Monthly Archives: May 2017

Summary Luke Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Luke Chapter 5:27-39

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


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

28 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ.

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

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

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

32 οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.

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

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

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

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

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

28 Et relictis omnibus, surgens secutus est eum.

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

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

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

32 Non veni vocare iustos sed peccatores in paenitentiam”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38 ἀλλὰ οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινοὺς βλητέον.

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

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

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

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

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

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

38 sed vinum novum in utres novos mittendum est.

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

Luke Chapter 5:12-26

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


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

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

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

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

16 αὐτὸς δὲ ἦν ὑποχωρῶν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις καὶ προσευχόμενος.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 ipse autem secedebat in desertis et orabat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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