Monday, February 05, 2007

on Healing and Community

During one of Mark Moore's lectures on hermeneutics, he discusses some of the cultural differences between Second Temple Judaism culture (think New Testament times here) and today. One of the differences he highlights is that of healing.

Listen to 34:30 to 35:35 (emphasis my own)
[Today], healing is about the removal of pain from your body. That is not what healing is about. Because most people have multiple things wrong with them. In Kenya, there's a lot of people sick. A lot more than here, I would imagine. And if you don't have access to medical attention, you might want a cure for one ailment, but it's really beyond people's imagination or expectation that they would live a pain-free physical life. You have the luxury of making that assumption. The people in the Bible did not. So when they talked about healing, it was not the removal of pain from the body, it was the removal of uncleanness that separated you from your community, whether that was leprosy, or blindness, or deafness, or muteness, or an unclean issue of blood, or demon possession. Are you understanding what I'm saying here? That culturally you have some middle class assumptions that cause you to read the Bible in a certain way.
Why is this interesting? Recently, one of my Bible Studies have been discussing the gospel as shown in Mark. It's helpful to remember that the healings weren't about Jesus demonstrating how big and powerful he was so that everyone would run after him. And this quotation from Mr Moore's lecture nicely portrays that. The healings are about the restoration of Israel that are taking place right underneath their unsuspecting noses. And a true restoration of the people of God means a restoration of the people to God.

It also gives us a framework for understanding the Gospel as demonstrated in Paul (see NT Wright's discussion of the Gospel in Galatians).The return of the King means the restoration of Israel and the whole world (Thusly, Is 40-55). The healings are restoring the people's physical states (whole world), but only insofar as they are restoring community (Israel).

Perhaps this would also make sense of Mark 6:5. A community that denied the restorative center of the gospel (ie that Jesus is King) would not be able to partake in the restorative effects thereof (though it does say that he was able to do a few healings). I don't know. Just some thoughts...

Note: Also see JollyBlogger's mention of Wright's discussion of this same topic:
For a first-century Jew, most if not all the works of healing, which form the bulk of Jesus' mighty works, could be seen as the restoration to membership in Israel of those who, through sickness or whatever, had been excluded as ritually unclean. The healings thus function in exact parallel with the welcome of sinners, and this, we may be quite sure, was what Jesus himself intended. He never performed mighty works simply to impress. He saw them as part of the inauguration of the sovereign and healing rule of Israel's covenant god.

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