Saturday, July 21, 2018

We better say we are on God's side



One thing I like to remind myself, again and again, is we better say we are on God's side, not the other way around. This means we have to know what God wants or wills. We have to be geared to seek God's will. Micah helps us in this regard:
O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)
But often we say God is on our side, saying God meets our need whatever it is. Often people use God's name only to do harm or injustice to others. Which God is on their side?  
  

겨자씨 비유에 대한 단상

[이 사진은 전주의 치명자산 순교지에서 
찍은 것이다. 차정식 교수의 인도에 감사]


겨자씨 비유는 여러가지를 시사한다. 우선은 작다고 무시하지 마라이다. 작음의 잠재성을 인정하라. 그리고 다른 하나는 성장이나 목표지향적 태도를 견제하기도 한다. 크고 화려한 것만 좋아하는 세태를 도전한다. 하나님 나라에선 작은 자들이 많아야 하고 그래야 은혜가 넘치고 봉사가 활발하며 꼭 필요하고 의미 있는 일을 하게 된다. 무조건 크고 웅장하고 대단한 일을 하는 것을 목표로 해선 안 된다.

사실상 겨자식물은 커 봤자 수 미터에 불과하다. 물론 씨의 크기와 비교하면 수 만 배 이상 성장한 것이니 기적에 가깝다. 그러나 분명한 것은 겨자식물이 세상에서 제일 가는 식물, 제일 큰 나무도 아니다. 나무 중에 제일 큰 나무는 115m 정도 되는 것이 현존한다. 백향목같이 아름다운 나무도 세상에 많다. 세상에서 누가 제일 크냐, 큰 교회냐, 그런 것이 성공을 좌우하는 것이 아니다. 무조건 커야 한다는 성장제일주의가 아니다. 이 비유를 잘못 오해하면 그렇게 읽게 된다.




Wednesday, July 18, 2018

왜 복음서에 "씨"에 대한 비유가 여러개 있을까?


복음서에 "씨"에 대한 비유가 4개 정도 나온다: 1) 씨뿌리는 자(공관복음); 2) 겨자 씨(공관복음); 3) 몰래 자라는 씨의 비유(마가); 4) 그리고 곡식과 가라지 비유(마태)이다. 씨 뿌리는 자에서 포커스는 씨 뿌리는 자이며 그의 행위를 눈여겨 봐야 한다. 겨자 씨의 비유에서 초점은 그 씨의 작음에 있고,  몰래 자라는 씨의 비유에서 중점은 몰래 자라는 씨의 놀라움에 있다. 곡식과 가라지 비유에서 중점은 혼재하여 자라는 밭이라는 현실에 있다. 

예수가 각 비유를 말했다면 각 비유는 다 다르고 다른 현실을 상정하고 다른 포인트를 말하고 있다. 즉, 삶의 정황이 다르다. Context가 다르다. 그러므로 이 다름을 섞어 하나의 결론을 내려하는 것은 무리다. 세상이 복잡하고 문제가 다르듯이 같은 씨라는 소재를 썼어도 각 비유에서 상정하는 현실문제는 다르다. 

씨 뿌리는 자의 비유에서는 세상의 고난과 방해, 어떤 역경에도 불구하고 씨는 뿌려져야 하며 그 풍성함을 바라보고 살라는 것이다. 씨가 무엇을 말하는지 그리고 씨가 떨어지는 환경이 무엇을 말하는지는 해석의 문제다.

그리고 겨자 씨의 비유에서는 "작음"의 역설적 힘을 강조하며 그 진실을 이야기하는 것이다. 작다고 무시하지 말라. 여기서도 작음이 무엇을 말하는지는 해석의 문제다.

몰래 자라는 씨의 비유에서 강조하고자 하는 것은 인간의 능력이 매우 제한되어 있으므로 여러가지 조건과 은혜를 감사하라는 것이다. 할 일은 하되 기다릴줄 알아야 한다.

마태에서 곡식과 가라지의 비유에서는 선/악의 공존의 현실 앞에 우리가 취해야 할 바람직한 태도에 대해서 질문한다. 예수도 이런 문제를 그의 사역에서 직면하고 그는 바리새인들과 달랐다. 후자는 세상을 쉽게 구분한다: 우리편과 악. 그러나 예수는 그런 구분을 무너뜨리고 창녀와 세리와도 교류했다. 이 비유에 대해선 이미 포스팅한 바 있으므로 아래에 옮긴다.

"곡식과 가라지" 비유는 마태에만 나오는 비유이다. 그래서 몇가지를 고려해야한다. 첫째, 이것이 예수의 원비유에 있는 것인가? 즉, 예수의 비유라면 어디까지 원비유이고 어떤 부분이 후에 첨가된 것일까? 만약, 예수의 원비유를 발굴하는 것에 중점을 두고 예수의 이야기에 관심을 가진다면 그는 어떤 현실을 염두에 두고 어떤 점을 그의 독자와 소통하려 하며, 어떤 놀라움과 도전을 주고자 하는가? 이것이 하나의 해석의 줄기가 될 수도 있고,

둘째, 혹은 예수의 원비유에는 일부있지만 마태가 많이 편집하였는가? 그렇다면 왜 그렇게 했을까? 즉, 마태에 중점을 두어 마태의 신학을 발굴하고자 하는 시도이다. 마태는 어떤 부분을 추가하고 어떤 알레고리적 해석을 하는가? 마태의 신학적 입장에서 이 비유가 어떻게 이용되고 있는가에 중점을 두는 해석의 길로 갈 수도 있다. 대개, 이 비유는 굉장히 마태적인 색깔이 덧입혀진 것으로 본다. 즉, 교회안의 선/악인의 공존, 세상에서도 그렇고, 그러나 최후심판까지 심판을 보류하고 각자 최선을 다하라는 메시지로 본다. 

세째, 이야기의 출처에 관계없이 이 비유를 메타포적인 이야기로 읽을 수도 있다. 이때 질문하게 되는 강력한 내용은 이것이다: 현실은 밭에 알곡과 가라지가 같이 자란다는 것이다. 이것을 두고 대처하는 주인의 방법은 굉장히 반전통적이다. 여기에 바로 비유의 도전이 있고 다시 생각해야하는 "아하" 순간이 있다.


Hilasterion (Rom 3:25)



Today's mind-boggling concept is atonement. What is atonement? How does it happen on Yom Kippur? What can we think about Jesus' death? We don't need scapegoats, the sacrifice of animals, or even the redemptive suffering or sin-offering stuff. We need an alternative understanding of this. I am working on this issue in Rom 3:25 (hilasterion). I am also writing a commentary on Romans. We will see it.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Author Interview: Resurrecting Jesus

 


Author: Yung Suk Kim

1. Your book title "Resurrecting Jesus" is very interesting. To be blunt, why did you write this book?

I wrote this book to tell the people that the historical Jesus must be brought back to our discussion of New Testament theology. The traditional New Testament theology has not seriously taken into account the work of the historical Jesus. For example, people have no interest in the question of what brought him to death. His crucifixion is the result of what he did. We have to know what he proclaimed and why he was willing to die. Otherwise, he was not born to die. Jesus is a historical figure who should not be domesticated by anyone.

2. What do you think is the primary work of Jesus?

I believe that Jesus' primary message or teaching is well summarized in Mark 1:14-15: "After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and God's rule has come near; change your heart and believe in the good news." As we see here, Jesus proclaims the good news of God; it is God's good news. Good news is about God: God's time and God's rule has come in the here and now (perfect tense). For this God's radical time and rule to be effective, people have to accept it by changing their minds, which is what metanoia means. So it is impossible to talk about Jesus without God-talk in first-centuryJudaism. New Testament theology would be misleading if we do not look at God to whom Jesus points his finger. Jesus does the works of God, not his own.

3. As you know, there is a big divide between history and theology, or between the historical Jesus and New Testament theology. For example, some historians say that the NewTestament is not based on the historical Jesus. How is it possible for you to do theology by drawing attention to both of these seemingly irreconcilable areas of study?

I believe that it is possible by redefining New Testament theology in which we can engage the historical Jesus. I broadly redefine New Testament theology as our explorations about God, the Messiah, and the world. New Testament theology is not constructed deductively (from heavenly revelation, for example), but can be constructed by readers who critically reevaluate not only the work of the historical Jesus but also various writings in the New Testament. So in my book, I define New Testament theology as follows:

New Testament theology involves both what the New Testament says about God, the Messiah, and the world, and how the reader evaluates, engages, or interprets diverse yet divergent texts of the New Testament, including difficult, sexist, and oppressive texts. The reader's task is not merely to discern what is good and acceptable in the New Testament, but also to surface its limitations by examining early Christians' disparate positions about God, the Messiah, and the world. Consequently, New Testament theology is constructed by the reader who deals with both the divergent texts of the New Testament and the historical Jesus to whom they refer. By carefully sifting through the layers of NewTestament witnesses while acknowledging unbridgeable gaps between them and the historical Jesus, the reader, in view of all aspects of life in the first century CE and today, has to explore relevant relationships among God, the Messiah, and the world.

4. Once again, why is the historical Jesus important to your New Testament theology?

Let me use a body analogy. Just as the body without the spirit is dead, New Testament theology without the historical Jesus is dead because the former is built on the work of the latter. No matter how many gaps exist between the historical Jesus and the New Testament, New Testament theology needs a solid understanding of the historical Jesus.

5. Can you give us a few examples of your critically reconstructed contents of New Testament theology?

Yes. For example, the"righteousness of God" will be redefined as God's righteousness rather than as an individual justification. "Faith of Christ Jesus" will be also redefined as his faithfulness through which he proclaims and embodies God's rule in the here and now. Accordingly, "the kingdom of God" will be redefined as God's rule in the here and now that challenges Rome's rule or any obstacles that occlude the flow of God's justice. In the end, Christians will be redefined as Christ-followers who do the works of God.

6. What do you want to say to your readers if they ask why this book should be a must read?

I like to list three important benefits for readers:
  • Getting a better, clearer understanding of the historical Jesus and the New Testament writings that refer to him.
  • Exploring the significance of Jesus' life, teaching, and death, based not on doctrine but on his work of God in first-century Judaism and Palestine
  • Redefining NewTestament theology as a process of discerning and engaging the historical Jesus and the New Testament writings.
7. Do you believe your newly defined New Testament theology can help improve human conditions?

Yes, very much so. We can learn from Jesus and follow in his footsteps that embody God's presence in the here and now. Jesus' death is the result of his costly proclamation of God's rule in the here and now. It is not somewhere else than here. However, there are lots of people who see Jesus' death merely as salvific, vicarious atonement that does not look into the evil hands responsible for his crucifixion. By the way, Jesus' death is the form of crucifixion, capital punishment by Rome. So when we see Jesus' crucifixion, we have to see both God's love that he embodies at the risk of his life and God's judgment that brings evil people and power to justice. Condoning evil is not the point of Jesus' crucifixion.

Matters of Justice and the Parables of Jesus

Yung Suk Kim

Jesus's parables deal with various aspects of life in the here and now, ranging from the desirable work ethic to social justice. His parables are not about another world, but about this world that needs God’s justice. Without question, justice is an important theme in his parables. Justice is essential for individuals, community life, and society at large. When people are not given an equal opportunity to flourish, Jesus talks about the potential of each person through the parable of the mustard seed. When people are starving to death, justice means they need food and immediate support from others and society. This aspect of justice is seen in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. When people are treated unfairly or unjustly in their personal or social life, justice means fixing the broken system or the wrongdoing. This aspect of justice is seen in the parable of a widow and an unjust judge. When all people are not given the same opportunities to work, justice means giving them work and paying them what is just or right. This aspect of justice is observed in the parable of vineyard workers.

Oftentimes, readers may be confused about the different kinds of justice in Jesus’s parables. This article deals with three important aspects of justice found in Jesus’s parables: attributive justice in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30); distributive justice in the parable of the vineyard workers (Matt. 20:1-16); and retributive justice in the parable of a widow and an unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).

Attributive Justice and the Parable of Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)
Attributive justice means that “you get what you earned.” Here the logic is “the more work, the more gain.” This point of justice is observed in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). The servants who received the five and two talents worked hard and produced much. They were trusted to do good things and they did their best. The master commended them, not because they made lots of money or made him richer, but because they worked hard on their responsibility. They did everything they could with this large amount of money. In fact, the master neither told them what to do with the money nor promised them he would return. But they just demonstrated a good work ethic on their own. Even if they lost a significant amount of money or everything, while doing their best, they would not have been scolded like the servant who received the one talent and did not do anything other than hiding it in the ground. The reason is that they did their best with due respect for their master. Luckily, they were successful. Attributive justice makes great sense here.

The five or two talents may be compared to gifts or wealth given to people who are expected to use them properly to contribute to the well-being of society. If we think this master is a good one, his servants must know what he wants. There is no decisive clue that this master is exploitive because he does not ask his servants to make lots of money. Rather, he entrusts his property to them. Since he gives everything to them, he is at the great risk of losing it all. But he entrusts it to them. In this implicit context, the servants must know what they are supposed to do. They act responsibly and are rewarded with good things.

But the servant who received the one talent did not do anything but hid it in the ground. The result is that he could not produce more than what he already had. In fact, he lost a social opportunity/capital that could have been invested for others in society. One talent is not a small amount of money; it is equal to 6,000 denarii. One denarion is the usual daily wage. By today’s standards, if one earns 100 dollars a day, one talent would be about one million dollars. He was fearful that he might lose everything if he did anything with it. He also had the fear that the master would punish him if he lost the money. In a way, he was smart because he could maintain the one talent intact by not taking the risk of investment. Others say his act of hiding the money in the ground is deemed an implicit resistance to the master’s exploitive behavior. That is, he refused to make lots of money for the master. But this view, while not implausible, is not convincing, given what the servant says and how the master responds to him. This servant says that his master is a harsh man who is exploitive to people (Matt. 25:24): “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.” He goes on to say: “so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (Matt. 25:25). That is, he judged that his master would punish him if he lost the one talent. That is exactly the problem that the master points out and replies: “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest” (Matt. 25:26-27). The master clearly rebuts this slave’s judgment against him. That is, the master does not agree with his judgment. He is not a harsh man who exacts undeserved profit. Rather, his point is that the servant did not do anything with this huge opportunity with the one talent. Given this character of the master, even if the servant lost some or all the money while trying hard, he may not have been scolded at all.

But now the master’s judgment seems cruel: “take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents” (Matt. 25:28). The master’s point is that opportunities cannot be wasted and that the servant’s job is to do his best. Clearly, Matt 25:29-30, which seems to be Matthew’s addition to the parable proper, should not be the conclusion of this parable because these verses reflect his theology and theme of the last judgment: “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Distributive Justice and the Parable of Vineyard Workers (Matt. 20:1-16)
Distributive justice means that members of society must be given a fair distribution of goods or resources. Simply stated, it is about economic justice. The best example of this justice is found in the parable of “vineyard workers” (Matt. 20:1-16). The landlord takes care of all the workers in his vineyard, regardless of how many hours they worked. He also tries to hire all he could find in the labor market. He goes out to the labor market five times, from early morning to late afternoon, just an hour before the vineyard closes. In this regard, he is an unusual landlord who hires at all times than just at the beginning of the day. More than that, he pays all of them the same usual daily wage (a denarion, the Roman silver coin). On the one hand, this wage is referred to as “what is right,” which is not too small or too big. Legally speaking, those who joined the vineyard earlier cannot complain about the same amount they received because they agreed to these terms when they were hired.

On the other hand, some scholars think that the landlord ruined attributive justice because he did not pay more to those laborers who entered the vineyard early in the morning. But there is no guarantee that they had worked harder than others who joined later. We do not know whether they have worked harder or not. One clear thing is that they stayed the whole day. Even if they worked hard, they were supposed to receive the usual daily wage, which was promised by the landlord. The landlord ensures full employment and a proper wage for all so that they may support their families. If some were left out without finding work, they would return home with empty hands. That would be a great injustice!

Against the complaints from the earlier workers, the landlord defends himself, saying that he is good (agathos), not merely “generous,” as usually translated, for example, in the NRSV and NIV. His point is not that he could do anything because everything belongs to him or because he is powerful. No, he did not act like an exploitive ruler because he promised to pay “what is right” (the usual daily wage) to them. The problem for some is that he paid the same amount to all, regardless of the hours they worked. Those who came early in the morning thought that they would receive more. Their thinking was misguided by envy, and they forgot about their contract of the daily wage. Against their grudges and complaints, the master justifies his act of justice by saying that he is “good,” which means that he is righteous (morally justifiable). That is, his character and actions are good because he cares for the needy equally. In other words, even if he did not promise how much he would pay to those who joined in the last hour, he already knew that they also needed the usual daily wage. In fact, those who came in the last hour wanted to work, but were not hired early enough. It is not their fault that they were hired late. Probably, some of them came late to the streets of the labor market due to sickness or family emergency. Or others may have been transferred to this place after finding no work at other places. They were not necessarily lazy. Thus, attributive justice should not apply here. When they were finally hired, they must have been very happy and may have worked harder than others. To the envious workers hired earlier, his act seems unfair or manipulative, but to those who need economic justice, what the master did is authentic distributive justice.

Retributive Justice and the Parable of a Widow and an Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8)
Retributive justice means that an evil act is checked and corrected and that the victim should be granted justice. A widow in the parable of “a widow and an unjust judge” (Luke 18:1-8) seeks such important retributive justice: “Grant me justice against my opponent” (Luke 18:3). To her, those who held accountable for injustices must be brought to justice. Easy forgiveness without justice or condoning evil is in itself evil because the victim will never recover from the damage done without receiving justice. In this parable, we do not know where or how she was treated inhumanely or unjustly in the matter of personal or economic relations. The bottom line is that she addresses the issue of injustice. Until she is heard, she keeps coming back to the judge. With all hurdles set against her, she does not waver in her faith about God’s justice. Finally, the judge hears her request, not because he understands or cares for her, but because he does not want her to bother him anymore. He is very selfish and is unlike God who cares for widows, orphans, or the poor. Clearly, this parable is not about the need “to pray always and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1; c.f., 18:6-8). In the parable proper (Luke 18:2-5), there is no motive of prayer; rather, the parable is concerned with why justice matters and how it can be attained. Nevertheless, Luke changes “this story of an unconventional woman” into a story of prayer and “casts her in a docile and acceptable role as an example of praying always, much like Anna, who spent eighty-four years praying in the Temple (Luke 2:36-38).” In fact, this widow is “a powerful portrait of a godly widow persistently pursuing justice.” In all these parables above, justice matters, but readers must know what kind of justice is a major concern in each parable.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Ten most important lessons of the parables of Jesus


From: READING JESUS' PARABLES WITH DAO DE JING


1. Sow seeds to the ground as widely as possible without discrimination
    Sower
    *Dao De Jing 5, 49


2. Know that you cannot do all
    Seed Growing Secretly
    *Dao De Jing 71


3. Acknowledge the coexistence of good and evil
    Wheat and Weed
    *Dao De Jing 74


4. See the hidden potential
    Leaven
    *Dao De Jing 66


5. See the power of small
    Mustard Seed
    *Dao De Jing 52

6. Think from other person’s perspective
    Vineyard Workers, Good Samaritan
    *Dao De Jing 22, 25, 40, 45, 77


7. Do not compete with others; find a way to live together
    Father and Two Sons, Pharisee and Tax Collector
    *Dao De Jing 8


8. Find the most valuable and live with it
    Pearl
    *Dao De Jing 56
9. Do your best without fear
    The Parable of Talents
    *Dao De Jing 13, 50


10. Do not fill your mind
    Rich Fool, Empty Jar (Gospel of Thomas)
    *Dao De Jing 3, 9, 15