Blog Archives

Luke Chapter 21:10-24 (with edit)

Minor edit to translation of Verse 19. Also corrected the range of the section. Originally titled 21:1-24; corrected to 21:10-24)

Added a section to the commentary of vv 16-19

This jumps us in to Jesus’ description of the hard times to come. It’s part allegory, part apocalypse, and part description of events that have already occurred. This section only deals with the tribulations; the coming of the Son of Man will occur in the next section. Between verses 9 & 10, we broke at a point where Jesus more or less paused to take a breath, so this comes hard on the heels of what happened in Verse 9, in which we were told that the end would not come immediately after people claiming to be Jesus were not to be followed. That is an interesting thought, and one that should have been discussed in the last section. The problem is that I’m not sure of the implications. Let’s hope they clarify themselves, at least by the time I write the summary of the chapter. Making this happen will, I suspect, require reading some more of Josephus. Eisenman would also help, but that was a library book and library books are not to be had currently– unless it’s available as an ebook? (PS: I’ve checked. It’s not, and that’s hardly surprising.)

Text

10 Τότε ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς, Ἐγερθήσεται ἔθνος ἐπ’ ἔθνος καὶ βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν,

11 σεισμοί τε μεγάλοι καὶ κατὰ τόπους λιμοὶ καὶ λοιμοὶ ἔσονται, φόβητρά τε καὶ ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ σημεῖα μεγάλα ἔσται.

12 πρὸ δὲ τούτων πάντων ἐπιβαλοῦσιν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν καὶ διώξουσιν, παραδιδόντες εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς καὶ φυλακάς, ἀπαγομένους ἐπὶ βασιλεῖς καὶ ἡγεμόνας ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου:

13 ἀποβήσεται ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον.

14 θέτε οὖν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν μὴ προμελετᾶν ἀπολογηθῆναι,

15 ἐγὼ γὰρ δώσω ὑμῖν στόμα καὶ σοφίαν ἧ οὐ δυνήσονται ἀντιστῆναι ἢ ἀντειπεῖν ἅπαντες οἱ ἀντικείμενοι ὑμῖν.

Then he said to them, “People will rise against people and kingdom against kingdom, (11) there will be great earthquakes and down upon places will be plagues and famine, and there will scary things (scarecrows!) and great signs from the sky. (12) Before all this, they will throw their hands on you and chase/prosecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and guards, leading you away to the kings and rulers because of my name. (13) They will disembark you to witness. (14) So place in your hearts, do not practice your defense beforehand, (15) for I will give to your mouth and wisdom what they are not able to withstand or to gainsay all your adversaries. 

We have changed horsed in mid-stream here. Really, Verse 10 belongs more with the previous section, with its wars and disturbances. I do want to mention the people vs people. All four of my crib translations render this as “nation will rise against nation”. This concept is horribly anachronistic. The Greek word is ethnos, which is obviously the root of ethnic. The idea of ‘nation’ as we understand it will not become operative until applied to England and France around the 15th Century, a millennium and a half after this was written. The Greeks considered themselves to be of the same ethnos, but they certainly were not of the same nation. They shared a language (more or less) and a mythology and a set of cultural values, they understood themselves to be related, but politically everyone was on their own until they got incorporated in one empire or the other. Even the Latin is gens, at the root of genus; and also of Gentile, a word that I won’t use any more because it’s non-biblical. When talking about “Gentiles”, the Greek is actually “the peoples”, as in the different ethnic groups: Romans, Syrians, Parthians, Greeks, Egyptians, Ethiopians, etc. And the word used for “the peoples” is the plural form of ethnos, as used here.

From there we suddenly jump to earthquakes and signs, plagues and famines, none of which are necessarily related to wars. Granted, wars can certainly cause plagues and famines but I don’t catch an intended causal connexion; Of course. that point can be debated. The latter may arise from too many people crowded into too small a place, as happened in Athens at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, and famines if crops are destroyed or the fields go unworked. The word I translated as “scary things” is usually rendered as “terrors”, but one of the meanings is also “scarecrow”. Whatever. The intent is clear. Then the disciples are having hands laid on them and they are being chased. Rendering this as “persecuted” is a purely Christian convention. It is not used as “persecute” anywhere other than Christian writings. Now, since the word is usually used to mean “chase” or “pursue”, it’s reasonable to state that the difference between pursue and persecute is to make a difference without a distinction. Perhaps. But a hound can pursue a rabbit, but it would be difficult for the hound to persecute the rabbit. I bring this up–repeatedly–because it is crucial to recognize that much of the famous/infamous persecution of Christians in the empire took place largely in the writings of Christians. This was useful because it gave them cover when they truly were persecuting pagans. Christians destroyed temples, cut down sacred groves, and burned the Library of Alexandria. These persecutions were state-sponsored, empire-wide, and protracted over time. Persecution of Christians, by contrast, was sporadic, often local, and rarely carried on over an extended period of time. The persecutions of Diocletian deserve the name, but they were also mainly the exception. Suetonius tells us that Nero covered Christians with pitch and set them afire, using them as street lamps. However, this was Nero, it was in retribution for setting the fire of Rome, which was most certainly a trumped-up charge. But, at the same token, there was some persecution of Christians at some point soonish after the death of Jesus. This passage would not make sense otherwise. The purpose of this passage was to assure the audience that, whatever persecutions had taken place, Jesus had foreseen them and they were part of the plan, for whatever unspecified reason.

The last verse is something we’ve discussed in the other versions of this. Jesus is telling them not to prepare a speech of defense; in Greek, the technical term is apologia. This has the unfortunate tendency to be translated as “apology” and for obvious reasons. Plato preserved what he would have us believe was Socrates’ defense speech when he was tried for corrupting the youth and teaching them/people not to believe in the gods. Socrates, of course, was convicted an executed, and Plato and many of his followers used this outcome to condemn democratic governments as a type. There is an unfortunate (IMO, anyway) tendency for Classicists to be elitist (Who? Me?) which too often shows up as a predilection for governments run by the “best” people. In Greek, the term is “aristo-kratia”, which often becomes conflated with mere “pluto-kratia”.

Anyway, the point here is that those being accused are to speak from their heart, and that Jesus will provide the words. This is interesting for two reasons, and I’m not sure which is the more provocative. The first point is that Matthew does not include this little bit about not worrying what to say. So, at the very least, this is yet another instance where Luke puts something back that Mark included and Matthew omitted. How many of these little “corrections” have we come across by this point? A dozen? More? I think the latter. But seriously, why would Matthew omit this? I suppose it’s not critical to the story. But does it point backwards, or forwards? Is this how those who suffered before the destruction of the Temple defended themselves? What was the success rate? Or was this advice, meant to be acted upon should  those in the audience find themselves in such dire straits? Mediaeval heretics actually followed the advice; most of them were convicted and executed, and the churchmen writing about the affair rather looked down their noses at the bumpkins who took this literally. As such, I tend to suspect it points backwards, but then I think most of these predictions point backwards. 

The second point, I’ve now decided, is the more intriguing. In Mark, Jesus says that the sacred breath will provide the inspiration (a bit of a redundancy; in-spiro = “breathe into”). Here, Jesus says he will. Now, one can argue that Jesus and the sacred breath are one and the same, since Jesus and the Father are one & the same. Except they weren’t when this was written, and I think that is exactly why Luke changed this to “I will provide the words…”: because Jesus and the sacred breath were not yet identified. The full-blown doctrine of the Trinity did not coalesce until late in the First Century, or well into the Second. This is one reason I prefer “sacred breath”, because “Holy Spirit”, like baptism or angels, has become loaded with accumulated meanings. We see it as a fully separate entity, to the point that we Capitalise the term “Holy Spirit”. That is not what the term meant when Luke wrote. Or when John wrote, for that matter. Rather, it was literally the sacred breath entering, God breathing–figuratively, at least–directly into the individual. This is why we are told it took the form of a dove when Jesus was dunked in the Jordan River, because, in that instance, it did take the form of a separate entity rather than being the collected exhalation of God. So I’m kind of thinking that Luke did not feel fully confident that the audience would quite get the concept, so he made it clear  by stating that it would be Jesus providing the words. In which case we have to ask whether this might be part of the reason why Matthew omitted this bit. On tjj\he whole, I rather doubt that, but the question deserves to be asked. I don’t know, and I haven’t cogitated on the idea long enough to have a sense of what I believe. Or, what I believe is that there just isn’t enough to go on. This episode doesn’t link to anything else that I can think of; that being said, this is the sort of thing that does deserve to be looked at: how does Matthew treat Mark’s use of the idea of the sacred breath?  

As for the section overall, given that we have four different situations in four different sentences all crammed into one paragraph (more or less; the concept is flatly anachronistic), one gets the sense that Luke is in a bit of a hurry here. He’s more less abridging the accounts of Mark and Matthew. Since the last time I mentioned this, I’ve done some work in the Harmony of the Gospels, comparing the lengths of the stories common to two or more of the Synoptics, and John when that’s relevant. This really brief bit of comparison, lasting perhaps an hour, has largely confirmed what I’ve felt was happening as we’ve been going along with the translation. When Mark and Matthew provide full accounts, as the two of them do in their treatments of this topic, Luke’s tends to be shorter. His version is the shortest here, but not by a lot. It’s certainly nowhere near as much shorter as Matthew’s version of the Gerasene Demonaic is than Mark’s and Luke’s versions. However, Luke’s version here is shorter. In turn, this makes Luke’s decision to put back the part about divine inspiration for the defense takes on greater significance, doesn’t it? If Luke is trying to abridge, why not just follow Matthew’s lead and omit it. Of course, the Q people will say that such never happens, that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Except, of course, for all of that Q material, which has been conveniently removed from the discussion. Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark a lot; that’s where Q comes from. There is one further point. Regarding whether this advice looks forward or backwards, Matthew might give us a clue. In Matthew’s version, the speeches for the defense usually failed. If the sacred breath of God had provided the words, then that becomes rather an embarrassment, no? Especially since Luke here says that no one will be able to withstand this defense. Is this because Matthew had seen, or at least knew specifically about persecutions that had not ended well? It’s a thought, and provides a possible explanation. There are so many points like this that deserve a much closer examination than they’ve received. You’d think someone would have asked these questions over the course of the last two millennia. Of course, perhaps people did ask, but the result was a one-way trip to a burning stake. 

10 Tunc dicebat illis: “ Surget gens contra gentem, et regnum adversus regnum;

11 et terrae motus magni et per loca fames et pestilentiae erunt, terroresque et de caelo signa magna erunt.

12 Sed ante haec omnia inicient vobis manus suas et persequentur tradentes in synagogas et custodias, et trahemini ad reges et praesides propter nomen meum;

13 continget autem vobis in testimonium.

14 Ponite ergo in cordibus vestris non praemeditari quemadmodum respondeatis;

15 ego enim dabo vobis os et sapientiam, cui non poterunt resistere vel contradicere omnes adversarii vestri.

16 παραδοθήσεσθε δὲ καὶ ὑπὸ γονέων καὶ ἀδελφῶν καὶ συγγενῶν καὶ φίλων, καὶ θανατώσουσιν ἐξ ὑμῶν,

17 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.

18 καὶ θρὶξ ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν οὐ μὴ ἀπόληται.

19 ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.

“And you will be handed over both by parents and siblings and relatives and friends, and they will put (some) of you to death, (17) and you will be hated by all because of my name. (18) And the hair from your head has not been harmed. (19) In your endurance possess your psyches. OR In holding out, Possess! your psyches.

I commented above that the trials in Matthew didn’t go too well, and that Matthew suggested that the followers of Jesus would be killed. This is yet another example of me speaking without knowing what is coming. However, Luke really throws a curve ball here that is unique among the Synoptics. After the being killed and hated stuff, he says that not a hair has been harmed and that they have possessed their psyches. So let’s get this straight: they are dead, but not a hair of their heads has been harmed. At first glance we would say that the equation is out of balance. If you’ve been killed, presumably hairs have been harmed unless you’re being hyper-literal about the manner of death, that the induced trauma was directed at the torso, a wound thereto resulting in death. But that is ridiculous. Which takes us to the really important point: possessing their psyches. I did not translate psyche (transliteration of the Greek word) on purpose. First, we need to deal with the mood of “possess”. It’s an imperative, a command. It’s kind of an odd concept to think of “have/possess” as a command in English, but of course it’s grammatically possible and it linguistically meaningful. “Possess your book”, means, “hold onto it” or “keep it”, but we would usually choose to use one of those turns of phrase rather than “Possess!” So let’s think of it as “hold on to your psyche“. Let’s leave that for a moment.

Psyche, made famous by Freud, has come into English with a load of baggage. In most Christian contexts, in most NT contexts, it is straight-out translated as “soul”, the latter term carrying the implications that Christians have attached to the word. But there is a very real sense in which it does not mean what we think it does. I have been reading the Refutation of all Heresies, written at the end of the First Century CE by Hippolytus Romanus. He is the first to identify groups as Gnostics; in particular he spends a lot of time discussing a group called the Naaseni, who, he says, were the first to call themselves Gnostics. They maintain a three-fold division of the kosmos, which is sort of a merge of the ideas of Reality + Universe. “Creation” would probably capture it in Christian circles, but that would fall short since this kosmos also includes non-created reality and entities. In this kosmos, there are three levels of reality, or existence: the material, the psychical (psyche), and the spiritual (pneumatikos, pneuma, spirit/breath). Note that the psyche is only the intermediate level of reality, that there is a purely spiritual realm above that. We tend to think of the psyche in this manner, something purely spiritual, in the sense especially of non-material. Psyche is intermediate because it partakes of, or participates in, the life of an entity with a material form. It is the life essence, the breath that leaves the body when the body dies. As such, it is often a synonym for “life”, for which Greek also has the word bios and Latin has vita. Due to this dual nature of psyche, each time the word is encountered, it requires that the translator decide which way to go with this. Is the reference to the immortal soul? Or simply to animal life? And, FYI, Latin is even more ambiguous on this point. After all, the word for “soul” is anima, which is obviously the root of “animal”.

Perhaps the most salient example of this is the quote: “What shall it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose their own…” Their own what? Their own soul–which is how it is generally translated. Or lose their own life, which one does encounter. We tend to choose the former because it is more meaningful, the contrast is more meaningful. Of course there is no profit to gaining the world but ending up dead. But gaining the world and losing your soul is a double-whammy. First, in this lifetime you lose who you are as a person, becoming corrupted and damaged, perhaps to the point of self-hatred. Then you lose your immortal soul to an eternity of damnation. So that’s very meaningful in a Christian context, but is it what the Greek means in that context? That’s a different question, one that’s entirely relevant to the situation here. And the answer matters. Is Jesus saying that they will continue to possess their mortal life because the words he gives them will be so powerful that his followers will be released from gaol? Or is he saying they will possess their immortal soul, after they have been put to death by these earthly powers? Answering this, three of my four crib translations (NIV, NASB, & ESV) render as “life”; only the KJV chose “soul”. Perhaps oddly, my impulse leans toward “soul” for exactly the reason I’ve mentioned. Luke tells us in Verse 15 that they–or some of them, at least–will actually die. That seems to favor immortal soul. Or does it? Because in Verse 19 it is those who endure–or should we render it “in holding out”?–are commanded to possess their psyche. I still think that means something like “remaining steadfast (in your faith), you will possess your immortal soul”.

Two points. Greek psyche can, indeed, mean “immortal soul”, even if what they mean by that isn’t exactly what Christians mean, or understand by that term; 2) that the imperative mood is really hard to reconcile with what has been said here. I checked for textual variants that would give us and indicative mood, perhaps in the future tense, but nothing. It doesn’t help that the on-line L&S hasn’t been working today. Perhaps I will be able to revisit.

16 Trademini autem et a parentibus et fratribus et cognatis et amicis, et morte afficient ex vobis,

17 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum.

18 Et capillus de capite vestro non peribit.

19 In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras.

20 Οταν δὲ ἴδητε κυκλουμένην ὑπὸ στρατοπέδων Ἰερουσαλήμ, τότε γνῶτε ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ ἐρήμωσις αὐτῆς.

21 τότε οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ φευγέτωσαν εἰς τὰ ὄρη, καὶ οἱ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῆς ἐκχωρείτωσαν, καὶ οἱ ἐν ταῖς χώραις μὴ εἰσερχέσθωσαν εἰς αὐτήν,

22 ὅτι ἡμέραι ἐκδικήσεως αὗταί εἰσιν τοῦ πλησθῆναι πάντα τὰ γεγραμμένα.

23 οὐαὶ ταῖς ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσαις καὶ ταῖς θηλαζούσαις ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις: ἔσται γὰρ ἀνάγκη μεγάλη ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ὀργὴ τῷ λαῷ τούτῳ,

24 καὶ πεσοῦνται στόματι μαχαίρης καὶ αἰχμαλωτισθήσονται εἰς τὰ ἔθνη πάντα, καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἔσται πατουμένη ὑπὸ ἐθνῶν, ἄχρι οὗ πληρωθῶσιν καιροὶ ἐθνῶν. 

“When you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you will know that this making of desolation has arrived. (21) Then those in Judea must flee to the hills, and those in the midst of it must leave the country, and those in the fields must not return to it, (22) that these are the days of vengeance/punishment of the (ful)filling of that writing. (23) Woe to those having (a foetus) in their stomach and to those nursing in those days. For there will be a great burden upon the world and wrath to that people (to those persons; the Greek is singular), (24) and they will fall in the edge (lit = mouth*) of a sword and they will be made captive to all the peoples, and Jerusalem will be trodden by the peoples, until the seasons of the peoples are filled.

[ed: *This literally says “the mouth of a sword” and that is how I had translated this when first published. It also has the figurative sense of face, or the forward part, which then blends to the tip/point, as of a sword, and sort of then becomes edge. The Greek is στόματι; cf Verse 15 for στόμα, there used as mouth. ]

Not that anyone is doing so, but is it at all possible to suggest, let alone argue, that this was not written after the sack of Jerusalem? The encirclement, the Jews captured & led away, the tramping of non-Jewish feet inside the city, are all details that Josephus describes. And here’s my latest thing: there was, I suspect, a certain amount of cross-pollination between Christians telling the story of Jesus and the non-Christian historians. I would argue that everything written about the Christians by non-Christian writers after 75-80 CE was more or less taken directly from Christian sources. Why do I say that? Because only the Christians had any interest in, and paid any attention to Jesus and his story, and even they didn’t start writing stuff down prior to Mark in 70 or so. (No, Paul doesn’t count because he has nothing about the living Jesus or Jesus’ death; his only concern is the risen Jesus. Sure, there were oral sources drifting about in the currents, but I think these are grossly over-credited by NT scholars. The latter, you see, are desperate for validation of the life of Jesus, for corroboration of the events of the gospels. They are so desperate, in fact, that they cling to the idea that there was this mysterious source that was vital to recording Jesus’ teaching, but managed to get lost in the shuffle. Without Q, all the accounts of Jesus’ life and death are dependent on Mark. There are no other sources. The gospels represent a single tradition. There are not three or four separate traditions. John did not have any new information except for what he made up about Christology and the other miracles not recorded by the Synoptics.

And for NT scholars, there is even a worse implication: all of the so-called corroboration supplied by Josephus, Tacitus, & Suetonius ultimately depends on Christian sources. For let’s be very clear: these three authors tell us about Christians; they tell us almost nothing about Jesus. That there were Christians is indisputably undeniable. Of course there were Christians. Starting in the mid-2nd Century (give or take) they start leaving us lots of records. But the Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius–who, however, is technically a biographer–say nothing about Jesus himself. The testimony of Flavius Josephus is problematic to the extreme, but the one nugget that strikes me as possibly authentic is when he relates that Jesus was put to death by “some of our leading men”, or however the exact quote runs. And by “our”, he means Jewish leading men. The thing is, by the time of Josephus, the only sources he would have had would almost certainly have been Christian. They told him the story of the Passion, and he swallowed it whole. Why not? There were obviously Christians in his day, so he very likely asked them for the story of their origins. They then related the events as told by Matthew, most likely. Matthew came to prominence in Christian circles by the last quarter of the First Century, to the point that it became the original gospel. It’s the longest, and it has way more detail than Mark. And its prominence is probably a reason why Luke wrote his. After reading Mark and then Matthew, Luke felt it necessary to “set the record straight” on some of the stories where Matthew went off the rails a bit too much and left out important stuff. Like the stuff about Jesus telling the disciples not to worry about what to say when put on trial, or that there was only one man possessed by a Legion among the Gerasenes, and not two. So the upshot is that the entirety of what we know about Jesus is close to 100% derived from Mark, or simply made up after Mark wrote. The stuff that Mark left out is what forms the central beliefs of Christianity, such as the Sermon on the Mount. How could Mark write a gospel that didn’t include that very long section? How is that possible? How could Mark who was supposedly Peter’s secretary, write a gospel that left out the “Thou art Peter” speech? That is the entire basis for Petrine/Roman primacy, and Mark, somehow, neglected to include that? Yeah. Not bloody likely.

Part of my point is that Luke and Josephus likely wrote at more or less the same time, somewhere in the mid-90s. I will have to go back to my notes, but in reading Eisenman’s analysis of Josephus as set out in James, The Brother of Jesus, I was struck by the overlap between Luke and the Jewish historian. I have no idea who wrote first, and I suspect no one really does since there is no firm date for Luke. If I were made to guess, I would say Josephus wrote first, and that this and the mistakes/omissions of Matthew were the reasons Luke decided to write his gospel.   

[addendum] One last thing. In Verse 22, we are told these are days of vengeance, or punishment. The question is vengeance against, or punishment of, whom? And note that the two words that are encompassed under the single Greek term ἐκδικήσεως (ekdikēseōs) are semi-contradictory. The root of the Greek word is δική/dikē which is a very important concept in Greek thought. The root is “custom”, but it’s much more frequently used in its secondary sense of “order”, and in particular “right order”. This carries with it the sense of a balance between opposing forces. The word that gets translated as “justification” is a translation into Latin of a word based on this root. To give a sense of the common ground between the Greek and Latin, think of “justifying” your margins, where the text is spread out across the line so the margins on both sides are even; however, the real “balance” is vertical, between lines going down the page, because we’ve all run into those situations where a couple of long words create great empty spaces on a line. So the root sense of this term is to restore proper balance. But: if translated as vengeance, do we not immediately, or most readily, think of vengeance against the Romans?

I read once that apocalyptic literature is sort of the last weapon of the downtrodden, because it’s essentially a revenge fantasy. This seems to capture the essence of apocalyptic writing very pointedly and very succinctly. I’ve used this before, and I truly wish I could recall where I read it because I would dearly love to credit my source for this wonderful insight. I believe it was John Dominic Crossan; second choice would be Bart Ehrman. These are the most likely choices because I’ve read more of their collected stuff than of everyone else combined. And I give preference to JDC because he tends to be more insightful and/or scholarly than Ehrman, who is more of an everyman. So if we’re talking about revenge, the natural object would be the oppressor.

We could also say the same about punishment. The oppressors will be punished for their heinous acts. And, while agreeing this is certainly possible, and possibly likely, could not the object of punishment also be the Jews? Jesus is warning the Jews to leave town and head for the hills. The Romans do not get this warning. But the Jews who do not follow instructions will be ground down alongside the Romans. Their capital and their Temple will be destroyed, and they will be led off as captives. Since this is more or less what Jesus says will happen, punishment directed against the Jews is hardly inconceivable. The point of all this is that it very much matters how this word gets translated. Of my translations, 3 of 4 choose vengeance; the NIV chooses punishment, and  I think that it is the proper rendering. The ugly fact is that the progressively prominent attitude contained in the NT is that the Jews had their chance, and they blew it, rejecting their own anointed one. This has been creeping along, fairly latent in Mark, becoming much more open in Matthew and Luke, culminating the in the diatribes of John. So make your choice: vengeance or punishment?

20 Cum autem videritis circumdari ab exercitu Ierusalem, tunc scitote quia appropinquavit desolatio eius.

21 Tunc, qui in Iudaea sunt, fugiant in montes; et, qui in medio eius, discedant; et, qui in regionibus, non intrent in eam.

22 Quia dies ultionis hi sunt, ut impleantur omnia, quae scripta sunt.

23 Vae autem praegnantibus et nutrientibus in illis diebus! Erit enim pressura magna super terram et ira populo huic,

24 et cadent in ore gladii et captivi ducentur in omnes gentes, et Ierusalem calcabitur a gentibus, donec impleantur tempora nationum.

Luke Chapter 21:1-9

We’re coming into the “Little Apocalypse, where Jesus predicts all the horrors that happened thirty years after he died. That is an extremely secular description of this. I have read a number of commentaries that disparage those who do not believe that actual foreknowledge was possessed and expressed by Jesus. Guilty as charged. But recall, we are reading the NT as one would read any other ancient text, as a source–albeit second-hand and by-the-way–for historical information. All texts are a product of their time, and will inadvertently preserve and pass incidental information about those times. If we read about Mr Darcy taking a carriage, we can glean that the book was set in a time when people took carriages and did not drive cars our use personal jetpacks. Or, perhaps Mr Darcy was an eccentric who took carriages even though cars or personal jetpacks were available. That is where we would have to correlate with the rest of the text, the text as a whole, the weigh the evidence and come to a conclusion about whether Mr Darcy was following the customs of the times, or someone who chose to do things otherwise considered anachronistic.

Just so, we have to read these passages, of whatever content, weigh the evidence, and decide whether the text seems to indicate whether the passage was written several decades before, or in the aftermath of the Jewish War. It must be acknowledged at the outset, however, that we do not enter into the decision about prophecy in anything like a fair and unbiased frame of mind. As products of the secular west, our default setting is that foreknowledge of the sort Jesus is about to display is not something we consider likely, or even possible, to happen. So we are not likely to decide that this is an actual display of foreknowledge, but is a “prophecy” written after the fact. But we do have a reasonably high degree of confidence that the gospels were written in the last third, or quarter of the First Century, and probably even the very early parts of the Second; in making that statement, I should be clear that I am a proponent of a later chronology for the works. There is, I think, a pretty definite window for the Synoptics; the early 70s to the mid-90s is what makes sense, but there is no terminus ante quem for John.

[ One thing I have never seen discussed is the possibility that the gospels were not written by a single individual, but were, in fact, composite pieces. I suppose this is where textual/literary analysis would prove to be a useful tool. This is completely an aside, but it’s the sort of thing that gets discussed all the time when a secular text cannot be assigned to a specific author. ]

We have seen numerous passages which seem fairly obviously to be written after, well after, Jesus died. Any of those that refer to the Jews being supplanted fall into this category. The actions and interactions between Paul and James the Just certainly provide very strong evidence that Paul’s idea of a mission to the pagans was novel and daring and not entirely a welcome development. Ergo, we can be pretty certain that Jesus did not talk about the Jews being superseded by pagans. It’s anachronistic. If we came across a passage in which Mr Darcy steps into his auto, we can be fairly certain that it was written well after the lifetime of Jane Austen. Of course, there are all sorts of “predictions” about the future made in literature; we call it “science fiction”. For example, I just rewatched the original Blade Runner, set in the distant future of 2018, when people still read newspapers and had sophisticated pay phones, and no one had a cell phone. Just so, William Gibson’s cyberpunk masterpiece Neuromancer has a scene in which the main character walks past a long row of phone booths, and each phone rings as he passes that particular booth. Of course, the most famous examples of such missed predictions have the year in the title: 1984 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I mention such examples for a reason: on some level, they all got something spectacularly wrong. There were no commercial space flights in the year 2001–and PanAm was long kaput–nor was Oceania always at war with Eastasia in 1984. So even if we posit that Jesus did make predictions that were faithfully recorded, we should expect that he would get something wrong, but that never happens. Of course, this is easily explained if Jesus were indeed the divine Son of God, and so omniscient. Note however, that pagan gods were not omniscient, and did not know the future. However, assuming omniscience and perfect knowledge of the future takes us well out of the realm of historical analysis.

Text

 

1 Ἀναβλέψας δὲ εἶδεν τοὺς βάλλοντας εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον τὰ δῶρα αὐτῶν πλουσίους.

2 εἶδεν δέ τινα χήραν πενιχρὰν βάλλουσαν ἐκεῖ λεπτὰ δύο,

3 καὶ εἶπεν, Ἀληθῶς λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἡ χήρα αὕτη ἡ πτωχὴ πλεῖον πάντων ἔβαλεν:

4 πάντες γὰρ οὗτοι ἐκ τοῦ περισσεύοντος αὐτοῖς ἔβαλον εἰς τὰ δῶρα, αὕτη δὲ ἐκ τοῦ ὑστερήματος αὐτῆς πάντα τὸν βίον ὃν εἶχεν ἔβαλεν.

Looking about he saw those throwing into the treasury their rich gifts. (2) He saw a certain poor widow tossing there two lepta. And he said, (3) “Truly I tell you, that this poor widow threw in more than all of them. (4) For they all threw in gifts from their excess, but she threw in from her last things (last possessions) which she had for all her life (needs).” 

First, the word for “treasury” is a very odd word. It occurs five times in the NT. Three are in Mark’s version of this story, and once in a different story in John. It’s also rare, but not nonexistent, in pagan writings. That it appears in Mark’s story and here is pretty good evidence that Luke took it over with the story. “Lepta” are small copper coins; Mark says it was two lepta to a kodrantes, which is an eighth of a Roman as. So a small bit of money.

But I noticed that it’s not in Matthew. Then I noticed that the story is not in Matthew. Odd. Would have suspected it was. But does this connect to my thesis that Matthew is not super-concerned with the poor? If so, this would be another excellent example of Luke once again “correcting” Matthew by returning to Mark. Luke’s version is shorter than Mark’s, but since Matthew doesn’t have a version, Luke feels comfortable with a stripped down version of his own.

While I was looking to verify if this was in Matthew, I ran across some sites where they were (had; most were a few years old) commenting on this story. More accurately, they were commenting on the version in Mark, but close enough. One thing that got brought out that had never occurred to me is that Jesus was not just comparing about the relative amounts of giving. That is the moral that we can draw if we look at the story in isolation, which is how we usually do it. Rather, we have to consider that the story comes after Jesus excoriating the scribes for wanting all of the prestige while they were devouring the houses of widows. IOW, widows just like the one in front of them. It wasn’t just that she gave more, proportionately, than they did. It was that the scribes were the ones responsible for reducing the woman to the circumstances she was in. They were the reason she only had the two lepta to begin with. Unfortunately, here in Luke we lost that context & continuity due to the chapter break. I’m still not completely clear on when/why/how the chapters & verses are divided the way they are, but it causes problems from time to time. For example, the first verse or two of Mark 9 clearly belong to Chapter 8. Here we have sort of a similar problem. And really, this story is only four verses long; it could easily have been appended to Chapter 20. The chapters in Luke are not overlong, which bespeaks, IMO, of a certain amount of design. Some of the chapters in Matthew ran to 50 or 60 verses. Most of the time it doesn’t matter; here it did.

So yeah, Jesus has a lot to say about the rapaciousness of the wealthy. And it truly is worth noting that Matthew omitted this story. I do not believe that the poor were a major concern of his. Which, IMO, is actually evidence– of whatever weight or merit– that Matthew was, in fact, pagan and not Jewish in origin. Concern for the poor was not a major component of pagan religion. There was a certain amount of redistribution at the public sacrifices where everyone was fed,* but it was limited, and was not codified into the law as it was among Jews. In Matthew, the chastisement of the scribes for devouring the houses of widows is included with the list of Woes. Even more interesting is that some textual traditions, perhaps the majority of them, do not include this in Matthew. This would mean Matthew did not include expression for protection of widows. To choose between the textual traditions, we have to ask whether it’s more likely that it was left out, or whether it was put in. Personally, I find the latter more credible. but for reasons that smack of confirmation bias and/or circularity. However, a bit more digging seems to indicate that not having the line about the widows is the majority opinion. Matthew’s take on this does have its share of social justice in a more general sense; he doesn’t add the line about widows’ houses, so it seems some enterprising scribe decided to rectify the situation and put it in. My overall conclusion is that Luke does have more concern with the poor than Matthew does, even if Luke also came from a pagan background. Whatever. It is important to realize there is no single, correct answer to questions like this. It’s all about degrees of probability. 

*Recall that in 1 Corinthians Paul admonished the wealthy for bringing in a big eucharistic meal while others in the assembly went hungry.

1 Respiciens autem vidit eos, qui mittebant munera sua in gazophylacium, divites.

2 Vidit autem quandam viduam pauperculam mittentem illuc minuta duo

3 et dixit: “Vere dico vobis: Vidua haec pauper plus quam omnes misit.

4 Nam omnes hi ex abundantia sua miserunt in munera; haec autem ex inopia sua omnem victum suum, quem habebat, misit”.

 

5 Καί τινων λεγόντων περὶ τοῦ ἱεροῦ, ὅτι λίθοις καλοῖς καὶ ἀναθήμασιν κεκόσμηται, εἶπεν,

6 Ταῦτα ἃ θεωρεῖτε, ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι ἐν αἷς οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται λίθος ἐπὶ λίθῳ ὃς οὐ καταλυθήσεται.

7 Ἐπηρώτησαν δὲ αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, πότε οὖν ταῦτα ἔσται, καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον ὅταν μέλλῃ ταῦτα γίνεσθαι;

8 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Βλέπετε μὴ πλανηθῆτε: πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες, Ἐγώ εἰμι: καί, Ὁ καιρὸς ἤγγικεν: μὴ πορευθῆτε ὀπίσω αὐτῶν.

9 ὅταν δὲ ἀκούσητε πολέμους καὶ ἀκαταστασίας, μὴ πτοηθῆτε: δεῖ γὰρ ταῦτα γενέσθαι πρῶτον, ἀλλ’ οὐκ εὐθέως τὸ τέλος. 

And (to) someone saying about the Temple, that the stones were beautiful and of the gifts arranged (therein), he (Jesus) said, (6) “These things that you behold, the days are coming in which not a stone will remain placed on a stone, (and) which shall not have been destroyed”. (7) They asked him about this, saying, “Teacher, when will this be, and what are the signs when this is intended to become?” (8) He said, “Watch out, do not wander/be in error; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’, and ‘The hour is approaching’. Do not follow after them. (9) Then you will hear of wars and anarchy, do not fear. For these things must be first, but the end will not come immediately.”

Could the set-up have been any better for Jesus’ response? “Look! Ain’t this all gorgeous?” That’s the perfect lead-in for Jesus’ dire prophecy. This has been consistent through all three gospels, so we have to pin this on Mark. But whatever. It works. Even so, there is the sense of being stage-managed, that this is part of a drama, or a novel. IOW, it feels manufactured, as if this never actually happened, but it was dreamed up at some point after the fact. But then, of course I would say that. And too, let’s be fair. I excoriate the Q people for some of their “arguments” that are based on merely stylistic preferences; here I am basing my theory on merely literary criticism. Can’t you hear the critic’s article the next day, “Oh, the set-up for the prophecy about the Temple sounded so fake”. OK. But I do miss “wars and rumours of wars”. Both Mark and Matthew use the same phrase. Luke doesn’t. This is yet another example when he deviates because the other two have already trodden that ground and it doesn’t need to be walked again. If you’re keeping score at home, you should be noticing that these little things are starting to add up. We must have close to a dozen by now, if not more. The plural of anecdote, they say, is data. If we compile enough anecdotes, we have data, which means we have the basis for an argument. Whether the argument works or not is a tale for another day. Seriously, if anyone out there is considering a Ph D program, some of the things I’ve come up with would make pretty decent topics. Perhaps.

There is one more serious implication for Luke not using “rumours of war”. Instead, he chose what I have translated as “anarchy”. Transliterated, the Greek is akatastasia. The prefix a- is a negation, like a-moral. But the kata- is also a prefix, added to the root word stasis. This is an interesting word, that developed in a rather peculiar way. It is a form of the verb to stand. As such, at its base, it means a standing, or a placing of something. But then, it takes its odd turn. It is the word used for a political “party”, a faction, within a Greek city-state, the polis. The idea is that a group of people stand together, however literally you wish to take that. Such a group standing (together) implies that they are standing against another group. Hence, we get to a political faction, which is a division based on antagonism. Hence, the term stasis came to be used for internal political strife, with factions fighting each other to whatever degree, up to and including civil war. IOW, the word has all-but contradictory meanings. Then we add the kata- prefix, which has the base meaning of down, as opposed to ana-, which means up. The cite is The Anabasis, the march up-country. Had they started at the opposite end, at the Black Sea and moved south, it could have been called the Katabasis. So we have a standing down upon. A placing down, hence a settling, an establishment. Then tack on the a- prefix for negation, and we have “an unsettling”, which becomes a “disturbance”, or “anarchy”. I really wanted to translate this as “civil war” due to the stasis root, but that would not have been accurate. However, as someone familiar with Greek history, that is what shines through to me, and I suspect it may have a similar effect on others. Or not. They may be more sophisticated than I am, and consider the root to be buried too deeply.

We cannot, of course, know Luke’s intention for replacing “rumours of war” with “anarchy/disturbance”. Some translations choose “commotions”, but that is much too weak in its implications. A couple of four-year olds can cause a commotion. So can cats. Call me kooky, but I don’t believe that is what Luke had in mind. Assuming he was a native speaker of Greek (which is only an assumption) we may believe he understood the deeper meaning of the word; if so, there is no reason to suppose he did not want to bring in this implication. Using the concept of the Greek word, the situation inside Jerusalem during the Jewish War could easily be described as stasis. There were as many as three separate factions within the city, fighting against each other as well as the Romans. And really, the concept of stasis is much more germane to the Jewish War than “rumours of war”, no matter how poetic this sounds. So, given that Mark and Matthew chose “rumours”, perhaps this is a more minor instance when Luke felt free to improvise a bit, and use a different word with a whole new set of concepts and implications. And perhaps we may see in this that Luke did not feel quite as constrained as perhaps Mark did. When Mark wrote the initial gospel, the war was a fresh experience, having not at all faded into a memory. “Rumours of war” is much more oblique, so he chose that term. Luke is writing probably a full generation later, 20-25 years. While I’ve not mentioned it, I’ve come to suspect that Luke and Josephus acted or reacted, one to the other. I suspect that Luke wrote when he did in reaction to the publication of the Jewish War–although I haven’t really thought this through, so that may change. Or, less definitively, I suspect that Luke wrote being aware that Josephus had published something on the topic. This is an idea that I will pursue as we go on. It was triggered by reading Eisenman’s James, Brother of Jesus, so I haven’t had time to explore it. There’s another Ph D thesis for some enterprising candidate. But then, anyone who’s gotten to the point of applying to a program probably has a pretty good idea of what their thesis topic will be. So maybe some underclassperson contemplating making an application in the future can profit from these ideas. Or maybe not.

The upshot is that here is one of those instances where reading the original really can, or does, throw a different set of shadows over the topic. The question is whether it actually matters. I’m not sure. As I read more philosophy and/or theology, I’m finding that it’s nearly impossible for me to read something like that in translation. I’m constantly wondering what the word behind the translation, so I don’t trust the translation. And at this point, there are certain words I don’t translate at all; logos in Greek remains logos in English. Another is kosmos; rather than translate this as “world” or “universe”, neither of which really works to my mind, I leave it as ‘kosmos’, and with a ‘k’, since ‘cosmos’ in the English sense doesn’t catch it, either. With historical writing, nuance doesn’t matter nearly as much, so I have no qualms about reading a translation; otherwise, I’d never read anything since my reading speed in Greek or Latin isn’t nearly what it is in English (Caesar’s de Bello Gallico being the closest to an exception, if you’re looking to practice Latin). This word here is one of those rare exceptions. Reading the Greek does provide an insight that cannot be derived from a translation. And, BTW, I’m starting to have serious qualms about psyche = anima = soul. Again, that is another topic for another day. 

One last thing. “Rumours of war” really only resonates in English. The Greek is not nearly so poetic. So I need to get past this. 

I’m breaking off here. The chapter, or much of it, is devoted to more prophecies like this. It’s another situation where the breaks are a tad forced and artificial. Let’s hope I get the next section out reasonably quickly. But then, in this time of stay-at-home and social distancing, it’s not like I’m going anywhere today.

 

5 Et quibusdam dicentibus de templo, quod lapidibus bonis et donis ornatum, esset dixit:

6 “ Haec quae videtis, venient dies, in quibus non relinquetur lapis super lapidem, qui non destruatur ”.

7 Interrogaverunt autem illum dicentes: “ Praeceptor, quando ergo haec erunt, et quod signum, cum fieri incipient? ”.

8 Qui dixit: “ Videte, ne seducamini. Multi enim venient in nomine meo dicentes: “Ego sum” et: “Tempus appropinquavit”. Nolite ergo ire post illos.

9 Cum autem audieritis proelia et seditiones, nolite terreri; oportet enim primum haec fieri, sed non statim finis ”.

 

Luke Chapter 20:41-47

(made a couple of minor edits: corrected the verses covered, added a comment about the last verse.)

This is one of those tail-end sections. It was too much to add to the end of the last one, but it’s really not enough for its own post. Whatever. Here is the end of the chapter. There are four chapters left in this gospel; after which I will need to figure out whence from here. So let’s have at it.

Text:

41 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Πῶς λέγουσιν τὸν Χριστὸν εἶναι Δαυὶδ υἱόν;

42 αὐτὸς γὰρ Δαυὶδ λέγει ἐν βίβλῳ ψαλμῶν, Εἶπεν κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου, Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου

43 ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου.

44 Δαυὶδ οὖν κύριον αὐτὸν καλεῖ, καὶ πῶς αὐτοῦ υἱός ἐστιν;

45 Ἀκούοντος δὲ παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς [αὐτοῦ],

46 Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν γραμματέων τῶν θελόντων περιπατεῖν ἐν στολαῖς καὶ φιλούντων ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς καὶ πρωτοκαθεδρίας ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ πρωτοκλισίας ἐν τοῖς δείπνοις,

47 οἳ κατεσθίουσιν τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶνκαὶ προφάσει μακρὰ προσεύχονται: οὗτοι λήμψονται περισσότερον κρίμα. 

He said to them, “How do they say that the Christ is the son of David? (42) For David himself said in the Book of Psalms, ‘The lord speaks to my lord, “Sit at my right (hand), (43) until I may place your enemies under your feet”.’ (44) Thus David calls him lord, so how is he (Christ) his (David) son?” (45) Having heard all people, he said to his disciples, (46) “Beware of the scribes wishing to walk around in stoles* and loving greetings in the marketplace** and the first seats in the synagogues and the first seats at dinner parties. (47) They devour the houses of the widows and shine forth long as they pray. They will receive an extraordinary judgement.”

First, let me address the “shine forth long as they pray”. What is rendered “shine forth” can either be a feminine noun or a 3rd person plural verb. Here it is obviously a verb. Unfortunately, this verb only has one occurrence cited by the Great Scott (L&S); more, this is not the cite. The definition is “shine forth”. Peaking at the Latin, we get simulant. This being the root for “simulate” should be fairly obvious. All four of my crib translations render it along these lines, the idea being that they make a long, but hypocritical display of praying for a long time. They are simulating holiness. The noun form, interestingly, does not have the sense of falseness; it means plea, as in a court, but in a neutral sense. It means a falsely alleged motive, and that, according to the Latin and a contextual reading, does not fit here. The idea, supposedly, is that it is the scribes that are false, that their praying is false, not that Jesus is ascribing false motives. If you step back and let your eyes blur a bit, perhaps you can see how “shine forth” came from ascribing a motive, and then how the two became a negative, as conveyed by the Latin “to simulate”. We must always remember that St Jerome lived something like 300 years after Jesus, so there was plenty of time for words to develop. We must also bear in mind that it’s possible that even someone as erudite as St Jerome could be unaware of an obscure verb like this, so he read the meaning from the context, which he largely derived from the other two tellings of this story. We all get it that Jesus is calling them fakers, so St Jerome decided to clarify that in the Latin. 

It only just occurred to me to check other uses in the NT. There are several. The most relevant is Mk 12:40, which is not exactly parallel to Luke’s story. That his the story of the Widow’s Mite, wherein Mark excoriates the rich in general rather than single out the scribes as Luke does here. And, perhaps even more interesting is that most textual traditions leave this story out of Matthew; it would be Mt 23:13, but the KJV and most manuscript traditions not not include it. In those that do, the wording is similar to  that used by Luke; it only makes sense that this passage was inserted into Matthew because someone noticed it was missing, and took Luke as their example. The Greek word is used in Mark, and four other times, including twice by Paul in two of his earlier letters, 1 Thessalonians and Philippians. The other two are in Acts, which is presumably Luke again, and finally once by John. In all cases it is rendered as “cloak”, which is a metaphor for pretense. However, checking the Vulgate, in none of these other places is the verb “simulo” used in as a translation. The standard is praetextus, as a pretense, the derivation of the latter from the former being reasonably straightforward.

So what is the point? Just that a lot of this stuff is not cut as clearly as some would have you believe. I have long since passed the point where I can read any religious or philosophical or theological text translated from Greek or Latin into English. Historical works don’t matter quite as much, but the linguistic fields for a lot of these religious or philosophical or theological texts is just too important to trust a translation. And, interestingly, as a youngster I found the Victorian translations unbearably stilted; now I realize how much closer to the original they are. Except, are they really? Or is it because the Greek & Latin lexica were also creations of the Victorian era, so they use the same words the Victorian translators did? The answer, of course, is yes.

There are a couple of other translation issues that were worth flagging. Translated as “stole”. *Grk = stolai; Lat = stolis. If ypu are of a certain age, you will recall the mink stole being a standard item on the wish-list of every suburban housewife. At least, you would think that if your only historical source were sitcoms.

**Translated as marketplace: In Greek, = agora. In Latin = forum. The latter word has passed into English with a much, much broader range of meanings, almost none of them associated with markets, trade, or commerce. People are given. forum in which to be heard; sports teams, especially professional hockey and basketball, used to play in a place called The Forum. At root, the agora in a Greek polis, and the Forum in Rome were simply a large, open area, more or less centrally located, where the merchants would sell their wares. The Greek word agora maintained this commercial implication, whereas the Forum in Rome did not. It had always been the meeting place for political or legal (which were often the same thing) or religious events, speeches, trials, funerals, etc. It became ringed by many temples.  At some point the commercial aspect became decidedly a secondary, or even a tertiary, function, then more or less supplanted completely, those functions moved elsewhere. The meaning of the word remained. In other Latin/Roman cities, the forum retained its function as a marketplace. 

I initially wondered why the Scribes became the villain du jour in this story. A glance, however, showed me this is not the case. All three evangelists refer to them a number of times. And not in a kindly manner. Having mentioned Eisenman and his theory about which groups of Jews sided with or against the Romans may have some validity. It may not. What I do believe is knowable is that we cannot reasonably expect the NT to reflect any of these divisions with any degree of historical accuracy. Looking in the NT for the political situation is like looking in Little Women for a description of the politics of the Jefferson and Madison presidencies. Or, perhaps, the period of Andrew Jackson. The world had changed in the interim. This simply goes back to the nostrum that the evangelists were not writing history, but there is an addendum to that. Even if the evangelists intended to write history, they were very, very poorly positioned to do so. They did not have much background in the discipline, even as it existed then. We only need to read Josephus to grasp this. I found The Antiquities very tedious to read because I found it to be focused on the internal gossip of the Herodian family. He’s not exactly the most credible source one can find, but at least had access to records and some exposure real historical writing. The evangelists had neither. Given that, I would be very leery of drawing any political conclusions about the political situation of the 30s based on the gospels. So why the Scribes? I guess a reasonable answer would be “Why not?” Had to pick on someone, so they got the short straw this time.

[ Addendum: Scarcely ten minutes after posting, I realized I had neglected to comment on the “great” judgement, as I originally translated this. However, I took a second look at the word for “great” and realized it wasn’t what I had thought it was. So I changed it to “extraordinary”. In this case, that’s in the bad sense. “One helluva judgement” might more or less capture the sense, that it’s  (a) not good thing; and (b) that it’s going to be a doozie. These people are going to have the book thrown at them, to use a 1950s police cliché. IOW they were in for a world of hurt. ] 

41 Dixit autem ad illos: “ Quomodo dicunt Christum filium David esse? 

42 Ipse enim David dicit in libro Psalmorum:

“Dixit Dominus Domino meo: Sede a dextris meis, / 43 donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum”.

44 David ergo Dominum illum vocat; et quomodo filius eius est?”.

45 Audiente autem omni populo, dixit discipulis suis: 

46 “Attendite a scribis, qui volunt ambulare in stolis et amant salutationes in foro et primas cathedras in synagogis et primos discubitus in conviviis, 

47 qui devorant domos viduarum et simulant longam orationem. Hi accipient damnationem maiorem”.

Luke Chapter 20:21-40

This section includes a lot of verses, but the subject matter is mostly part of the triple tradition, so there will likely not be much new to say. We start with the Render Unto Caesar story, and then we move to the One Bride for Seven Brothers. Those of you who are of a certain age may recall a movie called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. IIRC, it had something to do with convincing seven women from back east to come west to marry a family of seven brothers. Whatever. Let’s have at it. Allons y. That was, IIRC, a favorite expression of the David Tenant Dr Who.

Text

21 καὶ ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ὀρθῶς λέγεις καὶ διδάσκεις καὶ οὐ λαμβάνεις πρόσωπον, ἀλλ’ ἐπ’ ἀληθείας τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ διδάσκεις:

22 ἔξεστιν ἡμᾶς Καίσαριφόρον δοῦναι ἢ οὔ;

And they questioned him, saying, “Teacher, we know that you you speak and teach straight, and that you do not receive a face, but upon the true way of God you teach. Is it allowed to us to give tribute to Caesar?”

First, a comment on the “speaking & teaching straight”. The idiom of “straight” used for “properly” or “correctly” or some such synonym goes way back into Greek history, specifically Athenian history. The Greek transliterates as “orthos”, as in “ortho-dontist,” a medical practitioner who straightens teeth. I do not recall the exact quote, or context, but I believe the Athenian lawgiver Solon, who lived in the early 7th century BCE, was credited with “straightening” the laws of the city. Then again, it may have been Kleisthenes, who lived and reformed the politics of Athens circa 508 BCE. Which, coincidentally enough, is very close to the founding of the Roman Republic, the traditional date for this being 509 BCE. Anyway…

Second, “receive a face”. All three versions have some variant on this idea of a face. It’s not an idiom that I’ve encountered in pagan lit, and I recall being very perplexed by it when first reading it in Mark. I guess the root concept is that one is not overly influenced by a pretty face; from there, however, it goes to the idea of accepting a person because they are important, or whatever rather than based on merit or moral content.

Finally, there is the crux of the situation: is it allowed to pay tribute to a pagan? Of course, to formulate the question in this manner is to put a certain slant on it. The idea of a separation of church and state would have seemed incomprehensible to Jews of the 1st Century CE. It’s still incomprehensible to a lot of different groups even today. Even the Romans mixed the ideas of church and state. By accident, Julius Caesar got himself elected–by way, apparently, of massive bribery; which was pretty much standard procedure in the latter decades of the Republic– Pontifex Maximus, High Priest, as he was ascending the ladder towards absolute power. So it thereafter the Princeps (the title “Emperor” is really not accurate; Augustus and his successors were called Princeps, the root of prince, of course, but in Latin it meant first. The so-called emperors were technically the First, as in the First Citizen.) Thereafter the Princeps was also always Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Roman state and the Roman religion; but a Roman would not have understood that distinction. This was the problem with dissident and exclusivist religious groups who refused to recognize the divinity of the Princeps. The Romans were not religiously intolerant; far from it. They just threw all the pantheons of the subject peoples into the blender and shook well. This is how you end up with Tacitus making the statement that the chief god of the Germania was Mercury, because Mercury was a closer fit than Zeus. So Odin/Wotan = Mercury/Hermes. There is a question of how the Wotan supplanted Thor/Donner, the sky/storm god who ruled in a lot of Indo-European pantheons. But he did. Hence, we have Wotansday, French = Mercredi, or Miercoles in Spanish, followed by Thorsday. Of course, in German, Donnerstag/ Thorsday isn’t preceded by Wotanstag, but Mittwoch. Mid-week. Go figure. Also, while we’re on the subject, Hippolytus Romanus wrote his Refutation of All Heresies. In this work, the group he labels the first Gnostics, the Naaseni, are really not Christian heretics at all. Rather, they are a polytheistic, syncretist group of pagans who try to absorb most of the Judeo-Christian pantheon into a pagan framework. Jesus is equated with the Primal Man, who is Adam, but also goes by several other names in the various traditions of the Assyrians, the Phrygians, the Egyptians, etc. 

But the point of all that was to demonstrate that the Romans were far from religiously intolerant. The problem came when the exclusivist Jews and Christians refused to honor the pagan gods. This refusal was treason against the Roman state. So by paying tribute to Caesar, the Jews, in effect, were honoring the divine genius of the Princeps. So, in effect, Jews paying tribute were, in fact, worshipping a foreign god. So you see how complicated this all gets. The thing that usually sparked unrest among the Jews was the Romans introducing pagan practices related, however peripherally, to religion. The legions bringing their standards with images on them into the city of Jerusalem was enough to cause problems when Pilate did it in the 20s, according to Josephus. So that is why the interlocutors ask if it is allowed to pay tribute.

In his book, James, Brother of Jesus, Eisenman talks a lot about the political unrest that was occurring in Judea in these decades. He raise an excellent point that the, overall, the NT gives no sense of how politically turbulent the times were. Josephus mentions the problems Pilate caused in the 20s, and then in the mid-late 30s Gaius Caligula created a ruckus by insisting that an image of him be placed in the Holy of Holies. But Gaius was assassinated before he could insist on the order being carried out. Eisenman goes further to claim that Josephus, Jesus, and Paul belonged to the collaborationist wing of the Christian faction; James, the brother of the Lord, OTOH, stood with the purist Sadducees and Essenes, and that this was a large part of the contention between James and Paul. This is the sort of thesis that grabs one’s attention when first encountered, but, upon reflection, doesn’t carry as much weight as it seemed prima facie. Then add the additional layer that Jesus probably never spoke the words he’s going to pronounce in the next couple of verses, and Eisenman’s thesis tends to fall apart.

21 Et interrogaverunt illum dicentes: “Magister, scimus quia recte dicis et doces et non accipis personam, sed in veritate viam Dei doces

22 Licet nobis dare tributum Caesari an non?”. 

23 κατανοήσας δὲ αὐτῶν τὴν πανουργίαν εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς,

24 Δείξατέ μοι δηνάριον: τίνος ἔχει εἰκόνα καὶ ἐπιγραφήν; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Καίσαρος.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τοίνυν ἀπόδοτε τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ.

26 καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ἐπιλαβέσθαι αὐτοῦ ῥήματος ἐναντίον τοῦ λαοῦ, καὶ θαυμάσαντες ἐπὶ τῇ ἀποκρίσει αὐτοῦ ἐσίγησαν.

Understanding their knavery, (couldn’t resist, sorry!) he said to them, (24) “Show me a denarius. Whose image is inscribed?” They said, “Caesar’s”. (25) He said to them, “Therefore give over unto Caesar the things of Caesar, and the things of God to God”. (27) And they were not strong enough to lay hold of him opposing the crowd, and marveling upon his answer the silenced (IOW, they shut their collective mouth).

First, I chose “lay hold of him” because the object him is in the genitive rather than the accusative, the standard case for the direct object. “of him” gets that sense across. I do want to help explain such things in case anyone out there is trying to learn NT Greek. Godspeed on that task!

I’ve said this more than once: it’s a bit specious, or disingenuous, or just plain misleading to use the crowd as an excuse. They felt no such qualms a few days later, and they had a crowd whipped into a frenzy demanding his crucifixion, if we are to believe the story. And we really have no reason to believe the story; the whole thing is so riddled with internal inconsistencies that it falls apart at the merest touch. Yes, per the story, they arrested him at night, but seriously, I keep coming back to the alleged cleansing of the Temple. There was the perfect opportunity to arrest him. After all, the crowd of pious Jews assembled therein were present to make use of the moneylenders and the vendors. The crowd wanted them there. And here was this lunatic making a mess? Blasphemy! The Temple guards grab him, or the Roman soldiers grab him as he exits, and the crowd would probably have cheered the arrest. That is the sort of thing I mean by “internal inconsistency”. So no more needs to be said.

23 Considerans autem dolum illorum dixit ad eos: 

24 “Ostendite mihi denarium. Cuius habet imaginem et inscriptionem?” 

25 At illi dixerunt: “ Caesaris ”. Et ait illis: “ Reddite ergo, quae Caesaris sunt, Caesari et, quae Dei sunt, Deo ”. 

26 Et non potuerunt verbum eius reprehendere coram plebe et mirati in responso eius tacuerunt.

27 Προσελθόντες δέ τινες τῶν Σαδδουκαίων, οἱ [ἀντι] λέγοντες ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἶναι, ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν

Some of the Sadducees coming, they (who) were saying [against] the standing up, {that is, the resurrection of the body} does not happen.

This requires comment. The word in square brackets represents an alternative textual tradition. The word I used is also in square brackets. The standard parentheses provides a word that is not in the Greek, but is necessary for a smoother translation. The curly brackets { } provide a more reasonable translation of what I translated very literally. This is not the first time we’ve come across the word, but it bears repeating: “resurrection”, like “angel” and “baptism” are words with a specialized religious implication in English that is simply not there in Greek. Hence my perverse preference for John the Dunker. Referring to him a the “baptizer” is to transliterate the Greek without actually translating it. As such, the actual meaning of the word is not conveyed. John was emphatically not baptizing people; he was washing–or dunking–them. And so the Sadducees did not doubt resurrection; they disbelieved that the body would not stand up again. 

Since we’ve stopped, we may as well talk about this idea of standing up again. It is very important to realize that the idea of some sort of personal immortality was not Jewish. It was not part of the Mosaic religion. Isaiah nor Deuteronomy nor Samuel nor Elijah talk about personal immortality. Rather, this was a concept that the Jews absorbed from other traditions. I would normally say it was Greek, but the Egyptians were there long before the Greeks. There was a Greek afterlife, Hades, but The Odyssey gives us a graphic picture of this, a grey, gloomy place inhabited by grey, brooding…what to call them? Spirits? That works in English, but that word in English carries too many connotations. Something like…shadow is much closer, I think. The shadows do have a memory of who they were above ground, but they cannot tell us unless Odysseus gives them blood to drink. Even Achilles, the demigod, suffered this as his fate. There were exceptions. Herakles (Hercules, to the Romans and mostly to us) was not send to Hades; rather, he experienced apotheosis and spent eternity with the gods on Olympus. So, even for the Greeks, the idea of an afterlife did not resemble our idea for some long time, if the Greek concept ever actually did come close to what we believe.

I am simply not qualified to talk about Egyptian beliefs; however, the whole process of mummification and the grave goods that were buried with the important people tell us that the Egyptians believed that the individual continued to exist after death. Or, at least pharaohs and other high-ranking people could expect this; whether regular people would also share this experience I cannot say. If anyone happens to know this, please do share. Anyone? Bueller?

With time, however, the idea of an afterlife did infiltrate Jewish belief, whatever the source(s). However, since the Jews did not have a strong concept of an immortal soul, the afterlife tended to be physical. The body would become re-animated and rise (stand up) again. With this went the idea that the kingdom of God that the blessed would enjoy for eternity (or thereabouts) would be located in the physical plane, and on this earth. This is what Enoch says; even in the Second Century, Eusebios tells us that Papias, a (mostly) Christian author & thinker took the idea of a millennium literally, and expected the Kingdom of God to be here on the physical earth.

Contra this idea we have the Sadducees. In this way, they represent what can, to some degree, be called the “authentic” Jewish tradition, the original Jewish belief on the subject. Part of Eisenman’s thesis in James, Brother of Jesus, is that the Sadducees–or at least the purist version of the Sadducees– were opposed to pretty much all forms of foreign contamination. As such, they formed sort of a nucleus of the anti-Rome party. He also says that James and the Essenes were members of this anti-Rome party; OTOH, the Pharisees and Paul, who was a Pharisee, and Josephus represent the Hellenizing, collaborationist party. Interesting theory. But, opposition to the idea of the resurrection of the body would certainly fit with this theory; after all, the idea of an afterlife is a bit of foreign contamination of Jewish belief. 

27 Accesserunt autem quidam sadducaeorum, qui negant esse resurrectionem, et interrogaverunt eum,

27 Προσελθόντες δέ τινες τῶν Σαδδουκαίων, οἱ [ἀντι] λέγοντες ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἶναι, ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν

28 λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν, ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ ἔχων γυναῖκα, καὶ οὗτος ἄτεκνος ᾖ, ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ.

29 ἑπτὰ οὖν ἀδελφοὶ ἦσαν: καὶ ὁ πρῶτος λαβὼν γυναῖκα ἀπέθανεν ἄτεκνος:

30 καὶ ὁ δεύτερος

31 καὶ ὁ τρίτος ἔλαβεν αὐτήν, ὡσ αύτως δὲ καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ οὐ κατέλιπον τέκνα καὶ ἀπέθανον.

32 ὕστερον καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἀπέθανεν.

33 ἡ γυνὴ οὖν ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τίνος αὐτῶν γίνεται γυνή; οἱ γὰρ ἑπτὰ ἔσχον αὐτὴν γυναῖκα.

Some of the Sadducees coming, they (who) were saying [against] the standing up, {that is, the resurrection of the body} does not happen. (28) Saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote to us, if some brother dies having a wife, and he (the decedent) was childless, so that the brother should receive the wife of the (deceased) and carry on the the seed of his brother (who is deceased). (29) So there were seven brothers: and the first having the wife died childless. (30) And the second (31) and the third, so that in this way also the seven did not leave children and died. (32) Finally, the woman died. (33) So at the resurrection of which of them will the woman be the wife?”

Does it strike anyone as odd that the Sadducees would ask this question when we had Antipas being excoriated for marrying his brother’s wife? Just saying. Trying to figure out if there is some underlying point here. Per Eisenman, the Christians came out of the Hellenizing faction of Jews, where the Sadducees were the Jewish purists. Can we spin this to fit that theory? Or is that over the top? Thinking about it, Antipas, and all the Herodians, was a collaborator, so he would have been on the opposite side from the Purist Sadducees. So we have a party on both sides of this theoretical divide being attacked; herein lies the danger of theories.

Honestly, there isn’t much to say at this point. It’s a “gotcha” question, just like the question about taxation was. Shall we see how Jesus wiggles his way out of this sticky wicket? Or is that a mixed metaphor?

28 dicentes: “Magister, Moyses scripsit nobis, si frater alicuius mortuus fuerit habens uxorem et hic sine filiis fuerit, ut accipiat eam frater eius uxorem et suscitet semen fratri suo. 

29 Septem ergo fratres erant: et primus accepit uxorem et mortuus est sine filiis; 

30 et sequens 

31 et tertius accepit illam, similiter autem et septem non reliquerunt filios et mortui sunt. 

32 Novissima mortua est et mulier. 

33 Mulier ergo in resurrectione cuius eorum erit uxor? Si quidem septem habuerunt eam uxorem”. 

34 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου γαμοῦσιν καὶ γαμίσκονται,

35 οἱ δὲ καταξιωθέντες τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται:

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and get married. (35) But those having been deemed worthy of that age to have happened and those of the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor get married.

Quick comment on “to have married”. This sounds like a future infinitive; it’s actually an aorist infinitive. This tense is used as is the aorist in general, to represent a completed action. The only way that I can figure to do this is to try to incorporate the perfect tense– to have done– but then it’s not really a perfect tense in English. It describes an action that will be in the past when something else happens, but it is currently in the future. So there you go. We now return you to our regularly scheduled translation.

34 Et ait illis Iesus: “ Filii saeculi huius nubunt et traduntur ad nuptias; 

35 illi autem, qui digni habentur saeculo illo et resurrectione ex mortuis, neque nubunt neque ducunt uxores. 

36 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν ἔτι δύνανται, ἰσάγγελοι γάρ εἰσιν, καὶ υἱοί εἰσιν θεοῦ, τῆς ἀναστάσεως υἱοὶ ὄντες.

37 ὅτι δὲ ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροὶ καὶ Μωϋσῆς ἐμήνυσεν ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου, ὡς λέγει κύριον τὸν θεὸν Ἀβραὰμ καὶ θεὸν Ἰσαὰκ καὶ θεὸν Ἰακώβ:

38 θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων, πάντες γὰρ αὐτῷ ζῶσιν.

39 ἀποκριθέντες δέ τινες τῶν γραμματέων εἶπαν, Διδάσκαλε, καλῶς εἶπας:

40 οὐκέτι γὰρ ἐτόλμων ἐπερωτᾶν αὐτὸν οὐδέν.  

(36) “For nor will they be able to die, for they are equal to angles, (iso-angeloi) and they are the sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (37) That the dead rise Moses also disclosed this upon the bush, as the lord God said ‘(I am) the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’. (38) And God is not (the God of the) dead but of the living, for all are living to him”. (39) Some of the scribes said, “Teacher, you speak well. (40) For no longer were they bold to ask him nothing (In English: they were no longer bold to ask him anything; in Greek, double negative = negative).  

To start, the bottom line is he doesn’t answer the question. In fact, he completely changes the subject. What exactly does he say? The most interesting point is that, to God, all are living; But it is worth noting that Luke’s formulation is slightly different from that of M&M. Both of them use pretty much the same phrase: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”. Luke says “all are living to him”. This latter translation fudges part of the distinction between M&M and Luke. The former use a participle; the form living, as to convey immediate action. She is coming: she is in the midst of act even as we speak, walking up the stairs to ring the bell upon arrival. Luke uses the form lives. The problem with saying “all live to him” which is how I would have to render the verb w/o using the progressive participle, is that…it sounds off, odd. It puts into the mind an image of someone living in a certain direction. Nevertheless, this is how the KJV, NASB, and ESV all chose to translate the phrase. I don’t much care for it, but your mileage may vary. Plus, in English, we would probably say that “all are alive to him”. This gets the point across effectively, but it changes the Greek verb into an English adjective. Even so, this is what the NIV used.  

This has enormous implications for the argument about Free Will and/or Predestination. If all are alive to God, that means God stands outside spacetime, what used to be called the space-time continuum. To God, there is no past or future, but only an eternal Now. God sees the entirety, from Big Bang (of which God was doubtless the cause) to the final victory of Entropy, absolute heat death. This is a terrific example of something that was more or less a throwaway line, but, once written down, it took on canonical status and so became an absolute truth. For centuries these implications went more or less unnoticed, until the proto-Renaissance of the 11th Century, when churchmen flush with a whole lot of recovered learning, and the time and leisure to start parsing these scriptures started noticing things like this, and drawing logical conclusions. And Mediaeval thinkers were thorough-going Platonists, attempting to peer into the Real world, the world of Forms/Ideas, and a statement like this would set them off. It did set them off. The argument over Predestination, which had initially sprung from the mind of Augustine who was trying to counter the Pelagian heresy came up with the concept to prove that humans could not possibly ever merit salvation based on their own actions. Prevenient Grace was necessary, and this originated only from God. In effect, it meant God pre-selected those who stood even a chance of attaining salvation. Conversely, anyone to whom God did not bestow prevenient grace was foreknown, damned from the moment they were born. And, because God stands outside spacetime and sees the beginning, the end, and everything in between, God knows the outcome of creation from the moment of creation–which, to God, is also the moment of Judgement Day. So God necessarily knows which of its creatures will succeed and attain salvation, and which will fail and end up in Hell for eternity. And, since God is omnipotent, God can create the kosmos in any way it wants. Therefore, if something turns out a certain way, it’s because God set it up that way. Ergo, no free will. Do what we will, the outcome is predetermined. We are predestined, either to become saved, or–more likely–to roast for all time.

Sweet, eh?

Numerous thinkers over the centuries reached this same conclusion, but then backed down. Or were forced to. This is not a palatable doctrine. It’s not distinguishable from pagan Fatalism; arguing against fatalism was the reason Free Will was invented in the first place. Now we have it’s opposite. Naturally, if we’re damned regardless, may as well have a good time in this life since we’re toast in the next. Not exactly conducive to persuading people to be good and pay their tithe.

It also bears mention that Moses said the same thing: this is not a new idea. Now, we can argue about what the passage in the HS meant, when God said he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph. Honestly, I think this is to be taken historically, as in, he was the God of each, but successively. That would be the plain-sense reading of the text, but the evangelists were not content to leave it at that. I suppose this all came about as the idea of the resurrection took hold, and people started contemplating the implications, that people actually were asking questions like this. As such, the nascent church had to come up with and answer to this, and did so fairly early, early enough for this story to end up in Mark. 

Because there is just about zero chance that Jesus said anything of the sort. The idea of Jesus’ resurrection probably did not come into existence until after he had died. But that is an argument for another day. This section has gone on long enough. 

36 Neque enim ultra mori possunt: aequales enim angelis sunt et filii sunt Dei, cum sint filii resurrectionis. 

37 Quia vero resurgant mortui, et Moyses ostendit secus rubum, sicut dicit: “Dominum Deum Abraham et Deum Isaac et Deum Iacob”. 

38 Deus autem non est mortuorum sed vivorum: omnes enim vivunt ei ”. 

39 Respondentes autem quidam scribarum dixerunt: “ Magister, bene dixisti ”. 

40 Et amplius non audebant eum quidquam interrogare.

Luke Chapter 20:9-19

This entire chapter is devoted to Jesus teaching in the Temple. In Verse 1, Luke said the events were transpiring in “one of those days”. Now, “those” is a pretty vague term that can mean a lot of things. But this chapter comes immediately after the Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple; it’s also before the Passion. Reading this to mean “one of those days after the Entry and before the Crucifixion” does not strain the language. The point is that Jesus struck at the economic foundations of the wealth of the Temple, and so its curators and staff, a day or two before, and now is calmly having a discussion. Those curators and staff, the High Priest and high priests, are trying to get Jesus into trouble by tricking him into saying something they can use against him in a court of law. That seems a bit odd, since he pretty much caused a riot–or at least a major disturbance– a few days earlier. I would think that disturbing the peace and/or vandalism would be much more serious charges, and ones that are much easier to prosecute. He committed those acts in front of a Temple courtyard full of witnesses. Would it not be easier to obtain a judgement of condemnation for those actions than to trap him into something like blasphemy? Especially since the difference between orthodox teaching and blasphemy can be a reasonably slippery distinction to make? And especially if Jesus has to be tried by the Romans. The army of occupation, led by Pilate, really had no knowledge of, and less interest in, the intricacies of Jewish faith. Disturbing the peace, OTOH, was something the Romans cared about, and a lot. I’ve been beating this argument, but it is critical if we want to understand the situation and make any kind of attempt to figure out why Jesus was executed. Starting with Mark, the evangelists have been careful to concoct a story in which it seems like the Jewish authorities were the ones to blame, and this because they found Jesus’ teachings to be heterodox, or possibly dangerous because he was trying to foment rebellion. Well, Jesus carried out an act that could easily be classified as rebellious and…nothing. A day or two later, they are having a discussion with him to trick him into blasphemy.

How does that make sense? Seriously. We are supposed to take the gospels seriously as history, but then they present a series of events that simply makes no sense if we’re to read it as history. The accounts make a lot of sense if read allegorically, or as myth, or as a presentation of dogma, or at least belief. But as history? Not so much.

Text

9 Ἤρξατο δὲ πρὸς τὸν λαὸν λέγειν τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην: Ἄνθρωπός [τις] ἐφύτευσεν ἀμπελῶνα, καὶ ἐξέδετο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν χρόνους ἱκανούς. 

He began (to teach) to the people this parable: “There was a (certain) man (who) planted a vineyard, and he leased this to farmers (lit = something like tenders of fields), and he went out of the territory/village for a sufficient time.

Right out of the gate there are a couple of things. Note that Jesus is preaching to “the people”. This is after I said he was discoursing with the high priests, etc. But recall that in the first section he was indeed talking to the high priests and/or scribes, etc. And after this story, he will again address the priestly group directly. Here, I think, we are supposed to imagine that, as the priests look on, Jesus begins to address those assembled. Had they been listening all along? Or did he suddenly turn away from the knot of scribes, etc, and begin declaiming to the crowd, more or less uninvited, relying on his personal charisma to catch and hold their attention? Or was the evangelist not paying attention, and just sort of launched into this? Is this, in fact, an example of the infamous “editorial fatigue”, wherein the evangelist can’t focus on his narrative for more than a few verses sequentially? As it turns out, this question will be answered later on.

The other thing is the “sufficient time”. Once again, I am over-literal, but that is the base meaning of the word: sufficient, or even worthy. Those are overlapping concepts; at least, they can be. All of my four crib translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, and KJV) render this as “for a long time”. Now, this idea of length does fall into the meaning of the word; however, it also completely lacks the nuances of sufficient and worthy. The Latin, OTOH, renders this as << multis temporibus >>; literally, a lot of, a long time. Once again, we find that our scholarly predecessors favored the Latin over the Greek text, despite all their protestations of going back to the original. Yes, this translation may make more sense in English, but it also ignores some of the subtleties of the Greek. In particular, we can note that the KJV stuck with the more familiar Latin reading. This is not the first time we’ve noted this.

9 Coepit autem dicere ad plebem parabolam hanc: “ Homo plantavit vineam et locavit eam colonis et ipse peregre fuit multis temporibus. 

10 καὶ καιρῷ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς δοῦλον, ἵνα ἀπὸ τοῦ καρποῦ τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος δώσουσιν αὐτῷ: οἱ δὲ γεωργοὶ ἐξαπέστειλαν αὐτὸν δείραντες κενόν. 

11 καὶ προσέθετο ἕτερον πέμψαι δοῦλον: οἱ δὲ κἀκεῖνον δείραντες καὶ ἀτιμάσαντες ἐξαπέστειλαν κενόν. 

“And in the season he sent to the husbandmen a slave, so that from the fruit of the vineyard they (the renters) will give him (i.e., like a sharecropping arrangement; or they would pay a money rent). The renters sent him away empty, he having been beaten. (11) And he added another, he sent a slave (i.e., he added a second, sending another slave); and also beating and dishonouring him they sent him away empty.

“Husbandmen” is an archaic word in English. I lifted this directly from the KJV. The various translations are ‘vine-growers’ or ‘tenants’, both of which are accurate enough. The root of the word is ‘georg-‘, which should be recognizable as the root of the English name “George”. In Greek, this root gives rise to the words for ‘field’, ’tillage/farming’, and farmer. It’s one who tends to the field, field being taken in a broad sense. So if I translate it as ‘tenant’, don’t be surprised; however, ‘sharecropper’ might actually capture the sense better by combining the ideas of paying rent and tilling the field itself. In various translations, one will encounter this story under the rubric, “The Wicked Tenants”.

The bit about adding the second slave is difficult to put into English. The meaning is clear enough. It’s just that both verbs, “added” and “sent” modify both the direct object and adjective. So, he added another slave (and) sent another slave would be the most direct translation, but it totally misses the Greek. Again, the meaning is not affected, but the intricacy of the Greek gets lost. And the same construction recurs in Verse 12 below.

BTW, the Latin word for “empty” is “inane”; well, technically, << inanem >>, the root being << inanus >>, but the root is clear enough,

10 Et in tempore misit ad cultores servum, ut de fructu vineae darent illi; cultores autem caesum dimiserunt eum inanem. 

11 Et addidit alterum servum mittere; illi autem hunc quoque caedentes et afficientes contumelia dimiserunt inanem. 

12 καὶ προσέθετο τρίτον πέμψαι: οἱ δὲ καὶ τοῦτον τραυματίσαντες ἐξέβαλον.

13 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος, Τί ποιήσω; πέμψω τὸν υἱόν μου τὸν ἀγαπητόν: ἴσως τοῦ τον ἐντραπήσονται.

14 ἰδόντες δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ γεωργοὶ διελογίζοντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντες, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος: ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, ἵνα ἡμῶν γένηται ἡ κληρονομία.

“And he added a third and he sent a third; but they, having traumatized him (literally) they threw (him) out. (13) The lord of the vineyard said,  ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, my beloved. Perhaps they will be shamed by him’. (14) Seeing him the farmers spoke amongst themselves saying, ‘He is the heir. Let us kill him, so that we will be the heirs’.

Even if we had not read the other versions of the story, I suspect we can guess where this is going. But no spoilers in case anyone is coming to this fresh.

12 Et addidit tertium mittere; qui et illum vulnerantes eiecerunt. 

13 Dixit autem dominus vineae: “Quid faciam? Mittam filium meum dilectum; forsitan hunc verebuntur”. 

14 Quem cum vidissent coloni, cogitaverunt inter se dicentes: “Hic est heres. Occidamus illum, ut nostra fiat hereditas”. 

15 καὶ ἐκβαλόντες αὐτὸν ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος ἀπέκτειναν. τί οὖν ποιήσει αὐτοῖς ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος;

16 ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργοὺς τούτους, καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις. ἀκούσαντες δὲ εἶπαν, Μὴ γένοιτο.

“And throwing him out of the vineyard, they killed him. So what will the lord of the vineyard do to them? (16) He will go and he will destroy (= kill) those husbandmen, and he will give the vineyard to others”. Hearing, they said, “Let this not become (come to pass/happen)”.   

This story is part of the Triple Tradition; both Mark and Matthew include this story. We have an example where Luke follows Mark in a very specific way, then he diverges from both. Both Mark and Luke say that the lord “will give” the vineyard to others. Matthew says that he will (paraphrasing a bit) “rent it out to others who will pay him the rent that is due”. This is yet another example of what I’ve been talking about. Mark says he will give it to others. Matthew says he will rent it and will be paid for it. Once again, Luke, having read the two previous versions, decides that Matthew got it wrong, once again, and corrected Matthew. God isn’t going to rent out the Kingdom; he’s going to give it to new people. The Q people say that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark; they do not explain why on earth he would do so. On a number of occasions, we’ve asked why someone would decide to do something as odd as writing a gospel. The answer, clearly, is that the author does so because s/he believe s/he has something more to say about the story. Mark gave us bare bones; Matthew filled it out. Luke read both and decided that there were places where Matthew got it wrong, or at least where his interpretation left the reader with the wrong impression. So Luke set out to correct the record. He did not seek to supersede Matthew, just as Matthew did not seek to supersede Mark; rather, Luke wanted to get us back to the proper intent of the parable. God has no intention of being a landlord, and Luke wants to underscore that.

Also, this comes hard on the heels of the last chapter, with its stories of Palm Sunday and the Cleansing of the Temple. In both instances, Matthew was in sufficient agreement with Mark, and both told the story in full, so Luke decided enough was enough. He did not omit the stories, but he presented them with what someone called “epic compression”. (Sorry; I read these things and a phrase sticks subconsciously. A proper scholar would make a note of the citation. But I’m not a proper scholar; I’m a guy writing a blog, so my notes are not as meticulous as perhaps they could be. But that expression is not my own. It’s likely to be from Robert Eisenman, since he is the last secondary source I read, and I believe I came upon the quote recently. Who knows? When I make the attempt to turn this into proper scholarship, I will be much more careful. I promise.)

The divergence from both is also interesting. “Let this not come to pass”. This is said by those having heard the story. This raises the questions: Why is this here/Why did Luke add it? The second is, what does this tell us about Luke’s overall outlook? The two are related, but not entirely synonymous. The first question to ask about the first question is Who said this? Those hearing. Which people hearing. Spoiler alert: in the next couple of verses we will get the answer posed for the first couple verses about the audience. Jesus was talking to the high priests, etc, in the first eight verses. Then in Verse 9 he starts talking to “the people”, presumably the civilians, to whom he relates this parable. Then in Verse 19 we find that the high priests are still about. So who uttered the phrase, which is, per the commentator Ellicott, the equivalent of “God forbid”. You see, I cheated on this and went to look at some commentaries. As for who said the words, the commentators are divided. Gill said it was the high priests and scribes; The Expositor’s Greek Testament says that it was the people who said it.  A couple of others seem not to care, other than that it was said by “Jews”, or “The Jews”, as they will be called by John the Evangelist. This outward lament is supposed to be the cry of anguish as “The Jews” realize and understand the parable, and that they are to be the ones excluded from the Kingdom that will come.

But none of that explains why Luke included it. Several commentaries mention that this is a Pauline expression; that Paul uses this expression, or something similar, ten times in Romans per the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. I wonder a bit about that, since this is in the optative, which is very rare in the NT; hence, the qualification of “or something similar”. But that just deals with the language in which the thought is expressed; it does not touch on why the thought is there. Really , this is not such a big mystery. By the time Luke wrote, most of the Jewish elements had been purged from what can–even should– be called Christianity. There is no way to quantify this, of course; however, Eusebios makes it reasonably clear that this was what was happening. I do not entirely trust Eusebios on this. the nascent anti-Semitism in his writing indicates that he was, at best, ambivalent about the Jewish element of Christianity. He loved loved loved it when he was claiming the ancient heritage that legitimized Christianity in the eyes of some people; OTOH, as much as he loved Abraham and Moses, he was not at all fond of Jews who lived in the time of, or the time after Jesus. These Jews were the ones who rejected Jesus. And here Luke provides an expression of their collective anguish when they realize that they have been superseded, that Christians have jumped the line giving entrance into the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this seems to indicate that Luke shared the view that Jews had been pushed aside.

15 Et eiectum illum extra vineam occiderunt. Quid ergo faciet illis dominus vineae? 

16 Veniet et perdet colonos istos et dabit vineam aliis”.  Quo audito, dixerunt:“ Absit!”. 

17 ὁ δὲ ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς εἶπεν, Τί οὖν ἐστιν τὸ γεγραμμένον τοῦτο: Λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας;

18 πᾶς ὁ πεσὼν ἐπ’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν λίθον συνθλασθήσεται: ἐφ’ ὃν δ’ ἂν πέσῃ, λικμήσει αὐτόν.

19 Καὶ ἐζήτησαν οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς ἐπιβαλεῖν ἐπ’ αὐτὸν τὰς χεῖρας ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν λαόν: ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν τὴν παραβολὴνταύτην. 

He (Jesus), looking on said to them, “So what is this writing, ‘The stone the builders rejected, this has become the head of the angle/corner’?  (18) All falling upon the stone will be broken. The one on whom it falls, it will grind him’.” (19) And the scribes and the high priests sought to lay hands on him at that hour, but they feared the people. For they knew that he spoke the parable against them.  

Here we solve the mystery of whom he is addressing. While Jesus addressed the crowd, he was actually speaking to the the priests and scribes. Not sure I ever completely “got it” before, but the rejected stone was a reference to Jesus. Seriously, that should have . been a no-brainer, but it wasn’t. I thought it was the Christian humility thing. Anyway, this clearly marks the comment as post-Jesus; it only makes sense after he had been rejected; perhaps “rejected with extreme prejudice” would be the best description. Interestingly, Luke does add a wrinkle to the narrative. None of the other two evangelists have the comment about falling on the stone and getting broken, or being ground if the stone fell on them is completely novel. When the third version adds something in this manner, we really are required to ask why, if we wish to be taken seriously as commentators and/or historians. Some of the Commentaries link this back to Isaiah or Jeremiah, others to the stone that is a stumbling block on 1 Corinthians 1:23. My gut reaction is that this is yet another reference to the fate of the Jews who were ground by the Roman millstone in the Jewish War; or, perhaps it is a bit more subtle, referring to the way Jews were superseded as the majority of Jesus’ followers by the time the gospels were written. In the final analysis, of course, we can never be certain why Luke added this. That’s a lame conclusion, utterly betraying the concept of historical judgement. My take is that there is a certain amount of malevolence intended. The Expositor’s Greek Testament credits this to Daniel 2:35, but only in part. The implication is that the scribes and high priests would be ground to chaff and blown away, which doesn’t entirely work with the passage here. In turn, Daniel refers back to Isaiah et al, passages in which the wicked will be no more because they will have been ground to chaff.

So yeah, malevolent.

17 Ille autem aspiciens eos ait: “Quid est ergo hoc, quod scriptum est:

‘Lapidem quem reprobaverunt aedificantes, hic factus est in caput anguli’?

18 Omnis, qui ceciderit supra illum lapidem, conquassabitur; supra quem autem ceciderit, comminuet illum ”. 

19 Et quaerebant scribae et principes sacerdotum mittere in illum manus in illa hora et timuerunt populum; cognoverunt enim quod ad ipsos dixerit similitudinem istam.

Luke Chapter 19:11

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

So what, then?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Summary Luke Chapter 18 – Addendum

These chapters do not necessarily have theme. Very few of them do, except perhaps for Mark 5 and Mark 6. The former is mostly composed of the story of the Gerasene Demonaic, and the latter to the two stories of the Bleeding Woman and the Daughter of Jairus. Even then, the first perhaps doesn’t so much have a theme as it is almost wholly committed to a single story. I think that Chapter 6 can be said to have a theme of how faith can save/heal/make someone whole without too much danger of being gainsaid. Does this chapter have a theme? That is the question I always ask when I start writing a chapter summary like this. In the back of my mind was a lingering impression that the major theme was The Poor vs The Rich. This impression doubtless was left by the Rich Young Man and the Pharisee and the Publican. But the latter is not about wealth per se, as the story of the rich ruler is. The Pharisee and the Publican leads into Jesus telling his audience that the Kingdom must be accepted as a child: in innocence and humility. These are not traits the Pharisee exhibits. And even then the Rich Ruler follows the Children, so that the latter is sandwiched between two other stories that demonstrate exactly the wrong attitude for someone wishing to enter the Kingdom. The Pharisee and the Rich Ruler are too enamoured of this world with its trappings and its possessions; these are not the innocence and humility of the child that we are to emulate. So by sheer weight of words, the idea of innocence and humility would properly be taken as the theme; this assumes, of course, that it is proper to claim that the chapter has a theme. But three of the five stories thus form a unit to instruct us on the proper approach towards the goal of entering the kingdom.

And yet it feels like the idea of the poor is lurking there, just below the surface. It never quite leaves our consciousness even if it never takes center stage, which is how it leaves its imprint on our mind. Note that I’m using my own experience to generalize; this is the impression it left on me, and I can’t be unique in this assessment, can I? Some of it derives from the placement of the Rich Ruler at the end of the chapter, so it’s a rhetorical thing. But it feels like the idea of the poor is a more significant theme in Luke than it was for the previous evangelists.  This perception makes me question whether the concern for the poor evinced by Luke is this another example of Luke trying to ‘correct’ the record of Matthew, by bringing up the emphasis on social justice? This is a fairly bold suggestion, since Matthew is said to be the most “Jewish” of the gospels, and that Matthew was a Jew while Luke was, supposedly, a pagan. But this sort of goes away if Matthew, in fact, was a pagan as well. Then we could read this as Luke believing that the pagan Matthew rather lost sight of this part of Jewish tradition; as such, Luke attempted to re-invigorate the idea of social justice. I am convinced that Luke was deeply aware of Matthew, and that the construction & content of Luke’s gospel were a  response, or even a reaction to what he read in Matthew. They both read Mark, and each interpreted Mark in his own way. This is rather a complex and very difficult argument to make; it requires almost line-by-line comparison of Matthew and Luke. I’m not up to that task. Yet. Regardless, this is another example of a question that needs to be asked and brought into the open. If nothing else, it will help clarify the Q discussion as well, by forcing scholars to assess the relationship rather than simply assuming–on no real evidence–that there was no direct relationship between Matthew and Luke because the latter certainly had not read the former.

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

More, all of Mark’s first use of the word “poor” comes in Chapter 10, and the others are later. This is the part of his gospel that emphasizes the Christ tradition rather than the Wonder-worker tradition. Paul uses the word sparingly, but one salient incidence comes in Galatians, where James, brother of Jesus, admonishes Paul to “remember the poor” as part of the deal James and Paul cut on what Paul’s message can and should include. This leads to the possible connexion between James and the Ebionites, which may be carried on to the Epistle of James, even though the general consensus is that this letter is not properly ascribed to James, brother of Jesus. The Ebionites got their name from the Aramaic (?) word for “poor”. And the assembly (ekklesia) led by James was likely more in line with mainline Judaism; as such, James’ group put more emphasis on the poor than Jesus did. This, in turn, highlights the earlier half of Mark in which Jesus was, first and foremost, a wonder-worker. A very elaborate theory; it’s most likely wrong, but it’s an interesting set of connexions. I can think of several problems immediately. It requires that they nascent church became more concerned with social justice as it became less Jewish, as the number and percent of pagan followers far outstripped Jewish followers. But viewing Jesus as primarily a wonder-worker would help account for the lack of social message in the first half of Mark.

As sort of an interesting side-bar to this, we should note one of the elements Luke left our of one of the stories– pericopae– in the chapter. After the “eye of the needle” proclamation, in Verse 28 Peter asks what will happen to them who have given up all to follow Jesus. In fact, we get the sense that Peter is rather uncomfortable about this, he’s feeling a little unsure of himself. In the other two gospels Jesus is quick to assure a return of a hundredfold to those who have followed him, AND will inherit eternal life. Mark is even more interesting because his version of Jesus promises a return of a hundredfold in this age AND eternal life in the age to come. IOW, following Jesus was to be a money-making proposition. Matthew toned this down, and Luke holds out only the promise of a reward to come. This is a fascinating little bit of doctrine and its evolution. Mark’s promise, again, seems more appropriate for a wonder-worker than for an ascetic follower of Jesus. So once again Luke sort of stresses the idea of poverty as an ideal much more so than his predecessors. And the three-step process from Mark to Matthew to Luke again helps reinforce the suggestion that Luke is writing with Matthew very much in mind. Yes, he could have eliminated the idea of a return in this age without knowing Matthew, but it seems to make more sense if Luke had read Matthew. However, note that this is a stylistic judgement and not one based on real textual evidence.

Finally, in this chapter we take a very big step towards finalizing the Christian meaning of being “saved”. For the first time we have a very clear connexion drawn between the Kingdom of God, eternal life, and being saved. There has been a fair bit of transitive-property* equating of the three terms, but I believe this is the first time the this equivalence is made as explicitly clear as it has been in this chapter. I don’t want to make too big a deal of this because the degree of significance is very much in the eye of the beholder. However, I have been watching this develop, and for the first time I am convinced all three terms are meant to be used interchangeably, as synonyms. Remember that John the Dunker also preached the Kingdom; given the ambivalence of Jewish belief in an afterlife, we cannot dismiss the idea that this was an earthly kingdom. Here we are very clearly, and finally, told that it is not.

Addendum

I completely neglected to discuss the story of the blind man receiving his sight. Technically, this story is part of the Triple Tradition, since Jesus restores sight outside of Jericho in all three gospels. However, there are significant differences. Mark names the man healed a bar-TImmaeus (often conflated aa Bartimmaeus, even though the “bar” is an indicator of the father’s name, as the “Mc” in Scottish names and is technically not part of the name; see also Barabbas). In Matthew’s version, two men, neither of them named, have their sight restored. Luke is back to a single individual, even though the man’s name is not recounted. This, I think, is a great example of how each evangelist molded the stories they chose to include, sort of picking and choosing what to include, what to omit, and what to add. Luke omitted the name. Why? Because he thought it was redundant, since the man was named in Mark? Possibly. Everyone (well, almost everyone) agrees that Mark wrote first and that Matthew and Luke were well aware of Mark’s gospel. So it’s unlikely that Luke omitted the name because he simply didn’t know what it was. The bigger question is why did Matthew omit the name AND add a second blind man? The speculations are potentially endless and I doubt a single answer will ever be considered convincing. But we’re not discussing Mark or Matthew, so we’re concerned with why Luke has a single person who is not named. That is sort of a compromise between the previous two, no? One man as in Mark, unnamed as in Matthew.

Of course this flies in the face of Q. Per that theory, Luke only had one man because Mark only had one man, and Luke was unaware that Matthew had two. Then the question is why didn’t Luke include the man’s name? What is the basis for this editorial choice? The Q proponents never even address the question, let alone answer it. My theory is this. In other cases, the Gerasene Demonaic being my favorite example, Matthew’s version is abbreviated from Mark’s version. Luke restores Mark’s length, and some of the details Matthew omitted. In the story of the Woman Anointing Jesus, both Matthew and Mark provide a full account, and Luke has the short version. It seems that Luke makes decisions based on the comparison of the previous two gospels. Do M&M treat the story fully? Then provide a short form and move on. Does Matthew not handle Mark’s version properly? Then add more back. Here, Luke found no compelling reason to add the man’s name since that was supplied by Mark, but he also “corrected” Matthew by having Jesus heal only a single individual. This, I think, is the basis for a theory of Luke’s editorial choices that is “redactionally consistent” as demanded by the Q proponents.

 

*If a=b, and b=c, then a=c

Luke Chapter 17:20-39

There is a lot of text to cover here. Here we get to a prelude to Luke’s version of the coming “apocalypse”, or day of wrath, or however you wish to describe it. This is kind of an odd bit coming here, or at least an odd place to put something like this. It follows hard on the heels of the Ten Lepers. I suppose one could argue that the intent of this passage in this location is meant to illustrate what will happen to those like the nine who did not return to give thanks, although their place is taken over by Pharisees. They are the ones who initiate the conversation about the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Is that question unique to Luke? Is he the only evangelist who puts this question into the mouths of people around Jesus? I don’t recall it, at least not in so many words, but I suppose there are different versions of it, or many and various ways to couch the implication of the question to evoke Jesus’ response.

What is, perhaps, more interesting is the placement of the reference to Noah. This occurs in Matthew as well, and Kloppenborg includes this as part of Q. But there is a “but” here; Matthew has this reference in the context of his version of the coming wrath, and it’s all together in his Chapter 24. Luke, OTOH, splits this off from his main narrative of the apocalypse. which will come in Chapter 21. This is sort of a teaser, or perhaps the trailer for the main story that is to come. What this means is that one of them, Matthew or Luke, changed the order of the Q material. It may have been Matthew moving it to be part of the longer apocalypse story, or Luke who removes it from the longer apocalypse and places it here. I mention this because the handling and organization of the Q material presented in the Sermon on the Mount is a major prop for the pro-Q argument. Why would Luke mess with this masterful arrangement if he’d read Matthew? Perhaps because Luke tended to rearrange the material he had, whether in the form of Q, or in Matthew’s gospel. More will be said on this later.

As a final note, I forget who said it, whether Ehrman, or Crossan, or someone else, but apocalyptic writing is the last resort of the downtrodden. Sure, we’re your chattel now, but just you wait. OUR GOD is gonna come and clean your clock and teach you a lesson. Him and my big brother. So you better watch it, buster. Honest. I mean it. So anyway, here what Luke has to say about the End Times, or the Time of Retribution, or whatever you wish to call it.

Text

20 Ἐπερωτηθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Φαρισαίων πότε ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν, Οὐκ ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ παρατηρήσεως,

21 οὐδὲ ἐροῦσιν, Ἰδοὺ ὧδε: ἤ, Ἐκεῖ: ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν.

Having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God is coming, he answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with observable things (more literally, observations). (21) Nor will they say, ‘Look here’, or ‘look there’, for the kingdom of God is within you.”

This finishes Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, so we can pause here a moment.  “The kingdom of God is within you”. The problem with that perfectly legitimate translation is that “you” is plural. If Jesus had said, “within you(singular)” the meaning would be crystal clear, that each of us carries the kingdom within ourself, as in we carry it in our hearts, or in some such metaphorical manner. It is within me, it is within my friend and my sister and each of us individually. But it’s within us plurally, as a group, as a plural number of us. So do we take this in the distributive sense, as it’s within each of you and you and you? This, in fact, is how the Liddell and Scott understands this usage. They have a specific entry referring explicitly and specifically to this passage, rendering is as “within your hearts”. So where is the problem?

The problem, such as it is, is that this is most frequently rendered as “in your midst”. To me, this is sort of saying that there are three people sitting in a triangle, and the kingdom is sort of sitting there on the grass in between them all. It is in their midst, which is a way of saying “it is in the middle of the three of them, but not specifically within any one of them”. At least, that is how I would understand “midst”. Or is that a needlessly strict understanding of “midst”? What else does it mean, if not “in the middle of all of you”? So my point is that I really do not agree with the “in your midst” translation. It lacks, IMO, the personal implication of what is in the Greek. And if we check the Latin, the Vulgate says intra vos, which is a pretty literal rendering of the Greek. “Within you”, again as in, “within your heart”, i.e. And, for those keeping score at home, the KJV comes in with what I would consider the authoritative reading, of “within you”. It is the modern translations that go astray. I wonder why?

I will be quite honest: I’m more than half-way through the third gospel and like three epistles, and the number of times that reading the original has made a tremendous difference can probably be counted on two hands. Or at least two hands and two feet. But this, I think, is definitely one of them.

One last note. The idea of the kingdom being within us is an extension of the admonition not to look here, or look there, for it. Both are part of the same idea.

20 Interrogatus autem a pharisaeis: “Quando venit regnum Dei?”, respondit eis et dixit: “Non venit regnum Dei cum observatione,

21 neque dicent: “Ecce hic” aut: “Illic”; ecce enim regnum Dei intra vos est”.

22 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς, Ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι ὅτε ἐπιθυμήσετε μίαν τῶν ἡμερῶν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἰδεῖν καὶ οὐκ ὄψεσθε.

23 καὶ ἐροῦσιν ὑμῖν, Ἰδοὺ ἐκεῖ: [ἤ,] Ἰδοὺ ὧδε: μὴ ἀπέλθητε μηδὲ διώξητε.

24 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ ἀστραπὴ ἀστράπτουσα ἐκ τῆς ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰς τὴν ὑπ’ οὐρανὸν λάμπει, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου [ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ αὐτοῦ].

He said to his disciples, “The days are coming that you will yearn for one of the days of the son of man to see and you will not see (you will long to see the son of man, but you will not see him). (23) And they will say you, ‘Look there’, or ‘look here’; but he will not come nor should you follow him. (24) For as the lightening lightens from the one under the sky to the one under the sky it shines, so will be the son of man on that day.

The Greek in that last verse is a bit odd. Nor is the Latin much help, because it follows the Greek pretty closely, and neither of them seem to match the English translations of (more or less) “lightening flashes from one part of the sky to the other”. There may be some sort of idiom involved that persons more adept in Greek & Latin can follow that are simply beyond me. Part of the confusion is that this verse is connected to the one before, with people saying “he’s here or there”, so it seems like the sense is that lightening flashes, and the son of man is seen here, and it flashes again the son of man is seen over there. Sort of a celestial strobe effect, with the son of man changing places in the time between the flashes. And “lightening lightens” is a very clumsy attempt to get across the fact that the words for both the noun and the verb are derived from the same root.


22 Et ait ad discipulos: “ Venient dies, quando desideretis videre unum diem Filii hominis et non videbitis.

23 Et dicent vobis: “Ecce hic”, “Ecce illic”; nolite ire neque sectemini.

24 Nam sicut fulgur coruscans de sub caelo in ea, quae sub caelo sunt, fulget, ita erit Filius hominis in die sua.

25 πρῶτον δὲ δεῖ αὐτὸν πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.

26 καὶ καθὼς ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Νῶε, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

27 ἤσθιον, ἔπινον, ἐγάμουν, ἐγαμίζοντο, ἄχρι ἧς ἡμέρας εἰσῆλθεν Νῶε εἰς τὴν κιβωτόν, καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ κατακλυσμὸς καὶ ἀπώλεσεν πάντας.

28 ὁμοίως καθὼς ἐγένετο ἐνταῖς ἡμέραις Λώτ: ἤσθιον, ἔπινον, ἠγόραζον, ἐπώλουν, ἐφύτευον, ᾠκοδόμουν:

29 ἧ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ ἐξῆλθεν Λὼτ ἀπὸ Σοδόμων, ἔβρεξεν πῦρ καὶ θεῖον ἀπ’οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀπώλεσεν πάντας.

30 κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ ἔσται ἧ ἡμέρᾳ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀποκαλύπτεται.

But first it must be that he (son of man) suffer much, and be rejected by this generation, (26) and accordingly it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man. (27) They ate, they drank, they married, they married until the day Noah went into the Ark, and the cataclysm (a straight transliteration of the Greek kataklysmos) came and destroyed everything. (28) It was similar in the day of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought at the market, they sold, they planted, they built. (29) But on the day Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from the sky (or, from heaven) and destroyed all. (30) Accordingly it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed (apokalyptai).  

I mentioned the placement of this in the introduction. The references to Noah and Lot occur in Matthew, but as a part of his “complete” version of the apocalypse. Why is it separated out by Luke? As a prefiguration? Is it, as such, as a literary device? Or is Luke just slavishly following the layout of Q, putting stuff where the compiler of Q left it?

Such a suggestion should be seen as risible even at first glance. To suggest, to think, that the author of The Good Samaritan or The Prodigal Son didn’t have the literary chops to know how to organize his material is ridiculous. When Luke does something like this, he does it with purpose aforethought. This has to carry through to the discussion of Q, but, of course, it doesn’t. The focus is on how badly he mangled the Sermon on the Mount. Now, saying, that, I seem to recall Mark Goodacre, a prof at Duke, suggested something along the lines of Luke not liking long stories. Goodacre is one of the few people I’ve run across who is willing to take a stand against Q; but I do recall that his suggestion that Luke likes to keep things more concise was met with a wave of derision and what bordered on outright dismissal. This is a topic on which I need to do much more research; so, for this particular moment at least, I will drop the topic of Q and move on. Yes, I show forbearance. 

As for the actual content, this is a direct throwback to Jewish culture. As such, it fits in nicely with the Jewish slant that Matthew is said to have.  Thus, one has to admit, it is the sort of thing that a Jew like Jesus would be familiar with, and so would use as an example. As such, it is honestly very difficult to gainsay this inference and argue that it does not show Jewish heritage. One question this raises, however, is how often did Jesus actually make references to the HS in Mark? The quick answer is: not that many. The hard copy Greek NT that I have (wonderful little book, btw; Bible Society, ca 1912 or thereabouts; it’s still around) has book, chapter, & verse to all the HS cites that are made. In Mark, most of the cites are to other Gospels, some to Acts, and some to epistles. In the first half of the gospel, I came up with about a dozen refs; of those, perhaps eight are things Jesus said. That’s 75%, which is a high number; however, even a glance at the margins of the pages, the cites in Mark are sparse while the margins in the gospel of Matthew are crammed with cites. Which indicates, IMO, that the author of Matthew spent a lot of time poring through the HS to find relevant passages, or passages that could be made to fit in a Procrustean Bed* sort of way. It seems, for example, that Matthew made up the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents to use a passage from Jeremiah about the wailing coming from Rama. Or the fight to Egypt so he could use the line from Hosea that YHWH called his son from Egypt. Indeed, he placed Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem so he could use a quote from Micah. Or that he put Jesus in Nazareth because Isaiah said “He will be called a Nazarene”.

Now, all that being said, it is worth noting that Matthew did not include the bit about Lot. Regardless, there is no purchase to be gained by parsing this out in terms of Q; Luke added another example of destruction, whether he got the first from Matthew or from Q really can’t be deduced from the evidence. Luke is going one up on someone. To my mind, it makes more sense that he would go up on Matthew, who was familiar to some members of his audience, rather than going one-up on Q, because one has to wonder the extent to which the general public would have been familiar with Q, assuming it existed. Since it, allegedly, disappeared without a trace, we have to suspect the answer is that the general public– in the sense of those listening to the gospels–was not terribly aware of Q.

We shouldn’t pass this by without mentioning the fire and brimstone. In English, brimstone is another word for “sulphur”, the element. It’s yellow, and burns, and lets off a rather foul odor. Pitch has a high sulphur content, so it tends to smell pretty awful when it burns. If you check the Latin below, you will see that the Greek translates to sulphur. This is the only time this word is used in any part of the NT– with the exception Revelation. 

*Greek myth, exploits of Theseus. In his journey Theseus comes across a man named Procrustes who offered food and lodging to travelers on the road. The main selling point Procrustes offered was a bed, that was the perfect size for any and all. Well, turns out, if the traveler was too sort, Procrustes stretched the traveler until the latter was long enough. Too tall? No problem. Just lop of the excess. Of course Theseus overcame the man and left him a victim of his own bed. Not sure if he was too short or too tall.

25 Primum autem oportet illum multa pati et reprobari a generatione hac.

26 Et sicut factum est in diebus Noe, ita erit et in diebus Filii hominis:

27 edebant, bibebant, uxores ducebant, dabantur ad nuptias, usque in diem, qua intravit Noe in arcam, et venit diluvium et perdidit omnes.

28 Similiter sicut factum est in diebus Lot: edebant, bibebant, emebant, vendebant, plantabant, aedificabant;

29 qua die autem exiit Lot a Sodomis, pluit ignem et sulphur de caelo et omnes perdidit.

30 Secundum haec erit, qua die Filius hominis revelabitur.

31 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὃς ἔσται ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος καὶ τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, μὴ καταβάτω ἆραι αὐτά, καὶ ὁ ἐν ἀγρῷ ὁμοίως μὴ ἐπιστρεψάτω εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω.

32 μνημονεύετε τῆς γυναικὸς Λώτ.

33 ὃς ἐὰν ζητήσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ περιποιήσασθαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ ζῳογονήσει αὐτήν.

34 λέγω ὑμῖν, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἔσονται δύο ἐπὶ κλίνης μιᾶς, ὁ εἷς παραλημφθήσεται καὶ ὁ ἕτερος ἀφεθήσεται:

35 ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, ἡ μία παραλημφθήσεται ἡ δὲ ἑτέρα ἀφεθήσεται.

36 καὶ 37 ἀποκριθέντες λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ποῦ, κύριε; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οπου τὸ σῶμα, ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ ἀετοὶ ἐπισυναχθήσονται.

On that day, one will be upon the (ie, roof of) the house, and his belongings will be in the house, do not go down to take it up, and one will be in the field (and) in the same way let him not turn back. (32) Recall the wife of Lot. (33) The one seeking to preserve his life it will be destroyed, and the one who will destroy it will live it. (34) I say to you, that night will be two upon a single couch; one will be taken up and the other will be left behind.  (35) Two (women) will be grinding upon the same (millstone?), the one will be taken you and the other will be left.” (36) And (37) responding, they said, “Where, lord?” He said to them, “Where the body, there also the eagles will be gathered.”

Numerous points to discuss. Let’s get some of the minor ones out of the way. Due to the gendered grammar of Greek, we know there are two men on the couch; presumably they are eating because that is how they dined. In the same way, we know that there were two women grinding– presumably at the same millstone, but I don’t know enough about how these tasks were done in First Century Galilee. Eventually, this became a specialized profession, resulting in the surname “Miller”, but at the time of Jesus my impression is that a village would have numerous smaller ones that were used in common. But don’t cite me as an expert who knows that kind of thing.

More interesting is the verse before: the one seeking to save his life. The word used is psyche, which we are told means “soul”. Well, it does, but it often means life. We saw this in both Mark and Matthew, both of whom have this axiom in their gospels. I know we discussed this when we ran across it in Mark; I have always seen it translated in that context as soul: what shall it profit…gain the world, lose one’s soul? We discussed whether “soul” was the proper translation. In English, there is a very big difference between losing one’s life and losing one’s soul; not so much in Greek. where the same word can– and does– have both meanings. In Mark, translating as “soul” had metaphysical, or salvation aspects whereas it obviously gains one nothing to acquire the world and die a physical death. In all three gospels, when Jesus says, as he does here, that whoever would save his psyche will lose it, all the translations render it as “life”. Context is everything. And, btw, back in Luke 9, when he gives his version of Mark’s question about gaining the world, Luke renders it as “what shall it profit…gain the world…and lose oneself?” That very much eliminates the ambiguity, and makes me wonder if we have to rethink the consensus translation of Mark’s question.

The idea of one being taken while the other was left is the basis for the idea of the Rapture. The title of the series of novels called Left Behind, will certainly corroborate that. Beyond that, we’ve discussed much of this when we read Matthew, and we will discuss more when we get to Luke Chapter 21.

31 In illa die, qui fuerit in tecto, et vasa eius in domo, ne descendat tollere illa; et, qui in agro, similiter non redeat retro.

32 Memores estote uxoris Lot.

33 Quicumque quaesierit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; et, quicumque perdiderit illam, vivificabit eam.

34 Dico vobis: Illa nocte erunt duo in lecto uno:

unus assumetur, et alter relinquetur;

35 duae erunt molentes in unum: una assumetur, et altera relinquetur ”.

(36) 37 Respondentes dicunt illi: “ Ubi, Domine? ”. Qui dixit eis: “ Ubicumque fuerit corpus, illuc congregabuntur et aquilae ”.

Luke Chapter 17:11-19; with Addendum

This is a short section of text. I’m never sure how long these will take, whether it will be a straightforward piece of translation and commentary, or if something will come up that sends me off onto a very long tangent. Time will tell. But the one after this definitely will be a long piece of text, so let’s try to keep this one on-track, shall we?

When last we saw our hero, he was telling stories about servants and mulberry trees. The general sense is that Jesus is progressing towards Jerusalem. That is sort of the general, ambient setting for the Synoptics as a whole: Jesus teaching in and around Galilee, even up to Tyre & Sidon, but then making the fateful trek to Jerusalem, where he will meet his doom. Doom? Funny you should ask. It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘death’, although that is a strong undercurrent. Rather, it’s synonymous with ‘fate’, rather than simply ‘to die’. However, in Christian terms, meeting one’s fate is what happens when you die and are subject to the Last Judgement. So, in order to meet your fate, your doom, you have to die first. So, saying “We’re doomed” became a euphemism for dying, but it skipped the bit about actual physical death and went straight to the part about the Judgement. And, btw, once we die and our soul is released from our physical, temporary, and temporal body, we step into the realm of the eternal. Hence when we die we go straight to the Last Judgement, because we are no longer bounded by time. Now, there are all sorts of problems with this, but let’s not get into them. That’s more the realm (now, anyway) of theoretical physics.

Text

11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ αὐτὸς διήρχετο διὰ μέσον Σαμαρείας καὶ Γαλιλαίας.

And it came into being in the journey towards Jerusalem and he passed through Samaria and Galilee. 

Geography lesson. In the time of Jesus, Samaria sat smack in between Galilee and Judea. The city of Samaria was the capital of Israel after the split of the United Kingdom after the death of Solomon. The problem with this is that I do not believe there ever was a United Kingdom ruled from Jerusalem. This latter city does not provide clear archaeological evidence for such an exalted position in the 9th or 10th Century BCE. Rather, it seems more likely that Israel was the power, was a significant kingdom in a period when neither Egypt nor any other power was able to exert control over Israel/Judea. The latter was likely, or possibly, a client state; perhaps nominally independent with its king (who could easily have been men named David, Solomon, etc), but who owed fealty– that is, tribute– to Israel. Then, when Israel was captured by Assyria, Judea asserted a claim to the lands that had been Israel. Hence was the “United Monarchy” born, several centuries after the fact. Much of the OT was sort of a foundation myth meant to prove that Judea and Jerusalem was rightwise ordained as the divine kingdom of the Chosen People.

There is also this: much of the books of Kings is about how wicked the kings of Israel were, always chasing after the baals, and worshipping in the high places. This would translate, roughly, to meaning that Israel did not recognise YHWH as their primary deity. Israelites worshipped Ba’al and Ishtar and the rest because they were still mostly what we would call pagans. YHWH, OTOH (!) was the tribal god of the hill people in Judea; IOW, a local deity for a  very petty state. This would help explain the animosity the Judeans felt for the Samaritans: the latter did not accept the Judean version of history, and so did not acknowledge the primacy of the Temple in Jerusalem. A nice little theory, no? But that’s all it is. And I have no ready explanation for why Galilee, which was separated from Judea by Samaria, did recognise the Temple in Jerusalem. There are all sorts of possible explanations of varying degrees of plausibility, but this is neither the time nor the place. I’m a verse into this section, and I’ve already had my first tangent.

What I’m about to say is semi-risible; but that won’t stop me, because it’s the sort of things that historical analysts– especially those studying ancient history– will bring up. They will do this because there is so little evidence for ancient history that every last drop of implication has to be wrung out of every word. Dead horses are still beaten, over and over. Looking at a map as I just did, I noted that Galilee is uppermost north of the three provinces. So, if I were writing this verse, I would say he passed through Galilee and Samaria to indicate the geographic progression. But what if I didn’t have Google, or even a decent library, and could not pull up a map? What if I were writing somewhere else, and only had the vaguest idea of how the three territories were arranged? Then I might easily have written as Luke did here. The point is that this is the sort of thing that lets historians piece together the derivation of these works, and to conclude that they were not written by someone familiar with the geography of the area, thereby inferring that they were written somewhere else.

Addendum:

There is something to be added to this. In Matthew 10:5, when he is sending out the Twelve, he specifically instructs them not to preach to pagans, nor to enter any Samaritan town. When writing the commentary above, I had forgotten about this instruction; this is what happens when one is not well-versed in Scripture, and I am certainly not. The upshot here is that I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. Or, perhaps I do know, but don’t want to get into it. My initial impulse is that, to some degree, Matthew was trying to counteract the influx of pagan thought; that is, he was trying to re-Judaize (to coin a term? Are there enough syllables?) the belief system that had developed. And this would actually play well with my idea that he was a pagan himself; as a convert, he had the zeal of a convert and was bending over backwards to be as Jewish as possible. Hence, his assertion that not an iota of the Law was to be superseded.

Of course this is speculation. There are a thousand ways to look at this, and probably ten thousand questions to be addressed before this can even reach the level of theory, let alone hypothesis. It would require weighing such attempts to reinstitute Jewish ideas against those places where he shows his pagan background. Why, for example, use the Greek Hades instead of the Aramaic Gehenna? Of course, this choice could easily be explained as he was using the term he thought his readers would best understand. But then, that is the issue. Matthew was aware of how far he was going to paganize the vocabulary, and so the concepts and thought-world of the emerging religion. So he counteracted where and when he could. Then why include the story of the centurion and his slave? I don’t know the answer. But I am asking the question. That is a huge step forward.

11 Et factum est, dum iret in Ierusalem, et ipse transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilaeam.

12 καὶ εἰσερχομένου αὐτοῦ εἴς τινα κώμην ἀπήντησαν [αὐτῷ] δέκα λεπροὶ ἄνδρες, οἳ ἔστησαν πόρρωθεν,

13 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦραν φωνὴν λέγοντες,Ἰησοῦ ἐπιστάτα, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.

And he, coming into a certain village, ten lepers met [him]. they stood from afar, and they called out in a loud voice, saying, “Jesus, overseer, have mercy on us!” 

The word rendered as “overseer” is almost universally translated as “master”. This isn’t wrong, but it’s misleading. Even the Latin doesn’t truly support “master”. So we get “overseer”, or maybe “boss” would work…or maybe not. But it’s more of a word that refers to someone appointed by the master/lord to supervise the underlings. 

12 Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi, qui steterunt a longe

13 et levaverunt vocem dicentes: “ Iesu praeceptor, miserere nostri! ”.

14 καὶ ἰδὼν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἐπιδείξατε ἑαυτοὺς τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτοὺς ἐκαθαρίσθησαν.

15 εἷς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν, ἰδὼν ὅτι ἰάθη, ὑπέστρεψεν μετὰ φωνῆς μεγάλης δοξάζων τὸν θεόν,

16 καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ εὐχαριστῶν αὐτῷ: καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν Σαμαρίτης.

And seeing he said to them, “Going, show yourselves to the priests”. And it happened in the going they were cleansed. (15) One of them, seeing that he was healed, turned around (and) in a loud voice thought about (in Christian usage only = praised) God, and (16) fell on his face before his (Jesus’) feet giving thanks (euchariston) to him. And he was a Samaritan. 

This last bit, of course, is the punchline. It was the Samaritan who did this. Note that we’ve already had the parable of the Good Samaritan, so Luke is apparently very keen on pointing out how the Jews have fallen by the wayside. It’s a bit more than that, actually. Since the Jews had such a low opinion pf Samaritans (despised, might be the proper term), to hold them up for praise is really kind of rubbing the Jews’ collective face in it. Sure, you were the Chosen People, but what about now? Except it’s more they were the Chosen People. I make this correction because at this point Luke is doubtless talking to an audience that’s north of 90% pagan; there probably just weren’t that many Jews left in the Jesus movement; there weren’t that many formerly Jewish Christians left, and probably barely a trickle of new converts from Judaism. This will culminate with John talking about The Jews in a very disparaging fashion.

Once again, this sort of raising other groups at the expense of the Jews is not terribly appropriate to Jesus’ lifetime. Paul became the first to attempt to convert pagans in any numbers; that means for twenty years (plus or minus), most new members of the assemblies (ekklesiai) were Jews. As such, a story like this would not have been great recruiting material. So the likelihood of this tracing back to Jesus is, IMO, pretty much nil. This is a point I’ve raised numerous times before, so it doesn’t require a whole lot of additional discussion at this point.

Of course we notice that Jesus tells them all to go show themselves to the priests. Why the priests? Why not a physician? Because they had been cleansed, not so much cured of a disease as cleansed of ritual pollution. It was a moral cleansing, not so much a physical one. This is something more entrenched in Jewish thinking than in Greek thought. The Greeks had notions of ritual pollution as the source of disease– check out the opening of The Iliad, for example– but that was a bit different. Hippocrates was a Greek, and not Jewish, or even Persian for a reason. However, this does lead to one question: are we to assume that the Samaritan was going off to show himself to the Jewish priests, too? Actually, this is a really interesting question. I have become more sure that much of the Bible (OT/HS) was likely written during the Exile in Babylon. This is more or less to say that the legends were worked up and compiled (stuff like the two versions of creation that appear in the first dozen verses of Genesis, for example) and shaped into something like final form in the 6th Century BCE. That is to say, the form was achieved several hundred years after Israel had ceased to exist after being crushed by the Assyrians. If the Kingdom of Israel did not honor YHWH above all others, then would they have held the Pentateuch as their foundational myth, too? Offhand, and at first glance, I would tend to doubt it. But I have never heard that discussed because no one (to the best of my knowledge) has ever asked that question, because it’s simply assumed that the United Monarchy actually existed, and that Israel worshipped YHWH. Of course, 2 Kings in particular tells us otherwise. So that was all a big roundabout to the question of whether the Samaritan would have understood Jesus’ instructions to show themselves to the priests. The Samaritan probably would not have understood because there is a real possibility that the Samaritans weren’t adherents to Mosaic Law. And this is all additional indication that the story does not date from the time of Jesus. 

14 Quos ut vidit, dixit: “ Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus ”. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt.

15 Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia sanatus est, regressus est cum magna voce magnificans Deum

16 et cecidit in faciem ante pedes eius gratias agens ei; et hic erat Samaritanus.

17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Οὐχὶ οἱ δέκα ἐκαθαρίσθησαν; οἱ δὲ ἐννέα ποῦ;

18 οὐχ εὑρέθησαν ὑποστρέψαντες δοῦναι δόξαν τῷ θεῷ εἰ μὴ ὁ ἀλλογενὴς οὗτος;

19 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀναστὰς πορεύου: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.

Answering, Jesus said to him, “Were there not ten that were cleansed? Where are the (other) nine? (18) The ones not turning back were not found to give glory to God, except the person of another ethnicity?” And he (Jesus) said to him (the Samaritan), “Rising, go. Your faith has saved you.”

The translation of Verse 18 is a bit rough in English. Jesus is making the point that it was the Samaritan, and not the other nine who were, presumably, Jewish, that returned to give thanks. The use of <<ἀλλογενὴς>> is unique to this passage in the NT. I have been avoiding the term “gentile” at all costs for a very long time because it’s a made-up word that I suspect was derived from Latin rather than Greek. I could easily be wrong on that, given that the Latin root is gens, gentis, while the Greek genea lacks the “t” in declension.  Also, the Romans used the plural form gentes to mean foreigner. That is a very short step to gentile. If the word used here were the standard term, then I might be more inclined to consider using the standard word for “those other people”. Because I tend to use the term pagan where most English versions use gentile; but my choice is pretty much exclusively a Latin root. Oh well. So much for consistency and purity.

We mentioned above that this story is meant to explain why there weren’t many (any?) Christians of Jewish origin any longer. As such, there is no way this story dates to the 30s. Another question occurs to me: would Jewish lepers pal around with a Samaritan leper? All were outcast, of course, so perhaps their being outcast brought about camaraderie; however, it’s just as likely that the social barriers remained, even among the despised class. If Jewish lepers could still despise Samaritan lepers as somehow lesser, then I tend to believe that Jewish (or any other ethnicity; not singling out Jews) would have despised Samaritan lepers as lesser. People are funny that way, as we in the early 21st Century are still learning about ourselves.

The last point I want to cover (something else may yet occur) is the last bit. “Your faith has saved you”. Saved him from what? He’s already been cleansed of his disease. This is analogous to the situation with the paralytic lowered through the hole in the roof. Jesus first cures him, then tells him that his sins are forgiven. It’s the latter that sets off the sticklers in the crowd. So, given that the physical cure is already historical fact, it would seem that he is saved would mean something other than he has been healed physically. More, he has been saved by faith. Now, this is nothing new; the Bleeding Woman was healed by her faith, and Jesus tells her she has been saved by her faith. Most translations do not say that the woman has been saved; they tend to say she has been made whole; that is, she has been healed. This is the ambiguous nature of the Greek word for to save. In fact, the word means either to heal physically or to save a physical life. It is the Christians who add the extra dimension of meaning to the word, by thinking in terms of eternal salvation; id est, the saving of the immortal soul. In the case of the Bleeding Woman, is Jesus telling her that she has been healed, or that her soul has been saved by her faith? Which is Jesus saying here? Why do you think what you do? This is the beauty of being able to read this in the original: the translation to another language can/does mask when a single word in the original can have different meanings. It can/does blunt the impact of the text as written.

17 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “ Nonne decem mundati sunt? Et novem ubi sunt?

18 Non sunt inventi qui redirent, ut darent gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena? ”.

19 Et ait illi: “ Surge, vade; fides tua te salvum fecit ”.

Luke Chapter 15:1-10

This is the famous story of the Lost Sheep. It is unique to Luke. There is no real legitimate reason to believe that Luke did not compose this story himself. To the best of my knowledge, most scholarship would attribute this to a tradition that somehow preserved this story intact, but bypassed Mark & Matthew. Now, being honest and blunt, this is entirely possible. Since nothing was written about Jesus until the 50s, but, truly about Jesus, until the 70s, there were doubtless numerous strands of tradition about him. Paul tells us as much when he decries the Thessalonians for succumbing to “another gospel”. Indeed, that was part of the contention with James, brother of the lord: they had different messages, which, I suspect, went beyond Jewish dietary laws and circumcision.

So why not attribute this to the L Source? This is how the Q proponents account for the material unique to Luke; the material unique to Matthew has been dubbed M. While this is possible, it seems unlikely that there was a trove of material floating about that only Luke discovered. And part of the argument is that L and M were oral traditions; only Q was written. It is possible, indeed probably, that such traditions existed. What is unlikely, and highly so, is that these traditions actually traced back to Jesus. Much more likely is that different communities came up with their own set of stories, just like different areas came up with their own episodes for the Arthurian legends. However, while possible, I believe this does a disservice to both Matthew and Luke. Both evangelists were men of some erudition, and each crafted a gospel that fit in with his particular view of Jesus. These views were not always entirely consistent, but they worked towards consistency; I suspect the process reaches apotheosis with John, but we’ll find out when we get there. For now, let’s turn to the

 

Text

1) ησαν δὲ αὐτῷ ἐγγίζοντες πάντες οἱ τελῶναι καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ.

2 καὶ διεγόγγυζον οἵ τε Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς λέγοντες ὅτι Οὗτος ἁμαρτωλοὺς προσδέχεται καὶ συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς.

There were approaching to him the tax-collectors and sinners to hear him. (2) And muttering were the Pharisees and the Scribes, saying that, “He receives sinners and eats with them.”

That Jesus consorted with publicans and sinners is found in all three gospels. It is very tempting to see this as authentic tradition. It does not exactly square with the idea of Jesus being a magician; these latter usually sought out the more substantial members of society who were able to pay for their services. Then, OTOH, it does not say that Jesus was consorting with the poor, but with sinners. Publicans were notoriously wealthy, attaining this wealth by squeezing taxpayers for more than the required amount. The Roman Empire outsourced tax collection to private contractors in the free market. Would-be publicans bid on how much they would collect, and Roman officials accepted the highest bidder. The contractor then had to squeeze the public for an amount over and above the contract amount in order to realize a profit. That these successful contractors were generally wealthy indicates their efficiency and ruthlessness in collection activities. IOW, if you think the government is rapacious, see what happens if this gets outsourced. And there are proposals out there that this should happen. 

So is this an an accurate description of Jesus’ behavior? That may strike many people as an absurd question. Of course he acted this way. That’s what the NT tells us he did. It’s one of the bases of the Christian ideal. The problem with this assessment, of course, is that we have no evidence for Jesus’ behaviour. The NT does not provide anything close to an actual historical record. Matthew and Luke both tell whopping big lies in their birth narratives*; so, from the start, we should be very selective about taking anything they say at face value. Because what kind of sinners were these people? Well, Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Except nowhere are we told this in the NT. This was part of later tradition. There was the woman who anointed Jesus with the perfume, who the Pharisees tut-tutted was a sinner, by which *nudge-nudge wink-wink* we’re supposed to infer a prostitute; however, nowhere is this woman called Mary Magdalene, and she is not called a sinner in any of the other versions. Matthew uses the word “sinner” five times, and three of them are canned phrase “publicans and sinners”. It’s enough to make one wonder if part of the reason Jesus was reviled by the Jewish establishment (if, indeed, he was) had more to do with him hanging out with tax collectors than ‘sinners’ per se. And interestingly, hanging out with publicans would have been pro-Roman behavior; IOW, instead of railing against Rome, he was chummy with the collaborators. Makes one wonder about the whole zealot thing. Or, it should.

This is a huge topic.

1 Erant autem appropinquantes ei omnes publicani et pec catores, ut audirent illum.

2 Et murmurabant pharisaei et scribae dicentes: “Hic peccatores recipit et manducat cum illis”.

3 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγων,

4 Τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν ἔχων ἑκατὸν πρόβατα καὶ ἀπολέσας ἐξ αὐτῶν ἓν οὐ καταλείπει τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ πορεύεται ἐπὶ τὸ ἀπολωλὸς ἕως εὕρῃ αὐτό;

He said to them this parable, saying (4) “What person of you having one hundred sheep and losing of them (a single) one does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and seek upon the lost one until he may find it?

Have to pause a moment for a couple of minor issues. The first is verb tense. “Which of you does not leave…until he may find…” The tense of the first is present indicative active. IOW, standard present tense. In English, we would be more apt to say, “which of you would not leave…” That is subjunctive to express unreality or uncertainty that such a thing has or will happen. The second, “may find”, is a subjunctive and has been rendered as such here. The point is that Greek verb tenses do not always translate one-for-one into English. There are frequently times when the tenses within the narrative are inconsistent, switching back and forth between present and aorist. There are rules about this…sort of. The purpose of all of this is to be careful when someone starts lecturing on how the verb is an aorist and uses this as justification to trot out a whole bunch of implications. Be very wary of any conclusions about meaning based on a disquisition of an aorist tense.

The second point is the word “wilderness”. This is the word used of the Baptist to tell us he was “in the wilderness”. The root is “herm–“, as in “hermit”. The first Christian hermits lived in the wilderness. The base meaning in Greek is “alone”. The “lone individual lived an alone life in a lonely place”. Translated: “the hermit lived a solitary life in the wilderness”. Aside from the KJV, all my crib translations render this as “open pasture” or something such. In our world, “pasture” has certain connotations that are wholly lacking in the Greek word. The point is that there was a lot of empty space between towns or settlements, and it was common practice to take your herd into this empty space. This is the sort of historical information that a text like the NT can provide very reliably because it’s so inadvertent. This is why we can discuss things like whether Jesus was a collaborator with the Romans. Or, if he was seen as something along those lines by some of the Jews. 

3 Et ait ad illos parabolam istam dicens:

4 “Quis ex vobis homo, qui habet centum oves et si perdiderit unam ex illis, nonne dimittit nonaginta novem in deserto et vadit ad illam, quae perierat, donec inveniat illam?

5 καὶ εὑρὼν ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ χαίρων,

6 καὶ ἐλθὼν εἰς τὸν οἶκον συγκαλεῖ τοὺς φίλους καὶ τοὺς γείτονας λέγων αὐτοῖς, Συγχάρητέ μοι, ὅτι εὗρον τὸ πρόβατόν μου τὸ ἀπολωλός.

7 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτως χαρὰ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἔσται ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι ἢ ἐπὶ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα δικαίοις οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας.

“And finding, he places it on his shoulders rejoicing, (6) and coming home he calls together his friends and relatives saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, that I have found the sheep having been lost’. (7) I say to you that in this way there will be rejoicing in the sky upon the sinner having repented than upon the 99 just ones who did not need repentance”.

Take a look at the Latin below and note the bolded words. They literally mean “doing penance”. This is a very different concept than the meaning of the Greek, which is to “repent”. The same distinction between the Latin and the Greek occurs very famously in Mark 1:15. There, in the Greek, the Baptist/Dunker calls on those hearing to “repent” or to “be penitent”. In the Latin, he calls upon them to “do/make penance”. This distinction in translation had serious implications for the development of the Western Church that read the NT in Latin. This translation into Latin led to the Catholic doctrine of Penance, of doing penance assigned in Confession. When Erasmus went back to the Greek in the 15th Century and corrected the translation, changing it from a noun to a verb, this had a major impact on Martin Luther. Recall that Luther was incensed about the practice of selling indulgences, which were a means of lessening the amount of penance that had to be done to atone for one’s sins. In Luther’s mind, there was no way one could keep up with the ongoing demands of doing penance for the constant stream of sins one committed. However, if the injunction was to repent, or to be repentant, then the whole equation changed. Overall, the development of the Church in the West had a lot to do with the Latin, rather than the Greek, NT. It’s a very different set of concepts. That the Church discussed the doctrine of gratia rather than charis had significant influence on the doctrine, since charis lacks the connotation of “free” that exist in the Latin gratia. And too, the Greek word “logos” has very different lexical field than the Latin word verbum. Language matters. To my mind, it’s not surprising that the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches occurred; the remarkable part is that they held together as long as they did. And even then, the final rupture was as much political as it was religious, or doctrinal.

Upon my first reading, the question of what “happened” to the lost sheep that is found again rose in my mind. How are we to understand the concepts of  being “lost”, and then being “found”? The awesome hymn Amazing Grace provides wonderful insight into the meanings of these words, but the song was written nearly two millennia later. It describes how we view being “lost” and “found”. Part of the purpose of this blog is to determine what the author may have meant when using the terms. Of course, the answer is, seemingly, provided in the last verse where Luke talks about rejoicing in the sky. Of course, “sky” is the immediate meaning of the word, which Christians will translate as “heaven”, or even “Heaven”; however, it’s always good to remind ourselves of what the Greek word used actually means. In this case, “heaven” is legitimate as it was used in that sense since the time of Homer, just as we use the term “the heavens” to mean simply the sky. Presumably the rejoicing in heaven will include the rejoicing of the father who is in the sky. So presumably, we are to understand “lost” and “found” in the sense that the awesome hymn Amazing Grace uses the terms. Or can we?

That degree of uncertainty is exactly the point. We think we know. We may think it’s blindingly obvious. But it’s really not. The lost sheep has been found, and it has reunited with the flock; but where? In heaven? Or on earth? The Jewish conception of salvation was corporate; the Chosen People; the flock, not the individual, and not necessarily in an afterlife. So a return to that corporate body would be a cause for rejoicing by the denizens of heaven, but that would have been true in Jewish thought several hundred years earlier, too. What has changed here? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps the salvation of the individual was just assumed by this point. One thing that we must constantly remember when we read these texts is that we’re reading them. For the most part, Luke’s audience would not have done that. They would have listened, while someone else read. Then there likely would have been a follow-up discussion, perhaps including a Q&A period. That’s largely how learning worked, even through the Middle Ages, at the newly-founded universities. The Master read aloud and then the students discussed under the guidance of the Master. In both cases, there would have been additional exposition on the text. This is where the Catholics were horrified by the idea of vernacular Bibles, because then just anyone could read the thing without having the guidance of a learned teacher who understood what was “really” meant. This is why the Catholics insisted on the validity of The Tradition. These were the lessons handed down by Augustine and Tertullian and Clement, who, as Bishop of Rome, theoretically got it, ultimately, from Peter. The line of succession was Peter, Linus, (Ana)Cletus, Clement…The this was recited every Sunday during the Consecration part of the Mass. It’s interesting because I was having a FaceBook discussion with a friend I’ve never met about the number of times Jesus spoke of being saved, in the common, modern sense. I rattled off a few cites, and then mentioned a few more where it was understood. This was one of the examples I used. The thing is, I hadn’t translated and commented on this section fully, so I may have jumped to some unwarranted conclusions. 

So, what do we know? If by know, we mean as a certainty, the answer is all too often ‘not as much as we think’. The Protestants who rejected the tradition in favor of individual inspiration probably retained more of that tradition than they realized or intended.

We’ll come back to this shortly, when we get to the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is coming up shortly.

5 Et cum invenerit eam, imponit in umeros suos gaudens

6 et veniens domum convocat amicos et vicinos dicens illis: “Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni ovem meam, quae perierat”.

7 Dico vobis: Ita gaudium erit in caelo super uno peccatore paenitentiam agente quam super nonaginta novem iustis, qui non indigent paenitentia.

8 Ἢ τίς γυνὴ δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα, ἐὰν ἀπολέσῃ δραχμὴν μίαν, οὐχὶ ἅπτει λύχνον καὶ σαροῖ τὴν οἰκίαν καὶ ζητεῖ ἐπιμελῶς ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ;

9 καὶ εὑροῦσα συγκαλεῖ τὰς φίλας καὶ γείτονας λέγουσα, Συγχάρητέ μοι, ὅτι εὗρον τὴν δραχμὴν ἣν ἀπώλεσα.

10 οὕτως, λέγω ὑμῖν, γίνεται χαρὰ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπὶ ἑνὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ μετανοοῦντι.

Or a certain woman having ten drachmas, if she should lose a single drachma, will she not light a lamp and sweep the house and search diligently until she found it? (9) And having found it, she calls her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, that I found the drachma that I lost’. (10) Thus, I say to you, be happy before the messengers of the lord upon one sinner having repented.

A couple of things. First, up until this point, I haven’t been as punctilious about getting the verb tenses to agree with the Greek. Shame on me, especially when I want to help new learners. Second, the word for “lighting”, as in “lighting a lamp” is aptō; perhaps the root of “apt” is apparent.

But the other thing is that this is where I’m supposed to tell you what a drachma was worth. My apologies, but my sense of currency exchange is lacking for this time and place. I do know that in Classical Athens, two obols was considered a day’s wages, and that there were ten obols in a drachma. Based on that rate, a drachma would represent a week’s wages– assuming a modern five-day week, which is simply anachronistic. The five-day week did not become the norm until the early 20th Century. Still, it was a decent amount of money; as a single sheep represented a decent amount of money. So in both cases, there was ample reason for the one having lost either to search. If you lost $100 USD bill, you would spend some time looking for it. And $100 USD would probably not buy you a sheep in today’s money. 

The minor economics lesson aside, the point is that, in either case, an individual sinner is worth a substantial amount to the denizens of heaven.

Now on to the Prodigal Son.

8 Aut quae mulier habens drachmas decem, si perdiderit drachmam unam, nonne accendit lucernam et everrit domum et quaerit diligenter, donec inveniat?

9 Et cum invenerit, convocat amicas et vicinas dicens: ‘Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni drachmam, quam perdideram’.

10 Ita dico vobis: Gaudium fit coram angelis Dei super uno peccatore paenitentiam agente”.

* Matthew: the Slaughter of the Innocents is not historical. Something this heinous would have left some mark in the historical record. Luke: that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census– which seems to have a pretty solid basis in history. The idea that people had to uproot themselves from their occupations and return to an ancestral home from centuries before is patently absurd on its own merits. Plus, once again, there is no historical corroboration.