Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sunday Drive: Back to Rome

The Gospels of Matthew (8:5-13) and Luke (7:1-10) both have accounts of this story, and according to Helminiak, both seem to have been drawn from the same original Greek source. In the story, a Roman centurion comes to Jesus, asking Him to heal his slave. What is interesting about this is the original Greek wording. There are two different phrases that are both translated as ‘slave’— entimos pais and dulos. Entimos Pais is could be translated as “my son”, “my boy” or “honored servant.” That phrase has also been used in other non-Biblical documents to refer to a slave who was his master’s gay lover. While the idea of sexual slavery is repugnant to us today, it was common in the culture of the time. The basic way of forming familial relationships outside of one’s ‘birth’ family was a commercial transaction. ‘Wives’ of the day, and concubines for that matter, were often sexual slaves and treated as their husband’s property. Likewise, a man interested in sharing a similar relationship with another man purchased a pais.

As a distinction, the centurion’s other servants are designated ‘duloi’. Helminiak also indicates that the ‘son’ interpretation is out because Luke’s account also designates the pais as a dulos. In other words, he was definitely a slave. Entimos indicates that the boy is very dear to the centurion. Some might say that he wanted simply to protect his investment, but centurions were wealthy. They could go buy other slaves. Perhaps this pais held a key position in the household, but the wording indicates that this slave is also young, and given his age, the most probable interpretation is that this ‘dear slave’ had an emotional bond with the Centurion. This story is significant because Jesus did not condemn the Centurion. Rather, he marveled at his faith, and declared him an example of it.


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