Tag Archives: Bible translation

8 March. Zacchaeus and Jesus II: The Chief Tax Collector.

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There is seemingly an unimportant phrase at the end of the first sentence of the gospel passage from Luke (19:1-10) given in yesterday’s posting. If you missed it, I recommend scrolling back to it. There are a few words in the beginning that are very easy simply to skim over. The text tells us that Jesus was going through Jericho when ‘…suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance.’ It’s the words ‘made his appearance’, that are so telling, I believe. They are an English interpretation of the original Greek text, rather than a literal translation of the Greek words, but I believe the translators of the New Jerusalem Bible are using the phrase in order to introduce the reader subtly to the theme of suffering in Zacchaeus’s life. There is a sub-text in these words. Usually when we say So and So “made his appearance” we are smirking. We are putting a negative spin on the words because we are talking about someone who is not very likeable, someone whose actions may have harmed us or a person we love, someone who never enters a public scene without having some ulterior motive. The phrase implies, “Oh no. What’s he doing here?” On this particular occasion a crowd has gathered in order to see Jesus, who was known to be a holy man and a healer. This is an occasion in which a dishonest person and a swindler would not be expected even to be interested.

And, yet, Zacchaeus – a chief tax collector, as the Greek text tells us – was there. Tax collectors were notorious in Jesus’ day for being dishonest, callous, thieving characters, who took more money than they had a right to, in order to line their own pockets. These were Jews who were employed by Rome, the occupying power, and who were therefore considered by devout Jews to be apostates from their own faith, and loyal to ‘the enemy.’ Zacchaeus was no different. If anything, he would have been considered to be worse than many tax collectors, an ‘arch-enemy’, because as chief tax collector, he was in charge of a whole district, and doubtless was responsible for ensuring that those under him did not become too lenient toward those owing tax money. And this man ‘makes his appearance’ – here, of all places.

The people in the crowd probably glance at Zacchaeus warily, then exchange looks with one another. Maybe the only thing that prevents some of the men in the crowd from confronting Zacchaeus is the thought that this, after all, is an event in which a holy man will be present. It would not do to have a brawl. In any case, Zacchaeus had power to ruin anyone who made his life difficult. So, the people in the crowd try to act as though Zacchaeus isn’t there.

That Zacchaeus was ‘blanked’ by the people, that all were complicit in an act of passive aggression against him can be inferred from the text, where it says, He kept trying to see who Jesus was, but he was short and could not see him for the crowd. In other words, the crowd closed ranks against Zacchaeus. They would not let him through. He was a well-known figure not only in Jericho, but in the district. In this setting, had he been a public person of some other profession, with a reputation for kindness and philanthropy, surely he would have been allowed to pass through. A little murmur of recognition would have gone through the crowd, and Zacchaeus would have found a pathway opening up for him, making it possible for him to move forward. But nothing of the kind happens. He is ostracised.

SJC

 

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23 January: Church Unity Week, Behind this door …

 

.archivegarage

Behind this garage door is a garage, as you might expect, but this is London, where you can expect the unexpected.

In this case, the archives of the Archdiocese of Westminster. There’s a postern within the door that a researcher can be let through, then past the car and into a warm welcome from the archivists.

Public Domain, via Wikipedia

The archives hold material from well before the Archdiocese came into being in 1850, including works of Bishop Richard Challoner, 1691-1781, who was Bishop in London when Catholics still were not supposed to exist, so he lived and worked in secret, ever in danger of arrest or attack. He wrote extensively for his flock, including a catechism, a revision of the Douay Bible translation, and the Garden of the Soul, a prayer book designed for people who had to live for long periods without the Sacraments or a priest visiting.

In this week of prayer for Christian Unity, let us thank God for the freedom to worship enjoyed in Britain today, and pray for those Christians elsewhere who may not worship as their conscience and loyalty lead them to.

Here is a page from the Garden, describing how to start the day. Not bad advice at all, though parents may feel it’s not entirely practical! It’s the coffee after they’ve left the house that allows a moment of morning offering for some of us; but read on!

Challoner p17.

MMB.

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Jerome, Who Brought the Scriptures to Ordinary People.

30th September     Saint Jerome

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We owe Jerome great gratitude for his work to ensure a reliable text of the Bible but also for establishing the principle of translating the sacred texts from the original into the language of the people – in his case the Vulgate Latin that people actually spoke to each other. If ‘vernacular’ everyday language was good enough for men and women to understand each other, it was good enough for them to understand God; and to speak to him as well.

The precedent was set on the first Pentecost when the Apostles were understood by those who heard them, wherever they came from; then in early times Thomas went to India, preaching the Good News there, Phillip to Africa; Paul, Mark, Barnabas, Mary Magdalene – and Peter himself – dispersed across the Empire.

Jerome had a reputation as a quarrelsome man, but his talent for languages was put at God’s service and was his way to salvation. For that matter, so was his argumentative side, for he was ever ready to defend the faith in writing.

Later in life Jerome became a hermit, and he is often shown in a cave with a lion. The story is that this beast came to him with a thorn in its paw, and became a faithful companion after Jerome had tweezered it out.

www.wikiart.org commons.wikimedia.org

Lazzaro Bastiani – St Jerome in the Desert – WGA1486.jpg

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