Monthly Archives: June 2017
The Sermon on the Plain does not run on as long as it’s counterpart in Matthew, but it still does go on for a bit. Of course, at this point, we’ve just gotten started. We left off the last section talking about the poor, and how Luke made the opening verses of the Sermon all about the poor. As such, the question becomes whether we can take that as a sort of a thesis statement? We shall see. So, on to the
26 οὐαὶ ὅταν ὑμᾶς καλῶς εἴπωσιν πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι, κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς ψευδοπροφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.
27 Ἀλλὰ ὑμῖν λέγω τοῖς ἀκούουσιν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς,
28 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, προσεύχεσθε περὶ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς.
“Woe to you when all people speak well about you, for the fathers of them said these things to/about the false prophets. (27) But I say to you to those listening, love your enemies, do well to those who hate you, (28) bless those cursing you, pray about those accusing you.
Well, it appears that we’ve taken a different tack and we’re no longer contrasting the rich and the poor. Honestly, the verbiage here is very different than what is in Matthew. Oh, they both sort of maintain the same general idea, but the specifics here simply were not in Matthew. I mention this to question why it is assumed that Matthew and Luke got their stuff from the same source, which they re-wrote separately? It seems more apparent to me that Luke is consciously changing the message of Matthew, but this may only be “apparent” because I want to see it. Really, it is equally likely that they took the discontinuous texts of pretty much unrelated sayings & aphorisms and mixed them up to suit their individual fancies.
This is, after all, a variation on loving your enemies. This message appears in the Sermon on the Mount, but it comes much later in the text. Is that significant? Most likely not per se; that is, whether it comes here or there doesn’t much matter, but what I think might matter is the way the different pieces are grouped. That is, does this continue the thought from the previous set of verses or not. IMO, the first one does, but then the break is pretty clean. The first verse about being well-spoken of tags onto the preceding verse about how the blessed are reviled. Perhaps I should have included Verse 26 in the last section, but I grouped it this way to make a point. Notice that there was some continuity between Verses 20-26; they were not entirely of a piece, but there was a flow between them, a level of connexion, even if it is a bit tangential. But the jump between Verse 26 & 27 is exactly that: a jump. Yes, there are ways to coax this into a continuation of the preceding thoughts, but such an interpretation would be rather tortured, I expect.
Rather, the significance is that there is no connexion. I mentioned this numerous times with Matthew. Far from masterful, this felt very much like the arrangement of a bunch of different ideas that did not necessarily have any internal coherence. Ironically, it’s this jumbled character, rather than Matthew’s allegedly “masterful” arrangement that provides the best argument for Q. By definition, Q is a sayings gospel, which means it’s a collection of sayings, and not something with a coherent narrative. The Sermon on the Mount had no real coherence, which, IMO, is a pretty strong prima facie case that these were disparate sayings collected and compiled over time. Which sounds a lot like Q. So the fact that the Q proponents overlook this in their headlong rush over the precipice, one reminiscent of the swine among the Gerasenes/Gadarenes, is indicative of the lack of coherence in the pro-Q argument. IMO, anyway.
And looking at this objectively, the “what actually happened” almost has to resemble a process that I’ve described: sayings collected and compiled over time. So what does this do to my anti-Q position? Well, it certainly doesn’t help, but these two ideas are not wholly mutually exclusive. Given the assortment of ideas found in Matthew, I don’t see how the idea of a compilation can be avoided. What can be avoided, and very easily, is the time at which the sayings were collected. There is absolutely no reason this compilation has to go back to shortly after Jesus. In fact, I would argue the opposite: that the very disparate nature of the sayings lends itself to the idea that this compilation occurred spread across time, and probably space. And there is no reason the collection could not have been done by Matthew, and that his gospel was the first time these were actually written down. If you think about it, the first incidence of them occurs in Matthew; before that, there is not one whit of evidence, nary a trace, that such a collection existed.
One point I’ve made in the past is that we have to ask why someone choose the odd task of sitting down to write a gospel. With Mark, it seems like the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple with the subsequent and consequent destruction of the Jerusalem Assembly may have provided an incentive. Plus, we’ve noted how Mark seemed to be weaving together at least two–and probably more–strands into a coherent and (more or less) unitary whole. So why Matthew? That’s easy: he did it to include the various sayings and teachings “of Jesus” that he’d collected over time. I think that provides a very credible motive. As for Luke? Let’s let that one percolate for a while. My initial impulse is that he wanted to fill in some of the backstory, that he had his own material to add. And let’s not forget that two of the most famous stories in Christianity, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, titles that have become cultural ikons known the world over, even to a lot of non-Christians, both came from Luke. Yes, it appears he did have something to say.
26 Vae, cum bene vobis dixerint omnes homines! Secundum haec enim faciebant pseudoprophetis patres eorum.
27 Sed vobis dico, qui auditis: Diligite inimicos vestros, bene facite his, qui vos oderunt;
28 benedicite male dicentibus vobis, orate pro calumniantibus vos.
29 τῷ τύπτοντί σε ἐπὶ τὴν σιαγόνα πάρεχε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντός σου τὸ ἱμάτιον καὶ τὸν χιτῶνα μὴ κωλύσῃς.
30 παντὶ αἰτοῦντί σε δίδου, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντος τὰ σὰ μὴ ἀπαίτει.
“To the one striking you on the the cheek, off the other also, and from the one seizing your tunic, also the shirt do not refuse. (30) To all asking of you, give, and from the ones taking your things do not demand it back.
Here once again, we have a lack of continuity. This bit can stand completely on its own. It needs no precursor nor any follow-up. It’s a discreet unit unto itself, unconnected from both the previous and the subsequent verses. So once again, we get a sense of how disjointed this material is. Yes, there are certain underlying themes: meekness, non-violence, lack of cupidity–but each expression is singular. A “oner” in crossword puzzle terms. And this would very much fit with the likely development of the Jesus movement. Already with Paul we had a geographic dispersal of the Good News across much of the eastern Mediterranean world, and even incursions into Rome. Tacitus tells us that Nero blamed the followers of Christos for the fire in Rome in 64 CE. So we know that the message of Jesus had been received in much of the eastern empire. But, if you think about it, Paul did not seem to stress the teachings of Jesus. Yes, it’s impossible to be certain based solely on his letters, but his letters are notably lacking in expressions like, “remember, as the lord said…”, or “as the lord himself told us…” And if you think about, Paul never met Jesus, never heard him speak, never heard any of his teachings. Rather, the message of Jesus came to Paul in revelation, and we’ve seen several instances where Paul likely created things Jesus said or meant being fully convinced that these things were true because they were breathed into him by the sacred breath. He was inspired. Or, rather, Paul’s pronouncements may not have been true, in the sense that the living Jesus may never have said them, but they were True by virtue of divine revelation. One exception is Jesus’ teaching on divorce; we know what Jesus said because Paul admits that he’s contracting Jesus
And, as with Paul, so with others, I suspect. Think about it: all these people are hearing the Good News, but the words of Jesus were fairly few and far between, according to Mark. He focused more on the miracles, Jesus the wonder-worker. So if Jesus was a teacher, what were his teachings? The paucity of recollection would have become downright embarrassing; this would have prompted those spreading the gospel to, well, improvise a bit. Over time, different people would say different things, and some of the things said would resonate, and they would be remembered and repeated. After the generation between Mark and Matthew, a fair number of these sayings would have accumulated, growing wild, as it were, to be harvested by Matthew and added to the Good News of Mark. That is an extremely plausible scenario, one that has more than the ring of truth to it. So yes, there was a collection of Jesus’ sayings. It’s called the Gospel of Matthew. The proposal of Q allows these sayings to trace, hypothetically, at least, all the way back to Jesus. That strikes me as implausible. This collection existed and left no trace in either Paul or Mark? Yes. Highly implausible. The Q people have never attempted an explanation for that situation, or that set of circumstances.
And, btw. It is my considered opinion that much of what “Jesus” said may really have come from James. More on that later.
29 Ei, qui te percutit in maxillam, praebe et alteram; et ab eo, qui aufert tibi vestimentum, etiam tunicam noli prohibere.
30 Omni petenti te tribue; et ab eo, qui aufert, quae tua sunt, ne repetas.
Here we begin the actual teaching of the Sermon on the Plain. Does anyone really think that’s a coincidence? Really?
Regardless, kept the section short because it engendered quite a bit of commentary. And if you do think this Mount/Plain was a coincidence, I hope that this next section helps make you feel even less certain about that.
20 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν, Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.
And he raising his eyes to his disciples he said, “Blessed (are) the poor, that of them is the kingdom of heaven.
We are going to stop right here. Of course we all know that Matthew has this as “blessed are the poor in spirit“. so the obvious conclusion is that Luke’s version here represents a “more primitive” version of the Q text. This one is more primitive, supposedly, because it is simpler, because it has fewer words and a more straightforward message. Everyone knows who “the poor” are; who are the “poor in spirit” after all? That one takes a certain amount of consideration, and perhaps some explaining, after all. And I have to concede that this is not a terrible interpretation, or understanding of the two texts. Luke’s does seem more straightforward. But it is justified to use the term “more primitive” for that reason? I think not, or at least not necessarily. “Primitive” is rather a loaded word, one that’s at least a little pejorative. The intent may simply be to capture the aspect that Luke’s version is closer to Q; just as Luke’s version of the pater noster is, supposedly, closer to Q. Whatever the intent, the result is to raise up Matthew at the expense of Luke. This, in turn, helps preserve the illusion of Q…at least, I guess that’s what the intent is.
Whatever the intent, the reality is that “blessed are the poor”/”poor in spirit” are two very different thoughts. I suppose it can be argued that the latter represents a more advanced stage in thinking, but it could also be argued, IMO, anyway, that “poor in spirit” is a bit of a shill for wealthy people. You don’t actually have to be poor, but just have the humility of the poor. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t quite jibe with some of the other teachings of Jesus, such as the bit about the eye of the needle. Also, FWIW, Mark and Matthew each use the word “ptochos” (beggar, beggarly = poor) five times each. For Matthew, once is here, and once is in the aphorism about always having the poor with you–a story that is not in Luke. IOW, the poor are not too far to the front of Matthew’s message. Of five uses of the word, once is a waffle and once is nearly a disparagement. Luke, OTOH, uses the word ten times, albeit twice in the story of Dives and Lazarus, but that still leaves eight other examples.
I did read somewhere–the cite escapes me, and shame on me for not writing it down; however, it was a reputable source–that Luke is the gospel of the poor. I put this out there to show that there is a school of thought–or one scholar, at least–that believes Luke devotes more attention to the poor than either Mark or Matthew. Now, on top of that, I notice that Paul apparently only uses the word four times in eight letters, and one of them is him saying how James the Just pressed Paul to remember the poor. As such, that’s not exactly evidence that the poor are at the top of his agenda, either. In contrast, the short epistle of James–probably not written by James the Just–uses the word four times, and all of them are in reference to the poor as we think of the term. IOW, the poor, far from being an early aspect of proto-Christian, or Christian belief, was a later one. It became more important in later works, rather than the earlier ones that are, at least, potentially closer to Jesus. As such, it is Matthew’s “poor in spirit” that is the more “primitive” version of this teaching. It is Luke, not Matthew, who advances the teaching on the poor. That also knocks another prop out from under the reasons why Q has to have existed.
There is one other thing that should be mentioned. There is an apocryphal Gospel of the Ebionites, the latter word relating to the poor. And there is a tradition that this was written, if not by James the Just, then by one of his later followers, as the Epistle of James may have been. I do not know what the arguments for this position are, but no doubt they rely on a great deal of speculation and inference, since there is no evidence to speak of. I have mentioned several times that much of what I had always been taught was the Christian attitude towards social justice actually was Jewish in origin and emphasis. We have seen from Paul that James was more concerned with maintaining the ties to Judaism than Paul was. So the question becomes, did the later attitude and teaching on the poor only emerge as this aspect of the teaching of James the Just had been more thoroughly integrating into the main stream of Christian thought? This is pure speculation, based on the sort of huge leaps of faith and tenuous connexions that I tend to disparage. But, FWIW, there it is. The fact remains, though, that when it becomes appropriate to talk about The Church, social justice was decidedly part of the message. And the idea of apostolic poverty was a main theme in the heresies of Western Europe from the 12th Century forward. The Waldensians, for example, were firm believers in apostolic poverty, as were the Cathars, who were exterminated by Innocent III in the early 13th Century. And then there was St Francis of Assisi, whose order became split into those who believed in maintaining the founder’s practice of poverty, and those who thought corporate wealth was just fine. So, yes, teaching about “The Poor” was something of a later tradition. I have been very surprised at the lack of emphasis on this topic as I’ve gone through the letters of Paul and the first two gospels.
20 Et ipse, elevatis oculis suis in discipulos suos, dicebat: “Beati pauperes, quia vestrum est regnum Dei.
21 μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες νῦν, ὅτι χορτασθήσεσθε. μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν, ὅτι γελάσετε. 22μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν μισήσωσιν ὑμᾶς οἱ ἄνθρωποι, καὶ ὅταν ἀφορίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ ὀνειδίσωσιν καὶ ἐκβάλωσιν τὸ ὄνομα ὑμῶν ὡς πονηρὸν ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:
23 χάρητε ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ σκιρτήσατε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ: κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς προφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.
“Blessed are those hungering now, that you will be filled. Blessed are those weeping now, that you will laugh. (22) Blessed are (you) when people hate you, and when they cast you out and cast in insults and throw our your name as knavish because of the son of man; (23) for rejoice on that day and leap, for behold your reward is great in the sky; for upon the same things the forbears of them did to the prophets.
These verses are not exactly part of the Beatitudes as they are set out in Matthew, or, at least, in some editions of Matthew. These lines come at the end of the Beatitudes proper. I suppose this is part of the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew vs the muddled arrangement of Luke. The sentiments expressed obviously extol the outcast, or perhaps those despised. In ancient society, this would–or at least could–include the poor. For example, both of the words “mean” and “villain” refer to lower-class people and serfs. Assuming that these are the people referred to, far from being a muddle of Matthew’s arrangement, this represents an excellent pairing with the opening line. The poor will inherit the earth, and the poor people who are despised and outcast now will be filled, they will get the Great Reward in the Sky. The order of the verses are rearranged because, since the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” are not the same people, the order of the verses here reinforce each other to emphasize the point about the poor. This is important because it undercuts the whole–and wholly ridiculous–idea that Matthew’s treatment of the so-called Q material was infinitely superior to that of Luke. The two are different. Matthew made certain editorial choices, Luke made others. And there is no burden of proof on the opponents of Q that requires these latter to explain why Luke differed in every single instance. That’s absurd. The burden of proof is on those who claim Q ever existed, and that should never, ever be forgotten or conceded.
As for the content and its intent and its raison d’être, the question is whether this fits circumstances of Jesus’ lifetime. This seems to be meant as a morale booster for a community that was under some pressure from the outside. So why is it here? Now, if this does refer to the poor, then that question is largely answered, I believe. The poor were under pressure and duress. Does it go beyond that? Or, if you do not believe that these lines do refer to the poor, but to the Christian community as at large, then you have to discuss the circumstances under which these words were conceived. One clue is to look back at Matthew’s “poor in spirit”. He did not couple that verse with the verses about being hungry. That implies that Matthew saw the groups as separate. That, I think, would imply that he did not intend these verses about being outcast as referring to the general way the poor were despised. And recall that Matthew blessed those who hungered and thirsted for justice; Luke leaves it at those who were, quite simply, hungry, as in physically hungry. This, in turn, implies that Matthew did not connect the two ideas, that the poor were not those who were outcast. The implication of this chain of logic is that, for Matthew, being outcast was a condition of being a Christian rather than of being poor.
When were Christians experiencing anything that can reasonably be described as “persecution”? There is, quite frankly, no indication in the gospels that the followers of Jesus were in any way being subjected to anything that can be called “persecution” in the lifetime of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was supposedly crucified for his beliefs, but I have pointed out many times that only Jesus was arrested and punished. This is pretty clear evidence that the people arresting Jesus were not the least interested in any of Jesus’ followers. Recall that the Passion narrative is likely the later creation of some group of Jesus’ followers–I would suggest the Galilean group, led, or at least subsidized, by Mary the Magdelane–so it reflects the Christians’ own perspective. As such, it seems that there was very little in the way of persecution in Jesus’ lifetime. So, if these lines are not to be seen as a description of the poor, then they are unlikely to date to the time before the Resurrection. Ergo, by necessity they describe circumstances of the earlier days of the proto-church, such as the “pressure” that Paul and his associates applied to the followers of Jesus.
The chain of logic supporting that conclusion is, I believe, quite strong, even if it’s not overwhelming and irrefutable. It does, however, provide a level of certainty that is not frequently found in such biblical arguments. Taking this conclusion as a datum, as a given, there is then one further conclusion to be gleaned. Since Luke changed the words from “poor in spirit” to “poor”, and since he rearranged the material to the form seen here, it’s reasonable to conclude that he made the changes because he wanted to make them. This, of course, raises (but does not beg) the question of why did he make the change? I would suggest it’s because the levels of persecution implied had been either forgotten, or had never really been learned by the group for which Luke wrote. The memory of those days was dim, perhaps vague to the point of being perceived a story than actual events. So Luke rearranged the material to fit into a new paradigm, one in which it was the poor who came to the fore, in which they were the ones being despised. Most likely this new paradigm arose in circumstances in which the poor had become a more prominent segment of the Christian community. This makes sense, I think. Whether I’m correct is, however, a different matter.
21 Beati, qui nunc esuritis, quia saturabimini. Beati, qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis.
22 Beati eritis, cum vos oderint homines et cum separaverint vos et exprobraverint et eiecerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum propter Filium hominis.
23 Gaudete in illa die et exsultate, ecce enim merces vestra multa in caelo; secundum haec enim faciebant prophetis patres eorum.
24 Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.
25 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, οἱ ἐμπεπλησμένοι νῦν, ὅτι πεινάσετε. οὐαί, οἱ γελῶντες νῦν, ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε.
Except woe to the rich, that have your appeal. (25) Woe to you, those filled now, that you will hunger. Woe, you laughing now, that you will mourn and weep.
And on cue, here we have Luke casting woe to the wealthy, the full, those happy now. This provides some really strong support to the thesis set out in the previous comment. There is one issue: the word that I’ve rendered as “appeal”. That obviously doesn’t really work very well. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you would notice that the word is “consolationem”; and, in fact, this is how most English editions translate the word. The problem is, Classical Greek, first of all, doesn’t use the word very often; and second, never uses it to mean “consolation”. This usage is confined to a couple of uses in the LXX and one other time in the NT. This is why I get so uneasy about the idea that such an animal as “NT Greek” actually exists. Classicists, or specialists in the Hellenic language, will rarely–if ever–use the term “NT Greek”. “Koine”, yes, but not NT Greek. It’s really obvious that, far from going back to the original Greek, many of the Reformation scholars were content to fall back on the Vulgate from time to time. This is not the first time when we’ve had to use the Vulgate because the Greek word was too rare to be understood. An argument could be presented–and perhaps won–that not going along with consolation makes me a bit of a prig, a charge for which I’m not sure I’d have a defense. Regardless, I do believe it’s important to point out these potholes in the road as they come up; really, it does help remind us that this whole issue is not as settled as we often pretend.
Just a final note. It’s important to grasp that Luke is casting woe to the materially wealthy, to those that have and their prayers of prosperity answered. They have their reward now, and later they will be hungry. And the implication is that the hunger, while perhaps allegorical, will be allegorical to the point of physical. After all, the notion of Hell is that our immaterial souls feel physical pain and torment. Even the most cursory glance through Dante will demonstrate that most amply.
It’s also interesting to wonder if the emphasis on Matthew’s version of these verses is not somehow tied up in the desire to de-emphasize the perils and coming torments of the prosperous. “Poor in spirit”, after all provides a fair bit of wiggle room, that can be applied subjectively; “poor”, however, does not, and the way Luke drives the point home eliminates whatever wiggle room may have been left. These words are uncomfortable in a way “poor in spirit” are not. Matthew provides hope; Luke does too, but he threatens punishment as well. And let’s recall Paul’s injunctions in 1 Corinthians telling the wealthy to share their meal so that other members of the community do not go hungry. Luke is the first evangelist who was obviously aware of Paul, and, we presume, Paul’s writings. Did Luke have those words of Paul in mind when he rearranged Matthew’s version of this material?
24 Verumtamen vae vobis divitibus, quia habetis consolationem vestram!
25 Vae vobis, qui saturati estis nunc, quia esurietis! / Vae vobis, qui ridetis nunc, quia lugebitis et flebitis!
After a brief interlude in which we get the naming of the Twelve, we delve into what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain”. This reference is semi-facetious; while it does take place after Jesus comes down from the mountain, the real purpose of the name is to contrast it, unfavorably, with the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew. Much of the same material is covered, but rather than run on for nearly three full chapters continuously, Luke breaks the material into smaller chunks. This has led one scholar, Goodacre, to explain the defacement of the brilliant Sermon on the Mount, in terms of shorter, “Luke friendly” (his term) passages. Kloppenborg, OTOH, perhaps the main proponent of Q, has nothing but scornful derision, or derisive scorn, for Goodacre’s attempt at the redactional explanation that the Q people demand to justify the way Luke deliberately painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s well that Kloppenborg dismisses Goodacre in this manner, because the former doesn’t have an actual argument, so ad hominem is about the best he can do.
Note: the “brief interlude was longer than expected, so this ends just at the beginning of the actual Sermon.
There is a certain irony in Kloppenborg’s position. In the mind of the Q people, holding up the SotM as a masterpiece, which only a fool or a madman would deface is a powerful argument. The problem I have with the argument is that I don’t find it masterful; I find it rather a jumble, a bunch of sayings held together (barely) with baling twine and bubble gum. IMO, to argue that the material is not masterfully arranged, and that it barely–if a all–truly holds together is much more powerful evidence that Matthew found the material thus in Q and left it thus. The three chapters of content in Matthew feels like it’s a random collection of one-off sayings. That is a persuasive argument for Q. IMO, anyway.
OK, enough. On to the
12Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐξελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι, καὶ ἦν διανυκτερεύων ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ.
13 καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ’ αὐτῶν δώδεκα, οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,
14 Σίμωνα, ὃν καὶ ὠνόμασεν Πέτρον, καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον
15 καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον Ἁλφαίου καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν καλούμενον Ζηλωτὴν 16καὶ Ἰούδαν Ἰακώβου καὶἸούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ, ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης.
It became in those days he came to the mountain to pray, and he was all night in the prayer of God. (13) And it became day, he called his disciples and sent from him twelve, and which were called apostles. (14) Simon, the one also named Peter, and Andrew, his brother, and James and John an Philip and bar Tolomew (15) and Matthew and Thomas and James son of Alphaeus and Simon the one call the Zealot (16) and Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became the betrayer.
We’ve been through this sequence twice now, so no doubt many of you will recall that I do not believe that the Twelve was a thing that was instituted by Jesus. I believe that Jesus had several followers, among them Peter and perhaps the future James the Just, but the rest of them are sketchy at best. It’s difficult to get rid of John, son of Zebedee, but he appears in very few of the tales told; and these tales can easily be ascribed to the later growth of the legend. Peter is impossible to get rid of; Paul pretty much proves Peter’s existence, but aside from him the only other figure Paul mentions is James, brother of Jesus. As such, I think it’s hard to be at all certain of any of the others. There are two of the Twelve named James, but each has a different patronymic, whether Zebedee or Alpheus. It has been suggested that one of these James, usually the son of Alpheus, otherwise known as James the Lesser (the Latin, Iacobus Minor doesn’t sound quite so belittling). It is suggested that one of these two men named James was Jesus’ half-brother, the son of Mary and either Zebedee or Alpheus. This is an ingenious theory that is absolutely within the realm of possibility; the problem is there is nary a whit of evidence to support it, and the very ingeniousness of the idea, IMO, rather than supporting the idea, makes it less likely.
James, brother of Jesus, got whitewashed out of the the gospels. The reason why James is expunged is clear enough: the church in Rome invented the idea that Peter came to Rome to be the first bishop there. Funny thing about that idea is that Paul overlooks that fact completely when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Am I the first to notice that? Almost certainly not, but the fact that this question is not more prominent in the literature is a huge indication of how badly this embarrassing little tidbit has been squelched by the subsequent bishops of Rome. Hard to believe that Calvin–or one of the Reformers–didn’t bring this up. The commentaries are full of Protestants stumbling over themselves to squelch the idea of Petrine Primacy, so why not notice–and pointing out–that Peter is conspicuously absent from Romans?
Speaking of the commentaries, a couple of them, at least, make a big deal about how the gospels all agree on the names of the Twelve. That is a significant point in favour of the authenticity of the Twelve; or, it would be if it were true. Fact is, it’s not true; or, it’s true only if several of the Twelve had two names. Now there is Peter/Cephas, of course, but Thaddeus is missing from the list here, unless, of course, his name is also Jude. And why wouldn’t it be? Oh, but there’s also Philip, who appears in John, and nowhere else. The other glaring problem is that, throughout most of the gospels the Twelve are pretty much absent, making cameo appearances at the Last Supper and after the Resurrection. The latter role is probably attributable to the section of 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul lists the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He appeared to the Twelve. So we do know that there was a Twelve; we just have no real reason attribute it to Jesus. Rather, I would give the creation of this body to James, who instituted it after the death of his more famous brother. Note, even Paul does not provide names for any of the Twelve; more, the plain-sense reading of 15:5 is that Peter is not part of the Twelve:
…(after the Resurrection Jesus) was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve…
I believe this is a fairly strong bit of evidence that Peter was not included in the Twelve; the commentators, however don’t see it that way. To them the Twelve refers to the corporate body rather than the actual number. This is a possible understanding of the usage, but I do not believe it’s the most straightforward. For it to mean what the commentators suggest, IMO, it would make more sense for Paul to say, “…then to the rest of the Twelve…” or something such. Of course, they see it this way because they wish to see it this way to preserve the credibility of the gospel writers as historical sources. This, despite the fact that the evangelists were not wrirting history.
I have suggested that the Twelve was instituted by James. I find this preferable to the presentation in the gospels. These feel very much like an afterthought, or something that later writers realized should be included, so they stuck this passage in wherever seemed least awkward. In Mark, in particular, the placement seemed forced, fit in with a shoehorn on either side of the tale of the death of the Baptist. While not quite as awkwardky placed by Luke, it’s still lacking any context, whether lead-in or even the attempt to segue into the next story; for it is a separate story. As noted, James was surgically removed from the gospels; given the later position of Petrine Primacy, having the brother of the lord running around, and acting as Peter’s superior was terribly inconvenient, and more than slightly embarrassing given the idea of the Virgin Birth.
But this tangent has been too long already. So much for the “short interlude” before coming to the Sermon on the Plain.
12 Factum est autem in illis diebus, exiit in montem orare et erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.
13 Et cum dies factus esset, vocavit discipulos suos et elegit Duodecim ex ipsis, quos et apostolos nominavit:
14 Simonem, quem et cognominavit Petrum, et Andream fratrem eius et Iacobum et Ioannem et Philippum et Bartholomaeum
15 et Matthaeum et Thomam et Iacobum Alphaei et Simonem, qui vocatur Zelotes,
16 et Iudam Iacobi et Iudam Iscarioth, qui fuit proditor.
17 Καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος,
18 οἳ ἦλθον ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν νόσων αὐτῶν: καὶ οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ἐθεραπεύοντο. 19 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐζήτουν ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ, ὅτι δύναμις παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξήρχετο καὶ ἰᾶτο πάντας.
And coming down with those of him (the disciples) he was in a place of a plain, and a great crowd of his disciples, and filled with mant peoples from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the districts of Tyre and Sidon, they came to hear him and to be healed from their ailments; and those being troubled by unclean spirits they were healed. (19) And the whole crowd sought to touch him, that power from him came and healed all.
The text is very explicit that he was on a plain. It could not be more clear. Matthew, meanwhile, could not be more clear that Jesus went up on a mountain. Now, of course it is possible th at Luke wrote what he wrote without ever having seen what Matthew wrote; that is, he decided to situate the action very explicitly on a plain which he reached having come down from the mountain. There is no reason the two need to be connected. But, come on! Really? Luke just happened to decide to place the upcoming teaching on a plain after descending from the mountain where Matthew just happend to situate his teaching? And then Jesus launches into the same bit of teaching? That is one heckuva coincidence, don’t you think? I won’t pretend that I can actually read in tone, or understand Luke’s intent, but even from the outward details the similarity is striking. Naturally the location of the teaching is not in Q, but that actually supports my argument: the choice of a contrary location that plays off the location used by Matthew truly seems deliberate. More, the relative placement of the actual teaching in both gospels is suspiciouly similar. The point is not that these pieces of evidence that I’m tossing out are in any way decisive; the point is that the Q proponents have completely shut down this entire line of argument. I have to say that any of my professors would have been appalled had I ever turned in an essay arguing the way the Q people have handled the controversy for the last hundred years or so. To the anti-Q people I say, “grow a spine and stand up to this.”
The final line really hearkens back to Mark 6 and the story of the Bleeding Woman. Recall that she surreptitiously touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and the power went out of him of its own accord, without ay conscious decision, or intent on Jesus’ part. This sounds like a similar situation. The subject of “healed” is not explicit, which means it grammatically falls back to the closed antecedent. In this case, it’s the power, and not Jesus. And this is not some odd notion of mine; the four crib translations I use all render this sentence with “the power” as the agent doing the healing. I find that interesting. It’s a holdover from Mark, who was not convinced that Jesus was fully divine. In the story of the Bleeding Woman, it seems that the Power is something of an entity unto itself. It seems to exist apart from Jesus, here it is the agency that effects the healing rather than being something that exists within and because of the divinity of Jesus. Luke retains that aspect of the power in his version of that story, so this isn’t meant as a substitute for that reference. Given the insistence with which both Matthew and Luke proclaim the divinity of Jesus from the very start of their gospel, seeing this here is a bit puzzling. In contrast, in Matthew’s version of the Bleeding Woman story, Matthew portrays Jesus as being aware of the woman’s approach, so he heals her consciously. In short, we have another time when Luke contradicts Matthew. However, we’ll discuss that more when we come to it in Luke.
17 Et descendens cum illis stetit in loco campestri, et turba multa discipulorum eius, et multitudo copiosa plebis ab omni Iudaea et Ierusalem et maritima Tyri et Sidonis,
18 qui venerunt, ut audirent eum et sanarentur a languoribus suis; et, qui vexabantur a spiritibus immundis, curabantur.
19 Et omnis turba quaerebant eum tangere, quia virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes.
Chapter Six begins with the story that usually falls under the rubric of “Lord of the Sabbath”. It’s common to all three Synoptic Gospels.
1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν σαββάτῳ διαπορεύεσθαι αὐτὸν διὰ σπορίμων, καὶ ἔτιλλον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤσθιον τοὺς στάχυας ψώχοντες ταῖς χερσίν.
2 τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων εἶπαν, Τί ποιεῖτε ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν;
3 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἀνέγνωτε ὃ ἐποίησεν Δαυὶδ ὅτε ἐπείνασεν αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ μετ’ αὐτοῦ [ὄντες];
4 [ὡς] εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως λαβὼν ἔφαγεν καὶ ἔδωκεν τοῖς μετ’ αὐτοῦ, οὓς οὐκ ἔξεστιν φαγεῖν εἰ μὴ μόνους τοὺς ἱερεῖς;
5 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Κύριός ἐστιν τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
It became on the Sabbath that he was crossing through the wheat field, and plucked his disciples from it (the grain field) and ate the kernels rubbing (them) in their hands. (2) Some of the Pharisees said, “Does he not do what is not allowed on Sabbaths?” (3) And answering to them Jesus said, “Are you unaware of what David did that he was hungry and those with him? (4) [As] they went to the house of God and the loaves of the offerings taking he ate and he gave to those with him, which was not allowed to eat unless alone for the priests”. (5) And he said to them, “Lord of the sabbath is the son of man”.
The translation is a bit clunky, or even more than a bit clunky, but it works very well here when rendered in a very literal fashion that retains the word order of the original. This is not always possible given that case languages do not rely so much on the order of the words to get the message across. The one part that is nearly impossible to render faithfully is the <<εἰ μὴ>>; this is literally “if not”, which is more or less “unless”, but here it’s particularly nasty because it’s coupled with a negative. Unlike Greek, Latin, French, or Spanish, English has the rule about the double negative. (I’m really not familiar enough with German grammar to know the rules there.) In the other four languages, the negatives reinforce, rather than negate, each other. So it is here. Literally, it would be “unless not”, which in English would constitute a double negative. The idea is that only the priests could eat these loaves which had been offered to God. Note that the priests ate the stuff given to God; this was a perk of being a priest, regardless of the religion, whether pagan or Jewish. Christian practice remained essentially the same, even if the offerings of the faithful became money rather than food. This was how the priests were supported in temples or churches: give to God/the god, the priests were then entitled to the food. So for David to step in and eat food meant for God, and then to give said food to his warrior (bandit) band was cause to raise eyebrows.
As this story appeared in both Mark and Matthew, we’ve discussed the implication of how this situates Jesus in the place of David. One thing I didn’t realize until just now is that Jesus as the seed of David is almost exclusively a theme that occurs in the gospels. Paul mentions David three times, all of them in Romans, the last written of the authentic letters that we have from Paul. Of these three, exactly one states that Jesus, in the flesh, is a descendant of David. And in Mark, we have essentially perhaps two or references to Jesus as being in the line of David. The only direct one is in Chapter 10 when the blind bar Timeaus calls out to Jesus as the son of David. The other two are oblique. The reason for mentioning this out is to point out that Jesus as the son/descendant of David does not become firmly entrenched in the record in the first two or three generations after the death of Jesus. It is Matthew, with his genealogy, who fixes the idea of Jesus being a lineal descendant of David into Christian dogma.
What does this mean? Truly, the appropriate place to discuss this would be in a commentary on Paul. However, it didn’t occur to me that we weren’t seeing this because, well, because we weren’t seeing it. For all of Paul’s talk of the Christ, the Messiah, that the messiah was somehow related to David never came up in the three books of Paul that we read. While Paul refers to David’s words, or to his legend, the sole mention of Jesus being related to David, a descendent of David comes in Romans 1:3. And even there, he simply mentions that Jesus, through the flesh, was of David’s line. There is no really explicit statement that the Messiah had to be of David’s line or anything such. Had Paul been writing to Jews, we could probably assume that Jews would know this as a matter of course; but he was not writing to Jews. He wrote to Galatians, Thessalonians, and Corinthians, and only mentions this connexion in Romans–more pagans–and then only once. That somehow seems odd. And the one explicit reference in Mark is part of a story that could have been swallowed whole by Mark, so this may not have been a central part of Mark’s theology. Remember, the first half of Mark is the story of Jesus the Wonder-Worker; the Messiah part comes in later, and is easily the smaller of the two “halves” of Mark’s narrative.
As far as I can tell, David is not part of Q. This would make sense. Jesus does not refer to himself as being of the seed of David, so why would we expect David to crop up in a collection of the sayings of Jesus (or whatever else it’s convenient to stick in there)? We shouldn’t expect it, I wouldn’t think. So it does not become a prominent part of the Jesus story until Matthew makes it so. And, writing later, Luke does exactly the same thing as Matthew. Interestingly, John only makes the David connexion in a single passage, in John 7:42. So this means that David plays a large role only in Matthew and Luke, even though David was not part of Q. Hmmm. If a=b, and b=c, then a=c. Or, rather, Matthew or Q. Not Q. Therefore Matthew. This is known as the Disjunctive Syllogism, and it’s one of the foundation pieces of formal logic. Luke and Matthew agree. Therefore Luke got David either from Matthew or from Q. David does not appear in Q. Therefore, Luke got the David references from Matthew, Q.E.D.
Well, it’s not quite demonstrated. There are, of course, other places that Luke could have gotten the David connexion, other sources, other traditions. But the funny thing is that David is largely absent from most of the NT, except for Matthew and Luke/Acts (assuming the same author). This is akin to the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the annunciation by an angel, and all the other motifs that were identified as peculiar to Matthew and Luke. So David is yet one more. The side of the scale with the Luke-Matthew connexions is starting to get pretty heavy.
One final word. Just because Jesus compares himself to David, that is not to say he necessarily implies that he is the Messiah. Yes, that is one interpretation; the connexion to David is perhaps sufficient to make this leap, but I don’t think it’s necessary. That position may require some serious hair-splitting, or a very finely nuanced way of looking at things, but IMO the distinction is real. Now, it’s another thing to say whether the conscious connecting to David would have been taken by most listeners as a direct correlation: Jesus = David = Messiah. To some degree, this would depend on how well-versed the audience was that heard/read this. If the audience was Jewish, then the likelihood goes up; if it was predominantly pagan, it goes down. But then, since this originated in Mark, is that question legitimate? Was Luke just keeping it for the sake of keeping it? Not necessarily. Luke has not been afraid to change or jettison stories or parts of stories, so why keep this? First, for it’s challenge to established religion, as it was being practised at the time. The Jews had gone astray, so Jesus was the Judaic Martin Luther leading a reform, not starting a revolution. Second, because once again this tied Jesus to that ancient line of religious practice. Jesus’ message was the wisdom of the ages, not a novel invention, and he was reminding his contemporaries about how it should be done.
1 Factum est autem in sabbato, cum transiret per sata, et velle bant discipuli eius spicas et manducabant confricantes manibus.
2 Quidam autem pharisaeorum dixerunt: “Quid facitis, quod non licet in sabbatis?”.
3 Et respondens Iesus ad eos dixit: “Nec hoc legistis, quod fecit David, cum esurisset ipse et qui cum eo erant?
4 Quomodo intravit in domum Dei et panes propositionis sumpsit et manducavit et dedit his, qui cum ipso erant, quos non licet manducare nisi tantum sacerdotibus? ”.
5 Et dicebat illis: “Dominus est sabbati Filius hominis”.
6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ἑτέρῳ σαββάτῳ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν καὶ διδάσκειν: καὶ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ ἡ δεξιὰ ἦν ξηρά:
7 παρετηροῦντο δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι εἰ ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεύει, ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ.
8 αὐτὸς δὲ ᾔδει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς αὐτῶν, εἶπεν δὲ τῷ ἀνδρὶ τῷ ξηρὰν ἔχοντι τὴν χεῖρα, Ἔγειρε καὶ στῆθι εἰς τὸ μέσον: καὶ ἀναστὰς ἔστη.
9 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτούς, Ἐπερωτῶ ὑμᾶς, εἰ ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀπολέσαι;
10 καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντας αὐτοὺς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρά σου. ὁ δὲ ἐποίησεν, καὶ ἀπεκατεστάθη ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ.
11 αὐτοὶ δὲ ἐπλήσθησαν ἀνοίας, καὶ διελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν τῷἸησοῦ.
Then it happened on another sabbath that he came into the synagogue and taught. And there was a man there and his hand, the right one was withered. (7) And watching him were the scribes and the Pharisees if on the sabbath he would heal, so that the would find to accuse him. (8) He knew the dialogues of them, he said to the man the withered hand having, “Rise and stand in the middle”. And standing he stood. (9) Said Jesus to them, “I ask you if it is allowed on the sabbath to dogood (= do good; it’s a single word in Greek) or dobad (= do bad), a life to say or destroy (it)?” (10) And looking around at all of them he (Jesus) said to him (the man), “Stretch out your hand”. He did this and restored was his hand. (11) They were filled by not understanding, and they spoke to each other what they would do to Jesus.
A few minor things. “Dogood” and “dobad”: interesting constructions. There is a very nice extended accusative and infinitive construction in the first verse, encompassing both the “come in” and the “teach”. That’s a bit unusual, and shows a certain amount of comfort with a reasonably literary strand of the Greek language. The first biggish thing is the bit about saving a life. The word is psyche, or anima, in Latin. The latter should be recognisable as the root of “animate”, or “animal”. So it’s the breath of life. As we’ve no doubt mentioned, the base meaning of psyche is “life”; this, in turn, becomes associated with the breath of life, which is why it ends up as anima in Latin. Our word “soul”, which is how this word is most often translated, is from the German, seele. And here is where using an NT dictionary is problematic: one of the ones I use give “soul” as the base definition. Now again, the wrath of Achilles, that baneful wrath, sent the psyches of many heroes to Hades, and “lives” doesn’t quite give the proper sense of that phrase. Here, it is obviously “life”–at least it seems pretty obvious to me. And the four crib translations I use all render it as “life”. Now the more interesting aspect of this is that it is coupled with “to save”; here it’s plainly “to save a life”. But think about that: psyche sōsein; this gets Christianised very easily as “to save a soul”. Here is where we see the real danger in assigned hierocratic meanings to specific words in Greek; they end up warping the original into a construct that did not become dogma until some time later. The boundary between the uses of “soul” and “life” for psyche is very ill-defined. There have been, IIRC, a few instances when it should clearly read “soul”, and perhaps in sort of our concept of the meaning.
I also like that they were filled by “not-understanding”. The word is a-noia, which literally means “unminded”. Or something. The a- prefix is a negation, like a-historical. The ‘noia’ means mind. So do your own construction of the two parts. The reason I like the image is that, essentially, Luke is saying their mind was filled by not-mind, which is something approaching a paradox: how can you fill something with nothing?
A version of this story appears in both Mk&Mt. What is remarkable about this version is that Luke has toned down the reaction of the scribes & Pharisees. They are not overtly plotting to kill Jesus as the other two say they are. They’re merely discussing what they will do. Why does Luke de-escalate like this? Since this is the first episode in the plot to kill Jesus, it’s pretty much impossible to say at the moment. Did he understand that provincial scribes & Pharisees really had no connexion with the authorities? We would have to come up with reasons why that would be true, and I doubt they exist. In fact, they almost certainly do not exist since we know nothing about the author of this (or any) gospel. Will he tone down the guilt of the Temple authorities? That could be taken to imply that he did understand–or suspect–the lack of connexion between this group and the group in Jerusalem, but the honest answer is that I don’t know. It is interesting to note that the Passion of Luke does not get read all that often in church services, whether the Roman or the Episcopalian rites (Correct me if I’m wrong). Why is that? Mark and John are the two that most come to mind, the two most often read in church, and Bach wrote a Matthew Passion & a John Passion, but not a Luke Passion. I don’t know why that is, so this becomes a question to be asked and considered as we move along through the rest of the gospel.
Just a final word. The next section is the calling of the Twelve, so I wanted to point out that the last part of Chapter 5 was the story of Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralytic, and we’ve had two instances so far in Chapter 6 about the Lord of the Sabbath and healing on the sabbath. All three of these constitute a challenge to the existing religious practice of the Jews. So that we end up with dark muttering against Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. This was a definite theme in Mark; I have not done the analysis to see how much of a theme it was in Matthew. Regardless, it’s not new with Luke and we’ll see what he does with it.
6 Factum est autem in alio sabbato, ut intraret in synagogam et doceret; et erat ibi homo, et manus eius dextra erat arida.
7 Observabant autem illum scribae et pharisaei, si sabbato curaret, ut invenirent accusare illum.
8 Ipse vero sciebat cogitationes eorum et ait homini, qui habebat manum aridam: “Surge et sta in medium”. Et surgens stetit.
9 Ait autem ad illos Iesus: “ Interrogo vos, si licet sabbato bene facere an male; animam salvam facere an perdere? ”.
10 Et circumspectis omnibus illis, dixit illi: “ Extende manum tuam ”. Et fecit; et restituta est manus eius.
11 Ipsi autem repleti sunt insipientia et colloquebantur ad invicem quidnam facerent Iesu.