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Luke Chapter 12:1-12

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summary Luke Chapter 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 10:38-42

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

Text

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

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

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

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός ⸃·

Luke Chapter 10:1-16

Continuing our snail’s-pace progress with Luke, we start a new chapter. This section and at least a portion of the next will deal with the Sending of the Seventy. This both is, and is not, unique to Luke. In none of the other gospels does Jesus send out seventy, nor does he send out two batches of “apostles” as happens in Luke. We had the Sending of the Twelve at the beginning of the previous chapter, but that was a very brief affair. Most of what comes in this section applied to the sending of the twelve in M&M.

Why the duplication? Why Seventy? The number may indicate the changed circumstances of what can truly be called the nascent Church. Rather than the smaller circumstances described by Mark, who continually felt the need to explain why so many Jews were not Christians, by Luke’s time Christianity–as it can truly be called now–was a going concern. That’s one thing. Another, however, is the knowledge of the mission of Paul held by Luke. Because of the latter, there were church communities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean as well as a community in Rome that dated back 40 or 50 years. Rather than explain an apparent failure, or at least a less-than-optimal outcome as Mark did, Luke had to explain the movement’s success. But wait, there’s more. Given that the knowledge of Paul’s mission had come into a wider audience, one may suspect that there was a certain level of uneasiness about Paul’s somewhat ambiguous role in the success. After all, Paul had never met Jesus; this made the establishment of so many communities by him rather an awkward fact. Could Paul truly be called a disciple of Jesus? Well, yes, but only if you squint a little bit. So by sending seventy, Luke provides the basis for Paul’s later mission. Jesus sent out a large number of “those who were sent out”; they must have, or at least could have, covered a lot of ground. Thus, Paul’s later mission could be seen more as confirming, rather than founding, all of these widespread communities.

In a sense, we are saying that Luke domesticated Paul. Luke brought Paul fully into the Christian fold. And the way Luke did this may help explain two other things. First and foremost, it explains Acts. By coming up with a thrilling adventure tale along the lines of Voyage of the Argo, Luke–perhaps we should say “Luke”–created a true Christian hero. Or, perhaps a Hero. But the emphasis should be placed on the adjective, rather than the noun: Christian hero. Thus was Paul brought fully into the fold. Not only that, he became a starter on The Team. The other thing Luke does is to make sure that the epistles became second-class citizens to the gospels, something that persists today. So many tracts on Jesus focus exclusively on the gospels, or at most bringing in a cite from Paul that “proves the point”. The Wikipedia entry on Acts says that the book was written without knowledge of the epistles. I disagree. As we discussed when reading Galatians, the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts can easily be extrapolated from Paul’s account of the same event. Granted, the version in Acts is dramatized by several (dozen) orders of magnitude, but the outline is there. In any case, Paul becomes a major player in the gospel world, arguably second in importance only to Jesus. He is way more significant than Peter, after all.

Anyway, enough speculation, fun though it is. On to the

Text

1 Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ἀνέδειξεν ὁ κύριος ἑτέρους ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο], καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς ἀνὰ δύο [δύο] πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ εἰς πᾶσαν πόλιν καὶ τόπον οὗ ἤμελλεν αὐτὸς ἔρχεσθαι.

And* after those things, the lord proclaimed the election** of another seventy(-two), and sent them by twos towards facing towards all the cities and places where he wished (them) to go.

*Here, the particle << δὲ >> works as a conjunction. The base is “on the other hand…” which can quickly become “but”, and “but” is a conjunction the way “and” is. So, we get a process of word development here.

**Another glaring example of “New Testament” Greek wherein the translation given bears little connexion to the Classical meaning of the word. There is a scene in Herodotus where someone is accused of holding up a shield to reflect the sun as a signal to the Persians. The word Herodotus uses is the same on as here: << anadeiknumi >>. In fairness, the Latin uses designavit, designated. From there it’s but a short hop to “appointed’, which is how the word is most often translated.

Last word on the Greek. The word for “sent out” is apostellein, and I hope that root is clear. This is another example of a standard, run-of-the-mill, garden variety, very-ordinary word gets transliterated into English where it has a very specific and religious meaning. Like baptizo.

This is perhaps the clearest evidence I could ask for to prove the point I try to make in the introduction. Why was Christianity successful by the time of Luke? Well, Jesus did sent out seventy (some mss traditions read 72, as does the Vulgate below) people to go to all the cities and places. I fudged that quote a bit; properly, it concludes with “that he wished them to go.  Makes a bit of difference. However, the point remains: Jesus sent them out, and he sent out a lot of them, and he did it before Paul. This way, the communities that were founded could be traced back to Jesus himself rather than some later follower.

This provenance is important. It is, after all, at the root of the insistence on Q. Without Q, it’s very hard to argue that Jesus actually spoke the Beatitudes or any of the other material in Mathew, but not Mark. And so with this; now the line of descent goes all the way back to the beginning, to people who were taught by Jesus. I would suggest that this became more important with the discovery of Paul and its attendant realization that many of the scattered Christian communities did not have a direct affiliation to Jesus. Once again, this is not direct evidence that Luke was aware of the Pauline corpus of writing, but throughout this book we have come across many, many instances where an inference can easily be drawn that Luke was aware of Matthew. Luke’s avoidance of Matthew is too clean. So here we have, perhaps, an implication that Luke knew of Paul and his writing, and so crafted a story to account for Paul without bringing up all the messy conflicts. 

1 Post haec autem designavit Dominus alios septuaginta duos et misit illos binos ante faciem suam in omnem civitatem et locum, quo erat ipse venturus.

2 ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁ μὲν* θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ* ἐργάται ὀλίγοι: δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐργάτας ἐκβάλῃ εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ.

3 ὑπάγετε: ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς ἄρνας ἐν μέσῳ λύκων.

4 μὴ βαστάζετε βαλλάντιον, μὴ πήραν, μὴ ὑποδήματα, καὶ μηδένα κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἀσπάσησθε.

5 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν εἰσέλθητε οἰκίαν, πρῶτον λέγετε, Εἰρήνη τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ.

He said to them, “On one hand* the reaping/harvest is great; on the other* the workers are few. So pray to the lord of the harvest how he may throw towards his harvest. (3) Rise up: Look, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. (4) Do not carry a bag, nor money, no cloak, and greet no one on the road. (5) In which house you enter, first say ‘Peace (be) upon this house’.”

*This is a rare instance when both parts of the << μὲν…δὲ >> construction are present. The first is generally omitted, as being understood. Boy howdy, do I remember how much I hated that when I was learning Greek and Latin.

There is not much here, really. The sheep among wolves bit is considered Q because it’s here and in Matthew. There is a difference in vocabulary. Matthew used the term “probata”, which is a very generic term, one that could almost be applied to any quadruped kept in a flock or a herd. It is reasonable to translate this as “cattle”, even in American usage that word always refers to cows. Here, Luke uses “arnas”; in Apocalypse, the sacred are washed in the blood of the “arnion”. So which word was in Q? Those who (claim to) know, probably choose the word Luke uses here. Because, we know (for a fact!) that Luke’s version is the more “primitive”, which means it holds more closely to the original text (of a book that was never written. Fiendishly clever, that!); hence, “blessed are the poor” rather than “poor in spirit”. 

However, I’ve just made a discovery. The word used here is actually “aren”, which is the base for for “sheep”; the use here is unique. Revelations uses “arnion”, which is a little sheep, hence, a lamb. Revelation uses the word a lot, and John uses it once. The rest of the time, when we’re talking about sheep, chances are the word used is “probaton”. IOW, the word in Q would almost certainly not have been “aren/arnion”; most likely, it would have been “probaton” which means Matthew is the more “primitive”. Oops. PS. Kloppenberg’s Q Reader agrees, and translates as “sheep”, which I’m assuming sits atop “probaton”. So Luke is the more primitive, except when he’s not. The rules for Q are very, very fluid.

2 Et dicebat illis: “Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci; rogate ergo Dominum messis, ut mittat operarios in messem suam.

3 “Ite; ecce ego mitto vos sicut agnos inter lupos.

4 “Nolite portare sacculum neque peram neque calceamenta et neminem per viam salutaveritis.

5 “In quamcumque domum intraveritis, primum dicite: “Pax huic domui”.

6 καὶ ἐὰν ἐκεῖ ᾖ υἱὸς εἰρήνης, ἐπαναπαήσεται ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἀνακάμψει.

(6) And if a son of peace should be there, your peace should rest upon him. If not, it (the peace) will return upon you.

I have to stop and comment on this. I checked, and this reads much the same in Matthew. What arrests me is the idea of peace returning to them as if it’s a tangible object that can be passed back and forth rather than an abstract concept that is not really there even when it is. Are we talking about an inner peace? It’s kind of hard to tell exactly what this means. When I say that I mean that it’s hard to be sure what the author meant, or understood by this. I checked in the Great Scott (L&S unabridged) and the overwhelming Classical use of the word is to describe the active state of non-war. It’s largely a political and/or military concept. Here we have something else. Now, we in the modern world are very familiar with the idea of “inner peace”; we’re familiar with the idea even if we’re not so familiar with the actual experience of it. We need to be very careful about not reading an anachronistic understanding of the expression back into the First Century. There are a couple of places in Plato’s Republic that could be referring to a state such as we think of, but it’s not a common thing. At least, it hadn’t been. Whether the followers of Jesus were pioneers in this attitude, or whether they were simply moving along with the cultural stream is a question that, for the present, is difficult to answer.

6 Et si ibi fuerit filius pacis, requiescet super illam pax vestra; sin autem, ad vos revertetur.

7 ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ μένετε, ἐσθίοντες καὶ πίνοντες τὰ παρ’ αὐτῶν, ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ. μὴ μεταβαίνετε ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν.

“Remain in that house, eating and drinking the thinks they have, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not go out from house to house.

First of all, I keep thinking that I can lump several of these injunctions into a single block that can then be commented on in toto. But each line has something worth noting, so I stop. In going to compare this section to Matthew, it appears the harmonies consider this a different bit of text from the sending of the twelve. As such, it stands alone, without the comparison text next to it. So this has to be compared to those texts. But what caught me short was the “worker is worthy of his wage”. This reads a bit differently than in Matthew. Instead of “wage”, Matthew says “the labourer is worthy of his nourishment”, the sense being is that those preaching will be fed rather than paid. This seems significant, but I can’t for the life of me say why it should be. Both imply something given in exchange for the preaching. Recall in Galatians that Paul self-justifies by saying he was never a burden to the community where he was staying, but that he earned money as a tent-maker. Then I wanted to tie this to Paul, since it’s a word he uses, but it’s not uncommon in Matthew either. In both of those, however, the word usually means “reward”, or, at least, that’s how it gets translated. The original Classical meaning is closer to the way Luke uses it here, as wages. I suppose the thing to do is go back to those passages where “reward” is used to see if, perhaps, “wages” might be more appropriate. But, even then, “reward” is also an acceptable use of the word in Classical Greek.

7 In eadem autem domo manete edentes et bibentes, quae apud illos sunt: dignus enim est operarius mercede sua. Nolite transire de domo in domum.

8 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν πόλιν εἰσέρχησθε καὶ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐσθίετε τὰ παρα τιθέμενα ὑμῖν,

9 καὶ θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς, καὶ λέγετε αὐτοῖς, Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

“And in each city you go to and they receive you, eat what is put before you. (9) And heal those (who are) debilitated in it (the city), and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God is nearly upon you’.

I missed this in the previous verse. The injunction to eat what they have, or what is put before you is actually permission not to fuss about Jewish dietary laws. Indeed, this is more like a command not to follow them. It’s very cleverly presented so that this implication does not stand out on first read. Or second or third or fourth. Again, Jesus never said these words; had he, Paul would not have talked about all things being clean and Peter would not have had the dream in Acts. These permissions not to be Jews would not have been necessary because it would have been clear that Jesus had authorized this from the start. That didn’t happen, so it had to be put into the mouths of later speakers.

8 Et in quamcumque civitatem intraveritis, et susceperint vos, manducate, quae apponuntur vobis,

9 et curate infirmos, qui in illa sunt, et dicite illis: “Appropinquavit in vos regnum Dei”.

10 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν πόλιν εἰσέλθητε καὶ μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξελθόντες εἰς τὰς πλατείας αὐτῆς εἴπατε,

11 Καὶ τὸν κονιορτὸν τὸν κολληθέντα ἡμῖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ὑμῶν εἰς τοὺς πόδας ἀπομασσόμεθα ὑμῖν: πλὴν τοῦτο γινώσκετε ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

12 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι Σοδόμοις ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ.

“And in each city you go to and they do not receive you, going out to the streets of it and say, ‘And the dust from your city we wipe the clinging dust clinging from our feet, but know this, that the kingdom of God approaches’. I tell you, that for the Sodomites in the day that approaches it will be more tolerable than for that city.

We finally have a section that does not particularly require much comment. Aside from the reference to Sodom, his is Triple Tradition material, and doesn’t really carry any unique features. While it may not be unique, I would like to say a few words about Sodom. Obviously, Sodom was a Jewish cultural reference. I am curious as to how well non-Jews would have gotten the reference. Now, this particular verse is not in Mark in most ms traditions, although it is in Mark in the KJV. It is not in the version of the Vulgate below, and this version has the nihil obstat of the Vatican. It is footnoted in my hard-copy Greek NT. So, assuming that this was not in Mark, as most translations apparently do, the most likely possibility is that this was added by Matthew. And this would fit in nicely with the rest of Matthew, who was wont to display his erudition by working in lots of quotes from the OT to “prove” it was about Jesus. There was “calling his son out of Egypt” when the Holy Family was called back from Egypt after the death of Herod the Great, and the quote that “he will be called a Nazarene” when he locates Jesus’ home town there to match the quote, and dozens of others. So here is another place where Matthew does this again, and Luke follows.

Here’s the funny thing. Had the woe to Sodom been in Mark, I would have seriously given it consideration as something Jesus authentically said. As I’ve gone on, I’m coming to think that Christianity has very little to do with Jesus, and a lot to do with those who came after him. As such, something peculiarly Jewish like Sodom I would seem much more likely to be coming from the Jewish Jesus rather than the much more pagan later writers, meaning Matthew and later. But, this can’t be traced to Mark. The irony? Since it’s not in Mark, it supposedly came from Q, which supposedly came from Jesus. So, stuff in Q, which is supposed to be authentic, isn’t. Stuff in the Triple Tradition, or simply in Mark, is much more likely to be authentic. It’s not necessarily authentic, but it has to be given serious consideration. The stuff in Q is almost assuredly of later composition. Or, at least 90% of later composition. It’s possible a few things slipped past Mark and made it to Matthew more or less intact, but it’s a very few things indeed.

10 In quamcumque civitatem intraveritis, et non receperint vos, exeuntes in plateas eius dicite:

11 “Etiam pulverem, qui adhaesit nobis ad pedes de civitate vestra, extergimus in vos; tamen hoc scitote, quia appropinquavit regnum Dei”.

12 Dico vobis quia Sodomis in die illa remissius erit quam illi civitati.

13 Οὐαί σοι, Χοραζίν: οὐαί σοι, Βηθσαϊδά: ὅτι εἰ ἐν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ γενόμεναι ἐν ὑμῖν, πάλαι ἂν ἐν σάκκῳ καὶ σποδῷ καθήμενοι μετενόησαν.

14 πλὴν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν τῇ κρίσει ἢ ὑμῖν.

15 καὶ σύ, Καφαρναούμ, μὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ; ἕως τοῦ ἅ|δου καταβήσῃ.

16 Ὁ ἀκούων ὑμῶν ἐμοῦ ἀκούει, καὶ ὁ ἀθετῶν ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ ἀθετεῖ: ὁ δὲ ἐμὲ ἀθετῶν ἀθετεῖ τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με.

“Woe to you, Chorazin; woe to you, Bethsaida; that if in Tyre and Sidon had occurred the powers which occurred in you, long ago in sack-cloth (i.e., burlap) and ashes being seated they had repented, (14) Except to Tyre and Sidon it will be more bearable in the judgement than for you, (15) And you, Caphernaum, why not until you be exalted to the sky? Until Hades comes down. (16) The one hearing you hears me, and the one despising you despises me. But the one despising me despises the one who sent me”.

This is so obviously post-Jesus that it shouldn’t need the slightest bit of comment. Well…Seriously, this is clearly an ex-post facto rationalization of why the pagans had converted and most Jews hadn’t. The reason? I have come to suspect that Jesus’ original message did not resonate all that well with Jews. He was likely a charismatic figure who attracted a certain following, but it was the coming of Paul and his appeal to the pagans that changed the game. This is an “explanation” for that process. By the time Matthew wrote (presumably of his own creation) these words, some fifty years had passed since the standard reckoning of Jesus’ death. Matthew, being versed in the HS, was well aware of, say the books of Judges, or Kings, in which the leaders of Israel* did evil in the sight of God. So Matthew updated that to, more or less, the time of Jesus. This fits in nicely with the OT prophets preaching repentance, and woe-ing about the neglect of YHWH. So now they neglected Jesus, and the circle was complete.

 

*Israel. As I understand the history embedded deeply–very, very deeply–in the HS, Israel and Judea both spoke Hebrew, so they had that in common. What they did not share was a steadfast adherence to YHWH; that was a Judahite thing. And the Judeans created this myth of a united monarchy ruled from Jerusalem. This is almost certainly a pious fiction. The situation was most likely a strongish, middling kingdom in Israel that had periods of middling power, and then there were the poor cousins in Jerusalem. When Israel was crushed by Assyria, Judah jumped on the propaganda bandwagon to create a myth whereby they were the rightful successors to the former territory of Israel. This led to the united monarchy when, in fact, David was a breakaway from the rule of Saul in Israel. David rebelled, lucked into the capture of Jerusalem, and there set up his own line that really and truly had nothing to do with Israel.

13 Vae tibi, Chorazin! Vae tibi, Bethsaida! Quia si in Tyro et Sidone factae fuissent virtutes, quae in vobis factae sunt, olim in cilicio et cinere sedentes paeniterent.

14 Verumtamen Tyro et Sidoni remissius erit in iudicio quam vobis.

15 Et tu, Capharnaum, numquid usque in caelum exaltaberis? Usque ad infernum demergeris!

16 Qui vos audit, me audit; et, qui vos spernit, me spernit; qui autem me spernit, spernit eum, qui me misit ”.

 

Luke Chapter 7:11-17

Note: as first published, the commentary was written with the erroneous belief that Luke did not have a version of the story of Jairus’ daughter. I was mistaken. Luke does have that story, and that of the Bleeding Woman as well. I have attempted to edit the commentary to reflect this correct state of affairs. My apologies.

Here we come upon something that is only in Luke. Jesus has just healed the slave of the centurion, and now he’s off to a town called Nain, which is not mentioned anywhere else in the NT. There is a modern town with more or less the same name, and it has an alternative spelling in the HS. However, the truly odd thing about Nain is that it’s way off the beaten path from where Jesus usually perambulated. Most of the stories of Jesus have him on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, which is where Caphernaum is. The Dekaopolis is on the eastern side of the lake, and Tyre and Sidon are to the north, on the Mediterranean shore. Nain is south and west of the lake. Interestingly, it’s not all that far from Nazareth; however, Jesus was in Nazareth back in Chapter 3, and since then he returned to Caphernaum, which is where he encountered the centurion. Now, very suddenly and without any real explanation, Jesus appears in this other town awfully close to thirty miles away. Did he teleport? Probably not.

Here’s my suspicion. In the years after Jesus died, as his story and his legend and his following grew, the number of stories about him multiplied. As mentioned, Nain wasn’t far from Nazareth, so perhaps some Nainite, or Nainian, or Nainiac came up with the idea that Jesus came to Nain and performed some sort of miracle there. And, with enough retellings, and enough years, people of Nain came to believe that Jesus had been there, so the story got added to the oral tradition. I tend to favor this over Luke inventing the story himself, largely because of the location of Nain. I’m not sure where Luke’s gospel was supposedly written, but there is no reason to believe it was all that close to Judea or Galilee. If Luke heard the story and liked it, he probably chose to include it for both those reasons, not being particularly concerned about the logistics.

Which brings us back to a point that has not been discussed much for what feels like quite a while. This unconcern for physical reality is a really good demonstration of the principle that the evangelists were not writing history. This fact, while obvious to so many people is so often forgotten in the breach that it’s a little frightening. The gospels, whatever they may be, or whatever they were intended to do be, were not intended to be, and are not historical writing. That fact cannot be stressed enough. The prevailing attitude is that the four evangelists were telling a single story; that statement is only accurate to a certain point, and one that is reached very quickly. They were telling the story of Jesus. Yes. On that we can agree. But this is not his biography. This is hagiography. No one takes the later lives of the saints entirely at face value, and we should have the same level of skepticism about factual information when reading the gospels. The fact is, Luke really did not care whether Nain was a leisurely twenty-minute walk from Caphernaum, or whether it was on the shore of th Dead Sea. That wasn’t the point, and it wasn’t the point because no one was supposed to take this stuff literally. Repeat once more: the gospels are not, and were not intended to be, history.

There is also a phenomenon that I alluded to briefly in the discussion of Mark. So many–almost all of them, really–seem to be fully-formed little units, like blocks of various sizes. The Gerasene Demonaic is a splendid example. Like wooden blocks, these stories floated along on the stream of oral tradition. Some of them were collected by the evangelists, but doubtless many more simply floated away, downstream, to the sea where they became waterlogged and sank. Perhaps they were derivative, or redundant, or uninteresting, or they gave the wrong message; for whatever reason, they were not collected and they simply vanished from history. Certainly this happened with any number of manuscripts, until a chance find like Nag Hamadi turns up something like the Gospel of Thomas. This being said, I do believe that Matthew, Luke and John also crafted their own tales. We haven’t gotten to them yet, but I truly suspect that the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and others, were the creations of Luke. They have a high level of literary quality and have always felt like the same mind was behind them. Perhaps when we get to them in Greek, they may not seem to be so. Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s get to the

Text

11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἑξῆς ἐπορεύθη εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Ναΐν, καὶ συνεπορεύοντο αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ὄχλος πολύς.

And it came to be on the next (day, presumably) he came to the city called Nain, and they arrived with him his disciples and a large crowd. 

What I have translated as “next” is a Greek word that implies sequence, things line up in a row. Since it’s en tō hexēs, “on the next…” (the next what is unspecified), “day” seemed like a good choice. But this is what I mean about the distance. To travel thirty miles on foot is a prodigious amount of walking. It’s possible, but it would require some pretty serious intention, and, at best, would take pretty much the whole day. When I was in high school, two of my classmates walked something like that in a day, but these were athletes in really good shape, and 17 years old to boot. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s likely to have happened. It’s doubly or triply unlikely if Jesus had been followed by a large crowd. Of course, it’s always possible that the crowd accumulated as he progressed. Certainly, a large crowd did not walk thirty miles in a single day.

That’s all fine and good. The more remarkable thing is that Luke seems to have no compunction of the size of this accomplishment. This, in turn, tells me that he most likely has no real conception of the geography involved. In turn, the implication is that he was not terribly familiar with Galilee. This is no surprise, really. Go back to what we said in the introduction: this is not historical writing. 

11 Et factum est, deinceps ivit in civitatem, quae vocatur Naim, et ibant cum illo discipuli eius et turba copiosa.

12 ὡς δὲ ἤγγισεν τῇ πύλῃ τῆς πόλεως, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐξεκομίζετο τεθνηκὼς μονογενὴς υἱὸς τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ αὐτὴ ἦν χήρα, καὶ ὄχλος τῆς πόλεως ἱκανὸς ἦν σὺν αὐτῇ. 

13 καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν ὁ κύριος ἐσπλαγχνίσθη ἐπ’ αὐτῇ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Μὴ κλαῖε.

14 καὶ προσελθὼν ἥψατο τῆς σοροῦ, οἱ δὲ βαστάζοντες ἔστησαν, καὶ εἶπεν, Νεανίσκε, σοὶ λέγω, ἐγέρθητι.

As they approached the gate of the city, and look, was being carried out the dead only child son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a crowd of the city was sufficient with her. (13) And seeing her the lord was moved with compassion and said to her, “Do not cry”. (14) And going forward, he touched the bier, and those carrying (it) stood and he said, “Youngster/Young man, I say to you, get up”. 

To start, there are two words that are unique in the NT to this passage. The first is the word used for “being carried out”, and the other is for “bier”. These are not common words in Classical Greek, but they aren’t terribly unusual words, either. I bring this up to demonstrate that Luke is no amateur when it comes to writing Greek. He was apparently very well educated. What this implies, in turn, is that if he uses a word found in Matthew or Q, he uses it because he chooses to, not because he’s constrained to because he’s unaware of his options. Now, this does not obviously correspond, or fold into into either a pro- or anti-Q  position. It does rebound into the question of the author of Q, and the education level of said author might be. We know Luke is educated; would an earlier writer, a near-contemporary of Jesus and someone who was an original disciple, or close to one of them, have had this level of education? Let’s think about Paul. He had a number of unique words, but most of them were created by the addition of a novel prefix to an existing word. Some of his early letters had passages that I described as “borderline gibberish” (whether I would think so now that I have more experience is another question). Using him as an example is not a bad comparison, or certainly not an unfair one. He was educated to some degree, but there is a rather large leap from his level of Greek to that of both Matthew and Luke.

Also, there is good chance that the early followers of Jesus were not pagans. Aside from the couple of stories put into the gospels, most likely at a later date, showing that Jesus interacted with pagans, it seems pretty safe to conclude that Jesus did not interact all that much with pagans. First of all, the matter of language comes up; did Jesus speak Greek? If not, did the people of Sidon and Tyre, or the Dekapolis speak Aramaic? These are not irrelevant questions. So, given that Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews who spoke Aramaic, with perhaps a smattering of Greek words related to their trade, the author of Q was likely an Aramaic-speaking Jew. So where did this hypothetical Jew come up with some of the vocabulary that we have found in what is purported to be Q? Matthew read his HS in Greek; he seems as if he would be an obvious suspect.

At this point, we (well, I really) have not come close to creating a coherent argument against Q. All I can hope at this point is that the seeds of doubt about Q have been planted, and perhaps are starting to sprout.

As far as content goes, this seems to reflect back a bit on the daughter of Jairus (Mk 6). The touchpoint of contact between the two is Jesus telling the crowd, or the mother, not to cry. And thanks to the paradigms of Greek verbs, we know that he’s speaking to the mother in particular since the command is 2nd Person Singular, rather than plural. It’s addressed only to one person. Recall that when Jesus gets to the house of Jairus, he asks why all are crying, since the girl is only asleep. There, of course, this statement left Jesus open to mockery, of which there is none here. Regardless.

12 Cum autem appropinquaret portae civitatis, et ecce defunctus efferebatur filius unicus matri suae; et haec vidua erat, et turba civitatis multa cum illa.

13 Quam cum vidisset Dominus, misericordia motus super ea dixit illi: “ Noli flere! ”.

14 Et accessit et tetigit loculum; hi autem, qui portabant, steterunt. Et ait: “ Adulescens, tibi dico: Surge! ”.

15 καὶ ἀνεκάθισεν ὁ νεκρὸς καὶ ἤρξατο λαλεῖν, καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὸν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτοῦ.

16 ἔλαβεν δὲ φόβος πάντας, καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεὸν λέγοντες ὅτι Προφήτης μέγας ἠγέρθη ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ὅτι Ἐπεσκέψατο ὁ θεὸς τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ.

17 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ λόγος οὗτος ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάσῃ τῇ περιχώρῳ.

And the dead one sat up and began to speak, and he (Jesus) gave him (the erstwhile corpse) to his mother. (16) And fear seized all, and they praised God saying that “A great prophet has been raised amongst us”, and that “God has looked in upon his people”. (17) And this story went out in all of Judea about him (Jesus, presumably) and all the surrounding country.

One minor point: “looked in upon” is pretty literal, but it also does capture the sense of the underlying word. In NT Greek (as if there is such a thing) lexica and translations, it’s often rendered as “visit”; and, indeed, the Vulgate uses visitavit, for which I believe no translation is necessary. The Greek word is not common (again), but it has more the sense of “review”, as in “reviewing the troops”. I think “looks in upon” nicely catches both of those ideas and provides a happy median between them.

Now let’s consider this viz à viz the story about Jairus’ daughter. We have many of the same elements as the daughter of Jairus. We have the parent/child, the weeping, Jesus arriving “too late” because the child is dead. We are missing the request by the parent to save her child. The biggest difference is that the relationship between the parent & child is larger here, and the parent’s situation is more dire. It’s straight-up dire. A childless widow would be destitute. Jairus was a man of substance; the death of his daughter would be cause for grief, but not for economic ruin, so the entire situation here is more fraught with impending disaster. As such, Jesus’ intervention is more pronounced, more “godly” as it were, since he salvages a situation that was ultimately much worse. IOW, Jesus has been elevated to a higher level in a way. This is certainly all true, but the basic element remains the same. Luke chose, IMO, to add this story to raise the stakes the of the circumstances, thus making his entrance and the feat more dramatic. After all, Jairus’ daughter had just died; it was possible that she was only asleep. This young man was on his way to be buried. There’s a bit more urgency to Jesus’ cure in this case. Actually, there is a lot more.

So the remaining question is where did Luke get this story? There were probably a number of different oral traditions about Jesus at the time Luke wrote. There was enough material to fill gospels and apocalypses and all sorts of other apocrypha for a few centuries to come, so there was not just one “oral tradition”. Different traditions had different emphases. The one the produced the Didache has a very different view of Jesus than Luke’s gospel, or any of the canonical works. So there certainly could be, and probably is, L material, and M material, items that Luke and Matthew plucked from one of the ambient traditions that were available to one, but not both of them. But I also believe, fully and firmly, that much of the L and M material came from Luke and Matthew, that each of these evangelists–and John subsequently–were truly the authors, and not just the compilers of the material they present that was not in Mark.

Of course, one never hears this said. Why not? Because that would be an explicit admission that some of Jesus’ teaching does not trace back to Jesus. Rather, it was composed sometime after Jesus, and quite possibly after Paul. Not all of it. But some. Probably a lot. And possibly some of the most famous stuff, like the Sermon on the Mount.

15 Et resedit, qui erat mortuus, et coepit loqui; et dedit illum matri suae.

16 Accepit autem omnes timor, et magnificabant Deum dicentes: “ Propheta magnus surrexit in nobis ” et: “Deus visitavit plebem suam”.

17 Et exiit hic sermo in universam Iudaeam de eo et omnem circa regionem.

Luke Chapter 7:1-10

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

Text

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

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

When he filled the ears of the people with tall his words, he came into Caphernaum. (2) The slave of a certain hundred leader had a disease and he was about to die, who by him was esteemed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 6:40-45

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary Luke Chapter 3

About two-thirds of this chapter is devoted to John the Dunker; another quarter is devoted to the genealogy (getting really tired of that word). That leaves something under ten percent to the immersion of Jesus.

The real significance of this chapter, IMO, is its relevance to the issue of Q. We have the first extensive overlap of Matthew and Luke; they both add a section on the railings of John towards those who came out to see him. This is the famous “brood of vipers” passage, with its warning that the axe is at the root. Both evangelists give their accounts in much the same language, with several key phrases repeated. This repetition is so striking—to the point that one Verse (15) pretty much exactly verbatim—that these sections are obviously from a common source. Conventional wisdom is that both evangelists derived this section from Q. This should immediately cause you to sit back and question this. After all, Q is supposed to be the sayings of Jesus. Last time I checked, John and Jesus were different people. Did I miss the memo updating that? That comment is not simply facetious; it points to the way the Q argument engages in a certain amount of sleight of hand. One moment, Q is “x”; the next it’s also “y”. This lack of consistency should be our first red flag about the existence of this mythical document. Perhaps it was written by unicorns dipping their horn in ink. Seriously, if Q is the stuff Jesus said, why is John quoted the way he is? And it’s not a short quote.

The simple answer is that this has to be part of Q; otherwise, the entire “argument” for its existence more or less collapses. If this is not in Q, that means that Luke and Matthew both got it from another separate source. This would bring the tally of source documents that have disappeared without a trace up to two. Ockham is turning in his grave as we keep inventing these extraneous sources. Even the Q people realize what a problem this would be which inhibits them from every having suggested it. So if it’s not from Q, or some unidentified other source, then the only other possible solution is that Luke copied it from Matthew. But that simply won’t do. And I admit the elegance of their solution: simply include this piece of John in Q. Never mind the logistics of how this happened. It’s bad enough that pretty much everything Jesus said pretty much missed Mark, who was supposedly a disciple of Peter, who supposedly heard almost everything Jesus said, but now we have to come up with some explanation for how this saying of John also bypassed Mark but boomeranged back to a point where the author of Q picked it up.

Let me just remind us of something: without Q, then we are faced with the very real, very likely possibility that Jesus didn’t say most of what he said. Which puts him in the same category as Yogi Berra. If these sayings of Jesus were not recorded in the period between his death and the time that Mark wrote, that means they were either transmitted orally for forty years, or they were composed at some point well after Jesus died. The most likely time would be when Matthew wrote. Since we know what forty years of oral transmission can mean (blessed are the cheesemakers), in either of these solutions we are probably dealing with sayings that, at best, may only kinda sorta maybe resemble things Jesus said; at worst, they were made up out of whole cloth because someone else decided that these were things that Jesus would have said, or perhaps should have said. That is to say, the link to Jesus becomes very, very tentative and diffuse, to the point of non-existent. This is why the existence of Q cannot be questioned. Without Q, the basis for calling ourselves “Christians” becomes extremely shaky. We can argue, of course, that these are wonderful things that Jesus said, so the actual author doesn’t matter. While true, this sort of misses the whole “divine” aspect of Jesus. If he wasn’t God incarnate, he’s just another prophet, like Elijah. Or Mohammed.

In short, there is a lot at stake if Q does not exist. So much so, in fact, that it appears that scholars are willing to overlook a fairly large body of contraindications to hold onto the ragged hopes of a dream.

It potentially gets worse. In this chapter we were compelled to face the problem presented by the genealogy. Why do both Matthew and Luke have one, but no one else? Why is Luke’s different? What does this say about Q? Well, we can rest assured that no version of Q ever reconstructed ever contained a genealogy, so we can’t ascribe Luke having one to a common source in Q. If not from Q, there are two choices: either Luke came up with the idea independently, or he got the idea from Matthew. Obviously, the fact that Luke’s is different from Matthew’s would seem to throw the weight of the argument towards independent development. That is a legitimate position. If we are being intellectually honest, however, we then need to come up with a probability that Luke came up with the idea on his own. How likely, really, is it that these two men, engaged in essentially the same endeavour, separated by a dozen (?) years and however many miles, came up with the same idea? Stranger things have certainly happened; parallel development is hardly all-that unusual an occurrence.

If it were just this one thing, that argument might seem to be the best option to explain the existence of genealogy in both gospels. It would explain the differences. But this is not an isolated incident. So far, we have seen a similar pattern with the birth narrative. Luke followed Matthew on Joseph, the Annunciation (but to Mary, rather than Joseph), and especially the virgin birth, but he changed most of the other details. But still, the themes mentioned are only found in Matthew; no one else mentions these things, just as no one else comes up with a genealogy. Are we to infer that Luke arrived at all of these ideas independently? Bear in mind that the addition of each theme decreases the probability of independent arrival by significant amounts. So I suggest the idea of the genealogy fits in rather nicely with Joseph, virgin birth, angels, and I neglected Bethlehem the first time around.

Then comes the question of why are they different? There is no fer-sure answer to that, of course. The simplest answer is that Luke was not aware of Matthew and so came up with his genealogy independently, and concocted his lineage according to his own principles, or “research”, or creativity; as mentioned, however, this comes with it’s own set of problems. The other possibility is that Luke correcting Matthew’s genealogy. Many of the commentaries suggest that this is Mary’s heritage, that Joseph was the son-in-law, rather than the son, of Heli. After all, Luke does not properly say “son of”; rather, it’s just Joseph of Heli (tou Eli), the “tou” indicating the genitive case which shows possession. So, it’s Joseph of Heli, with “son” understood. This is a standard practice in Greek writing that dates back centuries before the NT. So the suggestion that it’s “son-in-law”  is speculative, of course, with no real evidence to support it. There is inferential evidence, however. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, not to Joseph as in Matthew. Mary is a major figure in Chapter 2. And Jesus is only “thought to be” the son of Joseph. Which is accurate if Jesus was conceived by the sacred breath and not by a human male. So why didn’t Luke just say “son of Mary, daughter of Heli”? After all, Mark refers to Jesus as “son of Mary” in Chapter 6. One can only speculate, but the whole idea of Jesus-as-illegitimate has to be borne in mind; after all, this is the most likely reason that Matthew came up with Joseph and the genealogy to begin with. If forced to guess, I would say that Luke probably did intend us to take this as Mary’s lineage, and the emphasis he put on her was to be our clue of this intent. This way, he’s more or less covered either regardless. 

The final aspect of the Q discussion concerns the reported speech of the Baptist (or Dunker. Another possible translation is John the Plunger). Why are John’s words recorded in Q, which is supposed to be the sayings of Jesus? Answer: they have to be; otherwise, the only way to account for the remarkable similarity between the gospels is to conclude that Luke copied Matthew. Seriously. That is the only way to explain why these words of John are supposedly in Q. And this is what I meant when I said that <<One moment, Q is “x”; the next it’s also “y”>>. In other words, Q is the sayings of Jesus, except when we need it to record the words of John. That really feels intellectually dishonest. And the two accounts are remarkably similar, except that in Matthew John is excoriating the Pharisees, while in Luke the condemnation is leveled at everyone who comes out to be baptised. And that leads to the “winnowing fork” passage. The two accounts of Matthew and Luke are virtually identical, differing on exactly four points: Luke changes the verb tense of two verbs from future indicative to infinitive, and one has an extra “and” while the other has an extra “his”. Both of these latter could easily be later interpolations, but they don’t have to be for the point to hold. The likelihood that two people copied these words almost verbatim from Q is much smaller than if Luke simply copied them from Matthew.

The result is that, in the first couple of chapters, we have a significant number of instances where Luke did follow Matthew against Mark. We have Joseph, the annunciation by an angel, Bethlehem, the virgin birth, and the need for a genealogy. Remember: the Q people will state, flatly and with great conviction, that Luke never ever follows Matthew against Mark. But in the first three chapters we have five separate examples. And none of these appear in any reconstruction of Q. Then we come to the winnowing fork/threshing floor analogy, and we have a passage that is copied virtually verbatim in both accounts. Historical proof on controversial topics is never conclusive; that’s why they’re controversial. No one debates the Battle of Hastings and 1066; aspects of the battle can be debated and argued about hotly for generations, but the fundamental fact remains. So an argument on a controversial topic has to be pieced together, one small bit at a time. In three chapters, we have six separate indications that Luke used Matthew. What do the Q people have? That Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark (against which we have the first five examples), and that Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is so masterfully wrought that only a fool or a madman would mess with the construction. That’s pretty much it. Notice, however that the first is wrong and the second is not an argument, but a value judgement about literary style. Personally, I did not find the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount to be all that masterfully arranged. I found the whole thing rather jumbled together, a bunch of unconnected sayings that were thrown into the same hopper. One, of course, can disagree, and come up with textual and literary arguments for the masterful handling; but those are textual and literary arguments, and the latter is highly subjective and subject to taste and fashion. I prefer historical arguments; I believe I’ve found the very strong foundation of a case against Q. I don’t expect to topple the prevailing academic consensus, but you heard it here first.

But perhaps the most remarkable part of the Q debate is that its proponents do not feel the least bit compelled to prove Q existed. In fact, they have–somehow–managed to manoeuvre the discussion so that, in effect, the non-Q people have to prove it didn’t exist. They claim that the non-Q people have to explain every single instance that Luke disagrees with Matthew, and that the combined cases have to be an editorially consistent rationale. This is errant nonsense. The fundamental principle of any kind of rational endeavour is that, if you say something exists, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate this. The two premises I laid out above do not create any such proof. They never attempt to explain how and why Mark missed Q completely, nor why Luke does agree with Matthew against Mark on the topics found in Chapter 3.

OK, this is turning into a rant.

Matthew Chapter 25:14-30

Here we have the famous Parable of the Talents. This was not in Mark, but it is in Luke, but I’m not sure it was supposedly in Q. The section before and this next section are still actually the continuation of Chapter 24. Jesus is talking about the coming judgement. There are aspects to the composition (no doubt the “masterful” composition) that are interesting about this, but they are best left to the summary. Once again the message is fairly plain, and the text is very known. I expect a minimum of comment on this.

14 Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἄνθρωπος ἀποδημῶν ἐκάλεσεν τοὺς ἰδίους δούλους καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοῖς τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ,

15 καὶ ᾧ μὲν ἔδωκεν πέντε τάλαντα, ᾧ δὲ δύο, ᾧ δὲ ἕν, ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν δύναμιν, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν. εὐθέως

16 πορευθεὶς ὁ τὰ πέντε τάλαντα λαβὼν ἠργάσατο ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐκέρδησεν ἄλλα πέντε:

17 ὡσαύτως ὁ τὰ δύο ἐκέρδησεν ἄλλα δύο.

18 ὁ δὲ τὸ ἓν λαβὼν ἀπελθὼν ὤρυξεν γῆν καὶ ἔκρυψεν τὸ ἀργύριον τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ.

“For {the kingdom} even as a man journeying away from home called his private slaves and gave to them the goods of him. (15) And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his particular ability, and he went away. In the meantime, (16) the one with five talents, going out, working among them (putting them to work), and he earned five more. (17) And in the same way the he {with two} earned two more. But he with one, taking it (and) going away he dug the earth and hid the silver of his lord.

To me, the most striking aspect of this is the capitalistic sensibility displayed. The verb used of the first is that he put the talents “to work”. If that’s not capitalism, I don’t know what is, or what it is. Very enterprising slaves, these.

A word on ancient slavery. By no means do I want to soft-peddle it. Slavery is slavery, but the application of it can be very different. A certain number were given virtual death sentences by sending them to work in mines. OTOH, a certain number of slaves were very much part of the grand scheme of the master’s house. So the notion that these slaves should be so diligent about the master’s property need not be surprising. After all, the master entrusted a lot of money to his slaves.

Finally, there is the theological import. Perhaps we usually hear Luke’s version of this, for two reasons. I am used to hearing that the distribution was 10/5/1. And I am not used to hearing the line about “each according to his abilities”. That radically changes the whole sense of the story. Revelation: I pulled out my trusty Harmony of the Bible and was presented with a mild shock. Unless I’m totally misusing that volume–which is far from impossible–there is no corresponding version of this story in Luke; rather this is a “Matthew only” story. So the “to each per his/her own abilities” is integral to the story, which effectively reinforces the idea of the kingdom being a reward, while punishment is earned  & deserved.

14 Sicut enim homo peregre proficiscens vocavit servos suos et tradidit illis bona sua.

15 Et uni dedit quinque talenta, alii autem duo, alii vero unum, unicuique secundum propriam virtutem, et profectus est. Statim

16 abiit, qui quinque talenta acceperat, et operatus est in eis et lucratus est alia quinque;

17 similiter qui duo acceperat, lucratus est alia duo.

19 μετὰ δὲ πολὺν χρόνον ἔρχεται ὁ κύριος τῶν δούλων ἐκείνων καὶ συναίρει λόγον μετ’ αὐτῶν.

20 καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ τὰ πέντε τάλαντα λαβὼν προσήνεγκεν ἄλλα πέντε τάλαντα λέγων, Κύριε, πέντε τάλαντά μοι παρέδωκας: ἴδε ἄλλα πέντε τάλαντα ἐκέρδησα.

21 ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ, Εὖ, δοῦλε ἀγαθὲ καὶ πιστέ, ἐπὶ ὀλίγα ἦς πιστός, ἐπὶ πολλῶν σε καταστήσω: εἴσελθε εἰς τὴν χαρὰν τοῦ κυρίου σου.

22 προσελθὼν [δὲ] καὶ ὁ τὰ δύο τάλαντα εἶπεν, Κύριε, δύο τάλαντά μοι παρέδωκας: ἴδε ἄλλα δύο τάλαντα ἐκέρδησα.

23ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ, Εὖ, δοῦλε ἀγαθὲ καὶ πιστέ, ἐπὶ ὀλίγα ἦς πιστός, ἐπὶ πολλῶν σε καταστήσω: εἴσελθε εἰς τὴν χαρὰν τοῦ κυρίου σου.

“After much time the master of those slaves came {back} and took up speech with them. (20) And coming forward the one receiving five talents brought forth the other five talents saying, ‘Lord, you handed over five talents to me. Behold another five talents that I have earned’. (21) And his master said to him, ‘Well {done}, good slave and faithful. Upon a little {you were} faithful, upon much I will place you. Therefore come into the delight of your lord’. (22)  And also coming forward he {given} the two said, ‘Lord, two talents you have given me. Behold the other two talents I have earned’. (23) He said to him [the slave], ‘Well done good and faithful servant, upon little faithful, upon much I will stand you. Therefore come into the delight of your lord’.

Just a few minor matters. I had been translating “kyrios” as “master”. That works, but “lord” is better. Not that it’s any more accurate, but because it has the double implication of an earthly AND a heavenly lord. The Jews often referred to God as “lord” (Adonnai, IIRC?) in order to circumvent the need to use the word “God” or YHWH.

Second, the expression<<δοῦλε ἀγαθὲ καὶ πιστέ >> is in the vocative case. This is reserved for direct address, when speaking directly to someone. As such, it does not get a lot of use in historical, or expository writing; it’s much more common in poetry (O Nightingale) or prayer (O Zeus), or even drama. In works such as the NT, where there is no direct dialogue. Pater Noster, and its Greek equivalent are technically in the vocative, but for the word “father” in both languages the vocative and the nominative case have the same ending. Words ending in -us (Latin) or -os (Greek) generally have a distinctive ending for the vocative.

“Come into the delight of your lord” is rather an interesting phrase, and concept. The KJV and others give this as “enter into the joy of your lord”, and that may have a more natural sense in English. The NIV provides “come share in the joy”, which sort of gets the message across, but is dead wrong as far as the Greek goes. Regardless, the implication is pretty straightforward, that the servants are to be rewarded. More, the proper inference is that they will be rewarded eternally, in the joy of the kingdom.

18 Qui autem unum acceperat, abiens fodit in terra et abscondit pecuniam domini sui.

19 Post multum vero temporis venit dominus servorum illorum et ponit rationem cum eis.

20 Et accedens, qui quinque talenta acceperat, obtulit alia quinque talenta dicens: “Domine, quinque talenta tradidisti mihi; ecce alia quinque superlucratus sum”.

21 Ait illi dominus eius: “Euge, serve bone et fidelis. Super pauca fuisti fidelis; supra multa te constituam: intra in gaudium domini tui”.

22 Accessit autem et qui duo talenta acceperat, et ait: “Domine, duo talenta tradidisti mihi; ecce alia duo lucratus sum”.

23 Ait illi dominus eius: “Euge, serve bone et fidelis. Super pauca fuisti fidelis; supra multa te constituam: intra in gaudium domini tui”.

24 προσελθὼν δὲ καὶ ὁ τὸ ἓν τάλαντον εἰληφὼς εἶπεν, Κύριε, ἔγνων σε ὅτι σκληρὸς εἶ ἄνθρωπος, θερίζων ὅπου οὐκ ἔσπειρας καὶ συνάγων ὅθεν οὐ διεσκόρπισας:

25 καὶ φοβηθεὶς ἀπελθὼν ἔκρυψα τὸ τάλαντόν σου ἐν τῇ γῇ: ἴδε ἔχεις τὸ σόν.

26 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Πονηρὲ δοῦλε καὶ ὀκνηρέ, ᾔδεις ὅτι θερίζω ὅπου οὐκ ἔσπειρα καὶ συνάγω ὅθεν οὐ διεσκόρπισα;

27 ἔδει σε οὖν βαλεῖν τὰ ἀργύριά μου τοῖς τραπεζίταις, καὶ ἐλθὼν ἐγὼ ἐκομισάμην ἂν τὸ ἐμὸν σὺν τόκῳ.

28 ἄρατε οὖν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ τάλαντον καὶ δότε τῷ ἔχοντι τὰ δέκα τάλαντα:  

29 τῷ γὰρ ἔχοντι παντὶ δοθήσεται καὶ περισσευθήσεται: τοῦ δὲ μὴ ἔχοντος καὶ ὃ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

30 καὶ τὸν ἀχρεῖον δοῦλον ἐκβάλετε εἰς τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον: ἐκεῖ ἔσται ὁ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων.

Coming forward, also he having received one talent said,  ‘Lord, I know that you are a hard man, reaping where  you do not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. (25) And I being afraid went out and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours’. (26) Answering the lord said to him, ‘Wicked slave and slothful, you knew that I reap where I do not sow, and gather where I do not reap. (27) So you ought have thrown my money to the exchangers (money changers), and coming I carried off what was mine plus growth (i.e., usury = interest; lit =  birth). (28) Take from him the talent and give it to the one having ten talents. (29) For to him has all been given and he has reproduced abundance. From him not having and what he has will be taken. (30) And the useless slave throw him into the darkness outside. There will be the wailing and gnashing of teeth’.”

What was I saying about capitalism? There is something extremely harsh about all of this. Yes, it’s metaphorical, and yes, it’s meant to instill a bit of fear, but this sounds so much like the modern business world that it’s a bit scary. The slave with one talent did nothing wrong; he did not squander the money, nor lose it, nor do anything disreputable with the money. He kept it safe. No more, but no less. But this was not enough for the greedy lord. He wanted return, and not only a return, but a doubling of his money. That is a pretty harsh demand, and a very high expectation. And it’s not simply that the slothful slave is not rewarded; he’s actively punished. This feels like Jack Welch’s “Up or Out” system of review during his tenure at GE. An employee was either worthy of advancement (up), or he was fired (out). And they were pretty much always a ‘he’. Now, this was only for higher-level executives, but still, talk about a cutthroat atmosphere! So here it wasn’t that the slothful slave was able to work out his tenure doing his job; rather, he was fired. Think about this, and then think about the message of the Prodigal Son. Could they be more diametrically opposed? There the son did squander the money and engage in riotous living. 

But the truly grinding part of this is the message: he who has nothing/little, even that will be taken away. Wow. At least the contrapositive of this is not added: that to him who has, even more will be given. Of course, that is exactly what happened. The one with the most got more. And it’s not like the second didn’t provide an equal return; he did. Both earned a gain of 100%. And it’s arguable that the second had to work harder, because the more you have in principle to start with, usually you can earn a higher return. So I would have given it to the one who started with two. Regardless, the message here is that the rich get richer, even if it’s not stated explicitly. Of course, the “gains” being discussed are meant to be spiritual, but that is not what is said. I don’t honestly know if this happened, but I can certainly imagine the good Puritans using this story to justify a lot of sharp business practices, to justify chasing after money and serving Mammon rather than God. I know there was a long-lived debate about whether it was acceptable to lend money at interest, the Church being generally opposed. The solution was for Jews to act as money lenders, then bankers. Neither side was terribly concerned about the prospects for eternity of the other, so it was not considered sinful. IIRC, the Rothschilds originally made their money as bankers.

Yes, again I understand that there is a didactic point being made here: make use of your talents. (BTW: the word in Greek transliterates to ‘talenta’.) If you do not, you will be punished. Presumably the “return” you are to make is to bring others into the community? That is not completely clear, but it seems a reasonable inference. Regardless, the real and true purpose of this story is to light a fire under believers, to get them to appreciate the need to get up and hustle for your salvation, that you cannot be complacent or just nurture what you have. Rather, you have to be active in seeking your salvation. So I think the existence of this story indicates a situation in which the literal coming of the kingdom was seeming a bit less likely, leading to a “why bother” sort of mentality. Hence the reference to Noah.

So I think it’s safe to infer that, with this gospel, we are at a point when the Parousia seems a little less imminent, the kingdom perhaps seems a little less nigh. I don’t think we’ve quite turned the corner into John, when the idea of the Second Coming has truly receded, but the first steps along that path have been taken. Indeed, perhaps we’ve taken the second and third sets of steps on that path. It is interesting to not that the concept of a “Parousia” (which should be ‘parousia’) has been coined, leading to it being referred to as a noun unto itself. It is the parousia now, even if the word is never used by Luke, and only shows up in some of the epistles. That Matthew labels it as a something, I believe, tells us that he saw it as necessary, or at least important, to establish–or re-emphasize, perhaps–this as an idea, to remind the community of the faithful that it was going to happen. the next step on this process, I believe, will be to equate one’s personal death with Judgement Day. That will not happen within the context of the NT.

24 Accedens autem et qui unum talentum acceperat, ait: “Domine, novi te quia homo durus es: metis, ubi non seminasti, et congregas, ubi non sparsisti;

25 et timens abii et abscondi talentum tuum in terra. Ecce habes, quod tuum est”.

26 Respondens autem dominus eius dixit ei: “Serve male et piger! Sciebas quia meto, ubi non seminavi, et congrego, ubi non sparsi?

27 Oportuit ergo te mittere pecuniam meam nummulariis, et veniens ego recepissem, quod meum est cum usura.

28 Tollite itaque ab eo talentum et date ei, qui habet decem talenta:

29 omni enim habenti dabitur, et abundabit; ei autem, qui non habet, et quod habet, auferetur ab eo.

30 Et inutilem servum eicite in tenebras exteriores: illic erit fletus et stridor dentium”.

Mark Chapter 11:26-33

This will conclude Chapter 11. It’s a fairly short piece, so it shouldn’t take too long. Please note that most editions of this chapter do not have a Verse 26.

26 Καὶ 27 ἔρχονται πάλιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ περιπατοῦντος αὐτοῦ ἔρχονται πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι

And they came again to Jerusalem. And (while) he was walking about in the Temple the (=some) high priests came to him and so did the (=some) scribes and the (=some) elders.

(26) 27 Et veniunt rursus Hierosolymam. Et cum ambularet in templo, accedunt ad eum summi sacerdotes et scribae et seniores

28 καὶ ἔλεγον αὐτῷ, Ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιεῖς; ἢ τίς σοι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἵνα ταῦτα ποιῇς;

And they said to him, “In (=with/under) what authority do you do these things? Or who has given to you that authority in order to do what you do?”

 28 et dicebant illi: “ In qua potestate haec facis? Vel quis tibi dedit hanc potestatem, ut ista facias?”.

29 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐπερωτήσω ὑμᾶς ἕνα λόγον, καὶ ἀποκρίθητέ μοι, καὶ ἐρῶ ὑμῖν ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ:

And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing, and if you answer me, I will say to you in what authority I do those things.”

OK, now it would seem very possible that the high priests and the others are asking Jesus about his ‘clearing’ the Temple on the previous day. However, this does not exactly sound like a confrontation that would lead to violence, such as Jesus being executed for it. This sounds like they are truly curious. Perhaps they’re peeved; no doubt they’re peeved and there is a certain level of snark in their question. But there are no accusations, no ‘how dare you, sir!”, or nothing like that. As such, it seems a bit hard to believe that Jesus had done anything serious on the previous day. Caused a ruckus, perhaps, but there’s no way it went much beyond that.

29 Iesus autem ait illis: “ Interrogabo vos unum verbum, et respondete mihi; et dicam vobis, in qua potestate haec faciam:

30 τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάννου ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἦν ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; ἀποκρίθητέ μοι.

“Was the Baptist John from heaven, or from men? Answer me that.”

Very shrewd.

30 Baptismum Ioannis de caelo erat an ex hominibus? Respondete mihi ”.

31 καὶ διελογίζοντο πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς λέγοντες, Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν, Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, ἐρεῖ, Διὰ τί [οὖν] οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ;

And they, having discussed amongst themselves, said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ you will say, ‘Through what (reason; =why) did you not believe him?’.”

31 At illi cogitabant secum dicentes: “ Si dixerimus: “De caelo”, dicet: “Quare ergo non credidistis ei?”;

32 ἀλλὰ εἴπωμεν, Ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; ἐφοβοῦντο τὸν ὄχλον, ἅπαντες γὰρ εἶχον τὸν Ἰωάννην ὄντως ὅτι προφήτης ἦν.

“But if we say, ‘From men’?” They feared the crowd, for all held (lit = ‘held’) John being that he was a prophet.

This is one of the most awkward sentences in Mark. Seems like there should be something between the two clauses.  But, aside from this, once again we have Mark emphasizing the link between Jesus and the Baptist. I have to conclude that this connection was a net-plus for the fledgling Christian movement.

 32 si autem dixerimus: “Ex hominibus?” ”. Timebant populum: omnes enim habebant Ioannem quia vere propheta esset.

33 καὶ ἀποκριθέντες τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγουσιν, Οὐκ οἴδαμεν. καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Οὐδὲ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν ποίᾳ ἐξουσίᾳ ταῦτα ποιῶ.

And they answered Jesus saying, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you in/by what authority I do those things I do.”

33 Et respondentes dicunt Iesu: “ Nescimus ”. Et Iesus ait illis: “ Neque ego dico vobis in qua potestate haec faciam”.

Argued like a true attorney. But once again,  I don’t get the sense that Jesus offence on the previous day had been anything particularly egregious. The other possibility is that Mark is more or less lying to us; that Jesus was executed for his actions in the Temple, but Mark went to great pains to fabricate an alternative story.

However, we’ll discuss that further as we go along.