Thursday, April 20, 2006

Musing: The Snake in "The Little Prince"

Je les résous toutes

I'm working on a screenplay of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "Le Petit Prince" ("The Little Prince"). This is the first of a few blog entries about the book (which has been translated into many, many languages). Here is an excerpt from Chapter 17 (in French, then in English as translated by Richard Howard):
-Celui que je touche, je rends à la terre dont il est sorti, dit-il encore. Mais tu es pur et tu viens d'une étoile...

Le petit prince ne répondit rien.

-Tu me fais pitié, toi si faible, sur cette Terre de granit. Je puis t'aider un jour si tu regrettes trop ta planète. Je puis...

-Oh! J'ai très bien compris, fit le petit prince, mais pourquoi parles-tu toujours par énigmes?

-Je les résous toutes, dit le serpent.

Et ils se turent.
"Anyone I touch, I send back to the land from which he came," the snake went on. "But you're innocent, and you come from a star..."
The little prince made no reply.
"I feel sorry for you, being so weak on this granite earth," said the snake. "I can help you, someday, if you grow too homesick for your planet. I can--"
"Oh, I understand just what you mean," said the little prince, "but why do you always speak in riddles?"
"I solve them all", said the snake.
And they were both silent.
The context of this passage is that the Little Prince has just arrived on Earth, and the first creature he meets is a snake in the desert. A later blog post will be about the allegory to Christ in the book, but I'd like to focus on the translation (and meaning) behind "Je les résous toutes".

Simply, it means "I [re]solve them all". The snake, boasting its power of death, speaks in riddles because it solves them all. I think St-Ex was making a double meaning, assigning a certain cleverness to the snake, but also impressing that death has the power to resolve any riddle (read: problem or challenge). It's not a cheery message, for certain, but it represents the mastery of the snake over his domain.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bible Study: Synoptics #22: Resurrection of Jesus

Relevant Readings

The primary readings for this chapter are Matthew 27:57-28:20, Mark 15:42-16:20, and Luke 23:50-24:53.

Additional passages are: John 19:31-37, Romans 5:6-21, 1 Corinthians 15:3-9,12-28, Philippians 3:7-11,20-21, Colossians 3:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and 1 Peter 1:3-12.


Matthew 27:57-28:20 Mark 15:42-16:20 Luke 23:50-24:53
Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and a disciple of Jesus, asks Pilate for the body of Jesus 15:
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council and a disciple of Jesus, asks Pilate for the body of Jesus 23:
Joseph of Arimathea, a virtuous man on the council who did not consent with their plan, asks Pilate for the body of Jesus

44-45 Pilate determines through the centurion that Jesus truly has died

59-60 Joseph wraps the body in clean linen and lays it in his tomb, then rolls a large stone in front of the tomb's entrance 46 Joseph has Jesus taken down from the cross, wraps the body in a linen cloth, and lays it in a tomb, then rolls a large stone in front of the tomb's entrance 53 Joseph has Jesus taken down from the cross, wraps the body in a linen cloth, and lays it in a tomb in which no one had yet been buried
61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remain at the tomb 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watch the tomb 55-56 Women from Galilee watch the tomb, and depart to prepare spices and perfumes
62-64 The chief priests and pharisees come to Pilate on the sabbath and warn him that Jesus's followes may try to steal his body and claim "He has been raised from the dead"

65-66 Pilate gives them permission to guard the tomb; they affix a seal to the stone and set a guard there

At dawn on the first day of the week (after the sabbath), Mary Magdalene and the other Mary come to the tomb 16:
As the sun is rising on the first day of the week (after the sabbath), Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb with spices to anoint Jesus's body 24:
At daybreak on the first day of the week, the women come to the tomb with the spices they prepared
2-4 There is an earthquake as an angel of the Lord descends from heaven, rolls back the stone, and sits upon it; his appearance is like lightning and his clothing is white as snow; the guards become like dead men from fear of him 3-5 The women wonder who will roll the stone away, and then notice it has already been moved; they see a young man sitting on the right side of the tomb, clothed in a white robe 2-4 They find the stone already rolled away, and when they enter the tomb, they do not see Jesus's body; then two men in dazzling garments appear to them
5-7 The angel tells the women not to be afraid, that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and that they should announce this to the disciples (who should meet him in Galilee) 6-7 The man tells the women that Jesus has been raised from the dead and that they should tell Peter and the other disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee 5-8 The men tell the women that Jesus, "the living one" is not "among the dead", that he has been raised; they remind the women of what Jesus had said: "[he] must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day"
8-10 The women run to tell the disiciples; on their way, they meet Jesus, embrace his feet, and do him homage; he tells them not to be afraid and to tell the disciples to go to Galilee 8 The women fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid 9-11 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women report this to the apostles, but they do not believe
11-15 Some of the guard reported what happened to the chief priests; the soldiers were given a large sum of money to report that "his disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep" 9-11 Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene; she reports this to the disciples, but they do not believe 12 Peter goes to the tomb, finds the burial cloths, and goes home amazed
12 Jesus appears to two disciples walking through the country 13-24 Jesus appears to Cleopas and another disciple on the way to Emmaus, but they do not recognize him; they recount the things that had happened in the past few days to Jesus
25-28 Jesus explains to them how scripture has been fulfilled in the events they have told him
29-32 Jesus dines with the two, and they recognize him as he blesses and shares the bread with them; then he vanishes from their sight
13 They return and tell the others, but they still do not believe 33-35 They return to Jerusalem and tell the eleven apostles
16-17 The eleven disciples when to the mountain in Galilee to which Jesus had ordered them; they saw him and worshipped him, but they doubted 14 Jesus appears to the eleven later, and rebukes them for their hardness of heart 36-43 Jesus appears to them and says "Peace be with you"; they think he is a ghost, but he shows them his hands and feet, and invites them to touch him to prove he is flesh and bone; he even eats in front of them to prove he is corporeal
44-48 Jesus opens their minds to the scriptures, and explains the fulfillment of his mission, that they are witnesses to it
18-20 Jesus tells them "All power in heaven and on earth" has been given to him, and that they should go and "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." 15-18 Jesus tells them to go proclaim the gospel to the world, and to baptize those who believe; he tells them of signs and wonders the faithful will accomplish: power over demons, speaking in tongues, healing of the sick 49 Jesus tells them he will send the Promise of [the] Father to them; and they are to stay in the city until they are clothed with power from on high
19-20 Jesus is taken up into heaven; the apostles go forth and preach, and Jesus works signs through them 50-53 Jesus leads them out to Bethany, blesses them, and then is taken up to heaven; they do him homage and return to Jerusalem in joy


  1. What happened after Jesus died, in Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, and Luke 23:50-56?
    Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew calls him a rich man [who was] a disciple of Jesus, Mark says he was a distinguished member of the council [who was] awaiting the kingdom of God, and Luke calls him a virtuous and righteous [...] member of the council [who] had not consented to their plan) asks Pilate for the body of Jesus. He has it wrapped in a linen cloth and placed in a tomb hewn out of rock; then a large stone is rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb. Some women (Matthew and Mark name Mary Magdalene and others) watch this, and Luke reports them then departing to prepare spices and perfumed oils.
  2. What eyewitness evidence proves that Jesus really died (John 19:31-37)?
    A soldier pierced Jesus's side with a lance, and blood and water flowed from his body.
  3. Whose idea was it to put a guard at the tomb, and why (Matthew 27:62-66)?
    The Pharisees wanted a guard there to make sure Jesus's disciples did not try to remove his body and claim it was resurrected.
  4. According to Matthew 28:1-4, how was the stone moved away from the tomb?
    During an earthquake, an angel appears and rolls the stone away.
  5. In Mark 16:9, who is named as the first eyewitness to the Resurrection?
    Mary Magdalene.
  6. Compare the Synoptic accounts of the Resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12.
    All three accounts agree that the women came to the tomb on Sunday. Matthew names Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; Mark names Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome; Luke names Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.

    In Matthew's account, there was an earthquake (although it's not certain if this happened as soon as they approached, or if it had already happened overnight), and an angel from heaven dressed in white rolled back the stone and sat on it; the guards of the tomb probably fainted, since Matthew says they became like dead men. In Mark, the women are wondering how they will get the stone moved, and find the stone already rolled away; when they enter the tomb they see a young man in a white robe sitting on the right side (inside the tomb). In Luke, when the women approach, the stone is already rolled away, and after inspecting the inside of the tomb, are surprised by two men in dazzling white garments.

    Matthew's angel tells the women not to be afraid: that Jesus has been raised as he had said he would be and is not here; he invites them to examine the tomb. Then he instructs them to go and tell the disiciples "He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him." In Mark, the man tells them not to be amazed: that Jesus has been raised and is not here; he invites them examine the tomb. Then he instructs them to tell the disciples (and Peter specifically) "He is going before you Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." The women in Luke's gospel become terrified and bow their faces to the ground; the men ask them why they "seek the living one among the dead", and tell them that Jesus has been raised and is not here; they recall Jesus's words that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day. The women then go to tell the disciples (without being prompted to do so).

    In Matthew, the women are running to tell the disciples and they encounter Jesus; they embrace his feet and do him homage, and he tells them to find tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee. In Mark, the women flee from the tomb in trembling and bewilderment and end up saying nothing to anyone out of fear. In Luke, after the women tell the apostles, who don't believe them, Peter runs to the tomb and finds the burial cloths empty, and then returns home amazed.

  7. How does CCC 639 defend the Resurrection as a historical event?
    The reality of the empty tomb, the appearance of Jesus to the apostles and others, recorded in the gospels as well as reported by the apostles themselves.
  8. How does CCC 647 explain the Resurrection as a transcendent event?
    Jesus passing from death into a new life which was physically perceptible and yet visible only to those he chose make the Resurrection transcend and surpass history.
  9. Describe the events in Luke 24:13-32.
    Two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about the events of the past week. They noticed Jesus walking alongside them and he asked what they were talking about. When they answered, mentioning Jesus, his deeds, his death, and the reports from some of the women of his resurrection, Jesus responded by explaining the way scripture was fulfilled by these events. As the disciples approached their lodging for the evening, they asked Jesus to stay with them. Then, as they ate, Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it with them. At this, they recognized him as Jesus, and he vanished from their sight.
  10. When did the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize the Lord?
    In the breaking of the bread: Luke 24:30-32.
  11. What evidence in Luke 24:33-43 shows that Jesus had a real resurrected body?
    Jesus showed them his hands and feet with the marks of crucifixion on them; he even ate food in front of them.
  12. Why does Jesus explain he had to suffer and die in Luke 24:46-49?
    Through his death, repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be preached.
  13. In Luke 24:50-53, where did Jesus go when he left the disciples, and what did they do?
    Jesus led his disciples out to Bethany. After he blessed them, he was taken up into heaven. The disciples did him homage, and then returned to the temple in Jerusalem and praised God.
  14. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-9, who does Paul record as having seen the risen Christ?
    Paul lists: Peter, "the Twelve" (the apostles, though I don't believe they had replaced Judas's position yet), some five hundred people, James, the apostles again, and Paul himself.
  15. Who would want to cover up Christ's Resurrection (Matthew 28:11-15)?
    The Sanhedrin, because of what it would mean they had done, because they rejected Jesus and his teachings.
  16. What significance does the Resurrection have in these verses: Romans 5:6-21, 1 Corinthians 15:12-28, Colossians 3:1-4, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18?
    In Romans, Paul writes that the Resurrection was the anithesis to man's fall into sin: For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous Romans 5:19. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that if Christ was not raised, then our faith is for nothing. Again he says that just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life 1 Corinthians 15:22. Paul writes to the Colossians that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God; therefore, we should think of what is above, not of what is on earth. He means that our worldly selves died with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and we are now living in the Spirit. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul says that, just as God raised Jesus to new life, so too will we be raised.
  17. What does Peter write in 1 Peter 1:3-12 is the foundation of Christian hope?
    The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
  18. In Philippians 3:7-11, what does Paul write he aspires to attain?
    Resurrection from the dead, meaning entrance into the kingdom of God.
  19. What does Paul write about in Philippians 3:20-21 regarding the glorified body?
    That Jesus will change our lowly [bodies] to conform with his glorified body in accordance with our citizenship in heaven.
  20. What are Jesus's parting words in Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:15-20?
    In Matthew: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

    In Mark: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." Mark 16:15-18

Friday, April 07, 2006

Musings: God doesn't work alone

Thy Will Be Done

When was the last time God worked alone? If you start at the end of your Bible and flip backwards, you'll have gone through it in its entirety before you reach the answer: the creation of the entire universe. God, who was before all, caused the universe to come into being by His very word. Since then, God has not worked alone. He has worked with and through humanity. Even our very redemption was done through a man who was truly human. His incarnation as Jesus was perhaps the pinnacle of His working through humanity.

But why is this important? It's because there's a dangerous idea out there that all we have to do is say "Thy will be done" and God's will shall be done. We don't pass an exam by saying "I will pass this test". We do not appease our appetites by saying "I shall eat my fill". We will never bring God's will to fruition if we simply declare it to be so. We must act. We are not helpless infants whose cries are answered with milk or food or toys. We are children of God; God seeks responsible children who can carry out His work on earth. Our faith that God's will shall be done is worthless if we are not willing to carry out His will!

Faith Without Works

What good is faith without works? Recall the letter of James:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
(For those of you who find James's argument contradictory to Paul's, please read "Faith, Works, and the Apparent Controversy of Paul and James".) Look at the stories of people who placed their faith in God in the Old Testament. When God told Noah of the impending flood and Noah's duty, Noah followed God's commands and acted. He did not say "Thy will be done" and then wait for the rain. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham followed God's commands and acted. He did not say "Thy will be done" and then sit around waiting for his countless descendents to appear.

Carrying out God's Will

The story of the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham is interesting -- when Isaac asks Abraham where the sheep for the holocaust is, Abraham replies "God Himself will provide the sheep". How we misinterpret that! How often we say "God will provide" and then wait for Him to provide! If we place our trust in God and then refuse to have anything to do with our fellow man because they are not God, how will we ever carry out God's will? As important as each one of us individually is to God, we cannot forget that we are all God's children, and cannot cut ourselves off from each other.

God does not work alone. He seeks to have His will carried out through each of us. The sooner we see Christ in others -- in the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the homeless -- the sooner they shall see Christ in us. Let God's work be done through you. Let God's will be done! You do it!