Notes and Translations for a Larger Project. Of Προσωπολημψία.

(This may only be an experiment in making footnotes that are larger than the text itself.)

The entire testimony of Jesus Christ and the apostles declares that God as judge does not show partiality or favoritism. God οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολήμπτης.* The human πρόσωπον, the outward show, the reputation—none of it has any weight for him. In judging humans, God accepts precisely no human testimony besides actual and particular works. . . .


* The phrase is taken from Acts 10.34 where Peter says, “In truth, I understand that God is not a biased judge [οὐκ ἔστιν προσωπολήμπτης]”—or taking the Greek with painful literalness, God is not “an acceptor of the face.” The related abstract noun προσωπολημψία is used by Paul three times:

  • Romans 2.11: “For there is no superficial prejudice with God.”
  • Ephesians 6.9: “. . . And there is no superficial prejudice with him.”
  • Colossians 3.25: “For the unjust will be repaid for his injustice, and there is no personal favoritism [to help him].”

A negation of the adverb form appears later in 1 Peter 1.17: “And if you appeal to the Father, this one who judges without superficial prejudice [ἀπροσωπολήμπτως], but rather according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” But of course, the most extensive passage on this idea is in James 2:

1My brothers, keep the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ without superficial prejudice [προσωπολημψία]. For if a man were to come into your congregation with a gold ring and fine clothes, and then also a poor man in filthy clothes were to come, 3and if you regard especially the man wearing fine clothes and say, “You sit here with honor,” while to the poor man you say, “You stand over there” or “Sit here at my feet”—4then have you not made distinctions among the congregation and become judges with evil calculations? . . . 8If indeed you keep the royal law according to the Scripture—“you will love your neighbor as yourself”—then you are conducting yourselves wonderfully. 9But if you show superficial prejudice [προσωπολημπτεῖτε], you are sinning, being exposed by that law as transgressors.

Three Maxims. Of Thankfulness and Thanklessness.

1. The wealthless man becomes the worthless man as soon as he sees nothing for which he may be thankful. Yet until then, he remains richer than the kings of earth and sky.

2. No human gift can make thankful those who are thankless.

3. The Lord may call a man to give up his wealth, but he does not call him to poverty, for poverty is thanklessness.

 

A Quote. Two Slightly Related Maxims. Of Wealth. Of the Love of Money.

No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

—Jesus, Matthew 6.24

  • It is not only the wealthy who are devoted to wealth.
  • The rich are often suspected of loving money, but their money buys them many idols with which they might distract themselves. Some of mammon’s purest and most pious worshipers are among the poor.

A Criticism. Of Education and Teaching.

At the height of the concept of pedagogy, the human teacher is a midwife of ideas, a coaxer of burgeoning human life. There is nothing to measure here except: Did the student grow to be praiseworthy or condemnable, to be rich or poor, to be happy or unhappy, to be well or ill, to be good or bad? That is, the polity’s values determine the success or failure of a particular education. And for values, only the concrete can be meaningfully measured—only the quality of the student and not some abstract quantity said to be “possessed” or “achieved” by the student.

The problem of American education is twofold. First, we measure the abstract. Second, the values by which we measure, those skewed values that led us to choose the abstract over the concrete, those weak values that led us to think that we had become value-free and that we had abandoned the tyranny of values—those values, how do we say this?—in order to “pass” in the current system of education, a teacher must be less than a midwife and a student may be less than a human.

Notes. Of the Gospel. Of the Poor. Of the Rich.

The gospel says to the lowly, “You are immeasurably valuable in God’s eye.” And in saying this, the gospel warms every heart.

The gospel says to the rich, “You will someday die. You will fade away like a wildflower whose beauties are scorched by the very sun that gives it life.” And in hearing this, many are perplexed.

Yet these are both good news, the very same gospel, contradicting one for one’s good.