Category Archives: Chapter 4

Summary Luke Chapter 4

There is a very good chance that this summary will be either 1) rather short; 2) rather different; or 3) both. The most salient feature of this chapter, or at least about the commentary regarding it, is how much is dedicated to the discussion of Q rather than to the text itself. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the discussion of the text has focused on whether or not it supports or undercuts the case for Q. To some degree, this is inevitable. We’re on the third iteration for some of these stories, so we’ve already picked the bones clean (OK, a bit of hyperbole) regarding the content and how it reflects the status of Christian belief at the time of writing. So the triangulation for Q is the most salient aspect of the text in many ways.

Overall, Luke’s content, his arrangement, and even his verbiage is much closer to Mark than to Matthew; however, already there have been significant exceptions. Most notably, there are pieces of the story of Jesus not being accepted in Nazareth that are completely novel, unique to Luke. Most likely, as I see it, this most likely means that Luke created or crafted these stories himself.  In addition, Luke felt no qualms about doing something of a mash of material in Mark’s Chapter 1 with Mark’s Chapter 5. We know that there are a number of novel pieces coming our way, all of them of good literary quality, so we can pretty safely infer that Luke had a high degree of literary sensibility and talent. One aspect of such talent is creativity; from what we’ve read of Zacharias and Elisabeth, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis, we should have a good inkling that Luke was a creative talent of some significance. As such, we should see his departures from Mark as very deliberate.

This leads to the question of his relationship, if any, to Matthew. Does this connexion occur only indirectly, via Q, or does Luke have a direct relationship, from having read Matthew’s gospel. That’s the question. So far the evidence seems to be leaning in favour that yes, Luke did know of Matthew’s gospel. Remember, the Q people say that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Remember, he does this all the time, except they call it Q when he does it. This argument is very close to, if not completely circular. How do we know what’s in Q? Because it’s in Matthew and Luke but not Mark. Why doesn’t Luke ever agree with Matthew against Mark? Because that is Q material. How do we know it’s Q material? Because it’s in Matthew and Luke but not Mark. As I said, not exactly the classic paradigm of a circular argument (which is what “begging the question” actually means), but it’s very close. The other “argument” for derives from the way Luke misarranges the material in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, it’s so perfect that only a “fool or a madman” would change it, and surely Luke was neither. This is not an argument; it’s the logical fallacy of Complex Question: have you stopped embezzling from your company? The question cannot be answered in any legitimate fashion.

And yet, we have encountered numerous aspects in which Luke does agree with Matthew against Mark. To enumerate, once again:

  • Giving Jesus a “human” father, whose name was Joseph;
  • By telling us Jesus was born in Bethlehem;
  • That Jesus was born of a virgin;
  • That an angel of God announced to one of the two that Jesus had been/was to be conceived by the sacred breath;
  • That Herod was on the throne when all of this started, at least;
  • The creation of a genealogy for Jesus;

There are others, I believe, that escape me at the moment. Even as is, this list is too long to be attributed to mere coincidence.

Speaking of probability, there is the point, proclaimed loudly and often, that Luke never, ever, not once agrees with Matthew against Mark. Except for the six points above. Without realizing it, by insisting on using this argument, the Q people are sort of cutting the ground out from under their own feet. Never implies a perfect correlation; this never (pun intended) happens in reality, except in those cases where it does, but they are very, very infrequent. Since perfect correlation is so rare, it’s existence is always suspect. As such, the perfect correlation posited here is suspect. That’s about as fundamental a syllogism as you’re apt to find in the real world. So if the correlation is so perfect, that implies deliberate choice: Luke chose to agree with Mark against Matthew rather than vice versa.

The last point is that there are times when the verbiage of Luke and Matthew is nearly identical, to the point of using the same unusual word. This can be accounted for one of two ways: First, that they both copied Q almost verbatim; or second, that Luke copied Matthew almost verbatim. Why would a creative genius such as I’ve suggested Luke to be copy Matthew rather than create his own version? Well, why would he copy Q the same way? If you’re going to suggest that he judiciously copied Q, why is it so hard to believe that he copied Matthew? Answer, it’s not hard at all. Beside that, we’ve talked about probability again. How likely is it that two people would copy the same source in almost exactly the same way? Is that more likely, or less likely, than suggesting that  similarity between two authors is because one copied the other, rather than that they both copied some unknown source, one for which there is not a shred of evidence for its existence?

Yes, this is a lot about probability. But that’s what history–good history–is: trying to find the most likely explanation for an event, or series of events. It’s not about creative interpretation; that’s a different branch of the literary art called “fiction”.

The real issue is that the changes Luke made have no real theological impact. Adding the bit about Jesus passing through the midst of the crowd that wants to lynch him is a foreshadow of Jesus after the Resurrection, Or, is thus indicating that Luke is verging on docetism, that Jesus did not actually have a corporeal body? That had not occurred to me before, but now that it has occurred to me, I will pay attention to see if there is any further indication. That would indeed be theologically significance. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the addition of this piece to Chapter 4 does not forward the story line in any significant manner. Theologically, it does reinforce Jesus’ divinity, but that’s already been pretty thoroughly established given the time dedicated to the stories of John, the Visitation (2nd Joyful Mystery of the Rosary), the Heavenly Host at the birth, and all the rest of the episodes added prior to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But this reinforcement is adding to an already laden wagon. As for the story, I’m not sure what it does, but Luke obviously felt it was important enough to make out of whole cloth.

So this lack of transparent motive is the reason, or part of it, that we’re spending so much time discussing Q. The larger part, of course, is that Q has become a thing for me, and I fear that I spend altogether too much time on the subject; however, whether Q existed or not is of enormous importance to the way the NT is studied. And yet a real debate on the topic has never been held. This even exceeds the “dash on Phaleron” hypothesized by J.A.R. Munro in 1899; he suggested that the Persians were loading their cavalry back into their ships to sail to Phaleron, then the port of Athens, while the Athenian army was at Marathon. This idea held the field until the early 1970s, when the first serious challenges were offered, some seventy years later. Q, in contrast, has held the field , fundamentally unchallenged, for well over a century. That needs to end.

So, more about Q than about Luke, I’m afraid. But Luke is the key to the Q question. There will be more, but I will try to refrain from long-winded explanations of stuff I’ve already explained. Feel free to call me on it before it becomes insufferable.


Luke Chapter 4:40-44 (conclusion)

Chapter 4 wraps up with a very short section. For some reason I thought the chapter had 48, rather than 44 verses. As such, it probably could have been tacked on to the previous post, but what’s done is done. Jesus has just expelled a demon, and his reputation and stories of him have spread far and wide around the countryside on the shores of the Sea* of Galilee.


40 Δύνοντος δὲ τοῦ ἡλίου ἅπαντες ὅσοι εἶχον ἀσθενοῦντας νόσοις ποικίλαις ἤγαγον αὐτοὺς πρὸς αὐτόν: ὁ δὲ ἑνὶ ἑκάστῳ αὐτῶν τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιτιθεὶς ἐθεράπευεν αὐτούς.

The sun having westerned (= set, as in the west), how many they had being weakened by illness they brought to him. He, laying his hands on upon each of them, healed them.

Let’s begin with first word in the verse. It is a very rare word, even in secular Greek. It’s used a few times to represent the furthest point of something; in this case, the furthest (western) point of the sun, which occurs at sunset. I rendered it as “westerned” to get this aspect of the word across; however, that translation is really more based on the Latin from the Vulgate, which is occidens. The Greek is non-specific, able to refer to any furthest point. The Latin specifically means “westerned”. Occidens, west, is opposed to oriens, the east. Hence the division of the globe Orient and the Occident, East and West.

With this word I’m beginning to get some appreciation of what the Q people mean when they say that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Here is a great example of what they mean. The first word in the sentence is used twice in the NT; once here, and once by Mark in the same context of this same story. So Luke obviously is following Mark very closely in some respects, as in not having Jesus dwell in Caphernaum. One of my points about the Q argument is that if Luke always–as in like, every time–then I think you have to consider, at the very least, that Luke made deliberate choices to agree with Mark against Luke. To match up with Mark very single time indicates perfect correlation, and that does not occur outside of physical laws of the universe, like gravity. And even then quirky things happen. So it is, perhaps, telling that Luke agrees with Mark here; we know it’s telling us something, but what, exactly? As we saw in previous sections of this chapter, Luke is not afraid to mess with Mark’s order or other things; so when he chooses to agree, it’s significant. So why does he agree with Mark, and so often?

Let’s go back to the first few verses of the gospel, in which Luke sets out his intention. He has, he tells us, gone through previous accounts and done some cross-checking, I was just on another Bible-themed blog and the author referred to this stated intention. His conclusion was that there were other gospels written than have been lost. So not only are we creating Q, but we’re creating other gospels. This is certainly not out of the question. But–and you knew that was coming–why create more gospels when we already know with a pretty high level of confidence that there were two of them written before Luke. This is exactly the sort of thing that is so exasperating about the Q “argument”; it basically starts at the pre-determined conclusion–that Q existed–and work back from there, explaining anything else in terms of Q. My point is this: if Luke always agrees with Mark, and if his purpose is to set the record straight, then that really implies that he’s implying that he takes Mark at greater historical value than he does Matthew. And, since Matthew has a lot of stuff that’s not in Mark, Luke does not see it as sacrosanct as far as the order goes. Indeed, the idea that there was one definitive version of Q, that set the sayings (and stuff that John said and Jesus did) in a very specific order which was not to be abused is ludicrous. It there was one “sayings of Jesus” collection floating about, there were probably a number of them, each with its own contents and order. So again, the Q argument assumes its existence, which is bad enough, and then takes this further to assume –or to insist, really–that there was a definitive version of Q. Matthew and Luke could easily have been working from a document that fits the definition of Q, but that is not to say they were the same document, with the same content, with the same order. That’s pretty much willful blindness to historical probability.

40 Cum sol autem occidisset, omnes, qui habebant infirmos variis languoribus, ducebant illos ad eum; at ille singulis manus imponens curabat eos.

41 ἐξήρχετο δὲ καὶ δαιμόνια ἀπὸ πολλῶν, κρ[αυγ]άζοντα καὶ λέγοντα ὅτι Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. καὶ ἐπιτιμῶν οὐκ εἴα αὐτὰ λαλεῖν, ὅτι ᾔδεισαν τὸν Χριστὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι.

42 Γενομένης δὲ ἡμέρας ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη εἰς ἔρημον τόπον: καὶ οἱ ὄχλοι ἐπεζήτουν αὐτόν, καὶ ἦλθον ἕως αὐτοῦ, καὶ κατεῖχον αὐτὸν τοῦ μὴ πορεύεσθαι ἀπ’ αὐτῶν.

43 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Καὶ ταῖς ἑτέραις πόλεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαί με δεῖ τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐπὶ τοῦτο ἀπεστάλην.

44 καὶ ἦν κηρύσσων εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς τῆς Ἰουδαίας.

Demons also came out from many, crying out and saying that, “You are the son of God!” and rebuking (them) he would not allow them to speak, that they knew him to be the Christ. (42) Happening one day going out he came to a deserted place; and the crowds sought him, and they came up to him, and they held him so that he he could not go away from them. (43) He said to them that, “And to the other cities it is necessary for me to evangelize the kingdom of God, that upon this I was sent”. (44) And he was announcing to the synagogues of the Jews.

Here we have a compression of several themes from Mark that are also paraphrased, to some extent, by Matthew. Here we have at least a hint of the Messianic secret in the circumstances of Jesus expelling unclean spirits and then shushing them into silence so that they could not tell the crowds who Jesus was. The whole idea of this is a bit odd, especially since earlier in the chapter Jesus announced to the crowd in the synagogue in Nazareth that the prophecy if Isaiah had been fulfilled, which was enough to infuriate the crowd that heard him. Or, given that he infuriated the crowd, was this silencing of demons his way of not broadcasting his identity? Actually, that suggestion assumes that anything like this actually happened; of course, it didn’t. Rather, this is Luke following Mark–again–in substance, but putting a slightly different spin on the matter. Because here again we have the contradictory keeping of the secret, but the wild popularity of Jesus. The two are, to some extent, incompatible, especially if later parts of the gospel story are to be taken as accurate; of course, however, they should not be taken as factually accurate, because that was never the intent.

From these verses we are to glean that Jesus understood himself to have a mission to preach. One thing we do not know, however, is the subject about which he is to spread the good news. Luke has not yet mentioned the idea of a “kingdom of heaven”. In both Mark & Matthew, we are told that both John and Jesus were intent to spread the good news about this kingdom, but so far in Luke, nothing. It is difficult to calibrate how much this lack matters; is it that Luke took it for granted at this point that his audience would understand that this was Jesus’ theme? That’s sort of on par with the questions about why Paul was so vague on certain points; did he take them as understood? Or, in that case, had the details familiar to us now had not yet crystalized into a tradition? Here, OTOH, this formation of the details had occurred, so the underlying situation is very different even if the outward circumstances appear to be similar. Of course, in the end, there is no answer to the question of ‘why the silence?’ If made to guess, I would say that the silence is not particularly significant, except to underscore that, while he seems to be following Mark very closely, Luke was not welded to Mark’s outline or content. Luke, it appears, had no qualms about adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing Mark’s material and arrangement. So, in that very real sense, this lack of reference to the “kingdom of heaven” is significant since it demonstrates that willingness to depart from Mark very clearly.

41 Exibant autem daemonia a multis clamantia et dicentia: “ Tu es Filius Dei ”. Et increpans non sinebat ea loqui, quia sciebant ipsum esse Christum.

42 Facta autem die, egressus ibat in desertum locum; et turbae requirebant eum et venerunt usque ad ipsum et detinebant illum, ne discederet ab eis.

43 Quibus ille ait: “ Et aliis civitatibus oportet me evangelizare regnum Dei, quia ideo missus sum ”.

44 Et erat praedicans in synagogis Iudaeae.


*Sea of Galilee: it’s fresh water, so I believe technically it’s a lake. I have, in fact, seen it labeled as the “Lake of Galilee”, or even “Lake Tiberias”.

Luke Chapter 4:31-39

The rest of Chapter 4 will be divided into two short sections of 9-10 verses each. This will keep the flow going, and, I hope, help me to get these out more quickly. It is better to publish shorter and more frequently, IMO.


31 Καὶ κατῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας. καὶ ἦν διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν:

32 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ ἦν ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ.

And he came down to the city of Caphernaum of Galilee. And there he taught them on the Sabbaths. (32) And they were driven from their senses by his teaching, that in power was his speech.

Here’s another one of those situations involving the Mark/Matthew/Luke progression. In Mark, Jesus leaves Nazareth and comes to Caphernaum. In Matthew, we are told that Jesus came to dwell in Caphernaum. Here, Luke seems to follow Mark. This time, however, there does not appear to be any gravitational influence from Matthew. I get no sense in this passage that Luke is aware of Matthew, let alone that he is correcting Matthew. In this case, it would appear that Luke has completely ignored Matthew on this point. This would be consistent with the existence of Q; this would be one of those points where Luke does not agree with Matthew against Mark. So this does not support my denial of Q. It does not actively contradict my position; rather, it passively declines to support me. What we have to do is make note of these points, tally them up, and see if their combined weight is enough to offset the points I’ve brought up where Luke does agree with Matthew against Mark.

Here’s how this one shakes out. In the previous section, Luke says that Jesus returned to the town where he was raised. He specifically names this as Nazareth. Contrast to Mark 6, when Jesus returns to his home town and cannot perform many miracles due to their lack of faith. That is where he is called the son of Mary, and his siblings are named. Mark does not mention the name of the town. I suspect he does not because Mark did not know the name of Jesus’ home town, and did not particularly care. In fact, that story has the feel of a discrete unit that Mark swallowed more or less whole. The important lesson of that story was that a prophet is not without honour except in his homeland. However, the story does not, I believe, refer to the town where Jesus was raised, but to the Jewish community that had rejected Jesus as the saviour. That is, that story was a parable about why the new religion had caught on among pagans, but had been rejected by the Jews.

So there, in a sense, Luke was correcting Mark by naming the town. It could also be argued that Luke is undercutting Matthew by setting up this sequence the way he did, giving us Nazareth and then not agreeing that Jesus came to dwell in Caphernaum. So it is just possible that this sequence of verses was set up so that Luke could, without saying so, set the record straight on Matthew as well, but in a very passive manner. The neutral reading of this is that Luke was simply following Mark, and that would be a strong case here. To say Luke supports my position is admittedly a stretch, but it does not actively work against me, either.

As for Verse 32, this paraphrase is much closer to Mark’s language and grammar, but the sentiment is expressed by both the other evangelists. So on balance, this passage is much closer to Mark than Matthew. Now here’s a thought: what if part of Luke’s intent was to go back to Mark, by sort of pushing Matthew aside? That is, except for Bethlehem, Joseph, angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus, setting the conception of John in the reign of Herod, the virgin birth…you get the idea. I hate to keep bringing those things up but they carry an enormous amount of weight in the argument about Q.

31 Et descendit in Capharnaum civitatem Galilaeae. Et docebat illos sabbatis;

32 et stupebant in doctrina eius, quia in potestate erat sermo ipsius.

33 καὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου, καὶ ἀνέκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ,

34 Ἔα, τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ.

35 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων, Φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. καὶ ῥίψαν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον εἰς τὸ μέσον ἐξῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μηδὲν βλάψαν αὐτόν.

36 καὶ ἐγένετο θάμβος ἐπὶ πάντας, καὶ συνελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντες, Τίς ὁ λόγος οὗτος, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ καὶ δυνάμει ἐπιτάσσει τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις πνεύμασιν, καὶ ἐξέρχονται;

37 καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο ἦχος περὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς πάντα τόπον τῆς περιχώρου.

And in the synagogue was a man having the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a great voice, (34) “Hey–what is (between) us and you, Jesus of Nazareth? You have come to expel us. I know who you are, the holy one of God!” (35) And censured him Jesus, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him”. And tossing him the little daimon into the midst came out of him and no longer hurt him. (36) And amazement became among all, and they talked to each other, saying, “What is this speech, that in authority and power that enjoins unclean spirits, and they go?” (37) And the sound (talking, rumour) went out about him to all places in the surrounding country. 

This episode, and its placement, are straight out of Mark. So once again, it’s whether we should see this as Luke not being aware of Matthew, or if Luke is deliberately going back to Mark. I would suggest the latter; from the first few verses of the last section, the “is he not the son of Joseph?”, it’s obvious that Luke has no qualms about arranging and rearranging to suit his particular purposes in a particular situation. He does not feel bound to follow anyone; as such, we can infer that Luke arranged his gospel the way he did because he wanted to do it that way. I do think that it’s a stretch, if not outright impossible, always to know his exact reasons. The idea that we have to provide an editorially consistent explanation for every time Luke deviates from Matthew is not only ridiculous, it’s impossible. Any such explanation is an attempt to recreate Luke’s mindset, and to think that we can do that is the height of arrogance. Any such explanation is necessarily subjective on the part of the explainer, and the next person can easily come along and blow it up with ever-so-withering criticism. IOW, the Q proponents are requiring an all-but impossible standard, all in the name of proving that Q did not exist.

So to start Jesus’ ministry, we have him announcing the fulfillment of Isaiah, enraging those listening, passing through the angry mob, and now expelling an unclean daimon. And note the usage: not an unclean spirit, but the spirit of an unclean daimon. No doubt you are all aware that the word “daimon” is a neutral term in Greek. An evil spirit would be specifically referred to as a kakodaimon; the transition of a neutral daimon into an always-evil demon was an accomplishment of the Christians. That being said, the Near Eastern heritage had more of a tradition of things more closely resembling what we would call a demon, but it took the Christians to create the system that has been in place for the past few millennia.

But this does not address why it’s the spirit of an unclean daimon rather than an unclean spirit, as it was in Mark. Now, we can’t compare this to Matthew directly since this episode does not occur in Matthew. And it’s not like the word daimon occurs more often in Matthew than Mark. So this is a new concept unique (so far, anyway) to Luke. I’m not entirely sure what it means, or if it means anything out of the ordinary. I would say it probably doesn’t.

Finally, we end with more wonder and astonishment, which leads to the word of him going out into the surrounding country. There’s really nothing much to be gleaned from this that wasn’t discussed when we came across this in both Mark and Matthew. The one thing that will be interesting will be to see if Luke gets back into the “messianic secret” of Mark. Or, perhaps we should call it “Schrodinger’s Messiah”: simultaneously famous and unknown.

33 Et in synagoga erat homo habens spiritum daemonii immundi; et exclamavit voce magna:

34 “ Sine; quid nobis et tibi, Iesu Nazarene? Venisti perdere nos? Scio te qui sis: Sanctus Dei ”.

35 Et increpavit illi Iesus dicens: “ Obmutesce et exi ab illo! ”. Et cum proiecisset illum daemonium in medium, exiit ab illo nihilque illum nocuit.

36 Et factus est pavor in omnibus; et colloquebantur ad invicem dicentes: “Quod est hoc verbum, quia in potestate et virtute imperat immundis spiritibus, et exeunt?”.

37 Et divulgabatur fama de illo in omnem locum regionis.

38 Ἀναστὰς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν Σίμωνος. πενθερὰ δὲ τοῦ Σίμωνος ἦν συνεχομένη πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ, καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν περὶ αὐτῆς.

39 καὶ ἐπιστὰς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ πυρετῷ, καὶ ἀφῆκεν αὐτήν: παραχρῆμα δὲ ἀναστᾶσα διηκόνει αὐτοῖς.

Standing up from the synagogue he came to the house of Simon. The mother-in-law of Simon was held with a great fever, and they asked him about her. (39) And standing before her he rebuked the fever and it left her. Forthwith standing up she attended to them.

Boy howdy I’m really resisting the urge to say something like, hard to get decent help these days. They needed someone to minister (diakonos = deacon) to them, so Jesus had to heal her. Oh wait, I just said it.

From a doctrinal standpoint, it’s worth mentioning that Jesus rebuked the fever. This is the same word used a few verses ago  when Jesus rebuked the unclean daimon he was expelling. We could take this to mean that the fever was considered to be caused by a spirit. Now, Luke is generally considered to be Greek, and this was not a common Greek idea after the time of Alexander, or even previously. Greek medical thought was often horrifically wrong, but it had gotten past the idea of disease as demonic activity. Having said that, it’s worth pointing out that the verb is passive, that she was held by a great fever. That could be taken to imply an outside agency, but that may be pushing it a bit too far. Since neither Mark nor Matthew use this word in this context, perhaps it’s just Luke being poetic. 

38 Surgens autem de synagoga introivit in domum Simonis. Socrus autem Simonis tenebatur magna febri; et rogaverunt illum pro ea.

39 Et stans super illam imperavit febri, et dimisit illam; et continuo surgens ministrabat illis.

Luke Chapter 4:21-30

Chapter 4 continues. I did a bit of hanging you all from a cliff by breaking this passage where I did. Recall, Jesus has just read the passage from Isaiah talking about the blind seeing and the broken people being delivered. Having finished, and closed the book, when last we saw our hero, all eyes in the synagogue waiting…for something. My inference was that he was expected to comment on the text he has just read. Why this one would create an air of pregnant expectation the way it supposedly did is sort of left to our imagination. Remember that Isaiah did not have pride of place among the Jews that we Christians would like to suppose. And in addition, the section that Christians most often cite comes from Deutero-Isaiah, someone writing in the prophet’s name who wasn’t the prophet. In the same way Paul’s disciples wrote letters from Paul that the apostle did not write. I have even heard it suggested that there was a third author of Isaiah; I’m not sure I’d put a lot of faith in that one. The point is, for the Jews, Elijah is sort of the headliner of the prophets.  As such, I’m not sure why Jews would be stretched on tenter-hooks at the prospect of hearing Isaiah discussed. This is a great example of Christians reading stuff back into the HS that was not entirely (at all?) there.


21 ἤρξατο δὲ λέγειν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Σήμερον πεπλήρωται ἡ γραφὴ αὕτη ἐν τοῖς ὠσὶν ὑμῶν.

22 Καὶ πάντες ἐμαρτύρουν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐθαύμαζον ἐπὶ τοῖς λόγοις τῆς χάριτος τοῖς ἐκπορευομένοις ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔλεγον, Οὐχὶ υἱός ἐστιν Ἰωσὴφ οὗτος;

(21) He began to speak towards the that “This day this writing is fulfilled in the ears of you.” (22) And all witnessed him and were amazed upon his words of grace that issued from his mouth, and they said, “Is this not the son of Joseph?”

“The ears of you” is completely literal; “in your hearing” is probably a bit less jarring. And to be just as jarring, I left it as “words of grace”, since the standard translations is “gracious words”. But honestly, I’m trying to figure out how to render this in context. As the next part of the verse indicates, the people listening are a bit put off by what Jesus said. I don’t get the idea that they would consider the words “gracious” in any sense of the term. The outrage felt will become even more clear as the passage proceeds.

Remember that Jesus is in his hometown, and that Luke specifically names the town as Nazareth. So he names the father of Jesus to go with this. So what Luke has done here is combine Mark Chapter 6 and Matthew Chapter 11. Why? Let’s recall that Luke adds a lot of material to his gospel. So it’s possible he he felt he could not recount all that Matthew said and then add his own material and not have a text that runs to a hundred pages or more. So he chose to compress where and as he can. But note that the corresponding episode in Mark does not occur until Chapter 6. As such, he’s Luke is drastically rearranging the order of Mark. This is significant because one of the primary arguments for Q is the notion that Luke would not possibly have messed with Matthew’s “masterful” arrangement of the Q material. In fact, only a “fool or a madman” would do something so ludicrous. But nary a word that Luke felt free to rearrange Mark. Since Mark laid down the basic storyline, it would seem to be more of a problem that Luke felt free to copy and paste different episodes into different places; however, such appears not to be the case. So once again, the “argument” for Q turns out to be very situational: order of arrangement is hugely important, except when it’s not. Or, it’s important for some stuff, but not for other stuff. And these are the people who demand an editorially consistent explanation for every time Luke rearranges Matthew’s “masterful” order of the Q material.

One other thing that Luke does–or, actually, doesn’t do–here is to recite the names of Jesus’ siblings. Matthew truncated the list provided by Mark, but still gave us four of his brothers, most notably James. Here, Luke gives us none of them. The reason for this is likely to be the desire to let Jesus’ siblings–perhaps most notably James–fade into the background at this time. Many scholars have suggested that the list of siblings was embarrassing for the later Church with its insistence on the virgin birth. Mark had no such problem, since he did not tell us that Mary was a virgin who conceived by the sacred breath. Matthew apparently felt no constraint at what could be seen as a contradiction. Luke, in culmination, just eliminates the list completely. Also, by the time he wrote, James had been dead for several decades, his role in the early church becoming largely forgotten. So Luke perhaps judged it best to let sleeping dogs lie, and not awaken the memory. And let’s not forget that Luke may have been aware of Galatians, in which Paul meets with the brother of the lord. Maybe this suggested to Luke the wisdom of not reawakening that role of James and the conflict he had with Paul. After all, Luke very much downplayed this meeting when he recounted the event in Acts.

There is one aspect in which Luke provides a unique take on this. In Mark, Jesus was called “Mary’s son”; in Matthew, he was the “son of the carpenter, Mary’s son”. Here, he is the son of Joseph. This is especially notable, IMO, since in his genealogy he said that “it was supposed” that Jesus was the son of Joseph. Now I cannot stress enough the level of significance that attaches to Luke naming Joseph as Mary’s husband. This and the virgin birth, and the annunciation by an angel, etc. are all ways that Luke follows Matthew, and in material that no one says was in Q. It did not occur to me at the time, but Matthew’s “son of the carpenter” is sort of a step back from his own genealogy in which he states that Joseph begat Jesus. Honestly, it would be more appropriate for Luke to say that Jesus was the son of the carpenter and leave Joseph unnamed, since it was only “supposed” that Joseph was the father of Jesus.

The point of this, however is significant, and perhaps a crucial piece of the puzzle of Luke’s relation to Matthew. Was the relation only incidental, passing through Q? Or was it more than that, a relationship of direct affiliation? Here again, the contrast between Luke’s treatment and what came before him seems so disconnected that at least the suspicion of intent has to creep in here. Could he honestly have been so related to, and yet so distinct from the other evangelists that he did not plan this relationship of distinction very deliberately? And again, we have to look at this inside of, or as part of, the general trend. He’s done this before with the birth narrative. Echoing parts of Matthew without actually repeating Matthew. Draw your own conclusions, of course. My complaint is that these are aspects of the relationship between the two evangelists that are never discussed. Q is assumed, it’s stated, and it’s never really questioned. And the Q proponents have been so successful in establishing belief in Q that they have managed to force the anti-Q people to fight the battle on the Q people’s terms by insisting on an editorially consistent explanation for every time Luke differs from Matthew in the treatment of the alleged Q material. That is, they are rather forcing the Q opponents to prove that Q did not exist. That is truly masterful.

21 Coepit autem dicere ad illos: “ Hodie impleta est haec Scriptura in auribus vestris ”.

22 Et omnes testimonium illi dabant et mirabantur in verbis gratiae, quae procedebant de ore ipsius, et dicebant: “ Nonne hic filius est Ioseph? ”.

23 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Πάντως ἐρεῖτέ μοι τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην: Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν: ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν γενόμενα εἰς τὴν Καφαρναοὺμ ποίησον καὶ ὧδε ἐν τῇ πατρίδι σου.

24 εἶπεν δέ, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς προφήτης δεκτός ἐστιν ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ.

25 ἐπ’ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἠλίου ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ, ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ, ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν,

26 καὶ πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἠλίας εἰ μὴ εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα χήραν.

27 καὶ πολλοὶ λεπροὶ ἦσαν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ ἐπὶ Ἐλισαίου τοῦ προφήτου, καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν ἐκαθαρίσθη εἰ μὴ Ναιμὰν ὁ Σύρος.

And he said towards them, “Surely you will say to me this parable, “Physician, heal thyself. How much we hear being to Caphernaum you have done, and this much in your home town. (What you have done in Caphernaum, also do here in your home town). (24)  “Amen I say to you, that no prophet is accepted in his own home town. (25) In truth I say to you, that many widows there were in the days of Elijah in Israel, when the sky was closed up for three years (“closed up” = “no rain“) and six months, so that there became a great famine in the whole land, (26) and towards no one was sent Elijah if not of the Sarepta of Sidon, to the widow woman. (27) And many lepers there were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and no one of them was cleansed if not Naiman the Syrian”.

First, let’s note that Luke is acknowledging the connexion of Jesus to Caphernaum. Mark simply says that Jesus and Peter, James, and John went to Capheranaum; Matthew explicitly says Jesus relocated there. If you’ll recall, when reading Mark I argued that Jesus was actually from Caphernaum and not from Nazareth. It is Matthew, with his quote that “He will be called a Nazarene” that identifies Nazareth as the the town where Jesus grew up. Then, to square with Mark, he has Jesus move to Caphernaum. Here, however, Luke seems to be correcting the compromise forged by Matthew which, in effect, gave Jesus two separate “home towns”, as it were. So here again, it is at least plausible that Luke is directing this at Matthew, without explicitly saying so. Because recall Luke’s statement that he verified the traditions in order to provide an accurate account, because many have undertaken to tell the tale. Now, it is not necessary to include Matthew in that “many”, but…really? And this certainly seems to be another of those situations that seem to indicate that Luke was certainly aware of Matthew, as in the case of “son of Joseph” above.

As for why the record needed to be corrected, Luke likely believed it was difficult to say that he was “Jesus of Nazareth” if he lived in Caphernaum. By the time Luke wrote, the “Jesus of Nazareth” had become lodged in the tradition, and he intended to cement it there. Recall: Mark mentioned Nazareth once, Matthew three times, and Paul, never. Matthew likely is the one who situated Jesus in Nazareth to begin with, but then he waffled by moving him to Caphernaum. Luke, OTOH, mentions Nazareth early and often, and with the aim of clarifying the situation once for all. So, yes, I’d say this indicates he was fully aware of Matthew.

As for the actual bulk of the passage, the meaning is probably clear enough. A prophet is not respected in his home town/land; but note that we are given examples of when the prophet chose to do good to someone aside from one of his fellow citizens. Rather than go to an Israelite widow, Elijah* goes to a widow in the territory of Sidon. Rather than cure an Israelite leper, Elisha* cures Naiman the Syrian. The beauty of this is that Luke does double duty with these examples. Not only does he show the prophet dishonored, but he shows how, even in the days of Elijah, non-Jews were shown the benefits of God. If it were true even back then, why not even more so at the time Luke wrote. Luke is supposed to be Gentile-friendly; I guess this would be an example.

* I have no idea what the historical orthodoxy on this is, but the Elijah/Elisha seems like such an obvious example of twinning that it should be simply accepted at this point. Of course, if you believe in the literal meaning of the Bible, this sort of confusion is impossible. But in the realm of historical research, such an identity of the two would at the very least be a point of discussion.

23 Et ait illis: “ Utique dicetis mihi hanc similitudinem: “Medice, cura teipsum; quanta audivimus facta in Capharnaum, fac et hic in patria tua” ”.

24 Ait autem: “ Amen dico vobis: Nemo propheta acceptus est in patria sua.

25 In veritate autem dico vobis: Multae viduae erant in diebus Eliae in Israel, quando clausum est caelum annis tribus et mensibus sex, cum facta est fames magna in omni terra;

26 et ad nullam illarum missus est Elias nisi in Sarepta Sidoniae ad mulierem viduam.

27 Et multi leprosi erant in Israel sub Eliseo propheta; et nemo eorum mundatus est nisi Naaman Syrus ”.

28 καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες θυμοῦ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἀκούοντες ταῦτα,

29 καὶ ἀναστάντες ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς πόλεως, καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν ἕως ὀφρύος τοῦ ὄρους ἐφ’ οὗ ἡ πόλις ᾠκοδόμητο αὐτῶν, ὥστε κατακρημνίσαι αὐτόν:

30 αὐτὸς δὲ διελθὼν διὰ μέσου αὐτῶν ἐπορεύετο.

And all were filled with the breath of life/anger in the synagogue hearing these things, and standing up they threw him from the town, and led him to the edge of the hill (cliff) on which the city of them was built, so that to throw him down.  (30) But he going through the middle of them went away.

The word << θυμος >> (“thumos”) presents an interesting lesson in the difference between pagan Greek and so-called “NT Greek”. In the Great Scott, the Middle Liddell, and one of my NT Greek lexica, following their lead give the primary definition of this word as “breath of life”, or something such. The definition of “anger” does not show up until definition #4 in part B. This latter derives from “thumos” as the “seat of the emotions”, which is another usage of the term in Classical and Homeric Greek. Two other NT lexica give “anger” as the primary definition. Now, this is not a case of the word starting off being used for one thing and then gradually coming to mean something else, the way “entrepreneur” started off as “undertaker” and now means something rather different. Rather, “thumos” is used both as “breath of life” and as “anger” in The Iliad. Rather, it’s a case where NT authors use it (apparently) in the latter sense, so that is the only sense in which the NT lexica translate the word. Now, in one sense, this is fine; presumably one is consulting an NT lexicon because one is reading the NT. In this way the translator gets the way the word is used in the limited number of passages where it occurs: Luke/Acts, Paul, and Revelations. The problem is that the translator does not get the full range of the word; that has been done for the reader by previous generations of NT scholars who have come to agree on what the word means. This is how “baptize” has come to have one specific meaning. And there have been a few places in which I have not agreed with the “consensus” translation. Unfortunately, I can no longer recall any of these passages, but I do know I coined the term “consensus translation” already when we were reading 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. For the record, the context of this passage pretty clearly indicates that “anger” is the proper way to render the word, but I dislike–very much–the way it’s handled by NT lexica. There is no such thing as NT Greek.

As for the meaning of the passage, Luke here exaggerates the reaction Jesus got in some of the other stories of the other evangelists. Jesus caused consternation, and even outrage, but never (?) this degree of anger. They want to throw him from the cliff! IIRC, James the Just was executed in this manner in Jerusalem. I’m not saying Luke was aware of this and repeated the tradition. I’ve been told by priests for years now that this was a fairly common manner of execution; I suppose that Josephus could be regarded as having verified this fact.

The first really interesting aspect is the implication that “the Jews” wanted to kill him this early in his career, right from the outset. The other side of that is that the would-be executioners were not the powers-that-be, they were not the Temple officials or even the Pharisees or Scribes; they  were simply those present in the synagogue that day. If this story is conceived of as having happened on Sabbath, we would imagine that most of the men in the town would have been there. But it was the townspeople, those that had watched Jesus grow up now decided that what he had said was so heinous that he deserved to die. Wow. That is one tough crowd. Of course, it’s all academic since the event never occurred; the issue is rather what Luke was trying to convey through the episode. I suppose this would be to demonstrate that Jesus was upsetting people directly at the start. That’s obvious; the question is why Luke wanted to get across this anger at Jesus so soon? To justify the crucifixion, I suppose. Which leads us to ask whether we think 2M were insufficiently clear about this? And this leads to the question of how much difference there was between the first two evangelists; was one, or both of them insufficiently convincing? Then, of course, we have to ask if we can tell whether Luke knew about Matthew’s case for the crucifixion. This extremity of this episode may make more sense if Luke had not been aware of Matthew’s case.

Having checked, 2M approach this issue in similar ways. The animosity towards Jesus starts as muttering and grumbling from onlookers, usually because Jesus has transgressed some standard practice of Judaism. Here, there is no warm-up or warning: just straight to homicidal rage. Luke was obviously trying to make a point, but, what, exactly? 

The last thing is that I wonder if they could they kill him like that. Was it legal? So much is made in the Passion story about how the Jews have to beg the Romans to kill Jesus because they don’t have the authority. But then again, they executed James the Just–assuming that we can accept the testimony of Josephus as we have it, that this episode was not the interpolation of a later Christian copyist. And also, this was occurring in a provincial town out in the boondocks where there was no Roman presence to speak of. So, if it happened, who was going to complain? It’s not like the Romans were even going to notice.

The final last point is Verse 30: and passing through the midst of them he left. What Luke is describing is a supernatural event. It’s similar to the way he passed through solid walls and locked doors after the Resurrection in John’s telling of that sequence of events. Like the verse before it, one has to wonder what Luke’s point of this was. Presumably, he’s providing evidence that Jesus was a divine being, but to a level of divinity that is unprecedented. In the other gospels Jesus performs miracles and walks on water, but there is nothing like this. In fact, this could easily be read as borderline Docetism: that Jesus did not actually have a corporeal body. This, of course, is dualist theology of the sort that many sects would espouse. Many–but not all–Gnostics were also dualists, but there is no necessary connexion between the two. Most dualists were not Gnostics. The Cathars of the 13th Century were the last great dualist sect; the belief sort of died away after they were exterminated by Innocent III and the king of France.

I suppose the lesson to be drawn from these two verses is that Luke wants us to know, right up front, that Jesus was on the wrong side of Jewish public opinion and that he was truly divine, almost to the point of being non-corporeal. Or, at least, he was capable of becoming non-corporeal when the situation called for it. 

28 Et repleti sunt omnes in synagoga ira haec audientes;

29 et surrexerunt et eiecerunt illum extra civitatem et duxerunt illum usque ad supercilium montis, supra quem civitas illorum erat aedificata, ut praecipitarent eum.

30 Ipse autem transiens per medium illorum ibat.

Luke Chapter 4:14-20

We move onward into Chapter 4. Jesus has just been tempted by the slanderer, but he is still moved by the spirit just as he was when he went into the desert at the beginning of the last section. There is a longish quote from Isaiah that was not found in Matthew, and certainly not in Mark. In all, much of the material here is new and unique to Luke. This section started out to be longer, but the commentary ran on more than anticipated, so it seemed best to cut it into two parts.


14 Καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῇ δυνάμει τοῦ πνεύματος εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. καὶ φήμη ἐξῆλθεν καθ’ ὅλης τῆς περι χώρου περὶ αὐτοῦ.

15 καὶ αὐτὸς ἐδίδασκεν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν, δοξαζόμενος ὑπὸ πάντων.

16 Καὶ ἦλθεν εἰς Ναζαρά, οὗ ἦν τεθραμμένος, καὶ εἰσῆλθεν κατὰ τὸ εἰωθὸς αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῶν σαββάτων εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν, καὶ ἀνέστη ἀναγνῶναι.

And Jesus turned back in the power of the spirit to Galilee. And the news of him went out to all the surrounding country around him. (15) And he taught in the synagogues of them [ i.e., those in the surrounding country ], being extolled by all. (16) And he came to Nazareth, where he was reared, and he went in according to the custom to him (dative of possession) and in the day of the Sabbaths (he went) into the synagogue, and stood read.

This emphasis on the power of the spirit, or being filled by the spirit is unique to Luke. When we came across it previously, Jesus was at the end of his forty days, and he was full of the spirit. I didn’t mention it because I was under the (obviously mistaken) impression that Matthew had said something similar. He did not. The point of this is that, after fasting alone in the wilderness for forty days, Jesus was feeling very close to God who had breathed into him, and this breath was a potent bit of inspiration (pun intended). It was so potent that Luke reminds us of this state of mind of Jesus a second time. 

Aside from that, we get a several of echoes from Mark that passed through Matthew as well in here. The first is Jesus teaching in the synagogues of Galilee; the second is the way his fame spread about into the surrounding countryside, and the third is the amazement of those hearing him. Luke is a bit more circumspect than Mark was, for whom the astonishment of the audience was a point made frequently, and those hearing Jesus were astonished, rather than simply extolling his virtues as Luke says.

What we don’t get in here is Jesus moving to Caphernaum, which is present in both Mark and Matthew. Rather, he returns to Nazareth. Mark mentions Nazareth exactly once, in 1:9, when he is introduced. Matthew mentions it three times; once when they leave Bethlehem to return to Nazareth, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he leaves Nazareth for Caphernaum, and a final time later, when Jesus is said to be from Nazareth. Luke mentions Nazareth five times. I suggested that the incidence in Mark could easily be an interpolation; either way, here is a great example of how an idea becomes fixed in a legend, and the role of that idea grows with time. For Mark, it was worth a brief mention and no more, even though in Chapters 3 and 6 he has Jesus surrounded by his family, and returning to his (unnamed) home town. Matthew acknowledges Nazareth, but gets Jesus out of there ASAP. Luke culminates by taking the theme and running with it. John doesn’t really count, since he’s not writing a narrative of Jesus’ life the way the synoptics do. Mark, IMO, really didn’t know where Jesus was from, or perhaps he didn’t much care. The circumstances of Chapters 3 & 6 really don’t fit together all that well, and it’s highly possible that he got the two stories from two different sources. By Luke’s time, Nazareth has become indelibly fixed in the record, so he brings it up early and often.

Caphernaum comes up a few times in Luke, but Jesus does not move there. It’s worth noting that these sorts of dissonances between Luke do have some significance in the argument about Q. Luke obviously knew Mark’s take on Caphernaum, but chose not to follow it. That Luke chose not to follow Mark makes it less odd when Luke disagrees with Matthew. Luke can disagree with Matthew without this being used as evidence that Luke must–MUST! I tell you–have been unaware of Matthew. Because if Luke knew Matthew, well of course he would have followed Matthew to the letter. Which he pretty much did in the story of the Temptation of Jesus that we just read.

14 Et regressus est Iesus in virtute Spiritus in Galilaeam. Et fama exiit per universam regionem de illo.

15 Et ipse docebat in synagogis eorum et magnificabatur ab omnibus.

16 Et venit Nazareth, ubi erat nutritus, et intravit secundum consuetudinem suam die sabbati in synagogam et surrexit legere.

17 καὶ ἐπεδόθη αὐτῷ βιβλίον τοῦ προφήτου Ἠσαΐου, καὶ ἀνα πτύξας τὸ βιβλίον εὗρεν τὸν τόπον οὗ ἦν γεγραμμένον,

18 Πνεῦμα κυρίου ἐπ’ ἐμέ, οὗ εἵνεκεν ἔχρισέν με εὐαγγελίσασθαι πτωχοῖς, ἀπέσταλκέν με κηρύξαι αἰχμαλώτοις ἄφεσιν καὶ τυφλοῖς ἀνάβλεψιν, ἀποστεῖλαι τεθραυσμένους ἐν ἀφέσει,

19 κηρύξαι ἐνιαυτὸν κυρίου δεκτόν.

20 καὶ πτύξας τὸ βιβλίον ἀποδοὺς τῷ ὑπηρέτῃ ἐκάθισεν: καὶ πάντων οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦσαν ἀτενίζοντες αὐτῷ.

And he was given the book of the prophet Isaiah, and opening the book he found the place where it was written, (18) “The sacred breath is on me, on account of which (it) anointed me to preach to the poor, (and) sent me to announce deliverance to the captive, and to (give to) the blind, sight, to send those having been broken in deliverance, (19) to announce the accepted year of the lord”. (20) And closing the book and giving it back to the official he sat. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were gazing earnestly at him. 

The one thing that most jumped out at me is the bit about all eyes being upon Jesus. Why? Was there something so remarkable about this passage? Or did those in the synagogue generally look expectantly upon whomever had just finished reading? This would seem to be what we would expect; you read, people then want to hear what you have to say about the passage. It would be helpful to have an idea of standard practice in the synagogues; was it normal for people to read and then interpret? Or was this act reserved for a few–for those who could read? Are they watching him so closely because he is not one of the usual readers? I simply don’t know. Something like that would be a reasonable inference based on what Luke says here, but do we have any reason to believe that Luke had any clue about standard practice in Galilee fifty, or closer to sixty, years prior to his own time?

Personally, I don’t see any reason to suppose that he did. Which helps explain the “all eyes on him”: it’s simply a dramatic ploy. This, I think, is important because it indicates the degree to which Luke is willing to go in order to make his point, that he’s willing to cut loose even more from the moorings of history and float into the world of legend and myth. As such, there is much less to tether him to the previous gospels, which is why he makes up so many of his own stories. To argue, or even to suggest that the Prodigal Son came from a source dating back to Jesus that had been unknown to both Matthew and Mark is borderline ludicrous; Luke crafted this parable, and pretty much all the others that are unique to his gospel. Yes, it’s possible that there are bits here and there that somehow passed through to Luke without intermediate stops in Matthew or Mark, but these would be just that: bits. So if Luke is creating his own version of the legend, why should we expect him to stick close to Matthew?

BTW. I seriously doubt that we know much, if anything, about standard practice in the synagogues of Galilee ca 30 CE. What do we have for sources on this? For all I know there could be a trove of sources describing what went on in synagogues at the time when the Second Temple was still standing. But I doubt it. These sorts of homey, quotidian details of everyday life are usually exactly what we don’t know about life in the ancient world. They were ordinary; why record them? Now, this is where things like Apuleius are invaluable: they do record these sorts of details in the same way that Tolstoy preserves the details of life in Russia of 1812 that he’d heard from his father. Are there comparable sources of Jewish life? I don’t know, but I don’t thinks so. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

Then we come to the issue of the quote itself. Matthew has a very similar passage that is also ascribed as a citation of Isaiah (61:1-2 & c) even though it’s probably more correct to call Matthew’s version a paraphrase. After all, here Jesus is reading directly from the text, so we should expect a higher level of faithfulness; in Matthew, however, Jesus is using the quote off-the-cuff, so paraphrase is to be expected to some degree. Regardless of the differences in wording, Jesus’ use of this passage is included in the reconstructed Q. A quick check indicates that Luke’s quote is much closer to the original, as found in the LXX; I cannot vouch for the original Hebrew. This fits with the idea that Luke is the “more primitive” version of Q, the idea that Luke, writing later, changed the verbiage of Q much less than Matthew did. However, in the critical edition of Q, it is Matthew’s version that is included as the consensus of the original  text of Q. Here, once again, is the redefining the contents of Q to fit the circumstances required. In Matthew’s version, this passage comes when disciples of the imprisoned Baptist come, at John’s behest, to Jesus to ask him if he is The One, or if they should expect another. To answer, Jesus recites the paraphrase. So the circumstances are entirely different. This is not seen as a problem for, since it records only what Jesus said, except when it doesn’t as in the case of the Temptations. Why the discrepancy?

Of course for the Q position, there is no real difficulty. Each evangelist read what was in Q and each chose to couch it in his own particular context. But then you have to explain why Luke chose to go back and insert the original text of Isaiah. To the best of my knowledge (which is extremely limited, I admit), the Q people never do this. Rather, they insist that non-Q people explain every time Luke varies from Matthew, because if we are to argue that Luke read Matthew, then why did Luke change Matthew’s “masterful” arrangement of the Q material. I find this position rather tendentious, to put it mildly. Regardless, the question is legitimate; why did Luke feel the need to go back to the original?

My suggestion is that this is another time that Luke, fully aware of the text of Matthew, decided he needed to amplify, or underscore Matthew more effectively. In Matthew’s use, the attribution to Isaiah is not at all obvious. Someone without a background in HS (like me) would perhaps sense that it’s a quote, or a textual reference, without really knowing what that reference is specifically, in the way that western “cultural” Christians get the analogy of the Prodigal Son while being mostly unaware of the actual story. Luke felt the need to fix this by making the quotation both literal and obvious. This is especially noticeable since Matthew is the one who dug up so many HS citations, like the explanation of Jesus’ move to Caphernaum (Mt 1:13-20). Matthew cited that whole; why not have Jesus do the same? And I mean that as a question: why not? Were the reasons theological? Or artistic? The latter because it would have been stilted for Jesus to start expounding Scripture off-the-cuff, making him seem like a know-it-all? Or the former, for…some reason? It would be incumbent on the Q people to 1) explain why the less primitive version appears in the text of Q; or 2) why Matthew chose to deviate from the Q text by paraphrasing instead of quoting the whole text. As far as I can tell, they do neither; instead, they insist that the Q skeptics prove that Q did not exist.

As for the quote itself, it’s hugely important. This is, in effect, Jesus declaration of his identity But, since we haven’t heard that declaration, we’ll save that for the next section.

17 Et tradi tus est illi liber prophetae Isaiae; et ut revolvit librum, invenit locum, ubi scriptum erat:

18 “ Spiritus Domini super me; / propter quod unxit me / evangelizare pauperibus, / misit me praedicare captivis remissionem

et caecis visum, / dimittere confractos in remissione,

19 praedicare annum Domini acceptum”.

20 Et cum plicuisset librum, reddidit ministro et sedit; et omnium in synagoga oculi erant intendentes in eum.


Luke Chapter 4:1-13

Here starts Chapter 4. It begins with the story of Jesus’ temptation by the slanderer. It occurs to me that “diabolos” is another of those words to which we have assigned a very specific meaning. Worse, in this case, the meaning we assign to it was simply not part of the original meaning of the word. Nor is it a terribly common word in the NT; Matthew uses it six times, and four of them are in his version of this story in Chapter 4. Luke uses it eight times; five are here, there is another instance in Chapter 8, and it’s used twice in Acts. Mark does not use the word at all. In his brief account, it’s ‘satanos’, which usually gets capitalized by modern translations. “Satanos” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for “adversary”, which Mark uses close to a dozen times. What we are seeing with Matthew and Luke is the laying of the foundation for the concept of the Devil with which we are all familiar, but it’s important to realize that the concept was still in the early stages of its development. In fact, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that there is no word for “devil” in Greek at the time the NT was written. Matthew and Luke did much to coin the term in Greek, which was transliterated directly into Latin, becoming the root of diablo, diable,  Teuffel and other words in other European languages.

1 Ἰησοῦς δὲ πλήρης πνεύματος ἁγίου ὑπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ ἤγετο ἐν τῷ πνεύματι ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ

2 ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου. καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, καὶ συντελεσθεισῶν αὐτῶν ἐπείνασεν.

Jesus, full of the sacred breath, turned away from the Jordan, and he was led in the spirit into the desert for forty days being tempted by the slanderer. And he did not eat anything in those days, and at the conclusion of them he was hungry.

I think one point to begin is to make sure we’re putting this episode into context. This occurs immediately after the baptism, when the sacred breath descended from the sky and took on bodily form and, apparently, filled Jesus. Now, each evangelist has a slightly different take on the impetus used to get Jesus into the wilderness. Mark says the spirit “threw out” (ekballei) Jesus; it’s an active verb, and Jesus is the direct object of the throwing. Matthew is having none of that; rather, Jesus was led (anagō) by the spirit. The verb is passive; Jesus is the subject and the spirit is in the dative even though it’s the actual agent. That’s how the passive works. Here, once again, the subject Jesus was led (agō) by the spirit, that is grammatically in the dative. Note that Matthew and Luke agree grammatically, and even use the same verb, agō, even though Matthew adds a prefix to make it an-agō. So, what we have here is Matthew and Luke agreeing against Mark, even though that never happens.

But there is more, to be discussed shortly.

1 Iesus autem plenus Spiritu Sancto regressus est ab Iordane et agebatur in Spiritu in deserto

2 diebus quadraginta et tentabatur a Diabolo. Et nihil manducavit in diebus illis et, consummatis illis, esuriit.

3 Εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ ἵνα γένηται ἄρτος.

4 καὶ ἀπεκρίθη πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Γέγραπται ὅτι Οὐκ ἐπ’ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος.

Said to him the slanderer, “If you are the son of God, tell to the stone in order that it becomes bread”. (4) And answered towards him Jesus, “It is written that ‘not upon bread alone will live man’.” 

OK, unlike the first two verses, this is not in Mark. If you’ll recall, Mark has the barest outline of events, completely lacking in details; the conversation between Jesus and the slanderer is solely found in Matthew and Luke. So, once again, we have Matthew and Luke agreeing against Mark. Except we don’t. The solution to this situation as well as the apparent agreement of verb (agō) and voice (passive) is that this whole section is found in Q! How clever! Now, it may be clever, but it’s not entirely simple. Recall that Q was, supposedly, a collection of the sayings of Jesus. Except when it also includes stuff said by John. Or now, when it includes things said by the Devil, too, both in this verse and subsequent ones. And, if we are to be logically consistent, then we have to believe that Q had just what Jesus and the devil said, but not the narrative setting the scene; that narrative, after all, is found in Mark. So we have disembodied dialogue. And, behold! if you check the critical version of Q at this site:      (then proceed to this link:)

If you check the critical version of Q, that is exactly what you find. The devil’s temptation and Jesus’ retort. And then we get the other two exchanges between the two. However, does anyone else find this a bit…peculiar? Disembodied speech lacking in setting? Or are we supposed to flip back and forth between Mark and Q to get the scene and the speech. Oh wait, Mark doesn’t have any of these three scenarios, just that he went into the desert for forty days, he fasted, was hungry, was tempted, and the angels waited on him. So, IOW, Q has nowhere to hang these exchanges. The peculiarity of this will be even more apparent when we get to the next temptations, in which the physical setting is even more important. 

So, realizing this peculiarity, Burton Mack’s translation of Q includes not only stuff the devil says, but also how the physical action that occurred here, and the additional action that will occur in the next little bit.

Link at Early Christian Writings as above, then here:

So, Q has the sayings of Jesus. Except when it has stuff John said. Or stuff the Devil said. Or stuff that Jesus and the Devil did, apart from their vocal exchanges. This is what I meant about how the content Q changes with the problem to be solved. This is borderline intellectual dishonesty, except I believe that the Q people believe what they say, and that they simply do not see any contradictions or inconsistencies in what they say. Part–most–of the problem is that the Q people, and most NT scholars & academics have their backgrounds in scripture–or perhaps more accurately, Scripture. Articles of faith are not foreign to their worldview. 

Yes, the very close similarities between the words used here and in Matthew could be well-explained by the existence of Q. And certain dissimilarities in treatment could be easily explained by the existence of Q. But aside from some inferential suggestions, there is no evidence that Q existed, and most of the similarities can be explained by Luke having read Matthew, and the differences can be explained by Luke not copying Matthew directly.  

And,  more or less FYI, the quote Jesus cites is from Deuteronomy. Matthew was big on digging out quotes from HS to show their relevance to Jesus and his mission. Hence the creation of the story of the Flight to Egypt so he could work in the quote from Hosea, and the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents just so he could use the quote about the weeping in Rama from Jeremiah. So the question becomes “who first used the quote about bread alone? Jesus or Matthew?” We have no real indication from Paul or Mark that Jesus went about quoting HS; we have evidence in Matthew that he did pull a bunch of quotes from the HS. So which is more likely in this case? The other thing is that Luke here only uses about half the quote, leaving off the part about living off every word issuing from the mouth of God. According to the Q people, this means that Luke, who wrote second, preserves the more “primitive” version of what Q contained. Matthew, who wrote first, elaborated and added the rest of the quote.

In fact, all in all, Luke almost always preserves the more primitive form of Q, the less elaborate; think, “blessed are the poor” (Luke) vs. “blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew). Now, I need to be careful here, because I’m the one who is saying “always”, but the words “always”, “never”, and such always (!) set me en garde. Aside from stuff like gravity, nothing (!) always works a certain way. The Q advocates can always (!) get around my objection by saying Luke usually preserves the more primitive version. Usually, reconstructions of Q are based on Luke’s wording for exactly this reason: it’s supposed that he is more faithful to Q than Matthew was. Now, in the first three chapters, we have seen where Luke added a number of stories not present in either of the other two gospels. Luke, in fact, is very creative; we’ll come across a whole bunch of stories that he (likely) created. And yet, he almost always maintained the more pristine version of Q. Does this strike anyone else as a bit contradictory? 

3 Dixit autem illi Diabolus: “Si Filius Dei es, dic lapidi huic, ut panis fiat”.

4 Et respondit ad illum Iesus: “Scriptum est: ‘Non in pane solo vivet homo’.”

5 Καὶ ἀναγαγὼν αὐτὸν ἔδειξεν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τῆς οἰκουμένης ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου:

6 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷὁ διάβολος, Σοὶ δώσω τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἅπασαν καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν, ὅτι ἐμοὶ παραδέδοται καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν θέλω δίδωμι αὐτήν:

7 σὺ οὖν ἐὰν προσκυνήσῃς ἐνώπιον ἐμοῦ, ἔσται σοῦ πᾶσα.

8 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Γέγραπται, Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.

And (the slanderer) leading him (Jesus) he (adversary) showed to him (Jesus) the kingdoms of the inhabited world, in that point of time. And said to him the slanderer, “To you I will give all this power and glory of these, that to me was given over, and to whom I may wish I give it. (7) And you therefore readily should grovel before me, all will be to you”. (8) And answering Jesus said to him, “It is written, ‘The lord your God you will worship and to him alone you will serve’.”

First, a word on “grovel”. We’ve discussed this before, but bears repeating periodically: the word is “proskynesis”. Literally, it’s “towards a dog-like action”, or something like that. The idea is to assume a ritual submissive posture the way a dog will lie on its back and show its belly to a superior dog. The word came into popularity with the conquests of Alexander. As king of Macedon, he was a first among equals, and the idea of bowing to him, or performing any of the other ritual abasements we associate with royalty was a foreign concept. The Persians, OTOH, following in the footsteps of other West Asian monarchs, like the Babylonians or the Assyrians, insisted that subjects fall flat on their face before the king. The Greeks gave this the name of  “proskynesis”. One of the things that Greeks felt separated them from the Asians–including Persians–was that Greeks did not abase themselves before another person. The Greeks were a free people who did not perform such demeaning acts. This changed when Alexander, who had assumed the Persian throne, started requiring this of his Greek/Macedonian allies, who found the act not only distasteful, but an outrage. For those who argue that Alexander was poisoned, this requirement by Alexander and the reaction of his generals to this requirement was a key reason why they plotted–and succeeded–in killing him off. Of course, the Diadochoi who took the thrones of Egypt and Persia implemented the policy and required it of their subjects. Overall, the “orientalization” (which is not a proper term, either grammatically or culturally) of the Greek, and subsequently the Roman rulers is a large topic. The ultimate end of this was the concept that the Greek king (Seleukos or Ptolemy, e.g.) and then the Roman Emperor was actually a god on earth.

The point is that this word entered religious usage from secular politic; at least in theory. Since the king/emperor was a god on earth, one could easily argue that this is a distinction without a difference.

It’s very interesting to note that the slanderer has been given power over the kingdoms of the earth. This is unique to Luke. Was it not in Q? Was it in Q, and Matthew ignored it? I ask because, if Luke retains the more primitive version of Q, why is it more elaborate here? How does that make sense? How do the Q people explain this aberration? Answer: they don’t. They conveniently overlook this, just as they overlook Luke taking up the virgin birth, Joseph, and that whole complex of themes that I’ve repeated quite frequently.

I’m prone to see this in context of what is to come. “Prince of this World” will become a title for the Devil within a few centuries. Or by the time John wrote his gospel. Just did a quick Google, and John the evangelist calls the devil the ruler of this world. And Paul implies as much in 2 Corinthians. Since we know that Luke was aware of Paul, had he read 2 Corinthians, or the component piece of what has become 2 Corinthians? That’s not out of the question. In the larger context, the idea that the material world is inherently corrupt is latent in Christian thought, just as Plato believed the immaterial world to be the “real” world, of which the world of matter was a lousy copy. This idea that the material world was corrupt to the point of evil became a foundational premise of a lot of dualist religions that held to the sharp difference between material (bad) and immaterial (good). To some extent, these religions could be considered Christian heresies, which is how they were treated by the institutional church; others argue that this sharp distinction actually pushes such dualistic beliefs into the category of another religion; I belong to this later camp. These dualistic beliefs can, and do, overlap with Christianity, but the idea of a creator-god that is not the supreme (or all-good) God takes us out of the realm of Christian belief, orthodox or not. Paul displays an impulse to dualism as he excoriates the ways of the flesh, but he does not take those final steps and leave Christian thought behind. So Luke’s assertion here that the kingdoms of the world belong to the slanderer belong to that school of thought that, time and again, would leave Christianity behind, and become a different belief. The Cathars of southern France in the late 12th & early 13th centuries are perhaps the most famous example.

5 Et sustulit illum et ostendit illi omnia regna orbis terrae in momento temporis;

6 et ait ei Diabolus: “Tibi dabo potestatem hanc universam et gloriam illorum, quia mihi tradita est, et, cui volo, do illam:

7 tu ergo, si adoraveris coram me, erit tua omnis”.

8 Et respondens Iesus dixit illi: “Scriptum est: ‘Dominum Deum tuum adorabis et illi soli servies’.”

9Ἤγαγεν δὲ αὐτὸν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ ἔστησεν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν ἐντεῦθεν κάτω:

10 γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε,

11 καὶ ὅτι Ἐπὶχειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.

12 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Εἴρηται, Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.

13 Καὶ συντελέσας πάντα πειρασμὸν ὁ διάβολος ἀπέστη ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἄχρι καιροῦ.

He (the slanderer) led him (Jesus) to Jerusalem and they stood upon the pinnacle of the temple, and he (the slandered) said to him (Jesus), “If you are the son of God, throw yourself hence below. (10) It is written that ‘to his angels he will command about you to guard you’, (11) and that ‘they will take you in hand lest you ever stumble on a stone your foot’.” (12) And answering said to him Jesus that “Begone. Do not tempt the lord your God.” And the temptations being completed, the slanderer went away from him until a [more opportune] season.

As an insert, I should point out that the Greek very neatly sidesteps the whole antecedent problem. The subject of the verb is unspoken, referring to the slanderer, whereas the object, whether direct or indirect, is spelled out. This very neatly keeps things separated. But then, in Verse 12, the subject is identified as Jesus, and the slanderer is simply referred to as a pronoun. So it works to obviate the need to repeat the slanderer’s name as well.

Notice that this time it’s the slanderer who is quoting scripture. The quotes cited are from Ps 91:11 & 18. This citation is most likely somewhat ironic, showing that the slanderer, too, knows his scripture. It’s moments like this that also helped contribute to later views of the power of The Devil/Satan/Lucifer. If you’ve ever seen The Exorcist, you may recall that the old priest (Max von Sydow, one of my favourite actors) told the younger priest that Satan was the “Prince of Lies”. He knows things, including God’s plans and God’s Scripture. 

One final point. The order of these last two temptations is reversed here from the order of Matthew. There, the climax is Jesus being offered the kingdoms of the earth. I’ve always sort of felt that Matthew’s made more sense, that the temptation of power was more seductive than the idea of proving that angels would catch you if you jumped. Maybe that says more about me than it does about Luke and Matthew. Now, it’s interesting to note that the first three versions of reconstructed Q that are to be found on the Early Christian Writings website all put the temptations in Matthew’s order, with the kingdoms of the world as the climax. And yet we are told, repeatedly, that Luke preserves a more primitive version of Q. But here these versions of Q seem to state the opposite, that Matthew’s is the more accurate version. In and of itself, this is not a particularly big deal, but it’s just another inconsistency in the case for Q. There is a fairly large number of these piling up now. Somehow, they have managed to avoid having to account for them because…because Matthew’s version of the Sermon the Mount was so masterful. 

9 Duxit autem illum in Ierusalem et statuit eum supra pinnam templi et dixit illi: “ Si Filius Dei es, mitte te hinc deorsum.

10 Scriptum est enim:

“Angelis suis mandabit de te,

ut conservent te”

11 et: “In manibus tollent te,

ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum” ”.

12 Et respondens Iesus ait illi: “ Dictum est: “Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum” ”.

13 Et consummata omni tentatione, Diabolus recessit ab illo usque ad tempus.

Summary Matthew Chapter 4

The two main themes of this chapter were the temptation of Jesus and the calling of the first disciples. There is no obvious link between the two; the first really belongs with the previous chapter; or does it serve as a bridge between the baptism and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry? Think about it: Jesus gets baptised, goes off into the desert to fast and pray, resists temptation, and so now is ready to start preaching. There is a progression there. Do the temptations reveal anything about Jesus? I believe the purpose is to demonstrate that he was not interested in power, whether over nature, or political power. Perhaps the question here is why this is in Matthew and not Mark?

Ehrman and Mack and Kloppenborg would all say that it’s because this story was in Q, and so Mark wasn’t aware of it. Great! Problem solved! Now we can knock off for the day and all go out for ice cream. See, this is the trap of looking the gospels as texts; as containing some units but not others, as if there were a specific number of building blocks available for the evangelists to use. Perhaps there was another load of blocks added for Matthew and Luke, blocks not available to Mark. But the sense is that these extra blocks, Q, existed when Mark was writing. In fact, Mack insists that the Q material is the oldest of all the stuff in the NT. He claims it predates even Paul.

But instead of looking at the contents of the gospels–including Q for the sake of argument–as blocks of text as the majority of biblical scholars do, what happens if we look at the ideas contained in the blocks? To be fair, Ehrman does this in How Jesus Became God. Well, he sort of does. By background and training, he’s still a biblicist (?. If there is such a thing). By this I mean that he still doesn’t quite take the step back to see the forest; he’s too busy assembling and/or re-arranging the trees.

The temptations show us that Jesus resisted power. Now ask yourself: was the wonder-worker in the first half of Mark strike you as someone who was interested in power? Especially temporal, political power? Isn’t this something that would be of more interest to the anointed one? In Jewish thought, the Messiah was, above all, a political figure. But, thematically, the idea that Jesus was the Christ really only shows up starting in Chapter 8 of Mark. Eight of the eleven uses of the word “christos” show up between Chapter 8 and Chapter 16. It’s used only three times in Chapters 1-7, and the first is in 1:1, in which we are told that this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ. To my mind, that barely counts.

So what’s my point? That the idea of the Christ was a later addition to the Jesus myth. As such, there is no reason, thematically, to have the wonder-worker make a showy point about refusing power. If Jesus was a Cynic sage, as Mack believes, the last thing he would have been interested in would be political power. As such, the offer would not be tempting. Yes, the story could be designed to show that, but then the temptation story loses much of it’s impact. If someone offered me a bag of wet leaves, I would have no trouble turning it down. Why? Because I really don’t want a bag of wet leaves. The offer doesn’t tempt me in the least. I derive no credit from declining. Now, if someone offered me a $million, that would be tempting. I could certainly use a $million, and a certain amount of benefit would accrue to me by virtue of the money. I would garner some credit for declining that offer.

So if Jesus were a Cynic sage–a true one–the offer of the kingdoms of the world would have no allure. There is the story of Alexander the Great and Diogenes, who was the first Cynic sage (he’s the guy with the lantern looking for the honest man; he’s also the guy depicted on the inside of Led Zeppelin 4; but i think I’ve said that…) Alexander came across Diogenes while the latter was in his bath, and was so impressed that he told Diogenes to ask for anything and Alexander would grant it. The sage’s response was “Stand out of my sun”, because Alexander was blocking the sun where he stood. One could argue that the temptation of Jesus was meant to one-up Diogenes.

Perhaps. But this story of Jesus lacks the wit of the story of Diogenese. That witty retort to power was the point of the story. The story of Jesus is, to my mind, too earnest. The wit is not there. Then there’s the point that it’s the enemy, the slanderer, rather than an earthly king making the offer. That changes the complexion of the story completely. We’re now talking about Infinite Power, not a favour granted by a temporal ruler. It’s such a difference of degree that it becomes, I think, a difference in kind.

What I’m trying to say is that this is temptation at a supernatural, if not cosmic level. As such, this is not the sort of thing a Cynic sage would be mixed up with. Rather, this is a temptation for a divine being, a son of God, however the term is to be understood. As such, I would suspect that it’s the sort of story that would have begun to be told after the Christ cult had become the dominant theme for the followers of Jesus. Mack makes a big deal out of the here-and-now sort of things in Q, the behavioural codes, the attitudes, the Beattitudes. A supernatural temptation on a cosmic scale does not fit into such a milieu. Rather, this story, I think, developed some time later. It most likely developed later than Mark, which is why the story of the temptations is not in Mark. At the least, the story is certainly later than the early part of the Jesus movement.

As such, it was, most likely, not part of Q.

Ehrman’s How Jesus Become God lays out a very  plausible course of development for the deification of Jesus. For Paul, the apotheosis occurred at the Resurrection. Later, it moved backward to the baptism, as we saw in Mark. Finally, for Matthew, it started from before birth. For John, it started from before Time.

So Mark put it at the baptism. He had Jesus fasting and being tempted. But, at that point, the story(ies) of what the temptations involved had not been composed. That came later. My suspicion is that Matthew was the author. That, at least, is my working hypothesis. We’ll return to this as we progress. For now, suffice it to say that it’s no longer just Jesus being tempted, as it was in Mark; rather, it’s Jesus face-to-face with nothing less than the Enemy himself.

That’s the first transition in Chaper 4. The second is the transition to the public ministry. There are again two aspects of this transition. The first is to note how differently Matthew handles the initial miracles–or wonders. He does not make them the centerpiece of Jesus’ debut. Rather, he sort of mentions them in passing, lumping them together, brushing past them in a very minimalist fashion. Tied in with this is the emphasis given to the towns of the Peoples (fka Gentiles, or nations). Syria and the Decapolis are listed along with the more common place names of Judea and Galilee. The audience, I think, has changed significantly between Mark and Matthew. By the time the latter wrote, I suspect that most new members of the Jesus movement were of pagan, rather than Jewish origin. The point here is that the wonder-worker has begun to fade into the background. This, I think, is why the temptation story is here and not in Mark.

The more important piece of this is the kingdom, but there is rather less to say at the moment–but that will change. The question is that we have two sets of brothers leaving their homes and their families to follow Jesus. Is this meant to indicate what the kingdom will require of people if they wish to be included? Reading this, I’m not so sure that the whatever connection there was in Mark between Jesus beginning to preach that the kingdom was at hand and the four brothers leaving home and family has faded–to some degree–for Matthew. This is, to be clear, only a sense that I get, one that is not entirely supported in the text. I think it has to do with the way we get through this section rather quickly in order to get to the Sermon on the Mount. There is sort of an introductory feel to this section, as if it’s here because it has to be here because Mark had it, and it needs to be there for the context. But we will look at the how the idea of the kingdom continues to develop.

And, btw, what about the idea that James the son of Zebedee is the same person as James the (half-)brother of Jesus. Intriguing, no?

Matthew Chapter 4:18-25

This will conclude Chapter 4.

18 Περιπατῶν δὲ παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας εἶδεν δύο ἀδελφούς, Σίμωνα τὸν λεγόμενον Πέτρον καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, βάλλοντας ἀμφίβληστρον εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν: ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς.

19 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου, καὶ ποιήσω ὑμᾶς ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων.

20 οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα ἠ κολούθησαν αὐτῷ.

Walking around the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, the one called Peter, and Andrew his brother, throwing their nets in the water, for they were fishermen. (19) And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people”. (20) And immediately they left behind their nets and they followed him.

Not sure exactly what to say about this. It’s close to verbatim from Mark, right down to the “fishers of people” line.  Given the prominence of Cephas/Peter/Simon in Paul, we know that Peter was one of Jesus’ main followers. In fact, I would suggest that Peter may be the only one of the followers named of whom we can be reasonably confident that existed. 

18 Ambulans autem iuxta mare Galilaeae, vidit duos fratres, Simonem, qui vocatur Petrus, et Andream fratrem eius, mittentes rete in mare; erant enim piscatores.

19 Et ait illis: “ Venite post me, et faciam vos piscatores hominum ”.

20 At illi continuo, relictis retibus, secuti sunt eum.

21 Καὶ προβὰς ἐκεῖθεν εἶδεν ἄλλους δύο ἀδελφούς,Ἰάκωβον τὸν τοῦ Ζεβεδαίου καὶ Ἰωάννην τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ μετὰ Ζεβεδαίου τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν καταρτίζοντας τὰ δίκτυα αὐτῶν: καὶ ἐκάλεσεν αὐτούς.

22 οἱ δὲ εὐθέως ἀφέντες τὸ πλοῖον καὶ τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.

And going further then he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets, and he called them. (22) Immediately leaving the boat and their father they followed him.

As I have said many times before, I have serious doubts about the Twelve. Between Paul and Mark I believe that we can safely and confidently say that the “Twelve Apostles” as those who were closest to Jesus is pretty much a later, mistaken interpretation. Paul was an apostle. Mark says Jesus sent out (apostellein) 72, not twelve. The only reason I cannot completely dismiss the Twelve is that Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. But given their rank in the sequence of appearances, I would guess that this may have been something that James instituted. 

Now, I seriously doubt the existence of Andrew, although there is a certain amount of likelihood of two brothers both choosing to follow Jesus. James (usually referred to as “The Greater”, as opposed to the other James who was a member of the twelve) and John, the “sons of thunder” pose real issues. In the gospels they are key members of Jesus’ inner circle. And yet, aside from probably spurious attributions of gospels and revelations to John, supposedly the one whom Jesus  loved, they are both very shadowy figures at best. They are prominent in the legends, but pretty much missing from the actual historical record. I keep toying with the idea that James the Greater (son of Zebedee and of Thunder) was actually James, brother of Jesus. This would solve a couple of problems. First, it would put the lord’s brother in the centre of the action, giving him a legitimate claim to being the leader of the Jerusalem Community after Jesus’ death. Second, transforming him into the son of Zebedee, rather than the son of Mary, possibly by a husband other than Jesus’ father, it would be a way to downplay the leader of the Jerusalem Community who was shunted aside, and then was executed in 64 according to Josephus. At the same time, the name James would still be retained as a prominent member of the inner circle, a name that probably would have been remembered by a number of Jesus’ followers. By retaining the name, while stressing the different father would help push James aside by covering up his relationship to Jesus. Downplaying this relationship would have helped justify the emergence of Peter as the eventual leader of the community.

In fact, that Jesus and James were half-brothers would, a) hardly be unusual for the time and place; b) explain why Mark called Jesus the son of Mary, rather than the son of…Joseph; and c) wrap up a bunch of loose ends. James could have been both the son of Zebedee and the (half-) brother of Jesus. Also, this would explain why Matthew added (or invented) the name of Joseph: to tell us that Jesus and James were sons of different fathers.

John poses bigger problems. We have nothing solid to attribute to John, and yet the name was revered enough that a later writer would put it to the last gospel and the Book of Revelation (although two persons named John is hardly impossible). Paul doesn’t name him, but James is the only “Pillar” of the Jerusalem Community that he does name. The attributions of the two books of the NT tells me that there actually was a John; unfortunately, that’s about all it tells me.

I did not deal with the actual point of this passage when discussing Mark. I’m not sure I grasped the actual point of the passage. Here we have two sets of brothers leaving occupation and father and family behind. Now, if Jesus had really lived in Caphernaum rather than Nazareth, he may have known Peter, and if James was his half-brother, then Jesus likely knew him as well. As such, this may not have been the swift, sudden decision that is presented here; rather, it may instead have been the culmination of a much longer process. The thing I missed in Mark is the connection of this episode with Jesus’ statement about the approaching kingdom. Now, the concept of “the kingdom” is one of the most important themes in Mark. There are those who will say that this was the key theme of the teaching of the historical Jesus. And there is good reason to think this may be true. This of course, leads to the question of what Jesus meant by “the kingdom”. I do not think we looked at this very closely when we read Mark, largely because I didn’t realize how deep the theme ran. If you break down Mark by theme–which I did–the kingdom is one of the most common motifs, and one of the few that extends from very early in the gospel more or less to the end. That is, it’s an integral part of the Wonder-worker section as well as the Christ section.

The point for this passage is whether the way the two sets of brothers left home and family and occupation behind is supposed to be a hallmark of the kingdom. Was this part of the price to be paid?  Or part of the preparation for the kingdom? Was the kingdom about an overthrow, or a disregarding of standard social norms? Instead of being dutiful sons, the sons of Zebedee leave their father and the family boat to follow Jesus. This was not how a good son was to act in the First Century. They were to stay and help Zebedee to carry on with the fishing. That was their duty. Instead, the literally drop what they’re doing and follow Jesus. This is a pretty sharp departure from standard practice. Is this a harbinger of what the kingdom is to be, or is to require? This needs to be looked at in a lot more depth than we did in Mark.

21 Et procedens inde vidit alios duos fratres, Iacobum Zebedaei et Ioannem fratrem eius, in navi cum Zebedaeo patre eorum reficientes retia sua; et vocavit eos.

22 Illi autem statim, relicta navi et patre suo, secuti sunt eum.

23 Καὶ περιῆγεν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ, διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ θεραπεύων πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν ἐν τῷ λαῷ.

And he went through the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing all the diseases and all the maladies among the people.

23 Et circumibat Iesus totam Galilaeam, docens in synagogis eorum et praedicans evangelium regni et sanans omnem languorem et omnem infirmitatem in populo.

 This is a very broad statement. It’s more of a summary than a description. Perhaps it’s meant as a foreshadow. First, he went through the whole of Galilee. IOW, he was a peripatetic teacher who covered a fair bit of ground. Now, if he had withdrawn to Galilee to avoid being arrested like John, he wasn’t going to fly under the radar of Herod Antipas by circumambulating the entire region. So what are we to think of the whole connection with him going to Galilee because John was arrested? In this instance, was John arrested by someone other than Herod? That these two sets of circumstances seem to be contradictory tells me that at least one of them is wrong. Either a) John wasn’t arrested by Herod; b) Jesus didn’t withdraw to avoid Herod; or c) Jesus didn’t travel about the whole–or at least, a good portion–of Galilee. I suspect that the second is the odd-fact out, the one that doesn’t belong. One simple explanation could have been that, with the master in prison, Jesus returned to his own territory. Or, if John had been arrested by Herod, that Jesus never really left his home territory. This is more or less possible geographically.

Now, neither Mark nor Matthew explicitly stated that this was the reason for Jesus’ action as opposed to something that occurred prior, but the implication is very strong that there was a causal connection. Here, I think, is a great indication that the connection between John and Jesus was overplayed by his followers. The connection between the arrest and the return to Galilee is more or less presented as if Jesus were moving up to take John’s place.

In contrast, it’s interesting to note that the bit about the healings are downplayed to a certain extent. If you’ll recall, the first act in Jesus’ public ministry in Mark was the healing of the man’s withered hand in the synagogue, rather in the face of the Pharisees as happened. Here, Jesus’ healings are mentioned, but not specified. This, I think, is a great example of the continued transition from Wonder-worker to Christ. Mark started with the former and ended with the latter; Matthew, OTOH, picks up where Mark left off. Matthew does not ignore the wonders, but they do not get the attention that they received from Mark.

But think about this in relation to the calling of the brothers. In Mark, you have sequential episodes overturning the “rules”. First, the two brothers leaving their home and family; second, Jesus poking the established religious authorities in the eye by curing the man’s withered hand in the synagogue on a Sabbath. Both could be taken as “signs” of the overturning of the rules heralding the coming kingdom. Matthew, in contrast, leaves out the second of these episodes. Why? Or, more to the point, what does this say about Matthew’s interpretation of the kingdom? Which then raises the question: does this indicate a change in attitude towards the idea of the kingdom? This is a huge question.     

24 καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν: καὶ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ πάντας τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας ποικίλαις νόσοις καὶ βασάνοις συνεχομένους [καὶ] δαιμονιζομένους καὶ σεληνιαζομένους καὶ παραλυτικούς, καὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτούς.

25 καὶ ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Δεκαπόλεως καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου.

And the word (lit = ‘hearing’) of him came to the whole of Syria; and all having illnesses, and various diseases, and constrained by torment (that is, pain), [and] demonaics and lunatics and paralytics came near to him and he healed them. (25) And many crowds followed him, from Galilee, and the Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and from across the Jordan. 

24 Et abiit opinio eius in totam Syriam; et obtulerunt ei omnes male habentes, variis languoribus et tormentis comprehensos, et qui daemonia habebant, et lunaticos et paralyticos, et curavit eos.

25 Et secutae sunt eum turbae multae de Galilaea et Decapoli et Hierosolymis et Iudaea et de trans Iordanem.

OK, Matthew very neatly summarizes Mark here. We have the long list of maladies cured, and the numerous places of origin, and the fact that Jesus was very popular and followed by crowds. This is all an echo of Mark. One thing that’s a bit different is the prominence of Syria, and the inclusion of the Decapolis. These are non-Jewish territories. The non-Jewish world was rather peripheral in Mark’s account, but Syria is the first place Matthew mentions. At one time the theory was that Matthew wrote his gospel for the community of Antioch, which is in Syria. But we go beyond that, here. What this indicates, I think, is that the movement has become largely non-Jewish by the time Matthew wrote. One realization that I’ve come to during this study is the belief that the tipping point when the majority of the followers were pagans came much earlier than I had suspected. I don’t recall seeing any real estimates of when this occurred, but the sort of bland assumption that seems to underlie much of the scholarship is that Jews constituted the majority of Jesus’ followers for a number of decades, probably well into the last decades of the First Century. I don’t think so. I am coming to believe that the turning point came with the destruction of the Temple when the Jewish followers were scattered, if not killed. Matthew, in some ways, seems like the most Jewish of the evangelists, with his assertion that not an iota of the law has been abrogated. But I wonder if he is not displaying the zealousness of a convert, of a pagan who, as a god-fearer, became educated in Jewish law and scripture. This opinion–and that’s all it is–is a bit out there, isn’t something you will see suggested. But, certainly, whether or not Matthew was Jewish from birth, I would daresay that the majority of his community was not. That, I think, is why Syria and the Decapolis are mentioned so prominently here.

Just a quick note about the comment to last section. After this summary of the wonders, and the skipping of Jesus’ showing up of the religious authorities, we go on to the Sermon on the Mount.  What does this say about Matthew’s attitude towards the kingdom? Has it changed from what Mark thought it was, or would be?

Matthew Chapter 4:13-17

The chapter continues. This will be a short section. But those are famous last words.

12 Ἀκούσας δὲ ὅτι Ἰωάννης παρεδόθη ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς τὴνΓαλιλαίαν.

Then having heard that John having been arrested, he left the territory (and went) to Galilee.

The main verb in the sentence, << ἀνεχώρησεν >> carries the sense of exiting whatever territory you happen to be in.

But beyond that, this is more or less a direct copy of Mark on this. If you’ll recall, I admitted that I’ve always been perplexed by this. Now, I’m perplexed that I was perplexed by this. And I believe a commentor explained it all pretty well in relation to the entry for Mark, but it didn’t absorb until now. The logical thing is to assume that Jesus was a follower of John; so if John was arrested, then Jesus had reason to believe he might be arrested, too. That makes a lot of sense–on the surface. First, who arrested John? Was it Herod, as we’re told later? If so, Herod was also tetrarch of Galilee, so leaving for Galilee would not put him out of Herod’s reach. In fact, this move would seem possibly to have quite the opposite effect. One suggestion might be that Jesus was returning to Galilee to take up the mantle of the master, to take John’s place. But was John from Galilee? Don’t think so. And since so many were coming from Jerusalem to be baptised, one gets the impression that John was somewhat in the vicinity. The Jordan River flows into (or out of) the Sea of Galilee, so he could have been at that end of the river. But then, would Jesus have been ‘leaving the territory’, thereby ‘returning’ to Galilee?

This is actually a semi-interesting question. Where was Jesus baptised (assuming, for the sake of argument, that he was).  In the Synoptics, we get the impression that Jesus went to Jerusalem once. In John, we are told that Jesus went there multiple times.  If John were baptising in the vicinity of Jerusalem, then maybe Jesus did go there more than once. 

Or maybe Jesus was never baptised by John. That would solve the problem.

The other question is whether John actually had followers. From the description of him, one does not get that impression; he seems rather like the desert hermit type. But there is the story of John’s disciples coming to see Jesus. Given this, the thing to keep in mind is that the story of Jesus’ baptism is not told to relate an accurate description of the situation at the time; rather, it was a set-piece designed to further the tale of Jesus. I have said that Jesus’ later followers stressed, or even exaggerated the tie between John and Jesus; perhaps this sentence is the best example of this. By giving the impression that Jesus had reason to fear arrest himself, then the reader (listener) is left to understand that Jesus was close to John. And maybe the connection was invented, rather than exaggerated? According to Josephus, John had a very favorable reputation among the residents of Judea; that’s reason to invent it.

Note this: a lot of Christians–and biblical scholars–have suggested that Jesus’ relationship to John shows that Jesus was the follower. This is unthinkable, so we are told that the relationship is downplayed. I don’t buy that. Why mention it if it was so detrimental? No, the later followers of  Jesus saw the connection as beneficial to their story. So Matthew makes the story longer. Yup. That sure downplays the episode.

12 Cum autem audisset quod Ioannes traditus esset, secessit in Galilaeam.

13 καὶ καταλιπὼν τὴν Ναζαρὰ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ τὴν παρα θαλασσίαν ἐν ὁρίοις Ζαβουλὼν καὶ Νεφθαλίμ:

14 ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος,

15 Γῆ Ζαβουλὼν καὶ γῆ Νεφθαλίμ, ὁδὸν θαλάσσης, πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν,

16 ὁ λαὸς ὁ καθήμενος ἐν σκότει φῶς εἶδεν μέγα, καὶ τοῖς καθημένοις ἐν χώρᾳ καὶ σκιᾷ θανάτου φῶς ἀνέτειλεν αὐτοῖς.

And having left Nazareth, coming to Caphernaum along the sea (of Galilee), in the territory of Zabulon and Naphthali, so that the writing from Isaiah the prophet be fulfilled, saying “The land of Zebulon and Naphthali, on the road to the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the nations (= Gentiles), the people having been seated (settled) there in darkness saw the great light, and to those seated in the country and the shadow of death a light rose.

We talked about this to some degree in Mark. I have a very distinct sense that there are a lot of gyrations to get Jesus into Nazareth and Bethlehem, and then to explain why he actually lived in Caphernaum. Given my historical training, I really get the feeling that much of this is after-the-fact rationalizing, intended to “fulfill” the prophecies “about” Jesus. By this I mean that later followers of Jesus kept looking through the Hebrew Scriptures to find rather generic stuff like this, and then moved Jesus about in order to make it all happen; all this despite the fact that everyone knew he was from Caphernaum.  Now, in biblical scholarship, there is the concept of dissimilarity; this means that inconvenient facts are more likely to be true than the stuff that “makes sense”. As I see it, Jesus living in Caphernaum is probably a terrific example of such a fact. It seems so inconvenient that the authors of the NT had to invent reasons why he was from David’s city, or why he was called a Nazarene, or how God called his son out of Egypt. 

Mark called him “Jesus of Nazareth”, but this is the sort of thing that could have been inserted at any time. Mark’s narrative, OTOH, seemed to make the most sense when we had Jesus and his mother and siblings all living in Caphernaum.  Matthew then has to fulfill the prophecies by having Jesus born in Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt, and then having Herod slaughter the innocents, and then move to Nazareth. Being honest, I have no idea how much, or how often people in ancient Judea/Palestine/Galilee moved about; my sense is that it didn’t happen very often. Being relocated was a major trauma for ancient people; in Greek cities, exile was the equivalent of death. One’s extended family was important to one’s social standing, and to one’s support. One didn’t just leave it behind without good reason. I honestly don’t know if I’m overreacting to this, but it just seems odd.

This is a bit of perplexity on my part: “Naphthali across the Jordan”. The thing is, the Jordan runs north and south. That means that “to be across the Jordan”, one would have to be looking from east to west. And remember that Isaiah was supposedly written prior to the fall of Israel. I looked this up in my Atlas of Biblical History and tried to figure out where this would have been written if Naphthali were “across the Jordan”. Didn’t come up with anything obvious. 

<<  Γαλιλαία τῶν ἐθνῶν>> This transliterates as “Galilee ton ethnown”. The last word is the root of  “ethnic”. This is the word that has usually been rendered as “Gentiles”, and I believe I have done so many times without thinking of it too much. In a lot of more recent translations it has become “the nations”. The word probably means something like “linguistic/cultural group”. Bear in mind that there was no necessary correlation between a linguistic/cultural group and their “nation” in the way we think of Italy and Italian being reasonably synonymous. As such, “nation” is horribly anachronistic. As such, “peoples”–especially as meaning “different peoples” or “other peoples” is probably a better way to render the word. I will try to do so in the future.

So, taking this with the bit about being across the Jordan, we get that this region was not part of the ancient (and largely legendary) Kingdom of Israel. Well, the kingdom is legendary mostly in the sense that there was ever a united monarchy that ruled from Jerusalem.

13 Et relicta Nazareth, venit et habitavit in Capharnaum maritimam 

14 in finibus Zabulon et Nephthali, ut impleretur, quod dictum est per Isaiam prophetam dicentem:

15 “ Terra Zabulon et terra Nephthali, / ad viam maris, trans Iordanem, / Galilaea gentium; /

16 populus, qui sedebat in tenebris, / lucem vidit magnam,  et sedentibus in regione et umbra mortis / lux orta est eis ”.

17 Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς κηρύσσειν καὶ λέγειν, Μετανοεῖτε, ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

17 Exinde coepit Iesus praedicare et dicere: “ Paenitentiam agite; appropinquavit enim regnum caelorum ”.

From then Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near”.

OK, the kingdom of heaven again. This was what John was preaching back in 3:2. So, IOW, Jesus is preaching John’s message. In fact, this is John’s message verbatim. What are we to make of this?

In Mark, John does not say that the kingdom has come near. Rather, the first mention of the kingdom is made by Jesus, in the same context as it is placed here: it was what Jesus began preaching after hearing that John had been arrested. Here is perhaps the most flagrant example of how Matthew ties Jesus even more closely to John than Mark did: he has Jesus actually repeat what John said. Sure seems like an attempt to link the two together, rather than to downplay the connection. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but as for the relative popularity of Jesus and John, Josephus’ treatment of John is significantly longer than his treatment of Jesus; especially if one scrapes away the later Christian accretions.

Now we are left with the idea of the kingdom. What does this mean? At this point, we really don’t know. Nor are we ever given a systematic discussion of the topic, or we weren’t given such in Mark. We were told it is like a mustard seed and other such things, but nothing in direct discourse. Why was that? A lot of scholars claim that this was a–or even the–central doctrine of Jesus’ teaching. Then why was he so cryptic about it? Why no speech telling us that the kingdom is the refuge of te broken and the dispossessed? Why didn’t Mark make that clear?

Being the good historian that I am (!), I can think of a couple of possible answers to that question. Or maybe more. The first is that this was an aspect of Jesus’ teaching that Mark wasn’t much interested in. Can’t exactly say why this might have been, but it should be considered. Another is that Mark was very interested, but this was part of the secret teaching that Mark wished to keep secret; a corollorary to this would be the possibility that Mark did not know because the secret knowledge he alludes to was never told to Mark. No doubt other possible explanations could be presented, but I think we get the picture. It’s also possible that Mark explained it very plainly, but I’m a dullard like Peter who just doesn’t get it.

This is good point to mention this because we’re coming up on the Sermon on the Mount in the next chapter. Many scholars sort of hold that this represents the core of Jesus’ teaching. The Q adherents are dead certain that this teaching was part of Q, since it appears in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. I am going to have to deal with this, and I intend to do so shortly, but that will probably be te topic of a special piece.

Yes, this sure was a “short” section.

Matthew Chapter 4:1-11

I could not find a logical place to break in Chapter 3 that didn’t leave one very short post and one much longer post. It appears Chapter 4 will be more amenable. Chapter 5 will take us to the Sermon on the Mount, and that will afford more convenient break points.

1 Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος, πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου.

Then Jesus was led to the desert by the spirit; he was tempted by the enemy.

The Greek term is << diabolos >>, which gets transliterated directly into Latin without any intervening change of form, means something like “slanderer”. And since those who slander us are our enemies, the term has that more general meaning as well. “Enemy” translates into Hebrew as << satan >> (in some form). Our word ‘devil’ derives from the Latin <<diabolos>>, by way of the German <<Teufel>>. Naturally, our word “devil” carries enormous implications, most of which are completely absent from the Greek word Matthew uses. Mark, meanwhile, prefers “satan”, which raises questions about who his audience was, as opposed to Matthew. Given that Matthew read the Hebrew scriptures in the Greek LXX translation, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that Matthew was a Greek-speaker who was likely writing for other Greek speakers. Mark, OTOH, was possibly writing for people who had some knowledge of Hebrew, however minimal that might have been. So which of these had both–or either–the more Jewish background and/or audience?

Tradition had Mark writing in Rome, but Bart Ehrman says that no one takes this seriously any longer. Matthew, from what I recall, was supposedly writing in Antioch, which was a Greek city, named after Antiochos, one of the successors of Alexander. This could explain Matthew’s linguistic heritage without necessarily impugning his Jewish heritage. But–make that BUT–this all assumes that the text we have resembles in any significant way the text as it was originally written. No doubt some of the quirky idiosyncracies of the originals remain, but we don’t know that. In reading Mack and some of the other authors, I am amazed at the level of positivism, the certainty, that I find expressed about the level of knowledge that we have, or that we can infer. These were not the texts of Classical authors; they were the creation  and possession of an underground press that passed them on without the usual quality review program that truly scholarly authors had.

Really, all we can say is that the Satan–or probably satan–of the Hebrew scriptures probably bore little, if any, resemblance to the Devil. Once again, I refer to JB Russell’s magnificent series on the development of the concept of The Devil. These are not simple words that have anything close to a one-to-one correlation to each other. So to see this translated as “the devil” is very misleading, even when put in lower case.

There is one interesting difference between Matthew and Mark. In the latter, the spirit drove Jesus; here, Jesus ws led. The verb is passive, so the sense is much less insistent than it was for Mark. And as before, we have to ask what was meant by the spirit? The spirit that conceived Jesus was holy; the spirit that descended when Jesus was baptized was the spirit of God. This is just the spirit, with no qualification. Are we to assume that all three of these spirits refer to the same thing? That the spirit of God is meant, which automatically means that the spirit doing this is holy? The NASB, ESV, and NIV all capitalize “spirit”; the KJV does not. They pretty much take this as the Third Person of the Trinity; to do so is wildly anachronistic. 

1 Tunc Iesus ductus est in de sertum a Spiritu, ut tentaretur a Diabolo.

2 καὶ νηστεύσας ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα καὶ νύκτας τεσσεράκοντα ὕστερον ἐπείνασεν.

And having fasted for forty days and forty nights, at the end he was hungry.    

No doubt. Given this, how much of what follows was a hallucination? Of course, that’s a ridiculous question given that the story is fictitious. But how would this have been imagined by the audience? They would understand the physical implications of such a rigourous fast; heck, that was the point. One endured such depravations precisely to hallucinate. In cultures the world over, shamans put themselves through things like this to attain exactly this result. Of course, the would not refer to to it as “hallucinating”; in their terms, this would have been described as “coming into contact with the spirit world, or the divine realm, or some such similar term. The idea was to push the body past its limits so that it didn’t get in the way of such contact with the other side of the physical world, whatever that was termed in a given culture.

The forty days and nights probably doesn’t require comment. Think of the forty days and nights of rain, the forty years in the desert…Forty was a significant number. The ancient Hebrews were believers in what we would call numerology, just as most of the cultures of the ancient Near East were. We commented on this for Mark, too: the forty days in the wilderness is a direct reference to the forty years post the exodus. 

2 Et cum ieiunasset quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus, postea esuriit.

3 Καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ πειράζων εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ ἵνα οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι ἄρτοι γένωνται.

4 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Γέγραπται, Οὐκ ἐπ’ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰστόματος θεοῦ.

And the tempter having come, he spoke to him (Jesus), “If you are the son of God, speak so these stones become bread.

(4) Answering, he said “It is written, ‘not by bread along lives man, but by the words having come from the speech of God’.”

First and foremost, the descriptions of the three temptations that follows was not in Mark. It is found here and in Luke. So the standard inference would be that this was in Q, since it’s common to Matthew and Luke and not in Mark. However, I see huge problems with this.

To begin, this “was written” in Deuteronomy 8:3. Now, here I think is a great example of how Mack goes off the tracks. In his book The Lost Gospel (Q), he includes this in the complete version of Q. And yet, this is a direct reference to the Torah. It’s been a while since I read The Lost Gospel, but in Who Wrote The New Testament he is pretty clear that the Q People (his term, honest!) did not really see themselves as Jews. And yet we’re referring to Deuteronomy. Now I could easily just be taking all of this way too literally, trying to force a degree of consistency that is unrealistic on Mack, but it truly does seem to be a problem to me. Given his level of certainty about Q, I don’t believe that I’m being unreasonable.

And the bread referred to is the manna in the wilderness. So this is sort of doubly referential to Hebrew history; or perhaps I should say the epic of Israel. The question becomes, would the audience be familiar with the reference? Or maybe the question would be, does it matter? I’ve been hearing this story since elementary school (which was at least a few years ago…), and I was completely unaware that this was a reference to the Pentateuch. Did I lose something by not knowing? Of course. Was the point completely lost because of this? Absolutely not, When Jesus said “it is written” I pretty well knew it meant the Hebrew scripture someplace. The exact place didn’t matter all that much. So why wouldn’t this be true of Matthew’s audience as well?

This is where it comes back to Q. Coming up with this quote took some doing. It required doing some homework, and then having the literary chops to put the two aspects together. Now Mack does say that the Q People continued to add new sayings that the attributed to Jesus in the best Hellenistic fashion, so the fact that this came later than the original stratum of Q is not a problem per se. The problem comes from how likely it is that the Q People, as he outlines them, would have had such a depth of knowledge about Hebrew scripture. No, it’s not impossible. It fits with Matthew being a “rabbi”, or even a God-fearer, but maybe not so much with a Q Person.

3 Et accedens tentator dixit ei: “ Si Filius Dei es, dic, ut lapides isti panes fiant ”.

4 Qui respondens dixit: “Scriptum est: ‘”Non in pane solo vivet homo, / sed in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore Dei’”.

5 Τότε παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν, καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ,

6 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω: γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε, μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.

7 ἔφη αὐτῷὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πάλιν γέγραπται, Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.

Then the enemy took him him (Jesus) to the holy city, and stood him on the pinnacle of the temple. (6) And he said to him, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written that ‘He commands the angels on your behalf, and they will lift you by their hands so that never you will strike your foot against a stone’.”

This time the quote is from Psalms. Now, I would have to imagine that while Deuteronomy wasn’t exactly well-known outside the Jewish culture, Psalms would be even less so. As such, I believe the likelihood that this was written by Matthew, rather than the Q People, goes up significantly. Really, bear in mind that in Mack’s view, Jesus was a Cynic sage interested in living a counter-cultural lifestyle. Matthew and his community were Jewish. Which of the two groups would be more likely to be familiar with Torah and the Psalms?

Now, even if I could prove that this came from Matthew and not Q–and I cannot come close to doing this–even so, that would not prove that Q did not exist in any form. It would exclude this particular bit, but that would not affect the rest of the Q material.

BTW: “he stood Jesus on…” Think of standing up a chess piece. That’s pretty much the implication.

5 Tunc assumit eum Diabolus in sanctam civitatem et statuit eum supra pinnaculum templi

6 et dicit ei: “ Si Filius Dei es, mitte te deorsum. Scriptum est enim: “Angelis suis mandabit de te, / et in manibus tollent te, / ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum” ”.

7 Ait illi Iesus: “ Rursum scriptum est: “Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum” ”.

8 Πάλιν παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν, καὶ δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν,

9 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι.

10 τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Υπαγε, Σατανᾶ: γέγραπται γάρ, Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.

Again, the enemy stood him (Jesus) on a mountain exceeding high, and showed to him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory. (9) And he said to him (Jesus), “All this I will give to you if falling (on your face) you worship me”. (10) Then Jesus said to him, “Away, Satan! For it is written, ‘The lord your God you shall worship. and to him alone you shall serve’.”

The bit about “falling on your face” is brought out by the combination of the verb, <<to fall>> in conjunction with the idea of “proskynesis”. The latter means, “to worship” or perhaps “to grovel on your belly with your face in the dirt”. As such, it’s a strong word, with all sots of implications of abasement. This was the standard practice for Asia kings up to and including the Persians. The idea was that “the king was so high and mighty, and you were nought but a dog, fit only to lie on your belly and grovel at the king’s feet, the way a dog would”.  Because the term “proskynesis” contains the word for “dog” (“kyne”, which is also the root of “cynic”).

When Alexander had conquered Persia and become the monarch of Assyria and Babylon and all the storied places of Near Eastern history, becoming the successor of all those Asian monarchs who had demanded proskynesis of their subjects, he began to demand that even his generals should perform this act of homage. The free-born Greeks in the army, and especially the generals who had been companions of Alexander’s father, found this incredibly offensive. This opened a major rift in the high command, and has led to speculation that these generals poisoned Alexander because he had become too arrogant to be tolerated. Of course, when these generals became the Pharaohs of Egypt, and the kings of the Near East, their descendants required their subjects to perform this ritual to them. Ah, historical irony.

Here in the closing of this story we see that Matthew switches to “Satan”. Perhaps this was more in line with addressing him, as opposed to speaking about him? 

8 Iterum assumit eum Diabolus in montem excelsum valde et ostendit ei omnia regna mundi et gloriam eorum

9 et dicit illi: “ Haec tibi omnia dabo, si cadens adoraveris me”. 10 Tunc dicit ei Iesus: “Vade, Satanas! Scriptum est enim: ‘Dominum Deum tuum adorabis et illi soli servies’”.

11 Τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελοι προσῆλθον καi διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

11 Tunc reliquit eum Diabolus, et ecce angeli accesserunt et ministrabant ei.

 Then the devil left him, and, lo! angels came and ministered to him. 

The word I rendered as “ministered to” is “diakonos”, which is the root of “deacon”. We’ve run across this before in Mark. In fact, Mark uses the same word in this same place in the story. OTOH, the word is only used a couple of time in the authentic letters of Paul. Luke doesn’t use it here, and I’m sure this is considered evidence that Luke used Q and not Matthew. Perhaps. Or perhaps it indicates that, as an author, Luke decided not to follow his two predecessors, using different words instead. 

What to make of this story? In Mark, I think the whole wilderness theme comes across more directly, unclouded by all the additional rhetoric between Jesus and Satan. But really the addition of the dialogue between Jesus and Satan completely changes the entire sense of the story. In Mark, the tale is simple and direct; here, there are several layers of complexity added. due to the specific and graphic nature of the temptations. Essentially, Satan offers power in various forms: over nature, by turning stones to bread; dominion over nature in a larger sense, over gravity–and death–by throwing himself from the pinnacle of the Temple; finally. political dominion over the kingdoms of the earth.  The first speaks to the immediately physical realm: Jesus was hungry after 40 days of fasting. But one gets the feeling that Satan didn’t expect Jesus to fall for such a grossly physical ploy, so it’s perhaps sort of a warm-up for the others. 

In a way, however, the third temptation is, in a way, just as grossly physical. As the third, we expect that Matthew intended this as the most alluring, and the allure is obvious to most anyone, but especially to anyone who seeks power. And here we have a bit of a play on the idea of Jesus as a king; Satan is offering kingdoms, but once again in the physical realm. This is a foreshadow of what is to come: that Jesus’ kingdom is not one of this earth, and so is unlike what Satan is offering.

IMO, however, the second temptation is the most subtle, and so perhaps the most appealing. The others are blatant and  physical; in the second, Jesus is offered dominion over nature itself. He will fall, but not die, for the angels will come to rescue him. IOW, Satan is tempting Jesus to tip his hand and show us who he is. Satan knows, and Jesus knows, and the reader knows, so it’s pretty much an open secret, but Jesus will not succumb to such a vulgar display of power. And I believe Luke recognized this subtlety as well, because he put it third, as the culmination.

Mack attributes the dialogue to Q, but there is no way in…well, there is no way that this was not composed by Matthew. Mark knew the story in its outline, but we’re expected to believe that there was an alternative story floating around that had all this dialogue of which Mark was not aware? It just seems very unlikely. Mack gets sucked into the internal logic of Q, and fails to ask if this logic is consistent with the workings of the outside world. IMO, the answer is “no”. The story does not require the dialogue, but the dialogue requires the story. So this implies that the story of Jesus’ temptation was older, that it came first and the dialogue was added afterward. Mack more or less acknowledges this, but attributes the dialogue to Q, when the much–very much–simpler explanation is that Matthew wrote it to give the story a level of completeness, and complexity, that the bare-bones narrative in Mark lacks. This is exactly the sort of elaboration that we expect as legends grow. I guess my beef is, why attribute this to some nameless, unidentified, completely unproven source, some Quelle, when we have a perfectly competent author to whom we can ascribe it? Just to be clear: there is no reason why this couldn’t have come from Q. It is perfectly possible that the Q people heard the story of the temptation and then added the dialogue to their manuscripts (none of which have ever been found), and Matthew got hold of one of these mss and incorporated the material. This is eminently possible. But it adds a layer of complexity. And we have to keep in mind that there is no direct evidence indicating that anything like Q ever existed as a document. As such, the less complex, and so more plausible explanation is that Matthew wrote the dialogue.

We will get to Matthew and Luke and Q–two sources or three? Or one?–at some point when we’re not in the middle of textual comment.

The next question is what does it say about the status of belief about Satan? This is, I believe, the only time in the gospels when Satan appears as a character. He is referred to by Mark, we are told that Jesus called Peter “Satan”, but nowhere else does he himself appear to the point where he engages in dialogue. My first sense is that this bit was composed more or less to mimic the opening of Job, where God and Satan have a conversation. As such, I would say that Matthew is a good candidate for having composed the dialogue, steeped in the Hebrew Bible (HB) as he was. Given this, I’m not sure how much this adds to the development of the concept of Satan, as JB Russell calls it. Still, it does contribute to the sense of Satan as an entity, as a power, as something that intervened in the world. More, he was a cosmic power; he could converse with the son of God as an equal. One does wonder if Satan expected that Jesus could be induced to take the bait.

And then there’s the son of God. What does that mean in this context? I’ve started reading Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God. The opening chapter sets the tone by surveying previous Jewish belief about the divide/distinction between human and divine. It’s great, and I highly recommend it. But I need to absorb a little more, so I will probably have more to say about this in the chapter summary.