Category Archives: Chapter 12

Summary Luke Chapter 12

Due to editorial oversight, this follows hot on the heels of the Summary to Chapter 11. But then, maybe it will be useful to read the two in close proximity.


There are two main themes in the chapter by my reading. Or perhaps one, with a couple of subdivisions. The first provides something of a ring composition. We start with it in the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees, and ends with it with the admonition about being hauled off to gaol*. Both these relate to the primary theme, which is the coming of the kingdom. It’s happening, so we best be ready for it. Preparatory to that, there will be strife and dissension here on earth. Luke does warn about being hauled before the authorities, and assures us that we will be given what to say by the sacred breath. This is in Matthew, and even in Mark. But here it gets a slightly different treatment, that leads in something of a different direction.

The idea of the sacred breath providing one’s defense is, after all, one way in which God will take care of us. And Luke assures us of this with metaphors from Nature: the ravens, the lilies, and sparrows. God provides for them, so God will take care of us humans, too. And here is where and how the second theme comes in: we need not be, we should not be, concerned about the things of this world, because God will provide. So we should not be afraid of those who can only kill the body, but of those who can throw us into Gehenna, and I think “Hell” is not entirely inappropriate. The concept has not reached full maturity in this writing, not by a long shot, but it’s progressing towards that final goal (and not gaol). And who can throw us into that awful place? Why, God of course. And because of this, we need to be watchful about the coming kingdom by avoiding the “leaven of the Pharisees” and not being contentious in litigations with our fellow humans, lest you end up being hauled off to the gaol, which at the end of the chapter is a metaphor for Gehenna. Luke applied his writer’s craft very effectively: By starting off the section with Gehenna, that image is there to be alluded to by the threat of jail.

This is a very sophisticated literary construction. Part of the reason I felt the seams, I think, is that I break these chapters into small sections and then take these sections piecemeal. Only now that I’ve taken that moment to step back and look at the chapter as a whole do I see how well this is all arranged. IMO, it’s much more masterful than Chapters 5-7 of Matthew, which feel like beads of different material strung together on a single string, but otherwise not relating to each other all that much.

The result is a message that it very “Christian” in the sense of the word that most of us understand it. Luke is giving us a very clear warning: behave, because the kingdom is coming at some time unknown. If we are not watchful, and if we do not behave properly, we will end up in gaol, by which he means Gehenna, or Hell. And one way to be watchful, and to behave properly, is not to be concerned with worldly things, like the rich man who wants to build new barns to hold his wealth. Rather, be simple, let the sacred breath tell you what to say, and give no more thought to what you eat or what you wear than the ravens or the lilies, and be mindful that the master may come at any moment. Now, much of this is implicit in Mark and Matthew, but this feels like a much more thorough and sophisticated expression of this message that had always been rather disparate, or separate, or disjointed until now. We got flashes of this in Matthew, but here we get the synthesized and homogenized and all-encompassing version. The idea, the concept has developed, and been developed. Going back to the analogy I used about Mark, Luke has woven many of the separate threads of M&M together into a piece of whole cloth, into a single garment. Maybe it was there in Matthew as well, but I don’t think so. No doubt my perceptions and understandings have evolved as we’ve moved along, but I was very conscious of what I was not reading in M&M.

Having been raised in the Roman Rite, as a Catholic, my understanding of Christianity was very simple: Do good, or go to Hell. Simple, straightforward, and binary. Yes, the Purgatory thing sort of muddled the issue somewhat, but not all that much. And yes, I get the whole hellfire and brimstone sort of preaching, which is not considered something the Catholics are not known for, something they don’t do all that often or all that well. Instead there is that binary choice that is absolutely foundational, and expressed in such crystal-clear language and repeated so often that the whole hellfire and brimstone thing seemed…unnecessary. I never got Billy Graham. My religious message did not come from inspired rhetoric, but from pure fear. And here in this chapter we get the bottom-line formulation of this message that had not been present to this point. I do need to add the caveat, or the qualifier, that I did attend a Catholic school, run by Dominicans, for grades 2-8. As such, I was available to receive the message for six hours per day, 180 days per year. But that’s just it: the message was not elaborate. It was blunt, as blunt as the paddle that Sister Janice, the principal of the elementary school, used to carry.

One question that occurred to me about this: has the sense of urgency about the return of “the master” has been ratcheted upward again. Remember, this is the first gospel written that was aware of Paul’s career, and that Galatians, one of Paul’s earliest letters, was written in almost breathless anticipation that the return should be expected momentarily. By the time of 1 Corinthians, however, this feeling of immediacy had abated significantly. In the first two gospels the expectation of return also felt muted. In this chapter, however, I felt that Luke was a bit more concerned about this. The problem with this judgement is, of course, that it’s a judgement. As such, it’s necessarily subjective, like saying Matthew’s handling of the alleged Q material is masterful. As mentioned, this occurred to me; whether the judgement is justified or not is a matter for speculation, and for different readers to consider individually.

The second theme of the chapter, or theme 1)B is the sense of other-worldliness. Here again it feels like Luke has become much more closely aligned with later Christian doctrine than his predecessors. Luke weaves this theme skillfully into his narrative, using the story of the foolish rich man as his jumping-off point. We are told the uselessness of placing value on wealth because the rich man was unaware of his impending death. The vanity of riches is a theme with a long future ahead of it. The empty (the Latin root of vanity actually means empty) promise of wealth is sort of the obverse side of being unconcerned about the empty value of the things that money can buy. These latter include clothes, food, etc. Of course, food is necessary, but God provide for the ravens, so God will provide for us. That is a bit step to the sort of asceticism that will take deep root in the Middle Ages; at least, for a few centuries. It is what will give rise to the monastic ideal, even if that ideal eventually will fall short in practice. This feels like a major development in Christian practice.

So, either I haven’t been paying attention, or Chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel is a pivotal point in the history of Christianity. We will start getting into more of those stories unique to Luke; as we progress, we need to keep this chapter in our minds to see if it truly is such a point.


*Gaol: the danger, and possible price of pretentiousness. I just looked this up. Apparently, the current British pronunciation of this word is “jail”. Originally, the word had a hard ‘g’ sound (as goat) that eventually softened into the ‘j’ sound. The two spellings actually come from the same root, but via two different routes. The hard G is Middle English, while the J is Parisian French, both deriving from the same Latin root. I have been (mentally) pronouncing the hard G as “ga-ole”. Good thing I’ve never used it conversationally, or I would have been shown up for the pretentious bastard that I am. Of course, it would hardly be the first time. “Ennui”: Pronounced “En-you-ee”, right? Oh? It’s “en-nwi“? Oops. Now how about “homage”? What is given to a king, as in “give HOM-age” vs paying respect to a literary precursor, paying ‘oh-MAJE”? Whatever. I am much more likely to encounter new words in written form rather than hearing them, so I assign them a pronunciation that is, all too often, incorrect. The same thing happens with sports stars. I read sports, I don’t watch the programming so much.


Luke Chapter 12:49-59

We were discussing the way the Gospels of Matthew and Luke fit together, and what this says about the likelihood of Q’s existence. Naturally, I was dubious, or skeptical, or whichever word most suits this particular set of circumstances. Since I never read ahead before I start translating, I have no real clue of what’s coming up. Perhaps more of the same; perhaps not.


49 Πῦρ ἦλθον βαλεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, καὶ τί θέλω εἰ ἤδη ἀνήφθη.

“Fire I came to throw upon the earth, and what I wish if indeed it were already (…kindled..)

There’s a bit of a problem with the last word. The NT Greek dictionaries–including Strong’s Words–tell us that the word means “to kindle”. As such, Jesus wishing the fire were already kindled. There is no (well, not much) doubt that the form is intended to be read as an aorist passive. The problem is the root word. The root is ana-apō, elided to be anapō. This, however, is not to be found in Liddell & Scott. OK. So let’s try it without the prefix ana which leaves us with apō. Hmmm…That doesn’t exist per L&S either. OK, when all else fails, let’s check the Vulgate. What did St Jerome do with this? OK, he’s bailed us out, giving us the very rare Latin form accensus, which does mean “kindled”. The implication is that we really do not know what the Greek word actually is. It appears twice in the NT; here, and again in Acts 28:2, where it has a similar usage, that the pyre has been lighted. There is a cognate use in James 3:5, but there the Latin is in the form incedit, which is standard. Think, incendiary. I bring this up to show how even the Latin is dicey; there is no form cendo, to which the prefixes a- and in- are added, so taking the Latin as our pole star isn’t exactly a sure thing, either. The form used here, accensus is very rare in Latin. I suppose back filling from the use in James where the Latin is secure, and then replacing the very odd Greek based on a similar Latin translation is valid enough. The point remains, however, that there are still a bunch of different places where we are not wholly and 100% certain of the meaning of the Greek.

49 Ignem veni mittere in terram et quid volo? Si iam accensus esset!

50 βάπτισμα δὲ ἔχω βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ πῶς συνέχομαι ἕως ὅτου τελεσθῇ.

“I have the baptism to be baptised and how do l hold together until this is completed?

These two verses form an interesting couplet as regarding the content. First, it is unique to Luke. But not only is the action or speech unique but the sense of the words is unique as well. Even if I went with the standard “how stressed am I?” rather than my much more literal, but also very telling, “how do I hold (it?) together?”, this sort of exclamation from Jesus is a bit unexpected, to say the least, IMO. It truly hearkens back to Mark, where Jesus not infrequently gets exasperated. What do we make of this? Is there some deep, theological message here? Or is Luke simply having a bit of fun? The commentaries, of course explain this as a cry of anguish at the coming trials Jesus knows he must face. And this is a fully justified interpretation. Part of my reading is that I prefer the more literal meaning of “sunechomai”, which literally means “hold together”. As such there is a very modern feel to the idea of Jesus “holding it together”. Perhaps that colloquial undertone (which is purely accidental, of course) is what makes it sound less than serious coming from Luke. Most render the word as “I am constrained”, which kinda sorta makes sense as the verb is passive, but it wanders a bit from the more basic root, which is sun-echo, “hold with” (reversed in English), as in “hold with”. “To constrain” is a legitimate translation, with a proper Classical pedigree, but it is definition #5. 

As for content, these two verses serve as the introduction to the rest. These verses are unique to Luke, but the rest (most of it, at least the general drift) is shared with Matthew and so categorized as Q material. More on that shortly.

50 Baptisma autem habeo baptizari et quomodo coartor, usque dum perficiatur!

51 δοκεῖτε ὅτι εἰρήνην παρεγενόμην δοῦναι ἐν τῇ γῇ; οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ’ ἢ διαμερισμόν.

52 ἔσονται γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν πέντε ἐν ἑνὶ οἴκῳ διαμεμερισμένοι, τρεῖς ἐπὶ δυσὶν καὶ δύο ἐπὶ τρισίν,

53 διαμερισθήσονται πατὴρ ἐπὶ υἱῷ καὶ υἱὸς ἐπὶ πατρί, μήτηρ ἐπὶ τὴν θυγατέρα καὶ θυγάτηρ ἐπὶ τὴν μητέρα, πενθερὰ ἐπὶ τὴν νύμφην αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφη ἐπὶ τὴν πενθεράν.

“Do you expect that I am here to bring peace to the earth? Not so, I say to you, but division. (52) For they will be of five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. (53) The father will be divided agains son, and son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, the mother-in-law against the bride, the bride against the mother.”

 Not much to say here. This we encountered this in Matthew. Kloppenborg does not indicate whether Q read “bring division”, per Luke, or “the sword” as per Matthew. Burton Mack, OTOH, has the courage of his convictions and posits the original reading as “sword”. And honestly, if you are going to contrast “peace”, something related to war would be my first impulse. So once again, Luke is the more “primitive” version, except when he’s not. When we read this in Matthew, we discussed how this is an ex-post-facto “prediction”, a “foretelling” of what happened to the movement some time after Jesus’ death. At least, we are lead to believe that this happened. Was it an actual persecution? If so, when did it happen? Before the destruction of the Temple? In the 40s, when it was led by Paul? Then why doesn’t Mark dwell on this a bit more? Or is this a folk memory of the Jewish Revolt, in which Josephus tells us there were a number of factions, and there were two or three inside Jerusalem duking it out with each other and at the same time trying to fight off the Romans. No doubt there was a lot of this sort of thing going on: betrayal, treachery, internecine fighting. Mark does have the section where Jesus tells the disciples that not one stone of the Temple will be left standing on another stone. The scenario he described there was terrible, but it doesn’t have anything of the enmity among families that we get here and in Matthew. And I wonder why? 

And here is another instance where the content of the words is wholly ignored when deciding whether something belongs in Q. I skimmed a few commentaries, and they all seemed to dance around the “predictive” aspect of all of this. Sound historical judgement pretty much demands that this passage, and those similar, be read as backward-looking, a description of what did happen, rather than what will happen. As such, it is all-but certain that Jesus never uttered these words. Given that, we have to ask what this passage is doing in a collection of sayings of Jesus. It simply does not fit the criteria to be included as something Jesus said. So, once more, so much of the “argument” for Q proves to be specious. 

And quickly, he mentions the mother-in-law vs the bride. I believe this relationship is specified because the wife would come to join the husband’s family, so the bride would be in contact with her in-law, whereas the husband would not be set against his father-in-law. So the relationship described by Jesus would be much more common, and much more deleterious to the smooth functioning of the household if the relationship went sour.

51 Putatis quia pacem veni dare in terram? Non, dico vobis, sed separationem.

52 Erunt enim ex hoc quinque in domo una divisi: tres in duo, et duo in tres;

53 dividentur pater in filium et filius in patrem, mater in filiam et filia in matrem, socrus in nurum suam et nurus in socrum”.

54 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις, Οταν ἴδητε [τὴν] νεφέλην ἀνατέλλουσαν ἐπὶ δυσμῶν, εὐθέως λέγετε ὅτι Ὄμβρος ἔρχεται, καὶ γίνεται οὕτως:

55 καὶ ὅταν νότον πνέοντα, λέγετε ὅτι Καύσων ἔσται, καὶ γίνεται.

56 ὑποκριταί, τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς καὶ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οἴδατε δοκιμάζειν, τὸν καιρὸν δὲ τοῦτον πῶς οὐκ οἴδατε δοκιμάζειν;

And he said to the crowd, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say that ‘rain is coming’, and so it becomes this way. (55) And when the south (wind) blows, you say, ‘It will be hot’, and it happens. (56) Hypocrites, the countenance of the earth and sky you know how to discern, this season how do you not know how to interpret?

54 Dicebat autem et ad turbas: “Cum videritis nubem orientem ab occasu, statim dicitis: “Nimbus venit”, et ita fit;

55 et cum austrum flantem, dicitis: “Aestus erit”, et fit.

56 Hypocritae, faciem terrae et caeli nostis probare, hoc autem tempus quomodo nescitis probare?

To be honest, I’m not sure how we go from civil war that divides families to (mis)judging the weather, and this inability to judge the weather makes one a hypocrite. I mean, of course I understand that this is all very metaphorical and all that, but it seems a bit of a stretch. Another example of one of the evangelists sticking a couple of things together that really were separate thoughts, but they had to be worked in somewhere, somehow. I should have more to say on this in the chapter summary.

57 Τί δὲ καὶ ἀφ’ ἑαυτῶν οὐ κρίνετε τὸ δίκαιον;

58 ὡς γὰρ ὑπάγεις μετὰ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου σου ἐπ’ ἄρχοντα, ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ δὸς ἐργασίαν ἀπηλλάχθαι ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ, μήποτε κατασύρῃ σε πρὸς τὸν κριτήν, καὶ ὁ κριτής σε παραδώσει τῷ πράκτορι, καὶ ὁ πράκτωρ σε βαλεῖ εἰς φυλακήν.

59 λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως καὶ τὸ ἔσχατον λεπτὸν ἀποδῷς.

(57) And what is from yourselves that you do not judge what is just? (58) For as you lead your adversary before the magistrate (lit = ruler), on the way (there) be delivered of your work from him, lest he pull you down (by) the judgement, and the judge hands you over to the official who executes the judgement (all in the same word), and the official who executes the judgement throws you in the guard-house (gaol). (59) I tell you, you may not come out of there and your last small brass coin you may give over.”

Wow. There is a whole bunch of really unusual, or rather, specialised, vocabulary in this section. A lot of it is unique to Luke in the NT, but, for the most part, the vocabulary is not obscure in the corpus of Classical/pagan Greek. Rather the opposite. Let’s start with archontas/archon. It’s a generic word for “ruler”, but by this point “magistrate” is not a bad translation. The real ruler, of course, was the Emperor, so the various rulers of the towns, etc were local offices. Archaic Athens had three annual archons, the king archon, the eponymous (chief, as in primus inter pares) and war archon. From there the term became generic; Gnostic cosmology posits a sometimes bewildering number of archons, who rule various aspects of the universe. So, it’s kind of a generic term. I happened to notice that it gets translated as “prince of the devils” or “prince of the pagans”. I’m not crazy about using it in terms of royalty since the word is of very secular origin; however, there is no real equivalent in Greek–or Latin, for that matter–for our concept of “prince”. The word is Latin, and comes from princeps, which means “first”. It’s actually a combination of primus caput, literally “first head”. So it’s the first in line, etc. Then it comes to mean “distinguished”. Then Augustus becomes known as Princeps; the First Citizen, and so it became a title. But it did not become a rank until the Mediaeval period, when royalty became the norm in Europe, in those areas where Latin served as the root language.

“The official who executes the judgement” is all captured by a single word: praktor. If you look at it, the derivation of “proctor” is pretty obvious. Vowels are very malleable, and they transition easily as words evolve, especially when moving from one language to another. So many English words with Germanic roots have identical consonant groupings, but the vowels are different. An example is something like vergessen, “forgotten”. Remember that the German “V” is pronounced as an English “F”. 

Then there lepton, a small brass coin. Think, penny, or farthing–whatever the hell a farthing is. “Penny” is another good German-to-English example. Pfenning. The terminal “IG” in German almost always comes across as “-Y” in English. Again, though, the word is very rare in the NT. Aside from here, Mark uses it in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. 

I used to hate the term “gaol”. Times change. I’m more pretentious now.

The word “adversary” has been deliberately saved for last. In Hebrew, adversary is usually rendered as satan; in the OT, this is rarely a capital word. In fact, it’s used in 1 Kings to describe the military adversaries of…one of the kings. The word here is closer to a legal term, referring to an adversary in court. Is there an English term? The party of the first part vs the party of the second part? It is used in the same way in the same story by Matthew. Again, let’s ask ourselves: would an early, Jewish follower of Jesus know this word? Would Jesus know this word? It’s not out of the question. Justice, higher justice anyway, in the easter Mediterranean at the time would have been dispensed in Greek. Pilate spoke Greek, and all the educated Jews like Josephus spoke Greek. But would someone from a backwater like Caphernaum ever encounter Greek justice? Hard to say. So, once again, we have to ask if we should reasonably expect a word like this to be found in Q. Offhand, I would say “no”. It is much more likely that it originated with an educated individual like Matthew.

And then note what Luke does: he takes the basic story as told by Matthew and then throws in about a dozen (well, four or five) additional legal terms. As for the implications here, first and foremost we can toss any notion that Luke’s version is the more “primitive” version which more closely resembled what Q must have looked like. That is patently risible. Think about it: the attempt is to couple Luke with being the more primitive when his version here is clearly much–much–more sophisticated. And this is the second example of this that we’ve come across in this chapter. The sense I derive from this is that Luke, as he has done in the past, “improves” upon, or “corrects” Matthew. He’s seeing Matthew’s technical term–adversary–and raising him praktor and a few others. 

So much for the technical stuff. What about the meaning? This is blunted, to a certain extent, by having encountered it in Matthew. The tone feels slightly different here; in Matthew, this is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s really meant to be an injunction to put aside your differences and come to a settlement before bad things happen to you. The bit about gaol is more of a metaphor, of course, but effective. Here there is more of a sense of menace, that the threat of jail is really that: a threat, and not one to be taken lightly. It’s tempting to see this as an allusion to Hell, and that’s possible, but just barely. And it’s much more likely here than it was in Matthew. I say that largely because of the change in tone, from admonishment something very close to a threat.

57 Quid autem et a vobis ipsis non iudicatis, quod iustum est?

58 Cum autem vadis cum adversario tuo ad principem, in via da operam liberari ab illo, ne forte trahat te apud iudicem, et iudex tradat te exactori, et exactor mittat te in carcerem.

59 Dico tibi: Non exies inde, donec etiam novissimum minutum reddas”.

Luke Chapter 12:35-48

The last section ended with a discussion about poverty. My contention is that this was not a significant aspect of Jesus’ teaching; rather, it slowly gained importance until Luke pushed it into the level of prominence that we now consider as an integral part of Jesus’ original message. This has some real-world implications for our life today; if the message on the blessedness of the poor, and the injunction to help our neighbor is missing, to a large extent, from half of the gospels, it becomes much easier to overlook. Now we turn from that to other aspects of Jesus’ teaching.

35 Ἔστωσαν ὑμῶν αἱ ὀσφύες περιεζωσμέναι καὶ οἱ λύχνοι καιόμενοι,

36 καὶ ὑμεῖς ὅμοιοι ἀνθρώποις προσδεχομένοις τὸν κύριον ἑαυτῶν πότε ἀναλύσῃ ἐκ τῶν γάμων, ἵνα ἐλθόντος καὶ κρούσαντος εὐθέως ἀνοίξωσιν αὐτῷ.

“Let Your loins be girded, and the candles burning, (36) and you are the same as men expecting their lord when he has become loosed from his wedding, in order him coming and striking immediately opening for him.

A few things. The first word in Verse 35 is a third person imperative. “Let it…” more or less captures the sense, all though there is a sense in which the “let it” is directed at the person hearing; that is, it’s actually a second person imperative. And the word for “gird” is based on the word for “put a belt on”; John the Baptist’s leather belt is described by the base meaning of the word. I actually saw a drawing of how one girds one’s loins. If you recall that the standard garb was a long tunic rather than trousers, the idea of girding is to take a belt and use it to hold up the hem of the tunic so that the legs are able to move freely. And the “become loosed” is me being a tad pedantic. The only citation of this meaning “return” is this one. So, you can see the progression from “become loosed” to “return” is logical. And the Latin is “to return”, so this is how St Jerome understood the word. 

Kloppenborg in his Q/Thomas Reader does not include this in Q; he cites it as uniquely Luke. I’m not sure I agree with this assessment. The idea of waiting with lamps for the lord to return is certainly found in Matthew. The difference is that in Matthew, we have ten virgins waiting with lamps, and some brought extra oil while others did not. So the externals are very different, but the basic metaphor is identical. In that instance, too, Kloppenborg notes the very obvious dissimilarities and concludes that the story is unique to Matthew. That is, neither story is believed to be part of Q. This is what happens, IMO, when we get so focused on the individual trees and forget to take a step back and look at the forest. That is, the analysis is so hung up on stuff like kai/de distribution that we never (well, maybe almost never… ) consider the overall message. This has been a glaring failure all through the entire consideration of Q; this is simply another example. Again, yes, this metaphor can be seen as coincidental; but how many coincidences does it take to equal evidence of correlation? Whatever the number is, the Q project apparently believes it’s higher than however many exist.

35 Sint lumbi vestri praecincti et lucernae ardentes,

36 et vos similes hominibus exspectantibus dominum suum, quando revertatur a nuptiis, ut, cum venerit et pulsaverit, confestim aperiant ei.

37 μακάριοι οἱ δοῦλοι ἐκεῖνοι, οὓς ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος εὑρήσει γρηγοροῦντας: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι περιζώσεται καὶ ἀνακλινεῖ αὐτοὺς καὶ παρελθὼν διακονήσει αὐτοῖς.

38 κἂν ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ κἂν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ φυλακῇ ἔλθῃ καὶ εὕρῃ οὕτως, μακάριοί εἰσιν ἐκεῖνοι.

“Blessed are those slaves whom, the lord coming finds awake watching. Amen I say to you that he (the lord) will have girded his loins and they reclining coming he will serve them. (38) And in the second or third watch he should come and find them this, blessed are they. 

Seems to be a lot of girding of loins going on here. The salient point in these two verses is the word “watching”. This is another unusual word. While it’s not quite as rare as oligopistos (of little faith) it’s still a Jewish (LXX) and Christian word, not used much (no cites in L&S). However, it is used a couple of times in Matthew. And one of the placements of the word there is interesting. It comes at the end of the story of the Ten Virgins, in reference to the five that had brought extra oil. Odd, isn’t it? 

Well, full disclosure. Matthew also uses the word in the story about the master who would be watchful if he knew when the thief was coming. We will get to Luke’s version of this in the next couple of verses. So while it may be interesting, it is not by any means conclusive. It is decidedly ambiguous. But it’s one more instance of a “coincidence” in usage of a word much more interesting than the kai/de distinction. 

We did mention before, that the night was divided into four (IIRC) watches. The first would start at dusk and last something like three or four hours. So the second and third watches would be the stretch from, say, eleven until the couple of hours before dawn. That is, the dead of night. My apologies for the imprecision, but being precise s not particularly important; “the dead of night” gets the idea across well enough.

37 Beati, servi illi, quos, cum venerit dominus, invenerit vigilantes. Amen dico vobis, quod praecinget se et faciet illos discumbere et transiens ministrabit illis.

38 Et si venerit in secunda vigilia, et si in tertia vigilia venerit, et ita invenerit, beati sunt illi.

39 τοῦτο δὲ γινώσκετε ὅτι εἰ ᾔδει ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης ποίᾳ ὥρᾳ ὁ κλέπτης ἔρχεται, οὐκ ἂν ἀφῆκεν διορυχθῆναι τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ.

40 καὶ ὑμεῖς γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι, ὅτι ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεται.

“This you will know that if the lord of the manor should know which hour the thief comes, he would not allow to be broken into his home. And become you (imperative), that at the hour you do not expect the son of man comes”.

The word that I translated as “become you” is a second person plural imperative. “You must become” would probably be the most idiomatic rendering, but that implies obligation rather than command. There is a difference. And I could have (should have?) rendered it, simply, as “be ready” since the base meaning of verb gignomai, or here as ginomai, “to become”, is very often just used as a replacement for “to be”. However, in this instance, I like the sense of using it in its truest sense. “Be ready” is one thing; “become ready” is something rather different. It has the decided implication that the disciples are not ready at the particular moment.

Secondly, in Verse 39, there is a minority ms tradition that adds the word “watchful”. The sentence then reads …(the lord) was watchful and would not allow…). The word used was the same one we commented upon in the previous couplet. Matthew used the word in his version of this story, which preceded (rather than following as it does here) the story of the Ten Virgins. I do not accept the inclusion of the word here; as I said, it’s a decidedly less robust tradition, usually only found in the footnotes. It’s just that the two Greek texts I use were split on it, so it seemed worth mentioning. The most likely explanation is that some copyist added it to a Lukan ms tradition based on the inclusion of the word in Matthew. 

Even so, let’s stop and think about this for a moment. We have an unusual word. Matthew uses it in this story, then again at the end of a story about having your lamp/candle lighted and being watchful for the return of the lord. Luke does not use it in this story, but uses it in his version of the warning to have your lamp/candle lighted and be watchful. The story of the light/watchfulness, which has the word in both Matthew and Luke is not in Q; but the story of the lord and the thief is in Q. But the word in question is in Matthew and not Luke; that is, the word appears in the version that is supposed to be less primitive. That is, the word was not in Q, was not in Luke, but was in Matthew. Does any of this seem remotely logical? That is the crux of the matter, the question you have to ask yourself. Does the Q theory make sense–if you don’t assume its existence and then work backward to prove it. Remember, without Q, there is no link to Jesus for most of the most memorable episodes and teachings of the NT. That alone makes Q an absolute necessity for a lot of people, and these people will then twist themselves into all sorts of Gordian pretzels and ignore all sorts of arguments in order to feel confident that such a link to Jesus does exist, no matter what. That is faith; it is not scholarship. 

39 Hoc autem scitote, quia, si sciret pater familias, qua hora fur veniret, non sineret perfodi domum suam.

40 Et vos estote parati, quia, qua hora non putatis, Filius hominis venit”.

41 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος, Κύριε, πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγεις ἢ καὶ πρὸς πάντας;

42 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ κύριος, Τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν ὁ πιστὸς οἰκονόμος ὁ φρόνιμος, ὃν καταστήσει ὁ κύριος ἐπὶ τῆς θεραπείας αὐτοῦ τοῦ διδόναι ἐν καιρῷ [τὸ] σιτομέτριον;

43 μακάριος ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος, ὃν ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ εὑρήσει ποιοῦντα οὕτως:

44 ἀληθῶς λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπάρχουσιν αὐτοῦ καταστήσει αὐτόν.

45 ἐὰν δὲ εἴπῃ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ, Χρονίζει ὁ κύριός μου ἔρχεσθαι, καὶ ἄρξηται τύπτειν τοὺς παῖδας καὶ τὰς παιδίσκας, ἐσθίειν τε καὶ πίνειν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι,

46 ἥξει ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἧ οὐ προσδοκᾷ καὶ ἐν ὥρᾳ ἧ οὐ γινώσκει, καὶ διχοτομήσει αὐτὸν καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀπίστων θήσει.

47 ἐκεῖνος δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ὁ γνοὺς τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ καὶ μὴ ἑτοιμάσας ἢ ποιήσας πρὸς τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ δαρήσεται πολλάς:

48 ὁ δὲ μὴ γνούς, ποιήσας δὲ ἄξια πληγῶν, δαρήσεται ὀλίγας. παντὶ δὲ ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ, πολὺ ζητηθήσεται παρ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ᾧ παρέθεντο πολύ, περισσότερον αἰτήσουσιν αὐτόν.

And Peter said, “Lord, to us this parable do you speak, or also to all?” (42) And the lord said, “Who is this faithful and wise steward whom the lord places down upon his service to give in its appropriate time the allotment of wheat? (43) Blessed is that slave, who the lord coming the lord finds doing thus. (44) Truly I say to you that upon all those of his in existence he will set down that one. (45) If that slave says in his heart, ‘My lord will use time to come’, and he will rule to smite the male slaves and the female slaves eating and drinking and to be drunk, (46) the lord of that slave will return on a day which he (the slave) does not see and an hour which he does not recognise, and will cut him in twain and he (the lord) will put the portions of him (the slave) with the unfaithful ones. (47) That slave knowing the will of his lord and is not ready or doing towards his (the lord’s) will be thrashed much. (48) The one not knowing, doing things worthy of a beating, will receive a small thrashing. For to all to whom much has been given, much will be sought from him, and the one to whom much has been put forward, the most they will ask of him.”

I believe I’ve been fairly consistent in rendering it as “parable”. The word means something more like “comparison”. But, it’s not too much of a stretch to make it reach our concept of “parable”. It should be obvious that it’s the same word as “parabola”. The word has plenty of mathematical uses in Greek; however, the uses are more like a technical vocabulary rather than cascading meanings. Sort of like the word “strike” in baseball, or bowling. Yes, the basic sense of “smite” lurks there, somewhere, but especially in the baseball term, that original meaning is pretty well buried. And notice how Peter asks the question, but Jesus doesn’t answer? This is, I believe, a glancing blow at Mark, where he tells us that Jesus taught in parables, but told the disciples, and only the disciples, the meanings in private.

The rest of this, for the most part, is Q material. There are two things I want to mention. First, there is yet another really odd word in here. It’s what I rendered as “cut in twain” (sorry; couldn’t resist). It is also a math term for “bisect”, as in “bisecting an angle”, which is to cut an angle into two equal parts; IOW, to cut in twain. The only place it doesn’t mean “bisect” (or its synonyms) is in the Gospel of Matthew–and, by extension, of Luke. Now, Luke did not come up with this word independently; the probability of that, while not zero, is pretty daunting, somewhere in the neighborhood of lightning strike. So this means that Luke either got the word from Q, which is where Matthew got it, or that Luke got it from Matthew. We have discussed this before, but I do not recall the word in question. I have started writing these down now because I believe I can construct a decent case for this. The point is, let’s recall what Q is supposed to be. In theory, it is a collection of stuff Jesus said that was written down very soon after Jesus died, if not while he was alive. This, in turn, means one of two things. The first possibility is that Jesus indeed actually used the word, or its Aramaic equivalent. It’s highly unlikely that Jesus knew enough Greek to come up with a word like this.

So if Jesus didn’t use the word, this means that the “author”–“compiler” is perhaps more accurate–of Q chose the word. This makes more sense because if Q was written, it was probably written in Greek. In fact, if Luke and Matthew both came across the word in Q, then Q must have been written in Greek. Of course, it’s possible that Q was written in Aramaic, and that Jesus used the Aramaic term for “thrash bodily”, which the Q author recorded. Then Matthew came along, saw the Aramaic term, had heard of a Greek word for “bisect”, and decided to make it a synonym for “to thrash”. Of course, this would mean that Luke either translated the Aramaic word exactly as Matthew did, which, given the rarity of the word, seems very unlikely. Or, Luke copied the word from Matthew. So either the author of Q used the obscure Greek word, not quite properly, and was copied by both Luke and Matthew, or Matthew used the obscure term, not quite properly, and was copied by Luke. In fact, I would suggest that the use by Luke indicates that he copied it from his source rather blindly, not exactly sure of what the word meant. Had he truly known, it seems reasonable that he would have understood that the word was not being used properly and would have substituted a more appropriate word.

So who came up with the Greek word? Matthew? Or the compiler of Q? And let us forget the supposed provenance of Q. For it to be what people want it to be, it had to be early. The earlier the better. What is the likelihood that this compiler, writing shortly after Jesus–if not during Jesus’ life–was well-versed in Greek? The original followers of Jesus were Aramaic speakers. Paul wrote in Greek, but a generation after Jesus, and Paul’s early letters do not exactly demonstrate a great command of the language. More than likely the later letters, which do show a better command of Greek, were translated for him by an amanuensis. But Q, supposedly, pre-dates Paul. That the movement, in its earliest days, attracted someone who could come up with a word like “bisect”, a technical term, even to misuse it, is very, very improbable. So either the word was late–which defeats the whole point of Q–or Matthew used it and was followed by Luke. Nor does it matter whether Jesus used the word or not in its Aramaic form. The problem remains. It seems rather a sticky wicket for the Q people.

The second point rather dovetails with the first. We’ve come across this axiom, “to whom has been given, more will be given” in both Mark and Matthew. Once again, what we have here is a point where M&M agree, and Luke goes his own way. Once again, it seems that Luke has taken a story, or a pericope, that is adequately covered by his predecessors and changed it to make it his own. It must be noted that this almost always happens when Mark and Matthew not only agree, but are almost verbatim–unless Matthew has chosen to elaborate. So we have another example. So I ask you, is it reasonable to conclude that Luke did not read Matthew?

41 Ait autem Petrus: “ Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam an et ad omnes? ”.

42 Et dixit Dominus: “ Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituet dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram?

43 Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit ita facientem.

44 Vere dico vobis: Supra omnia, quae possidet, constituet illum.

41 Ait autem Petrus: “ Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam an et ad omnes? ”.

42 Et dixit Dominus: “ Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituet dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram?

43 Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit ita facientem.

44 Vere dico vobis: Supra omnia, quae possidet, constituet illum.

45 Quod si dixerit servus ille in corde suo: “Moram facit dominus meus venire”, et coeperit percutere pueros et ancillas et edere et bibere et inebriari,

46 veniet dominus servi illius in die, qua non sperat, et hora, qua nescit, et dividet eum partemque eius cum infidelibus ponet.

47 Ille autem servus, qui cognovit voluntatem domini sui et non praeparavit vel non fecit secundum voluntatem eius, vapulabit multis;

48 qui autem non cognovit et fecit digna plagis, vapulabit paucis. Omni autem, cui multum  datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo; et cui commendaverunt multum, plus petent ab eo.

Luke Chapter 12:24-34

This is rather a jump back into the middle of the story from the last section. Jesus had just said that life is more than what we shall eat, and that the body is more than clothing. This followed after the story of the rich man who made plans for his surplus output without realising he was going to die that night. The theme is not to be concerned with things of the world, but to turn our eyes to heavenly things. So the extended metaphor continues.


24 κατανοήσατε τοὺς κόρακας ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδὲ θερίζουσιν, οἷς οὐκ ἔστιν ταμεῖον οὐδὲ ἀποθήκη, καὶ ὁ θεὸς τρέφει αὐτούς: πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμεῖς διαφέρετε τῶν πετεινῶν.

25 τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ προσθεῖναι πῆχυν;

Consider the ravens, that do not sow nor harvest, to whom (dative of possession) there is neither store-house nor barn, and God feeds them. To how much more do you matter than the birds? (25) Who of you is able to increase upon your age or add a cubit? (Presumably meaning to add to one’s height. A cubit is 18 inches; growing by a foot and a half would be a prodigious accomplishment.)

I would have been willing to wager actual hard currency that the sentiments expressed here and in the following set of verses appear elsewhere in the gospels. Well, I would have lost that bet because this material, pretty much the entire chapter, is unique to Luke. At some point a comment was made that Luke seemed to be compressing much of the material of the Triple Tradition, in a manner to suggest that Luke was hurrying to get through as much of the material as quickly as possible to leave room for his own unique material. IIRC from flipping through the rest of the gospel, we should get a fairly high percentage of this unique material in the remainder of the gospel. I’m going to defer comment in detail until after the next section.

That is, I will defer except to point this out. The word for “adding to” one’s life, is prostheinai.  This is the root of the word “prosthesis”, which is an artificial recreation of part of the human (or other) body.

24 Considerate corvos, quia non seminant neque metunt, quibus non est cellarium neque horreum, et Deus pascit illos; quanto magis vos pluris estis volucribus.

25 Quis autem vestrum cogitando potest adicere ad aetatem suam cubitum?

26 εἰ οὖν οὐδὲ ἐλάχιστον δύνασθε, τί περὶ τῶν λοιπῶν μεριμνᾶτε;

“Therefore if you are not able to do the least thing, Why would you be concerned about the rest?

Adding a cubit to one’s height isn’t a particularly small thing, IMO. I’d be 7’8″ tall, or thereabouts, and may have made it in the NBA. That’s quite a difference in outcome based on being able to change this aspect of my physique.

26 Si ergo neque, quod minimum est, potestis, quid de ceteris solliciti estis?

27 κατανοήσατε τὰ κρίνα πῶς αὐξάνει: οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει: λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ Σολομὼν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ περιεβάλετο ὡς ἓν τούτων.

28 εἰ δὲ ἐν ἀγρῷ τὸν χόρτον ὄντα σήμερον καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον βαλλόμενον ὁ θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέζει, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς, ὀλιγόπιστοι.

“Consider how the lilies grow, they neither toil nor spin. I say to you, that Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as these are. (28) But if the grass in the field being today, and tomorrow God throwing it into the furnace dressed such, how much better you, being of little faith.

The last word is highlighted. It is a compound word, oligo-pistoi, literally translated “little-faith”. It’s an interesting word. It does not occur in secular or pagan Greek. Thus it is a very unusual word, of very low frequency. How low, exactly? It occurs four times in Matthew, and here. That is a total of five instances. Now, the five instances we have does not mean it did not occur in other places; after all, so much Greek writing was lost, the stuff of literary quality, but also the lesser stuff. Think of something you wrote a decade ago, then threw away when the purpose had been served. Or perhaps something you wrote as a student, say in university. When those days ended (if they have) did you throw all that stuff away? I did. And some of it I had on floppy disks–the original 5″ versions that were floppy–even if I have the disks (which I doubt), the info on them may as well have been burned a decade ago. The point is that this word may have been more common than the five extant examples we have may indicate. 

Think about that, however. How often does this word get used in a secular context? No, it’s not impossible to do that, but the times I’ve used it there has been a level of facetiousness in the use, meant to reflect back onto its scriptural provenance. IOW, I’ve used it assuming that my audience would get the allusion to the NT. The point of all this is that it is not a word that Luke would likely have encountered very often. It’s not a common word. It occurs in Matthew–four separate times, in Chapters 6, 8. 14, & 18–and here. How plausible is it that this word just sort of occurred to Luke? Or, rather, is it more likely that Luke got this on his own, from some unknown source (which means we have another unknown source; they seem to be piling up thick and fast), or more likely that he got it by reading Matthew? This is a very serious question, and it’s not the first time we’ve asked it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking notes of these instances. Making these sorts of cross-comparisons seems to offer a much more fruitful avenue of pursuit than counting the occurrences of kai vs de. Those are such common words, and can come out more or less unconsciously; choosing a word like oligopistos, OTOH, is very deliberate and very conscious. This is especially true if there are several examples of this sort of borrowing of words from Matthew by Luke. And there have been several examples. I need to go back and collect them.

As for the actual content of these five verses taken collectively, they fit very nicely with another theme that we’ve mentioned in Luke. We’ve found it in the gospel as a whole, but it has been especially prominent in this particular chapter. It’s yet more on the theme of poverty. In this set of verses, the idea of not caring about riches is put in terms of letting God provide. This is, essentially, an admonition to asceticism. This was hardly a new concept, especially among Jews who were familiar with the Essenes. But by the time of Luke the Christian community was doubtless overwhelmingly pagan in origin. Among the pagans, asceticism was not quite as prominent as it was among Jews, and even there the Essenes were something of a fringe movement. Again, there is a pervasive sense among Christians–or amongst some Christian groups, anyway–that asceticism is sort of an expected ideal. This played a huge role in heretical movements of the High & Late Middle Ages, when the Waldensians, the Cathars, the Poor Friars wing of the Franciscans, and dozens of smaller groups advocated for what became termed “apostolic poverty”. But as we’ve been reading along, this sort of asceticism, or even the idea of asceticism was was practically nonexistent in Paul and Mark, and given short shrift in Matthew. It only begins to flourish now that we’ve come to Luke. He is the first strong proponent of asceticism as something to be embraced. Oh, we had the “eye of the needle” metaphor, but precious little else on this line. It is only now that it’s becoming incorporated into the mainline of Christian thought and practice. And of course, let us not forget the evolution from “blessed are the poor in spirit” to “blessed are the poor”. Far from being the more primitive version, Luke’s reading is the more developed of the two. The failure to recognise this goes hand in hand with kai/de counting; by getting too hung up in the details of the text, the overall message, and how it developed, get lost.

27 Considerate lilia quomodo crescunt: non laborant neque nent; dico autem vobis: Nec Salomon in omni gloria sua vestiebatur sicut unum ex istis.

28 Si autem fenum, quod hodie in agro est et cras in clibanum mittitur, Deus sic vestit, quanto magis vos, pusillae fidei.

29 καὶ ὑμεῖς μὴ ζητεῖτε τί φάγητε καὶ τί πίητε, καὶ μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε:

“And you do not seek what to eat and what to drink, and do not raise up.

Another highlighted word. I probably should have thought of this technique earlier. I have translated it according to its strictly technical, base meaning, which is to raise up. The word can also mean to elevate, especially with false hopes, and it can mean to be suffering from flatulence (I am not making that up). It can also mean to be anxious. By cross-referencing with the Latin, it’s a good bet that this latter is the intent in this particular passage. But the notation in Liddell & Scott is  “also, to be anxious, POxy. 1679.16 (iii A.D.), perh. in this sense Ev Luc 12:29″.

The thing to notice in this is the perhaps. Even Rev Scott did not completely feel completely confident in his rendering. Now, that translation makes sense, and it does square with the Vulgate, but boy howdy, it sure should serve as a cautionary tale on just how tentative and shaky a lot of these translations are.

29 Et vos nolite quaerere quid manducetis aut quid bibatis et nolite solliciti esse.

30 ταῦτα γὰρ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου ἐπιζητοῦσιν: ὑμῶν δὲ ὁ πατὴρ οἶδεν ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων.

31 πλὴν ζητεῖτε τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῦτα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

32 Μὴ φοβοῦ, τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον, ὅτι εὐδόκησεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δοῦναι ὑμῖν τὴν βασιλείαν.

“For these things all the people of the kosmos seek; the father of you knows that you have need of them. (31) Unless you seek the kingdom of him, and these things increase you. (32) Do not fear, o little flock, since (lit = that) the father of you is pleased to give you the kingdom.

A couple of quick notes. Jesus is addressing the disciples as, “o little flock”. This means, technically, that the noun is in the vocative case. This case is used to address someone, or something–as in this case. For a neuter second declension noun, the nominative and the vocative cases have the same ending, so it’s impossible to discern the difference w/o the context. The site that has my crib translations parses this as a nominative. A very minor detail. I bring it up, really, to clarify the translation.

And it strikes me that Luke is just referring to it as “the kingdom”. Not “of God” or “of heaven”, but just the kingdom. It strikes me, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily meaningful. It could just be one of those things. Or it could mean that Luke feels the reader is well aware that it is the kingdom of God, or of Heaven, and so it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Again, this would only be true, IMO, if Luke knew that there were two other gospels who had already and effectively made the point.

30 Haec enim omnia gentes mundi quaerunt; Pater autem vester scit quoniam his indigetis.

31 Verumtamen quaerite regnum eius; et haec adicientur vobis.

33 Πωλήσατε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὑμῶν καὶ δότε ἐλεημοσύνην: ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς βαλλάντια μὴ παλαιούμενα, θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ὅπου κλέπτης οὐκ ἐγγίζει οὐδὲ σὴς διαφθείρει:

34 ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρὸς ὑμῶν, ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ καρδία ὑμῶν ἔσται.

(33) “Sell the things (that are) of you and give the charity/alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not age, (and) treasure unfailing in the heavens, where thieves do not approach nor moths destroy. (34) For where your treasure is, there also is the heart of you”.

This last part, to some degree, is present in the other gospels. In Mark and Matthew, this injunction is spoken to a rich young man, prefatory to the “eye of the needle” maxim, which is missing here. So we have another instance where Luke has read something in Mark and then condensed much of it out. In fact, it could be argued that by removing the “eye of the needle” punchline Luke has cut out the most salient point of the lesson. Why would he do that? Because, once again, he is leaving out material that was covered completely by Mark and Matthew, and that retelling it a third time would gain nothing. Once again, he seems to be very much aware of what Mark AND Matthew have to say in this context, so he does not have Jesus direct this quip at some anonymous fellow who surfaces and disappears completely within a few verses. In those two tellings, Jesus tells the rich young man to follow the commandments, etc, and then, to be perfect, to sell what he has and give it all away. Here, he tells this to his disciples. I hope the distinction is clear: in M&M, it’s a one-off, instructions given to a stranger. Here, OTOH, the instruction is given to his disciples, to those most close to him. The implication is, as a result, very different. Jesus tells the young man to do this knowing (of course) that he will not. Here, I think, he tells his disciples to do this, knowing that they have already left everything behind and come to follow Jesus. Because in M&M, after the “eye of the needle”, the disciples ask how they can be saved if the rich cannot, and Jesus tells them that anyone who has left all he has to follow him has won a place in the kingdom. So in this section, Luke is compressing, and by a lot.

Let’s go back to poverty. You may, or may not, recall some of Paul’s whining about how he tried not to be a burden on the communities where he was staying and preaching. And, in Galatians, he contrasts his salutary behaviour with that of some of the other apostles, who remain nameless. These other apostles, Paul implies, apparently traveled with something like a retinue, that may have included their wives. Think–or, as Luke says, consider–about that in relation to the idea, or ideal of “apostolic poverty”. The two don’t quite fit together very effectively, do they? And, if we reflect further, we can infer–or deduce–that the idea of poverty as something that may have become aspirational, or considered a good end-in-itself may not trace back to Jesus at all. It may have been something that Paul introduced, albeit in limited fashion. Aside from the story of the rich young man that culminates in the “eye of the needle” and Jesus promising a reward to those who left everything behind to become followers, poverty is barely mentioned at all in Mark. Instead, Mark is much more concerned with how Jesus realises his magical feats. Mark tells us more about spit and making mud than he does about poverty. Matthew takes it only slightly further, by telling us that the “poor in spirit” are blessed. There may be a few additional references, but none that immediately come to mind–not that I have the Matthean corpus ad digitos, at my fingertips. Interestingly, Luke is the first evangelist (sort of; assuming Luke/Acts is the product of a single author) that we can be certain was aware of Paul; AND, Luke is the first who presents poverty itself, as a blessed state. “Blessed are the poor“.

It must also be noted that the emphasis on, or the concern with poverty perhaps should be attributed to James, brother of Jesus. One of his conditions in the deal he cut with Paul was that the latter should “remember the poor”. Later tradition associated James with a non-orthodox group called The Ebionites, which is generally considered to mean “the poor”. (To be fair, I have a very low opinion of later tradition; they made stuff up. So it’s a bit disingenuous of me to trot out “later tradition” as an argument in my favour. And disingenuous might be too kind; hypocritical might be more accurate.) So, with Luke, do we have a confluence of the Pauline with the Jacobian traditions? Or did the former subsume the poverty doctrine of the latter? There are all sorts of sub-currents here, or cross-currents, or flat-out contradictions. The period between Jesus’ death and Luke’s gospel was one of constant flux as different ideas, different emphases were ebbing and flowing; it is with Luke, more or less, that something like an actual church, with a hierarchy and oversight of doctrine starts to take real form. Before this, not so much. Tradition states the succession of bishops of Rome to be Peter, Linus, (Ana)Cletus, Clement…In the days of my youth the recitation of these names was part of the Consecration of the Eucharist, and said at most masses in the Roman Rite. Clement is the first we can nail down because we have a letter he wrote to the church of Corinth; his dates are, traditionally, 88-99 (always, always, give or take). That would put him at the point when Luke was writing; and Luke’s writing (again, assuming Luke/Acts) ends with Paul traveling to Rome–not exactly of his own volition, of course. Hmmm. Interesting coincidences. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but nowhere in Acts does “Luke” say that Peter was the first bishop, or even a bishop, of Rome. 

No doubt I would have gotten marks off for that last paragraph. It started with poverty and ended with the bishops of Rome. The point is, or was, or should have been, that the fifty or so years between Jesus’ death and the time Luke wrote it is probably wholly inappropriate to think of a single, orthodox Christianity. After Luke, we have conscious attempts to create one, and these attempts were met with some success. The proto-orthodox doctrines included the idea/ideal of poverty whereas most earlier traditions probably did not. As such, this emphasis, or the peculiar blessed state of poverty, almost certainly does not trace back to Jesus.

32 Noli timere, pusillus grex, quia complacuit Patri vestro dare vobis regnum.

33 Vendite, quae possidetis, et date eleemosynam. Facite vobis sacculos, qui non veterescunt, thesaurum non deficientem in caelis, quo fur non appropiat, neque tinea corrumpit;

34 ubi enim thesaurus vester est, ibi et cor vestrum erit.

Luke Chapter 12:13-23

To start, much of the rest of the chapter does not provide any truly clean breaks into manageable sections. This is itself interesting; does Luke present a more unified, unitary account of some of these teachings? One that doesn’t seem just to be a bunch of separate sayings strung together like beads of different stones?

We last saw Jesus telling the disciples not to worry about what to say when arrested and hauled before the magistrates. What was not said about this is that the episode is probably anachronistic. This more likely relates to a period after Jesus’ death, when the nascent movement was under some “pressure” from authorities. So this was one of those post-eventum “prophecies”. We discussed this at some length when this story occurred in both Mark and Matthew, so it didn’t seem worth repeating. However, it should be borne in mind. One thing that just occurred to me is that it may have been James who gave an admonition in this vein. He may not have, but it would have been appropriate during the time when he was the leader of the movement in Jerusalem. Even the concept of the sacred breath as expounded demonstrates a level of development that goes beyond the simple understanding and use of the term. However, all of this is looking backwards; rather, let us look forward to the rest of the


13 Εἶπεν δέ τις ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπὲ τῷ ἀδελφῷ μου μερίσασθαι μετ’ ἐμοῦ τὴν κληρονομίαν.

14 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἄνθρωπε, τίς με κατέστησεν κριτὴν ἢ μεριστὴν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς;

15 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ.

Someone from the crowd said to him (Jesus), “Teacher, tell my brother to apportion with me our inheritance”. (14) He (Jesus) said to him (the speaker) “Dude, who designated me judge of which is the portion upon you (plural)? (15) Then he said to them, “See and guard from all covetousness (lit = something like ‘filling up’) that in the overabundance is the life of him is not from those (things) ruling over him. ( less literally = that the overabundance [of possessions] is not the ruling [principle] in his life )

I was dead certain that this exchange was in both of the other two gospels; as it turns out, it’s in neither. This is unique to Luke. As such, I’m simply going to note the admonition against greed, and move on to the next sections, in which Jesus develops the theme.

I do just want to comment on the set-up question. Is this an indication of how Jesus–or more likely James–had come to be seen by contemporaries? As a person who brings justice by insisting that inheritances be shared equally among heirs? As a cultural Christian who went to a Catholic elementary school, I have to say that this is not the sort of role I would think of when considering my stereotypical Jesus. I don’t have any sort of answer, or even any sort of resolution to this question. But I think it’s important that it be asked.

13 Ait autem quidam ei de turba: “ Magister, dic fratri meo, ut dividat mecum hereditatem ”.

14 At ille dixit ei: “ Homo, quis me constituit iudicem aut divisorem super vos? ”.

15 Dixitque ad illos: “ Videte et cavete ab omni avaritia, quia si cui res abundant, vita eius non est ex his, quae possidet ”.

16 Εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων, Ἀνθρώπου τινὸς πλουσίου εὐφόρησεν ἡ χώρα.

17 καὶ διελογίζετο ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Τί ποιήσω, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχω ποῦ συνάξω τοὺς καρπούς μου;

18 καὶ εἶπεν, Τοῦτο ποιήσω: καθελῶ μου τὰς ἀποθήκας καὶ μείζονας οἰκοδομήσω, καὶ συνάξω ἐκεῖ πάντα τὸν σῖτον καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου,

19 καὶ ἐρῶτῇ ψυχῇ μου, Ψυχή, ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά: ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός, Ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ: ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται;

21 οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ καὶ μὴ εἰς θεὸν πλουτῶν.

22 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς [αὐτοῦ], Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ τί φάγητε, μηδὲ τῷ σώματι τί ἐνδύσησθε.

23 ἡ γὰρ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν τῆς τροφῆς καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος.

He spoke a parable towards them. “There was a certain wealthy man, the country of whom brought forth riches. (17) And he said within himself saying, ‘What shall I do, that I do not have where to gather my grain?’ (18) And he said, ‘I will do this. I will take down my storehouses and I will build bigger (ones), and I will gather there all the grain and (all) my good things. (19) And I will say to my inner self, “Inner self, you have many good things and laid out are many years (less lit = I have many years to live). Rest, eat, drink, and rejoice”.’ (20) But God said to him, ‘Fool! this very night your life I will take from you. Ready yourself, and to who will it (your wealth) be?’ (21) Thus was the treasure of him and not of God was his wealth”. (22) He said to his disciples, “Through this I speak to you, do not care in life what you eat, nor for the body what you wear. (23) For life is more than what you eat, and your body (is more than) its clothing”.

First, let’s talk about the uses of the word psyche. In Verse 19, we are told he spoke to his psyche, by saying, Psyche, I have much goods…Three of my four crib translations render this as …he said to his soul, “Soul…” I don’t know about you, but that does not sound like idiomatic English to my ear. This is where we run into all those problems with psyche = soul. The NIV renders it as “…he said to himself…” That is idiomatic English. And so it is with psyche. Soul is one possible meaning, and it may be the most common possible meaning, but the correlation between the Greek psyche and English soul is not very exact. There is some overlap; in English, while soul can have the sense of “oneself”, it almost never does. It can refer to a life, or more correctly, a person, as in the sense of a “lost soul”, but I have never run across someone saying, “O, soul” in the sense of speaking to oneself. Yet, that is how this passage is frequently rendered. Maybe it made sense when the KJV was printed, but that sense is long since lost. 

With that out of the way, let’s look at the overall sense of the passage. As noted, this is unique to Luke. The theme is wealth, and the disparagement of the wealthy. When we realize that the story of Dives (Wealth) and Lazarus is also in Luke, and unique to Luke, then maybe we can sense a theme? And this is why I don’t think it can be taken as a given that “blessed are the poor” is in any sense more “primitive” than “blessed are the poor in spirit”. The first is a reflection of the current conditions; the second is excusing those conditions. My apologies, but that’s what it does, even if that isn’t the intended point of the words–but I fully believe it is/was. On reflection, I need to step down from my statement. Of course there is a way in which Luke’s is more “primitive”, because casuistry is, necessarily, a sophisticated activity. And to classify Matthew’s aphorism as “casuistry” is another very strong statement; but this is not one I feel the need to calibrate more precisely. The point is that, taking this story, that of Dives and Lazarus, and “blessed are the poor” we have at least the framework of a theme. Luke is concerned about the poor, perhaps more so than the other two we’ve read. And Luke has the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, so perhaps he has a bit more to say about how we should live overall. Because that is the other theme of this particular section, the reason I found it hard to split it up more. Do care about eating or clothing, or laying up treasure–again with the wealth–that is of this world. So don’t care about wealth, love your neighbour–who is, at least could be,  someone you despise–don’t worry about the trappings of life. This is an overall prescription for how to live, based on a non-admiration of money. So “blessed are the poor” isn’t primitive; it’s an imperative.

In fact, far from being the “primitive” version of this pericope Luke presents us with the more developed. The ending, that life is more than food etc is unique to Luke. So is the bit about the ravens. In an act of serious disrespect, Burton Mack includes Luke’s unique material as part of Q. Of course he does. So can a proponent of Q explain why Matthew omitted this? And it should be redactionally consistent with the reasoning for leaving all the other stuff out that is unique to Luke. To Mack’s credit, he does not include the parable of The Clueless Landowner; apparently, Luke is granted some credit for originality. Plus, it seems like this emphasis on poverty has developed since the time Matthew wrote, and even more so since Mark wrote. True textual analysis would not simply focus on just the words–like the kai/de occurrences–but should focus just as much–more?–on what the words are saying. How is what Matthew says different from what Mark says, and how is Luke different from both? Then we take these differences and see if the themes presented have changed at all. The biggest example is Jesus’ divinity in Mark vs in Matthew & Luke; the latter two are similar on this theme, but John takes it several steps further. That is, the theme has developed over time, and through time. The failure–more like refusal–of the Q proponents to have these discussions represents something akin to intellectual malpractice, and it makes it difficult to treat a lot of NT scholarship as serious scholarship.

16 Dixit autem similitudinem ad illos dicens: “Hominis cuiusdam divitis uberes fructus ager attulit.

17 Et cogitabat intra se dicens: “Quid faciam, quod non habeo, quo congregem fructus meos?”.

18 Et dixit: “Hoc faciam: destruam horrea mea et maiora aedificabo et illuc congregabo omne triticum et bona mea;

19 et dicam animae meae: Anima, habes multa bona posita in annos plurimos; requiesce, comede, bibe, epulare”.

20 Dixit autem illi Deus: “Stulte! Hac nocte animam tuam repetunt a te; quae autem parasti, cuius erunt?”.

21 Sic est qui sibi thesaurizat et non fit in Deum dives”.

22 Dixitque ad discipulos suos: “Ideo dico vobis: nolite solliciti esse animae quid manducetis, neque corpori quid vestiamini.

23 Anima enim plus est quam esca, et corpus quam vestimentum.


Luke Chapter 12:1-12 – Updated & Revised

Apologies for the long hiatus. The real world can intrude into the life of a blogger!

So on to Chapter 12. Completing this chapter will put us half-way through the gospel. I believe this is more Q stuff, and I believe it corresponds to material in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I prefer Luke’s arrangement of Matthew’s material; I found that having three successive chapters of Jesus’ lessons got to be a bit tiresome. Granted, that may just be a symptom of my anti-Q bias; but it is equally probable that the insistence on Matthew’s “masterful arrangement” is simply a manufactured argument created to bolster the “case” for Q.


1 Ἐν οἷς ἐπισυναχθεισῶν τῶν μυριάδων τοῦ ὄχλου, ὥστε καταπατεῖν ἀλλήλους, ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ πρῶτον, Προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης, ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισις, τῶν Φαρισαίων.

In those days having gathered myriads of the crowd, so that they were trampling each other, he began to speak to his disciples first, “Take heed amongst yourselves from the yeast, which is hypocricy, of the Pharisees. 

This is interesting. First of all, “myriad” means both 10,000 or simply “a whole lot”. So either Luke is telling us that there were 20 or 30,000 people in the crowd, or simply that the crowd was very large. It’s rather a more literary description than we have gotten from the other two; whether it should be taken literally, however, is another matter. Regardless, I like the bit about them trampling upon each other. This is a novel detail, and it’s the sort of thing that leads me to refer to Luke as the novelist of the Evangelists.

Second, this is a serious case of misdirection. By opening with the size of the crowd, one might expect that we were embarking on a retelling of the feeding of 5,000 or something. Instead, we get a warning about the yeast of the Pharisees. In either Mark or Matthew, this warning comes up as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and they had forgotten to bring bread, and the disciples thought that Jesus was making reference to that lack of provision. Given that this makes the disciples look like dolts, chances are this setting was in Mark. OK, upon further review, turns out it’s in both gospels. 

1 Interea multis turbis circumstantibus, ita ut se invicem conculcarent, coepit dicere ad discipulos suos primum: “Attendite a fermento pharisaeorum, quod est hypocrisis.

2 οὐδὲν δὲ συγκεκαλυμμένον ἐστὶν ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. 

3 ἀνθ’ ὧν ὅσα ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτὶ ἀκουσθήσεται, καὶ ὃ πρὸς τὸ οὖς ἐλαλήσατε ἐν τοῖς ταμείοις κηρυχθήσεται ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων.

“For nothing is covered up which shall not be spread about, and nothing is is hidden which will not be known. (3) Against which however much you speak in the shadows, in the light will be heard, and about which those things you speak inside will be proclaimed upon the house. 

This is a really interesting passage. We heard this sentiment expressed in Matthew, but Luke has recast the vocabulary and the metaphors with some real literary flair. At least, I consider it literary flair; this is, after all, a value judgement, like the one that says Matthew’s arrangement of the Q material was so masterful. Regardless, it indicates a very deliberate and conscious effort on Luke’s part to add a new twist to the words that came to him. Whether these words came from Q or Matthew is not the issue here; at least, it’s not entirely the issue. Because with me, that’s always the issue, or at least part of it. There are two things to note here. 

We’ve already brought up the issue of the more literary quality here. Second, Luke’s version is longer than that of Matthew. Why? I am very willing to bet that none of the Q proponents has ever bothered to explain that fact. Put together, these two observations would, seemingly, blow a huge hole in the idea that Luke retains the more is the more primitive version of Q of the two gospels, wouldn’t it?  Of course, Q proponents say that Luke is the more primitive, except when he isn’t. IOW, they are not terribly consistent about this, which is interesting since they demand the redactionally consistent explanation for every instance in which Luke deviates from Matthew. What about when Matthew deviates so glaringly from the Q text–taking “Q” as equivalent to “Luke”, which is standard in the Q argument–as Matthew does in this quote? Do we get explanations for those cases? Of course not. Only those attempting to refute Q have to be consistent.

2 Nihil autem opertum est, quod non reveletur, neque absconditum, quod non sciatur.

3 Quoniam, quae in tenebris dixistis, in lumine audientur; et, quod in aurem locuti estis in cubiculis, praedicabitur in tectis.

4 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν τοῖς φίλοις μου, μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεινόντων τὸ σῶμα καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα μὴ ἐχόντων περισσότερόν τι ποιῆσαι.

5 ὑποδείξω δὲ ὑμῖν τίνα φοβηθῆτε: φοβήθητε τὸν μετὰ τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι ἔχοντα ἐξουσίαν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, τοῦτον φοβήθητε.

“I say to you my friends, do not fear from those killing the body and afterwards not having anything more to do. (5) I will demonstrate to you something you should fear: fear the one after the killing having power to throw you into Gehenna. Yes, I say to you, you should fear this. 

Once again, let’s remind ourselves of the context here. Jesus & crew are in the midst of an innumerable multitude, in a crowd so dense that they are stepping on each other. And yet, Jesus turns to his disciples first, and starts talking about the Pharisees. Then he starts talking about killing the body and throwing it into Gehenna. If he spoke to the disciples first, is he still speaking to them solely? Or has he  turned to the wider crowd? In both Mark and Matthew, these speeches of Jesus occur in situations in which Jesus is alone with the disciples. 

So why does Luke change the surroundings? I do not have a ready answer for that. However, as I see it, what matters is that Luke did change the surroundings. There is a lot made of how Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark when it comes to placement of stories. He does, however, frequently disagree with both Mark and Matthew when the latter two agree. Luke does not scruple not only to change the location of the story in the narrative flow, but he also has no qualms about changing the actual setting, the physical circumstances that existed around Jesus when he delivers his message. The fact that Luke consistently does this in situations where M&M agree, but not when Matthew disagrees with Mark should not be seen as coincidental. It happens too often, and only in this one direction.

4 Dico autem vobis amicis meis: Ne terreamini ab his, qui occidunt corpus et post haec non habent amplius, quod faciant.

5 Ostendam autem vobis quem timeatis: Timete eum, qui postquam occiderit, habet potestatem mittere in gehennam. Ita dico vobis: Hunc timete.

6 οὐχὶ πέντε στρουθία πωλοῦνται ἀσσαρίων δύο; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔστιν ἐπιλελησμένον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

7 ἀλλὰ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν πᾶσαι ἠρίθμηνται. μὴ φοβεῖσθε: πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε.

“Are not two sparrows sold for five (small coins)? And one of them is not forgotten (= not one of them is forgotten) before God. (7) But also the hairs of your heads are all numbered. Do not fear: you are different from many sparrows.

Just a few comments on the Greek. The term assarios is not at all common in Greek of any sort. The only translation I can find is “farthing”, which is an English coin no longer in use, which was equal to a quarter of a penny. Obviously, no one in the ancient world was buying and selling with English currency. Nor is the Latin any help. The word is dipundio, which means two-pundi (or something). So this is is the first example of a consensus translation in the two verses. Obviously, in this case, the meaning is clear enough; the comparison is to something very inexpensive, and sparrows are about as common–and therefore cheap–as they come. The price quoted would be the cost to purchase these sparrows for sacrifice in the Temple. As I said, this is a very uncommon word; it does, however, appear in both Luke and Matthew. Can you guess where we are going with this? How likely is it that a source that claims to be words of Jesus would use such a rare word? Would Jesus have used such a word? Almost certainly not. Would the collector of the sayings that became Q use the word? Impossible to be sure, unlikely in the extreme. It would depend on the literary chops of the collector. But let’s do a thought experiment: we know that Mark does indeed represent a more “primitive” version of the gospel than either of the other two. One salient aspect of this primitivism is the rather poor quality of Mark’s Greek. If Q dates back to shortly after the time of Jesus, then for the compiler of Q to use a word like assarios, we have to conclude that the compiler is more adept in Greek than Mark was. Does that make sense? For the compilation of Q to date back to Jesus, the aggregation would needs have been done by an early follower. Such early followers were probably Jewish/Aramaic in background; that is, they were probably not native Greek speakers, and they probably were not well enough educated to be able to write Greek.

So who was this compiler? That question is never addressed, let alone answered. There is no hypothetical discussion of this. There are a number of anonymous Greek texts dealing with political life in Athens. The controversy about who these authors were–or, at least, what sort of background they had–is fierce and contentious. My favourite attribution is to someone referred to as the “Old Oligarch”, the author of a text not terribly fond of the idea of democracy. And yet in the Q discussion, there is absolutely nothing. Crickets, as the common vernacular would put it. This is not surprising since there is essentially no discussion of the vocabulary of Q in itself, let alone any discussion of the content of the sayings of Q; do they fit the period of the 30s? Or do they seem to fit a much later period? This would be a very fruitful discussion to have.

On the other hand, we know that Matthew was rather adept at Greek. He had a decidedly large and rather sophisticated vocabulary; and Luke exceeded Matthew on both accounts. So ask yourself this question: is this word more likely to have originated in the text of some lesser-educated, non-Greek compiler, or from the pen of someone much more educated and likely much more fluent in Greek? The answer seems pretty obvious to me. By no means a slam-dunk, but nothing is in NT studies. IMO, it’s much more likely that the word came from Matthew, and was then copied by Luke.

The second consensus translation is diapherete. Here, the sense of the text is that the disciples are valued more than a sparrow, hardly an earth-shaking statement. The problem is that this is not what the word really means in Classical Greek. In my favourite quote from Marcus Aurelius, written in his Meditations, is the expression “many grains of incense on the same altar. One falls first, then another. There is no difference”. The last four English words are expressed in Greek as diapherei d’ouden. That is, the word used is the same as here. Except in Aurelius, it means there is no difference, and this is one of the standard meanings of the word in Greek. And please to note, Meditations was written about a century after the NT. So it’s not a case that the meaning of the word had evolved by the time Luke wrote. Now, in this case, the Latin very clearly says ‘you are worth more than many sparrows’, so I will have to concede this point. St Jerome knew his Greek much better than I ever could. But it is very interesting to note that Matthew uses the word consistently to mean “is of more value”. Luke only uses the word once, but he uses it exactly like Matthew does, and in an identical pericope. Yes, of course, the word is in Q. However, the word is rare in the NT. It is used by Paul in Gal 4:1, but he uses it as M Aurelius does: to mean “different”. This is, admittedly, very weak evidence on my part, but it adds yet one more straw–however thin and slight it may be–to the burden on the back of the camel that is carrying the “argument” for Q.

6 Nonne quinque passeres veneunt dipundio? Et unus ex illis non est in oblivione coram Deo.

7 Sed et capilli capitis vestri omnes numerati sunt. Nolite timere; multis passeribus pluris estis.

8 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁμολογήσει ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ:

9 ὁ δὲ ἀρνησάμενός με ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρνηθήσεται ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ.

“I say to you, all who speak the same as me before men, and the son of man will speak the same as him before the angels of God. (9) But the one denying me before men will be denied before the angels of god. 

Just a quick question: where did the angels come from? The couple of restored versions of Q that I’ve checked include the angels in the text. IOW, once again, or by default, Luke is the more primitive version, so if Luke has angels, then Q obviously had angels. The logic supporting this conclusion is atrocious. It’s a combination of circularity and post hoc ergo propter hoc. There is no coherent or consistent case for taking Luke as the more primitive version aside from the fact that he doesn’t say “our father” and he says “blessed are the poor”, omitting the “in spirit” of Matthew. Yes, there are a few other such instances, but there is no way that they add up to a satisfactory argument that can be used to take Luke’s “primitivity” as a given. I see absolutely no reason to take the inclusion of angels here as an indication of the older version. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is an understanding of angels in a sense somewhat divorced from the idea of a messenger

BTW: homologein literally means speak the same, but it more idiomatically means to agree. Here, however, it is taken as to confess, as in, to acknowledge. If you sneak a peek at the Latin (which I encourage; that’s why it’s there), you will see confessus, so the etymology is apparent. So, it’s stretching the original meaning of the word, but we’ve experienced worse.

8 Dico autem vobis: Omnis, quicumque confessus fuerit in me coram hominibus, et Filius hominis confitebitur in illo coram angelis Dei;

9 qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, denegabitur coram angelis Dei.

10 καὶ πᾶς ὃς ἐρεῖ λόγον εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ: τῷ δὲ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα βλασφημήσαντι οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται.

11 ὅταν δὲ εἰσφέρωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐπὶ τὰς συναγωγὰς καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας, μὴ  μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί ἀπολογήσησθε ἢ τί εἴπητε:

12 τὸ γὰρ ἅγιον πνεῦμα διδάξει ὑμᾶς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἃ δεῖ εἰπεῖν.

“And all who will speak a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven to him. To him against the sacred breath they blaspheme, it will not be forgiven,. (11) When they bring you in upon the synagogues and the magistrates and those in authority, do not be concerned how either you will defend yourselves or what you will say. (12) For the sacred breath will teach you in that hour what must be said.”

My first reaction when we went from stuff being shouted from the rooftops to not being afraid of those who can only kill the body, it seemed like we had a non sequitur. However, after reading the whole section that we’ve just finished, I see the overall structure more completely. It is:

  • do not fear those killing the body;
  • you are worth more than sparrows, and God cares for them;
  • just be faithful to me (Jesus) before men and I will be faithful to you before of men;
  • but have a care not to blaspheme against the sacred breath;
  • for it will be the sacred breath telling you what to say when you’re on trial before those men–who happen to have authority.

So, yeah, that works. With one possible exception: what happened to the huge crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands? What was that all about? It would make sense if this fell into, say, the Sermon on the Mount in corresponding section of Matthew; Jesus was talking to a crowd there as well. But here? Not so much. Perhaps if I be but patient, the purpose of the crowd will become apparent.

10 Et omnis, qui dicet verbum in Filium hominis, remittetur illi; ei autem, qui in Spiritum Sanctum blasphemaverit, non remittetur.

11 Cum autem inducent vos in synagogas et ad magistratus et potestates, nolite solliciti esse qualiter aut quid respondeatis aut quid dicatis:

12 Spiritus enim Sanctus docebit vos in ipsa hora, quae oporteat dicere ”.

Summary Matthew Chapter 12

My apologies, but for some reason this took a long time to write., Yes, it was a long chapter, but much of the material was in Mark; so there was, perhaps, less to be said about it than might otherwise have been the case. And despite the length, much of the chapter is unified around a single theme and its corollary. The theme is Jesus’ identity, and the corollary is the relationship of Jesus–by virtue of having established his identity–to his contemporaries. In particular, it’s a lot about Jesus vis-à-vis Jews, whether as a whole or especially to the Jews of Matthew’s generation.

That is the thematic method. From a physical point of view, the perspective of the actions that bring out the themes, the chapter is organised around four different interactions with four nominally different groups of Pharisees. The latter witness and largely object to Jesus’ actions. They are the foil against whom Jesus is able to contrast himself. Here perhaps we see the “masterful organization” of Matthew, because what he is doing here is summarizing. By bringing together these four episodes, he’s made this contrast the theme of the chapter. The Pharisees are proxies for the Jews as a whole, and for this generation of Jews in particular.

In the minds of many later Christians, the Pharisees became the representatives of everything wrong with Judaism at the time of Jesus. More, they came to be associated with the Jewish authorities as a unit. This last is manifestly wrong; they were a sect, and not the group in Jerusalem that collaborated with the Romans to rule the province. As such, the idea in V-14 that they entered a plot to kill Jesus is extremely misleading at the very least. “Pharisees” as such had no authority. Paul proclaimed himself a Pharisee, and he claims to have persecuted the followers of Jesus; I suppose this may have helped conflate the two. Due to Paul’s association with both groups, perhaps, in later times and to later minds, the two groups became one.

This has some fairly profound historical information.  The fact that by Mark’s time, and more so by Matthew’s, the two groups had sort of merged together indicates that the authors of the gospels really didn’t understand the dynamics in Judea at the time of Jesus. Rather, they are looking back from a later time, or are looking at another land, or both. IOW, these are not people writing in Judea at any point before the Jewish War. There are a lot of people who want to date Mark in the 60s, but things like this, to me, are strong evidence otherwise. The theme of the Pharisees entering into a plot to kill Jesus is present already in Mark; while Matthew makes the connection and the case stronger, he’s not the one who made the original association. Mark got it wrong to begin with; this is strong evidence that Mark was separated by both space and time from the events he described. The time aspect is important for dating Mark; he did not understand how things worked in Judea because that set of circumstances no longer existed. They had been destroyed by the Jewish Revolt, and Mark wrote after the fact.

Why does this matter? Because it has something to say about the writing of the gospels overall. The later that Mark wrote, the less likely it becomes that he was not aware of Q. Really, if Q was written in the 50s, then something like two decades separate Q and Mark. This is a long time, and each year allows the broader dissemination of Q. If they were written close together in different places, then it’s easier to understand how Mark and Q ran in parallel paths that hadn’t intersected. But twenty years is plenty of time for the two to intersect. Think about it: Matthew was aware of Mark, and the time separating them could have been less than twenty years. Now, conditions were very different in Matthew’s time, and these conditions could easily explain a more rapid dissemination of Mark; but the simpler explanation is that Q did not exist.

Now, Matthew likely did have access to other traditions, and I have to explain why Q was not one of these, but that’s for another time and place. For now, we need to get back to Chapter 12.

As stated, there were four episodes: the plucking of grain, the healing of the withered hand, the exorcism, and the request for a sign. I would snuggest that these are arranged in order of increasing seriousness. Plucking the grain had the precedent of David, and Jesus himself points out that David invaded the House of God itself, which was a much graver offense than he and his disciples had committed. The story is from Mark, and it allows the comparison of Jesus and David, and this is key to the association of Jesus as Messiah. It works on the principle of the transitive theory. That last sentence is a great example of how words become too limited and specific in meaning to be particularly useful. For us in the English tradition, the words “messiah” and “anointed” are not synonyms. Well, they are in Hebrew and in Greek. David = Messiah = Jesus because David was God’s anointed, and Matthew is claiming that Jesus was, too. But the point of the story, the moral, as it were, set out in the last sentence is that Jesus is the lord of the Sabbath. I’m a bit surprised that this didn’t provoke more of a response from the Pharisees. I would think that the title “Lord of the Sabbath” would be near-blasphemy, if it didn’t cross the line. In the comment to the chapter, I gave reasons why I didn’t think this story was in any way factual, that Jesus and the Pharisees didn’t confront each other like they are purported to do. Here’s another one: the lack of outrage at the usurpation of God’s place as the Lord of the Sabbath.

The next two episodes have Jesus doing even more.  First, he heals a man with a withered hand, “knowing” that the onlookers are made very uncomfortable by the action. Matthew’s version adds to that of Mark, for Jesus directly challenges them about pulling a sheep from a pit. He forces them to acknowledge that what he is about to do is both just and appropriate for the Sabbath. This is the fifth time that we’ve come across a reference to sheep in Matthew; I had to go back and count because I hadn’t really remembered any. The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is so firmly entrenched in Christian myth that we tend to forget the analogy only appears in Luke–two or even three generations after Jesus. Here, and in the other references so far, the sheep are a useful metaphor, an idea easily grasped. We have not yet had Jesus as the shepherd, except when alluding to the milling crowd as sheep without a shepherd (9:36). Anyway, the point is that Jesus has put the Pharisees in a very uncomfortable spot, and he has shown them up for the short-sighted legalists that they supposedly are. Ask yourself: is this the sort of thing that a man raised as a Jew would do? Yes, Matthew converted, and may have the zeal of a convert, but this seems more like the sort of showing-up that a pagan would conceive. And it doesn’t really square with Matthew’s proclamation that not an iota would be removed from the Law.

After this we get an exorcism. This leads to Jesus being accused of being in league with the devil. Well, with Beelzeboul, whom we usually equate with the devil. This comes after the crowd has begun to wonder if Jesus is the son of David–and therefore the anointed–after all. This is a neat tie-back to, and reinforcement of, the first episode when Jesus compared his actions to those of David. So, yes, the confirmation is there, if a bit roundabout. But this is mostly in Mark. It’s what comes next that really counts. For Jesus uses Mark’s “house divided” speech to bring in the story of the demon who returns to its former host, this time bringing seven demons along for the ride. For this is where we get to the real heart of the message of this chapter.

I admittedly did not particularly understand the symbolism of this story at first. I found Calvin’s explanation interesting, and reasonable. The crux of the story is that Matthew is using this as a way of explaining why the Jews had not all become followers of Jesus. Why was there such an appeal to pagans, but Jews had fallen by the wayside? I realize that I may not be expounding the majority opinion on this matter, that a lot of people may believe that Jews still comprised a substantial percentage of the followers of Jesus, but that is not what Mark and Matthew have been saying. Their message, IMO, is plainly–to me, anyway–that the Jews had been superseded by pagans. They were not joining the ranks of Jesus’ followers in significant numbers by the time Mark wrote, and they had become even more scarce by Matthew’s day. And both evangelists have taken pains to come up with an explanation. Mark had the whole theme of secrecy, that Jesus tried very hard to keep his identity under wraps, and there is the added layer of possibly a deeper doctrine that he shared with only his disciples, and in private. Of course, this is at odds with the huge crowds that followed Jesus, but maybe the parable of the sower was meant to explain this. The crowds were the seed that fell in shallow soil, springing up quickly, but then withering for lack of roots. Matthew doesn’t have a consistent story like Mark, but I have pointed out time and again that Matthew is telling us that Jews are no longer the primary point of origin for those who joined Jesus followers. Matthew is definitely–IMO–writing for pagans.

And this point is driven home at the end of the chapter. The irony that Matthew gives us is wonderful. Here, Jesus has proclaimed himself Lord of the Sabbath, has healed a withered hand, and has driven out a demon. And what happens next? Another group of Pharisees comes and asks for a sign. Wow. How dense are these people? My strong suspicion is that Matthew intended his audience to ask themselves this question. The answer? Really dense. Because Jesus then tells them that they will get no sign, except for that of Jonah. Pharisees asked for a sign in Mark, too, but the sign of Jonah only appears in Matthew. What does it mean? Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so would Jesus be in the belly of the earth for three days and three nights (if the math doesn’t add up exactly, keep in mind that this is metaphorical, or religious imagery). Of course, the even bigger irony is that by the time Matthew wrote, the Jews had received their sign. Jesus had been in the grave for three days (or parts thereof), and the Jews still didn’t believe in his divinity. They had been given three signs, and the sign of Jonah on top of that, and the message continued to evade them. Both Mark and Matthew have Jesus referring–disparagingly–to this wicked and sinful generation. The message is two-fold here: the generation in question was both the generation that had killed Jesus, and the generation contemporary with either evangelist that still refused to accept the good news of the kingdom.

That, I believe, is the real meaning of this chapter. It’s the coup de grâce to explain that this new religion of Christianity had broken free of its Jewish roots. And so the chapter concludes with Jesus telling us who is mother and brother and sisters are: those who do the will of God. Now of course these family members are allegorical, for they refer also to Jesus’ greater family of the Jewish nation. They did not do the will of God, so their place has been taken by the pagans.

Matthew Chapter 12:38-50

This will probably end up being another fairly long piece, unless I can find a break point somewhere in the middle. Jesus is still talking, and still talking to Pharisees, but this may be a  different group from the ones he was talking to about expelling demons. The context isn’t entirely clear. Whereas after the between the eating of the grain and the man with the withered hand Matthew tells us specifically that Jesus went somewhere else, we get no description of movement. But the transition is “then some of the…” What has happened is that Matthew has conflated two of Mark’s stories. The first–the withered hand–was in Mark 3. The request for the sign is in Mark 8. So Matthew brought over Mark’s transition phrase without undue care about how this affected the flow of the narrative. This tells us something about Matthew’s priorities, his process, and his judgement. I’m not sure what all the implications are, exactly, but it does reinforces–very strongly, I might add–that Matthew is not writing history. He is not concerned with the where and the when, but just the what. The chief concern of true history is the how and–especially–the why. We have none of that.

The other thing this says is that Matthew was not a terribly conscientious editor. The technique here is very much cut-and-paste; keep this in mind when you read about how “masterful” Matthew was in his arrangement of the Q material, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. During the Sermon I noted several times that it seemed things were cut-and-pasted together without a lot of care, and I’ve noted it several times again since. Granted, the last time I did this, earlier in this chapter, M. Calvin demonstrated how it all did hang together. Given that, I should probably take another look at the arrangement of the Sermon. Maybe I’m just too shallow an observer to pick up the unity of arrangement on the first go-round,

38 Τότε ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ τινες τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, θέλομεν ἀπὸ σοῦ σημεῖον ἰδεῖν.

39 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ τοῦ προφήτου.

40 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας.

 Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees responded, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” (39) And he responded to them saying, “Generation wicked and adulterous seeks a sign, and a sign cannot be had for it excep the sign of Jonah the prophet. (40) For just as Jonah (was) in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so too will be the son of man in the the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

Sorry to jump to the end in such fashion, but this jumped out at me. If Jesus died Friday afternoon, he was in the earth Friday night and Saturday night; that’s two by my count. So what happened here? Did someone just lose count? Or are we bumping into a variant tradition, in which perhaps Jesus was buried on Thursday, or was raised on Monday. There is some contention between John and the Synoptics about whether the Last Supper was the Seder, or whether it was the night before the day when the Seder would be held. And, to be technical, Jesus was really only in the heart of the earth for something closer to 48 hours than to 72, which is three days. Granted, he was in the tomb for parts of three days, but…but this is being ridiculously over-technical, to the point of absurdity. What we should glean from this is that this is another post-facto prophecy, and that the actual number of days Jesus was in the tomb was probably fluid, or dependent on inclusive vs exclusive reckoning. It is, in short, more proof that this is not history.

More to the point is that Jesus explains what he means by the sign of Jonah, so we don’t need to spend much time on the symbolism. Rather, we need to ask what is meant by the Scribes and Pharisees asking for a sign. But then, this is not so difficult, either. Here, I think, is where we have Matthew and Mark explaining why pagans were becoming followers of Jesus, but, by and large, Jews were not. Paul mentioned this in 1 Corinthians: Greeks want an explanation and Jews want a sign. Well, here we have them asking for it. And Jesus denies them one, except in roundabout terms. The point of this, I think, is to show how blind they were, perhaps willfully blind, not to see what had been shown to them. They asked for a sign; they got the resurrection, and they did not believe that greatest of all possible signs. By inference, it’s pretty easy to date this to a period well after Jesus’ death, to a point where followers of Jesus were becoming increasingly untethered from their Jewish roots. Now this was in Mark, so it’s not new with Matthew, but it’s probably doubly true for the latter.

However, the bit about the sign of Jonah is new with Matthew. And it’s in Luke. Does this mean it’s in Q? I don’t recall seeing this in the hypothetically-reconstituted Q. So what, then? Where did it come from if Luke didn’t get it from Q? Hmm….could he have gotten it from Matthew? Oh no, of course not.

But enough snark. Here’s the thing: the gospel of  Matthew has added a number of such references to the HS. Who was the HS scholar? Traditionally, this was, of course, ascribed to Matthew. He has traditionally been seen as a Jew who was very well-versed in the OT, sort of a rabbi-type. But then think about that: whether or not Matthew began life as a Jew or a pagan, the fact that he spent a serious amount of time combing through HS in order to come up with these semi-obscure (Hosea?) references so he could use them as he wrote his gospel…doesn’t that throw sand in the gears of the argument for Q? Think about that. If Matthew is doing all this research and adding all these HS references, doesn’t this imply that he’s much more original than Q would give him credit for? I haven’t developed the full panoply of my argument on this, but I think that we have to consider the implications. The idea has long been Mark + Q = Matthew. Well, if Matthew is doing all this other stuff, then the credit that should be given to Q diminishes–significantly–IMO.

38 Tunc responderunt ei quidam de scribis et pharisaeis dicentes: “ Magister, volumus a te signum videre ”.

39 Qui respondens ait illis: “ Generatio mala et adultera signum requirit; et signum non dabitur ei, nisi signum Ionae prophetae.

40 Sicut enim fuit Ionas in ventre ceti tribus diebus et tribus noctibus, sic erit Filius hominis in corde terrae tribus diebus et tribus noctibus.

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

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

The men of Nineveh will stand in the judgement with this generation and they will condemn it (They = the men of Nineveh; it = this generation); that they will repent to the proclamation of Jonah, and, behold something greater than Jonah here. (42) The Queen of the South will be raised in the judgement with (= in relation to) this generation and she will judge it; that came from the boundaries of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold something greater than Solomon here. 

Here’s the question: how likely is it that Jesus would have compared himself to Jonah and Solomon and judged himself to be greater? Bear in mind Burton Mack’s comparison of Jesus to a Cynic sage while recalling that these men were not noted for modesty. And note that modesty is a Christian virtue, not a trait highly regarded by the ancient world. It is possible that Jesus could have said something so brash, but I don’t believe it’s very likely. As I said in the last comment, this whole discussion feels like something that followers created at a later date. This part about Jonah and Solomon, as we noted, is not in Mark, and it’s not generally included in the early stratum of Q. Given these two bits, I think it’s a fairly good bet that Matthew himself wrote these past few verses. I’ve mentioned numerous times that, for pagans, old was good; the God-fearers respected Judaism in large part because of its (ostensible) age. So Matthew is tying Jesus to this “ancient” tradition, and then he’s taking Jesus as one better. This would be very impressive for his audience.

At the same time he’s doing this, Matthew is diminishing the stature of the Jews. Is he doing this knowingly? Most likely. They do not see the implications that Matthew is pointing out. They had not seen the signs–the three days in the heart of the earth–and hearkened to them. All of the signs had been there for them, and the Jews neglected them all. And this is by definition, since they were still Jews. And I think this tells us that the followers of Jesus weren’t seeing themselves as true Jews, or as truly Jewish, any longer. They were part of that tradition, their roots went that deep, but the flowering from the branches exceeded the root tradition. IOW, they were seeing themselves pretty much as Christians came to see themselves. As such, I think we have more indication that, with Matthew and his audience, the term “Christian” is not inappropriate, and is probably accurate. At least, one can present a decent argument that these are Christians. It may not be fully convincing yet, but the case is strong.

This diminution of the stature of Jews, of course, is most clear from the fact that those wicked men of Nineveh will condemn “this generation”. Recall that the capital of Assyria was held by the writers of the HS as a sinkhole of depravity. Here it was that Jonah went to preach. So daunting was the task that he tried to run away, which led to the incident of being swallowed by the whale. But I’m sure many of you know much more about that than I do. The point is, Jonah was successful to a degree, but for “this generation”, Jesus appears to have failed utterly. And yet, “this generation” had a sign so much more powerful than what the Ninevites were given, and yet the latter did repent. “This generation” did not. Nor did they recognise a wisdom greater than Solomon’s, while the Queen of Sheba (great piece called “The Entry of the Queen of Sheba” by GF Handel) fully understood the divine nature of Solomon’s wisdom. So “this generation” again comes off looking bad by comparison. 

If you’ll recall, when discussing Mark, I made the point numerous times that Mark was taking pains to excuse the Romans from any guilt in the execution of Jesus. At the same time, Mark took pains to note that his group weren’t really Jews. In light of these passages, I have to wonder how much of what Mark did was to remove approbation from his group by dissociating them from the Jews who had rebelled, and how much was already this sense that the Jews had missed the point. I’m truly not certain where the line is. My suspicion is that this undocking from Judaism was a gradual process; but that’s no great pronouncement on my part. Most historical processes are gradual. It may be, though, that the Jewish War was one of those events that brought a process into terrible clarity. An analogy might be the attitude towards monarchy as the 19th turned into the 20th Century. A growing body of people felt that it had outlived its raison d’etre, but it took the cataclysm of WWI to sweep it away completely. By this analogy, Mark was writing after the war, but his mindset had been largely determined by pre-war experience. The war accelerated and crystalized something that had been happening for some time; certainly since the death of James the Just. And Mark himself may not have been aware of the full implications of his attempted dissociation; he was certainly conscious of needing to get out from under the animosity felt towards Jews by the Roman establishment, but he may have been unconscious of how the gulf between Jews and Christians had grown a good deal beyond that. These are the sorts of things that often only become conspicuous in retrospect, so that later observers wonder how those living through the time had missed such an obvious development.

Final word: note that it’s the men of Nineveh. The word used is << aner/andros>>, which has the connotation of a manly man. This is in contrast to <<anthropos>> which has more the idea of human-kind. The same distinction holds in Latin, where the former is <<vir>> (think: virile) and the latter is <<homo>>. So it’s the manly men of Nineveh, the distinction meaning that no women or children would be doing this judging.

41 Viri Ninevitae surgent in iudicio cum generatione ista et condemnabunt eam, quia paenitentiam egerunt in praedicatione Ionae; et ecce plus quam Iona hic!

42 Regina austri surget in iudicio cum generatione ista et condemnabit eam, quia venit a finibus terrae audire sapientiam Salomonis; et ecce plus quam Salomon hic!

43 Οταν δὲ τὸ ἀκάθαρτον πνεῦμα ἐξέλθῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, διέρχεται δι’ἀνύδρων τόπων ζητοῦν ἀνάπαυσιν, καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκει.

44 τότε λέγει, Εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ἐπιστρέψω ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον: καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σχολάζοντα σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον.

45 τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει μεθ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ: καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων. οὕτως ἔσται καὶ τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ πονηρᾷ.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a person (here, <<anthropos>>) it passes through an arid area/place seeking respite, and it does not find it (a place to rest). (44) Then it says, “To the home I will return when I left. And coming it finds (the domicile) unoccupied, having been swept and having been set in order. (45) Then it come and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and going in they take up residence there. And in the end that man having become worse than before. In this way it will be for this wicked generation.  

Have to admit I’ve always found this story a bit odd. The demon leaves, can’t find a better host (thinking the demon is like a parasite here), so it returns. The “domicile” (meaning the host) unoccupied, but swept and in order, it returns with seven spirits even worse. The point, I suppose, is that this generation somehow got rid of its evil spirit, but it has returned with a vengeance. The question, I think, is what this spirit represents. According to M. Calvin, the “man” is the entire human race, all the progeny of Adam. The coming of Jesus allowed humans to be rid of their evil spirits; but too often, the spirit having been expelled, the human vessel is not filled with the presence of God (grace), so that the evil is able to return seven (or however many) times worse.

I think this mostly makes sense. The present generation had its chance; it could have–did–expel the demon, by ignoring who Jesus was, they killed Jesus, having become seven times worse. Makes sense. As such, and perhaps more importantly for our purposes, it continues the theme of the Jews having been superseded; but the bit about the Jews being worse than before adds something of a new wrinkle to all of this. This section is not in Mark, but it is in Luke. Taken all together, I think we’re looking at a significant change in the attitude towards the Jews. Mark talked about “this adulterous and sinful generation” which is obviously very negative in terms of attitude. But this attitude has gotten worse in the intervening decade.The Jews are not neutral, or merely as bad as they were. Instead, they are actively and significantly worse than before. IOW, we’re starting that long, sickening slope that ends up with judicial murders and pogroms of Jews at the hands of their Christian neighbors. 

This occurs to me: the Ninevites and the Queen of the East are non-Jews. Not only is the preference for non-Jews the way of the future; it’s been made retroactive. 

43 Cum autem immundus spiritus exierit ab homine, ambulat per loca arida quaerens requiem et non invenit.

44 Tunc dicit: “Revertar in domum meam unde exivi”; et veniens invenit vacantem, scopis mundatam et ornatam.

 45 Tunc vadit et assumit secum septem alios spiritus nequiores se, et intrantes habitant ibi; et fiunt novissima hominis illius peiora prioribus. Sic erit et generationi huic pessimae ”.

46 Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος τοῖς ὄχλοις ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ εἱστήκεισαν ἔξω ζητοῦντες αὐτῷ λαλῆσαι.

47 [εἶπεν δέ τις αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶοἱ ἀδελφοί σου ἔξω ἑστήκασιν ζητοῦντές σοι λαλῆσαι.]

48 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν τῷ λέγοντι αὐτῷ, Τίς ἐστιν ἡ μήτηρ μου, καὶ τίνες εἰσὶν οἱ ἀδελφοί μου;

49 καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν, Ἰδοὺ ἡ μήτηρ μου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί μου:

50 ὅστις γὰρ ἂν ποιήσῃ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς αὐτός μου ἀδελφὸς καὶ ἀδελφὴ καὶ μήτηρ ἐστίν.

When he having said this to the crowd, look, his mother and his brothers stood around seeking to speak to him. (47) Someone said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing about seeking to speak to you”. (48) He answering said to the one speaking to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?  (49) And stretching out his hands towards his disciples, “Look, (these are) my mother and my brothers”. (50) “For whoever does the will of my father in the heavens, this one is my brother and my sister and my mother”.

46 Adhuc eo loquente ad turbas, ecce mater et fratres eius stabant foris quaerentes loqui ei.

47 Dixit autem ei quidam: “ Ecce mater tua et fratres tui foris stant quaerentes loqui tecum ”.

48 At ille respondens dicenti sibi ait: “ Quae est mater mea, et qui sunt fratres mei? ”.

49 Et extendens manum suam in discipulos suos dixit: “ Ecce mater mea et fratres mei.

50 Quicumque enim fecerit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in caelis est, ipse meus frater et soror et mater est ”.

 This is another instance where Matthew has provided an abridged version of Mark’s story. Matthew added the bit about the unclean spirit with its seven colleagues, but he shortened this section of the story. What he’s doing is re-arranging Jesus’ reputation, the highlights of Jesus’ life and career. No–he’s attempting to alter the perception of Jesus’ life and career and teachings. Here he’s removing a section of the story that deals with Jesus’ humanity: that his family thought Jesus needed to be removed from a hostile environment. Due to this excision, Jesus becomes a very different type of being than he is in Mark. Much has been made of how Matthew tones down the times in Mark when Jesus gets angry or exasperated, especially with his disciples. The abridgement here is of a piece with those sorts of edits. By making Jesus less human, he becomes more divine, which is more in keeping with the perception that Matthew is trying to create.

This seems to be going out with a whimper rather than a bang, but much of this has been covered in Mark. And besides, without the extrication of Jesus from the hostile crowd, the story becomes somewhat less layered, or textured. As such, it’s–perhaps–a bit less interesting.

Matthew Chapter 12:22-37

This is another long section of Jesus talking.  In my red-letter edition, virtually this whole section is in red.

22 Τότε προσηνέχθη αὐτῷ δαιμονιζόμενος τυφλὸς καὶ κωφός: καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτόν, ὥστε τὸν κωφὸν λαλεῖν καὶ βλέπειν.

Then they brought to him one demonizing (being) blind and deaf. And he (Jesus) healed him (the possessed) so that the mute spoke and looked around.

Note the compression in this. The man with the demon is brought in, described, healed, and sent on his way in a single sentence. What is the implication here? It seems that Matthew is not interested in dwelling on the wonders worked. Forz Mark, these wonders were a major part of the story, but for Matthew they are something to be gotten through and brushed aside. Why? Remember that there were a number of wonder workers abroad in the First Century. I keep coming back to Apollonius of Tyana, but his story in outline is very similar to that of Jesus. I don’t need to remind anyone that, for Matthew, Jesus’ divinity goes back to his conception–at least. Jesus wasn’t adopted as a grown man the way he was in Mark.

22 Tunc oblatus est ei daemonium habens, caecus et mutus, et curavit eum, ita ut mutus loqueretur et videret.

23 καὶ ἐξίσταντο πάντες οἱ ὄχλοι καὶ ἔλεγον, Μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς Δαυίδ;

And the whole crowd standing around being amazed and they said, “Is he not the son of David?”

This is an interesting connection being made. We have Jesus working wonders. Then we jump to the son of David. This latter, of course, is fraught with implications. The question is, can we assume that “son of David” = “the anointed”? On the one hand, it seems like a really obvious conclusion that we should draw. OTOH, we’re not concerned with what we think of it, but how would this have been taken by Matthew’s audience? Would that conclusion have been just as obvious to someone in the First Century CE? Or, can we even answer that question?  I’m not sure the answer to either of those is “yes”.  How much of this depends on whether Matthew was Jewish? Or whether his audience was predominantly Jewish? Remember, back when we read the Beatitudes, I suggested that the term “Christian” was probably appropriate for both the author and the audience of this gospel. I don’t think it was appropriate for Mark or the audience of his gospel. Do I still believe that? And this is a very important question because it has real bearing on whether “son of David” = “Messiah”.

The thing is, if Matthew can be called a Christian, then the chances of him drawing this conclusion is much higher than if he is not a Christian. Part of the very essence of being a Christian is the belief that Jesus was the Christ.  There’s more to being a Christian than this, because Paul believed it, and I don’t think the term Christian can be applied to him. But wait, there’s more. The idea of the Messiah was not a significant part of the HS. There are all sorts of allegories like Isaiah, and there are the apocalyptic writings of the last centuries BCE. As such, we have to ask if the idea of Jesus being the Messiah was harder for Jews to accept, or for pagans to accept. Given that most Jews of the First Century did not become followers of Jesus, I think the answer to this is pretty clear: it was harder for Jews to accept that Jesus was the Messiah than it was for Jews. 

Based on this, the logical deduction is that it’s more likely that Matthew was a pagan, rather than a Jew. Right? Not quite. Just because most Jews didn’t follow Jesus doesn’t mean that some Jews did. Matthew could have been one of the minority that did, so for him, I don’t know that we can draw any conclusions. I think it marginally makes it more likely that Matthew was a pagan, but it doesn’t preclude him being a Jew. I would ask to note that the little things that make it marginally more likely that Matthew was a pagan are beginning to add up. There have been a number of them. I do, however, think this helps explain why the message came to appeal more to pagans than Jews. I think that, as Jesus’ divinity became more of the accepted message, the attraction for pagans grew, largely  because a divine being on earth was not foreign to their mythology. Now, I’ve made a jump from “Messiah” to “divine being”; the two terms are not necessarily synonymous. But based on Matthew’s story so far, I think maybe the two had become entwined to a high degree. “Messiah”, I think, came to mean “divine” for them much in the same way it does for us. By the time Matthew wrote, we are as close to the earliest Christian writings as we are to Jesus. 

23 Et stupebant omnes turbae et dicebant: “ Numquid hic est filius David? ”.

24 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἀκούσαντες εἶπον, Οὗτος οὐκ ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια εἰ μὴ ἐν τῷ Βεελζεβοὺλ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων.

25 εἰδὼς δὲ τὰς ἐνθυμήσεις αὐτῶν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πᾶσα βασιλεία μερισθεῖσα καθ’ἑαυτῆς ἐρημοῦται, καὶ πᾶσα πόλις ἢ οἰκία μερισθεῖσα καθ’ ἑαυτῆς οὐ σταθήσεται.

And the Pharisees hearing said, “He does not cast out demons except by (lit =in) Beelzeboul the ruler of the demons”. (25) Knowing their thinkings, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and every city or household divided against itself will not remain standing.

Can’t quite get the sense of the last verb. It’s a future passive, but with an intransitive verb (to stand). Oh well, can’t get them all.

This section, too, is mostly a direct copy from Mark. Jesus’ retort is elaborated a bit, but neither the content nor the overall implications have changed. I find it a bit odd that the Q proponents are so definite that the Q material is authentic, but they overlook stuff that’s in all three of the Synoptics, or at least in Mark and Matthew. Please don’t misunderstand; just because something is in two or more of the gospels does not mean that this material is corroborated. It’s not. [That’s the other reason that Q proponents insist that Luke was not aware of Matthew; that allows Luke to be an independent source. Unfortunately, this is, I firmly believe, simply wishful thinking,] If I had to pick a passage, or a quote that I thought was authentic Jesus, the “house divided” would be a strong contender. The biggest problem I see with accepting this as authentic Jesus is trying to figure out what it means. I mean, it makes sense in this context, but can we actually take the context at face value? 

To some degree, I think we can. In a way, the sort of awkwardness of the phrase, how it doesn’t fit in neatly with wisdom proverbs (can the blind lead the blind), or spiritual injunctions (blessed are the poor), and it’s certainly not apocalyptic. Quite the contrary, in fact. So what? Well, let’s note the context. Jesus is working a wonder. Later Christians never denied that pagans could work wonders, just as Pharaoh’s magician could turn his staff into a snake. The question was, who is power behind the wonder? Is it God? Or a demon? Even later Christians took magic very seriously, and fully believed that magic was efficacious; but it was also the work of the devil, and not a miracle from God. So this is what Jesus is being accused of: working wonders through demonic power. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff. But Jesus’ response is awkward at best: a house–even the house of Beelzeboul–could not stand if it’s divided. Is that what Jesus is really talking about? Or is this somehow a metaphor?

That Jesus would be accused of working wonders by way of demonic power makes perfect sense. And consequently it makes perfect sense that this story is in Mark, who was very concerned about Jesus’ miracles. But the “divided house of Beelzeboul” metaphor is ambiguous at best. And that ambiguity is what makes me suspect that this might be authentic. It’s rough, unpolished, and it puts Jesus into a position of being accused as one who consorts with demons. Of course, there is an air of “isn’t this accusation the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?” about it, but the suggestion is still there. Is this an accurate reflection of how Jesus was viewed? Or maybe, the echo of an accurate reflection of how people–some people, anyway–saw Jesus? It might be. Look, if we can be convinced that some part of these stories has a 50% probability of being accurate, that’s about the best we can hope for. This one? I’d put it above 33%: a one in three chance of having at least a kernel of truth. “Blessed are the poor”, or “take up one’s cross”? Something less–probably considerably less–than 5% probable.

24 Pharisaei autem audientes dixerunt: “ Hic non eicit daemones nisi in Beelzebul, principe daemonum ”.

25 Sciens autem cogitationes eorum dixit eis: “ Omne regnum divisum contra se desolatur, et omnis civitas vel domus divisa contra se non stabit.

26 καὶ εἰ ὁ Σατανᾶς τὸν Σατανᾶν ἐκβάλλει, ἐφ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐμερίσθη: πῶς οὖν σταθήσεται ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ;

“And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How would his kingdom be able to stand?

So yes, I think Jesus was accused of consorting with demons. This little addendum–which is in Mark also–is convincing. Not that Jesus said this necessarily–in all likelihood he didn’t. But that Mark and Matthew felt the need to add this for emphasis, to include this as relevant suggests that the accusation was real, and subsequent followers went to some lengths to come up with variations on the divided house metaphor to drive home the point. I think the probability may climb above 40% for the accusation, and I see no reason to doubt the retort.

26 Et si Satanas Satanam eicit, adversus se divisus est; quomodo ergo stabit regnum eius?

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

“And if I in Beelzeboul cast out demons, the sons of you in who do they cast out (demons)? Through this they will be your judges.

Huh? Your sons will be your judges? That’s a bit odd. We’re sort of getting into playground antics, kinderspiel, sort of “Oh yeah? So are you!” This is not something Jesus said. Matthew should have quit while he was ahead.

Of course a bit of reflection does bring up a different possibility. “The sons of yours” means, “your people”, whether that’s literal, or ethnic, or co-religionists. I think this is an indication that there were, indeed, other wonder-workers about,possibly/probably Jews, who were also expelling demons. Now, I’ve mentioned that it sure seems like First Century Judea/Galilee was suffering from an infestation of demons. And that demonic possession is not something that pagan authors mention. To the best of my recollection, even The Golden Ass doesn’t mention demons. But the authors of the NT are fixated with them. They’re everywhere. So it seems Matthew here is alluding to other wonder-worker/exorcists. Now is this one reason why those subsequent to Mark started to downplay the wonder-worker and focus on the divine aspect of Jesus? Even if they had to sort of create the divine aspect? Was this done to separate Jesus from the pack of other wonder-workers, mere wonder-workers? Peeking ahead, let’s remember Simon Magus from Acts. For chaps like him, working wonders was a source of income. Had wonder-working become something of a profession, perhaps slightly disreputable? So is Matthew sort of killing two birds with one stone here, pointing out that others drive out demons, but Jesus does it because he is the lord of the Sabbath? Because recall this section comes immediately after Jesus proclaims that the son of man is the lord of the Sabbath.

27 Et si ego in Beelzebul eicio daemones, filii vestri in quo eiciunt? Ideo ipsi iudices erunt vestri.

28 εἰ δὲ ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ ἐγὼ ἐκβάλλω τὰ δαιμόνια, ἄρα ἔφθασεν ἐφ’ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

“But if in the spirit of God I cast out demons, therefore has not among you come the kingdom of God?

Well boy howdy, isn’t this a loaded question? I’ve forgotten where I read it, but someone suggested or argued that, for Mark, the wonders worked were the outward signs that the kingdom was imminent, or was even already here. Matthew is saying this explicitly. But note: Jesus does not say that the kingdom is at hand, or is coming, or will dawn when the son of man comes (or returns), it is here now. It is among y0u. That sure puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it?

28 Si autem in Spiritu Dei ego eicio daemones, igitur pervenit in vos regnum Dei.

29 ἢ πῶς δύναταί τις εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ ἰσχυροῦ καὶ τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ ἁρπάσαι, ἐὰν μὴ πρῶτον δήσῃ τὸν ἰσχυρόν; καὶ τότε τὴν οἰκίαν αὐτοῦ διαρπάσει.

“For how is someone able to come into the house of a strong (man) and steal his good if he does not first bind the strong man? And then the house of him he may ransack.

What does this mean? I mean, yes, I get the analogy, but what does this have to do with the existence of the kingdom? How does this question & statement follow from the statement that the kingdom is among you? Offhand, I think this is referring back to Satan, that he is the strong man whose house is about to be robbed. How can Jesus cast out in the name of Satan without first having bound him? But that doesn’t quite make sense. So is this a reference to the kingdom? Grammatically, it seems like it should reflect back to one of these, but which? Once again, I think that the narrative flow of these couple of verses doesn’t quite make sense either. Once again, we have to wonder about the masterful arrangement of Matthew, when there are sections like this where Point B does not necessarily follow from Point A.

29 Aut quomodo potest quisquam intrare in domum fortis et vasa eius diripere, nisi prius alligaverit fortem? Et tunc domum illius diripiet.

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

“The one not being with me is against me, and the one not gathering with me disperses.

The word here rendered as “disperses” is “skorpizo”, which sounds like the root of “scorpion”. Looking at the dictionary, however, it appears that there are two meanings diverging from the same root. The one, of course, deals with scorpions; the other is about scattering. Maybe there is some sort of deeper connection. Scorpions cause things to scatter?

But again, this feels like an aphorism that is sort of stuck in here without context. How does it connect to the strong man? Or does it reflect back to the kingdom, skipping over the strong man? In which case is it the strong man that is the thing that doesn’t go with the others in its immediate neighborhood. 

But this takes away from one of the more curious aspects of this. In Mark, not being with Jesus is the same as being with him; here, unless the allegiance to Jesus is explicit, it’s the same as being against Jesus. This is a much more defensive posture than Mark’s formulation. It reflects a much more hostile environment. For Mark the enmity has to be active; here, passive is enough to be on the other side. What happened in the meantime? This would seem to imply a level of animosity to the new sect, if not (necessarily) outright hostility. By whom? Surely this is no longer coming from Jews. The Temple and it’s power structure had been destroyed; nowhere did Jews have the civic authority to carry out persecution. Any sort of state-sanctioned persecution would have been the work of the Romans. Now, Matthew is likely writing during the reign of Domitian, and this emperor has been associated with persecutions of Christians.

The problem with this is that the evidence for this comes largely from Eusebios, who wrote several hundred years later. Then we have the famous letter of Pliny the Younger, written in the early part of the Second Century. In this letter Pliny seems a little bewildered about these Christians; not only does he not know what to do with them; he doesn’t seem to be terribly sure about what they are. Of course, the Romans did not keep extensive files on subject peoples and their exotic beliefs, so there was no one to brief Pliny when he assumed his duties. But still, this tells me that Pliny, an educated man who was the son of a famous father (Pliny Maior) who got about the empire to an extent beyond the experience of most, had not really encountered Christians in any meaningful way. In his request for instructions, he includes a very brief description of Christian beliefs. This, in turn, tells me that he doesn’t believe that the imperial staff–and the emperor himself–were all that aware of Christians, either. And it’s very relevant to ask if the Romans would really bother persecuting a group of people of whose existence they were scarcely aware? I mean, if I mounted a crusade to persecute Brobdingnagians, I suspect my cries would be met with a collective “What’s a  Brobdingnagian?” Why would the Romans have reacted any differently? And note that Pliny is writing a decade into the Second Century; the persecutions of Domitian would have occurred a generation before, so if the Christians are only showing up on the imperial radar in the Second Century, that doesn’t help an argument that they had been persecuted in the 90s.

So we have evidence that is at least conflicting, if not downright contradictory. I’ve read a good chunk of Eusebios; personally, I have serious reservations about his veracity. Or at least his accuracy. He was writing the “Official History Of The Christian Church”. He is the sole source for a lot of what he claims, much of which has been accepted as, well, gospel truth. The fact is, the earliest suggestion by a non-Christian author for persecution of Christians comes from Tacitus, who wrote a few years after Pliny. Projecting back, he says Nero blamed the fire of Rome on the “Chrestians” (note that he didn’t even get the name right), who were hated for their base passions (very weak translation, but Tacitus doesn’t always take well to translation). By that time, the “crime” was half a century old. But at the same time, how to explain the change in this passage? Or has Matthew–or his source–simply been careless in the way he presents the expression? 

The honest answer is that I don’t know. I’m suspicious of Christian testimony, but it likely wasn’t completely fabricated either. Some of this could be the memory of deteriorating relationships with the Jews, who may have been less than tolerant of a group they saw as…wrong. The Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along, after all. And maybe this was the same sort of scorn for people who claimed to be Jewish–as the Samaritans sincerely believed themselves to be–but were not fully integrated with the Temple authorities. Or maybe the Christians absorbed the lessons of Saul, and extrapolated this to the wider world. But then, Acts presents the Romans as…what? At this point, I’m not familiar enough to make a judgement on that. We shall have to see.

30 Qui non est mecum, contra me est; et, qui non congregat mecum, spargit.

31 Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, πᾶσα ἁμαρτία καὶ βλασφημία ἀφεθήσεται τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, ἡ δὲ τοῦ πνεύματος βλασφημία οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται.

“Because of this I say to you, all sins and blasphemies will be removed from men, except the blasphemies against the spirit will not be removed. 

Right off the bat this gives me pause: because of this… The first word in the sentence, “dia” indicates a direct causal link. But look at the sentence before: the one not with me is against me. Because of this, all sins will be forgiven… Now, do you see the causal connection? If you are not with Jesus, you are against him, and because of that, all your sins will be forgiven. Or am I being too…Anglophone. Or too literal? Should we be taking this as “despite this…”? But all my crib translations render this as “wherefore/therefore”, and even St Jerome used “ideo”, which has basically that meaning. And “therefore” is used for a direct causal connection in English as well. Not that I am suggesting that this should read “despite this” instead of “because of this”; I’m just saying that, to my mind, “despite” makes more sense, unless I’m being needlessly literal. Bottom line is that this strikes me as another non sequitur. Unless this should be understood as sins will be forgiven because we are not with Jesus.

Well, now M Calvin has an interpretation of this. He would say, not that I’m being too literal, but too narrow. I’m assigning the causation to the sentence immediately before, whereas M Calvin says the “dia” should be applied to the entire passage, to everything Jesus has said since he knew the thoughts of the Pharisees. Jesus has set out an argument, and this is the conclusion, referring back to all that has gone before.

Sounds good, but what has gone before? Calvin interprets the strong man as Satan; coming directly after the verse about the kingdom, the idea is that the kingdom could not have come into existence unless Satan had first been nullified. Jesus can cast out demons because Satan has been neutralized. Fair enough. And this would explain the gather/scatter, and it would eliminate all implication of this referring to persecution, which in turn renders much of what I’ve said in commentary null and void. I say this because the one not with Jesus is Satan. This sounds sort of convincing, but I’m not sure I’m convinced. He has tied this together nicely, to a degree that I simply did not see.

This still leaves the part about sins & blasphemies being forgiven because of all that has gone before. Oddly–or perhaps not so oddly–M Calvin ignores this, except to say that the causal factor is all that has gone before. Is that because Satan has been neutralized, and so the kingdom has become? I think we can read it that way, and such an interpretation is at least implicit in what Calvin has said about this so far. So this will teach me to read more deeply, one hopes.

Unfortunately, it feels like M Calvin goes off the rails. He gets hung up on why the blasphemies agains the spirit–or Spirit, as he believes, despite this being anachronistic–should be unforgivable while blasphemies against the Son and the Father are not. You can read his explanation. I don’t find it convincing because his conception of the Trinity is an anachronism. And pretty much everyone commits the same mistake, because this is universally rendered as the “Spirit”. 

So why are sins & blasphemies against the breath not to be forgiven? I’m not sure. But I do know that this is in Mark 3, just before his family comes to rescue him. Of course, that is omitted here; a divine being like Jesus would not need the intervention of his family to prevent something unpleasant from happening. If we think about the breath, this is the animating principle, and the sacred breath has been an animating principle since Genesis 1:2. This is the most direct emanation of God, the sole one that can touch humans, that can operate almost on the physical plane. Such a close connection is not to be taken lightly, I suppose. It’s an interesting question. But then, aren’t they all?

31 Ideo dico vobis: Omne peccatum et blasphemia remittetur hominibus, Spiritus autem blasphemia non remittetur.

32 καὶ ὃς ἐὰν εἴπῃ λόγον κατὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ: ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου, οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ οὔτε ἐν τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι οὔτε ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι.

“And the one who may say a word against the son of man, it will be taken away from him. The one who may speak against the sacred breath, it will not be taken away from him, nor in all of this age, nor in the one coming.

This sin is, as Mark said, eternal. Now, of course we “all know” that the age to come is the kingdom of God that will descend from the heavens as described in Revelations. But how does the age to come relate to the kingdom, which is already come? We latter-day Christians pretty much equate the two. Matthew apparently doesn’t. So what does this say about the kingdom? It puts the idea of Jesus (and John) preaching that the kingdom is nigh takes on a different flavour when read in the context of Verse 28 above. And yet, we still have in play the idea of a new age. I’m not entirely sure how to square this circle. But more, I’m not even entirely sure Matthew noticed the discontinuity he’s presented. So far, 12:28 is the only indication of the kingdom being now. Will there be others?

My sense is that 12:28 is some sort of aberration. After all, the Lord’s Prayer says “let thy kingdom come”, in the sense that this is something that has not happened yet. So the “age to come” that we have here is the more orthodox formulation, I think, of what Matthew believed and what was the general message of the nascent Christian belief. Yes, I realise that we can have all sorts of gradations of the becoming of the kingdom; that it is here as in 12:28 in the sense that a seed is in the ground, but that it will not attain full bloom until the next age. What all of this does for me is to reinforce that these were not systematic theologians. These were not ivory-tower intellectuals like…guess we really won’t get any of them for a while. Jerome and Augustine and Ambrose were all bishops actively engaged in the tending of their flock. It won’t be until the age of monasticism, when men of the Church removed themselves from the world that we will get a true Christian systematic theology in the sense that we know it.

32 Et quicumque dixerit verbum contra Filium hominis, remittetur ei; qui autem dixerit contra Spiritum Sanctum, non remittetur ei neque in hoc saeculo neque in futuro.

33 Ἢ ποιήσατε τὸ δένδρον καλὸν καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ καλόν, ἢ ποιήσατε τὸ δένδρον σαπρὸν καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ σαπρόν: ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ καρποῦ τὸ δένδρον γινώσκεται.

“Or you make the good tree and the fruit of it is good, or you make the worn-out tree and the fruit of it is rotten; for from the fruit you will know the tree. 

This, of course, is a fundamental of Christian ethics, and the reason why ethics and the code of behaviour is such an integral part of Christianity. It’s also where Christianity fall short so often. In that, Christianity isn’t any different from other religions. I won’t go into the either/or on this, because that really doesn’t pertain here. All Matthew–and Mark before him–are saying here is that we are what we do. This is where the evangelists most notably veer from Paul and his sola fides. But then, it could be argued that true faith creates works consistent with a Christian outlook. But that’s getting into the either/or, so we’ll leave it.

33 Aut facite arborem bonam et fructum eius bonum, aut facite arborem malam et fructum eius malum: si quidem ex fructu arbor agnoscitur.

34 γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, πῶς δύνασθε ἀγαθὰ λαλεῖν πονηροὶ ὄντες; ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ περισσεύματος τῆς καρδίας τὸ στόμα λαλεῖ.

35 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ ἐκβάλλει ἀγαθά, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ θησαυροῦ ἐκβάλλει πονηρά.

“Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things being knavish? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (35) “The good man from the good treasure throws out good things, and the knavish man from the wicked treasure throws out bad things. 

This is the second of three times that Matthew uses the expression “brood of vipers”. I love the phrase, and I love it in those words, even if they may not be the very-most literal (like “knavish”). The first time, however, this was in the mouth of John the Dunker. It’s not in Mark, and Luke only uses it for John’s speech. Now, does this tell us anything about the sources for Matthew and Luke? In the Q reconstruction, this is seen as part of one of the later strata of Q. Obviously, it didn’t come from Jesus, but it is in Matthew and in Luke, so it’s from Q. And the fact that Luke only uses it in the context of John tells us that this was where Q had the expression. Right? Well, maybe not so fast. First we have to get past the whole idea of “strata” of Q. If Q was written in the 50s–or earlier–then when did these other strata accrue? Where did they come from? And how can a speech attributed to John be said to be the words of Jesus? Sorry. My take is that Matthew came up with this phrase, and liked it to the point that he used it three times. Luke used it for John, but maybe found it a little too harsh for Jesus, so only used it the once. Again, the real appeal of Q is that it allows Luke to be an independent source, one that thereby corroborates whatever else it shares with Matthew or Mark. If Luke read Matthew, we have, essentially, a single gospel tradition, and no more.

The second part is continues to reinforce the idea of the internal attitude, rather than the external actions, being what matters. We do what we are inside. If our hearts are full of evil, we will do evil things. If we’re full of good, we will do good things. This is more of the transition to a guilt culture. And as I’ve been going through the NT, I’ve been keeping Roman behaviour, norms, and mores in the back of my mind. The Romans were, to a large extent, still acting within a shame culture, at least to a much higher degree than Greeks, and certainly more so than Christians would be. For example, I believe it was Suetonius that said that, after being stabbed numerous times, when Julius Caesar fell to the ground, he made sure that he arranged his toga so that his legs were decently covered. Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter; either way, the values are made clear, and clearly the value is that of a shame culture. This is why I say that so much of the HS reflects an attitude that is not consistent with what was occurring elsewhere in the 7th or 8th Centuries BCE. 

34 Progenies viperarum, quomodo potestis bona loqui, cum sitis mali? Ex abundantia enim cordis os loquitur.

35 Bonus homo de bono thesauro profert bona, et malus homo de malo thesauro profert mala.

36 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶν ῥῆμα ἀργὸν ὃ λαλήσουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀποδώσουσιν περὶ αὐτοῦ λόγον ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως:

37 ἐκ γὰρ τῶν λόγων σου δικαιωθήσῃ, καὶ ἐκ τῶν λόγων σου καταδικασθήσῃ.

“I say to you that all idle words which people speak they will give over about your word in the day of judgement. (37) “For from your words you will be justified, and from the word s of you (= your words) you will be condemned.”

Now that we realize that the day of judgement theme predates Jesus by a couple of hundred years, we don’t have to spend a lot of time discussing this in relation to what it says about the development of the message. This part of the message was there, pre-packaged, as it were, and ready to be bought off the rack (to mix metaphors). Jesus neither had to create nor develop it. And as we progress through this with this understanding that it was there, we can start to ask ourselves how much of this was an actual immediate expectation, and how much was simply a rhetorical device. Yes, the day of judgement was expected, but we have truly lost the sense of urgency about it. As such, it feels more like a rhetorical device than something that was an integral part of Jesus’ message. Now, what I’m actually saying is that it doesn’t feel as integral now that we’ve reached the time of Matthew. It may have been very different for Jesus; but then again, it may not have. It was different for Paul, but the change in tone between 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians is telling, too. The question then becomes, how deeply imbedded was this in Jesus’ teaching, and how much was brought to the forefront by Paul? Was he so affected by the resurrection of the body of Jesus that he was sure that the End was Near?

Instead, however, of trying to answer that now, we can look past the whole judgement thing and consider the rest of the message. We will be justified or condemned by our own words. This, obviously, flows from the passage before, where what comes out is a reflection of what is within. This takes us back to the either/or of the previous comment, the faith/works dichotomy. Of course, they don’t have to be a dichotomy, a fact which even Paul understood. So here again is the exhortation to good. Implied, of course, is the choice to do good. This could, but does not have to, take us to the free will/grace discussion: can humans choose good of their own accord? St Augustine would later say “no”, that a prior infusion of prevenient grace was necessary. But that is not what Matthew is saying here. Or rather, he’s not saying anything about choices. Rather, he is simply assuming that the choice can be, and actually is, a free one that we each make.  This, of course, takes us to the edge of the Predestination debate, but we’ll save that for Romans.

Here’s , perhaps, the oddest part of this. If you are at all familiar with St Augustine (I personally, am sort of on a nodding acknowledgement level), you know that he had an incredibly pessimistic view of the goodness of the human species. We are so depraved, he thought, that we all deserve damnation, and it was only because God was so loving that anyone was saved. And Luther famously said that he trembled when he thought that God was just. In this passage, we are nowhere near the point of either of these thinkers. The choice is free, we can make it. And we’d better make the right one, or our own actions will condemn us.

That is a very positive message, one very different from later thinkers like (especially?) Augustine. And we should also acknowledge that it’s rather different from what a lot of pagans thought. To some extent, the idea of free will came about in reaction to the pagan ideas that our lives were a matter of fate, or were simply random. It’s interesting how different the Latin and Greek terms are for these concepts. Fortuna vs. Tyche. Fortune vs Chance/Luck. Of course, Latin has that sense, too, but we’ve taken the positive aspect of it and turned in into “fortune”, as in “fame and fortune”, or “that’s worth a fortune”. The Latin term is more neutral, probably closer to our idea of “fate” than our idea of a “fortune” in monetary terms. The Greek Tyche, “luck” can mean something like “fortuna”, but it has a more random aspect to it. Stuff happens. We can’t control it. I have capitalised “Tyche” because Hellenistic Greeks personified (technically deified) the concept, taking it from an abstract and putting it into the divine.* The ideas presented here offer a means of escaping the impersonal, the random elements that “tyche” especially represented. The positive aspect of the message was, doubtless, very appealing. We like to feel like we’re in charge, that we can act in a meaningful way. In some ways randomness is the most horrific idea to humans; hence the appeal of conspiracy theories. With evil cabals running the show from behind the scenes, we can–rather perversely–take comfort from knowing that someone is in charge, is responsible for things happening the way they do, even if that someone is malicious and the events perpetrate evil.

Really, Paul’s message of faith in the Christ had much the same affect. You can’t hope to follow allof the Law; it’s too enormous. So get out from under all that and just believe. You can do that.

And there’s an interesting point in the discussion of Matthew the pagan. We had the bit about not an iota of the Law being dropped, and since then…nothing. Since way back in Chapter 6, we’ve not heard a peep about it. What does this silence tell us? To me it says that Matthew is not concerned with preaching to Jews, for whom the Law was the ideal. In fact, Matthew is not even writing for God-fearers any longer, for pagans who had attached themselves to synagogues to learn about Judaism. He’s not talking about the choice between the Law and the Christ. He’s talking only about Jesus, but in terms that are much more comprehensible to a pagan than to a Jew: a divine creature, sired by a god, but born of a human woman. In short, a demigod, or a Hero, in the technical sense like Achilles. The Pharisees are still there, still playing the role of foil, but in a much more generic way; they have almost become caricatures. Or maybe they have become something like the allegorical figures of Mediaeval times. Figures like Virtue, Poverty, Everyman. They are here, they were in the previous section of the man with the withered hand, but they’re more like cardboard cut-outs than a real presence the way they were in Mark. So here’s some more circumstantial evidence that we’ve passed the tipping point, that the new communities were comprised mainly, or even almost exclusively, of former pagans.

36 Dico autem vobis: Omne verbum otiosum, quod locuti fuerint homines, reddent rationem de eo in die iudicii:

37 ex verbis enim tuis iustificaberis, et ex verbis tuis condemnaberis ”.

[*Anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of Hellenistic philosophy may be cringing at the gross oversimplification of these concepts. I’m sort of cringing. But take it in these simplified terms, realizing that there is a lot more nuance to both of these words and concepts.]

Matthew Chapter 12:8-21

Chapter 12 continues. We left off with Jesus proclaiming himself the Lord of the Sabbath.

9 Καὶ μεταβὰς ἐκεῖθεν ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτῶν:

10 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος χεῖρα ἔχων ξηράν. καὶ ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Εἰ ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν θεραπεῦσαι; ἵνα κατηγορήσωσιν αὐτοῦ.

And then leaving, he came to the synagogue of them. (10) And he saw a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, saying, “Is it allowed to heal on the Sabbath?” in order to accuse him.

Well, this is timely. In the verse previous to this, Jesus proclaimed himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Now he gets to test this out. This story is in Mark, but with a slight difference: the bit about the Lord of the Sabbath is separated more from this story. Here, they follow immediately, but the connection is not quite so pronounced. They are in different chapters; this alone isn’t necessarily meaningful, however, because there are times when the break in a story falls after the first or second verse of the new chapter. But aside from that, the composition, and even much of the vocabulary is repeated. Largely because of this, Matthew’s version doesn’t really add much to the message of Mark. Here, “they” deliberately try to provoke Jesus, while in Mark “they” take a watch-and-see attitude.

And the word for “withered” literally means “dried out”. The Latin is “aridem“.

9 Et cum inde transisset, venit in synagogam eorum;

10 et ecce homo manum habens aridam. Et interrogabant eum dicentes: “ Licet sabbatis curare? ”, ut accusarent eum.

11 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τίς ἔσται ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος ὃς ἕξει πρόβατον ἕν, καὶ ἐὰν ἐμπέσῃ τοῦτο τοῖς σάββασιν εἰς βόθυνον, οὐχὶ κρατήσει αὐτὸ καὶ ἐγερεῖ;

12 πόσῳ οὖν διαφέρει ἄνθρωπος προβάτου. ὥστε ἔξεστιν τοῖςσάββασιν καλῶς ποιεῖν.

 He (Jesus) said to them, “What man is there of you who having one sheep, and if it falls on a Sabbath (lit= on Sabbaths ) into a ditch/pit, would you not take hold of it and raise it out?”

Now this part is new to Matthew; in fact, it’s unique to Matthew (I believe). So, did this come from a source, the so-called “M” material? Or did Matthew compose this added twist to the story on his own? The orthodox answer would be that it came from the “M” material. And the reason this explanation is so attractive, I think, is that one can be allowed to imagine that, by coming from an earlier source, it could possibly be ascribed to Jesus. No one will say this, but that is the tacit understanding. It derives from an older source, by which we mean, necessarily, that it comes from a time closer to Jesus. So, who’s to say that it didn’t come from Jesus? It’s older, so it could have. And you can’t prove that it didn’t come from Jesus.

I hope we see the problem with the logic there. It takes the possibility that it is from an earlier source, and by a feat of logical prestidigitation, turns that into a known quantity, and then throws the burden of proof onto the one who would deny it’s from Jesus. Now, let me stress that I have never seen this actually stated. No one has put the case for this being authentic into such bald language. But the hidden assumption is there. By stating that it’s from the M material, one allows the entire chain to be set up like dominoes. No, the author never said, that, but if the reader should happen to draw that conclusion, well…

Now, given the way Matthew has to stick stuff into places it really doesn’t fit, Matthew most likely did have earlier sources, and probably more than one. Recall that, already in Galatians, Paul talks about “other gospels”. So other traditions existed. There is probably M material that came to Matthew, having bypassed Mark (probably because it hadn’t been created yet) and didn’t make it to Luke. Or, that didn’t make it into Luke. I make this distinction because I’m relatively sure that Luke did read Matthew. So yes, this could have come from an earlier source, one closer in time to Jesus. But the part about bypassing Mark is significant. My sense is that, after Mark wrote, the legend of Jesus grew, which led to the creation of numerous additional stories about him. The other possibility is that when Mark wrote, the various communities were reasonably autonomous, and more than likely autochthonous, and perhaps didn’t have much interaction. Then, as the communities began to be more pagan in composition, it became easier for the stories from different groups to make the rounds, to cross-pollinate.

I say this because Jews, while plentiful, and while they existed in most towns of any size, were still not part of the mainstream. This had the effect of making communication, the sharing of stories between different locales more difficult. This is especially true because not all Jewish groups would have accepted the teachings of Jesus as a legitimate part of Judaism. Pagans, OTOH, were the mainstream, so the chances of casual and incidental contact between different groups of Jesus followers increased, probably by orders of magnitude. Even if a pagan did not believe in Jesus’ divinity, he could pass along what others were saying about him in different towns through casual contact. Intercity commerce was a benefit of the Empire (along with the roads, the sewers & c as the Peoples’ Front of Judea admitted, however grudgingly). And I don’t mean to downplay the level of participation Jews took in this. It’s just sheer numbers. The fact of the matter is that Jews did not interact with their pagan peers as freely as the pagans interacted with each other. It’s just a matter of numbers: there were way more pagans than Jews, so a growing percentage of pagan initiates, or even pagans who had heard of Jesus, would have resulted in an enormous increase in the amount of communication between communities in disparate locations. So this would have increased the amount of material available to Matthew. Some he put in. Some he doubtless left out. But there is no reason to say that he didn’t add to the material himself. 

One last thing about the pagans. Does the increase of source material available to Matthew make it more, or less likely than Matthew was a pagan? In and of itself, it has no real impact either way, really. But taken in conjunction with other things that we’ve noticed and noted about Matthew, I think it makes Matthew’s pagan origins more likely. By all means, feel free to disagree; but if you do, be sure you have solid reasons to disagree. Not just because “everyone says”, or “everyone has always said”, or, “it’s obvious that he was Jewish, isn’t it?” Actually, I don’t think it is. Much of the “case” for this belief is the bit in Mt 5:17-18 about how Jesus has come to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it, and that not the smallest iota of the Law will pass away. As they used to say in the Classics literature, that’s a very slender reed on which to build such a large edifice.

But seriously, if you think I’m mistaken, let me know. But also explain your reasons why.

11 Ipse autem dixit illis: “ Quis erit ex vobis homo, qui habeat ovem unam et, si ceciderit haec sabbatis in foveam, nonne tenebit et levabit eam?

12 Quanto igitur melior est homo ove! Itaque licet sabbatis bene facere ”.

13 τότε λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, Ἔκτεινόν σου τὴν χεῖρα. καὶ ἐξέτεινεν, καὶ ἀπεκατεστάθη ὑγιὴς ὡς ἡ ἄλλη.

14 ἐξελθόντες δὲ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι συμβούλιον ἔλαβον κατ’ αὐτοῦ ὅπως αὐτὸν ἀπολέσωσιν.

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”. And he extended it, and having been restored, it was as sound as the other. (14) The Pharisees coming they took counsel together against him (about) how they will kill him.

So the wonder has been worked, and the man’s hand has been restored. Presumably as a result of this, the Pharisees enter a plot to kill Jesus. I don’t think we looked too closely at this aspect in the story of Mark. Why did they Pharisees plot to kill him? Or, stepping back, let’s ask ourselves if we think that it makes sense for the Pharisees to begin a plot. Or do we have a chicken-and-egg question here: we can’t say it made sense, unless we know why they began to plot. But why would they begin to plot if it didn’t make sense? But that’s not what I mean by stepping back. A discussion like the why/does it make sense? question isn’t truly stepping back to look at it from the outside. I mean we have to step back and ask if it makes sense that they began to plot, that they wanted Jesus dead from an historical perspective. In a word, the answer I think, is “no”.

Why do I say this? OK, the official line of the Jesus followers is that the religious authorities conspired to elicit Roman aid in condemning Jesus to death. Now, I believe that this thesis is pretty much ridiculous, but assuming it was true, we then have to ask ourselves what the Pharisees in a small town have to do with the religious authorities in Jerusalem. The answer is, pretty much nothing. Mark put this in the story here, and Matthew repeated it, but neither of them ever truly stopped to ask if this made sense. Yes, OK, Jesus is supposedly making the established religion look bad. But then Mark & Matthew commit the fallacy of composition: assuming that the whole of the group has all of the (usually bad) characteristics of some members of the group. This is the basis for racism, xenophobia, clannishness, & c. Some (fill in ethnic/religious/racial/or other group) are bad, so all such members of that group are bad. So it is here. The religious authorities in Jerusalem wanted to kill Jesus, so they all did. Never mind that Pharisees were more like a sect than an official group. That’s actually irrelevant. The point is, they all wanted Jesus dead, because he had a new message, he taught with authority, he made them look like hypocrites, and he could work wonders and they couldn’t. So of course they wanted him dead, right?

But here’s the thing. Yes, this is bad logic, and no, I don’t believe it because I don’t think it follows, and I don’t accept the first premise that the religious authorities, in Jerusalem or anywhere else, had anything to do with Jesus’ death. That is all true, but it’s not the main thing I get out of this. What I get is that this passage so clearly confuses the situation that, a) it’s highly unlikely that the author had almost no grasp on how it all worked; and b) that the audience really had no clue about any of this either. Neither the author nor the audience understood, or cared to understand that provincial Pharisees like these would not have had any influence on the eventual plot to kill Jesus fomented by the authorities in Jerusalem. And, for the moment, it doesn’t even matter that the plot never happened; the salient point is that neither the author nor the audience understood that a plot by these Pharisees would have been wholly unrelated to any plot hatched by the authorities in Jerusalem. All Pharisees, the entire religious structure, all of them wanted Jesus dead, and eventually they all joined the plot.

That is the implication of this part of the story.

As for the implications of this implication, let’s start with what it says about Jesus’ actual death. Given this gross misunderstanding of the situation, we have to question the likely veracity of the story itself. Did the religious authorities manipulate the Romans into killing Jesus? IMO, probably not. We’ve seen that the story of the cleansing of the Temple doesn’t hold water, even though EP Sanders says this is the event that got Jesus arrested. So, without that, then why? Why did the authorities care? Well, based on this story, it’s because Jesus made them look bad. Well, maybe he did, but only at the local level, like that of this story. The authorities in Jerusalem probably wouldn’t have been overly concerned about a rube from the sticks. Overall, I would say that this story actually weakens the likelihood that Jesus was killed at the behest of the authorities in Jerusalem. The association implied in this story makes the overall story less likely, because it shows a profound misunderstanding of the entire situation.

Second, we need to remember that this story comes from Mark. That Mark didn’t see the problems this story presents is pretty good indication that he was not really familiar with the situation in Judea/Galilee prior to the War. So this increases the likelihood that Mark wasn’t from Judea/Galilee, and that he probably wrote after the Jewish War, when most of the people who could have corrected the evidence were dead or dispersed. 

Third, well the third point is a little more conjectural. So let’s pose it as a question: does the conflation of all “religious authorities” have any impact on the historicity of the whole idea that these authorities were responsible for Jesus’ death? That is, do they help us decide if the Passion Narrative is likely to have any basis in actual fact? I think there is, but it’s pretty limited, which is not good for my thesis. I would suggest that the lumping of all religious authorities into a homogenous whole indicates that the story had little basis in truth because it, essentially, gets the bad guys wrong. The failure to distinguish between local authorities and those in Jerusalem seems to indicate that those telling the story really didn’t have any clear idea of the group they were ostensibly blaming; as such, this increases the likelihood that the story is made up out of whole cloth. 

Well, maybe. I do think this confusion indicates a lack of understanding of the situation, which in turn makes the story seem more likely to be fictional. To confuse all religious authorities, or even to assume these provincial Pharisees were actually authorities certainly does indicate a lack of understanding. However, a remove of time and space–telling the story 40 years later, at a point well-removed from the scene of the action–is probably enough by itself to create this sort of confusion. So, as much as I want to use this to argue the increased doubt of the historicity of the Passion Narrative as a whole, this doesn’t provide a great deal of support to my case. It provides some, I think, but not a lot. It’s the sort of thing that be just short of meaningless on its own, but that, taken with other circumstances, may help push the needle the direction I’m trying to go.

What the confusion does do is help show that Mark did not write in Judea/Galilee. I have read that Mark makes geographical mistakes which points that he wrote elsewhere, so this just reinforces that, too. But does it give us a better sense of the time when he wrote. Again, I think it marginally supports a date after 70, but I think suggesting that it was written any earlier is close to unsupportable in any case.

The things that end up evoking the most comment can be odd and unexpected.

13 Tunc ait homini: “ Extende manum tuam ”. Et extendit, et restituta est sana sicut altera.

14 Exeuntes autem pharisaei consilium faciebant adversus eum, quomodo eum perderent.

15 Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς γνοὺς ἀνεχώρησεν ἐκεῖθεν. καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ [ὄχλοι] πολλοί, καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτοὺς πάντας,

16 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς ἵνα μὴ φανερὸν αὐτὸν ποιήσωσιν:

17 ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος,

But Jesus knowing this departed from there, and a large crowd followed him, and he healed them all, (16) and he censured them that they not make him manifest (i.e. = reveal him), (17) in order that the thing having been said by the prophet Isaiah be fulfilled, saying

Kind of an odd place to break, but I wanted to comment before we got to the prophecy. First, a couple of the words are sort of a stretch. The word I translate as “censure” doesn’t exactly mean that. In Classical authors, the base meaning is ‘to value’, as in ‘to put a value upon’. By extension, it becomes a legal term, more or less approximating the idea of a fine, the value of restitution put upon a crime. From there it comes to mean ‘to censure’, again in the legal sense. It generally gets translated as “to order”, or “to charge/admonish”, or something similar. My rendering of “censure” sort of straddles between. Sort of. A censure is an official reprimand, but I think the meaning stretches enough to include the way I’ve used it here. Sort of. So once again we see how NT translations take some liberties. This is not a terribly significant “consensus” translation, but I hope it gets across why I’m a little suspicious of “NT Greek”.

Also, while the bulk of the story is in Mark, this is not a place where Mark has Jesus enjoin people not to tell anyone about him. But Matthew adds it here, rather than in other places. The reason Matthew does this, I think, is largely because these injunctions in Mark often are given to exorcised spirits, although they are occasionally directed at people, too.  This, however, is the first time Matthew has had Jesus say this, and somehow I won’t be surprised if it turns out to be the last. 

The implication of Matthew unenthusiastically includng this–or other parts of Mark that maybe he doesn’t support wholeheartedly–is that Matthew apparently felt that he could not leave out very much at all that was in Mark. I’ve seen the numbers, that Matthew used 220 of 230 verses, or something such. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but Matthew used all but a tiny percent–well less than 10%, I’m sure–of Mark. The question is “why”? The most obvious answer, of course, is that Mark was too well known, and as a result, too many omissions would have made the audience uncomfortable. Mark was the baseline and he had to be followed. So that’s all fine and good, but what does that mean? 

It means that a certain outline had been set down. Mark’s basic story had been acceptet as canonical (in conception, even if the word itself is anachronistic), which is why the fundamental outline provided by Mark was maintained, even tbrough John. Now, stories could be added, and Luke and John both add lots of new stories, even as they stick to the biographical outline set down by Mark.

So Matthew couldn’t skip things, but he could add things. Like the Sermon on the Mount. What, if anything, does Matthew’s reverence for Mark’s outline say about Q? Offhand, and at first glance, I’d guess that Matthew following Mark so assiduously makes Q more likely. After all, if Matthew felt the need to follow Mark, doesn’t that mean he was more likely to follow other sources? Actually, it might. The question becomes do we believe in Matthew-the-creator of new stories, or Matthew as researcher who cobbled sources together? Please note that I came into this gospel pretty convinced of the former; now, however, after having read a bunch of seeming non sequiturs, I’m not so sure. Now I almost think Matthew was too fanatical about sticking to his sources. But, that being said, I still don’t particularly believe in Q as it’s been reconstituted. Or, I don’t believe in Q as reconstituted as material that actually dated back to Jesus. I may be willing to accept Q as a collection of material that dated back to James, brother of Jesus.

The other thing s that there is too much material that is in Matthew and not Mark that simply does not fit into the time frame of the 30s. Taking up one’s cross is a great example. So, while Matthew probably had other sources, I don’t think that Q–as is commonly conceived–was one of them.

15 Iesus autem sciens secessit inde. Et secuti sunt eum multi, et curavit eos omnes

16 et comminatus est eis, ne manifestum eum facerent,

17 ut adimpleretur, quod dictum est per Isaiam prophetam dicentem:

18 Ἰδοὺ ὁ παῖς μου ὃν ᾑρέτισα, ὁ ἀγαπητός μου εἰς ὃν εὐδόκησεν ἡ ψυχή μου: θήσω τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ κρίσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπαγγελεῖ.

 ” ‘Behold the my servant whom I chose,  the beloved of me, the one in whom my life/soul is pleased. I will place my breath upon him, and I will announce judgement to the nation. 

I wasn’t going to break until the end, but want to make a couple of points here. “Psyche” here is generally translated as “soul” (except for the NIV, which takes a completely different tack) in this situation, but I’m not sure I agree. Now, of course, if this is God speaking, rendering this as “life” doesn’t make a lot of sense–if you take God to be eternal, and that wasn’t necessarily the stadard belief at the time, especially when Isaiah was written. The omni/omni/omni God as we conceive and define the term is really a Christian invention. Jewish belief was moving in that direction–as was pagan belief–but God of the three omnis really was a deduction, a logiccal constrct, of the Christians working out theology based on the amalgamation of the HS and NT. I really would like to know what the Hebrew word behind this is. What I do know is that “soul” is probablly wildly anachronistic, especially given all the connotations we have loaded onto the word over the milllennia. “Spirit” might work in its place, but even there, we bring an awful lot of baggage to the word.

And the word is “pais”, rather than “huios”. This is the generic word for child—most likely male–that we encountered in the story of the Centurion. Given that, the choice of the word here indicates that this should be rendered as “servant”. Indeed, this is how my crib translations, even the NIV, give as the translation. The use of “huios” would sigficantly change the interpretation. Then it would be “My Son”, with full implications of “My Heir”, rather than “my boy”. This is an instance when the exact Greek word really does matter. This is another reason why I don’t like rendering “psyche” as “soul” in this situation. It’s one thing to be pleased with a servant, but wholly another to be pleased by a child.  Yes, the relationship with servants, especially slaves, in the ancient world could be very close to familial, but the servant’s role was always clear.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve stopped using the word “Gentiles”. I’ve substituted “pagan/s” instead. Here the word is “ethnesin”. Three of my four crib translations render this as “Gentiles”, playing off the Latin “gentes“. But this isn’t a real word; one alternative is “nations” but that’s anachronistic, too. “Peoples” would be more accurate.  

18 “ Ecce puer meus, quem elegi, / dilectus meus, in quo bene placuit animae meae;

ponam Spiritum meum super eum, / et iudicium gentibus nuntiabit.

19 οὐκ ἐρίσει οὐδὲ κραυγάσει, οὐδὲ ἀκούσει τις ἐν ταῖς πλατείαις τὴν φωνὴν αὐτοῦ.

20 κάλαμον συντετριμμένον οὐ κατεάξει καὶ λίνον τυφόμενονοὐ σβέσει, ἕως ἂν ἐκβάλῃ εἰς νῖκος τὴν κρίσιν.

21 καὶ τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ ἔθνη ἐλπιοῦσιν.

” ‘He will not strive, or quarrel, nor will one hear in the plains his voice. (20) The reed having been bruised he will not break, and flax smoking he will not extinguish until he throws a judgement towards victory. (21) And by his name the peoples will hope’.”

First, the word I translated as “plains”. My NT dictionary says it means “streets”, and such is how it is translated. However, the word, as constructed by my NT dictionary is not in Liddell & Scott at all. It is a form of the word “platus”, which means, “plain”, or “broad/flat”. As the duck-like bill of a platypus. But in Latin, the same word “platea” does mean a broad street leading into a city. But it’s a very late word, more appropriate for Latin rather than Greek. 

I have to say that I would really like to read this bit in Hebrew. Especially this last bit about “throwing judgement”. Now again, the NT dictionary gives “send forth” and “lead out” as possible definitions of the word that, clearly, means to “cast/throw out”. It’s the verb used to “cast out” demons. And this is reflected in the Latin, which is the root for “to throw”. Of course, the Latin is following the Greek, rather than reflecting back to the original Hebrew.

I noticed this a couple of times in Paul, and it’s here again. This is Isaiah 42:1 ff. The REB that I mainly use translates the passage differenly in the original context than it does here, where it’s quoted. Is this just me, or does that not seem a tad strange? In fact, given the subtle shifts in meaning, it seems almost downrigt dishonest. In the quote, the words seem to reflect Jesus much more clearly than they did in the original location. And there the servant establishes justice, but in the quote he leads out justice.  In neither spot does he “cast out” justice as the Greek says here. 

This is even better. I checked out the Septuagint (LXX) version of Isaiah 42:1 ff. It is significantly different from the Greek text quoted here. Now, obviously, different authors translating the Hebrew will come up with different translations. But would Matthew not have been working from the LXX? Is the edition that I found on-line different from the version that Matthew read? 

Still, the idea of this passage is that the servant will be meek. He will not even break a reed that’s already bent, nor snuff out a smoldering wick (which were, apparently, made of flax).

Finally, there is the bit about the peoples (“ethnes). You know, this is what I mean about the dates when the HS were written; this is Isaiah, which is traditionally dated to like the 7th, or even 8th Century BCE. And yet, here we have a prediction that “the peoples”, usually rendered as “Gentiles”, which means specifically “non-Jews” will hope in the name of the aforementioned servant. My apologies, but this does not sound like something that would have been written in the 8th Century BCE. It feels horribly anachronistic for this period. Even supposing that there was a “kingdom” of Israel (of some sort; it’s not unlikely), the chances that its denizens would have been concerned with the well-being of other tribes, or peoples, is pretty unlikely. And again, this is a case where I’d definitely like to see the Hebrew word behind “ethne”. If the Greek catches the sense of that Hebrew word at all, even this concept may be a little too sophisticated for the 8th Century.

Part of the breakthrough of Herodotus was the concept of learning about the history of other peoples. The Greeks were seafarers; they sailed about the eastern–and western Mediterranean. They colonized the western shore of modern Turkey, and Sicily, and Southern Italy in the period of approximately 700-600 BCE. And even this sort of contact didn’t elicit a concept of curiosity about non-Greeks. They were simply “babblers” (barbaroi). It took another couple of centuries for this curiosity to develop. In fact, the key event was the Persian Wars. And, coincidentally, it was Cyrus of Persia that restored the Jews to Judea. Was the Babylonian Captivity the catalyst for creating the sense of Jewish/Hebrew ethnic identity? And the beginning of their starting to look outward, and see other peoples (ethne) as people to be considered, rather than just feared or conquered? To the best of my knowledge, this sort of consciousness of other peoples as somehow…interesting does not really exist in the literature of Assyria, or Babylonia that would have been contemporary to Isaiah in the 8th Century. Now we can debate the remarkability of the Hebrews on this point, but I’m not so sure it should be pushed too hard. If someone can correct my attitude here, please point me in the right direction. I was reading…probably William Dever, and he was talking about those who would put the whole of the writing of the HS to the period of or after the Babylonian Captivity. I believe the term he used was “minimalists”. This was a few years ago, and I more or less agreed with him. Now, as I see some of the thoughts expressed, and compare them with what was happening elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean, or the ancient Near East, I’m not so sure the minimalists are necessarily as wrong as I believed a few short years ago. And if I think about the Romans, even after the Punic Wars, I’m not so sure they had really gotten over the hump about some of this stuff. I’m becoming ever-more skeptical that the Hebrews did it in the 8th Century

So what, then? I will have to go back and re-read Isaiah, this time looking for allegory, metaphor, and analogy when he talks about the political situation of his “day”. It might make a lot more sense.

In the meantime, is the point of this quotation the last line? The part about “ethne”? I realize I am skirting the edge of a sort of monomania, where I’m seeing references to pagans everywhere. Such single-mindedness has sunk many theories in many different disciplines. But why does Matthew seem to go out of his way to show the precedents for, and the expectations of, the entrance of other peoples into the House of Israel? The religious house, that is.

 19 Non contendet neque clamabit, / neque audiet aliquis in plateis vocem eius.

20 Arundinem quassatam non confringet / et linum fumigans non exstinguet, / donec eiciat ad victoriam iudicium;

21 et in nomine eius gentes sperabunt ”.