Monthly Archives: January 2016

Matthew Chapter 20:17-34

Chapter 20 here continues and concludes. Most of this is contained in Mark, so once again it will be  interesting to notice the differences, and to speculate on why Matthew made the changes he did.

17 Καὶ ἀναβαίνων ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παρέλαβεν τοὺς δώδεκα [μαθητὰς] κατ’ ἰδίαν, καὶ ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς,

18 Ἰδοὺ ἀναβαίνομεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδοθήσεται τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ γραμματεῦσιν, καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτὸν θανάτῳ,

19 καὶ παραδώσουσιν αὐτὸν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εἰς τὸ ἐμπαῖξαι καὶ μαστιγῶσαι καὶ σταυρῶσαι, καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθήσεται.

And going to up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the Twelve [disciples] in private, and on the road he said to them,

18 “Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the son of man will be handed over to the high priests and the Scribes, and they will condemn him to death.

19 And having handed him over to the peoples to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised”.  

First, this starts exactly like so many paragraphs in Mark: << Καὶ >>; the base meaning of which is “and”. Sometimes it means “as well as”, or “but”, or even “or” in the conjunctive sense–among other things.  Here, it just means “and”, as it usually does in Mark.

Second, while we’re on the grammar, the “to be mocked, scourged, and crucified” are all aorist infinitives preceded by << εἰς >>, a preposition very commonly used to indicate motion towards. So, it’s “for the purpose to mock/scourge/crucify”, but it’s in the aorist, so there is a sense of past tense, in the sense of a completed action, a “one-and-done” sort of thing. The idea of such an infinitive is a bit alien to English, especially when it’s referring (supposedly) to something that has not happened yet; but infinitives are, originally, substantives (which encompasses the idea of “noun”, but with a slightly broader scope). The result is that English can’t really and truly be bent to get across all the implications of this. “To mock/scourge/crucify” will have to do.

A lot of this is almost verbatim from Mark, but there are a few differences. In the list mock/etc, Mark added “to spit on him”. Matthew deletes this; one would guess he thought this beneath the dignity of Jesus. Kill him, sure, but don’t spit on him. Here we can see the sort of reaction against the undeniable fact of the crucifixion setting in; the earliest followers–well, Paul, anyway–insisted on the crucifixion and made little or no attempt to downplay it. Here Matthew becomes a little squeamish about the whole affair, one suspects, and so made some attempt to gloss over one of the more appalling details of the affair. While I’ve been insisting on the growth of the legend by the accretion of small details, in this case I think the removal of the one infinitive indicates a deliberate editorial change made by Matthew.

That this is a case of after-the-fact “prophecy” has been, I believe, established as well as it can be. Anyone who believes this is actual prophecy is not engaging in historical discussion.

17 Et ascendens Iesus Hierosolymam assumpsit Duodecim discipulos secreto et ait illis in via:

18 “ Ecce ascendimus Hierosolymam, et Filius hominis tradetur principibus sacerdotum et scribis, et condemnabunt eum morte

19 et tradent eum gentibus ad illudendum et flagellandum et crucifigendum, et tertia die resurget”.

20 Τότε προσῆλθεν αὐτῷ ἡ μήτηρ τῶν υἱῶν Ζεβεδαίου μετὰ τῶν υἱῶν αὐτῆς προσκυνοῦσα καὶ αἰτοῦσά τι ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her sons prostrating (herself) and asking something from him. 

This requires an immediate comment. This is a very significant alteration from Mark. There, the sons made their own request; here, we have their mother doing it. Really? First, we were told back in Verse 17 that Jesus was with the Twelve, in private. Now, we have the mother of James and John. Now, while Mark did say that Jesus went off with the Twelve while the rest of the disciples hung back, Matthew said nothing of the sort. Does he assume that the distinction between the Twelve and the disciples was self-evident because it had been specified in Mark? He doesn’t feel the need to tell us this, presumably because he thought it was self-evident. Really, this sort of detail, the fact that Matthew omits it, is pretty strong evidence that Matthew had a written copy of Mark in front of him. So much is verbatim, but Matthew omits a couple of things; the first because he found it distasteful, this second because he didn’t feel it necessary because it was obvious to him. Of course it was only obvious because the text in front of him made this distinction explicit.

More, the way Matthew produces the mother of James and John from nowhere is a pretty good indication that he had the larger crowd of disciples clearly in mind when he produces her like this. Otherwise, he’s sort of conjuring her out of thin air. So, in contrast to the omission of “to spit on him” from Verse 19, the addition of an entirely new figure on the scene is a fine example of the way a legend grows. There is the school of thought which says that Mark abridged Matthew, which allows them to believe that Matthew was the first gospel written, and the removal of the mother of James and John from this scene would be indicative of this abridgment. But this ignores the details that Matthew omits, which I believe indicate Mark’s priority.  

Because the addition of their mother to ask on their behalf is editorially consistent with the message Matthew is trying to convey. The disciples here are not the dullards portrayed in Mark. The disciples in Matthew understand things; a process of heroic elevation is occurring, in which Matthew begins the apotheosis of the disciples into superhuman status, a process to be completed (more or less) by Luke in Acts. Just as it was unseemly to think of Jesus being spat upon, so it was unseemly for the sons of Zebedee, the Sons of Thunder to ask Jesus to be elevated in the kingdom. So Matthew has their mother do it for them. This way, Matthew can include the story, but remove the onus of guilt from two of the chief disciples, members of the Twelve. 

20 Tunc accessit ad eum mater filiorum Zebedaei cum filiis suis, adorans et petens aliquid ab eo.

21 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Τί θέλεις; λέγει αὐτῷ, Εἰπὲ ἵνα καθίσωσιν οὗτοι οἱ δύο υἱοί μου εἷς ἐκ δεξιῶν σου καὶ εἷς ἐξ εὐωνύμων σου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ σου.

22 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε: δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ μέλλω πίνειν; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Δυνάμεθα.

He said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “I ask in order to sit the two sons of mine on the right of you and on the left of you in your kingdom”. 

Answering, Jesus said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the drink which I intend to drink?” They said to him, “We are able”. 

Here we come across something close to a dead give-away that Matthew is copying Mark, but adding his own details where it suits his purpose. In English, it’s generally impossible to distinguish between you-singular and you-plural; however, like all the Indo-European languages with which I am familiar it’s not only possible, it’s basic grammar. He asks the mother, “what do you-singular want”, but answering, he says “you-plural do not know what you ask”. That is, the first is directed to the mother, but the second to the sons, just as occurs in Mark. There, the sons asked the question, and Jesus gave this same response. This sort of forgetting that he was changing what he was copying, only to slip up and revert to the original is known as “editorial fatigue”. Matthew wanted to change the scene, but half-way through he forgets that he’s making the change because he got tired, so he just started just copying the response Jesus gave in Mark. And it is copying; it’s pretty much verbatim.

Mark:  Οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε. δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ πίνω,

Matthew: Οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε: δύνασθε πιεῖν τὸ ποτήριον ὃ ἐγὼ μέλλω πίνειν

OK, Matthew added a word, but otherwise there is no change. Of course, this extra word may actually have additional implications that we’ll get to in a moment. First, I want to talk about “editorial fatigue”.

Really? Matthew couldn’t keep his focus long enough to make all the necessary changes in what is not a terribly long passage? And the fact that this term exists indicates that this is not an isolated case. I have not yet paid the kind of word-by-word attention to the differences between the two gospels to know exactly how often this fatigue occurs, but it appears to be, if not frequent, then not exactly a rare occurrence. I find that rather striking. What does it say about Matthew’s consistency of message? Of his focus? He’s trying to impart an immortal Truth, but he can’t keep his mind on what he’s doing long enough to make the changes necessary to distinguish himself from Mark? Again, really?

Now let’s talk about that extra word. << μέλλω >>. Liddell & Scott give the first definition as “to be destined”. The NT Dictionary in the Great Treasures site translates this as “shall/shalt”. There is a bit of difference there. The first entails compulsion, or at least the arrangement of one’s life by an outside agency; the second reduces that to a bland future tense. Now, there are ample examples of the word being used both ways by Classical authors, that Classical authors used it to denote a “purely temporal sense” as L&S put it.  

Regardless, this is a classic example the sort of situation that really makes me nervous about NT dictionaries, translations, etc. The idea of being fated, destined for an outcome is very, very Greek. In fact, the idea of Fate, Tyche, Fortuna, of an inexorable fate permeated much of Greek thought in Hellenistic times, and it was partly, if not largely, reacting against this that the idea of human free will became so central to later (i.e., Third/Fourth Centuries) to Christian thought. As such, there is a real reason to read this in a Christian context as “that I shall drink”; reading it in a more Greek fashion “that I am destined to drink” simply would not do. As a bit of an aside, and as sort of an appeal to a tie breaker, let’s look at the Latin. It is a future perfect “that I will have drunk”. It’s a clever move; it sort of splits the difference between the two Greek readings. There is a mild–very mild–implication of compulsion expressed; the point, however, is that the Latin does not use a simple future tense, just as the Greek did not. Why not? Because the author/translator did not want to use a standard future tense. Why not? And it’s also interesting to note that L&S do not cite this passage as an example of the “purely temporal sense”. Remember, Scott was ordained and a professor of Exegesis of Holy Scripture, so he was certainly familiar with the passage. (Incidentally, Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland for Liddel’s daughter, Alice. Fun fact!) 

Because another interesting aspect of this is that the word–or a form thereof–occurs only twice in Mark. One is in 10:32, his version of this passage. And there, the KJV translates as “the things that should happen”. This is a subjunctive; it expresses both unreal conditions and compulsion: “it should happen, but it may not”. The second time Mark uses it is in Chapter 13, his “Little Apocalypse”, which the KJV again renders as events that “should happen”. Matthew, OTOH, uses the word a lot. So does Luke; John uses it freely, if not as promiscuously as Luke. All this is by way of offering this as another bit of evidence that Matthew was Greek, culturally if not ethnically, for whom the idea of “Fate” or “Destiny” was ingrained. It is generally agreed that Luke was Greek, and he is very fond of the word. But Matthew isn’t that far behind. Now, it must also be said that Paul uses the word, with at least implications of Fate hanging in the background. And there is the idea of prophecies to be fulfilled; pretty much by definition, the idea of a prophecy being fulfilled is a synonym for “Fate”, even if the two concepts are not exactly identical.

So a Greek idea, expressed in Greek terms. Perhaps we’re still short of conclusive, but the case, I think, is growing.

21 Qui dixit ei: “Quid vis?”. Ait illi: “Dic ut sedeant hi duo filii mei unus ad dexteram tuam et unus ad sinistram in regno tuo”.

22 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “Nescitis quid petatis. Potestis bibere calicem, quem ego bibiturus sum? ”. Dicunt ei: “Possumus”.

23 λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τὸ μὲν ποτήριόν μου πίεσθε, τὸ δὲ καθίσαι ἐκ δεξιῶν μου καὶ ἐξ εὐωνύμων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὸν [τοῦτο] δοῦναι, ἀλλ’ οἷς ἡτοίμασται ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου.

He said to them, ‘Even if the drink of mine you will drink, the sitting on the right and on the left is not mine to give, but to those prepared by my father”. 

Just a note: the “if” is not intended to imply non-real circumstances; the Greek has the << μὲν…δὲ>> construction. This is usually rendered as “on the one hand…on the other…” The idea is that there is a connection between the drinking and the sitting on the right and left. The “if…then” that I have used is not terribly faithful to the Greek, but it’s the best I could come up with. Perhaps if I were doing this another day, I would have a better translation.

Aside from that, this is one of those passages where the difference between the father and the son is very stark. If this stature in the kingdom is not Jesus’ to give, but the prerogative of the father, the two cannot be identical. It’s the same as the son not knowing the hour of the destruction to come, even though the father does know. This part of the passage is, indeed, in Mark, so it’s his thought rather than Matthew’s. Now, given Matthew’s concern to show Jesus as divine, it’s interesting that this was left in here. It’s doubly interesting because, most probably, Jesus did not say this. As with all the prophetic utterances, my suspicion is that they were added to the text later. Even so, perhaps this one had become too deeply ingrained to be removed. We always need to remember, however, that those who were reading and hearing these words were not theologians, or historians, parsing every word for implications and possible contradictions with other passages. That came later, when the church became established–to some degree, at least–and they had to start fighting what came to be seen as heresy. Passages like this embedded in the context of Matthew’s Christology provide a very lucid glimpse into how fluid the situation still was in the second half of the First Century.

23 Ait illis: “Calicem quidem meum bibetis, sedere autem ad dexteram meam et sinistram non est meum dare illud, sed quibus paratum est a Patre meo ”.

24 Καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ δέκα ἠγανάκτησαν περὶ τῶν δύο ἀδελφῶν.

25 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς εἶπεν, Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἄρχοντες τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν.

26 οὐχ οὕτως ἔσταιἐν ὑμῖν: ἀλλ’ ὃς ἐὰν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν μέγας γενέσθαι ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος,

27 καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος ἔσται ὑμῶν δοῦλος:

28 ὥσπερ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθεν διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.

24 And hearing, the ten became indignant about the two brothers.

25 But Jesus calling them together to him said, “You know that the leaders of the peoples lord over their others and the great exercise authority their others.

A quick note on the Greek:  << κατεξουσιάζουσιν >> is a word unique to the NT. As such, one suspects Rev Scott maybe got to shade the meaning to his liking. Of course, it’s a fairly neutral word, not one with theological implications. In its most literal sense, it is something like “being worthy downwards”. So this could be taken as being worthier than those below (kata) you. IOW, it’s not a bad construction. And the “lord it over” is a pretty literal translation of a compound verb.

26 “Do not like this be to you. Rather, he who might among you great to be be the minister to you.

27 “And he would wish among you to be first let him be the slave of you.

28 “So in this way the son of man did not come to be ministered to, but to minister to and to give his life (psyche) in ransom/atonement/sum for redemption/recompense against others. .

Far and away the most significant part of this passage is the penultimate word: << λύτρον >> (transliterated = ‘lutron’). This word in this form appears exactly twice in the NT: here, and in the corresponding passage in Mark. Note all the words separated by slashes I used to translate. That is because the word can mean any–or all–of those things. I bring this up because the theory of why Jesus had to die, what purpose his death served, became an enormously weighty subject of debate by the Third Century or so. And note that “ransom” and “atonement” are not exactly synonyms in English. The word comes from the verb “luo”, which in its base meaning is “to loosen”. So the idea is that the son of man’s death will loosen many from…whatever it is that is holding them. “Sin” would be a good candidate as the thing holding, I suppose. If you step back to think about it, there you can perhaps see the link between “atonement” and “ransom”. Another meaning could be “get out of hock”, as in paying off the loan from the pawn shop and getting your item back. L&S do cite this (and Mark’s) passage for use of the word, and they include it in the “ransom” part of the definition, which is the most common meaning. Of course, we should then have to ask “ransom to whom?”, but we won’t. That would be an entire discussion on its own, and would not be one truly germane to the topic at hand.

I said it appears twice in this form. It does appear several more times in a verb form, but most of those are in Luke, and these are usually (KJV) translated as “redemption”. Now, since we can redeem a pawn, this does still work. But “redemption” has overtones in English now; “redeemer” is a synonym for “saviour”, but they are, more or less, the same thing. It’s just that these words are fraught with religious overtones in English that may not be present in the original. Overall, though, the base meaning is “ransom”, so let’s stick with that. “Atonement” is sort of a fringe meaning for the term, and I think that “atonement” and “redemption” sort of fall together in one grouping, while “ransom” and “pay off a pledge/hock” fall into another.  So when we get to Luke, we have to remember to substitute “make ransom” for the KJV’s “redemption”.

We talked about most of the other aspects of this section when we discussed the corresponding passage in Mark. The part about the other ten growing indignant is another of those little touches that Mark includes, ones that make the disciples around Jesus something less than an ideal group of individuals. Now, the part about the son of man and the ransom is after-the-fact; this question of James and John, OTOH, could be authentic, at least at first glance. It is sort of an awkward question. And it does really sort of underscore how uncertain the idea of the kingdom was as we have it presented. We’ve gotten through three of Paul’s letters, and we’re more than halfway through the second gospel and I’m still not entirely clear on what Jesus means by this. And neither, apparently, were the disciples. At least, that is how Mark portrayed them, and Matthew does nothing to correct the record on this score, at least on this topic. In other places they understand parables that Mark’s group didn’t, but here the idea that the sons of Zebedee would ask to be seated at the right and left shows a pretty fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. And these are two of Jesus’ closest companions, ones that witnessed the Transfiguration, and yet they still don’t quite get it here. They have to have it explained to them that the order has been inverted, that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. So, after going through that, there is nothing standing in the way–nihil obstat, is how it is stated when a publication passes the tests of censors of the Roman Catholics and they allow it to be printed by declaring, imprimatur, which literally is “let it be published”–there is nothing that has made me think that this could not be authentically Jesus. In fact, the very cheekiness of the question demonstrating the vagueness of the concept and the unclarity of understanding probably augurs in favour of authenticity. That, and the fact that it’s also in Mark put the likelihood of authenticity something above 50%, I would say.

24 Et audientes decem indignati sunt de duobus fratribus.

25 Iesus autem vocavit eos ad se et ait: “Scitis quia principes gentium dominantur eorum et, qui magni sunt, potestatem exercent in eos.

26 Non ita erit inter vos, sed quicumque voluerit inter vos magnus fieri, erit vester minister;

27 et, quicumque voluerit inter vos primus esse, erit vester servus;

28 sicut Filius hominis non venit ministrari sed ministrare et dare animam suam redemptionem pro multis”.

29 Καὶ ἐκπορευομένων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ Ἰεριχὼ ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς.

And they having gone out from Jericho a great crowd followed him.

Having just consulted a map of Judea & Galilee in NT times, I see that Jericho is on the road to Jerusalem if one is traveling south from the Decapolis, through which, or along which one would come from Caphernaum. I hadn’t realized we were in Jericho; at the beginning of the chapter we were simply told that Jesus was going upcountry to Jerusalem. It’s of little consequence.

29 Et egredientibus illis ab Iericho, secuta est eum turba multa.

30 καὶ ἰδοὺ δύο τυφλοὶ καθήμενοι παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, ἀκούσαντες ὅτι Ἰησοῦς παράγει, ἔκραξαν λέγοντες, Ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, [κύριε], υἱὸς Δαυίδ.

30 And look, two blind men seated by the road hearing that Jesus approached, cried out, saying, “Pity us [lord], son of David!”

Note two things. In Mark, this is the Bar-Timaeus story. So here we have two changes. First, instead of a single man, we have two; second, the blind men have no names as they did in Mark.

30 Et ecce duo caeci sedentes secus viam audierunt quia Iesus transiret et clamaverunt dicentes: “ Domine, miserere nostri, fili David! ”.

31 ὁ δὲ ὄχλος ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα σιωπήσωσιν: οἱ δὲ μεῖζον ἔκραξαν λέγοντες, Ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, κύριε, υἱὸς Δαυίδ.

32 καὶ στὰς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐφώνησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ εἶπεν, Τί θέλετε ποιήσω ὑμῖν;

33 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἵνα ἀνοιγῶσιν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἡμῶν.

34 σπλαγχνισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἥψατο τῶν ὀμμάτων αὐτῶν, καὶ εὐθέως ἀνέβλεψαν καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.

31  The crowd heaped scorn on them in order that they be silent. But they cried the louder, “Pity us, lord, son of David!”

32 And standing, Jesus called to them and said, “What do you wish that I might do for you?”

33 They said to him, “Lord, in order that they open our eyes.”

34 Feeling compassion, Jesus grasped their eyes and immediately they looked about and they followed him. 

First, a bit on the Greek. The verb <<σπλαγχνισθεὶς >> is only found in the NT. However, it’s used almost a dozen times, and this is a sufficiently large sample to see how it fits in the different contexts. A quick glance at the uses, and “feeling compassion” seems to be a reasonable translation for the word. In this case, I don’t see any reason to cavil about the meaning.

Second, in Verse 34, the word for “eyes” is not the standard “opthalmos” (hence, opthamologist). It’s a word that’s seldom used in prose. So why did Matthew choose it here? Probably because Mark used it when telling the story of the blind man Jesus cured by spitting into his eyes. More on that in a moment. Also in Verse 34, the word I used for “grasped” is a bit out of the ordinary, in the sense that this isn’t a word that would normally mean “touch”, which is the standard translation for the word. Once again, Mark used the same word in the same way in 8:22-26, the story about the blind man already cited, about the blind man whom Jesus cured by spitting into his eyes.  

So let’s put this all together. We have two words, an usual word, and a common word used in an unusual way, that link this passage to Mark, to a degree that direct copying is the only plausible explanation. Fine. No one really disputes that Mark and Matthew have a direct link. But Matthew handles the story very differently. First, he basically condenses two stories into one: that of Bar-Timaeus with that of the blind man from Bethsaida. Second, Matthew completely omits the bit about Jesus spitting in the mans’s eyes. Such behaviour is unseemly, and not befitting someone truly divine. Jesus simply says the word and the deed is done. This Jesus is more elevated than the other. In church a few weeks ago, we heard the part of 1 Corinthians 12 in which Paul enumerates the various gifts that are given to different members of the assembly. One of them is the gift of miracles. Oddly, however, this is well down on the list. Apostles and prophecy are the most significant; miracles and healings are fourth and fifth on the list, below teaching. So miracles, or healings which this is technically, are not the most esteemed of the gifts that a member of the assembly can manifest. If this is true of mortals, then how much less impressive are such gifts when demonstrated by the Son of God, the divine Messiah? The result is that Matthew downplays the miracle stories; they are shorter, less full of detail, and especially they are lacking in those descriptions of what I call “magical practice”. These are the parts of the story with Jesus spitting into the eyes of the blind, or making mud with his spittle.

The point of all this is to ask whether Matthew wrote before or after Mark. There is still a minority opinion that Mark abridged Matthew; I’ve never read a spirited defense of this, so I cannot honestly pronounce a reasoned judgement on the opinion. To me, it seems patently obvious that Mark wrote first, and comparisons like these make it all the more obvious. Feel free to disagree.

31 Turba autem increpabat eos, ut tacerent; at illi magis clamabant dicentes: “ Domine, miserere nostri,  fili David!”.

32 Et stetit Iesus et vocavit eos et ait: “ Quid vultis, ut faciam vobis?”.

33 Dicunt illi: “ Domine, ut aperiantur oculi nostri ”.

34 Misertus autem Iesus, tetigit oculos eorum; et confestim viderunt et secuti sunt eum.

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Matthew Chapter 20:1-16

Chapter 20 starts with the parable of the Vineyard Workers. This is new material, not having been in Mark.

1 Ὁμοία γάρ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδεσπότῃ ὅστις ἐξῆλθεν ἅμα πρωῒ μισθώσασθαι ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ:

The same is the kingdom of the heavens as to a man the master of the household who came in the the morning to select workers for the vineyard of his. 

The word << οἰκοδεσπότῃ >> can mean “steward”, or it can refer to the master of the house. In this case, I believe the latter is appropriate for reasons that we will discover later.

And for the most part, I will reserve comment until the end. 

1 Simile est enim regnum cae lorum homini patri familias, qui exiit primo mane conducere operarios in vineam suam;

2 συμφωνήσας δὲ μετὰ τῶν ἐργατῶν ἐκ δηναρίου τὴν ἡμέραν ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα αὐτοῦ.

Agreeing with the workers from one denarius per day he sent them to his vineyard.

2 conventione autem facta cum operariis ex denario diurno, misit eos in vineam suam.

3 καὶ ἐξελθὼν περὶ τρίτην ὥραν εἶδεν ἄλλους ἑστῶτας ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ ἀργούς:

And coming around the third hour he saw others standing the marketplace idle.

Recall that the Roman day started at six in the morning. So the third hour would be 9:00 am. And what we’re describing is a labor market very similar to ones we have now, where men congregate and employers come to hire them.

3 Et egressus circa horam tertiam vidit alios stantes in foro otiosos

4 καὶ ἐκείνοις εἶπεν, Ὑπάγετε καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν ᾖ δίκαιον δώσω ὑμῖν.

And to them he said, “Get yourselves up and (go) to the vineyard, and what is just I will give you.”

4 et illis dixit: “Ite et vos in vineam; et, quod iustum fuerit, dabo vobis”.

5 οἱ δὲ ἀπῆλθον. πάλιν [δὲ] ἐξελθὼν περὶ ἕκτην καὶ ἐνάτην ὥραν ἐποίησεν ὡσαύτως.

They went off. Again he came around the seventh hour and the ninth hour he did in this (same) way.

5 Illi autem abierunt. Iterum autem exiit circa sextam et nonam horam et fecit similiter.

6 περὶ δὲ τὴν ἑνδεκάτην ἐξελθὼν εὗρεν ἄλλους ἑστῶτας, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τί ὧδε ἑστήκατε ὅλην τὴν ἡμέραν ἀργοί;

Around the eleventh hour having come in he found others standing, and he said to them, “Why in this way do you stand the whole day idle?” 

It’s now five in the afternoon.

6 Circa undecimam vero exiit et invenit alios stantes et dicit illis: “Quid hic statis tota die otiosi?”.

λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Οτι οὐδεὶς ἡμᾶς ἐμισθώσατο. λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὑπάγετε καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν ἀμπελῶνα.

They said to him, “That no one us hired”. He said to them, “Get up and (go) to the vineyard”. 

7 Dicunt ei: “Quia nemo nos conduxit”. Dicit illis: “Ite et vos in vineam”.

8 ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης λέγει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος τῷ ἐπιτρόπῳ αὐτοῦ, Κάλεσον τοὺς ἐργάτας καὶ ἀπόδος αὐτοῖς τὸν μισθὸν ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἕως τῶν πρώτων.

Having become evening, said the lord of the vineyard to his steward, “Call the workers, and give to them the wage beginning from the last to the first.”    

Here is the payoff to Verse 1, where we find that he was the master of the house, and not the steward. In this verse he’s called “lord of the vineyard” and he has a steward. Arranging that those who came last get paid first is a bit odd; it’s really a device to help drive home the point of the story.

8 Cum sero autem factum esset, dicit dominus vineae procuratori suo: “Voca operarios et redde illis mercedem incipiens a novissimis usque ad primos”.

9 καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ περὶ τὴν ἑνδεκάτην ὥραν ἔλαβον ἀνὰ δηνάριον.

And having come those around the eleventh our received apiece a denarius.

9 Et cum venissent, qui circa undecimam horam venerant, acceperunt singuli denarium.

10 καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ πρῶτοι ἐνόμισαν ὅτι πλεῖον λήμψονται: καὶ ἔλαβον [τὸ] ἀνὰ δηνάριον καὶ αὐτοί.

And having come the first expected that more they would receive. And they received apiece also one denarius. 

10 Venientes autem primi arbitrati sunt quod plus essent accepturi; acceperunt autem et ipsi singuli denarium.

11 λαβόντες δὲ ἐγόγγυζον κατὰ τοῦ οἰκοδεσπότου

Having received (this), they grumbled upon the master of the house.

11 Accipientes autem murmurabant adversus patrem familias

12 λέγοντες, Οὗτοι οἱ ἔσχατοι μίαν ὥραν ἐποίησαν, καὶ ἴσους ἡμῖν αὐτοὺς ἐποίησας τοῖς βαστάσασι τὸ βάρος τῆς ἡμέρας καὶ τὸν καύσωνα.

They said, “They the last a single hour made, and equally to us you made them to those bearing the burden of the day and the heat (of the day).”

12 dicentes: “Hi novissimi una hora fecerunt, et pares illos nobis fecisti, qui portavimus pondus diei et aestum!”.

13 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς ἑνὶ αὐτῶν εἶπεν, Ἑταῖρε, οὐκ ἀδικῶ σε: οὐχὶ δηναρίου συνεφώνησάς μοι;

He, answering one of them, said, “Comrade, I did not dishonour you. Did you not to a denarius contract with me?”

13 At ille respondens uni eorum dixit: “Amice, non facio tibi iniuriam; nonne ex denario convenisti mecum?

14 ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε: θέλω δὲ τούτῳ τῷ ἐσχάτῳ δοῦναι ὡς καὶ σοί.

“Take what is yours and go. I wish to the last to give as also to you.” 

14 Tolle, quod tuum est, et vade; volo autem et huic novissimo dare sicut et tibi.

15 [ἢ] οὐκ ἔξεστίν μοι ὃ θέλω ποιῆσαι ἐν τοῖς ἐμοῖς; ἢ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι;

“Or is it not allowed to me that which I wish to do to those that are mine? Or is your eye wicked that I am good?”

15 Aut non licet mihi, quod volo, facere de meis? An oculus tuus nequam est, quia ego bonus sum?”.

16 Οὕτως ἔσονται οἱ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι.

In this way will be the last first and the first last.

16 Sic erunt novissimi primi, et primi novissimi”.

This is a great lesson in justice vs. mercy. Admit it: if you put yourself in the position of the workers hired at the beginning of the day, you resent that those who only worked an hour get the same amount as you. And naturally, we all feel that we are those who have borne the burden and the heat of the day, while those johnnies-come-lately loafed about all day and got what we got. That’s just not fair!

I recently read about someone discussing the Prodigal Son with some ostensible Christians. I believe it was in a church setting, but the details don’t matter. What does matter is that a lot of these ostensible Christians sided with the dutiful son, and were incensed that the Prodigal was welcomed back with open arms while we dutiful ones have been busting our butts. And it’s the same with Mary and Martha, where the dutiful one resents the other who spends her time listening to Jesus. And we feel the resentment of the dutiful one.

Such lovely Christians we are.

We deserve a reward. Those slackers don’t.

I have no doubt that people in the First Century felt pretty much the same way. In a lot of ways, this is one of the more difficult lessons that we have to learn. Compassion. Mercy. We deserve them, we feel, but they don’t! And that is exactly the point. Compassion and mercy are not given to those who’ve earned them, who deserve; if you’ve earned a reward, it’s your just dessert. It’s only to those who have not earned them that we can give compassion and mercy. That’s pretty much the definition, what makes them compassion and mercy.

I will resist going into all the social justice implications of this. I will resist talking about how this applies to our own time. Because it has always applied to “our own time”, whenever that was. There are always the dutiful ones who follow the rules and get seriously annoyed when those who don’t follow them consistently are forgiven. What is it about duty, doing our duty, that makes us into such nasty people? Well, perhaps “nasty” isn’t entirely appropriate. “Self-righteous prigs” is probably closer to the truth. People two thousand years ago no doubt felt the resentment of those hired first, and I suspect people two thousand years from now will still feel the same sort of resentment.

But this is the novelty of the message we are receiving. Every major cultural group has its mores and its rules, and those who adhere to these will earn a reward. The Romans felt like this. The Jews believed this. The Greeks believed this. It was the Christians who broke the rules and offered mercy to those who do not “deserve” it. But that’s what makes it mercy. So this is a revolutionary way of looking at the world. It was so far ahead of its time that we still have not entirely caught up to this way of thinking. It’s still hard for us.

Now, the problem is that I do not believe this traces back to Jesus. It’s not in Mark. It’s not in Luke. It’s only here in Matthew. What to we make of this? This is part of the larger problem of what to make of stuff that’s only in Matthew. One thing we can’t do is to take all the material as coming necessarily from the same place, whether that be a source, or sources, or created by Matthew himself. Coming into this, it seemed very likely to me that a lot of the material unique to Matthew was probably made up by Matthew. More, it seemed that even a lot of the supposed Q material could have been, or was, written by Matthew. This would include the Sermon on the Mount as well as this parable, or the parable of the Wicked Servant. The parable here feels more polished, more of a complete effort, or perhaps the product of a more developed literary sensibility. The Sermon on the Mount does indeed sound like a collection of wisdom sayings, which is what we should expect from Q, assuming it existed.

The implication of all of this is that Matthew did have a collection of sources; nothing in this reasoning either precludes or supports a contribution from Matthew himself. He could easily have been one of his own sources. What it does point to is the augmentation of the source material between Mark and Matthew. Are we to assume Mark simply ignored much of the material he encountered, including the very sayings of Jesus? That is the necessary conclusion if we assume Q, and if we assume a multiple line of sources reaching Matthew: that Mark either ignored, or was unaware of many of these sources. The case for the latter would be bolstered if, as tradition says, Mark wrote his gospel in Rome. It would be easy to believe that he did not have access to the sources available to Matthew, assuming Matthew wrote in Syria or some such location near to Judea. But if Mark wrote in Rome, and had an eyewitness–Peter–for his source, why did Mark not include more of Jesus’ teaching? I just read a justification for Mark being written in Rome, including Peter as his primary source, making him the Mark from Acts, but there is a lot of nearly-circular reasoning in this, and none of it addresses why Mark did not place more emphasis on Jesus’ words, that Peter should have been able to supply.

So the simplest explanation of these extra sources is that they came into existence, or attained widespread circulation, after Mark had written. The best evidence for this comes–or will come–when we start looking at Luke. Everyone knows that Luke has many, many more stories than even Matthew: the birth of the Baptist; the birth narrative with Caesar Augustus and the Heavenly Host and the Shepherds who were sore afraid; the Prodigal Son; the Good Shepherd. The list goes on. Are we really going to believe that Luke, writing close to a generation after Matthew, stumbled up a trove of stories that had escaped both Mark and Matthew? A trove of stories told by Jesus, that were highly literary in form, that had been circulating for sixty or seventy years? As Eliza Doolittle put it, not bloody likely. What happened between Matthew and Luke is exactly what happened between Mark and Matthew: the legend continued to grow. By the time Malory wrote the final (?) version, the Arthur legend had added dozens of characters: Launcelot, Parzifal, Gawaine, Galahad, and a supporting cast of thousands.

So, no, Matthew did not find this story in a book that had been lost for forty years.

More important, however, is what this story tells us about how the ideals of the following were changing. There is nothing like this idea in Mark; yes, the last shall be first was there, but it was not worked out in the way it is here. In Mark, that was a nod to social status, that the lower ones, the least ones will have an edge. Here, it’s tale of those who have been forgiven, regardless of when they become penitent. That sentiment is simply not found in Mark. So we have to ask if it’s more likely that the sentiment came with the story, or if the sentiment came first? Since the sentiment is not in Mark, both came into existence in the interim. Given that, the most likely explanation is that the two were imported into Matthew as a unit: the story carried the sentiment because the story was conceived to do just that. Regardless, this represents another development in the history of what became Christianity.

Summary Matthew Chapter 19

Once again, we have a chapter in which the material is largely a recapitulation of material in Mark. Divorce, the children, the young man with the many possessions that prevent him from following Jesus. Rather than summarize this and thereby risking redundancy, let’s try to focus on the aspects of this that are not in Mark. The first comes in the early part of the chapter, just after the discussion of divorce. In fact, there are two novel items here. The first is Peter’s statement that it is, perhaps, better not to marry. The second brings eunuchs into the conversation, which plays off the idea of whether it’s better to marry or not.

Mark was content to have Jesus declare that divorce was not allowed. Matthew adds this other element. Think for a moment: does this line of questioning remind us of anything else we’ve read? It seems to hearken back to some of Paul’s discussions of the topic. In fact, if you look up “gameo” in Strong’s Concordance, you will see that the various forms of the word “to marry” are concentrated in Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7. Is this a coincidence? Or is this evidence that Matthew was aware of that epistle? I am not sure what the orthodoxy on this is, whether it’s generally accepted that Matthew was familiar with at least some of the Pauline corpus or not. In this case, I would suggest that it seems like Matthew may have been familiar with some of 1 Corinthians, in that he had a general idea of the gist of that letter, while perhaps not having a written copy himself. Or, if he did have a written copy, he may not have agreed with it completely. I suggest the latter because the ideas expressed by Matthew overlap with, but are not exactly what we find in 1 Corinthians.

The key to the similarity is Peter’s question. This is the main clue that should make us ask whether there is direct influence as opposed to the two writers arriving at a similar place independently of each other. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul spends a fair bit of time discussing marital status: whether one should marry, or if one should become unmarried, or if one can remarry, and so on. Peter drives right at this very point. But more, Jesus, much more succinctly than Paul, provides essentially the same answer, albeit with very different verbiage. Just as Paul says it’s better to marry than to burn, so Jesus says that not everyone can be a eunuch, if only in a figurative sense. These latter, he says, those who choose to live as eunuchs willingly, do this to gain the kingdom of the heavens.

As with so many questions of influence that we’ve encountered, a definitive answer eludes us. Or, perhaps the answer is that we cannot, given the evidence of the text, state with any confidence that Matthew had read 1 Corinthians in any depth. What this appears to show us is that Matthew had become aware that certain members of the community, or of some community, had posed the question of whether one should marry or not. It is possible that the person or persons raising this question may have asked on there own behalf; however, given that Jesus here pretty much summarizes Paul’s more elaborate response, what seems most likely is that Matthew became aware of this teaching in an attenuated form, that he had heard the question and the response, but most likely without having seen or heard the actual text of Paul. Remember that there were most likely a number different traditions, so that the same idea came to the evangelists via different routes should not surprise us. And it occurs to me that we also have the concept of the Life/life eternal in this chapter, which I also suspect came from Paul. With the combination of these two in this chapter, it would be tempting to see this as Matthew tapping into a stream of Pauline teaching; however, the use of the Life was also in Mark, so that rather precludes the notion that Matthew was getting the two ideas together.

In the discussion of Mark 10, where the parallel to this discussion of divorce occurs, we didn’t speculate on the provenance of Jesus’ pronunciation of “what no man has joined…” Did Jesus say this? Or was it a later interpolation? Something that James said? Or did it come from Paul? This latter is an interesting point, because I just went back and checked, and I see that Paul admonished the community about marriage; however, what he said is that a woman must not divorce her husband. There is no correlating admonishment that a husband must not divorce his wife, as we have here. In the comment to the chapter, I was leaning towards this actually coming from Jesus; the break with tradition would have been a significant development, and we have seen, really, so few of these from Jesus that it’s a wonder that he was remembered at all. Now, however, reading what Paul said, I’m leaning the other way. Paul is emphatic that his message came “from the lord”; be that as it may, what this means is that Paul is expressing what he (most likely sincerely) believes that Jesus “told” him in a revelation. What this means is that we have a situation analogous to that of the dietary laws: Jesus left no record behind, so subsequent apostles or authors relied on inspiration to provide what they (no doubt sincerely) believed Jesus would have said had he been asked the question. This is, after all, the technique that Thucydides used to report speeches that he had not actually heard. This was not an uncommon practice in the ancient world; the idea of a verbatim transcript was alien; what mattered was the intent, not the actual words. And and Paul believed, as Matthew did after him, that they were faithfully recording the intent of Jesus, even where there was no actual record of Jesus ever addressing the topic.

In addition, since Paul tells us that a woman cannot divorce her husband, but says nothing about whether a husband could divorce his wife is a pretty clear indication that he and Matthew were on different wavelengths. Matthew provides the more stringent rule; for if the husband cannot, then of course the wife cannot. Paul specifies the rule for the wife, but the unstated assumption, or inference, is that, of course, the husband can divorce the wife. So what this means is that the restriction of divorce had become more stringent in the generation or two after Paul wrote. The proper question in which case, is “why?” Unfortunately, I’m not sure we can answer that. Oh, we can speculate, and toss out theories that may or may not seem plausible, but we’ll simply never really know, barring some unexpected find of a new document.

So once again, I believe this is a later addition to the teachings of Jesus; as such, we are faced with a question of provenance. Since this is contrary to standard practice among Jews of the First Century, James may seem an unlikely choice. As the “Judaizer” par excellence, we would not normally see his hand in something that contravenes standard practice. One could argue that he was restoring what he saw as a right tradition, just as Jesus railed against the practice of “korban”. But both of these trace to Mark, and usually that makes me suspect that these sentiments did not come from James, that they were in place before the Jacobean corpus had become absorbed into the mainstream teachings of Jesus’ followers. So if not James, and not Jesus, this leaves Paul. But we have seen that what Jesus says here is rather different than what Paul recounts as the lord’s dictum on the topic. So whence? The most likely scenario is Paul, but a mutated version of Paul. The Apostle to the Gentiles started many communities; as such, he planted a lot of seeds. Many of these seeds, upon growing, would have been subject to other influences and likely mutated a bit. And in this chapter we have already had another possible instance of Pauline teaching that’s changed a bit around the edges with regards to marital status, why couldn’t this have come along with the other? As such we have a situation in which the concentric circles of Paul’s teachings start to overlap those of Mark and James/Matthew. And these are exactly the sort of circumstances we should expect to find, as the word of Jesus spread from a number of different foci. We may not have Pauline writing yet, but it’s getting there. It will be interesting to see if Paul’s influence is felt more definitively when we get to Luke.

The last bit in this chapter concerns the (young) man of great wealth, and the eye of the needle. In keeping with the approach taken so far in this summary, the point on which we should focus is where Matthew differs from Mark. The camel and the needle, after all, has been discussed; although I’m not sure if we discussed whether Jesus said this, and perhaps we should. On the plus side, this occurred in Mark. As such, it stands almost a generation closer to Jesus than Matthew, and so is less likely to have been influenced by the teaching of James. On the minus side, the disparagement of wealth was not something Paul took seriously. He was concerned with “social justice” in 1 Corinthians when he admonished the wealthy for eating and drinking to excess when other members of the community were going hungry. For the most part, Paul was expecting the return of Jesus daily, so things like social justice didn’t matter all that much since the end was so near. Also on the minus side, this disparagement of wealth is sort of a peripheral topic for Mark and Matthew. It’s not really something that–surprisingly–Jesus talks about all that often. The result is that the minus side seems to have the most points in its favour, even if they do not add up to a terribly strong case. I suppose that, on the plus side, we could add the aphoristic quality of “a camel can more easily pass through the eye of a needle”, which shows a deft turn of phrase. This is the sort of thing that a cynic sage would have said; and Burton Mack’s position is that is what Jesus was, more or less. And I agree that sayings like this would be the sort of thing that got Jesus remembered. The problem is that Mark’s gospel really does not portray Jesus in this light; rather, Jesus is a wonder-worker, so we are justified to ask what the evidence for this truly is. Realistically, the evidence for Jesus the Cynic is thin indeed, and would much more apply to the Jesus of Matthew and Luke, which was well after the time that the legend had been able to develop.

So it’s a toss-up at best. Flip a coin. If I had to give an answer, I would say it’s not. My gut actually tells me that it is authentic Jesus, but I don’t think I trust it in this instance.

This leaves the element that Matthew adds to Mark: the question of Peter. If the rich can’t be saved, who can? This, I think, has James’ fingerprints on it. Here is a true turn of social norms, where wealth is not a moral quality, or it doesn’t represent moral behaviour, the reward for God’s favour. I suppose one could argue that the turn in values is already in Mark, with the eye of the needle expression, but the remarkable aspect is Peter’s incredulity at this. At the very least, the addition of the question indicates, I believe, that between Mark and Matthew this caught enough people short, so that Matthew felt it necessary to add this addendum, thereby clarifying and emphasizing the point of this. If that’s the case, then we can actually subtract James from the equation, and that does seem to make sense.

Regardless of wherever, or from whomever this is derived, the thought expressed represents a pretty significant turn of attitude in the development of western thinking. I’m reading a compilation of primary source material on heresies of the high Middle Ages, called Heresies of the High Middle Ages, edited by Wakefield and Evans (known in the literature as WEH), and the idea of apostolic poverty plays a huge part in so many of the heretical movements described. The idea that wealth didn’t represent virtue, but that poverty did, was a completely novel idea; in some ways, it’s expressed here for the very first time. “If the rich can’t be saved, who can?” is not a question that had ever been asked before. Even Jewish thought didn’t go this far; the calls were for social justice, a reasonably equitable distribution of wealth, admonitions that the wealthy not take advantage of the poor, but nothing about the wealthy as being non-salvageable. The Cynics–Diogenes and those who followed in his footsteps–spurned wealth, but there was no moral taint necessarily attached to wealth per se; really, Diogenes and the Cynics were more odd than morally superior. It is possible that this innovation of thought originated with the Baptist; his hermit’s existence wasn’t so far removed from the Cynic lifestyle (ceteris paribus), but the addition of a call to repent was something of an innovation. This novelty would help explain his popularity to some degree. The Cynics were in it for themselves, really, they did not openly and actively call for others to join them as the Baptist did. And given the presence of the camel and needle aphorism in Mark, that this originated with John is not out of the question. But given the way Jesus explicitly notes how he is unlike John–Jesus was, after all, a glutton and a drunkard–it seems clear that this aspect of John’s teaching was not wholeheartedly embraced by Jesus and his followers.

Ergo, by process of elimination, I would speculate that the moral taint of wealth was originated by the Baptist, but that the realization expressed by Peter only arose after–perhaps long after–Jesus’ death. I would name James as the most likely suspect. Of course, this assumes that we can trust the tradition that consistently associates James with concern for the poor; we have Paul telling us this, and we have the association of James with the Ebionites. Given my general scorn for tradition, it might seem curious that I’m willing to trust it in this case. I do this for three reasons. First, because I want to believe it. Never, ever discount the power of this to influence the thinking of anyone: whether it be me, you, or some unnamed third party. The motivating factor of wanting to believe something because it fits your preconceived world-view is, quite simply, enormous. Second, we do have Paul mentioning James’ admonition that he not forget the poor in the report of the Synod of Jerusalem. Finally, the concern with poverty (blessed are the poor/poor in spirit) increases significantly with Matthew and Luke; that is, after the principles emphasized during James’ leadership of the followers had been given sufficient time to permeate the message as a whole.

This is not iron-clad evidence, but I’m willing to listen to alternatives. I only hope I’m still willing to give alternatives a fair hearing, that I’m not so set in my theories that I will discount anything that doesn’t fit. I realize I’m dangerously close to that line; at times, no doubt I’ve crossed it. This is what happens to all scholars, eventually, which leads to embarrassing rear-guard actions by aging professors who fight the new theories tooth and nail, long past the time when the theories they argued in their youth have been superseded by the new. The king is dead. Long live the king. Or, more modernly, meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Matthew Chapter 19:13-30

This will conclude Chapter 19. The section is on the long side, but there was no place to break that wouldn’t distort the flow of the text, so we get it all at once. Much of it may not require specific comment. Of course, I always think/say that.

13 Τότε προσηνέχθησαν αὐτῷ παιδία, ἵνα τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιθῇ αὐτοῖς καὶ προσεύξηται: οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτοῖς.

14 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄφετε τὰ παιδία καὶ μὴ κωλύετε αὐτὰ ἐλθεῖν πρός με, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

15 καὶ ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῖς ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖθεν.

And then were brought forth children, so that his hands he would place on them and bless them. The disciples censured them. (14) But Jesus said, “Allow the children and do not forbid them to come to me; for of such is the kingdom of the heavens. (15) And he placing his hands on them, he went away from there. 

In heresies of the Middle Ages, the laying-on of hands was considered the mark of real holiness. I’m not sure when or how the established Church got away from that as a general practice, but the insistence of the heretics on this placement of hands seems to indicate that the Church had let this practice fall into abeyance. And having read as much of the NT as I have, I can see why the heretics were so keen to do this; it’s a very common thing for Jesus and the disciples to do. I do not know the origin of the practice, whether it’s Jewish, or pagan, or what; but it’s the sort of thing that is pretty obvious in many ways. I do want to point out, however, that the real origin of the practice was probably magical, and may in fact pre-date Judaism and other religions. I would not be surprised that the practice did not arise in hunter-gatherer bands, and that the shaman would do this as a means of healing, expelling spirits, etc. I think that for the authors of the NT, that meaning has largely been lost. Even so, I truly believe it’s a residual magical practice.

In the last chapter we also had a child as the exemplar of who will enter the kingdom of the heavens. Here we have it again. Coming as it does in close proximity to the previous child, my guess is that these two stories represent either a twinning of a single event, or that this was something Jesus actually did on a frequent basis. The frequency then gave rise to a number of stories relating this. I don’t think there’s much reason to debate which it is; I bring it up because the repetition in two successive chapters does amount to a bit of editorial clumsiness. It feels redundant, so I tend to lean towards twinning, but the other possibility is just about as likely.

I suppose another question to go with this is to ask what are the implications of each? If it’s a twin, it entails a bifurcation of the tradition. The same story came down to Mark/Matthew via two different streams. This is not surprising. The tradition was doubtless split into any number of threads; we’ve discussed this at length in relation to Mark. If it was repeated, then this represents a major theme of Jesus’ ministry. And I think this likely does trace back to Jesus. It is difficult to fit into another tradition; it’s out of place in the pagan world, and it doesn’t fit with Jewish tradition, either. If you think about it, the only pre-adult to appear in any capacity in the HS (OT) is David. Isaac appears as a potential sacrifice; there is the widow’s son that Elijah raises from the dead, but the implication is that he is an adult. So the sheer oddness of the idea, it would seem, implies that it was an innovation that traced to Jesus himself. Paul doesn’t mention this, but Paul–with a few exceptions–is not concerned with anything that Jesus did while alive; ergo, its absence in Paul is not entirely meaningful. The theme is in Mark, so it likely did not come through the filtre of James the Just.

So that is worth bearing in mind. 

13 Tunc oblati sunt ei parvuli, ut manus eis imponeret et oraret; discipuli autem increpabant eis.

14 Iesus vero ait: “ Sinite parvulos et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire; talium est enim regnum caelorum ”.

15 Et cum imposuisset eis manus, abiit inde.

16 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς προσελθὼν αὐτῷ εἶπεν, Διδάσκαλε, τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω ἵνα σχῶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον;

And look (one) coming towards him (Jesus) said, “Teacher, what good things shall I do that I might have life eternal?

The position here is interesting. Not long ago, I posed the question of whether the Life–or life eternal–was the same as the kingdom of (the) heaven(s). The immediate juxtaposition of the children entering the kingdom and this one asking about life eternal seems to suggest that they are more or less the same thing. This equivalence is something that most Christians over most of the past 1900 years or so would have answered affirmatively without a second thought. Until very recently, it never occurred to me even to ask the question; of course they are.

So why do we have two different terms for the same thing? Terms that are not obviously related on the face of it. That is a question that I think has to be answered. And some part of this would depend on whether both phrases trace back to Jesus. If I had to come up with an explanation, I would suggest that “kingdom of God/heaven/the heavens” does trace to Jesus. But the idea of the Life may not have existed before Paul.

The phrase “the life/life eternal” appears in Mark and Matthew only in conjunction with two stories: this one, about the young man of wealth, and the story that recommends self-mutilation, that it is better to give up a hand, or a foot, or an eye and attain eternal life. Paul talks about eternal life most extensively in Romans–his last work. But he also uses it in Galatians, which is one of the first. What this tells me is that Jesus may have talked about the kingdom, but he may not have talked about the Life. And even with Paul, the idea of the Life was something that became part of his mature work, but did not play a large role in his earlier epistles; does this mean it wasn’t a large part of his thinking on what was to happen when Jesus returned? Or possibly before, when we died?

Now, we need to be careful here. We need to remember that in Jewish belief the faithful pray on Yom Kippur to be written in the book of life for the next year. And so we find another situation where something that is considered to be a hallmark of Christianity has, at the very least, its roots in Judaism, even if there may have been some minor adjustments during the transition into Christianity. So we have the book of life and eternal life that sound like very similar concepts. And let’s not forget that the idea of going into the Life maimed–minus a hand, foot, or eye–only makes sense if we think in terms of the resurrection of the actual body, rather than a spiritual body that is whole and sound. Recall that Paul even made reference to this in talking about Jesus’ post-resurrection body as being somehow different from the earthly body. Taking all of this as a complex of interrelated concepts, we may be justified in seeing the passage about cutting off hands or feet to enter the life as fundamentally Jewish ideas, however they’ve been modified.

Then the question becomes one of provenance. I am becoming convinced that the idea of the kingdom, albeit of God/heaven/the heavens does trace back to Jesus, even if he perhaps did not originate it. At least, I’ve become convinced that a decent, and perhaps strong, argument can be made for this. I’m not quite as sure about the idea of the Life. This does trace back to Paul as we have seen. And prior to Paul, the resurrection of the righteous and the idea of the book of life (or, Book of Life) can both be found in Pharisaical Judaism. So the question is why doesn’t “the Life” play a more prominent role in the gospels of Mark and Matthew? Glancing ahead, it appears that this idea becomes fully ensconced in Luke, and especially John, showing that it has become a bedrock principle of what, by then, can be called Christianity. 

16 Et ecce unus accedens ait illi: “Magister, quid boni faciam, ut habeam vitam aeternam?”. Qui dixit ei:

17 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός. εἰ δὲ θέλεις εἰς τὴν ζωὴν εἰσελθεῖν, τήρησον τὰς ἐντολάς.

And he (Jesus) said to him (the interlocutor) “Why do you talk to me about the good? One is good. If you wish into the life to enter, keep the commandments.”

Here we have a rare instance when the KJV is the least accurate of my crib translations. As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that part of the reason the KJV is so hard to read is because it adheres most closely to the Greek; it’s not as nearly as bad as many of my translations, but it follows the literal sense more than most. Here, however, instead of talking about the good, Jesus asks, “why do you call me good?”, which the interlocutor does not do. Also, I have only rendered “one is good” because that is what the Greek says. Most translations add “only one is good”. Even the Latin below omits the “only”. Now, one can argue that the “only” is implied, and perhaps it is. But it’s not stated, so I have not added it to the translation.

My guess is that the KJV translated it the way it did because the passage in Mark does gave Jesus ask, “why do you call me good”, and also that “only” God is good.

Theologically, the “one is good” has some interesting implications. This seems like it could be the basis for some of the vitriol that came later about human nature is hopelessly depraved, and so cannot do anything to merit its salvation. Now the other thing is that this is always assumed to refer to God, but leaving out the “only” sure makes that a lot less certain, doesn’t it? Is this the original Jesus pointing to the Christ that is to come? That may be a stretch, but it’s not precluded by the Greek. It could be interpreted to mean something like that.

17 “Quid me interrogas de bono? Unus est bonus. Si autem vis ad vitam ingredi, serva mandata”.

18 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ποίας; ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τὸ Οὐ φονεύσεις, Οὐ μοιχεύσεις, Οὐ κλέψεις, Οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις,

19 Τίμα τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα,καί, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

20 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ νεανίσκος, Πάντα ταῦτα ἐφύλαξα: τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ;

21 ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Εἰ θέλεις τέλειος εἶναι, ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι.

He (the interlocutor) said to him (Jesus), “Of what kind?” Jesus said to him, “Do not murder, do not adulterize, do not steal, do not witness falsely. (19) Honour your father and your mother, love your neighbor as yourself.” (20) The young man said, “All these I have guarded. What is the last?” (= the final, the ultimate, is there anything else?) (21) Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be completed (= perfected) withdraw, sell the things belonging to you, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in the heavens, and follow me here.” (here = hither, which implies motion towards as opposed to a static place “here”

The man’s response to the question about the commandments is interesting. Every Christian today knows that the “commandments” refers to the Ten Commandments. And one suspects that every Jew in the First Century would have known that, too. The man’s question implies one of two things: either he thought that Jesus might have some novel twist on the concept; or, he wasn’t a Jew who was familiar with the Decalogue. Which is more likely? The first possibility is hardly to be dismissed. Who knows what was said of Jesus? Who knows what sort of ideas about Jesus this young man brought to the moment of the question? Certainly he had heard about Jesus, that this was a novel teaching, or he taught novel things; so it’s no wonder that he would have had apprehensions about which commandments Jesus was telling him to follow. So it’s highly plausible. It’s much simpler, however, to infer that he was a pagan. Okham’s razor being what it is, this makes the second more plausible.

Or, there is a third possibility. Matthew inserted this question so that the pagans in the audience would understand what Jesus meant. Matthew realized that the pagans would not simply know what “the commandments” meant, so he put these words into the young man’s mouth to clarify that for these pagans. Now, we really can’t stretch this into more proof that Matthew himself was a pagan; he could have been very aware that pagans wouldn’t know about the commandments without being a pagan himself. It doesn’t hurt my position on this, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of support and/or evidence for this.

Should we ascribe this to Jesus? Or does it make more sense that it came from James? Offhand, I’d say the latter, largely because that’s what I want to believe in order to support my radical contention about the teachings of James. Against this we have the fact that this story is in Mark. However, the fact remains that the young man asks about eternal life, which is not a concept that is well-represented in Mark/Matthew. Here, I think, is where we can sort of glimpse at the complexity of the narrative sources. Different things came from different strands of the sources, and just because a concept appears in Matthew and Paul does not mean, necessarily, that Matthew got the story from Paul. Everyone wants to see affiliation where none may exist. The exception to this are those who refuse to believe that Luke knew about Matthew, preferring instead the existence of a document for which there is absolutely zero evidence.

18 Dicit illi: “ Quae? ”. Iesus autem dixit: “ Non homicidium facies, non adulterabis, non facies furtum, non falsum testimonium dices,

19 honora patrem et matrem et diliges proximum tuum sicut teipsum ”.

20 Dicit illi adulescens: “ Omnia haec custodivi. Quid adhuc mihi deest? ”.

21 Ait illi Iesus: “ Si vis perfectus esse, vade, vende, quae habes, et da pauperibus, et habebis thesaurum in caelo; et veni, sequere me ”.

22 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος, ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.

23 Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πλούσιος δυσκόλως εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

24 πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

Hearing this speech, the young man went away being sad, for he was holding many possessions. (23) And Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen I say to you that the rich with difficulty into the kingdom of the heavens. (24) Again I say to you, it is more easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The most interesting aspect of these two verses is the use of “kingdom of God” in Verse 24. Matthew almost never uses this term, but Mark uses it frequently. Here is a very clear case of Matthew almost, but not quite, copying Mark without much editing. In fact, a lot of the words in Mark are repeated by Matthew, even if in different forms. This is very clearly proof of the extent to which Matthew used Mark.Is it possible that Mark used Matthew, and sort of abridged the longer work? While there is a body of scholarship claiming this, it’s very much a minority opinion. I find it very difficult to conceive how anyone could actually take the idea seriously. 

22 Cum audisset autem adulescens verbum, abiit tristis; erat enim habens multas possessiones.

23 Iesus autem dixit discipulis suis: “Amen dico vobis: Dives difficile intrabit in regnum caelorum.

24 Et iterum dico vobis: Facilius est camelum per foramen acus transire, quam divitem intrare in regnum Dei”.

25 ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο σφόδρα λέγοντες, Τίς ἄρα δύναται σωθῆναι;

Hearing this the disciples were driven out of their senses, saying to themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

I want to pause on this a moment. We touched on this in discussing Mark, but it very much bears repeating. In the amazement of the disciples, we get a very potent demonstration of the belief that wealth had a moral dimension. Put simply, there was a strong belief that all God’s friends were rich. The Jews believed this, as the story of Job amply demonstrates. But they were not alone: most cultures believed that the favor of God, or a god would be manifest on earth. And this idea has had pernicious and deleterious effects ever since, despite the fact that Jesus’ words here could not be more plain. This belief was lodged–implicitly–in Calvinism. As such, it was brought to the New World, especially by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay colony. And since Boston became one of the first commercially successful cities in the British colonies, and since New England exported its ministers to the rest of the country, this belief has become lodged in the culture of the United States, and is still operating to this day. It may not be explicitly formulated, but it’s all the more dangerous because of that; it’s a buried assumption, one that goes unchallenged.

What is particularly astonishing is that this belief persists, that it ever came into being, because Jesus couldn’t be much more clear here if he tried. And it always strikes me that many of those who refuse to countenance any interpretation of “what God has joined, let no man put asunder” will completely overlook this dictum about the eye of the needle. Selective application, indeed.

25 Auditis autem his, discipuli mirabantur valde dicentes: “ Quis ergo poterit salvus esse?”.

26 ἐμβλέψας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις τοῦτο ἀδύνατόν ἐστιν, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ πάντα δυνατά.

Looking them in the face Jesus said to them, “For humans, this is not possible, but for God all is possible.  

Notice that God is now omnipotent. We are so used to this notion that it’s ofttimes easy to forget that God was not always considered thus. Certainly the pagan gods, for the most part, were not truly though to be omnipotent as we understand the term; none of them were responsible for creation ex nihilo, as occurred in Genesis. But even YHWH was never truly omnipotent; it appears that he could be surprised by the outcome of events; why create Adam and Eve and tell them not to eat the fruit if he knew full well that they would? This is the quandary that Calvin sought to solve. But God did not truly become omnipotent until systematic theology had been invented through the marriage of the Scripture to Greek philosophy. This passage anticipates that development by a couple of centuries, at the least; but the NT is not fully consistent on this, and it’s especially not internally consistent. These inconsistencies were the cracks in the pavement that eventually spawned heresies. 

After all that, what really matters is that Jesus is basically saying that the rich can only be saved through the sheer omnipotence of God. That is a glaring contradiction to what Peter said in the previous verse, when he assumes there is a large moral component to being wealthy. Jesus is flatly denying that, cutting against the grain of the thinking of most cultures at the time. As such, it’s very progressive thinking for the time.

Now, an interesting thing came up while I was thinking about whether this actually originated with Jesus. I looked into the various forms of “wealthy” in Strong’s Concordance. (The root in Greek is “plousios”, the root of “plutocracy”.) What I found was that the word, in any form, is barely used by either Matthew or Mark. The latter uses some form of the word about three times; once in his version of the story, once during the explanation of the parable of the Sower, and once in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. Matthew uses it twice here, once with the Sower, and the last time to describe Joseph of Arimathaea, who is said to be “rich”. That’s it. It becomes more popular in Luke, but Paul uses it a lot in 1 Corinthians and especially Romans. It also shows up a lot in the deutero-Pauline letter to the Ephesians, and a number of times in the fairly short letter of James. 

So here Jesus is being very hard on the rich, but it’s almost a one-off as a theme in the first two gospels. And this is despite the fact that it wasn’t uncommon in Paul’s letters, documents that pre-date the gospels. And this particular story is really the only one in which the idea of wealth is really intrinsic to the point of the tale. That is, the idea of wealth was imported into the thinking of Mark and Matthew pretty much solely in conjunction with this story.

I also looked up the instances of the use of the terms “possessions” and “poor”. Interestingly, neither of these are show up much in Mark and Matthew, either, both of them occurring at approximately the same frequency as “wealth”.

The implication is pretty clear here. As much as we think of the poor being a major theme of Christian thought, the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t really all that important in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. This is something to consider.

26 Aspiciens autem Iesus dixit illis: “ Apud homines hoc impossibile est, apud Deum autem omnia possibilia sunt”.

27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι: τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν;

28 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι, ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.

29 καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου ἑκατονταπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει.

30 Πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι.

Then answering, Peter said to him, “Look, we left behind everything and followed you. What will be ours?”

28) And Jesus said to them, “Amen I say to you, that you, those following me, in the regeneration, when the son of man is seated upon the throne in his glory, you will also be seated upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29) And all who have left behind home, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother or children, or fields because of my name a hundredfold will receive and eternal life will be their allotment (share of the inheritance).

Just need to insert a word. This phrase << ἑκατονταπλασίονα >> (a hundredfold) is not in all ms traditions. It appears there is variant reading of <<πολλαπλασίων>>. That would be significant, because according to Strong, the only instance of this word is in Luke’s version of this story. If it were here, too, this would pretty much prove that Luke copied Matthew because it would be the equivalent of being proven a cheater by copying someone’s wrong answer. So this is an important textual variation. And I have two different texts with the Matthew/Luke  <<πολλαπλασίων>>. OTOH, the L&S cites the Gospel of Matthew as an example of “hundredfold”. It does not recognize the other word.

30) For many will be first who are last and last (those who are) first.  

Aside from the textual issue mentioned, what jumps out here is “regeneration”. This is a legitimate Greek word. The question is, what does it signify in this context? Well, L&S cite Mt 19:28 as an example of this word being used to mean “resurrection”. Otherwise, it is a term from Stoic philosophy, as in the regeneration of the cosmos, which signifies the cyclical nature of existence; everything is a cycle, including the universe as a whole. Interestingly, none of my crib translations render it as “resurrection”, despite L&S; this is another example of why I get a little nervous about NT dictionaries. They tend to make it up as they go along. And the only other use of this in the NT is in Titus.

As with the hundredfold, the translation of this word matters. Maybe because I’m familiar with Stoic philosophy, but the use of the word there makes perfect sense. It was thought that history was cyclical, in the way life overall was cyclical. It didn’t repeat, but the cosmos ended and restarted, again and again and again. It was Augustine who came up with the idea of linear time; otherwise, this would mean that Jesus’ coming was not a unique event, but something that has happened and would happen again. This didn’t work for him, so he re-cast our understanding of the progress of time, bending it from a circle into a straight line. Or perhaps a ray is the more technical term: a fixed origin with an infinite extension. For even though the world would end, the righteous will spend eternity in the presence of God, who is beyond time.

This just occurred to me. Did Matthew slip here? Did he slip into his pagan way of thinking? Was he thinking about Stoic philosophy, so he used a concept he borrowed from them? That would be about as close to definitive proof that Matthew was a pagan as we could ever expect him to state explicitly. It would mean L&S was wrong, but either Liddell or Scott was a churchman, so his point of view would have been strongly Christian, which could certainly influence his conception of the word as used here. He would take it on faith (ahem) that it referred to the resurrection even though the term came from Stoic philosophy. Contra this, the term is used for the rebirth of the world after the flood in Genesis in the Septuagint; so Matthew as a Jew–Greek-speaking, but Jew nonetheless–could have gotten the term there. We have seen that Matthew probably got the virgin birth from the (mis-)translation of Isaiah to predict that a “virgin” would give birth.

Here is where my theory on the Twelve has some significant ramifications. If, as I suspect, the Twelve were instituted after Jesus died, then there is no chance that he said this bit about the twelve thrones and judging the twelve tribes. Then the question becomes, if Jesus didn’t say this, did he say any of this? If he did, which parts go back to Jesus, and which are later? 

To be honest, I would suspect most of the verse 27-30 post-date Jesus. To be just as honest, I’m not sure I can construct a valid–or even worthwhile–argument to support this. Peter’s question is the sort of thing that could be experienced either by Jesus’ immediate followers, or by those that came later. And I did try to construct something to demonstrate that the circumstances described here were more appropriate for a later group, but I was unsuccessful. My instincts tell me this is a later addition, but “instincts” do not make a good argument, The part about the Twelve, I am sure, is later, but that does not necessarily invalidate the rest. I believe it does–or may–but my beliefs are no stronger proof than my instincts. 

On the face of it, there is nothing in these verses to indicate that we are presented with a situation that involves circumstances faced by Jesus’ immediate followers, or those faced by a later group. That’s the surface view. After more consideration, however, I think this falls into the “later group” scenario. The implication here 

The last point here involves the eschaton. Once again the use of “son of man” indicates that this is taken mostly from Mark. For the most part, Matthew uses “son of man” in passages that he has extracted from Mark. Here is a situation in which the coming end, brought about by the Parousia, by the coming of the son of man. As is true in Mark, this passage could be read to imply that Jesus is talking about someone else, that he is not identifying himself as the son of man. The other point about this is that the vision presented here is not terribly dissimilar to that of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Thus, we have to ask, once again, if this came from Jesus, or if it came from Paul? This matters, because if it’s from Paul, it would help support the idea that the entire passage dates from a time after Jesus. The number of times that Jesus refers to the Parousia in Mark are very limited, and are not entirely intrinsic to the rest of the text. There are any number of legitimate NT scholars–JD Crossan comes to mind–who are dead certain that Jesus’ primary message (or one of them, at least) was the coming End. Personally, I’m not sure I buy it. He bases a lot of his position on the idea of Jesus’ use of “kingdom of heaven/God/the heavens”. However, I remain semi-agnostic on this; I haven’t done the requisite homework, or fieldwork, or footwork of pulling out all the references and doing the compare/contrast and exegesis.

To end, the last line about the first/last transposition is, from what I understand, classic apocalyptic rhetoric. I don’t recall who, but one of the legitimate scholars I read described apocalyptic literature as sort of the last revenge/refuge of the downtrodden. The point of this literature is to envision the day when the current oppressor is overthrown, is pitched headlong into eternal fire, and We the Downtrodden take our rightful place as the divine favourites. People in offices talk like this all the time, about the boss getting his comeuppance. As such, this last/first transposition is probably something that could have been said or written at any time during the time Judea was under the heel of either the Seleucid or Roman Empires. As such, it’s not much help in figuring out if this traces to Jesus. Even if we could be dead certain he did say this, who’s not to say that he didn’t get it from someone else? It’s too universal as a statement of desire. 

27 Tunc respondens Petrus dixit ei: “Ecce nos reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te. Quid ergo erit nobis?”.

28 Iesus autem dixit illis: “Amen dico vobis quod vos, qui secuti estis me, in regeneratione, cum sederit Filius hominis in throno gloriae suae, sedebitis et vos super thronos duodecim, iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

29 Et omnis, qui reliquit domos vel fratres aut sorores aut patrem aut matrem aut filios aut agros propter nomen meum, centuplum accipiet et vitam aeternam possidebit.

30 Multi autem erunt primi novissimi, et novissimi primi.