Friday, June 15, 2012

the irony of mishearing "Eloi, Eloi" all over again

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Great column by Carolyn Arends in Christianity Today, especially re:
 1) intertextuality, language and culture ...and "getting the reference"
 2)Jesus' use of Psalm 22 on the cross (Though amazingly, no reference to another CT article [web only] earlier this year, which surely helped inspired it...the Psalm 22 sections are very similar..probably got edited out).

......Maybe the most significant reference I've missed has to do with Jesus' final words on the cross. That awful cry—My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?—has haunted my struggle to understand exactly what transpired (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). Was Jesus, for a devastating moment, utterly alone and without hope? How that cry is processed has all sorts of implications for theology—not least for the way we conceive of the Atonement and of the relationality of God's triunity. More personally, it shapes the way I perceive my own experiences of abandonment.

I've known, in a vague way, that with his cry Jesus was quoting the beginning of Psalm 22, a passage so familiar to his friends that to utter the first line would have been tantamount to reciting the entire thing. Psalm 22 is an anguished prayer of David, spoken as a godly sufferer awaiting deliverance. It's the most frequently quoted Psalm in the New Testament. And its parallels to the Crucifixion are chilling:

A band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
And cast lots for my clothing. (vv. 16b-18, NIV 1984)

The psalm is so shot through with suffering, it's hard to imagine any more appropriate reference Jesus could have made. But it's essential to know that the only thing in Psalm 22 that runs as deeply and vividly as the speaker's pain is his unshakable hope:

You who fear the Lord, praise him! …
For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help. (vv. 23a, 24, NIV 1984)

Both Matthew and Mark note that some of the onlookers misunderstood Jesus' cry, mishearing the Aramaic word for "my God"—Eloi—as Elijah. I wonder if, in including that detail, they aren't cautioning us to pay attention to exactly what Jesus is saying....
 -  Christianity Today, LINK

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