Revelations from the Word

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Jesus and the Minyan

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"If your brother has sinned, go and take him aside between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take with you one or two more, so that the whole matter may be settled on the declaration of two or three witnesses… Assuredly I tell you, everything that you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, and everything you loose on Earth shall loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on the Earth to ask anything, it will be granted to them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:15-20).

According to the Tradition, the Pharisees imposed a quorum of 10 men, called minyan in Hebrew, so that a service or ceremony with the recitation of prayers might be valid. The figure 10 was chosen on the authority of the verses speaking of the assembly of the children of Israel: Leviticus 19:2 and Numbers 14:27 for the assembly; Leviticus 22:32 and Genesis 42:2-5 for the children of Israel. Since the 10 brothers of Joseph and the 10 spies cause the course of events to change, they deduced from those incidents that a prayer meeting had to have at least 10 men in order to be able to get things to change.

In this instance it is not specifically about a prayer meeting, but to order the community life of the Church, which is in the process of coming to birth. Jesus explains that a decision concerning this community life can never be the prerogative of a one single person, but that it must be taken by at least two or three (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15). The apostle Paul confirmed that "Every matter" will be settled on the declaration of two or three witnesses (2 Corinthians 13:1).

Jesus therefore suppressed the minyan of the Tradition by recalling the Mosaic Law. Then He made it specific, "If two people are gathered in My name and are agreed about asking anything at all, my Father will grant it to them". For Jesus, the important thing is not the number, but His presence in the midst of the group. The holding of a church service and of a prayer meeting are the actions of authority of the kingdom of God (to bind or to loose) which can only be done with the authority of Jesus Christ. The Church begins where two or three people are gathered in the name of Jesus!