The 99% Solution

At times long-lost Greek manuscripts pass by my desk. They add a bit of class to the place, to counter-balance the Oreo wrappers, orphaned keys, and cats who like to see if they can type out their names.

I put on my special mittons and saw that this particular manuscript is from Luke 15. It starts off properly enough:

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Then mysteriously this manuscript states, “And he asked his disciples, saying…” (̓Ηρωτήσεν δε τοῖς μαθηταῖς λεγών) and adds these additional lines:

And he asked his disciples, saying, “So, what do you think?”

One disciple consulted a chart and answered, “That was all very well under the Law, but it doesn’t apply to us. It’s not for this age.” He carefully rolled the chart back up and put it in its protective tube.

Another answered, “If that sheep were of the elect, it would have come back on its own, in fact it would never have left in the first place.” Another replied, “That sheep has free will to wander off and come back as often as it chooses.” A scuffle broke out between the two, leading to a split lip and a torn toga.

Another said, “Well, I think we all agree that this would be the ideal, of course; but realistically it’s not to be expected. We should honor the spirit of the shepherd, but not interpret his example in a strict legalistic way.”

Another disciple answered, “I think we’ve missed the obvious point: we need to build better fences to keep the sheep from wandering off in the first place. As I always say, Conservation, not redemption!”

Another scowled and said, “The thing to do is break all the sheep’s legs; then they won’t go anywhere.”

The last disciple to chime in consulted his tablet and said, “Time is the currency of our modern era. Our operation is wasting thousands of hours a year on stray sheep when we should be focusing on the 99 productive ones. Efficiency, that’s the bottom line! Why, I know a consultant who will come in and analyze our infrastructure from top to bottom and put us on a paying basis.”

And the Lord looked around at each of them and answered: “…Hmph.”

Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Brilliant. BTW, where exactly does that little piece come from?

    • Hey my friend, wordpress.com suggested that this might be a spam, but no! I tipped the cap to Robert Benchley, a brilliant comic writer from the 1920-1930s and member of the Algonquin Round Table; the style is his, but the essay is my own.

  2. fantastic Gary! love it!

  3. Gary: You did it again. Got us hook, line and sinker and reeled us in! Well done! One question: is this an uncial or a miniscule? No really, I do have a question. Was your hat off to Robert Benchley because he once did something similar Biblically or theologically, or (what is more likely), because his brand of humor inspired yours in general?

    • I’m a huge fan of Benchley, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, screenwriter, humorist, etc., principally in the 1920-30s. I had just finished reading a collection of his essays. It rubbed off, thought I’d do some cross-disciplinary work: New Testament exegesis mixed with tomfoolery.


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