The Readings: Joshua 8:1-22; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 26:47-56
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (13:8). We might read most of Rom 14-15 as unpacking this exhortation with respect to the food laws and calendar in the Torah. Paul and the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:19-21) agree that Gentiles are not bound by these; opinion is split as to whether Jews who follow Jesus are bound (Mark’s “(Thus he declared all foods clean.)” [7:19] does not appear in Matthew’s parallel text [15:17].) Today’s text: “Let all be fully convinced in their own minds.… Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister?” For Paul’s vision of united Jewish/Gentile communities, this is crucial. And Paul’s exhortations have remained relevant in countless parallel situations.
Parallel situations. “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” appeared in Harper’s on July 7, as reported in the NYT.
Not that things to wonder about are lacking. Here are three:
- Re eating, the Jerusalem Council: “to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Is Paul assuming the last two items, or overwriting them?
- The “weak/strong” (15:1) shorthand would probably be deeply offensive to those labeled “weak.” Does Paul use it to ingratiate himself with the “strong” since he’s about to ask concessions of them (vv.13ff), or for some other reason?
- “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister?” Paul’s question is erased by the claim “On this question there can be no disagreement,” a claim Paul occasionally (?) makes (e.g., Gal 1:8-9). Is it not past time to recognize “Here there can be no disagreement” as a self-disqualifying power grab?