About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman
It's Raining Cats And Dogs
Upon looking out the
window, I turned to our little kitten and said: "Timmy, it's raining
cats and dogs."
I realize that Timmy
doesn't converse with me in English, but as pet owners can attest, our
pets have their way of communicating with us.
Timmy actually knows some words.
When I tell him to find water, he'll head up to the bathroom, jump
into the tub, and twist his neck around so he can drink water flowing from
Timmy and I do a
relatively good job at communicating with each other, but sometimes we
just can't figure each other out. The
same is true when we attempt to understand what the Bible is communicating
to us. We don't always get it,
because like Timmy and I, there is a vast communicative gap between us and
the Bible. That's due to the
fact that the Bible was
originally written in cultures, languages, and eras far removed from us.
If we try to understand the Bible in our cultural and linguistic
framework, more often than not, we will misunderstand the Bible.
Timmy didn't understand
my use of the idiom "it's raining cats and dogs," but anyone
who was raised in my day and culture would understand it.
Timmy's cat world is as far removed from my human world as the
Biblical world is removed from my world.
If Timmy could have understood my words but not my idiom, he
would have been totally confused. Expecting
to see cats and dogs falling from the clouds, he would have just seen
drops of water. Understanding
words is one thing. Understanding
idioms is quite another thing.
The Bible incorporates
such things as idioms and metaphors into its communication that were understood in the day and culture in
which they were originally penned. They
made sense back then, but make little sense today.
The best way, then, for us to understand these Biblical figures of
speech is to learn their meaning in the distant world in which they were written.
With the above in mind,
the term "right hand of God" occurs sixty times in thirteen
verses in the NIV New Testament. Mark
16:19 is one example.
"After the Lord
Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right
hand of God."
In today's world, Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God who is a spirit (John 4:24) is confusing. Does a spirit God actually have a right hand, and what would that look like? Some cultural history answers this question. It's commonly understood that in the first-century, Greco-Roman world, if a person sat at the right hand of one in authority, he sat in a place of authority alongside the one in authority. It was a sharing of authority. Whether God has a literal right hand or not, is not the issue. The issue is that Jesus now exists in a place of shared universal authority alongside God.
culture uses these kinds of figures of speech to paint a mental image.
These visualizations help us understand what is being communicated.
"It's raining cats and dogs" is an idiom that paints a
mental image of a rain storm. If
Timmy could have understood my idiom, he would have been enlightened.
Jesus sitting at the right hand of God is an idiom that paints a
mental image of Jesus sharing ultimate authority with God.
If we can understand that idiom, we too will be enlightened.
the degree, then, that we can be educated in the Bible's use of these
figures of speech will be the degree to which we will better understand what the Bible is
communicating. May we be so