BIBLICAL episodes and characters in the New Testament were re-defined by scholars from the Asia-Pacific region during the Joint Conference of the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP) and Society for New Testament Studies (SNTS) last Feb. 28 to March 1 at the Institute of Preaching in Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City.

The conference featured 21 scholarly articles aiming to explain “unanswered questions” in some books of the New Testament, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts.

Among the presenters from SNTS is Yutaka Maekawa of Japan’s Kwansei Gakuin University, who presented “Jesus Touching: Jesus’ Physical Movement in the Gospels.” The study showed how the physical movements of Jesus affected the faith conviction of the characters in the New Testament.

“Analyzing the physical movements of Jesus is important to comprehend the perspectives of the gospels and to clarify the prevalent opinions during the early Christian period,” Maekawa stated in his article.

The study showed that three verbs in the Greek language, which means “to touch,” “to grasp with hands,” and “to take hold of,” were used to define the physical touches of Jesus.

Ten of the 29 uses of the verb “to touch,” six of the 31 uses of “to grasp with hands,” and four of the seven uses of “to take hold of” involve the presence of sick people and those with sick children. Included was Mary Magdalene, who asked for spiritual healing.

“The context of the touch is mostly Jesus healing sick people. The plot is almost the same in each story—there was a sick person, people ask Jesus to heal the person, Jesus met and touched the person, and the person was healed,” Maekawa said.

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The article also showed that the physical touching of Jesus in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John signify different perspectives of the earthly life of Jesus.

The physical touching in the Gospel of Mark focuses more on the people’s wish to touch Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew focuses on the physical touches of Jesus, and the Gospel of Luke shows the people’s connection to God through the touches of Jesus. No episode of physical touching was shown in the Gospel of John.

The best presidential bet

Presenting his article titled “The Child in Matthew 18:2, isn’t he a best presidential bet?,” Fr. Leander Barrot, a representative from CBAP, redefined the word “child” as a metaphor for humility and discipleship.

Matthew 18:2 says: “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them,” and “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

According to Barrot, who is also the vice president for academic affairs of San Sebastian College, the “child” in the verses carries the traits of the best presidential bet because he possesses the five faces of a humble disciple—“does not cause sin to believers,” “seeks out the lost and rejoices,” “corrects a sinning brother,” “forgives from the heart,” and “upholds the dignity and sacredness of matrimony.”

The study also emphasized that presidential bets should imitate Pope Francis, who professes humility and compassion. “Like the present pope, a truly humble [leader] must have a heart for the poor. It is a sign of humility to reach out to them,” Barrot said.

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First of its kind

Fr. Clarence Marquez, O.P., director of the Institute of Preaching, said the conference was the first of its kind in the country. “CBAP holds a presentation annually, but this is the first time that SNTS was invited to present papers in the country,” Marquez told the Varsitarian.

Marquez said the gathering could be an avenue to expand knowledge in Catholicism among Filipinos, in preparation for the 500th year of Christianity in the country.

A total of 63 delegates attended the conference, with 16 scholars coming from Austria, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and India. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana

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