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Luke Chapter 22:66-71

This is the very end of Chapter 23, which is the antepenultimate chapter in Luke. So we’re close. On one hand, if I’d realized this piece was so short, I may have stuck it on the end of the last post. But then, there’s a lot to be said for keeping them short and getting them published. Jesus has been beaten by the soldiers, and is on his way to the Sanhedrin.

Text

66 Καὶ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡμέρα, συνήχθη τὸ πρεσβυτέριον τοῦ λαοῦ, ἀρχιερεῖς τε καὶ γραμματεῖς, καὶ ἀπήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ συνέδριον αὐτῶν,

67 λέγοντες, Εἰ σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστός, εἰπὸν ἡμῖν. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἐὰν ὑμῖν εἴπω οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε:

68 ἐὰν δὲ ἐρωτήσω οὐ μὴ ἀποκριθῆτε.

69 ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν δὲ ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καθήμενος ἐκ δεξιῶν τῆς δυνάμεως τοῦ θεοῦ.

70 εἶπαν δὲ πάντες, Σὺ οὖν εἶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ; ὁ δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἔφη, Ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι.

71 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Τί ἔτι ἔχομεν μαρτυρίας χρείαν; αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἠκούσαμεν ἀπὸ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ. 

And as it became day, (3rd sing pronoun) gathered the elders of the people, the high priests, and the scribes, and they led him to their Sanhedrin, (67) saying, “If you are the Anointed, tell us”. He said to them, “If I tell you (I am) not, you will not believe me. (68) But if I ask you, you will not answer. (69) From now, however, the son of God will be seated at the right (hand) of the power of God.” (70) All of them said, “Are you the son of God?” He spoke towards them, “You say that I am”. (71) And they said, “What need have we (of more) evidence? For we ourselves have heard from his own mouth”.  

This goes very differently than in either Mark or Matthew. Firstly and mostly, it’s compressed. There are no witnessed brought in whose stories are inconsistent, there is no mention of things that Jesus was heard saying, such that he could rebuild the temple in three days. Plus, this “trial” occurred at night in the others, falling before Peter’s denial in both those narratives, so that first thing the Sanhedrin bundles him off to Pilate. I read somewhere that the idea of this group meeting at night would have been unthinkable. Unfortunately, I really have no understanding of how the finer points of the power structure worked in Jerusalem at this time, so I can neither confirm nor deny that. I cannot so much as assign probability. Interesting that Luke seems to be aware of that, so changes the timeline to accommodate and/or correct this. Which leads to a point.

I’ve been doing some Google reading on the minor agreements. The arguments, such as they are, to explain while maintaining both Q and Luke’s independence of Matthew are much as I said: coincidence, both expanding on Mark and coincidentally choosing exactly the same three or five words in exactly the same order and declension & conjugation, scribal interpolation to make the stories more identical, etc. IOW, anything but the most obvious solution: Luke used Matthew’s word. Interestingly, when Luke does not use Matthew’s words, such as at Jesus’ washing in the Jordan, it’s proof that Luke was unaware of Matthew. When Luke does use Matthew’s words, as in the two previous posts, it’s a coincidence, or the result of what is effectively a deus ex machina, a scribe being unfaithful to the mss in front of him. But that’s not the point. In this cursory research, I came across a couple of people arguing that Luke was actually the first to be written, then Mark, then Matthew. Naturally, they base their arguments on the literary construction of the three texts. One of them was quite clever, and quite novel. He was translating the NT into modern Hebrew, and he discovered that Luke’s grammatical construction, etc, is much more like one would expect in Hebrew than the other two. So he postulates that Luke was working from a Hebrew text, and that he retained–if unconsciously–these verbal patterns. Again, I can’t offer a considered opinion knowing absolutely nothing about Hebrew. The other that I found claimed that Lukan priority would explain the minor agreements more effectively than Luke using Matthew. The argument stretched over large chunks of text, so, again, I can’t offer a reasonable assessment.*

Anyway, I bring this up because I would be interested to hear how those people explain this particular section, the Arrest and Trial before the Sandhedrin. Mark and Matthew both provide longer and more detailed descriptions of the events. Luke’s is much shorter, an abridged version by any reasonable standard. How does this short version grow into the more detailed version later? I suppose there is really no difference in arguing that Mark expanded on Luke’s short version, and Matthew then followed Mark. And this would explain all those places where I note Luke’s shorter version of pericopes that are fully covered by both Mark & Matthew. The question then becomes does Lukan priority explain Matthew’s shorter versions where Luke and Mark offer a longer story? My favourite example of this is the Gerasene Demonaic. I suppose it does. In those cases, it would be Matthew abridging in the way I say Luke is doing here. Fair enough. The rub comes, I think, when we realize how much of Luke is unique material: apparently, something like half of Luke is unique to that gospel. The question then becomes, is it more probable that the unique material was dropped by Mark and then Matthew, or added by Luke after the other two? No surprise, but I fall on the latter side. Luke compressed and then added the new stuff. After all, Good Samaritan & Prodigal Son have such resonance that the terms are standard in the English-speaking world. I find it hard to believe that such powerful stories were removed. Then you have the whole question of why Mark would have eliminated the pater noster. This is the prayer that Jesus supposedly implemented. I get it that Mark was supposedly a synopsis, but removing some of the most memorable and widely-recognized aspects of Christianity seems a bit odd, to say the least. And really, since Mark lacks the pater, the Prodigal Son, and the Beatitudes, I find anything other than Markan priority to be difficult to fathom, let alone explain. What on earth could have possessed Mark to leave out such powerful expressions of Christian belief? As a corollary, I find the lack of this material, especially the lack of the Beatitudes and the pater noster to be almost-insurmountable evidence that Jesus ever spoke those words. 

66 Et ut factus est dies, convenerunt seniores plebis et principes sacerdotum et scribae et duxerunt illum in concilium suum

67 dicentes: “Si tu es Christus, dic nobis”. Et ait illis: “Si vobis dixero, non credetis;

68 si autem interrogavero, non respondebitis mihi.

69 Ex hoc autem erit Filius hominis sedens a dextris virtutis Dei”.

70 Dixerunt autem omnes: “Tu ergo es Filius Dei?”. Qui ait ad illos: “Vos dicitis quia ego sum”.

71 At illi dixerunt: “Quid adhuc desideramus testimonium? Ipsi enim audivimus de ore eius!”.

*I can, however, provide links.

Similarity to Hebrew:

The Major Importance of the “Minor” Agreements

 

Minor agreements:

http://synoptic-problem.com/matthew_luke_synoptic_problem.html

Luke Chapter 22:54-65

Jesus has been arrested and is on his way to see Caiaphas. This section is actually two short pieces: Peter’s Denial, and then Jesus and the Soldiers. Should be quick, but famous last words.

Text

54 Συλλαβόντες δὲ αὐτὸν ἤγαγον καὶ εἰσήγαγον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως: ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἠκολούθει μακρόθεν.

55 περιαψάντων δὲ πῦρ ἐν μέσῳ τῆς αὐλῆς καὶ συγκαθισάντων ἐκάθητο ὁ Πέτρος μέσος αὐτῶν.

56 ἰδοῦσα δὲ αὐτὸν παιδίσκη τις καθήμενον πρὸς τὸ φῶς καὶ ἀτενίσασα αὐτῷ εἶπεν, Καὶ οὗτος σὺν αὐτῷ ἦν:

57 ὁ δὲ ἠρνήσατο λέγων, Οὐκ οἶδα αὐτόν, γύναι.

58 καὶ μετὰ βραχὺ ἕτερος ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ἔφη, Καὶ σὺ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶ: ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἔφη, Ἄνθρωπε, οὐκ εἰμί.

59 καὶ διαστάσης ὡσεὶ ὥρας μιᾶς ἄλλος τις διϊσχυρίζετο λέγων, Ἐπ’ ἀληθείας καὶ οὗτος μετ’ αὐτοῦ ἦν, καὶ γὰρ Γαλιλαῖός ἐστιν:

60 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Πέτρος, Ἄνθρωπε, οὐκ οἶδα ὃ λέγεις. καὶ παραχρῆμα ἔτι λαλοῦντος αὐτοῦ ἐφώνησεν ἀλέκτωρ.

Taking him along with them, they led and took him to the home of the Chief Priest. Peter follow at some distance. (55) Having lighted a fire in the middle of the courtyard and (some unspecified persons, likely slaves or attendants to the Chief Priest) were sitting together around it, and Peter sat in the middle of them. (56) Seeing him, some young female slave sitting near the light and looked intently at him (and) said, “And you were with him”. (57) And he answered saying, “I don’t know him, woman”. (58) And after a bit another seeing him said, “And you are of them”. But Peter said, “Man, I am not”. (59) And having progressed about an hour, some other asserted strongly saying, “In truth, you were with him. for you are also Galilean”. (60) But Peter said, “Dude, I do not know what you say.” And immediately upon (his) speaking, the cock sounded off (crowed).

A few good points. The residences of officials, or important/wealthy persons were often constructed about an open courtyard. The feature is a common one in the Mediterranean to this day. The Greek version was called a megaron, and included a portico running around it. In hot, dry climates, being in the shade can cut the temperature remarkably. Shade, coupled with stone buildings can keep the temperature quite pleasant. This is why they sat in the Stoa–literally, a porch, a colonnade on a marble building–in Athens. Hence, the philosophical school of the Stoics. Anyway, it is in such an open courtyard that Peter finds himself. The people gathered by the fire are most likely attached to the chief priest’s household in some serving capacity. Recalling the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his boy/slave (pais), the first to speak was a paidiskē. The Greek word declines pais, paidos, meaning that the nominative case ends with the -s-, but the stem is formed with a -d-. So paidiskē is more or less the feminine form of pais; which, although can mean either male or female child, generally referred to a male unless otherwise stated. The definition states that a paidiskē was specifically a young female slave.  One translation of the word is “maid”. Now, in English, this word is ambiguous; it can mean maid, as in scullery maid, a servant, or it can mean a maiden, a young girl/woman, who was presumably a virgin in the English term. Most of that ambiguity is contained in the Greek as well, but note Peter refers to her as “woman”. But the adjectives “male/female” were not generally used as substantives, as nouns, the way they are in English, so “woman” has to substitute for “female-in-general”. It is also the standard term for “wife”, just as andros, “man”, is the standard term for husband. The point of all this is to reinforce that the centurion was almost certainly asking Jesus to heal a slave and not his child.

The other aspect is to wonder how she would have known Peter was with Jesus. Per the narrative, Jesus was brought in and Peter followed at a distance; ergo, to have seen them together, the woman almost necessarily would have been with the band that went out to arrest him. This strikes me as at least a bit odd. Why would a posse include a female slave? Probably it didn’t; however, it’s not out of the question that she sort of tagged along to catch the excitement. This is certainly a common-enough thing for people to do once their curiosity is piqued. But then you have to ask, as one of the hangers-on, how close would she have been to the central action, to Jesus. Recall, this is night, and there were no streetlights, so the only illumination would be the torches carried by the posse. (And perhaps by Jesus’ group as well? I had never thought that one through.) Torches also flicker, but a half-dozen or so would provide a fairly consistent light to eliminate the flicker to some degree. That leads to the question of how large was the circle of illumination? Enough to show Jesus, and Judas, and those carrying the torches. These latter would have been in the group composing the posse. Where was Peter? Was he right behind Jesus? Was he the one who drew the sword? I ask because we have to wonder how well his face would have been illuminated. Was it to the point that someone maybe twenty or thirty feet away would have gotten a good look at him? Why would anyone notice Peter, in particular? Wouldn’t most eyes be focused on Jesus and Judas? It’s not out of the question, but if she were a witness for the prosecution, and I were Peter’s defense attorney, these are exactly the sorts of questions I’d use to grill her for her reliability. I can imagine that the men were more apt to be close to the action. The first could have been one of the torch bearers, so he could much more easily have seen Peter’s face. So why didn’t he recognize Peter before the woman? It says he spoke after a short time. Had he been studying Peter’s visage in the meantime? The second man only spoke after an hour. I can suppose that he had been doing some duty and only came into the fire later, which would account for the time lag. But still.

This is a great story, with a great moral. It’s dramatic. It shows the human side of Peter. But is it realistic? What is the likelihood that it could have happened? Then, combine that with the probability that it did happen. It’s a complex act, so the probability of could & did both occurring shrinks significantly. And who told the story? Did Peter ‘fess up to Mark, where we first encountered this? And remember, Mark was not a huge fan of the disciples as a group, and often was not impressed with Peter in particular. Had Peter told Mark, the latter would doubtless have included it. But recall that there is a significant–but apparently decreasing–consensus that the Passion Narrative predated Mark. Was this part included in that narrative? Why would it have been? Once again, let ‘s go back to the Arthur legend, and the way episodes got tacked on as time passed. We saw it in Luke with the stories of the Widow of Nain, and Zaccheus. Did this get tacked on to that primordial Passion Narrative at a later date? Perhaps by Mark, who added it as yet another dig at Peter? After all, there is the lovely contrast between Peter’s bravado at supper, and his lack of spine here. Has anyone ever questioned the probability of this episode? After all, it took me until the third iteration before it occurred to me to question it, and even then it wasn’t until I was in the middle of the translation that the thought popped into my head. We get all sorts of caveats from biblical scholars that the gospels aren’t history or biography– JD Crossan did exactly that at the beginning of The Birth of Christianity–but immediately the caveat is uttered, it’s forgotten and we’re treating every word in the gospel as an historical account–and a reliable historical account.

The questions have to be asked if we are to have any confidence that we have any clue about what happened. To the best of my knowledge, they have not been asked. 

54 Comprehendentes autem eum, duxerunt et introduxerunt in domum principis sacerdotum. Petrus vero sequebatur a longe.

55 Accenso autem igni in medio atrio et circumsedentibus illis, sedebat Petrus in medio eorum.

56 Quem cum vidisset ancilla quaedam sedentem ad lumen et eum fuisset intuita, dixit:

57 “Et hic cum illo erat!”. At ille negavit eum dicens:

58 “Mulier, non novi illum!”. Et post pusillum alius videns eum dixit: “Et tu de illis es!”. Petrus vero ait: “O homo, non sum!”.

59 Et intervallo facto quasi horae unius, alius quidam affirmabat dicens: “Vere et hic cum illo erat, nam et Galilaeus est!”.

60 Et ait Petrus: “Homo, nescio quid dicis!”. Et continuo adhuc illo loquente cantavit gallus.

61 καὶ στραφεὶς ὁ κύριος ἐνέβλεψεν τῷ Πέτρῳ, 

And the lord turned and looked at Peter

What!?!? I stopped where I did above because that was the end of the story. Or, it’s the end of the story in the other two. Here is a great example of what I was talking about in the previous comment. Even if we didn’t have the other two versions, as soon as we hit this verse I would have been completely skeptical. The logistics of this are virtually impossible, and simply fails the reasonableness test. It completely demolishes credibility, or my credulity, that this could happen. Peter followed at a distance, but when he caught up, Jesus is still in the courtyard? And he’s still there an hour later when the third accuser of Peter shows up? No, it’s just not at all reasonable. But, given the other two, whether we believe this as credible or not doesn’t matter. Here, I think, is another instance where Luke felt safe to throw in a curve ball because there are two other versions of the story. This is, I think, a great insight into the redactional strategy, or approach. He clarifies. He augments. He corrects. He abbreviates when a full version is not required because it’s ground that has been well-trodden by his predecessors. And this is a big reason I believe that Luke was indeed fully aware of Matthew. The so-called Q Material is a part of, but only a part of the overall question. Why Luke did or didn’t change stuff from Q doesn’t begin to address, let alone solve, whether Luke was aware of Matthew. And besides, the idea that we can actually know what Q said is simply preposterous on its face. How can we know what the original version of a non-existent document said? It’s like arguing that all unicorns were white until some became silver. Really.  No, the question is much bigger, and more complex than the handling, or mishandling of stuff that didn’t exist independently of Matthew. There is so much other stuff in the texts of the two or three gospels that needs to be examined. Like, why does Luke go long when Matthew goes short, and vice-versa?

61 καὶ στραφεὶς ὁ κύριος ἐνέβλεψεν τῷ Πέτρῳ, καὶ ὑπεμνήσθη ὁ Πέτρος τοῦ ῥήματος τοῦ κυρίου ὡς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι Πρὶν ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι σήμερον ἀπαρνήσῃ με τρίς:

62 καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἔξω ἔκλαυσεν πικρῶς.

And the lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the words (speech) of the lord as he said to him that, ‘Before the cock crows today you will deny me three times.” (62) And going outside he wept bitterly.

61 Et conversus Dominus respexit Petrum; et recordatus est Petrus verbi Domini, sicut dixit ei: “ Priusquam gallus cantet hodie, ter me negabis”.

62 Et egressus foras flevit amare.

This part is pretty much standard. Or is it? Even though the whole scenario beggars belief, we have to admit that the dramatic flair is very, well, dramatic. Can’t you envision? Peter looks at Jesus, who, of course, knows that Peter will do this. The make eye contact. Jesus’ expression anguished, and weary, and understanding, and yet forgiving. He is anguished that Peter has done this, he is anguished because he knows the anguish Peter is experiencing as he realizes what he has done. Jesus is weary, because, once again, fallible humans have proven to be so fallible. He is understanding because he understands that Peter is fallible, and human, and is torn with remorse over what he has done. And yet, Jesus is forgiving. Because, after all, he is Jesus. Look at what Luke got across in a few words. It’s powerful stuff, and you wonder why I consider Luke a novelist. 

But here is a funny point. The word << πικρῶς >>.  It occurs exactly twice. Here, and in Matthew 26:75. There, Matthew says that Peter went out “and wept bitterly”. The KJV translates Luke’s version as “he wept bitterly”. Well isn’t that just the darnedest thing?  A two-nique (like “unique”, but there are only two examples) word, used only by Matthew and Luke, in exactly the same way, in exactly the same point in the narrative in exactly the same words: << ἔξω ἔκλαυσεν πικρῶς >>. Those three words occur in exactly that order in both Matthew and Luke. But, the Passion Narrative is not part of Q. Huh. Quite the coincidence, no? This is what is called a “minor agreement”, wherein Matthew and Luke do pretty much what they do here. The degree of exactness may not be quite as high–it’s absolutely exact–as it is here, but pretty darn close. Actually, we’re coming up on another of these, when Jesus is in being “interrogated” by the guards. This one, however, seems to fly under the radar for the most part. I don’t recall ever having run across a reference to this one. Funny, that. Why on earth would the Q people conveniently overlook an exact word-for-word overlap? Except it’s worse than that. They usually manage to acknowledge the “minor agreements”, but I cannot recall what their explanation for these is. Later homogenization in scriptoria, where the mss were copied by hand all those centuries? Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that in The Birth of Christianity, JD Crossan brings up the topic of the minor agreements, but dismisses them with a breezy, now’s not the time to get into that (paraphrase), and that’s the last we hear of them so we can get on to a whole raft of suppositions and unsupported inferences that lead to conclusions that are accepted, even though they’ve scarcely been argued, let alone shown to be persuasive.   

63 Καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ συνέχοντες αὐτὸν ἐνέπαιζον αὐτῷ δέροντες,

64 καὶ περικαλύψαντες αὐτὸν ἐπηρώτων λέγοντες, Προφήτευσον, τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;

65 καὶ ἕτερα πολλα βλασφημοῦντες ἔλεγον εἰς αὐτόν. 

And the men holding him, beating (him) mocked (him), (64) and blindfolding him they demanded, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one striking you?” (65) And blaspheming many other ways they spoke to him.

This is actually the other minor agreement I mentioned above. Mark has the soldiers demand that Jesus prophesy; both Matthew and Luke have the soldiers demand that Jesus prophesy, but both also add, << τίς ἐστιν ὁ παίσας σε;>>. Again it’s a verbatim quote. Apparently, the cause for these minor agreements is the existence of yet another unfound, uncited, unquoted, never-alluded-to text of Ur-Mark, or proto-Mark. Or they are just coincidence. Or they are just Matthew and Luke adapting Mark at exactly the same place using exactly the same words. Long story short: they can’t explain, and they don’t particularly feel the need to. Everybody knows that Q existed, so why won’t these whiners (like me) just shut up and go away and let them live in their land of make-believe?

Seriously, at some point I have to stop being a guy with a blog and start acting more like an actual scholar by behaving like a grown-up. At some point, I will. At some, as yet undetermined point. In the future.

One final thing. The whole episode is yet another example of Luke abridging a story that was fully told by both of his predecessors. 

63 Et viri, qui tenebant illum, illudebant ei caedentes;

64 et velaverunt eum et interrogabant eum dicentes: “Prophetiza: Quis est, qui te percussit?”.

65 Et alia multa blasphemantes dicebant in eum.

Luke Chapter 22:47-53

Note: I added a short addendum to the previous post, discussing “according to custom”. John’s gospel states that Jesus and the disciples had the custom/habit of going to the Mount of Olives.

This should be quick and concise. Jesus has just suffered through his Agony in the Garden, the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries. Unfortunately, we didn’t get here in time for Lent when the timing would have been ideal. Rather, it’s High Summer, and we’re on the downward path towards Christmas rather than Easter.

47 Ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἰδοὺ ὄχλος, καὶ ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα προήρχετο αὐτούς, καὶ ἤγγισεν τῷ Ἰησοῦ φιλῆσαι αὐτόν.

48 Ἰησοῦς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἰούδα, φιλήματι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδως;

He was yet speaking (and) behold, a crowd, and Judas, one of the twelve approached them, and having drawn near Jesus kissed him. (48) Jesus said to him, “Judas, do you hand over the son man with a kiss?

This is interesting. I am accustomed to the question being, “Judas, must/do you betray me with a kiss?”. Let’s be honest; I am most familiar with the question as put in Jesus Christ Superstar, which I have heard probably thousands of times by now. Here, the question is put somewhat differently. In itself that is not surprising. What is truly surprising is that this is the only gospel in which Jesus actually asks the question at all. In truth, I find this hard to believe, but I checked the Harmony and each individual gospel, and it’s just not there. A great example of something “we know” that’s actually a fiction. In either case, “betray the son of man” vs “betray me” have very different connotations. The latter is personal, while the former is a cosmic in its implications. It’s also, and incidentally, a demonstration of the identity of Jesus and the Son of Man. Thinking back to the ambiguity surrounding this title in Mark, this is a fairly bold step. It is a powerful example of how the idea of Jesus had developed between Mark and Luke, and would continue to develop until Jesus became the Logos.

Can’t recall the context, but just ran across “hand over/betray” in a very mundane context in pagan Greek, where it simply meant “hand over”. As in “Each student hand over his/her paper to the teacher on the way out of the classroom”. That served as a very effective reminder that so many of the Greek words we encounter in the NT have very, very ordinary meanings and uses. This is one of the reasons I don’t like NT Lexica; they are too enclosed and self-referential. You will too often get the Christian usage of the word, which, while not wrong, is sometimes woefully incomplete. For example, if you look up Logos in an NT Lexicon, the first definition is often “word”; as in, “In the beginning was the Word”. Now “word” is a perfectly acceptable translation, but if you look it up in Liddell & Scott, “word” is in section VI, or possibly lower, so it’s not even in the top five categories of what the word can mean, let alone the top five definitions. The commentary in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges tells us that Tertullian, while providing the Latin sermo and verbum, seemed to prefer ratio. Of the prior two, verbum became the accepted translation, hence our “word”. The same commentary says “none of these translations is at all adequate”. I would much prefer ratio, because that would require something to be pondered. But the point here is that we do ourselves no favours by sticking too much to the NT Lexica for our translations. Too much is missed. Else, why would Mark in 7:4 talk about baptizing food bought at the market. Do you baptise your vegetables before you cook or eat them? Generally, I wash them, but I guess First Century Jews were in the habit of baptising theirs. 

47 Adhuc eo loquente, ecce turba; et, qui vocabatur Iudas, unus de Duodecim, antecedebat eos et appropinquavit Iesu, ut oscularetur eum.

48 Iesus autem dixit ei: “ Iuda, osculo Filium hominis tradis? ”.

49 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν τὸ ἐσόμενον εἶπαν, Κύριε, εἰ πατάξομεν ἐν μαχαίρῃ;

50 καὶ ἐπάταξεν εἷς τις ἐξ αὐτῶν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως τὸν δοῦλον καὶ ἀφεῖλεν τὸ οὖς αὐτοῦ τὸ δεξιόν.

51 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἐᾶτε ἕως τούτου: καὶ ἁψάμενος τοῦ ὠτίου ἰάσατο αὐτόν.

52 εἶπεν δὲ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς τοὺς παραγενομένους ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ στρατηγοὺς τοῦ ἱεροῦ καὶ πρεσβυτέρους, Ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν ἐξήλθατε μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων;

53 καθ’ ἡμέραν ὄντος μου μεθ’ ὑμῶν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ οὐκ ἐξετείνατε τὰς χεῖρας ἐπ’ ἐμέ: ἀλλ’ αὕτη ἐστὶν ὑμῶν ἡ ὥρα καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία τοῦ σκότους. 

And seeing those around him, he said “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” (50) And he smote one of those slaves of the chief priests, and cut off his right ear. (51) Answering, Jesus said, “Leave this now.” And touching the ear he healed it/him. (52) Jesus said to those being around the chief priests and the soldiers of the temple and elders, “How is it as a thief you come with swords and pieces of wood (i.e., clubs)? (53) Each day I was being with you in the temple (and) you did not lay hands upon me. But this is your hour and the power of the shadow.”

The Greek is pretty much literal, but that is not why it sounds so stilted in English. It comes off the way it does because where we would say “who had come against him”, which is what the crib translations all say, the Greek uses another verb that expresses the concept in a different way. The verb is literally, “being around”. Obviously, if they were around, they had come in a group. Secondly, both the Greek and the Latin describe those being around; the English is usually rendered “what was to happen”. Again, we can probably infer what was to happen based on those who were around them, but that is not the literal.

One of those with the two with swords–assuming the two swords were carried by different persons–actually asked permission to smite someone? “Shall we, Lord?” But then does so, without waiting for permission to be granted? That’s novel. Where did that come from? But more on that in a moment. The point I wanted to make back in the previous section, when the disciples showed Jesus two swords is that this really messes with the story and the ramifications that come–or, more precisely, don’t–come out of this event. Attacking the retinue of such an authority was a capital offense, and the justice was apt to be summary. Granted, these are not Romans, because that is most likely how they would have reacted. This band belongs to the Temple, the priests and elders, so their latitude of action is a bit more circumscribed than that of the Romans. However. There is no way that this deed would not have resulted in the arrest of the entire group of disciples. It just strains credulity. These sorts of groups were not known for their perspicacity and their restraint. Stab first, ask questions later, and no one would seriously question killing a commoner in what was legitimately self-defence. They struck first. Really, I should have noted the same thing when we discussed this act in Mark and Matthew, but it really hadn’t occurred to me until the disciples presented two swords. Just having such weapons was probably enough to warrant arrest, and they would give you a fair trial before finding you guilty and executing you. The trial would have gone something like,

“Charge?” 

“Insurrection.”

“Evidence?”

“He had a sword”.

“Crucify him. Next.” 

End of trial, and end of transgressor, forthwith. 

On these lines I have repeatedly stated that I do not believe Jesus was executed as a bandit, or a revolutionary, or even as a threat to the power structure. I believe this because Peter and James and someone named John were still around to talk to Paul sometime in the 50s. Peter’s denial would not have happened, because the first person to recognise him would have called the guard and that would have been that for Peter. Or, it would not have come to that because he would have been arrested in the Garden with Jesus. The other aspect to this is that the chief priests served at the pleasure of Rome. Failure to take such a threat as Jesus supposedly posed seriously enough to round up the whole gang would not have gone over well with Pilate. The Romans would have made a sweep, arrested some likely suspects, executed the lot, and then deposed Caiaphas & Co for running such a slovenly security service. They probably wouldn’t have executed Caiaphas, but they may have, if someone came forward to accuse him. And anyone who’s actually read Tacitus–and not just the couple of paragraphs about Christians–will understand what was happening in Rome, and what the term delatores means, and what it implies. (Hint: it means informant. It implies that there was money to be made by lodging accusations against prominent individuals. Sure, sure, that was Rome, but that’s where Pilate was headed after his term of office was over. Were someone to tell Tiberius that Pilate coddled revolutionaries…)

“The power of the shadow”. Nice. Nice and ominous. And novel.

Which brings us to this question: why is there no discussion about these sorts of changes made by Luke? Why do we not have to provide redactionally consistent arguments to account for every little variation from Mark or Matthew? Yes, the question is facetious, but only to a degree. The Q people are extremely whimsical and inconsistent about the changes allowed, and the changes not allowed from Matthew. There is never any acknowledgement that Luke changed Matthew because there was no point in writing another gospel and not changing anything. Changing stuff, adding stuff, are precisely the reasons one undertakes to write a third gospel. I had intended to bring this up with the discussion of “according to custom” when they went out to the Mount of Olives. It’s brand new, it’s unique, is it amenable to an explanation that is redactionally consistent with other changes made? I don’t know. But I’m just some guy with a blog; I’m not a renowned biblical scholar. But then, I’ve asked the question, and they haven’t. Why is that? Hint: I believe it has to do with using an NT Lexicon rather than the big Liddell & Scott.

49 Videntes autem hi, qui circa ipsum erant, quod futurum erat, dixerunt: “Domine, si percutimus in gladio?”.

50 Et percussit unus ex illis servum principis sacerdotum et amputavit auriculam eius dextram.

51 Respondens autem Iesus ait: “Sinite usque huc!”. Et cum tetigisset auriculam eius, sanavit eum.

52 Dixit autem Iesus ad eos, qui venerant ad se principes sacerdotum et magistratus templi et seniores: “Quasi ad latronem existis cum gladiis et fustibus?

53 Cum cotidie vobiscum fuerim in templo, non extendistis manus in me; sed haec est hora vestra et potestas tenebrarum”.

Luke Chapter 22:31-46 with addendum

We are moving towards the end of the Lord’s Supper. We just had the discussion about who was to be the greatest in Heaven, and Jesus said the greatest was the servant of all. Hence the Papal motto: Servus Servorum Dei; Servant of the Servants of God. That section was moved radically from the context of Mark and Matthew, who both placed it in the immediate aftermath of the Transfiguration. Why the move? And does my explanation have to be redactionally consistent in why Luke changed Matthew? Or, since he changed the placement of Mark too, does that obviate the need for an explanation? Since I just went back and re-summarized the middle of Luke 4, this topic is in the front of my mind. I forget; since Matthew omitted the story of the Unclean Spirit, do the Q people have to have a redactionally consistent explanation for why he did that? Or is asking the question facetious? And, if the answer is yes, does that matter? A question is valid or not on its merits. If we need to explain the changes made to Luke–and we do, for reasons that are never fully developed; we just have to–then why is such an explanation not need for changes Matthew made to Mark?

Part of the problem is that, at root, the gospels are not really a persistent narrative. There is a general outline of (birth), baptism, ministry, events in Jerusalem which include crucifixion and resurrection. Other than that, it is entirely possible to take blocks of stories. cut them into individual pieces, and then reassemble in some random order. Yes, this does violence to the split narratives of Mark, such as the cursing of the fig tree, the intervening bit, and then finding the fig tree withered later in the day. The Bleeding Woman is similarly placed between the beginning and end of the Jairus’ daughter pericope. Still, even taking Mark’s A-B-A format as a single unit, there is very little continuity of narrative between these blocks of story. This is a real key into the way the narrative developed: as individual stories that were collected and cobbled together. In Mark, I suggested they fit into two overall themes, that of the Wonder Worker and that of the Christ; within those themes, however, the stories are highly moveable. In Mark, the Tale of Legion and Jairus’ Daughter/Bleeding Woman are the longest stories told by Mark, and are situated more or less in the middle of the gospel, which probably has some literary significance. But, as we saw in Chapter 4, or here, a story can be moved whole from one place to another with little difference. There may be stylistic preferences for here rather than there, but that is all they are.

On the other hand, this lack of narrative continuity produces instances of almost jarring narrative discontinuity. The progression from one story to the next is so arbitrary and graceless that effect is puzzling. I’ve mentioned this numerous times when the transition is particularly abrupt. Interestingly, my first take on the the movement from Jesus talking about serving in the last section to Jesus predicting the betrayal of Peter seemed particularly rough. Closer consideration, however, has led me to rethink that judgement. I’ll discuss in the first comment.

Text

31 Σίμων Σίμων, ἰδοὺ ὁ Σατανᾶς ἐξῃτήσατο ὑμᾶς τοῦ σινιάσαι ὡς τὸν σῖτον:

32 ἐγὼ δὲ ἐδεήθην περὶ σοῦ ἵνα μὴ ἐκλίπῃ ἡ πίστις σου: καὶ σύ ποτε ἐπιστρέψας στήρισον τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου.

33 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, μετὰ σοῦ ἕτοιμός εἰμι καὶ εἰς φυλακὴν καὶ εἰς θάνατον πορεύεσθαι.

34 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Λέγω σοι, Πέτρε, οὐ φωνήσει σήμερον ἀλέκτωρ ἕως τρίς με ἀπαρνήσῃ εἰδέναι.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded you (plural) to sift as grain. (32) But I beg about you so that you may not abandon your faith. And when you have retuned, you will strengthen your brothers.” (33) He (Peter) said to him (Jesus), “Lord, with you I am prepared to follow you to prison and to death”. (34) But he (Jesus) said, “I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today before you have denied to know me three times”.

OK, let’s consider this transition. In one breath, Jesus is discussing being a servant and in the next he is being all cagey with Peter about what he is about to do, “knowing” as he does what will happen. All things considered this is rather a slick segue. The two parts do not really fit; we have moved from one subject to another, that of being a servant to discussing Peter’s faith before predicting the latter’s coming betrayal. But the last bit of Verse 32 very cleverly brings us back around. This part that Peter will bolster his brothers is another way to say that he will help them, which is to say that he will be their servant. So we have the full circle. Now, we’ve been told many times by now that Matthew’s arrangement of the Q material is “masterful”, whereas that of Luke, by implication, leaves a bit to be desired. This, however, from a stylistic point of view, is very well done. It could be ascribed tp a single flash of brilliance on Luke’s part, something done once and not repeated, whereas Matthew is masterful throughout his gospel. Perhaps. 

Something much more important, however, lurks in the background here. Of course we all remember the “Thou art Peter” line. I was perfectly willing to slough this off as an interpolation inserted at the behest and the direction of one of the later Bishops of Rome These bishops are the most likely candidates to perpetuate, or even initiate, the tradition that Peter went to Rome and became the first bishop there. Mind, there is no evidence for this aside from that convenient and self-serving piece of propaganda, which should be immediately suspect for exactly those reasons. This was the attitude of most of the Protestant scholars in the 16th Century. While they may not have called it an interpolation, since manuscript traditions and textual analysis had not been invented quite yet, they were nonetheless very skeptical that Peter had in any way been elevated above the others. But–and this is huge–does Peter returning to strengthen his brothers echo this same sentiment? Does it give Peter something of an outsized role in what is to come later? Is Luke, in fact, making an oblique reference to that line in Matthew here? Annoyingly, I believe I just read something JD Crossan wrote about this passage, but I was not familiar enough with it for whatever he said to make sense and so stick in my memory. The book of his I’m reading is The Birth of Christianity; I’m not quite halfway through, but that still means it was somewhere in the first 300 pages, and the index is not very helpful.But the point is I want to credit Crossan with the suggestion and agree that such a reading is entirely possible. And, BTW, this would be a serious blow to Q; where did Luke get the idea of Peter being above the rest? That is a significant question since Peter will play a very large role in the early part of Acts. 

31 Simon, Simon, ecce Satanas expetivit vos, ut cribraret sicut triticum;

32 ego autem rogavi pro te, ut non deficiat fides tua. Et tu, aliquando conversus, confirma fratres tuos”.

33 Qui dixit ei: “Domine, tecum paratus sum et in carcerem et in mortem ire”.

34 Et ille dixit:Dico tibi, Petre, non cantabit hodie gallus, donec ter abneges nosse me”.

35 Καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οτε ἀπέστειλα ὑμᾶς ἄτερ βαλλαντίου καὶ πήρας καὶ ὑποδημάτων, μή τινος ὑστερήσατε; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐθενός.

36 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἀλλὰ νῦν ὁ ἔχων βαλλάντιον ἀράτω, ὁμοίως καὶ πήραν, καὶ ὁ μὴ ἔχων πωλησάτω τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀγορασάτω μάχαιραν.

37 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι τοῦτο τὸ γεγραμμένον δεῖ τελεσθῆναι ἐν ἐμοί, τὸ Καὶ μετὰ ἀνόμων ἐλογίσθη: καὶ γὰρ τὸ περὶ ἐμοῦ τέλος ἔχει.

38 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Κύριε, ἰδοὺ μάχαιραι ὧδε δύο. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἱκανόν ἐστιν.

He said to them, “When I sent you (aposteila)out without a bag, and money, and sandals, did you want for anything?” They said, “Nothing”. (36) And he said to them, “But now the one having a bag/purse and money, let him take it up, and let the one not having (either) sell his cloak and buy a sword. (37) For I say to you that what is written must be fulfill in me/thru me/by me*, ‘And he shall be numbered among the lawless; and the one around me has (his) end’.” (38) They said to him, “Lord, behold, here (are) two”. He said to them, “That is enough.” (39) 

*The literal meaning is “in”, but all are possible readings. For once I’m not sure being strictly literal is the best reading, even though NIV, ESV, NASB, and KJV all use “in”. I’ve been reading a fair bit of classical Greek of late (Herodotus & Xenophon), and “en” has a broader meaning than just “in”.

This is interesting. Buy a sword? We have two? The tradition of one of Jesus’ followers smiting a slave of the high priest with a sword goes back to Mark and is repeated by Matthew, so it’s firmly entrenched in the legend. I want to talk about this further, but perhaps best to wait until we get to that scene; it presents all sorts of implications. But mentioning the swords here is a foreshadow of what is to come. It is preparation for that event. Let’s face it: in Mark, the sword comes more or less from nowhere, and we’re sort of left to wonder who had a sword and why. Here, Luke lets us know that his group is armed and ready. The question is why?

Beyond that, however, is the question of continuity. We jumped here from Peter denying Jesus three times. And then we go to talking about swords. Moving from Verse 34 to Verse 35, and between Verses 35 & 36, each time we encounter a joint or a seam where two separate pieces are put together, and not always “seamlessly” as they say in the business world, where the change or transition is not supposed to be noticed by the customer. These are the sorts of things that all too often get lost in the context of discussing redactionally consistent explanations, and whether something is ethical or apocalyptic eschatology. Why do these occur? What do they represent? What do they tell us about the text? Or about the way the text is constructed? Luke apparently felt that there was sufficient continuity to allow him to make these transitions, but I disagree. Do you have thoughts? On which side do you fall? Do you not agree that these are seams in the narrative. Having written fiction, I can tell you that awkward moments such as these generally result from trying to force in an explanatory passage so than an event occurring later in the text will make sense. Which is pretty much the situation here.

The point here is that we get a peek at Luke shaping the text to fit his development of the story. He found the later appearance of the sword to be jarring, so he explained it ahead of time. What insight, if any, does this give us into Luke’s overall conception of the story he’s telling, of how he conceives Jesus? In my opinion, this provides no such insight. It’s the act of a novelist trying to add credibility to the narrative. It has nothing to do with how Luke views Jesus, whether he’s presenting ethical or apocalyptic eschatology. It’s a simple narrative technique. Reading the Birth of Christianity has driven home the degree to which modern scholars have overthought so much of the NT narrative. To get the degree of consistency that is pulled from the gospel texts is much like pulling a rabbit from a hat. How many drafts of their respective gospels did the evangelists each write? How many would be required to produce the sort of consistency that is purported to exist in Matthew and the way he so masterfully handled the Q material? Or did he just get it all correct the first time through? Anyone who’s ever written a text longer than 10 or 15 pages can tell you that all sorts of contradictions in thinking creep in, especially if the text is written over a period of days, or weeks, and certainly over months. I have doubtless contradicted myself any number of times in my commentary, and these will–can–only be found by re-reading and correcting. Again, I don’t have answers, but it is vital that we ask these questions. I was very excited to read Birth of Christianity, the subtitle of which is Discovering What Happened In The Years Immediately After The Execution Of Jesus. This is a very important question, which has gotten all-too-little attention. What did happen between Jesus and Paul, and then between Paul and Mark, and then Mark and Matthew and then Luke? I’m now 300 pages into a 600-page book, and Crossan has said pretty much nothing about this. Nothing. It’s an incredible feat of diversion and distraction and evasion. But it is exactly seams like we’ve just encountered where we can begin to pull back the veneer and see the mechanisms of writing. The only evidence we have for what happened after Jesus is the texts. They do not tell us directly, but the changes between each text, and each group of texts, can start to provide hints. 

35 Et dixit eis:Quando misi vos sine sacculo et pera et calceamentis, numquid aliquid defuit vobis?”. At illi dixerunt: “Nihil”.

36 Dixit ergo eis: “Sed nunc, qui habet sacculum, tollat, similiter et peram; et, qui non habet, vendat tunicam suam et emat gladium.

37 Dico enim vobis: Hoc, quod scriptum est, oportet impleri in me, illud: ‘Cum iniustis deputatus est’. Etenim ea, quae sunt de me, adimpletionem habent”.

38 At illi dixerunt: “Domine, ecce gladii duo hic”. At ille dixit eis: “Satis est”.

39 Καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη κατὰ τὸ ἔθος εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν: ἠκολούθησαν δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ οἱ μαθηταί.

40 γενόμενος δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ τόπου εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Προσεύχεσθε μὴ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς πειρασμόν.

And leaving, they went out according to custom to the Mount of Olives; his disciples followed him. (40) Becoming upon a spot, he said to them, “Pray that the trial does not come”.

“According to custom”. What does that mean? Apparently no one really knows, or is not saying. One commentator suggests that we mix in stuff from John or Matthew because Luke has abbreviated his account and so confused the narrative. But seriously, what was the custom? Going to the Mount of Olives? Going out to pray after the Seder? Jesus may have commemorated other Seders with his disciples, but this is supposedly the only time they were in Jerusalem as a group. Of course, that simply may not be true. Marking Passover in Jerusalem was something that Jews tried to do, which is why the city swelled with visitors every year. Galilee was not that far from Jerusalem, so it’s entirely possible that Jesus went there other years, or even (at least almost) every year. See, this is the sort of extrapolation from a text that historians try to do. The text says something; does it imply others? If so what? So maybe Jesus did have a custom of going out to the Mount of Olives after the Seder each year.

[Note! I was glancing at John, looking for something else when I noticed something. As they leave the Seder and go to the Mount of Olives, John explicitly states that Jesus had the custom of going there with his disciples. This opens a whole new avenue of implications; the most intriguing one, however, is that John added this because he was aware of Luke’s “according to custom”. It also implies that Jesus and the disciples spent enough time in Jerusalem to develop this custom. As such, perhaps my suggestion that they commemorated Passover in Jerusalem more than once wasn’t so far off. Or, more likely, the whole episode is invented and details like this were inserted here, and by John, to explain away loose ends in the earlier narratives.  

Now, the problem with this is that Luke is the only one to say this. Was Luke privy to some super-secret tradition known only to him that relayed how Jesus did this every year? In the words of Eliza Doolittle, perhaps, “not bloody likely”. The idea that such a detail made its way to Luke–and only Luke–some fifty years after the event is difficult to envision. What sort of line of transmission would be required for this to happen? What are the odds of such a line being constructed in real time? This matters because the same questions will arise about John’s gospel, which is full of all sorts of anecdotes and details not to be found elsewhere. So, for John, was there a single roaring stream of transmission that recorded all the details, stemming from the “eyewitnesses” from whom he claims to have gotten the information? Or were there a dozen or more little streams, trickles, each carrying a single detail, or story, such as the Wedding at Cana? Which is more plausible?*

Also note, there is nothing about Peter, James, and John going off a little way from the others. What does this mean? IMO, this would be another example of Luke’s compression of a narrative that has been gone over sufficiently in the other two gospels. This thesis only makes sense if we infer that Luke was familiar with two other narratives; bear in mind the contrapositive to this, that Luke provides a full narrative, one much more like Mark’s, when Matthew is abbreviated. The story of the Gerasene Demoniac is a great example. It is possibly the longest story in Mark (Passion excluded), but Matthew cut it perhaps by 40-50%. Luke restored the longer narrative. We have encountered numerous times when Luke abridges the story when, but only when, both Mark and Matthew have given a lengthy account.

*Honestly, the first one is; it has a .0009 likelihood vs a .0007% probability. No, the numbers are not calculated, but I will aver that they are in the general ballpark.

39 Et egressus ibat secundum consuetudinem in montem Olivarum; secuti sunt autem illum et discipuli.

40 Et cum pervenisset ad locum, dixit illis: “Orate, ne intretis in tentationem”.

41 καὶ αὐτὸς ἀπεσπάσθη ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λίθου βολήν, καὶ θεὶς τὰ γόνατα προσηύχετο

42 λέγων, Πάτερ, εἰ βούλει παρένεγκε τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ: πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γινέσθω.

43 [[ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτόν.

44 καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο: καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.]]

And he separated* from then about the cast of a stone, and placing himself on his knees he prayed, (42) saying, “Father, if you wish turn aside this cup from me. Except let not my will but that of you become”. [[ (43) An angel from the sky was seen (putting) strength in him. (44) And it came to be in his agony he prayed more fervently. And it became that his sweat (was) as drops of blood falling to the ground. ]]

Note that the part within the [[43 & 44 ]] is not included in all mss traditions, but it is included in most translations. The KJV has it, as do all the other modern versions. This implies that it is the dominant reading, but there seems something of a problem here. “An angel was seen…” By whom? That strikes me as the comment of an outside observer, such as a scribe copying the manuscript in front of him. The angel was seen by the clerk. But, this is the majority reading, so there you are. Of course, the majority can be wrong, too. There was an old text of Isaiah found recently (within the past 20 years) in which a fairly long section was missing. Turns out that the four or five sentences, which had been understood as original for centuries if not millennia was an marginal gloss/interpolation that became included in the text, and had been read that way for a very long time.

Note the detail about sweating blood. This was a common motif/detail in most religious paintings of this scene, but only Luke has it. Again, another instance of his novelist’s instincts, of his flair for the dramatic detail.

PS: “he separated”. The noun form of this word is a synonym for “eunuch”.

41 Et ipse avulsus est ab eis, quantum iactus est lapidis, et, positis genibus, orabat

42 dicens: “ Pater, si vis, transfer calicem istum a me; verumtamen non mea voluntas sed tua fiat ”.

43 Apparuit autem illi angelus de caelo confortans eum. Et factus in agonia prolixius orabat.

44 Et factus est sudor eius sicut guttae sanguinis decurrentis in terram.

45 καὶ ἀναστὰς ἀπὸ τῆς προσευχῆς ἐλθὼν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εὗρεν κοιμωμένους αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης,

46 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Τί καθεύδετε; ἀναστάντες προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν. 

And having stood up from the prayer coming to the disciples he found them sleeping from sorrow. (46) And he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Stand up and pray, so that you do not come into the trial.

First, the “sleeping from sorrow”. This, too, is unique to Luke. But more than just the curious addition of a detail, this also sort of represents the completion of the rehabilitation of the disciples from Mark’s portrayal of them. In Mark, the disciples are most often dullards and weak, a group that frequently drew the ire of Jesus. Here, they are still found sleeping, but from sorrow. Of what? They have no idea what is about to happen. Or had they read Mark and Matthew by this time? 

Also note that Jesus only goes off to pray once. In M&M, this happens three times. So once again, I am presenting a redactionally consistent explanation of when Luke cuts stuff. He goes long when Matthew went short & vice versa as here: he goes short when Matthew told the whole story.

45 Et cum surrexisset ab oratione et venisset ad discipulos, invenit eos dormientes prae tristitia

46 et ait illis: “ Quid dormitis? Surgite; orate, ne intretis in tentationem ”.

Luke Chapter 4:14-37 Summary

Note: This post was added long after the original post and summary of Chapter 4.

This particular section is significant because it provides Luke’s introduction to the public ministry of Jesus. In the initial commentary to the section, I did not pay much attention to this aspect of the text; looking back now, this was an oversight, one in dire need of revision because it throws a lot of insight on the interrelationship of all three Synoptic gospels. To set the stage, Matthew and Luke have extensive birth narratives, that of Luke being the longest. Following that, all three present their version of the Baptism, and then the Temptation by Satan/the devil in the wilderness; then we have the stories of Jesus calling his first three disciples, so this is by no means the first we see of Jesus. Indeed, this is not even the first indication that Jesus had become what can be called an itinerant preacher, since all three gospels tell us that Jesus began to preach the good news throughout Galilee. But in this section, corresponding to Mark 1:21 and Matthew 5:1.

It is worth noting that Mark and Luke specifically tell us that their version of the first story of Jesus interacting with a crowd took place in a synagogue. Matthew, sites his first in-depth pericope in some indefinite location, on a non-specified mountain in a non-specified area, which is presumably still in Galilee. Matthew also varies from the other two by telling us that, as he preached, he also healed many, curing them of unclean spirits and various diseases. Of the three, Luke most resembles Mark in this telling, but he does not fully agree with Mark. So really, what we have are three different versions of the tale of Jesus’ first recorded interaction with the public. Matthew sort of tips his hat to Mark with the preliminary comments about healings and preachings, but he begins in earnest with the Sermon on the Mount. Mark starts with Jesus expelling an unclean spirit in a synagogue in Caphernaum. Luke starts with Jesus expounding on Isaiah at a synagogue in Nazareth, but then moves on to Jesus expelling unclean spirit in Caphernaum. What are the implications? My suspicion is that the three different approaches to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry a shed some light on the overall approach that each evangelist took throughout their respective gospel.

First, let us point out that Mark implies that Jesus resided in Caphernaum. In the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof, Jesus is said to be in Caphernaum, and news got out that he was at home. This is known as internal evidence within a text. It provides two pieces of information from which a third can be deduced; whether the deduction is factually accurate, however, is entirely another question. Was Mark even aware he had made the implication? Would it have mattered to him if he had? In either case, Matthew goes further and definitively states that, having left Nazareth, Jesus settled in Caphernaum. Here, the internal evidence is that there was a strong tradition associating Jesus with Caphernaum. Since this does not square with Matthew’s assertion that Jesus was from Nazareth, Matthew realised he had to account for why Jesus spent so much time in Caphernaum.

Luke makes no mention of such a relocation. So not only do we have a difference in the way the topic of Jesus’ career is introduced, we have something of a factual dispute as well. Long-term readers may recall that my personal opinion is that Jesus was not from Nazareth, but from Caphernaum. This locale, after all, is where most of the early part of Jesus’ career takes place. Mark mentions the town four times; twice in Chapter 1. The first is the opening line stating that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee. The other three times are all direct speech; the unclean spirit driven in the synagogue states Jesus was a Nazarene; Peter is accused of being with Jesus of Nazareth after the latter had been arrested; and the young man in white sitting in the tomb in Chapter 16 talks of Jesus of Nazareth. This latter may not count, since Chapter 16 may be a later addition. Regardless, all three of these uses are a toponym, meant to provide Jesus’ provenance. All three could easily be later interpolations, especially since the earliest texts of Mark date from the 3rd or 4th Century, whereas scraps of Matthew have been found dating likely from the late First Century. This is significant because Matthew, really, is the one who first provides the “biographical” information on Jesus life: his father’s name, his hometown, and his birthplace. Regarding the last two, Matthew underscores how the locations were foretold by using a quote from HS. He also provides a quote from HS to foretell the Flight to Egypt, and the completely fictitious Slaughter of the Innocents. Did he invent such an horrific event as an excuse to use the quote about Rachel weeping for her children? This should lead one to ask whether Matthew invented Bethlehem and Nazareth to give him reason to use the quote, “He shall be called a Nazarene”. This leaves us with the likelihood that Matthew was making stuff up in order to retrofit some quotes from the HS. Anyone who is willing to invent the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents does not inspire trust in his credibility in my book. If he doesn’t flinch at making up a story like that, why should we trust him on Bethlehem and Nazareth?

It’s worth pointing out that none of Paul’s letters provide any hint of where Jesus was from. Not only does Paul, nor anyone writing in his name, not mention Nazareth, Paul never even mentions Galilee. All of the references to the town and the region come from the gospels and Acts. More, and by a large margin, most of the references to Galilee are from Luke and John, outnumbering the references in Mark and Matthew by something approaching a 2:1 margin. It appears a half-dozen or so in Mark, maybe twice that in Matthew and almost twice as much in the last two gospels. What does this tell us? It tells us that the tradition of his birthplace was functionally nonexistent when Paul wrote, almost nonexistent when Mark wrote, that Matthew lodged it firmly, and by the time the last two wrote it was a commonplace, enough to get it retrofitted into Mark at a much later date. By “functionally nonexistent”, I mean that we do not know if Paul knew Jesus’ place of birth; however, if he did know, he did not see the relevance of mentioning it. While we’re at it, he did not see the relevance of telling us why Jesus was executed, either. Such mundane details were simply irrelevant, and so there is no difference between this status and a situation where Paul did not know. Hence, the tradition functioned exactly as if Paul was not aware of either piece of knowledge, whether he knew them or not. Mark mentions Nazareth a few times, and certainly references Galilee, but we saw that the references to Nazareth are offhand and not at all integral to the story. In fact, in Chapter 6, when Jesus returns to his home town, Mark fails to tell us the name of this town. Did Mark not know? Or did he not care?  Luke is very explicit to name the town. The internal evidence of the text here implies that Luke thought it very important to tell his audience, which implies that it had become a more important part of the identity of Jesus as time progressed. Which is another way of saying that it was not terribly important at the outset, as Paul and Mark demonstrate.

All that being said, I believe there is at least a possibility that Jesus did actually come from Galilee. We are told that Mary Magdalene and several other women followed Jesus to Jerusalem from Galilee, where they had ministered to him. This is in Mark 15:40, during the Passion Narrative. This is the first time Magdalene is mentioned and note that it’s in conjunction with the Passion Narrative. Magdalene, heretofore unmentioned, suddenly appears at the foot of the cross. More, she plays a prominent role thereafter, being the first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection. She is also the first of the several women to be named, and the only one who has never been accused of being part of Jesus’ extended family. Note that Mary the mother of Jesus is not mentioned, although numerous arguments to identify her with Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses have been put forward. They may even be accurate. So why does Magdalene get top billing? It says the women collectively ministered to Jesus in Galilee; diakōnē is the word used. We have encountered the word several times; at base it’s a term for a servant, but for once I’m going to take the broader koinē definition of it meaning “to minister to/to care for”. We can even stretch this to mean “to be a host”, as in, have someone stay in your house while you provide for your guest. (The guest/host relationship was a very important one in the ancient world, entailing all sorts of obligations. The same word was used in Greek for either side of the relationship, but what it was escapes me at the moment.) What I suspect is that Magdalene was a well-off widow who provided financial support for Jesus and his disciples. I suspect she had a hand in commissioning the writing of the Passion Narrative, but that is really stretching it. But, as a Galilean, she saw to it that both Mark and Matthew have Jesus tell the disciples that, after he has risen, he will go on ahead of them to Galilee.

There are a couple of points hiding here. First, note that some would argue that the Passion Narrative predated Mark. There is nothing intrinsically impossible about this, nor really anything terribly implausible, either. However,  should this be the case, we have to ask why a story of Jesus’ death was considered more important than a story of Jesus’ life. The answer, of course, is that we need to know about Jesus’ death so we can use it as an entry point into talking about the Resurrection, which was the real heart of the story. Also, where the narrative started is important, too. After all, a story that starts, say, with the Last Supper–which was part of the Jesus tradition as early as Paul–would completely skip over the entire body of marvels and wonders Jesus wrought, but it would also completely skip over all of Jesus’ teaching. This is actually consistent with Paul, who did essentially the same thing: he ignored virtually all of Jesus’ teaching and miracles and was concerned only about Jesus’ resurrection. We do not need to consider whether the creator of the Passion Narrative knew of Paul or not. This doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they both take the same attitude towards what was important about Jesus: that he rose from the dead. The other point is that this could be the beginning of the tradition that situated Jesus in Galilee, whence came Nazareth and Caphernaum. Now, it is not at all necessary that Jesus actually came from Galilee just because the Magdalene did, and that she had ministered to them in Galilee. It makes life simpler if they both did come from Galilee, but Jesus could have wandered in from some other place. After all, the baptism took place in the Jordan, which could have put Jesus some distance from Galilee. Just because it would make like easier if they both came from Galilee, that is not evidence that Jesus did. In closing, it is only just to mention that the idea of a pre-Markan Passion Narrative is no longer a popular position.

To get back to our comparison of stories the three stories of Jesus’ debut, we have Mark’s implication, and Matthew’s statement that Jesus in fact moved to Caphernaum. Luke follows neither. Now, when Luke does not follow Mark in placing a pericope in its proper Markan context, this is considered evidence for Q. Frankly, I don’t understand the connexion, but the Q people do and theirs is the only opinion that matters. However, when Matthew completely omits a pericope found in Mark–which he almost never does– nothing is said about it except perhaps, “Well of course, Matthew omitted it; his arrangement is ‘masterful’.” And so Matthew omits the story of the Unclean Spirit.

Luke puts the story back, even if he does rework it a bit. Luke completely uproots the story of the Prophet Dishonoured from later in the narrative and places it here, where it is coupled with Jesus expounding on a text of Isaiah in the synagogue. In my IOW FWIW, putting this altogether reinforces the story as a whole. In neither Mark nor Matthew do we get any description of what Jesus was explaining that caused the crowd to get all huffy and so cause them to question the authority of someone who, after all, they had seen grow up. Unlike the other two, Luke does not mention Jesus’ brothers, but he does do something unusual. In both Mark & Matthew, the onlookers say, “Is this not the son of Mary?” Here, Luke has them ask, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” More, Luke does not refer to Jesus as the son of a craftsman, (teknēs). In the Commentary to the sections covering these verses and the chapter summary, I touched on the fact that Luke is repeating Matthew in material that is never considered to be part of Q since most of these concern the birth narratives. The name of Joseph is a prominent part of this, occurring in Matthew and Luke and nowhere else. So the question is, as always, where did Luke get the name? Oral tradition? Sure, but once again we are ascribing transmission to a source that cannot be verified when in fact we have a completely verifiable source available to us: Matthew. And note that Matthew does not mention Joseph outside of the birth narrative. He plays his role there and then disappears, never to be heard from again. In Chapter 13, where Matthew recounts his version of the Prophet Without Honour, he follows Mark and refers to Jesus as the son of Mary.

Here, I think, is another instance where Luke feels free to chart his own course because Mark and Matthew have already covered the ground in sufficient detail. There is no need to mention Mary, or Jesus’ siblings because that has all been done. In fact, there are positive reasons why Luke would want to remove some of that material. First, the failure of Mark to mention a human father–or any father–for Jesus opened the door to charges that Jesus was a bastard. We know this, because of the tradition that Jesus’ father was a Roman soldier named Pantera; in fact, James Tabor, a professor at UNC-Charlotte, has written that we have actually found the grave of Pantera in…I believe it was Germany, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that the charge was levied and so Matthew felt the need to counter by coming up with Joseph. But, as mentioned, after the return from Egypt, Joseph is never seen again, even in Matthew’s version of the Return to Hometown. Luke, OTOH sees the opportunity to correct the record, so he has the onlookers refer to Jesus as the “son of Joseph”. The craftsman part is not necessary because that was in M&M. Now, there is absolutely no reason why Luke could not have decided to emphasize Joseph in this scene being wholly unaware of Matthew. Mark said “Mary”, so Luke says “Joseph” to affirm that Jesus did have two parents. But: the omission of teknēs strikes me as a clue. Mark and Matthew say that Jesus was the son of Mary and the teknēs (a different case is used by Matthew); Luke says he is the son of Joseph. My sense is that if Luke was not aware of Matthew, he would have added that Jesus was the son of Joseph, the craftsman. That is speculation, of course. and impervious to proof, but pretty much everything discussed in these pages–and in Jesus scholarship as a whole–is impervious to proof as well. But still, I believe it fits a pattern, which means we’re on our way to creating a “redactionally consistent” theory.

Then we actually come to the meat of the story. In it, Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah. Finished, he declared that the passage had been fulfilled. No one will dispute that the Jesus presented by Matthew is unquestionably divine. After all, a star announced his birth; it was an event of cosmic importance. Note what Luke does here; essentially, he goes two-up on Matthew. With all his references to HS, Matthew oddly neglects to nail down Jesus’ identity by providing a quote foretelling the event of Jesus’ coming. Yes, there is John the Baptist back in Chapter 3, but that’s rather weak tea. Here, Luke is much more explicit, and doubly so by having Jesus state it himself. So once again, it seems like Luke may be fully aware of Matthew, but without feeling the need to be a pale imitation of Matthew. After all, Matthew’s gospel already existed; why just re-tell it? Why go to the trouble of writing an entirely new gospel if you’re not going to say something new?

Finally, we get back to the man with the unclean spirit. This episode, as in Mark, takes place in Caphernaum. The climax of the story is the demon declaring, “I know who you are! The holy one of God!” Now, this isn’t as dramatic as it could be, and I’m surprised that someone with the novelist’s instincts of Luke did not think of it. Why not have the demon proclaim him the Christ? That would truly have capped off the story with a bang. The declaration of Jesus as the Christ does happen in the chapter; twice, in fact, and both times by demons, who can be considered impartial witnesses. Sort of. One can argue that it gets them off the hook if they are expelled by no less an entity as The Christ, but whatever. Using demons to make the proclamation impressed me until just now, when I stopped to consider whether demons had anything to be gained by declaring Jesus to be the Christ. These proclamations occur at the end of the chapter, after Jesus expelled the unclean spirit in the synagogue, had healed Simon’s mother-in-law so she could make them sandwiches, and then after exorcising more unspecified demons at the end of the chapter. So what we have in the second half of Chapter 4 is Jesus making his proclamation which is followed by several wonders, the expulsion of an unclean spirits, healing Simon’s mother-in-law, all topped off by the expulsion of an unspecified number of other demons, some or all of which declare Jesus to be the son of God and/or The Christ*.

So in this passage, Luke displays a keen awareness of Matthew by first correcting him and then going one-up on Matthew. Luke leaves out the move to Caphernaum, which is also at least implied in Mark, and stresses that Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth. One can counter that my position here stretches things a bit, that it’s a reach to claim that Luke is correcting Matthew through omission. I can appreciate this position contrary to mine. In response, let me point out that what I’ suggesting is no more ridiculous than many of the arguments put forth in support of Q. Why didn’t Luke follow Matthew’s lead to eliminate the awkwardness of having John baptize Jesus, implying a subordinate position to John. Matthew has John demur, and continues only after Jesus insists. This puts Jesus as the decision-maker, and so neatly gets us out of a bit of a sticky wicket. Why didn’t Luke follow Matthew? Because he wasn’t Matthew.

*Final note: In the KJV we have the demons stating, “You are the Christ, the son of God”, and then Jesus rebukes them to say nothing because they knew he was the Christ. Interestingly, none of the four modern translations I consult (NIV, REB, NASB, & ESV) have the first “Christ”. More, none of the three Greek texts I refer to have it, either. My good one with the footnotes re: alternate mss traditions does not indicate a variant reading that includes the first use of “Christ”. I even checked the Vulgate, and it’s not there, either. So this means one of two things: that the Vulgate that was used for most of the history of the Western Church did have both uses of “Christ”, but that the online version I use has been cleaned up; or the KJV just added it because…because they did. And, BTW, it’s also noted in Strong’s Words, but that is to be expected since it follows the KJV text, or however that works. Strong’s was composed a long time ago, so it probably just followed the same manuscript tradition.

 

Luke Chapter 21:10-24 (with edit)

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

Added a section to the commentary of vv 16-19

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

Text

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

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

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

13 ἀποβήσεται ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον.

14 θέτε οὖν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν μὴ προμελετᾶν ἀπολογηθῆναι,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 continget autem vobis in testimonium.

14 Ponite ergo in cordibus vestris non praemeditari quemadmodum respondeatis;

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

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

17 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.

18 καὶ θρὶξ ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν οὐ μὴ ἀπόληται.

19 ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum.

18 Et capillus de capite vestro non peribit.

19 In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 21:1-9

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

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

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

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

Text

 

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

2 εἶδεν δέ τινα χήραν πενιχρὰν βάλλουσαν ἐκεῖ λεπτὰ δύο,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Vidit autem quandam viduam pauperculam mittentem illuc minuta duo

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Luke Chapter 20:9-19

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yeah, malevolent.

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

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

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

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

Summary Luke Chapter 19

The chapter was another mixed bag, with a lot of different ideas, themes, and types of story. The first was the tale of Zaccheus. Two things stand out for me. The first is that the inclusion of a story set in Jericho indicates the spread and growth of the Jesus Legend. Much earlier in the gospel we had the story of Jesus raising the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. Both of these are unique to Luke, and both of them represent settings in places where no previous stories had been set. Indeed, Nain had never been mentioned; and while Jericho was the setting for the returning the sight of bar Timaeus, this had occurred outside the gates in previous tellings. The tale of Zaccheus takes place inside Jericho itself, which widens the net of places where Jesus acted. Presumably, the stories indicate locations where assemblies of the followers of Jesus– it is probably correct to call them Christians at this point– had taken root. Not wanting to feel left out, one suspects that they sort of grew their own tales to demonstrate their participation in the movement. Yes, of course, this flies in the face of the idea that all of the events described are factually accurate down to the smallest detail, but that idea is simply untenable. I suspect that anyone holding that view has long since abandoned reading anything I say, and I don’t blame them for that decision. So there you have it. To believe that the stories of the events in the life of Jesus circulated intact and underground until picked up by Matthew or Luke– and worst of all, by John– just is not tenable. It is at this point that someone  starts to talk about the reliability of oral traditions and waves their hand as if disputing the accuracy of oral tradition is the height of folly. To which I respond: the Song of Roland is based on indisputably historical events, the course of which are known and pretty much settled. And yet, the Song of Roland relates these historical events and gets the enemy wrong. So, yeah, stories got made up to include Nain and Jericho.

While we’re talking about these two stories, there are a couple of things that should be pointed out, traits that carry a bit more weight than when considered in isolation. Luke has the story of the Widow of Nain; he does not have the story of Jairus’ daughter. I would suggest that Luke omitted the latter because he had a replacement for it. The import of Jairus daughter is that Jesus brought the dead girl back to life. Jesus does exactly that by revivifying the widow’s son, but the circumstances are much more dramatic. After all, Jairus’ daughter died just moments (hours?) before Jesus arrived; the widow’s son had been dead some time. Jesus raised the girl more or less in private; he raised the widow’s son while the latter was on his way to the tomb, and in front of all in the funeral procession. It was very public. The upshot is that Luke had a better story than that of Jairus, and the latter story had been well-covered by Mark and Matthew. We saw this same sort of abridgement later in this chapter when we read Luke’s versions of Palm Sunday, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, and the Cleansing of the Temple. All of these stories are part of the triple tradition; all of them were reported in full by Luke’s two predecessors. As a result, Luke did not feel the need to tell the full story as he had done with the story of the Gerasene Demonaic, which Matthew shortened, and by a lot. So Luke, apparently, did not see the point of retelling the story of Jairus, but substituted that of the Widow of Nain, which carried a lot more dramatic wallop. In the same way, at the end of Chapter 18, we were told the story of bar Timaeus. Again, the story was carried in full by Mark and Matthew; again, Luke gave us a shorter version, to the point where Luke does not provide the name of the man whose sight was restored. So here we have a cluster of stories all exhibiting a common trait: Luke tells a short version when the longer version has been, to his mind, adequately covered. Are all these a mere coincidence? It’s possible, of course, but in these two chapters we have a half-dozen such examples, and there are others I don’t recall offhand. That’s a lot of coincidence. Of course, this carries the strong implication that Luke was, indeed, very well aware of Matthew. Luke never goes short when Matthew does; rather, Luke goes short when Matthew goes long. Put another nail in the coffin of Q.

The other part of the Zaccheus story is that we are told the Z-man merited salvation. The more exact cite would be that Jesus said that salvation had come to Zaccheus’ house; the cause of the salvation was given in the previous verse, when Z-man promised to make restitution, and to take no more than was due in the future. In short, he repented and promised to change his ways. Bingo. Also to be noted is that Luke used the word “salvation”, sōtēria. This is exactly the fourth time the word has been used in the gospels; the first three all came in Chapter 1, and they all come between Verses 69-77. They are part of the prophecy Zaccharias gives regarding his coming son, John-who-will-be-called-Baptist, after Zaccharias has regained his powers of speech that he lost for doubting that he and Elizabeth would have a son in their old age. John, Zaccharias says, is going to preach and offer salvation to the children of Abraham. There, however, the Lord God will give salvation Israel from their enemies; this is a different kind of salvation. So, this is the first time that the idea of salvation, in its Christian sense, is mentioned in the gospels. It’s also the first time in the whole NT where the nexus of salvation is connected to merit.

This distinction is important because it is not the first time the word salvation is used in the NT. Paul uses it several times, most especially in Romans, but also tracing back to Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. The last two, with Galatians, are the earliest pieces of writing in all of the NT; that Paul uses the term as Luke does here indicates that the concept of salvation dates back to the first days of the development of what would become Christianity. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 is very explicit about this: we are to obtain salvation from the wrath through the lord, who died for us that we might live with him. Then, after Paul, the concept more or less disappeared until showing up in the first chapter of Luke: Zaccahrias talks about salvation and the angels tell the shepherds that a saviour has been born this day. John’s Gospel uses each of the words exactly once. Then the terms salvation and saviour are used numerous times in the later epistles, like Timothy, Titus, Peter 1&2, and even in Revelations. Think about that: Jesus is referred to as The Saviour exactly twice in all four gospels, and only in the last two written.

What happened? I ask this because the term “saviour” became very popular with the Ante-Nicene Patristic writers. I’m currently reading The Refutation of All Heresies. This was written in the early 3rd Century CE by Hippolytus Romanus. He uses the term “saviour” for Jesus the Christ frequently, and by the time Eusebios wrote in the early-mid 4th Century, referring to Jesus as “our Saviour” was a standard form of address. So the question is what happened between Paul and Luke? Why was the term not used by the first two evangelists?

My first impulse is to exhibit this split up as powerful evidence of how the different traditions of Jesus told different stories. Backing up a step, it’s really good evidence that there were at least two different traditions. There was the tradition that ignored the term saviour and the tradition that kept it alive. In turn, it also reinforces, to some degree, my contention that Mark welded the traditions of the Wonder Worker and The Christ into a single story; but then if we notice that the Christ tradition did not include the saviour tradition, perhaps our count is now up to three separate story lines. And here is where Luke takes on a new level of significance: since he is the one who uses the term in his gospel, what he did was to merge the Pauline tradition into the two that were preserved by Mark and expanded by Matthew. Going forward, since the Christ tradition likely originated with Paul (so far as we know), the fact that the Christ was maintained by one group but the saviour tradition was lost perhaps indicates that the Pauline tradition itself was bifurcated. Then if we recall the tradition that resulted in the Didache, we can argue that there was a fourth– or fifth, depending on how you define it– tradition. Given the Pauline split, it should not surprise us that at least one–and probably more– Gnostic interpretation evolved later. In fact, Hippolytus Romanus describes a plethora of what he calls heresies, and heresies continued to develop until eventually one was called the Reformation.

As I mentioned, I’m currently reading (well, I’ve started to read; the book is 1000+ pages) the book James, Brother of Jesus, by Robert Eisenman. The author is reputable; he did a lot of work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, but he may have gone a bit off the rails in this one. As the title suggests, the book is an attempt to re-establish James in his rightful place in Christian development. He believes we can identify two major strains of Christian development: the Hellenistic, founded by Paul, which eventually became the orthodox version, and a Jewish or Palestinian branch, founded by James. This group, he says, was part of the sect that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, which he dates to the First Century CE, rather than the widely accepted First Century BCE. This latter group was anti-Roman in both a religious as well as a political sense. The group included the Zealots, and Eisenman numbers James among them. They were, supposedly, much like the English Puritans, intellectual descendants of the Maccabees who were vehemently opposed to foreign rule. He identifies them with one branch of Saducees, which term he derives from the name of the High Priest Zadok. Saducees, he says, is the Hellenized form of Zadokites. There is much that I’ve found interesting so far, but I have a foreboding that he’s going to base too much on linguistic similarities and/or coincidences. Time will tell. But he is certainly on solid ground to argue that James was more or less erased from history by the Hellenizers, former pagans, who had no real connexion to Jewish Christians to start with, but who lost even this once James was killed in the mid-60s, which event was followed closely by the Jewish War. If nothing else, there is the Didache giving evidence that such a non-Pauline strain did hang on to leave the document.

What’s really fascinating is that he links James to the Ebionites–something everyone does–but then takes this a step further. The Ebionites, the Poor Ones, were concerned with the status of the downtrodden; we have noted that much of “Christian” concern with the poor and the meek is actually part of the Jewish tradition, something running through numerous books of the Hebrew Scriptures (HS). So if it were James who was concerned with the poor and the meek, perhaps the Sermon on the Mount originated with James, and not his more famous brother. This appeals to me for a couple of reasons. I have been harping on the idea that James was the head of the ekklesia for nigh on 30 years; as a result, it’s impossible that he did not have some kind of major impact on what the group believed and how it saw itself. I also want to believe I’ve suggested that material in the Sermon on the Mount may have originated with James and not Jesus, and that I came up with this thought independently. The problem is that I started reading this book at some point a couple of years ago, but I don’t remember how much I read. It wasn’t a lot, but how much is “not a lot”? Ten pages? One hundred (10% of a 1,000 page book…) So did these ideas lodge there to be reawakened “on my own” at a later date? This is sort of the phenomenon of “inadvertent copyright infringement. You hear a song once or twice, forget about it, and then one day you compose a song that sounds a lot like it. You didn’t knowingly steal it, but there it is.

The second reason the idea appeals, of course, because this all-but completely eliminates the need for Q. Jesus never said this stuff, so it never got written down, which means no Q, and Luke got it all from Matthew.

This has gotten way off topic. Regardless, it’s important to see the broader implications of what is going on in this writing. The focus in too much writing on the NT is much, much too narrow, usually only stepping back when needed to make a particular point. This is the risk, and the result, when non-historians try to write about the historical Jesus.

The rest of the chapter was dedicated to stories that are part of the Triple Tradition. These include the Triumphal Entry, Jesus Weeping Over Jerusalem, and The Cleansing of the Temple. In all three cases, the version presented here is short and sweet, almost to the point of perfunctory. This is in keeping with what I perceive to be a pattern: where Mark and Matthew present a full-length version of a story, Luke provides a condensed version as he does here in all three cases. Alternatively, if Matthew abridges one of Mark’s stories, such as that of the Gerasene Demonaic, Luke is content to give us a redacted form of the story as he did here.

The one place where Luke added material was in the Tale of the Talents. This is my term for the Gospel of Capitalism, where the slaves of the master are expected to turn a profit for him on the money he entrusted to them. As I’ve mentioned in the other two versions, I’ve always had a problem with this; however, I’ve finally figured out that the money is a metaphor for spiritual growth. The lord gave his slaves spiritual gifts; two of the slaves were able to increase their gifts, to become more spiritual, but the third was afraid to try. This is a metaphorical inducement that, as followers of Jesus, we can’t be passive and hide our spirituality by burying it in the ground. And now it occurs to me that this story is much more apt to refer to conditions in the 60s or 70s as in the 30s or 40s. There was unrest in Judea in the later 30s, so it could date to that period. After all, if the story was already in Mark who wrote shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem, that provides a pretty tight chronology for the events to occur and the story to be created. It’s possible either way. The point is that during times of trouble, certain followers likely buried their spiritual gifts by denying their religious affiliation rather than let their freak flag fly and face persecution. Of course, it’s always easy after the fact, from the comfort of a secure, non-threatening environment, to tell people how they should have behaved when placed in mortal danger.

One thing that is very important to remember about facing danger for one’s beliefs is that the idea of martyrdom was most emphatically not a Christian invention. Like concern for social justice, this was something the Christians appropriated from their Jewish forerunners, and then tried to imply that they were the only ones with this degree of courage of convictions. The fact is that Josephus relates several stories in which crowds of Jews bared their necks to Roman swords to force the Romans to choose between desecration of the Temple (e.g.) or the mass slaughter of hundreds of Jews, which would have inflamed passion against Rome even further. Nor is there any real reason to suspect that they would not have submitted to the execution; or, at least, they may have submitted to start, but I can see where after a few minutes the crowd may have chosen to riot rather than allow more slaughter.

But that’s all by way of incidental. The real issue with Luke’s adaptation is the addition of the part with the kingdom. In the other two versions, the lord is simply going on a journey. In this version, the lord is going to accept a kingdom. And once again, I failed to catch the symbolism intended. Of course the lord is Jesus. And of course the kingdom is the kingdom of God. And of course he’s “going away” because he’s been crucified. And he came back because that’s what he’s promised to do. And now that he’s back, he’s settling accounts. Who’s done what with the gifts, or the commission, or the instructions, that they’ve been given? Of course, you all knew all of that. I, OTOH, well, not so much. As such, this is not the major deviation I had originally thought it was. It’s just an addition, sort of filling out the story in order to make the meaning more obvious. But then, people like me come along and completely miss this.

So what is the point? I think that this represents a reminder. We saw in Paul how the Second Coming was expected hourly, if not sooner. We saw how Mark and Matthew stepped away from that, with injunctions that no one knows the day and the hour except the father, so be ready, but don’t hold your breath. Now I think Luke is using this story to remind us that it is going to happen. Maybe not immediately, but it will. Perhaps he believed that the sense of urgency about the Return had waned a bit too much, so he decided that a bit of a warning might be in order. So, while not earth-shattering, it’s a change from Mark and Matthew.

Luke Chapter 19:28-40

That leads us into the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, now referred to as Palm Sunday. There are still five chapters left after this one, so I suppose I’m a bit surprised that it’s come up to this already. But the chapters of Luke tend not to be as long as they are in Matthew, or even some of those in Mark. What does this mean? Not sure. Perhaps nothing. So, since a long introduction to set the scene does not seem necessary, let’s get right on to the

Text

28 Καὶ εἰπὼν ταῦτα ἐπορεύετο ἔμπροσθεν ἀναβαίνων εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα.

29 Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤγγισεν εἰς Βηθφαγὴ καὶ Βηθανία[ν] πρὸς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Ἐλαιῶν, ἀπέστειλεν δύο τῶν μαθητῶν

30 λέγων, Ὑπάγετε εἰς τὴν κατέναντι κώμην, ἐν ἧ εἰσπορευόμενοι εὑρήσετε πῶλον δεδεμένον, ἐφ’ ὃν οὐδεὶς πώποτε ἀνθρώπων ἐκάθισεν, καὶ λύσαντες αὐτὸν ἀγάγετε.

31 καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμᾶς ἐρωτᾷ, Διὰ τί λύετε; οὕτως ἐρεῖτε ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει.

32 ἀπελθόντες δὲ οἱ ἀπεσταλμένοι εὗρον καθὼς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς.

33 λυόντων δὲ αὐτῶν τὸν πῶλον εἶπαν οἱ κύριοι αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτούς, Τί λύετε τὸν πῶλον;

34 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν ὅτι Ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ χρείαν ἔχει.

And having said these things, they came forward, climbing up to Jerusalem.

 The famous book by Xenophon, in which he describes the progress of the 10,000 Greek mercenaries upcountry to the Black Sea and back to Greece is the Anabasis. Here we have anabaino. Same verb, different tense.

(35) And it happened as they approached Bethpaige and Bethany, towards the mountain called Olives, he sent to of his disciples (30), saying “Go into the neighboring village in which we are entering, (and) you will find a colt tied up, upon which no one of men ever before has sat on, and loosening him lead him. (31) And if someone asks, ‘Why do you loosen (him)?’, answer thus: ‘The Lord has need of him’. (32) And those sent going forth they found (the situation) according to what he had told them. (33) They having loosed the colt, the lord (=owner) of it (the colt) said to them, “Why do you loose the colt?” (34) And they replied, “The lord has need of him.” 

OK. We discussed this at least once before, in conjunction with this story in either Mark or Matthew, or possibly both. The scene is described the way it is to give the reader the impression that Jesus was prescient, that he knew the colt was there because he knew everything. So he could describe the circumstances, could provide direction, and could predict the reaction of the owner of the colt. My suggestion is that Jesus made prior arrangements with the owner of the colt, and “The lord has need of him” was the code, the signal that they were the emissaries of Jesus, and the owner should comply as arranged. Then, once the disciples were asked the leading question, they replied in the prearranged signal and everything was copacetic. I will suggest pretty much the same thing when it comes time to arrange the Seder on Thursday evening.

As for the “colt”. The Greek word is ambiguous. It refers to a young member of the equine family. It could be the offspring of either a horse or a donkey. Of course, Jesus is always portrayed as riding a donkey. The intervening centuries, in which a gentleman is known in France as a chevalier, or in Spain as a caballero, or the group below the Senatorial class in Rome were known as equites, we have a certain snobbery about donkeys. The three words all refer to someone who owns a horse; that is, he has the wealth to maintain at least one horse. For those of you who don’t know, even today horses are very expensive animals to own and maintain. A lot of people in my social class who own horses make work-arrangements at a barn to reduce the cost of boarding the horse. A horse, in short, was a status symbol, even among the Romans. The equites are often referred to in English as knights; this is both accurate and not accurate. Like the equites, knights attained their status as knights by being able to own a horse. In fact, owing a horse was pretty much a sine qua non for being a knight. Given these centuries of snobbery about horse ownership, we see Jesus riding a donkey as a sign of humility. Well, maybe not. Donkeys are much less expensive than horses, and they are much hardier creatures, able to survive on a lower-level regimen of vegetation. They are better suited to stony, hilly terrain; the friars, the peons in Mexico owned burros, which are donkeys. Judea was not a terribly lush or fertile land, and even to own a donkey was a bit of a status symbol. In fact, Saul and David, kings, rode donkeys. That they were fictional underscores the prestige of a donkey. I mean, if you’re making up a glorious monarchy, why have them ride donkeys, and not horses? So the point is, Jesus riding a donkey, riding anything, is an indication of status and not humility. As for the part about never having been ridden, I suspect this adds to the prestige. So Jesus riding on this donkey, never before ridden, did not present an image of a humble individual.

28 Et his dictis, praecedebat ascendens Hierosolymam.

29 Et factum est, cum appropinquasset ad Bethfage et Bethaniam, ad montem, qui vocatur Oliveti, misit duos discipulos 

30 dicens: “Ite in castellum, quod contra est, in quod introeuntes invenietis pullum asinae alligatum, cui nemo umquam hominum sedit; solvite illum et adducite. 

31 Et si quis vos interrogaverit: “Quare solvitis?”, sic dicetis: “Dominus eum necessarium habet’ ”. 

32 Abierunt autem, qui missi erant, et invenerunt, sicut dixit illis. 

33 Solventibus autem illis pullum, dixerunt domini eius ad illos: “Quid solvitis pullum?”. 

34 At illi dixerunt: “Dominus eum necessarium habet”. 

35 καὶ ἤγαγον αὐτὸν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἐπιρίψαντες αὐτῶν τὰ ἱμάτια ἐπὶ τὸν πῶλον ἐπεβίβασαν τὸν Ἰησοῦν.

36 πορευομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ ὑπεστρώννυοντὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.

37 Ἐγγίζοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἤδη πρὸς τῇ καταβάσει τοῦ Ὄρους τῶν Ἐλαιῶν ἤρξαντοἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν χαίροντες αἰνεῖν τὸν θεὸν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ περὶ πασῶν ὧν εἶδον δυνάμεων,

38 λέγοντες, Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου: ἐν οὐρανῷ εἰρήνη καὶ δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις.

39 καί τινες τῶν Φαρισαίων ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε, ἐπιτίμησον τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου.

40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν οὗτοι σιωπήσουσιν, οἱ λίθοι κράξουσιν. 

And they led him to Jesus. And and casting their outer garments upon the colt, Jesus mounted it. (36) He proceeding forward, they spread their outer garments on the road. (37) He drawing nigh to the descent fro the Mount of Olives, the crowd of his disciples began rejoicing to praise God in a loud voice about which all knew, (38) saying, “Well-spoken of is the king coming in the name of the lord; in the sky (be) peace and glory to (those) the most high”. (39) And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your learners.” (40) And answering he said, “I tell you, if they became silent, the stones would shout.” 

Anyone notice anything missing? This is the story of Palm Sunday; so where are the palm branches? Also, the crowd does not shout “Hosanna”. On the whole, however, the three versions of this story that we’ve heard are very close in a lot of details. Matthew had the disciples bringing both a donkey and its (presumably) colt. And Matthew does state that the donkey was a symbol of humility since it was a beast of burden; however, Matthew conveys this to us in the guise of yet another prophecy to be fulfilled. I did some checking, and the quote Matthew delivered in this situation is a mash-up of a quatrain of Isaiah preceding four lines from Zechariah. This latter is very interesting, since these are the lines that contain the reference to the humility of the donkey. Zechariah is one of the last books of the HS; as such, the thoughts expressed about the relative humility of the donkey could have /would have been rather different from attitudes of a few centuries earlier. Riding horses, it turns out, is a fairly recent invention, due to factors that included the size of horses, the difficulty of training them to accept a rider, things like bits, reins, and saddles (note: stirrups appear to have been invented in China sometime in the 4-5th Century CE. They did not reach the west until sometime between the rule of Charles Martel and his grandson, Charlemagne.) Even the Assyrian Empire, the one that ended the independent existence of Israel, did not have a cavalry. The Persians, however, did. When Darius sent an expedition to invade Athens in 490, Herodotus goes to great lengths to describe the horse-transport ships that the Great King constructed especially for the occasion, because the cavalry was an important arm of the Persian army. Before that, an equid being ridden was likely a donkey, or an ass, or an onager, or perhaps a mule, but not a horse. So, back in the day, even kings rode donkeys. As a result, Zechariah, living a few centuries after the onset of cavalry, would have considered riding a donkey a sign of humility. Isaiah, who was pre-Persian Empire, perhaps not. 

The procession itself deserves a few words, even if we’re repeating things said about the previous versions. As with Mark, this procession seems to be composed almost entirely of Jesus’ followers. This was not the adulation of the great mass of the people of Jerusalem that it has come to be viewed. The scene in Jesus Christ Superstar has Simon Zealotes telling Jesus that there must be over 50,000 people “screaming love and more for you”. We really don’t get that impression from the description in any of the gospels we’ve read so far. A procession is, IMO, a far better description. Jesus is surrounded by his followers, who may be numerous, perhaps 100-200 people, but not much beyond that. That would be enough to annoy the Pharisees, but it would hardly constitute a mob. And even the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisee indicates a fairly modest crowd; how else could they have the exchange if the procession was more of a parade with vast numbers of people shouting? Here is an insight I’m reasonably sure you’ve never heard before. First of all, we need to work from the assumption that the whole episode is pure fiction. It was concocted to give credence to the idea that Jesus was killed because of his teaching. The Passion Narrative is great drama; it impressed the hell out of me even as a kid. In both Catholic and Episcopalian (High-ish Church, anyway) worship, the Passion is read on Palm Sunday and, IIRC, on Good Friday. As a kid, I loved hearing the whole thing. And that’s the point: it’s great drama. The proof that Jesus wasn’t killed because of his teaching is given by the fact that James, brother of Jesus, continued to lead the sect for two or three decades after Jesus was killed. Had Jesus been any kind of threat to any of the prevailing powers, James, Peter, and several dozen–or more–other followers would have been rounded up and executed along with him. Tacitus describes the vast number Christians rounded up and executed by Nero as a point of comparison. That didn’t happen with Peter and James, apparently. So anyway, within this made-up episode we have an exchange that would be difficult to pull off even in the circumstances of a crowd of a couple of hundred people. Think about the last time you were in a crowd of that size that is excited and animated. Communication is reduced to shouting. Yes, Jesus and the Pharisee could perhaps have shouted the exchange at each other, but the implausible factors are adding up. The point is that we have here a great display of why the gospels are not to be taken seriously as history. They are not. The exchange is True; it is not factually accurate. All of this is True. It’s Revealed Truth. It is not, and was never meant to be taken as factually accurate.

35 Et duxerunt illum ad Iesum; et iactantes vestimenta sua supra pullum, imposuerunt Iesum. 

36 Eunte autem illo, substernebant vestimenta sua in via. 

37 Et cum appropinquaret iam ad descensum montis Oliveti, coeperunt omnis multitudo discipulorum gaudentes laudare Deum voce magna super omnibus, quas viderant, virtutibus 

38 dicentes: “Benedictus, qui venit rex in nomine Domini! / Pax in caelo, et gloria in excelsis!”.

39 Et quidam pharisaeorum de turbis dixerunt ad illum: “ Magister, increpa discipulos tuos! ”. 

40 Et respondens dixit: “Dico vobis: Si hi tacuerint, lapides clamabunt! “.