By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Re-Igniting the Great Texts

English: Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo
English: Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Familiar texts, like familiar people, become boring to us. There are no more surprises. The problem lies not so much in the texts or in the people but rather in us--if the texts and people are indeed truly great texts and individuals (but, yes, there are admittedly some just plain mediocre texts and people and some of these mediocrities even have high and mighty credentials and reputations).

So, dramatists struggle to make the familiar, archaic texts of Shakespeare appealing to new audiences. So even the Bible must be presented anew to overcome the sluggishness of  our overfamiliarity. Clarence Jordan, a nineteen sixties Southerner, a Christian, and an inspiration for Habitat for Humanity, did just this refreshing of the Bible in his Cotton Patch translations of most of the New Testament.

Here is his take on the famous passage in Matthew 19 in which Jesus observes the problem faced by the rich young man who did not want to sell his possessions:

"If you want to be a mature man, " Jesus said, "go, sell your stuff, give it to the poor--you will be spiritually rich--and then come share my life." When the young fellow heard that bit, he walked away crying, because he had quite a pile. Jesus said to his students, "I'm telling you a fact: a rich man finds it extremely difficult to come into the God Movement. I say it again, a pig can go through a knothole easier than a rich man can get into the God Movement."

Jordan, Cotton Patch Gospel of Matthew.

Note that Jordan called the "kingdom of God" the "God Movement" because he felt that the concept of a kingdom did not resonate with modern Americans. Now, there is no perfection in Jordan's work (in fact, there is no perfection anywhere this side of heaven). But at least he was trying to do what is continually needed--to rekindle a great text and a great message for the sluggish, distracted, superficial, and confused lot we all are.

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