Monthly Archives: March 2015

Matthew Chapter 10:25-28

My apologies. This was actually supposed to be part of the previous post, but I somehow managed to publish that post before I’d completed the section below. Then I was going to tack it on the end of the previous post as an update, or include it as the beginning of the next post, but this grew to be too long for either of those solutions. So I have this odd little thing stuck in here on its own. I hope it doesn’t disrupt the flow too much.

Jesus is still talking to his disciples.

25 ἀρκετὸν τῷ μαθητῇ ἵνα γένηται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὁ δοῦλος ὡς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ. εἰ τὸν οἰκοδεσπότην Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐπεκάλεσαν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον τοὺς οἰκιακοὺς αὐτοῦ.

26 Μὴ οὖν φοβηθῆτε αὐτούς: οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστιν κεκαλυμμένον ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται.

27 ὃ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτί: καὶ ὃ εἰς τὸ οὖς ἀκούετε, κηρύξατε ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων.

“It is enough for the disciple in order to be as (i.e., the equivlent) of his teacher, and the slave to be as his master. If they call Beelzeboul the master of the house, how much more his household? (26) And do not fear them, for nothing is overed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not be known. (27) What I sat to you in the shadow, speak in the light,  and the thing you hear in the ear, announce upon rooftops.

First, the first part about Beelzeboul. Is it just me, or does that not quite make sense? What we have here is that the Greek is very minimal; there are parts of the sentence that are left out that are meant to be understood. The problem is, what I may think is the obvious implication, what I think should be understood is not necessarily the same thing someone else will understand as implied. Now, what happens in cases like this is that, over time, scholars, clergy, etc. come to a consensus on the most likely way that the passage should be taken. If you’ll recall, we came across several of these in Galatians and 1 Thessalonians, and I termed them “consesus translations”.  Now I admit that the people coming to these consensus (that’s actually the plural; it’s a fifth declension Latin noun, not a second declension noun, the plural of which would be “consensi”) are way more knowledgeable about NT Greek than I am; however, the problem is that most of them are textual scholars, people who read the text for meaning. Now, there are a number of these passages in Greek–and Latin–secular writing as well. In particular, Thucydides and Tactitus pose significant problems in translation. The difference is that the people arguing about the meaning of these texts are historians; as such, their interest is to come up with the best translation they can that will bolster their particular argument. The problem with NT Greek is that the people who reach these agreements often have a theological case to make. The result is that modern translations are often remarkably consistent on how they handle passages like this. I don’t mean to imply that this consensus is wrong, or a bad translation, but it’s important to know, IMO, that what you read in English is not necessarily supported by the Greek. That’s why you want to read the original, so you can draw your own conclusions.

Honestly, though, I have to say that, by and large, the impact that the sum-total of passages like this has on overall meaning, the overall message, isn’t that significant. There have been instances, such a when the Vulgate translated John’s admonition as “do penance” when the better rendering is “be penitent” makes a huge difference, and had an enormous impact on the development of the Western Church, a misunderstanding that was not cleared up until Erasmus made his translation in the late 15th Century. But still, everyone works from the Greek now, so such instances are very rare–I won’t say nonexistent– these days. So if you’ve been meaning to learn Greek but haven’t, don’t feel too bad. You’re not missing that much. However, learning Greek–or any language, really–has its own rewards. You won’t regret it; just beware: it is a bit of a slog.

Now, speakng of language, my understanding of grammar is that pronouns have antecedents. But in V-26, we are told, “And do not fear them…” Who is the “them”? Taking another look, it appears that it may be the same “they” who call Beezelboul the master of the house. But that just takes us back another step: what is the antecedent of the “they”? Really, the most logical plural antecedent is the accumulation of disciples, teachers, slaves, and masters who are all equal. Are these the ones we’re not to fear How does that make sense?  And from there we go into the covered/revealed, dark/light couplets; that is not exactly a smooth transition thematically, is it? So once again, I have a real sense that Matthew is doing a bit of a cut-and-paste here, and is perhaps not doing it all that well. So this is another place where we have to ask about Matthew’s sources. Or just ask what is going on here.

And it’s probably an especially good place to ask this for another reason. Mark 4:22 contains the contrast of things that were secret eventually being exposed to the light. But Mark does not have the parts about–make that the part about whispers and shouting from the rooftops. For the passage here about covered and revealed, hidden and known is actually redundant. I had to go back and come up with some synonyms for “hidden”. And yet the part about overed & revealed is supposed to be part of Q. However, this seems completely unnecessary because it could easily be that Matthew simply elaborated on Mark 4:22. In fact, that is exactly how it appears to me. And so here is, again, where I think the Q people are rather muddled in their argumentation. They’re pulling this section out and sticking it in Q, but they’re not paying much attention to the overall context. Yes, it seems like Matthew is piecing togethe difference sources, but not in the place where they postulate. 

In case it’s not obvious, my position on Q may be evolving. Maybe I’ll end up somewhere around the idea that The Iliad and The Odyssey were written by different people who were both named Homer. Maybe I’ll end up saying Matthew had anothe source that wasn’t Q, but was also named Q (which stands for Quelle, which is German for “source”. Bit of a pun there.)

25 Sufficit discipulo, ut sit sicut magister eius, et servus sicut dominus eius. Si patrem familias Beelzebul vocaverunt, quanto magis domesticos eius!

26 Ne ergo timueritis eos. Nihil enim est opertum, quod non revelabitur, et occultum, quod non scietur.

27 Quod dico vobis in tenebris, dicite in lumine; et, quod in aure auditis, praedicate super tecta.

28 καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι: φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ.

And do not fear from those who kill the body, but the soul they are not able to kill. Rather, fear the one who is able both the body and soul to destroy in Gehenna.

This passage presents two major problems: “soul” (psyche) and “Gehenna”. As for “soul”…I am not completely sure we can accept that as a translation. Funny, just after saying how there are very few times when it doesn’t matter if you read the Greek or not, we run into this a few verses later. Matthew has only used this word a couple of times so far, and in all of them it really meant “life”. As in, losing one’s life = dying. Here…there is an obvious distinction between psyche and soma, the latter meaning the body. So is Matthew saying, “can kill the body but not kill the life”? That really doesn’t work in English. The Latin is “anima”, which is generally translated as “soul”, but the match between the English and Latin is not all that good, let alone exact. “Anima” is obviously the root of “animal” and “animate”. Here, it would mean something like “animating principle”. And this isn’t too far from what we mean by soul; the only thing is that it doesn’t necessarily have the idea of individuality that we often mean by “soul”.

Well, just took a little digression into Aristotle’s On The Soul* to try to get some idea of  what the educated opinion, or definition of the term psyche might be. It was, and it wasn’t helpful. Yes, I realize that the evangelists would not necessarily have read Aristotle; in fact, I would guess that they hadn’t. However, educated opinion has a way of percolating outward to influence popular thought, if in an attenuated and/or altered form. What I found was that Aristotle’s “the soul is the essence of one’s being” kind of did, but didn’t really fit here. The thing is, the way the word is used here is in obvious distinction to the physical body. This at least implies that the soul is perhaps immortal and that it has something to do with the individual personality. That’s where “anima” falls short, at least in its original sense in Latin. So we are getting some intimation of the immortal soul that survives the death of the physical body. And we’ve had that idea before, too, in Mark. What I am finding frustrating is how diffuse these ideas are; it’s like there are a lot of assumptions made, like we’re expected to know some of the underlying concepts when, in fact, they’ve never really been defined for us. But then, that may be because I’m more accustomed to stuff like Aristotle, where the first task is to set out and define terms. However, the fact that the term “psyche” is also used to mean something like “life”–or animating principle–as in “saving one’s life” indicates that the idea is still in flux; Matthew himself may not have been clear on exactly what he meant. That, however, leads to some other really interesting questions about Jesus’ message, the sources, and how the message may have changed over time.

Connected to the idea of “psyche” is the idea of Gehenna. Matthew says that Gehenna can kill the psyche as well as the body. This is not exactly orthodox Christian doctrine which says the soul cannot be killed. And we are talking about “killed”, I think. Otherwise, the contrast between those who can only kill the body doesn’t quite work. So this is another reason to be wary of simply translating psyche as “soul” and going our merry way. It doesn’t quite fit. It doesn’t fit with mere physical life, but it doesn’t quite fit with later Christian ideas of the immortal soul. We are in a transitional phase.

As we go along and come across things like this, the conclusion we should be drawing is that the concepts of the NT more resemble and onion than a unitary whole. That’s a cliché, of course, but ideas become cliché because they are appropriate to so many different situations. So the next time you’re tempted to illustrate Mark by referencing to Matthew, bear in mind that the two evangelists may be using similar, or even the same words with very different intentions. The words change, the concepts develop. We’ve seen that with Jesus himself. We’re seeing it with the term “psyche”. I am going to have to do a special topic assessment of the words psyche and pneuma to see where we stand at this point as far as meaning.

*BTW: I was pleasantly surprised at the clarity of Aristotle’s Greek. In some ways, it was easier to understand than the English, largely because the English terms got so convoluted, which resulted in some tortured syntax. The English was convoluted because it often required three or four words to translate a single word in Greek. Had to do a bit of dictionary-jumping, but once I got past some of the basic terms, it went fairly easily. 

28 Et nolite timere eos, qui occidunt corpus, animam autem non possunt occidere; sed potius eum timete, qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehenna.


Matthew Chapter 10:16-24

This wasn’t a clean break from the last section. Jesus is still in the midst of giving his disciples instructions as he sends them out to preach about the approaching kingdom.

16 Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα ἐν μέσῳ λύκων: γίνεσθεοὖν φρόνιμοι ὡς οἱ ὄφεις καὶ ἀκέραιοι ὡς αἱ περιστεραί.

“Look, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. You must be cunning as serpents and as unarmed as doves.

“Unarmed” should really be “un-horned”, or “hornless”, as in, “not having horns”. It often gets rendered as  “harmless”; but if we’re going to go all metaphorical here, I would prefer “defenseless”. I think that captures the spirit of the original more accurately. And I think it fits the metaphor more effectively.

But the point is that Jesus is “predicting” the tribulations that the apostles would endure. More on this in a moment.

16 Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum; estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes et simplices sicut columbae.

17 προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: παραδώσουσιν γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια, καὶ ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν μαστιγώσουσιν ὑμᾶς:

18 καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνας δὲ καὶ βασιλεῖς ἀχθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.

“You will come before men. For you will be handed over to the councils, and in the synagogues of them they will scourge you. (18). And before leaders and kings you will be brought before because of me to witness to them and to the nations.

This whole topic of how ferociously Christians, or followers of Jesus were persecuted, and by whom, is a difficult one, especially for me. The first century CE is not my area of expertise; I’ve studied up through the reign of Gaius Caligula in some depth, but that was mostly Roman politics and the western wars. The use of the term “synagogues” and the evidence of Paul tells me that the persecution discussed was led by Jews, and this is certainly not an area in which I’m well versed. Again, given Paul, we have to acknowledge that there was some degree of persecution. But how much? I’ve read great chunks of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, which actually started as a martyrology, and the stories are pretty horrific. I also suspect that they are significantly exaggerated, at least as to the scope of the persecutions, if not the horrible cruelty, for the Romans were more than capable of both perpetrating such cruelty and enjoying it as spectacle. But how common was this?

And aside from Paul’s testimony, that Jesus talks about it the way he does here is also indicative that something happened. People were still alive who would have been able to remember whether or not such persecution happened. It seems a tad bizarre for Jesus to talk about persecutions if they never occurred. But then again, where was Matthew writing, and for whom? The fact of the matter is that pretty much all our sources for these persecutions are “Jewish”, in the broadest sense: Paul and the oblique references–like this– in the gospels. This may indicate that the persecutions took place primarily in the area of Judea/Galilee/Syria–remember, Saul was supposedly going to Damascus—and Matthew was writing mostly for non-Jews somewhere outside that range–say Antioch–and two generations later, then maybe the persecutions were remembered as being more horrific than they were. This is certainly what happened; the stories in the Lives of the Saints are clearly largely fiction. I’m not sure how much evidence there is for some of these saints outside of the hagiography. No doubt some of them are attested, and a number of the stories related are accurate to some degree, but some of the accounts are so implausible that they have to be physically impossible. Of course, that’s rather the point: this is hagiography, not history. The very nature of the genre demands something over the top; otherwise, the point is not made.

The problem is that the evidence from the pagan sources is slender to non-existent. There are a few oblique references to Christians in histories of First Century (or thereabouts) Rome, but the references are made in passing, and do not sound like they refer to a systemic program that encompassed much of the Empire. I forget where I read this–RL Fox is the most likely source–but one modern historian commented that the degree of persecution often depended to a very large extent on the local rulers, whatever the direction–or lack of it–from Rome. For example, the governor of, say, Cilicia may have been very zealous about persecuting Christians, but the governor of neighboring Cappadocia may not have been terribly inspired by the idea. And even then, these are references to the second or even Third Century, well past the time we’re discussing. It’s generally assumed that there was some persecution of Christians by Nero, based on the brief mention by Suetonius, but I’ve really yet to see much evidence to support that assumption, or to indicate that such persecution as existed was anything other than brief and sporadic. Now, it is possible that some followers of Jesus were arrested and executed by the Romans, but based on the letter of Pliny the Younger (ca 112 CE), the question of what to do with Christians was still very much a question. Of course, even if persecution was localized, if one was in the wrong location, it was perhaps horrific enough. Given all of this, and based on what I do know, my sense is that any persecution that did occur in the mid-First Century was largely a Jewish phenomenon that was largely confined to the Judea/Syria region. Given this passage we just read, and similar such passages in Mark, some persecution must have occurred. It would be foolish to deny, or disregard Paul’s testimony. He has no real reason to lie about it. We just don’t know how severe it was.  

There is also the possibility that some of the persecution of Christians was tied up with the Jewish Rebellion of the late 60s and its aftermath. I tend to suspect that this was a major cause for Mark’s gospel, so he could separate his group from Jews in general. By the time Matthew wrote, this may no longer have been necessary, either because the passions had died down, or because Christians had pretty much distinguished themselves from Jews. In which case this passage was retained because it was in Mark, the memory of persecution had been incorporated into the Christian myth, and Matthew–like Mark–wished to portray Jesus as prescient about what would happen.

17 Cavete autem ab hominibus; tradent enim vos in conciliis, et in synagogis suis flagellabunt vos;

18 et ad praesides et ad reges ducemini propter me in testimonium illis et gentibus.

19 ὅταν δὲ παραδῶσιν ὑμᾶς, μὴ μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί λαλήσητε: δοθήσεται γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τί λαλήσητε:

20 οὐ γὰρ ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ λαλοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τὸ λαλοῦν ἐν ὑμῖν.

“When they hand you over, do not be anxious how or what you will say. For you will be given at that hour what you will say. (20) For you are not the ones speaking, but the spirit of your father is the one speaking in you. 

Again, this will have a long history among heretical movements. Or, rather, it will resurface among heretical movements of the 12th – 15th Centuries. Accused heretics, when brought before ecclesiastical courts, would launch into speeches that were the spirit of the father speaking through them. This, of course, annoyed the Church officials to no end.

But the more interesting aspect is the “spirit of your father”. That is a new phrase. Why not the Sacred Breath? Again, Matthew read Mark, so it’s not like he’s never heard that term; he’d rather use his own. Now, Matthew did this with “kingdom of the heavens”, too, but it was pointed out in a commentary that this is consistent with Jewish practice of not writing out “God”. That hadn’t occurred to me, and I have to incorporate this into my theory of Matthew as a former pagan. But why “breath of the father”? And this is exactly the sort of situation when “Holy Spirit” would be expected. The Church officials running those heresy trials would have expected “Spiritus Sanctus”. If nothing else, this is a great example of how the “Holy Spirit” in the sense that we mean it, the Third Person of the Trinity, had to be constructed. This usage indicates very clearly that Matthew did not think of the the sacred breath as something that represented an entity somehow separate from, and yet an integral part of, God the Father. Rather, that understanding of “Holy Spirit came later. Much later. 

And, btw, we haven’t really had any sort of Christology from Matthew as yet. We know that Jesus was conceived by the sacred breath; in fact, the first few times that Matthew uses “pneuma” it’s associated with “hagios”, which equals “holy/sacred”. But we haven’t heard anything about how Jesus relates to the Father.

And this is the sort of detail that makes me suspect that this is really a reference to something that occurred in the past. Why do I say this, or how to explain why I interpret the statement in that way? Because this feels more like post-facto reassurance that God had indeed taken care of those brought before the councils than it feels like actual advice given out that was meant to be followed in a real-life situation. Think about it: this sounds great as a story; but would you really tell your followers that this is how it will go down? Now, if you believe that Jesus is a divine being, and if you believe that he actually said these words a decade or more before the predicted events occurred, then, yes, all of this is possible. And that’s exactly my point: it all works as Truth, as a myth. It describes the situation as it should happen. But think about it: Peter, Paul, and James were all–supposedly–executed. How did the idea of the spirit of the father providing their words actually work out? Maybe not so well. The writer of the gospel knows that (presumably). And yet he tells us these were Jesus’ instructions. This seems to be more the description of an idealised setting in which Jesus is prescient than a legitimate accounting of what happened. Of course, if Jesus didn’t send out apostles–which I don’t believe he did–then this whole discussion is moot.

Here’s the thing: I cannot prove the Jesus did not send out apostles, nor that these weren’t the instructions that he gave if, on the off-chance, he did send them out. Now, if this were an actual historical document, written by someone who was making a sincere effort to record history, it would be bad form to reject the story without good evidence, or a decent argument. But this is not history. Part of doing history is developing what was called historical judgement in my Methods class. My judgement tells me this story is, well, just that. A story. But just want to be up=front about my lack of a legitimate case for my position. It just doesn’t smell right as history.

19 Cum autem tradent vos, nolite cogitare quomodo aut quid loquamini; dabitur enim vobis in illa hora quid loquamini.

20 Non enim vos estis, qui loquimini, sed Spiritus Patris vestri, qui loquitur in vobis.

21 παραδώσει δὲ ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον, καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς.

22 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου: ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται.

23 ὅταν δὲ διώκωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ, φεύγετε εἰς τὴν ἑτέραν: ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ τελέσητε τὰς πόλεις τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

24 Οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρτὸν διδάσκαλον οὐδὲ δοῦλος ὑπὲρ τὸν κύριον αὐτοῦ.

“And brother will hand over brother to death, and a father (his) son, and a son will stand over against his parents and they will kill them. (22) And there will be hatred over all because of my name, the one enduring to the end (is) he to be saved. (23) And when they judge you in that city, flee to a different one. Amen I say to you, you will not finish the cities of Israel until may cone the son of man. (24) The student is not greater than the teacher, nor (is) the slave over his lord.

This is interesting. What we have here is sort of a conflation of stuff from the apocalyptic section of Mark mixed in with tales of persecution. This, I think, buttresses my point about this being something inserted by later authors. The most obvious meaning of the apocalyptic utterances from Mark is the “foretelling” of the Jewish War and the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem. That is where the “brother vs brother” & such fits in best. So the fact that this is mixed up with predictions of persecution is a pretty strong indicator, I think, that from the added distance of another generation, the two events kind of lumped together in the minds of those for whom those events were simply part of an undifferentiated past. Sort of like mixing up WWI with the Roaring 20s. The other tell-tale sign here is the use of the term “son of man”. Of course, this was Mark’s preferred term, but it’s a rarity in Matthew. I think this is also a pretty good indication that Matthew plucked this stuff out of Mark but maybe got his notes muddled, mixing the apocalypse with the predictions of persecution. Not that the two were necessarily separate events, but they were kept much more distinct in Mark. A generation later, Matthew didn’t have quite the keen sense of the differences between the two. Of course, the coup de grâce is the prediction of the coming of the son of man. This is very clearly and very obviously part of the apocalyptic material, and really is somewhat out of place in a “prediction” of  religious persecution. Then for good measure we get the aphorism about the student and the teacher. This is almost a complete non sequitur. This, I think, makes it pretty clear that Matthew has really mixed up his source material, and perhaps didn’t understand it all completely. That is an interesting thought, and one that deserves further attention, but not here.

So yes, I think my contention that this material does not trace back to Jesus is pretty well founded after all. At the very least, it’s an idea that has to be taken seriously and debated on its merits; it cannot be dismissed out of hand.

You know, the muddle of source material that we find here–and elsewhere–is starting to make me wonder. We know that I’m not impressed by the non-existent case for Q. But maybe the Q proponents are barking up the wrong tree. Maybe the case for Q isn’t to be made based on supposed aesthetic interpretations of Matthew’s order. I’ve mentioned once or twice before–in the Sermon on the Mount–that it sure seemed like Matthew was sort of cramming together things that didn’t exactly mesh. What it felt like then was that he had a compendium of the sayings of Jesus (Q, anyone?) and he was just sort of fitting them together almost willy-nilly. They were sayings that really had nothing to do with one another. Sayings don’t have to relate, with narrative in between. Usually sayings, aphorisms, and such are meant to stand by themselves without narrative connexion. Here, I have the sense that Matthew has at least two written sources that he has sort of fit onto a Procrustean bed: he made them fit, one way or another, and the result was something that doesn’t entirely congeal into a unified whole. So maybe this is the approach that the Q proponents should think about taking: make note of the many seams in the work, the places where pieces are stuck together, whether the placement makes sense or not. My gut is telling me there is an argument to be made. Of course, the problem is then that Matthew is no longer the masterwork of organization. Rather, he’s someone who muddled his sources because he doesn’t quite understand all the implications of what is being said. This in turn takes us too far away from Jesus; Matthew is no longer a direct pipeline–through Q–to what Jesus said and taught. He’s just someone trying to piece together the disparate source material that’s come down to him, not all of it fitting together properly.

But, if we’re going to consider this historically, that is exactly the situation that Matthew inherited. Most likely, he was given a collection of different materials, some of it conflicting, some of it downright contradictory, much of it bewildering. And he, more so even than Mark, was trying to make sense of it all, while preserving the most that he possibly could. And that meant sticking in aphorisms like the student not being greater than the teacher into a context where it doesn’t quite fit. It was the best he could do. Mark had two traditions, Matthew probably had more. I would suggest that Mark was largely responsible for creating a mostly-unified group, which may have helped spread the word via a written document. Mark was the basis for further preaching, and he was successful enough to spawn other stories. And then about the time Mark was unifying the myth, stories that originated with or from James were entering the popular lore, which confused the picture that Mark had been able to straighten out, at least partially. The result was that, a generation (or a bit more) later, Matthew had two or three or more additional streams to work with, to integrate into the basic narrative that Mark had left behind. 

21 Tradet autem frater fratrem in mortem, et pater filium; et insurgent filii in parentes et morte eos afficient.

22 Et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum; qui autem perseveraverit in finem, hic salvus erit.

23 Cum autem persequentur vos in civitate ista, fugite in aliam; amen enim dico vobis: Non consummabitis civitates Israel, donec veniat Filius hominis.

24 Non est discipulus super magistrum nec servus super dominum suum.

Matthew Chapter 10:1-15

We’ll start Chapter 10. There aren’t a lot of natural breaks, and somehow these always seem to run longer than I expect.

1 Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.

And calling together the twelve disciples he gave to them authority of unclean spirits so as to cast them out and to heal all diseases and maladies.

This is lifted right from Mark. It’s the wonder-worker theme, complete with unclean spirits. The most significant difference is that Matthew omits the two-by-two part. Note that we are told that the Twelve are called together, even though this is actually the first time we’ve heard of the Twelve. IMO this is another really clear indication of Markan priority. [I should probably give that up as having been proven at this point; I’m not sure that it’s really seriously doubted by anyone. But perhaps I’m wrong on that; I’m not completely expert on the literature. However, IMO, there really is no doubt about this. ]

1 Et convocatis Duodecim discipulis suis, dedit illis pote statem spirituum immundorum, ut eicerent eos et curarent omnem languorem et omnem infirmitatem.

2 Τῶν δὲ δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τὰ ὀνόματά ἐστιν ταῦτα: πρῶτος Σίμων ὁ λεγόμενος Πέτρος καὶ Ἀνδρέας ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ,

3 Φίλιππος καὶ Βαρθολομαῖος, Θωμᾶς καὶ Μαθθαῖος ὁ τελώνης, Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ἁλφαίου καὶ Θαδδαῖος,

4 Σίμων ὁ Καναναῖος καὶ Ἰούδας ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης ὁ καὶ παραδοὺς αὐτόν.

(2) And the twelve names of those having been sent out were these: Simon, being called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James son of Zebedee and John his brother. (3) Philip and Bartholomew, and Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James son of Alphaios and Thaddeus, (4) Simon the Cannanaean, and Judas the Iscariot, who was also the one who handed him over.  

OK. First, to get this out of the way, the names on the list match those of Mark. We are missing Mark’s designation of the sons of Zebedee also being called the Sons of Thunder–which appellation I woefully neglected to pursue and explain–but in place we get Matthew the tax-collector. Now, it has been speculated that, after the death of Joseph, Mary married Alphaios, and had some or all of the rest of her children with him. These are the brothers named in Mark 6; and this would make this “James the Lesser” the (half-) brother of Jesus. So this would be the future James the Just. Certainly, this is possible. James was largely written out of the history of the church shortly after it became the church; so designating this James as the son of Alphaios would be a big step in this direction. However, since I don’t believe in Joseph, I have trouble with this explanation. Joseph shows up for the birth narrative and then vanishes completely. Will he turn up in Matthew’s account of Mark 6? Stay tuned. And I don’t know the answer as of this writing, so it will be a surprise to me, too.

What this tells me is that the name of Jesus’ father was not known to the earlier followers. Or, at least, it was not deemed sufficiently important to remember. Then, as time progressed, the gossip of Jesus being a bastard became sufficiently embarrassing that something had to be done, which meant coming up with a story that named Jesus’ father. That the name of Jesus’ father was not known to the early followers is completely understandable. It was not deemed important enough to remember, especially if the earliest tradition had Jesus as having been raised from the dead and so become the anointed one. Jesus’ earthly life, including the names of his parents, was of no consequence because Jesus’ significance only began when he was raised from the dead. That the name of Jesus’ father appears, miraculously, several generations after Jesus died is a pretty clear indication that it was deemed necessary to invent a father. And to give him a lineage tracing back to David, of course. Sorry, don’t buy it as historical information. Yes, it is possible that the name of Joseph was preserved in an oral tradition that bypassed Mark and reached Matthew. Yes, it’s possible, but the probability is very, very low. Especially then when this information is repeated later, by Luke. And not only does Luke repeat this story, he expands upon it. That is a clear sign of myth-making. Adding new characters as they become necessary or desirable and filling in the blanks in this manner. So what all this means is that the likelihood of James son of Alphaios being Jesus half-brother is about as likely as Jesus being the son of Joseph. Either–and both–are possible, but the probability is extremely low if you think about the chain of transmission that had to be forged in order for this information to get to Matthew and beyond.

The fact of the matter is, I have major suspicions of the whole concept of the Twelve. Note how Matthew introduces this. Jesus calls them together, but then Matthew has to tell us who they are. And not only that, he calls them “those who have been sent out” (apostolon), but this is before they have been sent out. My theory is this: Jesus may have sent out disciples at some point, but these were not the same group that was his inner circle. There is an inherent contradiction present in this: how can they be the inner circle who travel with Jesus if they have been sent out to preach, expel demons, etc? That would be a neat trick. But the truth is that I find it hard to believe that Jesus actually sent some of his disciples out to preach. Of course, they could have been sent out for limited periods, which is pretty much what Mark tells us; that, however, seems to contradict the evidence of Paul. He seems to indicate that “apostles” traveled with a retinue including wives, so that doesn’t sound like a quick jaunt. The other thing about Paul’s evidence is that Peter is the only other apostle mentioned. In fact, none of these names are mentioned outside the gospels and Acts.

Thus there is a lack of earlier evidence for any of these men, In addition, the act of sending out disciples is not entirely consonant with an itinerant preacher who has a collection of followers. Such an action makes much more sense when the group has been together for some time, years, if not a decade, after which time the group has amassed a sizable following. That’s when it makes sense to send out other preachers, in part because the group now has a pool of talent available to it. IOW, it makes much more sense for the Jesus movement to begin dispatching preachers after the Jesus movement has had time to stabilize itself under equally stable leadership. IOW, after James had been in charge for a decade or so. Think back to Galatians; Paul is pretty clear that it was James who was dispatching others, sending out others; in Greek, the word for sending out is apostelein.

More. The idea of Twelve is so obviously related to the twelve tribes of Israel that it probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. IOW, it’s the act of someone who was interested in creating–or recreating–something resembling, or replacing, or superseding the state of Israel. IOW, doesn’t this sound more like someone interested in the kingdom of David than the Kingdom of God/the heavens? Now recall how closely James was concerned with the maintaining the Jewish roots of the movement. Then consider that the apostles named here do not appear in earlier evidence, and almost completely disappear from the later stories. Most of these names are just that: names. There are later traditions about some of them, that they went to convert people in India, and some of these stories may be accurate. But that does not mean that these missionary trips were undertaken by men appointed by Jesus. It’s not impossible, but given the other pieces, it’s more likely that these trips began later. Putting all this together, it seems very likely–to me, anyway–that the Twelve does not trace back to Jesus. There is no evidence that it does, other than the late attribution by Mark. And this feels like something an organizer would do, as opposed to the action of a charismatic leader. Socrates did not found a school; Plato did.

So yes, I have my doubts about the authenticity of the Twelve.

2 Duodecim autem apostolorum nomina sunt haec: primus Simon, qui dicitur Petrus, et Andreas frater eius, et Iacobus Zebedaei et Ioannes frater eius,

3 Philippus et Bartholomaeus, Thomas et Matthaeus publicanus, Iacobus Alphaei et Thaddaeus,

4 Simon Chananaeus et Iudas Iscariotes, qui et tradidit eum.

5 Τούτους τοὺς δώδεκα ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων, Εἰς ὁδὸν ἐθνῶν μὴ ἀπέλθητε, καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαριτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε:

6 πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ.

Jesus sent out these Twelve, instructing them saying, “To the road of the nations do not go, and to the city of the Samaritans do not enter. (6) Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

This is really interesting. Jesus is giving specific instructions to exclude both pagans and Samaritans. This after he cured the servant of the centurion. And we all know that Jews and Samaritans did not get along. So, on the one hand, there is a certain air of authenticity about this. It seems like something someone Jewish might say if he were concerned about renewing, or reinvigorating, or re-awakening his co-religionists into a sharper sense of their religious identity. Nothing is better for emphasizing the “us” than by pointing out the “them”. So why wasn’t this in Mark? Why did Mark have nothing of the sort? Mark was closer in time to the more authentic Jesus, to a period when Jesus was Jewish and there was less–if any–concern with preaching to pagans. And Paul certainly had no qualms about preaching to pagans, Samaritans, Jews, or anyone. Given that, I think there is a fairly high degree of probability that Jesus did not say this. It’s like the dietary restrictions: if Jesus had actually said that there were no unclean foods, then Paul and James would not have had the dispute they did, and Peter would not have had the dream he had in Acts that gave sanction to the eating of heretofore prohibited foods.

At the risk of seeing James, the brother of Jesus behind every bush, I wonder if the injunction against pagans and Samaritans isn’t something that came about after Jesus. And given that Paul tells us–quite emphatically–that James was much more concerned about maintaining Jewish practice, did this injunction actually originate with James? I keep coming back to the idea that the practices originated by James may not have had time to become the norm when Mark wrote; however, given another generation, Pauline/Markan/Jamesian practices had been afforded enough time to merge into something that we now call Christianity. In particular, things that James had said became normalized as things Jesus said. This is a very bold thesis.  But this thesis is not nearly so bold, I think, as  attributing some of these new sayings to a written source for which we have absolutely no evidence. None. And, sorry, but saying that Luke wouldn’t have changed Matthew’s order is not evidence. It’s a value judgement at best, and aesthetic opinion at worst. So hanging stuff like this on Q is truly bold. And daring. But so is crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Or the Charge of the Light Brigade. Again, let me be very clear: I have by no means proven my contention about James; but there is more evidence for my theory than there is for Q.

That’s all fine and good. But I want to stress that, so far, my belief that much of what is different between Mark and Matthew traces to James is an opinion. It may (0r may not) be an interesting opinion, but that’s all it is. I have not, by any stretch, constructed an argument worthy of the name. I plan to do so, but it has not happened. Just want to make sure we’re all clear on this. 

5 Hos Duodecim misit Iesus praecipiens eis et dicens: “ In viam gentium ne abieritis et in civitates Samaritanorum ne intraveritis;

6 sed potius ite ad oves, quae perierunt domus Israel.

7 πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

8 ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε: δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.

“And going out you must preach saying that ‘The kingdom of the heavens is come nigh’.  (8)   Heal those being sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. (What) you received freely, give freely”.

Mark’s version is very different, and much shorter. Jesus gives no instructions on what to preach, nor does he specify that they are to heal, cast out demons, etc. More significantly, he doesn’t instruct the disciples to preach the coming kingdom of the heavens. This is actually the third time Matthew has used the expression. Both report Jesus using it at the beginning of his public ministry (Mk 1:15; Mt 4:17). But Matthew also has the Baptist say this before Jesus, which strengthened, or emphasized the connexion between the two. Now, for good measure, Matthew has Jesus repeat it here.  This is what I meant about the Baptist becoming more prominent as time passed. If it were truly an embarrassment for Jesus to be seen having begun his career as a disciple of the Baptist, this increased emphasis on the connexion between the two is certainly odd, and requires some explanation. Add to this the “brood of vipers” (sorry; love that rendering, won’t change it. Like Luke’s “sore afraid”) speech that he levels at the Pharisees, and I think you get my point. Why does Matthew go out of his way to reiterate it here?

And here is perhaps the more salient question. In Chapters 8 and especially 9, we saw Matthew consistently abridging the material he found in Mark. Here, Matthew is adding to it. Why? Which question is especially relevant since this is not part of the alleged Q material, because it’s not in Luke. As such, it’s M material, from Matthew’s special secret source. Or Matthew made it up. But that only moves the “why add this?” back another step. I think part of the reason has to be to connect more firmly with the Baptist, but I think another part is just to show us that Jesus was in charge. Mark told us what they did upon their return, which was heal, cast out demons, etc.  Matthew explicitly tells us that they did these things on Jesus’ command to do so. I think that is what this is about, which explanation is consistent with Matthew’s concern to show that everything that happened with/to/by Jesus was all part of the Plan. Saying that, I just realized that I’d never quite articulated that objective until this point. But that is what Matthew is trying to do: tell us that none of this was an accident, right from the moment of Jesus’ conception. It was all God’s intent. Which to me says that this is not something Matthew got from a source; it’s something he added to make his point more effective. There is a tendency–a wish is probably more accurate, a deep-seated desire, or even a need–among Biblical scholars to attribute everything to an earlier source. Why? Why the wish? the need? Because to admit that Matthew wrote it, then maybe Jesus didn’t say it. Which is to say that, maybe, it’s not factually accurate. Which is where this confusion we have in the West of Truth with factual accuracy. We think these are synonymous. They are not. Gospels are not meant to be factually accurate; they are meant to impart Truth, which is a very different thing.

The penultimate point to make here is the command to “raise from the dead”. What? Where did that come from? That is totally sui generis with Matthew. Does it relate back to what I said about the Plan? Is Jesus instructing, or empowering the disciples to do everything that he did? And since he just raised Jairus’ daughter (filling in the name from Mark) from the dead, it’s now important that Jesus give the same authority to the disciples? I suppose one likely answer is that, OK, he raised the little girl. So Jesus has the power. Or Jesus has been entrusted to use this power by some other divine being–like God. But if Jesus has the ability to delegate this power to others, then most assuredly he is divine as well. No? It’s one thing to be the agent of the divine and use the power; that was the portrayal, more or less, given us by Mark. It’s quite another thing to have the power and be able to give it to others. That’s a guess. The thing is, think back to Mark 9, when the disciples tell about others casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But we will have to discuss that further when or if we come to that section in Matthew. Remember: Matthew is not interested in re-creating the world of Mark, the explanations of Mark. Matthew is correcting the record, setting it–and us–straight, making clear those parts of Mark that need to be clarified. One of these is that Jesus has the power on his own, and not just as an agent of God.

The final point is the part about giving freely what you received freely. This is an injunction not to charge for services rendered. They have been given the gift of healing at no charge, so they should not expect to be paid for using the free gift they have been given freely. Part of the point here is to be different from some of the other wonder-workers, who did charge for services. That was how they made their money. But a bit more on this shortly.

7 Euntes autem praedicate dicentes: “Appropinquavit regnum caelorum”.

8 Infirmos curate, mortuos suscitate, leprosos mundate, daemones eicite; gratis accepistis, gratis date.

9 Μὴ κτήσησθε χρυσὸν μηδὲ ἄργυρον μηδὲ χαλκὸν εἰς τὰς ζώνας ὑμῶν,

10 μὴ πήραν εἰς ὁδὸν μηδὲ δύο χιτῶνας μηδὲ ὑποδήματα μηδὲ ῥάβδον: ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ.

11 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν πόλιν ἢ κώμην εἰσέλθητε, ἐξετάσατετίς ἐν αὐτῇ ἄξιός ἐστιν: κἀκεῖ μείνατε ἕως ἂν ἐξέλθητε.

“Do not take gold, nor silver, nor bronze in your belt/wallet/purse. (10) Do not take a travel bag, nor two tunics, nor shoes/sandals (lit = “underskins“, which is to say “hypodermics”) nor a rod. For the laborer is worthy of his hire. (11) If you go into a city or a town, seek out in that (city) one who is worthy. And stay (there, with that person) until you leave.

We talked about this when we read the corresponding passage in Mark, but it probably bears repeating. Between this set of verses and those immediately preceding, we have the basis for the idea of “apostolic poverty” that became so prominent in western heretical movements starting in or around 1100 CE. The two groups especially known for this were the Waldensians and the Cathars. The founding ideal of the Waldensians was not really all that different from the impulse that motivated St Francis of Assisi: absolute poverty. The apostle should own nothing, should beg for food, or depend on the charity of others, should own no land, no property…nothing. Peter Waldo (or Valdes, if Latinised) really didn’t do anything St Francis didn’t do, but he did it a couple of generations too early. By the time of Francis, the Church (with a capital “C”) had come to understand that this impulse to poverty could not be squelched, so it had to be domesticated. To do this it recognised and organised the Franciscan order. Of course, the Franciscan impulse to poverty barely survived the founder. After the death of Francis, the order nearly split into two groups: one holding to the ideal of poverty, the other settling down and becoming a typical order of preachers. Which is to say wealthy. The ideal of poverty as expressed here was a real problem for a Church that had amassed enormous amounts of land and treasure. The thing is, this ideal of apostolic poverty as the ideal state for the Church did not vanish. It created the work ethic and the desire for a “cheap church” (église à bon marché; sounds more elegant in French) which helped create an attitude towards making money that became capitalism, which then helped spawn the Reformation. Max Weber got it backwards: capitalism created Protestants.

OK, that little digression on economics aside, let’s look at this from what it’s telling us. First, I’ve already discussed how I feel like this isn’t something that happened while Jesus was alive. Rather, this feels more like something that happened later. Then recall that this was an issue for Paul. He had a couple of passages about this, regarding apostles who expected payment, or to be supported by the community, or what they could expect as to being supported by the community. When reading this in Paul, one was rather left with the feeling that there was a certain amount of controversy about how this was all supposed to operate. Paul made a big point out of claiming that he had the right, maybe, to expect support from the community, but that he chose rather to work so as not to be a burden. He also implied that other apostles traveled with retinues that, sometimes at least, included wives. So, where does this fit in? 

The question that needs to be asked to answer the ultimate question is whether any of this came from Jesus. I have said I suspect not. Part of the reason is because of what Paul has said. Once again, it sounds like there wasn’t a real consensus on this. Paul’s defensiveness, and his aggressive quasi-condemnation of the practice of others tells me that the others were not acting on a commission from Jesus. It indicates, IMO, that they were claiming this right, but that there was no really settled practice on this. So some took advantage, while Paul went passively-aggressive in the other direction. Now, having said that, there is nothing here about “two by two” as there was in Mark. Does that mean they were to go singly? Or that they could travel in a group? That’s hard to say. There isn’t a lot of internal support for either of these possibilities. Another question that poses itself is where James fits in for all of this. If James is the one for whom poverty was the ideal, it seems odd that he would have been one of those traveling in state. It would make sense that, if this was added later, it was done so as a means of giving legal basis for the practices James initiated. But even so, we have to consider Paul’s animosity to those other apostles. Was he including James? He seemed to have a problem with James in Galatians, but much of that seems to have dissipated by the time he wrote 1 Corinthians. Had he and James come to an understanding, thereby implying that the leeches on the community were other apostles. There is also the consideration that, per the evidence of Galatians, James didn’t travel much. So was Paul’s complaint about other apostles meant as a means to gain James’ sympathy? If so, then why the oblique references? Why not use James to buttress his case about those others? 

The upshot on all of this is that we have many more questions than we have answers. In and of itself, this is not surprising; most periods of ancient history run into exactly this situation because the evidence is just too scant to allow satisfactory resolutions to these quandaries. 

9 Nolite possidere aurum neque argentum neque pecuniam in zonis vestris,

10 non peram in via neque duas tunicas neque calceamenta neque virgam; dignus enim est operarius cibo suo.

11 In quamcumque civitatem aut castellum intraveritis, interrogate quis in ea dignus sit; et ibi manete donec exeatis.

12 εἰσερχόμενοι δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν ἀσπάσασθε αὐτήν:

13 καὶ ἐὰν μὲν ᾖ ἡ οἰκία ἀξία, ἐλθάτω ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν ἐπ’ αὐτήν: ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ ἀξία, ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐπιστραφήτω.

14 καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ δέξηται ὑμᾶς μηδὲ ἀκούσῃ τοὺς λόγους ὑμῶν, ἐξερχόμενοι ἔξω τῆς οἰκίας ἢ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης ἐκτινάξατε τὸν κονιορτὸν τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν.

15 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται γῇ Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρων ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ.

“When entering a house, greet it. (13) And if it is a worthy house, let your peace come over it. If it is not worth, let your peace towards yourselves revert. (14) And should one not honor you, nor listen to your words, coming out of those houses or those cities, shake the dust from your feet. (15) Amen I say to you, more tolerable will the the land of the Sodomites and the Gomorreans in the day of judgement than for that city.”

12 Intrantes autem in domum, salutate eam;

13 et si quidem fuerit domus digna, veniat pax vestra super eam; si autem non fuerit digna, pax vestra ad vos revertatur.

14 Et quicumque non receperit vos neque audierit sermones vestros, exeuntes foras de domo vel de civitate illa, excutite pulverem de pedibus vestris.

15 Amen dico vobis: Tolerabilius erit terrae Sodomorum et Gomorraeorum in die iudicii quam illi civitati.

This really obvious reference to the HS (Hebrew Scriptures) really gives me pause. How well know would the story of Sodom & Gomorra have been to anyone who was not Jewish? I’m really not sure how to answer that. If the answer is that this would not have been known outside Jewish circles, then the likelihood that Jesus said something like this goes way up. Or, at least, that someone said this. Now, if it was James that implemented the apostle program, it could easily have been James rather than Jesus. A reference like this is different from the quotes that the evangelists use. The quotes are more or less self-explanatory; this is an unexplained reference, which requires that the audience understand it to be effective. So it implies that the author took it for granted that the audience would get it. I’m not sure if we’ve had anything like this so far. 

This passage poses a really interesting problem. When I first glanced at my compendium, it appeared that the reference to S&G was in Mark, too. Well, turns out it’s only in certain mss traditions. Which, to me, means that it was not originally in Mark, but that it was added in by later copyists who were aware of the passage in both Matthew and Luke. This makes more sense than it being dropped. The most likely reason it was dropped is because the copyist was not fully versed in the HS, so he didn’t get it, so he omitted the passage. Possible, but I think the conflation of the texts is more likely.

Now, this is in Matthew, and in Luke, but not Mark. Prima facie, this would imply it was in Q. Here is a case where that might, prima facie, make sense: it was a reference to something that a Jewish audience–such as those addressed by Jesus (or James)–would get. That would require that Matthew’s audience–and Matthew himself got the reference. If Matthew didn’t understand it, he would have omitted the passage. Another possibility is that Matthew threw this out as a means of showing off his knowledge of HS. The upshot is that something like this doesn’t help my thesis that Matthew and his audience were former pagans. If that is true, could we assume that they would get the reference, unless they were God-fearers who had done some studying of the HS.

We will circle back to this shortly because I want to mention one other thing. This is the idea that the city will be judged, which is, I think, is a clear indication of something like apocalyptic thinking. The city will be judged; it will be given a fair trial before being found guilty and destroyed. Really, these are the sorts of throwaway lines that are infuriating. They obviously point to something bigger, an idea or set of ideas, or set of beliefs beyond what is expressed in so many words. What, exactly, does it mean that the city will be judged? When will this happen? Matthew feels no compunction to tell us these things. Is that because, to him, the answers were so well-known, such common knowledge that he didn’t feel the need to elaborate further. Or, the other possibility is that, by the time he wrote, he really didn’t understand the implications any better than we do. I say this because when a question goes unanswered it’s either because the author feels no answer is necessary, or it’s because the author doesn’t know the answer either. This of course all ties in with the question of whether Jesus’ primary message was that of apocalypse. The idea of the approaching kingdom of God/the heavens certainly could be taken so. Had this idea remained strong from the time of Jesus and/or Mark, or was it starting to fade. We noted that Paul expected the Parousia daily; we got some sense of this from Mark as well. In Matthew, at least so far, some of that urgency has faded slightly.

Now, there is a possible connexion between apocalyptic thinking and S&G. After all, what was the fate of S&G if not an apocalyptic end? So is this why Matthew’s audience could be assumed to be familiar with the reference to S&G? That is an intriguing question. One possible clue is that I noticed that Matthew and Luke mention the kingdom very, very often. Paul and Mark actually don’t mention it very often, and it fades by the time we get to John’s gospel. So Matthew and Luke/Acts seem to take the idea of the kingdom fairly seriously as a major theme. Interestingly, the kingdom is mentioned a total of four times in what is supposed to be the Q material. But this could also be explained if Luke knew Matthew, and followed Matthew’s lead on the importance of the topic of the kingdom. Especially since this topic is not exactly prominent in the reconstructed Q. It’s there, sure, but it’s not really prominent. Personally, I think this is a good indication that Luke did use Q. There are more important signs of influence than the way the material is organized; being thematically similar, and showing similar degrees of interest in the same topics, I think, is excellent support for the argument that Luke used Matthew.

But anyway, this is a subject to be given a lot of further consideration.

Summary Matthew Chapter 9

On the surface, this is a chapter about healing stories, with a very brief exorcism tossed into the mix. Most of the stories were also in Mark, so we are provided the opportunity to see the differences in the way the two handle the themes. For the most part, Matthew’s versions are shorter, lacking in the richness in the narrative detail supplied by Mark. This is semi-astonishing, if you think about it. After all, the knock against Mark is his brevity; and yet, it’s Matthew who’s abridging the stories he found in the earlier gospel. This, I believe clinches what is called “Markan priority”, that Mark wrote his gospel first. That Matthew shortens the tales when he is the more developed writer is a pretty clear indication that Mark was the original. That, and the way Jesus’ identity develops. Note: I have repeatedly said that legends grow with time, and point to the Arthur legend as an example. That Matthew abridges Mark’s tales seems to contradict this, indicating that either I’m wrong about legends, or that Matthew wrote first. Yes, the individual tales have been shortened; but the overall legend has grown. We have a new character, Joseph, introduced. Jesus has a dialogue with the devil. Jesus talks non-stop for three chapters. These are of a wholly different character than cutting some details from various stories.

Because much/most of the material is re-worked from Mark, the real heart of the commentary has to take place between the lines, as it were. One of the more interesting insights in the chapter, I believe, is the idea that Jesus is having a dinner party for sinners and tax collectors in his house. Matthew makes this clear, where Mark sort of beat around the bush about the matter. Perhaps Jesus was not poor. But also Jesus did not believe, apparently, that fasting was all that necessary. Incidentally, these two facts–that Jesus had means, and a house, and did not beg for meals–sort of shoot some big gaping holes in Bertram Mack’s thesis that Jesus was a Cynic sage. The man who hosts a dinner party for tax collectors was not begging for meals the way Cynics did. In this episode we also get the contrast between the disciples of the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus tries to make light of his attitude on fasting, but the comparison of himself to the bridegroom feels a bit forced, IMO. It also feels like something that was invented afterwards, but I don’t feel strongly enough about that to create the argument. I believe the contrast between the Baptist and Jesus was real; I’m only sure of the smart-aleck response.

As for the contrast, this chapter was good for disabusing me of some residual pro-Christian (Roman Rite, no less) propaganda that I was fed as a lad. It seems like the good nuns of Maple Grove St Michaels maybe played up the Christian aspect and downplayed the contributions of Judaism. The ideas of asceticism and fasting were ones I attributed to the Christians. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. It was the Jews who were more attentive to these practices. And the quote from Hosea definitely makes me question aspects of the religious education I was given. “I want compassion, and not sacrifice” is exactly the sort of attitude that I would have attributed to the innovation of Christians. Well, guess I was wrong about that! The Jews, I was told, were practitioners of a formalized, ritualized, outwardly-focused religion that emphasized the act and not the attitude. For Christians, of course, the point was our interior attitudes. Well, not quite. To be fair to those nuns, much the same thing was said about the pagan religions: that they were all about the actions and not the attitude. RL Fox pretty much blew that one out of the water. So, really, Christian scholars perhaps over-emphasized the transition that Christianity represented over these more outwardly-focused practices of the world-milieu in which Christianity developed. Fortunately, we know a little better now. And the thing is, it’s right here in the text. All we have to do is read it.

So this leads to the question of “what was different about Christianity?” How was Jesus different from his Jewish and pagan peers? That’s a good question, and I’m not sure there is a single answer. Or rather, I think Mark and Matthew provide somewhat different answers to that question. The biggest contrast comes, I think, with the idea behind the story of the new wine in the old skins, compared to the attitudes of the Beatitudes. That is, in Mark, we have Jesus consorting with tax collectors and sinners, whereas in Matthew we have the Sermon on the Mount. I have the sense that there is a qualitative difference between the attitudes described in these two approaches. The outreach to sinners is part of the Baptist’s call to repentance. The sick, not the healthy, need a doctor. Blessing the poor in spirit, those hungering for justice, the persecuted, however,  presents a different message than to call sinners to repent.

The new wine in old skins came from Mark; it possibly contains an eschatological message about the current order of things being swept away. But Matthew tells us that the Law will not be abrogated; it will remain intact until the heavens and earth pass away; of course, immediately after saying this, he then pretty much has Jesus contradicting known tenets of Jewish Law. It is tempting to interpret this as a backing away from the immediate expectation of the Parousia. Paul expected it daily; Mark expected it within a generation. Matthew–well, we don’t know yet. It’s tempting to see the change in emphasis from the sinners and tax collectors to the poor in spirit as a re-interpretation of what is meant by “eschatology”.  I think there has been a transition from Jewish apocalyptic thinking to Christian apocalyptic thinking. That is, rather than a heaven on earth where the faithful will be rewarded by the re-establishment of the Kingdom of David, we are moving to a heaven in the heavens, where the poor in spirit will be rewarded with…eternal life. There were hints of this in Mark, and hints of this so far in Matthew, but it hasn’t become explicitly explicit. At least not quite yet. So, in a way, I’m seeing this metaphor as very pivotal to the message of the chapter.

The one story in the chapter that is unique to Matthew is the story of the healing of the two blind men. If Matthew wants to downplay Jesus-as-wonder-worker, why add a tale of healing? I honestly don’t have a good answer for that. I don’t even have a bad answer. And it’s not like there’s anything particularly special about the story, either.The story is very brief: they are healed based on their faith, and they go out and spread the word about Jesus. The whole thing lacks texture and detail and any sense of depth. Mark’s stories like this are much more…well, they’re just more. They have more narrative, more impact, more sense that these were real people and not stage props as one almost feels about these two men. But, really, this no more–or less–so than the paper-thin narratives Matthew gives us about Jairus’ daughter, the bleeding woman, and the Gadarene/Gerasene demonaic. In the end, the question remains: why did Matthew add it?

It’s interesting to note how badly I’m scrabbling around trying to find more to say about the chapter. What my inability to come up with more thematic analysis indicates, IMO, is that the chapter seemed rather perfunctory, that it was written without much enthusiasm on the part of the author. Matthew retold a bunch of stories of Mark, and told them without much interest and without much commitment. The conclusion to be drawn, I think, is that a change in emphasis, a shift in the direction, has occurred. Matthew was not satisfied with Mark’s version, Matthew wanted to tell a different sort of story, but he did not feel that he could simply ignore Mark, so Matthew kept the stories but not the focus. We’ll have to see where Matthew’s interest lies as we move ahead with more of this gospel.

So, even if Chapter 9 did not present much that was new in the way of stories, it is a very important chapter because it provides very clear evidence of how the message about Jesus was changing over time.

Matthew Chapter 9:27-37

This will wrap up Chapter 9 with one more story that is not found in Mark.

27 Καὶ παράγοντι ἐκεῖθεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠκολούθησαν [αὐτῷ] δύο τυφλοὶ κράζοντες καὶ λέγοντες, Ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, υἱὸς Δαυίδ.

28 ἐλθόντι δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ τυφλοί, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πιστεύετε ὅτι δύναμαι τοῦτο ποιῆσαι; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ναί, κύριε.

And (as) to Jesus traveling about there Jesus followed him two blind men, crying out and saying, “Have mercy on us, son of David! (27) Coming to his home the blind men came to him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” They said to him, “Yes, lord”.

The setting is a bit odd. Apparently on his way back from raising the ruler’s daughter, two blind men follow him, begging for a cure. They followed him home. So this tells us a few things; likely, the house of Jairus (as the ruler of the synagogue was named in Mark) was also in Caphernaum. Recall that Jesus was having dinner with the tax collectors and sinners before being asked by Jairus to come and heal his daughter. So now Jesus has returned home. How much time has elapsed? Hard to say, but these events all seem to take place on the same day. Does this matter? Not really, but it’s sort of a change from Mark, who barely bothered to set his stories with any sort of context. Offhand, I’m not sure how big Caphernaum was, but there were a lot of afflicted people living in the environs, together with disciples of the Baptist. (This latter is an interesting point. It would indicate that there were disciples of John scattered–thickly?–through Judea and Galilee.)

Of course, it’s probably not that all of these happend sequentially, on the same day. The probability is pretty close to zero on there. It’s more likely that events were compressed for dramatic, or narrative purposes. Which leads to–or should, anyway–the question of “what else did Matthew manipulate for dramatic/narrative purposes”. Again, keep reminding yourself: this is not history we’re reading. Matthew was not writing history. He was writing a myth. Please note that “myth” does not mean something that’s not true. On the contrary: it’s absolutely meant to be True, whether or not it’s factually accurate. This introduces a certain amount of plasticity into the narrative, a level of flexibility. I don’t mean to answer that question here; the important thing is to pose it, and to keep it in mind as we read along.

The major theme here is the idea of faith. This is, somewhat surprisingly, the fourth use of “faith” in Matthew. The first came in the story of the centurion; the second in the story of the paralytic carried to Jesus on a litter; the third in the tale of the bleeding woman. Note that three of the four are stories taken from Mark, where the theme, seemingly, was much more prominent. Maybe that’s an optical illusion? Or a misperception on my part. It was never mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount. Is that another possible indication of a bifurcated message? Some coming from Jesus, the rest from James?

27 Et transeunte inde Iesu, secuti sunt eum duo caeci clamantes et dicentes: “ Miserere nostri, fili David! ”.

28 Cum autem venisset domum, accesserunt ad eum caeci, et dicit eis Iesus: “ Creditis quia possum hoc facere? ”. Dicunt ei: “Utique, Domine”.

29 τότε ἥψατο τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν λέγων, Κατὰ τὴν πίστινὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν.

30 καὶ ἠνεῴχθησαν αὐτῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί. καὶ ἐνεβριμήθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων,Ὁρᾶτε μηδεὶς γινωσκέτω.

Then he touched the eyes of them, saying, “According to faith, let it be for you”. 

Note that we’re back to physical touching, which kind of blows a hole in my theory that Matthew was concerned about elevating Jesus above the discussions of “magical practice” such as we found in Mark. That included using spit, etc, but even the act of touching can be seen as magical. Consider Mark’s version of the bleeding woman. It’s one thing when Mark has Jesus touching people in stories from Mark; it’s another when it occurs in stories that Matthew is including on his own.

So the question then is where this story came from. Per standard interpretation, this is part of the M material, stuff that is in Matthew and nowhere else. Of course, M is considered to be a source that came down to Matthew–and only Matthew directly from eyewitnesses. Sure. The much simpler explanation is that Matthew invented the story. I do not understand why there is such an aversion to recognizing that the evangelists wrote some of their own material. No, apologies, I do know why the aversion. To admit that maybe Matthew made up a story is to admit that the story didn’t come from Jesus, or an eyewitness. But we’ve seen several instances of this, where material pretty obviously dates from a time significantly after Jesus. I won’t talk about the “prediction” of the destruction of the Temple, because that takes us into theological territory. Rather, I go back to Jesus giving his approval that all food is clean. We had it in Mark, it happens in Acts, when Peter has a dream, and it happens a few other times as well. Jesus did not say anything of the sort, or the problem would never have arisen. Of course, one can suggest that James changed the rules back once Jesus was dead, but that really takes us into the Twilight Zone. So, if those stories were made up at a later date…then why not something like this? And why not by Matthew? To hold that every story in the NT dated from the time of Jesus, that nothing was added between Jesus’ life and the writing of the various books is to misunderstand how legends work. I keep coming back to Arthur. Entire people–Launcelot, Parsifal, Bors–were invented out of whole cloth. And some of the tales of heroic battles in The Iliad are doubtless the later additions of various peoples, who wrote their local hero into the story. A great example is the Song of Roland because we know the events on which it was based, so we know any number of things that the chanson de geste got wrong, and we know where stuff got added. Again, if we’re talking about a divine truth, of course anything is possible. But I’m not talking about such a truth. I’m talking about a story that very, very obviously developed, changed, and grew over time. I personally suspect that the Twelve are an example of added characters; however, more on that at the appropriate moment.

29 Tunc tetigit oculos eorum dicens: “Secundum fidem vestram fiat vobis”.

30 Et aperti sunt oculi illorum. Et comminatus est illis Iesus dicens: “ Videte, ne quis sciat ”.

31 οἱ δὲ ἐξελθόντες διεφήμισαν αὐτὸν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ γῇ ἐκείνῃ.

They going out spread his fame in the whole land.

Notice how Matthew handles this rather differently than Mark did. There is none of the admonitions to silence that we constantly got in Mark. Here, rather, we get a straightforward account of how these two spread the word about Jesus. Of course, Mark was ambivalent: the admonitions to silence didn’t work, and by this point in the narrative, Jesus’ fame had spread to the point that he couldn’t enter a town.

31 Illi autem exeuntes diffamaverunt eum in universa terra illa.

32 Αὐτῶν δὲ ἐξερχομένων ἰδοὺ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ ἄνθρωπον κωφὸν δαιμονιζόμενον:

33 καὶ ἐκβληθέντος τοῦ δαιμονίου ἐλάλησεν ὁ κωφός. καὶ ἐθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι λέγοντες, Οὐδέποτε ἐφάνη οὕτως ἐν τῷἸσραήλ.

34 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἔλεγον, Ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια.

They having gone out, behold, they brought to him a mute demon-having man. (33) And casting out the demon, the mute man spoke, and the crowds marveled, saying, “Never has such a thing appeared in all Israel”. (34) The Pharisees said, “In (being) the ruler of demons he casts out the demons”.

This story is sort of in Mark. We had a man made mute by a demon, and we have the Pharisees claiming that Jesus cast out demons through the power of Beelzebub. At this point in Mark we get the famous “house divided” speech, and I’m a little surprised that Matthew chose not to include it. It’s an excellent little metaphor. It is here also that Mark has Jesus getting into some sort of trouble with the crowd, who think him slightly unstable, so that his family has to come and rescue Jesus. I certainly understand why Matthew did not include that part of the story. That did rather make Jesus seem quite a bit less than divine.

So there is a great example of the story/legend developing over time. Jesus has become significantly more divine between the time Mark wrote his version and Matthew wrote this version. And this is what I mean when I say that Matthew chose to write a gospel because he had something to say. Perhaps it would be better to say that Matthew wanted to set the record straight. Mark was too ambivalent about Jesus. In Mark’s portrayal, Jesus simply wasn’t divine enough. Matthew had to correct the misleading impression that Mark’s gospel made. I’ve lately come across several discussions about why Mark survived. After all, there is some rather embarrassing material there, and I have to say that this is an excellent question. Why indeed?

32 Egressis autem illis, ecce obtulerunt ei hominem mutum, daemonium habentem.

33 Et eiecto daemone, locutus est mutus. Et miratae sunt turbae dicentes: “ Numquam apparuit sic in Israel! ”.

34 Pharisaei autem dicebant: “ In principe daemoniorum eicit daemones ”.

35 Καὶ περιῆγενὁ Ἰησοῦς τὰς πόλεις πάσας καὶ τὰς κώμας, διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ θεραπεύων πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.

36 Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἐσπλαγχνίσθη περὶ αὐτῶν ὅτι ἦσαν ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐρριμμένοι ὡσεὶ πρόβατα μὴ ἔχοντα ποιμένα.

37 τότε λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι:

38 δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ.

And Jesus went through all the cities and towns, teaching in the synagogues of them and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing all diseases and all maladies. (36) Seeing the crowds he had compassion about them that they were troubled and scattered like sheep not having a shepherd. (37) Then he said to his learners, “The harvest is great, the workers are few. (38) “Therefore pray to the lord of the harvest to sent (lit = cast out) workers for his harvest”.

This may not be in Mark verbatim, just as the passage previous was not exactly taken verbatim from Mark, but in both cases the sense is pretty much material that we found in Mark. It also rather harkens back to the end of Chapter 4, when Jesus began his ministry, and Matthew has such a summary passage about Jesus teaching in synagogues, healing, & c. Here, though Matthew leaves out the exorcisms that were mentioned there. Matthew is definitely giving exorcisms short shrift, much less attention than Mark gave them.

This is the second time Matthew uses the word “sheep”, but the first time it was used as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And this is Matthew’s first use of the shepherd analogy. Interesting how this will become the Good Shepherd in Luke.  Even more interesting is how Matthew then mixes his metaphor and goes into the harvest. Shepherds don’t harvest, at least not in the sense meant here. It’s odd little conjunctions like this that make me wonder if there wasn’t some kind of written collection of sayings; it seems that we’ve come across several instances where the jump from one thought, or analogy, or metaphor was rather incongruous. Not being a textual analyst, or a literary analyst, I’m not sure what to make of this. As historical analysis, these sort of abrupt changes seem rather…abrupt. It does feel like he’s taking two different thoughts and fitting them together in something like a Procrustean bed (Google is wonderful for stuff like this; a reference to Greek myth, the story of Procrustes and his wondrous bed, for which everyone was exactly the right size). 

Of course, Matthew would not have to get these tales from a written collection. They could be the summation of different oral traditions. I haven’t talked much lately about the different traditions that must have grown up around Jesus. From very early on, there were doubtless a number of different stories, and different types of stories, and wildly different interpretations of who Jesus was, whether the Christ, a wonder-worker, or a sage. None of these are necessarily mutually exclusive; the sage can be fit with any number of other personae. So it should be no wonder that Matthew heard different things. Recall, my thesis about Mark is that he was trying to weld the two traditions of the wonder-worker and the Christ into a unified whole; here we seem to have Matthew de-emphasizing the former to stress the latter. Mark was successful enough in merging the two traditions that one of them withered–or was simply ignored by Matthew. To compensate, Matthew seems to have two separate traditions that he is attempting to merge: the Christ and the sage. Mark talked about Jesus being a teacher; Matthew tells us what Jesus taught. The question then becomes, where was this sage tradition when Mark wrote? Was it still too closely associated with James the Just at that point?

35 Et circumibat Iesus civitates omnes et castella, docens in synagogis eorum et praedicans evangelium regni et curans omnem languorem et omnem infirmitatem.

36 Videns autem turbas, misertus est eis, quia erant vexati et iacentes sicut oves non habentes pastorem.

37 Tunc dicit discipulis suis: “ Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci;

38 rogate ergo Dominum messis, ut mittat operarios in messem suam ”.

Matthew Chapter 9:14-26

Chapter 9 continues with more stories that are in Mark.

14 Τότε προσέρχονται αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου λέγοντες, Διὰ τί ἡμεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι νηστεύομεν [πολλά], οἱ δὲ μαθηταί σου οὐ νηστεύουσιν;

15 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁἸησοῦς, Μὴ δύνανται οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ νυμφῶνος πενθεῖν ἐφ’ ὅσον μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν ὁ νυμφίος; ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὁ νυμφίος, καὶ τότε νηστεύσουσιν.

The the disciples of John came to him (Jesus) saying, Because of what do we and the Pharisees fast [much], but your disciples do not fast?” (15) And Jesus said to them, “The sons of the bride-chamber are not able to mourn for so much (time) with them is the bridegroom. But days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.

Just a quick note: “sons of the bride-chamber” is metaphorical. I noticed that I wasn’t entirely certain when we ran across this in Mark. But also note the use of the word <<υἱοὶ>>, rather than the plural of “pais”, the term the centurion used. This is a pretty clear indication that the centurion was talking about a servant. His ‘boy’–which can be a pejorative and even offensive term now.

This passage is meant to accomplish a couple of things, and it incidentally tells us one or two other things in the meantime. Of the latter, it’s telling us that John’s popularity was still significant at the time Matthew wrote. Was John more popular, more revered than he had been when Mark wrote? I’m not going to go so far as make that claim, but I don’t think it’s out of the question. In the Antiquities, Josephus had much more to say about John than he did about Jesus, and that may have been written a decade after Matthew. The point is, Matthew still feels that the subject of the Baptist is relevant, and realizes that he had to address the situation. Ergo, we need to realize that Matthew is telling us that people knew who John was, independently of the latter’s association with Jesus. Today, and for most of the Christian era, this has not been the case; John has been sort of a footnote to the story of Jesus, a minor character in the movie of Jesus’ life. This was not true in the last half of the First Century. In addition, John’s life as an ascetic was still well-known; hence the question here: why didn’t Jesus fast like John, and the Baptistians, and even the Pharisees? 

Here is where the followers of Jesus had to do a bit of a balancing act. The idea was to remind everyone that Jesus was associated with John, so that Jesus and his followers could tap into the ancient Jewish tradition–which included fasting–in which John was firmly grounded. But at the same time, Jesus’ followers had to start to separate from John because much of that Jewish tradition with its dietary laws and circumcision were a liability to the movement. More, Jesus’ followers had to start to assert that Jesus was actually superior to John, so that John came to be seen as the precursor of Jesus. This, of course, explains why Matthew has John demur from baptizing  Jesus, saying that Jesus should do the baptizing. Now here we have Jesus proclaiming himself the bridegroom. Once again, this story is in Mark, and it has been slightly shortened by Matthew.

The other incidental bit of information is what this says about Jesus himself. He was not one for fasting; indeed, the context is more or less that these disciples of John come to him while he is in the midst of a dinner party with tax collectors and sinners, held at Jesus’ own house. Now, that Jesus had been the host of this occasion indicates that Jesus was a man of some standing; which translated means he had means, as in money. One did not host dinner parties of tax collectors unless one had substantial means. These men were well-off themselves; given the level of snobbery, and attitude that wealth = God’s favor that was prevalent at the time among both Jews and pagans, wealthy individuals did not generally socialize with the less well-off. So the question here is double- or even triple-pointed. There is the obvious question about fasting, but this has implications for social standing–which is code for wealth. John was a wild man in the desert; Jesus owns a house and entertains. People obviously saw the discrepancy there. Which is another reason I suspect that the connection to John was more of a creation of Jesus’ later followers than a reflection of historical accuracy. The third point, of course, was the idea of consorting with sinners and Roman collaborators.

Given all this, the implications of this seemingly throw-away little tale may be enormous. One question that needs to be asked is how seriously we should take the reports of Jesus hanging out with tax collectors. This is a motif that is prevalent, one that is repeated many times by all the synoptics. Does that mean it was historically accurate? Not necessarily. The gospels are not independent of each other. As such they do not constitute what historians would consider independent sources. Just because something is repeated in all three Synoptics, or even all four gospels, does not make it more likely to be accurate. Such recurrence is a measure of its Truth rather than its factual or historical accuracy. If a story is repeated three or four times, this indicates that it was considered very important for the greater Truth of the story, its implications for instructing on how to live, how the cosmos was organized, and how one must behave to enter the kingdom of God/the heavens. 

Rather than mere repetition, we have to ask why it was repeated. Does the repetition rebound to the benefit, or the detriment of the main actor? That is, why would later followers want it to be known that Jesus hung out with Roman collaborators and sinners? First, we have to divide these two categories, something which is not often done. We have the sinners; this is pretty obvious, and doesn’t need much explanation. But note how it’s always, “tax collectors and sinners”. The two are not merged; they are consistently separate categories of people. Why? Because, while they were reprehensible, the tax collectors weren’t garden-variety sinners; rather, they were Roman collaborators. Now, why would it be beneficial, or detrimental, for Jesus to be seen associating with such people? Well, from Mark’s point of view, in the immediate aftermath of the Jewish Revolt, it may have been very politick for Mark to show Jesus as a friend of the friends of Rome. The tax collectors, as a group, probably were underrepresented among the ranks of the rebels, since they made their living from the Roman occupation. This, of course, assumes that the tax collectors were Jewish. But were they? Some of them would have been; here, we have Levi/Matthew and Luke has Zaccheus. So either they were Jews collaborating with Rome, or they were pagans who probably weren’t interested in the Jewish religious matters that touched off the Revolt. Either way, they were clear of suspicion about being involved in, or even sympathetic to, the Jewish Revolt. This would have been, I think, important for Mark.

But what about Matthew? Much of this rationale would have dissipated by the 80s, the earliest time for Matthew is likely to have written. He could easily have just taken this over from Mark and not thought much about it. But a different possibility is that Matthew wanted to stress how Jesus was both part of, and yet stood apart from the Jewish mainstream. He was part of it by associating with John, by taking John under his wing (as Matthew implies happened), but he was apart from it by associating with tax collectors who were certainly outside the Jewish mainstream, and by not fasting like the Pharisees. So Matthew is walking a very fine line here. Now, it’s possible that this speculation is all too-clever by half. Matthew may simply have taken over the story and not really thought much about some–or any–of these implications. But if Matthew is the master of organization the Q proponents say he was, then Matthew didn’t do much without a good reason, so we have to ask these questions. Whether I have provided reasonable answers to these questions is a different question unto itself. The simplest explanation is that this was so firmly embedded in the tradition, that Matthew felt unable to remove it.

The other thing that occurs to me about this derives from the idea that Jesus was a man of means. This, of course, is mentioned nowhere, nor by anyone. And yet, this seems a reasonable conclusion to draw from this story. Jesus has a house. Jesus is entertaining men of substance. It’s not hard to see that Jesus could himself have been a man of substance. Now, he may have given it up, which would explain the “eye of a camel” aphorism. Or, the emphasis on poverty could have been overlaid onto Jesus by later followers, for whom asceticism and voluntary poverty were the ideals. Such a man could have begun as a follower of the Baptist, but then joined Jesus after the execution of the former. And let’s say that this follower happened to become the leader of the Jesus movement after the death of Jesus. Who is this mystery man?

James the Just, the brother of the lord, of course.

Now that inference may take us well beyond too-clever-by-half. We’ve perhas hit too-clever-by-a-whole. The pieces fit, but they could–easily–fit in other ways, too.

But this also works another way. Here we have Jesus cavorting with rich folk and sinners (categories that possibly overlapped to a large degree), but in the Beatitudes we have Jesus preaching about the poor (in spirit, at least, which may have described Jesus himself), the persecuted, and other such downtrodden members of society. There seems a bit of a contradiction, or at least a conflict here, no? The former group are active sinners; the latter are the dirt floor of society. They are not necessarily sinners, unless you subscribe to the notion that God’s favor = wealth, which a lot of Jesus’ contemporaries had, and which is very prevalent even in 21st Century America. My suggestion is that this apparent conflict is best described as being nonexistent, that the two groups of sinners/tax collectors and poor in spirit are, in fact the same. The other best explanation is that we have two schools of thought here because we had two rather different men leading the movement: Jesus and then James. And recall, per Paul, James was more firmly entrenched in the Jewish traditions, so things like fasting and asceticism may have appealed more to him than to his brother. The result is a message that is not entirely consistent.

Now after all of this, my gut reaction is that Jesus did indeed associate with tax collectors as well as sinners. Interestingly, though, now that I try to explain why, I’m having trouble coming up with a case to support this belief. I think the gut comes from a sense that this would have been embarrassing; but, if it wasn’t, if it was something invented for political reasons by Mark, then maybe the case for the embarrassment goes away. This is related to the idea of the kingdom, and who would inherit it. This will require more analysis.

Speaking of invented, let’s address the prophetic element in the story. Jesus predicts that he will be taken away from the party. Since this is not a theological blog, nor a religiously-oriented one I cannot consider the possibility that Jesus was actually prophetic, being a divine being. It’s not that I’m believing or disbelieving; it’s just a matter of scope. It’s like asking if fish can fly when the discussion is about how to broil a piece of cod. Given the bent of the inquiry here, (historion, as Herodotus would have called it), we have to take all such prophetic pronouncements as post facto. Now, this could be a short time, or a long time after the fact; there is no way of knowing. So we have to look for other clues for timing, but there really aren’t any. The predictions of persecution, or the blessing of the persecuted take us into the 40s, a good decade after the death of Jesus, or even later, into the persecutions of Nero, or the time of the Jewish War or later still, into the reign of Domitian close to the end of the century.  This latter seems a bit too late. “Blessed are the persecuted” could be a reflection of the persecutions such as were perpetrated by Saul, so the timing of James the Just making this pronouncement works for that. At least, there is no obvious contradiction. James would have been alive, and lived past them to preach about them. Now, this is to assume that Saul did persecute; to which I say, if it wasn’t Saul, there are enough references to persecution, or trials that something such did happen. Regardless, I do believe the tales of persecution were greatly exaggerated by the later church.  

One final point. Mark says that the guests are not able to fast while the bridegroom is with them; Matthew says they do not mourn. Why the change? This strikes me as Matthew emphasizing the coming death of Jesus, letting the reader know that Jesus knew it was coming, that it would happen. This is why historians have to be skeptical about prophecies written decades after the event. Matthew’s change may be subtle, but it’s noteworthy. 

14 Tunc accedunt ad eum discipuli Ioannis dicentes: “ Quare nos et pharisaei ieiunamus frequenter, discipuli autem tui non ieiunant? ”.

15 Et ait illis Iesus: “ Numquid possunt convivae nuptiarum lugere, quamdiu cum illis est sponsus? Venient autem dies, cum auferetur ab eis sponsus, et tunc ieiunabunt.

16 οὐδεὶς δὲ ἐπιβάλλει ἐπίβλημα ῥάκους ἀγνάφου ἐπὶ ἱματίῳπαλαιῷ: αἴρει γὰρ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἱματίου, καὶ χεῖρον σχίσμα γίνεται.

17 οὐδὲ βάλλουσιν οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ῥήγνυνται οἱ ἀσκοί, καὶ ὁ οἶνος ἐκχεῖται καὶ οἱ ἀσκοὶ ἀπόλλυνται: ἀλλὰ βάλλουσιν οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινούς, καὶ ἀμφότεροι συντηροῦνται.

No one stretches a new piece of cloth upon an old garment, for the fulness of it tears from the garment, and the rent becomes worse. (17) Nor does one put new wine into old skins; otherwise the skins will rupture, and the wine will pour out and the skins will be destroyed. Rather, one puts new wine  into new skins, and both will be preserved.

Again, this is found in Mark. There, I talked about the possible eschatology of the message. This came from the influence of a book by EP Sanders that I was reading at the time.  The eschatological part concerned the sweeping away of the old, the old skins, the old garment, etc. The question is, what is being swept away? Now, I think there are a couple of ways to look at this. There is the truly apocalyptic view, in which everything will be swept away to usher in the kingdom. If we are truly talking about eschatology, that is what we mean. Reading this, however, I have the sense the the sweeping will be much more limited in scope. This is where it’s important actually to read the text. What I get out of this passage now is a discussion about Jewish practices. After all, Jesus is still talking to the disciples of John, and they asked about fasting. So Jesus’ reply should be taken in this context, I believe. So from that perspective, Jesus is breaking with Jewish practice, which is the old skins, or the old garment. Jesus’ message is the new patch, and the new wine.

Now this leads to two questions. Was this the message of the passage in Mark? Or has it changed? Looking back, I’m not sure I see anything more in Mark than talk about Jewish practice. So the second question is about how Jesus intended this to happen. Now that I think of it, there is a third question that’s really more important than the other two: did Jesus really say this, or anything vaguely like this? If we’re talking about Jewish practice, we have to ask when the abrogation of this became an issue. We’ve discussed how we can deduce that Jesus said nothing about the breaking of Jewish dietary laws, or other Jewish customs. This is demonstrated by the way that it was a point of contention between Paul and James; had Jesus said anything about this, the issue would never have become an issue. So, given that, either Jesus never said this or…Or is there an “or”? My suspicion is that there isn’t. Jesus never said this, so it’s rather pointless to ask what he meant by this.

Instead, this was something that came up as a result of the influx of pagans into the following. There is a lot of discussion about whether Mark was heavily influenced by Paul; one blog to which I’ve referred before thinks not, but there is, apparently, a strong cadre of academic thought that believes Mark was so influenced. Regardless, I think there is a case to be made that, influence or not, Mark ran into the same basic question that Paul did: how to assimilate pagans? Did they have to become full-fledged Jews to be a follower of Jesus? And so the tradition came up with solutions like this, admonitions not to put old wine (Jewish practice) into the new skin of the Jesus/Christian movement. As an aside, and sort of as a final note, I think it’s significant that Matthew included this. After all, if he were so concerned about not dropping a single iota of the law, why would he add something like this? He left out other things; why not this?

16 Nemo autem immittit commissuram panni rudis in vestimentum vetus; tollit enim supplementum eius a vestimento, et peior scissura fit.

17 Neque mittunt vinum novum in utres veteres, alioquin rumpuntur utres, et vinum effunditur, et utres pereunt; sed vinum novum in utres novos mittunt, et ambo conservantur ”.

18 Ταῦτα αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος αὐτοῖς ἰδοὺ ἄρχων εἷς ἐλθὼν προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων ὅτι Ἡ θυγάτηρ μου ἄρτι ἐτελεύτησεν: ἀλλὰ ἐλθὼν ἐπίθες τὴν χεῖρά σου ἐπ’αὐτήν, καὶ ζήσεται.

19 καὶ ἐγερθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

He (Jesus) having said these things to them, lo, a ruler coming to him (Jesus), groveled to him saying that “My daughter has just died. But coming, put your hand on her, and she will be saved.” (19) And rising, Jesus followed him and (so did) his disciples.

The word to note here is “rising”. Above, it wasn’t entirely clear whether Jesus was still having the dinner party when these disciples came. And recall that, at dinner, he was “reclining”. Now that he is “rising”, I would take this to mean that he was actually still at dinner when the disciples came with their question. First the Pharisees walked by and tut-tutted about the company, then the disciples of John. I’d be curious about the architecture, where it seems that the dinner party was visible from the street.

Next point, compare this to the story of the centurion’s servant. Here, Jesus has to go to the house. For the centurion, Jesus can effect the healing from a distance. Doesn’t the latter case seem like progress? That Jesus is seen as more powerful in that story? And yet, that story is supposedly in Q, which supposedly predates Mark. Not sure I buy that. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t buy it.

18 Haec illo loquente ad eos, ecce princeps unus accessit et adorabat eum dicens: “ Filia mea modo defuncta est; sed veni, impone manum tuam super eam, et vivet ”.

19 Et surgens Iesus sequebatur eum et discipuli eius.

20 Καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ αἱμορροοῦσα δώδεκα ἔτη προσελθοῦσα ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ:

And, lo, a woman (suffering from) a discharge of blood for twelve years approached him that she might touch the hem of his garment.

And this is a definite throwback. Here, she has to touch him–or his garment–physically. Do these three stories, the bleeding woman, the ruler’s daughter, and the centurion, not seem to be a continuum of power?

20 Et ecce mulier, quae sanguinis fluxum patiebatur duodecim annis, accessit retro et tetigit fimbriam vestimenti eius.

21 ἔλεγεν γὰρ ἐν ἑαυτῇ, Ἐὰν μόνον ἅψωμαι τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ σωθήσομαι.

For she said to herself, “If I only touch the hem of his garment, I will be saved.”

Just to comment on “saved”. This is the third use of the word in Matthew, and all three times it’s been used in a physical sense. And, really, here it doesn’t even mean “saving her life” so much as it simply means “cured”, as it also does in the next verse. I looked ahead, and, for the most part, it is used to refer to other physical conditions. We shall have to look for uses of “the life” to see if the two are used in conjunction.

21 Dicebat enim intra se: “ Si tetigero tantum vestimentum eius, salva ero ”.

22 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς στραφεὶς καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Θάρσει, θύγατερ: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε. καὶ ἐσώθη ἡ γυνὴ ἀπὸ τῆς ὥρας ἐκείνης.

Jesus turned and seeing her said, “Take heart, daughter. Your faith has saved you”. And the woman was made whole from that very hour.

“At that very hour”. A nice melodramatic turn of phrase. But what’s significant about this story is, once again, its brevity. And Griesbach actually wants us to believe that Mark was a precis of Matthew? Seriously? Seems like he got that exactly backwards. But this is what I mean: so many people have been so desperate to put Matthew first that they will do all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to preserve that primacy. They will overlook the many times that Matthew abridges the stories of Mark, and then claim that Mark abridged Matthew. The latter left out details; but Mark would have left out pretty much all of Jesus’ teaching. Man, talk about talking yourself into something. Faith is a wonderful thing, but blind faith is…well, blind.

So yes, once again Matthew shortens a set-piece story in Mark. This was another one that had all sorts of detail, had been rounded out nicely, and would have made a nice, oral story. But the thing that I most note as lacking is Jesus feeling “the power going out of him”. That she was cured without his volition, based on her faith alone. The way it comes across here, Jesus is supremely aware of the whole situation, he knows to turn and look and speak the words. No touching necessary. Again, I hope the development of Jesus’ power as a divine being is coming through in the way Matthew has abbreviated the story. In the other one, Jesus is caught unawares, a physical touch is necessary, the power works on its own, drawn to the magnet of her faith. Here, all happens by Jesus’ will and his foresight to know what is happening around him, his knowing that she is approaching with intent. Mark’s is the story of a wonder-worker; this is the story of a divine being.

22 At Iesus conversus et videns eam dixit: “ Confide, filia; fides tua te salvam fecit ”. Et salva facta est mulier ex illa hora.

23 Καὶ ἐλθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ ἄρχοντος καὶ ἰδὼν τοὺς αὐλητὰς καὶ τὸν ὄχλον θορυβούμενον

24 ἔλεγεν, Ἀναχωρεῖτε, οὐ γὰρ ἀπέθανεν τὸ κοράσιον ἀλλὰ καθεύδει. καὶ κατεγέλων αὐτοῦ.

25 ὅτε δὲ ἐξεβλήθη ὁ ὄχλος, εἰσελθὼν ἐκράτησεν τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς, καὶ ἠγέρθη τὸ κοράσιον.

26 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἡ φήμη αὕτη εἰς ὅλην τὴν γῆν ἐκείνην.

 And Jesus coming to the house of the ruler, and seeing the flute players and the crowd in a disturbance (24) said, “Go away, for the maiden has not died, but she sleeps. And they laughed down on him. (25) Then he cast out the crowd, going in he took her hand and the girl was raised. (26) And this story (perhaps tale of this deed would be more poetic)  went out to all of that land.  

Just realized that Matthew does not tell us what this man rules. In Mark it was a ruler of a synagogue. Here, it’s non-specified. Is this another attempt to put some distance between Jesus and Jewish practices? I mean, “ruler” unspecified is just weird in any language. And of course the Aramaic phrase is also missing at the end of the story. So, we’ve become divorced from all cultural references. This is a generic ruler in a generic land. And speaking of land, look at the end: “this fame went out through all that land, (and they all lived happily ever after)” . “All that land”, It has a fairy tale sort of quality about it, and it sounds like something one who lived some distance from “that land” would say. It doesn’t sound like something someone who was familiar with the area would say at all. So, once again, more clues that this was written for pagans, at some remove from Judea and Galilee?

And Jesus retains the air of all-knowing demigod in this story. Coming to the house, he reads the hubbub of the crowd to mean that they girl has died. And Matthew with an economy of words that would have made Hemingway proud tells us this by having Jesus deny that she had died. This is a man in charge of the situation. I like the crowd’s reaction: they laughed down on him is the literal translation of the Greek. That gets the point across rather nicely, I think.

Finally, the word used for “raised” is the same word that Mark and Paul use to describe Jesus being raised from the dead. The implication is an outside actor raising an object; it is not something rising of its own power, the way Jesus rose after his dinner party to come to the ruler’s house.  

23 Et cum venisset Iesus in domum principis et vidisset tibicines et turbam tumultuantem,

24 dicebat: “ Recedite; non est enim mortua puella, sed dormit ”. Et deridebant eum.

25 At cum eiecta esset turba, intravit et tenuit manum eius, et surrexit puella.

26 Et exiit fama haec in universam terram illam.


Matthew Chapter 9:1-13

I included this first verse with the end of Chapter 8, at the end of the story of the Gadarene demonaics. But it seemed worth including again, just for context.

1 Καὶ ἐμβὰς εἰς πλοῖον διεπέρασεν καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν πόλιν.

And embarking on the boat, they crossed and came to his own city. 

We discussed the implications of this at the end of Chapter 8. As a refresher, this seems to be part of the argument that Jesus was actually from Caphernaum, and not Nazareth.

BTW: John Calvin says that…This passage shows, that Capernaum was generally believed to be the birth-place of Christ…

So maybe I’m not so crazy after all….

1 Et ascendens in naviculam transfretavit et venit in civita tem suam.

2 καὶ ἰδοὺ προσέφερον αὐτῷ παραλυτικὸν ἐπὶ κλίνης βεβλημένον. καὶ ἰδὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν εἶπεν τῷ παραλυτικῷ, Θάρσει, τέκνον: ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.

And look, they brought a paralytic to him lying on his litter. And seeing his faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son, your sins have been removed.” 

Here we have the beginning of another set-piece story that was in Mark. There, of course, the setting was Jesus’ house, and the crowd was such that the paralytic had to be lowered down to Jesus through a hole in the roof. Apparently Matthew thought such vandalization of Jesus’ house by persons unknown was too scandalous to repeat. Again, by “set-piece”, I mean a story that had accumulated over time into a discreet chunk, a single unit, as the story of the Gerasene demonaic. And here, once again, Matthew chooses to eliminate much of the detail surrounding the tale. Now, we can suggest that Matthew got this from another tradition that didn’t have the details, but that’s bordering on silly. The probability is very high that Matthew used Mark, so Matthew had access to the whole story in Mark, whether or not there was a variant version or not. So the bottom line is that Matthew very deliberately decided to pare away much of the surrounding context and report “just the facts”. One interesting omission is the crowd; in fact, there haven’t been that many crowds so far in Matthew. I did a count of the occurrences; so far, we’ve encountered a crowd a handful of times. This will change as we progress, but, for the time being Matthew has not stressed the crowds the way Mark did. And in this story in particular, the crowd was more or less the whole point in Mark. It took some doing to get the paralytic to Jesus.

Aside from these issues, what’s interesting here is that what Jesus does is to say “your sins are forgiven”. Why? Of course, part of this is the mental connexion between sin and illness that was still prevalent at the time Matthew wrote. All God’s friends are rich and healthy, and probably good-looking, too.  But of course, this will set up a conflict, as we shall see in the next verse….

2 Et ecce offerebant ei paralyticum iacentem in lecto. Et videns Iesus fidem illorum, dixit paralytico: “Confide, fili; remittuntur peccata tua ”.

3 καὶ ἰδού τινες τῶν γραμματέων εἶπαν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Οὗτος βλασφημεῖ.

4 καὶ ἰδὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὰς ἐνθυμήσεις αὐτῶν εἶπεν, Ἱνα τί ἐνθυμεῖσθε πονηρὰ ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν;

And lo, some of the scribes said among themselves, “He blasphemes.” (4) And Jesus knowing their thoughts said to them, “Why do you think evil thoughts in your hearts?”

The first question here is what is meant by “in themselves”. Is this meant as, they murmured to each other, within their little group, or they said it silently, each within his own heart, or mind? It may not entirely matter, but given Jesus’ response about the thoughts “in their hearts” it’s not clear if Jesus just has really sharp hearing, if he has a keen grasp of human nature, or if he can actually read minds. I mean, did he hear them? Did he see them shifting uncomfortably in their chairs and have a good idea of the way they thought, or did he literally read their minds? The Greek could imply the first, but Jesus’ response almost implies the last.  There is no answer to this; it’s probably not necessary for Jesus to read minds, but it’s an interesting problem.  

3 Et ecce quidam de scribis dixerunt intra se: “ Hic blasphemat ”.

4 Et cum vidisset Iesus cogitationes eorum, dixit: “ Ut quid cogitatis mala in cordibus vestris?

5 τί γάρ ἐστιν εὐκοπώτερον, εἰπεῖν, Ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι, ἢ εἰπεῖν, Ἔγειρε καὶ περιπάτει;

6 ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε ὅτι ἐξουσίαν ἔχει ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας τότε λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ, Ἐγερθεὶςἆρόν σου τὴν κλίνην καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου.

7 καὶ ἐγερθεὶς ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ.

8 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ ὄχλοι ἐφοβήθησαν καὶ ἐδόξασαν τὸν θεὸν τὸν δόντα ἐξουσίαν τοιαύτην τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

(5) “For what is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Get up and walk around’? (6) But in order that you may know that the son of man has authority on the earth to take away sins”, then he said to the paralytic, “Take up your litter and go to your home.” (7) And getting up he went to his home. (8) Then seeing, the crowd was frightened and praised God giving such authority to men. 

Here the connexion between sins and disease is very clear. Jesus took away the sins, then the paralytic got up and walked. This is pretty direct causation.

The second point is that Matthew retained this particular aspect of the story. He got rid of the anecdotal details, but kept the contention with the scribes. Why? The apparent purpose here is to separate Jesus from the religious establishment. This was very clear in Mark, and it was arguably very necessary for the time given the freshness of the Jewish Revolt. But another generation has passed; so why? Here it’s worth bearing in mind the progression towards John, who blames “The Jews” for the ills that befell Jesus. I don’t meant to imply that Matthew was anti-Jewish, but keeping this part of the story was a choice. He didn’t have to do so, but he did. The reasonable conclusion to draw is that Matthew kept this deliberately to provide the separation between Jesus and the Jews, or at least the Jewish establishment. He may not be emphasizing it to the degree that Mark did, but he’s not sweeping it under the rug, either.

Now it has long been assumed that Matthew was Jewish. What do we think of this? I’ve been suggesting that, perhaps, we may not want to be entirely so certain about this. Yes, the name is Jewish, but no one seriously believes that Matthew Levi (coming up shortly!) is the author of this gospel. The line about “not an iota of the law will be lost” has long been held out as proof of Matthew’s Jewish heritage: he was concerned with retaining the Law. But was he? Really? Recall, that in the passage where he has Jesus say that, Jesus no more than utters the words and he’s changing the Law. So take that phrase away, and what do we have? Well, so far, not so much. More may come. I can’t recall anything so far that has made me think “Aha! There is a grand indication that Matthew was, indeed, Jewish”.

Think back to Paul. He left no doubt that he was Jewish. He bragged about it . He was one of the most zealous of his generation. We have gotten nothing like that from Matthew. We got nothing like that from Mark. The fact that we have to ask the question is really all we need to know. That we don’t know, I think, is a prima facie indication that perhaps neither of these two evangelists were Jewish. Now, that once again flies in the face of tradition, that Christianity maintained its ties to Judaism for a long time, but I find nothing to indicate this in the texts. Where is the evidence? IMO, it’s just as likely that Matthew had Jesus say that not an iota would be dropped so that Matthew could emphasize that Jesus wasn’t an innovator, and that his teaching wasn’t a novelty. To admit that he was changing the Law would have been a bad PR move if one were trying to convert pagans who, by and large, respected the pedigree of antiquity.

Now, a statement like I’ve just made that Matthew wasn’t Jewish requires that a case that has to be built up quote by quote to be convincing, and I certainly have not done that. But, really, have those who say that Matthew was Jewish actually created such a case? I’m not aware of it. This is another thing that is pretty much just assumed. It’s always been assumed. Think about Peter’s successors: Linus, Anacletus, Clement…pagan names. Already by the end of the first century the Bishops of Rome were consistently former pagans. Yes, Jews could have Greek or Latin names, but think of it. Where are the Jewish names connected with the Church in the last half of the First Century? Luke is not a Jewish name. John is, so maybe the fourth evangelist and the author of Revelations were both Jewish. But there aren’t many more. Titus & Timothy are Greek names, and Paul told us that Titus was a pagan, so pagans had already become prominent by then. Yes, authors of the epistles have Jewish names, but so has Matthew. Were the epistles written by the people whose names they bear? Not in all cases, surely. My point is that it should not be taken for granted that the followers of Jesus, that the Christian followers of Jesus were predominantly Jewish; they may have been, but a case needs to be made for this. I don’t think it ever has been made. I will start piecing my case together. If anyone is aware of anyone who has actually made the case, feel free to enlighten me.

Finally, the last sentence: they were afraid…(because)…God had given such authority to men. Now, this is interesting for all sorts of reasons. First, they were afraid. They didn’t marvel; they feared, but despite this, they praised God. Now, this makes me wonder if this is one instance where the NT definition of “ephobo” (think phobia) may not be warranted. Perhaps it’s like “awe” and how it became “awful”; rather than “full of awe” the word has morphed into “terrible”. So, one fears because of the power of God, but it’s a holy kind of fear. Sort of like Moses before the Burning Bush.

But the most pertinent point, I think is that God had given such authority (or power; or simply “competence”) to men. Not to a man; not to God’s son, but to men, sort of generically. What does this imply? Again, this is Matthew saying this; this is not in Mark, so Matthew added it deliberately. Honestly, and off-hand, I have no real explanation for this. I find it baffling. That being the case, I checked in with M Calvin of Geneva. His solution to the problem is simple: these men were mistaken; Jesus was not a man. Which puts this in a rather different light: why does Matthew tell us that others thought Jesus was a man? Hmmm…who were these others? Well, they were Jews, because they are in and about Jesus’ residence, they were in the presence of scribes…Is this one more clue about Matthew’s religious background? Or one more way of remaining separate from, while simultaneously being attached to Judaism? If so, it’s fairly subtle, and decidedly clever. By the time Matthew wrote this, it would have been plainly obvious that a lot of Jews had not become followers of Jesus, they had not made the jump to Christian. As such, Matthew had to explain this. Mark had the Great Secret; is Matthew going to toss out little clues like this? Is this how Matthew will handle this problem?Time will tell. All in all, my suggestion about Matthew may not be completely ridiculous.

5 Quid enim est facilius, dicere: “Dimittuntur peccata tua”, aut dicere: “Surge et ambula”?

6 Ut sciatis autem quoniam Filius hominis habet potestatem in terra dimittendi peccata — tunc ait paralytico – : Surge, tolle lectum tuum et vade in domum tuam ”.

7 Et surrexit et abiit in domum suam.

8 Videntes autem turbae timuerunt et glorificaverunt Deum, qui dedit potestatem talem hominibus.

9 Καὶ παράγων ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκεῖθεν εἶδεν ἄνθρωπον καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον, καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Ἀκολούθει μοι. καὶ ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ.

 And going about, Jesus then saw a man seated in the tax collector’s office, named Matthew, and he (Jesus) said to him (Matthew), “Follow me,” and (Matthew) standing, followed him (Jesus).

Offhand, I really don’t know why this gospel is associated with Matthew Levi. I’m sure there’s a long explanation in the tradition, but it’s likely an ex-post rationalization. And it’s interesting to note that the “Levi” is missing here. That’s what Mark and Luke call him. Why not Matthew? I have some vague sense that being named Matthew here, rather than Levi, has something to do with the gospel being attributed to Matthew. The thing is, these traditions were often born of stuff like the fact that only Matthew calls him Matthew, and that Matthew doesn’t mention Levi. The bases for a lot of what we “know” about the earliest history of the Church and the early days of the Jesus movement rests on such slender reeds, which was the phrase used by writers on Greek history. And trust me: there are a lot of ponderous edifices built on some very slender reeds in Greek history, so I can usually recognize one when I see it.  

I do want to mention something again. One of the reasons that it matters whether Jesus was from Caphernaum is situations like this, or the calling of Simon and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee. If Jesus had lived in Caphernaum (which is where Calvin says this story occurs), then his calling to these men, and these men responding is perhaps neither so mysterious nor remarkable as the stories would have us believe. Had Jesus lived here some time, had he grown up here, then he likely would have known these men, and they likely would have known him. As such, it’s not like they dropped everything to take up with a complete stranger that they had never met.  It’s not quite the blinding flash that the story tries to imply.

9 Et cum transiret inde Iesus, vidit hominem sedentem in teloneo, Matthaeum nomine, et ait illi: “Sequere me”. Et surgens secutus est eum.

10 Καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἀνακειμένου ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, καὶ ἰδοὺ πολλοὶ τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἐλθόντες συνανέκειντο τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ.

11 καὶ ἰδόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοιἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν;

12 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας εἶπεν, Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ἰσχύοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες.

13 πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε τί ἐστιν, Ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν: οὐ γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς.

And it happened he (Jesus) was reclining (which means “dining”) in his house, and lo, many tax collectors and sinners having come reclined together with Jesus and his disciples. (10) And the Pharisees seeing his disciples, (asked) “Because of what with tax collectors and sinners does your teacher eat?” (12) He (Jesus) hearing, said, “The strong (i.e., “healthy”) do not need a physician, but those having bad things (i.e., “diseases”). (13) Going, learn what (this means) is, ‘Compassion (pity/mercy; it can mean all three) I wish, and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners’.”

First, this is taking place at Jesus’ house. Mark was a bit ambiguous on this, but Matthew is fairly clear. Note that this is clarified by the fact that the tax collectors and sinners came; Jesus did not go to them. So once again, this is a strong indication that Jesus was a native of Caphernaum, rather than Nazareth. I do not believe it was customary to go to another town and purchase a house; my sense is that houses were constructed by the family that intended to occupy them. I suppose the house could have been in the family of a relative, perhaps an aunt or uncle or cousin who died childless, and then Jesus took it over, but this is all very speculative. The plainest sense of the text is that this was Jesus’ house, which would imply it was where he grew up.

Second, once again Jesus has those keen ears that allow him to hear conversations that were held sotto voce, or at some distance. Sort of like he was able to hear what the scribes were thinking. Now, this story is also in Mark, and it runs fairly closely along the lines of Mark, which is actually a tad longer. So once again, Matthew abbreviates. Not much, it’s true, but he does. Let’s take a look at this, and at the placement. The Sermon on the Mount lasted three chapters. Matthew seems to be condensing a bunch of Mark into a section. Now here’s a thought: does the idea of Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners seem a bit quaint after the Sermon? Sort of dated? In a way, I dislike making suggestions like this because it’s this sort of thing that the Q proponents use as the totality of the “argument” for the existence of Q. But I don’t quite think I’m doing that. I am pointing out what I believe is a different tone in Matthew towards some of these episodes than we found in Mark. I’m not suggesting that Matthew’s version is somehow superior to Mark. Is a difference in tone so ridiculous? Isn’t that kind of the point? I will say this again: Matthew didn’t write just to repeat what Mark said, in the way that Mark said it. Rather, Matthew wrote because he felt he had something different to say. 

The line about pity/mercy/compassion vs. sacrifice is from Hosea 6:6. The REB that I have translates Hosea as “loyalty”, but the point is that God isn’t as impressed with the outward act of burning an animal as he had been at one point. Now, Hosea is set in the 7oos BCE, but, does anyone take these dates seriously as the time of its composition? Rather, this seems to reflect a time much closer to the turn of the era than to the eve of the destruction of Israel. So the point is, it’s a reflection of how Judaism was changing, becoming much more internalized. This is why there has been such a (much-needed) effort to contextualize Jesus in his Jewish milieu. And this is exactly why I think that Matthew found it a bit quaint, something to be condensed, rather than something to be elaborated. He elaborated the story of Jesus’ baptism; he elaborated the story of the temptations; he added entirely the story of the centurion’s boy; he cut the story of the Gerasene demonaic and a couple of others found in Mark. At this point I am reluctant to draw too many inferences from this admittedly limited sample; however, as we progress, this will be worth keeping an eye on: what does Matthew lengthen, what does he add, what does he trim?

Finally, the line about the healthy not needing a physician is, I think, likely to be authentic. It’s part of the “triple tradition”, which means it’s in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. It’s not part of Q, unless it’s part of the convenient ‘Mark/Q overlap’, which is a category created to catch such gems as this saying. This is another aspect of Q that I love: it’s so flexible. It can include whatever the proponents think it should, or think it has to contain because whatever it is has to trace back to Jesus. Except when it’s about John the Baptist. That must be in Q because it’s in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. Never mind that Luke is nearly a verbatim copy of Matthew. That’s because both of them copied Q faithfully. Regardless, this is the sort of aphorism that makes Mack believe that Jesus was a Cynic sage; it’s witty, a bit irreverent, and it makes the person on the other end look a bit foolish. This, I think, is the sort of mot that would be easily remembered and often repeated.

But we have to ask how, or even if, this fits with the idea that he came to call sinners, not the righteous. This idea leads us back to what we think the kingdom was all about. We have the sort of topsy-turvy thought expressed here that we found in the Beatitudes. Or do we? The latter are about those who suffer; this is about forgiveness. Those referred to in the Beatitudes have it bad, probably through no fault of their own. They are the victims–real victims–of oppression, at the mercy of powers much greater than themselves. Thucydides has such circumstances in mind when he said, “the strong do what they can. The weak suffer what they must”. Can we say that about sinners? Are we really talking about the same groups here? The same sort of overall, overarching theme for what the kingdom is about? I’m not entirely sure that we are. Now, the overturning of the current status quo was thematic in Mark. While the Beatitudes have that theme, it refers to a different group of people. Now, this could simply be picking nits on my part, but I feel like there is a qualitative difference between eating with sinners and tax collectors–who were generally quite wealthy individuals–and having mercy on the poor in spirit, or those persecuted. [I seriously hope I said that the idea of being persecuted for Jesus’ sake is something that could describe a situation in the 50s or 60s, perhaps, but probably not during Jesus’ lifetime. As such, it’s a real clue that Jesus did not say that…] Tax collectors were collaborators with the Romans. They had made a choice to use the situation to their personal advantage and collaborate with the army of occupation for their own personal benefit. They were not, IOW, poor even in spirit. They were not hungry for justice. So we have to ask if we have two different messages here? Perhaps the result of them coming from two different individuals? Perhaps the message about the sinners came from Jesus, and the message about the poor in spirit came from James?

People like JD Crossan talk about Jesus’ eschatological message, about the kingdom as an apocalyptic vision. When they do, they tend to conflate the message of this passage with the message of the Beatitudes, since both seem to refer to “the kingdom”. Now, that may be the case, but do they refer to the same kingdom? I’m not so sure.

10 Et factum est, discumbente eo in domo, ecce multi publicani et peccatores venientes simul discumbebant cum Iesu et discipulis eius.

11 Et videntes pharisaei dicebant discipulis eius: “ Quare cum publicanis et peccatoribus manducat magister vester?”.

12 At ille audiens ait: “ Non est opus valentibus medico sed male habentibus.

13 Euntes autem discite quid est: “Misericordiam volo et non sacrificium”. Non enim veni vocare iustos sed peccatores ”.