Luke Chapter 6:12-19

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.



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 June 10, 2017, in Chapter 6, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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