Category Archives: gospel commentary
This chapter starts with more instruction. In truth, the content of this opening scene appears to be a continuation of the last chapter rather than the start of something new. I honestly do not know the rationale behind the designation of chapters & verses. The system is a bit different from the way it’s done for a Classical author like Herodotus. Whatever the logic behind the chapter/verse breaks, the result is that we get chapter breaks that don’t always make much sense. The most glaring example is Mark 9:1, which clearly should be part of Chapter 8. It may have something to do with scrolls, but I don’t think so. IIRC, part of the argument for Matthew having been written first is that Mark is a summary, a text that can fit on a single scroll. My response to this is, have they read Mark? So if all of Mark can fit on a single scroll, how does that impact the chapter divisions? And, btw, I’m not saying definitively that Mark can fit on a single scroll; I’m saying that my (admittedly often faulty) memory has a vague recollection of something such.
1Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ μὴ ἐγκακεῖν,
He spoke a parable to them with the intention ( πρὸς.= pros = towards) the necessity of them all to pray and not to omit it.
Let’s take a brief pause. The last word in the verse is a tad problematic. It’s a verb formed from kakos, which is a very broad word with the essential meaning of bad. And it can mean bad in many different ways. Opposed to kalos, beautiful, kakos can mean ugly. In Greek thought, daimon was a neutral term, but a kakodaimon was a bad one. Here the verb form could simply mean “do something bad”, but the second definition is to “culpably omit a thing”. The Latin is sufficiently similar as to require no comment; the KJV, however, renders this as “not to faint”. More modern translations opt for “that they not lose heart”. The idea of fainting is present in the Latin, but it’s completely absent from the Greek. So, once again, rather than going back to the original, a lot of English translations only get as far back as the Vulgate.
To make the pause not so brief, let’s note that we do not know whom he is addressing. It could be his disciples; it could be a crowd in general. It’s not specified. What this means, I think, is that Luke does not feel that the audience is particularly important. That, of course, is obvious; the real question is why does he feel this way? What comes immediately to mind is that, by the time he wrote, Luke didn’t believe that the setting was all that crucial. He was not terribly concerned about the placement, etc., which means, I think, that Luke isn’t concerned with the historicity of the stories any longer. He doesn’t seem to care if Jesus was on a mountain, or on a plain, or in a boat, or speaking to a crowd or in a synagogue or any of these things. He’s concerned about the what, and not the who, where, or how. The why, of course, is obvious; to spread the message. But this is something to note. IIRC, Luke is very short on these contextual details; however, that is something to verify rather than trust my faulty memory.
1 Dicebat autem parabolam ad illos, quoniam oportet semper orare et non deficere,
2 λέγων, Κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει τὸν θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος.
saying “There was a judge in a certain city not fearing God (the judge did not fear God) and did not hold humans in regard.
This probably requires no comment or explanation, but this line had always struck me as odd. It simply (?) means that the judge was a very strong-willed man who thought himself capable in matters divine and human. It occurred to me that he may not fear God because he knew in his heart that he was righteous, but that reading is completely undercut by “not regarding people”. The judge does not care for anyone, human or divine. He is a bada$$ dude. It’s worth noting that the Latin is more clear on this: the judge did not honour God and he did not revere men”.
2 dicens: “ Iudex quidam erat in quadam civitate, qui Deum non timebat et hominem non reverebatur.
3 χήρα δὲ ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσα, Ἐκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου.
4 καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἐπὶ χρόνον, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Εἰ καὶ τὸν θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι οὐδὲ ἄνθρωπον ἐντρέπομαι,
5 διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην ἐκδικήσω αὐτήν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με.
6 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Ἀκούσατε τί ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει:
7 ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός, καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς;
8 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει. πλὴν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς;
“There was a widow in that town and she came before him (the judge) saying, ‘Give me justice from the injustice I receive’. (4) And he did not wish for a time; after which he said to himself, ‘(For) if I do not fear God, nor do I regard men, (5) for what cause does that widow hand over trouble to me? I will avenge/provide a legal remedy to her so that she will not come to me in the end (and) weary me’.” (6) And the lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge says. But will God not avenge/give satisfaction of the cries of his elect of the cries to him day and night, and will he be patient upon them? (8) I say to you that he will avenge/give satisfaction quickly. However, the son of man coming, will he find such faith on earth?
The word <<ἐκδίκησιν>> presents a bit of a nuance. At base, the concept is “avenge”, but this quickly trails into “satisfaction” and “provide legal remedy”. Which is the intent here? I used “avenge” when the judge is having his rumination on what to do about the widow; I provided the range of avenge/give satisfaction when talking about God. One of the epithets of the god Mars– the notorious god of war, known as Ares by the Greeks– was Mars Ultor, Mars the Avenger. Is God in his Christian guise a god of vengeance? I would hope most people would answer this in the negative since Jesus preached a God of love and forgiveness. In the HS, YHWH can certainly be called a god of vengeance; there is no doubt a thread of vengeance running through the scene when pharaoh’s army is destroyed by the Red Sea. But didn’t the message of Jesus supersede that? Maybe. To anyone saying that the God of the NT was not interested in vengeance, I would suggest that person read Revelations. That is a revenge fantasy, which is sort of the point of all apocalyptic literature. Honestly, in this scene, the translation of “legal remedy” arguably makes the most sense. He is a judge, after all, and that is what judges are supposed to do. But when we’re talking about redressing the cries of the elect, “legal remedy” doesn’t really make sense. In that case, we have to ask ourselves if there is any real difference between giving satisfaction and wreaking vengeance? One can quibble about this, but look deep; since this is set in a context of apocalyptic writing, the idea of vengeance is not really out of place. The KJV chose to render this as God will avenge his elect; more modern translations opt for “give justice to his elect”.
We need to talk about the judge, but before getting to that, there is something I want to note. The word for “widow” used here does not appear in Matthew. This parable is unique to Luke, so of course we don’t find it in Matthew. The same is true of the story of the widow of Nain, whose son Jesus raised from the dead back in Chapter 4. The other two notable examples are the parable of the Widow’s Mite, and Jesus castigating the Pharisees as men who devour the houses of widows, etc. I find this a tad puzzling; of all the downtrodden and hopeless people in the ancient world, the poor widow was among those with the least chance of bettering her lot in life. Slaves could be freed, and if they were not, they were usually provided for so they might provide a valuable economic return. Orphaned children had it bad, but they could end up with some means of providing for their physical needs of food and shelter. The widow, OTOH, especially an older widow was in dire straits, especially if she were the widow of a man who worked for a living, because wealthy widows were, well, wealthy, to the point that they were courted by Paul to provide economic support for his fledgling assemblies. Why does Matthew omit them? Could this be part of the reason he blessed the “poor in spirit”? Was he, perhaps, not as concerned with the economically downtrodden? Did Luke remove the “in spirit” to correct this lack of emphasis he found– or didn’t find– in Matthew?
Now for the judge. In the harmony I just consulted, he is referred to as the “unjust judge”. Why is that? Because he neither fears God nor respects people? Or because he continuously refused to provide justice to the widow? Of course, one could easily argue that the latter was a function of the former. Jewish morality as expressed throughout the HS was very keen on protecting the weak. [As an aside, is this another clue that Matthew was, indeed, a pagan?] My point is that he is labeled “unjust” without any real background on why he was so, but this is the fault of later commentators and interpreters rather than of the gospel itself. My point is that Luke’s description is understood in a certain way even though there isn’t a lot of supporting evidence. Not fearing God and not granting justice, it seems, are short-hand which is meant to be stand in for a larger context. Trying to come up with a modern analogy, I might suggest an expression like ‘fairy-tail ending’, which elicits a set of circumstances and values and implications without further explanation. Do the expressions used by Luke function in the same manner? This may not be a merely idle speculation; it possibly calls into question who Luke’s audience was. But then again, it has to be reiterated that labeling the judge “unjust” is a later phenomenon. We get the idea from the story itself. He is possibly unjust for not giving the widow satisfaction in the first place. So we come back to the question of whether he is giving her satisfaction or extracting revenge.
The point isn’t whether we can answer these questions. The point is that the questions have to be asked.
In the end, the judge is not to be taken too literally. The purpose he serves is to represent justice or vengeance delayed. It doesn’t come immediately for the widow, and neither will it come immediately for God’s chosen. But it will come. So we are getting much more deliberate promises that all will receive their due at some point. Here and now that point is undefined, but I think the idea of a post-mortem judgement where each individual is punished or rewarded on merits accumulated– or not– while living is becoming more and more settled. It is very, very important to continue to emphasize the pagan background of this concept. I’ve been reading a lot of Pre-Socratic philosophy of late, and the idea of reward/punishment in the afterlife was largely established in Greek thought half a millennium before Jesus made it a Christian thing. It was not an integral part of the HS; recall that the Pharisees were controversial because they believed in the resurrection of the body. Josephus tells us this, but nowhere does he talk about the immortality of the soul. If one reads the Apocrypha, there are (apparently; I admit I haven’t read them thoroughly) indications that the idea of the immortal soul had been incorporating itself into mainstream Jewish belief; however, I’m not sure this is has been settled in Jewish teaching. A quick Google search of “Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife” brought back a bunch of ambivalent answers; as such, I feel able to put forth the answer of “not definitively”. It seems, rather, that this idea really became a central tenet of Christianity only after the new sect became predominantly pagan in origin. And even then, it probably was not fully worked out for a century or so after Jesus. Many core beliefs of Christianity were not fully established as orthodox until the second or third centuries, if not later. A great example of this is the Trinity; this wasn’t worked out until the mid-200s. As such, translating it as “sacred breath” is meant to serve as a reminder that the author was decidedly not writing about the Holy Spirit.
This actually serves as a great segue into the question in the last verse: will the son of man find such faith on earth? Faith in what? In God? Sure, that’s the easy answer, but does it actually address the question that has been asked? Because there are two questions asked: (1) will God ignore the cries?; and (2) will the son of man find the faith? The answer to the first is assumed to be affirmative. Of course God won’t ignore the cries; after all, the hard-hearted judge finally gave in, so God most definitely do the same. The fact that Luke puts the second question into Jesus’ mouth refers back to the discussion about the afterlife. Will people on earth believe that they will be given satisfaction in the end? Now, technically, there is no reference to an afterlife. Jesus does not say when the satisfaction/vengeance will be meted out; it could be here on earth, which is, apparently, not an alien concept to Jewish thought, even today. From my quick search, it seems that this is still current in Jewish beliefs, and remains so because there is no general consensus, let alone single dogma, on the topic.
However, the emphasis on the eventual nature of the justice, the fact that it took so long for the judge to do the proper thing seems to be an indication that this justice will not necessarily happen soon, and so could be understood to be something that occurs in the afterlife. This is the pagan understanding, one that stretches back to the Egyptians a thousand or more years or more prior to Jesus. And note that the question is not about whether the Son of Man is God, and whether the Son of Man will return, but about the eventual coming of justice/vengeance. Apparently this was an important question for Luke: had the idea of eventual justice truly taken hold among the assemblies? This has all the earmarks of an insider question; of course there will be such faith because of course all those hearing the question believe that it will come. This nudge-nudge-wink-wink expectation of an affirmative answer most likely follows if the followers were largely pagan In other words, this question marks a significant milestone in the development of Christian doctrines and beliefs. That there will be eventual justice is, as of Luke’s writing, a standard belief of the Christian community. At least, that is one way to read this, but I think (at the moment, anyway), that it has a lot of merit and so is likely to be the most correct interpretation.
We have to mention, at least, the elect. In Greek, elect and chosen are synonyms. Elect is most properly translated as chosen. A candidate is elected because she is the one chosen by most people. This word, in all its implications, will run like a thread through Christian theology and come to full fruition in the theology of Calvin. We must remember, however, that the word with its attendant baggage was first used by Paul, most particularly in Romans, which is the foundation document for belief in predestination. Of course, it is a natural continuation of the idea that the Israelites were God’s chosen people, God’s elect people. The two ways of expressing the thought are identical. So the word will spur real acrimony among Christian thinkers for a couple of millennia.
3 Vidua autem erat in civitate illa et veniebat ad eum dicens: “Vindica me de adversario meo”.
4 Et nolebat per multum tempus; post haec autem dixit intra se: “Etsi Deum non timeo nec hominem revereor,
5 tamen quia molesta est mihi haec vidua, vindicabo illam, ne in novissimo veniens suggillet me”.”
6 Ait autem Dominus: “Audite quid iudex iniquitatis dicit;
7 Deus autem non faciet vindictam electorum suorum clamantium ad se die ac nocte, et patientiam habebit in illis?
8 Dico vobis: Cito faciet vindictam illorum. Verumtamen Filius hominis veniens, putas, inveniet fidem in terra?”.
9 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ πρός τινας τοὺς πεποιθότας ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῖς ὅτι εἰσὶν δίκαιοι καὶ ἐξουθενοῦντας τοὺς λοιποὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην:
10 Ἄνθρωποι δύο ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσεύξασθαι, ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης.
11 ὁ Φαρισαῖος σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα προσηύχετο, Ὁ θεός, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὥσπερ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἅρπαγες, ἄδικοι, μοιχοί, ἢ καὶ ὡς οὗτος ὁ τελώνης:
12 νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι.
13 ὁ δὲ τελώνης μακρόθεν ἑστὼς οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπᾶραι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, ἀλλ’ ἔτυπτεν τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ λέγων, Ὁ θεός, ἱλάσθητίμοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ.
14 λέγω ὑμῖν, κατέβη οὗτος δεδικαιωμένος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ παρ’ἐκεῖνον: ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.
And he said to certain ones having been persuaded upon themselves (ie., they had taken it upon themselves to believe) that they were just and spurned the others this parable. (10) Two men going up to the Temple to pray, one was a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector (publicanus, in Latin). (11) The Pharisee standing towards himself prayed, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humankind, greedy, unjust, adulterers, or even (kai) this publican. (12) I fast twice of the Sabbath (apparently = twice in the week), I give a tenth of all so much I possess’. (13) But the publican having stood far off did not wish either to raise his eyes to the sky, but beat his breast saying, ‘O God, may my sins be forgiven’. (14) I say to you, the latter went down having been set right to his home from this (i.e., act/action). That all raising himself will be humbled, the one humbling himself will be lifted.”
If you’ll recall, we noted out at the beginning of the section that we were not given any sort of indication of who the audience for this was. We still do not really know. I think this reinforces what I said at the beginning: that the context and the who and where don’t really matter any more. What matters is the message.
As far as the content of the story itself, my feeling is that it requires no comment. But is that true? The exalt/humble thing is not a new message, having been found in both M&M. But the dramatis personae of this version are very different from the characters in Matthew’s version, where the words are spoken in the “Woes” speech. By this point you should be able to guess at my next question: how does this impact the Q debate? Assuming we get the concept of the aphorism from Mark, even if the set-up and wording are slightly different,* the thought is the same: the earthly roles will be reversed, the mighty and powerful and those taking precedence will be brought low and put in their places. (Yes, it can be argued that the thoughts expressed are not the same, but that argument will likely not be convincing.) As such, what we have is Luke siding with Matthew against Mark. Per the Q proponents, this “never” (a quote) happens. And Kloppenborg does not include this humble/exalted aphorism in his the reconstruction of Q. So there you have it. Yes, the argument will be that this doesn’t count since it really came from Mark, but that is precisely the point: Luke following Matthew rather than Mark. Else, how to explain how Luke managed to come up with the same wording, using the same words, as Matthew did? This says that the non-existence of Q is pretty much Q.E.D., IMO.
*Mark 9:35: the first will be last, and the last will be first.
9 Dixit autem et ad quosdam, qui in se confidebant tamquam iusti et aspernabantur ceteros, parabolam istam:
10 “Duo homines ascenderunt in templum, ut orarent: unus pharisaeus et alter publicanus.
11 Pharisaeus stans haec apud se orabat: “Deus, gratias ago tibi, quia non sum sicut ceteri hominum, raptores, iniusti, adulteri, velut etiam hic publicanus;
12 ieiuno bis in sabbato, decimas do omnium, quae possideo”.
13 Et publicanus a longe stans nolebat nec oculos ad caelum levare, sed percutiebat pectus suum dicens: “Deus, propitius esto mihi peccatori”.
14 Dico vobis: Descendit hic iustificatus in domum suam ab illo. Quia omnis, qui se exaltat, humiliabitur; et, qui se humiliat, exaltabitur ”.
Doing a review of the text in preparation for writing this, I noted that it was difficult to find any sort of common theme running between the various episodes. These include an admonition about not corrupting the little ones, telling a mulberry tree to throw itself into the sea, the cleansing of ten lepers, all ending with sort of a trailer for the coming prediction of the apocalypse. It would be possible to suggest that the common thread is faith, and it would not be difficult to argue against such a conclusion; however, the theme of faith is so generic, and so common to so much of the NT that claiming this as the central theme is almost meaningless. It’s simply too broad of a concept. So let’s return to the metaphor of the thread; perhaps we should thing of it as a string, as in the connecting thread used to create a string of pearls. I’ve used this analogy before in describing the text of the various gospels. They are only loosely connected around the theme of Jesus preaching and then taking the fatal trip to Jerusalem. As such, they do not form a coherent whole; rather, they are more reminiscent of a string of beads, each distinct and possibly unique, only connected to the other beads by the string.
This tells us something about how the stories of Jesus came about, how they came into existence. There was no unifying narrative at first. What happened was that individual stories popped up here and there, sort of like mushrooms: each one is unique, each one is separate, and the sole unifying common denominator is that they are all mushrooms. They might not even be the same species: some could be button mushrooms, others porcini, others portobello. And so it is, I truly believe, with stories about Jesus. They popped here and there. Some were about his healing powers. Some were about the kingdom. Some were about faith. Different stories featured, or emphasized different aspects of Jesus’ life and career. But note the difference: was he a teacher? A wonder worker? A preacher of repentance? Or of salvation? The answer, of course is “yes”, he was each of these things; at least, that’s what the stories tell us. And this, I think, is the key to the eventual “success” of Christianity as a religion: Jesus was– or could be made to be– all things to all people. We discussed how Mark seemed to be a concerted effort to converge the two primary traditions, the two main threads of the Jesus cult in his gospel. These are stories of Jesus the Wonder-Worker, and Jesus the Christ.
In addition, recalling that Luke adds a lot of rich detail to the tapestry, one could argue that he represents another tradition: What it means to be a Christian*. And it is wholly appropriate to describe the people Luke was writing for as Christians*. These are the stories of The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, and Dives and Lazarus. Here we get the story of the Ten Lepers, which, while novel, doesn’t quite fit the category I’m describing.
As far as the stories in this chapter, given the lack of thematic connexion, it seems difficult to summarize the chapter as a whole. We get a little of this and a little of that. The apocalypse will recur later, so perhaps the two most salient features of the chapter are the returning leper was a Samaritan, and the idea that just doing your duty is not enough. The former fits in with the Good Samaritan parable in two ways. It does demonstrate how we should behave as Christians. In addition, it is a not-so-subtle disparagement of the Jews. Who was the neighbor? The Samaritan. Which of the lepers returned? The Samaritan. We are now at the point when Christians start doing the doublespeak on their Jewish heritage. On the one hand, writers like Hippolytus Romanus (circa 200 CE) stress the connexion, even while disparaging certain leaders of “heretical” sects as introducing “novel” ideas and doctrines. I have said this repeatedly, but it bears repeating even more: to the mind of someone in the Roman world of Jesus, novelty was not a good thing. One respected ideas that were old, that had withstood the test of time. Egypt is the premiere example of this. Even half a millennium before Jesus, the Greeks were in awe of the civilisation of Egypt. Many teachings, Pythagoras being an outstanding example, were said to trace back to Egypt. So in order to fit into this, Christians needed– almost desperately– to claim the centuries-old heritage of the Jews. At the same time, however, they had to explain why the Jews had rejected Jesus. This was a bit of an awkward, or inconvenient fact. Stories like the Good Samaritan and the Ten Lepers do not, in fact, explain why the Jews rejected Jesus, but they do emphasize that the Jews did reject Jesus. And the way they rejected him leads us into the story of the lepers.
The first section we discussed ended with Jesus using the metaphor of the slave. He has returned from working all day in the fields, but the master does not wait on the slave. Rather, the slave is then expected to wait on the master while the latter is at his meat. This leads Jesus to ask if we are not grateful for such slaves, but adds the admonition that doing what we are told is not enough. We must go, in modern parlance, over and above mere duty. When read, this seems a bit of a non-sequitur. Jesus makes a logical jump, and the landing on the other side is a bit jarring. The slave was told to wait on the master; how was this going the extra mile? I’m not sure. This admonition to do more is what leads us into the Ten Lepers. These lepers approached Jesus as a group. Jesus healed all ten, and then gave them instructions to go show themselves to the priests, to show that they were now ritually cleansed, and then they were to make the sacrifices as prescribed by Moses. Again as a body, the ten trundle off to do what they were told. At least, ten of them started to do this; nine of them continued, but the tenth returned, groveled before Jesus, and gave thanks. In other words, he did more than just what he was told to do. He took the extra step, went the extra mile, went over and above mere duty. This is how the Christian is expected to act. And, as a personal note, I’ve always felt this way. Think about situations when you’ve done something for someone and they are thankful, and say “you didn’t need to do this”. Well, of course not; that is exactly the point. Doing only what is expected is good, but it’s expected. Not doing this, of course is bad; but the point is, what is expected is necessary, but it’s not sufficient.
*The term “Christian” came into existence sometime in the period of Matthew, so by the time of Luke it was probably not uncommon. In particular, Tacitus uses the term writing in or around 112 CE.
There is a lot of text to cover here. Here we get to a prelude to Luke’s version of the coming “apocalypse”, or day of wrath, or however you wish to describe it. This is kind of an odd bit coming here, or at least an odd place to put something like this. It follows hard on the heels of the Ten Lepers. I suppose one could argue that the intent of this passage in this location is meant to illustrate what will happen to those like the nine who did not return to give thanks, although their place is taken over by Pharisees. They are the ones who initiate the conversation about the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Is that question unique to Luke? Is he the only evangelist who puts this question into the mouths of people around Jesus? I don’t recall it, at least not in so many words, but I suppose there are different versions of it, or many and various ways to couch the implication of the question to evoke Jesus’ response.
What is, perhaps, more interesting is the placement of the reference to Noah. This occurs in Matthew as well, and Kloppenborg includes this as part of Q. But there is a “but” here; Matthew has this reference in the context of his version of the coming wrath, and it’s all together in his Chapter 24. Luke, OTOH, splits this off from his main narrative of the apocalypse. which will come in Chapter 21. This is sort of a teaser, or perhaps the trailer for the main story that is to come. What this means is that one of them, Matthew or Luke, changed the order of the Q material. It may have been Matthew moving it to be part of the longer apocalypse story, or Luke who removes it from the longer apocalypse and places it here. I mention this because the handling and organization of the Q material presented in the Sermon on the Mount is a major prop for the pro-Q argument. Why would Luke mess with this masterful arrangement if he’d read Matthew? Perhaps because Luke tended to rearrange the material he had, whether in the form of Q, or in Matthew’s gospel. More will be said on this later.
As a final note, I forget who said it, whether Ehrman, or Crossan, or someone else, but apocalyptic writing is the last resort of the downtrodden. Sure, we’re your chattel now, but just you wait. OUR GOD is gonna come and clean your clock and teach you a lesson. Him and my big brother. So you better watch it, buster. Honest. I mean it. So anyway, here what Luke has to say about the End Times, or the Time of Retribution, or whatever you wish to call it.
20 Ἐπερωτηθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Φαρισαίων πότε ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν, Οὐκ ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ παρατηρήσεως,
21 οὐδὲ ἐροῦσιν, Ἰδοὺ ὧδε: ἤ, Ἐκεῖ: ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν.
Having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God is coming, he answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with observable things (more literally, observations). (21) Nor will they say, ‘Look here’, or ‘look there’, for the kingdom of God is within you.”
This finishes Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, so we can pause here a moment. “The kingdom of God is within you”. The problem with that perfectly legitimate translation is that “you” is plural. If Jesus had said, “within you(singular)” the meaning would be crystal clear, that each of us carries the kingdom within ourself, as in we carry it in our hearts, or in some such metaphorical manner. It is within me, it is within my friend and my sister and each of us individually. But it’s within us plurally, as a group, as a plural number of us. So do we take this in the distributive sense, as it’s within each of you and you and you? This, in fact, is how the Liddell and Scott understands this usage. They have a specific entry referring explicitly and specifically to this passage, rendering is as “within your hearts”. So where is the problem?
The problem, such as it is, is that this is most frequently rendered as “in your midst”. To me, this is sort of saying that there are three people sitting in a triangle, and the kingdom is sort of sitting there on the grass in between them all. It is in their midst, which is a way of saying “it is in the middle of the three of them, but not specifically within any one of them”. At least, that is how I would understand “midst”. Or is that a needlessly strict understanding of “midst”? What else does it mean, if not “in the middle of all of you”? So my point is that I really do not agree with the “in your midst” translation. It lacks, IMO, the personal implication of what is in the Greek. And if we check the Latin, the Vulgate says intra vos, which is a pretty literal rendering of the Greek. “Within you”, again as in, “within your heart”, i.e. And, for those keeping score at home, the KJV comes in with what I would consider the authoritative reading, of “within you”. It is the modern translations that go astray. I wonder why?
I will be quite honest: I’m more than half-way through the third gospel and like three epistles, and the number of times that reading the original has made a tremendous difference can probably be counted on two hands. Or at least two hands and two feet. But this, I think, is definitely one of them.
One last note. The idea of the kingdom being within us is an extension of the admonition not to look here, or look there, for it. Both are part of the same idea.
20 Interrogatus autem a pharisaeis: “Quando venit regnum Dei?”, respondit eis et dixit: “Non venit regnum Dei cum observatione,
21 neque dicent: “Ecce hic” aut: “Illic”; ecce enim regnum Dei intra vos est”.
22 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς, Ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι ὅτε ἐπιθυμήσετε μίαν τῶν ἡμερῶν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἰδεῖν καὶ οὐκ ὄψεσθε.
23 καὶ ἐροῦσιν ὑμῖν, Ἰδοὺ ἐκεῖ: [ἤ,] Ἰδοὺ ὧδε: μὴ ἀπέλθητε μηδὲ διώξητε.
24 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ ἀστραπὴ ἀστράπτουσα ἐκ τῆς ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰς τὴν ὑπ’ οὐρανὸν λάμπει, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου [ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ αὐτοῦ].
He said to his disciples, “The days are coming that you will yearn for one of the days of the son of man to see and you will not see (you will long to see the son of man, but you will not see him). (23) And they will say you, ‘Look there’, or ‘look here’; but he will not come nor should you follow him. (24) For as the lightening lightens from the one under the sky to the one under the sky it shines, so will be the son of man on that day.
The Greek in that last verse is a bit odd. Nor is the Latin much help, because it follows the Greek pretty closely, and neither of them seem to match the English translations of (more or less) “lightening flashes from one part of the sky to the other”. There may be some sort of idiom involved that persons more adept in Greek & Latin can follow that are simply beyond me. Part of the confusion is that this verse is connected to the one before, with people saying “he’s here or there”, so it seems like the sense is that lightening flashes, and the son of man is seen here, and it flashes again the son of man is seen over there. Sort of a celestial strobe effect, with the son of man changing places in the time between the flashes. And “lightening lightens” is a very clumsy attempt to get across the fact that the words for both the noun and the verb are derived from the same root.
22 Et ait ad discipulos: “ Venient dies, quando desideretis videre unum diem Filii hominis et non videbitis.
23 Et dicent vobis: “Ecce hic”, “Ecce illic”; nolite ire neque sectemini.
24 Nam sicut fulgur coruscans de sub caelo in ea, quae sub caelo sunt, fulget, ita erit Filius hominis in die sua.
25 πρῶτον δὲ δεῖ αὐτὸν πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.
26 καὶ καθὼς ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Νῶε, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:
27 ἤσθιον, ἔπινον, ἐγάμουν, ἐγαμίζοντο, ἄχρι ἧς ἡμέρας εἰσῆλθεν Νῶε εἰς τὴν κιβωτόν, καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ κατακλυσμὸς καὶ ἀπώλεσεν πάντας.
28 ὁμοίως καθὼς ἐγένετο ἐνταῖς ἡμέραις Λώτ: ἤσθιον, ἔπινον, ἠγόραζον, ἐπώλουν, ἐφύτευον, ᾠκοδόμουν:
29 ἧ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ ἐξῆλθεν Λὼτ ἀπὸ Σοδόμων, ἔβρεξεν πῦρ καὶ θεῖον ἀπ’οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀπώλεσεν πάντας.
30 κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ ἔσται ἧ ἡμέρᾳ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀποκαλύπτεται.
But first it must be that he (son of man) suffer much, and be rejected by this generation, (26) and accordingly it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man. (27) They ate, they drank, they married, they married until the day Noah went into the Ark, and the cataclysm (a straight transliteration of the Greek kataklysmos) came and destroyed everything. (28) It was similar in the day of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought at the market, they sold, they planted, they built. (29) But on the day Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from the sky (or, from heaven) and destroyed all. (30) Accordingly it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed (apokalyptai).
I mentioned the placement of this in the introduction. The references to Noah and Lot occur in Matthew, but as a part of his “complete” version of the apocalypse. Why is it separated out by Luke? As a prefiguration? Is it, as such, as a literary device? Or is Luke just slavishly following the layout of Q, putting stuff where the compiler of Q left it?
Such a suggestion should be seen as risible even at first glance. To suggest, to think, that the author of The Good Samaritan or The Prodigal Son didn’t have the literary chops to know how to organize his material is ridiculous. When Luke does something like this, he does it with purpose aforethought. This has to carry through to the discussion of Q, but, of course, it doesn’t. The focus is on how badly he mangled the Sermon on the Mount. Now, saying, that, I seem to recall Mark Goodacre, a prof at Duke, suggested something along the lines of Luke not liking long stories. Goodacre is one of the few people I’ve run across who is willing to take a stand against Q; but I do recall that his suggestion that Luke likes to keep things more concise was met with a wave of derision and what bordered on outright dismissal. This is a topic on which I need to do much more research; so, for this particular moment at least, I will drop the topic of Q and move on. Yes, I show forbearance.
As for the actual content, this is a direct throwback to Jewish culture. As such, it fits in nicely with the Jewish slant that Matthew is said to have. Thus, one has to admit, it is the sort of thing that a Jew like Jesus would be familiar with, and so would use as an example. As such, it is honestly very difficult to gainsay this inference and argue that it does not show Jewish heritage. One question this raises, however, is how often did Jesus actually make references to the HS in Mark? The quick answer is: not that many. The hard copy Greek NT that I have (wonderful little book, btw; Bible Society, ca 1912 or thereabouts; it’s still around) has book, chapter, & verse to all the HS cites that are made. In Mark, most of the cites are to other Gospels, some to Acts, and some to epistles. In the first half of the gospel, I came up with about a dozen refs; of those, perhaps eight are things Jesus said. That’s 75%, which is a high number; however, even a glance at the margins of the pages, the cites in Mark are sparse while the margins in the gospel of Matthew are crammed with cites. Which indicates, IMO, that the author of Matthew spent a lot of time poring through the HS to find relevant passages, or passages that could be made to fit in a Procrustean Bed* sort of way. It seems, for example, that Matthew made up the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents to use a passage from Jeremiah about the wailing coming from Rama. Or the fight to Egypt so he could use the line from Hosea that YHWH called his son from Egypt. Indeed, he placed Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem so he could use a quote from Micah. Or that he put Jesus in Nazareth because Isaiah said “He will be called a Nazarene”.
Now, all that being said, it is worth noting that Matthew did not include the bit about Lot. Regardless, there is no purchase to be gained by parsing this out in terms of Q; Luke added another example of destruction, whether he got the first from Matthew or from Q really can’t be deduced from the evidence. Luke is going one up on someone. To my mind, it makes more sense that he would go up on Matthew, who was familiar to some members of his audience, rather than going one-up on Q, because one has to wonder the extent to which the general public would have been familiar with Q, assuming it existed. Since it, allegedly, disappeared without a trace, we have to suspect the answer is that the general public– in the sense of those listening to the gospels–was not terribly aware of Q.
We shouldn’t pass this by without mentioning the fire and brimstone. In English, brimstone is another word for “sulphur”, the element. It’s yellow, and burns, and lets off a rather foul odor. Pitch has a high sulphur content, so it tends to smell pretty awful when it burns. If you check the Latin below, you will see that the Greek translates to sulphur. This is the only time this word is used in any part of the NT– with the exception Revelation.
*Greek myth, exploits of Theseus. In his journey Theseus comes across a man named Procrustes who offered food and lodging to travelers on the road. The main selling point Procrustes offered was a bed, that was the perfect size for any and all. Well, turns out, if the traveler was too sort, Procrustes stretched the traveler until the latter was long enough. Too tall? No problem. Just lop of the excess. Of course Theseus overcame the man and left him a victim of his own bed. Not sure if he was too short or too tall.
25 Primum autem oportet illum multa pati et reprobari a generatione hac.
26 Et sicut factum est in diebus Noe, ita erit et in diebus Filii hominis:
27 edebant, bibebant, uxores ducebant, dabantur ad nuptias, usque in diem, qua intravit Noe in arcam, et venit diluvium et perdidit omnes.
28 Similiter sicut factum est in diebus Lot: edebant, bibebant, emebant, vendebant, plantabant, aedificabant;
29 qua die autem exiit Lot a Sodomis, pluit ignem et sulphur de caelo et omnes perdidit.
30 Secundum haec erit, qua die Filius hominis revelabitur.
31 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὃς ἔσται ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος καὶ τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, μὴ καταβάτω ἆραι αὐτά, καὶ ὁ ἐν ἀγρῷ ὁμοίως μὴ ἐπιστρεψάτω εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω.
32 μνημονεύετε τῆς γυναικὸς Λώτ.
33 ὃς ἐὰν ζητήσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ περιποιήσασθαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ ζῳογονήσει αὐτήν.
34 λέγω ὑμῖν, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἔσονται δύο ἐπὶ κλίνης μιᾶς, ὁ εἷς παραλημφθήσεται καὶ ὁ ἕτερος ἀφεθήσεται:
35 ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, ἡ μία παραλημφθήσεται ἡ δὲ ἑτέρα ἀφεθήσεται.
36 καὶ 37 ἀποκριθέντες λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ποῦ, κύριε; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οπου τὸ σῶμα, ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ ἀετοὶ ἐπισυναχθήσονται.
On that day, one will be upon the (ie, roof of) the house, and his belongings will be in the house, do not go down to take it up, and one will be in the field (and) in the same way let him not turn back. (32) Recall the wife of Lot. (33) The one seeking to preserve his life it will be destroyed, and the one who will destroy it will live it. (34) I say to you, that night will be two upon a single couch; one will be taken up and the other will be left behind. (35) Two (women) will be grinding upon the same (millstone?), the one will be taken you and the other will be left.” (36) And (37) responding, they said, “Where, lord?” He said to them, “Where the body, there also the eagles will be gathered.”
Numerous points to discuss. Let’s get some of the minor ones out of the way. Due to the gendered grammar of Greek, we know there are two men on the couch; presumably they are eating because that is how they dined. In the same way, we know that there were two women grinding– presumably at the same millstone, but I don’t know enough about how these tasks were done in First Century Galilee. Eventually, this became a specialized profession, resulting in the surname “Miller”, but at the time of Jesus my impression is that a village would have numerous smaller ones that were used in common. But don’t cite me as an expert who knows that kind of thing.
More interesting is the verse before: the one seeking to save his life. The word used is psyche, which we are told means “soul”. Well, it does, but it often means life. We saw this in both Mark and Matthew, both of whom have this axiom in their gospels. I know we discussed this when we ran across it in Mark; I have always seen it translated in that context as soul: what shall it profit…gain the world, lose one’s soul? We discussed whether “soul” was the proper translation. In English, there is a very big difference between losing one’s life and losing one’s soul; not so much in Greek. where the same word can– and does– have both meanings. In Mark, translating as “soul” had metaphysical, or salvation aspects whereas it obviously gains one nothing to acquire the world and die a physical death. In all three gospels, when Jesus says, as he does here, that whoever would save his psyche will lose it, all the translations render it as “life”. Context is everything. And, btw, back in Luke 9, when he gives his version of Mark’s question about gaining the world, Luke renders it as “what shall it profit…gain the world…and lose oneself?” That very much eliminates the ambiguity, and makes me wonder if we have to rethink the consensus translation of Mark’s question.
The idea of one being taken while the other was left is the basis for the idea of the Rapture. The title of the series of novels called Left Behind, will certainly corroborate that. Beyond that, we’ve discussed much of this when we read Matthew, and we will discuss more when we get to Luke Chapter 21.
31 In illa die, qui fuerit in tecto, et vasa eius in domo, ne descendat tollere illa; et, qui in agro, similiter non redeat retro.
32 Memores estote uxoris Lot.
33 Quicumque quaesierit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; et, quicumque perdiderit illam, vivificabit eam.
34 Dico vobis: Illa nocte erunt duo in lecto uno:
unus assumetur, et alter relinquetur;
35 duae erunt molentes in unum: una assumetur, et altera relinquetur ”.
(36) 37 Respondentes dicunt illi: “ Ubi, Domine? ”. Qui dixit eis: “ Ubicumque fuerit corpus, illuc congregabuntur et aquilae ”.
This is a short section of text. I’m never sure how long these will take, whether it will be a straightforward piece of translation and commentary, or if something will come up that sends me off onto a very long tangent. Time will tell. But the one after this definitely will be a long piece of text, so let’s try to keep this one on-track, shall we?
When last we saw our hero, he was telling stories about servants and mulberry trees. The general sense is that Jesus is progressing towards Jerusalem. That is sort of the general, ambient setting for the Synoptics as a whole: Jesus teaching in and around Galilee, even up to Tyre & Sidon, but then making the fateful trek to Jerusalem, where he will meet his doom. Doom? Funny you should ask. It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘death’, although that is a strong undercurrent. Rather, it’s synonymous with ‘fate’, rather than simply ‘to die’. However, in Christian terms, meeting one’s fate is what happens when you die and are subject to the Last Judgement. So, in order to meet your fate, your doom, you have to die first. So, saying “We’re doomed” became a euphemism for dying, but it skipped the bit about actual physical death and went straight to the part about the Judgement. And, btw, once we die and our soul is released from our physical, temporary, and temporal body, we step into the realm of the eternal. Hence when we die we go straight to the Last Judgement, because we are no longer bounded by time. Now, there are all sorts of problems with this, but let’s not get into them. That’s more the realm (now, anyway) of theoretical physics.
11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ αὐτὸς διήρχετο διὰ μέσον Σαμαρείας καὶ Γαλιλαίας.
And it came into being in the journey towards Jerusalem and he passed through Samaria and Galilee.
Geography lesson. In the time of Jesus, Samaria sat smack in between Galilee and Judea. The city of Samaria was the capital of Israel after the split of the United Kingdom after the death of Solomon. The problem with this is that I do not believe there ever was a United Kingdom ruled from Jerusalem. This latter city does not provide clear archaeological evidence for such an exalted position in the 9th or 10th Century BCE. Rather, it seems more likely that Israel was the power, was a significant kingdom in a period when neither Egypt nor any other power was able to exert control over Israel/Judea. The latter was likely, or possibly, a client state; perhaps nominally independent with its king (who could easily have been men named David, Solomon, etc), but who owed fealty– that is, tribute– to Israel. Then, when Israel was captured by Assyria, Judea asserted a claim to the lands that had been Israel. Hence was the “United Monarchy” born, several centuries after the fact. Much of the OT was sort of a foundation myth meant to prove that Judea and Jerusalem was rightwise ordained as the divine kingdom of the Chosen People.
There is also this: much of the books of Kings is about how wicked the kings of Israel were, always chasing after the baals, and worshipping in the high places. This would translate, roughly, to meaning that Israel did not recognise YHWH as their primary deity. Israelites worshipped Ba’al and Ishtar and the rest because they were still mostly what we would call pagans. YHWH, OTOH (!) was the tribal god of the hill people in Judea; IOW, a local deity for a very petty state. This would help explain the animosity the Judeans felt for the Samaritans: the latter did not accept the Judean version of history, and so did not acknowledge the primacy of the Temple in Jerusalem. A nice little theory, no? But that’s all it is. And I have no ready explanation for why Galilee, which was separated from Judea by Samaria, did recognise the Temple in Jerusalem. There are all sorts of possible explanations of varying degrees of plausibility, but this is neither the time nor the place. I’m a verse into this section, and I’ve already had my first tangent.
What I’m about to say is semi-risible; but that won’t stop me, because it’s the sort of things that historical analysts– especially those studying ancient history– will bring up. They will do this because there is so little evidence for ancient history that every last drop of implication has to be wrung out of every word. Dead horses are still beaten, over and over. Looking at a map as I just did, I noted that Galilee is uppermost north of the three provinces. So, if I were writing this verse, I would say he passed through Galilee and Samaria to indicate the geographic progression. But what if I didn’t have Google, or even a decent library, and could not pull up a map? What if I were writing somewhere else, and only had the vaguest idea of how the three territories were arranged? Then I might easily have written as Luke did here. The point is that this is the sort of thing that lets historians piece together the derivation of these works, and to conclude that they were not written by someone familiar with the geography of the area, thereby inferring that they were written somewhere else.
There is something to be added to this. In Matthew 10:5, when he is sending out the Twelve, he specifically instructs them not to preach to pagans, nor to enter any Samaritan town. When writing the commentary above, I had forgotten about this instruction; this is what happens when one is not well-versed in Scripture, and I am certainly not. The upshot here is that I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. Or, perhaps I do know, but don’t want to get into it. My initial impulse is that, to some degree, Matthew was trying to counteract the influx of pagan thought; that is, he was trying to re-Judaize (to coin a term? Are there enough syllables?) the belief system that had developed. And this would actually play well with my idea that he was a pagan himself; as a convert, he had the zeal of a convert and was bending over backwards to be as Jewish as possible. Hence, his assertion that not an iota of the Law was to be superseded.
Of course this is speculation. There are a thousand ways to look at this, and probably ten thousand questions to be addressed before this can even reach the level of theory, let alone hypothesis. It would require weighing such attempts to reinstitute Jewish ideas against those places where he shows his pagan background. Why, for example, use the Greek Hades instead of the Aramaic Gehenna? Of course, this choice could easily be explained as he was using the term he thought his readers would best understand. But then, that is the issue. Matthew was aware of how far he was going to paganize the vocabulary, and so the concepts and thought-world of the emerging religion. So he counteracted where and when he could. Then why include the story of the centurion and his slave? I don’t know the answer. But I am asking the question. That is a huge step forward.
11 Et factum est, dum iret in Ierusalem, et ipse transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilaeam.
12 καὶ εἰσερχομένου αὐτοῦ εἴς τινα κώμην ἀπήντησαν [αὐτῷ] δέκα λεπροὶ ἄνδρες, οἳ ἔστησαν πόρρωθεν,
13 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦραν φωνὴν λέγοντες,Ἰησοῦ ἐπιστάτα, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
And he, coming into a certain village, ten lepers met [him]. they stood from afar, and they called out in a loud voice, saying, “Jesus, overseer, have mercy on us!”
The word rendered as “overseer” is almost universally translated as “master”. This isn’t wrong, but it’s misleading. Even the Latin doesn’t truly support “master”. So we get “overseer”, or maybe “boss” would work…or maybe not. But it’s more of a word that refers to someone appointed by the master/lord to supervise the underlings.
12 Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi, qui steterunt a longe
13 et levaverunt vocem dicentes: “ Iesu praeceptor, miserere nostri! ”.
14 καὶ ἰδὼν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἐπιδείξατε ἑαυτοὺς τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτοὺς ἐκαθαρίσθησαν.
15 εἷς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν, ἰδὼν ὅτι ἰάθη, ὑπέστρεψεν μετὰ φωνῆς μεγάλης δοξάζων τὸν θεόν,
16 καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ εὐχαριστῶν αὐτῷ: καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν Σαμαρίτης.
And seeing he said to them, “Going, show yourselves to the priests”. And it happened in the going they were cleansed. (15) One of them, seeing that he was healed, turned around (and) in a loud voice thought about (in Christian usage only = praised) God, and (16) fell on his face before his (Jesus’) feet giving thanks (euchariston) to him. And he was a Samaritan.
This last bit, of course, is the punchline. It was the Samaritan who did this. Note that we’ve already had the parable of the Good Samaritan, so Luke is apparently very keen on pointing out how the Jews have fallen by the wayside. It’s a bit more than that, actually. Since the Jews had such a low opinion pf Samaritans (despised, might be the proper term), to hold them up for praise is really kind of rubbing the Jews’ collective face in it. Sure, you were the Chosen People, but what about now? Except it’s more they were the Chosen People. I make this correction because at this point Luke is doubtless talking to an audience that’s north of 90% pagan; there probably just weren’t that many Jews left in the Jesus movement; there weren’t that many formerly Jewish Christians left, and probably barely a trickle of new converts from Judaism. This will culminate with John talking about The Jews in a very disparaging fashion.
Once again, this sort of raising other groups at the expense of the Jews is not terribly appropriate to Jesus’ lifetime. Paul became the first to attempt to convert pagans in any numbers; that means for twenty years (plus or minus), most new members of the assemblies (ekklesiai) were Jews. As such, a story like this would not have been great recruiting material. So the likelihood of this tracing back to Jesus is, IMO, pretty much nil. This is a point I’ve raised numerous times before, so it doesn’t require a whole lot of additional discussion at this point.
Of course we notice that Jesus tells them all to go show themselves to the priests. Why the priests? Why not a physician? Because they had been cleansed, not so much cured of a disease as cleansed of ritual pollution. It was a moral cleansing, not so much a physical one. This is something more entrenched in Jewish thinking than in Greek thought. The Greeks had notions of ritual pollution as the source of disease– check out the opening of The Iliad, for example– but that was a bit different. Hippocrates was a Greek, and not Jewish, or even Persian for a reason. However, this does lead to one question: are we to assume that the Samaritan was going off to show himself to the Jewish priests, too? Actually, this is a really interesting question. I have become more sure that much of the Bible (OT/HS) was likely written during the Exile in Babylon. This is more or less to say that the legends were worked up and compiled (stuff like the two versions of creation that appear in the first dozen verses of Genesis, for example) and shaped into something like final form in the 6th Century BCE. That is to say, the form was achieved several hundred years after Israel had ceased to exist after being crushed by the Assyrians. If the Kingdom of Israel did not honor YHWH above all others, then would they have held the Pentateuch as their foundational myth, too? Offhand, and at first glance, I would tend to doubt it. But I have never heard that discussed because no one (to the best of my knowledge) has ever asked that question, because it’s simply assumed that the United Monarchy actually existed, and that Israel worshipped YHWH. Of course, 2 Kings in particular tells us otherwise. So that was all a big roundabout to the question of whether the Samaritan would have understood Jesus’ instructions to show themselves to the priests. The Samaritan probably would not have understood because there is a real possibility that the Samaritans weren’t adherents to Mosaic Law. And this is all additional indication that the story does not date from the time of Jesus.
14 Quos ut vidit, dixit: “ Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus ”. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt.
15 Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia sanatus est, regressus est cum magna voce magnificans Deum
16 et cecidit in faciem ante pedes eius gratias agens ei; et hic erat Samaritanus.
17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Οὐχὶ οἱ δέκα ἐκαθαρίσθησαν; οἱ δὲ ἐννέα ποῦ;
18 οὐχ εὑρέθησαν ὑποστρέψαντες δοῦναι δόξαν τῷ θεῷ εἰ μὴ ὁ ἀλλογενὴς οὗτος;
19 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀναστὰς πορεύου: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.
Answering, Jesus said to him, “Were there not ten that were cleansed? Where are the (other) nine? (18) The ones not turning back were not found to give glory to God, except the person of another ethnicity?” And he (Jesus) said to him (the Samaritan), “Rising, go. Your faith has saved you.”
The translation of Verse 18 is a bit rough in English. Jesus is making the point that it was the Samaritan, and not the other nine who were, presumably, Jewish, that returned to give thanks. The use of <<ἀλλογενὴς>> is unique to this passage in the NT. I have been avoiding the term “gentile” at all costs for a very long time because it’s a made-up word that I suspect was derived from Latin rather than Greek. I could easily be wrong on that, given that the Latin root is gens, gentis, while the Greek genea lacks the “t” in declension. Also, the Romans used the plural form gentes to mean foreigner. That is a very short step to gentile. If the word used here were the standard term, then I might be more inclined to consider using the standard word for “those other people”. Because I tend to use the term pagan where most English versions use gentile; but my choice is pretty much exclusively a Latin root. Oh well. So much for consistency and purity.
We mentioned above that this story is meant to explain why there weren’t many (any?) Christians of Jewish origin any longer. As such, there is no way this story dates to the 30s. Another question occurs to me: would Jewish lepers pal around with a Samaritan leper? All were outcast, of course, so perhaps their being outcast brought about camaraderie; however, it’s just as likely that the social barriers remained, even among the despised class. If Jewish lepers could still despise Samaritan lepers as somehow lesser, then I tend to believe that Jewish (or any other ethnicity; not singling out Jews) would have despised Samaritan lepers as lesser. People are funny that way, as we in the early 21st Century are still learning about ourselves.
The last point I want to cover (something else may yet occur) is the last bit. “Your faith has saved you”. Saved him from what? He’s already been cleansed of his disease. This is analogous to the situation with the paralytic lowered through the hole in the roof. Jesus first cures him, then tells him that his sins are forgiven. It’s the latter that sets off the sticklers in the crowd. So, given that the physical cure is already historical fact, it would seem that he is saved would mean something other than he has been healed physically. More, he has been saved by faith. Now, this is nothing new; the Bleeding Woman was healed by her faith, and Jesus tells her she has been saved by her faith. Most translations do not say that the woman has been saved; they tend to say she has been made whole; that is, she has been healed. This is the ambiguous nature of the Greek word for to save. In fact, the word means either to heal physically or to save a physical life. It is the Christians who add the extra dimension of meaning to the word, by thinking in terms of eternal salvation; id est, the saving of the immortal soul. In the case of the Bleeding Woman, is Jesus telling her that she has been healed, or that her soul has been saved by her faith? Which is Jesus saying here? Why do you think what you do? This is the beauty of being able to read this in the original: the translation to another language can/does mask when a single word in the original can have different meanings. It can/does blunt the impact of the text as written.
17 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “ Nonne decem mundati sunt? Et novem ubi sunt?
18 Non sunt inventi qui redirent, ut darent gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena? ”.
19 Et ait illi: “ Surge, vade; fides tua te salvum fecit ”.
Since my production is down, I’m going to try the short-and-quick route by doing short sections. I’m also going to skip an intro and jump right into the
1 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν, πλὴν οὐαὶ δι’ οὗ ἔρχεται:
2 λυσιτελεῖ αὐτῷ εἰ λίθος μυλικὸς περίκειται περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔρριπται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἢ ἵνα σκανδαλίσῃ τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ἕνα.
He said to his learners, “It is not admissible that the stumbling not come, but woe to the one through whom it comes. It is more profitable for him if a millstone be hung around his neck (trachea) and he be thrown into the sea than to make stumble to one of these little ones.
I deliberately made some idiosyncratic choices for translations here. The first is “learners” instead of “disciples”. That is a very literal translation of the Greek. “Disciple” comes from the Latin, which happens also to mean “learners”. Like “baptize”, disciple has taken on a very specific meaning in English that was not present in either the original Greek or the Latin translation. It is a good idea to throw a little sand in the gears once in a while to obviate the tendency for us, as modern readers, to get too comfortable with the standard rendering of a particular word. This is especially true for words like this that have become ossified in English into a specifically theological sense. These were just garden-variety words in Greek & Latin; that needs to be remembered. Jesus is just speaking; he is not uttering Holy Writ.
The second involves “skandala”. The English result of this word is transparent. The meaning in Greek is “to stumble”, from “stumbling block”. However, I notice that, while the KJV renders as “offenses”, several modern translations use “to stumble”. So I’m not being as weird as I had thought.
More interesting is the idea expressed. Of course we’re all going to stumble, because we’re human likely to be understood. Let’s think about that for a moment. Recall that Luke is (possibly/probably) the first evangelist to be aware of Paul’s writing. At least, he’s the first that we’re sure who knew about Paul as an apostle, even if he was not aware of Paul’s writing. I don’t see a lot made of this for whatever reason. Having read 1 Corinthians, we know that Paul was sort of hung up on sex. Reading this passage with that in mind, I wonder if perhaps some Christian communities went to extremes about sex, going full-bore puritanical. Of course, it doesn’t have to be about sex, but the next line seems to indicate that it is. At least, this admonition which is also in M&M, that is how this was presented to me back whenever. And let’s be honest: pederasty was a common practice in the Graeco-Roman world. Tacitus, and especially Suetonius have all sorts of lurid stories about the sexual depravity that Tiberius was (said to be) practising in his pleasure dome on Capri. And recall that Tiberius was on the throne when Jesus was executed, if the chronologies are to be believed–and there’s no really good reason not to believe them so far as I know; admittedly, however, that isn’t very far. OTOH, while this is the sort of thing historians would debate endlessly, it never seems to occur to biblical scholars to question it. Eusebios very confidently accepts the standard chronology, and places Jesus’ execution in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign (IIRC. Might be off a bit on that).
So anyway, Luke, like Mark & Matthew before him, is telling us that it’s not the sin per se that is horrible; it’s the corrupting of “one of the little ones”. It’s certainly easy to interpret that as children, and it’s probably difficult to interpret it any other way, at least, not credibly. “Little ones” can refer to the downtrodden or the peasants, in the way that Oscar winners thank the “little people” who helped make their performance possible. Realistically, though, taking “little ones” to mean anything other than children is a stretch. To emphasize, this story in Mark is part of the story in which Jesus tells the disciples to become like the child he is holding in his arms (one envisions Jesus sitting with the child on his lap. Perhaps due to artistic depictions?). What is interesting about this version, IMO, is that Luke does not feel the need to give us the context like this. He just says, “these little ones”, but we have absolutely no context on where they are. At the end of the previous chapter, they–or at least Jesus–was in the company of Pharisees as he told the story of Dives and Lazarus. At the outset of this one Jesus is simply with his disciples. Where? Where are “these” little ones? The answer, I think, is that they are in the other two gospels. We have seen this before in Luke. In stories that have been well-told, and adequately handled by the other two, Luke shortens his version or leaves out details as he does here. In places where perhaps Matthew summarized Mark a bit too severely, Luke provides a long version to fill out the narrative omitted by Matthew. And yes, of course this ties back to Q; at least, it ties to the question of whether Luke had read Matthew. When there is a high level of correlation in situations as described, this comes down rather convincingly as evidence that Luke was very much aware of Matthew.
1 Et ad discipulos suos ait: “Impossibile est ut non veniant scandala; vae autem illi, per quem veniunt!
2 Utilius est illi, si lapis molaris imponatur circa collum eius et proiciatur in mare, quam ut scandalizet unum de pusillis istis.
3 προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς. ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἐπιτίμησον αὐτῷ, καὶ ἐὰν μετανοήσῃ ἄφες αὐτῷ:
4 καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ λέγων, Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ.
5 Καὶ εἶπαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι τῷ κυρίῳ, Πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν.
6 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ [ταύτῃ],Ἐκριζώθητι καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ: καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν.
“Devote yourselves (as in, ‘pay attention!’). If your brother might sin against you, (rebuke) him, and if he repents forgive him. (4) And if he should sin against you seven times in a day, turn to him saying, ‘Repent,’ (and) leave him.” And his apostles said to the lord, “Put upon/within us faith.” (6) The lord said, “If you have the faith as a seed of mustard, if you said to [the/that] sycamine tree, ‘Uproot yourself and throw yourself in the sea’, and it would heed you.”
First, let’s talk about the tree. It appears there is a whole thing about the “sycamine” tree; “sycamine” is a straight transliteration, which means the English letters are substituted for the Greek letters and the word is pronounced (more or less) the same. “Logos” is a great example. I was going to translate as “sycamore” tree and leave it at that, but then I wanted to check to see what sort of tree it was that Zacchaeus will climb. Back in Catholic school, we sang a song about Zacchaeus, and how he climbed a sycamore tree, so it seemed wise to corroborate the genus and species across verses. The KJV renders the word as ‘sycamine’; modern translations render as ‘mulberry’. Well, it turns out that a sycamine tree is actually a mulberry tree. A Google search turns up a whole bunch of stuff on the mulberry tree mentioned here, of which two species are common to Palestine. Luther apparently translated the word as “mulberry tree.” Wikipedia says he made his German translation directly from Hebrew and Greek, so he would have encountered sycamine. However, Luther learned his Bible in Latin; going back to the Greek was still an unusual activity in his time and everyone in the west learned the Bible in Latin. And the word used in Latin is “morus”; and the genus of the mulberry trees common to Palestine is “morus”. This makes me wonder if the whole mulberry thing is based on Luther’s reading of the Vulgate, which means it may indeed have been the same tree that Zacchaeus will climb in 19:4. We’ll come back to this again, but, in the meantime, I will defer to St Jerome whose knowledge of Mediterranean flora was doubtless much superior to mine.
Perhaps of more interest to most is the admonition on forgiving your brother. Most of us recall that Matthew enjoined us to forgive seven times seventy, or seventy-seven times. Luke, here, only tells us to do it seven times. Per my Absolutely Official version of Q, the “correct” version of this, as found in Q, is the seven we find here. Ergo, Luke has the more “primitive” version. In this case, I would tend to agree with that assessment, assuming I actually believed in Q. Which I don’t. So this becomes problematic, which, in turn, sure makes it convenient to have a Q so that we don’t really have to weigh the two versions and decide why they are different. But is that true? If the more primitive version is seven, why did Matthew change it? Do we have a redactionally consistent explanation of every time Matthew varies from Q? That is what the Q people demand of those who do not accept Q, but it seems to me they’ve got that backwards, doesn’t it? The question isn’t– or shouldn’t be, really– why Luke deviates from Matthew, but why Matthew deviates from Q? What reason does Matthew have for changing it to “poor in spirit” or “seventy-seven” times? Because I will grant that it does seem curious that Luke only tells us to do it seven times. The “poor in spirit” change is easy enough to explain, but the seven, vs the seventy-seven, is a bit more difficult.
As a quick aside, I seriously doubt that one can come up with an redactionally consistent explanation for why Luke changed Matthew in this case. Luke disagreed. He had his own view, but is it realistic to believe that he had a consistent, abiding understanding, or re-interpretation of Matthew from which he never deviated? Really? What human being in the world is capable of that degree of consistency? None that I know of. Which is where and why the whole divine inspiration thing comes in handy. But I do think the Q people have, once again, managed to shift the burden of proof onto those who don’t accept the idea. The Q people should be made to prove that it did exist, and then explain every instance where Matthew diverged from the “original” text. Instead, they demand that we prove it didn’t exist– which is impossible, btw; one cannot prove a negative– and provide a redactionally consistent explanation for every time Matthew chose to ad lib.
But even more interesting is that Luke gives us leave to leave. Matthew’s ‘seventy-seven’ times is a sort of rhetorical short-hand for “ad infinitum”; that is, there is no limit to the number times we should forgive our sibling. (Practically speaking, however, if we are talking about a literal sibling, forgiving seventy-seven times over the course of a lifetime is hardly “infinite”.) So what this means is, if Q did exist, Matthew was being more lenient than Jesus. Luke tells, OTOH, that seven is enough, after which we can leave the sibling and go one’s own way. And, given Q, this is the original message of Jesus. Think about that. Jesus did not preach a forgiveness that was infinite. You get your set number of chances, but after that, you’ve proven yourself to be incorrigible and you’re on your own. So, this means that if Luke was less forgiving than Matthew, Jesus was also less forgiving than Matthew. Of course, this latter conclusion vanishes if we follow the evidence and accept that Q never did exist. This means that Luke was less forgiving than Matthew, and that’s the end of it. Jesus never enters the comparison. The commentaries don’t have a lot to say on the differences between the two versions. That is the problem with commentaries: they do not always cross-reference sufficiently; Rather, they focus too narrowly on the passage before us at the moment. An effective discussion would have to come from a theologian who is discussing the concept of forgiveness in the NT. Ellicott does provide an interesting insight. He says that the leave to leave is Luke enjoining the listener to get up and leave the moment after forgiving seven times rather than remain and lose your temper. That does make sense.
The final point is one I’ll leave to you to determine the level of importance. It seems hugely significant to me, but then my perspective is usually a bit off-kilter. I’m like Pluto: I don’t lie on the same plane as the rest of the solar system. The point is that I cannot ever remember hearing any of this chapter read aloud as the gospel. That includes nineteen years growing up in the Roman Rite, and then another eighteen or nineteen as an adult in the Episcopal Church. Never. Of course, that’s not to say it never happened. One possibility is that this reading is done on a Tuesday in April or something when I wasn’t at church. Why is that? Of course, the most likely answer is that this would highlight the difference between this passage and the corresponding version in Matthew. That would lead to the uncomfortable questions about the appropriate number of times we should forgive our sibling.
3 Attendite vobis! Si peccaverit frater tuus, increpa illum et, si paenitentiam egerit, dimitte illi;
4 et si septies in die peccaverit in te et septies conversus fuerit ad te dicens: “Paenitet me”, dimittes illi ”.
5 Et dixerunt apostoli Domino: “ Adauge nobis fidem! ”.
6 Dixit autem Dominus: “ Si haberetis fidem sicut granum sinapis, diceretis huic arbori moro: “Eradicare et transplantare in mare”, et oboediret vobis.
7 Τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν δοῦλον ἔχων ἀροτριῶντα ἢ ποιμαίνοντα, ὃς εἰσελθόντι ἐκ τοῦ ἀγροῦ ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ, Εὐθέως παρελθὼν ἀνάπεσε,
8 ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ, Ἑτοίμασον τί δειπνήσω, καὶ περιζωσάμενος διακόνει μοι ἕως φάγω καὶ πίω, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα φάγεσαι καὶ πίεσαι σύ;
9 μὴ ἔχει χάριν τῷ δούλῳ ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὰ διαταχθέντα;
10 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ὅταν ποιήσητε πάντα τὰ διαταχθέντα ὑμῖν, λέγετε ὅτι Δοῦλοι ἀχρεῖοί ἐσμεν, ὃ ὠφείλομεν ποιῆσαι πεποιήκαμεν.
“Who among you having a slave that having been ploughing or herding, who comes from the field says to him, ‘Immediately coming in, get off your feet’, (8) but does not say to him, (rather than saying to him) ‘Prepare the dinner, and gird yourself to minister to me while I eat and drink, and after that you will eat and drink’? (9) Do you not have thanks to/for the slave that performs the commands? (10) It is also this way for you, when you do all the commands (given to) you, you say that ‘We are useless slaves, we have done what we were obligated to do.”
Upon reading this the first time, I was beginning to question my reading comprehension. How did we go from the mulberry tree throwing itself into the ocean to having a slave who ploughs/herds? But the payoff does come at the end when it kinda sorta maybe relates to having faith. Or maybe not. The lesson is that just doing what you’re told is not sufficient; you have to go above and beyond that, and such a lesson makes sense. And so it’s by going above and beyond that you have the faith of a mustard seed and can move trees. At least. that’s how I’m reading this.
7 Quis autem vestrum habens servum arantem aut pascentem, qui regresso de agro dicet illi: “Statim transi, recumbe”,
8 et non dicet ei: “Para, quod cenem, et praecinge te et ministra mihi, donec manducem et bibam, et post haec tu manducabis et bibes”?
9 Numquid gratiam habet servo illi, quia fecit, quae praecepta sunt?
10 Sic et vos, cum feceritis omnia, quae praecepta sunt vobis, dicite: “Servi inutiles sumus; quod debuimus facere, fecimus’ ”.
This was a long time in production. My apologies for the delay.
At first reading, the theme of this chapter is wealth; specifically, it is worldly wealth, how it compares to other-worldly wealth, and what the implications are for exalting the former over the latter. A few more readings, however, reveal that this is thematically more complex, and more subtle, than may first be apparent.
While the story of the unjust slave is unique to Luke, the summation is a quote also found in Matthew. This is the quote about God and Mammon. Since it’s in these two, it’s considered part of Q. But if the conclusion is part of Q, but the preceding story is not, whence came the story? Official answer: The L Source. Because there was not just Q, but also M and L, which account for the stuff unique to Matthew and Luke, respectively. So, not only was there one source that vanished without a trace, there were three. Oh, but M and L were oral. Oh? And the proof for that is…what, exactly? This is why Q becomes so problematic. Not only are we creating one body unnecessarily, we are creating three. It’s so much easier to credit the composition of this story to Luke’s particular brand of creativity. He took Matthew’s conclusion and composed a story to illustrate the moral more effectively.
And this story is particularly subtle. Think back to Mark. The longest single story in Mark is that of the Geresene demonaic, possessed by a demon or demons named Legion, for they were many (love that line). That is a great story, but subtle? Not so much. This story of Luke’s always puzzled me, probably because I never paid sufficient attention and didn’t hear or understand the lesson taught, or because the whole thing wasn’t read in church. I could never figure out why the master of the steward was impressed by the latter’s actions of cheating the master of debts owed; part of my failure to grasp the message was due to its subtlety. The master is impressed because the steward showed true cunning. It’s sort of like admiring the technique of a thief who has figured out a really clever way to steal something. Jesus tells the story and then agrees with the master’s assessment of the fraud. But! Jesus agrees for a specific and pretty narrow reason: the steward has demonstrated the sort of sharp practice that will get someone ahead in the chase of material wealth. This sort of practice, or behavior, will endear you to the practitioners of this age, to those who worship Mammon, so this will endear the steward and cushion his fall from grace when he is fired by the master he’s been cheating.
But then Jesus adds another twist. Yes, it shows cunning for worldly ends, but perhaps it can also help deal with other-worldly ends. For, he says, use it to prepare a place so that when wealth fails, you will be received into the tents of eternity. As an aside, tents is no doubt over-literal, but that is the basic meaning. It is prettied up as a metaphor in the various translations, and you are free to fashion your own metaphor, but, at its root, the word means tents. What are eternal tents? I rather skimmed over that in the commentary. Any time we encounter the word eternal, in any of its forms, we–at least I–start to think in terms of the afterlife, since that is the eternal realm of Christian thought. But how will riches help get you into the afterlife? Is Jesus, perhaps, being a bit ironic? How is that for a concept: Ironic Jesus. A quick glance at some of the commentaries indicate that I am perhaps being short-sighted, or too literal, or something such, since this is meant to imply that we use our material wealth for immaterial good such as giving to the poor. That is one possible interpretation, and “poor” is the translation of “friends”. Other commentaries suggest that the friends are angels, or even God. The point is that, should we be fortunate enough to have wealth, it should be used for the betterment of all in order to help ease us into the everlasting tabernacles. The problem that I have is that the very scattered approach to these interpretations clearly indicates a lack of consensus on this. No one, it appears, is all that certain what the intent of these few passages might be.
Because then we go on to the part about building trust: if you cannot be trusted in small things, who will trust you in great ones? That is a legitimate question, and one that every parent understands very well. We let our kids convince us to trust them in small ways, and then they eventually graduate to the car keys. But this seems to contradict the story we have. The steward proved himself not to be trustworthy, and then when caught he attempted more deceit to get him out of the jam. And the master was impressed. And the master was impressed? What this sort of muddle tells me is that Luke either did not sort this out in his head, or he wasn’t quite able to reconcile the various threads he was using, or that perhaps there are textual problems. By this I mean that the text got corrupted and some inappropriate words were inserted; however, the problem is that my text that is annotated for different mss traditions does not indicate any problems here. There is some quibbling about the exact form of the “received” word, but nothing beyond that. The other possibility is that this jumble represents the bad seam between several similar, but not exactly the same, versions of this story. That means we have to ask how likely it is that there were different versions of this story. Offhand, it seems unlikely as this is sort of an odd set of circumstances. This takes me back to the idea of Luke inventing a story to fit the God & Mammon moral from Matthew. Perhaps the story originated elsewhere. This would be in keeping with the way legends grow; new stories and characters are added as time passes, using, once again, the Arthur legend as the classic example. But even if Luke took over the story, he still has final editorial control, so the story is the way it is because he wanted it this way. The implication, therefore, is that Luke left us with something that it a bit ambiguous, whatever the reason for this condition.
It gets worse, at least potentially. In the next section, which is short, Luke ties this thematically to the favorite Bad Guys of the NT: the Pharisees. They, we are told, love money, so they get a bit annoyed by Jesus’ story. It is at this point that they are excoriated as those who push their way to the front of the line of the entrance to the Kingdom of God. This, in turn, raises the question of how is this possible, if the Kingdom of God is to be found in the afterlife, and is based on the merit we have earned in this life? It really isn’t. Which suggests the implication that the Kingdom of God and the reward in Heaven were not, initially, synonymous concepts. Since the Baptist was preaching the Kingdom of God, then it is not much of a stretch that John’s kingdom was not heavenly. And, interestingly enough, this would provide a solid theological basis for Matthew’s decision to refer to it as the Kingdom of the Heavens. He chose this different title because the idea it was describing had undergone a fundamental change: it was no longer a kingdom of the earth, but one in the heavens, gained only in the afterlife. That is an interesting thought. Then why did Luke revert to Kingdom of God? Because, by the time Luke wrote, the concepts of the Kingdom and the Life had become wholly interchangeable; no one expected an earthly kingdom any longer, so it was not necessary to frame the goal of life as the kingdom of the heavens. The Kingdom of God expressed the same concept. And here’s an interesting twist to that. My position is that even Mark was writing as much for pagans as for Jews, and Matthew certainly was addressing pagans almost exclusively. There was no longer much expectation that Jews would join the new movement. Mark used the old term, because he still had a foot planted firmly in the old ways of Judaism. Matthew did not have such a stance, so he forewent the Kingdom of God, replacing the term with Kingdom of the Heavens to get this point across to pagans. Such an audience of pagans would not bring the Jewish concept of an earthly messiah into the new religion, so the idea of a Kingdom of God, as understood by Jews, would not have been terribly meaningful. So Matthew used a different, more explicit term, one that definitely referred to the afterlife.
[As an aside, I checked the number of incidences of kingdom vs life in the gospels to see if there was a transition point. There really isn’t. Matthew uses the term kingdom slightly more often than Luke does, but the incidence of the Life is about the same in each. Where Life really becomes prominent is in John. ]
Anyway, the Pharisees are meant to indicate that the Jews no longer held favored status in the line to enter either the kingdom or the life. This was sort of a double-whammy; the Jews, of course, were the Chosen People, and the Pharisees were considered– by themselves, anyway– to be the Chosen among the Chosen. At least, this is how they are portrayed in the gospels, and we have to wonder how accurate this portrayal is; OTOH, Paul does sort of provide independent verification of this in Phillipians, when he brags about being a Jew among Jews, and a Pharisee.* To demonstrate the point, Jesus informs them that the Law and the Prophets held sway until John; but then, rather paradoxically, adds that not a serif of the Law will not pass away. This is such a great example of the uneasy cooption of Judaism by Christians; on one hand, the Jews had been superseded, but OTOH, Christians needed the legitimacy offered by the antiquity of Judaism. I’m reading Eusebios’ Ecclesiastical History, and he goes to great lengths to demonstrate how the idea of the Christ, and even the name of Jesus/Joshua was in the Hebrew Scriptures. There was an entire series of christs (lower case by design) that culminated with The Christ, The Saviour, known as Jesus the Christ. So Christianity has always been very ambivalent towards its Jewish heritage. Then we have a throwaway line about divorce, that doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the chapter. The context is so far disrupted that it seems there has been a break in the continuity in the theme of the chapter. We started with the story of the Wicked Steward, which led into the pronouncement being unable to serve both God and Mammon. But not to fear, we then jump to Dives & Lazarus, which is a great cautionary tale to illustrate what happens when we choose Mammon.
In between these, however, we have Verse 18, prohibiting divorce. This is so far off-topic that I completely forgot to discuss on it when we were in the commentary. This is hardly the first time we’ve noted the lack of continuity between stories. In fact, almost the entire Sermon on the Mount has this feel, of a bunch of beads strung together with only a thin–thin to the point of invisible–line connecting them behind the scenes. As always, this is one of the best arguments for Q: not that the Sermon on the Mount was so masterful, but precisely because it wasn’t. It’s just sort of episodic and discontinuous irregularity that is actually the most effective, IMO, argument for something like Q. Why the need to stick these small pieces in wherever one can, whether they fit or not? This fairly strongly implies that there was a body of teachings that Jesus supposedly uttered that Matthew and Luke felt compelled to include in their works. On balance, I do not believe this is enough to convince me of the existence of Q, at least not as a written document, but it does give me pause. As for the content of the prohibition of divorce, this is pretty much a repetition of what was said in Matthew, so it need not detain us.
Thus we arrive at Dives and Lazarus. Of the three gospels we’ve looked at, Luke is by far the most interested in the topic of rich and poor. Remember, he said “blessed are the poor”, which is not necessarily a “more primitive” version of “poor in spirit”. It is a completely different thought. “Poor in spirit” always sounded a bit legalistic to me; wealth, per se, isn’t bad so long as we are poor in spirit. This is despite the injunction to sell one’s possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. As a fable about how wealth corrupts, the moral is straightforward and clear and not needing much in the way of explanation. There is also another layer, one which ties back to the anger at the Pharisees. In his torment, Dives begs Abraham to send Lazarus to the house of the former’s father, so that Dives’ brothers can be told to repent. Abraham’s response is that they have the law and the prophets, and if they aren’t sufficient, why would they listen to someone returned from the dead? Let’s see, has anyone returned from the dead with a message of repentance? Oh, wait, Jesus! From the perspective of historical analysis, this nails down that the story was never, ever told by Jesus. This is obviously a story that developed after the Resurrection had become part of the core Christian message. So what we have here is yet another dig at the Jews. First, bad enough that they had not heeded the Law and the Prophets, but worse was that they had not listened to the message of someone returned from the dead. The fact that Rich-Man (literal translation of dives) was also rich, provided that extra little shot at the Pharisees.
* This is the only time the word “Pharisee” is used in the NT outside of the gospels.
This section will conclude the chapter. It is the story of Dives and Lazarus, which is another that is unique to Luke. This is to say, the author of this story was most likely Luke. Why ascribe it to some vague “L source” when we have a very capable author at hand? Well, there is one answer: because if we attribute this to Luke, then we are denying that Jesus actually told this story, and that it was made up after Jesus died. If that happened, then who’s to say that other stories weren’t made up after Jesus died? That opens a whole can of worms: if Jesus didn’t say half the things he said, can we call ourselves Christians? Possibly– probably?– not. Obviously, that carries some grave and enormous implications. Hence the unwillingness to debate Q in a true, scholarly fashion. Hence, what I am doing here, the process I am using is darn close to unique, even though it’s basic historiography, stuff i was doing as an undergrad in Greek & Roman history. And the parallels are strong: limited original source material, and so the need to milk every word for implications. Such basic analysis, as far as I can tell, simply is not done in Biblical Studies.
As for the text itself, at first glance there has been a break in the continuity in the theme of the chapter. We started with the story of the Wicked Steward, which led into the pronouncement being unable to serve both God and Mammon. Now we get to Dives & Lazarus, which is a great cautionary tale to illustrate what happens when we choose Mammon. So the break came in the verses covered in the previous section, Verses 14-18. In fact, Verse 18, prohibiting divorce, was so far off-topic that I completely forgot to comment on it in the last section; I ended with Verse 17. Now we return to the true them of the chapter.
19 Ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος, καὶ ἐνεδιδύσκετο πορφύραν καὶ βύσσον εὐφραινόμενος καθ’ ἡμέραν λαμπρῶς.
20 πτωχὸς δέ τις ὀνόματι Λάζαρος ἐβέβλητο πρὸς τὸν πυλῶνα αὐτοῦ εἱλκωμένος
21 καὶ ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πιπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης τοῦ πλουσίου: ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ κύνες ἐρχόμενοι ἐπέλειχον τὰ ἕλκη αὐτοῦ.
22 ἐγένετο δὲ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πτωχὸν καὶ ἀπενεχθῆναι αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγγέλων εἰς τὸν κόλπον Ἀβραάμ: ἀπέθανεν δὲ καὶ ὁ πλούσιος καὶ ἐτάφη.
“There was a certain man who was wealthy, and he dressed in purple and linen, and he feasted sumptuously every day. (20) There was a certain poor man named Lazaros, covered in sores, who was thrown out of the gate (21) and he yearned to eat from the scraps from the table of the rich man. But the dogs coming licked his sores. (22) It happened that the poor man died and carried him to the bosom of Abraham; the rich man died too, and was buried.
A bit of a cliff-hanger there; what will happen to the rich man?
Note that the poor man has a name, but the rich man does not. Hence, this is usually referred to as the story of Dives and Lazarus. “Dives” is the Latin word for “rich”, so it’s “The Rich Man and Lazarus”. Why does the wealthy man not have a name? He can certainly afford one. Luke made an editorial choice on this. You’ll have to ask him. While we’re talking about names, why does one suppose that John chose Lazaros as the name of the man Jesus raised from the dead? It’s not like he actually existed, so that this was actually his name. Is this some sort of homage to Luke? Also, note that I’m being fairly lax with my translation; this is a case where, for the most part, the words don’t make that much difference. It’s a story. There may come a point where it does, and I will point this out, but it’s a story. The lesson lies in the moral, rather than in the story itself. And nice detail about the dogs coming to lick his sores. Yuck. But gives you a good sense of the situation, no? This is why I say Luke was a novelist. He’s got an eye for those sorts of details to drive a point home.
19 Homo quidam erat dives et induebatur purpura et bysso et epulabatur cotidie splendide.
20 Quidam autem pauper nomine Lazarus iacebat ad ianuam eius ulceribus plenus
21 et cupiens saturari de his, quae cadebant de mensa divitis; sed et canes veniebant et lingebant ulcera eius.
22 Factum est autem ut moreretur pauper et portaretur ab angelis in sinum Abrahae; mortuus est autem et dives et sepultus est.
23 καὶ ἐν τῷ ἅ|δῃ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις, ὁρᾷ Ἀβραὰμ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν καὶ Λάζαρον ἐν τοῖς κόλποις αὐτοῦ.
24 καὶ αὐτὸς φωνήσας εἶπεν, Πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἐλέησόν με καὶ πέμψον Λάζαρον ἵνα βάψῃ τὸ ἄκρον τοῦ δακτύλου αὐτοῦ ὕδατος καὶ καταψύξῃ τὴν γλῶσσάν μου, ὅτι ὀδυνῶμαι ἐν τῇ φλογὶ ταύτῃ.
25 εἶπεν δὲ Ἀβραάμ, Τέκνον, μνήσθητι ὅτι ἀπέλαβες τὰ ἀγαθά σου ἐν τῇ ζωῇ σου, καὶ Λάζαρος ὁμοίως τὰ κακά: νῦν δὲ ὧδε παρακαλεῖται σὺ δὲ ὀδυνᾶσαι.
“And in Hades, lifting up his eyes, he being in torment, he saw Abraham from the blessed, and Lazaros in his bosoms. (23) And he, calling out, said ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazaros in order to dip the top of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, that I am tormented in this flame’. But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you received the good things in your lifetime, and Lazaros (received) equally the bad. Now, he is comforted and you are tormented’.
Well. How about that? This is probably the first description of Hell; at least, the first to give us the damned-eye view of what goes on. We have had references to the fiery pit, and other such allusions, but nothing quite this graphic. Admittedly, there may be this sort of description in some of the Apocryphal writings that date to the inter-testamental period, or the last/first couple of centuries either side of the start of the Common Era. There was a lot of stuff written, and I do not claim to be familiar with most of it. But this is the first we’ve encountered this in the canonical works of either Testament.
Now that is all very academic. Much more interesting is the attitude of Father Abraham. A bit cold, no? So much for a merciful God, eh? Which causes me to speculate if we don’t have Abraham standing in for God for precisely that reason: because Abraham can be a bit standoffish in a way that God cannot be. Of course, this is the same device used for Job: it’s not God, but the adversary who proposes the trial. Or the Adversary. This outsources the bad stuff away from God, so that the bad stuff can be blamed on Not-God. Of course, this involves a certain amount of sleight-of-hand, since an all-powerful God can prevent its agents from doing harm. That such a God chooses to allow harm indicates that the harm is part of the will of this God. The alternative is to consider a Principal of evil to have an identity separate from the Principal of good, but this implies that God is not all-powerful. There is no logical alternative. Of course, one can argue that God is not bound by logic, but then we have, essentially, a kosmos based on divine whim. This actually creates more problems than it solves. At least logically.
One point that seems a bit odd. At first, in Verse 22, Lazaros is carried to the “bosom” of Abraham. Then, the second time, in Verse 23, Dives sees Lazaros in the “bosoms” of Abraham. How we go from singular to plural is a bit beyond me. Checking the Latin, it is singular in both cases. That’s part of the interest here. The second is the Greek word, κόλπος. If pronounced aloud, perhaps you can see how it’s the root of our word ‘gulf’. The basic sense is that the kolpos is the hollow space between the breasts. From there, the idea was transferred to mean most any other similar hollow area, such as the fold in a gown or a robe. From there, we transfer it to a landform, the hollow between two extensions of land that hold an inlet– a ‘gulf’– of the sea. Checking the Latin, it’s sinus; yes, just like the areas above your eyes that get clogged. The base sense of the Latin is the fold of a toga around the breast; hence, the bosom. It is also a geographical term meaning– wait for it– ‘gulf’. If you look at a map of the moon, you can find the Sinus Medii, the Gulf of the Middle. The term would also be found on an old map of earth, like, 16th Century old, where the labels are in Latin.
23 Et in inferno elevans oculos suos, cum esset in tormentis, videbat Abraham a longe et Lazarum in sinu eius.
24 Et ipse clamans dixit: “Pater Abraham, miserere mei et mitte Lazarum, ut intingat extremum digiti sui in aquam, ut refrigeret linguam meam, quia crucior in hac flamma”.
25 At dixit Abraham: “Fili, recordare quia recepisti bona tua in vita tua, et Lazarus similiter mala; nunc autem hic consolatur, tu vero cruciaris.
26 καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τούτοις μεταξὺ ἡμῶν καὶ ὑμῶν χάσμα μέγα ἐστήρικται, ὅπως οἱ θέλοντες διαβῆναι ἔνθεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς μὴ δύνωνται, μηδὲ ἐκεῖθεν πρὸς ἡμᾶς διαπερῶσιν.
27 εἶπεν δέ, Ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν, πάτερ, ἵνα πέμψῃς αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου,
28 ἔχω γὰρ πέντε ἀδελφούς, ὅπως διαμαρτύρηται αὐτοῖς, ἵνα μὴ καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔλθωσιν εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον τῆς βασάνου.
29 λέγει δὲ Ἀβραάμ, Ἔχουσι Μωϋσέα καὶ τοὺς προφήτας: ἀκουσάτωσαν αὐτῶν.
30 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Οὐχί, πάτερ Ἀβραάμ, ἀλλ’ ἐάν τις ἀπὸ νεκρῶν πορευθῇ πρὸς αὐτοὺς μετανοήσουσιν.
31 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Εἰ Μωϋσέως καὶ τῶν προφητῶν οὐκ ἀκούουσιν, οὐδ’ ἐάν τις ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναστῇ πεισθήσονται.
” ‘And in all these things between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those wishing to descend to you are not able, nor from thence (may) they cross over to us.’ But he (Dives) said, ‘So I ask you, father, in order you may send him to the home of my father. For I have five brothers, that he may give witness to them, so that they also may not come to this place of torment’. But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses Let them listen to them’. (30) But he (Dives) said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone of the dead go to them, they will repent’. (31) But he responded to him (Dives), ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, if someone of the dead should stand up/rise up, they will not believe’.”
Does anyone else find that last statement a bit…odd? The verb used can be– and also is– used as the verb for ‘resurrect’, as in, The Resurrection. Seems like someone famous is held to have been resurrected. Help me out? Oh, wait, it was Jesus. So Luke is saying that people will not listen to Jesus, come back from the dead? Passing strange, no? Or, is this a jab at Jews in particular, who did not listen to Moses and the prophets and repent, and, just so, they did not listen to Jesus, either.
26 Et in his omnibus inter nos et vos chaos magnum firmatum est, ut hi, qui volunt hinc transire ad vos, non possint, neque inde ad nos transmeare”.
27 Et ait: “Rogo ergo te, Pater, ut mittas eum in domum patris mei
28 — habeo enim quinque fratres — ut testetur illis, ne et ipsi veniant in locum hunc tormentorum”.
29 Ait autem Abraham: “Habent Moysen et Prophetas; audiant illos”.
30 At ille dixit: “Non, pater Abraham, sed si quis ex mortuis ierit ad eos, paenitentiam agent”.
31 Ait autem illi: “Si Moysen et Prophetas non audiunt, neque si quis ex mortuis resurrexerit, credent” ”.
The original intent was that this section would conclude the chapter. The reason is that Luke seems to have more blocks than his predecessors. This gospel seems to have longer stories that make it difficult to split these chapters up into more than a few section; too, the chapters in Luke may be be a bit shorter on average than those in Matthew. But let’s talk about the longer stories. I have often said that Mark was a journalist, Matthew was a rabbi (of pagan birth, perhaps), and Luke is a novelist. That becomes most apparent in Acts– assuming, of course, that Luke is actually the author of Acts. I am agnostic on that for the time being; I don’t know the arguments for or against. Regardless, that Luke worked the material into more continuous stories indicates the increasing sophistication of the NT. Stylistically, this sophistication may hit apex in Luke; theologically, the apex is John. Now, of course I’m going to tie this literary quality back to Q. If you think about literary development, does it make more sense to progress from the succinct Mark and a collection of random sayings to the cultivated literary quality of Luke? Or does it make more sense if Luke is sitting on top of Matthew as well as the other two? After all, Matthew elaborated Mark to a great degree– largely by making up a bunch of new pericopae, for which the Q people give him no credit. Luke took Matthew’s elaboration to a higher plane by creating more blocks of stories rather than a bunch of unconnected sayings. Again, hardly smoking-gun proof for the non-existence of Q, but such proof of a negative is impossible. Rather, it’s another small stone on the scale, and any fair assessment should indicate that the non-Q side is becoming very heavy. Think about it: how many of these “little stones” have I added to the commentary? Be honest, and you will (I think) have to admit there have been quite a few. Probably to the point of “this is getting tedious”. At least, I hope that is the reaction. If so, it means I’m piling up a lot of “little stones” that might have reached the point of becoming evidence. After all, the plural of “anecdote” is “evidence”. And this is what changed my mind. I got into yet another diatribe about Q. So, we save the story of Dives and Lazarus for the next section.
Here we have a direct continuation of the story before; or, this is perhaps an integral part of the story begun in the previous section of the chapter. We are hearing about the unjust steward who bought his way out of a predicament using his lord’s resources, and the lord seemed to think it was a good move by the steward. However, Jesus then editorialized at the end, indicating that perhaps there is a bit more to this than would first meet the eye. To find out, let’s get to the
14 Ἤκουον δὲ ταῦτα πάντα οἱ Φαρισαῖοι φιλάργυροι ὑπάρχοντες, καὶ ἐξεμυκτήριζον αὐτόν.
Having heard this, all the Pharisees being taken as money-lovers, and mocked him.
Hadn’t planned on such a quick pause, but have to mention a couple of things. Just to be clear, the Pharisees are reacting to the dictum of God and Mammon; they don’t like the implication so they mock/deride Jesus. The word used is unique to Luke; L&S cites usage in Psalm 2.4 in the LXX and here. Not a lot to go on. The Latin is pretty clear: deridebant. This is pretty obviously the origin of ‘deride’, but it’s also formed from the root of ridere, to laugh. My first-year Latin prof was fond of the word ‘risible’, as in, what you just said was absolutely risible. Of course, he did it in such an affable way that he came across as funny, so in response, risimus. We laughed. But the main point is the way he sticks in the poke at the Pharisees as being money-loving. Here’s my point about this: it almost feels like he adds this, rather clumsily I might add, because the audience may not simply understand that this was a trait of the Pharisees. This could be due to a pagan audience, a separation of distance from Judea; or is it a distance of time? Had the Pharisees stopped being quite so well-recognized as they once had been? Probably the former.
This just occurred to me. The money-grubber jab feels an awful lot like an interpolation, something stuck in by a scribe for his edification, or that of his readers. I’ll go no further than that, but there is something very inelegant about it.
14 Audiebant autem omnia haec pharisaei, qui erant avari, et deridebant illum.
15 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ δικαιοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁ δὲ θεὸς γινώσκει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν: ὅτι τὸ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὑψηλὸν βδέλυγμα ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.
16 Ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται μέχρι Ἰωάννου: ἀπὸ τότε ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίζεται καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται.
And he said to them, “You are the ones justifying yourselves in front of humans, but God knows your hearts. That in human affairs you are elevated (but) an abomination before God. The law and the prophets (were?) until John: from then the Kingdom of God was preached (lit = “good newsed“) and all force into it.
Apologies, but we have to make an unscheduled stop. The first verse is clear enough; just want to mention that the word for “abomination” is a Judeo-Christian word, showing up in the LXX and NT and pretty much nowhere in pagan literature. That’s fine. It may be based on something Hebrew? But the second verse is a problem. First, the grammar is exceedingly odd. There is no verb in the first clause, but understanding a form of “to be” is hardly all that unusual for Greek of any sort. And Latin, too; there is no verb in the first clause in the Vulgate below. The second clause…on second thought does make sense. There are actually a couple of ideas contained therein. First, is that The Law and The Prophets were not sufficient, or not conclusive, or…something. Whatever the trait is that I can’t name, it has allowed people– like the Pharisees; or perhaps especially people like Pharisees– to force their way into the Kingdom. Was it that the rules were not stringent, or specific enough that humans could force their way into the kingdom? But how can that be, if The Kingdom of God is Heaven? Is something that we merit only in the afterlife, and only if we’ve led a good life? Are we to infer that The Kingdom and The Life are not, perhaps, synonymous? This passage doesn’t necessarily say that, but it is, IMO, a valid inference.
Perhaps this makes more sense if we think of this more in terms of a Jewish conception of The Kingdom. The problem is that I can barely discuss Christian concepts in any intelligent manner, let alone try to tackle how Jewish thought in the centuries either side of the change of era may have looked at this sort of thing. The idea of some sort of afterlife was a part of Greek thought going back centuries. It is explicit in Homer; Odysseus travels to the land of the dead and speaks to the shade of Achilles, of his mother, and of the seer Tiresias. These individuals are dead, and yet they retain their individual personalities; they are in death who they were in life. There was rather a similar belief in the Near East, or at least in parts. In The Epic of Gilgamesh the eponymous hero travels to the land of the dead to converse with his erstwhile companion, Enkidu. There are numerous uses of the word sheol (Strong’s #7585)in the HS; perhaps half of them simply mean “grave”. Of the other half, many are often translated as “hell”, but a quick scan of them shows that many of these could also be rendered simply as “grave” as well. The point being that an afterlife was not an integral part of earlier Hebrew belief; much that is seen, IMO, by Christians who are reading things backward. The Christian philosophy of history is that Jesus was the inevitable fulfillment of the Divine Plan, and that human history sort of fills in around that destiny. Ergo, this was all planned out from time immemorial and so, of course, the HS is just a precursor to the NT. So of course the ideas presented in HS are foreshadowings of what was to come, so of course sheol should be translated as “hell” whenever it was possible to do so. Because if the two words did not, ultimately, have essentially the same meaning, then we’re dealing with a discontinuity.
So the point of all this we may very well be dealing with two different ideas. The Life and The Kingdom of God may not, in fact, have been synonymous. And if you go back to the conception of the anointed in the HS, he is not a divine entity. He (and it was to be a ‘he’) was fully human, and he was expected to lead Israel (which, by the time of Jesus, had not existed for 600 years, give or take) to restore its past political glory. IOW, to restore the Kingdom of God. The Baptist/Dunker would have fit very easily into that framework, since it was the framework of mainstream Jewish thought. John could have been teaching about the Kingdom to come in a purely political sense. Later, the followers of Jesus would begin to co-opt John’s earthly kingdom, converting it to the Kingdom, not of God, but of the Heavens. But it was Matthew who came up with this latter term, just as it was Matthew who introduced stuff like the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, and a whole lot more Christian ideas. If we read Mark with the understanding that Jesus was carrying on John’s preaching of the Kingdom of God as a political kingdom, then the mustard seed takes on an entirely different set of implications than it carries in the Christian understanding of the idea. In fact, this would very much explain why Mark wrote, and why he wrote as he did. Mark lived through the revolt, even if he did not participate the way Josephus did. Mark was aware of the idea that a political kingdom was being bandied about only to be crushed by the Roman with their usual brutal efficiency. But then Mark saw the outcome, and realized he had to change the narrative, picking up on the Christ tradition, or rather the interpretation of the Christ that Paul had introduced. In this reading, Paul first understood the Christ in a different manner than other Jews to explain the fact of Jesus’ death. Then a Passion Narrative had to be invented, all of it running right up to political ideas, Jesus the King of the Jews, but a king of a different sort of kingdom. Matthew took this new interpretation and expanded it further, adding the divinity of Jesus. Luke sought to tie all of this together, with Jesus and John as relatives, in a relationship in which John recognised his subordinate position in utero, when Mary comes to visit Elisabeth.
But the incompatibility of the two ideas leads to certain awkward moments, like Verse 16, where the attempted weld of the different ideas, and that The Kingdom is not synonymous with The Life, shows. There is a seam in the fabric.
This seems a tad anticlimactic at this point, but there is a second aspect to this verse. Simply put, the Law and the Prophets have been superseded. Wealth and status are no longer enough to allow one to force his way into the (political being understood) kingdom. The rules have changed.
15 Et ait illis: “Vos estis, qui iustificatis vos coram hominibus; Deus autem novit corda vestra, quia, quod hominibus altum est, abominatio est ante Deum.
16 Lex et Prophetae usque ad Ioannem; ex tunc regnum Dei evangelizatur, et omnis in illud vim facit.
17 Εὐκοπώτερον δέ ἐστιν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν παρελθεῖν ἢ τοῦ νόμου μίαν κεραίαν πεσεῖν.
18 Πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμῶν ἑτέραν μοιχεύει, καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει.
It is easier for the sky and the earth to pass than for a single stroke of a letter to fall from the law. (18) All who send away his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he marrying the one having been separated from the man commits adultery.
First of all, it is just me, or does it seem like these last two verses really don’t follow from the two previous? (And, spoiler alert, they don’t logically flow into the next section, either.) If the Q people wanted to mount an actual argument, the existence of such short sayings unattached to context present a much stronger case than a bland– or even vehement– statement that Luke is mad to change the masterful arrangement of the Sermon on the Mount. The former actually requires an explanation; the latter can be waved off as a subjective assessment of literary style, because that is exactly what it is. There is also another consideration: the word (it is a single word in Greek) translated here as “stroke of a letter” occurs twice in the NT: here, and in Matthew’s version of this aphorism. More, the word actually means ‘horn’, or something like the antennae of a cray/crawfish, or the spur of a mountain. In Ev Mt and Ev Lk, it means the upward stroke of a letter. More: Matthew’s version is “…a single iota or upward stroke of a letter…” Iota (ι)is the Greek letter ‘I”; it is a single quick stroke of a writing implement, the smallest letter, orthographically speaking, in the Greek alphabet. It is often rendered as “jot”, because later Latin orthography began replacing the initial Latin “I” with a “J” when the second letter of the word was also a vowel. Hence, “Iuppiter” becomes “Jupiter”. I have the impression that Hebrew uses such little strokes to indicate vowels. If this is correct, then Matthew is covering both languages, the iota from Greek and the upward stroke of Hebrew. Luke drops the former for whatever reason.
But wait, there’s more. Matthew and Luke use different versions of the word. If you check Liddell & Scott, (which I almost always do), you will find that Matthew’s word is the standard word for “horn”; as the horn of a bull, or even a wing of an army, the left horn being the left flank. Luke, OTOH, uses a form derived from the standard, but a word more often used figuratively, as in the antennae of a crayfish, the yardarm on a mast, or the horns of the moon. So which is the original? Let’s check the Greek text of Q to find out…oh, wait. There is no Greek text of Q. There is no text of Q in any language. There are only the various reconstructions based on…what, exactly? The literary tastes of the editors, and an adamant refusal to consider an actual debate on merits. I’ve been using Kloppenborg et alia book entitled The Q/Thomas Reader as my text for Q. Kloppenborg, of my alma mater, University of Toronto (the shame!) is probably the foremost proponent of Q, so it seems like a good choice. He chooses Luke’s “not a serif” which strikes me as an excellent translation) over Matthew’s “iota nor serif”. This is hardly surprising, since Luke is considered the more “primitive” version, in large part because he says “blessed are the poor” rather than hedging like Matthew to “blessed are the poor in spirit“. Now, of course I am being unfair. This is a blog, not a dissertation, although I am seriously smelling a book in here. The consensus opinion is of “alternating primitivity”. But the choice of Luke as the more primitive here seems unfortunate; and it also demonstrates how the focus of the Q argument is on externals, rather than the content, the actual meaning of the words. If anything, Matthew is the more primitive in his choice of horn, κερeα rather than κεραίαν, as Luke used. The former is the standard, by far the more common word. The latter is more literary in the sense of more figurative, and the more descriptive.
So why did each choose the one they did? Aye, there’s the rub. Each one chose the word he did because he felt it was the best word. Luke’s Greek is more sophisticated than Matthew’s; he uses more unique and unusual words. Sometimes he uses fewer words, omitting “in spirit” and “iota” as he did here. Does his word choice here function within the framework of the “redactionally consistent” explanation Q proponents demand for every deviation from Matthew? Probably irrelevant, since Luke is the base version, the one following Q. Ah, now there’s another question. Who wrote Q? Well, no one, IMO. The more appropriate, because more serious, question is “what sort of person wrote Q?”. We have seen Mark’s Greek. It’s functional, but basic. Paul’s Greek verges on incomprehensible several times in 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, until he found a better secretary. (I can never remember how to spell amanuensis. Spellcheck to the rescue.) Then 1 Corinthians is a bit higher on the scale. Paul has a lot of unique words, but it’s a tendency to stick extra prefixes on existing words. The point is, if Q was written down in the 30s, what sort of people were in the Jesus movement? Most likely, it was mostly Jews. Paul was still a decade or so away from converting pagans in the 30s. Were these Jews likely to be well-educated in Greek? Not impossible, certainly, but not likely, either. So if someone wrote Q in the 30s, it would indeed have been more primitive than either Matthew or Luke. Which implies that the text in Q should probably be more like Luke’s than Matthew’s version. Of course, Kloppenborg et al can cheat; they don’t have to provide the Greek word behind their translation. They can just provide a word of their choosing. Granted, serif is a good choice, but that would imply Luke’s more sophisticated and unusual word κεραίαν over Matthew’s more standard κερeα. That Kloppenborg chose “serif” seems to imply that he understands that Luke’s word is the term used in Q. That is not, in my opinion, a “redactionally consistent” position on his part. He is choosing his ideology over his sound judgement.
17 Facilius est autem caelum et terram praeterire, quam de Lege unum apicem cadere.
18 Omnis, qui dimittit uxorem suam et ducit alteram, moechatur; et, qui dimissam a viro ducit, moechatur.
This section will be fairly short since most of involves a single story. This is sort of the prelude to what will come in the following section. The topic is wealth. In the last chapter/summary I commented that Jesus may not have spent all that much time with the poor. This was in conjunction with his wont to spend time with tax collectors. He also spends a fair bit of time hanging around with Pharisees, who were also known to be well-heeled. While we don’t have any Pharisees in this selection, they will appear in Verse 14, in what is a continuation of this story.
1Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς, Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος ὃς εἶχεν οἰκονόμον, καὶ οὗτος διεβλήθη αὐτῷ ὡς διασκορπίζων τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ.
2 καὶ φωνήσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί τοῦτο ἀκούω περὶ σοῦ; ἀπόδος τὸν λόγον τῆς οἰκονομίας σου, οὐ γὰρ δύνῃ ἔτι οἰκονομεῖν.
3 εἶπεν δὲ ἐν ἑαυτῷ ὁ οἰκονόμος, Τί ποιήσω, ὅτι ὁ κύριός μου ἀφαιρεῖται τὴν οἰκονομίαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ; σκάπτειν οὐκ ἰσχύω, ἐπαιτεῖν αἰσχύνομαι.
4 ἔγνων τί ποιήσω, ἵνα ὅταν μετασταθῶ ἐκ τῆς οἰκονομίας δέξωνταί με εἰς τοὺς οἴκους αὐτῶν.
And he said to his learners, “There was a certain man who was wealthy, who had a major-domo/steward and he (the man) accused him (the steward) as he (the steward) is squandering his (the man’s) possessions. (2) And calling him (the steward), he said to him (the steward), ‘Why do I hear this about you? Give an account of the household (lit = ‘house laws’ = economies of you) of your management of the household, for you are not able to run the household’. (3) The steward said in himself, ‘What will I do, that my lord takes away the management of the household from me? I am not strong to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (4) I know what I would do so that when I am turned from the house they received me into their house.
Have to pause here to make a few comments on the Greek. The last verse is a series of aorist subjunctive verbs. This is a combination that is impossible to get across in English. The subjunctive is simple enough; it’s the realm of the hypothetical, usually rendered as “would” or something such in English. The aorist, however, is the standard past tense. So we have the combination of hypothetical, but past, which should not be hypothetical. Being past, it should be pretty much fixed and done for. I suppose the sense is something like ‘I have figured out (perfect) what I would do when/if…’
The other thing worth pointing out is the word ‘accused’. Here, it’s dieblēthē, from the root diaballo, infinitive form diaballein, ending up in Spanish as diablo. This is the root of devil, who in Hebrew was the adversary, and in Greek is the slanderer or the accuser.
This is a big one. Not sure how obvious it’s been, but I have serious questions about the translation “In the beginning was the Word” in John 1:1. If you go on to the Liddell & Scott site at Perseus/Tufts and key in ‘logos’, you will get a very long, a VERY long list of uses for this word. The first one, the basic meaning, is an account, as in an account of money. In Verse 2, the lord of the house demands that the steward give him a logon, an account–perhaps better, an accounting–of the household budget. Then if you scroll down the list, in definition VI, you get,
So this gives us either, “in the beginning was the Audit of the Budget”, or “the Verbal Expression (but not a single word)”. If you have any sort of critical apparatus, this should make you question how and why the Logos of John 1:1 came out as “Word”. But wait, it gets weirder. If you use TheBible.org website (which I recommend), and find either this passage (Lk 16:2) or John 1:1, it will provide a complete list of every time some form of the word logos is used in the NT. Strong’s Words will do the same thing, but I find that a bit clunky since it breaks the occurrences up by case; it’s used in the nominative in cites 1-20, in the accusative in 21-44, the genitive…etc*. (And the numbers of the cites are strictly rhetorical, used in a for example sort of way.) It gets to the same end, but TheBible.org is easier. And it’s also better for providing a logos of how many times each author uses a particular word. And my use of logos there was also used as an example; this would be a proper use of logos; but I could not say it provides a word of how many times the word is used.
Back to the point. If you skim through the list from TheBible.org, you will see a lot of instances where the word is translated as word. (Note that the cites are as translated by the KJV.) Is it possible that the NT truly uses logos in a manner that is different from the way it was used in Classical Greek? That is entirely possible. And, if so, this could imply some very significant ramifications. First and foremost is that it could be considered a serious blow to my contention that there is no such thing as NT Greek. In turn. this could imply that the authors of the various books of the NT had a much more thorough knowledge of the books written before each of them wrote. I have not seen a lot of debate on this, except in terms of Matthew/Luke/Q. This is a question, IMO, that should receive greater scrutiny; or, it’s a question that I personally need to delve into the literature that already exists. Regardless, rest assured I will be working through the list of instances to determine how many of them could just as easily be rendered as something other than “word”.
Finally, this isn’t about the Greek, but it bears mention, IMO. Interesting that the man believes he only has two career choices available to him: digging, or begging.
* At least, it works like this on the website I use, which is it works well enough that I haven’t actively sought out an alternative.
1 Dicebat autem et ad discipulos: “ Homo quidam erat dives, qui habebat vilicum, et hic diffamatus est apud illum quasi dissipasset bona ipsius.
2 Et vocavit illum et ait illi: “Quid hoc audio de te? Redde rationem vilicationis tuae; iam enim non poteris vilicare”.
3 Ait autem vilicus intra se: “Quid faciam, quia dominus meus aufert a me vilicationem? Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco.
4 Scio quid faciam, ut, cum amotus fuero a vilicatione, recipiant me in domos suas”.
5 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα ἕκαστον τῶν χρεοφειλετῶν τοῦ κυρίου ἑαυτοῦ ἔλεγεν τῷ πρώτῳ, Πόσον ὀφείλεις τῷ κυρίῳ μου;
6 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ἑκατὸν βάτους ἐλαίου. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ καθίσας ταχέως γράψον πεντήκοντα.
7 ἔπειτα ἑτέρῳ εἶπεν, Σὺ δὲ πόσον ὀφείλεις; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ἑκατὸν κόρους σίτου. λέγει αὐτῷ, Δέξαι σου τὰ γράμματα καὶ γράψον ὀγδοήκοντα.
8 καὶ ἐπῄνεσεν ὁ κύριος τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ὅτι φρονίμως ἐποίησεν: ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου φρονιμώτεροι ὑπὲρ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ φωτὸς εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν εἰσιν.
“And having called together each one of the debtors of his lord he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe to my lord?’ (6) And he (the first debtor) said, ‘A hundred measures* of oil’. He (the steward) replied, ‘You will take the record (lit = writing), and seated upon it you will write fifty.’ (7) Then he (the steward) said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ The other responded ‘One hundred measures of grain’. He (the steward) said to him, ‘You will take the record and you will write eighty’. (8) And the lord praised the unrighteous steward that he made such intelligence. That the sons of this age are smarter over the sons of light in their generation.
* The word means a specific amount, but I’m not sure what it is. Doesn’t really matter, IMO, but apologies for my ignorance.
Does anyone else find the the reaction of the lord, as well as the whole lesson to be a bit baffling? The steward is reducing the amounts owed to the lord without, apparently, explicit authorization. The steward is reducing the accounts receivable which is a reduction in the lord’s net worth, and possibly creating a downward vector on the house’s cash flow. In non-accounting, non-capitalism terms, this is not a good thing for the lord. And yet, and yet, the lord finds this sort of sharp-dealing to be clever. Well, actually it is clever. But it’s also a bit sneaky, and is certainly unethical. The steward is acting unilaterally to his lord’s detriment so the steward can save his own butt. And the lord thinks this is not only OK, but praiseworthy. One could argue that the lord is more than happy to employ someone like this to fatten his own coffers, but he is dismissing the steward for squandering the lord’s money. So, a bit of a mixed message, no?
Or is that the point? In the last bit of Verse 8, Jesus’ editorial comment is that the sons of this age are smarter than the sons of light. For those of you without a program, the sons of light are the good guys. So, perhaps Jesus isn’t actually praising the sons of this age, and that the praise of the lord is a bit ironic. I think that might become a bit more obvious in the next couple of verses.
But first, let us discuss the term adikos, which is used to describe the steward. The a- prefix is a negation; a-gnostic = not knowing. So he’s being not-…what? The word dikē is another of those complex words, like logos, but not quite as bad. In Paul, we encounter the term dikaios very often, and the overwhelming choice for translation is righteous. In fact, the term dikē is more closely associated with justice. At base, it’s custom, or usage. From there, it comes to have judicial implications, and the closest association becomes justice. And, in fact, dikē can & does become a synonym for the decision of a judge, in particular in which a malefactor gets his comeuppance. But notice the common thread through all these words: righteous, justice, judge, etc: they are all Latin based. Not a Greek root in the lot. Our concept of The Law comes from the Romans, who were legal (also Latin) eagles to a high degree. So, for Paul, we are made righteous by God, we are dikaios. It would be difficult to conceive of what it would mean if God made us just, would it not? Righteous is a personal adjective; just is something that we exercise in relation to others. Here, whether we call the steward unjust or unrighteous does not carry a huge amount of weight; it doesn’t matter overmuch. But in Paul, I think it does. And it’s another thing to keep in mind, that these words that get so blithely translated may not–in fact often do not–mean what we think.
A terrific book on this topic is Iustitia Dei, by Alister McGrath. In it, he traces from the Hebrew root on which dikaios rests, and how much this translation distorted the ideas of the Hebrew word. And then, when it gets translated into Latin, another and entirely different set of distortions are placed on the concept. Because we are the legal descendants of the Romans and not the Greeks or the Hebrews, and because we read the Bible in Latin for a millennium or more, we have interpreted the words of the NT very differently than we would have if we’d read the NT in Greek or Hebrew. Righteous is mostly a legal concept; and while iustitia and dikē both get translated as “just”, the two words are not interchangeable, just as psyche sometimes means physical life and sometimes means soul. We get so smug in our understanding of the Bible, but this smugness is often not warranted. IOW, it’s not justified.
PS. the book Iustitia Dei is not necessarily meant for a general audience. It assumes a certain amount of background in both Greek and Latin. Check out the reviews on Amazon. All 5 or 4 stars, but with some caveats. One person with a bit of Latin, more Greek (apparently), and lots of forgotten Hebrew described it as “quite accessible”.
5 Convocatis itaque singulis debitoribus domini sui, dicebat primo: “Quantum debes domino meo?”.
6 At ille dixit: “Centum cados olei”. Dixitque illi: “Accipe cautionem tuam et sede cito, scribe quinquaginta”.
7 Deinde alii dixit: “Tu vero quantum debes?”. Qui ait: “Centum coros tritici”. Ait illi: “Accipe litteras tuas et scribe octoginta”.
8 Et laudavit dominus vilicum iniquitatis, quia prudenter fecisset, quia filii huius saeculi prudentiores filiis lucis in generatione sua sunt.
9 Καὶ ἐγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, ἑαυτοῖς ποιήσατε φίλους ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ τῆς ἀδικίας, ἵνα ὅταν ἐκλίπῃ δέξωνται ὑμᾶς εἰς τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς.
10 ὁ πιστὸς ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ καὶ ἐν πολλῷ πιστός ἐστιν, καὶ ὁ ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ ἄδικος καὶ ἐν πολλῷ ἄδικός ἐστιν.
11 εἰ οὖν ἐν τῷ ἀδίκῳ μαμωνᾷ πιστοὶ οὐκ ἐγένεσθε, τὸ ἀληθινὸντίς ὑμῖν πιστεύσει;
12 καὶ εἰ ἐν τῷ ἀλλοτρίῳ πιστοὶ οὐκ ἐγένεσθε, τὸ ὑμέτερον τίς ὑμῖν δώσει;
13 Οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν: ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει, ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves from the mammon of injustice, so that when it may fail to receive you to the tent of the ages. (10) The one faithful in the least, also is (faithful) in much, and that one unjust in the least, (is) also is unjust in much. (11) So if the faithful are not (faithful) in unrighteous mammon, does the true thing trust you? (12) And if faithful are not (faithful) to another, who will give your (thing) to you? (13) No household slave can be a slave to two masters; for he will hate either one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
First, to say the Greek in here is tortured is an understatement. The Latin does clean things up a bit, but that assumes that St Jerome really understood the intent in the first place. One has to assume all sorts of unstated things, which is not at all uncommon in Greek or Latin; however, this takes it to a higher level; it’s almost epigrammatic. By this I mean a pithy saying that has been reduced to the absolute bare minimum number of words. Thucydides is notorious for this , to the point that much of the scholarly debate consists of arguments about what Thucydides is actually saying in a given passage. So to some extent, Luke is showing off a bit with his highly personal use of grammar. Back to the Latin, the version of the Vulgate that I’m using is a modern edition, with modern punctuation. That very helpful. Greek was
No, I’m not shouting; that is how it was originally written. Lower case and spaces were Hellenistic inventions, or modifications. So Luke may have written this in a form closer to what we are seeing.
Then, to take it a step further, his choice of words in the second half of the “two masters” passage (V13) is interesting. The first part is fine: hate vs love, straightforward, standard vocabulary. In the second part, ‘hate’ is replaced by a word that, in its most literal form, means ‘hold against’. So, at first glance we could take this as a synonym for ‘hate’. But then the second word is more standard and means ‘despise’. (Or, literally, it means to ‘love down’. The philos– root with a kata prefix, which means down. Ana-baino is to go up; kata-baino is to descend. So we have to go back to the ‘hold against’ and understand that it can also mean to hold before one, sort of as a shield; this gives the implication that the holder is following the person held out of affection. So again, a bit of fancy footwork here from Luke.
Now for the meaning of the passages. I said after the previous comment that we would be considered Verses 5-8 in light of what we read next. At the end of the previous section, in Verse 8, the lord is praising the wicked steward for the latter’s shrewd and sharp dealing, which, ultimately, came at the lord’s expense. This seemed a bit peculiar. However, take with this section, we get a meaning more suited to what we think of as Christianity. Jesus has a one-two punch here; before, he told us how the children of this age have it over the children of the light. Rather than being praise, Jesus is using this as an example of how apparently wicked people seem to prosper at the expense of good people. Then, we get the follow-up here telling us that the wicked,, even if they prosper in this world. But wait, there’s more! This episode continues in the next section.
9 Et ego vobis dico: Facite vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis, ut, cum defecerit, recipiant vos in aeterna tabernacula.
10 Qui fidelis est in minimo, et in maiori fidelis est; et, qui in modico iniquus est, et in maiori iniquus est.
11 Si ergo in iniquo mammona fideles non fuistis, quod verum est, quis credet vobis?
12 Et si in alieno fideles non fuistis, quod vestrum est, quis dabit vobis?
13 Nemo servus potest duobus dominis servire: aut enim unum odiet et alterum diliget, aut uni adhaerebit et alterum contemnet. Non potestis Deo servire et mammonae”.
This chapter contains both the stories of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. Both are Christian “standards”, or even cliches; many non-observant Christians, or even non-Christians, understand the reference of a ‘prodigal son’ who ‘returns to the fold’ even if the finer points of detail are, at best, vague. The same is perhaps true of the maxim ‘lost sheep’, if to a lesser degree and less specifically. Yet, both of these stories, so fundamental to Christian self-image are unique to Luke; this means there is barely any chance that either of them actually traces back to Jesus. Rather, it is highly likely that Luke composed them both. This likelihood increases, it would seem, when we realize how closely linked the stories are both thematically and in terms of the lesson conveyed. This makes analysis much easier, since it’s really a compare and contrast situation.
First, there is the minor issue of Jesus’ behaviour, specifically the sort of people he hung around with. At the beginning of the chapter we are told that the respectable elements of society tsk-tsk over Jesus’ choice of companions. These latter are described as “tax-collectors (or publicans) and sinners. Christians have long seized on this as meaning the sort of people the Pharisees didn’t like; one meaning of “sinner” is prostitute. The classic example of this is in Luke Chapter 7, where the woman who is a “sinner” anoints Jesus with the contents of an expensive box of perfume. This is understood to mean that she was a prostitute. Of course, at this point I cannot describe how I know this, or where I first heard this, but it was long ago. I’m old enough to remember when Jesus Christ Superstar came out. I was in high school. In this, Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a prostitute, and I know that this did not phase me; I fully understood that Mary M was a prostitute. This was one of those things that “everyone knows” about her. The problem is that neither of the other two gospels mention this about the woman. More, in Luke, the introduction of Mary M comes very shortly after this episode, but there is no apparent connexion between the two women. The anointing occurs in the end of Chapter 7; the introduction of Mary M comes a few verses in to Chapter 8. There is neither a grammatical nor a narrative link between the two women. The implication is that, once again, what “everyone knows” has no real scriptural basis. This is where tradition filled in the cracks with anecdotes and explanations. This, in turn, is an excellent demonstration of how stories grow. This is a great demonstration to explain why Matthew and Luke are so much longer than Mark; the story had grown by the time they wrote. There were more anecdotes. And Matthew and Luke more than likely created some of their own.
This is a bit of a digression. The point is that we are told numerous times that Jesus consorted with sinners. When sinners are mentioned, it is often in conjunction with tax collectors, as it is in this chapter. Apropos of this, another thing “everyone knows” is that Jesus spent time with the poor. The interesting thing is that tax collectors were decidedly not poor. Very much the opposite, in fact; they were very rich, and they got rich by squeezing the average person for as much as they could get. (We’ll discuss this more when we get to the story of Zaccheus.) Any sinners hanging around with publicans were not likely to be poor, either. When, exactly, are we shown Jesus consorting with the poor? The Bleeding Woman comes to mind, but that was a one-off contact. He raises the centurion’s slave, and the daughter of Jairus from the dead, but neither of these men were poor. In fact, use of the word for ‘poor’ is very sparse in the gospels. Jesus also spent a lot of time hanging around with Pharisees. The setting for the Lost Sheep is at a dinner with Pharisees. They were generally not poor either, but that is a broad statement that has no real evidence to support it. All that can be adduced is that people who gave the sort of dinner parties that Jesus frequently attended were not likely to be poor. So we have numerous instances of Jesus spending time in the company of the well-off, and very little with him actually consorting with the poor. Interestingly, some for of the word “poor” occurs less than 30 times in the NT. Several of those are repetitions between gospels (poor/poor in spirit; give the money to the poor, etc), so this is not a terribly common theme for Jesus and his followers. It occurs five times each in Mark and Matthew, but three times in the much shorter epistle of James. Luke is the most frequent user, coming in at nine, but it does not appear at all in Acts. The implication seems to be that we need, perhaps, to reconsider just how solicitous of the poor Jesus was. How integral was this message to his mission?
The rest of the chapter is given over to the stories of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal son, with the parable of the Lost Coin shoe-horned in between. The theme of all stories is being lost and then found. This leads us to ask what it means to be “lost” and “found”. Doing this we immediately run into yet another “everybody knows” situation. Being lost means we’re lost to a life of sin; found, means we’ve found our way back to God and so attained our salvation. We’ve been saved. Funny, thing, however; the term ‘saved’ does not appear even once in this chapter. We saw that ‘poor’ was used less than 30 times in the whole NT; some variation of ‘saved’ occurs more than three times as often, upwards of 100 instances (I lost count of the exact amount; doesn’t matter. It’s a lot) in the NT. But, you say, there is joy in the sky when a lost sheep is found, or the prodigal son returns. This is true. But joy and celebration by whom? By those who have been saved before? Or by God and the Heavenly Host? Remember, the injunction is to repent; that can simply mean to honor the God of Judah, the way that King Hezekiah did in 2 Kings. Note that during a quick skim through some of the HS dealing with the apostasy of Israel and the faithfulness of Judah (most of the time), I did not see the word “saved” at all. Unfortunately, since it’s written in Hebrew I can’t search the Greek on the site I use for translations. I tried– half-heartedly, perhaps– to find a Greek Septuagint that would let me search the Greek for specific words without success. This means I cannot compare vocabulary at this point, which means we cannot be terribly certain about the rejoicing in heaven. There is no reason why we cannot equate being found and being saved; there is nothing to exclude one from the other. We have to ask whether it feels right, if it feels like this is what Luke means by “found”. Being the skeptical, cantankerous sort that I am, I tend not to think so. Luke used the word ‘saved’ enough; he was no stranger to it. So why not here?
Of course, that question cannot be answered. And of course, I have no real argument to convince anyone of my position. It’s a sense I get from having read the text word-for-word as I have, one develops a feel for what the text is doing. Or, one comes to believe that one has developed such a feel. This again, cannot be proven one way or the other. I’m rather surprised that there is not more to say on this. The point is the degree of interpretation required. Just bear that in mind, always. These topics are not nearly as settled as we would like to believe. Even the Reformation Protestants did not take a chainsaw to Tradition nearly to the they imagined. There is still a lot of “everyone knows” thinking that continues to be perpetuated.