Luke Chapter 9:1-6

This chapter begins with several other stories that we’ve seen in both of the other two gospels. The first is the Sending of the Twelve. This section is very short; my intention at this point is to try to keep the sections short to minimise the length of time between posts. Lately, life has been getting in the way of hobbies, which is often the case when one has children and the holidays approach. Since this story is familiar, there’s really no need for additional introduction, so we’ll get right to the


1 Συγκαλεσάμενος δὲ τοὺς δώδεκα ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ νόσους θεραπεύειν,

2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἰᾶσθαι [τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς],

3 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μηδὲν αἴρετε εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, μήτε ῥάβδον μήτε πήραν μήτε ἄρτον μήτε ἀργύριον, μήτε [ἀνὰ] δύο χιτῶνας ἔχειν.

4 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε, ἐκεῖ μένετε καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐξέρχεσθε.

5 καὶ ὅσοι ἂν μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξερχόμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης τὸν κονιορτὸν ἀπὸ τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν ἀποτινάσσετε εἰς μαρτύριον ἐπ’ αὐτούς.

6 ἐξερχόμενοι δὲ διήρχοντο κατὰ τὰς κώμας εὐαγγελιζόμενοι καὶ θεραπεύοντες πανταχοῦ.

Calling together the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. (2) And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal [the illnesses]. (3) And he said to them, “Do not take upon the road neither staff, nor money (lit = ‘silver‘), nor have two tunics.(4) And if you come into a home, remain there until you leave.  And however much they don’t receive you, leaving from that city, shake the dust off your feet in witness against them”. (6) Going out they passed through the villages good-message-izing and healing everyone.

This is a really condensed version of what we find in the other two gospels. For example, Luke leaves out the bit about how it will be better for Sodom & Gomorrah at the judgement day than for the town that doesn’t receive them. And Matthew had added a bit about not going to pagans, but to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew uses this story to name the Twelve, which Mark had done much earlier in the narrative. That Matthew waited so long to my mind indicates that the Twelve were very peripheral to the story as a whole. We have noted many times that most of the Twelve are not associated with any of the stories told about Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the exceptions, but even Peter’s brother Andrew drops from sight after his calling. The same is true for Levi; he is called and sent and that’s it. Judas Iscariot, of course, will appear later. As for the rest? Nothing. Who can tell me anything about Thaddeus? Or Simon the Zealot? Or Philip and Bartholomew? Thomas doesn’t reappear until John’s gospel. And John added Nathaniel. Where did he come from? And what else is said about him? (Hint: nothing.)

OTOH, Paul does say that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. How to square that? I would still suggest that the Twelve was something created by James, brother of Jesus after the latter’s death. Thus, it was in place when Paul became an apostle, because by that time there were apostles, and Paul makes it sound like there was more than twelve of them. Remember, James was in charge of the new group for nearly thirty years–assuming that Josephus is anywhere near accurate in his story of James’ death. That’s ten times longer–an order of magnitude–than Jesus’ traditional three. James had time, and probably the incentive, to put infrastructure in place. Jesus, while a wonder worker and perhaps a decent preacher, does not seem terribly interested in creating an organization; Mohammed didn’t either, nor did the Buddha. The Twelve, and the term ‘apostle’ seem more likely to be ex-post-facto creations, when the followers of James were becoming a church, which eventually became The Church. 

Luke’s cursory treatment of this episode might suggest one of two things. The first possibility is that he placed very little significance on the episode. He did not feel compelled to tell the whole story that Mark & Matthew had told because Luke didn’t see this as an important part of Jesus’ ministry, nor to what came after. The other possibility is that he simply felt that the audience had been sufficiently instructed about the story, and so Luke didn’t feel a need to recapitulate what was already well-known. Of course, this contention is more likely if we believe that Luke was aware of Matthew. And it also approaches circularity, the true meaning of begging the question. Why did Luke shorten this story? Because he was aware of Matthew. How do we know he was aware of Matthew? Because he shortened this story. However, consider this treatment to the handling of the story of the Gerasene demonaic in the last chapter. Mark has the longest version, Matthew the shortest, and Luke is in between. The differential handling of these two stories suggests pretty clearly that Luke may have adjusted his narrative according to what the other two said. Where they both gave full accounts (as here), Luke went short. Where Mark was long and Matthew short, as in the Gerasene demonaic, Luke opted for middle ground. Of course, this is all very nice, but an argument cannot rest on a comparison of two stories. The chapter we’re looking at has more Triple Tradition pericopae; we can see how well this idea stands.

We should at least mention the powers given. I’ve been reading some of Cornelius Agrippa’s “Occult Philosophy”, and some of it in Latin. The Greek word is “dynamin”, the root of “dynamic” and “dynamite”. At its base, it means “to be able”. The Latin translation is “virtus”. Now, this latter is the root of “virtue”, but the base meaning is “power”. Hence, Agrippa talks about “virtutes”, meaning the powers of the magician. And that is how this phrase is translated in all my crib translations, and how I translated it: he gave them power and authority. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Essentially, power alone is not enough. The authority points to the idea of a cosmic hierarchy of sorts, in which God and Jesus rank above the daimones, which have not yet really become demons. But really, this is more about my enhanced grasp of the Latin than it is about what is in the text.

1 Convocatis autem Duodecim, dedit illis virtutem et potesta tem super omnia daemonia, et ut languores curarent,

2 et misit illos praedicare regnum Dei et sanare infirmos;

3 et ait ad illos: “ Nihil tuleritis in via, neque virgam neque peram neque panem neque pecuniam, neque duas tunicas habeatis.

4 Et in quamcumque domum intraveritis, ibi manete et inde exite.

5 Et quicumque non receperint vos, exeuntes de civitate illa pulverem pedum vestrorum excutite in testimonium supra illos ”.

6 Egressi autem circumibant per castella evangelizantes et curantes ubique.


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 December 3, 2017, in Chapter 9, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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