Category Archives: Chapter 10
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.
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.
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 ”.
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.
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.
We’ll start Chapter 10. There aren’t a lot of natural breaks, and somehow these always seem to run longer than I expect.
1 Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.
And calling together the twelve disciples he gave to them authority of unclean spirits so as to cast them out and to heal all diseases and maladies.
This is lifted right from Mark. It’s the wonder-worker theme, complete with unclean spirits. The most significant difference is that Matthew omits the two-by-two part. Note that we are told that the Twelve are called together, even though this is actually the first time we’ve heard of the Twelve. IMO this is another really clear indication of Markan priority. [I should probably give that up as having been proven at this point; I’m not sure that it’s really seriously doubted by anyone. But perhaps I’m wrong on that; I’m not completely expert on the literature. However, IMO, there really is no doubt about this. ]
1 Et convocatis Duodecim discipulis suis, dedit illis pote statem spirituum immundorum, ut eicerent eos et curarent omnem languorem et omnem infirmitatem.
2 Τῶν δὲ δώδεκα ἀποστόλων τὰ ὀνόματά ἐστιν ταῦτα: πρῶτος Σίμων ὁ λεγόμενος Πέτρος καὶ Ἀνδρέας ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ,
3 Φίλιππος καὶ Βαρθολομαῖος, Θωμᾶς καὶ Μαθθαῖος ὁ τελώνης, Ἰάκωβος ὁ τοῦ Ἁλφαίου καὶ Θαδδαῖος,
4 Σίμων ὁ Καναναῖος καὶ Ἰούδας ὁ Ἰσκαριώτης ὁ καὶ παραδοὺς αὐτόν.
(2) And the twelve names of those having been sent out were these: Simon, being called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James son of Zebedee and John his brother. (3) Philip and Bartholomew, and Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James son of Alphaios and Thaddeus, (4) Simon the Cannanaean, and Judas the Iscariot, who was also the one who handed him over.
OK. First, to get this out of the way, the names on the list match those of Mark. We are missing Mark’s designation of the sons of Zebedee also being called the Sons of Thunder–which appellation I woefully neglected to pursue and explain–but in place we get Matthew the tax-collector. Now, it has been speculated that, after the death of Joseph, Mary married Alphaios, and had some or all of the rest of her children with him. These are the brothers named in Mark 6; and this would make this “James the Lesser” the (half-) brother of Jesus. So this would be the future James the Just. Certainly, this is possible. James was largely written out of the history of the church shortly after it became the church; so designating this James as the son of Alphaios would be a big step in this direction. However, since I don’t believe in Joseph, I have trouble with this explanation. Joseph shows up for the birth narrative and then vanishes completely. Will he turn up in Matthew’s account of Mark 6? Stay tuned. And I don’t know the answer as of this writing, so it will be a surprise to me, too.
What this tells me is that the name of Jesus’ father was not known to the earlier followers. Or, at least, it was not deemed sufficiently important to remember. Then, as time progressed, the gossip of Jesus being a bastard became sufficiently embarrassing that something had to be done, which meant coming up with a story that named Jesus’ father. That the name of Jesus’ father was not known to the early followers is completely understandable. It was not deemed important enough to remember, especially if the earliest tradition had Jesus as having been raised from the dead and so become the anointed one. Jesus’ earthly life, including the names of his parents, was of no consequence because Jesus’ significance only began when he was raised from the dead. That the name of Jesus’ father appears, miraculously, several generations after Jesus died is a pretty clear indication that it was deemed necessary to invent a father. And to give him a lineage tracing back to David, of course. Sorry, don’t buy it as historical information. Yes, it is possible that the name of Joseph was preserved in an oral tradition that bypassed Mark and reached Matthew. Yes, it’s possible, but the probability is very, very low. Especially then when this information is repeated later, by Luke. And not only does Luke repeat this story, he expands upon it. That is a clear sign of myth-making. Adding new characters as they become necessary or desirable and filling in the blanks in this manner. So what all this means is that the likelihood of James son of Alphaios being Jesus half-brother is about as likely as Jesus being the son of Joseph. Either–and both–are possible, but the probability is extremely low if you think about the chain of transmission that had to be forged in order for this information to get to Matthew and beyond.
The fact of the matter is, I have major suspicions of the whole concept of the Twelve. Note how Matthew introduces this. Jesus calls them together, but then Matthew has to tell us who they are. And not only that, he calls them “those who have been sent out” (apostolon), but this is before they have been sent out. My theory is this: Jesus may have sent out disciples at some point, but these were not the same group that was his inner circle. There is an inherent contradiction present in this: how can they be the inner circle who travel with Jesus if they have been sent out to preach, expel demons, etc? That would be a neat trick. But the truth is that I find it hard to believe that Jesus actually sent some of his disciples out to preach. Of course, they could have been sent out for limited periods, which is pretty much what Mark tells us; that, however, seems to contradict the evidence of Paul. He seems to indicate that “apostles” traveled with a retinue including wives, so that doesn’t sound like a quick jaunt. The other thing about Paul’s evidence is that Peter is the only other apostle mentioned. In fact, none of these names are mentioned outside the gospels and Acts.
Thus there is a lack of earlier evidence for any of these men, In addition, the act of sending out disciples is not entirely consonant with an itinerant preacher who has a collection of followers. Such an action makes much more sense when the group has been together for some time, years, if not a decade, after which time the group has amassed a sizable following. That’s when it makes sense to send out other preachers, in part because the group now has a pool of talent available to it. IOW, it makes much more sense for the Jesus movement to begin dispatching preachers after the Jesus movement has had time to stabilize itself under equally stable leadership. IOW, after James had been in charge for a decade or so. Think back to Galatians; Paul is pretty clear that it was James who was dispatching others, sending out others; in Greek, the word for sending out is apostelein.
More. The idea of Twelve is so obviously related to the twelve tribes of Israel that it probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. IOW, it’s the act of someone who was interested in creating–or recreating–something resembling, or replacing, or superseding the state of Israel. IOW, doesn’t this sound more like someone interested in the kingdom of David than the Kingdom of God/the heavens? Now recall how closely James was concerned with the maintaining the Jewish roots of the movement. Then consider that the apostles named here do not appear in earlier evidence, and almost completely disappear from the later stories. Most of these names are just that: names. There are later traditions about some of them, that they went to convert people in India, and some of these stories may be accurate. But that does not mean that these missionary trips were undertaken by men appointed by Jesus. It’s not impossible, but given the other pieces, it’s more likely that these trips began later. Putting all this together, it seems very likely–to me, anyway–that the Twelve does not trace back to Jesus. There is no evidence that it does, other than the late attribution by Mark. And this feels like something an organizer would do, as opposed to the action of a charismatic leader. Socrates did not found a school; Plato did.
So yes, I have my doubts about the authenticity of the Twelve.
2 Duodecim autem apostolorum nomina sunt haec: primus Simon, qui dicitur Petrus, et Andreas frater eius, et Iacobus Zebedaei et Ioannes frater eius,
3 Philippus et Bartholomaeus, Thomas et Matthaeus publicanus, Iacobus Alphaei et Thaddaeus,
4 Simon Chananaeus et Iudas Iscariotes, qui et tradidit eum.
5 Τούτους τοὺς δώδεκα ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων, Εἰς ὁδὸν ἐθνῶν μὴ ἀπέλθητε, καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαριτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε:
6 πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ.
Jesus sent out these Twelve, instructing them saying, “To the road of the nations do not go, and to the city of the Samaritans do not enter. (6) Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
This is really interesting. Jesus is giving specific instructions to exclude both pagans and Samaritans. This after he cured the servant of the centurion. And we all know that Jews and Samaritans did not get along. So, on the one hand, there is a certain air of authenticity about this. It seems like something someone Jewish might say if he were concerned about renewing, or reinvigorating, or re-awakening his co-religionists into a sharper sense of their religious identity. Nothing is better for emphasizing the “us” than by pointing out the “them”. So why wasn’t this in Mark? Why did Mark have nothing of the sort? Mark was closer in time to the more authentic Jesus, to a period when Jesus was Jewish and there was less–if any–concern with preaching to pagans. And Paul certainly had no qualms about preaching to pagans, Samaritans, Jews, or anyone. Given that, I think there is a fairly high degree of probability that Jesus did not say this. It’s like the dietary restrictions: if Jesus had actually said that there were no unclean foods, then Paul and James would not have had the dispute they did, and Peter would not have had the dream he had in Acts that gave sanction to the eating of heretofore prohibited foods.
At the risk of seeing James, the brother of Jesus behind every bush, I wonder if the injunction against pagans and Samaritans isn’t something that came about after Jesus. And given that Paul tells us–quite emphatically–that James was much more concerned about maintaining Jewish practice, did this injunction actually originate with James? I keep coming back to the idea that the practices originated by James may not have had time to become the norm when Mark wrote; however, given another generation, Pauline/Markan/Jamesian practices had been afforded enough time to merge into something that we now call Christianity. In particular, things that James had said became normalized as things Jesus said. This is a very bold thesis. But this thesis is not nearly so bold, I think, as attributing some of these new sayings to a written source for which we have absolutely no evidence. None. And, sorry, but saying that Luke wouldn’t have changed Matthew’s order is not evidence. It’s a value judgement at best, and aesthetic opinion at worst. So hanging stuff like this on Q is truly bold. And daring. But so is crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Or the Charge of the Light Brigade. Again, let me be very clear: I have by no means proven my contention about James; but there is more evidence for my theory than there is for Q.
That’s all fine and good. But I want to stress that, so far, my belief that much of what is different between Mark and Matthew traces to James is an opinion. It may (0r may not) be an interesting opinion, but that’s all it is. I have not, by any stretch, constructed an argument worthy of the name. I plan to do so, but it has not happened. Just want to make sure we’re all clear on this.
5 Hos Duodecim misit Iesus praecipiens eis et dicens: “ In viam gentium ne abieritis et in civitates Samaritanorum ne intraveritis;
6 sed potius ite ad oves, quae perierunt domus Israel.
7 πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.
8 ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε: δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.
“And going out you must preach saying that ‘The kingdom of the heavens is come nigh’. (8) Heal those being sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. (What) you received freely, give freely”.
Mark’s version is very different, and much shorter. Jesus gives no instructions on what to preach, nor does he specify that they are to heal, cast out demons, etc. More significantly, he doesn’t instruct the disciples to preach the coming kingdom of the heavens. This is actually the third time Matthew has used the expression. Both report Jesus using it at the beginning of his public ministry (Mk 1:15; Mt 4:17). But Matthew also has the Baptist say this before Jesus, which strengthened, or emphasized the connexion between the two. Now, for good measure, Matthew has Jesus repeat it here. This is what I meant about the Baptist becoming more prominent as time passed. If it were truly an embarrassment for Jesus to be seen having begun his career as a disciple of the Baptist, this increased emphasis on the connexion between the two is certainly odd, and requires some explanation. Add to this the “brood of vipers” (sorry; love that rendering, won’t change it. Like Luke’s “sore afraid”) speech that he levels at the Pharisees, and I think you get my point. Why does Matthew go out of his way to reiterate it here?
And here is perhaps the more salient question. In Chapters 8 and especially 9, we saw Matthew consistently abridging the material he found in Mark. Here, Matthew is adding to it. Why? Which question is especially relevant since this is not part of the alleged Q material, because it’s not in Luke. As such, it’s M material, from Matthew’s special secret source. Or Matthew made it up. But that only moves the “why add this?” back another step. I think part of the reason has to be to connect more firmly with the Baptist, but I think another part is just to show us that Jesus was in charge. Mark told us what they did upon their return, which was heal, cast out demons, etc. Matthew explicitly tells us that they did these things on Jesus’ command to do so. I think that is what this is about, which explanation is consistent with Matthew’s concern to show that everything that happened with/to/by Jesus was all part of the Plan. Saying that, I just realized that I’d never quite articulated that objective until this point. But that is what Matthew is trying to do: tell us that none of this was an accident, right from the moment of Jesus’ conception. It was all God’s intent. Which to me says that this is not something Matthew got from a source; it’s something he added to make his point more effective. There is a tendency–a wish is probably more accurate, a deep-seated desire, or even a need–among Biblical scholars to attribute everything to an earlier source. Why? Why the wish? the need? Because to admit that Matthew wrote it, then maybe Jesus didn’t say it. Which is to say that, maybe, it’s not factually accurate. Which is where this confusion we have in the West of Truth with factual accuracy. We think these are synonymous. They are not. Gospels are not meant to be factually accurate; they are meant to impart Truth, which is a very different thing.
The penultimate point to make here is the command to “raise from the dead”. What? Where did that come from? That is totally sui generis with Matthew. Does it relate back to what I said about the Plan? Is Jesus instructing, or empowering the disciples to do everything that he did? And since he just raised Jairus’ daughter (filling in the name from Mark) from the dead, it’s now important that Jesus give the same authority to the disciples? I suppose one likely answer is that, OK, he raised the little girl. So Jesus has the power. Or Jesus has been entrusted to use this power by some other divine being–like God. But if Jesus has the ability to delegate this power to others, then most assuredly he is divine as well. No? It’s one thing to be the agent of the divine and use the power; that was the portrayal, more or less, given us by Mark. It’s quite another thing to have the power and be able to give it to others. That’s a guess. The thing is, think back to Mark 9, when the disciples tell about others casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But we will have to discuss that further when or if we come to that section in Matthew. Remember: Matthew is not interested in re-creating the world of Mark, the explanations of Mark. Matthew is correcting the record, setting it–and us–straight, making clear those parts of Mark that need to be clarified. One of these is that Jesus has the power on his own, and not just as an agent of God.
The final point is the part about giving freely what you received freely. This is an injunction not to charge for services rendered. They have been given the gift of healing at no charge, so they should not expect to be paid for using the free gift they have been given freely. Part of the point here is to be different from some of the other wonder-workers, who did charge for services. That was how they made their money. But a bit more on this shortly.
7 Euntes autem praedicate dicentes: “Appropinquavit regnum caelorum”.
8 Infirmos curate, mortuos suscitate, leprosos mundate, daemones eicite; gratis accepistis, gratis date.
9 Μὴ κτήσησθε χρυσὸν μηδὲ ἄργυρον μηδὲ χαλκὸν εἰς τὰς ζώνας ὑμῶν,
10 μὴ πήραν εἰς ὁδὸν μηδὲ δύο χιτῶνας μηδὲ ὑποδήματα μηδὲ ῥάβδον: ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ.
11 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν πόλιν ἢ κώμην εἰσέλθητε, ἐξετάσατετίς ἐν αὐτῇ ἄξιός ἐστιν: κἀκεῖ μείνατε ἕως ἂν ἐξέλθητε.
“Do not take gold, nor silver, nor bronze in your belt/wallet/purse. (10) Do not take a travel bag, nor two tunics, nor shoes/sandals (lit = “underskins“, which is to say “hypodermics”) nor a rod. For the laborer is worthy of his hire. (11) If you go into a city or a town, seek out in that (city) one who is worthy. And stay (there, with that person) until you leave.
We talked about this when we read the corresponding passage in Mark, but it probably bears repeating. Between this set of verses and those immediately preceding, we have the basis for the idea of “apostolic poverty” that became so prominent in western heretical movements starting in or around 1100 CE. The two groups especially known for this were the Waldensians and the Cathars. The founding ideal of the Waldensians was not really all that different from the impulse that motivated St Francis of Assisi: absolute poverty. The apostle should own nothing, should beg for food, or depend on the charity of others, should own no land, no property…nothing. Peter Waldo (or Valdes, if Latinised) really didn’t do anything St Francis didn’t do, but he did it a couple of generations too early. By the time of Francis, the Church (with a capital “C”) had come to understand that this impulse to poverty could not be squelched, so it had to be domesticated. To do this it recognised and organised the Franciscan order. Of course, the Franciscan impulse to poverty barely survived the founder. After the death of Francis, the order nearly split into two groups: one holding to the ideal of poverty, the other settling down and becoming a typical order of preachers. Which is to say wealthy. The ideal of poverty as expressed here was a real problem for a Church that had amassed enormous amounts of land and treasure. The thing is, this ideal of apostolic poverty as the ideal state for the Church did not vanish. It created the work ethic and the desire for a “cheap church” (église à bon marché; sounds more elegant in French) which helped create an attitude towards making money that became capitalism, which then helped spawn the Reformation. Max Weber got it backwards: capitalism created Protestants.
OK, that little digression on economics aside, let’s look at this from what it’s telling us. First, I’ve already discussed how I feel like this isn’t something that happened while Jesus was alive. Rather, this feels more like something that happened later. Then recall that this was an issue for Paul. He had a couple of passages about this, regarding apostles who expected payment, or to be supported by the community, or what they could expect as to being supported by the community. When reading this in Paul, one was rather left with the feeling that there was a certain amount of controversy about how this was all supposed to operate. Paul made a big point out of claiming that he had the right, maybe, to expect support from the community, but that he chose rather to work so as not to be a burden. He also implied that other apostles traveled with retinues that, sometimes at least, included wives. So, where does this fit in?
The question that needs to be asked to answer the ultimate question is whether any of this came from Jesus. I have said I suspect not. Part of the reason is because of what Paul has said. Once again, it sounds like there wasn’t a real consensus on this. Paul’s defensiveness, and his aggressive quasi-condemnation of the practice of others tells me that the others were not acting on a commission from Jesus. It indicates, IMO, that they were claiming this right, but that there was no really settled practice on this. So some took advantage, while Paul went passively-aggressive in the other direction. Now, having said that, there is nothing here about “two by two” as there was in Mark. Does that mean they were to go singly? Or that they could travel in a group? That’s hard to say. There isn’t a lot of internal support for either of these possibilities. Another question that poses itself is where James fits in for all of this. If James is the one for whom poverty was the ideal, it seems odd that he would have been one of those traveling in state. It would make sense that, if this was added later, it was done so as a means of giving legal basis for the practices James initiated. But even so, we have to consider Paul’s animosity to those other apostles. Was he including James? He seemed to have a problem with James in Galatians, but much of that seems to have dissipated by the time he wrote 1 Corinthians. Had he and James come to an understanding, thereby implying that the leeches on the community were other apostles. There is also the consideration that, per the evidence of Galatians, James didn’t travel much. So was Paul’s complaint about other apostles meant as a means to gain James’ sympathy? If so, then why the oblique references? Why not use James to buttress his case about those others?
The upshot on all of this is that we have many more questions than we have answers. In and of itself, this is not surprising; most periods of ancient history run into exactly this situation because the evidence is just too scant to allow satisfactory resolutions to these quandaries.
9 Nolite possidere aurum neque argentum neque pecuniam in zonis vestris,
10 non peram in via neque duas tunicas neque calceamenta neque virgam; dignus enim est operarius cibo suo.
11 In quamcumque civitatem aut castellum intraveritis, interrogate quis in ea dignus sit; et ibi manete donec exeatis.
12 εἰσερχόμενοι δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν ἀσπάσασθε αὐτήν:
13 καὶ ἐὰν μὲν ᾖ ἡ οἰκία ἀξία, ἐλθάτω ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν ἐπ’ αὐτήν: ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ ἀξία, ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐπιστραφήτω.
14 καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ δέξηται ὑμᾶς μηδὲ ἀκούσῃ τοὺς λόγους ὑμῶν, ἐξερχόμενοι ἔξω τῆς οἰκίας ἢ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης ἐκτινάξατε τὸν κονιορτὸν τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν.
15 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται γῇ Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρων ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ.
“When entering a house, greet it. (13) And if it is a worthy house, let your peace come over it. If it is not worth, let your peace towards yourselves revert. (14) And should one not honor you, nor listen to your words, coming out of those houses or those cities, shake the dust from your feet. (15) Amen I say to you, more tolerable will the the land of the Sodomites and the Gomorreans in the day of judgement than for that city.”
12 Intrantes autem in domum, salutate eam;
13 et si quidem fuerit domus digna, veniat pax vestra super eam; si autem non fuerit digna, pax vestra ad vos revertatur.
14 Et quicumque non receperit vos neque audierit sermones vestros, exeuntes foras de domo vel de civitate illa, excutite pulverem de pedibus vestris.
15 Amen dico vobis: Tolerabilius erit terrae Sodomorum et Gomorraeorum in die iudicii quam illi civitati.
This really obvious reference to the HS (Hebrew Scriptures) really gives me pause. How well know would the story of Sodom & Gomorra have been to anyone who was not Jewish? I’m really not sure how to answer that. If the answer is that this would not have been known outside Jewish circles, then the likelihood that Jesus said something like this goes way up. Or, at least, that someone said this. Now, if it was James that implemented the apostle program, it could easily have been James rather than Jesus. A reference like this is different from the quotes that the evangelists use. The quotes are more or less self-explanatory; this is an unexplained reference, which requires that the audience understand it to be effective. So it implies that the author took it for granted that the audience would get it. I’m not sure if we’ve had anything like this so far.
This passage poses a really interesting problem. When I first glanced at my compendium, it appeared that the reference to S&G was in Mark, too. Well, turns out it’s only in certain mss traditions. Which, to me, means that it was not originally in Mark, but that it was added in by later copyists who were aware of the passage in both Matthew and Luke. This makes more sense than it being dropped. The most likely reason it was dropped is because the copyist was not fully versed in the HS, so he didn’t get it, so he omitted the passage. Possible, but I think the conflation of the texts is more likely.
Now, this is in Matthew, and in Luke, but not Mark. Prima facie, this would imply it was in Q. Here is a case where that might, prima facie, make sense: it was a reference to something that a Jewish audience–such as those addressed by Jesus (or James)–would get. That would require that Matthew’s audience–and Matthew himself got the reference. If Matthew didn’t understand it, he would have omitted the passage. Another possibility is that Matthew threw this out as a means of showing off his knowledge of HS. The upshot is that something like this doesn’t help my thesis that Matthew and his audience were former pagans. If that is true, could we assume that they would get the reference, unless they were God-fearers who had done some studying of the HS.
We will circle back to this shortly because I want to mention one other thing. This is the idea that the city will be judged, which is, I think, is a clear indication of something like apocalyptic thinking. The city will be judged; it will be given a fair trial before being found guilty and destroyed. Really, these are the sorts of throwaway lines that are infuriating. They obviously point to something bigger, an idea or set of ideas, or set of beliefs beyond what is expressed in so many words. What, exactly, does it mean that the city will be judged? When will this happen? Matthew feels no compunction to tell us these things. Is that because, to him, the answers were so well-known, such common knowledge that he didn’t feel the need to elaborate further. Or, the other possibility is that, by the time he wrote, he really didn’t understand the implications any better than we do. I say this because when a question goes unanswered it’s either because the author feels no answer is necessary, or it’s because the author doesn’t know the answer either. This of course all ties in with the question of whether Jesus’ primary message was that of apocalypse. The idea of the approaching kingdom of God/the heavens certainly could be taken so. Had this idea remained strong from the time of Jesus and/or Mark, or was it starting to fade. We noted that Paul expected the Parousia daily; we got some sense of this from Mark as well. In Matthew, at least so far, some of that urgency has faded slightly.
Now, there is a possible connexion between apocalyptic thinking and S&G. After all, what was the fate of S&G if not an apocalyptic end? So is this why Matthew’s audience could be assumed to be familiar with the reference to S&G? That is an intriguing question. One possible clue is that I noticed that Matthew and Luke mention the kingdom very, very often. Paul and Mark actually don’t mention it very often, and it fades by the time we get to John’s gospel. So Matthew and Luke/Acts seem to take the idea of the kingdom fairly seriously as a major theme. Interestingly, the kingdom is mentioned a total of four times in what is supposed to be the Q material. But this could also be explained if Luke knew Matthew, and followed Matthew’s lead on the importance of the topic of the kingdom. Especially since this topic is not exactly prominent in the reconstructed Q. It’s there, sure, but it’s not really prominent. Personally, I think this is a good indication that Luke did use Q. There are more important signs of influence than the way the material is organized; being thematically similar, and showing similar degrees of interest in the same topics, I think, is excellent support for the argument that Luke used Matthew.
But anyway, this is a subject to be given a lot of further consideration.