Category Archives: Chapter 8
For the most part, this chapter consists of material we have found in both of the other two gospels. Ergo, and a priori, it is part of the so-called “Triple Tradition”. This gives us a chance to look at the way each of them handled each story, and see what was said and not said by whom.
There is one part of this that is unique to Luke. It’s very brief, covered in the commentary to Verses 1-3. It concerns the women who followed Jesus. Mary the Magdalene, or Mary called the Magdalene as Luke puts it, is common to all three. Or actually to all four gospels, since John mentions her as well. Luke has two unique aspects specifically about Mary M. First, we are told that Jesus expelled seven demons from her. No one else mentions this. As such, this seems to be another great example of how the story grew. I would even be willing to infer that there is a complete story behind this little tidbit, the tale of how Jesus encountered Mary and describing the specifics of her possession and the circumstances under which Jesus cured her. Luke encountered–or possibly created–this story but chose not to include the whole thing; rather, he was satisfied with adding the most important part. The existence of this additional detail, and the possible existence of the story behind it, ties in with the other thing that Luke adds to the account of Mary M. Against the other two, Luke introduces Mary M much earlier in the narrative than any of the other evangelists. In Mark and Matthew, we do not meet her until the crucifixion scene. This, in turn, ties in with something Luke omits: that Mary M and the women were followers of Jesus in Galilee, and that they had (presumably) come to Jerusalem with Jesus.
This is a fascinating glimpse into the way the character (as in, dramatis persona) of the Magdalene is developing. In 2M, she pops up only at the end, as part of the Passion narrative. I suspect she is the reason that the young man in white in the empty tomb tells Mary and the disciples to return to Galilee: she will take care of them there. I would not be surprised to learn that, in some way, responsible for the creation of the Passion narrative. By introducing her early, and hinting that there were other stories to be told about her, Luke is sort of cutting her loose from being limited to a minor role (but not really that minor, either; Jesus appeared to her first) at the end. Her role is expanding, people are making up stories about her, and she is, overall, just becoming more prominent. This is how and why she ended up a prostitute: because people made up stories. She has become more a part of the story, albeit still in a fairly peripheral fashion. She will go on to become a major figure in Roman Catholic tradition; she is so much a part of the cultural landscape that “Magdalene” is recognized by spellcheck. However, the negative aspect of this particular part of her story was designed, in large part, to take her down a notch or two. Or three. Rather than being a financial supporter, and so someone of rank, she was downgraded to being a prostitute.
One of the other stories in the chapter is that of Jesus calming the storm. There is one aspect of this that needs to be emphasized. Much of the “argument” for Q is that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Well, in the three versions of the storm, we have a very clear example of exactly that: Luke telling the same story as Matthew. Granted, it’s a negative agreement, based on an omission, but I’d like to hear an argument for why this doesn’t count. In Mark, the terrified disciples ask Jesus, “do you not care if we are perishing?”. Matthew left this out, and so did Luke. That is an agreement between the latter two against Mark. I somehow suspect that the Q people would vehemently object to this, but then they somehow miss the fact that Matthew and Luke–against Mark–agree on Joseph and Bethlehem and the angel announcing Jesus’ coming birth and, well all of the so-called Q material. But this latter doesn’t count, for whatever reason.
Luke also radically changed the context and timing of the “who are my mother and brothers?” pericope. This–and many other such placements–amply demonstrates that Luke was not particularly particular about how he re-arranged the text of his predecessors.
There are three other stories in this chapter, and all three of them are part of the Triple Tradition. The stories are that of the Gerasene demonaics, the Jairus/Bleeding Woman diptych, and the Parable of the Sower. Two are miracle stories and the other is a parable; however, I believe they should be considered together along with the Calming of the Storm. We touched on this latter briefly above, but it is worth a bit more examination in the way that it fits in the chapter. The Q people would have you believe that stuff like the Sermon on the Mount is the actual real, official, traces back to Jesus material of the gospels. Given that there is no evidence of Q, I find this hard to accept. Rather, I would suggest that these four stories represent the oldest stratum of material in the gospels. It only makes sense, given that they are found in Mark whereas the Sermon on the Mount is not. Plain logic suggests that the oldest gospel written is most likely to have the oldest material, but the Q people seem to disagree with this premise.
Note that three of these are miracle stories. They also share the common feature that the disciples are either more or less non-existent or only serve as stage props. They have virtually no role in the Gerasene adventure; in the story of the Bleeding Woman/Jairus they exist only so one of the disciples can say that it would be impossible to tell who it was that touched Jesus in the crowd; in the Calming of the Storm they are the witless fools scared for their lives and lacking faith. In the Parable of the Sower, their participation is to act as the straight men who ask Jesus to explain what the parable means. This sort of behaviour and portrayal fits with the overall pattern of the way Mark treats the disciples throughout his gospel; it has been retained by Matthew and Luke. Throughout this commentary, I have been highly skeptical of the Twelve, and these episodes reinforce that skepticism. Mark can barely find employment even for Peter, James, and John, while Matthew and Andrew show up for their calling. The rest are only names, with the exception of Judas who appears in the Passion Story, which was a later addition to the gospel; as such, it would seem logical that he was a later addition to the story.
All of this, in turn, indicates that these stories form the core of the earliest narrative about Jesus, or that they were among the earliest stories repeated about Jesus. It it significant that they also portray Jesus as a wonder worker in three of the four. Here we come to an interesting dichotomy. Our earliest source, Paul, says nothing of miracle performed by Jesus; indeed, he suggests that performing miracles was not an uncommon gift, along with prophesy and speaking in tongues. Nor does Paul do more than mention Jesus’ teachings. Yet, the earliest popular stories about Jesus portray him differently, as a wonder-worker who talked about the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven, or of the heavens. I would suggest that the Christ tradition of Paul is largely theological, while the wonder-worker tradition of the miracles is more popular, intended to reach more of a mass audience. These two different views of Jesus are not mutually exclusive, but neither is the overlap is not immediately obvious. For Paul, it was the Resurrection that made Jesus into the Christ, which is what made him significant. For the Mark, it was largely Jesus’ miracles that made him significant, and the miracles are strung together until sometime in Chapter 7/8/9 when Mark transitions to speaking of Jesus as the Christ. This dissection of Mark is not completely clean and not nearly as clear-cut as I may seem to be suggesting, but it is the overall pattern. If you count word occurrences, the pattern becomes pretty clear; different sets of words that represent themes, are used in the first part of the gospel than are used in the latter part.
Perhaps the aspect of this that should be most noted is that neither Matthew nor Luke radically alter this perception of Jesus in these four stories that we are discussing. Jesus and the disciples are portrayed by the latter two much as they are by Mark. This is evidence for a very strong tradition about Jesus as a wonder worker. Rather than downplay it, the gospels emphasize Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. This has led to a whole lot of discussion that the miracles are the demonstration, the proof that Jesus is divine. He can contravene the laws of nature. In this, he is really no different from earlier prophets like Elijah who also raised the dead; rather than qualitative, the difference between Jesus and these earlier prophets is quantitative. Jesus performed a lot of miracles. Even John retained (or invented) nine miracle stories. In my analysis of Mark, I said that he wove the different stories into a (mostly) coherent skein. It could also be said that he began the welding of the two traditions, wonder worker and Christ, into a single whole. Matthew and Luke continue the process, but they create a framework that puts the miracles more directly in the context of Jesus’ divinity: both Matthew and Luke start with a story of a divinely-ordained and divine birth that tells us from the start who Jesus is. Once this is established, they retain the wonder-worker tradition, but put more emphasis on the Christ. This trend is culminated by John, who starts by telling us that Jesus was the Logos, and it was with God from the beginning.
One implication of this two-fold tradition becomes manifest when it’s set out like this. While Paul may be our earliest written source, we have to ask if he represents the earlier tradition. I’m not sure that we can make that assumption, or draw that inference. That is something to be considered as we proceed.
This section will conclude Chapter 8. At 56 verses, Chapter 8 is one of the longer chapters in Luke. In this post we will finish the story of Jairus and his daughter. We’ve done an intro for this already, so let’s go straight to the
49Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἔρχεταί τις παρὰ τοῦ ἀρχισυναγώγου λέγων ὅτι Τέθνηκεν ἡ θυγάτηρ σου, μηκέτι σκύλλε τὸν διδάσκαλον.
(While) he was yet speaking, someone from those surrounding the ruler of the synagogue came, saying that “Your daughter has dies. Don’t disturb the teacher any longer.”
Recall that only Mark and Luke name this official, who is a “leader of the synagogue”. My initial reaction is to be suspicious of this term, but one of the commentary/dictionaries at TheBible.org* says that this was a thing, and that it had a Hebrew/Aramaic term behind it. I suppose it makes sense. The full-blown Rabbinic Judaism, more or less as we think of it today, had not yet developed by the time of Jesus, or even the evangelists. And today, as I understand it, “synagogue” and “temple” are more or less synonymous terms. They were not in the first century. There was one temple, the Temple in Jerusalem. There were synagogues scattered about. I don’t know the full practice, but from what we read, it seems to be something not entirely dissimilar to the concept now, except perhaps not as formal. And it would make sense that there was a person in charge. And interestingly, neither does Matthew use this term; rather, he calls the man simply a “ruler”, obviously a more generic term. We know it’s highly probable that both Matthew and Luke read Mark, so here, as always, we question the choices made by each subsequent writer. I wonder if there is a literature analyzing the way each of the other two handled Markan pericopes (oooh, sound all bible-scholary, no?). One thing that the Q people demand–and that is the correct word: demand–is that people who don’t accept Q have to come up with a “redactionally consistent” explanation for every instance that Luke differs from Matthew in the so-called Q material. Really? If so, then I demand a redactionally consistent explanation for every time Matthew changes Mark.
49 Adhuc illo loquente, venit quidam e domo principis synagogae dicens: “Mortua est filia tua; noli amplius vexare magistrum”.
50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀκούσας ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ, Μὴ φοβοῦ, μόνον πίστευσον, καὶ σωθήσεται.
But Jesus, hearing, answered to him, “Do not fear, only believe and she will be saved.”
Here we get back to the “saved” business that we discussed with the Bleeding Woman. And, all four of my crib translations render this as “made well/whole”, in the sense of “healed”. Honestly, I really have to question this. We have just been told the girl has died; “made well” or “made whole” does not exactly catch the implication of the girl being raised from the dead. “Saved”, as in, “save her life” comes, I think, much closer. And the Vulgate below agrees with me; the word used is “salva”, from “salvo, salvare”, which means “to save”. So why not use that word? My suspicion is that NT translators want to preserve a distinction between saving a life and saving a soul; the former then becomes “made whole” or something such, while “saved” is reserved for saving souls. Thinking about it, this sort of verbal guidance is an excellent example of rhetoric, or even marketing. The message is massaged in this way over the course of centuries, so that certain words mean certain things, and nothing else. What could be the sacred breath becomes the Holy Spirit, “charity” becomes “grace” and an “assembly” becomes a “church”. Or, rather, The Church.
50 Iesus autem, audito hoc verbo, respondit ei: “Noli timere; crede tantum, et salva erit”.
51 ἐλθὼν δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν οὐκ ἀφῆκεν εἰσελθεῖν τινα σὺν αὐτῷ εἰ μὴ Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ τὸν πατέρα τῆς παιδὸς καὶ τὴν μητέρα.
52 ἔκλαιον δὲ πάντες καὶ ἐκόπτοντο αὐτήν. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Μὴ κλαίετε, οὐ γὰρ ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καθεύδει.
53 καὶ κατεγέλων αὐτοῦ, εἰδότες ὅτι ἀπέθανεν.
Coming to the home he sent forth to go in someone (no one) with him except Peter and John and James, and the father of the girl and the mother. (52) But all were crying and they were wailing her. But he said, “Do not cry, for she did not die, but she sleeps”. (53) And they laughed at him, knowing that she had died.
The first thing to note is that he only took Peter, James, and John. Why are these the only three that he ever takes with him? Because, I suspect, they were the only three “full-time” followers that he had. There was no Twelve, there were no Apostles, there was Peter, James, and John. Aside from Judas the Betrayer, and the mention of Levi the tax collector, what did any of the so-called “Twelve Apostles” actually do? There are no stories attached to any of them until John brings in Nathaniel and Phillip, the former who is not mentioned by the other three when they list the Twelve.
There are two aspects of the last verse that bear comment. The first is the rather arch “knowing”. Such silly people! They don’t know nothin’! Perhaps “arch” isn’t the best description; maybe “sly” might be more accurate. Interestingly, Luke is the only one who records this; the other two evangelists don’t have it. This is even more interesting since all three versions have Jesus being laughed at for making this suggestion. Luke seems to be having a bit of fun here; with the transition from “laughing” to “knowing”, I can just see the nudge-nudge-wink-wink Luke gives to the audience.
51 Et cum venisset domum, non permisit intrare secum quemquam nisi Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et patrem puellae et matrem.
52 Flebant autem omnes et plangebant illam. At ille dixit: “ Nolite flere; non est enim mortua, sed dormit ”.
53 Et deridebant eum scientes quia mortua esset.
54 αὐτὸς δὲ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς ἐφώνησεν λέγων, Ἡ παῖς, ἔγειρε.
He then taking her hand called to her, saying, “Child, get up.”
Just want to stop here to discuss “taking”, as in, her hand. The root of the verb is “strength”; the verb form is often used in the sense of “to overpower”. Matthew uses a form of it to describe the arrest of Jesus in the Garden on the night before he died. And that is a standard sense of the word in Classical Greek, although being “arrested” is a bit of an anachronism for much of the ancient world. It almost never has the sense of simply taking hold of something, or someone, in a non-violent sense. There is the implication of superior strength, or skill, as in athletics. That’s all fine and good. What really stands out is how the NT Lexicon used at TheBible.org really defines the word down, leaving out much of that sense of strength, making the word much more mundane, and completely washing out the implication of physical strength. And this is why I so dislike the notion that a creature with the name of “NT Greek” exists; it doesn’t. “NT Greek” has come to be a set of agreed-upon renderings that help keep the agreed-upon message of the NT intact. All of this then gets in the way of actually reading the text to see what might actually be there, buried underneath centuries, or millennia, of consensus on what Christians think the text should say.
Finally, the word I rendered as “child”. This word, pais, is the word used by the Centurion to describe the person, the slave in the centurion’s household, that was ill. Here it has the feminine article to indicate that it is used for a girl. Rather an oddity.
54 Ipse autem tenens manum eius clamavit dicens: “ Puella, surge! ”.
55 καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτῆς, καὶ ἀνέστη παραχρῆμα, καὶ διέταξεν αὐτῇ δοθῆναι φαγεῖν.
56 καὶ ἐξέστησαν οἱ γονεῖς αὐτῆς: ὁ δὲ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς μηδενὶ εἰπεῖν τὸ γεγονός.
And her spirit turned around, and she stood up forthwith, and he instructed that something to eat be given to her. (56) And her parents were amazed. He commanded them to tell no one the occurrences.
Here the word to watch is what I’ve translated as :”turned around”. My four crib translations give it as “returned”, and I have to admit that seems like a reasonable rendering. But let’s also note that both Mark and Matthew use the same word to describe what Jesus did when he became aware that he had been touched by the Bleeding Woman. What’s also interesting is that the Latin, reversus est, is more ambiguous, and it does cover both the senses of “turning around” and “coming back”. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive in English, and there is some overlap, but they are not true synonyms. I would suggest that the KJV leaned to the Latin, and I suspect that might be correct, but that doesn’t address what Luke meant by using this word and not another that more accurately captures the idea of “returning”. So in the space of a three verses, we have two oddities of vocabulary choice. And then there is the bit about “knowing” that the girl was dead. It’s almost enough to give the impression that Luke had rather a droll sense of humor, or perhaps a tendency towards irony. Ya think?
55 Et reversus est spiritus eius, et surrexit continuo; et iussit illi dari manducare.
56 Et stupuerunt parentes eius, quibus praecepit, ne alicui dicerent, quod factum erat.
* https://thebible.org. An immensely useful site. It provides a Greek text that is parsed grammatically which allows a word to be clicked to bring up a dictionary entry, or two, actually. One of these is the “Thayer” cited. It appears to be a product of the 19th Century, but then again, so is Liddell and Scott. The problem is that the word is defined from what seems to be an NT dictionary, so I use it to find the base form and then toddle over to L&S to find out what it really means. NT dictionaries are a bit too self-referential, too much a part of a closed epistemological loop, and I really don’t like, and actively distrust, such loops. This is how consensus translations and consensus meanings have come about, which means that the text is often ignored in favour of “how it’s always been translated”. This was a motivating factor for the explosion of translations in the Reformation period. Ostensibly, these went back to the “original” Greek texts, but I have found way too many instances where the Protestant commentator very obviously relied on the Vulgate, rather than the Greek original. Then subsequent commentaries are based on the authority (richly deserved, for the greatest part) authority of these Reformation-era giants, and the Greek text becomes just as hazy as it was before this rebirth of Greek scholarship in the West. I’ve never read Erasmus’ translation; it would be interesting, and I believe he put it into Latin.
One other very useful aspect of this site is that it allows the user to have four (perhaps more) parallel columns of English transactions. This is extremely useful to see what others have done with the text. I use the KJV, ESV, NIV, and NASB; using the KJV is obvious; the others are more or less arbitrary. I find them to be a decent cross-section of translations, that provides some insight into the ways different people have translated the work.
Jesus and crew have left the land of the Gerasenes and returned to the shore of the lake, presumably around Caphernaum. This seems to be Jesus’ home-base, even in Luke, who does not tell us that Jesus moved there. Even so, Luke can’t really disguise the fact that the action takes place in and around the Sea of Galilee, and this means Capheraum, which is situated on the northern shore of the lake.This will take us into the stories of the Bleeding Woman, and the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. One point that I added to the bottom of my last post is that it appears that the land of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes is at the opposite end of the Sea of Galilee. The lake is long and narrow, running north and south. Caphernaum is on the north shore; Gadara, apparently, was situated on the southern side. Not only that, it’s some way off, perhaps even several miles, the shore of the lake. But, not sure how significant that really is, so I suppose we should get on with the
40 Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑποστρέφειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπεδέξατο αὐτὸν ὁ ὄχλος, ἦσαν γὰρ πάντες προσδοκῶντες αὐτόν.
Upon his return (from the land of the Gerasenes), the crowd received Jesus, for all were expecting him.
This is worthy of a comment, I believe. Why would they be expecting him, and so waiting for him? Here is where the length of the trip to Gadara becomes a bit more relevant. How long would it take to sail from one end to the other? A map I found says it’s 21 km long; that’s a bit over ten miles. According to one website, the speed of a modern sailing cruiser is about 7 knots (=nautical miles, = 1.15 statute/land miles). I once sailed from Olcott, NY to Youngstown, NY, at the mouth of the Niagara river, and I’m pretty sure we were hitting about 10 knots. I remember this because the skipper was extremely pleased at the speed his boat was making, but that was perhaps a faster-than-average boat. Anyway, even at five knots, a 10-12 mile trip could be done in two hours. This means Jesus could have embarked from Caphernaum in the morning, sailed to Gadara, expelled Legion, and easily have been back by the late afternoon, with time to spare. So if folks saw him set out in the morning, it would not have been unusual for them to expect him back by nightfall. Why does this matter? It really doesn’t in any truly significant way, but it’s interesting to note that it is within the realm of probability, unlike Mark Chapter 3 when Jesus’ family walks twenty miles from Nazareth to take him home from Caphernaum. This, I suspect, is part of the reason that people suppose Mark wasn’t familiar with the geography of Galilee, although this episode is entirely possible if Jesus & family actually lived in Caphernaum. It’s also interesting to note that only Luke has this little bit of the story. Does it imply that Luke was familiar with the geography of Galilee? That would be a reasonable conclusion, but it could also be something he picked up from his source. Or, he could have just included this without knowing whether or not it was possible. You see, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from so much of this stuff.
FWIW: I found another map, and it appears that Gadara had a good harbor at the south end of the lake.
40 Cum autem rediret Iesus, excepit illum turba; erant enim omnes exspectantes eum.
41 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἦλθεν ἀνὴρ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰάϊρος, καὶ οὗτος ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς ὑπῆρχεν, καὶ πεσὼν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας [τοῦ] Ἰησοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ,
42 ὅτι θυγάτηρ μονογενὴς ἦν αὐτῷ ὡς ἐτῶν δώδεκα καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέθνῃσκεν. Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι συνέπνιγον αὐτόν.
And look, there came a mane named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue was there, and falling beside his (Jesus’) feet he asked him to come to his home, (42) that his only-born daughter to him was as twelve years (old) and she was dying. In the leading him (in leading Jesus to Jairus’ home) the crow pressed him.
This is interesting. Luke invented the whole detail of the crowd waiting for Jesus; doing so filled two needs for the coming story. The first is to allow Jairus to be present; the second is to provide the crowd as the backdrop needed for the story of the Bleeding Woman. This is what I mean about Luke being a novelist; doing this he displays an economy of words that is a hallmark of a good storyteller, or of a good writer in general.
Now, circling back to the bit about being able to sail from Gadara and back in a single day, we have the crowd. As mentioned, the trip to Gadara was most likely a two-to-three hour affair. As such, it’s possible to have done the trip and returned by the not-late afternoon; however, evening is more likely. And yet, this crowd does not seem to behave as if it were already evening. So the realism of the sailing time sort of goes out the window very quickly. This, I suppose, could be an example of the famous “editorial fatigue”, in which the person copying the story finds it too tiresome to continue with the editing/updating after a sentence or two. I mean, that quill, or stylus was soooooo heavy! The real implication, I think, is that the realism of the sailing time was more illusory than actual. Or perhaps “accidental” is the better term.
41 Et ecce venit vir, cui nomen Iairus, et ipse princeps synagogae erat, et cecidit ad pedes Iesu rogans eum, ut intraret in domum eius,
42 quia filia unica erat illi fere annorum duodecim, et haec moriebatur. Et dum iret, a turbis comprimebatur.
43 καὶ γυνὴ οὖσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος ἀπὸ ἐτῶν δώδεκα, ἥτις [ἰατροῖς προσαναλώσασα ὅλον τὸν βίον] οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἀπ’ οὐδενὸς θεραπευθῆναι,
44 προσελθοῦσα ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ, καὶ παραχρῆμα ἔστη ἡ ῥύσις τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς.
And there was being a woman in a discharge of blood for twelve years, who, [having wasted her whole life on physicians] was not made strong (i.e., healthy) by anyone to be healed, (44) having come close she touched the hem of his robe, and immediately stopped (lit = ‘stood‘) the discharge of her blood. (or, ‘her discharge of blood‘; this would be more literal)
I’m largely stopping here to comment on the bit in [brackets]. This part is in Mark, but not Matthew. And apparently it’s not in all mss traditions of Luke, which is what the brackets are meant to indicate. The KJV includes it as part of the text, as does the ESV, but the NASB and the NIV do not. That the KJV includes it probably indicates that the mss available at that time included the words. Indeed, the Vulgate below includes the bracketed phrase. That it was later suspected of being an interpolation is why mss traditions are so important, even if they are almost exclusively the province of specialists. That the Vulgate includes the phrase indicates that it crept in a long time ago. Some copyist was trying to align this version more closely with Mark’s version. The basic point, of course, is that human knowledge, or even the knowledge of pagan physicians who relied on pagan gods, could not compare to the power of the the real God, as god had come to be defined in the Hebrew tradition. That being said, this is pretty much a straightforward story of a wonder-worker. Whether we like it or not, the early, non-Pauline, tradition of Jesus was that this is what he was. At least, that’s what Mark tells us.
43 Et mulier quaedam erat in fluxu sanguinis ab annis duodecim, quae in medicos erogaverat omnem substantiam suam nec ab ullo potuit curari;
44 accessit retro et tetigit fimbriam vestimenti eius, et confestim stetit fluxus sanguinis eius.
45 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τίς ὁ ἁψάμενός μου; ἀρνουμένων δὲ πάντων εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος, Ἐπιστάτα, οἱ ὄχλοι συνέχουσίν σε καὶ ἀποθλίβουσιν.
And Jesus said, “Who is it who touched me?” (With) everyone denying, Peter said, “Overstander (master), the crowds hold you and press tightly on you”.
Need to stop for a couple of vocabulary notes. First, the word “Overstander”. That is a literal translation of the root word + prefix; although “stander-upon” might be even more literal. Luke uses this word a total of seven times, all of them in the gospel. No one else uses it. The other thing worth noting is that the Vulgate recognizes that this is not the usual “kyrios” or “despotes”, and provides rather an unusual word in “praeceptor”. This most commonly means “teacher”. So why the odd word? Of course, there’s no answer to that question.
The other word is the one rendered as “press”. I call this out because it’s part of the root of the word that is often translated as “persecution”. The “apo” prefix appears to add the sense of “tightly”. And I should point out that the Great Scott does give “persecute” as one of the meanings of the root “thlipsos”. However, the examples cited there do not quite get across the sense of a group being “persecuted” in the way that we conceive the word. Now, some of that may be historical; such persecutions for a set of beliefs was actually quite rare in the ancient world with its tendency towards syncretism. The prevailing attitude was that different peoples worshipped the same god, but used different names. Hence Tacitus says that the chief god of the Germania was Mercury, the closest Roman counterpart to Wotan/Woden/Odin. (There is a whole speculative literature on how Wotan supplanted Donner/ Thor as the chief god. Thor was, after all, the sky god, the wielder of thunder the was Zeus did.) This is part of the reason that I have trouble believing that the persecutions of Christians–as we understand the concept–was anything widespread or systemic, and it was largely done on political, rather than religious, grounds; however, trying to separate those terms in the first few centuries of the Common Era is horribly anachronistic. The aspect to bear in mind is that such persecution as Christians faced was due to their refusal to participate in the emperor cult. This, in turn, was held to be more akin to treason than to religious dissent, although Christians were accused of atheism from time to time. So much depends on reference and perspective.
45 Et ait Iesus: “Quis est, qui me tetigit? ”. Negantibus autem omnibus, dixit Petrus: “Praeceptor, turbae te comprimunt et affligunt”.
46 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ηψατό μού τις, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔγνων δύναμιν ἐξεληλυθυῖαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ.
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I felt the power go out of me.”
This has always fascinated me. The power acted independently of Jesus’ will to use it. The power acted of its own accord. What does that mean? How do we interpret this statement? In my hardly exhaustive search of the various commentaries at BibleHub I found a marvelous dancing around in the discussion–or lack thereof–of this part of the verse. Obviously, this story and that of Jairus are examples of the faith that can move mountains, but this little detail hints at something else. To me, it says that the power is somehow a separate entity from Jesus. This, in turn, makes Jesus an agent of God, rather than God himself. It has been argued, at least from the time of Calvin, that Jesus knew, and willed, the power to go out of him because he knew the woman was about to touch him; there is a certain logic behind this, but that’s not what the text says. Of course, what it says and what it means are not always the same thing, either. But to me, this wording hints at the Adoptionism that is often lurking just beneath the surface of Mark’s narrative.
Now, that Luke left this part in the story is the sort of thing that a Q proponent should be raising to support the case that Luke was unaware of Matthew. After all, the latter removed this from his version, as well as making his version significantly shorter than Mark’s, and still shorter than Luke’s version. I suggested that Matthew took this out for more or less the reasons I’ve suggested: that it was a bad look, it carries implications that don’t sit well ir Jesus was God from before the time of his human conception. As such, Matthew took the proper course by removing this from his story. And you know, if the Q people posed this argument, I would have some trouble in refuting it because it does not seem consistent with Jesus’ thoroughgoing divinity. But the Q people don’t present this as an argument. Instead, they tout the “masterful arrangement” of Matthew and claim that only a fool or a madman would mangle this arrangement. That is not an argument. And it’s not even valid, since it poses a false dichotomy that there can’t be other reasons for rearranging the material.
46 At dixit Iesus: “ Tetigit me aliquis; nam et ego novi virtutem de me exisse”.
47 ἰδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γυνὴ ὅτι οὐκ ἔλαθεν τρέμουσα ἦλθεν καὶ προσπεσοῦσα αὐτῷ δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἥψατο αὐτοῦ ἀπήγγειλεν ἐνώπιον παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ὡς ἰάθη παραχρῆμα.
48 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.
The woman seeing that she did not escape notice, trembling, came and fell before him to tell through which cause she touched him before the whole people how she had been healed immediately. (48) And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you, go forth in peace”.
Notice the difference in vocabulary between what Jesus says and what the woman says. The latter says she was healed immediately; Jesus says her faith has saved her. This goes back to the meaning of “saved” in the NT. Of course, for later Christians, saved has a very specific meaning. And fact, the most common translation of this is not “saved”, but “healed” or “made you well”. Why is that? I’ve been reading a lot more pagan Greek lately, and the word here, “sōzō” << σωζω >> which means “to save”, almost always means “to save one’s life”. That is obviously the meaning here; the question is when is it appropriate to take it in the later Christian sense of being “saved”. What are the clues? What is the context? I do not think this has been fully worked out, just as the clues and context for translated “psyche” as “soul” rather than “physical life” have truly been defined. Rather, the instances have been determined, and agreed upon, but it’s very much on an “everyone knows/agrees” basis. To complicate this question further, the Vulgate below choses “salvam“, “saved”. So what does that tell us about the underlying Greek word? Probably it tells us that the Latin word is just about as ambiguous–from our 21st Century perspective–as it’s Greek counterpart.
As a final note, the last verse has garnered some attention as being slightly unusual. Supposedly this is the only instance in which someone is addressed as “daughter”. This would make me wonder if the term was coming into use in later Christian communities as they were growing hierarchical. It’s not a huge thing, but it anything unusual is worth noting. All the same, we need to bear in mind that Luke is one for unusual vocabulary. The bit about going in peace, however, has a slightly different twist. The word is used many times in the NT, starting with Paul. But, it is used exactly once by Mark, and it’s in the context of this story. So the question becomes, can we take that unusual word in Mark as perhaps indicating that this expression did, in fact, go back to Jesus? We can never be sure of this, but we can be sure–reasonably so, at least–that it was an old part of the story, imbedded as it was in the account that Mark heard and repeated, and that Luke retained where Matthew did not; Matthew retained the use of “daughter” as a form of address, but he left out the injunction that she go in peace. Why Luke and not Matthew? We will never know Luke’s reasons for doing so. Perhaps he felt it may have been spoken by Jesus. Recall that Luke was definitely aware of Paul and his career, which we cannot say about Matthew. Did Luke’s familiarity make this word resonate?
47 Videns autem mulier quia non latuit, tremens venit et procidit ante eum et ob quam causam tetigerit eum indicavit coram omni populo et quemadmodum confestim sanata sit.
48 At ipse dixit illi: “Filia, fides tua te salvam fecit. Vade in pace”.
We have now come to Luke’s version of the Gerasene Demonaic. “My name is Legion, and we are many”. For whatever reason, this is ones of my favorite stories in the NT. There is something very fascinating about it for reasons that aren’t necessarily completely obvious. One of the more striking aspects of the story, IMO, is the sheer length. Especially Mark, it is one of, if not the longest single stories in the NT outside of the Passion Narrative. Why? Of course, that question cannot be answered. The existence of this story clearly points to there being a repertoire of set-piece stories about Jesus that were circulated among the early communities. The story of Jairus/The Bleeding Woman is likely another. This sort of building-block narrative, IMO, makes more sense than the idea of a bunch of sayings. Sayings do not work well in an oral tradition. Think of it: you have an audience, you want to get and keep their attention. Which will do that more effectively, a bunch of pithy aphorisms that come and go in a minute or less, requiring that a number of them be strung together, or a story of some length, with a beginning, a middle, and and end that can be dramatized? Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive; one can salt the spaces between stories with the punchy sayings. However, these are not circumstances that would seem to be conducive to accumulating a book of sayings. I am perfectly willing to accept the idea that the Parable of the Sower may have originated with Jesus, but think about that: it is not a saying in the same way that ‘blessed are the poor’ is, even if you run all of them together. The parable is like Aesop’s fables with people instead of talking animals and these are, at root, stories. If you are familiar with The Iliad, you will perhaps remember that it very much resembles a construction of such story blocks, as each of the heroes has his moment(s) in battle. There are stories of Aias (Ajax), of Diomedes, of Menelaus. Each one can, if pressed, or with a minimal amount of work, stand on its own. The genius of Homer was to take these blocks and then stack them together. So, too, with the evangelists; Mark, in particular, fits this paradigm. Q, OTOH, does not. (See note at bottom of post*)
26 Καὶ κατέπλευσαν εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γερασηνῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἀντιπέρα τῆς Γαλιλαίας.
27 ἐξελθόντι δὲ αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ὑπήντησεν ἀνήρ τις ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ἔχων δαιμόνια: καὶ χρόνῳ ἱκανῷ οὐκ ἐνεδύσατο ἱμάτιον, καὶ ἐν οἰκίᾳ οὐκ ἔμενεν ἀλλ’ ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν.
28 ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀνακράξας προσέπεσεν αὐτῷ καὶ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ εἶπεν, Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ υἱὲ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου; δέομαί σου, μή με βασανίσῃς.
29 παρήγγειλενγὰρ τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ ἐξελθεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. πολλοῖς γὰρ χρόνοις συνηρπάκει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐδεσμεύετο ἁλύσεσιν καὶ πέδαιςφυλασσόμενος, καὶ διαρρήσσων τὰ δεσμὰ ἠλαύνετο ὑπὸ τοῦ δαιμονίου εἰς τὰς ἐρήμους.
And they went to the country of the Gerasenes, which is on the opposite shore from Galilee. (27) Coming towards him when they were on land a certain man met him from the city having demons. And for a long time he was not able to be dressed, and in a house he did not remain but among the tombs. (28) Seeing Jesus, crying out he fell before him (Jesus) and said in a loud voice, “What is between me and you, Jesus son of God the most high? I beg you, do not torment me!”
There is nothing terribly remarkable here, especially after we’ve been through this twice already. It’s worth pointing out that Luke says he had demons, in the plural. Mark refers to it as an unclean spirit, singular. In a detail that I’d forgotten (upon which which I hope I commented) Matthew says there were two men, not just one. So each puts a particular slant on the story. Also worth noting is the name of the place. Here it transliterates as “Gerasenes”. Matthew has this as “Gadarenes”, which is how the KJV renders the name. So, once again, Luke agrees with Mark and not Matthew, giving the Q conspirators more (not very good) evidence that Luke did not know Matthew, even though Luke agreed about Joseph, the virgin birth, and Bethlehem. But who’s counting? Luke, as Matthew, abridges Mark’s account; there is no mention of the shackles put on the man in the latter’s version.
26 Enavigaverunt autem ad regionem Gergesenorum, quae est contra Galilaeam.
27 Et cum egressus esset ad terram, occurrit illi vir quidam de civitate, qui habebat daemonia et iam tempore multo vestimento non induebatur neque in domo manebat sed in monumentis.
28 Is ut vidit Iesum, exclamans procidit ante illum et voce magna dixit: “Quid mihi et tibi est, Iesu, Fili Dei Altissimi? Obsecro te, ne me torqueas”.
30 ἐπηρώτησεν δὲ αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τί σοι ὄνομά ἐστιν; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Λεγιών, ὅτι εἰσῆλθεν δαιμόνια πολλὰ εἰς αὐτόν.
31 καὶ παρεκάλουν αὐτὸν ἵνα μὴ ἐπιτάξῃ αὐτοῖς εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον ἀπελθεῖν.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion”, that many demons went into him. (31) And he (the demonaic) commanded him (Jesus) in order lest he (Jesus) not command them (the demons) to go away into the abyss.
The “abyss” is an interesting word. It appears once before this, in Romans, where Paul uses it to describe where someone would go to bring back the dead Christ: into the abyss, the underworld, where the dead are to be found. Then the word is used six or seven times in the Apocalypse, where it means pretty much what we think it means. Also worth noting is that the use of the word as a substantive is pretty much a Christian usage; in pagan Greek usage it’s usually an adjective, meaning “bottomless” in the sense of “too deep to measure”, which is how “bottomless” is generally used in English. So what we have here is the first explicit association of “the pit” and demons; IOW, this is a real step in the geography of Hell. Now, I’ve been reading some pagan myth, and this idea of the pit of Tartaros predates the Christian idea of Hell = Pit by several centuries. This is to say that Christians are steadily adopting ideas from their pagan contemporaries, and Christian theology is becoming less Jewish and more pagan. Given that, by the time Luke wrote, most converts have been former pagans for probably two or three or even four decades–likely since the time of Paul, and certainly since the destruction of Jerusalem–this persistent incorporation of pagan thought should not surprise us in the least. Christian thought was being formulated by pagans, for pagans. What’s more important is that the thought that had been formulated was being written down, first by Matthew and then by Luke. We talked about Matthew as a former pagan, and I’m not the first to make that suggestion, And here is an important step: Hell is taking shape, and it’s geography and purpose are strongly influenced by the Greek idea of Hades, in particular of Tartaros, a place of torment for the wicked. By the time The Apocalypse was written, the idea was firmly fixed in the Christian thought of the author of that work, who then gave it to Christian thought. Much of our ideas of Heaven and Hell derive from Revelations and from nowhere else in the NT. Or the OT for that matter.
The ideas of an eternal soul, Hell, and entrance to a blessed life after death, all all, ultimately, Greek in origin.
29 Praecipiebat enim spiritui immundo, ut exiret ab homine. Multis enim temporibus arripiebat illum, vinciebatur catenis et compedibus custoditus; et ruptis vinculis, agebatur a daemonio in deserta.
30 Interrogavit autem illum Iesus dicens: “ Quod tibi nomen est? ”. At ille dixit: “ Legio ”, quia intraverunt daemonia multa in eum.
31 Et rogabant eum, ne imperaret illis, ut in abyssum irent.
32 *)=ην δὲ ἐκεῖ ἀγέλη χοίρων ἱκανῶν βοσκομένη ἐν τῷ ὄρει: καὶ παρεκάλεσαν αὐτὸν ἵνα ἐπιτρέψῃ αὐτοῖς εἰς ἐκείνους εἰσελθεῖν: καὶ ἐπέτρεψεν αὐτοῖς.
(32) There was a large herd of swine feeding on the hill. And they (the demons) asked him (Jesus) in order to allow them into them (the pigs) to go in; and he allowed them.
One quick vocabulary note: the word used here for ‘herd’ in the NT only means a herd of pigs. And the only place it’s used is in the three versions of this story, in Mark, Matthew, and then Luke. This indicates a couple of things: first, Mark used the word originally, perhaps because it was part of the original story that he had heard, or that he created. The other two found the word in use, and not having an alternative at hand, simply followed suit. Second, that swine are being herded indicates that we are among pagans, since Jews don’t eat pork. Along with this, a reference to pigs is found only in the various versions of this story, and two other times in the NT. Matthew refers to “pearls before swine”, and Luke mentions them again in the Prodigal Son. This paucity of pigs should not surprise us given Jewish dietary laws. But let us remember this when we come to the story of the Prodigal son.
32 Erat autem ibi grex porcorum multorum pascentium in monte; et rogaverunt eum, ut permitteret eis in illos ingredi. Et permisit illis.
33 ἐξελθόν ταδὲ τὰ δαιμόνια ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰσῆλθον εἰς τοὺς χοίρους, καὶ ὥρμησεν ἡ ἀγέλη κατὰ τοῦ κρημνοῦ εἰς τὴν λίμνην καὶ ἀπεπνίγη.
34 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ βόσκοντες τὸ γεγονὸς ἔφυγον καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν εἰς τὴν πόλιν καὶ εἰς τοὺς ἀγρούς.
35 ἐξῆλθον δὲ ἰδεῖν τὸ γεγονὸς καὶ ἦλθον πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ εὗρον καθήμενον τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἀφ’ οὗ τὰ δαιμόνια ἐξῆλθεν ἱματισμένον καὶ σωφρονοῦντα παρὰ τοὺς πόδας τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν.
36 ἀπήγγειλαν δὲ αὐτοῖς οἱ ἰδόντες πῶς ἐσώθη ὁ δαιμονισθείς.
Then the demons went out from the man went into the pigs, and the herd ran over the cliff into the lake and were choked (drowned). (34) The swineherds seeing the event fled and announced to the city and to the fields (to all and sundry, country or city. (35) They came to see the event and went to Jesus and they found the purified man from whom the demons went out, clothed and wise minded (in his right mind) at the feet of Jesus, and they were afraid.
The notable thing here is that the man was clothed. In Mark’s version, we are told that the demonaic would not, or could not, wear clothes, and this was a symptom of his possession. Having once seen a naked man outside the Kennedy Center in NYC at noon on a warm Saturday, I can tell you that being nude in public like this may be an indication that someone is not of sound mind. The guy I saw probably wasn’t. But the point here is that Luke edited that detail out of the earlier story, but retained it here. Perhaps he could just assume that everyone hearing the story already knew the demonaic practiced a clothing-optional lifestyle. This, however, has some pretty profound implications for how these gospels were used: were they collected, and read (aloud or silently) as a unit? Or did different gospels circulate in different regions? That Matthew and Luke feel free to abridge Mark as they see fit…well, which does that signify? That the audience would be able to fill in the details? Or that Matthew and Luke assumed the audience would not be aware of the differences? Or neither, since it was assumed by Matthew and Luke that the audience would not be concerned about the discrepancies?
33 Exierunt ergo daemonia ab homine et intraverunt in porcos, et impetu abiit grex per praeceps in stagnum et suffocatus est.
34 Quod ut viderunt factum, qui pascebant, fugerunt et nuntiaverunt in civitatem et in villas.
35 Exierunt autem videre, quod factum est, et venerunt ad Iesum et invenerunt hominem sedentem, a quo daemonia exierant, vestitum ac sana mente ad pedes Iesu et timuerunt.
36 Nuntiaverunt autem illis hi, qui viderant, quomodo sanus factus esset, qui a daemonio vexabatur.
37 καὶ ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῆς περιχώρου τῶν Γερασηνῶν ἀπελθεῖν ἀπ’αὐτῶν, ὅτι φόβῳ μεγάλῳ συνείχοντο: αὐτὸς δὲ ἐμβὰς εἰς πλοῖον ὑπέστρεψεν.
38 ἐδεῖτο δὲ αὐτοῦ ὁ ἀνὴρ ἀφ’ οὗ ἐξεληλύθει τὰ δαιμόνια εἶναι σὺν αὐτῷ: ἀπέλυσεν δὲ αὐτὸν λέγων,
39 Ὑπόστρεφε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου, καὶ διηγοῦ ὅσα σοι ἐποίησεν ὁ θεός. καὶ ἀπῆλθεν καθ’ ὅλην τὴν πόλιν κηρύσσωνὅσα ἐποίησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
And the whole crowd from the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to go away from them, that in great fear they came out together; he embarked that they could return. (38) The man from whom the demons exited asked to go with him (Jesus). He answered saying, (39) “Return to your home, and tell how much God has done for you”. And he went through the whole city announcing what Jesus did for him.
Nice subtle touch there at the very end: Jesus tells the man to say what God had done for him, and the man announces what Jesus had done for him. Ergo, God = Jesus. Not a huge revelation, of course, but nicely done nonetheless.
Let’s connect this back to the previous verse ((36) in which we are told that the people coming out to see the event were afraid. Here they say they are in great fear. Why, exactly? Why are they not grateful? The simple answer, of course, is that they were terrified of the awesome power of God, working through Jesus, or whether as conduit or operative agent. This would be a good answer, and could certainly have been true, but that feels to be lacking, IMO. The Marxist in me wants to put this in economic terms: a large herd of pigs would have represented a sizable investment to folks of those parts; livestock was a source of wealth just as land was. So to have Jesus come along and destroy–or be responsible for the destruction 0f–the means of production that could support a number of people might be enough to scare people who were afraid that other economic assets would be destroyed, too.
But somehow I doubt that.
Let’s take a moment to stop and think about this. The longest version, with the most details, of this story is found in Mark, the earliest of the gospels. What this tells me is that the story was in place when Mark started to write. It is possible that Mark created the story; however, of the three evangelists that we’ve read/are reading, I am least likely to credit Mark with being a creative writer. Mark’s narrative between stories is minimal to the point of nonexistent. His gospel feels more like something harvested than like something he grew from seed: Mark, I think, went out and picked from what was available, more like stringing beads. Or, to go back to the analogy I used most often, he wove the different threads he found into a single whole, even if the different threads didn’t quite form an harmonious whole. There are places where the different threads do not form a smooth fabric. So, given that set of premises, let’s take it as Mark was a collector; as such, he found this story pretty much intact.
This means it is possibly one of the truly early stories about Jesus, one that could date back to his direct disciples, but likely not since their presence is scarcely felt anywhere here. We assume they sailed the boat, but that’s about it. So who started telling this story? The Gerasenes? Probably not. Here we get pagans (pigs, remember?) basically giving Jesus the bum’s rush out of town. IOW, they didn’t exactly warm to the message. Then compare this to the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who did accept the message of Jesus. Both pagans, but they had very different responses. So, since this was an early story, one that had had sufficient time to accumulate a wealth of details, which the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman did not collect. So this story more closely reflected the early followers, who were probably almost exclusively Jewish. The moral of this story is that here, the message of Jesus didn’t work out for the pagans. That development was still in the future.
So if we agree that this was an early story, what does it tell us about the earliest vision of Jesus? He is not a teacher in this story. He is a wonder-worker who expels demons and creates fear in the population because of the wonders he works. This is not the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount. That Jesus came later, I think. Again, this was part of my argument about the composition of Mark: the first eight (or so) chapters were about Jesus the wonder-worker; the rest of the work was about Jesus the Christ. Jesus does no teaching here. He does not teach anything to Jairus, or to the Bleeding Woman. Jesus the wonder-worker was not primarily a teacher, and neither was the Christ as portrayed by Paul. If the earliest Jesus was not primarily a teacher, but a wonder-worker, how likely is it that his sayings and teachings, and only what he said, was collected into a separate work that circulated about, but somehow escaped the notice of Mark, even though Mark was supposed to be the John Mark of Acts who was a follower of Peter, who certainly would have been aware of Jesus’ teachings. As you can see, we are piling implausibility upon implausibility as we attempt to stick to the traditional narrative about the early days and the writing of the NT, all as composed a century or more later by what had by that time become The Church. The possibility of Q is seriously compromised by all of these implausibilities. It simply does not fit with the best evidence that we have, Paul and Mark.
I hope that all this stuff I’m saying about the historical analysis of the evidence as presented by the text is starting to make sense. Historical arguments are complex things, even when the evidence for what we’re discussing is scanty. Even when the evidence is plentiful, it is crucial to stick to what it presents, and to pay less attention to what people said about it a century later. This latter is what biblical scholars do; they assume the accuracy–and the veracity–of the later tradition. But the problem is that later tradition simply is not reliable. The idea that Mark was John Mark the assistant to Peter flies in the face of what the text tells us if we but choose to listen. If it’s crucial to adhere to the text when there is plenty of evidence, it’s doubly so when the evidence is so scanty, and when we only have one text from which to work. That what became The Church chose not to stick to the text is understandable; after all, “scientific history” was still a rarity, although it did exist. But more, what became The Church had a mission to accomplish, and why should a few facts get in the way? I’m currently re-reading the Annales, by Tacitus. He is usually held up as the Roman Thucydides, the scientific historian in a group of hearsay artists. Well, let me tell you, Tacitus may–may–have stuck to facts, but he presented them in a way as to put across a particular point of view. So if a “scientific” historian did this, how likely is it that the evangelists even tried to write scientific history? And how likely is it that what became The Church (wbTC) would be all that careful about sticking to the evidence of the text when they had such a great story to tell? As Eliza Doolittle so eloquently put it, ‘not bloody likely’.
*Note to post:
I was looking at a map of Galilee in conjunction with the next section, when Jesus & c re-cross the lake back to Caphernaum. While looking, I noticed that the town of Gadara, where the Gadarenes (= Gerasenes, presumably) is way on the south side of the lake, pretty much the length of the lake away from Caphernaum. Not only that, it appears to be set back from the lake by a good way. However, since this takes place in the territory of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes, I suppose we can suppose that this territory extended some distance down to the the lakeshore.
37 Et rogaverunt illum omnis multitudo regionis Gergesenorum, ut discederet ab ipsis, quia timore magno tenebantur. Ipse autem ascendens navem reversus est.
38 Et rogabat illum vir, a quo daemonia exierant, ut cum eo esset. Dimisit autem eum dicens:
39 “ Redi domum tuam et narra quanta tibi fecit Deus ”. Et abiit per universam civitatem praedicans quanta illi fecisset Iesus.
My apologies for the long hiatus; I must confess that I’ve been cheating on the NT, indulging in an orgy of non-NT Greek consisting of Xenophon’s Anabasis and a Gnostic-Hermetic text called Poimandres, Shepherd of Men, or Poimandres, the Man-Shepherd. It seems to be a pretty basic text of the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of work that is comprises some foundational Gnostic texts. Sections of Poimandres (also Poemander, or even Pimander) are borderline bizarre in the generation of various entities, which I have always found a bit off-putting about a lot of Gnostic texts. The text, however, is interesting, since it acts as a mirror for the content of the NT texts that we’re reading. The date of Poimandres is conjectural, like most texts of the time. The consensus appears to put it in the second quarter of the Second Century, around the time of the Gnostic heretic Valentinius. I am not familiar with this latter author; no one is. His works were all destroyed by the neophyte Church, and everything we know about him and his teachings is derived from his orthodox attackers. One thing that is particularly interesting is the level of the development of the Gnostic elements; they seem to be largely implicit unlike the explicit Gnosticism of Gospel Thomas. Count that as another blow at the idea that Thomas was written in the First Century. But back to our story.
This is a short section; or rather, it’s two short sections. After this the tale of the Gerasene demonaic comes up, so had to cut this one short. In context, Jesus has just explained the Parable of the Sower to his disciples, and then finished with the three short aphorisms about the lamp, all things becoming manifest, and that those who have will be given more.
19 Παρεγένετο δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ μήτηρ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύναντο συντυχεῖν αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον.
20 ἀπηγγέλη δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου ἑστήκασιν ἔξω ἰδεῖν θέλοντές σε.
21 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μήτηρ μου καὶ ἀδελφοί μου οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀκούοντες καὶ ποιοῦντες.
And there came to hims his mother and his brothers, and they were not able to approach to him because of the crowd. (20) It was announced to him, “Your mother and your brothers stand outside wishing to see you.” (21) He, answering, said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those hearing and doing the word of God”.
This scene as presented here has been ripped so badly out of its context that it barely makes sense. In Mark, his family comes because they believe that Jesus has rather gone off the deep end. It is prefaced by the “house divided” episode, in which it is suggested that Jesus has a demon himself. Here, coming after the Parable of the Sower, it doesn’t particularly make sense. Nor is the location made specific; at the beginning of the chapter, we are simply told that he and the Twelve were going from one city and village to another. Mark located this story in Caphernaum, which made the idea of Jesus’ family coming from Nazareth seem far-fetched due to the distance (20-30 miles, IIRC) between the two towns. Matthew sort of eliminated that problem by telling us specifically that Jesus moved to Caphernaum, presumably with the rest of his family? Luke, in contrast, specifically said that Jesus did not move, pointedly locating the “prophet without honor in his home town” episode in Nazareth. Here…it’s hard to say. If Jesus’ family comes to him, we assume they cannot be too far away. Beyond that, we are not given any sense of why they came to him. He doesn’t need to be “rescued”, even if from himself as in the other two versions. So, once again, we have a great example that emphatically demonstrates Luke has no qualms whatsoever about messing with settings, locations, context, or anything else. This is completely removed from its Markan (really don’t like that term) context and placed wherever Luke chose, whether the context makes sense or not. And it doesn’t.
19 Venerunt autem ad illum mater et fratres eius, et non poterant adire ad eum prae turba.
20 Et nuntiatum est illi: “ Mater tua et fratres tui stant foris volentes te videre ”.
21 Qui respondens dixit ad eos: “ Mater mea et fratres mei hi sunt, qui verbum Dei audiunt et faciunt”.
22 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἐνέβη εἰς πλοῖον καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς λίμνης: καὶ ἀνήχθησαν.
23 πλεόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἀφύπνωσεν. καὶ κατέβη λαῖλαψ ἀνέμου εἰς τὴν λίμνην, καὶ συνεπληροῦντο καὶ ἐκινδύνευον.
24 προσελθόντες δὲ διήγειραν αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Ἐπιστάτα ἐπιστάτα, ἀπολλύμεθα. ὁ δὲ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ τῷ κλύδωνι τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἐπαύσαντο, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη.
25 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ποῦ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν; φοβηθέντες δὲ ἐθαύμασαν, λέγοντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι καὶ τοῖς ἀνέμοις ἐπιτάσσει καὶ τῷ ὕδατι, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ;
It happened one day that he and his disciples went to the boat and he said to them, “Let us go to the other shore.” And they departed. (23) They having sailed (while) he was sleeping. And there arose a furious storm of wind upon the lake, and they were taking water and endangered. (24) Coming they awakened him saying, “Get up! Get up! We are being destroyed!” He having awakened rebuked the wind and the waves of the water. And they stopped, and it was calm. (25) He said to them, “Where is your faith?” Fearing, they marveled, saying to each other, “Who indeed is this that he commands both the wind and the water and they obey him?”
A word about the vocabulary. << λαῖλαψ >> and << συνεπληροῦντο >> are unusual words in the NT. The former is found only in Luke, the latter twice in Luke and once in 1 Peter. They are not, however, terribly unusual in Classical or Hellenistic authors. So, once again, we see that Luke had a fairly high level of education, that he had a pretty good range of reading.
As for the story itself, once again we find a story completely divorced from either Mark’s or Matthew’s context. Of course, the question that Mark’s disciples ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing” is gone. It was also excised by Matthew. Obviously, this portrays the disciples in a really bad light, which raises two major questions in my mind. The first is what this tells us of Mark’s view of the disciples. Obviously, it wasn’t very flattering. Which makes me wonder how it is that so many people believe that Mark was Peter’s assistant. If Mark was Peter’s assistant, we’re up against a situation in which we have to ask, if Peter (and the other disciples) have friends like Mark, who needs enemies? I mean, seriously. There is no way that Mark wrote what he did under the auspices of Peter or any of the original disciples. Why on earth would they stand for this sort of hatchet job? This is the sort of internal evidence that seems to be wholly ignored by virtually all scholars, who opt instead for the nice tradition that Mark was the John Mark of Acts. The reason? Why attribute a book to Mark, unless he was someone important, like the John Mark of Acts. My response to this is, John Mark is famous? The question of Mark’s name, and who he was, is legitimate. The answer usually provided, IMO, is not.
Then we have to ask what this says about the triple tradition. Remember, the Q people insist that Luke did not know Matthew. So, this means that, wholly independent of each other, Matthew and Luke decided to drop that question that the found in Mark. That’s convenient. Does it not make sense, rather, that Luke followed Matthew’s lead on this? Occam’s Razor says this is the more likely explanation.
22 Factum est autem in una dierum, et ipse ascendit in navem et discipuli eius, et ait ad illos: “Transfretemus trans stagnum”. Et ascenderunt.
23 Navigantibus autem illis, obdormivit. Et descendit procella venti in stagnum, et complebantur et periclitabantur.
24 Accedentes autem suscitaverunt eum dicentes: “Praeceptor, praeceptor, perimus!”. At ille surgens increpavit ventum et tempestatem aquae, et cessaverunt, et facta est tranquillitas.
25 Dixit autem illis: “ Ubi est fides vestra? ”. Qui timentes mirati sunt dicentes ad invicem: “ Quis putas hic est, quia et ventis imperat et aquae, et oboediunt ei? ”.
Well, that didn’t work. This was supposed to follow hard on the heels of the previous post. That one got published in the expectation that this would follow within a day or two. Oh well. It’s the difference between being off and working.
To recap, we just had the parable of the Sower. Now we get to Jesus’ explanation of the parable. Again, this is also part of the triple tradition, found in all three Synoptic Gospels.
9 Ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τίς αὕτη εἴη ἡ παραβολή.
10 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς, ἵνα βλέποντες μὴ βλέπωσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες μὴ συνιῶσιν.
His learners asked him what this parable might be. (10) He said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; to the rest (it is given) in parables, so that seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand”.
Up until this point, the idea that Jesus chose to “teach” people in a way that will, deliberately, hinder their understanding always struck me as…odd, to say the least. Bizarre comes closer to my feeling. After all, what is the point of this? Why does one teach if one is going to hide the message To weed out those who fell among the rocks? (Pun not intended, but accepted.) To see who will come back for more instruction? And this is a legitimate question on my part. How, on what level, does this make sense?
This takes us right back to the commentary where we left off in the last section. These words serve to amplify the injunction that concluded the parable itself. The answer is, it doesn’t make sense. At least, it doesn’t make sense if the purpose is to teach everyone the method to attain that Perfect State, whether that term is defined in Christian fashion as going to heaven post mortem, or in a Gnostic sense of attaining Knowledge. That is, emphatically, not the point of the teaching. It is designed to weed out the unworthy. Why it’s designed to do that is another question, one much harder to answer without moving completely into the realm of theology. So, while it may be bizarre, that is the intent. No other answer truly makes sense.
These words go all the way back to Mark, and are retained by the other two. Matthew & Luke retain this even though it does not exactly fit with their message. It fits quite comfortably with Mark; after all, Mark is the purveyor of the theme of the “Messianic Secret”. This fits with that. It fits rather nicely with Mark as the proto-Gnostic, for whom there were secrets and mysteries that were not for hoi polloi. But even then, the fit is rather nice, but not complete. For Mark, the disciples as a group were rather a collection of ¡dullards! who did not “get it” on a number of topics, and on a number of occasions. I suppose this is meant to underscore just how thick they really were; in Mark’s narrative, this comes at the beginning of Chapter 4, when Jesus is starting his ministry in earnest. That he tells the disciples the meaning of what he says, and they still don’t get it is a pretty savage indictment of the disciples. And this is one of the reasons I do not believe that Mark was the John Mark of Acts who was Peter’s assistant. If anything, Mark was an adherent of one of Peter’s rivals for primacy in the new organization.
The other thing, if this goes all the way back to Mark, it has a much better chance of being traceable back to Jesus. At least, the parable may trace back to Jesus, even if the explanation that we have here does not. Personally, I believe it quite likely (70-75%) that the Parable of the Sower may be “Genuine Jesus (GJ™)”;I have about the same level of certainty that the Sermon on the Mount was not. At least, not in anything like the way it’s presented. I suspect that some of the aphorisms in there–particularly the ones found in Mark, like the salt–may be GJ™. While reading Mark, we discussed the possible reasons why Mark kept repeating the theme; the answer that made the most sense to me was was that he was trying to explain why most Jews remained Jews. Then, on top of that, there was the insider’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink that, we got it, but they didn’t. From there, it’s not so long of a step to reading the idea of secret doctrines into the texts, or at least the implication that there was a secret doctrine to be learned, perhaps above and beyond what the text provided. IOW, it’s a short step from here to the idea of Gnosticism, or at least to the point that Gnosticism seems to be a logical inference. Was that the point of this? Perhaps. Mark was, I believe, hinting at there being more, something that even the disciples didn’t quite get. That’s a pretty strong invitation to induce someone to want to learn what that extra something might be.
So why do Matthew and Luke retain this bit? As we’ve seen, Luke in particular is not at all shy about ditching parts of Mark. I believe that he only retains 45% (IIRC; in that neighborhood) of Mark while Matthew retained close to 80 0r 90%. The question, of course, cannot be answered, even if you are able to come up with a redactionally consistent explanation for Luke’s gospel. The most likely reason that both kept this part is probably no different for why Mark added it in the first place: to explain why most Jews, ultimately, did not become followers of Jesus. They hear, but they did not understand. That may seem like a cop-out answer, but I don’t think that question would have gone away in a few generations. In fact, it only worsened, so that by the time John wrote, the Jews were portrayed as downright hostile.
9 Interrogabant autem eum discipuli eius, quae esset haec parabola.
10 Quibus ipse dixit: “ Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni Dei, ceteris autem in parabolis, ut videntes non videant et audientes non intellegant.
11 Ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή: Ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.
12 οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, εἶτα ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, ἵνα μὴ πιστεύσαντες σωθῶσιν.
13 οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον, καὶ οὗτοι ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν, οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται.
14 τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, καὶ ὑπὸ μεριμνῶν καὶ πλούτου καὶ ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου πορευόμενοι συμπνίγονται καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν.
15 τὸ δὲ ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἵτινες ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον κατέχουσιν καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ.
“Here is the parable. The seem is the word of God. (12) Those beside the road are those hearing, the the devil come and takes the word word from their hearts, so that lest believing, they be saved. (13) Those upon the rock are those (that) when they year with gladness they receive the word, but they do not have roots, they for a time believe and in time having been tested the stand away (from the word). (13) And that having fallen in the thorns, they are those hearing, but under thoughts of wealth and the pleasures of life going they are choked and they do not carry through to the end. (15) That which on the good soil, they are those who, hearing in a beautiful and good heart they receive and they bear fruit in abundance.”
Perhaps the most notable part of this explanation is what is not there. Mark says that one of the reasons that some of the seed falls away is persecution and tribulation. Matthew follows. Many suspect, or interpret Mark as referring to the time of the conquest of Jerusalem. Writing after this fall, the idea of persecution or tribulation would have been fresh in the minds of most of the audience. Even for Matthew, writing fifteen years later, this whole time of troubles would have been a familiar concept. For Luke, however, we have to ask whether this would still be true. Oh sure, old timers would have remembered, and they would have told some of their kids and grandkids, but if Luke were writing somewhere other than Palestine (as it was then called) or Syria, how many would know of the Jewish War and its consequences? The number is impossible to estimate, but it’s pretty easy to put the estimate as much lower than the number during the life of Matthew, and especially the time of Mark. So why bring up a topic that would make people scratch their heads at the reference? And remember, Luke is the first of the evangelists about whom we can definitively say that he was aware of Paul, and probably at least some of Paul’s writings. Paul talked about persecution, or at least about “pressure” which is the word he most frequently used. So that Luke chose to drop this part about persecution is, I would suggest, very significant.
And not just because some fading of the urgency was due to the temporal receding of the tribulations. It also demonstrates very clearly that Luke will syncopate stories that are in the triple tradition. Luke’s is the shortest version of this story, and by a fairly sizable margin. This is the second time we’ve encountered this. At least, I thought it was. Now that I’m looking or it, I can’t find the first example. The story of the Gerasene/Gadarene demonaic is coming up, and Luke’s is not the shortest version of that pericope. This point again matters for the discussion of Luke as redactor, and what his “editorial policy” might be. It indicates that he was willing to change pretty much anything, even pieces that quite possibly originated with Jesus. As such, changing the order in Matthew’s material would not have seemed terribly radical to Luke. We saw, after all, how Luke had no qualms about moving the “prophet without honor in his home country” speech from it’s Markan context to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Here, Luke edits out some reasonably important words. This combination indicates, I believe, that Luke saw the tradition as very plastic, something to be worked rather than something to be maintained at all costs. Indeed, had he felt the latter, chances are he would not have written a gospel in the first place.
Which leads to a very interesting question. This is not one that will be found in the circles of standard NT scholarship. I’ve never seen it in Ehrman or Crossan, but my ignorance is in no way proof. I may be wrong. The question is, how did the evangelists perceive the inherited tradition? Specifically, how did they perceive the words that were supposedly uttered by Jesus? The answer to the first part, I believe, is that Matthew felt the tradition should be maintained, which is why Matthew retained so much of Mark. Luke on the other hand, had a much more fluid perception of the tradition; what’s more, I believe this attitude towards the tradition was, or was becoming prevalent. My proof for this? The Gospel of John, which pretty much jettisons most of the framework that even Luke maintained. Even more, I think that this attitude of plasticity even extended to the words of Jesus. “I am the vine, you are the branches”; “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; these are such foundation stones of Christian belief that I suspect it’s hard for most to accept that John made them up. Think about it: can we seriously expect that such beautifully-worded expressions were only retained by a single tradition, lying “dormant” as it were, until John picked them up and wrote them down? My apologies, but that is almost certainly impossible. Even by the time of Luke, the cross-fertilization of Christian (as it’s appropriate to call them) communities had reached the point that Paul was being incorporated into the body of belief, if perhaps not the written corpus quite yet–although that is certainly possible. To expect that there was still another isolated tradition that had cultivated these wonderful words that we find in John beggars the imagination. As Eliza Doolittle put it, “not bloody likely”.
After that conclusion, the question becomes one of “how far backwards did this plastic attitude extend”? Luke will make up the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; John made up the quotes mentioned above; did Mathew make up the Sermon on the Mount? I would suggest so, at least in part. But I’ve been pretty clear about that, so this opinion should come as no surprise.
11 Est autem haec parabola: Semen est verbum Dei.
12 Qui autem secus viam, sunt qui audiunt; deinde venit Diabolus et tollit verbum de corde eorum, ne credentes salvi fiant.
13 Qui autem supra petram: qui cum audierint, cum gaudio suscipiunt verbum; et hi radices non habent, qui ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recedunt.
14 Quod autem in spinis cecidit: hi sunt, qui audierunt et a sollicitudinibus et divitiis et voluptatibus vitae euntes suffocantur et non referunt fructum.
15 Quod autem in bonam terram: hi sunt, qui in corde bono et optimo audientes verbum retinent et fructum afferunt in patientia.
16 Οὐδεὶς δὲ λύχνον ἅψας καλύπτει αὐτὸν σκεύει ἢ ὑποκάτω κλίνης τίθησιν, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ λυχνίας τίθησιν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι βλέπωσιν τὸ φῶς.
17 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ φανερὸν γενήσεται, οὐδὲ ἀπόκρυφον ὃ οὐ μὴ γνωσθῇ καὶ εἰς φανερὸν ἔλθῃ.
18 βλέπετε οὖν πῶς ἀκούετε: ὃς ἂν γὰρ ἔχῃ, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ ἔχῃ, καὶ ὃ δοκεῖ ἔχειν ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.
“No one lighting a lamp hides the vessel, but puts it under the bed, but in a lamp stand puts it, so that those coming towards will see the light. (17) For naught that is hidden which will not become revealed, nor secreted away which will not be known and come into the light. (18) Therefore look how you listen. For he that has, it will be given to him, and he who does have, and what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
From a literary standpoint, these three verses really have nothing to do with each other. The idea of not hiding a light really is not related to hidden things becoming manifest. Yes, it’s possible to stretch the two metaphors so they overlap, suggesting that the lighted lamp is what brings the hidden things to light, but that’s exactly what it is: a stretch. And neither has anything to do with having and not having. Here is where the Q people really miss their opportunity. Rather than blathering about Matthew’s magnificent arrangement of the material, talk about the material itself. And this sort of aggregation of non-connected aphorisms is the best material we have for a collection of Jesus’ sayings. These are all in Mark, so they cannot be considered Q material–rather, they represent the Mark-Q overlap–but I believe there is a high likelihood that they did originate with Jesus. I would be tempted to state that probability as exceeding 50%; better-than-even, IOW. How did these sayings get passed down? They could have been part of an oral tradition, which became fixed when Mark wrote them down. Or, they could have been collected. Rather than swinging for the fences by trying to claim all Matthew/Luke material is Q, set more modest goals, ones for which an actual argument or case can be constructed.
We need to face facts. Paul almost completely ignored anything Jesus said when the latter was alive. There are a few odds and end, the implementation of the Eucharist and Jesus’ teaching on divorce, which Paul contradicts. As has been frequently pointed out, the amount of teaching in Mark is pretty minimal. The Sermon on the Mount by itself probably has close to as many words spoken by Jesus as in all of Mark. Why the sudden explosion in verbosity on the part of Jesus between the two gospels? Because Matthew discovered Q? Or because Matthew encountered a passel of sayings attributed to Jesus, so he decided a new gospel was in order? At this point, I simply don’t know. A thread of logic has not presented itself. Despite all my pontificating and blowhardiness (to coin a word) I am not completely averse to the idea per se of a collection of Jesus’ sayings existing; I am vehemently opposed to Q as it currently “exists” in the minds of its adherents. Although as I go along at the moment, willing to make concessions, I find the concessions that I’m willing to make are shrinking. The ultimate sticking point is the utter, complete, and absolute lack of any evidence for such a collection. But more on this later. What I need to do is sketch out what a logical chain of events between the death of Jesus and the writings of Mark and then Matthew would look like, the focus being on what gotten written when, and possibly why. That is no small undertaking, and will be pure speculation. Sounds like fun.
16 Nemo autem lucernam accendens operit eam vaso aut subtus lectum ponit, sed supra candelabrum ponit, ut intrantes videant lumen.
17 Non enim est occultum, quod non manifestetur, nec absconditum, quod non cognoscatur et in palam veniat.
18 Videte ergo quomodo audiatis: qui enim habet, dabitur illi; et, quicumque non habet, etiam quod putat se habere, auferetur ab illo ”.
This next passage is the Parable of the Sower. The original intent was to take the whole thing, parable and explanation in a single chunk straight through. This seemed reasonable since we’ve been through it twice already, so it seemed that, barring any unexpected deviations from the other two, the content of the story should not require much comment. Indeed, since we’ve been through it a couple of times, I thought I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything new and exciting to say about this. Cooler heads have prevailed and it’s been split into Parable and then Explanation.
I determined on this course before reading the passage below; for better or for worse, that is my chosen approach. The idea is to look at these stories and passages with eyes as fresh as possible. That way, I can–with luck–not simply see what has been seen for the past several centuries. So much of NT “scholarship” is sclerotic; conventions have been settled, translations have been chosen, and words are taken for granted. This is not how scholarship should work. The text has to be mined, repeatedly. With Greek history, much of the academic debate focuses on what the text actually says; Thucydides is the best/worst example of this, and scholars continue to go over each word looking for fresh insights. And this continued contention is good. We all know about angels and baptism and salvation, so we decided, a long, very long, time ago that the evangelists used the words as we do today. This is simply and horribly wrong, a very bad method for reading any text.
So the original approach seemed all well and good; however, like so much theory, it didn’t survive contact with reality. Some new aspects have presented themselves. Overall, what I am finding is that having Luke as the third point really allows me to define the plane in a way not possible with just a comparison between Mark and Matthew. With three texts, triangulation becomes possible. Differences between the three stand out in much sharper relief.
So, let’s not make a short passage longer and go straight to the
4 Συνιόντος δὲ ὄχλου πολλοῦ καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν ἐπιπορευομένων πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς,
5 Ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό.
6 καὶ ἕτερον κατέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν, καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα.
7 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν, καὶ συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό.
8 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν, καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασίονα. ταῦτα λέγων ἐφώνει, Ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.
A large crowd and those having traveled into the city towards him he spoke through a parable, (5) Went out a sower of seed with his seeds. And some fell upon the road, and it was trod under and the birds of the heaven ate it. (6) And other fell upon the rocks, and grew it was withered because it did not have moisture. (7) And other fell in the middle of the acanthus, and it grew and the thorns strangled it. (8) And other fell on the good soil, and grew it made fruit one hundredfold. Having said these things, he spoke “The one having ears to hear, let him hear.”
That is the basic story. The interesting thing about it is the comparison. This is the shortest version; Mark’s is the longest. IOW, this runs contrary to what I’ve been saying about how legends grow over time. This one appears to be shrinking. What’s up with that? Am I wrong? Well, more wrong than usual?
It comes down to “always” and “never”. Never say always; alway avoid never. Almost nothing about human experience is binary, yes-or-no, black-or-white. If you’ll recall, Matthew’s version of the Gerasene demoniac was also shorter than Mark’s version. What we are witnessing is, I believe, the expectation that the reader would be familiar with, or have reference to the long version available in Mark. Neither Matthew nor Luke saw the need to repeat verbatim a story that had been told elsewhere. And this gets back to the issue of “why does one write a gospel?” Or even more, “why does one write a second/third gospel?” My theory about Mark is that he wrote in reaction to the fall of Jerusalem. An important–the important–centre of the proto-Christian world had been obliterated and the traditions started to fragment, or the fragmentation was growing worse. Mark sought to step into that breach and pull some of the most important aspects of the tradition into a united source. Mostly he succeeded, and marvelously, even if the seams do show. That can’t always be helped. Mark, as I see him, was more journalist than literary figure.
What has been eliminated, both by Matthew and Luke are some of the incidental details, like the plants withering because they lacked moisture because of the sun. Blaming the sun is a tad redundant; it can be assumed. Matthew drops some of these, Luke some more. For example, both Mark and Matthew say that the good soil yielded 100, 60, or 30. Luke leaves it at one hundred. The other two numbers don’t add that much of significance. One last point: Matthew says that Jesus left his house to begin this parable; this would mean that he had moved to Caphernaum, which Matthew states explicitly. Luke rejects this move, telling us just as explicitly that Jesus lived in Nazareth, sounding for all the world like he is correcting Matthew. So Jesus cannot leave his house and to to the seaside because Nazareth is not on the Sea of Galilee, while Caphernaum is.
Then there’s Matthew. We see that his versions of this story and the Gerasene demoniac (and probably others) are shorter than Mark’s. But we also see that his version of the Temptations of Jesus is longer than Mark’s. Why the apparent contradiction? Because it’s more apparent than contradiction. Matthew added material to Mark when he had material to add (the source of the material to be discussed separately; Q is a valid discussion). When he didn’t, he either maintained or shortened what he found in Mark. The salient point about this subtraction is why? My impulse is, as suggested above, that Matthew expected that his audience knew of Mark, and so repeating certain things was, as he knew, redundant. If this is correct, it gives us insight into Luke as well. Luke omitted parts of Matthew, as well as parts of Mark because he knew they had been covered elsewhere. So Luke provides an alternative because he knew what was in both Mark and Matthew.
Of course, this cannot be “proven”. Almost nothing about the NT can be “proven” in any way that the hard sciences or a court of law would recognise as “proof”. This statement is true about historical research in general, especially when discussing history before the 19th Century, becoming increasingly true the farther one goes back. We can say that the NT was written of course, but we cannot with any solid confidence say when or by whom it was written. Sometime between 70 and 120 seems reasonable, but that’s a mighty big span of time, like saying something was written between 1910 and 1960. A lot of stuff happened in the interim; however, the pace of change was much slower in the ancient world. In any case, history becomes a question of which set of probabilities seems the most likely. To me, it makes more sense that Luke shortened this story as much as he did because he knew about the other two versions. Now, Luke will add material to the triple tradition (the Synoptic material, in M/M/L); see the calling of the first disciples, with the addition of the Miraculous Catch of Fish.
The other thing I’m starting to suspect about triple tradition material is that it has the most potential to be something that can trace back to Jesus. This story is a perfect example. I think there is a greater likelihood that Jesus told this parable than that he gave the Sermon on the Mount. A much greater likelihood, in fact. One of the things we have to face is the possibility that Jesus was not the teacher that we believe he was, that he didn’t give speeches like the Sermon on the Mount. We have to face the possibility that Mark’s Jesus is much closer to the real thing than Matthew’s is, and that by the time of Luke all the new stuff is pretty much fiction that we can’t use to triangulate the “truth” about the historical Jesus. Always, always, always recall that Paul said almost nothing about Jesus as a teacher, focusing almost entirely on Jesus as the Christ who had been raised from the dead. If you start from that place, the additions of Matthew and then Luke seem pretty clearly to be later additions; then, since the additions of Matthew and Luke are just that, the point of Q is largely lost.
The last injunction about letting those with eyes/ears see/understand I think gets dismissed too readily as pro-forma. I say that because I have pretty much dismissed it a pro-forma until about a minute ago. If we take this in the context of Christian thinking, perhaps it is pro-forma; however, if we look at it from a proto-Gnostic perspective, it may take on a different set of implications. It may help that I’ve been translating something called Poimandres, the Shepherd of Men/Humans. It is now classified as a Gnostic text, and it probably dates to the mid Second Century, perhaps eight or nine decades after Mark. I mention this because there are several strains of thought that have become explicit in that text that were only implicit in Mark. It’s also interesting to note that this was taken as a legitimate bit of Christian writing for a while; obviously, it never made the cut to canonical status, but a number of Second and possibly even Third Century Christian thinkers accepted it as orthodox. The injunctions that Jesus speaks are eminently Gnostic in approach; or perhaps better to say they were taken up wholly by later Gnostics. What are they, after all, but admonitions to learn, actually to see what is before us, and to understand what we hear. The technical term for this is “paying attention”, or perhaps “learning”. And what do we learn? Knowledge. And what does Gnosis mean? Knowledge.
Now in a strictly Christian setting, these injunctions can be explained in completely orthodox fashion. After all, “Narrow is the gate” that leads to the kingdom. Not all will make it. Some would, and have, said that most, in fact, will not make it through the gate. Why? Because they did not learn the lessons Jesus taught them. They did not actually see, nor did they understand what they heard. So Jesus’ words here watered what became two very different traditions; or are they so different? That is the point I’m trying to make here. A shade here, a shade there, and two can start from the same point–let him with ears understand–and end up in rather different places, whether the kingdom of God or Enlightenment, for want of a better term. And then we have additional implications. The message of the Gospel of Thomas is very clearly Gnostic, rather than Christian. Regarding this, it must be kept in mind that this separation really did not exist in the First Century; it only came into being in the Second. And here is where historical training pays off, because it looks at concepts diachronically, through time and as they develop. Textual analysis tends not to pay attention to this development through time of the content of the text. This is why I do not, and cannot, accept a date in the First Century for the Gospel of Thomas; this is has implications for Q; The discovery of Thomas was seen as a huge victory for the Q position, since it demonstrated the existence of a sayings gospel of the sort that Q was purported to be. By pushing the date of Thomas back to the 50s of the First Century, it could be claimed that Thomas proved that a gospel like Q could have existed in the 50s; it showed that the first gospels were, in fact, sayings gospels rather than narrative gospels like Mark. Unfortunately for the Q position, a date anywhere in the First Century for Thomas is unsustainable on the grounds of content. Just as the Q proponents ignore the content of stories–does the healing of the centurion’s slave really fit in the 30s?–so they ignore the content of Thomas when assigning dates–is such a fully developed Gnostic attitude possible in the First Century? In my opinion, the answer to both is “No”. A resounding “No”.
4 Cum autem turba plurima conveniret, et de singulis civitatibus properarent ad eum, dixit per similitudinem:
5 “Exiit, qui seminat, seminare semen suum. Et dum seminat ipse, aliud cecidit secus viam et conculcatum est, et volucres caeli comederunt illud.
6 Et aliud cecidit super petram et natum aruit, quia non habebat umorem.
7 Et aliud cecidit inter spinas, et simul exortae spinae suffocaverunt illud.
8 Et aliud cecidit in terram bonam et ortum fecit fructum centuplum”. Haec dicens clamabat: “Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat”.
We’re beginning the chapter with a very short segment. The narrative is such that the next section is the Parable of the Sower; there is no really clean break in there between the parable and the explanation to the disciples. So rather than try to cram too much together, I’ll take the breaks as logically as possible, but forcing them when necessary. These first three verses are unique to Luke. In some ways, they have little or nothing with the overall course of the narrative as it unwinds. Rather than making them irrelevant, I think this makes them fascinating. Without further ado, let’s get to the
1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ καθεξῆς καὶ αὐτὸς διώδευεν κατὰ πόλιν καὶ κώμην κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ οἱ δώδεκα σὺν αὐτῷ, 2 καὶ γυναῖκές τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν, Μαρία ἡκαλουμένη Μαγδαληνή, ἀφ’ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει, 3 καὶ Ἰωάννα γυνὴ Χουζᾶ ἐπιτρόπου Ἡρῴδου καὶ Σουσάννα καὶ ἕτεραι πολλαί, αἵτινες διηκόνουν αὐτοῖς ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐταῖς.
And it happened in the next part he also went into the city and village proclaiming and evangelizing the kingdom of God, and the Twelve with him, (2) and some women who were healed from wicked spirits and illnesses, Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven demons she was released, (3) and Johanna the wife of Chouza the steward of Herod, and Susanna and many others, they who administered to them (masculine = Jesus & disciples) from the possessions to them (feminine = the women. The women administered to Jesus & Co from their own funds/resources).
Let’s start at the end, because that is where the fascinating part resides. “They administered (diacon = deacon) to them (masculine; = Jesus & the Twelve) from the possessions to them (feminine, = the women). I don’t recall whether I first speculated on this with Matthew or all the way back in Mark, but I did so without (conscious, at least) knowledge of this passage. In Mark and Matthew the Magdalene does not appear until the crucifixion (Mark) or burial (Matthew), and then afterwards she plays a very prominent role in the Resurrection stories. This struck me as odd that this woman appears very late in the story and then takes on a starring role. Mark says that she followed Jesus in Galilee; this, coupled with the suggestion of the men in white that the disciples should return to Galilee, seemed suggestive. What it suggested to me is “confirmed” here: that she was a financial s0% upporter of Jesus. IOW, Jesus was a “kept” man who was liberated from the necessity of anything so pedestrian as earning a living because Mary of Magdala was supporting him monetarily. This financial support, I suspected, gave her a role in crafting the Resurrection story, and perhaps that of the Passion as well.
I put “confirmed” in quotes because we really have to question whether Luke really had a line on this. OTOH, this is really an odd thing to say out of the blue. Let’s go back to Paul, and some of the women that he mentions who seem like they held important roles in the organization of the various communities. Here’s the thing: older men married young girls in the ancient world. The result was a lot of youngish (mid-30s, give or take; not an exact number) widows with not-negligible financial resources. It has been suggested that Paul was so intent that widows not remarry so that they could better support the communities; a bit cynical, but not out of the question; churches have been doing much the same for centuries. Should we believe this? Can we believe this? Tough questions. The circumstances by themselves are more than plausible, so there is no inherent logical flaw. There are lots of analogous situations, but does that mean these circumstances prevailed in this situation? I would put the likelihood of this being true at better than 50/50, but that’s not really a ringing endorsement. Saying it’s more likely than a coin flip isn’t saying much. I would stretch to maybe a 1/3 chance, but not much higher. Normally, I would suggest that Luke reinforces the statement by providing reasons why the women followed him: because they had been cured of demons. The problem with this is that Luke is such a late source, that any historical information he gives shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I’d like it to be true since it would help my case, but wishing doesn’t make it so.
Here’s the thing. I do believe that the early rulers of the church believed that these women were financial supporters. Or, perhaps more accurately, I believe that these early churchmen were afraid this was true. The problem this raises is that it gives women too important, and too prominent a role in the founding of Jesus’ ministry. Without some kind of monetary support, the whole thing would probably have not gotten off the ground. And the church men would have found this reliance on women to be both mortifying and unacceptable. As such, they would have found it necessary to undercut this prominence. How? Well, by spreading the rumor that the woman who anointed Jesus was none other than Mary Magdalene, whom we just discovered in the previous passage, was a prostitute. So there you go: instant and extensive devaluation of her credibility. Never mind that none of the evangelists make the connexion between the two women, but let’s run the smear campaign. If enough people think it’s accurate, then it becomes accurate, no? Jeez, where have I heard that sort of thinking before?
And the juxtaposition of the two stories also argues against Mary M being the woman who anointed Jesus. If they were the same woman, why not just say so? Luke will be introducing Mary M in the very next chapter anyway, so why not move it back a few verses and make the identification clear?
It’s worth pointing out that this is only the third time that Luke references the Kingdom of God. The first two came during the Sermon on the Plain. The references will start to come much faster. It’s interesting; I just took a look back at Luke so far. Until this point, something less than half the narrative has dealt with the period of Jesus’ public ministry. The Temptations by Satan occurred in Chapter 4, as did the miraculous catch of fish. Only now are we sort of getting to the heart of the message. There were quite a few miracles in these last few chapters; will that number decrease? Has Luke sort of gotten them out of the way, so that he can focus on the teaching now? Time will tell.
Just wanted to mention that Joanna/Johanna was the wife of the steward of Herod. This is novel and unique. It need not be taken seriously. It does, however, provide a great insight into how the legend grew. We’ve already incorporated Nain; now the Herodians are joining, too.
The other thing is the Twelve. This is only the second time Luke has mentioned them, the first being when they were chosen back in Chapter 6. They will be mentioned again in the next chapter, and then will go back into hibernation until Chapter 19. Overall, the Twelve really don’t do much. In fact, only five of Jesus’ followers have names: Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Levi. Or rather, only these five are more than just a name, and Levi/Matthew barely being more than that. It is interesting to note that in all three Synoptics the Twelve are mentioned most often in the Passion and Resurrection stories. This suggests to me that these latter two stories were not added until later, and that the Twelve had been instituted by that point. I believe that the Twelve were named by James, brother of Jesus, the ‘caliph’ (as he has been called) after Jesus had died. That is when the sending out of preachers would have become a more important function of the community, perhaps that of Jerusalem in particular. It’s interesting to see the list of “Twelve” as used in Matthew. The number comes up thirteen times, but five of them are not references to The Twelve. Rather, the Bleeding Woman had been discharging blood for twelve years, there were twelve baskets of crumbs left after one of the feedings, the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones for the twelve tribes (capitalised?) and Jesus could call down twelve legions of angels to save him from arrest. The symbolism, and the importance of the symbolism, is clear enough. Twelve months, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes…
Hey, I just made it through an entire comment without a reference to Q!
1 Et factum est deinceps, et ipse iter faciebat per civitatem et ca stellum praedicans et evangelizans regnum Dei; et Duodecim cum illo
2 et mulieres aliquae, quae erant curatae ab spiritibus malignis et infirmitatibus: Maria, quae vocatur Magdalene, de qua daemonia septem exierant,
3 et Ioanna uxor Chuza, procuratoris Herodis, et Susanna et aliae multae, quae ministrabant eis de facultatibus suis.