15-12-27 The Holy Family Of Jesus, Mary And Joseph

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, My Dear Congregation, is the heading for today’s readings chosen by the Catholic Church, and indeed these readings concern family. The first reading is:

Luke 2: 41 to 52[41] Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. [42] And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. [43] And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not [of it]. [44] But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among [their] kinsfolk and acquaintance. [45] And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. [46] And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. [47] And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. [48] And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. [49] And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? [50] And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. [51] And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. [52] And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

A nice family story. Was Joseph the father? No, The Conception of Christ was the topic of last week’s devotion. In the genealogy of Christ it says:

Luke 3: 23: And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was [the son] of Heli.

It does not say that he was Joseph’s son! And in Luke 2: 49 Jesus actually refers to God as his father. The father was chosen by the son, if the son was born of a woman who was not known by a man, as Jesus had been. This was the Ancient custom.

In the Gilgamesh Epic the ale – wife advised Gilgamesh to pay heed to the little one that holds on to his hand. Roman Law, the Law in Palestine in Jesus time said, ‘The mother is determined by birth, the father by marriage.’

In this light the second reading for today can be understood in its proper translation. Here is the King James Translation:

Col. 3: 12 to 21[12] Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; [13] Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also [do] ye. [14] And above all these things [put on] charity, which is the bond of perfectness. [15] And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. [17] And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

[18] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. [19] Husbands, love [your] wives, and be not bitter against them. [20] Children, obey [your] parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. [21] Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged.

Verses 18 to 21 are optional according to the Catholic Lectionary. Is the Catholic Church ashamed of those verses? Are they tenable today? This translation has been done for the Church of England, for a Church who had closed the Catholic Monasteries in England. One purpose of monasteries had been, to bring up unwanted children. After their closure English women had to bring up their own children and unmarried mothers had to face all negative consequences as today also. Therefore England became renowned for its sexual frigidity while Catholic France remained renowned for its sexual liberties. Therefore the Beatles chose the French National Anthem for the introduction of their hit All You Need Is Love.

So let us look at the accurate translation verse by verse:

Verse 18: Women, submit unto men, as it is fit in the Lord. There are words for husband and wife in Ancient Greek, but they are not used in the New Testament. Wherever it says husband in English Translations it says aner, man, in the original and wherever it says wife, it just says gynae, woman. There are two different Greek texts, the Textus Receptus and the Alexandrian Originals are discussed in Greetings from Paradise in the chapter ‘Everlasting Life’. Neither of the originals says ‘your men’, the Textus Receptus says ‘own men’ while the older Alexandrian text has neither word.

St. Paul wrote this to a community without medical care or contraception. Women were usually pregnant and far from all children grew to adulthood. The community had to care for the women because they could not do so themselves. In modern terms they were on continuous maternity leave. Men interacted with the outside world. Women had children and cared for them. Women needed protection and care. This is different today. Due to contraception women are not continuously pregnant and nearly all children in the Western World reach adulthood. Children today are a financial burden to parents, while in those days they meant more available labour.

In any event the Alexandrian text, does not refer to a pairing of men and women in this verse!

Verse 19: Men, love women, and be not bitter against them. The same in both Ancient Greek Scripts. There is no pairing implied at all. Some Translations render harsh instead of bitter. I suppose either way it is a call to love and to love forgiveness is needed in the first place. Do not hold grudges!

Verse 20: Children, listen to parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. The word King James rendered as obey, really means listen to. It is different from the word submit in verse 18. The parents are here the older people, the knowledgeable. In the Greek texts there is no possessive pronoun which would say listen to your parents. This is a Christian Congregation and the supposition is that all members would give any child the same advice. Early Christians kept all things in common and had no private property:

Acts 4: 32: And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any [of them] that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

I suppose that’s why they called each other brethren. They were one family in spirit, even though not in the biological sense.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.