Luke Chapter 6:20-25

Here we begin the actual teaching of the Sermon on the Plain. Does anyone really think that’s a coincidence? Really?

Regardless, kept the section short because it engendered quite a bit of commentary. And if you do think this Mount/Plain was a coincidence, I hope that this next section helps make you feel even less certain about that.

20 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν, Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

And he raising his eyes to his disciples he said, “Blessed (are) the poor, that of them is the kingdom of heaven.

We are going to stop right here. Of course we all know that Matthew has this as “blessed are the poor in spirit“. so the obvious conclusion is that Luke’s version here represents a “more primitive” version of the Q text. This one is more primitive, supposedly, because it is simpler, because it has fewer words and a more straightforward message. Everyone knows who “the poor” are; who are the “poor in spirit” after all? That one takes a certain amount of consideration, and perhaps some explaining, after all. And I have to concede that this is not a terrible interpretation, or understanding of the two texts. Luke’s does seem more straightforward. But it is justified to use the term “more primitive” for that reason? I think not, or at least not necessarily. “Primitive” is rather a loaded word, one that’s at least a little pejorative. The intent may simply be to capture the aspect that Luke’s version is closer to Q; just as Luke’s version of the pater noster is, supposedly, closer to Q. Whatever the intent, the result is to raise up Matthew at the expense of Luke. This, in turn, helps preserve the illusion of Q…at least, I guess that’s what the intent is. 

Whatever the intent, the reality is that “blessed are the poor”/”poor in spirit” are two very different thoughts. I suppose it can be argued that the latter represents a more advanced stage in thinking, but it could also be argued, IMO, anyway, that “poor in spirit” is a bit of a shill for wealthy people. You don’t actually have to be poor, but just have the humility of the poor. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t quite jibe with some of the other teachings of Jesus, such as the bit about the eye of the needle. Also, FWIW, Mark and Matthew each use the word “ptochos” (beggar, beggarly = poor) five times each. For Matthew, once is here, and once is in the aphorism about always having the poor with you–a story that is not in Luke. IOW, the poor are not too far to the front of Matthew’s message. Of five uses of the word, once is a waffle and once is nearly a disparagement. Luke, OTOH, uses the word ten times, albeit twice in the story of Dives and Lazarus, but that still leaves eight other examples.

I did read somewhere–the cite escapes me, and shame on me for not writing it down; however, it was a reputable source–that Luke is the gospel of the poor. I put this out there to show that there is a school of thought–or one scholar, at least–that believes Luke devotes more attention to the poor than either Mark or Matthew. Now, on top of that, I notice that Paul apparently only uses the word four times in eight letters, and one of them is him saying how James the Just pressed Paul to remember the poor. As such, that’s not exactly evidence that the poor are at the top of his agenda, either. In contrast, the short epistle of James–probably not written by James the Just–uses the word four times, and all of them are in reference to the poor as we think of the term. IOW, the poor, far from being an early aspect of proto-Christian, or Christian belief, was a later one. It became more important in later works, rather than the earlier ones that are, at least, potentially closer to Jesus. As such, it is Matthew’s “poor in spirit” that is the more “primitive” version of this teaching. It is Luke, not Matthew, who advances the teaching on the poor. That also knocks another prop out from under the reasons why Q has to have existed.

There is one other thing that should be mentioned. There is an apocryphal Gospel of the Ebionites, the latter word relating to the poor. And there is a tradition that this was written, if not by James the Just, then by one of his later followers, as the Epistle of James may have been. I do not know what the arguments for this position are, but no doubt they rely on a great deal of speculation and inference, since there is no evidence to speak of. I have mentioned several times that much of what I had always been taught was the Christian attitude towards social justice actually was Jewish in origin and emphasis. We have seen from Paul that James was more concerned with maintaining the ties to Judaism than Paul was. So the question becomes, did the later attitude and teaching on the poor only emerge as this aspect of the teaching of James the Just had been more thoroughly integrating into the main stream of Christian thought? This is pure speculation, based on the sort of huge leaps of faith and tenuous connexions that I tend to disparage. But, FWIW, there it is. The fact remains, though, that when it becomes appropriate to talk about The Church, social justice was decidedly part of the message. And the idea of apostolic poverty was a main theme in the heresies of Western Europe from the 12th Century forward. The Waldensians, for example, were firm believers in apostolic poverty, as were the Cathars, who were exterminated by Innocent III in the early 13th Century. And then there was St Francis of Assisi, whose order became split into those who believed in maintaining the founder’s practice of poverty, and those who thought corporate wealth was just fine. So, yes, teaching about “The Poor” was something of a later tradition. I have been very surprised at the lack of emphasis on this topic as I’ve gone through the letters of Paul and the first two gospels.

20 Et ipse, elevatis oculis suis in discipulos suos, dicebat: “Beati pauperes, quia vestrum est regnum Dei.

21 μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες νῦν, ὅτι χορτασθήσεσθε. μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν, ὅτι γελάσετε. 22μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν μισήσωσιν ὑμᾶς οἱ ἄνθρωποι, καὶ ὅταν ἀφορίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ ὀνειδίσωσιν καὶ ἐκβάλωσιν τὸ ὄνομα ὑμῶν ὡς πονηρὸν ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

23 χάρητε ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ σκιρτήσατε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ: κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς προφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.

“Blessed are those hungering now, that you will be filled. Blessed are those weeping now, that you will laugh. (22) Blessed are (you) when people hate you, and when they cast you out and cast in insults and throw our your name as knavish because of the son of man; (23) for rejoice on that day and leap, for behold your reward is great in the sky; for upon the same things the forbears of them did to the prophets.

These verses are not exactly part of the Beatitudes as they are set out in Matthew, or, at least, in some editions of Matthew. These lines come at the end of the Beatitudes proper. I suppose this is part of the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew vs the muddled arrangement of Luke. The sentiments expressed obviously extol the outcast, or perhaps those despised. In ancient society, this would–or at least could–include the poor. For example, both of the words “mean” and “villain” refer to lower-class people and serfs. Assuming that these are the people referred to, far from being a muddle of Matthew’s arrangement, this represents an excellent pairing with the opening line. The poor will inherit the earth, and the poor people who are despised and outcast now will be filled, they will get the Great Reward in the Sky. The order of the verses are rearranged because, since the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” are not the same people, the order of the verses here reinforce each other to emphasize the point about the poor. This is important because it undercuts the whole–and wholly ridiculous–idea that Matthew’s treatment of the so-called Q material was infinitely superior to that of Luke. The two are different. Matthew made certain editorial choices, Luke made others. And there is no burden of proof on the opponents of Q that requires these latter to explain why Luke differed in every single instance. That’s absurd. The burden of proof is on those who claim Q ever existed, and that should never, ever be forgotten or conceded.

As for the content and its intent and its raison d’être, the question is whether this fits circumstances of Jesus’ lifetime. This seems to be meant as a morale booster for a community that was under some pressure from the outside. So why is it here? Now, if this does refer to the poor, then that question is largely answered, I believe. The poor were under pressure and duress. Does it go beyond that? Or, if you do not believe that these lines do refer to the poor, but to the Christian community as at large, then you have to discuss the circumstances under which these words were conceived. One clue is to look back at Matthew’s “poor in spirit”. He did not couple that verse with the verses about being hungry. That implies that Matthew saw the groups as separate. That, I think, would imply that he did not intend these verses about being outcast as referring to the general way the poor were despised. And recall that Matthew blessed those who hungered and thirsted for justice; Luke leaves it at those who were, quite simply, hungry, as in physically hungry. This, in turn, implies that Matthew did not connect the two ideas, that the poor were not those who were outcast. The implication of this chain of logic is that, for Matthew, being outcast was a condition of being a Christian rather than of being poor.

When were Christians experiencing anything that can reasonably be described as “persecution”? There is, quite frankly, no indication in the gospels that the followers of Jesus were in any way being subjected to anything that can be called “persecution” in the lifetime of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was supposedly crucified for his beliefs, but I have pointed out many times that only Jesus was arrested and punished. This is pretty clear evidence that the people arresting Jesus were not the least interested in any of Jesus’ followers. Recall that the Passion narrative is likely the later creation of some group of Jesus’ followers–I would suggest the Galilean group, led, or at least subsidized, by Mary the Magdelane–so it reflects the Christians’ own perspective. As such, it seems that there was very little in the way of persecution in Jesus’ lifetime. So, if these lines  are not to be seen as a description of the poor, then they are unlikely to date to the time before the Resurrection. Ergo, by necessity they describe circumstances of the earlier days of the proto-church, such as the “pressure” that Paul and his associates applied to the followers of Jesus.

The chain of logic supporting that conclusion is, I believe, quite strong, even if it’s not overwhelming and irrefutable. It does, however, provide a level of certainty that is not frequently found in such biblical arguments. Taking this conclusion as a datum, as a given, there is then one further conclusion to be gleaned. Since Luke changed the words from “poor in spirit” to “poor”, and since he rearranged the material to the form seen here, it’s reasonable to conclude that he made the changes because he wanted to make them. This, of course, raises (but does not beg) the question of why did he make the change? I would suggest it’s because the levels of persecution implied had been either forgotten, or had never really been learned by the group for which Luke wrote. The memory of those days was dim, perhaps vague to the point of being perceived a story than actual events. So Luke rearranged the material to fit into a new paradigm, one in which it was the poor who came to the fore, in which they were the ones being despised. Most likely this new paradigm arose in circumstances in which the poor had become a more prominent segment of the Christian community. This makes sense, I think. Whether I’m correct is, however, a different matter.

21 Beati, qui nunc esuritis, quia saturabimini. Beati, qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis.

22 Beati eritis, cum vos oderint homines et cum separaverint vos et exprobraverint et eiecerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum propter Filium hominis.

23 Gaudete in illa die et exsultate, ecce enim merces vestra multa in caelo; secundum haec enim faciebant prophetis patres eorum.

24 Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.

25 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, οἱ ἐμπεπλησμένοι νῦν, ὅτι πεινάσετε. οὐαί, οἱ γελῶντες νῦν, ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε.

Except woe to the rich, that have your appeal. (25) Woe to you, those filled now, that you will hunger. Woe, you laughing now, that you will mourn and weep.

And on cue, here we have Luke casting woe to the wealthy, the full, those happy now. This provides some really strong support to the thesis set out in the previous comment. There is one issue: the word that I’ve rendered as “appeal”. That obviously doesn’t really work very well. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you would notice that the word is “consolationem”; and, in fact, this is how most English editions translate the word. The problem is, Classical Greek, first of all, doesn’t use the word very often; and second, never uses it to mean “consolation”. This usage is confined to a couple of uses in the LXX and one other time in the NT. This is why I get so uneasy about the idea that such an animal as “NT Greek” actually exists. Classicists, or specialists in the Hellenic language, will rarely–if ever–use the term “NT Greek”. “Koine”, yes, but not NT Greek. It’s really obvious that, far from going back to the original Greek, many of the Reformation scholars were content to fall back on the Vulgate from time to time. This is not the first time when we’ve had to use the Vulgate because the Greek word was too rare to be understood. An argument could be presented–and perhaps won–that not going along with consolation makes me a bit of a prig, a charge for which I’m not sure I’d have a defense. Regardless, I do believe it’s important to point out these potholes in the road as they come up; really, it does help remind us that this whole issue is not as settled as we often pretend.

Just a final note. It’s important to grasp that Luke is casting woe to the materially wealthy, to those that have and their prayers of prosperity answered. They have their reward now, and later they will be hungry. And the implication is that the hunger, while perhaps allegorical, will be allegorical to the point of physical. After all, the notion of Hell is that our immaterial souls feel physical pain and torment. Even the most cursory glance through Dante will demonstrate that most amply.

It’s also interesting to wonder if the emphasis on Matthew’s version of these verses is not somehow tied up in the desire to de-emphasize the perils and coming torments of the prosperous. “Poor in spirit”, after all provides a fair bit of wiggle room, that can be applied subjectively; “poor”, however, does not, and the way Luke drives the point home eliminates whatever wiggle room may have been left. These words are uncomfortable in a way “poor in spirit” are not. Matthew provides hope; Luke does too, but he threatens punishment as well. And let’s recall Paul’s injunctions in 1 Corinthians telling the wealthy to share their meal so that other members of the community do not go hungry. Luke is the first evangelist who was obviously aware of Paul, and, we presume, Paul’s writings. Did Luke have those words of Paul in mind when he rearranged Matthew’s version of this material? 

24 Verumtamen vae vobis divitibus, quia habetis consolationem vestram!

25 Vae vobis, qui saturati estis nunc, quia esurietis! / Vae vobis, qui ridetis nunc, quia lugebitis et flebitis!

Luke Chapter 6:12-19

After a brief interlude in which we get the naming of the Twelve, we delve into what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain”. This reference is semi-facetious; while it does take place after Jesus comes down from the mountain, the real purpose of the name is to contrast it, unfavorably, with the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew. Much of the same material is covered, but rather than run on for nearly three full chapters continuously, Luke breaks the material into smaller chunks. This has led one scholar, Goodacre, to explain the defacement of the brilliant Sermon on the Mount, in terms of shorter, “Luke friendly” (his term) passages. Kloppenborg, OTOH, perhaps the main proponent of Q, has nothing but scornful derision, or derisive scorn, for Goodacre’s attempt at the redactional explanation that the Q people demand to justify the way Luke deliberately painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s well that Kloppenborg dismisses Goodacre in this manner, because the former doesn’t have an actual argument, so ad hominem is about the best he can do.

Note: the “brief interlude was longer than expected, so this ends just at the beginning of the actual Sermon.

There is a certain irony in Kloppenborg’s position. In the mind of the Q people, holding up the SotM as a masterpiece, which only a fool or a madman would deface is a powerful argument. The problem I have with the argument is that I don’t find it masterful; I find it rather a jumble, a bunch of sayings held together (barely) with baling twine and bubble gum. IMO, to argue that the material is not masterfully arranged, and that it barely–if a all–truly holds together is much more powerful evidence that Matthew found the material thus in Q and left it thus. The three chapters of content in Matthew feels like it’s a random collection of one-off sayings. That is a persuasive argument for Q. IMO, anyway.

OK, enough. On to the


12Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐξελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι, καὶ ἦν διανυκτερεύων ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ.

13 καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ’ αὐτῶν δώδεκα, οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,

14 Σίμωνα, ὃν καὶ ὠνόμασεν Πέτρον, καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον

15 καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον Ἁλφαίου καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν καλούμενον Ζηλωτὴν 16καὶ Ἰούδαν Ἰακώβου καὶἸούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ, ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης.

It became in those days he came to the mountain to pray, and he was all night in the prayer of God.  (13) And it became day, he called his disciples and sent from him twelve, and which were called apostles. (14) Simon, the one also named Peter, and Andrew, his brother, and James and John an Philip and bar Tolomew (15) and Matthew and Thomas and James son of Alphaeus and Simon the one call the Zealot (16) and Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became the betrayer.

We’ve been through this sequence twice now, so no doubt many of you will recall that I do not believe that the Twelve was a thing that was instituted by Jesus. I believe that Jesus had several followers, among them Peter and perhaps the future James the Just, but the rest of them are sketchy at best. It’s difficult to get rid of John, son of Zebedee, but he appears in very few of the tales told;  and these tales can easily be ascribed to the later growth of the legend. Peter is impossible to get rid of; Paul pretty much proves Peter’s existence, but aside from him the only other figure Paul mentions is James, brother of Jesus. As such, I think it’s hard to be at all certain of any of the others. There are two of the Twelve named James, but each has a different patronymic, whether Zebedee or Alpheus. It has been suggested that one of these James, usually the son of Alpheus, otherwise known as James the Lesser (the Latin, Iacobus Minor doesn’t sound quite so belittling). It is suggested that one of these two men named James was Jesus’ half-brother, the son of Mary and either Zebedee or Alpheus.  This is an ingenious theory that is absolutely within the realm of possibility; the problem is there is nary a whit of evidence to support it, and the very ingeniousness of the idea, IMO, rather than supporting the idea, makes it less likely.

James, brother of Jesus, got whitewashed out of the the gospels. The reason why James is expunged is clear enough: the church in Rome invented the idea that Peter came to Rome to be the first bishop there.  Funny thing about that idea is that Paul overlooks that fact completely when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Am I the first to notice that? Almost certainly not, but the fact that this question is not more prominent in the literature is a huge indication of how badly this embarrassing little tidbit has been squelched by the subsequent bishops of Rome. Hard to believe that Calvin–or one of the Reformers–didn’t bring this up. The commentaries are full of Protestants stumbling over themselves to squelch the idea of Petrine Primacy, so why not notice–and pointing out–that Peter is conspicuously absent from Romans? 

Speaking of the commentaries, a couple of them, at least, make a big deal about how the gospels all agree on the names of the Twelve. That is a significant point in favour of the authenticity of the Twelve; or, it would be if it were true. Fact is, it’s not true; or, it’s true only if several of the Twelve had two names. Now there is Peter/Cephas, of course, but Thaddeus is missing from the list here, unless, of course, his name is also Jude. And why wouldn’t it be? Oh, but there’s also Philip, who appears in John, and nowhere else. The other glaring problem is that, throughout most of the gospels the Twelve are pretty much absent, making cameo appearances at the Last Supper and after the Resurrection. The latter role is probably attributable to the section of 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul lists the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He appeared to the Twelve. So we do know that there was a Twelve; we just have no real reason attribute it to Jesus. Rather, I would give the creation of this body to James, who instituted it after the death of his more famous brother. Note, even Paul does not provide names for any of the Twelve; more, the plain-sense reading of 15:5 is that Peter is not part of the Twelve:

            …(after the Resurrection Jesus) was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve

I believe this is a fairly strong bit of evidence that Peter was not included in the Twelve; the commentators, however don’t see it that way. To them the Twelve refers to the corporate body rather than the actual number. This is a possible understanding of the usage, but I do not believe it’s the most straightforward. For it to mean what the commentators suggest, IMO, it would make more sense for Paul to say, “…then to the rest of the Twelve…” or something such. Of course, they see it this way because they wish to see it this way to preserve the credibility of the gospel writers as historical sources. This, despite the fact that the evangelists were not wrirting history.

I have suggested that the Twelve was instituted by James. I find this preferable to the presentation in the gospels. These feel very much like an afterthought, or something that later writers realized should be included, so they stuck this passage in wherever seemed least awkward. In Mark, in particular, the placement seemed forced, fit in with a shoehorn on either side of the tale of the death of the Baptist. While not quite as awkwardky placed by Luke, it’s still lacking any context, whether lead-in or even the attempt to segue into the next story; for it is a separate story. As noted, James was surgically removed from the gospels; given the later position of Petrine Primacy, having the brother of the lord running around, and acting as Peter’s superior was terribly inconvenient, and more than slightly embarrassing given the idea of the Virgin Birth.

But this tangent has been too long already. So much for the “short interlude” before coming to the Sermon on the Plain. 

12 Factum est autem in illis diebus, exiit in montem orare et erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.

13 Et cum dies factus esset, vocavit discipulos suos et elegit Duodecim ex ipsis, quos et apostolos nominavit:

14 Simonem, quem et cognominavit Petrum, et Andream fratrem eius et Iacobum et Ioannem et Philippum et Bartholomaeum

15 et Matthaeum et Thomam et Iacobum Alphaei et Simonem, qui vocatur Zelotes,

16 et Iudam Iacobi et Iudam Iscarioth, qui fuit proditor.

17 Καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος,

18 οἳ ἦλθον ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν νόσων αὐτῶν: καὶ οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ἐθεραπεύοντο. 19 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐζήτουν ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ, ὅτι δύναμις παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξήρχετο καὶ ἰᾶτο πάντας. 

And coming down with those of him (the disciples) he was in a place of a plain, and a great crowd of his disciples, and filled with mant peoples from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the districts of Tyre and Sidon, they came to hear him and to be healed from their ailments; and those being troubled by unclean spirits they were healed. (19) And the whole crowd sought to touch him, that power from him came and healed all.

The text is very explicit that he was on a plain. It could not be more clear. Matthew, meanwhile, could not be more clear that Jesus went up on a mountain. Now, of course it is possible th at Luke wrote what he wrote without ever having seen what Matthew wrote; that is, he decided to situate the action very explicitly on a plain which he reached having come down from the mountain. There is no reason the two need to be connected. But, come on! Really? Luke just happened to decide to place the upcoming teaching on a plain after descending from the mountain where Matthew just happend to situate his teaching? And then Jesus launches into the same bit of teaching? That is one heckuva coincidence, don’t you think? I won’t pretend that I can actually read in tone, or understand Luke’s intent, but even from the outward details the similarity is striking. Naturally the location of the teaching is not in Q, but that actually supports my argument: the choice of a contrary location that plays off the location used by Matthew truly seems deliberate. More, the relative placement of the actual teaching in both gospels is suspiciouly similar. The point is not that these pieces of evidence that I’m tossing out are in any way decisive; the point is that the Q proponents have completely shut down this entire line of argument. I have to say that any of my professors would have been appalled had I ever turned in an essay arguing the way the Q people have handled the controversy for the last hundred years or so. To the anti-Q people I say, “grow a spine and stand up to this.”

The final line really hearkens back to Mark 6 and the story of the Bleeding Woman. Recall that she surreptitiously touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and the power went out of him of its own accord, without ay conscious decision, or intent on Jesus’ part. This sounds like a similar situation. The subject of “healed” is not explicit, which means it grammatically falls back to the closed antecedent. In this case, it’s the power, and not Jesus. And this is not some odd notion of mine; the four crib translations I use all render this sentence with “the power” as the agent doing the healing. I find that interesting. It’s a holdover from Mark, who was not convinced that Jesus was fully divine. In the story of the Bleeding Woman, it seems that the Power is something of an entity unto itself. It seems to exist apart from Jesus, here it is the agency that effects the healing rather than being something that exists within and because of the divinity of Jesus. Luke retains that aspect of the power in his version of that story, so this isn’t meant as a substitute for that reference. Given  the insistence with which both Matthew and Luke proclaim the divinity of Jesus from the very start of their gospel, seeing this here is a bit puzzling. In contrast, in Matthew’s version of the Bleeding Woman story, Matthew portrays Jesus as being aware of the woman’s approach, so he heals her consciously. In short, we have another time when Luke contradicts Matthew. However, we’ll discuss that more when we come to it in Luke.

17 Et descendens cum illis stetit in loco campestri, et turba multa discipulorum eius, et multitudo copiosa plebis ab omni Iudaea et Ierusalem et maritima Tyri et Sidonis,

18 qui venerunt, ut audirent eum et sanarentur a languoribus suis; et, qui vexabantur a spiritibus immundis, curabantur.

19 Et omnis turba quaerebant eum tangere, quia virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes.


Luke Chapter 6:1-11

Chapter Six begins with the story that usually falls under the rubric of “Lord of the Sabbath”. It’s common to all three Synoptic Gospels.


1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν σαββάτῳ διαπορεύεσθαι αὐτὸν διὰ σπορίμων, καὶ ἔτιλλον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤσθιον τοὺς στάχυας ψώχοντες ταῖς χερσίν.

2 τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων εἶπαν, Τί ποιεῖτε ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν;

3 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἀνέγνωτε ὃ ἐποίησεν Δαυὶδ ὅτε ἐπείνασεν αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ μετ’ αὐτοῦ [ὄντες];

4 [ὡς] εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως λαβὼν ἔφαγεν καὶ ἔδωκεν τοῖς μετ’ αὐτοῦ, οὓς οὐκ ἔξεστιν φαγεῖν εἰ μὴ μόνους τοὺς ἱερεῖς;

5 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Κύριός ἐστιν τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

It became on the Sabbath that he was crossing through the wheat field, and plucked his disciples from it (the grain field) and ate the kernels rubbing (them) in their hands. (2) Some of the Pharisees said, “Does he not do what is not allowed on Sabbaths?” (3) And answering to them Jesus said, “Are you unaware of what David did that he was hungry and those with him? (4) [As] they went to the house of God and the loaves of the offerings taking he ate and he gave to those with him, which was not allowed to eat unless alone for the priests”. (5) And he said to them, “Lord of the sabbath is the son of man”.

The translation is a bit clunky, or even more than a bit clunky, but it works very well here when rendered in a very literal fashion that retains the word order of the original. This is not always possible given that case languages do not rely so much on the order of the words to get the message across. The one part that is nearly impossible to render faithfully is the <<εἰ μὴ>>; this is literally “if not”, which is more or less “unless”, but here it’s particularly nasty because it’s coupled with a negative. Unlike Greek, Latin, French, or Spanish, English has the rule about the double negative. (I’m really not familiar enough with German grammar to know the rules there.) In the other four languages, the negatives reinforce, rather than negate, each other. So it is here. Literally, it would be “unless not”, which in English would constitute a double negative. The idea is that only the priests could eat these loaves which had been offered to God. Note that the priests ate the stuff given to God; this was a perk of being a priest, regardless of the religion, whether pagan or Jewish. Christian practice remained essentially the same, even if the offerings of the faithful became money rather than food. This was how the priests were supported in temples or churches: give to God/the god, the priests were then entitled to the food. So for David to step in and eat food meant for God, and then to give said food to his warrior (bandit) band was cause to raise eyebrows.

As this story appeared in both Mark and Matthew, we’ve discussed the implication of how this situates Jesus in the place of David. One thing I didn’t realize until just now is that Jesus as the seed of David is almost exclusively a theme that occurs in the gospels. Paul mentions David three times, all of them in Romans, the last written of the authentic letters that we have from Paul. Of these three, exactly one states that Jesus, in the flesh, is a descendant of David. And in Mark, we have essentially perhaps two or references to Jesus as being in the line of David. The only direct one is in Chapter 10 when the blind bar Timeaus calls out to Jesus as the son of David. The other two are oblique. The reason for mentioning this out is to point out that Jesus as the son/descendant of David does not become firmly entrenched in the record in the first two or three generations after the death of Jesus. It is Matthew, with his genealogy, who fixes the idea of Jesus being a lineal descendant of David into Christian dogma.

What does this mean? Truly, the appropriate place to discuss this would be in a commentary on Paul. However, it didn’t occur to me that we weren’t seeing this because, well, because we weren’t seeing it. For all of Paul’s talk of the Christ, the Messiah, that the messiah was somehow related to David never came up in the three books of Paul that we read. While Paul refers to David’s words, or to his legend, the sole mention of Jesus being related to David, a descendent of David comes in Romans 1:3. And even there, he simply mentions that Jesus, through the flesh, was of David’s line. There is no really explicit statement that the Messiah had to be of David’s line or anything such. Had Paul been writing to Jews, we could probably assume that Jews would know this as a matter of course; but he was not writing to Jews. He wrote to Galatians, Thessalonians, and Corinthians, and only mentions this connexion in Romans–more pagans–and then only once. That somehow seems odd. And the one explicit reference in Mark is part of a story that could have been swallowed whole by Mark, so this may not have been a central part of Mark’s theology. Remember, the first half of Mark is the story of Jesus the Wonder-Worker; the Messiah part comes in later, and is easily the smaller of the two “halves” of Mark’s narrative.  

As far as I can tell, David is not part of Q. This would make sense. Jesus does not refer to himself as being of the seed of David, so why would we expect David to crop up in a collection of the sayings of Jesus (or whatever else it’s convenient to stick in there)? We shouldn’t expect it, I wouldn’t think. So it does not become a prominent part of the Jesus story until Matthew makes it so. And, writing later, Luke does exactly the same thing as Matthew. Interestingly, John only makes the David connexion in a single passage, in John 7:42. So this means that David plays a large role only in Matthew and Luke, even though David was not part of Q. Hmmm. If a=b, and b=c, then a=c. Or, rather, Matthew or Q. Not Q. Therefore Matthew. This is known as the Disjunctive Syllogism, and it’s one of the foundation pieces of formal logic. Luke and Matthew agree. Therefore Luke got David either from Matthew or from Q. David does not appear in Q. Therefore, Luke got the David references from Matthew, Q.E.D.

Well, it’s not quite demonstrated. There are, of course, other places that Luke could have gotten the David connexion, other sources, other traditions. But the funny thing is that David is largely absent from most of the NT, except for Matthew and Luke/Acts (assuming the same author). This is akin to the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the annunciation by an angel, and all the other motifs that were identified as peculiar to Matthew and Luke. So David is yet one more. The side of the scale with the Luke-Matthew connexions is starting to get pretty heavy.

One final word. Just because Jesus compares himself to David, that is not to say he necessarily implies that he is the Messiah. Yes, that is one interpretation; the connexion to David is perhaps sufficient to make this leap, but I don’t think it’s necessary. That position may require some serious hair-splitting, or a very finely nuanced way of looking at things, but IMO the distinction is real. Now, it’s another thing to say whether the conscious connecting to David would have been taken by most listeners as a direct correlation: Jesus = David = Messiah. To some degree, this would depend on how well-versed the audience was that heard/read this. If the audience was Jewish, then the likelihood goes up; if it was predominantly pagan, it goes down. But then, since this originated in Mark, is that question legitimate? Was Luke just keeping it for the sake of keeping it? Not necessarily. Luke has not been afraid to change or jettison stories or parts of stories, so why keep this? First, for it’s challenge to established religion, as it was being practised at the time. The Jews had gone astray, so Jesus was the Judaic Martin Luther leading a reform, not starting a revolution. Second, because once again this tied Jesus to that ancient line of religious practice. Jesus’ message was the wisdom of the ages, not a novel invention, and he was reminding his contemporaries about how it should be done. 

1 Factum est autem in sabbato, cum transiret per sata, et velle bant discipuli eius spicas et manducabant confricantes manibus.

2 Quidam autem pharisaeorum dixerunt: “Quid facitis, quod non licet in sabbatis?”.

3 Et respondens Iesus ad eos dixit: “Nec hoc legistis, quod fecit David, cum esurisset ipse et qui cum eo erant?

4 Quomodo intravit in domum Dei et panes propositionis sumpsit et manducavit et dedit his, qui cum ipso erant, quos non licet manducare nisi tantum sacerdotibus? ”.

5 Et dicebat illis: “Dominus est sabbati Filius hominis”.

6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ἑτέρῳ σαββάτῳ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν καὶ διδάσκειν: καὶ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ ἡ δεξιὰ ἦν ξηρά:

7 παρετηροῦντο δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι εἰ ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεύει, ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ.

8 αὐτὸς δὲ ᾔδει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς αὐτῶν, εἶπεν δὲ τῷ ἀνδρὶ τῷ ξηρὰν ἔχοντι τὴν χεῖρα, Ἔγειρε καὶ στῆθι εἰς τὸ μέσον: καὶ ἀναστὰς ἔστη.

9 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτούς, Ἐπερωτῶ ὑμᾶς, εἰ ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀπολέσαι;

10 καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντας αὐτοὺς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρά σου. ὁ δὲ ἐποίησεν, καὶ ἀπεκατεστάθη ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ.

11 αὐτοὶ δὲ ἐπλήσθησαν ἀνοίας, καὶ διελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν τῷἸησοῦ.

Then it happened on another sabbath that he came into the synagogue and taught. And there was a man there and his hand, the right one was withered. (7) And watching him were the scribes and the Pharisees if on the sabbath he would heal, so that the would find to accuse him. (8) He knew the dialogues of them, he said to the man the withered hand having, “Rise and stand in the middle”. And standing he stood. (9) Said Jesus to them, “I ask you if it is allowed on the sabbath to dogood (= do good; it’s a single word in Greek) or dobad (= do bad), a life to say or destroy (it)?” (10) And looking around at all of them he (Jesus) said to him (the man), “Stretch out your hand”. He did this and restored was his hand. (11) They were filled by not understanding, and they spoke to each other what they would do to Jesus.

A few minor things. “Dogood” and “dobad”: interesting constructions. There is a very nice extended accusative and infinitive construction in the first verse, encompassing both the “come in” and the “teach”. That’s a bit unusual, and shows a certain amount of comfort with a reasonably literary strand of the Greek language. The first biggish thing is the bit about saving a life. The word is psyche, or anima, in Latin. The latter should be recognisable as the root of “animate”, or “animal”. So it’s the breath of life. As we’ve no doubt mentioned, the base meaning of psyche is “life”; this, in turn, becomes associated with the breath of life, which is why it ends up as anima in Latin. Our word “soul”, which is how this word is most often translated, is from the German, seele. And here is where using an NT dictionary is problematic: one of the ones I use give “soul” as the base definition. Now again, the wrath of Achilles, that baneful wrath, sent the psyches of many heroes to Hades, and “lives” doesn’t quite give the proper sense of that phrase. Here, it is obviously “life”–at least it seems pretty obvious to me. And the four crib translations I use all render it as “life”. Now the more interesting aspect of this is that it is coupled with “to save”; here it’s plainly “to save a life”. But think about that: psyche sōsein; this gets Christianised very easily as “to save a soul”. Here is where we see the real danger in assigned hierocratic meanings to specific words in Greek; they end up warping the original into a construct that did not become dogma until some time later. The boundary between the uses of “soul” and “life” for psyche is very ill-defined. There have been, IIRC, a few instances when it should clearly read “soul”, and perhaps in sort of our concept of the meaning.

I also like that they were filled by “not-understanding”. The word is a-noia, which literally means “unminded”. Or something. The a- prefix is a  negation, like a-historical. The ‘noia’ means mind. So do your own construction of the two parts.  The reason I like the image is that, essentially,  Luke is saying their mind was filled by not-mind, which is something approaching a paradox: how can you fill something with nothing?

A version of this story appears in both Mk&Mt. What is remarkable about this version is that Luke has toned down the reaction of the scribes & Pharisees. They are not overtly plotting to kill Jesus as the other two say they are. They’re merely discussing what they will do. Why does Luke de-escalate like this? Since this is the first episode in the plot to kill Jesus, it’s pretty much impossible to say at the moment. Did he understand that provincial scribes & Pharisees really had no connexion with the authorities? We would have to come up with reasons why that would be true, and I doubt they exist. In fact, they almost certainly do not exist since we know nothing about the author of this (or any) gospel. Will he tone down the guilt of the Temple authorities? That could be taken to imply that he did understand–or suspect–the lack of connexion between this group and the group in Jerusalem, but the honest answer is that I don’t know. It is interesting to note that the Passion of Luke does not get read all that often in church services, whether the Roman or the Episcopalian rites (Correct me if I’m wrong). Why is that? Mark and John are the two that most come to mind, the two most often read in church, and Bach wrote a Matthew Passion & a John Passion, but not a Luke Passion. I don’t know why that is, so this becomes a question to be asked and considered as we move along through the rest of the gospel.

Just a final word. The next section is the calling of the Twelve, so I wanted to point out that the last part of Chapter 5 was the story of Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralytic, and we’ve had two instances so far in Chapter 6 about the Lord of the Sabbath and healing on the sabbath. All three of these constitute a challenge to the existing religious practice of the Jews. So that we end up with dark muttering against Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. This was a definite theme in Mark; I have not done the analysis to see how much of a theme it was in Matthew. Regardless, it’s not new with Luke and we’ll see what he does with it.

6 Factum est autem in alio sabbato, ut intraret in synagogam et doceret; et erat ibi homo, et manus eius dextra erat arida.

7 Observabant autem illum scribae et pharisaei, si sabbato curaret, ut invenirent accusare illum.

8 Ipse vero sciebat cogitationes eorum et ait homini, qui habebat manum aridam: “Surge et sta in medium”. Et surgens stetit.

9 Ait autem ad illos Iesus: “ Interrogo vos, si licet sabbato bene facere an male; animam salvam facere an perdere? ”.

10 Et circumspectis omnibus illis, dixit illi: “ Extende manum tuam ”. Et fecit; et restituta est manus eius.

11 Ipsi autem repleti sunt insipientia et colloquebantur ad invicem quidnam facerent Iesu.

Summary Luke Chapter 5

This chapter was a bit of a catch-all, with no central theme. We had the calling of the first disciples, a couple of miraculous healings together with some grumbling, and we ended up with some fasting and parables. The parables were of the new wine in old skins, and the patch of new cloth on an old garment. I really haven’t go into the very obvious symbolism of the new/old distinction, largely because it was so obvious I’ve missed it until now. Or, because I’m just not attuned to nuance like this. Whichever. The point being that all three gospels set this aphorism into more or less the same context: the comparison of Jesus’ disciples to those of John. In the latter case, John stood squarely and solidly within the context of Jewish tradition; Jesus, OTOH, was something new. He was the new wine that will burst the skins, or the new cloth that will tear away from the old garment. Or, at least, he is those things in the first two gospels. I just noticed something else here: the implication of the new wine bursting the old skins is that Jesus brings a new message, one that is not, and cannot be contained–or constrained–by the old way of doing things.

Luke, however, adds a new little quip onto the end of this that actually contradicts the implication left by 2M. Here, Luke adds that, after having the old, no one wants the new. This volte-face is puzzling on the face of it. Most of the commentaries that I skimmed through agree that it is a reference, of course, to the old/new dichotomy represented by John and Jesus. The preference for the old supposedly is a reflexion or commentary on the inherent conservatism of people in general, and perhaps the Jews–or, at least, the Jewish followers of John–in particular. And, since no better, or even other explanation or interpretation presents itself, this may be a reasonable way to take this, even if it does feel a bit strained. But then, one has to realize that, while Luke is a good writer and thinker in general, that’s not to say he nails every single point he makes; every once in a while he’ll throw up a brick (basketball analogy = take a bad shot). So it is a bit of an awkward addition, but OTOH, it can be said that it does provide a new take on the theme of the Messianic Secret as we’re seeing in Luke. The Jews tasted the old, and they tasted the new, and preferred the old, so they did not convert to become followers of Jesus, but remained in their old ways. I will, however, continue to suggest as I did in the commentary that this did work to connect Jesus to that old tradition; at least, I believe that it was meant to do that. The level of effectiveness is debatable, of course, but a bad shot is still a shot.

That was actually to start at the end. The beginning of the chapter has us calling the first disciples. Luke adds a whole additional piece of narrative with Jesus convincing the fishermen to follow him by a “miraculous” catch of fish. I put that in quotes because it’s really not a true miracle in the sense that the laws of nature are contravened, but it does demonstrate a level of divinity that Jesus could effect this event the way he did. Was this addition necessary? Not really, but that is not the question that should be asked. Rather, we should ask what the addition accomplished. Back when we had the first iteration of this story in Mark, we pointed out that it was a very remarkable thing that these men left their occupation, their home, and their family to follow Jesus. My contribution was that, if Jesus had lived in Caphernaum, then he was likely known to these men, so perhaps their action was not quite the dramatic break that it may have seemed at first glance. Did Luke sense this, too, which caused him to add the new bit? And which caused him to insist that Jesus was from Nazareth, to the point that he moved the “a prophet is without honor in his own land” story to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, rather than holding it for numerous chapters as 2M did? That is certainly possible. But then we have to stop and realize that, per Luke’s own narrative, this was not the first encounter between Jesus and Peter. In Luke, by the time we get to the calling of the disciples, Jesus has already been to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. So there is a temporal anomaly here. We don’t have to see any real significance to this muddling of time; Luke simply wasn’t concerned about keeping the order intact. He kept the stories in their larger context: the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law came after the synagogue, as it did in the other gospels, but the sequence of that story and the calling of Peter is scrambled.

However, it is worth pointing this out for one very big reason. Much of the “argument” for Q rests upon the Luke’s arrangement of the so-called Q-material vs the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew. In fact, this is most of the argument for Q. So to demonstrate that Luke had absolutely no qualms about rearranging Mark’s material would, or at least should, indicate that Luke put stuff wherever he chose without being unduly constrained by where his predecessors put things. Luke moved the episode of the Peter’s mother-in-law to a location that, really, doesn’t make sense vis-à-vis the story of the calling of Peter. Given this, why should he be reluctant to mess up the Q material? Especially if Q did not exist? If Q did not exist–and there is absolutely no evidence that it did–then Luke is not changing the order or arrangement of the Q material. He’s changing the order and arrangement of Matthew’s material. But, since he does the same with Mark’s material, this re-arrangement of Matthew’s material is not particularly noteworthy, is it?

The middle section of the chapter involves two healings, the first of a leper, the second of the paralytic on the litter. The latter includes the discussion about blasphemy because Jesus forgave the man’s sins. In both the scenes, Luke incorporates elements from different episodes in Mark, merging them into a composite that I have so charmingly been calling a “mash-up”. Setting out on this summary, I was not aware of how many miracles Mark reported vs the number reported by Luke. I went through both gospels and listed what I found in each. The end was that both had reasonably equal amounts, about 22 each. The lists may vary, depending on whether preaching apocalypse should be considered a miracle, or whether I missed the feeding of the 4,000 in Luke. Regardless, the point is the same. While Luke may reconstruct some of the stories of Mark, the former adds his own variations and his own different stories, such as the healing of a group of ten lepers which is unique to him. Given that, I’m not sure what inferences, let alone conclusions, we can draw from the places where Luke diverges from Mark, with the one possible exception. Luke is, apparently, not interested in simply retelling Mark; Luke sets out to tell a new version of the story, with a lot of new material. To make room for this new stuff, perhaps he felts it best to compress some of the older stuff. And even then, though, my characterization of these scenes as “mash-ups” is probably a bit irreverent, and needlessly so; in fact, perhaps it crosses into inaccurate. Luke may have filled in one story with details from another, but these borrowings–which assumes I’m even accurately describing what Luke does–really do not change the overall picture, or the overall sense of the story. There’s no new theological insights to be gleaned, no real indications of a development of the beliefs of the community or communities. We should look for those in the completely original material.

So far, the completely original material has dealt with what we would call a prequel–the story that happened before the story. What did that tell us? As I see it, this material wasn’t completely original, at least in conception. The stories of the Zecharias and Elisabeth and the pre-natal Baptist and the Annunciation, the census and no room at the inn are not entirely novel in outlook. With these sections, Luke is not adding new thoughts per se; rather, he is extending the trend begun by Matthew, who set out to demonstrate the cosmic significance of the birth of Jesus. Matthew did this largely through the star and the magoi; Luke took this a step–many steps, actually–further, extending it to Mary and her kin, by including the Baptist in the family tree, by substituting Simeon and Anna for the magoi.  Of course this reflects on the Q “argument”, but we’re not going there at the moment. We will; just not immediately. There wasn’t much to say about this chapter as a whole. I don’t know if that will continue, or if additional reading will open up new vistas.

That is the problem with the approach I’ve taken; it’s not scholarly. I have not read ahead, taken copious notes, and carefully plotted Luke against what has come before. Rather, it’s been more of a Wild-West show, shoot from the hip and ask questions later. The former approach, of course, is, well, scholarly and considered, taking what is said in the context of what else has been or will be said. That approach is useful for certain things. But the go-into-it-blind approach is better for capturing spontaneity. How does what we read stand on its own? What does it–and it alone–tell us? What is the stark message and implications of just this particular passage? What does it say before we water it down by putting it into the context of everything else? Those, too, are important questions, and ones that don’t get asked often enough. It’s time–long past time, actually–to shake things up a little bit, to shake the tree and see what may fall out that we did not expect.

Luke Chapter 5:27-39

This will conclude Chapter 5. We change gears a bit, moving from miraculous healings to more human teaching and human interaction. There’s a bit of a kick at the end, though.


27 Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξῆλθεν καὶ ἐθεάσατο τελώνην ὀνόματι Λευὶν καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀκολούθει μοι.

28 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ.

29 Καὶ ἐποίησεν δοχὴν μεγάλην Λευὶς αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ: καὶ ἦν ὄχλος πολὺς τελωνῶν καὶ ἄλλων οἳ ἦσαν μετ’ αὐτῶν κατακείμενοι.

30 καὶ ἐγόγγυζον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγοντες, Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε;

31 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλὰ οἱκακῶς ἔχοντες:

32 οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.

And after these things he came and he beheld a tax collector named Levi seated among the tax collectors and he (Jesus) said to him, “Follow me”. (28) And leaving all of them behind, standing he (Levi) followed him (Jesus). (29) And he made a great reception/feast (root of the word is “spectacle”) in his house. And there was a many crowd of tax collectors and others who were with him reclining (i.e., reclining to eat). (30) And murmured the Pharisees and the scribes of them (the general crowd) towards the disciples of him (Jesus) saying, “On what account with the tax collectors and of the sinners does he eat and drink?” (31) And answering Jesus said to them, “The healthy do not need having a healer, but those having diseases. (32) I have not come to call the just, but the sinners towards repentance.”

Directly out of the gate we run into a situation where Luke once again agrees with Mark and ignores the change made by Matthew. Of the three, Matthew alone says that Levi’s was also called Matthew, while Luke & Mark neglect to add this. It is based on this slender reed that the first gospel was ascribed to Matthew, the thinking being that the Matthew named here was the same man as the evangelist. Of course, if we accept the later date (ca. 85) for the composition of that gospel, the equation of the two is well-nigh, but not completely, impossible. Either way, the agreement of #2 and #3, of course, is evidence for Q. Then, at the very end, Luke adds something that is not in either of the first two: calling the sinner to repent. Here again, Luke follows Mark, where Jesus utters this aphorism in this same context, while eating with tax collectors. In Matthew, this comes later, in Chapter 9, when the disciples of John come to question Jesus if he is the one.

As I’ve been working my way through these books of the NT, one thing that has consistently surprised me is the extent to which so much of the “Christian” morality code was taken over directly from Judaism. One aspect in particular that has stood out is the concept of social justice, of caring for those less fortunate. Of course, this surprise is the result of a good Christian (Roman Rite) upbringing, in which Christians were all-good, and Jews were, well, something less than that. Here’s another reason why having people actually read the Bible was not necessarily desirable for about a thousand years. As for my education on the matter, better late than never, I suppose. The point, however, is that I have the sense that what we are witnessing here is novel. Jesus is consorting with tax collectors. These are not lepers, or the poor, but the rich, and the despised rich. “Collaborate” has been a buzz-word in the corporate world for the past handful of years, but where I come from “collaborator” was not a term of praise. Quite the opposite. A collaborator was a quisling, or in America a Benedict Arnold. I’m reading a book about Vichy France, where the government collaborated with the Nazis after 1940, and some of these collaborators were executed for their pains. Just so, tax collectors were collaborators, working with the Romans to collect taxes from the subject population. It made them wealthy, yes, but it also made them outcast, to some extent anyway, among the Jewish population. So Jesus is not consorting with the poor, those who have no means, but with those who have an excess of means, mostly extorted from fellow compatriots. This, I believe, is new, a new proscription for behaviour. That the sick, not the healthy need a doctor, just so it’s the sinners who need to repent.

I don’t mean to say that the idea of repenting is Christian; far from it. The idea of the Chosen People repenting their sins and turning back to YHWH is one of the most constant themes found in the HS. Rather, it’s the idea of who is doing, or should be doing the repentance. Sinners, yes, but mainly to the extent that respectable persons are sinners, and it’s the respectable who should repent. Or have I picked that up from observing too much American Christianity? With it’s claims to love Jesus while kicking the poor when they’re down? I think the distinction comes with the transition from the idea of a corporate repentance, that of the Chosen People as a body, to the idea of individual repentance, where the individual sinner changes his way of thinking (metanoeite in Greek) and thereby changes the way he or she behaves. That, I think, is the novelty–and the ultimate appeal–of Christianity, the reason it, rather than Mithraism, became the dominant religion in the later Roman Empire: the individual salvation. Even then, Christians did not invent the concept; this is something that many Hellenistic religions practiced. As some of the more collective cults were swallowed up, cults of Isis, for example, filled in the void for the individual seeking some sort of religious experience. Christianity was the heir and successor of these “Eastern Mystery Religions” as they’ve been called. And here we see the marriage of this idea to that of the universal siblinghood professed by the Stoics. We are all siblings, we can all find…some sort of ultimate religious experience. My inclination is to say “redemption”, but this has a very specific origin and etymology. It’s the redeeming of a pawn pledge, the buying back of an item from the pawn broker. That is what “redemption” means. But a more generic term escapes me at the moment.

27 Et post haec exiit et vidit publicanum nomine Levi sedentem ad teloneum et ait illi: “Sequere me”.

28 Et relictis omnibus, surgens secutus est eum.

29 Et fecit ei convivium magnum Levi in domo sua; et erat turba multa publicanorum et aliorum, qui cum illis erant discumbentes.

30 Et murmurabant pharisaei et scribae eorum adversus discipulos eius dicentes: “Quare cum publicanis et peccatoribus manducatis et bibitis?”.

31 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illos: “Non egent, qui sani sunt, medico, sed qui male habent.

32 Non veni vocare iustos sed peccatores in paenitentiam”.

33 Οἱ δὲ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰκαὶ δεήσεις ποιοῦνται, ὁμοίως καὶ οἱ τῶν Φαρισαίων, οἱ δὲ σοὶ ἐσθίουσιν καὶ πίνουσιν.

They said to him, “The disciples of John fast frequently (and) they make prayers, just as the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”

Here I think is where we come upon one of the fundamental reasons why Jesus stands at the beginning of a novel tradition, while John stands in the midst of an older one that continued. This goes back to the so-called Synod of Jerusalem, when Paul and James the Just duked it out over the Jewish dietary (and other such) practices; the most notable, of course, was circumcision. And here we have what is essentially a dispute, or at least a bit of a contention, or something like an uneasiness about this. But make no mistake–this is completely an ex-post-facto insertion from a time long after Jesus was dead. We’ve discussed this; there are points in 2M where Jesus declares positively that no animal is unclean, and Peter has a dream in Acts to confirm this. Nonsense. The questions raised by the “Synod of Jerusalem” would never have been an issue if Jesus, or even Peter, had said this. That Paul admits having a disagreement with James on this topic is all the evidence that we need to know that Jesus made no such proclamation. And this question about the difference between Jesus and John’s disciples is more of the same debate, or the debate put in another format. John’s disciples stood firmly in the ancient Jewish traditions; they are just like the Pharisees, after all. The disciples of Jesus, OTOH, had started down a different path. So we get this little exchange to give pre-emptive sanction to the change of behaviour of Jesus’ later followers. Yes, they were Jews, or at least claiming the ancient heritage of Judaism, but they did not practice the whole of the Law. Galatians explained why.

33 At illi dixerunt ad eum: “Discipuli Ioannis ieiunant frequenter et obsecrationes faciunt, similiter et pharisaeorum; tui autem edunt et bibunt”.

34 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μὴ δύνασθε τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἐν ᾧ ὁ νυμφίος μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν ποιῆσαι νηστεῦσαι;

35 ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι, καὶ ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὁ νυμφίος τότε νηστεύσουσιν ἐνἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις.

36 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα ἀπὸ ἱματίου καινοῦ σχίσας ἐπιβάλλει ἐπὶ ἱμάτιον παλαιόν: εἰ δὲ μή γε, καὶ τὸ καινὸν σχίσει καὶ τῷ παλαιῷ οὐ συμφωνήσει τὸ ἐπίβλημα τὸ ἀπὸ τοῦ καινοῦ.

Jesus said to them, “Are the sons of the bridegroom able in which (time) them the bridegroom is with them to make a fast? (35) The days will come, and when taken away from them is the bridegroom, then they will fast in those days. (36) They say the analogy towards them that ‘No one coverings of new cloth puts upon tears in an old garment; if so, will not the new tear and from the old the new covering will not agree the with the new.”

That’s some pretty gnarly grammar there. For whatever reason, I’m back on the hyper-literal kick; but this passage is so well known that there’s likely to be no harm. The word I’ve rendered as “tear”, as in “rip/rend” transliterates to “schizo”. Added to the word for mind, “phrenia”, we get a modern psychological diagnosis. And the concept of the “sons of the bridegroom” is really interesting. Not really sure what that might mean, or can mean. And the word used is “son”; it’s not “pais”, which could be “boy”, as in the sense of “servant”. It is almost always and exclusively used as “son”, as in biological progeny. So, at best, this seems to be something of a mixed metaphor. Finally, the word rendered as “analogy” transliterates to “parabolē”. It’s the root of both “parabola” and “parable”. To this point, I’ve usually given it as parable, but every once in a while it’s good to mix it up and remind everyone that “parable” is another of those words that have come to us from the Greek with a very specific, very religious meaning attached to it. That was not the case back then. And here is the danger of “New Testament Greek”; it’s too much of a closed, self-referential, and even circular set of definitions. This really, very much distorts the way we read the text if we think that “baptizo” has the special meaning that has for us. The same is true for “parable”. This was not a special word.

More interesting is that the prediction of the day to come when those sons will fast seems to contradict what went before it. We just had our bit about Jesus standing outside the Jewish tradition, but now his later followers will step back into it? I don’t think we need to read too much into this. Fasting was a fairly common religious practice. It still is, for that matter. This seems to imply that Jesus and his followers are not so far off the beaten path after all. (*See comment to next verse.)

34 Quibus Iesus ait: “ Numquid potestis convivas nuptiarum, dum cum illis est sponsus, facere ieiunare?

35 Venient autem dies; et cum ablatus fuerit ab illis sponsus, tunc ieiunabunt in illis diebus ”.

36 Dicebat autem et similitudinem ad illos: “ Nemo abscindit commissuram a vestimento novo et immittit in vestimentum vetus; alioquin et novum rumpet, et veteri non conveniet commissura a novo.

37 καὶ οὐδεὶς βάλλει οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ῥήξει ὁ οἶνος ὁ νέος τοὺς ἀσκούς, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐκχυθήσεται καὶ οἱ ἀσκοὶ ἀπολοῦνται:

38 ἀλλὰ οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινοὺς βλητέον.

39 [καὶ] οὐδεὶς πιὼν παλαιὸν θέλει νέον: λέγει γάρ, Ὁ παλαιὸς χρηστός ἐστιν.

“And no one throws new wine into old skins. Indeed if it were not, the new wine would burst the old (skins), and they would spill out and the skins will be destroyed. (38) But new wine is put in new skins. (39) [And] no one drinking old wishes new. For it is said, ‘the old is good’.”

The last sentence of the last verse is unique to Luke. He added this to the text that was available to him in Mark (and Matthew, if you believe me about Q). Not sure if you can see it, but there’s also a bit of a pun involved. The word “good” is “chrestos”, which is obviously darn close to “christos”. In fact, in the Life of Nero by Suetonius, the followers of “chrestos” are blamed by the emperor for the fire of Rome in 64. I’m not sure where the misunderstanding came from; whether it was Suetonius specifically who didn’t get it, or if the upper (as in literate) classes in Rome as a whole were unclear on what Jesus’ followers called him. Was Luke possibly aware of this lack of understanding and tossed this in here as sort of a barb directed at those ignorant Romans?

The other aspect to this is that ‘the old is good’ is the reason why the followers of Jesus insisted on maintaining that connexion to Judaism. As such, perhaps this explains why the sons of the bridegroom* will fast again one day, as we heard in the previous passage above. Luke, as well as Mark and Matthew before him, understood that being old meant being venerated, while being new meant being scorned. After all, the Latin term for political revolution is “res novae”; literally, “new things”. It was not a term of endearment. So Luke took the message of 2M before him and amplified it by adding this little tag line at the end of the section, to let us know that the connexion existed, and that the christos was chrestos, and was chrestos, to some degree, because he was old. Or, his teachings were old. That gave him stature.

So Luke is very clever in the way that he did this. This style is very not-Mark, the terse journalist. And it’s not Matthew, either who was…whatever. Not sure how to summarize him. Luke is easy; he’s eloquent. 

37 Et nemo mittit vinum novum in utres veteres; alioquin rumpet vinum novum utres et ipsum effundetur, et utres peribunt;

38 sed vinum novum in utres novos mittendum est.

39 Et nemo bibens vetus vult novum; dicit enim: “Vetus melius est!” ”.

Luke Chapter 5:12-26

This section deals with healings; first of a leper, then of a paralytic. The action left off with Simon and the sons of Zebedee are now following Jesus. But when we left off, it didn’t tell us where they were headed. Let’s find out.


12 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν μιᾷ τῶν πόλεων καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ πλήρης λέπρας: ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον ἐδεήθη αὐτοῦ λέγων, Κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.

13 καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ λέγων,Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι: καὶ εὐθέως ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

14 καὶ αὐτὸς παρήγγειλεν αὐτῷ μηδενὶ εἰπεῖν, ἀλλὰ ἀπελθὼν δεῖξον σεαυτὸν τῷ ἱερεῖ, καὶ προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ σου καθὼς προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς.

15 διήρχετο δὲ μᾶλλον ὁ λόγος περὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ συνήρχοντο ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀκούειν καὶ θεραπεύεσθαι ἀπὸ τῶν ἀσθενειῶν αὐτῶν:

16 αὐτὸς δὲ ἦν ὑποχωρῶν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις καὶ προσευχόμενος.

And it became he to be in one of the cities and saw a man full of leprosy. Seeing Jesus, falling on his face he begged of him saying, “Lord, if you should wish, you are able to cleanse me”. (13) And stretching out his hand he touched him, saying, “I wish, be cleansed”. And immediately the leprosy went away from him. (14) And he ordered him to speak to no one, “But going away to show yourself to the priest, and give over to him about your cleansing according to the arrangement of Moses, as a witness for them”. (15) But went out more the word of him, and came together a many crowd to hear and to be healed from their diseases. (16) He was having gone away in the desert places and praying. 

I have no idea what to say about this passage. It’s sort of another mash-up of several different pieces of Mark; sort of blended together and homogenized. This appears to be something of a pattern for Luke; it’s perhaps the third time he’s done it already. The result is an episode that is very familiar, and yet does not correspond exactly with a specific passage in Mark. And it is Mark he’s emulating, rather than Matthew. It has the journalistic, almost staccato style, short and to the point. And Luke includes the contradiction of Jesus admonishing the man to say nothing, but the word only spreads further. The bit about going into the desert place occurs in Mark after a spate of miracles, but there Jesus was said to be in his house, and the whole town came to his door.

That’s actually interesting. That bit of detail was the sort of thing that really gave the impression that Jesus had a house in Caphernaum, which would support the idea that he was not from Nazareth. For Luke, Jesus is from Nazareth, and that shall not be gainsaid. So here Luke deftly excises the part of the story that casts doubt on Nazareth and does not pin down the scene even in the vaguest generality. Now, if he’s willing to do that to Mark, would he not do the same for Matthew? Yes, this is about Q, and the supposed hack-job Luke does on the masterful Sermon on the Mount. We can see that Luke is very consciously following Mark, but not really. The point is, Luke is not the least bit reluctant to change anything. So to suggest that he wouldn’t mess with Matthew is, I think, rather…incorrect. 

12 Et factum est, cum esset in una civitatum, et ecce vir plenus lepra; et videns Iesum et procidens in faciem rogavit eum dicens: “ Domine, si vis, potes me mundare ”.

13 Et extendens manum tetigit illum dicens: “Volo, mundare!”; et confestim lepra discessit ab illo.

14 Et ipse praecepit illi, ut nemini diceret, sed: “Vade, ostende te sacerdoti et offer pro emundatione tua, sicut praecepit Moyses, in testimonium illis”.

15 Perambulabat autem magis sermo de illo, et conveniebant turbae multae, ut audirent et curarentur ab infirmitatibus suis;

16 ipse autem secedebat in desertis et orabat.

17 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν διδάσκων, καὶ ἦσαν καθήμενοι Φαρισαῖοι καὶ νομοδιδάσκαλοι οἳ ἦσαν ἐληλυθότες ἐκ πάσης κώμης τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλήμ: καὶ δύναμις κυρίου ἦν εἰς τὸ ἰᾶσθαι αὐτόν.

18 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες φέροντες ἐπὶ κλίνης ἄνθρωπον ὃς ἦν παραλελυμένος, καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν εἰσενεγκεῖν καὶ θεῖναι [αὐτὸν] ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ.

19 καὶ μὴ εὑρόντες ποίας εἰσενέγκωσιν αὐτὸν διὰ τὸν ὄχλον ἀναβάντες ἐπὶ τὸ δῶμα διὰ τῶν κεράμων καθῆκαν αὐτὸν σὺν τῷ κλινιδίῳ εἰς τὸ μέσον ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ.

And it was on one of the days and he was teaching, and there were sitting Pharisees and teachers of the law and they were come from all the villages of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the lord was (there) towards the healing him. (18) And, look, men carrying upon a litter a man who was paralyzed, and they sought him (Jesus) and they brought the man in and placed him in front of him (Jesus). (19) And not finding what they carried him through the crowd going up upon the house and through the ceramic (roof tiles) they lowered him with his litter to the middle in front of Jesus. 

Note how vaguely Luke sets the scene. When I first read this, I thought it was taking place in a synagogue, which would explain why all the Pharisees & c. are there. But then they go up on top of the house, so obviously my impression was incorrect. In Mark this specifically took place in a house, presumably Jesus’ house if you read the story carefully. Matthew, OTOH, changed the setting completely; the venue of a house and the lowering through the roof was omitted and the man was simply brought up to Jesus. Here, we retain the part about the roof, think about this for a moment. Pharisees and teachers of the law from all parts of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem are present, seated and listening. How big is this house? Aside from palaces, or the homes of wealthy, or official residences, houses were not that large. 

OK, I’ve done some down-and-dirty research on house construction in First Century Galilee. Roofs were generally open to the sky, and basically flat, with a slight pitch to allow rainwater to drain and collect in a cistern. The roof generally consisted of a sort of thatch overlaid on timbers that ran the width of the house/room. Over this was laid a layer of what is essentially thatch, but made from the local plant life. On top of this was laid a floor of something sort of like a dirt-based concrete. It became, effectively, a floor of dried mud, just as adobe is dried mud. Apparently the construction was such as it allowed the roof to be used as an open second or upper floor. There is no mention of tiles. Tiles were used further west in the Mediterranean; many Roman houses had tile roofs, especially for the more affluent. So I suspect that Luke has his roofing materials muddled. As for the size of the houses, most would not have been large enough to accommodate a crowd of any size. Some were built around a courtyard, which was a time-honored tradition in the eastern Mediterranean. The problem is that these courtyards were, well, open. That is, there was no roof, so there would be no roofing material to remove.   

The point of all this is pretty straightforward. Luke is not terribly concerned with factual accuracy. If he was not from Judea or Galilee, people where he lived had tiled roofs, so of course the house Jesus was in had a tiled roof. Mark’s description of the roof material is vague to the point that it’s impossible to tell what it actually is. Mark supposedly was from somewhere other than Judea/Galilee, so he may not have known what was used, so maybe he was smart enough to fudge the details into incomprehensibility. These are the sorts of places where we see that factual accuracy was not a primary goal of the evangelists. Now, this is a small example, and it shouldn’t be overstretched, but it’s there nonetheless.

And BTW, this is one of those cases where Luke agrees with Mark rather than Matthew. As such, this provides “proof” that Luke had not read Matthew. Or, it could be that Luke felt the original setting of the story provided a more compelling setting for the tale. After all, the men carrying the litter went to a whole lot of trouble to present the paralytic to Jesus. As such, their faith was demonstrated much more effectively, IMO. So Luke could be said to be restoring that “lost” element of faith. So is Luke agreeing with Mark? Or is he correcting the story of Matthew? Given that Luke is not terribly concerned with real-world facts, such as how all these people gathered in a house, and doesn’t mind exaggerating that Pharisees and teachers of the law came from all parts of the Jewish world, and that he doesn’t seem to mind changing details of setting and story in any context, we should perhaps pay particular attention to those bits that Luke does retain.

It may be significant that this is the first time that Luke refers to the faith of the followers. It won’t be the last. This is one element of Mark that Luke does retain; how significant is it? Since it’s basically one of two such elements, I’d say it has to be significant. At this point, however, I can’t quite fathom what the significance may be. Perhaps time will tell. Remember: faith.

17 Et factum est, in una dierum, et ipse erat docens, et erant pharisaei sedentes et legis doctores, qui venerant ex omni castello Galilaeae et Iudaeae et Ierusalem; et virtus Domini erat ei ad sanandum.

18 Et ecce viri portantes in lecto hominem, qui erat paralyticus, et quaerebant eum inferre et ponere ante eum.

19 Et non invenientes qua parte illum inferrent prae turba, ascenderunt supra tectum et per tegulas summiserunt illum cum lectulo in medium ante Iesum.

20 καὶ ἰδὼν τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν εἶπεν, Ἄνθρωπε, ἀφέωνταί σοι αἱἁμαρτίαι σου.

21 καὶ ἤρξαντο διαλογίζεσθαι οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι λέγοντες, Τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὃς λαλεῖ βλασφημίας; τίς δύναται ἁμαρτίας ἀφεῖναι εἰ μὴ μόνος ὁ θεός;

22 ἐπιγνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς αὐτῶν ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τί διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν;

23 τί ἐστιν εὐκοπώτερον, εἰπεῖν, Ἀφέωνταί σοι αἱ ἁμαρτίαι σου, ἢ εἰπεῖν, Ἔγειρε καὶ περιπάτει;

24 ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐξουσίαν ἔχει ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας εἶπεν τῷ παραλελυμένῳ, Σοὶ λέγω, ἔγειρε καὶ ἄρας τὸ κλινίδιόν σου πορεύου εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου.

25 καὶ παραχρῆμα ἀναστὰς ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν, ἄρας ἐφ’ ὃ κατέκειτο, ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ δοξάζων τὸν θεόν.

26 καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεόν, καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου λέγοντες ὅτι Εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον.

And seeing the faith of them he said, “Dude, have been taken away from you your sins”.  (21) And they began to dialogue among themselves the scribes and the Pharisees, saying, “Who is he who says blasphemy? Who can take away sins if not only God?” (22) Jesus having recognised the discussion of them (and) answering said towards them, “What do you say in your hearts? (23) What is easier, to say “‘Taken away from your your sins have been’, or to say, ‘Get up and walk around’? (24) In order that you might know that the son of man has authority upon earth to take away sins,” he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, ‘get up and take up your bed and go to your house'”. (25) And immediately standing up in front of them, having taken up that on which he had been reclining, went away towards his house glorifying God. (26) And ecstasy took hold of all and they glorified God, and they were filled of fear, saying, “We have seen a wonder!” (transliterated = ‘paradox’).

I rather jumped the gun on the “faith” business. It wasn’t explicitly mentioned until this section. But running into it for the first time has rather caught me up short. Faith was a very persistent theme in Mark, mentioned early and often and here we are five chapters in (four and a half, would be technically correct) and only now do we encounter it. What has Luke been talking about? He’s been telling us, over and over, about Jesus’ divinity, going back to a time even before Jesus himself was actually conceived. We got the story of John, the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Temple, the Temptation, a few miracles and the calling of the first disciples by impressing them with his fishing skills. All of these emphasize and re-emphasize and repeatedly drive home that Jesus is a divine being. The first overt miracles only occur in this chapter. Perhaps they are meant to underscore this divinity. Honestly, they should be called “wonders”, since “miracle” is a completely loaded word in English, just as baptize and holy spirit are loaded. 

This is a bit of an aside, but one thing just occurred to me about this section. At the beginning I noted that Jesus had called his first (and, IMO, likely his only) disciples, so we should see where they were going. As it turns out, the disciples more or less disappear from the story. And it also occurs to me that they tend to do this for long stretches, at least in Luke. We have not actually encountered the word “disciple” (Greek = learner, same with the Latin) yet, and the first time we hear it is very off-hand; the second time will be regarding the disciples of John. In fact, Mark uses the word in his shorter gospel probably as many times as Luke in his longer one. Matthew uses it dozens of times. This reticence in Luke is interesting given that Luke supposedly wrote Acts, as in Acts of the Apostles. But then, I’ve suggested that the disciples called by Jesus were not actually apostles; that the latter word is appropriate to the time after Jesus, but not during Jesus’ lifetime. Here is another way in which Luke charts his own course, independent of the other gospels.

In sum, this is another sort of mash-up of several scenes in Mark. It’s difficult to pick them apart exactly, but the pieces are there. Why does Luke do this? Because he can, I suspect. Really, it’s a matter of brevity, I think. He adds a great lot of material; he can’t repeat every little episode in full. I’ve put that out there before. Here’s something that’s just occurred to me: Does he believe that many of these individual stories  do not need to be retold since they’ve already been told not once, but twice? Once by Mark and again by Matthew? Is this another bit of anti-Q evidence? It’s said that, to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Am I a hammer, and Q has become my nail? Perhaps. The problem is, as far as I can tell, none of these aspects of the problem have ever been discussed, let alone discussed properly. This grates on me no end; what kind of a scholarly arena do we have here, where not only is the dominant position one that believes in the existence of a document for which there is absolutely no evidence, but the entire debate is predicated on the naysayers being required to prove the negative, that the document did not exist. More, the proponents have established the terms of the debate in such a way that the “substance” of the argument is based on highly subjective value judgements. Other terms of argument have not been, and seemingly cannot be considered or debated.

So this will be something to look at as we proceed.

20 Quorum fidem ut vidit, dixit: “Homo, remittuntur tibi peccata tua”.

21 Et coeperunt cogitare scribae et pharisaei dicentes: “Quis est hic, qui loquitur blasphemias? Quis potest dimittere peccata nisi solus Deus? ”.

22 Ut cognovit autem Iesus cogitationes eorum, respondens dixit ad illos: “ Quid cogitatis in cordibus vestris?

23 Quid est facilius, dicere: “Dimittuntur tibi peccata tua”, an dicere: “Surge et ambula”?

24 Ut autem sciatis quia Filius hominis potestatem habet in terra dimittere peccata — ait paralytico – : Tibi dico: Surge, tolle lectulum tuum et vade in domum tuam ”.

25 Et confestim surgens coram illis tulit, in quo iacebat, et abiit in domum suam magnificans Deum.

26 Et stupor apprehendit omnes, et magnificabant Deum; et repleti sunt timore dicentes: “Vidimus mirabilia hodie”.

Luke Chapter 5:1-11

Here starts Chapter 5. Perhaps this time we can talk about the text that’s here, and not about Q. While hopeful, I’m not optimistic.


1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ τὸν ὄχλον ἐπικεῖσθαι αὐτῷ καὶ ἀκούειν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἑστὼς παρὰ τὴν λίμνην Γεννησαρέτ,

2 καὶ εἶδεν δύο πλοῖα ἑστῶτα παρὰ τὴν λίμνην: οἱ δὲ ἁλιεῖς ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἀποβάντες ἔπλυνον τὰ δίκτυα.

There was pressing (lit = lying on top) him and to hear the word of God, and he was on the harbour (of) Gennesaret, (2) and he saw to boats standing beside the harbour. The fishermen disembarked from them washing the nets.

One of the commentaries I found noted that the body of water in question has four biblical names. We are most familiar with it as the Sea of Galilee. Lake Genneseret is another, as is Lake Tiberias, and the Sea of Chinneroth, which means “heart-shaped”, which the lake is, more or less. Genneseret is also a town on the shore of the lake, and there is an inlet forming something of a peninsula on which this town is situated. Chorazin is at the head of this inlet. Gennesaret is perhaps three miles south and west of Caphernaum along the shore of the lake. Nazareth, OTOH, is a good twenty miles (or more; not sure how accurate the scale on the map is) inland. This separation of Nazareth and the fact that most of the action in Galilee takes place in or near Capheranaum, and none of it takes place in Nazareth is a big part of the reason I think Jesus was actually from Caphernaum. As I said, Mark only mentions Nazareth once, in 1:9. Matthew mentions it thrice. Nazareth scarely plays any role in any of the narrative. The only action that is set there is Jesus return to his home town that we just read in Chapter 4.

I have translated the word as “harbour” in reference to the inlet. Based on no local topographical knowledge, but understanding the principles of geography, it would make sense that fishermen would put their boats in this inlet. Apparently, the lake is prone to sudden and violent storms, so seeking safe harbour would be something a prudent boat owner would do. Also, in this way, I don’t think Luke is actually saying that the lake is named Genneseret. It is not at all necessary, or even a good idea, to read the Greek that way. The Greek word does not naturally mean “lake”, and I tend to suspect that our biblically-trained biblical scholars rather just get this wrong. Rather, I believe that Luke is referring to this inlet that formed something of a natural harbour; and recall that boats were simply drawn up onto the beach, Such a shallow draught and corresponding lack of keel would explain why boats were particularly at risk of capsizing in a storm. There was little to nothing to hold it upright.

1 Factum est autem, cum turba urgeret illum et audiret verbum Dei, et ipse stabat secus stagnum Genesareth

2 et vidit duas naves stantes secus stagnum; piscatores autem descenderant de illis et lavabant retia.

3 ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων, ὃ ἦν Σίμωνος, ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπαναγαγεῖν ὀλίγον, καθίσας δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου ἐδίδασκεν τοὺς ὄχλους.

Getting onto one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him from the land to put out (into the water) a little way, sitting in the boat he taught the crowd.

A bit of a bizarre scenario. A stranger, followed by a crowd, comes down the shore and commandeers your boat. Then, he uses it was a lecture platform while you do not very much that’s useful, he having taken you away from a necessary chore of washing your nets. This is all very fanciful, and I’m not sure Luke entirely meant us to take this seriously. As with the passing through the midst of the angry mob in the synagogue, this scene feels a bit whimsical, as if Luke is deliberately playing “once upon a time”. There is a decided lack of a sense of reality in this set-up and description. IMO, at least.

3 Ascendens autem in unam navem, quae erat Simonis, rogavit eum a terra reducere pusillum; et sedens docebat de navicula turbas.

4 ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατολαλῶν, εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα, Ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν εἰς ἄγραν.

5 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν,Ἐπιστάτα, δι’ ὅλης νυκτὸς κοπιάσαντες οὐδὲν ἐλάβομεν, ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ῥήματί σου χαλάσω τὰ δίκτυα.

As he paused speaking, he (Jesus) said to Simon, “Put out into the deep (water) and let down your nets into the fish”. (5) And answering, Simon said, “Overseer (lit = one standing near), through the whole night labouring we took up nothing, but on your word I will let down the nets.”

There are several things worth pointing out in this relatively short passage. First, the whole scenario just gets weirder. Now this stranger is telling you to go out into the water and fish. Um, sure. Get right on that, guv’nah. Another is the use of the term I have rendered as “overseer”. This word is used by Luke alone in the NT; and, he only uses it in the gospel and not in Acts. Which immediately sets me off wondering if, indeed, Luke & Acts were written by the same person. Finally, Simon does what the stranger told him, on the stranger’s word alone.

Of course, we really don’t have to marvel at this whole bizarre situation. The meaning, or the intent is clear enough: Luke is demonstrating for us just how compelling a  personality Jesus was, to the point that he can convince some total stranger to do what he asks. If anyone has watched any of  Jessica Jones on Netflix, this all sounds a lot like the villain played by David Tenant, of Dr Who fame. But of course Jesus is not evil, but compelling  in a very good way.

4 Ut cessavit autem loqui, dixit ad Simonem: “Duc in altum et laxate retia vestra in capturam”.

5 Et respondens Simon dixit: “ Praeceptor, per totam noctem laborantes nihil cepimus; in verbo autem tuo laxabo retia”.

6 καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσαντες συνέκλεισαν πλῆθος ἰχθύων πολύ, διερρήσσετο δὲ τὰ δίκτυα αὐτῶν.

7 καὶ κατένευσαν τοῖς μετόχοις ἐν τῷ ἑτέρῳ πλοίῳ τοῦ ἐλθόντας συλλαβέσθαι αὐτοῖς: καὶ ἦλθον, καὶ ἔπλησαν ἀμφότερα τὰ πλοῖα ὥστε βυθίζεσθαι αὐτά.

8 ἰδὼν δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ λέγων, Ἔξελθε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε:

And doing this (i.e. letting out the nets), they enclosed a plethora of fish, breaking through their nets. (7) And they made a sign by nodding their heads to their partners in the other boat of coming to receive with them. And they came, and they filled both the boats so that to sink them.  (8) Seeing this Simon Peter fell to his knees of Jesus, saying, “Go away from me, that I am a sinful man, lord”. 

Here, of course, is the payoff to this story. Jesus knows. If you listen to Jesus, you prosper. I would like to say this is a particularly pagan attitude: do ut des. I give so that you give. The you being God. The idea is that we give something in sacrifice so that God gives us (one hopes) more in return. But this is not a pagan attitude. It’s the rationale behind the story of Job as well. The adversary taunts God by saying, “of course Job is faithful to you. Look at how richly you’ve rewarded him”. And this became a particularly Calvinist, if not Protestant, attitude: all God’s friends are rich. This attitude was carried to the shores of America by the Puritans, who prospered enormously. Remember: we are either saved, or we’re damned, and we can’t know which. But, by their fruits ye shall know them, so monetary wealth was considered the sign of God’s favour, so the wealthy were respected and considered Elect, while the poor despised as Foreknown and damned. This attitude still pervades a lot of religious thinking in 21st Century America: the poor can be disregarded because, what the hell, they’re damned anyway. But–and this is a big but–this attitude was very common among Greeks and Romans, too. The aristoi, the optimates, the best in Greek and Latin respectively were often considered so because of their wealth. Their wealth was an outward sign. This is because hereditary wealth, eventually, bought respectability. The Best Money, after all, was Old Money. Nouveau riche and arriviste are terms of scorn.

So it’s as such, as one who gave, Simon Peter recognised Jesus as “lord”. Jesus could bestow wealth, so he could bestow favour, and Simon immediately understands that he is in the presence of something More. But why does Luke add all these details to the story? This tale is unique to Luke. Looking at this, and at some of the other stories that only Luke has, I’m starting to see a pattern. These stories are what I will call, for want of a better term, amplifiers. That is, they are designed to amplify the impact of some aspect of Jesus’ life and divine status. I suppose magnify would also work, but whatever. Others stories that would fall into this would be the stories of the birth of the Baptist, which amplifies the nativity of Jesus narrative by elevating the status of the herald of Jesus to come. Another would be the way he passed through the midst of the angry crowd in Nazareth*, which demonstrated that Jesus’ power, his ability to perform miracles was certainly not dependent on the faith of those around him. And now here; it’s not enough to call Peter; he has to demonstrate his ability. Thinking about it, this in some ways diminishes Jesus: in the other two gospels, Peter follows without question. Here, he does so only after a huge demonstration of power. But, one can certainly look at that in a couple of different ways. 

So is that what Luke is doing? Amplifying?  Is that his overall intention, or goal? To say ‘yes’ is to be fairly obvious. After all, that’s a lot of what Matthew did, starting with the Nativity story. He amplified Jesus’ divinity, starting with the virgin birth and the Star of Bethlehem. Luke is really doing the same, here and in the other episodes mentioned. Now, I would love to tie this into the Q argument, and I think it would be a legitimate thing to do, but the bottom line is that it’s not necessary. Either way, we’re witnessing the process by which legends grow. Luke was doing this, either on his own or following the example of Matthew. I suspect the latter, of course, but let’s wait a bit to see if this is borne out by the subsequent narrative, whether it seems that Luke is building specifically on Matthew. If so, the pattern has not fully emerged.

*Nazareth: it only just occurs to me that this amplifier was designed to banish the idea that Jesus was unable to perform many miracles in Nazareth, due to the lack of faith of the townspeople. No miracles? Nonsense! Jesus’ power is not dependent on the faith of those around him.

6 Et cum hoc fecissent, concluserunt piscium multitudinem copiosam; rumpebantur autem retia eorum.

7 Et annuerunt sociis, qui erant in alia navi, ut venirent et adiuvarent eos; et venerunt et impleverunt ambas naviculas, ita ut mergerentur.

8 Quod cum videret Simon Petrus, procidit ad genua Iesu dicens: “Exi a me, quia homo peccator sum, Domine”.

9 θάμβος γὰρ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῇ ἄγρᾳ τῶν ἰχθύων ὧν συνέλαβον,

10 ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην υἱοὺς Ζεβεδαίου, οἳ ἦσαν κοινωνοὶ τῷ Σίμωνι. καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Μὴ φοβοῦ: ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν.

11 καὶ καταγαγόντες τὰ πλοῖα ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἀφέντες πάντα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.

Amazement encompassed him and all those with him regarding the catch of fish which they had taken, (and) (10) in the same way also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were with Simon, and Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now you will be one catching men”. (11) And driving the ship down upon the land, all having gotten off they followed him.

In the commentary to this on Mark, I suggested that, if Jesus had grown up on Caphernaum as I suspect, the way Peter & c left to follow Jesus would make much more sense. We know Peter was a follower; Paul verified that before any of these gospels were written. Notice that there is no mention of Andrew, Peter’s brother. He will come in later, probably when the Twelve are being named. In 2M, Andrew is mentioned exactly twice; at the initial calling, and when Jesus sends them out. Luke skips the first one. Interesting to note that as the legend of Jesus grew, the legend of Andrew had faded a bit. Now, this would be recovered since Andrew had a great career in front of him, ending up as the patron saint of Scotland. But it is worth noting that he is not here. The point being, that if Jesus had grown up in Caphernaum, then he and Peter would likely have known each other all their lives. This, in turn, would explain Peter’s eventual devotion and dedication to Jesus.

Something just occurred to me. Back in Chapter 4, after Jesus left the synagogue, he went to the house of Simon, where Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law so she could wait on them. I didn’t realize it then, but we had not yet been introduced to Simon when that happened. Good gracious boy howdy, would I ever like to spin some really interesting theories on how this “proves” that Jesus had grown up in Caphernaum, and had known Simon before the point when Jesus called him. However, it’s much more likely that Luke just sort of muddled the chronology a bit. He kept the story of going to Simon’s house in more or less its original context per Mark, without really noticing that he hadn’t actually introduced Simon yet. It’s similar to the way that the Baptist was arrested before he baptized Jesus. Oops. So, as deliberate as Luke was, he was more concerned with the overall story than he was with stuff like chronological consistency. This is important to note, because it plays a big role in how Luke treats the material he inherited, which would include Mark, either Q or Matthew, and probably other traditions. 

I have believe that I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating. At some point I read it suggested that James the son of Zebedee is no other than James the Just, the brother of the lord. I have a nagging sense that I brought this up before but dismissed it for whatever reason(s). If so, this is a good time to revisit that. This is pure speculation, but it would really make a lot of sense. The two people that Paul corroborates as members of the Jerusalem community are James, brother of the lord, and Peter. Here we have Peter and James. Being the son of  Zebedee really doesn’t pose any problem, since the name of Jesus’ father is problematic. Had Jesus’ father died some time ago, and had Mary then married Zebedee and had sons named James and John, then this would be a very tidy explanation. James, brother of Jesus, is only mentioned by Paul, and yet James son of Zebedee plays a consistent part in all four gospels. A brother named James is mentioned in Mark 6, when Jesus’ siblings are named. It would then make that Jesus was called “son of Mary” since his own father was dead, and his mother married to someone else. The fly in the ointment is that Mark 6 does not mention a John, but you can’t always have everything, And really, this feels like one of those theories that is too clever by half. Yes, it ties up a lot of loose ends, but that is part of the problem. It’s a little too neat. Real life usually isn’t quite so tidy, and this general slovenliness is what gives credence to conspiracy theories. Someone opening an umbrella on a sunny day in Dallas may be odd, but that does not mean it’s significant. Maybe he opened the umbrella to use as a parasol against the sun, but the people behind objected to having their view blocked. Same here. It would explain a lot of things, but…But I am leaning towards it, tidiness be damned. It fits, and nicely. Too nicely? Perhaps. It requires more pondering, but in the end, it’s one of those things on which one can change one’s mind every six months for the rest of one’s life and still never be able to make up one’s mind. 

This is an update. It occurred to me that I hadn’t addressed the idea of Simon & the brothers leaving everything behind to follow him. In fact, I haven’t addressed this at all, in any of the gospels. However, I don’t think tacking this on to the very end of a post is the proper time & place to consider the topic; rather, I’ll save it for the Summary.

9 Stupor enim circumdederat eum et omnes, qui cum illo erant, in captura piscium, quos ceperant;

10 similiter autem et Iacobum et Ioannem, filios Zebedaei, qui erant socii Simonis. Et ait ad Simonem Iesus: “ Noli timere; ex hoc iam homines eris capiens ”.

11 Et subductis ad terram navibus, relictis omnibus, secuti sunt illum.

Summary Luke Chapter 4

There is a very good chance that this summary will be either 1) rather short; 2) rather different; or 3) both. The most salient feature of this chapter, or at least about the commentary regarding it, is how much is dedicated to the discussion of Q rather than to the text itself. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the discussion of the text has focused on whether or not it supports or undercuts the case for Q. To some degree, this is inevitable. We’re on the third iteration for some of these stories, so we’ve already picked the bones clean (OK, a bit of hyperbole) regarding the content and how it reflects the status of Christian belief at the time of writing. So the triangulation for Q is the most salient aspect of the text in many ways.

Overall, Luke’s content, his arrangement, and even his verbiage is much closer to Mark than to Matthew; however, already there have been significant exceptions. Most notably, there are pieces of the story of Jesus not being accepted in Nazareth that are completely novel, unique to Luke. Most likely, as I see it, this most likely means that Luke created or crafted these stories himself.  In addition, Luke felt no qualms about doing something of a mash of material in Mark’s Chapter 1 with Mark’s Chapter 5. We know that there are a number of novel pieces coming our way, all of them of good literary quality, so we can pretty safely infer that Luke had a high degree of literary sensibility and talent. One aspect of such talent is creativity; from what we’ve read of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, we should have a good inkling that Luke was a creative talent of some significance. As such, we should see his departures from Mark as very deliberate.

This leads to the question of his relationship, if any, to Matthew. Does this connexion occur only indirectly, via Q, or does Luke have a direct relationship, from having read Matthew’s gospel. That’s the question. So far the evidence seems to be leaning in favour that yes, Luke did know of Matthew’s gospel. Remember, the Q people say that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Remember, he does this all the time, except they call it Q when he does it. This argument is very close to, if not completely circular. How do we know what’s in Q? Because it’s in Matthew and Luke but not Mark. Why doesn’t Luke ever agree with Matthew against Mark? Because that is Q material. How do we know it’s Q material? Because it’s in Matthew and Luke but not Mark. As I said, not exactly the classic paradigm of a circular argument (which is what “begging the question” actually means), but it’s very close. The other “argument” for derives from the way Luke misarranges the material in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, it’s so perfect that only a “fool or a madman” would change it, and surely Luke was neither. This is not an argument; it’s the logical fallacy of Complex Question: have you stopped embezzling from your company? The question cannot be answered in any legitimate fashion.

And yet, we have encountered numerous aspects in which Luke does agree with Matthew against Mark. To enumerate, once again:

  • Giving Jesus a “human” father, whose name was Joseph;
  • By telling us Jesus was born in Bethlehem;
  • That Jesus was born of a virgin;
  • That an angel of God announced to one of the two that Jesus had been/was to be conceived by the sacred breath;
  • That Herod was on the throne when all of this started, at least;
  • The creation of a genealogy for Jesus;

There are others, I believe, that escape me at the moment. Even as is, this list is too long to be attributed to mere coincidence.

Speaking of probability, there is the point, proclaimed loudly and often, that Luke never, ever, not once agrees with Matthew against Mark. Except for the six points above. Without realizing it, by insisting on using this argument, the Q people are sort of cutting the ground out from under their own feet. Never implies a perfect correlation; this never (pun intended) happens in reality, except in those cases where it does, but they are very, very infrequent. Since perfect correlation is so rare, it’s existence is always suspect. As such, the perfect correlation posited here is suspect. That’s about as fundamental a syllogism as you’re apt to find in the real world. So if the correlation is so perfect, that implies deliberate choice: Luke chose to agree with Mark against Matthew rather than vice versa.

The last point is that there are times when the verbiage of Luke and Matthew is nearly identical, to the point of using the same unusual word. This can be accounted for one of two ways: First, that they both copied Q almost verbatim; or second, that Luke copied Matthew almost verbatim. Why would a creative genius such as I’ve suggested Luke to be copy Matthew rather than create his own version? Well, why would he copy Q the same way? If you’re going to suggest that he judiciously copied Q, why is it so hard to believe that he copied Matthew? Answer, it’s not hard at all. Beside that, we’ve talked about probability again. How likely is it that two people would copy the same source in almost exactly the same way? Is that more likely, or less likely, than suggesting that  similarity between two authors is because one copied the other, rather than that they both copied some unknown source, one for which there is not a shred of evidence for its existence?

Yes, this is a lot about probability. But that’s what history–good history–is: trying to find the most likely explanation for an event, or series of events. It’s not about creative interpretation; that’s a different branch of the literary art called “fiction”.

The real issue is that the changes Luke made have no real theological impact. Adding the bit about Jesus passing through the midst of the crowd that wants to lynch him is a foreshadow of Jesus after the Resurrection, Or, is thus indicating that Luke is verging on docetism, that Jesus did not actually have a corporeal body? That had not occurred to me before, but now that it has occurred to me, I will pay attention to see if there is any further indication. That would indeed be theologically significance. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the addition of this piece to Chapter 4 does not forward the story line in any significant manner. Theologically, it does reinforce Jesus’ divinity, but that’s already been pretty thoroughly established given the time dedicated to the stories of John, the Visitation (2nd Joyful Mystery of the Rosary), the Heavenly Host at the birth, and all the rest of the episodes added prior to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But this reinforcement is adding to an already laden wagon. As for the story, I’m not sure what it does, but Luke obviously felt it was important enough to make out of whole cloth.

So this lack of transparent motive is the reason, or part of it, that we’re spending so much time discussing Q. The larger part, of course, is that Q has become a thing for me, and I fear that I spend altogether too much time on the subject; however, whether Q existed or not is of enormous importance to the way the NT is studied. And yet a real debate on the topic has never been held. This even exceeds the “dash on Phaleron” hypothesized by J.A.R. Munro in 1899; he suggested that the Persians were loading their cavalry back into their ships to sail to Phaleron, then the port of Athens, while the Athenian army was at Marathon. This idea held the field until the early 1970s, when the first serious challenges were offered, some seventy years later. Q, in contrast, has held the field , fundamentally unchallenged, for well over a century. That needs to end.

So, more about Q than about Luke, I’m afraid. But Luke is the key to the Q question. There will be more, but I will try to refrain from long-winded explanations of stuff I’ve already explained. Feel free to call me on it before it becomes insufferable.

Luke Chapter 4:40-44 (conclusion)

Chapter 4 wraps up with a very short section. For some reason I thought the chapter had 48, rather than 44 verses. As such, it probably could have been tacked on to the previous post, but what’s done is done. Jesus has just expelled a demon, and his reputation and stories of him have spread far and wide around the countryside on the shores of the Sea* of Galilee.


40 Δύνοντος δὲ τοῦ ἡλίου ἅπαντες ὅσοι εἶχον ἀσθενοῦντας νόσοις ποικίλαις ἤγαγον αὐτοὺς πρὸς αὐτόν: ὁ δὲ ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ αὐτῶν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιτιθεὶς ἐθεράπευεν αὐτούς.

The sun having westerned (= set, as in the west), how many they had being weakened by illness they brought to him. He, laying his hands on upon each of them, healed them.

Let’s begin with first word in the verse. It is a very rare word, even in secular Greek. It’s used a few times to represent the furthest point of something; in this case, the furthest (western) point of the sun, which occurs at sunset. I rendered it as “westerned” to get this aspect of the word across; however, that translation is really more based on the Latin from the Vulgate, which is occidens. The Greek is non-specific, able to refer to any furthest point. The Latin specifically means “westerned”. Occidens, west, is opposed to oriens, the east. Hence the division of the globe Orient and the Occident, East and West.

With this word I’m beginning to get some appreciation of what the Q people mean when they say that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Here is a great example of what they mean. The first word in the sentence is used twice in the NT; once here, and once by Mark in the same context of this same story. So Luke obviously is following Mark very closely in some respects, as in not having Jesus dwell in Caphernaum. One of my points about the Q argument is that if Luke always–as in like, every time–then I think you have to consider, at the very least, that Luke made deliberate choices to agree with Mark against Luke. To match up with Mark very single time indicates perfect correlation, and that does not occur outside of physical laws of the universe, like gravity. And even then quirky things happen. So it is, perhaps, telling that Luke agrees with Mark here; we know it’s telling us something, but what, exactly? As we saw in previous sections of this chapter, Luke is not afraid to mess with Mark’s order or other things; so when he chooses to agree, it’s significant. So why does he agree with Mark, and so often?

Let’s go back to the first few verses of the gospel, in which Luke sets out his intention. He has, he tells us, gone through previous accounts and done some cross-checking, I was just on another Bible-themed blog and the author referred to this stated intention. His conclusion was that there were other gospels written than have been lost. So not only are we creating Q, but we’re creating other gospels. This is certainly not out of the question. But–and you knew that was coming–why create more gospels when we already know with a pretty high level of confidence that there were two of them written before Luke. This is exactly the sort of thing that is so exasperating about the Q “argument”; it basically starts at the pre-determined conclusion–that Q existed–and work back from there, explaining anything else in terms of Q. My point is this: if Luke always agrees with Mark, and if his purpose is to set the record straight, then that really implies that he’s implying that he takes Mark at greater historical value than he does Matthew. And, since Matthew has a lot of stuff that’s not in Mark, Luke does not see it as sacrosanct as far as the order goes. Indeed, the idea that there was one definitive version of Q, that set the sayings (and stuff that John said and Jesus did) in a very specific order which was not to be abused is ludicrous. It there was one “sayings of Jesus” collection floating about, there were probably a number of them, each with its own contents and order. So again, the Q argument assumes its existence, which is bad enough, and then takes this further to assume –or to insist, really–that there was a definitive version of Q. Matthew and Luke could easily have been working from a document that fits the definition of Q, but that is not to say they were the same document, with the same content, with the same order. That’s pretty much willful blindness to historical probability.

40 Cum sol autem occidisset, omnes, qui habebant infirmos variis languoribus, ducebant illos ad eum; at ille singulis manus imponens curabat eos.

41 ἐξήρχετο δὲ καὶ δαιμόνια ἀπὸ πολλῶν, κρ[αυγ]άζοντα καὶ λέγοντα ὅτι Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ ἐπιτιμῶν οὐκ εἴα αὐτὰ λαλεῖν, ὅτι ᾔδεισαν τὸν Χριστὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι.

42 Γενομένης δὲ ἡμέρας ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη εἰς ἔρημον τόπον: καὶ οἱ ὄχλοι ἐπεζήτουν αὐτόν, καὶ ἦλθον ἕως αὐτοῦ, καὶ κατεῖχον αὐτὸν τοῦ μὴ πορεύεσθαι ἀπ’ αὐτῶν.

43 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Καὶ ταῖς ἑτέραις πόλεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαί με δεῖ τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐπὶ τοῦτο ἀπεστάλην.

44 καὶ ἦν κηρύσσων εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς τῆς Ἰουδαίας.

Demons also came out from many, crying out and saying that, “You are the son of God!” and rebuking (them) he would not allow them to speak, that they knew him to be the Christ. (42) Happening one day going out he came to a deserted place; and the crowds sought him, and they came up to him, and they held him so that he he could not go away from them. (43) He said to them that, “And to the other cities it is necessary for me to evangelize the kingdom of God, that upon this I was sent”. (44) And he was announcing to the synagogues of the Jews.

Here we have a compression of several themes from Mark that are also paraphrased, to some extent, by Matthew. Here we have at least a hint of the Messianic secret in the circumstances of Jesus expelling unclean spirits and then shushing them into silence so that they could not tell the crowds who Jesus was. The whole idea of this is a bit odd, especially since earlier in the chapter Jesus announced to the crowd in the synagogue in Nazareth that the prophecy if Isaiah had been fulfilled, which was enough to infuriate the crowd that heard him. Or, given that he infuriated the crowd, was this silencing of demons his way of not broadcasting his identity? Actually, that suggestion assumes that anything like this actually happened; of course, it didn’t. Rather, this is Luke following Mark–again–in substance, but putting a slightly different spin on the matter. Because here again we have the contradictory keeping of the secret, but the wild popularity of Jesus. The two are, to some extent, incompatible, especially if later parts of the gospel story are to be taken as accurate; of course, however, they should not be taken as factually accurate, because that was never the intent.

From these verses we are to glean that Jesus understood himself to have a mission to preach. One thing we do not know, however, is the subject about which he is to spread the good news. Luke has not yet mentioned the idea of a “kingdom of heaven”. In both Mark & Matthew, we are told that both John and Jesus were intent to spread the good news about this kingdom, but so far in Luke, nothing. It is difficult to calibrate how much this lack matters; is it that Luke took it for granted at this point that his audience would understand that this was Jesus’ theme? That’s sort of on par with the questions about why Paul was so vague on certain points; did he take them as understood? Or, in that case, had the details familiar to us now had not yet crystalized into a tradition? Here, OTOH, this formation of the details had occurred, so the underlying situation is very different even if the outward circumstances appear to be similar. Of course, in the end, there is no answer to the question of ‘why the silence?’ If made to guess, I would say that the silence is not particularly significant, except to underscore that, while he seems to be following Mark very closely, Luke was not welded to Mark’s outline or content. Luke, it appears, had no qualms about adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing Mark’s material and arrangement. So, in that very real sense, this lack of reference to the “kingdom of heaven” is significant since it demonstrates that willingness to depart from Mark very clearly.

41 Exibant autem daemonia a multis clamantia et dicentia: “ Tu es Filius Dei ”. Et increpans non sinebat ea loqui, quia sciebant ipsum esse Christum.

42 Facta autem die, egressus ibat in desertum locum; et turbae requirebant eum et venerunt usque ad ipsum et detinebant illum, ne discederet ab eis.

43 Quibus ille ait: “ Et aliis civitatibus oportet me evangelizare regnum Dei, quia ideo missus sum ”.

44 Et erat praedicans in synagogis Iudaeae.


*Sea of Galilee: it’s fresh water, so I believe technically it’s a lake. I have, in fact, seen it labeled as the “Lake of Galilee”, or even “Lake Tiberias”.

Luke Chapter 4:31-39

The rest of Chapter 4 will be divided into two short sections of 9-10 verses each. This will keep the flow going, and, I hope, help me to get these out more quickly. It is better to publish shorter and more frequently, IMO.


31 Καὶ κατῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας. καὶ ἦν διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν:

32 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ ἦν ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ.

And he came down to the city of Caphernaum of Galilee. And there he taught them on the Sabbaths. (32) And they were driven from their senses by his teaching, that in power was his speech.

Here’s another one of those situations involving the Mark/Matthew/Luke progression. In Mark, Jesus leaves Nazareth and comes to Caphernaum. In Matthew, we are told that Jesus came to dwell in Caphernaum. Here, Luke seems to follow Mark. This time, however, there does not appear to be any gravitational influence from Matthew. I get no sense in this passage that Luke is aware of Matthew, let alone that he is correcting Matthew. In this case, it would appear that Luke has completely ignored Matthew on this point. This would be consistent with the existence of Q; this would be one of those points where Luke does not agree with Matthew against Mark. So this does not support my denial of Q. It does not actively contradict my position; rather, it passively declines to support me. What we have to do is make note of these points, tally them up, and see if their combined weight is enough to offset the points I’ve brought up where Luke does agree with Matthew against Mark.

Here’s how this one shakes out. In the previous section, Luke says that Jesus returned to the town where he was raised. He specifically names this as Nazareth. Contrast to Mark 6, when Jesus returns to his home town and cannot perform many miracles due to their lack of faith. That is where he is called the son of Mary, and his siblings are named. Mark does not mention the name of the town. I suspect he does not because Mark did not know the name of Jesus’ home town, and did not particularly care. In fact, that story has the feel of a discrete unit that Mark swallowed more or less whole. The important lesson of that story was that a prophet is not without honour except in his homeland. However, the story does not, I believe, refer to the town where Jesus was raised, but to the Jewish community that had rejected Jesus as the saviour. That is, that story was a parable about why the new religion had caught on among pagans, but had been rejected by the Jews.

So there, in a sense, Luke was correcting Mark by naming the town. It could also be argued that Luke is undercutting Matthew by setting up this sequence the way he did, giving us Nazareth and then not agreeing that Jesus came to dwell in Caphernaum. So it is just possible that this sequence of verses was set up so that Luke could, without saying so, set the record straight on Matthew as well, but in a very passive manner. The neutral reading of this is that Luke was simply following Mark, and that would be a strong case here. To say Luke supports my position is admittedly a stretch, but it does not actively work against me, either.

As for Verse 32, this paraphrase is much closer to Mark’s language and grammar, but the sentiment is expressed by both the other evangelists. So on balance, this passage is much closer to Mark than Matthew. Now here’s a thought: what if part of Luke’s intent was to go back to Mark, by sort of pushing Matthew aside? That is, except for Bethlehem, Joseph, angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus, setting the conception of John in the reign of Herod, the virgin birth…you get the idea. I hate to keep bringing those things up but they carry an enormous amount of weight in the argument about Q.

31 Et descendit in Capharnaum civitatem Galilaeae. Et docebat illos sabbatis;

32 et stupebant in doctrina eius, quia in potestate erat sermo ipsius.

33 καὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου, καὶ ἀνέκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ,

34 Ἔα, τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ.

35 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων, Φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. καὶ ῥίψαν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον εἰς τὸ μέσον ἐξῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μηδὲν βλάψαν αὐτόν.

36 καὶ ἐγένετο θάμβος ἐπὶ πάντας, καὶ συνελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντες, Τίς ὁ λόγος οὗτος, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ καὶ δυνάμει ἐπιτάσσει τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις πνεύμασιν, καὶ ἐξέρχονται;

37 καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο ἦχος περὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς πάντα τόπον τῆς περιχώρου.

And in the synagogue was a man having the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a great voice, (34) “Hey–what is (between) us and you, Jesus of Nazareth? You have come to expel us. I know who you are, the holy one of God!” (35) And censured him Jesus, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him”. And tossing him the little daimon into the midst came out of him and no longer hurt him. (36) And amazement became among all, and they talked to each other, saying, “What is this speech, that in authority and power that enjoins unclean spirits, and they go?” (37) And the sound (talking, rumour) went out about him to all places in the surrounding country. 

This episode, and its placement, are straight out of Mark. So once again, it’s whether we should see this as Luke not being aware of Matthew, or if Luke is deliberately going back to Mark. I would suggest the latter; from the first few verses of the last section, the “is he not the son of Joseph?”, it’s obvious that Luke has no qualms about arranging and rearranging to suit his particular purposes in a particular situation. He does not feel bound to follow anyone; as such, we can infer that Luke arranged his gospel the way he did because he wanted to do it that way. I do think that it’s a stretch, if not outright impossible, always to know his exact reasons. The idea that we have to provide an editorially consistent explanation for every time Luke deviates from Matthew is not only ridiculous, it’s impossible. Any such explanation is an attempt to recreate Luke’s mindset, and to think that we can do that is the height of arrogance. Any such explanation is necessarily subjective on the part of the explainer, and the next person can easily come along and blow it up with ever-so-withering criticism. IOW, the Q proponents are requiring an all-but impossible standard, all in the name of proving that Q did not exist.

So to start Jesus’ ministry, we have him announcing the fulfillment of Isaiah, enraging those listening, passing through the angry mob, and now expelling an unclean daimon. And note the usage: not an unclean spirit, but the spirit of an unclean daimon. No doubt you are all aware that the word “daimon” is a neutral term in Greek. An evil spirit would be specifically referred to as a kakodaimon; the transition of a neutral daimon into an always-evil demon was an accomplishment of the Christians. That being said, the Near Eastern heritage had more of a tradition of things more closely resembling what we would call a demon, but it took the Christians to create the system that has been in place for the past few millennia.

But this does not address why it’s the spirit of an unclean daimon rather than an unclean spirit, as it was in Mark. Now, we can’t compare this to Matthew directly since this episode does not occur in Matthew. And it’s not like the word daimon occurs more often in Matthew than Mark. So this is a new concept unique (so far, anyway) to Luke. I’m not entirely sure what it means, or if it means anything out of the ordinary. I would say it probably doesn’t.

Finally, we end with more wonder and astonishment, which leads to the word of him going out into the surrounding country. There’s really nothing much to be gleaned from this that wasn’t discussed when we came across this in both Mark and Matthew. The one thing that will be interesting will be to see if Luke gets back into the “messianic secret” of Mark. Or, perhaps we should call it “Schrodinger’s Messiah”: simultaneously famous and unknown.

33 Et in synagoga erat homo habens spiritum daemonii immundi; et exclamavit voce magna:

34 “ Sine; quid nobis et tibi, Iesu Nazarene? Venisti perdere nos? Scio te qui sis: Sanctus Dei ”.

35 Et increpavit illi Iesus dicens: “ Obmutesce et exi ab illo! ”. Et cum proiecisset illum daemonium in medium, exiit ab illo nihilque illum nocuit.

36 Et factus est pavor in omnibus; et colloquebantur ad invicem dicentes: “Quod est hoc verbum, quia in potestate et virtute imperat immundis spiritibus, et exeunt?”.

37 Et divulgabatur fama de illo in omnem locum regionis.

38 Ἀναστὰς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν Σίμωνος. πενθερὰ δὲ τοῦ Σίμωνος ἦν συνεχομένη πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ, καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν περὶ αὐτῆς.

39 καὶ ἐπιστὰς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ πυρετῷ, καὶ ἀφῆκεν αὐτήν: παραχρῆμα δὲ ἀναστᾶσα διηκόνει αὐτοῖς.

Standing up from the synagogue he came to the house of Simon. The mother-in-law of Simon was held with a great fever, and they asked him about her. (39) And standing before her he rebuked the fever and it left her. Forthwith standing up she attended to them.

Boy howdy I’m really resisting the urge to say something like, hard to get decent help these days. They needed someone to minister (diakonos = deacon) to them, so Jesus had to heal her. Oh wait, I just said it.

From a doctrinal standpoint, it’s worth mentioning that Jesus rebuked the fever. This is the same word used a few verses ago  when Jesus rebuked the unclean daimon he was expelling. We could take this to mean that the fever was considered to be caused by a spirit. Now, Luke is generally considered to be Greek, and this was not a common Greek idea after the time of Alexander, or even previously. Greek medical thought was often horrifically wrong, but it had gotten past the idea of disease as demonic activity. Having said that, it’s worth pointing out that the verb is passive, that she was held by a great fever. That could be taken to imply an outside agency, but that may be pushing it a bit too far. Since neither Mark nor Matthew use this word in this context, perhaps it’s just Luke being poetic. 

38 Surgens autem de synagoga introivit in domum Simonis. Socrus autem Simonis tenebatur magna febri; et rogaverunt illum pro ea.

39 Et stans super illam imperavit febri, et dimisit illam; et continuo surgens ministrabat illis.