Category Archives: Chapter 9
In a very large part, this chapter is a collection of stories also found in the other two Synoptic Gospels. That’s all fine and good. What differentiates Luke’s versions is that, again, for the most part, they are heavily abridged; in some cases, an entire story is compressed down into a couple of sentences. This leaves the overall impression that Luke doesn’t want to omit the stories, but he doesn’t want to devote too much time to them, either. We are coming upon the section where we get most of Luke’s unique material, much of which is considered defining statements of Christian values and the Christian thought process. So, one might be forgiven in thinking that Luke is sort of trying to zip through this bit of Triple Tradition material in order to get to his own material.
One might be forgiven, but there might just be a little more to it than that. There seems to be a certain amount of selectiveness to the stories that Luke condenses. For example, let’s take the opening story, the Sending of the Twelve. Matthew has the longest version of this story, running to about 13 verses, as compared to the 6 we find in Luke. But here’s the thing: Mark has only has 5. So, technically, this story is not abridged in Luke; rather, it’s been expanded in Matthew. In fact, this section of Matthew has a lot of material unique to Matthew. He gives much more explicit instructions to those sent out, but he also launches into a long and dire prediction about the awful things that are going to happen, to them and to others who follow Jesus. Luke, apparently, felt no need to repeat any of this; of course, the Q people use instances like this to support their argument that Luke was unaware of Matthew, and they are correct to do so; however, they also completely ignore all the times that Luke does agree with Matthew. Such cases, they say, are the proof of Q. That is rather having it both ways.
The next two stories provide a different perspective. They are the Death of the Dunker, and Feeding the 5,000. Both of these stories are covered very well by M&M, and the second event zzwill even appear in John. In both cases, Luke is clearly the shortest version. What comes–or doesn’t c0me–next is even more interesting. Included in this sequence of stories in both Mark & Matthew is Jesus walking on water, the discussion about washing hands, Jesus meeting the Syro-Phoenician woman, Feeding the 4,000, and the Pharisees demanding a sign. Luke omits them all. Why? One thing they have in common is that both M&M have complete versions of all of these. My suggestion is that this indicates that Luke was fully aware of Matthew, that Luke knew these stories had been thoroughly covered, and saw no reason to cover them again. It should also be pointed out that there are two short sections of Mark that are ignored by both Matthew and Luke. The first occurs in conjunction with the question about washing hands. Jesus chides the Pharisees for ignoring the commandments of God and adhering to the traditions of men. The other is a wonder-story, where Jesus cures a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment.
Why leave these last out? This cuts against my suggestion that Luke saw no reason to cover things adequately covered by both Mark and Matthew. These were not covered by Matthew. I suspect that Matthew omitted the first one because it was a bit too disparaging of Jewish tradition; as a convert, Matthew probably didn’t want to repeat such a harsh criticism of his adopted tradition. Matthew, I suspect, passed over the second story because this one has a fairly detailed account of the actions Jesus took to restore the man’s hearing and speech. Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, and Jesus spat on his own hand and then touched the man’s tongue. This is a pretty vivid description of the magical practices Jesus followed, and recall that it’s not the only one in Mark. None of them made it to Matthew, and none of them* made it into Luke, either, So there’s another, albeit negative, instance of when Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark. The authors of the second (chronologically) an third gospels did not want to perpetuate the idea of Jesus as a Wonder Worker, so these accounts of magical practices were lost early. Both Matthew and Luke start with Jesus as the christ from birth, or even before. As such, going too much into the method by which the wonders were worked rather detracts from that interpretation of Jesus. Both Matthew and Luke abandoned it; which, if you’re keeping score at home, is yet another aspect of Luke agreeing with Matthew against Mark. These agreements are often tacit or implicit, but they are no less real for that.
The scene describing Peter’s confession approximates that of Mark, with one notable exception. Luke omits the part where Peter protests when Jesus predicts his death. This leads to the exclamation of “Get behind me, Satan,” from Jesus. In this sequence Matthew also added the “Peter the Rock” speech that is unique to him; or, perhaps, it is the addition of a Bishop of Rome who wanted to exert the Petrine Primacy. This gains a bit more credence, I think, when we realize there is no evidence to show that Peter was ever in Rome. In Galatians, Paul encountered Peter in in Jerusalem, and describes how Peter would eat like a gentile until the henchmen of James the Just showed up, at which point he quickly reverted to the Judaic dietary restrictions. Since Paul is the only attested contemporary to mention Peter, and Paul says nothing about Peter being in Rome, we have no evidence putting Peter in the capital city. There were Christians in Rome in the 60s, as attested by the Roman historian Tacitus and corroborated by the Roman biographer Suetonius, but that’s as far as it goes. But back to the original point, why would Luke omit “Get behind me, Satan”? We noted Mark’s portrayal of Peter is that of a dullard; Matthew rehabilitates Peter, culminating with, “Peter the Rock”. I n Luke, Peter is sort of a nonentity; he’s there, but doesn’t have many lines, or even scene appearances. Perhaps the official word by the time of Luke was that Peter was to be praised and raised in esteem, and so Luke followed that and left out “Get behind me, Satan” to do that. I could suggest that this is another time that Luke omits something already covered, but the omission is so brief as to seem hardly necessary.
As for the Transfiguration itself, Luke adds one truly significant detail. When Elijah and Moses appear, we are told they were discussing the coming plans for going into Jerusalem. This sort of changes the complexion of a lot of things in the biblical scheme. It implies that Jesus is a cosmic figure. It implies that Jesus is of cosmic importance. It implies that Jesus is part of the tradition of the Jews, which was an important consideration for Christians at this time. The antiquity of their religion gave Jews a lever of respect and acceptance from the Romans that helped insulate them from some of the worst impulses Romans felt towards this alien religion that didn’t believe in going along to get along. This divine conference also implies that, perhaps, Jesus was not omniscient; why would he need to discuss what was about to happen if he were omniscient? The path was set, the die was cast, and that would be that. Of course, that smacks of pagan fatalism, so we can’t have that.
The story of the demon-possessed boy occurs shortly after the Transfiguration. The remarkable aspect of comparing the three versions is to note that Luke and Matthew agree against Mark. Of course, per the Q people, this is not supposed to happen. However, when the boy’s father asks why Jesus disciples were not able to cast out the demon, Jesus rails ab out this “faithless generation”. At least, that is what he says in Mark. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus rails against this “faithless and perverse generation”. I’ll be danged if that doesn’t sound like Luke copying directly from Matthew. Of course, he couldn’t have done so per the Q people, but there it is. So Q.E.D. Correct? Well, perhaps not. The copying could have been done in a scriptorium at some later date, and the presence of “perverse” in Luke could be an interpolation by a copyist. If I’m willing to suggest that a later Bishop of Rome inserted “Peter the Rock”, I have to be willing to admit that the presence of a single word doesn’t mean much. In much the same way, I’m pretty much convinced that the opening line of Mark was a later addition. And that would mean that “Jesus of Nazareth” was a later addition. This reduces by 25% the number of times Nazareth is mentioned by Mark. Which means that Luke and Matthew agree against Mark on the place of Jesus’ hometown.
There is also an entirely new episode in this chapter, one unique to Luke. It’s short. Jesus and his entourage are not welcome in a Samaritan town. James and John, blood-thirsty types that they are, ask Jesus if he’s going to call in the Angelic Air Force and nuke the place. Jesus, of course, forbears this action. It’s kind of hard to pin down exactly why this is in the text. I did not realise that it was a reference to an act of Elijah, who actually did call down fire to destroy a town that had mistreated him. And one commentator said that it was appropriate that the suggestion came from James and John, the “fiery sons of Zebedee”, whom Jesus had named the Sons of Thunder. It’s curious to note that a commentator (Ellicott) refers to the pair as “fiery”. For the most part, the sons of Zebedee have been pretty much window dressing. They tag along on all of the good stuff, but they don’t actually say, let alone do, anything. They are scene fillers. If one of the disciples has a line, it’s pretty much always Peter who has it. Just as going up to the Transfiguration, it is he who confessed Jesus to be the Christ. And it is Peter who babbles about erecting three tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. This passivity of James and John makes the designation of Mark more curious. We are, I suspect, dealing with layering. As time passed, some characters in the story gained, and some lost, prominence. The fact that James the Just ran the show for 30 years and receives no mention at all in the gospels is remarkable. There is the reference in Mark 6 to Jesus’ brothers, among whom one is James, but that’s it. Over time, Peter was elevated, James was lowered, as was Mary of Magdala. James is banished to a throwaway line, whilst Mary ends up a prostitute. And this latter tradition stuck, even among Protestants, despite the fact that there is no scriptural basis for it.
And with that, we shall exit, stage left…
* I may need to walk that back later! But then, that’s true about pretty much anything I say here.
For this section, we’ll be covering a bit more text than has been the custom of late. The reason for doing shorter sections is to get these published more quickly, and the hiatus between this post and the amply demonstrates that point. However, this section is really too short to break into two; besides, it’s time to get this very long chapter into the books. As has been the case with most of this chapter, we’re dealing with some short sections, most of which has been covered by Luke’s predecessors. So far, this has proven to be an excellent source of analysis, giving us some really clear insight into the way all of this fits together. So, on to the
46 Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ διαλογισμὸς ἐναὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς ἂν εἴη μείζων αὐτῶν.
47 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἰδὼς τὸν διαλογισμὸν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιλαβόμενος παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ παρ’ ἑαυτῷ,
48 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὃς ἐὰν δέξηται τοῦτο τὸ παιδίον ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὃς ἂν ἐμὲ δέξηται δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με: ὁ γὰρ μικρότερος ἐν πᾶσιν ὑμῖν ὑπάρχων οὗτός ἐστιν μέγας.
49 Ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰωάννης εἶπεν, Ἐπιστάτα, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια, καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτὸν ὅτι οὐκ ἀκολουθεῖ μεθ’ ἡμῶν.
50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Μὴ κωλύετε, ὃς γὰρ οὐκ ἔστιν καθ’ ὑμῶν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν.
They came, dialoguing amongst themselves, about which of them might be the greatest. (47) But Jesus, knowing the discussion in their hearts took hold of a child standing near to him. (48) And he said to them, “If one receives this child in my name he will receive me and receives the one sending me. For the least in all of you he beginning is the greatest”. (49) Answering, John said, “Master, we saw someone in your name casting out demons, and we ordered him that he did not follow with us”. (50) Speaking towards him, Jesus said, “Do not forbid, for he who is not against us is for us”.
I was originally going to separate the last two verses from this section because they obviously do not have anything to do with the lesson about the child. Oh, sure, some sort of stretch can always be made, but the fact is, they are parts of different stories sort of shoehorned together whether they fit or not. What we are seeing, or continuing to see, is Luke compressing pericopae that are handled–we can presume that Luke thought adequately–by the first two evangelists. He did not want to leave them out, probably because they were too well-known and would be missed, but he did not want to waste too much time on them, either. We are coming up to most of the material unique to Luke: the Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son, & c, and one gets the sense that Luke is simply trying to get this stuff that’s played out of the way. So once again, this seems to indicate that Luke was aware of Matthew’s treatments of these themes; he realized that Matthew had repeated Mark’s story, adding to it, so there was nothing left to say. IOW, Luke was not interested in repeating Matthew; why bother with that? Matthew had done it already, so why say it again? These two stories, compressed almost to the point of nonexistence, technically fall into Triple Tradition material, but are they really? Again, technically, yes, but nothing at all beyond that. Luke is, IMO, very, very aware of Matthew, even if that is demonstrated only negatively. By sheer coincidence there should be instances where Luke agreed with Matthew rather than Mark, but that never happens. At least, that is what the Q people contend. Except, of course, for being born in Bethlehem, a father named Joseph…
I started this blog in April of 2012, and probably got to Mark’s version of the last two lines in 2013 or so. Let’s say that’s five years ago, give or take. In that time I still am not sure about the not against = for us. I mean, it’s obvious on one level, but why does it get said like this? And are we focusing on that rather than the fact that there is a follower of Jesus casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but who is not a follower of Jesus. At least, he’s not part of the inner group that the disciples, comprised of Peter and…probably Jesus’ brother James. The rest of them are problematic, to say the least. Peter and James, the brother of the lord, are the only two that are specifically named by Paul. The other ten are more than likely filler. But we have other followers of Jesus. And this is something I would expect happened: that there were a number of groups following Jesus, and that these groups are where the other gospels came from. Most likely, these are the groups that particularly kept alive the wonder-worker stories. This would be, IMO, another gospel to which Paul found especially distasteful since it did not emphasize the Christ aspect of the Jesus story. Of course, this is all very problematic; while Paul was certainly written first, we have to ask the unanswerable question of whether this story pre-dates Paul. IOW, is this story “authentic,” in the sense that it’s from the time of Jesus?
The problem is not that the question cannot be answered with any certainty. Almost nothing, with a few and very limited exceptions, in the NT can be asserted with any real degree of certainty. The problem is that there is no basis for making an assessment of the probability, other than “does it feel right?” Since the entire basis for Q rests on “it doesn’t feel right that Luke would mangle Matthew’s masterful treatment of the Q material”, I should be very careful about relying on this as a basis for a case. Yet, the historian who withholds judgement on such questions is a bit of a coward and mostly useless, so I would say that there is some possibility that this story has a kernel of truth at the heart. There were, I suspect, other groups than the one that wrote the NT who followed Jesus, even if they did not literally follow him the way that Peter apparently did. The difference between this judgement of mine and the case for Q is that I’m applying the principle to single stories on a case-by-case basis. I am not attempting to erect any sort of edifice on these very spindly props, and certainly nothing so elaborate as the Q hypothesis. This is a difference of degree at root, but to the point that it becomes a difference in kind.
46 Intravit autem cogitatio in eos, quis eorum maior esset.
47 At Iesus sciens cogitationem cordis illorum, apprehendens puerum statuit eum secus se
48 et ait illis: “ Quicumque susceperit puerum istum in nomine meo, me recipit; et, quicumque me receperit, recipit eum, qui me misit; nam qui minor est inter omnes vos, hic maior est ”.
49 Respondens autem Ioannes dixit: “ Praeceptor, vidimus quendam in nomine tuo eicientem daemonia et prohibuimus eum, quia non sequitur nobiscum ”.
50 Et ait ad illum Iesus: “ Nolite prohibere; qui enim non est adversus vos, pro vobis est ”.
51 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ συμπληροῦσθαι τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ἀναλήμψεως αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς τὸ πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν τοῦ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ,
It became in the fulfilling of the days of his being taken up (ascension), and he set his face towards the going to Jerusalem.
Just want to pause here a moment. Luke is measuring the time towards Jesus’ ascension. This is very unusual. In fact, Luke is the only one to tell the ascension story, so this marker of time is unique. It’s a bit…strange?…that Luke is pointing us to an event that has not had its story told yet, so presumably the reader could easily be a bit puzzled by the reference. Or had the story of the ascension entered the corpus of the Jesus myth to a degree sufficient to allow Luke to toss off this reference confident that the audience would understand it? Or is this a literary device, meant to pique curiosity? To leave the audience wondering, “Ascension? What does that mean?” Of course, this is another question that we cannot answer; we can only speculate. However, I will wager that you’ve never heard it asked before this moment.
51 Factum est autem, dum complerentur dies assumptionis eius, et ipse faciem suam firmavit, ut iret Ierusalem,
52 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν ἀγγέλους πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ. καὶ πορευθέντες εἰσῆλθον εἰς κώμην Σαμαριτῶν, ὡς ἑτοιμάσαι αὐτῷ:
53 καὶ οὐκ ἐδέξαντο αὐτόν, ὅτι τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ.
54 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰάκωβος καὶ Ἰωάννης εἶπαν, Κύριε, θέλεις εἴπωμεν πῦρ καταβῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀναλῶσαι αὐτούς;
55 στραφεὶς δὲ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς.
56 καὶ ἐπορεύθησαν εἰς ἑτέραν κώμην.
And he sent angels before his face. And coming, they went into a Samaritan village, as to prepare for him. (53) And they did not receive hi, that the face of him as turned towards Jerusalem. (53) And his disciples seeing, James and John said, “Lord, do you wish we call fire to fall down from the sky and destroy them?” (55) Turning he rebuked them. (56) And they proceeded to another village.
This section is unique to Luke. And it’s very interesting. First, the juxtaposition is noteworthy; the tale of the Good Samaritan is coming up in the next chapter (or two). Perhaps this is meant as sort of a dramatic set-up for that. Luke is setting the stage here, reminding (or informing for the first time) the audience that Jews and Samaritans did not get along as a matter of course. Before we get to that, notice the translation of “angels”. “Jesus sent angels ahead of him”, and the “messenger Gabriel came to Mary to foretell her becoming the mother of the messiah”. The Greek word is the same in both cases, and it is the Greek word used in Malachi 3:1 where the speaker will send his angel before him. But whether we choose to translate it, or simply to transliterate it adds an entirely different cast to the meaning and implications of the word, and has a lot of impact on how we understand the particular passage.
A couple of the Commentaries that I skimmed said the airstrike was about the selfish and carnal desires of the two disciples. And this would, or could tie it back to the discussion they were having earlier about who was the greatest. I would not have made that connexion on my own, so sometimes it is good to get some additional input. In any case, Jesus rebuked them, which the commentaries suggest was that this was because the disciples didn’t understand that Jesus was on a mission of mercy. And that ties back to the clueless bunch of disciples that we found in Mark. It’s interesting to note how many connexions one can find when one is actively looking for them.
52 et misit nuntios ante conspectum suum. Et euntes intraverunt in castellum Samaritanorum, ut pararent illi.
53 Et non receperunt eum, quia facies eius erat euntis Ierusalem.
54 Cum vidissent autem discipuli Iacobus et Ioannes, dixerunt: “ Domine, vis dicamus, ut ignis descendat de caelo et consumat illos? ”.
55 Et conversus increpavit illos.
56 Et ierunt in aliud castellum.
57 Καὶ πορευομένων αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ εἶπέν τις πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἀκολουθήσω σοι ὅπου ἐὰν ἀπέρχῃ.
58 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Αἱ ἀλώπεκες φωλεοὺς ἔχουσιν καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατασκηνώσεις, ὁ δὲ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἔχει ποῦ τὴν κεφαλὴν κλίνῃ.
And they proceeding along on the road someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you may go”. (58) And Jesus said to him, “The foxed have their holes and the birds of the air (have) nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”.
This is a bit of a ‘woe is me’ moment. As such, it’s always rather bothered me because I’ve never been sure about what sentiment is actually being expressed. It’s meant as a warning, of course, to the interlocutor. And it’s likely meant as warning to those hearing or (less likely) reading the words of Luke or Matthew. But can it simply be left at that? I suppose, but that feels a little…shallow. Most likely this is an oblique allusion to Jesus’ coming death; or, perhaps more likely. it’s Jesus’ disciples mourning the difficult lives they led as itinerant preachers. And no doubt it was a difficult life, but was it any more so than scratching an existence out of unsympathetic ground? or fishing? It doesn’t get a lot of ink in biblical circles, but itinerant preacher was a definite career path back in these days. Sure, there were times of food insecurity, but who but the wealthy didn’t experience that? And, truth be told, given the pax Romana that existed throughout pretty much the entire Mediterranean basin, including France and the Levant, things were better for more people than would be the case until fairly recently. So yes, perhaps a bit of self-pity.
This is actually part of what is supposed to be Q. This is not in Mark. But once again, the Q people are too clever by half. The chances that Jesus actually said this are pretty much nil. Can you imagine the Jesus we found in Mark uttering these lines? I can’t. And this judgement is offered based on content. Jesus was a traveling wonder-worker. The whole woe-is-me really doesn’t fit with that sort of existence. I suspect the Q people would disagree; or, I wish they would. I would love to hear their arguments for Q based on the content of these sayings, rather than simply on the fact that Matthew and Luke have them, but Mark does not. I would really like to know how they would justify Q based on what Jesus is saying, and how it fits with the context in which Jesus lived. I really, really would like to hear that.
57 Et euntibus illis in via, dixit quidam ad illum: “ Sequar te, quocumque ieris ”.
58 Et ait illi Iesus: “ Vulpes foveas habent, et volucres caeli nidos, Filius autem hominis non habet, ubi caput reclinet ”.
59 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς ἕτερον, Ἀκολούθει μοι. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, [Κύριε,] ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀπελθόντι πρῶτον θάψαι τὸν πατέρα μου.
60 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἄφες τοὺς νεκροὺς θάψαι τοὺς ἑαυτῶν νεκρούς, σὺ δὲ ἀπελθὼν διάγγελλε τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
(59) He said to another, “Follow me”. The (other) responded, “[Lord], permit me going away first to bury my father”. (60) He (Jesus) said to him (the other man), let the dead bury their own dead, you going away announce the kingdom of God”. (61)
What does this mean? “Let the dead bury the(ir) dead”? I suppose, on reflection, it’s an injunction to dissociate oneself from the cares of the world. In which case, it’s more Buddhist than Christian, no? Or, at least, it’s more Buddhist than what we’ve heard Jesus say to this point. Here again, if you stop to think, how does this–or does it even–fit with the Jesus of Mark’s gospel? If it doesn’t fit with the Jesus we found in Mark, don’t we have to scrutinize whether Jesus said this very closely? Since this is part of Q, doesn’t that have to raise some serious problems about the existence of Q? This is why the s0-called “argument” for Q to be so unconvincing. It, seemingly, never stops to consider whether all of the stuff that Jesus supposedly said fits with the Jesus of Paul or Mark. Q supposedly has a “redactionally consistent outlook”, but how much of that could be attributed to Matthew writing much of Q? But Matthew’s Jesus is rather different from Mark’s Jesus, so how does that work? I’m not sure it does.
59 Ait autem ad alterum: “ Sequere me ”. Ille autem dixit: “ Domine, permitte mihi primum ire et sepelire patrem meum ”.
60 Dixitque ei Iesus: “ Sine, ut mortui sepeliant mortuos suos; tu autem vade, annuntia regnum Dei ”.
61 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ ἕτερος, Ἀκολουθήσω σοι, κύριε: πρῶτον δὲ ἐπίτρεψόν μοι ἀποτάξασθαι τοῖς εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου.
62 εἶπεν δὲ [πρὸς αὐτὸν] ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐδεὶς ἐπιβαλὼν τὴν χεῖρα ἐπ’ ἄροτρον καὶ βλέπων εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω εὔθετός ἐστιν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.
And another said, “I will follow you, lord. But first allow to me to separate from those in my household”. (62) Jesus said [to him], “No one turning his hand upon the plough and looking backwards is well-placed in the kingdom of God.”
This is of a piece with the previous two verses. It’s another injunction to dissociate yourself from your earthly ties, which is something that many religions advocate. It’s the beginning of the eremitic tradition that led to monasticism and the ascetic tradition that culminated in the Cathars. Now here I can see a connexion to the Jesus of Mark, at least as far as the part in Chapter 3:35 when he says that his family is made up of those who who do the word of God. This
Now, I’ve been reading about other forms of spirituality. Pursuing this line of inquiry, one often runs into Buddhist thought. One of the most common precepts I’ve found is the injunction to “subjugate/obliterate the ego”. It has occurred to me that this admonition is functionally the equivalent of “submit to the will of God”. And here and in Mark 3:35 we have Jesus telling us something very similar. Or, if not similar, it’s at least close enough that both sentiments can be summarized by a common aphorism. What strikes me is, along with how one actually goes about being saved, the injunction to do God’s will is very seldom mentioned in the reading. It’s there, but it has nowhere near the prominence I expected coming into this project. Some of this absence, of course, is merely a pro forma absence, since many of the words put into Jesus’ mouth (like the ones here?) are allegorical, or parables. But think about the parables in Mark and Matthew: the sower, the mustard seed, the wicked tenants…a lot of them are more about the growth or rejection of the kingdom than they are about how to attain the kingdom. We’ll come into some of those shortly; but the point is that of the thirteen parables I found in a quick scan through Matthew, one two or three of them deal with what can fall under the rubric of “proper behaviour”, and even two of them are a bit of a stretch. The best example is the Unmerciful Slave, whose debt was forgiven, but who refused to forgive a debt owed to him. The 0thers would be The Parable of the Talents, –of the Ten Virgins, –of the Vineyard workers. For those of you keeping score at home, that adds up to four, but no matter. I found about five in Mark, and the only one vaguely dealing with behaviour is the Wicked Tenants; this is also in Matthew, but I didn’t count it there because it’s more about the retribution coming to the tenants than it is about the tenants themselves.
So my point stands. How to behave, and how to be saved do not receive nearly the emphasis in the gospels that one might expect. The implication is that much of Christian doctrine is what can be derived from the NT, rather than what is actually in the NT. The Protestants supposedly went back and excised a lot of the accumulated tradition that had no biblical basis–Purgatory, anyone?–but they were nowhere near as comprehensive as they believed. And I say that as someone raised in the Roman Rite who has now gone over to Episcopalianism. In some ways, not a hugely drastic change, but in other ways, it is. The point is that I have seen this from both sides. It’s interesting to note how this conversion has affected my viewpoint when reading about the Late Mediaeval/Early Modern world.
61 Et ait alter: “ Sequar te, Domine, sed primum permitte mihi renuntiare his, qui domi sunt ”.
62 Ait ad illum Iesus: “ Nemo mittens manum suam in aratrum et aspiciens retro, aptus est regno Dei ”.
Update: I added a comment to Verse 45 at the bottom of the page. I realized I completely neglected this.
Here we continue with yet another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. In between sections, I took a few minutes to go through the first bit of my Harmony. So far, my theory is holding. Luke is generally the shortest version when all three gospels have a story. It’s not always by a lot, but it is pretty consistent. And I haven’t gotten to Chapters 8 & 9 where I believe the phenomenon becomes more pronounced. Conversely, when Matthew significantly shortens Mark, Luke’s version comes somewhere in between. There are a few times when Luke has the longest version. Having glanced ahead (spoiler alert!) I saw that we will be coming onto the material unique to Luke, including (in no particular order) The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Zaccheus, etc. My sense in reading Chapter 9 has been that Luke is trying to hurry through the required bits of the Triple Tradition so that he can get to his own original material. And yes, I fully suspect Luke is the author of most of his unique material. With that, on to the
37 Ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἑξῆς ἡμέρᾳ κατελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους συνήντησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς.
38 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐβόησεν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν,
39 καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα λαμβάνει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξαίφνης κράζει, καὶ σπαράσσει αὐτὸν μετὰ ἀφροῦ καὶ μόγις ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ συντρῖβον αὐτόν:
40 καὶ ἐδεήθην τῶν μαθητῶν σου ἵνα ἐκβάλωσιν αὐτό, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν.
It became on the next day they having come from the mountain a multitudinous crowd met him. (38) And behold, a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I need you to look upon my son, that is my only born, and behold, a spirit seized him, and he suddenly cries out, and he makes him retch with foam, and scarcely goes away from him it bruises him, (40) and I asked your disciples in order they cast it out, and they were not able”.
Let’s start with a comment on the Greek. I was always puzzled by the translation of “tore him with foam”. That doesn’t entirely make sense. So I check the Great Scott and, behold! one of the other meanings of the word rendered as “tore” is “to retch, w/o being able to vomit”. Now that makes sense. The kid goes into spasms where he convulses with dry heaves and, subsequently or consequently, he foams at the mouth. I do not know much about epilepsy or other afflictions that may cause this, so I shan’t speculate. I will, however, take credit for taking a deeper look at this. Then, taking a look at my crib translations, I noticed that, while the KJV does render this as “teareth”, more modern translations change this to “convulse”, as I did. It’s also worth pointing out that the KJV uses the same word in the versions of Mark and Matthew, saying that the demon “tears” at the boy with foam. I point this out because the KJV is most often the closest to the original Greek; it’s considered the definitive work in English, IIRC, among fundamentalists who take the words literally. I’m not sure what they may have to say about this.
Note that we are dealing with a sprit, not a demon. Mark always refers to it as such, but later in the story Luke will call it a demon, and then an unclean spirit. This is linguistic evidence that, by the time Luke wrote at least, these terms were interchangeable. I believe that they were in the earlier gospels, but I never really noted, or noticed the use of these different words in the same story. Also note that Mark alone calls the spirit “mute” (alalon). Neither Matthew nor Luke does so. But let us recall that Matthew did not say that the boy was possessed by a spirit, or demon, or anything else. Matthew says that the boy was a lunatic, which is a fairly literal translation of the Greek word he used. “To be lunaticking”, or something like that, would be even more literal. The root of Matthew’s Greek word is selene, “moon”. The root of lunatic is luna, which is “moon” but in Latin.
This discrepancy should, I believe, be considered in conjunction with noting the term used to address the father in the various gospels. Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew is in the word used; here and in Mark it’s didaskelon, teacher. In Matthew it’s kyrios, lord. All three evangelists use both words frequently, so I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions from this difference. Now, the Q people would zealously use this as an example of Lk + Mk <> Mt, and they have a point.
Taking a contrary position, OTOH, it can also be pointed out that Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark by omitting that the spirit was mute. Of course, the Q people would object to that characterization; they would say something like this is not an active agreement, but a passive omission, which could have been omitted independently. And besides, there was no spirit in Matthew, so how could it be mute? This is certainly an accurate description of the situation, but other interpretations of these circumstances are certainly possoble. Recall that Luke very pointedly stressed that Jesus did not move to Caphernaum, as Matthew explicitly states. At the time, I suggested that Luke had deliberately corrected Matthew. I also think that returning back to the idea of a spirit was another deliberate decision by Luke to correct Matthew once again. Personally, I think there is a lot of this sort of “correction” of Matthew done in Luke, which is why these two “never” agree against Mark. Except for Joseph, Bethlehem, the angels…So I’m still going to put it on the Lk+Mt <> Mk. These little things are insignificant on their own, but the accumulated weight should be considered; enough of these small instances makes for telling evidence. In this way we shall steal a page from the Q peoples’ playbook: make the assertion, and then make them prove it’s wrong. This will put them on the horns of a dilemma: argue against the assertion, thereby crediting that it has merit and must be disproven; or, say the demand to prove a negative is ridiculous. In which case, they will be agreeing with me about the existence of Q.
Finally, the man asks about his “son”. He does not use the word pais that the Centurion did; rather, it’s huios, which is the standard word used for “son of God” or “son of man”. Perhaps this is the final bit of ‘proof’ needed to show that we were indeed, talking about the Centurion’s servant. Perhaps I’m the only one who still needed to be convinced of that.
There are a couple of other things to be discussed, like the disciples’ inability to cast out the spirit. That one in particular will be saved for later.
37 Factum est autem in sequenti die, descendentibus illis de monte, occurrit illi turba multa.
38 Et ecce vir de turba exclamavit dicens: “Magister, obsecro te, respice in filium meum, quia unicus est mihi;
39 et ecce spiritus apprehendit illum, et subito clamat, et dissipat eum cum spuma et vix discedit ab eo dilanians eum;
40 et rogavi discipulos tuos, ut eicerent illum, et non potuerunt”.
41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, *)=ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου.
Answering, Jesus said, “O faithless and twisted generation! How long shall I be towards you and shall I bear with you? Lead your son hither.”
Ha! Guess what? I just found a place where Matthew and Luke actively agree against Mark; this is despite the fact that this never happens according to the Q people. Mark has Jesus bewailing the “faithless generation”; Matthew and Luke add the second word, here rendered as “twisted”, but is perhaps more metaphorically (and commonly) rendered as “perverse”. So, the entire superstructure of the Q argument collapses.
Maybe. To be fair, if this is indeed the only such instance, one has to be prepared to acknowledge, if not necessarily accept, the possibility that the presence of this single word, in exactly the same case, is an interpolation. See how fair I am? I point out the weaknesses in my own position; ideally, I would then provide proactive refutation of arguments based on this hole in my theory. That is, after all, how proper scholarship is done. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to create an actual argument for whether this is or is not an interpolation. It’s a single word, used in the same context and in the same case, etc. We have to ask whether this degree of exactitude argues for, or against, interpolation. The simplest explanation is, after all, that Luke simply copied Matthew. But why would Luke choose this one time and place to become a passive scribe, transcribing exactly what he found? To which a good response is, “why not here and now?” Would a later copyist of either gospel be likely to get it so perfectly? He would have to physically have to get the other text and write it in. Or, perhaps he remembered the text of the other. None of these, strictly speaking, is much of an actual argument. Rather, they are simple binary choices not terribly amenable to an argument.
For now, we will leave it as noted that this agreement did occur, and see what happens later.
41 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “O generatio infidelis et perversa, usquequo ero apud vos et patiar vos? Adduc huc filium tuum”.
42 ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν: ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.
43 ἐξεπλήσσοντο δὲ πάντες ἐπὶ τῇ μεγαλειότητι τοῦ θεοῦ. Πάντων δὲ θαυμαζόντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐποίει εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ,
44 Θέσθε ὑμεῖς εἰς τὰ ὦτα ὑμῶν τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μέλλει παραδίδοσθαι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων.
When he (the lad) having come up, the daimonion dashed him (the lad to the ground]) and tore him. But Jesus censured the spirit the unclean, and he healed the boy and gave him to his father. (43) They were astounded upon the magnificence of God. All marveling upon all the things he did, he said to his disciples, (44) “Put these words into your ears, for the son of man is fated to be given over to the hands of men”. (45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.
Before getting to the main event, let’s have a bit from the warm-up act. “Put these words into your ears” is a perfectly novel, probably unique, turn of phrase. I can’t just pass over that without noting it.
The first thing to note is what is not in here. Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus say that, after being handed over, the son of man will be killed, and on the third day will rise. Why? Why not include this? First of all, we have to acknowledge that this was a conscious decision on Luke’s part. He chose not to include it for whatever reason. This seems obvious, of course, but maybe only after it’s been pointed out. This is an aspect of gospel writing that too often is overlooked, or given insufficient thought. It may seem strange to say this, given the Q proponents’ insistence on providing a “redactionally consistent” explanation of Luke that explains every single instance where he varies from Matthew. However, I would suggest that this is not a legitimate thing to demand from the Q-naysayers; that it is not a legitimate argument, or even a legitimate aspect of an argument. Luke varies from Matthew because he is Luke, and not Matthew. Matthew is largely consistent with Mark in the placement of the so-called pericopes; Luke differs from both in placement, and largely because Matthew follows Mark’s placement so consistently. This is, once again, another of those instances where Luke felt it unnecessary to add the bit about rising because it was adequately treated in his two predecessors. Luke, once again, truncates a story of Mark because Matthew did not.
As an aside, the Harmony I consulted separates this last part from the story of the boy with the spirit. This is sensible; the two are not related.
There is one final trope to be discussed in this piece. We have noted that the father of the boy asked why Jesus’ disciples were not able to expel (ekballei) the spirit. This is common to all three gospels, and they all report Jesus remonstrating about the faithless (and perverse) generation. This has always seemed a bit…odd. This cry of disgust makes sense in the context of the Pharisees (or others) asking for a sign, as occurs in Mark 10. Here, perhaps, not so much. Railing about a lack of faith, OTOH, does make sense. The implication is that faith is required to make wonders happen, and that certainly makes sense. In fact, Matthew explicitly says that the reason the disciples could not cast out the demon was their “little faith”, and supplements this by adding that having faith the size of a mustard seed can give you the power to move a mountain.
There is a caveat to this, however.
In Mark, after this event, the disciples privately (kat’ idian) ask Jesus why they were not able to drive out the demon. Matthew repeats this, using exactly the same phrase, (kat’ idian). However, the two evangelists give very different answers. Mark said it’s because this kind (to genos) can only be expelled by prayer. I pointed this out at the time as an example of Mark’s interest in, and description of, the “magical practices” Jesus employed to effect some of his miracles. In Mark this interest has the feel of a how-to guide to exorcism or other wonders. It’s what gets called a “coaching opportunity” in the business world, a chance for Jesus to give the disciples on-the-job training. Another notable example of magical practices was Jesus spitting into some dirt to make mud that he then applied to the eyes of a blind man. Matthew, OTOH, eliminates this part of the story. Instead, he blames the failure on the disciples’ lack of faith. This is not surprising that Matthew provided a different answer, since he eliminated all descriptions of magical practice from his gospel. As an aside, it is interesting to note that some mss traditions have added the “this kind can only be driven out by prayer” into the text of Matthew. The consensus is that this is indeed a later interpolation, intended to bring Matthew more closely into line with Mark. This is an excellent example of how stories grow and the tradition becomes enlarged, and is a great cautionary tale not to be too skeptical of suggestions of interpolation.
Luke, as we see, dropped the whole (kat’ idian) section. He does not have the disciples asking Jesus anything in private, about the demon or anything else. Of course, the question should be, ‘why not?’ What is Luke’s “redactionally consistent” explanation for eliminating the whole sequence? Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my consistent explanation has been that Luke has consistently eliminated sequences like this because they have been adequately covered by both Mark and Mathew. The instances of this redactional policy of Luke are starting to a accumulate, like snowflakes. A few snowflakes aren’t worth bothering about; when they start to accumulate, however, they become significant.
42 Et cum accederet, elisit illum daemonium et dissipavit. Et increpavit Iesus spiritum immundum et sanavit puerum et reddidit illum patri eius.
43 Stupebant autem omnes in magnitudine Dei. Omnibusque mirantibus in omnibus, quae faciebat, dixit ad discipulos suos:
44 “Ponite vos in auribus vestris sermones istos: Filius enim hominis futurum est ut tradatur in manus hominum”.
45 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουντὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο, καὶ ἦν παρακεκαλυμμένον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἵνα μὴ αἴσθωνται αὐτό, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τούτου.
(45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.
45 At illi ignorabant verbum istud, et erat velatum ante eos, ut non sentirent illud, et time bant interrogare eum de hoc verbo.
I have to say something about this last verse. It’s one that is in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew. But before getting to the implications of that, let’s take a moment to appreciate what this verse says. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about. That is fair enough. Jesus is making a prediction, so why would the disciples understand? I mean, on the one hand, it does seem pretty plain…but perhaps only if we assume that the disciples understood Jesus to be the son of man that Jesus is discussing. We get it, of course. When discussing Mark, one theme that kept recurring was the messianic secret; the term is not mine, but is part of the larger discourse, and it’s encountered often in the literature. My particular take on this is that Mark was trying to explain to later audiences why Jesus was not regarded as the messiah by his earliest followers. Or perhaps “make excuses” is a more appropriate description. Because the fact is, he wasn’t. Hence the bifurcation of Mark’s text into the earlier wonder-worker section, and the section on the anointed coming later. I mean, if Jesus’ own disciples didn’t fully understand who or what Jesus was, how could anyone outside the group be expected to get it? Then, as a corollary to this comes the bit about being afraid to ask. After all, if they didn’t understand, they could have asked, no? So why didn’t they? Because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? Well, that question is not even asked, let alone answered.
But let’s kept this lack of understanding in mind.
Now let’s talk about the Mark & Luke but not Matthew. On the whole, the disciples fare much better in Matthew than they did in Mark. Matthew presents them in a much, much more positive light. So it’s hardly surprising that Matthew omitted the contents of this verse. It fits with his portrayal of the disciples; IOW, it’s redactionally consistent*. So here we have yet another example of Luke putting back something that Matthew excised.
*Honestly, some of the attributes that modern scholars demand of the evangelists are borderline ridiculous. These guys were not writing a thesis that was going to be graded and that they would have to defend before a panel of (possibly hostile–but, then again, maybe not) professors. They are writing about Divine Truth; the details didn’t always matter. Truth has a higher sense of vision than something that’s only striving for factual accuracy, or to be a reasonably coherent interpretation. Because one thing that’s often overlooked is that many of these same modern scholars are far from being “redactionally consistent” in their presentations.
This is the Transfiguration. Back when we read this for Mark, I floated the idea that this section had originally been the climax, or the ending of the first section of that gospel, the apotheosis of the wonder worker. That interpretation is probably not defensible; beyond that, I’m not even sure that it feels right. At least I didn’t until I keyed in the word “apotheosis”. That is, after all, what this represents. In a way, it’s the Ascension taking place before Jesus dies. There is no doubt that this story is intended to “prove”, or demonstrate that Jesus is, indeed, divine. If this is meant to stand in for the Ascension, the original story would not have had them all returning down the mountain; rather, Jesus would have left them. As such, this would be the explanation of why Jesus was no longer present on earth.
It also occurs to me that this could be the beginning of the Christ narrative. Rather than the story of Bethlehem, this is the birth of the Christ, except as a grown man. The connexion to the Baptism story can be neither avoided nor denied; the voice from the cloud connects in a very explicit manner those two events. Perhaps this is the seam between the two narratives: that of the wonder worker and that of the Christ. Perhaps the original Christ narrative started with this event. There is, rather obviously, a level of transcendence to this event that makes it hard to accept–IMO, anyway–that this is just part of the narrative. What you have in Mark is the Baptism introducing the Wonder Worker, and then the Transfiguration introducing the Christ. It’s hard not to see the parallel construction there. Which section came first? I seriously doubt that both pieces developed independently with an introduction sequence that is so similar. I would suggest that the Baptism has a much more organic feel to it; we start with John preaching repentance, the torch is passed to Jesus, and then when he hears John was arrested, Jesus picks up where John left off, preaching the coming of the kingdom of God. This stands out most starkly in Mark; Luke and Matthew blunt the effect with their birth narratives. This sequence, in contrast, is sort of a one-off; it doesn’t really fit the narrative; it’s just sort of stuck in here without any attachment to the rest of the story.
There really is no particular point to this speculation beyond that there is a curious balance to the two stories of Baptism and Transfiguration. This balance matches the way the narrative of Mark seems divided in twain. If what I’m saying about the Baptism being organic, the implication is that the story of the Wonder Worker is the original part, and the story of the Christ is the addition. This does not square with Paul, who preached the Christ and ignored, pretty much completely, the Wonder Worker. The implication of this, in turn, is that the two separate stories grew up in parallel, despite Paul’s being the older of the two. Or is it? Is the Christ narrative really older in an absolute sense? Or was it just written down first? This is a legitimate question that really has to be answered, or at least considered.
28 Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ [καὶ] παραλαβὼν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι.
29 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων.
30 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας,
31 οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.
It happened eight days after these sayings and taking Peter and John and James he went up the mountain to pray. (29) And it occurred in the praying of him the form of his face was different and his white clothing dazzling, (30) and look! two men were speaking with him, and these men were Moses and Elijah, (31) those being seen in glory spoke the departure of him (Jesus) which he intended to fulfill in Jerusalem.
This is novel. In neither of the other two gospels do we find anything about the topic discussed by Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, let alone that it was about Jesus’ upcoming trip to Jerusalem. I have no idea what this means. Most likely it’s meant as a confirmation that what Jesus was about to do was being given divine approval. And note the brevity of the description of Jesus. An interesting note about the Greek: the word rendered as ‘dazzling’ literally means something on the lines of “like a star”, or perhaps “like light from a star”. And note that Jesus’ clothes do not become white; they are white to start with, and the white becomes dazzling.
Hmm…While looking up something in the next couple of verses, I noticed that the standard translation for the white garments is that they became dazzling white. Looking back at the construction, the “it became” at the beginning of the sentence could still be applied to the dazzling white garments at the end, so that the garments became dazzling white. The only problem with this is that what I translated too literally as ‘it became’ probably should be rendered more like, “and it happened”. And sneaking a peak down at the Latin, the Vulgate agrees with me more than it does with the various English translations, starting with the KJV and continuing even to this very day.
28 Factum est autem post haec verba fere dies octo, et assumpsit Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et ascendit in montem, ut oraret.
29 Et facta est, dum oraret, species vultus eius altera, et vestitus eius albus, refulgens.
30 Et ecce duo viri loquebantur cum illo, et erant Moyses et Elias,
31 qui visi in gloria dicebant exodum eius, quam completurus erat in Ierusalem.
32 ὁ δὲ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ ἦσαν βεβαρημένοι ὕπνῳ: διαγρηγορήσαντες δὲ εἶδον τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς δύο ἄνδρας τοὺς συνεστῶτας αὐτῷ.
33 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ διαχωρίζεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Ἐπιστάτα, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι, καὶ ποιήσωμεν σκηνὰς τρεῖς, μίαν σοὶ καὶ μίαν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ μίαν Ἠλίᾳ, μὴ εἰδὼς ὃ λέγει.
And Peter and those with him were beheavied by sleep. Starting awake, and he saw the glory of him and the two men standing with him. (33) And it became in the leaving them from him Peter said to Jesus, “Overstander, it is good for us here to be, and let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”, for he did not know what he said.
OK, got a bit overly literal. “Beheavied”, “in the leaving them from him”, and “overstander” are all way too literal. Or, actually, the latter should probably be more like “stander-on”, as in, “one who stands upon”. This latter word is unique to Luke–and not in Acts–in the NT. And so is the word “starting awake”. In fact. it’s a very uncommon word even in the Classical corpus. Such words remind us of Luke’s erudition, and this erudition gives us cause to pay attention to Luke’s nuances. A good example came in the last section when we discussed losing one’s life/soul/self.
The other thing that gets my attention is the bit about Peter suggesting the erection of tents after Moses & Elijah. It is only here that we are told he said this after/as the two of them were leaving. For the life of me, I cannot conceive of any possible reason Luke would add this. It’s to the point where I can’t even think of much more to say about the whole thing.
32 Petrus vero et qui cum illo gravati erant somno; et evigilantes viderunt gloriam eius et duos viros, qui stabant cum illo.
33 Et factum est, cum discederent ab illo, ait Petrus ad Iesum: “Praeceptor, bonum est nos hic esse; et faciamus tria tabernacula: unum tibi et unum Moysi et unum Eliae ”, nesciens quid diceret.
34 ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ἐγένετο νεφέλη καὶ ἐπεσκίαζεν αὐτούς: ἐφοβήθησαν δὲ ἐν τῷ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν νεφέλην.
35 καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε.
36 καὶ ἐν τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν φωνὴν εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐσίγησαν καὶ οὐδενὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις οὐδὲν ὧν ἑώρακαν.
These things he having said a cloud became and enshadowed them; they were afraid in their going into the cloud. (35) And a voice occurred from the cloud saying “This is my son, the chosen (one/son), listen to him”. (36) And in the voice occurring Jesus was found alone, and they were silent and to no one they announced in those days the things they had seen.
First about the Greek. Throughout I’ve been using “become” and “occurred”. The same word is behind both the translations. At root, the base meaning of the verb is “to become”; however, it gets used in a wide variety of methods, including “to occur”, and very frequently as a substitute for “to be”. I try to render using the base meaning since that is the true and underlying sense of the word. From there one can get all poetic about how to render into something that sounds pleasing in English, but part of the purpose of this is to provide those learning Greek to see how the syntax works. I’ve rather gotten away from that for a while; or, at least, I’m not as obnoxious about it as I used to be. Here, however, I’ve gotten back to that because the grammar is rather interesting.
More importantly is the last verse. In Verse 33 we got some extra; here we get something removed. In the other two gospels, Jesus instructed his henchmen to say nothing. Here, that bit of instruction is missing. The three of them simply choose not to speak of the matter. Why not? We are not told. Or are we? Again, I’m seeing a situation in which Luke feels that there is no reason to repeat something a third time. Once again, we have another example of Luke making omissions to stories that are adequately covered by Mark and Matthew. I need to go through my Harmony to do some more research, but it seems that when Matthew and Mark give a full account, Luke abridges his. When Matthew shortens too much, as in the Gerasene Demonaic, Luke adds back what Matthew has omitted. When Matthew has something that Mark doesn’t, Luke reinforces Matthew,
34 Haec autem illo loquente, facta est nubes et obumbravit eos; et timuerunt intrantibus illis in nubem.
35 Et vox facta est de nube dicens: “ Hic est Filius meus electus; ipsum audite ”.
36 Et dum fieret vox, inventus est Iesus solus. Et ipsi tacuerunt et nemini dixerunt in illis diebus quidquam ex his, quae viderant.
This next section is the lead-up to the Transfiguration and includes the confession of Peter. This is where Mark fully made the transition from wonder-worker to Christ. As such, the passage, especially Peter’s confession, has a staged feel to it. The section has the sensibility of being created because it was necessary. So even though this was in Mark, that does not imbue this with any halo of authenticity. The question of who made this up is completely open; did it start with Mark, who needed it for the transition to the Christ narrative? Or did it come about earlier, and Mark recorded what he found. Of the three evangelists that we’ve read, I give Mark the least credit for creativity. His narrative feels too much like reporting; in fact, I’ve often categorized Mark as the journalist of the evangelists. Likewise Matthew was the rabbi (albeit of pagan origin), Luke is a novelist, and John is a theologian. Each tells more or less the same story, but from a very different perspective, uisng a very different toolkit.
18 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον κατὰ μόνας συνῆσαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτοὺς λέγων, Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ὄχλοι εἶναι;
19 οἱ δὲ ἀποκριθέντες εἶπαν, Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.
And it happened therein he praying by himself the disciples came to him and he asked them saying, “Who does the crowd say me to be?” (19) Answering, they said, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, others that (you are) some prophet of old who rose (from the dead).”
Note that this is pretty close to a verbatim repetition of what Herod said about Jesus. Given all of Luke’s creativity, he surely could have come up with another set of speculative answers, couldn’t he? The answer, probably, is “probably”; ergo, that he didn’t is likely to be significant. At least to some degree. Really, it is, IMO, a case of doubling down for emphasis. These were the prevalent speculations about Jesus–at least, after the fact–so let’s repeat them twice to ensure that no one misses the point here. And since we’ve only just discussed the implications of each of these, ther is no reason to belabor the point any further.
The unique twist, albeit a minor one, that Luke gives is that he asks what “the crowd” says of him. It bears to remember that “the crowd” was not exactly a term of endearment back then, with all sorts of negative connotations. The aspiration was to be one of the best (aristoi, optimates), and “common” is still rather a term of disparagement in England.
18 Et factum est, cum solus esset orans, erant cum illo discipuli, et interrogavit illos dicens: “Quem me dicunt esse turbae?”.
19 At illi responderunt et dixerunt: “ Ioannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero: Propheta unus de prioribus surrexit”.
20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; Πέτρος δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.
21 Ὁ δὲ ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλεν μηδενὶ λέγειν τοῦτο,
22 εἰπὼν ὅτι Δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.
He said to them, “Who do you say me to be?” Peter answering said, “The anointed one of God”. (21) He rebuking commanded them no one to tell this, (22) saying that “The Son of Man must suffer much and to be handed over to the elders and the high priests and scribes and to be killed and on the third day be raised”.
A word about the Greek. << τίνα >> means “who”. << τινα >> means “anyone”. Can you tell the difference? It escaped me, too, but then I cheated and looked at the Latin. The difference is that the former has an accent over the iota. I missed that at first.
There is a serious case of compression here. Luke has squeezed out every possible bit of extraneous information to get right down to the hard, crystalline crux of the matter here. That is, this is another example of the abridgement of a story told by the other two evangelists. Is this a coincidence? If we but take a moment to look at the context, something really jumps out. In the other gospels, this passage comes directly before the Transfiguration, and so it does here, too. But–and this is a big “but”–the other two gospels have several stories in between: walking on water, feeding the 4,000, eating with unclean hands, et alia. All of them are in both gospels. IOW, Luke felt it unnecessary to include them because they had been adequately covered in both the other gospels. This, of course, implies–indeed requires–that Luke knew Matthew’s gospel. So we’ve collected a number of examples by this point. How many others are like this? And what does Luke do when Matthew doesn’t give a full account of Mark? A run through the Harmony is called for to examine this issue a bit more closely. I have a theory of what we’ll find, but it needs testing.
20 Dixit autem illis: “Vos autem quem me esse dicitis?”. Respondens Petrus dixit: “ Christum Dei”.
21 At ille increpans illos praecepit, ne cui dicerent hoc,
22 dicens: “Oportet Filium hominis multa pati et reprobari a senioribus et principibus sacerdotum et scribis et occidi et tertia die resurgere”.
23 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς πάντας, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεσθαι, ἀρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ’ ἡμέραν, καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.
He spoke to all of them, “If someone wishes hereafter to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross each day, and follow me”.
Is it just me, or is this a rather sharp discontinuity from the previous verse? It may have something to do with the numerous pericopes that are in the other gospels that are omitted in between here. Or, I suppose the real break comes before Verse 18 that opens this section. Here’s the real issue: this is what I find so annoying about the Q people and their non-existent argument for the existence of Q. It’s the whole issue of these discontinuities. For all the world, what they feel like is a collection of disparate, unrelated sayings; that is, they sound like a collection of sayings that have nothing to do with one another. This is what a real argument for Q looks and sounds like. Lord knows that I find it reasonable to suppose the existence of such a collection based on the textual evidence. It has not so much to do with the arrangement of the material–which is a subjective measure at best–but the fact that we are dealing with pericopes in the first place. Mark famously makes almost no attempt to smooth the transitions between pericopes; in a very large number of verses, especially those beginning a new story, the first word is simply “and”. The same is so with a number of these sayings, or these stories that have Jesus making a statement. So why do the Q people insist on the “argument” from arrangement? I have no idea.
We’ve discussed this before, so I’ll point it out and move along. The injunction to “take up one’s cross” is, of course, a later invention, added after Jesus had been crucified. It simply makes no sense before then, and it’s a reference to the tribulations that came with the destruction of Jerusalem.
23 Dicebat autem ad omnes: “ Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam cotidie et sequatur me.
24 ὃς γὰρ ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, οὗτος σώσει αὐτήν.
25 τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖται ἄνθρωπος κερδήσας τὸν κόσμον ὅλον ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἀπολέσας ἢ ζημιωθείς;
“For he who would save his life must lose it. But he who might lose his life because of me, that one will save it. (25) For what should it profit a man should he gain the whole world but himself he should destroy or cause to lose (himself).
Oh, now this is interesting for a couple of reasons. To begin, this is is another example of compression; this compresses sentiments that are expressed in two separate places in Mark & Matthew. So, once again, Luke “just happens” to edit down pericopes* or sayings* that get full treatment in the two previous gospels. How many examples of that do we now have?
Then, there is no way to render psyche as “soul”. …”He who would save his own soul will lose it“…doesn’t really work. The tendency to us “soul” for psyche reflects, IMO, the later Christian interpretation with which we are all familiar; so saving your soul should be the goal, and losing it by trying to save it doesn’t really make sense. And, to be fair, in the save/lose part of the saying, it is pretty much always translated as “life”. We have also seen how the combination of pysche and “to save” occur together in a context which makes it pretty clear that what is being saved is the physical life of the person in question, and not her immortal soul. Here, this could not be more clear.
The most interesting feature of this compression, however, comes in the last half. In its two previous incarnations, it is often rendered as “what shall it profit…to gain the world and lose one’s psyche“, which is almost always rendered as “soul”. At least in the discussion of Mark, I argued that the translation more attuned to the sense of the Greek word would be “life”. Here, Luke is forced to deal with this in a novel way, and for novel reasons. Because he has just used psyche twice, to avoid redundancy he uses an entirely different word in the back end. Here, he says, but should lose himself, using this word in all its glorious ambiguity. We can ask if this is more apt to shade towards soul or towards life? Or towards something that is neither? My sense is that it shades more towards “soul”. This is, IMO, why Luke chose to write it the way he did, to remove that ambiguity.
I’ll be honest: gaining the world and losing one’s soul has more literary impact that gaining the world and losing one’s life. Despite this, we have to ask if we are not seeing this expression as the result of two millennia of dualist tradition, in which the body and the soul are believed to be separate entities. We think it makes more sense as soul because that is how we think. The question becomes whether Mark saw things that way. Luke could very likely share something closer to our perspective. Everyone has always pretty much agreed that Luke was a pagan rather than a Jew, and I have seen no reason to doubt that, even if I haven’t seen all that much evidence that he was a pagan. He’s rather more of a continuation of Matthew in that way; the break between Jew and pagan comes, I believe, between Mark and Matthew. That was my position pretty much throughout Matthew’s gospel.
So if Mark meant life and Luke meant soul, what did Matthew mean? If he were a pagan, why did he not clarify the ambiguity? One could answer that Matthew did not see the ambiguity; for him, Mark’s psyche meant more or less what it did to Luke, so Matthew saw no need to make the change. Luke, being a bit more educated–and let’s not kid ourselves, Luke is the most educated of the three–did understand the potential ambiguity and so made the change. These gospels were written in Greek, but in what language were they preached? Did the people who read the Greek address speakers of Aramaic in Greek? This is rather a profound question, and not one that is amenable to a quick and simple answer. My immediate reaction is that those preaching would have done so in the language of the audience. This only makes sense. Given this, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Luke made the change because this passage had caused problems due to the potential ambiguity. I don’t know that, but it’s a fairly apparent explanation. Whether it’s the correct explanation is rather a different issue.
24 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, hic salvam faciet illam.
25 Quid enim proficit homo, si lucretur universum mundum, se autem ipsum perdat vel detrimentum sui faciat?
26 ὃς γὰρ ἂν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους, τοῦτον ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται, ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων.
27 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, εἰσίν τινες τῶν αὐτοῦ ἑστηκότων οἳ οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
“For he who is ashamed of me and my words, this one the son of man will be ashamed of, when he should come into his judgement and of the father and the holy angels. (27) I say to you truly, there are some of those standing he who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
At first glance, the transition from Verse 25 to Verse 26 seemed to be a non-sequitur. A bit more reflection, and a bit less rigidity of thinking made me think otherwise. Now that I’ve relaxed my perspective, I almost wonder if I made the break in translation at the proper place. This does seem to go with the bit about losing oneself. After all, losing oneself seems like a fairly predictable consequence of facing the judgement of the father, a judgement in which the son of man disowns the person standing in the dock. But does one lose one’s soul? Or one’s life? Or both, since one’s eternal soul is lost to a negative judgement? This last is not a contradiction; there are hints throughout the NT where those who attain The Life will continue, the implication being that without entering The Life, one is no more. This, I suspect, is sort of the direction Jewish thought
Being ashamed of “the son of man”–whoever that might be–and facing judgement have only a peripheral connexion to losing oneself. The loss presumably could come from the adverse judgement. This would tie in with the idea of being condemned to death–if only in the negative sense of not being able to enter into The Life. So this does work. It must be said, however, that, in the final analysis, this very much preserves the sense of Mark’s original intent. The idea of the eternal soul is still binary: enter The Life and persevere, or don’t enter The Life and cease existence. Later Christian dogma will change the latter choice to suffering eternal damnation. That is, the choice is still binary, but the second, less pleasant, option changes, and arguably becomes much less pleasant.
The final verse, in contrast, really does not fit here at all. This is due to its having been ripped pretty much completely out of context. In the other two gospels, this comes during the predictions of apocalypse, the “prediction” of the “coming” destruction of the Temple and perhaps the “coming persecutions” conducted by Saul. So sticking it in here simply doesn’t truly work.
26 Nam qui me erubuerit et meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet, cum venerit in gloria sua et Patris et sanctorum angelorum.
27 Dico autem vobis vere: Sunt aliqui hic stantes, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant regnum Dei”.
* (from above) Really, the proper word for these is logoi. This captures the sense of wording rather than the overall story. “Saying” is the closest English equivalent, but that does not quite capture the full extent of how a logos implies the full meaning of the saying. Too frequently the latter term is used almost independently of what it means; it’s a short-hand for the expression that is then used to compare where the various evangelists place said saying, Sure, the idea of the meaning is implicit in these discussions, but it’s most often only implicit. Any discussion of the meaning is wholly secondary.
Here is another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. Actually, this is one of the few stories that are present in all four gospels. This time, it’s the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s very short, comoing in at a mere six verses. If you’ll recall, Mark and Matthew have Jesus feeding five thousand, and then later feeding four thousand. Both evangelists provide full accounts of “both” these feedings. The quotes are there because I am firmly of the opinion that the event, or the story, was “twinned”; this is the process whereby the account of a single event ends up splitting into two separate events. The process usually occurs when two separate groups, not in communication with each other, each tell their own version of the story. With time, the two stories no longer line up exactly, so the people encountering the other version believe that this second version must refer to a separate event. If you read Livy Book I, there are a number of battles that involve the same enemy and sufficiently–but not completely–similar circumstances that scholars believe it’s a single battle that has become “twinned” in this fashion. The question then becomes how long it will take for this twinning to occur. A year? Two years? Ten? It seems reasonable to infer that the less similar the circumstances related in the story, the longer the time the two accounts have been separated. In this case, the major difference is the number of people fed and the number of loaves and fishes in each event. That’s a pretty small difference. Ergo, I would infer that the separation of the stories was not too long.
There is a whole strain of biblical research of late fixating on oral traditions. The idea is to “prove” that oral traditions trustworthy and accurate. The problem is that the research, IMO, reaches a conclusion first, and then argues backwards. From all I’ve read of biblical scholarship, there is a lot of this going on. At root, it’s about the differences between the texts, what this says overall about the redactional tendencies of each evangelist, and how the context clearly favors the existence of Q. My apologies, but this is not real scholarship. Note the emphasis on overall; I do that because there is very little analysis of what the difference in the way each story is told by the different evangelists. IOW, there’s very little of what I’m doing here. When we are fortunate enough to have more than one source for events in the Graeco-Roman world–which is almost nonexistent for Greek history, but more common for periods of Roman history–the scholarship goes through the texts line-by-line to examine and discuss the differences and what the possible implications could be. I have found nothing of the sort in biblical scholarship; if anyone can point me to it, please do so. I would love to read this kind of analysis.
Anyway, the thing is, having been reading secular and pagan historical writing and biography from this period, I can state very strongly that we are not getting historical writing in the NT. The gospels are not, and were never intended to be, history in any sense that we would recognise the concept. Biblical scholars need to read some of these sources–and not just the dozen lines in Josephus, or the three 0r four paragraphs of Tacitus that mention Jesus or Christians.
OK, let’s get on to the
12 Ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤρξατο κλίνειν: προσελθόντες δὲ οἱ δώδεκα εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ἀπόλυσον τὸν ὄχλον, ἵνα πορευθέντες εἰς τὰς κύκλῳ κώμας καὶ ἀγροὺς καταλύσωσιν καὶ εὕρωσιν ἐπισιτισμόν, ὅτι ὧδε ἐν ἐρήμῳ τόπῳ ἐσμέν.
The day began to decline; coming forward the Twelve said to him, “Send away the crowd, so that going into the surrounding villages and fields they disband and find food, since we are in a desert place.
This is the standard setting of the scene. The disciples want to send the people away because they are in a deserted or empty place–the word can have both meanings; think t he “desert isle” on which Gilligan & company were stranded. Note the Twelve. This is the only version of the story that uses the Twelve; the others simply say “the disciples”.
12 Dies autem coeperat declinare; et accedentes Duodecim dixerunt illi: “ Dimitte turbam, ut euntes in castella villasque, quae circa sunt, divertant et inveniant escas, quia hic in loco deserto sumus ”.
13 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐκ εἰσὶν ἡμῖν πλεῖον ἢ ἄρτοι πέντε καὶ ἰχθύες δύο, εἰ μήτι πορευθέντες ἡμεῖς ἀγοράσωμεν εἰς πάντα τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον βρώματα.
14 ἦσαν γὰρ ὡσεὶ ἄνδρες πεντακισχίλιοι. εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Κατακλίνατε αὐτοὺς κλισίας [ὡσεὶ] ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα.
He said to them, “Give to them to eat”. They said, “There is not to us (dative of possession) more than five loaves and two fishes. Unless going we buy for all the people this food”. (14) For there were so many men as five thousand. He said to his disciples, “Have them recline on the grass in [so many as] fifty.”
The specificity of this is striking. On the grass. Groups of fifty. The attention to detail is intriguing. One could argue that this level of detail indicates an eyewitness account, told by someone who had been there and seen this, especially since these details are present in the earliest version; the grass even persists through John’s telling of the story. Unfortunately for this would-be argument, the details could have been added at anytime before Mark wrote. These are the sorts of things that can–and do–get added to the tale as it’s told. Again, I keep going back to the Arthur legend, wherein the stories became more elaborate with the passing of time. This is, I believe, another example of that process, or phenomenon.
13 Ait autem ad illos: “ Vos date illis manducare ”. At illi dixerunt: “ Non sunt nobis plus quam quinque panes et duo pisces, nisi forte nos eamus et emamus in omnem hanc turbam escas”.
14 Erant enim fere viri quinque milia. Ait autem ad discipulos suos: “ Facite illos discumbere per convivia ad quinquagenos”.
15 καὶ ἐποίησαν οὕτως καὶ κατέκλιναν ἅπαντας.
16 λαβὼν δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ κατέκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ.
17 καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν πάντες, καὶ ἤρθη τὸ περισσεῦσαν αὐτοῖς κλασμάτων κόφινοι δώδεκα.
And they (the disciples) did in this way and all reclined. (16) Taking the five loaves and two fish, looking up to the sky he blessed them and broke them and gave to the disciples to set before the crowd. (17) And they ate and they were all fed, and they took up the excess from them and filled twelve baskets.
This version is truly condensed, almost to the point of being a précis. Considering that Luke did not scruple to leave out other bits of Mark, one wonders why he even bothered to include this one. My guess would be that this story was too well-known to omit; after all, John even includes it. But John does not include the Sermon on the Mount, or a lot of the other teachings of Jesus that were allegedly contained in Q. Why is that? My suspicion is that this story was seen as too much of an epitome of how Jesus was seen. And what Jesus is in this story is a wonder worker. That, I would argue, was first and foremost how Jesus was seen. John even continues the tradition with some major wonders worked by Jesus, including changing water to wine and raising Lazarus. The Gospel of John represents the final and complete melding of the wonder worker and the divine entity identities of Jesus.
15 Et ita fecerunt et discumbere fecerunt omnes.
16 Acceptis autem quinque panibus et duobus piscibus, respexit in caelum et benedixit illis et fregit et dabat discipulis suis, ut ponerent ante turbam.
17 Et manducaverunt et saturati sunt omnes; et sublatum est, quod superfuit illis, fragmentorum cophini duodecim.
This next piece is even shorter. It is Luke’s version of the death of the Baptist. At five verses, it is by far the shortest version of the tale we’ve come across yet. I think it best to skip the preliminaries, save the comments for after, and get directly to the
7 Ἤκουσεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης τὰ γινόμενα πάντα, καὶ διηπόρει διὰ τὸ λέγεσθαι ὑπό τινων ὅτι Ἰωάννης ἠγέρθη ἐκ νεκρῶν,
8 ὑπό τινων δὲ ὅτι Ἠλίας ἐφάνη, ἄλλων δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.
Herod the tetrarch heard all of these occurrences, and he was unsure of himself because of the things having been said by some that John had been raised from the dead, (8) by some that Elijah had appeared, of others that some prophet of the olden (days) had stood up.
There is actually quite a bit of stuff packed into a couple of verses. The first is the title tetrarch. We did discuss this at least once before; if it’s familiar, feel free to skip this. The word literally means “ruler of a fourth” or “one of four rulers”. This is Herod Antipas, who was a son of Herod the Great. When the latter died, there was a series of disturbances among the would-be successors, so Rome stepped in more forcefully than it had previously. The Roman preference was to leave a native puppet in place to save themselves the aggravation of direct intervention and administration. Generally, this lasted a generation or two, and then for various reasons Rome felt compelled to resort to direct annexation. In the former kingdom of Herod the Great, the road to direct annexation was a process that played out through much of the First Century. One step was dividing Herod’s kingdom into four parts, splitting the rule among his sons, most of whom were also named Herod. It gets very confusing. The Herod here had Galilee as part of his domain, as well as other neighboring/surrounding areas.
Then we get a very abridged introduction to the story of John the Dunker. Note that we have John being raised from the dead, even though we haven’t been explicitly told that John is dead. We last saw John back in Chapter 3, when he had been arrested by Herod. And Luke very quickly runs through the possibilities about Jesus, ascribing them simply to “some/others said” in indirect speech. Luke is not going to dally or shilly-shally here. Perhaps the most interesting part is the mention of Elijah; one has to wonder how many of Luke’s audience would have understood the significance of Elijah (Elias in both Greek and Latin). I did not understand this until very recently, but I make no claim to be well-read in Hebrew Scriptures. Rather, I have a background that would be similar to that of many pagans of Luke’s time. This is not to say that if I’m not aware of it, no pagan could have known about Elijah, but it does indicate, I think, that a lot of pagans would not have known. First, Elijah was believed not to have died; hence, there is speculation that he has appeared (per Benson’s Commentary) when John had been raised. And it’s the passive voice; John did not rise, but some other agent did the raising. But anyway, it was believed that Elijah would return as the forerunner of the anointed one, so the coming of Elijah was a portentous thing among Jews; it was hopeful for the downtrodden but something to be feared by the rulers.
But to get back to John for a moment. I pointed out that he was raised, just as Paul says Jesus was raised. However, when I was translating…1 Thessalonians, IIRC, I made a bit too much of the passive voice. This is relevant here, because while John was raised, it was speculated that one of the prophets from the olden days had “stood up” as I so charmingly and literally translated it. Really, it means that the prophet rose–for which “stood up” is a synonym–as in from the dead. This is not the only time this word is used for “rise from the dead”, so I have to back off from my position that Jesus was not necessarily the actor when he returned from the Great Beyond. Also, it is interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate says that John rose–surrexit, active voice–from the dead. The KJV waffles on this, coming down somewhere between the Greek and the Latin: John was risen from the dead. It’s not truly a passive; it’s a past participle. The NASB renders this as an active: John had risen. The NIV and the ESV are faithful to the Greek, saying that John had been raised from the dead. How much does it matter? Not as much as I would have thought, given that one of the prophets of old “stood up”.
7 Audivit autem Herodes tetrarcha omnia, quae fiebant, et haesitabat, eo quod diceretur a quibusdam: “ Ioannes surrexit a mortuis ”;
8 a quibusdam vero: “ Elias apparuit ”; ab aliis autem: “ Propheta unus de antiquis surrexit ”.
9 εἶπεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης, Ἰωάννην ἐγὼ ἀπεκεφάλισα: τίς δέ ἐστιν οὗτος περὶ οὗ ἀκούω τοιαῦτα; καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν αὐτόν.
And Herod said, “I (as in, I myself, I personally; use of the pronoun adds emphasis) beheaded John. Who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to know him (Jesus).
And thus endeth the story of the death of the Baptist. “Abridged” doesn’t go nearly far enough. All the rationale for the execution is completely missing. I have to believe this is because Luke thought that the story was more than amply covered by his predecessor(s). That Luke (presumably) believed this, I think, lends support to my suggestion that Luke was aware of Matthew, but there is really no hard link between the two. Mark’s story was longer than Matthew’s version, so it could be very plausibly argued that Mark alone would have been sufficient to convince Luke that the story had been told in full. However, Matthew also provides an account nearly as long as Mark’s; surely two such tellings would have been more likely to convince Luke that the story need not be told again in full? More on this as we compare other aspects of the Triple Tradition.
9 Et ait Herodes: “ Ioannem ego decollavi; quis autem est iste, de quo audio ego talia? ”. Et quaerebat videre eum.
10 Καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν. καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς ὑπεχώρησεν κατ’ ἰδίαν εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά.
11 οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι γνόντες ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀποδεξάμενος αὐτοὺς ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ τοὺς χρείαν ἔχοντας θεραπείας ἰᾶτο.
And returning the apostles recounted to him what they had done. And taking them they went off privately to the city called Bethsaida. (11) And the crowd learning followed him, and receiving them he spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and those having need of healing, he cured.
This is minimalist to the point of ridiculous; that being said, however, it should be noted that the other two gospels are not all that much more loquacious, if they are at all. This is another clue that the idea of the “apostles” being sent out is not to be taken seriously. Someone decided that the term “apostle” didn’t make sense if they had never been sent out. So a story was created to have this happen. Unfortunately for the narrative, not a lot of detail accrued to the legend. It was created bare-bones and it got left that way. Why? Most likely because this didn’t fire anyone’s imagination sufficiently to inspire the accumulations of details. And here is also where we can get a sense of the (un)reliability of the later traditions. St Philipp, IIRC, went to India. Or wait, that was Thomas. And it gives a sense of how much later these non-canonical works were created. At a point within two generations, more or less, of Jesus we haven’t even come up with anything the least bit…interesting for any of these Twelve to have done. It took another century or more–probably significantly more–to craft some of these other tales.
As for the last bit, it sure seems a bit like it was mailed in. Luke rather just throws it in there without a lot of ado or even interest. Mark has numerous little throw-away lines like this with Jesus preaching and healing. Even there, in Mark, they feel a bit forced, sort of a more sophisticated way of saying “and so forth”. Or, “Jesus did some stuff”. In Luke this feels positively forced. That it does, and that Luke included it regardless I think speaks to the depth of the traditions that were still flowing in the popular mind. Jesus was a healer, a wonder-worker, but one who preached about the kingdom of God, which concept remains vague throughout all the gospels. That, in turn, is a good indication of how the stories that ended up in the gospels were something on the order of random. My late father-in-law called them “volunteers”, plants of the sort that are deliberately cultivated, such as flowers, that spring up of their own accord, the result of a seed landing in a fortunate spot by happenstance.
10 Et reversi apostoli narraverunt illi, quaecumque fecerunt. Et assumptis illis, secessit seorsum ad civitatem, quae vocatur Bethsaida.
11 Quod cum cognovissent turbae, secutae sunt illum. Et excepit illos et loquebatur illis de regno Dei et eos, qui cura indigebant, sanabat.
This chapter begins with several other stories that we’ve seen in both of the other two gospels. The first is the Sending of the Twelve. This section is very short; my intention at this point is to try to keep the sections short to minimise the length of time between posts. Lately, life has been getting in the way of hobbies, which is often the case when one has children and the holidays approach. Since this story is familiar, there’s really no need for additional introduction, so we’ll get right to the
1 Συγκαλεσάμενος δὲ τοὺς δώδεκα ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ νόσους θεραπεύειν,
2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἰᾶσθαι [τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς],
3 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μηδὲν αἴρετε εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, μήτε ῥάβδον μήτε πήραν μήτε ἄρτον μήτε ἀργύριον, μήτε [ἀνὰ] δύο χιτῶνας ἔχειν.
4 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε, ἐκεῖ μένετε καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐξέρχεσθε.
5 καὶ ὅσοι ἂν μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξερχόμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης τὸν κονιορτὸν ἀπὸ τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν ἀποτινάσσετε εἰς μαρτύριον ἐπ’ αὐτούς.
6 ἐξερχόμενοι δὲ διήρχοντο κατὰ τὰς κώμας εὐαγγελιζόμενοι καὶ θεραπεύοντες πανταχοῦ.
Calling together the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. (2) And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal [the illnesses]. (3) And he said to them, “Do not take upon the road neither staff, nor money (lit = ‘silver‘), nor have two tunics.(4) And if you come into a home, remain there until you leave. And however much they don’t receive you, leaving from that city, shake the dust off your feet in witness against them”. (6) Going out they passed through the villages good-message-izing and healing everyone.
This is a really condensed version of what we find in the other two gospels. For example, Luke leaves out the bit about how it will be better for Sodom & Gomorrah at the judgement day than for the town that doesn’t receive them. And Matthew had added a bit about not going to pagans, but to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew uses this story to name the Twelve, which Mark had done much earlier in the narrative. That Matthew waited so long to my mind indicates that the Twelve were very peripheral to the story as a whole. We have noted many times that most of the Twelve are not associated with any of the stories told about Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the exceptions, but even Peter’s brother Andrew drops from sight after his calling. The same is true for Levi; he is called and sent and that’s it. Judas Iscariot, of course, will appear later. As for the rest? Nothing. Who can tell me anything about Thaddeus? Or Simon the Zealot? Or Philip and Bartholomew? Thomas doesn’t reappear until John’s gospel. And John added Nathaniel. Where did he come from? And what else is said about him? (Hint: nothing.)
OTOH, Paul does say that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. How to square that? I would still suggest that the Twelve was something created by James, brother of Jesus after the latter’s death. Thus, it was in place when Paul became an apostle, because by that time there were apostles, and Paul makes it sound like there was more than twelve of them. Remember, James was in charge of the new group for nearly thirty years–assuming that Josephus is anywhere near accurate in his story of James’ death. That’s ten times longer–an order of magnitude–than Jesus’ traditional three. James had time, and probably the incentive, to put infrastructure in place. Jesus, while a wonder worker and perhaps a decent preacher, does not seem terribly interested in creating an organization; Mohammed didn’t either, nor did the Buddha. The Twelve, and the term ‘apostle’ seem more likely to be ex-post-facto creations, when the followers of James were becoming a church, which eventually became The Church.
Luke’s cursory treatment of this episode might suggest one of two things. The first possibility is that he placed very little significance on the episode. He did not feel compelled to tell the whole story that Mark & Matthew had told because Luke didn’t see this as an important part of Jesus’ ministry, nor to what came after. The other possibility is that he simply felt that the audience had been sufficiently instructed about the story, and so Luke didn’t feel a need to recapitulate what was already well-known. Of course, this contention is more likely if we believe that Luke was aware of Matthew. And it also approaches circularity, the true meaning of begging the question. Why did Luke shorten this story? Because he was aware of Matthew. How do we know he was aware of Matthew? Because he shortened this story. However, consider this treatment to the handling of the story of the Gerasene demonaic in the last chapter. Mark has the longest version, Matthew the shortest, and Luke is in between. The differential handling of these two stories suggests pretty clearly that Luke may have adjusted his narrative according to what the other two said. Where they both gave full accounts (as here), Luke went short. Where Mark was long and Matthew short, as in the Gerasene demonaic, Luke opted for middle ground. Of course, this is all very nice, but an argument cannot rest on a comparison of two stories. The chapter we’re looking at has more Triple Tradition pericopae; we can see how well this idea stands.
We should at least mention the powers given. I’ve been reading some of Cornelius Agrippa’s “Occult Philosophy”, and some of it in Latin. The Greek word is “dynamin”, the root of “dynamic” and “dynamite”. At its base, it means “to be able”. The Latin translation is “virtus”. Now, this latter is the root of “virtue”, but the base meaning is “power”. Hence, Agrippa talks about “virtutes”, meaning the powers of the magician. And that is how this phrase is translated in all my crib translations, and how I translated it: he gave them power and authority. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Essentially, power alone is not enough. The authority points to the idea of a cosmic hierarchy of sorts, in which God and Jesus rank above the daimones, which have not yet really become demons. But really, this is more about my enhanced grasp of the Latin than it is about what is in the text.
1 Convocatis autem Duodecim, dedit illis virtutem et potesta tem super omnia daemonia, et ut languores curarent,
2 et misit illos praedicare regnum Dei et sanare infirmos;
3 et ait ad illos: “ Nihil tuleritis in via, neque virgam neque peram neque panem neque pecuniam, neque duas tunicas habeatis.
4 Et in quamcumque domum intraveritis, ibi manete et inde exite.
5 Et quicumque non receperint vos, exeuntes de civitate illa pulverem pedum vestrorum excutite in testimonium supra illos ”.
6 Egressi autem circumibant per castella evangelizantes et curantes ubique.
On the surface, this is a chapter about healing stories, with a very brief exorcism tossed into the mix. Most of the stories were also in Mark, so we are provided the opportunity to see the differences in the way the two handle the themes. For the most part, Matthew’s versions are shorter, lacking in the richness in the narrative detail supplied by Mark. This is semi-astonishing, if you think about it. After all, the knock against Mark is his brevity; and yet, it’s Matthew who’s abridging the stories he found in the earlier gospel. This, I believe clinches what is called “Markan priority”, that Mark wrote his gospel first. That Matthew shortens the tales when he is the more developed writer is a pretty clear indication that Mark was the original. That, and the way Jesus’ identity develops. Note: I have repeatedly said that legends grow with time, and point to the Arthur legend as an example. That Matthew abridges Mark’s tales seems to contradict this, indicating that either I’m wrong about legends, or that Matthew wrote first. Yes, the individual tales have been shortened; but the overall legend has grown. We have a new character, Joseph, introduced. Jesus has a dialogue with the devil. Jesus talks non-stop for three chapters. These are of a wholly different character than cutting some details from various stories.
Because much/most of the material is re-worked from Mark, the real heart of the commentary has to take place between the lines, as it were. One of the more interesting insights in the chapter, I believe, is the idea that Jesus is having a dinner party for sinners and tax collectors in his house. Matthew makes this clear, where Mark sort of beat around the bush about the matter. Perhaps Jesus was not poor. But also Jesus did not believe, apparently, that fasting was all that necessary. Incidentally, these two facts–that Jesus had means, and a house, and did not beg for meals–sort of shoot some big gaping holes in Bertram Mack’s thesis that Jesus was a Cynic sage. The man who hosts a dinner party for tax collectors was not begging for meals the way Cynics did. In this episode we also get the contrast between the disciples of the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus tries to make light of his attitude on fasting, but the comparison of himself to the bridegroom feels a bit forced, IMO. It also feels like something that was invented afterwards, but I don’t feel strongly enough about that to create the argument. I believe the contrast between the Baptist and Jesus was real; I’m only sure of the smart-aleck response.
As for the contrast, this chapter was good for disabusing me of some residual pro-Christian (Roman Rite, no less) propaganda that I was fed as a lad. It seems like the good nuns of Maple Grove St Michaels maybe played up the Christian aspect and downplayed the contributions of Judaism. The ideas of asceticism and fasting were ones I attributed to the Christians. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. It was the Jews who were more attentive to these practices. And the quote from Hosea definitely makes me question aspects of the religious education I was given. “I want compassion, and not sacrifice” is exactly the sort of attitude that I would have attributed to the innovation of Christians. Well, guess I was wrong about that! The Jews, I was told, were practitioners of a formalized, ritualized, outwardly-focused religion that emphasized the act and not the attitude. For Christians, of course, the point was our interior attitudes. Well, not quite. To be fair to those nuns, much the same thing was said about the pagan religions: that they were all about the actions and not the attitude. RL Fox pretty much blew that one out of the water. So, really, Christian scholars perhaps over-emphasized the transition that Christianity represented over these more outwardly-focused practices of the world-milieu in which Christianity developed. Fortunately, we know a little better now. And the thing is, it’s right here in the text. All we have to do is read it.
So this leads to the question of “what was different about Christianity?” How was Jesus different from his Jewish and pagan peers? That’s a good question, and I’m not sure there is a single answer. Or rather, I think Mark and Matthew provide somewhat different answers to that question. The biggest contrast comes, I think, with the idea behind the story of the new wine in the old skins, compared to the attitudes of the Beatitudes. That is, in Mark, we have Jesus consorting with tax collectors and sinners, whereas in Matthew we have the Sermon on the Mount. I have the sense that there is a qualitative difference between the attitudes described in these two approaches. The outreach to sinners is part of the Baptist’s call to repentance. The sick, not the healthy, need a doctor. Blessing the poor in spirit, those hungering for justice, the persecuted, however, presents a different message than to call sinners to repent.
The new wine in old skins came from Mark; it possibly contains an eschatological message about the current order of things being swept away. But Matthew tells us that the Law will not be abrogated; it will remain intact until the heavens and earth pass away; of course, immediately after saying this, he then pretty much has Jesus contradicting known tenets of Jewish Law. It is tempting to interpret this as a backing away from the immediate expectation of the Parousia. Paul expected it daily; Mark expected it within a generation. Matthew–well, we don’t know yet. It’s tempting to see the change in emphasis from the sinners and tax collectors to the poor in spirit as a re-interpretation of what is meant by “eschatology”. I think there has been a transition from Jewish apocalyptic thinking to Christian apocalyptic thinking. That is, rather than a heaven on earth where the faithful will be rewarded by the re-establishment of the Kingdom of David, we are moving to a heaven in the heavens, where the poor in spirit will be rewarded with…eternal life. There were hints of this in Mark, and hints of this so far in Matthew, but it hasn’t become explicitly explicit. At least not quite yet. So, in a way, I’m seeing this metaphor as very pivotal to the message of the chapter.
The one story in the chapter that is unique to Matthew is the story of the healing of the two blind men. If Matthew wants to downplay Jesus-as-wonder-worker, why add a tale of healing? I honestly don’t have a good answer for that. I don’t even have a bad answer. And it’s not like there’s anything particularly special about the story, either.The story is very brief: they are healed based on their faith, and they go out and spread the word about Jesus. The whole thing lacks texture and detail and any sense of depth. Mark’s stories like this are much more…well, they’re just more. They have more narrative, more impact, more sense that these were real people and not stage props as one almost feels about these two men. But, really, this no more–or less–so than the paper-thin narratives Matthew gives us about Jairus’ daughter, the bleeding woman, and the Gadarene/Gerasene demonaic. In the end, the question remains: why did Matthew add it?
It’s interesting to note how badly I’m scrabbling around trying to find more to say about the chapter. What my inability to come up with more thematic analysis indicates, IMO, is that the chapter seemed rather perfunctory, that it was written without much enthusiasm on the part of the author. Matthew retold a bunch of stories of Mark, and told them without much interest and without much commitment. The conclusion to be drawn, I think, is that a change in emphasis, a shift in the direction, has occurred. Matthew was not satisfied with Mark’s version, Matthew wanted to tell a different sort of story, but he did not feel that he could simply ignore Mark, so Matthew kept the stories but not the focus. We’ll have to see where Matthew’s interest lies as we move ahead with more of this gospel.
So, even if Chapter 9 did not present much that was new in the way of stories, it is a very important chapter because it provides very clear evidence of how the message about Jesus was changing over time.
This will wrap up Chapter 9 with one more story that is not found in Mark.
27 Καὶ παράγοντι ἐκεῖθεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ ἠκολούθησαν [αὐτῷ] δύο τυφλοὶ κράζοντες καὶ λέγοντες, Ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς, υἱὸς Δαυίδ.
28 ἐλθόντι δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ τυφλοί, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πιστεύετε ὅτι δύναμαι τοῦτο ποιῆσαι; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ναί, κύριε.
And (as) to Jesus traveling about there Jesus followed him two blind men, crying out and saying, “Have mercy on us, son of David! (27) Coming to his home the blind men came to him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” They said to him, “Yes, lord”.
The setting is a bit odd. Apparently on his way back from raising the ruler’s daughter, two blind men follow him, begging for a cure. They followed him home. So this tells us a few things; likely, the house of Jairus (as the ruler of the synagogue was named in Mark) was also in Caphernaum. Recall that Jesus was having dinner with the tax collectors and sinners before being asked by Jairus to come and heal his daughter. So now Jesus has returned home. How much time has elapsed? Hard to say, but these events all seem to take place on the same day. Does this matter? Not really, but it’s sort of a change from Mark, who barely bothered to set his stories with any sort of context. Offhand, I’m not sure how big Caphernaum was, but there were a lot of afflicted people living in the environs, together with disciples of the Baptist. (This latter is an interesting point. It would indicate that there were disciples of John scattered–thickly?–through Judea and Galilee.)
Of course, it’s probably not that all of these happend sequentially, on the same day. The probability is pretty close to zero on there. It’s more likely that events were compressed for dramatic, or narrative purposes. Which leads to–or should, anyway–the question of “what else did Matthew manipulate for dramatic/narrative purposes”. Again, keep reminding yourself: this is not history we’re reading. Matthew was not writing history. He was writing a myth. Please note that “myth” does not mean something that’s not true. On the contrary: it’s absolutely meant to be True, whether or not it’s factually accurate. This introduces a certain amount of plasticity into the narrative, a level of flexibility. I don’t mean to answer that question here; the important thing is to pose it, and to keep it in mind as we read along.
The major theme here is the idea of faith. This is, somewhat surprisingly, the fourth use of “faith” in Matthew. The first came in the story of the centurion; the second in the story of the paralytic carried to Jesus on a litter; the third in the tale of the bleeding woman. Note that three of the four are stories taken from Mark, where the theme, seemingly, was much more prominent. Maybe that’s an optical illusion? Or a misperception on my part. It was never mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount. Is that another possible indication of a bifurcated message? Some coming from Jesus, the rest from James?
27 Et transeunte inde Iesu, secuti sunt eum duo caeci clamantes et dicentes: “ Miserere nostri, fili David! ”.
28 Cum autem venisset domum, accesserunt ad eum caeci, et dicit eis Iesus: “ Creditis quia possum hoc facere? ”. Dicunt ei: “Utique, Domine”.
29 τότε ἥψατο τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν λέγων, Κατὰ τὴν πίστινὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν.
30 καὶ ἠνεῴχθησαν αὐτῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί. καὶ ἐνεβριμήθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων,Ὁρᾶτε μηδεὶς γινωσκέτω.
Then he touched the eyes of them, saying, “According to faith, let it be for you”.
Note that we’re back to physical touching, which kind of blows a hole in my theory that Matthew was concerned about elevating Jesus above the discussions of “magical practice” such as we found in Mark. That included using spit, etc, but even the act of touching can be seen as magical. Consider Mark’s version of the bleeding woman. It’s one thing when Mark has Jesus touching people in stories from Mark; it’s another when it occurs in stories that Matthew is including on his own.
So the question then is where this story came from. Per standard interpretation, this is part of the M material, stuff that is in Matthew and nowhere else. Of course, M is considered to be a source that came down to Matthew–and only Matthew directly from eyewitnesses. Sure. The much simpler explanation is that Matthew invented the story. I do not understand why there is such an aversion to recognizing that the evangelists wrote some of their own material. No, apologies, I do know why the aversion. To admit that maybe Matthew made up a story is to admit that the story didn’t come from Jesus, or an eyewitness. But we’ve seen several instances of this, where material pretty obviously dates from a time significantly after Jesus. I won’t talk about the “prediction” of the destruction of the Temple, because that takes us into theological territory. Rather, I go back to Jesus giving his approval that all food is clean. We had it in Mark, it happens in Acts, when Peter has a dream, and it happens a few other times as well. Jesus did not say anything of the sort, or the problem would never have arisen. Of course, one can suggest that James changed the rules back once Jesus was dead, but that really takes us into the Twilight Zone. So, if those stories were made up at a later date…then why not something like this? And why not by Matthew? To hold that every story in the NT dated from the time of Jesus, that nothing was added between Jesus’ life and the writing of the various books is to misunderstand how legends work. I keep coming back to Arthur. Entire people–Launcelot, Parsifal, Bors–were invented out of whole cloth. And some of the tales of heroic battles in The Iliad are doubtless the later additions of various peoples, who wrote their local hero into the story. A great example is the Song of Roland because we know the events on which it was based, so we know any number of things that the chanson de geste got wrong, and we know where stuff got added. Again, if we’re talking about a divine truth, of course anything is possible. But I’m not talking about such a truth. I’m talking about a story that very, very obviously developed, changed, and grew over time. I personally suspect that the Twelve are an example of added characters; however, more on that at the appropriate moment.
29 Tunc tetigit oculos eorum dicens: “Secundum fidem vestram fiat vobis”.
30 Et aperti sunt oculi illorum. Et comminatus est illis Iesus dicens: “ Videte, ne quis sciat ”.
31 οἱ δὲ ἐξελθόντες διεφήμισαν αὐτὸν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ γῇ ἐκείνῃ.
They going out spread his fame in the whole land.
Notice how Matthew handles this rather differently than Mark did. There is none of the admonitions to silence that we constantly got in Mark. Here, rather, we get a straightforward account of how these two spread the word about Jesus. Of course, Mark was ambivalent: the admonitions to silence didn’t work, and by this point in the narrative, Jesus’ fame had spread to the point that he couldn’t enter a town.
31 Illi autem exeuntes diffamaverunt eum in universa terra illa.
32 Αὐτῶν δὲ ἐξερχομένων ἰδοὺ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ ἄνθρωπον κωφὸν δαιμονιζόμενον:
33 καὶ ἐκβληθέντος τοῦ δαιμονίου ἐλάλησεν ὁ κωφός. καὶ ἐθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι λέγοντες, Οὐδέποτε ἐφάνη οὕτως ἐν τῷἸσραήλ.
34 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἔλεγον, Ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια.
They having gone out, behold, they brought to him a mute demon-having man. (33) And casting out the demon, the mute man spoke, and the crowds marveled, saying, “Never has such a thing appeared in all Israel”. (34) The Pharisees said, “In (being) the ruler of demons he casts out the demons”.
This story is sort of in Mark. We had a man made mute by a demon, and we have the Pharisees claiming that Jesus cast out demons through the power of Beelzebub. At this point in Mark we get the famous “house divided” speech, and I’m a little surprised that Matthew chose not to include it. It’s an excellent little metaphor. It is here also that Mark has Jesus getting into some sort of trouble with the crowd, who think him slightly unstable, so that his family has to come and rescue Jesus. I certainly understand why Matthew did not include that part of the story. That did rather make Jesus seem quite a bit less than divine.
So there is a great example of the story/legend developing over time. Jesus has become significantly more divine between the time Mark wrote his version and Matthew wrote this version. And this is what I mean when I say that Matthew chose to write a gospel because he had something to say. Perhaps it would be better to say that Matthew wanted to set the record straight. Mark was too ambivalent about Jesus. In Mark’s portrayal, Jesus simply wasn’t divine enough. Matthew had to correct the misleading impression that Mark’s gospel made. I’ve lately come across several discussions about why Mark survived. After all, there is some rather embarrassing material there, and I have to say that this is an excellent question. Why indeed?
32 Egressis autem illis, ecce obtulerunt ei hominem mutum, daemonium habentem.
33 Et eiecto daemone, locutus est mutus. Et miratae sunt turbae dicentes: “ Numquam apparuit sic in Israel! ”.
34 Pharisaei autem dicebant: “ In principe daemoniorum eicit daemones ”.
35 Καὶ περιῆγενὁ Ἰησοῦς τὰς πόλεις πάσας καὶ τὰς κώμας, διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ θεραπεύων πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.
36 Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἐσπλαγχνίσθη περὶ αὐτῶν ὅτι ἦσαν ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐρριμμένοι ὡσεὶ πρόβατα μὴ ἔχοντα ποιμένα.
37 τότε λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι:
38 δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ.
And Jesus went through all the cities and towns, teaching in the synagogues of them and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing all diseases and all maladies. (36) Seeing the crowds he had compassion about them that they were troubled and scattered like sheep not having a shepherd. (37) Then he said to his learners, “The harvest is great, the workers are few. (38) “Therefore pray to the lord of the harvest to sent (lit = cast out) workers for his harvest”.
This may not be in Mark verbatim, just as the passage previous was not exactly taken verbatim from Mark, but in both cases the sense is pretty much material that we found in Mark. It also rather harkens back to the end of Chapter 4, when Jesus began his ministry, and Matthew has such a summary passage about Jesus teaching in synagogues, healing, & c. Here, though Matthew leaves out the exorcisms that were mentioned there. Matthew is definitely giving exorcisms short shrift, much less attention than Mark gave them.
This is the second time Matthew uses the word “sheep”, but the first time it was used as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And this is Matthew’s first use of the shepherd analogy. Interesting how this will become the Good Shepherd in Luke. Even more interesting is how Matthew then mixes his metaphor and goes into the harvest. Shepherds don’t harvest, at least not in the sense meant here. It’s odd little conjunctions like this that make me wonder if there wasn’t some kind of written collection of sayings; it seems that we’ve come across several instances where the jump from one thought, or analogy, or metaphor was rather incongruous. Not being a textual analyst, or a literary analyst, I’m not sure what to make of this. As historical analysis, these sort of abrupt changes seem rather…abrupt. It does feel like he’s taking two different thoughts and fitting them together in something like a Procrustean bed (Google is wonderful for stuff like this; a reference to Greek myth, the story of Procrustes and his wondrous bed, for which everyone was exactly the right size).
Of course, Matthew would not have to get these tales from a written collection. They could be the summation of different oral traditions. I haven’t talked much lately about the different traditions that must have grown up around Jesus. From very early on, there were doubtless a number of different stories, and different types of stories, and wildly different interpretations of who Jesus was, whether the Christ, a wonder-worker, or a sage. None of these are necessarily mutually exclusive; the sage can be fit with any number of other personae. So it should be no wonder that Matthew heard different things. Recall, my thesis about Mark is that he was trying to weld the two traditions of the wonder-worker and the Christ into a unified whole; here we seem to have Matthew de-emphasizing the former to stress the latter. Mark was successful enough in merging the two traditions that one of them withered–or was simply ignored by Matthew. To compensate, Matthew seems to have two separate traditions that he is attempting to merge: the Christ and the sage. Mark talked about Jesus being a teacher; Matthew tells us what Jesus taught. The question then becomes, where was this sage tradition when Mark wrote? Was it still too closely associated with James the Just at that point?
35 Et circumibat Iesus civitates omnes et castella, docens in synagogis eorum et praedicans evangelium regni et curans omnem languorem et omnem infirmitatem.
36 Videns autem turbas, misertus est eis, quia erant vexati et iacentes sicut oves non habentes pastorem.
37 Tunc dicit discipulis suis: “ Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci;
38 rogate ergo Dominum messis, ut mittat operarios in messem suam ”.