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Luke Chapter 19:28-40

That leads us into the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, now referred to as Palm Sunday. There are still five chapters left after this one, so I suppose I’m a bit surprised that it’s come up to this already. But the chapters of Luke tend not to be as long as they are in Matthew, or even some of those in Mark. What does this mean? Not sure. Perhaps nothing. So, since a long introduction to set the scene does not seem necessary, let’s get right on to the


28 Καὶ εἰπὼν ταῦτα ἐπορεύετο ἔμπροσθεν ἀναβαίνων εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα.

29 Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤγγισεν εἰς Βηθφαγὴ καὶ Βηθανία[ν] πρὸς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Ἐλαιῶν, ἀπέστειλεν δύο τῶν μαθητῶν

30 λέγων, Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν κατέναντι κώμην, ἐν ἧ εἰσπορευόμενοι εὑρήσετε πῶλον δεδεμένον, ἐφ’ ὃν οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἀνθρώπων ἐκάθισεν, καὶ λύσαντες αὐτὸν ἀγάγετε.

31 καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμᾶς ἐρωτᾷ, Διὰ τί λύετε; οὕτως ἐρεῖτε ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει.

32 ἀπελθόντες δὲ οἱ ἀπεσταλμένοι εὗρον καθὼς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς.

33 λυόντων δὲ αὐτῶν τὸν πῶλον εἶπαν οἱ κύριοι αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτούς, Τί λύετε τὸν πῶλον;

34 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει.

And having said these things, they came forward, climbing up to Jerusalem.

 The famous book by Xenophon, in which he describes the progress of the 10,000 Greek mercenaries upcountry to the Black Sea and back to Greece is the Anabasis. Here we have anabaino. Same verb, different tense.

(35) And it happened as they approached Bethpaige and Bethany, towards the mountain called Olives, he sent to of his disciples (30), saying “Go into the neighboring village in which we are entering, (and) you will find a colt tied up, upon which no one of men ever before has sat on, and loosening him lead him. (31) And if someone asks, ‘Why do you loosen (him)?’, answer thus: ‘The Lord has need of him’. (32) And those sent going forth they found (the situation) according to what he had told them. (33) They having loosed the colt, the lord (=owner) of it (the colt) said to them, “Why do you loose the colt?” (34) And they replied, “The lord has need of him.” 

OK. We discussed this at least once before, in conjunction with this story in either Mark or Matthew, or possibly both. The scene is described the way it is to give the reader the impression that Jesus was prescient, that he knew the colt was there because he knew everything. So he could describe the circumstances, could provide direction, and could predict the reaction of the owner of the colt. My suggestion is that Jesus made prior arrangements with the owner of the colt, and “The lord has need of him” was the code, the signal that they were the emissaries of Jesus, and the owner should comply as arranged. Then, once the disciples were asked the leading question, they replied in the prearranged signal and everything was copacetic. I will suggest pretty much the same thing when it comes time to arrange the Seder on Thursday evening.

As for the “colt”. The Greek word is ambiguous. It refers to a young member of the equine family. It could be the offspring of either a horse or a donkey. Of course, Jesus is always portrayed as riding a donkey. The intervening centuries, in which a gentleman is known in France as a chevalier, or in Spain as a caballero, or the group below the Senatorial class in Rome were known as equites, we have a certain snobbery about donkeys. The three words all refer to someone who owns a horse; that is, he has the wealth to maintain at least one horse. For those of you who don’t know, even today horses are very expensive animals to own and maintain. A lot of people in my social class who own horses make work-arrangements at a barn to reduce the cost of boarding the horse. A horse, in short, was a status symbol, even among the Romans. The equites are often referred to in English as knights; this is both accurate and not accurate. Like the equites, knights attained their status as knights by being able to own a horse. In fact, owing a horse was pretty much a sine qua non for being a knight. Given these centuries of snobbery about horse ownership, we see Jesus riding a donkey as a sign of humility. Well, maybe not. Donkeys are much less expensive than horses, and they are much hardier creatures, able to survive on a lower-level regimen of vegetation. They are better suited to stony, hilly terrain; the friars, the peons in Mexico owned burros, which are donkeys. Judea was not a terribly lush or fertile land, and even to own a donkey was a bit of a status symbol. In fact, Saul and David, kings, rode donkeys. That they were fictional underscores the prestige of a donkey. I mean, if you’re making up a glorious monarchy, why have them ride donkeys, and not horses? So the point is, Jesus riding a donkey, riding anything, is an indication of status and not humility. As for the part about never having been ridden, I suspect this adds to the prestige. So Jesus riding on this donkey, never before ridden, did not present an image of a humble individual.

28 Et his dictis, praecedebat ascendens Hierosolymam.

29 Et factum est, cum appropinquasset ad Bethfage et Bethaniam, ad montem, qui vocatur Oliveti, misit duos discipulos 

30 dicens: “Ite in castellum, quod contra est, in quod introeuntes invenietis pullum asinae alligatum, cui nemo umquam hominum sedit; solvite illum et adducite. 

31 Et si quis vos interrogaverit: “Quare solvitis?”, sic dicetis: “Dominus eum necessarium habet’ ”. 

32 Abierunt autem, qui missi erant, et invenerunt, sicut dixit illis. 

33 Solventibus autem illis pullum, dixerunt domini eius ad illos: “Quid solvitis pullum?”. 

34 At illi dixerunt: “Dominus eum necessarium habet”. 

35 καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἐπιρίψαντες αὐτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια ἐπὶ τὸν πῶλον ἐπεβίβασαν τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

36 πορευομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ὑπεστρώννυοντὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.

37 Ἐγγίζοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἤδη πρὸς τῇ καταβάσει τοῦ Ὄρους τῶν Ἐλαιῶν ἤρξαντοἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν χαίροντες αἰνεῖν τὸν θεὸν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ περὶ πασῶν ὧν εἶδον δυνάμεων,

38 λέγοντες, Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου: ἐν οὐρανῷ εἰρήνη καὶ δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις.

39 καί τινες τῶν Φαρισαίων ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε, ἐπιτίμησον τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου.

40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν οὗτοι σιωπήσουσιν, οἱ λίθοι κράξουσιν. 

And they led him to Jesus. And and casting their outer garments upon the colt, Jesus mounted it. (36) He proceeding forward, they spread their outer garments on the road. (37) He drawing nigh to the descent fro the Mount of Olives, the crowd of his disciples began rejoicing to praise God in a loud voice about which all knew, (38) saying, “Well-spoken of is the king coming in the name of the lord; in the sky (be) peace and glory to (those) the most high”. (39) And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your learners.” (40) And answering he said, “I tell you, if they became silent, the stones would shout.” 

Anyone notice anything missing? This is the story of Palm Sunday; so where are the palm branches? Also, the crowd does not shout “Hosanna”. On the whole, however, the three versions of this story that we’ve heard are very close in a lot of details. Matthew had the disciples bringing both a donkey and its (presumably) colt. And Matthew does state that the donkey was a symbol of humility since it was a beast of burden; however, Matthew conveys this to us in the guise of yet another prophecy to be fulfilled. I did some checking, and the quote Matthew delivered in this situation is a mash-up of a quatrain of Isaiah preceding four lines from Zechariah. This latter is very interesting, since these are the lines that contain the reference to the humility of the donkey. Zechariah is one of the last books of the HS; as such, the thoughts expressed about the relative humility of the donkey could have /would have been rather different from attitudes of a few centuries earlier. Riding horses, it turns out, is a fairly recent invention, due to factors that included the size of horses, the difficulty of training them to accept a rider, things like bits, reins, and saddles (note: stirrups appear to have been invented in China sometime in the 4-5th Century CE. They did not reach the west until sometime between the rule of Charles Martel and his grandson, Charlemagne.) Even the Assyrian Empire, the one that ended the independent existence of Israel, did not have a cavalry. The Persians, however, did. When Darius sent an expedition to invade Athens in 490, Herodotus goes to great lengths to describe the horse-transport ships that the Great King constructed especially for the occasion, because the cavalry was an important arm of the Persian army. Before that, an equid being ridden was likely a donkey, or an ass, or an onager, or perhaps a mule, but not a horse. So, back in the day, even kings rode donkeys. As a result, Zechariah, living a few centuries after the onset of cavalry, would have considered riding a donkey a sign of humility. Isaiah, who was pre-Persian Empire, perhaps not. 

The procession itself deserves a few words, even if we’re repeating things said about the previous versions. As with Mark, this procession seems to be composed almost entirely of Jesus’ followers. This was not the adulation of the great mass of the people of Jerusalem that it has come to be viewed. The scene in Jesus Christ Superstar has Simon Zealotes telling Jesus that there must be over 50,000 people “screaming love and more for you”. We really don’t get that impression from the description in any of the gospels we’ve read so far. A procession is, IMO, a far better description. Jesus is surrounded by his followers, who may be numerous, perhaps 100-200 people, but not much beyond that. That would be enough to annoy the Pharisees, but it would hardly constitute a mob. And even the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisee indicates a fairly modest crowd; how else could they have the exchange if the procession was more of a parade with vast numbers of people shouting? Here is an insight I’m reasonably sure you’ve never heard before. First of all, we need to work from the assumption that the whole episode is pure fiction. It was concocted to give credence to the idea that Jesus was killed because of his teaching. The Passion Narrative is great drama; it impressed the hell out of me even as a kid. In both Catholic and Episcopalian (High-ish Church, anyway) worship, the Passion is read on Palm Sunday and, IIRC, on Good Friday. As a kid, I loved hearing the whole thing. And that’s the point: it’s great drama. The proof that Jesus wasn’t killed because of his teaching is given by the fact that James, brother of Jesus, continued to lead the sect for two or three decades after Jesus was killed. Had Jesus been any kind of threat to any of the prevailing powers, James, Peter, and several dozen–or more–other followers would have been rounded up and executed along with him. Tacitus describes the vast number Christians rounded up and executed by Nero as a point of comparison. That didn’t happen with Peter and James, apparently. So anyway, within this made-up episode we have an exchange that would be difficult to pull off even in the circumstances of a crowd of a couple of hundred people. Think about the last time you were in a crowd of that size that is excited and animated. Communication is reduced to shouting. Yes, Jesus and the Pharisee could perhaps have shouted the exchange at each other, but the implausible factors are adding up. The point is that we have here a great display of why the gospels are not to be taken seriously as history. They are not. The exchange is True; it is not factually accurate. All of this is True. It’s Revealed Truth. It is not, and was never meant to be taken as factually accurate.

35 Et duxerunt illum ad Iesum; et iactantes vestimenta sua supra pullum, imposuerunt Iesum. 

36 Eunte autem illo, substernebant vestimenta sua in via. 

37 Et cum appropinquaret iam ad descensum montis Oliveti, coeperunt omnis multitudo discipulorum gaudentes laudare Deum voce magna super omnibus, quas viderant, virtutibus 

38 dicentes: “Benedictus, qui venit rex in nomine Domini! / Pax in caelo, et gloria in excelsis!”.

39 Et quidam pharisaeorum de turbis dixerunt ad illum: “ Magister, increpa discipulos tuos! ”. 

40 Et respondens dixit: “Dico vobis: Si hi tacuerint, lapides clamabunt! “.

Luke Chapter 19:11

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I did not set out with the intention of doing an entire post on a single verse. In fact, this was meant to go straight through to Verse 27; however, the comment on Verse 11 grew to the point that splitting it off seemed to be a wise move. I will include it with the next post as well, just for the sake of continuity.

So with that as a means of a (brief) introduction, let’s get to the


11 Ἀκουόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι Ἰερουσαλὴμ αὐτὸν καὶ δοκεῖν αὐτοὺς ὅτι παραχρῆμα μέλλει ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναφαίνεσθαι.

They having heard these things he spoke an added parable, on account (of) being near to Jerusalem and it seemed to them that the kingdom of God was to be immediately apparent.

So after saying how a lot of commentary shouldn’t be required, immediately at the start we run into a really interesting statement and so we have to break for a comment. “For it seemed to them that the Kingdom of God was to be immediately apparent“. We can infer that those who heard these things were his immediate followers, those traveling with him. To refresh memories, this comes immediately after Jesus had said that salvation had come to the house of Zaccheus. The question then becomes, “why did they think that the Kingdom was to be immediately apparent?” Are we to assume it was related to the incident with Zaccheus? If it’s not thus connected, then what? Here’s something to bear in mind.

Luke is the first evangelist who had knowledge of Paul; at least, that is true if indeed Luke/Acts are from the same author. If we go back to some of Paul’s epistles, we should recall that in some of these, Paul was fully expecting the kingdom any day, or even at any hour. Did Luke infer that the early disciples felt that way as well? If Paul felt that way, why wouldn’t the original followers have shared that sense of imminence? Is that what we have here? Luke channeling Paul? Intriguing as I find the thought, it seems unlikely, but then why? To some degree it’s a question of how conscious Luke was when he wrote this. My first thought was that Luke may have gotten carried away, After reading Paul and the other two gospels, he may have drifted into authorial omniscience, where the writer knows what is happening and makes unsupported statements under the unquestioned assumption that the statement is simply self-evident, and so requires no explanation. I followed this line of argument for a fair distance down the rabbit-hole before realizing that the evidence was barely persuasive, let alone conclusive.

So what, then?

The aspect that most strikes me is the way that this sentence, or at least the second clause, sort of sticks our like the proverbial sore thumb. This is the part beginning with <<διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι>>, which I rendered as “on account of being near…” Then I looked at the grammar of the whole a bit more closely. “They having heard this” is a genitive absolute*, usually used to set up the circumstances while remaining more or less independent of the grammar of the rest of the sentence. That is, it can be removed without affecting how the remainder of the sentence operates. In this case, these are plural participles; hence translating as “they”. But “he” spoke the parable. The grammatical implication is that Jesus did this to some degree because “they”, presumably his followers, had done this hearing. Jesus speaking is a consequence, or even an effect of them hearing. But his decision to speak is also depending upon the proximity to Jerusalem. The preposition very clearly indicates a causal connexion; Jesus spoke specifically on account of, or due to the proximity to Jerusalem. The verb “to be” is an infinitive, which means there is no distinction to number, it’s neither singular nor plural; in English we would use a participle, “due to being near…” making it a statement of general conditions. But he also spoke because it seemed to them that the kingdom was approaching, so we’re back to the mental state of the followers. In short, the last part of this sentence is a bit of a jumble.

The conclusion I draw from this is that, at least, the last part of the sentence is a marginal gloss that became incorporated into the body of the text. That is, it was a note that someone scribbled in the margin of the manuscript as an explanatory note to himself, or to other readers that some subsequent scribe, perhaps copying a manuscript he could not read all that well, took the note to be an integral part of the text. I don’t offer this suggestion lightly, but perhaps I am not to be taken too seriously on this point. Arguing about the incorporation of glosses requires a degree of knowledge of Greek that is beyond mine. I can provide my general impression of the text, and how it seems to me that this is likely a gloss, but I cannot construct a truly persuasive argument. Bear in mind, however, that I have encountered this many times with Classical/pagan authors, so I am not completely unfamiliar with how this works. Bear in mind also that the incorporation of glosses does occur. In fact, I recently (within the last 5-10 years) read that the discovery of an early fragment of Isaiah showed that several sentences had been added to the text, likely as the result of a marginal gloss becoming incorporated into the body of the text. So it was much more than a random sentence like we have here. So this does happen, even with biblical texts. And at the risk of offending, it seems to me that biblical scholarship is much less likely to raise the question of incorporated glosses than academics working on pagan texts. This has been my criticism of biblical scholarship for some time: since most of them come from a theological/divinity background, the critical thinking has been blunted overmuch. This is how we got Q, after all. Too few people are willing to grasp the nettle and argue that Q is completely unsubstantiated.

So we have the assessment of a later copier who believes that it seems to the followers of Jesus that the kingdom is becoming apparent. Now let’s stop and ask how this fits in with other parts of the gospel. Recall that back in Chapter 17, not that long ago, Jesus told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is among/within you. Do these two statements contradict each other? Or, if they aren’t explicitly contradictory in the sense of being mutually exclusive, do they tell a consistent story? Or, perhaps more accurately, do they describe a consistent theology? On the face of it, I would say not. Yes, there are ways to square the circle, and to take the specific words in figurative ways so that they do not actually say what they seem to say at first glance. And there is nothing wrong with doing this, I have no quarrel about doing this. In fact, I advocate taking the words as symbolic, referring to a Truth that is not necessarily factually accurate. But let’s ask what those hearing the message as preached by Luke & his brethren would think, how they would take what was said. If this gospel were being read, hearing several chapters in one sitting would hardly be a stretch. So it’s entirely conceivable that people could have heard “the kingdom is within/among you” and “it seemed to them that the kingdom was imminent” within the space of an hour or so. How would this have struck our hypothetical listener?

That is an interesting question. I suspect it would be confusing, because I find it a tad confusing; however, I’m looking at it from a theological point of view, and I’m expecting a consistent message. The relatively close juxtaposition does make very clear the extent to which what became Christian theology was created on a very ad hoc basis. No one sat down and explained this theology only after having thought this through and worked to create a consistent message based on a consistent view of what the term “Kingdom of God/the heavens/heaven” meant. No one came up with that definition and then crafted a text to explain that definition in clear, non-ambiguous language. Prior to starting this blog, I had sort of done some semi-casual, semi-serious reading of the NT, and had sort of tried to work through what it actually said. This proved to be a very unsatisfying exercise, and it is one of the primary reasons I undertook this undertaking of translating and commenting on the NT; the underlying purpose was to figure out just exactly what the thing says. And the farther I’ve gone, the more I realize that my initial impression was accurate: it is confusing, it is inconsistent, and it says a lot of different things at a lot of different times. This gives me a new appreciation for what specifically became the Roman Church, because I have a better appreciation of what Augustine and the rest were up against when they had to refute ideas that became deemed heretical. In fact, they had to invent that term. It also explains why the Roman Church has never been super keen on just anyone reading the Bible, which, in turn, helps explain why they resisted having the Bible translated into vernacular language. If it were left in Latin, a lot of people could not read it, and that was considered a good thing. Otherwise, letting just anyone read the darn thing could–and did–lead to a lot of people getting a lot of different ideas. By keeping a monopoly on Scripture, the Roman Church, and the Roman Church alone, could decide what it said. That way, you didn’t get people reading Mark’s Chapter 1 and deciding that Jesus was Adopted at that point. Nor did you get people reading Luke 19:9 and deciding that we can merit our salvation. 


*Latin does the same thing, but the case used is the ablative rather than the genitive. In fact, the ablative absolute is a fundamental aspect of Latin grammar & rhetoric. Below it comes to <<illis audientibus>>, “they having heard“. As an aside, of the Indo-European languages I’ve studied (a list limited to Greek, Latin, and the rudiments of German), Latin is the only one to have an ablative case. I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve never attempted to research this question.

11 Haec autem illis audientibus, adiciens dixit parabolam, eo quod esset prope Ierusalem, et illi existimarent quod confestim regnum Dei manifestaretur. 

Luke Chapter 18:31-43

We just came from a couple of scenes in which Jesus preached about humility and salvation. The material in this verse represents a break from that narrative line. The first part of the chapter sort of held together thematically, but here we run into a discontinuity of sorts. As far as context, of time and location, there is no real bond between any of the topics; perhaps the story of the Judge and the Pharisee & Publican are sort of a unit, but that is not necessarily so. And the story of the rich man going away sad sort of segues into the last section where Jesus promises a reward to those who follow him.


31 Παραλαβὼν δὲ τοὺς δώδεκα εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Ἰδοὺ ἀναβαίνομεν εἰςἸερουσαλήμ, καὶ τελεσθήσεται πάντα τὰ γεγραμμένα διὰ τῶν προφητῶν τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

32 παραδοθήσεται γὰρ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν καὶ ἐμπαιχθήσεται καὶ ὑβρισθήσεται καὶ ἐμπτυσθήσεται,

33 καὶ μαστιγώσαντες ἀποκτενοῦσιν αὐτόν, καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ ἀναστήσεται.

34 καὶ αὐτοὶ οὐδὲν τούτων συνῆκαν, καὶ ἦν τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο κεκρυμμένον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν, καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκον τὰ λεγόμενα.

Taking beside himself the twelve he said to them, “Look, we’re going to Jerusalem, and all things written according to the prophets will be completed/fulfilled by the son of man. (32) For he will be handed over to the peoples and mocked and despised and spat upon. (33) And scourging they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise. (34) And they will not understand, and this writing/these words will be hidden from them, and they will not know the things having been said. 

Written according to the prophets: Can anyone explain or enumerate exactly to which writings Jesus is referring? We are told this frequently, but I have never run across the texts or citations. I’ve found vague references to the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, but not much beyond that. So I ask that as a legitimate question.

The Greek word for “to spit” is “ptuō.” Say it out loud. A bit of onomatopoeia– which is a tough word to spell. Greek, for “making a name” or something such.

Three points are to be made of this. First, we have the prediction that Jesus will suffer. Second, we have the assurance that this suffering was itself predicted by the HS. This is very important because it gives Jesus a pedigree. He is not a novelty or a new thing; he is the fulfillment of a prophecy made long ago. I’ve said this many times, but having an ancient lineage was how one acquired or maintained credibility in the ancient world. So this is why the evangelists kept harping the fulfillment of them. And this is Luke, so we get the Road to Emmaus scene after the Resurrection. Of course, there again we will be told that Jesus explained all of the parts of the HS that foretold Jesus, but once again we are never really told what they are. Apparently many or most of the references to messengers (angels; the Hebrew word behind angels apparently also means messenger), and there are other places where Jesus is to be substituted for whomever is the subject of the text. He’s the voice in the burning bush, the one who redeemed Israel by leading them out of Egypt, he’s the ram that God provided to Abraham so that he doesn’t have to sacrifice Isaac AND the voice telling Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac. So there you have it. I’m sure many of you can supply a whole bunch of other such foreshadowings. Obviously, there is a lot of retrograde justification and interpretation occurring in these cites. My heathen reading of this is that the evangelists and Paul told us about these foretellings, but had not entirely worked out the particulars. Otherwise, would they not have been a little more specific?

Epiphany. Think back to the birth narrative of Matthew; he set Jesus’ home town as Nazareth, “so he would be called a Nazarene”. He tells the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents to insert the prediction of weeping in Ramallah, and then sends Jesus to Egypt to fulfill the prophecy that “I called my son out of Egypt”. So we have Matthew specifically starting this process of interpretation. And we have Matthew pretty much fabricating events to make the “predictions” come true. The Slaughter of the Innocents is not attested anywhere else. Josephus is completely silent on this, which is significant because Josephus is not a fan of Herod the Great. In fact, Josephus seems to derive great pleasure in describing the diseased nature of Herod’s body as he aged. The implication, if he doesn’t flatly state this, is that this physical corruption of Herod’s flesh was retribution for Herod’s many, many sins that Josephus recounts in tedious detail and enumeration. It beggars belief to think that Josephus would omit something as heinous as the Slaughter of the Innocents. And this is not the sort of thing that would be forgotten. The murder of all of the males born in Galilee in a two year period is not something that would have been forgotten, or overlooked, or shrugged off. Given this, we have to believe it did not happen. The implication of this is Matthew concocted the event, and then used it as the basis for his use of the quotes about Ramallah and the son being called from Egypt.

Luke was not averse to making up stuff. He came up with the whole census story. There was a census while Augustus was emperor, but the idea that everyone had to travel back to the land of their ancestors is simply not credible. Such journeys could have taken years and would have thoroughly disrupted the economic life of the empire, and no civic official of any kind would cripple the collection of taxes by having people moving all over the Mediterranean. Besides, while we know of the census, no one else even suggests something like the widespread disruption of everyday life that would have occurred under such circumstances. But note the big difference in the way the invented histories are used: Luke does not use his fabrication to introduce speciously interpreted quotes from the HS to demonstrate the foreshadowing of Jesus. What does this imply? It would be easy to say simply that there are no implications. There is no reason why inferences should necessarily be drawn from this difference in approach. But is it so simple? 

As with everything else, we need to look at this in terms of Q. Why? Because Q is such a fundamentally important concept for NT studies. The existence of Q–or, rather, the non-existence of Q would change everything about the way we look at the NT. And I mean everything. Without Q, we have to question whether Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount or said the Lord’s Prayer. As such, we cannot simply accept its existence based on no real evidence and bad suppositions. This is the basic difference that I see between the way Classicists approach their texts and the way NT scholars (or perhaps biblical scholars in general) approach theirs. The former do all they can to wring out every possible implication from the words we have. Thus, a Classicist would ask the question: why does Matthew provide examples of the prophecies while Luke mentions them, but does not provide examples? This is surely an important question, especially as it pertains to the question of whether Luke was aware of Matthew. For Mark rather vaguely hints a couple of times about things having been written; the most of explicit of these is the passage in Isaiah used in conjunction with John the Dunker. It would seem that Matthew spent a lot of time doing his research into the HS to uncover– or interpret– passages that could be taken to refer to Jesus, even if this meant more than a little stretching of definitions.

Luke, I would argue, rather falls somewhere in between. He states that prophecies have been made which are specifically about the Son of Man. He states that the prophecies will be/have been fulfilled; the verb tense depends on whether we are present with Jesus as he supposedly uttered them, or with Luke as he writes about the events afterward. So the question with Luke is whether it’s more credible that he is extending Mark or shorting Matthew. By this I mean Luke more or less follows Mark’s lead with allusions that are not made specific, or is he following Matthew by stating the existence of numerous specific examples, which he does not provide. Why not? Because he knows that the acolyte can read these in Matthew’s gospel. Once again, Luke chooses not to repeat Matthew because there is no point. That would seem to be one choice, the other being that Luke does not provide the quotes because he does not know what they are. Which of those is more likely?

We’ll follow up on this in the chapter summary.

31 Assumpsit autem Duodecim et ait illis: “ Ecce ascendimus Ierusalem, et consummabuntur omnia, quae scripta sunt per Prophetas de Filio hominis: 

32 “tradetur enim gentibus et illudetur et contumeliis afficietur et conspuetur; 

33 “et, postquam flagellaverint, occident eum, et die tertia resurget”. 

34 Et ipsi nihil horum intellexerunt; et erat verbum istud absconditum ab eis, et non intellegebant, quae dicebantur.

35 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν αὐτὸν εἰς Ἰεριχὼ τυφλός τις ἐκάθητο παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἐπαιτῶν.

36 ἀκούσας δὲ ὄχλου διαπορευομένου ἐπυνθάνετο τί εἴη τοῦτο:

37 ἀπήγγειλαν δὲ αὐτῷ ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος παρέρχεται.

38 καὶ ἐβόησεν λέγων, Ἰησοῦ, υἱὲ Δαυίδ, ἐλέησόν με.

39 καὶ οἱ προάγοντες ἐπετίμων αὐτῷ ἵνα σιγήσῃ: αὐτὸς δὲ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἔκραζεν, Υἱὲ Δαυίδ, ἐλέησόν με.

40 σταθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ἀχθῆναι πρὸς αὐτόν. ἐγγίσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτόν,

41 Τί σοι θέλεις ποιήσω; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, ἵνα ἀναβλέψω.

42 καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀνάβλεψον: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.

43 καὶ παραχρῆμα ἀνέβλεψεν, καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ δοξάζων τὸν θεόν. καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἰδὼν ἔδωκεν αἶνον τῷ θεῷ. 

It happened in his approach to Jericho that a certain blind man sat by the side of the road begging. (36) Hearing the crowd approaching he asked who it was. (37) It was announced to him that Jesus of Nazareth was approaching. (38) And he shouted saying, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” (39) And those proceeding before rebuked him so that he would be quiet, but he cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me”. (40) Standing, Jesus called out to him (the blind man) to approach him (Jesus). To him (the blind man) approaching, he (Jesus) asked him (the blind man), (41) “What do you wish I will do for you?” He (the blind man) replied, “Lord, in order that I will recover my sight”. (42) And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight. Your faith has saved you/made you whole.” (43) And immediately he recovered his sight, and followed him (Jesus) praising God. And all the people seeing (this) gave praise to God.

For anyone familiar with the Latin mass, “have mercy on me” would translate to eleison. Then, in Verse 41, we get kyrie. Put them together in reverse order and you get kyrie eleison. This is the opening prayer of all the Catholic and some forms of the High-Church Episcopalian masses. The version which opens Bach’s B-Minor Mass is breathtaking. My younger daughter, age 13, was in the Royal School of Church Music program at our Episcopal Church and over her six years they sang a number of versions of the Kyrie, but never this one. She was duly impressed, and knew which line she would have sung based on her vocal range (mezzo). I own the John Elliott Gardner version, but this one is pretty good, too. (continued below) 

Anyway, both parts of this particular section are part of the Triple Tradition. Of course, this did not prevent me getting into the Q debate, but I believe the point is relevant. More on that later. In both sections, Luke’s version is shorter than Mark’s, but longer than Matthew’s. In both cases, Luke puts back a couple of details that Matthew omitted. This pattern exists throughout the NT, another example being the story of the Gerasene Demonaic. It should also be noted that this pattern is complemented by Luke providing a shorter version when both Mark and Matthew present a full version. A great example of this is the Death of John the Baptist. Both Mark and Matthew go on at some length, while Luke clocks in at a half-dozen or so verses. He doesn’t so much as mention Herodias’ name. These are the sorts of things that have to be looked at if we are to have a legitimate discussion about Q. 


35 Factum est autem, cum appropinquaret Iericho, caecus quidam sedebat secus viam mendicans. 

36 Et cum audiret turbam praetereuntem, interrogabat quid hoc esset. 

37 Dixerunt autem ei: “ Iesus Nazarenus transit ”. 

38 Et clamavit dicens: “ Iesu, fili David, miserere mei! ”. 

39 Et qui praeibant, increpabant eum, ut taceret; ipse vero multo magis clamabat: “ Fili David, miserere mei! ”. 

40 Stans autem Iesus iussit illum adduci ad se. Et cum appropinquasset, interrogavit illum: 

41 “Quid tibi vis faciam? ”. At ille dixit: “Domine, ut videam”. 

42 Et Iesus dixit illi: “ Respice! Fides tua te salvum fecit ”. 43 Et confestim vidit et sequebatur illum magnificans Deum. Et omnis plebs, ut vidit, dedit laudem Deo.

Luke Chapter 18:15-30 with Addendum

We have not been told that the place or circumstances have changed since the beginning of Chapter 17. As mentioned in the last section, it seems that Luke is not terribly concerned with such. This could be taken to indicate that he’s not trying to write a biography or create any sort of historical context; instead, he’s putting down what he wants us to think that Jesus said. That is an interesting statement, if one considers it. We could take this as a hint that “sayings gospels” like the so-called Q or the Gospel of Thomas were not early; instead, they came later. The whole Q/Thomas thing is a glaring exercise of circular reasoning, which is the correct use of the expression “begging the question”. How do we know that Thomas is early? Because it resembles Q in form. How do we know that Q existed? Because Thomas proves the early existence of sayings gospels. Collections of teachings of the sort that we find in Thomas were not a common feature in ancient writings. The more or less contemporary Plutarch wrote Lives of Noble Greeks And Romans, quasi-biographies that were intended to impart the wisdom and the example of noble Greeks and Romans. They were meant as exempla, examples. A closer parallel may be Diogenes Laertius, who wrote biographies and recorded the the teachings of prominent philosophers and renowned sages, but even this included biography, and he did not write his magnum opus until after 200 CE. Rather, it would seem that Thomas deliberately stripped out the biographical information in the gospels and recorded only what they regarded as the true the teachings of Jesus.

So we can– indeed we have to– assume that Luke intended this next section to be a continuation of the teaching session that Jesus began at the opening of Chapter 17. As such, we have no idea where we are, nor to whom Jesus is speaking. So, as we’re left wondering about such details, let’s get on to the


15 Προσέφερον δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ τὰ βρέφη ἵνα αὐτῶν ἅπτηται: ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμων αὐτοῖς.

They carried to him also the babies in the womb (children; babies) so that he might touch them. Seeing, his learners castigated them.    

This is interesting. According to the NT Lexicon I use at website, Jesus lit the children on fire. That seemed a bit strange so I checked the Latin. The verb is to touch. My curiosity piqued, the handy-dandy Liddell & Scott. Lo and behold, the word used means to touch (among other things, including to lay hands upon, and the cites are Classical authors.) Once again, the NT Lexicon fails. Unless the word I’m checking is very common, like “goat”, I almost always use the L&S. Had a debate about this on another site with someone advocating the NT lexica, but I find that these are too often self-referential. Also, the word used here for children actually means babies in the womb. There are no cites of it meaning children anywhere. Oddly, this reference is not in the L&S, even though peculiar Christian uses of a word are cited. After all, it was the Reverent Doctor Scott who made up the back half of Liddell & Scott. And, as a reminder, Liddell was the father of a child named Alice, whom the Rev Charles Dodgson allegedly used as the model for his Alice in Wonderland.

15 Afferebant autem ad illum et infantes, ut eos tangeret; quod cum viderent, discipuli increpabant illos. 

16 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς προσεκαλέσατο αὐτὰ λέγων, Ἄφετε τὰ παιδία ἔρχεσθαι πρός με καὶ μὴ κωλύετε αὐτά, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

17 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὃς ἂν μὴ δέξηται τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς παιδίον, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς αὐτήν.

Jesus called to them (the children) saying, “Allow the children to come to me and do not forbid them, for of such as these is the Kingdom of God. (17) Amen I say to you, who does not receive the Kingdom of God as a child, that one may not enter into it (the kingdom).

Quickly, we’re back to the standard word for child, pais. This was the term used for the child/slave that the Centurion asked Jesus to heal. Second, note that Jesus calls out to them; however, he is not calling the disciples. The word for disciples, mathetai, is masculine gender, whereas the word used for them is neuter. The only neuter available are the babies in the womb. so it appears Jesus is calling the children.

As an aside, the essence of this story is in Mark, so it is not part of Q. Which is interesting, because we have another example of where Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark. In the latter, Jesus felt a violent irritation (L&S definition). In Matthew and Luke, he does not. He rebuked the disciples in all three, but Matthew and Luke leave out the indignation. And, it is in this setting that Mark places the “first shall be last” aphorism, where both Matthew and Mark place it elsewhere; however, this shouldn’t be counted as a separate agreement of Matthew & Luke. Still, considering that Matthew and Luke never agree against Mark, we’ve had two examples of this in the same chapter. 

16 Iesus autem convocans illos dixit: “ Sinite pueros venire ad me et nolite eos vetare; talium est enim regnum Dei. 

17 Amen dico vobis: Quicumque non acceperit regnum Dei sicut puer, non intrabit in illud ”.

18 Καὶ ἐπηρώτησέν τις αὐτὸν ἄρχων λέγων, Διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;

19 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός.

And some leader asked him saying, “Good teacher, what will I do to inherit eternal life?” (18) And Jesus said to him, “Why do you say I am good? No one is good except God.”

A couple of things. We are told that some “ruler” asked the question. The Greek word is archon. This word is sort of a generic term for leader, or ruler. Jairus was called an archon of the synagogue. Some commentators suggest he was the ruler of a synagogue on the analogy of Jairus, and this is entirely possible. Regardless, the title is probably not to be taken as a specific office the way say, a consul was the chief office of Rome during the Republic. (Of course, Rome being Rome, the office continued under the Empire, but all the actual power was vested in the Emperor.) For most of fifty or a hundred years, there were three archons who were in charge of Athens for a year. There was the Archon King, the Archon Polemarchos, and the Archon Eponymous. The first was sort of like a chief priest who facilitated at certain old religious ceremonies that required a king to officiate. The second was the war leader; the most famous of these was Miltiades, who commanded the Athenian & Plataian armies on the day of the Battle of Marathon in which the first Persian invasion of Greece was repulsed. The last was the chief executive, and his name was given to the year. So later dates were given as the year when Chilon was archon…However, here there is no specific anything attached. Luke alone uses this term in this story. I suspect it was to indicate that the man was of what would be classified as a noble family, whatever that meant at the time. The Latin is princeps, prince. This was also one of the titles of the Emperor, but at root it refers to a foremost individual, a leader, one who is in front of the rest. It is the root of principal, and if you can divorce that from the educational setting where it is most often used, it’s a pretty good translation. Anyway, in M&M, he is referred to as wealthy, and he will be so called in a moment; Luke adds this extra layer of importance to the man.

The other thing is the “why do you call me good? No one is good but God”. This has always struck me as borderline bizarre. However, this originates in Mark, so I have some thoughts on this. Mark represents the uneasy marriage of the Wonder-Worker to the Christ traditions. Somehow, I expect that this may be a holdover from the Wonder-Worker tradition, which is why it doesn’t quite make sense. Yes, it could be from the Christ tradition, wherein Jesus demurs his goodness because he wasn’t born the Christ but only became the Christ at his adoption. That could possibly be the easier case to make, but only because we have some knowledge of how the Christ-idea played out over time. Or maybe I’m just a bit thick and don’t get it. Never dismiss that possibility. Then again, the commentary in the Cambridge Bible for Schools & Colleges says that rabbis were not supposed to be called “good”, and so this was a transgression against Jewish practice. It also points out that the ruler would not have looked upon Jesus as divine, so…I’m not sure what the implication is. One of them would be that Jesus credited his ability to work wonders to God, possibly to YHWH, and so this was his way of avoiding the credit– or the blame– for his works. Indeed, if twenty or thirty people were executed by Tiberius for sorcery, then denying that one has power would be a defense mechanism.

18 Et interrogavit eum quidam princeps dicens: “Magister bone, quid faciens vitam aeternam possidebo?”. 

19 Dixit autem ei Iesus: “Quid me dicis bonum? Nemo bonus nisi solus Deus. 

20 τὰς ἐντολὰς οἶδας: Μὴ μοιχεύσῃς, Μὴ φονεύσῃς, Μὴ κλέψῃς, Μὴ ψευδομαρτυρήσῃς, Τίμα τὸν πατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα.

21 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ταῦτα πάντα ἐφύλαξα ἐκ νεότητος.

(Jesus is still speaking from Verse 19) “You know the commandments. Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not give false witness, honor your father and mother.” (21) He (the ruler) replied, “I have done (lit = I have guarded) all these since childhood”.

Just a quick note: the Ninth Commandment is not “Thou Shalt Not Lie”. It’s literally as written above: do not provide false testimony, as in court, but that’s not how we were taught it at Maple Grove St Michael’s elementary school. So it has a very definite legal context, and it means that there is no real prohibition against lying in the Ten Commandments. For example, saying ‘I didn’t take that money’ when, in fact, you did is not a sin. Taking the money is a sin, but not lying to cover your tracks. An interesting bit of social and judicial history?

20 Mandata nosti: non moechaberis, non occides, non furtum facies, non falsum testimonium dices, honora patrem tuum et matrem ”. 

21 Qui ait: “ Haec omnia custodivi a iuventute ”. 

22 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ,Ἔτι ἕν σοι λείπει: πάντα ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ διάδος πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν [τοῖς]οὐρανοῖς, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι.

23 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας ταῦτα περίλυπος ἐγενήθη, ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος σφόδρα.

Hearing, Jesus said to him, “Yet one thing remains to you: sell however so much (all one word in Greek: << ὅσα >>) and give to the poor, and then you will have treasure in the skies, and follow me.”  (23) And he hearing, he became very sad, for he was exceedingly wealthy.

Mark mentions the poor five times; in his much longer gospel, Matthew mentions them five times. In both evangelists, two of the uses of the word “poor” come in the single story, where one of the disciples says of giving the proceeds from the sale of the costly perfume to the poor.  Jesus more or less dismisses this by saying that the poor will always be with you. Also, another incidence in Matthew comes when he blesses the “poor in spirit”. Luke mentions them eleven times in his gospel, but not once in Acts. From these numbers it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Jesus and the earliest Christians were not all that concerned with the poor. In fact, John is even worse; he uses the word four times, three of which are in his version of the “poor will always be with you” story. The two who bring it up the most, especially as a percentage of their text, are Luke and the Epistle of James, and probably not in that order. The implication of this is that Christian concern for the poor, and so perhaps social justice as a whole, comes from and through it’s Jewish roots rather than through any increased emphasis on this by Jesus. 

More, all of Mark’s first use of the word “poor” comes in Chapter 10, and the others are later. This is the part of his gospel that emphasizes the Christ tradition rather than the Wonder-worker tradition. Paul uses the word sparingly, but one salient incidence comes in Galatians, where James, brother of Jesus, admonishes Paul to “remember the poor” as part of the deal James and Paul cut on what Paul’s message can and should include. This leads to the possible connexion between James and the Ebionites, which may be carried on to the Epistle of James, even though the general consensus is that this letter is not properly ascribed to James, brother of Jesus. The Ebionites got their name from the Aramaic (?) word for “poor”. And the assembly (ekklesia) led by James was likely more in line with mainline Judaism, which put more emphasis on the poor than Jesus did, because Jesus, first and foremost, was a wonder-worker. A very elaborate theory; it’s most likely wrong, but it’s an interesting set of connexions. We will revisit this discussion in the summary for this chapter.

22 Quo audito, Iesus ait ei: “Adhuc unum tibi deest: omnia, quaecumque habes, vende et da pauperibus et habebis thesaurum in caelo: et veni, sequere me”. 

23 His ille auditis, contristatus est, quia dives erat valde. 

24 Ἰδὼν δὲ αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς [περίλυπον γενόμενον] εἶπεν, Πῶς δυσκόλως οἱ τὰ χρήματα ἔχοντες εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσπορεύονται:

25 εὐκοπώτερον γάρ ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρήματος βελόνης εἰσελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν.

26 εἶπαν δὲ οἱ ἀκούσαντες, Καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι;

Seeing this, Jesus [having become sad], said “How difficult (for) those having possessions to enter into the Kingdom of God. For it is easier a camel (to pass) through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God.” (26) And those hearing said, “So who can be saved?”  

First a word on a word. What I have translated as “possessions” is a bit of an oddity. At root, the word << χρήμα >> actually means “need”. From there, it becomes the things that one needs, which then becomes the thing one possesses, which then becomes “wealth”. All four of my crib translations (KJV, NIV, NASB, & ESV) render this as “wealth” or “riches”. The Latin is pecunia, which means “wealth” or “riches”, but in particular, “money”. Hence our word/phrase, “pecuniary interest”. I mention this to demonstrate a couple of things. First, how words change and evolve; second, the danger of using an NT Lexicon. The one attached to simply translates this as “money” or “riches”; while these aren’t exactly wrong translations since the concept comes through clearly enough, they present a great demonstration of the concept of the lexical field. In this a word is not just what it means, but what it excludes. “Money” more or less excludes the idea of “need”, which is the base meaning of the Greek word. As such, “money” is a much, very much more narrow concept than what is included by << χρήμα >>. Reasons I like to use Liddell & Scott rather than an NT lexicon. Using the latter in some ways defeats the purpose of reading the original. What you get are the translations of words that occur in the English translations. So why bother with the original if you’re going to end up with someone else’s translation? Just read the NIV or ESV or whatever and save the time and effort.

Second, no doubt I pointed this out when we read Mark or Matthew, or both, that the question posed by those hearing has an interesting implication. If the wealthy cannot be saved, then who can be? This implies that attached to the idea of wealth was the idea of a moral superiority. IOW, all God’s friends are rich. This has had, and continues to have, a horribly pernicious history in the western world. It came through the Jewish tradition and the Graeco-Roman tradition and remains in full force in early 21st Century USA. This is why the poor can be discounted by so many people: God does not love them, so why should I care? 

24 Videns autem illum Iesus tristem factum dixit: “ Quam difficile, qui pecunias habent, in regnum Dei intrant. 

25 Facilius est enim camelum per foramen acus transire, quam divitem intrare in regnum Dei”. 

26 Et dixerunt, qui audiebant: “ Et quis potest salvus fieri?”. 

27 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Τὰ ἀδύνατα παρὰ ἀνθρώποις δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν.

28 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφέντες τὰ ἴδια ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι.

29 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδείς ἐστιν ὃς ἀφῆκεν οἰκίαν ἢ γυναῖκα ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ γονεῖς ἢ τέκνα ἕνεκεν τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ,

30 ὃς οὐχὶ μὴ [ἀπο]λάβῃ πολλαπλασίονα ἐν τῷ καιρῷ τούτῳ καὶ ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τῷ ἐρχομένῳ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 

But he said, “Things impossible for humans are possible for God.” (28) And Peter said, “Look, having left everything personal we followed you.” (29) And he said to them, “Amen I say to you that no one who has left home or wife or siblings or parents or children due to the Kingdom of God (30) that one has not taken not much more in her/his share in the age to come (in taking) the eternal life.”

That last bit was really difficult to get the English to correspond to the Greek, and I really didn’t succeed all that well. First, it’s a double negative: they will not not get much more = they will get much more. Greek, like most other languages I’ve learned, does not have the aversion to double negatives that English does. In these other languages the double negatives emphasize rather than contradict (or negate) the negative. Second, one is taking both much more and eternal life. Both phrases are accusative, which indicates direct object, what is being taken. Third, ‘taking’ is an aorist subjunctive, which indicates uncertainty or unreal condition or something similar in the past. To begin, the idea of the subjunctive in English is vague on a good day; then, since it’s in the past, the unreality or uncertainty has resolved itself, hasn’t it? It’s already happened so we know what happened and thus we know what is real. But if you think about it, I think the point is clear. No one who has left all, or any of, these things has not not received so much more. Clear? [Addendum: the aorist subjunctive, at least here, could probably best be rendered as “anyone who may have left…” This conveys both the sense of uncertainty AND the sense of past tense. Apologies for not thinking of that before.]

But the real meat here is the way several concepts are linked; indeed, not only are they linked, they are equated. The man asks how to receive eternal life; Jesus equates this with the Kingdom of God, which is then equated by Peter with being saved. So all three terms are used as synonymous and interchangeably. Again, modern Christians all know that these are the same thing; but do we? Where, exactly, is the scriptural basis for this? Or is it something inferred or deduced from verbiage that is actually less than definite, like the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is sort of there, but not really. Just as Jesus became divine, so the Holy Spirit came into existence only after some time. A couple of centuries, to be (more or less) exact. Substituting “sacred breath” for “holy spirit” any time the latter is used does not change the meaning of the passage*. The three terms here are used frequently, but most often in isolation. This is the smoking gun proof that the three were meant as synonymous by the time of Luke. Before that, the equation of the terms is perhaps not so obvious. In particular, the idea of the Kingdom of God in Mark, and especially not as part of the message preached by John the Dunker, which was then taken up by Jesus when John was arrested.

In short, the linkage of the terms here may be something of a landmark; however, some retrograde searching is required to verify this one way or the other.

*At least, not most of the time. One could plausibly argue that the idea of “sins against the sacred breath” doesn’t make sense. But is that true a priori? Or only because we are so accustomed to the reification of the sacred breath as the Third Person of the Trinity?

27 Ait autem illis: “ Quae impossibilia sunt apud homi nes, possibilia sunt apud Deum ”. 

28 Ait autem Petrus: “ Ecce nos dimisimus nostra et secuti sumus te ”. 

29 Qui dixit eis: “ Amen dico vobis: Nemo est, qui reliquit domum aut uxorem aut fratres aut parentes aut filios propter regnum Dei, 

30 et non recipiat multo plura in hoc tempore et in saeculo venturo vitam aeternam”.

Luke Chapter 18:1-14

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 17:1-10

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 μὴ ἔχει χάριν τῷ δούλῳ ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὰ διαταχθέντα;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Summary Luke Chapter 16

This was a long time in production. My apologies for the delay.

At first reading, the theme of this chapter is wealth; specifically, it is worldly wealth, how it compares to other-worldly wealth, and what the implications are for exalting the former over the latter. A few more readings, however, reveal that this is thematically more complex, and more subtle, than may first be apparent.

While the story of the unjust slave is unique to Luke, the summation is a quote also found in Matthew. This is the quote about God and Mammon. Since it’s in these two, it’s considered part of Q. But if the conclusion is part of Q, but the preceding story is not, whence came the story? Official answer: The L Source. Because there was not just Q, but also M and L, which account for the stuff unique to Matthew and Luke, respectively. So, not only was there one source that vanished without a trace, there were three. Oh, but M and L were oral. Oh? And the proof for that is…what, exactly? This is why Q becomes so problematic. Not only are we creating one body unnecessarily, we are creating three. It’s so much easier to credit the composition of this story to Luke’s particular brand of creativity. He took Matthew’s conclusion and composed a story to illustrate the moral more effectively.

And this story is particularly subtle. Think back to Mark. The longest single story in Mark is that of the Geresene demonaic, possessed by a demon or demons named Legion, for they were many (love that line). That is a great story, but subtle? Not so much. This story of Luke’s always puzzled me, probably because I never paid sufficient attention and didn’t hear or understand the lesson taught, or because the whole thing wasn’t read in church. I could never figure out why the master of the steward was impressed by the latter’s actions of cheating the master of debts owed; part of my failure to grasp the message was due to its subtlety. The master is impressed because the steward showed true cunning. It’s sort of like admiring the technique of a thief who has figured out a really clever way to steal something. Jesus tells the story and then agrees with the master’s assessment of the fraud. But! Jesus agrees for a specific and pretty narrow reason: the steward has demonstrated the sort of sharp practice that will get someone ahead in the chase of material wealth. This sort of practice, or behavior, will endear you to the practitioners of this age, to those who worship Mammon, so this will endear the steward and cushion his fall from grace when he is fired by the master he’s been cheating.

But then Jesus adds another twist. Yes, it shows cunning for worldly ends, but perhaps it can also help deal with other-worldly ends. For, he says, use it to prepare a place so that when wealth fails, you will be received into the tents of eternity. As an aside, tents is no doubt over-literal, but that is the basic meaning. It is prettied up as a metaphor in the various translations, and you are free to fashion your own metaphor, but, at its root, the word means tents. What are eternal tents? I rather skimmed over that in the commentary. Any time we encounter the word eternal, in any of its forms, we–at least I–start to think in terms of the afterlife, since that is the eternal realm of Christian thought. But how will riches help get you into the afterlife? Is Jesus, perhaps, being a bit ironic? How is that for a concept: Ironic Jesus. A quick glance at some of the commentaries indicate that I am perhaps being short-sighted, or too literal, or something such, since this is meant to imply that we use our material wealth for immaterial good such as giving to the poor. That is one possible interpretation, and “poor” is the translation of “friends”. Other commentaries suggest that the friends are angels, or even God. The point is that, should we be fortunate enough to have wealth, it should be used for the betterment of all in order to help ease us into the everlasting tabernacles. The problem that I have is that the very scattered approach to these interpretations clearly indicates a lack of consensus on this. No one, it appears, is all that certain what the intent of these few passages might be.

Because then we go on to the part about building trust: if you cannot be trusted in small things, who will trust you in great ones? That is a legitimate question, and one that every parent understands very well. We let our kids convince us to trust them in small ways, and then they eventually graduate to the car keys. But this seems to contradict the story we have. The steward proved himself not to be trustworthy, and then when caught he attempted more deceit to get him out of the jam. And the master was impressed. And the master was impressed? What this sort of muddle tells me is that Luke either did not sort this out in his head, or he wasn’t quite able to reconcile the various threads he was using, or that perhaps there are textual problems. By this I mean that the text got corrupted and some inappropriate words were inserted; however, the problem is that my text that is annotated for different mss traditions does not indicate any problems here. There is some quibbling about the exact form of the “received” word,  but nothing beyond that. The other possibility is that this jumble represents the bad seam between several similar, but not exactly the same, versions of this story. That means we have to ask how likely it is that there were different versions of this story. Offhand, it seems unlikely as this is sort of an odd set of circumstances. This takes me back to the idea of Luke inventing a story to fit the God & Mammon moral from Matthew. Perhaps the story originated elsewhere. This would be in keeping with the way legends grow; new stories and characters are added as time passes, using, once again, the Arthur legend as the classic example. But even if Luke took over the story, he still has final editorial control, so the story is the way it is because he wanted it this way. The implication, therefore, is that Luke left us with something that it a bit ambiguous, whatever the reason for this condition.

It gets worse, at least potentially. In the next section, which is short, Luke ties this thematically to the favorite Bad Guys of the NT: the Pharisees. They, we are told, love money, so they get a bit annoyed by Jesus’ story. It is at this point that they are excoriated as those who push their way to the front of the line of the entrance to the Kingdom of God. This, in turn, raises the question of how is this possible, if the Kingdom of God is to be found in the afterlife, and is based on the merit we have earned in this life? It really isn’t. Which suggests the implication that the Kingdom of God and the reward in Heaven were not, initially, synonymous concepts. Since the Baptist was preaching the Kingdom of God, then it is not much of a stretch that John’s kingdom was not heavenly. And, interestingly enough, this would provide a solid theological basis for Matthew’s decision to refer to it as the Kingdom of the Heavens. He chose this different title because the idea it was describing had undergone a fundamental change: it was no longer a kingdom of the earth, but one in the heavens, gained only in the afterlife. That is an interesting thought. Then why did Luke revert to Kingdom of God? Because, by the time Luke wrote, the concepts of the Kingdom and the Life had become wholly interchangeable; no one expected an earthly kingdom any longer, so it was not necessary to frame the goal of life as the kingdom of the heavens. The Kingdom of God expressed the same concept. And here’s an interesting twist to that. My position is that even Mark was writing as much for pagans as for Jews, and Matthew certainly was addressing pagans almost exclusively. There was no longer much expectation that Jews would join the new movement. Mark used the old term, because he still had a foot planted firmly in the old ways of Judaism. Matthew did not have such a stance, so he forewent the Kingdom of God, replacing the term with Kingdom of the Heavens to get this point across to pagans. Such an audience of pagans would not bring the Jewish concept of an earthly messiah into the new religion, so the idea of a Kingdom of God, as understood by Jews, would not have been terribly meaningful. So Matthew used a different, more explicit term, one that definitely referred to the afterlife.

[As an aside, I checked the number of incidences of kingdom vs life in the gospels to see if there was a transition point. There really isn’t. Matthew uses the term kingdom slightly more often than Luke does, but the incidence of the Life is about the same in each. Where Life really becomes prominent is in John. ]

Anyway, the Pharisees are meant to indicate that the Jews no longer held favored status in the line to enter either the kingdom or the life. This was sort of a double-whammy; the Jews, of course, were the Chosen People, and the Pharisees were considered– by themselves, anyway– to be the Chosen among the Chosen. At least, this is how they are portrayed in the gospels, and we have to wonder how accurate this portrayal is; OTOH, Paul does sort of provide independent verification of this in Phillipians, when he brags about being a Jew among Jews, and a Pharisee.* To demonstrate the point, Jesus informs them that the Law and the Prophets held sway until John; but then, rather paradoxically, adds that not a serif of the Law will not pass away. This is such a great example of the uneasy cooption of Judaism by Christians; on one hand, the Jews had been superseded, but OTOH, Christians needed the legitimacy offered by the antiquity of Judaism. I’m reading Eusebios’ Ecclesiastical History, and he goes to great lengths to demonstrate how the idea of the Christ, and even the name of Jesus/Joshua was in the Hebrew Scriptures. There was an entire series of christs (lower case by design) that culminated with The Christ, The Saviour, known as Jesus the Christ. So Christianity has always been very ambivalent towards its Jewish heritage. Then we have a throwaway line about divorce, that doesn’t fit at all with the rest of the chapter. The context is so far disrupted that it seems there has been a break in the continuity in the theme of the chapter. We started with the story of the Wicked Steward, which led into the pronouncement being unable to serve both God and Mammon. But not to fear, we then jump to Dives & Lazarus, which is a great cautionary tale to illustrate what happens when we choose Mammon.

In between these, however, we have Verse 18, prohibiting divorce. This is so far off-topic that I completely forgot to discuss on it when we were in the commentary. This is hardly the first time we’ve noted the lack of continuity between stories. In fact, almost the entire Sermon on the Mount has this feel, of a bunch of beads strung together with only a thin–thin to the point of invisible–line connecting them behind the scenes. As always, this is one of the best arguments for Q: not that the Sermon on the Mount was so masterful, but precisely because it wasn’t. It’s just sort of episodic and discontinuous irregularity that is actually the most effective, IMO, argument for something like Q. Why the need to stick these small pieces in wherever one can, whether they fit or not? This fairly strongly implies that there was a body of teachings that Jesus supposedly uttered that Matthew and Luke felt compelled to include in their works. On balance, I do not believe this is enough to convince me of the existence of Q, at least not as a written document, but it does give me pause. As for the content of the prohibition of divorce, this is pretty much a repetition of what was said in Matthew, so it need not detain us.

Thus we arrive at Dives and Lazarus. Of the three gospels we’ve looked at, Luke is by far the most interested in the topic of rich and poor. Remember, he said “blessed are the poor”, which is not necessarily a “more primitive” version of “poor in spirit”. It is a completely different thought. “Poor in spirit” always sounded a bit legalistic to me; wealth, per se, isn’t bad so long as we are poor in spirit. This is despite the injunction to sell one’s possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. As a fable about how wealth corrupts, the moral is straightforward and clear and not needing much in the way of explanation. There is also another layer, one which ties back to the anger at the Pharisees. In his torment, Dives begs Abraham to send Lazarus to the house of the former’s father, so that Dives’ brothers can be told to repent. Abraham’s response is that they have the law and the prophets, and if they aren’t sufficient, why would they listen to someone returned from the dead? Let’s see, has anyone returned from the dead with a message of repentance? Oh, wait, Jesus! From the perspective of historical analysis, this nails down that the story was never, ever told by Jesus. This is obviously a story that developed after the Resurrection had become part of the core Christian message. So what we have here is yet another dig at the Jews. First, bad enough that they had not heeded the Law and the Prophets, but worse was that they had not listened to the message of someone returned from the dead. The fact that Rich-Man (literal translation of dives) was also rich, provided that extra little shot at the Pharisees.


* This is the only time the word “Pharisee” is used in the NT outside of the gospels.

Luke Chapter 15:11-32 The Prodigal Son

This is a very long piece of Greek. I try not to do sections that are too long so I can keep the posts moving along, but this is all a single story, and breaking it into arbitrary pieces would only complicate matters.

This follows hard on the heels of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. All three are unique to Luke, and most likely created by him. There is no sound historical reason to doubt or question that he is the author. The idea of an “L” source is just creating bodies needlessly, and there is no evidence of any such thing. At some point it will be necessary to take a step back and attempt to create a likely series of events that occurred after Jesus’ death. The interesting thing is that what happened after his death is more important than what actually happened when he was alive. We have nothing written about him before the 50s, which comes from Paul. It is key to note that Paul showed pretty much no interest in anything Jesus did before rising from the dead.

The common theme of these three stories is repentance. The lost is found. This is a very important, indeed crucial topic. As such, it’s probably best to save the discussion & comparison for the chapter summary. With that expectation, here is the



11 Εἶπεν δέ, Ἄνθρωπός τις εἶχεν δύο υἱούς.

12 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ νεώτερος αὐτῶν τῷ πατρί, Πάτερ, δός μοι τὸ ἐπιβάλλον μέρος τῆς οὐσίας. ὁ δὲ διεῖλεν αὐτοῖς τὸν βίον.

(11) And he said, “There was a certain man who had two sons. (12) And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share being thrown on me (= inheritance, apparently) of the things existing (= your possessions, apparently). He (the father) divided his life to them.

Have to note the Greek vocabulary here. I’ve given the literal translations along with the “standard” meaning in parentheses. “Share being thrown on me” is rather colorful. But the word meros means portion or share, usually used with the allotment of land given to someone, as when a colony was founded and the land divided, or the portion of an inheritance. It’s the “being thrown upon me” that is a bit…odd, but the Greek word is that for “to throw”. And here is where the Greek verb tenses get a little funky. “Being thrown” is a present participle, so the published translations say something like, “that comes/falls to me”. Maybe it’s just me, but I think of the estate being divided at the death of the father, so I would put this in the future. But this may be my lack of understanding of how inheritance worked at the time. Next, the things divided are ousias; this is a participle of the verb “to be”. It gets used a lot in philosophy for “existence”, but it does stretch to “possessions” in pagan Greek as well. So not too much of a mental leap. One thing I note is that Greek uses a lot of participles when we would use nouns. A participle is the -ing form of a verb. So, rather than being just something static, possessions, the thought behind is active, existing. These things don’t just sit there and exist; they are performing an action by existing. Finally, “divided his life”. That is, the father divided the things that make up his life; hence, his possessions. We call it the estate. Peeking at the Latin, we have substantia, which = “resources”. The cognate shows it means ‘things of substance’, but the form of the word is a noun, so much closer to our way of thinking. Actually, can’t recall where I read it, but someone commented that using the Latin Bible for a millennium or more really had a profound impact on the Western Church, and that much of the theological history of the Western Church was the result of translating Greek thoughts into Latin language. The two languages do look at the world differently.

11 Ait autem: “ Homo quidam habebat duos filios.

12 Et dixit adulescentior ex illis patri: “Pater, da mihi portionem substantiae, quae me contingit”. Et divisit illis substantiam.

13 καὶ μετ’ οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας συναγαγὼν πάντα ὁ νεώτερος υἱὸς ἀπεδήμησεν εἰς χώραν μακράν, καὶ ἐκεῖ διεσκόρπισεν τὴν οὐσίαν αὐτοῦ ζῶν ἀσώτως.

“And after not many days gathering all the younger son went abroad to a distant country, and there he squandered his existing things in a life unsaved.

The last word is interesting. It’s from the root of “to save”, and is very close to the word for “saviour”. But it has the a- prefix, which is negation, such as a-moral. It’s an adverb, describing how he was living: in a manner not saved, or perhaps ‘not safe’. The ESV translates as “reckless”, and that’s much better than “riotous” or “loose”. The Latin is luxuriose, which probably needs no translation. Again, a difference in the way the two languages approach the concept. 

13 Et non post multos dies, congregatis omnibus, adulescentior filius peregre profectus est in regionem longinquam et ibi dissipavit substantiam suam vivendo luxuriose.

14 δαπανήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ πάντα ἐγένετο λιμὸς ἰσχυρὰ κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἐκείνην, καὶ αὐτὸς ἤρξατο ὑστερεῖσθαι.

15 καὶ πορευθεὶς ἐκολλήθη ἑνὶ τῶν πολιτῶν τῆς χώρας ἐκείνης, καὶ ἔπεμψεν αὐτὸν εἰς τοὺς ἀγροὺς αὐτοῦ βόσκειν χοίρους:

16 καὶ ἐπεθύμει χορτασθῆναι ἐκ τῶν κερατίων ὧν ἤσθιον οἱ χοῖροι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδίδου αὐτῷ.

“Having squandered all of his (money), there became a strong famine upon that country, and he began to fall behind (= to be left behind = to want, as in being at the end of the line and there’s nothing left). (15) And going/departing he glued himself to a citizen of that country, and the citizen sent him to his fields to feed the swine. (16) And he wished to eat of the husks of which the pigs fed, and no one gave anything to him.

I like the “glued himself”. I also could have chosen “cemented himself”; the concept of “attaching” is pretty clear. Second, the man was probably a pagan. There are two clues for this. First, if the man is raising swine, chances are, he was pagan. This is interesting, because Luke is supposed to be the pagan of the four (but I suspect Matthew was, too). The idea of feeding pigs would have been the lowest of the low to Jewish sensibilities, since pigs were unclean. I suppose Jews may have owned pigs, but I don’t think we’re supposed to go that direction. Rather, ties in with second clue, which is the “far country” in Verse 13. If one left Judea or Galilee and went any distance– even a short one, really– one would pretty much be in pagan territory. There were places that had large Jewish populations, like Alexandria and Babylon, but still the territory would have a pagan majority. Finally, is he working for free? Why does he not have a paycheck to purchase food? Wasn’t that the point? Or even if he were working for room & board, he should, theoretically, be recompensed for his labor. That’s kind of how it works, and that is why he got himself a job. Now, maybe the board provided was insufficient to keep him full; in times of famine, one would expect a surplus of labor, which would drive down the wages labor can command. This would mean that the wage paid may not have been sufficient for keeping a working person. And the odd thing is that slaves actually fared better than hired hands. Slaves represented an investment of capital, and the owner understood that it worked to his favor to maintain the slave at a level that kept the slave productive. A hired hand, OTOH, was completely expendable. Hire them when needed, fire them when not.

14 Et postquam omnia consummasset, facta est fames valida in regione illa, et ipse coepit egere.

15 Et abiit et adhaesit uni civium regionis illius, et misit illum in villam suam, ut pasceret porcos;

16 et cupiebat saturari de siliquis, quas porci manducabant, et nemo illi dabat.

17 εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθὼν ἔφη, Πόσοι μίσθιοι τοῦ πατρός μου περισσεύονται ἄρτων, ἐγὼ δὲ λιμῷ ὧδε ἀπόλλυμαι.

18 ἀναστὰς πορεύσομαι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ ἐρῶ αὐτῷ, Πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου,

19 οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου: ποίησόν με ὡς ἕνα τῶν μισθίων σου.

“Coming to himself, he said, ‘How much abundance of bread the hired hands of my father (have); but I in hunger in this way am destroyed (I perish). (18) Standing, I will go to my father and say to him, (19) “Father, I have sinned against the sky and before you, I (am) no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hirelings”.’

The ‘coming to himself’ is an interesting usage. It sort of took me by surprise that the Greek would use an expression like this; it seems too modern. The Latin is “reversing to himself”, or “turning back to himself”, which is similar if not quite exact. Also, the word for ‘hireling’ is also the word often used for ‘reward’. Perhaps the common ground is ‘recompense’; so those recompensed will be paid, or they will receive their recompense in the sky as in Mt 5:12. “Great is your recompense in the heavens”. Looking at this from Matthew, the shading of recompense/reward becomes very clear. The concept behind “great is your reward in the heavens” carries a rather different set of connotations. And, BTW, the Latin for “hirelings” is mercennarii, the root of “mercenary”. It simply means “doing it for pay”.

17 In se autem reversus dixit: “Quanti mercennarii patris mei abundant panibus, ego autem hic fame pereo.

18 Surgam et ibo ad patrem meum et dicam illi: Pater, peccavi in caelum et coram te

19 et iam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus; fac me sicut unum de mercennariis tuis”.

20 καὶ ἀναστὰς ἦλθεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ. ἔτι δὲ αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος εἶδεν αὐτὸν ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐσπλαγχνίσθη καὶ δραμὼν ἐπέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.

21 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτῷ, Πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου, οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου.

22 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ, Ταχὺ ἐξενέγκατε στολὴν τὴν πρώτην καὶ ἐνδύσατε αὐτόν, καὶ δότε δακτύλιον εἰς τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ καὶ ὑποδήματα εἰς τοὺς πόδας,

23 καὶ φέρετε τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν, θύσατε καὶ φαγόντες εὐφρανθῶμεν,

24 ὅτι οὗτος ὁ υἱός μου νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἀνέζησεν, ἦν ἀπολωλὼς καὶ εὑρέθη. καὶ ἤρξαντο εὐφραίνεσθαι.

“And standing he came to his father. Yet while he was still far away at a distance his father saw (him) and was moved to compassion and running fell upon his neck and kissed him. (21) The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against the sky and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ The father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring forth a robe first and dress him, and give rings to his fingers and sandals to his feet. (23) And bring the fatted calf, sacrificing eating we will rejoice. That this my son was dead and is (now) up living, was lost and is found’. And they began to celebrate. 

A number of things in here. First, in Verse 21, a minority of mss traditions add “make me as one of your hirelings”, which was in the speech the son practiced in Verse 21. The ESV, NIV, NASB, and KJV all exclude this extra bit of wording. It’s easy to see how it got into the text; some scribe somewhere was sort of going by wrote from what he had written a few verses before, and just kept going and added the part about the hireling. Or, it got truncated. Generally, the majority opinion represents the most likely explanation, and that could easily hold here. Offhand, I would say that the second set of circumstances would be more likely, so I would tend towards it getting left out rather than added to; however, that then requires explaining how the left out became the majority opinion and is found in the largest number of mss traditions. So, once again, I will plead agnostic on this; textual stuff is the realm of specialists, and I do not have the chops to have an opinion that’s worth anything.

Still, it’s an interesting style point to note how we get the practice speech and then the actual speech separated by a few verses. What does this say? Most notably the reader/listener really understands what the son’s message to the father is. That he is not worthy to be called son. This would be an argument in favor of the shorter version that we have here: this ends the son’s address to the father with “I am not worthy”, thereby giving this part of the message a greater rhetorical impact. And this then becomes more or less the theme of this whole parable. Despite not being worthy, we can all still be reconciled with God. This is a significant part of the Christian message, albeit one that some, perhaps, would like to ignore. We’ll get back to that when we discuss the overall message of this parable at the end of this section.

Just a bit on “up living’. The word here was coined by Luke; at least, this is the only recorded use of the word in any sort of literary context that has survived to our day. It is composed of the word “to live” with the prefix “ana”, which means “up”. So, “up to live”. The Latin is revixit, literally “to live again”, or, actually, “to re-live”. Can we stretch this to “resurrection”? It’s not out of the question. Is this a reference to being saved? Most likely, since he was lost but now has been found. More on this in a bit.

20 Et surgens venit ad patrem suum.

Cum autem adhuc longe esset, vidit illum pater ipsius et misericordia motus est et accurrens cecidit supra collum eius et osculatus est illum.

21 Dixitque ei filius: “Pater, peccavi in caelum et coram te; iam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus”.

22 Dixit autem pater ad servos suos: “Cito proferte stolam primam et induite illum et date anulum in manum eius et calceamenta in pedes

23 et adducite vitulum saginatum, occidite et manducemus et epulemur,

24 quia hic filius meus mortuus erat et revixit, perierat et inventus est”. Et coeperunt epulari.

25 ην δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐν ἀγρῷ: καὶ ὡς ἐρχόμενος ἤγγισεν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, ἤκουσεν συμφωνίας καὶ χορῶν,

26 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα τῶν παίδων ἐπυνθάνετο τί ἂν εἴη ταῦτα.

27 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι Ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἥκει, καὶ ἔθυσεν ὁ πατήρ σου τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν, ὅτι ὑγιαίνοντα αὐτὸν ἀπέλαβεν.

28 ὠργίσθη δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν εἰσελθεῖν. ὁ δὲ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐξελθὼν παρεκάλει αὐτόν.

29 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ, Ἰδοὺ τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω σοι καὶ οὐδέποτε ἐντολήν σου παρῆλθον, καὶ ἐμοὶ οὐδέποτε ἔδωκας ἔριφον ἵνα μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου εὐφρανθῶ:

30 ὅτε δὲ ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος ὁ καταφαγών σου τὸν βίον μετὰπορνῶν ἦλθεν, ἔθυσας αὐτῷ τὸν σιτευτὸν μόσχον.

31 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τέκνον, σὺ πάντοτε μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἶ, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά ἐστιν:

32 εὐφρανθῆναι δὲ καὶ χαρῆναι ἔδει, ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου οὗτος νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἔζησεν, καὶ ἀπολωλὼς καὶ εὑρέθη.

“And his older son was in the field. And as he was coming nigh to the house, he heard symphonies and choruses, (26) and calling one of the boys (slaves) he asked what these things would be. (27) He (the slave) said to him (the elder), ‘Your brother arrived, and your father sacrificed the fatted calf, that healthy he received him back’. (28) He was angered and did not wish to come in. His father coming out called to him. (29) He (the son) answering said to his father, ‘Look, how so many years I slave for you and never circumvented your commandments and never did you give me a kid so that with my friends I may have celebrated. (30) But that your son came, he who having eaten your possessions with harlots returned, you sacrificed for him the fatted calf’. (31) He (the father) said to him (the elder), ‘Son, you always are with me, and all that I have is yours. (32) But look, rejoice and be happy that your brother who was dead and now lives (again; same verb as in Verse 23) and was lost, and has been found’.”

First, I just want to note that this is the end of the chapter. There is no further lesson, no explanation of the lesson, and no rebuttal by a Pharisee. Rhetorically and stylistically, this is the last word on the topic. It just stands.

And this lesson is similar to that of the Lost Sheep. There the shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness to find the one lost. Now, a sheep may have been an expensive loss, but I doubt the cost-benefit analysis on regaining the one outweighs the potential of the loss of the 99. The latter are left to fend for themselves. In similar manner, here the older brother is miffed that the younger is restored to good graces and– to the elder’s mind– so easily. In these stories the good people, the just (dikaios) as they are called here, seem to get short shrift. And, unfortunately, this is one of the hardest lessons for some Christians to learn. With whom do we identify in this story? Perhaps you were the riotous youth, but I was generally the sober one, studying and learning Greek whereas my older brother was, shall we say, a bit of a party animal. So yeah, I understand the chagrin of the just. We want the rotten kid to suffer. At least some, and even if we never admit it to ourselves, let alone anyone else. This is the innate and slightly counterintuitive appeal of Calvinism. All those “good folk” are convinced of which side they are on, so why bother with the reprobates? They’re just damned, and there’s nothing we can do for them. And since all God’s friends are rich, well, it’s easy to tell who’s on which team.

Many cultures in the ancient world had a concept that one’s soul would be judged post-mortem, and that the judgement would be something of a balancing act. Did your good outweigh your bad? The Egyptians believed our heart would be put on one side of the scale, and a feather on the other. If your heart outweighed the feather, you flunked the test. Catholicism is sort of in the mindset of the good/bad scale. Do something wrong, and you have to do penance for it, and it’s usually impossible to atone for all your sins in a single lifetime. Hence, the need for Purgatory, which the nuns assured us, we would all experience. Now, that’s not to argue for or against Purgatory, but it demonstrates very effectively the mindset of the ancient world. It’s also one of the most egregious things that Martin Luther saw as wrong with Catholic thinking. And there is good reason to argue that this was not the intent of this story, or that of the Lost Sheep. The Latin says do penance. The Greek says, be penitent, or repent. I can assure you that the penance that must be done for one’s sins was meted out at the end of confession. There are Mediaeval handbooks of penance that were intended as how-to manual for priests. Sin X should be atoned by Penance Y. That is not the message here.

Interestingly, this concept described here better reflects the Jewish attitude than the pagan attitude. After all, repentance was the word that the Baptist used in Mark. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, when devout Jews spend the whole day in Temple praying and asking forgiveness. [Full disclosure: I have never been in a Temple on Yom Kippur, so I cannot specify exactly what happens. That is the inference I’ve drawn from things I’ve heard.] 

The point here is that Jesus tells us that we don’t need to make up for all those misdeeds by trying to counterbalance them with good works, or works of penance. Rather, we need to repent, to be penitent. The word in Greek literally means “change (as in redirect) your mind”. When you have that change of mind, Luke says, and of heart, you will be given your full reward. 

25 Erat autem filius eius senior in agro et, cum veniret et appropinquaret domui, audivit symphoniam et choros

26 et vocavit unum de servis et interrogavit quae haec essent.

27 Isque dixit illi: “Frater tuus venit, et occidit pater tuus vitulum saginatum, quia salvum illum recepit”.

28 Indignatus est autem et nolebat introire. Pater ergo illius egressus coepit rogare illum.

29 At ille respondens dixit patri suo: “Ecce tot annis servio tibi et numquam mandatum tuum praeterii, et numquam dedisti mihi haedum, ut cum amicis meis epularer;

30 sed postquam filius tuus hic, qui devoravit substantiam tuam cum meretricibus, venit, occidisti illi vitulum saginatum”.

31 At ipse dixit illi: “Fili, tu semper mecum es, et omnia mea tua sunt;

32 epulari autem et gaudere oportebat, quia frater tuus hic mortuus erat et revixit, perierat et inventus est” ”.


Luke Chapter 14:25-34

This section will conclude Chapter 14. When last we saw our hero, he was teaching at a dinner party that included Pharisees and Scribes. He was providing a lesson on why or how the Jews had been superseded, and no longer had a privileged place in the queue to enter the kingdom. By this, we can probably assume that we can substitute “The Life” as a more or less synonymous term. He has now left the party, and is traveling about. Without further ado, let’s get to the


25 Συνεπορεύοντο δὲ αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί, καὶ στραφεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς,

26 Εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρός με καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τὰς ἀδελφάς, ἔτι τε καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἑαυτοῦ, οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής.

27 ὅστις οὐ βαστάζει τὸν σταυρὸν ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἔρχεται ὀπίσω μου οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής.

Proceeding with him were great crowds, and turning he said to them, (26) “If someone comes to me and  does not hate his own father and mother, and his wife and children and his own brothers and sisters, and even yet his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (27) Who does not take up his cross and come after me is not able to be my disciple.

Just a note on the Greek. Jesus is not being followed by “great crowds”, but by a “great crowd”. The word for “crowd” is pluralized in Greek, whereas in English it’s an aggregate term (like “herd”), so it’s usually used in the singular except when there are different groups. Then it can be pluralized as “crowds”.

This is something else that Jesus never said; regardless, it is included in Q, which is supposed to be a collection of the sayings of Jesus. Except when it includes stuff that he never said (most of it) or stuff that John the Baptist said. It is actually a collection of instances where Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark, which supposedly never happens. It doesn’t only because, such instances, by definition, are what constitutes Q. There is a significant amount of circularity in this “argument”. It’s in Q because it’s in Matthew & Luke but not in Mark, and we know it’s in Q because it’s not in Mark but it’s in Matthew and Luke. This is where if scholars would take a step back and look at what the text actually says, rather than recording where it is and isn’t, they might arrive at a different conclusion. But then, to jettison Q is to admit that Jesus probably never gave the Sermon on the Mount or instituted the Pater. That conclusion has to be avoided at all costs.

Why do we know it’s post-Jesus? Because it betrays a knowledge of the end of the road. It has an other-worldly focus that is largely absent in Mark. It also more or less assumes the crucifixion, which a living Jesus would not have known about (unless he was a divine individual with foreknowledge); however, that part of the narrative is easily excised, or removed from the preceding part. The judgement that Jesus did not say the first part is based on a couple of things. First, this message does not play much of a role in Mark’s portrayal. My new working theory is that Jesus was primarily a wonder-worker in his lifetime, and that he was executed for this crime. Forty-five men were executed for magic during the reign of Tiberius, who was emperor when Jesus was executed if we are to believe Luke’s time-line. My source for this number does not say whether this was the total in Rome, or throughout the empire; the former is more likely since the primary sources available would have been largely focused on the capital. It is very important to stress that only one pagan emperor– Diocletian, in the early 3rd Century– conducted anything resembling a systemic, programatic persecution of a particular group. Astrologers– often a generic term for magicians of all sorts– were expelled from Rome on a number of occasions, but they were, generally, not executed. And what happened in the provinces was often different from what happened in the capital; even under Diocletian, the various provincial governors pursued the persecution with varying degrees of enthusiasm. OTOH, there were governors who undertook persecution even when the emperor was not terribly interested. There is the famous letter of Pliny the Younger asking for guidance on how to deal with this new group called Christians. Still, if the emperor had a bee in his bonnet about a certain thing, there was incentive for an ambitious governor to fall in line and toady up to the big guy by going along in their province. So Jesus’ being executed for magic is within the realm of possibility, and is not without support. In fact, there is a stronger historical argument for this position than there is for the tall-tale in the gospels.

The point of all that is, if Jesus was primarily a wonder-worker, then this sort of next-world focus doesn’t make a lot of sense. This is not the sort of thing a wonder-worker would focus on. Of course, that is a big “if”. A contrary argument can be made from Paul, who is very focused on salvation. The question is whether this was a Pauline creation based on his understanding of the resurrection. Honestly, this is a topic and an argument that needs to happen. There needs to be a major debate about what happened between Jesus and Paul. What were the conditions that Paul found. This sort of debate goes on all the time in Greek history (Rome has rather better sources). The 490s in Athens, for example, is largely– but not completely– a blank slate, but the debate to fill in the blanks is ferocious. When it comes to the period between Jesus and Paul, and Jesus/Paul and Mark is…crickets, as the current saying goes. There is nothing, or, at most, next to nothing.  This is yet another indication that the debate about the historical Jesus is not being conducted by historians, but by Scripture experts. More, these experts make no attempt even to set the debate on a solid basis of historical research and argument. I approached Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God with high hopes and great enthusiasm, only to have this dashed within the first dozen or so pages. It proved to be just another retelling of the story that assumed the gospels could– indeed, should– be taken seriously as historical records, and that the evangelists (Paul largely absent, IIRC, but I could be wrong) were taking excruciating pains to ensure they were telling exactly the same story. Well, that may be (grossly) overstated regarding this particular book, but it’s the approach taken by pretty much every work on the historical Jesus I’ve read. So if I’ve mashed this in with others, I apologize, but the point remains that there was almost nothing in this book that differentiated it significantly from so many others. 

25 Ibant autem turbae multae cum eo; et conversus dixit ad illos:

26 “Si quis venit ad me et non odit patrem suum et matrem et uxorem et filios et fratres et sorores, adhuc et animam suam, non potest esse meus discipulus.

27 Et, qui non baiulat crucem suam et venit post me, non potest esse meus discipulus.


28 τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας ψηφίζει τὴν δαπάνην, εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν;

“For if a certain one of you wishing to build a tower do you not first sitting down count the costs, (to see) if you have enough towards the finishing? 

There you go: Jesus advising a cost-benefit analysis before undertaking a capital improvement project. Quite the little capitalist there, no?

28 Quis enim ex vobis volens turrem aedificare, non prius sedens computat sumptus, si habet ad perficiendum?


29 ἵνα μήποτε θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι πάντες οἱ θεωροῦντες ἄρξωνται αὐτῷ ἐμπαίζειν

30 λέγοντες ὅτι Οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἤρξατο οἰκοδομεῖν καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι.

31 ἢ τίς βασιλεὺς πορευόμενος ἑτέρῳ βασιλεῖ συμβαλεῖν εἰς πόλεμον οὐχὶ καθίσας πρῶτον βουλεύσεται εἰ δυνατός ἐστιν ἐν δέκα χιλιάσιν ὑπαντῆσαι τῷ μετὰ εἴκοσι χιλιάδων ἐρχομένῳ ἐπ’ αὐτόν;

32 εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἔτι αὐτοῦ πόρρω ὄντος πρεσβείαν ἀποστείλας ἐρωτᾷ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην.

33 οὕτως οὖν πᾶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ὃς οὐκ ἀποτάσσεται πᾶσιν τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ ὑπάρχουσιν οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής.

34 Καλὸν οὖν τὸ ἅλας: ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἀρτυθήσεται;

35 οὔτε εἰς γῆν οὔτε εἰς κοπρίαν εὔθετόν ἐστιν: ἔξωβάλλουσιν αὐτό. ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.

“For if a certain one of you wishing to build a tower do you not first sitting down count the costs, (to see) if you have enough towards the finishing? (29) In order lest when the foundation of it is laid, and not being able to finish it completely, those seeing he began will mock him (30) saying ‘This dude began to build and was not able to finish.’ (31) If a certain king going out to ponder a war with another king, does he not first sitting down take counsel if he is able to encounter with ten thousand the other with twenty thousand coming against him? Otherwise, upon him being far away he sends his elders to ask for peace. (33) In this way all of you who do not arrange all his possessions to begin, he is not able to be my disciple. (34) Salt is good. But if salt becomes bland, what does it season? (35) Neither is it well placed for the earth nor for the dunghill. Throw it away. The one having ears to hear, let him hear.”

Here we have what are really two distinct thoughts. The first is warning of the preparations needed to follow Jesus. The second is the bit about salt. They really have nothing to do with each other. Yes, it is possible to stretch them so that they can be made to fit together, if a bit tenuously, but the fact is that in plain sense they don’t. The bit about building towers and going to war does work with the section directly previous since it follows up on what is necessary to become a disciple. The metaphors are novel; they are not held to be part of Q because they are not in Matthew in any similar form. Whence did they come? Were they part of a separate tradition that traced from Jesus while it managed to bypass both Mark and Matthew? Sure, it’s possible. But we’re talking oral transmission for going on 60 years. Stuff that MLK Jr said is remembered, but it was all recorded or written down, so the analogy doesn’t hold at all. It comes to the point where someone will believe what they want to believe, but from the perspective of writing history, connecting this to Jesus is really unlikely. Now, there are Greek & Roman historians who argue about how much we can rely on Arrian’s stories of Alexander the Great, and some will argue that much of it is likely based on fact since Alexander was such a well-known person. Stories of his exploits & conquests were written down and told continuously from the time of Alexander until the 2nd Century CE; moreover, because there was such familiarity with the story, with the facts, Arrian would not have been able to deviate much from these facts. It would be like an American historian saying that the Pilgrims landed in what is now Florida, where they opened a resort. Everyone knows that’s simply wrong. 

Even so, the gap between Alexander and Arrian is pushing half a millennium.  That takes us back to the 17th Century. Funny thing, we can actually know more about the life of someone like Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) than Luke would have known with firm basis about Jesus. Why? Because Richelieu left records and things were written by him and about him while he was alive. This is not true about Jesus. People did not start writing things down about him until twenty years after his death. This is because Richelieu was recognised as someone important, and that we should remember what he did even while he was alive. Plato, writing about Socrates, was writing about someone he had known personally; odd thing about that is one has to question how much Plato distorted Socrates’ teachings to fit his own agenda.

In contrast, people did not start writing about Jesus until twenty years after he died. He was an obscure figure, and there was no conventional wisdom about him, about what happened to him, or what he did during his life. As such, twenty years is plenty of time for misconceptions and outright fabrications to take hold. To hear Reagan discussed by certain conservative popularists is to hear about a president who never existed, and this has occurred in a world with so much information it’s– literally– mind-boggling. And twenty years takes us to Paul; it’s another twenty before we get to Mark and something vaguely resembling a biography. The point of all this that we really need to be suspicious about anything we are told that Jesus said or did that occurs in the so-called Q material. We need to be suspicious of all of it.

OTOH, the aphorism about salt is one of the things that Jesus may actually have said. It’s in Mark, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense in any context that we’ve encountered. Here, it feels like it’s been attached with tape. It’s not so much as an afterthought as the evangelist throwing up his hands, not knowing where it belongs, so he just sort of stuck it here for want of a better place. The Q Reader does include this as part of Q, as well it should; the interesting thing is that it’s exactly the disjointed nature of so much of what Jesus is reported to have said that is the best argument for something like Q. If Jesus was considered a wise man by the ancients, it’s exactly these pithy little aphorisms that would have been passed down. Of the famous Seven Sages of Greek thought, all we know about them consists of the adages they are reputed to have uttered. So perhaps. This should probably be pursued more in the summary to the chapter.


29 Ne, posteaquam posuerit fundamentum et non potuerit perficere, omnes, qui vident, incipiant illudere ei

30 dicentes: “Hic homo coepit aedificare et non potuit consummare”.

31 Aut quis rex, iturus committere bellum adversus alium regem, non sedens prius cogitat, si possit cum decem milibus occurrere ei, qui cum viginti milibus venit ad se?

32 Alioquin, adhuc illo longe agente, legationem mittens rogat ea, quae pacis sunt.

33 Sic ergo omnis ex vobis, qui non renuntiat omnibus, quae possidet, non potest meus esse discipulus.

34 Bonum est sal; si autem sal quoque evanuerit, in quo condietur?

35 Neque in terram neque in sterquilinium utile est, sed foras proiciunt illud. Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat”.

Luke Chapter 14:16-24

This is actually still part of the scene that we’ve been examining for the whole chapter. Recall that it started with Jesus eating at the house of some Pharisees, where he created a stir by healing a man with dropsy on the sabbath. The next section continued with that same meal, when we got the admonition to humble oneself to be exalted, which ended with one of the guests saying “blessed are those who eat bread in the kingdom of God. This continues, and Jesus is replying to that man.


16 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἄνθρωπός τις ἐποίει δεῖπνον μέγα, καὶ ἐκάλεσεν πολλούς,

17 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦ δείπνου εἰπεῖν τοῖς κεκλημένοις, Ἔρχεσθε, ὅτι ἤδη ἕτοιμά ἐστιν.

18 καὶ ἤρξαντο ἀπὸ μιᾶς πάντες παραιτεῖσθαι. ὁ πρῶτος εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀγρὸν ἠγόρασα καὶ ἔχω ἀνάγκην ἐξελθὼν ἰδεῖν αὐτόν: ἐρωτῶ σε, ἔχε με παρῃτημένον.

19 καὶ ἕτερος εἶπεν, Ζεύγη βοῶν ἠγόρασα πέντε καὶ πορεύομαι δοκιμάσαι αὐτά: ἐρωτῶ σε, ἔχε με παρῃτημένον.

20 καὶ ἕτερος εἶπεν, Γυναῖκα ἔγημα καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οὐ δύναμαι ἐλθεῖν.

21 καὶ παραγενόμενος ὁ δοῦλος ἀπήγγειλεν τῷ κυρίῳ αὐτοῦ ταῦτα. τότε ὀργισθεὶς ὁ οἰκοδεσπότης εἶπεν τῷ δούλῳ αὐτοῦ, Ἔξελθε ταχέως εἰς τὰς πλατείας καὶ ῥύμας τῆς πόλεως, καὶ τοὺς πτωχοὺς καὶ ἀναπείρους καὶ τυφλοὺς καὶ χωλοὺς εἰσάγαγε ὧδε.

22 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ δοῦλος, Κύριε, γέγονεν ὃ ἐπέταξας, καὶ ἔτι τόπος ἐστίν.

23 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ κύριος πρὸς τὸν δοῦλον, Ἔξελθε εἰς τὰς ὁδοὺς καὶ φραγμοὺς καὶ ἀνάγκασον εἰσελθεῖν, ἵνα γεμισθῇ μου ὁ οἶκος:

24 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀνδρῶν ἐκείνων τῶν κεκλημένων γεύσεταί μου τοῦ δείπνου.

He said to him (the man who said those eating in the kingdom are blessed), “A certain man made a great dinner, and he invited many, (17) and he sent his slave at the hour of the dinner to tell those invited, ‘Come, indeed it is ready’. (18) And they all began from the first one to excuse themselves. The first said to him (the slave), ‘I have purchased a field and I have to go see it. I say to you have me excused’. (19) And another said, ‘Five yokes of oxen I have bought, and I go to examine them. I say to you have me excused’. (20) And another said, ‘I have married a woman and because of this I am not able to come’. (21) And becoming next to (= returning), the slave announced to his lord these things. Then waxing wroth the lord of the manor said to his slave, ‘Go quickly to the streets and streets/alleys of the city, and the poor and the maimed and the blind and the lame lead here’. (23) And the slave said, ‘Lord, the preparations are become and yet is a place’. (24) And the lord said to the slave, ‘Go to the roads and the fences and compel to come, so that my house be filled. (25) I say to you that no one of those men invited shall taste my dinner’.”

A couple of points about the Greek, most of which occur in the conversation between lord and servant. First, the lord is called ‘kyrios’, ‘lord’, which would be familiar to anyone who has experienced the Catholic and even Anglican mass, or has listened to any of the masses written by Classical composers. Mozart’s Requiem, or Bach’s B Minor Mass come immediately to my mind. The opening prayer is ‘Kyrie eleison’, ‘Lord have Mercy’. I have seen this referred to as the Trisagion in the Book of Common Prayer, since it is repeated three times, interchanged with “Christ have mercy”, and ending with “Lord have mercy” again. This is the only bit of Greek that one finds in the traditional Latin mass, and I have no explanation for why it was retained. But, back to the point, the lord is referred to as ‘kyrios’, except once he becomes the ‘oikodespotes’, literally the ‘despot of the home’. I rendered this as ‘lord of the manor’. Not an exact fit, but it gives the sense that we’re using a different term.

The man who has bought oxen says he has purchased five yokes of oxen. A yoke is a pair, because two oxen would be joined by a yoke, so the piece of equipment became synonymous with ‘pair’.

Then the servant ‘becomes around’. This is a literal translation of the Greek. It is a compound word, made up of ‘becoming’, which is used in place of the standard ‘to be’; and ‘para’, which means ‘next to’. There is a similar thing with ‘the preparations are become’; the preparations have been made, which is to say they have come into existence. 

“Waxing wroth” is me being pretentious with a deliberate archaism. My apologies, but the old language carries an impact. Then he tells the slave to go into the “streets and streets”; to the second, I added “alleyways”. The first word really means something like ‘wide places’, which is a description of a street. 

The slave says that he’s brought all the people from the first group, and there is still a place. This is a very (overly) literal translation. It essentially means that places at the table are still available, but the word in Greek is singular. In English, we would use the singular to say there is still ‘space’ or ‘room’. That is how this generally gets rendered. However, part of my intent is that this be an aid to beginning students of Greek. I know how confusing it often was (is) when trying to make the expression work, first as Greek, then as English.

Finally, to carry out the master’s final injunction, the slave goes to the ‘roads and fences’. The first word is clear enough; as opposed to the streets of a town, it refers to the roads between towns. Hence, the fences; walls would also fit, but it is not the standard word used for a city wall. Despite this, it gets translated as ‘hedges’. Here is another instance where translators of the Reformation simply ignored their professed intent; this includes the KJV. Rather than make reference to the original, they stuck with the Latin translation of the Vulgate, which is saepes. This includes the idea of a hedge, where the Greek word does not truly do so. It gets appended as a definition peculiar to the NT, but it’s not really an understanding that occurs elsewhere in standard Greek, meaning Greek written by pagans. Hence we find, once again, that NT Greek is very much an artificial construction. I truly wonder what Luke actually meant when he wrote the word. Of course, a hedge can refer to a boundary marker between properties; this is common in many parts of Europe. So conflating fence and hedge does make sense. And one possible interpretation is that people that we would now call homeless would sort of camp inside a hedge, using it for protection. And this is possible; during the Normandy invasion, tanks sometimes had trouble breaking through the very old hedgerows of France. I tend to suspect hedges were not common in biblical Judea; so I wonder where Luke was writing this, and how Jerome got the idea that the evangelist meant ‘hedges’.

To the story. First and foremost, this is about the supersession of the Jews by pagans. As we have noted many times, by the late First Century the vast majority of those joining the Christian group were pagans, and stories like this one were created to explain that phenomenon. And it had to be explained. Since the Jews were the Chosen People, and Jesus was the Messiah promised to the Jews all those centuries ago, why were Jews so grossly underrepresented in the ranks of the new Christian sect? And of course one huge implication here is that this story does not date back to Jesus, despite the fact that the Q people insist that this story was part of Q because– and only because– it’s in both Matthew and Luke. They do not stop to analyze what the words say, or what they imply. They do not stop to ask whether this story makes sense coming out of Jesus’ mouth. It doesn’t. This story, and that of the Centurion and several others are all about the Jews being superseded by pagans, and this did not happen in the time of Jesus; rather, it occurred several decades after Jesus. There is real question about how much Jesus interacted with pagans, or whether he considered them at all. The answer would depend on how “religious” Jesus’ message was. Now, on the surface, that might sound ridiculous, but if Jesus was a wonder-worker like Mark says, then the religious aspect of the ministry may have been much less than generally thought. That would explain Matthew: he wrote after the Christ side of the story had become predominant, together with the sacrifice that is at the heart of the Passion story (despite the fact that neither the sacrifice nor the ransom theory of the crucifixion are internally consistent) led to the Sermon on the Mount and all the rest of the material that shows up in Matthew for the first time.

A couple of final things. The slave is to compel people to come. Really? How does that work? We’re going to compel people to come into the Kingdom of God, or into the Life? That is truly an odd thought. The other thing is that this version lacks Matthew’s ending where guest, presumably one dragged in from under a hedge got kicked out into the outer darkness because he wasn’t properly attired. No shoes, no shirt, no service. That part always struck me as bizarre, and I said as much when we discussed this story in Matthew. So here is another instance where Luke “cleans up” or “corrects” something that is amiss with Matthew. Of course the Q people will admit no such thing, so perhaps we’ll just leave it at that. Do take note, however, that the number of such instances is accumulating. Seriously; I have a book in here.

16 At ipse dixit ei: “Homo quidam fecit cenam magnam et vocavit multos;

17 et misit servum suum hora cenae dicere invitatis: “Venite, quia iam paratum est”.

18 Et coeperunt simul omnes excusare. Primus dixit ei: “Villam emi et necesse habeo exire et videre illam; rogo te, habe me excusatum”.

19 Et alter dixit: “Iuga boum emi quinque et eo probare illa; rogo te, habe me excusatum”.

20 Et alius dixit: “Uxorem duxi et ideo non possum venire”.

21 Et reversus servus nuntiavit haec domino suo. Tunc iratus pater familias dixit servo suo: “Exi cito in plateas et vicos civitatis et pauperes ac debiles et caecos et claudos introduc huc”.

22 Et ait servus: “Domine, factum est, ut imperasti, et adhuc locus est”.

23 Et ait dominus servo: “Exi in vias et saepes, et compelle intrare, ut impleatur domus mea.

24 Dico autem vobis, quod nemo virorum illorum, qui vocati sunt, gustabit cenam meam’.”