How Much More: Insults for the Housemaster and His Family

How Much More: Insults for the Housemaster and His Family

How Much More: Insults for the Housemaster and His Family.

It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:25).

It is fascinating that the teacher Jesus we find in the gospels nonetheless remained in the historic flow of Jewish tradition. He taught and preached and demonstrated and told His stories in ways that were accepted in rabbinic circles. Jesus taught like a Jew, He argued like a Jew, He reasoned like a Jew.

One classic method of rabbinic teaching was called the “Kal v’Chomer (pronounced as it looks, except the c is silent).” This was a commonly used strategy of reasoning and persuasion used throughout the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition. Breaking down that Hebrew phrase, “kal” means “Of course, obviously Yes.” And “v’chomer” means “all the more so.” The Hebrew understating of this teaching strategy can be described in many ways: light to heavy; lesser to greater; simple to complex; minor to major; lenient to strict. The kal v’chomer is a strictly logical process used everywhere in Jewish culture, from the courtrooms to the corner conversations to the synagogues. It is used by a speaker when he or she wants the listener to logically arrive at an inescapable conclusion. If is obviously true, then it stands to reason that B is true as well. This process is often spoken of as the “How much more” argument. If A is commonly accepted, then how much more is it likely that B should be accepted as well?

Like all effective rabbis, Jesus used this traditional strategy of argument when He read the room and believed that His audience was up to a logical argument. He would say, ‘If something is true in a minor matter, then how much more true will this major matter be?’ Jesus made successful use of Kal v’Chomer in His public ministry. ‘If this is obviously good, then that must be good as well.’ This is a commonsense type of reasoning that Jesus used many times in His speaking. There are at least eight different times He used this ‘lesser to greater’ approach to persuasion. In fact, because St. Paul loved to use this type of argument, and was probably taught it by the Master Rabbi Gamaliel, the New Testament has well over twenty different passages that include Kal v’Chomer reasoning.

Beelzebul: This ancient Philistine god has an interesting biblical history. Very early it was referred to as “Baal-Zebub,” and it meant “Lord of the Dung.” It naturally followed that it was referred to as “Lord of the Flies” in 2 Kings 1:2. Flies were symbols of demons, and what better way to attract flies than dung? Early Jewish and Christian tradition turned it into Beelzebul, and it was a sarcastic and derogatory term that meant “Lord of the Demons” or “Prince of Hostile Spirits.” The name came to be used synonymously with Satan or the Devil during Jesus’ era.

This terse passage quoting Jesus in Matthew 10:25 was introduced with a statement that meant:

It is sufficient that a student become like her teacher, or a servant like his master. The student or servant does not somehow deserve better treatment than his teacher or master. A student should be satisfied to become like her teacher, and a servant his lord and master. Since a student is not superior to her teacher any more than a servant would be greater than his master, the student and servant should be content to share the fate of the teacher and master. So, don’t be surprised…

So let’s put the main point of this passage in some other words that will mean the same thing:

… If the religious authorities have called me Beelzebul, and here I am the Master of the house, how much more will they call you, members of my house, that name or worse?

… Since these non-believers have referred to me, the housemaster, as the prince of demons, how much more likely is it that they will insult you, members of my household, the same way?

… If some people accuse me of being the Lord of the Demons, how much more will you my followers be called the same?

… If hostile skeptics dare to call me, the head of the house, a friend of the devil, then how much more likely is it that you, members of my family, will hear them dare to accuse you of the same thing?

… If my enemies insult me, the housemaster, by calling me the Devil, then how much more will they insult you, my followers, in the same way?

… Since there are people around who aren’t afraid to call me, the head of the house, in league with Satan, how much more likely is it that you, my dear disciples, will suffer the same fate?

Let’s conclude this passage with these words: So don’t be surprised, my dear friends, that the world is not going to treat you any better than it treats me! You can expect to get the same treatment as me, since you are in my family and represent me to the world. But do not fear these people who accuse you of this and that. Don’t be intimidated by them. These people are not able to kill your soul, your core being saved for eternal life with me. They may be able to kill the body, but that’s as far as they can go. Count it a joy that you can be counted worthy of being mistreated in my name. We together will be members of the fellowship of suffering, and there is no greater privilege.