“Hearing, they do not hear …”
The hearing impairment to which Jesus referred, quoting Isaiah, was the same one which the Hebrew prophet had diagnosed in his own time – and it is no less prevalent in our day.
Diagnosis implies gnosis. Jesus, like Isaiah, had a new truth (or more truth) to reveal to his listeners, but the words he had available for the purpose failed to penetrate the framework of every mind. His choicest words were rejected as strange or irreligious in the context of old ‘tried and true’ principles which were in possession of their understandings.
The malady in question is worse than a physical ailment – with which Jesus had some success. Instead it affects the listener’s inner attitude, the will, taking away the freedom with which they might break down the old shell of religious meanings from within.
“… and seeing, they do not see.”
It is likewise with the vision problem – the afflicted person has full use of his eyes, but lacks the insight required to get past conventional associations of meaning.
In the minds of the people of Galilee and Judea who suffered from these two afflictions the man Jesus of Nazareth, qua Messiah, could not help but simultaneously evoke, disappoint, and offend their racial and religious hopes as long as he lived and breathed. His fellowship with sinners was counted as sin, his healing was called Satanism, his forgiveness blasphemy. His meekness was counted as weakness and, in our present age, his morality has been called the morality of slaves.
This sight and hearing failure especially affected matters of everyday appearances and social antecedents – things which ‘scientific’ historians most crave to know. His place of origin (Nazareth!), family background (common!), accent (provincial!), formal training (or lack thereof!), apparel (unpretentious) – all of the ‘facts’ only created, for his accusers (and for some modern historians), another layer of the unacceptable.
Does it seem unfair to suggest that the principle of interpretation used by believers to gain access to the Jesus of ‘history’ – then as now – must be different from that hermeneutic of suspicion used by the elders and others who rejected him (and by the ‘scientific’ historians who counsel rejection of his eternal truth today)? How does one access the insight required to become receptive to a previously undiscovered truth? What is the rational ‘order of love’ in a fruitful hermeneutic of faith?
This post is part of the promised continuation of thoughts posted on this blog last May.