The National Catholic Review

Why not use this blog entry? Not that you would use it, perhaps that's presumptuous of me even to assume it, but no one wants to hear about word studies from the pulpit. On the other hand, what will people say when they hear Acts 4:8-12 proclaimed this Sunday? According to the NAB, Peter asks if he and John are being “examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved” (Acts 4:9). Screech. Screech. Those are the online sounds of my intellectual brakes grinding to a halt. The ancients are notoriously not politically correct; they are direct and to the point. They say what they want to who they want using the language they want. From a modern perspective, feelings are not spared. Keep that in mind, foolish Galatians, and woe to you Pharisees, whitewashed tombs, and do not think I have forgotten about you Sadducees, who know neither the power of God nor the Scriptures. I could find examples outside of the New Testament, in Judaism or amongst Greco-Roman authors, put I hope the point has been made, obtuse, demanding and silly readers! But, “a cripple”? That is the best translation for this phrase in Acts 4:9 according to the NAB? I do not want to hear this language on Sunday when I hear the first reading proclaimed. There are a number of “cripples” in my congregation. I remember fondly also my brother-in-law, a “cripple” who died in 2008 at 37 after a lifelong fight against the physical ravages of Spina Bifida.

The man who is healed by Peter and John (3:1-10) is described as being chÇlos, “lame” or “crippled,” from birth (“from the womb of his mother” in the evocative Greek). His joy at being healed is pronounced; he literally jumps for joy at his healing and his physical freedom (3:8). He has a right to be happy. But he is also the same man he was prior to his physical healing, as loved by God as he was before he could walk. God’s power has been made manifest, for his benefit, but also for the spiritual benefit of those who observed his healing and who observe him now. He was never “a cripple,” though being crippled was a part of his reality, just as none of us ought to be defined by our physical being alone. The Greek in 4:9 actually uses a straightforward and general adjective to describe him: asthen?s: sick, ill, feeble, weak, powerless. Combined with anthr