By Fr. Felix (African Times Guest Writer)

The final reading in this set of instructions to

apostles is carefully constructed in the Holy

Gospel according to Luke (12:8-12); and the

outline of the construction is helpful towards

understanding the meaning of the sayings. First

comes a positive and negative reward for

courage in acknowledging Christ ‘before men’,

that is, in public – or failure to do so.

Then, hooked on by the linking phrase ‘son of

man’, a saying about speaking against the son

of man. Finally, hooked on by the linking phrase

‘Holy Spirit’ a saying on the support given by the

Holy Spirit to apostles when taken before law-

courts. These three elements are each drawn

from the source shared by Matthew and Luke,

but in Matthew each comes in a separate place.

It is Luke who brings them together in his

instructions for apostles. The connection

between the three is verbal rather than logical.

The first and third elements are clear enough,

but what is meant by ‘blaspheming against the

Holy Spirit’?

Firstly, to blaspheme has here no technical or

sacral sense; it is simply a broad term best

rendered by the slang ‘to bad-mouth’, perhaps

‘speak evil of’. Secondly, it is not necessarily to

be understood in the sense in which it is used in

Mark 3.28-29: it is clearly an independent

saying, and does not fit too well in the Markan

context, which has to do with the rejection of

Jesus and does not really wish to say anything

significant about the Holy Spirit, Mark 3:28-30

talks of, unclean spirits .

However, understood in the context of

instructions to apostles for their apostolic work,

it is highly significant, for there, especially in

Luke’s two-volume book, the work of Holy Spirit

is of paramount importance. In the missionary

context, then, as here, to bad-mouth the Holy

Spirit means to impede the missionary work.

To say a word against Jesus, (or against your

Brother and Sister) the human, as son

of man, is one thing, but to impede or stand

against the missionary proclamation is another

and cannot be forgiven. But (since God can

forgive every sin that is repented) there is likely

to be a greater depth in both the phrase and the question.

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