Category Archives: Chapter 6
Supposedly, this chapter is about Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, which takes up nearly the entire chapter. In actual fact, however, the theme of this chapter is Q. So much of the Q debate is taken up by the sheer brilliance of the Sermon on the Mount, that we are forced to compare Luke’s Sermon on the Plain to that other masterpiece. It has been decreed that this version of the Q material preserves a more primitive version of Q, and that this version is decidedly inferior. Those statements are not to be gainsaid if one wishes to be included in polite company of NT scholars. Well, the problem is that I’m not an NT scholar (or, I suppose, a scholar of any sort, except maybe a wannabe…), so I’ll likely never be invited into polite company, anyway, so I can throw a few bricks, or, with luck, start a food fight. It’s time we talked about the content of the two gospels.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Matthew says they went up the mountain. Luke says they went up the mountain, but came back down, and then he stresses that he began speaking on a plain. Luke does not sort of drift off, leaving it vague; he very specifically says “a level place”. So which is the original? Remember, Luke supposedly preserves the more primitive version of Q, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Oh, right, alternating primitivity. Either way, if this came from Q, Luke had to decide to bring Jesus down from the mountain and stand in a level place. Why does he do this? Why not leave him on the mountain? Or did Luke make the change exactly because Matthew had Jesus on the mountain? Is this the emergence of the puckish humor of Luke? That he’s sort of tweaking Matthew a bit? We mentioned that in the penultimate section, in which Luke launched into a stream of unusual words that are not found in Matthew, and very few other places as far as that goes.
But there’s even a more basic question. The Gospel of Thomas is a sayings gospel. Its discovery was hailed as a vindication of the Q thesis, demonstrating that sayings gospels were, indeed, written. Since it was a sayings gospel, it was immediately declared to be very early, tracing back to Jesus himself (perhaps), and proving that Q could exist, which basically meant Thomas was taken to prove that Q did exist. But Thomas has one striking dissimilarity to Q, as reconstructed. Thomas has no physical descriptions of place or action. Pretty much everything starts with “Jesus said…” And yet, the reconstructed Q is full of all sorts of physical descriptions and settings in place such as the “up/down the mountain”. Thomas does not have stuff from the Baptist. It doesn’t talk about centurions. It is, truly, what we would expect of a “sayings” gospel. Reconstructed Q, on the other hand, simply is not. There is stuff from the Baptist, and physical description. And there is so much of this that those doing the reconstructing were more or less forced to say that it all came from Q. Otherwise, how to explain the overlaps? It’s impossible to do so without either putting this extraneous stuff in Q, or admitting that Luke read Matthew. Since the latter has to be rejected on ideological grounds, the former is the only choice.
The upshot, right from the start, we have a pretty good indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew. He was aware that Matthew’s sermon was on a mountain, so Luke put his on a level place. Why? The Q people say I have to explain every deviation from Matthew in a manner that is supported by a consistent editorial attitude. So I posit mine to be puckish humor. That suggestion comes with a guarantee of originality, that you will not find that in the, ahem, serious literature. And I don’t mean to be flippant or facetious. My suggestion is entirely serious, if only to show the range of interpretation that is possible in these situations. “Deadly serious” is not the only setting for discussion, just because it’s the default setting. I’m going to continue to look for this humourous edge throughout the gospel. Let’s see how that stands up to scrutiny.
So Matthew has the primitive “up the mountain”, but Luke has the primitive version of the first Beatitude. Matthew’s poor are poor in spirit; Luke’s are just poor. This is not a matter of primitive vs developed. It’s a situation in which each evangelist is saying a very different thing. Puckish humor again? Perhaps a bit more wry this time, with a bit of an edge. “Poor in spirit” is all very fine and good, but what about those who are just poor? And not only do they hunger and thirst for justice, they’re just damn hungry. Yes, this is more primitive, if by that you mean the more pointedly addressing fundamental needs. Why do they hunger for justice? Because they’re poor, really poor, and not just “poor in spirit”. Being poor in spirit almost implies that they are not poor in actuality, that we are not discussing physical privation, but sort of a moral discomfort. So yes, it is quite easy to say that Luke is more primitive, but he’s also more righteous.
There is one more aspect of “primitivity” that sorely needs to be addressed. The idea that one version or the other is more primitive completely begs the question. It assumes that there is a total of three versions; one is original, and the other two are derivative. Ergo, one of the derivatives is more primitive than the other. But if there is no third version, to say that Matthew or Luke is more primitive becomes meaningless. In all cases, Matthew is the more “primitive” because it was written most of a generation earlier. So discussing primitivity is meaningless absent Q; discussing primitivity assumes the existence of Q, which is what we’re trying to determine, whether Q existed or not. By shifting the battleground to discussions of primitivity, the Q people have already won the debate since we’re now taking Q as given. This is admittedly deft rhetoric, but it’s also bad logic.
There’s another aspect of Q that never gets discussed. This has to do with the actual content of the sayings. Do they truly seem appropriate to the time in which they were, supposedly, uttered? Or do they make more sense to a later time and place? If the latter, what does that do to the idea of Q? Especially if these anachronisms are repeated in both Matthew and Luke? That really puts a crimp into the supporting pillars of the Q position. I keep coming back to what Q is supposed to be: a collection of sayings that predate Mark and presumably Paul and trace back to Jesus, usually by way of one of his close associates. The list of eligible associates is probably limited to Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee. They perhaps did not write the sayings themselves, but they remembered them and dictated them to a scribe. From this list we can strike Peter, because he was John Mark’s source for the first gospel to be written. According to church tradition, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark, the associate of Paul. Mark went to Rome and became part of Peter’s community, and Peter provided the information for Mark’s gospel. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Mark’s gospel does not include any of the so-called Q material. This means one of several things, the most likely of which is that the entire tradition is a later fabrication. Either John Mark was not Mark the Evangelist, or Peter never went to Rome or whatever, but wherever Mark got his material for the gospel, it likely did not come from an eyewitness to Jesus because the source, or sources, were completely ignorant of most of the really important stuff that Jesus said. This ignorance, in turn, is predicated on the data that Q existed and that it is an accurate record of what Jesus actually said. The result is that there is a gaping hole in the explanation provided; it then becomes a question of figuring out the most likely location of that hole.
This leaves us with a couple of choices: either Mark’s gospel did not derive from an eyewitness account, or Jesus didn’t say the things in Q. There are others, such as that Mark chose not to include Jesus’ teachings; however, that strikes me as a bit unlikely. Why on earth would Mark’s source not tell Mark what Jesus taught, or why would Mark deliberately choose to leave this stuff out of the gospel? I would really like to hear someone try to explain that one.
Another consideration is whether the things Q says Jesus said make sense for Jesus’ time. We touched on this in the commentary, in verses 22 & 23, in which they are blessed who are reviled for Jesus’ sake. These seem to be references to some sort of “persecution” of the followers of Jesus. As pointed out, there is no indication in any of the gospel accounts that Jesus or his followers really suffered any kind of persecution during his lifetime. Yes, we have the account of Paul, but that came later. So we are faced with the situation in which something that Jesus said is likely due to circumstances that only came about after Jesus’ death. And we know that Jesus said this because it’s part of the Q material, and we know that it’s part of the Q material because it’s included in both Matthew and Luke. But if it is unlikely that Jesus said this, that makes the Q hypothesis rather untenable because it, apparently, includes material from after the time of Jesus’ death.
Which leads us to one of the more annoying aspects of the Q hypothesis. In order to cover some of these embarrassing moments, it is posited that Q exists in strata, in layers, that accumulated through time. The implication of this is that some of the material obviously does not trace back to Jesus. This is an eminently convenient suggestion, because it means that Q can include whatever those reconstructing it say it includes. In this way it has all sorts of stuff that a true sayings gospel does not have. We also mentioned this in the commentary: Thomas is a true sayings gospel. Virtually all the passages begin with “Jesus said”. This is how a true sayings gospel should be set up. Much of the hullaballoo about Thomas was that it vindicated the Q theory by being a sayings gospel. Well, Q is not a true sayings gospel. It includes too much extraneous information about John the Baptist, the set-up for the Centurion’s son/servant, the setting of Jesus going up the mountain. All this points to a Q thesis that is not internally consistent, which makes the construction of the entire story suspect.
The point of all this is simple. When the Q debate is taken from the safe environs the Q people have created for it, the conclusions are not nearly so secure. The implication of this is that a legitimate Q debate needs to happen.
There’s no way this section isn’t going to be short. We have a total of four verses. Of course, this is another story allegedly from Q, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount vs Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, so there will likely be some back-and-forth on that. Who knows what will turn up? So, without any further ado, let’s proceed to the
46 Τί δέ με καλεῖτε, Κύριε κύριε, καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε ἃ λέγω;
47 πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με καὶ ἀκούων μου τῶν λόγων καὶ ποιῶν αὐτούς, ὑποδείξω ὑμῖν τίνι ἐστὶν ὅμοιος:
48 ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομοῦντι οἰκίαν ὃς ἔσκαψεν καὶ ἐβάθυνεν καὶ ἔθηκεν θεμέλιον ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν: πλημμύρης δὲ γενομένης προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμὸς τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν σαλεῦσαι αὐτὴν διὰ τὸ καλῶς οἰκοδομῆσθαι αὐτήν.
49 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας καὶ μὴ ποιήσας ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομήσαντι οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν χωρὶς θεμελίου, ἧ προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμός, καὶ εὐθὺς συνέπεσεν, καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ ῥῆγμα τῆς οἰκίας ἐκείνης μέγα.
“And why does someone call me, “Lord, lord,” and not do what I say? (47) All coming towards me and hearing the words of me and doing them, I will show you someone the same as this: (48) he is like unto a person building a home who dug and went deep and placed the foundation upon the rock. There became a flood the river beat that house, and not strong to shake it on account of the beautiful building of it. (49) And the one hearing is not like the man building his house upon the land without a foundation, which the river battered and immediately it collapsed, and it became a great ruin of that house.”
First of all, Luke is really going to town on the unusual vocabulary. About a half-dozen of the words in here occur in Luke and nowhere else in the NT. Recall how a few verses back we got the bit about lending at interest, which Matthew used but once while Luke jammed it in three times in two verses. Here, we had Luke slavishly following the verbiage of, ahem, Matthew–I mean Q–in the story of the good and bad trees, only then to cut loose and let fly with barrage of fairly obscure words, to the point that there is very little overlap of vocabulary between Luke’s version and Matthew’s. What do we make of that? Is it me? Am I the only one who sees a bit of puckish humour in Luke’s approach here? Given the enormous creative ability of Luke as an author–the author of The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, etc–and Luke’s obvious depth of Greek vocabulary, would we not expect him to come up with more stories like this one, in which he does not follow the letter of Q so closely? This proves beyond doubt that he had the capability, so why didn’t he do it more often? I don’t know the answer to that; nor do I fully understand whether the number of times Luke adheres to “Q” (by which I mean Matthew) vs the number of times he doesn’t supports or undercuts my dismissal of Q. No doubt a decent rhetorician could make the case either way. Heck, if I thought about it, I could probably argue it either way.
And again, either the previous example or this one could easily be written off, but do not the two of them together add up to something a bit more? That’s a very difficult question, but it’s one I would like to see discussed in the context of the pro/con arguments for Q. And it’s exactly the sort of thing that we do not see in the literature, and more’s the pity.
46 Quid autem vocatis me: “Domine, Domine”, et non facitis, quae dico?
47 Omnis, qui venit ad me et audit sermones meos et facit eos, ostendam vobis cui similis sit:
48 similis est homini aedificanti domum, qui fodit in altum et posuit fundamentum supra petram; inundatione autem facta, illisum est flumen domui illi et non potuit eam movere; bene enim aedificata erat.
49 Qui autem audivit et non fecit, similis est homini aedificanti domum suam supra terram sine fundamento; in quam illisus est fluvius, et continuo cecidit, et facta est ruina domus illius magna ”.
The last two sections of the chapter will be fairly short, especially since I got all the commentary on Verse 39 out of the way. I think the quick hitters are probably easier to read, especially if something takes me off on a tangent like in the last section. However, the tangents are rather the point; they indicate something of significance. The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the
40 οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον, κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς ἔσται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ.
The student is not over the teacher. All having been prepared will be as his teacher.
I have to confess that I’ve never quite understood this aphorism. Taken either literally, or perhaps to its logical extreme, it means that this is as good as it gets? We can never advance because the teachers we have today will never be surpassed? How does that work? It has me wondering if this isn’t a sideways shot at James the Just, who maybe tried to put on airs as if he were superior to Jesus? I don’t know. I doubt that’s the intent, but it makes very little sense to me. FYI, I resisted the impulse to render this as “All having been mended”; the Greek word is the same one that was used to describe the sons of Zebedee mending their nets when called by Jesus in Matthew. The Latin is “perfectus”, but that means something more on the order of completed, or prepared, than something made perfect as we use the word. Or then, I could just be suffering from hyper-literalness due to reading too much philosophy, where “perfect” has a pretty specific meaning.
40 Non est discipulus super magistrum; perfectus autem omnis erit sicut magister eius.
41 Τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ δοκὸν τὴν ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ ὀφθαλμῷ οὐ κατανοεῖς;
42 πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, Ἀδελφέ, ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου, αὐτὸς τὴν ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ δοκὸν οὐ βλέπων; ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἐκβαλεῖν.
“Who sees the small, dry particle in the eye of his brother, but the bearing-beam in his own eye he does not perceive? (42) How can he say to his brother, ‘Brother, begone, cast away the bearing-beam, the one in your eye’, while he that bearing-beam in his own eye not seeing? Hypocrite, cast away first the bearing-beam from your own eye, and then stare with wide eyes to cast out the bearing-beam in the eye of your brother.
Here again, we have another instance of an unusual word. “Diablepō” means something like “stare with wide open eyes” in Classical Greek, and I’ve rendered it so here. It’s most often given as “see clearly” in this context. Matthew and Luke both use the exact same word in this exact context, and nowhere else. Mark uses it once in a different context, and L&S provide a handful of Classical cites. By this point I don’t need to point out the significance; however, I will say that each one of these diminishes the likelihood of Q. What is the probability that two different authors will choose to use the exact same word on so many occasions? That probability seems to be decreasing. Of course, why would Luke copy Matthew verbatim? That question is unanswerable, and no amount of redactionist explanation (or whatever the “proper” term is) can provide an answer to satisfy everyone. The question comes down to whether two different authors are more likely to choose to follow a common text in a half-dozen (more or less, but we’re also still counting) times, or whether it’s more likely that one author followed another. Each time two choices are involved, the probability is cut at least in half. Luke using Matthew’s words, OTOH, only requires a single choice in each instance. We haven’t gotten into editorial fatigue yet, but to continue to come up with a word different from Matthew each time seems like it could easily induce editorial fatigue. But that’s another question.
41 Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris tui, trabem autem, quae in oculo tuo est, non consideras?
42 Quomodo potes dicere fratri tuo: “Frater, sine eiciam festucam, quae est in oculo tuo”, ipse in oculo tuo trabem non videns? Hypocrita, eice primum trabem de oculo tuo et tunc perspicies, ut educas festucam, quae est in oculo fratris tui.
43 Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν.
44 ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ ἰδίου καρποῦ γινώσκεται: οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἀκανθῶν συλλέγουσιν σῦκα, οὐδὲ ἐκ βάτου σταφυλὴν τρυγῶσιν.
45 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ προφέρει τὸ πονηρόν: ἐκ γὰρ περισσεύματος καρδίας λαλεῖ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.
For a good tree does not make rotten fruit, nor again does a rotten tree make good fruit. (44) For each tree is known from the individual fruit; for from an acanthus spinus they do not collect figs, nor from a bramble do they gather grapes. (45) The good person from the treasure of goodness of the heart brings forth good, and the wicked from their wickedness brings forth wickedness. For from the abundance of their heart speaks his/her tongue.
The question is whether this represents an improvement, a diminution, or something neutral in relation to Matthew’s version of the tale. There is enough verbatim overlap that it’s pretty apparent that both are getting the wording from the same source. Of course, that means we have to decide if they are both getting it from a third source, or if Luke is paraphrasing Matthew. But since Matthew’s handling of the Q material is masterful then the question is settled. Correct? So the Q people will tell you. The interesting thing about Matthew’s version is that there are, essentially, two versions of this extended metaphor set out in “by their fruits ye shall know them”. The first comes in Matthew’s Chapter 7, which is smack in the middle of the (masterful) Sermon on the Mount. The second occurs later, in Chapter 12:33 & c. Now, here’s another question. Matthew repeats himself. Does that mean that he got the stuff from another source, forgot that he’d already used it, and so used it again, then never went back and read the whole of his work to see the flow, or failed to realize he’d used it twice. And it’s not just the “by their fruits”; he also repeats the “brood of vipers” injunction, also in this same section of Chapter 12. So did Matthew forget? Or did he just like it so much that he used it twice, even at the cost of being redundant? And if he realized he was being redundant, was he more apt to do this because he thought that the stuff in Q was absolute dynamite, or was he so impressed with his own creativity that he wanted to work it in the second time? Personally, I have often found that writers tend to be on the vain side, especially when it comes to stuff they’ve created. So we know where I fall on this last question.
But there is another aspect of this to consider. Luke’s version here actually has elements of both these sections of Matthew. The basic bit about “by their fruits” comes, as I said, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, and appears here in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. (That’s a coincidence? Really?) Both refer to the acanthus spina, which is a species of acanthus with spines; i.e., thorns, which is how KJV renders it. Matthew says that one does not find grapes among acanthus, while here Luke says it’s figs. Much of the verbiage is very, very close, with the “kalon” and “agathon”, and both use “sullegein” as the word for “to gather”. This is not terribly unusual, but it’s not the first word I think of when thinking of a verb for “to gather”. So that’s all very interesting. What makes it remarkable is that Matthew throws the part about the “treasure of good” into Chapter 12. IOW, Luke combined what are two passages in Matthew. Now, it appears that most of the reconstructions of Q see these two as sections of a single whole; that is, the scholars doing the reconstructing agree with Luke’s version. Of course, part of the reason they do that is because Luke supposedly preserves the more “primitive” version of Q. So let’s ask the question: does Luke’s version here seem more primitive? I suppose that depends on your definition of the word. If by “primitive” one means “less redundant”, then I would agree with the assessment. Is Matthew’s version more “masterful”? That is a more difficult question. What it comes down to is that, given Q, Matthew had to make a conscious decision to split the two sections into two parts. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Personally, I prefer Luke’s method, but that is, one imagines, a personal choice. The point being that either Matthew chose to split the two or to repeat himself, and both of these choices seem, to my mind, less than ideal.
So masterful? Not really. And this does matter as a question beyond mere personal taste or literary preference. So very much of the (ahem) “argument” for Q rests on Matthew’s “masterful” handling of the Q material. If than handling was, perhaps, not so masterful, then much of the “argument” (sic) collapses.
43 Non est enim arbor bona faciens fructum malum, neque iterum arbor mala faciens fructum bonum.
44 Unaquaeque enim arbor de fructu suo cognoscitur; neque enim de spinis colligunt ficus, neque de rubo vindemiant uvam.
45 Bonus homo de bono thesauro cordis profert bonum, et malus homo de malo profert malum: ex abundantia enim cordis os eius loquitur.
When setting this section up, I had no intention of making this single verse a stand-alone post. However, the commentary on this ran rather long, so I made the radical decision to put this one out there all by its lonesome. Hope it works for you all.
The last The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with an admonition not to judge. We start with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the
39 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς: Μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; οὐχὶ ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον ἐμπεσοῦνται;
And he also told a parable ( lit =throwing-beside) to them. Are the blind at all able to lead the blind? Would not both fall into a pit?
These two short sentences present three vocabulary issues. The first is “parable”. This is another of those words that has an absolutely specific meaning in English, whereas in Greek it was nothing special. If you break down the components (para-bole), you get a “throw beside”. More figuratively, it basically means “analogy” or even “metaphor”. We have come to regard parables as class of literary output, along with fables. Both are stories that have a homely exterior yet which contain a lesson. In fact, in this instance, the “blind leading the blind” would be better served by translating the word as “metaphor”. There really is no story, even though there is a lesson. I’ve been leaving this as parable for the duration so far, without really giving it much thought. A great example of the buried assumption. Time to dig it up and look at it.
But the real value of this verse are two other words. They are the ones translated as “lead” and “pit”. The first is a very unusual word; the Great Scott (Liddell & Scott, unabridged; as opposed to the Middle Liddell, the abridged version) provides barely a half-dozen cites of the word. The standard word for “to lead” is “agō”. But that’s not even the truly remarkable word. That is “pit”. What makes this stand out is that the word here, “bothunos” is not even a standard Greek word. The L&S does not even provide a definition. Rather, the reader of L&S is presented with a cross-reference to “bothros”. And even this “standard” is barely used, with about as many cites as the word for “to lead”. And to underscore, both Matthew and Luke use both these words in exactly the same context, with the metaphor of the blind leading the blind, and both falling into the pit.
What does this mean? I think that, without reservation, we can conclude that Luke read both of these words. And more, we can conclude one of two possibilities. Either 1) They both found the words in Q; or 2) Luke got them both from Matthew. This takes us back to the discussion we had in the previous section about the word for “lending at interest”. What is Q supposed to be? A writing-down of the sayings of Jesus. More, it’s supposed to be a very early recording, dating back no later than the early 40s, shortly after Jesus’ death. And one more: Q was also written by an early follower of Jesus, one who was an eyewitness, one who heard these utterances from Jesus with his own ears. Absent any of these three conditions, and the degree of the probability of authenticity plummets. Remember, Q is all about having an unbroken source that traces directly back to Jesus. If it’s not that, if the provenance cannot be determined, then much of the value of Q evaporates. Oh, sure, it’s still interesting, but if the stuff got into Matthew and Luke, then how interesting is it, unless it can be posited that the words recorded trace directly back to Jesus himself?
Now, who were the early followers of Jesus? Those who would have heard him speak? To have been a witness to the entire story, it would have to have been Peter, James, John, or Andrew. These men, by the words of the texts themselves, were fishermen. Perhaps they could read and/or write a little Greek, but to come up with really and truly obscure words like the three we’ve come across in the last few verses staggers the imagination. None of them are even remotely likely to have been erudite enough to come up with the vocabulary here. And there is more; I’ve only just begun to collect these, but there were others before. So, maybe Matthew Levi? As a tax collector, he was more likely to have been better versed in Greek than his more humble fellows. I admit the possibility. But Matthew Levi was not there for the whole story. He missed part. Sure, he could have been filled in by the others, or maybe Jesus had a fairly standard stump speech and repeated things. But note that this adds an additional layer of complexity to the story; each layer decreases the likelihood of the suggested chain of events. Each layer presents another place where the chain has a weak link. The other possibility is that one of the early disciples dictated the sayings to someone well versed in Greek. After all, this is what Paul did. In antiquity, persons of importance had a secretary or amanuensis, to do this. Julius Caesar is said to have been flanked by two such secretaries as he went about his business. He dictated to both of them alternatively, saying something to one, then while that secretary wrote down the words, he’d give the other a sentence for a different letter. But think about this. If this dictation were done early, who were Jesus’ followers? Remember, we’re talking about the very early days, possibly even before Paul began his career. So these followers would have been Jews, from the general area of Galilee, Judea, and possibly Tyre or Sidon or the Dekapolis. Would the secretary, presumably very well versed in Greek, have seen fit to write down what Jesus said in words that the audience would not have known? Would I be generally understood if I used the word “obfuscate” to an audience with a minimal level of education?
And it’s not like we don’t have evidence of this. Paul provides it. In Galatians, he very clearly describes the clash of cultures when he, obviously for the first time, begins to bring significant numbers of pagans into the fold, creating the questions that divided him and James and left Peter/Cephas sort of stuck in the middle, depending on whether he was dining with pagans or under the watchful eye of James. So we are safe again to conclude that Q was not written in Greek for the first several decades of its alleged existence.
But moving the translation back several decades does not solve the problem, not really. You are still left with the question of why the translator chose such non-normal words, even at a later date. Does it not make more sense to suppose that the unusual words were chosen by someone who had been raised in a Greek-predominant milieu, who read the LXX in Greek rather than Hebrew, who was familiar with the pagan world, and was quite likely a pagan himself chose the words? And then another Greek-speaker saw them, repeated them, and then sort of riffed on the “lending at interest” by repeating it two additional times?
Once again, it’s very important to appreciate that I am not presenting a smoking gun. Nor is a smoking gun ever likely to be found. It’s a question of probability. And it’s also a question of why haven’t these points been raised before? Why is the whole argument over Q predicated on explaining why Luke would deface the “masterful” arrangement of the Q material as presented by Matthew? That’s not an argument. It’s quibbling over stylistic preferences. It’s time we made the Q proponents actually defend their thesis. They’ve had a free ride long enough.
39 Dixit autem illis et similitudinem: “ Numquid potest caecus caecum ducere? Nonne ambo in foveam cadent?
The Sermon on the Plain continues. Here we get some sense of the collected aspect of the sayings as we rather move from one topic to another without too much (if any) connecting verbiage. With that brief intro, let’s move onto the
31 καὶ καθὼς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως.
32 καὶ εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶσιν.
33 καὶ [γὰρ] ἐὰν ἀγαθοποιῆτε τοὺς ἀγαθοποιοῦντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν.
“And as you wish people might do to you, do to them equally. (32) For if you love those loving you, how is this favour to you? For also the sinners those loving them love. (33) For also if you do good to those doing good to you, how is this a favour to you? Also the sinners do the same.
Here is an expanded version of the Golden Rule accompanied by somethixjung that doesn’t quite say love your enemies. That is certainly the implication, but that is not, explicitly, what Luke says here. Matthew said it. So the question is, does Luke represent a more “primitive” version of the saying? One that hadn’t quite evolved to “love your enemy”, but rather was still on “loving those who don’t love you”? Of course, if you choose to argue that, it becomes necessary to provide a convincing reason to prove, or at least explain, why “enemy” is more evolved, more of a complex thought, than what Luke has. And against whatever argument for the more primitive nature of Luke, I would contend exactly the opposite: that “enemy” is the more primitive, less developed, form of the statement. Why? “Enemy” is very obvious, setting up a very facile and overly sharp, overly distinct dichotomy. It’s very black-and-white. And it’s also much, much narrower. Think about it: how may enemies do you have? If you can get to a handful, then perhaps you’re a super heroine who has collected them by ending their lawless ways and bringing them to justice. Most of us, OTOH, have a few people that we actively dislike, and maybe we’d find ways to sabotage some of their efforts, but let’s be real. “Enemies” are few and far between. But the world is chock-a-block full of people we don’t love. The dude who cut you off on the road this morning, or the rude person in the queue ahead of you who holds up the line with a myriad of petty demands. Or just the people you see that you don’t know, and that you never will know. Do you hate them? No. Are they enemies? No. Do you love them? No. Your attitude is one of general indifference. How far would you extend yourself for them? Do you let them into your traffic lane, or do you pull ahead to cut them off? Those are the people we’re discussing. You don’t love them, they don’t love you, and you’re both fine with the arrangement. Commanding us to love them is a much more demanding task because we have to see the humanity in each and every one of them. The odd thing is that people will very often do heroic things for a complete stranger: pull them off a subway line, jump into the water to save someone drowning, that sort of thing. But a small act of kindness that recognizes their humanity? Dang, that’s tough. So no, this is not the more primitive version of “love your enemy”. Quite the opposite, and far from it in fact.
That is one very significant aspect of this, but there is another. In the expression <<ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν >>, note the bolded word which transliterates to “charis”. This is the root of both “charity” and “eucharist”. It is almost always translated into Latin as “gratia”, and so has come into English as “grace”. “The grace of God”. “Prevenient grace”. “Saving grace”. “Amazing grace”. Can one come up with a more thoroughly Christian concept than that of grace? There are a few, but not many. Well, here’s the thing: this word does not appear in either Mark or Matthew. I found that so hard to believe that I had to check Strong’s words. That wasn’t enough so I went back to the Vulgate to search for “gratia” in 2M. I found the latter, but almost always in the context of “giving thanks”, such as what Jesus did before breaking the bread to feed the 5,000 and then the 4,000. This is not the first time Luke has used it, but it didn’t strike me as unusual the first couple of times, so I didn’t look into it.
What does this imply? First, let’s be clear that Paul uses the word a number of times in the works we’ve read, but it’s not all that common, either. This is more than a bit surprising given the centrality of the concept to the later Christian doctrine of salvation. But for our purposes, that’s not the issue. Rather, how and why did the term and the concept surface in Paul’s work and then go dormant until Luke? This indicates, I think, that the earlier evangelists were not aware of his works, that Paul’s works only spread across the Christian milieu after Matthew and Mark had written. Why? At first glance, or my first thought is to consider what this means for the foci of Christian teaching. We know that Paul’s work was spread out, scattered across a number of communities, but that Mark–and I would argue Matthew–were more concentrated. By this I mean that Mark spread among the same communities that Matthew and Luke belonged to, so that both certainly were aware of Mark, and Luke was most likely aware of Matthew. Given that Luke was also aware of Paul, I’m not sure how you construct a scenario in which Luke was not also aware of Matthew. The inclusion of Paul into the corpus of writing indicates a fusion and a merging of the various Christian traditions. That Paul is added when it was unknown to 2M makes a pretty strong case for this. And, of course, this makes it harder to argue that, somehow, Luke got ahold of both Mark and Paul, but not Matthew. There we have to ask ourselves how that worked? What sort of circumstances would allow that to happen? It means a lack of communication among the communities that read Matthew and those that produced Luke.
Given Acts, Luke knew of Paul’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean; this argues against a situation in which Luke, writing in, say, Rome, knew about Mark–who also supposedly wrote in Rome, even though there is no evidence for this–and knew about Paul from Romans. That’s not enough to provide the basis for Acts. Luke would also have to have known at least of the letters to the Ephesians and the Corinthians–and likely others–since Acts recounts of Paul’s exploits in both those cities. That Luke knew of these exploits implies that he likely knew of the existence of those communities, and by extension, of the letters written to those communities. And if he knew about the (admittedly) Deutero-Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians, is it really conceivable that he somehow missed Matthew? Well, yes, it’s conceivable, but is that really likely? There I’m not so sure. It seems much more conceivable that he was the first to be aware of most, if not all, of what became the orthodox Christian corpus. He may not have been aware of some of the other letters of Paul; although I’m hard pressed to name which one of the Certain Seven he would have missed. Philippians? Maybe, but Acts does recount Paul’s activities there. 1 Thessalonians? Less likely, given the passage about Jesus coming down from the clouds and it’s similarity to Luke’s story of the Ascension. Deutero-Paul letters, like 1 & 2 Timothy, don’t count because they likely had not been written yet.
So couple all these scenarios together with their un/likelihood, it becomes increasingly difficult to suggest that, somehow, Luke missed Matthew. The only likely scenario for that is that Matthew, having supposedly been written in Antioch, remained local while Luke was writing in Greece, or one of the cities of Asia Minor. But then we’re supposed to believe that Matthew remained local while Q circulated widely. IOW, that people familiar with Matthew, and his masterful arrangement of the Q material, didn’t share Matthew as a means of superseding the need for Q. Because remember that Mark was every bit as redundant as Q would have been, and Mark survived while the sayings of Jesus himself were allowed to perish. Then if we add in the internal evidence of the way Luke treats stuff in Matthew, the quirks that I’ve been pointing out and the ideas of the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the name of Joseph, etc., the case for Q becomes really suspect. None of those other ideas were in Q; where did they come from if not Matthew?
31 Et prout vultis, ut faciant vobis homines, facite illis similiter.
32 Et si diligitis eos, qui vos diligunt, quae vobis est gratia? Nam et peccatores diligentes se diligunt.
33 Et si bene feceritis his, qui vobis bene faciunt, quae vobis est gratia? Si quidem et peccatores idem faciunt.
34 καὶ ἐὰν δανίσητε παρ’ ὧν ἐλπίζετε λαβεῖν, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις [ἐστίν]; καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἁμαρτωλοῖς δανίζουσιν ἵνα ἀπολάβωσιν τὰ ἴσα.
35 πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες: καὶ ἔσται ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου, ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς.
“And if you lend at interest from whom you hope to take, how is this thanks to you? Also those sinning to sinners lend at interest in order to take back the same. (35) Except love your enemies and do good and lend without expecting anything in return; and let it be the most reward, and be sons of the most high, that he himself is good upon the unblessed and wicked.
Well, there is the admonition to love your enemies. This does not reflect upon the Q question directly, but taken with what I said about this in the previous section, I think the idea that Luke preserves a more primitive version of Q is pretty much risible. Luke’s treatment of this material is, if anything, more sophisticated than what we found in Matthew, at least in my opinion. This, in turn, increases the probability that Luke knew Matthew and improved on what Matthew said. IOW, no Q.
Just a note on the Greek. Note that I’ve translated the word in Verse 34 as “lend at interest”. What is interesting here is that Matthew uses the same word in his version of the story. In my four crib translations (KJV, ESV, NIV, NASB), they all translate the phrase “if you lend to…” However, three of these same four translations render the phrase as “if you give to those who ask from you…”, and the other (ESV) substitutes “beg” for “ask”. Even more interesting, Kloppenborg, the lead editor of the Q Thomas Reader, also chooses the word “beg”, for both Matthew’s and Luke’s versions. This all seems a bit disingenuous on the part of some or all of these translations. In Classical Greek, the word means to “lend at interest”, as in usury. Giving to someone begging is very, even wholly a different thing than lending money at interest. So why is it rendered in Luke as “lend”, but in Matthew as “ask/beg”, and in Kloppenborg as “beg” in both instances? I find this latter the most unsettling, largely because he has made no attempt to retain any of the original sense of the word. At least the translations of Luke I cited do this. And really, it makes no sense to expect a return from someone who’s begging from you, does it? Isn’t that rather the point of giving to someone begging, that you don’t expect return? If they had the wherewithal or resources to pay you back, would they be said to be “begging” in the first place? Really, though, I suppose all four crib translations are no better, rendering the word differently in different places leaves something to be desired as far as consistency is concerned.
The other aspect about this is the frequency of the word. Luke uses it three times, all of them within the confines of these two verses. Matthew uses it once (5:42), within the confines of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s it. It’s used nowhere else in the NT, and Liddell & Scott don’t cite its usage in the NT or the LXX. So, what are we to make of that? It’s not the first time we’ve found that Q used a very unusual word that managed to make it into both Matthew and Luke. I need to make a list of these words. The thing is, Q is supposedly someone writing down all these sayings of Jesus. Was Jesus so fluent in Greek that he knew all of this off-beat vocabulary and tossed it off in full confidence that his follower would catch his drift? Or was the person who wrote the sayings down the fluent speaker of Greek, who also supposed those reading the book would understand all these obscure words? Somehow, neither of these strike me as likely. Much more probable is that someone writing down what Jesus said would tend to a vocabulary and probably a style more like Mark’s: simple, plain, unadorned, most likely translation Greek. Instead, we’re getting all these fancy word in Greek, words that show up in Matthew and Luke’s version of the same story, and nowhere else? And this is why Kloppenborg particularly annoyed me: by re-creating the text of Q to read as “beg” really obscures the original, changing the implications enormously, and gives the impression of a simplicity that did not exist with the original Greek word. Recall that Mark was probably not a native speaker of Greek; likely he read the LXX in Hebrew. We know that Matthew read the LXX in Greek, which is where he got the idea of the virgin giving birth, So the question becomes, who is more likely to have come up with the very unusual word here: an early follower of Jesus, who probably spoke Aramaic but had some knowledge of Greek, or Matthew, who had read the LXX in Greek, and may have been a native speaker? The probability is wholly on the latter choice.
34 Et si mutuum dederitis his, a quibus speratis recipere, quae vobis gratia est? Nam et peccatores peccatoribus fenerantur, ut recipiant aequalia.
35 Verumtamen diligite inimicos vestros et bene facite et mutuum date nihil desperantes; et erit merces vestra multa, et eritis filii Altissimi, quia ipse benignus est super ingratos et malos.
36 Γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες καθὼς [καὶ] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστίν.
37 Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθῆτε: καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε. ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε:
38 δίδοτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: μέτρον καλὸν πεπιεσμένον σεσαλευμένον ὑπερεκχυννόμενον δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν: ᾧ γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτεἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.
“Become merciful, as [also] your father is merciful. (37) And do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn. Destroy, and you will be destroyed. (38) Give, and it will be given to you. They will give the good measure having been pressed, having been shaken, having been poured out, having overflowed in your bosom. For by which measurement (you use, presumably) you will be measured.
Speaking of unusual words, the pressing and the shaking and the outpouring are all words that only occur here. Some I got from the Vulgate, some I pieced together by taking them apart and finding the root under all the prefixes, etc. The bit about the bosom, it can also be used for lap; the thing is, the word transliterates as }”kolpos”, and it’s the root of the word “gulf”; you will find it on maps denoting a gulf, as in Gulf of Mexico. And the Latin is “sinus”, and that also means an empty or hollow area, so decide for yourself if bosom or lap makes more sense.
But truly the odd thing is that, when you put them together, does the sentence make a lot of sense? The NASB gives a pretty good rendition, and it’s not completely divorced from the Greek, so I guess it can make sense.
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
I can live with that. Now, this is not in Matthew’s version of this, so Luke added it. Now, let’s return to the idea of the unusual words. In the verses before, Luke repeats a word used only by Matthew in the NT; he not only repeats it once, he uses it a total of three times. And then immediately following he practically coins some new words. Do you get the sense that maybe he’s trying to go one up (or two up) on Matthew? If Matthew is going to exercise his erudition, then Luke is going to see that bet and raise him a couple of other words. Really, it’s not like the whole phrase about shaking and stirring and whatever really adds anything to the meaning of the text. Yes, it intensifies the whole thing, but in a very awkward way. So, apologies, but I add this to the list of indications that Luke was fully aware of what Matthew said.
I’ve been going back over 1 Corinthians to start to pull out themes. In Chapters 5 & 6, several instances Paul seems to foreshadow themes that will be said later, paraphrased as it were, in the gospels. As these come up, I will make note of them. In Chapter 6 he talks about judging. The discussion really doesn’t quite follow the theme here, because Paul is saying that the community of the holy will be, and should be, judges of other people and even angels. There is a real possibility that I would not have made the connexion between this passage and that had I not been reading them on sequential days. Still, the thematic echoes are interesting, so I will bring up the references as they come up during the gospels.
37 Et nolite iudicare et non iudicabimini; et nolite condemnare et non condemnabimini. Dimittite et dimittemini;
38 date, et dabitur vobis: mensuram bonam, confertam, coagitatam, supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum; eadem quippe mensura, qua mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis”.
36 Estote misericordes, sicut et Pater vester misericors est.
The Sermon on the Plain does not run on as long as it’s counterpart in Matthew, but it still does go on for a bit. Of course, at this point, we’ve just gotten started. We left off the last section talking about the poor, and how Luke made the opening verses of the Sermon all about the poor. As such, the question becomes whether we can take that as a sort of a thesis statement? We shall see. So, on to the
26 οὐαὶ ὅταν ὑμᾶς καλῶς εἴπωσιν πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι, κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς ψευδοπροφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.
27 Ἀλλὰ ὑμῖν λέγω τοῖς ἀκούουσιν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς,
28 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, προσεύχεσθε περὶ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς.
“Woe to you when all people speak well about you, for the fathers of them said these things to/about the false prophets. (27) But I say to you to those listening, love your enemies, do well to those who hate you, (28) bless those cursing you, pray about those accusing you.
Well, it appears that we’ve taken a different tack and we’re no longer contrasting the rich and the poor. Honestly, the verbiage here is very different than what is in Matthew. Oh, they both sort of maintain the same general idea, but the specifics here simply were not in Matthew. I mention this to question why it is assumed that Matthew and Luke got their stuff from the same source, which they re-wrote separately? It seems more apparent to me that Luke is consciously changing the message of Matthew, but this may only be “apparent” because I want to see it. Really, it is equally likely that they took the discontinuous texts of pretty much unrelated sayings & aphorisms and mixed them up to suit their individual fancies.
This is, after all, a variation on loving your enemies. This message appears in the Sermon on the Mount, but it comes much later in the text. Is that significant? Most likely not per se; that is, whether it comes here or there doesn’t much matter, but what I think might matter is the way the different pieces are grouped. That is, does this continue the thought from the previous set of verses or not. IMO, the first one does, but then the break is pretty clean. The first verse about being well-spoken of tags onto the preceding verse about how the blessed are reviled. Perhaps I should have included Verse 26 in the last section, but I grouped it this way to make a point. Notice that there was some continuity between Verses 20-26; they were not entirely of a piece, but there was a flow between them, a level of connexion, even if it is a bit tangential. But the jump between Verse 26 & 27 is exactly that: a jump. Yes, there are ways to coax this into a continuation of the preceding thoughts, but such an interpretation would be rather tortured, I expect.
Rather, the significance is that there is no connexion. I mentioned this numerous times with Matthew. Far from masterful, this felt very much like the arrangement of a bunch of different ideas that did not necessarily have any internal coherence. Ironically, it’s this jumbled character, rather than Matthew’s allegedly “masterful” arrangement that provides the best argument for Q. By definition, Q is a sayings gospel, which means it’s a collection of sayings, and not something with a coherent narrative. The Sermon on the Mount had no real coherence, which, IMO, is a pretty strong prima facie case that these were disparate sayings collected and compiled over time. Which sounds a lot like Q. So the fact that the Q proponents overlook this in their headlong rush over the precipice, one reminiscent of the swine among the Gerasenes/Gadarenes, is indicative of the lack of coherence in the pro-Q argument. IMO, anyway.
And looking at this objectively, the “what actually happened” almost has to resemble a process that I’ve described: sayings collected and compiled over time. So what does this do to my anti-Q position? Well, it certainly doesn’t help, but these two ideas are not wholly mutually exclusive. Given the assortment of ideas found in Matthew, I don’t see how the idea of a compilation can be avoided. What can be avoided, and very easily, is the time at which the sayings were collected. There is absolutely no reason this compilation has to go back to shortly after Jesus. In fact, I would argue the opposite: that the very disparate nature of the sayings lends itself to the idea that this compilation occurred spread across time, and probably space. And there is no reason the collection could not have been done by Matthew, and that his gospel was the first time these were actually written down. If you think about it, the first incidence of them occurs in Matthew; before that, there is not one whit of evidence, nary a trace, that such a collection existed.
One point I’ve made in the past is that we have to ask why someone choose the odd task of sitting down to write a gospel. With Mark, it seems like the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple with the subsequent and consequent destruction of the Jerusalem Assembly may have provided an incentive. Plus, we’ve noted how Mark seemed to be weaving together at least two–and probably more–strands into a coherent and (more or less) unitary whole. So why Matthew? That’s easy: he did it to include the various sayings and teachings “of Jesus” that he’d collected over time. I think that provides a very credible motive. As for Luke? Let’s let that one percolate for a while. My initial impulse is that he wanted to fill in some of the backstory, that he had his own material to add. And let’s not forget that two of the most famous stories in Christianity, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, titles that have become cultural ikons known the world over, even to a lot of non-Christians, both came from Luke. Yes, it appears he did have something to say.
26 Vae, cum bene vobis dixerint omnes homines! Secundum haec enim faciebant pseudoprophetis patres eorum.
27 Sed vobis dico, qui auditis: Diligite inimicos vestros, bene facite his, qui vos oderunt;
28 benedicite male dicentibus vobis, orate pro calumniantibus vos.
29 τῷ τύπτοντί σε ἐπὶ τὴν σιαγόνα πάρεχε καὶ τὴν ἄλλην, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντός σου τὸ ἱμάτιον καὶ τὸν χιτῶνα μὴ κωλύσῃς.
30 παντὶ αἰτοῦντί σε δίδου, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντος τὰ σὰ μὴ ἀπαίτει.
“To the one striking you on the the cheek, off the other also, and from the one seizing your tunic, also the shirt do not refuse. (30) To all asking of you, give, and from the ones taking your things do not demand it back.
Here once again, we have a lack of continuity. This bit can stand completely on its own. It needs no precursor nor any follow-up. It’s a discreet unit unto itself, unconnected from both the previous and the subsequent verses. So once again, we get a sense of how disjointed this material is. Yes, there are certain underlying themes: meekness, non-violence, lack of cupidity–but each expression is singular. A “oner” in crossword puzzle terms. And this would very much fit with the likely development of the Jesus movement. Already with Paul we had a geographic dispersal of the Good News across much of the eastern Mediterranean world, and even incursions into Rome. Tacitus tells us that Nero blamed the followers of Christos for the fire in Rome in 64 CE. So we know that the message of Jesus had been received in much of the eastern empire. But, if you think about it, Paul did not seem to stress the teachings of Jesus. Yes, it’s impossible to be certain based solely on his letters, but his letters are notably lacking in expressions like, “remember, as the lord said…”, or “as the lord himself told us…” And if you think about, Paul never met Jesus, never heard him speak, never heard any of his teachings. Rather, the message of Jesus came to Paul in revelation, and we’ve seen several instances where Paul likely created things Jesus said or meant being fully convinced that these things were true because they were breathed into him by the sacred breath. He was inspired. Or, rather, Paul’s pronouncements may not have been true, in the sense that the living Jesus may never have said them, but they were True by virtue of divine revelation. One exception is Jesus’ teaching on divorce; we know what Jesus said because Paul admits that he’s contracting Jesus
And, as with Paul, so with others, I suspect. Think about it: all these people are hearing the Good News, but the words of Jesus were fairly few and far between, according to Mark. He focused more on the miracles, Jesus the wonder-worker. So if Jesus was a teacher, what were his teachings? The paucity of recollection would have become downright embarrassing; this would have prompted those spreading the gospel to, well, improvise a bit. Over time, different people would say different things, and some of the things said would resonate, and they would be remembered and repeated. After the generation between Mark and Matthew, a fair number of these sayings would have accumulated, growing wild, as it were, to be harvested by Matthew and added to the Good News of Mark. That is an extremely plausible scenario, one that has more than the ring of truth to it. So yes, there was a collection of Jesus’ sayings. It’s called the Gospel of Matthew. The proposal of Q allows these sayings to trace, hypothetically, at least, all the way back to Jesus. That strikes me as implausible. This collection existed and left no trace in either Paul or Mark? Yes. Highly implausible. The Q people have never attempted an explanation for that situation, or that set of circumstances.
And, btw. It is my considered opinion that much of what “Jesus” said may really have come from James. More on that later.
29 Ei, qui te percutit in maxillam, praebe et alteram; et ab eo, qui aufert tibi vestimentum, etiam tunicam noli prohibere.
30 Omni petenti te tribue; et ab eo, qui aufert, quae tua sunt, ne repetas.
Here we begin the actual teaching of the Sermon on the Plain. Does anyone really think that’s a coincidence? Really?
Regardless, kept the section short because it engendered quite a bit of commentary. And if you do think this Mount/Plain was a coincidence, I hope that this next section helps make you feel even less certain about that.
20 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν, Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.
And he raising his eyes to his disciples he said, “Blessed (are) the poor, that of them is the kingdom of heaven.
We are going to stop right here. Of course we all know that Matthew has this as “blessed are the poor in spirit“. so the obvious conclusion is that Luke’s version here represents a “more primitive” version of the Q text. This one is more primitive, supposedly, because it is simpler, because it has fewer words and a more straightforward message. Everyone knows who “the poor” are; who are the “poor in spirit” after all? That one takes a certain amount of consideration, and perhaps some explaining, after all. And I have to concede that this is not a terrible interpretation, or understanding of the two texts. Luke’s does seem more straightforward. But it is justified to use the term “more primitive” for that reason? I think not, or at least not necessarily. “Primitive” is rather a loaded word, one that’s at least a little pejorative. The intent may simply be to capture the aspect that Luke’s version is closer to Q; just as Luke’s version of the pater noster is, supposedly, closer to Q. Whatever the intent, the result is to raise up Matthew at the expense of Luke. This, in turn, helps preserve the illusion of Q…at least, I guess that’s what the intent is.
Whatever the intent, the reality is that “blessed are the poor”/”poor in spirit” are two very different thoughts. I suppose it can be argued that the latter represents a more advanced stage in thinking, but it could also be argued, IMO, anyway, that “poor in spirit” is a bit of a shill for wealthy people. You don’t actually have to be poor, but just have the humility of the poor. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t quite jibe with some of the other teachings of Jesus, such as the bit about the eye of the needle. Also, FWIW, Mark and Matthew each use the word “ptochos” (beggar, beggarly = poor) five times each. For Matthew, once is here, and once is in the aphorism about always having the poor with you–a story that is not in Luke. IOW, the poor are not too far to the front of Matthew’s message. Of five uses of the word, once is a waffle and once is nearly a disparagement. Luke, OTOH, uses the word ten times, albeit twice in the story of Dives and Lazarus, but that still leaves eight other examples.
I did read somewhere–the cite escapes me, and shame on me for not writing it down; however, it was a reputable source–that Luke is the gospel of the poor. I put this out there to show that there is a school of thought–or one scholar, at least–that believes Luke devotes more attention to the poor than either Mark or Matthew. Now, on top of that, I notice that Paul apparently only uses the word four times in eight letters, and one of them is him saying how James the Just pressed Paul to remember the poor. As such, that’s not exactly evidence that the poor are at the top of his agenda, either. In contrast, the short epistle of James–probably not written by James the Just–uses the word four times, and all of them are in reference to the poor as we think of the term. IOW, the poor, far from being an early aspect of proto-Christian, or Christian belief, was a later one. It became more important in later works, rather than the earlier ones that are, at least, potentially closer to Jesus. As such, it is Matthew’s “poor in spirit” that is the more “primitive” version of this teaching. It is Luke, not Matthew, who advances the teaching on the poor. That also knocks another prop out from under the reasons why Q has to have existed.
There is one other thing that should be mentioned. There is an apocryphal Gospel of the Ebionites, the latter word relating to the poor. And there is a tradition that this was written, if not by James the Just, then by one of his later followers, as the Epistle of James may have been. I do not know what the arguments for this position are, but no doubt they rely on a great deal of speculation and inference, since there is no evidence to speak of. I have mentioned several times that much of what I had always been taught was the Christian attitude towards social justice actually was Jewish in origin and emphasis. We have seen from Paul that James was more concerned with maintaining the ties to Judaism than Paul was. So the question becomes, did the later attitude and teaching on the poor only emerge as this aspect of the teaching of James the Just had been more thoroughly integrating into the main stream of Christian thought? This is pure speculation, based on the sort of huge leaps of faith and tenuous connexions that I tend to disparage. But, FWIW, there it is. The fact remains, though, that when it becomes appropriate to talk about The Church, social justice was decidedly part of the message. And the idea of apostolic poverty was a main theme in the heresies of Western Europe from the 12th Century forward. The Waldensians, for example, were firm believers in apostolic poverty, as were the Cathars, who were exterminated by Innocent III in the early 13th Century. And then there was St Francis of Assisi, whose order became split into those who believed in maintaining the founder’s practice of poverty, and those who thought corporate wealth was just fine. So, yes, teaching about “The Poor” was something of a later tradition. I have been very surprised at the lack of emphasis on this topic as I’ve gone through the letters of Paul and the first two gospels.
20 Et ipse, elevatis oculis suis in discipulos suos, dicebat: “Beati pauperes, quia vestrum est regnum Dei.
21 μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες νῦν, ὅτι χορτασθήσεσθε. μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν, ὅτι γελάσετε. 22μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν μισήσωσιν ὑμᾶς οἱ ἄνθρωποι, καὶ ὅταν ἀφορίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ ὀνειδίσωσιν καὶ ἐκβάλωσιν τὸ ὄνομα ὑμῶν ὡς πονηρὸν ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:
23 χάρητε ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ σκιρτήσατε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ: κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς προφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.
“Blessed are those hungering now, that you will be filled. Blessed are those weeping now, that you will laugh. (22) Blessed are (you) when people hate you, and when they cast you out and cast in insults and throw our your name as knavish because of the son of man; (23) for rejoice on that day and leap, for behold your reward is great in the sky; for upon the same things the forbears of them did to the prophets.
These verses are not exactly part of the Beatitudes as they are set out in Matthew, or, at least, in some editions of Matthew. These lines come at the end of the Beatitudes proper. I suppose this is part of the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew vs the muddled arrangement of Luke. The sentiments expressed obviously extol the outcast, or perhaps those despised. In ancient society, this would–or at least could–include the poor. For example, both of the words “mean” and “villain” refer to lower-class people and serfs. Assuming that these are the people referred to, far from being a muddle of Matthew’s arrangement, this represents an excellent pairing with the opening line. The poor will inherit the earth, and the poor people who are despised and outcast now will be filled, they will get the Great Reward in the Sky. The order of the verses are rearranged because, since the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” are not the same people, the order of the verses here reinforce each other to emphasize the point about the poor. This is important because it undercuts the whole–and wholly ridiculous–idea that Matthew’s treatment of the so-called Q material was infinitely superior to that of Luke. The two are different. Matthew made certain editorial choices, Luke made others. And there is no burden of proof on the opponents of Q that requires these latter to explain why Luke differed in every single instance. That’s absurd. The burden of proof is on those who claim Q ever existed, and that should never, ever be forgotten or conceded.
As for the content and its intent and its raison d’être, the question is whether this fits circumstances of Jesus’ lifetime. This seems to be meant as a morale booster for a community that was under some pressure from the outside. So why is it here? Now, if this does refer to the poor, then that question is largely answered, I believe. The poor were under pressure and duress. Does it go beyond that? Or, if you do not believe that these lines do refer to the poor, but to the Christian community as at large, then you have to discuss the circumstances under which these words were conceived. One clue is to look back at Matthew’s “poor in spirit”. He did not couple that verse with the verses about being hungry. That implies that Matthew saw the groups as separate. That, I think, would imply that he did not intend these verses about being outcast as referring to the general way the poor were despised. And recall that Matthew blessed those who hungered and thirsted for justice; Luke leaves it at those who were, quite simply, hungry, as in physically hungry. This, in turn, implies that Matthew did not connect the two ideas, that the poor were not those who were outcast. The implication of this chain of logic is that, for Matthew, being outcast was a condition of being a Christian rather than of being poor.
When were Christians experiencing anything that can reasonably be described as “persecution”? There is, quite frankly, no indication in the gospels that the followers of Jesus were in any way being subjected to anything that can be called “persecution” in the lifetime of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was supposedly crucified for his beliefs, but I have pointed out many times that only Jesus was arrested and punished. This is pretty clear evidence that the people arresting Jesus were not the least interested in any of Jesus’ followers. Recall that the Passion narrative is likely the later creation of some group of Jesus’ followers–I would suggest the Galilean group, led, or at least subsidized, by Mary the Magdelane–so it reflects the Christians’ own perspective. As such, it seems that there was very little in the way of persecution in Jesus’ lifetime. So, if these lines are not to be seen as a description of the poor, then they are unlikely to date to the time before the Resurrection. Ergo, by necessity they describe circumstances of the earlier days of the proto-church, such as the “pressure” that Paul and his associates applied to the followers of Jesus.
The chain of logic supporting that conclusion is, I believe, quite strong, even if it’s not overwhelming and irrefutable. It does, however, provide a level of certainty that is not frequently found in such biblical arguments. Taking this conclusion as a datum, as a given, there is then one further conclusion to be gleaned. Since Luke changed the words from “poor in spirit” to “poor”, and since he rearranged the material to the form seen here, it’s reasonable to conclude that he made the changes because he wanted to make them. This, of course, raises (but does not beg) the question of why did he make the change? I would suggest it’s because the levels of persecution implied had been either forgotten, or had never really been learned by the group for which Luke wrote. The memory of those days was dim, perhaps vague to the point of being perceived a story than actual events. So Luke rearranged the material to fit into a new paradigm, one in which it was the poor who came to the fore, in which they were the ones being despised. Most likely this new paradigm arose in circumstances in which the poor had become a more prominent segment of the Christian community. This makes sense, I think. Whether I’m correct is, however, a different matter.
21 Beati, qui nunc esuritis, quia saturabimini. Beati, qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis.
22 Beati eritis, cum vos oderint homines et cum separaverint vos et exprobraverint et eiecerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum propter Filium hominis.
23 Gaudete in illa die et exsultate, ecce enim merces vestra multa in caelo; secundum haec enim faciebant prophetis patres eorum.
24 Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.
25 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, οἱ ἐμπεπλησμένοι νῦν, ὅτι πεινάσετε. οὐαί, οἱ γελῶντες νῦν, ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε.
Except woe to the rich, that have your appeal. (25) Woe to you, those filled now, that you will hunger. Woe, you laughing now, that you will mourn and weep.
And on cue, here we have Luke casting woe to the wealthy, the full, those happy now. This provides some really strong support to the thesis set out in the previous comment. There is one issue: the word that I’ve rendered as “appeal”. That obviously doesn’t really work very well. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you would notice that the word is “consolationem”; and, in fact, this is how most English editions translate the word. The problem is, Classical Greek, first of all, doesn’t use the word very often; and second, never uses it to mean “consolation”. This usage is confined to a couple of uses in the LXX and one other time in the NT. This is why I get so uneasy about the idea that such an animal as “NT Greek” actually exists. Classicists, or specialists in the Hellenic language, will rarely–if ever–use the term “NT Greek”. “Koine”, yes, but not NT Greek. It’s really obvious that, far from going back to the original Greek, many of the Reformation scholars were content to fall back on the Vulgate from time to time. This is not the first time when we’ve had to use the Vulgate because the Greek word was too rare to be understood. An argument could be presented–and perhaps won–that not going along with consolation makes me a bit of a prig, a charge for which I’m not sure I’d have a defense. Regardless, I do believe it’s important to point out these potholes in the road as they come up; really, it does help remind us that this whole issue is not as settled as we often pretend.
Just a final note. It’s important to grasp that Luke is casting woe to the materially wealthy, to those that have and their prayers of prosperity answered. They have their reward now, and later they will be hungry. And the implication is that the hunger, while perhaps allegorical, will be allegorical to the point of physical. After all, the notion of Hell is that our immaterial souls feel physical pain and torment. Even the most cursory glance through Dante will demonstrate that most amply.
It’s also interesting to wonder if the emphasis on Matthew’s version of these verses is not somehow tied up in the desire to de-emphasize the perils and coming torments of the prosperous. “Poor in spirit”, after all provides a fair bit of wiggle room, that can be applied subjectively; “poor”, however, does not, and the way Luke drives the point home eliminates whatever wiggle room may have been left. These words are uncomfortable in a way “poor in spirit” are not. Matthew provides hope; Luke does too, but he threatens punishment as well. And let’s recall Paul’s injunctions in 1 Corinthians telling the wealthy to share their meal so that other members of the community do not go hungry. Luke is the first evangelist who was obviously aware of Paul, and, we presume, Paul’s writings. Did Luke have those words of Paul in mind when he rearranged Matthew’s version of this material?
24 Verumtamen vae vobis divitibus, quia habetis consolationem vestram!
25 Vae vobis, qui saturati estis nunc, quia esurietis! / Vae vobis, qui ridetis nunc, quia lugebitis et flebitis!
After a brief interlude in which we get the naming of the Twelve, we delve into what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain”. This reference is semi-facetious; while it does take place after Jesus comes down from the mountain, the real purpose of the name is to contrast it, unfavorably, with the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew. Much of the same material is covered, but rather than run on for nearly three full chapters continuously, Luke breaks the material into smaller chunks. This has led one scholar, Goodacre, to explain the defacement of the brilliant Sermon on the Mount, in terms of shorter, “Luke friendly” (his term) passages. Kloppenborg, OTOH, perhaps the main proponent of Q, has nothing but scornful derision, or derisive scorn, for Goodacre’s attempt at the redactional explanation that the Q people demand to justify the way Luke deliberately painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s well that Kloppenborg dismisses Goodacre in this manner, because the former doesn’t have an actual argument, so ad hominem is about the best he can do.
Note: the “brief interlude was longer than expected, so this ends just at the beginning of the actual Sermon.
There is a certain irony in Kloppenborg’s position. In the mind of the Q people, holding up the SotM as a masterpiece, which only a fool or a madman would deface is a powerful argument. The problem I have with the argument is that I don’t find it masterful; I find it rather a jumble, a bunch of sayings held together (barely) with baling twine and bubble gum. IMO, to argue that the material is not masterfully arranged, and that it barely–if a all–truly holds together is much more powerful evidence that Matthew found the material thus in Q and left it thus. The three chapters of content in Matthew feels like it’s a random collection of one-off sayings. That is a persuasive argument for Q. IMO, anyway.
OK, enough. On to the
12Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐξελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι, καὶ ἦν διανυκτερεύων ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ.
13 καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ’ αὐτῶν δώδεκα, οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,
14 Σίμωνα, ὃν καὶ ὠνόμασεν Πέτρον, καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον
15 καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον Ἁλφαίου καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν καλούμενον Ζηλωτὴν 16καὶ Ἰούδαν Ἰακώβου καὶἸούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ, ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης.
It became in those days he came to the mountain to pray, and he was all night in the prayer of God. (13) And it became day, he called his disciples and sent from him twelve, and which were called apostles. (14) Simon, the one also named Peter, and Andrew, his brother, and James and John an Philip and bar Tolomew (15) and Matthew and Thomas and James son of Alphaeus and Simon the one call the Zealot (16) and Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became the betrayer.
We’ve been through this sequence twice now, so no doubt many of you will recall that I do not believe that the Twelve was a thing that was instituted by Jesus. I believe that Jesus had several followers, among them Peter and perhaps the future James the Just, but the rest of them are sketchy at best. It’s difficult to get rid of John, son of Zebedee, but he appears in very few of the tales told; and these tales can easily be ascribed to the later growth of the legend. Peter is impossible to get rid of; Paul pretty much proves Peter’s existence, but aside from him the only other figure Paul mentions is James, brother of Jesus. As such, I think it’s hard to be at all certain of any of the others. There are two of the Twelve named James, but each has a different patronymic, whether Zebedee or Alpheus. It has been suggested that one of these James, usually the son of Alpheus, otherwise known as James the Lesser (the Latin, Iacobus Minor doesn’t sound quite so belittling). It is suggested that one of these two men named James was Jesus’ half-brother, the son of Mary and either Zebedee or Alpheus. This is an ingenious theory that is absolutely within the realm of possibility; the problem is there is nary a whit of evidence to support it, and the very ingeniousness of the idea, IMO, rather than supporting the idea, makes it less likely.
James, brother of Jesus, got whitewashed out of the the gospels. The reason why James is expunged is clear enough: the church in Rome invented the idea that Peter came to Rome to be the first bishop there. Funny thing about that idea is that Paul overlooks that fact completely when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Am I the first to notice that? Almost certainly not, but the fact that this question is not more prominent in the literature is a huge indication of how badly this embarrassing little tidbit has been squelched by the subsequent bishops of Rome. Hard to believe that Calvin–or one of the Reformers–didn’t bring this up. The commentaries are full of Protestants stumbling over themselves to squelch the idea of Petrine Primacy, so why not notice–and pointing out–that Peter is conspicuously absent from Romans?
Speaking of the commentaries, a couple of them, at least, make a big deal about how the gospels all agree on the names of the Twelve. That is a significant point in favour of the authenticity of the Twelve; or, it would be if it were true. Fact is, it’s not true; or, it’s true only if several of the Twelve had two names. Now there is Peter/Cephas, of course, but Thaddeus is missing from the list here, unless, of course, his name is also Jude. And why wouldn’t it be? Oh, but there’s also Philip, who appears in John, and nowhere else. The other glaring problem is that, throughout most of the gospels the Twelve are pretty much absent, making cameo appearances at the Last Supper and after the Resurrection. The latter role is probably attributable to the section of 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul lists the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He appeared to the Twelve. So we do know that there was a Twelve; we just have no real reason attribute it to Jesus. Rather, I would give the creation of this body to James, who instituted it after the death of his more famous brother. Note, even Paul does not provide names for any of the Twelve; more, the plain-sense reading of 15:5 is that Peter is not part of the Twelve:
…(after the Resurrection Jesus) was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve…
I believe this is a fairly strong bit of evidence that Peter was not included in the Twelve; the commentators, however don’t see it that way. To them the Twelve refers to the corporate body rather than the actual number. This is a possible understanding of the usage, but I do not believe it’s the most straightforward. For it to mean what the commentators suggest, IMO, it would make more sense for Paul to say, “…then to the rest of the Twelve…” or something such. Of course, they see it this way because they wish to see it this way to preserve the credibility of the gospel writers as historical sources. This, despite the fact that the evangelists were not wrirting history.
I have suggested that the Twelve was instituted by James. I find this preferable to the presentation in the gospels. These feel very much like an afterthought, or something that later writers realized should be included, so they stuck this passage in wherever seemed least awkward. In Mark, in particular, the placement seemed forced, fit in with a shoehorn on either side of the tale of the death of the Baptist. While not quite as awkwardky placed by Luke, it’s still lacking any context, whether lead-in or even the attempt to segue into the next story; for it is a separate story. As noted, James was surgically removed from the gospels; given the later position of Petrine Primacy, having the brother of the lord running around, and acting as Peter’s superior was terribly inconvenient, and more than slightly embarrassing given the idea of the Virgin Birth.
But this tangent has been too long already. So much for the “short interlude” before coming to the Sermon on the Plain.
12 Factum est autem in illis diebus, exiit in montem orare et erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.
13 Et cum dies factus esset, vocavit discipulos suos et elegit Duodecim ex ipsis, quos et apostolos nominavit:
14 Simonem, quem et cognominavit Petrum, et Andream fratrem eius et Iacobum et Ioannem et Philippum et Bartholomaeum
15 et Matthaeum et Thomam et Iacobum Alphaei et Simonem, qui vocatur Zelotes,
16 et Iudam Iacobi et Iudam Iscarioth, qui fuit proditor.
17 Καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος,
18 οἳ ἦλθον ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν νόσων αὐτῶν: καὶ οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ἐθεραπεύοντο. 19 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐζήτουν ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ, ὅτι δύναμις παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξήρχετο καὶ ἰᾶτο πάντας.
And coming down with those of him (the disciples) he was in a place of a plain, and a great crowd of his disciples, and filled with mant peoples from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the districts of Tyre and Sidon, they came to hear him and to be healed from their ailments; and those being troubled by unclean spirits they were healed. (19) And the whole crowd sought to touch him, that power from him came and healed all.
The text is very explicit that he was on a plain. It could not be more clear. Matthew, meanwhile, could not be more clear that Jesus went up on a mountain. Now, of course it is possible th at Luke wrote what he wrote without ever having seen what Matthew wrote; that is, he decided to situate the action very explicitly on a plain which he reached having come down from the mountain. There is no reason the two need to be connected. But, come on! Really? Luke just happened to decide to place the upcoming teaching on a plain after descending from the mountain where Matthew just happend to situate his teaching? And then Jesus launches into the same bit of teaching? That is one heckuva coincidence, don’t you think? I won’t pretend that I can actually read in tone, or understand Luke’s intent, but even from the outward details the similarity is striking. Naturally the location of the teaching is not in Q, but that actually supports my argument: the choice of a contrary location that plays off the location used by Matthew truly seems deliberate. More, the relative placement of the actual teaching in both gospels is suspiciouly similar. The point is not that these pieces of evidence that I’m tossing out are in any way decisive; the point is that the Q proponents have completely shut down this entire line of argument. I have to say that any of my professors would have been appalled had I ever turned in an essay arguing the way the Q people have handled the controversy for the last hundred years or so. To the anti-Q people I say, “grow a spine and stand up to this.”
The final line really hearkens back to Mark 6 and the story of the Bleeding Woman. Recall that she surreptitiously touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and the power went out of him of its own accord, without ay conscious decision, or intent on Jesus’ part. This sounds like a similar situation. The subject of “healed” is not explicit, which means it grammatically falls back to the closed antecedent. In this case, it’s the power, and not Jesus. And this is not some odd notion of mine; the four crib translations I use all render this sentence with “the power” as the agent doing the healing. I find that interesting. It’s a holdover from Mark, who was not convinced that Jesus was fully divine. In the story of the Bleeding Woman, it seems that the Power is something of an entity unto itself. It seems to exist apart from Jesus, here it is the agency that effects the healing rather than being something that exists within and because of the divinity of Jesus. Luke retains that aspect of the power in his version of that story, so this isn’t meant as a substitute for that reference. Given the insistence with which both Matthew and Luke proclaim the divinity of Jesus from the very start of their gospel, seeing this here is a bit puzzling. In contrast, in Matthew’s version of the Bleeding Woman story, Matthew portrays Jesus as being aware of the woman’s approach, so he heals her consciously. In short, we have another time when Luke contradicts Matthew. However, we’ll discuss that more when we come to it in Luke.
17 Et descendens cum illis stetit in loco campestri, et turba multa discipulorum eius, et multitudo copiosa plebis ab omni Iudaea et Ierusalem et maritima Tyri et Sidonis,
18 qui venerunt, ut audirent eum et sanarentur a languoribus suis; et, qui vexabantur a spiritibus immundis, curabantur.
19 Et omnis turba quaerebant eum tangere, quia virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes.
Chapter Six begins with the story that usually falls under the rubric of “Lord of the Sabbath”. It’s common to all three Synoptic Gospels.
1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν σαββάτῳ διαπορεύεσθαι αὐτὸν διὰ σπορίμων, καὶ ἔτιλλον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤσθιον τοὺς στάχυας ψώχοντες ταῖς χερσίν.
2 τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων εἶπαν, Τί ποιεῖτε ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν;
3 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐδὲ τοῦτο ἀνέγνωτε ὃ ἐποίησεν Δαυὶδ ὅτε ἐπείνασεν αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ μετ’ αὐτοῦ [ὄντες];
4 [ὡς] εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἄρτους τῆς προθέσεως λαβὼν ἔφαγεν καὶ ἔδωκεν τοῖς μετ’ αὐτοῦ, οὓς οὐκ ἔξεστιν φαγεῖν εἰ μὴ μόνους τοὺς ἱερεῖς;
5 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Κύριός ἐστιν τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
It became on the Sabbath that he was crossing through the wheat field, and plucked his disciples from it (the grain field) and ate the kernels rubbing (them) in their hands. (2) Some of the Pharisees said, “Does he not do what is not allowed on Sabbaths?” (3) And answering to them Jesus said, “Are you unaware of what David did that he was hungry and those with him? (4) [As] they went to the house of God and the loaves of the offerings taking he ate and he gave to those with him, which was not allowed to eat unless alone for the priests”. (5) And he said to them, “Lord of the sabbath is the son of man”.
The translation is a bit clunky, or even more than a bit clunky, but it works very well here when rendered in a very literal fashion that retains the word order of the original. This is not always possible given that case languages do not rely so much on the order of the words to get the message across. The one part that is nearly impossible to render faithfully is the <<εἰ μὴ>>; this is literally “if not”, which is more or less “unless”, but here it’s particularly nasty because it’s coupled with a negative. Unlike Greek, Latin, French, or Spanish, English has the rule about the double negative. (I’m really not familiar enough with German grammar to know the rules there.) In the other four languages, the negatives reinforce, rather than negate, each other. So it is here. Literally, it would be “unless not”, which in English would constitute a double negative. The idea is that only the priests could eat these loaves which had been offered to God. Note that the priests ate the stuff given to God; this was a perk of being a priest, regardless of the religion, whether pagan or Jewish. Christian practice remained essentially the same, even if the offerings of the faithful became money rather than food. This was how the priests were supported in temples or churches: give to God/the god, the priests were then entitled to the food. So for David to step in and eat food meant for God, and then to give said food to his warrior (bandit) band was cause to raise eyebrows.
As this story appeared in both Mark and Matthew, we’ve discussed the implication of how this situates Jesus in the place of David. One thing I didn’t realize until just now is that Jesus as the seed of David is almost exclusively a theme that occurs in the gospels. Paul mentions David three times, all of them in Romans, the last written of the authentic letters that we have from Paul. Of these three, exactly one states that Jesus, in the flesh, is a descendant of David. And in Mark, we have essentially perhaps two or references to Jesus as being in the line of David. The only direct one is in Chapter 10 when the blind bar Timeaus calls out to Jesus as the son of David. The other two are oblique. The reason for mentioning this out is to point out that Jesus as the son/descendant of David does not become firmly entrenched in the record in the first two or three generations after the death of Jesus. It is Matthew, with his genealogy, who fixes the idea of Jesus being a lineal descendant of David into Christian dogma.
What does this mean? Truly, the appropriate place to discuss this would be in a commentary on Paul. However, it didn’t occur to me that we weren’t seeing this because, well, because we weren’t seeing it. For all of Paul’s talk of the Christ, the Messiah, that the messiah was somehow related to David never came up in the three books of Paul that we read. While Paul refers to David’s words, or to his legend, the sole mention of Jesus being related to David, a descendent of David comes in Romans 1:3. And even there, he simply mentions that Jesus, through the flesh, was of David’s line. There is no really explicit statement that the Messiah had to be of David’s line or anything such. Had Paul been writing to Jews, we could probably assume that Jews would know this as a matter of course; but he was not writing to Jews. He wrote to Galatians, Thessalonians, and Corinthians, and only mentions this connexion in Romans–more pagans–and then only once. That somehow seems odd. And the one explicit reference in Mark is part of a story that could have been swallowed whole by Mark, so this may not have been a central part of Mark’s theology. Remember, the first half of Mark is the story of Jesus the Wonder-Worker; the Messiah part comes in later, and is easily the smaller of the two “halves” of Mark’s narrative.
As far as I can tell, David is not part of Q. This would make sense. Jesus does not refer to himself as being of the seed of David, so why would we expect David to crop up in a collection of the sayings of Jesus (or whatever else it’s convenient to stick in there)? We shouldn’t expect it, I wouldn’t think. So it does not become a prominent part of the Jesus story until Matthew makes it so. And, writing later, Luke does exactly the same thing as Matthew. Interestingly, John only makes the David connexion in a single passage, in John 7:42. So this means that David plays a large role only in Matthew and Luke, even though David was not part of Q. Hmmm. If a=b, and b=c, then a=c. Or, rather, Matthew or Q. Not Q. Therefore Matthew. This is known as the Disjunctive Syllogism, and it’s one of the foundation pieces of formal logic. Luke and Matthew agree. Therefore Luke got David either from Matthew or from Q. David does not appear in Q. Therefore, Luke got the David references from Matthew, Q.E.D.
Well, it’s not quite demonstrated. There are, of course, other places that Luke could have gotten the David connexion, other sources, other traditions. But the funny thing is that David is largely absent from most of the NT, except for Matthew and Luke/Acts (assuming the same author). This is akin to the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the annunciation by an angel, and all the other motifs that were identified as peculiar to Matthew and Luke. So David is yet one more. The side of the scale with the Luke-Matthew connexions is starting to get pretty heavy.
One final word. Just because Jesus compares himself to David, that is not to say he necessarily implies that he is the Messiah. Yes, that is one interpretation; the connexion to David is perhaps sufficient to make this leap, but I don’t think it’s necessary. That position may require some serious hair-splitting, or a very finely nuanced way of looking at things, but IMO the distinction is real. Now, it’s another thing to say whether the conscious connecting to David would have been taken by most listeners as a direct correlation: Jesus = David = Messiah. To some degree, this would depend on how well-versed the audience was that heard/read this. If the audience was Jewish, then the likelihood goes up; if it was predominantly pagan, it goes down. But then, since this originated in Mark, is that question legitimate? Was Luke just keeping it for the sake of keeping it? Not necessarily. Luke has not been afraid to change or jettison stories or parts of stories, so why keep this? First, for it’s challenge to established religion, as it was being practised at the time. The Jews had gone astray, so Jesus was the Judaic Martin Luther leading a reform, not starting a revolution. Second, because once again this tied Jesus to that ancient line of religious practice. Jesus’ message was the wisdom of the ages, not a novel invention, and he was reminding his contemporaries about how it should be done.
1 Factum est autem in sabbato, cum transiret per sata, et velle bant discipuli eius spicas et manducabant confricantes manibus.
2 Quidam autem pharisaeorum dixerunt: “Quid facitis, quod non licet in sabbatis?”.
3 Et respondens Iesus ad eos dixit: “Nec hoc legistis, quod fecit David, cum esurisset ipse et qui cum eo erant?
4 Quomodo intravit in domum Dei et panes propositionis sumpsit et manducavit et dedit his, qui cum ipso erant, quos non licet manducare nisi tantum sacerdotibus? ”.
5 Et dicebat illis: “Dominus est sabbati Filius hominis”.
6 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ἑτέρῳ σαββάτῳ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὴν συναγωγὴν καὶ διδάσκειν: καὶ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ ἡ δεξιὰ ἦν ξηρά:
7 παρετηροῦντο δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι εἰ ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεύει, ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ.
8 αὐτὸς δὲ ᾔδει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς αὐτῶν, εἶπεν δὲ τῷ ἀνδρὶ τῷ ξηρὰν ἔχοντι τὴν χεῖρα, Ἔγειρε καὶ στῆθι εἰς τὸ μέσον: καὶ ἀναστὰς ἔστη.
9 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτούς, Ἐπερωτῶ ὑμᾶς, εἰ ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀπολέσαι;
10 καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντας αὐτοὺς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρά σου. ὁ δὲ ἐποίησεν, καὶ ἀπεκατεστάθη ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ.
11 αὐτοὶ δὲ ἐπλήσθησαν ἀνοίας, καὶ διελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους τί ἂν ποιήσαιεν τῷἸησοῦ.
Then it happened on another sabbath that he came into the synagogue and taught. And there was a man there and his hand, the right one was withered. (7) And watching him were the scribes and the Pharisees if on the sabbath he would heal, so that the would find to accuse him. (8) He knew the dialogues of them, he said to the man the withered hand having, “Rise and stand in the middle”. And standing he stood. (9) Said Jesus to them, “I ask you if it is allowed on the sabbath to dogood (= do good; it’s a single word in Greek) or dobad (= do bad), a life to say or destroy (it)?” (10) And looking around at all of them he (Jesus) said to him (the man), “Stretch out your hand”. He did this and restored was his hand. (11) They were filled by not understanding, and they spoke to each other what they would do to Jesus.
A few minor things. “Dogood” and “dobad”: interesting constructions. There is a very nice extended accusative and infinitive construction in the first verse, encompassing both the “come in” and the “teach”. That’s a bit unusual, and shows a certain amount of comfort with a reasonably literary strand of the Greek language. The first biggish thing is the bit about saving a life. The word is psyche, or anima, in Latin. The latter should be recognisable as the root of “animate”, or “animal”. So it’s the breath of life. As we’ve no doubt mentioned, the base meaning of psyche is “life”; this, in turn, becomes associated with the breath of life, which is why it ends up as anima in Latin. Our word “soul”, which is how this word is most often translated, is from the German, seele. And here is where using an NT dictionary is problematic: one of the ones I use give “soul” as the base definition. Now again, the wrath of Achilles, that baneful wrath, sent the psyches of many heroes to Hades, and “lives” doesn’t quite give the proper sense of that phrase. Here, it is obviously “life”–at least it seems pretty obvious to me. And the four crib translations I use all render it as “life”. Now the more interesting aspect of this is that it is coupled with “to save”; here it’s plainly “to save a life”. But think about that: psyche sōsein; this gets Christianised very easily as “to save a soul”. Here is where we see the real danger in assigned hierocratic meanings to specific words in Greek; they end up warping the original into a construct that did not become dogma until some time later. The boundary between the uses of “soul” and “life” for psyche is very ill-defined. There have been, IIRC, a few instances when it should clearly read “soul”, and perhaps in sort of our concept of the meaning.
I also like that they were filled by “not-understanding”. The word is a-noia, which literally means “unminded”. Or something. The a- prefix is a negation, like a-historical. The ‘noia’ means mind. So do your own construction of the two parts. The reason I like the image is that, essentially, Luke is saying their mind was filled by not-mind, which is something approaching a paradox: how can you fill something with nothing?
A version of this story appears in both Mk&Mt. What is remarkable about this version is that Luke has toned down the reaction of the scribes & Pharisees. They are not overtly plotting to kill Jesus as the other two say they are. They’re merely discussing what they will do. Why does Luke de-escalate like this? Since this is the first episode in the plot to kill Jesus, it’s pretty much impossible to say at the moment. Did he understand that provincial scribes & Pharisees really had no connexion with the authorities? We would have to come up with reasons why that would be true, and I doubt they exist. In fact, they almost certainly do not exist since we know nothing about the author of this (or any) gospel. Will he tone down the guilt of the Temple authorities? That could be taken to imply that he did understand–or suspect–the lack of connexion between this group and the group in Jerusalem, but the honest answer is that I don’t know. It is interesting to note that the Passion of Luke does not get read all that often in church services, whether the Roman or the Episcopalian rites (Correct me if I’m wrong). Why is that? Mark and John are the two that most come to mind, the two most often read in church, and Bach wrote a Matthew Passion & a John Passion, but not a Luke Passion. I don’t know why that is, so this becomes a question to be asked and considered as we move along through the rest of the gospel.
Just a final word. The next section is the calling of the Twelve, so I wanted to point out that the last part of Chapter 5 was the story of Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralytic, and we’ve had two instances so far in Chapter 6 about the Lord of the Sabbath and healing on the sabbath. All three of these constitute a challenge to the existing religious practice of the Jews. So that we end up with dark muttering against Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. This was a definite theme in Mark; I have not done the analysis to see how much of a theme it was in Matthew. Regardless, it’s not new with Luke and we’ll see what he does with it.
6 Factum est autem in alio sabbato, ut intraret in synagogam et doceret; et erat ibi homo, et manus eius dextra erat arida.
7 Observabant autem illum scribae et pharisaei, si sabbato curaret, ut invenirent accusare illum.
8 Ipse vero sciebat cogitationes eorum et ait homini, qui habebat manum aridam: “Surge et sta in medium”. Et surgens stetit.
9 Ait autem ad illos Iesus: “ Interrogo vos, si licet sabbato bene facere an male; animam salvam facere an perdere? ”.
10 Et circumspectis omnibus illis, dixit illi: “ Extende manum tuam ”. Et fecit; et restituta est manus eius.
11 Ipsi autem repleti sunt insipientia et colloquebantur ad invicem quidnam facerent Iesu.