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.

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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”.

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About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on May 10, 2017, in Chapter 5, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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