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Justice. I Defined Justice Using The Synoptic Gospels As A Means To Arrive At A Definition.

4523 words - 18 pages

A few months ago I embarked upon a quest to define justice. Overall, this issuehas been a constant reminder of the ancient Greek god, Sisyphus. For each time thewording seemed to appropriately describe justice, a certain concept or situation would becited which rendered the explication inadequate; indeed I can identify with Sisyphus'continuous struggle pushing the boulder up the hill only to have to come back down andrepeat the process. Nevertheless, the concept of justice, however protean it may be, ismanifest in societies and individuals throughout history. Not only does this idea of justicemotivate peoples' actions, it also is the notion that actions render consequences. Hence,perceptions and applications of justice are particular to certain groups or societies andhave an important affect on the everyday lives of individuals.Having been said, I will now elucidate the purpose of this paper. My aim is toillustrate the specific questions of justice as they pertain to The Gospels of Matthew,Mark and Luke (commonly referred to as the synoptic gospels). In this attempt, mycritical first step is to place the three gospels within the historical context of theirwriting. A summary of the text will follow. I shall focus on a coherent set of eventscommon to all three works, but will also account for some discrepancies between thestory-lines. This establishes a framework from which to present a definition of justiceapplicable to the synoptic gospels. Finally, I will address my inquiry to define justice.The setting of the synoptic gospels brings us back to the Greco-Roman world ofthe first century. Specifically, historians have put the writing of The Gospel of Mark at 70A.D. and that of Matthew and Luke some where between 90-100 A.D. (Fredriksen pg4)The Roman Empire was in power and the vast majority of people worshipped many gods.Judaism, a monotheistic system centering worship around one temple, made up roughlyseven percent of the empire. (Stowers pg 25) At this time, religion (a term that had notyet come into use) was indistinguishable from politics and ethnicity. There was noconcept of a division between sacred and secular; the Roman emperor the pontifusmaximus and the sacred writings of Judeans served as their law. (Ibid pg 27)Reconstructing the sociocultural picture of pagans and Jews in this period is adifficult task. Christianity, it has been contended, emerged in the first century as the ideaof a third race, neither Jewish nor pagan. (Ibid pg 23) This however is problematic giventhat the gospel writers make references only to Jews and gentiles (i.e. pagans) andseemingly have no concept of a Christian race, a third entity. (Ibid pg 25) The contextualaudience, then, for the three gospels is not explicit. Specific religious identification wasnot an issue as it came to be in the second century when defining Christian orthodoxy andheresy originated. For the first century, attempts to employ terms such as gentileChristians and Jewish Christians are...

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