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Summary Luke Chapter 7

The chapter is comprised of four separate stories. The first is that of Jesus healing the centurion’s slave; the second is Jesus raising the man in the town of Nain; third is Jesus talking to the disciples of the Baptist; fourth is the story of the woman anointing Jesus with the costly ointment. The first two are miracle stories, the second two are more difficult to classify. One of the miracle stories was in Matthew, but the Widow of Nain was not. The last two were both in Matthew, and the fourth was in Mark as well. So half of them are Q material, one is unique, and one is in all four gospels. Aside from the first two, there is no real thematic unity–at least, none that I can discern. The first has the closest analogue to a story in another gospel; the second and the fourth are unique and offer radically different takes on its counterparts in other gospels, respectively.

That breakdown was another attempt to find some sort of underlying connexion. It failed. Perhaps the common thread is how they reflect upon the likelihood of Q. Regardless of anything else, the four stories help point out the “building block” nature of the gospel stories. Each is pretty much an independent unit. They can be strung together in different ways without really affecting the overall impact of the gospel. Yes, some have to preceded others, but these prerequisites are truly few and far between.

The story of the centurion’s servant is very similar to that in Matthew. There are two different elements. The first is the addition of Jewish elders who act as character references for the centurion. They assure Jesus of the man’s good actions towards Jews. Just how curious this addition is didn’t really occur to me while discussing the story. When discussing the story in Matthew, I made what seemed like a fairly obvious point about this story representing the transition from Jewish to non-Jewish followers of Jesus. Non-Jews get exactly one reference in Mark, the Syro-Phoenician woman. They crop up a bit more frequently after that, often accompanied by Jesus proclamations that the House of Israel does not have such faith. So why go back to the Jewish elders? This question is especially pertinent since the story is about how Jews are being superseded by pagans. While this is a relevant question, I’m not sure I have a relevant answer. It may be a reference to the God-fearers; pagans who studied and prayed at synagogues without actually becoming Jews. Matthew may have been such a pagan. Perhaps the most obvious reason for including this is to tie the centurion to this tradition; to indicate that the man was not someone who found religion when he needed it to save the life of his slave, but someone who had spent time with the Jews, who admired them, who supported them. The thing to remember, is that the addition of this detail is for the benefit of the audience rather than for Jesus. That should go without saying.

The other change, which may actually be the more significant, is that Luke first refers to the slave as a doulos, and only later uses the term pais. Matthew used the latter term exclusively. Why? Why does the change matter? Now, that seemingly innocuous question is actually loaded; calling it a ‘change’ implies that Matthew has the original version and that Luke altered Matthew’s original word. One really must be careful about wording. The correct question is whether the difference is significant. A hint at the answer can be inferred from the caveat about wording: did Matthew create the story? Or did he at least write it for the first time? Or did Matthew and Luke both find the story in Q? If so, which word did Q use? Did Matthew change it, or did Luke? If the former, why? To add the extra level of concern felt by the centurion? That makes sense. If Luke changed it from pais to doulos, again the question is why? To remove the ambiguity in the term? This explanation would make sense, whether the term came from Matthew or from Q. Does either scenario seem more likely than the other? My sense is that it makes more sense to assume that Luke made the change to remove the ambiguity, but it could just as easily go the other way. The more common word for child, especially for a son, is either teknos or uios. It is the latter word that Jesus always uses when referring to the Son of Man, or the Son of God.

However, looking at the word pais as used in the Synoptics, we see that it was never used by Mark. Luke and Matthew both use the term to refer to a slave or to a child. Notably, Luke uses this word to describe the “child Jesus” who was left in Jerusalem when he was twelve. Given this, I would suggest that it is more likely that Luke changed the word from pais to doulos. He had used the former to refer to a child, so it would make sense that he would want to clear up the ambiguity by stating forthwith that it was a slave being discussed.

Given that, the question becomes the source; who used pais in the first place? My suggestion is, once again, to look at the word itself, and to decide who would be most likely to use the word pais. I would suggest that the term implies a high degree of comfort with the Greek language, and a keen sense for deriving proper meaning from context. The most likely candidate here would be Matthew. I keep returning to the author of Q: who was it? And to the age of Q: was it written in the 30s or 40s? If so, how likely is it that the author would have had the degree of comfort with Greek that Matthew had later? Let’s think about this for a moment: Jesus is talking to a Roman soldier. What language did they speak? Just because he was in the Roman army at this time doesn’t mean the centurion spoke Latin; one might suppose that, since he was stationed in the East, he spoke Greek, but that is not necessarily true. Legions were moved, but Greek is the most likely language that the centurion spoke. If he were a native of Syria, he may have spoken Aramaic, but that’s not a given either. Or, the elders of the Jews may have interpreted. One hopes this indicates the difficulties we’re facing here in our attempted reconstruction. It doesn’t work out very well in the details. Assuming it did take place, chances are it was repeated in Aramaic before being set down in Greek. Which brings us back to the question of whether a follower of Jesus in the 40s had enough proficiency with Greek to write the story in the first place, or to use the term pais when slave was the underlying word. My answer is “probably not”.

All of this, however, is a bit of a fool’s errand. The most likely scenario is that the conversation simply never took place. In which case, the story was written later. Since it’s not in Mark, I would suggest that it was written after him.  We’ve discussed several times that the inten of this story is to explain why the Jews got left behind. There is no indication in Paul that Jesus ever preached to pagans; in fact, Galatians and 1 Thessalonians seem to indicate quite clearly that the idea of preaching to pagans was a fairly new concept, or undertaking, when Paul started doing it. We know that Jews were hostile towards the new movement, and that by the time John wrote the fourth gospel, the split between the sects was pretty much set and irrevocable. So it makes sense to infer that the transition to a pagan movement was well underway by the 70s and was likely almost complete by the 80s. This state of affairs would require some explanation to the audience, so stories like the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite, in Matthew) and this one were added. Given the confluence of circumstances, I would suggest that this story was most likely created by Matthew himself. There is, I firmly believe, altogether too much crediting of some undefined “oral tradition” and not nearly enough credit given to the evangelists themselves. I would suggest the use of pais indicates someone very comfortable in Greek, and Matthew fits that bill nicely. And I would further suggest that Luke amended the first use of pais to doulos to help clarify the situation. Therefore, we have another (?) example of Luke following Matthew if only to “correct” him.

The story of the Widow of Nain and her dead son is unique to Luke. In the commentary, I had suggested he used this to replace the story of Jairus’ daughter. Oops. My bad. The story of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman are in Luke. My apologies for missing that and I’ve gone back and edited the commentary on this section to reflect that. In any case, the questions for this story are “why was it added?” and “where did it come from?” Taking the second one first as it seems to be more easily answered. Contrary to what I said above about the evangelists not getting due credit for creativity, I believe that here we are dealing with something that Luke got from oral tradition. The setting of Nain is the reason. It lies very much outside the orbit of the territory Jesus habituated. Luke probably was not aware of this, so he has Jesus getting there the day after curing the centurion’s slave. Nain and Caphernaum are about thirty miles distant, which makes it unlikely that Jesus got between the two in a single day. Plus, Nain is a very obscure place as far as the Bible is concerned, so chances are Luke would not have encountered the name in his reading of HS or earlier parts of the NT. More likely, followers of Jesus from Nain–or the surrounding countryside–started telling the story as a way to include this town in the narrative of Jesus’ life.

This thesis is supported in several different ways. Some of these ways will help answer the first question above about why it was included by Luke. As discussed in the commentary, the circumstances of this raising are much, very much more elevated and dramatic than they were with Jairus’ daughter. The dead man was being carried out for burial, so he had been dead for some time, unlike the girl who had only died while Jesus was going to the house. Second, he was the only son of a widow; the loss of her son would have left her destitute, very much unlike the circumstances of Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. This increased drama, and the inclusion of a heretofore unmentioned town, together with this story only occurring in Luke all tell me the story is a later addition to the corpus. Again, go back to King Arthur. It is very likely that he wasn’t a king, but a dux, a war-leader. He later became elevated to king. As the legend grew, the number of characters grew, and so did the exploits of Arthur and these later-added knights. Percivale was a much later addition; he’s in Mallory because Mallory wrote after the creation of Parzifal by Wolfram von Eischenbach. So this story was encountered only by the later evangelist. Also, IMO, this story does not have the polished literary quality of the stories that I do believe Luke wrote, such as the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan. This feels much more basic. All-in-all, I believe that this cluster of circumstances point to it being encountered via the oral tradition. Luke included it because he liked the way it increased the dramatic tension of Jesus raising someone from the dead. There was no doubt in this case.

Now that we’ve gone all through that, it only now dawns on me that this is the highlight of the chapter, the most important story, and by a lot. Jesus has power over death. If that’s not divine power, nothing is. Death is the ultimate enemy of mortals, so to vanquish death is to raise humans to a new level. Here’s the thing, however. We have no hints that we’re dealing with anything other than standard physical death. We haven’t spoken about The Life, and there have only been a few allusions to the kingdom, most of them repetitions of things said in the other two gospels. And I’ve begun to see a two-step process that we’ve seen operating in 2M, especially in Mark. It has to do with the verb “to save”, and whether it means save a physical life (as a lifeguard at the beach), or the immortal soul. The first step is the physical life, and most of the instances in Mark, and many in Matthew, use “to save” in this manner. Luke has talked about neither saving nor the soul, whether psyche or pneuma. These are terms and concepts that we will have to watch. I’m still hazy on how this all works, based solely on the gospel texts that we’ve read. One reason I started doing this translation was to come to better grips with what came from Paul and what came from the gospels. So far, it still feels like most of what we believe as far as salvation and/or entering the kingdom comes from Paul.

So too with the story about the disciples of John. I also believe this was part of the oral tradition rather than the creation of Matthew. As mentioned, this story is internally inconsistent with aspects of the stories of Jesus being baptised as told by both Matthew and Luke. In the former, John demurs–or tries to–from baptising Jesus. John says Jesus should baptise him. Since John obviously knew who Jesus was, why send disciples to ask Jesus if he is “the one?” This pretty clearly indicates an outside provenance for this story. In the same way Luke made John into Jesus’ first cousin. More, in utero, John leapt for joy when Mary came to visit his mother. So again we have an internal inconsistency that is difficult to explain except by positing that the story came from a third source. Yes, this would fit very nicely with Q. Sort of. Once again we run into Q supposedly being a sayings gospel, but, when needed, all this other stuff keeps getting thrown in. To me, this story does not entirely fit the mold of a true sayings gospel, like that of Thomas.

Regardless, the upshot is that we have two stories that may have come from the oral tradition. At least, I firmly believe they came from a source other than the evangelists themselves.

Finally, we have the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the costly ointment. This is one of the few stories that appears in all four gospels. However, the version here is very different from the other three, which are all pretty much of a piece. We discussed the issue that there is absolutely no reason to identify this woman with Mary Magdalene at some length in the commentary. That identification is flat wrong, in my opinion, the product of later tradition that deliberately sought to downgrade her status in the early church. We will discuss her more as she appears in the narrative. And that Luke does not identify this woman as the Magdalene, IMO, is very strong evidence that the connexion should not be made.

Where Luke’s account differs is in the discussion that follows the event. This discussion is, to some extent, dependent on the change of scene for the event; rather than being at the house of Simon the Leper, as in Mark and Matthew, it is in the house of a Pharisee, whom we later learn is named Simon. I believe the choice of name was deliberate, rather than the result of “editorial fatigue”. I believe Luke chose to retain the name as a means of tying this back to the original stories, because it is here that Luke goes off on his particular tangent. Rather than a discussion with the disciples about how the poor will always be with us, it is a discussion with the Pharisee. And the topic is about the forgiveness of sins. Since the woman is called a sinner by Simon, from which we are to infer she is a prostitute, Jesus provides an ad hoc (and unique) parable about two debtors, and how the one who had the larger debt waived would be the more grateful. Just so, since this woman is such a big sinner, she will be all the more grateful that her sins will be forgiven than will the upright and uptight Simon the Pharisee. This is a very interesting turn from the other versions of the story. The question, of course, becomes ‘why did he do this?’ Why indeed.

One impulse is to say that 2M covered the story so well that Luke wanted to put a different spin on it. I think this makes sense, but it’s a bit circular. And there are plenty of other stories where Luke just goes along with the pack. Given that, the question becomes, why did he change this story? There is a extra level of problem here, since Luke is supposedly so very focused on the poor. So why change the moral of the story away from the poor? Of course, there is no answer to this. There is nothing to offer that is both redactionally consistent with Luke’s editorial policy and that is not simply speculations on literary tastes and themes. As for Luke and the poor, I’ve seen no real indication of this, aside from changing Matthew’s “poor in spirit” to “poor”. Other than that, nothing has jumped out at me. There is the story of Dives and Lazarus coming up, but other than that, nothing comes to mind. And sneaking a peak at Strong’s words, I see nine occurrences of some form of ptōchēs, which is hardly a staggering amount. And two of those are the word repeated twice in two passages, it’s use in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. This accounts for 33.33% of uses. So yeah, Luke missed a golden opportunity to talk about the poor here. Or–here’s a thought–is that why he changed it? Because he didn’t care for the attitude of “the poor will always be with you”? Did he find that sentiment a bit too cavalier, especially coming from Jesus? So he chose to talk about sinners instead?  Another glance at Strong shows that he actually talks about sinners about twice as often as the poor.

Overall, there is no overall summary. The chapter is divided into four stories, if not quite in quarters. The message in the second story outweighs the messages of the other three combined.

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Luke Chapter 7:40-50

This actually is part of the previous story, a continuation of the woman who anointed Jesus. He is dining at the house of a Pharisee. After the woman anointed Jesus, the Pharisee became put out because of the sort of woman she was, and if Jesus was a prophet, he would have known this and avoided her. However, the Pharisee didn’t actually say this, but merely thought it. So to avoid any spoilers, let’s move on to the

Text

40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Σίμων, ἔχω σοί τι εἰπεῖν. ὁ δέ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπέ, φησίν. 

Answering, Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you”. But he (Simon) said, “Teacher, speak it.” 

First, commend my restraint for not making a Simon Says joke. Second, this is the first time we get the Pharisee’s name. What is interesting is that in the 2M versions of this story, this event takes place at the home of Simon the Leper. Luke, in contrast, placed it in the home of an unknown Pharisee. Now, he’s suddenly–and suspiciously–given the name of Simon. Coincidence? You decide. All of the proper biblical scholars will jump on this as a great example of “editorial fatigue”, that phenomenon when a later editor starts out to change the circumstances (some of them, anyway) of a story and starts out doing so. But then, some part of the way through, the task of changing details becomes ever so tiresome and the editor slips back into the circumstances found in the original version. My thought on this concept has tended towards…really? It’s that hard? But the we run into this and it gives pause. The question of course, is whether Luke just decided to call him Simon because…Why not? The thing is, Jesus did not have a discussion with Simon in either of the other versions. The dinner took place in his home, but Jesus had the discussion about the propriety of the action with the disciples. I would guess that this is not so much fatigue as Luke deciding to use the name Simon to connect back to those earlier versions. We have seen Luke do things like this: find the unusual word and repeat it three times in two verses, or choose to echo Matthew, to dance all around Matthew’s narrative without ever quite mentioning it. This just feels like something Luke would do here, to throw it back to M&M while never citing them directly.

The third thing is that Jesus is in another of those situations in which he can read minds. The interesting thing is that he does this most often with the mind of a Pharisee. It’s not always a Pharisee; just most cases. This goes all the way back to Mark when they are muttering to themselves about Jesus’ actions in the synagogues. Just something I noticed. As for the mind reading, it’s clearly Jesus being a divine being. By this point, this trait has become rather commonplace for Jesus in these narratives.

40 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illum: “ Simon, habeo tibi aliquid dicere ”. At ille ait: “Magister, dic”.

41 δύο χρεοφειλέται ἦσαν δανιστῇ τινι: ὁ εἷς ὤφειλεν δηνάρια πεντακόσια, ὁ δὲ ἕτερος πεντήκοντα.

42 μὴ ἐχόντων αὐτῶν ἀποδοῦναι ἀμφοτέροις ἐχαρίσατο. τίς οὖν αὐτῶν πλεῖον ἀγαπήσει αὐτόν;

43 ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν,Ὑπολαμβάνω ὅτι ᾧ τὸ πλεῖον ἐχαρίσατο. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἔκρινας.

44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς ἐξέμαξεν.

45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.

46 ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας: αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου.

47 οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγον ἀγαπᾷ.

48 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.

49 καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;

50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

Two debtors owed to a certain money lender; the first owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. (42) They not having to give back, he graced both. So which of them loved him (the creditor) more? (43) Answering, Simon said, “I would undertake that the one owing more. He (Jesus) said to him, “You have answered straight”. (44) And turning to the woman he (Jesus) said to Simon, “Look at this woman. I have come to your home, water to me upon the feet you did not give. She with tears washed my feet, and with her hair dried them. (45) You did not give me a kiss; she has from which (i.e., the time/hour which) I came has not stopped kissing my feet. (47) You did not anoint my head with oil. She has anointed my feet with ointment. (47) Of which grace I tell you her many sins have been taken away, that she will love much. To whom little has been taken, loves a little. (48) I say to her, ‘your sins are forgiven’.” (49) And those seated around began to say among themselves, “Who is he who also to take away sins?” (50) He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”.

With this ending, the story now offers a radically different message than it did in 2M, or than it will in John. It is not at all about the poor, nor is it about Jesus’ impending death. Neither of these are mentioned, and neither plays any role in the moral, or the lesson, or the purpose of the tale. Rather, Luke has transformed it into a tale about the way Jesus was–or, more properly, was not–accepted by “polite” Jewish society. It also explains why we are in the home of a Pharisee, and not of a former leper; the former is an intrinsic member of that “polite society” whereas a leper would  not have been. I have no idea what the status of a healed/cleansed leper would have been, because I have the understanding that such cleansing/healing did not happen very often; as such, rules would not have formed on how to deal with the situation. But there were rules about how a member of polite society should accept a guest, just as there are today. Novels of upper crust society written in the 19th Century are replete with such rules; read enough of this fiction and one could become sufficiently competent to fulfill them. On the other hand, I don’t know enough about these rules to judge whether what Jesus describes the actions that Simon did not do were actually standard practice.

The good news is that we don’t have to know to effect a judgement on the intent of the story. Jesus provides rules and, presumably, those hearing the story may not have necessarily been sufficiently versed to know that Simon had violated social protocol, but, to the average listener, these rules seem sufficiently reasonable, or logical, to be accepted under the conditions of a “willing suspension of disbelief”.  Jesus gives the rules, points out that Simon did not follow them, but the woman did. That’s enough; this is not history, or even historical fiction. It’s myth and/or hagiography. These stories operate under their own rules. That’s all we need. This reminds me of one of the books written by JD Crossan, The Historical Jesus (IIRC), in which he seeks to recreate the society of Jesus by analogy to other traditional societies in the Mediterranean, not all of them necessarily contemporaneous with Jesus. I did not find this book terribly convincing, but the point here is that it does not matter. This “pericope” is not “based on a true story”, and it doesn’t depend on whether Simon violated polite practice. None of that matters.

What does matter is that, in this version, Jesus was not treated as someone who was treated as a full member of “society” (as Tolstoy used the term in Anna Karenina), whatever the actual rules were. In contrast, a woman, a “sinner”, an outcast from society regardless of whether she was a prostitute did fulfill the rules of welcome and acceptance. To her, Jesus was an esteemed guest to be received with full–more than full–honors. Of course, the episode is a metaphor, or symbolic of the rejection of Jesus by most Jews. Perhaps by the time Mark wrote, and certainly by the time Matthew wrote, the followers of Jesus were mostly pagans, and both of the previous evangelists were at some pains to explain why. Luke, I think, is doing that here. This is likely why he changed the dinner host from an erstwhile leper to a Pharisee, to show how polite Jewish society had not embraced Jesus and his teachings. This is not entirely the first time Luke has done this; the first time occurred very early in Jesus’ career, when he went back to Nazareth in Chapter 3. At the time we (or I) wondered why Luke changed the timing of the story as he had. Now I think we (or I) know: that was more than just to show that Jesus had not been accepted in his home town. The story was meant to have wider implications. Not only was Jesus not accepted in Nazareth, but in Galilee and Judea as a whole.

44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆςἐξέμαξεν.

45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας. 46ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας:αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου. 47οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγονἀγαπᾷ. 48εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. 49καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;50εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

Here, too, we see the literary quality of Luke. He arranges his pieces deliberately. He set this scene up in Chapter 3 and then drove home the point here. Mark’s gospel is purely episodic; many, many verses start with “and…” Matthew is mostly so, but with long–or longer–interludes of teaching, such as the three-point-five chapters containing the Sermon on the Mount. Luke is much less so, and John will culminate this trend with his unitary, thematic gospel. Of course this ties back in with Q; Luke takes entirely a different approach to his gospel than even Matthew. The second gospel written mainly preserved Mark’s framework while adding long–or longer–sections of teaching. Luke, in contrast, re-thinks the entire process to create a more literary gospel, one more closely resembling a novel rather than something vaguely like a biographical essay. 

41 “Duo debitores erant cuidam feneratori: unus debebat denarios quingentos, alius quinquaginta.

42 Non habentibus illis, unde redderent, donavit utrisque. Quis ergo eorum plus diliget eum? ”.

43 Respondens Simon dixit: “ Aestimo quia is, cui plus donavit ”. At ille dixit ei: “ Recte iudicasti ”.

44 Et conversus ad mulierem, dixit Simoni: “ Vides hanc mulierem? Intravi in domum tuam: aquam pedibus meis non dedisti; haec autem lacrimis rigavit pedes meos et capillis suis tersit.

45 Osculum mihi non dedisti; haec autem, ex quo intravi, non cessavit osculari pedes meos.

46 Oleo caput meum non unxisti; haec autem unguento unxit pedes meos.

47 Propter quod dico tibi: Remissa sunt peccata eius multa, quoniam dilexit multum; cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit ”.

48 Dixit autem ad illam: “Remissa sunt peccata tua”.

49 Et coeperunt, qui simul accumbebant, dicere intra se: “Quis est hic, qui etiam peccata dimittit?”.

50 Dixit autem ad mulierem: “ Fides tua te salvam fecit; vade in pace! ”.

 

Luke Chapter 7:36-39

At the end of the last section, we left Jesus talking about the children of wisdom, or perhaps of Sophia. One thing I neglected to mention is that Sophia wasn’t exclusively, or wasn’t originally, a Gnostic concept. It had roots in Judaism as well as Greek thought. So many of the ideas and concepts of a religious  nature kept floating around in the eastern Mediterranean in particular, combining and recombining and mutating that it gets to be very difficult to untangle the skein and figure out who thought of it first, who influenced whom, etc.

In any case, we’re coming into the story of the woman with the perfume who anointed Jesus. This is part of the Triple Tradition, so it shows up in all three Synoptic gospels. I made this point in the discussion of the story when we came across it in Matthew, but it bears repeating: in none of the three versions is the woman ever identified by name. In particular, she is never identified as Mary Magdalene. And yet, tradition has come to identify the anointing woman with the Magdalene. This is a very, very strong cautionary tale about the value of tradition. Pappias said this, Eusebios said that, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark of Acts who was the associate of Peter…all these things get asserted without any real–or even tenuous–evidence. We have the bald word of the later writer, and sometimes the assertions are only preserved because it was quoted by an even later author. I read a bunch of Eusebios, and I was not at all impressed. He was a contemporary of Constantine, who set about creating more or less the Official History of the Church. This was the Authorized Version, published after Christianity had come out from the shadows and become the religion of the Emperor. I don’t find such a chain of evidence terribly convincing.

So there is absolutely no reason to  assume this woman is Mary Magdalene. But wait, there’s more. At the end of the passage, we are told that the woman was a “sinner”…On second thought, let’s leave that for the commentary at the end. For now, let’s get into the

Text

36 Ἠρώτα δέ τις αὐτὸν τῶν Φαρισαίων ἵνα φάγῃ μετ’ αὐτοῦ: καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Φαρισαίου κατεκλίθη.

Some one of the Pharisees asked in order that he (Jesus) might eat with him (the Pharisee). And coming into the house of the Pharisee, he reclined.

Quick note: “reclined” became synonymous with “eating”, since one reclined on couches to eat.

36 Rogabat autem illum quidam de pharisaeis, ut manducaret cum illo; et ingressus domum pharisaei discubuit.

37 καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ ἥτις ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἁμαρτωλός, καὶ ἐπιγνοῦσα ὅτι κατάκειται ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ Φαρισαίου, κομίσασα ἀλάβαστρον μύρου

38 καὶ στᾶσα ὀπίσω παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ κλαίουσα, τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν, καὶ κατεφίλει τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ.

39 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Φαρισαῖος ὁ καλέσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Οὗτος εἰ ἦν προφήτης, ἐγίνωσκεν ἂν τίς καὶ ποταπὴ ἡ γυνὴ ἥτις ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν.

And look, some woman, a sinner in the city, and knowing that he reclined in the house of the Pharisee, having carried an alabaster jar of ointment (38) and standing behind by his feet weeping, her tears began to wash his feet and with the hair of her head wiped, and kissed his feet and anointed with the ointment. (39) Seeing the Pharisee calling him said to himself, “This is (as) if he were a prophet, he knew (would have known) of what sort this woman (is who) touches him, that she is a sinner.”

We are told twice that she is a “sinner”. We are, I suppose, to infer from this that she was a special kind of sinner, which implies, I suppose, a prostitute. At least, I suppose that is what we are supposed to suppose. The later tradition has not only identified the Magdalene with this woman, and that Mary M has become a prostitute in the same tradition. This passage is the only possible biblical basis for this later tradition. And it conflates prostitution, the Magdalene, and the anointing of Jesus, when in fact there is no reason to believe this woman was Mary Magdalene. And Luke is the only version that emphasizes that she was a “sinner”, just as Luke is the only one to tell us that Jesus cured Mary M of seven demons. 

This very nicely a couple of the points I’ve been making throughout this effort. The first is that stories grow. I’ve made repeated references, allusions, and comparisons to the legend of King Arthur. There is a general consensus that Arthur, in some form, did exist as a living man. There is universal consensus that virtually all the rest is later invention. Hence Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, the Round Table, the Holy Grail, Percival, Gawaine, and all the rest are the creations of later poets. The story grew with time. And so here we have Mary Magdalene. In one of the previous commentaries I speculated that she was a financial supporter of Jesus from Galilee. She arrives in Mark only in the Passion Narrative, and then she is prominent in the Resurrection story. In Matthew, this includes the disciples returning to Galilee, which I would posit indicates the influence of Mary. (As an aside, Wikipedia says that there are two places in Galilee that were named, or could have been named, Magdala; both cites come from the HS, and Matthew mentions a place that has been transliterated as Magdala and as Magadan. The point is, they are all in Galilee.) We are all much too familiar with the way women were excised from the canonical NT; Paul in particular mentions several women who seemed to take leading roles in various communities. As a result, leaving the Magdalene in a role of prominence did not suit the ideas of the patristic fathers, so Mary had to be downgraded. But this tradition of Mary grew in a different way, too, the culmination of which was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code; however, it should be noted that this rumour of Mary’s relationship to Jesus predates Mr Brown by numerous centuries.

The second point this demonstrates is just how unreliable the later tradition can be. And if it can be this unreliable, it probably is unreliable. Bear in mind that Pappias had no evidence that Mark the Evangelist was John Mark of Acts. The way this latter inference was drawn is pretty much identical to the way the inference about this woman and the Magdalene was drawn. This woman is in all three gospels, but is named in none of them. Yet, Jesus says (in Mark and Matthew, anyway), that her deed will be remembered as long as Jesus is remembered. And yet, the performer of the deed has disappeared. But we have Mary Magdalene floating about at loose ends, so let’s connect the dots, whether making this connexion is warranted or not. Just so, we have a gospel attributed to Mark. Who the hell was Mark? Oh wait, there’s a guy who is named–sort of–Mark in Acts; ergo, they must be the same person. This conclusion was made despite the fact that, while Mark supposedly recorded for Peter, the “upon this rock” quote is missing, as is most of what Jesus supposedly taught, plus that Mark’s Peter is a dullard at best. With a friend like Mark, Peter certainly didn’t need any enemies. So we see the danger, the great danger, of relying on anything the later tradition said. Just based on probability, some of the points of the tradition may have gotten some things correct, but which things? Since we have no real way to know which traditions are reliable, we have to look–very carefully–at the internal evidence of the texts to see which traditions can be seen to be internally consistent. Mark = John Mark fails this test of internal consistency, in my opinion, anyway. You have one tenuous connexion of names vs. several points which seem to invalidate that connexion; this implies failure. And we have three versions of this story, and the woman is not named in any of them, and she is only–possibly–identified as a prostitute in one of them. So based on this lack of supporting evidence, plus the fact that Mary does not appear until the Passion, indicates, in my opinion, that this woman was not Mary the Magdalene,

This version of the story is also very interesting from another perspective. Matthew followed Mark’s version very closely, whereas Luke cut out about half of the story, but adds the detail about the woman being a prostitute. What are the implications? I would suggest that Luke did not feel the need to repeat the story in full because there were already two versions of the story that said pretty much the same thing. Why go over such well-trodden ground again? Here we see that Luke was not afraid to change or edit Mark; why do we suppose he would have been reluctant to change or edit Matthew? Yes, this goes back to Q, and all the ridiculous questions of “Why, on earth, would Luke change Matthew?” Why indeed? The answer to this question, which is always posed as some unsolvable conundrum, continues to be very simple: because if Luke simply followed Matthew, he’d simply be re-writing Matthew. And it is said, over and over again, how Luke situates his stories (his pericopae) differently than Matthew. Well, here he’s located it in a very different place from Mark as well. In the other two versions, this event occurs just before the Last Supper, in the final week of Jesus’ life. Here it’s well before that. So if he’s not afraid to mess with Mark’s placement, why the faux puzzlement about messing with Matthew’s placement? This staring askance at Luke’s outrageous behavior is simply a rhetorical dodge, something that the Q proponents resort to because they don’t have a legitimate case to make. And let’s recall that Luke also moved Jesus’ return to his hometown from the middle of Mark (Chapter 6) to the very early days of Jesus’ ministry (Chapter 4). Again, Luke’s not afraid to mess things up a little bit, or even a lot. And again, part of the reason Luke did this–maybe the main reason Luke did this, and many other changes–is to make sure he didn’t just re-create Matthew. the very fact that it is so messed up so consistently makes me see the hand of intent behind this. And that doesn’t mean Luke was a crank or a madman. That whole “only a crank would do this deliberately” really grates on my nerves because, first and foremost, it’s not an argument, but a value judgement.

So yes, Luke deliberately messed with Matthew’s organization. But no, he was not a crank or a madman.

There are other omissions from the story as seen in Mark and Matthew. One is that Jesus said the woman was preparing his body for burial. That omission makes sense since this event occurs close to the time of Jesus’ death in M&M, but not here. Perhaps incidentally, but certainly more puzzling is the question of why Luke changed the physical location of this. In both Mark and Matthew it’s set, we are told, in the house of Simon the (most likely former) leper. Here it’s in the house of a Pharisee. Apologies, but I cannot come up with an explanation that will account for this change that is redactionaly* consistent with all the other changes Luke makes. Of course, suggesting that I need to do this in order to account for no-Q is absurd; I don’t have to prove Q didn’t exist. The people who propose the theory have to prove (or at least present a decent case) that Q did exist. The takeaway from this is that I’m not sure I can imagine a rationale that would make sense, but then, I could just be lacking in imagination.

The most glaring omission, however, is the lack of disciples and the bit about how “the poor will always be with you”. Now, Luke is supposedly more concerned with the poor than either of the other two, a position with which I tend to agree; hence, “blessed are the poor…the hungry…” That being the case, why are the disciples not here to object? Even more than M&M, John puts the story back in, with the added detail that Judas objected because he wanted to embezzle some of the money for himself. Essentially, Luke jettisons all of that in favor of the Pharisee calling her (apparently) a prostitute, and being unsettled and a bit disgusted that Jesus can’t see the woman for what she is. And since Luke made the switch, Luke obviously (well, at least apparently) saw this as the more important message to get across. Why? Part of the reason, of course, is to show how closed-minded and short-sighted the Pharisee is, but that’s a given, and it’s also implicit in the disciples lack of understanding. Or is that it? Luke didn’t want it to be the disciples who missed the point? I’m not positive, but that seems like a possible explanation. After all, John subsequently comes up with a more elegant way to dodge that issue. That sort of just occurred to me, but the idea is growing on me.

Maybe it will stick. Maybe not. I’m open to suggestions.

While we’re at it, let’s tack this on. Matthew began the rehabilitation of the disciples. Here, by substituting the Pharisee as the villain, Luke is continuing on in that tradition. Yes, it could be that Luke was doing this independently of Matthew, but…really? Apologies, but I think this is another marker to put on the side of non-Q.

[* Apparently not a real word, but I swear I came across it in one of the Q proponents. It was likely a different form of the word. Or, perhaps that writer was willing to attempt to coin the neologism. ]

37 Et ecce mulier, quae erat in civitate peccatrix, ut cognovit quod accubuit in domo pharisaei, attulit alabastrum unguenti;

38 et stans retro secus pedes eius flens lacrimis coepit rigare pedes eius et capillis capitis sui tergebat, et osculabatur pedes eius et unguento ungebat.

39 Videns autem pharisaeus, qui vocaverat eum, ait intra se dicens: “ Hic si esset propheta, sciret utique quae et qualis mulier, quae tangit eum, quia peccatrix est ”.

Luke Chapter 7:18-35

This starts with the messengers from John the Baptist. This story is interesting because it technically only exists in Matthew and Luke, so it should be Q material. And perhaps it is classified that way. However, there is an echo of the story in Mark as well; perhaps a better description would be a foreshadowing. We can take a look at these three stories and see what there is to be seen.

Text

18 Καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν Ἰωάννῃ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ περὶ πάντων τούτων. καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος δύο τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης

19 ἔπεμψεν πρὸς τὸν κύριον λέγων, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν;

And his (John’s) disciples announced to John about al this. And John, having commanded two of his disciples, he sent them to the lord, saying, “Are you the one who is coming, or do we expect another?”

This is very similar to Matthew’s introduction, except we are not specifically told here that John is in prison. This is why John has to send his disciples and doesn’t come himself. The incongruity of this scene with the baptism of Jesus is striking. Think about it: in Matthew, John refuses to baptise Jesus because he knows who Jesus is. Here, John has to send his people to find out. And Luke isn’t much better: recall that Jesus and John are cousins, and that John recognized that Mary would (or had) conceive the Saviour while John was still in utero. So now we’re supposed to believe that John doesn’t know? The juxtaposition of these scenes is such excellent evidence showing that the evangelists were not writing history, and they weren’t even terribly concerned whether their stories were internally consistent. In the case of this story about John, and one each from Matthew and Luke that just don’t square with this story, we have a rather glaring inconsistency inside of each of the two gospels.

What this tells me is that this story did actually come from a third source. That is, while Luke repeated what he found in Matthew, I don’t think Matthew originated the story. This feels like something that was found more or less whole and entire that came down to Matthew as more or less a unit. Now, this could easily be used against me in my anti-Q stance; more, it should be used against me because I’m conceding the existence of outside sources. So why not Q? That is a long and complicated discussion, and it’s not one to be undertaken here and now. But I will discuss it, and soon, as a special topic. It’s something that ought to be–but isn’t–part of the discussion about Q. But then, there really is no discussion about Q; it’s a lot of posturing and sniffing down of ones’ noses.

Here’s the thing: most of the stories in Mark are also such units. I know that I commented on this at the time, but the story of the Gerasene Demoniac–my name is Legion, and we are many–is a great example. Mark came across that story and swallowed it whole, with a minimum of digesting. And if Mark encountered such set-pieces that were not part of Q, then how is Q necessary? It’s similar to what I said in the last section about the widow of Nain; it feels like Luke found the story more or less complete, perhaps composed by residents of Nain who wanted their piece of the Jesus tradition. This is the sort of thing that happens all the time; again my favorite–and the best–example is King Arthur. Wolfram von Eschenbach composed Parzifal in Germany and it became part of the Arthurian corpus. It’s important to remember that there was not one oral tradition, but probably dozens, and each of them created their own little units, little self-contained stories. The evangelists came across these building and chose to include them or not for reasons of their own, for reasons that we can only speculate about; however, the main reason a story was included or not would have been whether it fit the evangelist’s conception of Jesus. We saw how Matthew scrubbed out all of the magical practices–the use of saliva to make mud being the best, IMO–out of his version of the stories in Mark because these bits didn’t fit Matthew’s understanding of Jesus. Matthew, also IMO, included this story despite the fact that it did not square perfectly with his version of the baptism because he liked the way it let Jesus proclaim his identity, which had been “hidden”–however badly–by Mark’s Jesus. And Luke included it for much the same reason. Probably. That’s the best we’re going to get. The idea that we can come up with a consistent editorial policy for any of these guys is ridiculous and, quite frankly, hybris.

18 Et nuntiaverunt Ioanni discipuli eius de omnibus his.

19 Et convocavit duos de discipulis suis Ioannes et misit ad Dominum dicens: “ Tu es qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? ”.

20 παραγενόμενοι δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἄνδρες εἶπαν,Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς ἀπέστειλεν ἡμᾶς πρὸς σὲ λέγων, Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἢ ἄλλον προσδοκῶμεν;

21 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳἐ θεράπευσεν πολλοὺς ἀπὸ νόσων καὶ μαστίγων καὶ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν, καὶ τυφλοῖς πολλοῖς ἐχαρίσατο βλέπειν.

22 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάννῃ ἃ εἴδετε καὶ ἠκούσατε: τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν, χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται, πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται:

23 καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί.

Coming towards him the men said, “John the Baptist sent us to you saying, ‘Are you the one who is coming, or should we expect another?'” (21) In this hour he cured many from diseases and illnesses and wicked spirits, and to many blind he gave to see. (22) Ad answering he said to them, “Going back announce to John what you have seen and heard: the blind look about, the lame walk around, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor are evangelized. (23) And blessed is the one if he does not stumble on me.”   

The idea in the first two verses is that Jesus is performing these wonders in front of John’s disciples. This live and in-person demonstration is not part of Matthew’s version. So, did Matthew find this in Q, and leave it out? Or did Luke add it to Q? Which is it? Q people really have to answer that question, and explain why they made that choice. Or did Luke find Matthew’s version of Jesus’ response a bit wanting, so he added this bit to Matthew? That is really the simplest explanation. And it’s interesting that Kloppenborg sort of pulls a weasel move here and neglects to include the demonstration in his quote of Luke, so he just refuses to call attention to this variation. Why? That is also a legitimate question that he needs to answer. I guess we are to take this as his assertion that the demonstration was not in Q. So what is the point of adding this? The point of the story overall is to declare Jesus’ identity. The addition of this extra bit is to serve as an underscore or an exclamation point to this revelation of Jesus. And, in a way, the extra emphasis is not even so much for us as it is for John’s disciples. There is no way, Luke is telling us, that John’s disciples–and so, presumably, John–could have doubted this

I’ve just come to understand that these story-units are called pericopae, singular pericope. When I tried to get the etymology, Google kept giving me the etymology for “periscope”. No, I’d already looked it up in Liddell & Scott, but wanted to make sure that it was a direct flow into English. It is. Unlike periscope, which comes from the Greek for and means “a looking around”, pericope comes from the Greek for “cutting around”. The idea is that the story-unit has been clipped around and extracted whole, much as one might clip out a newspaper article–assuming one still knows what a newspaper is, and that people used to clip these out. Oh, I’ve been exposed to the term for a long time, and I’ve had an idea what it means, but I finally nailed it down. I can see the point of the term; it has a pretty technical meaning, but it also seems a bit pretentious to me. Of course, that’s a total hoot because I’m one of the more pompous and pretentious people I know, especially about language. 

20 Cum autem venissent ad eum viri, dixerunt: “ Ioannes Baptista misit nos ad te dicens: “Tu es qui venturus es, an alium dexspectamus?””.

21 In ipsa hora curavit multos a languoribus et plagis et spiritibus malis et caecis multis donavit visum.

22 Et respondens dixit illis: “ Euntes nuntiate Ioanni, quae vidistis et audistis: caeci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur et surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur;

23 et beatus est, quicumque non fuerit scandalizatus in me ”.

24 Ἀπελθόντων δὲ τῶν ἀγγέλων Ἰωάννου ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς ὄχλους περὶ Ἰωάννου, Τί ἐξήλθατε εἰς τὴν ἔρημον θεάσασθαι; κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου σαλευόμενον;

25 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἱματίοις ἠμφιεσμένον; ἰδοὺ οἱ ἐν ἱματισμῷ ἐνδόξῳ καὶ τρυφῇ ὑπάρχοντες ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις εἰσίν.

26 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν; προφήτην; ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, καὶ περισσότερον προφήτου.

27 οὗτός ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου.

28 λέγω ὑμῖν, μείζων ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν Ἰωάννου οὐδείς ἐστιν: ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ μείζων αὐτοῦ ἐστιν.

Having gone away the angels of John, he began to speak to the crowd about John. “What did you come to the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind? (25) What other did you come to see? A man in soft garments dressed? Behold, those in glorious and delicate clothing being in the palaces are. (…those being in…clothing…are in palaces…) (26) What other did you come to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. (27) He is (the one) about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my angel before your sight (lit = face) who will prepare your way before you.’ (28) I tell you, greater than John of (those) born of woman no one is. But the least in the kingdom of God is greater than him”.

Just to note: the word that I have rendered as “angels” is angellon“, which means “messenger”. It’s the same word used for Gabriel and the member of the heavenly host who brought glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds abiding in the fields with their flocks. It means messenger; except when it goes untranslated and remains as angels, which is another word transliterated from Greek to have a special theological meaning.

Much of this is verbatim in Matthew. One thing I’ve recently discovered is that it’s seems difficult to find anyone willing to present an argument for Q. Most of the Q people take Q as proven and self-evident, and spend their time talking about Q as if it is indisputable and authoritative, or sniping at the non-Q people in a supercilious tone. The number of those arguing against Q seems to be growing; either that, or my awareness of them is growing. Now, one thing I’ve just run across is someone arguing that there is no definable literary relationship between any of the gospels, and particularly between Matthew and Luke.

https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tj/q_linnemann.pdf

Her conclusion is based on statistical studies of word recurrence, and her point is well taken that an overlap of words in the range of 20-30% is not terribly convincing proof that such an overlap occurred. However, I find this position as untenable as the Q position; she does not look at the which words overlap as I have been doing. Sharing of very unusual words is much more significant, IMO, than whether the two evangelists use the same word for “he went”. And what the words are saying, I believe, carries more weight than whether exactly the same words or sentence structure was used. It continually seems to escape the notice (there is a Greek verb for that sentiment) of Biblical scholars that Matthew and Luke are…how to put this…different authors. Luke did not set out to create a faithful copy of Matthew, just as Matthew was not interested in creating a faithful copy of Mark. These were different people; they wanted to tell the story in a way different from the ways it had been told before. This is why the whole, “why would Luke mess with the order of Matthew?” question strikes me as so hollow. Luke would mess with it precisely because he wasn’t Matthew, and that in and of itself is a sufficient reason that is redactionally consistent. However, I’ve done a word-for-word comparison of Matthew and Luke on their respective passages. They are darn near identical. It’s impossible that these did not come from the same source, whether it be Matthew or Q–or something else.

Finally, there is the concluding verse. John is the greatest of woman born. Does that include Jesus? It doesn’t say “greatest of those without a divine father”. But that is really picking nits. Or is it? Have to think about it. Truly, though, ‘born of women’ is an extended synonym for ‘human’; regardless of what any hypercritical examination may turn up, the thought is plain enough. What does it mean? Why is this here? And it came from Matthew, so the whole first-cousin-of-Jesus thing hadn’t been invented. But here’s a thought: is this why Luke came up with the story of John’s heritage? Intriguing, no? But not really a point in favour of non-Q; it could have come from Matthew, or it could have come from Q, or it could have come from another source. There is no way of telling, at least, not when trying to glean from an individual newspaper clipping (i.e., pericope).

The thing is, there are also the words of Josephus to consider. He gave John a much longer story than he gave to Jesus. This tells me that, in Judea at least, John was more recognizable than Jesus, and Josephus was writing in the very late First Century. That’s another topic I’d like to see someone explain. It deserves some examination. The problem, I think, is that it rather falls between two stools: the biblical people aren’t interested in suggesting that John was the more popular of the two, while there really isn’t much for historians to go by. We have the evidence of later Roman writers that there were Christians, but nothing about Baptistians. Outside of the NT, we have the one cite from Josephus and nothing else. Still, even some informed speculation would be preferable to the black void that we have.

The end result is that I’m spinning my wheels. My not-so-informed speculation is that Matthew added this because there were still Baptistians about, because he was tapped into the same sources as Josephus. That’s not much of a conclusion, but it’s got some support. Otherwise, why is this here? The question to ask is when this would have been written? Is this something Jesus possibly said? That’s just it; while the exact words are speculative, there is no reason why Jesus couldn’t have referenced John. And there’s no reason to think that this can’t be from the 40s, or really even the 30s. In fact, earlier is better because the memory of John would have been fresher. So Q? Could be. This could be something going back far enough to end up in Q as it’s conventionally conceived. The only thing is, why isn’t this in Mark? And Paul never mentioned the Baptist. He refers to baptism, but never mentions the source of the practice. IOW, more questions. As always.

24 Et cum discessissent nuntii Ioannis, coepit dicere de Ioanne ad turbas: “ Quid existis in desertum videre? Arundinem vento moveri?

25 Sed quid existis videre? Hominem mollibus vestimentis indutum? Ecce, qui in veste pretiosa sunt et deliciis, in domibus regum sunt.

26 Sed quid existis videre? Prophetam? Utique, dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam.

27 Hic est, de quo scriptum est:

“Ecce mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui praeparabit viam tuam ante te”.

28 Dico vobis: Maior inter natos mulierum Ioanne nemo est; qui autem minor est in regno Dei, maior est illo”.

29 {Καὶ πᾶς ὁ λαὸς ἀκούσας καὶ οἱ τελῶναι ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν θεόν, βαπτισθέντες τὸ βάπτισμαἸωάννου:

30 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ νομικοὶ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θεοῦ ἠθέτησαν εἰς ἑαυτούς, μὴ βαπτισθέντες ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.}

31 Τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης, καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι;

32 ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις τοῖς ἐν ἀγορᾷ καθημένοις καὶ προσφωνοῦσιν ἀλλήλοις, ἃ λέγει, Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε: ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκλαύσατε.

33 ἐλήλυθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς μὴ ἐσθίων ἄρτον μήτε πίνων οἶνον, καὶλέγετε, Δαιμόνιον ἔχει:

34 ἐλήλυθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγετε, Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν.

35 καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς.

 { “And the whole people hearing and the tax collectors justified God, having been baptised in the baptism of John. (30) The Pharisees and the lawyers the will of God set as naught towards themselves, lest they be baptised by him.} (31) So to what are the men of this generation the same as, and to what are they similar? (32) They are like children seated in the marketplace and speaking to each other, which one says, “We played the pipe for you and you did not dance. We mourned and you did not cry. (33) For John the Baptist came and did not eat bread nor drink wine, and you said, ‘He has a demon’. (34) The son of man came eating and drinking, and you said, ‘Look, that man eats and drinks, is a friend of the tax collectors and sinners. (35) And his wisdom was justified from all her children.”

First of all, there are a number of unusual words in there. Lawyer is odd, not being a real occupation in the Greco-Roman world. There were professional speakers, and professional speakers adept at the law, but to call them lawyers in any way that would resemble what we call lawyers is a stretch. The word is not quite unique to Luke; Matthew does use it once, but in a different context. Now the word for “mourned” occurs four times in the NT, twice in Luke, once in John, and once in Matthew, in exactly the same context as here. Again, these unusual words carried over into the same story setting are difficult to explain except on the basis that Luke read the same thing as Matthew. Or he read Matthew. Which takes us back to the question of where the unusual word is more likely to arise: in one of the early followers, or someone more educated, say, someone who read the LXX rather than the Hebrew? That’s like the fourth or fifth one of these words that we’ve come across. The weight of these words is starting to accumulate, n’est ce-pas?

Second, the part in the {} is not in all mss traditions. Frankly, it has the look and feel of a marginal gloss that got incorporated; part of the reason for this feel is that it doesn’t particularly make sense as part of the text, but it does as a marginal note someone scribbled on the scroll, or in the codex. And then there is the whole thing with the children; what is up with that? I’m totally missing the point on this little joke. Why do we have children saying these things? And how is it that the children are the ones playing the pipe? It seems to me that this is rather backwards. John an Jesus played the pipes, and no one danced. The contrast between John and Jesus, and the fact that diametrically opposed behaviours elicited the same result of rejection is just too ironic for words.

Finally, there is the last line about wisdom. Or should it be Wisdom? I ask because no Christian commentary will make the point that Wisdom, Sophia, was a significant member of the assemblage of divine beings of the Gnostics. One of my biggest problems with Gnostic thought is the way it got sidetracked into cosmology, with an endless array of archons and…can’t think of the other one. Outflowings, or something like that. Emanations? Anyway, Sophia was often the first child of either the Demiurge, or was the mother of the Demiurge, or…It doesn’t matter. A little research later, yes, the term is emanations: wave after wave of beings, or entities, or archons were propagated and filled up the heavens. It’s all very confusing. And Sophia most often is the mother of the Demiurge.

So this whole mention of Sophia is rather interesting. The Christian commentaries sort of gloss over this, but Wisdom having children is not a very Christian thought. It sort of exists out there on the perimeter of the boundary between orthodoxy, apocryphal, and downright heretical.

It’s also interesting to note two other things. First, the “wisdom is justified” is more or less verbatim from Matthew; however, whereas here it/she is justified by her children, in Matthew she is justified by her works. “Children”is taken to be the actual term used, but I’m not sure I’d agree with that.  The Demiurge, in Gnostic thought, was the creator of the material world, and so was inferior to God. The Demiurge was often equated with the YHWH of Genesis. Since the material world is lower than the spiritual, the Demiurge is considered the genesis of evil. Which means that Sophia, as the font of the Demiurge, can be said to be the genesis of evil. As such, in Gnostic terms it’s hard to understand how Sophia would be justified by her children. Of course, we cannot say that the sophia here is the Sophia of the Gnostics. Now, if the Christian commentators are correct to gloss this in Christian terms, this says a lot about the state of development of Gnosticism even s late as Matthew, and possibly Luke.

Much of my argument for a late date for Gospel Thomas is that the Gnostic thought is very highly developed there, much more so than I think is justified for a First Century authorship. Gnosticism was not a Christian phenomenon, but it seemed to get a major impetus after Christianity had begun to flourish. The dualist tendency shown in Paul’s distinction of flesh vs spirt is not close to the radical dualism to be found later, but it’s a step on the path. Mark seems to make allusions to knowledge hidden. But these threads have not really coalesced as they did in Valentinian in the middle quarter of the Second Century. Thomas fits better in that milieu than it does with the much less developed dualism or Gnosticism of Paul and Mark. Those lines of thought were latent in those two authors; Gnosticism is very strong in Thomas, even if dualism does not get the same emphasis as it does in some strains of Gnosticism. 

But this is really getting lost in the swamp of speculation. Chances are that given Matthew’s use of “works”, the intent of the passage was sort of a “by their fruits” sort of thing. The Vulgate Matthew reads “works” as well, and most modern translations render Matthew as “works”; the KJV, however, renders both Matthew and Luke as “children”. Now, two things: the first is this change from from the “works” to the “children” of Sophia is a pretty good indication that Matthew certainly did pre-date Luke. I’m not sure how much weight there is behind Luke writing before Matthew, but this would seem to be a good reason to discount the probability of that having occurred. Second, whatever the progeny, where did “wisdom” come from? Matthew used the word three times; Mark once; Luke about a dozen times between his gospel and Acts. Paul, used it a lot. But Paul used it in a very neutral sense; it was not personified, and there are no instances where it would seemingly be capitalized, as it could be here. This usage here (and its correlate in Matthew) really stands apart from the way it’s used elsewhere. It’s arguable that it’s sui generis in the NT. This really helps cement the fact that these two evangelists certainly did share a source, whether Q or no; the most likely scenario remains that Luke used Matthew. I keep coming back to the content of Q. A real one-off like this truly makes me question how people could think of this in terms of the 30s. It’s odd, it doesn’t fit. A much more likely explanation is that Matthew picked up on this new strain, Luke used it, and referred to “wisdom” a lot more than his predecessors because Luke is the first evangelist to be aware of Paul and Paul used it a lot. Luke also may have used it so much more because it was coming into circulation with proto-Gnostic thought. This combined with Paul would have provided Luke with rather a lot of stimulus.

And for now, that’s about all I can really say about the topic. It’s puzzling, to say the least. And it indicates an influence from outside the usual streams of Jesus lore.

29 Et omnis populus audiens et publicani iustificaverunt Deum, baptizati baptismo Ioannis;

30 pharisaei autem et legis periti consilium Dei spreverunt in semetipsos, non baptizati ab eo.

31 Cui ergo similes dicam homines generationis huius, et cui similes sunt?

32 Similes sunt pueris sedentibus in foro et loquentibus ad invicem, quod dicit:

“Cantavimus vobis tibiis, et non saltastis; lamentavimus, et non plorastis!”.

33 Venit enim Ioannes Baptista neque manducans panem neque bibens vinum, et dicitis: “Daemonium habet!”;

34 venit Filius hominis manducans et bibens, et dicitis: “Ecce homo devorator et bibens vinum, amicus publicanorum et peccatorum!”.

35 Et iustificata est sapientia ab omnibus filiis suis”.

Luke Chapter 7:11-17

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

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

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

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 7:1-10

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary Luke Chapter 6

Supposedly, this chapter is about Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, which takes up nearly the entire chapter. In actual fact, however, the theme of this chapter is Q. So much of the Q debate is taken up by the sheer brilliance of the Sermon on the Mount, that we are forced to compare Luke’s Sermon on the Plain to that other masterpiece. It has been decreed that this version of the Q material preserves a more primitive version of Q, and that this version is decidedly inferior. Those statements are not to be gainsaid if one wishes to be included in polite company of NT scholars. Well, the problem is that I’m not an NT scholar (or, I suppose, a scholar of any sort, except maybe a wannabe…), so I’ll likely never be invited into polite company, anyway, so I can throw a few bricks, or, with luck, start a food fight. It’s time we talked about the content of the two gospels.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Matthew says they went up the mountain. Luke says they went up the mountain, but came back down, and then he stresses that he began speaking on a plain. Luke does not sort of drift off, leaving it vague; he very specifically says “a level place”. So which is the original? Remember, Luke supposedly preserves the more primitive version of Q, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Oh, right, alternating primitivity. Either way, if this came from Q, Luke had to decide to bring Jesus down from the mountain and stand in a level place. Why does he do this? Why not leave him on the mountain? Or did Luke make the change exactly because Matthew had Jesus on the mountain? Is this the emergence of the puckish humor of Luke? That he’s sort of tweaking Matthew a bit? We mentioned that in the penultimate section, in which Luke launched into a stream of unusual words that are not found in Matthew, and very few other places as far as that goes.

But there’s even a more basic question. The Gospel of Thomas is a sayings gospel. Its discovery was hailed as a vindication of the Q thesis, demonstrating that sayings gospels were, indeed, written. Since it was a sayings gospel, it was immediately declared to be very early, tracing back to Jesus himself (perhaps), and proving that Q could exist, which basically meant Thomas was taken to prove that Q did exist. But Thomas has one striking dissimilarity to Q, as reconstructed. Thomas has no physical descriptions of place or action. Pretty much everything starts with “Jesus said…” And yet, the reconstructed Q is full of all sorts of physical descriptions and settings in place such as the “up/down the mountain”. Thomas does not have stuff from the Baptist. It doesn’t talk about centurions. It is, truly, what we would expect of a “sayings” gospel. Reconstructed Q, on the other hand, simply is not. There is stuff from the Baptist, and physical description. And there is so much of this that those doing the reconstructing were more or less forced to say that it all came from Q. Otherwise, how to explain the overlaps? It’s impossible to do so without either putting this extraneous stuff in Q, or admitting that Luke read Matthew. Since the latter has to be rejected on ideological grounds, the former is the only choice.

The upshot, right from the start, we have a pretty good indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew. He was aware that Matthew’s sermon was on a mountain, so Luke put his on a level place. Why? The Q people say I have to explain every deviation from Matthew in a manner that is supported by a consistent editorial attitude. So I posit mine to be puckish humor. That suggestion comes with a guarantee of originality, that you will not find that in the, ahem, serious literature. And I don’t mean to be flippant or facetious. My suggestion is entirely serious, if only to show the range of interpretation that is possible in these situations. “Deadly serious” is not the only setting for discussion, just because it’s the default setting. I’m going to continue to look for this humourous edge throughout the gospel. Let’s see how that stands up to scrutiny.

So Matthew has the primitive “up the mountain”, but Luke has the primitive version of the first Beatitude. Matthew’s poor are poor in spirit; Luke’s are just poor. This is not a matter of primitive vs developed. It’s a situation in which each evangelist is saying a very different thing. Puckish humor again? Perhaps a bit more wry this time, with a bit of an edge. “Poor in spirit” is all very fine and good, but what about those who are just poor? And not only do they hunger and thirst for justice, they’re just damn hungry. Yes, this is more primitive, if by that you mean the more pointedly addressing fundamental needs. Why do they hunger for justice? Because they’re poor, really poor, and not just “poor in spirit”. Being poor in spirit almost implies that they are not poor in actuality, that we are not discussing physical privation, but sort of a moral discomfort. So yes, it is quite easy to say that Luke is more primitive, but he’s also more righteous.

There is one more aspect of “primitivity” that sorely needs to be addressed. The idea that one version or the other is more primitive completely begs the question. It assumes that there is a total of three versions; one is original, and the other two are derivative. Ergo, one of the derivatives is more primitive than the other. But if there is no third version, to say that Matthew or Luke is more primitive becomes meaningless. In all cases, Matthew is the more “primitive” because it was written most of a generation earlier. So discussing primitivity is meaningless absent Q; discussing primitivity assumes the existence of Q, which is what we’re trying to determine, whether Q existed or not. By shifting the battleground to discussions of primitivity, the Q people have already won the debate since we’re now taking Q as given. This is admittedly deft rhetoric, but it’s also bad logic.

There’s another aspect of Q that never gets discussed. This has to do with the actual content of the sayings. Do they truly seem appropriate to the time in which they were, supposedly, uttered? Or do they make more sense to a later time and place? If the latter, what does that do to the idea of Q? Especially if these anachronisms are repeated in both Matthew and Luke? That really puts a crimp into the supporting pillars of the Q position. I keep coming back to what Q is supposed to be: a collection of sayings that predate Mark and presumably Paul and trace back to Jesus, usually by way of one of his close associates. The list of eligible associates is probably limited to Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee. They perhaps did not write the sayings themselves, but they remembered them and dictated them to a scribe. From this list we can strike Peter, because he was John Mark’s source for the first gospel to be written. According to church tradition, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark, the associate of Paul. Mark went to Rome and became part of Peter’s community, and Peter provided the information for Mark’s gospel. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Mark’s gospel does not include any of the so-called Q material. This means one of several things, the most likely of which is that the entire tradition is a later fabrication. Either John Mark was not Mark the Evangelist, or Peter never went to Rome or whatever, but wherever Mark got his material for the gospel, it likely did not come from an eyewitness to Jesus because the source, or sources, were completely ignorant of most of the really important stuff that Jesus said. This ignorance, in turn, is predicated on the data that Q existed and that it is an accurate record of what Jesus actually said. The result is that there is a gaping hole in the explanation provided; it then becomes a question of figuring out the most likely location of that hole.

This leaves us with a couple of choices: either Mark’s gospel did not derive from an eyewitness account, or Jesus didn’t say the things in Q. There are others, such as that Mark chose not to include Jesus’ teachings; however, that strikes me as a bit unlikely. Why on earth would Mark’s source not tell Mark what Jesus taught, or why would Mark deliberately choose to leave this stuff out of the gospel?  I would really like to hear someone try to explain that one.

Another consideration is whether the things Q says Jesus said make sense for Jesus’ time. We touched on this in the commentary, in verses 22 & 23, in which they are blessed who are reviled for Jesus’ sake. These seem to be references to some sort of “persecution” of the followers of Jesus. As pointed out, there is no indication in any of the gospel accounts that Jesus or his followers really suffered any kind of persecution during his lifetime. Yes, we have the account of Paul, but that came later. So we are faced with the situation in which something that Jesus said is likely due to circumstances that only came about after Jesus’ death. And we know that Jesus said this because it’s part of the Q material, and we know that it’s part of the Q material because it’s included in both Matthew and Luke. But if it is unlikely that Jesus said this, that makes the Q hypothesis rather untenable because it, apparently, includes material from after the time of Jesus’ death.

Which leads us to one of the more annoying aspects of the Q hypothesis. In order to cover some of these embarrassing moments, it is posited that Q exists in strata, in layers, that accumulated through time. The implication of this is that some of the material obviously does not trace back to Jesus. This is an eminently convenient suggestion, because it means that Q can include whatever those reconstructing it say it includes. In this way it has all sorts of stuff that a true sayings gospel does not have. We also mentioned this in the commentary: Thomas is a true sayings gospel. Virtually all the passages begin with “Jesus said”. This is how a true sayings gospel should be set up. Much of the hullaballoo about Thomas was that it vindicated the Q theory by being a sayings gospel. Well, Q is not a true sayings gospel. It includes too much extraneous information about John the Baptist, the set-up for the Centurion’s son/servant, the setting of Jesus going up the mountain. All this points to a Q thesis that is not internally consistent, which makes the construction of the entire story suspect.

The point of all this is simple. When the Q debate is taken from the safe environs the Q people have created for it, the conclusions are not nearly so secure. The implication of this is that a legitimate Q debate needs to happen.

Luke Chapter 6:12-19

After a brief interlude in which we get the naming of the Twelve, we delve into what is often called the “Sermon on the Plain”. This reference is semi-facetious; while it does take place after Jesus comes down from the mountain, the real purpose of the name is to contrast it, unfavorably, with the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew. Much of the same material is covered, but rather than run on for nearly three full chapters continuously, Luke breaks the material into smaller chunks. This has led one scholar, Goodacre, to explain the defacement of the brilliant Sermon on the Mount, in terms of shorter, “Luke friendly” (his term) passages. Kloppenborg, OTOH, perhaps the main proponent of Q, has nothing but scornful derision, or derisive scorn, for Goodacre’s attempt at the redactional explanation that the Q people demand to justify the way Luke deliberately painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s well that Kloppenborg dismisses Goodacre in this manner, because the former doesn’t have an actual argument, so ad hominem is about the best he can do.

Note: the “brief interlude was longer than expected, so this ends just at the beginning of the actual Sermon.

There is a certain irony in Kloppenborg’s position. In the mind of the Q people, holding up the SotM as a masterpiece, which only a fool or a madman would deface is a powerful argument. The problem I have with the argument is that I don’t find it masterful; I find it rather a jumble, a bunch of sayings held together (barely) with baling twine and bubble gum. IMO, to argue that the material is not masterfully arranged, and that it barely–if a all–truly holds together is much more powerful evidence that Matthew found the material thus in Q and left it thus. The three chapters of content in Matthew feels like it’s a random collection of one-off sayings. That is a persuasive argument for Q. IMO, anyway.

OK, enough. On to the

Text

12Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐξελθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι, καὶ ἦν διανυκτερεύων ἐν τῇ προσευχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ.

13 καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, προσεφώνησεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐκλεξάμενος ἀπ’ αὐτῶν δώδεκα, οὓς καὶ ἀποστόλους ὠνόμασεν,

14 Σίμωνα, ὃν καὶ ὠνόμασεν Πέτρον, καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ, καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Φίλιππον καὶ Βαρθολομαῖον

15 καὶ Μαθθαῖον καὶ Θωμᾶν καὶ Ἰάκωβον Ἁλφαίου καὶ Σίμωνα τὸν καλούμενον Ζηλωτὴν 16καὶ Ἰούδαν Ἰακώβου καὶἸούδαν Ἰσκαριώθ, ὃς ἐγένετο προδότης.

It became in those days he came to the mountain to pray, and he was all night in the prayer of God.  (13) And it became day, he called his disciples and sent from him twelve, and which were called apostles. (14) Simon, the one also named Peter, and Andrew, his brother, and James and John an Philip and bar Tolomew (15) and Matthew and Thomas and James son of Alphaeus and Simon the one call the Zealot (16) and Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot, who became the betrayer.

We’ve been through this sequence twice now, so no doubt many of you will recall that I do not believe that the Twelve was a thing that was instituted by Jesus. I believe that Jesus had several followers, among them Peter and perhaps the future James the Just, but the rest of them are sketchy at best. It’s difficult to get rid of John, son of Zebedee, but he appears in very few of the tales told;  and these tales can easily be ascribed to the later growth of the legend. Peter is impossible to get rid of; Paul pretty much proves Peter’s existence, but aside from him the only other figure Paul mentions is James, brother of Jesus. As such, I think it’s hard to be at all certain of any of the others. There are two of the Twelve named James, but each has a different patronymic, whether Zebedee or Alpheus. It has been suggested that one of these James, usually the son of Alpheus, otherwise known as James the Lesser (the Latin, Iacobus Minor doesn’t sound quite so belittling). It is suggested that one of these two men named James was Jesus’ half-brother, the son of Mary and either Zebedee or Alpheus.  This is an ingenious theory that is absolutely within the realm of possibility; the problem is there is nary a whit of evidence to support it, and the very ingeniousness of the idea, IMO, rather than supporting the idea, makes it less likely.

James, brother of Jesus, got whitewashed out of the the gospels. The reason why James is expunged is clear enough: the church in Rome invented the idea that Peter came to Rome to be the first bishop there.  Funny thing about that idea is that Paul overlooks that fact completely when he wrote his letter to the Romans. Am I the first to notice that? Almost certainly not, but the fact that this question is not more prominent in the literature is a huge indication of how badly this embarrassing little tidbit has been squelched by the subsequent bishops of Rome. Hard to believe that Calvin–or one of the Reformers–didn’t bring this up. The commentaries are full of Protestants stumbling over themselves to squelch the idea of Petrine Primacy, so why not notice–and pointing out–that Peter is conspicuously absent from Romans? 

Speaking of the commentaries, a couple of them, at least, make a big deal about how the gospels all agree on the names of the Twelve. That is a significant point in favour of the authenticity of the Twelve; or, it would be if it were true. Fact is, it’s not true; or, it’s true only if several of the Twelve had two names. Now there is Peter/Cephas, of course, but Thaddeus is missing from the list here, unless, of course, his name is also Jude. And why wouldn’t it be? Oh, but there’s also Philip, who appears in John, and nowhere else. The other glaring problem is that, throughout most of the gospels the Twelve are pretty much absent, making cameo appearances at the Last Supper and after the Resurrection. The latter role is probably attributable to the section of 1 Corinthians 15 in which Paul lists the appearances of Jesus after the Resurrection. He appeared to the Twelve. So we do know that there was a Twelve; we just have no real reason attribute it to Jesus. Rather, I would give the creation of this body to James, who instituted it after the death of his more famous brother. Note, even Paul does not provide names for any of the Twelve; more, the plain-sense reading of 15:5 is that Peter is not part of the Twelve:

            …(after the Resurrection Jesus) was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve

I believe this is a fairly strong bit of evidence that Peter was not included in the Twelve; the commentators, however don’t see it that way. To them the Twelve refers to the corporate body rather than the actual number. This is a possible understanding of the usage, but I do not believe it’s the most straightforward. For it to mean what the commentators suggest, IMO, it would make more sense for Paul to say, “…then to the rest of the Twelve…” or something such. Of course, they see it this way because they wish to see it this way to preserve the credibility of the gospel writers as historical sources. This, despite the fact that the evangelists were not wrirting history.

I have suggested that the Twelve was instituted by James. I find this preferable to the presentation in the gospels. These feel very much like an afterthought, or something that later writers realized should be included, so they stuck this passage in wherever seemed least awkward. In Mark, in particular, the placement seemed forced, fit in with a shoehorn on either side of the tale of the death of the Baptist. While not quite as awkwardky placed by Luke, it’s still lacking any context, whether lead-in or even the attempt to segue into the next story; for it is a separate story. As noted, James was surgically removed from the gospels; given the later position of Petrine Primacy, having the brother of the lord running around, and acting as Peter’s superior was terribly inconvenient, and more than slightly embarrassing given the idea of the Virgin Birth.

But this tangent has been too long already. So much for the “short interlude” before coming to the Sermon on the Plain. 

12 Factum est autem in illis diebus, exiit in montem orare et erat pernoctans in oratione Dei.

13 Et cum dies factus esset, vocavit discipulos suos et elegit Duodecim ex ipsis, quos et apostolos nominavit:

14 Simonem, quem et cognominavit Petrum, et Andream fratrem eius et Iacobum et Ioannem et Philippum et Bartholomaeum

15 et Matthaeum et Thomam et Iacobum Alphaei et Simonem, qui vocatur Zelotes,

16 et Iudam Iacobi et Iudam Iscarioth, qui fuit proditor.

17 Καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος,

18 οἳ ἦλθον ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν νόσων αὐτῶν: καὶ οἱ ἐνοχλούμενοι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ἐθεραπεύοντο. 19 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἐζήτουν ἅπτεσθαι αὐτοῦ, ὅτι δύναμις παρ’ αὐτοῦ ἐξήρχετο καὶ ἰᾶτο πάντας. 

And coming down with those of him (the disciples) he was in a place of a plain, and a great crowd of his disciples, and filled with mant peoples from all of Judea and Jerusalem and the districts of Tyre and Sidon, they came to hear him and to be healed from their ailments; and those being troubled by unclean spirits they were healed. (19) And the whole crowd sought to touch him, that power from him came and healed all.

The text is very explicit that he was on a plain. It could not be more clear. Matthew, meanwhile, could not be more clear that Jesus went up on a mountain. Now, of course it is possible th at Luke wrote what he wrote without ever having seen what Matthew wrote; that is, he decided to situate the action very explicitly on a plain which he reached having come down from the mountain. There is no reason the two need to be connected. But, come on! Really? Luke just happened to decide to place the upcoming teaching on a plain after descending from the mountain where Matthew just happend to situate his teaching? And then Jesus launches into the same bit of teaching? That is one heckuva coincidence, don’t you think? I won’t pretend that I can actually read in tone, or understand Luke’s intent, but even from the outward details the similarity is striking. Naturally the location of the teaching is not in Q, but that actually supports my argument: the choice of a contrary location that plays off the location used by Matthew truly seems deliberate. More, the relative placement of the actual teaching in both gospels is suspiciouly similar. The point is not that these pieces of evidence that I’m tossing out are in any way decisive; the point is that the Q proponents have completely shut down this entire line of argument. I have to say that any of my professors would have been appalled had I ever turned in an essay arguing the way the Q people have handled the controversy for the last hundred years or so. To the anti-Q people I say, “grow a spine and stand up to this.”

The final line really hearkens back to Mark 6 and the story of the Bleeding Woman. Recall that she surreptitiously touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and the power went out of him of its own accord, without ay conscious decision, or intent on Jesus’ part. This sounds like a similar situation. The subject of “healed” is not explicit, which means it grammatically falls back to the closed antecedent. In this case, it’s the power, and not Jesus. And this is not some odd notion of mine; the four crib translations I use all render this sentence with “the power” as the agent doing the healing. I find that interesting. It’s a holdover from Mark, who was not convinced that Jesus was fully divine. In the story of the Bleeding Woman, it seems that the Power is something of an entity unto itself. It seems to exist apart from Jesus, here it is the agency that effects the healing rather than being something that exists within and because of the divinity of Jesus. Luke retains that aspect of the power in his version of that story, so this isn’t meant as a substitute for that reference. Given  the insistence with which both Matthew and Luke proclaim the divinity of Jesus from the very start of their gospel, seeing this here is a bit puzzling. In contrast, in Matthew’s version of the Bleeding Woman story, Matthew portrays Jesus as being aware of the woman’s approach, so he heals her consciously. In short, we have another time when Luke contradicts Matthew. However, we’ll discuss that more when we come to it in Luke.

17 Et descendens cum illis stetit in loco campestri, et turba multa discipulorum eius, et multitudo copiosa plebis ab omni Iudaea et Ierusalem et maritima Tyri et Sidonis,

18 qui venerunt, ut audirent eum et sanarentur a languoribus suis; et, qui vexabantur a spiritibus immundis, curabantur.

19 Et omnis turba quaerebant eum tangere, quia virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes.

 

Summary Luke Chapter 5

This chapter was a bit of a catch-all, with no central theme. We had the calling of the first disciples, a couple of miraculous healings together with some grumbling, and we ended up with some fasting and parables. The parables were of the new wine in old skins, and the patch of new cloth on an old garment. I really haven’t go into the very obvious symbolism of the new/old distinction, largely because it was so obvious I’ve missed it until now. Or, because I’m just not attuned to nuance like this. Whichever. The point being that all three gospels set this aphorism into more or less the same context: the comparison of Jesus’ disciples to those of John. In the latter case, John stood squarely and solidly within the context of Jewish tradition; Jesus, OTOH, was something new. He was the new wine that will burst the skins, or the new cloth that will tear away from the old garment. Or, at least, he is those things in the first two gospels. I just noticed something else here: the implication of the new wine bursting the old skins is that Jesus brings a new message, one that is not, and cannot be contained–or constrained–by the old way of doing things.

Luke, however, adds a new little quip onto the end of this that actually contradicts the implication left by 2M. Here, Luke adds that, after having the old, no one wants the new. This volte-face is puzzling on the face of it. Most of the commentaries that I skimmed through agree that it is a reference, of course, to the old/new dichotomy represented by John and Jesus. The preference for the old supposedly is a reflexion or commentary on the inherent conservatism of people in general, and perhaps the Jews–or, at least, the Jewish followers of John–in particular. And, since no better, or even other explanation or interpretation presents itself, this may be a reasonable way to take this, even if it does feel a bit strained. But then, one has to realize that, while Luke is a good writer and thinker in general, that’s not to say he nails every single point he makes; every once in a while he’ll throw up a brick (basketball analogy = take a bad shot). So it is a bit of an awkward addition, but OTOH, it can be said that it does provide a new take on the theme of the Messianic Secret as we’re seeing in Luke. The Jews tasted the old, and they tasted the new, and preferred the old, so they did not convert to become followers of Jesus, but remained in their old ways. I will, however, continue to suggest as I did in the commentary that this did work to connect Jesus to that old tradition; at least, I believe that it was meant to do that. The level of effectiveness is debatable, of course, but a bad shot is still a shot.

That was actually to start at the end. The beginning of the chapter has us calling the first disciples. Luke adds a whole additional piece of narrative with Jesus convincing the fishermen to follow him by a “miraculous” catch of fish. I put that in quotes because it’s really not a true miracle in the sense that the laws of nature are contravened, but it does demonstrate a level of divinity that Jesus could effect this event the way he did. Was this addition necessary? Not really, but that is not the question that should be asked. Rather, we should ask what the addition accomplished. Back when we had the first iteration of this story in Mark, we pointed out that it was a very remarkable thing that these men left their occupation, their home, and their family to follow Jesus. My contribution was that, if Jesus had lived in Caphernaum, then he was likely known to these men, so perhaps their action was not quite the dramatic break that it may have seemed at first glance. Did Luke sense this, too, which caused him to add the new bit? And which caused him to insist that Jesus was from Nazareth, to the point that he moved the “a prophet is without honor in his own land” story to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, rather than holding it for numerous chapters as 2M did? That is certainly possible. But then we have to stop and realize that, per Luke’s own narrative, this was not the first encounter between Jesus and Peter. In Luke, by the time we get to the calling of the disciples, Jesus has already been to Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. So there is a temporal anomaly here. We don’t have to see any real significance to this muddling of time; Luke simply wasn’t concerned about keeping the order intact. He kept the stories in their larger context: the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law came after the synagogue, as it did in the other gospels, but the sequence of that story and the calling of Peter is scrambled.

However, it is worth pointing this out for one very big reason. Much of the “argument” for Q rests upon the Luke’s arrangement of the so-called Q-material vs the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew. In fact, this is most of the argument for Q. So to demonstrate that Luke had absolutely no qualms about rearranging Mark’s material would, or at least should, indicate that Luke put stuff wherever he chose without being unduly constrained by where his predecessors put things. Luke moved the episode of the Peter’s mother-in-law to a location that, really, doesn’t make sense vis-à-vis the story of the calling of Peter. Given this, why should he be reluctant to mess up the Q material? Especially if Q did not exist? If Q did not exist–and there is absolutely no evidence that it did–then Luke is not changing the order or arrangement of the Q material. He’s changing the order and arrangement of Matthew’s material. But, since he does the same with Mark’s material, this re-arrangement of Matthew’s material is not particularly noteworthy, is it?

The middle section of the chapter involves two healings, the first of a leper, the second of the paralytic on the litter. The latter includes the discussion about blasphemy because Jesus forgave the man’s sins. In both the scenes, Luke incorporates elements from different episodes in Mark, merging them into a composite that I have so charmingly been calling a “mash-up”. Setting out on this summary, I was not aware of how many miracles Mark reported vs the number reported by Luke. I went through both gospels and listed what I found in each. The end was that both had reasonably equal amounts, about 22 each. The lists may vary, depending on whether preaching apocalypse should be considered a miracle, or whether I missed the feeding of the 4,000 in Luke. Regardless, the point is the same. While Luke may reconstruct some of the stories of Mark, the former adds his own variations and his own different stories, such as the healing of a group of ten lepers which is unique to him. Given that, I’m not sure what inferences, let alone conclusions, we can draw from the places where Luke diverges from Mark, with the one possible exception. Luke is, apparently, not interested in simply retelling Mark; Luke sets out to tell a new version of the story, with a lot of new material. To make room for this new stuff, perhaps he felts it best to compress some of the older stuff. And even then, though, my characterization of these scenes as “mash-ups” is probably a bit irreverent, and needlessly so; in fact, perhaps it crosses into inaccurate. Luke may have filled in one story with details from another, but these borrowings–which assumes I’m even accurately describing what Luke does–really do not change the overall picture, or the overall sense of the story. There’s no new theological insights to be gleaned, no real indications of a development of the beliefs of the community or communities. We should look for those in the completely original material.

So far, the completely original material has dealt with what we would call a prequel–the story that happened before the story. What did that tell us? As I see it, this material wasn’t completely original, at least in conception. The stories of the Zecharias and Elisabeth and the pre-natal Baptist and the Annunciation, the census and no room at the inn are not entirely novel in outlook. With these sections, Luke is not adding new thoughts per se; rather, he is extending the trend begun by Matthew, who set out to demonstrate the cosmic significance of the birth of Jesus. Matthew did this largely through the star and the magoi; Luke took this a step–many steps, actually–further, extending it to Mary and her kin, by including the Baptist in the family tree, by substituting Simeon and Anna for the magoi.  Of course this reflects on the Q “argument”, but we’re not going there at the moment. We will; just not immediately. There wasn’t much to say about this chapter as a whole. I don’t know if that will continue, or if additional reading will open up new vistas.

That is the problem with the approach I’ve taken; it’s not scholarly. I have not read ahead, taken copious notes, and carefully plotted Luke against what has come before. Rather, it’s been more of a Wild-West show, shoot from the hip and ask questions later. The former approach, of course, is, well, scholarly and considered, taking what is said in the context of what else has been or will be said. That approach is useful for certain things. But the go-into-it-blind approach is better for capturing spontaneity. How does what we read stand on its own? What does it–and it alone–tell us? What is the stark message and implications of just this particular passage? What does it say before we water it down by putting it into the context of everything else? Those, too, are important questions, and ones that don’t get asked often enough. It’s time–long past time, actually–to shake things up a little bit, to shake the tree and see what may fall out that we did not expect.

Luke Chapter 5:27-39

This will conclude Chapter 5. We change gears a bit, moving from miraculous healings to more human teaching and human interaction. There’s a bit of a kick at the end, though.

Text

27 Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξῆλθεν καὶ ἐθεάσατο τελώνην ὀνόματι Λευὶν καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀκολούθει μοι.

28 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ.

29 Καὶ ἐποίησεν δοχὴν μεγάλην Λευὶς αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ: καὶ ἦν ὄχλος πολὺς τελωνῶν καὶ ἄλλων οἳ ἦσαν μετ’ αὐτῶν κατακείμενοι.

30 καὶ ἐγόγγυζον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγοντες, Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε;

31 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλὰ οἱκακῶς ἔχοντες:

32 οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν.

And after these things he came and he beheld a tax collector named Levi seated among the tax collectors and he (Jesus) said to him, “Follow me”. (28) And leaving all of them behind, standing he (Levi) followed him (Jesus). (29) And he made a great reception/feast (root of the word is “spectacle”) in his house. And there was a many crowd of tax collectors and others who were with him reclining (i.e., reclining to eat). (30) And murmured the Pharisees and the scribes of them (the general crowd) towards the disciples of him (Jesus) saying, “On what account with the tax collectors and of the sinners does he eat and drink?” (31) And answering Jesus said to them, “The healthy do not need having a healer, but those having diseases. (32) I have not come to call the just, but the sinners towards repentance.”

Directly out of the gate we run into a situation where Luke once again agrees with Mark and ignores the change made by Matthew. Of the three, Matthew alone says that Levi’s was also called Matthew, while Luke & Mark neglect to add this. It is based on this slender reed that the first gospel was ascribed to Matthew, the thinking being that the Matthew named here was the same man as the evangelist. Of course, if we accept the later date (ca. 85) for the composition of that gospel, the equation of the two is well-nigh, but not completely, impossible. Either way, the agreement of #2 and #3, of course, is evidence for Q. Then, at the very end, Luke adds something that is not in either of the first two: calling the sinner to repent. Here again, Luke follows Mark, where Jesus utters this aphorism in this same context, while eating with tax collectors. In Matthew, this comes later, in Chapter 9, when the disciples of John come to question Jesus if he is the one.

As I’ve been working my way through these books of the NT, one thing that has consistently surprised me is the extent to which so much of the “Christian” morality code was taken over directly from Judaism. One aspect in particular that has stood out is the concept of social justice, of caring for those less fortunate. Of course, this surprise is the result of a good Christian (Roman Rite) upbringing, in which Christians were all-good, and Jews were, well, something less than that. Here’s another reason why having people actually read the Bible was not necessarily desirable for about a thousand years. As for my education on the matter, better late than never, I suppose. The point, however, is that I have the sense that what we are witnessing here is novel. Jesus is consorting with tax collectors. These are not lepers, or the poor, but the rich, and the despised rich. “Collaborate” has been a buzz-word in the corporate world for the past handful of years, but where I come from “collaborator” was not a term of praise. Quite the opposite. A collaborator was a quisling, or in America a Benedict Arnold. I’m reading a book about Vichy France, where the government collaborated with the Nazis after 1940, and some of these collaborators were executed for their pains. Just so, tax collectors were collaborators, working with the Romans to collect taxes from the subject population. It made them wealthy, yes, but it also made them outcast, to some extent anyway, among the Jewish population. So Jesus is not consorting with the poor, those who have no means, but with those who have an excess of means, mostly extorted from fellow compatriots. This, I believe, is new, a new proscription for behaviour. That the sick, not the healthy need a doctor, just so it’s the sinners who need to repent.

I don’t mean to say that the idea of repenting is Christian; far from it. The idea of the Chosen People repenting their sins and turning back to YHWH is one of the most constant themes found in the HS. Rather, it’s the idea of who is doing, or should be doing the repentance. Sinners, yes, but mainly to the extent that respectable persons are sinners, and it’s the respectable who should repent. Or have I picked that up from observing too much American Christianity? With it’s claims to love Jesus while kicking the poor when they’re down? I think the distinction comes with the transition from the idea of a corporate repentance, that of the Chosen People as a body, to the idea of individual repentance, where the individual sinner changes his way of thinking (metanoeite in Greek) and thereby changes the way he or she behaves. That, I think, is the novelty–and the ultimate appeal–of Christianity, the reason it, rather than Mithraism, became the dominant religion in the later Roman Empire: the individual salvation. Even then, Christians did not invent the concept; this is something that many Hellenistic religions practiced. As some of the more collective cults were swallowed up, cults of Isis, for example, filled in the void for the individual seeking some sort of religious experience. Christianity was the heir and successor of these “Eastern Mystery Religions” as they’ve been called. And here we see the marriage of this idea to that of the universal siblinghood professed by the Stoics. We are all siblings, we can all find…some sort of ultimate religious experience. My inclination is to say “redemption”, but this has a very specific origin and etymology. It’s the redeeming of a pawn pledge, the buying back of an item from the pawn broker. That is what “redemption” means. But a more generic term escapes me at the moment.

27 Et post haec exiit et vidit publicanum nomine Levi sedentem ad teloneum et ait illi: “Sequere me”.

28 Et relictis omnibus, surgens secutus est eum.

29 Et fecit ei convivium magnum Levi in domo sua; et erat turba multa publicanorum et aliorum, qui cum illis erant discumbentes.

30 Et murmurabant pharisaei et scribae eorum adversus discipulos eius dicentes: “Quare cum publicanis et peccatoribus manducatis et bibitis?”.

31 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illos: “Non egent, qui sani sunt, medico, sed qui male habent.

32 Non veni vocare iustos sed peccatores in paenitentiam”.

33 Οἱ δὲ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰκαὶ δεήσεις ποιοῦνται, ὁμοίως καὶ οἱ τῶν Φαρισαίων, οἱ δὲ σοὶ ἐσθίουσιν καὶ πίνουσιν.

They said to him, “The disciples of John fast frequently (and) they make prayers, just as the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”

Here I think is where we come upon one of the fundamental reasons why Jesus stands at the beginning of a novel tradition, while John stands in the midst of an older one that continued. This goes back to the so-called Synod of Jerusalem, when Paul and James the Just duked it out over the Jewish dietary (and other such) practices; the most notable, of course, was circumcision. And here we have what is essentially a dispute, or at least a bit of a contention, or something like an uneasiness about this. But make no mistake–this is completely an ex-post-facto insertion from a time long after Jesus was dead. We’ve discussed this; there are points in 2M where Jesus declares positively that no animal is unclean, and Peter has a dream in Acts to confirm this. Nonsense. The questions raised by the “Synod of Jerusalem” would never have been an issue if Jesus, or even Peter, had said this. That Paul admits having a disagreement with James on this topic is all the evidence that we need to know that Jesus made no such proclamation. And this question about the difference between Jesus and John’s disciples is more of the same debate, or the debate put in another format. John’s disciples stood firmly in the ancient Jewish traditions; they are just like the Pharisees, after all. The disciples of Jesus, OTOH, had started down a different path. So we get this little exchange to give pre-emptive sanction to the change of behaviour of Jesus’ later followers. Yes, they were Jews, or at least claiming the ancient heritage of Judaism, but they did not practice the whole of the Law. Galatians explained why.

33 At illi dixerunt ad eum: “Discipuli Ioannis ieiunant frequenter et obsecrationes faciunt, similiter et pharisaeorum; tui autem edunt et bibunt”.

34 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μὴ δύνασθε τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἐν ᾧ ὁ νυμφίος μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν ποιῆσαι νηστεῦσαι;

35 ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι, καὶ ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὁ νυμφίος τότε νηστεύσουσιν ἐνἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις.

36 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι Οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα ἀπὸ ἱματίου καινοῦ σχίσας ἐπιβάλλει ἐπὶ ἱμάτιον παλαιόν: εἰ δὲ μή γε, καὶ τὸ καινὸν σχίσει καὶ τῷ παλαιῷ οὐ συμφωνήσει τὸ ἐπίβλημα τὸ ἀπὸ τοῦ καινοῦ.

Jesus said to them, “Are the sons of the bridegroom able in which (time) them the bridegroom is with them to make a fast? (35) The days will come, and when taken away from them is the bridegroom, then they will fast in those days. (36) They say the analogy towards them that ‘No one coverings of new cloth puts upon tears in an old garment; if so, will not the new tear and from the old the new covering will not agree the with the new.”

That’s some pretty gnarly grammar there. For whatever reason, I’m back on the hyper-literal kick; but this passage is so well known that there’s likely to be no harm. The word I’ve rendered as “tear”, as in “rip/rend” transliterates to “schizo”. Added to the word for mind, “phrenia”, we get a modern psychological diagnosis. And the concept of the “sons of the bridegroom” is really interesting. Not really sure what that might mean, or can mean. And the word used is “son”; it’s not “pais”, which could be “boy”, as in the sense of “servant”. It is almost always and exclusively used as “son”, as in biological progeny. So, at best, this seems to be something of a mixed metaphor. Finally, the word rendered as “analogy” transliterates to “parabolē”. It’s the root of both “parabola” and “parable”. To this point, I’ve usually given it as parable, but every once in a while it’s good to mix it up and remind everyone that “parable” is another of those words that have come to us from the Greek with a very specific, very religious meaning attached to it. That was not the case back then. And here is the danger of “New Testament Greek”; it’s too much of a closed, self-referential, and even circular set of definitions. This really, very much distorts the way we read the text if we think that “baptizo” has the special meaning that has for us. The same is true for “parable”. This was not a special word.

More interesting is that the prediction of the day to come when those sons will fast seems to contradict what went before it. We just had our bit about Jesus standing outside the Jewish tradition, but now his later followers will step back into it? I don’t think we need to read too much into this. Fasting was a fairly common religious practice. It still is, for that matter. This seems to imply that Jesus and his followers are not so far off the beaten path after all. (*See comment to next verse.)

34 Quibus Iesus ait: “ Numquid potestis convivas nuptiarum, dum cum illis est sponsus, facere ieiunare?

35 Venient autem dies; et cum ablatus fuerit ab illis sponsus, tunc ieiunabunt in illis diebus ”.

36 Dicebat autem et similitudinem ad illos: “ Nemo abscindit commissuram a vestimento novo et immittit in vestimentum vetus; alioquin et novum rumpet, et veteri non conveniet commissura a novo.

37 καὶ οὐδεὶς βάλλει οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ῥήξει ὁ οἶνος ὁ νέος τοὺς ἀσκούς, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐκχυθήσεται καὶ οἱ ἀσκοὶ ἀπολοῦνται:

38 ἀλλὰ οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινοὺς βλητέον.

39 [καὶ] οὐδεὶς πιὼν παλαιὸν θέλει νέον: λέγει γάρ, Ὁ παλαιὸς χρηστός ἐστιν.

“And no one throws new wine into old skins. Indeed if it were not, the new wine would burst the old (skins), and they would spill out and the skins will be destroyed. (38) But new wine is put in new skins. (39) [And] no one drinking old wishes new. For it is said, ‘the old is good’.”

The last sentence of the last verse is unique to Luke. He added this to the text that was available to him in Mark (and Matthew, if you believe me about Q). Not sure if you can see it, but there’s also a bit of a pun involved. The word “good” is “chrestos”, which is obviously darn close to “christos”. In fact, in the Life of Nero by Suetonius, the followers of “chrestos” are blamed by the emperor for the fire of Rome in 64. I’m not sure where the misunderstanding came from; whether it was Suetonius specifically who didn’t get it, or if the upper (as in literate) classes in Rome as a whole were unclear on what Jesus’ followers called him. Was Luke possibly aware of this lack of understanding and tossed this in here as sort of a barb directed at those ignorant Romans?

The other aspect to this is that ‘the old is good’ is the reason why the followers of Jesus insisted on maintaining that connexion to Judaism. As such, perhaps this explains why the sons of the bridegroom* will fast again one day, as we heard in the previous passage above. Luke, as well as Mark and Matthew before him, understood that being old meant being venerated, while being new meant being scorned. After all, the Latin term for political revolution is “res novae”; literally, “new things”. It was not a term of endearment. So Luke took the message of 2M before him and amplified it by adding this little tag line at the end of the section, to let us know that the connexion existed, and that the christos was chrestos, and was chrestos, to some degree, because he was old. Or, his teachings were old. That gave him stature.

So Luke is very clever in the way that he did this. This style is very not-Mark, the terse journalist. And it’s not Matthew, either who was…whatever. Not sure how to summarize him. Luke is easy; he’s eloquent. 

37 Et nemo mittit vinum novum in utres veteres; alioquin rumpet vinum novum utres et ipsum effundetur, et utres peribunt;

38 sed vinum novum in utres novos mittendum est.

39 Et nemo bibens vetus vult novum; dicit enim: “Vetus melius est!” ”.