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Luke Chapter 18:1-14

This chapter starts with more instruction. In truth, the content of this opening scene appears to be a continuation of the last chapter rather than the start of something new. I honestly do not know the rationale behind the designation of chapters & verses. The system is a bit different from the way it’s done for a Classical author like Herodotus. Whatever the logic behind the chapter/verse breaks, the result is that we get chapter breaks that don’t always make much sense. The most glaring example is Mark 9:1, which clearly should be part of Chapter 8. It may have something to do with scrolls, but I don’t think so. IIRC, part of the argument for Matthew having been written first is that Mark is a summary, a text that can fit on a single scroll. My response to this is, have they read Mark? So if all of Mark can fit on a single scroll, how does that impact the chapter divisions? And, btw, I’m not saying definitively that Mark can fit on a single scroll; I’m saying that my (admittedly often faulty) memory has a vague recollection of something such.

Text

1 Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ μὴ ἐγκακεῖν,

He spoke a parable to them with the intention ( πρὸς.= pros = towards) the necessity of them all to pray and not to omit it. 

Let’s take a brief pause. The last word in the verse is a tad problematic. It’s a verb formed from kakos, which is a very broad word with the essential meaning of bad. And it can mean bad in many different ways. Opposed to kalos, beautiful, kakos can mean ugly. In Greek thought, daimon was a neutral term, but a kakodaimon was a bad one. Here the verb form could simply mean “do something bad”, but the second definition is to “culpably omit a thing”. The Latin is sufficiently similar as to require no comment; the KJV, however, renders this as “not to faint”. More modern translations opt for “that they not lose heart”. The idea of fainting is present in the Latin, but it’s completely absent from the Greek. So, once again, rather than going back to the original, a lot of English translations only get as far back as the Vulgate.

To make the pause not so brief, let’s note that we do not know whom he is addressing. It could be his disciples; it could be a crowd in general. It’s not specified. What this means, I think, is that Luke does not feel that the audience is particularly important. That, of course, is obvious; the real question is why does he feel this way? What comes immediately to mind is that, by the time he wrote, Luke didn’t believe that the setting was all that crucial. He was not terribly concerned about the placement, etc., which means, I think, that Luke isn’t concerned with the historicity of the stories any longer. He doesn’t seem to care if Jesus was on a mountain, or on a plain, or in a boat, or speaking to a crowd or in a synagogue or any of these things. He’s concerned about the what, and not the who, where, or how. The why, of course, is obvious; to spread the message. But this is something to note. IIRC, Luke is very short on these contextual details; however, that is something to verify rather than trust my faulty memory.

1 Dicebat autem parabolam ad illos, quoniam oportet semper orare et non deficere,

2 λέγων, Κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει τὸν θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος.

saying “There was a judge in a certain city not fearing God (the judge did not fear God) and did not hold humans in regard.  

This probably requires no comment or explanation, but this line had always struck me as odd. It simply (?) means that the judge was a very strong-willed man who thought himself capable in matters divine and human. It occurred to me that he may not fear God because he knew in his heart that he was righteous, but that reading is completely undercut by “not regarding people”. The judge does not care for anyone, human or divine. He is a bada$$ dude. It’s worth noting that the Latin is more clear on this: the judge did not honour God and he did not revere men”. 

2 dicens: “Iudex quidam erat in quadam civitate, qui Deum non timebat et hominem non reverebatur. 

3 χήρα δὲ ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσα, Ἐκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου.

4 καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἐπὶ χρόνον, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Εἰ καὶ τὸν θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι οὐδὲ ἄνθρωπον ἐντρέπομαι,

5 διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην ἐκδικήσω αὐτήν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με.

6 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Ἀκούσατε τί ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει:

7 ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός, καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς;

8 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει. πλὴν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς;

“There was a widow in that town and she came before him (the judge) saying, ‘Give me justice from the injustice I receive’. (4) And he did not wish for a time; after which he said to himself, ‘(For) if I do not fear God, nor do I regard men, (5) for what cause does that widow hand over trouble to me? I will avenge/provide a legal remedy to her so that she will not come to me in the end (and) weary me’.” (6) And the lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge says. But will God not avenge/give satisfaction of the cries of his elect of the cries to him day and night, and will he be patient upon them? (8) I say to you that he will  avenge/give satisfaction quickly. However, the son of man coming, will he find such faith on earth?

The word <<ἐκδίκησιν>> presents a bit of a nuance. At base, the concept is “avenge”, but this quickly trails into “satisfaction” and “provide legal remedy”. Which is the intent here? I used “avenge” when the judge is having his rumination on what to do about the widow; I provided the range of avenge/give satisfaction when talking about God. One of the epithets of the god Mars– the notorious god of war, known as Ares by the Greeks– was Mars Ultor, Mars the Avenger. Is God in his Christian guise a god of vengeance? I would hope most people would answer this in the negative since Jesus preached a God of love and forgiveness. In the HS, YHWH can certainly be called a god of vengeance; there is no doubt a thread of vengeance running through the scene when pharaoh’s army is destroyed by the Red Sea. But didn’t the message of Jesus supersede that? Maybe. To anyone saying that the God of the NT was not interested in vengeance, I would suggest that person read Revelations. That is a revenge fantasy, which is sort of the point of all apocalyptic literature. Honestly, in this scene, the translation of “legal remedy” arguably makes the most sense. He is a judge, after all, and that is what judges are supposed to do. But when we’re talking about redressing the cries of the elect, “legal remedy” doesn’t really make sense. In that case, we have to ask ourselves if there is any real difference between giving satisfaction and wreaking vengeance? One can quibble about this, but look deep; since this is set in a context of apocalyptic writing, the idea of vengeance is not really out of place. The KJV chose to render this as God will avenge his elect; more modern translations opt for “give justice to his elect”.

We need to talk about the judge, but before getting to that, there is something I want to note. The word for “widow” used here does not appear in Matthew. This parable is unique to Luke, so of course we don’t find it in Matthew’s version of the story. The same is true of the story of the widow of Nain, whose son Jesus raised from the dead back in Chapter 4. The other two notable examples are the parable of the Widow’s Mite, and Jesus castigating the Pharisees as men who devour the houses of widows, etc. I find this a tad puzzling; of all the downtrodden and hopeless people in the ancient world, the poor widow was among those with the least chance of bettering her lot in life. Slaves could be freed, and if they were not, they were usually provided for so they might provide a valuable economic return. Orphaned children had it bad, but they could end up with some means of providing for their physical needs of food and shelter. The widow, OTOH, especially an older widow was in dire straits, especially if she were the widow of a man who worked for a living, because wealthy widows were, well, wealthy, to the point that they were courted by Paul to provide economic support for his fledgling assemblies. Why does Matthew omit them? Could this be part of the reason he blessed the “poor in spirit”? Was he, perhaps, not as concerned with the economically downtrodden? Did Luke remove the “in spirit” to correct this lack of emphasis he found– or didn’t find– in Matthew? 

Now for the judge. In the harmony I just consulted, he is referred to as the “unjust judge”. Why is that? Because he neither fears God nor respects people? Or because he continuously refused to provide justice to the widow? Of course, one could easily argue that the latter was a function of the former. Jewish morality as expressed throughout the HS was very keen on protecting the weak. [As an aside, is this another clue that Matthew was, indeed, a pagan?] My point is that he is labeled “unjust” without any real background on why he was so, but this is the fault of later commentators and interpreters rather than of the gospel itself. My point is that Luke’s description is understood in a certain way even though there isn’t a lot of supporting evidence. Not fearing God and not granting justice, it seems, are short-hand which is meant to be stand in for a larger context. Trying to come up with a modern analogy, I might suggest an expression like ‘fairy-tail ending’, which elicits a set of circumstances and values and implications without further explanation. Do the expressions used by Luke function in the same manner? This may not be a merely idle speculation; it possibly calls into question who Luke’s audience was. But then again, it has to be reiterated that labeling the judge “unjust” is a later phenomenon. We get the idea from the story itself. He is possibly unjust for not giving the widow satisfaction in the first place. So we come back to the question of whether he is giving her satisfaction or extracting revenge.

The point isn’t whether we can answer these questions. The point is that the questions have to be asked.

In the end, the judge is not to be taken too literally. The purpose he serves is to represent justice or vengeance delayed. It doesn’t come immediately for the widow, and neither will it come immediately for God’s chosen. But it will come. So we are getting much more deliberate promises that all will receive their due at some point. Here and now that point is undefined, but I think the idea of a post-mortem judgement where each individual is punished or rewarded on merits accumulated– or not– while living is becoming more and more settled. It is very, very important to continue to emphasize the pagan background of this concept. I’ve been reading a lot of Pre-Socratic philosophy of late, and the idea of reward/punishment in the afterlife was largely established in Greek thought half a millennium before Jesus made it a Christian thing. It was not an integral part of the HS; recall that the Pharisees were controversial because they believed in the resurrection of the body. Josephus tells us this, but nowhere does he talk about the immortality of the soul. If one reads the Apocrypha, there are (apparently; I admit I haven’t read them thoroughly) indications that the idea of the immortal soul had been incorporating itself into mainstream Jewish belief; however, I’m not sure this is has been settled in Jewish teaching. A quick Google search of “Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife” brought back a bunch of ambivalent answers; as such, I feel able to put forth the answer of “not definitively”. It seems, rather, that this idea really became a central tenet of Christianity only after the new sect became predominantly pagan in origin. And even then, it probably was not fully worked out for a century or so after Jesus. Many core beliefs of Christianity were not fully established as orthodox until the second or third centuries, if not later. A great example of this is the Trinity; this wasn’t worked out until the mid-200s. As such, translating it as “sacred breath” is meant to serve as a reminder that the author was decidedly not writing about the Holy Spirit.

This actually serves as a great segue into the question in the last verse: will the son of man find such faith on earth? Faith in what? In God? Sure, that’s the easy answer, but does it actually address the question that has been asked? Because there are two questions asked: (1) will God ignore the cries?; and (2) will the son of man find the faith? The answer to the first is assumed to be affirmative. Of course God won’t ignore the cries; after all, the hard-hearted judge finally gave in, so God most definitely do the same. The fact that Luke puts the second question into Jesus’ mouth refers back to the discussion about the afterlife. Will people on earth believe that they will be given satisfaction in the end? Now, technically, there is no reference to an afterlife. Jesus does not say when the satisfaction/vengeance will be meted out; it could be here on earth, which is, apparently, not an alien concept to Jewish thought, even today. From my quick search, it seems that this is still current in Jewish beliefs, and remains so because there is no general consensus, let alone single dogma, on the topic. 

However, the emphasis on the eventual nature of the justice, the fact that it took so long for the judge to do the proper thing seems to be an indication that this justice will not necessarily happen soon, and so could be understood to be something that occurs in the afterlife. This is the pagan understanding, one that stretches back to the Egyptians a thousand or more years or more prior to Jesus. And note that the question is not about whether the Son of Man is God, and whether the Son of Man will return, but about the eventual coming of justice/vengeance. Apparently this was an important question for Luke: had the idea of eventual justice truly taken hold among the assemblies? This has all the earmarks of an insider question; of course there will be such faith because of course all those hearing the question believe that it will come. This nudge-nudge-wink-wink expectation of an affirmative answer most likely follows if the followers were largely pagan  In other words, this question marks a significant milestone in the development of Christian doctrines and beliefs. That there will be eventual justice is, as of Luke’s writing, a standard belief of the Christian community. At least, that is one way to read this, but I think (at the moment, anyway), that it has a lot of merit and so is likely to be the most correct interpretation.

We have to mention, at least, the elect.  In Greek, elect and chosen are synonyms. Elect is most properly translated as chosen. A candidate is elected because she is the one chosen by most people. This word, in all its implications, will run like a thread through Christian theology and come to full fruition in the theology of Calvin. We must remember, however, that the word with its attendant baggage was first used by Paul, most particularly in Romans, which is the foundation document for belief in predestination. Of course, it is a natural continuation of the idea that the Israelites were God’s chosen people, God’s elect people. The two ways of expressing the thought are identical. So the word will spur real acrimony among Christian thinkers for a couple of millennia.  

3 Vidua autem erat in civitate illa et veniebat ad eum dicens: “Vindica me de adversario meo”. 

4 Et nolebat per multum tempus; post haec autem dixit intra se: “Etsi Deum non timeo nec hominem revereor, 

5 tamen quia molesta est mihi haec vidua, vindicabo illam, ne in novissimo veniens suggillet me”.” 

6 Ait autem Dominus: “Audite quid iudex iniquitatis dicit; 

7 Deus autem non faciet vindictam electorum suorum clamantium ad se die ac nocte, et patientiam habebit in illis? 

8 Dico vobis: Cito faciet vindictam illorum. Verumtamen Filius hominis veniens, putas, inveniet fidem in terra?”.

9 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ πρός τινας τοὺς πεποιθότας ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῖς ὅτι εἰσὶν δίκαιοι καὶ ἐξουθενοῦντας τοὺς λοιποὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην:

10 Ἄνθρωποι δύο ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσεύξασθαι, ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης.

11 ὁ Φαρισαῖος σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα προσηύχετο, Ὁ θεός, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὥσπερ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἅρπαγες, ἄδικοι, μοιχοί, ἢ καὶ ὡς οὗτος ὁ τελώνης:

12 νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι.

13 ὁ δὲ τελώνης μακρόθεν ἑστὼς οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπᾶραι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, ἀλλ’ ἔτυπτεν τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ λέγων, Ὁ θεός, ἱλάσθητίμοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ.

14 λέγω ὑμῖν, κατέβη οὗτος δεδικαιωμένος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ παρ’ἐκεῖνον: ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

And he said to certain ones having been persuaded upon themselves (ie., they had taken it upon themselves to believe) that they were just and spurned the others this parable. (10)  Two men going up to the Temple to pray, one was a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector (publicanus, in Latin). (11) The Pharisee standing towards himself prayed, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humankind, greedy, unjust, adulterers, or even (kai) this publican. (12) I fast twice of the Sabbath (apparently = twice in the week), I give a tenth of all so much I possess’. (13) But the publican having stood far off did not wish either to raise his eyes to the sky, but beat his breast saying, ‘O God, may my sins be forgiven’. (14) I say to you, the latter went down having been set right to his home from this (i.e., act/action). That all raising himself will be humbled, the one humbling himself will be lifted.”

If you’ll recall, we noted out at the beginning of the section that we were not given any sort of indication of who the audience for this was. We still do not really know. I think this reinforces what I said at the beginning: that the context and the who and where don’t really matter any more. What matters is the message. 

As far as the content of the story itself, my feeling is that it requires no comment. But is that true? The exalt/humble thing is not a new message, having been found in both M&M. But the dramatis personae of this version are very different from the characters in Matthew’s version, where the words are spoken in the “Woes” speech. By this point you should be able to guess at my next question: how does this impact the Q debate? Assuming we get the concept of the aphorism from Mark, even if the set-up and wording are slightly different,* the thought is the same: the earthly roles will be reversed, the mighty and powerful and those taking precedence will be brought low and put in their places. (Yes, it can be argued that the thoughts expressed are not the same, but that argument will likely not be convincing.) As such, what we have is Luke siding with Matthew against Mark. Per the Q proponents, this “never” (a quote) happens. And Kloppenborg does not include this humble/exalted aphorism in his the reconstruction of Q. So there you have it. Yes, the argument will be that this doesn’t count since it really came from Mark, but that is precisely the point: Luke following Matthew rather than Mark. Else, how to explain how Luke managed to come up with the same wording, using the same words, as Matthew did? This says that the non-existence of Q is pretty much Q.E.D., IMO. 

*Mark 9:35: the first will be last, and the last will be first. 

9 Dixit autem et ad quosdam, qui in se confidebant tamquam iusti et aspernabantur ceteros, parabolam istam: 

10 “Duo homines ascenderunt in templum, ut orarent: unus pharisaeus et alter publicanus. 

11 Pharisaeus stans haec apud se orabat: “Deus, gratias ago tibi, quia non sum sicut ceteri hominum, raptores, iniusti, adulteri, velut etiam hic publicanus; 

12 ieiuno bis in sabbato, decimas do omnium, quae possideo”. 

13 Et publicanus a longe stans nolebat nec oculos ad caelum levare, sed percutiebat pectus suum dicens: “Deus, propitius esto mihi peccatori”. 

14 Dico vobis: Descendit hic iustificatus in domum suam ab illo. Quia omnis, qui se exaltat, humiliabitur; et, qui se humiliat, exaltabitur ”.

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Luke Chapter 17:1-10

Since my production is down, I’m going to try the short-and-quick route by doing short sections. I’m also going to skip an intro and jump right into the

Text

1 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν, πλὴν οὐαὶ δι’ οὗ ἔρχεται:

2 λυσιτελεῖ αὐτῷ εἰ λίθος μυλικὸς περίκειται περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔρριπται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἢ ἵνα σκανδαλίσῃ τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ἕνα.

He said to his learners, “It is not admissible that the stumbling not come, but woe to the one through whom it comes. It is more profitable for him if a millstone be hung around his neck (trachea) and he be thrown into the sea than to make stumble to one of these little ones.   

I deliberately made some idiosyncratic choices for translations here. The first is “learners” instead of “disciples”. That is a very literal translation of the Greek. “Disciple” comes from the Latin, which happens also to mean “learners”. Like “baptize”, disciple has taken on a very specific meaning in English that was not present in either the original Greek or the Latin translation. It is a good idea to throw a little sand in the gears once in a while to obviate the tendency for us, as modern readers, to get too comfortable with the standard rendering of a particular word. This is especially true for words like this that have become ossified in English into a specifically theological sense. These were just garden-variety words in Greek & Latin; that needs to be remembered. Jesus is just speaking; he is not uttering Holy Writ.

The second involves “skandala”. The English result of this word is transparent. The meaning in Greek is “to stumble”, from “stumbling block”. However, I notice that, while the KJV renders as “offenses”, several modern translations use “to stumble”. So I’m not being as weird as I had thought.

More interesting is the idea expressed. Of course we’re all going to stumble, because we’re human likely to be understood. Let’s think about that for a moment. Recall that Luke is (possibly/probably) the first evangelist to be aware of Paul’s writing. At least, he’s the first that we’re sure who knew about Paul as an apostle, even if he was not aware of Paul’s writing. I don’t see a lot made of this for whatever reason. Having read 1 Corinthians, we know that Paul was sort of hung up on sex. Reading this passage with that in mind, I wonder if perhaps some Christian communities went to extremes about sex, going full-bore puritanical. Of course, it doesn’t have to be about sex, but the next line seems to indicate that it is. At least, this admonition which is also in M&M, that is how this was presented to me back whenever. And let’s be honest: pederasty was a common practice in the Graeco-Roman world. Tacitus, and especially Suetonius have all sorts of lurid stories about the sexual depravity that Tiberius was (said to be) practising in his pleasure dome on Capri. And recall that Tiberius was on the throne when Jesus was executed, if the chronologies are to be believed–and there’s no really good reason not to believe them so far as I know; admittedly, however, that isn’t very far. OTOH, while this is the sort of thing historians would debate endlessly, it never seems to occur to biblical scholars to question it. Eusebios very confidently accepts the standard chronology, and places Jesus’ execution in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign (IIRC. Might be off a bit on that).

So anyway, Luke, like Mark & Matthew before him, is telling us that it’s not the sin per se that is horrible; it’s the corrupting of “one of the little ones”. It’s certainly easy to interpret that as children, and it’s probably difficult to interpret it any other way, at least, not credibly. “Little ones” can refer to the downtrodden or the peasants, in the way that Oscar winners thank the “little people” who helped make their performance possible. Realistically, though, taking “little ones” to mean anything other than children is a stretch. To emphasize, this story in Mark is part of the story in which Jesus tells the disciples to become like the child he is holding in his arms (one envisions Jesus sitting with the child on his lap. Perhaps due to artistic depictions?). What is interesting about this version, IMO, is that Luke does not feel the need to give us the context like this. He just says, “these little ones”, but we have absolutely no context on where they are. At the end of the previous chapter, they–or at least Jesus–was in the company of Pharisees as he told the story of Dives and Lazarus. At the outset of this one Jesus is simply with his disciples. Where? Where are “these” little ones? The answer, I think, is that they are in the other two gospels. We have seen this before in Luke. In stories that have been well-told, and adequately handled by the other two, Luke shortens his version or leaves out details as he does here. In places where perhaps Matthew summarized Mark a bit too severely, Luke provides a long version to fill out the narrative omitted by Matthew. And yes, of course this ties back to Q; at least, it ties to the question of whether Luke had read Matthew. When there is a high level of correlation in situations as described, this comes down rather convincingly as evidence that Luke was very much aware of Matthew.  

1 Et ad discipulos suos ait: “Impossibile est ut non veniant scandala; vae autem illi, per quem veniunt!

2 Utilius est illi, si lapis molaris imponatur circa collum eius et proiciatur in mare, quam ut scandalizet unum de pusillis istis.

3 προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς. ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἐπιτίμησον αὐτῷ, καὶ ἐὰν μετανοήσῃ ἄφες αὐτῷ:

4 καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ λέγων, Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ.

5 Καὶ εἶπαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι τῷ κυρίῳ, Πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν.

6 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ [ταύτῃ],Ἐκριζώθητι καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ: καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν.

“Devote yourselves (as in, ‘pay attention!’). If your brother might sin against you, (rebuke) him, and if he repents forgive him. (4) And if he should sin against you seven times in a day, turn to him saying, ‘Repent,’ (and) leave him.” And his apostles said to the lord, “Put upon/within us faith.” (6) The lord said, “If you have the faith as a seed of mustard, if you said to [the/that] sycamine tree, ‘Uproot yourself and throw yourself in the sea’, and it would heed you.” 

First, let’s talk about the tree. It appears there is a whole thing about the “sycamine” tree; “sycamine” is a straight transliteration, which means the English letters are substituted for the Greek letters and the word is pronounced (more or less) the same. “Logos” is a great example. I was going to translate as “sycamore” tree and leave it at that, but then I wanted to check to see what sort of tree it was that Zacchaeus will climb. Back in Catholic school, we sang a song about Zacchaeus, and how he climbed a sycamore tree, so it seemed wise to corroborate the genus and species across verses. The KJV renders the word as ‘sycamine’; modern translations render as ‘mulberry’. Well, it turns out that a sycamine tree is actually a mulberry tree. A Google search turns up a whole bunch of stuff on the mulberry tree mentioned here, of which two species are common to Palestine. Luther apparently translated the word as “mulberry tree.” Wikipedia says he made his German translation directly from Hebrew and Greek, so he would have encountered sycamine. However, Luther learned his Bible in Latin; going back to the Greek was still an unusual activity in his time and everyone in the west learned the Bible in Latin. And the word used in Latin is “morus”; and the genus of the mulberry trees common to Palestine is “morus”. This makes me wonder if the whole mulberry thing is based on Luther’s reading of the Vulgate, which means it may indeed have been the same tree that Zacchaeus will climb in 19:4. We’ll come back to this again, but, in the meantime, I will defer to St Jerome whose knowledge of Mediterranean flora was doubtless much superior to mine.

Perhaps of more interest to most is the admonition on forgiving your brother. Most of us recall that Matthew enjoined us to forgive seven times seventy, or seventy-seven times. Luke, here, only tells us to do it seven times. Per my Absolutely Official version of Q, the “correct” version of this, as found in Q, is the seven we find here. Ergo, Luke has the more “primitive” version. In this case, I would tend to agree with that assessment, assuming I actually believed in Q. Which I don’t. So this becomes problematic, which, in turn, sure makes it convenient to have a Q so that we don’t really have to weigh the two versions and decide why they are different. But is that true? If the more primitive version is seven, why did Matthew change it? Do we have a redactionally consistent explanation of every time Matthew varies from Q? That is what the Q people demand of those who do not accept Q, but it seems to me they’ve got that backwards, doesn’t it? The question isn’t– or shouldn’t be, really– why Luke deviates from Matthew, but why Matthew deviates from Q? What reason does Matthew have for changing it to “poor in spirit” or “seventy-seven” times? Because I will grant that it does seem curious that Luke only tells us to do it seven times. The “poor in spirit” change is easy enough to explain, but the seven, vs the seventy-seven, is a bit more difficult.

As a quick aside, I seriously doubt that one can come up with an redactionally consistent explanation for why Luke changed Matthew in this case. Luke disagreed. He had his own view, but is it realistic to believe that he had a consistent, abiding understanding, or re-interpretation of Matthew from which he never deviated? Really? What human being in the world is capable of that degree of consistency? None that I know of. Which is where and why the whole divine inspiration thing comes in handy. But I do think the Q people have, once again, managed to shift the burden of proof onto those who don’t accept the idea. The Q people should be made to prove that it did exist, and then explain every instance where Matthew diverged from the “original” text. Instead, they demand that we prove it didn’t exist– which is impossible, btw; one cannot prove a negative– and provide a redactionally consistent explanation for every time Matthew chose to ad lib.

But even more interesting is that Luke gives us leave to leave. Matthew’s ‘seventy-seven’ times is a sort of rhetorical short-hand for “ad infinitum”; that is, there is no limit to the number times we should forgive our sibling. (Practically speaking, however, if we are talking about a literal sibling, forgiving seventy-seven times over the course of a lifetime is hardly “infinite”.) So what this means is, if Q did exist, Matthew was being more lenient than Jesus. Luke tells, OTOH, that seven is enough, after which we can leave the sibling and go one’s own way. And, given Q, this is the original message of Jesus. Think about that. Jesus did not preach a forgiveness that was infinite. You get your set number of chances, but after that, you’ve proven yourself to be incorrigible and you’re on your own. So, this means that if Luke was less forgiving than Matthew, Jesus was also less forgiving than Matthew. Of course, this latter conclusion vanishes if we follow the evidence and accept that Q never did exist. This means that Luke was less forgiving than Matthew, and that’s the end of it. Jesus never enters the comparison. The commentaries don’t have a lot to say on the differences between the two versions. That is the problem with commentaries: they do not always cross-reference sufficiently; Rather, they focus too narrowly on the passage before us at the moment. An effective discussion would have to come from a theologian who is discussing the concept of forgiveness in the NT. Ellicott does provide an interesting insight. He says that the leave to leave is Luke enjoining the listener to get up and leave the moment after forgiving seven times rather than remain and lose your temper. That does make sense. 

The final point is one I’ll leave to you to determine the level of importance. It seems hugely significant to me, but then my perspective is usually a bit off-kilter. I’m like Pluto: I don’t lie on the same plane as the rest of the solar system. The point is that I cannot ever remember hearing any of this chapter read aloud as the gospel. That includes nineteen years growing up in the Roman Rite, and then another eighteen or nineteen as an adult in the Episcopal Church. Never. Of course, that’s not to say it never happened. One possibility is that this reading is done on a Tuesday in April or something when I wasn’t at church. Why is that? Of course, the most likely answer is that this would highlight the difference between this passage and the corresponding version in Matthew. That would lead to the uncomfortable questions about the appropriate number of times we should forgive our sibling.

3 Attendite vobis! Si peccaverit frater tuus, increpa illum et, si paenitentiam egerit, dimitte illi;

4 et si septies in die peccaverit in te et septies conversus fuerit ad te dicens: “Paenitet me”, dimittes illi ”.

5 Et dixerunt apostoli Domino: “ Adauge nobis fidem! ”.

6 Dixit autem Dominus: “ Si haberetis fidem sicut granum sinapis, diceretis huic arbori moro: “Eradicare et transplantare in mare”, et oboediret vobis.

7 Τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν δοῦλον ἔχων ἀροτριῶντα ἢ ποιμαίνοντα, ὃς εἰσελθόντι ἐκ τοῦ ἀγροῦ ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ, Εὐθέως παρελθὼν ἀνάπεσε,

8 ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ, Ἑτοίμασον τί δειπνήσω, καὶ περιζωσάμενος διακόνει μοι ἕως φάγω καὶ πίω, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα φάγεσαι καὶ πίεσαι σύ;

9 μὴ ἔχει χάριν τῷ δούλῳ ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὰ διαταχθέντα;

10 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ὅταν ποιήσητε πάντα τὰ διαταχθέντα ὑμῖν, λέγετε ὅτι Δοῦλοι ἀχρεῖοί ἐσμεν, ὃ ὠφείλομεν ποιῆσαι πεποιήκαμεν.

“Who among you having a slave that having been ploughing or herding, who comes from the field says to him, ‘Immediately coming in, get off your feet’, (8) but does not say to him, (rather than saying to him) ‘Prepare the dinner, and gird yourself to minister to me while I eat and drink, and after that you will eat and drink’? (9) Do you not have thanks to/for the slave that performs the commands? (10) It is also this way for you, when you do all the commands (given to) you, you say that ‘We are useless slaves, we have done what we were obligated to do.”

Upon reading this the first time, I was beginning to question my reading comprehension. How did we go from the mulberry tree throwing itself into the ocean to having a slave who ploughs/herds? But the payoff does come at the end when it kinda sorta maybe relates to having faith. Or maybe not. The lesson is that just doing what you’re told is not sufficient; you have to go above and beyond that, and such a lesson makes sense. And so it’s by going above and beyond that you have the faith of a mustard seed and can move trees. At least. that’s how I’m reading this.

7 Quis autem vestrum habens servum arantem aut pascentem, qui regresso de agro dicet illi: “Statim transi, recumbe”,

8 et non dicet ei: “Para, quod cenem, et praecinge te et ministra mihi, donec manducem et bibam, et post haec tu manducabis et bibes”?

9 Numquid gratiam habet servo illi, quia fecit, quae praecepta sunt?

10 Sic et vos, cum feceritis omnia, quae praecepta sunt vobis, dicite: “Servi inutiles sumus; quod debuimus facere, fecimus’ ”.

 

Luke Chapter 12:35-48

The last section ended with a discussion about poverty. My contention is that this was not a significant aspect of Jesus’ teaching; rather, it slowly gained importance until Luke pushed it into the level of prominence that we now consider as an integral part of Jesus’ original message. This has some real-world implications for our life today; if the message on the blessedness of the poor, and the injunction to help our neighbor is missing, to a large extent, from half of the gospels, it becomes much easier to overlook. Now we turn from that to other aspects of Jesus’ teaching.

35 Ἔστωσαν ὑμῶν αἱ ὀσφύες περιεζωσμέναι καὶ οἱ λύχνοι καιόμενοι,

36 καὶ ὑμεῖς ὅμοιοι ἀνθρώποις προσδεχομένοις τὸν κύριον ἑαυτῶν πότε ἀναλύσῃ ἐκ τῶν γάμων, ἵνα ἐλθόντος καὶ κρούσαντος εὐθέως ἀνοίξωσιν αὐτῷ.

“Let Your loins be girded, and the candles burning, (36) and you are the same as men expecting their lord when he has become loosed from his wedding, in order him coming and striking immediately opening for him.

A few things. The first word in Verse 35 is a third person imperative. “Let it…” more or less captures the sense, all though there is a sense in which the “let it” is directed at the person hearing; that is, it’s actually a second person imperative. And the word for “gird” is based on the word for “put a belt on”; John the Baptist’s leather belt is described by the base meaning of the word. I actually saw a drawing of how one girds one’s loins. If you recall that the standard garb was a long tunic rather than trousers, the idea of girding is to take a belt and use it to hold up the hem of the tunic so that the legs are able to move freely. And the “become loosed” is me being a tad pedantic. The only citation of this meaning “return” is this one. So, you can see the progression from “become loosed” to “return” is logical. And the Latin is “to return”, so this is how St Jerome understood the word. 

Kloppenborg in his Q/Thomas Reader does not include this in Q; he cites it as uniquely Luke. I’m not sure I agree with this assessment. The idea of waiting with lamps for the lord to return is certainly found in Matthew. The difference is that in Matthew, we have ten virgins waiting with lamps, and some brought extra oil while others did not. So the externals are very different, but the basic metaphor is identical. In that instance, too, Kloppenborg notes the very obvious dissimilarities and concludes that the story is unique to Matthew. That is, neither story is believed to be part of Q. This is what happens, IMO, when we get so focused on the individual trees and forget to take a step back and look at the forest. That is, the analysis is so hung up on stuff like kai/de distribution that we never (well, maybe almost never… ) consider the overall message. This has been a glaring failure all through the entire consideration of Q; this is simply another example. Again, yes, this metaphor can be seen as coincidental; but how many coincidences does it take to equal evidence of correlation? Whatever the number is, the Q project apparently believes it’s higher than however many exist.

35 Sint lumbi vestri praecincti et lucernae ardentes,

36 et vos similes hominibus exspectantibus dominum suum, quando revertatur a nuptiis, ut, cum venerit et pulsaverit, confestim aperiant ei.

37 μακάριοι οἱ δοῦλοι ἐκεῖνοι, οὓς ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος εὑρήσει γρηγοροῦντας: ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι περιζώσεται καὶ ἀνακλινεῖ αὐτοὺς καὶ παρελθὼν διακονήσει αὐτοῖς.

38 κἂν ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ κἂν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ φυλακῇ ἔλθῃ καὶ εὕρῃ οὕτως, μακάριοί εἰσιν ἐκεῖνοι.

“Blessed are those slaves whom, the lord coming finds awake watching. Amen I say to you that he (the lord) will have girded his loins and they reclining coming he will serve them. (38) And in the second or third watch he should come and find them this, blessed are they. 

Seems to be a lot of girding of loins going on here. The salient point in these two verses is the word “watching”. This is another unusual word. While it’s not quite as rare as oligopistos (of little faith) it’s still a Jewish (LXX) and Christian word, not used much (no cites in L&S). However, it is used a couple of times in Matthew. And one of the placements of the word there is interesting. It comes at the end of the story of the Ten Virgins, in reference to the five that had brought extra oil. Odd, isn’t it? 

Well, full disclosure. Matthew also uses the word in the story about the master who would be watchful if he knew when the thief was coming. We will get to Luke’s version of this in the next couple of verses. So while it may be interesting, it is not by any means conclusive. It is decidedly ambiguous. But it’s one more instance of a “coincidence” in usage of a word much more interesting than the kai/de distinction. 

We did mention before, that the night was divided into four (IIRC) watches. The first would start at dusk and last something like three or four hours. So the second and third watches would be the stretch from, say, eleven until the couple of hours before dawn. That is, the dead of night. My apologies for the imprecision, but being precise s not particularly important; “the dead of night” gets the idea across well enough.

37 Beati, servi illi, quos, cum venerit dominus, invenerit vigilantes. Amen dico vobis, quod praecinget se et faciet illos discumbere et transiens ministrabit illis.

38 Et si venerit in secunda vigilia, et si in tertia vigilia venerit, et ita invenerit, beati sunt illi.

39 τοῦτο δὲ γινώσκετε ὅτι εἰ ᾔδει ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης ποίᾳ ὥρᾳ ὁ κλέπτης ἔρχεται, οὐκ ἂν ἀφῆκεν διορυχθῆναι τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ.

40 καὶ ὑμεῖς γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι, ὅτι ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεται.

“This you will know that if the lord of the manor should know which hour the thief comes, he would not allow to be broken into his home. And become you (imperative), that at the hour you do not expect the son of man comes”.

The word that I translated as “become you” is a second person plural imperative. “You must become” would probably be the most idiomatic rendering, but that implies obligation rather than command. There is a difference. And I could have (should have?) rendered it, simply, as “be ready” since the base meaning of verb gignomai, or here as ginomai, “to become”, is very often just used as a replacement for “to be”. However, in this instance, I like the sense of using it in its truest sense. “Be ready” is one thing; “become ready” is something rather different. It has the decided implication that the disciples are not ready at the particular moment.

Secondly, in Verse 39, there is a minority ms tradition that adds the word “watchful”. The sentence then reads …(the lord) was watchful and would not allow…). The word used was the same one we commented upon in the previous couplet. Matthew used the word in his version of this story, which preceded (rather than following as it does here) the story of the Ten Virgins. I do not accept the inclusion of the word here; as I said, it’s a decidedly less robust tradition, usually only found in the footnotes. It’s just that the two Greek texts I use were split on it, so it seemed worth mentioning. The most likely explanation is that some copyist added it to a Lukan ms tradition based on the inclusion of the word in Matthew. 

Even so, let’s stop and think about this for a moment. We have an unusual word. Matthew uses it in this story, then again at the end of a story about having your lamp/candle lighted and being watchful for the return of the lord. Luke does not use it in this story, but uses it in his version of the warning to have your lamp/candle lighted and be watchful. The story of the light/watchfulness, which has the word in both Matthew and Luke is not in Q; but the story of the lord and the thief is in Q. But the word in question is in Matthew and not Luke; that is, the word appears in the version that is supposed to be less primitive. That is, the word was not in Q, was not in Luke, but was in Matthew. Does any of this seem remotely logical? That is the crux of the matter, the question you have to ask yourself. Does the Q theory make sense–if you don’t assume its existence and then work backward to prove it. Remember, without Q, there is no link to Jesus for most of the most memorable episodes and teachings of the NT. That alone makes Q an absolute necessity for a lot of people, and these people will then twist themselves into all sorts of Gordian pretzels and ignore all sorts of arguments in order to feel confident that such a link to Jesus does exist, no matter what. That is faith; it is not scholarship. 

39 Hoc autem scitote, quia, si sciret pater familias, qua hora fur veniret, non sineret perfodi domum suam.

40 Et vos estote parati, quia, qua hora non putatis, Filius hominis venit”.

41 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος, Κύριε, πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγεις ἢ καὶ πρὸς πάντας;

42 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ κύριος, Τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν ὁ πιστὸς οἰκονόμος ὁ φρόνιμος, ὃν καταστήσει ὁ κύριος ἐπὶ τῆς θεραπείας αὐτοῦ τοῦ διδόναι ἐν καιρῷ [τὸ] σιτομέτριον;

43 μακάριος ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος, ὃν ἐλθὼν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ εὑρήσει ποιοῦντα οὕτως:

44 ἀληθῶς λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς ὑπάρχουσιν αὐτοῦ καταστήσει αὐτόν.

45 ἐὰν δὲ εἴπῃ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ, Χρονίζει ὁ κύριός μου ἔρχεσθαι, καὶ ἄρξηται τύπτειν τοὺς παῖδας καὶ τὰς παιδίσκας, ἐσθίειν τε καὶ πίνειν καὶ μεθύσκεσθαι,

46 ἥξει ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἧ οὐ προσδοκᾷ καὶ ἐν ὥρᾳ ἧ οὐ γινώσκει, καὶ διχοτομήσει αὐτὸν καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἀπίστων θήσει.

47 ἐκεῖνος δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ὁ γνοὺς τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ καὶ μὴ ἑτοιμάσας ἢ ποιήσας πρὸς τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ δαρήσεται πολλάς:

48 ὁ δὲ μὴ γνούς, ποιήσας δὲ ἄξια πληγῶν, δαρήσεται ὀλίγας. παντὶ δὲ ᾧ ἐδόθη πολύ, πολὺ ζητηθήσεται παρ’ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ᾧ παρέθεντο πολύ, περισσότερον αἰτήσουσιν αὐτόν.

And Peter said, “Lord, to us this parable do you speak, or also to all?” (42) And the lord said, “Who is this faithful and wise steward whom the lord places down upon his service to give in its appropriate time the allotment of wheat? (43) Blessed is that slave, who the lord coming the lord finds doing thus. (44) Truly I say to you that upon all those of his in existence he will set down that one. (45) If that slave says in his heart, ‘My lord will use time to come’, and he will rule to smite the male slaves and the female slaves eating and drinking and to be drunk, (46) the lord of that slave will return on a day which he (the slave) does not see and an hour which he does not recognise, and will cut him in twain and he (the lord) will put the portions of him (the slave) with the unfaithful ones. (47) That slave knowing the will of his lord and is not ready or doing towards his (the lord’s) will be thrashed much. (48) The one not knowing, doing things worthy of a beating, will receive a small thrashing. For to all to whom much has been given, much will be sought from him, and the one to whom much has been put forward, the most they will ask of him.”

I believe I’ve been fairly consistent in rendering it as “parable”. The word means something more like “comparison”. But, it’s not too much of a stretch to make it reach our concept of “parable”. It should be obvious that it’s the same word as “parabola”. The word has plenty of mathematical uses in Greek; however, the uses are more like a technical vocabulary rather than cascading meanings. Sort of like the word “strike” in baseball, or bowling. Yes, the basic sense of “smite” lurks there, somewhere, but especially in the baseball term, that original meaning is pretty well buried. And notice how Peter asks the question, but Jesus doesn’t answer? This is, I believe, a glancing blow at Mark, where he tells us that Jesus taught in parables, but told the disciples, and only the disciples, the meanings in private.

The rest of this, for the most part, is Q material. There are two things I want to mention. First, there is yet another really odd word in here. It’s what I rendered as “cut in twain” (sorry; couldn’t resist). It is also a math term for “bisect”, as in “bisecting an angle”, which is to cut an angle into two equal parts; IOW, to cut in twain. The only place it doesn’t mean “bisect” (or its synonyms) is in the Gospel of Matthew–and, by extension, of Luke. Now, Luke did not come up with this word independently; the probability of that, while not zero, is pretty daunting, somewhere in the neighborhood of lightning strike. So this means that Luke either got the word from Q, which is where Matthew got it, or that Luke got it from Matthew. We have discussed this before, but I do not recall the word in question. I have started writing these down now because I believe I can construct a decent case for this. The point is, let’s recall what Q is supposed to be. In theory, it is a collection of stuff Jesus said that was written down very soon after Jesus died, if not while he was alive. This, in turn, means one of two things. The first possibility is that Jesus indeed actually used the word, or its Aramaic equivalent. It’s highly unlikely that Jesus knew enough Greek to come up with a word like this.

So if Jesus didn’t use the word, this means that the “author”–“compiler” is perhaps more accurate–of Q chose the word. This makes more sense because if Q was written, it was probably written in Greek. In fact, if Luke and Matthew both came across the word in Q, then Q must have been written in Greek. Of course, it’s possible that Q was written in Aramaic, and that Jesus used the Aramaic term for “thrash bodily”, which the Q author recorded. Then Matthew came along, saw the Aramaic term, had heard of a Greek word for “bisect”, and decided to make it a synonym for “to thrash”. Of course, this would mean that Luke either translated the Aramaic word exactly as Matthew did, which, given the rarity of the word, seems very unlikely. Or, Luke copied the word from Matthew. So either the author of Q used the obscure Greek word, not quite properly, and was copied by both Luke and Matthew, or Matthew used the obscure term, not quite properly, and was copied by Luke. In fact, I would suggest that the use by Luke indicates that he copied it from his source rather blindly, not exactly sure of what the word meant. Had he truly known, it seems reasonable that he would have understood that the word was not being used properly and would have substituted a more appropriate word.

So who came up with the Greek word? Matthew? Or the compiler of Q? And let us forget the supposed provenance of Q. For it to be what people want it to be, it had to be early. The earlier the better. What is the likelihood that this compiler, writing shortly after Jesus–if not during Jesus’ life–was well-versed in Greek? The original followers of Jesus were Aramaic speakers. Paul wrote in Greek, but a generation after Jesus, and Paul’s early letters do not exactly demonstrate a great command of the language. More than likely the later letters, which do show a better command of Greek, were translated for him by an amanuensis. But Q, supposedly, pre-dates Paul. That the movement, in its earliest days, attracted someone who could come up with a word like “bisect”, a technical term, even to misuse it, is very, very improbable. So either the word was late–which defeats the whole point of Q–or Matthew used it and was followed by Luke. Nor does it matter whether Jesus used the word or not in its Aramaic form. The problem remains. It seems rather a sticky wicket for the Q people.

The second point rather dovetails with the first. We’ve come across this axiom, “to whom has been given, more will be given” in both Mark and Matthew. Once again, what we have here is a point where M&M agree, and Luke goes his own way. Once again, it seems that Luke has taken a story, or a pericope, that is adequately covered by his predecessors and changed it to make it his own. It must be noted that this almost always happens when Mark and Matthew not only agree, but are almost verbatim–unless Matthew has chosen to elaborate. So we have another example. So I ask you, is it reasonable to conclude that Luke did not read Matthew?

41 Ait autem Petrus: “ Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam an et ad omnes? ”.

42 Et dixit Dominus: “ Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituet dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram?

43 Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit ita facientem.

44 Vere dico vobis: Supra omnia, quae possidet, constituet illum.

41 Ait autem Petrus: “ Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam an et ad omnes? ”.

42 Et dixit Dominus: “ Quis putas est fidelis dispensator et prudens, quem constituet dominus super familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram?

43 Beatus ille servus, quem, cum venerit dominus eius, invenerit ita facientem.

44 Vere dico vobis: Supra omnia, quae possidet, constituet illum.

45 Quod si dixerit servus ille in corde suo: “Moram facit dominus meus venire”, et coeperit percutere pueros et ancillas et edere et bibere et inebriari,

46 veniet dominus servi illius in die, qua non sperat, et hora, qua nescit, et dividet eum partemque eius cum infidelibus ponet.

47 Ille autem servus, qui cognovit voluntatem domini sui et non praeparavit vel non fecit secundum voluntatem eius, vapulabit multis;

48 qui autem non cognovit et fecit digna plagis, vapulabit paucis. Omni autem, cui multum  datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo; et cui commendaverunt multum, plus petent ab eo.

Luke Chapter 12:24-34

This is rather a jump back into the middle of the story from the last section. Jesus had just said that life is more than what we shall eat, and that the body is more than clothing. This followed after the story of the rich man who made plans for his surplus output without realising he was going to die that night. The theme is not to be concerned with things of the world, but to turn our eyes to heavenly things. So the extended metaphor continues.

Text

24 κατανοήσατε τοὺς κόρακας ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδὲ θερίζουσιν, οἷς οὐκ ἔστιν ταμεῖον οὐδὲ ἀποθήκη, καὶ ὁ θεὸς τρέφει αὐτούς: πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμεῖς διαφέρετε τῶν πετεινῶν.

25 τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ προσθεῖναι πῆχυν;

Consider the ravens, that do not sow nor harvest, to whom (dative of possession) there is neither store-house nor barn, and God feeds them. To how much more do you matter than the birds? (25) Who of you is able to increase upon your age or add a cubit? (Presumably meaning to add to one’s height. A cubit is 18 inches; growing by a foot and a half would be a prodigious accomplishment.)

I would have been willing to wager actual hard currency that the sentiments expressed here and in the following set of verses appear elsewhere in the gospels. Well, I would have lost that bet because this material, pretty much the entire chapter, is unique to Luke. At some point a comment was made that Luke seemed to be compressing much of the material of the Triple Tradition, in a manner to suggest that Luke was hurrying to get through as much of the material as quickly as possible to leave room for his own unique material. IIRC from flipping through the rest of the gospel, we should get a fairly high percentage of this unique material in the remainder of the gospel. I’m going to defer comment in detail until after the next section.

That is, I will defer except to point this out. The word for “adding to” one’s life, is prostheinai.  This is the root of the word “prosthesis”, which is an artificial recreation of part of the human (or other) body.

24 Considerate corvos, quia non seminant neque metunt, quibus non est cellarium neque horreum, et Deus pascit illos; quanto magis vos pluris estis volucribus.

25 Quis autem vestrum cogitando potest adicere ad aetatem suam cubitum?

26 εἰ οὖν οὐδὲ ἐλάχιστον δύνασθε, τί περὶ τῶν λοιπῶν μεριμνᾶτε;

“Therefore if you are not able to do the least thing, Why would you be concerned about the rest?

Adding a cubit to one’s height isn’t a particularly small thing, IMO. I’d be 7’8″ tall, or thereabouts, and may have made it in the NBA. That’s quite a difference in outcome based on being able to change this aspect of my physique.

26 Si ergo neque, quod minimum est, potestis, quid de ceteris solliciti estis?

27 κατανοήσατε τὰ κρίνα πῶς αὐξάνει: οὐ κοπιᾷ οὐδὲ νήθει: λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ Σολομὼν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ περιεβάλετο ὡς ἓν τούτων.

28 εἰ δὲ ἐν ἀγρῷ τὸν χόρτον ὄντα σήμερον καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον βαλλόμενον ὁ θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέζει, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὑμᾶς, ὀλιγόπιστοι.

“Consider how the lilies grow, they neither toil nor spin. I say to you, that Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as these are. (28) But if the grass in the field being today, and tomorrow God throwing it into the furnace dressed such, how much better you, being of little faith.

The last word is highlighted. It is a compound word, oligo-pistoi, literally translated “little-faith”. It’s an interesting word. It does not occur in secular or pagan Greek. Thus it is a very unusual word, of very low frequency. How low, exactly? It occurs four times in Matthew, and here. That is a total of five instances. Now, the five instances we have does not mean it did not occur in other places; after all, so much Greek writing was lost, the stuff of literary quality, but also the lesser stuff. Think of something you wrote a decade ago, then threw away when the purpose had been served. Or perhaps something you wrote as a student, say in university. When those days ended (if they have) did you throw all that stuff away? I did. And some of it I had on floppy disks–the original 5″ versions that were floppy–even if I have the disks (which I doubt), the info on them may as well have been burned a decade ago. The point is that this word may have been more common than the five extant examples we have may indicate. 

Think about that, however. How often does this word get used in a secular context? No, it’s not impossible to do that, but the times I’ve used it there has been a level of facetiousness in the use, meant to reflect back onto its scriptural provenance. IOW, I’ve used it assuming that my audience would get the allusion to the NT. The point of all this is that it is not a word that Luke would likely have encountered very often. It’s not a common word. It occurs in Matthew–four separate times, in Chapters 6, 8. 14, & 18–and here. How plausible is it that this word just sort of occurred to Luke? Or, rather, is it more likely that Luke got this on his own, from some unknown source (which means we have another unknown source; they seem to be piling up thick and fast), or more likely that he got it by reading Matthew? This is a very serious question, and it’s not the first time we’ve asked it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been taking notes of these instances. Making these sorts of cross-comparisons seems to offer a much more fruitful avenue of pursuit than counting the occurrences of kai vs de. Those are such common words, and can come out more or less unconsciously; choosing a word like oligopistos, OTOH, is very deliberate and very conscious. This is especially true if there are several examples of this sort of borrowing of words from Matthew by Luke. And there have been several examples. I need to go back and collect them.

As for the actual content of these five verses taken collectively, they fit very nicely with another theme that we’ve mentioned in Luke. We’ve found it in the gospel as a whole, but it has been especially prominent in this particular chapter. It’s yet more on the theme of poverty. In this set of verses, the idea of not caring about riches is put in terms of letting God provide. This is, essentially, an admonition to asceticism. This was hardly a new concept, especially among Jews who were familiar with the Essenes. But by the time of Luke the Christian community was doubtless overwhelmingly pagan in origin. Among the pagans, asceticism was not quite as prominent as it was among Jews, and even there the Essenes were something of a fringe movement. Again, there is a pervasive sense among Christians–or amongst some Christian groups, anyway–that asceticism is sort of an expected ideal. This played a huge role in heretical movements of the High & Late Middle Ages, when the Waldensians, the Cathars, the Poor Friars wing of the Franciscans, and dozens of smaller groups advocated for what became termed “apostolic poverty”. But as we’ve been reading along, this sort of asceticism, or even the idea of asceticism was was practically nonexistent in Paul and Mark, and given short shrift in Matthew. It only begins to flourish now that we’ve come to Luke. He is the first strong proponent of asceticism as something to be embraced. Oh, we had the “eye of the needle” metaphor, but precious little else on this line. It is only now that it’s becoming incorporated into the mainline of Christian thought and practice. And of course, let us not forget the evolution from “blessed are the poor in spirit” to “blessed are the poor”. Far from being the more primitive version, Luke’s reading is the more developed of the two. The failure to recognise this goes hand in hand with kai/de counting; by getting too hung up in the details of the text, the overall message, and how it developed, get lost.

27 Considerate lilia quomodo crescunt: non laborant neque nent; dico autem vobis: Nec Salomon in omni gloria sua vestiebatur sicut unum ex istis.

28 Si autem fenum, quod hodie in agro est et cras in clibanum mittitur, Deus sic vestit, quanto magis vos, pusillae fidei.

29 καὶ ὑμεῖς μὴ ζητεῖτε τί φάγητε καὶ τί πίητε, καὶ μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε:

“And you do not seek what to eat and what to drink, and do not raise up.

Another highlighted word. I probably should have thought of this technique earlier. I have translated it according to its strictly technical, base meaning, which is to raise up. The word can also mean to elevate, especially with false hopes, and it can mean to be suffering from flatulence (I am not making that up). It can also mean to be anxious. By cross-referencing with the Latin, it’s a good bet that this latter is the intent in this particular passage. But the notation in Liddell & Scott is  “also, to be anxious, POxy. 1679.16 (iii A.D.), perh. in this sense Ev Luc 12:29″.

The thing to notice in this is the perhaps. Even Rev Scott did not completely feel completely confident in his rendering. Now, that translation makes sense, and it does square with the Vulgate, but boy howdy, it sure should serve as a cautionary tale on just how tentative and shaky a lot of these translations are.

29 Et vos nolite quaerere quid manducetis aut quid bibatis et nolite solliciti esse.

30 ταῦτα γὰρ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τοῦ κόσμου ἐπιζητοῦσιν: ὑμῶν δὲ ὁ πατὴρ οἶδεν ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων.

31 πλὴν ζητεῖτε τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῦτα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

32 Μὴ φοβοῦ, τὸ μικρὸν ποίμνιον, ὅτι εὐδόκησεν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δοῦναι ὑμῖν τὴν βασιλείαν.

“For these things all the people of the kosmos seek; the father of you knows that you have need of them. (31) Unless you seek the kingdom of him, and these things increase you. (32) Do not fear, o little flock, since (lit = that) the father of you is pleased to give you the kingdom.

A couple of quick notes. Jesus is addressing the disciples as, “o little flock”. This means, technically, that the noun is in the vocative case. This case is used to address someone, or something–as in this case. For a neuter second declension noun, the nominative and the vocative cases have the same ending, so it’s impossible to discern the difference w/o the context. The site that has my crib translations parses this as a nominative. A very minor detail. I bring it up, really, to clarify the translation.

And it strikes me that Luke is just referring to it as “the kingdom”. Not “of God” or “of heaven”, but just the kingdom. It strikes me, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily meaningful. It could just be one of those things. Or it could mean that Luke feels the reader is well aware that it is the kingdom of God, or of Heaven, and so it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Again, this would only be true, IMO, if Luke knew that there were two other gospels who had already and effectively made the point.

30 Haec enim omnia gentes mundi quaerunt; Pater autem vester scit quoniam his indigetis.

31 Verumtamen quaerite regnum eius; et haec adicientur vobis.

33 Πωλήσατε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὑμῶν καὶ δότε ἐλεημοσύνην: ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς βαλλάντια μὴ παλαιούμενα, θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ὅπου κλέπτης οὐκ ἐγγίζει οὐδὲ σὴς διαφθείρει:

34 ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρὸς ὑμῶν, ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ καρδία ὑμῶν ἔσται.

(33) “Sell the things (that are) of you and give the charity/alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not age, (and) treasure unfailing in the heavens, where thieves do not approach nor moths destroy. (34) For where your treasure is, there also is the heart of you”.

This last part, to some degree, is present in the other gospels. In Mark and Matthew, this injunction is spoken to a rich young man, prefatory to the “eye of the needle” maxim, which is missing here. So we have another instance where Luke has read something in Mark and then condensed much of it out. In fact, it could be argued that by removing the “eye of the needle” punchline Luke has cut out the most salient point of the lesson. Why would he do that? Because, once again, he is leaving out material that was covered completely by Mark and Matthew, and that retelling it a third time would gain nothing. Once again, he seems to be very much aware of what Mark AND Matthew have to say in this context, so he does not have Jesus direct this quip at some anonymous fellow who surfaces and disappears completely within a few verses. In those two tellings, Jesus tells the rich young man to follow the commandments, etc, and then, to be perfect, to sell what he has and give it all away. Here, he tells this to his disciples. I hope the distinction is clear: in M&M, it’s a one-off, instructions given to a stranger. Here, OTOH, the instruction is given to his disciples, to those most close to him. The implication is, as a result, very different. Jesus tells the young man to do this knowing (of course) that he will not. Here, I think, he tells his disciples to do this, knowing that they have already left everything behind and come to follow Jesus. Because in M&M, after the “eye of the needle”, the disciples ask how they can be saved if the rich cannot, and Jesus tells them that anyone who has left all he has to follow him has won a place in the kingdom. So in this section, Luke is compressing, and by a lot.

Let’s go back to poverty. You may, or may not, recall some of Paul’s whining about how he tried not to be a burden on the communities where he was staying and preaching. And, in Galatians, he contrasts his salutary behaviour with that of some of the other apostles, who remain nameless. These other apostles, Paul implies, apparently traveled with something like a retinue, that may have included their wives. Think–or, as Luke says, consider–about that in relation to the idea, or ideal of “apostolic poverty”. The two don’t quite fit together very effectively, do they? And, if we reflect further, we can infer–or deduce–that the idea of poverty as something that may have become aspirational, or considered a good end-in-itself may not trace back to Jesus at all. It may have been something that Paul introduced, albeit in limited fashion. Aside from the story of the rich young man that culminates in the “eye of the needle” and Jesus promising a reward to those who left everything behind to become followers, poverty is barely mentioned at all in Mark. Instead, Mark is much more concerned with how Jesus realises his magical feats. Mark tells us more about spit and making mud than he does about poverty. Matthew takes it only slightly further, by telling us that the “poor in spirit” are blessed. There may be a few additional references, but none that immediately come to mind–not that I have the Matthean corpus ad digitos, at my fingertips. Interestingly, Luke is the first evangelist (sort of; assuming Luke/Acts is the product of a single author) that we can be certain was aware of Paul; AND, Luke is the first who presents poverty itself, as a blessed state. “Blessed are the poor“.

It must also be noted that the emphasis on, or the concern with poverty perhaps should be attributed to James, brother of Jesus. One of his conditions in the deal he cut with Paul was that the latter should “remember the poor”. Later tradition associated James with a non-orthodox group called The Ebionites, which is generally considered to mean “the poor”. (To be fair, I have a very low opinion of later tradition; they made stuff up. So it’s a bit disingenuous of me to trot out “later tradition” as an argument in my favour. And disingenuous might be too kind; hypocritical might be more accurate.) So, with Luke, do we have a confluence of the Pauline with the Jacobian traditions? Or did the former subsume the poverty doctrine of the latter? There are all sorts of sub-currents here, or cross-currents, or flat-out contradictions. The period between Jesus’ death and Luke’s gospel was one of constant flux as different ideas, different emphases were ebbing and flowing; it is with Luke, more or less, that something like an actual church, with a hierarchy and oversight of doctrine starts to take real form. Before this, not so much. Tradition states the succession of bishops of Rome to be Peter, Linus, (Ana)Cletus, Clement…In the days of my youth the recitation of these names was part of the Consecration of the Eucharist, and said at most masses in the Roman Rite. Clement is the first we can nail down because we have a letter he wrote to the church of Corinth; his dates are, traditionally, 88-99 (always, always, give or take). That would put him at the point when Luke was writing; and Luke’s writing (again, assuming Luke/Acts) ends with Paul traveling to Rome–not exactly of his own volition, of course. Hmmm. Interesting coincidences. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but nowhere in Acts does “Luke” say that Peter was the first bishop, or even a bishop, of Rome. 

No doubt I would have gotten marks off for that last paragraph. It started with poverty and ended with the bishops of Rome. The point is, or was, or should have been, that the fifty or so years between Jesus’ death and the time Luke wrote it is probably wholly inappropriate to think of a single, orthodox Christianity. After Luke, we have conscious attempts to create one, and these attempts were met with some success. The proto-orthodox doctrines included the idea/ideal of poverty whereas most earlier traditions probably did not. As such, this emphasis, or the peculiar blessed state of poverty, almost certainly does not trace back to Jesus.

32 Noli timere, pusillus grex, quia complacuit Patri vestro dare vobis regnum.

33 Vendite, quae possidetis, et date eleemosynam. Facite vobis sacculos, qui non veterescunt, thesaurum non deficientem in caelis, quo fur non appropiat, neque tinea corrumpit;

34 ubi enim thesaurus vester est, ibi et cor vestrum erit.

Luke Chapter 10:17-24

In this short section we have the return of the Seventy(-two) and then a brief private discussion between Jesus and his gang of followers. With luck we’ll be able to get through this relatively quickly, but who knows what the text will actually turn up? There is a strong argument that I should read this stuff ahead of time; however, I prefer the spontaneity, but I especially like the immediate reaction free from preconceived notions of what to expect. If the text is surprising, let’s be surprised and deal with it on those terms.

Text

17 Ὑπέστρεψαν δὲ οἱ ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο] μετὰ χαρᾶς λέγοντες, Κύριε, καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια ὑποτάσσεται ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου.

18 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἐθεώρουν τὸν Σατανᾶνὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα.

The Seventy(-two) returned with joy, saying, “Lord, and the demons were arranged under us in your name”. (18) He said to them, “Behold Satan as lightening from the sky falling “. 

This is really interesting. Contrary to popular belief, most elements of the Satan myth are extra-biblical. Those aspects that are in the canonical Scripture are largely found in Apocalypse. One key fact to remember is that the name Lucifer is found nowhere in the Bible. Bear in mind that the etymology of “Lucifer” is Latin; satannos is Hebrew and diabolos is Greek. The Latin base for Lucifer is a priori evidence of its late entry into the myth. However, this throwaway line had a completely outsized role in the development of the myth, Everyone knows the story of Satan/Lucifer’s rebellion against God and his subsequently being overthrown and cast into the deepest part of Hell. This line helped create that story. What happened with the NT is that, once it was written and accepted, subsequent generations kept re-reading the words. When they came across something like this–and this line in particular–they had to explain what it meant and make it work with other parts of the NT–and the OT–so that the whole thing fit together to tell a single, complete, story. Of course it didn’t all fit; there are discrepancies, inconsistencies, and downright contradictions all over the place. Which version of Paul’s conversion is correct? But it was lines like this that spurred the growth of the stories about Satan/Lucifer. Why did he fall? That question had to be answered. Thus was born the great body of inferential knowledge that led to things like Mary Magdalene being a prostitute, Purgatory, and the entire myth of Fallen Lucifer. In this development, as with the stories of people like St Phillip, we see a really clear parallel to the way the Arthur legend grew, accumulating characters and deeds as it progressed forward through time.

17 Reversi sunt autem septuaginta duo cum gaudio dicentes: “ Domine, etiam daemonia subiciuntur nobis in nomine tuo! ”.

18 Et ait illis: “ Videbam Satanam sicut fulgur de caelo cadentem.

19 ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ὑμῖν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων, καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἐχθροῦ, καὶ οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς οὐ μὴ ἀδικήσῃ. 

20 πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ μὴ χαίρετε ὅτι τὰ πνεύματα ὑμῖν ὑποτάσσεται, χαίρετε δὲ ὅτι τὰ ὀνόματα ὑμῶν ἐγγέγραπταιἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

“Look, I gave to you the power to trample upon serpents and skorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing disrespected you. (20) Except in this do not be glad that you placed the spirits under you, but be glad that the name of you (plural) has been written in the heavens.   

These two verses are unique to Luke, although the bit about snakes is implied in Mark. This is all very interesting in its content, but the what catches me short is the bit about “no one disrespected you”. The Greek is <<adikese>>, which is formed from the root <<dikē>> with the prefix of negation <<a>>. Now, this is all very fine and good, but the root of the word in Greek has an entirely different connotation than the English translation. Even the Latin comes from an entirely different direction. The root forms <<δικαιοσύνη>>, which is one of Paul’s favourite words; it is usually translated as “justify”. The problem is that all the Latin words are built from the root of ius, which is “law”. <<dikē>> does not have this connotation whatsoever. The Greek word for “law” is nomos, which is the ending of words like astro-nomy. The Latin is noceo, which implies physical harm, which is how the word is usually rendered in English. But the Greek word, in Classical usage, generally lacks the idea of physical harm. Of course, “NT Greek” (whatever that is) recognizes that doing physical harm is a legitimate meaning of the word; but let’s recall that NT Greek was created by people who had been steeped in the Latin tradition for a millennium, and that this is an instance where that very deep tradition demonstrates its continued influence.

OK, so how should the word be translated here? I have chosen “disrespected”, and a good case could be made that my rendering is no better than the standard one. I chose this because it reflects an attitude rather than physical confrontation, like torches and pitchforks, or cudgels and stones, and I chose this because the reflection of an attitude is, IMO, closer to the original word. Granted, the idea that “nothing” disrespected them may feel a bit awkward, I think that is more a reflection of English rather than Greek. And it could be argued that “disrespect” just doesn’t make as much sense in the context, and that the word had come to include physical harm, and I would have to respect those positions, because they are certainly valid. But, again, one of the intentions of this blog is to provide a tool for anyone wishing to learn (or brush up on) Greek. So I’m hewing more closely to the original than might be poetic or euphonious, or even common-sensical. Oh well.

One last word. The final verse, which tells them to rejoice because their names are written in the heavens is interesting. In Judaism, on Rosh Hashanah, the idea is that God writes your name in the Book of Life, and you will live to see the next new year. One can find the influence of that attitude here. But I would suggest that it also carries the residue of pagan astrology. This suggestion is especially potent if we choose to translate it as “in the heavens” rather than as “in Heaven”, or even “heaven” as it usually is rendered. Luke’s word is plural just as it was in Matthew. In the pagan sense, the idea of a name being written in the heavens is astrological. So which is it? The idea of names written in the heavens is unique to Luke; does this represent the developing Christian doctrine of salvation? Or a hangover from paganism? I just did some looking through the Great Scott and noticed something peculiar: among pagan Greek authors in the cites provided, the word is always singular. However, in the LXX, we get ouranoi, the heavens, as we get here. That would explain why Matthew uses the plural form, and probably accounts for the usage here. So, based on this bit of research, I would say it’s Christian. 

19 Ecce dedi vobis potestatem calcandi supra serpentes et scorpiones et supra omnem virtutem inimici; et nihil vobis nocebit.

20 Verumtamen in hoc nolite gaudere, quia spiritus vobis subiciuntur; gaudete autem quod nomina vestra scripta sunt in caelis ”.

21Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἠγαλλιάσατο [ἐν] τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ καὶ εἶπεν, Ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἀπέκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν, καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις: ναί, ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου.

“In that hour he rejoiced [in] the sacred breath and said, ‘I confess to you, father, lord of the sky and the earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and sagacious and revealed (apokalypsas) them to your childish ones. Yes, oh father, that in this way it became good will before you’.

Who is doing the rejoicing? That is not entirely clear. It is what the Latin says, and how all four of my crib translations render this. Hmmm…did some closer checking. All the translations I checked close the quote of Jesus talking at the end of the previous verse (20), and this verse marks a shift. Strictly speaking, it’s not part of the discourse above, but it’s apparently Jesus rejoicing that the names of the 70(2) have been written in the heavens. I guess that makes sense enough. But it’s a great example of how reading the straight Greek, w/o the intervention of centuries of editors, can give one a different perspective on all of this. So this is an example of what happens when one ventures into this terra incognito without a guide. Am I missing things? Of course. But I think I’m also seeing things that the standard guides do not, since they largely stopped looking long ago.

Looking at it again, what this really feels like is a one-off, something stuck in here because Luke didn’t know where else to put it. Update: Having taken a glance back at Matthew, this pericope comes directly after the “Woes” speech. As such, the context is a bit more clear. This is actually one of those times where Luke messed a bit with the order, and Luke’s placement did not work nearly as well as Matthew’s did. Score one (very minor) point to the Q people.

“Childish ones” is sort of an irreverence on my part. The word is nepios, ultimately the root of “nepotism”. Interestingly, in Latin, nepos means “nephew”. In Greek it does mean “child”, particularly a child between birth and puberty. The Latin renders this as parvuli, “little ones”, the way the French might say mes petites, as Miss Clavell called Madeline and the other eleven girls in the children’s book. In Greek, the word also has the connotation of “childish”. Hence, this is the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians when he says, “…when I was a child, I spoke as a child…” This is important to bring out here, I think, because it is so obviously contrasted with ‘the wise and sagacious ones’ in the sentence. So just rendering as “children” that contrast becomes, as they say, lost in translation. 

21 In ipsa hora exsultavit Spiritu Sancto et dixit: “ Confiteor tibi, Pater, Domine caeli et terrae, quod abscondisti haec a sapientibus et prudentibus et revelasti ea parvulis; etiam, Pater, quia sic placuit ante te.

22 Πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐδεὶς γινώσκει τίς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, καὶ τίς ἐστιν ὁ πατὴρ εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι.

23 Καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπεν, Μακάριοι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ οἱ βλέποντες ἃ βλέπετε.

24 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι πολλοὶ προφῆται καὶ βασιλεῖς ἠθέλησαν ἰδεῖν ἃ ὑμεῖς βλέπετε καὶ οὐκ εἶδαν, καὶ ἀκοῦσαι ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ οὐκ ἤκουσαν.

“All was given to me by the father, and no one knows who is the son if not the father, nor (knows) who is the father if not the son, and to whom the son wishes to reveal”. (23) And turning towards his disciples, in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes (and) those seeing what you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings wished to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it”. 

Both of these sentiments are expressed in Matthew, making them supposedly Q material. However, IMO, the sentiments herein expressed are decidedly post-Jesus. These go beyond anything Paul ever said about Jesus. He never claimed that Jesus had this kind of a relationship with God, and he certainly didn’t claim this about the living Jesus. The latter, in Paul’s view, only became the anointed at the Resurrection. So these kinds of statements really don’t fit with a living Jesus. Which is why suspect so much of Q to date not much earlier than Matthew, assuming that Matthew is not their author. And I believe Matthew is their author in some degree. In some large degree. So the idea that these sayings were preserved in a written source that bypassed Mark and was passed down faithfully for fifty years, IMO, strains credulity. But, I’ve said that before; however, just to be clear, I suspect that I’ll say it again. And probably a few more times after that. 

22 Omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo; et nemo scit qui sit Filius, nisi Pater, et qui sit Pater, nisi Filius et cui voluerit Filius revelare”.

23 Et conversus ad discipulos seorsum dixit: “Beati oculi, qui vident, quae videtis.

24 Dico enim vobis: Multi prophetae et reges voluerunt videre, quae vos videtis, et non viderunt, et audire, quae auditis, et non audierunt ”.

Luke Chapter 7:18-35

This starts with the messengers from John the Baptist. This story is interesting because it technically only exists in Matthew and Luke, so it should be Q material. And perhaps it is classified that way. However, there is an echo of the story in Mark as well; perhaps a better description would be a foreshadowing. We can take a look at these three stories and see what there is to be seen.

Text

18 Καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν Ἰωάννῃ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ περὶ πάντων τούτων. καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος δύο τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης

19 ἔπεμψεν πρὸς τὸν κύριον λέγων, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν;

And his (John’s) disciples announced to John about al this. And John, having commanded two of his disciples, he sent them to the lord, saying, “Are you the one who is coming, or do we expect another?”

This is very similar to Matthew’s introduction, except we are not specifically told here that John is in prison. This is why John has to send his disciples and doesn’t come himself. The incongruity of this scene with the baptism of Jesus is striking. Think about it: in Matthew, John refuses to baptise Jesus because he knows who Jesus is. Here, John has to send his people to find out. And Luke isn’t much better: recall that Jesus and John are cousins, and that John recognized that Mary would (or had) conceive the Saviour while John was still in utero. So now we’re supposed to believe that John doesn’t know? The juxtaposition of these scenes is such excellent evidence showing that the evangelists were not writing history, and they weren’t even terribly concerned whether their stories were internally consistent. In the case of this story about John, and one each from Matthew and Luke that just don’t square with this story, we have a rather glaring inconsistency inside of each of the two gospels.

What this tells me is that this story did actually come from a third source. That is, while Luke repeated what he found in Matthew, I don’t think Matthew originated the story. This feels like something that was found more or less whole and entire that came down to Matthew as more or less a unit. Now, this could easily be used against me in my anti-Q stance; more, it should be used against me because I’m conceding the existence of outside sources. So why not Q? That is a long and complicated discussion, and it’s not one to be undertaken here and now. But I will discuss it, and soon, as a special topic. It’s something that ought to be–but isn’t–part of the discussion about Q. But then, there really is no discussion about Q; it’s a lot of posturing and sniffing down of ones’ noses.

Here’s the thing: most of the stories in Mark are also such units. I know that I commented on this at the time, but the story of the Gerasene Demoniac–my name is Legion, and we are many–is a great example. Mark came across that story and swallowed it whole, with a minimum of digesting. And if Mark encountered such set-pieces that were not part of Q, then how is Q necessary? It’s similar to what I said in the last section about the widow of Nain; it feels like Luke found the story more or less complete, perhaps composed by residents of Nain who wanted their piece of the Jesus tradition. This is the sort of thing that happens all the time; again my favorite–and the best–example is King Arthur. Wolfram von Eschenbach composed Parzifal in Germany and it became part of the Arthurian corpus. It’s important to remember that there was not one oral tradition, but probably dozens, and each of them created their own little units, little self-contained stories. The evangelists came across these building and chose to include them or not for reasons of their own, for reasons that we can only speculate about; however, the main reason a story was included or not would have been whether it fit the evangelist’s conception of Jesus. We saw how Matthew scrubbed out all of the magical practices–the use of saliva to make mud being the best, IMO–out of his version of the stories in Mark because these bits didn’t fit Matthew’s understanding of Jesus. Matthew, also IMO, included this story despite the fact that it did not square perfectly with his version of the baptism because he liked the way it let Jesus proclaim his identity, which had been “hidden”–however badly–by Mark’s Jesus. And Luke included it for much the same reason. Probably. That’s the best we’re going to get. The idea that we can come up with a consistent editorial policy for any of these guys is ridiculous and, quite frankly, hybris.

18 Et nuntiaverunt Ioanni discipuli eius de omnibus his.

19 Et convocavit duos de discipulis suis Ioannes et misit ad Dominum dicens: “ Tu es qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? ”.

20 παραγενόμενοι δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἄνδρες εἶπαν,Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς ἀπέστειλεν ἡμᾶς πρὸς σὲ λέγων, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν;

21 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳἐ θεράπευσεν πολλοὺς ἀπὸ νόσων καὶ μαστίγων καὶ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν, καὶ τυφλοῖς πολλοῖς ἐχαρίσατο βλέπειν.

22 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ ἃ εἴδετε καὶ ἠκούσατε: τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν, χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται, πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται:

23 καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί.

Coming towards him the men said, “John the Baptist sent us to you saying, ‘Are you the one who is coming, or should we expect another?'” (21) In this hour he cured many from diseases and illnesses and wicked spirits, and to many blind he gave to see. (22) Ad answering he said to them, “Going back announce to John what you have seen and heard: the blind look about, the lame walk around, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor are evangelized. (23) And blessed is the one if he does not stumble on me.”   

The idea in the first two verses is that Jesus is performing these wonders in front of John’s disciples. This live and in-person demonstration is not part of Matthew’s version. So, did Matthew find this in Q, and leave it out? Or did Luke add it to Q? Which is it? Q people really have to answer that question, and explain why they made that choice. Or did Luke find Matthew’s version of Jesus’ response a bit wanting, so he added this bit to Matthew? That is really the simplest explanation. And it’s interesting that Kloppenborg sort of pulls a weasel move here and neglects to include the demonstration in his quote of Luke, so he just refuses to call attention to this variation. Why? That is also a legitimate question that he needs to answer. I guess we are to take this as his assertion that the demonstration was not in Q. So what is the point of adding this? The point of the story overall is to declare Jesus’ identity. The addition of this extra bit is to serve as an underscore or an exclamation point to this revelation of Jesus. And, in a way, the extra emphasis is not even so much for us as it is for John’s disciples. There is no way, Luke is telling us, that John’s disciples–and so, presumably, John–could have doubted this

I’ve just come to understand that these story-units are called pericopae, singular pericope. When I tried to get the etymology, Google kept giving me the etymology for “periscope”. No, I’d already looked it up in Liddell & Scott, but wanted to make sure that it was a direct flow into English. It is. Unlike periscope, which comes from the Greek for and means “a looking around”, pericope comes from the Greek for “cutting around”. The idea is that the story-unit has been clipped around and extracted whole, much as one might clip out a newspaper article–assuming one still knows what a newspaper is, and that people used to clip these out. Oh, I’ve been exposed to the term for a long time, and I’ve had an idea what it means, but I finally nailed it down. I can see the point of the term; it has a pretty technical meaning, but it also seems a bit pretentious to me. Of course, that’s a total hoot because I’m one of the more pompous and pretentious people I know, especially about language. 

20 Cum autem venissent ad eum viri, dixerunt: “ Ioannes Baptista misit nos ad te dicens: “Tu es qui venturus es, an alium dexspectamus?””.

21 In ipsa hora curavit multos a languoribus et plagis et spiritibus malis et caecis multis donavit visum.

22 Et respondens dixit illis: “ Euntes nuntiate Ioanni, quae vidistis et audistis: caeci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur et surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur;

23 et beatus est, quicumque non fuerit scandalizatus in me ”.

24 Ἀπελθόντων δὲ τῶν ἀγγέλων Ἰωάννου ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς ὄχλους περὶ Ἰωάννου, Τί ἐξήλθατε εἰς τὴν ἔρημον θεάσασθαι; κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου σαλευόμενον;

25 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἱματίοις ἠμφιεσμένον; ἰδοὺ οἱ ἐν ἱματισμῷ ἐνδόξῳ καὶ τρυφῇ ὑπάρχοντες ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις εἰσίν.

26 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; προφήτην; ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, καὶ περισσότερον προφήτου.

27 οὗτός ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου.

28 λέγω ὑμῖν, μείζων ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν Ἰωάννου οὐδείς ἐστιν: ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.

Having gone away the angels of John, he began to speak to the crowd about John. “What did you come to the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (25) What other did you come to see? A man in soft garments dressed? Behold, those in glorious and delicate clothing being in the palaces are. (…those being in…clothing…are in palaces…) (26) What other did you come to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. (27) He is (the one) about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my angel before your sight (lit = face) who will prepare your way before you.’ (28) I tell you, greater than John of (those) born of woman no one is. But the least in the kingdom of God is greater than him”.

Just to note: the word that I have rendered as “angels” is angellon“, which means “messenger”. It’s the same word used for Gabriel and the member of the heavenly host who brought glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds abiding in the fields with their flocks. It means messenger; except when it goes untranslated and remains as angels, which is another word transliterated from Greek to have a special theological meaning.

Much of this is verbatim in Matthew. One thing I’ve recently discovered is that it’s seems difficult to find anyone willing to present an argument for Q. Most of the Q people take Q as proven and self-evident, and spend their time talking about Q as if it is indisputable and authoritative, or sniping at the non-Q people in a supercilious tone. The number of those arguing against Q seems to be growing; either that, or my awareness of them is growing. Now, one thing I’ve just run across is someone arguing that there is no definable literary relationship between any of the gospels, and particularly between Matthew and Luke.

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tj/q_linnemann.pdf

Her conclusion is based on statistical studies of word recurrence, and her point is well taken that an overlap of words in the range of 20-30% is not terribly convincing proof that such an overlap occurred. However, I find this position as untenable as the Q position; she does not look at the which words overlap as I have been doing. Sharing of very unusual words is much more significant, IMO, than whether the two evangelists use the same word for “he went”. And what the words are saying, I believe, carries more weight than whether exactly the same words or sentence structure was used. It continually seems to escape the notice (there is a Greek verb for that sentiment) of Biblical scholars that Matthew and Luke are…how to put this…different authors. Luke did not set out to create a faithful copy of Matthew, just as Matthew was not interested in creating a faithful copy of Mark. These were different people; they wanted to tell the story in a way different from the ways it had been told before. This is why the whole, “why would Luke mess with the order of Matthew?” question strikes me as so hollow. Luke would mess with it precisely because he wasn’t Matthew, and that in and of itself is a sufficient reason that is redactionally consistent. However, I’ve done a word-for-word comparison of Matthew and Luke on their respective passages. They are darn near identical. It’s impossible that these did not come from the same source, whether it be Matthew or Q–or something else.

Finally, there is the concluding verse. John is the greatest of woman born. Does that include Jesus? It doesn’t say “greatest of those without a divine father”. But that is really picking nits. Or is it? Have to think about it. Truly, though, ‘born of women’ is an extended synonym for ‘human’; regardless of what any hypercritical examination may turn up, the thought is plain enough. What does it mean? Why is this here? And it came from Matthew, so the whole first-cousin-of-Jesus thing hadn’t been invented. But here’s a thought: is this why Luke came up with the story of John’s heritage? Intriguing, no? But not really a point in favour of non-Q; it could have come from Matthew, or it could have come from Q, or it could have come from another source. There is no way of telling, at least, not when trying to glean from an individual newspaper clipping (i.e., pericope).

The thing is, there are also the words of Josephus to consider. He gave John a much longer story than he gave to Jesus. This tells me that, in Judea at least, John was more recognizable than Jesus, and Josephus was writing in the very late First Century. That’s another topic I’d like to see someone explain. It deserves some examination. The problem, I think, is that it rather falls between two stools: the biblical people aren’t interested in suggesting that John was the more popular of the two, while there really isn’t much for historians to go by. We have the evidence of later Roman writers that there were Christians, but nothing about Baptistians. Outside of the NT, we have the one cite from Josephus and nothing else. Still, even some informed speculation would be preferable to the black void that we have.

The end result is that I’m spinning my wheels. My not-so-informed speculation is that Matthew added this because there were still Baptistians about, because he was tapped into the same sources as Josephus. That’s not much of a conclusion, but it’s got some support. Otherwise, why is this here? The question to ask is when this would have been written? Is this something Jesus possibly said? That’s just it; while the exact words are speculative, there is no reason why Jesus couldn’t have referenced John. And there’s no reason to think that this can’t be from the 40s, or really even the 30s. In fact, earlier is better because the memory of John would have been fresher. So Q? Could be. This could be something going back far enough to end up in Q as it’s conventionally conceived. The only thing is, why isn’t this in Mark? And Paul never mentioned the Baptist. He refers to baptism, but never mentions the source of the practice. IOW, more questions. As always.

24 Et cum discessissent nuntii Ioannis, coepit dicere de Ioanne ad turbas: “ Quid existis in desertum videre? Arundinem vento moveri?

25 Sed quid existis videre? Hominem mollibus vestimentis indutum? Ecce, qui in veste pretiosa sunt et deliciis, in domibus regum sunt.

26 Sed quid existis videre? Prophetam? Utique, dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam.

27 Hic est, de quo scriptum est:

“Ecce mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui praeparabit viam tuam ante te”.

28 Dico vobis: Maior inter natos mulierum Ioanne nemo est; qui autem minor est in regno Dei, maior est illo”.

29 {Καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἀκούσας καὶ οἱ τελῶναι ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν θεόν, βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμαἸωάννου:

30 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ νομικοὶ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἠθέτησαν εἰς ἑαυτούς, μὴ βαπτισθέντες ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.}

31 Τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης, καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι;

32 ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις τοῖς ἐν ἀγορᾷ καθημένοις καὶ προσφωνοῦσιν ἀλλήλοις, ἃ λέγει, Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε: ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκλαύσατε.

33 ἐλήλυθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς μὴ ἐσθίων ἄρτον μήτε πίνων οἶνον, καὶλέγετε, Δαιμόνιον ἔχει:

34 ἐλήλυθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγετε, Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν.

35 καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς.

 { “And the whole people hearing and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptised in the baptism of John. (30) The Pharisees and the lawyers the will of God set as naught towards themselves, lest they be baptised by him.} (31) So to what are the men of this generation the same as, and to what are they similar? (32) They are like children seated in the marketplace and speaking to each other, which one says, “We played the pipe for you and you did not dance. We mourned and you did not cry. (33) For John the Baptist came and did not eat bread nor drink wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon’. (34) The son of man came eating and drinking, and you said, ‘Look, that man eats and drinks, is a friend of the tax collectors and sinners. (35) And his wisdom was justified from all her children.”

First of all, there are a number of unusual words in there. Lawyer is odd, not being a real occupation in the Greco-Roman world. There were professional speakers, and professional speakers adept at the law, but to call them lawyers in any way that would resemble what we call lawyers is a stretch. The word is not quite unique to Luke; Matthew does use it once, but in a different context. Now the word for “mourned” occurs four times in the NT, twice in Luke, once in John, and once in Matthew, in exactly the same context as here. Again, these unusual words carried over into the same story setting are difficult to explain except on the basis that Luke read the same thing as Matthew. Or he read Matthew. Which takes us back to the question of where the unusual word is more likely to arise: in one of the early followers, or someone more educated, say, someone who read the LXX rather than the Hebrew? That’s like the fourth or fifth one of these words that we’ve come across. The weight of these words is starting to accumulate, n’est ce-pas?

Second, the part in the {} is not in all mss traditions. Frankly, it has the look and feel of a marginal gloss that got incorporated; part of the reason for this feel is that it doesn’t particularly make sense as part of the text, but it does as a marginal note someone scribbled on the scroll, or in the codex. And then there is the whole thing with the children; what is up with that? I’m totally missing the point on this little joke. Why do we have children saying these things? And how is it that the children are the ones playing the pipe? It seems to me that this is rather backwards. John an Jesus played the pipes, and no one danced. The contrast between John and Jesus, and the fact that diametrically opposed behaviours elicited the same result of rejection is just too ironic for words.

Finally, there is the last line about wisdom. Or should it be Wisdom? I ask because no Christian commentary will make the point that Wisdom, Sophia, was a significant member of the assemblage of divine beings of the Gnostics. One of my biggest problems with Gnostic thought is the way it got sidetracked into cosmology, with an endless array of archons and…can’t think of the other one. Outflowings, or something like that. Emanations? Anyway, Sophia was often the first child of either the Demiurge, or was the mother of the Demiurge, or…It doesn’t matter. A little research later, yes, the term is emanations: wave after wave of beings, or entities, or archons were propagated and filled up the heavens. It’s all very confusing. And Sophia most often is the mother of the Demiurge.

So this whole mention of Sophia is rather interesting. The Christian commentaries sort of gloss over this, but Wisdom having children is not a very Christian thought. It sort of exists out there on the perimeter of the boundary between orthodoxy, apocryphal, and downright heretical.

It’s also interesting to note two other things. First, the “wisdom is justified” is more or less verbatim from Matthew; however, whereas here it/she is justified by her children, in Matthew she is justified by her works. “Children”is taken to be the actual term used, but I’m not sure I’d agree with that.  The Demiurge, in Gnostic thought, was the creator of the material world, and so was inferior to God. The Demiurge was often equated with the YHWH of Genesis. Since the material world is lower than the spiritual, the Demiurge is considered the genesis of evil. Which means that Sophia, as the font of the Demiurge, can be said to be the genesis of evil. As such, in Gnostic terms it’s hard to understand how Sophia would be justified by her children. Of course, we cannot say that the sophia here is the Sophia of the Gnostics. Now, if the Christian commentators are correct to gloss this in Christian terms, this says a lot about the state of development of Gnosticism even s late as Matthew, and possibly Luke.

Much of my argument for a late date for Gospel Thomas is that the Gnostic thought is very highly developed there, much more so than I think is justified for a First Century authorship. Gnosticism was not a Christian phenomenon, but it seemed to get a major impetus after Christianity had begun to flourish. The dualist tendency shown in Paul’s distinction of flesh vs spirt is not close to the radical dualism to be found later, but it’s a step on the path. Mark seems to make allusions to knowledge hidden. But these threads have not really coalesced as they did in Valentinian in the middle quarter of the Second Century. Thomas fits better in that milieu than it does with the much less developed dualism or Gnosticism of Paul and Mark. Those lines of thought were latent in those two authors; Gnosticism is very strong in Thomas, even if dualism does not get the same emphasis as it does in some strains of Gnosticism. 

But this is really getting lost in the swamp of speculation. Chances are that given Matthew’s use of “works”, the intent of the passage was sort of a “by their fruits” sort of thing. The Vulgate Matthew reads “works” as well, and most modern translations render Matthew as “works”; the KJV, however, renders both Matthew and Luke as “children”. Now, two things: the first is this change from from the “works” to the “children” of Sophia is a pretty good indication that Matthew certainly did pre-date Luke. I’m not sure how much weight there is behind Luke writing before Matthew, but this would seem to be a good reason to discount the probability of that having occurred. Second, whatever the progeny, where did “wisdom” come from? Matthew used the word three times; Mark once; Luke about a dozen times between his gospel and Acts. Paul, used it a lot. But Paul used it in a very neutral sense; it was not personified, and there are no instances where it would seemingly be capitalized, as it could be here. This usage here (and its correlate in Matthew) really stands apart from the way it’s used elsewhere. It’s arguable that it’s sui generis in the NT. This really helps cement the fact that these two evangelists certainly did share a source, whether Q or no; the most likely scenario remains that Luke used Matthew. I keep coming back to the content of Q. A real one-off like this truly makes me question how people could think of this in terms of the 30s. It’s odd, it doesn’t fit. A much more likely explanation is that Matthew picked up on this new strain, Luke used it, and referred to “wisdom” a lot more than his predecessors because Luke is the first evangelist to be aware of Paul and Paul used it a lot. Luke also may have used it so much more because it was coming into circulation with proto-Gnostic thought. This combined with Paul would have provided Luke with rather a lot of stimulus.

And for now, that’s about all I can really say about the topic. It’s puzzling, to say the least. And it indicates an influence from outside the usual streams of Jesus lore.

29 Et omnis populus audiens et publicani iustificaverunt Deum, baptizati baptismo Ioannis;

30 pharisaei autem et legis periti consilium Dei spreverunt in semetipsos, non baptizati ab eo.

31 Cui ergo similes dicam homines generationis huius, et cui similes sunt?

32 Similes sunt pueris sedentibus in foro et loquentibus ad invicem, quod dicit:

“Cantavimus vobis tibiis, et non saltastis; lamentavimus, et non plorastis!”.

33 Venit enim Ioannes Baptista neque manducans panem neque bibens vinum, et dicitis: “Daemonium habet!”;

34 venit Filius hominis manducans et bibens, et dicitis: “Ecce homo devorator et bibens vinum, amicus publicanorum et peccatorum!”.

35 Et iustificata est sapientia ab omnibus filiis suis”.

Considering Q

When I first started reading books on Q, I would get to the part where the author started talking about the various textual similarities and differences between Matthew and Luke. My eyes would start to glaze over with all the citing of chapter and verse, so I’d more or less skim that part, in order to get to the actual argument to support Q’s existence. Then, I’d get to the end, and I’d stop and scratch my head, because, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the argument for Q was. Somehow, I’d managed to miss the building of the case. Then, finally, it struck me.

The textual comparisons were it. They were the entire argument for Q. There was nothing else.

As someone trained in history, this is absolutely appalling. How can you base the argument for a document as important as Q on textual comparison? Where was the real evidence? The cite by one of the Church Fathers. The allusion in some other writing. Some hint dropped by…someone, at some time, somewhere before, oh, 1800. Guess what? There are no cites; there are no allusions; there are no hints. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Nichts. Rien. Zero. The entire case for Q rests on value judgements.

In a piece I’ve read, John Kloppenborg, the University of Toronto scholar who appears to be the pointman of the pro-Q camp, says that he is reluctant to state that the case for Q boils down to nothing more than subjective value judgements about aesthetics. Whose gospel is better written? Matthew’s? In which case Luke would never have spoiled the stylistic beauty, the majesty of Matthew’s tour de force. Since Matthew is so brilliantly, so coherently written, no sane person would possibly entertain the notion of changing the order, the structure of Matthew. Since Luke does exactly that, well, it obviously proves that Luke had never read Matthew. So why does Luke agree with Matthew on so many points? Well, because of Q. They were both working from a combination of Mark and Q. So yes, there would be overlaps, but yes, there would be stylistic and organizational differences, too, since each would draw his own conclusions about how best to arrange the material in the two sources.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are reasons to suppose that Luke may not have read Matthew. I will concede this because these stylistic arguments are lost on me. What Kloppenborg and the Q-people say isn’t wholly without merit. I m not trained in textual analysis; were I, no doubt much of what they say would make even more sense. But basing their case on the hypothetical existence of a hypothetical document for which there is no evidence aside from the inference that it must exist seems a very slender reed to use to support the superstructure of ther argument. The historian in me simply rebels. Come on now. There is no evidence for this document. What’s worse is that the pro-Q camp is so bloody smug about it. Well, of course there was a Q. What kind of a plebeian are you? Can’t you tell that Luke didn’t use Matthew? Can’t you just tell?

And the other really neat trick they’ve pulled off is that they have entrenched Q so solidly in the thought-world of NT academia that, somehow, it has become incumbent on the non-Q people to prove that Q didn’t exist. In any nomal world of historical analysis, if you suggest that something existed, you had darn well better be able to make a case to show that there is some, you know, evidence that it did exist. But not here. The burden of proof has been put on the shoulders of the non-Q people, and that is just bizarre. Think of it this way. If I want to purchase something large, like a house, I can’t walk into a bank to take out a mortgage, and expect to get said mortgage unless I can prove that I have some assets. I don’t say: “Prove that I don’t have a job, or 100k saved, or whatever”. A fundamental rule of argumentation is that it’s really hard to prove that something doesn’t–or didn’t–exist. I suppose this could be similar to the sort of inferential argument in evolution: we have form A and form C of a given species, so we can infer form B without any actual proof. But this is history; in science a certan line of development can be assumed based on certain physical laws and probabilities, but history has no such rules. Things can progress alonng a certain path and then, suddenly, go off at 90 degrees without a whole lot of warning.

But in fact, this sort of “fill in the blanks” argumentation is a big part of historical thinking, especially for periods of time like early Greece (or most of Greek history), for which we have but scanty evidence. A classic example is the question “where were the horses?” when talking about the Battle of Marathon in 490. Herodotus goes to great pains to talk about the Persian cavalry; how expert they were, how they built special horse-transports to bring them on the expedition, etc. And yet, he never mentions them in the description of the battle. Did they participate? If so, why didn’t he mention them? Did he feel that it wasn’t necessary? Did Herodotus just assume it could be taken as given that the Persian horse were involved? Or did they not participate? If not, why not? In 1899, Professor Munro of Oxford suggested that the Persians had started to load the horses into the transports to make a sea-borne run on Athens, thinking that they could make the trip more quickly than the Athenian army, thus enabling the Persians to attack while Athens was undefended. This was such an ingenius solution that the “dash on Phaleron” became accepted as fact. And when I reported it as such in my first Greek history essay, Prof Cole put a big red circle around it and informed me that this was only a theory. And, in fact, the theoretical “dash on Phaleron” came under increasing attack, and now is little more than an academic footnote. Sic transit gloria academiae.

That was a very long digression, so my apologies. But I believe it is relevant. It was a great theory; it held the field for upwards of 60 years. But, ultimately, it couldn’t be defended for lack of evidence. Hence, it fell back into the pack, just one of many theories. Q has held the field for almost 200 years, all the time without any real evidence. I believe it’s time that it be recognized for what it is: one theory among many.

Another aspect of this that I find hard to believe is that the idea of Luke using Matthew doesn’t have more proponents. It really is the simplest theory; it explains the status quo, even if it does not present a coherent explanation of why Luke seems to differ so much from Matthew. That is simple, too. It’s different because Luke was writing his own gospel. To think that one theory explains Luke’s editorial choices better than another is interesting, and probably valuable, but it is, ultimately, speculation based on aesthetic criteria. Sorry, but that is the simple fact of it, and even Kloppenborg acknowledged this, even if he stopped short of admitting the full array of implications of this.

Besides, there are a number of things that the pro-Q camp never does. First, no one, as far as I can tell, has ever attempted to explain why Mark was wholly unaware of, or unconcerned with, the existence of Q. Mark is writing about Jesus, the Messiah, the Lord. And yet, Mark is pretty much completely silent of what it was that Jesus was teaching. Does he not know about Q, and the content of what Jesus taught? If he know about Q, then he made a deliberate choice to leave out the Q material. Think about that. Jesus was a teacher; Mark said that all who heard him were astounded by Jesus’ teaching, and that he taught with authority, unlike the scribes. And yet, Mark omits pretty much all of the most important stuff. Like most of the stuff in the Sermon on the Mount, which is the epitome of Christian teaching. How is this even posssible?

OK, yes, it’s possible. But what is the likelihood of this? And more, how did happen? Any theory that accepts Q has to explain that. The pro-Q camp insists to the point of vehemence that any theory that doesn’t accept Q has to have a full-blown explanation for every place where Luke changes Matthew’s narrative. And yet, they do not even acknowledge that explaining how Mark didn’t know about/didn’t us Q is even an issue, let alone attempt to explain it. Sorry, that’s just wrong as an attempted historical thesis of the situation. A valid theory cannot simply ignore the problem of why Mark didn’t use Q material.

When I first started doing this, I blandly assumed Q because it’s so deeply ingrained in the scholarship. It’s just taken as given. Over time I came to understand the problems with the theory. There are others who are aware of this; Goodacre suggests that it should always be referred to as “the hypothetical document Q” as a reminder. I mean, we are at the point where we have reconstructed Q. Think about that: we have reconstructed a document that probably never existed. How slick is that? And even Goodacre acknowledges that Q is “coherent” in the thoughts expressed. More, we have identified the different layers of Q. That is the degree to which Q is simply believed. It’s an astonishing act of faith, really.

Of course this identification of Q strata does not explain where these later strata came from. Where were they when the original Q was written? Which raises questions. The whole point of Q is that it is a very early document, predating possibly even Paul, recording Jesus’ words shortly after his death. And yet, there’s this stuff that was added later. Do we not see a problem with this? This is what is called “internally inconsistent”. It does not work in the terms of its own internal logic.

So with time, I became convinced that the situation was this: Most of what distinguishes Matthew from Mark–e.g., the Sermon on the Mount–had actually been written by Matthew, and then Luke wrote his gospel using both Mark and Matthew. I still believe that Luke used Matthew. All one has to do is compare the “brood of vipers” speech in Matthew and Luke. They are more or less verbatim. The obvious conclusion is that Luke copied Matthew here. Now, the Q people will say that they both copied directly from Q, but the simpler solution is that Luke used Matthew. This doesn’t require the introduction of any hypothetical documents. And note one other thing: Q is supposedly the teachings of Jesus. But it’s the Baptist who utters the “brood of vipers” speech. When did Q become concerned with John? Think about that. Once again, the “coherent” document of Q is internally inconsistent. Well, the riposte would be, this comes from a later stratum, one that wasn’t part of the original. Translated from Q-speak, this means someone made it up afterwards. Who? Well, someone. But not Mark. Well, maybe it was Matthew. Someone made it up. We don’t know who. So we can attribute it to an unknown author of a possibly non-existent text, or we can attribute it to Matthew. While technically, the author of Matthew is just as unknown as the author of Q, at least with “Matthew” we know that the text did actually exist. That’s a big step forward over the possibly non-existent document Q.

One thing needs to be made very clear. Luke wrote a gospel because he felt he could add to the overall story of Jesus. Indeed, that’s why Matthew wrote his gospel. Matthew did not set out to repeat what Mark said, and only what Mark said. What would be the point of that? Matthew added material because he felt he had more to add. The same with Luke. Why did he change Matthew’s inviolable order? Because he was Luke, and not Matthew. Whether the changes that Luke made make sense to us is more or less irrelevant; they made sense to Luke. I know that violates the sensibilities of a lot of biblical scholars, and possibly a lot of Christians. But if we’re going to read this as an ancient text, then we have to throw away an awful lot of prejudices, preconceived notions, and sacred cows. We have to look at the text, and we have to look at the historical process. Luke changed Matthew because he wanted to, because it felt like the best way to tell his story. And Luke wanted to tell his own story. He did not want simply to repeat Matthew; what is the point of that?

It’s perhaps similar to the way a movie changes the book; fans of the book invariably ask, “why did they change it?” Answer: because they wanted to, they wanted to put their own stamp and interpretation on the work, to tell the story in a slightly (or significantly) different manner because it made artistic sense to the director to do so. Luke had his own story to tell. If it meant changing ’round some of the stuff in Matthew, then so be it. This wasn’t Matthew’s story any longer, after all. Luke added so much to the Christian vocabulary and thought world, images that are woven into the fabric of Western thought: the Good Shepherd; the Prodigal Son: the Good Samaritan. These are bywords in the English language. So if he changed the order of Matthew, then that’s really a small price to pay for this enormous addition of new ideas.

And here’s one other thing. Both Matthew and Luke start their gospels with an entirely fictitious historical event. Matthew invented the Slaughter of the Innocents. Luke invented the idea of a census in which you had to return to your ancestral home town. Both of these are grossly ahistorical. Neither of them happened. And yet, given this, we wonder that Luke would scruple to change some of the stuff, the context, the order, of Matthew? He was willing to invent this enormous event that his readers would have known to be less-than-factual; why would he then be unwilling to mess with Matthew’s content?

But the point is, I still firmly believe that Luke knew Matthew’s gospel, and used it to compose his own. I do not see the need to explain every little variation between Luke and Matthew, any more than the Q people feel the need to explain why Matthew chose to change pieces of Mark. Like pretty much everything up through Chapter 7 of Matthew is very different from the opening of Mark. Why don’t the Q people feel it necessary to explain that, and then turn around and demand an explanation for Luke’s changes to Matthew. The discussion, as currently occurring, is being fought entirely on ground chosen by the Q camp. It needs to be shifted onto neutral turf, where the Q argument has none of the inherent advantages that it currently has.

But I am no longer so certain that Matthew wrote all of the new stuff on his own. My new thesis is that much of this came from James, brother of Jesus (why does that seem so familiar?). The plan was to adress that topic in this discussion, but this has already ballooned well beyond a workable post. That will have to be saved for another. In the meantime, let’s hope that I’ve gotten a lot of this Q stuff out of my system. It’s been showing up much too prominently in the commentary. So now maybe, having gotten this down on paper, I can focus on the actual gospel once again.

Paul, Mark, and the Historical Context

I start this with fresh hopes that I will be able to wrap up the epistle in an expedient and succinct manner. However, given that I printed the combined summaries of Chapters 1-14, and it ran to 32 pages of 11-point Times New Roman (single space; double between paragraphs), that’s probably not bloody likely.

First, let me congratulate myself on my instincts for putting 1 Corinthians in between Mark and Matthew. The stuff we learned, especially in Chapter 15, was hugely important for understanding the historical process by which the early followers of Jesus eventually turned into Christians. The sheer amount of incidental historical information, and the inferences that can be drawn from what is said and what is between the lines is nearly staggering. This letter acts as a real historical check on the gospels. Putting the three epistles that we’ve done together with Mark will give us some really keen insight into Matthew. We will, with some degree of certainty, be able to trace how the stories about Jesus the wonder-worker turned into the Good News of the Anointed, the Son of God. Paul has not6 only corroborated that there were different versions of the Jesus story–he told us as much in Galatians–he has given us some idea of what one of these other traditions taught: that there was at least one tradition that did not believe Jesus was raised from the dead. Given this, I think we are probably justified to think that the followers of this tradition did not believe that Jesus was divine. The two beliefs are not necessarily connected, but there is, I believe, a strong probability that there was such a connection.

That there were different traditions makes complete sense. If you’ve ever seen the “Sermon on the Mount” scene from Life Of Brian, you will understand why. Standing at the back of the crowd, what they hear is “blessed are the cheesemakers” and “blessed are the Greeks”. This is, of course, wildly exaggerated for comedic effect, but it’s an exaggeration rather than something made up of whole cloth. Many people heard Jesus; many of these people heard different things from each other. When they told others about what they heard, these secondary recipients heard different things. And so on. Indeed, saying that there were multiple traditions is–at least, it should be–a commonplace; what would be truly remarkable is if there had been only one tradition. And indeed, scholars discuss the traditions that Matthew and Luke received, whereby they got the stories they share that are not in Mark. Of course, the most famous of these is the alleged Q.

Given what Paul told us about the other gospel, at this point I am more or less convinced that my reading of Mark was at least in the ballpark. I won’t claim complete vindication, but I don’t think I was too far off. I do believe that Mark was heir to two (at least) distinct traditions: a wonder-working human Jesus, and a divine son of God who was raised from the dead. In fact, I more than believe this since Paul has corroborated that there was a strand, a tradition, a group of followers that did not accept Jesus as divine. They did not accept that Jesus had been raised from the dead. I think that’s pretty much beyond argument, let alone doubt. Now, it is a leap to say that this is what the first part of Mark, the Wonder Worker Story (WWS) represents, or to claim that the WWS tradition was identical to the group that didn’t believe Jesus was raised from the dead. But I would hazard to guess that the many who ascribed to the former also ascribed to the latter. The two feel more like two sides of a coin than like separate beliefs. But again, go back to the multiple threads. No doubt that there were different permutations of the same beliefs. For example, think about what Paul says about baptism in 1 Corinthians. It seems like it was not something he fully supported. But given its fully Jewish provenance, James and Cephas and perhaps Apollos did believe this. But James and Cephas agreed with Paul on the resurrection. At least, we can, I think, infer this as a possibility since they all saw the risen Jesus. Given the animosity Paul has for Apollos, I wonder if he was one of the nonbelievers. Again given that Apollos disappears from the rest of the NT, this seems distinctly possible, since he was on the wrong side of history. But it is only an inference.

Paul tells us a good deal about the situation in Corinth in his lifetime.

In the same way, I believe we are justified in reading the second part of Mark as the Christ section; however, we cannot simply assume that it came to Mark by way of Paul. That is, we cannot be sure that Paul stood at the font of the Christ tradition that came down to Mark. We do not know a) where Paul got this tradition (or even if he was the originator); or b) the chain of transmission by which it came to Mark. Much has been made that Mark was not writing in Judea/Palestine; if he were a member of an expatriate Jewish family, he could have picked up Paul’s tradition from one of the Communities Paul established, or nurtured. Or he could have picked it up from someone else, like Cephas or Apollos. Or perhaps one of James’ apostles, who were possibly heirs to both traditions. We don’t know and we can’t know, barring additional evidence.

One thing that needs to be mentioned. I tend to suspect that the Christ tradition originated outside Judea. Why? Stop and think for a moment. The WW stories do not accept Jesus as divine, and do not accept that he was the Messiah. That is pretty much the definition of what separates Christians from Jews to this day. We have noticed several points at which the story has taken on elements that more likely came from a pagan rather than a Jewish background. The first is the idea of a son of god walking the earth, who then (second) becomes a dying and rising god. The idea of a son of god would have been immediately understandable to a Graeco-Roman pagan; Alexander the Great was one, too. Also, the dichotomy between flesh and spirit is very Greek.  There are others, but these are perhaps the three major ones; rather, I think these are the most significant. These Graeco-Roman ideas meant that it would not have been necessary for pagans to overcome the aversion to a divine man and a dying and rising god that was felt by the Jews. In light of this, those passages in Mark in which Jesus tells the disciples to keep his identity a secret truly start to make sense. They are intended to explain why Jesus had not been accepted as the Christ in Judea; at least, this seems a likely possibility. On the one hand, Jesus is preaching about the kingdom; OTOH, he’s telling his followers to keep his identity a secret. That is rather odd behaviour for someone who is talking about a kingdom to come.

There are many other themes in the letter, which provide really good insight into what, exactly, Paul believed, and what he taught his community to believe. In this line, I think that commentators and scholars often overlook the level of pastoral guidance that occurs in this letter. I was not aware of it. Paul is a de facto bishop, carrying out the duties of later bishops; but Paul was doing it before the term had been invented, or the need for such “overseers” had been understood.

At this point there are two issues that require attention. The first is the summary of the topics covered in the chapter. There are a lot of them. My commentary on Chapters 1-14 ran to 32 pages of 11-point Times New Roman, single-spaced with an extra line between paragraphs. The comment to Chapter 15 required three installments.  The other issue is more subtle, but probably more important, if less tangible. That is the assessment of how the information contained in this letter fits in with Mark and the other letters, and the clues it provides about the status of Jesus’ followers in the first few decades after his death. We will begin by dealing with the first aspect.

I prefer to take the subjects in order of importance rather than sequentially by chapter. Hands down, without a doubt, far and away the most significant topic in this chapter was the statement about followers who denied the resurrection of Jesus. However, since we have discussed this very extensively—if perhaps not adequately—in the summary to Chapter 15, I won’t follow up on that here. It’s only now that I look back that I realize that, by volume or length, the two topics that take up most of the letter are what can be lumped as proper behavior—with emphasis on sexual morality—and the topic of eating food sacrificed to idols.

Behavior gets the lion’s share, and sexual morality gets the lion’s share of that. There was nothing in Mark like this, in the sense of a protracted or extended discourse. Paul goes on—and on—at length. Sexual morality is a very, very big deal for him, to the point that I feel somewhat vindicated in my hypothesis that much of “Christian” morality is, in fact, “Paulist” morality. He is especially harsh on anything that can be described as homosexual practice. As such, he has had an enormous impact on subsequent history, and to this day we are still working out and divided by Paul’s strictures on this topic. I don’t propose to discuss this from a moral standpoint, but the historical context is very important. I made this point in the chapter summaries, that the Hebrews had the herder’s aversion to agricultural fertility rites, which generally included—or were centered on—what Christians would consider promiscuous sex. The idea was to procreate, for the same reason that farm families have a lot of kids: the more kids, the more land one can cultivate, and farming is very amenable to economies of scale. Indeed, this is part of the revelry of “carnivale”, something that the church in the later middle ages fought tooth and nail, and which was only, finally, squelched after the Reformation. The Hebrews had reacted against such rites among the Canaanites, and Paul reacted against such practice by the (upper-class) Greeks and Romans.

But sexual morality is a means; it’s not the end. The end is salvation. Paul says that sexual morality—and other types of morality—are the key to salvation, or to the kingdom; neither ‘of heaven’ nor ‘of God’ are appended to the term. And, given this in conjunction with the need to be sacred on the day of the lord, we are justified in doing a little reasoning based on the transitive property of equality. If a=b, and b=c, then a=c. We are told that drunkards and other practitioners of moral turpitude will not gain the kingdom. In other places, we are told that we need to be pure for the day of the lord—IOW, the Parousia. As such, since morality is the middle term—the ‘b’ of our identity–I believe we are safe in the inference that the day of the lord, the kingdom, and salvation are all the same thing.

Being honest, I am a bit surprised by how implicit all of this is. The central teaching of Christianity is, in my experience, the idea that we live a good life and we receive a reward of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. And yet, none of this is spelled out explicitly. At least, it’s not spelled out in a single, coherent, unified narrative set down in a single place. We have had to piece it together, Now, the failing may be mine; I may be the victim of overheated expectations. Perhaps I should have known better; the point remains, however. Now, a perfectly plausible explanation for this lack of coherence immediately presents itself: Paul was writing a letter to deal with real-world problems faced by a real community. As such, he really wasn’t taking the time to set out a theological position in what was essentially a pastoral letter that was intended to solve the community’s problems. An eminently plausible explanation.

But what about Mark? It is arguable that Mark’s intent was to provide the proto-Christian story, complete with all the details. This would explain why he chose to use what we now call the gospel format, sort of an enriched biography. It includes the figure of Jesus, something Paul doesn’t do. Does Mark set out the salvation narrative any better than Paul? Not really. There are bits and pieces scattered about, but nothing resembling a unitary, coherent, or deliberate narrative description of the idea of salvation. It’s all very jumbled together, much like it is here, with references to the kingdom, or to salvation, or eternal life, or perhaps the Life. Mark’s treatment, in turn, should make us wonder about Matthew’s treatment. How will his explanation of the process of salvation be handled? Will it be more straightforward? If so, I would suggest that this would be a major prop for the argument of Markan priority of the gospels. This is, admittedly, the general consensus, the majority opinion, and I feel very strongly that it is accurate. As I’v said, legends grow, they do not shrink or become condensed. That this is the majority opinion doesn’t necessarily make me feel more secure, since the majority opinion believes in Q, a belief I do not share.

There is one other very interesting aspect of the salvation doctrine. Think back to 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul tells us that the faithful in the Christ will be raised up into the air to meet the lord coming down from…on high. This sounds something like a mass assumption, using the term used by the Roman teaching of the assumption of the BVM. If one reads this carefully, it becomes apparent that Paul expects this to happen to the faithful while they are still alive. This is not a teaching about an afterlife. The proof–and I use that term in its most definitive sense–of this is Paul’s explanation that those who have already died will not be excluded. Rather, they will precede the living when the trumpet sounds. This is very important. If the faithful are to be assumed heavenward while alive, there is no need for the resurrection of the body. The body will still be alive when taken up to the Christ. What this means is that Paul’s insistence on the resurrection of the body was something that only came about later.  The Community of Thessalonika, apparently, had concerns about this. Paul wrote an answer to assuage those concerns. He did this by positing the resurrection of the physical body. Perhaps he did not mean this as a general doctrine, but the passage of time only increased the necessity for this teaching. More people died. Paul is still writing at a time when a considerable number of people who had seen Jesus were still alive, but that number was steadily dwindling. This made a resurrection of the body ever-more imperative. But it was not part of the original teaching of Jesus or any of his followers.

One of the possible implications of the idea of the physical assumption is the actual meaning of the word ‘saved’. We have discussed this; the root sense of the word ‘to save‘ is the preservation of the physical body. “To save one’s life” in a literal sense. If the body is to be taken up, then its preservation becomes a very important concern. So, early on, we are not talking about a disembodied spirit, or soul, going to its reward; we are talking about a body. And think of it this way: while we are talking about eternal life as a reward, the whole idea of eternal punishment of any sort is very sketchy. In fact, it has so far been nonexistent in Paul, and was only mentioned once or twice, very much in passing, very much in an offhand manner, in Mark. Perhaps the idea was that the body was saved as a reward for faith, but the bodies of those who were not faithful decayed in the ground. Hence, the talk about ‘being saved’; hence the talk about ‘being saved’ means saving the body so it could be taken up physically to…wherever it was going. We have not seen any sort of description of ‘heaven’. That does not come into being, biblically, until the Book of Revelation. That was written several generations after Paul, or even after the evangelists. Again, this will be an important them to note as we read Matthew.

The idea of an immediate Parousia, of the coming of the kingdom, of course, has tremendous implications for what Jesus actually taught. At this moment, it feels an awful lot like decisive proof–again in the strict sense of the word–that Jesus did preach an end-time that would come, and very soon.

Or, the other possibility is that Jesus taught no such thing at all, but that this is something that grew up later. I introduce this right now as a logical position rather than as a position or a case that I can argue. It is possible that Jesus spoke of the coming kingdom in very metaphorical terms, like the “prophecies” in Daniel, but that his followers–like, well, Paul–took this a step further. “Have I not seen the Lord?” he asks in 9:1. This was discussed in one of the summaries to Chapter 15, so I won’t belabor the point. In fact, let’s leave all this pending future evidence.

As for the topic of eating food sacrificed to idols, while this consumes a significant section of the chapter, thematically it doesn’t really require too much discussion in summary. This is sort of the flip-side of the discussion in Galatians. There, the discussion was about how far one has to go to accommodate Jewish practice’ here, it’s a question of how far one can go to accommodate pagans. Personally. I believe that Paul came up with a measured and very sensible response on this question. It’s not the food that matters; it’s the company. In particular, it’s the company of idols. My last HS religion teacher once told me “Roll in the mud, some of it’s going to stick”. And I think that is more or less what Paul had in mind. If someone has joined the Jesus Community, leave the old way of life behind. That is psychologically sound advice.

It is eating of another kind that we turn to next. This letter provides some really interesting information about the Lordly Supper, the Last Supper. The treatment here is a bit…confusing, or perhaps internally inconsistent would be the better description. It appears that the Corinthians are treating this like a meal, a full meal. And this is causing problems within the Community because the wealthier members are dining, while the poorer members are going hungry. From what Paul says, it seems that people are bringing there own food into the communal worship, or dining area? I end that with a question mark because the process and logistics are not entirely clear. I infer that the meal is certainly not prepared communally, or there would likely not be a problem. But there is a problem, and it’s another source of division in the Community. But then later, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he had ‘handed over’ the tradition directly from the Lord. He then sets out the words that Catholics and Episcopalians (at least; these are the only two I’m familiar enough with to speak to directly) are accustomed to hear during the part of the mass known as, IIRC, the Consecration.

There are two problems. First, if Paul gave them the tradition he received from the Lord, then why did the Community stop following Paul’s guidelines, and start following this other practice, in which the members eat an actual meal. Is this part of the ‘other gospel’ that Apollonius was preaching? Is this something from Cephas? The question is, in short, which of these two practices are authentic? Or, are either of them authentic? Now, Paul tells us that he received the tradition ‘from the Lord’. But, since he never met Jesus, he could not have gotten it directly from Jesus. He could have been told about it by Cephas, or someone who was there. But that is not ‘from the Lord’, but comes by way of human agency, and he claims he did not receive his instruction from any mortal. This is the third or fourth time that Paul says he got something from Jesus; in 9:1 he asks, “Have I not seen the Lord?”

This was also part of the discussion about Chapter 15. Paul is very willing to use Jesus–or, more properly, the Lord, or the Christ–as his source for all his teaching. That is another way of saying that Paul taught by divine inspiration. By revelation. This is not the sort of transmission of knowledge that an historian can recognize. In such a case, the historical judgement has to be that the words Paul sets down in the letter are not words that Jesus spoke. I came to the same conclusion when we encountered Mark’s version of these words. They are the words of someone who knew what was about to happen; they are prophetic. From the historian’s point of view, that pretty much means they were written after the fact. But when? Also, I was reading a piece by James Tabor, and he pointed out that the idea of ‘drinking blood’ is wholly contrary to Jewish dietary practice. In fact, part of what makes meat kosher is that the blood has been drained out. So in his opinion, it doesn’t make sense that Jesus would tell his disciples to ‘drink his blood’.

Which brings us to the second problem with all of this. From the way this is written, does anyone else get the impression that Paul is imparting these words for the first time? I believe they have that feel. Now, as an historical argument, that is–as my first year Latin prof used to say–absolutely risible. [ from the Latin, rideo, ridere, risi, risum, to laugh, so it’s “laughable” ] But think about it: if this is what he implemented, why does he need to repeat the whole process? I mean, sure, it makes sense that he would write it out so that they have it and can use it. I suppose. Because what we have to understand here is that Paul is talking about having the Corinthians celebrate a symbolic meal, rather than a real one. We have to ask ourselves, which practice is more in keeping with the mores of the times? Back then, sharing a ritual meal was part of a lot of pagan cult. When Jews have a Seder, it’s an actual meal; there are symbolic trappings, but it’s a real meal. Given these two things, doesn’t it make more sense that the symbolic meal was the innovation? And let’s recall that we began this part of the discussion with the topic of idol meat; is it a coincidence that Paul is providing instructions on a symbolic meal in the same breath as he’s discouraging the actual meal of a pagan sacrifice?

There is one other theme that deserves mention. This is Paul’s use of the body metaphor to explain how all members of the Community have a role to play, and all are equally important. Paul delineates some of the various gifts different members may have: speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, and prophecy, to name a few. Interestingly, prophecy does not seem to be a particularly awe-inspiring gift. The point is that this was a remarkably progressive attitude for his time. It’s remarkable enough for our time, when money and status still make some people more equal than others.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention the famous passage about Love. As mentioned, “agape” is not a word used by Classical–or secular–authors. Paul has introduced a new concept of Love into the world, and he spends several paragraphs describing what this new love is like. This is justifiably one of the most famous (the most?) passages in all of the Pauline corpus, a staple at weddings. While the love between two people committing themselves to each other for life is not exactly what Paul had in mind, his definition of “agape” is broad enough to include this love, so this passage very much belongs in a wedding ceremony.  The combination of this new definition of love, and the idea of a single body of believers, represent a spectacular innovation into the thought world of the World. These two concepts, which are arguably two facets of the same idea, is truly original thinking, a truly novel idea, a very important step forward in human thinking and belief.

To sum, here is a partial list of the topics discussed:

  • Not a big proponent of baptism
  • Divisions within the Community
  • Rivalry with Apollos
  • Sexual immorality, and the need to be pure to enter the kingdom
  • Food sacrificed to idols
  • The Last Supper, and the change to a symbolic meal
  • Paul’s willingness to speak on his own authority, sometimes claiming it was a revelation directly from the Lord
  • Multiple gospels; one includes the belief that Jesus was not raised from the dead
  • The adoption of pagan ideas about a god on earth
  • Apostles have a right (lit = ‘power’) to claim support from the Community. Is this the basis of the sending out of the apostles in Mark?
  • Paul (unconsciously) posits a distinction between Jesus and God
  • Marriage, of a follower to a pagan; Paul takes it upon himself to say it’s acceptable
  • Women are to keep their heads covered and their mouth shut during worship; not what we would call progressive, but it is a rather harsh reminder of the times
  • The Resurrection Body

There are others, but I believe this gets to the most of them.

And at long last, let us turn to Matthew.

1 Corinthians Chapter 16 in toto

At last, the final chapter of this letter. Since there is a certain amount of greetings and pleasantry, this may not take so long as it would otherwise.

Περὶ δὲ τῆς λογείας τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους, ὥσπερ διέταξα ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιήσατε.

Regarding the collection for the holy ones, in this way I have arranged the communities of Galatia, so that also I will do for you (= I will do the same for/with you).

Purely an administrative matter. I suspect, but do not know, that this was an extension of the temple tax paid by Jews. I suspect, but do not know, that it no longer went to the temple. I suspect that this has something to do with James request in Gal 2:10 that Paul remember the poor.  It appears that Paul believed in redistribution of income.

1 De collectis autem, quae fiunt in sanctos, sicut ordina vi ecclesiis Galatiae, ita et vos facite.

κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου ἕκαστος ὑμῶν παρ’ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω θησαυρίζων τι ἐὰν εὐοδῶται, ἵνα μὴ ὅταν ἔλθω τότε λογεῖαι γίνωνται.

On the first day of the week, let each of you give beside himself (= each of you put a little aside), laying up that which will he has been granted to him (according to his means), so that there will be no collection when I come then.

The opening prepositional phrase, << κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου >> gave me some problems. Having looked into this, it appears that “sabbath” came to be a synonym for “week”. At least, that’s what everyone agrees it means. I suppose it makes sense, so I’ll let it go at that. There is quite a bit of slippage between Classical Greek and NT Greek.

Since you probably can’t tell from the clumsy translation, he is instructing them to put aside an amount commensurate with his income. The idea is to have the donation already collected so that there would be a collection upon Paul’s return, IOW, he’s putting them on an installment plan. This is a good administrative practice, assuming, of course, that it was followed. Otherwise, you would end up in a situation in which Paul would return and there would be no collection. Of course, that is probably what happened anyway.

2 Per primam sabbati unusquisque vestrum apud se ponat recondens, quod ei beneplacuerit, ut non, cum venero, tunc collectae fiant.

ὅταν δὲ παραγένωμαι, οὓς ἐὰν δοκιμάσητε, δι’ ἐπιστολῶν τούτους πέμψω ἀπενεγκεῖν τὴν χάριν ὑμῶν εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ:

When I come, if you may be allow,  through letters I will send them to carry the gift of you to Jerusalem.

If it be allowed that he come, as in, God willing that I come…The money is to go to Jerusalem,  it appears, since he will send the Jerusalem Community the money and note that the money came from the Corinthians. Since the money is going to Jerusalem, is it going to the temple? Or to the community there? I’m guessing the latter, since this is the promise James extracted from Paul.

3 Cum autem praesens fuero, quos probaveritis, per epistulas hos mittam perferre gratiam vestram in Ierusalem;

ἐὰν δὲ ἄξιον τοῦ κἀμὲ πορεύεσθαι, σὺν ἐμοὶ πορεύσονται.

Because if it be proper and I go, with me they will go. 

This is about Paul accompanying those taking the money to Jerusalem. Assuming, of course, that they trust him to do so. This seems to be a bit of micromanaging on his part; does he accompany the gifts from all the Communities? No, he can’t possibly. So why with this group? Does he not trust them? Is the “if I am worthy” sort of a sly innuendo that perhaps the Corinthians may not be trustworthy? Or that they cannot be counted on to collect the money in the first place?

These are the reasons why Paul is not a systematic thinker. This is a very practical, very down-to-earth bit of administrative effort. He has to expend time and energy on this sort of thing, which can be a huge distraction from considering religious doctrine.

4 quod si dignum fuerit, ut et ego eam, mecum ibunt.

Ἐλεύσομαι δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅταν Μακεδονίαν διέλθω, Μακεδονίαν γὰρ διέρχομαι:

I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia, for I pass though Macedonia.

Future plans.

There have been numerous attempts to come up with an itinerary for Paul by correlating these sorts of things with the journeys in Acts. However, since I don’t particularly believe that Acts is historically reliable, I’m not really sure how much faith I would put in these attempts at reconstruction.

5 Veniam autem ad vos, cum Macedoniam pertransiero, nam Macedoniam pertransibo;

πρὸς ὑμᾶς δὲ τυχὸν παραμενῶ καὶ παραχειμάσω, ἵνα ὑμεῖς με προπέμψητε οὗ ἐὰν πορεύωμαι.

Towards you with luck I will remain and I will winter, so that you send me where I may go.

More plans.

6 apud vos autem forsitan manebo vel etiam hiemabo, ut vos me deducatis, quocumque iero.

οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἄρτι ἐν παρόδῳ ἰδεῖν, ἐλπίζω γὰρ χρόνον τινὰ ἐπιμεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν κύριος ἐπιτρέψῃ.

For I do not wish now to see you en route; for I hope to remain with you some, if the lord allows. 

7 Nolo enim vos modo in transitu videre; spero enim me aliquantum temporis manere apud vos, si Dominus permiserit.

ἐπιμενῶ δὲ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἕως τῆς πεντηκοστῆς:

I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost.

I believe I mentioned previously that I only just became aware that Pentecost was actually a Jewish holiday before it entered the Christian calendar. In the OT it meant the fiftieth day after Passover. Here, I think, is a clear case of being able to take the Argument from Silence as meaningful. The Christianization of Pentecost did not start before the writing of Acts, which was a full generation after this letter. The word Pentecost itself occurs only three times in the NT; once here, and twice in Acts. As such, Paul’s casual use of the date is pretty clear proof that the story of Pentecost–as Christians understand the term–was a later development, not one dating back to the original group of Jesus’ followers.

8 Permanebo autem Ephesi usque ad Pentecosten;

θύρα γάρ μοι ἀνέῳγεν μεγάλη καὶ ἐνεργής, καὶ ἀντικείμενοι πολλοί.

For the great and strong gate opens to me, and those lying against me are many.

On the one hand, I chose to be more poetic, rendering <<ἐνεργής>> as “powerful”, rather than “effective”. OTOH, “those lying against me” should really be rendered as “adversaries”.

As for this, it seems a bit of a contradiction. The gate is open, yet enemies are many. Wouldn’t the enemies close the gate? I’m apparently missing the metaphor.

9 ostium enim mihi apertum est magnum et efficax, et adversarii multi.

10  Ἐὰν δὲ ἔλθῃ Τιμόθεος, βλέπετε ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τὸ γὰρ ἔργον κυρίου ἐργάζεται ὡς κἀγώ:

If Timothy should come, look about so that he be unafraid towards you, for he works the work of the lord also as I.

Not sure why Timothy would be afraid. I suppose, going into a new situation can be difficult even now. But think about back then, when Timothy would probably have to travel for a month to get there, and then walk into what may be a tricky situation, given the divisions within the community.

10 Si autem venerit Timotheus, videte, ut sine timore sit apud vos, opus enim Domini operatur, sicut et ego;

11 μή τις οὖν αὐτὸν ἐξουθενήσῃ. προπέμψατε δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν εἰρήνῃ, ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρός με, ἐκδέχομαι γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν.

So let no one despise him. Send him in peace, so that he may come to me, for I expect him with the brothers.

It appears Timothy would be sent if Paul can’t make it. Again, the hand of the administrator, and it’s a deft one. He’s making contingency plans. Working in a corporation as I do, I understand the need for and benefit of such plans.

11 ne quis ergo illum spernat. Deducite autem illum in pace, ut veniat ad me; exspecto enim illum cum fratribus.

12 Περὶ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, πολλὰ παρεκάλεσα αὐτὸν ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν: καὶ πάντως οὐκ ἦνθέλημα ἵνα νῦν ἔλθῃ, ἐλεύσεται δὲ ὅταν εὐκαιρήσῃ.

But regarding the brother Apollos, I have asked him many times that he may come to you with brothers; and every time it was not his wish that he come, he will be free when the time is convenient.

Bit of a dig at Apollos. He’s been asked to come many times, but has not. But he will come when it’s convenient.

12 De Apollo autem fratre, multum rogavi eum, ut veniret ad vos cum fratribus, et utique non fuit voluntas, ut nunc veniret; veniet autem, cum ei opportunum fuerit.

13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε:

Be watchful, stand in the faith, be manly, be strong.

Man up!

13 Vigilate, state in fide, viriliter agite, confortamini;

14 πάντα ὑμῶν ἐν ἀγάπῃ γινέσθω.

Let all of you be in love.

Exhortations.

14 omnia vestra in caritate fiant.

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί: οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς:

I also beseech you, brothers: you know that the house of Stephen, that is the leader of Achaia, and to the deacons of the holy ones he has arranged.

The bit about the house of Stephen is rather a parenthetical insertion. Achaia was a region in Greece, west and south of Corinth.

15 Obsecro autem vos, fratres: nostis domum Stephanae, quoniam sunt primitiae Achaiae et in ministerium sanctorum ordinaverunt seipsos;

16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι.

So that also you subject yourselves to them and with all in cooperating and laboring.

Instructions. Again, more administration.

16 ut et vos subditi sitis eiusmodi et omni cooperanti et laboranti.

17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν,

I am glad that upon the return of Stephen and Fortunatus and Achaikos, that your wants they will fulfill.

Not much to say.

17 Gaudeo autem in praesentia Stephanae et Fortunati et Achaici, quoniam id quod vobis deerat, ipsi suppleverunt;

18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

For they refreshed my spirit and that of you. So be aware who they are.

Again, not much needs to be said.

18 refecerunt enim et meum spiritum et vestrum. Cognoscite ergo, qui eiusmodi sunt.

19 Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῆς Ἀσίας. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ πολλὰ Ἀκύλας καὶ Πρίσκα σὺν τῇ κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίᾳ.

They salute you the communities of Asia. They salute you in the lord Aquila and Prisca with the assembly in their house.

Now here is a point. So far, I’ve been translating ‘ekklesia‘ as ‘community’; here, I rendered it as ‘assembly’. Having a community in their house doesn’t quite make sense. Having an assembly, or perhaps better, a gathering in their house makes a lot of sense. Having a church in their house is possible, but completely anachronistic. This is why rendering ‘ekklesia‘ as ‘church’ doesn’t work at this juncture.

One minor point. By “Asia”, Paul is referring more or less to modern Turkey.

19 Salutant vos ecclesiae Asiae. Salutant vos in Domino multum Aquila et Prisca cum domestica sua ecclesia.

20 ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες. Ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ.

They salute you all the brothers. Salute each other (or probably ‘yourselves’) with the holy kiss.

“Salute each other” is an example of the middle voice. “Salute yourselves” would actually be the more accurate, but in English that comes across as too reflexive. You plural, salute yourselves plural; or, ‘each other’.

20 Salutant vos fratres omnes. Salutate invicem in osculo sancto.

21  ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου.

My salutation by the hand of Paul.

Here he literally means his signature. Now: the question is, did he write the whole thing? Did he dictate it and have someone else make the revisions? Interesting question, for which there is no answer. However, here he is telling us that he signed it personally.

21 Salutatio mea manu Pauli.

22 εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. Μαρανα θα.

If someone does not love the lord, let him be damned. Marana tha.

I have no idea what the Marana tha means; apparently, neither does anyone else. The, Vulgate, the KJV, & the NASB do basically what I did and transliterate it. The ESV and NIV change this to “Come Lord”.

22 Si quis non amat Dominum, sit anathema. Marana tha!

23 χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν.

The gift of the lord Jesus (be) with you.

Here is where “the grace of the lord” sounds ever so natural. The problem is, it would be really loading the word with modern connotations. “Grace” would best mean something like the “grace” in “grace period”, a period in which past transgressions are forgiven. Granted, that is sort of what the Christian idea of grace is, but the latter has too much additional baggage. It tips the scale too far.

And this is one of the rare occasions when Paul uses the name of Jesus, rather than the Christ. And, he uses only the name Jesus. There can’t be too many instances of this in Paul.

23 Gratia Domini Iesu vobiscum.

24  ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

24 Caritas mea cum omnibus vobis in Christo Iesu.

My love (be) with all of you in the anointed Jesus.

So, there we have it. Given the length of the last summaries, and the paucity of anything truly remarkable in this chapter, I am going to dispense with a summary for Chapter 16.  The remarkable points involve the use of Pentecost in an non-Christian sense, the collection, and, possibly, the discussion of the ‘ekklesia‘ in the home of Aquila and Prisca. 

 

Summary 1 Corinthians Chapter 15: Third and Final

If we continue to add parts to the summary for this chapter, I will need to write a summary of the summaries. This should be fairly short. Let’s have at it by starting with a question.

Is there any connection between the themes of the raising of the body and the idea of salvation? In this day and age, the orthodox answer would, of course, be “no”. The bodies of all will be raised and judged and sorted, each getting its just desserts. The question, however, is was that what Paul believed?

To answer this, let’s consider the verb “to save”. As has been noted earlier, when Mark used this verb, he most often meant “to save the physical life”, that is, the life of the body. For example, it’s the verb used to describe the healing of the bleeding woman; however, in that case it’s usually translated as “made whole”. So the word had this physical connotation even when Mark was writing several decades later than Paul. Even in Matthew and Luke, the word often refers to the body. Paul did not use this word in either 1 Thessalonians or Galatians; his use of it here is, remarkably, more ambiguous than it is in the evangelists. Here in 1 Corinthians, it may refer to the body, but the general sense I get from the word is of something else; however, it’s ambiguous. It could be taken in different ways.

When we read 1 Thessalonians 4, the part about rising up to meet the Christ in the clouds, what sense do we get from that? Personally, it seems to me that Paul is referring to bodies rather than disembodied spirits. It seems that way; but it is not at all clear, or made explicit that this is what he means. This in turn means that we have to conjecture or infer what Paul means from…whatever we can. The actual evidence for Paul’s intentions ranges from slim to none. “…it seems to me…” is not evidence. It is conjecture; however, if we only took a stand on what we could prove, then there would be no academic category called “biblical studies”. I tend to suspect that there is a correlation between raising the body and being saved as an individual. I think the latter rests on the former, but there is very little I can offer as evidence. This is something that I will continue to examine as we get to Matthew and beyond.

 

Somewhat tied up in this is the idea that the Christ died for our sins. But the connection is very tenuous. Or, rather, I think the weakness is that this is not a theme that Paul dwells upon; at least, he has not so far. Three of the four uses of the word ‘sin’ in 1 Corinthians come in this chapter; the word was used three times in Galatians, and one of them was sin in a generic sense. And, interestingly, all seven uses of the word in Mark occur in the first two chapters, and three of them relate directly to the Baptist and his preaching in the first chapter. The word disappears from Mark’s vocabulary after Chapter 2.

Why is that? Unfortunately, that question is rhetorical, because I do not have any real answer for it. I have suggested that this is because the word and the concept were strongly linked to the Baptist, and through the Baptist to the Wonder-Worker Jesus.  Given that we saw that Paul, perhaps, was not so keen on baptism (Chapter 1), I still believe that this is possibly the reason Paul is not so keen on this theme. Paul does talk about living moral lives, and being blameless on the day the lord returns, both of which imply a concern with sin and both its avoidance and repentance. The problem for Paul, I think, was that the idea of sin was too much wrapped up in the concept of the Law and its ‘do this/don’t do that’ thinking, while he was concerned with the idea of faith; the idea that Luther and others would turn into sola fides. Notice the difference between how he talks about Jesus/the Christ dying for our sins vs the length in which Paul discusses the Christ’s resurrection being a victory over death. Paul begins the chapter with the former, but ends it much more ( very much more) strongly with the latter. Yes, the two are connected; but, as I see this, Paul apparently feels much more strongly about the latter. Of course, this could simply be something like confirmation bias on my part. I don’t think so, but it could be.

Finally, I’d like to mention the idea of the resurrection body. Perhaps this should have been covered in the previous section, but that one was already too long. It is my sincere belief that this section has the feel of something that Paul was making up as he goes along. I mentioned that the idea of raising a decomposed body was bizarre, if not macabre, to the ancient mind. I pointed out how this was made explicit in the story of Lazarus. Again going back to 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul seems to expect that the Ascension of the Faithful (my term; got something better?) would happen while people were still alive; that is, it would occur pre-mortem, not post-mortem. That was why Paul had to stop and explain that those who had “fallen asleep” in their faith would not be excluded from the ascension. A disclaimer like this would not be necessary unless the idea of the Ascension of the Faithful was expected to be something that happened while Paul was still alive. Note that there, Paul did not talk about a resurrection body for those who predeceased the Parousia.

Now, the problem is that words have implications of which the author may not be aware of when he speaks or writes them. This is especially true when the words are written when these words become subject to a great deal of parsing and scrutiny. Look at how economists still argue about what Adam Smith meant in Wealth of Nations. So when Paul included the predeceased, others started thinking about the implications of this. Wouldn’t their bodies have decomposed in the meantime? As Paul would say, “Of course not!” But, why not? Because of the… resurrection body! It’s a spiritual (pneumatikos) body, not an earthly one!

[Note: I just noticed the inherent contradiction in that term; how can it be spiritual and a body? In our sense of the two terms, they are more or less mutually exclusive, at least when used in philosophical discussion. ]

This is not to say that Paul was making this up as he was writing. Rather, I suspect that he came up with the solution previously, in response to questions before. That is why he was able to go on at such length on the topic.  I think delineating this process is important, because it seems to show how the thought developed. Remember, as of this writing, there was not Matthew, Mark, or Luke. There was no virgin birth and no Ascension and no Holy Spirit, let alone a Trinity. Virtually everything we know about Christianity was still in the future, so Paul had to take care of problems as best he could on his own. The degree of his success in this task is remarkable. It has been said (at least by me) that Paul, like Augustine, was not a systematic thinker. Neither of these individuals had the luxury of retreating into an ivory tower and the leisure to think these questions through in a methodical fashion. Both were faced with the rough-and-tumble of actually running a set of congregations. In such circumstances, anything could happen, and often did. It was in such circumstances, one suspects, that the question about decomposing bodies arose. Paul answered the question, but that led to further questions, so the idea grew more elaborate. The thing about Paul, and this is something I get from reading him, is that he was not one to experience prolonged bouts of self-doubt. Yes, he often felt put upon, but he was convinced he worked harder than anyone (15:10). And yes, he has a tendency to feel self-pity (15:10), but he is not one to feel self-doubt. The good news was revealed to him directly by God, without a human intermediary. So, with God providing the answers, how could he go wrong?

Given the discussion about the Parousia, the Ascension of the Faithful, and the resurrection body, let’s go back to the question of “being saved”, and whether the implication was for the physical body. First, there is the idea in 1 Thessalonians in which Paul expected the Parousia and the Ascension of the Faithful to occur while he was still alive in a physical sense. This means that there would be no need for a resurrection of the body because the body had never died. Taking this as a given, as a basis for Paul’s thought, it is entirely consistent to believe that “saved” meant the physical body. Remember: Paul doesn’t talk about sinners being condemned to Hell. He is completely silent on the matter. As such, it only makes sense that “saved” should refer to the physical body. The soul would go along for the ride, of course, but it was the body–and not the soul–that would be saved.

Keep in mind that for the past 1,700 – 1,800 years, Christians have become accustomed to understanding a distinction between “body” and “soul”. In most histories of philosophy, this is called “dualism”, meaning that the human individual is composed of two separate and distinct (as in discreet) elements: body and soul are fundamentally and entirely different from one another, and the two do not mix. In developed, or mature Christian doctrine, it is the soul that is saved. I am not sure that Paul, and possibly Mark, saw it that way. However, let’s keep an open mind about this and examine further when we get to Matthew.

That should do it for this chapter. One more, and it will be on to the Matthew.