Category Archives: Chapter 10

Summary Luke Chapter 10

The most important section of this chapter, of course, was the story of the Good Samaritan. It is a landmark of Christian literature that has become so famous that it’s crossed into secular vernacular. While perhaps not quite as universally understood in English writing as it once was, it seems likely that a large majority of the English speakers in North America understand the reference to some degree. In some ways, it is perhaps the Christian morality tale par excellence. It very neatly sums up the Christian ethos of what it means to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Funny thing about that.

No doubt my impression of this story was seriously–mayhap fatally–distorted by my upbringing. The town I grew up in was small and white and Catholic; that is, there were no Jews. And then I went to a Catholic school and was largely taught religion by Dominican nuns. The result was that I had no exposure to Jewish thought, or the Jewish heritage that lay behind Christianity. Oh, the Jewish roots were acknowledged, and a sanitized version of Judaism was taught, including the stories of Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the Flood, the Exodus and…a few odds and ends. Looking back, I realize we were taught about Genesis ad Exodus and some stuff about the Prophets and basically nothing else. As such, I had no real sense of Judaism as a religion, only that it had become ossified and sclerotic by the time of Jesus, who swept it away for an internal religion of faith and love, rather than an external, formulaic, and overly ritualized shell.

Well, guess what. The story of the Good Samaritan is very Jewish. What’s more, given the other stories in the chapter, the setting is very Jewish. These aspects were mentioned in the commentary of the translation. The fact that the man who acted as a foil to allow Jesus to introduce the central story, was learned in the Law and repeated the two Great Commandments, the story of Satan, and the very concept of a Samaritan all require an understanding of Judaism if we are to grasp fully their import and the true meaning of the story. Luke is not introducing, or even just illuminating some novel aspect of Jesus’ teaching; he is providing context in which the second commandment–love your neighbour as yourself–is truly put into practice. Who is the man’s neighbour? The priest or the Levite? Or the despised other who stops and helps the man? The full impact of the story is missed unless we understand the level of animosity between the Jewish traveler and the Samaritan who helps the man. Luke even prepped us to a degree when he told us that Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed into the Samaritan town because the residents understood that Jesus was going to Jerusalem.

So the upshot is that this is a story of how Judaism should be practised. And throughout the HS, there are numerous instances where the author regales the audience with injunctions about social justice. There was the story in Mark, repeated in Matthew, about Jesus chastising the Pharisees for the way they declared their property korban, holy, as in dedicated to the Temple, when the Pharisees should have been honouring their mothers and fathers by assisting them financially with this property. Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell of the time when the Jews were allowed to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple are full of injunctions about social justice, admonishing the rich for trodding roughly on the poor. This would be another example of not “loving your neighbor as yourself”. So Luke is not introducing novel examples of how to behave with one another. He’s not even expanding on the teachings that undergirded the desired behaviour. He is providing an excellent and concrete example of what the desired behaviour looks like. This, he is saying, is how one love’s one neighbor as oneself.

This is not to say, however, that Luke might have something of a novel slant on the matter. Why does the lawyer want to know how to behave? What is his motivation? He wants to know what he must do to gain eternal life. By this point it should be clear that the idea of the immortal soul, more or less as Christians conceive of it, was not derived from Judaism, but from the Greeks. Now, by the time of Jesus, Judea had been ruled by Greek-speakers (this includes Romans; educated Romans, who were the governing class, were largely bilingual in Latin and Greek) since the time of Alexander the Great, more than 300 years. Greek thought and philosophy had been incrementally seeping into the educated class of Jews, who were learning Greek and abandoning the Aramaic native to Judea at the time. All major metropolitan centres had significant Jewish enclaves, the educated members of these expatriate populations learned Greek. The epitome of this is Philo of Alexandria, who was both a Jewish scholar and more or less a thoroughgoing Platonist. The result was that the idea of an immortal soul had penetrated into Jewish thinking. I suspect (but do not know for certain) that this is the root of the idea of the resurrection of the dead that the Pharisees held as a central tenet.

The point is, even the desire for eternal life had Jewish antecedents, even if those antecedents had Greek antecedents, which they certainly did. As a result, the idea the lawyer was asking how to gain eternal life is not a distinctly Christian thought process. The lawyer (or generic young man, as Mark called him) asking about gaining eternal life could represent someone fully within mainstream Jewish thought of the time.

All of this matters for various reasons. I was Googling for the answer to..something else, which led me to the question of whether this parable is considered authentic; that is, do scholars believe that this came directly from Jesus. According to the overwhelming number of scholars in the Jesus Seminar, the answer is a resounding YES!!! Apparently some 60% code it as red (definitely authentic) and another 29% code it pink (probably authentic). A quick calculation shows that puts us at 89% positive, against only 4% negative. I often criticise the Q proponents for not considering content when they consider authenticity. Apparently the Jesus Seminar only considers content. This group, however, is very vague about transmission. How did this parable kick around for 50+ years, totally evade Mark and Matthew, and then appear in Luke? IOW, there is no provenance for the parable. It simply appears. Yes, it resembles other Jewish/midrasnhic material, but that’s so general as to be pretty much meaningless. Parables do resemble each other; that’s how they get classified as parables. But there is another element. One blog I found said that, of course this is authentic, because it sounds so much like other stuff Jesus said. To which I respond: give me an example of this similarity from Mark or Matthew, or preferably both. To point: there are none. Mark’s parables include the Mustard Seed and the Sower; neither of these are similar to the Good Samaritan in either form or content. The parable of the Wicked Tenants does more closely resemble the form of the Good Samaritan, but the content is not at all similar. It’s not a description of proper behaviour; rather, it’s a tale of what has happened, and what will happen to those wicked tenants. There is no real morality tale. And I would seriously argue that the Wicked Tenants is much later than Jesus. After all, it presumes the understanding that the landlord’s son is Jesus, and that we all know Jesus died, was killed by other wicked tenants. More, this parable comes from the Christ section of Mark, which likely originated only after Jesus’ death, a belief propagated, if not created, by Paul. Other possibilities would be the Parable of the Vineyard workers, but that does not appear in Mark. So, the parable presents severe difficulties both on the question of provenance and content. I do not see how this can be considered authentic.

This requires a lot more discussion than is appropriate for a summary like this.

This discussion about the lawyer/young man has interesting implications for the Q debate. All three of the Synoptics contain a story where someone from the crowd asks Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life. This person was described by Mark as a young man and by Matthew a lawyer. In those two versions Jesus responds by reciting the decalogue. When the man says he has done these things, Jesus then tells him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. Luke changes this; he alters the external circumstances and ends up making a slightly different point. These alterations suggest that this is another of those stories where Luke saw that M&M had covered the topic very well already, so he engaged his poetic license to provide a slightly different message. We have noticed that Luke does this when M&M tell essentially the same story in much the same way. That, to me, is a significant clue, a telling indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew, since he seems to know when to do this. In contrast, Luke has Jesus asking the man about the commandments; he’s turned the situation around. When the man answers with the Great Commandment, or the two Great Commandments, Luke uses the man’s answer as an entrée point to the Good Samaritan. Deucedly clever! However, the key aspect about this story is that only Matthew and Luke say that the man was a lawyer. So here we have a very clear case where Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark. The Q mantra is that this never happens. So how to explain this situation where it does? The answer is: they don’t. They ignore these situations and pretend that they didn’t happen.

We should at least mention the 70/72. Here again is something that obviously dates from a time much later than Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have stories about the sending of the Twelve; Luke alone has the Seventy. Why? As discussed, this serves two purposes. Perhaps the most important is that it allows Jesus’ direct disciples to cover a lot more ground than the Twelve could have done. As such, it allows all the different Christian communities scattered throughout much of the Mediterranean basin to imagine, to believe, that their community was, indeed, founded by a direct disciple of Jesus. The historical context here is doubtless key. As Acts proves beyond doubt, the story of Paul had become part of the background knowledge of an evangelist–assuming the identity of authorship of Luke and Acts. As such, there was likely to be greater scrutiny of who was saying what; recall Paul’s “different gospel”. As such, being able to trace one’s lineage back to the Mayflower, or to the Conqueror. This is important because it allows the disparate communities to have a sense of cohesion, that they are all the same group, that they share a common belief system. As the network of communities grew, and as they became aware of one another, this sense of unity would be desirable from both human and doctrinal standpoints. In addition, we have yet another occurrence of the need to dispense with Jewish dietary laws. Upon being sent out, they are told to “eat whatever is put in front of you”; IOW, if they serve you pork, eat it. We’ve come across three or four of these so far, and there will be at least one more in Acts. Giving permission to ignore this aspect of Judaism was very important for the early proto-Christian and Christian communities. Too strict an insistence on maintaining them would have greatly restricted the spread of the new religion. Indeed Paul had figured this out by the time he wrote Galatians. And yet, other subsequent writers felt the need to include their own version of Jesus giving the OK for this. Very important, indeed.

Finally there is the story of Martha and Mariam. As with the injunction about eating, we have a post-Jesus approval of women taking an active interest in matters of doctrine. Jesus himself reproves Martha’s remonstrance against her sister’s un-womanly behavior. This I think is an indication of the importance of the role women had assumed by the time Luke wrote. Otherwise, there would be no need for such an ex post facto from Jesus. The time when Luke is writing is perhaps an especially fluid time, the point where the forward momentum of the movement was creating a sense of how widespread the acceptance of Jesus had become–hence the 70–but it was before a true hierarchy had settled in and taken control. That would come in the next few decades.


Luke Chapter 10:38-42

Somehow I managed to set up the last post without noticing that there was such a short section left in this chapter. Oh well. This is very short, and it should go fairly quickly. Those sound like famous last words, so let’s get on to the


38 Ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι αὐτοὺς αὐτὸς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς κώμην τινά: γυνὴ δέ τις ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτόν.

39 καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαριάμ, [ἣ] καὶ παρακαθεσθεῖσα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας τοῦ κυρίου ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.

40 ἡ δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν: ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπεν διακονεῖν; εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός

41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ κύριος, Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ θορυβάζῃ περὶ πολλά,

42 ἑνὸς δέ ἐστιν χρεία/ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός. Μαριὰμ γὰρ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο ἥτις οὐκ ἀφαιρεθήσεται αὐτῆς.

In their departing, he (Jesus) came to a certain village. A certain woman by the name Martha received them. (39) And to her (dative of possession, like c’est a moi in French) was a sister named Mariam, [who] having sat herself by the feet of the lord listened to his speech. (40) Martha, OTOH, being encumbered regarding much ministering, standing said, “Lord, does it not concern you that my sister left to me the ministering (as in, “waiting upon them”). So tell her in order that she assist me.” (41) Answering, the lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you care about and are trouble by many things. One thing is necessary. {Variant reading of this: But of a few (things), one is necessary}. For Mariam has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

First, just want to point out that there is apparently a fairly significant variation in the different mss traditions for the first half of Jesus’ last sentence.  I have provided the Greek for both, and translated both. I checked several different versions of the Greek NT, and found both versions more less equally distributed. This means I checked four versions, and found each reading twice; however, this may not be a bad sample size for this and may indicate a rough equality in occurrence. Either way, I’m simply not qualified to render an opinion on which is the superior tradition. However, I will venture an uneducated guess and say that the first version, “one thing is necessary” is most likely to be the original. I say this because I can see where this reading is perhaps not entirely clear. The second version, “of a few (things), one is necessary” is a more complicated sentence structure. Now, there are reasons to think that structure should simplify rather than become more complex, and that is valid. But it’s also possible to look at this and say that the more complicated reading is an attempt to clarify the meaning. It also makes the Greek a bit more elegant, setting up something like a chiastic construction, or a parallel construction, or whatever you want to call it by playing off the contrast between many…few. This cross-reference doesn’t work quite as well in the shorter version, because the grammatical contrast between many…one is not nearly as sharply drawn. Regardless, this can be argued in either direction, and it apparently has been argued in both directions given the rough equality of the distribution. And there are more aspects to the argument than mere style, which is the only one receiving my attention. So, we’ll leave it at that.

Editor’s note: Just noticed the Latin. It seems to agree more closely with the first version, the shorter one. So that is definitely another factor in its favour. 

As for the text itself, this is unique to Luke. Interestingly, while the characters of Martha and Mary were not found in M&M, they do reappear later in John; not only do they reappear in the fourth gospel, they are given a brother named Lazarus, which name we will encounter in a story later on in Luke. So we can be pretty certain that John was very much aware of Luke. As for the appearance of these two women, and their continued role in John, I might suspect that two women by these names became significant patrons of the nascent movement at some point after Mark, and perhaps after Matthew. The names entered the story from somewhere, and for some reason. What are those reasons? I tend to suspect they resemble the introduction of the Magdalene at the beginning of the Passion Story. Especially interesting is that we are talking about three women. It has been pointed out that in the ancient world, young women–teenage girls, really–often married older men. Taking the initial age disparity and adding the general tendency of men to die younger, the result was a significant number of fairly young widows. I has been suggested that Paul encouraged these widows to remain celibate and not remarry as a means of preserving their money for use by the communities Paul founded. My suspicion is that Mary Magdalene and Martha and Mary were such patrons. 

And note that Mariam is particularly taken with Jesus’ teaching, to the point she neglects her “traditional” role as a caretaker. What is more interesting is that, not only does Jesus not reprove Mariam for this “unwomanly” interest in his teaching, he tells Martha that Mariam is correct to take this interest, and that Mariam has her priorities straight. Thus this falls into the category of stories that include the Faith of the Centurion and the All Food is Clean speech, wherein Jesus is giving retroactive approval to behaviour that came about from the circumstances after his death. The Centurion allows acceptance of pagans into the fold; the All Food is Clean speech allows the relaxation (or ignoring) of Jewish dietary restrictions; this story gives permission for women to listen to the teachings and take an active role in learning.

Also, let’s not forget that someone named Mariam was there at the crucifixion. She was with  We are told that these women ministered to Jesus. This is code for providing financial backing, I suspect. And I do not suggest that this Mariam is the same as the Mariam mentioned by Mark, largely because the Mariam from Mark was said to have come with Jesus from Galilee, whereas this Mariam seems to be living more or less outside Jerusalem. And John picks this up as well, since Mary and Martha and Lazarus are said to live in Bethany, which is just outside Jerusalem. Bethany is where Mark says Jesus stayed in the last week of his life. What this indicates to me is that there was a patron who sponsored the group, perhaps at the end of Jesus’ life, but more likely in the years following. This sponsor was a woman, and she was important enough to the group that stories were created about her, just as stories were created about the Magdalene. Mary and Martha were eventually given a brother, but the Magdalene was credited with being one of the first to see Jesus after the Resurrection–in the gospel stories, anyway. Paul doesn’t mention her. Giving this cluster of facts a proper historical analysis, I would suggest that Mary M became a sponsor sometime after Paul, after his doctrine of Resurrection had become entrenched in the tradition, or perhaps she helped entrench it in the tradition. She may have been responsible in some large degree for the creation of the Passion Story, explaining a) why this is when she appears in the narrative; and b) why she plays such a large role in the post-resurrection story. She may help account for the implication in M&M that the centre of the movement moved back to Galilee after Jesus’ death, when Paul clearly indicates that James the Just and the important leaders of the group were in Jerusalem. Perhaps Mary and Martha belong to this latter group; but they definitely came into the story after Mary Magdalene, and they–or the community that was originally founded by one or both of these women–continued to be important enough to be included in the story by John. 

Here I think is where we double back to the permission spoken of in the previous paragraph. Since these women were, or became, so important to the movement, it became necessary to grant this permission. Given that it would have taken quite a bit to force the men to grant this privilege, I’m thinking that the leverage the women had was financial. Money talked even back then.

38 Cum autem irent, ipse intravit in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam Martha nomine excepit illum.

39 Et huic erat soror nomine Maria, quae etiam sedens secus pedes Domini audiebat verbum illius.

40 Martha autem satagebat circa frequens ministerium; quae stetit et ait: “Domine, non est tibi curae quod soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare? Dic ergo illi, ut me adiuvet”.

41 Et respondens dixit illi Dominus: “Martha, Martha, sollicita es et turbaris erga plurima,

42 porro unum est necessarium; Maria enim optimam partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea”.


ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός ⸃·

Luke Chapter 10:25-37: The Good Samaritan

This section brings us to one of the most famous stories in the NT, or in the Bible as a whole (at least for Christians). The term “Good Samaritan” has a cultural meaning that most people in the country would know, and would understand, even if not raised Christian. Or, at least, that was true when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s not any longer, but that doesn’t really matter. The point is that this story lodged itself in Christian doctrine in a very real, very intense way. In some ways, it could almost be called Christian belief in a nutshell. Or, that’s how it was presented to me as I was being raised in the Roman Rite. I have much the same impression of this story’s outsized importance is true in Episcopalian and even Lutheran tradition. Or, perhaps that was a function of the time and place where I grew up, and the people teaching me religion.

But that is to digress. One can still use the term “Good Samaritan” and have a reasonable expectation of being understood. There is a charity group called The Samaritans who offer help to troubled individuals, especially those contemplating suicide. A chapter or so ago, when Jesus was en route to Jerusalem, Jesus and his traveling companions entered a Samaritan town, but were rebuffed when the inhabitants of said town learned that Jesus was going to Jerusalem. The Samaritans and Jews have a complex history; the former claim to be the remnants of the tribes of Israel, those who weren’t destroyed or dislocated by the Assyrian conquest. As such, they claim to represent the true Judaism, untainted by the Babylonian Captivity of Judah. One particular sticking point, IIRC, was that the Judeans insisted that the Temple in Jerusalem was the only legitimate source of Jewish worship, while the Samaritans did not recognise this claim of the primacy of Jerusalem. Interestingly, this would seem to discredit the legend of a United Kingdom, with its capital in Jerusalem. According to the Book of Kings, Samaria was, in fact, the capital of Israel during the time of Omri and/or Ahab. However, “Samaria” generally refers to an area rather than a single town, as we saw back in the last chapter. And in Matthew, when sending out the 12, Jesus instructs them not to go into any Samaritan town. The point of all this is that Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along.

There is no reason to believe that Luke is not the author of this story, and all the stories unique to his gospel. It is interesting to consider why he chose a Samaritan. After all, if he were writing for pagans, the underlying antipathy of Jews and Samaritans may not have been all that well-known; as such, Luke risks having much of his point missed by a sizable chunk of is audience. Perhaps the last story about the rebuff in the Samaritan town served as sufficient warning.


25 Καὶ ἰδοὺ νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτὸν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up testing him, saying, “Teacher, doing what will I inherit eternal life?” 

Honestly, I thought I could get through to the actual story of the Good Samaritan without having to pause after every verse, but there you go. First, the verb here rendered as “testing”. This is one of those NT Greek words; it only appears in Christian settings. Which is fine and good, but then they seem to get it wrong–at least in the NT Greek lexicon I use. The word is formed from a standard word “to test” or “make proof” or a whole bunch of other things. However, here the prefix “ek” is added. “Ek” usually means “out of”; which literally makes this mean something like, “out of testing” or something else equally nonsensical. (Note: it is entirely possible that I am simply missing the point here. That is always entirely possible, whatever it is I say.) But the point is, why translate this as “tempt” as the NT lexicon does? The Latin gets the gist, and uses a word that is easily rendered as “to test”. But the KJV and the NASB both choose to use “tempt”. Sorry, but the context is clearly “to test”, as the ESV and the NIV both translate it. 

“Lawyer” is a very loose translation. The occupation simply didn’t exist among the Greeks and Romans. The Vulgate gives this as “one prepared in the law”; I have the sense that the interlocutor here is supposed to be Jewish, and so he would be an expert in Jewish law. 

Finally, of course, is the “eternal life”. Luke did not originate the story; rather, it came to Luke from Mark via Matthew. All three have some version of this story; or perhaps better to say it that the elements in this story are all present in each of the other two gospels, but the slicing and dicing has created different combinations of these elements. In Mark’s version, the person asking how to inherit eternal life << ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;>> is said, more or less, by a young man of unspecified profession. Matthew has a version of this story, but he has another in which a “lawyer” seeks to test/tempt Jesus. Mark has a young man asking what to do to inherit eternal life; Matthew has a lawyer testing Jesus, and another tale where a man of unspecified profession asks what he must do to have eternal life. So, all of the elements, just in different combinations, and possibly in different stories. So Luke has sort of given us a greatest hits version, or taken what were two separate stories and distilled the elements into a single story. So does this qualify as one pericope? Or two? 

The question is a bit facetious, of course. But the word nomikos, <<νομικός>> does not occur in Mark. It occurs exactly once in Matthew, in a story of a nomikos who wishes to test/tempt Jesus. Now, what is very interesting is that these verses are, as far as I can tell, not included in the text of Q. That means we have a nomikos in Matthew who is testing/tempting Jesus. The verb Matthew uses is the same one as here, <<πειράζω>> minus the prefix that Luke adds here. BUT, there is an instance of the word, plus prefix, in Matthew. It occurs in the Temptations of Jesus; the word is repeated in Luke in the same context. That section is supposedly in Q, even though it’s a dialogue between Jesus and the devil, whereas Q is supposed to be the sayings of Jesus. Except when it’s also stuff that the Baptist said. And pretty much anything else that is in both Luke and Matthew, but not Mark. It’s a remarkably plastic document. But all snark aside, the use of these words surely has to carry a certain amount of weight in the anti-Q argument. Of course, the Q people will never, ever concede that point, because they will never let the argument be held on any ground but that of their choosing. And their chosen turf is literary, based on arrangement, rather than substantive, based on the content of the words.

25 Et ecce quidam legis peritus surrexit tentans illum dicens: “Magister, quid faciendo vitam aeternam possidebo?”.

26 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἐν τῷ νόμῳ τί γέγραπται; πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις;

27 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης [τῆς] καρδίας σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου, καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

28 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης: τοῦτο ποίει καὶ ζήσῃ.

And he (Jesus) said to him, (the lawyer) “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”  (27) And he (the lawyer) answering said to him (Jesus), “Love the lord your god from your whole heart, and in all your soul and in all your might and in all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”. (27) He (Jesus) to him (the lawyer) answering said, “You have answered straightly. Do this and you will live”.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we have the interlocutor pronouncing the Great Commandments rather than Jesus. Secondly, this lawyer is obviously meant to be Jewish, given his familiarity with the law. This question and its answer is found in both Mark and Matthew, and Luke apparently deemed it important enough to include. Or course, part of the reason he did this was because he wanted to tell his brand-new story of the Good Samaritan. Still, the overall sense of this section, and the coming parable is yet remarkably still very firmly tied to the Jewish tradition. The man versed in the law, the Great Commandments, and then the story based on the conflict between Jews and Samaritans.  

26 At ille dixit ad eum: “In Lege quid scriptum est? Quomodo legis?”.

27 Ille autem respondens dixit: “Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex omnibus viribus tuis et ex omni mente tua et proximum tuum sicut teipsum”.

28 Dixitque illi: “Recte respondisti; hoc fac et vives”.

29 ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον;

He, wishing to justify himself said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

I’m stopping here to comment on the word “justify”. The Greek is dikaios; the Latin is iustificare; the definition in the NT lexicon is often “to make righteous”, which of course derives from the word “right” which is derived from the German recht. So we have three different words from three different roots that have three very different base meanings and linguistic fields. For all practical purposes, and as far as I can tell, the English and German words have a very large amount of overlap, so for the sake of this discussion, we can simply use the English. For example, both the English and German can refer to the “right hand”; neither the Greek nor Latin has this connotation. In the Venn diagram of the three words, the overlap comes in the sense of “proper”. Great Scott gives the primary definition of dikē as “custom, usage” in the sense that this is the proper way to do something; the secondary definition is “nothing short of what is fit”. Now, notice what is missing: any sense of legal basis, or any sense of entitlement. The Latin iustificare is “to make something that is according to law”. The base ius is given as “that which is binding, duty, law”. An oath in Latin is ius iurandum, which is a bit difficult to get across in English. But the basic idea is something binding, and given the peculiar direction in which Roman civil society developed, it very early came to be deeply associated with the law and what is legal, and so what is legally binding. Note that this connotation is mostly missing from the Greek root. Finally, “right” ultimately derives from the same root as rex, or raj; the former means “king” in Latin and the latter means something similar in a language derived from Sanskrit. Think of the British “raj” in India. As such, the word has the sense of privilege, which comes down to us as the idea of a natural right, or inalienable rights, which are something close to an entitlement. These rights may have a legal basis, but then again, they may not. In all of the literature that I’ve found, biblical scholar want to pretend that the three words dikaiō/dikaiosunē, iustificare, and righteousness all pretty much mean the same thing. Well, they don’t. I’ve mentioned this before, but read a book called Iustitia Dei by Alister McGrath discusses this very topic at length, except he starts with the Hebrew term that I won’t pretend to understand. I can’t even transliterate it.

Now that we’ve gone through all of that, I think that the use of “justify” in this particular instance is absolutely perfect. It means that the lawyer is trying to fit in with custom and usage of the Jewish culture. So it really works with the Greek word in this case. Hey–sometimes you get lucky.

29 Ille autem, volens iustificare seipsum, dixit ad Iesum: “Et quis est meus proximus?”.

30 ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄνθρωπός τις κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ καὶ λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν, οἳ καὶ ἐκδύσαντες αὐτὸν καὶ πληγὰς ἐπιθέντες ἀπῆλθον ἀφέντες ἡμιθανῆ.

Responding, Jesus said, “A certain man departed from Jerusalem for Jericho, and he fell in with some robbers, and they stripped him and striking him they went away, leaving him half-dead.

The word rendered as “half-dead” literally means “half-dead”. Another good one-to-one correlation. 

The real reason I stopped, however, was to talk about the word “robbers.” In his book Zealot, Reza Aslan put forth the notion that crucifixion was reserved for insurrectionists. Since Jesus was crucified, he must have been an insurrectionist, IOW, a zealot. As further proof, he said that the two men crucified with him were described as <<λῃστας>>, which is used here. This word, he said, may mean “robber/thief”, in reality, all robbers were actually freedom fighters who had taken to the hills and used highway robbery towards a political end. This is all patent nonsense. The Romans crucified all manner of lawbreakers, largely because crucifixion is so horribly cruel and agonising, and has the added feature that it sometimes took days to die, which meant that these poor sods were screaming in pain out in public for a very long time. Talk about an advertisement and a warning! And the word here is generic for “robber/thief”. It’s the word Jesus uses in the story of the Cleansing of the Temple. If anything, if this word in Greek has a particular shading, it’s more apt to mean a sea-borne robber, what we call a pirate (arrrghhh…). In short, Aslan’s theory is pretty much patent nonsense.

I’ve ranted about this before, probably when discussing the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew. I don’t think the book had come out when I was discussing the same story in Mark. But it bears repeating. Thanks to FOX News, Aslan and his book were given a huge dollop of publicity. The folks at FOX were puzzled and a bit miffed at the notion of a Muslim writing about Jesus, so they spent a lot of time denouncing him. In the vein of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, this denunciation served to get the book into the public’s eye, and I suspect he sold a lot of copies of it. And the problem with that is that a lot of people took Aslan’s points as gospel, and I’ve been in debates/arguments with people who assume that crucifixion was only for rebels. What was that pirate quote? Arrrghhhh…

30 Suscipiens autem Iesus dixit: “ Homo quidam descendebat ab Ierusalem in Iericho et incidit in latrones, qui etiam despoliaverunt eum et, plagis impositis, abierunt, semivivo relicto.

31 κατὰ συγκυρίαν δὲ ἱερεύς τις κατέβαινεν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν:

“Upon chance a certain priest came by on that road, and seeing him, he passed by on the other side of the road.  

Just quickly on the Greek. That whole last phrase, starting with “he passed” is all contained in that last word. The other thing to mention is that the word translated as “chance”, <<συγκυρίαν>> is extremely rare. Liddell & Scott cite two instances of it in the entire corpus of Greek literature up to about 400 CE. There is one in Hippocrates, and then there is this one. It’s a compound work, comprised of the word for “lord” and the prefix for “with”. So the word has something like the idea of “with the lord”, the latter presumably referring to God. At least, I would have taken that as a given had we been talking just about Luke, or any other Christian writer. In pre-Christian Greek, kyrios did not generally have an overtone of “God”; but the same could probably be said about the Latin dominus. So rather a curious word. As for the Latin, note the first word below: accidit. It’s the root of “accident”. Here, it simply means “it happened” with the sense of a random, just-so-happened sense to it. 

31 Accidit autem, ut sacerdos quidam descenderet eadem via et, viso illo, praeterivit;

32 ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευίτης [γενόμενος] κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν.

33 Σαμαρίτης δέ τις ὁδεύων ἦλθεν κατ’ αὐτὸν καὶ ἰδὼν ἐσπλαγχνίσθη,

34 καὶ προσελθὼν κατέδησεν τὰ τραύματα αὐτοῦ ἐπιχέων ἔλαιον καὶ οἶνον, ἐπιβιβάσας δὲ αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον κτῆνος ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς πανδοχεῖον καὶ ἐπεμελήθη αὐτοῦ.

35 καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια τῷ πανδοχεῖ καὶ εἶπεν, Ἐπιμελήθητι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὅ τι ἂν προσδαπανήσῃς ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ ἐπανέρχεσθαί με ἀποδώσω σοι.

36 τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς;

37 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετ’ αὐτοῦ. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως.

“In the same way a Levite [happened] upon the place coming and seeing he passed by on the other side of the road. (32) And a certain Samaritan on the roading (that’s too literal, ‘journeying’ is more appropriate) seeing he came to the same side of the road. (A play on words, working off the “passed by on the other side that’s been repeated twice), (34) and coming (to him–the victim) he–the Samaritan–bound up his–the victim’s–wounds, putting on them oil and wine. putting him upon his own beast (presumably a donkey, or something such) he led him to the inn and he was ameliorated. (35) And upon the next day he threw out two denarii to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him, and what more is spent I on the return trip will give to you’. (36) Which of the three does it seem to you is the neighbor of the man fallen to the robbers?” (37) He said, “The one doing the mercy with him”. And Jesus said to him “Go and do the same”.

What is to be said about this? The content is so familiar to anyone even nominally Christian, and it’s been discussed for so long that there is probably nothing that can be said about it that hasn’t been said. At least, I’ll probably never be able to say anything new. So what I would like to mention is the very Jewish elements here. First we have the despised Samaritan, then we have the priest–which could be any culture, of course–and finally the Levite. How many non-Jews would understand that reference? That’s not a serious question, because there is no real answer to it; but it needs to be asked nonetheless. This seems striking, or particularly relevant since I’ve been postulating that, since at least Matthew, the Jesus movement has become increasingly pagan. Perhaps Luke included these elements to counteract that movement? 

The other aspect that needs some acknowledgement is that this is the single most comprehensive, coherent, and specific set of instructions on how to behave that we’ve had in the NT so far. Paul was full of Thou Shalt Not stuff, but this is a positive paradigm, Christian ethos in a nutshell. Is that a true statement? Does this transcend the Beatitudes? I think it does, mainly because it’s so concrete. It is, I think, because of stories like this–or because of this story–that I was expecting more explicit instructions on how to live a Christian life throughout more of the NT. But that is not what we have found through most of the work. Mark is full of wonders Jesus worked, an apocalyptic prophecy, and a Passion Narrative that ends with an empty tomb. Matthew is full of attitudinal exhortations like the Beatitudes and other things, but there is nothing quite like this in Matthew. For example, Matthew uses the word “neighbor” three times and Mark uses it twice. All five cites are injunctions to love your neighbor as yourself, but none of them have anything remotely close to being as instructive as this. The only pericope with anything close is when the young man asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain the kingdom, and Jesus’ response love his neighbour as himself and then to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Hmm…come to think of it, that is actually the setting for this. Here, when the interlocutor says that he has loved God and his neighbour, he does not say he has done so and then ask Jesus what else he must do. Rather, he asks Jesus who is my neighbour?

That, I think, is telling. It seems to have two implications. The first is that this appears to be another example of Luke seeing that the story has been told well enough by Mark and Matthew, and that the injunction to sell his possessions does not require repetition. So instead of merely repeating that command, Luke changes the young man’s question and then  provides a story to illustrate. To one with an inquiring mind, this change in the tale provokes (but does not beg) the question of why did Luke change the story? Was it because he felt the need for some specific instruction on this? There are some fundamental divisions within Christian thought, one of the most basic being the distinction between faith and deeds. Mark and Matthew were all about faith; did Luke fall into the deeds category? Was this stimulated by a new understanding of Paul’s message? We know the author of Luke/Acts* was well aware of Paul. Was Paul’s emphasis on faith in Romans enough to make Luke feel the need to stress works? Naturally, this question has no answer, but it truly needs to be asked. The Q people are always spouting off about the need to explain every redactional choice made by Luke, but, somehow, I doubt that they have ever considered this question.

* This, of course, assumes the unity of authorship of the two works. As of this writing I am not sufficiently familiar with Acts to have an opinion on that subject. However, given the track record of so much biblical scholarship–Q, anyone?–I am beginning to doubt that unity simply on basic principles.

32 similiter et Levita, cum esset secus locum et videret eum, pertransiit.

33 Samaritanus autem quidam iter faciens, venit secus eum et videns eum misericordia motus est,

34 et appropians alligavit vulnera eius infundens oleum et vinum; et imponens illum in iumentum suum duxit in stabulum et curam eius egit.

35 Et altera die protulit duos denarios et dedit stabulario et ait: “Curam illius habe, et, quodcumque supererogaveris, ego, cum rediero, reddam tibi”.

36 Quis horum trium videtur tibi proximus fuisse illi, qui incidit in latrones?”.

37 At ille dixit: “Qui fecit misericordiam in illum”. Et ait illi Iesus: “ Vade et tu fac similiter ”.

Luke Chapter 10:17-24

In this short section we have the return of the Seventy(-two) and then a brief private discussion between Jesus and his gang of followers. With luck we’ll be able to get through this relatively quickly, but who knows what the text will actually turn up? There is a strong argument that I should read this stuff ahead of time; however, I prefer the spontaneity, but I especially like the immediate reaction free from preconceived notions of what to expect. If the text is surprising, let’s be surprised and deal with it on those terms.


17 Ὑπέστρεψαν δὲ οἱ ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο] μετὰ χαρᾶς λέγοντες, Κύριε, καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια ὑποτάσσεται ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου.

18 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἐθεώρουν τὸν Σατανᾶνὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα.

The Seventy(-two) returned with joy, saying, “Lord, and the demons were arranged under us in your name”. (18) He said to them, “Behold Satan as lightening from the sky falling “. 

This is really interesting. Contrary to popular belief, most elements of the Satan myth are extra-biblical. Those aspects that are in the canonical Scripture are largely found in Apocalypse. One key fact to remember is that the name Lucifer is found nowhere in the Bible. Bear in mind that the etymology of “Lucifer” is Latin; satannos is Hebrew and diabolos is Greek. The Latin base for Lucifer is a priori evidence of its late entry into the myth. However, this throwaway line had a completely outsized role in the development of the myth, Everyone knows the story of Satan/Lucifer’s rebellion against God and his subsequently being overthrown and cast into the deepest part of Hell. This line helped create that story. What happened with the NT is that, once it was written and accepted, subsequent generations kept re-reading the words. When they came across something like this–and this line in particular–they had to explain what it meant and make it work with other parts of the NT–and the OT–so that the whole thing fit together to tell a single, complete, story. Of course it didn’t all fit; there are discrepancies, inconsistencies, and downright contradictions all over the place. Which version of Paul’s conversion is correct? But it was lines like this that spurred the growth of the stories about Satan/Lucifer. Why did he fall? That question had to be answered. Thus was born the great body of inferential knowledge that led to things like Mary Magdalene being a prostitute, Purgatory, and the entire myth of Fallen Lucifer. In this development, as with the stories of people like St Phillip, we see a really clear parallel to the way the Arthur legend grew, accumulating characters and deeds as it progressed forward through time.

17 Reversi sunt autem septuaginta duo cum gaudio dicentes: “ Domine, etiam daemonia subiciuntur nobis in nomine tuo! ”.

18 Et ait illis: “ Videbam Satanam sicut fulgur de caelo cadentem.

19 ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ὑμῖν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων, καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἐχθροῦ, καὶ οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς οὐ μὴ ἀδικήσῃ. 

20 πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ μὴ χαίρετε ὅτι τὰ πνεύματα ὑμῖν ὑποτάσσεται, χαίρετε δὲ ὅτι τὰ ὀνόματα ὑμῶν ἐγγέγραπταιἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

“Look, I gave to you the power to trample upon serpents and skorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing disrespected you. (20) Except in this do not be glad that you placed the spirits under you, but be glad that the name of you (plural) has been written in the heavens.   

These two verses are unique to Luke, although the bit about snakes is implied in Mark. This is all very interesting in its content, but the what catches me short is the bit about “no one disrespected you”. The Greek is <<adikese>>, which is formed from the root <<dikē>> with the prefix of negation <<a>>. Now, this is all very fine and good, but the root of the word in Greek has an entirely different connotation than the English translation. Even the Latin comes from an entirely different direction. The root forms <<δικαιοσύνη>>, which is one of Paul’s favourite words; it is usually translated as “justify”. The problem is that all the Latin words are built from the root of ius, which is “law”. <<dikē>> does not have this connotation whatsoever. The Greek word for “law” is nomos, which is the ending of words like astro-nomy. The Latin is noceo, which implies physical harm, which is how the word is usually rendered in English. But the Greek word, in Classical usage, generally lacks the idea of physical harm. Of course, “NT Greek” (whatever that is) recognizes that doing physical harm is a legitimate meaning of the word; but let’s recall that NT Greek was created by people who had been steeped in the Latin tradition for a millennium, and that this is an instance where that very deep tradition demonstrates its continued influence.

OK, so how should the word be translated here? I have chosen “disrespected”, and a good case could be made that my rendering is no better than the standard one. I chose this because it reflects an attitude rather than physical confrontation, like torches and pitchforks, or cudgels and stones, and I chose this because the reflection of an attitude is, IMO, closer to the original word. Granted, the idea that “nothing” disrespected them may feel a bit awkward, I think that is more a reflection of English rather than Greek. And it could be argued that “disrespect” just doesn’t make as much sense in the context, and that the word had come to include physical harm, and I would have to respect those positions, because they are certainly valid. But, again, one of the intentions of this blog is to provide a tool for anyone wishing to learn (or brush up on) Greek. So I’m hewing more closely to the original than might be poetic or euphonious, or even common-sensical. Oh well.

One last word. The final verse, which tells them to rejoice because their names are written in the heavens is interesting. In Judaism, on Rosh Hashanah, the idea is that God writes your name in the Book of Life, and you will live to see the next new year. One can find the influence of that attitude here. But I would suggest that it also carries the residue of pagan astrology. This suggestion is especially potent if we choose to translate it as “in the heavens” rather than as “in Heaven”, or even “heaven” as it usually is rendered. Luke’s word is plural just as it was in Matthew. In the pagan sense, the idea of a name being written in the heavens is astrological. So which is it? The idea of names written in the heavens is unique to Luke; does this represent the developing Christian doctrine of salvation? Or a hangover from paganism? I just did some looking through the Great Scott and noticed something peculiar: among pagan Greek authors in the cites provided, the word is always singular. However, in the LXX, we get ouranoi, the heavens, as we get here. That would explain why Matthew uses the plural form, and probably accounts for the usage here. So, based on this bit of research, I would say it’s Christian. 

19 Ecce dedi vobis potestatem calcandi supra serpentes et scorpiones et supra omnem virtutem inimici; et nihil vobis nocebit.

20 Verumtamen in hoc nolite gaudere, quia spiritus vobis subiciuntur; gaudete autem quod nomina vestra scripta sunt in caelis ”.

21Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἠγαλλιάσατο [ἐν] τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ καὶ εἶπεν, Ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἀπέκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν, καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις: ναί, ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου.

“In that hour he rejoiced [in] the sacred breath and said, ‘I confess to you, father, lord of the sky and the earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and sagacious and revealed (apokalypsas) them to your childish ones. Yes, oh father, that in this way it became good will before you’.

Who is doing the rejoicing? That is not entirely clear. It is what the Latin says, and how all four of my crib translations render this. Hmmm…did some closer checking. All the translations I checked close the quote of Jesus talking at the end of the previous verse (20), and this verse marks a shift. Strictly speaking, it’s not part of the discourse above, but it’s apparently Jesus rejoicing that the names of the 70(2) have been written in the heavens. I guess that makes sense enough. But it’s a great example of how reading the straight Greek, w/o the intervention of centuries of editors, can give one a different perspective on all of this. So this is an example of what happens when one ventures into this terra incognito without a guide. Am I missing things? Of course. But I think I’m also seeing things that the standard guides do not, since they largely stopped looking long ago.

Looking at it again, what this really feels like is a one-off, something stuck in here because Luke didn’t know where else to put it. Update: Having taken a glance back at Matthew, this pericope comes directly after the “Woes” speech. As such, the context is a bit more clear. This is actually one of those times where Luke messed a bit with the order, and Luke’s placement did not work nearly as well as Matthew’s did. Score one (very minor) point to the Q people.

“Childish ones” is sort of an irreverence on my part. The word is nepios, ultimately the root of “nepotism”. Interestingly, in Latin, nepos means “nephew”. In Greek it does mean “child”, particularly a child between birth and puberty. The Latin renders this as parvuli, “little ones”, the way the French might say mes petites, as Miss Clavell called Madeline and the other eleven girls in the children’s book. In Greek, the word also has the connotation of “childish”. Hence, this is the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians when he says, “…when I was a child, I spoke as a child…” This is important to bring out here, I think, because it is so obviously contrasted with ‘the wise and sagacious ones’ in the sentence. So just rendering as “children” that contrast becomes, as they say, lost in translation. 

21 In ipsa hora exsultavit Spiritu Sancto et dixit: “ Confiteor tibi, Pater, Domine caeli et terrae, quod abscondisti haec a sapientibus et prudentibus et revelasti ea parvulis; etiam, Pater, quia sic placuit ante te.

22 Πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐδεὶς γινώσκει τίς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, καὶ τίς ἐστιν ὁ πατὴρ εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι.

23 Καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπεν, Μακάριοι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ οἱ βλέποντες ἃ βλέπετε.

24 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι πολλοὶ προφῆται καὶ βασιλεῖς ἠθέλησαν ἰδεῖν ἃ ὑμεῖς βλέπετε καὶ οὐκ εἶδαν, καὶ ἀκοῦσαι ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ οὐκ ἤκουσαν.

“All was given to me by the father, and no one knows who is the son if not the father, nor (knows) who is the father if not the son, and to whom the son wishes to reveal”. (23) And turning towards his disciples, in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes (and) those seeing what you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings wished to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it”. 

Both of these sentiments are expressed in Matthew, making them supposedly Q material. However, IMO, the sentiments herein expressed are decidedly post-Jesus. These go beyond anything Paul ever said about Jesus. He never claimed that Jesus had this kind of a relationship with God, and he certainly didn’t claim this about the living Jesus. The latter, in Paul’s view, only became the anointed at the Resurrection. So these kinds of statements really don’t fit with a living Jesus. Which is why suspect so much of Q to date not much earlier than Matthew, assuming that Matthew is not their author. And I believe Matthew is their author in some degree. In some large degree. So the idea that these sayings were preserved in a written source that bypassed Mark and was passed down faithfully for fifty years, IMO, strains credulity. But, I’ve said that before; however, just to be clear, I suspect that I’ll say it again. And probably a few more times after that. 

22 Omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo; et nemo scit qui sit Filius, nisi Pater, et qui sit Pater, nisi Filius et cui voluerit Filius revelare”.

23 Et conversus ad discipulos seorsum dixit: “Beati oculi, qui vident, quae videtis.

24 Dico enim vobis: Multi prophetae et reges voluerunt videre, quae vos videtis, et non viderunt, et audire, quae auditis, et non audierunt ”.

Luke Chapter 10:1-16

Continuing our snail’s-pace progress with Luke, we start a new chapter. This section and at least a portion of the next will deal with the Sending of the Seventy. This both is, and is not, unique to Luke. In none of the other gospels does Jesus send out seventy, nor does he send out two batches of “apostles” as happens in Luke. We had the Sending of the Twelve at the beginning of the previous chapter, but that was a very brief affair. Most of what comes in this section applied to the sending of the twelve in M&M.

Why the duplication? Why Seventy? The number may indicate the changed circumstances of what can truly be called the nascent Church. Rather than the smaller circumstances described by Mark, who continually felt the need to explain why so many Jews were not Christians, by Luke’s time Christianity–as it can truly be called now–was a going concern. That’s one thing. Another, however, is the knowledge of the mission of Paul held by Luke. Because of the latter, there were church communities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean as well as a community in Rome that dated back 40 or 50 years. Rather than explain an apparent failure, or at least a less-than-optimal outcome as Mark did, Luke had to explain the movement’s success. But wait, there’s more. Given that the knowledge of Paul’s mission had come into a wider audience, one may suspect that there was a certain level of uneasiness about Paul’s somewhat ambiguous role in the success. After all, Paul had never met Jesus; this made the establishment of so many communities by him rather an awkward fact. Could Paul truly be called a disciple of Jesus? Well, yes, but only if you squint a little bit. So by sending seventy, Luke provides the basis for Paul’s later mission. Jesus sent out a large number of “those who were sent out”; they must have, or at least could have, covered a lot of ground. Thus, Paul’s later mission could be seen more as confirming, rather than founding, all of these widespread communities.

In a sense, we are saying that Luke domesticated Paul. Luke brought Paul fully into the Christian fold. And the way Luke did this may help explain two other things. First and foremost, it explains Acts. By coming up with a thrilling adventure tale along the lines of Voyage of the Argo, Luke–perhaps we should say “Luke”–created a true Christian hero. Or, perhaps a Hero. But the emphasis should be placed on the adjective, rather than the noun: Christian hero. Thus was Paul brought fully into the fold. Not only that, he became a starter on The Team. The other thing Luke does is to make sure that the epistles became second-class citizens to the gospels, something that persists today. So many tracts on Jesus focus exclusively on the gospels, or at most bringing in a cite from Paul that “proves the point”. The Wikipedia entry on Acts says that the book was written without knowledge of the epistles. I disagree. As we discussed when reading Galatians, the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts can easily be extrapolated from Paul’s account of the same event. Granted, the version in Acts is dramatized by several (dozen) orders of magnitude, but the outline is there. In any case, Paul becomes a major player in the gospel world, arguably second in importance only to Jesus. He is way more significant than Peter, after all.

Anyway, enough speculation, fun though it is. On to the


1 Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ἀνέδειξεν ὁ κύριος ἑτέρους ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο], καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς ἀνὰ δύο [δύο] πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ εἰς πᾶσαν πόλιν καὶ τόπον οὗ ἤμελλεν αὐτὸς ἔρχεσθαι.

And* after those things, the lord proclaimed the election** of another seventy(-two), and sent them by twos towards facing towards all the cities and places where he wished (them) to go.

*Here, the particle << δὲ >> works as a conjunction. The base is “on the other hand…” which can quickly become “but”, and “but” is a conjunction the way “and” is. So, we get a process of word development here.

**Another glaring example of “New Testament” Greek wherein the translation given bears little connexion to the Classical meaning of the word. There is a scene in Herodotus where someone is accused of holding up a shield to reflect the sun as a signal to the Persians. The word Herodotus uses is the same on as here: << anadeiknumi >>. In fairness, the Latin uses designavit, designated. From there it’s but a short hop to “appointed’, which is how the word is most often translated.

Last word on the Greek. The word for “sent out” is apostellein, and I hope that root is clear. This is another example of a standard, run-of-the-mill, garden variety, very-ordinary word gets transliterated into English where it has a very specific and religious meaning. Like baptizo.

This is perhaps the clearest evidence I could ask for to prove the point I try to make in the introduction. Why was Christianity successful by the time of Luke? Well, Jesus did sent out seventy (some mss traditions read 72, as does the Vulgate below) people to go to all the cities and places. I fudged that quote a bit; properly, it concludes with “that he wished them to go.  Makes a bit of difference. However, the point remains: Jesus sent them out, and he sent out a lot of them, and he did it before Paul. This way, the communities that were founded could be traced back to Jesus himself rather than some later follower.

This provenance is important. It is, after all, at the root of the insistence on Q. Without Q, it’s very hard to argue that Jesus actually spoke the Beatitudes or any of the other material in Mathew, but not Mark. And so with this; now the line of descent goes all the way back to the beginning, to people who were taught by Jesus. I would suggest that this became more important with the discovery of Paul and its attendant realization that many of the scattered Christian communities did not have a direct affiliation to Jesus. Once again, this is not direct evidence that Luke was aware of the Pauline corpus of writing, but throughout this book we have come across many, many instances where an inference can easily be drawn that Luke was aware of Matthew. Luke’s avoidance of Matthew is too clean. So here we have, perhaps, an implication that Luke knew of Paul and his writing, and so crafted a story to account for Paul without bringing up all the messy conflicts. 

1 Post haec autem designavit Dominus alios septuaginta duos et misit illos binos ante faciem suam in omnem civitatem et locum, quo erat ipse venturus.

2 ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁ μὲν* θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ* ἐργάται ὀλίγοι: δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐργάτας ἐκβάλῃ εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ.

3 ὑπάγετε: ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς ἄρνας ἐν μέσῳ λύκων.

4 μὴ βαστάζετε βαλλάντιον, μὴ πήραν, μὴ ὑποδήματα, καὶ μηδένα κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἀσπάσησθε.

5 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν εἰσέλθητε οἰκίαν, πρῶτον λέγετε, Εἰρήνη τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ.

He said to them, “On one hand* the reaping/harvest is great; on the other* the workers are few. So pray to the lord of the harvest how he may throw towards his harvest. (3) Rise up: Look, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. (4) Do not carry a bag, nor money, no cloak, and greet no one on the road. (5) In which house you enter, first say ‘Peace (be) upon this house’.”

*This is a rare instance when both parts of the << μὲν…δὲ >> construction are present. The first is generally omitted, as being understood. Boy howdy, do I remember how much I hated that when I was learning Greek and Latin.

There is not much here, really. The sheep among wolves bit is considered Q because it’s here and in Matthew. There is a difference in vocabulary. Matthew used the term “probata”, which is a very generic term, one that could almost be applied to any quadruped kept in a flock or a herd. It is reasonable to translate this as “cattle”, even in American usage that word always refers to cows. Here, Luke uses “arnas”; in Apocalypse, the sacred are washed in the blood of the “arnion”. So which word was in Q? Those who (claim to) know, probably choose the word Luke uses here. Because, we know (for a fact!) that Luke’s version is the more “primitive”, which means it holds more closely to the original text (of a book that was never written. Fiendishly clever, that!); hence, “blessed are the poor” rather than “poor in spirit”. 

However, I’ve just made a discovery. The word used here is actually “aren”, which is the base for for “sheep”; the use here is unique. Revelations uses “arnion”, which is a little sheep, hence, a lamb. Revelation uses the word a lot, and John uses it once. The rest of the time, when we’re talking about sheep, chances are the word used is “probaton”. IOW, the word in Q would almost certainly not have been “aren/arnion”; most likely, it would have been “probaton” which means Matthew is the more “primitive”. Oops. PS. Kloppenberg’s Q Reader agrees, and translates as “sheep”, which I’m assuming sits atop “probaton”. So Luke is the more primitive, except when he’s not. The rules for Q are very, very fluid.

2 Et dicebat illis: “Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci; rogate ergo Dominum messis, ut mittat operarios in messem suam.

3 “Ite; ecce ego mitto vos sicut agnos inter lupos.

4 “Nolite portare sacculum neque peram neque calceamenta et neminem per viam salutaveritis.

5 “In quamcumque domum intraveritis, primum dicite: “Pax huic domui”.

6 καὶ ἐὰν ἐκεῖ ᾖ υἱὸς εἰρήνης, ἐπαναπαήσεται ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἀνακάμψει.

(6) And if a son of peace should be there, your peace should rest upon him. If not, it (the peace) will return upon you.

I have to stop and comment on this. I checked, and this reads much the same in Matthew. What arrests me is the idea of peace returning to them as if it’s a tangible object that can be passed back and forth rather than an abstract concept that is not really there even when it is. Are we talking about an inner peace? It’s kind of hard to tell exactly what this means. When I say that I mean that it’s hard to be sure what the author meant, or understood by this. I checked in the Great Scott (L&S unabridged) and the overwhelming Classical use of the word is to describe the active state of non-war. It’s largely a political and/or military concept. Here we have something else. Now, we in the modern world are very familiar with the idea of “inner peace”; we’re familiar with the idea even if we’re not so familiar with the actual experience of it. We need to be very careful about not reading an anachronistic understanding of the expression back into the First Century. There are a couple of places in Plato’s Republic that could be referring to a state such as we think of, but it’s not a common thing. At least, it hadn’t been. Whether the followers of Jesus were pioneers in this attitude, or whether they were simply moving along with the cultural stream is a question that, for the present, is difficult to answer.

6 Et si ibi fuerit filius pacis, requiescet super illam pax vestra; sin autem, ad vos revertetur.

7 ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ μένετε, ἐσθίοντες καὶ πίνοντες τὰ παρ’ αὐτῶν, ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ. μὴ μεταβαίνετε ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν.

“Remain in that house, eating and drinking the thinks they have, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not go out from house to house.

First of all, I keep thinking that I can lump several of these injunctions into a single block that can then be commented on in toto. But each line has something worth noting, so I stop. In going to compare this section to Matthew, it appears the harmonies consider this a different bit of text from the sending of the twelve. As such, it stands alone, without the comparison text next to it. So this has to be compared to those texts. But what caught me short was the “worker is worthy of his wage”. This reads a bit differently than in Matthew. Instead of “wage”, Matthew says “the labourer is worthy of his nourishment”, the sense being is that those preaching will be fed rather than paid. This seems significant, but I can’t for the life of me say why it should be. Both imply something given in exchange for the preaching. Recall in Galatians that Paul self-justifies by saying he was never a burden to the community where he was staying, but that he earned money as a tent-maker. Then I wanted to tie this to Paul, since it’s a word he uses, but it’s not uncommon in Matthew either. In both of those, however, the word usually means “reward”, or, at least, that’s how it gets translated. The original Classical meaning is closer to the way Luke uses it here, as wages. I suppose the thing to do is go back to those passages where “reward” is used to see if, perhaps, “wages” might be more appropriate. But, even then, “reward” is also an acceptable use of the word in Classical Greek.

7 In eadem autem domo manete edentes et bibentes, quae apud illos sunt: dignus enim est operarius mercede sua. Nolite transire de domo in domum.

8 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν πόλιν εἰσέρχησθε καὶ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐσθίετε τὰ παρα τιθέμενα ὑμῖν,

9 καὶ θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς, καὶ λέγετε αὐτοῖς, Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

“And in each city you go to and they receive you, eat what is put before you. (9) And heal those (who are) debilitated in it (the city), and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God is nearly upon you’.

I missed this in the previous verse. The injunction to eat what they have, or what is put before you is actually permission not to fuss about Jewish dietary laws. Indeed, this is more like a command not to follow them. It’s very cleverly presented so that this implication does not stand out on first read. Or second or third or fourth. Again, Jesus never said these words; had he, Paul would not have talked about all things being clean and Peter would not have had the dream in Acts. These permissions not to be Jews would not have been necessary because it would have been clear that Jesus had authorized this from the start. That didn’t happen, so it had to be put into the mouths of later speakers.

8 Et in quamcumque civitatem intraveritis, et susceperint vos, manducate, quae apponuntur vobis,

9 et curate infirmos, qui in illa sunt, et dicite illis: “Appropinquavit in vos regnum Dei”.

10 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν πόλιν εἰσέλθητε καὶ μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξελθόντες εἰς τὰς πλατείας αὐτῆς εἴπατε,

11 Καὶ τὸν κονιορτὸν τὸν κολληθέντα ἡμῖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ὑμῶν εἰς τοὺς πόδας ἀπομασσόμεθα ὑμῖν: πλὴν τοῦτο γινώσκετε ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

12 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι Σοδόμοις ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ.

“And in each city you go to and they do not receive you, going out to the streets of it and say, ‘And the dust from your city we wipe the clinging dust clinging from our feet, but know this, that the kingdom of God approaches’. I tell you, that for the Sodomites in the day that approaches it will be more tolerable than for that city.

We finally have a section that does not particularly require much comment. Aside from the reference to Sodom, his is Triple Tradition material, and doesn’t really carry any unique features. While it may not be unique, I would like to say a few words about Sodom. Obviously, Sodom was a Jewish cultural reference. I am curious as to how well non-Jews would have gotten the reference. Now, this particular verse is not in Mark in most ms traditions, although it is in Mark in the KJV. It is not in the version of the Vulgate below, and this version has the nihil obstat of the Vatican. It is footnoted in my hard-copy Greek NT. So, assuming that this was not in Mark, as most translations apparently do, the most likely possibility is that this was added by Matthew. And this would fit in nicely with the rest of Matthew, who was wont to display his erudition by working in lots of quotes from the OT to “prove” it was about Jesus. There was “calling his son out of Egypt” when the Holy Family was called back from Egypt after the death of Herod the Great, and the quote that “he will be called a Nazarene” when he locates Jesus’ home town there to match the quote, and dozens of others. So here is another place where Matthew does this again, and Luke follows.

Here’s the funny thing. Had the woe to Sodom been in Mark, I would have seriously given it consideration as something Jesus authentically said. As I’ve gone on, I’m coming to think that Christianity has very little to do with Jesus, and a lot to do with those who came after him. As such, something peculiarly Jewish like Sodom I would seem much more likely to be coming from the Jewish Jesus rather than the much more pagan later writers, meaning Matthew and later. But, this can’t be traced to Mark. The irony? Since it’s not in Mark, it supposedly came from Q, which supposedly came from Jesus. So, stuff in Q, which is supposed to be authentic, isn’t. Stuff in the Triple Tradition, or simply in Mark, is much more likely to be authentic. It’s not necessarily authentic, but it has to be given serious consideration. The stuff in Q is almost assuredly of later composition. Or, at least 90% of later composition. It’s possible a few things slipped past Mark and made it to Matthew more or less intact, but it’s a very few things indeed.

10 In quamcumque civitatem intraveritis, et non receperint vos, exeuntes in plateas eius dicite:

11 “Etiam pulverem, qui adhaesit nobis ad pedes de civitate vestra, extergimus in vos; tamen hoc scitote, quia appropinquavit regnum Dei”.

12 Dico vobis quia Sodomis in die illa remissius erit quam illi civitati.

13 Οὐαί σοι, Χοραζίν: οὐαί σοι, Βηθσαϊδά: ὅτι εἰ ἐν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ γενόμεναι ἐν ὑμῖν, πάλαι ἂν ἐν σάκκῳ καὶ σποδῷ καθήμενοι μετενόησαν.

14 πλὴν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν τῇ κρίσει ἢ ὑμῖν.

15 καὶ σύ, Καφαρναούμ, μὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ; ἕως τοῦ ἅ|δου καταβήσῃ.

16 Ὁ ἀκούων ὑμῶν ἐμοῦ ἀκούει, καὶ ὁ ἀθετῶν ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ ἀθετεῖ: ὁ δὲ ἐμὲ ἀθετῶν ἀθετεῖ τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με.

“Woe to you, Chorazin; woe to you, Bethsaida; that if in Tyre and Sidon had occurred the powers which occurred in you, long ago in sack-cloth (i.e., burlap) and ashes being seated they had repented, (14) Except to Tyre and Sidon it will be more bearable in the judgement than for you, (15) And you, Caphernaum, why not until you be exalted to the sky? Until Hades comes down. (16) The one hearing you hears me, and the one despising you despises me. But the one despising me despises the one who sent me”.

This is so obviously post-Jesus that it shouldn’t need the slightest bit of comment. Well…Seriously, this is clearly an ex-post facto rationalization of why the pagans had converted and most Jews hadn’t. The reason? I have come to suspect that Jesus’ original message did not resonate all that well with Jews. He was likely a charismatic figure who attracted a certain following, but it was the coming of Paul and his appeal to the pagans that changed the game. This is an “explanation” for that process. By the time Matthew wrote (presumably of his own creation) these words, some fifty years had passed since the standard reckoning of Jesus’ death. Matthew, being versed in the HS, was well aware of, say the books of Judges, or Kings, in which the leaders of Israel* did evil in the sight of God. So Matthew updated that to, more or less, the time of Jesus. This fits in nicely with the OT prophets preaching repentance, and woe-ing about the neglect of YHWH. So now they neglected Jesus, and the circle was complete.


*Israel. As I understand the history embedded deeply–very, very deeply–in the HS, Israel and Judea both spoke Hebrew, so they had that in common. What they did not share was a steadfast adherence to YHWH; that was a Judahite thing. And the Judeans created this myth of a united monarchy ruled from Jerusalem. This is almost certainly a pious fiction. The situation was most likely a strongish, middling kingdom in Israel that had periods of middling power, and then there were the poor cousins in Jerusalem. When Israel was crushed by Assyria, Judah jumped on the propaganda bandwagon to create a myth whereby they were the rightful successors to the former territory of Israel. This led to the united monarchy when, in fact, David was a breakaway from the rule of Saul in Israel. David rebelled, lucked into the capture of Jerusalem, and there set up his own line that really and truly had nothing to do with Israel.

13 Vae tibi, Chorazin! Vae tibi, Bethsaida! Quia si in Tyro et Sidone factae fuissent virtutes, quae in vobis factae sunt, olim in cilicio et cinere sedentes paeniterent.

14 Verumtamen Tyro et Sidoni remissius erit in iudicio quam vobis.

15 Et tu, Capharnaum, numquid usque in caelum exaltaberis? Usque ad infernum demergeris!

16 Qui vos audit, me audit; et, qui vos spernit, me spernit; qui autem me spernit, spernit eum, qui me misit ”.


Luke Chapter 6:26-30

The Sermon on the Plain does not run on as long as it’s counterpart in Matthew, but it still does go on for a bit. Of course, at this point, we’ve just gotten started. We left off the last section talking about the poor, and how Luke made the opening verses of the Sermon all about the poor. As such, the question becomes whether we can take that as a sort of a thesis statement? We shall see. So, on to the


26 οὐαὶ ὅταν ὑμᾶς καλῶς εἴπωσιν πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι, κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς ψευδοπροφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.

27 Ἀλλὰ ὑμῖν λέγω τοῖς ἀκούουσιν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς,

28 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, προσεύχεσθε περὶ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς.

“Woe to you when all people speak well about you, for the fathers of them said these things to/about the false prophets. (27) But I say to you to those listening, love your enemies, do well to those who hate you, (28) bless those cursing you, pray about those accusing you.

Well, it appears that we’ve taken a different tack and we’re no longer contrasting the rich and the poor. Honestly, the verbiage here is very different than what is in Matthew. Oh, they both sort of maintain the same general idea, but the specifics here simply were not in Matthew. I mention this to question why it is assumed that Matthew and Luke got their stuff from the same source, which they re-wrote separately? It seems more apparent to me that Luke is consciously changing the message of Matthew, but this may only be “apparent” because I want to see it. Really, it is equally likely that they took the discontinuous texts of pretty much unrelated sayings & aphorisms and mixed them up to suit their individual fancies.

This is, after all, a variation on loving your enemies. This message appears in the Sermon on the Mount, but it comes much later in the text. Is that significant?  Most likely not per se; that is, whether it comes here or there doesn’t much matter, but what I think might matter is the way the different pieces are grouped. That is, does this continue the thought from the previous set of verses or not. IMO, the first one does, but then the break is pretty clean. The first verse about being well-spoken of tags onto the preceding verse about how the blessed are reviled. Perhaps I should have included Verse 26 in the last section, but I grouped it this way to make a point. Notice that there was some continuity between Verses 20-26; they were not entirely of a piece, but there was a flow between them, a level of connexion, even if it is a bit tangential. But the jump between Verse 26 & 27 is exactly that: a jump. Yes, there are ways to coax this into a continuation of the preceding thoughts, but such an interpretation would be rather tortured, I expect.  

Rather, the significance is that there is no connexion. I mentioned this numerous times with Matthew. Far from masterful, this felt very much like the arrangement of a bunch of different ideas that did not necessarily have any internal coherence. Ironically, it’s this jumbled character, rather than Matthew’s allegedly “masterful” arrangement that provides the best argument for Q. By definition, Q is a sayings gospel, which means it’s a collection of sayings, and not something with a coherent narrative. The Sermon on the Mount had no real coherence, which, IMO, is a pretty strong prima facie case that these were disparate sayings collected and compiled over time. Which sounds a lot like Q. So the fact that the Q proponents overlook this in their headlong rush over the precipice, one reminiscent of the swine among the Gerasenes/Gadarenes, is indicative of the lack of coherence in the pro-Q argument. IMO, anyway.

And looking at this objectively, the “what actually happened” almost has to resemble a process that I’ve described: sayings collected and compiled over time. So what does this do to my anti-Q position? Well, it certainly doesn’t help, but these two ideas are not wholly mutually exclusive. Given the assortment of ideas found in Matthew, I don’t see how the idea of a compilation can be avoided. What can be avoided, and very easily, is the time at which the sayings were collected. There is absolutely no reason this compilation has to go back to shortly after Jesus. In fact, I would argue the opposite: that the very disparate nature of the sayings lends itself to the idea that this compilation occurred spread across time, and probably space. And there is no reason the collection could not have been done by Matthew, and that his gospel was the first time these were actually written down. If you think about it, the first incidence of them occurs in Matthew; before that, there is not one whit of evidence, nary a trace, that such a collection existed.

One point I’ve made in the past is that we have to ask why someone choose the odd task of sitting down to write a gospel. With Mark, it seems like the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple with the subsequent and consequent destruction of the Jerusalem Assembly may have provided an incentive. Plus, we’ve noted how Mark seemed to be weaving together at least two–and probably more–strands into a coherent and (more or less) unitary whole. So why Matthew? That’s easy: he did it to include the various sayings and teachings “of Jesus” that he’d collected over time. I think that provides a very credible motive. As for Luke? Let’s let that one percolate for a while. My initial impulse is that he wanted to fill in some of the backstory, that he had his own material to add. And let’s not forget that two of the most famous stories in Christianity, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, titles that have become cultural ikons known the world over, even to a lot of non-Christians, both came from Luke. Yes, it appears he did have something to say.

26 Vae, cum bene vobis dixerint omnes homines! Secundum haec enim faciebant pseudoprophetis patres eorum.

27 Sed vobis dico, qui auditis: Diligite inimicos vestros, bene facite his, qui vos oderunt;

28 benedicite male dicentibus vobis, orate pro calumniantibus vos.

29 τῷ τύπτοντί σε ἐπὶ τὴν σιαγόνα πάρεχε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντός σου τὸ ἱμάτιον καὶ τὸν χιτῶνα μὴ κωλύσῃς.

30 παντὶ αἰτοῦντί σε δίδου, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντος τὰ σὰ μὴ ἀπαίτει.

“To the one striking you on the the cheek, off the other also, and from the one seizing your tunic, also the shirt do not refuse. (30) To all asking of you, give, and from the ones taking your things do not demand it back.

Here once again, we have a lack of continuity. This bit can stand completely on its own. It needs no precursor nor any follow-up. It’s a discreet unit unto itself, unconnected from both the previous and the subsequent verses. So once again, we get a sense of how disjointed this material is. Yes, there are certain underlying themes: meekness, non-violence, lack of cupidity–but each expression is singular. A “oner” in crossword puzzle terms. And this would very much fit with the likely development of the Jesus movement. Already with Paul we had a geographic dispersal of the Good News across much of the eastern Mediterranean world, and even incursions into Rome. Tacitus tells us that Nero blamed the followers of Christos for the fire in Rome in 64 CE. So we know that the message of Jesus had been received in much of the eastern empire. But, if you think about it, Paul did not seem to stress the teachings of Jesus. Yes, it’s impossible to be certain based solely on his letters, but his letters are notably lacking in expressions like, “remember, as the lord said…”, or “as the lord himself told us…” And if you think about, Paul never met Jesus, never heard him speak, never heard any of his teachings. Rather, the message of Jesus came to Paul in revelation, and we’ve seen several instances where Paul likely created things Jesus said or meant being fully convinced that these things were true because they were breathed into him by the sacred breath. He was inspired. Or, rather, Paul’s pronouncements may not have been true, in the sense that the living Jesus may never have said them, but they were True by virtue of divine revelation. One exception is Jesus’ teaching on divorce; we know what Jesus said because Paul admits that he’s contracting Jesus

And, as with Paul, so with others, I suspect. Think about it: all these people are hearing the Good News, but the words of Jesus were fairly few and far between, according to Mark. He focused more on the miracles, Jesus the wonder-worker. So if Jesus was a teacher, what were his teachings? The paucity of recollection would have become downright embarrassing; this would have prompted those spreading the gospel to, well, improvise a bit. Over time, different people would say different things, and some of the things said would resonate, and they would be remembered and repeated. After the generation between Mark and Matthew, a fair number of these sayings would have accumulated, growing wild, as it were, to be harvested by Matthew and added to the Good News of Mark. That is an extremely plausible scenario, one that has more than the ring of truth to it. So yes, there was a collection of Jesus’ sayings. It’s called the Gospel of Matthew. The proposal of Q allows these sayings to trace, hypothetically, at least, all the way back to Jesus. That strikes me as implausible. This collection existed and left no trace in either Paul or Mark? Yes. Highly implausible. The Q people have never attempted an explanation for that situation, or that set of circumstances.

And, btw. It is my considered opinion that much of what “Jesus” said may really have come from James. More on that later.

29 Ei, qui te percutit in maxillam, praebe et alteram; et ab eo, qui aufert tibi vestimentum, etiam tunicam noli prohibere.

30 Omni petenti te tribue; et ab eo, qui aufert, quae tua sunt, ne repetas.


Summary Matthew Chapter 10

While I was going through the chapter, it struck me that this was a combination of stuff that was in Mark and stuff that’s supposedly in Q. Then I realized that this would be true for pretty much every chapter in Matthew. That’s kind of what Matthew is: a combination of stuff re-written from Mark and stuff supposedly in Q, which is, by definition, stuff that’s not in Mark. Except for the Q stuff that is in Mark. Guess it helps to have flexible definitions or parameters. The other thing I hadn’t quite realized is that almost the entire chapter is Jesus speaking. I have a red-letter edition as well as an all-black text edition; I generally use the latter, but I opened up the former and it was very graphically clear that, aside from a few stage directions, this chapter was pretty much all Jesus talking.

The main topic of the chapter is the sending out of the Twelve. Pretty much the whole “action” revolves around this event. We are introduced to the Twelve by name; after that, we have Jesus giving them their instructions, and this latter act fills the bulk of the chapter. I have expressed my suspicions about the historicity of this event. Or, I have been openly dubious that it was Jesus who appointed the Twelve, but I am also very suspicious that he sent out “apostles” at all. IMO, these are both actions that should be attributed to James. What is my evidence for this? There isn’t much, I’m afraid. And what does exist is largely negative.

There is at least one thing the positive side. Paul, of course, talks about apostles; in fact, he claims to be one. Now, that alone should make us take note. In standard Christian thinking, the Twelve Apostles are the group that Jesus gathered about himself, whose names Mark and Matthew list. As such, Paul could not have been one of these. Given this, the immediate implication is that we need to re-think our definition of “apostle”.  And, if this is the group that Jesus gathered around him, by definition they are not apostles, because they were not “sent out”. Of course, there is a very short segment in Mark describing Jesus sending out the Twelve. And it’s very short. This alone is not suspicious, because everything in Mark is short–except for the half-a-dozen (so far) stories in Mark that are longer than Matthew’s versions of them.

Now by happenstance (or not, it being the Easter season), today’s second reading was from Acts 4:32-35. It described how the early believers were Communists. And I mean that literally: they held their goods in common. Interesting as that is, the point here is it made me think about the, well, acts of the apostles. The book describes how they went about proclaiming the good news. That is, they were “sent out” to proclaim the good news. If there is a point in the history–especially the early history–of the Jesus movement when members of the movement were sent out (apostellein, in Greek) to preach, it was in the period after the Resurrection. Jesus was no longer there to hold them together. There is a tendency for the followers to remain gathered about the teacher while the teacher is alive. A great example is Plato and Socrates. It was only after Socrates died that Plato started his Academy, and wrote his Dialogues. The followers of the Buddha did not begin to spread his message until he had died. The exception, of course, is Mohammed, but Mohammed had married a wealthy widow; as such, he had money and influence and would have been able to attract a following. And Mohammed also wrote his own teachings, which neither Jesus, Socrates, nor the Buddha had done.

All of this is arguing from analogy. This is useful, but it’s the same as arguing from probability. Maybe the situation we’re examining follows the pattern, maybe it doesn’t. For me, the analogy provides the most plausible explanation for the events suggested. I consider it much–very much–more likely that the sending out of the Twelve occurred after Jesus death.

As for the negative evidence, we have the fact that Paul does not mention any of the “Apostles” named by Mark or Matthew, with the obvious exception of Peter. Recall in Galatians, he talks about meeting with James and Cephas and such members of the group that seemed important. He doesn’t mention any of the others: neither the Sons of Thunder/Zebedee, who would be James (the Greater) and John (supposedly the evangelist), nor Peter’s brother Andrew, nor Philip, Thomas…or any of the others named here in Chapter 10. The other negative bit of evidence is that none of the others, aside from the sons of Zebedee, Andrew, and Judas Iscariot are named even in the gospels. And mostly they are named: they accompany, but nothing really else until we get to Acts and John. Then, of course, after the turn of the Second Century, they start to turn up in various legends; Thomas, IIRC, went to India, Philip was martyred in some city that I read about in Biblical Archaeological Review a while back, that sort of thing, This reminds me an awful lot of how the Round Table became populated as time passed: Launcelot, Bors, Percival (Parzifal), Galahad, Gawaine, and all the others came later, and they were assigned their own adventures and stories. And none of it was factual.

Of course, I am relying here on the argument from silence. And, as I read any number of times, this is a dangerous tool when applied to ancient history. There is simply not enough source material to provide any sense of security about the silence. If an aide to, say, FDR is not mentioned in any of the sources, there is a pretty good chance that the aide did not exist. We can’t have that degree of certainty with Biblical personages because there are so few sources. There is too good a chance that a relevant source has been lost, because so many records were lost. It’s also just possible that at least some of the names listed are “factual” in the sense they were actual apostles; but they weren’t named as such by Jesus.

So if you see my point that, historically speaking, chances are the apostles–which, for the sake of argument, originally numbered twelve–were not named by Jesus, then by whom? Well, it would make sense that the leader of the movement after Jesus’ death would have done this, no? And who was the leader of the movement after Jesus? Well, according to an eyewitness, the only primary source in the entire NT, this was James, brother of the Lord as Paul calls him. Does this make sense? Well, there’s little reason to doubt Paul’s testimony. Paul and James didn’t exactly hit it off, so Paul would have no reason to inflate James’s status. We do not know if James assumed leadership immediately after Jesus died, but he is in charge ten or twenty years later. Paul does not mention anyone in the interim, but that’s once again the argument from silence. Anyway, the result of all of this is that I believe that the apostles date to a time after Jesus’ death, which means they were likely originally commissioned by James.

Which leads to the next point. Note that Jesus enjoins the apostles not to preach to either pagans or Samaritans. This struck me as odd. Or is it? Again, from our eyewitness, we know that James was wont to insist that pagans become full-fledged Jews in order to be full-fledged followers of Jesus. As such, was it James who issued the injunction against proselytizing Samaritans and pagans. Boy, that sure is a nice and tidy little package, and each aspect sure seems to support the other one, helping to create a coherent narrative. The problem with such narratives is that, while each additional piece of the narrative seems to reinforce the other, making the narrative more likely, it works just the opposite: every additional piece of “evidence” makes the narrative more complex and so less likely. Here, with these two pieces we may be safe, but we need to make sure we know when we’re drawing a valid inference, and when we’re departing on a flight of fancy. A lot of reputable scholars have come to grief on shoals of the complex condition.

Because the other question we have to ask concerns the probability of Matthew knowing about the instructions.  Now these instructions are said to be part of the earliest stratum of Q, which are the most authentic; however, if the probability is that Jesus didn’t give these instructions because he didn’t commission the apostles, then putting this in Q is problematic because Q then stops being what it’s supposed to be: a collection of the sayings of Jesus. If it stops being such a collection, then it’s no longer Q, but a different source with a different name. Coming into this gospel, I was reasonably certain that a lot of the alleged Q material was actually material that Matthew composed on his own. While I do believe it likely that Matthew did compose a certain amount of this new material–and that Luke got it from directly from Matthew–the number of non sequiturs that have shown up seem to indicate that Matthew did have another source besides Mark. It just wasn’t Q–as Q is generally thought to be composed. In whatever form this other source may have been, there are two important differences from the proposed Q as currently envisioned and reconstructed. The first is that it almost certainly did not date back as far as Paul, let alone Jesus; the second is that it was not the source held in common between Matthew and Luke.

That’s the first part of the chapter. The rest of the chapter–the bulk of it–consists of the instructions given to the apostles. There is one very interesting quirk about this: some of the material here is also found in Mark. The thing is, it’s not found in the section of Mark where Jesus is sending out the Twelve. Rather, the common parts are found in Mark 13; this is Mark’s chapter that has his description of the coming apocalypse. The parts about being hauled in front of councils, of not worrying about what they should say, are all used to describe the time of tribulation that Jesus is “predicting”. However, this feels much more like an account of the period of the Jewish War. Josephus has some pretty vivid stories of treachery and betrayal in The Jewish War (as the title is rendered on my Penguin edition).

So why did Matthew change the context? Why did he merge it with the commission of the Twelve, especially when he will have a prediction of the coming time of tribulation later on in his gospel? The answer to this question, I think, would give us a really keen insight into how the beliefs, and perhaps especially the expectations of the Jesus movement had changed over the course of the generation or so between Mark and Matthew. Many would describe Jesus as primarily a preacher of apocalypse; I’m not one of them. As we saw, Paul seemed to be expecting Jesus’ return daily, if not momentarily; however, I’m not sure that we should equate his end-times expectations with true apocalyptic thinking. There are, or can be, links between the two, but they are not entirely synonymous. In fact, there are actually three separate elements that are often melded together into a single event: there is the time of tribulation, the overthrow of the existing (bad) order, and the end-times, or the End-Of-Time. Mark 13 has all three conjoined, as does the Book of Revelations. Here, though, we have only the time of tribulation.

This is often seen as the prelude, the opening act of the other two. This is shown by Mark’s line that those enduring (in faith) till the end will be saved. This line is repeated here, but the context gives it a rather different meaning. First of all, “saved” in Matthew almost exclusively refers to the physical person. The bleeding woman is saved; Peter cries out to be saved when he can’t walk on the water; the hundredth sheep will be sought and saved. The sole (possible) exception is Mt 19:25, which is the recapitulation of Mark 10:26, the disciples’ wonder about who can be saved if the rich cannot be. So in this context, does Matthew mean that their eternal souls will be saved–as most Christians would understand this sentence–or does it mean that their lives will be saved? On balance, given all the uses for the word “saved”, I would hazard that Matthew means the latter: their physical lives will be saved.

Recall that almost none of the material attributed to Q deals with souls whether immortal or otherwise, salvation, damnation, eternity, nor any of the other Christian metaphysical ideas. Now let me hasten to add that the nonexistence of Q does not affect that statement. “Q”, at root, simply means “stuff that’s not in Mark but is in Matthew and Luke”.  Or perhaps it would be best to call it the “material of the alleged Q”; but rather wordy, no? So the stuff that Matthew and Luke add to Mark does not include salvation theology (I may eat those words later, but this is a voyage of discovery for me). This bit about remaining steadfast was in Mark, so Matthew is, at best, importing any theological overtones. He is not adding to them, nor even reinforcing them. As such, I think we are justified in reading this as “save their lives” rather than “save their immortal souls”.

There are some significant theological implications in that conclusion. And it is a conclusion, and not a fact. It’s a reasonable conclusion, IMO, but nothing more. But because of this, I think it’s safe to say that at least some of the apocalyptic thinking had been transferred from the future to the past by the time Matthew wrote. Perhaps the immediacy of the expectation had been blunted slightly. Yes, Matthew will repeat much of Mark 13 at a later point, but that is–or at least may be–a repetition; here we have an interpretation. It’s this latter that gives us better insight into Matthew’s mindset, and the status quo of the time he wrote. Jesus’ return, or the apocalypse, or even the time of tribulation were, perhaps, not expected daily as they had been for Paul. That is a significant development of belief. We will need to keep an eye on this as we go progress towards Revelations.

What does this tell us about Jesus attitudes, especially towards “the kingdom”? What does this tell us about the attitudes of later followers towards “the kingdom?” What do the evangelists have in mind when they talk about “the kingdom”? The concept does go back to Paul, who already mentions it in Galatians 5:21. Paul was describing, seemingly, a prophecy of end times, of what would happen after the Lord comes down from the sky. Mark did talk about the coming (not the return) of the Son of Man. This also sounds like end-times. But Q is conspicuously short on talk about stuff related to apocalypse, or end-times. The kingdom is present, at least by implication, in the original stratum of Q, as reconstituted by scholars of today, but I’m not sure you could call it “prominent”.

What are the implications of that? Of course, this could be a glass that half-full/half-empty; I don’t grasp all the iterations because I don’t want to.

Regardless, I’m not going to try to answer the question about Q and apocalypse/end times at this point. This summary  has gone on long enough, and I need to wrap it up. Just keep the question in mind, because I will be coming back to it.


Matthew Chapter 10:29-42

This will conclude Chapter 10. We are still in a section where Jesus is sending out the Twelve, giving them instructions on how to go about their mission. Really, Jesus has been talking for most of the chapter. If you have a Bible with Jesus’ words in red, you see a lot of red here. Of course, the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount are almost entirely red…

29 οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐ πεσεῖται ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν.

“Do not two sparrows sell for an as? And one of them does not fall to the earth without your father.

An as is a copper coin of small denomination; often translated as “penny” or “farthing”, but that word is too loaded for our use. It distorts the implications, IMO. Now, what’s interesting about this is that it says that an as is a tenth of a drachma. Well, the problem is that an as is a Roman coin, while a drachma is Greek. When I went to Greece too many years ago, the drachma was still the basic unit of coinage in Greece; the coins had pictures of Socrates and Aristotle on them. Now, coinage is not a specialty of mine. I can usually get a rough idea of what is meant regarding value, but I’m not up on the finer details of ancient coinage. What I wonder here is that Matthew is using a Roman coin, rather than something more local. Remember the money changers that Jesus (supposedly) chased out of the Temple; they were there to change things like drachmas and asses (plural form of as) into…shekels, I believe. So coinage was not standard throughout the ancient Mediterranean; the Romans did not establish a Euro zone (or one based on the denarius, either. But coinage was based on the weight of the metal, so it wasn’t hard to set up rough equivalents. And, FYI, the big Lewis & Short Latin lexicon gives a whole list of equivalencies; the as was a very small coin so it was very often combined into ten-as and twenty-as pieces–and other denominations–so I feel somewhat comfortable that I’m not going off the rails here. And this is another spot where the NT Greek dictionary really doesn’t do the situation justice; it never mentions that this is a Roman coin.

I go into all of this for a reason. We know that Matthew read his Torah in Greek, and here he is using Roman coins. Where was he from? For whom was he writing? Was he writing for people more familiar with Roman coins than coins from the Eastern Mediterranean? If so, where did Matthew reside when he was writing this? Was he writing for a local audience, or did he intend this to be sent abroad after publication? The upshot is that there are a number of non-Jewish things going on here. Does it add up to a pattern? That’s not definitive yet. But it’s one more pebble on the side of the scales weighing out whether Matthew may have been a pagan. It’s not necessary; plenty of Jews read the Septuagint HS, and plenty more used Roman coins. But sometimes it’s the little things that tell. Especially if they start to add up.

29 Nonne duo passeres asse veneunt? Et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro.

30 ὑμῶν δὲ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς πᾶσαι ἠριθμημέναι εἰσίν.

31 μὴ οὖν φοβεῖσθε: πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε ὑμεῖς.

“And all the hairs of your head are counted. (30) Therefore do not fear: you matter more than sparrows. 

The first question is what does the hairs on your head have to do with sparrows? I mean, sure, this is all metaphorical, that God loves us so much that he’s counted each and every hair on your head, so you know that you are more valuable than a sparrow. And since not one of them falls from the sky without God’s knowledge, you must be much more valuable. And I realize that breaking these chapters up into smaller sections like this isn’t ideal for flow and continuity; recall that we ended the last section with the discussion of how to beware of those that can kill the body. That sort of flows into the part about sparrows dying. But regardless, this seems a little clumsy as a metaphor, and it has a certain cobbled-together feel to it, no? I mentioned places that felt like the welds, or the seams in the two narratives that Mark was welding, or weaving together, but those were at a much larger scale. It never felt like there was a line-by-line switching between the different sources or traditions the way it does here in Matthew. This, IMO, continues to support the sense I get that Matthew had a number of sayings at his disposal, and that he made a concerted effort to piece them all together at something like a molecular level. The thing is, the piecing together that I am seeing, or sensing, or imagining goes way beyond Mark and a written Q. If you read the reconstructed Q, there isn’t that much in there. What I’m seeing here is much more multi-faceted, or more varied than what I would expect from a single source

Assuming that I’m not imagining this, the question then becomes “where did this other material come from? Or perhaps, “how did this other material reach Matthew?” There is a certain amount of overlap between these two questions, but they are also distinct. One possibility is that the apostles sent out by James sort of developed a lot of this material, which got back to Matthew as “Jesus said…” stuff. It bypassed Mark because it hadn’t had time to take root until the period after Mark wrote. Think about it: I have suggested that part of the reason Mark wrote was that he felt the need, or felt it was necessary to sort of get a handle on these different traditions. That it was embarrassing to have these two traditions floating around that, on the surface, didn’t seem to have all that much to do with each other. One was a collection of stories about a wonder-worker, and the other was the myth of the divine Christ. Some overlap–at least potentially–existed, but not that much, either.

Then, as the movement became more popular, it became more diverse. It’s reasonably easy to keep a tight rein on the message when the group is small; as it expands, however, new interpretations, even entirely new thoughts start to creep in. Anyone familiar with the development of Communism will have an appreciation for what likely started to happen. The Communist Manifesto was written in 1848; the first volume of Das Kapital was published in 1867. Lenin was born in 1870 and became involved in Marxism and revolutionary thought after his brother’s execution in 1887. So that’s about 40 years, which is a bit less than the span between Jesus and Matthew. By the time Lenin got involved, Marxism had begun to splinter and evolve. Lenin believed in fomenting revolution where Marx believed that the overthrow of the bourgeoisie had to be more or less a spontaneous affair; this represented a major re-interpretation of the basic doctrine. There is absolutely no reason to think that a similar process was not at work with Jesus’ teaching. Success and popularity mean a whole lot of new ideas come into the tent, and that breeds diversity of opinion. So it is very possible that Matthew had several written sources available to him, and that these sources were not necessarily consistent with each other.

30 Vestri autem et capilli capitis omnes numerati sunt.

31 Nolite ergo timere; multis passeribus meliores estis vos.

32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεντῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς:

33 ὅστις δ’ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μουτ οῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς.

 “Therefore all who will agree with me before men, I will agree with him before my father who is in the heavens. (33)  But whoever may deny me before men, I will deny him before my father who is in the heavens.

To start, we have a slight disagreement between the Greek and the Latin, and it’s the latter that has influenced our English translation of the word. The Greek, <<ὁμολογήσει>> is more on the idea of “to agree with”, or even “to concede (as in a point of debate)”. The Latin is <<confiteor>>, the base meaning of which is “to acknowledge”, and it’s also the root for our word “confession”. So this gets translated in the KJV as “whoever confesses me”, and that has taken us down a theological road that wasn’t exactly present in the Greek. I should note, however, that an NT Greek lexicon is apt to render this as “to confess”.  Now, it’s not a big deal. There is a fair bit of overlap in the semantic fields of the two words, but they are not identical. In fact, it’s overlap, they are not true synonyms. Of course, we then have to ask ourselves if “agree with me before men” makes sense. It does. Sort of. So maybe this is a situation where maybe we have to consider that the word has changed in meaning between the Classical and the NT usage. 

See? I’m not unreasonable.

Aside from that, the topic is another that had a long tail, one that could not have been anticipated. During the persecution under the Emperor Diocletian in the last half of the Third Century, some Christians denied their faith in order to survive. Then, after Diocletian died, and the persecutions ended, a Bishop named Donatus declared than any priest or bishop who abjured his faith to save his life was not fit to be a priest or bishop. Donatus’ position was based largely on this passage.

32 Omnis ergo qui confitebitur me coram hominibus, confitebor et ego eum coram Patre meo, qui est in caelis;

33 qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, negabo et ego eum coram Patre meo, qui est in caelis.

34 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν: οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν.

35 ἦλθον γὰρ διχάσαι ἄνθρωπον κατὰ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ θυγατέρα κατὰ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφην κατὰ τῆς πενθερᾶς αὐτῆς,

36 καὶ ἐχθροὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οἱ οἰκιακοὶ αὐτοῦ.

Do not consider that I have come to throw peace into the world; I have come not to throw in peace, but a sword. (35) For I came to divide a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And (there will be) enemies of a man within his own household.  

First, “throwing” peace is needlessly literal, but again, that’s the point of this translation. Second, this strikes me as more after-the-fact sanctioning of something that had happened earlier. This is more about the “troubles”. the persecutions that no doubt led to betrayals within a household. This, unfortunately, is all-too-human nature; we have seen this sort of behaviour of people betrayed by family members time after time in periods of distress. The thing about this “prediction” is that it sounds like it’s describing a situation that was very intense. For example, it sounds more like what would happen under, say, the persecutions of Diocletian rather than under any barely-attested persecutions of the First Century. Now, having said that, if we read Josephus’ “Jewish War”–specifically if you read the cover of the Penguin Edition of this book that I happen to own, you will see a quote from the work that sounds remarkably like what Matthew has just said. Josephus describes the sort of internecine, intra-family betrayals and downright murders that Jesus is “predicting”. Now, the situation in Judea was complex, as it often is during periods of internal strife exacerbated by an external enemy. Thucydides has some truly penetrating analyses of situations like this during the Peloponnesian War.

So, given that there is hardly any evidence that the pagan Romans persecuted followers of Jesus specifically because they were followers of Jesus, my speculation is that a lot of these dire warnings put into the mouth of Jesus were actually reflections back on what happened during the period leading up to and including the crushing of the revolt by the Romans. The Romans were merciless and ruthless, and they exploited every internal weakness they could. And there were a number of Jews–the Herodians and their followers, for example–who were perfectly willing to collaborate with the Romans if they benefited personally from doing so. So my question is, were the followers of Jesus caught up in thus maelstrom? This seems a reasonable enough assumption given the ferocity of the event. So we are justified to ask if the Jewish War is the template for what Mark–and Matthew following the lead–used for the description of the End Times? There were the persecutions of Saul, but, note that Paul lacked the end-times sorts of harrowing details we found in Mark that are echoed here. In short, Paul was the Parousia without the Apocalypse. Here, Matthew is the persecution without the Apocalypse. Paul wrote before the Jewish War; Mark wrote shortly after; Matthew wrote a generation or more after. The details from Mark that Matthew repeats here were part of the “little Apocalypse” of Mark Chapter 13. Is that a coincidence? Have the two events begun to conflate? Or have they conflated even more than they had by the time Mark wrote?

Interesting questions, I think.

34 Nolite arbitrari quia venerim mittere pacem in terram; non veni pacem mittere sed gladium.

35 Veni enim separare hominem adversus patrem suum et filiam adversus matrem suam et nurum adversus socrum suam:

36 et inimici hominis domestici eius.

37 Ὁ φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος: καὶ ὁ φιλῶν υἱὸν ἢ θυγατέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος:

38 καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος.

The one loving father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and the one loving son or daughter more than me. (38) And the one who does not accept his cross and follow me wherever, is not worthy of me.

The sentiments expressed here are very intense. All the scholars put this in Q, because it’s here and in Luke, but not in Mark. The only problem with this is that I am pretty much dead certain that Jesus never said any of this. First, this requires that Jesus knew that he was going to die on the cross. That is completely anachronistic. “Taking up one’s cross” is a very, very Christian sentiment. But there weren’t any Christians until about 40 years after Jesus died. There is a very high likelihood, IMO, that Jesus did die on the cross. Here I agree with the overall scholarly opinion (at least for the moment) that there is no reason to make something like this up. That alone puts the probability at something around 50%. [ Note: even though it’s an either-or situation, yes-or-no, heads-or-tails, that does not mean that the probability starts at 50%. No. The probability of any event in isolation starts much lower. Some possibilities are all-but zero–that Jesus’ body was stolen by aliens, let’s say–but any “realistic” occurrence likely starts with a probability around 10%. These numbers are not based on any recognized principles of statistics or actuarial science; they’re more ‘rule-of-thumb’ estimates based on experience. ] So if the reporting of the fact puts us at, say 55%, the fact that our earliest source Paul tells us this repeatedly, IMO, moves us to at least 80%*.

Assuming that Jesus did die on the cross–and I firmly believe he did–what is the chance that he knew about this ahead of time? And by that I mean, before the point he was actually arrested. Once that even occurred, the likelihood of crucifixion went up to close to 100%. The chance that he knew he would be crucified prior to being arrested is close to zero. But the thing is, understanding whether Jesus said this does not depend on whether he could foretell his fate. Rather, it’s a question of would this aphorism have made any sense to his contemporaries, who certainly did not know how Jesus would die. The aphoristic quality of ‘taking up one’s cross’ depends on Christians understanding that this referred to something that had happened, to something that Jesus had done in the past; it would be meaningless if it referred to something that may, or even will, happen in the future. Without the past reference, the aphorism refers to nothing. Christians are urged to take up a cross because Jesus has already done so. Ergo, it’s almost a certainty that Jesus did not utter these words.

And yet, they are considered to be part of Q. By this point, I hope we all see the problem with this. Q, supposedly, are the authentic sayings of Jesus. But it includes this saying which Jesus almost certainly did not say. From the perspective of logic and plausibility, the inconsistency requires that we either rethink the contents of Q, or rethink the necessity of Q, or rethink the reliability of Q. By contents, I mean that this example tells us that just because something is in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark, does not suffice as evidence that it should be included in Q.  Or, if it is in Q, then perhaps we need to reconsider the claim to authenticity, whether the material in Q actually does trace back to Jesus. This particular passage about the cross seriously undermines one or both of these claims. Actually, the necessity of Q is really a corollary here; Q is not in the least necessary, unless one tries to argue that Luke is independent of Matthew. We won’t really be able to look at that until we get to Luke; however, if either of these other two propositions–the content or the authenticity of Q–are mistaken, then the necessity of Q is pretty much a dead issue.

And really, the rest of the passage strikes me as something that Jesus probably never said, either. “You are not worthy of me”. Repeated three times. Jesus was certainly given credit for not pulling punches on how difficult it would be to follow him. Paul never quite put it like this; he talked about not being worthy for the kingdom; is this the same thing? Probably, but OTOH, this has a different feel to it. There is an exclusionary feel to it, but then not everyone will inherit the kingdom because the road and the gate are both narrow. I suppose, put in that light, it’s all the same.

Epiphany moment. I just realized what makes me catch on this one is that Jesus is not saying these people are not worthy of the kingdom. He is saying that these people are not worthy of him. That is a big difference. This is the first time that he–or anyone–has equated Jesus with the Kingdom. The kingdom to this point belongs to God, or is “of the heavens”. It is never the kingdom of the Son of God, or Son of Man. Ergo, I think we are justified to conclude, or infer that this represents a development in thought. If it wasn’t there in Paul or Mark, but it is in Matthew, we have a development. As such, it is almost necessarily ex-post-facto, pretty much by definition. Being not worthy of Jesus is the attitude of followers who have become accustomed to look at the founder as someone divine and elevated, not as someone who was human, at least until the resurrection.

So to conclude, none of this can be credited to Jesus, IMO. So what do we do about Q?

[Note #2: This isn’t a blanket rule. For example, nearly all of the NT reports that Jesus was the Christ, and Paul reports this, too. Does not increase the likelihood that Jesus was the Christ? This is a compound event. First, you have to estimate the probability that being the Christ is at all possible. Then, multiply that by the probability of Jesus, out of everyone who lived, being the Christ. It’s sort of like getting the correct two numbers–in sequence–from a set of numbers between one and…let’s say 1 million. Those are very long odds. ]

37 Qui amat patrem aut matrem plus quam me, non est me dignus; et, qui amat filium aut filiam super me, non est me dignus;

38 et, qui non accipit crucem suam et sequitur me, non est me dignus.

39 ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν.

40 Ὁ δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὁ ἐμὲ δεχόμενος δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με.

The one finding his life will lose it, and the one losing his life because of me will find it. (40) The one receiving you, receives me, and the one receiving me receives the one having sent me.

First, Verse 39 feels like a rather awkward insertion. Verse 40 more or less continues the thought from the previous section, as it expands on the equation Jesus = kingdom. Now we get Jesus = the one sending, which presumably = The Father. All this via the transitive property of math, or the principle of equivalence in logic. This will reach its logical conclusion in John 10:30: the father and I are one. Now, we started this gospel with Jesus being conceived by the sacred breath. That implies divine status, certainly, but it’s not exactly equating Jesus with the sacred breath. So did something happen in Matthew’s thinking? As he wrote, did he begin to elevate Jesus in his mind? To the point that he makes these statements? Or is this Matthew trying (not entirely successfully, IMO) to integrate the ideas of another source? Again, this is not the sort of thing Jesus said, for all the same reasons as the previous section. So if it didn’t come from Jesus via Q, whence did it come? 

I’m going to hold fire on Verse 39 for the moment. We will come across a very similar sentiment in Mt 16:25, so I will discuss there. The two points are the similarity to something expressed in Mark, and the use of psyche to mean “life”. At least, everyone translates it as “life” here. And “the life”, as in “eternal life” is translated from a different word, “zoé”.

39 Qui invenerit animam suam, perdet illam; et, qui perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet eam.

40 Qui recipit vos, me recipit; et, qui me recipit, recipit eum, qui me misit.

41 ὁ δεχόμενος προφήτην εἰς ὄνομα προφήτου μισθὸν προφήτου λήμψεται, καὶ ὁ δεχόμενος δίκαιον εἰς ὄνομα δικαίου μισθὸν δικαίου λήμψεται.

42 καὶ ὃς ἂν ποτίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ποτήριον ψυχροῦ μόνον εἰς ὄνομα μαθητοῦ, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ.

 The one receiving the prophet in the name of the prophet will accept the reward of the prophet, and the one receiving justice in the name of justice will receive the reward of justice. (42) And the one so that one of the least of these may drink a single (cup of) cold water in the name of the disciple, amen I say to you, he will not lose his reward.

That translation is a bit rough, but the Greek is not entirely pellucid. Well, actually, it’s clear enough–in a way, or sort of; the problem is rendering it into English in a way that reflects the Greek. I mean, it’s easy enough to clean it up, but then we lose the effect of how the Greek works. Remember, the translation is intended to be a cheat sheet. I wonder of anyone in an intro NT Greek class will stumble across this site and find it useful? One can hope. I wouldn’t mind giving a helping hand.

As for the content, really we’re getting into that radical notion of social equality. Even by helping one of the least, you are helping all, and you will be rewarded for this. That’s a very lovely thought, and one of the reasons I find Christianity an appealing belief system. And it’s especially radical for the time and place. Let’s face it: a lot of the Stoic profession of universal brotherhood referred to educated upper class males; it’s a great step in the right direction, but the idea here goes much further.

41 Qui recipit prophetam in nomine prophetae, mercedem prophetae accipiet; et, qui recipit iustum in nomine iusti, mercedem iusti accipiet.

42 Et, quicumque potum dederit uni ex minimis istis calicem aquae frigidae tantum in nomine discipuli, amen dico vobis: Non perdet mercedem suam ”.


Matthew Chapter 10:25-28

My apologies. This was actually supposed to be part of the previous post, but I somehow managed to publish that post before I’d completed the section below. Then I was going to tack it on the end of the previous post as an update, or include it as the beginning of the next post, but this grew to be too long for either of those solutions. So I have this odd little thing stuck in here on its own. I hope it doesn’t disrupt the flow too much.

Jesus is still talking to his disciples.

25 ἀρκετὸν τῷ μαθητῇ ἵνα γένηται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὁ δοῦλος ὡς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ. εἰ τὸν οἰκοδεσπότην Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐπεκάλεσαν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον τοὺς οἰκιακοὺς αὐτοῦ.

26 Μὴ οὖν φοβηθῆτε αὐτούς: οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστιν κεκαλυμμένον ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται.

27 ὃ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ, εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτί: καὶ ὃ εἰς τὸ οὖς ἀκούετε, κηρύξατε ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων.

“It is enough for the disciple in order to be as (i.e., the equivlent) of his teacher, and the slave to be as his master. If they call Beelzeboul the master of the house, how much more his household? (26) And do not fear them, for nothing is overed that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not be known. (27) What I sat to you in the shadow, speak in the light,  and the thing you hear in the ear, announce upon rooftops.

First, the first part about Beelzeboul. Is it just me, or does that not quite make sense? What we have here is that the Greek is very minimal; there are parts of the sentence that are left out that are meant to be understood. The problem is, what I may think is the obvious implication, what I think should be understood is not necessarily the same thing someone else will understand as implied. Now, what happens in cases like this is that, over time, scholars, clergy, etc. come to a consensus on the most likely way that the passage should be taken. If you’ll recall, we came across several of these in Galatians and 1 Thessalonians, and I termed them “consesus translations”.  Now I admit that the people coming to these consensus (that’s actually the plural; it’s a fifth declension Latin noun, not a second declension noun, the plural of which would be “consensi”) are way more knowledgeable about NT Greek than I am; however, the problem is that most of them are textual scholars, people who read the text for meaning. Now, there are a number of these passages in Greek–and Latin–secular writing as well. In particular, Thucydides and Tactitus pose significant problems in translation. The difference is that the people arguing about the meaning of these texts are historians; as such, their interest is to come up with the best translation they can that will bolster their particular argument. The problem with NT Greek is that the people who reach these agreements often have a theological case to make. The result is that modern translations are often remarkably consistent on how they handle passages like this. I don’t mean to imply that this consensus is wrong, or a bad translation, but it’s important to know, IMO, that what you read in English is not necessarily supported by the Greek. That’s why you want to read the original, so you can draw your own conclusions.

Honestly, though, I have to say that, by and large, the impact that the sum-total of passages like this has on overall meaning, the overall message, isn’t that significant. There have been instances, such a when the Vulgate translated John’s admonition as “do penance” when the better rendering is “be penitent” makes a huge difference, and had an enormous impact on the development of the Western Church, a misunderstanding that was not cleared up until Erasmus made his translation in the late 15th Century. But still, everyone works from the Greek now, so such instances are very rare–I won’t say nonexistent– these days. So if you’ve been meaning to learn Greek but haven’t, don’t feel too bad. You’re not missing that much. However, learning Greek–or any language, really–has its own rewards. You won’t regret it; just beware: it is a bit of a slog.

Now, speakng of language, my understanding of grammar is that pronouns have antecedents. But in V-26, we are told, “And do not fear them…” Who is the “them”? Taking another look, it appears that it may be the same “they” who call Beezelboul the master of the house. But that just takes us back another step: what is the antecedent of the “they”? Really, the most logical plural antecedent is the accumulation of disciples, teachers, slaves, and masters who are all equal. Are these the ones we’re not to fear How does that make sense?  And from there we go into the covered/revealed, dark/light couplets; that is not exactly a smooth transition thematically, is it? So once again, I have a real sense that Matthew is doing a bit of a cut-and-paste here, and is perhaps not doing it all that well. So this is another place where we have to ask about Matthew’s sources. Or just ask what is going on here.

And it’s probably an especially good place to ask this for another reason. Mark 4:22 contains the contrast of things that were secret eventually being exposed to the light. But Mark does not have the parts about–make that the part about whispers and shouting from the rooftops. For the passage here about covered and revealed, hidden and known is actually redundant. I had to go back and come up with some synonyms for “hidden”. And yet the part about overed & revealed is supposed to be part of Q. However, this seems completely unnecessary because it could easily be that Matthew simply elaborated on Mark 4:22. In fact, that is exactly how it appears to me. And so here is, again, where I think the Q people are rather muddled in their argumentation. They’re pulling this section out and sticking it in Q, but they’re not paying much attention to the overall context. Yes, it seems like Matthew is piecing togethe difference sources, but not in the place where they postulate. 

In case it’s not obvious, my position on Q may be evolving. Maybe I’ll end up somewhere around the idea that The Iliad and The Odyssey were written by different people who were both named Homer. Maybe I’ll end up saying Matthew had anothe source that wasn’t Q, but was also named Q (which stands for Quelle, which is German for “source”. Bit of a pun there.)

25 Sufficit discipulo, ut sit sicut magister eius, et servus sicut dominus eius. Si patrem familias Beelzebul vocaverunt, quanto magis domesticos eius!

26 Ne ergo timueritis eos. Nihil enim est opertum, quod non revelabitur, et occultum, quod non scietur.

27 Quod dico vobis in tenebris, dicite in lumine; et, quod in aure auditis, praedicate super tecta.

28 καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι: φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ.

And do not fear from those who kill the body, but the soul they are not able to kill. Rather, fear the one who is able both the body and soul to destroy in Gehenna.

This passage presents two major problems: “soul” (psyche) and “Gehenna”. As for “soul”…I am not completely sure we can accept that as a translation. Funny, just after saying how there are very few times when it doesn’t matter if you read the Greek or not, we run into this a few verses later. Matthew has only used this word a couple of times so far, and in all of them it really meant “life”. As in, losing one’s life = dying. Here…there is an obvious distinction between psyche and soma, the latter meaning the body. So is Matthew saying, “can kill the body but not kill the life”? That really doesn’t work in English. The Latin is “anima”, which is generally translated as “soul”, but the match between the English and Latin is not all that good, let alone exact. “Anima” is obviously the root of “animal” and “animate”. Here, it would mean something like “animating principle”. And this isn’t too far from what we mean by soul; the only thing is that it doesn’t necessarily have the idea of individuality that we often mean by “soul”.

Well, just took a little digression into Aristotle’s On The Soul* to try to get some idea of  what the educated opinion, or definition of the term psyche might be. It was, and it wasn’t helpful. Yes, I realize that the evangelists would not necessarily have read Aristotle; in fact, I would guess that they hadn’t. However, educated opinion has a way of percolating outward to influence popular thought, if in an attenuated and/or altered form. What I found was that Aristotle’s “the soul is the essence of one’s being” kind of did, but didn’t really fit here. The thing is, the way the word is used here is in obvious distinction to the physical body. This at least implies that the soul is perhaps immortal and that it has something to do with the individual personality. That’s where “anima” falls short, at least in its original sense in Latin. So we are getting some intimation of the immortal soul that survives the death of the physical body. And we’ve had that idea before, too, in Mark. What I am finding frustrating is how diffuse these ideas are; it’s like there are a lot of assumptions made, like we’re expected to know some of the underlying concepts when, in fact, they’ve never really been defined for us. But then, that may be because I’m more accustomed to stuff like Aristotle, where the first task is to set out and define terms. However, the fact that the term “psyche” is also used to mean something like “life”–or animating principle–as in “saving one’s life” indicates that the idea is still in flux; Matthew himself may not have been clear on exactly what he meant. That, however, leads to some other really interesting questions about Jesus’ message, the sources, and how the message may have changed over time.

Connected to the idea of “psyche” is the idea of Gehenna. Matthew says that Gehenna can kill the psyche as well as the body. This is not exactly orthodox Christian doctrine which says the soul cannot be killed. And we are talking about “killed”, I think. Otherwise, the contrast between those who can only kill the body doesn’t quite work. So this is another reason to be wary of simply translating psyche as “soul” and going our merry way. It doesn’t quite fit. It doesn’t fit with mere physical life, but it doesn’t quite fit with later Christian ideas of the immortal soul. We are in a transitional phase.

As we go along and come across things like this, the conclusion we should be drawing is that the concepts of the NT more resemble and onion than a unitary whole. That’s a cliché, of course, but ideas become cliché because they are appropriate to so many different situations. So the next time you’re tempted to illustrate Mark by referencing to Matthew, bear in mind that the two evangelists may be using similar, or even the same words with very different intentions. The words change, the concepts develop. We’ve seen that with Jesus himself. We’re seeing it with the term “psyche”. I am going to have to do a special topic assessment of the words psyche and pneuma to see where we stand at this point as far as meaning.

*BTW: I was pleasantly surprised at the clarity of Aristotle’s Greek. In some ways, it was easier to understand than the English, largely because the English terms got so convoluted, which resulted in some tortured syntax. The English was convoluted because it often required three or four words to translate a single word in Greek. Had to do a bit of dictionary-jumping, but once I got past some of the basic terms, it went fairly easily. 

28 Et nolite timere eos, qui occidunt corpus, animam autem non possunt occidere; sed potius eum timete, qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehenna.

Matthew Chapter 10:16-24

This wasn’t a clean break from the last section. Jesus is still in the midst of giving his disciples instructions as he sends them out to preach about the approaching kingdom.

16 Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα ἐν μέσῳ λύκων: γίνεσθεοὖν φρόνιμοι ὡς οἱ ὄφεις καὶ ἀκέραιοι ὡς αἱ περιστεραί.

“Look, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. You must be cunning as serpents and as unarmed as doves.

“Unarmed” should really be “un-horned”, or “hornless”, as in, “not having horns”. It often gets rendered as  “harmless”; but if we’re going to go all metaphorical here, I would prefer “defenseless”. I think that captures the spirit of the original more accurately. And I think it fits the metaphor more effectively.

But the point is that Jesus is “predicting” the tribulations that the apostles would endure. More on this in a moment.

16 Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum; estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes et simplices sicut columbae.

17 προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: παραδώσουσιν γὰρ ὑμᾶς εἰς συνέδρια, καὶ ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν μαστιγώσουσιν ὑμᾶς:

18 καὶ ἐπὶ ἡγεμόνας δὲ καὶ βασιλεῖς ἀχθήσεσθε ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν.

“You will come before men. For you will be handed over to the councils, and in the synagogues of them they will scourge you. (18). And before leaders and kings you will be brought before because of me to witness to them and to the nations.

This whole topic of how ferociously Christians, or followers of Jesus were persecuted, and by whom, is a difficult one, especially for me. The first century CE is not my area of expertise; I’ve studied up through the reign of Gaius Caligula in some depth, but that was mostly Roman politics and the western wars. The use of the term “synagogues” and the evidence of Paul tells me that the persecution discussed was led by Jews, and this is certainly not an area in which I’m well versed. Again, given Paul, we have to acknowledge that there was some degree of persecution. But how much? I’ve read great chunks of Butler’s Lives of the Saints, which actually started as a martyrology, and the stories are pretty horrific. I also suspect that they are significantly exaggerated, at least as to the scope of the persecutions, if not the horrible cruelty, for the Romans were more than capable of both perpetrating such cruelty and enjoying it as spectacle. But how common was this?

And aside from Paul’s testimony, that Jesus talks about it the way he does here is also indicative that something happened. People were still alive who would have been able to remember whether or not such persecution happened. It seems a tad bizarre for Jesus to talk about persecutions if they never occurred. But then again, where was Matthew writing, and for whom? The fact of the matter is that pretty much all our sources for these persecutions are “Jewish”, in the broadest sense: Paul and the oblique references–like this– in the gospels. This may indicate that the persecutions took place primarily in the area of Judea/Galilee/Syria–remember, Saul was supposedly going to Damascus—and Matthew was writing mostly for non-Jews somewhere outside that range–say Antioch–and two generations later, then maybe the persecutions were remembered as being more horrific than they were. This is certainly what happened; the stories in the Lives of the Saints are clearly largely fiction. I’m not sure how much evidence there is for some of these saints outside of the hagiography. No doubt some of them are attested, and a number of the stories related are accurate to some degree, but some of the accounts are so implausible that they have to be physically impossible. Of course, that’s rather the point: this is hagiography, not history. The very nature of the genre demands something over the top; otherwise, the point is not made.

The problem is that the evidence from the pagan sources is slender to non-existent. There are a few oblique references to Christians in histories of First Century (or thereabouts) Rome, but the references are made in passing, and do not sound like they refer to a systemic program that encompassed much of the Empire. I forget where I read this–RL Fox is the most likely source–but one modern historian commented that the degree of persecution often depended to a very large extent on the local rulers, whatever the direction–or lack of it–from Rome. For example, the governor of, say, Cilicia may have been very zealous about persecuting Christians, but the governor of neighboring Cappadocia may not have been terribly inspired by the idea. And even then, these are references to the second or even Third Century, well past the time we’re discussing. It’s generally assumed that there was some persecution of Christians by Nero, based on the brief mention by Suetonius, but I’ve really yet to see much evidence to support that assumption, or to indicate that such persecution as existed was anything other than brief and sporadic. Now, it is possible that some followers of Jesus were arrested and executed by the Romans, but based on the letter of Pliny the Younger (ca 112 CE), the question of what to do with Christians was still very much a question. Of course, even if persecution was localized, if one was in the wrong location, it was perhaps horrific enough. Given all of this, and based on what I do know, my sense is that any persecution that did occur in the mid-First Century was largely a Jewish phenomenon that was largely confined to the Judea/Syria region. Given this passage we just read, and similar such passages in Mark, some persecution must have occurred. It would be foolish to deny, or disregard Paul’s testimony. He has no real reason to lie about it. We just don’t know how severe it was.  

There is also the possibility that some of the persecution of Christians was tied up with the Jewish Rebellion of the late 60s and its aftermath. I tend to suspect that this was a major cause for Mark’s gospel, so he could separate his group from Jews in general. By the time Matthew wrote, this may no longer have been necessary, either because the passions had died down, or because Christians had pretty much distinguished themselves from Jews. In which case this passage was retained because it was in Mark, the memory of persecution had been incorporated into the Christian myth, and Matthew–like Mark–wished to portray Jesus as prescient about what would happen.

17 Cavete autem ab hominibus; tradent enim vos in conciliis, et in synagogis suis flagellabunt vos;

18 et ad praesides et ad reges ducemini propter me in testimonium illis et gentibus.

19 ὅταν δὲ παραδῶσιν ὑμᾶς, μὴ μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί λαλήσητε: δοθήσεται γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ τί λαλήσητε:

20 οὐ γὰρ ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ λαλοῦντες ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τὸ λαλοῦν ἐν ὑμῖν.

“When they hand you over, do not be anxious how or what you will say. For you will be given at that hour what you will say. (20) For you are not the ones speaking, but the spirit of your father is the one speaking in you. 

Again, this will have a long history among heretical movements. Or, rather, it will resurface among heretical movements of the 12th – 15th Centuries. Accused heretics, when brought before ecclesiastical courts, would launch into speeches that were the spirit of the father speaking through them. This, of course, annoyed the Church officials to no end.

But the more interesting aspect is the “spirit of your father”. That is a new phrase. Why not the Sacred Breath? Again, Matthew read Mark, so it’s not like he’s never heard that term; he’d rather use his own. Now, Matthew did this with “kingdom of the heavens”, too, but it was pointed out in a commentary that this is consistent with Jewish practice of not writing out “God”. That hadn’t occurred to me, and I have to incorporate this into my theory of Matthew as a former pagan. But why “breath of the father”? And this is exactly the sort of situation when “Holy Spirit” would be expected. The Church officials running those heresy trials would have expected “Spiritus Sanctus”. If nothing else, this is a great example of how the “Holy Spirit” in the sense that we mean it, the Third Person of the Trinity, had to be constructed. This usage indicates very clearly that Matthew did not think of the the sacred breath as something that represented an entity somehow separate from, and yet an integral part of, God the Father. Rather, that understanding of “Holy Spirit came later. Much later. 

And, btw, we haven’t really had any sort of Christology from Matthew as yet. We know that Jesus was conceived by the sacred breath; in fact, the first few times that Matthew uses “pneuma” it’s associated with “hagios”, which equals “holy/sacred”. But we haven’t heard anything about how Jesus relates to the Father.

And this is the sort of detail that makes me suspect that this is really a reference to something that occurred in the past. Why do I say this, or how to explain why I interpret the statement in that way? Because this feels more like post-facto reassurance that God had indeed taken care of those brought before the councils than it feels like actual advice given out that was meant to be followed in a real-life situation. Think about it: this sounds great as a story; but would you really tell your followers that this is how it will go down? Now, if you believe that Jesus is a divine being, and if you believe that he actually said these words a decade or more before the predicted events occurred, then, yes, all of this is possible. And that’s exactly my point: it all works as Truth, as a myth. It describes the situation as it should happen. But think about it: Peter, Paul, and James were all–supposedly–executed. How did the idea of the spirit of the father providing their words actually work out? Maybe not so well. The writer of the gospel knows that (presumably). And yet he tells us these were Jesus’ instructions. This seems to be more the description of an idealised setting in which Jesus is prescient than a legitimate accounting of what happened. Of course, if Jesus didn’t send out apostles–which I don’t believe he did–then this whole discussion is moot.

Here’s the thing: I cannot prove the Jesus did not send out apostles, nor that these weren’t the instructions that he gave if, on the off-chance, he did send them out. Now, if this were an actual historical document, written by someone who was making a sincere effort to record history, it would be bad form to reject the story without good evidence, or a decent argument. But this is not history. Part of doing history is developing what was called historical judgement in my Methods class. My judgement tells me this story is, well, just that. A story. But just want to be up=front about my lack of a legitimate case for my position. It just doesn’t smell right as history.

19 Cum autem tradent vos, nolite cogitare quomodo aut quid loquamini; dabitur enim vobis in illa hora quid loquamini.

20 Non enim vos estis, qui loquimini, sed Spiritus Patris vestri, qui loquitur in vobis.

21 παραδώσει δὲ ἀδελφὸς ἀδελφὸν εἰς θάνατον καὶ πατὴρ τέκνον, καὶ ἐπαναστήσονται τέκνα ἐπὶ γονεῖς καὶ θανατώσουσιν αὐτούς.

22 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου: ὁ δὲ ὑπομείνας εἰς τέλος οὗτος σωθήσεται.

23 ὅταν δὲ διώκωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ, φεύγετε εἰς τὴν ἑτέραν: ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ τελέσητε τὰς πόλεις τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

24 Οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρτὸν διδάσκαλον οὐδὲ δοῦλος ὑπὲρ τὸν κύριον αὐτοῦ.

“And brother will hand over brother to death, and a father (his) son, and a son will stand over against his parents and they will kill them. (22) And there will be hatred over all because of my name, the one enduring to the end (is) he to be saved. (23) And when they judge you in that city, flee to a different one. Amen I say to you, you will not finish the cities of Israel until may cone the son of man. (24) The student is not greater than the teacher, nor (is) the slave over his lord.

This is interesting. What we have here is sort of a conflation of stuff from the apocalyptic section of Mark mixed in with tales of persecution. This, I think, buttresses my point about this being something inserted by later authors. The most obvious meaning of the apocalyptic utterances from Mark is the “foretelling” of the Jewish War and the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem. That is where the “brother vs brother” & such fits in best. So the fact that this is mixed up with predictions of persecution is a pretty strong indicator, I think, that from the added distance of another generation, the two events kind of lumped together in the minds of those for whom those events were simply part of an undifferentiated past. Sort of like mixing up WWI with the Roaring 20s. The other tell-tale sign here is the use of the term “son of man”. Of course, this was Mark’s preferred term, but it’s a rarity in Matthew. I think this is also a pretty good indication that Matthew plucked this stuff out of Mark but maybe got his notes muddled, mixing the apocalypse with the predictions of persecution. Not that the two were necessarily separate events, but they were kept much more distinct in Mark. A generation later, Matthew didn’t have quite the keen sense of the differences between the two. Of course, the coup de grâce is the prediction of the coming of the son of man. This is very clearly and very obviously part of the apocalyptic material, and really is somewhat out of place in a “prediction” of  religious persecution. Then for good measure we get the aphorism about the student and the teacher. This is almost a complete non sequitur. This, I think, makes it pretty clear that Matthew has really mixed up his source material, and perhaps didn’t understand it all completely. That is an interesting thought, and one that deserves further attention, but not here.

So yes, I think my contention that this material does not trace back to Jesus is pretty well founded after all. At the very least, it’s an idea that has to be taken seriously and debated on its merits; it cannot be dismissed out of hand.

You know, the muddle of source material that we find here–and elsewhere–is starting to make me wonder. We know that I’m not impressed by the non-existent case for Q. But maybe the Q proponents are barking up the wrong tree. Maybe the case for Q isn’t to be made based on supposed aesthetic interpretations of Matthew’s order. I’ve mentioned once or twice before–in the Sermon on the Mount–that it sure seemed like Matthew was sort of cramming together things that didn’t exactly mesh. What it felt like then was that he had a compendium of the sayings of Jesus (Q, anyone?) and he was just sort of fitting them together almost willy-nilly. They were sayings that really had nothing to do with one another. Sayings don’t have to relate, with narrative in between. Usually sayings, aphorisms, and such are meant to stand by themselves without narrative connexion. Here, I have the sense that Matthew has at least two written sources that he has sort of fit onto a Procrustean bed: he made them fit, one way or another, and the result was something that doesn’t entirely congeal into a unified whole. So maybe this is the approach that the Q proponents should think about taking: make note of the many seams in the work, the places where pieces are stuck together, whether the placement makes sense or not. My gut is telling me there is an argument to be made. Of course, the problem is then that Matthew is no longer the masterwork of organization. Rather, he’s someone who muddled his sources because he doesn’t quite understand all the implications of what is being said. This in turn takes us too far away from Jesus; Matthew is no longer a direct pipeline–through Q–to what Jesus said and taught. He’s just someone trying to piece together the disparate source material that’s come down to him, not all of it fitting together properly.

But, if we’re going to consider this historically, that is exactly the situation that Matthew inherited. Most likely, he was given a collection of different materials, some of it conflicting, some of it downright contradictory, much of it bewildering. And he, more so even than Mark, was trying to make sense of it all, while preserving the most that he possibly could. And that meant sticking in aphorisms like the student not being greater than the teacher into a context where it doesn’t quite fit. It was the best he could do. Mark had two traditions, Matthew probably had more. I would suggest that Mark was largely responsible for creating a mostly-unified group, which may have helped spread the word via a written document. Mark was the basis for further preaching, and he was successful enough to spawn other stories. And then about the time Mark was unifying the myth, stories that originated with or from James were entering the popular lore, which confused the picture that Mark had been able to straighten out, at least partially. The result was that, a generation (or a bit more) later, Matthew had two or three or more additional streams to work with, to integrate into the basic narrative that Mark had left behind. 

21 Tradet autem frater fratrem in mortem, et pater filium; et insurgent filii in parentes et morte eos afficient.

22 Et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum; qui autem perseveraverit in finem, hic salvus erit.

23 Cum autem persequentur vos in civitate ista, fugite in aliam; amen enim dico vobis: Non consummabitis civitates Israel, donec veniat Filius hominis.

24 Non est discipulus super magistrum nec servus super dominum suum.