Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Still reading Blue Like Jazz. I'm close to finishing. Here Donald Miller writes about hearing Brennan Manning speak. Brennan Manning is one of my favorite writers. I've heard him speak a couple of times as well, and it's a real treat. Here's what Don heard:

"A friend and I traveled to Salem to hear Brennan Manning speak. Manning is a former Catholic priest and a wonderful writer who has struggled with alcoholism and speaks frankly about matters of Christian spirituality. We sat so close I could see the blue in Brennan's eyes and that quality of sincerity you find in people who have turned trial into service. Brennan grew up in New York and speaks with a slight East Coast bite that has been sanded down by years of smoking.

He opened his talk with the story of Zacchaeus. Brennan talked about how an entire town, with their ridicule and hatred, could not keep the little man from oppressing them through the extravagant financial gains he made as a tax collector. Christ walked through town, Brennan said, and spotted the man. Christ told Zacchaeus that He would like to have a meal with him.

In the single conversation Christ had with Zacchaeus, Brennan reminded us, Jesus spoke affirmation and love, and the tax collector sold his possessions and made amends to those he had robbed. It was the affection of Christ, not the brutality of a town, that healed Zacchaeus."


euphrony said...

I've long believed that the story of Zachaeus has been misrepresented, with his life before meeting Christ vilified. Yes, he was a chief tax collector and as such despised by his fellow Jews; I wonder if that abhorrence to his profession has carried over to us, today?

In Zacchaeus saying "Master, I give away half my income to the poor— and if I'm caught cheating, I pay four times the damages" (Luke 19:8, The Message) it is most commonly translated that this is an action he commits to start doing. From my understanding, including speaking with one of the translators of the NIV, the implication in the language is that this is something he had already been doing. In other words, Zacchaeus was an honest and pious Jew who wanted to know more of Jesus.

Jesus response to the crowd was "For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost." (Luke 19:10, The Message) The word "lost" can literally mean destroyed or discarded. I think that Jesus is telling the crowd that this person whom they had thrown away, because of his profession, He was claiming as His own.

With this view, we still have the great story of Zacchaeus coming to Christ. But, the onus of sin shifts dramatically from Zacchaeus to the crowd. This makes me question whom I have discarded out of hand, who needs and wants God in their life.

FancyPants said...

That's really interesting. I haven't looked at the passage in that way. But I'll go back and look again.

Brennan's interpretation places the sin on both Zacchaeus and the crowd.

You know, wasn't Matthew, the apostle, a tax collector as well? Jesus definitely did not let the views of the majority affect his decision on acceptance and grace. Thank God, right?

truevyne said...

I don't know how or why, but BC (before children), the small church I belonged to invited Brennan Manning, and he came twice to speak. His words compel hearts to action and reflection.

FancyPants said...

Euphrony, I've been looking at the different translations of Luke 19:8. This is so interesting to me, because our view of Zaccheus changes with one translation to the next. I'm no translator, so...

NIV: But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

NAS: Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much."

New Living: Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

These implying a conversion experience, a repentance and restoration of wrong doing.

You've included The Message already.

King James: And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

English Stand: And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."

From my understanding, these either show Zach defending himself against the accusations of the crowd. Like no Jesus, they don't know what they're talking's what I already do.

OR, he stands and makes a declaration to the Lord, implying a conversion. A...look, Lord, at what I now do.

Amplified Bible: So then Zacchaeus stood up and solemnly declared to the Lord, See, Lord, the half of my goods I [now] give [by way of restoration] to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I [now] restore four times as much.

( is pretty rad.)

I'm still reading and have more to say. I feel this is important to look at because it's a glimpse into who Jesus considered worthy of his time and energy. A conversion experience here shows that Jesus eats with real sinners, down and dirty sinners.

On the other hand, if Zach were an obedient Jew from the get go and the super righteous crowd was casting wrong judgments, it means Jesus wanted to clear his name, in a way, and that he cares not for the judgements of the self righteous.

Either take is beautiful, really.

So I'm gonna go at this for a while and will keep posting and may be the only one who's into it, but...that's cool. I'd love some company along the way, though

Rob said...

A fascinating observation. I've never heard this story explained this way!

I suppose it depends on what the original language actually said. Now I'm no scholar of Greek, but I can google with the best of them and came across a Greek interlinear rendition of Luke 19:8. The word (Strong's #5719) that seems to be in the Greek text is in the "present" tense and "indicative" mood.

Quoting from the information on Strong's #5719 -- "The indicative mood is a simple statement of fact. The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense. Some phrases which might be rendered as past tense in English will often occur in the present tense in Greek. These are termed 'historical presents,' and such occurrences dramatize the event described as if the reader were there watching the event occur."

It really sounds to me like the King James and English Standard are most accurate, and that the rendition "I now give" is a bit of inference. I guess even in modern English either "I give" or "I now give" might mean "I have been giving and continue to give" or it might mean "I hearby give" implying starting from now.

The original simply has Zacchaeus say that at the present he is giving... and does not comment on when he started doing this.

Rob said...

Correction... the Strong's number is 1325 for the word translated "give." The 5719 is some kind of information on tense and mood.

euphrony said...

There has been a lot of variation in the translations, each with slightly different implications. I did what Rob did - checked out the Greek and the tense. If you read the NASB (and probably others, too) it has a text note that informs the giving to be in the present tense. So, to translate it to be a newly begun action is laying a preferential interpretation to Zacchaeus' story. Of course, there may be more in the translation than the words of Luke: they may be referring to anecdotal evidence from first century Christians, perhaps who had been there and knew the background story.

You're correct, FP, that either take on the translation is beautiful. It's a great story, period. But I find that by I am encouraged and challenged differently by the different translations. Maybe the ambiguity was intentional?

This is something I do fairly often, checking the Greek and Hebrew. Often when reading I will be struck by some word or phrase and wonder how language may be misleading me. So I make a note and check out the old dictionary. You find out lots of interesting things (at least to me) this way.

FancyPants said...

These translation issues are points of frusteration for me. Obviously, I am not schooled in Greek and Hebrew. Those who translated the documents into English are. Yet, translations often differ. And, so many teachers these days are taking these verses and giving alternate meanings to the words other than what the translator offered and thought necessary. (Not saying this is wrong.) In these cases, especially, it is helpful. But in many cases, why do we not trust the translators? Because we might as well all learn Greek and Hebrew, really, if you think about it.

But that's just me on a soapbox.

Thank you for the insight, Rob and Euphrony. So great!

Ephrony, I've wondered about the ambiguity as well. Maybe that's part of the point here! We don't really know about the inner workings of the life of Zacchaeus either, definitely no more than the crowd then. The story demands our humility in viewing a fellow believer. One that perhaps doesn't follow all of our societal norms and rules.

FancyPants said...

Fellow believer, or sinner, or whoever, for that matter, depending on which way you read it.

More to come from me.