Mark 10:3

“What direction did Moses give you?” replied Jesus.


there are many ways
to decide intractable questions
each and every one
having its limitation
particularly when more than one
consideration is in play

agreed upon authorities
can be prooftexted
one against another
divorcing varieties
of one integral from another
falsifying our hero

we can look back
to past resolutions
we can peer ahead
to a larger mercy
we can cast around
to poll and repoll

still there are many ways
to hold one another
at a distance or hugged close
that easy-eyed
I see your worth and admit
your best is my absence


Since the Pharisees raise a question of Law that typically revolves around Moses, Jesus has a couple of ways of responding. He can get into case law and be lost in the minutia there with exception upon exception countering every position taken. He can step outside the bounds of the question and find a different basis on which to respond. He can remain silent.

Whichever way he chooses to go there is no control over what will be done with his response, either in the moment with the Pharisees and their intended trap, with Herod in reopening an old wound, or with the crowds looking for a simple either-or answer that can be applied everywhere upon everyone.

Before picking a direction from which to respond to a significant challenge, the wise move is to have additional information up-front so it won’t be sprung later. Following this wisdom, Jesus responds, “Tell me more”, or “What is this Law you are asking about?”

There have been many of these Challenge-Riposte scenes already and several yet to come. Malina240 speaks about this formula in an honor/shame culture.

…every time Jesus’ opponents put a hostile question to him, he answers with a counterquestion, usually an insulting question….The honorable person, when challenged, pushes away the challenge and diffuses any advantage his opponents might believe they had. Here the insult in the counterquestion is underscored by the emphasis on the word “you.” Jesus distances himself from his interlocutors and their interpretation of Moses.

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