Category Archives: Chapter 11

Summary Luke Chapter 11

I just realized that this has never been published. It was sitting in drafts. So, here it is. The summary to Chapter 12 will follow shortly–whatever that means.

The Summary:

Of course we begin with the usual disclaimer that there does not seem to be much to say about this chapter. Virtually all of it is in material covered by Matthew and so is part of the material of the hypothetical Q. Thus the proper theme of this discussion should be the differences between Matthew’s versions of these stories, and Luke’s version. However, much of that was covered in the commentary to the translation. Perhaps the recurring discussion of Q has become a bit worn; perhaps a slightly different tack would be to get back to the roots of what this blog was supposed to do: discuss the actual beliefs set out, and to provide insight into how–or if?–these beliefs developed over time.

The proper place to start on this is with the Lord’s Prayer. And, conveniently, it’s the first section of the chapter. There is, of course, the debate over which version–that of Matthew or that of Luke–is the more primitive; that is, which of the versions is the closest to the original version allegedly captured in the hypothetical Q. I have a copy of The Q Thomas Reader, chief editor John Kloppenborg of the University of Toronto (alas!). Kloppenborg is one of the leading proponents of Q, and one of the leading authorities on its reconstruction. Interesting how a fictional entity can be “reconstructed”; sort of on the lines of “reconstructing what the original unicorn looked like”, as it were. Anyway, in the text of the cited book, the prayer follows Luke’s opening, using just “father”, rather than “our father” as Matthew says. This is presumably more primitive, because the more primitive version has fewer words. Except that’s a ridiculous statement. If you were to read an early draft of a Hemingway short story, I daresay you would find a whole lot of more words that were excised from the final version. So in this case, saying Luke’s version is more primitive because of the lack of “our” really is not terribly convincing. Yes, I’m sure there are other reasons for believing that Luke is the more primitive, but that does not imply that they are any more convincing.

Let’s ask this question: is there a dogmatic or theological difference between addressing “our father” as opposed to just saying “father”? Of course, any time a word is changed or added or omitted, the meaning of the text changes to some degree. So it’s not a question of “if it changes”, but “how, or how much does it change?” Here’s how I see this. My siblings and I have used the term “our father”, or “our mother”, or “our brother”. But when do we speak thus? When we are conversing amongst ourselves. I would not say “our father” unless it’s addressed to a sibling, or perhaps to “our father” when I am addressing said paternal parent in the company of a sibling. Think about that for a minute. OTOH, when alone with pop, I would never say “our father”. Rather, I would simply address him as “father”. Does that offer a clue about the difference between Matthew and Luke? I suggest it may. Matthew’s version, with the first person plural possessive pronoun, is necessarily a collective address, something that’s said in a collective situation. That is, it’s appropriate when a group of worshippers are at a service and praying communally. It’s most appropriate for use with “we” as the pronoun. In contrast, simply saying “father” is most appropriate with the pronoun “I”. Does this provide some insight, that perhaps the addition/omission of the possessive pronoun suggests different intended context? Is one public, while the other is private?

Of course, for most of the last two millennia, people in their solitude have been praying “our father”. But that is after the prayer has become systematized, after it’s become part of the process of worship, when it’s become a standard, to be used in all settings. What about when the prayer was new? I would suggest that the communal setting, saying “our” father, is the earlier context. It’s a truism–but nevertheless a mostly forgotten one–that people in the ancient world did not do a lot of solitary reading in silence. Rather, the written word was read aloud, and usually to an audience. Books were too expensive and so too rare for solitary reading. So when people heard the words of Jesus, they most likely heard them; they didn’t read them silently to themselves, but heard the words from someone else who was reading the words aloud. Extrapolating from this, did people pray alone? Generally speaking, no. In the pagan world religious ritual was mostly a communal affair, whether conducted in a familial setting, or at a large, public sacrifice. Jesus admonished people not to be like the hypocrites who stand in front of a crowd and pray; rather, he said, do it locked in a closet, away from everyone. Can we extrapolate from these to things, communal reading and communal prayer to suggest that Matthew’s is the more “primitive” version. It came first temporally, and it represents the oldest stratum of behaviour. In such communal settings “our father” is most appropriate. By the time Luke wrote, perhaps the admonition of Jesus had taken root, and prayer had become more of a solitary activity. In these contexts, “father” would be the more reasonable.

And this ties in with another difference between Matthew’s version and that of Luke. Matthew says we should prayer that our debts–and the word is not allegorical, but blatantly monetary–be forgiven. Luke, OTOH, prays that our sins be forgiven. These are two very different words, and represent two very different requests. And we noted in the commentary that both versions then go on to say “as we forgive debts against us…:” I have to say, using “debt” in both places seems a lot more consistent than the sins/debts combination. That is to say, it seems more likely that Luke changed the first one rather than Matthew. Yes, it’s possible that Matthew changed Q to be more consistent, but what combination of circumstances led to the prayer being recorded first in Q as sins/debts?

Again, it should be stressed that this is hardly a knockout punch for the “argument” for Q. There could certainly be times when one or the other of the evangelists decided to change or retain the words found in the hypothetical Q. There is no reason that one gospel is always more primitive than the other. This is ceded by Q people; they have no choice. However, the fewer times that can be shown that Luke is not the “more primitive”, the further the foundation of the Q argument is eroded. If Matthew is “more primitive” most of the time, then what exactly is to stop us from saying that it’s most likely that Luke simply used Matthew? There is a point in there where it stops making sense to posit a pre-existing work if Matthew is the more primitive, say, 67% of the time. No?

Aside from this, the rest of the chapter is retellings of stories which we encountered in Matthew. The biggest theme was the disparagement of the Pharisees, throwing in the lawyers for good measure. I believe that it is an open question of how much friction there really was between Jesus and the religious leaders and/or political powers during the former’s lifetime. I honestly expect it wasn’t nearly what it was anything close to half as bad as we’ve all come to believe. I keep coming back to the point that none of Jesus’ followers were arrested with Jesus, or even shortly after Jesus. Acts gives us a full (if not exactly credible) account of the apostles out and about and preaching. Sure, we’re told there were episodes when the authorities cracked down, but only after provocation. As described in Acts, the apostles were not persecuted per se for being followers of Jesus; they were persecuted when they raised too much of a ruckus and disturbed the peace. Paul talks about “pressuring” Jesus’ followers, but there is nothing to corroborate what he says about this. Josephus doesn’t really say anything about it, and none of the Roman sources had much to say about the followers of Chrestus, as Tacitus calls them. Nero blamed them for the fire, which means that they were probably a group that people knew existed, but these same people likely did not know much about them. This sort of non-specific recognition makes the perfect scapegoat: you know who they are, but not enough to judge whether they’re the sort of people to start a fire. So if the emperor says they did, hey, who am I to gainsay the emperor? Saying this, however, puts an onus on me to explain why this became so firmly entrenched in the narrative, in the legend, if it were not true. The obvious answer to this is that it provided a plausible–and even honourable–reason for Jesus’ crucifixion. He was a martyr, and that always makes for a good story and and it makes Jesus into an heroic figure. Hmmm…son of a god and a mortal, a hero…can anyone say “Achilles”? We’ve discussed this before, probably in conjunction with the idea that Matthew was a pagan, but this sort of semi-divine figure was not at all common in Jewish folklore, but it was very common in Greek myth. Coincidence?

That’s really enough for this chapter. Most of what remains to say has been said about these stories in Matthew. The sign of Jonas, the wicked generation, the Queen of the South…these are all interesting and important, but they’ve been covered. So let’s trudge onward.


Luke Chapter 11:37-54

Note: It appears that WordPress has “improved” or “upgraded” the website. One of these “improvements” was the removal of my preferred font. The default is not something I particularly like, largely because it doesn’t to justice to the Greek. I have changed the font here on the website, supposedly, but on the page where I do my drafts I’m stuck with the default font. I hope it looks acceptable from your perspective.

This section concerns the “Woes” to the Pharisees and and others. This is Luke’s version of Matthew 23:14 ff. And, since this doesn’t occur in Mark, it’s Q material. This is the second such “Woes” section in Luke, and there are two in Matthew as well. The other “Woes” passage extends these woes unto a list of cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida. & c. So here comes the question: why are the two sections separated? Would it not make sense for to “curse” these cities and the Pharisees at the same time? For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the text of Q that Matthew and Luke used the two lists of woes were indeed in separate sections of the text. Is it reasonable to assume that it did not occur to either evangelist to consolidate these two groups of woes? We are constantly told that Luke and Matthew arranged the Q material very differently. Fine. But it seems kind of odd that neither of them saw fit to put the two sections into one. Rather, it seems more like Luke followed Matthew in this case. In both, the woes to the cities occurs first in the gospel, followed up at some later point (much later in Matthew) with the woes to the Pharisees.

Again, there is nothing really here that is at all convincing as an argument for Q. Based on the way that Luke split up the Sermon on the Mount material, there is a suggestion that Luke wasn’t as fond of very long sections of speech the way Matthew was. The Sermon fills Chapters 5, 6, and 7. I did not find this particularly “masterful”. I found it to be a bunch of one-off sentiments all packed together. I find the way Luke scatters these out a bit to be more congenial to my taste. However, when the suggestion that Luke prefers shorter segments is raised, the Q people start tossing off examples of how Luke goes on and on about this subject or that. True enough, I suppose, but there is nothing in Luke to compare to the three-chapter block that is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Whatever, let’s get to the


37 Ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι ἐρωτᾷ αὐτὸν Φαρισαῖος ὅπως ἀριστήσῃ παρ’ αὐτῷ: εἰσελθὼν δὲ ἀνέπεσεν.

38 ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου.

39 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος πρὸς αὐτόν, Νῦν ὑμεῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τοῦ πίνακος καθαρίζετε, τὸ δὲ ἔσωθεν ὑμῶν γέμει ἁρπαγῆς καὶ πονηρίας.

40 ἄφρονες, οὐχ ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔξωθεν καὶ τὸ ἔσωθεν ἐποίησεν;

41 πλὴν τὰ ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην, καὶ ἰδοὺ πάντα καθαρὰ ὑμῖν ἐστιν.

During the conversation (lit = in the speaking) a Pharisee asked him whether he (Jesus) might dine with him (the Pharisee); going in, they sat down (38) The Pharisee seeing marveled that first he did not baptize before the dinner. (39) And the lord said to him, “Now you, o Pharisees, clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but what is inside you is full of greed and wickedness. (40) Fools! It is what you do outside, or what you do inside? (41) Except for the being inside (internal attitude) you give alms, and behold, all is clean to you”. 

To get it out of the way, here is an instance when the word “to baptize” is used in a thoroughly secular, mundane, and ordinary manner for “to wash”. It is very important to remember that “baptize” and “angel” and “grace” are sacred words as used by the authors of the NT. They only became sacred words after a few centuries of Christian thinking, and then the Western church was heavily influenced by the translation of these words from Greek into Latin. “Baptize” simply means “to wash”; an “angel” is any messenger; “grace” means any sort of favour; it does not necessarily have the connotation of “free” (i.e., “gratis”) in Greek that it has in Latin, and has come to have in English. Think of a “grace period” when paying a bill (quite common in the insurance industry). While we’re on the topic of the language, in the last verse the two clauses are joined by << καὶ >>. The great majority of the time, this is the standard word for and. However, at the beginning of the Platonic dialogue The Symposion, there is a famous passage where the meaning hinges on << καὶ >> meaning or, rather than and. Indeed, much of the entire dialogue hinges on this meaning. And so here, too << καὶ >> has to be translated as or. I tried a number of things, and decided that it has to be or.

Perhaps the other remarkable thing is the way Jesus turns on his host. Yikes! No being polite here. And this is an important example to remember when dealing with things that are wrong in current culture. Jesus would not sit down and shut up when presented with social wrongs; he would have stood up and spoken out. That is how a true Christian acts, IMO. Now I’ve just deviated from historical analysis into religious interpretation. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Finally, there is the subject of the outburst. Jewish practice at the time was very concerned with what is called “ritual cleanliness”. This means that externals carried a lot of weight, especially as applied to religious ritual, but even in such things as washing before meals. This, of course, became kosher practices, where the way an animal is slaughtered is very important. I do not want to get into it, but a lot of the kosher practices made a certain amount of sense in days before refrigeration; however, that is not the topic here. This insistence on outward ritual over the inner attitude is what has led Christians to teach that Judaism was a very formalistic, legalistic religion, more a set of rituals than an inner way of viewing the world. Now, this accusation is not completely without merit; however, in the context of the times, it was not an unusual attitude. More, given that some of the practices dated back several hundred years (I am a late dater of the HS; I do not believe that Moses lived in the 13th Century BCE, or that he lived at all, e.g.) these attitudes towards ritual purity were very common. Much of Greek religious practice had a similar outlook; this is why the standard explanation for the success of Christianity was that pagan religions did not satisfy the “inner person”. They were all cold and ritualistic, lacking in “emotional appeal”. While there is some truth to this, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It does account, perhaps, for the growing popularity of the so-called “mystery religions”, such as the cult of Isis as described in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius (aka The Golden Ass, in some translations). The point being, there would have been some truth–perhaps–to Jesus saying this, but it does not deserve the degree of criticism that has come to be heaped upon Judaism. Then again, I am the product of a brand of Catholicism as practiced in a certain time, long ago, and a in a galaxy far away.

As I so (too?) often do, I’m going to take this a step further, but not until after the next section.

37 Et cum loqueretur, rogavit illum quidam pharisaeus, ut pranderet apud se; et ingressus recubuit.

38 Pharisaeus autem videns miratus est quod non baptizatus esset ante prandium.

39 Et ait Dominus ad illum: “Nunc vos pharisaei, quod de foris est calicis et catini, mundatis; quod autem intus est vestrum, plenum est rapina et iniquitate.

40 Stulti! Nonne, qui fecit, quod de foris est, etiam id, quod de intus est, fecit?

41 Verum tamen, quae insunt, date eleemosynam; et ecce omnia munda sunt vobis.

42 ἀλλὰ οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ πήγανον καὶ πᾶν λάχανον, καὶ παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ: ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ παρεῖναι.

43 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀγαπᾶτε τὴν πρωτοκαθεδρίαν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς.

44 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι ἐστὲ ὡς τὰ μνημεῖα τὰ ἄδηλα, καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι [οἱ] περιπατοῦντες ἐπάνω οὐκ οἴδασιν.

45 Ἀποκριθεὶς δέ τις τῶν νομικῶν λέγει αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα λέγων καὶ ἡμᾶς ὑβρίζεις.

46 ὁδὲ εἶπεν, Καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς οὐαί, ὅτι φορτίζετε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φορτία δυσβάστακτα, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἑνὶ τῶν δακτύλων ὑμῶν οὐ προσψαύετε τοῖς φορτίοις.

“But woe to you, Pharisees, that tithe the mint and the rue (a plant) and all the herbs, and pass without heeding (all in the verb) the judgement and the love of God. These things had to be done and not let go by the wayside (all in the verb). (43) Woe to you, Pharisees, that love the first seats in the synagogues and the salutations in the marketplace. (44) Woe to you, that are as unseen tombs, and men passing by do not know”. (45) Answering, one of the lawyers said to him, “Teacher, saying these things and you insult us”. (46) Then he said, “And woe to you, lawyers, that burden men, loading with burdens grievous to be borne, and they on they one of your fingers do not touch the burdens (i.e., you don’t lift a finger to help). 

Well, the opinion of lawyers sure hasn’t changed much in the last 2,000 years or so, has it? I am going to defer the rest until the end.

42 Sed vae vobis pharisaeis, quia decimatis mentam et rutam et omne holus et praeteritis iudicium et caritatem Dei! Haec autem oportuit facere et illa non omittere.

43 Vae vobis pharisaeis, quia diligitis primam cathedram in synagogis et salutationes in foro!

44 Vae vobis, quia estis ut monumenta, quae non parent, et homines ambulantes supra nesciunt! ”.

45 Respondens autem quidam ex legis peritis ait illi: “ Magister, haec dicens etiam nobis contumeliam facis ”.

46 At ille ait: “ Et vobis legis peritis: Vae, quia oneratis homines oneribus, quae portari non possunt, et ipsi uno digito vestro non tangitis sarcinas!”

47 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν προφητῶν, οἱ δὲ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτούς.

48 ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς ὑμεῖς δὲ οἰκοδομεῖτε.

49 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν, Ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν,

50 ἵνα ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης,

51 ἀπὸ αἵματος Αβελ ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίουτοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.

52 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς, ὅτι ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως: αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε καὶ τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.

53 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι δεινῶς ἐνέχειν καὶ ἀποστοματίζειν αὐτὸν περὶ πλειόνων,

54 ἐνεδρεύοντες αὐτὸν θηρεῦσαί τι ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ.

“Woe to you, that build monuments of the prophets, but your fathers killed them. (48) You are witnesses and give your consent to the deeds of your fathers, that they (the fathers) killed them (the prophets) you build. (49) Through this also the wisdom of god says, “I send to them prophets and apostles, and from them they will kill and persecute, (50) so that the blood of all the prophets having been poured out may have been sought from the foundations of the cosmos, from this generation, (51) from the blood of Abel until the blood of Zacharias being killed between the altar and his house. Yes, I say to you, it has been sought from this generation. (52) Woe to you lawyers, that take up the key of knowledge; you do not enter and those who do enter you kill. (53) And then he having gone out the Scribes and the Pharisees began sorely to hold with him and teach him by dictation regarding many things. (54) Laying snares to hunt him for something from his mouth.

First, the Greek. In V53, the second word always means go, specifically to go out. This is because it has the prefix ek attached, which means out. However, in the vacuum-sealed world of NT Greek, this manages to get translated as “come”. I suspect that Luke may have gotten himself muddled. It happens. The bit about “entering” refers, I think, to the Kingdom of God. The lawyers are a malevolent force keeping people out. Why is this? But that’s off-topic from the Greek. The last thing is the word I translated as teach him by dictation. This is an extremely rare word in Classical Greek, and it occurs exactly once in the NT. As such, there is no real context to help us determine what this word means as it is used by Luke. We can’t compare it in other contexts. All of my crib translations, of which there are now five (the CPDV having appeared unbidden; not even sure what that stands for) all do a more or less lousy job of slurring over the word, which is << ἀποστοματίζειν >> for those of you keeping score at home. They render it in a fashion of what they believe it should mean, as they interpret it. To make matters interesting, the root of the word is << στομα >>, which means mouth. It appears in the form << στόματος >> in the last verse, which I garbled as hunting for something from his mouth, in the sense of getting him to say something they could use against him in a court of law. Anyway, the bottom line, I think, is that Luke here is being too clever with his Greek in this passage, and he gets caught up in it. The think about a language like Greek is that even a native speaker can have trouble writing decent prose, but that can be said about English, too.   

Second, the reference. Zacharias was murdered by King Joash in 2 Chronicles, 24:21-21. That is an obscure reference. Hmm…one wonders if Luke is playing “I can top that” regarding non-obvious citations of the HS. Recall Matthew did stuff like that, starting with putting Jesus in Nazareth “so he will be called a Nazarene…” (Matthew 2:23, ref’g Isaiah). It sure does seem like Luke has a thing going with Matthew, doesn’t it? Perhaps not to everyone, but sure seems like it to me.

Let’s stop and think about the context of all this for a moment. As noted in the intro to the section, this is supposedly part of Q because it’s in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. As part of Q, it supposedly dates back to the time of Jesus, if perhaps not to Jesus himself. But think about it: Jesus is condemning groups of people prominent in Jewish culture. Why is he doing this? Because they haven’t gotten on board with Jesus’ message. But how do we know that, if Jesus is still alive? Isn’t this the sort of thing that would make more sense if it were said a generation or two after Jesus died, when it had become apparent that the Pharisees and lawyers had not come over to Jesus? After the time when the Pharisees (*cough* Saul *cough*) had led the persecution of the new interpretation?  Of course this sort of thinking forces us to ask whether the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is exclusively a post-mortem phenomenon. I have no idea how consistent I’ve been on that topic, mainly because I’d never isolated it as a topic until just now. The other question is whether we can–or should–take the woes to those towns as a separate issue from the woes to the Pharisees in this section. Remember, Matthew also separated them. One telling bit of evidence might be whether those towns suffered, and to what extent, during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the Temple. Bethsaida, according to Mark, is right hard close to Jerusalem since that is where Jesus was staying his last week. 

To some degree the animosity to the Pharisees and other representatives of established practice of the religion is a basic theme in Jesus’ teaching. It is a thread, or more like a theme/stream running throughout the gospels. However, just because it gets a lot of attention does not mean that it dates back to Jesus himself. It could easily be something that cropped up later, the result of the “persecutions” led by Pharisees such as Paul. That would still give it time to work its way into Mark’s gospel, where it is already a theme. I would say there is a decent chance that it does date back to Jesus, and I would certainly say that stating this theme as post-mortem would be a very bold step. Not that I’m afraid of bold positions, but this one is much harder to sort out than things like Q. If made to guess, my sense would be that there was some conflict early on between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day; itinerant preachers with a quirky, not-quite-orthodox message were a bane of the established Church in the High Middle Ages. Power structures don’t like being circumvented, so if Jesus showed up preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and implying that the Temple cult was unnecessary, that could make them uncomfortable. They felt the need to kill the Baptist as well. The story of Jesus clearing the Temple certainly reinforces this position, even though it may not have dated back to Jesus himself. After all, I have no doubts that the story is post-mortem; perhaps it represents a time when the conflict between the two sets of practitioners of Judaism had drifted further apart. The growing cult of Jesus-as-divine would certainly have alienated the Pharisees and–perhaps–provoked attempts to suppress the movement. This would dramatically open the door to the idea that Jesus-as-divine predated Paul. But that is another topic. 

47 Vae vobis, quia aedificatis monumenta prophetarum, patres autem vestri occiderunt illos!

48 Profecto testificamini et consentitis operibus patrum vestrorum, quoniam ipsi quidem eos occiderunt, vos autem aedificatis.

49 Propterea et sapientia Dei dixit: Mittam ad illos prophetas et apostolos, et ex illis occident et persequentur,

50 ut requiratur sanguis omnium prophetarum, qui effusus est a constitutione mundi, a generatione ista,

51 a sanguine Abel usque ad sanguinem Zachariae, qui periit inter altare et aedem. Ita dico vobis: Requiretur ab hac generatione.

52 Vae vobis legis peritis, quia tulistis clavem scientiae! Ipsi non introistis et eos, qui introibant, prohibuistis ”.

53 Cum autem inde exisset, coeperunt scribae et pharisaei graviter insistere et eum allicere in sermone de multis

54 insidiantes ei, ut caperent aliquid ex ore eius.

Luke Chapter 11:29-36

Here we have some more of the material that Matthew so masterfully included in one large block in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I think it works better broken up into smaller pieces like this, but that’s a matter of taste. Or, it would be, if the whole case for Q didn’t rest upon that masterful arrangement.


29 Τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων ἤρξατο λέγειν, Ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν: σημεῖον ζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ.

30 καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ.

(Some) of the crowd testing (him=Jesus), he began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation. It seeks a sign and a sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonas. (30) For just as Jonas became a sign to the Ninevites, in this way also will be the son of man to this generation.

This is interesting. In this version Jesus refers to the sign of Jonas, but he does not explain what that means. Matthew 12:40, however, does explain it. It’s a reference to Jonas being inside the whale for three days, and so Jesus will be in the ground for three days. Now, Luke’s version, being shorter, is considered the more primitive, which means that the original text of Q probably read like Luke whereas Matthew added the explanation. Hence the Q position. Or, one could say that Luke knew that Matthew had explained this, so he didn’t feel the need to add that from Matthew. We have seen Luke do this elsewhere, but usually only in cases where Matthew overlaps extensively with Mark, as in the Death of the Baptist story. As such, it’s questionable whether my suggestion in this case is valid, or even legitimate. It’s different. It doesn’t count. I can hear the Q proponents now. And they have a point. This is situation is not exactly consistent with others. In return, I suggest that no one is ever 100% consistent in their approach, especially when we’re talking about a document of some length, as this is. I will concede they have a point, and that making that suggestion in this particular instance is not terribly convincing. That is for the individual reader to decide. Just remember that this does incident does not stand in isolation.

29 Turbis autem concurrentibus, coepit dicere: “Generatio haec generatio nequam est; signum quaerit, et signum non dabitur illi, nisi signum Ionae.

30 Nam sicut Ionas fuit signum Ninevitis, ita erit et Filius hominis generationi isti.

31 βασίλισσα νότου ἐγερθήσεται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινεῖ αὐτούς: ὅτι ἦλθεν ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς ἀκοῦσαι τὴν σοφίαν Σολομῶνος, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Σολομῶνος ὧδε.

32 ἄνδρες Νινευῖται ἀναστήσονται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτήν: ὅτι μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ ὧδε.

The Queen of the South will be raised in the judgement with the men of this generation and will judge them. That she came from the corners of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and, behold, something greater than Solomon (is) here. The Men of Ninevah will stand themselves up in the judgement with this generation, and they will judge it: that they repented at the message of Jonas, and, behold, something greater than Jonas (is) here. 

Taking these two sections together, we have Jesus predicting his resurrection and predicting the judgement to come on those who (supposedly) carried it out. So, this is part of the alleged Q material because it’s only in Matthew and Luke. But the problem there is that it’s highly unlikely that Jesus ever uttered these words. This is another ex post facto “prediction” put into the mouth of the speaker after it has been fulfilled. Yes, many people will claim that my viewpoint is entirely secular and simply assumes that Jesus was not capable of seeing the future because he was not divine. And that is a fair and accurate assessment of my viewpoint. I am writing historically and not religiously. But from that perspective fulfilled predictions are not to be taken at face value. As such, there is little chance that these words were spoken by Jesus. So, if Jesus did not say them, and Q is a collection of Jesus’ sayings (except when it includes stuff the Baptist said, or the dialogue between Jesus and Satan, and descriptive passages, and other such stuff), this by definition should not be in Q. Or, by definition, Q is not a source only of things Jesus said, but of other stuff, then the whole point and raison d’être for Q disappears. This is why I get so annoyed that all the arguments for Q are based on stuff like the use of <<καὶ >> vs <<δὲ >> or other such stylistic points. The first question to ask is “does it make sense that Jesus said this?” Or, “does this fit into th context of the 30s, or does it fit better in the 80s/90s?” If either answer is “no”, then we’ve got some serious problems. 

And the whole sequence fits better in the 80s than it does in the 30s. Remember, Jesus is basically cursing the generation alive in the 30s; a lot of these people were still around a generation later to see the catastrophe of the destruction of the temple. That this sequence wasn’t in Mark makes it even more likely, I believe, that this passage was written, or created, or conceived after the Romans had crushed the revolt. And while the generation of Jesus was technically prior to the generation of the destruction of the Temple, by the 80s such distinctions would likely have been smudged over; it was all just “back then”, especially to an audience of pagans for whom the Judaean was not a central or fixed point in their history. So the question becomes, how is this part of Q, if Q is to have any actual connexion to Jesus? On points like this I think the vast majority of biblical scholars fall short simply because they are not trained as historians. Their thinking tends to be synchronic, like that of social studies, where the passage of time is not really considered. History, OTOH, the thinking is diachronic, moving through time, because, well, that’s kind of the definition of history. Too much of the analysis looks at the texts as if they were all contemporaneous; there is too little thought paid to how the entire picture of Jesus and the belief systems developed as they passed through time.

And a final word. The Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba, apparently. Not that it particularly matters. The city of Ninevah, home to the Ninevites, was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. This is the power that crushed Israel and led the inhabitants of that land away to be resettled. This was a fairly common practice in the ancient Near East: move conquered peoples into lands where they were not native. The idea was to remove them from their ancestral lands into neutral territory, where they would not feel the sense of alienation that comes with being a subject people in your own land. The emotional and tribal places are gone, there is less of a sense of belonging, so the transported people would be forced to begin all over again in a new place where they had always been a subject people. So the city of Ninevah became synonymous with a wicked and depraved life style, just as Babylon would become later. Jonas was sent to preach in Ninevah, and I believe the legend in his book is that he encountered some success.

31 Regina austri surget in iudicio cum viris generationis huius et condemnabit illos, quia venit a finibus terrae audire sapientiam Salomonis, et ecce plus Salomone hic.

32 Viri Ninevitae surgent in iudicio cum generatione hac et condemnabunt illam, quia paenitentiam egerunt ad praedicationem Ionae, et ecce plus Iona hic.

33 Οὐδεὶς λύχνον ἅψας εἰς κρύπτην τίθησιν [οὐδὲ ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον] ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι τὸ φῶς βλέπωσιν.

34 ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου. ὅταν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς ᾖ, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινόν ἐστιν: ἐπὰν δὲ πονηρὸς ᾖ, καὶ τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινόν.

35 σκόπει οὖν μὴ τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστίν.

36 εἰ οὖν τὸ σῶμά σου ὅλον φωτεινόν, μὴ ἔχον μέρος τι σκοτεινόν, ἔσται φωτεινὸν ὅλον ὡς ὅταν ὁ λύχνος τῇ ἀστραπῇ φωτίζῃ σε.

No one lighting a lamp places it in the hidden place (lit = crypt, because kryptos = hidden; this often gets translated as “cellar”) [nor under the measuring (as in bushel) basket, but upon a lamp stand so that those entering (the room) see the light. (34) The light of the body is your eyes, when your eye may be not more than one, and your whole body is lighted; when it (the body) is wicked, and the whole body is in shadow. (35) Therefore look lest the light in you is shadowed. (36)  If therefore your whole body is lighted, lest you have a portion of shadow, the lamp will be the light when by lighting will make you light.

Hope that last bit makes sense. The repeated use of the same root is not rhetorically desirable in English, but it was all the rage in Greek; at least, among some authors. So it is here. This pericope (still don’t like that word) was also in Matthew and not in Mark, so, instead of saying Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark, we say that the story was part of Q. 

I am beginning to believe, rather strongly, that there actually was a collection of sayings of Jesus floating around in between the time of Mark and Matthew. I do suspect, however, that it was oral, and not written. At least, it was not written until Matthew wrote this material down. I suspect the desire to record and preserve these sayings was a large part of what motivated Matthew to write a new gospel. It always bears to remember that one does not choose the rather unusual task of writing a gospel unless one believes that one has something new to contribute. All these sayings of Matthew were his new contribution. Nor do I believe he made them all up. There are too many of these sayings that are just stuck into the text in such a ham-handed way that the narrative moves in fits and starts. That is how I feel about the “masterful arrangement” of the material in the Sermon on the Mount. Once we get past the Beatitudes, which have the organic feel of a single hand that produced a poem, we get sort of a laundry list of assorted stories, aphorisms, quick parables, metaphors, and analogies. Each little bit has nothing to do with what came just before, and is wholly disconnected to what comes after. Just as this one is. So how it is that Matthew’s arrangement is masterful is beyond me.

33 Nemo lucernam accendit et in abscondito ponit neque sub modio sed supra candelabrum, ut, qui ingrediuntur, lumen videant.

34 Lucerna corporis est oculus tuus. Si oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit; si autem nequam fuerit, etiam corpus tuum tenebrosum erit.

35 Vide ergo, ne lumen, quod in te est, tenebrae sint.

36 Si ergo corpus tuum totum lucidum fuerit non habens aliquam partem tenebrarum, erit lucidum totum, sicut quando lucerna in fulgore suo illuminat te”.

Luke Chapter 11:14-26

This is a long section, but it’s unitary in theme and most of it is stuff we’ve covered. The last section involved Jesus teaching his disciples what has become the Lord’s Prayer, even though I doubt that the Lord conceived of it. Now we go into Jesus interacting with Pharisees; even though I haven’t read this yet, I suspect Jesus will have the better end of the verbal fisticuffs.

14 Καὶ ἦν ἐκβάλλων δαιμόνιον [,καὶ αὐτὸ ἦν] κωφόν: ἐγένετο δὲ τοῦ δαιμονίου ἐξελθόντος ἐλάλησεν ὁ κωφός. καὶ ἐθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι:

15 τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶπον, Ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια:

He was casting out a demon [, and it was] mute; it occurred that the demon departing the mute one cried out and the crowd was amazed. (15) Some of them said, “It is in Beelzeboul the ruler of the demons that he throws out demons”. 

Here is what happens when you get a little too much compression in your editing. This is a condensed version of the mute demon story that we got in Matthew 9 or Mark 7. Here, we are not given the introductory sentence that a man was brought to him who was mute due to possession. Rather, we are told the demon was mute in the first part of the sentence. Here we have yet another example of a situation where Luke (overly) compresses a story found in both his predecessors. The result is that this verse is a bit confusing. But the second verse is even more compression. Here, Luke is essentially combining Mark 7 with the end of Mark 3, the origin of the “house divided” analogy from Jesus.  So this is a great example of Luke being fearless as he changes order, combines stories, and generally has no qualms about making huge editorial adjustments to Mark. And if he is not afraid to do this to Mark, why should he scruple to do it to Matthew? This willingness, IMO, takes a big chunk out of the “argument” for Q.

It seems worth noting that all three versions of the story state that Beelzebub/Beelzeboul is the prince/leader/chief of demons; the same Greek word (τῷ ἄρχοντι) is found in all three gospels. This Greek word transliterates as “archon”, the plural form of which is very prominent in Gnosticism. 

14 Et erat eiciens daemonium, et illud erat mutum; et factum est, cum daemonium exisset, locutus est mutus. Et admiratae sunt turbae;

15 quidam autem ex eis dixerunt: “In Beelzebul principe daemoniorum eicit daemonia”.

16 ἕτεροι δὲ πειράζοντες σημεῖον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἐζήτουν παρ’ αὐτοῦ.

17 αὐτὸς δὲ εἰδὼς αὐτῶν τὰ διανοήματα εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πᾶσα βασιλεία ἐφ’ ἑαυτὴν διαμερισθεῖσα ἐρημοῦται, καὶ οἶκος ἐπὶ οἶκον πίπτει.

18 εἰ δὲ καὶ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν διεμερίσθη, πῶς σταθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ; ὅτι λέγετε ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐκβάλλειν με τὰ δαιμόνια.

19 εἰ δὲ ἐγὼ ἐν Βεελζεβοὺλ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, οἱ υἱοὶ ὑμῶν ἐν τίνι ἐκβάλλουσιν; διὰ τοῦτο αὐτοὶ ὑμῶν κριταὶ ἔσονται.

20 εἰ δὲ ἐν δακτύλῳ θεοῦ [ἐγὼ] ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ. 

Others testing sought a sign from heaven from him. (17) He knowing the mental considerations of them, said to them, “An entire kingdom divided against itself is desolated, and a house against a house falls. (18) If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? That is what you say in Beelzeboul I cast out demons. (19) If I cast out demons in Beelzeboul, in whom will your sons expel? Through this they of you will be the judges. (20) If in the finger of God [I] cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

“The finger of God” appears to be unique to Luke. I am honestly not sure what to make of that. Chances are there is little to be made of it, aside from the point that Luke liked the phrase. It hearkens back to Moses and Sinai and the Decalogue written in letters of fire by the finger of YWHW (IIRC; that’s likely a bit of a paraphrase). Perhaps Luke had been brushing up on his Genesis/Exodus.

I have no idea to whom to attribute the thought, but I read somewhere that Mark intended the miracles to be evidence that the natural order of things had changed, and that the miracles were harbingers of the coming–or arrival–of the kingdom of God. As such, this would be another instance of that sort of symbolism: that Jesus is casting out demons by virtue of the finger of God. And this sort of hearkens back to the not-quite-divine Jesus described by Mark; Jesus hasn’t the authority on his own, so he is to be seen as a conduit rather than an independent actor; one who was raised from the dead. That Jesus is doing this is a sign that “the finger of God” has poked its way into our world, so the old rules no longer hold. Demons are losing their grip and can be expelled by the agents of God.

Which raises an interesting question. Is this related to Verse 16, in which others ask for a sign? Is Jesus providing that sign, but one that is buried in a circumlocution? Or is the juxtaposition of the two thoughts just a bit of happenstance or coincidence? That’s hardly implausible. After all, Luke is condensing a couple of what are different stories in Mark, so there is no reason why this couldn’t be the result of a bit of compression. Luke has shown himself to be a creative thinker, so putting these two together deliberately is not in the least beyond him. The answer to that question will require a bit more research and thought than I choose to invest at the moment.

16 Et alii tentantes signum de caelo quaerebant ab eo.

17 Ipse autem sciens cogitationes eorum dixit eis: “ Omne regnum in seipsum divisum desolatur, et domus supra domum cadit.

18 Si autem et Satanas in seipsum divisus est, quomodo stabit regnum ipsius? Quia dicitis in Beelzebul eicere me daemonia.

19 Si autem ego in Beelzebul eicio daemonia, filii vestri in quo eiciunt? Ideo ipsi iudices vestri erunt.

20 Porro si in digito Dei eicio daemonia, profecto pervenit in vos regnum Dei.

21 ὅταν ὁ ἰσχυρὸς καθωπλισμένος φυλάσσῃ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ αὐλήν, ἐν εἰρήνῃ ἐστὶν τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ:

22 ἐπὰν δὲ ἰσχυρότερος αὐτοῦ ἐπελθὼν νικήσῃ αὐτόν, τὴν πανοπλίαν αὐτοῦ αἴρει ἐφ’ ἧ ἐπεποίθει, καὶ τὰ σκῦλα αὐτοῦ διαδίδωσιν.

‘When a strong man fortifies his own hall with a guard, in peace are the things governed by him. (22) When one stronger than he comes , he will defeat him (the first), he (the second) will take up the panoply of him on which he (the first) relied, and (the second) the plunder (of the first) will distribute.

A couple of things. “Panoply” has a very technical meaning. It refers to the ensemble of equipment of the Greek hoplite soldier. It consisted of a bronze breastplate, greaves (armour for the shins), helmet, and especially the shield. This was a large round shield, designed to cover half of the carrier and half of the soldier to the left. The carrier, in turn, was half-covered by the shield of the man to the right. This interlocking series of shield created what was known as a phalanx, and for several hundred years it was the most effective fighting machine in the Mediterranean; at least, in the eastern half. I referred to the the “hoplite”; this is from the word hopla, which at root means “shield”. And what I translated as “fortified” is actually the compound word kata-hopla, which means something like, “bring the shield down”. By the time of the writing, the Greek phalanx had long since been superseded by the Roman legion. Somewhere around the period of the Punic War (second half of the third century BCE) the legion had become more or less a professional force. As such, the legion had a degree of flexibility not shared by the phalanx. The latter was extremely formidable from the front, but was much less effective when an enemy could outflank the phalanx on the side. The legion could manuoevre in ways to counteract such a flanking movement. Thus the Romans defeated the Greek kingdoms of the east; the Antigonids, the Seleucids, and the Ptolemies (and a few other minor ones) and became the dominant power in the entire Mediterranean basin. This dominance was such that the Romans referred to the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum; literally “Our Sea”.

21 Cum fortis armatus custodit atrium suum, in pace sunt ea, quae possidet;

22 si autem fortior illo superveniens vicerit eum, universa arma eius auferet, in quibus confidebat, et spolia eius distribuet.

23 ὁ μὴ ὢν μετ’ ἐμοῦ κατ’ ἐμοῦ ἐστιν, καὶ ὁ μὴ συνάγων μετ’ ἐμοῦ σκορπίζει.

“He who is not being with me is against me, and he not collecting with me is scattering. 

Interesting. In Mark 10, the disciples (John, IIRC) complains about someone who was not part of the group casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John says they tried to stop him. To which Jesus replies, “those not against us are with us”. Here, we have exactly the opposite thought being expressed. Is this the more primitive version? Oh, wait. That’s only with Matthew.

It’s also rather a non-sequitur from the verses before.

23 Qui non est mecum, adversum me est; et, qui non colligit mecum, dispergit.

24 Οταν τὸ ἀκάθαρτον πνεῦμα ἐξέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, διέρχεται δι’ ἀνύδρων τόπων ζητοῦν ἀνάπαυσιν, καὶ μὴ εὑρίσκον, [τότε] λέγει, Ὑποστρέψω εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον:

25 καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον.

26 τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτά, καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ, καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων.

“When an unclean spirit goes out from a man, it passes through a dry place seeking to rest, and not finding, [then] it says ‘I will turn back to the home whence I just left’. (25) And coming it finds it having been swept and arranged. (26) Then it comes and brings seven others more wicked, and entering (the person) they take up residence, and it becomes the the end of that man being worse than at first”.

I have to confess that I find this rather baffling. It baffled me when we read it in Matthew; it baffles me still. The demon leaves, goes to a dry place, can’t find a new host, so it goes back to the old host, whose inner self is now clean, and the the demon and seven buddies re-infest/re-possess the human it had recently left. OK. What is that all about? 

24 Cum immundus spiritus exierit de homine, perambulat per loca inaquosa quaerens requiem; et non inveniens dicit: “Revertar in domum meam unde exivi”.

25 Et cum venerit, invenit scopis mundatam et exornatam.

26 Et tunc vadit et assumit septem alios spiritus nequiores se, et ingressi habitant ibi; et sunt novissima hominis illius peiora prioribus”.

27 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ λέγειν αὐτὸν ταῦτα ἐπάρασά τις φωνὴν γυνὴ ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Μακαρία ἡ κοιλία ἡ βαστάσασά σε καὶ μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας.

28 αὐτὸς δὲ εἶπεν, Μενοῦν μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες.

(27) It became in the him saying these things, (Having said these things), a certain woman from the crowd lifted up her voice (and) said to him, “Blessed is the womb which bore you, and the breasts which were sucked”. (28) But he said, “But rather blessed (are) those hearing the word of God and guarding it”.


I ended the last comment (24-6) in bafflement about the unclean spirit returning. Well, here is my explanation. Those hearing the word of God are those who have driven out the evil spirits from inside them. Once rid of the spirit, the person tidies up, sweeps the place out, and then goes about their business. Such is the first part of Jesus’ response to the woman. It’s the second part that clarifies. My crib translations say “who hear the word of God and obey/keep/observe it.” But the root of the word in Greek is to keep watch, as in to guard. And this is what the person who cleaned up after the demon failed to do. S/he failed to guard the house (their body). So when the unclean spirit returned, the guard was down–the metaphorical door was left unlocked–and the spirit was able to re-enter, along with seven buddies who were even worse.

Looking at other uses of this word in the NT, to observe and to keep are very common. One could say that to keep is appropriate, since one keeps guard on a prisoner. However, in this instance, I think that fails in the metaphorical sense. The threat here is external; one is guarding against the return of the unclean spirit. Here is a great example of the “NT Greek” phenomenon; In the cross-checking against other uses the original meaning sort of gets lost. If you check the Latin below, the word used is <<custodiunt>> the root of custodian. Here we think of a janitor who is keeping watch over the place and keeping it clean. But if you think about it, he/she is guarding the place against dirt, getting broken, etc. So even in Latin the root of the word is focused on keeping out an external threat, rather than keeping in something internal like the word of God that has been heard. Picky, petty, didactic…sure. But I’ll stick with it. This is just the latest in a long line of instances where understanding the root meaning changes the way we understand the word, if only a little and subtly. As for the other uses, well, we’ll deal with them as they occur.

27 Factum est autem, cum haec diceret, extollens vocem quaedam mulier de turba dixit illi: “Beatus venter, qui te portavit, et ubera, quae suxisti!”.

28 At ille dixit: “Quinimmo beati, qui audiunt verbum Dei et custodiunt!”.

Luke Chapter 11:5-13

This was originally to be part of the previous section. However, discussion of the Our Father ran on longer than expected. So I broke this into two sections. This has expedited the publishing of the two sections, and one hopes this has been beneficial. The main story here is a piece that has appeared only in Matthew, and so is considered part of the Q material. Of course, I don’t particularly subscribe to the existence of Q, so there is that whole issue. Enough of that, let’s get straight to the


5 Καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἕξει φίλον καὶ πορεύσεται πρὸς αὐτὸν μεσονυκτίου καὶ εἴπῃ αὐτῷ, Φίλε, χρῆσόν μοι τρεῖς ἄρτους,

6 ἐπειδὴ φίλος μου παρεγένετο ἐξ ὁδοῦ πρός με καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ὃ παραθήσω αὐτῷ:

7 κἀκεῖνος ἔσωθεν ἀποκριθεὶς εἴπῃ, Μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε: ἤδη ἡ θύρα κέκλεισται, καὶ τὰ παιδία μου μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἰς τὴν κοίτην εἰσίν: οὐ δύναμαι ἀναστὰς δοῦναί σοι.

8 λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰ καὶ οὐ δώσει αὐτῷ ἀναστὰς διὰ τὸ εἶναι φίλον αὐτοῦ, διά γε τὴν ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς δώσει αὐτῷ ὅσων χρῄζει.

And he said to them, “Who of you has a friend and going towards him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, furnish me three (loaves of) bread’, (6) since my friend came from the road to me and I do not have which I will set in front of him’. (7) And he from inside answering says, ‘Do not trouble me. Indeed, the door is shut, and my boy is gone to bed. Having risen I am not able to give to you’. (8) I say to you, and if standing up he will not give to him through being his friend, through what shamelessness having arisen he will give to him (the friend) how so much he needs.  

The idea here is that the person come knocking in the night will continue to be shameless and keep asking. Eventually, the householder who has been so rudely awakened will eventually given in, get up, and give his shameless friend what is asked. The Greek is not terribly straightforward, but I’ve read a lot worse. It’s some of the most literary Greek encountered so far in the NT. I’ve been reading Xenophon’s Anabasis and Herodotus’ Histories lately, and the Greek there, especially in the latter author, is significantly more complex than what is found in the NT. Here is a good example. 

Speaking of the Greek, in Verse 7 we have the awakened one telling the importune one that “my boy has gone to bed”. Here is a great example of the use of “boy” to mean “servant”. This came up in the discussion of the Centurion’s “boy”; in Matthew, the term was ambiguous whereas Luke removed the doubt by dropping in the term for “slave”, making the relationship very clear. The use here, I think, should probably tilt the scale definitively that even in Matthew, a slave was meant, rather than a child.

These verses are only the setup for the lesson to come. So let’s proceed. 

5 Et ait ad illos: “ Quis vestrum habebit amicum et ibit ad illum media nocte et dicet illi: “Amice, commoda mihi tres panes,

6 quoniam amicus meus venit de via ad me, et non habeo, quod ponam ante illum”;

7 et ille de intus respondens dicat: “Noli mihi molestus esse; iam ostium clausum est, et pueri mei mecum sunt in cubili; non possum surgere et dare tibi”.

8 Dico vobis: Et si non dabit illi surgens, eo quod amicus eius sit, propter improbitatem tamen eius surget et dabit illi, quotquot habet necessarios.

9 κἀγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, αἰτεῖτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: ζητεῖτε, καὶ εὑρήσετε: κρούετε, καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν.

10 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει, καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει, καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγ[ής]εται.

11 τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν τὸν πατέρα αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς ἰχθύν, καὶ ἀντὶ ἰχθύος ὄφιν αὐτῷ ἐπιδώσει;

12 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν, ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον;

13 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὑπάρχοντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ [ὁ] ἐξ οὐρανοῦ δώσει πνεῦμα ἅγιον τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.

“And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. (10) For all who asks will receive, and the one seeking will find, and to the one knocking it will be opened. (11) To one of you the son asking for a fish and instead of a fish a serpent you him will give? (12) Or also will ask for an egg, he will give to him a skorpion? (13) Therefore, if you are being wicked know that the good gift to give to your children, so much more the father [who] is from the sky will give the sacred breath to those asking him.”

This is a pretty straightforward recapitulation of Matthew’s version. Once again we have a situation where only one of the previous evangelists has a story so Luke follows it fairly closely. But here’s the thing about the message conveyed here. This is the age-old story of Judaism, that YHWH is forgiving, and giving. How many times in the HS are we told that the Israelites “did evil in the site of YHWH” by chasing after the baals or the elohim or whichever pagan deity was around at the time. And yet, time after time, YHWH was willing to forgive and forget, to welcome these naughty children back into the fold, to let bygones be bygones and give everyone a fresh start. That really is the basis of the message here: that God in the sky is so much more loving than any human parent. Whereas even bad people can and will do good things for their children, God in the sky is so much better, so much more merciful, so much more giving. In short, there is no real “Christian” innovation here. Matthew (the author, or recorder of this message) was not introducing anything new. Rather, it was simply a renewed emphasis on what Judaism had always preached: the love of YHWH for the people of the covenant–which also explains the emphasis that Jesus’ death was the beginning of a New Covenant. 

Now two odd things here that a real history scholar would pick up on from this. Given that this only appears in Matthew, and given the non-existence of Q–you say it exists? Burden of proof is on you. Prove it–this message “from Jesus” was interpolated at some point between Jesus and Matthew. If Matthew didn’t invent this story, if he only recorded it, or recorded the gist of the message in his own way, then where did it come from. Hmmm…who was leading the Jesus movement for almost thirty years between the death of Jesus and the time Matthew wrote? Hmmm…Oh wait, James, brother of the Lord! And the funny thing is, Paul tells us that James was a fairly conservative individual in the sense that he wanted to maintain the ties to the background in Judaism. This is a tempting thought, at least prima facie. A more considered approach, however, should–does–bring up some problems with this. At least, there is one, and it’s the same problem I’m always bringing up about Q. If this was the message of James, and James was killed in the early 60s as Josephus says, then why wasn’t Mark aware of stuff like this? How did it bypass Mark? What this is all starting to point to is that something very significant happened in the period between the death of James, or between the destruction of the Temple and the time Matthew wrote his gospel. There was an explosion of content between Mark and Matthew. Why? What happened? At the moment, I can’t answer that. Rather, my contribution is that I have formulated the question. The answer to this that has been sitting out there for the past thousand years really does not withstand even a minimal amount of scrutiny. It’s time to ask the question and maybe get started on producing some different hypotheses on what happened.

One last thing that comes in here as a tangent. In Judges, and certainly in Kings, there is talk about the destruction of the high places. In reading about the genesis of the Persian Empire and the coming of Zoroastrianism, I’ve noted that the latter religion was also skittish about erecting images of a deity; rather, Zoroastrians preferred to worship on hilltops–IOW high places. The time period for this is much later than Elijah, by several centuries. I have to do more research on this, but if the kings of Israel were worshipping at high places, and this means Zoroastrian hilltops, do we not have as serious anachronism here? One that should seriously make us question when Kings I & II were written? Perhaps. If I’m wrong, I sure do want to hear someone explain exactly why I’m wrong. For too long the chronology of the writing of these books of the HS has gone unchallenged by any sort of critical analysis. The time for these free rides is over. It should have ended decades ago.

9 Et ego vobis dico: Petite, et dabitur vobis; quaerite, et invenietis; pulsate, et aperietur vobis.

10 Omnis enim qui petit, accipit; et, qui quaerit, invenit; et pulsanti aperietur.

11 Quem autem ex vobis patrem filius petierit piscem, numquid pro pisce serpentem dabit illi?

12 Aut si petierit ovum, numquid porriget illi scorpionem?

13 Si ergo vos, cum sitis mali, nostis dona bona dare filiis vestris, quanto magis Pater de caelo dabit Spiritum Sanctum petentibus se”.

Luke Chapter 11:1-4

This first section of this new chapter opens with the Our Father, which I pretentiously like to refer to as the Pater Noster. As an excuse, I do offer that I am a student of Classics, but that’s just an excuse. Oddly enough, since this is–supposedly–the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, it does not appear in Mark. Given this absence in Mark, I find it really hard to believe two things. First, this lack in Mark seems to put a serious crimp in the idea that he is writing stuff from Peter. Add this and the fact that Mark does not record the “upon this rock” statement, IMO, really seems to blow a big hole in this bit of tradition. Mark is either unaware of so much of Jesus’ teaching–the biggest and best parts, it could be argued–or he chose not to record these biggest and best parts. Why did he not record the Sermon on the Mount? Why did he not record the Our Father? Those are very serious questions. Sure, perhaps this borders on the Argument from Silence, but that is only a fallacy when there is reason to believe that the author could have and should have known about the issue on which she or he is being silent. In both cases, Mark recording Peter should have known about these two pieces of Jesus’ teaching; if so, then he simply chose not to report them, and the “Rock” speech, too? On top of that, Mark is very hostile to Peter, and all the disciples, for that matter, throughout his gospel. This is a third strike against Mark being Peter’s disciple. I think that canard needs to buried, once and for all.

The second thing that it makes it hard to believe is that the Lord’s Prayer came from Jesus. Once again, here is another really major teaching of Jesus that went underground for 40 years, only to reappear in Matthew’s gospel? Sorry. That is really implausible. So this ends up in the bucket with all the other Q material.

Then there is the whole bit about whether Matthew’s version of this prayer is the more primitive, or whether Luke does. However, this presupposes the existence of Q; without Q, the question of the more “primitive” version becomes nonsensical. Matthew has the more primitive version, because Matthew wrote first. So his is the more primitive. End of story. However, I believe the Q people believe Luke has the more primitive version; but then, Luke is almost always said to be the more primitive. This is odd since Luke wrote later than Matthew. You see, the Q people tend to believe, whether they admit it or not–whether they’re even aware of it or not–that Q was completely static. They take it for given that once Q was written, it was carved in stone and not a word of it changed. Which is ridiculous because it’s impossible. Any hand-copied text will change with transmission. The only exception would be that Q was actually carved in stone, and then set up somewhere for everyone to see. This is the example of the stele of Hammurabi: the law was carved in stone and then put on public display. Again, whether they realize it or not, the Q people assume something very much like this happened with the Q text. Make that the Q text.

Enough of this, let’s get to the


1Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενον, ὡς ἐπαύσατο, εἶπέν τις τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν, Κύριε, δίδαξον ἡμᾶς προσεύχεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ Ἰωάννης ἐδίδαξεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ.

And it happened in that he was in a certain place praying, so that he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, in the same way John taught his disciples.

The Greek at the beginning of the sentence is a bit interesting. There is a rather peculiar combination of accusative mixed in with using the infinitive as a substantive. The bit <<ἐν τῷ εἶναι  >> should be something like “in the being”, like “in the (time he) was being…”, but then the verb << εἶναι >> gets combined with the accusative << αὐτὸν >> which is accusative case, but it stands in as the subject of “to be”. So deucedly clever Luke to come up with this.

As for the content, the set up is very paper thin. He’s in a certain place and we aren’t even told which of the disciples asked the question. This is a very clear case of making up the setting in order to spring the punchline. Add this to the list of reasons why this prayer does not actually trace back to Jesus himself.

Finally, there is the last bit. According to this unnamed disciple, John taught his disciples how to pray, so Jesus’ disciples are asking Jesus to do the same for them. This is also unique to Luke, and one wonders what the genesis of this comment was. Oddly, because it’s so odd, I would be willing to consider whether Luke didn’t tap into a tradition that had been maintained by John-the-Baptistians. Based on Josephus’ treatments of Jesus and John, even assuming that everything in our text was actually written by Josephus, and was not a later Christian interpolation–which I doubt very much–John gets a much bigger chunk of Josephus’ time and writing. In short, based strictly on Josephus’ testimony, John was likely the more popular of the two–at least among Jews. We need to remember here that Josephus was a Jew, writing to explain Jews to the Romans. As such, he would naturally have given more attention to a figure who was more popular among Jews. And we have commented that John, for whatever novelty he introduced, seems to have remained firmly ensconced in the “mainstream” of Jewish tradition. (For that matter, Jesus probably was, too, until Paul and others started introducing seriously Greek thought into Jesus’ message.) The point here that, even to Luke’s time, which approximated the time when Josephus was writing because the lives of Luke and Josephus overlapped to no small degree, it is entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that there were still groups of John-the-Baptistians floating about the eastern Mediterranean, in particular in the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea, and perhaps a few others. So it is just possible that Luke came across some such adherents and added this bit to acknowledge this existence.

Admittedly, this is a stretch, and likely a big one. But why else is this in here? Why did Luke feel it necessary, or even desirable, to add this little detail. Had it been omitted, no one would have noticed. We’re talking about it because it is there; were it not, the hole would not be detected. The Q people demand a redactionally consistent interpretation of everything Luke says that is different from Matthew. Well, there is a lot of that. Where the anti-Q people go wrong, IMO, is first to concede to this demand. Really? They have to prove the existence of Q; the burden of proof is on them. It is not for the n0n-Q people to disprove its existence. Secondly, and only slightly less importantly, is to try to do this while only focusing on the stuff that is supposedly in Q. If one is to give a redactionally consistent explanation of Luke, it has to be done in toto, and not just about selected material. Remember my suggestions–which may have become worthy to be called an argument, but maybe not–that Matthew was a pagan, and was writing to reach a wider audience of pagans? Well, Luke is acknowledged a pagan. In spite of–or is it because of?–this, I’ve started to suggest that Luke is trying to pull this back into the Jewish context to some degree. Hence the introduction of Samaritans. So maybe that is what Luke is doing here, and he could be doing it whether or not he was aware of any John-the-Baptistians still hanging about. But were there any, there is no reason to suppose that Luke would not have been aware of them.

One final aspect of this is that there is this completely unchallenged assumption, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the gospels were written once and then never changed. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a safe assumption. The authors are anonymous; it is entirely possible that these works were edited, perhaps expanded over time. Perhaps that is what happened to Mark, which prompted Matthew bring in all these new developments and then to re-write Mark in order to bring Mark up to date, and so create a “new” gospel. In the same may be true of Luke. Maybe Matthew was confronted by four or five versions of Mark, so he fit them altogether, adding what he thought was of value (Sermon on the Mount) and omitting things he found not so valuable (many of the magical practices). Then perhaps the same happened with Luke. Really, though, it’s more likely that Matthew, Luke, and John incorporated later traditions or developments that were largely transmitted orally. But it’s something that needs to be considered and discussed, and not just assumed. There has been altogether too much of that.

That’s a lot of commentary on a single line. 

1 Et factum est cum esset in loco quodam orans, ut cessa vit, dixit unus ex discipulis eius ad eum: “Domine, doce nos orare, sicut et Ioannes docuit discipulos suos”.

2 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Οταν προσεύχησθε, λέγετε, Πάτερ, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου: ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου:

3 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν:

He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, let your name be blessed; let your kingdom come, give to us the our bread of existence each day.

Gotta stop here. Note: it begins simply “Father”. Not “our father”. What are we to make of that? Per Kloppenborg, who appears to be the single major proponent of Q (and who, to my chagrin, teaches at the University of Toronto, my alma mater), this is the more “primitive” version, and this is how the pater starts in his/their reconstruction of Q. So why did Matthew change it to “our father”? That’s never explained. As far as I can tell, the operative principle here is something akin to Occam’s Razor; since Luke has fewer words here, and when he says more simply, “blessed are the poor”, the fewer words makes it the more primitive version. The thinking is that versions get elaborated and not reduced. And that is not a terrible operating principle. There could be many worse. But that is not to concede that it’s the only principle, or even necessarily the best. It’s simply better than some, while possibly being worse than others. 

The point of this is that the Q people demand the redacti0naly consistent interpretation (RCI) for any instance when Luke “changes” Matthew’s word order, or arrangement, if we are going to argue that Luke read and used Matthew. OK. Kind of reverses the usual order of proof, but, OK. So do they have an RCI for each time that Matthew deviates from Q? Anyone? Bueller? Why do I only hear crickets? Why did Matthew change it to “our father”? Well, because…it sounds better. Sure, after two millennia of saying it Matthew’s way, we’ve come to assume that it’s somehow better, more correct. But is it? Is it really? Why? It has, perhaps, the advantage of sounding more “correct” when spoken by a congregation, but does it really? Why can’t each person simply say “Father”? After all, we all say “credo”, I believe. 

 So why did Luke drop the “our”? Or, if this is from Q, why did Matthew add it?  One could argue that Matthew added it to foster the sense of universal siblinghood among the communities of Jesus. That would be reasonable. And it would be equally reasonable to suggest that Luke dropped it because it’s redundant. I suppose one could also say Luke dropped it because he’s telling the disciples to say this when they pray as individuals. In which case it would make more sense to call Luke’s the more primitive version, since Matthew added the “our” when this became a communal, rather than a personal prayer. But did that necessarily come later? It could easily be argued that the communal prayer came first; that groups of initiates were taught the prayer to be said in unison, so it was “our” father. Then, later, the prayer became more individualized, so Luke dropped the “our” to reflect this development. I can see this going either way.

Again, it’s important to admit that questions like this will not be, indeed cannot be answered in a forum such as this. But it’s even more important to acknowledge that these questions need to be asked. And they require serious consideration and an equally serious response. It is not at all sufficient for the Q people to pooh-pooh the very idea that perhaps, just maybe, Q never existed.

2 Et ait illis: “ Cum oratis, dicite: / Pater, sanctificetur nomen tuum, / adveniat regnum tuum; 

3 panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis cotidie,

4 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν: καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.

” ‘And discharge for us our sins, for and we discharge to all debts to us. And do not carry us towards trial.

Now this is really interesting. And I mean, really interesting. We discussed this when we did Matthew’s version. There, Jesus is telling the disciples << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν >>. Here, Luke says << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν >>. These two words have very different meanings. Matthew’s word means debts, as in monetary debts owed to creditors. Luke’s word means sins, as in mortal and venal sins. Two words, two meanings, two very different sets of implications. The other thing to note is the word used for “take away” does not really mean forgive, in the sense that we generally understand the word in English. One can forgive a debt, but that has a technical, legalistic meaning. It is similar to, but not the same as, forgiving a sin. Hence I translated as “discharge”. And just out of curiosity, I checked the Vulgate version of Matthew, and it follows the Greek: here the Latin is peccata, “sins”; there the Latin is debita, “debts”. So the different words were not glossed over in the Vulgate.

Now here’s the thing. The surrounding language seems to fit better with Matthew’s version, in which we talk about debts. It seems less attuned to Luke’s version, using “sins”. Because he says “discharge our sins” as “we discharge all debts owed to us”. So Luke reverts to “debts”. Is this “editorial fatigue”? Must have been a tough couple of word that Luke got fatigued that quickly. But the point is that if the original concept was “debt” rather than “sin”, it’s almost impossible to say that Luke’s is the more primitive version. Luke changed the original word. If the original was “debt”, which is what the entire structure seems to require, then this change of Luke more or less precludes it being the more primitive version.  Why is that important? Because it reflects back to the beginning, “father” vs. “our father”. Did Luke change that, too? So if Luke made two changes, then the idea that his version is more primitive gets even harder to defend. This brings us to another really annoying aspect of the Q argument: Luke is considered to be the more primitive version, the one more like Q, except when he isn’t. There is more than a bit of legerdemain involved. But it’s worse than that; there is a real element of intellectual dishonesty at work. All these twists and turns and curlicues should be a seriously red flag; if the status of Q is so secure and so obvious, all of these back-flips to make it all work would not be necessary. I honestly think that part of the motivation for labeling Luke as the more primitive, is that it allows the existence of the document to carry further ahead in time, which does provide a bit more basis for the existence of the document. Except it really doesn’t, but it seems like it should. Read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his refutation of the ontological argument for God and you’ll know what I mean. Saying that an hypothetical document lasted 40 years instead of 30 doesn’t make said document any more real. 

4 et dimitte nobis peccata nostra, / si quidem et ipsi dimittimus omni debenti nobis, / et ne nos inducas in tentationem ”.


Summary Matthew Chapter 11

This chapter was not particularly long (30 verses), and, perhaps as a result, it is thematically fairly uniform. In fact, it’s almost to the point of a single theme: the end times.

We started with John asking “are you the one?” This set the tone, because this is not an idle question. We then get to citations of Isaiah and Malachi, both of them predicting the signs of the end times, or even, per Malachi, Judgement Day. To my mind, this quote from Malachi was a real eye-opener. I believe it’s one of the most significant citations of HS that we’ve come across so far. The date that the book of Malachi was written is subject to a lot of conjecture. It had to have been written after the Second Temple was completed in 515 BCE. It uses the Persian term for governor, which nominally puts it sometime before 330 (approx) BCE, when the Persians were overthrown by Alexander. However, note that these are what are called termini post quem; they must date after these two things: after the rebuilding of the Temple and after a Persian governor was installed. However, there is no real terminus ante quem, a point before which this had to be completed. Such an event would be an extremely significant event; well, we could say it had to take place before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, but that doesn’t help us much.

Similarities with Nehemiah have led many to believe that it falls into the 400s BCE; however, there s a marked tendency in Biblical scholarship to date the writing of a book to the time in which the events described took place; on this analogy, Daniel was written during the Exile, when use of Greek terms for musical instruments would put it significantly later. I tend to think that a lot of the HS dates to periods later than generally thought. I base this opinion on the inference that much of the “history” in the HS is nothing of the sort. For example, Judges supposedly relates events that occurred in the 1200s BCE, but there is a reference to iron in Chapter 1 that puts it significantly later than that. I have experience with the early books of Livy, who wrote a history of Rome ab urbe condita: from the founding of the city. Most of the history in these early books is borderline nonsense. Even the events of the first century of the Republic–the same period in which Malachi was supposedly written–is legendary at best, fiction at worst. And Rome actually had reasonably good documentation. The fact of the matter is that the HS–and the NT–are primarily religious works; any history contained is incidental and almost beside the fact. In some ways, Malachi could easily fall into the period of the Selecucids, or even later.

The eternal theme–the tendency of Israel (actually, Judah) to abandon YHWH for foreign ways and gods. This scenario is true for almost the entire history (which is much, much shorter than the HS would have us believe) of the “kingdom” of Judah. During the early 1970s in the USA, there was sort of a moratorium on making movies about Vietnam. So war protest movies were set in the Korean War (M*A*S*H) or even WWII (Catch-22). So setting the action of Malachi during the Persian occupation could be a way getting a message about the current situation across allegorically: Hey, this isn’t about now. It’s about what happened a century ago. Any resemblance to the current situation is purely coincidental. Honest!

Just as honestly, an earlier date would actually suit my point as well as the much later date that I suspect. My point is that the existence of Malachi, and it’s predictions of Judgement Day really have to make us stop and reconsider our attitude towards Jesus as a preacher of apocalypse. What I think Malachi shows-and demosnstrates pretty conclusively–is that the idea of a coming apocalypse, a coming Judgement, was thoroughly ingrained into mainstream Jewish thought (whatever that’s supposed to mean) by the time Jesus lived. As such, by talking about a kingdom to come, Jesus may not have been talking about something alien, or even novel, to the minds of his contemporaries. If this is true, then there are several implications. First and foremost, it could mean that Jesus may not have had an interpretation on the topic that was terribly different from that of a dozen other preachers of his time. But that’s not the end of it: Jesus himself may not have really had anything particular, or specific, in mind when he talked about the kingdom. He may not have had a terribly clear notion of what he meant himself. Think about that for a moment or two. Far from being a central part, an integral part of his teaching, this may have been a fairly vague concept that really didn’t have any unique, or even new, aspects to it. Just as the idea of redemption, or repentance may mean a lot of different things to different people, so might the idea of a kingdom to come have meant a lot of different things to the various people who heard the message. In fact, it may have meant different things, at different times, for Jesus himself.

This would explain a few things–or at least one big thing. This lack of specificity would very effectively explain why it’s so hard to piece together what Jesus has in mind when he talks about “the kingdom”, or “the life”, or “saving one’s soul”. I’ve commented on this a few times, about how difficult it is to figure out what, or how exactly one becomes worthy of the kingdom, or rather, what it means to be worthy of the kingdom. It was’nt spelled out in Paul, or even Mark, and hasn’t so far in Matthew–and I suspect won’t be; of course, I could be wrong about that. i can’t figure out what Jesus means because he really hasn’t thought it through and come up with a meaning.

We started with John’s question. Jesus answered by citing Isaiah and Malachi. What Jesus quoted are the signs that Isaiah’s coming of the Lord, and Malachi’s Judgement Day are approaching. Jesus is ticking off the warnings on the list of the prophecies, all of which point to this. But…what will happen? If you stop to think, that question isn’t answered until Revelations. The time of troubles in Mark was hindsight, not a foretelling. Paul is the most specific when he talks about the Lord coming down with the angels on a cloud, and all the faithful rising up to meet him. But we have no real indications–nothing truly definitive–that Mark and/or Matthew were aware of anything Paul wrote. Even then, if I knew my HS better, I would perhaps be able to tell you that Paul got this imagery from the HS. By paying attention to the quotations cited, I’ve come to realize just how much of “Jesus'” message is actually stuff that’s in the HS. IOW, much of Christianity is not new at all; it’s just Jesus’ Jewish heritage coming through.

And while we’re on the subject of John, let’s not forget what his message was. He preached repentence; what did Malichi, and Isaiah, and countless other Hebrew prophets preach? Repentence, of course. And Isaiah and Malachi specifically connected this repentance with a divine event. Jesus continues this (Mk 1:14-16), preaching the coming of the kingdom, which means we should repent. Now, we are not told specifically that John preached the kingdom/day of the Lord/Judgement Day, we have such events preached both before John by prophets, and after John by Jesus. It doesn’t take any great act of logic to fill in the blank and infer that John had such a message, too. The standard Hebrew prophet preached repentance to regain the favour of YHWH. Is that such a big step from the concept of the kingdom? Yes, it’s a step. But how big of a step? The point of all of this is to demonstrate that a coming divine event–a kingdom?–was simply an expectation. It was expected by so many Jews that this aspect of Jesus’ teaching was not anything remarkable so it required no elaboration of teaching. But, I suspect, it would have been remarkable had Jesus not included this in his teaching.

The point is that maybe we should not look too deeply into this teaching of the kingdom. We may not find a coherent answer

But–this message of the kingdom would have been novel for a different audience — pagans. This raises the question of, if Matthew was writing for pagans, and was a former pagan, why didn’t he feel the need to explain the kingdom more fully or effectively. It’s an excellent question. It’s one that I should feel obligated to answer if I’m going to be convincing with my poistion/argument about this. At this point, I don’t have an answer; but, with luck and some more reading and consideration, perhaps  I’ll come up with one. Answers to questions have presented themselves as I’ve gone along. And, if I don’t–or can’t–answer this, then I have to reassess my position on this; but no biggie. I am obligated to reassess in light of all new evidence, or lack thereof.

Another implication would be the need to look again at the message of Mark. If Jesus was not remarkable as a preacher of apocalypse, why did people continue to remark on him after his death? Let me rephrase that: if Jesus was just another preacher of apocalypse, what made him special? Why did his message catch on, and not someone else’s? For much of Mark, the answer to that seems to be that he was a worker of wonders. That, apparently, is how he was remembered by a great many people. So many, in fact that they represented a very strong tradition, perhaps the primar tradition until the Christ-belief gradually took over. The Christ tradition, of course, began with Paul, was carried forward by Mark, and then either merged with an existing tradition of Jesus-as-Divine, or this latter was created by Matthew. Without really analysing, or bothering with anything like evidence or arguments, my suspicion is that this tradition, if not entirely created by Matthew, was finalized, and formalized, and canonized by Matthew.

This idea needs to be pursued further, but it’s probably out of scope for this summary. It’s a wild goose I want to chase, but I need to mention one more thing and then wrap up. Regarding the section of the “woes” to the various towns, I do believe this is meant to be taken, or should be taken as the passing of the torch to the pagans from the Jews. The time of the latter as followers of Jesus has largely passed. The community of Jerusalem, the heart and soul of the movement for the first several decades, is defunct by the time Matthew wrote. The combination of the death of James, followed fairly soon by the Jewish War and the destruction of the city ended Jerusalem’s primacy, and the death of James likely removed the major figure who was keeping the Jesus movement anchored in Judaism. But both anchors, James and the city were gone, and the movement dispersed to the outlying churches. And this meant more pagans, and this meant that the tipping point of the membership to predominantly pagan had passed by the time Matthew wrote. For Mark, when he wrote, I suspect he saw that the future of the church was with the pagans, which meant he had to explain why it had not caught on among Jews. Hence, the great secret of Jesus. He attracted huge crowds, but kept the secret to himself so that the Jews didn’t catch on. That, of course, is speculation, but I think it’s pretty clear here in Matthew that he’s got a largely pagan audience in mind. Whether or not Matthew started life as a pagan or a Jew is something to be argued; to this point, it’s been assumed, and that is not how it should be done. The woes to the towns of Galilee can tell us that their moment as centres of the Jesus movement had passed, but the woes don’t provide much insight about Matthew’s personal origins.

Almost forgot! Perhaps the most theologically significant aspect of this chapter is the identification of the father and the son.  Mark would never have made this statement. We know this because Mark clearly didn’t make a statement to this effect. Ergo, the identity of Jesus had undergone a radical transformation between Mark and Matthew. Hence the birth story, and this equation of father and son. in Mark, Jesus, or the “Son of Man” was clearly acting on behalf of the Father, but that’s just it: the Son of Man was the Father’s agent. He did not know the hour of the time of tribulation. Here, however, the Son has been given all by the Father. There are no secrets. The birth narrative, while demonstrating Jesus’ divine nature, still leaves him in the role of the Greek heroes: one divine and one human parent. This is a step beyond the adoptionism of Mark, but it’s not the Eternal Logos of John. But with the divine birth and the equation of the Son and Father, we’re now closer–much closer–to the latter than we are to Mark. The needle has moved a very long way.

So lots of themes that bear watching.

Matthew Chapter 11:20-30

This will conclude Chapter 11. We left off with Jesus talking about John and the relationship between John and Jesus.

20 Τότε ἤρξατο ὀνειδίζειν τὰς πόλεις ἐν αἷς ἐγένοντο αἱ πλεῖσται δυνάμεις αὐτοῦ, ὅτι οὐ μετενόησαν:

Then he began to upbraid the cities in which came into being the most of his exercises of power, that had not repented.

I’m sure I’ve discussed the word << δυνάμεις >>, which is rendered as “virtutes” in Latin. The latter, of course, is the root of the English “virtue”. The KJV and a couple of more recent translations give this as “mighty works” while the NIV goes right to “miracles”. And this latter is how the Greek is most often translated, or the way it has come to be most often translated. I don’t like this, because the Latin root, “miracula” most properly means “wonders” and not necessarily in the good sense. For example, a magician’s trick could be described as a “miraculum” (singular form), and we would certainly never use the term “miracle” for such an exhibition. As time passed, this came to be the word for “miracle’ in ecclesiastical Latin, supplanting “virtus” which went on to become “virtue”. The root of the Greek word is power, in the sense of having the ability to do something, rather than the power conferred by holding an official position. I do prefer the KJV’s “mighty works” over “miracles”, but that still sounds like it could be describing the construction of the aqueduct of Segovia, or something such. “Works of power” may capture the sense of the Greek.

And is it just me, or is this another abrupt transition? “Then” is extremely minimal, providing no real sense of continuity, let alone causality. There is pretty much no explanation of how this relates to what had gone just before. So why the abrupt transition? Is it fair of me to ask this question, when most of Mark’s verses begin simply with “and”? To some degree the difference is that I haven’t read countless encomia to Mark’s masterful organization of material as I have for Matthew, usually as the sole argument for Q. That is just incredibly short-sighted. Here is a great example where it’s really easy to envision that Matthew had a bunch of separate stories, unconnected and unrelated to each other that he then pieced together in sort of a linear mosaic. (Not a bad metaphor, if I do say so myself…)  If you want to argue that Matthew used other sources, then here you are. And note, this is not said to be in the original stratum of Q. But it sure is in Luke, so it must have been in one of the later iterations of Q, but that means Q loses all purpose. There are two reasons why scholars defend Q unto the death: First (and foremost), it allows the possibility that some of the things Matthew and Luke say could trace back to Jesus (blessed are the poor….) Second, it allows the independence of Matthew and Luke, so Luke can be cited as corroboration of Matthew. Sorry, doesn’t fly. There likely were other sources available to Matthew, some of them even written, but there is nothing to demonstrate effectively that Luke must have been, or most likely was, independent of Matthew.

20 Tunc coepit exprobrare civitatibus, in quibus factae sunt plurimae virtutes eius, quia non egissent paenitentiam:

21 Οὐαί σοι, Χοραζίν: οὐαί σοι, Βηθσαϊδά: ὅτι εἰ ἐν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἐγένοντο αἱ δυνάμειςαἱ γενόμεναι ἐν ὑμῖν, πάλαι ἂν ἐν σάκκῳ καὶ σποδῷ μετενόησαν.

22 πλὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως ἢ ὑμῖν.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! That if in Tyre and Sidon had been the works of power that came into being in you, long ago in sackcloth and ashes they would have repented. (22) Except I say to you, Tyre and Sidon will be more tolerable on the day of judgement than for you.

The thing here would be to know the fates of Chorazin and Bethsaida during the Jewish Rebellion. Were they destroyed? A quick Google search tells me that both these cities are in Galilee. Apparently Bethsaida had become fairly wealthy, but then went into decline. I didn’t get the sense that the timing of this decline has not ben entirely nailed down; archaeological dating can be imprecise, plus/minus a decade or two is often considered a good date. So this  will require some additional research. The same will be true for Caphernaum. All were in Galilee; while Galilee had been a hotbed of unrest, I don’t know the subsequent history of the region. Unfortunately, research into this may have become the purview of biblical scholarship; as such, I’m not optimistic about the findings. I was often unimpressed by the approach taken by contributors to Biblical Archaeolgy Review.

And the Malachi quote that we got in the last section was very useful. Now I know that the idea of Judgement Day was sort of in the air. It was a theme, or a motif, or an idea with which people were reasonably familiar. It was the sort of expression that could be tossed around that would be understood, but at the same time not necessarily be taken too seriously. When an idea becomes part of the wallpaper of life, then it starts to lose whatever emotional impact it may have had at one point. As such, I don’t have to worry back and forth about what this means, what sort of development it indicates. It doesn’t necessarily indicate anything, except perhaps that this idea had become part of the background noise of the era. 

That realization, however, presents a new set of problems. If the idea of Judgement Day was sort of there, then any references to it by the evangelists may not have a lot of import. If Jesus was one of many prophets of doom, then he wasn’t necessarily anything special, and his teaching on this isn’t necessarily anything special. As such, how much time and energy do we need to expend trying to work out the implications of what Jesus is said to be discussing? Offhand, I’m not sure of what the answer to that is. What sort of impact does this have on the idea of the kingdom? Was the kingdom this vague concept because it was just kind of a generic thing? 

Think about that for a moment. Was this phrase, or idea, used casually, without necessarily implying dire events? The modus operandi for this sort of utterance is to take it with deadly seriousness, as if every word had been weighed before it was written for theological implications of this sort. This is done because this has been the method used by subsequent readers for the past two millennia. But Matthew may not have done that. He was writing to impart a Greater Truth; absolute precision in every word and sentence may not have been carefully considered in the way theology or philosophy scholars write, or would have written the gospels. We need to think about that possibilitly. And the possibility (probability?) that Matthew was using a number of sources only increases this likelihood, I think. Such cobbling together of source material often leads to conflicting, or even contradictory expessions. Now, of course, this isn’t a consideration if every word is divinely inspired, but that is not my approach.

21 “Vae tibi, Chorazin! Vae tibi, Bethsaida! Quia si in Tyro et Sidone factae essent virtutes, quae factae sunt in vobis, olim in cilicio et cinere paenitentiam egissent.

22 Verumtamen dico vobis: Tyro et Sidoni remissius erit in die iudicii quam vobis.

23 καὶ σύ, Καφαρναούμ, μὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ; ἕως ἅιδου καταβήσῃ. ὅτι εἰ ἐν Σοδόμοις ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ γενόμεναι ἐν σοί, ἔμεινεν ἂν μέχρι τῆς σήμερον.

24 πλὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι γῇ Σοδόμων ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως ἢ σοί.

“And you, Caphernaum, were you not lifted up unto heaven? Down to Hades you will be cast down. That if in Sodom had been the works of power which came into being in you, it would remain even unto this very day. 

Here’s a question: Jesus singles out Caphernaum, where he presumably moved to, but not Nazareth, where he was supposedly born. Why the silence on Nazareth? We haven’t come to the point in the narrative that corresponds to Mark 6, where Jesus can perform no works of power in his (unnamed) hometown. In Matthew’s version, the hometown is unnamed as well. Now, is Nazareth spared the woe because it hadn’t seen any miracles? Because Jesus worked none there? Or because Matthew sort of forgot that this was supposed to be Jesus’ hometown? 

Hades? That’s interesting. The word shows of up six times in Matthew and Luke/Acts, a single time in 1 Corinthians, and in four times more in Revelation. IOW, this is not a common word in the NT. Boy howdy, this sure strikes me as a pretty good indication that Luke had read Matthew, especially since it shows up in Luke’s version of this story, too. To have such an uncommon word show up in Matthew and Luke and almost nowhere else, well, that seems to be a bit more than coincidental. We had Gehenna in Mark, we had Gehenna earlier in Matthew, and now we get Hades. Why the switch? Are there nuances separating the two? Of course, we could explain this 

And while we’re talking about Matthew, Luke, and Q, I went off on the question of sources, of where this came from. This is not in the original stratum of Q, but it is in both Matthew and Luke. If it’s not in Q, then how did it get into both Matthew and Luke, if Luke didn’t read Matthew?

And while we’re talking about Hades, let’s talk a moment about Matthew’s background. In the previous verses I mentioned the banality of the idea of Judgement Day in Jewish cultural thought. Does that indicate that Matthew was, indeed, Jewish? At first glance, I might even be tempted to think so. As I was writing that I had pause to consider how that affected my idea that Matthew was a pagan. Didn’t Matthew’s treatment Judgement Day weigh against that? Well, now we have Hades. As we saw in Mark, Gehenna was specific to Judea, dating back to days of sacrifice to Baal, or Moloch or whichever one it was. Hades, however, is a Greek concept. Now, Matthew we know spoke Greek, read the HS in the Greek LXX rather than in Hebrew, so wouldn’t Hades also be one of those ideas that’s out there in the air? It’s possible. If so, though, that gives us an idea that some aspects of the two cultures were pretty thoroughly intermingled. I don’t know what the implications of that are, but it’s something else to consider as we progress. We’re loading up on those things to consider. 

Now note one thing: In both of these sequences the Israelite towns are being condemned, and the pagan towns are being raised up. It will be better for Tyre and Sidon on Judgement Day, and the people of Sodom–Sodom!–would have repented having seen the wonders that Caphernaum had seen. Hmm. t seems like what we have here is the Jewish towns–and populace–being superseded by pagan towns–and populace. Isn’t this what has been happening in the Jesus movement in general? Hmm.  

I was a bit flummoxed by this section, about what it was supposed to mean, why it was here. My initial reaction was that Jesus was “predicting” the destruction of these places in the “coming” Jewish War. Now I don’t think so. Now I believe this was about the changing of the composition of the followers of Jesus. It’s about how and why the Jews were no longer the prevalent group: they had ignored the evidence before them while erstwhile pagans saw these same signs, understood, and repented. And note that this is not a situation that would have been prevalent during Jesus’ lifetime. It’s not something that would have been true in the 50s, when the earliest stratum of Q would have been written. It’s a situation that would have come into being only sometime after the end of the Jewish War, and even then it likely would have taken time. IOW, it’s a situation that would only have existed some time after Mark, but sometime before Matthew.

So consider that: circumstances that pertained only in the mid-to-late 70s CE. So, IOW, this had to end up in the second stratum of Q, become disseminated, come to Matthew’s notice who included it, and continued to circulate as Q until Luke got ahold of it, and then it conveniently disappeared. Or, Matthew wrote about circumstances in his time, Luke read Matthew and…that’s it. Which of these explanations seems more probable? Or let’s rephrase that to make it a littler easier to decide: which of the explanations is less complex, has fewer working parts? That makes it a bit easier to choose, doesn’t it? No one that I’ve read thinks that all of the stuff in Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark was written at the same time. So, what that means is that Q has been created for the sole purpose of having Matthew and Luke as independent writers, not because it really solves any problems. Q may have existed, but it could just as easily not have existed, and we would get to the same point as we are. Q is not necessary; as such, we have to ask if it’s the best solution. I don’t believe it is. 

23 Et tu, Capharnaum, numquid usque in caelum exaltaberis? Usque in infernum descendes! Quia si in Sodomis factae fuissent virtutes, quae factae sunt in te, mansissent usque in hunc diem.

24 Verumtamen dico vobis: Terrae Sodomorum remissius erit in die iudicii quam tibi ”.

25 Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἔκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις:

26 ναί, ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου.

“On that day you will answer,” Jesus said, “I confess to you, father, lord of the heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and the prudent, you have revealed them to children. (26) Yes, father, that in this way it was pleasant before you. 

 “That day” refers to Judgement Day, of course. Hiding things from the wise and revealing them to the foolish is a close paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 1:19. Is it close enough that independent derivation–whether by Matthew or someone else–to be impossible? Probably not. I don’t think that Matthew necessarily had read Paul, but I think in some way Matthew became aware of the sentiment through some aspect of the tradition. And here’s the thing. Overall, there is very little reason to suspect that Matthew had direct knowledge of Paul’s writings. As such, I’m willing to consider that Matthew/Mark and Paul do represent independent sources. Given that, I believe there is a better–much better, in fact–chance that the idea here can be attributed to Jesus than can be said of “blessed are the poor”. I think that Jesus may have said that what is hidden from the wise is revealed to children, while I’m very skeptical about the Beatitudes.

Now, having said that, the word here translated as “prudent” occurs four times in the NT. Once here, once in Luke’s version, in 1 Corinthians–which is a variation on this theme–and againg in Acts in an unrelated passage. The same word, repeated in the same context sure does look like there is a written source behind it. What is that source. Q? And yet Paul used it, so it’s much more likely that the written source either was Paul, or was derived from Paul. Then Luke got it directly from Matthew. That would work against Jesus having said this. So what’s my final opinion? Did Jesus use this example? Probably not, but it gets closer–much closer–that “blessed are the poor” which doesn’t show up until Matthew. And the fact that it skipped Mark, I think, makes the derivation from Paul more likely. Matthew wrote 30+ years after Paul, at a time when the movement was increasingly made up of pagans. Matthew wrote outside Judea/Galilee (supposedly). Given all of this, it’s not impossible to believe that some portion, or scraps of Paul were available to him whereas the dissemination of Paul’s writings or words hadn’t spread out sufficiently to reach Mark.

Here’s a thought: the idea expressed here has a certain Zen quality to it. It’s the same underlying concept as the koan; the Truth of Jesus is something that can’t be understood through the rational mind = by the wise. The understanding of a child is much more plastic and much less hidebound by rules. I had never considered that this may be part of what Paul means by “sola fides”. Just a thought.

And speaking of hidebound, I’m being a bit hidebound by insisting on translating it as “pleasing it in front of you”.   But then, that is my purpose here, to help all those poor students taking introductory NT Greek…

25 In illo tempore respondens Iesus dixit: “ Confiteor tibi, Pater, Domine caeli et terrae, quia abscondisti haec a sapientibus et prudentibus et revelasti ea parvulis.

26 Ita, Pater, quoniam sic fuit placitum ante te.

27 Πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπιγινώσκειτὸν υἱὸν εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, οὐδὲ τὸν πατέρα τις ἐπιγινώσκει εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι.

(27) All has been handed over to me from my father, and no one knows the son except the father, and no one knows the father except the son, and the one to whom the son wishes to reveal (it/him).

This, OTOH, is a foreshadow of John’s gospel, which won’t be written for another twenty years (give or take). Here is where we start to see the identification of Jesus with God the Father. The two were distinctly separate in Mark; there was no real attempt to equate them. In Matthew, I believe this is the second time we’ve run into a situation like this, where the evangelist deliberately inserts language to make us understand the unity between the two. And here is probably a good example of how Matthew–or any of the evangelists, save possibly John–were not systematic theologians. A sentence like this opens up an entirely new vista for theological implication and review. And yet, Matthew drops this on us and doesn’t follow up with anything else that would explain, or expand, or even acknowledge what he’s done here. And once again, I wonder if we are not getting the tail end of another tradition, perpetuated by a group that saw Jesus as divine, but perhaps a god himself rather than just the son of a god. That is pure speculation on my part, but it does address the problem a sentence like this causes.

I did a word search through what we’ve read of Matthew and Mark, and I didn’t find anything similar to this. The closest was Mark saying that only the father knew the hour and not the son. But that is the opposite of this, contrasting the two rather than making them equal. In this recent passage the son is given all by the father. “All” of course, is properly vague, but I wouldn’t take it in our absolutist terms. This could, in fact, be a direct response to the passage in Mark, in which the son was not given all.  The question then becomes, who is pushing back against that? Is it another group? Or is it Matthew? While I said that this is the first time we’ve come across this sort of passage in Matthew, he has gone out of his way to establish that Jesus is divine, if not quite stressing his equality with the father. Regardless, the point exists that Jesus is moving up the ladder, closer to the heavens.

Aside from that, the role of the son as the gatekeeper to the father is an interesting innovation. It will, of course, be picked up by John. There is doubtless some significance to this role, to this portrayal of the son, but I’m not entirely sure what it might mean. Both Calvin & Matthew Henry take this passage to be about salvation. Christians are taught to approach Jesus for salvation, but in light of this passage, it seems that Jesus is the conduit, that salvation ultimately comes from the father, not Jesus. If I am reading that correctly (most people will emphatically claim that I am not), what we’re seeing here is sort of a transition thought. Jesus is not the one granting; Jesus is the intercessor for us before the father. Of course, that’s assuming we’re talking about salvation here; the word is never mentioned, nor is ‘the life’. But I think that is the (possible) meaning here. What exactly was taught about salvation remains tantalizingly, maddeningly, just out of reach in the text. I know what later Christians believed and taught, but it’s still not completely clear what Matthew and his crew believed and taught. To be honest, thought, I’m not entirely convinced that they were aware of all the implications of what is written here.

27 Omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo; et nemo novit Filium nisi Pater, neque Patrem quis novit nisi Filius et cui voluerit Filius revelare.

28 Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς.

29 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν:

30 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν.

Come after me, all laboring and burdened, and I will refresh you. (29) Take up my yoke upon you, and learn from me that I am meek and humble at heart, and you will find renewal in your psyches. (30) For my yoke is easy and the burden of me (the burden you carry because of me) is easy.  

This is what I mean about sentiments that are conflicting, if not outright contradictory. My yoke is easy doesn’t exactly square with taking up one’s cross. Just recently Jesus was telling us that foxes have holes but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head, and that one must take up a cross to be worthy of the kingdom. Now, the yoke is easy. This is a very comforting passage, with a message that surely provides hope and encouragement, and it’s passages like this that are the true appeal of Christianity to so many people who find themselves oppressed by the circumstances of their lives. But it’s the inconsistency that gives me, that should give me pause. Perhaps this inconsistency is an example of how things are hidden from the wise (not that I count myself in that camp) but are revealed to children. Or maybe it’s the Zen aspect, where we have to reconcile the contradiction by thinking without logic. Or maybe it’s the result of different people repeating different messages that they each believed they heard, however circuitously, however transformed, from Jesus. 

28 Venite ad me, omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos.

29 Tollite iugum meum super vos et discite a me, quia mitis sum et humilis corde, et invenietis requiem animabus vestris.

30 Iugum enim meum suave, et onus meum leve est”.

Matthew Chapter 11:7-19

We left off with Jesus talking to the disciples of John, telling them of the fulfillment of the prophesies of Isaiah for the day when the Lord would come with a vengeance. These disciples are the “they” who go away in Verse 7.

7 Τούτων δὲ πορευομένων ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγειν τοῖς ὄχλοις περὶ Ἰωάννου, Τί ἐξήλθατε εἰς τὴν ἔρημον θεάσασθαι; κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου σαλευόμενον;

8 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἠμφιεσμένον; ἰδοὺ οἱ τὰ μαλακὰφοροῦντες ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις τῶν βασιλέων εἰσίν.

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

They (disciples of John) having gone away, Jesus began to say to the crowd about John, “What did you come out into the wilderness to see for yourself? A reed waving in the wind? (8) But what did you come to see? A man dressed in soft (clothes)? Look, those dressed in soft clothes are in the houses of kings.   (9) But what did you expect to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.

A couple of quick things. Most people dressed in homespun. It wasn’t processed all that much because it cost too much (in labor) to do so. As a result, their clothes were coarse. Kings, however, could afford to pay people to make soft cloth, and then make this into clothes. I believe that most people would have worn wool garments, because sheep were plentiful. Cotton was grown in Egypt at the very least, but I don’t believe it was grown elsewhere to any extent. Cotton is much softer than wool, and the limited production meant it was expensive. So kings could also afford this. The softness, and the lighter weight of cotton was what made it become so wildly popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. That, and the invention of the cotton gin, which made it fast and cheap to separate the seeds out of the raw cotton, which had also been a barrier to widespread use of the material.

But the real point of this is to build up the relationship to the Baptist. The question is, why? This bit is not considered to be part of the original stratum of Q. Therefore, it cannot date back to Jesus. Therefore, it was made up after Jesus’ death. So why would someone, two generations after the deaths of both Jesus and John wish to continue the relationship between the two? Why did Matthew invent this little speech for Jesus? And the most likely explanation is that Matthew did make it up, rather than that Matthew received it from tradition. Well, the first reason would be that there were still followers of John. In fact, there were still enough followers of John that the proto-Christians sought to co-opt them and bring them into the sphere of Jesus’ followers. By calling John “more than a prophet”, Matthew flatters both John and John’s followers. This, most likely, was intended to induce these followers to give the teachings of the proto-Christian community a fair hearing. Because as I’ve said, far from being embarrassed by Jesus’ prima facie subordinate position to John and downplaying it, the evangelists continue to expand on the relationship between the two. This is not the action of people who were embarrassed by Jesus’ relationship with John. Matthew expands it, and Luke expands it even more, by by creating the tale that the two were first cousins. No, the evangelists want to underline and bold the relationship; they do not want to delete it.

Aside from winning converts, the other thing a solid relationship between John and Jesus cements the latter’s connexion to “mainstream” Judaism. I’ve mentioned this before, so I’ll just recapitulate briefly. By this point, connecting Jesus to Judaism was not an effort to impress Jews as whole–followers of John excepted–but to impress pagans. This connexion set Jesus firmly into the ancient tradition of the Jews, and this long lineage was of great importance as a marketing tool to attract pagans. These latter were impressed by ancient wisdom, not by innovation. This, I think, is the strongest possibility of why the connexion to John was steadily enlarged. If this could attract followers of John, or at least neutralize John as a competing sect, that would have been largely an added bonus. The pagan audience was much larger, and would have been seen as the real point of emphasis.

7 Illis autem abeuntibus, coepit Iesus dicere ad turbas de Ioanne: “ Quid existis in desertum videre? Arundinem vento agitatam?

8 Sed quid existis videre? Hominem mollibus vestitum? Ecce, qui mollibus vestiuntur, in domibus regum sunt.

9 Sed quid existis videre? Prophetam? Etiam, dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam.

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

11 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐκ ἐγήγερταιἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν μείζων Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ: ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.

“He is the one about whom it was written, ‘Behold, I send (apostello) my herald before your face, the one who prepares the way before you’.”  (11) Amen I say to you, there is not one raised up born of a woman greater than John the Baptist. But (de) the least in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than John.”

 This is a very clever echo of the opening of account of John back in Chapter 3:3. Except there the quote came from Isaiah; here it is Malachi 3:1. I deem this clever because it expresses much the same sentiment, and evokes the same sense of expectation for what is to come. I did not realize that Malachi so closely reiterated what Isaiah had said, and here Matthew the clever scholar of the HS* uses the lesser prophet to reinforce what the greater prophet had said. This also gives me, the former Catholic whose knowledge of the NT was spotty, and whose knowledge of the HS was almost–but not quite–non-existent a moment of pause. Like preaching to the poor in Isaiah, the announcement of the herald who comes to prepare the way indicates a level of Messiah expectation beyond what I had suspected. The thing is, in Malachi the forerunner is the herald of the Day of Judgement, just as the signs prophesied by Isaiah that were just noted by Jesus were indications of the coming of the Lord. In vengeance.  But then, that is what the herald presaged in Isaiah 40:3, the verse used about John back in Matthew 3:3.

Naturally, the purpose of this all is to fix both John and Jesus into the context of the HS. It flatters John by making him the fulfillment of prophecy from both Isaiah and Malachi. Of course, it flatters Jesus even more by implying that he is the coming Lord. After all, this is the question that was asked: are you the one who’s coming? Jesus gave his usual cryptic and/or evasive answer by citing the prophesies, but, ultimately, the answer is ‘yes’. 

Now this produces a bit of prestidigitation here. Jesus is the one who’s coming, but in the prophecies the one who’s coming is the Lord, IOW, God, and the coming is a Day of Retribution and/or Vengeance, or even Judgement Day. If Jesus is “the one”, does this equate him to the Lord/God? If so, does this mean it’s Judgement Day? To be honest, these are niceties of logic that really don’t apply to this sort of writing. Matthew is not creating a case; he’s telling us a Truth. By “the one” he of course means the anointed. Just exactly what the implications of this were for Matthew is difficult to say. I would suspect he wasn’t entirely clear on this himself. These were not systematic theologians like St Augustine; they were likely preachers of the word, full of the sacred breath. And the thing about that is, when one is breathed into (in-spired) what comes out as perfectly suited to the moment may not be completely consistent with something you said the week, or the day before. And yet, both are True. This is where Truth and factual accuracy most notably part company, Opposing sentiments can be True, even if they are mutually exclusive. This is the sort of thing that can drive rational people into disbelief.

Our main concern here, however, is what does Matthew believe? Well, we know from the outset of the gospel that he believes that Jesus is the Christ; and this is what he means by ‘the one who is to come’. Does he believe it’s Judgement Day? Probably not. He may be stating, or at least implying, that the kingdom of the heavens has dawned. That it is happening. I’ve read other interpreters say this about Mark: that the miracles were meant to be the sign that the kingdom had indeed arrived. I’m not sure I agree with this, and almost certainly I don’t agree with this about Matthew. He doesn’t stress the miracles, at least not qua miracles. Jesus does point to them as signs that the kingdom was/is coming. But what the actual implications are, it’s not entirely clear. So far, the maddening thing about reading these gospels is that so much is oblique. I’m looking for the foundations of later Christian theology, or at least later Christian dogma, and it’s remarkably elusive. This is especially true if you take each gospel as a discreet unit. Neither Mark, nor Matthew (so far) has set out the sort of catechism I was taught in religion classes. So much of it, from the Trinity on, had to be worked out in subsequent centuries. Clearly, the words in these verses tell us that Matthew believes that something has changed, or will change. But, if the latter, when? That is difficult to say.

One last thing. The existence of the quote from Malachi used here tells us that apocalyptic thinking was by no means restricted to Jesus and his followers. Malachi was written late in the pre-Common Era. As such, it’s a good indication that apocalyptic expectations were not alien to the thought-world into which Jesus was born. If you compare different apocalyptic writings, we immediately note the variances between them. This is the Truth/accuracy dichotomy showing up very clearly. What exactly would happen was not, I think, entirely the point. It was that drastic changes would occur: great upheavals, a time of tribulation, an overthrow of the existing order, perhaps the end times. As such, perhaps we are–or I am–mistaken to look for a programmatic description of what Matthew expected, or what he meant by the kingdom. Paul clearly expected the end times, and soon. But what he expected of the kingdom isn’t entirely clear, either. He taught that certain behaviours would exclude one from the kingdom, but that’s about as good a description as one gets.  Once again, perhaps this is not a topic amenable to rational investigation. Perhaps asking the question indicates that one has missed the point.  

Oops. There is one more last thing: the bit about John being less than the least in the kingdom. However, I’m going to discuss it in conjunction with the next section. 

[ *Matthew’s deep knowledge of the HS does not necessarily imply that he was raised a Jew. I have been making the argument to the contrary. However, it is the most likely explanation for Matthew’s understanding of HS. What this means is that I need to come up with a really good argument to give plausibility to my assertion that Matthew was not Jewish by birth or upbringing. Then I suppose a marriage between a Jew and a Pagan might provide a working explanation for both Matthew’s grasp of the OT and those places where he seems to have an innate sense of the pagan world as well. I need to collect the scattered pieces of my argument and fit them together to see if it comes close to holding water. But then, I need to do this with a number of themes ]

10 Hic est, de quo scriptum est: / “Ecce ego mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, / qui praeparabit viam tuam ante te”.

11 Amen dico vobis: Non surrexit inter natos mulierum maior Ioanne Baptista; qui autem minor est in regno caelorum, maior est illo.

12 ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν ἡμερῶν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ἕως ἄρτι ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται, καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν.

13 πάντες γὰρ οἱ προφῆται καὶ ὁ νόμος ἕως Ἰωάννου ἐπροφήτευσαν:

14 καὶ εἰ θέλετε δέξασθαι, αὐτός ἐστιν Ἠλίας ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι.

15 ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω.

From the days of John the Dunker until now, the kingdom of the heavens suffers violence (lit = is violented.  ‘Violence is actually a passive verb here), and the violent ones seize her (her = the kingdom; “kingdom is a feminine noun, so feminine pronouns are used). (13) For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (14) And if you wish to accept, he (John) is Elijah, the one willing to come. (15) Let the one having ears hear.

The antecedent for the “he” in “he is Elijah” is most logically John. That’s what all the rules tell us, so I think it’s a pretty safe bet. I say this because it’s critically important to the meaning of the passage.

The first part of this presents an interesting existential statement. The kingdom suffers violence, and has been seized by violent ones. This is not a description of something that is to be experienced in the afterlife, or something that is approaching. It is here. Now. In fact, it’s been here since the time of the prophets. The only possible way to understand this is that the kingdom of the heavens is actually the world as we know it. How else could it have been hijacked by violent ones? S0 what does this do to all our musings about the kingdom? And why did John tell us that the kingdom was approaching?

I suppose the most obvious interpretation is that the current order, in which the kingdom was seized by violence is to be overthrown. The violent men will be cast off, and the true nature of the kingdom will become manifest. But by virtue of this statement, we are not to expect the kingdom in the afterlife, but in this life. Remember, Matthew has not used psyche to mean anything but physical life, other than in the passage about killing the body but not the psyche. Nor has he mentioned “the life”, which Mark talked about. Perhaps those are implicit, that the audience for the gospel would read the existence of those two things into the text to this point, just as later Christians did. But I doubt that. Really, the only way this passage makes sense is if the kingdom is to occur here in this life, on this world. This will be the ideal state that is to occur after the overthrow of the current order.

And the reference to Elijah came in Mark’s story of the Transfiguration. At that point, Jesus told those followers who had witnessed the Transfiguration that Elijah had already come. Per my limited understanding of HS, it seems that Elijah was to come (return?) before the fulfillment of the prophecies. In Mark 9, when Jesus said Elijah had come, the implication–as I read it–was that Jesus referred to the Elijah who had indeed come, back in the days before the fall of Israel. Here, however, Matthew is making the direct connexion of Elijah and John. There is nothing in Mark to note the equation John = Elijah, IMO, this statement of Matthew making the equation explicit is an idea, or an interpretation that came along later, between the time Mark and Matthew wrote. And this makes sense given the overall context of the chapter so far. It’s all been about setting the identities and the roles of Jesus and John. The latter has been elevated to the one foretold by Isaiah and by Malachi; here, he is elevated further into the role of Elijah. 

But then there’s the bit from the last section, that John is the greatest of those born of women, but less than the least in the kingdom. How does that jibe with a) the idea of a kingdom of this world; and b) John = Elijah? As for the first, I’m not entirely sure it does. How can both of these be? How can the kingdom be seized by violent ones, and yet be approaching, and yet John is lesser than the least in the kingdom? Logically, I’m not sure you can. Eve in the realm of mythic Truth, this becomes difficult. So what do we make of this? How do we square the circle?

The most obvious suggestion, and explanation, I think, is that we are dealing with multiple threads of belief. There are multiple threads because the meaning of all of this was not entirely settled among the various groups that followed and professed Jesus as their…lord, I guess would be the most generic term. I hesitate to use anointed because I’m not entirely convinced that this was a universal belief. The other thread out there was the belief in Jesus as a divine being, which I think was even further from being universal. Given this, I would suggest that this lack of universality was a major impetus behind Matthew writing. I think he was trying to establish what we would call an orthodox position. I suggested the same about Mark, that he was trying to merge the wonder-worker with the anointed one. In this, I would suggest that Mark was largely, but not completely successful. Or perhaps, in Matthew’s eyes, Mark hadn’t gone far enough; he hadn’t convincingly demonstrated Jesus’ divinity.

In addition, perhaps Matthew was trying to nail down just what was meant by the kingdom. But because he didn’t want to sort out and validate–or invalidate–certain segments, he sort of included them all. This results in an aphorism stuck into a passage where it doesn’t really seem to belong. This results in sections like this, where several (at least potentially) contradictory statements are put together in an attempt to create a unity. Really, what this needs is a finer comb, to go back to those places where it seems that things don’t quite fit together, to collect them, and to sort them to see if there is any coherent pattern. To the best of my (admittedly very limited) knowledge, this has never been done before, because no one has ever approached it from the perspective of the historical development of the text. At least, it hasn’t been done successfully enough to leave a distinct footprint in the scholarship. 

In the end, the message is that I’m not sure what Matthew believes in when he says ‘the kingdom’. Perhaps he didn’t know himself? And by “know”, I mean he hadn’t completely arrived at a semi-consistent notion of the kingdom. And it occurs to me: if I am correct that a number of things Jesus said went into circulation between the time of Mark and Matthew then the latter’s incomplete conception makes sense. I am suggesting that Jesus followers increased significantly after Mark, but they did so in isolation from each other. So this led to different interpretations, that were bolstered by different quotes “from Jesus”. This is exactly the sort of thing that occurs when the master passes and the different followers remember different things, or even the same things in different ways. So yes, much of the Q material may have come from other sources, but, IMO, not all of it was actually from Jesus. Some of it came from other places, and one major source was likely James the Just.   

12 A diebus autem Ioannis Baptistae usque nunc regnum caelorum vim patitur, et violenti rapiunt illud.

13 Omnes enim Prophetae et Lex usque ad Ioannem prophetaverunt;

14 et si vultis recipere, ipse est Elias, qui venturus est.

15 Qui habet aures, audiat.

16 Τίνι δὲ ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην; ὁμοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις καθημένοις ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις

17 λέγουσιν, Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε: ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε.

18 ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν, Δαιμόνιον ἔχει:

19 ἦλθεν ὁυἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν, Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν. καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς.

But to what do I liken this generation? It is like children seated in the agora, who calling forth each other (17) say ‘we piped for you and you did not dance. We sang a dirge and you did not smite your breast’ (as in grief). For John came neither eating nor drinking and you said ‘he has a demon’. (19) The son of man came, eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look at the man gluttonous and wine-drinking, friend of tax collectors and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her works’.”

Here, IMO, is another example of a non-sequitur. “Wisdom is justified by her works”. How does that really relate to what came before? Or what will come after, when he starts to say woe unto the various towns. Even more, what does that mean? Are we supposed to personify wisdom, as in Wisdom? None of my translations do that, and I’m not surprised. Wisdom, Sophia, was a…divine creature of independent stature for Gnostics and within some of the groups that wrote the Pseudographa. Needless to say, even the latter group wasn’t entirely orthodox, so commentators and translators might be reluctant to reify wisdom as Wisdom to avoid adding any non-orthodox meanings here. Better to leave it as a head-scratcher. And please, if anyone can see where this connects to the rest of the passage, please fill me in.

And the transition from John/Elijah to this generation isn’t exactly smooth, either. Are the two related? Sure, I can come up with half-a-dozen ways to connect the two, but none of them are particularly compelling. Think about it this way: have someone read the text to you aloud, and see if you don’t feel a dull thump when we go from s/he having ears, her into ‘to what do I compare this generation’. So the next time you hear about the brilliant organization of Matthew’s material, feel free to question the writer’s judgement, or even her/his bona fides.

In the same way, I get how we go from the children speaking in the agora to the compare & contrast of John and Jesus. But really, think about it: the two are not analogous situations. And why children in the agora? Because they lack discretionary thinking skills? OK, that’s fine, but that’s where the analogy ends. Each of these sections sounds good in and of itself. It’s just that they don’t entirely hang together. The whole is somehow less than the sum of the parts, in my opinion.

One thing I do get out of this is the bit about Jesus calling himself a glutton and a wine toper. Of everything in this section, and perhaps in the chapter, this, I think, has the best chance of actually dating back to Jesus’ time. Not so much that Jesus said this, but perhaps that it was said about him. Or, at least, that he wasn’t an ascetic the way John was. That may just be an authentic detail. Can’t prove it one way or the other, but why would anyone invent something like that? Of course, if we accept this as factual, what does this say about Jesus’ view of the coming apocalypse? The most obvious thing is that his approach to the coming…apocalypse was rather different from John’s, as this passage points out. Generally, talk thatx the ‘end is near’ inspires sackcloth and ashes sort of behaviour, asceticism more on the lines of John. So if we accept this bit as reflecting the real person, we need to come up with an explanation of how the two themes fit together.

The two extreme, opposite explanations are: it’s not an accurate reflection, or Jesus wasn’t into apocalypse, but his subsequent followers were. Now, if it’s not factually correct, how does this story get invented? Because it’s meant to reflect badly on Jesus that he wasn’t more like John. As such, it seems unlikely that his followers would have invented this contrast with John, especially if they were trying to woo John’s followers. The other possibility that Jesus himself wasn’t a preacher of apocalypse has to be considered. Then where did that come from? There are two possible sources. The first is Paul, who clearly expected the end-times. The second is that apocalypse is a distorted interpretation of Jesus’ talk about the kingdom. Because the relationship–if any–between the kingdom and the apocalypse/end times is very important to understanding Jesus and his teaching. There are a number of references in standard Q to the kingdom. Is this a code for the apocalypse? The answer to this question will color a lot of our understanding of what Jesus taught, or what his later followers taught that he taught. Clearly the message taught by Matthew was different–to some, to whatever degree–than the actual message of Jesus. But were the differences fundamental–apocalypse vs no apocalypse–or more cosmetic–apocalypse now vs apocalypse later? Or even the kingdom in this world, vs the kingdom in the afterlife? 

A big part of the answer to this question depends, I think, on Paul. Why did he believe that Jesus was soon to return? Was this something in Jesus’ teaching that made him think so? Before answering that in the affirmative, one really has to consider Paul’s attitude towards Jesus’ teachings as a whole: he ignores pretty much everything Jesus taught. Given this, I think we are justified to suggest–at the bare minimum–that we need to ask the question if Paul didn’t make up the imminent return. That is, if this isn’t an idea that came to him in a flash of insight, or inspiration, much like the way he “saw” the resurrected Christ. This is, by his own description, how he came to most of the things he taught. There was little, if any, connexion to what the other groups taught. In fact, in significant ways, he taught the exact opposite of what the Jerusalem community taught. As such, I do not think we can simply take it on faith that Paul’s expectation of a quick return of the Christ was based in any way on what Jesus had said when he was still alive.

So that brings us (back) to a couple of our previous questions, First, what was the relationship between the teaching on the kingdom and the idea of the return of the Christ? We asked this earlier but it bears repeating because it is given additional significance if Paul did not get his certainty of the end times from anything Jesus taught. Second, did Jesus preach the end times? Did Jesus preach the kingdom? It would be very easy to answer this latter in the affirmative because so much of our source material tells us that he did. But we’ve caught Matthew making stuff up. How much else did he make up? How much did Mark make up? Personally, I suspect Mark was the more faithful reporter, largely because his work is so much less detailed. Generally, details aren’t remembered; they are created after the fact. Look at King Arthur, or the Song of Roland. The details accrued to the bare bones of the stories. A good story attracts embellishment; it doesn’t shed embellishment. The exceptions are some of the set-piece stories: the lowering of the paralytic, the bleeding woman and the daughter of Jairus, and, my favorite, the Gerasene demoniac. (Have I been spelling that rong this entire time? All too possible, I fear.) Those feel like they came down to Mark as blocks, as a finished product. Matthew shortened them. But Matthew added a wealth of other detail, namely detailed descriptions of Jesus speaking. The question, still, is: where did this new information come from? Not all of it came from Q, at least not from the original stratum as reconstituted by Burton Mack. But even that is said to date no earlier than the 50s. 

So the point is, material is coming from a number of different places. Which leads to a number of questions. Such as, is it consistent? Can we expect consistency? Is consistency probable, given a number of different sources? And what did Matthew do with this variety of sources? Was he able to integrate them smoothly? Or do the seams and welds show through? What all this leads to is that we have some different questions to ask as we go through this gospel, and the other ones we read. 

16 Cui autem similem aestimabo generationem istam? Similis est pueris sedentibus in foro, qui clamantes coaequalibus

17 dicunt: “Cecinimus vobis, et non saltastis; / lamentavimus, et non planxistis”.

18 Venit enim Ioannes neque manducans neque bibens, et dicunt: “Daemonium habet!”;

19 venit Filius hominis manducans et bibens, et dicunt: “Ecce homo vorax et potator vini, publicanorum amicus et peccatorum!”. Et iustificata est sapientia ab operibus suis ”.


Matthew Chapter 11:1-6

Once again, finding logical break-points was not easy here. Well, that’s not entirely correct. The problem was trying to break in places that would provide sections of reasonably uniform length. So the result is that this section is too short, and the next one will be too long. Apologies.

1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς διατάσσων τοῖς δώδεκα μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, μετέβη ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ διδάσκειν καὶ κηρύσσειν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν αὐτῶν.

And it happened that when Jesus finished making arrangements with his twelve disciples, he then transitioned to teach and preach in their towns.

The antecedent of “their” seems to be the disciples; however, that doesn’t especially make sense, so I would take this to mean that it refers to a sort of collective grouping. “Their”, as in, “the towns of the areas from which Jesus and the disciples came”. But honestly, it doesn’t make much difference.

Having said that, this brings us to an interesting point: it doesn’t much matter. Why? Because the evangelist has no real interest in pinning this down into real-life, brick-and-mortar towns of any locale. It’s just sort of a passing thing: Jesus went about preaching in some town or another. Which is to say, Matthew didn’t really know where Jesus went, nor did he much care. What this really indicates is the lack of interest Matthew had in writing anything that we would consider history. It has a sort of story-telling feel, “and so he went about preaching and teaching into vague, unknown places. Recall that in Mark’s version of the story, we go right from the sending of the Twelve into the arrest of John the Baptist. We were told that the disciples went out and did many things, but we get nothing about what Jesus did. Then Mark inserts the story of John’s death, and immediately on the other side of this, the disciples return. Jesus? Who knows what he did. Mark apparently didn’t, but Matthew isn’t quite content to leave it blank, so he adds this piece. No, I don’t think this can be attributed to Q; therefore, Matthew most likely made it up himself. So this tells us that Matthew is not averse to creating his own bits of narrative; what else did he create, or originate? This passage pretty much tells us he did it; we just don’t always know exactly where. How much of “Q” is actually Matthew’s creation? 

But speaking of Mark, I realized that he set this story immediately after Jesus was not honored as a prophet in his home town–the name of the town not having been mentioned. Is Matthew alluding to this with his lack of specificity about who the “their” refers to? Is this a case of Matthew assuming something that was in Mark, that’s not in his own story? It seems possible. Then this might give a clue as to the towns that Matthew had in mind where Jesus preached and taught. These would be the towns of the area where Jesus grew up, which is what we surmised about this above. But notice how Matthew sort of made this assumption in his own head while neglecting to put it into his narrative. Regardless, the point remains that this is, essentially, fiction.    

1 Et factum est, cum consummasset Iesus praecipiens Duodecim discipulis suis, transiit inde, ut doceret et praedicaret in civitatibus eorum.

2 Ὁ δὲἸωάννης ἀκούσας ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ Χριστοῦ πέμψας διὰ τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ

But John, hearing in his prison (about) the works of the annointed sent (word) by way of his disciples.

The institution of prisons in the ancient Roman world has always been a bit baffling to me. On one hand, they were obviously (?) horrible places; OTOH, people seem to come and go between the prisoner and the outside world without a lot of restriction. It’s not a topic I’ve ever researched, mainly because I’ve never cared to do so. I’m sure it would be fascinating. Well, maybe. Or perhaps this is another detail like Jesus going about preaching: it’s very vague, very non-specific. Maybe it’s another situation where Matthew crafted the details necessary to make the story work? Necessary to give it context? This isn’t in Mark; it’s not usually citied as part of Q, at least not the original Q. Which means it’s a story of unknown provenance. Which means it could have come from anywhere. Like, say, Matthew.

More importantly, however, is the fact that Matthew uses the term “Christ”. This is the first time he’s used the term since way back in Chapter 2, after the genealogy and birth narrative. Is this to imply that people were starting to think of Jesus as the anointed at this point? Or is this meant to imply that this is how John perceived Jesus? Or is this an editorial slip on Matthew’s part? Or perhaps an insertion by some copyist? My hard-copy Greek text doesn’t note any textual variants, any mss traditions that leave out “the Christ”, so any insertion must have been very early. There is really no answer to this; but it really feels awkwardly out of place. In some ways, I think that, assuming this is how Matthew wrote it, the intent was to indicate that this was John’s opinion. Remember, Matthew had John demur from dunking Jesus; this could be the follow-up to that, so that we have John as the first one to refer to Jesus as the anointed. This would both tie Jesus and John more closely together while simultaneously letting everyone know that Jesus was the superior one.

It occurs to me that I probably owe you all a better explanation of why Jesus’ later followers wanted to be associated with John I’ve made some statements about this, but I’ve honestly not constructed a methodical argument. I will try to get back to that. At some point, I need to sit down and come up with a sort of framework for a lot of this, an overall narrative. John, and the treatment of John by the evangelists will be a part of that narrative.

2 Ioannes autem, cum audisset in vinculis opera Christi, mittens per discipulos suos,

3 εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἕτερον προσδοκῶμεν;

He (John, through the medium of a disciple) said to him (Jesus), “Are you the one who is coming, or should we expect another?”

This fits in with the preaching we are told John did at the beginning of Chapter 3. Recall that John predicted another one coming, whose sandal strap John was not worthy to loosen. So this is actually consistent. However, these two pieces are not entirely consistent with the use of the term ” the anointed” in the previous verse. John using that term would imply that he had already answered that question in his own mind.  

3 ait illi: “Tu es qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus?”.

4 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε:

5 τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, καὶ νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται:

6 καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί.

And Jesus answering them said, “Going, announce to John what you hear and see. (5) The blind recover their sight, and the lame walk about, lepers have been cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead rise and the poor are evangelized. (6) And blessed is the one who is not caused to stumble by me.

<<σκανδαλισθῇ>> is the verb I have rendered as “caused to stumble”. This word transliterates to “skandalizo” (in base form), and is pretty obviously the root of scandal, or in verb form, scandalize. This word in its various forms is largely a Christian word, so it’s really difficult to do much cross-referencing among various authors. The root of the Greek seems to be “skandalon”, which supposedly means “stumbling block”. Hence my translation. An alternative translation is “to offend”. Now, in this particular context, these two meanings are not exactly interchangeable. The KJV renders this as “offended by me”. I bring this up because this is the word used when Jesus enjoins against those who would cause one of the children to stumble in 9:42. Except the KJV rendered it as “offend” there, too. I hope you see the different shade between the two ideas. Perhaps the passage about plucking out one’s eye if it offends you– vs if it makes you stumble–is the best example of the difference there. Honestly, though, I’m not sure that either one exactly fits. How would Jesus be the reason someone goes off the straight-and-narrow?

But to more substantive matters. This passage about the blind seeing, etc. interestingly was not in Mark. It is in Luke; and yet it’s not in the version of Q that I’ve been using (Burton Mack’s reconstruction, which I’ve found on a couple of websites, so I’m inferring that it’s fairly well accepted). These are all wonders; as such, it seems that they would more properly fit in Mark. And if this passage was not in Q, whence did it come? It’s not the M material, because it’s not only in Mark. Another source? The one I’ve been feeling just under the surface of some of these other passages? Or is this Matthew once again?

These are references to Isaiah, to two different sections of Isaiah, to be exact. The first bit is Is 35:5; the last bit about the poor having the good news preached is from Is 61:1. These are signs that the time of the Lord is coming, that the world is being set right in preparation of the Lord’s arrival, and the Lord will come with a vengeance according to Isaiah. So we’re back to apocalyptic imagery here, which kind of settles some of the questions I had in the previous chapter. It perhaps doesn’t settle all of them, but it lets us know that end-times expectations hadn’t died out completely.

The part about the dead rising is interesting, too. Unlike all the other things, this is not a citation from Isaiah. How should we understand it? First, in the story so far, we have encountered one person being raised from the dead. This was the daughter of the leader of the synagogue (which title Matthew omitted). And I’m not sure I commented on this in the last chapter, but raising from the dead was one of the powers specifically granted to the Twelve by Jesus. Why was it added? Of course, that’s a difficult question.  Is it related to the preaching of Paul? That this was going to happen? Was it related to the writing of Mark, who maybe sort of said this was part of the new order, perhaps part of the kingdom that was coming. One place it isn’t found is in the reconstituted original Q. There is nothing about the blind seeing, and there is certainly nothing about the dead being raised. What does that tell us? It tells us that there were multiple strands and traditions of beliefs about Jesus. Which is earlier: the belief that the dead would be raised, or that the dead would not be raised? The former. Remember that this was a debate between the Pharisees (yes to raising) and the Sadducees (no to raising). So the idea of the dead being raised did not originate with Jesus; however, I think that the idea that it was happening, or it would soon be happening was given a major impetus by either Jesus, his followers, or both. I think that is what this passage, in conjunction with the power that Jesus gave the Twelve to raise the dead, is a pretty strong indication that Jesus’ followers believed that the circumstances that Isaiah had foretold in 35:5 were coming, or had come to pass. 

The question then becomes, what, if anything, did the dead being raised have to do with the kingdom? From a mythical, or mythological, or metaphysical sense the answer to this is very simple: the dead rising is perhaps the most forceful sign possible that the current rules, the current order of life was passing away. Death is the ultimate enemy; and that is to take “ultimate” in both its senses: that there can be nothing greater, and that it is the final enemy one will face. So the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, these are signs indeed, but they are but small forebears of the dead rising. That is the ne plus ultra, that which cannot be exceeded. 

Or can it? I find it very curious that Jesus does give another sign to John’s disciples. What could surpass the rising of the dead? Offhand, I would say nothing. But Jesus adds Isaiah 61:1, that the poor are having the good news preached to them. Is this possibly a sign even greater than raising the dead? Or is it at least on par? Otherwise, why is it tacked on at the end like that? It’s surely meant to be another powerful symbol that the old order is passing away, is giving way to the coming kingdom. And here, with this emphasis on the poor, I see again the hand of James. Or perhaps the voice of James, the spiritual father of the Ebionites and, much later, St Francis. Looked at one way, preaching to the poor does not defy the laws of physics, or biology, or of the natural world in general. There is no natural barrier to preaching to the poor as the destruction of the optical or aural apparatus will create a physical barrier to seeing or hearing. And yet, it’s put on par with such “miracles”. Does this perhaps indicate the level of scorn and dismissiveness with which the poor were cast out of polite society? That preaching to them seemed as physically impossible as the blind seeing once again.

To some non-trivial degree, the idea of the signs of the end-times and the idea of preaching to the poor are connected. This whole concern for the poor, first and best expressed in the Beatitudes, is a new theme, appearing in Matthew after being largely, but not completely absent from Mark, and after being pretty much nonexistent in Paul. It’s used four times in the Pauline corpus; twice in Galatians, one of which was James’ injunction that Paul remember the poor as a condition of gaining James’ approval for the mission to the pagans. A third use comes in Romans, when it’s used again to refer to money that is collected for the poor. The point of this being that concern for the poor as we see here wasn’t part of Paul’s ministry. It wasn’t a big part of Mark’s story, either. And yet it’s a non-trivial part of Matthew’s message. IOW, it’s a bigger part of Matthew’s message than it was for Mark, where it was a bigger part of Paul’s message. IOW, it’s become more ingrained into the message of what has become Christianity. So the question we have to ask is why has it become more important?

If this was actually part of Jesus’ message, that means that this idea sort of went dormant, that it skipped over Paul, most of Mark, to land in Matthew. Or it means that this became added to the message after Jesus died. Which is more likely? That it hibernated for the better part of two generations, to re-awaken during Matthew’s lifetime? Or that it gradually accreted into the message being preached, becoming more significant as time passed? And then let’s note that the idea of preaching to the poor is not an innovation; in fact, it’s something rooted very deeply in the Jewish tradition, all the way back to Isaiah (granted, Deutero-Isaiah). And, keeping that deep Jewish origin in mind, let’s recall that the man in charge after Jesus’ death was also very deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition, as Paul’s eye-witness testimony tells us. As such, is it not more likely that this emphasis on the poor did come from James? That is not to say that Jesus necessarily neglected this theme; only that James emphasized it more. And it was this increasing emphasis of James that was responsible for the ministry to the poor lodged firmly in the message of what became Christianity.

And it also means that “blessed are the poor (in spirit)” probably should be, or at least possibly could be attributable to James. This has the incidental effect of making Q, as currently understood, unnecessary. 

4 Et respondens Iesus ait illis: “Euntes renuntiate Ioanni, quae auditis et videtis:

5 caeci vident et claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur et surdi audiunt et mortui resurgunt et pauperes evangelizantur;

6 et beatus est, qui non fuerit scandalizatus in me ”.