January 11, 2011

Jesus' Lifelong Desire

At age 12, he said, "I've got to be [among the doings/beings] of my Father."(*)  Not just some particular task, Jesus needed to go see who was still devoted to God (in the Temple) after the Passover crowds had all vanished.  And he needed to be there, among such folks.

At age twenty-something, he was still just a peon back home.  Still working construction.  Still showing up each Saturday at the Synagogue.  Wanting so much more than what he was (often) hearing, Jesus did not push their envelope.  For whatever reason, in Nazareth, the impressiveness he'd displayed since age twelve was now visible only to God.

And so, a most sacred devotion progressed, intimately, between Jesus and his Father.  But the young man still wanted that one single thing more.  "I've got to be en the (*)s of my Father."  In some deep and vigorous way, Jesus still yearned to be more intently involved in the doings of God with God's people.  Except now, he was being more patient about it.  While he kept busy, loving God, loving others, Jesus added on something like twenty years worth of perseverance to godliness.

His perseverance was that he still wanted more.

At thirty-something, when one disciple (finally!) asked Jesus, "Teach us to pray."  He modeled a prayer that he must have prayed many times before - certainly thought for thought, and probably word for word, often.  And the first supplication was, "Bring your Kingdom."  Jesus still yearned, above all, to be among persons who would hallow God's name, who were into God's 'business'.

And if we long for this, also... if we long to have more of God in the midst of God's people...

It'd be a shame to grow too quickly weary of working and praying for that.

*The text of Luke 2:49, at this point:  ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου.  For you illiterates, that "tois" is a plural "the" with no persons, places or things there attached.  So the verse reads "in the [somethings] of my Father".  I don't know what that means, but it doesn't say Temple or business.  So I'm leaning on the context of Jesus' reported actions for that week.  For you super-literates, if you have any Greek grammar insights, please do share.


Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

You must mean Luke 2:49 (and not 2:51 which is actually about Mary and not about Jesus). Gotta love those typos. :-)

Wallace's grammar cites the following examples of what you noted in the text where an article that is not genitive is in relation to a genitive phrase/clause (sorry the Greek fonts are all wacky from clipping an pasting and I'm too lazy to clean them up ;-)):
"5) With a Genitive Word or Phrase

A non-genitive article is often followed by a genitive word or phrase. Although there is no concord, the article may be viewed as “bracketing” the word or phrase that follows. Two of the more frequent idioms are (1) the masculine singular article followed by a proper name in the genitive, where the article implies “son” (and the gen. that follows is a gen. of relationship), and (2) the neuter plural article with a genitive, where the neuter article implies “things.”

Matt 10:3
VIa,kwboj o` tou/ ~Alfai,ou

James, the [son] of Alphaeus51

Matt 16:23
ouv fronei/j ta. tou/ qeou/ avlla. ta. tw/n avnqrw,pwn52

you are not thinking the [things] of God, but the [things] of men

Luke 5:33
oi` tw/n Farisai,wn

the [disciples] of the Pharisees

Rom 14:19
ta. th/j eivrh,nhj diw,kwmen kai. ta. th/j oivkodomh/j

let us pursue the [things] of peace and the [things] of edification

1 Cor 15:23
oi` tou/ Cristou. . .

[those who are] Christ’s. . .

Jas 4:14
ouvk evpi,stasqe to. th/j au;rion53

you do not know that [which is] of tomorrow

The idea is “the stuff of tomorrow” or “whatever tomorrow brings.” The read­ers may know something about tomorrow, but they do not know the details.

Cf. also Matt 22:21; Mark 8:33; 15:40; Luke 2:49; Acts 19:26; Rom 2:14; 1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 11:30; 1 John 4:3." (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pages 235-6)

A. T. Robertson's Grammar of the Greek NT (pg.767) also mentions Luke 2:49 in this regard where the article represents an implied subject. Hope that helps.

Holmentzer said...

Luke 2:49?

"can you not perceive that my existence is bound to the this & that of the Father?"

my own layman's translation

Bill Heroman said...

Thanks, guys. Typo fixed.

Hudson, I'm as much a layman as you, but probably less of an artist.

Rick, I'm deeply grateful for the examples here. How would you translate the phrase?

"in/about the things of my Father"


Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

Following the modern translations (against the KJV tradition and all of its many spawn) I translate it something like "I had to be in the house of my Father." With "house" being the implied antecedent subject carried by the article. I know the KJV-tradition has given us "business" instead, but this makes the prepositional use en (translated "about") seem ill-fitting and fits far better in the locative sense of "in" and matches far better to "house" for where he actually was, rather than simply for what he was doing (which was related to where he was...but the issue was that where he was to be found was of great significance as well as what he was doing there). His "Father's business" is a rather abstract notion that could have been accomplished anywhere...but his "Father's house" was to be found only in Jerusalem (apart from what would occur through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost...which works out for a relocation of sorts that was already being accomplished in the person of Jesus the Messiah). Does that make sense?

Bill Heroman said...

Yes and no. I agree the "about.. business" isn't perfect, but I think "house" is indefensible as a translation. For one thing, it's not plural, which flies against all your wonderful examples above, doesn't it?

So while it may not be idiomatic in English to say "in the things of my Father", it's at least accurate. And while the KJV may not be strictly accurate, at least it's idiomatic. Or used to be.

But "house"?

That sounds like Jesus said, "Why didn't you look here first, in order to find me?" But he didn't. He said, "Why were you looking for me?" So the context doesn't anticipate a "locative" statement.

I agree, the "en" is odd. But it doesn't justify inventing words.

The point of the story is not that Jesus was waiting in the Temple, until his parents figured out where he was.

The point of the story is that Jesus, at age 12, had made the tentative, juvenile decision to stay there for good.

Thus, the response isn't "locative", but vocational.

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

I would still argue primarily for the locative use (but think that the vocational notion should be held with it...as I was trying to suggest). I don't really think either can be separated. By the way...have you read the NET Bible note on this verse? It reads:

"4 tn Or “I must be about my Father’s business” (so KJV, NKJV); Grk “in the [things] of my Father,” with an ellipsis. This verse involves an idiom that probably refers to the necessity of Jesus being involved in the instruction about God, given what he is doing. The most widely held view today takes this as a reference to the temple as the Father’s house. Jesus is saying that his parents should have known where he was."

Just thought I'd pass it on.

Bill Heroman said...

Those are good points, Rick, and that's a good quote. I guess I can cop to some degree of a 'both/and' view here... but that still doesn't justify "house".

Why not "Temple" or "Courts" or "Place" or "school(s)" or "instruction" or "training"?

There's no good reason for "house" in particular.

Is there?

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

That's actually a great question. There is nothing inherently in the text to suggest the exact word "house" or any other word for that matter. We are somewhat left with a vagary like "things" or something that might imply the where of his Father and the what of his Father. It would have been strange for him to have said it was his Father's "temple", but we do know he called it later his Father's "house" (John 2:16). Though it really is strange that it in Luke 2:49 he should be recorded as using a plural referent. It certainly was not uncommon to refer to the "Torah" or "Instruction" of YHWH in the plural...and it would have been a radical thing to say it was his Father's...but yet it would be rather radically fitting for a Bar-mitzvahed (?) Jesus to claim not only to be a "Son of the Torah" but of the LORD of the Torah Himself.

Bill Heroman said...

Now THAT is fascinating, more than I anticipated, and another point in my favor, I think, not not cap off all that intrigue with "house". At any rate, the plural is the strangest part.

Two other points.

One: where are you getting "son of the Torah"? Or to what are you referring?

Two: Are you suggesting Jesus had been 'bar-mitzvah'ed before his 13th birthday? Or that his birthday fell that year during the festival? I'm not sure how I'd feel about 'Christmas in March'. ;-)

Rick Wadholm Jr. said...

I should really have said "pre-Bar-Mitzvah-ed". Now technically the term "Bar-Mitzvah" was a medieval Jewish term, but it certainly was a concept that seems to appear as early as the first century AD in the rabbinic writings. So in some sense we may have Jesus stating that he was indeed already a "Son of the Instructions/Commandment" (as Bar-Mitzvah means...though I've taken some liberty to say "Son of the Torah"). Jesus would then be taking this further, by not only being the son of "mitzvah", but actually the son of God Himself...even prior to any entrance into official "manhood" and the ability to officially follow a rabbi as a "disciple" or officially be one of the constituting members of a Synagogue and read the Scriptures publicly. This is a big deal. That would be how I would likely read it.

Bill Heroman said...

I really need to learn a bit of basic Hebrew. Thanks again and again, Rick, for this wonderful thread.

The thought I'm coming away with, in reading and re-reading this last comment of yours, is that the vagueness of 'in the... of my Father' may be intended (by Luke) to convey precisely that confusion within our developing twelve year old Lord.

"Didn't you know I'd be...?" No, obviously M&J didn't know. As I've mused elsewhere, they apparently thought MANY other places in Jerusalem were *more* likely to be where he was. But how could M&J have known what Jesus would be doing... when it's not even grammatically clear what Jesus was saying!?

Perhaps. Still, in the end, part of our takeaway here has to be that the boy was a bit unclear on precisely HOW to pursue this unique connection he felt with the Father. (And part of the mercy of God was that He chose Mary and Joseph to go get him, and say, "come home".)

So, what do you think? Even assuming the remark is historical (perhaps Mary passed on the story to James, who told Luke), couldn't it be that Luke's using this quote to point out the Lord's confusion?

Because, obviously, the rest of Luke-Acts isn't exactly propaganda in favor of Jerusalem's Temple.


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