The Gospel According to Luke – 2018.06.24
Narrative and Myth
The Gospel for today is quaint.
It demonstrates that the leaders of the early church, writing about a hundred years or so after the death of Jesus, and thirty years or so after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, that they felt a pressing need to enrich the story of their origins.
They invented myths, drafting a narrative that wove the disparate strands of their tradition in to a unity. They wanted to co-opt the strength of John’s community, to pull as many people as they could from John’s tradition, into their own, and to strip those who would not join them of any authority.
The story itself, is a pure fabrication. It can only be understood in terms of the metaphor it presents.
John and Jesus are presented as cousins, and the story depicts their entire family as beloved by God, protected by the hand of God, who works miracles in their lives.
There is variation in the metaphor depending on who is writing and when, but the basic disjunction shows John as prophet, and Jesus as High Priest, and King.
John is the goat and Jesus is the lamb.
John preaches in the wilderness, he is a man of the wild, like Ishmael, and Essau, and Jesus is presented as Abraham, or Moses; father, Lawgiver, or like David, the King.
The lesson from the gospel reading for today it that all narrative is fluid, and stories can be rewritten, all of our stories are, because we never tell them exactly as they happened.
Take nothing at face value, and question everything.
'His Name is John'
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time