George MacDonald on "The Hardness of the Way"


Most of GMacD’s preceding sermon (from Unspoken Sermons vol. 2), on “The Way”, can be found here on the boards. (Or, go here for a list of links for directly accessing all his published material for free from an American publisher, or to buy some nice hardback copies.)

This sermon is, in effect, the second part of the preceding sermon, discussing the incident with the “rich young ruler” who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life but went away sorrowing when Jesus told him to sell all he owned, give the proceeds to the poor, and then to come follow Him.

While not all of his sermons have to do with post-mortem and/or universal salvation, this one does toward the end.

George MacDonald on "The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity"

Today’s entry:


Today’s entry (after a day off Thursday for Thanksgiving):


Today’s entry:


Today’s entry:


Today’s entry:


Editor’s note: as the textual issue is a little more complex, especially since MacD is trying for a Synoptic harmonization, I am breaking for a moment to talk about text crit on the relevant verses from the standpoint of a more expanded textual base than MacD had available.

Starting with the verse chosen by MacD for the header of this sermon: the UBS standard Greek text editors (of the 4th edition; don’t know if there has been a 5th yet), still regard “how hard it is to enter” as at least (B) grade probability. Metzger, summarizing the editors (in the 2nd edition of their commentary, released with the 4th edition), writes,

The implication is that the balance of unicals and miniscules attest to the shorter reading. (For those who don’t know, “unicals” are Greek texts WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS LIKE THIS and also usually WITHOUTSPACESBETWEENWORDSATALLLIKETHIS. And little to no punctuation to speak of either. “Miniscules” are typically later texts which capitalize the beginning of sentences and certain important words, like we do in English; plus with developing punctuation and spaces between words. This seems to have developed, and to have been used by Christian authors, rather before it became popular to copy scriptural texts in miniscule; which is why there is a little overlap between miniscule and unical datings. But usually unicals are older.)

This is in regard to Mark 10:24. Verse 23, however, is generally regarded as being quite textually settled in GosMark to read as Jesus saying to His own disciples, after looking around, that it is hard “for those who are wealthy” to enter the kingdom of God. So in GosMark, the sequence is (most likely) actually the other way around than how MacD will (somewhat vaguely) go on to present it in the next entry: first how hard it is for the wealthy, then how hard it is, period; then the camel through the needle’s eye.

GosMatt 19:23-26 doesn’t include the blunt statement about it being hard; it only includes the statement about the wealthy finding it hard to enter, and then goes on to the camel comparison. (The text otherwise reads as quite settled, except for late copies replacing {kame_lon} with {kamilon} for a rope or ship’s cable. By that time the first word, where we get ‘camel’ from, had come to be pronounced like the second word, which sounds like our word ‘camel’.)

GosLuke 18:24-27 runs just like GosMatt: the wealthy find it hard to enter, and then the camel comparison.

The text crit harmonization result should then be something like this:

Now, an interesting problem should be evident here. Rhetorically, it might make better sense for the saying about the camel to follow directly on the comment about how hard it is for the rich. Not incidentally, that’s how GosMatt and GosLuke put it, with no mention of the intervening repetition. It similarly explains why some copies of GosMark mention the rich again one way or another in verse 24. MacD will inadvertently, in the next entry, seem to be saying that first Jesus draws their attention to the general difficulty for anyone, and then emphasizes it’s even more difficult for rich people. MacD probably means, though, that in answer to their astonishment Jesus first tells them that it’s hard for anyone and then re-emphasizes the difficulty for the rich by the camel analogy.

There’s an even more interesting factor to the climax of this story, though–one that’s present in the Greek, but which is rarely translated. It’s a factor that led me to reassess whether the Markan minority “trust in their riches” qualifier for the second statement might not in fact be the original after all.

The fact is, that the Greek in all three Synoptics doesn’t exactly read “how hard it is”. It reads “ill-foods”. Knoch’s Literal translates it “squeamish” (and “squeamishly”).

Putting it into a more obvious English idiom (since some people don’t know what squeamish means, and “ill-foods” would be clumsy in English), it would translate out like this:

This is such a colorful turn of phrase, that it just about begs to be reapplied to the original subject in some increasing rhetorical fashion (for increasing emphasis). Moreover, the concept that everyone’s salvation (and ‘entering into the kingdom’ presupposes successful salvation) will be like vomiting, just seems ridiculous. Surely not everyone’s!

Well, yeah; especially when one keeps in mind that even in English “purgation” or “purging” can apply to vomiting for one’s health.

Consequently, since I was trying not to present a translation that would be too obviously in favor of universal purgatory (or anyway in favor of purgatory as a necessary process of salvation) for an ecumenical site, I bowed to the minority report and translated the climax as follows:

I couldn’t figure out how to explain why I ran it this way, without a very large footnote in the comments that would open up more universalistic connotations than I wanted to try to deal with in a text presented for general use on an ecumenical apologetics site. And once the proper adjective/adverb set is translated in, then MacDonald’s problem disappears: it isn’t that it’s (merely!) hard but not impossible for a man who trusts in his riches to enter the kingdom of God. But a man who trusts in his riches will (metaphorically) feel like he’s having to vomit in order to enter into the kingdom.


Back to MacD’s sermon for today’s entry:


Today’s entry:

Editor’s note: I do not understand why MacD would say that to love our neighbor as ourselves is not of Christ. Christ affirms it in the Gospel, as MacD shows elsewhere he well knows. For people of a lesser Christology, it might be said that it comes from the Father and not from the Son, either introducing a schism or else (more likely) trying to present the case such that what comes from the Son is presented so we can understand (having come through the Son) whereas what comes from the Father may be intrinsically incomprehensible to any man. But MacD’s Christology is such that he would agree that Christ was instrumental in giving that saying in the first place; and he strongly affirms elsewhere that nothing God says to man is intrinsically incomprehensible to man, though it may not be yet understood by this or that or any man. (Else there would be no purpose for God to say it to man in the first place!–but must only at best be always leading to error.)

Would any reader care to try some insight on this, as to why MacD would say so? He must have had something in mind, but I’m at a loss to even guess as to what he meant. :wink: (I can make some guesses as to what other people might mean by the statement; but none of those guesses fit MacD very well.)


Today’s entry:


Sorry for the irregularity in keeping up with posts recently: lots of ‘work’ work to be done, plus the usual holiday weekend details, etc. :wink:

I won’t try to catch up, so just consider this Today’s Entry:


Today’s entry:

(MacD’s initial fictional question appears to have a misprinted punctuation in one of its sentences; I have tried to repair this, though I’m still not entirely sure I’ve gotten what MacD was trying to say. See the link at the top of the thread for how to find the original text for comparison.)


Today’s entry (the finale for this sermon):

Next sermon: The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity.