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Luke Chapter 7:1-10

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 6:40-45

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

A Commercial Announcement

I came across this site yesterday.

He’s got some really interesting stuff posted; I would recommend that you take a look. Or more than one, actually.

Mark Chapter 6:30-44

This takes us to the story of the feeding of the 5,000.

30 Καὶ συνάγονται οἱ ἀπόστολοι πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν αὐτῷ πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησαν καὶ ὅσα ἐδίδαξαν.

And the apostles gathered with Jesus, and they related to him all those things which they did and such things as they taught.

As mentioned, the 12 were sent out before the story of the Baptist, and they come back now, providing no sense of elapsed time. What this reminds me of is the band playing for an audience during a commercial break on live TV. Jesus is backstage, or whatever, and someone comes out and tells us about John. The thing is, the sending and the return is handled in pretty much two sentences. They went out; they came back and reported.

This is so brief as to enter the realm of  “why bother?” We are given no real information about how long they were gone, what they did or taught, or even who they were. 

That “the apostles” were those “those sent out” is a tautology; it’s the Greek vs. the literal English translation. So our tendency to see “apostles” as the inner circle is almost a contradiction of terms. They can’t be the inner circle because they’ve been sent out.

30 Et convenientes apostoli ad Iesum renuntiaverunt illi omnia, quae egerant et docuerant.

31 καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Δεῦτε ὑμεῖς αὐτοὶ κατ’ἰδίαν εἰς ἔρημον τόπον καὶ ἀναπαύσασθε ὀλίγον. ἦσαν γὰρ οἱ ἐρχόμενοι καὶ οἱ ὑπάγοντες πολλοί, καὶ οὐδὲ φαγεῖν εὐκαίρουν.

And he said to them, “You follow by yourselves to a desert place and rest a little (literally: a little). For there were many coming and going, and there was no opportunity to eat.

Of some literary interest is the idea of not having time to eat. This was also used back in 3:20. There is no real significance to this, but it’s just to note that Mark uses this as a literary convention, as an indication of how hectic things were around Jesus.

31 Et ait illis: “ Venite vos ipsi seorsum in desertum locum et requiescite pusillum ”. Erant enim, qui veniebant et redibant, multi, et nec manducandi spatium habebant.

32 καὶ ἀπῆλθον ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ εἰς ἔρημον τόπον κατ’ ἰδίαν.

And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

On one level, this almost doesn’t make sense: why does Jesus want to escape the crowd? Isn’t that the purpose of his mission? We are told it’s to give the apostles (unnamed and unnumbered) a bit of respite, which is plausible, but I suspect this has more of a literary role.

32 Et abierunt in navi in desertum locum seorsum.

33 καὶ εἶδον αὐτοὺς ὑπάγοντας καὶ ἐπέγνωσαν πολλοί, καὶ πεζῇ ἀπὸ πασῶν τῶν πόλεων συνέδραμον ἐκεῖ καὶ προῆλθοναὐτούς. And (people?) saw them going, and many recognized them, and by foot from all the towns ran with them there and came to them.

33 Et viderunt eos abeuntes et cognoverunt multi; et pedestre de omnibus civitatibus concurrerunt illuc et praevenerunt eos.

34 καὶ ἐξελθὼν εἶδεν πολὺν ὄχλον, καὶ ἐσπλαγχνίσθη ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ὅτι ἦσαν ὡς πρόβατα μὴ ἔχοντα ποιμένα, καὶ ἤρξατο διδάσκειν αὐτοὺς πολλά.

And now the crowd follows him to a “desert place”; this is, I believe, a deliberate echo of how the crowds went out to John the Baptist from all over Judea. My suspicion, or my sense of the text, is that Mark used this literary ploy of escaping to the deserted spot as a means of consciously evoking the Baptist, thereby showing how Jesus was his spiritual heir and successor. This, especially given that the story of John’s execution concluded a few verses ago.

And coming out, they saw a large crowd, he took pity on them that they were as sheep not having a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.

This is the first use of the shepherd metaphor. It does not come to full fruition as the parable of the Good Shepherd until we get to Luke. So there’s a good example of how a given theme developed. I will discuss this  more when I get to Luke [apt to be a while! : D ], but the story of Jesus was not at all static, nor was it coherent or consistent. It became static sometime in the third or early fourth century when the canon of the NT was set, but a glance at the Gospel of Thomas will give you a really good indication of the range of perspectives on Jesus.

34 Et exiens vidit multam turbam et misertus est super eos, quia erant sicut oves non habentes pastorem, et coepit docere illos multa.

35 Καὶ ἤδη ὥρας πολλῆς γενομένης προσελθόντες αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἔλεγον ὅτι Ἔρημός ἐστιν ὁ τόπος, καὶ ἤδη ὥρα πολλή:

And when it having become many hours (when it was late in the day), his disciples coming to him said that, “This is a desert(ed) place, and already there are many hours.” (= it’s late )

As you can perhaps tell from my translation, << ἤδη ὥρας πολλῆς >> literally means “when it was many hours.” This peculiar way of saying “it’s late” is a function of the way time was measured in the Roman world. You will note in other instances, we are told that “when it became evening…” which, IIRC, is more closely attuned to the Greek, or perhaps the Near Eastern sensibility. The Romans, however, had a different method. The Roman day started at 6:00 am. That was the first hour, Then, each subsequent hour was the second, third, fourth, etc. They had, essentially, a 24-hour day, so that it got late as the hours piled up and there were “many hours”, say, twelve of them, which would be 6:00 pm.

Also, note that this is the third time we are told that this is a desert/deserted place. Which = ‘wilderness’. In one one of my secondary sources, Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a rather lengthy discusus on the role of the wilderness in Hebrew/Judaic thought. John came from the wilderness; Jesus claimed John’s mantle by going into the wilderness, here we are in the wilderness…all of this hearkens back to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Really, it goes back to Cain and Abel–the myth, not the actual duo. The Semites were, largely, nomadic herders; the Canaanites they despised and supposedly displaced were settled farmers. So, throughout the OT and the NT, there is the tension between the much more ascetic sensibility of the nomad as compared to the fleshpot cities of the farmers, with their orgies masquerading as fertility cults. So in Hebrew/Judaic myth, wilderness = good; cities = bad. A gross oversimplification, but this is a blog post and not an academic paper!

35 Et cum iam hora multa facta esset, accesserunt discipuli eius dicentes: “ Desertus est locus hic, et hora iam est multa;

36 ἀπόλυσον αὐτούς, ἵνα ἀπελθόντες εἰς τοὺς κύκλῳ ἀγροὺς καὶ κώμας ἀγοράσωσιν ἑαυτοῖς τί φάγωσιν.

Send them away, so that going away to the surrounding country ( lit = fields ) and villages they can buy themselves something they may eat.”

36 dimitte illos, ut euntes in villas et vicos in circuitu emant sibi, quod manducent ”.

37 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ἀπελθόντες ἀγοράσωμεν δηναρίων διακοσίων ἄρτους καὶ δώσομεν αὐτοῖς φαγεῖν;

But he answering said to them, “You give them (something) to eat.” And they said to him, “Going out (how) will we buy two hundred denarii of bread and (how) will we give to them (this) to eat?”

As you can probably see, the Greek is just way more elegant than what I  can put into English w/0 doing serious harm to the original syntax. Recall, on of the the points of this exercise is to be something of a crib sheet for anyone wishing to work through NT Greek.

I’m sorry, but this is very obviously a literary ploy. We have the disciples–and note that they are now called ‘disciples’ again. There is no mention of ‘apostles’ any more–telling Jesus, then Jesus telling the disciples. It all seems like a dramatic (in the sense of stage-directions in a drama) set up for the climax.

37 Respondens autem ait illis: “ Date illis vos manducare ”. Et dicunt ei: “ Euntes emamus denariis ducentis panes et dabimus eis manducare? ”.

38 ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Πόσους ἄρτους ἔχετε; ὑπάγετε ἴδετε. καὶ γνόντες λέγουσιν, Πέντε, καὶ δύο ἰχθύας.

And he said to them, “How many loaves of bread do you have? Go (and) see”. And, discovering, they said, “Five (loaves) and two fish.”

38 Et dicit eis: “ Quot panes habetis? Ite, videte ”. Et cum cognovissent, dicunt: “ Quinque et duos pisces ”.

39 καὶ ἐπέταξεν αὐτοῖς ἀνακλῖναι πάντας συμπόσια συμπόσια ἐπὶ τῷ χλωρῷ χόρτῳ.

And he told them to all recline group by group on the green grass.

“The green grass”…nice touch of detail.

39 Et praecepit illis, ut accumbere facerent omnes secundum contubernia super viride fenum.

40 καὶ ἀνέπεσαν πρασιαὶ πρασιαὶ κατὰ ἑκατὸν καὶ κατὰ πεντήκοντα.

And they sat down rank by rank, in ranks of one hundred and of  fifty.

Comments at the end.

40 Et discubuerunt secundum areas per centenos et per quinquagenos.

41 καὶ λαβὼν τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν καὶ κατέκλασεν τοὺς ἄρτους καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς [αὐτοῦ] ἵνα παρατιθῶσιν αὐτοῖς, καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἐμέρισεν πᾶσιν.

And receiving the five loaves and two fish, raising them to the sky he blessed (them) and he broke the loaves and he gave (them) to (his) disciples so that they might set (the food) before them (the people), and he divided the two fish among all.

41 Et acceptis quinque panibus et duobus piscibus, intuens in caelum benedixit et fregit panes et dabat discipulis suis, ut ponerent ante eos; et duos pisces divisit omnibus.

42 καὶ ἔφαγον πάντες καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν:

And all ate and were satisfied.

42 Et manducaverunt omnes et saturati sunt;

43 καὶ ἦραν κλάσματα δώδεκα κοφίνων πληρώματα καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἰχθύων.

And there were twelve baskets of fragments full and (also) of the fish.

Not only was there enough, there was food left over.

43 et sustulerunt fragmenta duodecim cophinos plenos, et de piscibus.

44καὶ ἦσαν οἱ φαγόντες [τοὺς ἄρτους] πεντακισχίλιοι ἄνδρες.

And there were five thousand male bread-eaters.

44 Et erant, qui manducaverunt panes, quinque milia virorum.

OK. The people were fed in the wilderness by the actions of Jesus. The symbolism and the references are very clear. This is a re-enactment of the feeding of the Israelites by manna in the desert. The point of all of this is that Jesus is perfectly capable of caring for the entire group, numbering 5,000 men and additional women and children. This has only happened once before in Israel/Judah’s history: during the Exodus from Egypt. The implications of this story could not be more clear.

Compare this with the story at the beginning of the chapter, when Jesus was unable to work any miracles because of the lack of faith of those in his home town. This is most likely meant to be a compare and contrast situation, where here there is, seemingly, no limit on what Jesus can do. The people of his home town did not believe in him, but the expression of his power or his authority here are unmistakable. And note that there is no mention of faith, as was the prerequisite for the bleeding woman and Jairus. Or, is the reference and analogy to the sheep and shepherd sufficient to indicate the absolute faith they put in Jesus: like the faith the sheep have for the shepherd? This is, it seems. at best, implicit; however, IMO, we cannot discount that it may have been understood like this by Mark’s audience. 

But note how skillfully it was done: Jesus takes pity on them as sheep without a shepherd. Then he steps in and acts as shepherd. The subtlety of the storytelling is wonderful. We understand that Jesus is the shepherd without ever being told explicitly. Not until Luke would this have be made explicit.

Mark Chapter 6:17-29

Chapter 6 continues with the story of the (spoiler alert!) death of the Baptist. It has more text than the previous post, but I suspect this will not require too much comment.

17 Αὐτὸς γὰρ ὁ Ἡρῴδης ἀποστείλας ἐκράτησεν τὸν Ἰωάννην καὶ ἔδησεν αὐτὸν ἐν φυλακῇ διὰ Ἡρῳδιάδατὴν γυναῖκα Φιλίππου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι αὐτὴν ἐγάμησεν:

For this Herod sent for and arrested (lit = took into his power, or ‘overpowered’) John and he locked him under guard on account of Herodias, the woman (= wife) of Philip his (Herod’s) brother, because he  (Herod) married her.

17 Ipse enim Herodes misit ac tenuit Ioannem et vinxit eum in carcere propter Herodiadem uxorem Philippi fratris sui, quia duxerat eam.

18 ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὁ Ἰωάννης τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ ὅτι Οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἔχειν τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου.

For John said to Herod that, “It is not allowed to you to have the wife of your brother.”

This is exactly the point that Henry VIII made when he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon. She had been married to his brother, who then died. Henry was eager to marry her himself, but then started looking for a way to get out of the marriage when she failed to produce a male heir.

18 Dicebat enim Ioannes Herodi: “ Non licet tibi habere uxorem fratris tui ”.

19 ἡ δὲ Ἡρῳδιὰς ἐνεῖχεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἤθελεν αὐτὸν ἀποκτεῖναι, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο:

So Herodias had a quarrel with him (John) and (she) wished to kill him, but was not able.

Presumably, she has a quarrel about what John was saying about the marriage.

19 Herodias autem insidiabatur illi et volebat occidere eum nec poterat:

20 ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάννην, εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον, καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἠπόρει, καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν.

For Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous man and holy, and he imprisoned him, and hearing him (John) he (Herod) was much puzzled, but he (Herod) listened with pleasure.  

Herod is conflicted. He is disturbed by what John says, but, as a Jew, he recognizes the propriety and the righteousness of it, so he listens willingly.

20 Herodes enim metuebat Ioannem, sciens eum virum iustum et sanctum, et custodiebat eum, et, audito eo, multum haesitabat et libenter eum audiebat.

21 Καὶ γενομένης ἡμέρας εὐκαίρου ὅτε Ἡρῴδης τοῖς γενεσίοις αὐτοῦ δεῖπνον ἐποίησεν τοῖς μεγιστᾶσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς χιλιάρχοις καὶ τοῖς πρώτοις τῆς Γαλιλαίας,

And it became an opportune day that Herod was on his birthday he gave a banquet for the big standers (notables/nobles) and for the army commanders and the leading (citizens) of Galilee.

21 Et cum dies opportunus accidisset, quo Herodes natali suo cenam fecit principibus suis et tribunis et primis Galilaeae,

22 καὶ εἰσελθούσης τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ Ἡρῳδιάδος καὶ ὀρχησαμένης, ἤρεσεν τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ καὶ τοῖς συνανακειμένοις. εἶπεν ὁ βασιλεὺς τῷ κορασίῳ, Αἴτησόν με ὃ ἐὰν θέλῃς, καὶ δώσω σοι:

And the daughter of Herodias herself  coming and dancing, she pleased Herod and those reclining with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me for what you wish, and I will give (it) to you.”

22 cumque introisset filia ipsius Herodiadis et saltasset, placuit Herodi simulque recumbentibus. Rex ait puellae: “ Pete a me, quod vis, et dabo tibi ”.

23 καὶ ὤμοσεν αὐτῇ [πολλά], Ο τι ἐάν με αἰτήσῃς δώσω σοι ἕως ἡμίσους τῆς βασιλείας μου.

And he swore much to her, “What you may ask me for I will give you until half of my kingdom.”

“Swearing” here means making oaths that he will do as he says. “I swear I’ll give you half my kingdom…”

23 Et iuravit illi multum: “ Quidquid petieris a me, dabo tibi, usque ad dimidium regni mei ”.

24 καὶ ἐξελθοῦσα εἶπεν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς, Τί αἰτήσωμαι; ἡ δὲ εἶπεν, Τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτίζοντος.

And going out she said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She (Herodias) said to her, “The head of John the Baptist.”

24 Quae cum exisset, dixit matri suae: “ Quid petam? ”. At illa dixit: “ Caput Ioannis Baptistae ”. 

25 καὶ εἰσελθοῦσα εὐθὺς μετὰ σπουδῆς πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα ᾐτή σατο λέγουσα, Θέλω ἵνα ἐξαυτῆς δῷς μοι ἐπὶ πίνακι τὴν κεφαλὴν Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ.

And immediately with haste  coming in to the king, she asked, saying, “I want so that you may give to me upon a plate the head of John the Baptist.”

25 Cumque introisset statim cum festinatione ad regem, petivit dicens: “ Volo ut protinus des mihi in disco caput Ioannis Baptistae ”.

26 καὶ περίλυπος γενόμενος ὁ βασιλεὺς διὰ τοὺς ὅρκους καὶ τοὺς ἀνακειμένους οὐκ ἠθέλησεν ἀθετῆσαι αὐτήν:

And the king was stricken because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to refuse her.

26 Et contristatus rex, propter iusiurandum et propter recumbentes noluit eam decipere;

27 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀποστείλας ὁ βασιλεὺς σπεκουλάτορα ἐπέταξεν ἐνέγκαι τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἀπεκεφάλισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ

And immediately the king having sent for the executioner ordered him to bring his (John’s) head.  And going out (he) beheaded him in the prison.  

27 et statim misso spiculatore rex praecepit afferri caput eius. Et abiens decollavit eum in carcere

28 καὶ ἤνεγκεν τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῷ κορασίῳ, καὶ τὸ κοράσιον ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς.

And he brought his head upon a plate and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.

28 et attulit caput eius in disco; et dedit illud puellae, et puella dedit illud matri suae.

29 καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἦλθον καὶ ἦραν τὸ πτῶμα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔθηκαν αὐτὸ ἐν μνημείῳ.

And hearing, his (John’s) disciples came and took up the corpse and took it to a tomb.

29 Quo audito, discipuli eius venerunt et tulerunt corpus eius et posuerunt illud in monumento.

OK. This is another of Mark’s long, set-piece stories. These are definitely a feature of this gospel. I don’t recall noticing that the Matthew or Luke do this in the way, or to the extent that Mark does; however, I am more–much more–familiar with Mark than I am with the other two. It would be interesting to know the provenance of these stories; did Mark compose them, or just set them down? I’m not sure what the consensus is on this is.

Interestingly enough, the historian Josephus, a Jew who lived  in the First Century and wrote a history of the Revolt of 67-70 corroborates much of this story. He doesn’t provide all of the details about Herodias’ daughter dancing, and her asking for John’s head, but he does corroborate that Herod both feared and respected John, and that he ordered John’s execution. Josephus also corroborates that John did, in fact, baptize people, but says that the act was to provide final purification of the body, the soul having previously been purified prior to that by way of righteous living. 

One thing: I have found it all too common that any corroboration of any part of anything in the Bible leads to the conclusion that the whole story, even the whole book, has been corroborated. For example, reference to the house of David proves that there was a David, and he was some sort of notable, but it does not imply the whole story of the kingship, the Twelve Tribes, Solomon, the two kingdoms, etc. So with John: he was a baptizer, who was executed by Herod because the latter suspected the former might cause political unrest. But this does not demonstrate any relationship between John and Jesus, or say anything about Jesus at all. So, we take what we get, and don’t try to make it into more than it is.

As to whether this Josephus mentioned Jesus, the answer, IMO, is ‘probably not.’ There is a very small section on Jesus, but much, if not all of it really feels like an interpolation. In fact, it feels like several layers of interpolation, so I personally don’t have a whole lot of confidence that it records anything like what Josephus wrote, if he wrote anything at all about Jesus.

Mark Chapter 6:1-6

Chapter 6 begins with a fairly short piece about how one cannot go home again. Had this section been included in Chapter 5, then Chapter 5 would be my all-time favorite gospel chapter.

1 Καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐκεῖθεν, καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς τὴν πατρίδα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσιν αὐτῷοἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ.

And he went away from where he was and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him there.

I suppose that this puts a pretty good stake through the heart of my hypothesis that Jesus actually grew up in Caphernaum. This is an excellent example of why it’s a good idea to assemble all relevant facts before spouting off with a half-baked idea. The real clincher is that Mary and the rest of his family–brothers and sisters-without-names– still live there.

That being said, consider this: Mark does not specify that Jesus homeland is Nazareth. He does not name the town. And recall how, back at the end of Chapter 3, Mary and Jesus’ siblings came to retrieve Jesus when he was saying some outrageous stuff? At the time, I noted that Nazareth is a pretty good hike from Caphernaum; that it would take most of a day for news of Jesus’ activities to reach Mary in Nazareth, and then for the whole crew to (presumably) walk to Caphernaum. So, the point is, Jesus may not have lived in Caphernaum as I’ve suggested, but this in no way demonstrates that he grew up in Nazareth. Both Nazareth and Bethlehem could easily have been worked into the story so that certain OT prophecies could be shown to point to Jesus. I suspect that is what happened.

1 Et egressus est inde et venit in patriam suam, et sequuntur il lum discipuli sui.

2 καὶ γενομένου σαββάτου ἤρξατο διδάσκειν ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ: καὶ πολλοὶ ἀκούοντες ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες, Πόθεν τούτῳ ταῦτα, καὶ τίς ἡ σοφία ἡ δοθεῖσα τούτῳ καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τοιαῦται διὰ τῶν χειρῶν αὐτοῦ γινόμεναι;

And it having become the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue; and many hearing were astonished, saying, “From where did these things come to him, and what is this wisdom having been given to him, and (whence) did such powerful  works happen through his hand?”

On the one hand: They are astonished, just as the folks in Caphernaum had been (Mk 1.27, using the same word for “astonish”); OTOH, they don’t believe him capable of such teaching, or such works of power; on the third hand, they are backhandedly acknowledging–to us as well as themselves–that he had performed wonders.

2 Et facto sabbato, coepit in synagoga docere; et multi audientes admirabantur dicentes: “ Unde huic haec, et quae est sapientia, quae data est illi, et virtutes tales, quae per manus eius efficiuntur?

3 οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τέκτων, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς Μαρίας καὶ ἀδελφὸς Ἰακώβου καὶ Ἰωσῆτος καὶ Ἰούδα καὶ  Σίμωνος; καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ αὐτοῦ ὧδε πρὸς ἡμᾶς; καὶ ἐσκανδαλίζοντο ἐν αὐτῷ.

Is he not the the craftsman, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Josetis and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters not with us?”  And they were scandalized by him.

First, << τέκτων >> can mean carpenter, any worker in wood, and craftsman in general.  This refers to Jesus.  Then he is referred to as the “son of Mary”, which is highly unusual. Generally, a person, but especially a man, was known as the son of someone. This tendency transcends Semitic practice; at a basic level, it was a way to distinguish two men named William. One was “John’s son” and the other was “William’s son.” These patronymics eventually became surnames in the English world: Johnson, which got abbreviated as Jones; Williamson, which got shorted to Williams (or Stevens, or Davidson which became Davison and then Davis…The Mc/Mac and O’ prefixes served the same function in the Celtic world of the British Isles, as did the Fitz prefix which was a Norman import into Ireland.)

We do not have female equivalents. There is no “Maryson”, but there is “Josephson” in the English-speaking world.

The fact that Jesus here is identified as “son of Mary” has led some to conclude, or at least speculate, that he was illegitimate.  H.D. Kitto, in a wonderful (but dated) little book called “The Greeks” put it like this in the Greek world. You traced your father back as far as you could, at which point you posited descent from a divine father. “He was the son of a god” is just a more polite way of saying, “who his father was, god only knows.”

Of course, against this, one could argue that, perhaps, Joseph had been dead a long time, so that he was largely forgotton, and it became easier to refer to Jesus as the son of Mary because everyone knew who Mary was since she was alive and kicking. However: to make this argument viable, one would have to demonstrate that using a matronymic (to coin a phrase?) was a not uncommon practice. Proof would consist of other textual examples. Perhaps this has been done; perhaps it hasn’t.

Personally, I’m not inclined to consider this as necessarily indicating illegitimacy. It could be that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, despite being Mary’s husband. Think of the story in Matthew, in which Joseph found out she was already with child, even though he had not had marital relations with her. We will talk more about that when the time comes, but this sounds like a case of “who Jesus’ father was, god only knows”. One could argue that the designation of Jesus’ brothers here indicates full-brothers, but I’m not sure that such distinctions were made back in the day. That a brother was the product of a common parent, but not necessarily of two common parents. This would depend to a degree on when Hebrews gave up the practice of polygamy.

But then, why does Mark not mention Joseph? Was he not important to the story? And then, why did Matthew bring him in? Did Matthew have access to a more local source, that recalled Joseph’s name? Or did Matthew just create a lineage for Jesus, and invent the whole story of how Mary was pregnant before Joseph could possibly have been the faather?

What this does, is get us to the idea of the Virgin Birth. As we saw, Mark provides no birth narrative. There is no suggestion, anywhere in Mark, of the virgin birth. And yet, Matthew is very specific about this. Why the discrepancy? As I noted, Mark tells us that the Good News begins with the baptism by John. The implication is that whatever came before is not part of the Good News (= eu-angelion = evangelist = gospel). This would necessarily include any birth narrative, including the virgin birth. This leads us to the conclusion that Mark may not have considered Jesus to be of divine birth, but that he was adopted by God at the baptism. That the baptism amounted to the anointing of Jesus as the Messiah. As mentioned, there was a school of thought, later deemed heretical, that believed exactly that. They were, logically, called Adoptionists. In addition, there are additional ways in Mark in which he indicates that Jesus was not God’s son in the sense that he was “conceived by the Holy Spirit”.

 Note here that Jesus has siblings. And they are named, which adds a level of credibility to the story. And, despite the virgin birth, Matthew repeats the names of the siblings (Mt 13:54-58). But it is more appropriate to leave discussion of Matthew for when we get to Matthew. There are significant theological–and other–questions to be addressed there.

 3 Nonne iste est faber, filius Mariae et frater Iacobi et Iosetis et Iudae et Simonis? Et nonne sorores eius hic nobiscum sunt? ”. Et scandalizabantur in illo.

4 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Οὐκ ἔστιν προφήτης ἄτιμος εἰ μὴ ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τοῖς συγγενεῦσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳαὐτοῦ.

And Jesus said to them that, “Is not a prophet without honor in his home land, and among his kinsmen, and in his own home.”

Sort of like saying ‘no man is a hero to his valet’. (I Googled this; the attribution is not entirely clear, but it seems to be traced to a certain Madame Cornuel. I had thought it was Wellington or Marlborough, or some other British general.)

4 Et dicebat eis Iesus: “ Non est propheta sine honore nisi in patria sua et in cognatione sua et in domo sua”.

5 καὶ οὐκ ἐδύνατο ἐκεῖ ποιῆσαι οὐδεμίαν δύναμιν, εἰ μὴ ὀλίγοις ἀρρώστοις ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας ἐθεράπευσεν:

And he was not able to perform any wonder/miracle, except he healed a few diseased persons by laying hands upon them.

Whoa. Take a step back and think about that one. If 6:1-6 had been part of Chapter 5, all of my favorite bits of Mark–and possibly the NT–would have been contained in a single chapter. This is, perhaps, the pièce de résistance.

“He was not able”. What this says to me is that the power–which ‘went out of him’ to cure the bleeding woman in the last chapter–was not simply at his command. The implication of this, of course, is that Jesus, in some meaningful way,  is not fully God. There is nothing in the OT about God needing any sort of anything to, oh, let’s say, create the entire universe ex nihilo.

This is the sort of thing that bolsters the Adoptionist argument: Jesus was a man chosen by God to become the messiah. And, oddly enough, the term “messiah” (the Christ) does not occur in Mark until Chapter 8. Yes, it’s in 1.1, but those sorts of introductory sentences are easily tacked on at some later date. There is another instance at 1.34 that is not in all textual traditions; in fact, the KJV does not include the term “the Christ”.  After this, it occurs five more times, once each in chapters 8, 9, 12, 13, and 14. We will look at each instance in context when we get there, but this paucity of use sure seems to indicate that Jesus as the Christ was not a central concept in this gospel. In contrast, it occurs four times in the first chapter alone of Matthew.

Although, interestingly, after another occurrence in Chapter 2 of Matthew, the term disappears until Chapter 11. A similar pattern occurs in Luke; however, I don’t think Luke can be considered a source distinct from Matthew. What this “hollow center of the narrative” seems to indicate, IMO, is that there were two pieces of Jesus legend that sort of got pasted together. There was the earlier piece, of Jesus’ earlier ministry in which he was primarily portrayed as a wisdom teacher, and then another, in which he was the Messiah. The first part would have much of his teaching, including things like the Sermon on the Mount, while the second is the eschatology leading to his death and eventual resurrection. That is, from the beginning, there was a divided opinion about who, exactly, Jesus was.

Now here is where it’s very important to recall that Paul was written earlier than any of the gospels. Given the situation described above, my inclination as historian would be to see the earlier, more simple narrative as the base level: Jesus as wisdom teacher. Then, onto this, we got Jesus the Christ grafted on. But, Paul stresses the latter aspect and pretty much ignores the former. Now, given that Paul wrote a generation after Jesus, it would seem that the later part would have come first, and the earlier ministry would not have been recalled–or invented–until later.

This hits at the heart of the Quest for the Historical Jesus (QHJ): who did Jesus think he was? Did he see himself as a wisdom teacher? Or as a preacher of eschatology? Given Paul, the latter seems more likely. At first glance, it seems to makes sense that the simpler narrative of wisdom teacher would be the base, and the eschatology would be the graft. BUT: really, I would infer and argue that Jesus was a preacher of End Times; and that the End Times were upon us. Paul seems to expect the Second Coming momentarily. Then, when this didn’t happen, Jesus as the wisdom teacher was recalled, given emphasis, or invented.

This is something that has pretty much just occurred to me; I reserve the right to revise the hypothesis as more evidence comes forth. But, that’s how learning according to the scientific method is supposed to work. Evidence >>> hypothesis; new evidence >>> revised (or strengthened) hypothesis. Given that it’s history, we can never be sure we’ve ‘proven’ a position.

The Greek: << δύναμις >> is rendered in Latin as << virtus >>. The root meaning of the Greek word is “power”, in the sense of  “ability”. The first three letters << δύν- >> form the root of the basic word for “to be able”.  You can see this in << ἐδύνατο >>, “he was not able”. The Latin is obviously the root of our term “virtue”, but the stem << vir- >>, which is the Latin for “man”, specifically as in our concept of a “manly man” rather than the more generic idea of just some fellow. What these two concept have in common is the concept of ‘power’, as in ‘capability’. The root of our word for “miracle” is the Latin << miraculum >>, for which the German-based “wonder” is a good translation.

The point is that the concept as expressed in Greek and even in Latin, is very different from the concept of either “miracle” or “wonder”, which are essentially synonyms as far as the Latin and German roots are concerned. That << virtus >>later became “miraculum” >> “miracle” is a bit of a wonder. I’d be hard-pressed to explain this off the top of my head.

5 Et non poterat ibi virtutem ullam facere, nisi paucos infirmos impositis manibus curavit;

6 καὶ ἐθαύμαζεν διὰ τὴν ἀπιστίαν αὐτῶν. Καὶ περιῆγεν τὰς κώμας κύκλῳ διδάσκων.

And he was amazed, on account of their faithlessness. And he walked around the surrounding towns teaching.

Here we pretty much get back on track with the message of the bleeding woman and the daughter of Jairus. In both those cases, that they believed was critical; it was, in fact, necessary. And here it appears to be necessary again. IOW, wonders/miracles/power cannot be effected unless the recipient/beneficiary of the event believe.

And, as we noted before, this is fully consistent with what Paul told us in Galatians: faith is what matters.
6 et mirabatur propter incredulitatem eorum. Et circumibat castella in circuitu docens.

So Far

To date we have taken on 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. These are two of Paul’s earlier works; as such, they represent the oldest surviving writing in what came to be the Christian Scripture, or the Christian corpus as a whole.

I hope it seems clear that Galatians represents something of an ‘advance’ over 1 Thessalonians. By this I mean that it should seem that Galatians has an extra layer. 1 Thessalonians is, primarily, and to a large extent, a pastoral letter. That is, its main focus seems to be on exhortation and comfort of the Thessalonian community. Some of it recapitulates Paul’s experience there. The ‘theological’ content is rather oh-by-the-way, consisting mainly of the choice of phrases (Lord Jesus Christ; God our Father; preach with power). Galatians, on the other hand, is almost a legal argument setting out the ‘case’ for ‘his’ gospel over the ‘other’ gospel, apparently that of the Jerusalem Assembly.

It should be noted, though, that 1 Thessalonians also has implications of ‘competing’ gospels. Paul is quick to point out that he took great pains not to be a burden, working ‘day and night’, presumably to make money, so that he didn’t have to rely on the recompense he says was due to an apostle.  This may imply that others had come, and had claimed the support of the community. And there are references in 1 Corinthians, to other preachers, such as Peter and Apollos.  Overall, we are given the sense that Paul was not alone in his missionary activity.  There were others; and, given the lack of real central control, there was not a consistency of message. This is not, or should not be surprising. This was one of the motivating forces for the development of the Institutional Church.

The other overall impression we are given is that these early communities had already accepted the notion of being children of God. Jesus was The Christ, raised from the dead by Our Father, after Jesus had been crucified. More, the Christ was expected to return, riding on the clouds. The dead would join the living in…well, someplace. The heavens, or the heaven, which does not seem to have become Heaven quite yet. There have been a couple of hints of an idea that will come to be seen as Predestination once it gets spelled out in Romans.  This much is common to both epistles.

In addition, Galatians has told us that faith is primary, especially over the Law. As such, the assemblies of Jesus had begun, to some degree, to pull away from their Jewish roots. Perhaps this is why the Jerusalem Assembly thought it was a good idea to send other missionaries to places where Paul had already been: to reel in these groups that were drifting too far from the Jewish heritage. Paul may have been given sanction to preach to the Gentiles in the way that Peter preached to the circumcised, but Paul does not say that James and the Pillars gave him leave to cut ties to the Jerusalem Assembly completely. In fact, Paul seems to concede that he was obligated to ‘remember the poor’, which likely means pay the temple tax to the group in Jerusalem.

We have also been introduced to the concept of grace; but we’re not quite sure what this actually means. Whatever Paul intended with the term, it seems likely he didn’t mean what later theologians decided it came to mean.

So, where do we go from here?

At this point, I think it would be best to go on to the Gospel of Mark.  Ideally, we should do at least 1 Corinthians and Romans before moving on to the gospels, but I believe it will be useful to see how the gospel message differs from what Paul has been telling us. After looking at Mark, I think it would be best to come back to 1 Corinthians and Romans. That will make the ‘compare and contrast’ more effective.  I believe.  Or, ‘I hope’ might be more accurate. Maybe, too, once we get to more familiar ground, those of you reading this will feel more comfortable about commenting.

So let me say, once more and with feeling, that I am not an expert on this. My dread is that someone who truly knows what they are talking about will come along and blow me out of the water!  If this happens, so be it.  However, I think we’re getting to the actual words that were written. We may not have approached the ‘historical Jesus’, but that is not the point. The goal is to get to the historical message propagated by the followers of Jesus. These are two very different things.