Friday, May 30, 2008

Overheard late last night:

[Snippet from a much longer and convoluted conversation about the reluctance of so many priests in India to lead people to baptism, even if they might otherwise be interested in Christ. Separate post coming up on that.]

Me (already quite agitated): But what the heck about the direct command from the Lord himself?

Fr J (twinkle in his eye): Oh now. Which one? The one at the end of Matthew? What about the other Gospels?

Me (more agitation): Yes Matthew! And it's there in Mark as well. Don't tell me that the problem is just that it isn't repeated in all four? I mean it's called the Great Commission for a reason, right ... ?

Fr J: You know, I am trying to remember what they taught us about the original Greek, how there was only one imperative ...

Me: Well, it's "matheusate" which means "to make disciples." And the syntax of koine is different you know ... "bapteuzontes" is a participle but that's because it is a language full of freakin' participles. Now they're deriving theological justification for eviscerating the Great Commission because in Greek it's not in an imperative?

Fr J: Well, Scripture scholars say ...

Me (turbulent): Well SCREW the scripture scholars and [bleep] the Historical Critical Method! "They" just love telling everyone how their latest insight has finally uncovered what Jesus Really Meant. Let's go behind the text and find the Jesus We Want. But isn't that what Schweitzer warned us over a century ago? We've looked down the well of history and found our own reflection. Y'all seem to want to follow Marx more than Jesus. Better still, these freakin' scholars will tell you how Jesus actually was a Marxist ... We have four Gospels. That's it. That's what the Church has given us ...

Fr. J (now just laughing): Aiyo! It's late. Go to bed.

Me (grinning): You're just pushing my buttons ...

Fr. J: What ... all week you've done nothing but harass me!

[Actually, it's been such a grace-filled week. Not just because of the deep sharing, and the intense conversations -- the interview below was just the tip of the iceberg -- but just a deeper sense of connection to the Church in my native land, and lots of gratitude for the gift of faith in our lives.]

4 comments:

St. Izzy said...

The attendant participles count as imperatives, but the most important command is the one that actually appears as an imperative. I can give you citations from the standard grammars if you need them, but I'm really just writing to tell you that in class all those years ago we called this construction the "go on, taking the money, run" construction.

coray said...

say more

Gashwin said...

@st. izzy: yep yep. Actually, in many English translations, "baptizing" is retained in a participle form.

My response was not to deny the syntax, or even to deny that knowing the thrust of the imperative is not important, but that an analysis syntax cannot be used to deny the imperative completely!

So, one could argue that "make disciples" is at the heart of the instructions. Yes, of course! And that baptizing and going (proeuthentes) are ancillary, or maybe even oriented to this. Yes! [For instance, see Paul's disclaimers on baptizing in 1 Cor 1] But to say that because there is only one clear imperative, therefore everything else in Scripture and tradition that talks about baptism and the necessity of the sacraments for salvation can just be put aside ? THAT is balderdash!

Gashwin said...

"... an analysis *of* syntax ... "