10 October 2016

Jonah, Jairus, Jesus



Jesus said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."
  • Luke 6:48
Jesus answered him, "Do not fear; only believe, and she shall be well."
  • Luke 6:50


A long time ago I noticed the Gospels use “pistos” and “sozo” a lot. They both get translated differently in different places.  Pistos is “believe”, “faith”, and “trust”. Sozo is “heal”, “made whole”, and “save”.  The Greek words carry all the meanings at the same time.  Only in English do we need to pick one or the other.  We learn more about the translator’s biases than we do about the meaning of the text, I think. The same word play is there in the Hebrew.  You can be saved or healed, either one, by the Latin Salvum but by the time St Jerome was working on the Bible he had to pick between meanings of fides and crede in translating these verses.  English is just a further evolution. This is important because of the meaning of “Save” in modern religious language.  We speak of it in the future-imperfect usually: I am saved, I will go to heaven when I die.  The key point is “go to heaven” or, to reverse it, “not go to hell”.  


But I never noticed two things about this passage: the same words are used for the bleeding woman - a present tense event - and, in the future tense, they are used of a dead girl.  There is a further difference:  the woman bleeding is “sozo-ed” is done so by her own pistis.  The man is told his pistis will sozo his daughter. This is not the only time in the NT this happens: St Paul tells a jailer only to believe on Christ “and you and all your household will be sozo-ed.”


Jonah gets a call from God and then runs away because he’s not trusting in God.  He has no faith.  In the end, however (we’ll see in a couple of days) he lets his faith take over and it saves all of Nineveh.


I don’t want to take this meditation too far: we can get in trouble. The Mormons get baptized once to sozo themselves and then repeatedly to sozo their dead relatives. Clearly it’s possible to do this wrong.


But what ever can it mean? For these to make any sense, faith can’t be a list of doctrines - My “credo” as it were.  Faith has to be something else. Jonah’s list of doctrines are probably not too long: God is one. Don’t eat pork (etc). But his faith saved a city.  What might it be?  Jairus had no doctrine, certainly; at least not much more than Jonah.  His faith raises his daughter from the dead. Trusting in Jesus, one assumes... but - and we know this from St James - “Faith without works is dead.”  Holding a set of doctrines in the head is meaningless: it’s not an emotion or mental activity.  It’s going to Nineveh and preaching.  It’s walking with Jesus to the sick girl’s bedside - even when they say “She’s dead.”


Before any set of decades are prayed on the Rosary, a Creed is said, then an Our Father. Then we say the “Hail Mary” three times, traditionally for an increase of Faith, Hope, and Love. But these three “theological virtues” as they are called are not emotions. We’ve already said the Creed, the doctrine. Doctrine is not faith. Faith, here, is the doing of it. Hope, here, is not being distracted from the doing of it by the world, the flesh, or the devil. Love, here, is the thing we are to be doing.

If we do it then the world will be saved.  That may not mean what we imagine - and people can always run away - but that’s what we are about.