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Luke Chapter 12:13-22

To start, much of the rest of the chapter does not provide any truly clean breaks into manageable sections. This is itself interesting; does Luke present a more unified, unitary account of some of these teachings? One that doesn’t seem just to be a bunch of separate sayings strung together like beads of different stones.

We last saw Jesus telling the disciples not to worry about what to say when arrested and hauled before the magistrates. What was not said about this is that the episode is probably anachronistic. This more likely relates to a period after Jesus’ death, when the nascent movement was under some “pressure” from authorities. So this was one of those post-eventum “prophecies”. We discussed this at some length when this story occurred in both Mark and Matthew, so it didn’t seem worth repeating. However, it should be borne in mind. One thing that just occurred to me is that it may have been James who gave an admonition in this vein. He may not have, but it would have been appropriate during the time when he was the leader of the movement in Jerusalem. Even the concept of the sacred breath as expounded demonstrates a level of development that goes beyond the simple understanding and use of the term. However, all of this is looking backwards; rather, let us look forward to the rest of the


13 Εἶπεν δέ τις ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπὲ τῷ ἀδελφῷ μου μερίσασθαι μετ’ ἐμοῦ τὴν κληρονομίαν.

14 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἄνθρωπε, τίς με κατέστησεν κριτὴν ἢ μεριστὴν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς;

15 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ.

Someone from the crowd said to him (Jesus), “Teacher, tell my brother to apportion with me our inheritance”. (14) He (Jesus) said to him (the speaker) “Dude, who designated me judge of which is the portion upon you (plural)? (15) Then he said to them, “See and guard from all covetousness (lit = something like ‘filling up’) that in the overabundance is the life of him is not from those (things) ruling over him. ( less literally = that the overabundance [of possessions] is not the ruling [principle] in his life )

I was dead certain that this exchange was in both of the other two gospels; as it turns out, it’s in neither. This is unique to Luke. As such, I’m simply going to note the admonition against greed, and move on to the next sections, in which Jesus develops the theme.

I do just want to comment on the set-up question. Is this an indication of how Jesus–or more likely James–had come to be seen by contemporaries? As a person who brings justice by insisting that inheritances be shared equally among heirs? As a cultural Christian who went to a Catholic elementary school, I have to say that this is not the sort of role I would think of when considering my stereotypical Jesus. I don’t have any sort of answer, or even any sort of resolution to this question. But I think it’s important that it be asked.

13 Ait autem quidam ei de turba: “ Magister, dic fratri meo, ut dividat mecum hereditatem ”.

14 At ille dixit ei: “ Homo, quis me constituit iudicem aut divisorem super vos? ”.

15 Dixitque ad illos: “ Videte et cavete ab omni avaritia, quia si cui res abundant, vita eius non est ex his, quae possidet ”.

16 Εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων, Ἀνθρώπου τινὸς πλουσίου εὐφόρησεν ἡ χώρα.

17 καὶ διελογίζετο ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Τί ποιήσω, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχω ποῦ συνάξω τοὺς καρπούς μου;

18 καὶ εἶπεν, Τοῦτο ποιήσω: καθελῶ μου τὰς ἀποθήκας καὶ μείζονας οἰκοδομήσω, καὶ συνάξω ἐκεῖ πάντα τὸν σῖτον καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου,

19 καὶ ἐρῶτῇ ψυχῇ μου, Ψυχή, ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά: ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός, Ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ: ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται;

21 οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ καὶ μὴ εἰς θεὸν πλουτῶν.

22 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς [αὐτοῦ], Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ τί φάγητε, μηδὲ τῷ σώματι τί ἐνδύσησθε.

23 ἡ γὰρ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν τῆς τροφῆς καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος.

He spoke a parable towards them. “There was a certain wealthy man the country of whom brought forth riches. (17) And he said within himself saying, ‘What shall I do, that I do not have where to gather my grain?’ (18) And he said, ‘I will do this. I will take down my storehouses and I will build bigger (ones), and I will gather there all the grain and (all) my good things. (19) And I will say to my inner self, “Inner self, you have many good things and laid out are many years (less lit = I have many years to live). Rest, eat, drink, and rejoice”.’ (20) But God said to him, ‘Fool! this very night your life I will take from you. Ready yourself, and to who will it (your wealth) be?’ (21) Thus was the treasure of him and not of God was his wealth”. (22) He said to his disciples, “Through this I speak to you, do not care in life what you eat, nor for the body what you wear. (23) For life is more than what you eat, and your body (is more than) its clothing”.

First, let’s talk about the uses of the word psyche. In Verse 19, we are told he spoke to his psyche, by saying, Psyche, I have much goods…Three of my four crib translations render this as …he said to his soul, “Soul…” I don’t know about you, but that does not sound like idiomatic English to my ear. This is where we run into all those problems with psyche = soul. The NIV renders it as “…he said to himself…” That is idiomatic English. And so it is with psyche. Soul is one possible meaning, and it may be the most common possible meaning, but the correlation between the Greek psyche and English soul is not very exact. There is some overlap; in English, while soul can have the sense of “oneself”, it almost never does. It can refer to a life, or more correctly, a person, as in the sense of a “lost soul”, but I have never run across someone saying, “O, soul” in the sense of speaking to oneself. Yet, that is how this passage is frequently rendered. Maybe it made sense when the KJV was printed, but that sense is long since lost. 

With that out of the way, let’s look at the overall sense of the passage. As noted, this is unique to Luke. The theme is wealth, and the disparagement of the wealthy. When we realize that the story of Dives (Wealth) and Lazarus is also in Luke, and unique to Luke, then maybe we can sense a theme? And this is why I don’t think it can be taken as a given that “blessed are the poor” is in any sense more “primitive” than “blessed are the poor in spirit”. The first is a reflection of the current conditions; the second is excusing those conditions. My apologies, but that’s what it does, even if that isn’t the intended point of the words–but I fully believe it is/was. On reflection, I need to step down from my statement. Of course there is a way in which Luke’s is more “primitive”, because casuistry is, necessarily, a sophisticated activity. And to classify Matthew’s aphorism as “casuistry” is another very strong statement; but this is not one I feel the need to calibrate more precisely. The point is that, taking this story, that of Dives and Lazarus, and “blessed are the poor” we have at least the framework of a theme. Luke is concerned about the poor, perhaps more so than the other two we’ve read. And Luke has the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, so perhaps he has a bit more to say about how we should live overall. Because that is the other theme of this particular section, the reason I found it hard to split it up more. Do care about eating or clothing, or laying up treasure–again with the wealth–that is of this world. So don’t care about wealth, love your neighbour–who is, at least could be,  someone you despise–don’t worry about the trappings of life. This is an overall prescription for how to live, based on a non-admiration of money. So “blessed are the poor” isn’t primitive; it’s an imperative.

In fact, far from being the “primitive” version of this pericope Luke presents us with the more developed. The ending, that life is more than food etc is unique to Luke. So is the bit about the ravens. In an act of serious disrespect, Burton Mack includes Luke’s unique material as part of Q. Of course he does. So can a proponent of Q explain why Matthew omitted this? And it should be redactionally consistent with the reasoning for leaving all the other stuff out that is unique to Luke. To Mack’s credit, he does not include the parable of The Clueless Landowner; apparently, Luke is granted some credit for originality. Plus, it seems like this emphasis on poverty has developed since the time Matthew wrote, and even more so since Mark wrote. True textual analysis would not simply focus on just the words–like the kai/de occurrences–but should focus just as much–more?–on what the words are saying. How is what Matthew says different from what Mark says, and how is Luke different from both? Then we take these differences and see if the themes presented have changed at all. The biggest example is Jesus’ divinity in Mark vs in Matthew & Luke; the latter two are similar on this theme, but John takes it several steps further. That is, the theme has developed over time, and through time. The failure–more like refusal–of the Q proponents to have these discussions represents something akin to intellectual malpractice, and it makes it difficult to treat a lot of NT scholarship as serious scholarship.

16 Dixit autem similitudinem ad illos dicens: “Hominis cuiusdam divitis uberes fructus ager attulit.

17 Et cogitabat intra se dicens: “Quid faciam, quod non habeo, quo congregem fructus meos?”.

18 Et dixit: “Hoc faciam: destruam horrea mea et maiora aedificabo et illuc congregabo omne triticum et bona mea;

19 et dicam animae meae: Anima, habes multa bona posita in annos plurimos; requiesce, comede, bibe, epulare”.

20 Dixit autem illi Deus: “Stulte! Hac nocte animam tuam repetunt a te; quae autem parasti, cuius erunt?”.

21 Sic est qui sibi thesaurizat et non fit in Deum dives”.

22 Dixitque ad discipulos suos: “Ideo dico vobis: nolite solliciti esse animae quid manducetis, neque corpori quid vestiamini.

23 Anima enim plus est quam esca, et corpus quam vestimentum.



Luke Chapter 12:1-12

Apologies for the long hiatus. The real world can intrude into the life of a blogger!

So on to Chapter 12. Completing this chapter will put us half-way through the gospel. I believe this is more Q stuff, and I believe it corresponds to material in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I prefer Luke’s arrangement of Matthew’s material; I found that having three successive chapters of Jesus’ lessons got to be a bit tiresome. Granted, that may just be a symptom of my anti-Q bias; but it is equally probable that the insistence on Matthew’s “masterful arrangement” is simply a manufactured argument created to bolster the “case” for Q.


1 Ἐν οἷς ἐπισυναχθεισῶν τῶν μυριάδων τοῦ ὄχλου, ὥστε καταπατεῖν ἀλλήλους, ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ πρῶτον, Προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης, ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισις, τῶν Φαρισαίων.

In those days having gathered myriads of the crowd, so that they were trampling each other, he began to speak to his disciples first, “Take heed amongst yourselves from the yeast, which is hypocricy, of the Pharisees. 

This is interesting. First of all, “myriad” means both 10,000 or simply “a whole lot”. So either Luke is telling us that there were 20 or 30,000 people in the crowd, or simply that the crowd was very large. It’s rather a more literary description than we have gotten from the other two; whether it should be taken literally, however, is another matter. Regardless, I like the bit about them trampling upon each other. This is a novel detail, and it’s the sort of thing that leads me to refer to Luke as the novelist of the Evangelists.

Second, this is a serious case of misdirection. By opening with the size of the crowd, one might expect that we were embarking on a retelling of the feeding of 5,000 or something. Instead, we get a warning about the yeast of the Pharisees. In either Mark or Matthew, this warning comes up as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and they had forgotten to bring bread, and the disciples thought that Jesus was making reference to that lack of provision. Given that this makes the disciples look like dolts, chances are this setting was in Mark. OK, upon further review, turns out it’s in both gospels. 

1 Interea multis turbis circumstantibus, ita ut se invicem conculcarent, coepit dicere ad discipulos suos primum: “Attendite a fermento pharisaeorum, quod est hypocrisis.

2 οὐδὲν δὲ συγκεκαλυμμένον ἐστὶν ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. 

3 ἀνθ’ ὧν ὅσα ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτὶ ἀκουσθήσεται, καὶ ὃ πρὸς τὸ οὖς ἐλαλήσατε ἐν τοῖς ταμείοις κηρυχθήσεται ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων.

“For nothing is covered up which shall not be spread about, and nothing is is hidden which will not be known. (3) Against which however much you speak in the shadows, in the light will be heard, and about which those things you speak inside will be proclaimed upon the house. 

This is a really interesting passage. We heard this sentiment expressed expressed in Matthew, but Luke has recast the vocabulary and the metaphors with some real literary flair. At least, I consider it literary flair; this is, after all, a value judgement, like the one that says Matthew’s arrangement of the Q material was so masterful. Regardless, it indicates a very deliberate and conscious effort on Luke’s part to add a new twist to the words that came to him. Whether these words came from Q or Matthew is not the issue here; at least, it’s not entirely the issue. Because with me, that’s always the issue, or at least part of it. There are two things to note here. 

We’ve already brought up the issue of the more literary quality here. Second, Luke’s version is longer than that of Matthew. Why? I am very willing to bet that none of the Q proponents has ever bothered to explain that fact. Put together, these two observations would, seemingly, blow a huge hole in the idea that Luke retains the more is the more primitive version of Q of the two gospels, wouldn’t it?  Of course, Q proponents say that Luke is the more primitive. Except when he isn’t. IOW, they are not terribly consistent about this, which is interesting since they demand the redactionally consistent explanation for every instance in which Luke deviates from Matthew. What about when Matthew deviates so glaringly from the Q text–taking “Q” as equivalent to “Luke”, which is standard in the Q argument–as Matthew does in this quote? Do we get explanations for those cases? Of course not. Only those attempting to refute Q have to be consistent.

2 Nihil autem opertum est, quod non reveletur, neque absconditum, quod non sciatur.

3 Quoniam, quae in tenebris dixistis, in lumine audientur; et, quod in aurem locuti estis in cubiculis, praedicabitur in tectis.

4 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν τοῖς φίλοις μου, μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεινόντων τὸ σῶμα καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα μὴ ἐχόντων περισσότερόν τι ποιῆσαι.

5 ὑποδείξω δὲ ὑμῖν τίνα φοβηθῆτε: φοβήθητε τὸν μετὰ τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι ἔχοντα ἐξουσίαν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, τοῦτον φοβήθητε.

“I say to you my friends, do not fear from those killing the body and afterwards not having anything more to do. (5) I will demonstrate to you something you should fear: fear the one after the killing having power to throw you into Gehenna. Yes, I say to you, you should fear this. 

Once again, let’s remind ourselves of the context here. Jesus & crew are in the midst of an innumerable multitude, in a crowd so dense that they are stepping on each other. And yet, Jesus turns to his disciples first, and starts talking about the Pharisees. Then he starts talking about killing the body and throwing it into Gehenna. If he spoke to the disciples first, is he still speaking to them solely? Or has he  turned to the wider crowd? In both Mark and Matthew, these speeches of Jesus occur in situations in which Jesus is alone with the disciples. 

4 Dico autem vobis amicis meis: Ne terreamini ab his, qui occidunt corpus et post haec non habent amplius, quod faciant.

5 Ostendam autem vobis quem timeatis: Timete eum, qui postquam occiderit, habet potestatem mittere in gehennam. Ita dico vobis: Hunc timete.

6 οὐχὶ πέντε στρουθία πωλοῦνται ἀσσαρίων δύο; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔστιν ἐπιλελησμένον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

7 ἀλλὰ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν πᾶσαι ἠρίθμηνται. μὴ φοβεῖσθε: πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε.

“Are not two sparrows sold for five (small coins)? And one of them is not forgotten before God. (7) But also the hairs of your heads are all numbered. Do not fear: you are different from many sparrows.

Just a few comments on the Greek. The term assarios is not at all common in Greek of any sort. The only translation I can find is “farthing”, which is an English coin no longer in use, which was equal to a quarter of a penny. Obviously, no one in the ancient world was buying and selling with English currency. Nor is the Latin any help. The word is dipundio, which means two-pundi (or something). So this is is the first example of a consensus translation in the two verses. Obviously, in this case, the meaning is clear enough; the comparison is to something very inexpensive, and sparrows are about as common–and therefore cheap–as they come. The price quoted would be the cost to purchase these sparrows for sacrifice in the Temple. As I said, this is a very uncommon word; it does, however, appear in both Luke and Matthew. Can you guess where we are going with this? How likely is it that a source that claims to be words of Jesus would use such a rare word? Would Jesus have used such a word? Almost certainly not. Would the collector of the sayings that became Q use the word? Impossible to be sure, unlikely in the extreme. It would depend on the literary chops of the collector. But let’s do a thought experiment: we know that Mark does indeed represent a more “primitive” version of the gospel than either of the other two. One salient aspect of this primitivism is the rather poor quality of Mark’s Greek. If Q dates back to shortly after the time of Jesus, then for the compiler of Q to use a word like assarios, we have to conclude that the compiler is more adept in Greek than Mark was. Does that make sense? For the compilation of Q to date back to Jesus, the aggregation would needs have been done by an early follower. Such early followers were probably Jewish/Aramaic in background; that is, they were probably not native Greek speakers, and they probably were not well enough educated to be able to write Greek.

So who was this compiler? That question is never addressed, let alone answered. There is no hypothetical discussion of this. There are a number of anonymous Greek texts dealing with political life in Athens. The controversy about who these authors were–or, at least, what sort of background they had–is fierce and contentious. My favourite attribution is to someone referred to as the “Old Oligarch”, the author of a text not terribly fond of the idea of democracy. And yet in the Q discussion, there is absolutely nothing. Crickets, as the common vernacular would put it. This is not surprising since there is essentially no discussion of the vocabulary of Q in itself, let alone any discussion of the content of the sayings of Q; do they fit the period of the 30s? Or do they seem to fit a much later period? This would be a very fruitful discussion to have.

On the other hand, we know that Matthew was rather adept at Greek. He had a decidedly large and rather sophisticated vocabulary; and Luke exceeded Matthew on both accounts. So ask yourself this question: is this word more likely to have originated in the text of some lesser-educated, non-Greek compiler, or from the pen of someone much more educated and likely much more fluent in Greek? The answer seems pretty obvious to me. By no means a slam-dunk, but nothing is in NT studies. IMO, it’s much more likely that the word came from Matthew, and was then copied by Luke.

The second consensus translation is diapherte. Here, the sense of the text is that the disciples are valued more than a sparrow, hardly an earth-shaking statement. The problem is that this is not what the word really means in Classical Greek. In my favourite quote from Marcus Aurelius, written in his Meditations, is the expression “many grains of incense on the same altar. One falls first, then another. There is no difference”. The last four English words are expressed in Greek as diapherei d’ouden. That is, the word used is the same as here. Except in Aurelius, it means there is no difference, and this is one of the standard meanings of the word in Greek. And please to note, Meditations was written about a century after the NT. So it’s not a case that the meaning of the word had evolved by the time Luke wrote. Now, in this case, the Latin very clearly says ‘you are worth more than many sparrows’, so I will have to concede this point. St Jerome knew his Greek much better than I ever could.

6 Nonne quinque passeres veneunt dipundio? Et unus ex illis non est in oblivione coram Deo.

7 Sed et capilli capitis vestri omnes numerati sunt. Nolite timere; multis passeribus pluris estis.

8 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁμολογήσει ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ:

9 ὁ δὲ ἀρνησάμενός με ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρνηθήσεται ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ.

“I say to you, all who speak the same as me before men, and the son of man will speak the same as him before the angels of God. (9) But the one denying me before men will be denied before the angels of god. 

Just a quick question: where did the angels come from? The couple of restored versions of Q that I’ve checked include the angels in the text. IOW, once again, or by default, Luke is the more primitive version, so if Luke has angels, then Q obviously had angels. The logic supporting this conclusion is atrocious. It’s a combination of circularity and post hoc ergo propter hoc. There is no coherent or consistent case for taking Luke as the more primitive version aside from the fact that he doesn’t say “our father” and he says “blessed are the poor”, omitting the “in spirit” of Matthew. Yes, there are a few other such instances, but there is no way that they add up to a satisfactory argument that can be used to take Luke’s “primitivity” as a given. I see absolutely no reason to take the inclusion of angels here as an indication of the older version. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is an understanding of angels in a sense somewhat divorced from the idea of a messenger

BTW: homologein literally means speak the same, but it more idiomatically means to agree. Here, however, it is taken as to confess, as in, to acknowledge. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you will see confessus, so the etymology is apparent. So, it’s stretching the original meaning of the word, but we’ve experienced worse.

8 Dico autem vobis: Omnis, quicumque confessus fuerit in me coram hominibus, et Filius hominis confitebitur in illo coram angelis Dei;

9 qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, denegabitur coram angelis Dei.

10 καὶ πᾶς ὃς ἐρεῖ λόγον εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ: τῷ δὲ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα βλασφημήσαντι οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται.

11 ὅταν δὲ εἰσφέρωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐπὶ τὰς συναγωγὰς καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας, μὴ  μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί ἀπολογήσησθε ἢ τί εἴπητε:

12 τὸ γὰρ ἅγιον πνεῦμα διδάξει ὑμᾶς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἃ δεῖ εἰπεῖν.

“And all who will speak a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven to him. To him against the sacred breath they blaspheme, it will not be forgiven,. (11) When they bring you in upon the synagogues and the magistrates and those in authority, do not be concerned how either you will defend yourselves or what you will say. (12) For the sacred breath will teach you in that hour what must be said.”

My first reaction when we went from stuff being shouted from the rooftops to not being afraid of those who can only kill the body, it seemed like we had a non sequitur. However, after reading the whole section that we’ve just finished, I see the overall structure more completely. It is:

  • do not fear those killing the body;
  • you are worth more than sparrows, and God cares for them;
  • just be faithful to me (Jesus) before men and I will be faithful to you before of men;
  • but have a care not to blaspheme against the sacred breath;
  • for it will be the sacred breath telling you what to say when you’re on trial before those men–who happen to have authority.

So, yeah, that works. With one possible exception: what happened to the huge crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands? What was that all about? It would make sense if this fell into, say, the Sermon on the Mount in corresponding section of Matthew; Jesus was talking to a crowd there as well. But here? Not so much. Perhaps if I be but patient, the purpose of the crowd will become apparent.

10 Et omnis, qui dicet verbum in Filium hominis, remittetur illi; ei autem, qui in Spiritum Sanctum blasphemaverit, non remittetur.

11 Cum autem inducent vos in synagogas et ad magistratus et potestates, nolite solliciti esse qualiter aut quid respondeatis aut quid dicatis:

12 Spiritus enim Sanctus docebit vos in ipsa hora, quae oporteat dicere ”.

Luke Chapter 11:37-54

Note: It appears that WordPress has “improved” or “upgraded” the website. One of these “improvements” was the removal of my preferred font. The default is not something I particularly like, largely because it doesn’t to justice to the Greek. I have changed the font here on the website, supposedly, but on the page where I do my drafts I’m stuck with the default font. I hope it looks acceptable from your perspective.

This section concerns the “Woes” to the Pharisees and and others. This is Luke’s version of Matthew 23:14 ff. And, since this doesn’t occur in Mark, it’s Q material. This is the second such “Woes” section in Luke, and there are two in Matthew as well. The other “Woes” passage extends these woes unto a list of cities, Chorazin, Bethsaida. & c. So here comes the question: why are the two sections separated? Would it not make sense for to “curse” these cities and the Pharisees at the same time? For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the text of Q that Matthew and Luke used the two lists of woes were indeed in separate sections of the text. Is it reasonable to assume that it did not occur to either evangelist to consolidate these two groups of woes? We are constantly told that Luke and Matthew arranged the Q material very differently. Fine. But it seems kind of odd that neither of them saw fit to put the two sections into one. Rather, it seems more like Luke followed Matthew in this case. In both, the woes to the cities occurs first in the gospel, followed up at some later point (much later in Matthew) with the woes to the Pharisees.

Again, there is nothing really here that is at all convincing as an argument for Q. Based on the way that Luke split up the Sermon on the Mount material, there is a suggestion that Luke wasn’t as fond of very long sections of speech the way Matthew was. The Sermon fills Chapters 5, 6, and 7. I did not find this particularly “masterful”. I found it to be a bunch of one-off sentiments all packed together. I find the way Luke scatters these out a bit to be more congenial to my taste. However, when the suggestion that Luke prefers shorter segments is raised, the Q people start tossing off examples of how Luke goes on and on about this subject or that. True enough, I suppose, but there is nothing in Luke to compare to the three-chapter block that is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Whatever, let’s get to the


37 Ἐν δὲ τῷ λαλῆσαι ἐρωτᾷ αὐτὸν Φαρισαῖος ὅπως ἀριστήσῃ παρ’ αὐτῷ: εἰσελθὼν δὲ ἀνέπεσεν.

38 ὁ δὲ Φαρισαῖος ἰδὼν ἐθαύμασεν ὅτι οὐ πρῶτον ἐβαπτίσθη πρὸ τοῦ ἀρίστου.

39 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος πρὸς αὐτόν, Νῦν ὑμεῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τὸ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ποτηρίου καὶ τοῦ πίνακος καθαρίζετε, τὸ δὲ ἔσωθεν ὑμῶν γέμει ἁρπαγῆς καὶ πονηρίας.

40 ἄφρονες, οὐχ ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔξωθεν καὶ τὸ ἔσωθεν ἐποίησεν;

41 πλὴν τὰ ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην, καὶ ἰδοὺ πάντα καθαρὰ ὑμῖν ἐστιν.

During the conversation (lit = in the speaking) a Pharisee asked him whether he (Jesus) might dine with him (the Pharisee); going in, they sat down (38) The Pharisee seeing marveled that first he did not baptize before the dinner. (39) And the lord said to him, “Now you, o Pharisees, clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but what is inside you is full of greed and wickedness. (40) Fools! It is what you do outside, or what you do inside? (41) Except for the being inside (internal attitude) you give alms, and behold, all is clean to you”. 

To get it out of the way, here is an instance when the word “to baptize” is used in a thoroughly secular, mundane, and ordinary manner for “to wash”. It is very important to remember that “baptize” and “angel” and “grace” are sacred words as used by the authors of the NT. They only became sacred words after a few centuries of Christian thinking, and then the Western church was heavily influenced by the translation of these words from Greek into Latin. “Baptize” simply means “to wash”; an “angel” is any messenger; “grace” means any sort of favour; it does not necessarily have the connotation of “free” (i.e., “gratis”) in Greek that it has in Latin, and has come to have in English. Think of a “grace period” when paying a bill (quite common in the insurance industry). While we’re on the topic of the language, in the last verse the two clauses are joined by << καὶ >>. The great majority of the time, this is the standard word for and. However, at the beginning of the Platonic dialogue The Symposion, there is a famous passage where the meaning hinges on << καὶ >> meaning or, rather than and. Indeed, much of the entire dialogue hinges on this meaning. And so here, too << καὶ >> has to be translated as or. I tried a number of things, and decided that it has to be or.

Perhaps the other remarkable thing is the way Jesus turns on his host. Yikes! No being polite here. And this is an important example to remember when dealing with things that are wrong in current culture. Jesus would not sit down and shut up when presented with social wrongs; he would have stood up and spoken out. That is how a true Christian acts, IMO. Now I’ve just deviated from historical analysis into religious interpretation. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Finally, there is the subject of the outburst. Jewish practice at the time was very concerned with what is called “ritual cleanliness”. This means that externals carried a lot of weight, especially as applied to religious ritual, but even in such things as washing before meals. This, of course, became kosher practices, where the way an animal is slaughtered is very important. I do not want to get into it, but a lot of the kosher practices made a certain amount of sense in days before refrigeration; however, that is not the topic here. This insistence on outward ritual over the inner attitude is what has led Christians to teach that Judaism was a very formalistic, legalistic religion, more a set of rituals than an inner way of viewing the world. Now, this accusation is not completely without merit; however, in the context of the times, it was not an unusual attitude. More, given that some of the practices dated back several hundred years (I am a late dater of the HS; I do not believe that Moses lived in the 13th Century BCE, or that he lived at all, e.g.) these attitudes towards ritual purity were very common. Much of Greek religious practice had a similar outlook; this is why the standard explanation for the success of Christianity was that pagan religions did not satisfy the “inner person”. They were all cold and ritualistic, lacking in “emotional appeal”. While there is some truth to this, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It does account, perhaps, for the growing popularity of the so-called “mystery religions”, such as the cult of Isis as described in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius (aka The Golden Ass, in some translations). The point being, there would have been some truth–perhaps–to Jesus saying this, but it does not deserve the degree of criticism that has come to be heaped upon Judaism. Then again, I am the product of a brand of Catholicism as practiced in a certain time, long ago, and a in a galaxy far away.

As I so (too?) often do, I’m going to take this a step further, but not until after the next section.

37 Et cum loqueretur, rogavit illum quidam pharisaeus, ut pranderet apud se; et ingressus recubuit.

38 Pharisaeus autem videns miratus est quod non baptizatus esset ante prandium.

39 Et ait Dominus ad illum: “Nunc vos pharisaei, quod de foris est calicis et catini, mundatis; quod autem intus est vestrum, plenum est rapina et iniquitate.

40 Stulti! Nonne, qui fecit, quod de foris est, etiam id, quod de intus est, fecit?

41 Verum tamen, quae insunt, date eleemosynam; et ecce omnia munda sunt vobis.

42 ἀλλὰ οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ πήγανον καὶ πᾶν λάχανον, καὶ παρέρχεσθε τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ: ταῦτα δὲ ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ παρεῖναι.

43 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς Φαρισαίοις, ὅτι ἀγαπᾶτε τὴν πρωτοκαθεδρίαν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς.

44 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι ἐστὲ ὡς τὰ μνημεῖα τὰ ἄδηλα, καὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι [οἱ] περιπατοῦντες ἐπάνω οὐκ οἴδασιν.

45 Ἀποκριθεὶς δέ τις τῶν νομικῶν λέγει αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα λέγων καὶ ἡμᾶς ὑβρίζεις.

46 ὁδὲ εἶπεν, Καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς οὐαί, ὅτι φορτίζετε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους φορτία δυσβάστακτα, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἑνὶ τῶν δακτύλων ὑμῶν οὐ προσψαύετε τοῖς φορτίοις.

“But woe to you, Pharisees, that tithe the mint and the rue (a plant) and all the herbs, and pass without heeding (all in the verb) the judgement and the love of God. These things had to be done and not let go by the wayside (all in the verb). (43) Woe to you, Pharisees, that love the first seats in the synagogues and the salutations in the marketplace. (44) Woe to you, that are as unseen tombs, and men passing by do not know”. (45) Answering, one of the lawyers said to him, “Teacher, saying these things and you insult us”. (46) Then he said, “And woe to you, lawyers, that burden men, loading with burdens grievous to be borne, and they on they one of your fingers do not touch the burdens (i.e., you don’t lift a finger to help). 

Well, the opinion of lawyers sure hasn’t changed much in the last 2,000 years or so, has it? I am going to defer the rest until the end.

42 Sed vae vobis pharisaeis, quia decimatis mentam et rutam et omne holus et praeteritis iudicium et caritatem Dei! Haec autem oportuit facere et illa non omittere.

43 Vae vobis pharisaeis, quia diligitis primam cathedram in synagogis et salutationes in foro!

44 Vae vobis, quia estis ut monumenta, quae non parent, et homines ambulantes supra nesciunt! ”.

45 Respondens autem quidam ex legis peritis ait illi: “ Magister, haec dicens etiam nobis contumeliam facis ”.

46 At ille ait: “ Et vobis legis peritis: Vae, quia oneratis homines oneribus, quae portari non possunt, et ipsi uno digito vestro non tangitis sarcinas!”

47 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν προφητῶν, οἱ δὲ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτούς.

48 ἄρα μάρτυρές ἐστε καὶ συνευδοκεῖτε τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν ἀπέκτειναν αὐτοὺς ὑμεῖς δὲ οἰκοδομεῖτε.

49 διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ εἶπεν, Ἀποστελῶ εἰς αὐτοὺς προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενοῦσιν καὶ διώξουσιν,

50 ἵνα ἐκζητηθῇ τὸ αἷμα πάντων τῶν προφητῶν τὸ ἐκκεχυμένον ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης,

51 ἀπὸ αἵματος Αβελ ἕως αἵματος Ζαχαρίουτοῦ ἀπολομένου μεταξὺ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου καὶ τοῦ οἴκου: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐκζητηθήσεται ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.

52 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς νομικοῖς, ὅτι ἤρατε τὴν κλεῖδα τῆς γνώσεως: αὐτοὶ οὐκ εἰσήλθατε καὶ τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.

53 Κἀκεῖθεν ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἤρξαντο οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι δεινῶς ἐνέχειν καὶ ἀποστοματίζειν αὐτὸν περὶ πλειόνων,

54 ἐνεδρεύοντες αὐτὸν θηρεῦσαί τι ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ.

“Woe to you, that build monuments of the prophets, but your fathers killed them. (48) You are witnesses and give your consent to the deeds of your fathers, that they (the fathers) killed them (the prophets) you build. (49) Through this also the wisdom of god says, “I send to them prophets and apostles, and from them they will kill and persecute, (50) so that the blood of all the prophets having been poured out may have been sought from the foundations of the cosmos, from this generation, (51) from the blood of Abel until the blood of Zacharias being killed between the altar and his house. Yes, I say to you, it has been sought from this generation. (52) Woe to you lawyers, that take up the key of knowledge; you do not enter and those who do enter you kill. (53) And then he having gone out the Scribes and the Pharisees began sorely to hold with him and teach him by dictation regarding many things. (54) Laying snares to hunt him for something from his mouth.

First, the Greek. In V53, the second word always means go, specifically to go out. This is because it has the prefix ek attached, which means out. However, in the vacuum-sealed world of NT Greek, this manages to get translated as “come”. I suspect that Luke may have gotten himself muddled. It happens. The bit about “entering” refers, I think, to the Kingdom of God. The lawyers are a malevolent force keeping people out. Why is this? But that’s off-topic from the Greek. The last thing is the word I translated as teach him by dictation. This is an extremely rare word in Classical Greek, and it occurs exactly once in the NT. As such, there is no real context to help us determine what this word means as it is used by Luke. We can’t compare it in other contexts. All of my crib translations, of which there are now five (the CPDV having appeared unbidden; not even sure what that stands for) all do a more or less lousy job of slurring over the word, which is << ἀποστοματίζειν >> for those of you keeping score at home. They render it in a fashion of what they believe it should mean, as they interpret it. To make matters interesting, the root of the word is << στομα >>, which means mouth. It appears in the form << στόματος >> in the last verse, which I garbled as hunting for something from his mouth, in the sense of getting him to say something they could use against him in a court of law. Anyway, the bottom line, I think, is that Luke here is being too clever with his Greek in this passage, and he gets caught up in it. The think about a language like Greek is that even a native speaker can have trouble writing decent prose, but that can be said about English, too.   

Second, the reference. Zacharias was murdered by King Joash in 2 Chronicles, 24:21-21. That is an obscure reference. Hmm…one wonders if Luke is playing “I can top that” regarding non-obvious citations of the HS. Recall Matthew did stuff like that, starting with putting Jesus in Nazareth “so he will be called a Nazarene…” (Matthew 2:23, ref’g Isaiah). It sure does seem like Luke has a thing going with Matthew, doesn’t it? Perhaps not to everyone, but sure seems like it to me.

Let’s stop and think about the context of all this for a moment. As noted in the intro to the section, this is supposedly part of Q because it’s in Matthew and Luke, but not Mark. As part of Q, it supposedly dates back to the time of Jesus, if perhaps not to Jesus himself. But think about it: Jesus is condemning groups of people prominent in Jewish culture. Why is he doing this? Because they haven’t gotten on board with Jesus’ message. But how do we know that, if Jesus is still alive? Isn’t this the sort of thing that would make more sense if it were said a generation or two after Jesus died, when it had become apparent that the Pharisees and lawyers had not come over to Jesus? After the time when the Pharisees (*cough* Saul *cough*) had led the persecution of the new interpretation?  Of course this sort of thinking forces us to ask whether the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is exclusively a post-mortem phenomenon. I have no idea how consistent I’ve been on that topic, mainly because I’d never isolated it as a topic until just now. The other question is whether we can–or should–take the woes to those towns as a separate issue from the woes to the Pharisees in this section. Remember, Matthew also separated them. One telling bit of evidence might be whether those towns suffered, and to what extent, during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the Temple. Bethsaida, according to Mark, is right hard close to Jerusalem since that is where Jesus was staying his last week. 

To some degree the animosity to the Pharisees and other representatives of established practice of the religion is a basic theme in Jesus’ teaching. It is a thread, or more like a theme/stream running throughout the gospels. However, just because it gets a lot of attention does not mean that it dates back to Jesus himself. It could easily be something that cropped up later, the result of the “persecutions” led by Pharisees such as Paul. That would still give it time to work its way into Mark’s gospel, where it is already a theme. I would say there is a decent chance that it does date back to Jesus, and I would certainly say that stating this theme as post-mortem would be a very bold step. Not that I’m afraid of bold positions, but this one is much harder to sort out than things like Q. If made to guess, my sense would be that there was some conflict early on between Jesus and the religious leaders of the day; itinerant preachers with a quirky, not-quite-orthodox message were a bane of the established Church in the High Middle Ages. Power structures don’t like being circumvented, so if Jesus showed up preaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand and implying that the Temple cult was unnecessary, that could make them uncomfortable. They felt the need to kill the Baptist as well. The story of Jesus clearing the Temple certainly reinforces this position, even though it may not have dated back to Jesus himself. After all, I have no doubts that the story is post-mortem; perhaps it represents a time when the conflict between the two sets of practitioners of Judaism had drifted further apart. The growing cult of Jesus-as-divine would certainly have alienated the Pharisees and–perhaps–provoked attempts to suppress the movement. This would dramatically open the door to the idea that Jesus-as-divine predated Paul. But that is another topic. 

47 Vae vobis, quia aedificatis monumenta prophetarum, patres autem vestri occiderunt illos!

48 Profecto testificamini et consentitis operibus patrum vestrorum, quoniam ipsi quidem eos occiderunt, vos autem aedificatis.

49 Propterea et sapientia Dei dixit: Mittam ad illos prophetas et apostolos, et ex illis occident et persequentur,

50 ut requiratur sanguis omnium prophetarum, qui effusus est a constitutione mundi, a generatione ista,

51 a sanguine Abel usque ad sanguinem Zachariae, qui periit inter altare et aedem. Ita dico vobis: Requiretur ab hac generatione.

52 Vae vobis legis peritis, quia tulistis clavem scientiae! Ipsi non introistis et eos, qui introibant, prohibuistis ”.

53 Cum autem inde exisset, coeperunt scribae et pharisaei graviter insistere et eum allicere in sermone de multis

54 insidiantes ei, ut caperent aliquid ex ore eius.

Special Topic: Prophesies

There have been numerous instances when I’ve spoken rather skeptically about the prophesies Jesus utters. I’ve been on any number of websites where the author is rather critical of those who, like me, dismiss the possibility of actual predictions. That is to say that I assume, every prediction that Jesus makes is ex post facto. Authors with a more religious, or perhaps faith-based approach do take the idea of legitimate prophesy by Jesus as not only possible, but likely.

There is one point to be made about this. The main reason I’m skeptical about the prophesies of Jesus–or of Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or any other in the HS–is that, unfailingly, they come true. Now, this is not surprising for a divine individual; but if the individual is not divine, then it defies probability that all Jesus’ prophesies came to be. I bring this up because I’m currently reading a book about the Persian invasions of Greece in the period 490-479 BCE. In the telling of these invasions by Herodotus, there are a number of prophesies given by the oracle of Delphi. As it happens, the author of the book I’m reading (a secondary source, rather than Herodotus himself) just discussed these oracles. This is a topic of some debate among historians; are any of the oracles recorded by Herodotus or elsewhere, genuine. That is, were they actually uttered by the Pythia, recorded by the priests and set into hexameter verses before the event in question? Or were these also ex post facto creations? The author brings up an excellent point about the authenticity: a lot of the oracles were wrong. For example, when the Athenians asked if they should resist the Persian onslaught, the oracle told them to “fly, doomed ones”. Prior to the invasion, that sure woudl have seemed to be wise and excellent advice, predicting an outcome very likely to come to pass. How the Greeks actually managed to pull off the defeat of the enormous invasion force is one of the more unexpected events in history. Yet, defeat them the Greeks did.

IOW, the oracle was wrong. In fact, a lot of the oracles Herodotus records were wrong. If they weren’t they were so craftily worded that they would prove correct in either case. The most famous is the Lydian King Croesus, who asks if he should fight the Persians. The answer was, “if you fight the Persians, you will destroy a mighty empire”. Taking that as a positive response, Croesus fought and lost. The “mighty empire” he destroyed was his own. And the Spartans got a similar answer about whether they should attack the city of Tegea. The oracle predicted that the Spartans would measure the plain of Tegea with dancing steps. Thinking this prophesied success, the Spartans attacked, were defeated, and ended up as slaves working in the fields, thus measuring the plain. Anyway, the author of the book (Persia and the Greeks; The Defence of the West 560-479, by A.R. Burns) says that anyone making up an oracle after the fact should be expected to get the correct answer. That many of these oracles were wrong is a good prima facie case for their authenticity.

So yes, I am skeptical. A 100% accuracy rate is impossible. For a human, anyway. If you accept Jesus’ divinity, of course all standards of human measure go by the way. Since I am writing history and not religion, it is impossible to accept these predictions as anything other than after-the-fact.

This, of course, has implications for the Q debate. But then, what doesn’t? The point is that when Jesus makes a prediction that is only in Matthew and Luke, and so supposedly came from Q, there is almost a zero percent chance that the words recorded were spoken by Jesus. Much more likely, they were invented after the fact. But if there is material in Q that was not spoken by Jesus, then what do we have? A collection of stuff that was said by…someone. That could have been said by anyone. In which case, the whole definition of Q changes. And this is a big problem I see with Q: the content and definition is very malleable. As such, we have to ask whether Q has any meaning at all.

Luke Chapter 11:29-36

Here we have some more of the material that Matthew so masterfully included in one large block in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I think it works better broken up into smaller pieces like this, but that’s a matter of taste. Or, it would be, if the whole case for Q didn’t rest upon that masterful arrangement.


29 Τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων ἤρξατο λέγειν, Ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν: σημεῖον ζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ.

30 καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ.

(Some) of the crowd testing (him=Jesus), he began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation. It seeks a sign and a sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonas. (30) For just as Jonas became a sign to the Ninevites, in this way also will be the son of man to this generation.

This is interesting. In this version Jesus refers to the sign of Jonas, but he does not explain what that means. Matthew 12:40, however, does explain it. It’s a reference to Jonas being inside the whale for three days, and so Jesus will be in the ground for three days. Now, Luke’s version, being shorter, is considered the more primitive, which means that the original text of Q probably read like Luke whereas Matthew added the explanation. Hence the Q position. Or, one could say that Luke knew that Matthew had explained this, so he didn’t feel the need to add that from Matthew. We have seen Luke do this elsewhere, but usually only in cases where Matthew overlaps extensively with Mark, as in the Death of the Baptist story. As such, it’s questionable whether my suggestion in this case is valid, or even legitimate. It’s different. It doesn’t count. I can hear the Q proponents now. And they have a point. This is situation is not exactly consistent with others. In return, I suggest that no one is ever 100% consistent in their approach, especially when we’re talking about a document of some length, as this is. I will concede they have a point, and that making that suggestion in this particular instance is not terribly convincing. That is for the individual reader to decide. Just remember that this does incident does not stand in isolation.

29 Turbis autem concurrentibus, coepit dicere: “Generatio haec generatio nequam est; signum quaerit, et signum non dabitur illi, nisi signum Ionae.

30 Nam sicut Ionas fuit signum Ninevitis, ita erit et Filius hominis generationi isti.

31 βασίλισσα νότου ἐγερθήσεται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινεῖ αὐτούς: ὅτι ἦλθεν ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς ἀκοῦσαι τὴν σοφίαν Σολομῶνος, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Σολομῶνος ὧδε.

32 ἄνδρες Νινευῖται ἀναστήσονται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτήν: ὅτι μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ ὧδε.

The Queen of the South will be raised in the judgement with the men of this generation and will judge them. That she came from the corners of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and, behold, something greater than Solomon (is) here. The Men of Ninevah will stand themselves up in the judgement with this generation, and they will judge it: that they repented at the message of Jonas, and, behold, something greater than Jonas (is) here. 

Taking these two sections together, we have Jesus predicting his resurrection and predicting the judgement to come on those who (supposedly) carried it out. So, this is part of the alleged Q material because it’s only in Matthew and Luke. But the problem there is that it’s highly unlikely that Jesus ever uttered these words. This is another ex post facto “prediction” put into the mouth of the speaker after it has been fulfilled. Yes, many people will claim that my viewpoint is entirely secular and simply assumes that Jesus was not capable of seeing the future because he was not divine. And that is a fair and accurate assessment of my viewpoint. I am writing historically and not religiously. But from that perspective fulfilled predictions are not to be taken at face value. As such, there is little chance that these words were spoken by Jesus. So, if Jesus did not say them, and Q is a collection of Jesus’ sayings (except when it includes stuff the Baptist said, or the dialogue between Jesus and Satan, and descriptive passages, and other such stuff), this by definition should not be in Q. Or, by definition, Q is not a source only of things Jesus said, but of other stuff, then the whole point and raison d’être for Q disappears. This is why I get so annoyed that all the arguments for Q are based on stuff like the use of <<καὶ >> vs <<δὲ >> or other such stylistic points. The first question to ask is “does it make sense that Jesus said this?” Or, “does this fit into th context of the 30s, or does it fit better in the 80s/90s?” If either answer is “no”, then we’ve got some serious problems. 

And the whole sequence fits better in the 80s than it does in the 30s. Remember, Jesus is basically cursing the generation alive in the 30s; a lot of these people were still around a generation later to see the catastrophe of the destruction of the temple. That this sequence wasn’t in Mark makes it even more likely, I believe, that this passage was written, or created, or conceived after the Romans had crushed the revolt. And while the generation of Jesus was technically prior to the generation of the destruction of the Temple, by the 80s such distinctions would likely have been smudged over; it was all just “back then”, especially to an audience of pagans for whom the Judaean was not a central or fixed point in their history. So the question becomes, how is this part of Q, if Q is to have any actual connexion to Jesus? On points like this I think the vast majority of biblical scholars fall short simply because they are not trained as historians. Their thinking tends to be synchronic, like that of social studies, where the passage of time is not really considered. History, OTOH, the thinking is diachronic, moving through time, because, well, that’s kind of the definition of history. Too much of the analysis looks at the texts as if they were all contemporaneous; there is too little thought paid to how the entire picture of Jesus and the belief systems developed as they passed through time.

And a final word. The Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba, apparently. Not that it particularly matters. The city of Ninevah, home to the Ninevites, was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. This is the power that crushed Israel and led the inhabitants of that land away to be resettled. This was a fairly common practice in the ancient Near East: move conquered peoples into lands where they were not native. The idea was to remove them from their ancestral lands into neutral territory, where they would not feel the sense of alienation that comes with being a subject people in your own land. The emotional and tribal places are gone, there is less of a sense of belonging, so the transported people would be forced to begin all over again in a new place where they had always been a subject people. So the city of Ninevah became synonymous with a wicked and depraved life style, just as Babylon would become later. Jonas was sent to preach in Ninevah, and I believe the legend in his book is that he encountered some success.

31 Regina austri surget in iudicio cum viris generationis huius et condemnabit illos, quia venit a finibus terrae audire sapientiam Salomonis, et ecce plus Salomone hic.

32 Viri Ninevitae surgent in iudicio cum generatione hac et condemnabunt illam, quia paenitentiam egerunt ad praedicationem Ionae, et ecce plus Iona hic.

33 Οὐδεὶς λύχνον ἅψας εἰς κρύπτην τίθησιν [οὐδὲ ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον] ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι τὸ φῶς βλέπωσιν.

34 ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου. ὅταν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς ᾖ, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινόν ἐστιν: ἐπὰν δὲ πονηρὸς ᾖ, καὶ τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινόν.

35 σκόπει οὖν μὴ τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστίν.

36 εἰ οὖν τὸ σῶμά σου ὅλον φωτεινόν, μὴ ἔχον μέρος τι σκοτεινόν, ἔσται φωτεινὸν ὅλον ὡς ὅταν ὁ λύχνος τῇ ἀστραπῇ φωτίζῃ σε.

No one lighting a lamp places it in the hidden place (lit = crypt, because kryptos = hidden; this often gets translated as “cellar”) [nor under the measuring (as in bushel) basket, but upon a lamp stand so that those entering (the room) see the light. (34) The light of the body is your eyes, when your eye may be not more than one, and your whole body is lighted; when it (the body) is wicked, and the whole body is in shadow. (35) Therefore look lest the light in you is shadowed. (36)  If therefore your whole body is lighted, lest you have a portion of shadow, the lamp will be the light when by lighting will make you light.

Hope that last bit makes sense. The repeated use of the same root is not rhetorically desirable in English, but it was all the rage in Greek; at least, among some authors. So it is here. This pericope (still don’t like that word) was also in Matthew and not in Mark, so, instead of saying Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark, we say that the story was part of Q. 

I am beginning to believe, rather strongly, that there actually was a collection of sayings of Jesus floating around in between the time of Mark and Matthew. I do suspect, however, that it was oral, and not written. At least, it was not written until Matthew wrote this material down. I suspect the desire to record and preserve these sayings was a large part of what motivated Matthew to write a new gospel. It always bears to remember that one does not choose the rather unusual task of writing a gospel unless one believes that one has something new to contribute. All these sayings of Matthew were his new contribution. Nor do I believe he made them all up. There are too many of these sayings that are just stuck into the text in such a ham-handed way that the narrative moves in fits and starts. That is how I feel about the “masterful arrangement” of the material in the Sermon on the Mount. Once we get past the Beatitudes, which have the organic feel of a single hand that produced a poem, we get sort of a laundry list of assorted stories, aphorisms, quick parables, metaphors, and analogies. Each little bit has nothing to do with what came just before, and is wholly disconnected to what comes after. Just as this one is. So how it is that Matthew’s arrangement is masterful is beyond me.

33 Nemo lucernam accendit et in abscondito ponit neque sub modio sed supra candelabrum, ut, qui ingrediuntur, lumen videant.

34 Lucerna corporis est oculus tuus. Si oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit; si autem nequam fuerit, etiam corpus tuum tenebrosum erit.

35 Vide ergo, ne lumen, quod in te est, tenebrae sint.

36 Si ergo corpus tuum totum lucidum fuerit non habens aliquam partem tenebrarum, erit lucidum totum, sicut quando lucerna in fulgore suo illuminat te”.

Luke Chapter 11:5-13

This was originally to be part of the previous section. However, discussion of the Our Father ran on longer than expected. So I broke this into two sections. This has expedited the publishing of the two sections, and one hopes this has been beneficial. The main story here is a piece that has appeared only in Matthew, and so is considered part of the Q material. Of course, I don’t particularly subscribe to the existence of Q, so there is that whole issue. Enough of that, let’s get straight to the


5 Καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἕξει φίλον καὶ πορεύσεται πρὸς αὐτὸν μεσονυκτίου καὶ εἴπῃ αὐτῷ, Φίλε, χρῆσόν μοι τρεῖς ἄρτους,

6 ἐπειδὴ φίλος μου παρεγένετο ἐξ ὁδοῦ πρός με καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ὃ παραθήσω αὐτῷ:

7 κἀκεῖνος ἔσωθεν ἀποκριθεὶς εἴπῃ, Μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε: ἤδη ἡ θύρα κέκλεισται, καὶ τὰ παιδία μου μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἰς τὴν κοίτην εἰσίν: οὐ δύναμαι ἀναστὰς δοῦναί σοι.

8 λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰ καὶ οὐ δώσει αὐτῷ ἀναστὰς διὰ τὸ εἶναι φίλον αὐτοῦ, διά γε τὴν ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς δώσει αὐτῷ ὅσων χρῄζει.

And he said to them, “Who of you has a friend and going towards him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, furnish me three (loaves of) bread’, (6) since my friend came from the road to me and I do not have which I will set in front of him’. (7) And he from inside answering says, ‘Do not trouble me. Indeed, the door is shut, and my boy is gone to bed. Having risen I am not able to give to you’. (8) I say to you, and if standing up he will not give to him through being his friend, through what shamelessness having arisen he will give to him (the friend) how so much he needs.  

The idea here is that the person come knocking in the night will continue to be shameless and keep asking. Eventually, the householder who has been so rudely awakened will eventually given in, get up, and give his shameless friend what is asked. The Greek is not terribly straightforward, but I’ve read a lot worse. It’s some of the most literary Greek encountered so far in the NT. I’ve been reading Xenophon’s Anabasis and Herodotus’ Histories lately, and the Greek there, especially in the latter author, is significantly more complex than what is found in the NT. Here is a good example. 

Speaking of the Greek, in Verse 7 we have the awakened one telling the importune one that “my boy has gone to bed”. Here is a great example of the use of “boy” to mean “servant”. This came up in the discussion of the Centurion’s “boy”; in Matthew, the term was ambiguous whereas Luke removed the doubt by dropping in the term for “slave”, making the relationship very clear. The use here, I think, should probably tilt the scale definitively that even in Matthew, a slave was meant, rather than a child.

These verses are only the setup for the lesson to come. So let’s proceed. 

5 Et ait ad illos: “ Quis vestrum habebit amicum et ibit ad illum media nocte et dicet illi: “Amice, commoda mihi tres panes,

6 quoniam amicus meus venit de via ad me, et non habeo, quod ponam ante illum”;

7 et ille de intus respondens dicat: “Noli mihi molestus esse; iam ostium clausum est, et pueri mei mecum sunt in cubili; non possum surgere et dare tibi”.

8 Dico vobis: Et si non dabit illi surgens, eo quod amicus eius sit, propter improbitatem tamen eius surget et dabit illi, quotquot habet necessarios.

9 κἀγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, αἰτεῖτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: ζητεῖτε, καὶ εὑρήσετε: κρούετε, καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν.

10 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει, καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει, καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγ[ής]εται.

11 τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν τὸν πατέρα αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς ἰχθύν, καὶ ἀντὶ ἰχθύος ὄφιν αὐτῷ ἐπιδώσει;

12 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν, ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον;

13 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὑπάρχοντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ [ὁ] ἐξ οὐρανοῦ δώσει πνεῦμα ἅγιον τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.

“And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. (10) For all who asks will receive, and the one seeking will find, and to the one knocking it will be opened. (11) To one of you the son asking for a fish and instead of a fish a serpent you him will give? (12) Or also will ask for an egg, he will give to him a skorpion? (13) Therefore, if you are being wicked know that the good gift to give to your children, so much more the father [who] is from the sky will give the sacred breath to those asking him.”

This is a pretty straightforward recapitulation of Matthew’s version. Once again we have a situation where only one of the previous evangelists has a story so Luke follows it fairly closely. But here’s the thing about the message conveyed here. This is the age-old story of Judaism, that YHWH is forgiving, and giving. How many times in the HS are we told that the Israelites “did evil in the site of YHWH” by chasing after the baals or the elohim or whichever pagan deity was around at the time. And yet, time after time, YHWH was willing to forgive and forget, to welcome these naughty children back into the fold, to let bygones be bygones and give everyone a fresh start. That really is the basis of the message here: that God in the sky is so much more loving than any human parent. Whereas even bad people can and will do good things for their children, God in the sky is so much better, so much more merciful, so much more giving. In short, there is no real “Christian” innovation here. Matthew (the author, or recorder of this message) was not introducing anything new. Rather, it was simply a renewed emphasis on what Judaism had always preached: the love of YHWH for the people of the covenant–which also explains the emphasis that Jesus’ death was the beginning of a New Covenant. 

Now two odd things here that a real history scholar would pick up on from this. Given that this only appears in Matthew, and given the non-existence of Q–you say it exists? Burden of proof is on you. Prove it–this message “from Jesus” was interpolated at some point between Jesus and Matthew. If Matthew didn’t invent this story, if he only recorded it, or recorded the gist of the message in his own way, then where did it come from. Hmmm…who was leading the Jesus movement for almost thirty years between the death of Jesus and the time Matthew wrote? Hmmm…Oh wait, James, brother of the Lord! And the funny thing is, Paul tells us that James was a fairly conservative individual in the sense that he wanted to maintain the ties to the background in Judaism. This is a tempting thought, at least prima facie. A more considered approach, however, should–does–bring up some problems with this. At least, there is one, and it’s the same problem I’m always bringing up about Q. If this was the message of James, and James was killed in the early 60s as Josephus says, then why wasn’t Mark aware of stuff like this? How did it bypass Mark? What this is all starting to point to is that something very significant happened in the period between the death of James, or between the destruction of the Temple and the time Matthew wrote his gospel. There was an explosion of content between Mark and Matthew. Why? What happened? At the moment, I can’t answer that. Rather, my contribution is that I have formulated the question. The answer to this that has been sitting out there for the past thousand years really does not withstand even a minimal amount of scrutiny. It’s time to ask the question and maybe get started on producing some different hypotheses on what happened.

One last thing that comes in here as a tangent. In Judges, and certainly in Kings, there is talk about the destruction of the high places. In reading about the genesis of the Persian Empire and the coming of Zoroastrianism, I’ve noted that the latter religion was also skittish about erecting images of a deity; rather, Zoroastrians preferred to worship on hilltops–IOW high places. The time period for this is much later than Elijah, by several centuries. I have to do more research on this, but if the kings of Israel were worshipping at high places, and this means Zoroastrian hilltops, do we not have as serious anachronism here? One that should seriously make us question when Kings I & II were written? Perhaps. If I’m wrong, I sure do want to hear someone explain exactly why I’m wrong. For too long the chronology of the writing of these books of the HS has gone unchallenged by any sort of critical analysis. The time for these free rides is over. It should have ended decades ago.

9 Et ego vobis dico: Petite, et dabitur vobis; quaerite, et invenietis; pulsate, et aperietur vobis.

10 Omnis enim qui petit, accipit; et, qui quaerit, invenit; et pulsanti aperietur.

11 Quem autem ex vobis patrem filius petierit piscem, numquid pro pisce serpentem dabit illi?

12 Aut si petierit ovum, numquid porriget illi scorpionem?

13 Si ergo vos, cum sitis mali, nostis dona bona dare filiis vestris, quanto magis Pater de caelo dabit Spiritum Sanctum petentibus se”.

Luke Chapter 11:1-4

This first section of this new chapter opens with the Our Father, which I pretentiously like to refer to as the Pater Noster. As an excuse, I do offer that I am a student of Classics, but that’s just an excuse. Oddly enough, since this is–supposedly–the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, it does not appear in Mark. Given this absence in Mark, I find it really hard to believe two things. First, this lack in Mark seems to put a serious crimp in the idea that he is writing stuff from Peter. Add this and the fact that Mark does not record the “upon this rock” statement, IMO, really seems to blow a big hole in this bit of tradition. Mark is either unaware of so much of Jesus’ teaching–the biggest and best parts, it could be argued–or he chose not to record these biggest and best parts. Why did he not record the Sermon on the Mount? Why did he not record the Our Father? Those are very serious questions. Sure, perhaps this borders on the Argument from Silence, but that is only a fallacy when there is reason to believe that the author could have and should have known about the issue on which she or he is being silent. In both cases, Mark recording Peter should have known about these two pieces of Jesus’ teaching; if so, then he simply chose not to report them, and the “Rock” speech, too? On top of that, Mark is very hostile to Peter, and all the disciples, for that matter, throughout his gospel. This is a third strike against Mark being Peter’s disciple. I think that canard needs to buried, once and for all.

The second thing that it makes it hard to believe is that the Lord’s Prayer came from Jesus. Once again, here is another really major teaching of Jesus that went underground for 40 years, only to reappear in Matthew’s gospel? Sorry. That is really implausible. So this ends up in the bucket with all the other Q material.

Then there is the whole bit about whether Matthew’s version of this prayer is the more primitive, or whether Luke does. However, this presupposes the existence of Q; without Q, the question of the more “primitive” version becomes nonsensical. Matthew has the more primitive version, because Matthew wrote first. So his is the more primitive. End of story. However, I believe the Q people believe Luke has the more primitive version; but then, Luke is almost always said to be the more primitive. This is odd since Luke wrote later than Matthew. You see, the Q people tend to believe, whether they admit it or not–whether they’re even aware of it or not–that Q was completely static. They take it for given that once Q was written, it was carved in stone and not a word of it changed. Which is ridiculous because it’s impossible. Any hand-copied text will change with transmission. The only exception would be that Q was actually carved in stone, and then set up somewhere for everyone to see. This is the example of the stele of Hammurabi: the law was carved in stone and then put on public display. Again, whether they realize it or not, the Q people assume something very much like this happened with the Q text. Make that the Q text.

Enough of this, let’s get to the


1Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενον, ὡς ἐπαύσατο, εἶπέν τις τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν, Κύριε, δίδαξον ἡμᾶς προσεύχεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ Ἰωάννης ἐδίδαξεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ.

And it happened in that he was in a certain place praying, so that he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, in the same way John taught his disciples.

The Greek at the beginning of the sentence is a bit interesting. There is a rather peculiar combination of accusative mixed in with using the infinitive as a substantive. The bit <<ἐν τῷ εἶναι  >> should be something like “in the being”, like “in the (time he) was being…”, but then the verb << εἶναι >> gets combined with the accusative << αὐτὸν >> which is accusative case, but it stands in as the subject of “to be”. So deucedly clever Luke to come up with this.

As for the content, the set up is very paper thin. He’s in a certain place and we aren’t even told which of the disciples asked the question. This is a very clear case of making up the setting in order to spring the punchline. Add this to the list of reasons why this prayer does not actually trace back to Jesus himself.

Finally, there is the last bit. According to this unnamed disciple, John taught his disciples how to pray, so Jesus’ disciples are asking Jesus to do the same for them. This is also unique to Luke, and one wonders what the genesis of this comment was. Oddly, because it’s so odd, I would be willing to consider whether Luke didn’t tap into a tradition that had been maintained by John-the-Baptistians. Based on Josephus’ treatments of Jesus and John, even assuming that everything in our text was actually written by Josephus, and was not a later Christian interpolation–which I doubt very much–John gets a much bigger chunk of Josephus’ time and writing. In short, based strictly on Josephus’ testimony, John was likely the more popular of the two–at least among Jews. We need to remember here that Josephus was a Jew, writing to explain Jews to the Romans. As such, he would naturally have given more attention to a figure who was more popular among Jews. And we have commented that John, for whatever novelty he introduced, seems to have remained firmly ensconced in the “mainstream” of Jewish tradition. (For that matter, Jesus probably was, too, until Paul and others started introducing seriously Greek thought into Jesus’ message.) The point here that, even to Luke’s time, which approximated the time when Josephus was writing because the lives of Luke and Josephus overlapped to no small degree, it is entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that there were still groups of John-the-Baptistians floating about the eastern Mediterranean, in particular in the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea, and perhaps a few others. So it is just possible that Luke came across some such adherents and added this bit to acknowledge this existence.

Admittedly, this is a stretch, and likely a big one. But why else is this in here? Why did Luke feel it necessary, or even desirable, to add this little detail. Had it been omitted, no one would have noticed. We’re talking about it because it is there; were it not, the hole would not be detected. The Q people demand a redactionally consistent interpretation of everything Luke says that is different from Matthew. Well, there is a lot of that. Where the anti-Q people go wrong, IMO, is first to concede to this demand. Really? They have to prove the existence of Q; the burden of proof is on them. It is not for the n0n-Q people to disprove its existence. Secondly, and only slightly less importantly, is to try to do this while only focusing on the stuff that is supposedly in Q. If one is to give a redactionally consistent explanation of Luke, it has to be done in toto, and not just about selected material. Remember my suggestions–which may have become worthy to be called an argument, but maybe not–that Matthew was a pagan, and was writing to reach a wider audience of pagans? Well, Luke is acknowledged a pagan. In spite of–or is it because of?–this, I’ve started to suggest that Luke is trying to pull this back into the Jewish context to some degree. Hence the introduction of Samaritans. So maybe that is what Luke is doing here, and he could be doing it whether or not he was aware of any John-the-Baptistians still hanging about. But were there any, there is no reason to suppose that Luke would not have been aware of them.

One final aspect of this is that there is this completely unchallenged assumption, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the gospels were written once and then never changed. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a safe assumption. The authors are anonymous; it is entirely possible that these works were edited, perhaps expanded over time. Perhaps that is what happened to Mark, which prompted Matthew bring in all these new developments and then to re-write Mark in order to bring Mark up to date, and so create a “new” gospel. In the same may be true of Luke. Maybe Matthew was confronted by four or five versions of Mark, so he fit them altogether, adding what he thought was of value (Sermon on the Mount) and omitting things he found not so valuable (many of the magical practices). Then perhaps the same happened with Luke. Really, though, it’s more likely that Matthew, Luke, and John incorporated later traditions or developments that were largely transmitted orally. But it’s something that needs to be considered and discussed, and not just assumed. There has been altogether too much of that.

That’s a lot of commentary on a single line. 

1 Et factum est cum esset in loco quodam orans, ut cessa vit, dixit unus ex discipulis eius ad eum: “Domine, doce nos orare, sicut et Ioannes docuit discipulos suos”.

2 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Οταν προσεύχησθε, λέγετε, Πάτερ, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου: ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου:

3 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν:

He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, let your name be blessed; let your kingdom come, give to us the our bread of existence each day.

Gotta stop here. Note: it begins simply “Father”. Not “our father”. What are we to make of that? Per Kloppenborg, who appears to be the single major proponent of Q (and who, to my chagrin, teaches at the University of Toronto, my alma mater), this is the more “primitive” version, and this is how the pater starts in his/their reconstruction of Q. So why did Matthew change it to “our father”? That’s never explained. As far as I can tell, the operative principle here is something akin to Occam’s Razor; since Luke has fewer words here, and when he says more simply, “blessed are the poor”, the fewer words makes it the more primitive version. The thinking is that versions get elaborated and not reduced. And that is not a terrible operating principle. There could be many worse. But that is not to concede that it’s the only principle, or even necessarily the best. It’s simply better than some, while possibly being worse than others. 

The point of this is that the Q people demand the redacti0naly consistent interpretation (RCI) for any instance when Luke “changes” Matthew’s word order, or arrangement, if we are going to argue that Luke read and used Matthew. OK. Kind of reverses the usual order of proof, but, OK. So do they have an RCI for each time that Matthew deviates from Q? Anyone? Bueller? Why do I only hear crickets? Why did Matthew change it to “our father”? Well, because…it sounds better. Sure, after two millennia of saying it Matthew’s way, we’ve come to assume that it’s somehow better, more correct. But is it? Is it really? Why? It has, perhaps, the advantage of sounding more “correct” when spoken by a congregation, but does it really? Why can’t each person simply say “Father”? After all, we all say “credo”, I believe. 

 So why did Luke drop the “our”? Or, if this is from Q, why did Matthew add it?  One could argue that Matthew added it to foster the sense of universal siblinghood among the communities of Jesus. That would be reasonable. And it would be equally reasonable to suggest that Luke dropped it because it’s redundant. I suppose one could also say Luke dropped it because he’s telling the disciples to say this when they pray as individuals. In which case it would make more sense to call Luke’s the more primitive version, since Matthew added the “our” when this became a communal, rather than a personal prayer. But did that necessarily come later? It could easily be argued that the communal prayer came first; that groups of initiates were taught the prayer to be said in unison, so it was “our” father. Then, later, the prayer became more individualized, so Luke dropped the “our” to reflect this development. I can see this going either way.

Again, it’s important to admit that questions like this will not be, indeed cannot be answered in a forum such as this. But it’s even more important to acknowledge that these questions need to be asked. And they require serious consideration and an equally serious response. It is not at all sufficient for the Q people to pooh-pooh the very idea that perhaps, just maybe, Q never existed.

2 Et ait illis: “ Cum oratis, dicite: / Pater, sanctificetur nomen tuum, / adveniat regnum tuum; 

3 panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis cotidie,

4 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν: καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.

” ‘And discharge for us our sins, for and we discharge to all debts to us. And do not carry us towards trial.

Now this is really interesting. And I mean, really interesting. We discussed this when we did Matthew’s version. There, Jesus is telling the disciples << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν >>. Here, Luke says << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν >>. These two words have very different meanings. Matthew’s word means debts, as in monetary debts owed to creditors. Luke’s word means sins, as in mortal and venal sins. Two words, two meanings, two very different sets of implications. The other thing to note is the word used for “take away” does not really mean forgive, in the sense that we generally understand the word in English. One can forgive a debt, but that has a technical, legalistic meaning. It is similar to, but not the same as, forgiving a sin. Hence I translated as “discharge”. And just out of curiosity, I checked the Vulgate version of Matthew, and it follows the Greek: here the Latin is peccata, “sins”; there the Latin is debita, “debts”. So the different words were not glossed over in the Vulgate.

Now here’s the thing. The surrounding language seems to fit better with Matthew’s version, in which we talk about debts. It seems less attuned to Luke’s version, using “sins”. Because he says “discharge our sins” as “we discharge all debts owed to us”. So Luke reverts to “debts”. Is this “editorial fatigue”? Must have been a tough couple of word that Luke got fatigued that quickly. But the point is that if the original concept was “debt” rather than “sin”, it’s almost impossible to say that Luke’s is the more primitive version. Luke changed the original word. If the original was “debt”, which is what the entire structure seems to require, then this change of Luke more or less precludes it being the more primitive version.  Why is that important? Because it reflects back to the beginning, “father” vs. “our father”. Did Luke change that, too? So if Luke made two changes, then the idea that his version is more primitive gets even harder to defend. This brings us to another really annoying aspect of the Q argument: Luke is considered to be the more primitive version, the one more like Q, except when he isn’t. There is more than a bit of legerdemain involved. But it’s worse than that; there is a real element of intellectual dishonesty at work. All these twists and turns and curlicues should be a seriously red flag; if the status of Q is so secure and so obvious, all of these back-flips to make it all work would not be necessary. I honestly think that part of the motivation for labeling Luke as the more primitive, is that it allows the existence of the document to carry further ahead in time, which does provide a bit more basis for the existence of the document. Except it really doesn’t, but it seems like it should. Read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his refutation of the ontological argument for God and you’ll know what I mean. Saying that an hypothetical document lasted 40 years instead of 30 doesn’t make said document any more real. 

4 et dimitte nobis peccata nostra, / si quidem et ipsi dimittimus omni debenti nobis, / et ne nos inducas in tentationem ”.


Summary Luke Chapter 10

The most important section of this chapter, of course, was the story of the Good Samaritan. It is a landmark of Christian literature that has become so famous that it’s crossed into secular vernacular. While perhaps not quite as universally understood in English writing as it once was, it seems likely that a large majority of the English speakers in North America understand the reference to some degree. In some ways, it is perhaps the Christian morality tale par excellence. It very neatly sums up the Christian ethos of what it means to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Funny thing about that.

No doubt my impression of this story was seriously–mayhap fatally–distorted by my upbringing. The town I grew up in was small and white and Catholic; that is, there were no Jews. And then I went to a Catholic school and was largely taught religion by Dominican nuns. The result was that I had no exposure to Jewish thought, or the Jewish heritage that lay behind Christianity. Oh, the Jewish roots were acknowledged, and a sanitized version of Judaism was taught, including the stories of Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the Flood, the Exodus and…a few odds and ends. Looking back, I realize we were taught about Genesis ad Exodus and some stuff about the Prophets and basically nothing else. As such, I had no real sense of Judaism as a religion, only that it had become ossified and sclerotic by the time of Jesus, who swept it away for an internal religion of faith and love, rather than an external, formulaic, and overly ritualized shell.

Well, guess what. The story of the Good Samaritan is very Jewish. What’s more, given the other stories in the chapter, the setting is very Jewish. These aspects were mentioned in the commentary of the translation. The fact that the man who acted as a foil to allow Jesus to introduce the central story, was learned in the Law and repeated the two Great Commandments, the story of Satan, and the very concept of a Samaritan all require an understanding of Judaism if we are to grasp fully their import and the true meaning of the story. Luke is not introducing, or even just illuminating some novel aspect of Jesus’ teaching; he is providing context in which the second commandment–love your neighbour as yourself–is truly put into practice. Who is the man’s neighbour? The priest or the Levite? Or the despised other who stops and helps the man? The full impact of the story is missed unless we understand the level of animosity between the Jewish traveler and the Samaritan who helps the man. Luke even prepped us to a degree when he told us that Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed into the Samaritan town because the residents understood that Jesus was going to Jerusalem.

So the upshot is that this is a story of how Judaism should be practised. And throughout the HS, there are numerous instances where the author regales the audience with injunctions about social justice. There was the story in Mark, repeated in Matthew, about Jesus chastising the Pharisees for the way they declared their property korban, holy, as in dedicated to the Temple, when the Pharisees should have been honouring their mothers and fathers by assisting them financially with this property. Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell of the time when the Jews were allowed to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple are full of injunctions about social justice, admonishing the rich for trodding roughly on the poor. This would be another example of not “loving your neighbor as yourself”. So Luke is not introducing novel examples of how to behave with one another. He’s not even expanding on the teachings that undergirded the desired behaviour. He is providing an excellent and concrete example of what the desired behaviour looks like. This, he is saying, is how one love’s one neighbor as oneself.

This is not to say, however, that Luke might have something of a novel slant on the matter. Why does the lawyer want to know how to behave? What is his motivation? He wants to know what he must do to gain eternal life. By this point it should be clear that the idea of the immortal soul, more or less as Christians conceive of it, was not derived from Judaism, but from the Greeks. Now, by the time of Jesus, Judea had been ruled by Greek-speakers (this includes Romans; educated Romans, who were the governing class, were largely bilingual in Latin and Greek) since the time of Alexander the Great, more than 300 years. Greek thought and philosophy had been incrementally seeping into the educated class of Jews, who were learning Greek and abandoning the Aramaic native to Judea at the time. All major metropolitan centres had significant Jewish enclaves, the educated members of these expatriate populations learned Greek. The epitome of this is Philo of Alexandria, who was both a Jewish scholar and more or less a thoroughgoing Platonist. The result was that the idea of an immortal soul had penetrated into Jewish thinking. I suspect (but do not know for certain) that this is the root of the idea of the resurrection of the dead that the Pharisees held as a central tenet.

The point is, even the desire for eternal life had Jewish antecedents, even if those antecedents had Greek antecedents, which they certainly did. As a result, the idea the lawyer was asking how to gain eternal life is not a distinctly Christian thought process. The lawyer (or generic young man, as Mark called him) asking about gaining eternal life could represent someone fully within mainstream Jewish thought of the time.

All of this matters for various reasons. I was Googling for the answer to..something else, which led me to the question of whether this parable is considered authentic; that is, do scholars believe that this came directly from Jesus. According to the overwhelming number of scholars in the Jesus Seminar, the answer is a resounding YES!!! Apparently some 60% code it as red (definitely authentic) and another 29% code it pink (probably authentic). A quick calculation shows that puts us at 89% positive, against only 4% negative. I often criticise the Q proponents for not considering content when they consider authenticity. Apparently the Jesus Seminar only considers content. This group, however, is very vague about transmission. How did this parable kick around for 50+ years, totally evade Mark and Matthew, and then appear in Luke? IOW, there is no provenance for the parable. It simply appears. Yes, it resembles other Jewish/midrasnhic material, but that’s so general as to be pretty much meaningless. Parables do resemble each other; that’s how they get classified as parables. But there is another element. One blog I found said that, of course this is authentic, because it sounds so much like other stuff Jesus said. To which I respond: give me an example of this similarity from Mark or Matthew, or preferably both. To point: there are none. Mark’s parables include the Mustard Seed and the Sower; neither of these are similar to the Good Samaritan in either form or content. The parable of the Wicked Tenants does more closely resemble the form of the Good Samaritan, but the content is not at all similar. It’s not a description of proper behaviour; rather, it’s a tale of what has happened, and what will happen to those wicked tenants. There is no real morality tale. And I would seriously argue that the Wicked Tenants is much later than Jesus. After all, it presumes the understanding that the landlord’s son is Jesus, and that we all know Jesus died, was killed by other wicked tenants. More, this parable comes from the Christ section of Mark, which likely originated only after Jesus’ death, a belief propagated, if not created, by Paul. Other possibilities would be the Parable of the Vineyard workers, but that does not appear in Mark. So, the parable presents severe difficulties both on the question of provenance and content. I do not see how this can be considered authentic.

This requires a lot more discussion than is appropriate for a summary like this.

This discussion about the lawyer/young man has interesting implications for the Q debate. All three of the Synoptics contain a story where someone from the crowd asks Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life. This person was described by Mark as a young man and by Matthew a lawyer. In those two versions Jesus responds by reciting the decalogue. When the man says he has done these things, Jesus then tells him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. Luke changes this; he alters the external circumstances and ends up making a slightly different point. These alterations suggest that this is another of those stories where Luke saw that M&M had covered the topic very well already, so he engaged his poetic license to provide a slightly different message. We have noticed that Luke does this when M&M tell essentially the same story in much the same way. That, to me, is a significant clue, a telling indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew, since he seems to know when to do this. In contrast, Luke has Jesus asking the man about the commandments; he’s turned the situation around. When the man answers with the Great Commandment, or the two Great Commandments, Luke uses the man’s answer as an entrée point to the Good Samaritan. Deucedly clever! However, the key aspect about this story is that only Matthew and Luke say that the man was a lawyer. So here we have a very clear case where Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark. The Q mantra is that this never happens. So how to explain this situation where it does? The answer is: they don’t. They ignore these situations and pretend that they didn’t happen.

We should at least mention the 70/72. Here again is something that obviously dates from a time much later than Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have stories about the sending of the Twelve; Luke alone has the Seventy. Why? As discussed, this serves two purposes. Perhaps the most important is that it allows Jesus’ direct disciples to cover a lot more ground than the Twelve could have done. As such, it allows all the different Christian communities scattered throughout much of the Mediterranean basin to imagine, to believe, that their community was, indeed, founded by a direct disciple of Jesus. The historical context here is doubtless key. As Acts proves beyond doubt, the story of Paul had become part of the background knowledge of an evangelist–assuming the identity of authorship of Luke and Acts. As such, there was likely to be greater scrutiny of who was saying what; recall Paul’s “different gospel”. As such, being able to trace one’s lineage back to the Mayflower, or to the Conqueror. This is important because it allows the disparate communities to have a sense of cohesion, that they are all the same group, that they share a common belief system. As the network of communities grew, and as they became aware of one another, this sense of unity would be desirable from both human and doctrinal standpoints. In addition, we have yet another occurrence of the need to dispense with Jewish dietary laws. Upon being sent out, they are told to “eat whatever is put in front of you”; IOW, if they serve you pork, eat it. We’ve come across three or four of these so far, and there will be at least one more in Acts. Giving permission to ignore this aspect of Judaism was very important for the early proto-Christian and Christian communities. Too strict an insistence on maintaining them would have greatly restricted the spread of the new religion. Indeed Paul had figured this out by the time he wrote Galatians. And yet, other subsequent writers felt the need to include their own version of Jesus giving the OK for this. Very important, indeed.

Finally there is the story of Martha and Mariam. As with the injunction about eating, we have a post-Jesus approval of women taking an active interest in matters of doctrine. Jesus himself reproves Martha’s remonstrance against her sister’s un-womanly behavior. This I think is an indication of the importance of the role women had assumed by the time Luke wrote. Otherwise, there would be no need for such an ex post facto from Jesus. The time when Luke is writing is perhaps an especially fluid time, the point where the forward momentum of the movement was creating a sense of how widespread the acceptance of Jesus had become–hence the 70–but it was before a true hierarchy had settled in and taken control. That would come in the next few decades.

Luke Chapter 10:38-42

Somehow I managed to set up the last post without noticing that there was such a short section left in this chapter. Oh well. This is very short, and it should go fairly quickly. Those sound like famous last words, so let’s get on to the


38 Ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι αὐτοὺς αὐτὸς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς κώμην τινά: γυνὴ δέ τις ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτόν.

39 καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαριάμ, [ἣ] καὶ παρακαθεσθεῖσα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας τοῦ κυρίου ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.

40 ἡ δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν: ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπεν διακονεῖν; εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός

41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ κύριος, Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ θορυβάζῃ περὶ πολλά,

42 ἑνὸς δέ ἐστιν χρεία/ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός. Μαριὰμ γὰρ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο ἥτις οὐκ ἀφαιρεθήσεται αὐτῆς.

In their departing, he (Jesus) came to a certain village. A certain woman by the name Martha received them. (39) And to her (dative of possession, like c’est a moi in French) was a sister named Mariam, [who] having sat herself by the feet of the lord listened to his speech. (40) Martha, OTOH, being encumbered regarding much ministering, standing said, “Lord, does it not concern you that my sister left to me the ministering (as in, “waiting upon them”). So tell her in order that she assist me.” (41) Answering, the lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you care about and are trouble by many things. One thing is necessary. {Variant reading of this: But of a few (things), one is necessary}. For Mariam has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

First, just want to point out that there is apparently a fairly significant variation in the different mss traditions for the first half of Jesus’ last sentence.  I have provided the Greek for both, and translated both. I checked several different versions of the Greek NT, and found both versions more less equally distributed. This means I checked four versions, and found each reading twice; however, this may not be a bad sample size for this and may indicate a rough equality in occurrence. Either way, I’m simply not qualified to render an opinion on which is the superior tradition. However, I will venture an uneducated guess and say that the first version, “one thing is necessary” is most likely to be the original. I say this because I can see where this reading is perhaps not entirely clear. The second version, “of a few (things), one is necessary” is a more complicated sentence structure. Now, there are reasons to think that structure should simplify rather than become more complex, and that is valid. But it’s also possible to look at this and say that the more complicated reading is an attempt to clarify the meaning. It also makes the Greek a bit more elegant, setting up something like a chiastic construction, or a parallel construction, or whatever you want to call it by playing off the contrast between many…few. This cross-reference doesn’t work quite as well in the shorter version, because the grammatical contrast between many…one is not nearly as sharply drawn. Regardless, this can be argued in either direction, and it apparently has been argued in both directions given the rough equality of the distribution. And there are more aspects to the argument than mere style, which is the only one receiving my attention. So, we’ll leave it at that.

Editor’s note: Just noticed the Latin. It seems to agree more closely with the first version, the shorter one. So that is definitely another factor in its favour. 

As for the text itself, this is unique to Luke. Interestingly, while the characters of Martha and Mary were not found in M&M, they do reappear later in John; not only do they reappear in the fourth gospel, they are given a brother named Lazarus, which name we will encounter in a story later on in Luke. So we can be pretty certain that John was very much aware of Luke. As for the appearance of these two women, and their continued role in John, I might suspect that two women by these names became significant patrons of the nascent movement at some point after Mark, and perhaps after Matthew. The names entered the story from somewhere, and for some reason. What are those reasons? I tend to suspect they resemble the introduction of the Magdalene at the beginning of the Passion Story. Especially interesting is that we are talking about three women. It has been pointed out that in the ancient world, young women–teenage girls, really–often married older men. Taking the initial age disparity and adding the general tendency of men to die younger, the result was a significant number of fairly young widows. I has been suggested that Paul encouraged these widows to remain celibate and not remarry as a means of preserving their money for use by the communities Paul founded. My suspicion is that Mary Magdalene and Martha and Mary were such patrons. 

And note that Mariam is particularly taken with Jesus’ teaching, to the point she neglects her “traditional” role as a caretaker. What is more interesting is that, not only does Jesus not reprove Mariam for this “unwomanly” interest in his teaching, he tells Martha that Mariam is correct to take this interest, and that Mariam has her priorities straight. Thus this falls into the category of stories that include the Faith of the Centurion and the All Food is Clean speech, wherein Jesus is giving retroactive approval to behaviour that came about from the circumstances after his death. The Centurion allows acceptance of pagans into the fold; the All Food is Clean speech allows the relaxation (or ignoring) of Jewish dietary restrictions; this story gives permission for women to listen to the teachings and take an active role in learning.

Also, let’s not forget that someone named Mariam was there at the crucifixion. She was with  We are told that these women ministered to Jesus. This is code for providing financial backing, I suspect. And I do not suggest that this Mariam is the same as the Mariam mentioned by Mark, largely because the Mariam from Mark was said to have come with Jesus from Galilee, whereas this Mariam seems to be living more or less outside Jerusalem. And John picks this up as well, since Mary and Martha and Lazarus are said to live in Bethany, which is just outside Jerusalem. Bethany is where Mark says Jesus stayed in the last week of his life. What this indicates to me is that there was a patron who sponsored the group, perhaps at the end of Jesus’ life, but more likely in the years following. This sponsor was a woman, and she was important enough to the group that stories were created about her, just as stories were created about the Magdalene. Mary and Martha were eventually given a brother, but the Magdalene was credited with being one of the first to see Jesus after the Resurrection–in the gospel stories, anyway. Paul doesn’t mention her. Giving this cluster of facts a proper historical analysis, I would suggest that Mary M became a sponsor sometime after Paul, after his doctrine of Resurrection had become entrenched in the tradition, or perhaps she helped entrench it in the tradition. She may have been responsible in some large degree for the creation of the Passion Story, explaining a) why this is when she appears in the narrative; and b) why she plays such a large role in the post-resurrection story. She may help account for the implication in M&M that the centre of the movement moved back to Galilee after Jesus’ death, when Paul clearly indicates that James the Just and the important leaders of the group were in Jerusalem. Perhaps Mary and Martha belong to this latter group; but they definitely came into the story after Mary Magdalene, and they–or the community that was originally founded by one or both of these women–continued to be important enough to be included in the story by John. 

Here I think is where we double back to the permission spoken of in the previous paragraph. Since these women were, or became, so important to the movement, it became necessary to grant this permission. Given that it would have taken quite a bit to force the men to grant this privilege, I’m thinking that the leverage the women had was financial. Money talked even back then.

38 Cum autem irent, ipse intravit in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam Martha nomine excepit illum.

39 Et huic erat soror nomine Maria, quae etiam sedens secus pedes Domini audiebat verbum illius.

40 Martha autem satagebat circa frequens ministerium; quae stetit et ait: “Domine, non est tibi curae quod soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare? Dic ergo illi, ut me adiuvet”.

41 Et respondens dixit illi Dominus: “Martha, Martha, sollicita es et turbaris erga plurima,

42 porro unum est necessarium; Maria enim optimam partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea”.


ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός ⸃·

Luke Chapter 10:25-37: The Good Samaritan

This section brings us to one of the most famous stories in the NT, or in the Bible as a whole (at least for Christians). The term “Good Samaritan” has a cultural meaning that most people in the country would know, and would understand, even if not raised Christian. Or, at least, that was true when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s not any longer, but that doesn’t really matter. The point is that this story lodged itself in Christian doctrine in a very real, very intense way. In some ways, it could almost be called Christian belief in a nutshell. Or, that’s how it was presented to me as I was being raised in the Roman Rite. I have much the same impression of this story’s outsized importance is true in Episcopalian and even Lutheran tradition. Or, perhaps that was a function of the time and place where I grew up, and the people teaching me religion.

But that is to digress. One can still use the term “Good Samaritan” and have a reasonable expectation of being understood. There is a charity group called The Samaritans who offer help to troubled individuals, especially those contemplating suicide. A chapter or so ago, when Jesus was en route to Jerusalem, Jesus and his traveling companions entered a Samaritan town, but were rebuffed when the inhabitants of said town learned that Jesus was going to Jerusalem. The Samaritans and Jews have a complex history; the former claim to be the remnants of the tribes of Israel, those who weren’t destroyed or dislocated by the Assyrian conquest. As such, they claim to represent the true Judaism, untainted by the Babylonian Captivity of Judah. One particular sticking point, IIRC, was that the Judeans insisted that the Temple in Jerusalem was the only legitimate source of Jewish worship, while the Samaritans did not recognise this claim of the primacy of Jerusalem. Interestingly, this would seem to discredit the legend of a United Kingdom, with its capital in Jerusalem. According to the Book of Kings, Samaria was, in fact, the capital of Israel during the time of Omri and/or Ahab. However, “Samaria” generally refers to an area rather than a single town, as we saw back in the last chapter. And in Matthew, when sending out the 12, Jesus instructs them not to go into any Samaritan town. The point of all this is that Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along.

There is no reason to believe that Luke is not the author of this story, and all the stories unique to his gospel. It is interesting to consider why he chose a Samaritan. After all, if he were writing for pagans, the underlying antipathy of Jews and Samaritans may not have been all that well-known; as such, Luke risks having much of his point missed by a sizable chunk of is audience. Perhaps the last story about the rebuff in the Samaritan town served as sufficient warning.


25 Καὶ ἰδοὺ νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτὸν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up testing him, saying, “Teacher, doing what will I inherit eternal life?” 

Honestly, I thought I could get through to the actual story of the Good Samaritan without having to pause after every verse, but there you go. First, the verb here rendered as “testing”. This is one of those NT Greek words; it only appears in Christian settings. Which is fine and good, but then they seem to get it wrong–at least in the NT Greek lexicon I use. The word is formed from a standard word “to test” or “make proof” or a whole bunch of other things. However, here the prefix “ek” is added. “Ek” usually means “out of”; which literally makes this mean something like, “out of testing” or something else equally nonsensical. (Note: it is entirely possible that I am simply missing the point here. That is always entirely possible, whatever it is I say.) But the point is, why translate this as “tempt” as the NT lexicon does? The Latin gets the gist, and uses a word that is easily rendered as “to test”. But the KJV and the NASB both choose to use “tempt”. Sorry, but the context is clearly “to test”, as the ESV and the NIV both translate it. 

“Lawyer” is a very loose translation. The occupation simply didn’t exist among the Greeks and Romans. The Vulgate gives this as “one prepared in the law”; I have the sense that the interlocutor here is supposed to be Jewish, and so he would be an expert in Jewish law. 

Finally, of course, is the “eternal life”. Luke did not originate the story; rather, it came to Luke from Mark via Matthew. All three have some version of this story; or perhaps better to say it that the elements in this story are all present in each of the other two gospels, but the slicing and dicing has created different combinations of these elements. In Mark’s version, the person asking how to inherit eternal life << ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;>> is said, more or less, by a young man of unspecified profession. Matthew has a version of this story, but he has another in which a “lawyer” seeks to test/tempt Jesus. Mark has a young man asking what to do to inherit eternal life; Matthew has a lawyer testing Jesus, and another tale where a man of unspecified profession asks what he must do to have eternal life. So, all of the elements, just in different combinations, and possibly in different stories. So Luke has sort of given us a greatest hits version, or taken what were two separate stories and distilled the elements into a single story. So does this qualify as one pericope? Or two? 

The question is a bit facetious, of course. But the word nomikos, <<νομικός>> does not occur in Mark. It occurs exactly once in Matthew, in a story of a nomikos who wishes to test/tempt Jesus. Now, what is very interesting is that these verses are, as far as I can tell, not included in the text of Q. That means we have a nomikos in Matthew who is testing/tempting Jesus. The verb Matthew uses is the same one as here, <<πειράζω>> minus the prefix that Luke adds here. BUT, there is an instance of the word, plus prefix, in Matthew. It occurs in the Temptations of Jesus; the word is repeated in Luke in the same context. That section is supposedly in Q, even though it’s a dialogue between Jesus and the devil, whereas Q is supposed to be the sayings of Jesus. Except when it’s also stuff that the Baptist said. And pretty much anything else that is in both Luke and Matthew, but not Mark. It’s a remarkably plastic document. But all snark aside, the use of these words surely has to carry a certain amount of weight in the anti-Q argument. Of course, the Q people will never, ever concede that point, because they will never let the argument be held on any ground but that of their choosing. And their chosen turf is literary, based on arrangement, rather than substantive, based on the content of the words.

25 Et ecce quidam legis peritus surrexit tentans illum dicens: “Magister, quid faciendo vitam aeternam possidebo?”.

26 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἐν τῷ νόμῳ τί γέγραπται; πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις;

27 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης [τῆς] καρδίας σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου, καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

28 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης: τοῦτο ποίει καὶ ζήσῃ.

And he (Jesus) said to him, (the lawyer) “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”  (27) And he (the lawyer) answering said to him (Jesus), “Love the lord your god from your whole heart, and in all your soul and in all your might and in all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”. (27) He (Jesus) to him (the lawyer) answering said, “You have answered straightly. Do this and you will live”.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we have the interlocutor pronouncing the Great Commandments rather than Jesus. Secondly, this lawyer is obviously meant to be Jewish, given his familiarity with the law. This question and its answer is found in both Mark and Matthew, and Luke apparently deemed it important enough to include. Or course, part of the reason he did this was because he wanted to tell his brand-new story of the Good Samaritan. Still, the overall sense of this section, and the coming parable is yet remarkably still very firmly tied to the Jewish tradition. The man versed in the law, the Great Commandments, and then the story based on the conflict between Jews and Samaritans.  

26 At ille dixit ad eum: “In Lege quid scriptum est? Quomodo legis?”.

27 Ille autem respondens dixit: “Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex omnibus viribus tuis et ex omni mente tua et proximum tuum sicut teipsum”.

28 Dixitque illi: “Recte respondisti; hoc fac et vives”.

29 ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον;

He, wishing to justify himself said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

I’m stopping here to comment on the word “justify”. The Greek is dikaios; the Latin is iustificare; the definition in the NT lexicon is often “to make righteous”, which of course derives from the word “right” which is derived from the German recht. So we have three different words from three different roots that have three very different base meanings and linguistic fields. For all practical purposes, and as far as I can tell, the English and German words have a very large amount of overlap, so for the sake of this discussion, we can simply use the English. For example, both the English and German can refer to the “right hand”; neither the Greek nor Latin has this connotation. In the Venn diagram of the three words, the overlap comes in the sense of “proper”. Great Scott gives the primary definition of dikē as “custom, usage” in the sense that this is the proper way to do something; the secondary definition is “nothing short of what is fit”. Now, notice what is missing: any sense of legal basis, or any sense of entitlement. The Latin iustificare is “to make something that is according to law”. The base ius is given as “that which is binding, duty, law”. An oath in Latin is ius iurandum, which is a bit difficult to get across in English. But the basic idea is something binding, and given the peculiar direction in which Roman civil society developed, it very early came to be deeply associated with the law and what is legal, and so what is legally binding. Note that this connotation is mostly missing from the Greek root. Finally, “right” ultimately derives from the same root as rex, or raj; the former means “king” in Latin and the latter means something similar in a language derived from Sanskrit. Think of the British “raj” in India. As such, the word has the sense of privilege, which comes down to us as the idea of a natural right, or inalienable rights, which are something close to an entitlement. These rights may have a legal basis, but then again, they may not. In all of the literature that I’ve found, biblical scholar want to pretend that the three words dikaiō/dikaiosunē, iustificare, and righteousness all pretty much mean the same thing. Well, they don’t. I’ve mentioned this before, but read a book called Iustitia Dei by Alister McGrath discusses this very topic at length, except he starts with the Hebrew term that I won’t pretend to understand. I can’t even transliterate it.

Now that we’ve gone through all of that, I think that the use of “justify” in this particular instance is absolutely perfect. It means that the lawyer is trying to fit in with custom and usage of the Jewish culture. So it really works with the Greek word in this case. Hey–sometimes you get lucky.

29 Ille autem, volens iustificare seipsum, dixit ad Iesum: “Et quis est meus proximus?”.

30 ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄνθρωπός τις κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ καὶ λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν, οἳ καὶ ἐκδύσαντες αὐτὸν καὶ πληγὰς ἐπιθέντες ἀπῆλθον ἀφέντες ἡμιθανῆ.

Responding, Jesus said, “A certain man departed from Jerusalem for Jericho, and he fell in with some robbers, and they stripped him and striking him they went away, leaving him half-dead.

The word rendered as “half-dead” literally means “half-dead”. Another good one-to-one correlation. 

The real reason I stopped, however, was to talk about the word “robbers.” In his book Zealot, Reza Aslan put forth the notion that crucifixion was reserved for insurrectionists. Since Jesus was crucified, he must have been an insurrectionist, IOW, a zealot. As further proof, he said that the two men crucified with him were described as <<λῃστας>>, which is used here. This word, he said, may mean “robber/thief”, in reality, all robbers were actually freedom fighters who had taken to the hills and used highway robbery towards a political end. This is all patent nonsense. The Romans crucified all manner of lawbreakers, largely because crucifixion is so horribly cruel and agonising, and has the added feature that it sometimes took days to die, which meant that these poor sods were screaming in pain out in public for a very long time. Talk about an advertisement and a warning! And the word here is generic for “robber/thief”. It’s the word Jesus uses in the story of the Cleansing of the Temple. If anything, if this word in Greek has a particular shading, it’s more apt to mean a sea-borne robber, what we call a pirate (arrrghhh…). In short, Aslan’s theory is pretty much patent nonsense.

I’ve ranted about this before, probably when discussing the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew. I don’t think the book had come out when I was discussing the same story in Mark. But it bears repeating. Thanks to FOX News, Aslan and his book were given a huge dollop of publicity. The folks at FOX were puzzled and a bit miffed at the notion of a Muslim writing about Jesus, so they spent a lot of time denouncing him. In the vein of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, this denunciation served to get the book into the public’s eye, and I suspect he sold a lot of copies of it. And the problem with that is that a lot of people took Aslan’s points as gospel, and I’ve been in debates/arguments with people who assume that crucifixion was only for rebels. What was that pirate quote? Arrrghhhh…

30 Suscipiens autem Iesus dixit: “ Homo quidam descendebat ab Ierusalem in Iericho et incidit in latrones, qui etiam despoliaverunt eum et, plagis impositis, abierunt, semivivo relicto.

31 κατὰ συγκυρίαν δὲ ἱερεύς τις κατέβαινεν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν:

“Upon chance a certain priest came by on that road, and seeing him, he passed by on the other side of the road.  

Just quickly on the Greek. That whole last phrase, starting with “he passed” is all contained in that last word. The other thing to mention is that the word translated as “chance”, <<συγκυρίαν>> is extremely rare. Liddell & Scott cite two instances of it in the entire corpus of Greek literature up to about 400 CE. There is one in Hippocrates, and then there is this one. It’s a compound work, comprised of the word for “lord” and the prefix for “with”. So the word has something like the idea of “with the lord”, the latter presumably referring to God. At least, I would have taken that as a given had we been talking just about Luke, or any other Christian writer. In pre-Christian Greek, kyrios did not generally have an overtone of “God”; but the same could probably be said about the Latin dominus. So rather a curious word. As for the Latin, note the first word below: accidit. It’s the root of “accident”. Here, it simply means “it happened” with the sense of a random, just-so-happened sense to it. 

31 Accidit autem, ut sacerdos quidam descenderet eadem via et, viso illo, praeterivit;

32 ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευίτης [γενόμενος] κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν.

33 Σαμαρίτης δέ τις ὁδεύων ἦλθεν κατ’ αὐτὸν καὶ ἰδὼν ἐσπλαγχνίσθη,

34 καὶ προσελθὼν κατέδησεν τὰ τραύματα αὐτοῦ ἐπιχέων ἔλαιον καὶ οἶνον, ἐπιβιβάσας δὲ αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον κτῆνος ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς πανδοχεῖον καὶ ἐπεμελήθη αὐτοῦ.

35 καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια τῷ πανδοχεῖ καὶ εἶπεν, Ἐπιμελήθητι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὅ τι ἂν προσδαπανήσῃς ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ ἐπανέρχεσθαί με ἀποδώσω σοι.

36 τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς;

37 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετ’ αὐτοῦ. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως.

“In the same way a Levite [happened] upon the place coming and seeing he passed by on the other side of the road. (32) And a certain Samaritan on the roading (that’s too literal, ‘journeying’ is more appropriate) seeing he came to the same side of the road. (A play on words, working off the “passed by on the other side that’s been repeated twice), (34) and coming (to him–the victim) he–the Samaritan–bound up his–the victim’s–wounds, putting on them oil and wine. putting him upon his own beast (presumably a donkey, or something such) he led him to the inn and he was ameliorated. (35) And upon the next day he threw out two denarii to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him, and what more is spent I on the return trip will give to you’. (36) Which of the three does it seem to you is the neighbor of the man fallen to the robbers?” (37) He said, “The one doing the mercy with him”. And Jesus said to him “Go and do the same”.

What is to be said about this? The content is so familiar to anyone even nominally Christian, and it’s been discussed for so long that there is probably nothing that can be said about it that hasn’t been said. At least, I’ll probably never be able to say anything new. So what I would like to mention is the very Jewish elements here. First we have the despised Samaritan, then we have the priest–which could be any culture, of course–and finally the Levite. How many non-Jews would understand that reference? That’s not a serious question, because there is no real answer to it; but it needs to be asked nonetheless. This seems striking, or particularly relevant since I’ve been postulating that, since at least Matthew, the Jesus movement has become increasingly pagan. Perhaps Luke included these elements to counteract that movement? 

The other aspect that needs some acknowledgement is that this is the single most comprehensive, coherent, and specific set of instructions on how to behave that we’ve had in the NT so far. Paul was full of Thou Shalt Not stuff, but this is a positive paradigm, Christian ethos in a nutshell. Is that a true statement? Does this transcend the Beatitudes? I think it does, mainly because it’s so concrete. It is, I think, because of stories like this–or because of this story–that I was expecting more explicit instructions on how to live a Christian life throughout more of the NT. But that is not what we have found through most of the work. Mark is full of wonders Jesus worked, an apocalyptic prophecy, and a Passion Narrative that ends with an empty tomb. Matthew is full of attitudinal exhortations like the Beatitudes and other things, but there is nothing quite like this in Matthew. For example, Matthew uses the word “neighbor” three times and Mark uses it twice. All five cites are injunctions to love your neighbor as yourself, but none of them have anything remotely close to being as instructive as this. The only pericope with anything close is when the young man asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain the kingdom, and Jesus’ response love his neighbour as himself and then to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Hmm…come to think of it, that is actually the setting for this. Here, when the interlocutor says that he has loved God and his neighbour, he does not say he has done so and then ask Jesus what else he must do. Rather, he asks Jesus who is my neighbour?

That, I think, is telling. It seems to have two implications. The first is that this appears to be another example of Luke seeing that the story has been told well enough by Mark and Matthew, and that the injunction to sell his possessions does not require repetition. So instead of merely repeating that command, Luke changes the young man’s question and then  provides a story to illustrate. To one with an inquiring mind, this change in the tale provokes (but does not beg) the question of why did Luke change the story? Was it because he felt the need for some specific instruction on this? There are some fundamental divisions within Christian thought, one of the most basic being the distinction between faith and deeds. Mark and Matthew were all about faith; did Luke fall into the deeds category? Was this stimulated by a new understanding of Paul’s message? We know the author of Luke/Acts* was well aware of Paul. Was Paul’s emphasis on faith in Romans enough to make Luke feel the need to stress works? Naturally, this question has no answer, but it truly needs to be asked. The Q people are always spouting off about the need to explain every redactional choice made by Luke, but, somehow, I doubt that they have ever considered this question.

* This, of course, assumes the unity of authorship of the two works. As of this writing I am not sufficiently familiar with Acts to have an opinion on that subject. However, given the track record of so much biblical scholarship–Q, anyone?–I am beginning to doubt that unity simply on basic principles.

32 similiter et Levita, cum esset secus locum et videret eum, pertransiit.

33 Samaritanus autem quidam iter faciens, venit secus eum et videns eum misericordia motus est,

34 et appropians alligavit vulnera eius infundens oleum et vinum; et imponens illum in iumentum suum duxit in stabulum et curam eius egit.

35 Et altera die protulit duos denarios et dedit stabulario et ait: “Curam illius habe, et, quodcumque supererogaveris, ego, cum rediero, reddam tibi”.

36 Quis horum trium videtur tibi proximus fuisse illi, qui incidit in latrones?”.

37 At ille dixit: “Qui fecit misericordiam in illum”. Et ait illi Iesus: “ Vade et tu fac similiter ”.