Sunday, October 26, 2014

Breathless ...( Part 2)

The Holy Meal at Emmaus, as dramatically interpreted by Caravaggio. If Herr Doktor is correct, the transcriptionist of this extraordinary event -- Dr. Luke, alone -- is also raising 'is 'ANDS!

In Part One of this discussion, I suggested that the stylistic use of the conjunction "AND," by the blessed Evangels, might serve to conveniently communicate an intensified state of excitement or anxiety.  For example, "AND's" are very prominent in the Authorized English Translation of Mark's Gospel. the shortest of the four Gospels.  This is in keeping, perhaps, with the circumstances of its composition.  Tradition holds that it was dictated to St. Mark by St. Peter.  St. Peter is portrayed by all accounts as frequently impulsive in his extroverted leading role amongst his fellow compatriots, and living life through his emotions in a truly moved, hurly-burly, and quite open fashion.  Through the literary resort to a high incidence of AND's, this "Petrine personality" bleeds through the Gospel pages.  The Gospel is dignified and salutary, yet possesses a vaguely "rushed" and condensed quality.  It is a "breathlessly" conveyed narrative, its sentences tumbling over one another and skipping about like lambs, although not incoherently so.  Could its earthly instrument be facing an imminent demise of some sort?  Conceivably, I think, but the chosen instrument also wishes to stubbornly pronounce all the main facts about Christ's life to his amanuensis; to get it done as completely as possible, come what may ... be the end fire, saw, suffocation, or sword ...  or cross. 
As noted previously, "AND's" also are prominent in Luke's highly literate text, if comparatively less so than in Mark's.   Luke's mastery of the Greek language, in terms of variety and complexity, exceeds that of the other three Gospel evangelists, consistent with the presumed idiosyncracies and status of its author.
In the description of the Emmaus "incident" ... unique to Luke ... the use of "AND's" increases beyond what is normally encountered in the whole of the "beloved physician's" account.  The Emmaus history, involving a journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus and thence back to Jerusalem (in a rush), encompasses 23 Scriptural verses (Lk 24:13-35; AV); in these, some 22 "AND's" are located.   Most interestingly, the frequency of  Luke's "AND's" increases  (if slightly) in the mouth(s) of the two travelers.  Their description of the events and aftermath of Jesus' crucifixion ... unwittingly reported to the risen Master Himself ... spans six passages (Lk 24: 19-24).  No fewer than six "AND's" grace these verses.  Recall that chapter 24, in its entirety, consists of 49 verses, harboring 43 "AND's."

It would seem, from his literary devices, that Luke is quite taken with and personally touched by the Emmaus episode (which memorably serves to make Jesus known to His disciples "through the breaking of bread," in v. 35) ... but certainly no more moved than those who actually participated in the encounter, in their flesh and with their senses, i.e., Cleopas and his unnamed companion (could it have been Luke, himself?).  The "AND's," I say, are a natural and uncontainable expression, of the joy and peace which is associated with seeing God's salvation.

Peter's Denial, by C.H. Bloch (Denmark)
"AND's" are notably conspicuous in the descriptions of Peter's Denial, which is recounted in all four Gospels.  This event is certainly imbued with suspenseful and affective power, a stirring story of a great but very human man's boasts of his unwavering fidelity, his subsequent crushing fall, and his grieving repentance.  Obviously it gripped and had special meaning for the early Church ... subject as it was to intense persecutory and dogmatic challenges from without and within.  One might well expect Peter's pulse to have leapt no little amount, too, as he recounted the heart-wrenching story to Mark ... perhaps more so, than any other individual relating the Passion story in all its remembered (and inspired) details.  This is born out with examination of the Scriptures, and with the speculative assumption that the frequency of "AND's" may truly speak on behalf of, as Poe might put it, a "tell-tale heart :"
St. Matthew's account (Mt 26:58, 69-75) ... 8 verses, 6 "AND's"  
St. Mark's account (Mk 14:66-72) ... 7 verses, 11 "AND's" 
St. Luke's account (Lk 22:54-62) ... 9 verses, 11 "AND's"
St. John's account (Jn 18:15-18, 25-27) ... 7 verses, 4 "AND's"
The difference between Luke's and Mark's respective frequencies may ... very speculatively, mind you ... reflect the difference between a skilled physician's empathic response to a remorseful and nerve-wracking crisis to which he has been allowed to share, vicariously; and that of a hardy and forthright fellow who's actually lived through that ego-shattering experience.   Who's to say?
There are no great theological truths to be distilled from this completed little exercise, to be sure.  None. But perhaps it will help to emphasize that the Lord's evangelists are no mere plaster-cast saints, but were and are living men of body, mind and yes, soul ... men who gave their all for Christ. 

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