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Re: [XTalk] Poor Widow

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  • Theodore Weeden
    ... only to the rich, such as the rich young man (10:17-22), reluctant to give up their riches for the kingdom and eternal life, but, also, of course, the
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 1, 2006
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      Steve Davies wrote on Thursday, August 31, 2006:

      > > Ted Weeden wrote:

      >C. Poor Widow> > Next, the poor widow serves as a positive foil not
      only to the rich, such as> the rich young man (10:17-22), reluctant
      to give up their riches for the> kingdom and eternal life, but,
      also, of course, the Twelve, who struggle> with how any one can be
      saved, if it is so nigh unto impossible for a rich> man to be saved
      (10:23-26). The poor widow is an exemplification of a> person who
      fulfills the suffering-servant ideology of giving up all one has>
      for God* vis-à-vis 8:35f.).<<

      > Well, now, not so quick. I was reading through the CBQ one day years
      ago and saw it suggested that we should put that pericope into
      context. Immediately before the poor widow gives all that she has to
      the religious men-in-charge* Jesus has angrily attacked the scribes
      who "eat up the houses of widows." Now, as a notorious skeptic, I do
      not take the Bible literally. I think that, rather than their diet
      being criticized, the scribes are attacked for taking the money of
      widows that should remain with widows so that the widows might
      support themselves and their dependents. Accordingly, the poor widow
      is an illustration of just the sort of miserable fool who will be
      taken in by the scribes and who will give all her money to them.<

      >*The idea that giving one's money to men in charge of churches, or
      Temples, is giving one's money to God has, no doubt, a history as
      long as the history of human religion itself.<

      [snip]

      >But I suspect Jesus is
      criticizing that point of view (e.g. "you have made my father's
      house a robbers' cave") rather than advocating it. Not that Jesus is
      consistent (nobody in all of recorded history is less consistent
      IMHO) because he also advocates rendering unto God what is Gods
      which, in context, is rendering your own money unto the priests. Ahh
      well.<

      Ted:

      Steve, the _CBQ_ article you have in mind is likely A. G. Wright's article,
      "The Widow's Mites: Praise or Lament? A Matter of Context," CBQ [1982],
      256-65, to which Robert Gundry in his _Mark_, 730. Gundry represents Wright
      as arguing that in Mk 12:41-44 Jesus is lamenting that the poor widow threw
      in her entire livelihood into the Temple treasury. Wright states (263,) as
      quoted by Gundry: "her contribution was totally misguided, thanks to the
      encouragement of official religion." Gundry then cites (730), in his own
      words, the eight reasons Wright proposes this interpretation of Jesus'
      response to the widow's gift (730): "(1) Jesus' saying nothing commendatory
      about the widow's action; (2) his not issuing an exhortation to imitate it;
      (3) the commonness of his observation that how little you have left counts
      more than how much you give . . . ; (4) the absence from the observation of
      any contrast between human and divine evaluations; (5) the absence of any
      indication that the disciples had difficulty comprehending Jesus'
      observation; (6) his putting human needs above the Sabbath and Corban
      (2:23-3:5; 7:10-13); (7) the immediately preceding context of the scribes'
      devouring the houses of widows; and (8) the immediately following context of
      Jesus' predicting the destruction of the Temple."

      Gundy then goes to refute Wright's argument (730f.), thus: "the comparison
      in which Jesus says that the widow has given to a greater extent than others
      have given makes his observation no more lamentable than commendatory. The
      absence of an exhortation to imitate the widow's action proves only that the
      story is not parenetic . . . . Furthermore, he does not merely contrast
      large proportion with small, but giving all of a subsistence with giving
      some of a surplus. The absence of a contrast between human and divine
      evaluations is irrelevant; for Jesus is giving his own evaluation to an
      audience whom it might surprise. 'Truly I say to you' assures then of its
      truth despite popular opinion to the contrary. Their expressing no
      difficulty in understanding is neutral with respect to whether Jesus laments
      or commends the widow's action or does neither, for his evaluation of her
      gift remains the same in any case. Nothing indicates that she is giving
      under scribal influence; and the money goes to the Temple, not to a scribe.
      So neither directly or indirectly is a scribe devouring her house (though .
      . . her poverty may be taken as due to such scribal activity). Total giving
      of a voluntary sort differs fundamentally from subjection to others'
      unscrupulosity and overinterpretation of the Law, as in matters of Sabbath
      and Corban. If predicting the destruction of the Temple implies
      wastefulness at all, it implies the wastefulness of others' gifts as well as
      the widow's. Yet the story hinges on the difference between the extent of
      their giving and that of hers . . . ."

      I think that Gundry has argued convincingly against Wright's interpretation
      of the Markan Jesus' commentary on the widow's gift. I hold that the
      contrast Mark seeks to underscore with his hearers is the contrast between
      those who give out of their surplus, the rich and the exemplary extravagant
      giving of a poor widow who has essentially nothing. Thus, as I see it,
      Mark has Jesus praise two women in their extravagant giving, (1) the poor
      widow, whose gift to the Temple treasury is the giving away of everything
      she has, and (2) the anointing woman who gives an extravagant gift to Jesus
      by anointing him with extremely expensive ointment, which presumably she has
      bought.

      Note, interestingly enough, that these two stories of the respective
      extravagant giving of two women serve as bookends to the apocalyptic
      digression of Mark 13. Moreover, note how the example of a woman's
      self-giving response begins Jesus' public ministry, Peter's mother-in-law's
      serving Jesus (1:29-31; in the previous story, 1:21-28, Jesus' first act of
      his public ministry is an interaction with an unclean spirit and not the
      human possessed by it per se; and that interaction is to complete the
      supernatural recognition of Jesus as the Son of God by both God [1:11] and
      the demonic [1:23f.] ). Likewise, the Markan Jesus' public ministry, prior
      to the passion narrative itself, ends with the poor widow's self-giving in
      throwing in her whole livelihood into the Temple treasury (12:41-44). Both
      are foils for the self-serving disciples whom Jesus has chosen. I do not
      think it is accidental that Mark chose as the first narrative of Jesus'
      public ministry to a specific person, not only a story about a woman and her
      self-giving response to Jesus, but also, and specifically, the mother-in-law
      of Peter, thereby establishing at the outset the narrative contrast between
      the Twelve and a woman directly related to one of the Twelve, and thereby
      beginning his narrative depiction of his male-disciples/women foil-motif.

      Notice, too, the faithful attention of women to Jesus and his fate begins
      and ends the passion narrative: 14:3-9, the woman's anointing of Jesus in
      lieu of his death; and 15:40-16:8, the presence of the trio of women at
      Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and their intended anointing service to Jesus'
      body, which leads them to encounter the Easter epiphany in the empty tomb.
      Moreover, note that the passion narrative begins with the theme of the
      anointing of Jesus' body by a woman and ends with the theme of women seeking
      to anoint his body. All of these symmetrical narrative parallels, in my
      judgment, cannot be accidental. They serve to focus attention upon the
      faithful suffering-servant discipleship of women in the Gospel in contrast
      to the resistance to suffering-servant discipleship upon the part of Jesus'
      twelve chosen men, and finally their apostasy.

      Ted Weeden
      Fairport, NY
      Retired
      Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
    • sdavies0
      ... not ... [Ted s long summary of essays on this subject contra my views cut.] I try again. If I may…. I m still worried about the poor old woman giving
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 12, 2006
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        --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Theodore Weeden" <Tweeden@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Steve Davies wrote on Thursday, August 31, 2006:
        >
        > > > Ted Weeden wrote:
        >
        > >C. Poor Widow> > Next, the poor widow serves as a positive foil
        not
        > only to the rich, such as> the rich young man (10:17-22), reluctant
        > to give up their riches for the> kingdom and eternal life, but,
        > also, of course, the Twelve, who struggle> with how any one can be
        > saved, if it is so nigh unto impossible for a rich> man to be saved
        > (10:23-26). The poor widow is an exemplification of a> person who
        > fulfills the suffering-servant ideology of giving up all one has>
        > for God* vis-à-vis 8:35f.).<<

        [Ted's long summary of essays on this subject contra my views cut.]

        I try again. If I may…. I'm still worried about the poor old woman
        giving her all to the Temple in Mark 12:42. We have just heard about
        the scribes devouring widows' houses, and I, as you might suspect,
        am reminded of the old witch's house in Hansel-and-Gretel that
        is made of candy and lures the children to their dooms. Ted Weeden
        appears to be a bit too fascinated by the parallels and patterns he
        finds to appreciate the parallels and patterns I find. Or at least I
        suspect so. Raising the question of how to choose between sets of
        parallels and patterns. Hmmm. Really, if both sets of patterns are
        real patterns, but lead to contradictory conclusions, how does one
        choose between them?

        Anyhow, Mark 11:11 is one brief visit to Jerusalem. Reminds me of my
        own, when I arrived almost at night, walked to the old city, entered
        the Herod gate, looked around, and went back to the hotel. Jesus
        enters, checks out the temple thoroughly and leaves.

        Next day he entered the temple
        and was enraged IMHO at the prices put on
        Passover lambs/goats and expressed his anger in a manner known to
        you all. So this is the first thing that he does in Jerusalem and
        this leads wicked priests and "scribes" to look for a way to kill
        him.

        So far so good. Many bits of business follow until the end of
        the next day when we hear that scribes devour the houses of widows
        and, immediately thereafter, here comes the widow who put in more
        than all those who are contributing to the treasury (Jesus is
        speaking of her contribution on a percentage basis, not an absolute
        basis) because she out of her poverty has put in everything she
        had, all she had to live on. I cannot, for the life of me, see why
        this is supposed to be a good thing that she does.

        The temple is a robber's cave, we have learned, and IMMEDIATELY
        THEREAFTER, as Jesus "came out of the temple, one of his disciples
        said to him, `Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large
        buildings,'"
        (guy's been there for a couple days now and apparently didn't
        previously notice). Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great
        buildings?" (Odd question, in context) "Not onbe stone will be left
        here upon another, all will be thrown down." When he was sitting on
        the Mount of Olives…. And so Jesus has left Jerusalem.

        So, apart from his first visit to look around a bit, Jesus'
        Mission To Jerusalem, or whatever those chapter 11 – 12 two days are
        called, is framed at the beginning by anger at the financial
        arrangements for the Temple and (my point cometh) also he is angered
        at the end of the sequence by the Temple suckering the poor old fool
        widder into giving more than she can afford. This is followed
        immediately by prediction of Temple's physical destruction which
        many authorities (sans moi) (is that correct for "but not I"?) think
        was symbolically predicted by what they like to think was
        a "prophetic action" at the very first day of the sequence.

        The placement of the poor widow's
        contribution is in the prime place of Mark's long inclusion pattern,
        the last and climactic sentence (as is, e.g., 10:45 in the big
        framed sequence between the healings of blind men). I don't see how
        one can say that the widow's contribution ought be taken to be a
        correct and laudable thing.

        Steve Davies
      • Bob Schacht
        ... Ha! I interrupt at this point, on the chance that this question was not purely rhetorical. Besides, I rather like methodological issues. Anyway, this
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 12, 2006
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          At 11:45 AM 9/12/2006, sdavies0 wrote:

          >--- In <mailto:crosstalk2%40yahoogroups.com>crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com,
          >"Theodore Weeden" <Tweeden@...>
          >wrote:
          > >
          > > Steve Davies wrote on Thursday, August 31, 2006:
          > >
          > > > > Ted Weeden wrote:
          > >
          > > >C. Poor Widow> > Next, the poor widow serves as a positive foil not
          > > only to the rich, such as> the rich young man (10:17-22), reluctant
          > > to give up their riches for the> kingdom and eternal life, but,
          > > also, of course, the Twelve, who struggle> with how any one can be
          > > saved, if it is so nigh unto impossible for a rich> man to be saved
          > > (10:23-26). The poor widow is an exemplification of a> person who
          > > fulfills the suffering-servant ideology of giving up all one has>
          > > for God* vis-à-vis 8:35f.).<<
          >
          >[Ted's long summary of essays on this subject contra my views cut.]
          >
          >I try again. If I may…. I'm still worried about the poor old woman
          >giving her all to the Temple in Mark 12:42. We have just heard about
          >the scribes devouring widows' houses, and I, as you might suspect,
          >am reminded of the old witch's house in Hansel-and-Gretel that
          >is made of candy and lures the children to their dooms. Ted Weeden
          >appears to be a bit too fascinated by the parallels and patterns he
          >finds to appreciate the parallels and patterns I find. Or at least I
          >suspect so. Raising the question of how to choose between sets of
          >parallels and patterns. Hmmm. Really, if both sets of patterns are
          >real patterns, but lead to contradictory conclusions, how does one
          >choose between them? . . .

          Ha! I interrupt at this point, on the chance that this question was not
          purely rhetorical.
          Besides, I rather like methodological issues.

          Anyway, this "choosing between sets of parallels and patterns" seems to be
          the basic humanistic way of doing business, so it is important. The most
          important first step in choosing between them is to examine their
          underlying assumptions to see if they differ, and if so, in what ways do
          they differ.

          I propose that this situation is parallel to issues that pop up in the
          philosophy of science with some regularity. The "sets of parallels and
          patterns" are often based on different world views, so it seems like there
          is no common ground from which both "sets" can be evaluated. This happens
          in science, too. Thomas Kuhn called these "sets" paradigms. For example,
          the Ptolemaic view of the universe, with the Earth at the center, had one
          set of parallels and patterns, in which the motion of planets were
          described in terms of epicycles and the like. Epicycle science had become
          quite refined and reliable, and could be used quite accurately by the crews
          of sea-going ships. Then along came Galileo with a different set of
          parallels and patters, throwing out the epicycles as fictions. Initially,
          it was actually *less* accurate than Ptolemaic science, even if it was more
          elegant in other respects. Eventually, of course, the Galilean set of
          patterns and parallels became preferred because its underlying principles
          proved more productive in many ways.

          The way one chooses can begin by examining the underlying principles and
          assumptions.

          Bob Schacht



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • sdavies0
          ... the ... and ... like there ... happens ... principles and assumptions. ... Aloha Bob. I suppose we can also bring in the postmodernist view that authorial
          Message 4 of 4 , Sep 13, 2006
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            --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <r_schacht@...> wrote:
            >
            > I propose that this situation is parallel to issues that pop up in
            the
            > philosophy of science with some regularity. The "sets of parallels
            and
            > patterns" are often based on different world views, so it seems
            like there
            > is no common ground from which both "sets" can be evaluated. This
            happens
            > in science, too. Thomas Kuhn called these "sets" paradigms.


            > The way one chooses can begin by examining the underlying
            principles and assumptions.
            >
            > Bob Schacht

            Aloha Bob.

            I suppose we can also bring in the postmodernist view that authorial
            intentionality is either an illusion or an irrelevancy. So if Ted
            and I are both claiming that we discover what Mark intended to
            convey when writing the Gospel of Mark, we are both mistaken. (IMO,
            of course, he is mistaken and I'm not... but are we both,
            postmodernwise, mistaken because authorial intentionality is so not-
            twenty-first-century?).

            Steve Davies
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