Friday, October 12, 2007

Ecclesiastes chapter 7:29

A question was asked in Red 4 today about this passage of the Old Testament book.

The New American Bible reads: "Behold, only this have I found out: God made mankind straight, but men have had recourse to many calculations." with the added footnote that the word "calculations" means " the many vain attempts and schemes of men to attain happiness by their own efforts."

The question centered around the word "straight" and wether or not this was in reference to sexuality (hetero- vs. homo-). I apologize that it took me awhile to do some digging, but here's what I found:

1. the Latin word used in this passage is "rectum" which is translated as "virtuous or right".
2. the original Hebrew word whcih was "yashar" which is translated as "just, righteous, upright, or straight."

While sexuality is related to morality there is nothing inherently sexual about the term yashar.

We discussed that homosexuality was widely practiced in the ancient Greek world, but only as a sort of recreational practice, particularly among the elite - most of whom were married and had families. It was not as a monogomous lifestyle. What, then are we to make of Christ's silence on this widespread practice? We cannot assume that his silence is an approval because Christ's audience was centered on the Jewish population of Israel, and while ancient Greeks practiced homosexuality, for the Hebrews it was "an abomination to the Lord" and punishable by death. There would have been no need for Christ to address the issue as it was really a "non-issue" for his audience.

A similar hypothetical situation might play out as follows: Assume that a Catholic bishop publishes a book of homilies, and in them are no homilies dedicated to the topic of not commiting abortion. Does this silence then imply that the bishop is pro-choice? Certainly not, for his audience is composed of Catholic churchgoers who are presumably pro-life, and therefore do not need any exhortation not to procure abortion.

At last we come to two key terms that lie at the heart of today's discussion: exegesis and hermeneutics. For these I direct your attention to the online Catholic Dictionary:

These two are the foundation of scriptural interpretation. If one fails to use a proper hermeneutic, then he arrives at a flawed exegesis. It's like trying to navigate with an inaccurate map and a broken compass. If you want to see where you end up check out either or - both of these are tragically off the mark. If they weren't so fatally flawed they would be humerous.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. B

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