Wednesday, December 28, 2005
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matt.13.52; Pericope 107)

This teaching of Jesus is unique in several respects:

  • The scribes (Luke also uses terms like "lawyers" and "teachers of the Law") are generally described in negative terms in the Gospels, frequently grouped together with "chief priests" (21 times) or Pharisees (18 times). In one of the strongest passage, Jesus criticizes the scribes for their ostentatious dress and public pretentiousness (along with taking advantage of widows: Pericope 263). But here Jesus seems to speak of scribes who have accepted his message and become followers
  • The phrase rendered by the ESV as "trained for the kingdom" is the Greek word matheteuo, the verb form of the noun "disciple". Your grammatical sensibilities may balk at phrases like "I discipled him",  or (stretching English usage even further than ESV is willing to) "every scribe who has been discipled into the kingdom of heaven": but this is the clearest literal rendering of the original. The verb form of "disciple" used here is relatively infrequent in the NT. In the Gospels, it is found only two other times, both in Matthew. Joseph of Arimethea, who went to Pilate to request Jesus' body for burial after his crucifixion,  is described as having been "discipled to" Jesus (Pericope 338, Matt.27.57). The second use is, significantly, in Christ's parting words to his disciples, known as the Great Commission (Pericope 354, Matt.28.18-20). While the standard rendering of "go and make disciples" is our conventional understanding (and better English), a more literal reading is "while going, disciple all peoples". "disciple" is both the verbal form, and the main point: "going" is assumed, more than commanded. The one other occurence of "disciple" as a verb is in Acts.14.21, where Paul and Barnabbas' activity in Derbe is briefly summarized: "they preached the Gospel to that city and discipled many" (paraphrase).
  • there's a curious comparison of the discipled scribe to a "master of a house" (Greek oikodespotes), who can produce both new and old things from his treasure store. "New" here means "fresh" more than new in time.

What does this all mean for those of us who have been "discipled to" Jesus? In the context of the larger passage, Jesus is responding to the disciples' affirmation that they understood what he was saying, despite his use of parables (several of which in Matthew's version here are unique to his Gospel). "Blessed are your eyes, for they see" (v. 16). Once we begin to understand what Jesus is teaching us (by responding in faith to his word, the seed sown among us in the Parable of the Soils, Pericope 094), we are able to reach into our own experience and produce fresh understandings of the truths of God's kingdom. This humble scribe aspires to more of this in the coming year.

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