Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Christ and the Greeks

St John and His Symbol at the beginning of the Manuscript of St John`s Gospel
From the Gospels of Abbaye Saint-Remi, Reims
c. 1062
Reims - BM - ms. 0009, f. 128 
Bibliothèque municipale de Reims, France

St John and His Symbol at the beginning of the Manuscript of St John`s Gospel
From  Bible de Saint-Sulpice de Bourges (Abbaye Saint-Sulpice de la Nef)
Last quarter of 12th century
Bourges - BM - ms. 0003 , f. 335
Bibliothèque municipale de Bourges, Bourges, France

The Prologue to St John`s Gospel  states the main themes of the Gospel: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, and the preexistence of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, who reveals God the Father. 

In origin, it was probably an early Christian hymn.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Prologue throughout. 

He wrote:
"I would like to present and develop the labours of the Synod by making constant reference to the Prologue of John’s Gospel (Jn 1:1-18), which makes known to us the basis of our life: the Word, who from the beginning is with God, who became flesh and who made his dwelling among us (cf. Jn 1:14).  
This is a magnificent text, one which offers a synthesis of the entire Christian faith.  
From his personal experience of having met and followed Christ, John, whom tradition identifies as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20), “came to a deep certainty: Jesus is the Wisdom of God incarnate, he is his eternal Word who became a mortal man”.  
May John, who “saw and believed” (cf. Jn 20:8) also help us to lean on the breast of Christ (cf. Jn 13:25), the source of the blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34) which are symbols of the Church’s sacraments"

In Chapter 12 of John we read of the time that a group of Greek Jews who were visiting Jerusalem came up to speak to Jesus:
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who had come up to worship at the feast.
21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” 
22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 
23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 
24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. 
25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honour whoever serves me.
27 “I am troubled  now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. 
28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” 
29 The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. 
31 Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 
33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die. 
34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever.Then how can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
35 Jesus said to them, “The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going.
36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light.” After he had said this, Jesus left and hid from them. 
37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence they did not believe in him, 
38 in order that the word which Isaiah the prophet spoke might be fulfilled: 
“Lord, who has believed our preaching,
to whom has the might of the Lord been revealed?”
39 For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said: 
40 “He blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not see with their eyes
and understand with their heart and be converted,
and I would heal them.”

The Greeks were part of the Jewish Diaspora. 

More Jews lived outside the Land of Israel in the Diaspora than in Palestine. 

They were different

In First Corinthians, Paul wrote:
" Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we [Christians] preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:22-23)

Howard Marshall, “The Jewish Dispersion in New Testament Times,” Faith and Thought 100.3
(1972-3): 237-258.

"In the ancient world and especially in the Roman Empire, as scholars in the subject teach us, Jews must have accounted for about 10 percent of the total population; later, here in Rome, towards the middle of the first century, this percentage was even lower, amounting to three percent of the city's inhabitants at most.  
Their beliefs and way of life, is still the case today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment; and this could have two results: either derision, that could lead to intolerance, or admiration which was expressed in various forms of sympathy, as in the case of the "God-fearing" or "proselytes", pagans who became members of the Synagogue and who shared the faith in the God of Israel. ... 
It is certain that the number of Jews, as, moreover, is still the case today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, that is, in the Diaspora, than in the territory that others called Palestine. "

The numbers of Jews from outside Palestine were great who would visit Palestine and from all nations. 

In Acts we read of the first Pentecost when the pilgrims said of the Apostles speaking in tongues:
“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:7-11).
The distinction between the Palestinian (Hebrew) Jew and the Hellenist (Greek) Jew was not only reflected in the language but also in thought and  religion

The Pontifical Biblical Commission (in The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible) explained the position thus:
"17. Since the first Christians were for the most part Palestinian Jews, either “Hebrew” or “Hellenistic” (cf. Ac 6:1), their views on Scripture would have reflected those of their environment, but we are poorly informed on the subject. Nevertheless, the writings of the New Testament suggest that a sacred literature wider than the Hebrew canon circulated in Christian communities. 
Generally, the authors of the New Testament manifest a knowledge of the deuterocanonical books and other non-canonical ones since the number of books cited in the New Testament exceeds not only the Hebrew canon, but also the so-called Alexandrian canon.  
When Christianity spread into the Greek world, it continued to use sacred books received from Hellenistic Judaism. Although Hellenistic Christians received their Scriptures from the Jews in the form of the Septuagint, we do not know the precise form, because the Septuagint has come down to us only in Christian writings.  
What the Church seems to have received was a body of Sacred Scripture which, within Judaism, was in the process of becoming canonical.  
When Judaism came to close its own canon, the Christian Church was sufficiently independent from Judaism not to be immediately affected. It was only at a later period that a closed Hebrew canon began to exert influence on how Christians viewed it. ... 
20. The Hellenistic world had different methods of which Christian exegesis made use as well. The Greeks often interpreted their classical texts by allegorising them. Commenting on ancient poetry like the works of Homer, where the gods seem to act like capricious and vindictive humans, scholars explained this in a more religious and morally acceptable way by emphasising that the poet was expressing himself in an allegorical manner when he wished to describe only human psychological conflicts, the passions of the soul, using the fiction of war between the gods. 
In this case, a new and more spiritual meaning replaced the original one. 
Jews in the diaspora sometimes utilised this method, in particular to justify certain prescriptions of the Law which, taken literally, would appear nonsensical to the Hellenistic world. 
Philo of Alexandria, who had been nurtured in Hellenistic culture, tended in this direction.  
He developed, often with a touch of genius, the original meaning, but at other times he adopted an allegorical reading that completely overshadowed it. As a result, his exegesis was not accepted in Judaism"

In his Lectio Divina on St Paul`s Letter to the Romans on 15th February 2012, Pope Benedict XVI referred again to this division between the Palestinian and the Hellene in relation to St Paul`s teaching on worship of God and contrasts them with the Christian idea of worship of God (or latria) based firmly on the Incarnation 
"Then Paul tells us: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (v. 1): the Greek term is logike latreia and it then appears in the Roman Canon, in the First Eucharistic Prayer, “rationabile obsequium”.  
It is a new definition of worship but is prepared for both in the Old Testament and in Greek philosophy; they are two rivers — so to speak — that flow towards this point and converge in the new liturgy of Christians and of Christ.  
In the Old Testament: from the outset they understood that God did not need bulls, rams, and such things. In Psalm 50[49], God says: Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? I have no need of these things, I do not like them. I do not drink and eat these things. They are not a sacrifice for me. Sacrifice is praise of God, if you come to me it is thanksgiving to God (cf. vv. 13-15, 23).  
Thus the Old Testament route leads towards a point in which these external things, symbols and substitutions, disappear and man himself becomes praise of God. 
The same happens in the world of Greek philosophy. 
Here too one understands increasingly that it is not possible to glorify God with these things — animals or offerings — but that only the “logos” of man, his reason having become the glory of God is really worship, and the idea is that man must come out of himself and unite with the “Logos”, with the great Reason of the world and thus truly be worship.  
However, here there is something missing: man, according to this philosophy, must — so to speak — leave his body, he must be spiritualized; only the spirit would be adoration. 
Christianity, on the contrary, is not simply spiritualization or moralization: it is incarnation, that is, Christ is the “Logos” he is the incarnate Word and he gathers all of us so that in him and with him, in his Body, as members of this Body, we really become a glorification of God."