Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Matt. 9 -- the Townman

I just re-read Isaac Asimov's little classic The Currents of Space, and have to wonder how many of my insights into history trace back to that source.[1]

The central character in this book is "the Townman," a member of a subject people who was selected, trained, and placed into the service of the master race. He lived a lonely life among his own people, with slightly better accommodations and slightly higher status. Like a Frenchman in the pay of the Nazi occupiers, or a Ukrainian who served the Russians.

Or, like Matthew, the author of this gospel.
Mat 9:9 İsa oradan geçerken, vergi toplama yerinde oturan birini gördü. Matta adındaki bu adama, "Ardımdan gel" dedi. Adam da kalkıp İsa'nın ardından gitti.
Mat 9:10 Sonra İsa, Matta'nın evinde sofrada otururken, birçok vergi görevlisiyle günahkâr gelip O'nunla ve öğrencileriyle birlikte sofraya oturdu.
Mat 9:11 Bunu gören Ferisiler, İsa'nın öğrencilerine, "Sizin öğretmeniniz neden vergi görevlileri ve günahkârlarla birlikte yemek yiyor?" diye sordular.
Mat 9:12 İsa bunu duyunca şöyle dedi: "Sağlamların değil, hastaların hekime ihtiyacı var.
Mat 9:13 Gidin de, 'Ben kurban değil, merhamet isterim' sözünün anlamını öğrenin. Çünkü ben doğru kişileri değil, günahkârları çağırmaya geldim."
Let's consider some of the players in this scene. The hated tax collector served the Romans. He extracted from his people the Roman taxes, plus "overhead." He was protected by the Roman military machine. His only friends were other tax collectors, and like[2] disreputable characters.

The Ferisiler were the local religious and cultural leaders, supported by voluntary contributions from the people. You might say the tax collectors and the pastors were in competition for the same small pool of discretionary income, but the tax collectors had the weight of armed force on their side.

And, off in the capital city, the Sadducees lived large on Roman subsidies and national imposts.

As the Messiah, the anointed and long-expected King of Israel, you would expect İsa to make common cause with, to find his natural allies among, the local religious leaders, the Ferisiler. Instead, he seemed to go out of his way to provoke them, to offend their sensibilities, to inform them that they were wrong on the basics.


[1] I strongly recommend this writer's books to folks who speak English as a second, third, or fourth language. Asimov believed there were two contrasting prose styles. He called them "plate glass vs. stained glass." Stained glass writing is beautiful, and draws attention to itself. Much poetry is like this. Plate glass writing is invisible -- you see through it, to the things described. Asimov epitomized clarity. His output was amazing. Once, a friend asked what he would do if he only had six months to live. His answer? "Write faster!" This genial atheist's productivity continues to challenge me -- he put so much into life, and evidently found the process richly satisfying.

[2] Like, in this context, is an adjective that means similar. Like can also be a verb, a pointless "filler" word, or a synonym for said -- although this last usage is probably already obsolete.

No comments: