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Luke Chapter 7:1-10

This chapter begins with the story of the centurion’s child/servant. This is another of the alleged stories from Q. This means that we have already discussed much of the content, so the implications and the differences will feature in the discussion. For example, the word chosen here is different than in Matthew. With that teaser, let’s move on to the


1Ἐπειδὴ ἐπλήρωσεν πάντα τὰ ῥήματα αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς ἀκοὰς τοῦ λαοῦ, εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναούμ.

2 Ἑκατοντάρχου δέ τινος δοῦλος κακῶς ἔχων ἤμελλεν τελευτᾶν, ὃς ἦν αὐτῷ ἔντιμος.

When all these things of him having been said to those listening to the speech, he came into Caphernaum. (2) The slave of a certain hundred leader had a disease and he was about to die, who by him was esteemed.

There are two points here. First, what is so clumsily rendered as a “hundred leader” is the literal translation into Greek of the military rank and title “centurion”. This is what a centurion was: the leader of a group of 100 soldiers, a group referred to as a “century”. Now, while it had originally meant 100 soldiers, the size of the century had shrunk to 80 soldiers, the latter number proving more tactically versatile. A centurion was the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in the army. These men were career soldiers, and they were the backbone of the army. Commanders and officers came and went, but these guys stayed and provided the discipline and direction needed to carry out orders, in war or in peace. They could be brutal men, enforcing discipline very harshly. The Romans were not known for their tolerance of dissent or lack of discipline. Despite the shrunken size of the unit, the title “centurion” remained.

Now, Mark does not include this story; however, he does refer to a centurion three times in the Passion narrative. This is the centurion who was in charge of the unit that carried out the crucifixion. Unlike Luke here, Mark did not translate the term into Greek; rather, he simply transliterated it as kenturiōn. This has led many biblicists for many centuries to use this as “proof” that Mark wrote in Rome; to be fair, there are others in which Mark preserves the Latin word. I’m not prepared to take up that discussion now; I don’t really believe there is anywhere close to enough evidence to support Mark writing in Rome, but that’s an issue for another day. The point is that, here and elsewhere, in contrast to Mark, Matthew and Luke use the Greek translation found here: hekatonarchēs. That, in and of itself, is simply a data point in the Q discussion. It can only be pushed so far. Hold that thought about vocabulary.

Perhaps more significant is the word Luke uses for “slave”. If you recall, Matthew used the word pais, which literally means child, or more usually, “boy”. When treating Matthew’s version, we discussed the ambiguity of the term, the dual meaning, whether it was meant as “boy-child”, or “boy”, as in “houseboy”. This latter was a term in use through the Nixon years; the Richard and Pat Nixon had a long-serving Filipino “houseboy” named Manolo. The term has gone out of use for it’s racist connotations. It was largely reserved for men of color, when a Caucasian serving the same function would be termed a “butler”. In any case, the ambiguity was patent, although the general consensus was to treat the term as used by Matthew to mean “slave”. The Vulgate alternates terms as well; it renders the use in Matthew as puer, which means “boy”, as in “child”. For example, the opening line of a Gregorian Christmas chant is Puer natus est, referring to Jesus as the “boy/child”. Here, the Vulgate uses servus, the standard word for “slave”. The Vulgate does that because here, Luke has removed that ambiguity and simply used doulos, which is the conventional word for “slave”. So there is no doubt about the intent and the relationship.

Now let us consider this for a moment. The story is supposed to be in Q. What word is used there? Luke’s or Matthew’s? I’m not sure what the orthodoxy is for Q proponents, since I’ve not seen a discussion of the word in those terms; or, rather, I’ve not seen a discussion of Q that got into sufficient detail to touch on this. I would imagine the Q people would say that the base word is  doulos, as it is here, and that Matthew changed it to indicate the extra level of affection the centurion had for this particular slave. (And doulos most emphatically does not mean “servant”. Hired servants scarcely existed in the ancient world.) Luke, OTOH, provides the more original reading, as he is said to do in so many cases. Except where he doesn’t.

Now, this is a reasonable suggestion, that Matthew used the other word to indicate the centurion’s esteem. And it certainly was not uncommon for a slave to be seen as pretty much one of the family, especially in households that had three or fewer such slaves. It’s not an unusual relationship even now, where servants of longstanding become integrated into the household. So, it makes sense for Matthew to emphasize this. That is one explanation, but it’s purely a theory. Another theory is that Luke found the word pais as used by Matthew to be ambiguous, so he clarified by changing it to doulos. This means, of course, that Luke read Matthew, didn’t like what he found, and changed it.

Which explanation is more convincing? Each reader must decide that for her/himself. I find the second more convincing because it is bolstered by another aspect of this story. The moral of this anecdote is that pagans had faith that the children of Israel did not. Such a moral brings the question of content into the discussion; or, at least, it should raise the question of content, but the topic never arises. Is this appropriate to the 30s? Or is it more appropriate to a time well after that, a time in the 70s or 80s? Is it more appropriate to the time of Jesus who preached to Jews well within the confines of Galilee and Judea? Or to a time when the new movement was comprised of more pagans than Jews? Why would Jesus tell a story that praised the faith of the pagans, and disparaged the faith of the children of Israel? This is rarely discussed. Even the non-Q people don’t bring it up. Why not?

Not to worry: I’m not going to address that last question. All I’m going to do is say that the content of the story, along with Luke’s clarification that the sick person was a slave and not a child, provides some pretty good evidence that this story was not found in some mythical document that came from the time of Jesus. Rather, it dated from the decades after Jesus, and probably a decade or two after Paul, when the weight of the movement was pagan and not Jewish. To infer this puts a big crimp in the Q position, which is why it’s never discussed.

1 Cum autem implesset omnia verba sua in aures plebis, intra vit Capharnaum.

2 Centurionis autem cuiusdam servus male habens erat moriturus, qui illi erat pretiosus.

3 ἀκούσας δὲ περὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτὸν πρεσβυτέρους τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἐρωτῶν αὐτὸν ὅπως ἐλθὼν διασώσῃ τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ.

4 οἱ δὲ παραγενόμενοι πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν παρεκάλουναὐτὸν σπουδαίως, λέγοντες ὅτι Ἄξιός ἐστιν ᾧ παρέξῃ τοῦτο,

5 ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν.

And hearing about Jesus, he (the centurion) sent to him (Jesus) elders of the Jews, asking him in order that coming he might save his slave. (4) They coming to Jesus they asked him earnestly, saying that he is a worthy man, to whom you will give this, (5) for he loves our people and he built our synagogue. 

I really hate to be so pedantic, but the story completely goes off the rails here. It also diverges from Matthew. In that version, the centurion comes in person; there is no intermediary of elders of the Jews. So here is one of those situations where Luke preserves the more primitive version, except when he doesn’t. And this has to be one of those exceptions. Doesn’t it? So how to explain that? And if Luke is adding stuff to Q, where else is he adding stuff? But aside from that, why does Luke feel compelled to add this bit? Once he has done so, of course, the rest makes sense. Luke wants to make the case that the centurion had done good deeds for the Jews.

So is that the reason for adding this whole section? To show how the pagans were pretty good people even before they began to follow Jesus? I think so. After all, that is largely what these verses do: show that the man was already well on his way, that he had the proper attitude, that even pagans had the sense to turn to the True God of Israel even before the coming of Jesus, so this man–and others like him–had truly warranted entrance into the kingdom. This is, in other words, an intensifier, making the claim of pagans to be legitimate members of the followers of Jesus. In some ways, the centurion is a leader, for he is the one who built the synagogue. And note that he has the capacity to have the elders go and speak on his behalf. This is important for what comes next.

3 Et cum audisset de Iesu, misit ad eum seniores Iudaeorum rogans eum, ut veniret et salvaret servum eius.

4 At illi cum venissent ad Iesum, rogabant eum sollicite dicentes: “Dignus est, ut hoc illi praestes:

5 diligit enim gentem nostram et synagogam ipse aedificavit nobis”.

6 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐπορεύετο σὺν αὐτοῖς. ἤδη δὲ αὐτοῦ οὐ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος ἀπὸ τῆς οἰκίας ἔπεμψεν φίλους ὁ ἑκατοντάρχης λέγων αὐτῷ, Κύριε, μὴ σκύλλου, οὐ γὰρ ἱκανός εἰμι ἵνα ὑπὸ τὴν στέγην μου εἰσέλθῃς:

7 διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν: ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου.

And Jesus went with them. Indeed he was not far from the house of him the centurion sent friends saying to him (Jesus), “Lord, do not trouble, for I am not worthy in order under my roof that you should come. (7) On which account (I am) not worthy to come to you. But say the word, and healed shall be my boy.

What do we make of this? Suddenly the sick one is “my child/boy” (pais) rather than “slave”. What this implies, I believe, is that pais is the original term used, which Luke changed to slave in the first couple of verses before reverting to the original word here. The question then is what the significance of this change is. Is this a case of the famous “editorial fatigue”, wherein the second writer gets so worn out by trying to change the original that the editor just sort of collapses and reverts to the original. I do not, or perhaps should not, really belittle this phenomenon, because on the whole it seems to support the non-Q position. This is true because it’s usually Luke who does the reverting, just as he’s done here. Honestly, though, all it proves is that pais was the original term, but there is no real evidence that it appeared originally in Matthew or in Q. The only thing is, if Matthew is the original term, then that doesn’t help the contention that Luke preserves the more primitive version of Q. How are we to take the apparent reversal of roles here? That Luke is the more primitive, except when he’s not? The lack of consistency is rather detrimental to the Q position. 

6 Iesus autem ibat cum illis. At cum iam non longe esset a domo, misit centurio amicos dicens ei: “Domine, noli vexari; non enim dignus sum, ut sub tectum meum intres,

7 propter quod et meipsum non sum dignum arbitratus, ut venirem ad te; sed dic verbo, et sanetur puer meus.

8 καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπός εἰμι ὑπὸ ἐξουσίαν τασσόμενος, ἔχων ὑπ’ ἐμαυτὸν στρατιώτας, καὶλέγω τούτῳ, Πορεύθητι, καὶ πορεύεται, καὶ ἄλλῳ, Ἔρχου, καὶ ἔρχεται, καὶ τῷ δούλῳ μου, Ποίησον τοῦτο, καὶ ποιεῖ.

9 ἀκούσας δὲταῦτα ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐθαύμασεν αὐτόν, καὶ στραφεὶς τῷ ἀκολουθοῦντι αὐτῷ ὄχλῳ εἶπεν, Λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ τοσαύτηνπίστιν εὗρον.

10 καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες εἰς τὸν οἶκον οἱ πεμφθέντες εὗρον τὸν δοῦλον ὑγιαίνοντα.

“For also I am a man arranged under power (as in a hierarchy), and having under me soldiers, and I say to that one, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this’, and he does it.” (9) Having heard these things Jesus marveled (at) him, and he turned to the listening crowd he said, “I say to you, never in Israel this sort of faith have I found.” (10) And turning around to the house, those having been sent found the slave having been healed.

There is no real novelty in these last verses as Jesus delivers the punchline. Regardless, the message is clearly that the pagans are to be compared favourably to the scions of Israel. Why is this? I mean that as, why is this story here? There are, perhaps, a handful of stories in these first gospels where Jesus interacts with non-Jews. The one that comes to mind in Mark is the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite, per Matthew) woman at the well. In Mark, Jesus tells her that it is not proper to take bread meant for the children and give it to the dogs. And in Matthew, Jesus tells her that he has not come for the pagans, but for the lost sheep of Israel. IOW, go pound sand. Luke, interestingly, omits that story completely.  And after checking, it appears that Mark has only that one story of Jesus interacting with pagans. Indeed, Paul pretty much confirms that Jesus did not, since he had to break new ground in his efforts to convert pagans. So that story of Mark is likely a later addition; it may have been in the original version of Mark, but it likely was scripted after much of the other material having been thought up as pagans began to be much more important to the various communities. In addition to that story, Matthew adds this one. Here, not only is the man a pagan, he’s a Roman soldier, and an important one. He wasn’t necessarily an ethnic Roman, for by this point many subject peoples had joined the army, often as a method of obtaining Roman citizenship upon discharge, or death; in either case the soldiers’ children would be Roman citizens, and this conferred important benefits. Recall that, having been arrested, Paul was treated differently after he said, cives Romanus sum, “I am a Roman citizen”.

The point is, this story marked an increased marketing effort to a wider, pagan audience. This opening up had not occurred until the later 70s, too late for Mark to include it. As such, the timing is way off for this to have been part of Q. Or, to say that it was part of Q is to dilute the content of Q down to virtual insignificance. If it included stuff from the mid-70s–or later–then the whole point of Q is lost. This story did not trace back to Mark, let alone Jesus. It’s clear from Galatians that Paul was breaking new ground. Yes, of course it’s possible that this occurred during Jesus’ life, but a lot of things are possible. Just because it’s possible doesn’t make it true. Off the top of my head, I would think that this barely has a 10% chance of dating back to Jesus, and I think 10% is being extremely generous. More realistic would be 5%, or really even less. Against that, I would say that there is at least a 60% chance that Luke got this from Matthew. The giveaway, I think, is the “correction” of pais. Or, more generously, we could say that Luke clarified the word, and then slipped back to the original once the point was made. Call it editorial fatigue if you like; to my mind, it seems more a case that Luke wasn’t concerned after he had made his point that the person healed was a slave. 

8 Nam et ego homo sum sub potestate constitutus, habens sub me milites, et dico huic: “Vade”, et vadit; et alii: “Veni”, et venit; et servo meo: “Fac hoc”, et facit ”.

9 Quo audito, Iesus miratus est eum et conversus sequentibus se turbis dixit: “ Dico vobis, nec in Israel tantam fidem inveni! ”.

10 Et reversi, qui missi fuerant, domum, invenerunt servum sanum.

Summary Luke Chapter 6

Supposedly, this chapter is about Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, which takes up nearly the entire chapter. In actual fact, however, the theme of this chapter is Q. So much of the Q debate is taken up by the sheer brilliance of the Sermon on the Mount, that we are forced to compare Luke’s Sermon on the Plain to that other masterpiece. It has been decreed that this version of the Q material preserves a more primitive version of Q, and that this version is decidedly inferior. Those statements are not to be gainsaid if one wishes to be included in polite company of NT scholars. Well, the problem is that I’m not an NT scholar (or, I suppose, a scholar of any sort, except maybe a wannabe…), so I’ll likely never be invited into polite company, anyway, so I can throw a few bricks, or, with luck, start a food fight. It’s time we talked about the content of the two gospels.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Matthew says they went up the mountain. Luke says they went up the mountain, but came back down, and then he stresses that he began speaking on a plain. Luke does not sort of drift off, leaving it vague; he very specifically says “a level place”. So which is the original? Remember, Luke supposedly preserves the more primitive version of Q, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Oh, right, alternating primitivity. Either way, if this came from Q, Luke had to decide to bring Jesus down from the mountain and stand in a level place. Why does he do this? Why not leave him on the mountain? Or did Luke make the change exactly because Matthew had Jesus on the mountain? Is this the emergence of the puckish humor of Luke? That he’s sort of tweaking Matthew a bit? We mentioned that in the penultimate section, in which Luke launched into a stream of unusual words that are not found in Matthew, and very few other places as far as that goes.

But there’s even a more basic question. The Gospel of Thomas is a sayings gospel. Its discovery was hailed as a vindication of the Q thesis, demonstrating that sayings gospels were, indeed, written. Since it was a sayings gospel, it was immediately declared to be very early, tracing back to Jesus himself (perhaps), and proving that Q could exist, which basically meant Thomas was taken to prove that Q did exist. But Thomas has one striking dissimilarity to Q, as reconstructed. Thomas has no physical descriptions of place or action. Pretty much everything starts with “Jesus said…” And yet, the reconstructed Q is full of all sorts of physical descriptions and settings in place such as the “up/down the mountain”. Thomas does not have stuff from the Baptist. It doesn’t talk about centurions. It is, truly, what we would expect of a “sayings” gospel. Reconstructed Q, on the other hand, simply is not. There is stuff from the Baptist, and physical description. And there is so much of this that those doing the reconstructing were more or less forced to say that it all came from Q. Otherwise, how to explain the overlaps? It’s impossible to do so without either putting this extraneous stuff in Q, or admitting that Luke read Matthew. Since the latter has to be rejected on ideological grounds, the former is the only choice.

The upshot, right from the start, we have a pretty good indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew. He was aware that Matthew’s sermon was on a mountain, so Luke put his on a level place. Why? The Q people say I have to explain every deviation from Matthew in a manner that is supported by a consistent editorial attitude. So I posit mine to be puckish humor. That suggestion comes with a guarantee of originality, that you will not find that in the, ahem, serious literature. And I don’t mean to be flippant or facetious. My suggestion is entirely serious, if only to show the range of interpretation that is possible in these situations. “Deadly serious” is not the only setting for discussion, just because it’s the default setting. I’m going to continue to look for this humourous edge throughout the gospel. Let’s see how that stands up to scrutiny.

So Matthew has the primitive “up the mountain”, but Luke has the primitive version of the first Beatitude. Matthew’s poor are poor in spirit; Luke’s are just poor. This is not a matter of primitive vs developed. It’s a situation in which each evangelist is saying a very different thing. Puckish humor again? Perhaps a bit more wry this time, with a bit of an edge. “Poor in spirit” is all very fine and good, but what about those who are just poor? And not only do they hunger and thirst for justice, they’re just damn hungry. Yes, this is more primitive, if by that you mean the more pointedly addressing fundamental needs. Why do they hunger for justice? Because they’re poor, really poor, and not just “poor in spirit”. Being poor in spirit almost implies that they are not poor in actuality, that we are not discussing physical privation, but sort of a moral discomfort. So yes, it is quite easy to say that Luke is more primitive, but he’s also more righteous.

There is one more aspect of “primitivity” that sorely needs to be addressed. The idea that one version or the other is more primitive completely begs the question. It assumes that there is a total of three versions; one is original, and the other two are derivative. Ergo, one of the derivatives is more primitive than the other. But if there is no third version, to say that Matthew or Luke is more primitive becomes meaningless. In all cases, Matthew is the more “primitive” because it was written most of a generation earlier. So discussing primitivity is meaningless absent Q; discussing primitivity assumes the existence of Q, which is what we’re trying to determine, whether Q existed or not. By shifting the battleground to discussions of primitivity, the Q people have already won the debate since we’re now taking Q as given. This is admittedly deft rhetoric, but it’s also bad logic.

There’s another aspect of Q that never gets discussed. This has to do with the actual content of the sayings. Do they truly seem appropriate to the time in which they were, supposedly, uttered? Or do they make more sense to a later time and place? If the latter, what does that do to the idea of Q? Especially if these anachronisms are repeated in both Matthew and Luke? That really puts a crimp into the supporting pillars of the Q position. I keep coming back to what Q is supposed to be: a collection of sayings that predate Mark and presumably Paul and trace back to Jesus, usually by way of one of his close associates. The list of eligible associates is probably limited to Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee. They perhaps did not write the sayings themselves, but they remembered them and dictated them to a scribe. From this list we can strike Peter, because he was John Mark’s source for the first gospel to be written. According to church tradition, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark, the associate of Paul. Mark went to Rome and became part of Peter’s community, and Peter provided the information for Mark’s gospel. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Mark’s gospel does not include any of the so-called Q material. This means one of several things, the most likely of which is that the entire tradition is a later fabrication. Either John Mark was not Mark the Evangelist, or Peter never went to Rome or whatever, but wherever Mark got his material for the gospel, it likely did not come from an eyewitness to Jesus because the source, or sources, were completely ignorant of most of the really important stuff that Jesus said. This ignorance, in turn, is predicated on the data that Q existed and that it is an accurate record of what Jesus actually said. The result is that there is a gaping hole in the explanation provided; it then becomes a question of figuring out the most likely location of that hole.

This leaves us with a couple of choices: either Mark’s gospel did not derive from an eyewitness account, or Jesus didn’t say the things in Q. There are others, such as that Mark chose not to include Jesus’ teachings; however, that strikes me as a bit unlikely. Why on earth would Mark’s source not tell Mark what Jesus taught, or why would Mark deliberately choose to leave this stuff out of the gospel?  I would really like to hear someone try to explain that one.

Another consideration is whether the things Q says Jesus said make sense for Jesus’ time. We touched on this in the commentary, in verses 22 & 23, in which they are blessed who are reviled for Jesus’ sake. These seem to be references to some sort of “persecution” of the followers of Jesus. As pointed out, there is no indication in any of the gospel accounts that Jesus or his followers really suffered any kind of persecution during his lifetime. Yes, we have the account of Paul, but that came later. So we are faced with the situation in which something that Jesus said is likely due to circumstances that only came about after Jesus’ death. And we know that Jesus said this because it’s part of the Q material, and we know that it’s part of the Q material because it’s included in both Matthew and Luke. But if it is unlikely that Jesus said this, that makes the Q hypothesis rather untenable because it, apparently, includes material from after the time of Jesus’ death.

Which leads us to one of the more annoying aspects of the Q hypothesis. In order to cover some of these embarrassing moments, it is posited that Q exists in strata, in layers, that accumulated through time. The implication of this is that some of the material obviously does not trace back to Jesus. This is an eminently convenient suggestion, because it means that Q can include whatever those reconstructing it say it includes. In this way it has all sorts of stuff that a true sayings gospel does not have. We also mentioned this in the commentary: Thomas is a true sayings gospel. Virtually all the passages begin with “Jesus said”. This is how a true sayings gospel should be set up. Much of the hullaballoo about Thomas was that it vindicated the Q theory by being a sayings gospel. Well, Q is not a true sayings gospel. It includes too much extraneous information about John the Baptist, the set-up for the Centurion’s son/servant, the setting of Jesus going up the mountain. All this points to a Q thesis that is not internally consistent, which makes the construction of the entire story suspect.

The point of all this is simple. When the Q debate is taken from the safe environs the Q people have created for it, the conclusions are not nearly so secure. The implication of this is that a legitimate Q debate needs to happen.

Luke Chapter 6:46-49 (Conclusion)

There’s no way this section isn’t going to be short. We have a total of four verses. Of course, this is another story allegedly from Q, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount vs Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, so there will likely be some back-and-forth on that. Who knows what will turn up? So, without any further ado, let’s proceed to the 


46 Τί δέ με καλεῖτε, Κύριε κύριε, καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε ἃ λέγω;

47 πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με καὶ ἀκούων μου τῶν λόγων καὶ ποιῶν αὐτούς, ὑποδείξω ὑμῖν τίνι ἐστὶν ὅμοιος:

48 ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομοῦντι οἰκίαν ὃς ἔσκαψεν καὶ ἐβάθυνεν καὶ ἔθηκεν θεμέλιον ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν: πλημμύρης δὲ γενομένης προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμὸς τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν σαλεῦσαι αὐτὴν διὰ τὸ καλῶς οἰκοδομῆσθαι αὐτήν.

49 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας καὶ μὴ ποιήσας ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομήσαντι οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν χωρὶς θεμελίου, ἧ προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμός, καὶ εὐθὺς συνέπεσεν, καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ ῥῆγμα τῆς οἰκίας ἐκείνης μέγα.

“And why does someone call me, “Lord, lord,” and not do what I say? (47) All coming towards me and hearing the words of me and doing them, I will show you someone the same as this: (48) he is like unto a person building a home who dug and went deep and placed the foundation upon the rock. There became a flood the river beat that house, and not strong to shake it on account of the beautiful building of it. (49) And the one hearing is not like the man building his house upon the land without a foundation, which the river battered and immediately it collapsed, and it became a great ruin of that house.”

First of all, Luke is really going to town on the unusual vocabulary. About a half-dozen of the words in here occur in Luke and nowhere else in the NT. Recall how a few verses back we got the bit about lending at interest, which Matthew used but once while Luke jammed it in three times in two verses. Here, we had Luke slavishly following the verbiage of, ahem, Matthew–I mean Q–in the story of the good and bad trees, only then to cut loose and let fly with barrage of fairly obscure words, to the point that there is very little overlap of vocabulary between Luke’s version and Matthew’s. What do we make of that? Is it me? Am I the only one who sees a bit of puckish humour in Luke’s approach here? Given the enormous creative ability of Luke as an author–the author of The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, etc–and Luke’s obvious depth of Greek vocabulary, would we not expect him to come up with more stories like this one, in which he does not follow the letter of Q so closely? This proves beyond doubt that he had the capability, so why didn’t he do it more often? I don’t know the answer to that; nor do I fully understand whether the number of times Luke adheres to “Q” (by which I mean Matthew) vs the number of times he doesn’t supports or undercuts my dismissal of Q. No doubt a decent rhetorician could make the case either way. Heck, if I thought about it, I could probably argue it either way.

And again, either the previous example or this one could easily be written off, but do not the two of them together add up to something a bit more? That’s a very difficult question, but it’s one I would like to see discussed in the context of the pro/con arguments for Q. And it’s exactly the sort of thing that we do not see in the literature, and more’s the pity.

46 Quid autem vocatis me: “Domine, Domine”, et non facitis, quae dico?

47 Omnis, qui venit ad me et audit sermones meos et facit eos, ostendam vobis cui similis sit:

48 similis est homini aedificanti domum, qui fodit in altum et posuit fundamentum supra petram; inundatione autem facta, illisum est flumen domui illi et non potuit eam movere; bene enim aedificata erat.

49 Qui autem audivit et non fecit, similis est homini aedificanti domum suam supra terram sine fundamento; in quam illisus est fluvius, et continuo cecidit, et facta est ruina domus illius magna ”.

Luke Chapter 6:40-45

The last two sections of the chapter will be fairly short, especially since I got all the commentary on Verse 39 out of the way. I think the quick hitters are probably easier to read, especially if something takes me off on a tangent like in the last section. However, the tangents are rather the point; they indicate something of significance. The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the


40 οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον, κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς ἔσται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ.

The student is not over the teacher. All having been prepared will be as his teacher.  

I have to confess that I’ve never quite understood this aphorism. Taken either literally, or perhaps to its logical extreme, it means that this is as good as it gets? We can never advance because the teachers we have today will never be surpassed? How does that work? It has me wondering if this isn’t a sideways shot at James the Just, who maybe tried to put on airs as if he were superior to Jesus? I don’t know. I doubt that’s the intent, but it makes very little sense to me. FYI, I resisted the impulse to render this as “All having been mended”; the Greek word is the same one that was used to describe the sons of Zebedee mending their nets when called by Jesus in Matthew. The Latin is “perfectus”, but that means something more on the order of completed, or prepared, than something made perfect as we use the word. Or then, I could just be suffering from hyper-literalness due to reading too much philosophy, where “perfect” has a pretty specific meaning.

40 Non est discipulus super magistrum; perfectus autem omnis erit sicut magister eius.

41 Τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ δοκὸν τὴν ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ ὀφθαλμῷ οὐ κατανοεῖς;

42 πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, Ἀδελφέ, ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου, αὐτὸς τὴν ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ δοκὸν οὐ βλέπων; ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἐκβαλεῖν.

“Who sees the small, dry particle in the eye of his brother, but the bearing-beam in his own eye he does not perceive? (42) How can he say to his brother, ‘Brother, begone, cast away the bearing-beam, the one in your eye’, while he that bearing-beam in his own eye not seeing? Hypocrite, cast away first the bearing-beam from your own eye, and then stare with wide eyes to cast out the bearing-beam in the eye of your brother.

Here again, we have another instance of an unusual word. “Diablepō” means something like “stare with wide open eyes” in Classical Greek, and I’ve rendered it so here. It’s most often given as “see clearly” in this context. Matthew and Luke both use the exact same word in this exact context, and nowhere else. Mark uses it once in a different context, and L&S provide a handful of Classical cites. By this point I don’t need to point out the significance; however, I will say that each one of these diminishes the likelihood of Q. What is the probability that two different authors will choose to use the exact same word on so many occasions? That probability seems to be decreasing. Of course, why would Luke copy Matthew verbatim? That question is unanswerable, and no amount of redactionist explanation (or whatever the “proper” term is) can provide an answer to satisfy everyone. The question comes down to whether two different authors are more likely to choose to follow a common text in a half-dozen (more or less, but we’re also still counting) times, or whether it’s more likely that one author followed another. Each time two choices are involved, the probability is cut at least in half. Luke using Matthew’s words, OTOH, only requires a single choice in each instance. We haven’t gotten into editorial fatigue yet, but to continue to come up with a word different from Matthew each time seems like it could easily induce editorial fatigue. But that’s another question. 

41 Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris tui, trabem autem, quae in oculo tuo est, non consideras?

42 Quomodo potes dicere fratri tuo: “Frater, sine eiciam festucam, quae est in oculo tuo”, ipse in oculo tuo trabem non videns? Hypocrita, eice primum trabem de oculo tuo et tunc perspicies, ut educas festucam, quae est in oculo fratris tui.

43 Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν.

44 ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ ἰδίου καρποῦ γινώσκεται: οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἀκανθῶν συλλέγουσιν σῦκα, οὐδὲ ἐκ βάτου σταφυλὴν τρυγῶσιν.

45 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ προφέρει τὸ πονηρόν: ἐκ γὰρ περισσεύματος καρδίας λαλεῖ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.

For a good tree does not make rotten fruit, nor again does a rotten tree make good fruit. (44) For each tree is known from the individual fruit; for from an acanthus spinus they do not collect figs, nor from a bramble do they gather grapes. (45) The good person from the treasure of goodness of the heart brings forth good, and the wicked from their wickedness brings forth wickedness. For from the abundance of their heart speaks his/her tongue.

The question is whether this represents an improvement, a diminution, or something neutral in relation to Matthew’s version of the tale. There is enough verbatim overlap that it’s pretty apparent that both are getting the wording from the same source. Of course, that means we have to decide if they are both getting it from a third source, or if Luke is paraphrasing Matthew. But since Matthew’s handling of the Q material is masterful then the question is settled. Correct? So the Q people will tell you. The interesting thing about Matthew’s version is that there are, essentially, two versions of this extended metaphor set out in “by their fruits ye shall know them”. The first comes in Matthew’s Chapter 7, which is smack in the middle of the (masterful) Sermon on the Mount. The second occurs later, in Chapter 12:33 & c. Now, here’s another question. Matthew repeats himself. Does that mean that he got the stuff from another source, forgot that he’d already used it, and so used it again, then never went back and read the whole of his work to see the flow, or failed to realize he’d used it twice. And it’s not just the “by their fruits”; he also repeats the “brood of vipers” injunction, also in this same section of Chapter 12. So did Matthew forget? Or did he just like it so much that he used it twice, even at the cost of being redundant? And if he realized he was being redundant, was he more apt to do this because he thought that the stuff in Q was absolute dynamite, or was he so impressed with his own creativity that he wanted to work it in the second time? Personally, I have often found that writers tend to be on the vain side, especially when it comes to stuff they’ve created. So we know where I fall on this last question.

But there is another aspect of this to consider. Luke’s version here actually has elements of both these sections of Matthew.  The basic bit about “by their fruits” comes, as I said, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, and appears here  in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. (That’s a coincidence? Really?) Both refer to the acanthus spina, which is a species of acanthus with spines; i.e., thorns, which is how KJV renders it. Matthew says that one does not find grapes among acanthus, while here Luke says it’s figs. Much of the verbiage is very, very close, with the “kalon” and “agathon”, and both use “sullegein” as the word for “to gather”. This is not terribly unusual, but it’s not the first word I think of when thinking of a verb for “to gather”. So that’s all very interesting. What makes it remarkable is that Matthew throws the part about the “treasure of good” into Chapter 12. IOW, Luke combined what are two passages in Matthew. Now, it appears that most of the reconstructions of Q see these two as sections of a single whole; that is, the scholars doing the reconstructing agree with Luke’s version. Of course, part of the reason they do that is because Luke supposedly preserves the more “primitive” version of Q. So let’s ask the question: does Luke’s version here seem more primitive? I suppose that depends on your definition of the word. If by “primitive” one means “less redundant”, then I would agree with the assessment. Is Matthew’s version more “masterful”? That is a more difficult question. What it comes down to is that, given Q, Matthew had to make a conscious decision to split the two sections into two parts. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Personally, I prefer Luke’s method, but that is, one imagines, a personal choice. The point being that either Matthew chose to split the two or to repeat himself, and both of these choices seem, to my mind, less than ideal. 

So masterful? Not really. And this does matter as a question beyond mere personal taste or literary preference. So very much of the (ahem) “argument” for Q rests on Matthew’s “masterful” handling of the Q material. If than handling was, perhaps, not so masterful, then much of the “argument” (sic) collapses.

43 Non est enim arbor bona faciens fructum malum, neque iterum arbor mala faciens fructum bonum.

44 Unaquaeque enim arbor de fructu suo cognoscitur; neque enim de spinis colligunt ficus, neque de rubo vindemiant uvam.

45 Bonus homo de bono thesauro cordis profert bonum, et malus homo de malo profert malum: ex abundantia enim cordis os eius loquitur.

Luke Chapter 6:39

When setting this section up, I had no intention of making this single verse a stand-alone post. However, the commentary on this ran rather long, so I made the radical decision to put this one out there all by its lonesome. Hope it works for you all.

The last The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with an admonition not to judge.  We start with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the


39 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς: Μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; οὐχὶ ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον ἐμπεσοῦνται; 


And he also told a  parable ( lit =throwing-beside) to them. Are the blind at all able to lead the blind? Would not both fall into a pit? 

These two short sentences present three vocabulary issues. The first is “parable”. This is another of those words that has an absolutely specific meaning in English, whereas in Greek it was nothing special. If you break down the components (para-bole), you get a “throw beside”. More figuratively, it basically means “analogy” or even “metaphor”.  We have come to regard parables as class of literary output, along with fables. Both are stories that have a homely exterior yet which contain a lesson. In fact, in this instance, the “blind leading the blind” would be better served by translating the word as “metaphor”. There really is no story, even though there is a lesson. I’ve been leaving this as parable for the duration so far, without really giving it much thought. A great example of the buried assumption. Time to dig it up and look at it.

But the real value of this verse are two other words. They are the ones translated as “lead” and “pit”.  The first is a very unusual word; the Great Scott (Liddell & Scott, unabridged; as opposed to the Middle Liddell, the abridged version) provides barely a half-dozen cites of the word. The standard word for “to lead” is “agō”. But that’s not even the truly remarkable word. That is “pit”. What makes this stand out is that the word here, “bothunos” is not even a standard Greek word. The L&S does not even provide a definition. Rather, the reader of L&S is presented with a cross-reference to “bothros”. And even this “standard” is barely used, with about as many cites as the word for “to lead”. And to underscore, both Matthew and Luke use both these words in exactly the same context, with the metaphor of the blind leading the blind, and both falling into the pit.

What does this mean? I think that, without reservation, we can conclude that Luke read both of these words. And more, we can conclude one of two possibilities. Either 1) They both found the words in Q; or 2) Luke got them both from Matthew. This takes us back to the discussion we had in the previous section about the word for “lending at interest”. What is Q supposed to be? A writing-down of the sayings of Jesus. More, it’s supposed to be a very early recording, dating back no later than the early 40s, shortly after Jesus’ death. And one more: Q was also written by an early follower of Jesus, one who was an eyewitness, one who heard these utterances from Jesus with his own ears. Absent any of these three conditions, and the degree of the probability of authenticity plummets. Remember, Q is all about having an unbroken source that traces directly back to Jesus. If it’s not that, if the provenance cannot be determined, then much of the value of Q evaporates. Oh, sure, it’s still interesting, but if the stuff got into Matthew and Luke, then how interesting is it, unless it can be posited that the words recorded trace directly back to Jesus himself? 

Now, who were the early followers of Jesus? Those who would have heard him speak? To have been a witness to the entire story, it would have to have been Peter, James, John, or Andrew. These men, by the words of the texts themselves, were fishermen. Perhaps they could read and/or write a little Greek, but to come up with really and truly obscure words like the three we’ve come across in the last few verses staggers the imagination. None of them are even remotely likely to have been erudite enough to come up with the vocabulary here. And there is more; I’ve only just begun to collect these, but there were others before. So, maybe Matthew Levi? As a tax collector, he was more likely to have been better versed in Greek than his more humble fellows. I admit the possibility. But Matthew Levi was not there for the whole story. He missed part. Sure, he could have been filled in by the others, or maybe Jesus had a fairly standard stump speech and repeated things. But note that this adds an additional layer of complexity to the story; each layer decreases the likelihood of the suggested chain of events. Each layer presents another place where the chain has a weak link. The other possibility is that one of the early disciples dictated the sayings to someone well versed in Greek. After all, this is what Paul did. In antiquity, persons of importance had a secretary or amanuensis, to do this. Julius Caesar is said to have been flanked by two such secretaries as he went about his business. He dictated to both of them alternatively, saying something to one, then while that secretary wrote down the words, he’d give the other a sentence for a different letter. But think about this. If this dictation were done early, who were Jesus’ followers? Remember, we’re talking about the very early days, possibly even before Paul began his career. So these followers would have been Jews, from the general area of Galilee, Judea, and possibly Tyre or Sidon or the Dekapolis. Would the secretary, presumably very well versed in Greek, have seen fit to write down what Jesus said in words that the audience would not have known? Would I be generally understood if I used the word “obfuscate” to an audience with a minimal level of education?

And it’s not like we don’t have evidence of this. Paul provides it. In Galatians, he very clearly describes the clash of cultures when he, obviously for the first time, begins to bring significant numbers of pagans into the fold, creating the questions that divided him and James and left Peter/Cephas sort of stuck in the middle, depending on whether he was dining with pagans or under the watchful eye of James. So we are safe again to conclude that Q was not written in Greek for the first several decades of its alleged existence.

But moving the translation back several decades does not solve the problem, not really. You are still left with the question of why the translator chose such non-normal words, even at a later date. Does it not make more sense to suppose that the unusual words were chosen by someone who had been raised in a Greek-predominant milieu, who read the LXX in Greek rather than Hebrew, who was familiar with the pagan world, and was quite likely a pagan himself chose the words? And then another Greek-speaker saw them, repeated them, and then sort of riffed on the “lending at interest” by repeating it two additional times?

Once again, it’s very important to appreciate that I am not presenting a smoking gun. Nor is a smoking gun ever likely to be found. It’s a question of probability. And it’s also a question of why haven’t these points been raised before? Why is the whole argument over Q predicated on explaining why Luke would deface the “masterful” arrangement of the Q material as presented by Matthew? That’s not an argument. It’s quibbling over stylistic preferences. It’s time we made the Q proponents actually defend their thesis. They’ve had a free ride long enough. 

39 Dixit autem illis et similitudinem: “ Numquid potest caecus caecum ducere? Nonne ambo in foveam cadent?






Luke Chapter 6:31-38

The Sermon on the Plain continues. Here we get some sense of the collected aspect of the sayings as we rather move from one topic to another without too much (if any) connecting verbiage.  With that brief intro, let’s move onto the


31 καὶ καθὼς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως.

32 καὶ εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶσιν.

33 καὶ [γὰρ] ἐὰν ἀγαθοποιῆτε τοὺς ἀγαθοποιοῦντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν.

“And as you wish people might do to you, do to them equally. (32) For if you love those loving you, how is this favour to you? For also the sinners those loving them love. (33) For also if you do good to those doing good to you, how is this a favour to you? Also the sinners do the same.

Here is an expanded version of the Golden Rule accompanied by somethixjung that doesn’t quite say love your enemies. That is certainly the implication, but that is not, explicitly, what Luke says here. Matthew said it. So the question is, does Luke represent a more “primitive” version of the saying? One that hadn’t quite evolved to “love your enemy”, but rather was still on “loving those who don’t love you”? Of course, if you choose to argue that, it becomes necessary to provide a convincing reason to prove, or at least explain, why “enemy” is more evolved, more of a complex thought, than what Luke has. And against whatever argument for the more primitive nature of Luke, I would contend exactly the opposite: that “enemy” is the more primitive, less developed, form of the statement. Why? “Enemy” is very obvious, setting up a very facile and overly sharp, overly distinct dichotomy. It’s very black-and-white. And it’s also much, much narrower. Think about it: how may enemies do you have? If you can get to a handful, then perhaps you’re a super heroine who has collected them by ending their lawless ways and bringing them to justice. Most of us, OTOH, have a few people that we actively dislike, and maybe we’d find ways to sabotage some of their efforts, but let’s be real. “Enemies” are few and far between. But the world is chock-a-block full of people we don’t love. The dude who cut you off on the road this morning, or the rude person in the queue ahead of you who holds up the line with a myriad of petty demands. Or just the people you see that you don’t know, and that you never will know. Do you hate them? No. Are they enemies? No. Do you love them? No. Your attitude is one of general indifference. How far would you extend yourself for them? Do you let them into your traffic lane, or do you pull ahead to cut them off? Those are the people we’re discussing. You don’t love them, they don’t love you, and you’re both fine with the arrangement. Commanding us to love them is a much more demanding task because we have to see the humanity in each and every one of them. The odd thing is that people will very often do heroic things for a complete stranger: pull them off a subway line, jump into the water to save someone drowning, that sort of thing. But a small act of kindness that recognizes their humanity? Dang, that’s tough. So no, this is not the more primitive version of “love your enemy”. Quite the opposite, and far from it in fact.

That is one very significant aspect of this, but there is another.  In the expression <<ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν >>, note the bolded word which transliterates to “charis”. This is the root of both “charity” and “eucharist”. It is almost always translated into Latin as “gratia”, and so has come into English as “grace”. “The grace of God”. “Prevenient grace”. “Saving grace”. “Amazing grace”. Can one come up with a more thoroughly Christian concept than that of grace? There are a few, but not many. Well, here’s the thing: this word does not appear in either Mark or Matthew. I found that so hard to believe that I had to check Strong’s words. That wasn’t enough so I went back to the Vulgate to search for “gratia” in 2M. I found the latter, but almost always in the context of “giving thanks”, such as what Jesus did before breaking the bread to feed the 5,000 and then the 4,000. This is not the first time Luke has used it, but it didn’t strike me as unusual the first couple of times, so I didn’t look into it.

What does this imply? First, let’s be clear that Paul uses the word a number of times in the works we’ve read, but it’s not all that common, either. This is more than a bit surprising given the centrality of the concept to the later Christian doctrine of salvation. But for our purposes, that’s not the issue. Rather, how and why did the term and the concept surface in Paul’s work and then go dormant until Luke? This indicates, I think, that the earlier evangelists were not aware of his works, that Paul’s works only spread across the Christian milieu after Matthew and Mark had written. Why? At first glance, or my first thought is to consider what this means for the foci of Christian teaching. We know that Paul’s work was spread out, scattered across a number of communities, but that Mark–and I would argue Matthew–were more concentrated. By this I mean that Mark spread among the same communities that Matthew and Luke belonged to, so that both certainly were aware of Mark, and Luke was most likely aware of Matthew. Given that Luke was also aware of Paul, I’m not sure how you construct a scenario in which Luke was not also aware of Matthew. The inclusion of Paul into the corpus of writing indicates a fusion and a merging of the various Christian traditions. That Paul is added when it was unknown to 2M makes a pretty strong case for this. And, of course, this makes it harder to argue that, somehow, Luke got ahold of both Mark and Paul, but not Matthew. There we have to ask ourselves how that worked? What sort of circumstances would allow that to happen? It means a lack of communication among the communities that read Matthew and those that produced Luke.

Given Acts, Luke knew of Paul’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean; this argues against a situation in which Luke, writing in, say, Rome, knew about Mark–who also supposedly wrote in Rome, even though there is no evidence for this–and knew about Paul from Romans. That’s not enough to provide the basis for Acts. Luke would also have to have known at least of the letters to the Ephesians and the Corinthians–and likely others–since Acts recounts of Paul’s exploits in both those cities. That Luke knew of these exploits implies that he likely knew of the existence of those communities, and by extension, of the letters written to those communities. And if he knew about the (admittedly) Deutero-Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians, is it really conceivable that he somehow missed Matthew? Well, yes, it’s conceivable, but is that really likely? There I’m not so sure. It seems much more conceivable that he was the first to be aware of most, if not all, of what became the orthodox Christian corpus. He may not have been aware of some of the other letters of Paul; although I’m hard pressed to name which one of the Certain Seven he would have missed. Philippians? Maybe, but Acts does recount Paul’s activities there. 1 Thessalonians? Less likely, given the passage about Jesus coming down from the clouds and it’s similarity to Luke’s story of the Ascension. Deutero-Paul letters, like 1 & 2 Timothy, don’t count because they likely had not been written yet.

So couple all these scenarios together with their un/likelihood, it becomes increasingly difficult to suggest that, somehow, Luke missed Matthew. The only likely scenario for that is that Matthew, having supposedly been written in Antioch, remained local while Luke was writing in Greece, or one of the cities of Asia Minor. But then we’re supposed to believe that Matthew remained local while Q circulated widely. IOW, that people familiar with Matthew, and his masterful arrangement of the Q material, didn’t share Matthew as a means of superseding the need for Q. Because remember that Mark was every bit as redundant as Q would have been, and Mark survived while the sayings of Jesus himself were allowed to perish. Then if we add in the internal evidence of the way Luke treats stuff in Matthew, the quirks that I’ve been pointing out and the ideas of the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the name of Joseph, etc., the case for Q becomes really suspect. None of those other ideas were in Q; where did they come from if not Matthew?

31 Et prout vultis, ut faciant vobis homines, facite illis similiter.

32 Et si diligitis eos, qui vos diligunt, quae vobis est gratia? Nam et peccatores diligentes se diligunt.

33 Et si bene feceritis his, qui vobis bene faciunt, quae vobis est gratia? Si quidem et peccatores idem faciunt.

34 καὶ ἐὰν δανίσητε παρ’ ὧν ἐλπίζετε λαβεῖν, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις [ἐστίν]; καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἁμαρτωλοῖς δανίζουσιν ἵνα ἀπολάβωσιν τὰ ἴσα.

35 πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες: καὶ ἔσται μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου, ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς.

“And if you lend at interest from whom you hope to take, how is this thanks to you? Also those sinning to sinners lend at interest in order to take back the same. (35) Except love your enemies and do good and lend without expecting anything in return; and let it be the most reward, and be sons of the most high, that he himself is good upon the unblessed and wicked. 

Well, there is the admonition to love your enemies. This does not reflect upon the Q question directly, but taken with what I said about this in the previous section, I think the idea that Luke preserves a more primitive version of Q is pretty much risible. Luke’s treatment of this material is, if anything, more sophisticated than  what we found in Matthew, at least in my opinion. This, in turn, increases the probability that Luke knew Matthew and improved on what Matthew said. IOW, no Q.

Just a note on the Greek. Note that I’ve translated the word in Verse 34 as “lend at interest”. What is interesting here is that Matthew uses the same word in his version of the story. In my four crib translations (KJV, ESV, NIV, NASB), they all translate the phrase “if you lend to…” However, three of these same four translations render the phrase as “if you give to those who ask from you…”, and the other (ESV) substitutes “beg” for “ask”. Even more interesting, Kloppenborg, the lead editor of the Q Thomas Reader, also chooses the word “beg”, for both Matthew’s and Luke’s versions. This all seems a bit disingenuous on the part of some or all of these translations. In Classical Greek, the word means to “lend at interest”, as in usury. Giving to someone begging is very, even wholly a different thing than lending money at interest. So why is it rendered in Luke as “lend”, but in Matthew as “ask/beg”, and in Kloppenborg as “beg” in both instances? I find this latter the most unsettling, largely because he has made no attempt to retain any of the original sense of the word. At least the translations of Luke I cited do this. And really, it makes no sense to expect a return from someone who’s begging from you, does it? Isn’t that rather the point of giving to someone begging, that you don’t expect return? If they had the wherewithal or resources to pay you back, would they be said to be “begging” in the first place? Really, though, I suppose all four crib translations are no better, rendering the word differently in different places leaves something to be desired as far as consistency is concerned.

The other aspect about this is the frequency of the word. Luke uses it three times, all of them within the confines of these two verses. Matthew uses it once (5:42), within the confines of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s it. It’s used nowhere else in the NT, and Liddell & Scott don’t cite its usage in the NT or the LXX. So, what are we to make of that? It’s not the first time we’ve found that Q used a very unusual word that managed to make it into both Matthew and Luke. I need to make a list of these words. The thing is, Q is supposedly someone writing down all these sayings of Jesus. Was Jesus so fluent in Greek that he knew all of this off-beat vocabulary and tossed it off in full confidence that his follower would catch his drift? Or was the person who wrote the sayings down the fluent speaker of Greek, who also supposed those reading the book would understand all these obscure words? Somehow, neither of these strike me as likely. Much more probable is that someone writing down what Jesus said would tend to a vocabulary and probably a style more like Mark’s: simple, plain, unadorned, most likely translation Greek. Instead, we’re getting all these fancy word in Greek, words that show up in Matthew and Luke’s version of the same story, and nowhere else? And this is why Kloppenborg particularly annoyed me: by re-creating the text of Q to read as “beg” really obscures the original, changing the implications enormously, and gives the impression of a simplicity that did not exist with the original Greek word. Recall that Mark was probably not a native speaker of Greek; likely he read the LXX in Hebrew. We know that Matthew read the LXX in Greek, which is where he got the idea of the virgin giving birth, So the question becomes, who is more likely to have come up with the very unusual word here: an early follower of Jesus, who probably spoke Aramaic but had some knowledge of Greek, or Matthew, who had read the LXX in Greek, and may have been a native speaker? The probability is wholly on the latter choice.

34 Et si mutuum dederitis his, a quibus speratis recipere, quae vobis gratia est? Nam et peccatores peccatoribus fenerantur, ut recipiant aequalia.

35 Verumtamen diligite inimicos vestros et bene facite et mutuum date nihil desperantes; et erit merces vestra multa, et eritis filii Altissimi, quia ipse benignus est super ingratos et malos.

36 Γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες καθὼς [καὶ] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστίν.

37 Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθῆτε: καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε. ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε:

38 δίδοτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: μέτρον καλὸν πεπιεσμένον σεσαλευμένον ὑπερεκχυννόμενον δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν: γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτεἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.

“Become merciful, as [also] your father is merciful. (37) And do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn. Destroy, and you will be destroyed. (38) Give, and it will be given to you. They will give the good measure having been pressed, having been shaken, having been poured out, having overflowed in your bosom. For by which measurement (you use, presumably) you will be measured.

Speaking of unusual words, the pressing and the shaking and the outpouring are all words that only occur here. Some I got from the Vulgate, some I pieced together by taking them apart and finding the root under all the prefixes, etc. The bit about the bosom, it can also be used for lap; the thing is, the word transliterates as }”kolpos”, and it’s the root of the word “gulf”; you will find it on maps denoting a gulf, as in Gulf of Mexico. And the Latin is “sinus”, and that also means an empty or hollow area, so decide for yourself if bosom or lap makes more sense. 

But truly the odd thing is that, when you put them together, does the sentence make a lot of sense? The NASB gives a pretty good rendition, and it’s not completely divorced from the Greek, so I guess it can make sense. 

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

I can live with that. Now, this is not in Matthew’s version of this, so Luke added it. Now, let’s return to the idea of the unusual words. In the verses before, Luke repeats a word used only by Matthew in the NT; he not only repeats it once, he uses it a total of three times. And then immediately following he practically coins some new words. Do you get the sense that maybe he’s trying to go one up (or two up) on Matthew? If Matthew is going to exercise his erudition, then Luke is going to see that bet and raise him a couple of other words. Really, it’s not like the whole phrase about shaking and stirring and whatever really adds anything to the meaning of the text. Yes, it intensifies the whole thing, but in a very awkward way. So, apologies, but I add this to the list of indications that Luke was fully aware of what Matthew said.

I’ve been going back over 1 Corinthians to start to pull out themes. In Chapters 5 & 6, several instances Paul seems to foreshadow themes that will be said later, paraphrased as it were, in the gospels. As these come up, I will make note of them. In Chapter 6 he talks about judging. The discussion really doesn’t quite follow the theme here, because Paul is saying that the community of the holy will be, and should be, judges of other people and even angels. There is a real possibility that I would not have made the connexion between this passage and that had I not been reading them on sequential days. Still, the thematic echoes are interesting, so I will bring up the references as they come up during the gospels.

37 Et nolite iudicare et non iudicabimini; et nolite condemnare et non condemnabimini. Dimittite et dimittemini;

38 date, et dabitur vobis: mensuram bonam, confertam, coagitatam, supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum; eadem quippe mensura, qua mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis”.

36 Estote misericordes, sicut et Pater vester misericors est.

Luke Chapter 6:20-25

Here we begin the actual teaching of the Sermon on the Plain. Does anyone really think that’s a coincidence? Really?

Regardless, kept the section short because it engendered quite a bit of commentary. And if you do think this Mount/Plain was a coincidence, I hope that this next section helps make you feel even less certain about that.

20 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν, Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

And he raising his eyes to his disciples he said, “Blessed (are) the poor, that of them is the kingdom of heaven.

We are going to stop right here. Of course we all know that Matthew has this as “blessed are the poor in spirit“. so the obvious conclusion is that Luke’s version here represents a “more primitive” version of the Q text. This one is more primitive, supposedly, because it is simpler, because it has fewer words and a more straightforward message. Everyone knows who “the poor” are; who are the “poor in spirit” after all? That one takes a certain amount of consideration, and perhaps some explaining, after all. And I have to concede that this is not a terrible interpretation, or understanding of the two texts. Luke’s does seem more straightforward. But it is justified to use the term “more primitive” for that reason? I think not, or at least not necessarily. “Primitive” is rather a loaded word, one that’s at least a little pejorative. The intent may simply be to capture the aspect that Luke’s version is closer to Q; just as Luke’s version of the pater noster is, supposedly, closer to Q. Whatever the intent, the result is to raise up Matthew at the expense of Luke. This, in turn, helps preserve the illusion of Q…at least, I guess that’s what the intent is. 

Whatever the intent, the reality is that “blessed are the poor”/”poor in spirit” are two very different thoughts. I suppose it can be argued that the latter represents a more advanced stage in thinking, but it could also be argued, IMO, anyway, that “poor in spirit” is a bit of a shill for wealthy people. You don’t actually have to be poor, but just have the humility of the poor. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t quite jibe with some of the other teachings of Jesus, such as the bit about the eye of the needle. Also, FWIW, Mark and Matthew each use the word “ptochos” (beggar, beggarly = poor) five times each. For Matthew, once is here, and once is in the aphorism about always having the poor with you–a story that is not in Luke. IOW, the poor are not too far to the front of Matthew’s message. Of five uses of the word, once is a waffle and once is nearly a disparagement. Luke, OTOH, uses the word ten times, albeit twice in the story of Dives and Lazarus, but that still leaves eight other examples.

I did read somewhere–the cite escapes me, and shame on me for not writing it down; however, it was a reputable source–that Luke is the gospel of the poor. I put this out there to show that there is a school of thought–or one scholar, at least–that believes Luke devotes more attention to the poor than either Mark or Matthew. Now, on top of that, I notice that Paul apparently only uses the word four times in eight letters, and one of them is him saying how James the Just pressed Paul to remember the poor. As such, that’s not exactly evidence that the poor are at the top of his agenda, either. In contrast, the short epistle of James–probably not written by James the Just–uses the word four times, and all of them are in reference to the poor as we think of the term. IOW, the poor, far from being an early aspect of proto-Christian, or Christian belief, was a later one. It became more important in later works, rather than the earlier ones that are, at least, potentially closer to Jesus. As such, it is Matthew’s “poor in spirit” that is the more “primitive” version of this teaching. It is Luke, not Matthew, who advances the teaching on the poor. That also knocks another prop out from under the reasons why Q has to have existed.

There is one other thing that should be mentioned. There is an apocryphal Gospel of the Ebionites, the latter word relating to the poor. And there is a tradition that this was written, if not by James the Just, then by one of his later followers, as the Epistle of James may have been. I do not know what the arguments for this position are, but no doubt they rely on a great deal of speculation and inference, since there is no evidence to speak of. I have mentioned several times that much of what I had always been taught was the Christian attitude towards social justice actually was Jewish in origin and emphasis. We have seen from Paul that James was more concerned with maintaining the ties to Judaism than Paul was. So the question becomes, did the later attitude and teaching on the poor only emerge as this aspect of the teaching of James the Just had been more thoroughly integrating into the main stream of Christian thought? This is pure speculation, based on the sort of huge leaps of faith and tenuous connexions that I tend to disparage. But, FWIW, there it is. The fact remains, though, that when it becomes appropriate to talk about The Church, social justice was decidedly part of the message. And the idea of apostolic poverty was a main theme in the heresies of Western Europe from the 12th Century forward. The Waldensians, for example, were firm believers in apostolic poverty, as were the Cathars, who were exterminated by Innocent III in the early 13th Century. And then there was St Francis of Assisi, whose order became split into those who believed in maintaining the founder’s practice of poverty, and those who thought corporate wealth was just fine. So, yes, teaching about “The Poor” was something of a later tradition. I have been very surprised at the lack of emphasis on this topic as I’ve gone through the letters of Paul and the first two gospels.

20 Et ipse, elevatis oculis suis in discipulos suos, dicebat: “Beati pauperes, quia vestrum est regnum Dei.

21 μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες νῦν, ὅτι χορτασθήσεσθε. μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν, ὅτι γελάσετε. 22μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν μισήσωσιν ὑμᾶς οἱ ἄνθρωποι, καὶ ὅταν ἀφορίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ ὀνειδίσωσιν καὶ ἐκβάλωσιν τὸ ὄνομα ὑμῶν ὡς πονηρὸν ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

23 χάρητε ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ σκιρτήσατε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ: κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς προφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.

“Blessed are those hungering now, that you will be filled. Blessed are those weeping now, that you will laugh. (22) Blessed are (you) when people hate you, and when they cast you out and cast in insults and throw our your name as knavish because of the son of man; (23) for rejoice on that day and leap, for behold your reward is great in the sky; for upon the same things the forbears of them did to the prophets.

These verses are not exactly part of the Beatitudes as they are set out in Matthew, or, at least, in some editions of Matthew. These lines come at the end of the Beatitudes proper. I suppose this is part of the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew vs the muddled arrangement of Luke. The sentiments expressed obviously extol the outcast, or perhaps those despised. In ancient society, this would–or at least could–include the poor. For example, both of the words “mean” and “villain” refer to lower-class people and serfs. Assuming that these are the people referred to, far from being a muddle of Matthew’s arrangement, this represents an excellent pairing with the opening line. The poor will inherit the earth, and the poor people who are despised and outcast now will be filled, they will get the Great Reward in the Sky. The order of the verses are rearranged because, since the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” are not the same people, the order of the verses here reinforce each other to emphasize the point about the poor. This is important because it undercuts the whole–and wholly ridiculous–idea that Matthew’s treatment of the so-called Q material was infinitely superior to that of Luke. The two are different. Matthew made certain editorial choices, Luke made others. And there is no burden of proof on the opponents of Q that requires these latter to explain why Luke differed in every single instance. That’s absurd. The burden of proof is on those who claim Q ever existed, and that should never, ever be forgotten or conceded.

As for the content and its intent and its raison d’être, the question is whether this fits circumstances of Jesus’ lifetime. This seems to be meant as a morale booster for a community that was under some pressure from the outside. So why is it here? Now, if this does refer to the poor, then that question is largely answered, I believe. The poor were under pressure and duress. Does it go beyond that? Or, if you do not believe that these lines do refer to the poor, but to the Christian community as at large, then you have to discuss the circumstances under which these words were conceived. One clue is to look back at Matthew’s “poor in spirit”. He did not couple that verse with the verses about being hungry. That implies that Matthew saw the groups as separate. That, I think, would imply that he did not intend these verses about being outcast as referring to the general way the poor were despised. And recall that Matthew blessed those who hungered and thirsted for justice; Luke leaves it at those who were, quite simply, hungry, as in physically hungry. This, in turn, implies that Matthew did not connect the two ideas, that the poor were not those who were outcast. The implication of this chain of logic is that, for Matthew, being outcast was a condition of being a Christian rather than of being poor.

When were Christians experiencing anything that can reasonably be described as “persecution”? There is, quite frankly, no indication in the gospels that the followers of Jesus were in any way being subjected to anything that can be called “persecution” in the lifetime of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was supposedly crucified for his beliefs, but I have pointed out many times that only Jesus was arrested and punished. This is pretty clear evidence that the people arresting Jesus were not the least interested in any of Jesus’ followers. Recall that the Passion narrative is likely the later creation of some group of Jesus’ followers–I would suggest the Galilean group, led, or at least subsidized, by Mary the Magdelane–so it reflects the Christians’ own perspective. As such, it seems that there was very little in the way of persecution in Jesus’ lifetime. So, if these lines  are not to be seen as a description of the poor, then they are unlikely to date to the time before the Resurrection. Ergo, by necessity they describe circumstances of the earlier days of the proto-church, such as the “pressure” that Paul and his associates applied to the followers of Jesus.

The chain of logic supporting that conclusion is, I believe, quite strong, even if it’s not overwhelming and irrefutable. It does, however, provide a level of certainty that is not frequently found in such biblical arguments. Taking this conclusion as a datum, as a given, there is then one further conclusion to be gleaned. Since Luke changed the words from “poor in spirit” to “poor”, and since he rearranged the material to the form seen here, it’s reasonable to conclude that he made the changes because he wanted to make them. This, of course, raises (but does not beg) the question of why did he make the change? I would suggest it’s because the levels of persecution implied had been either forgotten, or had never really been learned by the group for which Luke wrote. The memory of those days was dim, perhaps vague to the point of being perceived a story than actual events. So Luke rearranged the material to fit into a new paradigm, one in which it was the poor who came to the fore, in which they were the ones being despised. Most likely this new paradigm arose in circumstances in which the poor had become a more prominent segment of the Christian community. This makes sense, I think. Whether I’m correct is, however, a different matter.

21 Beati, qui nunc esuritis, quia saturabimini. Beati, qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis.

22 Beati eritis, cum vos oderint homines et cum separaverint vos et exprobraverint et eiecerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum propter Filium hominis.

23 Gaudete in illa die et exsultate, ecce enim merces vestra multa in caelo; secundum haec enim faciebant prophetis patres eorum.

24 Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.

25 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, οἱ ἐμπεπλησμένοι νῦν, ὅτι πεινάσετε. οὐαί, οἱ γελῶντες νῦν, ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε.

Except woe to the rich, that have your appeal. (25) Woe to you, those filled now, that you will hunger. Woe, you laughing now, that you will mourn and weep.

And on cue, here we have Luke casting woe to the wealthy, the full, those happy now. This provides some really strong support to the thesis set out in the previous comment. There is one issue: the word that I’ve rendered as “appeal”. That obviously doesn’t really work very well. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you would notice that the word is “consolationem”; and, in fact, this is how most English editions translate the word. The problem is, Classical Greek, first of all, doesn’t use the word very often; and second, never uses it to mean “consolation”. This usage is confined to a couple of uses in the LXX and one other time in the NT. This is why I get so uneasy about the idea that such an animal as “NT Greek” actually exists. Classicists, or specialists in the Hellenic language, will rarely–if ever–use the term “NT Greek”. “Koine”, yes, but not NT Greek. It’s really obvious that, far from going back to the original Greek, many of the Reformation scholars were content to fall back on the Vulgate from time to time. This is not the first time when we’ve had to use the Vulgate because the Greek word was too rare to be understood. An argument could be presented–and perhaps won–that not going along with consolation makes me a bit of a prig, a charge for which I’m not sure I’d have a defense. Regardless, I do believe it’s important to point out these potholes in the road as they come up; really, it does help remind us that this whole issue is not as settled as we often pretend.

Just a final note. It’s important to grasp that Luke is casting woe to the materially wealthy, to those that have and their prayers of prosperity answered. They have their reward now, and later they will be hungry. And the implication is that the hunger, while perhaps allegorical, will be allegorical to the point of physical. After all, the notion of Hell is that our immaterial souls feel physical pain and torment. Even the most cursory glance through Dante will demonstrate that most amply.

It’s also interesting to wonder if the emphasis on Matthew’s version of these verses is not somehow tied up in the desire to de-emphasize the perils and coming torments of the prosperous. “Poor in spirit”, after all provides a fair bit of wiggle room, that can be applied subjectively; “poor”, however, does not, and the way Luke drives the point home eliminates whatever wiggle room may have been left. These words are uncomfortable in a way “poor in spirit” are not. Matthew provides hope; Luke does too, but he threatens punishment as well. And let’s recall Paul’s injunctions in 1 Corinthians telling the wealthy to share their meal so that other members of the community do not go hungry. Luke is the first evangelist who was obviously aware of Paul, and, we presume, Paul’s writings. Did Luke have those words of Paul in mind when he rearranged Matthew’s version of this material? 

24 Verumtamen vae vobis divitibus, quia habetis consolationem vestram!

25 Vae vobis, qui saturati estis nunc, quia esurietis! / Vae vobis, qui ridetis nunc, quia lugebitis et flebitis!

Luke Chapter 6:12-19

After a brief interlude in which we get the naming of the Twelve, we delve into what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain”. This reference is semi-facetious; while it does take place after Jesus comes down from the mountain, the real purpose of the name is to contrast it, unfavorably, with the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew. Much of the same material is covered, but rather than run on for nearly three full chapters continuously, Luke breaks the material into smaller chunks. This has led one scholar, Goodacre, to explain the defacement of the brilliant Sermon on the Mount, in terms of shorter, “Luke friendly” (his term) passages. Kloppenborg, OTOH, perhaps the main proponent of Q, has nothing but scornful derision, or derisive scorn, for Goodacre’s attempt at the redactional explanation that the Q people demand to justify the way Luke deliberately painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s well that Kloppenborg dismisses Goodacre in this manner, because the former doesn’t have an actual argument, so ad hominem is about the best he can do.

Note: the “brief interlude was longer than expected, so this ends just at the beginning of the actual Sermon.

There is a certain irony in Kloppenborg’s position. In the mind of the Q people, holding up the SotM as a masterpiece, which only a fool or a madman would deface is a powerful argument. The problem I have with the argument is that I don’t find it masterful; I find it rather a jumble, a bunch of sayings held together (barely) with baling twine and bubble gum. IMO, to argue that the material is not masterfully arranged, and that it barely–if a all–truly holds together is much more powerful evidence that Matthew found the material thus in Q and left it thus. The three chapters of content in Matthew feels like it’s a random collection of one-off sayings. That is a persuasive argument for Q. IMO, anyway.

OK, enough. On to the


12Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐξελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι, καὶ ἦν διανυκτερεύων ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ.

13 καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ’ αὐτῶν δώδεκα, οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,

14 Σίμωνα, ὃν καὶ ὠνόμασεν Πέτρον, καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον

15 καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον Ἁλφαίου καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν καλούμενον Ζηλωτὴν 16καὶ Ἰούδαν Ἰακώβου καὶἸούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ, ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης.

It became in those days he came to the mountain to pray, and he was all night in the prayer of God.  (13) And it became day, he called his disciples and sent from him twelve, and which were called apostles. (14) Simon, the one also named Peter, and Andrew, his brother, and James and John an Philip and bar Tolomew (15) and Matthew and Thomas and James son of Alphaeus and Simon the one call the Zealot (16) and Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became the betrayer.

We’ve been through this sequence twice now, so no doubt many of you will recall that I do not believe that the Twelve was a thing that was instituted by Jesus. I believe that Jesus had several followers, among them Peter and perhaps the future James the Just, but the rest of them are sketchy at best. It’s difficult to get rid of John, son of Zebedee, but he appears in very few of the tales told;  and these tales can easily be ascribed to the later growth of the legend. Peter is impossible to get rid of; Paul pretty much proves Peter’s existence, but aside from him the only other figure Paul mentions is James, brother of Jesus. As such, I think it’s hard to be at all certain of any of the others. There are two of the Twelve named James, but each has a different patronymic, whether Zebedee or Alpheus. It has been suggested that one of these James, usually the son of Alpheus, otherwise known as James the Lesser (the Latin, Iacobus Minor doesn’t sound quite so belittling). It is suggested that one of these two men named James was Jesus’ half-brother, the son of Mary and either Zebedee or Alpheus.  This is an ingenious theory that is absolutely within the realm of possibility; the problem is there is nary a whit of evidence to support it, and the very ingeniousness of the idea, IMO, rather than supporting the idea, makes it less likely.

James, brother of Jesus, got whitewashed out of the the gospels. The reason why James is expunged is clear enough: the church in Rome invented the idea that Peter came to Rome to be the first bishop there.  Funny thing about that idea is that Paul overlooks that fact completely when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Am I the first to notice that? Almost certainly not, but the fact that this question is not more prominent in the literature is a huge indication of how badly this embarrassing little tidbit has been squelched by the subsequent bishops of Rome. Hard to believe that Calvin–or one of the Reformers–didn’t bring this up. The commentaries are full of Protestants stumbling over themselves to squelch the idea of Petrine Primacy, so why not notice–and pointing out–that Peter is conspicuously absent from Romans? 

Speaking of the commentaries, a couple of them, at least, make a big deal about how the gospels all agree on the names of the Twelve. That is a significant point in favour of the authenticity of the Twelve; or, it would be if it were true. Fact is, it’s not true; or, it’s true only if several of the Twelve had two names. Now there is Peter/Cephas, of course, but Thaddeus is missing from the list here, unless, of course, his name is also Jude. And why wouldn’t it be? Oh, but there’s also Philip, who appears in John, and nowhere else. The other glaring problem is that, throughout most of the gospels the Twelve are pretty much absent, making cameo appearances at the Last Supper and after the Resurrection. The latter role is probably attributable to the section of 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul lists the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He appeared to the Twelve. So we do know that there was a Twelve; we just have no real reason attribute it to Jesus. Rather, I would give the creation of this body to James, who instituted it after the death of his more famous brother. Note, even Paul does not provide names for any of the Twelve; more, the plain-sense reading of 15:5 is that Peter is not part of the Twelve:

            …(after the Resurrection Jesus) was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve

I believe this is a fairly strong bit of evidence that Peter was not included in the Twelve; the commentators, however don’t see it that way. To them the Twelve refers to the corporate body rather than the actual number. This is a possible understanding of the usage, but I do not believe it’s the most straightforward. For it to mean what the commentators suggest, IMO, it would make more sense for Paul to say, “…then to the rest of the Twelve…” or something such. Of course, they see it this way because they wish to see it this way to preserve the credibility of the gospel writers as historical sources. This, despite the fact that the evangelists were not wrirting history.

I have suggested that the Twelve was instituted by James. I find this preferable to the presentation in the gospels. These feel very much like an afterthought, or something that later writers realized should be included, so they stuck this passage in wherever seemed least awkward. In Mark, in particular, the placement seemed forced, fit in with a shoehorn on either side of the tale of the death of the Baptist. While not quite as awkwardky placed by Luke, it’s still lacking any context, whether lead-in or even the attempt to segue into the next story; for it is a separate story. As noted, James was surgically removed from the gospels; given the later position of Petrine Primacy, having the brother of the lord running around, and acting as Peter’s superior was terribly inconvenient, and more than slightly embarrassing given the idea of the Virgin Birth.

But this tangent has been too long already. So much for the “short interlude” before coming to the Sermon on the Plain. 

12 Factum est autem in illis diebus, exiit in montem orare et erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.

13 Et cum dies factus esset, vocavit discipulos suos et elegit Duodecim ex ipsis, quos et apostolos nominavit:

14 Simonem, quem et cognominavit Petrum, et Andream fratrem eius et Iacobum et Ioannem et Philippum et Bartholomaeum

15 et Matthaeum et Thomam et Iacobum Alphaei et Simonem, qui vocatur Zelotes,

16 et Iudam Iacobi et Iudam Iscarioth, qui fuit proditor.

17 Καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος,

18 οἳ ἦλθον ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν νόσων αὐτῶν: καὶ οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ἐθεραπεύοντο. 19 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐζήτουν ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ, ὅτι δύναμις παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξήρχετο καὶ ἰᾶτο πάντας. 

And coming down with those of him (the disciples) he was in a place of a plain, and a great crowd of his disciples, and filled with mant peoples from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the districts of Tyre and Sidon, they came to hear him and to be healed from their ailments; and those being troubled by unclean spirits they were healed. (19) And the whole crowd sought to touch him, that power from him came and healed all.

The text is very explicit that he was on a plain. It could not be more clear. Matthew, meanwhile, could not be more clear that Jesus went up on a mountain. Now, of course it is possible th at Luke wrote what he wrote without ever having seen what Matthew wrote; that is, he decided to situate the action very explicitly on a plain which he reached having come down from the mountain. There is no reason the two need to be connected. But, come on! Really? Luke just happened to decide to place the upcoming teaching on a plain after descending from the mountain where Matthew just happend to situate his teaching? And then Jesus launches into the same bit of teaching? That is one heckuva coincidence, don’t you think? I won’t pretend that I can actually read in tone, or understand Luke’s intent, but even from the outward details the similarity is striking. Naturally the location of the teaching is not in Q, but that actually supports my argument: the choice of a contrary location that plays off the location used by Matthew truly seems deliberate. More, the relative placement of the actual teaching in both gospels is suspiciouly similar. The point is not that these pieces of evidence that I’m tossing out are in any way decisive; the point is that the Q proponents have completely shut down this entire line of argument. I have to say that any of my professors would have been appalled had I ever turned in an essay arguing the way the Q people have handled the controversy for the last hundred years or so. To the anti-Q people I say, “grow a spine and stand up to this.”

The final line really hearkens back to Mark 6 and the story of the Bleeding Woman. Recall that she surreptitiously touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and the power went out of him of its own accord, without ay conscious decision, or intent on Jesus’ part. This sounds like a similar situation. The subject of “healed” is not explicit, which means it grammatically falls back to the closed antecedent. In this case, it’s the power, and not Jesus. And this is not some odd notion of mine; the four crib translations I use all render this sentence with “the power” as the agent doing the healing. I find that interesting. It’s a holdover from Mark, who was not convinced that Jesus was fully divine. In the story of the Bleeding Woman, it seems that the Power is something of an entity unto itself. It seems to exist apart from Jesus, here it is the agency that effects the healing rather than being something that exists within and because of the divinity of Jesus. Luke retains that aspect of the power in his version of that story, so this isn’t meant as a substitute for that reference. Given  the insistence with which both Matthew and Luke proclaim the divinity of Jesus from the very start of their gospel, seeing this here is a bit puzzling. In contrast, in Matthew’s version of the Bleeding Woman story, Matthew portrays Jesus as being aware of the woman’s approach, so he heals her consciously. In short, we have another time when Luke contradicts Matthew. However, we’ll discuss that more when we come to it in Luke.

17 Et descendens cum illis stetit in loco campestri, et turba multa discipulorum eius, et multitudo copiosa plebis ab omni Iudaea et Ierusalem et maritima Tyri et Sidonis,

18 qui venerunt, ut audirent eum et sanarentur a languoribus suis; et, qui vexabantur a spiritibus immundis, curabantur.

19 Et omnis turba quaerebant eum tangere, quia virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes.


Summary Luke Chapter 5

This chapter was a bit of a catch-all, with no central theme. We had the calling of the first disciples, a couple of miraculous healings together with some grumbling, and we ended up with some fasting and parables. The parables were of the new wine in old skins, and the patch of new cloth on an old garment. I really haven’t go into the very obvious symbolism of the new/old distinction, largely because it was so obvious I’ve missed it until now. Or, because I’m just not attuned to nuance like this. Whichever. The point being that all three gospels set this aphorism into more or less the same context: the comparison of Jesus’ disciples to those of John. In the latter case, John stood squarely and solidly within the context of Jewish tradition; Jesus, OTOH, was something new. He was the new wine that will burst the skins, or the new cloth that will tear away from the old garment. Or, at least, he is those things in the first two gospels. I just noticed something else here: the implication of the new wine bursting the old skins is that Jesus brings a new message, one that is not, and cannot be contained–or constrained–by the old way of doing things.

Luke, however, adds a new little quip onto the end of this that actually contradicts the implication left by 2M. Here, Luke adds that, after having the old, no one wants the new. This volte-face is puzzling on the face of it. Most of the commentaries that I skimmed through agree that it is a reference, of course, to the old/new dichotomy represented by John and Jesus. The preference for the old supposedly is a reflexion or commentary on the inherent conservatism of people in general, and perhaps the Jews–or, at least, the Jewish followers of John–in particular. And, since no better, or even other explanation or interpretation presents itself, this may be a reasonable way to take this, even if it does feel a bit strained. But then, one has to realize that, while Luke is a good writer and thinker in general, that’s not to say he nails every single point he makes; every once in a while he’ll throw up a brick (basketball analogy = take a bad shot). So it is a bit of an awkward addition, but OTOH, it can be said that it does provide a new take on the theme of the Messianic Secret as we’re seeing in Luke. The Jews tasted the old, and they tasted the new, and preferred the old, so they did not convert to become followers of Jesus, but remained in their old ways. I will, however, continue to suggest as I did in the commentary that this did work to connect Jesus to that old tradition; at least, I believe that it was meant to do that. The level of effectiveness is debatable, of course, but a bad shot is still a shot.

That was actually to start at the end. The beginning of the chapter has us calling the first disciples. Luke adds a whole additional piece of narrative with Jesus convincing the fishermen to follow him by a “miraculous” catch of fish. I put that in quotes because it’s really not a true miracle in the sense that the laws of nature are contravened, but it does demonstrate a level of divinity that Jesus could effect this event the way he did. Was this addition necessary? Not really, but that is not the question that should be asked. Rather, we should ask what the addition accomplished. Back when we had the first iteration of this story in Mark, we pointed out that it was a very remarkable thing that these men left their occupation, their home, and their family to follow Jesus. My contribution was that, if Jesus had lived in Caphernaum, then he was likely known to these men, so perhaps their action was not quite the dramatic break that it may have seemed at first glance. Did Luke sense this, too, which caused him to add the new bit? And which caused him to insist that Jesus was from Nazareth, to the point that he moved the “a prophet is without honor in his own land” story to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, rather than holding it for numerous chapters as 2M did? That is certainly possible. But then we have to stop and realize that, per Luke’s own narrative, this was not the first encounter between Jesus and Peter. In Luke, by the time we get to the calling of the disciples, Jesus has already been to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. So there is a temporal anomaly here. We don’t have to see any real significance to this muddling of time; Luke simply wasn’t concerned about keeping the order intact. He kept the stories in their larger context: the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law came after the synagogue, as it did in the other gospels, but the sequence of that story and the calling of Peter is scrambled.

However, it is worth pointing this out for one very big reason. Much of the “argument” for Q rests upon the Luke’s arrangement of the so-called Q-material vs the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew. In fact, this is most of the argument for Q. So to demonstrate that Luke had absolutely no qualms about rearranging Mark’s material would, or at least should, indicate that Luke put stuff wherever he chose without being unduly constrained by where his predecessors put things. Luke moved the episode of the Peter’s mother-in-law to a location that, really, doesn’t make sense vis-à-vis the story of the calling of Peter. Given this, why should he be reluctant to mess up the Q material? Especially if Q did not exist? If Q did not exist–and there is absolutely no evidence that it did–then Luke is not changing the order or arrangement of the Q material. He’s changing the order and arrangement of Matthew’s material. But, since he does the same with Mark’s material, this re-arrangement of Matthew’s material is not particularly noteworthy, is it?

The middle section of the chapter involves two healings, the first of a leper, the second of the paralytic on the litter. The latter includes the discussion about blasphemy because Jesus forgave the man’s sins. In both the scenes, Luke incorporates elements from different episodes in Mark, merging them into a composite that I have so charmingly been calling a “mash-up”. Setting out on this summary, I was not aware of how many miracles Mark reported vs the number reported by Luke. I went through both gospels and listed what I found in each. The end was that both had reasonably equal amounts, about 22 each. The lists may vary, depending on whether preaching apocalypse should be considered a miracle, or whether I missed the feeding of the 4,000 in Luke. Regardless, the point is the same. While Luke may reconstruct some of the stories of Mark, the former adds his own variations and his own different stories, such as the healing of a group of ten lepers which is unique to him. Given that, I’m not sure what inferences, let alone conclusions, we can draw from the places where Luke diverges from Mark, with the one possible exception. Luke is, apparently, not interested in simply retelling Mark; Luke sets out to tell a new version of the story, with a lot of new material. To make room for this new stuff, perhaps he felts it best to compress some of the older stuff. And even then, though, my characterization of these scenes as “mash-ups” is probably a bit irreverent, and needlessly so; in fact, perhaps it crosses into inaccurate. Luke may have filled in one story with details from another, but these borrowings–which assumes I’m even accurately describing what Luke does–really do not change the overall picture, or the overall sense of the story. There’s no new theological insights to be gleaned, no real indications of a development of the beliefs of the community or communities. We should look for those in the completely original material.

So far, the completely original material has dealt with what we would call a prequel–the story that happened before the story. What did that tell us? As I see it, this material wasn’t completely original, at least in conception. The stories of the Zecharias and Elisabeth and the pre-natal Baptist and the Annunciation, the census and no room at the inn are not entirely novel in outlook. With these sections, Luke is not adding new thoughts per se; rather, he is extending the trend begun by Matthew, who set out to demonstrate the cosmic significance of the birth of Jesus. Matthew did this largely through the star and the magoi; Luke took this a step–many steps, actually–further, extending it to Mary and her kin, by including the Baptist in the family tree, by substituting Simeon and Anna for the magoi.  Of course this reflects on the Q “argument”, but we’re not going there at the moment. We will; just not immediately. There wasn’t much to say about this chapter as a whole. I don’t know if that will continue, or if additional reading will open up new vistas.

That is the problem with the approach I’ve taken; it’s not scholarly. I have not read ahead, taken copious notes, and carefully plotted Luke against what has come before. Rather, it’s been more of a Wild-West show, shoot from the hip and ask questions later. The former approach, of course, is, well, scholarly and considered, taking what is said in the context of what else has been or will be said. That approach is useful for certain things. But the go-into-it-blind approach is better for capturing spontaneity. How does what we read stand on its own? What does it–and it alone–tell us? What is the stark message and implications of just this particular passage? What does it say before we water it down by putting it into the context of everything else? Those, too, are important questions, and ones that don’t get asked often enough. It’s time–long past time, actually–to shake things up a little bit, to shake the tree and see what may fall out that we did not expect.

Luke Chapter 5:27-39

This will conclude Chapter 5. We change gears a bit, moving from miraculous healings to more human teaching and human interaction. There’s a bit of a kick at the end, though.


27 Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξῆλθεν καὶ ἐθεάσατο τελώνην ὀνόματι Λευὶν καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀκολούθει μοι.

28 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ.

29 Καὶ ἐποίησεν δοχὴν μεγάλην Λευὶς αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ: καὶ ἦν ὄχλος πολὺς τελωνῶν καὶ ἄλλων οἳ ἦσαν μετ’ αὐτῶν κατακείμενοι.

30 καὶ ἐγόγγυζον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγοντες, Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε;

31 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλὰ οἱκακῶς ἔχοντες:

32 οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.

And after these things he came and he beheld a tax collector named Levi seated among the tax collectors and he (Jesus) said to him, “Follow me”. (28) And leaving all of them behind, standing he (Levi) followed him (Jesus). (29) And he made a great reception/feast (root of the word is “spectacle”) in his house. And there was a many crowd of tax collectors and others who were with him reclining (i.e., reclining to eat). (30) And murmured the Pharisees and the scribes of them (the general crowd) towards the disciples of him (Jesus) saying, “On what account with the tax collectors and of the sinners does he eat and drink?” (31) And answering Jesus said to them, “The healthy do not need having a healer, but those having diseases. (32) I have not come to call the just, but the sinners towards repentance.”

Directly out of the gate we run into a situation where Luke once again agrees with Mark and ignores the change made by Matthew. Of the three, Matthew alone says that Levi’s was also called Matthew, while Luke & Mark neglect to add this. It is based on this slender reed that the first gospel was ascribed to Matthew, the thinking being that the Matthew named here was the same man as the evangelist. Of course, if we accept the later date (ca. 85) for the composition of that gospel, the equation of the two is well-nigh, but not completely, impossible. Either way, the agreement of #2 and #3, of course, is evidence for Q. Then, at the very end, Luke adds something that is not in either of the first two: calling the sinner to repent. Here again, Luke follows Mark, where Jesus utters this aphorism in this same context, while eating with tax collectors. In Matthew, this comes later, in Chapter 9, when the disciples of John come to question Jesus if he is the one.

As I’ve been working my way through these books of the NT, one thing that has consistently surprised me is the extent to which so much of the “Christian” morality code was taken over directly from Judaism. One aspect in particular that has stood out is the concept of social justice, of caring for those less fortunate. Of course, this surprise is the result of a good Christian (Roman Rite) upbringing, in which Christians were all-good, and Jews were, well, something less than that. Here’s another reason why having people actually read the Bible was not necessarily desirable for about a thousand years. As for my education on the matter, better late than never, I suppose. The point, however, is that I have the sense that what we are witnessing here is novel. Jesus is consorting with tax collectors. These are not lepers, or the poor, but the rich, and the despised rich. “Collaborate” has been a buzz-word in the corporate world for the past handful of years, but where I come from “collaborator” was not a term of praise. Quite the opposite. A collaborator was a quisling, or in America a Benedict Arnold. I’m reading a book about Vichy France, where the government collaborated with the Nazis after 1940, and some of these collaborators were executed for their pains. Just so, tax collectors were collaborators, working with the Romans to collect taxes from the subject population. It made them wealthy, yes, but it also made them outcast, to some extent anyway, among the Jewish population. So Jesus is not consorting with the poor, those who have no means, but with those who have an excess of means, mostly extorted from fellow compatriots. This, I believe, is new, a new proscription for behaviour. That the sick, not the healthy need a doctor, just so it’s the sinners who need to repent.

I don’t mean to say that the idea of repenting is Christian; far from it. The idea of the Chosen People repenting their sins and turning back to YHWH is one of the most constant themes found in the HS. Rather, it’s the idea of who is doing, or should be doing the repentance. Sinners, yes, but mainly to the extent that respectable persons are sinners, and it’s the respectable who should repent. Or have I picked that up from observing too much American Christianity? With it’s claims to love Jesus while kicking the poor when they’re down? I think the distinction comes with the transition from the idea of a corporate repentance, that of the Chosen People as a body, to the idea of individual repentance, where the individual sinner changes his way of thinking (metanoeite in Greek) and thereby changes the way he or she behaves. That, I think, is the novelty–and the ultimate appeal–of Christianity, the reason it, rather than Mithraism, became the dominant religion in the later Roman Empire: the individual salvation. Even then, Christians did not invent the concept; this is something that many Hellenistic religions practiced. As some of the more collective cults were swallowed up, cults of Isis, for example, filled in the void for the individual seeking some sort of religious experience. Christianity was the heir and successor of these “Eastern Mystery Religions” as they’ve been called. And here we see the marriage of this idea to that of the universal siblinghood professed by the Stoics. We are all siblings, we can all find…some sort of ultimate religious experience. My inclination is to say “redemption”, but this has a very specific origin and etymology. It’s the redeeming of a pawn pledge, the buying back of an item from the pawn broker. That is what “redemption” means. But a more generic term escapes me at the moment.

27 Et post haec exiit et vidit publicanum nomine Levi sedentem ad teloneum et ait illi: “Sequere me”.

28 Et relictis omnibus, surgens secutus est eum.

29 Et fecit ei convivium magnum Levi in domo sua; et erat turba multa publicanorum et aliorum, qui cum illis erant discumbentes.

30 Et murmurabant pharisaei et scribae eorum adversus discipulos eius dicentes: “Quare cum publicanis et peccatoribus manducatis et bibitis?”.

31 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illos: “Non egent, qui sani sunt, medico, sed qui male habent.

32 Non veni vocare iustos sed peccatores in paenitentiam”.

33 Οἱ δὲ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰκαὶ δεήσεις ποιοῦνται, ὁμοίως καὶ οἱ τῶν Φαρισαίων, οἱ δὲ σοὶ ἐσθίουσιν καὶ πίνουσιν.

They said to him, “The disciples of John fast frequently (and) they make prayers, just as the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”

Here I think is where we come upon one of the fundamental reasons why Jesus stands at the beginning of a novel tradition, while John stands in the midst of an older one that continued. This goes back to the so-called Synod of Jerusalem, when Paul and James the Just duked it out over the Jewish dietary (and other such) practices; the most notable, of course, was circumcision. And here we have what is essentially a dispute, or at least a bit of a contention, or something like an uneasiness about this. But make no mistake–this is completely an ex-post-facto insertion from a time long after Jesus was dead. We’ve discussed this; there are points in 2M where Jesus declares positively that no animal is unclean, and Peter has a dream in Acts to confirm this. Nonsense. The questions raised by the “Synod of Jerusalem” would never have been an issue if Jesus, or even Peter, had said this. That Paul admits having a disagreement with James on this topic is all the evidence that we need to know that Jesus made no such proclamation. And this question about the difference between Jesus and John’s disciples is more of the same debate, or the debate put in another format. John’s disciples stood firmly in the ancient Jewish traditions; they are just like the Pharisees, after all. The disciples of Jesus, OTOH, had started down a different path. So we get this little exchange to give pre-emptive sanction to the change of behaviour of Jesus’ later followers. Yes, they were Jews, or at least claiming the ancient heritage of Judaism, but they did not practice the whole of the Law. Galatians explained why.

33 At illi dixerunt ad eum: “Discipuli Ioannis ieiunant frequenter et obsecrationes faciunt, similiter et pharisaeorum; tui autem edunt et bibunt”.

34 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μὴ δύνασθε τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἐν ᾧ ὁ νυμφίος μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν ποιῆσαι νηστεῦσαι;

35 ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι, καὶ ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὁ νυμφίος τότε νηστεύσουσιν ἐνἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις.

36 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα ἀπὸ ἱματίου καινοῦ σχίσας ἐπιβάλλει ἐπὶ ἱμάτιον παλαιόν: εἰ δὲ μή γε, καὶ τὸ καινὸν σχίσει καὶ τῷ παλαιῷ οὐ συμφωνήσει τὸ ἐπίβλημα τὸ ἀπὸ τοῦ καινοῦ.

Jesus said to them, “Are the sons of the bridegroom able in which (time) them the bridegroom is with them to make a fast? (35) The days will come, and when taken away from them is the bridegroom, then they will fast in those days. (36) They say the analogy towards them that ‘No one coverings of new cloth puts upon tears in an old garment; if so, will not the new tear and from the old the new covering will not agree the with the new.”

That’s some pretty gnarly grammar there. For whatever reason, I’m back on the hyper-literal kick; but this passage is so well known that there’s likely to be no harm. The word I’ve rendered as “tear”, as in “rip/rend” transliterates to “schizo”. Added to the word for mind, “phrenia”, we get a modern psychological diagnosis. And the concept of the “sons of the bridegroom” is really interesting. Not really sure what that might mean, or can mean. And the word used is “son”; it’s not “pais”, which could be “boy”, as in the sense of “servant”. It is almost always and exclusively used as “son”, as in biological progeny. So, at best, this seems to be something of a mixed metaphor. Finally, the word rendered as “analogy” transliterates to “parabolē”. It’s the root of both “parabola” and “parable”. To this point, I’ve usually given it as parable, but every once in a while it’s good to mix it up and remind everyone that “parable” is another of those words that have come to us from the Greek with a very specific, very religious meaning attached to it. That was not the case back then. And here is the danger of “New Testament Greek”; it’s too much of a closed, self-referential, and even circular set of definitions. This really, very much distorts the way we read the text if we think that “baptizo” has the special meaning that has for us. The same is true for “parable”. This was not a special word.

More interesting is that the prediction of the day to come when those sons will fast seems to contradict what went before it. We just had our bit about Jesus standing outside the Jewish tradition, but now his later followers will step back into it? I don’t think we need to read too much into this. Fasting was a fairly common religious practice. It still is, for that matter. This seems to imply that Jesus and his followers are not so far off the beaten path after all. (*See comment to next verse.)

34 Quibus Iesus ait: “ Numquid potestis convivas nuptiarum, dum cum illis est sponsus, facere ieiunare?

35 Venient autem dies; et cum ablatus fuerit ab illis sponsus, tunc ieiunabunt in illis diebus ”.

36 Dicebat autem et similitudinem ad illos: “ Nemo abscindit commissuram a vestimento novo et immittit in vestimentum vetus; alioquin et novum rumpet, et veteri non conveniet commissura a novo.

37 καὶ οὐδεὶς βάλλει οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ῥήξει ὁ οἶνος ὁ νέος τοὺς ἀσκούς, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐκχυθήσεται καὶ οἱ ἀσκοὶ ἀπολοῦνται:

38 ἀλλὰ οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινοὺς βλητέον.

39 [καὶ] οὐδεὶς πιὼν παλαιὸν θέλει νέον: λέγει γάρ, Ὁ παλαιὸς χρηστός ἐστιν.

“And no one throws new wine into old skins. Indeed if it were not, the new wine would burst the old (skins), and they would spill out and the skins will be destroyed. (38) But new wine is put in new skins. (39) [And] no one drinking old wishes new. For it is said, ‘the old is good’.”

The last sentence of the last verse is unique to Luke. He added this to the text that was available to him in Mark (and Matthew, if you believe me about Q). Not sure if you can see it, but there’s also a bit of a pun involved. The word “good” is “chrestos”, which is obviously darn close to “christos”. In fact, in the Life of Nero by Suetonius, the followers of “chrestos” are blamed by the emperor for the fire of Rome in 64. I’m not sure where the misunderstanding came from; whether it was Suetonius specifically who didn’t get it, or if the upper (as in literate) classes in Rome as a whole were unclear on what Jesus’ followers called him. Was Luke possibly aware of this lack of understanding and tossed this in here as sort of a barb directed at those ignorant Romans?

The other aspect to this is that ‘the old is good’ is the reason why the followers of Jesus insisted on maintaining that connexion to Judaism. As such, perhaps this explains why the sons of the bridegroom* will fast again one day, as we heard in the previous passage above. Luke, as well as Mark and Matthew before him, understood that being old meant being venerated, while being new meant being scorned. After all, the Latin term for political revolution is “res novae”; literally, “new things”. It was not a term of endearment. So Luke took the message of 2M before him and amplified it by adding this little tag line at the end of the section, to let us know that the connexion existed, and that the christos was chrestos, and was chrestos, to some degree, because he was old. Or, his teachings were old. That gave him stature.

So Luke is very clever in the way that he did this. This style is very not-Mark, the terse journalist. And it’s not Matthew, either who was…whatever. Not sure how to summarize him. Luke is easy; he’s eloquent. 

37 Et nemo mittit vinum novum in utres veteres; alioquin rumpet vinum novum utres et ipsum effundetur, et utres peribunt;

38 sed vinum novum in utres novos mittendum est.

39 Et nemo bibens vetus vult novum; dicit enim: “Vetus melius est!” ”.