The daily office for Friday includes Matthew 11:1-6 most of which is a pretty straight-forward message from Jesus to John about the work Jesus is doing. This is in response to John asking:
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
The part that I find perplexing is verse 6 where Jesus says:
And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me. I understand, based on other New Testament stories that there were plenty of people taking offense at Jesus and his ministry. However, in the context of John’s question– is Jesus the one– it seems an odd response.
I spent some time poking around on the Internet to see if there was more context to this verse and found several commentaries that mentioned that the word translated as offense (σκανδαλιζεσθαι), is more akin to hitting against or stumbling over a thing.
When I put the Greek word in Google translate for fun it gave me
you’re scandalizing as the suggested translation.* That translation intrigued me. Would that make the verse:
And blessed is anyone who you’re scandalizing.?
It is the ‘Blessed is…takes no offense’ structure of the verse that perplexes me. I am blessed if I take no offense in what Jesus says and does?
Thinking about it that way combined with the ‘stumbling block’ concept from other translations, gets me to the idea that if I do believe in who Jesus is and what Jesus does as a part of his ministry, then I am embracing Jesus and not finding him offensive or a block to my own faith.
In my experience, the phrase:
don’t be offended can be used as a way to shut down conversation about a topic or as a watered-down phrase that tells people how they should feel in a given situation. It doesn’t seem to have the power or meaning that the verse seems to imply is there.
Or it could be me, sometimes I have to take the long way around to understand an idea.
In this case, if I believe in Jesus there is no offense to be taken, no block to stumble over, and no scandal created.
*Note to actual scholars, I know it’s not best practice to put words from ancient Greek texts into modern translation software but it gave me a different way to think about the root word without being a Greek or Biblical Scholar myself.
If any Bible or Greek scholars wish to comment on this and give me more information about the concepts and context of this verse, I would love to learn more.
All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
Image: Juan_Fernández_de_Navarrete St_John_the_Baptist_in_the_Prison