Luke Chapter 9:46-62

For this section, we’ll be covering a bit more text than has been the custom of late. The reason for doing shorter sections is to get these published more quickly, and the hiatus between this post and the amply demonstrates that point. However, this section is really too short to break into two; besides, it’s time to get this very long chapter into the books. As has been the case with most of this chapter, we’re dealing with some short sections, most of which has been covered by Luke’s predecessors. So far, this has proven to be an excellent source of analysis, giving us some really clear insight into the way all of this fits together. So, on to the


46 Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ διαλογισμὸς ἐναὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς ἂν εἴη μείζων αὐτῶν.

47 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἰδὼς τὸν διαλογισμὸν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιλαβόμενος παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ παρ’ ἑαυτῷ,

48 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὃς ἐὰν δέξηται τοῦτο τὸ παιδίον ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὃς ἂν ἐμὲ δέξηται δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με: ὁ γὰρ μικρότερος ἐν πᾶσιν ὑμῖν ὑπάρχων οὗτός ἐστιν μέγας.

49 Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰωάννης εἶπεν, Ἐπιστάτα, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια, καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτὸν ὅτι οὐκ ἀκολουθεῖ μεθ’ ἡμῶν.

50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Μὴ κωλύετε, ὃς γὰρ οὐκ ἔστιν καθ’ ὑμῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν.

They came, dialoguing amongst themselves, about which of them might be the greatest. (47) But Jesus, knowing the discussion in their hearts took hold of a child standing near to him. (48) And he said to them, “If one receives this child in my name he will receive me and receives the one sending me. For the least in all of you he beginning is the greatest”. (49) Answering, John said, “Master, we saw someone in your name casting out demons, and we ordered him that he did not follow with us”.  (50) Speaking towards him, Jesus said, “Do not forbid, for he who is not against us is for us”.  

I was originally going to separate the last two verses from this section because they obviously do not have anything to do with the lesson about the child. Oh, sure, some sort of stretch can always be made, but the fact is, they are parts of different stories sort of shoehorned together whether they fit or not. What we are seeing, or continuing to see, is Luke compressing pericopae that are handled–we can presume that Luke thought adequately–by the first two evangelists. He did not want to leave them out, probably because they were too well-known and would be missed, but he did not want to waste too much time on them, either. We are coming up to most of the material unique to Luke: the Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son, & c, and one gets the sense that Luke is simply trying to get this stuff that’s played out of the way. So once again, this seems to indicate that Luke was aware of Matthew’s treatments of these themes; he realized that Matthew had repeated Mark’s story, adding to it, so there was nothing left to say. IOW, Luke was not interested in repeating Matthew; why bother with that? Matthew had done it already, so why say it again? These two stories, compressed almost to the point of nonexistence, technically fall into Triple Tradition material, but are they really? Again, technically, yes, but nothing at all beyond that. Luke is, IMO, very, very aware of Matthew, even if that is demonstrated only negatively. By sheer coincidence there should be instances where Luke agreed with Matthew rather than Mark, but that never happens. At least, that is what the Q people contend. Except, of course, for being born in Bethlehem, a father named Joseph…

I started this blog in April of 2012, and probably got to Mark’s version of the last two lines in 2013 or so. Let’s say that’s five years ago, give or take. In that time I still am not sure about the not against = for us. I mean, it’s obvious on one level, but why does it get said like this? And are we focusing on that rather than the fact that there is a follower of Jesus casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but who is not a follower of Jesus. At least, he’s not part of the inner group that the disciples, comprised of Peter and…probably Jesus’ brother James. The rest of them are problematic, to say the least. Peter and James, the brother of the lord, are the only two that are specifically named by Paul. The other ten are more than likely filler. But we have other followers of Jesus. And this is something I would expect happened: that there were a number of groups following Jesus, and that these groups are where the other gospels came from. Most likely, these are the groups that particularly kept alive the wonder-worker stories. This would be, IMO, another gospel to which Paul found especially distasteful since it did not emphasize the Christ aspect of the Jesus story. Of course, this is all very problematic; while Paul was certainly written first, we have to ask the unanswerable question of whether this story pre-dates Paul. IOW, is this story “authentic,” in the sense that it’s from the time of Jesus? 

The problem is not that the question cannot be answered with any certainty. Almost nothing, with a few and very limited exceptions, in the NT can be asserted with any real degree of certainty. The problem is that there is no basis for making an assessment of the probability, other than “does it feel right?” Since the entire basis for Q rests on “it doesn’t feel right that Luke would mangle Matthew’s masterful treatment of the Q material”, I should be very careful about relying on this as a basis for a case. Yet, the historian who withholds judgement on such questions is a bit of a coward and mostly useless, so I would say that there is some possibility that this story has a kernel of truth at the heart. There were, I suspect, other groups than the one that wrote the NT who followed Jesus, even if they did not literally follow him the way that Peter apparently did. The difference between this judgement of mine and the case for Q is that I’m applying the principle to single stories on a case-by-case basis. I am not attempting to erect any sort of edifice on these very spindly props, and certainly nothing so elaborate as the Q hypothesis. This is a difference of degree at root, but to the point that it becomes a difference in kind.

46 Intravit autem cogitatio in eos, quis eorum maior esset.

47 At Iesus sciens cogitationem cordis illorum, apprehendens puerum statuit eum secus se

48 et ait illis: “ Quicumque susceperit puerum istum in nomine meo, me recipit; et, quicumque me receperit, recipit eum, qui me misit; nam qui minor est inter omnes vos, hic maior est ”.

49 Respondens autem Ioannes dixit: “ Praeceptor, vidimus quendam in nomine tuo eicientem daemonia et prohibuimus eum, quia non sequitur nobiscum ”.

50 Et ait ad illum Iesus: “ Nolite prohibere; qui enim non est adversus vos, pro vobis est ”.

51 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ἀναλήμψεως αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν τοῦ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ,

It became in the fulfilling of the days of his being taken up (ascension), and he set his face towards the going to Jerusalem. 

Just want to pause here a moment. Luke is measuring the time towards Jesus’ ascension. This is very unusual. In fact, Luke is the only one to tell the ascension story, so this marker of time is unique. It’s a bit…strange?…that Luke is pointing us to an event that has not had its story told yet, so presumably the reader could easily be a bit puzzled by the reference. Or had the story of the ascension entered the corpus of the Jesus myth to a degree sufficient to allow Luke to toss off this reference confident that the audience would understand it? Or is this a literary device, meant to pique curiosity? To leave the audience wondering, “Ascension? What does that mean?” Of course, this is another question that we cannot answer; we can only speculate. However, I will wager that you’ve never heard it asked before this moment.

51 Factum est autem, dum complerentur dies assumptionis eius, et ipse faciem suam firmavit, ut iret Ierusalem,

52 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν ἀγγέλους πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ. καὶ πορευθέντες εἰσῆλθον εἰς κώμην Σαμαριτῶν, ὡς ἑτοιμάσαι αὐτῷ:

53 καὶ οὐκ ἐδέξαντο αὐτόν, ὅτι τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ.

54 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης εἶπαν, Κύριε, θέλεις εἴπωμεν πῦρ καταβῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀναλῶσαι αὐτούς;

55 στραφεὶς δὲ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς.

56 καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν εἰς ἑτέραν κώμην.

And he sent angels before his face. And coming, they went into a Samaritan village, as to prepare for him. (53) And they did not receive hi, that the face of him as turned towards Jerusalem. (53) And his disciples seeing, James and John said, “Lord, do you wish we call fire to fall down from the sky and destroy them?” (55) Turning he rebuked them. (56) And they proceeded to another village.

This section is unique to Luke. And it’s very interesting. First, the juxtaposition is noteworthy; the tale of the Good Samaritan is coming up in the next chapter (or two). Perhaps this is meant as sort of a dramatic set-up for that. Luke is setting the stage here, reminding (or informing for the first time) the audience that Jews and Samaritans did not get along as a matter of course. Before we get to that, notice the translation of “angels”. “Jesus sent angels ahead of him”, and the “messenger Gabriel came to Mary to foretell her becoming the mother of the messiah”. The Greek word is the same in both cases, and it is the Greek word used in Malachi 3:1 where the speaker will send his angel before him. But whether we choose to translate it, or simply to transliterate it adds an entirely different cast to the meaning and implications of the word, and has a lot of impact on how we understand the particular passage.

 A couple of the Commentaries that I skimmed said the airstrike was about the selfish and carnal desires of the two disciples. And this would, or could tie it back to the discussion they were having earlier about who was the greatest. I would not have made that connexion on my own, so sometimes it is good to get some additional input. In any case, Jesus rebuked them, which the commentaries suggest was that this was because the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was on a mission of mercy. And that ties back to the clueless bunch of disciples that we found in Mark. It’s interesting to note how many connexions one can find when one is actively looking for them.

52 et misit nuntios ante conspectum suum. Et euntes intraverunt in castellum Samaritanorum, ut pararent illi.

53 Et non receperunt eum, quia facies eius erat euntis Ierusalem.

54 Cum vidissent autem discipuli Iacobus et Ioannes, dixerunt: “ Domine, vis dicamus, ut ignis descendat de caelo et consumat illos? ”.

55 Et conversus increpavit illos.

56 Et ierunt in aliud castellum.

57 Καὶ πορευομένων αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ εἶπέν τις πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἀκολουθήσω σοι ὅπου ἐὰν ἀπέρχῃ.

58 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Αἱ ἀλώπεκες φωλεοὺς ἔχουσιν καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατασκηνώσεις, ὁ δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῃ.

And they proceeding along on the road someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you may go”. (58) And Jesus said to him, “The foxed have their holes and the birds of the air (have) nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”.

This is a bit of a ‘woe is me’ moment. As such, it’s always rather bothered me because I’ve never been sure about what sentiment is actually being expressed. It’s meant as a warning, of course, to the interlocutor. And it’s likely meant as warning to those hearing or (less likely) reading the words of Luke or Matthew. But can it simply be left at that? I suppose, but that feels a little…shallow. Most likely this is an oblique allusion to Jesus’ coming death; or, perhaps more likely. it’s Jesus’ disciples mourning the difficult lives they led as itinerant preachers. And no doubt it was a difficult life, but was it any more so than scratching an existence out of unsympathetic ground? or fishing? It doesn’t get a lot of ink in biblical circles, but itinerant preacher was a definite career path back in these days. Sure, there were times of food insecurity, but who but the wealthy didn’t experience that? And, truth be told, given the pax Romana that existed throughout pretty much the entire Mediterranean basin, including France and the Levant, things were better for more people than would be the case until fairly recently. So yes, perhaps a bit of self-pity. 

This is actually part of what is supposed to be Q. This is not in Mark. But once again, the Q people are too clever by half. The chances that Jesus actually said this are pretty much nil. Can you imagine the Jesus we found in Mark uttering these lines? I can’t. And this judgement is offered based on content. Jesus was a traveling wonder-worker. The whole woe-is-me really doesn’t fit with that sort of existence. I suspect the Q people would disagree; or, I wish they would. I would love to hear their arguments for Q based on the content of these sayings, rather than simply on the fact that Matthew and Luke have them, but Mark does not. I would really like to know how they would justify Q based on what Jesus is saying, and how it fits with the context in which Jesus lived. I really, really would like to hear that.

57 Et euntibus illis in via, dixit quidam ad illum: “ Sequar te, quocumque ieris ”.

58 Et ait illi Iesus: “ Vulpes foveas habent, et volucres caeli nidos, Filius autem hominis non habet, ubi caput reclinet ”.

59 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς ἕτερον, Ἀκολούθει μοι. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, [Κύριε,] ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀπελθόντι πρῶτον θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου.

60 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀπελθὼν διάγγελλε τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

(59) He said to another, “Follow me”. The (other) responded, “[Lord], permit me going away first to bury my father”. (60) He (Jesus) said to him (the other man), let the dead bury their own dead, you going away announce the kingdom of God”.  (61) 

What does this mean? “Let the dead bury the(ir) dead”? I suppose, on reflection, it’s an injunction to dissociate oneself from the cares of the world. In which case, it’s more Buddhist than Christian, no? Or, at least, it’s more Buddhist than what we’ve heard Jesus say to this point. Here again, if you stop to think, how does this–or does it even–fit with the Jesus of Mark’s gospel? If it doesn’t fit with the Jesus we found in Mark, don’t we have to scrutinize whether Jesus said this very closely? Since this is part of Q, doesn’t that have to raise some serious problems about the existence of Q? This is why the s0-called “argument” for Q to be so unconvincing. It, seemingly, never stops to consider whether all of the stuff that Jesus supposedly said fits with the Jesus of Paul or Mark. Q supposedly has a “redactionally consistent outlook”, but how much of that could be attributed to Matthew writing much of Q? But Matthew’s Jesus is rather different from Mark’s Jesus, so how does that work? I’m not sure it does.

59 Ait autem ad alterum: “ Sequere me ”. Ille autem dixit: “ Domine, permitte mihi primum ire et sepelire patrem meum ”.

60 Dixitque ei Iesus: “ Sine, ut mortui sepeliant mortuos suos; tu autem vade, annuntia regnum Dei ”.

61 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ ἕτερος, Ἀκολουθήσω σοι, κύριε: πρῶτον δὲ ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀποτάξασθαι τοῖς εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου.

62 εἶπεν δὲ [πρὸς αὐτὸν] ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐδεὶς ἐπιβαλὼν τὴν χεῖρα ἐπ’ ἄροτρον καὶ βλέπων εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω εὔθετός ἐστιν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

And another said, “I will follow you, lord. But first allow to me to separate from those in my household”.  (62) Jesus said [to him], “No one turning his hand upon the plough and looking backwards is well-placed in the kingdom of God.”

This is of a piece with the previous two verses. It’s another injunction to dissociate yourself from your earthly ties, which is something that many religions advocate. It’s the beginning of the eremitic tradition that led to monasticism and the ascetic tradition that culminated in the Cathars. Now here I can see a connexion to the Jesus of Mark, at least as far as the part in Chapter 3:35 when he says that his family is made up of those who who do the word of God. This

Now, I’ve been reading about other forms of spirituality. Pursuing this line of inquiry, one often runs into Buddhist thought. One of the most common precepts I’ve found is the injunction to “subjugate/obliterate the ego”. It has occurred to me that this admonition is functionally the equivalent of “submit to the will of God”. And here and in Mark 3:35 we have Jesus telling us something very similar. Or, if not similar, it’s at least close enough that both sentiments can be summarized by a common aphorism. What strikes me is, along with how one actually goes about being saved, the injunction to do God’s will is very seldom mentioned in the reading. It’s there, but it has nowhere near the prominence I expected coming into this project. Some of this absence, of course, is merely a pro forma absence, since many of the words put into Jesus’ mouth (like the ones here?) are allegorical, or parables. But think about the parables in Mark and Matthew: the sower, the mustard seed, the wicked tenants…a lot of them are more about the growth or rejection of the kingdom than they are about how to attain the kingdom. We’ll come into some of those shortly; but the point is that of the thirteen parables I found in a quick scan through Matthew, one two or three of them deal with what can fall under the rubric of “proper behaviour”, and even two of them are a bit of a stretch. The best example is the Unmerciful Slave, whose debt was forgiven, but who refused to forgive a debt owed to him. The 0thers would be The Parable of the Talents, –of the Ten Virgins, –of the Vineyard workers. For those of you keeping score at home, that adds up to four, but no matter. I found about five in Mark, and the only one vaguely dealing with behaviour is the Wicked Tenants; this is also in Matthew, but I didn’t count it there because it’s more about the retribution coming to the tenants than it is about the tenants themselves.

So my point stands. How to behave, and how to be saved do not receive nearly the emphasis in the gospels that one might expect. The implication is that much of Christian doctrine is what can be derived from the NT, rather than what is actually in the NT. The Protestants supposedly went back and excised a lot of the accumulated tradition that had no biblical basis–Purgatory, anyone?–but they were nowhere near as comprehensive as they believed. And I say that as someone raised in the Roman Rite who has now gone over to Episcopalianism. In some ways, not a hugely drastic change, but in other ways, it is. The point is that I have seen this from both sides. It’s interesting to note how this conversion has affected my viewpoint when reading about the Late Mediaeval/Early Modern world.

61 Et ait alter: “ Sequar te, Domine, sed primum permitte mihi renuntiare his, qui domi sunt ”.

62 Ait ad illum Iesus: “ Nemo mittens manum suam in aratrum et aspiciens retro, aptus est regno Dei ”.

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 February 3, 2018, in Chapter 9, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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