Category Archives: gospel commentary

Luke Chapter 22:66-71

This is the very end of Chapter 23, which is the antepenultimate chapter in Luke. So we’re close. On one hand, if I’d realized this piece was so short, I may have stuck it on the end of the last post. But then, there’s a lot to be said for keeping them short and getting them published. Jesus has been beaten by the soldiers, and is on his way to the Sanhedrin.


66 Καὶ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, συνήχθη τὸ πρεσβυτέριον τοῦ λαοῦ, ἀρχιερεῖς τε καὶ γραμματεῖς, καὶ ἀπήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ συνέδριον αὐτῶν,

67 λέγοντες, Εἰ σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός, εἰπὸν ἡμῖν. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἐὰν ὑμῖν εἴπω οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε:

68 ἐὰν δὲ ἐρωτήσω οὐ μὴ ἀποκριθῆτε.

69 ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν δὲ ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καθήμενος ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς δυνάμεως τοῦ θεοῦ.

70 εἶπαν δὲ πάντες, Σὺ οὖν εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ; ὁ δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἔφη, Ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι.

71 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Τί ἔτι ἔχομεν μαρτυρίας χρείαν; αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἠκούσαμεν ἀπὸ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ. 

And as it became day, (3rd sing pronoun) gathered the elders of the people, the high priests, and the scribes, and they led him to their Sanhedrin, (67) saying, “If you are the Anointed, tell us”. He said to them, “If I tell you (I am) not, you will not believe me. (68) But if I ask you, you will not answer. (69) From now, however, the son of God will be seated at the right (hand) of the power of God.” (70) All of them said, “Are you the son of God?” He spoke towards them, “You say that I am”. (71) And they said, “What need have we (of more) evidence? For we ourselves have heard from his own mouth”.  

This goes very differently than in either Mark or Matthew. Firstly and mostly, it’s compressed. There are no witnessed brought in whose stories are inconsistent, there is no mention of things that Jesus was heard saying, such that he could rebuild the temple in three days. Plus, this “trial” occurred at night in the others, falling before Peter’s denial in both those narratives, so that first thing the Sanhedrin bundles him off to Pilate. I read somewhere that the idea of this group meeting at night would have been unthinkable. Unfortunately, I really have no understanding of how the finer points of the power structure worked in Jerusalem at this time, so I can neither confirm nor deny that. I cannot so much as assign probability. Interesting that Luke seems to be aware of that, so changes the timeline to accommodate and/or correct this. Which leads to a point.

I’ve been doing some Google reading on the minor agreements. The arguments, such as they are, to explain while maintaining both Q and Luke’s independence of Matthew are much as I said: coincidence, both expanding on Mark and coincidentally choosing exactly the same three or five words in exactly the same order and declension & conjugation, scribal interpolation to make the stories more identical, etc. IOW, anything but the most obvious solution: Luke used Matthew’s word. Interestingly, when Luke does not use Matthew’s words, such as at Jesus’ washing in the Jordan, it’s proof that Luke was unaware of Matthew. When Luke does use Matthew’s words, as in the two previous posts, it’s a coincidence, or the result of what is effectively a deus ex machina, a scribe being unfaithful to the mss in front of him. But that’s not the point. In this cursory research, I came across a couple of people arguing that Luke was actually the first to be written, then Mark, then Matthew. Naturally, they base their arguments on the literary construction of the three texts. One of them was quite clever, and quite novel. He was translating the NT into modern Hebrew, and he discovered that Luke’s grammatical construction, etc, is much more like one would expect in Hebrew than the other two. So he postulates that Luke was working from a Hebrew text, and that he retained–if unconsciously–these verbal patterns. Again, I can’t offer a considered opinion knowing absolutely nothing about Hebrew. The other that I found claimed that Lukan priority would explain the minor agreements more effectively than Luke using Matthew. The argument stretched over large chunks of text, so, again, I can’t offer a reasonable assessment.*

Anyway, I bring this up because I would be interested to hear how those people explain this particular section, the Arrest and Trial before the Sandhedrin. Mark and Matthew both provide longer and more detailed descriptions of the events. Luke’s is much shorter, an abridged version by any reasonable standard. How does this short version grow into the more detailed version later? I suppose there is really no difference in arguing that Mark expanded on Luke’s short version, and Matthew then followed Mark. And this would explain all those places where I note Luke’s shorter version of pericopes that are fully covered by both Mark & Matthew. The question then becomes does Lukan priority explain Matthew’s shorter versions where Luke and Mark offer a longer story? My favourite example of this is the Gerasene Demonaic. I suppose it does. In those cases, it would be Matthew abridging in the way I say Luke is doing here. Fair enough. The rub comes, I think, when we realize how much of Luke is unique material: apparently, something like half of Luke is unique to that gospel. The question then becomes, is it more probable that the unique material was dropped by Mark and then Matthew, or added by Luke after the other two? No surprise, but I fall on the latter side. Luke compressed and then added the new stuff. After all, Good Samaritan & Prodigal Son have such resonance that the terms are standard in the English-speaking world. I find it hard to believe that such powerful stories were removed. Then you have the whole question of why Mark would have eliminated the pater noster. This is the prayer that Jesus supposedly implemented. I get it that Mark was supposedly a synopsis, but removing some of the most memorable and widely-recognized aspects of Christianity seems a bit odd, to say the least. And really, since Mark lacks the pater, the Prodigal Son, and the Beatitudes, I find anything other than Markan priority to be difficult to fathom, let alone explain. What on earth could have possessed Mark to leave out such powerful expressions of Christian belief? As a corollary, I find the lack of this material, especially the lack of the Beatitudes and the pater noster to be almost-insurmountable evidence that Jesus ever spoke those words. 

66 Et ut factus est dies, convenerunt seniores plebis et principes sacerdotum et scribae et duxerunt illum in concilium suum

67 dicentes: “Si tu es Christus, dic nobis”. Et ait illis: “Si vobis dixero, non credetis;

68 si autem interrogavero, non respondebitis mihi.

69 Ex hoc autem erit Filius hominis sedens a dextris virtutis Dei”.

70 Dixerunt autem omnes: “Tu ergo es Filius Dei?”. Qui ait ad illos: “Vos dicitis quia ego sum”.

71 At illi dixerunt: “Quid adhuc desideramus testimonium? Ipsi enim audivimus de ore eius!”.

*I can, however, provide links.

Similarity to Hebrew:

The Major Importance of the “Minor” Agreements


Minor agreements:

Luke Chapter 22:54-65

Jesus has been arrested and is on his way to see Caiaphas. This section is actually two short pieces: Peter’s Denial, and then Jesus and the Soldiers. Should be quick, but famous last words.


54 Συλλαβόντες δὲ αὐτὸν ἤγαγον καὶ εἰσήγαγον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως: ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἠκολούθει μακρόθεν.

55 περιαψάντων δὲ πῦρ ἐν μέσῳ τῆς αὐλῆς καὶ συγκαθισάντων ἐκάθητο ὁ Πέτρος μέσος αὐτῶν.

56 ἰδοῦσα δὲ αὐτὸν παιδίσκη τις καθήμενον πρὸς τὸ φῶς καὶ ἀτενίσασα αὐτῷ εἶπεν, Καὶ οὗτος σὺν αὐτῷ ἦν:

57 ὁ δὲ ἠρνήσατο λέγων, Οὐκ οἶδα αὐτόν, γύναι.

58 καὶ μετὰ βραχὺ ἕτερος ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ἔφη, Καὶ σὺ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶ: ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἔφη, Ἄνθρωπε, οὐκ εἰμί.

59 καὶ διαστάσης ὡσεὶ ὥρας μιᾶς ἄλλος τις διϊσχυρίζετο λέγων, Ἐπ’ ἀληθείας καὶ οὗτος μετ’ αὐτοῦ ἦν, καὶ γὰρ Γαλιλαῖός ἐστιν:

60 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος, Ἄνθρωπε, οὐκ οἶδα ὃ λέγεις. καὶ παραχρῆμα ἔτι λαλοῦντος αὐτοῦ ἐφώνησεν ἀλέκτωρ.

Taking him along with them, they led and took him to the home of the Chief Priest. Peter follow at some distance. (55) Having lighted a fire in the middle of the courtyard and (some unspecified persons, likely slaves or attendants to the Chief Priest) were sitting together around it, and Peter sat in the middle of them. (56) Seeing him, some young female slave sitting near the light and looked intently at him (and) said, “And you were with him”. (57) And he answered saying, “I don’t know him, woman”. (58) And after a bit another seeing him said, “And you are of them”. But Peter said, “Man, I am not”. (59) And having progressed about an hour, some other asserted strongly saying, “In truth, you were with him. for you are also Galilean”. (60) But Peter said, “Dude, I do not know what you say.” And immediately upon (his) speaking, the cock sounded off (crowed).

A few good points. The residences of officials, or important/wealthy persons were often constructed about an open courtyard. The feature is a common one in the Mediterranean to this day. The Greek version was called a megaron, and included a portico running around it. In hot, dry climates, being in the shade can cut the temperature remarkably. Shade, coupled with stone buildings can keep the temperature quite pleasant. This is why they sat in the Stoa–literally, a porch, a colonnade on a marble building–in Athens. Hence, the philosophical school of the Stoics. Anyway, it is in such an open courtyard that Peter finds himself. The people gathered by the fire are most likely attached to the chief priest’s household in some serving capacity. Recalling the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his boy/slave (pais), the first to speak was a paidiskē. The Greek word declines pais, paidos, meaning that the nominative case ends with the -s-, but the stem is formed with a -d-. So paidiskē is more or less the feminine form of pais; which, although can mean either male or female child, generally referred to a male unless otherwise stated. The definition states that a paidiskē was specifically a young female slave.  One translation of the word is “maid”. Now, in English, this word is ambiguous; it can mean maid, as in scullery maid, a servant, or it can mean a maiden, a young girl/woman, who was presumably a virgin in the English term. Most of that ambiguity is contained in the Greek as well, but note Peter refers to her as “woman”. But the adjectives “male/female” were not generally used as substantives, as nouns, the way they are in English, so “woman” has to substitute for “female-in-general”. It is also the standard term for “wife”, just as andros, “man”, is the standard term for husband. The point of all this is to reinforce that the centurion was almost certainly asking Jesus to heal a slave and not his child.

The other aspect is to wonder how she would have known Peter was with Jesus. Per the narrative, Jesus was brought in and Peter followed at a distance; ergo, to have seen them together, the woman almost necessarily would have been with the band that went out to arrest him. This strikes me as at least a bit odd. Why would a posse include a female slave? Probably it didn’t; however, it’s not out of the question that she sort of tagged along to catch the excitement. This is certainly a common-enough thing for people to do once their curiosity is piqued. But then you have to ask, as one of the hangers-on, how close would she have been to the central action, to Jesus. Recall, this is night, and there were no streetlights, so the only illumination would be the torches carried by the posse. (And perhaps by Jesus’ group as well? I had never thought that one through.) Torches also flicker, but a half-dozen or so would provide a fairly consistent light to eliminate the flicker to some degree. That leads to the question of how large was the circle of illumination? Enough to show Jesus, and Judas, and those carrying the torches. These latter would have been in the group composing the posse. Where was Peter? Was he right behind Jesus? Was he the one who drew the sword? I ask because we have to wonder how well his face would have been illuminated. Was it to the point that someone maybe twenty or thirty feet away would have gotten a good look at him? Why would anyone notice Peter, in particular? Wouldn’t most eyes be focused on Jesus and Judas? It’s not out of the question, but if she were a witness for the prosecution, and I were Peter’s defense attorney, these are exactly the sorts of questions I’d use to grill her for her reliability. I can imagine that the men were more apt to be close to the action. The first could have been one of the torch bearers, so he could much more easily have seen Peter’s face. So why didn’t he recognize Peter before the woman? It says he spoke after a short time. Had he been studying Peter’s visage in the meantime? The second man only spoke after an hour. I can suppose that he had been doing some duty and only came into the fire later, which would account for the time lag. But still.

This is a great story, with a great moral. It’s dramatic. It shows the human side of Peter. But is it realistic? What is the likelihood that it could have happened? Then, combine that with the probability that it did happen. It’s a complex act, so the probability of could & did both occurring shrinks significantly. And who told the story? Did Peter ‘fess up to Mark, where we first encountered this? And remember, Mark was not a huge fan of the disciples as a group, and often was not impressed with Peter in particular. Had Peter told Mark, the latter would doubtless have included it. But recall that there is a significant–but apparently decreasing–consensus that the Passion Narrative predated Mark. Was this part included in that narrative? Why would it have been? Once again, let ‘s go back to the Arthur legend, and the way episodes got tacked on as time passed. We saw it in Luke with the stories of the Widow of Nain, and Zaccheus. Did this get tacked on to that primordial Passion Narrative at a later date? Perhaps by Mark, who added it as yet another dig at Peter? After all, there is the lovely contrast between Peter’s bravado at supper, and his lack of spine here. Has anyone ever questioned the probability of this episode? After all, it took me until the third iteration before it occurred to me to question it, and even then it wasn’t until I was in the middle of the translation that the thought popped into my head. We get all sorts of caveats from biblical scholars that the gospels aren’t history or biography– JD Crossan did exactly that at the beginning of The Birth of Christianity–but immediately the caveat is uttered, it’s forgotten and we’re treating every word in the gospel as an historical account–and a reliable historical account.

The questions have to be asked if we are to have any confidence that we have any clue about what happened. To the best of my knowledge, they have not been asked. 

54 Comprehendentes autem eum, duxerunt et introduxerunt in domum principis sacerdotum. Petrus vero sequebatur a longe.

55 Accenso autem igni in medio atrio et circumsedentibus illis, sedebat Petrus in medio eorum.

56 Quem cum vidisset ancilla quaedam sedentem ad lumen et eum fuisset intuita, dixit:

57 “Et hic cum illo erat!”. At ille negavit eum dicens:

58 “Mulier, non novi illum!”. Et post pusillum alius videns eum dixit: “Et tu de illis es!”. Petrus vero ait: “O homo, non sum!”.

59 Et intervallo facto quasi horae unius, alius quidam affirmabat dicens: “Vere et hic cum illo erat, nam et Galilaeus est!”.

60 Et ait Petrus: “Homo, nescio quid dicis!”. Et continuo adhuc illo loquente cantavit gallus.

61 καὶ στραφεὶς ὁ κύριος ἐνέβλεψεν τῷ Πέτρῳ, 

And the lord turned and looked at Peter

What!?!? I stopped where I did above because that was the end of the story. Or, it’s the end of the story in the other two. Here is a great example of what I was talking about in the previous comment. Even if we didn’t have the other two versions, as soon as we hit this verse I would have been completely skeptical. The logistics of this are virtually impossible, and simply fails the reasonableness test. It completely demolishes credibility, or my credulity, that this could happen. Peter followed at a distance, but when he caught up, Jesus is still in the courtyard? And he’s still there an hour later when the third accuser of Peter shows up? No, it’s just not at all reasonable. But, given the other two, whether we believe this as credible or not doesn’t matter. Here, I think, is another instance where Luke felt safe to throw in a curve ball because there are two other versions of the story. This is, I think, a great insight into the redactional strategy, or approach. He clarifies. He augments. He corrects. He abbreviates when a full version is not required because it’s ground that has been well-trodden by his predecessors. And this is a big reason I believe that Luke was indeed fully aware of Matthew. The so-called Q Material is a part of, but only a part of the overall question. Why Luke did or didn’t change stuff from Q doesn’t begin to address, let alone solve, whether Luke was aware of Matthew. And besides, the idea that we can actually know what Q said is simply preposterous on its face. How can we know what the original version of a non-existent document said? It’s like arguing that all unicorns were white until some became silver. Really.  No, the question is much bigger, and more complex than the handling, or mishandling of stuff that didn’t exist independently of Matthew. There is so much other stuff in the texts of the two or three gospels that needs to be examined. Like, why does Luke go long when Matthew goes short, and vice-versa?

61 καὶ στραφεὶς ὁ κύριος ἐνέβλεψεν τῷ Πέτρῳ, καὶ ὑπεμνήσθη ὁ Πέτρος τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ κυρίου ὡς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι Πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι σήμερον ἀπαρνήσῃ με τρίς:

62 καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἔξω ἔκλαυσεν πικρῶς.

And the lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the words (speech) of the lord as he said to him that, ‘Before the cock crows today you will deny me three times.” (62) And going outside he wept bitterly.

61 Et conversus Dominus respexit Petrum; et recordatus est Petrus verbi Domini, sicut dixit ei: “ Priusquam gallus cantet hodie, ter me negabis”.

62 Et egressus foras flevit amare.

This part is pretty much standard. Or is it? Even though the whole scenario beggars belief, we have to admit that the dramatic flair is very, well, dramatic. Can’t you envision? Peter looks at Jesus, who, of course, knows that Peter will do this. The make eye contact. Jesus’ expression anguished, and weary, and understanding, and yet forgiving. He is anguished that Peter has done this, he is anguished because he knows the anguish Peter is experiencing as he realizes what he has done. Jesus is weary, because, once again, fallible humans have proven to be so fallible. He is understanding because he understands that Peter is fallible, and human, and is torn with remorse over what he has done. And yet, Jesus is forgiving. Because, after all, he is Jesus. Look at what Luke got across in a few words. It’s powerful stuff, and you wonder why I consider Luke a novelist. 

But here is a funny point. The word << πικρῶς >>.  It occurs exactly twice. Here, and in Matthew 26:75. There, Matthew says that Peter went out “and wept bitterly”. The KJV translates Luke’s version as “he wept bitterly”. Well isn’t that just the darnedest thing?  A two-nique (like “unique”, but there are only two examples) word, used only by Matthew and Luke, in exactly the same way, in exactly the same point in the narrative in exactly the same words: << ἔξω ἔκλαυσεν πικρῶς >>. Those three words occur in exactly that order in both Matthew and Luke. But, the Passion Narrative is not part of Q. Huh. Quite the coincidence, no? This is what is called a “minor agreement”, wherein Matthew and Luke do pretty much what they do here. The degree of exactness may not be quite as high–it’s absolutely exact–as it is here, but pretty darn close. Actually, we’re coming up on another of these, when Jesus is in being “interrogated” by the guards. This one, however, seems to fly under the radar for the most part. I don’t recall ever having run across a reference to this one. Funny, that. Why on earth would the Q people conveniently overlook an exact word-for-word overlap? Except it’s worse than that. They usually manage to acknowledge the “minor agreements”, but I cannot recall what their explanation for these is. Later homogenization in scriptoria, where the mss were copied by hand all those centuries? Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that in The Birth of Christianity, JD Crossan brings up the topic of the minor agreements, but dismisses them with a breezy, now’s not the time to get into that (paraphrase), and that’s the last we hear of them so we can get on to a whole raft of suppositions and unsupported inferences that lead to conclusions that are accepted, even though they’ve scarcely been argued, let alone shown to be persuasive.   

63 Καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ συνέχοντες αὐτὸν ἐνέπαιζον αὐτῷ δέροντες,

64 καὶ περικαλύψαντες αὐτὸν ἐπηρώτων λέγοντες, Προφήτευσον, τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;

65 καὶ ἕτερα πολλα βλασφημοῦντες ἔλεγον εἰς αὐτόν. 

And the men holding him, beating (him) mocked (him), (64) and blindfolding him they demanded, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one striking you?” (65) And blaspheming many other ways they spoke to him.

This is actually the other minor agreement I mentioned above. Mark has the soldiers demand that Jesus prophesy; both Matthew and Luke have the soldiers demand that Jesus prophesy, but both also add, << τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;>>. Again it’s a verbatim quote. Apparently, the cause for these minor agreements is the existence of yet another unfound, uncited, unquoted, never-alluded-to text of Ur-Mark, or proto-Mark. Or they are just coincidence. Or they are just Matthew and Luke adapting Mark at exactly the same place using exactly the same words. Long story short: they can’t explain, and they don’t particularly feel the need to. Everybody knows that Q existed, so why won’t these whiners (like me) just shut up and go away and let them live in their land of make-believe?

Seriously, at some point I have to stop being a guy with a blog and start acting more like an actual scholar by behaving like a grown-up. At some point, I will. At some, as yet undetermined point. In the future.

One final thing. The whole episode is yet another example of Luke abridging a story that was fully told by both of his predecessors. 

63 Et viri, qui tenebant illum, illudebant ei caedentes;

64 et velaverunt eum et interrogabant eum dicentes: “Prophetiza: Quis est, qui te percussit?”.

65 Et alia multa blasphemantes dicebant in eum.

Luke Chapter 22:47-53

Note: I added a short addendum to the previous post, discussing “according to custom”. John’s gospel states that Jesus and the disciples had the custom/habit of going to the Mount of Olives.

This should be quick and concise. Jesus has just suffered through his Agony in the Garden, the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries. Unfortunately, we didn’t get here in time for Lent when the timing would have been ideal. Rather, it’s High Summer, and we’re on the downward path towards Christmas rather than Easter.

47 Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἰδοὺ ὄχλος, καὶ ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα προήρχετο αὐτούς, καὶ ἤγγισεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ φιλῆσαι αὐτόν.

48 Ἰησοῦς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἰούδα, φιλήματι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδως;

He was yet speaking (and) behold, a crowd, and Judas, one of the twelve approached them, and having drawn near Jesus kissed him. (48) Jesus said to him, “Judas, do you hand over the son man with a kiss?

This is interesting. I am accustomed to the question being, “Judas, must/do you betray me with a kiss?”. Let’s be honest; I am most familiar with the question as put in Jesus Christ Superstar, which I have heard probably thousands of times by now. Here, the question is put somewhat differently. In itself that is not surprising. What is truly surprising is that this is the only gospel in which Jesus actually asks the question at all. In truth, I find this hard to believe, but I checked the Harmony and each individual gospel, and it’s just not there. A great example of something “we know” that’s actually a fiction. In either case, “betray the son of man” vs “betray me” have very different connotations. The latter is personal, while the former is a cosmic in its implications. It’s also, and incidentally, a demonstration of the identity of Jesus and the Son of Man. Thinking back to the ambiguity surrounding this title in Mark, this is a fairly bold step. It is a powerful example of how the idea of Jesus had developed between Mark and Luke, and would continue to develop until Jesus became the Logos.

Can’t recall the context, but just ran across “hand over/betray” in a very mundane context in pagan Greek, where it simply meant “hand over”. As in “Each student hand over his/her paper to the teacher on the way out of the classroom”. That served as a very effective reminder that so many of the Greek words we encounter in the NT have very, very ordinary meanings and uses. This is one of the reasons I don’t like NT Lexica; they are too enclosed and self-referential. You will too often get the Christian usage of the word, which, while not wrong, is sometimes woefully incomplete. For example, if you look up Logos in an NT Lexicon, the first definition is often “word”; as in, “In the beginning was the Word”. Now “word” is a perfectly acceptable translation, but if you look it up in Liddell & Scott, “word” is in section VI, or possibly lower, so it’s not even in the top five categories of what the word can mean, let alone the top five definitions. The commentary in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges tells us that Tertullian, while providing the Latin sermo and verbum, seemed to prefer ratio. Of the prior two, verbum became the accepted translation, hence our “word”. The same commentary says “none of these translations is at all adequate”. I would much prefer ratio, because that would require something to be pondered. But the point here is that we do ourselves no favours by sticking too much to the NT Lexica for our translations. Too much is missed. Else, why would Mark in 7:4 talk about baptizing food bought at the market. Do you baptise your vegetables before you cook or eat them? Generally, I wash them, but I guess First Century Jews were in the habit of baptising theirs. 

47 Adhuc eo loquente, ecce turba; et, qui vocabatur Iudas, unus de Duodecim, antecedebat eos et appropinquavit Iesu, ut oscularetur eum.

48 Iesus autem dixit ei: “ Iuda, osculo Filium hominis tradis? ”.

49 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν τὸ ἐσόμενον εἶπαν, Κύριε, εἰ πατάξομεν ἐν μαχαίρῃ;

50 καὶ ἐπάταξεν εἷς τις ἐξ αὐτῶν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως τὸν δοῦλον καὶ ἀφεῖλεν τὸ οὖς αὐτοῦ τὸ δεξιόν.

51 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἐᾶτε ἕως τούτου: καὶ ἁψάμενος τοῦ ὠτίου ἰάσατο αὐτόν.

52 εἶπεν δὲ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς τοὺς παραγενομένους ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ στρατηγοὺς τοῦ ἱεροῦ καὶ πρεσβυτέρους, Ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν ἐξήλθατε μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων;

53 καθ’ ἡμέραν ὄντος μου μεθ’ ὑμῶν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ οὐκ ἐξετείνατε τὰς χεῖρας ἐπ’ ἐμέ: ἀλλ’ αὕτη ἐστὶν ὑμῶν ἡ ὥρα καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία τοῦ σκότους. 

And seeing those around him, he said “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” (50) And he smote one of those slaves of the chief priests, and cut off his right ear. (51) Answering, Jesus said, “Leave this now.” And touching the ear he healed it/him. (52) Jesus said to those being around the chief priests and the soldiers of the temple and elders, “How is it as a thief you come with swords and pieces of wood (i.e., clubs)? (53) Each day I was being with you in the temple (and) you did not lay hands upon me. But this is your hour and the power of the shadow.”

The Greek is pretty much literal, but that is not why it sounds so stilted in English. It comes off the way it does because where we would say “who had come against him”, which is what the crib translations all say, the Greek uses another verb that expresses the concept in a different way. The verb is literally, “being around”. Obviously, if they were around, they had come in a group. Secondly, both the Greek and the Latin describe those being around; the English is usually rendered “what was to happen”. Again, we can probably infer what was to happen based on those who were around them, but that is not the literal.

One of those with the two with swords–assuming the two swords were carried by different persons–actually asked permission to smite someone? “Shall we, Lord?” But then does so, without waiting for permission to be granted? That’s novel. Where did that come from? But more on that in a moment. The point I wanted to make back in the previous section, when the disciples showed Jesus two swords is that this really messes with the story and the ramifications that come–or, more precisely, don’t–come out of this event. Attacking the retinue of such an authority was a capital offense, and the justice was apt to be summary. Granted, these are not Romans, because that is most likely how they would have reacted. This band belongs to the Temple, the priests and elders, so their latitude of action is a bit more circumscribed than that of the Romans. However. There is no way that this deed would not have resulted in the arrest of the entire group of disciples. It just strains credulity. These sorts of groups were not known for their perspicacity and their restraint. Stab first, ask questions later, and no one would seriously question killing a commoner in what was legitimately self-defence. They struck first. Really, I should have noted the same thing when we discussed this act in Mark and Matthew, but it really hadn’t occurred to me until the disciples presented two swords. Just having such weapons was probably enough to warrant arrest, and they would give you a fair trial before finding you guilty and executing you. The trial would have gone something like,




“He had a sword”.

“Crucify him. Next.” 

End of trial, and end of transgressor, forthwith. 

On these lines I have repeatedly stated that I do not believe Jesus was executed as a bandit, or a revolutionary, or even as a threat to the power structure. I believe this because Peter and James and someone named John were still around to talk to Paul sometime in the 50s. Peter’s denial would not have happened, because the first person to recognise him would have called the guard and that would have been that for Peter. Or, it would not have come to that because he would have been arrested in the Garden with Jesus. The other aspect to this is that the chief priests served at the pleasure of Rome. Failure to take such a threat as Jesus supposedly posed seriously enough to round up the whole gang would not have gone over well with Pilate. The Romans would have made a sweep, arrested some likely suspects, executed the lot, and then deposed Caiaphas & Co for running such a slovenly security service. They probably wouldn’t have executed Caiaphas, but they may have, if someone came forward to accuse him. And anyone who’s actually read Tacitus–and not just the couple of paragraphs about Christians–will understand what was happening in Rome, and what the term delatores means, and what it implies. (Hint: it means informant. It implies that there was money to be made by lodging accusations against prominent individuals. Sure, sure, that was Rome, but that’s where Pilate was headed after his term of office was over. Were someone to tell Tiberius that Pilate coddled revolutionaries…)

“The power of the shadow”. Nice. Nice and ominous. And novel.

Which brings us to this question: why is there no discussion about these sorts of changes made by Luke? Why do we not have to provide redactionally consistent arguments to account for every little variation from Mark or Matthew? Yes, the question is facetious, but only to a degree. The Q people are extremely whimsical and inconsistent about the changes allowed, and the changes not allowed from Matthew. There is never any acknowledgement that Luke changed Matthew because there was no point in writing another gospel and not changing anything. Changing stuff, adding stuff, are precisely the reasons one undertakes to write a third gospel. I had intended to bring this up with the discussion of “according to custom” when they went out to the Mount of Olives. It’s brand new, it’s unique, is it amenable to an explanation that is redactionally consistent with other changes made? I don’t know. But I’m just some guy with a blog; I’m not a renowned biblical scholar. But then, I’ve asked the question, and they haven’t. Why is that? Hint: I believe it has to do with using an NT Lexicon rather than the big Liddell & Scott.

49 Videntes autem hi, qui circa ipsum erant, quod futurum erat, dixerunt: “Domine, si percutimus in gladio?”.

50 Et percussit unus ex illis servum principis sacerdotum et amputavit auriculam eius dextram.

51 Respondens autem Iesus ait: “Sinite usque huc!”. Et cum tetigisset auriculam eius, sanavit eum.

52 Dixit autem Iesus ad eos, qui venerant ad se principes sacerdotum et magistratus templi et seniores: “Quasi ad latronem existis cum gladiis et fustibus?

53 Cum cotidie vobiscum fuerim in templo, non extendistis manus in me; sed haec est hora vestra et potestas tenebrarum”.

Luke Chapter 22:31-46 with addendum

We are moving towards the end of the Lord’s Supper. We just had the discussion about who was to be the greatest in Heaven, and Jesus said the greatest was the servant of all. Hence the Papal motto: Servus Servorum Dei; Servant of the Servants of God. That section was moved radically from the context of Mark and Matthew, who both placed it in the immediate aftermath of the Transfiguration. Why the move? And does my explanation have to be redactionally consistent in why Luke changed Matthew? Or, since he changed the placement of Mark too, does that obviate the need for an explanation? Since I just went back and re-summarized the middle of Luke 4, this topic is in the front of my mind. I forget; since Matthew omitted the story of the Unclean Spirit, do the Q people have to have a redactionally consistent explanation for why he did that? Or is asking the question facetious? And, if the answer is yes, does that matter? A question is valid or not on its merits. If we need to explain the changes made to Luke–and we do, for reasons that are never fully developed; we just have to–then why is such an explanation not need for changes Matthew made to Mark?

Part of the problem is that, at root, the gospels are not really a persistent narrative. There is a general outline of (birth), baptism, ministry, events in Jerusalem which include crucifixion and resurrection. Other than that, it is entirely possible to take blocks of stories. cut them into individual pieces, and then reassemble in some random order. Yes, this does violence to the split narratives of Mark, such as the cursing of the fig tree, the intervening bit, and then finding the fig tree withered later in the day. The Bleeding Woman is similarly placed between the beginning and end of the Jairus’ daughter pericope. Still, even taking Mark’s A-B-A format as a single unit, there is very little continuity of narrative between these blocks of story. This is a real key into the way the narrative developed: as individual stories that were collected and cobbled together. In Mark, I suggested they fit into two overall themes, that of the Wonder Worker and that of the Christ; within those themes, however, the stories are highly moveable. In Mark, the Tale of Legion and Jairus’ Daughter/Bleeding Woman are the longest stories told by Mark, and are situated more or less in the middle of the gospel, which probably has some literary significance. But, as we saw in Chapter 4, or here, a story can be moved whole from one place to another with little difference. There may be stylistic preferences for here rather than there, but that is all they are.

On the other hand, this lack of narrative continuity produces instances of almost jarring narrative discontinuity. The progression from one story to the next is so arbitrary and graceless that effect is puzzling. I’ve mentioned this numerous times when the transition is particularly abrupt. Interestingly, my first take on the the movement from Jesus talking about serving in the last section to Jesus predicting the betrayal of Peter seemed particularly rough. Closer consideration, however, has led me to rethink that judgement. I’ll discuss in the first comment.


31 Σίμων Σίμων, ἰδοὺ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἐξῃτήσατο ὑμᾶς τοῦ σινιάσαι ὡς τὸν σῖτον:

32 ἐγὼ δὲ ἐδεήθην περὶ σοῦ ἵνα μὴ ἐκλίπῃ ἡ πίστις σου: καὶ σύ ποτε ἐπιστρέψας στήρισον τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου.

33 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, μετὰ σοῦ ἕτοιμός εἰμι καὶ εἰς φυλακὴν καὶ εἰς θάνατον πορεύεσθαι.

34 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Λέγω σοι, Πέτρε, οὐ φωνήσει σήμερον ἀλέκτωρ ἕως τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ εἰδέναι.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded you (plural) to sift as grain. (32) But I beg about you so that you may not abandon your faith. And when you have retuned, you will strengthen your brothers.” (33) He (Peter) said to him (Jesus), “Lord, with you I am prepared to follow you to prison and to death”. (34) But he (Jesus) said, “I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today before you have denied to know me three times”.

OK, let’s consider this transition. In one breath, Jesus is discussing being a servant and in the next he is being all cagey with Peter about what he is about to do, “knowing” as he does what will happen. All things considered this is rather a slick segue. The two parts do not really fit; we have moved from one subject to another, that of being a servant to discussing Peter’s faith before predicting the latter’s coming betrayal. But the last bit of Verse 32 very cleverly brings us back around. This part that Peter will bolster his brothers is another way to say that he will help them, which is to say that he will be their servant. So we have the full circle. Now, we’ve been told many times by now that Matthew’s arrangement of the Q material is “masterful”, whereas that of Luke, by implication, leaves a bit to be desired. This, however, from a stylistic point of view, is very well done. It could be ascribed tp a single flash of brilliance on Luke’s part, something done once and not repeated, whereas Matthew is masterful throughout his gospel. Perhaps. 

Something much more important, however, lurks in the background here. Of course we all remember the “Thou art Peter” line. I was perfectly willing to slough this off as an interpolation inserted at the behest and the direction of one of the later Bishops of Rome These bishops are the most likely candidates to perpetuate, or even initiate, the tradition that Peter went to Rome and became the first bishop there. Mind, there is no evidence for this aside from that convenient and self-serving piece of propaganda, which should be immediately suspect for exactly those reasons. This was the attitude of most of the Protestant scholars in the 16th Century. While they may not have called it an interpolation, since manuscript traditions and textual analysis had not been invented quite yet, they were nonetheless very skeptical that Peter had in any way been elevated above the others. But–and this is huge–does Peter returning to strengthen his brothers echo this same sentiment? Does it give Peter something of an outsized role in what is to come later? Is Luke, in fact, making an oblique reference to that line in Matthew here? Annoyingly, I believe I just read something JD Crossan wrote about this passage, but I was not familiar enough with it for whatever he said to make sense and so stick in my memory. The book of his I’m reading is The Birth of Christianity; I’m not quite halfway through, but that still means it was somewhere in the first 300 pages, and the index is not very helpful.But the point is I want to credit Crossan with the suggestion and agree that such a reading is entirely possible. And, BTW, this would be a serious blow to Q; where did Luke get the idea of Peter being above the rest? That is a significant question since Peter will play a very large role in the early part of Acts. 

31 Simon, Simon, ecce Satanas expetivit vos, ut cribraret sicut triticum;

32 ego autem rogavi pro te, ut non deficiat fides tua. Et tu, aliquando conversus, confirma fratres tuos”.

33 Qui dixit ei: “Domine, tecum paratus sum et in carcerem et in mortem ire”.

34 Et ille dixit:Dico tibi, Petre, non cantabit hodie gallus, donec ter abneges nosse me”.

35 Καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οτε ἀπέστειλα ὑμᾶς ἄτερ βαλλαντίου καὶ πήρας καὶ ὑποδημάτων, μή τινος ὑστερήσατε; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐθενός.

36 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἀλλὰ νῦν ὁ ἔχων βαλλάντιον ἀράτω, ὁμοίως καὶ πήραν, καὶ ὁ μὴ ἔχων πωλησάτω τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀγορασάτω μάχαιραν.

37 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι τοῦτο τὸ γεγραμμένον δεῖ τελεσθῆναι ἐν ἐμοί, τὸ Καὶ μετὰ ἀνόμων ἐλογίσθη: καὶ γὰρ τὸ περὶ ἐμοῦ τέλος ἔχει.

38 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Κύριε, ἰδοὺ μάχαιραι ὧδε δύο. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἱκανόν ἐστιν.

He said to them, “When I sent you (aposteila)out without a bag, and money, and sandals, did you want for anything?” They said, “Nothing”. (36) And he said to them, “But now the one having a bag/purse and money, let him take it up, and let the one not having (either) sell his cloak and buy a sword. (37) For I say to you that what is written must be fulfill in me/thru me/by me*, ‘And he shall be numbered among the lawless; and the one around me has (his) end’.” (38) They said to him, “Lord, behold, here (are) two”. He said to them, “That is enough.” (39) 

*The literal meaning is “in”, but all are possible readings. For once I’m not sure being strictly literal is the best reading, even though NIV, ESV, NASB, and KJV all use “in”. I’ve been reading a fair bit of classical Greek of late (Herodotus & Xenophon), and “en” has a broader meaning than just “in”.

This is interesting. Buy a sword? We have two? The tradition of one of Jesus’ followers smiting a slave of the high priest with a sword goes back to Mark and is repeated by Matthew, so it’s firmly entrenched in the legend. I want to talk about this further, but perhaps best to wait until we get to that scene; it presents all sorts of implications. But mentioning the swords here is a foreshadow of what is to come. It is preparation for that event. Let’s face it: in Mark, the sword comes more or less from nowhere, and we’re sort of left to wonder who had a sword and why. Here, Luke lets us know that his group is armed and ready. The question is why?

Beyond that, however, is the question of continuity. We jumped here from Peter denying Jesus three times. And then we go to talking about swords. Moving from Verse 34 to Verse 35, and between Verses 35 & 36, each time we encounter a joint or a seam where two separate pieces are put together, and not always “seamlessly” as they say in the business world, where the change or transition is not supposed to be noticed by the customer. These are the sorts of things that all too often get lost in the context of discussing redactionally consistent explanations, and whether something is ethical or apocalyptic eschatology. Why do these occur? What do they represent? What do they tell us about the text? Or about the way the text is constructed? Luke apparently felt that there was sufficient continuity to allow him to make these transitions, but I disagree. Do you have thoughts? On which side do you fall? Do you not agree that these are seams in the narrative. Having written fiction, I can tell you that awkward moments such as these generally result from trying to force in an explanatory passage so than an event occurring later in the text will make sense. Which is pretty much the situation here.

The point here is that we get a peek at Luke shaping the text to fit his development of the story. He found the later appearance of the sword to be jarring, so he explained it ahead of time. What insight, if any, does this give us into Luke’s overall conception of the story he’s telling, of how he conceives Jesus? In my opinion, this provides no such insight. It’s the act of a novelist trying to add credibility to the narrative. It has nothing to do with how Luke views Jesus, whether he’s presenting ethical or apocalyptic eschatology. It’s a simple narrative technique. Reading the Birth of Christianity has driven home the degree to which modern scholars have overthought so much of the NT narrative. To get the degree of consistency that is pulled from the gospel texts is much like pulling a rabbit from a hat. How many drafts of their respective gospels did the evangelists each write? How many would be required to produce the sort of consistency that is purported to exist in Matthew and the way he so masterfully handled the Q material? Or did he just get it all correct the first time through? Anyone who’s ever written a text longer than 10 or 15 pages can tell you that all sorts of contradictions in thinking creep in, especially if the text is written over a period of days, or weeks, and certainly over months. I have doubtless contradicted myself any number of times in my commentary, and these will–can–only be found by re-reading and correcting. Again, I don’t have answers, but it is vital that we ask these questions. I was very excited to read Birth of Christianity, the subtitle of which is Discovering What Happened In The Years Immediately After The Execution Of Jesus. This is a very important question, which has gotten all-too-little attention. What did happen between Jesus and Paul, and then between Paul and Mark, and then Mark and Matthew and then Luke? I’m now 300 pages into a 600-page book, and Crossan has said pretty much nothing about this. Nothing. It’s an incredible feat of diversion and distraction and evasion. But it is exactly seams like we’ve just encountered where we can begin to pull back the veneer and see the mechanisms of writing. The only evidence we have for what happened after Jesus is the texts. They do not tell us directly, but the changes between each text, and each group of texts, can start to provide hints. 

35 Et dixit eis:Quando misi vos sine sacculo et pera et calceamentis, numquid aliquid defuit vobis?”. At illi dixerunt: “Nihil”.

36 Dixit ergo eis: “Sed nunc, qui habet sacculum, tollat, similiter et peram; et, qui non habet, vendat tunicam suam et emat gladium.

37 Dico enim vobis: Hoc, quod scriptum est, oportet impleri in me, illud: ‘Cum iniustis deputatus est’. Etenim ea, quae sunt de me, adimpletionem habent”.

38 At illi dixerunt: “Domine, ecce gladii duo hic”. At ille dixit eis: “Satis est”.

39 Καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη κατὰ τὸ ἔθος εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν: ἠκολούθησαν δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ οἱ μαθηταί.

40 γενόμενος δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ τόπου εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Προσεύχεσθε μὴ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς πειρασμόν.

And leaving, they went out according to custom to the Mount of Olives; his disciples followed him. (40) Becoming upon a spot, he said to them, “Pray that the trial does not come”.

“According to custom”. What does that mean? Apparently no one really knows, or is not saying. One commentator suggests that we mix in stuff from John or Matthew because Luke has abbreviated his account and so confused the narrative. But seriously, what was the custom? Going to the Mount of Olives? Going out to pray after the Seder? Jesus may have commemorated other Seders with his disciples, but this is supposedly the only time they were in Jerusalem as a group. Of course, that simply may not be true. Marking Passover in Jerusalem was something that Jews tried to do, which is why the city swelled with visitors every year. Galilee was not that far from Jerusalem, so it’s entirely possible that Jesus went there other years, or even (at least almost) every year. See, this is the sort of extrapolation from a text that historians try to do. The text says something; does it imply others? If so what? So maybe Jesus did have a custom of going out to the Mount of Olives after the Seder each year.

[Note! I was glancing at John, looking for something else when I noticed something. As they leave the Seder and go to the Mount of Olives, John explicitly states that Jesus had the custom of going there with his disciples. This opens a whole new avenue of implications; the most intriguing one, however, is that John added this because he was aware of Luke’s “according to custom”. It also implies that Jesus and the disciples spent enough time in Jerusalem to develop this custom. As such, perhaps my suggestion that they commemorated Passover in Jerusalem more than once wasn’t so far off. Or, more likely, the whole episode is invented and details like this were inserted here, and by John, to explain away loose ends in the earlier narratives.  

Now, the problem with this is that Luke is the only one to say this. Was Luke privy to some super-secret tradition known only to him that relayed how Jesus did this every year? In the words of Eliza Doolittle, perhaps, “not bloody likely”. The idea that such a detail made its way to Luke–and only Luke–some fifty years after the event is difficult to envision. What sort of line of transmission would be required for this to happen? What are the odds of such a line being constructed in real time? This matters because the same questions will arise about John’s gospel, which is full of all sorts of anecdotes and details not to be found elsewhere. So, for John, was there a single roaring stream of transmission that recorded all the details, stemming from the “eyewitnesses” from whom he claims to have gotten the information? Or were there a dozen or more little streams, trickles, each carrying a single detail, or story, such as the Wedding at Cana? Which is more plausible?*

Also note, there is nothing about Peter, James, and John going off a little way from the others. What does this mean? IMO, this would be another example of Luke’s compression of a narrative that has been gone over sufficiently in the other two gospels. This thesis only makes sense if we infer that Luke was familiar with two other narratives; bear in mind the contrapositive to this, that Luke provides a full narrative, one much more like Mark’s, when Matthew is abbreviated. The story of the Gerasene Demoniac is a great example. It is possibly the longest story in Mark (Passion excluded), but Matthew cut it perhaps by 40-50%. Luke restored the longer narrative. We have encountered numerous times when Luke abridges the story when, but only when, both Mark and Matthew have given a lengthy account.

*Honestly, the first one is; it has a .0009 likelihood vs a .0007% probability. No, the numbers are not calculated, but I will aver that they are in the general ballpark.

39 Et egressus ibat secundum consuetudinem in montem Olivarum; secuti sunt autem illum et discipuli.

40 Et cum pervenisset ad locum, dixit illis: “Orate, ne intretis in tentationem”.

41 καὶ αὐτὸς ἀπεσπάσθη ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λίθου βολήν, καὶ θεὶς τὰ γόνατα προσηύχετο

42 λέγων, Πάτερ, εἰ βούλει παρένεγκε τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ: πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γινέσθω.

43 [[ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτόν.

44 καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο: καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.]]

And he separated* from then about the cast of a stone, and placing himself on his knees he prayed, (42) saying, “Father, if you wish turn aside this cup from me. Except let not my will but that of you become”. [[ (43) An angel from the sky was seen (putting) strength in him. (44) And it came to be in his agony he prayed more fervently. And it became that his sweat (was) as drops of blood falling to the ground. ]]

Note that the part within the [[43 & 44 ]] is not included in all mss traditions, but it is included in most translations. The KJV has it, as do all the other modern versions. This implies that it is the dominant reading, but there seems something of a problem here. “An angel was seen…” By whom? That strikes me as the comment of an outside observer, such as a scribe copying the manuscript in front of him. The angel was seen by the clerk. But, this is the majority reading, so there you are. Of course, the majority can be wrong, too. There was an old text of Isaiah found recently (within the past 20 years) in which a fairly long section was missing. Turns out that the four or five sentences, which had been understood as original for centuries if not millennia was an marginal gloss/interpolation that became included in the text, and had been read that way for a very long time.

Note the detail about sweating blood. This was a common motif/detail in most religious paintings of this scene, but only Luke has it. Again, another instance of his novelist’s instincts, of his flair for the dramatic detail.

PS: “he separated”. The noun form of this word is a synonym for “eunuch”.

41 Et ipse avulsus est ab eis, quantum iactus est lapidis, et, positis genibus, orabat

42 dicens: “ Pater, si vis, transfer calicem istum a me; verumtamen non mea voluntas sed tua fiat ”.

43 Apparuit autem illi angelus de caelo confortans eum. Et factus in agonia prolixius orabat.

44 Et factus est sudor eius sicut guttae sanguinis decurrentis in terram.

45 καὶ ἀναστὰς ἀπὸ τῆς προσευχῆς ἐλθὼν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εὗρεν κοιμωμένους αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης,

46 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί καθεύδετε; ἀναστάντες προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν. 

And having stood up from the prayer coming to the disciples he found them sleeping from sorrow. (46) And he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Stand up and pray, so that you do not come into the trial.

First, the “sleeping from sorrow”. This, too, is unique to Luke. But more than just the curious addition of a detail, this also sort of represents the completion of the rehabilitation of the disciples from Mark’s portrayal of them. In Mark, the disciples are most often dullards and weak, a group that frequently drew the ire of Jesus. Here, they are still found sleeping, but from sorrow. Of what? They have no idea what is about to happen. Or had they read Mark and Matthew by this time? 

Also note that Jesus only goes off to pray once. In M&M, this happens three times. So once again, I am presenting a redactionally consistent explanation of when Luke cuts stuff. He goes long when Matthew went short & vice versa as here: he goes short when Matthew told the whole story.

45 Et cum surrexisset ab oratione et venisset ad discipulos, invenit eos dormientes prae tristitia

46 et ait illis: “ Quid dormitis? Surgite; orate, ne intretis in tentationem ”.

Luke Chapter 4:14-37 Summary

Note: This post was added long after the original post and summary of Chapter 4.

This particular section is significant because it provides Luke’s introduction to the public ministry of Jesus. In the initial commentary to the section, I did not pay much attention to this aspect of the text; looking back now, this was an oversight, one in dire need of revision because it throws a lot of insight on the interrelationship of all three Synoptic gospels. To set the stage, Matthew and Luke have extensive birth narratives, that of Luke being the longest. Following that, all three present their version of the Baptism, and then the Temptation by Satan/the devil in the wilderness; then we have the stories of Jesus calling his first three disciples, so this is by no means the first we see of Jesus. Indeed, this is not even the first indication that Jesus had become what can be called an itinerant preacher, since all three gospels tell us that Jesus began to preach the good news throughout Galilee. But in this section, corresponding to Mark 1:21 and Matthew 5:1.

It is worth noting that Mark and Luke specifically tell us that their version of the first story of Jesus interacting with a crowd took place in a synagogue. Matthew, sites his first in-depth pericope in some indefinite location, on a non-specified mountain in a non-specified area, which is presumably still in Galilee. Matthew also varies from the other two by telling us that, as he preached, he also healed many, curing them of unclean spirits and various diseases. Of the three, Luke most resembles Mark in this telling, but he does not fully agree with Mark. So really, what we have are three different versions of the tale of Jesus’ first recorded interaction with the public. Matthew sort of tips his hat to Mark with the preliminary comments about healings and preachings, but he begins in earnest with the Sermon on the Mount. Mark starts with Jesus expelling an unclean spirit in a synagogue in Caphernaum. Luke starts with Jesus expounding on Isaiah at a synagogue in Nazareth, but then moves on to Jesus expelling unclean spirit in Caphernaum. What are the implications? My suspicion is that the three different approaches to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry a shed some light on the overall approach that each evangelist took throughout their respective gospel.

First, let us point out that Mark implies that Jesus resided in Caphernaum. In the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof, Jesus is said to be in Caphernaum, and news got out that he was at home. This is known as internal evidence within a text. It provides two pieces of information from which a third can be deduced; whether the deduction is factually accurate, however, is entirely another question. Was Mark even aware he had made the implication? Would it have mattered to him if he had? In either case, Matthew goes further and definitively states that, having left Nazareth, Jesus settled in Caphernaum. Here, the internal evidence is that there was a strong tradition associating Jesus with Caphernaum. Since this does not square with Matthew’s assertion that Jesus was from Nazareth, Matthew realised he had to account for why Jesus spent so much time in Caphernaum.

Luke makes no mention of such a relocation. So not only do we have a difference in the way the topic of Jesus’ career is introduced, we have something of a factual dispute as well. Long-term readers may recall that my personal opinion is that Jesus was not from Nazareth, but from Caphernaum. This locale, after all, is where most of the early part of Jesus’ career takes place. Mark mentions the town four times; twice in Chapter 1. The first is the opening line stating that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee. The other three times are all direct speech; the unclean spirit driven in the synagogue states Jesus was a Nazarene; Peter is accused of being with Jesus of Nazareth after the latter had been arrested; and the young man in white sitting in the tomb in Chapter 16 talks of Jesus of Nazareth. This latter may not count, since Chapter 16 may be a later addition. Regardless, all three of these uses are a toponym, meant to provide Jesus’ provenance. All three could easily be later interpolations, especially since the earliest texts of Mark date from the 3rd or 4th Century, whereas scraps of Matthew have been found dating likely from the late First Century. This is significant because Matthew, really, is the one who first provides the “biographical” information on Jesus life: his father’s name, his hometown, and his birthplace. Regarding the last two, Matthew underscores how the locations were foretold by using a quote from HS. He also provides a quote from HS to foretell the Flight to Egypt, and the completely fictitious Slaughter of the Innocents. Did he invent such an horrific event as an excuse to use the quote about Rachel weeping for her children? This should lead one to ask whether Matthew invented Bethlehem and Nazareth to give him reason to use the quote, “He shall be called a Nazarene”. This leaves us with the likelihood that Matthew was making stuff up in order to retrofit some quotes from the HS. Anyone who is willing to invent the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents does not inspire trust in his credibility in my book. If he doesn’t flinch at making up a story like that, why should we trust him on Bethlehem and Nazareth?

It’s worth pointing out that none of Paul’s letters provide any hint of where Jesus was from. Not only does Paul, nor anyone writing in his name, not mention Nazareth, Paul never even mentions Galilee. All of the references to the town and the region come from the gospels and Acts. More, and by a large margin, most of the references to Galilee are from Luke and John, outnumbering the references in Mark and Matthew by something approaching a 2:1 margin. It appears a half-dozen or so in Mark, maybe twice that in Matthew and almost twice as much in the last two gospels. What does this tell us? It tells us that the tradition of his birthplace was functionally nonexistent when Paul wrote, almost nonexistent when Mark wrote, that Matthew lodged it firmly, and by the time the last two wrote it was a commonplace, enough to get it retrofitted into Mark at a much later date. By “functionally nonexistent”, I mean that we do not know if Paul knew Jesus’ place of birth; however, if he did know, he did not see the relevance of mentioning it. While we’re at it, he did not see the relevance of telling us why Jesus was executed, either. Such mundane details were simply irrelevant, and so there is no difference between this status and a situation where Paul did not know. Hence, the tradition functioned exactly as if Paul was not aware of either piece of knowledge, whether he knew them or not. Mark mentions Nazareth a few times, and certainly references Galilee, but we saw that the references to Nazareth are offhand and not at all integral to the story. In fact, in Chapter 6, when Jesus returns to his home town, Mark fails to tell us the name of this town. Did Mark not know? Or did he not care?  Luke is very explicit to name the town. The internal evidence of the text here implies that Luke thought it very important to tell his audience, which implies that it had become a more important part of the identity of Jesus as time progressed. Which is another way of saying that it was not terribly important at the outset, as Paul and Mark demonstrate.

All that being said, I believe there is at least a possibility that Jesus did actually come from Galilee. We are told that Mary Magdalene and several other women followed Jesus to Jerusalem from Galilee, where they had ministered to him. This is in Mark 15:40, during the Passion Narrative. This is the first time Magdalene is mentioned and note that it’s in conjunction with the Passion Narrative. Magdalene, heretofore unmentioned, suddenly appears at the foot of the cross. More, she plays a prominent role thereafter, being the first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection. She is also the first of the several women to be named, and the only one who has never been accused of being part of Jesus’ extended family. Note that Mary the mother of Jesus is not mentioned, although numerous arguments to identify her with Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses have been put forward. They may even be accurate. So why does Magdalene get top billing? It says the women collectively ministered to Jesus in Galilee; diakōnē is the word used. We have encountered the word several times; at base it’s a term for a servant, but for once I’m going to take the broader koinē definition of it meaning “to minister to/to care for”. We can even stretch this to mean “to be a host”, as in, have someone stay in your house while you provide for your guest. (The guest/host relationship was a very important one in the ancient world, entailing all sorts of obligations. The same word was used in Greek for either side of the relationship, but what it was escapes me at the moment.) What I suspect is that Magdalene was a well-off widow who provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples. I suspect she had a hand in commissioning the writing of the Passion Narrative, but that is really stretching it. But, as a Galilean, she saw to it that both Mark and Matthew have Jesus tell the disciples that, after he has risen, he will go on ahead of them to Galilee.

There are a couple of points hiding here. First, note that some would argue that the Passion Narrative predated Mark. There is nothing intrinsically impossible about this, nor really anything terribly implausible, either. However,  should this be the case, we have to ask why a story of Jesus’ death was considered more important than a story of Jesus’ life. The answer, of course, is that we need to know about Jesus’ death so we can use it as an entry point into talking about the Resurrection, which was the real heart of the story. Also, where the narrative started is important, too. After all, a story that starts, say, with the Last Supper–which was part of the Jesus tradition as early as Paul–would completely skip over the entire body of marvels and wonders Jesus wrought, but it would also completely skip over all of Jesus’ teaching. This is actually consistent with Paul, who did essentially the same thing: he ignored virtually all of Jesus’ teaching and miracles and was concerned only about Jesus’ resurrection. We do not need to consider whether the creator of the Passion Narrative knew of Paul or not. This doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they both take the same attitude towards what was important about Jesus: that he rose from the dead. The other point is that this could be the beginning of the tradition that situated Jesus in Galilee, whence came Nazareth and Caphernaum. Now, it is not at all necessary that Jesus actually came from Galilee just because the Magdalene did, and that she had ministered to them in Galilee. It makes life simpler if they both did come from Galilee, but Jesus could have wandered in from some other place. After all, the baptism took place in the Jordan, which could have put Jesus some distance from Galilee. Just because it would make like easier if they both came from Galilee, that is not evidence that Jesus did. In closing, it is only just to mention that the idea of a pre-Markan Passion Narrative is no longer a popular position.

To get back to our comparison of stories the three stories of Jesus’ debut, we have Mark’s implication, and Matthew’s statement that Jesus in fact moved to Caphernaum. Luke follows neither. Now, when Luke does not follow Mark in placing a pericope in its proper Markan context, this is considered evidence for Q. Frankly, I don’t understand the connexion, but the Q people do and theirs is the only opinion that matters. However, when Matthew completely omits a pericope found in Mark–which he almost never does– nothing is said about it except perhaps, “Well of course, Matthew omitted it; his arrangement is ‘masterful’.” And so Matthew omits the story of the Unclean Spirit.

Luke puts the story back, even if he does rework it a bit. Luke completely uproots the story of the Prophet Dishonoured from later in the narrative and places it here, where it is coupled with Jesus expounding on a text of Isaiah in the synagogue. In my IOW FWIW, putting this altogether reinforces the story as a whole. In neither Mark nor Matthew do we get any description of what Jesus was explaining that caused the crowd to get all huffy and so cause them to question the authority of someone who, after all, they had seen grow up. Unlike the other two, Luke does not mention Jesus’ brothers, but he does do something unusual. In both Mark & Matthew, the onlookers say, “Is this not the son of Mary?” Here, Luke has them ask, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” More, Luke does not refer to Jesus as the son of a craftsman, (teknēs). In the Commentary to the sections covering these verses and the chapter summary, I touched on the fact that Luke is repeating Matthew in material that is never considered to be part of Q since most of these concern the birth narratives. The name of Joseph is a prominent part of this, occurring in Matthew and Luke and nowhere else. So the question is, as always, where did Luke get the name? Oral tradition? Sure, but once again we are ascribing transmission to a source that cannot be verified when in fact we have a completely verifiable source available to us: Matthew. And note that Matthew does not mention Joseph outside of the birth narrative. He plays his role there and then disappears, never to be heard from again. In Chapter 13, where Matthew recounts his version of the Prophet Without Honour, he follows Mark and refers to Jesus as the son of Mary.

Here, I think, is another instance where Luke feels free to chart his own course because Mark and Matthew have already covered the ground in sufficient detail. There is no need to mention Mary, or Jesus’ siblings because that has all been done. In fact, there are positive reasons why Luke would want to remove some of that material. First, the failure of Mark to mention a human father–or any father–for Jesus opened the door to charges that Jesus was a bastard. We know this, because of the tradition that Jesus’ father was a Roman soldier named Pantera; in fact, James Tabor, a professor at UNC-Charlotte, has written that we have actually found the grave of Pantera in…I believe it was Germany, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that the charge was levied and so Matthew felt the need to counter by coming up with Joseph. But, as mentioned, after the return from Egypt, Joseph is never seen again, even in Matthew’s version of the Return to Hometown. Luke, OTOH sees the opportunity to correct the record, so he has the onlookers refer to Jesus as the “son of Joseph”. The craftsman part is not necessary because that was in M&M. Now, there is absolutely no reason why Luke could not have decided to emphasize Joseph in this scene being wholly unaware of Matthew. Mark said “Mary”, so Luke says “Joseph” to affirm that Jesus did have two parents. But: the omission of teknēs strikes me as a clue. Mark and Matthew say that Jesus was the son of Mary and the teknēs (a different case is used by Matthew); Luke says he is the son of Joseph. My sense is that if Luke was not aware of Matthew, he would have added that Jesus was the son of Joseph, the craftsman. That is speculation, of course. and impervious to proof, but pretty much everything discussed in these pages–and in Jesus scholarship as a whole–is impervious to proof as well. But still, I believe it fits a pattern, which means we’re on our way to creating a “redactionally consistent” theory.

Then we actually come to the meat of the story. In it, Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah. Finished, he declared that the passage had been fulfilled. No one will dispute that the Jesus presented by Matthew is unquestionably divine. After all, a star announced his birth; it was an event of cosmic importance. Note what Luke does here; essentially, he goes two-up on Matthew. With all his references to HS, Matthew oddly neglects to nail down Jesus’ identity by providing a quote foretelling the event of Jesus’ coming. Yes, there is John the Baptist back in Chapter 3, but that’s rather weak tea. Here, Luke is much more explicit, and doubly so by having Jesus state it himself. So once again, it seems like Luke may be fully aware of Matthew, but without feeling the need to be a pale imitation of Matthew. After all, Matthew’s gospel already existed; why just re-tell it? Why go to the trouble of writing an entirely new gospel if you’re not going to say something new?

Finally, we get back to the man with the unclean spirit. This episode, as in Mark, takes place in Caphernaum. The climax of the story is the demon declaring, “I know who you are! The holy one of God!” Now, this isn’t as dramatic as it could be, and I’m surprised that someone with the novelist’s instincts of Luke did not think of it. Why not have the demon proclaim him the Christ? That would truly have capped off the story with a bang. The declaration of Jesus as the Christ does happen in the chapter; twice, in fact, and both times by demons, who can be considered impartial witnesses. Sort of. One can argue that it gets them off the hook if they are expelled by no less an entity as The Christ, but whatever. Using demons to make the proclamation impressed me until just now, when I stopped to consider whether demons had anything to be gained by declaring Jesus to be the Christ. These proclamations occur at the end of the chapter, after Jesus expelled the unclean spirit in the synagogue, had healed Simon’s mother-in-law so she could make them sandwiches, and then after exorcising more unspecified demons at the end of the chapter. So what we have in the second half of Chapter 4 is Jesus making his proclamation which is followed by several wonders, the expulsion of an unclean spirits, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, all topped off by the expulsion of an unspecified number of other demons, some or all of which declare Jesus to be the son of God and/or The Christ*.

So in this passage, Luke displays a keen awareness of Matthew by first correcting him and then going one-up on Matthew. Luke leaves out the move to Caphernaum, which is also at least implied in Mark, and stresses that Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth. One can counter that my position here stretches things a bit, that it’s a reach to claim that Luke is correcting Matthew through omission. I can appreciate this position contrary to mine. In response, let me point out that what I’ suggesting is no more ridiculous than many of the arguments put forth in support of Q. Why didn’t Luke follow Matthew’s lead to eliminate the awkwardness of having John baptize Jesus, implying a subordinate position to John. Matthew has John demur, and continues only after Jesus insists. This puts Jesus as the decision-maker, and so neatly gets us out of a bit of a sticky wicket. Why didn’t Luke follow Matthew? Because he wasn’t Matthew.

*Final note: In the KJV we have the demons stating, “You are the Christ, the son of God”, and then Jesus rebukes them to say nothing because they knew he was the Christ. Interestingly, none of the four modern translations I consult (NIV, REB, NASB, & ESV) have the first “Christ”. More, none of the three Greek texts I refer to have it, either. My good one with the footnotes re: alternate mss traditions does not indicate a variant reading that includes the first use of “Christ”. I even checked the Vulgate, and it’s not there, either. So this means one of two things: that the Vulgate that was used for most of the history of the Western Church did have both uses of “Christ”, but that the online version I use has been cleaned up; or the KJV just added it because…because they did. And, BTW, it’s also noted in Strong’s Words, but that is to be expected since it follows the KJV text, or however that works. Strong’s was composed a long time ago, so it probably just followed the same manuscript tradition.


Luke Chapter 22:21-30

We’re still in the middle of the Lord’s/Last Supper. Jesus has dedicated the bread and wine as his body and blood. The section is fairly long, so had to make some less-than-graceful breaks. We actually broke in mid-speech of Jesus. Not exactly elegant, but the previous post had gotten too long to continue. And this is a very long chapter.


21 πλὴν ἰδοὺ ἡ χεὶρ τοῦ παραδιδόντος με μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης:

22 ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον πορεύεται, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι’ οὗ παραδίδοται.

“Except behold, the hand of the one handing me over is with me at the table. (22) That the son of man according to having been ordained (has)to pass through, except woe to that man through whom he is betrayed.”  

The word is, literally, handed over. One can use the term in a neutral context, as in, the merchants handed over the merchandise once payment was made. In English, the word “betrayed” is not a synonym for “handed over” in this example. This is yet another good example of linguistic fields. All of my crib translations choose “betrayed”, and one can argue that “handed over” is too weak an too neutral in this context. That would be a legitimate point because “betrayed” is a legitimate meaning in Greek; however, the word also means “hand over” as for justice. So the word has both positive and negative connotations in Greek, whereas “betrayed” is wholly negative. I don’t particularly like how I handled “according to having been ordained…” The “ordained part is a participle. Using a substantive like “according to destiny” is too neutral. “Destiny” is an abstract concept; the participle form of the verb here imparts a sense of action. Someone/something has done the ordaining.

And this is an interesting thought. All the crib translations go with a verb form: it has been decreed/determined/etc. By whom? By the Father? Mark and Matthew state that the Son of Man is to go because it was written. This has all the trappings of Fate. It was written in the Scriptures; it was written in the stars. What is the effective difference? The whole debate about Fate vs Free Will is fraught with problems. Christians sort of invented the idea of Free Will as a weapon against pagan fatalism; even Zeus, at times, was not able to resist Fate, but given his desire to save Hector’s life in contravention of Hector’s fate, the implication is that Zeus could do so if he so chose. The other gods, however, would not hear of this, and so Hector died by the hand of Achilles. So even the Greeks were conflicted about this. It goes back to the debate about Predestination: it’s an ineluctable conclusion if one posits an omnipotent and omniscient deity. Otherwise, one is compelled to concede that the deity can be surprised at the outcome of an event, and few Christians are willing to admit this point, even if they cavil at accepting Calvin’s thesis of Double Predestination, by which some people are born with no way to avoid damnation when they die. So here, Jesus must go, he must pass through the trial to come. Which brings us back to Judas: could he have done otherwise? If he had no choice, it was because God determined he was to be the one to betray Jesus. If he was wholly incapable of doing otherwise, does he deserve damnation? If you say “yes”, then why? Is a cat guilty for killing a young bird? This is what cats do. Grasping the nettle of this debate is something very few people will do. Most will hold what are essentially mutually exclusive ideas: an omniscient God being somehow compatible with Free Will. This is positing A and Not-A, combining matter and antimatter. This is why I have a sneaking admiration for Calvin: agree or disagree with him, you have to give him props for bravery. He wasn’t afraid to take on the challenge.

21 Verumtamen ecce manus tradentis me mecum est in mensa;

22 et quidem Filius hominis, secundum quod definitum est, vadit; verumtamen vae illi homini, per quem traditur!”.

23 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς τὸ τίς ἄρα εἴη ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁ τοῦτο μέλλων πράσσειν.

24 Ἐγένετο δὲ καὶ φιλονεικία ἐν αὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς αὐτῶν δοκεῖ εἶναι μείζων.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν κυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἐξουσιάζοντες αὐτῶν εὐεργέται καλοῦνται.

And they began to discuss amongst themselves who would be from the the one destined to be successful. (24) And strife came into being among them, which one of them seemed to be the greatest. (25) And he said to them, “The kings of the peoples lord it over (those) of theirs, and those exercising authority over them are called go-gooders. 

Want to stop to make few points. “Do gooders” is a literal translation. The transliteration is Euergetes, and it was an epithet, or surname for some of the Hellenistic kings. Ptolemy Euergetes, Ptolemy the One Who Does Good, Ptolemy the Benefactor. Other such epithets were Epiphanes (God Manifest), Soter (Saviour), and there was at least one Ptolemy Auletes, the Flute Player. Some of Charlemagne’s successors were Charles the Bald, Louis the Fat; and his name was Charles le Magne, Karl der Grosser, or simply Charles the Great. 

The word <<κυριεύουσιν>> is used by Luke and by Paul. That seemed likely to be significant until I checked this story in Mark and Matthew. They both add the prefix  <<κατὰ>>, so it becomes<<κατὰ-κυριεύουσιν>>. The prefix adds the sense of exercising authority downwards, that the lord is up above and throwing out orders to those below him. And the verb derives from kyrios, which is “Lord”. Anyone with any kind of background in, or knowledge of, Latin High Masses is familiar with the vocative case of this, which comes out as kyrie, as in kyrie eleison, “lord have mercy”, repeated thrice. If you check the libretto of any of the High Masses written by Bach or Mozart, this is called the Kyrie; in the Book of Common Prayer, I’ve seen it labeled the Trisagion, a reference to being repeated three times. So “lord it over” is not entirely a whimsical translation. “Play the lord”, or “exercise authority/lordship” would work, too. The NASB follows my lead and actually reads “lord it over”. That works here, because the term is more than slightly derogatory, said with a sniff of contempt, and Jesus obviously (IMO) doesn’t approve of this sort of behaviour. 

The big thing here is the placement of the story. Both Mark and Matthew put this story on the road to Jerusalem after the Transfiguration and before Palm Sunday. For some reason that I do not quite understand, the placement of stories– excuse me, pericopae (really, it should be perokopai)– by Luke plays a big role in the Q debate. I read the passage disparaging Luke’s placement, think I understand the point, but comprehension melts away by the time I turn the page. As near as I can tell, it has to do with the fact that, since Luke didn’t copy Matthew exactly, down to every iota, then Luke was obviously not aware of Matthew because, if he had been aware of Matthew, he would not have changer an iota. Because Matthew’s handling of any and all pericopae is obviously superior, to the point of infallibility. Or something. And then Q-doubters are expected– nay, required— to produce a “redactionally consistent” explanation for every time Luke varies from Matthew by that single iota. And somehow, I expect “Luke varied from Matthew because he was Luke and not Matthew” would not be satisfactory, even though it’s consistent and works in every case. Look, I will admit that this placement feels a bit awkward and a bit forced, but IMO a lot of the Sermon on the Mount feels a bit like it’s been stitched together with bubble-gum and binder twine.Apparently, it has never occurred to the Q people that Luke chose a different spot just to be different. Shake it up a bit. Otherwise, you get a derivative drone of a narrative. Honestly, not a lot more to be said. Luke changed the location of this story; it’s in a different place than in M&M, where each situates it in approximately the same location. That’s it.

23 Et ipsi coeperunt quaerere inter se, quis esset ex eis, qui hoc facturus esset.

24 Facta est autem et contentio inter eos, quis eorum videretur esse maior.

25 Dixit autem eis: “ Reges gentium dominantur eorum; et, qui potestatem habent super eos, benefici vocantur.

26 ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως, ἀλλ’ ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν γινέσθω ὡς ὁ νεώτερος, καὶ ὁ ἡγούμενος ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

27 τίς γὰρ μείζων, ὁ ἀνακείμενος ἢ ὁ διακονῶν; οὐχὶ ὁ ἀνακείμενος; ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν εἰμι ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

28 ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε οἱ διαμεμενηκότες μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς μου:

29 κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι ὁ πατήρ μου βασιλείαν

30 ἵνα ἔσθητε καὶ πίνητε ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης μου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ μου, καὶ καθήσεσθε ἐπὶ θρόνων τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς κρίνοντες τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 

“But you (are) not like this, but the greatest amongst you becomes as the newest, and the leader as the ministrant. (27) For who (is) the greatest, the one reclining at the table or the deacon? Who is the one reclining? I in your midst (am) as the deacon. (28) You are those having remained with me in my trials. (29) And I distribute to you accordingly as my father distributed the kingdom to me (30) so that you will be be drinking at my table in my kingdom, and you will be seated upon twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel.”

The Twelve Thrones judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel occurs in Matthew 19:28. It does not occur in Mark. Kloppenborg includes this in his Reconstructed Q. Here’s a question: what happens if Jesus didn’t actually institute a Band of Twelve? What if the Twelve only came about after Jesus’ death? We’ve discussed this; the Twelve really only figure in two different stories: when they are named, and when they are sent out, and return more or less immediately. John has two names that don’t occur in the lists of the other evangelists; that is usually a red flag that the names varied because the names were not really known because they hadn’t been established by Jesus. Paul mentions the Twelve; they existed in his time. But prior? I’m not at all convinced of that. Which means, if there was no Twelve, then the reference here and in Matthew 19 is essentially fraudulent, made up after the fact. Which means that it probably wasn’t in Q, or shouldn’t have been in Q, because Jesus never said this. If it was in a Q that actually existed, then that Q is fraudulent, or at least heinously misleading because Jesus never said it. That sort of blows a big hole in the credibility of this hypothetical document, even if it did ever exist, which I doubt. There are lots of reasons to disbelieve in Q, and this is another one.

A bit of vocabulary: the word translated as “ministrant” in verse 26 transliterates as “diakonōn”. This is readily recogniseable as the root of “deacon”. In Greek, this means “to minister to”, or “to serve”. So I translated it one, then more or less transliterated it the remaining instances to get across the connexion between the Greek and our word in English. We need to be made aware that “diakonōn” does not refer to an official in the Catholic or Anglican/Episcopalian/or other? Rite. It means “to serve”. 

Is this a bit of a tell*? “You are the ones having remained…” My crib translations all put their verb in the perfect tense: have remained, have stayed, have stood, have continued. Hearing this tense used in conversation, the sense imparted is an action that occurred in the past. It has been “perfected”, which means “completed”. This is why the Greek word for “end” in philosophical-religious contexts often or usually means “perfected”. So, the perfect tense implies a completed action. And just to be clear, this neither the pluperfect (had) nor the future (will have had) perfect. It’s the simple perfect. So when Jesus says “you having remained” he is referring to the past, which means that his trials are completed. This seems an odd thing to say given that he’s about to undergo some horrific torture in the next 12-18 hours. In other words, this is the statement of someone who’s looking backwards on events that have not occurred in the narrative. That is to say, Jesus is not uttering these words; the author Luke is uttering these words, from the vantage point of 50 years in the future from the moment he is recounting. Hence, this becomes a tell that Jesus did not say these words. And if Jesus did not say these words, which others did he not speak? The bit about the Twelve, perhaps? 

In any case, this is one of the times when verb tense matters. Frankly, there have not been that many of them, but they occur.

*For non-poker players, a ‘tell’ is a quirk, or a twitch, or an habitual expression or motion that gives away the emotions of one of the players. It is often as simple as raising eyebrows when viewing a good hand. This little quirk “tells” other players at the table that s/he has good cards, so maybe don’t be too proud of your own hand. Of course, the term need not be specific to poker; it can be adapted to any number of circumstances where someone gives away sensitive information without intending to do so. A courtroom trial would be another good example, if the witness doesn’t make eye contact with the opposing attorney, which may indicate the witness is lying.

26 Vos autem non sic, sed qui maior est in vobis, fiat sicut iunior; et, qui praecessor est, sicut ministrator.

27 Nam quis maior est: qui recumbit, an qui ministrat? Nonne qui recumbit? Ego autem in medio vestrum sum, sicut qui ministrat.

28 Vos autem estis, qui permansistis mecum in tentationibus meis;

29 et ego dispono vobis, sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus regnum,

30 ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo et sedeatis super thronos iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

Luke Chapter 22:14-20

The final verse from the previous post is included here again to provide context and continuity. We are at the Last Supper, or Lord’s Supper as it seems now to be generally called. This is one of the few times we can bring in Paul as a comparison text, since he describes the words of Jesus in 1 Corinthians, and of course some version is found in the other three gospels. Paul’s inclusion of the event is extremely significant for a couple of reasons, First, it’s one of a very few times when Paul actually describes something Jesus did while he was alive. Secondly, I believe this makes it one of the very few incidents in Jesus’ life that we can say is independently corroborated. There is virtually no one who claims, or even suggests, that Mark was aware of Paul when he wrote his gospel so this gives two sources for which a reasonable argument can be mounted were truly independent. The other three gospels, however, all depend on Mark; even Q does not eliminate the dependence of Matthew and Luke on Mark to some degree. Q, of course, would/could/should be considered an independent source, but only if it actually existed. Since it (almost certainly) did not, all the gospels derive from Mark. Of course, each includes material not found in any of the others. This unique material may derive from other written sources that have since disappeared, from oral traditions that were correspondingly unique to each author, or the material may have been created by that particular author. This latter possibility is almost never discussed, or even suggested, which strikes me as academic negligence. All possibilities must be considered. Obviously, there a minimum standard of probability must be applied; there is no reasonable reason to discuss whether Jesus was actually an alien–although if evidence presented itself, then it would require consideration. But given this standard of probability, everything should be fair game, no matter how distasteful it may be. I have no doubt that suggesting any of the evangelists created material that he thought belonged, whether he had factual verification or not, whether he had an oral tradition or not, whether the tradition was reliable if one existed, would be distasteful to the large majority of biblical scholars.


14 Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡ ὥρα, ἀνέπεσεν καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι σὺν αὐτῷ. 

15 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα τοῦτο τὸ πάσχα φαγεῖν μεθ’ ὑμῶν πρὸ τοῦ με παθεῖν:

16 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ φάγω αὐτὸ ἕως ὅτου πληρωθῇ ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

And when the hour had come, he sat down and the apostles with him. (15) And he said to them, “Heartily I desire to eat this Passover with you before my suffering. (16) I say to you that I will nor eat until this (my suffering) has been fulfilled in the Kingdom of God”.

Really quick grammar point. What I have translated “my suffering” is actually the infinitive form of the verb “to suffer”. In this way Greek is able to convey the ideas of a gerund or a gerundive, for which Latin has a special form. But actually, using the verb form, almost always the infinitive, as a substantive is a very old trait in Greek.

We discussed the anachronistic use of the term “apostle” in the last segment, so no need to go over that again. Having a desirous desire to eat with the disciples is new and unique. Why is this here? Did Luke have a super-special-secret “L” source that recorded this quip of Jesus? Which written document Luke then burned after using? Or did the son of a friend of the son of a friend whose grandfather knew one of the (non-existent) apostles tell Luke the story? Seriously, that is what we are talking about here. It’s wildly anachronistic and even more improbable that one of the attendants of the supper was taking notes that were written up the next morning. So what we have somebody told somebody who told somebody…who knew Luke and told Luke. That is exactly what our chain of evidence looks like, spread out over fifty or sixty years. Yes, pre-literate societies have people with remarkable memories who can memorize The Iliad and The Odyssey; but this fails to recognize that any stories of Jesus were heard by a bunch of people who were not particularly trained in mnemonic techniques, who then went home and told their family and the neighbors, none of whom were trained in memorization, and the stories spread like gossip.

Or Luke thought this was a nice touch and added it himself.

The significant part of this bit is the last verse. We found this, more or less, in both Mark and Matthew, but it is absent from Paul. What, if anything, does that mean? What are we to make of this? Did Paul know about this and leave it out? And Mark and Luke refer to it as the Kingdom of God; Matthew refers to it as the Kingdom of my Father. Was Matthew wrong? Did he have a source that Mark’s version was incorrect, which led Matthew astray? Then recall that Matthew tended to prefer “kingdom of the heavens” to “kingdom of God”, so does that blow a hole in Matthew’s overall credibility? But what does the line even mean, anyway? Well, it’s a bit of prophesy, Jesus telling those assembled that he was having his last meal on earth. Which brings us to another point about Paul. Of the four we have read so far (excluding John), Paul alone tells us that the meal was instituted by Jesus on the night he was betrayed. This tastes a bit like high drama, but the fact is that we know Jesus was executed, but the act of betrayal takes this to a whole other level. Naturally, the betrayal of Judas plays a prominent role in the Passion Narrative, so we have to take that part quite seriously. I am of the opinion that the Passion Narrative was a later addition to the saga of Jesus (and was possibly commissioned by Mary Magdalene who first appears at the foot of the cross and then is prominent for the rest of the story).

Now, we must be very clear that corroboration of a detail of the Passion Narrative, or any part of the gospel, the NT, or the Bible as a whole is just exactly that: corroboration of a detail. From that, it does not follow that we can infer anything else in the narrative, except things which can be deduced directly from the act of betrayal. The point is that just because we know Jesus was handed over by someone, we do not know either the motivation or the charges. I would be willing to accept that an exchange of money took place, but, then again, the “betrayer” may have agreed to save his own skin. It must be conceded that we can see the outline of the eventual “official” view of the Passion starting to take form, but remember that I said an exchange of money, or avoidance of duress, would be easy to accept. This is not to say that either occurred; there is no shred of contemporary evidence for this. It must also be conceded that we could detect the echo of the “official” Passion Narrative in Paul; he may have been sufficiently aware of the narrative that he referred to it in an offhand manner here. Indeed, that Paul says nothing more could easily be an indication that he felt no need to say more because the story well-known. This seriously undercuts my position, but it’s an objection that I need to address if my argument is to carry any weight. 

14 Et cum facta esset hora, discubuit, et apostoli cum eo.

15 Et ait illis: “ Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum, antequam patiar.

16 Dico enim vobis: Non manducabo illud, donec impleatur in regno Dei ”.

17 καὶ δεξάμενος ποτήριον εὐχαριστήσας εἶπεν, Λάβετε τοῦτο καὶ διαμερίσατε εἰς ἑαυτούς:

18 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν [ὅτι] οὐ μὴ πίω ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως οὗ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἔλθῃ.

And taking/receiving the cup giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it amongst you. (18) For I say to you that I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God may come.

Note that Jesus merely sharing the bread and the cup and saying he shall neither eat nor drink until the arrival of the Kingdom of God. We do not entirely know what is meant by the term, “Kingdom of God”. Our lack of knowledge on the topic is largely due to the fact that the term is not used consistently in any one sense. Also, the term develops over time, and across gospels, and even within gospels. We had an instance a few chapters ago when the term kingdom was very obviously synonymous with the standard Christian concept of “heaven” or whatever you wish to call it. (And note that the term ‘heaven’ is also very problematic; the term that gets translated as singular ‘heaven’ could also be rendered just as accurately by ‘sky’.) In any case, it bears repeating that the idea that the Kingdom of God would be here on earth was the standard Jewish understanding (I believe…). Even though Jewish thought was moving towards the idea of a “heavenly” kingdom more like the Christian conception, there are sources contemporary with Jesus, or even a bit later, that still conceive of the Kingdom as coming into being on this earth. It will be idealized, of course, but it’s still thought of as a material, physical place and not the disembodied spiritual existence that is standard Christian thinking. This is largely because Christians absorbed a lot of Greek ideas on the subject, and for the Greeks, the afterlife was decidedly non-material. And note that the kingdom ‘may come’; we don’t die and go there, but it comes, presumably to us. “Thy kingdom come”, after all. So it’s still decidedly ambiguous despite the tendency to read backwards into every word in the NT.

17 Et accepto calice, gratias egit et dixit: “Accipite hoc et dividite inter vos.

18 Dico enim vobis: Non bibam amodo de generatione vitis, donec regnum Dei veniat”.

19 καὶ λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων, Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον: τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.

20 καὶ τὸ ποτήριον ὡσαύτως μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, λέγων, Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυννόμενον.

And taking bread, (and) giving thanks, he broke it and gave (it) to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you; do this towards my memory. (20) And likewise (taking) the cup after dinner, saying “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, which for you has been poured.”

Let’s think about this for a moment. Remember that 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 has very similar words about the body and blood, that it is given for them/us, and that the ritual should be done in memory of Jesus. Thematically, Luke is closest to Paul, which includes the detail of Jesus taking the cup after the meal, while Mark and Matthew do not make so clear a distinction. In one sense, it doesn’t really make that much difference, but it does indicate that Luke may have been aware of Paul’s words on the topic. As we’ve stated, Luke is the first evangelist who we can be sure was aware of Paul and his mission and his writings. At least, we can be sure if Luke and Acts are by the same individual. Regardless, these few words here indicate more than a passing familiarity with Paul on Luke’s part. 

So we know that the ideas expressed, the blood of Jesus that seals (Paul’s word) the covenant, trace back into the late 50s or early 60s, when Paul wrote. The question then becomes, when were they actually said? Or, were they actually spoken by Jesus? This is a very important question, and one that I’ve never seen asked. It is simply assumed that Jesus spoke these words which are still recited by Catholics and Anglicans/Episcopalians at the Consecration. (I can personally attest to these two; there may be other denominations that use these words. Lutherans?) But think about it. The words are, at root, prophetic, just as Jesus talking about how the Son of Man must suffer at the hands of the Nations, or that no stone of the Temple will be left on another stone. Jesus is saying these words in anticipation of what is to come: his crucifixion, when his body will be broken like the bread, and his blood will indeed be spilled, or poured out. Does this foresight not make it more likely that Jesus never actually said these words? I tend to believe this to be the case. How could the human Jesus have known what was to come? It is possible that he knew they were coming for him in a general sense, that he couldn’t escape the law much longer, so he may have been able to anticipate his horrendous death to come. And, if he was, in fact, charged as a magician, crucifixion was probably the way in which he would be executed. This had been one of the prescribed punishments for magicians since the 82 BCE, when the lex Cornelia de sicaris et veneficis was passed in Rome by Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who set himself up as dictator in Rome after some nasty particularly nasty civil strife. So there is that, but if he knew he was to be executed as a magician, why would he talk about the new covenant sealed by his blood. He wouldn’t. So, like the Pater Noster, Jesus probably never spoke the words.

But even if Jesus did not, the point is that their appearance in Paul indicates that they became part of the tradition very early on in the history of the Jesus cult. They are not, I think, the earliest words of the Jesus cult; I tend to suspect that the parable of the mustard seed may be authentic, although that will prove to be difficult to reconcile with my contention that Jesus was a magician. But then, it only is necessary that Jesus was executed as a magician; but given some of the stories in Mark, it’s hard not to entertain the idea that Jesus was considered to be a magician.

But back to the actual topic, the theme of body & blood, what does this say about how the followers were understanding Jesus’ death? The first question to ask is whether the followers really knew the reason for the execution. Of course, the earliest ones knew full well. Peter certainly knew, as did James, brother of Jesus. But did they share the facts? Or did they sugar-coat it, or smudge over it a bit? So did Paul know the reason? Based on what he said in 1 Cor 11:23-26, he is hinting at what would become the official version, since Jesus says his body is “for you”. Why should we not believe that this was, in fact, the real reason Jesus was killed? The fact remains that Jesus was killed by the Romans. This means Jesus did something that violated Roman law. Well, sedition would certainly fit the bill there, and any number of people have come to this conclusion. In my mind, if Jesus had been executed for sedition, the Romans would have rounded up several dozen of his followers, and another dozen or so perfectly innocent persons just to make sure that they had gotten the lot of them. I have raised this objection to the official version any number of times, but I find it compelling. The Romans were a lot of things: tough, competent, and thorough. One thing they were not was soft, and merciful wasn’t a desired quality among them. Look up “Manlian discipline” and you’ll find the story of a Roman consul having his son executed for disobeying an order. And this was considered a good thing. BTW, this is a great example of a story that is True, whether or not it ever happened. For, even if it’s not it’s factually accurate, this is part of the Roman Myth that they constructed about themselves. And I ask you: which is worse? Whether it happened, demonstrating a level of brutality that existed, or whether it didn’t, in which case this is what the Romans wanted to believe about themselves.

So yeah, Peter and James and everyone else would have been arrested and the lot of them would have been set up on crosses lining both sides of the main road into Jerusalem.

And Matthew adds that Jesus’ blood was shed for “forgiveness of sins”. This is a clear indication that the story about Jesus was evolving. Luke leaves this out, and so gives us the more “primitive” version of the story. Alternatively, we could say that Luke, once again, follows Mark and so “corrects” Matthew’s version. This is an aspect of Luke/Matthew/Mark that gets no discussion in the Q debate: much is made that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark; except of course, all the times when he does and they call it “Q”. But what about the times Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew? We’ve been pointing out those instances when Luke goes short on a story told in full by M&M, or goes long when Matthew cuts his version short. But let us move on now with the question still unanswered; this comment has gotten too long already.

19 Et accepto pane, gratias egit et fregit et dedit eis dicens: “Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis datur. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem”.

20 Similiter et calicem, postquam cenavit, dicens: “ Hic calix novum testamentum est in sanguine meo, qui pro vobis funditur.



21 πλὴν ἰδοὺ ἡ χεὶρ τοῦ παραδιδόντος με μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης:

22 ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον πορεύεται, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι’ οὗ παραδίδοται.

23 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς τὸ τίς ἄρα εἴη ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁ τοῦτο μέλλων πράσσειν.

24 Ἐγένετο δὲ καὶ φιλονεικία ἐν αὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς αὐτῶν δοκεῖ εἶναι μείζων.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν κυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἐξουσιάζοντες αὐτῶν εὐεργέται καλοῦνται.

26 ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως, ἀλλ’ ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν γινέσθω ὡς ὁ νεώτερος, καὶ ὁ ἡγούμενος ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

27 τίς γὰρ μείζων, ὁ ἀνακείμενος ἢ ὁ διακονῶν; οὐχὶ ὁ ἀνακείμενος; ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν εἰμι ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

28 ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε οἱ διαμεμενηκότες μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς μου:

29 κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι ὁ πατήρ μου βασιλείαν

30 ἵνα ἔσθητε καὶ πίνητε ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης μου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ μου, καὶ καθήσεσθε ἐπὶ θρόνων τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς κρίνοντες τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 


21 Verumtamen ecce manus tradentis me mecum est in mensa;

22 et quidem Filius hominis, secundum quod definitum est, vadit; verumtamen vae illi homini, per quem traditur! ”.

23 Et ipsi coeperunt quaerere inter se, quis esset ex eis, qui hoc facturus esset.

24 Facta est autem et contentio inter eos, quis eorum videretur esse maior.

25 Dixit autem eis: “ Reges gentium dominantur eorum; et, qui potestatem habent super eos, benefici vocantur.

26 Vos autem non sic, sed qui maior est in vobis, fiat sicut iunior; et, qui praecessor est, sicut ministrator.

27 Nam quis maior est: qui recumbit, an qui ministrat? Nonne qui recumbit? Ego autem in medio vestrum sum, sicut qui ministrat.

28 Vos autem estis, qui permansistis mecum in tentationibus meis;

29 et ego dispono vobis, sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus regnum,

30 ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo et sedeatis super thronos iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

Luke Chapter 22:1-14

We have reached the antepenultimate chapter of Luke. I meant to brag and show off at the beginning of Chapter 21, because I’ve coined a new term: pre-antepenultimate. Ultimate is the final; penultimate the last but one; antepenultimate, one before the penultimate, is third from the end, and the pre-antepenultimate is fourth from the end. But oh well.

We now enter into the final phase of the life of Jesus. The chapter opens with Jesus sending some disciples to make arrangements for the Passover supper.


1Ἤγγιζεν δὲ ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν ἀζύμων ἡ λεγομένη πάσχα.

2 καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς τὸ πῶς ἀνέλωσιν αὐτόν, ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ τὸν λαόν.

3 Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ Σατανᾶς εἰς Ἰούδαν τὸν καλούμενον Ἰσκαριώτην, ὄντα ἐκ τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τῶν δώδεκα:

4 καὶ ἀπελθὼν συνελάλησεν τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ στρατηγοῖς τὸ πῶς αὐτοῖς παραδῷ αὐτόν.

5 καὶ ἐχάρησαν καὶ συνέθεντο αὐτῷ ἀργύριον δοῦναι.

6 καὶ ἐξωμολόγησεν, καὶ ἐζήτει εὐκαιρίαν τοῦ παραδοῦναι αὐτὸν ἄτερ ὄχλου αὐτοῖς.

The holy day of the Unleavened (Bread) which they call Passover. (2) And the high priests and the grammarians sought how to kill him, they feared the people. (3) But Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, being from the number of the Twelve. (4) And coming from, he spoke with the high priests and generals, about how to hand him over to them. (5) And they agreed to give to him silver. (6) And he promised, and he sought a favourable season for handing him over to them without the crowd.

Lots to say about words here. First up we  have Pascha. Obviously, it’s the root of Paschal, as in “paschal lamb”. Apparently, it’s Hebrew, which would make sense given that the celebration comes from Judaism. Secondly, Satan. The rules for use of the definite article in Greek are a tad vague. We see ho Iesous very frequently, but here it’s just Satanas. This indicates a proper name, because one doesn’t use a definite article with proper names unless one does. It’s fun to read the fusty old Victorian grammars as they slice & dice the rules of grammar into ever-more-specific examples. But the focus and attention to detail in these grammars is awe-inspiring. Anyway, after doing a survey of the uses of Satan, my finding is that the use of Satan where the word is clearly a Proper Noun because there is no definite article are fairly easily balanced by instances where it could easily be translated as “the devil” because the proper noun is included. Now, what matters is when the word appears in the nominative case; when occurring in other cases, the definite article is (almost) always used. One of the ideas I’ve been following as we go through the NT has been that of the devil, whether the adversary (ho satanas), the slanderer (ho diabolos), or Satan (Satanas; ho Satanas). I’ve paid attention to the term used. Interesting to note is that Mark never uses the Greek diabolos; Matthew and Luke are about evenly split between the Greek word and satan/Satan. Make another tick mark in the column of why Matthew was a pagan.

[ Note: I just spent a fair bit of time researching every use of satan in the HS. Had to learn how to spell it in Hebrew, and what the letters look like. Then I cross-correlated to the LXX, to see what Greek word the translators used to render satan. This will probably be the subject of a special post. ]

Judas spoke with the high priests and generals. This is the first time we’ve encountered this word. Luke will use it again later in the chapter, and half-a-dozen times in Acts. (This alone should be enough to alert us that Luke/Acts may indeed have been written by the same author.) The NT lexicon attached to gives the definition as “captains” or “magistrates”. The original meaning is “commander of an army”; that is, a general. In addition, starting in the just before the turn of the 6th to the 5th Century BCE, the leading magistrates in Athens were known as strategoi, which is the nominative plural form of strategos. If you look closely, you will see the origin of the word “strategy”. After the reforms of Kleisthenes at the end of the 6th C, the citizen population of Athens was divided into ten tribes, and each tribe elected its own strategos. The board of ten strategoi were elected annually, and they comprised the executive branch of the Athenian democracy. Since the Athenian army, and the armies of most city-states, were a citizen militia, the Athenian army was organized by tribe, so there were effectively ten regiments, one per tribe, each led by its own strategos. Hence, the term is usually translated as “general”. With the coming first of the Macedonian empire under Phillip, then the monarchies of Alexander’s successors, the Diadochoi, city magistrates became minor officials in the larger government of the monarchy. A strategos became a magistrate or lesser official, which is the meaning or reference here. Elsewhere it is apparently translated as “captains”, but that is a far cry from its original usage.

Now for substance. I’m not sure where the theory arose, but there is a streak out there to equate, or correlate, Judas’ surname Iscariot, with the sicarrii.  These were true Zealots, committed to the overthrow of the Roman government. In today’s parlance, we would call them either freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on whose side you were on. They were assassins, which is why the term “terrorist” is not the least bit out of line. The term is Greek for “dagger men”, because that was their method of murder. Per Josephus, they tended to mingle in crowds with the knife beneath their robes and then slip the weapon home during the press of the crowd. The sicarrii were supposedly the ones responsible for coming up with, and carrying out the idea of mass suicide at Masada. The implication of making this connexion to Judas’ surname is that he was one of these extremist Zealots. The other suggestion is that the name refers to his place of origin, the village of Kerioth. This is were one has to be very careful with suggested etymologies, especially when proposed by someone without a really strong background in philology, or at least in the languages involved. Here we are mixing languages, Greek and Hebrew, so caution is needed. 

A strict reading of this passage tells us that Judas was not actually responsible for betraying Jesus. In fact, the devil made him do it. But this gets into the notion of temptation, and the belief that humans are fully capable of resisting temptation, if they choose to do so. That we don’t resist is why the sin is counted against us. But there is also another line of thinking: could Judas have indeed chosen to resist the temptation? If so, then what? Here is where the theology gets really messy. The fact that Jesus was executed meant that later followers felt compelled to explain why this happened. I won’t go into it here, but I have a suspicion that he may have been executed as a magician. Regardless, it was deemed necessary to the plot that Jesus was betrayed by one of his own, because that makes for a much more dramatic story. The point is then, what happened if Judas did not betray Jesus? What then? That would mean the ransom was never paid, or atonement sacrifice was never made. If Jesus doesn’t die then there is no Resurrection, which means no Christianity. Ergo, Jesus had to die. And, if he had to be betrayed, there had to be someone to do the deed. So that betrayer was necessary to the unfolding of the salvation of humanity, so that betrayer had to turn Jesus over. This all by way of saying that Judas–or someone– had no choice. If we have no choice but to do something, how can we be held accountable for this action if there is no theological possibility of doing otherwise? That act of betrayal is necessary, so the person committing it is just doing what s/he was born to do. So God picked Judas, and Judas had to do it. Or was God surprised by Judas’ action? If the father knows the hour of the End of Times, how can he not know that Judas is going to betray Jesus? Can God be tricked? Or fooled? Or surprised? Of course, this line of thinking totally destroys the argument of free will, and takes us squarely into the predestination scenario, in which God creates people who will be damned, no matter what they do. How about Judas? Fobbing it off on Satan is a dodge, and not a good one. Can Satan thwart God’s plans? If so, that implies Satan is more powerful than God, does it not?

Finally, we need to say a word about the fear of the crowd. That has never struck me as credible given that the crowd was screaming for Jesus’ crucifixion within a day or two. I suppose the fear was based on not having the Roman cohort around as was the case during the crucifixion. It didn’t stop Herod from arresting John, either. And we’ve never been given a convincing reason why the powers in Jerusalem were so eager to have him executed. The pretext is the Cleansing of the Temple, I suppose; at least, that’s what the plot dictates. But you have heard my arguments, several times, explaining why this never happened. There is no argument for the Cleansing, except that is the story in the NT.

1 Appropinquabat autem dies festus Azymorum, qui dici tur Pascha.

2 Et quaerebant principes sacerdotum et scribae quomodo eum interficerent; timebant vero plebem.

3 Intravit autem Satanas in Iudam, qui cognominabatur Iscarioth, unum de Duodecim;

4 et abiit et locutus est cum principibus sacerdotum et magistratibus, quemadmodum illum traderet eis.

5 Et gavisi sunt et pacti sunt pecuniam illi dare.

6 Et spopondit et quaerebat opportunitatem, ut eis traderet illum sine turba.

7) ηλθεν δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα τῶν ἀζύμων, [ἐν] ἧ ἔδει θύεσθαι τὸ πάσχα.

8 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην εἰπών, Πορευθέντες ἑτοιμάσατε ἡμῖν τὸ πάσχα ἵνα φάγωμεν.

9 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμεν;

10 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἰδοὺ εἰσελθόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν πόλιν συναντήσει ὑμῖν ἄνθρωπος κεράμιον ὕδατος βαστάζων: ἀκολουθήσατε αὐτῷ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν εἰς ἣν εἰσπορεύεται.

11 καὶ ἐρεῖτε τῷ οἰκοδεσπότῃ τῆς οἰκίας, Λέγει σοι ὁ διδάσκαλος, Ποῦ ἐστιν τὸ κατάλυμα ὅπου τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου φάγω;

12 κἀκεῖνος ὑμῖν δείξει ἀνάγαιον μέγα ἐστρωμένον: ἐκεῖ ἑτοιμάσατε.

13 ἀπελθόντες δὲ εὗρον καθὼς εἰρήκει αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἡτοίμασαν τὸ πάσχα.

14 Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡ ὥρα, ἀνέπεσεν καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι σὺν αὐτῷ. 

The day of the Unleavened (bread) came, on which it was necessary to kill the pascha. (8) And he sent Peter and John, saying, “Going prepare for us the pascha in order that we (can) eat”. (9) They said to him, “Where do you wish us to prepare?” (10) He said to them, “Behold, you going to the city you will encounter a man carrying water jars. Follow him to his house which you will go to. (11) And ask the master of the house ‘The teacher says to you, “Where is the lodging where I will eat the passover with my disciples”?’ (12) And he will show you a second story (lit = above the ground) large [word is unclear in Greek;] upper room [taken from the Latin]. Prepare there.” (13) Coming from they discover according to what he said to them, and they prepared the Passover (seder?). (14) And when the hour came, the apostles reclined with him.

OK, started with “pascha” and ended up with seder. I do not know if it the term is anachronistic; I assume it probably is, but it’s convenient. We are told here, very specifically, this was the Day of Preparation, on which the paschal lamb was slaughtered for the evening meal. It could not be more clear. I mention this because John changes the time scheme on us. John has the execution take place on the Day of Preparation to make sure he gets across the idea that Jesus is the Paschal Lamb that was slaughtered on the Day of Preparation. This is a straight-out irreconcilable difference. The two are mutually exclusive, and both cannot be correct, regardless of the mental gymnastics performed. Regardless, it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus is giving Peter and John instructions to prepare the seder. The choice is binary to the point that even I can’t worry it to death. OTOH, it bears mentioning, but not much more, that the set of instructions is very clearly on the pattern of the instructions given to the disciples to procure a colt for the entry into Jerusalem. Again, it sounds very much like Jesus had sealed the deal ahead of time, and sent the disciples to conclude the arrangements made previously. And note that he sent Peter and John; this is like the A-Team, not a couple of unknowns that only have a name back in the chapter when the Apostles are named.

And then there are the apostles. Mark and Matthew each use the word “apostle” once: in the respective chapters when they name who the apostles were. Luke uses it a half-dozen times or so, two of which are when he names them and when they give their report upon returning from having been sent out (Greek: apo-stellein). Luke uses it a couple of times casually, when we might expect the term “disciples”. John uses it once, but in its strictly neutral sense of “one who has been sent out” rather than to identify specific individuals who were “officially” called by this term. Acts is when the term comes into full-blown usage, but there is a reason for that. Paul also uses it a lot, in 1 Corinthians especially. Why is this? Think about it: Acts is the story of the time of Paul. At that point, specific individuals actually had been “sent out” to preach the “good news”. Paul was one of these, and he calls himself an apostle. That Mark and Matthew only use the word once strikes me as blatant interpolation. The sequence in which the Apostles were name had to be present, had to have been instituted by Jesus; otherwise, it had little authority. My guess is that the idea began with James, especially since there were twelve of them, one to represent each of the (mythical) Twelve Tribes. Luke is the first evangelist that we know was aware of Paul and his mission; that is, we “know” this assuming Luke is also the author of Acts. I’ve been taking that more or less as a given because I haven’t really done any research on the topic. I don’t know what the counter-arguments are. The point of this is that I firmly do not believe that there were Twelve Apostles named by Jesus. He had followers, but he did not sent them out (apo-stellein) to preach the good news. That did not happen until after Jesus death, and was probably done at the instigation of James the Just, brother of Jesus. After all, Paul went to him to get a blessing for his mission.

Regarding Verse 12. The word used seems not to have existed in Classical Greek. The root, however, refers to things like beds, or couches, or coverlets. The idea is furnishings of some sort, or couches would refer to the style of dining while reclining on couches. In this instance, I think we’re justified using the Vulgate as a cheat sheet. But while the word in Greek is obscure, in Latin it seems redundant, as if it’s saying an upper room raised a storey above the ground floor. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s “mega” and it’s on the second floor. We are entitled to use our imaginations.

7 Venit autem dies Azymorum, in qua necesse erat occidi Pascha.

8 Et misit Petrum et Ioannem dicens: “Euntes parate nobis Pascha, ut manducemus”.

9 At illi dixerunt ei: “Ubi vis paremus?”.

10 Et dixit ad eos: “ Ecce, introeuntibus vobis in civitatem, occurret vobis homo amphoram aquae portans; sequimini eum in domum, in quam intrat.

11 Et dicetis patri familias domus: “Dicit tibi Magister: Ubi est deversorium, ubi Pascha cum discipulis meis manducem?”.

12 Ipse vobis ostendet cenaculum magnum stratum; ibi parate ”.

13 Euntes autem invenerunt, sicut dixit illis, et paraverunt Pascha.

14 Et cum facta esset hora, discubuit, et apostoli cum eo.


Summary Luke Chapter 21

Note: This has nothing to do with the Chapter Summary to follow, but I want to get this in. I just finished watching Season 1 of Britannia, on Amazon Prime. It’s the tale of the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 CE. As such, it’s only slightly later than the purported dates of the events i the NT. In the season finale, the show portrayed an event that just absolutely brilliantly depicted why Rome was Rome. I shan’t divulge the details, no spoilers, but it just got right to the heart of Roman imperial theory. The event is fictitious; it never actually happened, but it is a revealed Truth, regardless that it isn’t factually accurate. Actually, this ties in with what I said in the last paragraph below.


Virtually the entire chapter was devoted to tales of the coming apocalypse*. We open with the tale of the Widow’s Mite, and end with a variation on the cursed fig tree, but everything in between is dire prophecies of woe to come. Pretty much all of it is part of the Triple Tradition. There are differing emphases in the different gospels, more stress here, less over there, but the general idea remains the same. I went through the Harmony on this section and was truly surprised by how closely the three track each other. In some ways, the comparison of the three versions is something of a microcosm for my theory about how Luke shortens when Mark & Matthew cover a pericope in full, and how he goes long when Matthew shortens what Mark said. That said, it’s more of the former than the latter. Matthew’s version of this is the longest of the three and contains numerous passages and ideas not found in the other two. One thing that is in Mark but neither of his successors is the admonition that the end will not come until the gospel has been preached to all the peoples before the end will come. Honestly, it strikes me as odd that Mark is the one to have this. Taking my notes I first ascribed this to Matthew because it seems so much like a Matthew thing to say. At first glance, the sentiment seems to fit in the circumstances of the 80s more than those in the period directly following the Destruction. Or does it? The intent of the assertion is to explain why the coming of the Son of Man has been delayed. Prima facie, since the event has been delayed longer by the time Matthew wrote, and so that would require a greater excuse. But upon further reflection one may realize that it was more important when Mark wrote. After all, the war was a raw, fresh memory, an even that probably caused extraordinary suffering to at least some portions of Mark’s audience. These are the people who needed to be consoled reassured. The Roman capture and destruction of Jerusalem must have felt like the end of the world to a lot of these people. There were probably more converted Jews in Mark’s audience than there were in Matthew’s audience. As such, Mark’s audience likely would have felt the shock so much more. For Americans, the feeling after 9/11 begins to capture what contemporary Jews must have felt. Except Americans need to imagine a 9/11 on which all of NYC had been destroyed. Or at least Manhattan. Not just the Twin Towers, but the Empire State, Central Park, Greenwich Village, the Met, the MOMA, the UN Building, all suddenly gone.

Then there are the omissions. Luke does not include the admonition that one must not go back into the house for a cloak or to try to preserve belongings, or even kin. Luke omits the abomination of the desolation, to pray that it doesn’t happen in winter, or to assure us the time of tribulation has been shortened for the sake of the elect; otherwise no one would have survived. Luke modifies the injunction not to worry about what to say when hauled before the judges; rather than the sacred breath, it will be Jesus who will provide what to say. I find this change particularly hard to square in my own mind; why make this change? After all, it is Luke who provides the story of the Eleven in the upper room with the tongues of fire as the sacred breath descended upon them. On the face, this change makes little sense. Why bother? Just because Mark and Matthew said sacred breath? Offhand, I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation, but my failure to do so by no means implies that no reason exists, or that someone else may be able to come up with a plausible explanation. But the fact is that Mark and Matthew do say this, which puts this in the column of examples where Luke felt free to vary form his predecessors because they had covered the situation fully.

Writing that last sentence a breath entered me, forming an idea. Did Luke change this to Jesus because of the essential (in the technical sense) identity of Jesus and the sacred breath? That’s tempting, isn’t it? And it’s exactly the sort of thing that a lot of theologians would grab in a heartbeat. Maybe “theologian” is not the proper term. Scripture person. One of the most common misconceptions that occurs in NT studies is the idea that the whole thing is…fungible? I don’t think that’s the term. What I’m looking for is the idea that all of the NT can be read as an explanation of any part of the NT. The idea is that the NT is a single, unitary whole that was essentially created all at once, and by a single entity. If that is big-G God, then sure. The fact that it was written over a period of 30-50 years by a dozen people is completely irrelevant because it breathed directly into the writer by God, the writer doing little more than taking dictation. Personally, I don’t believe this to be the case; however, I had said I could not think of a single reasonable reason for Luke making this change. Well, this is a reasonable reason, as improbable as it may be.

When going through the three versions of the predictions, I ran across something that struck me. All three have some reference to the sun and/or moon darkening, and the stars falling or something. In Mark and Matthew, these lines are an inset quote from Isaiah, 13:10 and 34:4. In Luke they are presented as reported speech; Jesus is saying the words, but not quoting them. Yet another instance where Luke feels free to abbreviate since M&M had this covered. But what is particularly interesting is that the quotes from Isaiah that are presented are not exactly the same between Mark and Matthew. The gist is the same, but the words are a bit off. OK. But then I checked the LXX, and the wording there is different from either of the two. What does this mean? Well, Mark read Isaiah in Hebrew whereas Matthew read him in Greek. But then why doesn’t Matthew’s wording match the LXX? I’m not sure there is a good answer for this, either. Basically, what it implies is that both authors quoted from memory, and, unsurprisingly, neither got it quite correct. IIRC, we ran into this several times in Paul, where his cite didn’t really match the LXX, which Paul almost certainly read in Greek. Again, what are the implications of this? Indeed, are there any? I’m not so sure. I do seem to recall a comment about this; that Paul, at least, had a propensity to fudge his quotes a bit, but I can’t be sure that I actually read that, and I certainly can’t cite the source. I need to take better notes. But, in Paul’s defense, shading a bit here or there may not have been the problem for him that it is for us; the ancients gave much more latitude in such matters. As a result signing someone else’s name to your work (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John, e.g.), or better yet the apocrypha, such as the Gospel of Judas. And the historians, even the most reputable of the lot like Thucydides and Tacitus made up speeches, Thucydides stating that the words were “the sort of thing” that would have been said. And so, quoting loosely would have been considered getting to the Truth behind it, whatever the factuality of the matter was.

The events in the final episode of Britannia, alluded to above, are a terrific example of this. Capital-T True without being at all factual.


*Interesting to note that the word apocalypse in English has an entirely different meaning than it does in Greek. For English speakers, it has the meaning of terrible events happening at the end of the world. In Greek, it simply means “uncovering”, or more accurately “from (the} covering” as in “removed from the covering”. It translates very nicely into Latin as revelatio. And we don’t talk about the revelation at the end of the world.

Luke Chapter 21:25-38

This section is like the last third of the chapter, the subject still being the Little Apocalypse. Don’t think there’s much else needs to be said, so let’s have at it. Note that we pick up in the middle of Jesus speaking.


25 Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα ἐν ἡλίῳ καὶ σελήνῃ καὶ ἄστροις, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ ἤχους θαλάσσης καὶ σάλου,

26 ἀποψυχόντων ἀνθρώπων ἀπὸ φόβου καὶ προσδοκίας τῶν ἐπερχομένων τῇ οἰκουμένῃ, αἱ γὰρ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σαλευθήσονται.

“And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth there will be anguish among the peoples in perplexity of (at) the the sound of the sea and waves, (25) (the sound) of men falling from fear and expectation (dread) of what is coming to the inhabited (Roman) world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

 It’s interesting to note how the translation of the last sentence has changed from the KJV. There the translation was “the power of heaven will be shaken,” wherein both “power” and “heaven” are singular. The NASB and the ESV render as “the power of the heavens”, while the NIV provides us with “the powers of the heavenly bodies will be shaken”. These are very different concepts, especially if you understand the cosmology of the ancient world. “The power of heaven” is thoroughly Christian, and really does not admit any other interpretation; there is the single power in heaven–God. But of course the reflection of a few moments should tell us that this is impossible, since God cannot be shaken. And besides, the Greek reads “powers” plural. The clear implication is that there is more than one power in heaven, and no one in the First Century would have denied this multiplicity of powers. The Christian monodeity (just coined the term) had not yet been invented. That conception of God would not firmly take hold inside of orthodox Christian dogma for a few centuries, and it would take several more for this idea to be the single understanding of creation. It would only truly take hold in the Byzantine period, when all other powers had been relegated into demons and shoved down from heaven that people would talk about “the power of heaven”. Before that, the sky was full of powers; the NIV points in this direction by referring to the heavenly bodies. The sun, the moon, the planets, and the fixed stars were all considered to be powers in their own right, but this list did not begin to exhaust the powers that existed in the minds of most people. This is to say that the NIV comes closest to capturing the implications of the Greek, but even it doesn’t go far enough. This is, I suspect, due in part to the fact that the people doing these transactions have backgrounds in scriptural backgrounds who probably don’t know much about the conceptions of the universe held by pagans in the First Century. More’s the pity. This goes along with using a lexicon of NT Greek rather than the standard L&S. It’s limiting, like putting on blinders.

25 Et erunt signa in sole et luna et stellis, et super terram pressura gentium prae confusione sonitus maris et fluctuum,

26 arescentibus hominibus prae timore et exspectatione eorum, quae supervenient orbi, nam virtutes caelorum movebuntur.

27 καὶ τότε ὄψονται τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν νεφέλῃ μετὰ δυνάμεως καὶ δόξης πολλῆς.

28 ἀρχομένων δὲ τούτων γίνεσθαι ἀνακύψατε καὶ ἐπάρατε τὰς κεφαλὰς ὑμῶν, διότι ἐγγίζει ἡ ἀπολύτρωσις ὑμῶν.

“And then they will see the son of man coming on a cloud with much power and glory. (28) These things beginning to become rise up and lift up your heads, because your ransom/deliverance approaches”.

Everybody renders this as “redemption”, which is unfortunate. Of course, it is translated thus because the Latin word used is redemptio, so our modern word is more or less a transliteration if that is possible when the same alphabet is used in both languages. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that the Latin word was swallowed more or less whole into English. Checking the Google, we are told that the base meaning of redemption is the “action of saving or being saved from sin, error, evil, etc.” And this is usually as deep into the word as we go in this context. But recall that we can also redeem a pawn ticket. This is much closer to what both the Greek and Latin words mean. The other meaning is yet another example of a Christian veneer being overlaid, or where a word has become specialised into a theological/religious context, sort of growing a specific meaning or set of implications. Like baptism, or angel. These words do not mean what they did to the people who wrote these words down over 2,000 years ago. 

There is, of course, the Ransom Theory of salvation. This holds that it was necessary to redeem humanity by paying a ransom to Satan. This ransom was Jesus, and God fooled Satan by offering to Satan an individual–seemingly a man–who was not subject to final death, so the Resurrection broke the bonds of death. So Jesus was the Redeemer because he was the ransom. Both words imply the exchange of money for the freedom of an object (a pawn shop) or an individual. The slightest bit of thought shows all sorts of problems with this idea, but nevertheless it was the standard explanation of why Jesus had to die for about a millennium. Explaining Jesus’ death, how a son of God could be killed like anyone else, in the manner of a common criminal, was a bit of a problem for Christians for a very long time. Now that Christianity has held the field in the West for a very long time, it suffices to say, simply, “Jesus died for our sins”  and everyone is content to leave it at that. No one asks why he had to die for our sins any longer. Pagans, competing for converts, were not always willing to allow the “because” explanation, so some explanation had to be offered. From some of his epistles, it is apparent that even Paul was squeamishly defensive about this from a very early time in the development of the church.

27 Et tunc videbunt Filium hominis venientem in nube cum potestate et gloria magna.

28 His autem fieri incipientibus, respicite et levate capita vestra, quoniam appropinquat redemptio vestra”.

29 Καὶ εἶπεν παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς: Ἴδετε τὴν συκῆν καὶ πάντα τὰ δένδρα:

30 ὅταν προβάλωσιν ἤδη, βλέποντες ἀφ’ ἑαυτῶν γινώσκετε ὅτι ἤδη ἐγγὺς τὸ θέρος ἐστίν:

31 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ὅταν ἴδητε ταῦτα γινόμενα, γινώσκετε ὅτι ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

32 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη ἕως ἂν πάντα γένηται.

33 ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρελεύσονται.

And he spoke a parable to them, “Behold the fig tree and all the trees. (30) When they put forth, now, seeing from itself you know now the summer is nigh. (31) And in this way, when you see these things happening, you will know the Kingdom of God is nigh. (32) Amen I say to you, that this generation will not pass away until all these things become. (33) The sky and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

The first thing to notice is that this is approximately where the story of the fig tree would have been placed in both Mark and Matthew, at some point during the week leading up to the crucifixion. But note that here, Jesus does not curse the fig tree, causing it to wither because he’s annoyed that it does not have fruit in the spring, rather than in the autumn. Here, the fig tree is just an example of a tree putting out its leaves as the summer is approaching. So it is worth pointing out that here we have yet another example of Luke cutting it short when it’s been sufficiently covered by both his predecessors. IOW, yet another coincidence that Luke chose to condense this particular story. For it has to be a coincidence; otherwise, Q doesn’t make sense. It’s yet more evidence that Luke was very much aware of Matthew, to the point that he planned much of the layout of his own gospel based on what Matthew said or did not say.

After that, it’s worth noting that Luke did include the bit about the earth & sky passing, but not his words. This is simple enough. Its a couple of sentences, and they bear repeating to let the audience know that Jesus’ words are to be taken as eternal. No harm there. What I did find surprising is that he repeats the bit about the current generation not passing until these things have become. Thinking about it, however, after having gone through this exercise twice already, there is no real downside to this. Jesus is predicting things that everyone knew had happened, so why shouldn’t the prediction be repeated? Everyone was aware of the destruction of Jerusalem. Everyone probably knew something of the story. And after all, this was the point of the story from the time Mark told it. There were two things about it that made it surprising: the part about “this generation” and the coming of the Son of Man. But the first is easy enough to brush aside; the people he was speaking to, at least some of them, did live to see the destruction. Since they were part of “this generation”, what Jesus said was technically correct. The generation cannot legitimately be said to have passed until the all had passed. The bit about the Son of Man is a bit trickier. Luke is a bit more vague about the timing; it’s not quite so tied to the rest of the tribulations, but he is still to come on a cloud. This has obviously not happened as Luke is telling the story. Luke doesn’t go into the details quite to the extent that Matthew did, which could be taken as a step back from the prophecy, a de-emphasis on this part of the story, but that is actually rather beside the point. The pertinent question to ask is not why Luke stepped back, but why Matthew went so far forward? While we’re at it, we might ask why Mark included the prophecy in the first place?

The answer, I think, is that we in our modern age don’t quite get it. We’re too hung up in the (wannabe)”factuals” that we miss the poetry. And an analysis such as this may be particularly prone to falling into this sort of trap, which has a certain degree of irony. After all, the purpose of this analysis is specifically designed not to consider the NT as fact, as in history, or biography. But we can fall into the trap of assuming a too-logical motivation for Luke, or any of the evangelists. They are not writing history as I insist on insisting. The point of ending the “Tale of Troubles” with the coming of the son of man is to leave the audience with the hope that the best is yet to come. Yes, the Jewish War was terrible, but Jesus foretold that, he got it correct. So if he’s foretelling this son of man coming on a cloud, then who’s to say that can’t or won’t also happen? One prophecy was fulfilled, so we can still hope that the Romans get theirs, too. (Of course, this wanders into the thorn bush that members of the audience were Roman…) Regardless, anger against injustice and oppression are always in style; the anger has remained relevant throughout human history. So the audience, which at first was, supposedly, the weak and the oppressed, was probably pleased to hear that the bad guys would get theirs in the end.

One thing to mention; this belongs to the commentary on VV 26-27, but better late than never. It should go without saying, but too often it is not said. There is nothing in here to suggest that Jesus is referring to himself when he speaks of the “son of man”. Yes, this is an oblique reference, perhaps a circumlocution, and yes, he speaks about the son of man frequently, and in contexts when it could–probably does–become self-referential. But how many of those references are things that Jesus actually said? How many were inserted into the story afterwards, a deliberate obfuscation to increase the ambiguity of the reference? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. And lord knows that a ton of ink has been spilled explaining that this is an oblique citation of Daniel, where (to paraphrase) “one, like a son of man, will appear on a cloud…” I have not yet come across what I would consider a thorough examination of the term, of how and when it was used, and what the likelihood of a self-reference is for any given use of the term. And really, to some degree, this would depend on a thorough examination of Mark to sort out which of the stories (can’t recall the fancy term–pericopes!) have any chance of being things Jesus actually said. Offhand, my suggestions would be the Geresene Demonaic, the Parable of the Sower, and the one where he makes mud with his saliva. There are probably others, but those come readily off the top of my head. But the point is, whom did Jesus mean by the son of man? The only place to look for that answer is in Mark.

Whomever is intended, there is a connexion between the son of man and the approach of the Kingdom of God. We don’t know what exactly that connexion is, but there is a causal element to it, just as the warm weather heralds the coming of summer. Nor is it clear whether the kingdom is to be earthly or other-worldly. We discussed recently, that orthodox Jewish thought would place the kingdom on earth, on the order of a second Eden rather than the disembodied spirit world that belongs to Greek thought. And note that the son of man does not create the kingdom; rather, he is more like the harbinger, the advance guard, or perhaps Elijah. Offhand, if the kingdom is nigh as the son of man comes down on his cloud…it honestly could go either way. Christians, of course, are so accustomed to a kingdom not of this world that most would doubtless read it this way. It may be so, it may be the most likely meaning, but it really is ambiguous. Not sure how many times I’ve made this point, but it bears (constant) repetition: it is crucial to grasp just how little certainty we have about so many beliefs that are so fundamental to Christianity. Those Reformation-era Protestants swore up and down they were going back to the Bible as the source and foundations of Christian belief. In a word, they failed to do so on a lot of topics because the NT is simply too ambivalent, or even internally inconsistent to provide a firm basis for so much of what so many people believe. Let’s take my favourite theologian: Calvin. There is a basis for Predestination, but there are also conflicting sentiments expressed. In Romans 1:17, Paul declares “the just shall live by faith”, but in 2:6 he says “God will give to each (person) according to his/her works/deeds”. So there you go. And so it is here.

29 Et dixit illis similitudinem: “Videte ficulneam et omnes arbores:

30 cum iam germinaverint, videntes vosmetipsi scitis quia iam prope est aestas.

31 Ita et vos, cum videritis haec fieri, scitote quoniam prope est regnum Dei.

32 Amen dico vobis: Non praeteribit generatio haec, donec omnia fiant.

33 Caelum et terra transibunt, verba autem mea non transibunt.

34 Attendite autem vobis, ne forte graventur corda vestra in crapula et ebrietate et curis huius vitae, et superveniat in vos repentina dies illa;

34 Προσέχετε δὲ ἑαυτοῖς μήποτε βαρηθῶσιν ὑμῶν αἱ καρδίαι ἐν κραιπάλῃ καὶ μέθῃ καὶ μερίμναις βιωτικαῖς, καὶ ἐπιστῇ ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς αἰφνίδιος ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη

35 ὡς παγὶς. ἐπεισελεύσεται γὰρ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς καθημένους ἐπὶ πρόσωπον πάσης τῆς γῆς.

36 ἀγρυπνεῖτε δὲ ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ δεόμενοι ἵνα κατισχύσητε ἐκφυγεῖν ταῦτα πάντα τὰ μέλλοντα γίνεσθαι, καὶ σταθῆναι ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

37*) =ην δὲ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ διδάσκων, τὰς δὲ νύκτας ἐξερχόμενος ηὐλίζετο εἰς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Ἐλαιῶν:

38 καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ὤρθριζεν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ.

“So pray that your hearts never become weighted down in hangovers and drunkenness and lifely cares, and that day come upon upon you suddenly (35) as a snare. (These last 3 words grammatically part of Verse 34). For it will come upon all standing upon the face of the earth. (36) So be watchful in all seasons needing (usually translated: praying) in order that you overcome to flee all the things that are willing to become (that you are strong enough to overcome the trials and flee those things destined to happen), and to stand before the son of man. (37) In those days be teaching in the temple, by night you coming you must abide to the mountain called Of The Olives. (38) And (??? being morning??? the sun having risen???) all the people towards him in the temple to hear him.” 

The word ὤρθριζεν does not occur in any pagan authors. It appears exactly once in the NT, in this location. The big Liddell & Scott does not provide a translation for this base form of this particular verb. And L&S also cite only this instance of the word. The NT Lexicon of Thayer, included on the website* (which I haven’t recommended lately, but which is very handy) says that this is used in the LXX for “at dawn” or something such. It is derived from the root for “dawn”, it’s likely that the meaning lies of “at dawn” or “sun having risen” may sort of get at the meaning. And it may be pedantic of me to be so snooty about this, but the fact of the matter is, I like being pedantic. It’s part of the appeal of writing a blog like this. Anyway, as if needed, just to reinforce what we said in the comments to VV 29-33, we are way too smug about what we supposedly know about the NT. Or any ancient text, for that matter. It’s just that we are more apt to pretend to know more than we do about the NT than we are about, say, Thucydides. Regarding this author, about half of the scholarship consists of arguments about what he is actually saying.

While we’re talking about grammar, the first 3 words of Verse 35 belong with the sentence contained (mostly) in Verse 34. Have no idea what happened. Stuff like this is why I’m reluctant to venture into textual/manuscript matters; these are subjects for experts. There exists an entire realm of scholarship that one does not encounter until one goes looking for it. I have never done so.

Oh, and “praying”. The root of the word is “to lack” or “to need”. It is used to express the sentiment of compulsion, as “I need to do this”. From there, it is used, down in definition 2 II as “to beg”, from whence in the LXX and NT it becomes “to pray”. Words change, and Classicists get awfully snobby about  this from time to time. 

Other than that, there is nothing of note here. At least, there is nothing we haven’t heard numerous times in the three gospels: it’s coming, be ready. These warnings were obviously inserted well after Jesus’ death. And well after Paul wrote as well. In Galatians and 1 Thess, he’s practically looking out the window every few minutes, like a kid waiting for a ride. By the time of 1 Corinthians, the ardour of the urgency has cooled a bit. By the time of Mark, it has settled into this sort of expectation that is forgotten most of the time, the way a kid doesn’t really get impatient about her birthday until maybe the month before; the other ten months, it’s sort of there, but not often noted. Given this lackadaisical attitude, the evangelists had to keep people on their toes, expectant, ready, like the wise virgins who brought extra oil for their lamp to await the master’s return. So once again, serious evidence that this passage post-dates Jesus’ death by a long time. 

35 tamquam laqueus enim superveniet in omnes, qui sedent super faciem omnis terrae.

36 Vigilate itaque omni tempore orantes, ut possitis fugere ista omnia, quae futura sunt, et stare ante Filium hominis ”.

37 Erat autem diebus docens in templo, noctibus vero exiens morabatur in monte, qui vocatur Oliveti.

38 Et omnis populus manicabat ad eum in templo audire eum.