Two very distinctive
Mediterranean ideas strike the Western reader in this passage:
hospitality and human power over the spirit world.
In the Mediterranean world hospitality is extended almost exclusively by men
and only to strangers. Graciousness extended to relatives or near relatives is
called “steadfast love” or “steadfast loving kindness.”
In the ancient world, any person who departed from the family village entered
a foreign and hostile world. Death was always and everywhere a threat. Such a
traveler had to rely on the kindness of a village elder to extend hospitality
and temporary protection from those who intended to harm or kill this stranger
(see Gen 18:1-16; 19:1-26). Jesus, therefore, utters a cultural truism when he
says to the seventy: “I am sending you as lambs into the midst of wolves”—strangers
among nonrelatives (Lk 10:3).
In the peasant world of the Middle East there are no free gifts. Every gift comes
with a string attached. A common proverb says: “Don’t thank me: you will
Jesus advises his disciples to be discriminating in accepting hospitality on
their journey. If the host reciprocates their greeting of “peace,” the
disciples should stay there and preach and heal the sick.
On the other hand, if the town insults them by refusing to extend hospitality,
they are to go to the town square (a very public place) and publicly return the
insult. Both gestureshealing and preaching, and the public insultbear
witness that “the reign of God approaches and is indeed near.”
Our Mediterranean ancestors in the Faith not only recognized a rich and densely
populated spirit world, but they also arranged the entire cosmos in a hierarchy
as follows: (1) God; (2) gods or sons of God, or archangels; (3) lower non-human
persons: angels, spirits, demons; (4) humankind; (5) creatures lower than humankind.
Beings higher on this ladder controlled those beneath them, but sometimesthough
very rarelya lower being could control a higher being. Notice in the New
Testament that no one denies the reality of Jesus casting demons out of possessed
persons. Rather, they charge that he has no legitimate authorization to use this
power (Lk 20:2) or that he has obtained his power from the devil (Lk 11:15).
Jesus, in turn, gave this same power to his disciples. Sometimes it was not effective
(Lk 9:40), but in today’s story it seems to have been very effective: “Lord,
in your name, even the demons submit to us!” (Lk 10:17).
John J. Pilch
Back to the Word
J. Pilch is a biblical scholar and
facilitator of parish renewals.
Liturgical Press has published
fourteen books by Pilch exploring the
“cultural world” of the Bible.
Go to http://www.litpress.org/ to
find out more.
Copyright © 1997 by The Order of St.
Benedict, Inc., Collegeville, MN.
All rights reserved.
Used by permission from The
Liturgical Press, Collegeville,
The complete text of the
above article can be found in:
The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C
John J. Pilch. The Liturgical Press. 1996. pp. 106-108.
Martin Erspamer, O.S.B.
from Religious Clip Art for the
(A, B, and C).
Used by permission of Liturgy Training
Publications. This art may be reproduced
only by parishes who purchase the
collection in book or CD-ROM form. For
more information go to: http://www.ltp.org/