Friday, March 1, 2013

A House of Prayer

“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”(Luke 19:45-48)
You have made it a den of robbers.
So I was asked the other day what translation I recommend. I recommend the ESV. I have problems with it as I do every translation. However, for the combination of readability and accuracy to the original I am unaware of a better translation available. Yes, there are times when the reformed bias is a bit much for me, however I trust that the Holy Spirit is able to work in the hearts of believers despite the best efforts of the Reformed and reformed (for as a Lutheran, I reserve the right to label all non Lutheran protestants, that is all those who do not believe in the power of God’s word to work faith in and through the sacraments, as reformed) to distort God’s word, and that with diligent reading of God’s word in the scripture the biases expose themselves and are overcome. I also generally like the attempt to keep some of the poetic aspects of the wording of scripture and not butchering that for the sake of accuracy, because the poetry is part of the accuracy. That said, den of robbers. I don’t get that. All the good stories I read growing up had dens of thieves, not robbers. Same difference I suppose but den of thieves has a truer ring to it in my ears, robbers is just off key. Perhaps, it is supposed to be off key, some creative dissonance.
In any case, words can have multiple correct translations at times, and you have to choose one at the expense of others, and doing so you often lose this thing called nuance, which is why pastors learn Greek and Hebrew, so they can explain and apply the nuance to you. Of course, I find nuance is often lost on people today. We like our five minute sound bites, rants and rages, and care nothing for nuance. When was the last time you opened up a book of poetry? I’m not even sure who a good poet is today. No, I do, Thomas Lynch. “Still Life in Millford” is a great collection of poems.
Robber, thief, actually, the word carries with it connotations or revolutionary and freedom fighter, perhaps even terrorist. Revolutionaries and terrorists almost always fund their operations with illegal activity like selling drugs, or thievery. It would make sense that the money changers at the temple were laundering money, and otherwise supporting the revolutionaries, the zealots and so forth. It wasn’t just a matter of them making a profit selling sheep, goats, and turtle doves, changing money and so forth. Actually the whole bit about changing money plays into the nationalistic fervor. The reason for the money changing was so that the temple would not be contaminated with foreign money, the face of Caesar and so on. It was an effort to keep the temple, the symbol of symbols for Israel, pure from foreign contamination.
Jesus running the money changers out, was a statement as to just what kind of a messiah he would be. He is not a champion of nationalism. He is not here to restore David’s kingdom and preeminence. He is here to bring about the kingdom of which David’s was but a shadow. He contrasts the kingdoms. The temple is supposed to be a house of prayer, because the kingdom it brings is one that is spiritual and not earthly. You have made it a den of thieves, because you do not care for the kingdom of God, but the kingdoms of men. It is poignant.
This has nothing to do with selling Girl Scout cookies after church on Sunday, or supporting the Ladies aid group with their bake sell. It has everything to do with the nature of the kingdom of God. It’s inclusion in Luke’s Gospel has everything to do with a rejection of Chiliasm, known today as pre-millenialism, and post millennialism, which subvert the gospel of Christ and distract believers from the kingdom of God. Here Jesus is taking on the Jewish myths that Paul had to warn Titus about. His kingdom would not be an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. He would not be an earthly messiah leading a band of revolutionaries as people expected. He denounces such movements. He is a messiah that is concerned with our true enemies, not the men who can kill us once, but those who would drag us to hell with them. He has come to bring us heaven, and new life, and he will do it by storming the gates of hell with a cross, and conquering death with death, shattering the stone letter of the law by rolling the stone away.

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