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Re: [Synoptic-L] Luke on the leper

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  • Karel Hanhart
    ... From: Maluflen@aol.com To: Synoptic-L@bham.ac.uk Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 6:00 PM Subject: [Synoptic-L] Luke on the leper Leonard wrote (Nov 28)
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 3, 2004
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      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 6:00 PM
      Subject: [Synoptic-L] Luke on the leper
      Leonard wrote (Nov 28)

      "<snip>.......Luke's story implies, then, a certain conception of the disease of leprosy as something almost akin to a demon, quite distinct from the suffering subject who is its "host". This conception agrees with the way Luke opens his story, again compared with Matt. Matt speaks of a leper (LEPROS) who approaches Jesus. Luke instead speaks of a "man full of leprosy" (ANHR PLHRHS LEPRAS). So two subjects, the man and the leprosy, are immediately indicated as distinct, in the way that a fluid is distinct from the container in which it is held. This conception is fully in agreement with Luke's redaction elsewhere in his Gospel (and also in Acts). Instead of speaking of "demoniacs", as in Matt 8:28, Lk 8:27 speaks of "a man from the city having demons" (ANHR EK THS POLEWS EXWN DAIMONIA), a phrase that echoes Luke's ANQWPOS EXWN PNEUMA DAIMONIOU AKAQARTOU in 4:33. Luke avoids in similar fashion referring to a paralytic in 5:18 (as in Matt 9:2). Instead he speaks of a "man who was paralyzed". (Compare also Lk 8:43-44 with the Matthean parallel, where in Lk something happens to the RUSIS of blood as a result of the healing action of Jesus). In addition to these Gospel texts, Luke's own manner of speaking about illness or possession (without any reference to Mark) can be seen from Acts texts such as 5:16; 8:7; 16:16; 19:12; 19:16, etc
      I wish to comment on your careful notes as follows:
      As you know, I believe that none of the so-called miracle stories were intended to be taken as healings of a literal physical disease. The authors of the Gospel make this clear, each in their own way. I fully realize that this remark goes against the grain of an age old and persistent exegetical tradition.  I also seriously question the hermeneutic of a good many critical scholars claiming that these odd tales about the exorcism of evil spirits and the notion that physical diseases should all be attributed to the naiveté of first century authors of the Gospels. These authors were not naive! The arresting and seemingly inconsequential startling details of these stories are put in these stories in midrashic fashion. First century Judean readers were perfectly capable of analyzing their metaphorical meaning. It was a first century Judean way of  teaching. I mentioned before that the bystanders of the first exorcism in Mark identify it as "a new TEACHING with authority".
      The same is true with the second (or third?) miracle: the cleansing of the leper (Mark 1,40-44).. As I see it, with this miracle story Mark illustrates Jesus' well known first beatitude : "Blessed are the poor", a teaching he exemplified in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. We know of the poor Lazarus - laying at the rich man's gate -   that he was a LEPER, "covered with sores" and the dogs! (having pity on him?) licking his sores.
      This first "healing" is a midrashic comment on the Levitical rule that only a priest should determine whether someone is suffering of leprosy or that one's sores or ulcers are non leprous. The manner in which lepers were literally excommunicated from the people (of God) living in colonies  outside the community, was a prime illustration of all other ways in which the "poor" with a broken spirit are discriminated in any society. Now it seems to me that Luke with his description of a "man full of leprosy" (ANHR PLHRHS LEPRAS) makes clear that we are not dealing with a sudden and inexplicable cure of a real leper. You rightly observed :"So two subjects, the man and the leprosy, are immediately indicated as distinct, in the way that a fluid is distinct from the container in which it is held". This fluid - container distinction makes clear that the excommunicated man did not have a skin disease but was suffering in his very existence. One cannot really say that a man is "filled with sores" or "filled with leprosy" and mean this literally. PLHRHS  does not fit here. But one may say that the spirit of a person is broken like the spirit of Lazarus' at the gate and the rich passing through the gate and ignoring him. That is the reason, I think, why Luke clarifies the Markan and Matthean version for his readers. So the healing stories, told in this way for the sake of the children in the ecclesia, are illustrations of Jesus' beatitudes and parables, such as the one of Lazarus. They are called a new "teaching", that is he taught a radical love of the neighbor AS oneself.    
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