Luke Chapter 11:37-54
Note: It appears that WordPress has “improved” or “upgraded” the website. One of these “improvements” was the removal of my preferred font. The default is not something I particularly like, largely because it doesn’t to justice to the Greek. I have changed the font here on the website, supposedly, but on the page where I do my drafts I’m stuck with the default font. I hope it looks acceptable from your perspective.
This section concerns the “Woes” to the Pharisees and and others. This is Luke’s version of Matthew 23:14 ff. And, since this doesn’t occur in Mark, it’s Q material. This is the second such “Woes” section in Luke, and there are two in Matthew as well. The other “Woes” passage extends these woes unto a list of cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida. & c. So here comes the question: why are the two sections separated? Would it not make sense for to “curse” these cities and the Pharisees at the same time? For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the text of Q that Matthew and Luke used the two lists of woes were indeed in separate sections of the text. Is it reasonable to assume that it did not occur to either evangelist to consolidate these two groups of woes? We are constantly told that Luke and Matthew arranged the Q material very differently. Fine. But it seems kind of odd that neither of them saw fit to put the two sections into one. Rather, it seems more like Luke followed Matthew in this case. In both, the woes to the cities occurs first in the gospel, followed up at some later point (much later in Matthew) with the woes to the Pharisees.
Again, there is nothing really here that is at all convincing as an argument for Q. Based on the way that Luke split up the Sermon on the Mount material, there is a suggestion that Luke wasn’t as fond of very long sections of speech the way Matthew was. The Sermon fills Chapters 5, 6, and 7. I did not find this particularly “masterful”. I found it to be a bunch of one-off sentiments all packed together. I find the way Luke scatters these out a bit to be more congenial to my taste. However, when the suggestion that Luke prefers shorter segments is raised, the Q people start tossing off examples of how Luke goes on and on about this subject or that. True enough, I suppose, but there is nothing in Luke to compare to the three-chapter block that is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Whatever, let’s get to the
37 Ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι ἐρωτᾷ αὐτὸν Φαρισαῖος ὅπως ἀριστήσῃ παρ’ αὐτῷ: εἰσελθὼν δὲ ἀνέπεσεν.
38 ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου.
39 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος πρὸς αὐτόν, Νῦν ὑμεῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τοῦ πίνακος καθαρίζετε, τὸ δὲ ἔσωθεν ὑμῶν γέμει ἁρπαγῆς καὶ πονηρίας.
40 ἄφρονες, οὐχ ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔξωθεν καὶ τὸ ἔσωθεν ἐποίησεν;
41 πλὴν τὰ ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην, καὶ ἰδοὺ πάντα καθαρὰ ὑμῖν ἐστιν.
During the conversation (lit = in the speaking) a Pharisee asked him whether he (Jesus) might dine with him (the Pharisee); going in, they sat down (38) The Pharisee seeing marveled that first he did not baptize before the dinner. (39) And the lord said to him, “Now you, o Pharisees, clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but what is inside you is full of greed and wickedness. (40) Fools! It is what you do outside, or what you do inside? (41) Except for the being inside (internal attitude) you give alms, and behold, all is clean to you”.
To get it out of the way, here is an instance when the word “to baptize” is used in a thoroughly secular, mundane, and ordinary manner for “to wash”. It is very important to remember that “baptize” and “angel” and “grace” are sacred words as used by the authors of the NT. They only became sacred words after a few centuries of Christian thinking, and then the Western church was heavily influenced by the translation of these words from Greek into Latin. “Baptize” simply means “to wash”; an “angel” is any messenger; “grace” means any sort of favour; it does not necessarily have the connotation of “free” (i.e., “gratis”) in Greek that it has in Latin, and has come to have in English. Think of a “grace period” when paying a bill (quite common in the insurance industry). While we’re on the topic of the language, in the last verse the two clauses are joined by << καὶ >>. The great majority of the time, this is the standard word for and. However, at the beginning of the Platonic dialogue The Symposion, there is a famous passage where the meaning hinges on << καὶ >> meaning or, rather than and. Indeed, much of the entire dialogue hinges on this meaning. And so here, too << καὶ >> has to be translated as or. I tried a number of things, and decided that it has to be or.
Perhaps the other remarkable thing is the way Jesus turns on his host. Yikes! No being polite here. And this is an important example to remember when dealing with things that are wrong in current culture. Jesus would not sit down and shut up when presented with social wrongs; he would have stood up and spoken out. That is how a true Christian acts, IMO. Now I’ve just deviated from historical analysis into religious interpretation. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Finally, there is the subject of the outburst. Jewish practice at the time was very concerned with what is called “ritual cleanliness”. This means that externals carried a lot of weight, especially as applied to religious ritual, but even in such things as washing before meals. This, of course, became kosher practices, where the way an animal is slaughtered is very important. I do not want to get into it, but a lot of the kosher practices made a certain amount of sense in days before refrigeration; however, that is not the topic here. This insistence on outward ritual over the inner attitude is what has led Christians to teach that Judaism was a very formalistic, legalistic religion, more a set of rituals than an inner way of viewing the world. Now, this accusation is not completely without merit; however, in the context of the times, it was not an unusual attitude. More, given that some of the practices dated back several hundred years (I am a late dater of the HS; I do not believe that Moses lived in the 13th Century BCE, or that he lived at all, e.g.) these attitudes towards ritual purity were very common. Much of Greek religious practice had a similar outlook; this is why the standard explanation for the success of Christianity was that pagan religions did not satisfy the “inner person”. They were all cold and ritualistic, lacking in “emotional appeal”. While there is some truth to this, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It does account, perhaps, for the growing popularity of the so-called “mystery religions”, such as the cult of Isis as described in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius (aka The Golden Ass, in some translations). The point being, there would have been some truth–perhaps–to Jesus saying this, but it does not deserve the degree of criticism that has come to be heaped upon Judaism. Then again, I am the product of a brand of Catholicism as practiced in a certain time, long ago, and a in a galaxy far away.
As I so (too?) often do, I’m going to take this a step further, but not until after the next section.
37 Et cum loqueretur, rogavit illum quidam pharisaeus, ut pranderet apud se; et ingressus recubuit.
38 Pharisaeus autem videns miratus est quod non baptizatus esset ante prandium.
39 Et ait Dominus ad illum: “Nunc vos pharisaei, quod de foris est calicis et catini, mundatis; quod autem intus est vestrum, plenum est rapina et iniquitate.
40 Stulti! Nonne, qui fecit, quod de foris est, etiam id, quod de intus est, fecit?
41 Verum tamen, quae insunt, date eleemosynam; et ecce omnia munda sunt vobis.
42 ἀλλὰ οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ πήγανον καὶ πᾶν λάχανον, καὶ παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ: ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ παρεῖναι.
43 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀγαπᾶτε τὴν πρωτοκαθεδρίαν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς.
44 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι ἐστὲ ὡς τὰ μνημεῖα τὰ ἄδηλα, καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι [οἱ] περιπατοῦντες ἐπάνω οὐκ οἴδασιν.
45 Ἀποκριθεὶς δέ τις τῶν νομικῶν λέγει αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα λέγων καὶ ἡμᾶς ὑβρίζεις.
46 ὁδὲ εἶπεν, Καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς οὐαί, ὅτι φορτίζετε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φορτία δυσβάστακτα, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἑνὶ τῶν δακτύλων ὑμῶν οὐ προσψαύετε τοῖς φορτίοις.
“But woe to you, Pharisees, that tithe the mint and the rue (a plant) and all the herbs, and pass without heeding (all in the verb) the judgement and the love of God. These things had to be done and not let go by the wayside (all in the verb). (43) Woe to you, Pharisees, that love the first seats in the synagogues and the salutations in the marketplace. (44) Woe to you, that are as unseen tombs, and men passing by do not know”. (45) Answering, one of the lawyers said to him, “Teacher, saying these things and you insult us”. (46) Then he said, “And woe to you, lawyers, that burden men, loading with burdens grievous to be borne, and they on they one of your fingers do not touch the burdens (i.e., you don’t lift a finger to help).
Well, the opinion of lawyers sure hasn’t changed much in the last 2,000 years or so, has it? I am going to defer the rest until the end.
42 Sed vae vobis pharisaeis, quia decimatis mentam et rutam et omne holus et praeteritis iudicium et caritatem Dei! Haec autem oportuit facere et illa non omittere.
43 Vae vobis pharisaeis, quia diligitis primam cathedram in synagogis et salutationes in foro!
44 Vae vobis, quia estis ut monumenta, quae non parent, et homines ambulantes supra nesciunt! ”.
45 Respondens autem quidam ex legis peritis ait illi: “ Magister, haec dicens etiam nobis contumeliam facis ”.
46 At ille ait: “ Et vobis legis peritis: Vae, quia oneratis homines oneribus, quae portari non possunt, et ipsi uno digito vestro non tangitis sarcinas!”
47 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν προφητῶν, οἱ δὲ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτούς.
48 ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς ὑμεῖς δὲ οἰκοδομεῖτε.
49 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν, Ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν,
50 ἵνα ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης,
51 ἀπὸ αἵματος Αβελ ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίουτοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.
52 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς, ὅτι ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως: αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε καὶ τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.
53 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι δεινῶς ἐνέχειν καὶ ἀποστοματίζειν αὐτὸν περὶ πλειόνων,
54 ἐνεδρεύοντες αὐτὸν θηρεῦσαί τι ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ.
“Woe to you, that build monuments of the prophets, but your fathers killed them. (48) You are witnesses and give your consent to the deeds of your fathers, that they (the fathers) killed them (the prophets) you build. (49) Through this also the wisdom of god says, “I send to them prophets and apostles, and from them they will kill and persecute, (50) so that the blood of all the prophets having been poured out may have been sought from the foundations of the cosmos, from this generation, (51) from the blood of Abel until the blood of Zacharias being killed between the altar and his house. Yes, I say to you, it has been sought from this generation. (52) Woe to you lawyers, that take up the key of knowledge; you do not enter and those who do enter you kill. (53) And then he having gone out the Scribes and the Pharisees began sorely to hold with him and teach him by dictation regarding many things. (54) Laying snares to hunt him for something from his mouth.
First, the Greek. In V53, the second word always means go, specifically to go out. This is because it has the prefix ek attached, which means out. However, in the vacuum-sealed world of NT Greek, this manages to get translated as “come”. I suspect that Luke may have gotten himself muddled. It happens. The bit about “entering” refers, I think, to the Kingdom of God. The lawyers are a malevolent force keeping people out. Why is this? But that’s off-topic from the Greek. The last thing is the word I translated as teach him by dictation. This is an extremely rare word in Classical Greek, and it occurs exactly once in the NT. As such, there is no real context to help us determine what this word means as it is used by Luke. We can’t compare it in other contexts. All of my crib translations, of which there are now five (the CPDV having appeared unbidden; not even sure what that stands for) all do a more or less lousy job of slurring over the word, which is << ἀποστοματίζειν >> for those of you keeping score at home. They render it in a fashion of what they believe it should mean, as they interpret it. To make matters interesting, the root of the word is << στομα >>, which means mouth. It appears in the form << στόματος >> in the last verse, which I garbled as hunting for something from his mouth, in the sense of getting him to say something they could use against him in a court of law. Anyway, the bottom line, I think, is that Luke here is being too clever with his Greek in this passage, and he gets caught up in it. The think about a language like Greek is that even a native speaker can have trouble writing decent prose, but that can be said about English, too.
Second, the reference. Zacharias was murdered by King Joash in 2 Chronicles, 24:21-21. That is an obscure reference. Hmm…one wonders if Luke is playing “I can top that” regarding non-obvious citations of the HS. Recall Matthew did stuff like that, starting with putting Jesus in Nazareth “so he will be called a Nazarene…” (Matthew 2:23, ref’g Isaiah). It sure does seem like Luke has a thing going with Matthew, doesn’t it? Perhaps not to everyone, but sure seems like it to me.
Let’s stop and think about the context of all this for a moment. As noted in the intro to the section, this is supposedly part of Q because it’s in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. As part of Q, it supposedly dates back to the time of Jesus, if perhaps not to Jesus himself. But think about it: Jesus is condemning groups of people prominent in Jewish culture. Why is he doing this? Because they haven’t gotten on board with Jesus’ message. But how do we know that, if Jesus is still alive? Isn’t this the sort of thing that would make more sense if it were said a generation or two after Jesus died, when it had become apparent that the Pharisees and lawyers had not come over to Jesus? After the time when the Pharisees (*cough* Saul *cough*) had led the persecution of the new interpretation? Of course this sort of thinking forces us to ask whether the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is exclusively a post-mortem phenomenon. I have no idea how consistent I’ve been on that topic, mainly because I’d never isolated it as a topic until just now. The other question is whether we can–or should–take the woes to those towns as a separate issue from the woes to the Pharisees in this section. Remember, Matthew also separated them. One telling bit of evidence might be whether those towns suffered, and to what extent, during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the Temple. Bethsaida, according to Mark, is right hard close to Jerusalem since that is where Jesus was staying his last week.
To some degree the animosity to the Pharisees and other representatives of established practice of the religion is a basic theme in Jesus’ teaching. It is a thread, or more like a theme/stream running throughout the gospels. However, just because it gets a lot of attention does not mean that it dates back to Jesus himself. It could easily be something that cropped up later, the result of the “persecutions” led by Pharisees such as Paul. That would still give it time to work its way into Mark’s gospel, where it is already a theme. I would say there is a decent chance that it does date back to Jesus, and I would certainly say that stating this theme as post-mortem would be a very bold step. Not that I’m afraid of bold positions, but this one is much harder to sort out than things like Q. If made to guess, my sense would be that there was some conflict early on between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day; itinerant preachers with a quirky, not-quite-orthodox message were a bane of the established Church in the High Middle Ages. Power structures don’t like being circumvented, so if Jesus showed up preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and implying that the Temple cult was unnecessary, that could make them uncomfortable. They felt the need to kill the Baptist as well. The story of Jesus clearing the Temple certainly reinforces this position, even though it may not have dated back to Jesus himself. After all, I have no doubts that the story is post-mortem; perhaps it represents a time when the conflict between the two sets of practitioners of Judaism had drifted further apart. The growing cult of Jesus-as-divine would certainly have alienated the Pharisees and–perhaps–provoked attempts to suppress the movement. This would dramatically open the door to the idea that Jesus-as-divine predated Paul. But that is another topic.
47 Vae vobis, quia aedificatis monumenta prophetarum, patres autem vestri occiderunt illos!
48 Profecto testificamini et consentitis operibus patrum vestrorum, quoniam ipsi quidem eos occiderunt, vos autem aedificatis.
49 Propterea et sapientia Dei dixit: Mittam ad illos prophetas et apostolos, et ex illis occident et persequentur,
50 ut requiratur sanguis omnium prophetarum, qui effusus est a constitutione mundi, a generatione ista,
51 a sanguine Abel usque ad sanguinem Zachariae, qui periit inter altare et aedem. Ita dico vobis: Requiretur ab hac generatione.
52 Vae vobis legis peritis, quia tulistis clavem scientiae! Ipsi non introistis et eos, qui introibant, prohibuistis ”.
53 Cum autem inde exisset, coeperunt scribae et pharisaei graviter insistere et eum allicere in sermone de multis
54 insidiantes ei, ut caperent aliquid ex ore eius.
Posted on May 12, 2018, in Chapter 11, gospel commentary, gospels, Luke's Gospel and tagged Bible commentary, Bible scholarship, gospel commentary, gospels, Historical Jesus, James the Just, KJV, mark's gospel, Matthew's gospel, New Testament, New Testament Greek, NT Translation, Q gospel, religion, St Luke, St Mark, St Matthew, St Paul, theology, Translate Greek NT, Vulgate. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.