Friday, January 8, 2010

Matt. 1

Hello again, friends. Sorry, but the last few months have been busy, and I've barely had time to read through Hebrews (my favorite book), the next few letters, and Apocalypse. But, a new year is underway, and I'm back at Matthew. Once again this morning, I relished the pleasure of seeing a sentence come into focus one word at a time:

Mat 1:19 Nişanlısı Yusuf, doğru bir adam olduğu ve onu herkesin önünde utandırmak istemediği için ondan sessizce ayrılmak niyetindeydi.
In this case, the key to the verse is the verb in the infinitive form, utandırmak. It means, to humiliate. To put to shame. To embarrass. Research on the inner lives of children uncovered the interesting fact that kids fear embarrassment more than death. Far too often, in the cesspool of public schools, children kill themselves to escape ongoing humiliation at the hands of bullies. In "face" cultures, shame can be a matter of life and death. In traditional Japan, the loss of "face" can only be redeemed by disemboweling oneself.

Nişanlısı Yusuf, the (apparently cuckolded) espoused Joseph, had it in his power to humiliate Meryim. Women of suspect virtue had no honorable lives ahead of them. And people back then, as today, had enough fingers to count to nine. So why was a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy making a long trip? Were there no relatives at home who would take her in while Joseph went to Bethlehem to obey the taxmaster's dictate?

However, the rest of the sentence gives us insight into the character of this noble gentleman who was chosen to train the Messiah of the world in "Torah and a trade."[1]

  • doğru bir adam olduğu ve -- righteous a man he was, and
  • onu herkesin önünde utandırmak istemediği için -- her / everyone / in front of / to put to shame / he did not wish / because
  • ondan sessizce ayrılmak niyetindeydi -- her / quietly, noiselessly (my other translation uses the adverb gizlice -- secretly) / to divorce / intended
Yes, a quiet divorce for unspecified reasons was an option. The child, who Joseph knew was not his own, would be spared the legal approbation of bastardy. He would be a legitimate child. People would assume that Joseph had acted in a less than honorable way towards the young woman who gave birth less than six months after her marriage.

Still, in years to come, Jesus would be known as the "son of Mary." In other words, "father unknown." And this story is off to a tempestuous beginning!


[1] An old rabbinic saying tells us -- "The man who does not teach his son Torah and a trade, teaches him to be a fool and a thief."

No comments: