Author Archives: James, brother of Jesus

Luke Chapter 8:9-18

Well, that didn’t work. This was supposed to follow hard on the heels of the previous post. That one got published in the expectation that this would follow within a day or two. Oh well. It’s the difference between being off and working.

To recap, we just had the parable of the Sower. Now we get to Jesus’ explanation of the parable. Again, this is also part of the triple tradition, found in all three Synoptic Gospels.

Text

9 Ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τίς αὕτη εἴη ἡ παραβολή.

10 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς, ἵνα βλέποντες μὴ βλέπωσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες μὴ συνιῶσιν.

His learners asked him what this parable might be. (10) He said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; to the rest (it is given) in parables, so that seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand”.

Up until this point, the idea that Jesus chose to “teach” people in a way that will, deliberately, hinder their understanding always struck me as…odd, to say the least. Bizarre comes closer to my feeling. After all, what is the point of this? Why does one teach if one is going to hide the message To weed out those who fell among the rocks? (Pun not intended, but accepted.) To see who will come back for more instruction? And this is a legitimate question on my part. How, on what level, does this make sense?

This takes us right back to the commentary where we left off in the last section. These words serve to amplify the injunction that concluded the parable itself. The answer is, it doesn’t make sense. At least, it doesn’t make sense if the purpose is to teach everyone the method to attain that Perfect State, whether that term is defined in Christian fashion as going to heaven post mortem, or in a Gnostic sense of attaining Knowledge. That is, emphatically, not the point of the teaching. It is designed to weed out the unworthy. Why it’s designed to do that is another question, one much harder to answer without moving completely into the realm of theology. So, while it may be bizarre, that is the intent. No other answer truly makes sense.

These words go all the way back to Mark, and are retained by the other two. Matthew & Luke retain this even though it does not exactly fit with their message. It fits quite comfortably with Mark; after all, Mark is the purveyor of the theme of the “Messianic Secret”. This fits with that. It fits rather nicely with Mark as the proto-Gnostic, for whom there were secrets and mysteries that were not for hoi polloi. But even then, the fit is rather nice, but not complete. For Mark, the disciples as a group were rather a collection of ¡dullards! who did not “get it” on a number of topics, and on a number of occasions. I suppose this is meant to underscore just how thick they really were; in Mark’s narrative, this comes at the beginning of Chapter 4, when Jesus is starting his ministry in earnest. That he tells the disciples the meaning of what he says, and they still don’t get it is a pretty savage indictment of the disciples. And this is one of the reasons I do not believe that Mark was the John Mark of Acts who was Peter’s assistant. If anything, Mark was an adherent of one of Peter’s rivals for primacy in the new organization.

The other thing, if this goes all the way back to Mark, it has a much better chance of being traceable back to Jesus. At least, the parable may trace back to Jesus, even if the explanation that we have here does not. Personally, I believe it quite likely (70-75%) that the Parable of the Sower may be “Genuine Jesus (GJ™)”;I have about the same level of certainty that the Sermon on the Mount was not. At least, not in anything like the way it’s presented. I suspect that some of the aphorisms in there–particularly the ones found in Mark, like the salt–may be GJ™. While reading Mark, we discussed the possible reasons why Mark kept repeating the theme; the answer that made the most sense to me was was that he was trying to explain why most Jews remained Jews. Then, on top of that, there was the insider’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink that, we got it, but they didn’t. From there, it’s not so long of a step to reading the idea of secret doctrines into the texts, or at least the implication that there was a secret doctrine to be learned, perhaps above and beyond what the text provided. IOW, it’s a short step from here to the idea of Gnosticism, or at least to the point that Gnosticism seems to be a logical inference. Was that the point of this? Perhaps. Mark was, I believe, hinting at there being more, something that even the disciples didn’t quite get. That’s a pretty strong invitation to induce someone to want to learn what that extra something might be.

So why do Matthew and Luke retain this bit? As we’ve seen, Luke in particular is not at all shy about ditching parts of Mark. I believe that he only retains 45% (IIRC; in that neighborhood) of Mark while Matthew retained close to 80 0r 90%. The question, of course, cannot be answered, even if you are able to come up with a redactionally consistent explanation for Luke’s gospel. The most likely reason that both kept this part is probably no different for why Mark added it in the first place: to explain why most Jews, ultimately, did not become followers of Jesus. They hear, but they did not understand. That may seem like a cop-out answer, but I don’t think that question would have gone away in a few generations. In fact, it only worsened, so that by the time John wrote, the Jews were portrayed as downright hostile. 

9 Interrogabant autem eum discipuli eius, quae esset haec parabola.

10 Quibus ipse dixit: “ Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni Dei, ceteris autem in parabolis, ut videntes non videant et audientes non intellegant.

11 Ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή: Ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.

12 οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, εἶτα ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, ἵνα μὴ πιστεύσαντες σωθῶσιν.

13 οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον, καὶ οὗτοι ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν, οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται.

14 τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, καὶ ὑπὸ μεριμνῶν καὶ πλούτου καὶ ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου πορευόμενοι συμπνίγονται καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν.

15 τὸ δὲ ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἵτινες ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον κατέχουσιν καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ.

“Here is the parable. The seem is the word of God. (12) Those beside the road are those hearing, the the devil come and takes the word word from their hearts, so that lest believing, they be saved. (13) Those upon the rock are those (that) when they year with gladness they receive the word, but they do not have roots, they for a time believe and in time having been tested the stand away (from the word). (13) And that having fallen in the thorns, they are those hearing, but under thoughts of wealth and the pleasures of life going they are choked and they do not carry through to the end. (15) That which on the good soil, they are those who, hearing in a beautiful and good heart they receive and they bear fruit in abundance.” 

Perhaps the most notable part of this explanation is what is not there. Mark says that one of the reasons that some of the seed falls away is persecution and tribulation. Matthew follows. Many suspect, or interpret Mark as referring to the time of the conquest of Jerusalem. Writing after this fall, the idea of persecution or tribulation would have been fresh in the minds of most of the audience. Even for Matthew, writing fifteen years later, this whole time of troubles would have been a familiar concept. For Luke, however, we have to ask whether this would still be true. Oh sure, old timers would have remembered, and they would have told some of their kids and grandkids, but if Luke were writing somewhere other than Palestine (as it was then called) or Syria, how many would know of the Jewish War and its consequences? The number is impossible to estimate, but it’s pretty easy to put the estimate as much lower than the number during the life of Matthew, and especially the time of Mark. So why bring up a topic that would make people scratch their heads at the reference? And remember, Luke is the first of the evangelists about whom we can definitively say that he was aware of Paul, and probably at least some of Paul’s writings. Paul talked about persecution, or at least about “pressure” which is the word he most frequently used. So that Luke chose to drop this part about persecution is, I would suggest, very significant.

And not just because some fading of the urgency was due to the temporal receding of the tribulations. It also demonstrates very clearly that Luke will syncopate stories that are in the triple tradition. Luke’s is the shortest version of this story, and by a fairly sizable margin. This is the second time we’ve encountered this. At least, I thought it was. Now that I’m looking or it, I can’t find the first example. The story of the Gerasene/Gadarene demonaic is coming up, and Luke’s is not the shortest version of that pericope. This point again matters for the discussion of Luke as redactor, and what his “editorial policy” might be. It indicates that he was willing to change pretty much anything, even pieces that quite possibly originated with Jesus. As such, changing the order in Matthew’s material would not have seemed terribly radical to Luke. We saw, after all, how Luke had no qualms about moving the “prophet without honor in his home country” speech from it’s Markan context to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Here, Luke edits out some reasonably important words. This combination indicates, I believe, that Luke saw the tradition as very plastic, something to be worked rather than something to be maintained at all costs. Indeed, had he felt the latter, chances are he would not have written a gospel in the first place.

Which leads to a very interesting question. This is not one that will be found in the circles of standard NT scholarship. I’ve never seen it in Ehrman or Crossan, but my ignorance is in no way proof. I may be wrong. The question is, how did the evangelists perceive the inherited tradition? Specifically, how did they perceive the words that were supposedly uttered by Jesus? The answer to the first part, I believe, is that Matthew felt the tradition should be maintained, which is why Matthew retained so much of Mark. Luke on the other hand, had a much more fluid perception of the tradition; what’s more, I believe this attitude towards the tradition was, or was becoming prevalent. My proof for this? The Gospel of John, which pretty much jettisons most of the framework that even Luke maintained. Even more, I think that this attitude of plasticity even extended to the words of Jesus. “I am the vine, you are the branches”; “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; these are such foundation stones of Christian belief that I suspect it’s hard for most to accept that John made them up. Think about it: can we seriously expect that such beautifully-worded expressions were only retained by a single tradition, lying “dormant” as it were, until John picked them up and wrote them down? My apologies, but that is almost certainly impossible. Even by the time of Luke, the cross-fertilization of Christian (as it’s appropriate to call them) communities had reached the point that Paul was being incorporated into the body of belief, if perhaps not the written corpus quite yet–although that is certainly possible. To expect that there was still another isolated tradition that had cultivated these wonderful words that we find in John beggars the imagination. As Eliza Doolittle put it, “not bloody likely”.

After that conclusion, the question becomes one of “how far backwards did this plastic attitude extend”? Luke will make up the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; John made up the quotes mentioned above; did Mathew make up the Sermon on the Mount? I would suggest so, at least in part. But I’ve been pretty clear about that, so this opinion should come as no surprise.

11 Est autem haec parabola: Semen est verbum Dei.

12 Qui autem secus viam, sunt qui audiunt; deinde venit Diabolus et tollit verbum de corde eorum, ne credentes salvi fiant.

13 Qui autem supra petram: qui cum audierint, cum gaudio suscipiunt verbum; et hi radices non habent, qui ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recedunt.

14 Quod autem in spinis cecidit: hi sunt, qui audierunt et a sollicitudinibus et divitiis et voluptatibus vitae euntes suffocantur et non referunt fructum.

15 Quod autem in bonam terram: hi sunt, qui in corde bono et optimo audientes verbum retinent et fructum afferunt in patientia.

16 Οὐδεὶς δὲ λύχνον ἅψας καλύπτει αὐτὸν σκεύει ἢ ὑποκάτω κλίνης τίθησιν, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ λυχνίας τίθησιν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι βλέπωσιν τὸ φῶς.

17 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ φανερὸν γενήσεται, οὐδὲ ἀπόκρυφον ὃ οὐ μὴ γνωσθῇ καὶ εἰς φανερὸν ἔλθῃ.

18 βλέπετε οὖν πῶς ἀκούετε: ὃς ἂν γὰρ ἔχῃ, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ ἔχῃ, καὶ ὃ δοκεῖ ἔχειν ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

“No one lighting a lamp hides the vessel, but puts it under the bed, but in a lamp stand puts it, so that those coming towards will see the light. (17) For naught that is hidden which will not become revealed, nor secreted away which will not be known and come into the light. (18) Therefore look how you listen. For he that has, it will be given to him, and he who does have, and what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

From a literary standpoint, these three verses really have nothing to do with each other. The idea of not hiding a light really is not related to hidden things becoming manifest. Yes, it’s possible to stretch the two metaphors so they overlap, suggesting that the lighted lamp is what brings the hidden things to light, but that’s exactly what it is: a stretch. And neither has anything to do with having and not having. Here is where the Q people really miss their opportunity. Rather than blathering about Matthew’s magnificent arrangement of the material, talk about the material itself. And this sort of  aggregation of non-connected aphorisms is the best material we have for a collection of Jesus’ sayings. These are all in Mark, so they cannot be considered Q material–rather, they represent the Mark-Q overlap–but I believe there is a high likelihood that they did originate with Jesus. I would be tempted to state that probability as exceeding 50%; better-than-even, IOW. How did these sayings get passed down? They could have been part of an oral tradition, which became fixed when Mark wrote them down. Or, they could have been collected. Rather than swinging for the fences by trying to claim all Matthew/Luke material is Q, set more modest goals, ones for which an actual argument or case can be constructed.

We need to face facts. Paul almost completely ignored anything Jesus said when the latter was alive. There are a few odds and end, the implementation of the Eucharist and Jesus’ teaching on divorce, which Paul contradicts. As has been frequently pointed out, the amount of teaching in Mark is pretty minimal. The Sermon on the Mount by itself probably has close to as many words spoken by Jesus as in all of Mark. Why the sudden explosion in verbosity on the part of Jesus between the two gospels? Because Matthew discovered Q? Or because Matthew encountered a passel of sayings attributed to Jesus, so he decided a new gospel was in order? At this point, I simply don’t know. A thread of logic has not presented itself. Despite all my pontificating and blowhardiness (to coin a word) I am not completely averse to the idea per se of a collection of Jesus’ sayings existing; I am vehemently opposed to Q as it currently “exists” in the minds of its adherents. Although as I go along at the moment, willing to make concessions, I find the concessions that I’m willing to make are shrinking. The ultimate sticking point is the utter, complete, and absolute lack of any evidence for such a collection. But more on this later. What I need to do is sketch out what a logical chain of events between the death of Jesus and the writings of Mark and then Matthew would look like, the focus being on what gotten written when, and possibly why. That is no small undertaking, and will be pure speculation. Sounds like fun. 

16 Nemo autem lucernam accendens operit eam vaso aut subtus lectum ponit, sed supra candelabrum ponit, ut intrantes videant lumen.

17 Non enim est occultum, quod non manifestetur, nec absconditum, quod non cognoscatur et in palam veniat.

18 Videte ergo quomodo audiatis: qui enim habet, dabitur illi; et, quicumque non habet, etiam quod putat se habere, auferetur ab illo ”.

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Luke Chapter 8:4-8

This next passage is the Parable of the Sower. The original intent was to take the whole thing, parable and explanation in a single chunk straight through. This seemed reasonable since we’ve been through it twice already, so it seemed that, barring any unexpected deviations from the other two, the content of the story should not require much comment. Indeed, since we’ve been through it a couple of times, I thought I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything new and exciting to say about this. Cooler heads have prevailed and it’s been split into Parable and then Explanation.

I determined on this course before reading the passage below; for better or for worse, that is my chosen approach. The idea is to look at these stories and passages with eyes as fresh as possible. That way, I can–with luck–not simply see what has been seen for the past several centuries. So much of NT “scholarship” is sclerotic; conventions have been settled, translations have been chosen, and words are taken for granted. This is not how scholarship should work. The text has to be mined, repeatedly. With Greek history, much of the academic debate focuses on what the text actually says; Thucydides is the best/worst example of this, and scholars continue to go over each word looking for fresh insights. And this continued contention is good. We all know about angels and baptism and salvation, so we decided, a long, very long, time ago that the evangelists used the words as we do today. This is simply and horribly wrong, a very bad method for reading any text.

So the original approach seemed all well and good; however, like so much theory, it didn’t survive contact with reality.  Some new aspects have presented themselves. Overall, what I am finding is that having Luke as the third point really allows me to define the plane in a way not possible with just a comparison between Mark and Matthew. With three texts, triangulation becomes possible. Differences between the three stand out in much sharper relief.

So, let’s not make a short passage longer and go straight to the

Text

4 Συνιόντος δὲ ὄχλου πολλοῦ καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν ἐπιπορευομένων πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς,

5 Ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό.

6 καὶ ἕτερον κατέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν, καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα.

7 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν, καὶ συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό.

8 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν, καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασίονα. ταῦτα λέγων ἐφώνει, Ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.

A large crowd and those having traveled into the city towards him he spoke through a parable, (5) Went out a sower of seed with his seeds. And some fell upon the road, and it was trod under and the birds of the heaven ate it. (6) And other fell upon the rocks, and grew it was withered because it did not have moisture. (7) And other fell in the middle of the acanthus, and it grew and the thorns strangled it. (8) And other fell on the good soil, and grew it made fruit one hundredfold. Having said these things, he spoke “The one having ears to hear, let him hear.”

That is the basic story. The interesting thing about it is the comparison. This is the shortest version; Mark’s is the longest. IOW, this runs contrary to what I’ve been saying about how legends grow over time. This one appears to be shrinking. What’s up with that? Am I wrong? Well, more wrong than usual?

It comes down to “always” and “never”. Never say always; alway avoid never. Almost nothing about human experience is binary, yes-or-no, black-or-white. If you’ll recall, Matthew’s version of the Gerasene demoniac was also shorter than Mark’s version. What we are witnessing is, I believe, the expectation that the reader would be familiar with, or have reference to the long version available in Mark. Neither Matthew nor Luke saw the need to repeat verbatim a story that had been told elsewhere. And this gets back to the issue of “why does one write a gospel?” Or even more, “why does one write a second/third gospel?” My theory about Mark is that he wrote in reaction to the fall of Jerusalem. An important–the important–centre of the proto-Christian world had been obliterated and the traditions started to fragment, or the fragmentation was growing worse. Mark sought to step into that breach and pull some of the most important aspects of the tradition into a united source. Mostly he succeeded, and marvelously, even if the seams do show. That can’t always be helped. Mark, as I see him, was more journalist than literary figure. 

What has been eliminated, both by Matthew and Luke are some of the incidental details, like the plants withering because they lacked moisture because of the sun. Blaming the sun is a tad redundant; it can be assumed. Matthew drops some of these, Luke some more. For example, both Mark and Matthew say that the good soil yielded 100, 60, or 30. Luke leaves it at one hundred. The other two numbers don’t add that much of significance. One last point: Matthew says that Jesus left his house to begin this parable; this would mean that he had moved to Caphernaum, which Matthew states explicitly. Luke rejects this move, telling us just as explicitly that Jesus lived in Nazareth, sounding for all the world like he is correcting Matthew. So Jesus cannot leave his house and to to the seaside because Nazareth is not on the Sea of Galilee, while Caphernaum is.

Then there’s Matthew. We see that his versions of this story and the Gerasene demoniac (and probably others) are shorter than Mark’s. But we also see that his version of the Temptations of Jesus is longer than Mark’s. Why the apparent contradiction? Because it’s more apparent than contradiction. Matthew added material to Mark when he had material to add (the source of the material to be discussed separately; Q is a valid discussion). When he didn’t, he either maintained or shortened what he found in Mark. The salient point about this subtraction is why? My impulse is, as suggested above, that Matthew expected that his audience knew of Mark, and so repeating certain things was, as he knew, redundant. If this is correct, it gives us insight into Luke as well. Luke omitted parts of Matthew, as well as parts of Mark because he knew they had been covered elsewhere. So Luke provides an alternative because he knew what was in both Mark and Matthew. 

Of course, this cannot be “proven”. Almost nothing about the NT can be “proven” in any way that the hard sciences or a court of law would recognise as “proof”. This statement is true about historical research in general, especially when discussing history before the 19th Century, becoming increasingly true the farther one goes back. We can say that the NT was written of course, but we cannot with any solid confidence say when or by whom it was written. Sometime between 70 and 120 seems reasonable, but that’s a mighty big span of time, like saying something was written between 1910 and 1960. A lot of stuff happened in the interim; however, the pace of change was much slower in the ancient world. In any case, history becomes a question of which set of probabilities seems the most likely. To me, it makes more sense that Luke shortened this story as much as he did because he knew about the other two versions. Now, Luke will add material to the triple tradition (the Synoptic material, in M/M/L); see the calling of the first disciples, with the addition of the Miraculous Catch of Fish.

The other thing I’m starting to suspect about triple tradition material is that it has the most potential to be something that can trace back to Jesus. This story is a perfect example. I think there is a greater likelihood that Jesus told this parable than that he gave the Sermon on the Mount. A much greater likelihood, in fact. One of the things we have to face is the possibility that Jesus was not the teacher that we believe he was, that he didn’t give speeches like the Sermon on the Mount. We have to face the possibility that Mark’s Jesus is much closer to the real thing than Matthew’s is, and that by the time of Luke all the new stuff is pretty much fiction that we can’t use to triangulate the “truth” about the historical Jesus. Always, always, always recall that Paul said almost nothing about Jesus as a teacher, focusing almost entirely on Jesus as the Christ who had been raised from the dead. If you start from that place, the additions of Matthew and then Luke seem pretty clearly to be later additions; then, since the additions of Matthew and Luke are just that, the point of Q is largely lost.

The last injunction about letting those with eyes/ears see/understand I think gets dismissed too readily as pro-forma. I say that because I have pretty much dismissed it a pro-forma until about a minute ago. If we take this in the context of Christian thinking, perhaps it is pro-forma; however, if we look at it from a proto-Gnostic perspective, it may take on a different set of implications. It may help that I’ve been translating something called Poimandres, the Shepherd of Men/Humans. It is now classified as a Gnostic text, and it probably dates to the mid Second Century, perhaps eight or nine decades after Mark. I mention this because there are several strains of thought that have become explicit in that text that were only implicit in Mark. It’s also interesting to note that this was taken as a legitimate bit of Christian writing for a while; obviously, it never made the cut to canonical status, but a number of Second and possibly even Third Century Christian thinkers accepted it as orthodox. The injunctions that Jesus speaks are eminently Gnostic in approach; or perhaps better to say they were taken up wholly by later Gnostics. What are they, after all, but admonitions to learn, actually to see what is before us, and to understand what we hear. The technical term for this is “paying attention”, or perhaps “learning”.  And what do we learn? Knowledge. And what does Gnosis mean? Knowledge. 

Now in a strictly Christian setting, these injunctions can be explained in completely orthodox fashion. After all, “Narrow is the gate” that leads to the kingdom. Not all will make it. Some would, and have, said that most, in fact, will not make it through the gate. Why? Because they did not learn the lessons Jesus taught them. They did not actually see, nor did they understand what they heard. So Jesus’ words here watered what became two very different traditions; or are they so different? That is the point I’m trying to make here. A shade here, a shade there, and two can start from the same point–let him with ears understand–and end up in rather different places, whether the kingdom of God or Enlightenment, for want of a better term. And then we have additional implications. The message of  the Gospel of Thomas is very clearly Gnostic, rather than Christian. Regarding this, it must be kept in mind that this separation really did not exist in the First Century; it only came into being in the Second. And here is where historical training pays off, because it looks at concepts diachronically, through time and as they develop. Textual analysis tends not to pay attention to this development through time of the content of the text. This is why I do not, and cannot, accept a date in the First Century for the Gospel of Thomas; this is has implications for Q; The discovery of Thomas was seen as a huge victory for the Q position, since it demonstrated the existence of a sayings gospel of the sort that Q was purported to be. By pushing the date of Thomas back to the 50s of the First Century, it could be claimed that Thomas proved that a gospel like Q could have existed in the 50s; it showed that the first gospels were, in fact, sayings gospels rather than narrative gospels like Mark. Unfortunately for the Q position, a date anywhere in the First Century for Thomas is unsustainable on the grounds of content. Just as the Q proponents ignore the content of stories–does the healing of the centurion’s slave really fit in the 30s?–so they ignore the content of Thomas when assigning dates–is such a fully developed Gnostic attitude possible in the First Century? In my opinion, the answer to both is “No”. A resounding “No”.

4 Cum autem turba plurima conveniret, et de singulis civitatibus properarent ad eum, dixit per similitudinem:

5 “Exiit, qui seminat, seminare semen suum. Et dum seminat ipse, aliud cecidit secus viam et conculcatum est, et volucres caeli comederunt illud.

6 Et aliud cecidit super petram et natum aruit, quia non habebat umorem.

7 Et aliud cecidit inter spinas, et simul exortae spinae suffocaverunt illud.

8 Et aliud cecidit in terram bonam et ortum fecit fructum centuplum”. Haec dicens clamabat: “Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat”.

 

Luke Chapter 8:1-3

We’re beginning the chapter with a very short segment. The narrative is such that the next section is the Parable of the Sower; there is no really clean break in there between the parable and the explanation to the disciples. So rather than try to cram too much together, I’ll take the breaks as logically as possible, but forcing them when necessary. These first three verses are unique to Luke. In some ways, they have little or nothing with the overall course of the narrative as it unwinds. Rather than making them irrelevant, I think this makes them fascinating. Without further ado, let’s get to the

Text

1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ καθεξῆς καὶ αὐτὸς διώδευεν κατὰ πόλιν καὶ κώμην κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ οἱ δώδεκα σὺν αὐτῷ, 2 καὶ γυναῖκές τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν, Μαρία ἡκαλουμένη Μαγδαληνή, ἀφ’ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει, 3 καὶ Ἰωάννα γυνὴ Χουζᾶ ἐπιτρόπου Ἡρῴδου καὶ Σουσάννα καὶ ἕτεραι πολλαί, αἵτινες διηκόνουν αὐτοῖς ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐταῖς.

And it happened in the next part he also went into the city and village proclaiming and evangelizing the kingdom of God, and the Twelve with him, (2) and some women who were healed from wicked spirits and illnesses, Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven demons she was released, (3) and Johanna the wife of Chouza the steward of Herod, and Susanna and many others, they who administered to them (masculine = Jesus & disciples) from the possessions to them (feminine = the women. The women administered to Jesus & Co from their own funds/resources).

Let’s start at the end, because that is where the fascinating part resides. “They administered (diacon = deacon) to them (masculine; = Jesus & the Twelve) from the possessions to them (feminine, = the women). I don’t recall whether I first speculated on this with Matthew or all the way back in Mark, but I did so without (conscious, at least) knowledge of this passage. In Mark and Matthew the Magdalene does not appear until the crucifixion (Mark) or burial (Matthew), and then afterwards she plays a very prominent role in the Resurrection stories. This struck me as odd that this woman appears very late in the story and then takes on a starring role. Mark says that she followed Jesus in Galilee; this, coupled with the suggestion of the men in white that the disciples should return to Galilee, seemed suggestive. What it suggested to me is “confirmed” here: that she was a financial s0% upporter of Jesus. IOW, Jesus was a “kept” man who was liberated from the necessity of anything so pedestrian as earning a living because Mary of Magdala was supporting him monetarily. This financial support, I suspected, gave her a role in crafting the Resurrection story, and perhaps that of the Passion as well.

I put “confirmed” in quotes because we really have to question whether Luke really had a line on this. OTOH, this is really an odd thing to say out of the blue. Let’s go back to Paul, and some of the women that he mentions who seem like they held important roles in the organization of the various communities. Here’s the thing: older men married young girls in the ancient world. The result was a lot of youngish (mid-30s, give or take; not an exact number) widows with not-negligible financial resources. It has been suggested that Paul was so intent that widows not remarry so that they could better support the communities; a bit cynical, but not out of the question; churches have been doing much the same for centuries. Should we believe this? Can we believe this? Tough questions. The circumstances by themselves are more than plausible, so there is no inherent logical flaw. There are lots of analogous situations, but does that mean these circumstances prevailed in this situation? I would put the likelihood of this being true at better than 50/50, but that’s not really a ringing endorsement. Saying it’s more likely than a coin flip isn’t saying much. I would stretch to maybe a 1/3 chance, but not much higher. Normally, I would suggest that Luke reinforces the statement by providing reasons why the women followed him: because they had been cured of demons. The problem with this is that Luke is such a late source, that any historical information he gives shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I’d like it to be true since it would help my case, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Here’s the thing. I do believe that the early rulers of the church believed that these women were financial supporters. Or, perhaps more accurately, I believe that these early churchmen were afraid this was true. The problem this raises is that it gives women too important, and too prominent a role in the founding of Jesus’ ministry. Without some kind of monetary support, the whole thing would probably have not gotten off the ground. And the church men would have found this reliance on women to be both mortifying and unacceptable. As such, they would have found it necessary to undercut this prominence. How? Well, by spreading the rumor that the woman who anointed Jesus was none other than Mary Magdalene, whom we just discovered in the previous passage, was a prostitute. So there you go: instant and extensive devaluation of her credibility. Never mind that none of the evangelists make the connexion between the two women, but let’s run the smear campaign. If enough people think it’s accurate, then it becomes accurate, no? Jeez, where have I heard that sort of thinking before?

And the juxtaposition of the two stories also argues against Mary M being the woman who anointed Jesus. If they were the same woman, why not just say so? Luke will be introducing Mary M in the very next chapter anyway, so why not move it back a few verses and make the identification clear? 

It’s worth pointing out that this is only the third time that Luke references the Kingdom of God. The first two came during the Sermon on the Plain. The references will start to come much faster. It’s interesting; I just took a look back at Luke so far. Until this point, something less than half the narrative has dealt with the period of Jesus’ public ministry. The Temptations by Satan occurred in Chapter 4, as did the miraculous catch of fish. Only now are we sort of getting to the heart of the message.  There were quite a few miracles in these last few chapters; will that number decrease? Has Luke sort of gotten them out of the way, so that he can focus on the teaching now? Time will tell.

Just wanted to mention that Joanna/Johanna was the wife of the steward of Herod. This is novel and unique. It need not be taken seriously. It does, however, provide a great insight into how the legend grew. We’ve already incorporated Nain; now the Herodians are joining, too.

The other thing is the Twelve. This is only the second time Luke has mentioned them, the first being when they were chosen back in Chapter 6. They will be mentioned again in the next chapter, and then will go back into hibernation until Chapter 19. Overall, the Twelve really don’t do much. In fact, only five of Jesus’ followers have names: Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Levi. Or rather, only these five are more than just a name, and Levi/Matthew barely being more than that. It is interesting to note that in all three Synoptics the Twelve are mentioned most often in the Passion and Resurrection stories. This suggests to me that these latter two stories were not added until later, and that the Twelve had been instituted by that point. I believe that the Twelve were named by James, brother of Jesus, the ‘caliph’ (as he has been called) after Jesus had died. That is when the sending out of preachers would have become a more important function of the community, perhaps that of Jerusalem in particular. It’s interesting to see the list of “Twelve” as used in Matthew. The number comes up thirteen times, but five of them are not references to The Twelve. Rather, the Bleeding Woman had been discharging blood for twelve years, there were twelve baskets of crumbs left after one of the feedings, the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones for the twelve tribes (capitalised?) and Jesus could call down twelve legions of angels to save him from arrest. The symbolism, and the importance of the symbolism, is clear enough. Twelve months, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes…

Hey, I just made it through an entire comment without a reference to Q!

 1 Et factum est deinceps, et ipse iter faciebat per civitatem et ca stellum praedicans et evangelizans regnum Dei; et Duodecim cum illo

2 et mulieres aliquae, quae erant curatae ab spiritibus malignis et infirmitatibus: Maria, quae vocatur Magdalene, de qua daemonia septem exierant,

3 et Ioanna uxor Chuza, procuratoris Herodis, et Susanna et aliae multae, quae ministrabant eis de facultatibus suis.

Summary Luke Chapter 7

The chapter is comprised of four separate stories. The first is that of Jesus healing the centurion’s slave; the second is Jesus raising the man in the town of Nain; third is Jesus talking to the disciples of the Baptist; fourth is the story of the woman anointing Jesus with the costly ointment. The first two are miracle stories, the second two are more difficult to classify. One of the miracle stories was in Matthew, but the Widow of Nain was not. The last two were both in Matthew, and the fourth was in Mark as well. So half of them are Q material, one is unique, and one is in all four gospels. Aside from the first two, there is no real thematic unity–at least, none that I can discern. The first has the closest analogue to a story in another gospel; the second and the fourth are unique and offer radically different takes on its counterparts in other gospels, respectively.

That breakdown was another attempt to find some sort of underlying connexion. It failed. Perhaps the common thread is how they reflect upon the likelihood of Q. Regardless of anything else, the four stories help point out the “building block” nature of the gospel stories. Each is pretty much an independent unit. They can be strung together in different ways without really affecting the overall impact of the gospel. Yes, some have to preceded others, but these prerequisites are truly few and far between.

The story of the centurion’s servant is very similar to that in Matthew. There are two different elements. The first is the addition of Jewish elders who act as character references for the centurion. They assure Jesus of the man’s good actions towards Jews. Just how curious this addition is didn’t really occur to me while discussing the story. When discussing the story in Matthew, I made what seemed like a fairly obvious point about this story representing the transition from Jewish to non-Jewish followers of Jesus. Non-Jews get exactly one reference in Mark, the Syro-Phoenician woman. They crop up a bit more frequently after that, often accompanied by Jesus proclamations that the House of Israel does not have such faith. So why go back to the Jewish elders? This question is especially pertinent since the story is about how Jews are being superseded by pagans. While this is a relevant question, I’m not sure I have a relevant answer. It may be a reference to the God-fearers; pagans who studied and prayed at synagogues without actually becoming Jews. Matthew may have been such a pagan. Perhaps the most obvious reason for including this is to tie the centurion to this tradition; to indicate that the man was not someone who found religion when he needed it to save the life of his slave, but someone who had spent time with the Jews, who admired them, who supported them. The thing to remember, is that the addition of this detail is for the benefit of the audience rather than for Jesus. That should go without saying.

The other change, which may actually be the more significant, is that Luke first refers to the slave as a doulos, and only later uses the term pais. Matthew used the latter term exclusively. Why? Why does the change matter? Now, that seemingly innocuous question is actually loaded; calling it a ‘change’ implies that Matthew has the original version and that Luke altered Matthew’s original word. One really must be careful about wording. The correct question is whether the difference is significant. A hint at the answer can be inferred from the caveat about wording: did Matthew create the story? Or did he at least write it for the first time? Or did Matthew and Luke both find the story in Q? If so, which word did Q use? Did Matthew change it, or did Luke? If the former, why? To add the extra level of concern felt by the centurion? That makes sense. If Luke changed it from pais to doulos, again the question is why? To remove the ambiguity in the term? This explanation would make sense, whether the term came from Matthew or from Q. Does either scenario seem more likely than the other? My sense is that it makes more sense to assume that Luke made the change to remove the ambiguity, but it could just as easily go the other way. The more common word for child, especially for a son, is either teknos or uios. It is the latter word that Jesus always uses when referring to the Son of Man, or the Son of God.

However, looking at the word pais as used in the Synoptics, we see that it was never used by Mark. Luke and Matthew both use the term to refer to a slave or to a child. Notably, Luke uses this word to describe the “child Jesus” who was left in Jerusalem when he was twelve. Given this, I would suggest that it is more likely that Luke changed the word from pais to doulos. He had used the former to refer to a child, so it would make sense that he would want to clear up the ambiguity by stating forthwith that it was a slave being discussed.

Given that, the question becomes the source; who used pais in the first place? My suggestion is, once again, to look at the word itself, and to decide who would be most likely to use the word pais. I would suggest that the term implies a high degree of comfort with the Greek language, and a keen sense for deriving proper meaning from context. The most likely candidate here would be Matthew. I keep returning to the author of Q: who was it? And to the age of Q: was it written in the 30s or 40s? If so, how likely is it that the author would have had the degree of comfort with Greek that Matthew had later? Let’s think about this for a moment: Jesus is talking to a Roman soldier. What language did they speak? Just because he was in the Roman army at this time doesn’t mean the centurion spoke Latin; one might suppose that, since he was stationed in the East, he spoke Greek, but that is not necessarily true. Legions were moved, but Greek is the most likely language that the centurion spoke. If he were a native of Syria, he may have spoken Aramaic, but that’s not a given either. Or, the elders of the Jews may have interpreted. One hopes this indicates the difficulties we’re facing here in our attempted reconstruction. It doesn’t work out very well in the details. Assuming it did take place, chances are it was repeated in Aramaic before being set down in Greek. Which brings us back to the question of whether a follower of Jesus in the 40s had enough proficiency with Greek to write the story in the first place, or to use the term pais when slave was the underlying word. My answer is “probably not”.

All of this, however, is a bit of a fool’s errand. The most likely scenario is that the conversation simply never took place. In which case, the story was written later. Since it’s not in Mark, I would suggest that it was written after him.  We’ve discussed several times that the inten of this story is to explain why the Jews got left behind. There is no indication in Paul that Jesus ever preached to pagans; in fact, Galatians and 1 Thessalonians seem to indicate quite clearly that the idea of preaching to pagans was a fairly new concept, or undertaking, when Paul started doing it. We know that Jews were hostile towards the new movement, and that by the time John wrote the fourth gospel, the split between the sects was pretty much set and irrevocable. So it makes sense to infer that the transition to a pagan movement was well underway by the 70s and was likely almost complete by the 80s. This state of affairs would require some explanation to the audience, so stories like the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite, in Matthew) and this one were added. Given the confluence of circumstances, I would suggest that this story was most likely created by Matthew himself. There is, I firmly believe, altogether too much crediting of some undefined “oral tradition” and not nearly enough credit given to the evangelists themselves. I would suggest the use of pais indicates someone very comfortable in Greek, and Matthew fits that bill nicely. And I would further suggest that Luke amended the first use of pais to doulos to help clarify the situation. Therefore, we have another (?) example of Luke following Matthew if only to “correct” him.

The story of the Widow of Nain and her dead son is unique to Luke. In the commentary, I had suggested he used this to replace the story of Jairus’ daughter. Oops. My bad. The story of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman are in Luke. My apologies for missing that and I’ve gone back and edited the commentary on this section to reflect that. In any case, the questions for this story are “why was it added?” and “where did it come from?” Taking the second one first as it seems to be more easily answered. Contrary to what I said above about the evangelists not getting due credit for creativity, I believe that here we are dealing with something that Luke got from oral tradition. The setting of Nain is the reason. It lies very much outside the orbit of the territory Jesus habituated. Luke probably was not aware of this, so he has Jesus getting there the day after curing the centurion’s slave. Nain and Caphernaum are about thirty miles distant, which makes it unlikely that Jesus got between the two in a single day. Plus, Nain is a very obscure place as far as the Bible is concerned, so chances are Luke would not have encountered the name in his reading of HS or earlier parts of the NT. More likely, followers of Jesus from Nain–or the surrounding countryside–started telling the story as a way to include this town in the narrative of Jesus’ life.

This thesis is supported in several different ways. Some of these ways will help answer the first question above about why it was included by Luke. As discussed in the commentary, the circumstances of this raising are much, very much more elevated and dramatic than they were with Jairus’ daughter. The dead man was being carried out for burial, so he had been dead for some time, unlike the girl who had only died while Jesus was going to the house. Second, he was the only son of a widow; the loss of her son would have left her destitute, very much unlike the circumstances of Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. This increased drama, and the inclusion of a heretofore unmentioned town, together with this story only occurring in Luke all tell me the story is a later addition to the corpus. Again, go back to King Arthur. It is very likely that he wasn’t a king, but a dux, a war-leader. He later became elevated to king. As the legend grew, the number of characters grew, and so did the exploits of Arthur and these later-added knights. Percivale was a much later addition; he’s in Mallory because Mallory wrote after the creation of Parzifal by Wolfram von Eischenbach. So this story was encountered only by the later evangelist. Also, IMO, this story does not have the polished literary quality of the stories that I do believe Luke wrote, such as the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan. This feels much more basic. All-in-all, I believe that this cluster of circumstances point to it being encountered via the oral tradition. Luke included it because he liked the way it increased the dramatic tension of Jesus raising someone from the dead. There was no doubt in this case.

Now that we’ve gone all through that, it only now dawns on me that this is the highlight of the chapter, the most important story, and by a lot. Jesus has power over death. If that’s not divine power, nothing is. Death is the ultimate enemy of mortals, so to vanquish death is to raise humans to a new level. Here’s the thing, however. We have no hints that we’re dealing with anything other than standard physical death. We haven’t spoken about The Life, and there have only been a few allusions to the kingdom, most of them repetitions of things said in the other two gospels. And I’ve begun to see a two-step process that we’ve seen operating in 2M, especially in Mark. It has to do with the verb “to save”, and whether it means save a physical life (as a lifeguard at the beach), or the immortal soul. The first step is the physical life, and most of the instances in Mark, and many in Matthew, use “to save” in this manner. Luke has talked about neither saving nor the soul, whether psyche or pneuma. These are terms and concepts that we will have to watch. I’m still hazy on how this all works, based solely on the gospel texts that we’ve read. One reason I started doing this translation was to come to better grips with what came from Paul and what came from the gospels. So far, it still feels like most of what we believe as far as salvation and/or entering the kingdom comes from Paul.

So too with the story about the disciples of John. I also believe this was part of the oral tradition rather than the creation of Matthew. As mentioned, this story is internally inconsistent with aspects of the stories of Jesus being baptised as told by both Matthew and Luke. In the former, John demurs–or tries to–from baptising Jesus. John says Jesus should baptise him. Since John obviously knew who Jesus was, why send disciples to ask Jesus if he is “the one?” This pretty clearly indicates an outside provenance for this story. In the same way Luke made John into Jesus’ first cousin. More, in utero, John leapt for joy when Mary came to visit his mother. So again we have an internal inconsistency that is difficult to explain except by positing that the story came from a third source. Yes, this would fit very nicely with Q. Sort of. Once again we run into Q supposedly being a sayings gospel, but, when needed, all this other stuff keeps getting thrown in. To me, this story does not entirely fit the mold of a true sayings gospel, like that of Thomas.

Regardless, the upshot is that we have two stories that may have come from the oral tradition. At least, I firmly believe they came from a source other than the evangelists themselves.

Finally, we have the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the costly ointment. This is one of the few stories that appears in all four gospels. However, the version here is very different from the other three, which are all pretty much of a piece. We discussed the issue that there is absolutely no reason to identify this woman with Mary Magdalene at some length in the commentary. That identification is flat wrong, in my opinion, the product of later tradition that deliberately sought to downgrade her status in the early church. We will discuss her more as she appears in the narrative. And that Luke does not identify this woman as the Magdalene, IMO, is very strong evidence that the connexion should not be made.

Where Luke’s account differs is in the discussion that follows the event. This discussion is, to some extent, dependent on the change of scene for the event; rather than being at the house of Simon the Leper, as in Mark and Matthew, it is in the house of a Pharisee, whom we later learn is named Simon. I believe the choice of name was deliberate, rather than the result of “editorial fatigue”. I believe Luke chose to retain the name as a means of tying this back to the original stories, because it is here that Luke goes off on his particular tangent. Rather than a discussion with the disciples about how the poor will always be with us, it is a discussion with the Pharisee. And the topic is about the forgiveness of sins. Since the woman is called a sinner by Simon, from which we are to infer she is a prostitute, Jesus provides an ad hoc (and unique) parable about two debtors, and how the one who had the larger debt waived would be the more grateful. Just so, since this woman is such a big sinner, she will be all the more grateful that her sins will be forgiven than will the upright and uptight Simon the Pharisee. This is a very interesting turn from the other versions of the story. The question, of course, becomes ‘why did he do this?’ Why indeed.

One impulse is to say that 2M covered the story so well that Luke wanted to put a different spin on it. I think this makes sense, but it’s a bit circular. And there are plenty of other stories where Luke just goes along with the pack. Given that, the question becomes, why did he change this story? There is a extra level of problem here, since Luke is supposedly so very focused on the poor. So why change the moral of the story away from the poor? Of course, there is no answer to this. There is nothing to offer that is both redactionally consistent with Luke’s editorial policy and that is not simply speculations on literary tastes and themes. As for Luke and the poor, I’ve seen no real indication of this, aside from changing Matthew’s “poor in spirit” to “poor”. Other than that, nothing has jumped out at me. There is the story of Dives and Lazarus coming up, but other than that, nothing comes to mind. And sneaking a peak at Strong’s words, I see nine occurrences of some form of ptōchēs, which is hardly a staggering amount. And two of those are the word repeated twice in two passages, it’s use in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. This accounts for 33.33% of uses. So yeah, Luke missed a golden opportunity to talk about the poor here. Or–here’s a thought–is that why he changed it? Because he didn’t care for the attitude of “the poor will always be with you”? Did he find that sentiment a bit too cavalier, especially coming from Jesus? So he chose to talk about sinners instead?  Another glance at Strong shows that he actually talks about sinners about twice as often as the poor.

Overall, there is no overall summary. The chapter is divided into four stories, if not quite in quarters. The message in the second story outweighs the messages of the other three combined.

Luke Chapter 7:40-50

This actually is part of the previous story, a continuation of the woman who anointed Jesus. He is dining at the house of a Pharisee. After the woman anointed Jesus, the Pharisee became put out because of the sort of woman she was, and if Jesus was a prophet, he would have known this and avoided her. However, the Pharisee didn’t actually say this, but merely thought it. So to avoid any spoilers, let’s move on to the

Text

40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Σίμων, ἔχω σοί τι εἰπεῖν. ὁ δέ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπέ, φησίν. 

Answering, Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you”. But he (Simon) said, “Teacher, speak it.” 

First, commend my restraint for not making a Simon Says joke. Second, this is the first time we get the Pharisee’s name. What is interesting is that in the 2M versions of this story, this event takes place at the home of Simon the Leper. Luke, in contrast, placed it in the home of an unknown Pharisee. Now, he’s suddenly–and suspiciously–given the name of Simon. Coincidence? You decide. All of the proper biblical scholars will jump on this as a great example of “editorial fatigue”, that phenomenon when a later editor starts out to change the circumstances (some of them, anyway) of a story and starts out doing so. But then, some part of the way through, the task of changing details becomes ever so tiresome and the editor slips back into the circumstances found in the original version. My thought on this concept has tended towards…really? It’s that hard? But the we run into this and it gives pause. The question of course, is whether Luke just decided to call him Simon because…Why not? The thing is, Jesus did not have a discussion with Simon in either of the other versions. The dinner took place in his home, but Jesus had the discussion about the propriety of the action with the disciples. I would guess that this is not so much fatigue as Luke deciding to use the name Simon to connect back to those earlier versions. We have seen Luke do things like this: find the unusual word and repeat it three times in two verses, or choose to echo Matthew, to dance all around Matthew’s narrative without ever quite mentioning it. This just feels like something Luke would do here, to throw it back to M&M while never citing them directly.

The third thing is that Jesus is in another of those situations in which he can read minds. The interesting thing is that he does this most often with the mind of a Pharisee. It’s not always a Pharisee; just most cases. This goes all the way back to Mark when they are muttering to themselves about Jesus’ actions in the synagogues. Just something I noticed. As for the mind reading, it’s clearly Jesus being a divine being. By this point, this trait has become rather commonplace for Jesus in these narratives.

40 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illum: “ Simon, habeo tibi aliquid dicere ”. At ille ait: “Magister, dic”.

41 δύο χρεοφειλέται ἦσαν δανιστῇ τινι: ὁ εἷς ὤφειλεν δηνάρια πεντακόσια, ὁ δὲ ἕτερος πεντήκοντα.

42 μὴ ἐχόντων αὐτῶν ἀποδοῦναι ἀμφοτέροις ἐχαρίσατο. τίς οὖν αὐτῶν πλεῖον ἀγαπήσει αὐτόν;

43 ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν,Ὑπολαμβάνω ὅτι ᾧ τὸ πλεῖον ἐχαρίσατο. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἔκρινας.

44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς ἐξέμαξεν.

45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.

46 ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας: αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου.

47 οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγον ἀγαπᾷ.

48 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.

49 καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;

50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

Two debtors owed to a certain money lender; the first owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. (42) They not having to give back, he graced both. So which of them loved him (the creditor) more? (43) Answering, Simon said, “I would undertake that the one owing more. He (Jesus) said to him, “You have answered straight”. (44) And turning to the woman he (Jesus) said to Simon, “Look at this woman. I have come to your home, water to me upon the feet you did not give. She with tears washed my feet, and with her hair dried them. (45) You did not give me a kiss; she has from which (i.e., the time/hour which) I came has not stopped kissing my feet. (47) You did not anoint my head with oil. She has anointed my feet with ointment. (47) Of which grace I tell you her many sins have been taken away, that she will love much. To whom little has been taken, loves a little. (48) I say to her, ‘your sins are forgiven’.” (49) And those seated around began to say among themselves, “Who is he who also to take away sins?” (50) He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”.

With this ending, the story now offers a radically different message than it did in 2M, or than it will in John. It is not at all about the poor, nor is it about Jesus’ impending death. Neither of these are mentioned, and neither plays any role in the moral, or the lesson, or the purpose of the tale. Rather, Luke has transformed it into a tale about the way Jesus was–or, more properly, was not–accepted by “polite” Jewish society. It also explains why we are in the home of a Pharisee, and not of a former leper; the former is an intrinsic member of that “polite society” whereas a leper would  not have been. I have no idea what the status of a healed/cleansed leper would have been, because I have the understanding that such cleansing/healing did not happen very often; as such, rules would not have formed on how to deal with the situation. But there were rules about how a member of polite society should accept a guest, just as there are today. Novels of upper crust society written in the 19th Century are replete with such rules; read enough of this fiction and one could become sufficiently competent to fulfill them. On the other hand, I don’t know enough about these rules to judge whether what Jesus describes the actions that Simon did not do were actually standard practice.

The good news is that we don’t have to know to effect a judgement on the intent of the story. Jesus provides rules and, presumably, those hearing the story may not have necessarily been sufficiently versed to know that Simon had violated social protocol, but, to the average listener, these rules seem sufficiently reasonable, or logical, to be accepted under the conditions of a “willing suspension of disbelief”.  Jesus gives the rules, points out that Simon did not follow them, but the woman did. That’s enough; this is not history, or even historical fiction. It’s myth and/or hagiography. These stories operate under their own rules. That’s all we need. This reminds me of one of the books written by JD Crossan, The Historical Jesus (IIRC), in which he seeks to recreate the society of Jesus by analogy to other traditional societies in the Mediterranean, not all of them necessarily contemporaneous with Jesus. I did not find this book terribly convincing, but the point here is that it does not matter. This “pericope” is not “based on a true story”, and it doesn’t depend on whether Simon violated polite practice. None of that matters.

What does matter is that, in this version, Jesus was not treated as someone who was treated as a full member of “society” (as Tolstoy used the term in Anna Karenina), whatever the actual rules were. In contrast, a woman, a “sinner”, an outcast from society regardless of whether she was a prostitute did fulfill the rules of welcome and acceptance. To her, Jesus was an esteemed guest to be received with full–more than full–honors. Of course, the episode is a metaphor, or symbolic of the rejection of Jesus by most Jews. Perhaps by the time Mark wrote, and certainly by the time Matthew wrote, the followers of Jesus were mostly pagans, and both of the previous evangelists were at some pains to explain why. Luke, I think, is doing that here. This is likely why he changed the dinner host from an erstwhile leper to a Pharisee, to show how polite Jewish society had not embraced Jesus and his teachings. This is not entirely the first time Luke has done this; the first time occurred very early in Jesus’ career, when he went back to Nazareth in Chapter 3. At the time we (or I) wondered why Luke changed the timing of the story as he had. Now I think we (or I) know: that was more than just to show that Jesus had not been accepted in his home town. The story was meant to have wider implications. Not only was Jesus not accepted in Nazareth, but in Galilee and Judea as a whole.

44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆςἐξέμαξεν.

45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας. 46ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας:αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου. 47οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγονἀγαπᾷ. 48εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. 49καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;50εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

Here, too, we see the literary quality of Luke. He arranges his pieces deliberately. He set this scene up in Chapter 3 and then drove home the point here. Mark’s gospel is purely episodic; many, many verses start with “and…” Matthew is mostly so, but with long–or longer–interludes of teaching, such as the three-point-five chapters containing the Sermon on the Mount. Luke is much less so, and John will culminate this trend with his unitary, thematic gospel. Of course this ties back in with Q; Luke takes entirely a different approach to his gospel than even Matthew. The second gospel written mainly preserved Mark’s framework while adding long–or longer–sections of teaching. Luke, in contrast, re-thinks the entire process to create a more literary gospel, one more closely resembling a novel rather than something vaguely like a biographical essay. 

41 “Duo debitores erant cuidam feneratori: unus debebat denarios quingentos, alius quinquaginta.

42 Non habentibus illis, unde redderent, donavit utrisque. Quis ergo eorum plus diliget eum? ”.

43 Respondens Simon dixit: “ Aestimo quia is, cui plus donavit ”. At ille dixit ei: “ Recte iudicasti ”.

44 Et conversus ad mulierem, dixit Simoni: “ Vides hanc mulierem? Intravi in domum tuam: aquam pedibus meis non dedisti; haec autem lacrimis rigavit pedes meos et capillis suis tersit.

45 Osculum mihi non dedisti; haec autem, ex quo intravi, non cessavit osculari pedes meos.

46 Oleo caput meum non unxisti; haec autem unguento unxit pedes meos.

47 Propter quod dico tibi: Remissa sunt peccata eius multa, quoniam dilexit multum; cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit ”.

48 Dixit autem ad illam: “Remissa sunt peccata tua”.

49 Et coeperunt, qui simul accumbebant, dicere intra se: “Quis est hic, qui etiam peccata dimittit?”.

50 Dixit autem ad mulierem: “ Fides tua te salvam fecit; vade in pace! ”.

 

Luke Chapter 7:36-39

At the end of the last section, we left Jesus talking about the children of wisdom, or perhaps of Sophia. One thing I neglected to mention is that Sophia wasn’t exclusively, or wasn’t originally, a Gnostic concept. It had roots in Judaism as well as Greek thought. So many of the ideas and concepts of a religious  nature kept floating around in the eastern Mediterranean in particular, combining and recombining and mutating that it gets to be very difficult to untangle the skein and figure out who thought of it first, who influenced whom, etc.

In any case, we’re coming into the story of the woman with the perfume who anointed Jesus. This is part of the Triple Tradition, so it shows up in all three Synoptic gospels. I made this point in the discussion of the story when we came across it in Matthew, but it bears repeating: in none of the three versions is the woman ever identified by name. In particular, she is never identified as Mary Magdalene. And yet, tradition has come to identify the anointing woman with the Magdalene. This is a very, very strong cautionary tale about the value of tradition. Pappias said this, Eusebios said that, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark of Acts who was the associate of Peter…all these things get asserted without any real–or even tenuous–evidence. We have the bald word of the later writer, and sometimes the assertions are only preserved because it was quoted by an even later author. I read a bunch of Eusebios, and I was not at all impressed. He was a contemporary of Constantine, who set about creating more or less the Official History of the Church. This was the Authorized Version, published after Christianity had come out from the shadows and become the religion of the Emperor. I don’t find such a chain of evidence terribly convincing.

So there is absolutely no reason to  assume this woman is Mary Magdalene. But wait, there’s more. At the end of the passage, we are told that the woman was a “sinner”…On second thought, let’s leave that for the commentary at the end. For now, let’s get into the

Text

36 Ἠρώτα δέ τις αὐτὸν τῶν Φαρισαίων ἵνα φάγῃ μετ’ αὐτοῦ: καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Φαρισαίου κατεκλίθη.

Some one of the Pharisees asked in order that he (Jesus) might eat with him (the Pharisee). And coming into the house of the Pharisee, he reclined.

Quick note: “reclined” became synonymous with “eating”, since one reclined on couches to eat.

36 Rogabat autem illum quidam de pharisaeis, ut manducaret cum illo; et ingressus domum pharisaei discubuit.

37 καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ ἥτις ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἁμαρτωλός, καὶ ἐπιγνοῦσα ὅτι κατάκειται ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ Φαρισαίου, κομίσασα ἀλάβαστρον μύρου

38 καὶ στᾶσα ὀπίσω παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ κλαίουσα, τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν, καὶ κατεφίλει τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ.

39 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Φαρισαῖος ὁ καλέσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Οὗτος εἰ ἦν προφήτης, ἐγίνωσκεν ἂν τίς καὶ ποταπὴ ἡ γυνὴ ἥτις ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν.

And look, some woman, a sinner in the city, and knowing that he reclined in the house of the Pharisee, having carried an alabaster jar of ointment (38) and standing behind by his feet weeping, her tears began to wash his feet and with the hair of her head wiped, and kissed his feet and anointed with the ointment. (39) Seeing the Pharisee calling him said to himself, “This is (as) if he were a prophet, he knew (would have known) of what sort this woman (is who) touches him, that she is a sinner.”

We are told twice that she is a “sinner”. We are, I suppose, to infer from this that she was a special kind of sinner, which implies, I suppose, a prostitute. At least, I suppose that is what we are supposed to suppose. The later tradition has not only identified the Magdalene with this woman, and that Mary M has become a prostitute in the same tradition. This passage is the only possible biblical basis for this later tradition. And it conflates prostitution, the Magdalene, and the anointing of Jesus, when in fact there is no reason to believe this woman was Mary Magdalene. And Luke is the only version that emphasizes that she was a “sinner”, just as Luke is the only one to tell us that Jesus cured Mary M of seven demons. 

This very nicely a couple of the points I’ve been making throughout this effort. The first is that stories grow. I’ve made repeated references, allusions, and comparisons to the legend of King Arthur. There is a general consensus that Arthur, in some form, did exist as a living man. There is universal consensus that virtually all the rest is later invention. Hence Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, the Round Table, the Holy Grail, Percival, Gawaine, and all the rest are the creations of later poets. The story grew with time. And so here we have Mary Magdalene. In one of the previous commentaries I speculated that she was a financial supporter of Jesus from Galilee. She arrives in Mark only in the Passion Narrative, and then she is prominent in the Resurrection story. In Matthew, this includes the disciples returning to Galilee, which I would posit indicates the influence of Mary. (As an aside, Wikipedia says that there are two places in Galilee that were named, or could have been named, Magdala; both cites come from the HS, and Matthew mentions a place that has been transliterated as Magdala and as Magadan. The point is, they are all in Galilee.) We are all much too familiar with the way women were excised from the canonical NT; Paul in particular mentions several women who seemed to take leading roles in various communities. As a result, leaving the Magdalene in a role of prominence did not suit the ideas of the patristic fathers, so Mary had to be downgraded. But this tradition of Mary grew in a different way, too, the culmination of which was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code; however, it should be noted that this rumour of Mary’s relationship to Jesus predates Mr Brown by numerous centuries.

The second point this demonstrates is just how unreliable the later tradition can be. And if it can be this unreliable, it probably is unreliable. Bear in mind that Pappias had no evidence that Mark the Evangelist was John Mark of Acts. The way this latter inference was drawn is pretty much identical to the way the inference about this woman and the Magdalene was drawn. This woman is in all three gospels, but is named in none of them. Yet, Jesus says (in Mark and Matthew, anyway), that her deed will be remembered as long as Jesus is remembered. And yet, the performer of the deed has disappeared. But we have Mary Magdalene floating about at loose ends, so let’s connect the dots, whether making this connexion is warranted or not. Just so, we have a gospel attributed to Mark. Who the hell was Mark? Oh wait, there’s a guy who is named–sort of–Mark in Acts; ergo, they must be the same person. This conclusion was made despite the fact that, while Mark supposedly recorded for Peter, the “upon this rock” quote is missing, as is most of what Jesus supposedly taught, plus that Mark’s Peter is a dullard at best. With a friend like Mark, Peter certainly didn’t need any enemies. So we see the danger, the great danger, of relying on anything the later tradition said. Just based on probability, some of the points of the tradition may have gotten some things correct, but which things? Since we have no real way to know which traditions are reliable, we have to look–very carefully–at the internal evidence of the texts to see which traditions can be seen to be internally consistent. Mark = John Mark fails this test of internal consistency, in my opinion, anyway. You have one tenuous connexion of names vs. several points which seem to invalidate that connexion; this implies failure. And we have three versions of this story, and the woman is not named in any of them, and she is only–possibly–identified as a prostitute in one of them. So based on this lack of supporting evidence, plus the fact that Mary does not appear until the Passion, indicates, in my opinion, that this woman was not Mary the Magdalene,

This version of the story is also very interesting from another perspective. Matthew followed Mark’s version very closely, whereas Luke cut out about half of the story, but adds the detail about the woman being a prostitute. What are the implications? I would suggest that Luke did not feel the need to repeat the story in full because there were already two versions of the story that said pretty much the same thing. Why go over such well-trodden ground again? Here we see that Luke was not afraid to change or edit Mark; why do we suppose he would have been reluctant to change or edit Matthew? Yes, this goes back to Q, and all the ridiculous questions of “Why, on earth, would Luke change Matthew?” Why indeed? The answer to this question, which is always posed as some unsolvable conundrum, continues to be very simple: because if Luke simply followed Matthew, he’d simply be re-writing Matthew. And it is said, over and over again, how Luke situates his stories (his pericopae) differently than Matthew. Well, here he’s located it in a very different place from Mark as well. In the other two versions, this event occurs just before the Last Supper, in the final week of Jesus’ life. Here it’s well before that. So if he’s not afraid to mess with Mark’s placement, why the faux puzzlement about messing with Matthew’s placement? This staring askance at Luke’s outrageous behavior is simply a rhetorical dodge, something that the Q proponents resort to because they don’t have a legitimate case to make. And let’s recall that Luke also moved Jesus’ return to his hometown from the middle of Mark (Chapter 6) to the very early days of Jesus’ ministry (Chapter 4). Again, Luke’s not afraid to mess things up a little bit, or even a lot. And again, part of the reason Luke did this–maybe the main reason Luke did this, and many other changes–is to make sure he didn’t just re-create Matthew. the very fact that it is so messed up so consistently makes me see the hand of intent behind this. And that doesn’t mean Luke was a crank or a madman. That whole “only a crank would do this deliberately” really grates on my nerves because, first and foremost, it’s not an argument, but a value judgement.

So yes, Luke deliberately messed with Matthew’s organization. But no, he was not a crank or a madman.

There are other omissions from the story as seen in Mark and Matthew. One is that Jesus said the woman was preparing his body for burial. That omission makes sense since this event occurs close to the time of Jesus’ death in M&M, but not here. Perhaps incidentally, but certainly more puzzling is the question of why Luke changed the physical location of this. In both Mark and Matthew it’s set, we are told, in the house of Simon the (most likely former) leper. Here it’s in the house of a Pharisee. Apologies, but I cannot come up with an explanation that will account for this change that is redactionaly* consistent with all the other changes Luke makes. Of course, suggesting that I need to do this in order to account for no-Q is absurd; I don’t have to prove Q didn’t exist. The people who propose the theory have to prove (or at least present a decent case) that Q did exist. The takeaway from this is that I’m not sure I can imagine a rationale that would make sense, but then, I could just be lacking in imagination.

The most glaring omission, however, is the lack of disciples and the bit about how “the poor will always be with you”. Now, Luke is supposedly more concerned with the poor than either of the other two, a position with which I tend to agree; hence, “blessed are the poor…the hungry…” That being the case, why are the disciples not here to object? Even more than M&M, John puts the story back in, with the added detail that Judas objected because he wanted to embezzle some of the money for himself. Essentially, Luke jettisons all of that in favor of the Pharisee calling her (apparently) a prostitute, and being unsettled and a bit disgusted that Jesus can’t see the woman for what she is. And since Luke made the switch, Luke obviously (well, at least apparently) saw this as the more important message to get across. Why? Part of the reason, of course, is to show how closed-minded and short-sighted the Pharisee is, but that’s a given, and it’s also implicit in the disciples lack of understanding. Or is that it? Luke didn’t want it to be the disciples who missed the point? I’m not positive, but that seems like a possible explanation. After all, John subsequently comes up with a more elegant way to dodge that issue. That sort of just occurred to me, but the idea is growing on me.

Maybe it will stick. Maybe not. I’m open to suggestions.

While we’re at it, let’s tack this on. Matthew began the rehabilitation of the disciples. Here, by substituting the Pharisee as the villain, Luke is continuing on in that tradition. Yes, it could be that Luke was doing this independently of Matthew, but…really? Apologies, but I think this is another marker to put on the side of non-Q.

[* Apparently not a real word, but I swear I came across it in one of the Q proponents. It was likely a different form of the word. Or, perhaps that writer was willing to attempt to coin the neologism. ]

37 Et ecce mulier, quae erat in civitate peccatrix, ut cognovit quod accubuit in domo pharisaei, attulit alabastrum unguenti;

38 et stans retro secus pedes eius flens lacrimis coepit rigare pedes eius et capillis capitis sui tergebat, et osculabatur pedes eius et unguento ungebat.

39 Videns autem pharisaeus, qui vocaverat eum, ait intra se dicens: “ Hic si esset propheta, sciret utique quae et qualis mulier, quae tangit eum, quia peccatrix est ”.

Luke Chapter 7:18-35

This starts with the messengers from John the Baptist. This story is interesting because it technically only exists in Matthew and Luke, so it should be Q material. And perhaps it is classified that way. However, there is an echo of the story in Mark as well; perhaps a better description would be a foreshadowing. We can take a look at these three stories and see what there is to be seen.

Text

18 Καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν Ἰωάννῃ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ περὶ πάντων τούτων. καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος δύο τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης

19 ἔπεμψεν πρὸς τὸν κύριον λέγων, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν;

And his (John’s) disciples announced to John about al this. And John, having commanded two of his disciples, he sent them to the lord, saying, “Are you the one who is coming, or do we expect another?”

This is very similar to Matthew’s introduction, except we are not specifically told here that John is in prison. This is why John has to send his disciples and doesn’t come himself. The incongruity of this scene with the baptism of Jesus is striking. Think about it: in Matthew, John refuses to baptise Jesus because he knows who Jesus is. Here, John has to send his people to find out. And Luke isn’t much better: recall that Jesus and John are cousins, and that John recognized that Mary would (or had) conceive the Saviour while John was still in utero. So now we’re supposed to believe that John doesn’t know? The juxtaposition of these scenes is such excellent evidence showing that the evangelists were not writing history, and they weren’t even terribly concerned whether their stories were internally consistent. In the case of this story about John, and one each from Matthew and Luke that just don’t square with this story, we have a rather glaring inconsistency inside of each of the two gospels.

What this tells me is that this story did actually come from a third source. That is, while Luke repeated what he found in Matthew, I don’t think Matthew originated the story. This feels like something that was found more or less whole and entire that came down to Matthew as more or less a unit. Now, this could easily be used against me in my anti-Q stance; more, it should be used against me because I’m conceding the existence of outside sources. So why not Q? That is a long and complicated discussion, and it’s not one to be undertaken here and now. But I will discuss it, and soon, as a special topic. It’s something that ought to be–but isn’t–part of the discussion about Q. But then, there really is no discussion about Q; it’s a lot of posturing and sniffing down of ones’ noses.

Here’s the thing: most of the stories in Mark are also such units. I know that I commented on this at the time, but the story of the Gerasene Demoniac–my name is Legion, and we are many–is a great example. Mark came across that story and swallowed it whole, with a minimum of digesting. And if Mark encountered such set-pieces that were not part of Q, then how is Q necessary? It’s similar to what I said in the last section about the widow of Nain; it feels like Luke found the story more or less complete, perhaps composed by residents of Nain who wanted their piece of the Jesus tradition. This is the sort of thing that happens all the time; again my favorite–and the best–example is King Arthur. Wolfram von Eschenbach composed Parzifal in Germany and it became part of the Arthurian corpus. It’s important to remember that there was not one oral tradition, but probably dozens, and each of them created their own little units, little self-contained stories. The evangelists came across these building and chose to include them or not for reasons of their own, for reasons that we can only speculate about; however, the main reason a story was included or not would have been whether it fit the evangelist’s conception of Jesus. We saw how Matthew scrubbed out all of the magical practices–the use of saliva to make mud being the best, IMO–out of his version of the stories in Mark because these bits didn’t fit Matthew’s understanding of Jesus. Matthew, also IMO, included this story despite the fact that it did not square perfectly with his version of the baptism because he liked the way it let Jesus proclaim his identity, which had been “hidden”–however badly–by Mark’s Jesus. And Luke included it for much the same reason. Probably. That’s the best we’re going to get. The idea that we can come up with a consistent editorial policy for any of these guys is ridiculous and, quite frankly, hybris.

18 Et nuntiaverunt Ioanni discipuli eius de omnibus his.

19 Et convocavit duos de discipulis suis Ioannes et misit ad Dominum dicens: “ Tu es qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? ”.

20 παραγενόμενοι δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἄνδρες εἶπαν,Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς ἀπέστειλεν ἡμᾶς πρὸς σὲ λέγων, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν;

21 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳἐ θεράπευσεν πολλοὺς ἀπὸ νόσων καὶ μαστίγων καὶ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν, καὶ τυφλοῖς πολλοῖς ἐχαρίσατο βλέπειν.

22 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ ἃ εἴδετε καὶ ἠκούσατε: τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν, χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται, πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται:

23 καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί.

Coming towards him the men said, “John the Baptist sent us to you saying, ‘Are you the one who is coming, or should we expect another?'” (21) In this hour he cured many from diseases and illnesses and wicked spirits, and to many blind he gave to see. (22) Ad answering he said to them, “Going back announce to John what you have seen and heard: the blind look about, the lame walk around, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor are evangelized. (23) And blessed is the one if he does not stumble on me.”   

The idea in the first two verses is that Jesus is performing these wonders in front of John’s disciples. This live and in-person demonstration is not part of Matthew’s version. So, did Matthew find this in Q, and leave it out? Or did Luke add it to Q? Which is it? Q people really have to answer that question, and explain why they made that choice. Or did Luke find Matthew’s version of Jesus’ response a bit wanting, so he added this bit to Matthew? That is really the simplest explanation. And it’s interesting that Kloppenborg sort of pulls a weasel move here and neglects to include the demonstration in his quote of Luke, so he just refuses to call attention to this variation. Why? That is also a legitimate question that he needs to answer. I guess we are to take this as his assertion that the demonstration was not in Q. So what is the point of adding this? The point of the story overall is to declare Jesus’ identity. The addition of this extra bit is to serve as an underscore or an exclamation point to this revelation of Jesus. And, in a way, the extra emphasis is not even so much for us as it is for John’s disciples. There is no way, Luke is telling us, that John’s disciples–and so, presumably, John–could have doubted this

I’ve just come to understand that these story-units are called pericopae, singular pericope. When I tried to get the etymology, Google kept giving me the etymology for “periscope”. No, I’d already looked it up in Liddell & Scott, but wanted to make sure that it was a direct flow into English. It is. Unlike periscope, which comes from the Greek for and means “a looking around”, pericope comes from the Greek for “cutting around”. The idea is that the story-unit has been clipped around and extracted whole, much as one might clip out a newspaper article–assuming one still knows what a newspaper is, and that people used to clip these out. Oh, I’ve been exposed to the term for a long time, and I’ve had an idea what it means, but I finally nailed it down. I can see the point of the term; it has a pretty technical meaning, but it also seems a bit pretentious to me. Of course, that’s a total hoot because I’m one of the more pompous and pretentious people I know, especially about language. 

20 Cum autem venissent ad eum viri, dixerunt: “ Ioannes Baptista misit nos ad te dicens: “Tu es qui venturus es, an alium dexspectamus?””.

21 In ipsa hora curavit multos a languoribus et plagis et spiritibus malis et caecis multis donavit visum.

22 Et respondens dixit illis: “ Euntes nuntiate Ioanni, quae vidistis et audistis: caeci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur et surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur;

23 et beatus est, quicumque non fuerit scandalizatus in me ”.

24 Ἀπελθόντων δὲ τῶν ἀγγέλων Ἰωάννου ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς ὄχλους περὶ Ἰωάννου, Τί ἐξήλθατε εἰς τὴν ἔρημον θεάσασθαι; κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου σαλευόμενον;

25 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἱματίοις ἠμφιεσμένον; ἰδοὺ οἱ ἐν ἱματισμῷ ἐνδόξῳ καὶ τρυφῇ ὑπάρχοντες ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις εἰσίν.

26 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; προφήτην; ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, καὶ περισσότερον προφήτου.

27 οὗτός ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου.

28 λέγω ὑμῖν, μείζων ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν Ἰωάννου οὐδείς ἐστιν: ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.

Having gone away the angels of John, he began to speak to the crowd about John. “What did you come to the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (25) What other did you come to see? A man in soft garments dressed? Behold, those in glorious and delicate clothing being in the palaces are. (…those being in…clothing…are in palaces…) (26) What other did you come to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. (27) He is (the one) about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my angel before your sight (lit = face) who will prepare your way before you.’ (28) I tell you, greater than John of (those) born of woman no one is. But the least in the kingdom of God is greater than him”.

Just to note: the word that I have rendered as “angels” is angellon“, which means “messenger”. It’s the same word used for Gabriel and the member of the heavenly host who brought glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds abiding in the fields with their flocks. It means messenger; except when it goes untranslated and remains as angels, which is another word transliterated from Greek to have a special theological meaning.

Much of this is verbatim in Matthew. One thing I’ve recently discovered is that it’s seems difficult to find anyone willing to present an argument for Q. Most of the Q people take Q as proven and self-evident, and spend their time talking about Q as if it is indisputable and authoritative, or sniping at the non-Q people in a supercilious tone. The number of those arguing against Q seems to be growing; either that, or my awareness of them is growing. Now, one thing I’ve just run across is someone arguing that there is no definable literary relationship between any of the gospels, and particularly between Matthew and Luke.

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tj/q_linnemann.pdf

Her conclusion is based on statistical studies of word recurrence, and her point is well taken that an overlap of words in the range of 20-30% is not terribly convincing proof that such an overlap occurred. However, I find this position as untenable as the Q position; she does not look at the which words overlap as I have been doing. Sharing of very unusual words is much more significant, IMO, than whether the two evangelists use the same word for “he went”. And what the words are saying, I believe, carries more weight than whether exactly the same words or sentence structure was used. It continually seems to escape the notice (there is a Greek verb for that sentiment) of Biblical scholars that Matthew and Luke are…how to put this…different authors. Luke did not set out to create a faithful copy of Matthew, just as Matthew was not interested in creating a faithful copy of Mark. These were different people; they wanted to tell the story in a way different from the ways it had been told before. This is why the whole, “why would Luke mess with the order of Matthew?” question strikes me as so hollow. Luke would mess with it precisely because he wasn’t Matthew, and that in and of itself is a sufficient reason that is redactionally consistent. However, I’ve done a word-for-word comparison of Matthew and Luke on their respective passages. They are darn near identical. It’s impossible that these did not come from the same source, whether it be Matthew or Q–or something else.

Finally, there is the concluding verse. John is the greatest of woman born. Does that include Jesus? It doesn’t say “greatest of those without a divine father”. But that is really picking nits. Or is it? Have to think about it. Truly, though, ‘born of women’ is an extended synonym for ‘human’; regardless of what any hypercritical examination may turn up, the thought is plain enough. What does it mean? Why is this here? And it came from Matthew, so the whole first-cousin-of-Jesus thing hadn’t been invented. But here’s a thought: is this why Luke came up with the story of John’s heritage? Intriguing, no? But not really a point in favour of non-Q; it could have come from Matthew, or it could have come from Q, or it could have come from another source. There is no way of telling, at least, not when trying to glean from an individual newspaper clipping (i.e., pericope).

The thing is, there are also the words of Josephus to consider. He gave John a much longer story than he gave to Jesus. This tells me that, in Judea at least, John was more recognizable than Jesus, and Josephus was writing in the very late First Century. That’s another topic I’d like to see someone explain. It deserves some examination. The problem, I think, is that it rather falls between two stools: the biblical people aren’t interested in suggesting that John was the more popular of the two, while there really isn’t much for historians to go by. We have the evidence of later Roman writers that there were Christians, but nothing about Baptistians. Outside of the NT, we have the one cite from Josephus and nothing else. Still, even some informed speculation would be preferable to the black void that we have.

The end result is that I’m spinning my wheels. My not-so-informed speculation is that Matthew added this because there were still Baptistians about, because he was tapped into the same sources as Josephus. That’s not much of a conclusion, but it’s got some support. Otherwise, why is this here? The question to ask is when this would have been written? Is this something Jesus possibly said? That’s just it; while the exact words are speculative, there is no reason why Jesus couldn’t have referenced John. And there’s no reason to think that this can’t be from the 40s, or really even the 30s. In fact, earlier is better because the memory of John would have been fresher. So Q? Could be. This could be something going back far enough to end up in Q as it’s conventionally conceived. The only thing is, why isn’t this in Mark? And Paul never mentioned the Baptist. He refers to baptism, but never mentions the source of the practice. IOW, more questions. As always.

24 Et cum discessissent nuntii Ioannis, coepit dicere de Ioanne ad turbas: “ Quid existis in desertum videre? Arundinem vento moveri?

25 Sed quid existis videre? Hominem mollibus vestimentis indutum? Ecce, qui in veste pretiosa sunt et deliciis, in domibus regum sunt.

26 Sed quid existis videre? Prophetam? Utique, dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam.

27 Hic est, de quo scriptum est:

“Ecce mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui praeparabit viam tuam ante te”.

28 Dico vobis: Maior inter natos mulierum Ioanne nemo est; qui autem minor est in regno Dei, maior est illo”.

29 {Καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἀκούσας καὶ οἱ τελῶναι ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν θεόν, βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμαἸωάννου:

30 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ νομικοὶ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἠθέτησαν εἰς ἑαυτούς, μὴ βαπτισθέντες ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.}

31 Τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης, καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι;

32 ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις τοῖς ἐν ἀγορᾷ καθημένοις καὶ προσφωνοῦσιν ἀλλήλοις, ἃ λέγει, Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε: ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκλαύσατε.

33 ἐλήλυθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς μὴ ἐσθίων ἄρτον μήτε πίνων οἶνον, καὶλέγετε, Δαιμόνιον ἔχει:

34 ἐλήλυθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγετε, Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν.

35 καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς.

 { “And the whole people hearing and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptised in the baptism of John. (30) The Pharisees and the lawyers the will of God set as naught towards themselves, lest they be baptised by him.} (31) So to what are the men of this generation the same as, and to what are they similar? (32) They are like children seated in the marketplace and speaking to each other, which one says, “We played the pipe for you and you did not dance. We mourned and you did not cry. (33) For John the Baptist came and did not eat bread nor drink wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon’. (34) The son of man came eating and drinking, and you said, ‘Look, that man eats and drinks, is a friend of the tax collectors and sinners. (35) And his wisdom was justified from all her children.”

First of all, there are a number of unusual words in there. Lawyer is odd, not being a real occupation in the Greco-Roman world. There were professional speakers, and professional speakers adept at the law, but to call them lawyers in any way that would resemble what we call lawyers is a stretch. The word is not quite unique to Luke; Matthew does use it once, but in a different context. Now the word for “mourned” occurs four times in the NT, twice in Luke, once in John, and once in Matthew, in exactly the same context as here. Again, these unusual words carried over into the same story setting are difficult to explain except on the basis that Luke read the same thing as Matthew. Or he read Matthew. Which takes us back to the question of where the unusual word is more likely to arise: in one of the early followers, or someone more educated, say, someone who read the LXX rather than the Hebrew? That’s like the fourth or fifth one of these words that we’ve come across. The weight of these words is starting to accumulate, n’est ce-pas?

Second, the part in the {} is not in all mss traditions. Frankly, it has the look and feel of a marginal gloss that got incorporated; part of the reason for this feel is that it doesn’t particularly make sense as part of the text, but it does as a marginal note someone scribbled on the scroll, or in the codex. And then there is the whole thing with the children; what is up with that? I’m totally missing the point on this little joke. Why do we have children saying these things? And how is it that the children are the ones playing the pipe? It seems to me that this is rather backwards. John an Jesus played the pipes, and no one danced. The contrast between John and Jesus, and the fact that diametrically opposed behaviours elicited the same result of rejection is just too ironic for words.

Finally, there is the last line about wisdom. Or should it be Wisdom? I ask because no Christian commentary will make the point that Wisdom, Sophia, was a significant member of the assemblage of divine beings of the Gnostics. One of my biggest problems with Gnostic thought is the way it got sidetracked into cosmology, with an endless array of archons and…can’t think of the other one. Outflowings, or something like that. Emanations? Anyway, Sophia was often the first child of either the Demiurge, or was the mother of the Demiurge, or…It doesn’t matter. A little research later, yes, the term is emanations: wave after wave of beings, or entities, or archons were propagated and filled up the heavens. It’s all very confusing. And Sophia most often is the mother of the Demiurge.

So this whole mention of Sophia is rather interesting. The Christian commentaries sort of gloss over this, but Wisdom having children is not a very Christian thought. It sort of exists out there on the perimeter of the boundary between orthodoxy, apocryphal, and downright heretical.

It’s also interesting to note two other things. First, the “wisdom is justified” is more or less verbatim from Matthew; however, whereas here it/she is justified by her children, in Matthew she is justified by her works. “Children”is taken to be the actual term used, but I’m not sure I’d agree with that.  The Demiurge, in Gnostic thought, was the creator of the material world, and so was inferior to God. The Demiurge was often equated with the YHWH of Genesis. Since the material world is lower than the spiritual, the Demiurge is considered the genesis of evil. Which means that Sophia, as the font of the Demiurge, can be said to be the genesis of evil. As such, in Gnostic terms it’s hard to understand how Sophia would be justified by her children. Of course, we cannot say that the sophia here is the Sophia of the Gnostics. Now, if the Christian commentators are correct to gloss this in Christian terms, this says a lot about the state of development of Gnosticism even s late as Matthew, and possibly Luke.

Much of my argument for a late date for Gospel Thomas is that the Gnostic thought is very highly developed there, much more so than I think is justified for a First Century authorship. Gnosticism was not a Christian phenomenon, but it seemed to get a major impetus after Christianity had begun to flourish. The dualist tendency shown in Paul’s distinction of flesh vs spirt is not close to the radical dualism to be found later, but it’s a step on the path. Mark seems to make allusions to knowledge hidden. But these threads have not really coalesced as they did in Valentinian in the middle quarter of the Second Century. Thomas fits better in that milieu than it does with the much less developed dualism or Gnosticism of Paul and Mark. Those lines of thought were latent in those two authors; Gnosticism is very strong in Thomas, even if dualism does not get the same emphasis as it does in some strains of Gnosticism. 

But this is really getting lost in the swamp of speculation. Chances are that given Matthew’s use of “works”, the intent of the passage was sort of a “by their fruits” sort of thing. The Vulgate Matthew reads “works” as well, and most modern translations render Matthew as “works”; the KJV, however, renders both Matthew and Luke as “children”. Now, two things: the first is this change from from the “works” to the “children” of Sophia is a pretty good indication that Matthew certainly did pre-date Luke. I’m not sure how much weight there is behind Luke writing before Matthew, but this would seem to be a good reason to discount the probability of that having occurred. Second, whatever the progeny, where did “wisdom” come from? Matthew used the word three times; Mark once; Luke about a dozen times between his gospel and Acts. Paul, used it a lot. But Paul used it in a very neutral sense; it was not personified, and there are no instances where it would seemingly be capitalized, as it could be here. This usage here (and its correlate in Matthew) really stands apart from the way it’s used elsewhere. It’s arguable that it’s sui generis in the NT. This really helps cement the fact that these two evangelists certainly did share a source, whether Q or no; the most likely scenario remains that Luke used Matthew. I keep coming back to the content of Q. A real one-off like this truly makes me question how people could think of this in terms of the 30s. It’s odd, it doesn’t fit. A much more likely explanation is that Matthew picked up on this new strain, Luke used it, and referred to “wisdom” a lot more than his predecessors because Luke is the first evangelist to be aware of Paul and Paul used it a lot. Luke also may have used it so much more because it was coming into circulation with proto-Gnostic thought. This combined with Paul would have provided Luke with rather a lot of stimulus.

And for now, that’s about all I can really say about the topic. It’s puzzling, to say the least. And it indicates an influence from outside the usual streams of Jesus lore.

29 Et omnis populus audiens et publicani iustificaverunt Deum, baptizati baptismo Ioannis;

30 pharisaei autem et legis periti consilium Dei spreverunt in semetipsos, non baptizati ab eo.

31 Cui ergo similes dicam homines generationis huius, et cui similes sunt?

32 Similes sunt pueris sedentibus in foro et loquentibus ad invicem, quod dicit:

“Cantavimus vobis tibiis, et non saltastis; lamentavimus, et non plorastis!”.

33 Venit enim Ioannes Baptista neque manducans panem neque bibens vinum, et dicitis: “Daemonium habet!”;

34 venit Filius hominis manducans et bibens, et dicitis: “Ecce homo devorator et bibens vinum, amicus publicanorum et peccatorum!”.

35 Et iustificata est sapientia ab omnibus filiis suis”.

Luke Chapter 7:11-17

Note: as first published, the commentary was written with the erroneous belief that Luke did not have a version of the story of Jairus’ daughter. I was mistaken. Luke does have that story, and that of the Bleeding Woman as well. I have attempted to edit the commentary to reflect this correct state of affairs. My apologies.

Here we come upon something that is only in Luke. Jesus has just healed the slave of the centurion, and now he’s off to a town called Nain, which is not mentioned anywhere else in the NT. There is a modern town with more or less the same name, and it has an alternative spelling in the HS. However, the truly odd thing about Nain is that it’s way off the beaten path from where Jesus usually perambulated. Most of the stories of Jesus have him on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, which is where Caphernaum is. The Dekaopolis is on the eastern side of the lake, and Tyre and Sidon are to the north, on the Mediterranean shore. Nain is south and west of the lake. Interestingly, it’s not all that far from Nazareth; however, Jesus was in Nazareth back in Chapter 3, and since then he returned to Caphernaum, which is where he encountered the centurion. Now, very suddenly and without any real explanation, Jesus appears in this other town awfully close to thirty miles away. Did he teleport? Probably not.

Here’s my suspicion. In the years after Jesus died, as his story and his legend and his following grew, the number of stories about him multiplied. As mentioned, Nain wasn’t far from Nazareth, so perhaps some Nainite, or Nainian, or Nainiac came up with the idea that Jesus came to Nain and performed some sort of miracle there. And, with enough retellings, and enough years, people of Nain came to believe that Jesus had been there, so the story got added to the oral tradition. I tend to favor this over Luke inventing the story himself, largely because of the location of Nain. I’m not sure where Luke’s gospel was supposedly written, but there is no reason to believe it was all that close to Judea or Galilee. If Luke heard the story and liked it, he probably chose to include it for both those reasons, not being particularly concerned about the logistics.

Which brings us back to a point that has not been discussed much for what feels like quite a while. This unconcern for physical reality is a really good demonstration of the principle that the evangelists were not writing history. This fact, while obvious to so many people is so often forgotten in the breach that it’s a little frightening. The gospels, whatever they may be, or whatever they were intended to do be, were not intended to be, and are not historical writing. That fact cannot be stressed enough. The prevailing attitude is that the four evangelists were telling a single story; that statement is only accurate to a certain point, and one that is reached very quickly. They were telling the story of Jesus. Yes. On that we can agree. But this is not his biography. This is hagiography. No one takes the later lives of the saints entirely at face value, and we should have the same level of skepticism about factual information when reading the gospels. The fact is, Luke really did not care whether Nain was a leisurely twenty-minute walk from Caphernaum, or whether it was on the shore of th Dead Sea. That wasn’t the point, and it wasn’t the point because no one was supposed to take this stuff literally. Repeat once more: the gospels are not, and were not intended to be, history.

There is also a phenomenon that I alluded to briefly in the discussion of Mark. So many–almost all of them, really–seem to be fully-formed little units, like blocks of various sizes. The Gerasene Demonaic is a splendid example. Like wooden blocks, these stories floated along on the stream of oral tradition. Some of them were collected by the evangelists, but doubtless many more simply floated away, downstream, to the sea where they became waterlogged and sank. Perhaps they were derivative, or redundant, or uninteresting, or they gave the wrong message; for whatever reason, they were not collected and they simply vanished from history. Certainly this happened with any number of manuscripts, until a chance find like Nag Hamadi turns up something like the Gospel of Thomas. This being said, I do believe that Matthew, Luke and John also crafted their own tales. We haven’t gotten to them yet, but I truly suspect that the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and others, were the creations of Luke. They have a high level of literary quality and have always felt like the same mind was behind them. Perhaps when we get to them in Greek, they may not seem to be so. Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s get to the

Text

11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἑξῆς ἐπορεύθη εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Ναΐν, καὶ συνεπορεύοντο αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλος πολύς.

And it came to be on the next (day, presumably) he came to the city called Nain, and they arrived with him his disciples and a large crowd. 

What I have translated as “next” is a Greek word that implies sequence, things line up in a row. Since it’s en tō hexēs, “on the next…” (the next what is unspecified), “day” seemed like a good choice. But this is what I mean about the distance. To travel thirty miles on foot is a prodigious amount of walking. It’s possible, but it would require some pretty serious intention, and, at best, would take pretty much the whole day. When I was in high school, two of my classmates walked something like that in a day, but these were athletes in really good shape, and 17 years old to boot. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s likely to have happened. It’s doubly or triply unlikely if Jesus had been followed by a large crowd. Of course, it’s always possible that the crowd accumulated as he progressed. Certainly, a large crowd did not walk thirty miles in a single day.

That’s all fine and good. The more remarkable thing is that Luke seems to have no compunction of the size of this accomplishment. This, in turn, tells me that he most likely has no real conception of the geography involved. In turn, the implication is that he was not terribly familiar with Galilee. This is no surprise, really. Go back to what we said in the introduction: this is not historical writing. 

11 Et factum est, deinceps ivit in civitatem, quae vocatur Naim, et ibant cum illo discipuli eius et turba copiosa.

12 ὡς δὲ ἤγγισεν τῇ πύλῃ τῆς πόλεως, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐξεκομίζετο τεθνηκὼς μονογενὴς υἱὸς τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ αὐτὴ ἦν χήρα, καὶ ὄχλος τῆς πόλεως ἱκανὸς ἦν σὺν αὐτῇ. 

13 καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν ὁ κύριος ἐσπλαγχνίσθη ἐπ’ αὐτῇ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Μὴ κλαῖε.

14 καὶ προσελθὼν ἥψατο τῆς σοροῦ, οἱ δὲ βαστάζοντες ἔστησαν, καὶ εἶπεν, Νεανίσκε, σοὶ λέγω, ἐγέρθητι.

As they approached the gate of the city, and look, was being carried out the dead only child son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a crowd of the city was sufficient with her. (13) And seeing her the lord was moved with compassion and said to her, “Do not cry”. (14) And going forward, he touched the bier, and those carrying (it) stood and he said, “Youngster/Young man, I say to you, get up”. 

To start, there are two words that are unique in the NT to this passage. The first is the word used for “being carried out”, and the other is for “bier”. These are not common words in Classical Greek, but they aren’t terribly unusual words, either. I bring this up to demonstrate that Luke is no amateur when it comes to writing Greek. He was apparently very well educated. What this implies, in turn, is that if he uses a word found in Matthew or Q, he uses it because he chooses to, not because he’s constrained to because he’s unaware of his options. Now, this does not obviously correspond, or fold into into either a pro- or anti-Q  position. It does rebound into the question of the author of Q, and the education level of said author might be. We know Luke is educated; would an earlier writer, a near-contemporary of Jesus and someone who was an original disciple, or close to one of them, have had this level of education? Let’s think about Paul. He had a number of unique words, but most of them were created by the addition of a novel prefix to an existing word. Some of his early letters had passages that I described as “borderline gibberish” (whether I would think so now that I have more experience is another question). Using him as an example is not a bad comparison, or certainly not an unfair one. He was educated to some degree, but there is a rather large leap from his level of Greek to that of both Matthew and Luke.

Also, there is good chance that the early followers of Jesus were not pagans. Aside from the couple of stories put into the gospels, most likely at a later date, showing that Jesus interacted with pagans, it seems pretty safe to conclude that Jesus did not interact all that much with pagans. First of all, the matter of language comes up; did Jesus speak Greek? If not, did the people of Sidon and Tyre, or the Dekapolis speak Aramaic? These are not irrelevant questions. So, given that Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews who spoke Aramaic, with perhaps a smattering of Greek words related to their trade, the author of Q was likely an Aramaic-speaking Jew. So where did this hypothetical Jew come up with some of the vocabulary that we have found in what is purported to be Q? Matthew read his HS in Greek; he seems as if he would be an obvious suspect.

At this point, we (well, I really) have not come close to creating a coherent argument against Q. All I can hope at this point is that the seeds of doubt about Q have been planted, and perhaps are starting to sprout.

As far as content goes, this seems to reflect back a bit on the daughter of Jairus (Mk 6). The touchpoint of contact between the two is Jesus telling the crowd, or the mother, not to cry. And thanks to the paradigms of Greek verbs, we know that he’s speaking to the mother in particular since the command is 2nd Person Singular, rather than plural. It’s addressed only to one person. Recall that when Jesus gets to the house of Jairus, he asks why all are crying, since the girl is only asleep. There, of course, this statement left Jesus open to mockery, of which there is none here. Regardless.

12 Cum autem appropinquaret portae civitatis, et ecce defunctus efferebatur filius unicus matri suae; et haec vidua erat, et turba civitatis multa cum illa.

13 Quam cum vidisset Dominus, misericordia motus super ea dixit illi: “ Noli flere! ”.

14 Et accessit et tetigit loculum; hi autem, qui portabant, steterunt. Et ait: “ Adulescens, tibi dico: Surge! ”.

15 καὶ ἀνεκάθισεν ὁ νεκρὸς καὶ ἤρξατο λαλεῖν, καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ.

16 ἔλαβεν δὲ φόβος πάντας, καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεὸν λέγοντες ὅτι Προφήτης μέγας ἠγέρθη ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ὅτι Ἐπεσκέψατο ὁ θεὸς τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ.

17 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ λόγος οὗτος ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάσῃ τῇ περιχώρῳ.

And the dead one sat up and began to speak, and he (Jesus) gave him (the erstwhile corpse) to his mother. (16) And fear seized all, and they praised God saying that “A great prophet has been raised amongst us”, and that “God has looked in upon his people”. (17) And this story went out in all of Judea about him (Jesus, presumably) and all the surrounding country.

One minor point: “looked in upon” is pretty literal, but it also does capture the sense of the underlying word. In NT Greek (as if there is such a thing) lexica and translations, it’s often rendered as “visit”; and, indeed, the Vulgate uses visitavit, for which I believe no translation is necessary. The Greek word is not common (again), but it has more the sense of “review”, as in “reviewing the troops”. I think “looks in upon” nicely catches both of those ideas and provides a happy median between them.

Now let’s consider this viz à viz the story about Jairus’ daughter. We have many of the same elements as the daughter of Jairus. We have the parent/child, the weeping, Jesus arriving “too late” because the child is dead. We are missing the request by the parent to save her child. The biggest difference is that the relationship between the parent & child is larger here, and the parent’s situation is more dire. It’s straight-up dire. A childless widow would be destitute. Jairus was a man of substance; the death of his daughter would be cause for grief, but not for economic ruin, so the entire situation here is more fraught with impending disaster. As such, Jesus’ intervention is more pronounced, more “godly” as it were, since he salvages a situation that was ultimately much worse. IOW, Jesus has been elevated to a higher level in a way. This is certainly all true, but the basic element remains the same. Luke chose, IMO, to add this story to raise the stakes the of the circumstances, thus making his entrance and the feat more dramatic. After all, Jairus’ daughter had just died; it was possible that she was only asleep. This young man was on his way to be buried. There’s a bit more urgency to Jesus’ cure in this case. Actually, there is a lot more.

So the remaining question is where did Luke get this story? There were probably a number of different oral traditions about Jesus at the time Luke wrote. There was enough material to fill gospels and apocalypses and all sorts of other apocrypha for a few centuries to come, so there was not just one “oral tradition”. Different traditions had different emphases. The one the produced the Didache has a very different view of Jesus than Luke’s gospel, or any of the canonical works. So there certainly could be, and probably is, L material, and M material, items that Luke and Matthew plucked from one of the ambient traditions that were available to one, but not both of them. But I also believe, fully and firmly, that much of the L and M material came from Luke and Matthew, that each of these evangelists–and John subsequently–were truly the authors, and not just the compilers of the material they present that was not in Mark.

Of course, one never hears this said. Why not? Because that would be an explicit admission that some of Jesus’ teaching does not trace back to Jesus. Rather, it was composed sometime after Jesus, and quite possibly after Paul. Not all of it. But some. Probably a lot. And possibly some of the most famous stuff, like the Sermon on the Mount.

15 Et resedit, qui erat mortuus, et coepit loqui; et dedit illum matri suae.

16 Accepit autem omnes timor, et magnificabant Deum dicentes: “ Propheta magnus surrexit in nobis ” et: “Deus visitavit plebem suam”.

17 Et exiit hic sermo in universam Iudaeam de eo et omnem circa regionem.

Luke Chapter 7:1-10

This chapter begins with the story of the centurion’s child/servant. This is another of the alleged stories from Q. This means that we have already discussed much of the content, so the implications and the differences will feature in the discussion. For example, the word chosen here is different than in Matthew. With that teaser, let’s move on to the

Text

1Ἐπειδὴ ἐπλήρωσεν πάντα τὰ ῥήματα αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς ἀκοὰς τοῦ λαοῦ, εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναούμ.

2 Ἑκατοντάρχου δέ τινος δοῦλος κακῶς ἔχων ἤμελλεν τελευτᾶν, ὃς ἦν αὐτῷ ἔντιμος.

When he filled the ears of the people with tall his words, he came into Caphernaum. (2) The slave of a certain hundred leader had a disease and he was about to die, who by him was esteemed.

There are two points here. First, what is so clumsily rendered as a “hundred leader” is the literal translation into Greek of the military rank and title “centurion”. This is what a centurion was: the leader of a group of 100 soldiers, a group referred to as a “century”. Now, while it had originally meant 100 soldiers, the size of the century had shrunk to 80 soldiers, the latter number proving more tactically versatile. A centurion was the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in the army. These men were career soldiers, and they were the backbone of the army. Commanders and officers came and went, but these guys stayed and provided the discipline and direction needed to carry out orders, in war or in peace. They could be brutal men, enforcing discipline very harshly. The Romans were not known for their tolerance of dissent or lack of discipline. Despite the shrunken size of the unit, the title “centurion” remained.

Now, Mark does not include this story; however, he does refer to a centurion three times in the Passion narrative. This is the centurion who was in charge of the unit that carried out the crucifixion. Unlike Luke here, Mark did not translate the term into Greek; rather, he simply transliterated it as kenturiōn. This has led many biblicists for many centuries to use this as “proof” that Mark wrote in Rome; to be fair, there are others in which Mark preserves the Latin word. I’m not prepared to take up that discussion now; I don’t really believe there is anywhere close to enough evidence to support Mark writing in Rome, but that’s an issue for another day. The point is that, here and elsewhere, in contrast to Mark, Matthew and Luke use the Greek translation found here: hekatonarchēs. That, in and of itself, is simply a data point in the Q discussion. It can only be pushed so far. Hold that thought about vocabulary.

Perhaps more significant is the word Luke uses for “slave”. If you recall, Matthew used the word pais, which literally means child, or more usually, “boy”. When treating Matthew’s version, we discussed the ambiguity of the term, the dual meaning, whether it was meant as “boy-child”, or “boy”, as in “houseboy”. This latter was a term in use through the Nixon years; the Richard and Pat Nixon had a long-serving Filipino “houseboy” named Manolo. The term has gone out of use for it’s racist connotations. It was largely reserved for men of color, when a Caucasian serving the same function would be termed a “butler”. In any case, the ambiguity was patent, although the general consensus was to treat the term as used by Matthew to mean “slave”. The Vulgate alternates terms as well; it renders the use in Matthew as puer, which means “boy”, as in “child”. For example, the opening line of a Gregorian Christmas chant is Puer natus est, referring to Jesus as the “boy/child”. Here, the Vulgate uses servus, the standard word for “slave”. The Vulgate does that because here, Luke has removed that ambiguity and simply used doulos, which is the conventional word for “slave”. So there is no doubt about the intent and the relationship.

Now let us consider this for a moment. The story is supposed to be in Q. What word is used there? Luke’s or Matthew’s? I’m not sure what the orthodoxy is for Q proponents, since I’ve not seen a discussion of the word in those terms; or, rather, I’ve not seen a discussion of Q that got into sufficient detail to touch on this. I would imagine the Q people would say that the base word is  doulos, as it is here, and that Matthew changed it to indicate the extra level of affection the centurion had for this particular slave. (And doulos most emphatically does not mean “servant”. Hired servants scarcely existed in the ancient world.) Luke, OTOH, provides the more original reading, as he is said to do in so many cases. Except where he doesn’t.

Now, this is a reasonable suggestion, that Matthew used the other word to indicate the centurion’s esteem. And it certainly was not uncommon for a slave to be seen as pretty much one of the family, especially in households that had three or fewer such slaves. It’s not an unusual relationship even now, where servants of longstanding become integrated into the household. So, it makes sense for Matthew to emphasize this. That is one explanation, but it’s purely a theory. Another theory is that Luke found the word pais as used by Matthew to be ambiguous, so he clarified by changing it to doulos. This means, of course, that Luke read Matthew, didn’t like what he found, and changed it.

Which explanation is more convincing? Each reader must decide that for her/himself. I find the second more convincing because it is bolstered by another aspect of this story. The moral of this anecdote is that pagans had faith that the children of Israel did not. Such a moral brings the question of content into the discussion; or, at least, it should raise the question of content, but the topic never arises. Is this appropriate to the 30s? Or is it more appropriate to a time well after that, a time in the 70s or 80s? Is it more appropriate to the time of Jesus who preached to Jews well within the confines of Galilee and Judea? Or to a time when the new movement was comprised of more pagans than Jews? Why would Jesus tell a story that praised the faith of the pagans, and disparaged the faith of the children of Israel? This is rarely discussed. Even the non-Q people don’t bring it up. Why not?

Not to worry: I’m not going to address that last question. All I’m going to do is say that the content of the story, along with Luke’s clarification that the sick person was a slave and not a child, provides some pretty good evidence that this story was not found in some mythical document that came from the time of Jesus. Rather, it dated from the decades after Jesus, and probably a decade or two after Paul, when the weight of the movement was pagan and not Jewish. To infer this puts a big crimp in the Q position, which is why it’s never discussed.

1 Cum autem implesset omnia verba sua in aures plebis, intra vit Capharnaum.

2 Centurionis autem cuiusdam servus male habens erat moriturus, qui illi erat pretiosus.

3 ἀκούσας δὲ περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτὸν πρεσβυτέρους τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἐρωτῶν αὐτὸν ὅπως ἐλθὼν διασώσῃ τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ.

4 οἱ δὲ παραγενόμενοι πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν παρεκάλουναὐτὸν σπουδαίως, λέγοντες ὅτι Ἄξιός ἐστιν ᾧ παρέξῃ τοῦτο,

5 ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν.

And hearing about Jesus, he (the centurion) sent to him (Jesus) elders of the Jews, asking him in order that coming he might save his slave. (4) They coming to Jesus they asked him earnestly, saying that he is a worthy man, to whom you will give this, (5) for he loves our people and he built our synagogue. 

I really hate to be so pedantic, but the story completely goes off the rails here. It also diverges from Matthew. In that version, the centurion comes in person; there is no intermediary of elders of the Jews. So here is one of those situations where Luke preserves the more primitive version, except when he doesn’t. And this has to be one of those exceptions. Doesn’t it? So how to explain that? And if Luke is adding stuff to Q, where else is he adding stuff? But aside from that, why does Luke feel compelled to add this bit? Once he has done so, of course, the rest makes sense. Luke wants to make the case that the centurion had done good deeds for the Jews.

So is that the reason for adding this whole section? To show how the pagans were pretty good people even before they began to follow Jesus? I think so. After all, that is largely what these verses do: show that the man was already well on his way, that he had the proper attitude, that even pagans had the sense to turn to the True God of Israel even before the coming of Jesus, so this man–and others like him–had truly warranted entrance into the kingdom. This is, in other words, an intensifier, making the claim of pagans to be legitimate members of the followers of Jesus. In some ways, the centurion is a leader, for he is the one who built the synagogue. And note that he has the capacity to have the elders go and speak on his behalf. This is important for what comes next.

3 Et cum audisset de Iesu, misit ad eum seniores Iudaeorum rogans eum, ut veniret et salvaret servum eius.

4 At illi cum venissent ad Iesum, rogabant eum sollicite dicentes: “Dignus est, ut hoc illi praestes:

5 diligit enim gentem nostram et synagogam ipse aedificavit nobis”.

6 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐπορεύετο σὺν αὐτοῖς. ἤδη δὲ αὐτοῦ οὐ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκίας ἔπεμψεν φίλους ὁ ἑκατοντάρχης λέγων αὐτῷ, Κύριε, μὴ σκύλλου, οὐ γὰρ ἱκανός εἰμι ἵνα ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην μου εἰσέλθῃς:

7 διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν: ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου.

And Jesus went with them. Indeed he was not far from the house of him the centurion sent friends saying to him (Jesus), “Lord, do not trouble, for I am not worthy in order under my roof that you should come. (7) On which account (I am) not worthy to come to you. But say the word, and healed shall be my boy.

What do we make of this? Suddenly the sick one is “my child/boy” (pais) rather than “slave”. What this implies, I believe, is that pais is the original term used, which Luke changed to slave in the first couple of verses before reverting to the original word here. The question then is what the significance of this change is. Is this a case of the famous “editorial fatigue”, wherein the second writer gets so worn out by trying to change the original that the editor just sort of collapses and reverts to the original. I do not, or perhaps should not, really belittle this phenomenon, because on the whole it seems to support the non-Q position. This is true because it’s usually Luke who does the reverting, just as he’s done here. Honestly, though, all it proves is that pais was the original term, but there is no real evidence that it appeared originally in Matthew or in Q. The only thing is, if Matthew is the original term, then that doesn’t help the contention that Luke preserves the more primitive version of Q. How are we to take the apparent reversal of roles here? That Luke is the more primitive, except when he’s not? The lack of consistency is rather detrimental to the Q position. 

6 Iesus autem ibat cum illis. At cum iam non longe esset a domo, misit centurio amicos dicens ei: “Domine, noli vexari; non enim dignus sum, ut sub tectum meum intres,

7 propter quod et meipsum non sum dignum arbitratus, ut venirem ad te; sed dic verbo, et sanetur puer meus.

8 καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπός εἰμι ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν τασσόμενος, ἔχων ὑπ’ ἐμαυτὸν στρατιώτας, καὶλέγω τούτῳ, Πορεύθητι, καὶ πορεύεται, καὶ ἄλλῳ, Ἔρχου, καὶ ἔρχεται, καὶ τῷ δούλῳ μου, Ποίησον τοῦτο, καὶ ποιεῖ.

9 ἀκούσας δὲταῦτα ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐθαύμασεν αὐτόν, καὶ στραφεὶς τῷ ἀκολουθοῦντι αὐτῷ ὄχλῳ εἶπεν, Λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ τοσαύτηνπίστιν εὗρον.

10 καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες εἰς τὸν οἶκον οἱ πεμφθέντες εὗρον τὸν δοῦλον ὑγιαίνοντα.

“For also I am a man arranged under power (as in a hierarchy), and having under me soldiers, and I say to that one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this’, and he does it.” (9) Having heard these things Jesus marveled (at) him, and he turned to the listening crowd he said, “I say to you, never in Israel this sort of faith have I found.” (10) And turning around to the house, those having been sent found the slave having been healed.

There is no real novelty in these last verses as Jesus delivers the punchline. Regardless, the message is clearly that the pagans are to be compared favourably to the scions of Israel. Why is this? I mean that as, why is this story here? There are, perhaps, a handful of stories in these first gospels where Jesus interacts with non-Jews. The one that comes to mind in Mark is the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite, per Matthew) woman at the well. In Mark, Jesus tells her that it is not proper to take bread meant for the children and give it to the dogs. And in Matthew, Jesus tells her that he has not come for the pagans, but for the lost sheep of Israel. IOW, go pound sand. Luke, interestingly, omits that story completely.  And after checking, it appears that Mark has only that one story of Jesus interacting with pagans. Indeed, Paul pretty much confirms that Jesus did not, since he had to break new ground in his efforts to convert pagans. So that story of Mark is likely a later addition; it may have been in the original version of Mark, but it likely was scripted after much of the other material having been thought up as pagans began to be much more important to the various communities. In addition to that story, Matthew adds this one. Here, not only is the man a pagan, he’s a Roman soldier, and an important one. He wasn’t necessarily an ethnic Roman, for by this point many subject peoples had joined the army, often as a method of obtaining Roman citizenship upon discharge, or death; in either case the soldiers’ children would be Roman citizens, and this conferred important benefits. Recall that, having been arrested, Paul was treated differently after he said, cives Romanus sum, “I am a Roman citizen”.

The point is, this story marked an increased marketing effort to a wider, pagan audience. This opening up had not occurred until the later 70s, too late for Mark to include it. As such, the timing is way off for this to have been part of Q. Or, to say that it was part of Q is to dilute the content of Q down to virtual insignificance. If it included stuff from the mid-70s–or later–then the whole point of Q is lost. This story did not trace back to Mark, let alone Jesus. It’s clear from Galatians that Paul was breaking new ground. Yes, of course it’s possible that this occurred during Jesus’ life, but a lot of things are possible. Just because it’s possible doesn’t make it true. Off the top of my head, I would think that this barely has a 10% chance of dating back to Jesus, and I think 10% is being extremely generous. More realistic would be 5%, or really even less. Against that, I would say that there is at least a 60% chance that Luke got this from Matthew. The giveaway, I think, is the “correction” of pais. Or, more generously, we could say that Luke clarified the word, and then slipped back to the original once the point was made. Call it editorial fatigue if you like; to my mind, it seems more a case that Luke wasn’t concerned after he had made his point that the person healed was a slave. 

8 Nam et ego homo sum sub potestate constitutus, habens sub me milites, et dico huic: “Vade”, et vadit; et alii: “Veni”, et venit; et servo meo: “Fac hoc”, et facit ”.

9 Quo audito, Iesus miratus est eum et conversus sequentibus se turbis dixit: “ Dico vobis, nec in Israel tantam fidem inveni! ”.

10 Et reversi, qui missi fuerant, domum, invenerunt servum sanum.

Summary Luke Chapter 6

Supposedly, this chapter is about Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, which takes up nearly the entire chapter. In actual fact, however, the theme of this chapter is Q. So much of the Q debate is taken up by the sheer brilliance of the Sermon on the Mount, that we are forced to compare Luke’s Sermon on the Plain to that other masterpiece. It has been decreed that this version of the Q material preserves a more primitive version of Q, and that this version is decidedly inferior. Those statements are not to be gainsaid if one wishes to be included in polite company of NT scholars. Well, the problem is that I’m not an NT scholar (or, I suppose, a scholar of any sort, except maybe a wannabe…), so I’ll likely never be invited into polite company, anyway, so I can throw a few bricks, or, with luck, start a food fight. It’s time we talked about the content of the two gospels.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Matthew says they went up the mountain. Luke says they went up the mountain, but came back down, and then he stresses that he began speaking on a plain. Luke does not sort of drift off, leaving it vague; he very specifically says “a level place”. So which is the original? Remember, Luke supposedly preserves the more primitive version of Q, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Oh, right, alternating primitivity. Either way, if this came from Q, Luke had to decide to bring Jesus down from the mountain and stand in a level place. Why does he do this? Why not leave him on the mountain? Or did Luke make the change exactly because Matthew had Jesus on the mountain? Is this the emergence of the puckish humor of Luke? That he’s sort of tweaking Matthew a bit? We mentioned that in the penultimate section, in which Luke launched into a stream of unusual words that are not found in Matthew, and very few other places as far as that goes.

But there’s even a more basic question. The Gospel of Thomas is a sayings gospel. Its discovery was hailed as a vindication of the Q thesis, demonstrating that sayings gospels were, indeed, written. Since it was a sayings gospel, it was immediately declared to be very early, tracing back to Jesus himself (perhaps), and proving that Q could exist, which basically meant Thomas was taken to prove that Q did exist. But Thomas has one striking dissimilarity to Q, as reconstructed. Thomas has no physical descriptions of place or action. Pretty much everything starts with “Jesus said…” And yet, the reconstructed Q is full of all sorts of physical descriptions and settings in place such as the “up/down the mountain”. Thomas does not have stuff from the Baptist. It doesn’t talk about centurions. It is, truly, what we would expect of a “sayings” gospel. Reconstructed Q, on the other hand, simply is not. There is stuff from the Baptist, and physical description. And there is so much of this that those doing the reconstructing were more or less forced to say that it all came from Q. Otherwise, how to explain the overlaps? It’s impossible to do so without either putting this extraneous stuff in Q, or admitting that Luke read Matthew. Since the latter has to be rejected on ideological grounds, the former is the only choice.

The upshot, right from the start, we have a pretty good indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew. He was aware that Matthew’s sermon was on a mountain, so Luke put his on a level place. Why? The Q people say I have to explain every deviation from Matthew in a manner that is supported by a consistent editorial attitude. So I posit mine to be puckish humor. That suggestion comes with a guarantee of originality, that you will not find that in the, ahem, serious literature. And I don’t mean to be flippant or facetious. My suggestion is entirely serious, if only to show the range of interpretation that is possible in these situations. “Deadly serious” is not the only setting for discussion, just because it’s the default setting. I’m going to continue to look for this humourous edge throughout the gospel. Let’s see how that stands up to scrutiny.

So Matthew has the primitive “up the mountain”, but Luke has the primitive version of the first Beatitude. Matthew’s poor are poor in spirit; Luke’s are just poor. This is not a matter of primitive vs developed. It’s a situation in which each evangelist is saying a very different thing. Puckish humor again? Perhaps a bit more wry this time, with a bit of an edge. “Poor in spirit” is all very fine and good, but what about those who are just poor? And not only do they hunger and thirst for justice, they’re just damn hungry. Yes, this is more primitive, if by that you mean the more pointedly addressing fundamental needs. Why do they hunger for justice? Because they’re poor, really poor, and not just “poor in spirit”. Being poor in spirit almost implies that they are not poor in actuality, that we are not discussing physical privation, but sort of a moral discomfort. So yes, it is quite easy to say that Luke is more primitive, but he’s also more righteous.

There is one more aspect of “primitivity” that sorely needs to be addressed. The idea that one version or the other is more primitive completely begs the question. It assumes that there is a total of three versions; one is original, and the other two are derivative. Ergo, one of the derivatives is more primitive than the other. But if there is no third version, to say that Matthew or Luke is more primitive becomes meaningless. In all cases, Matthew is the more “primitive” because it was written most of a generation earlier. So discussing primitivity is meaningless absent Q; discussing primitivity assumes the existence of Q, which is what we’re trying to determine, whether Q existed or not. By shifting the battleground to discussions of primitivity, the Q people have already won the debate since we’re now taking Q as given. This is admittedly deft rhetoric, but it’s also bad logic.

There’s another aspect of Q that never gets discussed. This has to do with the actual content of the sayings. Do they truly seem appropriate to the time in which they were, supposedly, uttered? Or do they make more sense to a later time and place? If the latter, what does that do to the idea of Q? Especially if these anachronisms are repeated in both Matthew and Luke? That really puts a crimp into the supporting pillars of the Q position. I keep coming back to what Q is supposed to be: a collection of sayings that predate Mark and presumably Paul and trace back to Jesus, usually by way of one of his close associates. The list of eligible associates is probably limited to Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee. They perhaps did not write the sayings themselves, but they remembered them and dictated them to a scribe. From this list we can strike Peter, because he was John Mark’s source for the first gospel to be written. According to church tradition, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark, the associate of Paul. Mark went to Rome and became part of Peter’s community, and Peter provided the information for Mark’s gospel. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Mark’s gospel does not include any of the so-called Q material. This means one of several things, the most likely of which is that the entire tradition is a later fabrication. Either John Mark was not Mark the Evangelist, or Peter never went to Rome or whatever, but wherever Mark got his material for the gospel, it likely did not come from an eyewitness to Jesus because the source, or sources, were completely ignorant of most of the really important stuff that Jesus said. This ignorance, in turn, is predicated on the data that Q existed and that it is an accurate record of what Jesus actually said. The result is that there is a gaping hole in the explanation provided; it then becomes a question of figuring out the most likely location of that hole.

This leaves us with a couple of choices: either Mark’s gospel did not derive from an eyewitness account, or Jesus didn’t say the things in Q. There are others, such as that Mark chose not to include Jesus’ teachings; however, that strikes me as a bit unlikely. Why on earth would Mark’s source not tell Mark what Jesus taught, or why would Mark deliberately choose to leave this stuff out of the gospel?  I would really like to hear someone try to explain that one.

Another consideration is whether the things Q says Jesus said make sense for Jesus’ time. We touched on this in the commentary, in verses 22 & 23, in which they are blessed who are reviled for Jesus’ sake. These seem to be references to some sort of “persecution” of the followers of Jesus. As pointed out, there is no indication in any of the gospel accounts that Jesus or his followers really suffered any kind of persecution during his lifetime. Yes, we have the account of Paul, but that came later. So we are faced with the situation in which something that Jesus said is likely due to circumstances that only came about after Jesus’ death. And we know that Jesus said this because it’s part of the Q material, and we know that it’s part of the Q material because it’s included in both Matthew and Luke. But if it is unlikely that Jesus said this, that makes the Q hypothesis rather untenable because it, apparently, includes material from after the time of Jesus’ death.

Which leads us to one of the more annoying aspects of the Q hypothesis. In order to cover some of these embarrassing moments, it is posited that Q exists in strata, in layers, that accumulated through time. The implication of this is that some of the material obviously does not trace back to Jesus. This is an eminently convenient suggestion, because it means that Q can include whatever those reconstructing it say it includes. In this way it has all sorts of stuff that a true sayings gospel does not have. We also mentioned this in the commentary: Thomas is a true sayings gospel. Virtually all the passages begin with “Jesus said”. This is how a true sayings gospel should be set up. Much of the hullaballoo about Thomas was that it vindicated the Q theory by being a sayings gospel. Well, Q is not a true sayings gospel. It includes too much extraneous information about John the Baptist, the set-up for the Centurion’s son/servant, the setting of Jesus going up the mountain. All this points to a Q thesis that is not internally consistent, which makes the construction of the entire story suspect.

The point of all this is simple. When the Q debate is taken from the safe environs the Q people have created for it, the conclusions are not nearly so secure. The implication of this is that a legitimate Q debate needs to happen.