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The Kingdom Parables 97-98

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  • Michael Grondin
    ... that ... force ... The thing is, it s not clear that the supposed assassin is evil. You yourself have said that you take the megistanos to be a
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 17, 2003
      Stephen Peter wrote:
      > The second problem with the 'trial of strength interpretation is indeed
      > the assassin is evil and I believe is more likely to represent an evil
      > rather than a person seeking the kingdom.

      The thing is, it's not clear that the supposed assassin is evil. You
      yourself have said that you take the megistanos to be a metaphorical figure.
      If so, he would seem to represent the then-current ruling powers of the
      world - who were themselves regarded in a negative light, as in #78. As I
      understand it, however, you take this megistanos to be a believer, and the
      "man" to be a demon. But the metaphorical meaning of 'megistanos' must have
      (to use your words) a "deep similitude" to the literal meaning of the word,
      else the metaphor fails. Similarly, "man" didn't invoke the image of a
      demon, hence it would have had no deep similitude to one. What I think may
      be going on is that yes, the man is seeking the kingdom, but he's seeking it
      in the wrong way. That doesn't make him necessarily evil, just misguided;
      like the woman carrying the jar, he blunders - albeit at the outset, instead
      of along the way. (On the view sketched out herein, the man starts out badly
      and ends well; the woman starts well and ends badly.)

      Somewhere in the corpus of the NT, I recall a saying to the effect that "Men
      have ever sought to take/enter the kingdom by force," and I think there's an
      echo of that in 98. The initial imagery seems to be that of seeking to bring
      about the kingdom by the use of physical force - specifically, by killing a
      worldly leader. But then something strange takes place - the man apparently
      doesn't GO OUT and kill the megistanos at the end. Instead, he seems to have
      found that his true enemy is himself - or at least that part of himself (the
      body) represented by "his (own) house". If the use of the word 'TOTE' is any
      guide, the surprising conclusion of the parable may be that, in the moment
      of victory over his own megistanos, he's brought to realize that that was
      the only "megistanos" that ever counted. He had been imprisoned not by
      external rulers of the world, as he had thought, but by his own body. It was
      the dictates of his body that had oppressed him, not the dictates of
      external worldly rulers. And so, _at that moment_ (TOTE - not next, not
      later), he killed the (real) "megistanos".

      Can we imagine an authorial intention to liken the kingdom to some of its
      members who start out badly, but then right themselves? I think so. A
      Sicarii becomes an ascetic? Why not? Aren't there suggestions of just that
      in the NT? And such a nicely-symmetrical contrast to #97, where a _woman_
      starts out with _good intentions_, then _gradually errs_ along the way to
      end up with _bad results_. Surely examples of both types could plausibly
      have been found within the kingdom movement, and the nicely-symmetrical
      contrast between the two members of the non-canonical pair 97-98 would
      certainly explain their juxtaposition. (The idea of a symmetrical contrast
      between 97 and 98 is new to me as of this writing, BTW, but it seems sound.
      As I now think of it, almost every major element of the two is opposite each
      other. Consider just one that never struck me before, but now seems obvious:
      "in his house" versus "travelling far from home". Surely someone has written
      about this before, unless the translation of TOTE as 'then' has misled

      > Personally I still favour the explanation that the house is a person's
      > the powerful man is a person's spirit. I take the state of being
      > with the spirit as being the same as the kingdom of heaven, the imperial
      > rule of god. A demon attempting to destroy the spirit will first strike
      > the body, his own house. I do not think the Gnostics would have had many
      > problems with seeing the physical body as belonging to the devil. If the
      > demon wins this trial of strength at the bodily level he will go on to
      > the spirit.

      But you see there's an inconsistency here. If the body was thought to belong
      to the devil (as you say), he would not have been seen to have had a need to
      "strike at [it]". Being his home base, there could be no "trial of strength"
      against it on his part. One can't conquer what one already has. Furthermore,
      it wouldn't make sense for a demon to "kill" the body, since the body (as
      part of the world) was presumably considered already a corpse from the
      get-go. It would make sense, however, for the mind of the man to
      metaphorically "kill" the desires associated with the body, so that the soul
      could be guided by the man's innate good spirit instead of by his
      material/sensual desires.

      Mike Grondin
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