Luke Chapter 6:26-30

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

Text

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.

 

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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 June 26, 2017, in Chapter 10, Chapter 6, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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