Saturday, August 23, 2014

Greek again

Today's word does appear in the Bible at least 5 times. There it means "extreme" or "superabundance." In English we use it to refer to "the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally." The word is υπερβολή (hyperbole).

We use it all the time. When you say, "I've told you a thousand time" or "That book weighs a ton" or "I could eat my weight in ice cream." Any time we exaggerate to make a point, we are using hyperbole. And humans have done it throughout the history of language. Listen to yourself over the course of the next week and see if you don't use it at least one.

So why when we read the Bible do we think Jesus didn't use it?

Of course he did. When he says in Today's gospel, "call no one on earth father (pater)", He is not suggesting that I should have walked around referring to the man married to my mother as simply John. Even now I shutter to think what would have happened if I had ever gotten up strolled into the kitchen and called either of my parents by their first name. And I don't think telling my father, "Matthew 23:9 says I'm not supposed to call you father" would have saved me.

And the other word Jesus "forbids" καθηγητής (kathagetes) is even more problematic it refers to any kind of guide or teacher. Imagine trying to literally strike those nouns from your vocabulary.

Jesus is speaking in hyperbole. He is exaggerating to make a point. No matter how much we revere our earthly fathers and father figures, ultimately our Father should be God. No matter how many guides or teachers we have in life. There is one who outranks them all, Christ.

I look back on my life and I have had many a kathagetes, a teacher, in my life without whom I would not be who I am, from Mrs. I. A. Williams (the first teacher to ignore my handicap and push me to the limits) to Hollister Lindley ( who literally took me by the hand and guides me out into water and not only took away my fear but taught me to love swimming, after so many others had failed). Any of us who have achieved anything in life know that we are not self made. Without these guides, these teachers, we would have achieved little or nothing.

Jesus does not call us to deny our fathers (biological, spiritual or other). He is not calling us to deny the guides and teachers who have shaped our lives. On the contrary he is reminding us that no matter how old we get, who important we get, how smart we get; we still need a father. We still need a guide and teacher. THE Father, and THE teachers ( the Son and the Holy Spirit). Thoughout our earthly life we will forever be children, and forever students. We are meant to be children and student. It's how God made us.