도전한다. 그들은 말하길, “약함을 인정하되 그냥 체념하고 살아라. 그것은 타고난 운명이므로 바꾸려고 하지도 말고 자기통제(self-control)로 극복하라.” 그래서, 강자가 약자를 다스리는 것이 하늘의 뜻이라 말하며 약자를 합법적으로 억압하는 것이다.


그러나 예수는 복음서가 말하듯이 이런 지배사회의 논리를 부정하고 사회의 약자가 귀한 존재라 말하며 행동하였다. 그것은 “약함”에 대한 인식을 달리 한 반증이라 할 것이다. 즉, 예수는 약함을 타고 났으며 그것을 뼈저리게 경험하고 잘 해석하고 실천한 사람이다. 그의 약함에 대한 시각은 그의 어린 시절 삶과 가족환경, 갈릴리의 정치사회적 환경, 유대사회의 피폐, 로마제국의 강압통치, 민생의 파탄 등과 관련 있다. 이런 약함으로 가득찬 사회에서 약자를 위하여 “약한” 예수는 그의 삶을 바쳐 “하늘의 길”(하늘이 통치하는 세상)을 가르치며 행동하고 끝까지 그의 길을 걸어갔다.


그 결과 그는 십자가를 지게 되었으며 그 십자가는 약함의 역설을 보여준 사건이다. 즉, 그는 약하였기에 십자가를 질 수 밖에 없었다. 고후 13:4에 바울은 그런 예수의 모습을 분명히 말하였다. 즉, “그가 약하였기에 십자가에 못박혔다고. 그러나, 하나님이 그런 예수를 지금 살리었다고.” 예수의 약함과 십자가의 인과관계는 명확하다. 고후 13:4 전반부에 eks astheneias가 있다. 이 구절은 영어로 “out of weakness” 혹은 “by weakness”로 번역하는 것이 가장 원문에 가깝다. 그런데 많은 영어성경에서는 “in weakness”로 번역하는데 이는 예수의 자발적 대속론을 뒷받침하기 위한 자의적 번역이다. 대부분의 한국어 성경에서는 제대로 번역되었다. 예를 들어, “새번역”: “약하셔서 십자가에 못박혀 죽으셨지만.” 여기서 분명한 것은 예수는 스스로 자기를 구원할 수 없었다. 그는 약함으로 죽었고(약한 척한 것이 아니다), 그의 죽음은 약자들을 대변한 결과이다. 그러나 하나님이 그를 살리었다. 그것이 바울의 예수 이해이며 약함의 역설이다. 예수는 약함으로 죽었지만 하나님의 힘이 그를 살리었다. 예수의 십자가는 동시에 여러 가지를 보여주는 “약함”의 사건으로 해석하여야 한다. 즉, 예수의 십자가 처형은 하나님의 심판을 불러오며 처형에 가담한 자들이 마땅한 처벌을 받는 것이 하나님의 정의이다. 동시에, 십자가는 예수의 사랑과 희생정신을 보여준다. 그는 십자가의 길을 피할 수 있었으나 끝까지 하늘의 길을 따라 갔다. 또한 동시에, 약함으로 십자가에 못박힌 예수를 하나님의 힘으로 살린 것이니 하나님의 정의가 불의를 이긴다는 것을 보여준다.


-출판사 페이지 (Cascade Books)
-저자 웹사이트 책소개
-저자 연락처: ykim@vuu.edu

new book Messiah in Weakness



Messiah in Weakness

A Portrait of Jesus from the Perspective of the Dispossessed

ISBN: 978-1-4982-1745-3, Cascade Books, 2016

Kim raises a perennial question about Jesus: How can we approach the historical Jesus? Kim proposes to interpret him from the perspective of the dispossessed—through the eyes of weakness. Exploring Jesus’ experience, interpretation, and enactment of weakness, understanding weakness as both human condition and virtue, Kim offers a new portrait of Jesus who is weak and strong, and empowered to bring God’s rule, replete with mercy, in the here and now. Arguing against the grain of tradition that the strong Jesus identifies with the weak, Kim demonstrates that it is the weak Jesus who identifies with the weak. The paradoxical truth with Jesus is: “Because he is weak, he is strong.” In the end, Jesus dies a death of paradox that reveals both his ultimate weakness that demands divine justice, and his unyielding spirit of love for the world and truth of God.


In Messiah in Weakness, Dr. Kim presents the intriguing and engaging contextualized proposition that Jesus of Nazareth embodied both weakness and strength. Expanding the conceptualization of weakness, Kim convincingly demonstrates how Jesus, through his ministry of teaching and healing and his suffering/crucifixion, enacted weakness, advocating for the weak. Reading through the decolonizing lens of weakness, Kim guides readers through a path paved with history of interpretation, adept literary analysis, contextual theology, and cultural and contemporary relevance.
--Mitzi Smith, Ashland Theological Seminary



A timely intervention of public biblical interpretation. Yung Suk Kim's interpretation of Jesus provides a much-needed intervention in our current cultural moment. A society determined to assert its power naturally seeks a Jesus who affirms its striving -- Kim names such theologies idolatrous and demonstrates how Jesus brought transformation out of his own weakness. Acknowledging that we are all weak, he reasons, we can live in solidarity with the rest of humanity.
--Greg Carey, Lancaster Theological Seminary

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Jesus did not come simply to die"


Excerpts from
Yung Suk Kim, Resurrecting Jesus: The Renewal of NewTestament Theology (Cascade, 2015), 74-75.

Jesus did not come simply to die on the cross. He was supposed to live a good life without a tragic death on the cross. In other words, death is not the goal of his life, as opposed to the popular Christian belief that “Jesus came to die for us.” As we have seen in the previous chapter, Jesus came to proclaim God’s good news (euangelion tou theou), which is about God’s rule (Mark 1:14–15), to testify to the truth (John 18:37), and to show God’s righteousness through his faith (Rom 3:22). Jesus did not come to die for us but came to show who God is. The result is his death on the cross, a tragedy that cannot be romanticized or spiritualized for whatever reason. Jesus knew he would be killed if he continued his work.

Therefore, a mere emphasis on Jesus’ death or blood without looking at the historical context of his death is not only unrealistic, but keeps us from seeing both his love and passion for the world, and the ugly faces of the evil that are accountable for his death. If Jesus’ death is read only as a vi- carious sin offering, it is like suffocating Jesus’ testimony to God’s justice in the world. People often watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, weep, and thank Jesus because he was punished instead of them. This kind of penal substitution theory of atonement blinds people from seeing the evil system or powers held accountable for Jesus’ death. If Jesus’ death were God’s plan, then how can one account for the Gospel of Judas? In it, Judas Iscariot is praised because he helps Jesus to die so that salvation is complete. So the essential question before we explore the meaning of his death is why he was put to death. We care about Jesus’ death not because he died but because he died tragically because of his poignant teaching and dangerous acts toward the power center of Jerusalem and Rome. Crossan’s words are helpful here: “If Jesus had lived, did everything we know he did, and just died in his own bed, he must have been talking only about the interior life, because Rome is not paying attention, no one is bothered by it.”[1] So the relevant questions are: Why was he put to death? What does his work have to do with his death? These questions are crucial not only to understanding the death of Jesus but also to constructing New Testament theology.


[1] Crossan, The Message of Jesus, 54.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A peek at my new book MESSIAH IN WEAKNESS

Messiah in Weakness: A Portrait of Jesus from the Perspective of the Dispossessed (Cascade Books, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4982-1745-3


Exploring Jesus’ experience, interpretation, and enactment of weakness, understanding weakness as both human condition and virtue, this book offers a new portrait of Jesus who is weak and strong, and empowered to bring God’s rule, replete with mercy, in the here and now. Arguing against the grain of tradition that the strong Jesus identifies with the weak, this book demonstrates that it is the weak Jesus who identifies with the weak. The paradoxical truth with Jesus is: “Because he is weak, he is strong.” In the end, Jesus dies a death of paradox that reveals both his ultimate weakness that demands divine justice, and his unyielding spirit of love for the world and truth of God.
In Messiah in Weakness, Dr. Kim presents the intriguing and engaging contextualized proposition that Jesus of Nazareth embodied both weakness and strength. Expanding the conceptualization of weakness, Kim convincingly demonstrates how Jesus, through his ministry of teaching and healing and his suffering/crucifixion, enacted weakness, advocating for the weak. Reading through the decolonizing lens of weakness, Kim guides readers through a path paved with history of interpretation, adept literary analysis, contextual theology, and cultural and contemporary relevance. --Mitzi Smith, Ashland Theological Seminary
A timely intervention of public biblical interpretation. Yung Suk Kim's interpretation of Jesus provides a much-needed intervention in our current cultural moment. A society determined to assert its power naturally seeks a Jesus who affirms its striving -- Kim names such theologies idolatrous and demonstrates how Jesus brought transformation out of his own weakness. Acknowledging that we are all weak, he reasons, we can live in solidarity with the rest of humanity. --Greg Carey, Lancaster Theological Seminary

Synopsis

This book examines Jesus’ experience and understanding of weakness, compares his view of weakness with that held by the culture and philosophy of the Greco-Roman and Jewish world, and articulates how Jesus in his life and work employs and enacts an alternative virtue of weakness as the source of God’s power. This book also explores how Jesus as a person of true weakness is in close contact with the Spirit and challenges those hardened-hearts to be weak before God and the world. Jesus’ death on a cross is a paradox that reveals both his ultimate weakness that demands divine justice, and his unyielding spirit of love for the world and truth of God. In the end, a new portrait of Jesus emerges from the weak Jesus who himself is dispossessed and empowered to bring God’s rule in the here and now, which distinctly contrasts the hitherto widely accepted strong Jesus who merely identifies with the weak.


Concept of Weakness

Weakness is broadly defined as all aspects of weakness that permeate every sphere of human life. For example, we can think of physical or spiritual frailty, intellectual limitedness, and adverse human conditions due to social ills or natural disasters. But more than that, weakness also can be understood as virtue as opposed to the culture and philosophy in Jesus’ time. The alternative wisdom and power is well summarized by Paul: “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:25).

The book raises a host of weakness-related questions about God, Jesus, and ourselves:
  • What is weakness (astheneia)?

  • Was Jesus weak? Or did he simply identity with the weak?

  • How did Jesus see God and the world?
  • How can we explain Jesus' death in view of this lens of weakness?
  • Can we see God and world from the perspective of weakness?
  • Can we also read biblical characters through this lens of weakness?
  • How should we see ourselves?

Contents
Chapter 1
Introduction
Jesus and Weakness
Portrayals of Jesus
An Alternative View of Jesus: “Messiah in Weakness”
Chapter Outline
Chapter 2
The View of Weakness in the Hellenistic-Roman World
Political Ideology in the Roman Empire
Hellenistic Schools of Thought and View of Weakness
Summary
Chapter 3
The View of Weakness in Jewish Tradition
View of God in Creation Story
Deuteronomistic Works
Prophetic Writings
First-Century Judaism
Jesus’ View of Weakness
Summary
Chapter 4
Jesus’ Experience and Interpretation of Weakness
Jesus’ Experience of Weakness
Jesus’ Interpretation of Weakness
    Water Baptism
    Religious Symbols
Summary
Chapter 5
Jesus’ Enactment of Weakness
Teaching in Parables
Social Activism
Healing and Exorcism
Summary
Chapter 6
Jesus’ Crucifixion as a Paradox of Weakness
Jesus’ Crucifixion as a Paradox of Weakness
Jesus’ Crucifixion as out of Weakness
Jesus’ Crucifixion as Holy Death of Love
Jesus’ Crucifixion as Weakness that Demands Justice
Summary
Chapter 7
Conclusion
Laozi’s Tao Te Ching and Weakness
Weakness as a New Paradigm for Humanity
Excursus: Reading Biblical Characters through the Eyes of Weakness