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
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.