From: George Murphy (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Jun 03 2003 - 13:03:55 EDT
Debbie Mann wrote:
> I have to little books by Bishop Pillai that discuss cultural habits of the
> time which change the meaning of certain texts considerably. I would like
> confirmation on some of his claims, as I find them challenging. One of them
> is that 'heaping coals on the heads of one's enemies' actually referred to a
> habit of carrying hot coals in a pot on one's head which was 'warming'. So
> rather than being a statement of damnation, it was a statement that one
> would warm up one's chilly enemies.
> Anotehr was about the woman who lost her coin and swept the whole house
> until she found it. He claims that this was a wedding coing and that losing
> it would be grounds for divorce. The wedding coins were a special gift from
> the husband's family and were worn in the hair on special occasions.
> Has anybody done research into this kind of cultural interpretation of the
These explanations are possible but unlikely. Toy's old commentary on Proverbs
has (on 25:22), "/heap coals of fire on his head/ = "produce sharp pain," and the pain
can be only the pang of contrition - the enemy will be converted to a friend."
Marshall's commentary on proverbs has no mention of the possibility of divorce in
There's often a tendency to rationalize parables and make them "sensible."
E.g., a rich man getting into the Kingdom of God being compared to a camel going through
the eye of a needle is often said to refer to one of the gates of Jerusalem which was
very narrow & was called "the eye of the needle." The only trouble is that there was no
such gate! This interpretation quite misses Jesus point, that by human standards it's
impossible, and not just difficult.
But it is important to understand the cultures in which parables were told (& in
which the whole Bible was written). E.g., the procedure of the sower in Jesus parable
in Mk.4, throwing out seed on the path, thorny ground &c sounds crazy to us, but that's
the way it was done in Palestine at that time. You sowed 1st & then plowed rather than
following our normal order.
George L. Murphy
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