Monthly Archives: July 2017
Note: as first published, the commentary was written with the erroneous belief that Luke did not have a version of the story of Jairus’ daughter. I was mistaken. Luke does have that story, and that of the Bleeding Woman as well. I have attempted to edit the commentary to reflect this correct state of affairs. My apologies.
Here we come upon something that is only in Luke. Jesus has just healed the slave of the centurion, and now he’s off to a town called Nain, which is not mentioned anywhere else in the NT. There is a modern town with more or less the same name, and it has an alternative spelling in the HS. However, the truly odd thing about Nain is that it’s way off the beaten path from where Jesus usually perambulated. Most of the stories of Jesus have him on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, which is where Caphernaum is. The Dekaopolis is on the eastern side of the lake, and Tyre and Sidon are to the north, on the Mediterranean shore. Nain is south and west of the lake. Interestingly, it’s not all that far from Nazareth; however, Jesus was in Nazareth back in Chapter 3, and since then he returned to Caphernaum, which is where he encountered the centurion. Now, very suddenly and without any real explanation, Jesus appears in this other town awfully close to thirty miles away. Did he teleport? Probably not.
Here’s my suspicion. In the years after Jesus died, as his story and his legend and his following grew, the number of stories about him multiplied. As mentioned, Nain wasn’t far from Nazareth, so perhaps some Nainite, or Nainian, or Nainiac came up with the idea that Jesus came to Nain and performed some sort of miracle there. And, with enough retellings, and enough years, people of Nain came to believe that Jesus had been there, so the story got added to the oral tradition. I tend to favor this over Luke inventing the story himself, largely because of the location of Nain. I’m not sure where Luke’s gospel was supposedly written, but there is no reason to believe it was all that close to Judea or Galilee. If Luke heard the story and liked it, he probably chose to include it for both those reasons, not being particularly concerned about the logistics.
Which brings us back to a point that has not been discussed much for what feels like quite a while. This unconcern for physical reality is a really good demonstration of the principle that the evangelists were not writing history. This fact, while obvious to so many people is so often forgotten in the breach that it’s a little frightening. The gospels, whatever they may be, or whatever they were intended to do be, were not intended to be, and are not historical writing. That fact cannot be stressed enough. The prevailing attitude is that the four evangelists were telling a single story; that statement is only accurate to a certain point, and one that is reached very quickly. They were telling the story of Jesus. Yes. On that we can agree. But this is not his biography. This is hagiography. No one takes the later lives of the saints entirely at face value, and we should have the same level of skepticism about factual information when reading the gospels. The fact is, Luke really did not care whether Nain was a leisurely twenty-minute walk from Caphernaum, or whether it was on the shore of th Dead Sea. That wasn’t the point, and it wasn’t the point because no one was supposed to take this stuff literally. Repeat once more: the gospels are not, and were not intended to be, history.
There is also a phenomenon that I alluded to briefly in the discussion of Mark. So many–almost all of them, really–seem to be fully-formed little units, like blocks of various sizes. The Gerasene Demonaic is a splendid example. Like wooden blocks, these stories floated along on the stream of oral tradition. Some of them were collected by the evangelists, but doubtless many more simply floated away, downstream, to the sea where they became waterlogged and sank. Perhaps they were derivative, or redundant, or uninteresting, or they gave the wrong message; for whatever reason, they were not collected and they simply vanished from history. Certainly this happened with any number of manuscripts, until a chance find like Nag Hamadi turns up something like the Gospel of Thomas. This being said, I do believe that Matthew, Luke and John also crafted their own tales. We haven’t gotten to them yet, but I truly suspect that the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and others, were the creations of Luke. They have a high level of literary quality and have always felt like the same mind was behind them. Perhaps when we get to them in Greek, they may not seem to be so. Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s get to the
11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἑξῆς ἐπορεύθη εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Ναΐν, καὶ συνεπορεύοντο αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλος πολύς.
And it came to be on the next (day, presumably) he came to the city called Nain, and they arrived with him his disciples and a large crowd.
What I have translated as “next” is a Greek word that implies sequence, things line up in a row. Since it’s en tō hexēs, “on the next…” (the next what is unspecified), “day” seemed like a good choice. But this is what I mean about the distance. To travel thirty miles on foot is a prodigious amount of walking. It’s possible, but it would require some pretty serious intention, and, at best, would take pretty much the whole day. When I was in high school, two of my classmates walked something like that in a day, but these were athletes in really good shape, and 17 years old to boot. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s likely to have happened. It’s doubly or triply unlikely if Jesus had been followed by a large crowd. Of course, it’s always possible that the crowd accumulated as he progressed. Certainly, a large crowd did not walk thirty miles in a single day.
That’s all fine and good. The more remarkable thing is that Luke seems to have no compunction of the size of this accomplishment. This, in turn, tells me that he most likely has no real conception of the geography involved. In turn, the implication is that he was not terribly familiar with Galilee. This is no surprise, really. Go back to what we said in the introduction: this is not historical writing.
11 Et factum est, deinceps ivit in civitatem, quae vocatur Naim, et ibant cum illo discipuli eius et turba copiosa.
12 ὡς δὲ ἤγγισεν τῇ πύλῃ τῆς πόλεως, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐξεκομίζετο τεθνηκὼς μονογενὴς υἱὸς τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ αὐτὴ ἦν χήρα, καὶ ὄχλος τῆς πόλεως ἱκανὸς ἦν σὺν αὐτῇ.
13 καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν ὁ κύριος ἐσπλαγχνίσθη ἐπ’ αὐτῇ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Μὴ κλαῖε.
14 καὶ προσελθὼν ἥψατο τῆς σοροῦ, οἱ δὲ βαστάζοντες ἔστησαν, καὶ εἶπεν, Νεανίσκε, σοὶ λέγω, ἐγέρθητι.
As they approached the gate of the city, and look, was being carried out the dead only child son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a crowd of the city was sufficient with her. (13) And seeing her the lord was moved with compassion and said to her, “Do not cry”. (14) And going forward, he touched the bier, and those carrying (it) stood and he said, “Youngster/Young man, I say to you, get up”.
To start, there are two words that are unique in the NT to this passage. The first is the word used for “being carried out”, and the other is for “bier”. These are not common words in Classical Greek, but they aren’t terribly unusual words, either. I bring this up to demonstrate that Luke is no amateur when it comes to writing Greek. He was apparently very well educated. What this implies, in turn, is that if he uses a word found in Matthew or Q, he uses it because he chooses to, not because he’s constrained to because he’s unaware of his options. Now, this does not obviously correspond, or fold into into either a pro- or anti-Q position. It does rebound into the question of the author of Q, and the education level of said author might be. We know Luke is educated; would an earlier writer, a near-contemporary of Jesus and someone who was an original disciple, or close to one of them, have had this level of education? Let’s think about Paul. He had a number of unique words, but most of them were created by the addition of a novel prefix to an existing word. Some of his early letters had passages that I described as “borderline gibberish” (whether I would think so now that I have more experience is another question). Using him as an example is not a bad comparison, or certainly not an unfair one. He was educated to some degree, but there is a rather large leap from his level of Greek to that of both Matthew and Luke.
Also, there is good chance that the early followers of Jesus were not pagans. Aside from the couple of stories put into the gospels, most likely at a later date, showing that Jesus interacted with pagans, it seems pretty safe to conclude that Jesus did not interact all that much with pagans. First of all, the matter of language comes up; did Jesus speak Greek? If not, did the people of Sidon and Tyre, or the Dekapolis speak Aramaic? These are not irrelevant questions. So, given that Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews who spoke Aramaic, with perhaps a smattering of Greek words related to their trade, the author of Q was likely an Aramaic-speaking Jew. So where did this hypothetical Jew come up with some of the vocabulary that we have found in what is purported to be Q? Matthew read his HS in Greek; he seems as if he would be an obvious suspect.
At this point, we (well, I really) have not come close to creating a coherent argument against Q. All I can hope at this point is that the seeds of doubt about Q have been planted, and perhaps are starting to sprout.
As far as content goes, this seems to reflect back a bit on the daughter of Jairus (Mk 6). The touchpoint of contact between the two is Jesus telling the crowd, or the mother, not to cry. And thanks to the paradigms of Greek verbs, we know that he’s speaking to the mother in particular since the command is 2nd Person Singular, rather than plural. It’s addressed only to one person. Recall that when Jesus gets to the house of Jairus, he asks why all are crying, since the girl is only asleep. There, of course, this statement left Jesus open to mockery, of which there is none here. Regardless.
12 Cum autem appropinquaret portae civitatis, et ecce defunctus efferebatur filius unicus matri suae; et haec vidua erat, et turba civitatis multa cum illa.
13 Quam cum vidisset Dominus, misericordia motus super ea dixit illi: “ Noli flere! ”.
14 Et accessit et tetigit loculum; hi autem, qui portabant, steterunt. Et ait: “ Adulescens, tibi dico: Surge! ”.
15 καὶ ἀνεκάθισεν ὁ νεκρὸς καὶ ἤρξατο λαλεῖν, καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ.
16 ἔλαβεν δὲ φόβος πάντας, καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεὸν λέγοντες ὅτι Προφήτης μέγας ἠγέρθη ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ὅτι Ἐπεσκέψατο ὁ θεὸς τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ.
17 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ λόγος οὗτος ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάσῃ τῇ περιχώρῳ.
And the dead one sat up and began to speak, and he (Jesus) gave him (the erstwhile corpse) to his mother. (16) And fear seized all, and they praised God saying that “A great prophet has been raised amongst us”, and that “God has looked in upon his people”. (17) And this story went out in all of Judea about him (Jesus, presumably) and all the surrounding country.
One minor point: “looked in upon” is pretty literal, but it also does capture the sense of the underlying word. In NT Greek (as if there is such a thing) lexica and translations, it’s often rendered as “visit”; and, indeed, the Vulgate uses visitavit, for which I believe no translation is necessary. The Greek word is not common (again), but it has more the sense of “review”, as in “reviewing the troops”. I think “looks in upon” nicely catches both of those ideas and provides a happy median between them.
Now let’s consider this viz à viz the story about Jairus’ daughter. We have many of the same elements as the daughter of Jairus. We have the parent/child, the weeping, Jesus arriving “too late” because the child is dead. We are missing the request by the parent to save her child. The biggest difference is that the relationship between the parent & child is larger here, and the parent’s situation is more dire. It’s straight-up dire. A childless widow would be destitute. Jairus was a man of substance; the death of his daughter would be cause for grief, but not for economic ruin, so the entire situation here is more fraught with impending disaster. As such, Jesus’ intervention is more pronounced, more “godly” as it were, since he salvages a situation that was ultimately much worse. IOW, Jesus has been elevated to a higher level in a way. This is certainly all true, but the basic element remains the same. Luke chose, IMO, to add this story to raise the stakes the of the circumstances, thus making his entrance and the feat more dramatic. After all, Jairus’ daughter had just died; it was possible that she was only asleep. This young man was on his way to be buried. There’s a bit more urgency to Jesus’ cure in this case. Actually, there is a lot more.
So the remaining question is where did Luke get this story? There were probably a number of different oral traditions about Jesus at the time Luke wrote. There was enough material to fill gospels and apocalypses and all sorts of other apocrypha for a few centuries to come, so there was not just one “oral tradition”. Different traditions had different emphases. The one the produced the Didache has a very different view of Jesus than Luke’s gospel, or any of the canonical works. So there certainly could be, and probably is, L material, and M material, items that Luke and Matthew plucked from one of the ambient traditions that were available to one, but not both of them. But I also believe, fully and firmly, that much of the L and M material came from Luke and Matthew, that each of these evangelists–and John subsequently–were truly the authors, and not just the compilers of the material they present that was not in Mark.
Of course, one never hears this said. Why not? Because that would be an explicit admission that some of Jesus’ teaching does not trace back to Jesus. Rather, it was composed sometime after Jesus, and quite possibly after Paul. Not all of it. But some. Probably a lot. And possibly some of the most famous stuff, like the Sermon on the Mount.
15 Et resedit, qui erat mortuus, et coepit loqui; et dedit illum matri suae.
16 Accepit autem omnes timor, et magnificabant Deum dicentes: “ Propheta magnus surrexit in nobis ” et: “Deus visitavit plebem suam”.
17 Et exiit hic sermo in universam Iudaeam de eo et omnem circa regionem.
This chapter begins with the story of the centurion’s child/servant. This is another of the alleged stories from Q. This means that we have already discussed much of the content, so the implications and the differences will feature in the discussion. For example, the word chosen here is different than in Matthew. With that teaser, let’s move on to the
1Ἐπειδὴ ἐπλήρωσεν πάντα τὰ ῥήματα αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς ἀκοὰς τοῦ λαοῦ, εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναούμ.
2 Ἑκατοντάρχου δέ τινος δοῦλος κακῶς ἔχων ἤμελλεν τελευτᾶν, ὃς ἦν αὐτῷ ἔντιμος.
When he filled the ears of the people with tall his words, he came into Caphernaum. (2) The slave of a certain hundred leader had a disease and he was about to die, who by him was esteemed.
There are two points here. First, what is so clumsily rendered as a “hundred leader” is the literal translation into Greek of the military rank and title “centurion”. This is what a centurion was: the leader of a group of 100 soldiers, a group referred to as a “century”. Now, while it had originally meant 100 soldiers, the size of the century had shrunk to 80 soldiers, the latter number proving more tactically versatile. A centurion was the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in the army. These men were career soldiers, and they were the backbone of the army. Commanders and officers came and went, but these guys stayed and provided the discipline and direction needed to carry out orders, in war or in peace. They could be brutal men, enforcing discipline very harshly. The Romans were not known for their tolerance of dissent or lack of discipline. Despite the shrunken size of the unit, the title “centurion” remained.
Now, Mark does not include this story; however, he does refer to a centurion three times in the Passion narrative. This is the centurion who was in charge of the unit that carried out the crucifixion. Unlike Luke here, Mark did not translate the term into Greek; rather, he simply transliterated it as kenturiōn. This has led many biblicists for many centuries to use this as “proof” that Mark wrote in Rome; to be fair, there are others in which Mark preserves the Latin word. I’m not prepared to take up that discussion now; I don’t really believe there is anywhere close to enough evidence to support Mark writing in Rome, but that’s an issue for another day. The point is that, here and elsewhere, in contrast to Mark, Matthew and Luke use the Greek translation found here: hekatonarchēs. That, in and of itself, is simply a data point in the Q discussion. It can only be pushed so far. Hold that thought about vocabulary.
Perhaps more significant is the word Luke uses for “slave”. If you recall, Matthew used the word pais, which literally means child, or more usually, “boy”. When treating Matthew’s version, we discussed the ambiguity of the term, the dual meaning, whether it was meant as “boy-child”, or “boy”, as in “houseboy”. This latter was a term in use through the Nixon years; the Richard and Pat Nixon had a long-serving Filipino “houseboy” named Manolo. The term has gone out of use for it’s racist connotations. It was largely reserved for men of color, when a Caucasian serving the same function would be termed a “butler”. In any case, the ambiguity was patent, although the general consensus was to treat the term as used by Matthew to mean “slave”. The Vulgate alternates terms as well; it renders the use in Matthew as puer, which means “boy”, as in “child”. For example, the opening line of a Gregorian Christmas chant is Puer natus est, referring to Jesus as the “boy/child”. Here, the Vulgate uses servus, the standard word for “slave”. The Vulgate does that because here, Luke has removed that ambiguity and simply used doulos, which is the conventional word for “slave”. So there is no doubt about the intent and the relationship.
Now let us consider this for a moment. The story is supposed to be in Q. What word is used there? Luke’s or Matthew’s? I’m not sure what the orthodoxy is for Q proponents, since I’ve not seen a discussion of the word in those terms; or, rather, I’ve not seen a discussion of Q that got into sufficient detail to touch on this. I would imagine the Q people would say that the base word is doulos, as it is here, and that Matthew changed it to indicate the extra level of affection the centurion had for this particular slave. (And doulos most emphatically does not mean “servant”. Hired servants scarcely existed in the ancient world.) Luke, OTOH, provides the more original reading, as he is said to do in so many cases. Except where he doesn’t.
Now, this is a reasonable suggestion, that Matthew used the other word to indicate the centurion’s esteem. And it certainly was not uncommon for a slave to be seen as pretty much one of the family, especially in households that had three or fewer such slaves. It’s not an unusual relationship even now, where servants of longstanding become integrated into the household. So, it makes sense for Matthew to emphasize this. That is one explanation, but it’s purely a theory. Another theory is that Luke found the word pais as used by Matthew to be ambiguous, so he clarified by changing it to doulos. This means, of course, that Luke read Matthew, didn’t like what he found, and changed it.
Which explanation is more convincing? Each reader must decide that for her/himself. I find the second more convincing because it is bolstered by another aspect of this story. The moral of this anecdote is that pagans had faith that the children of Israel did not. Such a moral brings the question of content into the discussion; or, at least, it should raise the question of content, but the topic never arises. Is this appropriate to the 30s? Or is it more appropriate to a time well after that, a time in the 70s or 80s? Is it more appropriate to the time of Jesus who preached to Jews well within the confines of Galilee and Judea? Or to a time when the new movement was comprised of more pagans than Jews? Why would Jesus tell a story that praised the faith of the pagans, and disparaged the faith of the children of Israel? This is rarely discussed. Even the non-Q people don’t bring it up. Why not?
Not to worry: I’m not going to address that last question. All I’m going to do is say that the content of the story, along with Luke’s clarification that the sick person was a slave and not a child, provides some pretty good evidence that this story was not found in some mythical document that came from the time of Jesus. Rather, it dated from the decades after Jesus, and probably a decade or two after Paul, when the weight of the movement was pagan and not Jewish. To infer this puts a big crimp in the Q position, which is why it’s never discussed.
1 Cum autem implesset omnia verba sua in aures plebis, intra vit Capharnaum.
2 Centurionis autem cuiusdam servus male habens erat moriturus, qui illi erat pretiosus.
3 ἀκούσας δὲ περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτὸν πρεσβυτέρους τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἐρωτῶν αὐτὸν ὅπως ἐλθὼν διασώσῃ τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ.
4 οἱ δὲ παραγενόμενοι πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν παρεκάλουναὐτὸν σπουδαίως, λέγοντες ὅτι Ἄξιός ἐστιν ᾧ παρέξῃ τοῦτο,
5 ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν.
And hearing about Jesus, he (the centurion) sent to him (Jesus) elders of the Jews, asking him in order that coming he might save his slave. (4) They coming to Jesus they asked him earnestly, saying that he is a worthy man, to whom you will give this, (5) for he loves our people and he built our synagogue.
I really hate to be so pedantic, but the story completely goes off the rails here. It also diverges from Matthew. In that version, the centurion comes in person; there is no intermediary of elders of the Jews. So here is one of those situations where Luke preserves the more primitive version, except when he doesn’t. And this has to be one of those exceptions. Doesn’t it? So how to explain that? And if Luke is adding stuff to Q, where else is he adding stuff? But aside from that, why does Luke feel compelled to add this bit? Once he has done so, of course, the rest makes sense. Luke wants to make the case that the centurion had done good deeds for the Jews.
So is that the reason for adding this whole section? To show how the pagans were pretty good people even before they began to follow Jesus? I think so. After all, that is largely what these verses do: show that the man was already well on his way, that he had the proper attitude, that even pagans had the sense to turn to the True God of Israel even before the coming of Jesus, so this man–and others like him–had truly warranted entrance into the kingdom. This is, in other words, an intensifier, making the claim of pagans to be legitimate members of the followers of Jesus. In some ways, the centurion is a leader, for he is the one who built the synagogue. And note that he has the capacity to have the elders go and speak on his behalf. This is important for what comes next.
3 Et cum audisset de Iesu, misit ad eum seniores Iudaeorum rogans eum, ut veniret et salvaret servum eius.
4 At illi cum venissent ad Iesum, rogabant eum sollicite dicentes: “Dignus est, ut hoc illi praestes:
5 diligit enim gentem nostram et synagogam ipse aedificavit nobis”.
6 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐπορεύετο σὺν αὐτοῖς. ἤδη δὲ αὐτοῦ οὐ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκίας ἔπεμψεν φίλους ὁ ἑκατοντάρχης λέγων αὐτῷ, Κύριε, μὴ σκύλλου, οὐ γὰρ ἱκανός εἰμι ἵνα ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην μου εἰσέλθῃς:
7 διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν: ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου.
And Jesus went with them. Indeed he was not far from the house of him the centurion sent friends saying to him (Jesus), “Lord, do not trouble, for I am not worthy in order under my roof that you should come. (7) On which account (I am) not worthy to come to you. But say the word, and healed shall be my boy.
What do we make of this? Suddenly the sick one is “my child/boy” (pais) rather than “slave”. What this implies, I believe, is that pais is the original term used, which Luke changed to slave in the first couple of verses before reverting to the original word here. The question then is what the significance of this change is. Is this a case of the famous “editorial fatigue”, wherein the second writer gets so worn out by trying to change the original that the editor just sort of collapses and reverts to the original. I do not, or perhaps should not, really belittle this phenomenon, because on the whole it seems to support the non-Q position. This is true because it’s usually Luke who does the reverting, just as he’s done here. Honestly, though, all it proves is that pais was the original term, but there is no real evidence that it appeared originally in Matthew or in Q. The only thing is, if Matthew is the original term, then that doesn’t help the contention that Luke preserves the more primitive version of Q. How are we to take the apparent reversal of roles here? That Luke is the more primitive, except when he’s not? The lack of consistency is rather detrimental to the Q position.
6 Iesus autem ibat cum illis. At cum iam non longe esset a domo, misit centurio amicos dicens ei: “Domine, noli vexari; non enim dignus sum, ut sub tectum meum intres,
7 propter quod et meipsum non sum dignum arbitratus, ut venirem ad te; sed dic verbo, et sanetur puer meus.
8 καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπός εἰμι ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν τασσόμενος, ἔχων ὑπ’ ἐμαυτὸν στρατιώτας, καὶλέγω τούτῳ, Πορεύθητι, καὶ πορεύεται, καὶ ἄλλῳ, Ἔρχου, καὶ ἔρχεται, καὶ τῷ δούλῳ μου, Ποίησον τοῦτο, καὶ ποιεῖ.
9 ἀκούσας δὲταῦτα ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐθαύμασεν αὐτόν, καὶ στραφεὶς τῷ ἀκολουθοῦντι αὐτῷ ὄχλῳ εἶπεν, Λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ τοσαύτηνπίστιν εὗρον.
10 καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες εἰς τὸν οἶκον οἱ πεμφθέντες εὗρον τὸν δοῦλον ὑγιαίνοντα.
“For also I am a man arranged under power (as in a hierarchy), and having under me soldiers, and I say to that one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this’, and he does it.” (9) Having heard these things Jesus marveled (at) him, and he turned to the listening crowd he said, “I say to you, never in Israel this sort of faith have I found.” (10) And turning around to the house, those having been sent found the slave having been healed.
There is no real novelty in these last verses as Jesus delivers the punchline. Regardless, the message is clearly that the pagans are to be compared favourably to the scions of Israel. Why is this? I mean that as, why is this story here? There are, perhaps, a handful of stories in these first gospels where Jesus interacts with non-Jews. The one that comes to mind in Mark is the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite, per Matthew) woman at the well. In Mark, Jesus tells her that it is not proper to take bread meant for the children and give it to the dogs. And in Matthew, Jesus tells her that he has not come for the pagans, but for the lost sheep of Israel. IOW, go pound sand. Luke, interestingly, omits that story completely. And after checking, it appears that Mark has only that one story of Jesus interacting with pagans. Indeed, Paul pretty much confirms that Jesus did not, since he had to break new ground in his efforts to convert pagans. So that story of Mark is likely a later addition; it may have been in the original version of Mark, but it likely was scripted after much of the other material having been thought up as pagans began to be much more important to the various communities. In addition to that story, Matthew adds this one. Here, not only is the man a pagan, he’s a Roman soldier, and an important one. He wasn’t necessarily an ethnic Roman, for by this point many subject peoples had joined the army, often as a method of obtaining Roman citizenship upon discharge, or death; in either case the soldiers’ children would be Roman citizens, and this conferred important benefits. Recall that, having been arrested, Paul was treated differently after he said, cives Romanus sum, “I am a Roman citizen”.
The point is, this story marked an increased marketing effort to a wider, pagan audience. This opening up had not occurred until the later 70s, too late for Mark to include it. As such, the timing is way off for this to have been part of Q. Or, to say that it was part of Q is to dilute the content of Q down to virtual insignificance. If it included stuff from the mid-70s–or later–then the whole point of Q is lost. This story did not trace back to Mark, let alone Jesus. It’s clear from Galatians that Paul was breaking new ground. Yes, of course it’s possible that this occurred during Jesus’ life, but a lot of things are possible. Just because it’s possible doesn’t make it true. Off the top of my head, I would think that this barely has a 10% chance of dating back to Jesus, and I think 10% is being extremely generous. More realistic would be 5%, or really even less. Against that, I would say that there is at least a 60% chance that Luke got this from Matthew. The giveaway, I think, is the “correction” of pais. Or, more generously, we could say that Luke clarified the word, and then slipped back to the original once the point was made. Call it editorial fatigue if you like; to my mind, it seems more a case that Luke wasn’t concerned after he had made his point that the person healed was a slave.
8 Nam et ego homo sum sub potestate constitutus, habens sub me milites, et dico huic: “Vade”, et vadit; et alii: “Veni”, et venit; et servo meo: “Fac hoc”, et facit ”.
9 Quo audito, Iesus miratus est eum et conversus sequentibus se turbis dixit: “ Dico vobis, nec in Israel tantam fidem inveni! ”.
10 Et reversi, qui missi fuerant, domum, invenerunt servum sanum.
Supposedly, this chapter is about Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, which takes up nearly the entire chapter. In actual fact, however, the theme of this chapter is Q. So much of the Q debate is taken up by the sheer brilliance of the Sermon on the Mount, that we are forced to compare Luke’s Sermon on the Plain to that other masterpiece. It has been decreed that this version of the Q material preserves a more primitive version of Q, and that this version is decidedly inferior. Those statements are not to be gainsaid if one wishes to be included in polite company of NT scholars. Well, the problem is that I’m not an NT scholar (or, I suppose, a scholar of any sort, except maybe a wannabe…), so I’ll likely never be invited into polite company, anyway, so I can throw a few bricks, or, with luck, start a food fight. It’s time we talked about the content of the two gospels.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Matthew says they went up the mountain. Luke says they went up the mountain, but came back down, and then he stresses that he began speaking on a plain. Luke does not sort of drift off, leaving it vague; he very specifically says “a level place”. So which is the original? Remember, Luke supposedly preserves the more primitive version of Q, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Oh, right, alternating primitivity. Either way, if this came from Q, Luke had to decide to bring Jesus down from the mountain and stand in a level place. Why does he do this? Why not leave him on the mountain? Or did Luke make the change exactly because Matthew had Jesus on the mountain? Is this the emergence of the puckish humor of Luke? That he’s sort of tweaking Matthew a bit? We mentioned that in the penultimate section, in which Luke launched into a stream of unusual words that are not found in Matthew, and very few other places as far as that goes.
But there’s even a more basic question. The Gospel of Thomas is a sayings gospel. Its discovery was hailed as a vindication of the Q thesis, demonstrating that sayings gospels were, indeed, written. Since it was a sayings gospel, it was immediately declared to be very early, tracing back to Jesus himself (perhaps), and proving that Q could exist, which basically meant Thomas was taken to prove that Q did exist. But Thomas has one striking dissimilarity to Q, as reconstructed. Thomas has no physical descriptions of place or action. Pretty much everything starts with “Jesus said…” And yet, the reconstructed Q is full of all sorts of physical descriptions and settings in place such as the “up/down the mountain”. Thomas does not have stuff from the Baptist. It doesn’t talk about centurions. It is, truly, what we would expect of a “sayings” gospel. Reconstructed Q, on the other hand, simply is not. There is stuff from the Baptist, and physical description. And there is so much of this that those doing the reconstructing were more or less forced to say that it all came from Q. Otherwise, how to explain the overlaps? It’s impossible to do so without either putting this extraneous stuff in Q, or admitting that Luke read Matthew. Since the latter has to be rejected on ideological grounds, the former is the only choice.
The upshot, right from the start, we have a pretty good indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew. He was aware that Matthew’s sermon was on a mountain, so Luke put his on a level place. Why? The Q people say I have to explain every deviation from Matthew in a manner that is supported by a consistent editorial attitude. So I posit mine to be puckish humor. That suggestion comes with a guarantee of originality, that you will not find that in the, ahem, serious literature. And I don’t mean to be flippant or facetious. My suggestion is entirely serious, if only to show the range of interpretation that is possible in these situations. “Deadly serious” is not the only setting for discussion, just because it’s the default setting. I’m going to continue to look for this humourous edge throughout the gospel. Let’s see how that stands up to scrutiny.
So Matthew has the primitive “up the mountain”, but Luke has the primitive version of the first Beatitude. Matthew’s poor are poor in spirit; Luke’s are just poor. This is not a matter of primitive vs developed. It’s a situation in which each evangelist is saying a very different thing. Puckish humor again? Perhaps a bit more wry this time, with a bit of an edge. “Poor in spirit” is all very fine and good, but what about those who are just poor? And not only do they hunger and thirst for justice, they’re just damn hungry. Yes, this is more primitive, if by that you mean the more pointedly addressing fundamental needs. Why do they hunger for justice? Because they’re poor, really poor, and not just “poor in spirit”. Being poor in spirit almost implies that they are not poor in actuality, that we are not discussing physical privation, but sort of a moral discomfort. So yes, it is quite easy to say that Luke is more primitive, but he’s also more righteous.
There is one more aspect of “primitivity” that sorely needs to be addressed. The idea that one version or the other is more primitive completely begs the question. It assumes that there is a total of three versions; one is original, and the other two are derivative. Ergo, one of the derivatives is more primitive than the other. But if there is no third version, to say that Matthew or Luke is more primitive becomes meaningless. In all cases, Matthew is the more “primitive” because it was written most of a generation earlier. So discussing primitivity is meaningless absent Q; discussing primitivity assumes the existence of Q, which is what we’re trying to determine, whether Q existed or not. By shifting the battleground to discussions of primitivity, the Q people have already won the debate since we’re now taking Q as given. This is admittedly deft rhetoric, but it’s also bad logic.
There’s another aspect of Q that never gets discussed. This has to do with the actual content of the sayings. Do they truly seem appropriate to the time in which they were, supposedly, uttered? Or do they make more sense to a later time and place? If the latter, what does that do to the idea of Q? Especially if these anachronisms are repeated in both Matthew and Luke? That really puts a crimp into the supporting pillars of the Q position. I keep coming back to what Q is supposed to be: a collection of sayings that predate Mark and presumably Paul and trace back to Jesus, usually by way of one of his close associates. The list of eligible associates is probably limited to Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee. They perhaps did not write the sayings themselves, but they remembered them and dictated them to a scribe. From this list we can strike Peter, because he was John Mark’s source for the first gospel to be written. According to church tradition, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark, the associate of Paul. Mark went to Rome and became part of Peter’s community, and Peter provided the information for Mark’s gospel. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Mark’s gospel does not include any of the so-called Q material. This means one of several things, the most likely of which is that the entire tradition is a later fabrication. Either John Mark was not Mark the Evangelist, or Peter never went to Rome or whatever, but wherever Mark got his material for the gospel, it likely did not come from an eyewitness to Jesus because the source, or sources, were completely ignorant of most of the really important stuff that Jesus said. This ignorance, in turn, is predicated on the data that Q existed and that it is an accurate record of what Jesus actually said. The result is that there is a gaping hole in the explanation provided; it then becomes a question of figuring out the most likely location of that hole.
This leaves us with a couple of choices: either Mark’s gospel did not derive from an eyewitness account, or Jesus didn’t say the things in Q. There are others, such as that Mark chose not to include Jesus’ teachings; however, that strikes me as a bit unlikely. Why on earth would Mark’s source not tell Mark what Jesus taught, or why would Mark deliberately choose to leave this stuff out of the gospel? I would really like to hear someone try to explain that one.
Another consideration is whether the things Q says Jesus said make sense for Jesus’ time. We touched on this in the commentary, in verses 22 & 23, in which they are blessed who are reviled for Jesus’ sake. These seem to be references to some sort of “persecution” of the followers of Jesus. As pointed out, there is no indication in any of the gospel accounts that Jesus or his followers really suffered any kind of persecution during his lifetime. Yes, we have the account of Paul, but that came later. So we are faced with the situation in which something that Jesus said is likely due to circumstances that only came about after Jesus’ death. And we know that Jesus said this because it’s part of the Q material, and we know that it’s part of the Q material because it’s included in both Matthew and Luke. But if it is unlikely that Jesus said this, that makes the Q hypothesis rather untenable because it, apparently, includes material from after the time of Jesus’ death.
Which leads us to one of the more annoying aspects of the Q hypothesis. In order to cover some of these embarrassing moments, it is posited that Q exists in strata, in layers, that accumulated through time. The implication of this is that some of the material obviously does not trace back to Jesus. This is an eminently convenient suggestion, because it means that Q can include whatever those reconstructing it say it includes. In this way it has all sorts of stuff that a true sayings gospel does not have. We also mentioned this in the commentary: Thomas is a true sayings gospel. Virtually all the passages begin with “Jesus said”. This is how a true sayings gospel should be set up. Much of the hullaballoo about Thomas was that it vindicated the Q theory by being a sayings gospel. Well, Q is not a true sayings gospel. It includes too much extraneous information about John the Baptist, the set-up for the Centurion’s son/servant, the setting of Jesus going up the mountain. All this points to a Q thesis that is not internally consistent, which makes the construction of the entire story suspect.
The point of all this is simple. When the Q debate is taken from the safe environs the Q people have created for it, the conclusions are not nearly so secure. The implication of this is that a legitimate Q debate needs to happen.
There’s no way this section isn’t going to be short. We have a total of four verses. Of course, this is another story allegedly from Q, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount vs Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, so there will likely be some back-and-forth on that. Who knows what will turn up? So, without any further ado, let’s proceed to the
46 Τί δέ με καλεῖτε, Κύριε κύριε, καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε ἃ λέγω;
47 πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με καὶ ἀκούων μου τῶν λόγων καὶ ποιῶν αὐτούς, ὑποδείξω ὑμῖν τίνι ἐστὶν ὅμοιος:
48 ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομοῦντι οἰκίαν ὃς ἔσκαψεν καὶ ἐβάθυνεν καὶ ἔθηκεν θεμέλιον ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν: πλημμύρης δὲ γενομένης προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμὸς τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν σαλεῦσαι αὐτὴν διὰ τὸ καλῶς οἰκοδομῆσθαι αὐτήν.
49 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας καὶ μὴ ποιήσας ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομήσαντι οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν χωρὶς θεμελίου, ἧ προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμός, καὶ εὐθὺς συνέπεσεν, καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ ῥῆγμα τῆς οἰκίας ἐκείνης μέγα.
“And why does someone call me, “Lord, lord,” and not do what I say? (47) All coming towards me and hearing the words of me and doing them, I will show you someone the same as this: (48) he is like unto a person building a home who dug and went deep and placed the foundation upon the rock. There became a flood the river beat that house, and not strong to shake it on account of the beautiful building of it. (49) And the one hearing is not like the man building his house upon the land without a foundation, which the river battered and immediately it collapsed, and it became a great ruin of that house.”
First of all, Luke is really going to town on the unusual vocabulary. About a half-dozen of the words in here occur in Luke and nowhere else in the NT. Recall how a few verses back we got the bit about lending at interest, which Matthew used but once while Luke jammed it in three times in two verses. Here, we had Luke slavishly following the verbiage of, ahem, Matthew–I mean Q–in the story of the good and bad trees, only then to cut loose and let fly with barrage of fairly obscure words, to the point that there is very little overlap of vocabulary between Luke’s version and Matthew’s. What do we make of that? Is it me? Am I the only one who sees a bit of puckish humour in Luke’s approach here? Given the enormous creative ability of Luke as an author–the author of The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, etc–and Luke’s obvious depth of Greek vocabulary, would we not expect him to come up with more stories like this one, in which he does not follow the letter of Q so closely? This proves beyond doubt that he had the capability, so why didn’t he do it more often? I don’t know the answer to that; nor do I fully understand whether the number of times Luke adheres to “Q” (by which I mean Matthew) vs the number of times he doesn’t supports or undercuts my dismissal of Q. No doubt a decent rhetorician could make the case either way. Heck, if I thought about it, I could probably argue it either way.
And again, either the previous example or this one could easily be written off, but do not the two of them together add up to something a bit more? That’s a very difficult question, but it’s one I would like to see discussed in the context of the pro/con arguments for Q. And it’s exactly the sort of thing that we do not see in the literature, and more’s the pity.
46 Quid autem vocatis me: “Domine, Domine”, et non facitis, quae dico?
47 Omnis, qui venit ad me et audit sermones meos et facit eos, ostendam vobis cui similis sit:
48 similis est homini aedificanti domum, qui fodit in altum et posuit fundamentum supra petram; inundatione autem facta, illisum est flumen domui illi et non potuit eam movere; bene enim aedificata erat.
49 Qui autem audivit et non fecit, similis est homini aedificanti domum suam supra terram sine fundamento; in quam illisus est fluvius, et continuo cecidit, et facta est ruina domus illius magna ”.
The last two sections of the chapter will be fairly short, especially since I got all the commentary on Verse 39 out of the way. I think the quick hitters are probably easier to read, especially if something takes me off on a tangent like in the last section. However, the tangents are rather the point; they indicate something of significance. The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the
40 οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον, κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς ἔσται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ.
The student is not over the teacher. All having been prepared will be as his teacher.
I have to confess that I’ve never quite understood this aphorism. Taken either literally, or perhaps to its logical extreme, it means that this is as good as it gets? We can never advance because the teachers we have today will never be surpassed? How does that work? It has me wondering if this isn’t a sideways shot at James the Just, who maybe tried to put on airs as if he were superior to Jesus? I don’t know. I doubt that’s the intent, but it makes very little sense to me. FYI, I resisted the impulse to render this as “All having been mended”; the Greek word is the same one that was used to describe the sons of Zebedee mending their nets when called by Jesus in Matthew. The Latin is “perfectus”, but that means something more on the order of completed, or prepared, than something made perfect as we use the word. Or then, I could just be suffering from hyper-literalness due to reading too much philosophy, where “perfect” has a pretty specific meaning.
40 Non est discipulus super magistrum; perfectus autem omnis erit sicut magister eius.
41 Τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ δοκὸν τὴν ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ ὀφθαλμῷ οὐ κατανοεῖς;
42 πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, Ἀδελφέ, ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου, αὐτὸς τὴν ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ δοκὸν οὐ βλέπων; ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἐκβαλεῖν.
“Who sees the small, dry particle in the eye of his brother, but the bearing-beam in his own eye he does not perceive? (42) How can he say to his brother, ‘Brother, begone, cast away the bearing-beam, the one in your eye’, while he that bearing-beam in his own eye not seeing? Hypocrite, cast away first the bearing-beam from your own eye, and then stare with wide eyes to cast out the bearing-beam in the eye of your brother.
Here again, we have another instance of an unusual word. “Diablepō” means something like “stare with wide open eyes” in Classical Greek, and I’ve rendered it so here. It’s most often given as “see clearly” in this context. Matthew and Luke both use the exact same word in this exact context, and nowhere else. Mark uses it once in a different context, and L&S provide a handful of Classical cites. By this point I don’t need to point out the significance; however, I will say that each one of these diminishes the likelihood of Q. What is the probability that two different authors will choose to use the exact same word on so many occasions? That probability seems to be decreasing. Of course, why would Luke copy Matthew verbatim? That question is unanswerable, and no amount of redactionist explanation (or whatever the “proper” term is) can provide an answer to satisfy everyone. The question comes down to whether two different authors are more likely to choose to follow a common text in a half-dozen (more or less, but we’re also still counting) times, or whether it’s more likely that one author followed another. Each time two choices are involved, the probability is cut at least in half. Luke using Matthew’s words, OTOH, only requires a single choice in each instance. We haven’t gotten into editorial fatigue yet, but to continue to come up with a word different from Matthew each time seems like it could easily induce editorial fatigue. But that’s another question.
41 Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris tui, trabem autem, quae in oculo tuo est, non consideras?
42 Quomodo potes dicere fratri tuo: “Frater, sine eiciam festucam, quae est in oculo tuo”, ipse in oculo tuo trabem non videns? Hypocrita, eice primum trabem de oculo tuo et tunc perspicies, ut educas festucam, quae est in oculo fratris tui.
43 Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν.
44 ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ ἰδίου καρποῦ γινώσκεται: οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἀκανθῶν συλλέγουσιν σῦκα, οὐδὲ ἐκ βάτου σταφυλὴν τρυγῶσιν.
45 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ προφέρει τὸ πονηρόν: ἐκ γὰρ περισσεύματος καρδίας λαλεῖ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.
For a good tree does not make rotten fruit, nor again does a rotten tree make good fruit. (44) For each tree is known from the individual fruit; for from an acanthus spinus they do not collect figs, nor from a bramble do they gather grapes. (45) The good person from the treasure of goodness of the heart brings forth good, and the wicked from their wickedness brings forth wickedness. For from the abundance of their heart speaks his/her tongue.
The question is whether this represents an improvement, a diminution, or something neutral in relation to Matthew’s version of the tale. There is enough verbatim overlap that it’s pretty apparent that both are getting the wording from the same source. Of course, that means we have to decide if they are both getting it from a third source, or if Luke is paraphrasing Matthew. But since Matthew’s handling of the Q material is masterful then the question is settled. Correct? So the Q people will tell you. The interesting thing about Matthew’s version is that there are, essentially, two versions of this extended metaphor set out in “by their fruits ye shall know them”. The first comes in Matthew’s Chapter 7, which is smack in the middle of the (masterful) Sermon on the Mount. The second occurs later, in Chapter 12:33 & c. Now, here’s another question. Matthew repeats himself. Does that mean that he got the stuff from another source, forgot that he’d already used it, and so used it again, then never went back and read the whole of his work to see the flow, or failed to realize he’d used it twice. And it’s not just the “by their fruits”; he also repeats the “brood of vipers” injunction, also in this same section of Chapter 12. So did Matthew forget? Or did he just like it so much that he used it twice, even at the cost of being redundant? And if he realized he was being redundant, was he more apt to do this because he thought that the stuff in Q was absolute dynamite, or was he so impressed with his own creativity that he wanted to work it in the second time? Personally, I have often found that writers tend to be on the vain side, especially when it comes to stuff they’ve created. So we know where I fall on this last question.
But there is another aspect of this to consider. Luke’s version here actually has elements of both these sections of Matthew. The basic bit about “by their fruits” comes, as I said, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, and appears here in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. (That’s a coincidence? Really?) Both refer to the acanthus spina, which is a species of acanthus with spines; i.e., thorns, which is how KJV renders it. Matthew says that one does not find grapes among acanthus, while here Luke says it’s figs. Much of the verbiage is very, very close, with the “kalon” and “agathon”, and both use “sullegein” as the word for “to gather”. This is not terribly unusual, but it’s not the first word I think of when thinking of a verb for “to gather”. So that’s all very interesting. What makes it remarkable is that Matthew throws the part about the “treasure of good” into Chapter 12. IOW, Luke combined what are two passages in Matthew. Now, it appears that most of the reconstructions of Q see these two as sections of a single whole; that is, the scholars doing the reconstructing agree with Luke’s version. Of course, part of the reason they do that is because Luke supposedly preserves the more “primitive” version of Q. So let’s ask the question: does Luke’s version here seem more primitive? I suppose that depends on your definition of the word. If by “primitive” one means “less redundant”, then I would agree with the assessment. Is Matthew’s version more “masterful”? That is a more difficult question. What it comes down to is that, given Q, Matthew had to make a conscious decision to split the two sections into two parts. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Personally, I prefer Luke’s method, but that is, one imagines, a personal choice. The point being that either Matthew chose to split the two or to repeat himself, and both of these choices seem, to my mind, less than ideal.
So masterful? Not really. And this does matter as a question beyond mere personal taste or literary preference. So very much of the (ahem) “argument” for Q rests on Matthew’s “masterful” handling of the Q material. If than handling was, perhaps, not so masterful, then much of the “argument” (sic) collapses.
43 Non est enim arbor bona faciens fructum malum, neque iterum arbor mala faciens fructum bonum.
44 Unaquaeque enim arbor de fructu suo cognoscitur; neque enim de spinis colligunt ficus, neque de rubo vindemiant uvam.
45 Bonus homo de bono thesauro cordis profert bonum, et malus homo de malo profert malum: ex abundantia enim cordis os eius loquitur.
When setting this section up, I had no intention of making this single verse a stand-alone post. However, the commentary on this ran rather long, so I made the radical decision to put this one out there all by its lonesome. Hope it works for you all.
The last The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with an admonition not to judge. We start with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the
39 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς: Μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; οὐχὶ ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον ἐμπεσοῦνται;
And he also told a parable ( lit =throwing-beside) to them. Are the blind at all able to lead the blind? Would not both fall into a pit?
These two short sentences present three vocabulary issues. The first is “parable”. This is another of those words that has an absolutely specific meaning in English, whereas in Greek it was nothing special. If you break down the components (para-bole), you get a “throw beside”. More figuratively, it basically means “analogy” or even “metaphor”. We have come to regard parables as class of literary output, along with fables. Both are stories that have a homely exterior yet which contain a lesson. In fact, in this instance, the “blind leading the blind” would be better served by translating the word as “metaphor”. There really is no story, even though there is a lesson. I’ve been leaving this as parable for the duration so far, without really giving it much thought. A great example of the buried assumption. Time to dig it up and look at it.
But the real value of this verse are two other words. They are the ones translated as “lead” and “pit”. The first is a very unusual word; the Great Scott (Liddell & Scott, unabridged; as opposed to the Middle Liddell, the abridged version) provides barely a half-dozen cites of the word. The standard word for “to lead” is “agō”. But that’s not even the truly remarkable word. That is “pit”. What makes this stand out is that the word here, “bothunos” is not even a standard Greek word. The L&S does not even provide a definition. Rather, the reader of L&S is presented with a cross-reference to “bothros”. And even this “standard” is barely used, with about as many cites as the word for “to lead”. And to underscore, both Matthew and Luke use both these words in exactly the same context, with the metaphor of the blind leading the blind, and both falling into the pit.
What does this mean? I think that, without reservation, we can conclude that Luke read both of these words. And more, we can conclude one of two possibilities. Either 1) They both found the words in Q; or 2) Luke got them both from Matthew. This takes us back to the discussion we had in the previous section about the word for “lending at interest”. What is Q supposed to be? A writing-down of the sayings of Jesus. More, it’s supposed to be a very early recording, dating back no later than the early 40s, shortly after Jesus’ death. And one more: Q was also written by an early follower of Jesus, one who was an eyewitness, one who heard these utterances from Jesus with his own ears. Absent any of these three conditions, and the degree of the probability of authenticity plummets. Remember, Q is all about having an unbroken source that traces directly back to Jesus. If it’s not that, if the provenance cannot be determined, then much of the value of Q evaporates. Oh, sure, it’s still interesting, but if the stuff got into Matthew and Luke, then how interesting is it, unless it can be posited that the words recorded trace directly back to Jesus himself?
Now, who were the early followers of Jesus? Those who would have heard him speak? To have been a witness to the entire story, it would have to have been Peter, James, John, or Andrew. These men, by the words of the texts themselves, were fishermen. Perhaps they could read and/or write a little Greek, but to come up with really and truly obscure words like the three we’ve come across in the last few verses staggers the imagination. None of them are even remotely likely to have been erudite enough to come up with the vocabulary here. And there is more; I’ve only just begun to collect these, but there were others before. So, maybe Matthew Levi? As a tax collector, he was more likely to have been better versed in Greek than his more humble fellows. I admit the possibility. But Matthew Levi was not there for the whole story. He missed part. Sure, he could have been filled in by the others, or maybe Jesus had a fairly standard stump speech and repeated things. But note that this adds an additional layer of complexity to the story; each layer decreases the likelihood of the suggested chain of events. Each layer presents another place where the chain has a weak link. The other possibility is that one of the early disciples dictated the sayings to someone well versed in Greek. After all, this is what Paul did. In antiquity, persons of importance had a secretary or amanuensis, to do this. Julius Caesar is said to have been flanked by two such secretaries as he went about his business. He dictated to both of them alternatively, saying something to one, then while that secretary wrote down the words, he’d give the other a sentence for a different letter. But think about this. If this dictation were done early, who were Jesus’ followers? Remember, we’re talking about the very early days, possibly even before Paul began his career. So these followers would have been Jews, from the general area of Galilee, Judea, and possibly Tyre or Sidon or the Dekapolis. Would the secretary, presumably very well versed in Greek, have seen fit to write down what Jesus said in words that the audience would not have known? Would I be generally understood if I used the word “obfuscate” to an audience with a minimal level of education?
And it’s not like we don’t have evidence of this. Paul provides it. In Galatians, he very clearly describes the clash of cultures when he, obviously for the first time, begins to bring significant numbers of pagans into the fold, creating the questions that divided him and James and left Peter/Cephas sort of stuck in the middle, depending on whether he was dining with pagans or under the watchful eye of James. So we are safe again to conclude that Q was not written in Greek for the first several decades of its alleged existence.
But moving the translation back several decades does not solve the problem, not really. You are still left with the question of why the translator chose such non-normal words, even at a later date. Does it not make more sense to suppose that the unusual words were chosen by someone who had been raised in a Greek-predominant milieu, who read the LXX in Greek rather than Hebrew, who was familiar with the pagan world, and was quite likely a pagan himself chose the words? And then another Greek-speaker saw them, repeated them, and then sort of riffed on the “lending at interest” by repeating it two additional times?
Once again, it’s very important to appreciate that I am not presenting a smoking gun. Nor is a smoking gun ever likely to be found. It’s a question of probability. And it’s also a question of why haven’t these points been raised before? Why is the whole argument over Q predicated on explaining why Luke would deface the “masterful” arrangement of the Q material as presented by Matthew? That’s not an argument. It’s quibbling over stylistic preferences. It’s time we made the Q proponents actually defend their thesis. They’ve had a free ride long enough.
39 Dixit autem illis et similitudinem: “ Numquid potest caecus caecum ducere? Nonne ambo in foveam cadent?
The Sermon on the Plain continues. Here we get some sense of the collected aspect of the sayings as we rather move from one topic to another without too much (if any) connecting verbiage. With that brief intro, let’s move onto the
31 καὶ καθὼς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως.
32 καὶ εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶσιν.
33 καὶ [γὰρ] ἐὰν ἀγαθοποιῆτε τοὺς ἀγαθοποιοῦντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν.
“And as you wish people might do to you, do to them equally. (32) For if you love those loving you, how is this favour to you? For also the sinners those loving them love. (33) For also if you do good to those doing good to you, how is this a favour to you? Also the sinners do the same.
Here is an expanded version of the Golden Rule accompanied by somethixjung that doesn’t quite say love your enemies. That is certainly the implication, but that is not, explicitly, what Luke says here. Matthew said it. So the question is, does Luke represent a more “primitive” version of the saying? One that hadn’t quite evolved to “love your enemy”, but rather was still on “loving those who don’t love you”? Of course, if you choose to argue that, it becomes necessary to provide a convincing reason to prove, or at least explain, why “enemy” is more evolved, more of a complex thought, than what Luke has. And against whatever argument for the more primitive nature of Luke, I would contend exactly the opposite: that “enemy” is the more primitive, less developed, form of the statement. Why? “Enemy” is very obvious, setting up a very facile and overly sharp, overly distinct dichotomy. It’s very black-and-white. And it’s also much, much narrower. Think about it: how may enemies do you have? If you can get to a handful, then perhaps you’re a super heroine who has collected them by ending their lawless ways and bringing them to justice. Most of us, OTOH, have a few people that we actively dislike, and maybe we’d find ways to sabotage some of their efforts, but let’s be real. “Enemies” are few and far between. But the world is chock-a-block full of people we don’t love. The dude who cut you off on the road this morning, or the rude person in the queue ahead of you who holds up the line with a myriad of petty demands. Or just the people you see that you don’t know, and that you never will know. Do you hate them? No. Are they enemies? No. Do you love them? No. Your attitude is one of general indifference. How far would you extend yourself for them? Do you let them into your traffic lane, or do you pull ahead to cut them off? Those are the people we’re discussing. You don’t love them, they don’t love you, and you’re both fine with the arrangement. Commanding us to love them is a much more demanding task because we have to see the humanity in each and every one of them. The odd thing is that people will very often do heroic things for a complete stranger: pull them off a subway line, jump into the water to save someone drowning, that sort of thing. But a small act of kindness that recognizes their humanity? Dang, that’s tough. So no, this is not the more primitive version of “love your enemy”. Quite the opposite, and far from it in fact.
That is one very significant aspect of this, but there is another. In the expression <<ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν >>, note the bolded word which transliterates to “charis”. This is the root of both “charity” and “eucharist”. It is almost always translated into Latin as “gratia”, and so has come into English as “grace”. “The grace of God”. “Prevenient grace”. “Saving grace”. “Amazing grace”. Can one come up with a more thoroughly Christian concept than that of grace? There are a few, but not many. Well, here’s the thing: this word does not appear in either Mark or Matthew. I found that so hard to believe that I had to check Strong’s words. That wasn’t enough so I went back to the Vulgate to search for “gratia” in 2M. I found the latter, but almost always in the context of “giving thanks”, such as what Jesus did before breaking the bread to feed the 5,000 and then the 4,000. This is not the first time Luke has used it, but it didn’t strike me as unusual the first couple of times, so I didn’t look into it.
What does this imply? First, let’s be clear that Paul uses the word a number of times in the works we’ve read, but it’s not all that common, either. This is more than a bit surprising given the centrality of the concept to the later Christian doctrine of salvation. But for our purposes, that’s not the issue. Rather, how and why did the term and the concept surface in Paul’s work and then go dormant until Luke? This indicates, I think, that the earlier evangelists were not aware of his works, that Paul’s works only spread across the Christian milieu after Matthew and Mark had written. Why? At first glance, or my first thought is to consider what this means for the foci of Christian teaching. We know that Paul’s work was spread out, scattered across a number of communities, but that Mark–and I would argue Matthew–were more concentrated. By this I mean that Mark spread among the same communities that Matthew and Luke belonged to, so that both certainly were aware of Mark, and Luke was most likely aware of Matthew. Given that Luke was also aware of Paul, I’m not sure how you construct a scenario in which Luke was not also aware of Matthew. The inclusion of Paul into the corpus of writing indicates a fusion and a merging of the various Christian traditions. That Paul is added when it was unknown to 2M makes a pretty strong case for this. And, of course, this makes it harder to argue that, somehow, Luke got ahold of both Mark and Paul, but not Matthew. There we have to ask ourselves how that worked? What sort of circumstances would allow that to happen? It means a lack of communication among the communities that read Matthew and those that produced Luke.
Given Acts, Luke knew of Paul’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean; this argues against a situation in which Luke, writing in, say, Rome, knew about Mark–who also supposedly wrote in Rome, even though there is no evidence for this–and knew about Paul from Romans. That’s not enough to provide the basis for Acts. Luke would also have to have known at least of the letters to the Ephesians and the Corinthians–and likely others–since Acts recounts of Paul’s exploits in both those cities. That Luke knew of these exploits implies that he likely knew of the existence of those communities, and by extension, of the letters written to those communities. And if he knew about the (admittedly) Deutero-Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians, is it really conceivable that he somehow missed Matthew? Well, yes, it’s conceivable, but is that really likely? There I’m not so sure. It seems much more conceivable that he was the first to be aware of most, if not all, of what became the orthodox Christian corpus. He may not have been aware of some of the other letters of Paul; although I’m hard pressed to name which one of the Certain Seven he would have missed. Philippians? Maybe, but Acts does recount Paul’s activities there. 1 Thessalonians? Less likely, given the passage about Jesus coming down from the clouds and it’s similarity to Luke’s story of the Ascension. Deutero-Paul letters, like 1 & 2 Timothy, don’t count because they likely had not been written yet.
So couple all these scenarios together with their un/likelihood, it becomes increasingly difficult to suggest that, somehow, Luke missed Matthew. The only likely scenario for that is that Matthew, having supposedly been written in Antioch, remained local while Luke was writing in Greece, or one of the cities of Asia Minor. But then we’re supposed to believe that Matthew remained local while Q circulated widely. IOW, that people familiar with Matthew, and his masterful arrangement of the Q material, didn’t share Matthew as a means of superseding the need for Q. Because remember that Mark was every bit as redundant as Q would have been, and Mark survived while the sayings of Jesus himself were allowed to perish. Then if we add in the internal evidence of the way Luke treats stuff in Matthew, the quirks that I’ve been pointing out and the ideas of the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the name of Joseph, etc., the case for Q becomes really suspect. None of those other ideas were in Q; where did they come from if not Matthew?
31 Et prout vultis, ut faciant vobis homines, facite illis similiter.
32 Et si diligitis eos, qui vos diligunt, quae vobis est gratia? Nam et peccatores diligentes se diligunt.
33 Et si bene feceritis his, qui vobis bene faciunt, quae vobis est gratia? Si quidem et peccatores idem faciunt.
34 καὶ ἐὰν δανίσητε παρ’ ὧν ἐλπίζετε λαβεῖν, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις [ἐστίν]; καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἁμαρτωλοῖς δανίζουσιν ἵνα ἀπολάβωσιν τὰ ἴσα.
35 πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες: καὶ ἔσται ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου, ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς.
“And if you lend at interest from whom you hope to take, how is this thanks to you? Also those sinning to sinners lend at interest in order to take back the same. (35) Except love your enemies and do good and lend without expecting anything in return; and let it be the most reward, and be sons of the most high, that he himself is good upon the unblessed and wicked.
Well, there is the admonition to love your enemies. This does not reflect upon the Q question directly, but taken with what I said about this in the previous section, I think the idea that Luke preserves a more primitive version of Q is pretty much risible. Luke’s treatment of this material is, if anything, more sophisticated than what we found in Matthew, at least in my opinion. This, in turn, increases the probability that Luke knew Matthew and improved on what Matthew said. IOW, no Q.
Just a note on the Greek. Note that I’ve translated the word in Verse 34 as “lend at interest”. What is interesting here is that Matthew uses the same word in his version of the story. In my four crib translations (KJV, ESV, NIV, NASB), they all translate the phrase “if you lend to…” However, three of these same four translations render the phrase as “if you give to those who ask from you…”, and the other (ESV) substitutes “beg” for “ask”. Even more interesting, Kloppenborg, the lead editor of the Q Thomas Reader, also chooses the word “beg”, for both Matthew’s and Luke’s versions. This all seems a bit disingenuous on the part of some or all of these translations. In Classical Greek, the word means to “lend at interest”, as in usury. Giving to someone begging is very, even wholly a different thing than lending money at interest. So why is it rendered in Luke as “lend”, but in Matthew as “ask/beg”, and in Kloppenborg as “beg” in both instances? I find this latter the most unsettling, largely because he has made no attempt to retain any of the original sense of the word. At least the translations of Luke I cited do this. And really, it makes no sense to expect a return from someone who’s begging from you, does it? Isn’t that rather the point of giving to someone begging, that you don’t expect return? If they had the wherewithal or resources to pay you back, would they be said to be “begging” in the first place? Really, though, I suppose all four crib translations are no better, rendering the word differently in different places leaves something to be desired as far as consistency is concerned.
The other aspect about this is the frequency of the word. Luke uses it three times, all of them within the confines of these two verses. Matthew uses it once (5:42), within the confines of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s it. It’s used nowhere else in the NT, and Liddell & Scott don’t cite its usage in the NT or the LXX. So, what are we to make of that? It’s not the first time we’ve found that Q used a very unusual word that managed to make it into both Matthew and Luke. I need to make a list of these words. The thing is, Q is supposedly someone writing down all these sayings of Jesus. Was Jesus so fluent in Greek that he knew all of this off-beat vocabulary and tossed it off in full confidence that his follower would catch his drift? Or was the person who wrote the sayings down the fluent speaker of Greek, who also supposed those reading the book would understand all these obscure words? Somehow, neither of these strike me as likely. Much more probable is that someone writing down what Jesus said would tend to a vocabulary and probably a style more like Mark’s: simple, plain, unadorned, most likely translation Greek. Instead, we’re getting all these fancy word in Greek, words that show up in Matthew and Luke’s version of the same story, and nowhere else? And this is why Kloppenborg particularly annoyed me: by re-creating the text of Q to read as “beg” really obscures the original, changing the implications enormously, and gives the impression of a simplicity that did not exist with the original Greek word. Recall that Mark was probably not a native speaker of Greek; likely he read the LXX in Hebrew. We know that Matthew read the LXX in Greek, which is where he got the idea of the virgin giving birth, So the question becomes, who is more likely to have come up with the very unusual word here: an early follower of Jesus, who probably spoke Aramaic but had some knowledge of Greek, or Matthew, who had read the LXX in Greek, and may have been a native speaker? The probability is wholly on the latter choice.
34 Et si mutuum dederitis his, a quibus speratis recipere, quae vobis gratia est? Nam et peccatores peccatoribus fenerantur, ut recipiant aequalia.
35 Verumtamen diligite inimicos vestros et bene facite et mutuum date nihil desperantes; et erit merces vestra multa, et eritis filii Altissimi, quia ipse benignus est super ingratos et malos.
36 Γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες καθὼς [καὶ] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστίν.
37 Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθῆτε: καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε. ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε:
38 δίδοτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: μέτρον καλὸν πεπιεσμένον σεσαλευμένον ὑπερεκχυννόμενον δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν: ᾧ γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτεἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.
“Become merciful, as [also] your father is merciful. (37) And do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn. Destroy, and you will be destroyed. (38) Give, and it will be given to you. They will give the good measure having been pressed, having been shaken, having been poured out, having overflowed in your bosom. For by which measurement (you use, presumably) you will be measured.
Speaking of unusual words, the pressing and the shaking and the outpouring are all words that only occur here. Some I got from the Vulgate, some I pieced together by taking them apart and finding the root under all the prefixes, etc. The bit about the bosom, it can also be used for lap; the thing is, the word transliterates as }”kolpos”, and it’s the root of the word “gulf”; you will find it on maps denoting a gulf, as in Gulf of Mexico. And the Latin is “sinus”, and that also means an empty or hollow area, so decide for yourself if bosom or lap makes more sense.
But truly the odd thing is that, when you put them together, does the sentence make a lot of sense? The NASB gives a pretty good rendition, and it’s not completely divorced from the Greek, so I guess it can make sense.
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
I can live with that. Now, this is not in Matthew’s version of this, so Luke added it. Now, let’s return to the idea of the unusual words. In the verses before, Luke repeats a word used only by Matthew in the NT; he not only repeats it once, he uses it a total of three times. And then immediately following he practically coins some new words. Do you get the sense that maybe he’s trying to go one up (or two up) on Matthew? If Matthew is going to exercise his erudition, then Luke is going to see that bet and raise him a couple of other words. Really, it’s not like the whole phrase about shaking and stirring and whatever really adds anything to the meaning of the text. Yes, it intensifies the whole thing, but in a very awkward way. So, apologies, but I add this to the list of indications that Luke was fully aware of what Matthew said.
I’ve been going back over 1 Corinthians to start to pull out themes. In Chapters 5 & 6, several instances Paul seems to foreshadow themes that will be said later, paraphrased as it were, in the gospels. As these come up, I will make note of them. In Chapter 6 he talks about judging. The discussion really doesn’t quite follow the theme here, because Paul is saying that the community of the holy will be, and should be, judges of other people and even angels. There is a real possibility that I would not have made the connexion between this passage and that had I not been reading them on sequential days. Still, the thematic echoes are interesting, so I will bring up the references as they come up during the gospels.
37 Et nolite iudicare et non iudicabimini; et nolite condemnare et non condemnabimini. Dimittite et dimittemini;
38 date, et dabitur vobis: mensuram bonam, confertam, coagitatam, supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum; eadem quippe mensura, qua mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis”.
36 Estote misericordes, sicut et Pater vester misericors est.