Summary Luke Chapter 9

In a very large part, this chapter is a collection of stories also found in the other two Synoptic Gospels. That’s all fine and good. What differentiates Luke’s versions is that, again, for the most part, they are heavily abridged; in some cases, an entire story is compressed down into a couple of sentences. This leaves the overall impression that Luke doesn’t want to omit the stories, but he doesn’t want to devote too much time to them, either. We are coming upon the section where we get most of Luke’s unique material, much of which is considered defining statements of Christian values and the Christian thought process. So, one might be forgiven in thinking that Luke is sort of trying to zip through this bit of Triple Tradition material in order to get to his own material.

One might be forgiven, but there might just be a little more to it than that. There seems to be a certain amount of selectiveness to the stories that Luke condenses. For example, let’s take the opening story, the Sending of the Twelve. Matthew has the longest version of this story, running to about 13 verses, as compared to the 6 we find in Luke. But here’s the thing: Mark has only has 5. So, technically, this story is not abridged in Luke; rather, it’s been expanded in Matthew. In fact, this section of Matthew has a lot of material unique to Matthew. He gives much more explicit instructions to those sent out, but he also launches into a long and dire prediction about the awful things that are going to happen, to them and to others who follow Jesus. Luke, apparently, felt no need to repeat any of this; of course, the Q people use instances like this to support their argument that Luke was unaware of Matthew, and they are correct to do so; however, they also completely ignore all the times that Luke does agree with Matthew. Such cases, they say, are the proof of Q. That is rather having it both ways.

The next two stories provide a different perspective. They are the Death of the Dunker, and Feeding the 5,000. Both of these stories are covered very well by M&M, and the second event zzwill even appear in John. In both cases, Luke is clearly the shortest version. What comes–or doesn’t c0me–next is even more interesting. Included in this sequence of stories in both Mark & Matthew is Jesus walking on water, the discussion about washing hands, Jesus meeting the Syro-Phoenician woman, Feeding the 4,000, and the Pharisees demanding a sign. Luke omits them all. Why? One thing they have in common is that both M&M have complete versions of all of these. My suggestion is that this indicates that Luke was fully aware of Matthew, that Luke knew these stories had been thoroughly covered, and saw no reason to cover them again. It should also be pointed out that there are two short sections of Mark that are ignored by both Matthew and Luke. The first occurs in conjunction with the question about washing hands. Jesus chides the Pharisees for ignoring the commandments of God and adhering to the traditions of men. The other is a wonder-story, where Jesus cures a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment.

Why leave these last out? This cuts against my suggestion that Luke saw no reason to cover things adequately covered by both Mark and Matthew. These were not covered by Matthew. I suspect that Matthew omitted the first one because it was a bit too disparaging of Jewish tradition; as a convert, Matthew probably didn’t want to repeat such a harsh criticism of his adopted tradition. Matthew, I suspect, passed over the second story because this one has a fairly detailed account of the actions Jesus took to restore the man’s hearing and speech. Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, and Jesus spat on his own hand and then touched the man’s tongue. This is a pretty vivid description of the magical practices Jesus followed, and recall that it’s not the only one in Mark. None of them made it to Matthew, and none of them* made it into Luke, either, So there’s another, albeit negative, instance of when Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark. The authors of the second (chronologically) an third gospels did not want to perpetuate the idea of Jesus as a Wonder Worker, so these accounts of magical practices were lost early. Both Matthew and Luke start with Jesus as the christ from birth, or even before. As such, going too much into the method by which the wonders were worked rather detracts from that interpretation of Jesus. Both Matthew and Luke abandoned it; which, if you’re keeping score at home, is yet another aspect of Luke agreeing with Matthew against Mark. These agreements are often tacit or implicit, but they are no less real for that.

The scene describing Peter’s confession approximates that of Mark, with one notable exception. Luke omits the part where Peter protests when Jesus predicts his death. This leads to the exclamation of “Get behind me, Satan,” from Jesus. In this sequence Matthew also added the “Peter the Rock” speech that is unique to him; or, perhaps, it is the addition of a Bishop of Rome who wanted to exert the Petrine Primacy. This gains a bit more credence, I think, when we realize there is no evidence to show that Peter was ever in Rome. In Galatians, Paul encountered Peter in in Jerusalem, and describes how Peter would eat like a gentile until the henchmen of James the Just showed up, at which point he quickly reverted to the Judaic dietary restrictions. Since Paul is the only attested contemporary to mention Peter, and Paul says nothing about Peter being in Rome, we have no evidence putting Peter in the capital city. There were Christians in Rome in the 60s, as attested by the Roman historian Tacitus and corroborated by the Roman biographer Suetonius, but that’s as far as it goes. But back to the original point, why would Luke omit “Get behind me, Satan”? We noted Mark’s portrayal of Peter is that of a dullard; Matthew rehabilitates Peter, culminating with, “Peter the Rock”. I n Luke, Peter is sort of a nonentity; he’s there, but doesn’t have many lines, or even scene appearances. Perhaps the official word by the time of Luke was that Peter was to be praised and raised in esteem, and so Luke followed that and left out “Get behind me, Satan” to do that. I could suggest that this is another time that Luke omits something already covered, but the omission is so brief as to seem hardly necessary.

As for the Transfiguration itself, Luke adds one truly significant detail. When Elijah and Moses appear, we are told they were discussing the coming plans for going into Jerusalem. This sort of changes the complexion of a lot of things in the biblical scheme. It implies that Jesus is a cosmic figure. It implies that Jesus is of cosmic importance. It implies that Jesus is part of the tradition of the Jews, which was an important consideration for Christians at this time. The antiquity of their religion gave Jews a lever of respect and acceptance from the Romans that helped insulate them from some of the worst impulses Romans felt towards this alien religion that didn’t believe in going along to get along. This divine conference also implies that, perhaps, Jesus was not omniscient; why would he need to discuss what was about to happen if he were omniscient? The path was set, the die was cast, and that would be that. Of course, that smacks of pagan fatalism, so we can’t have that.

The story of the demon-possessed boy occurs shortly after the Transfiguration. The remarkable aspect of comparing the three versions is to note that Luke and Matthew agree against Mark. Of course, per the Q people, this is not supposed to happen. However, when the boy’s father asks why Jesus disciples were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus rails ab out this “faithless generation”. At least, that is what he says in Mark. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus rails against this “faithless and perverse generation”. I’ll be danged if that doesn’t sound like Luke copying directly from Matthew. Of course, he couldn’t have done so per the Q people, but there it is. So Q.E.D. Correct? Well, perhaps not. The copying could have been done in a scriptorium at some later date, and the presence of “perverse” in Luke could be an interpolation by a copyist. If I’m willing to suggest that a later Bishop of Rome inserted “Peter the Rock”, I have to be willing to admit that the presence of a single word doesn’t mean much. In much the same way, I’m pretty much convinced that the opening line of Mark was a later addition. And that would mean that “Jesus of Nazareth” was a later addition. This reduces by 25% the number of times Nazareth is mentioned by Mark. Which means that Luke and Matthew agree against Mark on the place of Jesus’ hometown.

There is also an entirely new episode in this chapter, one unique to Luke. It’s short. Jesus and his entourage are not welcome in a Samaritan town. James and John, blood-thirsty types that they are, ask Jesus if he’s going to call in the Angelic Air Force and nuke the place. Jesus, of course, forbears this action. It’s kind of hard to pin down exactly why this is in the text. I did not realise that it was a reference to an act of Elijah, who actually did call down fire to destroy a town that had mistreated him. And one commentator said that it was appropriate that the suggestion came from James and John, the “fiery sons of Zebedee”, whom Jesus had named the Sons of Thunder. It’s curious to note that a commentator (Ellicott) refers to the pair as “fiery”. For the most part, the sons of Zebedee have been pretty much window dressing. They tag along on all of the good stuff, but they don’t actually say, let alone do, anything. They are scene fillers. If one of the disciples has a line, it’s pretty much always Peter who has it. Just as going up to the Transfiguration, it is he who confessed Jesus to be the Christ. And it is Peter who babbles about erecting three tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. This passivity of James and John makes the designation of Mark more curious. We are, I suspect, dealing with layering. As time passed, some characters in the story gained, and some lost, prominence. The fact that James the Just ran the show for 30 years and receives no mention at all in the gospels is remarkable. There is the reference in Mark 6 to Jesus’ brothers, among whom one is James, but that’s it. Over time, Peter was elevated, James was lowered, as was Mary of Magdala. James is banished to a throwaway line, whilst Mary ends up a prostitute. And this latter tradition stuck, even among Protestants, despite the fact that there is no scriptural basis for it.

And with that, we shall exit, stage left…

* I may need to walk that back later! But then, that’s true about pretty much anything I say here.


Luke Chapter 9:46-62

For this section, we’ll be covering a bit more text than has been the custom of late. The reason for doing shorter sections is to get these published more quickly, and the hiatus between this post and the amply demonstrates that point. However, this section is really too short to break into two; besides, it’s time to get this very long chapter into the books. As has been the case with most of this chapter, we’re dealing with some short sections, most of which has been covered by Luke’s predecessors. So far, this has proven to be an excellent source of analysis, giving us some really clear insight into the way all of this fits together. So, on to the


46 Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ διαλογισμὸς ἐναὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς ἂν εἴη μείζων αὐτῶν.

47 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἰδὼς τὸν διαλογισμὸν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιλαβόμενος παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ παρ’ ἑαυτῷ,

48 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὃς ἐὰν δέξηται τοῦτο τὸ παιδίον ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὃς ἂν ἐμὲ δέξηται δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με: ὁ γὰρ μικρότερος ἐν πᾶσιν ὑμῖν ὑπάρχων οὗτός ἐστιν μέγας.

49 Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰωάννης εἶπεν, Ἐπιστάτα, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια, καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτὸν ὅτι οὐκ ἀκολουθεῖ μεθ’ ἡμῶν.

50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Μὴ κωλύετε, ὃς γὰρ οὐκ ἔστιν καθ’ ὑμῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν.

They came, dialoguing amongst themselves, about which of them might be the greatest. (47) But Jesus, knowing the discussion in their hearts took hold of a child standing near to him. (48) And he said to them, “If one receives this child in my name he will receive me and receives the one sending me. For the least in all of you he beginning is the greatest”. (49) Answering, John said, “Master, we saw someone in your name casting out demons, and we ordered him that he did not follow with us”.  (50) Speaking towards him, Jesus said, “Do not forbid, for he who is not against us is for us”.  

I was originally going to separate the last two verses from this section because they obviously do not have anything to do with the lesson about the child. Oh, sure, some sort of stretch can always be made, but the fact is, they are parts of different stories sort of shoehorned together whether they fit or not. What we are seeing, or continuing to see, is Luke compressing pericopae that are handled–we can presume that Luke thought adequately–by the first two evangelists. He did not want to leave them out, probably because they were too well-known and would be missed, but he did not want to waste too much time on them, either. We are coming up to most of the material unique to Luke: the Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son, & c, and one gets the sense that Luke is simply trying to get this stuff that’s played out of the way. So once again, this seems to indicate that Luke was aware of Matthew’s treatments of these themes; he realized that Matthew had repeated Mark’s story, adding to it, so there was nothing left to say. IOW, Luke was not interested in repeating Matthew; why bother with that? Matthew had done it already, so why say it again? These two stories, compressed almost to the point of nonexistence, technically fall into Triple Tradition material, but are they really? Again, technically, yes, but nothing at all beyond that. Luke is, IMO, very, very aware of Matthew, even if that is demonstrated only negatively. By sheer coincidence there should be instances where Luke agreed with Matthew rather than Mark, but that never happens. At least, that is what the Q people contend. Except, of course, for being born in Bethlehem, a father named Joseph…

I started this blog in April of 2012, and probably got to Mark’s version of the last two lines in 2013 or so. Let’s say that’s five years ago, give or take. In that time I still am not sure about the not against = for us. I mean, it’s obvious on one level, but why does it get said like this? And are we focusing on that rather than the fact that there is a follower of Jesus casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but who is not a follower of Jesus. At least, he’s not part of the inner group that the disciples, comprised of Peter and…probably Jesus’ brother James. The rest of them are problematic, to say the least. Peter and James, the brother of the lord, are the only two that are specifically named by Paul. The other ten are more than likely filler. But we have other followers of Jesus. And this is something I would expect happened: that there were a number of groups following Jesus, and that these groups are where the other gospels came from. Most likely, these are the groups that particularly kept alive the wonder-worker stories. This would be, IMO, another gospel to which Paul found especially distasteful since it did not emphasize the Christ aspect of the Jesus story. Of course, this is all very problematic; while Paul was certainly written first, we have to ask the unanswerable question of whether this story pre-dates Paul. IOW, is this story “authentic,” in the sense that it’s from the time of Jesus? 

The problem is not that the question cannot be answered with any certainty. Almost nothing, with a few and very limited exceptions, in the NT can be asserted with any real degree of certainty. The problem is that there is no basis for making an assessment of the probability, other than “does it feel right?” Since the entire basis for Q rests on “it doesn’t feel right that Luke would mangle Matthew’s masterful treatment of the Q material”, I should be very careful about relying on this as a basis for a case. Yet, the historian who withholds judgement on such questions is a bit of a coward and mostly useless, so I would say that there is some possibility that this story has a kernel of truth at the heart. There were, I suspect, other groups than the one that wrote the NT who followed Jesus, even if they did not literally follow him the way that Peter apparently did. The difference between this judgement of mine and the case for Q is that I’m applying the principle to single stories on a case-by-case basis. I am not attempting to erect any sort of edifice on these very spindly props, and certainly nothing so elaborate as the Q hypothesis. This is a difference of degree at root, but to the point that it becomes a difference in kind.

46 Intravit autem cogitatio in eos, quis eorum maior esset.

47 At Iesus sciens cogitationem cordis illorum, apprehendens puerum statuit eum secus se

48 et ait illis: “ Quicumque susceperit puerum istum in nomine meo, me recipit; et, quicumque me receperit, recipit eum, qui me misit; nam qui minor est inter omnes vos, hic maior est ”.

49 Respondens autem Ioannes dixit: “ Praeceptor, vidimus quendam in nomine tuo eicientem daemonia et prohibuimus eum, quia non sequitur nobiscum ”.

50 Et ait ad illum Iesus: “ Nolite prohibere; qui enim non est adversus vos, pro vobis est ”.

51 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ἀναλήμψεως αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν τοῦ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ,

It became in the fulfilling of the days of his being taken up (ascension), and he set his face towards the going to Jerusalem. 

Just want to pause here a moment. Luke is measuring the time towards Jesus’ ascension. This is very unusual. In fact, Luke is the only one to tell the ascension story, so this marker of time is unique. It’s a bit…strange?…that Luke is pointing us to an event that has not had its story told yet, so presumably the reader could easily be a bit puzzled by the reference. Or had the story of the ascension entered the corpus of the Jesus myth to a degree sufficient to allow Luke to toss off this reference confident that the audience would understand it? Or is this a literary device, meant to pique curiosity? To leave the audience wondering, “Ascension? What does that mean?” Of course, this is another question that we cannot answer; we can only speculate. However, I will wager that you’ve never heard it asked before this moment.

51 Factum est autem, dum complerentur dies assumptionis eius, et ipse faciem suam firmavit, ut iret Ierusalem,

52 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν ἀγγέλους πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ. καὶ πορευθέντες εἰσῆλθον εἰς κώμην Σαμαριτῶν, ὡς ἑτοιμάσαι αὐτῷ:

53 καὶ οὐκ ἐδέξαντο αὐτόν, ὅτι τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ.

54 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης εἶπαν, Κύριε, θέλεις εἴπωμεν πῦρ καταβῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀναλῶσαι αὐτούς;

55 στραφεὶς δὲ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς.

56 καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν εἰς ἑτέραν κώμην.

And he sent angels before his face. And coming, they went into a Samaritan village, as to prepare for him. (53) And they did not receive hi, that the face of him as turned towards Jerusalem. (53) And his disciples seeing, James and John said, “Lord, do you wish we call fire to fall down from the sky and destroy them?” (55) Turning he rebuked them. (56) And they proceeded to another village.

This section is unique to Luke. And it’s very interesting. First, the juxtaposition is noteworthy; the tale of the Good Samaritan is coming up in the next chapter (or two). Perhaps this is meant as sort of a dramatic set-up for that. Luke is setting the stage here, reminding (or informing for the first time) the audience that Jews and Samaritans did not get along as a matter of course. Before we get to that, notice the translation of “angels”. “Jesus sent angels ahead of him”, and the “messenger Gabriel came to Mary to foretell her becoming the mother of the messiah”. The Greek word is the same in both cases, and it is the Greek word used in Malachi 3:1 where the speaker will send his angel before him. But whether we choose to translate it, or simply to transliterate it adds an entirely different cast to the meaning and implications of the word, and has a lot of impact on how we understand the particular passage.

 A couple of the Commentaries that I skimmed said the airstrike was about the selfish and carnal desires of the two disciples. And this would, or could tie it back to the discussion they were having earlier about who was the greatest. I would not have made that connexion on my own, so sometimes it is good to get some additional input. In any case, Jesus rebuked them, which the commentaries suggest was that this was because the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was on a mission of mercy. And that ties back to the clueless bunch of disciples that we found in Mark. It’s interesting to note how many connexions one can find when one is actively looking for them.

52 et misit nuntios ante conspectum suum. Et euntes intraverunt in castellum Samaritanorum, ut pararent illi.

53 Et non receperunt eum, quia facies eius erat euntis Ierusalem.

54 Cum vidissent autem discipuli Iacobus et Ioannes, dixerunt: “ Domine, vis dicamus, ut ignis descendat de caelo et consumat illos? ”.

55 Et conversus increpavit illos.

56 Et ierunt in aliud castellum.

57 Καὶ πορευομένων αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ εἶπέν τις πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἀκολουθήσω σοι ὅπου ἐὰν ἀπέρχῃ.

58 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Αἱ ἀλώπεκες φωλεοὺς ἔχουσιν καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατασκηνώσεις, ὁ δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῃ.

And they proceeding along on the road someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you may go”. (58) And Jesus said to him, “The foxed have their holes and the birds of the air (have) nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”.

This is a bit of a ‘woe is me’ moment. As such, it’s always rather bothered me because I’ve never been sure about what sentiment is actually being expressed. It’s meant as a warning, of course, to the interlocutor. And it’s likely meant as warning to those hearing or (less likely) reading the words of Luke or Matthew. But can it simply be left at that? I suppose, but that feels a little…shallow. Most likely this is an oblique allusion to Jesus’ coming death; or, perhaps more likely. it’s Jesus’ disciples mourning the difficult lives they led as itinerant preachers. And no doubt it was a difficult life, but was it any more so than scratching an existence out of unsympathetic ground? or fishing? It doesn’t get a lot of ink in biblical circles, but itinerant preacher was a definite career path back in these days. Sure, there were times of food insecurity, but who but the wealthy didn’t experience that? And, truth be told, given the pax Romana that existed throughout pretty much the entire Mediterranean basin, including France and the Levant, things were better for more people than would be the case until fairly recently. So yes, perhaps a bit of self-pity. 

This is actually part of what is supposed to be Q. This is not in Mark. But once again, the Q people are too clever by half. The chances that Jesus actually said this are pretty much nil. Can you imagine the Jesus we found in Mark uttering these lines? I can’t. And this judgement is offered based on content. Jesus was a traveling wonder-worker. The whole woe-is-me really doesn’t fit with that sort of existence. I suspect the Q people would disagree; or, I wish they would. I would love to hear their arguments for Q based on the content of these sayings, rather than simply on the fact that Matthew and Luke have them, but Mark does not. I would really like to know how they would justify Q based on what Jesus is saying, and how it fits with the context in which Jesus lived. I really, really would like to hear that.

57 Et euntibus illis in via, dixit quidam ad illum: “ Sequar te, quocumque ieris ”.

58 Et ait illi Iesus: “ Vulpes foveas habent, et volucres caeli nidos, Filius autem hominis non habet, ubi caput reclinet ”.

59 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς ἕτερον, Ἀκολούθει μοι. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, [Κύριε,] ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀπελθόντι πρῶτον θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου.

60 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀπελθὼν διάγγελλε τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

(59) He said to another, “Follow me”. The (other) responded, “[Lord], permit me going away first to bury my father”. (60) He (Jesus) said to him (the other man), let the dead bury their own dead, you going away announce the kingdom of God”.  (61) 

What does this mean? “Let the dead bury the(ir) dead”? I suppose, on reflection, it’s an injunction to dissociate oneself from the cares of the world. In which case, it’s more Buddhist than Christian, no? Or, at least, it’s more Buddhist than what we’ve heard Jesus say to this point. Here again, if you stop to think, how does this–or does it even–fit with the Jesus of Mark’s gospel? If it doesn’t fit with the Jesus we found in Mark, don’t we have to scrutinize whether Jesus said this very closely? Since this is part of Q, doesn’t that have to raise some serious problems about the existence of Q? This is why the s0-called “argument” for Q to be so unconvincing. It, seemingly, never stops to consider whether all of the stuff that Jesus supposedly said fits with the Jesus of Paul or Mark. Q supposedly has a “redactionally consistent outlook”, but how much of that could be attributed to Matthew writing much of Q? But Matthew’s Jesus is rather different from Mark’s Jesus, so how does that work? I’m not sure it does.

59 Ait autem ad alterum: “ Sequere me ”. Ille autem dixit: “ Domine, permitte mihi primum ire et sepelire patrem meum ”.

60 Dixitque ei Iesus: “ Sine, ut mortui sepeliant mortuos suos; tu autem vade, annuntia regnum Dei ”.

61 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ ἕτερος, Ἀκολουθήσω σοι, κύριε: πρῶτον δὲ ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀποτάξασθαι τοῖς εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου.

62 εἶπεν δὲ [πρὸς αὐτὸν] ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐδεὶς ἐπιβαλὼν τὴν χεῖρα ἐπ’ ἄροτρον καὶ βλέπων εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω εὔθετός ἐστιν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

And another said, “I will follow you, lord. But first allow to me to separate from those in my household”.  (62) Jesus said [to him], “No one turning his hand upon the plough and looking backwards is well-placed in the kingdom of God.”

This is of a piece with the previous two verses. It’s another injunction to dissociate yourself from your earthly ties, which is something that many religions advocate. It’s the beginning of the eremitic tradition that led to monasticism and the ascetic tradition that culminated in the Cathars. Now here I can see a connexion to the Jesus of Mark, at least as far as the part in Chapter 3:35 when he says that his family is made up of those who who do the word of God. This

Now, I’ve been reading about other forms of spirituality. Pursuing this line of inquiry, one often runs into Buddhist thought. One of the most common precepts I’ve found is the injunction to “subjugate/obliterate the ego”. It has occurred to me that this admonition is functionally the equivalent of “submit to the will of God”. And here and in Mark 3:35 we have Jesus telling us something very similar. Or, if not similar, it’s at least close enough that both sentiments can be summarized by a common aphorism. What strikes me is, along with how one actually goes about being saved, the injunction to do God’s will is very seldom mentioned in the reading. It’s there, but it has nowhere near the prominence I expected coming into this project. Some of this absence, of course, is merely a pro forma absence, since many of the words put into Jesus’ mouth (like the ones here?) are allegorical, or parables. But think about the parables in Mark and Matthew: the sower, the mustard seed, the wicked tenants…a lot of them are more about the growth or rejection of the kingdom than they are about how to attain the kingdom. We’ll come into some of those shortly; but the point is that of the thirteen parables I found in a quick scan through Matthew, one two or three of them deal with what can fall under the rubric of “proper behaviour”, and even two of them are a bit of a stretch. The best example is the Unmerciful Slave, whose debt was forgiven, but who refused to forgive a debt owed to him. The 0thers would be The Parable of the Talents, –of the Ten Virgins, –of the Vineyard workers. For those of you keeping score at home, that adds up to four, but no matter. I found about five in Mark, and the only one vaguely dealing with behaviour is the Wicked Tenants; this is also in Matthew, but I didn’t count it there because it’s more about the retribution coming to the tenants than it is about the tenants themselves.

So my point stands. How to behave, and how to be saved do not receive nearly the emphasis in the gospels that one might expect. The implication is that much of Christian doctrine is what can be derived from the NT, rather than what is actually in the NT. The Protestants supposedly went back and excised a lot of the accumulated tradition that had no biblical basis–Purgatory, anyone?–but they were nowhere near as comprehensive as they believed. And I say that as someone raised in the Roman Rite who has now gone over to Episcopalianism. In some ways, not a hugely drastic change, but in other ways, it is. The point is that I have seen this from both sides. It’s interesting to note how this conversion has affected my viewpoint when reading about the Late Mediaeval/Early Modern world.

61 Et ait alter: “ Sequar te, Domine, sed primum permitte mihi renuntiare his, qui domi sunt ”.

62 Ait ad illum Iesus: “ Nemo mittens manum suam in aratrum et aspiciens retro, aptus est regno Dei ”.

Luke Chapter 9:37-45-Updated

Update: I added a comment to Verse 45 at the bottom of the page. I realized I completely neglected this.

Here we continue with yet another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story.  In between sections, I took a few minutes to go through the first bit of my Harmony. So far, my theory is holding. Luke is generally the shortest version when all three gospels have a story. It’s not always by a lot, but it is pretty consistent. And I haven’t gotten to Chapters 8 & 9 where I believe the phenomenon becomes more pronounced. Conversely, when Matthew significantly shortens Mark, Luke’s version comes somewhere in between. There are a few times when Luke has the longest version. Having glanced ahead (spoiler alert!) I saw that we will be coming onto the material unique to Luke, including (in no particular order) The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Zaccheus, etc. My sense in reading Chapter 9 has been that Luke is trying to hurry through the required bits of the Triple Tradition so that he can get to his own original material. And yes, I fully suspect Luke is the author of most of his unique material. With that, on to the


37 Ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἑξῆς ἡμέρᾳ κατελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους συνήντησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς.

38 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐβόησεν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν,

39 καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα λαμβάνει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξαίφνης κράζει, καὶ σπαράσσει αὐτὸν μετὰ ἀφροῦ καὶ μόγις ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ συντρῖβον αὐτόν:

40 καὶ ἐδεήθην τῶν μαθητῶν σου ἵνα ἐκβάλωσιν αὐτό, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν.

It became on the next day they having come from the mountain a multitudinous crowd met him. (38) And behold, a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I need you to look upon my son, that is my only born, and behold, a spirit seized him, and he suddenly cries out, and he makes him retch with foam, and scarcely goes away from him it bruises him, (40) and I asked your disciples in order they cast it out, and they were not able”.

Let’s start with a comment on the Greek. I was always puzzled by the translation of “tore him with foam”. That doesn’t entirely make sense. So I check the Great Scott and, behold! one of the other meanings of the word rendered as “tore” is “to retch, w/o being able to vomit”. Now that makes sense. The kid goes into spasms where he convulses with dry heaves and, subsequently or consequently, he foams at the mouth. I do not know much about epilepsy or other afflictions that may cause this, so I shan’t speculate. I will, however, take credit for taking a deeper look at this. Then, taking a look at my crib translations, I noticed that, while the KJV does render this as “teareth”, more modern translations change this to “convulse”, as I did. It’s also worth pointing out that the KJV uses the same word in the versions of Mark and Matthew, saying that the demon “tears” at the boy with foam. I point this out because the KJV is most often the closest to the original Greek; it’s considered the definitive work in English, IIRC, among fundamentalists who take the words literally. I’m not sure what they may have to say about this.

Note that we are dealing with a sprit, not a demon. Mark always refers to it as such, but later in the story Luke will call it a demon, and then an unclean spirit. This is linguistic evidence that, by the time Luke wrote at least, these terms were interchangeable. I believe that they were in the earlier gospels, but I never really noted, or noticed the use of these different words in the same story. Also note that Mark alone calls the spirit “mute” (alalon). Neither Matthew nor Luke does so. But let us recall that Matthew did not say that the boy was possessed by a spirit, or demon, or anything else. Matthew says that the boy was a lunatic, which is a fairly literal translation of the Greek word he used. “To be lunaticking”, or something like that, would be even more literal. The root of Matthew’s Greek word is selene, “moon”. The root of lunatic is luna, which is “moon” but in Latin.

This discrepancy should, I believe, be considered in conjunction with noting the term used to address the father in the various gospels. Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew is in the word used; here and in Mark it’s didaskelon, teacher. In Matthew it’s kyrios, lord. All three evangelists use both words frequently, so I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions from this difference. Now, the Q people would zealously use this as an example of Lk + Mk <> Mt, and they have a point.

Taking a contrary position, OTOH, it can also be pointed out that Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark by omitting that the spirit was mute. Of course, the Q people would object to that characterization; they would say something like this is not an active agreement, but a passive omission, which could have been omitted independently. And besides, there was no spirit in Matthew, so how could it be mute? This is certainly an accurate description of the situation, but other interpretations of these circumstances are certainly possoble. Recall that Luke very pointedly stressed that Jesus did not move to Caphernaum, as Matthew explicitly states. At the time, I suggested that Luke had deliberately corrected Matthew. I also think that returning back to the idea of a spirit was another deliberate decision by Luke to correct Matthew once again. Personally, I think there is a lot of this sort of “correction” of Matthew done in Luke, which is why these two “never” agree against Mark. Except for Joseph, Bethlehem, the angels…So I’m still going to put it on the Lk+Mt <> Mk. These little things are insignificant on their own, but the accumulated weight should be considered; enough of these small instances makes for telling evidence. In this way we shall steal a page from the Q peoples’ playbook: make the assertion, and then make them prove it’s wrong. This will put them on the horns of a dilemma: argue against the assertion, thereby crediting that it has merit and must be disproven; or, say the demand to prove a negative is ridiculous. In which case, they will be agreeing with me about the existence of Q.

Finally, the man asks about his “son”. He does not use the word pais that the Centurion did; rather, it’s huios, which is the standard word used for “son of God” or “son of man”. Perhaps this is the final bit of ‘proof’ needed to show that we were indeed, talking about the Centurion’s servant. Perhaps I’m the only one who still needed to be convinced of that.

There are a couple of other things to be discussed, like the disciples’ inability to cast out the spirit. That one in particular will be saved for later.

37 Factum est autem in sequenti die, descendentibus illis de monte, occurrit illi turba multa.

38 Et ecce vir de turba exclamavit dicens: “Magister, obsecro te, respice in filium meum, quia unicus est mihi;

39 et ecce spiritus apprehendit illum, et subito clamat, et dissipat eum cum spuma et vix discedit ab eo dilanians eum;

40 et rogavi discipulos tuos, ut eicerent illum, et non potuerunt”.

41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, *)=ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου.

Answering, Jesus said, “O faithless and twisted generation! How long shall I be towards you and shall I bear with you? Lead your son hither.”

Ha! Guess what? I just found a place where Matthew and Luke actively agree against Mark; this is despite the fact that this never happens according to the Q people. Mark has Jesus bewailing the “faithless generation”; Matthew and Luke add the second word, here rendered as “twisted”, but is perhaps more metaphorically (and commonly) rendered as “perverse”. So, the entire superstructure of the Q argument collapses.

Maybe. To be fair, if this is indeed the only such instance, one has to be prepared to acknowledge, if not necessarily accept, the possibility that the presence of this single word, in exactly the same case, is an interpolation. See how fair I am? I point out the weaknesses in my own position; ideally, I would then provide proactive refutation of arguments based on this hole in my theory. That is, after all, how proper scholarship is done. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to create an actual argument for whether this is or is not an interpolation. It’s a single word, used in the same context and in the same case, etc. We have to ask whether this degree of exactitude argues for, or against, interpolation. The simplest explanation is, after all, that Luke simply copied Matthew. But why would Luke choose this one time and place to become a passive scribe, transcribing exactly what he found? To which a good response is, “why not here and now?” Would a later copyist of either gospel be likely to get it so perfectly? He would have to physically have to get the other text and write it in. Or, perhaps he remembered the text of the other. None of these, strictly speaking, is much of an actual argument. Rather, they are simple binary choices not terribly amenable to an argument. 

For now, we will leave it as noted that this agreement did occur, and see what happens later.

41 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “O generatio infidelis et perversa, usquequo ero apud vos et patiar vos? Adduc huc filium tuum”.

42 ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν: ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.

43 ἐξεπλήσσοντο δὲ πάντες ἐπὶ τῇ μεγαλειότητι τοῦ θεοῦ. Πάντων δὲ θαυμαζόντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐποίει εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ,

44 Θέσθε ὑμεῖς εἰς τὰ ὦτα ὑμῶν τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μέλλει παραδίδοσθαι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων.

When he (the lad) having come up, the daimonion dashed him (the lad to the ground]) and tore him. But Jesus censured the spirit the unclean, and he healed the boy and gave him to his father. (43)  They were astounded upon the magnificence of God. All marveling upon all the things he did, he said to his disciples, (44) “Put these words into your ears, for the son of man is fated to be given over to the hands of men”. (45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.

Before getting to the main event, let’s have a bit from the warm-up act. “Put these words into your ears” is a perfectly novel, probably unique, turn of phrase. I can’t just pass over that without noting it.

The first thing to note is what is not in here. Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus say that, after being handed over, the son of man will be killed, and on the third day will rise. Why? Why not include this? First of all, we have to acknowledge that this was a conscious decision on Luke’s part. He chose not to include it for whatever reason. This seems obvious, of course, but maybe only after it’s been pointed out. This is an aspect of gospel writing that too often is overlooked, or given insufficient  thought. It may seem strange to say this, given the Q proponents’ insistence on providing a “redactionally consistent” explanation of Luke that explains every single instance where he varies from Matthew. However, I would suggest that this is not a legitimate thing to demand from the Q-naysayers; that it is not a legitimate argument, or even a legitimate aspect of an argument. Luke varies from Matthew because he is Luke, and not Matthew. Matthew is largely consistent with Mark in the placement of the so-called pericopes; Luke differs from both in placement, and largely because Matthew follows Mark’s placement so consistently. This is, once again, another of those instances where Luke felt it unnecessary to add the bit about rising because it was adequately treated in his two predecessors. Luke, once again, truncates a story of Mark because Matthew did not. 

As an aside, the Harmony I consulted separates this last part from the story of the boy with the spirit. This is sensible; the two are not related. 

There is one final trope to be discussed in this piece. We have noted that the father of the boy asked why Jesus’ disciples were not able to expel (ekballei) the spirit. This is common to all three gospels, and they all report Jesus remonstrating about the faithless (and perverse) generation. This has always seemed a bit…odd. This cry of disgust makes sense in the context of the Pharisees (or others) asking for a sign, as occurs in Mark 10. Here, perhaps, not so much. Railing about a lack of faith, OTOH, does make sense. The implication is that faith is required to make wonders happen, and that certainly makes sense. In fact, Matthew explicitly says that the reason the disciples could not cast out the demon was their “little faith”, and supplements this by adding that having faith the size of a mustard seed can give you the power to move a mountain. 

There is a caveat to this, however. 

In Mark, after this event, the disciples privately (kat’ idian) ask Jesus why they were not able to drive out the demon. Matthew repeats this, using exactly the same phrase, (kat’ idian). However, the two evangelists give very different answers. Mark said it’s because this kind (to genos) can only be expelled by prayer. I pointed this out at the time as an example of Mark’s interest in, and description of, the “magical practices” Jesus employed to effect some of his miracles. In Mark this interest has the feel of a how-to guide to exorcism or other wonders. It’s what gets called a “coaching opportunity” in the business world, a chance for Jesus to give the disciples on-the-job training. Another notable example of magical practices was Jesus spitting into some dirt to make mud that he then applied to the eyes of a blind man. Matthew, OTOH, eliminates this part of the story. Instead, he blames the failure on the disciples’ lack of faith. This is not surprising that Matthew provided a different answer, since he eliminated all descriptions of magical practice from his gospel. As an aside, it is interesting to note that some mss traditions have added the “this kind can only be driven out by prayer” into the text of Matthew. The consensus is that this is indeed a later interpolation, intended to bring Matthew more closely into line with Mark. This is an excellent example of how stories grow and the tradition becomes enlarged, and is a great cautionary tale not to be too skeptical of suggestions of interpolation.

Luke, as we see, dropped the whole (kat’ idian) section. He does not have the disciples asking Jesus anything in private, about the demon or anything else. Of course, the question should be, ‘why not?’ What is Luke’s “redactionally consistent” explanation for eliminating the whole sequence? Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my consistent explanation has been that Luke has consistently eliminated sequences like this because they have been adequately covered by both Mark and Mathew. The instances of this redactional policy of Luke are starting to a accumulate, like snowflakes. A few snowflakes aren’t worth bothering about; when they start to accumulate, however, they become significant.

42 Et cum accederet, elisit illum daemonium et dissipavit. Et increpavit Iesus spiritum immundum et sanavit puerum et reddidit illum patri eius.

43 Stupebant autem omnes in magnitudine Dei. Omnibusque mirantibus in omnibus, quae faciebat, dixit ad discipulos suos:

44 “Ponite vos in auribus vestris sermones istos: Filius enim hominis futurum est ut tradatur in manus hominum”.

45 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουντὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο, καὶ ἦν παρακεκαλυμμένον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἵνα μὴ αἴσθωνται αὐτό, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τούτου.

(45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.

45 At illi ignorabant verbum istud, et erat velatum ante eos, ut non sentirent illud, et time bant interrogare eum de hoc verbo.

I have to say something about this last verse. It’s one that is in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew. But before getting to the implications of that, let’s take a moment to appreciate what this verse says. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about. That is fair enough. Jesus is making a prediction, so why would the disciples understand? I mean, on the one hand, it does seem pretty plain…but perhaps only if we assume that the disciples understood Jesus to be the son of man that Jesus is discussing. We get it, of course. When discussing Mark, one theme that kept recurring was the messianic secret; the term is not mine, but is part of the larger discourse, and it’s encountered often in the literature. My particular take on this is that Mark was trying to explain to later audiences why Jesus was not regarded as the messiah by his earliest followers. Or perhaps “make excuses” is a more appropriate description. Because the fact is, he wasn’t. Hence the bifurcation of Mark’s text into the earlier wonder-worker section, and the section on the anointed coming later. I mean, if Jesus’ own disciples didn’t fully understand who or what Jesus was, how could anyone outside the group be expected to get it? Then, as a corollary to this comes the bit about being afraid to ask. After all, if they didn’t understand, they could have asked, no? So why didn’t they? Because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? Well, that question is not even asked, let alone answered.

But let’s kept this lack of understanding in mind.

Now let’s talk about the Mark & Luke but not Matthew. On the whole, the disciples fare much better in Matthew than they did in Mark. Matthew presents them in a much, much more positive light. So it’s hardly surprising that Matthew omitted the contents of this verse. It fits with his portrayal of the disciples; IOW, it’s redactionally consistent*. So here we have yet another example of Luke putting back something that Matthew excised. 


*Honestly, some of the attributes that modern scholars demand of the evangelists are borderline ridiculous. These guys were not writing a thesis that was going to be graded and that they would have to defend before a panel of (possibly hostile–but, then again, maybe not) professors. They are writing about Divine Truth; the details didn’t always matter. Truth has a higher sense of vision than something that’s only striving for factual accuracy, or to be a reasonably coherent interpretation. Because one thing that’s often overlooked is that many of these same modern scholars are far from being “redactionally consistent” in their presentations.

Luke Chapter 9:28-36

This is the Transfiguration. Back when we read this for Mark, I floated the idea that this section had originally been the climax, or the ending of the first section of that gospel, the apotheosis of the wonder worker. That interpretation is probably not defensible; beyond that, I’m not even sure that it feels right. At least I didn’t until I keyed in the word “apotheosis”. That is, after all, what this represents. In a way, it’s the Ascension taking place before Jesus dies. There is no doubt that this story is intended to “prove”, or demonstrate that Jesus is, indeed, divine. If this is meant to stand in for the Ascension, the original story would not have had them all returning down the mountain; rather, Jesus would have left them. As such, this would be the explanation of why Jesus was no longer present on earth.

It also occurs to me that this could be the beginning of the Christ narrative. Rather than the story of Bethlehem, this is the birth of the Christ, except as a grown man. The connexion to the Baptism story can be neither avoided nor denied; the voice from the cloud connects in a very explicit manner those two events. Perhaps this is the seam between the two narratives: that of the wonder worker and that of the Christ. Perhaps the original Christ narrative started with this event. There is, rather obviously, a level of transcendence to this event that makes it hard to accept–IMO, anyway–that this is just part of the narrative. What you have in Mark is the Baptism introducing the Wonder Worker, and then the Transfiguration introducing the Christ. It’s hard not to see the parallel construction there. Which section came first? I seriously doubt that both pieces developed independently with an introduction sequence that is so similar. I would suggest that the Baptism has a much more organic feel to it; we start with John preaching repentance, the torch is passed to Jesus, and then when he hears John was arrested, Jesus picks up where John left off, preaching the coming of the kingdom of God. This stands out most starkly in Mark; Luke and Matthew blunt the effect with their birth narratives. This sequence, in contrast, is sort of a one-off; it doesn’t really fit the narrative; it’s just sort of stuck in here without any attachment to the rest of the story.

There really is no particular point to this speculation beyond that there is a curious balance to the two stories of Baptism and Transfiguration. This balance matches the way the narrative of Mark seems divided in twain. If what I’m saying about the Baptism being organic, the implication is that the story of the Wonder Worker is the original part, and the story of the Christ is the addition. This does not square with Paul, who preached the Christ and ignored, pretty much completely, the Wonder Worker. The implication of this, in turn, is that the two separate stories grew up in parallel, despite Paul’s being the older of the two. Or is it? Is the Christ narrative really older in an absolute sense? Or was it just written down first? This is a legitimate question that really has to be answered, or at least considered.


28 Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ [καὶ] παραλαβὼν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι.

29 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων.

30 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας,

31 οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

It happened eight days after these sayings and taking Peter and John and James he went up the mountain to pray. (29) And it occurred in the praying of him the form of his face was different and his white clothing dazzling, (30) and look! two men were speaking with him, and these men were Moses and Elijah, (31) those being seen in glory spoke the departure of him (Jesus) which he intended to fulfill in Jerusalem.

This is novel. In neither of the other two gospels do we find anything about the topic discussed by Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, let alone that it was about Jesus’ upcoming trip to Jerusalem. I have no idea what this means. Most likely it’s meant as a confirmation that what Jesus was about to do was being given divine approval. And note the brevity of the description of Jesus. An interesting note about the Greek: the word rendered as ‘dazzling’ literally means something on the lines of “like a star”, or perhaps “like light from a star”. And note that Jesus’ clothes do not become white; they are white to start with, and the white becomes dazzling.

Hmm…While looking up something in the next couple of verses, I noticed that the standard translation for the white garments is that they became dazzling white. Looking back at the construction, the “it became” at the beginning of the sentence could still be applied to the dazzling white garments at the end, so that the garments became dazzling white. The only problem with this is that what I translated too literally as ‘it became’ probably should be rendered more like, “and it happened”. And sneaking a peak down at the Latin, the Vulgate agrees with me more than it does with the various English translations, starting with the KJV and continuing even to this very day. 

28 Factum est autem post haec verba fere dies octo, et assumpsit Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et ascendit in montem, ut oraret.

29 Et facta est, dum oraret, species vultus eius altera, et vestitus eius albus, refulgens.

30 Et ecce duo viri loquebantur cum illo, et erant Moyses et Elias,

31 qui visi in gloria dicebant exodum eius, quam completurus erat in Ierusalem.

32 ὁ δὲ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ ἦσαν βεβαρημένοι ὕπνῳ: διαγρηγορήσαντες δὲ εἶδον τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς δύο ἄνδρας τοὺς συνεστῶτας αὐτῷ.

33 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ διαχωρίζεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Ἐπιστάτα, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι, καὶ ποιήσωμεν σκηνὰς τρεῖς, μίαν σοὶ καὶ μίαν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ μίαν Ἠλίᾳ, μὴ εἰδὼς ὃ λέγει.

And Peter and those with him were beheavied by sleep. Starting awake, and he saw the glory of him and the two men standing with him. (33) And it became in the leaving them from him Peter said to Jesus, “Overstander, it is good for us here to be, and let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”, for he did not know what he said.

OK, got a bit overly literal. “Beheavied”, “in the leaving them from him”, and “overstander” are all way too literal. Or, actually, the latter should probably be more like “stander-on”, as in, “one who stands upon”. This latter word is unique to Luke–and not in Acts–in the NT. And so is the word “starting awake”. In fact. it’s a very uncommon word even in the Classical corpus. Such words remind us of Luke’s erudition, and this erudition gives us cause to pay attention to Luke’s nuances. A good example came in the last section when we discussed losing one’s life/soul/self.

The other thing that gets my attention is the bit about Peter suggesting the erection of tents after Moses & Elijah. It is only here that we are told he said this after/as the two of them were leaving. For the life of me, I cannot conceive of any possible reason Luke would add this. It’s to the point where I can’t even think of much more to say about the whole thing.

32 Petrus vero et qui cum illo gravati erant somno; et evigilantes viderunt gloriam eius et duos viros, qui stabant cum illo.

33 Et factum est, cum discederent ab illo, ait Petrus ad Iesum: “Praeceptor, bonum est nos hic esse; et faciamus tria tabernacula: unum tibi et unum Moysi et unum Eliae ”, nesciens quid diceret.

34 ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ἐγένετο νεφέλη καὶ ἐπεσκίαζεν αὐτούς: ἐφοβήθησαν δὲ ἐν τῷ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν νεφέλην.

35 καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε.

36 καὶ ἐν τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν φωνὴν εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐσίγησαν καὶ οὐδενὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις οὐδὲν ὧν ἑώρακαν.

These things he having said a cloud became and enshadowed them; they were afraid in their going into the cloud. (35) And a voice occurred from the cloud saying “This is my son, the chosen (one/son), listen to him”. (36) And in the voice occurring Jesus was found alone, and they were silent and to no one they announced in those days the things they had seen.

First about the Greek. Throughout I’ve been using “become” and “occurred”. The same word is behind both the translations. At root, the base meaning of the verb is “to become”; however, it gets used in a wide variety of methods, including “to occur”, and very frequently as a substitute for “to be”. I try to render using the base meaning since that is the true and underlying sense of the word. From there one can get all poetic about how to render into something that sounds pleasing in English, but part of the purpose of this is to provide those learning Greek to see how the syntax works. I’ve rather gotten away from that for a while; or, at least, I’m not as obnoxious about it as I used to be. Here, however, I’ve gotten back to that because the grammar is rather interesting. 

More importantly is the last verse. In Verse 33 we got some extra; here we get something removed. In the other two gospels, Jesus instructed his henchmen to say nothing. Here, that bit of instruction is missing. The three of them simply choose not to speak of the matter. Why not? We are not told. Or are we? Again, I’m seeing a situation in which Luke feels that there is no reason to repeat something a third time. Once again, we have another example of Luke making omissions to stories that are adequately covered by Mark and Matthew. I need to go through my Harmony to do some more research, but it seems that when Matthew and Mark give a full account, Luke abridges his. When Matthew shortens too much, as in the Gerasene Demonaic, Luke adds back what Matthew has omitted. When Matthew has something that Mark doesn’t, Luke reinforces Matthew,

34 Haec autem illo loquente, facta est nubes et obumbravit eos; et timuerunt intrantibus illis in nubem.

35 Et vox facta est de nube dicens: “ Hic est Filius meus electus; ipsum audite ”.

36 Et dum fieret vox, inventus est Iesus solus. Et ipsi tacuerunt et nemini dixerunt in illis diebus quidquam ex his, quae viderant.



Luke Chapter 9:18-27

This next section is the lead-up to the Transfiguration and includes the confession of Peter. This is where Mark fully made the transition from wonder-worker to Christ. As such, the passage, especially Peter’s confession, has a staged feel to it. The section has the sensibility of being created because it was necessary. So even though this was in Mark, that does not imbue this with any halo of authenticity. The question of who made this up is completely open; did it start with Mark, who needed it for the transition to the Christ narrative? Or did it come about earlier, and Mark recorded what he found. Of the three evangelists that we’ve read, I give Mark the least credit for creativity. His narrative feels too much like reporting; in fact, I’ve often categorized Mark as the journalist of the evangelists. Likewise Matthew was the rabbi (albeit of pagan origin), Luke is a novelist, and John is a theologian. Each tells more or less the same story, but from a very different perspective, uisng a very different toolkit.


18 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον κατὰ μόνας συνῆσαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτοὺς λέγων, Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ὄχλοι εἶναι;

19 οἱ δὲ ἀποκριθέντες εἶπαν, Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.

And it happened therein he praying by himself the disciples came to him and he asked them saying, “Who does the crowd say me to be?” (19) Answering, they said, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, others that (you are) some prophet of old who rose (from the dead).”

Note that this is pretty close to a verbatim repetition of what Herod said about Jesus. Given all of Luke’s creativity, he surely could have come up with another set of speculative answers, couldn’t he? The answer, probably, is “probably”; ergo, that he didn’t is likely to be significant. At least to some degree. Really, it is, IMO, a case of doubling down for emphasis. These were the prevalent speculations about Jesus–at least, after the fact–so let’s repeat them twice to ensure that no one misses the point here. And since we’ve only just discussed the implications of each of these, ther is no reason to belabor the point any further.

The unique twist, albeit a minor one, that Luke gives is that he asks what “the crowd” says of him. It bears to remember that “the crowd” was not exactly a term of endearment back then, with all sorts of negative connotations. The aspiration was to be one of the best (aristoi, optimates), and “common” is still rather a term of disparagement in England. 

18 Et factum est, cum solus esset orans, erant cum illo discipuli, et interrogavit illos dicens: “Quem me dicunt esse turbae?”.

19 At illi responderunt et dixerunt: “ Ioannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero: Propheta unus de prioribus surrexit”.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; Πέτρος δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.

21 Ὁ δὲ ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλεν μηδενὶ λέγειν τοῦτο,

22 εἰπὼν ὅτι Δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.

He said to them, “Who do you say me to be?” Peter answering said, “The anointed one of God”. (21) He rebuking commanded them no one to tell this, (22) saying that “The Son of Man must suffer much and to be handed over to the elders and the high priests and scribes and to be killed and on the third day be raised”.

A word about the Greek. << τίνα >> means “who”. << τινα >> means “anyone”. Can you tell the difference? It escaped me, too, but then I cheated and looked at the Latin. The difference is that the former has an accent over the iota. I missed that at first.

There is a serious case of compression here. Luke has squeezed out every possible bit of extraneous information to get right down to the hard, crystalline crux of the matter here. That is, this is another example of the abridgement of a story told by the other two evangelists. Is this a coincidence? If we but take a moment to look at the context, something really jumps out. In the other gospels, this passage comes directly before the Transfiguration, and so it does here, too. But–and this is a big “but”–the other two gospels have several stories in between: walking on water, feeding the 4,000, eating with unclean hands, et alia.  All of them are in both gospels. IOW, Luke felt it unnecessary to include them because they had been adequately covered in both the other gospels. This, of course, implies–indeed requires–that Luke knew Matthew’s gospel. So we’ve collected a number of examples by this point. How many others are like this? And what does Luke do when Matthew doesn’t give a full account of Mark? A run through the Harmony is called for to examine this issue a bit more closely. I have a theory of what we’ll find, but it needs testing.

20 Dixit autem illis: “Vos autem quem me esse dicitis?”. Respondens Petrus dixit: “ Christum Dei”.

21 At ille increpans illos praecepit, ne cui dicerent hoc,

22 dicens: “Oportet Filium hominis multa pati et reprobari a senioribus et principibus sacerdotum et scribis et occidi et tertia die resurgere”.

23 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς πάντας, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεσθαι, ἀρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ’ ἡμέραν, καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.

He spoke to all of them, “If someone wishes hereafter to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross each day, and follow me”.

Is it just me, or is this a rather sharp discontinuity from the previous verse? It may have something to do with the numerous pericopes that are in the other gospels that are omitted in between here. Or, I suppose the real break comes before Verse 18 that opens this section. Here’s the real issue: this is what I find so annoying about the Q people and their non-existent argument for the existence of Q. It’s the whole issue of these discontinuities. For all the world, what they feel like is a collection of disparate, unrelated sayings; that is, they sound like a collection of sayings that have nothing to do with one another. This is what a real argument for Q looks and sounds like. Lord knows that I find it reasonable to suppose the existence of such a collection based on the textual evidence. It has not so much to do with the arrangement of the material–which is a subjective measure at best–but the fact that we are dealing with pericopes in the first place. Mark famously makes almost no attempt to smooth the transitions between pericopes; in a very large number of verses, especially those beginning a new story, the first word is simply “and”. The same is so with a number of these sayings, or these stories that have Jesus making a statement. So why do the Q people insist on the “argument” from arrangement? I have no idea.

We’ve discussed this before, so I’ll point it out and move along. The injunction to “take up one’s cross” is, of course, a later invention, added after Jesus had been crucified. It simply makes no sense before then, and it’s a reference to the tribulations that came with the destruction of Jerusalem.

23 Dicebat autem ad omnes: “ Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam cotidie et sequatur me.

24 ὃς γὰρ ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, οὗτος σώσει αὐτήν.

25 τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖται ἄνθρωπος κερδήσας τὸν κόσμον ὅλον ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἀπολέσας ἢ ζημιωθείς;

“For he who would save his life must lose it. But he who might lose his life because of me, that one will save it. (25) For what should it profit a man should he gain the whole world but himself he should destroy or cause to lose (himself).

Oh, now this is interesting for a couple of reasons. To begin, this is is another example of compression; this compresses sentiments that are expressed in two separate places in Mark & Matthew. So, once again, Luke “just happens” to edit down pericopes* or sayings* that get full treatment in the two previous gospels. How many examples of that do we now have? 

Then, there is no way to render psyche as “soul”. …”He who would save his own soul will lose it“…doesn’t really work. The tendency to us “soul” for psyche reflects, IMO, the later Christian interpretation with which we are all familiar; so saving your soul should be the goal, and losing it by trying to save it doesn’t really make sense. And, to be fair, in the save/lose part of the saying, it is pretty much always translated as “life”. We have also seen how the combination of pysche and “to save” occur together in a context which makes it pretty clear that what is being saved is the physical life of the person in question, and not her immortal soul. Here, this could not be more clear.

The most interesting feature of this compression, however, comes in the last half. In its two previous incarnations, it is often rendered as “what shall it profit…to gain the world and lose one’s psyche“, which is almost always rendered as “soul”. At least in the discussion of Mark, I argued that the translation more attuned to the sense of the Greek word would be “life”. Here, Luke is forced to deal with this in a novel way, and for novel reasons. Because he has just used psyche twice, to avoid redundancy he uses an entirely different word in the back end. Here, he says, but should lose himself, using this word in all its glorious ambiguity. We can ask if this is more apt to shade towards soul or towards life? Or towards something that is neither? My sense is that it shades more towards “soul”. This is, IMO, why Luke chose to write it the way he did, to remove that ambiguity.

I’ll be honest: gaining the world and losing one’s soul has more literary impact that gaining the world and losing one’s life. Despite this, we have to ask if we are not seeing this expression as the result of two millennia of dualist tradition, in which the body and the soul are believed to be separate entities. We think it makes more sense as soul because that is how we think. The question becomes whether Mark saw things that way. Luke could very likely share something closer to our perspective. Everyone has always pretty much agreed that Luke was a pagan rather than a Jew, and I have seen no reason to doubt that, even if I haven’t seen all that much evidence that he was a pagan. He’s rather more of a continuation of Matthew in that way; the break between Jew and pagan comes, I believe, between Mark and Matthew. That was my position pretty much throughout Matthew’s gospel. 

So if Mark meant life and Luke meant soul, what did Matthew mean? If he were a pagan, why did he not clarify the ambiguity? One could answer that Matthew did not see the ambiguity; for him, Mark’s psyche meant more or less what it did to Luke, so Matthew saw no need to make the change. Luke, being a bit more educated–and let’s not kid ourselves, Luke is the most educated of the three–did understand the potential ambiguity and so made the change. These gospels were written in Greek, but in what language were they preached? Did the people who read the Greek address speakers of Aramaic in Greek? This is rather a profound question, and not one that is amenable to a quick and simple answer. My immediate reaction is that those preaching would have done so in the language of the audience. This only makes sense. Given this, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Luke made the change because this passage had caused problems due to the potential ambiguity. I don’t know that, but it’s a fairly apparent explanation. Whether it’s the correct explanation is rather a different issue.

24 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, hic salvam faciet illam.

25 Quid enim proficit homo, si lucretur universum mundum, se autem ipsum perdat vel detrimentum sui faciat?

26 ὃς γὰρ ἂν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους, τοῦτον ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται, ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων.

27 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, εἰσίν τινες τῶν αὐτοῦ ἑστηκότων οἳ οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

“For he who is ashamed of me and my words, this one the son of man will be ashamed of, when he should come into his judgement and of the father and the holy angels. (27)  I say to you truly, there are some of those standing he who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.

At first glance, the transition from Verse 25 to Verse 26 seemed to be a non-sequitur. A bit more reflection, and a bit less rigidity of thinking made me think otherwise. Now that I’ve relaxed my perspective, I almost wonder if I made the break in translation at the proper place. This does seem to go with the bit about losing oneself. After all, losing oneself seems like a fairly predictable consequence of facing the judgement of the father, a judgement in which the son of man disowns the person standing in the dock. But does one lose one’s soul? Or one’s life? Or both, since one’s eternal soul is lost to a negative judgement? This last is not a contradiction; there are hints throughout the NT where those who attain The Life will continue, the implication being that without entering The Life, one is no more. This, I suspect, is sort of the direction Jewish thought

Being ashamed of “the son of man”–whoever that might be–and facing judgement have only a peripheral connexion to losing oneself. The loss presumably could come from the adverse judgement. This would tie in with the idea of being condemned to death–if only in the negative sense of not being able to enter into The Life. So this does work. It must be said, however, that, in the final analysis, this very much preserves the sense of Mark’s original intent. The idea of the eternal soul is still binary: enter The Life and persevere, or don’t enter The Life and cease existence. Later Christian dogma will change the latter choice to suffering eternal damnation. That is, the choice is still binary, but the second, less pleasant, option changes, and arguably becomes much less pleasant. 

The final verse, in contrast, really does not fit here at all. This is due to its having been ripped pretty much completely out of context. In the other two gospels, this comes during the predictions of apocalypse, the “prediction” of the “coming” destruction of the Temple and perhaps the “coming persecutions” conducted by Saul. So sticking it in here simply doesn’t truly work.

26 Nam qui me erubuerit et meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet, cum venerit in gloria sua et Patris et sanctorum angelorum.

27 Dico autem vobis vere: Sunt aliqui hic stantes, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant regnum Dei”.

* (from above) Really, the proper word for these is logoi. This captures the sense of wording rather than the overall story. “Saying” is the closest English equivalent, but that does not quite capture the full extent of how a logos implies the full meaning of the saying. Too frequently the latter term is used almost independently of what it means; it’s a short-hand for the expression that is then used to compare where the various evangelists place said saying, Sure, the idea of the meaning is implicit in these discussions, but it’s most often only implicit. Any discussion of the meaning is wholly secondary.

Luke Chapter 9:11-17

Here is another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. Actually, this is one of the few stories that are present in all four gospels. This time, it’s the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s very short, comoing in at a mere six verses. If you’ll recall, Mark and Matthew have Jesus feeding five thousand, and then later feeding four thousand. Both evangelists provide full accounts of “both” these feedings. The quotes are there because I am firmly of the opinion that the event, or the story, was “twinned”; this is the process whereby the account of a single event ends up splitting into two separate events. The process usually occurs when two separate groups, not in communication with each other, each tell their own version of the story. With time, the two stories no longer line up exactly, so the people encountering the other version believe that this second version must refer to a separate event. If you read Livy Book I, there are a number of battles that involve the same enemy and sufficiently–but not completely–similar circumstances that scholars believe it’s a single battle that has become “twinned” in this fashion. The question then becomes how long it will take for this twinning to occur. A year? Two years? Ten? It seems reasonable to infer that the less similar the circumstances related in the story, the longer the time the two accounts have been separated. In this case, the major difference is the number of people fed and the number of loaves and fishes in each event. That’s a pretty small difference. Ergo, I would infer that the separation of the stories was not too long.

There is a whole strain of biblical research of late fixating on oral traditions. The idea is to “prove” that oral traditions trustworthy and accurate. The problem is that the research, IMO, reaches a conclusion first, and then argues backwards. From all I’ve read of biblical scholarship, there is a lot of this going on. At root, it’s about the differences between the texts, what this says overall about the redactional tendencies of each evangelist, and how the context clearly favors the existence of Q. My apologies, but this is not real scholarship. Note the emphasis on overall; I do that because there is very little analysis of what the difference in the way each story is told by the different evangelists. IOW, there’s very little of what I’m doing here. When we are fortunate enough to have more than one source for events in the Graeco-Roman world–which is almost nonexistent for Greek history, but more common for periods of Roman history–the scholarship goes through the texts line-by-line to examine and discuss the differences and what the possible implications could be. I have found nothing of the sort in biblical scholarship; if anyone can point me to it, please do so. I would love to read this kind of analysis.

Anyway, the thing is, having been reading secular and pagan historical writing and biography from this period, I can state very strongly that we are not getting historical writing in the NT. The gospels are not, and were never intended to be, history in any sense that we would recognise the concept. Biblical scholars need to read some of these sources–and not just the dozen lines in Josephus, or the three 0r four paragraphs of Tacitus that mention Jesus or Christians.

OK, let’s get on to the


12 Ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤρξατο κλίνειν: προσελθόντες δὲ οἱ δώδεκα εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ἀπόλυσον τὸν ὄχλον, ἵνα πορευθέντες εἰς τὰς κύκλῳ κώμας καὶ ἀγροὺς καταλύσωσιν καὶ εὕρωσιν ἐπισιτισμόν, ὅτι ὧδε ἐν ἐρήμῳ τόπῳ ἐσμέν.

The day began to decline; coming forward the Twelve said to him, “Send away the crowd, so that going into the surrounding villages and fields they disband and find food, since we are in a desert place. 

This is the standard setting of the scene. The disciples want to send the people away because they are in a deserted or empty place–the word can have both meanings; think t he “desert isle” on which Gilligan & company were stranded. Note the Twelve. This is the only version of the story that uses the Twelve; the others simply say “the disciples”.

12 Dies autem coeperat declinare; et accedentes Duodecim dixerunt illi: “ Dimitte turbam, ut euntes in castella villasque, quae circa sunt, divertant et inveniant escas, quia hic in loco deserto sumus ”.

13 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐκ εἰσὶν ἡμῖν πλεῖον ἢ ἄρτοι πέντε καὶ ἰχθύες δύο, εἰ μήτι πορευθέντες ἡμεῖς ἀγοράσωμεν εἰς πάντα τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον βρώματα.

14 ἦσαν γὰρ ὡσεὶ ἄνδρες πεντακισχίλιοι. εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Κατακλίνατε αὐτοὺς κλισίας [ὡσεὶ] ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα.

He said to them, “Give to them to eat”. They said, “There is not to us (dative of possession) more than five loaves and two fishes. Unless going we buy for all the people this food”. (14) For there were so many men as five thousand. He said to his disciples, “Have them recline on the grass in [so many as] fifty.”  

The specificity of this is striking. On the grass. Groups of fifty. The attention to detail is intriguing. One could argue that this level of detail indicates an eyewitness account, told by someone who had been there and seen this, especially since these details are present in the earliest version; the grass even persists through John’s telling of the story. Unfortunately for this would-be argument, the details could have been added at anytime before Mark wrote. These are the sorts of things that can–and do–get added to the tale as it’s told. Again, I keep going back to the Arthur legend, wherein the stories became more elaborate with the passing of time. This is, I believe, another example of that process, or phenomenon.

13 Ait autem ad illos: “ Vos date illis manducare ”. At illi dixerunt: “ Non sunt nobis plus quam quinque panes et duo pisces, nisi forte nos eamus et emamus in omnem hanc turbam escas”.

14 Erant enim fere viri quinque milia. Ait autem ad discipulos suos: “ Facite illos discumbere per convivia ad quinquagenos”.

15 καὶ ἐποίησαν οὕτως καὶ κατέκλιναν ἅπαντας.

16 λαβὼν δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ κατέκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ.

17 καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν πάντες, καὶ ἤρθη τὸ περισσεῦσαν αὐτοῖς κλασμάτων κόφινοι δώδεκα.

And they (the disciples) did in this way and all reclined. (16) Taking the five loaves and two fish, looking up to the sky he blessed them and broke them and gave to the disciples to set before the crowd. (17) And they ate and they were all fed, and they took up the excess from them and filled twelve baskets.

This version is truly condensed, almost to the point of being a précis. Considering that Luke did not scruple to leave out other bits of Mark, one wonders why he even bothered to include this one. My guess would be that this story was too well-known to omit; after all, John even includes it. But John does not include the Sermon on the Mount, or a lot of the other teachings of Jesus that were allegedly contained in Q. Why is that? My suspicion is that this story was seen as too much of an epitome of how Jesus was seen. And what Jesus is in this story is a wonder worker. That, I would argue, was first and foremost how Jesus was seen. John even continues the tradition with some major wonders worked by Jesus, including changing water to wine and raising Lazarus. The Gospel of John represents the final and complete melding of the wonder worker and the divine entity identities of Jesus. 

15 Et ita fecerunt et discumbere fecerunt omnes.

16 Acceptis autem quinque panibus et duobus piscibus, respexit in caelum et benedixit illis et fregit et dabat discipulis suis, ut ponerent ante turbam.

17 Et manducaverunt et saturati sunt omnes; et sublatum est, quod superfuit illis, fragmentorum cophini duodecim.

Luke Chapter 9:7-11

This next piece is even shorter. It is Luke’s version of the death of the Baptist. At five verses, it is by far the shortest version of the tale we’ve come across yet. I think it best to skip the preliminaries, save the comments for after, and get directly to the


7 Ἤκουσεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης τὰ γινόμενα πάντα, καὶ διηπόρει διὰ τὸ λέγεσθαι ὑπό τινων ὅτι Ἰωάννης ἠγέρθη ἐκ νεκρῶν,

8 ὑπό τινων δὲ ὅτι Ἠλίας ἐφάνη, ἄλλων δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.

Herod the tetrarch heard all of these occurrences, and he was unsure of himself because of the things having been said by some that John had been raised from the dead, (8) by some that Elijah had appeared, of others that some prophet of the olden (days) had stood up.

There is actually quite a bit of stuff packed into a couple of verses. The first is the title tetrarch. We did discuss this at least once before; if it’s familiar, feel free to skip this. The word literally means “ruler of a fourth” or “one of four rulers”. This is Herod Antipas, who was a son of Herod the Great. When the latter died, there was a series of disturbances among the would-be successors, so Rome stepped in more forcefully than it had previously. The Roman preference was to leave a native puppet in place to save themselves the aggravation of direct intervention and administration. Generally, this lasted a generation or two, and then for various reasons Rome felt compelled to resort to direct annexation. In the former kingdom of Herod the Great, the road to direct annexation was a process that played out through much of the First Century. One step was dividing Herod’s kingdom into four parts, splitting the rule among his sons, most of whom were also named Herod. It gets very confusing. The Herod here had Galilee as part of his domain, as well as other neighboring/surrounding areas.

Then we get a very abridged introduction to the story of John the Dunker. Note that we have John being raised from the dead, even though we haven’t been explicitly told that John is dead. We last saw John back in Chapter 3, when he had been arrested by Herod. And Luke very quickly runs through the possibilities about Jesus, ascribing them simply to “some/others said” in indirect speech. Luke is not going to dally or shilly-shally here. Perhaps the most interesting part is the mention of Elijah; one has to wonder how many of Luke’s audience would have understood the significance of Elijah (Elias in both Greek and Latin). I did not understand this until very recently, but I make no claim to be well-read in Hebrew Scriptures. Rather, I have a background that would be similar to that of many pagans of Luke’s time. This is not to say that if I’m not aware of it, no pagan could have known about Elijah, but it does indicate, I think, that a lot of pagans would not have known. First, Elijah was believed not to have died; hence, there is speculation that he has appeared (per Benson’s Commentary) when John had been raised. And it’s the passive voice; John did not rise, but some other agent did the raising. But anyway, it was believed that Elijah would return as the forerunner of the anointed one, so the coming of Elijah was a portentous thing among Jews; it was hopeful for the downtrodden but something to be feared by the rulers. 

But to get back to John for a moment. I pointed out that he was raised, just as Paul says Jesus was raised. However, when I was translating…1 Thessalonians, IIRC, I made a bit too much of the passive voice. This is relevant here, because while John was raised, it was speculated that one of the prophets from the olden days had “stood up” as I so charmingly and literally translated it. Really, it means that the prophet rose–for which “stood up” is a synonym–as in from the dead. This is not the only time this word is used for “rise from the dead”, so I have to back off from my position that Jesus was not necessarily the actor when he returned from the Great Beyond. Also, it is interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate says that John rose–surrexit, active voice–from the dead. The KJV waffles on this, coming down somewhere between the Greek and the Latin: John was risen from the dead. It’s not truly a passive; it’s a past participle.  The NASB renders this as an active: John had risen. The NIV and the ESV are faithful to the Greek, saying that John had been raised from the dead. How much does it matter? Not as much as I would have thought, given that one of the prophets of old “stood up”.

7 Audivit autem Herodes tetrarcha omnia, quae fiebant, et haesitabat, eo quod diceretur a quibusdam: “ Ioannes surrexit a mortuis ”;

8 a quibusdam vero: “ Elias apparuit ”; ab aliis autem: “ Propheta unus de antiquis surrexit ”.

9 εἶπεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης, Ἰωάννην ἐγὼ ἀπεκεφάλισα: τίς δέ ἐστιν οὗτος περὶ οὗ ἀκούω τοιαῦτα; καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν αὐτόν.


And Herod said, “I (as in, I myself, I personally; use of the pronoun adds emphasis) beheaded John. Who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to know him (Jesus).

And thus endeth the story of the death of the Baptist. “Abridged” doesn’t go nearly far enough. All the rationale for the execution is completely missing. I have to believe this is because Luke thought that the story was more than amply covered by his predecessor(s). That Luke (presumably) believed this, I think, lends support to my suggestion that Luke was aware of Matthew, but there is really no hard link between the two. Mark’s story was longer than Matthew’s version, so it could be very plausibly argued that Mark alone would have been sufficient to convince Luke that the story had been told in full. However, Matthew also provides an account nearly as long as Mark’s; surely two such tellings would have been more likely to convince Luke that the story need not be told again in full? More on this as we compare other aspects of the Triple Tradition.

9 Et ait Herodes: “ Ioannem ego decollavi; quis autem est iste, de quo audio ego talia? ”. Et quaerebat videre eum.

10 Καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν. καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς ὑπεχώρησεν κατ’ ἰδίαν εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά.

11 οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι γνόντες ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀποδεξάμενος αὐτοὺς ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ τοὺς χρείαν ἔχοντας θεραπείας ἰᾶτο.

And returning the apostles recounted to him what they had done. And taking them they went off privately to the city called Bethsaida. (11) And the crowd learning followed him, and receiving them he spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and those having need of healing, he cured.

This is minimalist to the point of ridiculous; that being said, however, it should be noted that the other two gospels are not all that much more loquacious, if they are at all. This is another clue that the idea of the “apostles” being sent out is not to be taken seriously. Someone decided that the term “apostle” didn’t make sense if they had never been sent out. So a story was created to have this happen. Unfortunately for the narrative, not a lot of detail accrued to the legend. It was created bare-bones and it got left that way. Why? Most likely because this didn’t fire anyone’s imagination sufficiently to inspire the accumulations of details. And here is also where we can get a sense of the (un)reliability of the later traditions. St Philipp, IIRC, went to India. Or wait, that was Thomas. And it gives a sense of how much later these non-canonical works were created. At a point within two generations, more or less, of Jesus we haven’t even come up with anything the least bit…interesting for any of these Twelve to have done. It took another century or more–probably significantly more–to craft some of these other tales.

As for the last bit, it sure seems a bit like it was mailed in. Luke rather just throws it in there without a lot of ado or even interest. Mark has numerous little throw-away lines like this with Jesus preaching and healing. Even there, in Mark, they feel a bit forced, sort of a more sophisticated way of saying “and so forth”. Or, “Jesus did some stuff”. In Luke this feels positively forced. That it does, and that Luke included it regardless I think speaks to the depth of the traditions that were still flowing in the popular mind. Jesus was a healer, a wonder-worker, but one who preached about the kingdom of God, which concept remains vague throughout all the gospels. That, in turn, is a good indication of how the stories that ended up in the gospels were something on the order of random. My late father-in-law called them “volunteers”, plants of the sort that are deliberately cultivated, such as flowers, that spring up of their own accord, the result of a seed landing in a fortunate spot by happenstance.

10 Et reversi apostoli narraverunt illi, quaecumque fecerunt. Et assumptis illis, secessit seorsum ad civitatem, quae vocatur Bethsaida.

11 Quod cum cognovissent turbae, secutae sunt illum. Et excepit illos et loquebatur illis de regno Dei et eos, qui cura indigebant, sanabat.

Luke Chapter 9:1-6

This chapter begins with several other stories that we’ve seen in both of the other two gospels. The first is the Sending of the Twelve. This section is very short; my intention at this point is to try to keep the sections short to minimise the length of time between posts. Lately, life has been getting in the way of hobbies, which is often the case when one has children and the holidays approach. Since this story is familiar, there’s really no need for additional introduction, so we’ll get right to the


1 Συγκαλεσάμενος δὲ τοὺς δώδεκα ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ νόσους θεραπεύειν,

2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἰᾶσθαι [τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς],

3 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μηδὲν αἴρετε εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, μήτε ῥάβδον μήτε πήραν μήτε ἄρτον μήτε ἀργύριον, μήτε [ἀνὰ] δύο χιτῶνας ἔχειν.

4 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε, ἐκεῖ μένετε καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐξέρχεσθε.

5 καὶ ὅσοι ἂν μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξερχόμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης τὸν κονιορτὸν ἀπὸ τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν ἀποτινάσσετε εἰς μαρτύριον ἐπ’ αὐτούς.

6 ἐξερχόμενοι δὲ διήρχοντο κατὰ τὰς κώμας εὐαγγελιζόμενοι καὶ θεραπεύοντες πανταχοῦ.

Calling together the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. (2) And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal [the illnesses]. (3) And he said to them, “Do not take upon the road neither staff, nor money (lit = ‘silver‘), nor have two tunics.(4) And if you come into a home, remain there until you leave.  And however much they don’t receive you, leaving from that city, shake the dust off your feet in witness against them”. (6) Going out they passed through the villages good-message-izing and healing everyone.

This is a really condensed version of what we find in the other two gospels. For example, Luke leaves out the bit about how it will be better for Sodom & Gomorrah at the judgement day than for the town that doesn’t receive them. And Matthew had added a bit about not going to pagans, but to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew uses this story to name the Twelve, which Mark had done much earlier in the narrative. That Matthew waited so long to my mind indicates that the Twelve were very peripheral to the story as a whole. We have noted many times that most of the Twelve are not associated with any of the stories told about Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the exceptions, but even Peter’s brother Andrew drops from sight after his calling. The same is true for Levi; he is called and sent and that’s it. Judas Iscariot, of course, will appear later. As for the rest? Nothing. Who can tell me anything about Thaddeus? Or Simon the Zealot? Or Philip and Bartholomew? Thomas doesn’t reappear until John’s gospel. And John added Nathaniel. Where did he come from? And what else is said about him? (Hint: nothing.)

OTOH, Paul does say that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. How to square that? I would still suggest that the Twelve was something created by James, brother of Jesus after the latter’s death. Thus, it was in place when Paul became an apostle, because by that time there were apostles, and Paul makes it sound like there was more than twelve of them. Remember, James was in charge of the new group for nearly thirty years–assuming that Josephus is anywhere near accurate in his story of James’ death. That’s ten times longer–an order of magnitude–than Jesus’ traditional three. James had time, and probably the incentive, to put infrastructure in place. Jesus, while a wonder worker and perhaps a decent preacher, does not seem terribly interested in creating an organization; Mohammed didn’t either, nor did the Buddha. The Twelve, and the term ‘apostle’ seem more likely to be ex-post-facto creations, when the followers of James were becoming a church, which eventually became The Church. 

Luke’s cursory treatment of this episode might suggest one of two things. The first possibility is that he placed very little significance on the episode. He did not feel compelled to tell the whole story that Mark & Matthew had told because Luke didn’t see this as an important part of Jesus’ ministry, nor to what came after. The other possibility is that he simply felt that the audience had been sufficiently instructed about the story, and so Luke didn’t feel a need to recapitulate what was already well-known. Of course, this contention is more likely if we believe that Luke was aware of Matthew. And it also approaches circularity, the true meaning of begging the question. Why did Luke shorten this story? Because he was aware of Matthew. How do we know he was aware of Matthew? Because he shortened this story. However, consider this treatment to the handling of the story of the Gerasene demonaic in the last chapter. Mark has the longest version, Matthew the shortest, and Luke is in between. The differential handling of these two stories suggests pretty clearly that Luke may have adjusted his narrative according to what the other two said. Where they both gave full accounts (as here), Luke went short. Where Mark was long and Matthew short, as in the Gerasene demonaic, Luke opted for middle ground. Of course, this is all very nice, but an argument cannot rest on a comparison of two stories. The chapter we’re looking at has more Triple Tradition pericopae; we can see how well this idea stands.

We should at least mention the powers given. I’ve been reading some of Cornelius Agrippa’s “Occult Philosophy”, and some of it in Latin. The Greek word is “dynamin”, the root of “dynamic” and “dynamite”. At its base, it means “to be able”. The Latin translation is “virtus”. Now, this latter is the root of “virtue”, but the base meaning is “power”. Hence, Agrippa talks about “virtutes”, meaning the powers of the magician. And that is how this phrase is translated in all my crib translations, and how I translated it: he gave them power and authority. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Essentially, power alone is not enough. The authority points to the idea of a cosmic hierarchy of sorts, in which God and Jesus rank above the daimones, which have not yet really become demons. But really, this is more about my enhanced grasp of the Latin than it is about what is in the text.

1 Convocatis autem Duodecim, dedit illis virtutem et potesta tem super omnia daemonia, et ut languores curarent,

2 et misit illos praedicare regnum Dei et sanare infirmos;

3 et ait ad illos: “ Nihil tuleritis in via, neque virgam neque peram neque panem neque pecuniam, neque duas tunicas habeatis.

4 Et in quamcumque domum intraveritis, ibi manete et inde exite.

5 Et quicumque non receperint vos, exeuntes de civitate illa pulverem pedum vestrorum excutite in testimonium supra illos ”.

6 Egressi autem circumibant per castella evangelizantes et curantes ubique.


Summary Luke Chapter 8

For the most part, this chapter consists of material we have found in both of the other two gospels. Ergo, and a priori, it is part of the so-called “Triple Tradition”. This gives us a chance to look at the way each of them handled each story, and see what was said and not said by whom.

There is one part of this that is unique to Luke. It’s very brief, covered in the commentary to Verses 1-3. It concerns the women who followed Jesus. Mary the Magdalene, or Mary called the Magdalene as Luke puts it, is common to all three. Or actually to all four gospels, since John mentions her as well. Luke has two unique aspects specifically about Mary M. First, we are told that Jesus expelled seven demons from her. No one else mentions this. As such, this seems to be another great example of how the story grew. I would even be willing to infer that there is a complete story behind this little tidbit, the tale of how Jesus encountered Mary and describing the specifics of her possession and the circumstances under which Jesus cured her. Luke encountered–or possibly created–this story but chose not to include the whole thing; rather, he was satisfied with adding the most important part. The existence of this additional detail, and the possible existence of the story behind it, ties in with the other thing that Luke adds to the account of Mary M. Against the other two, Luke introduces Mary M much earlier in the narrative than any of the other evangelists. In Mark and Matthew, we do not meet her until the crucifixion scene. This, in turn, ties in with something Luke omits: that Mary M and the women were followers of Jesus in Galilee, and that they had (presumably) come to Jerusalem with Jesus.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the way the character (as in, dramatis persona) of the Magdalene is developing. In 2M, she pops up only at the end, as part of the Passion narrative. I suspect she is the reason that the young man in white in the empty tomb tells Mary and the disciples to return to Galilee: she will take care of them there. I would not be surprised to learn that, in some way, responsible for the creation of the Passion narrative. By introducing her early, and hinting that there were other stories to be told about her, Luke is sort of cutting her loose from being limited to a minor role (but not really that minor, either; Jesus appeared to her first) at the end. Her role is expanding, people are making up stories about her, and she is, overall, just becoming more prominent. This is how and why she ended up a prostitute: because people made up stories. She has become more a part of the story, albeit still in a fairly peripheral fashion. She will go on to become a major figure in Roman Catholic tradition; she is so much a part of the cultural landscape that “Magdalene” is recognized by spellcheck.  However, the negative aspect of this particular part of her story was designed, in large part, to take her down a notch or two. Or three. Rather than being a financial supporter, and so someone of rank, she was downgraded to being a prostitute.

One of the other stories in the chapter is that of Jesus calming the storm. There is one aspect of this that needs to be emphasized. Much of the “argument” for Q is that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Well, in the three versions of the storm, we have a very clear example of exactly that: Luke telling the same story as Matthew. Granted, it’s a negative agreement, based on an omission, but I’d like to hear an argument for why this doesn’t count. In Mark, the terrified disciples ask Jesus, “do you not care if we are perishing?”. Matthew left this out, and so did Luke. That is an agreement between the latter two against Mark. I somehow suspect that the Q people would vehemently object to this, but then they somehow miss the fact that Matthew and Luke–against Mark–agree on Joseph and Bethlehem and the angel announcing Jesus’ coming birth and, well all of the so-called Q material. But this latter doesn’t count, for whatever reason.

Luke also radically changed the context and timing of the “who are my mother and brothers?” pericope. This–and many other such placements–amply demonstrates that Luke was not particularly particular about how he re-arranged the text of his predecessors.

There are three other stories in this chapter, and all three of them are part of the Triple Tradition. The stories are that of the Gerasene demonaics,  the Jairus/Bleeding Woman diptych, and the Parable of the Sower. Two are miracle stories and the other is a parable; however, I believe they should be considered together along with the Calming of the Storm. We touched on this latter briefly above, but it is worth a bit more examination in the way that it fits in the chapter. The Q people would have you believe that stuff like the Sermon on the Mount is the actual real, official, traces back to Jesus material of the gospels. Given that there is no evidence of Q, I find this hard to accept. Rather, I would suggest that these four stories represent the oldest stratum of material in the gospels. It only makes sense, given that they are found in Mark whereas the Sermon on the Mount is not. Plain logic suggests that the oldest gospel written is most likely to have the oldest material, but the Q people seem to disagree with this premise.

Note that three of these are miracle stories. They also share the common feature that the disciples are either more or less non-existent or only serve as stage props. They have virtually no role in the Gerasene adventure; in the story of the Bleeding Woman/Jairus they exist only so one of the disciples can say that it would be impossible to tell who it was that touched Jesus in the crowd; in the Calming of the Storm they are the witless fools scared for their lives and lacking faith. In the Parable of the Sower, their participation is to act as the straight men who ask Jesus to explain what the parable means. This sort of behaviour and portrayal fits with the overall pattern of the way Mark treats the disciples throughout his gospel; it has been retained by Matthew and Luke. Throughout this commentary, I have been highly skeptical of the Twelve, and these episodes reinforce that skepticism. Mark can barely find employment even for Peter, James, and John, while Matthew and Andrew show up for their calling. The rest are only names, with the exception of Judas who appears in the Passion Story, which was a later addition to the gospel; as such, it would seem logical that he was a later addition to the story.

All of this, in turn, indicates that these stories form the core of the earliest narrative about Jesus, or that they were among the earliest stories repeated about Jesus. It it significant that they also portray Jesus as a wonder worker in three of the four. Here we come to an interesting dichotomy. Our earliest source, Paul, says nothing of miracle performed by Jesus; indeed, he suggests that performing miracles was not an uncommon gift, along with prophesy and speaking in tongues. Nor does Paul do more than mention Jesus’ teachings. Yet, the earliest popular stories about Jesus portray him differently, as a wonder-worker who talked about the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven, or of the heavens. I would suggest that the Christ tradition of Paul is largely theological, while the wonder-worker tradition of the miracles is more popular, intended to reach more of a mass audience. These two different views of Jesus are not mutually exclusive, but neither is the overlap is not immediately obvious. For Paul, it was the Resurrection that made Jesus into the Christ, which is what made him significant. For the Mark, it was largely Jesus’ miracles that made him significant, and the miracles are strung together until sometime in Chapter 7/8/9 when Mark transitions to speaking of Jesus as the Christ. This dissection of Mark is not completely clean and not nearly as clear-cut as I may seem to be suggesting, but it is the overall pattern. If you count word occurrences, the pattern becomes pretty clear; different sets of words that represent themes, are used in the first part of the gospel than are used in the latter part.

Perhaps the aspect of this that should be most noted is that neither Matthew nor Luke radically alter this perception of Jesus in these four stories that we are discussing. Jesus and the disciples are portrayed by the latter two much as they are by Mark. This is evidence for a very strong tradition about Jesus as a wonder worker. Rather than downplay it, the gospels emphasize Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. This has led to a whole lot of discussion that the miracles are the demonstration, the proof that Jesus is divine. He can contravene the laws of nature. In this, he is really no different from earlier prophets like Elijah who also raised the dead; rather than qualitative, the difference between Jesus and these earlier prophets is quantitative. Jesus performed a lot of miracles. Even John retained (or invented) nine miracle stories. In my analysis of Mark, I said that he wove the different stories into a (mostly) coherent skein. It could also be said that he began the welding of the two traditions, wonder worker and Christ, into a single whole. Matthew and Luke continue the process, but they create a framework that puts the miracles more directly in the context of Jesus’ divinity: both Matthew and Luke start with a story of a divinely-ordained and divine birth that tells us from the start who Jesus is. Once this is established, they retain the wonder-worker tradition, but put more emphasis on the Christ. This trend is culminated by John, who starts by telling us that Jesus was the Logos, and it was with God from the beginning.

One implication of this two-fold tradition becomes manifest when it’s set out like this. While Paul may be our earliest written source, we have to ask if he represents the earlier tradition. I’m not sure that we can make that assumption, or draw that inference. That is something to be considered as we proceed.

Luke Chapter 8:49-56

This section will conclude Chapter 8. At 56 verses, Chapter 8 is one of the longer chapters in Luke. In this post we will finish the story of Jairus and his daughter. We’ve done an intro for this already, so let’s go straight to the


49Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἔρχεταί τις παρὰ τοῦ ἀρχισυναγώγου λέγων ὅτι Τέθνηκεν ἡ θυγάτηρ σου, μηκέτι σκύλλε τὸν διδάσκαλον.

(While) he was yet speaking, someone from those surrounding the ruler of the synagogue came, saying that “Your daughter has dies. Don’t disturb the teacher any longer.” 

Recall that only Mark and Luke name this official, who is a “leader of the synagogue”. My initial reaction is to be suspicious of this term, but one of the commentary/dictionaries at* says that this was a thing, and that it had a Hebrew/Aramaic term behind it. I suppose it makes sense. The full-blown Rabbinic Judaism, more or less as we think of it today, had not yet developed by the time of Jesus, or even the evangelists. And today, as I understand it, “synagogue” and “temple” are more or less synonymous terms. They were not in the first century. There was one temple, the Temple in Jerusalem. There were synagogues scattered about. I don’t know the full practice, but from what we read, it seems to be something not entirely dissimilar to the concept now, except perhaps not as formal. And it would make sense that there was a person in charge. And interestingly, neither does Matthew use this term; rather, he calls the man simply a “ruler”, obviously a more generic term. We know it’s highly probable that both Matthew and Luke read Mark, so here, as always, we question the choices made by each subsequent writer. I wonder if there is a literature analyzing the way each of the other two handled Markan pericopes (oooh, sound all bible-scholary, no?). One thing that the Q people demand–and that is the correct word: demand–is that people who don’t accept Q have to come up with a “redactionally consistent” explanation for every instance that Luke differs from Matthew in the so-called Q material. Really? If so, then I demand a redactionally consistent explanation for every time Matthew changes Mark.

49 Adhuc illo loquente, venit quidam e domo principis synagogae dicens: “Mortua est filia tua; noli amplius vexare magistrum”.

50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀκούσας ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευσον, καὶ σωθήσεται.

But Jesus, hearing, answered to him, “Do not fear, only believe and she will be saved.” 

Here we get back to the “saved” business that we discussed with the Bleeding Woman. And, all four of my crib translations render this as “made well/whole”, in the sense of “healed”. Honestly, I really have to question this. We have just been told the girl has died; “made well” or “made whole” does not exactly catch the implication of the girl being raised from the dead. “Saved”, as in, “save her life” comes, I think, much closer. And the Vulgate below agrees with me; the word used is “salva”, from “salvo, salvare”, which means “to save”. So why not use that word? My suspicion is that NT translators want to preserve a distinction between saving a life and saving a soul; the former then becomes “made whole” or something such, while “saved” is reserved for saving souls. Thinking about it, this sort of verbal guidance is an excellent example of rhetoric, or even marketing. The message is massaged in this way over the course of centuries, so that certain words mean certain things, and nothing else. What could be the sacred breath becomes the Holy Spirit, “charity” becomes “grace” and an “assembly” becomes a “church”. Or, rather, The Church.

50 Iesus autem, audito hoc verbo, respondit ei: “Noli timere; crede tantum, et salva erit”.

51 ἐλθὼν δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν οὐκ ἀφῆκεν εἰσελθεῖν τινα σὺν αὐτῷ εἰ μὴ Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ τὸν πατέρα τῆς παιδὸς καὶ τὴν μητέρα.

52 ἔκλαιον δὲ πάντες καὶ ἐκόπτοντο αὐτήν. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Μὴ κλαίετε, οὐ γὰρ ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καθεύδει.

53 καὶ κατεγέλων αὐτοῦ, εἰδότες ὅτι ἀπέθανεν.

Coming to the home he sent forth to go in someone (no one) with him except Peter and John and James, and the father of the girl and the mother. (52) But all were crying and they were wailing her. But he said, “Do not cry, for she did not die, but she sleeps”. (53) And they laughed at him, knowing that she had died.

The first thing to note is that he only took Peter, James, and John. Why are these the only three that he ever takes with him? Because, I suspect, they were the only three “full-time” followers that he had. There was no Twelve, there were no Apostles, there was Peter, James, and John. Aside from Judas the Betrayer, and the mention of Levi the tax collector, what did any of the so-called “Twelve Apostles” actually do? There are no stories attached to any of them until John brings in Nathaniel and Phillip, the former who is not mentioned by the other three when they list the Twelve. 

There are two aspects of the last verse that bear comment. The first is the rather arch “knowing”. Such silly people! They don’t know nothin’! Perhaps “arch” isn’t the best description; maybe “sly” might be more accurate.  Interestingly, Luke is the only one who records this; the other two evangelists don’t have it. This is even more interesting since all three versions have Jesus being laughed at for making this suggestion. Luke seems to be having a bit of fun here; with the transition from “laughing” to “knowing”, I can just see the nudge-nudge-wink-wink Luke gives to the audience.

51 Et cum venisset domum, non permisit intrare secum quemquam nisi Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et patrem puellae et matrem.

52 Flebant autem omnes et plangebant illam. At ille dixit: “ Nolite flere; non est enim mortua, sed dormit ”.

53 Et deridebant eum scientes quia mortua esset.

54 αὐτὸς δὲ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς ἐφώνησεν λέγων, Ἡ παῖς, ἔγειρε.

He then taking her hand called to her, saying, “Child, get up.” 

Just want to stop here to discuss “taking”, as in, her hand. The root of the verb is “strength”; the verb form is often used in the sense of “to overpower”. Matthew uses a form of it to describe the arrest of Jesus in the Garden on the night before he died. And that is a standard sense of the word in Classical Greek, although being “arrested” is a bit of an anachronism for much of the ancient world. It almost never has the sense of simply taking hold of something, or someone, in a non-violent sense. There is the implication of superior strength, or skill, as in athletics. That’s all fine and good. What really stands out is how the NT Lexicon used at really defines the word down, leaving out much of that sense of strength, making the word much more mundane, and completely washing out the implication of physical strength. And this is why I so dislike the notion that a creature with the name of “NT Greek” exists; it doesn’t. “NT Greek” has come to be a set of agreed-upon renderings that help keep the agreed-upon message of the NT intact. All of this then gets in the way of actually reading the text to see what might actually be there, buried underneath centuries, or millennia, of consensus on what Christians think the text should say.

Finally, the word I rendered as “child”. This word, pais, is the word used by the Centurion to describe the person, the slave in the centurion’s household, that was ill. Here it has the feminine article to indicate that it is used for a girl. Rather an oddity.

54 Ipse autem tenens manum eius clamavit dicens: “ Puella, surge! ”.

55 καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτῆς, καὶ ἀνέστη παραχρῆμα, καὶ διέταξεν αὐτῇ δοθῆναι φαγεῖν.

56 καὶ ἐξέστησαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτῆς: ὁ δὲ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς μηδενὶ εἰπεῖν τὸ γεγονός.

And her spirit turned around, and she stood up forthwith, and he instructed that something to eat be given to her. (56) And her parents were amazed. He commanded them to tell no one the occurrences.

Here the word to watch is what I’ve translated as :”turned around”. My four crib translations give it as “returned”, and I have to admit that seems like a reasonable rendering. But let’s also note that both Mark and Matthew use the same word to describe what Jesus did when he became aware that he had been touched by the Bleeding Woman. What’s also interesting is that the Latin, reversus est, is more ambiguous, and it does cover both the senses of “turning around” and “coming back”. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive in English, and there is some overlap, but they are not true synonyms. I would suggest that the KJV leaned to the Latin, and I suspect that might be correct, but that doesn’t address what Luke meant by using this word and not another that more accurately captures the idea of “returning”. So in the space of a three verses, we have two oddities of vocabulary choice. And then there is the bit about “knowing” that the girl was dead. It’s almost enough to give the impression that Luke had rather a droll sense of humor, or perhaps a tendency towards irony. Ya think?

55 Et reversus est spiritus eius, et surrexit continuo; et iussit illi dari manducare.

56 Et stupuerunt parentes eius, quibus praecepit, ne alicui dicerent, quod factum erat.


* An immensely useful site. It provides a Greek text that is parsed grammatically which allows a word to be clicked to bring up a dictionary entry, or two, actually. One of these is the “Thayer” cited. It appears to be a product of the 19th Century, but then again, so is Liddell and Scott. The problem is that the word is defined from what seems to be an NT dictionary, so I use it to find the base form and then toddle over to L&S to find out what it really means. NT dictionaries are a bit too self-referential, too much a part of a closed epistemological loop, and I really don’t like, and actively distrust, such loops. This is how consensus translations and consensus meanings have come about, which means that the text is often ignored in favour of “how it’s always been translated”. This was a motivating factor for the explosion of translations in the Reformation period. Ostensibly, these went back to the “original” Greek texts, but I have found way too many instances where the Protestant commentator very obviously relied on the Vulgate, rather than the Greek original. Then subsequent commentaries are based on the authority (richly deserved, for the greatest part) authority of these Reformation-era giants, and the Greek text becomes just as hazy as it was before this rebirth of Greek scholarship in the West. I’ve never read Erasmus’ translation; it would be interesting, and I believe he put it into Latin.

One other very useful aspect of this site is that it allows the user to have four (perhaps more) parallel columns of English transactions. This is extremely useful to see what others have done with the text. I use the KJV, ESV, NIV, and NASB; using the KJV is obvious; the others are more or less arbitrary. I find them to be a decent cross-section of translations, that provides some insight into the ways different people have translated the work.