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Luke Chapter 9:37-45-Updated

Update: I added a comment to Verse 45 at the bottom of the page. I realized I completely neglected this.

Here we continue with yet another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story.  In between sections, I took a few minutes to go through the first bit of my Harmony. So far, my theory is holding. Luke is generally the shortest version when all three gospels have a story. It’s not always by a lot, but it is pretty consistent. And I haven’t gotten to Chapters 8 & 9 where I believe the phenomenon becomes more pronounced. Conversely, when Matthew significantly shortens Mark, Luke’s version comes somewhere in between. There are a few times when Luke has the longest version. Having glanced ahead (spoiler alert!) I saw that we will be coming onto the material unique to Luke, including (in no particular order) The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Zaccheus, etc. My sense in reading Chapter 9 has been that Luke is trying to hurry through the required bits of the Triple Tradition so that he can get to his own original material. And yes, I fully suspect Luke is the author of most of his unique material. With that, on to the


37 Ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἑξῆς ἡμέρᾳ κατελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους συνήντησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς.

38 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐβόησεν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν,

39 καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα λαμβάνει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξαίφνης κράζει, καὶ σπαράσσει αὐτὸν μετὰ ἀφροῦ καὶ μόγις ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ συντρῖβον αὐτόν:

40 καὶ ἐδεήθην τῶν μαθητῶν σου ἵνα ἐκβάλωσιν αὐτό, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν.

It became on the next day they having come from the mountain a multitudinous crowd met him. (38) And behold, a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I need you to look upon my son, that is my only born, and behold, a spirit seized him, and he suddenly cries out, and he makes him retch with foam, and scarcely goes away from him it bruises him, (40) and I asked your disciples in order they cast it out, and they were not able”.

Let’s start with a comment on the Greek. I was always puzzled by the translation of “tore him with foam”. That doesn’t entirely make sense. So I check the Great Scott and, behold! one of the other meanings of the word rendered as “tore” is “to retch, w/o being able to vomit”. Now that makes sense. The kid goes into spasms where he convulses with dry heaves and, subsequently or consequently, he foams at the mouth. I do not know much about epilepsy or other afflictions that may cause this, so I shan’t speculate. I will, however, take credit for taking a deeper look at this. Then, taking a look at my crib translations, I noticed that, while the KJV does render this as “teareth”, more modern translations change this to “convulse”, as I did. It’s also worth pointing out that the KJV uses the same word in the versions of Mark and Matthew, saying that the demon “tears” at the boy with foam. I point this out because the KJV is most often the closest to the original Greek; it’s considered the definitive work in English, IIRC, among fundamentalists who take the words literally. I’m not sure what they may have to say about this.

Note that we are dealing with a sprit, not a demon. Mark always refers to it as such, but later in the story Luke will call it a demon, and then an unclean spirit. This is linguistic evidence that, by the time Luke wrote at least, these terms were interchangeable. I believe that they were in the earlier gospels, but I never really noted, or noticed the use of these different words in the same story. Also note that Mark alone calls the spirit “mute” (alalon). Neither Matthew nor Luke does so. But let us recall that Matthew did not say that the boy was possessed by a spirit, or demon, or anything else. Matthew says that the boy was a lunatic, which is a fairly literal translation of the Greek word he used. “To be lunaticking”, or something like that, would be even more literal. The root of Matthew’s Greek word is selene, “moon”. The root of lunatic is luna, which is “moon” but in Latin.

This discrepancy should, I believe, be considered in conjunction with noting the term used to address the father in the various gospels. Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew is in the word used; here and in Mark it’s didaskelon, teacher. In Matthew it’s kyrios, lord. All three evangelists use both words frequently, so I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions from this difference. Now, the Q people would zealously use this as an example of Lk + Mk <> Mt, and they have a point.

Taking a contrary position, OTOH, it can also be pointed out that Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark by omitting that the spirit was mute. Of course, the Q people would object to that characterization; they would say something like this is not an active agreement, but a passive omission, which could have been omitted independently. And besides, there was no spirit in Matthew, so how could it be mute? This is certainly an accurate description of the situation, but other interpretations of these circumstances are certainly possoble. Recall that Luke very pointedly stressed that Jesus did not move to Caphernaum, as Matthew explicitly states. At the time, I suggested that Luke had deliberately corrected Matthew. I also think that returning back to the idea of a spirit was another deliberate decision by Luke to correct Matthew once again. Personally, I think there is a lot of this sort of “correction” of Matthew done in Luke, which is why these two “never” agree against Mark. Except for Joseph, Bethlehem, the angels…So I’m still going to put it on the Lk+Mt <> Mk. These little things are insignificant on their own, but the accumulated weight should be considered; enough of these small instances makes for telling evidence. In this way we shall steal a page from the Q peoples’ playbook: make the assertion, and then make them prove it’s wrong. This will put them on the horns of a dilemma: argue against the assertion, thereby crediting that it has merit and must be disproven; or, say the demand to prove a negative is ridiculous. In which case, they will be agreeing with me about the existence of Q.

Finally, the man asks about his “son”. He does not use the word pais that the Centurion did; rather, it’s huios, which is the standard word used for “son of God” or “son of man”. Perhaps this is the final bit of ‘proof’ needed to show that we were indeed, talking about the Centurion’s servant. Perhaps I’m the only one who still needed to be convinced of that.

There are a couple of other things to be discussed, like the disciples’ inability to cast out the spirit. That one in particular will be saved for later.

37 Factum est autem in sequenti die, descendentibus illis de monte, occurrit illi turba multa.

38 Et ecce vir de turba exclamavit dicens: “Magister, obsecro te, respice in filium meum, quia unicus est mihi;

39 et ecce spiritus apprehendit illum, et subito clamat, et dissipat eum cum spuma et vix discedit ab eo dilanians eum;

40 et rogavi discipulos tuos, ut eicerent illum, et non potuerunt”.

41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, *)=ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου.

Answering, Jesus said, “O faithless and twisted generation! How long shall I be towards you and shall I bear with you? Lead your son hither.”

Ha! Guess what? I just found a place where Matthew and Luke actively agree against Mark; this is despite the fact that this never happens according to the Q people. Mark has Jesus bewailing the “faithless generation”; Matthew and Luke add the second word, here rendered as “twisted”, but is perhaps more metaphorically (and commonly) rendered as “perverse”. So, the entire superstructure of the Q argument collapses.

Maybe. To be fair, if this is indeed the only such instance, one has to be prepared to acknowledge, if not necessarily accept, the possibility that the presence of this single word, in exactly the same case, is an interpolation. See how fair I am? I point out the weaknesses in my own position; ideally, I would then provide proactive refutation of arguments based on this hole in my theory. That is, after all, how proper scholarship is done. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to create an actual argument for whether this is or is not an interpolation. It’s a single word, used in the same context and in the same case, etc. We have to ask whether this degree of exactitude argues for, or against, interpolation. The simplest explanation is, after all, that Luke simply copied Matthew. But why would Luke choose this one time and place to become a passive scribe, transcribing exactly what he found? To which a good response is, “why not here and now?” Would a later copyist of either gospel be likely to get it so perfectly? He would have to physically have to get the other text and write it in. Or, perhaps he remembered the text of the other. None of these, strictly speaking, is much of an actual argument. Rather, they are simple binary choices not terribly amenable to an argument. 

For now, we will leave it as noted that this agreement did occur, and see what happens later.

41 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “O generatio infidelis et perversa, usquequo ero apud vos et patiar vos? Adduc huc filium tuum”.

42 ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν: ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.

43 ἐξεπλήσσοντο δὲ πάντες ἐπὶ τῇ μεγαλειότητι τοῦ θεοῦ. Πάντων δὲ θαυμαζόντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐποίει εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ,

44 Θέσθε ὑμεῖς εἰς τὰ ὦτα ὑμῶν τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μέλλει παραδίδοσθαι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων.

When he (the lad) having come up, the daimonion dashed him (the lad to the ground]) and tore him. But Jesus censured the spirit the unclean, and he healed the boy and gave him to his father. (43)  They were astounded upon the magnificence of God. All marveling upon all the things he did, he said to his disciples, (44) “Put these words into your ears, for the son of man is fated to be given over to the hands of men”. (45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.

Before getting to the main event, let’s have a bit from the warm-up act. “Put these words into your ears” is a perfectly novel, probably unique, turn of phrase. I can’t just pass over that without noting it.

The first thing to note is what is not in here. Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus say that, after being handed over, the son of man will be killed, and on the third day will rise. Why? Why not include this? First of all, we have to acknowledge that this was a conscious decision on Luke’s part. He chose not to include it for whatever reason. This seems obvious, of course, but maybe only after it’s been pointed out. This is an aspect of gospel writing that too often is overlooked, or given insufficient  thought. It may seem strange to say this, given the Q proponents’ insistence on providing a “redactionally consistent” explanation of Luke that explains every single instance where he varies from Matthew. However, I would suggest that this is not a legitimate thing to demand from the Q-naysayers; that it is not a legitimate argument, or even a legitimate aspect of an argument. Luke varies from Matthew because he is Luke, and not Matthew. Matthew is largely consistent with Mark in the placement of the so-called pericopes; Luke differs from both in placement, and largely because Matthew follows Mark’s placement so consistently. This is, once again, another of those instances where Luke felt it unnecessary to add the bit about rising because it was adequately treated in his two predecessors. Luke, once again, truncates a story of Mark because Matthew did not. 

As an aside, the Harmony I consulted separates this last part from the story of the boy with the spirit. This is sensible; the two are not related. 

There is one final trope to be discussed in this piece. We have noted that the father of the boy asked why Jesus’ disciples were not able to expel (ekballei) the spirit. This is common to all three gospels, and they all report Jesus remonstrating about the faithless (and perverse) generation. This has always seemed a bit…odd. This cry of disgust makes sense in the context of the Pharisees (or others) asking for a sign, as occurs in Mark 10. Here, perhaps, not so much. Railing about a lack of faith, OTOH, does make sense. The implication is that faith is required to make wonders happen, and that certainly makes sense. In fact, Matthew explicitly says that the reason the disciples could not cast out the demon was their “little faith”, and supplements this by adding that having faith the size of a mustard seed can give you the power to move a mountain. 

There is a caveat to this, however. 

In Mark, after this event, the disciples privately (kat’ idian) ask Jesus why they were not able to drive out the demon. Matthew repeats this, using exactly the same phrase, (kat’ idian). However, the two evangelists give very different answers. Mark said it’s because this kind (to genos) can only be expelled by prayer. I pointed this out at the time as an example of Mark’s interest in, and description of, the “magical practices” Jesus employed to effect some of his miracles. In Mark this interest has the feel of a how-to guide to exorcism or other wonders. It’s what gets called a “coaching opportunity” in the business world, a chance for Jesus to give the disciples on-the-job training. Another notable example of magical practices was Jesus spitting into some dirt to make mud that he then applied to the eyes of a blind man. Matthew, OTOH, eliminates this part of the story. Instead, he blames the failure on the disciples’ lack of faith. This is not surprising that Matthew provided a different answer, since he eliminated all descriptions of magical practice from his gospel. As an aside, it is interesting to note that some mss traditions have added the “this kind can only be driven out by prayer” into the text of Matthew. The consensus is that this is indeed a later interpolation, intended to bring Matthew more closely into line with Mark. This is an excellent example of how stories grow and the tradition becomes enlarged, and is a great cautionary tale not to be too skeptical of suggestions of interpolation.

Luke, as we see, dropped the whole (kat’ idian) section. He does not have the disciples asking Jesus anything in private, about the demon or anything else. Of course, the question should be, ‘why not?’ What is Luke’s “redactionally consistent” explanation for eliminating the whole sequence? Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my consistent explanation has been that Luke has consistently eliminated sequences like this because they have been adequately covered by both Mark and Mathew. The instances of this redactional policy of Luke are starting to a accumulate, like snowflakes. A few snowflakes aren’t worth bothering about; when they start to accumulate, however, they become significant.

42 Et cum accederet, elisit illum daemonium et dissipavit. Et increpavit Iesus spiritum immundum et sanavit puerum et reddidit illum patri eius.

43 Stupebant autem omnes in magnitudine Dei. Omnibusque mirantibus in omnibus, quae faciebat, dixit ad discipulos suos:

44 “Ponite vos in auribus vestris sermones istos: Filius enim hominis futurum est ut tradatur in manus hominum”.

45 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουντὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο, καὶ ἦν παρακεκαλυμμένον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἵνα μὴ αἴσθωνται αὐτό, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τούτου.

(45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.

45 At illi ignorabant verbum istud, et erat velatum ante eos, ut non sentirent illud, et time bant interrogare eum de hoc verbo.

I have to say something about this last verse. It’s one that is in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew. But before getting to the implications of that, let’s take a moment to appreciate what this verse says. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about. That is fair enough. Jesus is making a prediction, so why would the disciples understand? I mean, on the one hand, it does seem pretty plain…but perhaps only if we assume that the disciples understood Jesus to be the son of man that Jesus is discussing. We get it, of course. When discussing Mark, one theme that kept recurring was the messianic secret; the term is not mine, but is part of the larger discourse, and it’s encountered often in the literature. My particular take on this is that Mark was trying to explain to later audiences why Jesus was not regarded as the messiah by his earliest followers. Or perhaps “make excuses” is a more appropriate description. Because the fact is, he wasn’t. Hence the bifurcation of Mark’s text into the earlier wonder-worker section, and the section on the anointed coming later. I mean, if Jesus’ own disciples didn’t fully understand who or what Jesus was, how could anyone outside the group be expected to get it? Then, as a corollary to this comes the bit about being afraid to ask. After all, if they didn’t understand, they could have asked, no? So why didn’t they? Because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? Well, that question is not even asked, let alone answered.

But let’s kept this lack of understanding in mind as we move to the next section, which is the Transfiguration.

Now let’s talk about the Mark & Luke but not Matthew. On the whole, the disciples fare much better in Matthew than they did in Mark. Matthew presents them in a much, much more positive light. So it’s hardly surprising that Matthew omitted the contents of this verse. It fits with his portrayal of the disciples; IOW, it’s redactionally consistent*. So here we have yet another example of Luke putting back something that Matthew excised. 


*Honestly, some of the attributes that modern scholars demand of the evangelists are borderline ridiculous. These guys were not writing a thesis that was going to be graded and that they would have to defend before a panel of (possibly hostile–but, then again, maybe not) professors. They are writing about Divine Truth; the details didn’t always matter. Truth has a higher sense of vision than something that’s only striving for factual accuracy, or to be a reasonably coherent interpretation. Because one thing that’s often overlooked is that many of these same modern scholars are far from being “redactionally consistent” in their presentations.


Luke Chapter 9:28-36

This is the Transfiguration. Back when we read this for Mark, I floated the idea that this section had originally been the climax, or the ending of the first section of that gospel, the apotheosis of the wonder worker. That interpretation is probably not defensible; beyond that, I’m not even sure that it feels right. At least I didn’t until I keyed in the word “apotheosis”. That is, after all, what this represents. In a way, it’s the Ascension taking place before Jesus dies. There is no doubt that this story is intended to “prove”, or demonstrate that Jesus is, indeed, divine. If this is meant to stand in for the Ascension, the original story would not have had them all returning down the mountain; rather, Jesus would have left them. As such, this would be the explanation of why Jesus was no longer present on earth.

It also occurs to me that this could be the beginning of the Christ narrative. Rather than the story of Bethlehem, this is the birth of the Christ, except as a grown man. The connexion to the Baptism story can be neither avoided nor denied; the voice from the cloud connects in a very explicit manner those two events. Perhaps this is the seam between the two narratives: that of the wonder worker and that of the Christ. Perhaps the original Christ narrative started with this event. There is, rather obviously, a level of transcendence to this event that makes it hard to accept–IMO, anyway–that this is just part of the narrative. What you have in Mark is the Baptism introducing the Wonder Worker, and then the Transfiguration introducing the Christ. It’s hard not to see the parallel construction there. Which section came first? I seriously doubt that both pieces developed independently with an introduction sequence that is so similar. I would suggest that the Baptism has a much more organic feel to it; we start with John preaching repentance, the torch is passed to Jesus, and then when he hears John was arrested, Jesus picks up where John left off, preaching the coming of the kingdom of God. This stands out most starkly in Mark; Luke and Matthew blunt the effect with their birth narratives. This sequence, in contrast, is sort of a one-off; it doesn’t really fit the narrative; it’s just sort of stuck in here without any attachment to the rest of the story.

There really is no particular point to this speculation beyond that there is a curious balance to the two stories of Baptism and Transfiguration. This balance matches the way the narrative of Mark seems divided in twain. If what I’m saying about the Baptism being organic, the implication is that the story of the Wonder Worker is the original part, and the story of the Christ is the addition. This does not square with Paul, who preached the Christ and ignored, pretty much completely, the Wonder Worker. The implication of this, in turn, is that the two separate stories grew up in parallel, despite Paul’s being the older of the two. Or is it? Is the Christ narrative really older in an absolute sense? Or was it just written down first? This is a legitimate question that really has to be answered, or at least considered.


28 Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ [καὶ] παραλαβὼν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι.

29 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων.

30 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας,

31 οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

It happened eight days after these sayings and taking Peter and John and James he went up the mountain to pray. (29) And it occurred in the praying of him the form of his face was different and his white clothing dazzling, (30) and look! two men were speaking with him, and these men were Moses and Elijah, (31) those being seen in glory spoke the departure of him (Jesus) which he intended to fulfill in Jerusalem.

This is novel. In neither of the other two gospels do we find anything about the topic discussed by Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, let alone that it was about Jesus’ upcoming trip to Jerusalem. I have no idea what this means. Most likely it’s meant as a confirmation that what Jesus was about to do was being given divine approval. And note the brevity of the description of Jesus. An interesting note about the Greek: the word rendered as ‘dazzling’ literally means something on the lines of “like a star”, or perhaps “like light from a star”. And note that Jesus’ clothes do not become white; they are white to start with, and the white becomes dazzling.

Hmm…While looking up something in the next couple of verses, I noticed that the standard translation for the white garments is that they became dazzling white. Looking back at the construction, the “it became” at the beginning of the sentence could still be applied to the dazzling white garments at the end, so that the garments became dazzling white. The only problem with this is that what I translated too literally as ‘it became’ probably should be rendered more like, “and it happened”. And sneaking a peak down at the Latin, the Vulgate agrees with me more than it does with the various English translations, starting with the KJV and continuing even to this very day. 

28 Factum est autem post haec verba fere dies octo, et assumpsit Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et ascendit in montem, ut oraret.

29 Et facta est, dum oraret, species vultus eius altera, et vestitus eius albus, refulgens.

30 Et ecce duo viri loquebantur cum illo, et erant Moyses et Elias,

31 qui visi in gloria dicebant exodum eius, quam completurus erat in Ierusalem.

32 ὁ δὲ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ ἦσαν βεβαρημένοι ὕπνῳ: διαγρηγορήσαντες δὲ εἶδον τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς δύο ἄνδρας τοὺς συνεστῶτας αὐτῷ.

33 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ διαχωρίζεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Ἐπιστάτα, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι, καὶ ποιήσωμεν σκηνὰς τρεῖς, μίαν σοὶ καὶ μίαν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ μίαν Ἠλίᾳ, μὴ εἰδὼς ὃ λέγει.

And Peter and those with him were beheavied by sleep. Starting awake, and he saw the glory of him and the two men standing with him. (33) And it became in the leaving them from him Peter said to Jesus, “Overstander, it is good for us here to be, and let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”, for he did not know what he said.

OK, got a bit overly literal. “Beheavied”, “in the leaving them from him”, and “overstander” are all way too literal. Or, actually, the latter should probably be more like “stander-on”, as in, “one who stands upon”. This latter word is unique to Luke–and not in Acts–in the NT. And so is the word “starting awake”. In fact. it’s a very uncommon word even in the Classical corpus. Such words remind us of Luke’s erudition, and this erudition gives us cause to pay attention to Luke’s nuances. A good example came in the last section when we discussed losing one’s life/soul/self.

The other thing that gets my attention is the bit about Peter suggesting the erection of tents after Moses & Elijah. It is only here that we are told he said this after/as the two of them were leaving. For the life of me, I cannot conceive of any possible reason Luke would add this. It’s to the point where I can’t even think of much more to say about the whole thing.

32 Petrus vero et qui cum illo gravati erant somno; et evigilantes viderunt gloriam eius et duos viros, qui stabant cum illo.

33 Et factum est, cum discederent ab illo, ait Petrus ad Iesum: “Praeceptor, bonum est nos hic esse; et faciamus tria tabernacula: unum tibi et unum Moysi et unum Eliae ”, nesciens quid diceret.

34 ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ἐγένετο νεφέλη καὶ ἐπεσκίαζεν αὐτούς: ἐφοβήθησαν δὲ ἐν τῷ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν νεφέλην.

35 καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε.

36 καὶ ἐν τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν φωνὴν εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐσίγησαν καὶ οὐδενὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις οὐδὲν ὧν ἑώρακαν.

These things he having said a cloud became and enshadowed them; they were afraid in their going into the cloud. (35) And a voice occurred from the cloud saying “This is my son, the chosen (one/son), listen to him”. (36) And in the voice occurring Jesus was found alone, and they were silent and to no one they announced in those days the things they had seen.

First about the Greek. Throughout I’ve been using “become” and “occurred”. The same word is behind both the translations. At root, the base meaning of the verb is “to become”; however, it gets used in a wide variety of methods, including “to occur”, and very frequently as a substitute for “to be”. I try to render using the base meaning since that is the true and underlying sense of the word. From there one can get all poetic about how to render into something that sounds pleasing in English, but part of the purpose of this is to provide those learning Greek to see how the syntax works. I’ve rather gotten away from that for a while; or, at least, I’m not as obnoxious about it as I used to be. Here, however, I’ve gotten back to that because the grammar is rather interesting. 

More importantly is the last verse. In Verse 33 we got some extra; here we get something removed. In the other two gospels, Jesus instructed his henchmen to say nothing. Here, that bit of instruction is missing. The three of them simply choose not to speak of the matter. Why not? We are not told. Or are we? Again, I’m seeing a situation in which Luke feels that there is no reason to repeat something a third time. Once again, we have another example of Luke making omissions to stories that are adequately covered by Mark and Matthew. I need to go through my Harmony to do some more research, but it seems that when Matthew and Mark give a full account, Luke abridges his. When Matthew shortens too much, as in the Gerasene Demonaic, Luke adds back what Matthew has omitted. When Matthew has something that Mark doesn’t, Luke reinforces Matthew,

34 Haec autem illo loquente, facta est nubes et obumbravit eos; et timuerunt intrantibus illis in nubem.

35 Et vox facta est de nube dicens: “ Hic est Filius meus electus; ipsum audite ”.

36 Et dum fieret vox, inventus est Iesus solus. Et ipsi tacuerunt et nemini dixerunt in illis diebus quidquam ex his, quae viderant.



Luke Chapter 9:18-27

This next section is the lead-up to the Transfiguration and includes the confession of Peter. This is where Mark fully made the transition from wonder-worker to Christ. As such, the passage, especially Peter’s confession, has a staged feel to it. The section has the sensibility of being created because it was necessary. So even though this was in Mark, that does not imbue this with any halo of authenticity. The question of who made this up is completely open; did it start with Mark, who needed it for the transition to the Christ narrative? Or did it come about earlier, and Mark recorded what he found. Of the three evangelists that we’ve read, I give Mark the least credit for creativity. His narrative feels too much like reporting; in fact, I’ve often categorized Mark as the journalist of the evangelists. Likewise Matthew was the rabbi (albeit of pagan origin), Luke is a novelist, and John is a theologian. Each tells more or less the same story, but from a very different perspective, uisng a very different toolkit.


18 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον κατὰ μόνας συνῆσαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτοὺς λέγων, Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ὄχλοι εἶναι;

19 οἱ δὲ ἀποκριθέντες εἶπαν, Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.

And it happened therein he praying by himself the disciples came to him and he asked them saying, “Who does the crowd say me to be?” (19) Answering, they said, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, others that (you are) some prophet of old who rose (from the dead).”

Note that this is pretty close to a verbatim repetition of what Herod said about Jesus. Given all of Luke’s creativity, he surely could have come up with another set of speculative answers, couldn’t he? The answer, probably, is “probably”; ergo, that he didn’t is likely to be significant. At least to some degree. Really, it is, IMO, a case of doubling down for emphasis. These were the prevalent speculations about Jesus–at least, after the fact–so let’s repeat them twice to ensure that no one misses the point here. And since we’ve only just discussed the implications of each of these, ther is no reason to belabor the point any further.

The unique twist, albeit a minor one, that Luke gives is that he asks what “the crowd” says of him. It bears to remember that “the crowd” was not exactly a term of endearment back then, with all sorts of negative connotations. The aspiration was to be one of the best (aristoi, optimates), and “common” is still rather a term of disparagement in England. 

18 Et factum est, cum solus esset orans, erant cum illo discipuli, et interrogavit illos dicens: “Quem me dicunt esse turbae?”.

19 At illi responderunt et dixerunt: “ Ioannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero: Propheta unus de prioribus surrexit”.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; Πέτρος δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.

21 Ὁ δὲ ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλεν μηδενὶ λέγειν τοῦτο,

22 εἰπὼν ὅτι Δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.

He said to them, “Who do you say me to be?” Peter answering said, “The anointed one of God”. (21) He rebuking commanded them no one to tell this, (22) saying that “The Son of Man must suffer much and to be handed over to the elders and the high priests and scribes and to be killed and on the third day be raised”.

A word about the Greek. << τίνα >> means “who”. << τινα >> means “anyone”. Can you tell the difference? It escaped me, too, but then I cheated and looked at the Latin. The difference is that the former has an accent over the iota. I missed that at first.

There is a serious case of compression here. Luke has squeezed out every possible bit of extraneous information to get right down to the hard, crystalline crux of the matter here. That is, this is another example of the abridgement of a story told by the other two evangelists. Is this a coincidence? If we but take a moment to look at the context, something really jumps out. In the other gospels, this passage comes directly before the Transfiguration, and so it does here, too. But–and this is a big “but”–the other two gospels have several stories in between: walking on water, feeding the 4,000, eating with unclean hands, et alia.  All of them are in both gospels. IOW, Luke felt it unnecessary to include them because they had been adequately covered in both the other gospels. This, of course, implies–indeed requires–that Luke knew Matthew’s gospel. So we’ve collected a number of examples by this point. How many others are like this? And what does Luke do when Matthew doesn’t give a full account of Mark? A run through the Harmony is called for to examine this issue a bit more closely. I have a theory of what we’ll find, but it needs testing.

20 Dixit autem illis: “Vos autem quem me esse dicitis?”. Respondens Petrus dixit: “ Christum Dei”.

21 At ille increpans illos praecepit, ne cui dicerent hoc,

22 dicens: “Oportet Filium hominis multa pati et reprobari a senioribus et principibus sacerdotum et scribis et occidi et tertia die resurgere”.

23 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς πάντας, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεσθαι, ἀρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ’ ἡμέραν, καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.

He spoke to all of them, “If someone wishes hereafter to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross each day, and follow me”.

Is it just me, or is this a rather sharp discontinuity from the previous verse? It may have something to do with the numerous pericopes that are in the other gospels that are omitted in between here. Or, I suppose the real break comes before Verse 18 that opens this section. Here’s the real issue: this is what I find so annoying about the Q people and their non-existent argument for the existence of Q. It’s the whole issue of these discontinuities. For all the world, what they feel like is a collection of disparate, unrelated sayings; that is, they sound like a collection of sayings that have nothing to do with one another. This is what a real argument for Q looks and sounds like. Lord knows that I find it reasonable to suppose the existence of such a collection based on the textual evidence. It has not so much to do with the arrangement of the material–which is a subjective measure at best–but the fact that we are dealing with pericopes in the first place. Mark famously makes almost no attempt to smooth the transitions between pericopes; in a very large number of verses, especially those beginning a new story, the first word is simply “and”. The same is so with a number of these sayings, or these stories that have Jesus making a statement. So why do the Q people insist on the “argument” from arrangement? I have no idea.

We’ve discussed this before, so I’ll point it out and move along. The injunction to “take up one’s cross” is, of course, a later invention, added after Jesus had been crucified. It simply makes no sense before then, and it’s a reference to the tribulations that came with the destruction of Jerusalem.

23 Dicebat autem ad omnes: “ Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam cotidie et sequatur me.

24 ὃς γὰρ ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, οὗτος σώσει αὐτήν.

25 τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖται ἄνθρωπος κερδήσας τὸν κόσμον ὅλον ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἀπολέσας ἢ ζημιωθείς;

“For he who would save his life must lose it. But he who might lose his life because of me, that one will save it. (25) For what should it profit a man should he gain the whole world but himself he should destroy or cause to lose (himself).

Oh, now this is interesting for a couple of reasons. To begin, this is is another example of compression; this compresses sentiments that are expressed in two separate places in Mark & Matthew. So, once again, Luke “just happens” to edit down pericopes* or sayings* that get full treatment in the two previous gospels. How many examples of that do we now have? 

Then, there is no way to render psyche as “soul”. …”He who would save his own soul will lose it“…doesn’t really work. The tendency to us “soul” for psyche reflects, IMO, the later Christian interpretation with which we are all familiar; so saving your soul should be the goal, and losing it by trying to save it doesn’t really make sense. And, to be fair, in the save/lose part of the saying, it is pretty much always translated as “life”. We have also seen how the combination of pysche and “to save” occur together in a context which makes it pretty clear that what is being saved is the physical life of the person in question, and not her immortal soul. Here, this could not be more clear.

The most interesting feature of this compression, however, comes in the last half. In its two previous incarnations, it is often rendered as “what shall it profit…to gain the world and lose one’s psyche“, which is almost always rendered as “soul”. At least in the discussion of Mark, I argued that the translation more attuned to the sense of the Greek word would be “life”. Here, Luke is forced to deal with this in a novel way, and for novel reasons. Because he has just used psyche twice, to avoid redundancy he uses an entirely different word in the back end. Here, he says, but should lose himself, using this word in all its glorious ambiguity. We can ask if this is more apt to shade towards soul or towards life? Or towards something that is neither? My sense is that it shades more towards “soul”. This is, IMO, why Luke chose to write it the way he did, to remove that ambiguity.

I’ll be honest: gaining the world and losing one’s soul has more literary impact that gaining the world and losing one’s life. Despite this, we have to ask if we are not seeing this expression as the result of two millennia of dualist tradition, in which the body and the soul are believed to be separate entities. We think it makes more sense as soul because that is how we think. The question becomes whether Mark saw things that way. Luke could very likely share something closer to our perspective. Everyone has always pretty much agreed that Luke was a pagan rather than a Jew, and I have seen no reason to doubt that, even if I haven’t seen all that much evidence that he was a pagan. He’s rather more of a continuation of Matthew in that way; the break between Jew and pagan comes, I believe, between Mark and Matthew. That was my position pretty much throughout Matthew’s gospel. 

So if Mark meant life and Luke meant soul, what did Matthew mean? If he were a pagan, why did he not clarify the ambiguity? One could answer that Matthew did not see the ambiguity; for him, Mark’s psyche meant more or less what it did to Luke, so Matthew saw no need to make the change. Luke, being a bit more educated–and let’s not kid ourselves, Luke is the most educated of the three–did understand the potential ambiguity and so made the change. These gospels were written in Greek, but in what language were they preached? Did the people who read the Greek address speakers of Aramaic in Greek? This is rather a profound question, and not one that is amenable to a quick and simple answer. My immediate reaction is that those preaching would have done so in the language of the audience. This only makes sense. Given this, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Luke made the change because this passage had caused problems due to the potential ambiguity. I don’t know that, but it’s a fairly apparent explanation. Whether it’s the correct explanation is rather a different issue.

24 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, hic salvam faciet illam.

25 Quid enim proficit homo, si lucretur universum mundum, se autem ipsum perdat vel detrimentum sui faciat?

26 ὃς γὰρ ἂν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους, τοῦτον ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται, ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων.

27 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, εἰσίν τινες τῶν αὐτοῦ ἑστηκότων οἳ οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

“For he who is ashamed of me and my words, this one the son of man will be ashamed of, when he should come into his judgement and of the father and the holy angels. (27)  I say to you truly, there are some of those standing he who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.

At first glance, the transition from Verse 25 to Verse 26 seemed to be a non-sequitur. A bit more reflection, and a bit less rigidity of thinking made me think otherwise. Now that I’ve relaxed my perspective, I almost wonder if I made the break in translation at the proper place. This does seem to go with the bit about losing oneself. After all, losing oneself seems like a fairly predictable consequence of facing the judgement of the father, a judgement in which the son of man disowns the person standing in the dock. But does one lose one’s soul? Or one’s life? Or both, since one’s eternal soul is lost to a negative judgement? This last is not a contradiction; there are hints throughout the NT where those who attain The Life will continue, the implication being that without entering The Life, one is no more. This, I suspect, is sort of the direction Jewish thought

Being ashamed of “the son of man”–whoever that might be–and facing judgement have only a peripheral connexion to losing oneself. The loss presumably could come from the adverse judgement. This would tie in with the idea of being condemned to death–if only in the negative sense of not being able to enter into The Life. So this does work. It must be said, however, that, in the final analysis, this very much preserves the sense of Mark’s original intent. The idea of the eternal soul is still binary: enter The Life and persevere, or don’t enter The Life and cease existence. Later Christian dogma will change the latter choice to suffering eternal damnation. That is, the choice is still binary, but the second, less pleasant, option changes, and arguably becomes much less pleasant. 

The final verse, in contrast, really does not fit here at all. This is due to its having been ripped pretty much completely out of context. In the other two gospels, this comes during the predictions of apocalypse, the “prediction” of the “coming” destruction of the Temple and perhaps the “coming persecutions” conducted by Saul. So sticking it in here simply doesn’t truly work.

26 Nam qui me erubuerit et meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet, cum venerit in gloria sua et Patris et sanctorum angelorum.

27 Dico autem vobis vere: Sunt aliqui hic stantes, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant regnum Dei”.

* (from above) Really, the proper word for these is logoi. This captures the sense of wording rather than the overall story. “Saying” is the closest English equivalent, but that does not quite capture the full extent of how a logos implies the full meaning of the saying. Too frequently the latter term is used almost independently of what it means; it’s a short-hand for the expression that is then used to compare where the various evangelists place said saying, Sure, the idea of the meaning is implicit in these discussions, but it’s most often only implicit. Any discussion of the meaning is wholly secondary.

Luke Chapter 9:11-17

Here is another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. Actually, this is one of the few stories that are present in all four gospels. This time, it’s the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s very short, comoing in at a mere six verses. If you’ll recall, Mark and Matthew have Jesus feeding five thousand, and then later feeding four thousand. Both evangelists provide full accounts of “both” these feedings. The quotes are there because I am firmly of the opinion that the event, or the story, was “twinned”; this is the process whereby the account of a single event ends up splitting into two separate events. The process usually occurs when two separate groups, not in communication with each other, each tell their own version of the story. With time, the two stories no longer line up exactly, so the people encountering the other version believe that this second version must refer to a separate event. If you read Livy Book I, there are a number of battles that involve the same enemy and sufficiently–but not completely–similar circumstances that scholars believe it’s a single battle that has become “twinned” in this fashion. The question then becomes how long it will take for this twinning to occur. A year? Two years? Ten? It seems reasonable to infer that the less similar the circumstances related in the story, the longer the time the two accounts have been separated. In this case, the major difference is the number of people fed and the number of loaves and fishes in each event. That’s a pretty small difference. Ergo, I would infer that the separation of the stories was not too long.

There is a whole strain of biblical research of late fixating on oral traditions. The idea is to “prove” that oral traditions trustworthy and accurate. The problem is that the research, IMO, reaches a conclusion first, and then argues backwards. From all I’ve read of biblical scholarship, there is a lot of this going on. At root, it’s about the differences between the texts, what this says overall about the redactional tendencies of each evangelist, and how the context clearly favors the existence of Q. My apologies, but this is not real scholarship. Note the emphasis on overall; I do that because there is very little analysis of what the difference in the way each story is told by the different evangelists. IOW, there’s very little of what I’m doing here. When we are fortunate enough to have more than one source for events in the Graeco-Roman world–which is almost nonexistent for Greek history, but more common for periods of Roman history–the scholarship goes through the texts line-by-line to examine and discuss the differences and what the possible implications could be. I have found nothing of the sort in biblical scholarship; if anyone can point me to it, please do so. I would love to read this kind of analysis.

Anyway, the thing is, having been reading secular and pagan historical writing and biography from this period, I can state very strongly that we are not getting historical writing in the NT. The gospels are not, and were never intended to be, history in any sense that we would recognise the concept. Biblical scholars need to read some of these sources–and not just the dozen lines in Josephus, or the three 0r four paragraphs of Tacitus that mention Jesus or Christians.

OK, let’s get on to the


12 Ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤρξατο κλίνειν: προσελθόντες δὲ οἱ δώδεκα εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ἀπόλυσον τὸν ὄχλον, ἵνα πορευθέντες εἰς τὰς κύκλῳ κώμας καὶ ἀγροὺς καταλύσωσιν καὶ εὕρωσιν ἐπισιτισμόν, ὅτι ὧδε ἐν ἐρήμῳ τόπῳ ἐσμέν.

The day began to decline; coming forward the Twelve said to him, “Send away the crowd, so that going into the surrounding villages and fields they disband and find food, since we are in a desert place. 

This is the standard setting of the scene. The disciples want to send the people away because they are in a deserted or empty place–the word can have both meanings; think t he “desert isle” on which Gilligan & company were stranded. Note the Twelve. This is the only version of the story that uses the Twelve; the others simply say “the disciples”.

12 Dies autem coeperat declinare; et accedentes Duodecim dixerunt illi: “ Dimitte turbam, ut euntes in castella villasque, quae circa sunt, divertant et inveniant escas, quia hic in loco deserto sumus ”.

13 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐκ εἰσὶν ἡμῖν πλεῖον ἢ ἄρτοι πέντε καὶ ἰχθύες δύο, εἰ μήτι πορευθέντες ἡμεῖς ἀγοράσωμεν εἰς πάντα τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον βρώματα.

14 ἦσαν γὰρ ὡσεὶ ἄνδρες πεντακισχίλιοι. εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Κατακλίνατε αὐτοὺς κλισίας [ὡσεὶ] ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα.

He said to them, “Give to them to eat”. They said, “There is not to us (dative of possession) more than five loaves and two fishes. Unless going we buy for all the people this food”. (14) For there were so many men as five thousand. He said to his disciples, “Have them recline on the grass in [so many as] fifty.”  

The specificity of this is striking. On the grass. Groups of fifty. The attention to detail is intriguing. One could argue that this level of detail indicates an eyewitness account, told by someone who had been there and seen this, especially since these details are present in the earliest version; the grass even persists through John’s telling of the story. Unfortunately for this would-be argument, the details could have been added at anytime before Mark wrote. These are the sorts of things that can–and do–get added to the tale as it’s told. Again, I keep going back to the Arthur legend, wherein the stories became more elaborate with the passing of time. This is, I believe, another example of that process, or phenomenon.

13 Ait autem ad illos: “ Vos date illis manducare ”. At illi dixerunt: “ Non sunt nobis plus quam quinque panes et duo pisces, nisi forte nos eamus et emamus in omnem hanc turbam escas”.

14 Erant enim fere viri quinque milia. Ait autem ad discipulos suos: “ Facite illos discumbere per convivia ad quinquagenos”.

15 καὶ ἐποίησαν οὕτως καὶ κατέκλιναν ἅπαντας.

16 λαβὼν δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ κατέκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ.

17 καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν πάντες, καὶ ἤρθη τὸ περισσεῦσαν αὐτοῖς κλασμάτων κόφινοι δώδεκα.

And they (the disciples) did in this way and all reclined. (16) Taking the five loaves and two fish, looking up to the sky he blessed them and broke them and gave to the disciples to set before the crowd. (17) And they ate and they were all fed, and they took up the excess from them and filled twelve baskets.

This version is truly condensed, almost to the point of being a précis. Considering that Luke did not scruple to leave out other bits of Mark, one wonders why he even bothered to include this one. My guess would be that this story was too well-known to omit; after all, John even includes it. But John does not include the Sermon on the Mount, or a lot of the other teachings of Jesus that were allegedly contained in Q. Why is that? My suspicion is that this story was seen as too much of an epitome of how Jesus was seen. And what Jesus is in this story is a wonder worker. That, I would argue, was first and foremost how Jesus was seen. John even continues the tradition with some major wonders worked by Jesus, including changing water to wine and raising Lazarus. The Gospel of John represents the final and complete melding of the wonder worker and the divine entity identities of Jesus. 

15 Et ita fecerunt et discumbere fecerunt omnes.

16 Acceptis autem quinque panibus et duobus piscibus, respexit in caelum et benedixit illis et fregit et dabat discipulis suis, ut ponerent ante turbam.

17 Et manducaverunt et saturati sunt omnes; et sublatum est, quod superfuit illis, fragmentorum cophini duodecim.

Luke Chapter 9:7-11

This next piece is even shorter. It is Luke’s version of the death of the Baptist. At five verses, it is by far the shortest version of the tale we’ve come across yet. I think it best to skip the preliminaries, save the comments for after, and get directly to the


7 Ἤκουσεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης τὰ γινόμενα πάντα, καὶ διηπόρει διὰ τὸ λέγεσθαι ὑπό τινων ὅτι Ἰωάννης ἠγέρθη ἐκ νεκρῶν,

8 ὑπό τινων δὲ ὅτι Ἠλίας ἐφάνη, ἄλλων δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.

Herod the tetrarch heard all of these occurrences, and he was unsure of himself because of the things having been said by some that John had been raised from the dead, (8) by some that Elijah had appeared, of others that some prophet of the olden (days) had stood up.

There is actually quite a bit of stuff packed into a couple of verses. The first is the title tetrarch. We did discuss this at least once before; if it’s familiar, feel free to skip this. The word literally means “ruler of a fourth” or “one of four rulers”. This is Herod Antipas, who was a son of Herod the Great. When the latter died, there was a series of disturbances among the would-be successors, so Rome stepped in more forcefully than it had previously. The Roman preference was to leave a native puppet in place to save themselves the aggravation of direct intervention and administration. Generally, this lasted a generation or two, and then for various reasons Rome felt compelled to resort to direct annexation. In the former kingdom of Herod the Great, the road to direct annexation was a process that played out through much of the First Century. One step was dividing Herod’s kingdom into four parts, splitting the rule among his sons, most of whom were also named Herod. It gets very confusing. The Herod here had Galilee as part of his domain, as well as other neighboring/surrounding areas.

Then we get a very abridged introduction to the story of John the Dunker. Note that we have John being raised from the dead, even though we haven’t been explicitly told that John is dead. We last saw John back in Chapter 3, when he had been arrested by Herod. And Luke very quickly runs through the possibilities about Jesus, ascribing them simply to “some/others said” in indirect speech. Luke is not going to dally or shilly-shally here. Perhaps the most interesting part is the mention of Elijah; one has to wonder how many of Luke’s audience would have understood the significance of Elijah (Elias in both Greek and Latin). I did not understand this until very recently, but I make no claim to be well-read in Hebrew Scriptures. Rather, I have a background that would be similar to that of many pagans of Luke’s time. This is not to say that if I’m not aware of it, no pagan could have known about Elijah, but it does indicate, I think, that a lot of pagans would not have known. First, Elijah was believed not to have died; hence, there is speculation that he has appeared (per Benson’s Commentary) when John had been raised. And it’s the passive voice; John did not rise, but some other agent did the raising. But anyway, it was believed that Elijah would return as the forerunner of the anointed one, so the coming of Elijah was a portentous thing among Jews; it was hopeful for the downtrodden but something to be feared by the rulers. 

But to get back to John for a moment. I pointed out that he was raised, just as Paul says Jesus was raised. However, when I was translating…1 Thessalonians, IIRC, I made a bit too much of the passive voice. This is relevant here, because while John was raised, it was speculated that one of the prophets from the olden days had “stood up” as I so charmingly and literally translated it. Really, it means that the prophet rose–for which “stood up” is a synonym–as in from the dead. This is not the only time this word is used for “rise from the dead”, so I have to back off from my position that Jesus was not necessarily the actor when he returned from the Great Beyond. Also, it is interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate says that John rose–surrexit, active voice–from the dead. The KJV waffles on this, coming down somewhere between the Greek and the Latin: John was risen from the dead. It’s not truly a passive; it’s a past participle.  The NASB renders this as an active: John had risen. The NIV and the ESV are faithful to the Greek, saying that John had been raised from the dead. How much does it matter? Not as much as I would have thought, given that one of the prophets of old “stood up”.

7 Audivit autem Herodes tetrarcha omnia, quae fiebant, et haesitabat, eo quod diceretur a quibusdam: “ Ioannes surrexit a mortuis ”;

8 a quibusdam vero: “ Elias apparuit ”; ab aliis autem: “ Propheta unus de antiquis surrexit ”.

9 εἶπεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης, Ἰωάννην ἐγὼ ἀπεκεφάλισα: τίς δέ ἐστιν οὗτος περὶ οὗ ἀκούω τοιαῦτα; καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν αὐτόν.


And Herod said, “I (as in, I myself, I personally; use of the pronoun adds emphasis) beheaded John. Who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to know him (Jesus).

And thus endeth the story of the death of the Baptist. “Abridged” doesn’t go nearly far enough. All the rationale for the execution is completely missing. I have to believe this is because Luke thought that the story was more than amply covered by his predecessor(s). That Luke (presumably) believed this, I think, lends support to my suggestion that Luke was aware of Matthew, but there is really no hard link between the two. Mark’s story was longer than Matthew’s version, so it could be very plausibly argued that Mark alone would have been sufficient to convince Luke that the story had been told in full. However, Matthew also provides an account nearly as long as Mark’s; surely two such tellings would have been more likely to convince Luke that the story need not be told again in full? More on this as we compare other aspects of the Triple Tradition.

9 Et ait Herodes: “ Ioannem ego decollavi; quis autem est iste, de quo audio ego talia? ”. Et quaerebat videre eum.

10 Καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν. καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς ὑπεχώρησεν κατ’ ἰδίαν εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά.

11 οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι γνόντες ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀποδεξάμενος αὐτοὺς ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ τοὺς χρείαν ἔχοντας θεραπείας ἰᾶτο.

And returning the apostles recounted to him what they had done. And taking them they went off privately to the city called Bethsaida. (11) And the crowd learning followed him, and receiving them he spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and those having need of healing, he cured.

This is minimalist to the point of ridiculous; that being said, however, it should be noted that the other two gospels are not all that much more loquacious, if they are at all. This is another clue that the idea of the “apostles” being sent out is not to be taken seriously. Someone decided that the term “apostle” didn’t make sense if they had never been sent out. So a story was created to have this happen. Unfortunately for the narrative, not a lot of detail accrued to the legend. It was created bare-bones and it got left that way. Why? Most likely because this didn’t fire anyone’s imagination sufficiently to inspire the accumulations of details. And here is also where we can get a sense of the (un)reliability of the later traditions. St Philipp, IIRC, went to India. Or wait, that was Thomas. And it gives a sense of how much later these non-canonical works were created. At a point within two generations, more or less, of Jesus we haven’t even come up with anything the least bit…interesting for any of these Twelve to have done. It took another century or more–probably significantly more–to craft some of these other tales.

As for the last bit, it sure seems a bit like it was mailed in. Luke rather just throws it in there without a lot of ado or even interest. Mark has numerous little throw-away lines like this with Jesus preaching and healing. Even there, in Mark, they feel a bit forced, sort of a more sophisticated way of saying “and so forth”. Or, “Jesus did some stuff”. In Luke this feels positively forced. That it does, and that Luke included it regardless I think speaks to the depth of the traditions that were still flowing in the popular mind. Jesus was a healer, a wonder-worker, but one who preached about the kingdom of God, which concept remains vague throughout all the gospels. That, in turn, is a good indication of how the stories that ended up in the gospels were something on the order of random. My late father-in-law called them “volunteers”, plants of the sort that are deliberately cultivated, such as flowers, that spring up of their own accord, the result of a seed landing in a fortunate spot by happenstance.

10 Et reversi apostoli narraverunt illi, quaecumque fecerunt. Et assumptis illis, secessit seorsum ad civitatem, quae vocatur Bethsaida.

11 Quod cum cognovissent turbae, secutae sunt illum. Et excepit illos et loquebatur illis de regno Dei et eos, qui cura indigebant, sanabat.

Luke Chapter 9:1-6

This chapter begins with several other stories that we’ve seen in both of the other two gospels. The first is the Sending of the Twelve. This section is very short; my intention at this point is to try to keep the sections short to minimise the length of time between posts. Lately, life has been getting in the way of hobbies, which is often the case when one has children and the holidays approach. Since this story is familiar, there’s really no need for additional introduction, so we’ll get right to the


1 Συγκαλεσάμενος δὲ τοὺς δώδεκα ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς δύναμιν καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ νόσους θεραπεύειν,

2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς κηρύσσειν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἰᾶσθαι [τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς],

3 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μηδὲν αἴρετε εἰς τὴν ὁδόν, μήτε ῥάβδον μήτε πήραν μήτε ἄρτον μήτε ἀργύριον, μήτε [ἀνὰ] δύο χιτῶνας ἔχειν.

4 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε, ἐκεῖ μένετε καὶ ἐκεῖθεν ἐξέρχεσθε.

5 καὶ ὅσοι ἂν μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξερχόμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης τὸν κονιορτὸν ἀπὸ τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν ἀποτινάσσετε εἰς μαρτύριον ἐπ’ αὐτούς.

6 ἐξερχόμενοι δὲ διήρχοντο κατὰ τὰς κώμας εὐαγγελιζόμενοι καὶ θεραπεύοντες πανταχοῦ.

Calling together the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. (2) And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal [the illnesses]. (3) And he said to them, “Do not take upon the road neither staff, nor money (lit = ‘silver‘), nor have two tunics.(4) And if you come into a home, remain there until you leave.  And however much they don’t receive you, leaving from that city, shake the dust off your feet in witness against them”. (6) Going out they passed through the villages good-message-izing and healing everyone.

This is a really condensed version of what we find in the other two gospels. For example, Luke leaves out the bit about how it will be better for Sodom & Gomorrah at the judgement day than for the town that doesn’t receive them. And Matthew had added a bit about not going to pagans, but to the lost sheep of Israel. Matthew uses this story to name the Twelve, which Mark had done much earlier in the narrative. That Matthew waited so long to my mind indicates that the Twelve were very peripheral to the story as a whole. We have noted many times that most of the Twelve are not associated with any of the stories told about Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the exceptions, but even Peter’s brother Andrew drops from sight after his calling. The same is true for Levi; he is called and sent and that’s it. Judas Iscariot, of course, will appear later. As for the rest? Nothing. Who can tell me anything about Thaddeus? Or Simon the Zealot? Or Philip and Bartholomew? Thomas doesn’t reappear until John’s gospel. And John added Nathaniel. Where did he come from? And what else is said about him? (Hint: nothing.)

OTOH, Paul does say that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. How to square that? I would still suggest that the Twelve was something created by James, brother of Jesus after the latter’s death. Thus, it was in place when Paul became an apostle, because by that time there were apostles, and Paul makes it sound like there was more than twelve of them. Remember, James was in charge of the new group for nearly thirty years–assuming that Josephus is anywhere near accurate in his story of James’ death. That’s ten times longer–an order of magnitude–than Jesus’ traditional three. James had time, and probably the incentive, to put infrastructure in place. Jesus, while a wonder worker and perhaps a decent preacher, does not seem terribly interested in creating an organization; Mohammed didn’t either, nor did the Buddha. The Twelve, and the term ‘apostle’ seem more likely to be ex-post-facto creations, when the followers of James were becoming a church, which eventually became The Church. 

Luke’s cursory treatment of this episode might suggest one of two things. The first possibility is that he placed very little significance on the episode. He did not feel compelled to tell the whole story that Mark & Matthew had told because Luke didn’t see this as an important part of Jesus’ ministry, nor to what came after. The other possibility is that he simply felt that the audience had been sufficiently instructed about the story, and so Luke didn’t feel a need to recapitulate what was already well-known. Of course, this contention is more likely if we believe that Luke was aware of Matthew. And it also approaches circularity, the true meaning of begging the question. Why did Luke shorten this story? Because he was aware of Matthew. How do we know he was aware of Matthew? Because he shortened this story. However, consider this treatment to the handling of the story of the Gerasene demonaic in the last chapter. Mark has the longest version, Matthew the shortest, and Luke is in between. The differential handling of these two stories suggests pretty clearly that Luke may have adjusted his narrative according to what the other two said. Where they both gave full accounts (as here), Luke went short. Where Mark was long and Matthew short, as in the Gerasene demonaic, Luke opted for middle ground. Of course, this is all very nice, but an argument cannot rest on a comparison of two stories. The chapter we’re looking at has more Triple Tradition pericopae; we can see how well this idea stands.

We should at least mention the powers given. I’ve been reading some of Cornelius Agrippa’s “Occult Philosophy”, and some of it in Latin. The Greek word is “dynamin”, the root of “dynamic” and “dynamite”. At its base, it means “to be able”. The Latin translation is “virtus”. Now, this latter is the root of “virtue”, but the base meaning is “power”. Hence, Agrippa talks about “virtutes”, meaning the powers of the magician. And that is how this phrase is translated in all my crib translations, and how I translated it: he gave them power and authority. It’s an interesting dichotomy. Essentially, power alone is not enough. The authority points to the idea of a cosmic hierarchy of sorts, in which God and Jesus rank above the daimones, which have not yet really become demons. But really, this is more about my enhanced grasp of the Latin than it is about what is in the text.

1 Convocatis autem Duodecim, dedit illis virtutem et potesta tem super omnia daemonia, et ut languores curarent,

2 et misit illos praedicare regnum Dei et sanare infirmos;

3 et ait ad illos: “ Nihil tuleritis in via, neque virgam neque peram neque panem neque pecuniam, neque duas tunicas habeatis.

4 Et in quamcumque domum intraveritis, ibi manete et inde exite.

5 Et quicumque non receperint vos, exeuntes de civitate illa pulverem pedum vestrorum excutite in testimonium supra illos ”.

6 Egressi autem circumibant per castella evangelizantes et curantes ubique.


Summary Luke Chapter 8

For the most part, this chapter consists of material we have found in both of the other two gospels. Ergo, and a priori, it is part of the so-called “Triple Tradition”. This gives us a chance to look at the way each of them handled each story, and see what was said and not said by whom.

There is one part of this that is unique to Luke. It’s very brief, covered in the commentary to Verses 1-3. It concerns the women who followed Jesus. Mary the Magdalene, or Mary called the Magdalene as Luke puts it, is common to all three. Or actually to all four gospels, since John mentions her as well. Luke has two unique aspects specifically about Mary M. First, we are told that Jesus expelled seven demons from her. No one else mentions this. As such, this seems to be another great example of how the story grew. I would even be willing to infer that there is a complete story behind this little tidbit, the tale of how Jesus encountered Mary and describing the specifics of her possession and the circumstances under which Jesus cured her. Luke encountered–or possibly created–this story but chose not to include the whole thing; rather, he was satisfied with adding the most important part. The existence of this additional detail, and the possible existence of the story behind it, ties in with the other thing that Luke adds to the account of Mary M. Against the other two, Luke introduces Mary M much earlier in the narrative than any of the other evangelists. In Mark and Matthew, we do not meet her until the crucifixion scene. This, in turn, ties in with something Luke omits: that Mary M and the women were followers of Jesus in Galilee, and that they had (presumably) come to Jerusalem with Jesus.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the way the character (as in, dramatis persona) of the Magdalene is developing. In 2M, she pops up only at the end, as part of the Passion narrative. I suspect she is the reason that the young man in white in the empty tomb tells Mary and the disciples to return to Galilee: she will take care of them there. I would not be surprised to learn that, in some way, responsible for the creation of the Passion narrative. By introducing her early, and hinting that there were other stories to be told about her, Luke is sort of cutting her loose from being limited to a minor role (but not really that minor, either; Jesus appeared to her first) at the end. Her role is expanding, people are making up stories about her, and she is, overall, just becoming more prominent. This is how and why she ended up a prostitute: because people made up stories. She has become more a part of the story, albeit still in a fairly peripheral fashion. She will go on to become a major figure in Roman Catholic tradition; she is so much a part of the cultural landscape that “Magdalene” is recognized by spellcheck.  However, the negative aspect of this particular part of her story was designed, in large part, to take her down a notch or two. Or three. Rather than being a financial supporter, and so someone of rank, she was downgraded to being a prostitute.

One of the other stories in the chapter is that of Jesus calming the storm. There is one aspect of this that needs to be emphasized. Much of the “argument” for Q is that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Well, in the three versions of the storm, we have a very clear example of exactly that: Luke telling the same story as Matthew. Granted, it’s a negative agreement, based on an omission, but I’d like to hear an argument for why this doesn’t count. In Mark, the terrified disciples ask Jesus, “do you not care if we are perishing?”. Matthew left this out, and so did Luke. That is an agreement between the latter two against Mark. I somehow suspect that the Q people would vehemently object to this, but then they somehow miss the fact that Matthew and Luke–against Mark–agree on Joseph and Bethlehem and the angel announcing Jesus’ coming birth and, well all of the so-called Q material. But this latter doesn’t count, for whatever reason.

Luke also radically changed the context and timing of the “who are my mother and brothers?” pericope. This–and many other such placements–amply demonstrates that Luke was not particularly particular about how he re-arranged the text of his predecessors.

There are three other stories in this chapter, and all three of them are part of the Triple Tradition. The stories are that of the Gerasene demonaics,  the Jairus/Bleeding Woman diptych, and the Parable of the Sower. Two are miracle stories and the other is a parable; however, I believe they should be considered together along with the Calming of the Storm. We touched on this latter briefly above, but it is worth a bit more examination in the way that it fits in the chapter. The Q people would have you believe that stuff like the Sermon on the Mount is the actual real, official, traces back to Jesus material of the gospels. Given that there is no evidence of Q, I find this hard to accept. Rather, I would suggest that these four stories represent the oldest stratum of material in the gospels. It only makes sense, given that they are found in Mark whereas the Sermon on the Mount is not. Plain logic suggests that the oldest gospel written is most likely to have the oldest material, but the Q people seem to disagree with this premise.

Note that three of these are miracle stories. They also share the common feature that the disciples are either more or less non-existent or only serve as stage props. They have virtually no role in the Gerasene adventure; in the story of the Bleeding Woman/Jairus they exist only so one of the disciples can say that it would be impossible to tell who it was that touched Jesus in the crowd; in the Calming of the Storm they are the witless fools scared for their lives and lacking faith. In the Parable of the Sower, their participation is to act as the straight men who ask Jesus to explain what the parable means. This sort of behaviour and portrayal fits with the overall pattern of the way Mark treats the disciples throughout his gospel; it has been retained by Matthew and Luke. Throughout this commentary, I have been highly skeptical of the Twelve, and these episodes reinforce that skepticism. Mark can barely find employment even for Peter, James, and John, while Matthew and Andrew show up for their calling. The rest are only names, with the exception of Judas who appears in the Passion Story, which was a later addition to the gospel; as such, it would seem logical that he was a later addition to the story.

All of this, in turn, indicates that these stories form the core of the earliest narrative about Jesus, or that they were among the earliest stories repeated about Jesus. It it significant that they also portray Jesus as a wonder worker in three of the four. Here we come to an interesting dichotomy. Our earliest source, Paul, says nothing of miracle performed by Jesus; indeed, he suggests that performing miracles was not an uncommon gift, along with prophesy and speaking in tongues. Nor does Paul do more than mention Jesus’ teachings. Yet, the earliest popular stories about Jesus portray him differently, as a wonder-worker who talked about the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven, or of the heavens. I would suggest that the Christ tradition of Paul is largely theological, while the wonder-worker tradition of the miracles is more popular, intended to reach more of a mass audience. These two different views of Jesus are not mutually exclusive, but neither is the overlap is not immediately obvious. For Paul, it was the Resurrection that made Jesus into the Christ, which is what made him significant. For the Mark, it was largely Jesus’ miracles that made him significant, and the miracles are strung together until sometime in Chapter 7/8/9 when Mark transitions to speaking of Jesus as the Christ. This dissection of Mark is not completely clean and not nearly as clear-cut as I may seem to be suggesting, but it is the overall pattern. If you count word occurrences, the pattern becomes pretty clear; different sets of words that represent themes, are used in the first part of the gospel than are used in the latter part.

Perhaps the aspect of this that should be most noted is that neither Matthew nor Luke radically alter this perception of Jesus in these four stories that we are discussing. Jesus and the disciples are portrayed by the latter two much as they are by Mark. This is evidence for a very strong tradition about Jesus as a wonder worker. Rather than downplay it, the gospels emphasize Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. This has led to a whole lot of discussion that the miracles are the demonstration, the proof that Jesus is divine. He can contravene the laws of nature. In this, he is really no different from earlier prophets like Elijah who also raised the dead; rather than qualitative, the difference between Jesus and these earlier prophets is quantitative. Jesus performed a lot of miracles. Even John retained (or invented) nine miracle stories. In my analysis of Mark, I said that he wove the different stories into a (mostly) coherent skein. It could also be said that he began the welding of the two traditions, wonder worker and Christ, into a single whole. Matthew and Luke continue the process, but they create a framework that puts the miracles more directly in the context of Jesus’ divinity: both Matthew and Luke start with a story of a divinely-ordained and divine birth that tells us from the start who Jesus is. Once this is established, they retain the wonder-worker tradition, but put more emphasis on the Christ. This trend is culminated by John, who starts by telling us that Jesus was the Logos, and it was with God from the beginning.

One implication of this two-fold tradition becomes manifest when it’s set out like this. While Paul may be our earliest written source, we have to ask if he represents the earlier tradition. I’m not sure that we can make that assumption, or draw that inference. That is something to be considered as we proceed.

Luke Chapter 8:19-25

My apologies for the long hiatus; I must confess that I’ve been cheating on the NT, indulging in an orgy of non-NT Greek consisting of Xenophon’s Anabasis and a Gnostic-Hermetic text called Poimandres, Shepherd of Men, or Poimandres, the Man-Shepherd. It seems to be a pretty basic text of the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of work that is comprises some foundational Gnostic texts. Sections of Poimandres (also Poemander, or even Pimander) are borderline bizarre in the generation of various entities, which I have always found a bit off-putting about a lot of Gnostic texts. The text, however, is interesting, since it acts as a mirror for the content of the NT texts that we’re reading. The date of Poimandres is conjectural, like most texts of the time. The consensus appears to put it in the second quarter of the Second Century, around the time of the Gnostic heretic Valentinius. I am not familiar with this latter author; no one is. His works were all destroyed by the neophyte Church, and everything we know about him and his teachings is derived from his orthodox attackers. One thing that is particularly interesting is the level of the development of the Gnostic elements; they seem to be largely implicit unlike the explicit Gnosticism of Gospel Thomas. Count that as another blow at the idea that Thomas was written in the First Century. But back to our story.

This is a short section; or rather, it’s two short sections. After this the tale of the Gerasene demonaic comes up, so had to cut this one short. In context, Jesus has just explained the Parable of the Sower to his disciples, and then finished with the three short aphorisms about the lamp, all things becoming manifest, and that those who have will be given more.


19 Παρεγένετο δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ μήτηρ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύναντο συντυχεῖν αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον. 

20 ἀπηγγέλη δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου ἑστήκασιν ἔξω ἰδεῖν θέλοντές σε. 

21 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μήτηρ μου καὶ ἀδελφοί μου οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀκούοντες καὶ ποιοῦντες.

And there came to hims his mother and his brothers, and they were not able to approach to him because of the crowd. (20) It was announced to him, “Your mother and your brothers stand outside wishing to see you.” (21) He, answering, said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those hearing and doing the word of God”.

This scene as presented here has been ripped so badly out of its context that it barely makes sense. In Mark, his family comes because they believe that Jesus has rather gone off the deep end. It is prefaced by the “house divided” episode, in which it is suggested that Jesus has a demon himself. Here, coming after the Parable of the Sower, it doesn’t particularly make sense. Nor is the location made specific; at the beginning of the chapter, we are simply told that he and the Twelve were going from one city and village to another. Mark located this story in Caphernaum, which made the idea of Jesus’ family coming from Nazareth seem far-fetched due to the distance (20-30 miles, IIRC) between the two towns. Matthew sort of eliminated that problem by telling us specifically that Jesus moved to Caphernaum, presumably with the rest of his family? Luke, in contrast, specifically said that Jesus did not move, pointedly locating the “prophet without honor in his home town” episode in Nazareth. Here…it’s hard to say. If Jesus’ family comes to him, we assume they cannot be too far away. Beyond that, we are not given any sense of why they came to him. He doesn’t need to be “rescued”, even if from himself as in the other two versions. So, once again, we have a great example that emphatically demonstrates Luke has no qualms whatsoever about messing with settings, locations, context, or anything else. This is completely removed from its Markan (really don’t like that term) context and placed wherever Luke chose, whether the context makes sense or not. And it doesn’t.

19 Venerunt autem ad illum mater et fratres eius, et non poterant adire ad eum prae turba.

20 Et nuntiatum est illi: “ Mater tua et fratres tui stant foris volentes te videre ”.

21 Qui respondens dixit ad eos: “ Mater mea et fratres mei hi sunt, qui verbum Dei audiunt et faciunt”.

22 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἐνέβη εἰς πλοῖον καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς λίμνης: καὶ ἀνήχθησαν.

23 πλεόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἀφύπνωσεν. καὶ κατέβη λαῖλαψ ἀνέμου εἰς τὴν λίμνην, καὶ συνεπληροῦντο καὶ ἐκινδύνευον.

24 προσελθόντες δὲ διήγειραν αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Ἐπιστάτα ἐπιστάτα, ἀπολλύμεθα. ὁ δὲ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ τῷ κλύδωνι τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἐπαύσαντο, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη.

25 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ποῦ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν; φοβηθέντες δὲ ἐθαύμασαν, λέγοντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι καὶ τοῖς ἀνέμοις ἐπιτάσσει καὶ τῷ ὕδατι, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ;

It happened one day that he and his disciples went to the boat and he said to them, “Let us go to the other shore.” And they departed. (23) They having sailed (while) he was sleeping. And there arose a furious storm of wind upon the lake, and they were taking water and endangered. (24) Coming they awakened him saying, “Get up! Get up! We are being destroyed!” He having awakened rebuked the wind and the waves of the water. And they stopped, and it was calm. (25) He said to them, “Where is your faith?” Fearing, they marveled, saying to each other, “Who indeed is this that he commands both the wind and the water and they obey him?”

A word about the vocabulary. << λαῖλαψ >> and << συνεπληροῦντο >> are unusual words in the NT. The former is found only in Luke, the latter twice in Luke and once in 1 Peter. They are not, however, terribly unusual in Classical or Hellenistic authors. So, once again, we see that Luke had a fairly high level of education, that he had a pretty good range of reading.

As for the story itself, once again we find a story completely divorced from either Mark’s or Matthew’s context. Of course, the question that Mark’s disciples ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing” is gone. It was also excised by Matthew. Obviously, this portrays the disciples in a really bad light, which raises two major questions in my mind. The first is what this tells us of Mark’s view of the disciples. Obviously, it wasn’t very flattering. Which makes me wonder how it is that so many people believe that Mark was Peter’s assistant. If Mark was Peter’s assistant, we’re up against a situation in which we have to ask, if Peter (and the other disciples) have friends like Mark, who needs enemies? I mean, seriously. There is no way that Mark wrote what he did under the auspices of Peter or any of the original disciples. Why on earth would they stand for this sort of hatchet job? This is the sort of internal evidence that seems to be wholly ignored by virtually all scholars, who opt instead for the nice tradition that Mark was the John Mark of Acts. The reason? Why attribute a book to Mark, unless he was someone important, like the John Mark of Acts. My response to this is, John Mark is famous? The question of Mark’s name, and who he was, is legitimate. The answer usually provided, IMO, is not.

Then we have to ask what this says about the triple tradition. Remember, the Q people insist that Luke did not know Matthew. So, this means that, wholly independent of each other, Matthew and Luke decided to drop that question that the found in Mark. That’s convenient. Does it not make sense, rather, that Luke followed Matthew’s lead on this? Occam’s Razor says this is the more likely explanation.

22 Factum est autem in una dierum, et ipse ascendit in navem et discipuli eius, et ait ad illos: “Transfretemus trans stagnum”. Et ascenderunt.

23 Navigantibus autem illis, obdormivit. Et descendit procella venti in stagnum, et complebantur et periclitabantur.

24 Accedentes autem suscitaverunt eum dicentes: “Praeceptor, praeceptor, perimus!”. At ille surgens increpavit ventum et tempestatem aquae, et cessaverunt, et facta est tranquillitas.

25 Dixit autem illis: “ Ubi est fides vestra? ”. Qui timentes mirati sunt dicentes ad invicem: “ Quis putas hic est, quia et ventis imperat et aquae, et oboediunt ei? ”.

Luke Chapter 8:9-18

Well, that didn’t work. This was supposed to follow hard on the heels of the previous post. That one got published in the expectation that this would follow within a day or two. Oh well. It’s the difference between being off and working.

To recap, we just had the parable of the Sower. Now we get to Jesus’ explanation of the parable. Again, this is also part of the triple tradition, found in all three Synoptic Gospels.


9 Ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τίς αὕτη εἴη ἡ παραβολή.

10 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς, ἵνα βλέποντες μὴ βλέπωσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες μὴ συνιῶσιν.

His learners asked him what this parable might be. (10) He said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; to the rest (it is given) in parables, so that seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand”.

Up until this point, the idea that Jesus chose to “teach” people in a way that will, deliberately, hinder their understanding always struck me as…odd, to say the least. Bizarre comes closer to my feeling. After all, what is the point of this? Why does one teach if one is going to hide the message To weed out those who fell among the rocks? (Pun not intended, but accepted.) To see who will come back for more instruction? And this is a legitimate question on my part. How, on what level, does this make sense?

This takes us right back to the commentary where we left off in the last section. These words serve to amplify the injunction that concluded the parable itself. The answer is, it doesn’t make sense. At least, it doesn’t make sense if the purpose is to teach everyone the method to attain that Perfect State, whether that term is defined in Christian fashion as going to heaven post mortem, or in a Gnostic sense of attaining Knowledge. That is, emphatically, not the point of the teaching. It is designed to weed out the unworthy. Why it’s designed to do that is another question, one much harder to answer without moving completely into the realm of theology. So, while it may be bizarre, that is the intent. No other answer truly makes sense.

These words go all the way back to Mark, and are retained by the other two. Matthew & Luke retain this even though it does not exactly fit with their message. It fits quite comfortably with Mark; after all, Mark is the purveyor of the theme of the “Messianic Secret”. This fits with that. It fits rather nicely with Mark as the proto-Gnostic, for whom there were secrets and mysteries that were not for hoi polloi. But even then, the fit is rather nice, but not complete. For Mark, the disciples as a group were rather a collection of ¡dullards! who did not “get it” on a number of topics, and on a number of occasions. I suppose this is meant to underscore just how thick they really were; in Mark’s narrative, this comes at the beginning of Chapter 4, when Jesus is starting his ministry in earnest. That he tells the disciples the meaning of what he says, and they still don’t get it is a pretty savage indictment of the disciples. And this is one of the reasons I do not believe that Mark was the John Mark of Acts who was Peter’s assistant. If anything, Mark was an adherent of one of Peter’s rivals for primacy in the new organization.

The other thing, if this goes all the way back to Mark, it has a much better chance of being traceable back to Jesus. At least, the parable may trace back to Jesus, even if the explanation that we have here does not. Personally, I believe it quite likely (70-75%) that the Parable of the Sower may be “Genuine Jesus (GJ™)”;I have about the same level of certainty that the Sermon on the Mount was not. At least, not in anything like the way it’s presented. I suspect that some of the aphorisms in there–particularly the ones found in Mark, like the salt–may be GJ™. While reading Mark, we discussed the possible reasons why Mark kept repeating the theme; the answer that made the most sense to me was was that he was trying to explain why most Jews remained Jews. Then, on top of that, there was the insider’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink that, we got it, but they didn’t. From there, it’s not so long of a step to reading the idea of secret doctrines into the texts, or at least the implication that there was a secret doctrine to be learned, perhaps above and beyond what the text provided. IOW, it’s a short step from here to the idea of Gnosticism, or at least to the point that Gnosticism seems to be a logical inference. Was that the point of this? Perhaps. Mark was, I believe, hinting at there being more, something that even the disciples didn’t quite get. That’s a pretty strong invitation to induce someone to want to learn what that extra something might be.

So why do Matthew and Luke retain this bit? As we’ve seen, Luke in particular is not at all shy about ditching parts of Mark. I believe that he only retains 45% (IIRC; in that neighborhood) of Mark while Matthew retained close to 80 0r 90%. The question, of course, cannot be answered, even if you are able to come up with a redactionally consistent explanation for Luke’s gospel. The most likely reason that both kept this part is probably no different for why Mark added it in the first place: to explain why most Jews, ultimately, did not become followers of Jesus. They hear, but they did not understand. That may seem like a cop-out answer, but I don’t think that question would have gone away in a few generations. In fact, it only worsened, so that by the time John wrote, the Jews were portrayed as downright hostile. 

9 Interrogabant autem eum discipuli eius, quae esset haec parabola.

10 Quibus ipse dixit: “ Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni Dei, ceteris autem in parabolis, ut videntes non videant et audientes non intellegant.

11 Ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή: Ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.

12 οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, εἶτα ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, ἵνα μὴ πιστεύσαντες σωθῶσιν.

13 οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον, καὶ οὗτοι ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν, οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται.

14 τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, καὶ ὑπὸ μεριμνῶν καὶ πλούτου καὶ ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου πορευόμενοι συμπνίγονται καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν.

15 τὸ δὲ ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἵτινες ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον κατέχουσιν καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ.

“Here is the parable. The seem is the word of God. (12) Those beside the road are those hearing, the the devil come and takes the word word from their hearts, so that lest believing, they be saved. (13) Those upon the rock are those (that) when they year with gladness they receive the word, but they do not have roots, they for a time believe and in time having been tested the stand away (from the word). (13) And that having fallen in the thorns, they are those hearing, but under thoughts of wealth and the pleasures of life going they are choked and they do not carry through to the end. (15) That which on the good soil, they are those who, hearing in a beautiful and good heart they receive and they bear fruit in abundance.” 

Perhaps the most notable part of this explanation is what is not there. Mark says that one of the reasons that some of the seed falls away is persecution and tribulation. Matthew follows. Many suspect, or interpret Mark as referring to the time of the conquest of Jerusalem. Writing after this fall, the idea of persecution or tribulation would have been fresh in the minds of most of the audience. Even for Matthew, writing fifteen years later, this whole time of troubles would have been a familiar concept. For Luke, however, we have to ask whether this would still be true. Oh sure, old timers would have remembered, and they would have told some of their kids and grandkids, but if Luke were writing somewhere other than Palestine (as it was then called) or Syria, how many would know of the Jewish War and its consequences? The number is impossible to estimate, but it’s pretty easy to put the estimate as much lower than the number during the life of Matthew, and especially the time of Mark. So why bring up a topic that would make people scratch their heads at the reference? And remember, Luke is the first of the evangelists about whom we can definitively say that he was aware of Paul, and probably at least some of Paul’s writings. Paul talked about persecution, or at least about “pressure” which is the word he most frequently used. So that Luke chose to drop this part about persecution is, I would suggest, very significant.

And not just because some fading of the urgency was due to the temporal receding of the tribulations. It also demonstrates very clearly that Luke will syncopate stories that are in the triple tradition. Luke’s is the shortest version of this story, and by a fairly sizable margin. This is the second time we’ve encountered this. At least, I thought it was. Now that I’m looking or it, I can’t find the first example. The story of the Gerasene/Gadarene demonaic is coming up, and Luke’s is not the shortest version of that pericope. This point again matters for the discussion of Luke as redactor, and what his “editorial policy” might be. It indicates that he was willing to change pretty much anything, even pieces that quite possibly originated with Jesus. As such, changing the order in Matthew’s material would not have seemed terribly radical to Luke. We saw, after all, how Luke had no qualms about moving the “prophet without honor in his home country” speech from it’s Markan context to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Here, Luke edits out some reasonably important words. This combination indicates, I believe, that Luke saw the tradition as very plastic, something to be worked rather than something to be maintained at all costs. Indeed, had he felt the latter, chances are he would not have written a gospel in the first place.

Which leads to a very interesting question. This is not one that will be found in the circles of standard NT scholarship. I’ve never seen it in Ehrman or Crossan, but my ignorance is in no way proof. I may be wrong. The question is, how did the evangelists perceive the inherited tradition? Specifically, how did they perceive the words that were supposedly uttered by Jesus? The answer to the first part, I believe, is that Matthew felt the tradition should be maintained, which is why Matthew retained so much of Mark. Luke on the other hand, had a much more fluid perception of the tradition; what’s more, I believe this attitude towards the tradition was, or was becoming prevalent. My proof for this? The Gospel of John, which pretty much jettisons most of the framework that even Luke maintained. Even more, I think that this attitude of plasticity even extended to the words of Jesus. “I am the vine, you are the branches”; “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; these are such foundation stones of Christian belief that I suspect it’s hard for most to accept that John made them up. Think about it: can we seriously expect that such beautifully-worded expressions were only retained by a single tradition, lying “dormant” as it were, until John picked them up and wrote them down? My apologies, but that is almost certainly impossible. Even by the time of Luke, the cross-fertilization of Christian (as it’s appropriate to call them) communities had reached the point that Paul was being incorporated into the body of belief, if perhaps not the written corpus quite yet–although that is certainly possible. To expect that there was still another isolated tradition that had cultivated these wonderful words that we find in John beggars the imagination. As Eliza Doolittle put it, “not bloody likely”.

After that conclusion, the question becomes one of “how far backwards did this plastic attitude extend”? Luke will make up the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; John made up the quotes mentioned above; did Mathew make up the Sermon on the Mount? I would suggest so, at least in part. But I’ve been pretty clear about that, so this opinion should come as no surprise.

11 Est autem haec parabola: Semen est verbum Dei.

12 Qui autem secus viam, sunt qui audiunt; deinde venit Diabolus et tollit verbum de corde eorum, ne credentes salvi fiant.

13 Qui autem supra petram: qui cum audierint, cum gaudio suscipiunt verbum; et hi radices non habent, qui ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recedunt.

14 Quod autem in spinis cecidit: hi sunt, qui audierunt et a sollicitudinibus et divitiis et voluptatibus vitae euntes suffocantur et non referunt fructum.

15 Quod autem in bonam terram: hi sunt, qui in corde bono et optimo audientes verbum retinent et fructum afferunt in patientia.

16 Οὐδεὶς δὲ λύχνον ἅψας καλύπτει αὐτὸν σκεύει ἢ ὑποκάτω κλίνης τίθησιν, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ λυχνίας τίθησιν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι βλέπωσιν τὸ φῶς.

17 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ φανερὸν γενήσεται, οὐδὲ ἀπόκρυφον ὃ οὐ μὴ γνωσθῇ καὶ εἰς φανερὸν ἔλθῃ.

18 βλέπετε οὖν πῶς ἀκούετε: ὃς ἂν γὰρ ἔχῃ, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ ἔχῃ, καὶ ὃ δοκεῖ ἔχειν ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

“No one lighting a lamp hides the vessel, but puts it under the bed, but in a lamp stand puts it, so that those coming towards will see the light. (17) For naught that is hidden which will not become revealed, nor secreted away which will not be known and come into the light. (18) Therefore look how you listen. For he that has, it will be given to him, and he who does have, and what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

From a literary standpoint, these three verses really have nothing to do with each other. The idea of not hiding a light really is not related to hidden things becoming manifest. Yes, it’s possible to stretch the two metaphors so they overlap, suggesting that the lighted lamp is what brings the hidden things to light, but that’s exactly what it is: a stretch. And neither has anything to do with having and not having. Here is where the Q people really miss their opportunity. Rather than blathering about Matthew’s magnificent arrangement of the material, talk about the material itself. And this sort of  aggregation of non-connected aphorisms is the best material we have for a collection of Jesus’ sayings. These are all in Mark, so they cannot be considered Q material–rather, they represent the Mark-Q overlap–but I believe there is a high likelihood that they did originate with Jesus. I would be tempted to state that probability as exceeding 50%; better-than-even, IOW. How did these sayings get passed down? They could have been part of an oral tradition, which became fixed when Mark wrote them down. Or, they could have been collected. Rather than swinging for the fences by trying to claim all Matthew/Luke material is Q, set more modest goals, ones for which an actual argument or case can be constructed.

We need to face facts. Paul almost completely ignored anything Jesus said when the latter was alive. There are a few odds and end, the implementation of the Eucharist and Jesus’ teaching on divorce, which Paul contradicts. As has been frequently pointed out, the amount of teaching in Mark is pretty minimal. The Sermon on the Mount by itself probably has close to as many words spoken by Jesus as in all of Mark. Why the sudden explosion in verbosity on the part of Jesus between the two gospels? Because Matthew discovered Q? Or because Matthew encountered a passel of sayings attributed to Jesus, so he decided a new gospel was in order? At this point, I simply don’t know. A thread of logic has not presented itself. Despite all my pontificating and blowhardiness (to coin a word) I am not completely averse to the idea per se of a collection of Jesus’ sayings existing; I am vehemently opposed to Q as it currently “exists” in the minds of its adherents. Although as I go along at the moment, willing to make concessions, I find the concessions that I’m willing to make are shrinking. The ultimate sticking point is the utter, complete, and absolute lack of any evidence for such a collection. But more on this later. What I need to do is sketch out what a logical chain of events between the death of Jesus and the writings of Mark and then Matthew would look like, the focus being on what gotten written when, and possibly why. That is no small undertaking, and will be pure speculation. Sounds like fun. 

16 Nemo autem lucernam accendens operit eam vaso aut subtus lectum ponit, sed supra candelabrum ponit, ut intrantes videant lumen.

17 Non enim est occultum, quod non manifestetur, nec absconditum, quod non cognoscatur et in palam veniat.

18 Videte ergo quomodo audiatis: qui enim habet, dabitur illi; et, quicumque non habet, etiam quod putat se habere, auferetur ab illo ”.

Luke Chapter 8:4-8

This next passage is the Parable of the Sower. The original intent was to take the whole thing, parable and explanation in a single chunk straight through. This seemed reasonable since we’ve been through it twice already, so it seemed that, barring any unexpected deviations from the other two, the content of the story should not require much comment. Indeed, since we’ve been through it a couple of times, I thought I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything new and exciting to say about this. Cooler heads have prevailed and it’s been split into Parable and then Explanation.

I determined on this course before reading the passage below; for better or for worse, that is my chosen approach. The idea is to look at these stories and passages with eyes as fresh as possible. That way, I can–with luck–not simply see what has been seen for the past several centuries. So much of NT “scholarship” is sclerotic; conventions have been settled, translations have been chosen, and words are taken for granted. This is not how scholarship should work. The text has to be mined, repeatedly. With Greek history, much of the academic debate focuses on what the text actually says; Thucydides is the best/worst example of this, and scholars continue to go over each word looking for fresh insights. And this continued contention is good. We all know about angels and baptism and salvation, so we decided, a long, very long, time ago that the evangelists used the words as we do today. This is simply and horribly wrong, a very bad method for reading any text.

So the original approach seemed all well and good; however, like so much theory, it didn’t survive contact with reality.  Some new aspects have presented themselves. Overall, what I am finding is that having Luke as the third point really allows me to define the plane in a way not possible with just a comparison between Mark and Matthew. With three texts, triangulation becomes possible. Differences between the three stand out in much sharper relief.

So, let’s not make a short passage longer and go straight to the


4 Συνιόντος δὲ ὄχλου πολλοῦ καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν ἐπιπορευομένων πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς,

5 Ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό.

6 καὶ ἕτερον κατέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν, καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα.

7 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν, καὶ συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό.

8 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν, καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασίονα. ταῦτα λέγων ἐφώνει, Ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.

A large crowd and those having traveled into the city towards him he spoke through a parable, (5) Went out a sower of seed with his seeds. And some fell upon the road, and it was trod under and the birds of the heaven ate it. (6) And other fell upon the rocks, and grew it was withered because it did not have moisture. (7) And other fell in the middle of the acanthus, and it grew and the thorns strangled it. (8) And other fell on the good soil, and grew it made fruit one hundredfold. Having said these things, he spoke “The one having ears to hear, let him hear.”

That is the basic story. The interesting thing about it is the comparison. This is the shortest version; Mark’s is the longest. IOW, this runs contrary to what I’ve been saying about how legends grow over time. This one appears to be shrinking. What’s up with that? Am I wrong? Well, more wrong than usual?

It comes down to “always” and “never”. Never say always; alway avoid never. Almost nothing about human experience is binary, yes-or-no, black-or-white. If you’ll recall, Matthew’s version of the Gerasene demoniac was also shorter than Mark’s version. What we are witnessing is, I believe, the expectation that the reader would be familiar with, or have reference to the long version available in Mark. Neither Matthew nor Luke saw the need to repeat verbatim a story that had been told elsewhere. And this gets back to the issue of “why does one write a gospel?” Or even more, “why does one write a second/third gospel?” My theory about Mark is that he wrote in reaction to the fall of Jerusalem. An important–the important–centre of the proto-Christian world had been obliterated and the traditions started to fragment, or the fragmentation was growing worse. Mark sought to step into that breach and pull some of the most important aspects of the tradition into a united source. Mostly he succeeded, and marvelously, even if the seams do show. That can’t always be helped. Mark, as I see him, was more journalist than literary figure. 

What has been eliminated, both by Matthew and Luke are some of the incidental details, like the plants withering because they lacked moisture because of the sun. Blaming the sun is a tad redundant; it can be assumed. Matthew drops some of these, Luke some more. For example, both Mark and Matthew say that the good soil yielded 100, 60, or 30. Luke leaves it at one hundred. The other two numbers don’t add that much of significance. One last point: Matthew says that Jesus left his house to begin this parable; this would mean that he had moved to Caphernaum, which Matthew states explicitly. Luke rejects this move, telling us just as explicitly that Jesus lived in Nazareth, sounding for all the world like he is correcting Matthew. So Jesus cannot leave his house and to to the seaside because Nazareth is not on the Sea of Galilee, while Caphernaum is.

Then there’s Matthew. We see that his versions of this story and the Gerasene demoniac (and probably others) are shorter than Mark’s. But we also see that his version of the Temptations of Jesus is longer than Mark’s. Why the apparent contradiction? Because it’s more apparent than contradiction. Matthew added material to Mark when he had material to add (the source of the material to be discussed separately; Q is a valid discussion). When he didn’t, he either maintained or shortened what he found in Mark. The salient point about this subtraction is why? My impulse is, as suggested above, that Matthew expected that his audience knew of Mark, and so repeating certain things was, as he knew, redundant. If this is correct, it gives us insight into Luke as well. Luke omitted parts of Matthew, as well as parts of Mark because he knew they had been covered elsewhere. So Luke provides an alternative because he knew what was in both Mark and Matthew. 

Of course, this cannot be “proven”. Almost nothing about the NT can be “proven” in any way that the hard sciences or a court of law would recognise as “proof”. This statement is true about historical research in general, especially when discussing history before the 19th Century, becoming increasingly true the farther one goes back. We can say that the NT was written of course, but we cannot with any solid confidence say when or by whom it was written. Sometime between 70 and 120 seems reasonable, but that’s a mighty big span of time, like saying something was written between 1910 and 1960. A lot of stuff happened in the interim; however, the pace of change was much slower in the ancient world. In any case, history becomes a question of which set of probabilities seems the most likely. To me, it makes more sense that Luke shortened this story as much as he did because he knew about the other two versions. Now, Luke will add material to the triple tradition (the Synoptic material, in M/M/L); see the calling of the first disciples, with the addition of the Miraculous Catch of Fish.

The other thing I’m starting to suspect about triple tradition material is that it has the most potential to be something that can trace back to Jesus. This story is a perfect example. I think there is a greater likelihood that Jesus told this parable than that he gave the Sermon on the Mount. A much greater likelihood, in fact. One of the things we have to face is the possibility that Jesus was not the teacher that we believe he was, that he didn’t give speeches like the Sermon on the Mount. We have to face the possibility that Mark’s Jesus is much closer to the real thing than Matthew’s is, and that by the time of Luke all the new stuff is pretty much fiction that we can’t use to triangulate the “truth” about the historical Jesus. Always, always, always recall that Paul said almost nothing about Jesus as a teacher, focusing almost entirely on Jesus as the Christ who had been raised from the dead. If you start from that place, the additions of Matthew and then Luke seem pretty clearly to be later additions; then, since the additions of Matthew and Luke are just that, the point of Q is largely lost.

The last injunction about letting those with eyes/ears see/understand I think gets dismissed too readily as pro-forma. I say that because I have pretty much dismissed it a pro-forma until about a minute ago. If we take this in the context of Christian thinking, perhaps it is pro-forma; however, if we look at it from a proto-Gnostic perspective, it may take on a different set of implications. It may help that I’ve been translating something called Poimandres, the Shepherd of Men/Humans. It is now classified as a Gnostic text, and it probably dates to the mid Second Century, perhaps eight or nine decades after Mark. I mention this because there are several strains of thought that have become explicit in that text that were only implicit in Mark. It’s also interesting to note that this was taken as a legitimate bit of Christian writing for a while; obviously, it never made the cut to canonical status, but a number of Second and possibly even Third Century Christian thinkers accepted it as orthodox. The injunctions that Jesus speaks are eminently Gnostic in approach; or perhaps better to say they were taken up wholly by later Gnostics. What are they, after all, but admonitions to learn, actually to see what is before us, and to understand what we hear. The technical term for this is “paying attention”, or perhaps “learning”.  And what do we learn? Knowledge. And what does Gnosis mean? Knowledge. 

Now in a strictly Christian setting, these injunctions can be explained in completely orthodox fashion. After all, “Narrow is the gate” that leads to the kingdom. Not all will make it. Some would, and have, said that most, in fact, will not make it through the gate. Why? Because they did not learn the lessons Jesus taught them. They did not actually see, nor did they understand what they heard. So Jesus’ words here watered what became two very different traditions; or are they so different? That is the point I’m trying to make here. A shade here, a shade there, and two can start from the same point–let him with ears understand–and end up in rather different places, whether the kingdom of God or Enlightenment, for want of a better term. And then we have additional implications. The message of  the Gospel of Thomas is very clearly Gnostic, rather than Christian. Regarding this, it must be kept in mind that this separation really did not exist in the First Century; it only came into being in the Second. And here is where historical training pays off, because it looks at concepts diachronically, through time and as they develop. Textual analysis tends not to pay attention to this development through time of the content of the text. This is why I do not, and cannot, accept a date in the First Century for the Gospel of Thomas; this is has implications for Q; The discovery of Thomas was seen as a huge victory for the Q position, since it demonstrated the existence of a sayings gospel of the sort that Q was purported to be. By pushing the date of Thomas back to the 50s of the First Century, it could be claimed that Thomas proved that a gospel like Q could have existed in the 50s; it showed that the first gospels were, in fact, sayings gospels rather than narrative gospels like Mark. Unfortunately for the Q position, a date anywhere in the First Century for Thomas is unsustainable on the grounds of content. Just as the Q proponents ignore the content of stories–does the healing of the centurion’s slave really fit in the 30s?–so they ignore the content of Thomas when assigning dates–is such a fully developed Gnostic attitude possible in the First Century? In my opinion, the answer to both is “No”. A resounding “No”.

4 Cum autem turba plurima conveniret, et de singulis civitatibus properarent ad eum, dixit per similitudinem:

5 “Exiit, qui seminat, seminare semen suum. Et dum seminat ipse, aliud cecidit secus viam et conculcatum est, et volucres caeli comederunt illud.

6 Et aliud cecidit super petram et natum aruit, quia non habebat umorem.

7 Et aliud cecidit inter spinas, et simul exortae spinae suffocaverunt illud.

8 Et aliud cecidit in terram bonam et ortum fecit fructum centuplum”. Haec dicens clamabat: “Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat”.