Summary Luke Chapter 12

Due to editorial oversight, this follows hot on the heels of the Summary to Chapter 11. But then, maybe it will be useful to read the two in close proximity.


There are two main themes in the chapter by my reading. Or perhaps one, with a couple of subdivisions. The first provides something of a ring composition. We start with it in the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees, and ends with it with the admonition about being hauled off to gaol*. Both these relate to the primary theme, which is the coming of the kingdom. It’s happening, so we best be ready for it. Preparatory to that, there will be strife and dissension here on earth. Luke does warn about being hauled before the authorities, and assures us that we will be given what to say by the sacred breath. This is in Matthew, and even in Mark. But here it gets a slightly different treatment, that leads in something of a different direction.

The idea of the sacred breath providing one’s defense is, after all, one way in which God will take care of us. And Luke assures us of this with metaphors from Nature: the ravens, the lilies, and sparrows. God provides for them, so God will take care of us humans, too. And here is where and how the second theme comes in: we need not be, we should not be, concerned about the things of this world, because God will provide. So we should not be afraid of those who can only kill the body, but of those who can throw us into Gehenna, and I think “Hell” is not entirely inappropriate. The concept has not reached full maturity in this writing, not by a long shot, but it’s progressing towards that final goal (and not gaol). And who can throw us into that awful place? Why, God of course. And because of this, we need to be watchful about the coming kingdom by avoiding the “leaven of the Pharisees” and not being contentious in litigations with our fellow humans, lest you end up being hauled off to the gaol, which at the end of the chapter is a metaphor for Gehenna. Luke applied his writer’s craft very effectively: By starting off the section with Gehenna, that image is there to be alluded to by the threat of jail.

This is a very sophisticated literary construction. Part of the reason I felt the seams, I think, is that I break these chapters into small sections and then take these sections piecemeal. Only now that I’ve taken that moment to step back and look at the chapter as a whole do I see how well this is all arranged. IMO, it’s much more masterful than Chapters 5-7 of Matthew, which feel like beads of different material strung together on a single string, but otherwise not relating to each other all that much.

The result is a message that it very “Christian” in the sense of the word that most of us understand it. Luke is giving us a very clear warning: behave, because the kingdom is coming at some time unknown. If we are not watchful, and if we do not behave properly, we will end up in gaol, by which he means Gehenna, or Hell. And one way to be watchful, and to behave properly, is not to be concerned with worldly things, like the rich man who wants to build new barns to hold his wealth. Rather, be simple, let the sacred breath tell you what to say, and give no more thought to what you eat or what you wear than the ravens or the lilies, and be mindful that the master may come at any moment. Now, much of this is implicit in Mark and Matthew, but this feels like a much more thorough and sophisticated expression of this message that had always been rather disparate, or separate, or disjointed until now. We got flashes of this in Matthew, but here we get the synthesized and homogenized and all-encompassing version. The idea, the concept has developed, and been developed. Going back to the analogy I used about Mark, Luke has woven many of the separate threads of M&M together into a piece of whole cloth, into a single garment. Maybe it was there in Matthew as well, but I don’t think so. No doubt my perceptions and understandings have evolved as we’ve moved along, but I was very conscious of what I was not reading in M&M.

Having been raised in the Roman Rite, as a Catholic, my understanding of Christianity was very simple: Do good, or go to Hell. Simple, straightforward, and binary. Yes, the Purgatory thing sort of muddled the issue somewhat, but not all that much. And yes, I get the whole hellfire and brimstone sort of preaching, which is not considered something the Catholics are not known for, something they don’t do all that often or all that well. Instead there is that binary choice that is absolutely foundational, and expressed in such crystal-clear language and repeated so often that the whole hellfire and brimstone thing seemed…unnecessary. I never got Billy Graham. My religious message did not come from inspired rhetoric, but from pure fear. And here in this chapter we get the bottom-line formulation of this message that had not been present to this point. I do need to add the caveat, or the qualifier, that I did attend a Catholic school, run by Dominicans, for grades 2-8. As such, I was available to receive the message for six hours per day, 180 days per year. But that’s just it: the message was not elaborate. It was blunt, as blunt as the paddle that Sister Janice, the principal of the elementary school, used to carry.

One question that occurred to me about this: has the sense of urgency about the return of “the master” has been ratcheted upward again. Remember, this is the first gospel written that was aware of Paul’s career, and that Galatians, one of Paul’s earliest letters, was written in almost breathless anticipation that the return should be expected momentarily. By the time of 1 Corinthians, however, this feeling of immediacy had abated significantly. In the first two gospels the expectation of return also felt muted. In this chapter, however, I felt that Luke was a bit more concerned about this. The problem with this judgement is, of course, that it’s a judgement. As such, it’s necessarily subjective, like saying Matthew’s handling of the alleged Q material is masterful. As mentioned, this occurred to me; whether the judgement is justified or not is a matter for speculation, and for different readers to consider individually.

The second theme of the chapter, or theme 1)B is the sense of other-worldliness. Here again it feels like Luke has become much more closely aligned with later Christian doctrine than his predecessors. Luke weaves this theme skillfully into his narrative, using the story of the foolish rich man as his jumping-off point. We are told the uselessness of placing value on wealth because the rich man was unaware of his impending death. The vanity of riches is a theme with a long future ahead of it. The empty (the Latin root of vanity actually means empty) promise of wealth is sort of the obverse side of being unconcerned about the empty value of the things that money can buy. These latter include clothes, food, etc. Of course, food is necessary, but God provide for the ravens, so God will provide for us. That is a bit step to the sort of asceticism that will take deep root in the Middle Ages; at least, for a few centuries. It is what will give rise to the monastic ideal, even if that ideal eventually will fall short in practice. This feels like a major development in Christian practice.

So, either I haven’t been paying attention, or Chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel is a pivotal point in the history of Christianity. We will start getting into more of those stories unique to Luke; as we progress, we need to keep this chapter in our minds to see if it truly is such a point.


*Gaol: the danger, and possible price of pretentiousness. I just looked this up. Apparently, the current British pronunciation of this word is “jail”. Originally, the word had a hard ‘g’ sound (as goat) that eventually softened into the ‘j’ sound. The two spellings actually come from the same root, but via two different routes. The hard G is Middle English, while the J is Parisian French, both deriving from the same Latin root. I have been (mentally) pronouncing the hard G as “ga-ole”. Good thing I’ve never used it conversationally, or I would have been shown up for the pretentious bastard that I am. Of course, it would hardly be the first time. “Ennui”: Pronounced “En-you-ee”, right? Oh? It’s “en-nwi“? Oops. Now how about “homage”? What is given to a king, as in “give HOM-age” vs paying respect to a literary precursor, paying ‘oh-MAJE”? Whatever. I am much more likely to encounter new words in written form rather than hearing them, so I assign them a pronunciation that is, all too often, incorrect. The same thing happens with sports stars. I read sports, I don’t watch the programming so much.


Summary Luke Chapter 11

I just realized that this has never been published. It was sitting in drafts. So, here it is. The summary to Chapter 12 will follow shortly–whatever that means.

The Summary:

Of course we begin with the usual disclaimer that there does not seem to be much to say about this chapter. Virtually all of it is in material covered by Matthew and so is part of the material of the hypothetical Q. Thus the proper theme of this discussion should be the differences between Matthew’s versions of these stories, and Luke’s version. However, much of that was covered in the commentary to the translation. Perhaps the recurring discussion of Q has become a bit worn; perhaps a slightly different tack would be to get back to the roots of what this blog was supposed to do: discuss the actual beliefs set out, and to provide insight into how–or if?–these beliefs developed over time.

The proper place to start on this is with the Lord’s Prayer. And, conveniently, it’s the first section of the chapter. There is, of course, the debate over which version–that of Matthew or that of Luke–is the more primitive; that is, which of the versions is the closest to the original version allegedly captured in the hypothetical Q. I have a copy of The Q Thomas Reader, chief editor John Kloppenborg of the University of Toronto (alas!). Kloppenborg is one of the leading proponents of Q, and one of the leading authorities on its reconstruction. Interesting how a fictional entity can be “reconstructed”; sort of on the lines of “reconstructing what the original unicorn looked like”, as it were. Anyway, in the text of the cited book, the prayer follows Luke’s opening, using just “father”, rather than “our father” as Matthew says. This is presumably more primitive, because the more primitive version has fewer words. Except that’s a ridiculous statement. If you were to read an early draft of a Hemingway short story, I daresay you would find a whole lot of more words that were excised from the final version. So in this case, saying Luke’s version is more primitive because of the lack of “our” really is not terribly convincing. Yes, I’m sure there are other reasons for believing that Luke is the more primitive, but that does not imply that they are any more convincing.

Let’s ask this question: is there a dogmatic or theological difference between addressing “our father” as opposed to just saying “father”? Of course, any time a word is changed or added or omitted, the meaning of the text changes to some degree. So it’s not a question of “if it changes”, but “how, or how much does it change?” Here’s how I see this. My siblings and I have used the term “our father”, or “our mother”, or “our brother”. But when do we speak thus? When we are conversing amongst ourselves. I would not say “our father” unless it’s addressed to a sibling, or perhaps to “our father” when I am addressing said paternal parent in the company of a sibling. Think about that for a minute. OTOH, when alone with pop, I would never say “our father”. Rather, I would simply address him as “father”. Does that offer a clue about the difference between Matthew and Luke? I suggest it may. Matthew’s version, with the first person plural possessive pronoun, is necessarily a collective address, something that’s said in a collective situation. That is, it’s appropriate when a group of worshippers are at a service and praying communally. It’s most appropriate for use with “we” as the pronoun. In contrast, simply saying “father” is most appropriate with the pronoun “I”. Does this provide some insight, that perhaps the addition/omission of the possessive pronoun suggests different intended context? Is one public, while the other is private?

Of course, for most of the last two millennia, people in their solitude have been praying “our father”. But that is after the prayer has become systematized, after it’s become part of the process of worship, when it’s become a standard, to be used in all settings. What about when the prayer was new? I would suggest that the communal setting, saying “our” father, is the earlier context. It’s a truism–but nevertheless a mostly forgotten one–that people in the ancient world did not do a lot of solitary reading in silence. Rather, the written word was read aloud, and usually to an audience. Books were too expensive and so too rare for solitary reading. So when people heard the words of Jesus, they most likely heard them; they didn’t read them silently to themselves, but heard the words from someone else who was reading the words aloud. Extrapolating from this, did people pray alone? Generally speaking, no. In the pagan world religious ritual was mostly a communal affair, whether conducted in a familial setting, or at a large, public sacrifice. Jesus admonished people not to be like the hypocrites who stand in front of a crowd and pray; rather, he said, do it locked in a closet, away from everyone. Can we extrapolate from these to things, communal reading and communal prayer to suggest that Matthew’s is the more “primitive” version. It came first temporally, and it represents the oldest stratum of behaviour. In such communal settings “our father” is most appropriate. By the time Luke wrote, perhaps the admonition of Jesus had taken root, and prayer had become more of a solitary activity. In these contexts, “father” would be the more reasonable.

And this ties in with another difference between Matthew’s version and that of Luke. Matthew says we should prayer that our debts–and the word is not allegorical, but blatantly monetary–be forgiven. Luke, OTOH, prays that our sins be forgiven. These are two very different words, and represent two very different requests. And we noted in the commentary that both versions then go on to say “as we forgive debts against us…:” I have to say, using “debt” in both places seems a lot more consistent than the sins/debts combination. That is to say, it seems more likely that Luke changed the first one rather than Matthew. Yes, it’s possible that Matthew changed Q to be more consistent, but what combination of circumstances led to the prayer being recorded first in Q as sins/debts?

Again, it should be stressed that this is hardly a knockout punch for the “argument” for Q. There could certainly be times when one or the other of the evangelists decided to change or retain the words found in the hypothetical Q. There is no reason that one gospel is always more primitive than the other. This is ceded by Q people; they have no choice. However, the fewer times that can be shown that Luke is not the “more primitive”, the further the foundation of the Q argument is eroded. If Matthew is “more primitive” most of the time, then what exactly is to stop us from saying that it’s most likely that Luke simply used Matthew? There is a point in there where it stops making sense to posit a pre-existing work if Matthew is the more primitive, say, 67% of the time. No?

Aside from this, the rest of the chapter is retellings of stories which we encountered in Matthew. The biggest theme was the disparagement of the Pharisees, throwing in the lawyers for good measure. I believe that it is an open question of how much friction there really was between Jesus and the religious leaders and/or political powers during the former’s lifetime. I honestly expect it wasn’t nearly what it was anything close to half as bad as we’ve all come to believe. I keep coming back to the point that none of Jesus’ followers were arrested with Jesus, or even shortly after Jesus. Acts gives us a full (if not exactly credible) account of the apostles out and about and preaching. Sure, we’re told there were episodes when the authorities cracked down, but only after provocation. As described in Acts, the apostles were not persecuted per se for being followers of Jesus; they were persecuted when they raised too much of a ruckus and disturbed the peace. Paul talks about “pressuring” Jesus’ followers, but there is nothing to corroborate what he says about this. Josephus doesn’t really say anything about it, and none of the Roman sources had much to say about the followers of Chrestus, as Tacitus calls them. Nero blamed them for the fire, which means that they were probably a group that people knew existed, but these same people likely did not know much about them. This sort of non-specific recognition makes the perfect scapegoat: you know who they are, but not enough to judge whether they’re the sort of people to start a fire. So if the emperor says they did, hey, who am I to gainsay the emperor? Saying this, however, puts an onus on me to explain why this became so firmly entrenched in the narrative, in the legend, if it were not true. The obvious answer to this is that it provided a plausible–and even honourable–reason for Jesus’ crucifixion. He was a martyr, and that always makes for a good story and and it makes Jesus into an heroic figure. Hmmm…son of a god and a mortal, a hero…can anyone say “Achilles”? We’ve discussed this before, probably in conjunction with the idea that Matthew was a pagan, but this sort of semi-divine figure was not at all common in Jewish folklore, but it was very common in Greek myth. Coincidence?

That’s really enough for this chapter. Most of what remains to say has been said about these stories in Matthew. The sign of Jonas, the wicked generation, the Queen of the South…these are all interesting and important, but they’ve been covered. So let’s trudge onward.

Luke Chapter 12:49-59

We were discussing the way the Gospels of Matthew and Luke fit together, and what this says about the likelihood of Q’s existence. Naturally, I was dubious, or skeptical, or whichever word most suits this particular set of circumstances. Since I never read ahead before I start translating, I have no real clue of what’s coming up. Perhaps more of the same; perhaps not.


49 Πῦρ ἦλθον βαλεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, καὶ τί θέλω εἰ ἤδη ἀνήφθη.

“Fire I came to throw upon the earth, and what I wish if indeed it were already (…kindled..)

There’s a bit of a problem with the last word. The NT Greek dictionaries–including Strong’s Words–tell us that the word means “to kindle”. As such, Jesus wishing the fire were already kindled. There is no (well, not much) doubt that the form is intended to be read as an aorist passive. The problem is the root word. The root is ana-apō, elided to be anapō. This, however, is not to be found in Liddell & Scott. OK. So let’s try it without the prefix ana which leaves us with apō. Hmmm…That doesn’t exist per L&S either. OK, when all else fails, let’s check the Vulgate. What did St Jerome do with this? OK, he’s bailed us out, giving us the very rare Latin form accensus, which does mean “kindled”. The implication is that we really do not know what the Greek word actually is. It appears twice in the NT; here, and again in Acts 28:2, where it has a similar usage, that the pyre has been lighted. There is a cognate use in James 3:5, but there the Latin is in the form incedit, which is standard. Think, incendiary. I bring this up to show how even the Latin is dicey; there is no form cendo, to which the prefixes a- and in- are added, so taking the Latin as our pole star isn’t exactly a sure thing, either. The form used here, accensus is very rare in Latin. I suppose back filling from the use in James where the Latin is secure, and then replacing the very odd Greek based on a similar Latin translation is valid enough. The point remains, however, that there are still a bunch of different places where we are not wholly and 100% certain of the meaning of the Greek.

49 Ignem veni mittere in terram et quid volo? Si iam accensus esset!

50 βάπτισμα δὲ ἔχω βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ πῶς συνέχομαι ἕως ὅτου τελεσθῇ.

“I have the baptism to be baptised and how do l hold together until this is completed?

These two verses form an interesting couplet as regarding the content. First, it is unique to Luke. But not only is the action or speech unique but the sense of the words is unique as well. Even if I went with the standard “how stressed am I?” rather than my much more literal, but also very telling, “how do I hold (it?) together?”, this sort of exclamation from Jesus is a bit unexpected, to say the least, IMO. It truly hearkens back to Mark, where Jesus not infrequently gets exasperated. What do we make of this? Is there some deep, theological message here? Or is Luke simply having a bit of fun? The commentaries, of course explain this as a cry of anguish at the coming trials Jesus knows he must face. And this is a fully justified interpretation. Part of my reading is that I prefer the more literal meaning of “sunechomai”, which literally means “hold together”. As such there is a very modern feel to the idea of Jesus “holding it together”. Perhaps that colloquial undertone (which is purely accidental, of course) is what makes it sound less than serious coming from Luke. Most render the word as “I am constrained”, which kinda sorta makes sense as the verb is passive, but it wanders a bit from the more basic root, which is sun-echo, “hold with” (reversed in English), as in “hold with”. “To constrain” is a legitimate translation, with a proper Classical pedigree, but it is definition #5. 

As for content, these two verses serve as the introduction to the rest. These verses are unique to Luke, but the rest (most of it, at least the general drift) is shared with Matthew and so categorized as Q material. More on that shortly.

50 Baptisma autem habeo baptizari et quomodo coartor, usque dum perficiatur!

51 δοκεῖτε ὅτι εἰρήνην παρεγενόμην δοῦναι ἐν τῇ γῇ; οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ’ ἢ διαμερισμόν.

52 ἔσονται γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν πέντε ἐν ἑνὶ οἴκῳ διαμεμερισμένοι, τρεῖς ἐπὶ δυσὶν καὶ δύο ἐπὶ τρισίν,

53 διαμερισθήσονται πατὴρ ἐπὶ υἱῷ καὶ υἱὸς ἐπὶ πατρί, μήτηρ ἐπὶ τὴν θυγατέρα καὶ θυγάτηρ ἐπὶ τὴν μητέρα, πενθερὰ ἐπὶ τὴν νύμφην αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφη ἐπὶ τὴν πενθεράν.

“Do you expect that I am here to bring peace to the earth? Not so, I say to you, but division. (52) For they will be of five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. (53) The father will be divided agains son, and son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, the mother-in-law against the bride, the bride against the mother.”

 Not much to say here. This we encountered this in Matthew. Kloppenborg does not indicate whether Q read “bring division”, per Luke, or “the sword” as per Matthew. Burton Mack, OTOH, has the courage of his convictions and posits the original reading as “sword”. And honestly, if you are going to contrast “peace”, something related to war would be my first impulse. So once again, Luke is the more “primitive” version, except when he’s not. When we read this in Matthew, we discussed how this is an ex-post-facto “prediction”, a “foretelling” of what happened to the movement some time after Jesus’ death. At least, we are lead to believe that this happened. Was it an actual persecution? If so, when did it happen? Before the destruction of the Temple? In the 40s, when it was led by Paul? Then why doesn’t Mark dwell on this a bit more? Or is this a folk memory of the Jewish Revolt, in which Josephus tells us there were a number of factions, and there were two or three inside Jerusalem duking it out with each other and at the same time trying to fight off the Romans. No doubt there was a lot of this sort of thing going on: betrayal, treachery, internecine fighting. Mark does have the section where Jesus tells the disciples that not one stone of the Temple will be left standing on another stone. The scenario he described there was terrible, but it doesn’t have anything of the enmity among families that we get here and in Matthew. And I wonder why? 

And here is another instance where the content of the words is wholly ignored when deciding whether something belongs in Q. I skimmed a few commentaries, and they all seemed to dance around the “predictive” aspect of all of this. Sound historical judgement pretty much demands that this passage, and those similar, be read as backward-looking, a description of what did happen, rather than what will happen. As such, it is all-but certain that Jesus never uttered these words. Given that, we have to ask what this passage is doing in a collection of sayings of Jesus. It simply does not fit the criteria to be included as something Jesus said. So, once more, so much of the “argument” for Q proves to be specious. 

And quickly, he mentions the mother-in-law vs the bride. I believe this relationship is specified because the wife would come to join the husband’s family, so the bride would be in contact with her in-law, whereas the husband would not be set against his father-in-law. So the relationship described by Jesus would be much more common, and much more deleterious to the smooth functioning of the household if the relationship went sour.

51 Putatis quia pacem veni dare in terram? Non, dico vobis, sed separationem.

52 Erunt enim ex hoc quinque in domo una divisi: tres in duo, et duo in tres;

53 dividentur pater in filium et filius in patrem, mater in filiam et filia in matrem, socrus in nurum suam et nurus in socrum”.

54 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις, Οταν ἴδητε [τὴν] νεφέλην ἀνατέλλουσαν ἐπὶ δυσμῶν, εὐθέως λέγετε ὅτι Ὄμβρος ἔρχεται, καὶ γίνεται οὕτως:

55 καὶ ὅταν νότον πνέοντα, λέγετε ὅτι Καύσων ἔσται, καὶ γίνεται.

56 ὑποκριταί, τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς καὶ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οἴδατε δοκιμάζειν, τὸν καιρὸν δὲ τοῦτον πῶς οὐκ οἴδατε δοκιμάζειν;

And he said to the crowd, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say that ‘rain is coming’, and so it becomes this way. (55) And when the south (wind) blows, you say, ‘It will be hot’, and it happens. (56) Hypocrites, the countenance of the earth and sky you know how to discern, this season how do you not know how to interpret?

54 Dicebat autem et ad turbas: “Cum videritis nubem orientem ab occasu, statim dicitis: “Nimbus venit”, et ita fit;

55 et cum austrum flantem, dicitis: “Aestus erit”, et fit.

56 Hypocritae, faciem terrae et caeli nostis probare, hoc autem tempus quomodo nescitis probare?

To be honest, I’m not sure how we go from civil war that divides families to (mis)judging the weather, and this inability to judge the weather makes one a hypocrite. I mean, of course I understand that this is all very metaphorical and all that, but it seems a bit of a stretch. Another example of one of the evangelists sticking a couple of things together that really were separate thoughts, but they had to be worked in somewhere, somehow. I should have more to say on this in the chapter summary.

57 Τί δὲ καὶ ἀφ’ ἑαυτῶν οὐ κρίνετε τὸ δίκαιον;

58 ὡς γὰρ ὑπάγεις μετὰ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου σου ἐπ’ ἄρχοντα, ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ δὸς ἐργασίαν ἀπηλλάχθαι ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ, μήποτε κατασύρῃ σε πρὸς τὸν κριτήν, καὶ ὁ κριτής σε παραδώσει τῷ πράκτορι, καὶ ὁ πράκτωρ σε βαλεῖ εἰς φυλακήν.

59 λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως καὶ τὸ ἔσχατον λεπτὸν ἀποδῷς.

(57) And what is from yourselves that you do not judge what is just? (58) For as you lead your adversary before the magistrate (lit = ruler), on the way (there) be delivered of your work from him, lest he pull you down (by) the judgement, and the judge hands you over to the official who executes the judgement (all in the same word), and the official who executes the judgement throws you in the guard-house (gaol). (59) I tell you, you may not come out of there and your last small brass coin you may give over.”

Wow. There is a whole bunch of really unusual, or rather, specialised, vocabulary in this section. A lot of it is unique to Luke in the NT, but, for the most part, the vocabulary is not obscure in the corpus of Classical/pagan Greek. Rather the opposite. Let’s start with archontas/archon. It’s a generic word for “ruler”, but by this point “magistrate” is not a bad translation. The real ruler, of course, was the Emperor, so the various rulers of the towns, etc were local offices. Archaic Athens had three annual archons, the king archon, the eponymous (chief, as in primus inter pares) and war archon. From there the term became generic; Gnostic cosmology posits a sometimes bewildering number of archons, who rule various aspects of the universe. So, it’s kind of a generic term. I happened to notice that it gets translated as “prince of the devils” or “prince of the pagans”. I’m not crazy about using it in terms of royalty since the word is of very secular origin; however, there is no real equivalent in Greek–or Latin, for that matter–for our concept of “prince”. The word is Latin, and comes from princeps, which means “first”. It’s actually a combination of primus caput, literally “first head”. So it’s the first in line, etc. Then it comes to mean “distinguished”. Then Augustus becomes known as Princeps; the First Citizen, and so it became a title. But it did not become a rank until the Mediaeval period, when royalty became the norm in Europe, in those areas where Latin served as the root language.

“The official who executes the judgement” is all captured by a single word: praktor. If you look at it, the derivation of “proctor” is pretty obvious. Vowels are very malleable, and they transition easily as words evolve, especially when moving from one language to another. So many English words with Germanic roots have identical consonant groupings, but the vowels are different. An example is something like vergessen, “forgotten”. Remember that the German “V” is pronounced as an English “F”. 

Then there lepton, a small brass coin. Think, penny, or farthing–whatever the hell a farthing is. “Penny” is another good German-to-English example. Pfenning. The terminal “IG” in German almost always comes across as “-Y” in English. Again, though, the word is very rare in the NT. Aside from here, Mark uses it in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. 

I used to hate the term “gaol”. Times change. I’m more pretentious now.

The word “adversary” has been deliberately saved for last. In Hebrew, adversary is usually rendered as satan; in the OT, this is rarely a capital word. In fact, it’s used in 1 Kings to describe the military adversaries of…one of the kings. The word here is closer to a legal term, referring to an adversary in court. Is there an English term? The party of the first part vs the party of the second part? It is used in the same way in the same story by Matthew. Again, let’s ask ourselves: would an early, Jewish follower of Jesus know this word? Would Jesus know this word? It’s not out of the question. Justice, higher justice anyway, in the easter Mediterranean at the time would have been dispensed in Greek. Pilate spoke Greek, and all the educated Jews like Josephus spoke Greek. But would someone from a backwater like Caphernaum ever encounter Greek justice? Hard to say. So, once again, we have to ask if we should reasonably expect a word like this to be found in Q. Offhand, I would say “no”. It is much more likely that it originated with an educated individual like Matthew.

And then note what Luke does: he takes the basic story as told by Matthew and then throws in about a dozen (well, four or five) additional legal terms. As for the implications here, first and foremost we can toss any notion that Luke’s version is the more “primitive” version which more closely resembled what Q must have looked like. That is patently risible. Think about it: the attempt is to couple Luke with being the more primitive when his version here is clearly much–much–more sophisticated. And this is the second example of this that we’ve come across in this chapter. The sense I derive from this is that Luke, as he has done in the past, “improves” upon, or “corrects” Matthew. He’s seeing Matthew’s technical term–adversary–and raising him praktor and a few others. 

So much for the technical stuff. What about the meaning? This is blunted, to a certain extent, by having encountered it in Matthew. The tone feels slightly different here; in Matthew, this is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s really meant to be an injunction to put aside your differences and come to a settlement before bad things happen to you. The bit about gaol is more of a metaphor, of course, but effective. Here there is more of a sense of menace, that the threat of jail is really that: a threat, and not one to be taken lightly. It’s tempting to see this as an allusion to Hell, and that’s possible, but just barely. And it’s much more likely here than it was in Matthew. I say that largely because of the change in tone, from admonishment something very close to a threat.

57 Quid autem et a vobis ipsis non iudicatis, quod iustum est?

58 Cum autem vadis cum adversario tuo ad principem, in via da operam liberari ab illo, ne forte trahat te apud iudicem, et iudex tradat te exactori, et exactor mittat te in carcerem.

59 Dico tibi: Non exies inde, donec etiam novissimum minutum reddas”.

Luke Chapter 12:35-48

The last section ended with a discussion about poverty. My contention is that this was not a significant aspect of Jesus’ teaching; rather, it slowly gained importance until Luke pushed it into the level of prominence that we now consider as an integral part of Jesus’ original message. This has some real-world implications for our life today; if the message on the blessedness of the poor, and the injunction to help our neighbor is missing, to a large extent, from half of the gospels, it becomes much easier to overlook. Now we turn from that to other aspects of Jesus’ teaching.

35 Ἔστωσαν ὑμῶν αἱ ὀσφύες περιεζωσμέναι καὶ οἱ λύχνοι καιόμενοι,

36 καὶ ὑμεῖς ὅμοιοι ἀνθρώποις προσδεχομένοις τὸν κύριον ἑαυτῶν πότε ἀναλύσῃ ἐκ τῶν γάμων, ἵνα ἐλθόντος καὶ κρούσαντος εὐθέως ἀνοίξωσιν αὐτῷ.

“Let Your loins be girded, and the candles burning, (36) and you are the same as men expecting their lord when he has become loosed from his wedding, in order him coming and striking immediately opening for him.

A few things. The first word in Verse 35 is a third person imperative. “Let it…” more or less captures the sense, all though there is a sense in which the “let it” is directed at the person hearing; that is, it’s actually a second person imperative. And the word for “gird” is based on the word for “put a belt on”; John the Baptist’s leather belt is described by the base meaning of the word. I actually saw a drawing of how one girds one’s loins. If you recall that the standard garb was a long tunic rather than trousers, the idea of girding is to take a belt and use it to hold up the hem of the tunic so that the legs are able to move freely. And the “become loosed” is me being a tad pedantic. The only citation of this meaning “return” is this one. So, you can see the progression from “become loosed” to “return” is logical. And the Latin is “to return”, so this is how St Jerome understood the word. 

Kloppenborg in his Q/Thomas Reader does not include this in Q; he cites it as uniquely Luke. I’m not sure I agree with this assessment. The idea of waiting with lamps for the lord to return is certainly found in Matthew. The difference is that in Matthew, we have ten virgins waiting with lamps, and some brought extra oil while others did not. So the externals are very different, but the basic metaphor is identical. In that instance, too, Kloppenborg notes the very obvious dissimilarities and concludes that the story is unique to Matthew. That is, neither story is believed to be part of Q. This is what happens, IMO, when we get so focused on the individual trees and forget to take a step back and look at the forest. That is, the analysis is so hung up on stuff like kai/de distribution that we never (well, maybe almost never… ) consider the overall message. This has been a glaring failure all through the entire consideration of Q; this is simply another example. Again, yes, this metaphor can be seen as coincidental; but how many coincidences does it take to equal evidence of correlation? Whatever the number is, the Q project apparently believes it’s higher than however many exist.

35 Sint lumbi vestri praecincti et lucernae ardentes,

36 et vos similes hominibus exspectantibus dominum suum, quando revertatur a nuptiis, ut, cum venerit et pulsaverit, confestim aperiant ei.

37 μακάριοι οἱ δοῦλοι ἐκεῖνοι, οὓς ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος εὑρήσει γρηγοροῦντας: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι περιζώσεται καὶ ἀνακλινεῖ αὐτοὺς καὶ παρελθὼν διακονήσει αὐτοῖς.

38 κἂν ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ κἂν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ φυλακῇ ἔλθῃ καὶ εὕρῃ οὕτως, μακάριοί εἰσιν ἐκεῖνοι.

“Blessed are those slaves whom, the lord coming finds awake watching. Amen I say to you that he (the lord) will have girded his loins and they reclining coming he will serve them. (38) And in the second or third watch he should come and find them this, blessed are they. 

Seems to be a lot of girding of loins going on here. The salient point in these two verses is the word “watching”. This is another unusual word. While it’s not quite as rare as oligopistos (of little faith) it’s still a Jewish (LXX) and Christian word, not used much (no cites in L&S). However, it is used a couple of times in Matthew. And one of the placements of the word there is interesting. It comes at the end of the story of the Ten Virgins, in reference to the five that had brought extra oil. Odd, isn’t it? 

Well, full disclosure. Matthew also uses the word in the story about the master who would be watchful if he knew when the thief was coming. We will get to Luke’s version of this in the next couple of verses. So while it may be interesting, it is not by any means conclusive. It is decidedly ambiguous. But it’s one more instance of a “coincidence” in usage of a word much more interesting than the kai/de distinction. 

We did mention before, that the night was divided into four (IIRC) watches. The first would start at dusk and last something like three or four hours. So the second and third watches would be the stretch from, say, eleven until the couple of hours before dawn. That is, the dead of night. My apologies for the imprecision, but being precise s not particularly important; “the dead of night” gets the idea across well enough.

37 Beati, servi illi, quos, cum venerit dominus, invenerit vigilantes. Amen dico vobis, quod praecinget se et faciet illos discumbere et transiens ministrabit illis.

38 Et si venerit in secunda vigilia, et si in tertia vigilia venerit, et ita invenerit, beati sunt illi.

39 τοῦτο δὲ γινώσκετε ὅτι εἰ ᾔδει ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης ποίᾳ ὥρᾳ ὁ κλέπτης ἔρχεται, οὐκ ἂν ἀφῆκεν διορυχθῆναι τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ.

40 καὶ ὑμεῖς γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι, ὅτι ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεται.

“This you will know that if the lord of the manor should know which hour the thief comes, he would not allow to be broken into his home. And become you (imperative), that at the hour you do not expect the son of man comes”.

The word that I translated as “become you” is a second person plural imperative. “You must become” would probably be the most idiomatic rendering, but that implies obligation rather than command. There is a difference. And I could have (should have?) rendered it, simply, as “be ready” since the base meaning of verb gignomai, or here as ginomai, “to become”, is very often just used as a replacement for “to be”. However, in this instance, I like the sense of using it in its truest sense. “Be ready” is one thing; “become ready” is something rather different. It has the decided implication that the disciples are not ready at the particular moment.

Secondly, in Verse 39, there is a minority ms tradition that adds the word “watchful”. The sentence then reads …(the lord) was watchful and would not allow…). The word used was the same one we commented upon in the previous couplet. Matthew used the word in his version of this story, which preceded (rather than following as it does here) the story of the Ten Virgins. I do not accept the inclusion of the word here; as I said, it’s a decidedly less robust tradition, usually only found in the footnotes. It’s just that the two Greek texts I use were split on it, so it seemed worth mentioning. The most likely explanation is that some copyist added it to a Lukan ms tradition based on the inclusion of the word in Matthew. 

Even so, let’s stop and think about this for a moment. We have an unusual word. Matthew uses it in this story, then again at the end of a story about having your lamp/candle lighted and being watchful for the return of the lord. Luke does not use it in this story, but uses it in his version of the warning to have your lamp/candle lighted and be watchful. The story of the light/watchfulness, which has the word in both Matthew and Luke is not in Q; but the story of the lord and the thief is in Q. But the word in question is in Matthew and not Luke; that is, the word appears in the version that is supposed to be less primitive. That is, the word was not in Q, was not in Luke, but was in Matthew. Does any of this seem remotely logical? That is the crux of the matter, the question you have to ask yourself. Does the Q theory make sense–if you don’t assume its existence and then work backward to prove it. Remember, without Q, there is no link to Jesus for most of the most memorable episodes and teachings of the NT. That alone makes Q an absolute necessity for a lot of people, and these people will then twist themselves into all sorts of Gordian pretzels and ignore all sorts of arguments in order to feel confident that such a link to Jesus does exist, no matter what. That is faith; it is not scholarship. 

39 Hoc autem scitote, quia, si sciret pater familias, qua hora fur veniret, non sineret perfodi domum suam.

40 Et vos estote parati, quia, qua hora non putatis, Filius hominis venit”.

41 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος, Κύριε, πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγεις ἢ καὶ πρὸς πάντας;

42 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ κύριος, Τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν ὁ πιστὸς οἰκονόμος ὁ φρόνιμος, ὃν καταστήσει ὁ κύριος ἐπὶ τῆς θεραπείας αὐτοῦ τοῦ διδόναι ἐν καιρῷ [τὸ] σιτομέτριον;

43 μακάριος ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος, ὃν ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ εὑρήσει ποιοῦντα οὕτως:

44 ἀληθῶς λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπάρχουσιν αὐτοῦ καταστήσει αὐτόν.

45 ἐὰν δὲ εἴπῃ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ, Χρονίζει ὁ κύριός μου ἔρχεσθαι, καὶ ἄρξηται τύπτειν τοὺς παῖδας καὶ τὰς παιδίσκας, ἐσθίειν τε καὶ πίνειν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι,

46 ἥξει ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἧ οὐ προσδοκᾷ καὶ ἐν ὥρᾳ ἧ οὐ γινώσκει, καὶ διχοτομήσει αὐτὸν καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀπίστων θήσει.

47 ἐκεῖνος δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ὁ γνοὺς τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ καὶ μὴ ἑτοιμάσας ἢ ποιήσας πρὸς τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ δαρήσεται πολλάς:

48 ὁ δὲ μὴ γνούς, ποιήσας δὲ ἄξια πληγῶν, δαρήσεται ὀλίγας. παντὶ δὲ ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ, πολὺ ζητηθήσεται παρ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ᾧ παρέθεντο πολύ, περισσότερον αἰτήσουσιν αὐτόν.

And Peter said, “Lord, to us this parable do you speak, or also to all?” (42) And the lord said, “Who is this faithful and wise steward whom the lord places down upon his service to give in its appropriate time the allotment of wheat? (43) Blessed is that slave, who the lord coming the lord finds doing thus. (44) Truly I say to you that upon all those of his in existence he will set down that one. (45) If that slave says in his heart, ‘My lord will use time to come’, and he will rule to smite the male slaves and the female slaves eating and drinking and to be drunk, (46) the lord of that slave will return on a day which he (the slave) does not see and an hour which he does not recognise, and will cut him in twain and he (the lord) will put the portions of him (the slave) with the unfaithful ones. (47) That slave knowing the will of his lord and is not ready or doing towards his (the lord’s) will be thrashed much. (48) The one not knowing, doing things worthy of a beating, will receive a small thrashing. For to all to whom much has been given, much will be sought from him, and the one to whom much has been put forward, the most they will ask of him.”

I believe I’ve been fairly consistent in rendering it as “parable”. The word means something more like “comparison”. But, it’s not too much of a stretch to make it reach our concept of “parable”. It should be obvious that it’s the same word as “parabola”. The word has plenty of mathematical uses in Greek; however, the uses are more like a technical vocabulary rather than cascading meanings. Sort of like the word “strike” in baseball, or bowling. Yes, the basic sense of “smite” lurks there, somewhere, but especially in the baseball term, that original meaning is pretty well buried. And notice how Peter asks the question, but Jesus doesn’t answer? This is, I believe, a glancing blow at Mark, where he tells us that Jesus taught in parables, but told the disciples, and only the disciples, the meanings in private.

The rest of this, for the most part, is Q material. There are two things I want to mention. First, there is yet another really odd word in here. It’s what I rendered as “cut in twain” (sorry; couldn’t resist). It is also a math term for “bisect”, as in “bisecting an angle”, which is to cut an angle into two equal parts; IOW, to cut in twain. The only place it doesn’t mean “bisect” (or its synonyms) is in the Gospel of Matthew–and, by extension, of Luke. Now, Luke did not come up with this word independently; the probability of that, while not zero, is pretty daunting, somewhere in the neighborhood of lightning strike. So this means that Luke either got the word from Q, which is where Matthew got it, or that Luke got it from Matthew. We have discussed this before, but I do not recall the word in question. I have started writing these down now because I believe I can construct a decent case for this. The point is, let’s recall what Q is supposed to be. In theory, it is a collection of stuff Jesus said that was written down very soon after Jesus died, if not while he was alive. This, in turn, means one of two things. The first possibility is that Jesus indeed actually used the word, or its Aramaic equivalent. It’s highly unlikely that Jesus knew enough Greek to come up with a word like this.

So if Jesus didn’t use the word, this means that the “author”–“compiler” is perhaps more accurate–of Q chose the word. This makes more sense because if Q was written, it was probably written in Greek. In fact, if Luke and Matthew both came across the word in Q, then Q must have been written in Greek. Of course, it’s possible that Q was written in Aramaic, and that Jesus used the Aramaic term for “thrash bodily”, which the Q author recorded. Then Matthew came along, saw the Aramaic term, had heard of a Greek word for “bisect”, and decided to make it a synonym for “to thrash”. Of course, this would mean that Luke either translated the Aramaic word exactly as Matthew did, which, given the rarity of the word, seems very unlikely. Or, Luke copied the word from Matthew. So either the author of Q used the obscure Greek word, not quite properly, and was copied by both Luke and Matthew, or Matthew used the obscure term, not quite properly, and was copied by Luke. In fact, I would suggest that the use by Luke indicates that he copied it from his source rather blindly, not exactly sure of what the word meant. Had he truly known, it seems reasonable that he would have understood that the word was not being used properly and would have substituted a more appropriate word.

So who came up with the Greek word? Matthew? Or the compiler of Q? And let us forget the supposed provenance of Q. For it to be what people want it to be, it had to be early. The earlier the better. What is the likelihood that this compiler, writing shortly after Jesus–if not during Jesus’ life–was well-versed in Greek? The original followers of Jesus were Aramaic speakers. Paul wrote in Greek, but a generation after Jesus, and Paul’s early letters do not exactly demonstrate a great command of the language. More than likely the later letters, which do show a better command of Greek, were translated for him by an amanuensis. But Q, supposedly, pre-dates Paul. That the movement, in its earliest days, attracted someone who could come up with a word like “bisect”, a technical term, even to misuse it, is very, very improbable. So either the word was late–which defeats the whole point of Q–or Matthew used it and was followed by Luke. Nor does it matter whether Jesus used the word or not in its Aramaic form. The problem remains. It seems rather a sticky wicket for the Q people.

The second point rather dovetails with the first. We’ve come across this axiom, “to whom has been given, more will be given” in both Mark and Matthew. Once again, what we have here is a point where M&M agree, and Luke goes his own way. Once again, it seems that Luke has taken a story, or a pericope, that is adequately covered by his predecessors and changed it to make it his own. It must be noted that this almost always happens when Mark and Matthew not only agree, but are almost verbatim–unless Matthew has chosen to elaborate. So we have another example. So I ask you, is it reasonable to conclude that Luke did not read Matthew?

41 Ait autem Petrus: “ Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam an et ad omnes? ”.

42 Et dixit Dominus: “ Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituet dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram?

43 Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit ita facientem.

44 Vere dico vobis: Supra omnia, quae possidet, constituet illum.

41 Ait autem Petrus: “ Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam an et ad omnes? ”.

42 Et dixit Dominus: “ Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituet dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram?

43 Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit ita facientem.

44 Vere dico vobis: Supra omnia, quae possidet, constituet illum.

45 Quod si dixerit servus ille in corde suo: “Moram facit dominus meus venire”, et coeperit percutere pueros et ancillas et edere et bibere et inebriari,

46 veniet dominus servi illius in die, qua non sperat, et hora, qua nescit, et dividet eum partemque eius cum infidelibus ponet.

47 Ille autem servus, qui cognovit voluntatem domini sui et non praeparavit vel non fecit secundum voluntatem eius, vapulabit multis;

48 qui autem non cognovit et fecit digna plagis, vapulabit paucis. Omni autem, cui multum  datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo; et cui commendaverunt multum, plus petent ab eo.

Luke Chapter 12:24-34

This is rather a jump back into the middle of the story from the last section. Jesus had just said that life is more than what we shall eat, and that the body is more than clothing. This followed after the story of the rich man who made plans for his surplus output without realising he was going to die that night. The theme is not to be concerned with things of the world, but to turn our eyes to heavenly things. So the extended metaphor continues.


24 κατανοήσατε τοὺς κόρακας ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδὲ θερίζουσιν, οἷς οὐκ ἔστιν ταμεῖον οὐδὲ ἀποθήκη, καὶ ὁ θεὸς τρέφει αὐτούς: πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμεῖς διαφέρετε τῶν πετεινῶν.

25 τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ προσθεῖναι πῆχυν;

Consider the ravens, that do not sow nor harvest, to whom (dative of possession) there is neither store-house nor barn, and God feeds them. To how much more do you matter than the birds? (25) Who of you is able to increase upon your age or add a cubit? (Presumably meaning to add to one’s height. A cubit is 18 inches; growing by a foot and a half would be a prodigious accomplishment.)

I would have been willing to wager actual hard currency that the sentiments expressed here and in the following set of verses appear elsewhere in the gospels. Well, I would have lost that bet because this material, pretty much the entire chapter, is unique to Luke. At some point a comment was made that Luke seemed to be compressing much of the material of the Triple Tradition, in a manner to suggest that Luke was hurrying to get through as much of the material as quickly as possible to leave room for his own unique material. IIRC from flipping through the rest of the gospel, we should get a fairly high percentage of this unique material in the remainder of the gospel. I’m going to defer comment in detail until after the next section.

That is, I will defer except to point this out. The word for “adding to” one’s life, is prostheinai.  This is the root of the word “prosthesis”, which is an artificial recreation of part of the human (or other) body.

24 Considerate corvos, quia non seminant neque metunt, quibus non est cellarium neque horreum, et Deus pascit illos; quanto magis vos pluris estis volucribus.

25 Quis autem vestrum cogitando potest adicere ad aetatem suam cubitum?

26 εἰ οὖν οὐδὲ ἐλάχιστον δύνασθε, τί περὶ τῶν λοιπῶν μεριμνᾶτε;

“Therefore if you are not able to do the least thing, Why would you be concerned about the rest?

Adding a cubit to one’s height isn’t a particularly small thing, IMO. I’d be 7’8″ tall, or thereabouts, and may have made it in the NBA. That’s quite a difference in outcome based on being able to change this aspect of my physique.

26 Si ergo neque, quod minimum est, potestis, quid de ceteris solliciti estis?

27 κατανοήσατε τὰ κρίνα πῶς αὐξάνει: οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει: λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ Σολομὼν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ περιεβάλετο ὡς ἓν τούτων.

28 εἰ δὲ ἐν ἀγρῷ τὸν χόρτον ὄντα σήμερον καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον βαλλόμενον ὁ θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέζει, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς, ὀλιγόπιστοι.

“Consider how the lilies grow, they neither toil nor spin. I say to you, that Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as these are. (28) But if the grass in the field being today, and tomorrow God throwing it into the furnace dressed such, how much better you, being of little faith.

The last word is highlighted. It is a compound word, oligo-pistoi, literally translated “little-faith”. It’s an interesting word. It does not occur in secular or pagan Greek. Thus it is a very unusual word, of very low frequency. How low, exactly? It occurs four times in Matthew, and here. That is a total of five instances. Now, the five instances we have does not mean it did not occur in other places; after all, so much Greek writing was lost, the stuff of literary quality, but also the lesser stuff. Think of something you wrote a decade ago, then threw away when the purpose had been served. Or perhaps something you wrote as a student, say in university. When those days ended (if they have) did you throw all that stuff away? I did. And some of it I had on floppy disks–the original 5″ versions that were floppy–even if I have the disks (which I doubt), the info on them may as well have been burned a decade ago. The point is that this word may have been more common than the five extant examples we have may indicate. 

Think about that, however. How often does this word get used in a secular context? No, it’s not impossible to do that, but the times I’ve used it there has been a level of facetiousness in the use, meant to reflect back onto its scriptural provenance. IOW, I’ve used it assuming that my audience would get the allusion to the NT. The point of all this is that it is not a word that Luke would likely have encountered very often. It’s not a common word. It occurs in Matthew–four separate times, in Chapters 6, 8. 14, & 18–and here. How plausible is it that this word just sort of occurred to Luke? Or, rather, is it more likely that Luke got this on his own, from some unknown source (which means we have another unknown source; they seem to be piling up thick and fast), or more likely that he got it by reading Matthew? This is a very serious question, and it’s not the first time we’ve asked it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking notes of these instances. Making these sorts of cross-comparisons seems to offer a much more fruitful avenue of pursuit than counting the occurrences of kai vs de. Those are such common words, and can come out more or less unconsciously; choosing a word like oligopistos, OTOH, is very deliberate and very conscious. This is especially true if there are several examples of this sort of borrowing of words from Matthew by Luke. And there have been several examples. I need to go back and collect them.

As for the actual content of these five verses taken collectively, they fit very nicely with another theme that we’ve mentioned in Luke. We’ve found it in the gospel as a whole, but it has been especially prominent in this particular chapter. It’s yet more on the theme of poverty. In this set of verses, the idea of not caring about riches is put in terms of letting God provide. This is, essentially, an admonition to asceticism. This was hardly a new concept, especially among Jews who were familiar with the Essenes. But by the time of Luke the Christian community was doubtless overwhelmingly pagan in origin. Among the pagans, asceticism was not quite as prominent as it was among Jews, and even there the Essenes were something of a fringe movement. Again, there is a pervasive sense among Christians–or amongst some Christian groups, anyway–that asceticism is sort of an expected ideal. This played a huge role in heretical movements of the High & Late Middle Ages, when the Waldensians, the Cathars, the Poor Friars wing of the Franciscans, and dozens of smaller groups advocated for what became termed “apostolic poverty”. But as we’ve been reading along, this sort of asceticism, or even the idea of asceticism was was practically nonexistent in Paul and Mark, and given short shrift in Matthew. It only begins to flourish now that we’ve come to Luke. He is the first strong proponent of asceticism as something to be embraced. Oh, we had the “eye of the needle” metaphor, but precious little else on this line. It is only now that it’s becoming incorporated into the mainline of Christian thought and practice. And of course, let us not forget the evolution from “blessed are the poor in spirit” to “blessed are the poor”. Far from being the more primitive version, Luke’s reading is the more developed of the two. The failure to recognise this goes hand in hand with kai/de counting; by getting too hung up in the details of the text, the overall message, and how it developed, get lost.

27 Considerate lilia quomodo crescunt: non laborant neque nent; dico autem vobis: Nec Salomon in omni gloria sua vestiebatur sicut unum ex istis.

28 Si autem fenum, quod hodie in agro est et cras in clibanum mittitur, Deus sic vestit, quanto magis vos, pusillae fidei.

29 καὶ ὑμεῖς μὴ ζητεῖτε τί φάγητε καὶ τί πίητε, καὶ μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε:

“And you do not seek what to eat and what to drink, and do not raise up.

Another highlighted word. I probably should have thought of this technique earlier. I have translated it according to its strictly technical, base meaning, which is to raise up. The word can also mean to elevate, especially with false hopes, and it can mean to be suffering from flatulence (I am not making that up). It can also mean to be anxious. By cross-referencing with the Latin, it’s a good bet that this latter is the intent in this particular passage. But the notation in Liddell & Scott is  “also, to be anxious, POxy. 1679.16 (iii A.D.), perh. in this sense Ev Luc 12:29″.

The thing to notice in this is the perhaps. Even Rev Scott did not completely feel completely confident in his rendering. Now, that translation makes sense, and it does square with the Vulgate, but boy howdy, it sure should serve as a cautionary tale on just how tentative and shaky a lot of these translations are.

29 Et vos nolite quaerere quid manducetis aut quid bibatis et nolite solliciti esse.

30 ταῦτα γὰρ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου ἐπιζητοῦσιν: ὑμῶν δὲ ὁ πατὴρ οἶδεν ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων.

31 πλὴν ζητεῖτε τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῦτα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

32 Μὴ φοβοῦ, τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον, ὅτι εὐδόκησεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δοῦναι ὑμῖν τὴν βασιλείαν.

“For these things all the people of the kosmos seek; the father of you knows that you have need of them. (31) Unless you seek the kingdom of him, and these things increase you. (32) Do not fear, o little flock, since (lit = that) the father of you is pleased to give you the kingdom.

A couple of quick notes. Jesus is addressing the disciples as, “o little flock”. This means, technically, that the noun is in the vocative case. This case is used to address someone, or something–as in this case. For a neuter second declension noun, the nominative and the vocative cases have the same ending, so it’s impossible to discern the difference w/o the context. The site that has my crib translations parses this as a nominative. A very minor detail. I bring it up, really, to clarify the translation.

And it strikes me that Luke is just referring to it as “the kingdom”. Not “of God” or “of heaven”, but just the kingdom. It strikes me, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily meaningful. It could just be one of those things. Or it could mean that Luke feels the reader is well aware that it is the kingdom of God, or of Heaven, and so it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Again, this would only be true, IMO, if Luke knew that there were two other gospels who had already and effectively made the point.

30 Haec enim omnia gentes mundi quaerunt; Pater autem vester scit quoniam his indigetis.

31 Verumtamen quaerite regnum eius; et haec adicientur vobis.

33 Πωλήσατε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὑμῶν καὶ δότε ἐλεημοσύνην: ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς βαλλάντια μὴ παλαιούμενα, θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ὅπου κλέπτης οὐκ ἐγγίζει οὐδὲ σὴς διαφθείρει:

34 ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρὸς ὑμῶν, ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ καρδία ὑμῶν ἔσται.

(33) “Sell the things (that are) of you and give the charity/alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not age, (and) treasure unfailing in the heavens, where thieves do not approach nor moths destroy. (34) For where your treasure is, there also is the heart of you”.

This last part, to some degree, is present in the other gospels. In Mark and Matthew, this injunction is spoken to a rich young man, prefatory to the “eye of the needle” maxim, which is missing here. So we have another instance where Luke has read something in Mark and then condensed much of it out. In fact, it could be argued that by removing the “eye of the needle” punchline Luke has cut out the most salient point of the lesson. Why would he do that? Because, once again, he is leaving out material that was covered completely by Mark and Matthew, and that retelling it a third time would gain nothing. Once again, he seems to be very much aware of what Mark AND Matthew have to say in this context, so he does not have Jesus direct this quip at some anonymous fellow who surfaces and disappears completely within a few verses. In those two tellings, Jesus tells the rich young man to follow the commandments, etc, and then, to be perfect, to sell what he has and give it all away. Here, he tells this to his disciples. I hope the distinction is clear: in M&M, it’s a one-off, instructions given to a stranger. Here, OTOH, the instruction is given to his disciples, to those most close to him. The implication is, as a result, very different. Jesus tells the young man to do this knowing (of course) that he will not. Here, I think, he tells his disciples to do this, knowing that they have already left everything behind and come to follow Jesus. Because in M&M, after the “eye of the needle”, the disciples ask how they can be saved if the rich cannot, and Jesus tells them that anyone who has left all he has to follow him has won a place in the kingdom. So in this section, Luke is compressing, and by a lot.

Let’s go back to poverty. You may, or may not, recall some of Paul’s whining about how he tried not to be a burden on the communities where he was staying and preaching. And, in Galatians, he contrasts his salutary behaviour with that of some of the other apostles, who remain nameless. These other apostles, Paul implies, apparently traveled with something like a retinue, that may have included their wives. Think–or, as Luke says, consider–about that in relation to the idea, or ideal of “apostolic poverty”. The two don’t quite fit together very effectively, do they? And, if we reflect further, we can infer–or deduce–that the idea of poverty as something that may have become aspirational, or considered a good end-in-itself may not trace back to Jesus at all. It may have been something that Paul introduced, albeit in limited fashion. Aside from the story of the rich young man that culminates in the “eye of the needle” and Jesus promising a reward to those who left everything behind to become followers, poverty is barely mentioned at all in Mark. Instead, Mark is much more concerned with how Jesus realises his magical feats. Mark tells us more about spit and making mud than he does about poverty. Matthew takes it only slightly further, by telling us that the “poor in spirit” are blessed. There may be a few additional references, but none that immediately come to mind–not that I have the Matthean corpus ad digitos, at my fingertips. Interestingly, Luke is the first evangelist (sort of; assuming Luke/Acts is the product of a single author) that we can be certain was aware of Paul; AND, Luke is the first who presents poverty itself, as a blessed state. “Blessed are the poor“.

It must also be noted that the emphasis on, or the concern with poverty perhaps should be attributed to James, brother of Jesus. One of his conditions in the deal he cut with Paul was that the latter should “remember the poor”. Later tradition associated James with a non-orthodox group called The Ebionites, which is generally considered to mean “the poor”. (To be fair, I have a very low opinion of later tradition; they made stuff up. So it’s a bit disingenuous of me to trot out “later tradition” as an argument in my favour. And disingenuous might be too kind; hypocritical might be more accurate.) So, with Luke, do we have a confluence of the Pauline with the Jacobian traditions? Or did the former subsume the poverty doctrine of the latter? There are all sorts of sub-currents here, or cross-currents, or flat-out contradictions. The period between Jesus’ death and Luke’s gospel was one of constant flux as different ideas, different emphases were ebbing and flowing; it is with Luke, more or less, that something like an actual church, with a hierarchy and oversight of doctrine starts to take real form. Before this, not so much. Tradition states the succession of bishops of Rome to be Peter, Linus, (Ana)Cletus, Clement…In the days of my youth the recitation of these names was part of the Consecration of the Eucharist, and said at most masses in the Roman Rite. Clement is the first we can nail down because we have a letter he wrote to the church of Corinth; his dates are, traditionally, 88-99 (always, always, give or take). That would put him at the point when Luke was writing; and Luke’s writing (again, assuming Luke/Acts) ends with Paul traveling to Rome–not exactly of his own volition, of course. Hmmm. Interesting coincidences. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but nowhere in Acts does “Luke” say that Peter was the first bishop, or even a bishop, of Rome. 

No doubt I would have gotten marks off for that last paragraph. It started with poverty and ended with the bishops of Rome. The point is, or was, or should have been, that the fifty or so years between Jesus’ death and the time Luke wrote it is probably wholly inappropriate to think of a single, orthodox Christianity. After Luke, we have conscious attempts to create one, and these attempts were met with some success. The proto-orthodox doctrines included the idea/ideal of poverty whereas most earlier traditions probably did not. As such, this emphasis, or the peculiar blessed state of poverty, almost certainly does not trace back to Jesus.

32 Noli timere, pusillus grex, quia complacuit Patri vestro dare vobis regnum.

33 Vendite, quae possidetis, et date eleemosynam. Facite vobis sacculos, qui non veterescunt, thesaurum non deficientem in caelis, quo fur non appropiat, neque tinea corrumpit;

34 ubi enim thesaurus vester est, ibi et cor vestrum erit.

Luke Chapter 12:13-23

To start, much of the rest of the chapter does not provide any truly clean breaks into manageable sections. This is itself interesting; does Luke present a more unified, unitary account of some of these teachings? One that doesn’t seem just to be a bunch of separate sayings strung together like beads of different stones?

We last saw Jesus telling the disciples not to worry about what to say when arrested and hauled before the magistrates. What was not said about this is that the episode is probably anachronistic. This more likely relates to a period after Jesus’ death, when the nascent movement was under some “pressure” from authorities. So this was one of those post-eventum “prophecies”. We discussed this at some length when this story occurred in both Mark and Matthew, so it didn’t seem worth repeating. However, it should be borne in mind. One thing that just occurred to me is that it may have been James who gave an admonition in this vein. He may not have, but it would have been appropriate during the time when he was the leader of the movement in Jerusalem. Even the concept of the sacred breath as expounded demonstrates a level of development that goes beyond the simple understanding and use of the term. However, all of this is looking backwards; rather, let us look forward to the rest of the


13 Εἶπεν δέ τις ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπὲ τῷ ἀδελφῷ μου μερίσασθαι μετ’ ἐμοῦ τὴν κληρονομίαν.

14 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἄνθρωπε, τίς με κατέστησεν κριτὴν ἢ μεριστὴν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς;

15 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ.

Someone from the crowd said to him (Jesus), “Teacher, tell my brother to apportion with me our inheritance”. (14) He (Jesus) said to him (the speaker) “Dude, who designated me judge of which is the portion upon you (plural)? (15) Then he said to them, “See and guard from all covetousness (lit = something like ‘filling up’) that in the overabundance is the life of him is not from those (things) ruling over him. ( less literally = that the overabundance [of possessions] is not the ruling [principle] in his life )

I was dead certain that this exchange was in both of the other two gospels; as it turns out, it’s in neither. This is unique to Luke. As such, I’m simply going to note the admonition against greed, and move on to the next sections, in which Jesus develops the theme.

I do just want to comment on the set-up question. Is this an indication of how Jesus–or more likely James–had come to be seen by contemporaries? As a person who brings justice by insisting that inheritances be shared equally among heirs? As a cultural Christian who went to a Catholic elementary school, I have to say that this is not the sort of role I would think of when considering my stereotypical Jesus. I don’t have any sort of answer, or even any sort of resolution to this question. But I think it’s important that it be asked.

13 Ait autem quidam ei de turba: “ Magister, dic fratri meo, ut dividat mecum hereditatem ”.

14 At ille dixit ei: “ Homo, quis me constituit iudicem aut divisorem super vos? ”.

15 Dixitque ad illos: “ Videte et cavete ab omni avaritia, quia si cui res abundant, vita eius non est ex his, quae possidet ”.

16 Εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων, Ἀνθρώπου τινὸς πλουσίου εὐφόρησεν ἡ χώρα.

17 καὶ διελογίζετο ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Τί ποιήσω, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχω ποῦ συνάξω τοὺς καρπούς μου;

18 καὶ εἶπεν, Τοῦτο ποιήσω: καθελῶ μου τὰς ἀποθήκας καὶ μείζονας οἰκοδομήσω, καὶ συνάξω ἐκεῖ πάντα τὸν σῖτον καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου,

19 καὶ ἐρῶτῇ ψυχῇ μου, Ψυχή, ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά: ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός, Ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ: ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται;

21 οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ καὶ μὴ εἰς θεὸν πλουτῶν.

22 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς [αὐτοῦ], Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ τί φάγητε, μηδὲ τῷ σώματι τί ἐνδύσησθε.

23 ἡ γὰρ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν τῆς τροφῆς καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος.

He spoke a parable towards them. “There was a certain wealthy man, the country of whom brought forth riches. (17) And he said within himself saying, ‘What shall I do, that I do not have where to gather my grain?’ (18) And he said, ‘I will do this. I will take down my storehouses and I will build bigger (ones), and I will gather there all the grain and (all) my good things. (19) And I will say to my inner self, “Inner self, you have many good things and laid out are many years (less lit = I have many years to live). Rest, eat, drink, and rejoice”.’ (20) But God said to him, ‘Fool! this very night your life I will take from you. Ready yourself, and to who will it (your wealth) be?’ (21) Thus was the treasure of him and not of God was his wealth”. (22) He said to his disciples, “Through this I speak to you, do not care in life what you eat, nor for the body what you wear. (23) For life is more than what you eat, and your body (is more than) its clothing”.

First, let’s talk about the uses of the word psyche. In Verse 19, we are told he spoke to his psyche, by saying, Psyche, I have much goods…Three of my four crib translations render this as …he said to his soul, “Soul…” I don’t know about you, but that does not sound like idiomatic English to my ear. This is where we run into all those problems with psyche = soul. The NIV renders it as “…he said to himself…” That is idiomatic English. And so it is with psyche. Soul is one possible meaning, and it may be the most common possible meaning, but the correlation between the Greek psyche and English soul is not very exact. There is some overlap; in English, while soul can have the sense of “oneself”, it almost never does. It can refer to a life, or more correctly, a person, as in the sense of a “lost soul”, but I have never run across someone saying, “O, soul” in the sense of speaking to oneself. Yet, that is how this passage is frequently rendered. Maybe it made sense when the KJV was printed, but that sense is long since lost. 

With that out of the way, let’s look at the overall sense of the passage. As noted, this is unique to Luke. The theme is wealth, and the disparagement of the wealthy. When we realize that the story of Dives (Wealth) and Lazarus is also in Luke, and unique to Luke, then maybe we can sense a theme? And this is why I don’t think it can be taken as a given that “blessed are the poor” is in any sense more “primitive” than “blessed are the poor in spirit”. The first is a reflection of the current conditions; the second is excusing those conditions. My apologies, but that’s what it does, even if that isn’t the intended point of the words–but I fully believe it is/was. On reflection, I need to step down from my statement. Of course there is a way in which Luke’s is more “primitive”, because casuistry is, necessarily, a sophisticated activity. And to classify Matthew’s aphorism as “casuistry” is another very strong statement; but this is not one I feel the need to calibrate more precisely. The point is that, taking this story, that of Dives and Lazarus, and “blessed are the poor” we have at least the framework of a theme. Luke is concerned about the poor, perhaps more so than the other two we’ve read. And Luke has the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, so perhaps he has a bit more to say about how we should live overall. Because that is the other theme of this particular section, the reason I found it hard to split it up more. Do care about eating or clothing, or laying up treasure–again with the wealth–that is of this world. So don’t care about wealth, love your neighbour–who is, at least could be,  someone you despise–don’t worry about the trappings of life. This is an overall prescription for how to live, based on a non-admiration of money. So “blessed are the poor” isn’t primitive; it’s an imperative.

In fact, far from being the “primitive” version of this pericope Luke presents us with the more developed. The ending, that life is more than food etc is unique to Luke. So is the bit about the ravens. In an act of serious disrespect, Burton Mack includes Luke’s unique material as part of Q. Of course he does. So can a proponent of Q explain why Matthew omitted this? And it should be redactionally consistent with the reasoning for leaving all the other stuff out that is unique to Luke. To Mack’s credit, he does not include the parable of The Clueless Landowner; apparently, Luke is granted some credit for originality. Plus, it seems like this emphasis on poverty has developed since the time Matthew wrote, and even more so since Mark wrote. True textual analysis would not simply focus on just the words–like the kai/de occurrences–but should focus just as much–more?–on what the words are saying. How is what Matthew says different from what Mark says, and how is Luke different from both? Then we take these differences and see if the themes presented have changed at all. The biggest example is Jesus’ divinity in Mark vs in Matthew & Luke; the latter two are similar on this theme, but John takes it several steps further. That is, the theme has developed over time, and through time. The failure–more like refusal–of the Q proponents to have these discussions represents something akin to intellectual malpractice, and it makes it difficult to treat a lot of NT scholarship as serious scholarship.

16 Dixit autem similitudinem ad illos dicens: “Hominis cuiusdam divitis uberes fructus ager attulit.

17 Et cogitabat intra se dicens: “Quid faciam, quod non habeo, quo congregem fructus meos?”.

18 Et dixit: “Hoc faciam: destruam horrea mea et maiora aedificabo et illuc congregabo omne triticum et bona mea;

19 et dicam animae meae: Anima, habes multa bona posita in annos plurimos; requiesce, comede, bibe, epulare”.

20 Dixit autem illi Deus: “Stulte! Hac nocte animam tuam repetunt a te; quae autem parasti, cuius erunt?”.

21 Sic est qui sibi thesaurizat et non fit in Deum dives”.

22 Dixitque ad discipulos suos: “Ideo dico vobis: nolite solliciti esse animae quid manducetis, neque corpori quid vestiamini.

23 Anima enim plus est quam esca, et corpus quam vestimentum.


Luke Chapter 12:1-12 – Updated & Revised

Apologies for the long hiatus. The real world can intrude into the life of a blogger!

So on to Chapter 12. Completing this chapter will put us half-way through the gospel. I believe this is more Q stuff, and I believe it corresponds to material in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I prefer Luke’s arrangement of Matthew’s material; I found that having three successive chapters of Jesus’ lessons got to be a bit tiresome. Granted, that may just be a symptom of my anti-Q bias; but it is equally probable that the insistence on Matthew’s “masterful arrangement” is simply a manufactured argument created to bolster the “case” for Q.


1 Ἐν οἷς ἐπισυναχθεισῶν τῶν μυριάδων τοῦ ὄχλου, ὥστε καταπατεῖν ἀλλήλους, ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ πρῶτον, Προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης, ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισις, τῶν Φαρισαίων.

In those days having gathered myriads of the crowd, so that they were trampling each other, he began to speak to his disciples first, “Take heed amongst yourselves from the yeast, which is hypocricy, of the Pharisees. 

This is interesting. First of all, “myriad” means both 10,000 or simply “a whole lot”. So either Luke is telling us that there were 20 or 30,000 people in the crowd, or simply that the crowd was very large. It’s rather a more literary description than we have gotten from the other two; whether it should be taken literally, however, is another matter. Regardless, I like the bit about them trampling upon each other. This is a novel detail, and it’s the sort of thing that leads me to refer to Luke as the novelist of the Evangelists.

Second, this is a serious case of misdirection. By opening with the size of the crowd, one might expect that we were embarking on a retelling of the feeding of 5,000 or something. Instead, we get a warning about the yeast of the Pharisees. In either Mark or Matthew, this warning comes up as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and they had forgotten to bring bread, and the disciples thought that Jesus was making reference to that lack of provision. Given that this makes the disciples look like dolts, chances are this setting was in Mark. OK, upon further review, turns out it’s in both gospels. 

1 Interea multis turbis circumstantibus, ita ut se invicem conculcarent, coepit dicere ad discipulos suos primum: “Attendite a fermento pharisaeorum, quod est hypocrisis.

2 οὐδὲν δὲ συγκεκαλυμμένον ἐστὶν ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. 

3 ἀνθ’ ὧν ὅσα ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτὶ ἀκουσθήσεται, καὶ ὃ πρὸς τὸ οὖς ἐλαλήσατε ἐν τοῖς ταμείοις κηρυχθήσεται ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων.

“For nothing is covered up which shall not be spread about, and nothing is is hidden which will not be known. (3) Against which however much you speak in the shadows, in the light will be heard, and about which those things you speak inside will be proclaimed upon the house. 

This is a really interesting passage. We heard this sentiment expressed in Matthew, but Luke has recast the vocabulary and the metaphors with some real literary flair. At least, I consider it literary flair; this is, after all, a value judgement, like the one that says Matthew’s arrangement of the Q material was so masterful. Regardless, it indicates a very deliberate and conscious effort on Luke’s part to add a new twist to the words that came to him. Whether these words came from Q or Matthew is not the issue here; at least, it’s not entirely the issue. Because with me, that’s always the issue, or at least part of it. There are two things to note here. 

We’ve already brought up the issue of the more literary quality here. Second, Luke’s version is longer than that of Matthew. Why? I am very willing to bet that none of the Q proponents has ever bothered to explain that fact. Put together, these two observations would, seemingly, blow a huge hole in the idea that Luke retains the more is the more primitive version of Q of the two gospels, wouldn’t it?  Of course, Q proponents say that Luke is the more primitive, except when he isn’t. IOW, they are not terribly consistent about this, which is interesting since they demand the redactionally consistent explanation for every instance in which Luke deviates from Matthew. What about when Matthew deviates so glaringly from the Q text–taking “Q” as equivalent to “Luke”, which is standard in the Q argument–as Matthew does in this quote? Do we get explanations for those cases? Of course not. Only those attempting to refute Q have to be consistent.

2 Nihil autem opertum est, quod non reveletur, neque absconditum, quod non sciatur.

3 Quoniam, quae in tenebris dixistis, in lumine audientur; et, quod in aurem locuti estis in cubiculis, praedicabitur in tectis.

4 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν τοῖς φίλοις μου, μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεινόντων τὸ σῶμα καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα μὴ ἐχόντων περισσότερόν τι ποιῆσαι.

5 ὑποδείξω δὲ ὑμῖν τίνα φοβηθῆτε: φοβήθητε τὸν μετὰ τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι ἔχοντα ἐξουσίαν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, τοῦτον φοβήθητε.

“I say to you my friends, do not fear from those killing the body and afterwards not having anything more to do. (5) I will demonstrate to you something you should fear: fear the one after the killing having power to throw you into Gehenna. Yes, I say to you, you should fear this. 

Once again, let’s remind ourselves of the context here. Jesus & crew are in the midst of an innumerable multitude, in a crowd so dense that they are stepping on each other. And yet, Jesus turns to his disciples first, and starts talking about the Pharisees. Then he starts talking about killing the body and throwing it into Gehenna. If he spoke to the disciples first, is he still speaking to them solely? Or has he  turned to the wider crowd? In both Mark and Matthew, these speeches of Jesus occur in situations in which Jesus is alone with the disciples. 

So why does Luke change the surroundings? I do not have a ready answer for that. However, as I see it, what matters is that Luke did change the surroundings. There is a lot made of how Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark when it comes to placement of stories. He does, however, frequently disagree with both Mark and Matthew when the latter two agree. Luke does not scruple not only to change the location of the story in the narrative flow, but he also has no qualms about changing the actual setting, the physical circumstances that existed around Jesus when he delivers his message. The fact that Luke consistently does this in situations where M&M agree, but not when Matthew disagrees with Mark should not be seen as coincidental. It happens too often, and only in this one direction.

4 Dico autem vobis amicis meis: Ne terreamini ab his, qui occidunt corpus et post haec non habent amplius, quod faciant.

5 Ostendam autem vobis quem timeatis: Timete eum, qui postquam occiderit, habet potestatem mittere in gehennam. Ita dico vobis: Hunc timete.

6 οὐχὶ πέντε στρουθία πωλοῦνται ἀσσαρίων δύο; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔστιν ἐπιλελησμένον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

7 ἀλλὰ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν πᾶσαι ἠρίθμηνται. μὴ φοβεῖσθε: πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε.

“Are not two sparrows sold for five (small coins)? And one of them is not forgotten (= not one of them is forgotten) before God. (7) But also the hairs of your heads are all numbered. Do not fear: you are different from many sparrows.

Just a few comments on the Greek. The term assarios is not at all common in Greek of any sort. The only translation I can find is “farthing”, which is an English coin no longer in use, which was equal to a quarter of a penny. Obviously, no one in the ancient world was buying and selling with English currency. Nor is the Latin any help. The word is dipundio, which means two-pundi (or something). So this is is the first example of a consensus translation in the two verses. Obviously, in this case, the meaning is clear enough; the comparison is to something very inexpensive, and sparrows are about as common–and therefore cheap–as they come. The price quoted would be the cost to purchase these sparrows for sacrifice in the Temple. As I said, this is a very uncommon word; it does, however, appear in both Luke and Matthew. Can you guess where we are going with this? How likely is it that a source that claims to be words of Jesus would use such a rare word? Would Jesus have used such a word? Almost certainly not. Would the collector of the sayings that became Q use the word? Impossible to be sure, unlikely in the extreme. It would depend on the literary chops of the collector. But let’s do a thought experiment: we know that Mark does indeed represent a more “primitive” version of the gospel than either of the other two. One salient aspect of this primitivism is the rather poor quality of Mark’s Greek. If Q dates back to shortly after the time of Jesus, then for the compiler of Q to use a word like assarios, we have to conclude that the compiler is more adept in Greek than Mark was. Does that make sense? For the compilation of Q to date back to Jesus, the aggregation would needs have been done by an early follower. Such early followers were probably Jewish/Aramaic in background; that is, they were probably not native Greek speakers, and they probably were not well enough educated to be able to write Greek.

So who was this compiler? That question is never addressed, let alone answered. There is no hypothetical discussion of this. There are a number of anonymous Greek texts dealing with political life in Athens. The controversy about who these authors were–or, at least, what sort of background they had–is fierce and contentious. My favourite attribution is to someone referred to as the “Old Oligarch”, the author of a text not terribly fond of the idea of democracy. And yet in the Q discussion, there is absolutely nothing. Crickets, as the common vernacular would put it. This is not surprising since there is essentially no discussion of the vocabulary of Q in itself, let alone any discussion of the content of the sayings of Q; do they fit the period of the 30s? Or do they seem to fit a much later period? This would be a very fruitful discussion to have.

On the other hand, we know that Matthew was rather adept at Greek. He had a decidedly large and rather sophisticated vocabulary; and Luke exceeded Matthew on both accounts. So ask yourself this question: is this word more likely to have originated in the text of some lesser-educated, non-Greek compiler, or from the pen of someone much more educated and likely much more fluent in Greek? The answer seems pretty obvious to me. By no means a slam-dunk, but nothing is in NT studies. IMO, it’s much more likely that the word came from Matthew, and was then copied by Luke.

The second consensus translation is diapherete. Here, the sense of the text is that the disciples are valued more than a sparrow, hardly an earth-shaking statement. The problem is that this is not what the word really means in Classical Greek. In my favourite quote from Marcus Aurelius, written in his Meditations, is the expression “many grains of incense on the same altar. One falls first, then another. There is no difference”. The last four English words are expressed in Greek as diapherei d’ouden. That is, the word used is the same as here. Except in Aurelius, it means there is no difference, and this is one of the standard meanings of the word in Greek. And please to note, Meditations was written about a century after the NT. So it’s not a case that the meaning of the word had evolved by the time Luke wrote. Now, in this case, the Latin very clearly says ‘you are worth more than many sparrows’, so I will have to concede this point. St Jerome knew his Greek much better than I ever could. But it is very interesting to note that Matthew uses the word consistently to mean “is of more value”. Luke only uses the word once, but he uses it exactly like Matthew does, and in an identical pericope. Yes, of course, the word is in Q. However, the word is rare in the NT. It is used by Paul in Gal 4:1, but he uses it as M Aurelius does: to mean “different”. This is, admittedly, very weak evidence on my part, but it adds yet one more straw–however thin and slight it may be–to the burden on the back of the camel that is carrying the “argument” for Q.

6 Nonne quinque passeres veneunt dipundio? Et unus ex illis non est in oblivione coram Deo.

7 Sed et capilli capitis vestri omnes numerati sunt. Nolite timere; multis passeribus pluris estis.

8 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁμολογήσει ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ:

9 ὁ δὲ ἀρνησάμενός με ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρνηθήσεται ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ.

“I say to you, all who speak the same as me before men, and the son of man will speak the same as him before the angels of God. (9) But the one denying me before men will be denied before the angels of god. 

Just a quick question: where did the angels come from? The couple of restored versions of Q that I’ve checked include the angels in the text. IOW, once again, or by default, Luke is the more primitive version, so if Luke has angels, then Q obviously had angels. The logic supporting this conclusion is atrocious. It’s a combination of circularity and post hoc ergo propter hoc. There is no coherent or consistent case for taking Luke as the more primitive version aside from the fact that he doesn’t say “our father” and he says “blessed are the poor”, omitting the “in spirit” of Matthew. Yes, there are a few other such instances, but there is no way that they add up to a satisfactory argument that can be used to take Luke’s “primitivity” as a given. I see absolutely no reason to take the inclusion of angels here as an indication of the older version. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is an understanding of angels in a sense somewhat divorced from the idea of a messenger

BTW: homologein literally means speak the same, but it more idiomatically means to agree. Here, however, it is taken as to confess, as in, to acknowledge. If you sneak a peek at the Latin (which I encourage; that’s why it’s there), you will see confessus, so the etymology is apparent. So, it’s stretching the original meaning of the word, but we’ve experienced worse.

8 Dico autem vobis: Omnis, quicumque confessus fuerit in me coram hominibus, et Filius hominis confitebitur in illo coram angelis Dei;

9 qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, denegabitur coram angelis Dei.

10 καὶ πᾶς ὃς ἐρεῖ λόγον εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ: τῷ δὲ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα βλασφημήσαντι οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται.

11 ὅταν δὲ εἰσφέρωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐπὶ τὰς συναγωγὰς καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας, μὴ  μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί ἀπολογήσησθε ἢ τί εἴπητε:

12 τὸ γὰρ ἅγιον πνεῦμα διδάξει ὑμᾶς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἃ δεῖ εἰπεῖν.

“And all who will speak a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven to him. To him against the sacred breath they blaspheme, it will not be forgiven,. (11) When they bring you in upon the synagogues and the magistrates and those in authority, do not be concerned how either you will defend yourselves or what you will say. (12) For the sacred breath will teach you in that hour what must be said.”

My first reaction when we went from stuff being shouted from the rooftops to not being afraid of those who can only kill the body, it seemed like we had a non sequitur. However, after reading the whole section that we’ve just finished, I see the overall structure more completely. It is:

  • do not fear those killing the body;
  • you are worth more than sparrows, and God cares for them;
  • just be faithful to me (Jesus) before men and I will be faithful to you before of men;
  • but have a care not to blaspheme against the sacred breath;
  • for it will be the sacred breath telling you what to say when you’re on trial before those men–who happen to have authority.

So, yeah, that works. With one possible exception: what happened to the huge crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands? What was that all about? It would make sense if this fell into, say, the Sermon on the Mount in corresponding section of Matthew; Jesus was talking to a crowd there as well. But here? Not so much. Perhaps if I be but patient, the purpose of the crowd will become apparent.

10 Et omnis, qui dicet verbum in Filium hominis, remittetur illi; ei autem, qui in Spiritum Sanctum blasphemaverit, non remittetur.

11 Cum autem inducent vos in synagogas et ad magistratus et potestates, nolite solliciti esse qualiter aut quid respondeatis aut quid dicatis:

12 Spiritus enim Sanctus docebit vos in ipsa hora, quae oporteat dicere ”.

Luke Chapter 11:37-54

Note: It appears that WordPress has “improved” or “upgraded” the website. One of these “improvements” was the removal of my preferred font. The default is not something I particularly like, largely because it doesn’t to justice to the Greek. I have changed the font here on the website, supposedly, but on the page where I do my drafts I’m stuck with the default font. I hope it looks acceptable from your perspective.

This section concerns the “Woes” to the Pharisees and and others. This is Luke’s version of Matthew 23:14 ff. And, since this doesn’t occur in Mark, it’s Q material. This is the second such “Woes” section in Luke, and there are two in Matthew as well. The other “Woes” passage extends these woes unto a list of cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida. & c. So here comes the question: why are the two sections separated? Would it not make sense for to “curse” these cities and the Pharisees at the same time? For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the text of Q that Matthew and Luke used the two lists of woes were indeed in separate sections of the text. Is it reasonable to assume that it did not occur to either evangelist to consolidate these two groups of woes? We are constantly told that Luke and Matthew arranged the Q material very differently. Fine. But it seems kind of odd that neither of them saw fit to put the two sections into one. Rather, it seems more like Luke followed Matthew in this case. In both, the woes to the cities occurs first in the gospel, followed up at some later point (much later in Matthew) with the woes to the Pharisees.

Again, there is nothing really here that is at all convincing as an argument for Q. Based on the way that Luke split up the Sermon on the Mount material, there is a suggestion that Luke wasn’t as fond of very long sections of speech the way Matthew was. The Sermon fills Chapters 5, 6, and 7. I did not find this particularly “masterful”. I found it to be a bunch of one-off sentiments all packed together. I find the way Luke scatters these out a bit to be more congenial to my taste. However, when the suggestion that Luke prefers shorter segments is raised, the Q people start tossing off examples of how Luke goes on and on about this subject or that. True enough, I suppose, but there is nothing in Luke to compare to the three-chapter block that is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Whatever, let’s get to the


37 Ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι ἐρωτᾷ αὐτὸν Φαρισαῖος ὅπως ἀριστήσῃ παρ’ αὐτῷ: εἰσελθὼν δὲ ἀνέπεσεν.

38 ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου.

39 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος πρὸς αὐτόν, Νῦν ὑμεῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τοῦ πίνακος καθαρίζετε, τὸ δὲ ἔσωθεν ὑμῶν γέμει ἁρπαγῆς καὶ πονηρίας.

40 ἄφρονες, οὐχ ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔξωθεν καὶ τὸ ἔσωθεν ἐποίησεν;

41 πλὴν τὰ ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην, καὶ ἰδοὺ πάντα καθαρὰ ὑμῖν ἐστιν.

During the conversation (lit = in the speaking) a Pharisee asked him whether he (Jesus) might dine with him (the Pharisee); going in, they sat down (38) The Pharisee seeing marveled that first he did not baptize before the dinner. (39) And the lord said to him, “Now you, o Pharisees, clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but what is inside you is full of greed and wickedness. (40) Fools! It is what you do outside, or what you do inside? (41) Except for the being inside (internal attitude) you give alms, and behold, all is clean to you”. 

To get it out of the way, here is an instance when the word “to baptize” is used in a thoroughly secular, mundane, and ordinary manner for “to wash”. It is very important to remember that “baptize” and “angel” and “grace” are sacred words as used by the authors of the NT. They only became sacred words after a few centuries of Christian thinking, and then the Western church was heavily influenced by the translation of these words from Greek into Latin. “Baptize” simply means “to wash”; an “angel” is any messenger; “grace” means any sort of favour; it does not necessarily have the connotation of “free” (i.e., “gratis”) in Greek that it has in Latin, and has come to have in English. Think of a “grace period” when paying a bill (quite common in the insurance industry). While we’re on the topic of the language, in the last verse the two clauses are joined by << καὶ >>. The great majority of the time, this is the standard word for and. However, at the beginning of the Platonic dialogue The Symposion, there is a famous passage where the meaning hinges on << καὶ >> meaning or, rather than and. Indeed, much of the entire dialogue hinges on this meaning. And so here, too << καὶ >> has to be translated as or. I tried a number of things, and decided that it has to be or.

Perhaps the other remarkable thing is the way Jesus turns on his host. Yikes! No being polite here. And this is an important example to remember when dealing with things that are wrong in current culture. Jesus would not sit down and shut up when presented with social wrongs; he would have stood up and spoken out. That is how a true Christian acts, IMO. Now I’ve just deviated from historical analysis into religious interpretation. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Finally, there is the subject of the outburst. Jewish practice at the time was very concerned with what is called “ritual cleanliness”. This means that externals carried a lot of weight, especially as applied to religious ritual, but even in such things as washing before meals. This, of course, became kosher practices, where the way an animal is slaughtered is very important. I do not want to get into it, but a lot of the kosher practices made a certain amount of sense in days before refrigeration; however, that is not the topic here. This insistence on outward ritual over the inner attitude is what has led Christians to teach that Judaism was a very formalistic, legalistic religion, more a set of rituals than an inner way of viewing the world. Now, this accusation is not completely without merit; however, in the context of the times, it was not an unusual attitude. More, given that some of the practices dated back several hundred years (I am a late dater of the HS; I do not believe that Moses lived in the 13th Century BCE, or that he lived at all, e.g.) these attitudes towards ritual purity were very common. Much of Greek religious practice had a similar outlook; this is why the standard explanation for the success of Christianity was that pagan religions did not satisfy the “inner person”. They were all cold and ritualistic, lacking in “emotional appeal”. While there is some truth to this, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It does account, perhaps, for the growing popularity of the so-called “mystery religions”, such as the cult of Isis as described in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius (aka The Golden Ass, in some translations). The point being, there would have been some truth–perhaps–to Jesus saying this, but it does not deserve the degree of criticism that has come to be heaped upon Judaism. Then again, I am the product of a brand of Catholicism as practiced in a certain time, long ago, and a in a galaxy far away.

As I so (too?) often do, I’m going to take this a step further, but not until after the next section.

37 Et cum loqueretur, rogavit illum quidam pharisaeus, ut pranderet apud se; et ingressus recubuit.

38 Pharisaeus autem videns miratus est quod non baptizatus esset ante prandium.

39 Et ait Dominus ad illum: “Nunc vos pharisaei, quod de foris est calicis et catini, mundatis; quod autem intus est vestrum, plenum est rapina et iniquitate.

40 Stulti! Nonne, qui fecit, quod de foris est, etiam id, quod de intus est, fecit?

41 Verum tamen, quae insunt, date eleemosynam; et ecce omnia munda sunt vobis.

42 ἀλλὰ οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ πήγανον καὶ πᾶν λάχανον, καὶ παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ: ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ παρεῖναι.

43 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀγαπᾶτε τὴν πρωτοκαθεδρίαν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς.

44 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι ἐστὲ ὡς τὰ μνημεῖα τὰ ἄδηλα, καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι [οἱ] περιπατοῦντες ἐπάνω οὐκ οἴδασιν.

45 Ἀποκριθεὶς δέ τις τῶν νομικῶν λέγει αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα λέγων καὶ ἡμᾶς ὑβρίζεις.

46 ὁδὲ εἶπεν, Καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς οὐαί, ὅτι φορτίζετε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φορτία δυσβάστακτα, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἑνὶ τῶν δακτύλων ὑμῶν οὐ προσψαύετε τοῖς φορτίοις.

“But woe to you, Pharisees, that tithe the mint and the rue (a plant) and all the herbs, and pass without heeding (all in the verb) the judgement and the love of God. These things had to be done and not let go by the wayside (all in the verb). (43) Woe to you, Pharisees, that love the first seats in the synagogues and the salutations in the marketplace. (44) Woe to you, that are as unseen tombs, and men passing by do not know”. (45) Answering, one of the lawyers said to him, “Teacher, saying these things and you insult us”. (46) Then he said, “And woe to you, lawyers, that burden men, loading with burdens grievous to be borne, and they on they one of your fingers do not touch the burdens (i.e., you don’t lift a finger to help). 

Well, the opinion of lawyers sure hasn’t changed much in the last 2,000 years or so, has it? I am going to defer the rest until the end.

42 Sed vae vobis pharisaeis, quia decimatis mentam et rutam et omne holus et praeteritis iudicium et caritatem Dei! Haec autem oportuit facere et illa non omittere.

43 Vae vobis pharisaeis, quia diligitis primam cathedram in synagogis et salutationes in foro!

44 Vae vobis, quia estis ut monumenta, quae non parent, et homines ambulantes supra nesciunt! ”.

45 Respondens autem quidam ex legis peritis ait illi: “ Magister, haec dicens etiam nobis contumeliam facis ”.

46 At ille ait: “ Et vobis legis peritis: Vae, quia oneratis homines oneribus, quae portari non possunt, et ipsi uno digito vestro non tangitis sarcinas!”

47 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν προφητῶν, οἱ δὲ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτούς.

48 ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς ὑμεῖς δὲ οἰκοδομεῖτε.

49 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν, Ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν,

50 ἵνα ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης,

51 ἀπὸ αἵματος Αβελ ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίουτοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.

52 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς, ὅτι ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως: αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε καὶ τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.

53 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι δεινῶς ἐνέχειν καὶ ἀποστοματίζειν αὐτὸν περὶ πλειόνων,

54 ἐνεδρεύοντες αὐτὸν θηρεῦσαί τι ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ.

“Woe to you, that build monuments of the prophets, but your fathers killed them. (48) You are witnesses and give your consent to the deeds of your fathers, that they (the fathers) killed them (the prophets) you build. (49) Through this also the wisdom of god says, “I send to them prophets and apostles, and from them they will kill and persecute, (50) so that the blood of all the prophets having been poured out may have been sought from the foundations of the cosmos, from this generation, (51) from the blood of Abel until the blood of Zacharias being killed between the altar and his house. Yes, I say to you, it has been sought from this generation. (52) Woe to you lawyers, that take up the key of knowledge; you do not enter and those who do enter you kill. (53) And then he having gone out the Scribes and the Pharisees began sorely to hold with him and teach him by dictation regarding many things. (54) Laying snares to hunt him for something from his mouth.

First, the Greek. In V53, the second word always means go, specifically to go out. This is because it has the prefix ek attached, which means out. However, in the vacuum-sealed world of NT Greek, this manages to get translated as “come”. I suspect that Luke may have gotten himself muddled. It happens. The bit about “entering” refers, I think, to the Kingdom of God. The lawyers are a malevolent force keeping people out. Why is this? But that’s off-topic from the Greek. The last thing is the word I translated as teach him by dictation. This is an extremely rare word in Classical Greek, and it occurs exactly once in the NT. As such, there is no real context to help us determine what this word means as it is used by Luke. We can’t compare it in other contexts. All of my crib translations, of which there are now five (the CPDV having appeared unbidden; not even sure what that stands for) all do a more or less lousy job of slurring over the word, which is << ἀποστοματίζειν >> for those of you keeping score at home. They render it in a fashion of what they believe it should mean, as they interpret it. To make matters interesting, the root of the word is << στομα >>, which means mouth. It appears in the form << στόματος >> in the last verse, which I garbled as hunting for something from his mouth, in the sense of getting him to say something they could use against him in a court of law. Anyway, the bottom line, I think, is that Luke here is being too clever with his Greek in this passage, and he gets caught up in it. The think about a language like Greek is that even a native speaker can have trouble writing decent prose, but that can be said about English, too.   

Second, the reference. Zacharias was murdered by King Joash in 2 Chronicles, 24:21-21. That is an obscure reference. Hmm…one wonders if Luke is playing “I can top that” regarding non-obvious citations of the HS. Recall Matthew did stuff like that, starting with putting Jesus in Nazareth “so he will be called a Nazarene…” (Matthew 2:23, ref’g Isaiah). It sure does seem like Luke has a thing going with Matthew, doesn’t it? Perhaps not to everyone, but sure seems like it to me.

Let’s stop and think about the context of all this for a moment. As noted in the intro to the section, this is supposedly part of Q because it’s in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. As part of Q, it supposedly dates back to the time of Jesus, if perhaps not to Jesus himself. But think about it: Jesus is condemning groups of people prominent in Jewish culture. Why is he doing this? Because they haven’t gotten on board with Jesus’ message. But how do we know that, if Jesus is still alive? Isn’t this the sort of thing that would make more sense if it were said a generation or two after Jesus died, when it had become apparent that the Pharisees and lawyers had not come over to Jesus? After the time when the Pharisees (*cough* Saul *cough*) had led the persecution of the new interpretation?  Of course this sort of thinking forces us to ask whether the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is exclusively a post-mortem phenomenon. I have no idea how consistent I’ve been on that topic, mainly because I’d never isolated it as a topic until just now. The other question is whether we can–or should–take the woes to those towns as a separate issue from the woes to the Pharisees in this section. Remember, Matthew also separated them. One telling bit of evidence might be whether those towns suffered, and to what extent, during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the Temple. Bethsaida, according to Mark, is right hard close to Jerusalem since that is where Jesus was staying his last week. 

To some degree the animosity to the Pharisees and other representatives of established practice of the religion is a basic theme in Jesus’ teaching. It is a thread, or more like a theme/stream running throughout the gospels. However, just because it gets a lot of attention does not mean that it dates back to Jesus himself. It could easily be something that cropped up later, the result of the “persecutions” led by Pharisees such as Paul. That would still give it time to work its way into Mark’s gospel, where it is already a theme. I would say there is a decent chance that it does date back to Jesus, and I would certainly say that stating this theme as post-mortem would be a very bold step. Not that I’m afraid of bold positions, but this one is much harder to sort out than things like Q. If made to guess, my sense would be that there was some conflict early on between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day; itinerant preachers with a quirky, not-quite-orthodox message were a bane of the established Church in the High Middle Ages. Power structures don’t like being circumvented, so if Jesus showed up preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and implying that the Temple cult was unnecessary, that could make them uncomfortable. They felt the need to kill the Baptist as well. The story of Jesus clearing the Temple certainly reinforces this position, even though it may not have dated back to Jesus himself. After all, I have no doubts that the story is post-mortem; perhaps it represents a time when the conflict between the two sets of practitioners of Judaism had drifted further apart. The growing cult of Jesus-as-divine would certainly have alienated the Pharisees and–perhaps–provoked attempts to suppress the movement. This would dramatically open the door to the idea that Jesus-as-divine predated Paul. But that is another topic. 

47 Vae vobis, quia aedificatis monumenta prophetarum, patres autem vestri occiderunt illos!

48 Profecto testificamini et consentitis operibus patrum vestrorum, quoniam ipsi quidem eos occiderunt, vos autem aedificatis.

49 Propterea et sapientia Dei dixit: Mittam ad illos prophetas et apostolos, et ex illis occident et persequentur,

50 ut requiratur sanguis omnium prophetarum, qui effusus est a constitutione mundi, a generatione ista,

51 a sanguine Abel usque ad sanguinem Zachariae, qui periit inter altare et aedem. Ita dico vobis: Requiretur ab hac generatione.

52 Vae vobis legis peritis, quia tulistis clavem scientiae! Ipsi non introistis et eos, qui introibant, prohibuistis ”.

53 Cum autem inde exisset, coeperunt scribae et pharisaei graviter insistere et eum allicere in sermone de multis

54 insidiantes ei, ut caperent aliquid ex ore eius.

Special Topic: Prophesies

There have been numerous instances when I’ve spoken rather skeptically about the prophesies Jesus utters. I’ve been on any number of websites where the author is rather critical of those who, like me, dismiss the possibility of actual predictions. That is to say that I assume, every prediction that Jesus makes is ex post facto. Authors with a more religious, or perhaps faith-based approach do take the idea of legitimate prophesy by Jesus as not only possible, but likely.

There is one point to be made about this. The main reason I’m skeptical about the prophesies of Jesus–or of Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or any other in the HS–is that, unfailingly, they come true. Now, this is not surprising for a divine individual; but if the individual is not divine, then it defies probability that all Jesus’ prophesies came to be. I bring this up because I’m currently reading a book about the Persian invasions of Greece in the period 490-479 BCE. In the telling of these invasions by Herodotus, there are a number of prophesies given by the oracle of Delphi. As it happens, the author of the book I’m reading (a secondary source, rather than Herodotus himself) just discussed these oracles. This is a topic of some debate among historians; are any of the oracles recorded by Herodotus or elsewhere, genuine. That is, were they actually uttered by the Pythia, recorded by the priests and set into hexameter verses before the event in question? Or were these also ex post facto creations? The author brings up an excellent point about the authenticity: a lot of the oracles were wrong. For example, when the Athenians asked if they should resist the Persian onslaught, the oracle told them to “fly, doomed ones”. Prior to the invasion, that sure woudl have seemed to be wise and excellent advice, predicting an outcome very likely to come to pass. How the Greeks actually managed to pull off the defeat of the enormous invasion force is one of the more unexpected events in history. Yet, defeat them the Greeks did.

IOW, the oracle was wrong. In fact, a lot of the oracles Herodotus records were wrong. If they weren’t they were so craftily worded that they would prove correct in either case. The most famous is the Lydian King Croesus, who asks if he should fight the Persians. The answer was, “if you fight the Persians, you will destroy a mighty empire”. Taking that as a positive response, Croesus fought and lost. The “mighty empire” he destroyed was his own. And the Spartans got a similar answer about whether they should attack the city of Tegea. The oracle predicted that the Spartans would measure the plain of Tegea with dancing steps. Thinking this prophesied success, the Spartans attacked, were defeated, and ended up as slaves working in the fields, thus measuring the plain. Anyway, the author of the book (Persia and the Greeks; The Defence of the West 560-479, by A.R. Burns) says that anyone making up an oracle after the fact should be expected to get the correct answer. That many of these oracles were wrong is a good prima facie case for their authenticity.

So yes, I am skeptical. A 100% accuracy rate is impossible. For a human, anyway. If you accept Jesus’ divinity, of course all standards of human measure go by the way. Since I am writing history and not religion, it is impossible to accept these predictions as anything other than after-the-fact.

This, of course, has implications for the Q debate. But then, what doesn’t? The point is that when Jesus makes a prediction that is only in Matthew and Luke, and so supposedly came from Q, there is almost a zero percent chance that the words recorded were spoken by Jesus. Much more likely, they were invented after the fact. But if there is material in Q that was not spoken by Jesus, then what do we have? A collection of stuff that was said by…someone. That could have been said by anyone. In which case, the whole definition of Q changes. And this is a big problem I see with Q: the content and definition is very malleable. As such, we have to ask whether Q has any meaning at all.

Luke Chapter 11:29-36

Here we have some more of the material that Matthew so masterfully included in one large block in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I think it works better broken up into smaller pieces like this, but that’s a matter of taste. Or, it would be, if the whole case for Q didn’t rest upon that masterful arrangement.


29 Τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων ἤρξατο λέγειν, Ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν: σημεῖον ζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ.

30 καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ.

(Some) of the crowd testing (him=Jesus), he began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation. It seeks a sign and a sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonas. (30) For just as Jonas became a sign to the Ninevites, in this way also will be the son of man to this generation.

This is interesting. In this version Jesus refers to the sign of Jonas, but he does not explain what that means. Matthew 12:40, however, does explain it. It’s a reference to Jonas being inside the whale for three days, and so Jesus will be in the ground for three days. Now, Luke’s version, being shorter, is considered the more primitive, which means that the original text of Q probably read like Luke whereas Matthew added the explanation. Hence the Q position. Or, one could say that Luke knew that Matthew had explained this, so he didn’t feel the need to add that from Matthew. We have seen Luke do this elsewhere, but usually only in cases where Matthew overlaps extensively with Mark, as in the Death of the Baptist story. As such, it’s questionable whether my suggestion in this case is valid, or even legitimate. It’s different. It doesn’t count. I can hear the Q proponents now. And they have a point. This is situation is not exactly consistent with others. In return, I suggest that no one is ever 100% consistent in their approach, especially when we’re talking about a document of some length, as this is. I will concede they have a point, and that making that suggestion in this particular instance is not terribly convincing. That is for the individual reader to decide. Just remember that this does incident does not stand in isolation.

29 Turbis autem concurrentibus, coepit dicere: “Generatio haec generatio nequam est; signum quaerit, et signum non dabitur illi, nisi signum Ionae.

30 Nam sicut Ionas fuit signum Ninevitis, ita erit et Filius hominis generationi isti.

31 βασίλισσα νότου ἐγερθήσεται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινεῖ αὐτούς: ὅτι ἦλθεν ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς ἀκοῦσαι τὴν σοφίαν Σολομῶνος, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Σολομῶνος ὧδε.

32 ἄνδρες Νινευῖται ἀναστήσονται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτήν: ὅτι μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ ὧδε.

The Queen of the South will be raised in the judgement with the men of this generation and will judge them. That she came from the corners of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and, behold, something greater than Solomon (is) here. The Men of Ninevah will stand themselves up in the judgement with this generation, and they will judge it: that they repented at the message of Jonas, and, behold, something greater than Jonas (is) here. 

Taking these two sections together, we have Jesus predicting his resurrection and predicting the judgement to come on those who (supposedly) carried it out. So, this is part of the alleged Q material because it’s only in Matthew and Luke. But the problem there is that it’s highly unlikely that Jesus ever uttered these words. This is another ex post facto “prediction” put into the mouth of the speaker after it has been fulfilled. Yes, many people will claim that my viewpoint is entirely secular and simply assumes that Jesus was not capable of seeing the future because he was not divine. And that is a fair and accurate assessment of my viewpoint. I am writing historically and not religiously. But from that perspective fulfilled predictions are not to be taken at face value. As such, there is little chance that these words were spoken by Jesus. So, if Jesus did not say them, and Q is a collection of Jesus’ sayings (except when it includes stuff the Baptist said, or the dialogue between Jesus and Satan, and descriptive passages, and other such stuff), this by definition should not be in Q. Or, by definition, Q is not a source only of things Jesus said, but of other stuff, then the whole point and raison d’être for Q disappears. This is why I get so annoyed that all the arguments for Q are based on stuff like the use of <<καὶ >> vs <<δὲ >> or other such stylistic points. The first question to ask is “does it make sense that Jesus said this?” Or, “does this fit into th context of the 30s, or does it fit better in the 80s/90s?” If either answer is “no”, then we’ve got some serious problems. 

And the whole sequence fits better in the 80s than it does in the 30s. Remember, Jesus is basically cursing the generation alive in the 30s; a lot of these people were still around a generation later to see the catastrophe of the destruction of the temple. That this sequence wasn’t in Mark makes it even more likely, I believe, that this passage was written, or created, or conceived after the Romans had crushed the revolt. And while the generation of Jesus was technically prior to the generation of the destruction of the Temple, by the 80s such distinctions would likely have been smudged over; it was all just “back then”, especially to an audience of pagans for whom the Judaean was not a central or fixed point in their history. So the question becomes, how is this part of Q, if Q is to have any actual connexion to Jesus? On points like this I think the vast majority of biblical scholars fall short simply because they are not trained as historians. Their thinking tends to be synchronic, like that of social studies, where the passage of time is not really considered. History, OTOH, the thinking is diachronic, moving through time, because, well, that’s kind of the definition of history. Too much of the analysis looks at the texts as if they were all contemporaneous; there is too little thought paid to how the entire picture of Jesus and the belief systems developed as they passed through time.

And a final word. The Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba, apparently. Not that it particularly matters. The city of Ninevah, home to the Ninevites, was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. This is the power that crushed Israel and led the inhabitants of that land away to be resettled. This was a fairly common practice in the ancient Near East: move conquered peoples into lands where they were not native. The idea was to remove them from their ancestral lands into neutral territory, where they would not feel the sense of alienation that comes with being a subject people in your own land. The emotional and tribal places are gone, there is less of a sense of belonging, so the transported people would be forced to begin all over again in a new place where they had always been a subject people. So the city of Ninevah became synonymous with a wicked and depraved life style, just as Babylon would become later. Jonas was sent to preach in Ninevah, and I believe the legend in his book is that he encountered some success.

31 Regina austri surget in iudicio cum viris generationis huius et condemnabit illos, quia venit a finibus terrae audire sapientiam Salomonis, et ecce plus Salomone hic.

32 Viri Ninevitae surgent in iudicio cum generatione hac et condemnabunt illam, quia paenitentiam egerunt ad praedicationem Ionae, et ecce plus Iona hic.

33 Οὐδεὶς λύχνον ἅψας εἰς κρύπτην τίθησιν [οὐδὲ ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον] ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι τὸ φῶς βλέπωσιν.

34 ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου. ὅταν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς ᾖ, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινόν ἐστιν: ἐπὰν δὲ πονηρὸς ᾖ, καὶ τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινόν.

35 σκόπει οὖν μὴ τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστίν.

36 εἰ οὖν τὸ σῶμά σου ὅλον φωτεινόν, μὴ ἔχον μέρος τι σκοτεινόν, ἔσται φωτεινὸν ὅλον ὡς ὅταν ὁ λύχνος τῇ ἀστραπῇ φωτίζῃ σε.

No one lighting a lamp places it in the hidden place (lit = crypt, because kryptos = hidden; this often gets translated as “cellar”) [nor under the measuring (as in bushel) basket, but upon a lamp stand so that those entering (the room) see the light. (34) The light of the body is your eyes, when your eye may be not more than one, and your whole body is lighted; when it (the body) is wicked, and the whole body is in shadow. (35) Therefore look lest the light in you is shadowed. (36)  If therefore your whole body is lighted, lest you have a portion of shadow, the lamp will be the light when by lighting will make you light.

Hope that last bit makes sense. The repeated use of the same root is not rhetorically desirable in English, but it was all the rage in Greek; at least, among some authors. So it is here. This pericope (still don’t like that word) was also in Matthew and not in Mark, so, instead of saying Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark, we say that the story was part of Q. 

I am beginning to believe, rather strongly, that there actually was a collection of sayings of Jesus floating around in between the time of Mark and Matthew. I do suspect, however, that it was oral, and not written. At least, it was not written until Matthew wrote this material down. I suspect the desire to record and preserve these sayings was a large part of what motivated Matthew to write a new gospel. It always bears to remember that one does not choose the rather unusual task of writing a gospel unless one believes that one has something new to contribute. All these sayings of Matthew were his new contribution. Nor do I believe he made them all up. There are too many of these sayings that are just stuck into the text in such a ham-handed way that the narrative moves in fits and starts. That is how I feel about the “masterful arrangement” of the material in the Sermon on the Mount. Once we get past the Beatitudes, which have the organic feel of a single hand that produced a poem, we get sort of a laundry list of assorted stories, aphorisms, quick parables, metaphors, and analogies. Each little bit has nothing to do with what came just before, and is wholly disconnected to what comes after. Just as this one is. So how it is that Matthew’s arrangement is masterful is beyond me.

33 Nemo lucernam accendit et in abscondito ponit neque sub modio sed supra candelabrum, ut, qui ingrediuntur, lumen videant.

34 Lucerna corporis est oculus tuus. Si oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit; si autem nequam fuerit, etiam corpus tuum tenebrosum erit.

35 Vide ergo, ne lumen, quod in te est, tenebrae sint.

36 Si ergo corpus tuum totum lucidum fuerit non habens aliquam partem tenebrarum, erit lucidum totum, sicut quando lucerna in fulgore suo illuminat te”.