Blog Archives

Luke Chapter 14:16-24

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Luke Chapter 14:7-15

The break between the last piece and this is not entirely sharp. In Verses 1-6, Jesus was at dinner with some Pharisees. There was some contention about whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath. Presumably the “those” in Verse 7 still refers to the group that is gathered at the table—or the group reclining on couches, as was the standard means of eating in much of the ancient Mediterranean. This was true to the point that “reclining” was more or less a synonym for “eating a dinner”. Hence we come to the term translated “first couches”. The word is compound, the second part being a place to lie down; hence, a place to recline, or a couch.


7 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς κεκλημένους παραβολήν, ἐπέχων πῶς τὰς πρωτοκλισίας ἐξελέγοντο, λέγων πρὸς αὐτούς,

8 Οταν κληθῇς ὑπό τινος εἰς γάμους, μὴ κατακλιθῇς εἰς τὴν πρωτοκλισίαν, μή ποτε ἐν τιμότερός σου ᾖ κεκλημένος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ,

9 καὶ ἐλθὼν ὁ σὲ καὶ αὐτὸν καλέσας ἐρεῖ σοι, Δὸς τούτῳ τόπον, καὶ τότε ἄρξῃ μετὰ αἰσχύνης τὸν ἔσχατον τόπον κατέχειν.

10 ἀλλ’ ὅταν κληθῇς πορευθεὶς ἀνάπεσε εἰς τὸν ἔσχατον τόπον, ἵνα ὅταν ἔλθῃ ὁ κεκληκώς σε ἐρεῖ σοι, Φίλε, προσανάβηθι ἀνώτερον: τότε ἔσται σοι δόξα ἐνώπιον πάντων τῶν συνανακειμένων σοι.

He said to those who had been called (= invited) a parable, having beheld how they chose the first couches, speaking to them, (8) “When having been called ( = invited) by someone to a wedding, do not recline yourself on the first couches, lest, someone in higher honor ( = social rank) having been invited, (9) and coming the one who invited you and the other says to you, ‘Give (up) this place’, and then you may begin with shame the last place to have. (10) But when invited, go to and fall into the lowest place, so that when the inviter may come (and) will say to you, ‘Friend, march up towards a higher (place)’. Then there will be glory to you in front of all of those having been invited together with you.

Let’s pause for some Greek. First, this is a fairly complex bit of writing, that takes some real gymnastics to put into decent English. This borders on Classical Greek, and is another demonstration that Luke (as in, the author of –) was rather well educated. The other thing is the word for going up to the higher table is ‘prosanabethi’, containing the word ‘anabasis’. This is the title of a famous work of Xenophon, who was a Greek mercenary, fighting for one of the claimants to the Persian throne. The claimant was killed, so there were 10,000 (or so) Greek soldiers at loose ends in the middle of Asia Minor. This was a difficult situation, so they had to “march up country” to the south shore of the Black Sea. The title thus is “Anabasis”, which I’ve seen rendered as “The March Upcountry” and the “March of the Ten Thousand”. I point this out to demonstrate how multi-purposed a lot of Greek words are. This can make translation difficult, since the same word can be rendered to mean a number of different things. My particular bête noir in this is “logos”. The opening of John is “in the beginning was the Logos’; which got translated into Latin as “Verbum” which is more or less “Word”. This translation, while correct, is unfortunate, because the Greek word ‘logos’ has so many other meanings not included in the English ‘word’. It is, after all, the -ology ending of the-ology, or psych-ology, or soci-ology. “Word” doesn’t come close to covering that. Finally, the word rendered as “glory” is a bit overstated here. It is the word that is used for “glory”, as in “glory to God…”  I gave it the elevated translation to make the same point. Feel free to substitute your own modified synonym. The KJV gives this as ‘worship’; the NASB, NIV, and ESV all use ‘honor’. The problem with that Greek has a separate word for ‘honor’. It was used in Verse 8.

7 Dicebat autem ad invitatos parabolam, intendens quomodo primos accubitus eligerent, dicens ad illos:

8 “Cum invitatus fueris ab aliquo ad nuptias, non discumbas in primo loco, ne forte honoratior te sit invitatus ab eo,

9 et veniens is qui te et illum vocavit, dicat tibi: “Da huic locum”; et tunc incipias cum rubore novissimum locum tenere.

10 Sed cum vocatus fueris, vade, recumbe in novissimo loco, ut, cum venerit qui te invitavit, dicat tibi: “Amice, ascende superius”; tunc erit tibi gloria coram omnibus simul discumbentibus.

11 ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν τα πεινωθήσεται καὶ ὁ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

12 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ τῷ κεκληκότι αὐτόν, Οταν ποιῇς ἄριστον ἢ δεῖπνον, μὴ φώνει τοὺς φίλους σου μηδὲ τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου μηδὲ τοὺς συγγενεῖς σου μηδὲ γείτονας πλουσίους, μήποτε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀντικαλέσωσίν σε καὶ γένηται ἀνταπόδομά σοι.

13 ἀλλ’ ὅταν δοχὴν ποιῇς, κάλει πτωχούς, ἀναπείρους, χωλούς, τυφλούς:

14 καὶ μακάριος ἔσῃ, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνταποδοῦναί σοι, ἀνταποδοθήσεται γάρ σοι ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν δικαίων.

15 Ἀκούσας δέ τις τῶν συνανακειμένων ταῦτα εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Μακάριος ὅστις φάγεται ἄρτον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

“That all of those raising themselves will be humbled, and the one humbling him/herself will be raised”. (12) And he said to the one inviting him, “When you make the best meal, do not call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, and never those having invited you and having become inviters of you. (13) Rather, when you make a reception, call the poor, the the crippled, the lame, the blind. (14) And you will be blessed, that they do not have (i.e. have the means) to return to you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just”. (15) Hearing, someone of those reclining with (him = Jesus) said these things to him (Jesus), “Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God.”

Here we get a tying-together of several strands of what we think of as basic Christian belief. We get the humble/exalted contrast which was made in Mark and Matthew, and this is yoked together with the resurrection of the just and the kingdom of God. No doubt we’ve covered this before, but the idea of humility is very non-pagan. I cannot speak with authority on whether this was considered a positive attribute, or the degree to which it was considered positive, in Judaism to this point; however, given the consistent message of social justice that pervades Judaism, I would suspect this is not entirely novel with Jesus. There may–emphasis on may— be a difference in degree, but this may be very standard in Jewish thought and teaching. I suspect I may be guilty of Christian-centric thinking to suggest there is much of a change. If there is one thing I’ve learned through this exercise, it’s that there wasn’t a drastic change in the message of social justice between Judaism and Jesus. Thus the admonition to invite the poor, the blind, and the physically challenged is not something new or unique to Jesus’ message. Given that, it’s possible to see this as something that may very well trace back to Jesus’ teaching*.

Not only that, I’ve been doing more reading on early Greek thought. One discovery is that the idea of reward–or at least punishment–in the afterlife was not a Christian invention, either. The Greek philosopher Herakleitos believed that shady magicians would be/should be punished in the afterlife. What is intriguing here is the idea of the Resurrection of the Just, and particularly the way it seems to be synonymous with the Kingdom of God. It should be noted that there appears to be a distinction between the former idea and what became Christian orthodoxy. The raising of the “Just” carries the distinct implication that only the good people will rise on the last day. There have been allusions to this idea before, but I did not make a sufficiently careful record of when they occurred, and by whom they were voiced. My apologies. But here, using this term, this possible differentiation is more clear than it has been previously, clear enough even to get through to me. However, while this differentiation is possible, or possibly inclined, it is still not stated explicitly. If the Just are to be raised up, what happens to the bad people? Do they remain mouldering in the grave? How does that square with the parable of the (presumably poor) wedding guest who got thrown into the outer darkness, where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth because he was improperly dressed? This latter, I think, can safely be taken as a metaphor for ‘having lived a blameful life’. There another reference to a fiery Gehenna. What does that mean, and how does it square with the “Resurrection of the Just”?

That was the chore facing the early church. In order to create a set of beliefs that would be considered “orthodox”, it was necessary to reconcile such seemingly contradictory statements. If they could not be reconciled, they had to be papered over, or reinterpreted. I think that the Resurrection of the Just is the belief of the Pharisees, who said that there would be a resurrection of the body. This, as opposed to the Sadducees, who said there would be no resurrection. And that is where the kingdom of God comes in: what Luke is implying here is that the Kingdom will come when the just are raised bodily, and the reign of God will be eternal (although that is not stated here), and that what we think of as Heaven is actually a physical existence. In Christian orthodoxy, Heaven has become a place of disembodied spirits, which idea is very, very Greek. So where does a resurrected body come in? Or, is “resurrection” metaphorical, to mean that the Just will be raised, but only in spirit? Here is where it’s important to grasp the idea that the evangelists were story-tellers, myth-makers; they were decidedly not theologians. That term is wholly anachronistic for writers of the NT, and perhaps in general. The term is not a Greek concept; for them, the term philosophy covered it all, from natural science to the One of Plato which served as the basis for the Christian God of the Middle Ages. Theology was coined by the Christians, in order to distinguish it from secular philosophy. So the early thinkers who created The Church had to invent the term and then identify and define all its concepts, then decide which were, and which were not to be considered “orthodox”, literally “straight belief”. We need constantly to bear in mind that the doctrine (from the ‘dox’ root, which also spawned ‘dogma’) of the Trinity did not exist until well into the Second, or even the Third Century. That is, two- or three hundred years after Luke and even John. This is why I’m insistent about using “sacred breath” for “spiritus sanctus”; the term ‘holy spirit’ has too much accrued baggage, and Holy Spirit is just grossly anachronistic for the NT. I won’t go into the reasons why it was necessary to reify the sacred breath as the Holy Spirit because I really don’t remember them. Jaroslav Pelikan has a great discussion on this in Volume 1 of his The Christian Tradition series.

Back to the point, it is worth noting that what Luke is describing is not necessarily consistent what we have come to believe as the standard idea of the Christian afterlife. This sort of free-for-all in ideas is exactly why a group of Christian elders came together and decided it was time to define orthodox belief. But it is important to know that much of Christian belief came about, not through considered contemplation and study, but in the heat of controversy. Perhaps the first real spur to this came from Valentinus in the 30s of the Second Century. He was a Gnostic (to use terms very loosely), and he gathered a following large enough to make the non-gnostics feel threatened. So the latter banded together, and came up with reasons why gnosticism was not consistent with ‘true belief’ (since even the term ‘orthodox’ is still not quite appropriate).

In short, what Christians believe was not settled in NT times. As such, there are moments in the NT–like this one–where what we read is not consistent with what we are taught to believe now. Of course, this was the theological basis of the Reformation; but the Reformation was not “wholly, nor even primarily, a religious event”.

* But watch this space. I’m toying with a new theory about who Jesus was, and how he was seen by contemporaries. It’s too soon to broach the topic, but one of the implications would be that this message of social inclusion may actually, in fact, trace to James the Just, brother of Jesus, rather than to Jesus himself. Deciding that will depend on a much deeper understanding of the message of Paul. 

11 Quia omnis, qui se exaltat, humiliabitur; et, qui se humiliat, exaltabitur”.

12 Dicebat autem et ei, qui se invitaverat: “Cum facis prandium aut cenam, noli vocare amicos tuos neque fratres tuos neque cognatos neque vicinos divites, ne forte et ipsi te reinvitent, et fiat tibi retributio.

13 Sed cum facis convivium, voca pauperes, debiles, claudos, caecos;

14 et beatus eris, quia non habent retribuere tibi. Retribuetur enim tibi in resurrectione iustorum”.

15 Haec cum audisset quidam de simul discumbentibus, dixit illi: “Beatus, qui manducabit panem in regno Dei”.

Luke Chapter 14:1-6

These updates have been growing fewer and further between over the last several months. I will try to get back on track. This is a really short piece, and the next will only be slightly longer. Perhaps this will put me back on schedule.


1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς οἶκόν τινος τῶν ἀρχόντων [τῶν] Φαρισαίων σαββάτῳ φαγεῖν ἄρτον καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦσαν παρατηρούμενοι αὐτόν. 2 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν ὑδρωπικὸς ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ. 3 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς νομικοὺς καὶ Φαρισαίους λέγων, Ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεῦσαι ἢ οὔ;  4 οἱ δὲ ἡσύχασαν. καὶ ἐπιλαβόμενος ἰάσατο αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπέλυσεν. 5 καὶ πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν, Τίνος ὑμῶν υἱὸς ἢ βοῦς εἰς φρέαρ πεσεῖται, καὶ οὐκ εὐθέως ἀνασπάσει αὐτὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου; 6 καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ἀνταποκριθῆναι πρὸς ταῦτα.

And it happened in him coming to the house of a certain ruler of the Pharisees, on the sabbath to eat bread and they were watching him closely. (2) And, behold, a certain man  who was a dropsy (sufferer) approached him. (3) And Jesus asked towards the lawyers and Pharisees, saying,  “Is it allowable on the sabbath to heal or not?” (4) And they were silent. And taking him (the man) he (Jesus) healed him and he went away. (5) And towards them he said, “Who of you, a child or a cow will fall into a well, and not immediately raise him up on the day of the sabbath?” (6) And they did not have the power to respond to him. 

This is another of those “lift and load” modules that constitute much of what the evangelists tell us about Jesus. Each gospel contains dozens of these little modules. I’m not sure how much this is discussed, but what it indicates is that there were bunches of these single episodes floating around that the evangelists collected. Or, in some cases, they probably created their own. This story is more or less in both the other two gospels, but neither of them are quite like this. It’s the theme that matters, IMO, not the actual wording, Too much time is spent counting “kai vs de” instances and using this as the basis to determine how much one gospel owes to a predecessor. This is nonsense. Matthew and Luke were both accomplished writers, and in neither case was the intent to repeat what had gone before. Instead, the intent was to put the story in a new way, to reinterpret, or even add something to it.

Here’s the problem. Christians have The Bible, literally The Book. We have become accustomed to there being one, single, and absolutely authoritative document that has All The Answers. This is not how myth works. Many people who get past the most basic retellings of Greek myth are a little bewildered when they find out that different authors tell the stories a bit differently. There is no real, single creation myth, for example. It changed, evolved. The idea of there being chaos (or Chaos) at the beginning didn’t come into existence until something like the time of Hesiod. And really, it has been pointed out that Genesis is actually two separate stories mashed together. This is how myth works. 

Myth is not a single story set in stone, unchanging and unchangeable. Myth is a process. The analogy continues to be the Arthur legend. As it became increasingly popular, it grew in scope. New heroes were added as it sort of amalgamated tales that originally were of more local provenance. Gawaine would probably be a good example. So the cast of characters grew to include Guinevere, and Uther Pendragon, and Launcelot. Then in the 13th century Wolfram von Eschenbach added the stand-alone work Parzival, which was written in (what would later be part of ) Germany in High German, and that character was incorporated and Percival was part of the cast collected by Thomas Mallory.  This is what the evangelists were doing: they were adding and reinterpreting, and doing it consciously.

Unfortunately, having The One True Book has led to a mindset that there was One True Story that all of the evangelists were trying to tell. This is where lots of clumsy circumlocutions and Rube Goldberg-type connexions between the gospels are created in a vain attempt to synthesize them into a single, unitary story. The result is that the different tellings of stories, or the way themes are handled differently are compared under an electron microscope and ever-so-slight differences in grammar are considered to be major variations that prove–mostly disprove–the dependence of one text on another. Usually, small cracks are touted to demonstrate the impossibility that Luke knew and used Matthew. Such analysis while fine on its own terms, is misguided, or perhaps distractive. It misses, I think, the forest because the individual trees are different, and even two pine trees have minor discrepancies in their appearance. 

So this story falls under the rubric of “Jesus vs. the established religion”. This theme is perhaps the most common in the gospels providing story after story to “prove” that Jesus was executed because the establishment felt threatened and/or jealous by/of Jesus. This, of course, is the orthodox understanding and explanation, one that has been pushed for 2,000+ years and one that is rarely, if ever, questioned. There are different interpretations of how Jesus saw himself and how he was seen by contemporaries, from the Cynic Sage of Burton Mack to the Zealot of Reza Aslan. The one thing these interpretations have in common is that they see Jesus at the head of some sort of a group which posed this threat. I am currently reading a book Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, a multi-volume work covering a span of several thousand years. The volume I’m reading covers the Classical World, which means Jesus comes into its purview. The section I’ve just read treats Jesus as one of many public magicians, on the order of Apollonius of Tyana. Magic was a capital offense under Roman law, so it would provide a sufficient charge to warrant Jesus’ execution. I find this very compelling; in fact, I’m writing a special topic essay to present my argument in more detail. Other than that, there isn’t much that’s novel about this particular section. So we’ll just move on. 

1 Et factum est, cum intraret in domum cuiusdam princi pis pharisaeorum sabbato manducare panem, et ipsi observabant eum. 2 Et ecce homo quidam hydropicus erat ante illum. 3 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad legis peritos et pharisaeos dicens: “ Licet sabbato curare an non? ”. 4 At illi tacuerunt. Ipse vero apprehensum sanavit eum ac dimisit. 5 Et ad illos dixit: “ Cuius vestrum filius aut bos in puteum cadet, et non continuo extrahet illum die sabbati? ”. 6 Et non poterant ad haec respondere illi.

Summary Luke Chapter 13

The chapter opens with Jesus talking about people who were killed, either by Pilate during a riot (of sorts) or by sudden accident when a tower collapsed and fell on them. The interesting part is that Jesus appears to threaten his followers with this sort of unexpected and violent death if they do not repent. In fact, he repeats the warning. Of course, we have to stop and ask whether Jesus is referring simply to physical death. To confuse the matter, Jesus asks his crowd if they believe that this death was a punishment because they were more wicked than others.

A quick look at the compiled commentaries indicates that many of these authors saw the story of the tower as prophetic. They see this reference to something that Jesus indicates had happened to be a foreshadow of something that was yet to happen: the destruction of Jerusalem. In the latter event, the city was more or less razed, and doubtless many died as walls–and tower–collapsed upon people. Of course, Luke wrote after this event, but in the narrative Jesus is uttering these words before the event. If we assume that Luke accurately records words of Jesus spoken before, then of course they are prophetic, and they provide proof of Jesus’ divine foreknowledge. If you ask how Luke–and Luke alone–had record of Jesus saying these things, and conclude it to be unlikely that he did say the words, then we get another perspective. Of course, for our purposes here, we have to assume that Luke is simply putting words in Jesus’ mouth. As such, the focal point of our inquiry is not whether Jesus was uttering a prophecy, but what message Luke intended to put across to the community of believers 50 or 60 years after the events supposedly took place.

There are two sorts of ideas being yoked together here. Do we die a horrible death because we are being punished for our sins? There was certainly a school of thought in the Jewish tradition of such a quid-pro-quo punishment in this lifetime–one that ended this lifetime. Nor was this attitude restricted to Judaic thought, or to the ancient world. The second idea is whether Luke intends for Jesus to be taken literally, thereby buying into the first idea. Here we have to ask whether 2,000 years of Christianity has likely warped our understanding, or at least seriously influenced the way we read something like this. Reading this, I suspect most Christians would take it on faith that no, Jesus should not be taken literally; rather, losing one’s life in this world is symbolic for losing the prospect of eternal life in the next.

The question with this interpretation is whether or not it’s anachronistic. When did the standard Christian doctrine of eternal life after death really become fixed in the belief system? Answering this question was a major part of the reason I undertook this task of going through the NT line-by-line. At this point, it’s still not entirely clear that this is what Luke believes. If Luke doesn’t believe this, it will not appear in his gospel. Why else does he need to speak metaphorically here? Or maybe why does he speak metaphorically here? To hedge his bets? Or to put the point across by way of parable? Taken on its own, it’s difficult to say; in the context of the rest of the chapter, I think the implications become clearer.

Before continuing with that, I would like to set something down as a datum upon which we should build, which I believe will help clarify my question. In the late 6th Century BCE (the 500s), the Greek philosopher was promising punishments in the afterlife to fraudulent magicians and wonder-workers. As such, the idea of reward or punishment in the afterlife was not new–and it was apparently not a Jewish idea, at least in genesis. But books of the HS, some canonical, some apocryphal, written during the Hellenistic period (300 BCE and on) start to adopt this idea. So it was not something Jesus, or even Christians, invented. They did, perhaps, systematize it clearly and explicitly at some point in the late First/early Second Centuries CE. That should help us answer the question.

Moreover, the rest of the chapter reinforces this. The next section deals with Jesus healing a woman in the synagogue on a sabbath. So it is made fairly explicit that the woman’s illness was not a matter of being wicked, just as those Galileans killed by the falling tower were not more wicked than other Galileans. But let’s compare this to the healing of the paralytic, who was lowered down to Jesus through a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus did not say “get up and walk”, at least, not at first. That is what he tells the woman here: you are released from your illness. Rather, he told the paralytic “your sins are forgiven”, which, of course, caused a stir among the onlookers because it could be taken as blasphemous. What is the difference? Why the difference? 

First, let’s note that Luke does not include the story of the paralytic. This seems to be another of those instances where he felt that M&M had covered it in sufficient detail. But this goes a step further. In that story there was at least an implicit connexion between the man’s sins and his paralysis. Once the sins are forgiven, the man’s physical ailment is removed. That step is skipped in the story of the woman in this chapter. Jesus did not first forgive her sins and then heal her; he cut to the chase and healed her. In doing so, he severed the connexion between sin and bodily affliction. Affliction is not the result of sin. And so, too, the Galileans were not killed by the falling tower because they were wicked. The were killed because the tower fell on them. So that Jesus threatens his audience with sudden and horrible death if they do not repent, it seems fairly clear– upon reflection, at least– that he is talking about eternal life.

This is further reinforced in the remaining sections of the chapter. Immediately following the hubbub created by Jesus for healing the woman on the sabbath, he is questioned about being saved. Here Jesus launched into an oblique narrative about the narrow gate, and the competition to enter that narrow gate. At first, the idea of competing towards salvation seemed a bit…capitalist to me. But we need to bear in mind the oblique approach. The competition is not amongst individuals; it is amongst peoples. Specifically, Jesus is addressing this speech to the Jews. After all, they are the ones whom the master will shut out of the wedding feast, the ones who ate with him and the ones he taught. This relationship will avail them nothing, however; they will be left on the outside, wailing and gnashing their teeth. (Sorry; love that phrase.)

Then, in a stroke true brilliance, Luke concludes the chapter with Jesus, again obliquely, predicting his own death. He’s not afraid of the Herodians even though warned that “that fox” wants to kill Jesus. Rather, he has to go to Jerusalem to meet his fate. It is worth noting that Jerusalem was not part of Herod’s tetrarchy, which included Galilee. Jerusalem was part of Judea, an it was ruled directly by the Romans through Pilate. So, by going to Jerusalem, Jesus would be leaving Herod’s jurisdiction behind, effectively removing himself from Herod’s power. Later, when Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, Pilate is, again effectively, extraditing Jesus back into Herod’s jurisdiction. The brilliance of this passage comes from it’s context, following the story of the Galileans killed by the tower. Just as they were no more guilty than anyone else, but killed nonetheless, so Jesus is going to Jerusalem to be killed, even though he is blameless. Such were the prophets treated of old. \

This last bit is important because it gives Jesus a pedigree. I’ve often mentioned that the ancient Greeks and Romans were not impressed by novelty; they were impressed by antiquity. The Latin term for “revolution”, in the political sense, was res novae; literally, new things.  New things were not good things; quite the opposite. Of course, this was the view of the conservative authors & politicians who had vested interest in maintaining the old things. The point here, is that by putting himself in the long line of prophets who had been killed in Jerusalem, Jesus was placing himself in their line. IOW, he was connecting himself to that ancient tradition that Judaism claimed, and the age of that tradition is what drew so many pagans to Judaism, pagans like Matthew.

Just a word about a word. I used the word “oblique” as a description for Jesus’ speech a couple of times. The first was descriptive; any that followed were rhetorical, a repetition when other words could be used. Why was Jesus so oblique? The answer to this has some connexion with the idea of the mysterion of ancient Greco-Roman culture. This, of course, is the root of “mystery”, especially as it relates to “mystery religions”, such as the rites of Eleusis or Isis. Such religions maintained secrets that were only divulged to those who became initiated into the cult. Jesus, and especially his later followers, adopted this approach, at least to some limited extent, and at least at first. This idea of secrets continued to develop into what became known as Gnosticism, based on a hidden gnosis, or knowledge. Mark in particular has undertones of a gnostic attitude; the parables are the clearest example of this. After all, Jesus spoke in parables to the public, but revealed the meanings in private to his disciples.

There are debates about whether Gnosticism pre-dated Christianity; many would argue that it did. I am not one of these. Marcion became a Christian heretic by advocating Gnostic ideas, and the Gospel of Thomas has a fairly explicit Gnostic aspect. Prior to Jesus, however, Gnosticism is not really on the radar. It’s not necessary to say that Gnosticism derived from Christianity; indeed, I believe that would be greatly overstating the case. Rather, it seems that Christianity and Gnosticism both derived from a pre- or proto-Gnostic milieu, which itself was a development on the idea of the mystery religions. Part of my argument for a later date for Gospel of Thomas derives from these explicitly Gnostic elements; they are too fully developed as such to date from the 50s, as the Q people want us to believe. There are simply no real precursors (to the best of my knowledge; I need to look into that) to ideas like those expressed in Gospel of Thomas at that early date. As such, a date from the mid-Second Century or later seems more appropriate. But that is an entirely different discussion.

Luke Chapter 13:31-35

Well, this is my mistake. Had I realized how short the remainder of the chapter was, this next section would have been tacked on to the end of the last. 

In the last section, we were discussing the narrow way, and that only a few would be saved. This is something of an appendix to that. So, on to the


31) Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ προσῆλθάν τινες Φαρισαῖοι λέγοντες αὐτῷ, Ἔξελθε καὶ πορεύου ἐντεῦθεν, ὅτι Ἡρῴδης θέλει σε ἀποκτεῖναι. (32) καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες εἴπατε τῇ ἀλώπεκι ταύτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἐκβάλλω δαιμόνια καὶ ἰάσεις ἀποτελῶ σήμερον καὶ αὔριον, καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ τελειοῦμαι. (33) πλὴν δεῖ με σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται προφήτην ἀπολέσθαι ἔξω Ἰερουσαλήμ. (34) Ἰερουσαλὴμ Ἰερουσαλήμ, ἡ ἀποκτείνουσα τοὺς προφήτας καὶ λιθοβολοῦσα τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους πρὸς αὐτήν, ποσάκις ἠθέλησα ἐπισυνάξαι τὰ τέκνα σου ὃν τρόπον ὄρνις τὴν ἑαυτῆς νοσσιὰν ὑπὸ τὰς πτέρυγας, καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε. (35) ἰδοὺ ἀφίεται ὑμῖν ὁ οἶκος ὑμῶν. λέγω [δὲ] ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἴδητέ με ἕως [ἥξει ὅτε] εἴπητε, Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου.

At that moment (lit = ‘hour”) some Pharisees came up to him, saying, “Go away and depart from here, the Herodians want to kill you.” (32) And he said to them, “Going away,  you tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and healings I complete today and tomorrow, and on the third (unspecified) I will be finished’. (33) Except it is necessary for me today and tomorrow and on the one coming (the next day) to go away, that it is not allowed to the prophet to die outside Jerusalem. (34) Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city having killed the prophets and having stoned (lit = thrown stones) those sent to her, how often have I wished to gather upon your children in which way a bird her brood under her wings, and you did not want this. (35) Look, your home goes away from you. [But] I say to you, you will not see me until [it has arrived (i.e., the time has arrived) that] you say, ‘Blessed is the one coming in the name of the lord’.”

There is a fair bit that could be said just about the Greek. In the last verse, the bracketed part about the time arriving is not in many mss traditions, so you may not see that in some translations. The ESV and the NIV do not have it; the KJV and the NASB do. As always, I’m agnostic about this; I do not have the chops to have an intelligent opinion on textual traditions and/or emendations. That’s way above my pay grade. One point worth making is the word I’ve rendered as “bird”. The Greek is “ornis”, which is the root of “ornithology”, the study of birds. All four of the translations mentioned render this as “hen”; however the Greek word is more generic. It doesn’t even translate to “fowl”, which identifies a subset of birds. And if it does refer to a chicken in Classical usage, it more often means “rooster” rather than hen. Now, the context makes it pretty clear that we are talking about a hen rather than a rooster, but I’m prickly enough that I want to remind everyone just how not-settled and inexact a lot of these words and terms are.

And aside from the actual Greek, some of the phrases used could be commented; especially coming to mind is calling Herod a fox. Luke is the only one to have Jesus saying this. Why? Perhaps by the time Luke wrote Herod had been dead long enough that he had passed, more or less, into folklore. The problem with this is that there was still a Herod with political power in Judea. This would be Herod Agrippa II, the   grandson of the Herod who executed John the Dunker–usually called Herod Antipas, one of the tetrarchs, and the son of Herod the Great. So, not sure what to make of this. Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive. Either way, it’s curious, and it is a virtual certainty that the use of the term does not trace back to Jesus. Luke may have picked it uo from Jesus’ lament that ‘foxes have their dens’, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Or, Luke could certainly have come up with this on his own.

A few words should be said about the today and tomorrow section. The exact meaning of the Greek is a bit slippery. Anytime we see “the third” in conjunction with “days”, we generally leap to the idea of the third day, as in the Resurrection. I am not sure that is what Jesus is meant to mean here; but, if not, I’m not sure what it is meant to mean. He’s doing things today and tomorrow, but on the third he will…be finished, or go away. Of course “today & tomorrow” are metaphorical, meaning now and in the immediate future, whereas the third day is still some distance away, and then Jesus will no longer be on the earth. Again, nothing really earth-shattering, but, again, an indication of just how unsettled some of this verbiage is. It makes it difficult to accept the words as literally true if you’re not entirely sure what those words actually mean.

But overall, the point of this section is delivered in the last two verses. Jesus is going to Jerusalem because he is to die. More, it is the only place that a prophet can be killed. So this implies that he is a prophet, which is kind of interesting. A prophet was never a divine individual, so for Jesus to call himself a prophet is for him to step down from divinity to the merely human realm. Of course, he’s being metaphorical again, which brings us back to the whole literal interpretation. But all of that is beside the point to some extent. The passage is meant to foreshadow Jesus’ coming death. We get a lot of this in all the gospels so that the audience can feel assured that Jesus understood the trial coming to him, and that the eventual outcome will be his death; followed, of course, by the Resurrection. 

We also need to recognize that the lament of Jerusalem is also intended to explain, or at least address, the fact that so few Jews became followers of Jesus. The latter wants to gather the children of the city, the Jews, under his protective grasp. Unfortunately, Jerusalem does not want this. Instead, the city kills prophets and stones those sent, just as the city will shortly (?–what is the time frame between the “now” of this section and the coming crucifixion?) kill the latest of the prophets and the latest one sent. And there is a bit of a prophecy–if not a curse–at the end. Jerusalem will not see Jesus until they say the words that the one coming in the name of the lord is blessed. As everyone hearing these words knows, the one coming is Jesus. Until Jerusalem recognises what has happened, the current situation will continue: the Jews have been replaced by the pagans; the home of the Jews has gone away from them.

And the verb is “lithoballo”; literally, this is “throw stones”.

31 In ipsa hora accesserunt quidam pharisaeorum dicentes illi: “ Exi et vade hinc, quia Herodes vult te occidere ”.

32 Et ait illis: “Ite, dicite vulpi illi: “Ecce eicio daemonia et sanitates perficio hodie et cras et tertia consummor.

33 Verumtamen oportet me hodie et cras et sequenti ambulare, quia non capit prophetam perire extra Ierusalem”.

34 Ierusalem, Ierusalem, quae occidis prophetas et lapidas eos, qui missi sunt ad te, quotiens volui congregare filios tuos, quemadmodum avis nidum suum sub pinnis, et noluistis.

35 Ecce relinquitur vobis domus vestra. Dico autem vobis: Non videbitis me, donec veniat cum dicetis: “Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini” ”.

Luke Chapter 11:29-36

Here we have some more of the material that Matthew so masterfully included in one large block in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I think it works better broken up into smaller pieces like this, but that’s a matter of taste. Or, it would be, if the whole case for Q didn’t rest upon that masterful arrangement.


29 Τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων ἤρξατο λέγειν, Ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν: σημεῖον ζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ.

30 καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ.

(Some) of the crowd testing (him=Jesus), he began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation. It seeks a sign and a sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonas. (30) For just as Jonas became a sign to the Ninevites, in this way also will be the son of man to this generation.

This is interesting. In this version Jesus refers to the sign of Jonas, but he does not explain what that means. Matthew 12:40, however, does explain it. It’s a reference to Jonas being inside the whale for three days, and so Jesus will be in the ground for three days. Now, Luke’s version, being shorter, is considered the more primitive, which means that the original text of Q probably read like Luke whereas Matthew added the explanation. Hence the Q position. Or, one could say that Luke knew that Matthew had explained this, so he didn’t feel the need to add that from Matthew. We have seen Luke do this elsewhere, but usually only in cases where Matthew overlaps extensively with Mark, as in the Death of the Baptist story. As such, it’s questionable whether my suggestion in this case is valid, or even legitimate. It’s different. It doesn’t count. I can hear the Q proponents now. And they have a point. This is situation is not exactly consistent with others. In return, I suggest that no one is ever 100% consistent in their approach, especially when we’re talking about a document of some length, as this is. I will concede they have a point, and that making that suggestion in this particular instance is not terribly convincing. That is for the individual reader to decide. Just remember that this does incident does not stand in isolation.

29 Turbis autem concurrentibus, coepit dicere: “Generatio haec generatio nequam est; signum quaerit, et signum non dabitur illi, nisi signum Ionae.

30 Nam sicut Ionas fuit signum Ninevitis, ita erit et Filius hominis generationi isti.

31 βασίλισσα νότου ἐγερθήσεται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινεῖ αὐτούς: ὅτι ἦλθεν ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς ἀκοῦσαι τὴν σοφίαν Σολομῶνος, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Σολομῶνος ὧδε.

32 ἄνδρες Νινευῖται ἀναστήσονται ἐν τῇ κρίσει μετὰ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ κατακρινοῦσιν αὐτήν: ὅτι μετενόησαν εἰς τὸ κήρυγμα Ἰωνᾶ, καὶ ἰδοὺ πλεῖον Ἰωνᾶ ὧδε.

The Queen of the South will be raised in the judgement with the men of this generation and will judge them. That she came from the corners of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and, behold, something greater than Solomon (is) here. The Men of Ninevah will stand themselves up in the judgement with this generation, and they will judge it: that they repented at the message of Jonas, and, behold, something greater than Jonas (is) here. 

Taking these two sections together, we have Jesus predicting his resurrection and predicting the judgement to come on those who (supposedly) carried it out. So, this is part of the alleged Q material because it’s only in Matthew and Luke. But the problem there is that it’s highly unlikely that Jesus ever uttered these words. This is another ex post facto “prediction” put into the mouth of the speaker after it has been fulfilled. Yes, many people will claim that my viewpoint is entirely secular and simply assumes that Jesus was not capable of seeing the future because he was not divine. And that is a fair and accurate assessment of my viewpoint. I am writing historically and not religiously. But from that perspective fulfilled predictions are not to be taken at face value. As such, there is little chance that these words were spoken by Jesus. So, if Jesus did not say them, and Q is a collection of Jesus’ sayings (except when it includes stuff the Baptist said, or the dialogue between Jesus and Satan, and descriptive passages, and other such stuff), this by definition should not be in Q. Or, by definition, Q is not a source only of things Jesus said, but of other stuff, then the whole point and raison d’être for Q disappears. This is why I get so annoyed that all the arguments for Q are based on stuff like the use of <<καὶ >> vs <<δὲ >> or other such stylistic points. The first question to ask is “does it make sense that Jesus said this?” Or, “does this fit into th context of the 30s, or does it fit better in the 80s/90s?” If either answer is “no”, then we’ve got some serious problems. 

And the whole sequence fits better in the 80s than it does in the 30s. Remember, Jesus is basically cursing the generation alive in the 30s; a lot of these people were still around a generation later to see the catastrophe of the destruction of the temple. That this sequence wasn’t in Mark makes it even more likely, I believe, that this passage was written, or created, or conceived after the Romans had crushed the revolt. And while the generation of Jesus was technically prior to the generation of the destruction of the Temple, by the 80s such distinctions would likely have been smudged over; it was all just “back then”, especially to an audience of pagans for whom the Judaean was not a central or fixed point in their history. So the question becomes, how is this part of Q, if Q is to have any actual connexion to Jesus? On points like this I think the vast majority of biblical scholars fall short simply because they are not trained as historians. Their thinking tends to be synchronic, like that of social studies, where the passage of time is not really considered. History, OTOH, the thinking is diachronic, moving through time, because, well, that’s kind of the definition of history. Too much of the analysis looks at the texts as if they were all contemporaneous; there is too little thought paid to how the entire picture of Jesus and the belief systems developed as they passed through time.

And a final word. The Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba, apparently. Not that it particularly matters. The city of Ninevah, home to the Ninevites, was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. This is the power that crushed Israel and led the inhabitants of that land away to be resettled. This was a fairly common practice in the ancient Near East: move conquered peoples into lands where they were not native. The idea was to remove them from their ancestral lands into neutral territory, where they would not feel the sense of alienation that comes with being a subject people in your own land. The emotional and tribal places are gone, there is less of a sense of belonging, so the transported people would be forced to begin all over again in a new place where they had always been a subject people. So the city of Ninevah became synonymous with a wicked and depraved life style, just as Babylon would become later. Jonas was sent to preach in Ninevah, and I believe the legend in his book is that he encountered some success.

31 Regina austri surget in iudicio cum viris generationis huius et condemnabit illos, quia venit a finibus terrae audire sapientiam Salomonis, et ecce plus Salomone hic.

32 Viri Ninevitae surgent in iudicio cum generatione hac et condemnabunt illam, quia paenitentiam egerunt ad praedicationem Ionae, et ecce plus Iona hic.

33 Οὐδεὶς λύχνον ἅψας εἰς κρύπτην τίθησιν [οὐδὲ ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον] ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι τὸ φῶς βλέπωσιν.

34 ὁ λύχνος τοῦ σώματός ἐστιν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου. ὅταν ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ἁπλοῦς ᾖ, καὶ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου φωτεινόν ἐστιν: ἐπὰν δὲ πονηρὸς ᾖ, καὶ τὸ σῶμά σου σκοτεινόν.

35 σκόπει οὖν μὴ τὸ φῶς τὸ ἐν σοὶ σκότος ἐστίν.

36 εἰ οὖν τὸ σῶμά σου ὅλον φωτεινόν, μὴ ἔχον μέρος τι σκοτεινόν, ἔσται φωτεινὸν ὅλον ὡς ὅταν ὁ λύχνος τῇ ἀστραπῇ φωτίζῃ σε.

No one lighting a lamp places it in the hidden place (lit = crypt, because kryptos = hidden; this often gets translated as “cellar”) [nor under the measuring (as in bushel) basket, but upon a lamp stand so that those entering (the room) see the light. (34) The light of the body is your eyes, when your eye may be not more than one, and your whole body is lighted; when it (the body) is wicked, and the whole body is in shadow. (35) Therefore look lest the light in you is shadowed. (36)  If therefore your whole body is lighted, lest you have a portion of shadow, the lamp will be the light when by lighting will make you light.

Hope that last bit makes sense. The repeated use of the same root is not rhetorically desirable in English, but it was all the rage in Greek; at least, among some authors. So it is here. This pericope (still don’t like that word) was also in Matthew and not in Mark, so, instead of saying Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark, we say that the story was part of Q. 

I am beginning to believe, rather strongly, that there actually was a collection of sayings of Jesus floating around in between the time of Mark and Matthew. I do suspect, however, that it was oral, and not written. At least, it was not written until Matthew wrote this material down. I suspect the desire to record and preserve these sayings was a large part of what motivated Matthew to write a new gospel. It always bears to remember that one does not choose the rather unusual task of writing a gospel unless one believes that one has something new to contribute. All these sayings of Matthew were his new contribution. Nor do I believe he made them all up. There are too many of these sayings that are just stuck into the text in such a ham-handed way that the narrative moves in fits and starts. That is how I feel about the “masterful arrangement” of the material in the Sermon on the Mount. Once we get past the Beatitudes, which have the organic feel of a single hand that produced a poem, we get sort of a laundry list of assorted stories, aphorisms, quick parables, metaphors, and analogies. Each little bit has nothing to do with what came just before, and is wholly disconnected to what comes after. Just as this one is. So how it is that Matthew’s arrangement is masterful is beyond me.

33 Nemo lucernam accendit et in abscondito ponit neque sub modio sed supra candelabrum, ut, qui ingrediuntur, lumen videant.

34 Lucerna corporis est oculus tuus. Si oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit; si autem nequam fuerit, etiam corpus tuum tenebrosum erit.

35 Vide ergo, ne lumen, quod in te est, tenebrae sint.

36 Si ergo corpus tuum totum lucidum fuerit non habens aliquam partem tenebrarum, erit lucidum totum, sicut quando lucerna in fulgore suo illuminat te”.

Luke Chapter 11:1-4

This first section of this new chapter opens with the Our Father, which I pretentiously like to refer to as the Pater Noster. As an excuse, I do offer that I am a student of Classics, but that’s just an excuse. Oddly enough, since this is–supposedly–the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, it does not appear in Mark. Given this absence in Mark, I find it really hard to believe two things. First, this lack in Mark seems to put a serious crimp in the idea that he is writing stuff from Peter. Add this and the fact that Mark does not record the “upon this rock” statement, IMO, really seems to blow a big hole in this bit of tradition. Mark is either unaware of so much of Jesus’ teaching–the biggest and best parts, it could be argued–or he chose not to record these biggest and best parts. Why did he not record the Sermon on the Mount? Why did he not record the Our Father? Those are very serious questions. Sure, perhaps this borders on the Argument from Silence, but that is only a fallacy when there is reason to believe that the author could have and should have known about the issue on which she or he is being silent. In both cases, Mark recording Peter should have known about these two pieces of Jesus’ teaching; if so, then he simply chose not to report them, and the “Rock” speech, too? On top of that, Mark is very hostile to Peter, and all the disciples, for that matter, throughout his gospel. This is a third strike against Mark being Peter’s disciple. I think that canard needs to buried, once and for all.

The second thing that it makes it hard to believe is that the Lord’s Prayer came from Jesus. Once again, here is another really major teaching of Jesus that went underground for 40 years, only to reappear in Matthew’s gospel? Sorry. That is really implausible. So this ends up in the bucket with all the other Q material.

Then there is the whole bit about whether Matthew’s version of this prayer is the more primitive, or whether Luke does. However, this presupposes the existence of Q; without Q, the question of the more “primitive” version becomes nonsensical. Matthew has the more primitive version, because Matthew wrote first. So his is the more primitive. End of story. However, I believe the Q people believe Luke has the more primitive version; but then, Luke is almost always said to be the more primitive. This is odd since Luke wrote later than Matthew. You see, the Q people tend to believe, whether they admit it or not–whether they’re even aware of it or not–that Q was completely static. They take it for given that once Q was written, it was carved in stone and not a word of it changed. Which is ridiculous because it’s impossible. Any hand-copied text will change with transmission. The only exception would be that Q was actually carved in stone, and then set up somewhere for everyone to see. This is the example of the stele of Hammurabi: the law was carved in stone and then put on public display. Again, whether they realize it or not, the Q people assume something very much like this happened with the Q text. Make that the Q text.

Enough of this, let’s get to the


1Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενον, ὡς ἐπαύσατο, εἶπέν τις τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν, Κύριε, δίδαξον ἡμᾶς προσεύχεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ Ἰωάννης ἐδίδαξεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ.

And it happened in that he was in a certain place praying, so that he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, in the same way John taught his disciples.

The Greek at the beginning of the sentence is a bit interesting. There is a rather peculiar combination of accusative mixed in with using the infinitive as a substantive. The bit <<ἐν τῷ εἶναι  >> should be something like “in the being”, like “in the (time he) was being…”, but then the verb << εἶναι >> gets combined with the accusative << αὐτὸν >> which is accusative case, but it stands in as the subject of “to be”. So deucedly clever Luke to come up with this.

As for the content, the set up is very paper thin. He’s in a certain place and we aren’t even told which of the disciples asked the question. This is a very clear case of making up the setting in order to spring the punchline. Add this to the list of reasons why this prayer does not actually trace back to Jesus himself.

Finally, there is the last bit. According to this unnamed disciple, John taught his disciples how to pray, so Jesus’ disciples are asking Jesus to do the same for them. This is also unique to Luke, and one wonders what the genesis of this comment was. Oddly, because it’s so odd, I would be willing to consider whether Luke didn’t tap into a tradition that had been maintained by John-the-Baptistians. Based on Josephus’ treatments of Jesus and John, even assuming that everything in our text was actually written by Josephus, and was not a later Christian interpolation–which I doubt very much–John gets a much bigger chunk of Josephus’ time and writing. In short, based strictly on Josephus’ testimony, John was likely the more popular of the two–at least among Jews. We need to remember here that Josephus was a Jew, writing to explain Jews to the Romans. As such, he would naturally have given more attention to a figure who was more popular among Jews. And we have commented that John, for whatever novelty he introduced, seems to have remained firmly ensconced in the “mainstream” of Jewish tradition. (For that matter, Jesus probably was, too, until Paul and others started introducing seriously Greek thought into Jesus’ message.) The point here that, even to Luke’s time, which approximated the time when Josephus was writing because the lives of Luke and Josephus overlapped to no small degree, it is entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that there were still groups of John-the-Baptistians floating about the eastern Mediterranean, in particular in the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea, and perhaps a few others. So it is just possible that Luke came across some such adherents and added this bit to acknowledge this existence.

Admittedly, this is a stretch, and likely a big one. But why else is this in here? Why did Luke feel it necessary, or even desirable, to add this little detail. Had it been omitted, no one would have noticed. We’re talking about it because it is there; were it not, the hole would not be detected. The Q people demand a redactionally consistent interpretation of everything Luke says that is different from Matthew. Well, there is a lot of that. Where the anti-Q people go wrong, IMO, is first to concede to this demand. Really? They have to prove the existence of Q; the burden of proof is on them. It is not for the n0n-Q people to disprove its existence. Secondly, and only slightly less importantly, is to try to do this while only focusing on the stuff that is supposedly in Q. If one is to give a redactionally consistent explanation of Luke, it has to be done in toto, and not just about selected material. Remember my suggestions–which may have become worthy to be called an argument, but maybe not–that Matthew was a pagan, and was writing to reach a wider audience of pagans? Well, Luke is acknowledged a pagan. In spite of–or is it because of?–this, I’ve started to suggest that Luke is trying to pull this back into the Jewish context to some degree. Hence the introduction of Samaritans. So maybe that is what Luke is doing here, and he could be doing it whether or not he was aware of any John-the-Baptistians still hanging about. But were there any, there is no reason to suppose that Luke would not have been aware of them.

One final aspect of this is that there is this completely unchallenged assumption, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the gospels were written once and then never changed. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a safe assumption. The authors are anonymous; it is entirely possible that these works were edited, perhaps expanded over time. Perhaps that is what happened to Mark, which prompted Matthew bring in all these new developments and then to re-write Mark in order to bring Mark up to date, and so create a “new” gospel. In the same may be true of Luke. Maybe Matthew was confronted by four or five versions of Mark, so he fit them altogether, adding what he thought was of value (Sermon on the Mount) and omitting things he found not so valuable (many of the magical practices). Then perhaps the same happened with Luke. Really, though, it’s more likely that Matthew, Luke, and John incorporated later traditions or developments that were largely transmitted orally. But it’s something that needs to be considered and discussed, and not just assumed. There has been altogether too much of that.

That’s a lot of commentary on a single line. 

1 Et factum est cum esset in loco quodam orans, ut cessa vit, dixit unus ex discipulis eius ad eum: “Domine, doce nos orare, sicut et Ioannes docuit discipulos suos”.

2 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Οταν προσεύχησθε, λέγετε, Πάτερ, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου: ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου:

3 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν:

He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, let your name be blessed; let your kingdom come, give to us the our bread of existence each day.

Gotta stop here. Note: it begins simply “Father”. Not “our father”. What are we to make of that? Per Kloppenborg, who appears to be the single major proponent of Q (and who, to my chagrin, teaches at the University of Toronto, my alma mater), this is the more “primitive” version, and this is how the pater starts in his/their reconstruction of Q. So why did Matthew change it to “our father”? That’s never explained. As far as I can tell, the operative principle here is something akin to Occam’s Razor; since Luke has fewer words here, and when he says more simply, “blessed are the poor”, the fewer words makes it the more primitive version. The thinking is that versions get elaborated and not reduced. And that is not a terrible operating principle. There could be many worse. But that is not to concede that it’s the only principle, or even necessarily the best. It’s simply better than some, while possibly being worse than others. 

The point of this is that the Q people demand the redacti0naly consistent interpretation (RCI) for any instance when Luke “changes” Matthew’s word order, or arrangement, if we are going to argue that Luke read and used Matthew. OK. Kind of reverses the usual order of proof, but, OK. So do they have an RCI for each time that Matthew deviates from Q? Anyone? Bueller? Why do I only hear crickets? Why did Matthew change it to “our father”? Well, because…it sounds better. Sure, after two millennia of saying it Matthew’s way, we’ve come to assume that it’s somehow better, more correct. But is it? Is it really? Why? It has, perhaps, the advantage of sounding more “correct” when spoken by a congregation, but does it really? Why can’t each person simply say “Father”? After all, we all say “credo”, I believe. 

 So why did Luke drop the “our”? Or, if this is from Q, why did Matthew add it?  One could argue that Matthew added it to foster the sense of universal siblinghood among the communities of Jesus. That would be reasonable. And it would be equally reasonable to suggest that Luke dropped it because it’s redundant. I suppose one could also say Luke dropped it because he’s telling the disciples to say this when they pray as individuals. In which case it would make more sense to call Luke’s the more primitive version, since Matthew added the “our” when this became a communal, rather than a personal prayer. But did that necessarily come later? It could easily be argued that the communal prayer came first; that groups of initiates were taught the prayer to be said in unison, so it was “our” father. Then, later, the prayer became more individualized, so Luke dropped the “our” to reflect this development. I can see this going either way.

Again, it’s important to admit that questions like this will not be, indeed cannot be answered in a forum such as this. But it’s even more important to acknowledge that these questions need to be asked. And they require serious consideration and an equally serious response. It is not at all sufficient for the Q people to pooh-pooh the very idea that perhaps, just maybe, Q never existed.

2 Et ait illis: “ Cum oratis, dicite: / Pater, sanctificetur nomen tuum, / adveniat regnum tuum; 

3 panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis cotidie,

4 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν: καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.

” ‘And discharge for us our sins, for and we discharge to all debts to us. And do not carry us towards trial.

Now this is really interesting. And I mean, really interesting. We discussed this when we did Matthew’s version. There, Jesus is telling the disciples << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν >>. Here, Luke says << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν >>. These two words have very different meanings. Matthew’s word means debts, as in monetary debts owed to creditors. Luke’s word means sins, as in mortal and venal sins. Two words, two meanings, two very different sets of implications. The other thing to note is the word used for “take away” does not really mean forgive, in the sense that we generally understand the word in English. One can forgive a debt, but that has a technical, legalistic meaning. It is similar to, but not the same as, forgiving a sin. Hence I translated as “discharge”. And just out of curiosity, I checked the Vulgate version of Matthew, and it follows the Greek: here the Latin is peccata, “sins”; there the Latin is debita, “debts”. So the different words were not glossed over in the Vulgate.

Now here’s the thing. The surrounding language seems to fit better with Matthew’s version, in which we talk about debts. It seems less attuned to Luke’s version, using “sins”. Because he says “discharge our sins” as “we discharge all debts owed to us”. So Luke reverts to “debts”. Is this “editorial fatigue”? Must have been a tough couple of word that Luke got fatigued that quickly. But the point is that if the original concept was “debt” rather than “sin”, it’s almost impossible to say that Luke’s is the more primitive version. Luke changed the original word. If the original was “debt”, which is what the entire structure seems to require, then this change of Luke more or less precludes it being the more primitive version.  Why is that important? Because it reflects back to the beginning, “father” vs. “our father”. Did Luke change that, too? So if Luke made two changes, then the idea that his version is more primitive gets even harder to defend. This brings us to another really annoying aspect of the Q argument: Luke is considered to be the more primitive version, the one more like Q, except when he isn’t. There is more than a bit of legerdemain involved. But it’s worse than that; there is a real element of intellectual dishonesty at work. All these twists and turns and curlicues should be a seriously red flag; if the status of Q is so secure and so obvious, all of these back-flips to make it all work would not be necessary. I honestly think that part of the motivation for labeling Luke as the more primitive, is that it allows the existence of the document to carry further ahead in time, which does provide a bit more basis for the existence of the document. Except it really doesn’t, but it seems like it should. Read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his refutation of the ontological argument for God and you’ll know what I mean. Saying that an hypothetical document lasted 40 years instead of 30 doesn’t make said document any more real. 

4 et dimitte nobis peccata nostra, / si quidem et ipsi dimittimus omni debenti nobis, / et ne nos inducas in tentationem ”.


Summary Luke Chapter 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, this is turning into a rant.

Summary Matthew Chapter 26

As I see it, the main issues of this chapter involve credibility and the date. What part, if any, of this story can we believe? When was it written? What are the internal clues for either of these? To some degree, of course, these questions are pertinent for almost any chapter in any part of the NT taken at random. And the answers could almost always be “little to none”, “at least forty years after the fact”, and “maybe a few”. It’s just that, with so few theological or doctrinal issues to be discussed, these questions take on outsized proportions in this chapter. There are a few theological aspects to be considered: the symbolism of Jesus as the Pascal Lamb, the idea that Jesus prayed–fervently-that he not have to die, and the question asked by the high priests if he was the anointed. Let’s start with these; perhaps we’ll find that these aren’t so incidental after all.

The first two are already well-established in Mark. This connexion holds even though John felt it necessary to mess with the timeline so that Jesus died on the Day of Preparation–when the lambs would be killed–rather than on the first full day of Passover, after the Seder had been held. My suspicion is that this connexion can be traced back to Paul, at the very least, if not further. Paul was quite explicit about the sacrifice of Jesus. Perhaps he did not situate Jesus’ death as coincidental with the Passover festival, but from the idea of sacrifice to the idea of the Paschal Lamb is a fairly short step. This also takes us back to the question of whether Paul knew, or whether he thought it irrelevant, but that question will remain barring the discovery of some further evidence of unimpeachable provenance. That John chose to move the crucifixion forward by a day speaks to his theological outlook, and provides even more proof that the evangelists overall, and perhaps John in particular, were more concerned with Eternal Truth than they were with mere factual accuracy. In any case, the connexion between Jesus’ crucifixion and Passover was set at some point after Paul.

But when? And when were the outlines of the Passion Narrative as we have it set? My belief is that the motivation ascribing the role of Prime Movers to the high priests only makes sense after 70. We know that there was a story of Jesus being arrested after dining with his disciples; this is what Paul says, after all. Even if he did receive the story through inspiration–another term for “made it up”–he still put it out there into circulation. As an aside, we always, always have to be very conscious about this aspect of Paul’s writing. After all, he claims that Jesus appeared to him in the same way that he appeared to the others. That is pure inspiration. Paul also had a vision of being taken to the third heaven, so the man was not a stranger to the ecstatic vision, or at least flashes of insight in which the Truth conveyed was so powerful that he took it as True in a way that may have included being factually accurate.

It is, of course, possible that the last layer of causality that pointed out the high priests was added to an existing narrative, but that almost creates more problems than it solves. If not the high priests, then why was Jesus executed? That the question becomes almost impossible to answer in any meaningful way should not be surprising; it is, after all, the question we’ve been grappling with for most of this discussion. But even without historical probability, what did a narrative about the passion give as the reason before the Destruction of the Temple? If a Passion Narrative did exist before Mark, but the blame-the-high priests motive was most appropriate before 70, then what?  Who would have been first atop the list of villains from the perspective of the nascent church?

It’s a serious question, and the answer may have something to do with the “tipping point” that I’ve mentioned any number of times. If the tipping point had come, and if the authorities in the synagogues did engage in some form of systemic harassment of the communities of Jesus as Paul indicates, then it’s entirely possible that Jewish authority figures may have been the ones blamed even before Mark wrote his gospel, and even before the Jewish War. This is a major piece of conjecture, however, and it really deserves a lot of scrutiny before it can even make it to the realm of hypothesis. For the moment, let’s leave it at conjecture until we’ve had time to digest this, and to re-evaluate the preceding narrative in terms of this possibility. Does the narrative support it? Is this, for example, why we have all the stories of Jesus annoying the Pharisees? That would make sense, but we need to go a bit beyond that in our examination.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but I do want to remind everyone. This chapter contains the story of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with the expensive unguent. The point is that she is not identified as Mary Magdalene, neither here nor in any of the gospels. In fact, John is the only one to name the woman, and he identifies her as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with whom Jesus has several interactions. And yet, despite her anonymity in the synoptic gospels, “everyone knows” that this anointing was done by Mary Magdalene. In the same way, “everyone knows” that she was a prostitute, even though this is nowhere stated. It’s just a great example of the substitution of later tradition for scriptural evidence. This is why it’s so very important to recognize this when we see it. This was the sort of analysis that the Protestants insisted upon, and why they got rid of the idea of Purgatory; it makes sense–why else do we need to pray for the dead?–but there’s nothing in scripture to support it. I do not know whether any Protestant churches identify the woman in this story as Mary Magdalene, or whether she is considered a prostitute in non-Catholic sermons. Or is it the Protestants who consider her a prostitute?

This story of the woman anointing Jesus has one ring of truth to it. As he often is in Mark, Jesus is a bit surly with his followers, and Matthew continues with that. Of course, this assumes that an angry Jesus is a factually-accurate Jesus. The idea is that this is “embarrassing”, because the “authentic” Jesus is the kind, gentle Jesus of the Beatitudes. And honestly, I think there is something to that. Jesus the Wonder-Worker is not necessarily the magnanimous and sweet-natured individual envisioned as the Lamb of God. This is a rare instance in Matthew where that older, less pleasant Jesus with the sharper edges breaks through. Then we should ask why this was retained, since it portrays Jesus in a not-entirely-favourable light. But this could be said about many of the stories that Matthew carries over from Mark. Offhand, the most likely reason that Matthew retained so much, and changed so little is that Mark’s outline and narrative were too firmly entrenched in the tradition to be ignored. Think about it; Matthew belongs to a community, and Matthew has a copy of Mark. Doesn’t this imply that he and his community were pretty familiar with Mark? So when Matthew set about to expand the narrative of Mark with new teachings of Jesus, one has to imagine the difficulty to be encountered by trying to make wholesale changes to what Mark said. Additions would be fine, and even expected; why else does one write a new gospel? But alterations that transform the previous narrative too much would likely cause a bit too much discomfort among the community.

The other issue is Judas. Did he exist? I tend to suspect not, and largely for the reasons I doubt the existence of the Twelve in Jesus’ lifetime: aside from Peter, James, John, and possibly Andrew, they do not figure at all in the narrative of the gospels. Any gospels. Andrew has a cameo when he is called, and the others are nonexistent except for when they are sent out, an activity that is highly dubious. And so with Judas: he is named when the others are, then he disappears completely until called upon to betray Jesus. That’s it. This sort of episodic appearance isn’t conducive to establishing historical credibility; rather, it makes him appear to be much more of a literary convention than anything. And too, Paul says that the words of the Last Supper were spoken on the night before Jesus was arrested, not on the night before he was betrayed, as many forms of the Consecration (Catholic and Episcopalian, at least) say. Again, Paul’s words do not conclusively prove anything, but they support the contention that the theme of Judas-as-betrayer may have, and probably did, come into being after Paul.

There is one other bit about the story of Judas and the high priests. At several points in the narrative, the high priests say that they must not act against Jesus for fear of the crowd. And the same caveat was given about John, that Herod was afraid of the crowd’s reaction if John were arrested. And with Jesus, the priests specifically warn themselves that they must not act during the festival. But that is precisely when they acted, and according to the story, not only did the crowd not protest, but they shouted for Jesus’ death. So there was no rioting. Nor was there any when John was executed. Josephus tells us that there was a certain level of schadenfreude among the populace when Herod was defeated in battle, the populace seeing this as something Herod brought upon himself because he killed John, but there were no disturbances. The implication is that, once again, this represents a literary convention rather than something historically accurate.

Finally, there is the role of Judas and its theological implications. In The Inferno, Judas sits in the bottom-most circle of Hell, along with Brutus, the assassin of Julius Caesar, and Satan himself. But what would have happened if Judas, of his free will, had chosen not to betray Jesus? Would the Divine Plan have fulfilled itself? No doubt, the immediate reaction is “of course”. God’s Will is not to be thwarted. But the implication of this is that Judas was not a necessary agent if it could have happened without him. If that is true, then why was Judas damned? This gets into all sorts of sticky wickets about Predestination & c. I don’t propose to go into that again. But the question, IMO, is valid, and carries a lot of theological consequences. We’ll leave it at that.

Matthew Chapter 19:13-30

This will conclude Chapter 19. The section is on the long side, but there was no place to break that wouldn’t distort the flow of the text, so we get it all at once. Much of it may not require specific comment. Of course, I always think/say that.

13 Τότε προσηνέχθησαν αὐτῷ παιδία, ἵνα τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιθῇ αὐτοῖς καὶ προσεύξηται: οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτοῖς.

14 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄφετε τὰ παιδία καὶ μὴ κωλύετε αὐτὰ ἐλθεῖν πρός με, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

15 καὶ ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῖς ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖθεν.

And then were brought forth children, so that his hands he would place on them and bless them. The disciples censured them. (14) But Jesus said, “Allow the children and do not forbid them to come to me; for of such is the kingdom of the heavens. (15) And he placing his hands on them, he went away from there. 

In heresies of the Middle Ages, the laying-on of hands was considered the mark of real holiness. I’m not sure when or how the established Church got away from that as a general practice, but the insistence of the heretics on this placement of hands seems to indicate that the Church had let this practice fall into abeyance. And having read as much of the NT as I have, I can see why the heretics were so keen to do this; it’s a very common thing for Jesus and the disciples to do. I do not know the origin of the practice, whether it’s Jewish, or pagan, or what; but it’s the sort of thing that is pretty obvious in many ways. I do want to point out, however, that the real origin of the practice was probably magical, and may in fact pre-date Judaism and other religions. I would not be surprised that the practice did not arise in hunter-gatherer bands, and that the shaman would do this as a means of healing, expelling spirits, etc. I think that for the authors of the NT, that meaning has largely been lost. Even so, I truly believe it’s a residual magical practice.

In the last chapter we also had a child as the exemplar of who will enter the kingdom of the heavens. Here we have it again. Coming as it does in close proximity to the previous child, my guess is that these two stories represent either a twinning of a single event, or that this was something Jesus actually did on a frequent basis. The frequency then gave rise to a number of stories relating this. I don’t think there’s much reason to debate which it is; I bring it up because the repetition in two successive chapters does amount to a bit of editorial clumsiness. It feels redundant, so I tend to lean towards twinning, but the other possibility is just about as likely.

I suppose another question to go with this is to ask what are the implications of each? If it’s a twin, it entails a bifurcation of the tradition. The same story came down to Mark/Matthew via two different streams. This is not surprising. The tradition was doubtless split into any number of threads; we’ve discussed this at length in relation to Mark. If it was repeated, then this represents a major theme of Jesus’ ministry. And I think this likely does trace back to Jesus. It is difficult to fit into another tradition; it’s out of place in the pagan world, and it doesn’t fit with Jewish tradition, either. If you think about it, the only pre-adult to appear in any capacity in the HS (OT) is David. Isaac appears as a potential sacrifice; there is the widow’s son that Elijah raises from the dead, but the implication is that he is an adult. So the sheer oddness of the idea, it would seem, implies that it was an innovation that traced to Jesus himself. Paul doesn’t mention this, but Paul–with a few exceptions–is not concerned with anything that Jesus did while alive; ergo, its absence in Paul is not entirely meaningful. The theme is in Mark, so it likely did not come through the filtre of James the Just.

So that is worth bearing in mind. 

13 Tunc oblati sunt ei parvuli, ut manus eis imponeret et oraret; discipuli autem increpabant eis.

14 Iesus vero ait: “ Sinite parvulos et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire; talium est enim regnum caelorum ”.

15 Et cum imposuisset eis manus, abiit inde.

16 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς προσελθὼν αὐτῷ εἶπεν, Διδάσκαλε, τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω ἵνα σχῶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον;

And look (one) coming towards him (Jesus) said, “Teacher, what good things shall I do that I might have life eternal?

The position here is interesting. Not long ago, I posed the question of whether the Life–or life eternal–was the same as the kingdom of (the) heaven(s). The immediate juxtaposition of the children entering the kingdom and this one asking about life eternal seems to suggest that they are more or less the same thing. This equivalence is something that most Christians over most of the past 1900 years or so would have answered affirmatively without a second thought. Until very recently, it never occurred to me even to ask the question; of course they are.

So why do we have two different terms for the same thing? Terms that are not obviously related on the face of it. That is a question that I think has to be answered. And some part of this would depend on whether both phrases trace back to Jesus. If I had to come up with an explanation, I would suggest that “kingdom of God/heaven/the heavens” does trace to Jesus. But the idea of the Life may not have existed before Paul.

The phrase “the life/life eternal” appears in Mark and Matthew only in conjunction with two stories: this one, about the young man of wealth, and the story that recommends self-mutilation, that it is better to give up a hand, or a foot, or an eye and attain eternal life. Paul talks about eternal life most extensively in Romans–his last work. But he also uses it in Galatians, which is one of the first. What this tells me is that Jesus may have talked about the kingdom, but he may not have talked about the Life. And even with Paul, the idea of the Life was something that became part of his mature work, but did not play a large role in his earlier epistles; does this mean it wasn’t a large part of his thinking on what was to happen when Jesus returned? Or possibly before, when we died?

Now, we need to be careful here. We need to remember that in Jewish belief the faithful pray on Yom Kippur to be written in the book of life for the next year. And so we find another situation where something that is considered to be a hallmark of Christianity has, at the very least, its roots in Judaism, even if there may have been some minor adjustments during the transition into Christianity. So we have the book of life and eternal life that sound like very similar concepts. And let’s not forget that the idea of going into the Life maimed–minus a hand, foot, or eye–only makes sense if we think in terms of the resurrection of the actual body, rather than a spiritual body that is whole and sound. Recall that Paul even made reference to this in talking about Jesus’ post-resurrection body as being somehow different from the earthly body. Taking all of this as a complex of interrelated concepts, we may be justified in seeing the passage about cutting off hands or feet to enter the life as fundamentally Jewish ideas, however they’ve been modified.

Then the question becomes one of provenance. I am becoming convinced that the idea of the kingdom, albeit of God/heaven/the heavens does trace back to Jesus, even if he perhaps did not originate it. At least, I’ve become convinced that a decent, and perhaps strong, argument can be made for this. I’m not quite as sure about the idea of the Life. This does trace back to Paul as we have seen. And prior to Paul, the resurrection of the righteous and the idea of the book of life (or, Book of Life) can both be found in Pharisaical Judaism. So the question is why doesn’t “the Life” play a more prominent role in the gospels of Mark and Matthew? Glancing ahead, it appears that this idea becomes fully ensconced in Luke, and especially John, showing that it has become a bedrock principle of what, by then, can be called Christianity. 

16 Et ecce unus accedens ait illi: “Magister, quid boni faciam, ut habeam vitam aeternam?”. Qui dixit ei:

17 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός. εἰ δὲ θέλεις εἰς τὴν ζωὴν εἰσελθεῖν, τήρησον τὰς ἐντολάς.

And he (Jesus) said to him (the interlocutor) “Why do you talk to me about the good? One is good. If you wish into the life to enter, keep the commandments.”

Here we have a rare instance when the KJV is the least accurate of my crib translations. As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that part of the reason the KJV is so hard to read is because it adheres most closely to the Greek; it’s not as nearly as bad as many of my translations, but it follows the literal sense more than most. Here, however, instead of talking about the good, Jesus asks, “why do you call me good?”, which the interlocutor does not do. Also, I have only rendered “one is good” because that is what the Greek says. Most translations add “only one is good”. Even the Latin below omits the “only”. Now, one can argue that the “only” is implied, and perhaps it is. But it’s not stated, so I have not added it to the translation.

My guess is that the KJV translated it the way it did because the passage in Mark does gave Jesus ask, “why do you call me good”, and also that “only” God is good.

Theologically, the “one is good” has some interesting implications. This seems like it could be the basis for some of the vitriol that came later about human nature is hopelessly depraved, and so cannot do anything to merit its salvation. Now the other thing is that this is always assumed to refer to God, but leaving out the “only” sure makes that a lot less certain, doesn’t it? Is this the original Jesus pointing to the Christ that is to come? That may be a stretch, but it’s not precluded by the Greek. It could be interpreted to mean something like that.

17 “Quid me interrogas de bono? Unus est bonus. Si autem vis ad vitam ingredi, serva mandata”.

18 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ποίας; ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τὸ Οὐ φονεύσεις, Οὐ μοιχεύσεις, Οὐ κλέψεις, Οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις,

19 Τίμα τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα,καί, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

20 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ νεανίσκος, Πάντα ταῦτα ἐφύλαξα: τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ;

21 ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Εἰ θέλεις τέλειος εἶναι, ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι.

He (the interlocutor) said to him (Jesus), “Of what kind?” Jesus said to him, “Do not murder, do not adulterize, do not steal, do not witness falsely. (19) Honour your father and your mother, love your neighbor as yourself.” (20) The young man said, “All these I have guarded. What is the last?” (= the final, the ultimate, is there anything else?) (21) Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be completed (= perfected) withdraw, sell the things belonging to you, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in the heavens, and follow me here.” (here = hither, which implies motion towards as opposed to a static place “here”

The man’s response to the question about the commandments is interesting. Every Christian today knows that the “commandments” refers to the Ten Commandments. And one suspects that every Jew in the First Century would have known that, too. The man’s question implies one of two things: either he thought that Jesus might have some novel twist on the concept; or, he wasn’t a Jew who was familiar with the Decalogue. Which is more likely? The first possibility is hardly to be dismissed. Who knows what was said of Jesus? Who knows what sort of ideas about Jesus this young man brought to the moment of the question? Certainly he had heard about Jesus, that this was a novel teaching, or he taught novel things; so it’s no wonder that he would have had apprehensions about which commandments Jesus was telling him to follow. So it’s highly plausible. It’s much simpler, however, to infer that he was a pagan. Okham’s razor being what it is, this makes the second more plausible.

Or, there is a third possibility. Matthew inserted this question so that the pagans in the audience would understand what Jesus meant. Matthew realized that the pagans would not simply know what “the commandments” meant, so he put these words into the young man’s mouth to clarify that for these pagans. Now, we really can’t stretch this into more proof that Matthew himself was a pagan; he could have been very aware that pagans wouldn’t know about the commandments without being a pagan himself. It doesn’t hurt my position on this, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of support and/or evidence for this.

Should we ascribe this to Jesus? Or does it make more sense that it came from James? Offhand, I’d say the latter, largely because that’s what I want to believe in order to support my radical contention about the teachings of James. Against this we have the fact that this story is in Mark. However, the fact remains that the young man asks about eternal life, which is not a concept that is well-represented in Mark/Matthew. Here, I think, is where we can sort of glimpse at the complexity of the narrative sources. Different things came from different strands of the sources, and just because a concept appears in Matthew and Paul does not mean, necessarily, that Matthew got the story from Paul. Everyone wants to see affiliation where none may exist. The exception to this are those who refuse to believe that Luke knew about Matthew, preferring instead the existence of a document for which there is absolutely zero evidence.

18 Dicit illi: “ Quae? ”. Iesus autem dixit: “ Non homicidium facies, non adulterabis, non facies furtum, non falsum testimonium dices,

19 honora patrem et matrem et diliges proximum tuum sicut teipsum ”.

20 Dicit illi adulescens: “ Omnia haec custodivi. Quid adhuc mihi deest? ”.

21 Ait illi Iesus: “ Si vis perfectus esse, vade, vende, quae habes, et da pauperibus, et habebis thesaurum in caelo; et veni, sequere me ”.

22 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος, ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.

23 Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πλούσιος δυσκόλως εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

24 πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

Hearing this speech, the young man went away being sad, for he was holding many possessions. (23) And Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen I say to you that the rich with difficulty into the kingdom of the heavens. (24) Again I say to you, it is more easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The most interesting aspect of these two verses is the use of “kingdom of God” in Verse 24. Matthew almost never uses this term, but Mark uses it frequently. Here is a very clear case of Matthew almost, but not quite, copying Mark without much editing. In fact, a lot of the words in Mark are repeated by Matthew, even if in different forms. This is very clearly proof of the extent to which Matthew used Mark.Is it possible that Mark used Matthew, and sort of abridged the longer work? While there is a body of scholarship claiming this, it’s very much a minority opinion. I find it very difficult to conceive how anyone could actually take the idea seriously. 

22 Cum audisset autem adulescens verbum, abiit tristis; erat enim habens multas possessiones.

23 Iesus autem dixit discipulis suis: “Amen dico vobis: Dives difficile intrabit in regnum caelorum.

24 Et iterum dico vobis: Facilius est camelum per foramen acus transire, quam divitem intrare in regnum Dei”.

25 ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο σφόδρα λέγοντες, Τίς ἄρα δύναται σωθῆναι;

Hearing this the disciples were driven out of their senses, saying to themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

I want to pause on this a moment. We touched on this in discussing Mark, but it very much bears repeating. In the amazement of the disciples, we get a very potent demonstration of the belief that wealth had a moral dimension. Put simply, there was a strong belief that all God’s friends were rich. The Jews believed this, as the story of Job amply demonstrates. But they were not alone: most cultures believed that the favor of God, or a god would be manifest on earth. And this idea has had pernicious and deleterious effects ever since, despite the fact that Jesus’ words here could not be more plain. This belief was lodged–implicitly–in Calvinism. As such, it was brought to the New World, especially by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay colony. And since Boston became one of the first commercially successful cities in the British colonies, and since New England exported its ministers to the rest of the country, this belief has become lodged in the culture of the United States, and is still operating to this day. It may not be explicitly formulated, but it’s all the more dangerous because of that; it’s a buried assumption, one that goes unchallenged.

What is particularly astonishing is that this belief persists, that it ever came into being, because Jesus couldn’t be much more clear here if he tried. And it always strikes me that many of those who refuse to countenance any interpretation of “what God has joined, let no man put asunder” will completely overlook this dictum about the eye of the needle. Selective application, indeed.

25 Auditis autem his, discipuli mirabantur valde dicentes: “ Quis ergo poterit salvus esse?”.

26 ἐμβλέψας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις τοῦτο ἀδύνατόν ἐστιν, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ πάντα δυνατά.

Looking them in the face Jesus said to them, “For humans, this is not possible, but for God all is possible.  

Notice that God is now omnipotent. We are so used to this notion that it’s ofttimes easy to forget that God was not always considered thus. Certainly the pagan gods, for the most part, were not truly though to be omnipotent as we understand the term; none of them were responsible for creation ex nihilo, as occurred in Genesis. But even YHWH was never truly omnipotent; it appears that he could be surprised by the outcome of events; why create Adam and Eve and tell them not to eat the fruit if he knew full well that they would? This is the quandary that Calvin sought to solve. But God did not truly become omnipotent until systematic theology had been invented through the marriage of the Scripture to Greek philosophy. This passage anticipates that development by a couple of centuries, at the least; but the NT is not fully consistent on this, and it’s especially not internally consistent. These inconsistencies were the cracks in the pavement that eventually spawned heresies. 

After all that, what really matters is that Jesus is basically saying that the rich can only be saved through the sheer omnipotence of God. That is a glaring contradiction to what Peter said in the previous verse, when he assumes there is a large moral component to being wealthy. Jesus is flatly denying that, cutting against the grain of the thinking of most cultures at the time. As such, it’s very progressive thinking for the time.

Now, an interesting thing came up while I was thinking about whether this actually originated with Jesus. I looked into the various forms of “wealthy” in Strong’s Concordance. (The root in Greek is “plousios”, the root of “plutocracy”.) What I found was that the word, in any form, is barely used by either Matthew or Mark. The latter uses some form of the word about three times; once in his version of the story, once during the explanation of the parable of the Sower, and once in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. Matthew uses it twice here, once with the Sower, and the last time to describe Joseph of Arimathaea, who is said to be “rich”. That’s it. It becomes more popular in Luke, but Paul uses it a lot in 1 Corinthians and especially Romans. It also shows up a lot in the deutero-Pauline letter to the Ephesians, and a number of times in the fairly short letter of James. 

So here Jesus is being very hard on the rich, but it’s almost a one-off as a theme in the first two gospels. And this is despite the fact that it wasn’t uncommon in Paul’s letters, documents that pre-date the gospels. And this particular story is really the only one in which the idea of wealth is really intrinsic to the point of the tale. That is, the idea of wealth was imported into the thinking of Mark and Matthew pretty much solely in conjunction with this story.

I also looked up the instances of the use of the terms “possessions” and “poor”. Interestingly, neither of these are show up much in Mark and Matthew, either, both of them occurring at approximately the same frequency as “wealth”.

The implication is pretty clear here. As much as we think of the poor being a major theme of Christian thought, the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t really all that important in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. This is something to consider.

26 Aspiciens autem Iesus dixit illis: “ Apud homines hoc impossibile est, apud Deum autem omnia possibilia sunt”.

27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι: τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν;

28 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι, ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.

29 καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου ἑκατονταπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει.

30 Πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι.

Then answering, Peter said to him, “Look, we left behind everything and followed you. What will be ours?”

28) And Jesus said to them, “Amen I say to you, that you, those following me, in the regeneration, when the son of man is seated upon the throne in his glory, you will also be seated upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29) And all who have left behind home, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother or children, or fields because of my name a hundredfold will receive and eternal life will be their allotment (share of the inheritance).

Just need to insert a word. This phrase << ἑκατονταπλασίονα >> (a hundredfold) is not in all ms traditions. It appears there is variant reading of <<πολλαπλασίων>>. That would be significant, because according to Strong, the only instance of this word is in Luke’s version of this story. If it were here, too, this would pretty much prove that Luke copied Matthew because it would be the equivalent of being proven a cheater by copying someone’s wrong answer. So this is an important textual variation. And I have two different texts with the Matthew/Luke  <<πολλαπλασίων>>. OTOH, the L&S cites the Gospel of Matthew as an example of “hundredfold”. It does not recognize the other word.

30) For many will be first who are last and last (those who are) first.  

Aside from the textual issue mentioned, what jumps out here is “regeneration”. This is a legitimate Greek word. The question is, what does it signify in this context? Well, L&S cite Mt 19:28 as an example of this word being used to mean “resurrection”. Otherwise, it is a term from Stoic philosophy, as in the regeneration of the cosmos, which signifies the cyclical nature of existence; everything is a cycle, including the universe as a whole. Interestingly, none of my crib translations render it as “resurrection”, despite L&S; this is another example of why I get a little nervous about NT dictionaries. They tend to make it up as they go along. And the only other use of this in the NT is in Titus.

As with the hundredfold, the translation of this word matters. Maybe because I’m familiar with Stoic philosophy, but the use of the word there makes perfect sense. It was thought that history was cyclical, in the way life overall was cyclical. It didn’t repeat, but the cosmos ended and restarted, again and again and again. It was Augustine who came up with the idea of linear time; otherwise, this would mean that Jesus’ coming was not a unique event, but something that has happened and would happen again. This didn’t work for him, so he re-cast our understanding of the progress of time, bending it from a circle into a straight line. Or perhaps a ray is the more technical term: a fixed origin with an infinite extension. For even though the world would end, the righteous will spend eternity in the presence of God, who is beyond time.

This just occurred to me. Did Matthew slip here? Did he slip into his pagan way of thinking? Was he thinking about Stoic philosophy, so he used a concept he borrowed from them? That would be about as close to definitive proof that Matthew was a pagan as we could ever expect him to state explicitly. It would mean L&S was wrong, but either Liddell or Scott was a churchman, so his point of view would have been strongly Christian, which could certainly influence his conception of the word as used here. He would take it on faith (ahem) that it referred to the resurrection even though the term came from Stoic philosophy. Contra this, the term is used for the rebirth of the world after the flood in Genesis in the Septuagint; so Matthew as a Jew–Greek-speaking, but Jew nonetheless–could have gotten the term there. We have seen that Matthew probably got the virgin birth from the (mis-)translation of Isaiah to predict that a “virgin” would give birth.

Here is where my theory on the Twelve has some significant ramifications. If, as I suspect, the Twelve were instituted after Jesus died, then there is no chance that he said this bit about the twelve thrones and judging the twelve tribes. Then the question becomes, if Jesus didn’t say this, did he say any of this? If he did, which parts go back to Jesus, and which are later? 

To be honest, I would suspect most of the verse 27-30 post-date Jesus. To be just as honest, I’m not sure I can construct a valid–or even worthwhile–argument to support this. Peter’s question is the sort of thing that could be experienced either by Jesus’ immediate followers, or by those that came later. And I did try to construct something to demonstrate that the circumstances described here were more appropriate for a later group, but I was unsuccessful. My instincts tell me this is a later addition, but “instincts” do not make a good argument, The part about the Twelve, I am sure, is later, but that does not necessarily invalidate the rest. I believe it does–or may–but my beliefs are no stronger proof than my instincts. 

On the face of it, there is nothing in these verses to indicate that we are presented with a situation that involves circumstances faced by Jesus’ immediate followers, or those faced by a later group. That’s the surface view. After more consideration, however, I think this falls into the “later group” scenario. The implication here 

The last point here involves the eschaton. Once again the use of “son of man” indicates that this is taken mostly from Mark. For the most part, Matthew uses “son of man” in passages that he has extracted from Mark. Here is a situation in which the coming end, brought about by the Parousia, by the coming of the son of man. As is true in Mark, this passage could be read to imply that Jesus is talking about someone else, that he is not identifying himself as the son of man. The other point about this is that the vision presented here is not terribly dissimilar to that of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Thus, we have to ask, once again, if this came from Jesus, or if it came from Paul? This matters, because if it’s from Paul, it would help support the idea that the entire passage dates from a time after Jesus. The number of times that Jesus refers to the Parousia in Mark are very limited, and are not entirely intrinsic to the rest of the text. There are any number of legitimate NT scholars–JD Crossan comes to mind–who are dead certain that Jesus’ primary message (or one of them, at least) was the coming End. Personally, I’m not sure I buy it. He bases a lot of his position on the idea of Jesus’ use of “kingdom of heaven/God/the heavens”. However, I remain semi-agnostic on this; I haven’t done the requisite homework, or fieldwork, or footwork of pulling out all the references and doing the compare/contrast and exegesis.

To end, the last line about the first/last transposition is, from what I understand, classic apocalyptic rhetoric. I don’t recall who, but one of the legitimate scholars I read described apocalyptic literature as sort of the last revenge/refuge of the downtrodden. The point of this literature is to envision the day when the current oppressor is overthrown, is pitched headlong into eternal fire, and We the Downtrodden take our rightful place as the divine favourites. People in offices talk like this all the time, about the boss getting his comeuppance. As such, this last/first transposition is probably something that could have been said or written at any time during the time Judea was under the heel of either the Seleucid or Roman Empires. As such, it’s not much help in figuring out if this traces to Jesus. Even if we could be dead certain he did say this, who’s not to say that he didn’t get it from someone else? It’s too universal as a statement of desire. 

27 Tunc respondens Petrus dixit ei: “Ecce nos reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te. Quid ergo erit nobis?”.

28 Iesus autem dixit illis: “Amen dico vobis quod vos, qui secuti estis me, in regeneratione, cum sederit Filius hominis in throno gloriae suae, sedebitis et vos super thronos duodecim, iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

29 Et omnis, qui reliquit domos vel fratres aut sorores aut patrem aut matrem aut filios aut agros propter nomen meum, centuplum accipiet et vitam aeternam possidebit.

30 Multi autem erunt primi novissimi, et novissimi primi.