A couple of days ago I asked the question in relation to Sunday’s readings: Does the gospel really imply that nagging God works?
I just want to briefly spend time with part of the readings, Luke 11:5-8. I translate this, pretty literally, but trying to keep some English sense:
5 And he said to them, “Who among you (Τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν) will have a friend, and come to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves (of bread)
6 because a friend of mine has arrived from a journey to me, and I do not have anything that I will set before him.’
7 And that one within, having answered, may say, ‘Do not cause me troubles; already the door has been shut and my children are with me in the bed; I am not able to get up and give you (anything).’
8 I say to you, even if he will not give to him, having arisen, because he is a friend of him, yet because of the shamelessness of him (ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ), having arisen, he will give to him as much as he needs.
Τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν is used to mean, “imagine the unthinkable” (cf Luke 12:25; 14:5, 28; 15:4; 17:7). Then the story is set in a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean village, an unexpected person arrives, and the mores of hospitality means that this person will be provided with good food, the best, and more than the person would require. I have experienced this personally.
The story presumes the host either does not have good enough, or quantity enough, or both. The person turns to a friend. Key words in what follows are “ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ”.
ἀναίδειαν means “shamelessness” or “impudence” in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, all classical references, and all usages in the early church. A “negative” word. But it has often been translated, incorrectly (IMO), as “persistence”. There is, you will have noticed, no actual persistence in the parable, the friend outside only asks once. Shame is a central motivator in this culture.
αὐτοῦ (of him). It is not clear to whom this refers. (a) Is the shamelessness a reference to the friend indoors? A positive use of “shamelessness” where the one indoors is avoiding dishonour. (b) Is the shamelessness referring to the friend outdoors asking? In the usual negative sense.
First century peasants lived precariously, hand to mouth. Here we have a story where the village looks to be in a hazardous economic situation that the original hearers would immediately identify. The person has gone beyond asking kin for help, to friends. And hospitality is foolishly extravagant, resulting in great vulnerability. This is the kind of generous hospitality acted out in the meals of Jesus, and ultimately in his death (also recalled/relived in a meal).
This parable of three friends reads a bit clumsily, even in the Greek – friendship in that context and in ours is possibly a wonderful image to explore in our relationship with God as a metaphor alongside father in this gospel reading.
This site offers a good variety of tools to access the original texts even for those with limited to no original language skills.
Image: JESUS MAFA. The Insistent Friend, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48293
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- Collecting in the 21st Century
- Babette’s feast