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Sunday, April 01, 2012

The anointing at Bethany: Vonnegut


- Jesus is anointed at Bethany by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

I was thinking about how Jesus spent the day after Palm Sunday. Wikipedia states .....

The Gospels of these days [M-W] recount events not all of which occurred on the corresponding days between Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and his Last Supper. For instance, the Monday Gospel tells of the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-9), which occurred before the Palm Sunday event described in John 12:12-19.

The anointing reading has Jesus speaking a line I really dislike because it's been used to justify allowing the continued existence of poverty - the poor you always have with you. I was interested to see that Kurt Vonnegut had something to say about this line ....

In the autobiographical Palm Sunday, author Kurt Vonnegut reports being invited to preach on Palm Sunday in 1980, and chooses for his text the Gospel of John's version of the anointing. Vonnegut did so because he had "seen so much un-Christian impatience with the poor encouraged by the quotation"; he questioned the translation, saying it lacked the mercifulness of the Sermon on the Mount, and took the opportunity to offer his own translation:[4] .....

The key to understanding Jesus' response is to recognize that he is quoting scripture here .... Deuteronomy 15:11, "Since you always have the poor with you, I therefore command you,'Open your hand to the poor and needy in your land.'" Jesus always showed special care and concern for the poor, and his disciples would be expected to continue to do so. But this is a special, one time event on the eve of Jesus' death.
- Wikipedia


2 Comments:

Blogger Deacon Denny said...

That's what I finally settled on, as the way to understand it. There's also another good way to understand it... that it quite literally meant that the poor WERE always with Jesus and the other disciples...that they WERE a part of the community of followers; i.e., not separate. It changes the understanding, since then Jesus couldn't have been making any kind of statement against them, or talking about a social or economic order of things that couldn't be changed... since they WERE a part of the community, things were already changing.

2:12 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I think you're right. All the other stuff he said about the poor - that people should give their money to them, etc. - would seem to imply he was for making an effort to reduce poverty, not accept it. It's surprising though the number of people who use this line to justify being against financial/social reform.

4:55 PM  

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