Category Archives: Chapter 16

Luke Chapter 16:19-31

This section will conclude the chapter. It is the story of Dives and Lazarus, which is another that is unique to Luke. This is to say, the author of this story was most likely Luke. Why ascribe it to some vague “L source” when we have a very capable author at hand? Well, there is one answer: because if we attribute this to Luke, then we are denying that Jesus actually told this story, and that it was made up after Jesus died. If that happened, then who’s to say that other stories weren’t made up after Jesus died? That opens a whole can of worms: if Jesus didn’t say half the things he said, can we call ourselves Christians? Possibly– probably?– not. Obviously, that carries some grave and enormous implications. Hence the unwillingness to debate Q in a true, scholarly fashion. Hence, what I am doing here, the process I am using is darn close to unique, even though it’s basic historiography, stuff i was doing as an undergrad in Greek & Roman history. And the parallels are strong: limited original source material, and so the need to milk every word for implications. Such basic analysis, as far as I can tell, simply is not done in Biblical Studies.

As for the text itself, at first glance there has been a break in the continuity in the theme of the chapter. We started with the story of the Wicked Steward, which led into the pronouncement being unable to serve both God and Mammon. Now we get to Dives & Lazarus, which is a great cautionary tale to illustrate what happens when we choose Mammon. So the break came in the verses covered in the previous section, Verses 14-18. In fact, Verse 18, prohibiting divorce, was so far off-topic that I completely forgot to comment on it in the last section; I ended with Verse 17. Now we return to the true them of the chapter.


19 Ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος, καὶ ἐνεδιδύσκετο πορφύραν καὶ βύσσον εὐφραινόμενος καθ’ ἡμέραν λαμπρῶς.

20 πτωχὸς δέ τις ὀνόματι Λάζαρος ἐβέβλητο πρὸς τὸν πυλῶνα αὐτοῦ εἱλκωμένος

21 καὶ ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πιπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης τοῦ πλουσίου: ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ κύνες ἐρχόμενοι ἐπέλειχον τὰ ἕλκη αὐτοῦ.

22 ἐγένετο δὲ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πτωχὸν καὶ ἀπενεχθῆναι αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγγέλων εἰς τὸν κόλπον Ἀβραάμ: ἀπέθανεν δὲ καὶ ὁ πλούσιος καὶ ἐτάφη.

“There was a certain man who was wealthy, and he dressed in purple and linen, and he feasted sumptuously every day. (20) There was a certain poor man named Lazaros, covered in sores, who was thrown out of the gate (21) and he yearned to eat from the scraps from the table of the rich man. But the dogs coming licked his sores. (22) It happened that the poor man died and carried him to the bosom of Abraham; the rich man died too, and was buried.

A bit of a cliff-hanger there; what will happen to the rich man?

Note that the poor man has a name, but the rich man does not. Hence, this is usually referred to as the story of Dives and Lazarus. “Dives” is the Latin word for “rich”, so it’s “The Rich Man and Lazarus”. Why does the wealthy man not have a name? He can certainly afford one. Luke made an editorial choice on this. You’ll have to ask him. While we’re talking about names, why does one suppose that John chose Lazaros as the name of the man Jesus raised from the dead? It’s not like he actually existed, so that this was actually his name. Is this some sort of homage to Luke? Also, note that I’m being fairly lax with my translation; this is a case where, for the most part, the words don’t make that much difference. It’s a story. There may come a point where it does, and I will point this out, but it’s a story. The lesson lies in the moral, rather than in the story itself. And nice detail about the dogs coming to lick his sores. Yuck. But gives you a good sense of the situation, no? This is why I say Luke was a novelist. He’s got an eye for those sorts of details to drive a point home.

19 Homo quidam erat dives et induebatur purpura et bysso et epulabatur cotidie splendide.

20 Quidam autem pauper nomine Lazarus iacebat ad ianuam eius ulceribus plenus

21 et cupiens saturari de his, quae cadebant de mensa divitis; sed et canes veniebant et lingebant ulcera eius.

22 Factum est autem ut moreretur pauper et portaretur ab angelis in sinum Abrahae; mortuus est autem et dives et sepultus est.

23 καὶ ἐν τῷ ἅ|δῃ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις, ὁρᾷ Ἀβραὰμ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν καὶ Λάζαρον ἐν τοῖς κόλποις αὐτοῦ.

24 καὶ αὐτὸς φωνήσας εἶπεν, Πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἐλέησόν με καὶ πέμψον Λάζαρον ἵνα βάψῃ τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ δακτύλου αὐτοῦ ὕδατος καὶ καταψύξῃ τὴν γλῶσσάν μου, ὅτι ὀδυνῶμαι ἐν τῇ φλογὶ ταύτῃ.

25 εἶπεν δὲ Ἀβραάμ, Τέκνον, μνήσθητι ὅτι ἀπέλαβες τὰ ἀγαθά σου ἐν τῇ ζωῇ σου, καὶ Λάζαρος ὁμοίως τὰ κακά: νῦν δὲ ὧδε παρακαλεῖται σὺ δὲ ὀδυνᾶσαι.

“And in Hades, lifting up his eyes, he being in torment, he saw Abraham from the blessed, and Lazaros in his bosoms. (23) And he, calling out, said ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazaros in order to dip the top of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, that I am tormented in this flame’. But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you received the good things in your lifetime, and Lazaros (received) equally the bad. Now, he is comforted and you are tormented’.

Well. How about that? This is probably the first description of Hell; at least, the first to give us the damned-eye view of what goes on. We have had references to the fiery pit, and other such allusions, but nothing quite this graphic. Admittedly, there may be this sort of description in some of the Apocryphal writings that date to the inter-testamental period, or the last/first couple of centuries either side of the start of the Common Era. There was a lot of stuff written, and I do not claim to be familiar with most of it. But this is the first we’ve encountered this in the canonical works of either Testament.

Now that is all very academic. Much more interesting is the attitude of Father Abraham. A bit cold, no? So much for a merciful God, eh? Which causes me to speculate if we don’t have Abraham standing in for God for precisely that reason: because Abraham can be a bit standoffish in a way that God cannot be. Of course, this is the same device used for Job: it’s not God, but the adversary who proposes the trial. Or the Adversary. This outsources the bad stuff away from God, so that the bad stuff can be blamed on Not-God. Of course, this involves a certain amount of sleight-of-hand, since an all-powerful God can prevent its agents from doing harm. That such a God chooses to allow harm indicates that the harm is part of the will of this God. The alternative is to consider a Principal of evil to have an identity separate from the Principal of good, but this implies that God is not all-powerful. There is no logical alternative. Of course, one can argue that God is not bound by logic, but then we have, essentially, a kosmos based on divine whim. This actually creates more problems than it solves. At least logically. 

One point that seems a bit odd. At first, in Verse 22, Lazaros is carried to the “bosom” of Abraham. Then, the second time, in Verse 23,  Dives sees Lazaros in the “bosoms” of Abraham. How we go from singular to plural is a bit beyond me. Checking the Latin, it is singular in both cases. That’s part of the interest here. The second is the Greek word, κόλπος. If pronounced aloud, perhaps you can see how it’s the root of our word ‘gulf’. The basic sense is that the kolpos is the hollow space between the breasts. From there, the idea was transferred to mean most any other similar hollow area, such as the fold in a gown or a robe. From there, we transfer it to a landform, the hollow between two extensions of land that hold an inlet– a ‘gulf’– of the sea. Checking the Latin, it’s sinus; yes, just like the areas above your eyes that get clogged. The base sense of the Latin is the fold of a toga around the breast; hence, the bosom. It is also a geographical term meaning– wait for it– ‘gulf’. If you look at a map of the moon, you can find the Sinus Medii, the Gulf of the Middle. The term would also be found on an old map of earth, like, 16th Century old, where the labels are in Latin. 

23 Et in inferno elevans oculos suos, cum esset in tormentis, videbat Abraham a longe et Lazarum in sinu eius.

24 Et ipse clamans dixit: “Pater Abraham, miserere mei et mitte Lazarum, ut intingat extremum digiti sui in aquam, ut refrigeret linguam meam, quia crucior in hac flamma”.

25 At dixit Abraham: “Fili, recordare quia recepisti bona tua in vita tua, et Lazarus similiter mala; nunc autem hic consolatur, tu vero cruciaris.

26 καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τούτοις μεταξὺ ἡμῶν καὶ ὑμῶν χάσμα μέγα ἐστήρικται, ὅπως οἱ θέλοντες διαβῆναι ἔνθεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς μὴ δύνωνται, μηδὲ ἐκεῖθεν πρὸς ἡμᾶς διαπερῶσιν.

27 εἶπεν δέ, Ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν, πάτερ, ἵνα πέμψῃς αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου,

28 ἔχω γὰρ πέντε ἀδελφούς, ὅπως διαμαρτύρηται αὐτοῖς, ἵνα μὴ καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔλθωσιν εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον τῆς βασάνου.

29 λέγει δὲ Ἀβραάμ, Ἔχουσι Μωϋσέα καὶ τοὺς προφήτας: ἀκουσάτωσαν αὐτῶν.

30 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Οὐχί, πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἀλλ’ ἐάν τις ἀπὸ νεκρῶν πορευθῇ πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετανοήσουσιν.

31 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Εἰ Μωϋσέως καὶ τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἀκούουσιν, οὐδ’ ἐάν τις ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῇ πεισθήσονται.

” ‘And in all these things between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those wishing to descend to you are not able, nor from thence (may) they cross over to us.’ But he (Dives) said, ‘So I ask you, father, in order you may send him to the home of my father. For I have five brothers, that he may give witness to them, so that they also may not come to this place of torment’. But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses Let them listen to them’. (30) But he (Dives) said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone of the dead go to them, they will repent’. (31) But he responded to him (Dives), ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, if someone of the dead should stand up/rise up, they will not believe’.”

Does anyone else find that last statement a bit…odd? The verb used can be– and also is– used as the verb for ‘resurrect’, as in, The Resurrection. Seems like someone famous is held to have been resurrected. Help me out? Oh, wait, it was Jesus. So Luke is saying that people will not listen to Jesus, come back from the dead? Passing strange, no? Or, is this a jab at Jews in particular, who did not listen to Moses and the prophets and repent, and, just so, they did not listen to Jesus, either.

26 Et in his omnibus inter nos et vos chaos magnum firmatum est, ut hi, qui volunt hinc transire ad vos, non possint, neque inde ad nos transmeare”.

27 Et ait: “Rogo ergo te, Pater, ut mittas eum in domum patris mei

28 — habeo enim quinque fratres — ut testetur illis, ne et ipsi veniant in locum hunc tormentorum”.

29 Ait autem Abraham: “Habent Moysen et Prophetas; audiant illos”.

30 At ille dixit: “Non, pater Abraham, sed si quis ex mortuis ierit ad eos, paenitentiam agent”.

31 Ait autem illi: “Si Moysen et Prophetas non audiunt, neque si quis ex mortuis resurrexerit, credent” ”.


Luke Chapter 16:14-18

The original intent was that this section would conclude the chapter. The reason is that Luke seems to have more blocks than his predecessors. This gospel seems to have longer stories that make it difficult to split these chapters up into more than a few section; too, the chapters in Luke may be be a bit shorter on average than those in Matthew. But let’s talk about the longer stories. I have often said that Mark was a journalist, Matthew was a rabbi (of pagan birth, perhaps), and Luke is a novelist. That becomes most apparent in Acts– assuming, of course, that Luke is actually the author of Acts. I am agnostic on that for the time being; I don’t know the arguments for or against. Regardless, that Luke worked the material into more continuous stories indicates the increasing sophistication of the NT. Stylistically, this sophistication may hit apex in Luke; theologically, the apex is John. Now, of course I’m going to tie this literary quality back to Q. If you think about literary development, does it make more sense to progress from the succinct Mark and a collection of random sayings to the cultivated literary quality of Luke? Or does it make more sense if Luke is sitting on top of Matthew as well as the other two? After all, Matthew elaborated Mark to a great degree– largely by making up a bunch of new pericopae, for which the Q people give him no credit. Luke took Matthew’s elaboration to a higher plane by creating more blocks of stories rather than a bunch of unconnected sayings. Again, hardly smoking-gun proof for the non-existence of Q, but such proof of a negative is impossible. Rather, it’s another small stone on the scale, and any fair assessment should indicate that the non-Q side is becoming very heavy. Think about it: how many of these “little stones” have I added to the commentary? Be honest, and you will (I think) have to admit there have been quite a few. Probably to the point of “this is getting tedious”. At least, I hope that is the reaction. If so, it means I’m piling up a lot of “little stones” that might have reached the point of becoming evidence. After all, the plural of “anecdote” is “evidence”. And this is what changed my mind. I got into yet another diatribe about Q. So, we save the story of Dives and Lazarus for the next section.

Here we have a direct continuation of the story before; or, this is perhaps an integral part of the story begun in the previous section of the chapter. We are hearing about the unjust steward who bought his way out of a predicament using his lord’s resources, and the lord seemed to think it was a good move by the steward. However, Jesus then editorialized at the end, indicating that perhaps there is a bit more to this than would first meet the eye. To find out, let’s get to the


14 Ἤκουον δὲ ταῦτα πάντα οἱ Φαρισαῖοι φιλάργυροι ὑπάρχοντες, καὶ ἐξεμυκτήριζον αὐτόν.

Having heard this, all the Pharisees being taken as money-lovers, and mocked him.

Hadn’t planned on such a quick pause, but have to mention a couple of things. Just to be clear, the Pharisees are reacting to the dictum of God and Mammon; they don’t like the implication so they mock/deride Jesus. The word used is unique to Luke; L&S cites usage in Psalm 2.4 in the LXX and here. Not a lot to go on. The Latin is pretty clear: deridebant. This is pretty obviously the origin of ‘deride’, but it’s also formed from the root of ridere, to laugh. My first-year Latin prof was fond of the word ‘risible’, as in, what you just said was absolutely risible. Of course, he did it in such an affable way that he came across as funny, so in response, risimus. We laughed. But the main point is the way he sticks in the poke at the Pharisees as being money-loving. Here’s my point about this: it almost feels like he adds this, rather clumsily I might add, because the audience may not simply understand that this was a trait of the Pharisees. This could be due to a pagan audience, a separation of distance from Judea; or is it a distance of time? Had the Pharisees stopped being quite so well-recognized as they once had been? Probably the former.

This just occurred to me. The money-grubber jab feels an awful lot like an interpolation, something stuck in by a scribe for his edification, or that of his readers. I’ll go no further than that, but there is something very inelegant about it.

14 Audiebant autem omnia haec pharisaei, qui erant avari, et deridebant illum.

15 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ δικαιοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁ δὲ θεὸς γινώσκει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν: ὅτι τὸ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὑψηλὸν βδέλυγμα ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

16 Ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται μέχρι Ἰωάννου: ἀπὸ τότε ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίζεται καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται.

And he said to them, “You are the ones justifying yourselves in front of humans, but God knows your hearts. That in human affairs you are elevated (but) an abomination before God. The law and the prophets (were?) until John: from then the Kingdom of God was preached (lit = “good newsed“) and all force into it.  

Apologies, but we have to make an unscheduled stop. The first verse is clear enough; just want to mention that the word for “abomination” is a Judeo-Christian word, showing up in the LXX and NT and pretty much nowhere in pagan literature. That’s fine. It may be based on something Hebrew? But the second verse is a problem. First, the grammar is exceedingly odd. There is no verb in the first clause, but understanding a form of “to be” is hardly all that unusual for Greek of any sort. And Latin, too; there is no verb in the first clause in the Vulgate below. The second clause…on second thought does make sense. There are actually a couple of ideas contained therein. First, is that The Law and The Prophets were not sufficient, or not conclusive, or…something. Whatever the trait is that I can’t name, it has allowed people– like the Pharisees; or perhaps especially people like Pharisees– to force their way into the Kingdom. Was it that the rules were not stringent, or specific enough that humans could force their way into the kingdom? But how can that be, if The Kingdom of God is Heaven? Is something that we merit only in the afterlife, and only if we’ve led a good life? Are we to infer that The Kingdom and The Life are not, perhaps, synonymous? This passage doesn’t necessarily say that, but it is, IMO, a valid inference.

Perhaps this makes more sense if we think of this more in terms of a Jewish conception of The Kingdom. The problem is that I can barely discuss Christian concepts in any intelligent manner, let alone try to tackle how Jewish thought in the centuries either side of the change of era may have looked at this sort of thing. The idea of some sort of afterlife was a part of Greek thought going back centuries. It is explicit in Homer; Odysseus travels to the land of the dead and speaks to the shade of Achilles, of his mother, and of the seer Tiresias. These individuals are dead, and yet they retain their individual personalities; they are in death who they were in life. There was rather a similar belief in the Near East, or at least in parts. In The Epic of Gilgamesh the eponymous hero travels to the land of the dead to converse with his erstwhile companion, Enkidu. There are numerous uses of the word sheol (Strong’s #7585)in the HS; perhaps half of them simply mean “grave”.  Of the other half, many are often translated as “hell”, but a quick scan of them shows that many of these could also be rendered simply as “grave” as well. The point being that an afterlife was not an integral part of earlier Hebrew belief; much that is seen, IMO, by Christians who are reading things backward. The Christian philosophy of history is that Jesus was the inevitable fulfillment of the Divine Plan, and that human history sort of fills in around that destiny. Ergo, this was all planned out from time immemorial and so, of course, the HS is just a precursor to the NT. So of course the ideas presented in HS are foreshadowings of what was to come, so of course sheol should be translated as “hell” whenever it was possible to do so. Because if the two words did not, ultimately, have essentially the same meaning, then we’re dealing with a discontinuity.

So the point of all this we may very well be dealing with two different ideas. The Life and The Kingdom of God may not, in fact, have been synonymous. And if you go back to the conception of the anointed in the HS, he is not a divine entity. He (and it was to be a ‘he’) was fully human, and he was expected to lead Israel (which, by the time of Jesus, had not existed for 600 years, give or take) to restore its past political glory. IOW, to restore the Kingdom of God. The Baptist/Dunker would have fit very easily into that framework, since it was the framework of mainstream Jewish thought. John could have been teaching about the Kingdom to come in a purely political sense. Later, the followers of Jesus would begin to co-opt John’s earthly kingdom, converting it to the Kingdom, not of God, but of the Heavens. But it was Matthew who came up with this latter term, just as it was Matthew who introduced stuff like the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, and a whole lot more Christian ideas. If we read Mark with the understanding that Jesus was carrying on John’s preaching of the Kingdom of God as a political kingdom, then the mustard seed takes on an entirely different set of implications than it carries in the Christian understanding of the idea. In fact, this would very much explain why Mark wrote, and why he wrote as he did. Mark lived through the revolt, even if he did not participate the way Josephus did. Mark was aware of the idea that a political kingdom was being bandied about only to be crushed by the Roman with their usual brutal efficiency. But then Mark saw the outcome, and realized he had to change the narrative, picking up on the Christ tradition, or rather the interpretation of the Christ that Paul had introduced. In this reading, Paul first understood the Christ in a different manner than other Jews to explain the fact of Jesus’ death. Then a Passion Narrative had to be invented, all of it running right up to political ideas, Jesus the King of the Jews, but a king of a different sort of kingdom. Matthew took this new interpretation and expanded it further, adding the divinity of Jesus. Luke sought to tie all of this together, with Jesus and John as relatives, in a relationship in which John recognised his subordinate position in utero, when Mary comes to visit Elisabeth.

But the incompatibility of the two ideas leads to certain awkward moments, like Verse 16, where the attempted weld of the different ideas, and that The Kingdom is not synonymous with The Life, shows. There is a seam in the fabric.

This seems a tad anticlimactic at this point, but there is a second aspect to this verse. Simply put, the Law and the Prophets have been superseded. Wealth and status are no longer enough to allow one to force his way into the (political being understood) kingdom. The rules have changed.

15 Et ait illis: “Vos estis, qui iustificatis vos coram hominibus; Deus autem novit corda vestra, quia, quod hominibus altum est, abominatio est ante Deum.

16 Lex et Prophetae usque ad Ioannem; ex tunc regnum Dei evangelizatur, et omnis in illud vim facit.

17 Εὐκοπώτερον δέ ἐστιν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν παρελθεῖν ἢ τοῦ νόμου μίαν κεραίαν πεσεῖν.

18 Πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμῶν ἑτέραν μοιχεύει, καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει.

It is easier for the sky and the earth to pass than for a single stroke of a letter to fall from the law. (18) All who send away his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he marrying the one having been separated from the man commits adultery.

 First of all, it is just me, or does it seem like these last two verses really don’t follow from the two previous? (And, spoiler alert, they don’t logically flow into the next section, either.) If the Q people wanted to mount an actual argument, the existence of such short sayings unattached to context present a much stronger case than a bland– or even vehement– statement that Luke is mad to change the masterful arrangement of the Sermon on the Mount. The former actually requires an explanation; the latter can be waved off as a subjective assessment of literary style, because that is exactly what it is. There is also another consideration: the word (it is a single word in Greek) translated here as “stroke of a letter” occurs twice in the NT: here, and in Matthew’s version of this aphorism. More, the word actually means ‘horn’, or something like the antennae of a cray/crawfish, or the spur of a mountain. In Ev Mt and Ev Lk, it means the upward stroke of a letter. More: Matthew’s version is “…a single iota or upward stroke of a letter…” Iota (ι)is the Greek letter ‘I”; it is a single quick stroke of a writing implement, the smallest letter, orthographically speaking, in the Greek alphabet. It is often rendered as “jot”, because later Latin orthography began replacing the initial Latin “I” with a “J” when the second letter of the word was also a vowel. Hence, “Iuppiter” becomes “Jupiter”. I have the impression that Hebrew uses such little strokes to indicate vowels. If this is correct, then Matthew is covering both languages, the iota from Greek and the upward stroke of Hebrew. Luke drops the former for whatever reason. 

But wait, there’s more. Matthew and Luke use different versions of the word. If you check Liddell & Scott, (which I almost always do), you will find that Matthew’s word is the standard word for “horn”; as the horn of a bull, or even a wing of an army, the left horn being the left flank. Luke, OTOH, uses a form derived from the standard, but a word more often used figuratively, as in the antennae of a crayfish, the yardarm on a mast, or the horns of the moon. So which is the original? Let’s check the Greek text of Q to find out…oh, wait. There is no Greek text of Q. There is no text of Q in any language. There are only the various reconstructions based on…what, exactly? The literary tastes of the editors, and an adamant refusal to consider an actual debate on merits. I’ve been using Kloppenborg et alia book entitled The Q/Thomas Reader as my text for Q. Kloppenborg, of my alma mater, University of Toronto (the shame!) is probably the foremost proponent of Q, so it seems like a good choice. He chooses Luke’s “not a serif” which strikes me as an excellent translation) over Matthew’s “iota nor serif”. This is hardly surprising, since Luke is considered the more “primitive” version, in large part because he says “blessed are the poor” rather than hedging like Matthew to “blessed are the poor in spirit“. Now, of course I am being unfair. This is a blog, not a dissertation, although I am seriously smelling a book in here. The consensus opinion is of “alternating primitivity”. But the choice of Luke as the more primitive here seems unfortunate; and it also demonstrates how the focus of the Q argument is on externals, rather than the content, the actual meaning of the words. If anything, Matthew is the more primitive in his choice of horn, κερeα rather than κεραίαν, as Luke used. The former is the standard, by far the more common word. The latter is more literary in the sense of more figurative, and the more descriptive. 

So why did each choose the one they did? Aye, there’s the rub. Each one chose the word he did because he felt it was the best word. Luke’s Greek is more sophisticated than Matthew’s; he uses more unique and unusual words. Sometimes he uses fewer words, omitting “in spirit” and “iota” as he did here. Does his word choice here function within the framework of the “redactionally consistent” explanation Q proponents demand for every deviation from Matthew? Probably irrelevant, since Luke is the base version, the one following Q. Ah, now there’s another question. Who wrote Q?  Well, no one, IMO. The more appropriate, because more serious, question is “what sort of person wrote Q?”. We have seen Mark’s Greek. It’s functional, but basic. Paul’s Greek verges on incomprehensible several times in 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, until he found a better secretary. (I can never remember how to spell amanuensis. Spellcheck to the rescue.) Then 1 Corinthians is a bit higher on the scale. Paul has a lot of unique words, but it’s a tendency to stick extra prefixes on existing words. The point is, if Q was written down in the 30s, what sort of people were in the Jesus movement? Most likely, it was mostly Jews. Paul was still a decade or so away from converting pagans in the 30s. Were these Jews likely to be well-educated in Greek? Not impossible, certainly, but not likely, either. So if someone wrote  Q in the 30s, it would indeed have been more primitive than either Matthew or Luke. Which implies that the text in Q should probably be more like Luke’s than Matthew’s version. Of course, Kloppenborg et al can cheat; they don’t have to provide the Greek word behind their translation. They can just provide a word of their choosing. Granted, serif is a good choice, but that would imply Luke’s more sophisticated and unusual word κεραίαν over Matthew’s more standard κερeα. That Kloppenborg chose “serif” seems to imply that he understands that Luke’s word is the term used in Q. That is not, in my opinion, a “redactionally consistent” position on his part. He is choosing his ideology over his sound judgement.   

17 Facilius est autem caelum et terram praeterire, quam de Lege unum apicem cadere.

18 Omnis, qui dimittit uxorem suam et ducit alteram, moechatur; et, qui dimissam a viro ducit, moechatur.

Luke Chapter 16:1-13

This section will be fairly short since most of  involves a single story. This is sort of the prelude to what will come in the following section. The topic is wealth.  In the last chapter/summary I commented that Jesus may not have spent all that much time with the poor. This was in conjunction with his wont to spend time with tax collectors. He also spends a fair bit of time hanging around with Pharisees, who were also known to be well-heeled. While we don’t have any Pharisees in this selection, they will appear in Verse 14, in what is a continuation of this story.


1Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς, Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος ὃς εἶχεν οἰκονόμον, καὶ οὗτος διεβλήθη αὐτῷ ὡς διασκορπίζων τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ.

2 καὶ φωνήσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί τοῦτο ἀκούω περὶ σοῦ; ἀπόδος τὸν λόγον τῆς οἰκονομίας σου, οὐ γὰρ δύνῃ ἔτι οἰκονομεῖν.

3 εἶπεν δὲ ἐν ἑαυτῷ ὁ οἰκονόμος, Τί ποιήσω, ὅτι ὁ κύριός μου ἀφαιρεῖται τὴν οἰκονομίαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ; σκάπτειν οὐκ ἰσχύω, ἐπαιτεῖν αἰσχύνομαι.

4 ἔγνων τί ποιήσω, ἵνα ὅταν μετασταθῶ ἐκ τῆς οἰκονομίας δέξωνταί με εἰς τοὺς οἴκους αὐτῶν.

And he said to his learners, “There was a certain man who was wealthy, who had a major-domo/steward and he (the man) accused him (the steward) as he (the steward) is squandering his (the man’s) possessions. (2) And calling him (the steward), he said to him (the steward), ‘Why do I hear this about you? Give an account of the household (lit = ‘house laws’ = economies of you) of your management of the household, for you are not able to run the household’. (3) The steward said in himself, ‘What will I do, that my lord takes away the management of the household from me? I am not strong to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (4) I know what I would do so that when I am turned from the house they received me into their house.

Have to pause here to make a few comments on the Greek. The last verse is a series of aorist subjunctive verbs. This is a combination that is impossible to get across in English. The subjunctive is simple enough; it’s the realm of the hypothetical, usually rendered as “would” or something such in English. The aorist, however, is the standard past tense. So we have the combination of hypothetical, but past, which should not be hypothetical. Being past, it should be pretty much fixed and done for. I suppose the sense is something like ‘I have figured out (perfect) what I would do when/if…’

The other thing worth pointing out is the word ‘accused’. Here, it’s dieblēthē, from the root diaballo, infinitive form diaballein, ending up in Spanish as diablo. This is the root of devil, who in Hebrew was the adversary, and in Greek is the slanderer or the accuser.

This is a big one. Not sure how obvious it’s been, but I have serious questions about the translation “In the beginning was the Word” in John 1:1. If you go on to the Liddell & Scott site at Perseus/Tufts and key in ‘logos’, you will get a very long, a VERY long list of uses for this word. The first one, the basic meaning, is an account, as in an account of money. In Verse 2, the lord of the house demands that the steward give him a logon, an account–perhaps better, an accounting–of the household budget. Then if you scroll down the list, in definition VI, you get, 

             a verbal expression or utterance (cf. λέγω (B) 111), rarely a single word

So this gives us either, “in the beginning was the Audit of the Budget”, or “the Verbal Expression (but not a single word)”. If you have any sort of critical apparatus, this should make you question how and why the Logos of John 1:1 came out as “Word”. But wait, it gets weirder. If you use website (which I recommend), and find either this passage (Lk 16:2) or John 1:1, it will provide a complete list of every time some form of the word logos is used in the NT. Strong’s Words will do the same thing, but I find that a bit clunky since it breaks the occurrences up by case; it’s used in the nominative in cites 1-20, in the accusative in 21-44, the genitive…etc*. (And the numbers of the cites are strictly rhetorical, used in a for example sort of way.) It gets to the same end, but is easier. And it’s also better for providing a logos of how many times each author uses a particular word. And my use of logos there was also used as an example; this would be a proper use of logos; but I could not say it provides a word of how many times the word is used.

Back to the point. If you skim through the list from, you will see a lot of instances where the word is translated as word. (Note that the cites are as translated by the KJV.) Is it possible that the NT truly uses logos in a manner that is different from the way it was used in Classical Greek? That is entirely possible. And, if so, this could imply some very significant ramifications. First and foremost is that it could be considered a serious blow to my contention that there is no such thing as NT Greek. In turn. this could imply that the authors of the various books of the NT had a much more thorough knowledge of the books written before each of them wrote. I have not seen a lot of debate on this, except in terms of Matthew/Luke/Q. This is a question, IMO, that should receive greater scrutiny; or, it’s a question that I personally need to delve into the literature that already exists. Regardless, rest assured I will be working through the list of instances to determine how many of them could just as easily be rendered as something other than “word”.  

Finally, this isn’t about the Greek, but it bears mention, IMO. Interesting that the man believes he only has two career choices available to him: digging, or begging.

* At least, it works like this on the website I use, which is it works well enough that I haven’t actively sought out an alternative. 

1 Dicebat autem et ad discipulos: “ Homo quidam erat dives, qui habebat vilicum, et hic diffamatus est apud illum quasi dissipasset bona ipsius.

2 Et vocavit illum et ait illi: “Quid hoc audio de te? Redde rationem vilicationis tuae; iam enim non poteris vilicare”.

3 Ait autem vilicus intra se: “Quid faciam, quia dominus meus aufert a me vilicationem? Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco.

4 Scio quid faciam, ut, cum amotus fuero a vilicatione, recipiant me in domos suas”.

5 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα ἕκαστον τῶν χρεοφειλετῶν τοῦ κυρίου ἑαυτοῦ ἔλεγεν τῷ πρώτῳ, Πόσον ὀφείλεις τῷ κυρίῳ μου;

6 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ἑκατὸν βάτους ἐλαίου. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ καθίσας ταχέως γράψον πεντήκοντα.

7 ἔπειτα ἑτέρῳ εἶπεν, Σὺ δὲ πόσον ὀφείλεις; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ἑκατὸν κόρους σίτου. λέγει αὐτῷ, Δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ γράψον ὀγδοήκοντα.

8 καὶ ἐπῄνεσεν ὁ κύριος τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ὅτι φρονίμως ἐποίησεν: ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου φρονιμώτεροι ὑπὲρ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ φωτὸς εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν εἰσιν.

“And having called together each one of the debtors of his lord he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe to my lord?’ (6) And he (the first debtor) said, ‘A hundred measures* of oil’. He (the steward) replied, ‘You will take the record (lit = writing), and seated upon it you will write fifty.’ (7) Then he (the steward) said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ The other responded ‘One hundred measures of grain’. He (the steward) said to him, ‘You will take the record and you will write eighty’. (8) And the lord praised the unrighteous steward that he made such intelligence. That the sons of this age are smarter over the sons of light in their generation.     

* The word means a specific amount, but I’m not sure what it is. Doesn’t really matter, IMO, but apologies for my ignorance.

Does anyone else find the the reaction of the lord, as well as the whole lesson to be a bit baffling? The steward is reducing the amounts owed to the lord without, apparently, explicit authorization. The steward is reducing the accounts receivable which is a reduction in the lord’s net worth, and possibly creating a downward vector on the house’s cash flow. In non-accounting, non-capitalism terms, this is not a good thing for the lord. And yet, and yet, the lord finds this sort of sharp-dealing to be clever. Well, actually it is clever. But it’s also a bit sneaky, and is certainly unethical. The steward is acting unilaterally to his lord’s detriment so the steward can save his own butt. And the lord thinks this is not only OK, but praiseworthy. One could argue that the lord is more than happy to employ someone like this to fatten his own coffers, but he is dismissing the steward for squandering the lord’s money. So, a bit of a mixed message, no?

Or is that the point? In the last bit of Verse 8, Jesus’ editorial comment is that the sons of this age are smarter than the sons of light. For those of you without a program, the sons of light are the good guys. So, perhaps Jesus isn’t actually praising the sons of this age, and that the praise of the lord is a bit ironic. I think that might become a bit more obvious in the next couple of verses.

But first, let us discuss the term adikos, which is used to describe the steward. The a- prefix is a negation; a-gnostic = not knowing. So he’s being not-…what? The word dikē is another of those complex words, like logos, but not quite as bad. In Paul, we encounter the term dikaios very often, and the overwhelming choice for translation is righteous. In fact, the term dikē is more closely associated with justice. At base, it’s custom, or usage. From there, it comes to have judicial implications, and the closest association becomes justice. And, in fact, dikē can & does become a synonym for the decision of a judge, in particular in which a malefactor gets his comeuppance. But notice the common thread through all these words: righteous, justice, judge, etc: they are all Latin based. Not a Greek root in the lot. Our concept of The Law comes from the Romans, who were legal (also Latin) eagles to a high degree. So, for Paul, we are made righteous by God, we are dikaios. It would be difficult to conceive of what it would mean if God made us just, would it not? Righteous is a personal adjective; just is something that we exercise in relation to others. Here, whether we call the steward unjust or unrighteous does not carry a huge amount of weight; it doesn’t matter overmuch. But in Paul, I think it does. And it’s another thing to keep in mind, that these words that get so blithely translated may not–in fact often do not–mean what we think.

A terrific book on this topic is Iustitia Dei, by Alister McGrath. In it, he traces from the Hebrew root on which dikaios rests, and how much this translation distorted the ideas of the Hebrew word. And then, when it gets translated into Latin, another and entirely different set of distortions are placed on the concept. Because we are the legal descendants of the Romans and not the Greeks or the Hebrews, and because we read the Bible in Latin for a millennium or more, we have interpreted the words of the NT very differently than we would have if we’d read the NT in Greek or Hebrew. Righteous is mostly a legal concept; and while iustitia and dikē both get translated as “just”, the two words are not interchangeable, just as psyche sometimes means physical life and sometimes means soul. We get so smug in our understanding of the Bible, but this smugness is often not warranted. IOW, it’s not justified.

PS. the book Iustitia Dei is not necessarily meant for a general audience. It assumes a certain amount of background in both Greek and Latin. Check out the reviews on Amazon. All 5 or 4 stars, but with some caveats. One person with a bit of Latin, more Greek (apparently), and lots of forgotten Hebrew described it as “quite accessible”.

5 Convocatis itaque singulis debitoribus domini sui, dicebat primo: “Quantum debes domino meo?”.

6 At ille dixit: “Centum cados olei”. Dixitque illi: “Accipe cautionem tuam et sede cito, scribe quinquaginta”.

7 Deinde alii dixit: “Tu vero quantum debes?”. Qui ait: “Centum coros tritici”. Ait illi: “Accipe litteras tuas et scribe octoginta”.

8 Et laudavit dominus vilicum iniquitatis, quia prudenter fecisset, quia filii huius saeculi prudentiores filiis lucis in generatione sua sunt.

9 Καὶ ἐγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, ἑαυτοῖς ποιήσατε φίλους ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ τῆς ἀδικίας, ἵνα ὅταν ἐκλίπῃ δέξωνται ὑμᾶς εἰς τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς.

10 ὁ πιστὸς ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ καὶ ἐν πολλῷ πιστός ἐστιν, καὶ ὁ ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ ἄδικος καὶ ἐν πολλῷ ἄδικός ἐστιν.

11 εἰ οὖν ἐν τῷ ἀδίκῳ μαμωνᾷ πιστοὶ οὐκ ἐγένεσθε, τὸ ἀληθινὸντίς ὑμῖν πιστεύσει;

12 καὶ εἰ ἐν τῷ ἀλλοτρίῳ πιστοὶ οὐκ ἐγένεσθε, τὸ ὑμέτερον τίς ὑμῖν δώσει;

13 Οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν: ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.

And I say to you, make friends for yourselves from the mammon of injustice, so that when it may fail to receive you to the tent of the ages. (10) The one faithful in the least, also is (faithful) in much, and that one unjust in the least, (is) also is unjust in much. (11) So if the faithful are not (faithful) in unrighteous mammon, does the true thing trust you? (12) And if faithful are not (faithful) to another, who will give your (thing) to you? (13) No household slave can be a slave to two masters; for he will hate either one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

First, to say the Greek in here is tortured is an understatement. The Latin does clean things up a bit, but that assumes that St Jerome really understood the intent in the first place. One has to assume all sorts of unstated things, which is not at all uncommon in Greek or Latin; however, this takes it to a higher level; it’s almost epigrammatic. By this I mean a pithy saying that has been reduced to the absolute bare minimum number of words. Thucydides is notorious for this , to the point that much of the scholarly debate consists of arguments about what Thucydides is actually saying in a given passage. So to some extent, Luke is showing off a bit with his highly personal use of grammar. Back to the Latin, the version of the Vulgate that I’m using is a modern edition, with modern punctuation. That very helpful. Greek was


No, I’m not shouting; that is how it was originally written. Lower case and spaces were Hellenistic inventions, or modifications. So Luke may have written this in a form closer to what we are seeing.

Then, to take it a step further, his choice of words in the second half of the “two masters” passage (V13) is interesting. The first part is fine: hate vs love, straightforward, standard vocabulary. In the second part, ‘hate’ is replaced by a word that, in its most literal form, means ‘hold against’. So, at first glance we could take this as a synonym for ‘hate’. But then the second word is more standard and means ‘despise’. (Or, literally, it means to ‘love down’. The philos– root with a kata prefix, which means down. Ana-baino is to go up; kata-baino is to descend. So we have to go back to the ‘hold against’ and understand that it can also mean to hold before one, sort of as a shield; this gives the implication that the holder is following the person held out of affection. So again, a bit of fancy footwork here from Luke. 

Now for the meaning of the passages. I said after the previous comment that we would be considered Verses 5-8 in light of what we read next. At the end of the previous section, in Verse 8, the lord is praising the wicked steward for the latter’s shrewd and sharp dealing, which, ultimately, came at the lord’s expense. This seemed a bit peculiar. However, take with this section, we get a meaning more suited to what we think of as Christianity. Jesus has a one-two punch here; before, he told us how the children of this age have it over the children of the light. Rather than being praise, Jesus is using this as an example of how apparently wicked people seem to prosper at the expense of good people. Then, we get the follow-up here telling us that the wicked,, even if they prosper in this world. But wait, there’s more! This episode continues in the next section.

9 Et ego vobis dico: Facite vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis, ut, cum defecerit, recipiant vos in aeterna tabernacula.

10 Qui fidelis est in minimo, et in maiori fidelis est; et, qui in modico iniquus est, et in maiori iniquus est.

11 Si ergo in iniquo mammona fideles non fuistis, quod verum est, quis credet vobis?

12 Et si in alieno fideles non fuistis, quod vestrum est, quis dabit vobis?

13 Nemo servus potest duobus dominis servire: aut enim unum odiet et alterum diliget, aut uni adhaerebit et alterum contemnet. Non potestis Deo servire et mammonae”.


Summary Matthew Chapter 16

While reviewing the chapter in preparation for this review, the striking feature is how short the chapter is, and how easily and quickly I was able to jot down notes for the major action. This being the case, the question becomes why it took so long to complete? And oddly the answer is not based on what was in the chapter, but what was not. The major sticking point was the discovery of elements that were not in the text. What we have not encountered in any significant way in the gospels are a lot of injunctions to “do as you’re told, without asking questions”; nor have we heard the expression of anything like “Thou shalt not…”

Granted, there is the time that Jesus tells us to cut off our hand, or gouge out our eyes if either causes us to sin. And he warns us not to cause the children to stumble, so the gospels are not completely devoid of moral guidance.  The difference is that Jesus does not provide a list of actions meant to propitiate God. Consider the disctinction between Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy with their elaborate prescriptions for exactly what we should do and how we should do it. Granted, this is simplifying and overemphasizing this aspect of the HS, but such codes of behaviours to be followed were very normal for ancient religions. Instead, Jesus guides us in how we should act and behave towards each other.

Proto-Christianity was not the only belief system to turn away from rityal prescriptions. The Stoics came up with the idea of a universal sibling-hood sseveral centuries before Jesus lived. But to read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, one is struck by the solitary nature of his world view. His is the way of life of a hermit, albeit one living in the midst–or the top of–society. The book is about putting one’s own life and one’s own outlook in accordance with the universe as a whole. One has duties–especially if one is Roman Emperor as he was–towards the rest of humanity, but there is always a layer of reserve between him and the rest of the world. The goal was to be dispassionate, unaffected by the rest of the world; hence, the term “stoic acceptance”. To some degree this was an inheritance from Plato, and Plato had this affect on much of Graeco-Roman thought. He even had an impact–a large one–on Christian thought. Much of the Mediaeval world only makes sense if you realise that they see the world in an extremely Platonic fashion, that our world is but an imperfect approximation, and that one’s thoughts and outlook should not be concerned with it overmuch; rather, one should always have one’s vision, one’s inner vision especially, since this is the one that truly mattered, focused on the other world, the next world, the perfect world.

More, this transition from the world of prescribed ritual to a world of what is in our hearts, and how we behave towards our fellow was taking place throughout the ancient world. This is part of the working-out of the transition to a guilt culture, in which what mattered was what was in our hearts, not in how we performed specific actions, or in specific circumstances. It should be pointed out that the Romans were well behind much of the rest of their empire in making this transition. The Romans, largely, were very uncomfortable with emotional display. They believed that a man acted in a certain way, that he had dignitas and gravitas, which roughly overlap with what we would call dignity and a solemnity of outlook. It is told of Julius Caesar that, as he fell on the Ides of March, 44 BCE, he took care to arrange his toga so that his legs would be decently covered. This is a man concerned with outward appearance, with the way he is seen by others; this is not a man composing his inner self in preparation for meeting his maker. This is why the Romans were deeply suspicious of all these so-called Eastern Mystery Religions, with their ecstatic rites, or even their displays of what we would call normal emotion. The English were heavily influenced by their reading of Livy, and Victorian decorum was, to some degree, the deliberate attempt to resurrect these Roman attitudes.

That’s probably enough on that. The thing is, Jesus’ command to Peter to sit down and shut up was jarring in its incongruity with the rest of the narrative.

Aside from that, there are probably two real themes of the chapter. The first is about who Jesus is; the second is a series of ex-post facto prophecies in which Jesus warns the disciples of his impeding death. Of course the purpose of the latter is to console not the disciples, but us, the intended audience of the gospels.  These prophecies are meant to reassure us that the execution was all part of the plan, and that we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus knew what was going to happen, that he accepted it, and that he understood why it had to be done. Of course the irony is that Christian theology has never really quite been able to explain the why; was it ransom? Or was it a single, all-sufficient sacrifice of propitiation? Yes, it is possible to reconcile the two, but the fit is, at best, uneasy. Since none of the gospels make any real attempt to explain the reasoning, we will put that aside and return to the two themes.

In a very real way the two themes reinforce each other. It can be argued that Jesus is able to make the prophecies because of who he is. At least, we have no trouble conflating all this together: as the divine son of God, the Son of Man partakes of the Father’s omniscience and so can foreknow the future. The problem with this understanding is that it’s not entirely supported by the text. As we pointed out in the commentary, the text very distinctly talks about the coming of the Son of Man in terms where the natural reading of the text is that it refers to a third party, rather than to himself. This inconvenient implication effectively demonstrates the layering involved here. If we break this into constituent parts, we have the predictions of the future which indicate a divine foreknowledge, coupled with an apocalyptic “prediction” of the coming of the Son of Man. This is more a matter of story-telling than actual prediction. Yes, it was taken seriously, by some at least, as the foretelling of the future state in which the current status quo will be overturned; however, the difference is that the “prediction” of Jesus’ death had already happened. The coming of the Son of Man was still in the hazy, non-specific future. As the text is constructed, both here and in Mark, which forms the basis of this text, there is no necessary connection between the two parts. Yes, they have been fitted together very effectively, to the point that the seam between them is scarcely noticible. But it is still there; these two pieces are not an organic whole. Of course, this argument only makes sense if we assume that Jesus was not divine.

This does lead to another implication. If we are to posit the prediction of the coming of the Son of Man as an earlier layer, one must ask how deeply this layer is buried. Does it go back to Jesus? If so, this has implicactions for the content and intention of Jesus’ message. Was he a preacher of apocalypse? If he foretold the coming of the Son of Man, then the answer has to be “yes”. The coming of the Son of Man is necessarily an apocalyptic event, so foretelling this event necessarily makes Jesus a preacher of apocalypse. But then, how does this fit with what was said earlier, that Jesus’ message was meant to describe a new way of interacting with our fellow humans here on earth?

The answer to that, it seems, is in what is meant by “the Kingdom of Heaven/the Heavens”. This has the potential to be a pivotal concept to what Jesus’ message was; as such, it is potentially key to much of this puzzle. THe problem is that we are no doubt foolish to think that there was a single implication, or set of implications, or a single understanding or way of defining this term. It doubtless changed, evolved, acquiring new meanings and implications as it traveled forward in time. In fact, this is sort of like what we “uncovered” in the chapter, where a concept suddenly throws a void into sharp relief. “The Kingdom” (of God, of the sky, of the heavens) is a concept that is so familiar to us that we never notice how vague, how ambiguous it is, or the extent to which it’s not defined, or even described. It simply is, and  Christians for the past two millennia have taken it for granted because we have filled in the blanks and defined, described, and determined what this is. And of course, every use in the NT conforms to our post-facto definitions. This is a classic case of buried assumptions. I have noted periodically and most likely infrequently, that the actual or definitive meaning of this concept is very unclear, that it’s left (intentionally?) vague, and that it’s never really obvious what the implication is in any particular instance that the word is used. This is, however, a topic too large for the present circumstances; it deserves a special inquiry.

Now, the topic of the kingdom does segue nicely into the next issue, which is that of Peter being the rock and getting the keys to the kingdom. What do we make of this? To repeat, these two ideas are found in Matthew, and nowhere else. Not even Luke has them. More, Mark does not, and yet the tradition held that Mark was a disciple of Peter. It seems very, very difficult to believe that this was true and that the designation of Peter was not included in Mark’s gospel. Therefore, one of these “facts” is very likely to be false: either Mark was not Peter’s disciple or Jesus did not make this designation. They can both be false, but they cannot both be true, it would seem. Why would Peter’s disciple not include the designation of Peter as the rock of the gathering? From the historian’s point of view, the idea that Peter’s disciple would not include this, but a later evangelist would, is simply incredible. So which is true? Is either of them true? No doubt unsurprisingly, I don’t believe either.

I do not believe that Mark was Peter’s disciple. I believe this because there is no plausible, historically sound explanation for Mark omitting the passage that became the basis for the Petrine Primacy, which is better known as the Papacy. This issue is, I believe, that simple. So the author of the Gospel According To Mark was not the James Mark from Acts. In short, we do not know who the author of Mark’s gospel actually was. The tradition ascribing this gospel to Peter’s disciple is simply wrong, as most of early church tradition is.

By implication, since the earliest gospel Mark neglects to include this passage about Peter being the Rock, it is fairly safe to take the next step and infer that Jesus simply never said this. Rather, the phrase was invented by Matthew, for reasons that are not entirely clear, or it was inserted later by the bishops of Rome. There are serious problems with this assumption, but I think they are less debilitating than the alternative thesis that this is something Jesus actually said.

And note that this passage is not in Luke. As such, ascribing it to some hypothetical (and extremely dubious) document like Q does not work. Now it is certainly possible that Matthew found this in Q and used it, but that Luke found it and didn’t use it. This creates other problems. First and foremost, it strikes at the root of the raison d’etre for assuming Q, to account for the material that is in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. The second and related problem is then one must have a plausible reason to explain why Luke chose to omit this passage. Or, one has to put forth and defend an argument for the omission that is more compelling than the position that Luke didn’t use this because it wasn’t in Q. That is a simple, straightforward explanation of the facts and their status. And note that it doesn’t require “disproving” Q; one can suggest this and remain agnostic about the existence of Q. As a result, this is a very elegant and compelling position: the passage establishing the Petrine Primacy was not in Q.

This, in turn, means either that Matthew received information on this passage independently of Mark, that Matthew invented this passage himself, or that it is a later interpolation. To assess the first possibility, we can skip over Matthew’s motives for using the passage; that is largely irrelevant. He used it because it was there. Rather, we have to ask just how likely it was that such a source existed. Where did it come from? It may have come from disciples of Peter. After all, they were the ones most likely to be told of this passage, because it was related to them by their teacher. But let us consider the enormous time gap here. The events described ostensibly occurred around 30 CE; Matthew’s gospel was written some sixty years later. This would require an unbroken chain of transmission over this gap that managed to bypass both Paul and Mark. Recall that, in Paul’s description of the status quo in the Jerusalem Assembly, James the brother of the lord was the apparent leader. Peter was important, but he was not the one setting the tone. Recall that Peter was content to live like a Gentile while away from Jerusalem, but he immediately fell back into line and assumed the dietary codes while under James’ watchful eye. In fact, Paul’s description makes it seem that Peter was nervous about James finding out about the dietary lapses. This is not the behaviour we would expect from the acknowledged leader of the assembly. And, had Jesus uttered these words, Peter would have been the acknowledged leader, having been given the mantle by Jesus himself. Yes, there could have been some struggles between the groups, such as those that led to the Sunni/Shia split in Islam; but, were there such struggles, it is clear from Paul that James won, and that there wasn’t much contention about James’ primacy, based largely on Peter’s acquiescence. Given this description of the status quo, it seems very unlikely that Jesus uttered these words.

If not Jesus, then who? There are two possibilities: Matthew–or a source closer to Matthew’s time, or the words were interpolated later. If we consider this second possibility, the primary candidate is an early bishop of Rome.

The first suggestion suffers from the problems of the authentic source. Such a source almost necessarily would have come into existence after Mark wrote. But how likely is this? Up to this point in the development of the Jesus movement, to and through the time when Paul and Mark wrote, we have nothing whatsoever to indicate that any of Jesus’ disciples had any connexion whatsoever with Rome. There is nothing in Paul to indicate that Peter or James or anyone else had ever been to Rome, nor that any of them had any intentions to do so. We do know Paul intended to travel there; whence the origin of the Epistle to the Romans. But we have nothing to indicate that Paul ever made it there. In fact, the tradition of Paul and Peter going to Rome appears for the first time in Acts, written ten years after Matthew wrote. Given this, we have to question whether this tradition took root as early as Matthew. It hadn’t by the time Paul wrote, and it hadn’t by the time Mark wrote, but it had by the time Luke wrote. The “rock” passage is the only indication of Petrine primacy in the interim period; but it doesn’t mention Rome, but Rome is the underlying implication, isn’t it? Of course, many Protestant commentators did not believe so.

Sherlock Holmes’ favourite maxim was that, when you have eliminated the impossible, what you have left is your solution, no matter how improbable. We have, I believe, eliminated most of the serious potential explanations for this tradition being existing pre-Matthew. For the most part, the problems they present seem to be fatal; they seem to preclude them as potential explanations for this passage. What we are left with is that this was interpolated later, by the Bishop of Rome. When commenting on the passage, I was not keen on this explanation, even though it seemed the most likely possibility. Now, having considered it further, I believe this is what is left. No matter how improbable, or even unpleasant, I believe it has to stand as the explanation.

During the commentary, I questioned why, if this is an interpolation, it is only found in Matthew. Why not put it in Luke, or Mark as well. I suspect it is related to the way the gospel of Matthew came to be regarded by the end of the first century. The early church, once something had formed that justifiably could be called that, believed that Matthew’s was the first gospel written. Hence the placement of it first in the NT. Most likely, it seemed that altering Matthew was enough to make the point. Mark was considered a summary of Matthew, so there was no reason to expect it to be complete. Luke and John were recognized as later works; indeed, at the end of the First Century, Luke was very recent, and John was probably nonexistent. Luke was the first to make explicit the connexion to Rome; indeed, it seems worth asking if this were not part of the reason that Luke was written: so that both Peter and Paul could end up in Rome, thereby cementing the bishop of Rome’s primacy. With Luke/Acts in hand, and this passage added to Matthew, the ascendancy of Rome was well on its way.

Again, this is not smoking-gun evidence. Such evidence does not exist. But it is a reasonable reconstruction of events based on the information provided by the texts themselves. This is, I believe, what the texts are telling us if we but listen. Of course, one potential objection is, if this passage was interpolated deliberately, why not go further, and make it even more explicit? That is an excellent question, and one that cannot be answered. Perhaps it was considered best not to overplay one’s hand. By the end of the First Century, the Assembly of Rome was well-established, and it’s location at the political and spiritual centre of the empire had begun to give it a lustre that other episcopal sees lacked. Jerusalem, the natural centre, had been destroyed. Alexandria was an important city, but it lacked any real connexion to any sort of apostolic activity. The same could be said for Antioch, perhaps, the first “Christian” assembly. With Luke/Acts bringing the two major apostles, Peter and Paul, to Rome, and with Jesus calling Peter the rock on which he would build his church, the apostolic connexion was not only forged, but it was impressive. As time would tell, it was enough to ensure the Petrine Primacy for over a thousand years.


Matthew Chapter 16:21-28

This will (finally) conclude Chapter 16. It wasn’t that long, but it sure took some time to get through. I had to re-write large portions of it more than once, since the topics became fairly intricate, much more so that I had originally anticipated. 

21 Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς δεικνύειν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι δεῖ αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἀπελθεῖν καὶ πολλὰ παθεῖν ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.

Going out of there, Jesus pointed out to his disciples that he must to Jerusalem go away to, and much to suffer from the elders and the high priests and scribes and he was to be killed and on the third day he was to be raised. 

I’ve discussed the idea of ex-post facto prophecies several times, so I won’t go into that at the moment. The point here is to preempt the rebuke of Peter by demonstrating that Jesus foreknew his death, and that it was all part of the plan, in order to answer the question of why Jesus died. This had to be a very difficult thing for both his followers at the time, and for those who came later.  The purpose of this foreknowing is to assure everyone that this was all part of the plan, not only necessary, but a good thing. Oddly, we are not told why; Paul explained the purpose, but so far the neither gospel has done so. We will come back to God’s purpose shortly; for the moment, let us note the significance of Jesus being aware of this; his awareness is a demonstration of his share in the divinity.

Now a brief word on a couple of other points.  The “was to be killed” and “was to be raised” are aorist passive infinitives. As such, they are difficult to render fluidly into English. The “was to be” construction is actually fairly literal, since the aorist is a past-tense. Let’s take this opportunity to issue a general caveat: be suspicious of any commentator who makes too big a deal about the verb tense, especially when it’s an aorist. This is a highly used tense in any kind of Greek prose writing. The meaning of it, or the way it gets translated, can be all over the place largely because the Greek sense of verb tense does not match the way English understands verb tense. At its heart, the aorist connotes a completed action, as opposed to some of the perfect tenses which can indicate something taking place over a period of time, but here we see an aorist infinitive used to describe something in the future. This happens to correspond approximately with the way English treats the narrative of past events, but this is not always how Greek handles such situations. In addition, the aorist is probably the most common tense in the NT, with the possible exception of the present tense. All the action described is in the past, of course, so this makes sense. So when someone makes a big deal about an aorist, it really may not be a big deal.

On the other hand, it is a passive. It’s not the “was to be killed” that’s important here, it’s the “was to be raised”. This was discussed in Paul, that Jesus did not do the rising; rather it was God who did the raising. The implication here is bordering on Arianism, that the son is not quite the equal of the father. Were he, Jesus would be perfectly capable of rising; he would not need to be raised. That may seem to be an overly subtle distinction, but it’s actually a very crucial one. This is about who has the power, God or Jesus, and the answer to that is God. So the use here of “was to be raised” this preserves an attitude, indicating that in the earliest days of the movement, Jesus was not the Second Person of the Trinity, co-eternal with the Father. For Paul, Jesus was not the Christ until he was raised from the dead, which to say that Paul did not consider the pre-Resurrection Jesus to be divine. Here we see that attitude sealed in amber, as it were, preserved through Mark and into Matthew. With this in mind, Mark’s ambivalence about Jesus’ identity makes a lot of sense; what’s interesting is that Matthew kept the attitude intact.

21 Exinde coepit Iesus ostendere discipulis suis quia oporteret eum ire Hierosolymam et multa pati a senioribus et principibus sacerdotum et scribis et occidi et tertia die resurgere.

22 καὶ προσλαβόμενος αὐτὸν ὁ Πέτρος ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ λέγων, Ιλεώς σοι, κύριε: οὐ μὴ ἔσται σοι τοῦτο.

And taking him aside (lit = to take Jesus to him/Peter, as in to pull Jesus toward him), Peter began to accuse him, saying, “Propitiation to you, Lord. May this not be to you”.

First, the word << Ιλεώς >> is not in Liddell & Scott in this form. As such, it’s a “free” word that can mean anything we want it to. It appears to be related to the word for “propitiate”, so that is how I have translated it. Interestingly, three of my cribs render it as “be it far from you”, or something similar. This is interesting because that is what the Latin says below: “absit”, which means, “be away from”. What this tells me is that the KJV and a couple of other translation groups did not know what to make of the Greek word; seeking guidance, they fell back on the Vulgate, likely in hopes that St Jerome would have a better sense for the Greek than they did. It’s a reasonable conclusion, and I have done this myself; it’s the main reason that I include the Latin, and why I use the Vulgate specifically. The problem with relying on the Latin is that it means we’re translating St Jerome, and not Matthew.

As for the actual content, there really isn’t much that needs to be said. Again, it’s pretty obviously a set-up and so it doesn’t need to be taken too seriously. We’ll take a look back at this in the next comment.

22 Et assumens eum Petrus coepit increpare illum dicens: “Absit a te, Domine; non erit tibi hoc”.

23 ὁ δὲ στραφεὶς εἶπεν τῷ Πέτρῳ, Υπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ: σκάνδαλον εἶ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

He, turning, said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to me, that you do not think of the things of God, but of the things of man”. 

This is the payoff to the set-up in the previous line. Of course Peter does not want to hear Jesus say that he is going to die, and sooner rather than later. And the idea that Jesus did die was no doubt perplexing to the disciples, and to a lot of those who heard about the story of Jesus. It’s a reasonable question: if Jesus were divine, the Christ, why did he die? And so in these two verses Peter gets to indulge us in that entirely human bit of curiosity. And of course, this leaves the way open for Jesus to set us all straight.

The answer given is  neither very comforting nor helpful, summed up in the idea that we miserable humans cannot possibly understand the divine purpose. In short, it’s the answer is more or less God’s response to Job: where were you when I set the foundations of the universe? It’s the perfect answer, really. The Lord works in mysterious ways, the Will of God is inscrutable, etc. And even the attempt to understand, or to expect that we should understand, is the work of the Adversary. So what do you do? Submit. Truly, there is nothing specifically Jewish, or pagan, or Christian about this attitude of submission; in fact, it’s as old as religion itself. The theocracies of the ancient Near East, or the god-kings of Egypt, even the patriarchs of the HS, all took for granted that utter submission to the will of God/the gods was the underlying principle of human existence.

With that as a background, we really ought to note that this attitude is actually fairly uncommon in both Matthew and Mark  We have established that this passage was a later addition to the gospels, that it does not date to Jesus. When that is coupled with the relative paucity situations in which Jesus demands submission to the will of God, it seems safe to infer that this message of submission was simply was not an attitude that Jesus expressed very often.  This just wasn’t part of Jesus’ message. And that, I think, is extremely significant because I believe this indicates that we are justified to see this as a fundamental change in tone, in direction, in the understanding of the way the human and the divine related to each other. 

This says, I think, a great deal about Jesus’ attitudes, his intention, his message. I think it indicates a fundamental change in what the terms “religion” or “religious” actually mean. Up to this point, the proper role of the human is to grovel before the divine, and religion and religious practice were the methods used to regulate the level and proper procedure for this groveling. Alexander the Great understood this when he forced his generals to perform the Asian rite of proskynesis, something that the generals found deeply disturbing as it indicated that Alexander had taken a very different opinion of himself; that is, that Alexander believed that his relation to his companions had changed at a very fundamental level. After all, Achilles had demanded deferential treatment, but he had not required his companions to grovel before his divinity. 

The temptation here is to see Jesus as thinking of himself more in the terms of Achilles as opposed to Alexander. That, however, does not take into account that Jesus did not consider himself to be divine. Of course Jesus did not expect the level of worship and deference that Alexander expected even of his inner circle, because Jesus saw himself as human. Granted, whether he saw himself as the Anointed is a separate question, one that is not impacted by his self-conception. The Anointed was most often thought of as human in the minds of most Jews, despite Boyarin’s arguments to the contrary. But there is another dynamic, perhaps a different dynamic that is occurring here. That this attitude of utter submission crops up so infrequently is our clue to what is transpiring, especially since this attitude was a later addition used to silence those who questioned why Jesus died. Getting behind–to use Jesus’ phrase– this later addition, what we see is a Jesus who is much less concerned with regulating the way humans interact with the divine, and much more focused on how humans relate to each other.

To understand what I’m describing, the attitude described in the Lord’s Prayer–the Our Father–provides insight into this. The idea of the primary god of a pantheon as the All-Father was not new. What is new is the relationship implied. We need to be clear that the traditional family held that the father was the lord and master; indeed, the Roman paterfamilias, literally held the power of life and death over the members of that family, at least in theory. In practice this power had begun to soften, but the Pater Noster took this a step further. In that prayer the father is less the distant judge and lawgiver, and more of the nurturing parent. This attitude is also enforced in passages like Matthew 7:10, in which Jesus asks what father would give a snake to a son asking for bread, and then tells us that the father in the heavens is even more kind, more willing to be generous and helpful. It is reinforced even further by the several times Jesus spoke kindly and well of children. So the true novelty of the words of Matthew, in my opinion, is the way this relationship with God affects our relationship with other people.

The Stoics were the first to conceive the idea of the universal brotherhood. The problem with this aspect of Stoicism is that it often came close to the attitude of “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand”. At its root, Stoicism was more of an intellectual exercise than it was a code of love and acceptance of our fellow humans. Jesus’ message, and his intention took the idea of being siblings with all other persons much more literally and much more seriously. It’s odd that it took an overt command to submit to the will of God to see just how absent this message is from the rest of the gospel. Like the shadows in Rembrandt, the sudden intrusion of the older style of religious relationship throws the rest of the message of Jesus–or perhaps more appropriately, of Matthew–into sharper definition. The result is a new understanding of religious relationships, resulting in a new religion.

23 Qui conversus dixit Petro: “ Vade post me, Satana! Scandalum es mihi, quia non sapis ea, quae Dei sunt, sed ea, quae hominum!”.

24 Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.]

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you wish to come behind me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

Once again, this was in Mark. I didn’t believe that Jesus ever actually said this then, and I still don’t believe it here. This, of course, is supposed to be a prophecy. This whole section is meant to convince us that Jesus certainly knew not only that he was going to die but that he would in fact be executed by crucifixion. More, Jesus accepted all of this because this was the plan. The resulting inference is that there was no need to be concerned that he had died, and horribly.

The problem is that it’s really obviously after-the-fact. Naturally I have to say that from the historian’s viewpoint; accepting that Jesus was divine and foreknew his fate removes us from history and puts us into theology. If one believes that Jesus did foreknow his death because he was divine, then this is not an argument appropriate to this context.

24 Tunc Iesus dixit discipulis suis: “ Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam et sequatur me.

25 ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃτὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν.

26 τί γὰρ ὠφεληθήσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐὰν τὸν κόσμον ὅλον κερδήσῃ τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ; ἢ τί δώσει ἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ;

“For if one might wish to save his life, he will lose it. If one should lose one’s life because of me, he will find it. For what shall it profit a person if the entire world he should gain, but his life should be lost. (26) Or what will be given to a person in exchange for his life?

The problem with this passage is how to translate “psyche”. The Latin says “anima”, which is the root of both “animal” and “animate”; it’s that which animates the animal. This is regularly translated as “soul”. But there is a real problem with that. My four crib translations all render “psyche” in verse 25 as “life”, and then switch to “soul” for the two occurrences in verse 26. The distinction between life and soul has an enormous impact on the meaning of the passage. And I understand why the latter two are rendered as “soul”. This fits our understanding of eternal life, salvation, etc. very nicely. But that’s the problem: it fits our notions of what this passage means. The question is, is that what Matthew (or Mark) meant by this? (And this is more or less verbatim from Mark).

Here is the link to the corresponding passage in Mark. I’m providing the link because I discussed why I think that, in Mark, all four of the uses of psyche should be rendered as “life”


We have discussed that the word “to save”, as in “save one’s psyche” generally means to save a life, in the physical sense, as in, the lifeguard saved the life of the careless swimmer. And let’s face it, gaining the world but losing one’s soul–as we use and understand the term–has more of a poetic resonance than gaining the world, but dying in the process. We more or less understand this passage in terms of gaining power, only to become corrupted by the power, thereby losing ourselves, losing who we are; which is to say, we lose our soul. As a kid, this passage from Matthew was on a series of signs set along the state highway. What shall it / Profit a Man / To gain the World / But lose his Soul? Even at ten or so, I remember understanding this passage in the sense of “power corrupts”. Thank my Catholic upbringing for that.

But how did the evangelists mean this? That’s really what we’re after here. How much influence had Greek philosophy had on Mark, and after him Matthew? In time Greek philosophy–in particular Plato– would have an enormous impact on Christian thought; Christian theology would become re-cast in a Platonic mold, taking over Plato’s idea of a disembodied, immortal soul that was corrupted–or at least tainted–by its entrapment in a gross physical body. But at the time this was written circa 70 CE, that recasting was still a century or two in the future. What does it mean here?

Honestly, it’s almost impossible for a modern Christian not to read this as “lose one’s soul”, with “soul” cast in all its metaphysical and theological implications. Just as honestly, I simply cannot believe that this is how it was understood by the audience of either Mark or Matthew. This is one of those moments where the reason struggles to maintain what one knows is the rational meaning, even though all of our emotional equipment is screaming something else. It’s like stepping onto the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto, a thousand feet above the ground. On the one hand, you know it’s safe, but your reptilian brain is saying “no way, baby”. I wish I could provide some real insight into how this would have been understood, but I don’t think I can. I suspect it means more than “gain the world, but lose our life” based on the repetition of “psyche” all three times. There are alternative words that could have been used in either instances to get across a distinction between the ways we are understanding the words. At the very least, the repetition of the word three times has to indicate that we cannot understand the last two uses as “soul” in anything like what became the orthodox understanding of the word. 

25 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet eam; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet eam.

26 Quid enim prodest homini, si mundum universum lucretur, animae vero suae detrimentum patiatur? Aut quam dabit homo commutationem pro anima sua?

27 μέλλει γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεσθαι ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ, καὶ τότε ἀποδώσει ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν πρᾶξιν αὐτοῦ.

28 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰσίν τινες τῶν ὧδε ἑστώτων οἵτινες οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.

(27) For the Son of Man is destined to come in the glory of his father with his angels, and then he will give to each according to his works.

(28) Amen I say to you, that there are some of those standing who will not taste death until they see the son of man coming into his kingdom.”

Now, is it me, or is this a bit of a non-sequitur? We go from gain world/lose life to the son of man coming. How do those relate? I’m not sure they do. Sometimes it feels like Matthew has all these things, quotes, stories, etc. on index cards, and that the cards are not necessarily related, but he puts them into order as best he can. Now, of course, we can ascribe this random order to Q, but both of these passages are in Mark, too. This occurs to me: is this the reason why losing one’s life would be a bad thing? Because then one wouldn’t be alive to see the coming of the Son of Man? Recall the passage in 1 Thessalonians in which Paul addressed this very question, assuring his audience that those who were alive would have no precedence over those who had died in the faith. The challenge is to decide whether this passage is connected in any way with 1 Thessalonians. If so, then the sequence here does make sense, or may possibly make sense. 

Regardless, what strikes me as most significant is that Jesus talks about the coming of the Son of Man; not the return of the Son of Man. This makes it very easy to interpret this as Jesus speaking about someone else. In fact, that is the plain-sense, or common sense, the most straightforward way to read this, that Jesus is speaking about someone else. That is, he is not the Son of Man. Now, let’s suppose that Boyarin is correct in his interpretation that the Son of Man was seen in Jewish tradition as a divine figure. If this is correct, then Jesus almost has to be speaking of someone else here, of the one who was yet to come, as John’s disciples put it.  Again, this demonstrates the unsettled circumstances that existed when Mark wrote; the narrative was still in flux, and there was still ambiguity regarding Jesus’ divinity and/or the divinity of the Son of Man. This, I would argue, is a big part of the reason that Matthew wrote: to lay this uncertainty to rest once for all. This helps explain all the foretelling going on. Of course, we then have to ask ourselves why Matthew didn’t simply change the verb here. A standard response would be “editorial fatigue”, that he was copying chunks of Mark without any significant changes. It is possible that the wrote this out without quite grasping the implications of “coming” vs. “returning”, that he glossed over the word without seeing the need to change it. Or perhaps he thought it was perfectly obvious that Jesus was speaking about himself. He saw it that way because he was inclined to see it that way, or took for granted that this is what was meant. Matthew may have wanted to lay uncertainty about Jesus’ identity to rest, but that’s not to say he saw this passage as problematic in any way.

Another thing to note regarding the Son of Man is that he will come in his father’s glory rather than his own. Here we have another instance of the distinction between the Son of Man and God. This shoots a bit of a hole in Boyarin’s thesis about the divine Son of Man. (Actually, the biggest problem with Boyarin’s thesis is his assumption that there was a single understanding of the concept, of the term ‘son of man’.) This reference to the father’s glory is another holdover from Mark; Matthew simply repeats and retains the idea. Is this more editorial fatigue? Or did Matthew not see this as a problem? In this case, the former makes more sense, I think, than the latter.

Regarding “editorial fatigue”, I think it necessary to stop and consider how Matthew was operating, what his process for writing was. Did he have a text of Mark in front of him, which he copied, perhaps changing the order, but copying largely verbatim, then adding sections where he had an alternate source–possibly Q, possibly something else? I ask because it seems that “editorial fatigue” really only works if we assume that Matthew wrote a single draft, without going back to re-read, revise, and re-write. That seems unlikely.  So if Matthew had to see this as problematic, and it wasn’t editorial fatigue, then what? 

The only third option that I can see at the moment is that Mark had attained something approaching canonical status, which would have made changing the words, the tone, the content very difficult. The problem with this thesis is that Mark was not the first choice of gospels of the later Church. In fact, there are some who have questioned why Mark survived at all, an question especially pertinent question if you accept the existence of Q which subsequently did not survive. The rationale for this is that it wasn’t necessary since it had been subsumed into Matthew and Luke, but the same could be said for Mark. Given this, I don’t think the canonical status of Mark is a solution.

So if it’s not editorial fatigue, and it’s not the exalted status of Mark, we’re back to Matthew not seeing this as a problem. Yes, I said that editorial fatigue seemed the more likely explanation, but a bit of examination shows that not to be true. Yes, this is a residual from Mark; as such it helps explain subsequent history. The Arian heresy held that Jesus was the son of God, but the two were not co-eternal, nor were they consubstantial. Jesus was subordinate to God the Father. The Arian heresy was the strongest challenge to orthodoxy. The Visigothic Kingdom of Spain, and several German tribes were wholly Arian. If one reads things like The History of the Franks (title of the Penguin edition) by Gregory of Tours, and many modern histories of heresy, Arianism is often portrayed as self-evidently ridiculous, or logically nonsensical. But it was the retention of pieces of Mark’s earlier ambivalence, like the one here, that made Arianism as powerful a threat as it was. I believe this was left unchanged by Matthew because he did not see the problem it presented. Later generations would see the problem, and exploit it.

Another very interesting point here is that the coming of the son of man will also be the Day of Judgement. This, I think, is the first truly apocalyptic pronouncement we’ve encountered in Matthew. Having said that, I just realized that I’ve bundled the coming of the son, judgement, and the end of the world into a single thought concept. I have done this because this is how we think of all these themes, and this bundling of themes is due to the Book of Revelations where all these events are tied together. Was this necessarily the case for Jesus and his disciples? Would that answer be different for Matthew’s audiences? I don’t know this with any certainty. I would probably have a better idea if I were more familiar with things like 4 Ezra, and other Jewish apocalyptic thought. I have the impression–as yet unconfirmed by actual research–that these ideas were becoming melded into a unitary concept. 

That does leave, however, the part that each will be judged according to his deeds. At the very least, this seems to contradict any idea of Predestination, or any judgement based on faith alone. Whether Paul actually intended either of those concepts to be the foundations of salvation is, in my opinion, very far from settled. Sola fides was the whole basis of Luther’s split with Rome, and Predestination was the basis of Calvin’s split from both Rome and Luther. The Church of Rome never conceded either point. I will, however, state with some conviction that the idea of being judged based on one’s actions had entered Judaic thinking. Josephus tells us that the Pharisees believed in some sort of eternal life for the just. And this idea was , to some degree, part of Greek thought. Rhadamanthys was the judge of the dead outside the gates of Hades. What does a judge use to judge, if not our actions? But here we get a definitive statement of this as a principle. That is a concrete step forward. Really though, this vision of being judged by our deeds in the afterlife is only the extension of the criminal justice system into the next life. The Romans were lawyers and engineers, and the two talents are related. It was more or less inevitable that this idea would be carried through to the afterlife.

This leaves the final verse, that some standing about would not taste death before the coming of the son of man. This has been called a serious embarrassment for the later Church, or even the earliest Church. Still, when Matthew wrote, it was still possible that some who had been children or young teens at the time of Jesus could still be alive. This is harder to accept when we get to Luke, who also retains this. We have seen that in the earliest letters of Paul, he was expecting the coming at any time, but by the time of 1 Corinthians, the expectation had softened somewhat. As such, it’s not hard to see this attitude carrying through to the time of Mark. It gets harder with Matthew, and all-but impossible by the time of Luke. And yet it remains. Has this moved into the realm of allegory by the time Matthew wrote? Was it not expected quite so literally? Or so soon? This was a problem for the early church, but it was largely circumvented by considering it as figurative speech. What else could they do?

27 Filius enim hominis venturus est in gloria Patris sui cum angelis suis, et tunc reddet unicuique secundum opus eius.

28 Amen dico vobis: Sunt quidam de hic stantibus, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant Filium hominis venientem in regno suo ”.

Matthew Chapter 16:13-20

Once again we faced the prospect of two short sections or one very long section. I chose the former. The fear is that too short disturbs the sense of continuity and flow. Of course, too long can do the same thing. Of course, what truly destroys continuity is when it takes forever to complete a post. The problem is that I never know how much I’m going to say when I go into one of these. Things occur to me as I’m doing the translation. And if I were to go back to a previous post, no doubt I’d come up with other thoughts. Guess that’s better than writer’s block.

13 Ἐλθὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὰ μέρη Καισαρείας τῆς Φιλίππου ἠρώτα τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγων, Τίνα λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου;

Jesus coming into the territory of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do people say the son man to be?” 

I hate to sound like a curmudgeon, but this is such an obvious set up that I doubt there’s any way that this actually happened. So much depends on how Jesus viewed himself during his lifetime. Did he see himself as “The Son of Man”? Or was he simply a teacher, someone who felt like he had something to say? I think it’s pretty clear he wasn’t a Zealot. Paul doesn’t talk about Jesus’ message; rather, he talks about Jesus’ meaning as the Christ. Did Jesus see himself as the Christ? I have my doubts. Why? Because of the way Paul and James acted during the interim between Jesus’ death and the time Mark wrote. Paul proclaims that Jesus became the Christ upon being raised from the dead.

This is a topic that may require additional thought. My first impulse was to conclude that Paul’s belief precluded that Jesus saw himself as the Christ. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Regardless, this scene has much too much of a dramatic quality to it–in the sense of being stage-managed–to ring true to life. This is myth, Truth. It’s not fact.

13 Venit autem Iesus in partes Caesareae Philippi et interrogabat discipulos suos dicens: “ Quem dicunt homines esse Filium hominis?”.

14 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οἱ μὲν Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἕτεροι δὲ Ἰερεμίαν ἢ ἕνα τῶν προφητῶν.

 They answered, “Some say John the Dunker, others Elijah, the others say Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

The point of interest here is not what it says about Jesus, but what it says about John. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets of the HS, the most revered among Jews; recall that it’s Elijah who appears with Moses during the Transfiguration. Jeremiah was up there, too. So this puts John into some very exalted company.  And here again, if Jesus’ followers were embarrassed about the connexion to John, here is one place that it would have been very easy to edit John out of the picture. After all, the scene is fictional; why not use a different name? That would have been very easy to do, an no one would have been the wiser.

But the author of Mark and Matthew chose to use John’s name. And Matthew could have changed it, just as he changed the nationality of the woman from Syro-Phoenician to Canaanite. But both used the name in a deliberate attempt to emphasize, to underscore the connexion of Jesus to John. And why not? If John was seen to be worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Elijah and Jeremiah–or any of the prophets–then such a comparison can only be flattering. Why on earth would this be an embarrassment, something to be downplayed and covered up?

Now that I’ve pooh-poohed the possible historicity of the episode, let’s stop and ask ourselves if, perhaps, there might be that proverbial kernel of truth buried under the legend? Was Jesus perhaps compared to the prophets? That is not out of the question. And if this did happen, this may tell us something about the perception of Jesus during his lifetime. A prophet. Important? Yes. Divine? Only by inspiration. Can we draw that inference? That’s the question, isn’t it? Because if this was said about Jesus, then it may have bearing on whether Jesus thought of himself as the Christ. Now, in Jewish belief, the Christ had originally been conceived as human, the descendent of David; however, Boyarin has muddied the waters sufficiently, I think, that we can no longer say for certain that the Messiah had not begun to be seen as a divine being, per the interpretations of Daniel 7. But I think that, for the most part, Jews considered the Messiah to be human; otherwise, Boyarin would not have had to make his elaborate argument to the contrary. If a divine Messiah was a common Jewish belief in the First–or any–Century, then the specialness of Jesus would not have been so pronounced. And Jewish orthodoxy settled on a human Christ, whether in reaction to, in spite of, or without the slightest reference to Jesus.

I’m about halfway through translating the Didache. This is a text containing what are supposed to be teachings of the Twelve Apostles. At least, that’s what the title indicates, but there doesn’t seem to be much inside about the Apostles. The odd thing is, in some ways, I’m not entirely sure that this is actually a Christian document. There’s very little indicating that it is, aside from some non-integral references to Jesus that could easily be interpolations. Absent these and a few other marginalia, and this could almost be a Jewish tract. The main thrust is moral: what to do, what not to do, reminiscent of the sin-lists that we have seen in Paul. Were these specifically Christian? Or did Paul simply repeat what he had learned as a Pharisee? As such, given the Didache, and assuming it was indeed Christian, there is nothing about Jesus life, his death, his resurrection, and almost nothing about his divinity. The lone (possible) exception, is that the reader is instructed to baptize in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. But the instructions are more about the quality, or the type of the water that is used. The point of all this is that, assuming it is Christian, we have a Jesus that is possibly more like a prophet than a divine son of God. 

Thus the question becomes one of when the Didache was written. Is it early? Like the 50s? Is it later, like the turn of the century? The lack of distinction between a Jewish and a Christian sensibility, or even of a clearly defined or recognizable Christian vocabulary might argue for an early date. But there are clear repetitions of things we find in Matthew, but not in Mark; this would imply and entail a later date, one not only after Matthew, but long enough after Matthew that much of his message had become part of the larger, or wider, tradition. If it was later, rather than earlier, closer in time to the composition of Luke than to Mark, let alone Paul, the implications are bigger, I think, because they indicate that a tradition of a non-divine Jesus ran parallel to, and co-existed with the tradition that Matthew followed and helped solidify as orthodox if he did not quite create this tradition.

Two traditions, two ideas about Jesus and what Jesus represented. Does this sound at all familiar? Doesn’t it sound like two gospels? Is it not reminiscent of the a divergence of attitude that separated Paul and James? As we discussed in the reading of Galatians, I believe there was something more at stake than just whether new followers kept kosher (that term is anachronistic, but allow a bit of license due to the familiarity of the term) as James insisted, and Jesus had. The dietary laws were may have been a proxy for the different way that Paul and James understoodJesus’ message and his role, his identity. If Jesus had been the Christ, if he had fulfilled the expectations of the Jews, then why bother with the old laws? What was the point? But if Jesus were another prophet, one who directed us to the way of life–as the Didache calls it–but was not the Christ himself, then maybe it was a good idea to maintain the old ways. Let’s face it, there is absolutely no good reason to doubt that James was indeed the brother of Jesus. Paul gains nothing by referring to James as such–quite the opposite. And Mark does tell us that Jesus did, indeed, have a brother named James. So as Jesus’ brother, James doubtless had good reason not to think of Jesus as in any way divine. A prophet? Sure. The mystical son of man foretold by Daniel, probably not. And unlike the identity of James, Paul would have had a good reason for glossing over this aspect of the disagreement he had with James. Disputing the need to follow dietary laws is one thing; disputing the very nature of Jesus, whether he was the Messiah, is quite another. Better to put that under wraps.

So my suggestion is that the Didache represents the the continuation of the tradition of James. In this tradition Jesus was seen as another prophet, or another Baptist. In this passage Mark and Mattthew are, if unwittingly, corroborating the existence of this tradition that would continue long enough to produce the Didache

14 At illi dixerunt: “ Alii Ioannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero Ieremiam, aut unum ex prophetis ”.

15 λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι;

16 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος εἶπεν, Σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος.

17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Μακάριος εἶ, Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέν σοι ἀλλ’ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

He said to them, “Who do you say me to be?”  

(16) And answering, Simon Peter said, “You are the Anointed, the son of the living God”.

(17) Answering, Jesus said to him, “Blessed are uou Simon bar Jonah, that flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my father who is in the heavens.” 

So here is the payoff. The identification of Jesus as the Christ. I hadn’t realized that this was only the third time so far in Matthew that this identification is made explicit. The first was in the nativity story, when the magoi ask Herod where the Christ was to be born. The second was when John sent his disciples to as Jesus if he were the one. And the third is here.

This is interesting largely because Matthew has bee taking great pains to tell us that Jesus s divine, but the Christ par has bee relatively neglected. Why do we suppose that Matthew does this? Or perhaps doesn’t do this? Was he under the impression that Mark, and possiby Paul, had done a good enough job establishing that Jesus was the Christ, but hadn’t gone far enough towards the divine aspect? Or is it simply a matter that, up to this point, Mark’s narrative has not bee all that concerned with te Christ tradition? Recall that the first seven chapters or so of Mark were focused on Jesus the wonder worker. In fact, it is in this story, which occurs in Mark 8:29, that Mark first uses the word Christ [note: this doesn’t count the use of the word in Mark 1:1, which could easily be an interpolation.] . This fits with my suggestion that Matthew is following Mark. The implication of this is that Matthew is putting editorial process ahead of theology.

That, I think, is more revealing than a reading on Matthew’s theological outlook. It says that he didn’t necessarily go into the writing of this with something that we could call a thematic agenda. Rather, he went into this as following the basic outline of Mark and filling in where needed. Now, of course, this could be taken to mean that the basic outline of the gospel was set by Mark, and no one would really change it–until John. It would not be necessary for Matthew to maintain the basic outline of events while changing the emphasis of the theology. That is essentially, after all, what John did.

The final point is Jesus stating that Peter did not learn this from any human, but directly from the father. Does this remind us of anyone? This is, after all, what Paul said. Keep that in mind for a minute or two. The implications of this will be discussed in the next comment.

15 Dicit illis: “ Vos autem quem me esse dicitis? ”.

16 Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: “ Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi ”.

17 Respondens autem Iesus dixit ei: “ Beatus es, Simon Bariona, quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi sed Pater meus, qui in caelis est.

18 κἀγὼ δέ σοι λέγω ὅτι σὺ εἶ Πέτρος, καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ οἰκοδομήσω μου τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, καὶ πύλαι ἅ|δου οὐ κατισχύσουσιν αὐτῆς.

And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my gathering, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (= the gathering).

First, let’s get a couple of incidentals out of the way before getting to the juicy part. To start with, rendering as the “Gates of Hell” has way too much baggage of accrued association to be an effective translation. We have no real clue what this word meant to Matthew; but whatever it was, it was not anything like the idea of Hell as we all understand the word. Given that, the impulse to see this as a later insertion becomes extremely powerful. Now Hades did have gates, because they were guarded by Cerberus–or Kerberos–the three-headed dog. But these gates were designed to keep people out, which is the function of most gates, at least structural ones. Think castle gates, or gates to a city, rather than the gate to a fence that holds livestock inside. So how does a defensive structure overcome something? It would make more sense to say that the gathering would overcome the gates of Hades. Perhaps that is how it should be read.

Now here’s a thought. Mark referred to Gehenna. This is a very Jerusalem-centric reference, naming a location outside the walls of Jerusalem. As such, it would be familiar to Jews, but perhaps not so much to pagans. Hades, on the other hand, is very pagan. Matthew uses Gehenna, but only when he is reproducing Mark. OTOH, Mark does not use Hades. Does this indicate, perhaps, that Matthew’s audience was more–much more–pagan than Mark’s audience? I tend to suspect so. Does it indicate that Matthew himself was a pagan? This connexion is more–perhaps much more–tentative. What makes it more likely is that it’s not simply “Hades”, but the “Gates of Hades”. We go back to the myth, and the story of Cerberus who guarded those gates. This usage pretty clearly indicates that Matthew was familiar with the myth. Would this be something that a Jew–even one living in the Diaspora–would be aware of? Sure, it’s possible. Certainly a general awareness of Hades is likely, but the gates of Hades? That’s pretty specific; it must, however, be conceded that the story of Cerberus was a fairly well-known myth. Even so, the use of this phrase, I think, increases the likelihood that Matthew did, in fact, begin life as a pagan. To repeat, or to emphasize, this is by no means smoking gun proof. We will never have that. But we are accumulating a large number of such hints. At some point, this accumulation will have to become a “preponderance of evidence”. I need to gather up all these little clues and string them together to see what the aggregate body of evidence is. 

Next, I avoided translating as “upon this rock I will build my Church”, or even “church”. Again, “church”, even lower case, is fraught with too much accrued meaning. One of the early English translations of the Bible avoided translating “ekklesia” as “church” so as to avoid confusion with the institution that was run by the Bishop of Rome. And while I have generally translated “ekklesia” as “assembly”, or “community”, here I chose “gathering”. The literal meaning is “a calling out”, as in “a summons”. It was the call for citizens of the polis to gather, to assemble in the agora to discuss affairs of state.

And notice that Peter now has a patronymic: Peter bar Jonas, the son of Jonas. This is the legend-making process at work, resulting in the introduction of a new participant. Why would we expect Matthew to know the name of Peter’s father, when Mark didn’t, even though Mark wrote a generation earlier? As we progress, we will come across an increasing number of such incidental characters, like Clophas, or the member of the Twelve Nathaniel. Luke is particularly adept at introducing these new individuals. How is it that later “sources” knew this stuff while the earlier ones didn’t? The answer is simple: the names had been created in the interim, to fill out the story, to give it depth and richness. Arthur did not have knights name Launcelot, or Percival, or Gawaine. In fact, he didn’t have knights. In addition, a patronymic gives Peter a bit more status. It indicates that people–including Peter himself, or at least his mother–knew who Peter’s father was. Just as Matthew supplies the name of Jesus’ father, and Luke will name the parents of John. These weren’t bastards, or just inconsequential persons with no family background. Their fathers were known men.

Now we get to the real significance of this passage. This is perhaps the most famous pun in history. But more importantly, it is only found here in Matthew. Luke doesn’t repeat it. Why only Matthew? In response, I suggest this is the juicy part.

In the verse before, Jesus says that Peter did not come to understand who Jesus was through the agency of any human, but that the understanding came directly from God. Jesus builds on that (pun intended) to declare Peter as the rock on which Jesus will the community. Kind of sounds like Matthew is trying to elevate the stature of Peter. In fact, I am sorely tempted to see this as something added by a later Bishop of Rome to bolster the position of that office in relation to other bishops. After all, this is exactly what the bishop of Rome did. The problem with this being an interpolation, is that if it had been inserted by a bishop of Rome, I would expect it to be in Luke as well. It would not necessarily have to be in Mark, because the early church regarded Matthew as the original gospel. But regardless, it’s hard not to see this as a deliberate move to put Peter in a position superior to the other disciples. And Peter has “earned” this elevated position because God has chosen to reveal to Peter bar Jonas the identity of Jesus. This was not vouchsafed to any others, but alone to Peter. The question would be “who is doing the elevating?” If it wasn’t a bishop of Rome, then it had to be Matthew.

If Peter is being moved up, who is being moved down? If Peter is being promoted, who is being demoted? At whose expense does the Petrine primacy come? One interesting implication to note here is that Mark has traditionally been identified as a disciple of Peter. This identification is based solely on the coincidence of the name. This despite the fact that “Marcus” was a very, very common Roman name. I would suggest that, if Mark had been a disciple of Peter, why do we not find this passage in Mark? I think that is a very important question; the absence, I believe, blows a pretty big hole in the idea that Mark was connected to Peter. Assuming that Peter did actually make it to Rome (of which I’m skeptical, to some extent; the early traditions on this stuff are grossly unreliable, more wishful thinking than factual), wouldn’t Mark want to help establish the Petrine primacy?

One name I can’t help but think of is Paul. Suddenly, Paul is not the only one to receive direct inspiration regarding Jesus. And we’ve been bantering on whether, and to what degree, the writings of Paul were known. Had Matthew ever heard of Paul, let alone read him? By the time Luke wrote, Paul was obviously known well enough; and after Luke wrote Acts, Paul was famous. Given all of the glancing blows that seem to delineate Paul’s gravitational field, I tend to suspect that Matthew was familiar, to some degree at least, with at least some of Paul’s writing. How much, or which, is very debatable.  Is it possible that Paul’s writings were also coming into wider circulation at this time? The diffusion of Paul’s letters is a difficult topic from what I can gather. I read an impassioned argument that Mark was not aware of Paul, which means that other people are saying that Mark was. Personally, I find it very possible that Mark wrote without knowledge of Paul, but I find it difficult to believe that Matthew did. With Matthew the followers have likely become more pagan. That would put the different stories of Jesus into a wider circulation, as pagans interacted with pagans. It would seem much more likely that pagans would share their stories of Jesus with each other more readily than they would share them with Jews, or more than Jews would share with pagans. With the paganisation of the movement, the different traditions would start to run into each other. Paul helped establish a community in Corinth, and Corinth was a commercial city, which means Corinthians interacted with people from numerous areas of the Empire. It’s not difficult to see how the diffusion occurred.

Now, one thing needs to be clarified. Whether or not the first two evangelists had ever read anything Paul wrote, they could certainly be aware of some of the differences between the various traditions. This is crystal clear in Mark, with his wonder-worker tradition and his Christ tradition. The latter came, to some large extent, from Paul. Even so, the content of the tradition could have easily have gotten to Mark without any mention of Paul’s name. Tradition puts Matthew in Antioch–although I find such tradition largely…unreliable, to say the least. Antioch was a Greek city, named after Antiochus, a descendent of Seleucis, one of the successors of Alexander the Great. So a connexion between Antioch and Corinth is easy to imagine. So it’s very conceivable that Matthew had heard about the Assembly in Corinth, and had heard about Paul. And so, it’s possible that Matthew, aware of the story of Paul’s revelation, re-used the motif, putting Peter in the role of Paul. The motive for Matthew doing this is another matter. Why did he want to help establish the primacy of Peter? Because Paul was not sufficiently on-board with Jesus as a divine personage? That Paul only recognised Jesus as the Christ after, and by virtue of, the Resurrection? So we see the beginning of the elevation of Peter at the expense of Paul, a change in emphasis that leads modern scholars to parse the gospels while entirely ignoring the evidence of Paul’s letters. The Quest for the Historical Jesus falls into this trap, and so did Daniel Boyarin, the Judaic scholar.

There is one final point to be made. This refers back to the translation of ‘ekklesia’. In its purest Greek form, there is nothing tangible about an ‘ekklesia’. It does not exist apart from the gathered citizenry having been called out. A church, OTOH, is tangible, and it does exist outside of the people who really constitute the church, in the sense of the church as truly being an assembly of the faithful rather than a building. The problem comes in with the Greek word “to build”. The Greek verb has a certain tangible aspect to it; the Greek verb is rather narrower than the word “to build” is in English. In English we can build an argument, or a case as well as we can build a building; this sort of abstract construction does not really fit into the Greek word, which is much more focused on something concrete. As in, something made of concrete. From that sense, one could infer that maybe this was meant to refer to a church, as in a building. The only problem with that is that there weren’t any buildings used specifically and solely as a church for a hundred years (rather more than that, actually) after the time Matthew wrote. Given that Christians were not exactly welcome among the pagan population sort of precluded setting aside a building specifically as a gathering place for the eucharist.

So, if one were to attempt to argue that this was, indeed, an interpolation, it would have to be pretty late. Of course, that would really explain why Luke doesn’t have this passage. The earliest church fathers considered Matthew to be the original gospel, so an interpolation inserted at the behest of the Bishop of Rome would have been put into Matthew. But I also think it would have been put into Luke as well. Given this, the soundest conclusion is that this was part of the text from an early period, if not from the outset. That still leaves the question of why Matthew decided to bolster the Petrine Primacy in this way. Or, truly, to create the Petrine Primacy, since it was largely based on this text. 

Interesting point: some of the Protestant commentators try to shave this so that the rock to which Jesus refers is himself, not Peter. This was done to undercut the claims of the Bishop of Rome to be superior to the other bishops. Of course, the Protestants disputed this hotly. I can’t quite shake the sense that this passage was indeed added, fairly early, by, or at the behest of, the Bishop of Rome. Thise would have come at or about the time that the legend of Peter ending up in Rome would have started, that the Roman bishop would have started to circulate this story–for which there is absolutely no evidence other than the later tradition.

18 Et ego dico tibi: Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam; et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam.

19 δώσω σοι τὰς κλεῖδας τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, καὶ ὃ ἐὰν λύσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

20 τότε διεστείλατο τοῖς μαθηταῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ εἴπωσιν ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ Χριστός.

“I give to you the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, and what you bind upon the earth will be bound in the heavens, and that which you loose upon the earth will be loosed in the heavens”. (20) Then he enjoined the disciples so that no one they tell that he was the Christ. 

Now we come to the keys to the kingdom, the genesis of the folk legend that we will meet St Peter at the Pearly Gate (from The Book of Apocalypse) and he will decide where we will spend eternity. The further I go along here, the more this feels like it was added by the Bishop of Rome. As I’ve pointed out, there are a lot of problems with trying to support this hypothesis. What evidence that exists is not convincing; it’s really a matter of…hypothesizing, really. It’s too convenient, it’s unique, it just has all the earmarks of a non-disinterested group creating something for themselves. Anyone who’s ever heard of the Donation of Constantine (link below) will know exactly what I mean. This was an out-and-out fraud, a forgery perpetrated by the See of Rome. Given that, inserting a few lines of text would not seem like much. And the reasons would have been of the highest order, done with complete confidence that they were acting under the inspiration of God.

The problem with the interpolation theory is that placing the timing is really tough; although later would explain the absence of this in the other gospels. Was it done to counteract the story of Paul that began to circulate after Luke? Did Acts seem to give too much priority to Paul? Or did Matthew write this himself, at a time when Paul and his legend–and, perhaps his writings–were becoming common tales, and that it was Paul who seemed to be the real founder of the Church? I don’t know. Nor am I familiar enough with the literature to know if this has ever been suggested. I highly doubt it, given the reverential treatment accorded to the texts of the gospels until very recently. But that is how it feels.

The last bit is the Messianic secret. We needn’t spend too much time on this, as we covered it fairly thoroughly in treating Mark. For now, suffice it to say that my take on this is that Mark was trying to explain to later audiences, 30 or 40 years after the fact, why it was that Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah by the vast majority of Jews. Mark’s answer is the Messianic secret: that Jesus’ identity as the Christ was not more widely known because he actively suppressed this information. I believe that’s an eminently plausible explanation. While Matthew definitely was writing for pagans, as I believe the text tells us, even Mark was most likely already doing the same a generation earlier than Matthew. From a logistical perspective, the destruction of Jerusalem probably destroyed any Community that existed there. And Jews in other places were less receptive to the message of Jesus largely because they–or their parents–had not experienced Jesus first-hand. So the message fell upon pagan ears and this proved to be the good soil that returned thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold. 

19 Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum; et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum in caelis, et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum in caelis ”.

20 Tunc praecepit discipulis, ut nemini dicerent quia ipse esset Christus.

Link for the Donation of Constantine

Matthew Chapter 16:1-12

At the end of the previous chapter, we had Jesus getting out of the boat at Magadan. Presumably, this is where he still is. Magadan is on the western shore of the sea, about halfway between Tiberias and Caphernaum. 

1 Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς.

And some Pharisees and Sadducees coming towards, testing they asked him (for) a sign from the sky to show to them.

Question: would Pharisees and Sadducees come out in a group together like this? I seem to have the sense that the two groups were not exactly on good terms. Checking a couple of commentaries ( is really a wonderful resource), I find that the consensus is that the two groups were putting aside their enmity in order to gang up on Jesus. I do not believe this for a moment. I say this because I do not truly believe that Jesus was that much of a radical, or that he was so popular that he threatened the religious establishment. Then, on top of this, we are in Magadan; these people were not part of the religious establishment. That consisted of the high priests and the Sanhedrin. The terms for religious authorities in Jerusalem are different; they are not simply called Pharisees and Sadducees. And it’s even more important to remember that these were groups of believers, types of believers, in no way were they a corporate body. This is perhaps akin to saying that some Catholics and some Lutherans came to talk to Jesus. OK, that’s fine, but there’s really no greater significance to the group. Some people, who have no official standing, get together to talk to, oh, let’s say John Wesley. It’s more of the set up for a joke then a menacing combination. Some Catholics and some Lutherans went to talk to John Wesley (in a bar…).

Now, given this, we may be tempted to suspect that this set-up is meaningless. In a sense that’s true; it really doesn’t have implications for what happens to Jesus eventually. However, there may be another type of significance lying just under the surface here. In effect, Matthew is setting up an unrealistic set of circumstances. More interestingly, neither Mark nor Luke combine Sadducees with Pharisees as Matthew does here. And recall that Matthew is supposed to be the most Jewish of the four evangelists. And yet he combines two groups that normally wouldn’t be combined? And he is using this to set the stage for what happens later to Jesus in Jerusalem, as if he’s implying that this group of interlocutors is related to the group that will later, supposedly, have Jesus executed? What this says to me is that Matthew was not particularly aware of the situation in Galilee/Judea during the governorship of Pilate. It also says that Matthew was not particularly aware of the differences between Pharisees and Sadducees. The latter is the more damning, in my opinion, because a good Jew could be removed from the regions of Judea and Galilee, and live fifty years after the fact and be sort of clueless about the way the government worked there at that time. Happens all the time. But it seems less forgivable that he would be unaware that the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t really get along. And that he, and he alone, pairs the two of them like this seems to matter, too. It’s like calling the Syro-Phoenician woman a Canaanite.

1 Et accesserunt ad eum pharisaei et sadducaei tentantes et rogaverunt eum, ut signum de caelo ostenderet eis.

2 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, [Ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε, Εὐδία, πυρράζει γὰρ ὁ οὐρανός:

3 καὶ πρωΐ, Σήμερον χειμών, πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων ὁοὐρανός. τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν, τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε.]

He answering said to them, [“Having become late you say, ‘Fair weather, for the sky is glowing red’. And in the morning, ‘The sign (is?) winter, for the sky is glowing red and lowering’. On the one hand the face of the sky you know how to judge, but the sign of the times you cannot.]

First, the square brackets indicate that these words of Jesus are not in all manuscript traditions. They may well be an interpolation. If I had to guess, I would guess that they are. Otherwise, we have Jesus reciting an early version of “red sky at night. Sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” This was not in Mark, and it’s not in Luke. My sense is that it is an interpolation.

One thing to note is that he is using “ouranos” in the singular, rather than the plural. As such I think we can translate as “sky”, rather than “heavens” when it is plural. In English, of course. “heavens” is the synonym for “sky” while the singular form is Heaven. But Matthew uses the plural for the “kingdom of the heavens”, or “our father in the heavens”. I think the distinction is fair.

2 At ille respondens ait eis: “Facto vespere dicitis: “Serenum erit, rubicundum est enim caelum”;

3 et mane: “Hodie tempestas, rutilat enim triste caelum”. Faciem quidem caeli diiudicare nostis, signa autem temporum non potestis.

4 Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν.

This generation, wicked and adulterous seeks a sign, and a sign will not be given to it other than the sign of Jonah. And leaving them, he went away. 

I’m sure most of you have been waiting for me to mention that this is something of a rerun. To be honest, I hadn’t realized that we had seen this in Matthew before until we got to the sign of Jonah. I remember it from Mark, but upon checking I note that we ran across almost the exact same story back in Chapter 12. There, Jesus also denied a sign to a wicked and adulterous generation, unless it be the sign of Jonah. In fact, the verbiage is pretty much verbatim, to the point that I pulled out my hard copy and compared the two. From the beginning of Verse 5 through the “sign of Jonah”, the words are all-but completely identical. (They seem to be identical, but I may have missed some minor discrepancy.) Now, it’s one thing when it’s a story, like feeding a large number of people, in which some of the details get changed, but it’s quite another when it’s a short passage like this that is basically word-for-word.

So what does this mean? I’m not even sure it’s appropriate to call it a twinning; more accurately, it’s a repetition. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s not like there’s any real variation between the two, nothing to indicate that it’s a separate story, except for the fact that this iteration includes Sadducees, whereas the first time it was Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. This is such an unusual occurrence that I’m not even sure there’s a term for it. What was Matthew thinking?

Whatever the answer to that last question, I think we have to question Matthew’s editorial skills. Once again, the single most major important argument for Q is that Luke would never have messed with Matthew’s “masterful” arrangement of the Q material in the Sermon on the Mount. That was a work of such extraordinary genius that it’s impossible to conceive of anyone reading it and not slavishly following the example. But if Matthew is not even paying enough attention to notice that he repeated several paragraphs, verbatim, are we really supposed to trust his other instincts as an editor? I think that this repetition gives us the right to step back and ask if Matthew really is such a master. If the answer is no, then a crucial pillar supporting the argument for Q collapses.

One last thing. Jesus is very summary in his dismissal of his interlocutors. In the version in Chapter 12, this episode ends with Jesus’ family coming to get him, in a watered-down version of Mark where some members of the crowd thought Jesus was a bit off, and his family felt that Jesus needed to be “rescued”. Since we will be going off in a boat and talking about leaven, the version here in Chapter 16 is actually the parallel to Mark’s telling of this story. For Matthew, the problem came when he intruded this part about asking for the sign into the section that properly dealt with the House Divided speech. That is, we should not be questioning why the request for a sign is here; we should have asked why it was also included back in Chapter 12. Of course, at that point I didn’t realize we were going to go into reruns quite so quickly.

4 Generatio mala et adultera signum quaerit, et signum non dabitur ei, nisi signum Ionae ”. Et, relictis illis, abiit.

5 Καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ εἰς τὸ πέραν ἐπελάθοντο ἄρτους λαβεῖν.

6 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὁρᾶτε καὶ προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων.

7 οἱ δὲ διελογίζοντο ἐν ἑαυτοῖς λέγοντες ὅτι Ἄρτους οὐκ ἐλάβομεν.

8 γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τί διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, ὀλιγόπιστοι, ὅτι ἄρτους οὐκ ἔχετε;

9 οὔπω νοεῖτε, οὐδὲ μνημονεύετε τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους τῶν πεντακισχιλίων καὶ πόσους κοφίνους ἐλάβετε;

10 οὐδὲ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἄρτους τῶν τετρακισχιλίων καὶ πόσας σπυρίδας ἐλάβετε;

And coming, the disciples went to the other shore having forgotten to take bread. (6) And Jesus said to them, “Look out and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”. (7) But they were dialoguing amongst themselves that they had not taken bread. (8) But knowing, Jesus said, “What are you dialoguing amongst yourselves, ones of little faith, that you did not bring bread? (9) How do you not know, nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you collected? (10) Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many measures you collected?   

This is partially what I mean about how the request for a sign belongs here, and not in its previous location back in Chapter 12. The story here follows the progression of Mark, starting with the request for the sign. And here we even get some of the attitude Jesus had in Mark. He’s exasperated, annoyed, and a bit sarcastic. Dullards! Don’t you get it? You’re talking about bread when you witnessed not one, but two feedings of huge crowds with a few loaves of bread. We even get the repetition of “you of little faith” that we first got when Peter decided he couldn’t walk on water. This is not a word that Mark used at all, but it’s a tone and an implication that we often found in Mark. 

The point about the yeast of the Pharisees is that the latter would not believe without a sign. Jesus is telling the disciples that they have seen several signs, notably the dual feedings of the large crowds. So the point becomes, why did Matthew choose to retain this attitude, which is more appropriate to Mark than it is to Matthew? We have the clueless disciples who are of little faith and an exasperated Jesus who has grown petulant with his chosen few. This is how Mark portrayed the inner workings of Jesus and the Twelve (Or the Five: Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Judas Iscariot. Who else is mentioned in the Synoptics? Aside from the passage where their names are given?). So why does Matthew carry this over, virtually unchanged? We have seen him edit Mark before this, cut out a sentence or two, change the direction, or the implication of another, so it’s not like he follows Mark to the letter. So we have to ask, Why? And/or, Why here?

I’m not sure I have an answer at the moment. Mark did this, I have suggested, to explain what happened to the believers in Judea and Galilee. As in, why weren’t there any? So the initial impulse is to suggest the same thing for Matthew here. To explain why, once again, the followers of Jesus were now (as of when Matthew was writing) mostly pagan. Even for Matthew, even the innermost circle of Jesus’ followers were ‘of little faith’, and unable to penetrate the shield of the parables Jesus spread around his teachings. And seriously, the only one of these that is truly attested by an independent source is Peter. James, of course, is mentioned by Paul, but the latter is the brother of Jesus and not the son of Zebedee. Of course, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive in and of themselves, but the calling of this James makes it clear that we are not referring to James, brother of the lord. The advantage of this explanation is that it has Matthew following Mark’s story, his characterizations, and also Mark’s motives for adding these elements of the story in the first place

That’s going to have to stand for now. I’m open to suggestions. And further stories may provide further clues as to why Matthew did this. I think the one suggested is the most likely..

5 Et cum venissent discipuli trans fretum, obliti sunt panes accipere.

6 Iesus autem dixit illis: “Intuemini et cavete a fermento pharisaeorum et sadducaeorum ”.

7 At illi cogitabant inter se dicentes: “Panes non accepimus!”.

8 Sciens autem Iesus dixit: “Quid cogitatis inter vos, modicae fidei, quia panes non habetis?

9 Nondum intellegitis neque recordamini quinque panum quinque milium hominum, et quot cophinos sumpsistis?

10 Neque septem panum quattuor milium hominum, et quot sportas sumpsistis?

11 πῶς οὐ νοεῖτε ὅτι οὐ περὶ ἄρτων εἶπον ὑμῖν; προσέχετε δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶ Σαδδουκαίων.

12 τότε συνῆκαν ὅτι οὐκ εἶπεν προσέχειν ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης τῶν ἄρτων ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ τῆς διδαχῆς τῶν Φαρισαίων καὶΣαδδουκαίων.

How is it you do not understand that not about bread do I speak to you? But that you beware from the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. (12) Then understood that he did not speak about the yeast of the loaves, but from the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 

Finally! He got through their thick noggins! Now the book by Boyarin that I’m reading, The Jewish Gospels, has a really interesting take on the Pharisees. But I’m going to save that for a special topic, because it also touches on whether Jesus abrogated the dietary laws.

In the meantime, is it any wonder why disciples like these did not bear more fruit? Why they did not succeed in converting more Jews to the teaching of Jesus?

11 Quomodo non intellegitis quia non de panibus dixi vobis? Sed cavete a fermento pharisaeorum et sadducaeorum ”.

12 Tunc intellexerunt quia non dixerit cavendum a fermento panum sed a doctrina pharisaeorum et sadducaeorum.