Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A matter of image (II Cor. 11)

Traditional oral cultures pack a great deal of wisdom into pithy sayings, short stories, brief and memorable fables. The folk hero of the Turks, Nasrettin Hoca, was a humorist whose very tomb is one last joke -- a strong, well-made gate, with a stout padlock -- and no walls. The beloved Hoca, however, is remembered for his penetrating insight into humanity and our foibles. For example:

Once, the Hoca was invited to a feast. He'd been hard at work, and didn't have time to change out of his work clothes. The fashionable glitterati did not even deign to notice this invited guest. So the Hoca went home, changed into his best robe, and returned. He was welcomed to the table, and proceeded to feed the choicest delicacies to his robe. "Try this, dear robe, it's excellent," he'd say, and slip another item up a sleeve.

"Hoca, have you gone crazy? Why are you talking to your robe? Why are you feeding your robe?"

"Well, why not? It's obvious that the robe was invited to this feast, not me!"

Things are not always what they seem. The friendly people knocking at your door may intend you eternal harm. The sophisticated emissaries from an ancient religion, who only want to help you attain a better version of your salvation, might be marketing something else, indeed. Let's look at a few sentences:

    2Co 11:13 Bu tür adamlar sahte elçiler, düzenbaz işçiler, kendilerine Mesih'in elçisi süsü verenlerdir.
    2Co 11:14 Buna şaşmamalı. Şeytan da kendisine ışık meleği süsü verir.
    2Co 11:15 Ona hizmet edenlerin de kendilerine doğruluğun hizmetkârları süsü vermesi şaşırtıcı değildir. Onların sonu yaptıklarına göre olacaktır.
    2Co 11:16 Yine söylüyorum, kimse beni akılsız sanmasın. Öyle sanıyorsanız, akılsız birini kabul eder gibi de olsa beni kabul edin ki, ben de biraz övüneyim!
    2Co 11:17 Söylediklerimi Rab'bin söyleyeceği gibi değil, akılsız biri gibi, bu övüngen tavırla söylüyorum.

Let's look at a few words:

  • süs -- ornament, decoration
  • süsü vermesi -- to pose as, to pass oneself off as[1]
  • Şeytan da kendisine ışık meleği süsü verir -- Satan / even / himself / light / angel / poses as 

One way we can tell the false prophets is their overweening pride in themselves, and in their own appearance.[2] Paul does go on to list other tests, in this chapter and the next. Satan can appear as an angel to decieve the children of men. And his emissaries can look like the best people. As I used to exhort my son Gregory[3], "My son, be alert. The world needs more lerts." 


[1] America used to be a very color-conscious society -- but a lot of "traffic" happened among the races. Among the black community, some were not as black as their mothers. In fact, some could even pass for white. When the Democrats who ruled rural southern counties tried to keep their black neighbors from voting, sometimes a man who "could pass" would find out where the registration desk was hidden. And a line of black citizens would show up at a bank vault, for example ... 

[2] a few lines from John Bunyan's allegory Pilgrim's Progress come to mind:

Faithful. Why, at first, I found myself somewhat inclinable to go with the man, for I thought he spake very fair; but ...
Christian. And how then?
Faithful. Then it came burning hot in my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave. 

[3] Gregory is a name derived from the Greek verb that means "be watchful. Keep watch. Be vigilant. Be alert." It's the last word in Mark 13.

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