Friday, May 25, 2012

Bitter Focus

According to Luke, Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples to prepare His path to Jerusalem, thanked God for hiding the Truth from wise people, and revealed what you must do gain eternal life; following that up with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) to further explain how to love your neighbor as yourself, and who your "neighbor" was. Then, Jesus continued on His way to Jerusalem.

Bitter Focus
What is in a name? Meaning and identity. Martha (Marta) and Mary (Miriam, Miryam) are derived from the same Hebrew root word, which is transliterated as "marar" and means "being bitter," as in bitter taste. According to this resource, the Hebrew take on "bitter" was not the same the negative connotation we have in English, but rather it became associated with "strong," being that bitter is a strong taste. In turn, it seems that Martha came to mean a woman in charge, while Mary came to mean a strong woman, strong-willed woman, or even rebellious.

That covers meaning. What about identity? We will start with a short anecdote, Luke 10:38-42, which goes like this: While Jesus and crew were traveling to Jerusalem, a woman named Martha invited Jesus into her home. While Martha made preparations, her sister, Mary, sat and listened to Jesus. Martha complained to Jesus, asking Him to tell Mary to help her with the preparations. In Luke 10:41-42, we find Jesus' reply:
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." NIV
Consider what Martha was probably doing here: Perhaps arranging bedding? Perhaps preparing food? Both? At this point, this is not just Jesus traveling; this is Jesus, plus the Twelve Disciples, and possibly plus seventy-two other disciples. That is thirteen to eighty five people! Martha is probably just preparing the bare necessities for all of these house guests. She saw all of these people coming along with Jesus, and she voluntarily chose to make herself a servant to all of them.

Jesus would later say that being a servant to all is the kind of behavior that would make you the greatest in Heaven (Matthew 20:26, Matthew 23:11, Mark 9:35, Mark 10:43, Luke 22:26). But Jesus set a different priority here, and rudely insulted Martha's generous effort in the process. In this case, Jesus thought that it was more important to sit and listen to Him than to do what He would later endorse. Go figure. Yet this singular focus is a repeated message in the Gospels. This episode has a more mild form of that theme, but earlier we saw how Jesus promoted forsaking everyone, and even your own life, in favor of pursuing God.

Who were Martha and Mary, other than being sisters? Luke is the only one to record this episode, so there is not blatant tie in with any other characters in the Gospels.

This Mary is not Jesus' mother, and probably is not Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 24:10), who may have been Jesus' mother as well (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). Maybe it is Mary, the wife of Clopas, whoever that is (John 19:25). Catholic doctrine conflates this Mary with Mary Magdalene, but there is no explicit link (The first appearances of Magdalene: Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40, Luke 8:2 [Jesus exorcised seven demons from her], Luke 24:10 [Luke's second mention of her, corresponding to Matthew and Mark], John 19:25). The picture of this Mary is blurry, so let us focus on Martha.

The name Martha is only used twelve times in the Bible; only in the Gospels, and limited to Luke and John. Just like here in Luke, the first time Martha is mentioned in John, Mary and Martha are reported as being sisters (John 11:1). That seems like a fairly strong, even binding, coincidence, right? These should be the same people. After all, how many sisters, of the names Mary and Martha, were Jesus likely to run into in His travels which were noteworthy enough to include in the Gospels?

John 11:1-44 tells us the story of Lazarus' death and subsequent resurrection through Jesus. In John's account, Lazarus was Mary's brother (John 11:2), and obviously Jesus had known that family for some time based on the great love He had for them (John 11:5) and on the fact that Jesus wept at Lazarus' death (John 11:35). That is where it gets screwy.

Neither Matthew nor Mark record anything at all about Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; this little family that Jesus so dearly loved. And Luke, who does know something of Martha and Mary, neglects to mention that they have a brother who is loved and resurrected by Jesus! Luke does later mention a Lazarus, but only in a parable told by Jesus, with Lazarus being a fictional beggar, and without any connection to Martha and Mary (Luke 16:19-31).

What you see here is the evolution of a myth recorded for all posterity. It is just a shame that it is not presented as such.

What? You do not believe me that this story is a myth? Well then, consider that John 12:1-11 has a grand dinner in Jesus' honor with the resurrected Lazarus in the town of Bethany, where Lazarus called home. Martha served dinner and Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Judas objected to that waste of money on the perfume. Does that story sound familiar?

Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 record Jesus having a meal at the house of Simon the Leper, where some unnamed(!) woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Some of the disciples objected to that waste of money on the perfume. Jesus said that the story of this strangely unnamed woman would be told as a memory of her whenever the Gospel was shared. It is odd for such a praise-worthy woman to not have a name, right? It kind of begs later authors to fill in the blank.

Luke 7:36-50 also records Jesus having a meal where He was anointed by an unnamed woman with perfume. However, Luke records this much earlier in the Gospel timeline, sets the meal at the house of a Pharisee, and drops the reference to the disciples complaining about the waste of money. Luke the Editor did not let a little thing like the truth prevent him from telling the story the way he wanted to tell it. Thus, we can clearly see fossilized bones of this evolutionary myth.


  1. "But Jesus set a different priority here, and rudely insulted Martha's generous effort in the process. In this case, Jesus thought that it was more important to sit and listen to Him than to do what He would later endorse."

    Classic narcissist! First he drops in with a gazillion friends, then acts annoyed when Martha makes arrangements for said gazillion friends.

  2. I know, right, Ahab? Jesus is far from humble.

  3. Great explanations, thanx. The evolution of a story is fascinating -- I keep trying to see it visually so I can remember it.

  4. It would be a really great project to put together a visual representation of the story evolution, Sabio. I may just do that some day... much later than now.

  5. I'd love to see that visual representation too.
    The church has a love-hate relationship with Martha too. On one hand, women are told to be uncomplaining servants and to be like the woman described in Prov 31. But they are often hit over the head with the Mary/Martha story and chastised for not silently sitting at the feet of whichever master wants to tell them what to do. Narcissists are good at cutting others down no matter what they do, leaving them confused and vulnerable.

  6. btw- the top of this blog has a warning saying it is dangerous to visit. That may be true ;)

  7. Yeah, prarienymph, I have heard some of the same argument from the church, all too conveniently warped to the master's desires. I think that may be why such narcissists stick in the faith; they are willing to put Jesus above them if they in turn get to put people (usually women) below them.

    Strange about the warning. I wonder what that is from? But this may just be dangerous. :-)

  8. John4:32NIV"I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
    John4:34NIV"my food,"siad Jesus "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work"
    So rather than insulting Mary Jesus was clearly indicating that he prefers to serve rather than to be served.And that carrying out his Father's will is of greater import to him than food or any other comfort.

  9. Hi aservantofJehova. Thanks for the comment, but I am afraid that you are conflating two different stories without justification. First, I will assume that you meant Martha, not Mary, who was insulted, as I indicated in the post. Next, John 4:32 and 4:34 have no relevancy here, because neither Martha nor Mary were present when Jesus spoke those words. Therefore, Martha would have been operating under the assumption that Jesus needed to eat. And even if she knew that Jesus did not need to eat, what about the Disciples traveling with Jesus? In fact, there is some implicit indication that Martha is making preparations for people other than just Jesus based on the fact that she thought she needed help making those preparations. One person can easily take care of the needs of another, but thirteen or eighty-five people is another story! :-)

    Was Jesus, as you say, "clearly indicating" that He prefers to serve to Martha? No. There is no part of Luke 10:38-42 which mentioned Jesus saying to Martha that He would rather serve her. Instead, Jesus, in His reply, speaks of "one thing that is needed," and further implied that Mary had chosen what was needed.

    Jesus did not reply that He was there to serve Martha and Mary, not the other way around. Jesus did not stop Martha from making those preparations either, and did not even mention anything to Martha until Martha requested help. If He had done either of these, then that would give your thought more clout. But as it stands, your suggestion is without reasonable support.

  10. I am not conflating anything,the bible is a single book it is to be so interpreted.We don't lift Passages out of the bible and conjure interpretations out of thin air.So Neither Martha nor mary need be present at John4:34.The same Jesus who spoke the words at John4:34 is speaking at Luke 10:38-42.He tells her that her elaborate preparations are unnecessary.And that simpler fare would do Just as well,he is speaking for himself and all with him.It is by no means a rebuke.Martha is trying to be good hostess,there is nothing wrong with that,and Jesus in no way implies that there is.He is simply letting her know his preferrences as a guest.He would rather provide edifying company than be a burdensome expense.

  11. Hello again, aservantofJehovah.

    You said:
    "We don't lift Passages out of the bible and conjure interpretations out of thin air."

    I was wondering, then, if you could point out in the verse where Jesus "tells her that her elaborate preparations are unnecessary.And that simpler fare would do Just as well,he is speaking for himself and all with him." I have looked over several different translations, but I cannot seem to find words which suggest that at all. It seems to have come from thin air.

    And, by the way, where did your original interpretation go that Jesus "prefers to serve rather than to be served"?

    If you can explain these interpretation in a manner which is consistent with the actual Biblical text, then you and I can "get on the same page" so that we are not talking past one another. If you are unable to do so, then you need to come to the realization that you are the one who is drawing from thin air, based on what you want it to be, not based on what is recorded.

    Just so that we are clear, I never said that Jesus rebuked Martha, so I do not know where you got that idea. What I said was the Jesus insulted Martha's effort, as in if I had been generously laboring away trying to ensure that the guests I had invited into my home had at least their basic needs met, but one of the guests told me that my brother who had been sitting around the whole time had been doing the right thing (without so much as even a kind word for my previously expended effort), I think I would be a little insulted.

  12. Luke10:41KJV"Jesus answered and said unto her,Martha,Martha,thou art trouble and careful about MANY things:" That suggest to me and I beleive any sincere investigator elaborate preparations and I detect no insult if anything Jesus is overwhelmed by Martha's hospitality.
    Luke10:42KJV"But ONE thing is needful.." here Jesus very respectfully makes known his preferrence for simpler fare and this is not a detailed account so your claim that Jesus never express apreciation for Martha's effort is speculative.
    Luke10:42KJV Continued"..And Mary had chosen that Good part which shall not be taken from her." To be clear Jesus was not simply another guest to Martha and Mary,to them both Jesus was the Son of the living God.
    Thus to Martha this particular Guest Was worthy of the very best she had to offer(there is nothing wrong with that per se)To Mary here was an opportunity to benefit from a unique insight(there is nothing wrong with that either).

  13. Thank you for your explanation, aservantofJehovah. Now I think we may be able to have a more meaningful discussion.

    I essentially agree with you on Luke 10:41, that "many things" Jesus was referring to all of the preparations which Martha was busying herself with. No problem there! :-) And no insult either. In fact, in modern English, I would render it:

    "Hey Martha, you are very busy and concerned with all of the preparations..."

    And the first part of Luke 10:42, the conclusion of that sentence, would be rendered:

    "...but there is only one important thing to do."

    Your conjecture that Jesus was telling Martha that "simpler fare" was preferred is not supported by this sentence within the context. It is not that Martha was setting up a large buffet, and Jesus was respectfully saying, "Martha, really all we need is a little bread to eat." If the sentence was out there all by itself, perhaps you could make that case. However, that "one thing" is defined by the sentence which follows, and that is where the perceived insult is.

    My claim that Jesus never expressed appreciation is not speculative. Rather, it is accurate to what is recorded. It does not read anything more, or anything less, into what is recorded. On the other hand, thinking that Jesus did thank Martha, or thinking that He was telling her that a simpler fare would suffice, is speculative. Speculation involves going beyond the "facts" you actually know. The baseline knowledge we have is that Jesus did not thank her in this exchange. That does not mean that there is a 100% certainty that He didn't thank her for her efforts. However, there is no recoded case of Jesus giving thanks to anyone other than God, so it seems out of His character to have thanked Martha. ;-)

    Anyway, as Luke 10:42 continues, Jesus makes it clear that Mary has chosen that "one thing" which is important. I would render it:

    "Mary is doing what is really important, and I am not going to tell her to stop doing it."

    Because, as you will remember, Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. This is Jesus' reply to Martha: that Mary is the one who is doing what is really important here.

    So Jesus is not saying "Martha, just make light preparations." Instead Jesus is saying "Martha, you are doing a bunch of stuff you do not need to do. You should be doing what Mary is doing." Yet if Mary was really doing what was important, if it was more important to Jesus to serve rather than be served, that does not align well with the fact that Jesus let Martha busy herself up until that point when she asked for help. And that is where the insult to her effort comes.

    1. Well we have some rather strange reasoning here,just because something is unnecessary does not mean that it is wrong.The 'one thing' Jesus referred to was in the context of martha's preparations.He had no problem with her trying to be a good host,but if she had kept things simple she would have an opportunity to benefit from his wisdom like Mary was.Martha was not doing anything wrong,her pique at her sister though was in Jesus' opinion unwarranted.And like I said this is not a detailed account,to claim otherwise is highly speculative.

    2. Well, aservantofJehovah, I am not sure about two things here:

      1) I never said what Martha was doing was wrong, so your reply that my reasoning is strange is non-sequitur.

      2) Why did you choose to ignore the defining context of Luke 10:42? "...And Mary had chosen that Good part..." "Part" of what? Clearly this is contextual and tied to Luke 10:41, so your interpretation does not align with the text.

      If you want to debate effectively, you really use the context. Sentences in the same conversation are rarely isolated, as you are trying to suggest. Ignore context at the peril of your credibility.

    3. @TWF:You seem to imply that Martha should have been stopped by Jesus from carrying on with her preparations.Why?Her choice was merely sub-optimal not objectionable.
      Martha was seeking to channel her displeasure through Jesus.Jesus is letting Martha no why he will not be a party to that.That is the Context.If Martha simply wanted Mary's help all she had to do was ask her.More was involved,that is why her query is addressed to Jesus and not her sister.Martha was being Martha and Mary was being Mary.And Jesus had no urgent objection either way.
      However when Martha sought to channel her (in his mind)unfounded pique through Jesus he felt compelled to politely object.

    4. OK, aservantofJehovah, we may just be on the cusp of epiphany here. :-) But first, you make an interesting statement to consider:

      "Martha was seeking to channel her displeasure through Jesus."
      That is how it appears to us in the present day, and may actually be accurate. However, note that those times were still heavily patriarchal. That was Martha's and Mary's house (or perhaps Martha was owner and Mary was also living there). It was unusual for a woman to be living alone, or with her sister. Martha should have been living with her father if she was not married, unless her father was dead. Had her father been there, the appropriate course would have been to ask the father for Mary's help, given that the father ruled the house. So this may not be so much of channeling displeasure though Jesus, but rather more of a customary submission to the male authority figure. Naturally, that is speculation. We do not have enough detail in the text to know for sure.

      So, we seem to be in agreement that it is a sub-optimal choice for Martha to be slaving away, right? The question then becomes the degree of deficiency of Martha's actions. This is where the context plays a role:

      You remember Luke 10:42 "...but ONE thing is needful...," right?
      You remember Luke 10:42 "...Mary has chosen that good part...," right?

      These are related contextually. You see, "that good part" is the "ONE thing" which is important. It is the only thing that which is necessary to do... and Mary was doing it.

      So Martha's actions are not just sub-optimal; they are absolutely unnecessary according to Jesus. During this whole visit, Jesus knew where Mary was, and He knew what Martha was doing and how hard she was working on tasks which added up to nothing in Jesus' grand scheme of things. If I was Jesus (pausing for your laughter), I would have exercised my empathy and compassion to tell Martha from the onset that she really just needed to sit down and listen to me, instead of wasting her time and effort. But that is just me. ;-)

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Jesus did not Go along with the scribes' or Pharisees' notion that women should be seen and not heard,remember we are dealing with a peculiar subculture(i.e Messianic Jews).The fact that Jesus was providing scriptural instruction to Mary for instance,showed that he did not share the view then prevalent among religious teachers that women lacked the intellectual wherewithal to benefit from such instruction.So there would have been no barrier to Martha communicating with her sister if that was her intention.The issue that Jesus is dealing with in Luke10:42 is Martha's attempts to be hospitable some manuscripts render Jesus words as "a few things are needed or indeed Just one" this in the context of Martha's desire to be a good host.Jesus was in essence suggesting that if in view of the opportunity that had now presented itself (i.e to be personally instructed by the messiah)she had decided to scale back her original plans and cobble together something simple,no one would regard her as a poor host,in the then context that would be all that was "necessary" for her to be regarded as a good host.In Luke10:43 he goes on to deal with Martha's critique of Mary,so yes the two statements are related Just not in the way you would prefer them to.Mary had on this occasion gotten her priorities right as far as Jesus was concerned and he was not going to be a party to any criticism of her.

    7. Well, aservantofJehovah, I have to say I am impressed with you. You have dug into this issue well. I wish that all Christians would research that deeply.

      I do not want to go any further in this particular issue at this time, as I have company I am hosting. Fairly needless to say, we are not yet in agreement here. I think anyone reading over the comments can see the merits in our arguments and judge for themselves.

      Regarding the "some manuscripts" which have an alternate translation, I would recommend you dig just a little deeper, find when those manuscripts are dated versus other versions, and try to reason why they would be different. Of course, there is no way to know for sure, but I suspect it has something to do with my argument.

      Cheers, and please feel free to comment any time.

  14. Jesus is far from humble?!? Disregarding for a moment your belief that Jesus was rude and ungrateful to Martha (and probably everyone else he was in contact with), let's consider the following:

    Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to have created the entire universe. This man, who had the authority to call multitudes of angels to defend himself against those who were going to kill him, instead allowed his accusers to strip him naked, beat him, spit upon him, mock him, and hang him on a cross in public view. Before this, he washed the feet of his disciples. He cried when he saw the sister of Lazarus weeping in sorrow. But all this means nothing in light of the fact that he is not recorded as having said "thank you" to Martha. And of course Ahab, Sabio, and prairienymph eagerly join you in denouncing him as a narcissist. I shouldn't be surprised. Because of his claims, Jesus is and always will be hated.

  15. Hi Ollie. Thanks for the comment, but I think it may be a little misdirected.

    First of all, as a point of clarification,Sabio did not jump on the narcissist train. ;-)

    Second, no, I do not think that Ahab, prarienymph, or Sabio "hate" Jesus. Nor do I hate Jesus. It is a bit silly to go around hating things which do not exist, is it not? ;-) While most, if not all of us, agree that there was a Jesus, (I think I can speak truthfully when speaking for them that)we do not believe that the Jesus in the Bible accurately depicts any being's real history, so it is that Biblical Jesus which did not exist, and therefore is silly to hate. As for the real Jesus which the story is based on, well, it would be kind of silly to hate him too.

    Third, we are examining this particular incident, and in this particular incident, Jesus exhibits traits which are not consistent with humility. And there are other examples throughout the Gospels. (Remarkably, you mention one of them in your case for Jesus being humble; Jesus made the comment about Him being able to call legions of angels, in a way which is reminiscent of human bragging.)

    Fourth, having things done to you is not an example of humility. As Wiktionary describes it, humility is being humble, and being humble is "Thinking lowly of one's self; claiming little for one's self; not proud, arrogant, or assuming; lowly; weak; modest." Humility is an attitude, and the attitude conveyed in Jesus' words is not that of humility. Weeping for Lazarus' sister is not humility, but empathy. The most humble thing Jesus did is, as you mention, the washing of the feet. However, that comes to us in John's Gospel, and John's Gospel is the Gospel that even believing scholars consider to be pious fiction, so that is a pretty weak case you have there.

    Fifth, as for me, I am not quite ready to say that the Biblical Jesus was a narcissist, but I do not think you could call Him humble without abusing the word severely.

  16. 1) Yeah, I mistakenly threw him on the train, but I think it's probably safe to say that he would have gladly jumped on himself. ;-)

    2) While it goes without saying that none of you believe that Jesus performed miracles and was raised from the dead, I suspect that you *do* believe that "the historical Jesus" was accurately recorded as being rude and ungrateful to Martha. And of course, because that fits your agenda. You're not going to point out the obvious difference in culture (e.g., how many examples of interpersonal "thank yous" do you find *anywhere* in ancient literature? contrast that with our society, where "thank you" is so commonly overused that most people use it as a standard email closing!), or mention the fact that Jesus was addressing Martha's *complaints* about Mary by telling her that it's okay--and even better--for her to sit and listen to the one-and-only SON OF GOD (!) when he's talking instead of rushing to get the house made up. I don't expect to ever see--from any of you--a positive comment about the time Jesus defended the adulterous woman, or healed a blind man, or fed the hungry, or told his disciples to care for the poor, etc. That's to be expected, I know. But sometimes your blog and your fans are so ridiculously one-sided and vitriolic about a man that even most unbelievers would describe as "a good man" that I can't help but shake my head and wonder what motivates such attacks. It's not enough for you guys to say, "That Jesus did a lot of good things--and some weird things that I don't understand--but I just don't believe that he was God." You have to take everything that he said and did and portray it in the worst light possible.

    (to be continued)

  17. 3) I'll adamantly disagree with you that Jesus was "bragging" when he said that he could call legions of angels to defend him. This is exactly what I was talking about in the paragraph above regarding your portrayal of everything Jesus does in the worst light possible. Bragging is speaking in a boastful manner, for the purpose of showing off. Jesus here was talking to Peter, who had just cut off the ear of one of Jesus's accusers. He was pointing out what should have been blatantly obvious to Peter, which is that the son of God does not need to be defended by a guy with a sword, and that the upcoming execution was all part of the plan. If Jesus had been walking down the road and shouted out, "Hey everybody! Did you know that I'm so powerful that I could summon a horde of angels right now? Cool, huh?!?" *That* would have been bragging.

    I will agree with you that Jesus did, as you say, "exhibit traits which are not consistent with humility" only if by "humble" you're using the less commonly used definitions of humility. For the sake of reference, let's define these as follows:

    1. not proud or arrogant
    2. having a feeling of insignificance
    3. low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.
    4. courteously respectful

    Clearly, Jesus was not humble according to definitions #2 or #3, and it's arguable (and probably impossible for us to know based on the Biblical account) whether he was humble according to definition #4. But Jesus *was* humble according to definition #1; which is to say that he was *not* arrogant. (And I'll define arrogant here as "insolently proud.") When I (and most people, I would argue) think of humble, definition #1 is what first comes to mind.

    Jesus *chose* to humble himself. Most significantly, he humbled himself by giving up his position of all-powerful God to become God in human form, so that he could ultimately be killed as a man. If that isn't the ultimate example of humility, I don't know what is. And of course there are many other times when he humbled himself. But he also spoke with the authority of one who was God, and made it clear that he was all-powerful. Not ever in a boastful way, but as a matter of fact, because he was telling the world, who saw him only as a man, that was actually more than a man.

    4) "Weeping for Lazarus' sister is not humility, but empathy." It's empathy, to be sure, but I'm going to argue that crying in public also requires one to be humble. Proud, arrogant, immodest people don't cry in public when they feel bad for someone. Demure, self-effacing, gentle, respectful people--humble people--do.

    "The most humble thing Jesus did is, as you mention, the washing of the feet. However, that comes to us in John's Gospel, and John's Gospel is the Gospel that even believing scholars consider to be pious fiction, so that is a pretty weak case you have there."

    Now's *my* time to be gentle and respectful by leaving that one alone. ;-) Good night, my friend.

  18. Hi Ollie, and thanks for the further reply. ;-)

    2) Actually, I think the Martha and Mary story is a fable which is better pinned on the fictitious Jesus than the real one. I am pretty sure that Jesus did offend some people, but that those incidents were more likely to be similar to what is recorded with the Pharisees and such. :-)

    My agenda is only to show instances 1) where there is suspect credibility or contradictory information and 2) where the Jesus of the text appears different from the Jesus which is normally preached about. This post deals with both points.

    Did you notice what you got stuck on? If you scan back over the posting, I spent most of my time on agenda point (1), which I think is the most important part of it. Yet you focused on agenda point (2), presumably because it upset your feelings about who Jesus was. Why do you think it is that you ignored the larger, more important point I was making about the obvious evolution of the myth?

    You should know me a little better by now. ;-) The truth is that I have made positive comments in various blog posts regarding Jesus. It does not come often, obviously, but I do give some credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, the Gospel authors usually manage to sully those good things. Check out this and this post for examples. Plus, really, are there not enough blogs singing the praises of every little detail of Jesus' life? ;-)

    "You're not going to point out the obvious difference in culture."
    Ah, now that is a good point, my friend, and (in my opinion) perhaps the most appropriate and accurate statement in your reply. There is definitely a cultural difference, and there probably were not many "thank yous" in historical literature, and "thank yous" are severely overused today.

    My rebuttal is two-fold:
    - As psychological studies will show you, a thank you can mean a lot in perception. True, these studies are in our present culture, but giving thanks was not entirely foreign to them back then. Jesus often gave thanks to God. If Jesus had given thanks to Martha, or in any other way shown that her efforts were appreciated, it would have meant something to her, we would not be having this conversation, and it would prove that God/Jesus understood our fragile little egos.
    - If it was so important to sit and listen to Him, we must be left wondering why Jesus did not call Martha into the room and tell her not to worry about the preparations, instead of waiting for Martha to ask for help.

    ={to be continued}=

  19. 3) OK, so there is bragging and then there is BRAGGING, right? If you look at my reply, I did not say that Jesus was definitely bragging, let alone the type of BRAGGING which you described. Please, relax a little. I said "in a way which is reminiscent of human bragging." You can brag, like you describe, in an obnoxious manner, or you can do it in the more subtle name-dropping, brand-wearing, influence-mentioning way. I was referring to the latter case. Why?

    Well, for starters, that phrase about the legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) was completely unnecessary. All He had to say was "put up your swords, guys, this is supposed to happen." Yet we get this mention of legions of angels thrown in, which is a graphic description of His powerful influence, which is certainly like bragging. Much of bragging is unfortunately true.

    To round it out, no "humble" person goes around volunteering information about the power and influence he has, right?

    As for the rest, well, we will have to agree to disagree about Jesus' humility in choosing to become a man... for obvious reasons. ;-)

    4) Well, now I will play the culture card on you! ;-) That "crying in public also requires one to be humble" is almost certainly overshadowed by our own modern perceptions. Esau, Joseph, Jonathan, David, David's men, Jehoash, Hezekiah, and Josiah all wept publicly in the Bible for one reason or another, and several times all of the Israelites wept collectively. It would seem that public crying was not exclusive to the humble, but rather was acceptable based on the circumstance. You may be humble if you cry publicly, but it is obviously not a prerequisite.

  20. Yes, I focused much more on the reaction to your blog post than to the post itself. That may have been bad etiquette (blogiquette?). If so, I apologize. When no less than three people accused Jesus of being a narcissist, that got my attention. I defended him not as a knee-jerk reaction, or because he needs me to defend him; I defended him because of all the accusations you could justifiably level against Jesus, "narcissist" is most definitely not one of those, in my view.

    Relax a little? That's not in my nature. ;-) But please don't mistake my zealousness as anger. I'm totally at peace, I assure you.

    I'm convinced that you and I could debate almost endlessly! :-)

  21. Well, Ollie,obviously you were not the only one to focus on that aspect, and I can certainly understand the repulsion from various comments. :-)

    I am much more interested in the "truth" of the matter than slandering Jesus' good name. It just may come across otherwise because Jesus' is so idealistically presented, such that any statement to the contrary may appear to be painting Him in the worst possible light. It is a delicate dance for a skeptic who desires to be taken seriously. ;-)

    I am sure we could have endless debates, indeed! And I am happy you are at peace. Good night my friend.

  22. Ollie, my reference to narcissism was not directed to the biblical Jesus as you seem to think it was. If you read my comment again, you will see that it is directed at church leaders who use that story to make women feel off balance and guilty no matter what they do - serve or listen, and that such behaviour is common among narcissists.

  23. prarienymph, you are right. I am sorry I neglected to defend you along with Sabio on that. Ollie definitely aimed wrong at you too.