Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Herding cats (I Cor. 1)

I had the pleasure of listening to an erudite Egyptian imam preach. He spoke on the need for his people to stand up for one another, protect one another, defend one another. His English was accent-free, and when he sang excerpts from the Koran, his voice resonated. From time to time, he mentioned fitna -- and whatever it was, fitna was something bad, something to avoid. I got the impression he meant strife, conflict, disagreement, schism. When I looked up the term later, I learned that fitna has a technical, specific, meaning as well. Fitna refers to the violent disagreements over succession that happened in the generation after Mohammed's death. When the dust settled, Sunni Muslims followed leaders who'd been selected by due process. The Shi'ites followed leaders who had some form of physical descent from the prophet, through his son-in-law Ali.

The Church today, as always, includes human beings who share both a variety of roots, and a single transcendent reality that brings us together. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses a rather disagreeable batch of folks with a lot of problems. First and foremost, fitna. Let's open a window on a past that is still with us:
1Co 1:12 Şunu demek istiyorum: Her biriniz, "Ben Pavlus yanlısıyım", "Ben Apollos yanlısıyım", "Ben Kefas yanlısıyım" ya da "Ben Mesih yanlısıyım" diyormuş.
1Co 1:13 Mesih bölündü ? Sizin için çarmıha gerilen Pavlus muydu? Pavlus'un adıylavaftiz edildiniz?
Let's look at one word, yanlısıyım. Yan- is a word that, like "gruntled," never stands alone. It indicates something to do with the side. -lı- indicates pertaining to the side. The -- is the 3rd person singular possessive. -ıyım is the first person singular, to be. Everyone is saying, "Me, on Paul's side, I am." And so on.

Some folks claim allegiance to the blended culture Paul represents, a Jewish man with Roman citizenship who is at home in the hellenistic world. Others like Apollos, an erudite Greek guy who bears the name of a Greek deity. Kefas, of course, is the Aramaic name of the man more commonly known as Peter. Some of those Paul is writing to took great pride in their hebraic roots. And then, there were the snobs who claim to be above all cultures, and only belong to Jesus.

And, as Paul explains, the Christian message has something to offend everyone:
1Co 1:22 Yahudiler doğaüstü belirtiler ister, Grekler'se bilgelik arar.
1Co 1:23 Ama biz çarmıha gerilmiş Mesih'i duyuruyoruz. Yahudiler bunu yüzkarası, öteki uluslar da saçmalık sayarlar.
1Co 1:24 Oysa Mesih, çağrılmış olanlar için -ister Yahudi ister Grek olsun- Tanrı'nın gücü ve Tanrı'nın bilgeliğidir.
Let's take apart one more word:
  • doğa -- nature
  • doğal -- natural
  • doğaüstü -- surpassing nature; supernatural
  • doğaötesi -- metaphysical
The Greek elites prided themselves on their rationality, their ability to "see through" the myths and legends. The Hebrews still had a magical world view, a sense that life was surrounded by mystery, and subject to intrusions from the realm of the supernatural. The Gospel, though, preaches something discerned only by faith -- the paradox that a brutally murdered rabbi is God's best gift to the world, the gift that opens the door to the universe.

No comments: