Monthly Archives: December 2019

Luke Chapter 19:41-48

If I had realized the rest of the chapter was so short, it probably could have been included in the previous section. However, multiple short sections are probably better, less taxing to read and digest, than some of the interminable tomes I’ve tossed into publication. The disadvantage, of course, is a lack of continuity. The story becomes choppy and loses context.

This section is a mash-up of Jesus “predicting” the destruction of Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple. This is all Triple Tradition material that we have covered before. However, fresh insight can always be found, and, if not, some things bear repeating. By now, I should not have to, but I will, repeat that, IMO, both events are fictional.

So let’s be done with it and get on to the


41 Καὶ ὡς ἤγγισεν, ἰδὼν τὴν πόλιν ἔκλαυσεν ἐπ’ αὐτήν,

42 λέγων ὅτι Εἰ ἔγνως ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ καὶ σὺ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην νῦν δὲ ἐκρύβη ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου.

43 ὅτι ἥξουσιν ἡμέραι ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ παρεμβαλοῦσιν οἱ ἐχθροί σου χάρακά σοι καὶ περικυκλώσουσίνσε καὶ συνέξουσίν σε πάντοθεν,

44 καὶ ἐδαφιοῦσίν σε καὶ τὰ τέκνα σου ἐν σοί, καὶ οὐκ ἀφήσουσιν λίθον ἐπὶ λίθονἐν σοί, ἀνθ’ ὧν οὐκ ἔγνως τὸν καιρὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς σου.

And as he approached, seeing the city, he wept upon it, (42) saying that “If you knew on that day (what moves) you towards peace, now it is hidden from your eyes. (43) That the days will come upon you and the enemies will surround you with a trench and encircle you and detain you completely, (44) and flatten you and your children like a floor with you, and not a stone one stone will remain, against whom you do not know the season of visitation of you.

Let’s start with an observation. Note that we are told “as he approached…he wept over the city”. This means that he was not yet inside the city. In turn, this means that Jesus did not make an entry into the city, let alone a triumphal one. Rather, he stopped outside, and there he wept. This sort of turns the narrative of the events of the day around, which seriously undercuts the idea that the adulation of the crowd was a major factor in the religious leaders deciding that Jesus needed to be put to death.

Grammatical point about “moving towards peace”: The Greek is a bit unclear; apparently St Jerome thought so, too, since the Vulgate changes things a bit. I chose to render as I did since the preposition, eis, is most commonly used to indicate motion towards a thing or place, and here the thing is peace. The Vulgate clarifies this a bit and goes pretty much the way I went with this. So the ambiguity is clarified, and we can make sense of this. Luke has had more obscure passages like this than any writer since Paul, but with a difference: one got the sense Paul wasn’t sure what he was doing, whereas one does believe that Luke does. Of course, the other possibility is that I know what I’m doing better when in comes to translating. Indeed, I’m nervous about going back to look at those translations of 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, and even Mark that I did seven years ago. I was still very much a neophyte– for the second time; however, it is reassuring to not that progress was possible, and in fact progress occurred. Let that encourage any of you who are trying to do something as ridiculous as learn ancient Greek. It’s possible, and it’s very rewarding. I think of it as a game; rather than spend time doing Soduku or Fortnight, I do Greek and Latin. The difference is that, at the end, I’ve got more understanding of a piece of writing and the history it reveals.

So with those two things out of the way, let’s talk about the actual content. Of course I believe this is a post-facto prophecy. I believe all of the “prophecies” uttered by Jesus were post-facto. This sort of backward-looking prophecy was fairly common in the ancient world. In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius records the alleged signs and prodigies that portended the death of an emperor, or the accession of the successor. In his Antiquities, Josephus* describes the signs and wonders that foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. To be honest, I got this from Eusebios’ Ecclesiastical History, which I have begun reading; technically, I’m re-reading it, but I honestly don’t remember what I’d read. So far, he’s providing a summary of Josephus, as a means of “proving” the factual accuracy of the NT, especially of Acts. So far, this is the only non-Christian source he’s cited, which is very annoying. Of course, we cannot expect non-Christian sources to be concerned with the early development of the Church as it became established as an institution, so it’s hardly a surprise that no one does, but the implications of this lack source material are profound. It means that all we have for the earliest history of the Church are traditions; and this latter term can readily be replaced by the term ‘propaganda’, or ‘foundation myths’. They are horribly unreliable since the fathers of the early Church had every reason to make stuff up to suit their needs.

For example, the Bishop of Rome greatly benefitted from the story that Peter established the ekklesia there, which gave the Bishop of Rome a claim to primacy, one that was based on the maxim, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church”. Interestingly, this is found only in Matthew’s gospel. It is not found in Mark, and yet Mark was supposedly Peter’s secretary, who wrote his gospel based on first-hand information from Peter. All this, and yet Mark neglects the single most important justification of Petrine Primacy in the whole history of Christendom? In fact, it’s not only the most important justification, it’s the only justification of Petrine Primacy. So why is this in Matthew, but not in the gospel written by Peter’s right-hand man? This makes no sense. Without the claim, the entire history of the Latin Church, and the history of northern/western Europe would have been radically different. Absent the prestige of the Pope, there may not have been a Latin Church at all. I can suggest a reason why it’s in Matthew and not Mark: the Latin Church decided that Matthew was chronologically the first gospel written, which is why they put it first in the NT. I would suggest that the Bishop of Rome was responsible for inserting that line into Matthew’s gospel. This is perhaps far-fetched, but perhaps it’s not. It’s a question of manuscript traditions, of getting the line into enough traditions that it became the accepted version. This would mean getting it into all of the versions being copied everywhere. Or, it would mean commissioning Matthew from the outset.

All of these possibilities are remote, of course, and I would say the probability of any one of them being factually accurate is small, but not zero. But if you dismiss all of them, one has to explain where that line came from. The simplest explanation, of course, is that Jesus said it and Matthew had a way of knowing this. Of course, if we accept that there was an actual follower of Jesus named Matthew, and that the author of the Gospel of Matthew was the same Matthew, then it’s pretty simple. This exchange took place in the presence of all the followers, and Matthew was a follower, so Matthew heard the exchange. But that brings us back to the question of why Peter did not tell Mark to insert such an important line into the latter’s gospel. That Luke didn’t include it is not really a problem because Luke had no direct access to the event, so he just missed it. Or, there’s the chance that Luke did know, but chose to leave it out. The problem is, none of these is terribly convincing on face value. It comes down to a question of which one is the least unlikely? I find the idea that Mark knew and left it out the most unlikely. As Peter’s assistant & companion, he had almost no motive to leave it out. I find the idea of an interpolation, at the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the least unlikely. The motive is clear; in fact, it’s overwhelming. And it makes the most sense to find it in Matthew since this was considered the first gospel written; Eusebios validates this claim in the 4th Century, after Constantine had converted. In fact, this premise was not seriously challenged until the 18th or even 19th Century. The improbability is based on the difficulty of the logistics of getting this into enough ms traditions; however, much of this could be avoided if the interpolation happened very early, by the end of the 1st Century. The Bishop of Rome could have “flooded” the market with enough texts with the interpolation that it became the standard, accepted version.

 That was a very long digression, but I believe it was a profitable one. But let’s get back to the content. 

As stated when we came across this “prophecy” for the first time in Mark, the purpose is to reassure followers who had experienced either the destruction of Jerusalem, persecution, or both that this was all foreordained and so necessary. There is one big difference between Luke’s version and the other two. Mark talked about the abomination of pagans entering the Temple, and Matthew more or less followed. Luke describes Roman siege tactics. Surrounding a city with a trench and then putting stakes at the bottom was pretty standard. And the walls were certainly flattened; again, standard procedure. The idea was to eliminate a future threat from the rebellious city by demolishing the defensive walls, thereby giving a future Roman army easier access. Jerusalem rebelled again in the 130s; that time the city was razed. When it was rebuilt, it was given a new name. Again, because I am reading Eusebios, something has occurred to me. I’ve read The Jewish War (Penguin Title) by Josephus, but not all of the relevant parts of the much longer Antiquities. (Largely because the latter is very gossipy, with all sorts of descriptions of the inner workings of the Jewish leadership team, from Herod on down. It has a soap-opera quality that becomes tedious. But, that’s just me, perhaps.) Eusebios, however, has read the whole thing. What is interesting is how he uses Josephus to corroborate some of the material of Acts, which was also written by Luke. What if Luke read Josephus, and used the material from the latter as a basis for material in Acts*? And what if he got the details of the Roman siege, here described, however briefly, from Josephus? The historian would have provided the evangelist with details of who the Roman governors were. The shorter Jewish War was completed in 78; the longer Antiquities in the early 90s, supposedly in 93 or 94. If Matthew wrote in the mid-80s, then Luke writing ten years later would have had, or could have had, access to these works of Josephus, so this theory cannot be dismissed out of hand based on chronology. More, I’ve often suspected that any legitimate material on Jesus found in Josephus may have been based on the Christian story. In particular, Josephus tells us that Jesus was executed at the behest of “some of the best men among us” (= leaders of the Jews). I believe one of the Roman historians says something similar. Because the thing is, there were likely no other records, or even any other memory of Jesus outside the stories the Christians told. No one else would have cared much. Even among Christians, the earliest dates for the publication of the separate Passion Narrative that Mark and all the other evangelists incorporated is somewhere in the 50s. IOW, even the Christians, or the Jewish followers of Christ didn’t bother to come up with an explanation for why Jesus was executed. Even more, scholars of the stature of JD Crossan now doubt the existence of a pre-Markan Passion Narrative; this really undercuts the idea that Jesus was killed for his teachings. Paul mentions no reason for the execution; one presumes this is because he didn’t know, or didn’t deem it relevant. The conclusion of all this is that there could easily have been a cross-fertilization of tales about Jesus, and the state of Judea in the First Century between Christians, Josephus, and even the Roman historians. The bad new of this is that, in the final analysis and for the most part, we have exactly one source for much of the story of Jesus, and that would be the gospel of Mark.

*I’ve just read the first viii or x pages of the intro of a book called James, Brother of Jesus, by Robert Eisenman. I had started this book some years ago, but didn’t get very far for reasons I’ve now forgotten. Anyway, Eisenman sort of throws out the connexion between Josephus and Acts as more or less a foregone conclusion. I would have read this part, since it’s very early in the book, so it is entirely possible that the idea of a connexion between Acts & Josephus had been planted, and that the idea germinated and sprouted when I started reading Eusebios. The good news is that I’m not a complete dunderhead for believing in the possibility of such a connexion; others have seen it, too. The bad news is that I cannot claim it as an original insight. But, to be truthful, a lot of what I had thought might be original insights have turned out to be theories put forth by reputable scholars. So my conclusions appear to be, generally, sound.

41 Et ut appropinquavit, videns civitatem flevit super illam 

42 dicens: “Si cognovisses et tu in hac die, quae ad pacem tibi! Nunc autem abscondita sunt ab oculis tuis. 

43 Quia venient dies in te, et circumdabunt te inimici tui vallo et obsidebunt te et coangustabunt te undique 

44 et ad terram prosternent te et filios tuos, qui in te sunt, et non relinquent in te lapidem super lapidem, eo quod non cognoveris tempus visitationis tuae ”.

45 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας,

46 λέγων αὐτοῖς, Γέγραπται, Καὶ ἔσται ὁ οἶκός μου οἶκος προσευχῆς, ὑμεῖς δὲ αὐτὸν ἐποιήσατε σπήλαιον λῃστῶν.

And coming into the Temple, he began to throw out the sellers, (46) saying to them, “It is written, ‘And my house will be (one) of prayer, and you have made it a cave of thieves.

Sorry, have to stop here for two points. First, it is a ‘spelaion of thieves’;  people who go in for cave exploration are called spelunkers. Here is the root of that. And it’s carried over into the Latin as well: speluncam. I just noted that Mark and Matthew both use exactly the same expression. For whatever reason, I never really noticed until this iteration.

Second, and most importantly, note the word that Jesus uses for “thieves”. It is lestōn, genitive plural of lestēs. Somewhere, biblica scholars with an incomplete understanding of Greek started to propagate the idea that the word lestēs was reserved for insurrectionists. I don’t know the origin, but the book Zealot, by Reza Aslan really put this notion into general circulation. Then again, it is also possible that Aslan only picked up on the general thought and I credit (blame, would be more accurate) him for putting this out there because I read it at the beginning of my studies on the NT. It was not so reserved. It was the general term for thief, or even pirate, as we clearly see here. Aslan then extrapolates from this and claims that crucifixion was reserved for traitors and insurrectionists. This is also patently not true. 

Finally, I really prefer “Den of Thieves” as a translation, if only because it has such a poetic ring to it. 

45 Et ingressus in templum, coepit eicere vendentes 

46 dicens illis: “Scriptum est: “Et erit domus mea domus orationis”. Vos autem fecistis illam speluncam latronum”.

47 Καὶ ἦν διδάσκων τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ. οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν ἀπολέσαι καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι τοῦ λαοῦ:

48 καὶ οὐχ εὕρισκον τὸ τί ποιήσωσιν, ὁ λαὸς γὰρ ἅπας ἐξεκρέματο αὐτοῦ ἀκούων. 

And he was teaching each day in the Temple. The high priests and the scribes and the first ones of the people sought to destroy him. (48) And they did not find the thing (= pretext, or cause) to do this, for the whole people were in suspense hearing him.

Before going into the details, let’s make note of one thing. In these last two sections we have crammed the Palm Sunday Procession, the Weeping Over Jerusalem, and the Cleansing of the Temple into about thirteen verses; or, nearly twenty, if we include the part about the colt. That seems like some epic compression. Why? Here I think we have a great example of Luke deciding that the stories had been sufficiently told, and so he didn’t need to tell them again in any detail. So he gives us the bare-bones facts and we go on our way. And here is another example of why Luke was keenly aware of Matthew; since these stories had already been told twice, they need not be gone over again. Compare this with Luke’s treatment of my favorite story, that of the Gerasene Demonaic. Mark tells the story in full; Matthew abridges; Luke restores pretty much the whole thing.

And here we get even more evidence that Jesus was not killed for threatening the economic basis of the Temple. This was the thesis of JD Crossan in Who Killed Jesus. There he argued that it was this episode which galvanized the Temple authorities into having Jesus executed. By driving out the money-changers and the merchants, Crossan says, Jesus was cutting at the profit machine that was the Temple. But then, as in the other two versions, Jesus has this hissy-fit, and immediately goes into the Temple to teach. Not sure about you, but I am of the opinion that the violent outburst would have had Jesus removed from the premises, and not in any gentle way. Think about it: go into any place of business, tip over some tables or display cases, and then see what happens. If you do this in a restaurant, do you think they would then allow you to take a table? And yet, we are supposed to believe that this is what happened here. Mark told us that Jesus waited until the next day to return to preach, whereas Matthew has Jesus go directly into the Temple and start to teach. The former is slightly more credible, but only slightly so. Which means this episode is likely a fiction. Which means the episode cannot be used to explain anything, let alone something with the consequence and moment of Jesus’ execution.

Then we have the notion that the authorities demurred due to some fear of the crowd. And yet, a few days later, the crowd was more than happy to fill the courtyard of the Praetorium and scream for Jesus to be executed. That performance by “the people” badly undercuts, IMO, the notion of “the people” being “in suspense”– that is, hanging on every word of Jesus. All in all, there seems to be little reason to believe that anything in these last two sections has any historical validity.

47 Et erat docens cotidie in templo. Principes autem sacerdotum et scribae et principes plebis quaerebant illum perdere 

48 et non inveniebant quid facerent; omnis enim populus suspensus erat audiens illum.

Luke Chapter 19:28-40

That leads us into the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, now referred to as Palm Sunday. There are still five chapters left after this one, so I suppose I’m a bit surprised that it’s come up to this already. But the chapters of Luke tend not to be as long as they are in Matthew, or even some of those in Mark. What does this mean? Not sure. Perhaps nothing. So, since a long introduction to set the scene does not seem necessary, let’s get right on to the


28 Καὶ εἰπὼν ταῦτα ἐπορεύετο ἔμπροσθεν ἀναβαίνων εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα.

29 Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤγγισεν εἰς Βηθφαγὴ καὶ Βηθανία[ν] πρὸς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Ἐλαιῶν, ἀπέστειλεν δύο τῶν μαθητῶν

30 λέγων, Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν κατέναντι κώμην, ἐν ἧ εἰσπορευόμενοι εὑρήσετε πῶλον δεδεμένον, ἐφ’ ὃν οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἀνθρώπων ἐκάθισεν, καὶ λύσαντες αὐτὸν ἀγάγετε.

31 καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμᾶς ἐρωτᾷ, Διὰ τί λύετε; οὕτως ἐρεῖτε ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει.

32 ἀπελθόντες δὲ οἱ ἀπεσταλμένοι εὗρον καθὼς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς.

33 λυόντων δὲ αὐτῶν τὸν πῶλον εἶπαν οἱ κύριοι αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτούς, Τί λύετε τὸν πῶλον;

34 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει.

And having said these things, they came forward, climbing up to Jerusalem.

 The famous book by Xenophon, in which he describes the progress of the 10,000 Greek mercenaries upcountry to the Black Sea and back to Greece is the Anabasis. Here we have anabaino. Same verb, different tense.

(35) And it happened as they approached Bethpaige and Bethany, towards the mountain called Olives, he sent to of his disciples (30), saying “Go into the neighboring village in which we are entering, (and) you will find a colt tied up, upon which no one of men ever before has sat on, and loosening him lead him. (31) And if someone asks, ‘Why do you loosen (him)?’, answer thus: ‘The Lord has need of him’. (32) And those sent going forth they found (the situation) according to what he had told them. (33) They having loosed the colt, the lord (=owner) of it (the colt) said to them, “Why do you loose the colt?” (34) And they replied, “The lord has need of him.” 

OK. We discussed this at least once before, in conjunction with this story in either Mark or Matthew, or possibly both. The scene is described the way it is to give the reader the impression that Jesus was prescient, that he knew the colt was there because he knew everything. So he could describe the circumstances, could provide direction, and could predict the reaction of the owner of the colt. My suggestion is that Jesus made prior arrangements with the owner of the colt, and “The lord has need of him” was the code, the signal that they were the emissaries of Jesus, and the owner should comply as arranged. Then, once the disciples were asked the leading question, they replied in the prearranged signal and everything was copacetic. I will suggest pretty much the same thing when it comes time to arrange the Seder on Thursday evening.

As for the “colt”. The Greek word is ambiguous. It refers to a young member of the equine family. It could be the offspring of either a horse or a donkey. Of course, Jesus is always portrayed as riding a donkey. The intervening centuries, in which a gentleman is known in France as a chevalier, or in Spain as a caballero, or the group below the Senatorial class in Rome were known as equites, we have a certain snobbery about donkeys. The three words all refer to someone who owns a horse; that is, he has the wealth to maintain at least one horse. For those of you who don’t know, even today horses are very expensive animals to own and maintain. A lot of people in my social class who own horses make work-arrangements at a barn to reduce the cost of boarding the horse. A horse, in short, was a status symbol, even among the Romans. The equites are often referred to in English as knights; this is both accurate and not accurate. Like the equites, knights attained their status as knights by being able to own a horse. In fact, owing a horse was pretty much a sine qua non for being a knight. Given these centuries of snobbery about horse ownership, we see Jesus riding a donkey as a sign of humility. Well, maybe not. Donkeys are much less expensive than horses, and they are much hardier creatures, able to survive on a lower-level regimen of vegetation. They are better suited to stony, hilly terrain; the friars, the peons in Mexico owned burros, which are donkeys. Judea was not a terribly lush or fertile land, and even to own a donkey was a bit of a status symbol. In fact, Saul and David, kings, rode donkeys. That they were fictional underscores the prestige of a donkey. I mean, if you’re making up a glorious monarchy, why have them ride donkeys, and not horses? So the point is, Jesus riding a donkey, riding anything, is an indication of status and not humility. As for the part about never having been ridden, I suspect this adds to the prestige. So Jesus riding on this donkey, never before ridden, did not present an image of a humble individual.

28 Et his dictis, praecedebat ascendens Hierosolymam.

29 Et factum est, cum appropinquasset ad Bethfage et Bethaniam, ad montem, qui vocatur Oliveti, misit duos discipulos 

30 dicens: “Ite in castellum, quod contra est, in quod introeuntes invenietis pullum asinae alligatum, cui nemo umquam hominum sedit; solvite illum et adducite. 

31 Et si quis vos interrogaverit: “Quare solvitis?”, sic dicetis: “Dominus eum necessarium habet’ ”. 

32 Abierunt autem, qui missi erant, et invenerunt, sicut dixit illis. 

33 Solventibus autem illis pullum, dixerunt domini eius ad illos: “Quid solvitis pullum?”. 

34 At illi dixerunt: “Dominus eum necessarium habet”. 

35 καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἐπιρίψαντες αὐτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια ἐπὶ τὸν πῶλον ἐπεβίβασαν τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

36 πορευομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ὑπεστρώννυοντὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.

37 Ἐγγίζοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἤδη πρὸς τῇ καταβάσει τοῦ Ὄρους τῶν Ἐλαιῶν ἤρξαντοἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν χαίροντες αἰνεῖν τὸν θεὸν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ περὶ πασῶν ὧν εἶδον δυνάμεων,

38 λέγοντες, Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου: ἐν οὐρανῷ εἰρήνη καὶ δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις.

39 καί τινες τῶν Φαρισαίων ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε, ἐπιτίμησον τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου.

40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν οὗτοι σιωπήσουσιν, οἱ λίθοι κράξουσιν. 

And they led him to Jesus. And and casting their outer garments upon the colt, Jesus mounted it. (36) He proceeding forward, they spread their outer garments on the road. (37) He drawing nigh to the descent fro the Mount of Olives, the crowd of his disciples began rejoicing to praise God in a loud voice about which all knew, (38) saying, “Well-spoken of is the king coming in the name of the lord; in the sky (be) peace and glory to (those) the most high”. (39) And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your learners.” (40) And answering he said, “I tell you, if they became silent, the stones would shout.” 

Anyone notice anything missing? This is the story of Palm Sunday; so where are the palm branches? Also, the crowd does not shout “Hosanna”. On the whole, however, the three versions of this story that we’ve heard are very close in a lot of details. Matthew had the disciples bringing both a donkey and its (presumably) colt. And Matthew does state that the donkey was a symbol of humility since it was a beast of burden; however, Matthew conveys this to us in the guise of yet another prophecy to be fulfilled. I did some checking, and the quote Matthew delivered in this situation is a mash-up of a quatrain of Isaiah preceding four lines from Zechariah. This latter is very interesting, since these are the lines that contain the reference to the humility of the donkey. Zechariah is one of the last books of the HS; as such, the thoughts expressed about the relative humility of the donkey could have /would have been rather different from attitudes of a few centuries earlier. Riding horses, it turns out, is a fairly recent invention, due to factors that included the size of horses, the difficulty of training them to accept a rider, things like bits, reins, and saddles (note: stirrups appear to have been invented in China sometime in the 4-5th Century CE. They did not reach the west until sometime between the rule of Charles Martel and his grandson, Charlemagne.) Even the Assyrian Empire, the one that ended the independent existence of Israel, did not have a cavalry. The Persians, however, did. When Darius sent an expedition to invade Athens in 490, Herodotus goes to great lengths to describe the horse-transport ships that the Great King constructed especially for the occasion, because the cavalry was an important arm of the Persian army. Before that, an equid being ridden was likely a donkey, or an ass, or an onager, or perhaps a mule, but not a horse. So, back in the day, even kings rode donkeys. As a result, Zechariah, living a few centuries after the onset of cavalry, would have considered riding a donkey a sign of humility. Isaiah, who was pre-Persian Empire, perhaps not. 

The procession itself deserves a few words, even if we’re repeating things said about the previous versions. As with Mark, this procession seems to be composed almost entirely of Jesus’ followers. This was not the adulation of the great mass of the people of Jerusalem that it has come to be viewed. The scene in Jesus Christ Superstar has Simon Zealotes telling Jesus that there must be over 50,000 people “screaming love and more for you”. We really don’t get that impression from the description in any of the gospels we’ve read so far. A procession is, IMO, a far better description. Jesus is surrounded by his followers, who may be numerous, perhaps 100-200 people, but not much beyond that. That would be enough to annoy the Pharisees, but it would hardly constitute a mob. And even the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisee indicates a fairly modest crowd; how else could they have the exchange if the procession was more of a parade with vast numbers of people shouting? Here is an insight I’m reasonably sure you’ve never heard before. First of all, we need to work from the assumption that the whole episode is pure fiction. It was concocted to give credence to the idea that Jesus was killed because of his teaching. The Passion Narrative is great drama; it impressed the hell out of me even as a kid. In both Catholic and Episcopalian (High-ish Church, anyway) worship, the Passion is read on Palm Sunday and, IIRC, on Good Friday. As a kid, I loved hearing the whole thing. And that’s the point: it’s great drama. The proof that Jesus wasn’t killed because of his teaching is given by the fact that James, brother of Jesus, continued to lead the sect for two or three decades after Jesus was killed. Had Jesus been any kind of threat to any of the prevailing powers, James, Peter, and several dozen–or more–other followers would have been rounded up and executed along with him. Tacitus describes the vast number Christians rounded up and executed by Nero as a point of comparison. That didn’t happen with Peter and James, apparently. So anyway, within this made-up episode we have an exchange that would be difficult to pull off even in the circumstances of a crowd of a couple of hundred people. Think about the last time you were in a crowd of that size that is excited and animated. Communication is reduced to shouting. Yes, Jesus and the Pharisee could perhaps have shouted the exchange at each other, but the implausible factors are adding up. The point is that we have here a great display of why the gospels are not to be taken seriously as history. They are not. The exchange is True; it is not factually accurate. All of this is True. It’s Revealed Truth. It is not, and was never meant to be taken as factually accurate.

35 Et duxerunt illum ad Iesum; et iactantes vestimenta sua supra pullum, imposuerunt Iesum. 

36 Eunte autem illo, substernebant vestimenta sua in via. 

37 Et cum appropinquaret iam ad descensum montis Oliveti, coeperunt omnis multitudo discipulorum gaudentes laudare Deum voce magna super omnibus, quas viderant, virtutibus 

38 dicentes: “Benedictus, qui venit rex in nomine Domini! / Pax in caelo, et gloria in excelsis!”.

39 Et quidam pharisaeorum de turbis dixerunt ad illum: “ Magister, increpa discipulos tuos! ”. 

40 Et respondens dixit: “Dico vobis: Si hi tacuerint, lapides clamabunt! “.

Luke Chapter 19:11-27

Now we return to our regularly scheduled programming. Verse 11 is included below, but the comment on it is included in the separate post.

That being said, we are brought to the story of the talents, or the Money Usage, or however one wishes to label it. I have never particularly liked this story. It always seemed a bit too harsh; actually, my objection is that it’s a bit (or a lot) too capitalistic for my taste. An alternative rubric, or title, could easily be The Rich Get Richer. And this is a long section of text; however, since the story itself is familiar, it may not require much commentary. This has become something of a problem for the Triple Tradition material: it’s hard to come up with a new take, so I either repeat what I’ve said about the other two versions, or I say nothing at all. Which is better? Or worse?

So with that as a means of a (brief) introduction, let’s get to the


11 Ἀκουόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι Ἰερουσαλὴμ αὐτὸν καὶ δοκεῖν αὐτοὺς ὅτι παραχρῆμα μέλλει ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναφαίνεσθαι.

They having heard these things he spoke an added parable, since he was near to Jerusalem and it seemed to them that the kingdom of God was to be immediately apparent.

See Post Luke Chapter 19:11 for comment on Verse 11.

11 Haec autem illis audientibus, adiciens dixit parabolam, eo quod esset prope Ierusalem, et illi existimarent quod confestim regnum Dei manifestaretur. 

12 εἶπεν οὖν, Ἄνθρωπός τις εὐγενὴς ἐπορεύθη εἰς χώραν μακρὰν λαβεῖν ἑαυτῷ βασιλείαν καὶ ὑποστρέψαι.

13 καλέσας δὲ δέκα δούλους ἑαυτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς δέκα μνᾶς καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Πραγματεύσασθε ἐν ᾧ ἔρχομαι.

14 οἱ δὲ πολῖται αὐτοῦ ἐμίσουν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀπέστειλαν πρεσβείαν ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ λέγοντες, Οὐ θέλομεν τοῦτον βασιλεῦσαι ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς.

15 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐπανελθεῖν αὐτὸν λαβόντα τὴν βασιλείαν καὶ εἶπεν φωνηθῆναι αὐτῷ τοὺς δούλους τούτους οἷς δεδώκει τὸ ἀργύριον, ἵνα γνοῖ τί διεπραγματεύσαντο.

Thus he said, “A certain man, well-born (i.e. noble) left to a far country to receive to himself a kingdom, and to return. (13) Calling ten slaves to himself he gave to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage yourselves until I come (back)’. (14) The citizens of him hated him, and they sent messages after him saying, ‘We do not want him to rule over us’. (15) And it happened upon his return having received the kingdom and he said to be called to him the slaves to whom he had given the silver, in order that he might know what they had realized in commerce.

First, the whole set-up for the story seems a bit bizarre. The nobleman has been called to receive a kingdom? Really? Someone just sent an angel (messenger) with a note asking for the guy to come? And then “the citizens” send their own angel (i.e., messenger) with a different note to say they hate the guy. Presumably, these are the citizens of the kingdom to be received; that is not entirely clear, but it’s difficult to find another way to take this that makes any sense. But the nobleman does receive the kingdom, at which point he does return. OK. Got it?

The story of the consigned money is also in Matthew, but not in Mark; ergo, it’s considered to be part of Q. Now, here we have a setting, a description of surrounding circumstances for the story that is completely missing from Matthew. Therefore, the implication is that Matthew chose not to include this backstory, and probably for obvious reasons. So then we have to ask which version is the more “primitive”. Is it Matthew, who left out stuff? Or Luke, because he included material that was in Q? Now, Kloppenborg, in his “definitive” Q text, leaves out the part about the message from the citizens, so that part is not purported to be in Q. So I guess that means Luke made it up? Or, he got it from some mysterious L Source, presumably an oral source that kept alive material that bypassed Mark and Matthew. So is this L material older than Q? If so, why wasn’t it included in Q? Well, it could be that it was contemporaneous with Q, but it traveled through a different line of transmission. Was the author of Q aware of this part of the story and chose not to include it? Why not? If there were two lines of transmission, each reaching back to Jesus, then we have one origin who chose to include this part, while another either chose not to include these details. Again, why not? If both lines trace back to Jesus, there is a common source that then became bifurcated, with some material left out. On what criteria did the author of Q chose to omit these details? Has anyone ever offered an explanation why Q omitted this part? Of course, if Q did include these details, what are Matthew’s criteria for leaving it out? Anyone? Bueller? 

The other alternative is that it may not be older than, or contemporaneous with Q; however, that necessarily means that someone else made it up, and this presents an entirely different set of problems and questions. If Matthew got his story directly from Q, and Q did not have these details as Kloppenborg says it didn’t, then Matthew provides the more primitive version of the story. But who made up these other details? And when? And if these details were made up later, what other material was made up later? Now, this is an exercise that desperately needs to be done. We need to stop and think and try to reconstruct a path of development that the story of Jesus took. It should start during his ministry, continue through his death and resurrection (whether literal or figurative; that is a discussion yet to be had), through the years when James the Just was leading the ekklesia in Jerusalem, then branching into the ekklesiai that Paul established, bringing us Mark, Matthew, Luke, & John. The epistles that were not written by Paul truly need not concern us much; they are minor stops on the larger journey. To the best of my knowledge, this undertaking I am suggesting has never been done. If it has, I would appreciate someone giving me the cite(s), so that I can follow up on my own. Tracing the path of development would be very instructive, IMO. It would help us understand more completely just what we are up against when we try to sort out questions of the sort we face in this section of text. Where did these details about the kingdom, the existence of which is not hinted at in Matthew, originate? When did they originate? Where did the M Source originate? The L Source? We can’t just attribute them to some vague “oral tradition”. That is woefully insufficient.

Let’s notice something else. The stories in the L Source are more elaborate than those in the M Source. This latter gives us the story of the banquet where no one comes. The former gives us the Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Good Shepherd, and all the details about the kingdom that we get here. Why is that? And, for that matter, why are Matthew’s stories attributed to the M Source, more elaborate, for the most part, than the stories in Mark? Mark has the Geresene Demonaic, which Matthew shortened and Luke restored more closely to its original length. As a general rule, stories become more complex as they are told, as new tellers add their own touches and flourishes. There are all the studies of how oral traditions work, and we have an idea of how something like The Iliad was recited, how each poet more or less composed his own version, a process that was finally ended when Homer (or someone) wrote it down. This would imply that the elaboration of Luke’s stories took time; or they took a very creative author, and we may as well call him Luke.

12 Dixit ergo: “ Homo quidam nobilis abiit in regionem longinquam accipere sibi regnum et reverti. 

13 Vocatis autem decem servis suis, dedit illis decem minas et ait ad illos: “Negotiamini, dum venio”. 

14 Cives autem eius oderant illum et miserunt legationem post illum dicentes: “Nolumus hunc regnare super nos!”. 

15 Et factum est ut rediret, accepto regno, et iussit ad se vocari servos illos, quibus dedit pecuniam, ut sciret quantum negotiati essent. 

16 παρεγένετο δὲ ὁ πρῶτος λέγων, Κύριε, ἡ μνᾶ σου δέκα προσηργάσατο μνᾶς.

17 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εὖγε, ἀγαθὲ δοῦλε, ὅτι ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ πιστὸς ἐγένου, ἴσθι ἐξουσίαν ἔχων ἐπάνω δέκα πόλεων.

“And it happened the first saying to him, ‘Lord, your mina I have parlayed into ten minas’. (17) And he (the lord) said to him (the slave), ‘Well done, good slave, that in small things faith has been in you, you having power are above ten cities’.

Just a few technical points. The Greek is a bit oblique;, I’ve done the best I could to put it into English that still retains some of the oblique character. The meaning is clear enough, but Greek allows some twists of grammar that English cannot convey. For example, in Verse 17, the word ‘faith’ is in the nominative, which means it should be the subject, but the verb form is second person singular, ‘you’. This sort of straightens out in the final clause, but it remains a bit awkward. Second, my imagination fails me for the word rendered as “parlayed”. I tried “invested”, but that has connotations in English that are completely anachronistic to the first century. The root of the verb used is ‘to go to market’; the concept conveyed is that he bought and sold to reap a profit of 1000%. Not bad.

And a mina is a weight of silver, as is a talent, and, I believe, a shekel.

16 Venit autem primus dicens: “Domine, mina tua decem minas acquisivit”. 

17 Et ait illi: “Euge, bone serve; quia in modico fidelis fuisti, esto potestatem habens supra decem civitates”. 

18 καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ δεύτερος λέγων, Ἡ μνᾶ σου, κύριε, ἐποίησεν πέντε μνᾶς.

19 εἶπεν δὲ καὶ τούτῳ, Καὶ σὺ ἐπάνω γίνου πέντε πόλεων.

20 καὶ ὁ ἕτερος ἦλθεν λέγων, Κύριε, ἰδοὺ ἡ μνᾶ σου ἣν εἶχον ἀποκειμένην ἐν σουδαρίῳ:

21 ἐφοβούμην γάρ σε, ὅτι ἄνθρωπος αὐστηρὸς εἶ, αἴρεις ὃ οὐκ ἔθηκας καὶ θερίζεις ὃ οὐκ ἔσπειρας.

22 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ἐκ τοῦ στόματός σου κρίνω σε, πονηρὲ δοῦλε. ᾔδεις ὅτι ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος αὐστηρός εἰμι, αἴρων ὃ οὐκ ἔθηκα καὶ θερίζων ὃ οὐκ ἔσπειρα;   

23 καὶ διὰ τί οὐκ ἔδωκάς μου τὸ ἀργύριον ἐπὶ τράπεζαν; κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν σὺν τόκῳ ἂν αὐτὸ ἔπραξα.

“And the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, lord, I have made five minas’. (19) And he (the lord) said to him (the slave), ‘And you come over five cities’. (20) And the other came, saying. ‘Lord, behold your mina, having which I wrapped in a cloth. (21) For I feared you, that you are a stringent man, you take up what you do not put down, and you reap what you do not sow’. (22) He (the lord) said to him (the slave), ‘From your mouth you judge yourself, wicked slave. Did you know that I an a stringent man, taking up what I did not put down, and reaping what I did not sow? (23) And on account of what did you not give my silver to the money changers and I coming with interest which it has performed’.

It’s a little difficult putting this into terms that make sense in both the ancient and modern worlds. The lord literally asks why the slave didn’t put the silver on a table; however, this came to be understood to be a money-changer’s table. The idea is that by giving the silver to money changers who took a certain percentage of the money exchanged, it would have earned a return. It is not proper to call it interest; a transaction fee is perhaps more accurate. The word used for this transaction fee actually means ‘usury’, but that has connotations of a loan. Which I suppose isn’t too far off, since the slave would be, in effect, loaning the money to the changers. And I have to say, lending the silver to money-changers doesn’t seem like a bad way to invest. From the disparaging way they are talked about, it would seem that they had a pretty good track record when it came to financial return. It wasn’t a venture likely to result in the loss of capital invested. Perhaps the slave feared they wouldn’t give him a fair return? Or even a return of the principal? Finally, the word for ‘stringent’ transliterates as ‘austeros’, ‘austere’. I believe stringent more effectively captures the idea that the lord is s hard man rather than one who lives a Spartan lifestyle.

18 Et alter venit dicens: “Mina tua, domine, fecit quinque minas”. 

19 Et huic ait: “Et tu esto supra quinque civitates”. 

20 Et alter venit dicens: “Domine, ecce mina tua, quam habui repositam in sudario; 

21 timui enim te, quia homo austerus es: tollis, quod non posuisti, et metis, quod non seminasti”. 

22 Dicit ei: “De ore tuo te iudico, serve nequam! Sciebas quod ego austerus homo sum, tollens quod non posui et metens quod non seminavi? 

23 Et quare non dedisti pecuniam meam ad mensam? Et ego veniens cum usuris utique exegissem illud”. 

24 καὶ τοῖς παρεστῶσιν εἶπεν, Ἄρατε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὴν μνᾶν καὶ δότε τῷ τὰς δέκα μνᾶς ἔχοντι.

25 καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἔχει δέκα μνᾶς.

26 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι παντὶ τῷ ἔχοντι δοθήσεται, ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ μὴ ἔχοντος καὶ ὃ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται. 

27 πλὴν τοὺς ἐχθρούς μου τούτους τοὺς μὴ θελήσαντάς με βασιλεῦσαι ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἀγάγετε ὧδε καὶ κατασφάξατε αὐτοὺς ἔμπροσθέν μου. 

“And to those standing around he (the lord) said, “Take from him the mina and give (it) to the one having ten minas’. (25) And he (the slave) said to him (the lord), ‘I have ten minas.’ (26) ‘I say to you that to all (individuals) having (it/something/more) will be given, but (δὲ) from the one(s) not having, even what he has will be taken. (27) Except those my enemies not wishing me to rule over them, lead them (here) so that you can also slay them in front of me’.”

And there you go, the First Church of Christ Capitalist. We discussed the lesson here in the commentary on Matthew’s version of the story. Does it not seem contrary to the idea of a humble saviour, one who tells us to turn the other cheek? What we have here is a many riding roughshod over his enemies, consigning them to public execution while he watches. This is a damn sight worse than simply taking the mina away from the slave who perhaps did not have the market savvy to put the money to work and produce a return. This inability to make money is offensive to the lord, and he will not tolerate it.

OF course, this is not to be taken literally. The ability to make money is symbolism for spiritual growth. The one with faith will have, or produce more, while the one with little will lost even that. Such a symbolic meaning does blunt the unsettling aspect of the parable; but only to a point. I don’t entirely like the sound of a lesson that tells me the person needing an infusion of faith will not receive it. Or, I suspect, we should substitute “grace” for “faith”. Outside of Romans, I do not know the scriptural passages Augustine used as a basis for his argument for predestination; however, it seems like this would be a prime candidate. The whole thing rests upon whether or not humans can merit salvation. Augustine and Luther, and especially Calvin following, believed that we are so wretchedly depraved that the initiative had to come from God in the form of prevenient grace which God grants to some-but only some–humans, thereby allowing them to start on the path to redemption and salvation. I really don’t like that message. Really, if it’s all God’s choice, than what is the point? And I see this thinking on display in some very ugly ways in these United States. Thanks to the Calvinist heritage brought over by the Pilgrims/Puritans (there is no functional difference), we know that all God’s chosen are rich. This provides a justification for ignoring the poor; they’re all Foreknown and will be damned, so why bother? It’s also apparent in the heritage of the Scots-Irish, and their attitude towards the US as a country. Since the USA is the new Chosen People, we can commit all manner of atrocities on non-Christians for much the same reason. So this strain that runs through Christianity has had some very pernicious consequences.

Pardon the rant. The real significance of this version of the story comes from the fact that the lord is also a king. We’ve already discussed what this means for Q. The length and elaboration of this version would indicate that it was later, at least in part, than Matthew’s version. Just to repeat, Kloppenborg does not believe the part about the king was in Q. So someone made it up. And if someone made that up, then other stuff could have been made up as well. There is no evidence for an L Source, or an M Source, except for the fact that Luke and Matthew have material found nowhere else in the NT. Calling it an oral source really doesn’t help because oral sources are impossible to pin down. That is not to say they didn’t exist; they did, and probably numbered in the hundreds. Zaccheus could easily be the result of an oral source that originated in Jericho came that up with a story that included Jericho in the Jesus cycle of stories. Many of the stories of Jesus interacting with pagans probably started as oral sources. So what is my point? That these oral sources very likely were invented after, perhaps decades after Jesus died. The “oral source” trick is to imply that the material contained originated at the time of Jesus and survived to be included in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and even John. Of course, a few of these stories did just that; the Parable of the Sower is probably one of them; or, it is more likely to represent a genuine survival than almost all of the others. And it is entirely possible that one or two of the stories unique to Matthew or Luke had an origin in or about the time of Jesus. It’s possible, but not very likely.

Why not? That is an extremely difficult topic. It goes back to the question of why nothing was written about Jesus until thirty years after his death. More, it is the question of how the traditions that reached Mark were formulated and transmitted. That is a very difficult question; it’s also one that has been pretty much completely ignored. 

As an aside, back in Verse 13, there were ten slaves who were each given a mina. We have had an accounting from only three. What happened to the other seven? Were they erased due to editorial fatigue? Luke lost count? Actually, that was intended as a glib, throwaway remark; however, having been committed to paper, it resonates more than I had expected. Along with the kingdom, the number of slaves presents a significant discrepancy with Matthew– but only at the beginning of the story. The term “editorial fatigue” is the condition where someone working from an earlier source starts out by making initial changes to give a fresh coat of paint to the older story, but then sort of gets ‘fatigued’ from all that new thinking, and eventually just slips back into following the original source. On one hand, I find this a bit ludicrous; after all, we’re talking about a few paragraphs and not an epic poem. OTOH, how to explain the change that ends up where we started: in Matthew’s version of the story? One plausible resolution is that it should be called copyist fatigue; the scribe, copying a manuscript, doesn’t feel like going into the whole rigamarole with seven more slaves, and whacks it back to the smaller number reported by Matthew. The difference between editor and copyist has major ramifications. If it’s editorial fatigue, this will imply, if not require, that Luke was working with knowledge of Matthew. This blows a hole in Q. If the fatigue arose in the copyist, any later copyist could have had access to both Matthew and Luke. This does not require that Luke be aware of Matthew. The laziness could have occurred hundreds of years after Luke was written. Hence, there is no impact on the Q discussion. So which is it?

Finally, there is the discrepancy between the measures of silver; here we have minas, but Matthew has talents. This need not detain us. Each author could have easily substituted the weight more common to the area he was writing. That is a minor change, and any conclusions drawn from the substitution lack any real substance. IMO, anyway. 

24 Et adstantibus dixit: “Auferte ab illo minam et date illi, qui decem minas habet”. 

25 Et dixerunt ei: “Domine, habet decem minas!”. 

26 Dico vobis: “Omni habenti dabitur; ab eo autem, qui non habet, et, quod habet, auferetur. 

27 Verumtamen inimicos meos illos, qui noluerunt me regnare super se, adducite huc et interficite ante me! ”.