Monthly Archives: June 2015

Matthew Chapter 13:10-23

We are still talking about the parable of the sower. Jesus has just told the parable. We’re back to a fairly long section, but even here isn’t the cleanest break in between.

10 Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Διὰ τί ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖς αὐτοῖς;

11 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἐκείνοις δὲ οὐ δέδοται.

And coming towards (him = Jesus), the disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables? (11) He, answering, said to them that “To you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not given.”

This is a recapitulation of Mark’s “secret teachings”. The idea of a mystery revealed only to initiates was a common feature of Greek and other so-called “mystery” religions. In fact, the Eleusinian Mysteries, held yearly in Eleusis, which is outside of Athens for most of the Classical period of Greece, had a secret like this. And the thing is, the secret was so well-kept that we do not know what it was. Generally, these “mysteries” were part of the ritual, or were a ritual in which only the initiates could participate. Chances are there was nothing terribly deep, and almost certainly nothing sinister about most of these mysteries. Generally, the Eucharist is thought to be the Christian mystery: something that only those on the inside knew about and/or participated in.

So in one sense, yes, the idea of a mystery of the kingdom of the heavens is really not anything especially odd, or remarkable. This is why Christianity was generally viewed as another Eastern (east of Rome) Mystery Religion by the Romans. It was suspicious to the Romans largely because it was new, and so not a known quantity. But there is, I think, a good case that the rites of the initiate are not what Mark and Matthew mean in this context.  We discussed this in conjunction with this passage in Mark. Rather than a secret rite, this sounds more like secret knowledge. This sounds more like Gnosis.

Now, “Gnosis” is a bit like pornography: hard to define, but you “know it when you see it”. Strictly speaking, it is my opinion that nothing actually deserves the label of “Gnosis” much before the early 2nd Century. Valentinus (no relation to he of Valentine’s Day fame) died ca 160 CE. He was the first “successful”, large-(largish-)scale leader of something that could be called a sect in the organized sense. One could argue that formal Gnosticism begins with him. Contrarily, one could argue that it begins before him. I tend to prefer the former idea, but it’s not something that one can really pin down with any accuracy. Suffice it to say that Valentinian was the first Gnostic leader deemed sufficiently important to be formally labeled a heretic by the Christian Church. And by “formal”, I mean where a certain number of tenets that came to be considered hallmarks of Gnosticism are in place. Valentinus, for example was one of the first to attempt a thorough-going union of Christianity with Platonism.

But, like most systems of belief, Gnosticism did not spring full-grown and clad in shining armour from the forehead of Valentinus, There were precursors; at least, there were ideas that, when developed, could and did lead to an idea of Gnosticism. This would be informal Gnosticism, the ideas that led, finally, to the formal state. We noticed Paul making references to knowledge that at least implied proto-Gnosticism; Valentinus claimed to have learned his doctrine from a disciple of Paul.  We also saw it a couple of times in Mark–including his version of this story. Really, from a “mysterion“, a secret ritual, it’s only a short step to a secret knowledge, so that such doctrines developed should not surprise us. After all, sages, magoi, priests of all sorts had long professed a secret (in Latin, occulta) knowledge of the workings of the universe. 

One last point: this is the only time in both Mark and Matthew that they use the word mysterion“, albeit in slightly different forms. Luke uses it in his version of this story. John does not use it, but it shows up several times in Revelation. But Paul uses it eight times in Romans and 1 Corinthians, but some form is used a dozen times in the Deutero-Pauline corpus, especially in Ephesians. So the word went out of fashion after Paul, except among groups that wrote under Paul’s name; they kept the concept alive in traditions that were roughly contemporaneous to, or even after Matthew. Now the word can have a fairly generic meaning, perhaps akin to “secret”; but in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians, it seems to imply some sort of knowledge to which those initiated into the assemblies of Jesus were privy.

This apparently bifurcated tradition is significant because it seems to demonstrate that there were separate traditions still in existence. The question is, were Mark, Matthew, Luke and John aware of the Pauline corpus? When did these traditions finally merge? There is little doubt that most of the various books (and some additional ones) that we recognise as the NT were known to “The Church” by te middle of the 2nd Century. A letter of Clement, supposedly written by the third bishop of Rome, mentions 1 Corinthians. Some would put this letter as early 75 CE, or at least in the range of 75-110. However, there is a strong incentive among biblical scholars–especially Christian ones, which is most of them–to date these texts as early as possible. Moving the last date back by a decade seems reasonable, and by two seems plausible. This latter puts us closer to the middle of the 2nd Century than to the beginning. My biggest problem with an early date is that you end up with the Pauline corpus known by “The Church”, but not perhaps the later gospel writers. And this could include even Matthew.

The passage here is from Mark, slightly altered by Matthew and Luke. The latter two seemed to know nothing beyond what Mark did, so the question is whether Mark knew about Paul. There is a definite school of thought that answers this affirmatively, but this is not the majority opinion as far as I can tell. Ergo, this leaves us with two separate traditions

10 Et accedentes discipuli dixerunt ei: “ Quare in parabolis loqueris eis? ”.

11 Qui respondens ait illis: “ Quia vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni caelorum, illis autem non est datum.

12 ὅστις γὰρ ἔχει, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ καὶ περισσευθήσεται: ὅστις δὲ οὐκ ἔχει, καὶ ὃ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

“For he who has, it will be given to him, and in abundance. But he who has not, even (kai) what he has wll be taken from him.”

The thought expressed here has always bothered me. It seems too close to “the rich will get richer”. However, looking at the context here, what we are talking about is knowledge, or perhaps understanding, so it makes a bit more sense. A lot more, in fact. It is necessary to know something about a subject in order to learn about it in depth. It’s hard, for example, to understand a period of history until you (or I, anyway) know a certain amount about it. Then, once a certain threshhold has been crossed, acquiring additional understanding gets easier. So, I think, it is here. Having certain secret information will allow the understanding of even deeper mysteries.

12 Qui enim habet, dabitur ei, et abundabit; qui autem non habet, et quod habet, auferetur ab eo.

13 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν παραβολαῖς αὐτοῖς λαλῶ, ὅτι βλέποντες οὐ βλέπουσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες οὐκ ἀκούουσιν οὐδὲ συνίουσιν:

“Because of this in parables to them I speak, that looking about they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor understand.”

This, OTOH, makes no more sense here than it did in Mark. What, after all, is the point of teaching in a way so that those who hear do not understand what they hear? IMO, that’s pretty much the definition of a bad teacher, isn’t it? I probably should have held off on some of the dicsussion of Gnosticism until now, because it seems more pertinent here than it did before. This sure sounds like Jesus is holding something back that will be revealed only to the inner circle. But if that’s the case, then why bother with public teaching?

My solution to this, well, mystery when we discussed it for Mark is that he was doing what he could to explain why more Jews hadn’t become followers of Jesus. Indeed, why hadn’t all of them? Because Jesus was keeping some of the most important parts secret. He wouldn’t let the demons tell who he was, he kept secret from the Jews. Matthew swallows Mark more or less whole, and adds basically nothing to the message. As such, there’s nothing to compel me to change my explanation. That’s not to say I’m necessarily correct, but it seems to make the most sense. 

As always, feel free to disagree. 

13 Ideo in parabolis loquor eis, quia videntes non vident et audientes non audiunt neque intellegunt;

14 καὶ ἀναπληροῦται αὐτοῖς ἡ προφητεία Ἠσαΐου ἡ λέγουσα, Ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε, καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε.

15 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου, καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν, καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν: μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.

And he supplied to them the prophecy of Isaiah which is saying, “Having heard they hear and do not understand, and looking they see and the do not know. (15) For the heart has been thickened of this people, and to them their ears are weighed down, and their eyes they closed. Never the eyes see nor the ears hear, nor in their hearts (do) they know, nor do I heal them.”   

A note about the Greek. A couple of the words are peculiarly NT forms. These are the words rendered as “weighed down” and “closed”, as in the eyes. The meaning or sense of the root has not been changed, so there’s no real issue with translation, so it’s really not significant. But it does show how NT Greek is unstable to a point. We can only know what a word truly means by seeing how it is used in different contexts. When the NT starts coming up with unique formations, we are justified in wondering if we’re really catching what the author is throwing, or if we’re just making it say what we want it to say. We’re not in that realm here, but it happens. Second, the last words I rendered as “nor” are actually “kai”, which means “and”. This is an example of the flexibility of this word, which is used in a lot of different ways. Really, “nor” = “and * negative”. So it’s simply a matter of carrying the negative from the previous clauses forward while conjoining with “and”. This is something one sees in Classical authors as well, so it’s a recognizable use. Ergo, it’s not at all problematic. But it does demonstrate how NT authors both knew their basics and maybe didn’t know some of the less common stuff.

Secondly, we spoke about this quote with Mark, but this may be a new insight on my part. Take this together with the previous verse, in which it’s Jesus’ stated intention to obfuscate his message. Here, Isaiah is saying this is the way the Israelites are, not the way they should be, or the way God is making them. For example, recall Pharaoh? How God hardened his heart? I’ve always wondered how Pharaoh could be blamed, or held accountable, when it was God who was making him that way?

But back to Isaiah. Actually, I think “Isaiah” was attempting to do something very similar to what Matthew was doing here. We just talked briefly about how the wicked kings of Israel kept chasing other gods. My suspicion is that the fire and brimstone bombast of Isaiah and the other prophets sent to Israel was latter-day projection into the past to explain why Israel had been conquered by Assyria, and why Judah was the proper successor to the territory that had once been Israel; but that had never included Judah. In the same way, Matthew is trying to explain why pagans are the proper successors to the Judeans as the subjects of the kingdom of heaven.  So it seems that the two passages may, after all, be very similar in both content and intent. 

14 et adimpletur eis prophetia Isaiae dicens: “Auditu audietis et non intellegetis et videntes videbitis et non videbitis.

15 Incrassatum est enim cor populi huius, et auribus graviter audierunt et oculos suos clauserunt, ne quando oculis videant et auribus audiant et corde intellegant et convertantur, et sanem eos”.

16 ὑμῶν δὲ μακάριοι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ὅτι βλέπουσιν, καὶ τὰ ὦτα ὑμῶν ὅτι ἀκούουσιν.

17 ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πολλοὶ προφῆται καὶ δίκαιοι ἐπεθύμησαν ἰδεῖν ἃ βλέπετε καὶ οὐκ εἶδαν, καὶ ἀκοῦσαι ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ οὐκ ἤκουσαν.

“Blessed are your eyes that see, and your ears that hear. (17) For amen I say to you, that many prophets and justified ones longed to see what you see, and they did not see, and to hear what you hear and they did not here.  

16 Vestri autem beati oculi, quia vident, et aures vestrae, quia audiunt.

17 Amen quippe dico vobis: Multi prophetae et iusti cupierunt videre, quae videtis, et non viderunt, et audire, quae auditis, et non audierunt!

18 Ὑμεῖς οὖν ἀκούσατε τὴν παραβολὴν τοῦ σπείραντος.

19 παντὸς ἀκούοντος τὸν λόγον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ μὴ συνιέντος, ἔρχεται ὁ πονηρὸς καὶ ἁρπάζει τὸ ἐσπαρμένον ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ: οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν σπαρείς.

20 ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη σπαρείς, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ εὐθὺς μετὰ χαρᾶς λαμβάνων αὐτόν:

21 οὐκ ἔχει δὲ ῥίζαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιρός ἐστιν, γενομένης δὲ θλίψεως ἢ διωγμοῦ διὰ τὸν λόγον εὐθὺς σκανδαλίζεται.

22 ὁ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας σπαρείς, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου συμπνίγει τὸν λόγον, καὶ ἄκαρπος γίνεται.

23 ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὴν καλὴν γῆν σπαρείς, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ συνιείς, ὃς δὴ καρποφορεῖ καὶ ποιεῖ ὃ μὲν ἑκατόν, ὃ δὲ ἑξήκοντα, ὃ δὲ τριάκοντα.

Thus now hear the parable of the sower.” (19) All hearing the word of the kingdom and not understanding, but the evil one comes and seizes that which has been planted in the heart of him (the one who heard the word and did not understand). This is that which he sowed upon the road. (20) That which was sowed on the rocks, he is the one hearing the word and immediately with happiness he receives it. (21) But he does not have roots in himself, but he is temporary, and becoming afflicted or the persecution on account of the word he quickly stumbles. (22) The one having been sown among the thorns, he is the one hearing the word, but the cares of the age and the fraud of wealth strangle the word, and he is/becomes unfruitful. (23) But the one being sown on good ground, he is the one hearing the word and understanding, indeed he is the one bearing fruit and makes on the one hand a hundred, or another sixty, or another thirty, 

Again, I don’t think this requires a lot of comment–but I said that earlier, too, and that didn’t stop me. But this is a very famous theme in Christianity, and it’s a brilliant metaphor, or analogy, or allegory, or whatever you want to call it. How about a parable? It’s basic, and it’s earthbound, and yet it’s subtle and packs a wallop for a message.

One thing I do want to touch on (oh boy, here we go) is the mention of the affliction of persecution in Verse 21. To start, let us point out that this is a verbatim plagiarism right out of Mark. Now, writing in the early 70s, Mark would have been addressing many who had either heard about, or experienced, the persecutions of Nero, or the horrors of the Jewish Revolt. Fifteen or twenty years later, those were but a faded memory, or the stories of old men for the bulk of those hearing Matthew. This, I think, is how the legend of the persecutions grew: Paul claimed to have perpetrated them, Mark mentioned them, Matthew repeated the story, and Acts 8 talks about a “great” persecution. As such, to the later Church Fathers it seemed like this was a constant state of affairs, that Christians had always been persecuted. The result, I think, were the “Lives of the Saints” as told by Butler in all their horrific and gory details. Now, I’m not as versed on the later Roman Empire, but in the First Century, there is precious little evidence (read, almost none) from the Roman side that Christians were considered a problem. Indeed, that they were considered at all. That letter of Pliny Minor really drives that point home.

Also, the phrase “deceit/fraud of wealth” is lifted pretty much verbatim as well. No, there is no way around it: Matthew had not only read Mark, he had a copy of Mark. Did he have a copy of Paul, too? That is a much more interesting question.

18 Vos ergo audite parabolam seminantis.

19 Omnis, qui audit verbum regni et non intellegit, venit Malus et rapit, quod seminatum est in corde eius; hic est, qui secus viam seminatus est.

20 Qui autem supra petrosa seminatus est, hic est, qui verbum audit et continuo cum gaudio accipit illud,

21 non habet autem in se radicem, sed est temporalis; facta autem tribulatione vel persecutione propter verbum, continuo scandalizatur.

22 Qui autem est seminatus in spinis, hic est, qui verbum audit, et sollicitudo saeculi et fallacia divitiarum suffocat verbum, et sine fructu efficitur.

23 Qui vero in terra bona seminatus est, hic est, qui audit verbum et intellegit et fructum affert et facit aliud quidem centum, aliud autem sexaginta, porro aliud triginta ”.

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Matthew Chapter 13:1-9

I’m going to attempt to keep these sections shorter than they have been. Hope this doesn’t make everything too choppy.

1 Ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἐξελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῆς οἰκίας ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν:

On that day, Jesus going out from his home, he sat beside the sea.

Two really interesting bits here. It’s the same day, and Jesus went out from his home. Now, at the end of the last chapter Jesus’ family had come to extricate him from the hostile crowd of Pharisees. At least, that was Mark’s version, but the idea was that he went home with his family. Now recall that I used this to suggest that Jesus had grown up in Caphernaum, rather than Nazareth. We were told that Jesus moved to Caphernaum, but we weren’t told that his entire extended family came with him. Now, Jesus is a grown man; one presumes that any brothers or sisters would also be adults, or close to it. Were any of them adults, they would have, most likely, been married like any respectable grown-up was in the ancient world, whether Jewish or pagan. It’s what you did, unless there was a good reason. These would include being a slave–although that was not an absolute restriction–or having some physical affliction such as blindness. So the point is, Nazareth is a pretty good hike from Caphernaum. So did this whole tribe of Jesus’ family come all the way from Nazareth? Remember, the news had to get to Nazareth, and then the family had to make the journey. This would account for the better part of a day. And then Jesus would not have had time to go back to Caphernaum to take a seat on shore of the sea. No, the obvious conclusion is that Jesus’ family also lived locally. So, would Jesus’ grown and married siblings have moved with Jesus? That doesn’t strike me as likely, especially not the women. I believe the practice was for Jewish women to join the husband’s family. So, OK, these could have been unmarried sisters, but the overall impression is that the crowd knew Jesus’ family. We get the sense that those gathered knew these siblings, and knew them well. The implication is that they knew Jesus within the context of his entire family. It’s not a sense that they had just moved there, fairly recently. So yes, Jesus of Caphernaum. The Nazareth bit was something that Matthew concocted to fulfill a prophecy. Yes, Mark opens with “the good news of Jesus of Nazareth”, but the “of Nazareth” is easily explained as a interpolation, and likely a very early interpolation. So yes, I believe it is Jesus of Caphernaum.

But, just so I can’t be accused of ducking the problems with my thesis, this does not mesh with Mark 6. That’s when he is said to return to his hometown, and where he can’t work miracles because they had no faith. Honestly, I don’t have a way to square that circle at the moment. I think it’s an issue where one of these stories may have more roots than the other; the question is, can we decide which of the two feels more authentic? Of course, the other possibility is that neither are accurate. In which case, that would augur in favor of the “Jesus of Caphernaum” theory. There is nothing tying Jesus to Nazareth, aside from the demonym bestowed, probably by Matthew and then added to Mark. I say this  because much of the story takes place in Caphernaum; Nazareth seems to be the awkward addition while Caphernaum feels like the organic whole. In which case, it would be the story in Mark 6 that would become suspect. I’m not sure if we get a whole lot more evidence one way or the other. We can revisit when we get to Matthew’s version of Mark 6. 

1 In illo die exiens Iesus de domo sedebat secus mare;

2 καὶ συνήχθησαν πρὸς αὐτὸν ὄχλοι πολλοί, ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς πλοῖον ἐμβάντα καθῆσθαι, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν εἱστήκει.

And a crowd gathered together about him, so that he, embarking on a boat sat down, and the entire crowd upon the shore stood.

This is an interesting detail. It’s preserved in Mark as well. Pressed by the crowd, Jesus gets into a boat and teaches to the crowd on the shore. Could this be authentic? No, because it’s in Mark, so it’s not in Q. Seriously, this is the sort of setting that would be unusual to make up. It serves no real purpose to the narrative. Yes, it indicates the size of the crowd, perhaps, but it’s hardly a necessary fact to get that point across. So I would say there is at least some chance that this is based, to some degree, on an actual event. I’m not quite sure I should hazard a guess, but I’d put it somewhere around 20-30% likely, based on nothing but judgement. Of course, I like to think my judgement is pretty good, and I have nothing very tangible to gain one way or the other, so I don’t feel like I’m risking too much by putting that out there.

2 et congregatae sunt ad eum turbae multae, ita ut in naviculam ascendens sederet, et omnis turba stabat in litore.

3 καὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγων, Ἰδοὺ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπείρειν.

4 καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ἃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, καὶ ἐλθόντα τὰ πετεινὰ κατέφαγεν αὐτά.

5 ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὰ πετρώδη ὅπου οὐκ εἶχεν γῆν πολλήν, καὶ εὐθέως ἐξανέτειλεν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν βάθος γῆς.

6 ἡλίου δὲ ἀνατείλαντος ἐκαυματίσθη καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ῥίζαν ἐξηράνθη.

7 ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὰς ἀκάνθας, καὶ ἀνέβησαν αἱ ἄκανθαι καὶ ἔπνιξαν αὐτά.

8 ἄλλα δὲ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν τὴν καλὴν καὶ ἐδίδου καρπόν, ὃ μὲν ἑκατόν,ὃ δὲ ἑξήκοντα, ὃ δὲ τριάκοντα.

And he spoke to them much in parables, saying, “Look, the sower of seed went out. (4) And in the sowing some that he (sowed) fell upon the road, and the birds having come they ate it. (5) But other fell upon the rocks where it did not have good earth and immediately it sprang up because it did not have deep soil. (6) The sun having risen it (the seed) was burned on account of the not having roots it was dessicated. (7) Still other fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and strangled it. (8) Yet other fell on good earth, and it gave grain, some a hundred, some sixty, but others thirty. 

I don’t think it’s particularly necessary to say too much about this. It’s one of the most familiar of Christian parables. We all know the meaning, and there’s nothing in the message that’s out of place for the traditional Jewish message of repentance and the acceptance of the instructions of God. What is novel is the brilliant metaphor, and the way the metaphor is extended as far as it is. This is a remarkable milestone on the road to the development of religious thinking. It’s not entirely sui generis; the reason Aesop’s stories are called fables rather than parables is the different provenance. Aesop was Greek, and the Romans took them over as “fabula”, the meaning of which survives at least partially into the English word. “Parable” on the other hand, entered English as a mathematical term: the parabola. Anyway, the stories predate Jesus by…well, at least several centuries. And they are essentially the same sort of thing: couching a moral into a story that is seemingly about something else. Now, these parables go beyond Aesop in complexity of thought, but the point is the idea of using misdirection–speaking of one thing that really means something else–wasn’t something Jesus created from whole cloth. It’s a stage of evolution in religious thinking and discourse.

The next question is, does this, or any of the parables, actually come from Jesus? That is a much more difficult question to answer. One of the things about Q is that it is usually supposed to consist of exactly that stuff that is not in Mark. From the point of view of the historian, this idea simply doesn’t make any sense. The stuff directly from Jesus should be exactly the stuff that “Q” and Mark share, not precisely where they differ. Plato and Xenophon both have a version of Socrates’ trial; that’s a pretty good indication that the trial did occur. To me, the difference between Mark and Matthew, which almost by definition is Matthew + Q, is the result of stuff that got added later, whether by various traditions, or by Matthew himself. It’s just odd to think that Q should be almost completely absent from Mark. Yes, there are the alleged “Mark/Q overlaps”, but if you think about it, this is the construction of yet another body of material in a way. The necessity of binding the strong man is one such overlap; why this should be considered Q material, but something else is not is a bit of a mystery to me. I have not seen a satisfactory explanation of these overlaps.

http://earlychristianwritings.com/q.html

And note, per the texts as reconstructed at the website above, this is not in Q. The mustard seed is; this is not. Now, having said that, the absence of this from Q reconstructions really has no impact on my opinion of whether this is genuinely Jesus. If pushed, I would say that it’s more likely than not to be authentic. Why? Let’s start by stressing that there is absolutely, positively NO evidence for my opinion that would count as historical argumentation. Rather, it’s pretty much entirely a value judgement. But then, so is the argument for Q. But my value judgement does not contravene a number of historical processes the way the argument for the existence of Q contravenes historical analysis. It’s really a binary choice: yes or no. I can adduce nothing to support my opinion, but I can’t think of anything that refutes it, either. Now: just because I’m too much a dullard to come up with a contrary, doesn’t mean such a case doesn’t exist. But the point remains.

Why do I think this? Largely because Jesus was remembered, and spoken about, for a reason. He had to have said or done something remarkable that people still talked about him after his death. More, he must have said or done something that prompted people to believe that he had been raised from the dead, from which he underwent apotheosis. This is the sort of ingenious little story that would stick in a person’s mind, the sort of thing that would cause listeners to listen even more. Yeah, sure, fire and brimstone. But that had failed repeatedly: see Elijah and Elisha, both of whom were unable to reform the recalcitrant Israelites who kept on chasing after foreign gods. (I suspect this is largely because the real Israel was another Hebrew-speaking, but largely Canaanite power, that had never been united with Judah under the “United Monarchy”, and had never committed to YHWH the way that Judah would do at a later date. At which point, Judah invented the idea of the United Monarchy in order to claim the rights to Israel’s former domain.) So Jesus offered a change from the way the prophets had preached in the HS, and this was why he was remembered.

Going in, I honestly believed I didn’t have that much to say about the passage. 

3 Et locutus est eis multa in parabolis dicens: “ Ecce exiit, qui seminat, seminare.

4 Et dum seminat, quaedam ceciderunt secus viam, et venerunt volucres et comederunt ea.

5 Alia autem ceciderunt in petrosa, ubi non habebant terram multam, et continuo exorta sunt, quia non habebant altitudinem terrae;

6 sole autem orto, aestuaverunt et, quia non habebant radicem, aruerunt.

7 Alia autem ceciderunt in spinas, et creverunt spinae et suffocaverunt ea.

8 Alia vero ceciderunt in terram bonam et dabant fructum: aliud centesimum, aliud sexagesimum, aliud tricesimum.

9 ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω.

“The one having ears, let him/her hear.”

9 “Qui habet aures, audiat”.

This injunction is also in Mark. I do not believe this is in Q, but it absolutely should be. This is also something that I would take as authentically Jesus. This is the sort of thing that makes Burton Mack consider Jesus as a Cynic Sage; it’s so obvious and all who have (functioning) ears can hear, so hearing should be a commonplace. But it’s not. Very many people with ears do not hear, largely because they do not listen. They pay no attention. This sort of thing, from what I gather, is fairly well-rooted in the Judaic tradition. Think of the person asking the rabbi to explain the Law–while standing on one foot. It’s a grounding in common sense, but it’s also the understanding that common sense isn’t all that common. People with (functioning) ears should hear, and yet, many don’t. This is the message of all the prophets.

Summary Matthew Chapter 12

My apologies, but for some reason this took a long time to write., Yes, it was a long chapter, but much of the material was in Mark; so there was, perhaps, less to be said about it than might otherwise have been the case. And despite the length, much of the chapter is unified around a single theme and its corollary. The theme is Jesus’ identity, and the corollary is the relationship of Jesus–by virtue of having established his identity–to his contemporaries. In particular, it’s a lot about Jesus vis-à-vis Jews, whether as a whole or especially to the Jews of Matthew’s generation.

That is the thematic method. From a physical point of view, the perspective of the actions that bring out the themes, the chapter is organised around four different interactions with four nominally different groups of Pharisees. The latter witness and largely object to Jesus’ actions. They are the foil against whom Jesus is able to contrast himself. Here perhaps we see the “masterful organization” of Matthew, because what he is doing here is summarizing. By bringing together these four episodes, he’s made this contrast the theme of the chapter. The Pharisees are proxies for the Jews as a whole, and for this generation of Jews in particular.

In the minds of many later Christians, the Pharisees became the representatives of everything wrong with Judaism at the time of Jesus. More, they came to be associated with the Jewish authorities as a unit. This last is manifestly wrong; they were a sect, and not the group in Jerusalem that collaborated with the Romans to rule the province. As such, the idea in V-14 that they entered a plot to kill Jesus is extremely misleading at the very least. “Pharisees” as such had no authority. Paul proclaimed himself a Pharisee, and he claims to have persecuted the followers of Jesus; I suppose this may have helped conflate the two. Due to Paul’s association with both groups, perhaps, in later times and to later minds, the two groups became one.

This has some fairly profound historical information.  The fact that by Mark’s time, and more so by Matthew’s, the two groups had sort of merged together indicates that the authors of the gospels really didn’t understand the dynamics in Judea at the time of Jesus. Rather, they are looking back from a later time, or are looking at another land, or both. IOW, these are not people writing in Judea at any point before the Jewish War. There are a lot of people who want to date Mark in the 60s, but things like this, to me, are strong evidence otherwise. The theme of the Pharisees entering into a plot to kill Jesus is present already in Mark; while Matthew makes the connection and the case stronger, he’s not the one who made the original association. Mark got it wrong to begin with; this is strong evidence that Mark was separated by both space and time from the events he described. The time aspect is important for dating Mark; he did not understand how things worked in Judea because that set of circumstances no longer existed. They had been destroyed by the Jewish Revolt, and Mark wrote after the fact.

Why does this matter? Because it has something to say about the writing of the gospels overall. The later that Mark wrote, the less likely it becomes that he was not aware of Q. Really, if Q was written in the 50s, then something like two decades separate Q and Mark. This is a long time, and each year allows the broader dissemination of Q. If they were written close together in different places, then it’s easier to understand how Mark and Q ran in parallel paths that hadn’t intersected. But twenty years is plenty of time for the two to intersect. Think about it: Matthew was aware of Mark, and the time separating them could have been less than twenty years. Now, conditions were very different in Matthew’s time, and these conditions could easily explain a more rapid dissemination of Mark; but the simpler explanation is that Q did not exist.

Now, Matthew likely did have access to other traditions, and I have to explain why Q was not one of these, but that’s for another time and place. For now, we need to get back to Chapter 12.

As stated, there were four episodes: the plucking of grain, the healing of the withered hand, the exorcism, and the request for a sign. I would snuggest that these are arranged in order of increasing seriousness. Plucking the grain had the precedent of David, and Jesus himself points out that David invaded the House of God itself, which was a much graver offense than he and his disciples had committed. The story is from Mark, and it allows the comparison of Jesus and David, and this is key to the association of Jesus as Messiah. It works on the principle of the transitive theory. That last sentence is a great example of how words become too limited and specific in meaning to be particularly useful. For us in the English tradition, the words “messiah” and “anointed” are not synonyms. Well, they are in Hebrew and in Greek. David = Messiah = Jesus because David was God’s anointed, and Matthew is claiming that Jesus was, too. But the point of the story, the moral, as it were, set out in the last sentence is that Jesus is the lord of the Sabbath. I’m a bit surprised that this didn’t provoke more of a response from the Pharisees. I would think that the title “Lord of the Sabbath” would be near-blasphemy, if it didn’t cross the line. In the comment to the chapter, I gave reasons why I didn’t think this story was in any way factual, that Jesus and the Pharisees didn’t confront each other like they are purported to do. Here’s another one: the lack of outrage at the usurpation of God’s place as the Lord of the Sabbath.

The next two episodes have Jesus doing even more.  First, he heals a man with a withered hand, “knowing” that the onlookers are made very uncomfortable by the action. Matthew’s version adds to that of Mark, for Jesus directly challenges them about pulling a sheep from a pit. He forces them to acknowledge that what he is about to do is both just and appropriate for the Sabbath. This is the fifth time that we’ve come across a reference to sheep in Matthew; I had to go back and count because I hadn’t really remembered any. The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is so firmly entrenched in Christian myth that we tend to forget the analogy only appears in Luke–two or even three generations after Jesus. Here, and in the other references so far, the sheep are a useful metaphor, an idea easily grasped. We have not yet had Jesus as the shepherd, except when alluding to the milling crowd as sheep without a shepherd (9:36). Anyway, the point is that Jesus has put the Pharisees in a very uncomfortable spot, and he has shown them up for the short-sighted legalists that they supposedly are. Ask yourself: is this the sort of thing that a man raised as a Jew would do? Yes, Matthew converted, and may have the zeal of a convert, but this seems more like the sort of showing-up that a pagan would conceive. And it doesn’t really square with Matthew’s proclamation that not an iota would be removed from the Law.

After this we get an exorcism. This leads to Jesus being accused of being in league with the devil. Well, with Beelzeboul, whom we usually equate with the devil. This comes after the crowd has begun to wonder if Jesus is the son of David–and therefore the anointed–after all. This is a neat tie-back to, and reinforcement of, the first episode when Jesus compared his actions to those of David. So, yes, the confirmation is there, if a bit roundabout. But this is mostly in Mark. It’s what comes next that really counts. For Jesus uses Mark’s “house divided” speech to bring in the story of the demon who returns to its former host, this time bringing seven demons along for the ride. For this is where we get to the real heart of the message of this chapter.

I admittedly did not particularly understand the symbolism of this story at first. I found Calvin’s explanation interesting, and reasonable. The crux of the story is that Matthew is using this as a way of explaining why the Jews had not all become followers of Jesus. Why was there such an appeal to pagans, but Jews had fallen by the wayside? I realize that I may not be expounding the majority opinion on this matter, that a lot of people may believe that Jews still comprised a substantial percentage of the followers of Jesus, but that is not what Mark and Matthew have been saying. Their message, IMO, is plainly–to me, anyway–that the Jews had been superseded by pagans. They were not joining the ranks of Jesus’ followers in significant numbers by the time Mark wrote, and they had become even more scarce by Matthew’s day. And both evangelists have taken pains to come up with an explanation. Mark had the whole theme of secrecy, that Jesus tried very hard to keep his identity under wraps, and there is the added layer of possibly a deeper doctrine that he shared with only his disciples, and in private. Of course, this is at odds with the huge crowds that followed Jesus, but maybe the parable of the sower was meant to explain this. The crowds were the seed that fell in shallow soil, springing up quickly, but then withering for lack of roots. Matthew doesn’t have a consistent story like Mark, but I have pointed out time and again that Matthew is telling us that Jews are no longer the primary point of origin for those who joined Jesus followers. Matthew is definitely–IMO–writing for pagans.

And this point is driven home at the end of the chapter. The irony that Matthew gives us is wonderful. Here, Jesus has proclaimed himself Lord of the Sabbath, has healed a withered hand, and has driven out a demon. And what happens next? Another group of Pharisees comes and asks for a sign. Wow. How dense are these people? My strong suspicion is that Matthew intended his audience to ask themselves this question. The answer? Really dense. Because Jesus then tells them that they will get no sign, except for that of Jonah. Pharisees asked for a sign in Mark, too, but the sign of Jonah only appears in Matthew. What does it mean? Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so would Jesus be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights (if the math doesn’t add up exactly, keep in mind that this is metaphorical, or religious imagery). Of course, the even bigger irony is that by the time Matthew wrote, the Jews had received their sign. Jesus had been in the grave for three days (or parts thereof), and the Jews still didn’t believe in his divinity. They had been given three signs, and the sign of Jonah on top of that, and the message continued to evade them. Both Mark and Matthew have Jesus referring–disparagingly–to this wicked and sinful generation. The message is two-fold here: the generation in question was both the generation that had killed Jesus, and the generation contemporary with either evangelist that still refused to accept the good news of the kingdom.

That, I believe, is the real meaning of this chapter. It’s the coup de grâce to explain that this new religion of Christianity had broken free of its Jewish roots. And so the chapter concludes with Jesus telling us who is mother and brother and sisters are: those who do the will of God. Now of course these family members are allegorical, for they refer also to Jesus’ greater family of the Jewish nation. They did not do the will of God, so their place has been taken by the pagans.

Matthew Chapter 12:38-50

This will probably end up being another fairly long piece, unless I can find a break point somewhere in the middle. Jesus is still talking, and still talking to Pharisees, but this may be a  different group from the ones he was talking to about expelling demons. The context isn’t entirely clear. Whereas after the between the eating of the grain and the man with the withered hand Matthew tells us specifically that Jesus went somewhere else, we get no description of movement. But the transition is “then some of the…” What has happened is that Matthew has conflated two of Mark’s stories. The first–the withered hand–was in Mark 3. The request for the sign is in Mark 8. So Matthew brought over Mark’s transition phrase without undue care about how this affected the flow of the narrative. This tells us something about Matthew’s priorities, his process, and his judgement. I’m not sure what all the implications are, exactly, but it does reinforces–very strongly, I might add–that Matthew is not writing history. He is not concerned with the where and the when, but just the what. The chief concern of true history is the how and–especially–the why. We have none of that.

The other thing this says is that Matthew was not a terribly conscientious editor. The technique here is very much cut-and-paste; keep this in mind when you read about how “masterful” Matthew was in his arrangement of the Q material, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. During the Sermon I noted several times that it seemed things were cut-and-pasted together without a lot of care, and I’ve noted it several times again since. Granted, the last time I did this, earlier in this chapter, M. Calvin demonstrated how it all did hang together. Given that, I should probably take another look at the arrangement of the Sermon. Maybe I’m just too shallow an observer to pick up the unity of arrangement on the first go-round,

38 Τότε ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ τινες τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, θέλομεν ἀπὸ σοῦ σημεῖον ἰδεῖν.

39 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ τοῦ προφήτου.

40 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας.

 Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees responded, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (39) And he responded to them saying, “Generation wicked and adulterous seeks a sign, and a sign cannot be had for it excep the sign of Jonah the prophet. (40) For just as Jonah (was) in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so too will be the son of man in the the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

Sorry to jump to the end in such fashion, but this jumped out at me. If Jesus died Friday afternoon, he was in the earth Friday night and Saturday night; that’s two by my count. So what happened here? Did someone just lose count? Or are we bumping into a variant tradition, in which perhaps Jesus was buried on Thursday, or was raised on Monday. There is some contention between John and the Synoptics about whether the Last Supper was the Seder, or whether it was the night before the day when the Seder would be held. And, to be technical, Jesus was really only in the heart of the earth for something closer to 48 hours than to 72, which is three days. Granted, he was in the tomb for parts of three days, but…but this is being ridiculously over-technical, to the point of absurdity. What we should glean from this is that this is another post-facto prophecy, and that the actual number of days Jesus was in the tomb was probably fluid, or dependent on inclusive vs exclusive reckoning. It is, in short, more proof that this is not history.

More to the point is that Jesus explains what he means by the sign of Jonah, so we don’t need to spend much time on the symbolism. Rather, we need to ask what is meant by the Scribes and Pharisees asking for a sign. But then, this is not so difficult, either. Here, I think, is where we have Matthew and Mark explaining why pagans were becoming followers of Jesus, but, by and large, Jews were not. Paul mentioned this in 1 Corinthians: Greeks want an explanation and Jews want a sign. Well, here we have them asking for it. And Jesus denies them one, except in roundabout terms. The point of this, I think, is to show how blind they were, perhaps willfully blind, not to see what had been shown to them. They asked for a sign; they got the resurrection, and they did not believe that greatest of all possible signs. By inference, it’s pretty easy to date this to a period well after Jesus’ death, to a point where followers of Jesus were becoming increasingly untethered from their Jewish roots. Now this was in Mark, so it’s not new with Matthew, but it’s probably doubly true for the latter.

However, the bit about the sign of Jonah is new with Matthew. And it’s in Luke. Does this mean it’s in Q? I don’t recall seeing this in the hypothetically-reconstituted Q. So what, then? Where did it come from if Luke didn’t get it from Q? Hmm….could he have gotten it from Matthew? Oh no, of course not.

But enough snark. Here’s the thing: the gospel of  Matthew has added a number of such references to the HS. Who was the HS scholar? Traditionally, this was, of course, ascribed to Matthew. He has traditionally been seen as a Jew who was very well-versed in the OT, sort of a rabbi-type. But then think about that: whether or not Matthew began life as a Jew or a pagan, the fact that he spent a serious amount of time combing through HS in order to come up with these semi-obscure (Hosea?) references so he could use them as he wrote his gospel…doesn’t that throw sand in the gears of the argument for Q? Think about that. If Matthew is doing all this research and adding all these HS references, doesn’t this imply that he’s much more original than Q would give him credit for? I haven’t developed the full panoply of my argument on this, but I think that we have to consider the implications. The idea has long been Mark + Q = Matthew. Well, if Matthew is doing all this other stuff, then the credit that should be given to Q diminishes–significantly–IMO.

38 Tunc responderunt ei quidam de scribis et pharisaeis dicentes: “ Magister, volumus a te signum videre ”.

39 Qui respondens ait illis: “ Generatio mala et adultera signum requirit; et signum non dabitur ei, nisi signum Ionae prophetae.

40 Sicut enim fuit Ionas in ventre ceti tribus diebus et tribus noctibus, sic erit Filius hominis in corde terrae tribus diebus et tribus noctibus.

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

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

The men of Nineveh will stand in the judgement with this generation and they will condemn it (They = the men of Nineveh; it = this generation); that they will repent to the proclamation of Jonah, and, behold something greater than Jonah here. (42) The Queen of the South will be raised in the judgement with (= in relation to) this generation and she will judge it; that came from the boundaries of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold something greater than Solomon here. 

Here’s the question: how likely is it that Jesus would have compared himself to Jonah and Solomon and judged himself to be greater? Bear in mind Burton Mack’s comparison of Jesus to a Cynic sage while recalling that these men were not noted for modesty. And note that modesty is a Christian virtue, not a trait highly regarded by the ancient world. It is possible that Jesus could have said something so brash, but I don’t believe it’s very likely. As I said in the last comment, this whole discussion feels like something that followers created at a later date. This part about Jonah and Solomon, as we noted, is not in Mark, and it’s not generally included in the early stratum of Q. Given these two bits, I think it’s a fairly good bet that Matthew himself wrote these past few verses. I’ve mentioned numerous times that, for pagans, old was good; the God-fearers respected Judaism in large part because of its (ostensible) age. So Matthew is tying Jesus to this “ancient” tradition, and then he’s taking Jesus as one better. This would be very impressive for his audience.

At the same time he’s doing this, Matthew is diminishing the stature of the Jews. Is he doing this knowingly? Most likely. They do not see the implications that Matthew is pointing out. They had not seen the signs–the three days in the heart of the earth–and hearkened to them. All of the signs had been there for them, and the Jews neglected them all. And this is by definition, since they were still Jews. And I think this tells us that the followers of Jesus weren’t seeing themselves as true Jews, or as truly Jewish, any longer. They were part of that tradition, their roots went that deep, but the flowering from the branches exceeded the root tradition. IOW, they were seeing themselves pretty much as Christians came to see themselves. As such, I think we have more indication that, with Matthew and his audience, the term “Christian” is not inappropriate, and is probably accurate. At least, one can present a decent argument that these are Christians. It may not be fully convincing yet, but the case is strong.

This diminution of the stature of Jews, of course, is most clear from the fact that those wicked men of Nineveh will condemn “this generation”. Recall that the capital of Assyria was held by the writers of the HS as a sinkhole of depravity. Here it was that Jonah went to preach. So daunting was the task that he tried to run away, which led to the incident of being swallowed by the whale. But I’m sure many of you know much more about that than I do. The point is, Jonah was successful to a degree, but for “this generation”, Jesus appears to have failed utterly. And yet, “this generation” had a sign so much more powerful than what the Ninevites were given, and yet the latter did repent. “This generation” did not. Nor did they recognise a wisdom greater than Solomon’s, while the Queen of Sheba (great piece called “The Entry of the Queen of Sheba” by GF Handel) fully understood the divine nature of Solomon’s wisdom. So “this generation” again comes off looking bad by comparison. 

If you’ll recall, when discussing Mark, I made the point numerous times that Mark was taking pains to excuse the Romans from any guilt in the execution of Jesus. At the same time, Mark took pains to note that his group weren’t really Jews. In light of these passages, I have to wonder how much of what Mark did was to remove approbation from his group by dissociating them from the Jews who had rebelled, and how much was already this sense that the Jews had missed the point. I’m truly not certain where the line is. My suspicion is that this undocking from Judaism was a gradual process; but that’s no great pronouncement on my part. Most historical processes are gradual. It may be, though, that the Jewish War was one of those events that brought a process into terrible clarity. An analogy might be the attitude towards monarchy as the 19th turned into the 20th Century. A growing body of people felt that it had outlived its raison d’etre, but it took the cataclysm of WWI to sweep it away completely. By this analogy, Mark was writing after the war, but his mindset had been largely determined by pre-war experience. The war accelerated and crystalized something that had been happening for some time; certainly since the death of James the Just. And Mark himself may not have been aware of the full implications of his attempted dissociation; he was certainly conscious of needing to get out from under the animosity felt towards Jews by the Roman establishment, but he may have been unconscious of how the gulf between Jews and Christians had grown a good deal beyond that. These are the sorts of things that often only become conspicuous in retrospect, so that later observers wonder how those living through the time had missed such an obvious development.

Final word: note that it’s the men of Nineveh. The word used is << aner/andros>>, which has the connotation of a manly man. This is in contrast to <<anthropos>> which has more the idea of human-kind. The same distinction holds in Latin, where the former is <<vir>> (think: virile) and the latter is <<homo>>. So it’s the manly men of Nineveh, the distinction meaning that no women or children would be doing this judging.

41 Viri Ninevitae surgent in iudicio cum generatione ista et condemnabunt eam, quia paenitentiam egerunt in praedicatione Ionae; et ecce plus quam Iona hic!

42 Regina austri surget in iudicio cum generatione ista et condemnabit eam, quia venit a finibus terrae audire sapientiam Salomonis; et ecce plus quam Salomon hic!

43 Οταν δὲ τὸ ἀκάθαρτον πνεῦμα ἐξέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, διέρχεται δι’ἀνύδρων τόπων ζητοῦν ἀνάπαυσιν, καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκει.

44 τότε λέγει, Εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ἐπιστρέψω ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον: καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σχολάζοντα σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον.

45 τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει μεθ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ: καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων. οὕτως ἔσται καὶ τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ πονηρᾷ.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a person (here, <<anthropos>>) it passes through an arid area/place seeking respite, and it does not find it (a place to rest). (44) Then it says, “To the home I will return when I left. And coming it finds (the domicile) unoccupied, having been swept and having been set in order. (45) Then it come and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and going in they take up residence there. And in the end that man having become worse than before. In this way it will be for this wicked generation.  

Have to admit I’ve always found this story a bit odd. The demon leaves, can’t find a better host (thinking the demon is like a parasite here), so it returns. The “domicile” (meaning the host) unoccupied, but swept and in order, it returns with seven spirits even worse. The point, I suppose, is that this generation somehow got rid of its evil spirit, but it has returned with a vengeance. The question, I think, is what this spirit represents. According to M. Calvin, the “man” is the entire human race, all the progeny of Adam. The coming of Jesus allowed humans to be rid of their evil spirits; but too often, the spirit having been expelled, the human vessel is not filled with the presence of God (grace), so that the evil is able to return seven (or however many) times worse.

I think this mostly makes sense. The present generation had its chance; it could have–did–expel the demon, by ignoring who Jesus was, they killed Jesus, having become seven times worse. Makes sense. As such, and perhaps more importantly for our purposes, it continues the theme of the Jews having been superseded; but the bit about the Jews being worse than before adds something of a new wrinkle to all of this. This section is not in Mark, but it is in Luke. Taken all together, I think we’re looking at a significant change in the attitude towards the Jews. Mark talked about “this adulterous and sinful generation” which is obviously very negative in terms of attitude. But this attitude has gotten worse in the intervening decade.The Jews are not neutral, or merely as bad as they were. Instead, they are actively and significantly worse than before. IOW, we’re starting that long, sickening slope that ends up with judicial murders and pogroms of Jews at the hands of their Christian neighbors. 

This occurs to me: the Ninevites and the Queen of the East are non-Jews. Not only is the preference for non-Jews the way of the future; it’s been made retroactive. 

43 Cum autem immundus spiritus exierit ab homine, ambulat per loca arida quaerens requiem et non invenit.

44 Tunc dicit: “Revertar in domum meam unde exivi”; et veniens invenit vacantem, scopis mundatam et ornatam.

 45 Tunc vadit et assumit secum septem alios spiritus nequiores se, et intrantes habitant ibi; et fiunt novissima hominis illius peiora prioribus. Sic erit et generationi huic pessimae ”.

46 Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος τοῖς ὄχλοις ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ εἱστήκεισαν ἔξω ζητοῦντες αὐτῷ λαλῆσαι.

47 [εἶπεν δέ τις αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶοἱ ἀδελφοί σου ἔξω ἑστήκασιν ζητοῦντές σοι λαλῆσαι.]

48 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν τῷ λέγοντι αὐτῷ, Τίς ἐστιν ἡ μήτηρ μου, καὶ τίνες εἰσὶν οἱ ἀδελφοί μου;

49 καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν, Ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ μου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί μου:

50 ὅστις γὰρ ἂν ποιήσῃ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς αὐτός μου ἀδελφὸς καὶ ἀδελφὴ καὶ μήτηρ ἐστίν.

When he having said this to the crowd, look, his mother and his brothers stood around seeking to speak to him. (47) Someone said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing about seeking to speak to you”. (48) He answering said to the one speaking to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?  (49) And stretching out his hands towards his disciples, “Look, (these are) my mother and my brothers”. (50) “For whoever does the will of my father in the heavens, this one is my brother and my sister and my mother”.

46 Adhuc eo loquente ad turbas, ecce mater et fratres eius stabant foris quaerentes loqui ei.

47 Dixit autem ei quidam: “ Ecce mater tua et fratres tui foris stant quaerentes loqui tecum ”.

48 At ille respondens dicenti sibi ait: “ Quae est mater mea, et qui sunt fratres mei? ”.

49 Et extendens manum suam in discipulos suos dixit: “ Ecce mater mea et fratres mei.

50 Quicumque enim fecerit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in caelis est, ipse meus frater et soror et mater est ”.

 This is another instance where Matthew has provided an abridged version of Mark’s story. Matthew added the bit about the unclean spirit with its seven colleagues, but he shortened this section of the story. What he’s doing is re-arranging Jesus’ reputation, the highlights of Jesus’ life and career. No–he’s attempting to alter the perception of Jesus’ life and career and teachings. Here he’s removing a section of the story that deals with Jesus’ humanity: that his family thought Jesus needed to be removed from a hostile environment. Due to this excision, Jesus becomes a very different type of being than he is in Mark. Much has been made of how Matthew tones down the times in Mark when Jesus gets angry or exasperated, especially with his disciples. The abridgement here is of a piece with those sorts of edits. By making Jesus less human, he becomes more divine, which is more in keeping with the perception that Matthew is trying to create.

This seems to be going out with a whimper rather than a bang, but much of this has been covered in Mark. And besides, without the extrication of Jesus from the hostile crowd, the story becomes somewhat less layered, or textured. As such, it’s–perhaps–a bit less interesting.