Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 11, 2010

John 8: Jesus accused of being a Samaritan

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 11, 2010

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Gospel of John
Chapter 8

What are we to make of silence? Jesus is accused of being a Samaritan and demon-possessed, as if either one or the other was not bad enough. He responds directly to one charge and not at all to the other.

If Jesus is able to convince the accusers he is not demon-possessed, does he mind being considered a Samaritan?

The news of his extended stay in Samaria — and of those baptized there — has almost certainly followed Jesus. In chapter 8 he has returned to Jerusalem, and the scribes and Pharisees seek to hold him accountable for associating with the heretical other.

To deny the charge of being a Samaritan would have implied support for the prejudice against Samaritans. The silence of Jesus implies there is no dishonor in being a Samaritan.

His argument against being demon-possessed would – if accepted – have compelled the scribes and Pharisees to see Samaritans and even Gentiles as having the same claim to God’s glory as the Jews.

“If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him,” Jesus proclaims. It is knowledge of God that constitutes true faith. Other tests are merely forms of religious self-glorification.

–+–

This is the fourth post in a weekend series that will conclude on December 24.  The purpose is to examine possible principles for inter-religious relations emerging from six scriptural texts.

The first post on December 3 was Tis the season… to deal directly with religious difference.

The second post on December 4 was Avoid Samaritan Towns.

The third post on December 5 was The Woman at Jacob’s Well.

Tomorrow: A Samaritan town rejects Jesus.

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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

December 11, 2010 @ 8:32 am

Well and interesting and important series of posts since how religions address the “other” is perhaps a fundamental strength or flaw of each religion. Pouring boiling oil down the mouth of the “other” does not seem to me to promote religious belief or conversion to the “True” faith as was often done during the 30 years war in Central Europe in the early 1600′s. On that basis I would have preferred that you skip the step you have taken and just address the use of and condoning of violence by various religions against the “other” and innocents.
Perhaps driven by my mother being a Quaker. But I did not select “conscientious objector” status when faced with the draft. Oddly a formal change post Viet Nam in the definition of that status by the Selective Service Administration [which does still exist] is worthy of study for those whose learned or desired profession is the military. That has not been part of the academic world’s study to my knowledge which often leads those on active duty to face choices that were never explained to them in advance of enlistment. It is not just recruiting NCO’s that lie, but often the system by its failure to disclose choices. We certainly cannot say that about the DADT policy which now has been left to the courts to resolve. Odd when almost no members of the Bench, even SCOTUS, have seen active service in the ARMED FORCES of the US. Perhaps a new version of “Why We Fight” should be filmed.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

December 11, 2010 @ 10:00 am

Bill:

Thank you. On a certain level I would also prefer to address the issue of inter-religious violence rather than this issue of engaging the religious “other” more broadly. I would — intellectually and culturally — be more comfortable writing about the phenomenology of religon rather than offering my own interpretation of specific religious scripture.

I have chosen this less comfortable path to explore how we might deal with otherness from within a particular religious tradition.

Over the last year I have been surprised and saddened by how co-religionists and long-time friends have expressed fear, disdain, and a kind of hate toward Muslims-at-large. While my friends’ attitudes are no doubt influenced by culture, they often claim religious justification.

Within my particular faith tradition religious justification is preeminently a matter of claiming scriptural authority. In this I share the worldview of a wide array of violent religious extremists. For religious people violence is — or is not — justified by our reading of our particular scriptures. Tomorrow’s post will address this issue quite directly.

So, at least for those who engage the New Testament as sacred scripture, I have chosen what seems to me the most explicit case of inter-religious engagement (Jewish-Samaritan) to discern possible sacred principles for our contemporary situation.

For those who reject the sacredness of any text, this could be an interesting example of “magical thinking.” I invite their comments and critique in order to determine how the secular might more effectively engage those who embrace the sacred.

For those who reject the sacredness of my particular text, this should, at least, provide a thesis for direct rebuttal — or reinforcement — with their own sacred text. That could be a constructive dialogue.

From those who accept my text as sacred, I would be especially interested if they disagree with my understanding of the text. I have already completed my study of all six scriptural references. The message of Jesus seems very clear to me. If some disagree, I would value the dialogue… and expect this might also help us understand violent religious extremism. The intra-religious may be an even greater challenge than the inter-religious.

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