Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Acts 10 -- cross-cultural excursions

This story begins with a military man, an officer charged with managing a subjugated and restless province. Somehow, he has come to prefer the God of this conquered people to the mob of gods he grew up with.[1] He surrounds himself with people who also prefer the God of Israel, he prays, but he has not undergone the painful, and somewhat risky, surgical procedure of circumcision. When he goes to the synagogue to hear God's Word read, he is among those who pray "O Lord, God of their fathers ... "
Act 10:1 Sezariye'de Kornelius adında bir adam vardı. "İtalyan" taburunda yüzbaşıydı.
Act 10:2 Dindar bir adamdı. Hem kendisi hem de bütün ev halkı Tanrı'dan korkardı. Halka çok yardımda bulunur, Tanrı'ya sürekli dua ederdi.
One quick note on Turkish grammar. The verb korkmak, to fear, requires you to use the "genitive" case ending to indicate the object of fear, rather than the usual direct-object case ending. To speak of one who feared dogs, you would say köpekten korkardı. To speak of one who feared God, you would say Tanrı'dan korkardı.[2]

Kornelius gets a visitor from a far country indeed, an angel of God:
Act 10:3 Bir gün saat üç sularında, bir görümde Tanrı'nın bir meleğinin kendisine geldiğini açıkça gördü. Melek ona, "Kornelius" diye seslendi.
Of course, Kornelius is terrified. That's the normal human response to angelic visitations. And attentive. He is told to cross an ethnic boundary, and invite a Jewish guy into his house.

So, this Roman invader receives a vision of God's angel. The Jewish guy also has a vision -- of a tablecloth filled with detestable and unclean beasts! And a command to party hearty on buzzards and snakes and lobsters and nasty stuff life that.
Act 10:12 Çarşafın içinde, yeryüzünde yaşayan her türden dört ayaklı hayvanlar, sürüngenler ve kuşlar vardı.
Act 10:13 Bir ses ona, "Kalk Petrus, kes ve ye!" dedi.
Act 10:14 "Asla olmaz, ya Rab!" dedi Petrus. "Hiçbir zaman bayağı ya da murdar herhangi bir şey yemedim."
Vs. 13 has short words. A voice to him, "Rise, Peter, slaughter and eat!" it said. Peter's response to God's command is emphatic.

"No way never, but Lord!" said Peter. "Nothing at any time vulgar or unclean whatsoever on thing did I eat." Dietary restrictions are part of the Jewish identity. When you have Muslim guests over for dinner, kosher food also meets their dietary code. This was, and is, a big deal. One of the books of the in-between testament, the Greek apocrypha, recounts the story of an entire family that chose painful death rather than tasting roast pork.

God replies to Peter's terrified reaction to this vision with a cryptic admonition:
Act 10:15 Ses tekrar, ikinci kez duyuldu; Petrus'a, "Tanrı'nın temiz kıldıklarına sen bayağı deme" dedi.
The voice again, a second time spoke; to Peter, "That which God clean has made you vulgar do not call," it said. Peter saw this vision three times, and was thoroughly puzzled. There was a knock at the door[3] ...

and we'll read the rest of the story in our next post.


[1] I just finished another romp through Augustine's City of God. One man, a porter, can guard a door, since he is a man. The Romans assigned three gods to the same task!

[2] Be sure to remember the k in korkmak, unless you wish to suggest that your Turkish friends smell (like) dogs! The verb kormak means to smell.

[3] A very short horror story goes like this:
The last man on Earth sat alone in his room.
There was a knock on the door ....

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