Update: I added a comment to Verse 45 at the bottom of the page. I realized I completely neglected this.
Here we continue with yet another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. In between sections, I took a few minutes to go through the first bit of my Harmony. So far, my theory is holding. Luke is generally the shortest version when all three gospels have a story. It’s not always by a lot, but it is pretty consistent. And I haven’t gotten to Chapters 8 & 9 where I believe the phenomenon becomes more pronounced. Conversely, when Matthew significantly shortens Mark, Luke’s version comes somewhere in between. There are a few times when Luke has the longest version. Having glanced ahead (spoiler alert!) I saw that we will be coming onto the material unique to Luke, including (in no particular order) The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Zaccheus, etc. My sense in reading Chapter 9 has been that Luke is trying to hurry through the required bits of the Triple Tradition so that he can get to his own original material. And yes, I fully suspect Luke is the author of most of his unique material. With that, on to the
37 Ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἑξῆς ἡμέρᾳ κατελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους συνήντησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς.
38 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐβόησεν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν,
39 καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα λαμβάνει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξαίφνης κράζει, καὶ σπαράσσει αὐτὸν μετὰ ἀφροῦ καὶ μόγις ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ συντρῖβον αὐτόν:
40 καὶ ἐδεήθην τῶν μαθητῶν σου ἵνα ἐκβάλωσιν αὐτό, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν.
It became on the next day they having come from the mountain a multitudinous crowd met him. (38) And behold, a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I need you to look upon my son, that is my only born, and behold, a spirit seized him, and he suddenly cries out, and he makes him retch with foam, and scarcely goes away from him it bruises him, (40) and I asked your disciples in order they cast it out, and they were not able”.
Let’s start with a comment on the Greek. I was always puzzled by the translation of “tore him with foam”. That doesn’t entirely make sense. So I check the Great Scott and, behold! one of the other meanings of the word rendered as “tore” is “to retch, w/o being able to vomit”. Now that makes sense. The kid goes into spasms where he convulses with dry heaves and, subsequently or consequently, he foams at the mouth. I do not know much about epilepsy or other afflictions that may cause this, so I shan’t speculate. I will, however, take credit for taking a deeper look at this. Then, taking a look at my crib translations, I noticed that, while the KJV does render this as “teareth”, more modern translations change this to “convulse”, as I did. It’s also worth pointing out that the KJV uses the same word in the versions of Mark and Matthew, saying that the demon “tears” at the boy with foam. I point this out because the KJV is most often the closest to the original Greek; it’s considered the definitive work in English, IIRC, among fundamentalists who take the words literally. I’m not sure what they may have to say about this.
Note that we are dealing with a sprit, not a demon. Mark always refers to it as such, but later in the story Luke will call it a demon, and then an unclean spirit. This is linguistic evidence that, by the time Luke wrote at least, these terms were interchangeable. I believe that they were in the earlier gospels, but I never really noted, or noticed the use of these different words in the same story. Also note that Mark alone calls the spirit “mute” (alalon). Neither Matthew nor Luke does so. But let us recall that Matthew did not say that the boy was possessed by a spirit, or demon, or anything else. Matthew says that the boy was a lunatic, which is a fairly literal translation of the Greek word he used. “To be lunaticking”, or something like that, would be even more literal. The root of Matthew’s Greek word is selene, “moon”. The root of lunatic is luna, which is “moon” but in Latin.
This discrepancy should, I believe, be considered in conjunction with noting the term used to address the father in the various gospels. Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew is in the word used; here and in Mark it’s didaskelon, teacher. In Matthew it’s kyrios, lord. All three evangelists use both words frequently, so I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions from this difference. Now, the Q people would zealously use this as an example of Lk + Mk <> Mt, and they have a point.
Taking a contrary position, OTOH, it can also be pointed out that Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark by omitting that the spirit was mute. Of course, the Q people would object to that characterization; they would say something like this is not an active agreement, but a passive omission, which could have been omitted independently. And besides, there was no spirit in Matthew, so how could it be mute? This is certainly an accurate description of the situation, but other interpretations of these circumstances are certainly possoble. Recall that Luke very pointedly stressed that Jesus did not move to Caphernaum, as Matthew explicitly states. At the time, I suggested that Luke had deliberately corrected Matthew. I also think that returning back to the idea of a spirit was another deliberate decision by Luke to correct Matthew once again. Personally, I think there is a lot of this sort of “correction” of Matthew done in Luke, which is why these two “never” agree against Mark. Except for Joseph, Bethlehem, the angels…So I’m still going to put it on the Lk+Mt <> Mk. These little things are insignificant on their own, but the accumulated weight should be considered; enough of these small instances makes for telling evidence. In this way we shall steal a page from the Q peoples’ playbook: make the assertion, and then make them prove it’s wrong. This will put them on the horns of a dilemma: argue against the assertion, thereby crediting that it has merit and must be disproven; or, say the demand to prove a negative is ridiculous. In which case, they will be agreeing with me about the existence of Q.
Finally, the man asks about his “son”. He does not use the word pais that the Centurion did; rather, it’s huios, which is the standard word used for “son of God” or “son of man”. Perhaps this is the final bit of ‘proof’ needed to show that we were indeed, talking about the Centurion’s servant. Perhaps I’m the only one who still needed to be convinced of that.
There are a couple of other things to be discussed, like the disciples’ inability to cast out the spirit. That one in particular will be saved for later.
37 Factum est autem in sequenti die, descendentibus illis de monte, occurrit illi turba multa.
38 Et ecce vir de turba exclamavit dicens: “Magister, obsecro te, respice in filium meum, quia unicus est mihi;
39 et ecce spiritus apprehendit illum, et subito clamat, et dissipat eum cum spuma et vix discedit ab eo dilanians eum;
40 et rogavi discipulos tuos, ut eicerent illum, et non potuerunt”.
41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, *)=ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου.
Answering, Jesus said, “O faithless and twisted generation! How long shall I be towards you and shall I bear with you? Lead your son hither.”
Ha! Guess what? I just found a place where Matthew and Luke actively agree against Mark; this is despite the fact that this never happens according to the Q people. Mark has Jesus bewailing the “faithless generation”; Matthew and Luke add the second word, here rendered as “twisted”, but is perhaps more metaphorically (and commonly) rendered as “perverse”. So, the entire superstructure of the Q argument collapses.
Maybe. To be fair, if this is indeed the only such instance, one has to be prepared to acknowledge, if not necessarily accept, the possibility that the presence of this single word, in exactly the same case, is an interpolation. See how fair I am? I point out the weaknesses in my own position; ideally, I would then provide proactive refutation of arguments based on this hole in my theory. That is, after all, how proper scholarship is done. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to create an actual argument for whether this is or is not an interpolation. It’s a single word, used in the same context and in the same case, etc. We have to ask whether this degree of exactitude argues for, or against, interpolation. The simplest explanation is, after all, that Luke simply copied Matthew. But why would Luke choose this one time and place to become a passive scribe, transcribing exactly what he found? To which a good response is, “why not here and now?” Would a later copyist of either gospel be likely to get it so perfectly? He would have to physically have to get the other text and write it in. Or, perhaps he remembered the text of the other. None of these, strictly speaking, is much of an actual argument. Rather, they are simple binary choices not terribly amenable to an argument.
For now, we will leave it as noted that this agreement did occur, and see what happens later.
41 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “O generatio infidelis et perversa, usquequo ero apud vos et patiar vos? Adduc huc filium tuum”.
42 ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν: ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.
43 ἐξεπλήσσοντο δὲ πάντες ἐπὶ τῇ μεγαλειότητι τοῦ θεοῦ. Πάντων δὲ θαυμαζόντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐποίει εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ,
44 Θέσθε ὑμεῖς εἰς τὰ ὦτα ὑμῶν τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μέλλει παραδίδοσθαι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων.
When he (the lad) having come up, the daimonion dashed him (the lad to the ground]) and tore him. But Jesus censured the spirit the unclean, and he healed the boy and gave him to his father. (43) They were astounded upon the magnificence of God. All marveling upon all the things he did, he said to his disciples, (44) “Put these words into your ears, for the son of man is fated to be given over to the hands of men”. (45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.
Before getting to the main event, let’s have a bit from the warm-up act. “Put these words into your ears” is a perfectly novel, probably unique, turn of phrase. I can’t just pass over that without noting it.
The first thing to note is what is not in here. Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus say that, after being handed over, the son of man will be killed, and on the third day will rise. Why? Why not include this? First of all, we have to acknowledge that this was a conscious decision on Luke’s part. He chose not to include it for whatever reason. This seems obvious, of course, but maybe only after it’s been pointed out. This is an aspect of gospel writing that too often is overlooked, or given insufficient thought. It may seem strange to say this, given the Q proponents’ insistence on providing a “redactionally consistent” explanation of Luke that explains every single instance where he varies from Matthew. However, I would suggest that this is not a legitimate thing to demand from the Q-naysayers; that it is not a legitimate argument, or even a legitimate aspect of an argument. Luke varies from Matthew because he is Luke, and not Matthew. Matthew is largely consistent with Mark in the placement of the so-called pericopes; Luke differs from both in placement, and largely because Matthew follows Mark’s placement so consistently. This is, once again, another of those instances where Luke felt it unnecessary to add the bit about rising because it was adequately treated in his two predecessors. Luke, once again, truncates a story of Mark because Matthew did not.
As an aside, the Harmony I consulted separates this last part from the story of the boy with the spirit. This is sensible; the two are not related.
There is one final trope to be discussed in this piece. We have noted that the father of the boy asked why Jesus’ disciples were not able to expel (ekballei) the spirit. This is common to all three gospels, and they all report Jesus remonstrating about the faithless (and perverse) generation. This has always seemed a bit…odd. This cry of disgust makes sense in the context of the Pharisees (or others) asking for a sign, as occurs in Mark 10. Here, perhaps, not so much. Railing about a lack of faith, OTOH, does make sense. The implication is that faith is required to make wonders happen, and that certainly makes sense. In fact, Matthew explicitly says that the reason the disciples could not cast out the demon was their “little faith”, and supplements this by adding that having faith the size of a mustard seed can give you the power to move a mountain.
There is a caveat to this, however.
In Mark, after this event, the disciples privately (kat’ idian) ask Jesus why they were not able to drive out the demon. Matthew repeats this, using exactly the same phrase, (kat’ idian). However, the two evangelists give very different answers. Mark said it’s because this kind (to genos) can only be expelled by prayer. I pointed this out at the time as an example of Mark’s interest in, and description of, the “magical practices” Jesus employed to effect some of his miracles. In Mark this interest has the feel of a how-to guide to exorcism or other wonders. It’s what gets called a “coaching opportunity” in the business world, a chance for Jesus to give the disciples on-the-job training. Another notable example of magical practices was Jesus spitting into some dirt to make mud that he then applied to the eyes of a blind man. Matthew, OTOH, eliminates this part of the story. Instead, he blames the failure on the disciples’ lack of faith. This is not surprising that Matthew provided a different answer, since he eliminated all descriptions of magical practice from his gospel. As an aside, it is interesting to note that some mss traditions have added the “this kind can only be driven out by prayer” into the text of Matthew. The consensus is that this is indeed a later interpolation, intended to bring Matthew more closely into line with Mark. This is an excellent example of how stories grow and the tradition becomes enlarged, and is a great cautionary tale not to be too skeptical of suggestions of interpolation.
Luke, as we see, dropped the whole (kat’ idian) section. He does not have the disciples asking Jesus anything in private, about the demon or anything else. Of course, the question should be, ‘why not?’ What is Luke’s “redactionally consistent” explanation for eliminating the whole sequence? Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my consistent explanation has been that Luke has consistently eliminated sequences like this because they have been adequately covered by both Mark and Mathew. The instances of this redactional policy of Luke are starting to a accumulate, like snowflakes. A few snowflakes aren’t worth bothering about; when they start to accumulate, however, they become significant.
42 Et cum accederet, elisit illum daemonium et dissipavit. Et increpavit Iesus spiritum immundum et sanavit puerum et reddidit illum patri eius.
43 Stupebant autem omnes in magnitudine Dei. Omnibusque mirantibus in omnibus, quae faciebat, dixit ad discipulos suos:
44 “Ponite vos in auribus vestris sermones istos: Filius enim hominis futurum est ut tradatur in manus hominum”.
45 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουντὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο, καὶ ἦν παρακεκαλυμμένον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἵνα μὴ αἴσθωνται αὐτό, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τούτου.
(45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.
45 At illi ignorabant verbum istud, et erat velatum ante eos, ut non sentirent illud, et time bant interrogare eum de hoc verbo.
I have to say something about this last verse. It’s one that is in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew. But before getting to the implications of that, let’s take a moment to appreciate what this verse says. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about. That is fair enough. Jesus is making a prediction, so why would the disciples understand? I mean, on the one hand, it does seem pretty plain…but perhaps only if we assume that the disciples understood Jesus to be the son of man that Jesus is discussing. We get it, of course. When discussing Mark, one theme that kept recurring was the messianic secret; the term is not mine, but is part of the larger discourse, and it’s encountered often in the literature. My particular take on this is that Mark was trying to explain to later audiences why Jesus was not regarded as the messiah by his earliest followers. Or perhaps “make excuses” is a more appropriate description. Because the fact is, he wasn’t. Hence the bifurcation of Mark’s text into the earlier wonder-worker section, and the section on the anointed coming later. I mean, if Jesus’ own disciples didn’t fully understand who or what Jesus was, how could anyone outside the group be expected to get it? Then, as a corollary to this comes the bit about being afraid to ask. After all, if they didn’t understand, they could have asked, no? So why didn’t they? Because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? Well, that question is not even asked, let alone answered.
But let’s kept this lack of understanding in mind as we move to the next section, which is the Transfiguration.
Now let’s talk about the Mark & Luke but not Matthew. On the whole, the disciples fare much better in Matthew than they did in Mark. Matthew presents them in a much, much more positive light. So it’s hardly surprising that Matthew omitted the contents of this verse. It fits with his portrayal of the disciples; IOW, it’s redactionally consistent*. So here we have yet another example of Luke putting back something that Matthew excised.
*Honestly, some of the attributes that modern scholars demand of the evangelists are borderline ridiculous. These guys were not writing a thesis that was going to be graded and that they would have to defend before a panel of (possibly hostile–but, then again, maybe not) professors. They are writing about Divine Truth; the details didn’t always matter. Truth has a higher sense of vision than something that’s only striving for factual accuracy, or to be a reasonably coherent interpretation. Because one thing that’s often overlooked is that many of these same modern scholars are far from being “redactionally consistent” in their presentations.
This is the Transfiguration. Back when we read this for Mark, I floated the idea that this section had originally been the climax, or the ending of the first section of that gospel, the apotheosis of the wonder worker. That interpretation is probably not defensible; beyond that, I’m not even sure that it feels right. At least I didn’t until I keyed in the word “apotheosis”. That is, after all, what this represents. In a way, it’s the Ascension taking place before Jesus dies. There is no doubt that this story is intended to “prove”, or demonstrate that Jesus is, indeed, divine. If this is meant to stand in for the Ascension, the original story would not have had them all returning down the mountain; rather, Jesus would have left them. As such, this would be the explanation of why Jesus was no longer present on earth.
It also occurs to me that this could be the beginning of the Christ narrative. Rather than the story of Bethlehem, this is the birth of the Christ, except as a grown man. The connexion to the Baptism story can be neither avoided nor denied; the voice from the cloud connects in a very explicit manner those two events. Perhaps this is the seam between the two narratives: that of the wonder worker and that of the Christ. Perhaps the original Christ narrative started with this event. There is, rather obviously, a level of transcendence to this event that makes it hard to accept–IMO, anyway–that this is just part of the narrative. What you have in Mark is the Baptism introducing the Wonder Worker, and then the Transfiguration introducing the Christ. It’s hard not to see the parallel construction there. Which section came first? I seriously doubt that both pieces developed independently with an introduction sequence that is so similar. I would suggest that the Baptism has a much more organic feel to it; we start with John preaching repentance, the torch is passed to Jesus, and then when he hears John was arrested, Jesus picks up where John left off, preaching the coming of the kingdom of God. This stands out most starkly in Mark; Luke and Matthew blunt the effect with their birth narratives. This sequence, in contrast, is sort of a one-off; it doesn’t really fit the narrative; it’s just sort of stuck in here without any attachment to the rest of the story.
There really is no particular point to this speculation beyond that there is a curious balance to the two stories of Baptism and Transfiguration. This balance matches the way the narrative of Mark seems divided in twain. If what I’m saying about the Baptism being organic, the implication is that the story of the Wonder Worker is the original part, and the story of the Christ is the addition. This does not square with Paul, who preached the Christ and ignored, pretty much completely, the Wonder Worker. The implication of this, in turn, is that the two separate stories grew up in parallel, despite Paul’s being the older of the two. Or is it? Is the Christ narrative really older in an absolute sense? Or was it just written down first? This is a legitimate question that really has to be answered, or at least considered.
28 Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ [καὶ] παραλαβὼν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην καὶ Ἰάκωβον ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι.
29 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ προσεύχεσθαι αὐτὸν τὸ εἶδος τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἕτερον καὶ ὁ ἱματισμὸς αὐτοῦ λευκὸς ἐξαστράπτων.
30 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο συνελάλουν αὐτῷ, οἵτινες ἦσαν Μωϋσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας,
31 οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.
It happened eight days after these sayings and taking Peter and John and James he went up the mountain to pray. (29) And it occurred in the praying of him the form of his face was different and his white clothing dazzling, (30) and look! two men were speaking with him, and these men were Moses and Elijah, (31) those being seen in glory spoke the departure of him (Jesus) which he intended to fulfill in Jerusalem.
This is novel. In neither of the other two gospels do we find anything about the topic discussed by Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, let alone that it was about Jesus’ upcoming trip to Jerusalem. I have no idea what this means. Most likely it’s meant as a confirmation that what Jesus was about to do was being given divine approval. And note the brevity of the description of Jesus. An interesting note about the Greek: the word rendered as ‘dazzling’ literally means something on the lines of “like a star”, or perhaps “like light from a star”. And note that Jesus’ clothes do not become white; they are white to start with, and the white becomes dazzling.
Hmm…While looking up something in the next couple of verses, I noticed that the standard translation for the white garments is that they became dazzling white. Looking back at the construction, the “it became” at the beginning of the sentence could still be applied to the dazzling white garments at the end, so that the garments became dazzling white. The only problem with this is that what I translated too literally as ‘it became’ probably should be rendered more like, “and it happened”. And sneaking a peak down at the Latin, the Vulgate agrees with me more than it does with the various English translations, starting with the KJV and continuing even to this very day.
28 Factum est autem post haec verba fere dies octo, et assumpsit Petrum et Ioannem et Iacobum et ascendit in montem, ut oraret.
29 Et facta est, dum oraret, species vultus eius altera, et vestitus eius albus, refulgens.
30 Et ecce duo viri loquebantur cum illo, et erant Moyses et Elias,
31 qui visi in gloria dicebant exodum eius, quam completurus erat in Ierusalem.
32 ὁ δὲ Πέτρος καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ ἦσαν βεβαρημένοι ὕπνῳ: διαγρηγορήσαντες δὲ εἶδον τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοὺς δύο ἄνδρας τοὺς συνεστῶτας αὐτῷ.
33 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ διαχωρίζεσθαι αὐτοὺς ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Ἐπιστάτα, καλόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ὧδε εἶναι, καὶ ποιήσωμεν σκηνὰς τρεῖς, μίαν σοὶ καὶ μίαν Μωϋσεῖ καὶ μίαν Ἠλίᾳ, μὴ εἰδὼς ὃ λέγει.
And Peter and those with him were beheavied by sleep. Starting awake, and he saw the glory of him and the two men standing with him. (33) And it became in the leaving them from him Peter said to Jesus, “Overstander, it is good for us here to be, and let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”, for he did not know what he said.
OK, got a bit overly literal. “Beheavied”, “in the leaving them from him”, and “overstander” are all way too literal. Or, actually, the latter should probably be more like “stander-on”, as in, “one who stands upon”. This latter word is unique to Luke–and not in Acts–in the NT. And so is the word “starting awake”. In fact. it’s a very uncommon word even in the Classical corpus. Such words remind us of Luke’s erudition, and this erudition gives us cause to pay attention to Luke’s nuances. A good example came in the last section when we discussed losing one’s life/soul/self.
The other thing that gets my attention is the bit about Peter suggesting the erection of tents after Moses & Elijah. It is only here that we are told he said this after/as the two of them were leaving. For the life of me, I cannot conceive of any possible reason Luke would add this. It’s to the point where I can’t even think of much more to say about the whole thing.
32 Petrus vero et qui cum illo gravati erant somno; et evigilantes viderunt gloriam eius et duos viros, qui stabant cum illo.
33 Et factum est, cum discederent ab illo, ait Petrus ad Iesum: “Praeceptor, bonum est nos hic esse; et faciamus tria tabernacula: unum tibi et unum Moysi et unum Eliae ”, nesciens quid diceret.
34 ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ λέγοντος ἐγένετο νεφέλη καὶ ἐπεσκίαζεν αὐτούς: ἐφοβήθησαν δὲ ἐν τῷ εἰσελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν νεφέλην.
35 καὶ φωνὴ ἐγένετο ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἐκλελεγμένος, αὐτοῦ ἀκούετε.
36 καὶ ἐν τῷ γενέσθαι τὴν φωνὴν εὑρέθη Ἰησοῦς μόνος. καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐσίγησαν καὶ οὐδενὶ ἀπήγγειλαν ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις οὐδὲν ὧν ἑώρακαν.
These things he having said a cloud became and enshadowed them; they were afraid in their going into the cloud. (35) And a voice occurred from the cloud saying “This is my son, the chosen (one/son), listen to him”. (36) And in the voice occurring Jesus was found alone, and they were silent and to no one they announced in those days the things they had seen.
First about the Greek. Throughout I’ve been using “become” and “occurred”. The same word is behind both the translations. At root, the base meaning of the verb is “to become”; however, it gets used in a wide variety of methods, including “to occur”, and very frequently as a substitute for “to be”. I try to render using the base meaning since that is the true and underlying sense of the word. From there one can get all poetic about how to render into something that sounds pleasing in English, but part of the purpose of this is to provide those learning Greek to see how the syntax works. I’ve rather gotten away from that for a while; or, at least, I’m not as obnoxious about it as I used to be. Here, however, I’ve gotten back to that because the grammar is rather interesting.
More importantly is the last verse. In Verse 33 we got some extra; here we get something removed. In the other two gospels, Jesus instructed his henchmen to say nothing. Here, that bit of instruction is missing. The three of them simply choose not to speak of the matter. Why not? We are not told. Or are we? Again, I’m seeing a situation in which Luke feels that there is no reason to repeat something a third time. Once again, we have another example of Luke making omissions to stories that are adequately covered by Mark and Matthew. I need to go through my Harmony to do some more research, but it seems that when Matthew and Mark give a full account, Luke abridges his. When Matthew shortens too much, as in the Gerasene Demonaic, Luke adds back what Matthew has omitted. When Matthew has something that Mark doesn’t, Luke reinforces Matthew,
34 Haec autem illo loquente, facta est nubes et obumbravit eos; et timuerunt intrantibus illis in nubem.
35 Et vox facta est de nube dicens: “ Hic est Filius meus electus; ipsum audite ”.
36 Et dum fieret vox, inventus est Iesus solus. Et ipsi tacuerunt et nemini dixerunt in illis diebus quidquam ex his, quae viderant.
This next section is the lead-up to the Transfiguration and includes the confession of Peter. This is where Mark fully made the transition from wonder-worker to Christ. As such, the passage, especially Peter’s confession, has a staged feel to it. The section has the sensibility of being created because it was necessary. So even though this was in Mark, that does not imbue this with any halo of authenticity. The question of who made this up is completely open; did it start with Mark, who needed it for the transition to the Christ narrative? Or did it come about earlier, and Mark recorded what he found. Of the three evangelists that we’ve read, I give Mark the least credit for creativity. His narrative feels too much like reporting; in fact, I’ve often categorized Mark as the journalist of the evangelists. Likewise Matthew was the rabbi (albeit of pagan origin), Luke is a novelist, and John is a theologian. Each tells more or less the same story, but from a very different perspective, uisng a very different toolkit.
18 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον κατὰ μόνας συνῆσαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτοὺς λέγων, Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ὄχλοι εἶναι;
19 οἱ δὲ ἀποκριθέντες εἶπαν, Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.
And it happened therein he praying by himself the disciples came to him and he asked them saying, “Who does the crowd say me to be?” (19) Answering, they said, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, others that (you are) some prophet of old who rose (from the dead).”
Note that this is pretty close to a verbatim repetition of what Herod said about Jesus. Given all of Luke’s creativity, he surely could have come up with another set of speculative answers, couldn’t he? The answer, probably, is “probably”; ergo, that he didn’t is likely to be significant. At least to some degree. Really, it is, IMO, a case of doubling down for emphasis. These were the prevalent speculations about Jesus–at least, after the fact–so let’s repeat them twice to ensure that no one misses the point here. And since we’ve only just discussed the implications of each of these, ther is no reason to belabor the point any further.
The unique twist, albeit a minor one, that Luke gives is that he asks what “the crowd” says of him. It bears to remember that “the crowd” was not exactly a term of endearment back then, with all sorts of negative connotations. The aspiration was to be one of the best (aristoi, optimates), and “common” is still rather a term of disparagement in England.
18 Et factum est, cum solus esset orans, erant cum illo discipuli, et interrogavit illos dicens: “Quem me dicunt esse turbae?”.
19 At illi responderunt et dixerunt: “ Ioannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero: Propheta unus de prioribus surrexit”.
20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; Πέτρος δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.
21 Ὁ δὲ ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλεν μηδενὶ λέγειν τοῦτο,
22 εἰπὼν ὅτι Δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.
He said to them, “Who do you say me to be?” Peter answering said, “The anointed one of God”. (21) He rebuking commanded them no one to tell this, (22) saying that “The Son of Man must suffer much and to be handed over to the elders and the high priests and scribes and to be killed and on the third day be raised”.
A word about the Greek. << τίνα >> means “who”. << τινα >> means “anyone”. Can you tell the difference? It escaped me, too, but then I cheated and looked at the Latin. The difference is that the former has an accent over the iota. I missed that at first.
There is a serious case of compression here. Luke has squeezed out every possible bit of extraneous information to get right down to the hard, crystalline crux of the matter here. That is, this is another example of the abridgement of a story told by the other two evangelists. Is this a coincidence? If we but take a moment to look at the context, something really jumps out. In the other gospels, this passage comes directly before the Transfiguration, and so it does here, too. But–and this is a big “but”–the other two gospels have several stories in between: walking on water, feeding the 4,000, eating with unclean hands, et alia. All of them are in both gospels. IOW, Luke felt it unnecessary to include them because they had been adequately covered in both the other gospels. This, of course, implies–indeed requires–that Luke knew Matthew’s gospel. So we’ve collected a number of examples by this point. How many others are like this? And what does Luke do when Matthew doesn’t give a full account of Mark? A run through the Harmony is called for to examine this issue a bit more closely. I have a theory of what we’ll find, but it needs testing.
20 Dixit autem illis: “Vos autem quem me esse dicitis?”. Respondens Petrus dixit: “ Christum Dei”.
21 At ille increpans illos praecepit, ne cui dicerent hoc,
22 dicens: “Oportet Filium hominis multa pati et reprobari a senioribus et principibus sacerdotum et scribis et occidi et tertia die resurgere”.
23 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς πάντας, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεσθαι, ἀρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ’ ἡμέραν, καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.
He spoke to all of them, “If someone wishes hereafter to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross each day, and follow me”.
Is it just me, or is this a rather sharp discontinuity from the previous verse? It may have something to do with the numerous pericopes that are in the other gospels that are omitted in between here. Or, I suppose the real break comes before Verse 18 that opens this section. Here’s the real issue: this is what I find so annoying about the Q people and their non-existent argument for the existence of Q. It’s the whole issue of these discontinuities. For all the world, what they feel like is a collection of disparate, unrelated sayings; that is, they sound like a collection of sayings that have nothing to do with one another. This is what a real argument for Q looks and sounds like. Lord knows that I find it reasonable to suppose the existence of such a collection based on the textual evidence. It has not so much to do with the arrangement of the material–which is a subjective measure at best–but the fact that we are dealing with pericopes in the first place. Mark famously makes almost no attempt to smooth the transitions between pericopes; in a very large number of verses, especially those beginning a new story, the first word is simply “and”. The same is so with a number of these sayings, or these stories that have Jesus making a statement. So why do the Q people insist on the “argument” from arrangement? I have no idea.
We’ve discussed this before, so I’ll point it out and move along. The injunction to “take up one’s cross” is, of course, a later invention, added after Jesus had been crucified. It simply makes no sense before then, and it’s a reference to the tribulations that came with the destruction of Jerusalem.
23 Dicebat autem ad omnes: “ Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam cotidie et sequatur me.
24 ὃς γὰρ ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, οὗτος σώσει αὐτήν.
25 τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖται ἄνθρωπος κερδήσας τὸν κόσμον ὅλον ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἀπολέσας ἢ ζημιωθείς;
“For he who would save his life must lose it. But he who might lose his life because of me, that one will save it. (25) For what should it profit a man should he gain the whole world but himself he should destroy or cause to lose (himself).
Oh, now this is interesting for a couple of reasons. To begin, this is is another example of compression; this compresses sentiments that are expressed in two separate places in Mark & Matthew. So, once again, Luke “just happens” to edit down pericopes* or sayings* that get full treatment in the two previous gospels. How many examples of that do we now have?
Then, there is no way to render psyche as “soul”. …”He who would save his own soul will lose it“…doesn’t really work. The tendency to us “soul” for psyche reflects, IMO, the later Christian interpretation with which we are all familiar; so saving your soul should be the goal, and losing it by trying to save it doesn’t really make sense. And, to be fair, in the save/lose part of the saying, it is pretty much always translated as “life”. We have also seen how the combination of pysche and “to save” occur together in a context which makes it pretty clear that what is being saved is the physical life of the person in question, and not her immortal soul. Here, this could not be more clear.
The most interesting feature of this compression, however, comes in the last half. In its two previous incarnations, it is often rendered as “what shall it profit…to gain the world and lose one’s psyche“, which is almost always rendered as “soul”. At least in the discussion of Mark, I argued that the translation more attuned to the sense of the Greek word would be “life”. Here, Luke is forced to deal with this in a novel way, and for novel reasons. Because he has just used psyche twice, to avoid redundancy he uses an entirely different word in the back end. Here, he says, but should lose himself, using this word in all its glorious ambiguity. We can ask if this is more apt to shade towards soul or towards life? Or towards something that is neither? My sense is that it shades more towards “soul”. This is, IMO, why Luke chose to write it the way he did, to remove that ambiguity.
I’ll be honest: gaining the world and losing one’s soul has more literary impact that gaining the world and losing one’s life. Despite this, we have to ask if we are not seeing this expression as the result of two millennia of dualist tradition, in which the body and the soul are believed to be separate entities. We think it makes more sense as soul because that is how we think. The question becomes whether Mark saw things that way. Luke could very likely share something closer to our perspective. Everyone has always pretty much agreed that Luke was a pagan rather than a Jew, and I have seen no reason to doubt that, even if I haven’t seen all that much evidence that he was a pagan. He’s rather more of a continuation of Matthew in that way; the break between Jew and pagan comes, I believe, between Mark and Matthew. That was my position pretty much throughout Matthew’s gospel.
So if Mark meant life and Luke meant soul, what did Matthew mean? If he were a pagan, why did he not clarify the ambiguity? One could answer that Matthew did not see the ambiguity; for him, Mark’s psyche meant more or less what it did to Luke, so Matthew saw no need to make the change. Luke, being a bit more educated–and let’s not kid ourselves, Luke is the most educated of the three–did understand the potential ambiguity and so made the change. These gospels were written in Greek, but in what language were they preached? Did the people who read the Greek address speakers of Aramaic in Greek? This is rather a profound question, and not one that is amenable to a quick and simple answer. My immediate reaction is that those preaching would have done so in the language of the audience. This only makes sense. Given this, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Luke made the change because this passage had caused problems due to the potential ambiguity. I don’t know that, but it’s a fairly apparent explanation. Whether it’s the correct explanation is rather a different issue.
24 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, hic salvam faciet illam.
25 Quid enim proficit homo, si lucretur universum mundum, se autem ipsum perdat vel detrimentum sui faciat?
26 ὃς γὰρ ἂν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους, τοῦτον ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται, ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων.
27 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, εἰσίν τινες τῶν αὐτοῦ ἑστηκότων οἳ οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.
“For he who is ashamed of me and my words, this one the son of man will be ashamed of, when he should come into his judgement and of the father and the holy angels. (27) I say to you truly, there are some of those standing he who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
At first glance, the transition from Verse 25 to Verse 26 seemed to be a non-sequitur. A bit more reflection, and a bit less rigidity of thinking made me think otherwise. Now that I’ve relaxed my perspective, I almost wonder if I made the break in translation at the proper place. This does seem to go with the bit about losing oneself. After all, losing oneself seems like a fairly predictable consequence of facing the judgement of the father, a judgement in which the son of man disowns the person standing in the dock. But does one lose one’s soul? Or one’s life? Or both, since one’s eternal soul is lost to a negative judgement? This last is not a contradiction; there are hints throughout the NT where those who attain The Life will continue, the implication being that without entering The Life, one is no more. This, I suspect, is sort of the direction Jewish thought
Being ashamed of “the son of man”–whoever that might be–and facing judgement have only a peripheral connexion to losing oneself. The loss presumably could come from the adverse judgement. This would tie in with the idea of being condemned to death–if only in the negative sense of not being able to enter into The Life. So this does work. It must be said, however, that, in the final analysis, this very much preserves the sense of Mark’s original intent. The idea of the eternal soul is still binary: enter The Life and persevere, or don’t enter The Life and cease existence. Later Christian dogma will change the latter choice to suffering eternal damnation. That is, the choice is still binary, but the second, less pleasant, option changes, and arguably becomes much less pleasant.
The final verse, in contrast, really does not fit here at all. This is due to its having been ripped pretty much completely out of context. In the other two gospels, this comes during the predictions of apocalypse, the “prediction” of the “coming” destruction of the Temple and perhaps the “coming persecutions” conducted by Saul. So sticking it in here simply doesn’t truly work.
26 Nam qui me erubuerit et meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet, cum venerit in gloria sua et Patris et sanctorum angelorum.
27 Dico autem vobis vere: Sunt aliqui hic stantes, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant regnum Dei”.
* (from above) Really, the proper word for these is logoi. This captures the sense of wording rather than the overall story. “Saying” is the closest English equivalent, but that does not quite capture the full extent of how a logos implies the full meaning of the saying. Too frequently the latter term is used almost independently of what it means; it’s a short-hand for the expression that is then used to compare where the various evangelists place said saying, Sure, the idea of the meaning is implicit in these discussions, but it’s most often only implicit. Any discussion of the meaning is wholly secondary.
Here is another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story. Actually, this is one of the few stories that are present in all four gospels. This time, it’s the Feeding of the Five Thousand. It’s very short, comoing in at a mere six verses. If you’ll recall, Mark and Matthew have Jesus feeding five thousand, and then later feeding four thousand. Both evangelists provide full accounts of “both” these feedings. The quotes are there because I am firmly of the opinion that the event, or the story, was “twinned”; this is the process whereby the account of a single event ends up splitting into two separate events. The process usually occurs when two separate groups, not in communication with each other, each tell their own version of the story. With time, the two stories no longer line up exactly, so the people encountering the other version believe that this second version must refer to a separate event. If you read Livy Book I, there are a number of battles that involve the same enemy and sufficiently–but not completely–similar circumstances that scholars believe it’s a single battle that has become “twinned” in this fashion. The question then becomes how long it will take for this twinning to occur. A year? Two years? Ten? It seems reasonable to infer that the less similar the circumstances related in the story, the longer the time the two accounts have been separated. In this case, the major difference is the number of people fed and the number of loaves and fishes in each event. That’s a pretty small difference. Ergo, I would infer that the separation of the stories was not too long.
There is a whole strain of biblical research of late fixating on oral traditions. The idea is to “prove” that oral traditions trustworthy and accurate. The problem is that the research, IMO, reaches a conclusion first, and then argues backwards. From all I’ve read of biblical scholarship, there is a lot of this going on. At root, it’s about the differences between the texts, what this says overall about the redactional tendencies of each evangelist, and how the context clearly favors the existence of Q. My apologies, but this is not real scholarship. Note the emphasis on overall; I do that because there is very little analysis of what the difference in the way each story is told by the different evangelists. IOW, there’s very little of what I’m doing here. When we are fortunate enough to have more than one source for events in the Graeco-Roman world–which is almost nonexistent for Greek history, but more common for periods of Roman history–the scholarship goes through the texts line-by-line to examine and discuss the differences and what the possible implications could be. I have found nothing of the sort in biblical scholarship; if anyone can point me to it, please do so. I would love to read this kind of analysis.
Anyway, the thing is, having been reading secular and pagan historical writing and biography from this period, I can state very strongly that we are not getting historical writing in the NT. The gospels are not, and were never intended to be, history in any sense that we would recognise the concept. Biblical scholars need to read some of these sources–and not just the dozen lines in Josephus, or the three 0r four paragraphs of Tacitus that mention Jesus or Christians.
OK, let’s get on to the
12 Ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤρξατο κλίνειν: προσελθόντες δὲ οἱ δώδεκα εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ἀπόλυσον τὸν ὄχλον, ἵνα πορευθέντες εἰς τὰς κύκλῳ κώμας καὶ ἀγροὺς καταλύσωσιν καὶ εὕρωσιν ἐπισιτισμόν, ὅτι ὧδε ἐν ἐρήμῳ τόπῳ ἐσμέν.
The day began to decline; coming forward the Twelve said to him, “Send away the crowd, so that going into the surrounding villages and fields they disband and find food, since we are in a desert place.
This is the standard setting of the scene. The disciples want to send the people away because they are in a deserted or empty place–the word can have both meanings; think t he “desert isle” on which Gilligan & company were stranded. Note the Twelve. This is the only version of the story that uses the Twelve; the others simply say “the disciples”.
12 Dies autem coeperat declinare; et accedentes Duodecim dixerunt illi: “ Dimitte turbam, ut euntes in castella villasque, quae circa sunt, divertant et inveniant escas, quia hic in loco deserto sumus ”.
13 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Δότε αὐτοῖς ὑμεῖς φαγεῖν. οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Οὐκ εἰσὶν ἡμῖν πλεῖον ἢ ἄρτοι πέντε καὶ ἰχθύες δύο, εἰ μήτι πορευθέντες ἡμεῖς ἀγοράσωμεν εἰς πάντα τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον βρώματα.
14 ἦσαν γὰρ ὡσεὶ ἄνδρες πεντακισχίλιοι. εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Κατακλίνατε αὐτοὺς κλισίας [ὡσεὶ] ἀνὰ πεντήκοντα.
He said to them, “Give to them to eat”. They said, “There is not to us (dative of possession) more than five loaves and two fishes. Unless going we buy for all the people this food”. (14) For there were so many men as five thousand. He said to his disciples, “Have them recline on the grass in [so many as] fifty.”
The specificity of this is striking. On the grass. Groups of fifty. The attention to detail is intriguing. One could argue that this level of detail indicates an eyewitness account, told by someone who had been there and seen this, especially since these details are present in the earliest version; the grass even persists through John’s telling of the story. Unfortunately for this would-be argument, the details could have been added at anytime before Mark wrote. These are the sorts of things that can–and do–get added to the tale as it’s told. Again, I keep going back to the Arthur legend, wherein the stories became more elaborate with the passing of time. This is, I believe, another example of that process, or phenomenon.
13 Ait autem ad illos: “ Vos date illis manducare ”. At illi dixerunt: “ Non sunt nobis plus quam quinque panes et duo pisces, nisi forte nos eamus et emamus in omnem hanc turbam escas”.
14 Erant enim fere viri quinque milia. Ait autem ad discipulos suos: “ Facite illos discumbere per convivia ad quinquagenos”.
15 καὶ ἐποίησαν οὕτως καὶ κατέκλιναν ἅπαντας.
16 λαβὼν δὲ τοὺς πέντε ἄρτους καὶ τοὺς δύο ἰχθύας ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς καὶ κατέκλασεν καὶ ἐδίδου τοῖς μαθηταῖς παραθεῖναι τῷ ὄχλῳ.
17 καὶ ἔφαγον καὶ ἐχορτάσθησαν πάντες, καὶ ἤρθη τὸ περισσεῦσαν αὐτοῖς κλασμάτων κόφινοι δώδεκα.
And they (the disciples) did in this way and all reclined. (16) Taking the five loaves and two fish, looking up to the sky he blessed them and broke them and gave to the disciples to set before the crowd. (17) And they ate and they were all fed, and they took up the excess from them and filled twelve baskets.
This version is truly condensed, almost to the point of being a précis. Considering that Luke did not scruple to leave out other bits of Mark, one wonders why he even bothered to include this one. My guess would be that this story was too well-known to omit; after all, John even includes it. But John does not include the Sermon on the Mount, or a lot of the other teachings of Jesus that were allegedly contained in Q. Why is that? My suspicion is that this story was seen as too much of an epitome of how Jesus was seen. And what Jesus is in this story is a wonder worker. That, I would argue, was first and foremost how Jesus was seen. John even continues the tradition with some major wonders worked by Jesus, including changing water to wine and raising Lazarus. The Gospel of John represents the final and complete melding of the wonder worker and the divine entity identities of Jesus.
15 Et ita fecerunt et discumbere fecerunt omnes.
16 Acceptis autem quinque panibus et duobus piscibus, respexit in caelum et benedixit illis et fregit et dabat discipulis suis, ut ponerent ante turbam.
17 Et manducaverunt et saturati sunt omnes; et sublatum est, quod superfuit illis, fragmentorum cophini duodecim.
This next piece is even shorter. It is Luke’s version of the death of the Baptist. At five verses, it is by far the shortest version of the tale we’ve come across yet. I think it best to skip the preliminaries, save the comments for after, and get directly to the
7 Ἤκουσεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης τὰ γινόμενα πάντα, καὶ διηπόρει διὰ τὸ λέγεσθαι ὑπό τινων ὅτι Ἰωάννης ἠγέρθη ἐκ νεκρῶν,
8 ὑπό τινων δὲ ὅτι Ἠλίας ἐφάνη, ἄλλων δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.
Herod the tetrarch heard all of these occurrences, and he was unsure of himself because of the things having been said by some that John had been raised from the dead, (8) by some that Elijah had appeared, of others that some prophet of the olden (days) had stood up.
There is actually quite a bit of stuff packed into a couple of verses. The first is the title tetrarch. We did discuss this at least once before; if it’s familiar, feel free to skip this. The word literally means “ruler of a fourth” or “one of four rulers”. This is Herod Antipas, who was a son of Herod the Great. When the latter died, there was a series of disturbances among the would-be successors, so Rome stepped in more forcefully than it had previously. The Roman preference was to leave a native puppet in place to save themselves the aggravation of direct intervention and administration. Generally, this lasted a generation or two, and then for various reasons Rome felt compelled to resort to direct annexation. In the former kingdom of Herod the Great, the road to direct annexation was a process that played out through much of the First Century. One step was dividing Herod’s kingdom into four parts, splitting the rule among his sons, most of whom were also named Herod. It gets very confusing. The Herod here had Galilee as part of his domain, as well as other neighboring/surrounding areas.
Then we get a very abridged introduction to the story of John the Dunker. Note that we have John being raised from the dead, even though we haven’t been explicitly told that John is dead. We last saw John back in Chapter 3, when he had been arrested by Herod. And Luke very quickly runs through the possibilities about Jesus, ascribing them simply to “some/others said” in indirect speech. Luke is not going to dally or shilly-shally here. Perhaps the most interesting part is the mention of Elijah; one has to wonder how many of Luke’s audience would have understood the significance of Elijah (Elias in both Greek and Latin). I did not understand this until very recently, but I make no claim to be well-read in Hebrew Scriptures. Rather, I have a background that would be similar to that of many pagans of Luke’s time. This is not to say that if I’m not aware of it, no pagan could have known about Elijah, but it does indicate, I think, that a lot of pagans would not have known. First, Elijah was believed not to have died; hence, there is speculation that he has appeared (per Benson’s Commentary) when John had been raised. And it’s the passive voice; John did not rise, but some other agent did the raising. But anyway, it was believed that Elijah would return as the forerunner of the anointed one, so the coming of Elijah was a portentous thing among Jews; it was hopeful for the downtrodden but something to be feared by the rulers.
But to get back to John for a moment. I pointed out that he was raised, just as Paul says Jesus was raised. However, when I was translating…1 Thessalonians, IIRC, I made a bit too much of the passive voice. This is relevant here, because while John was raised, it was speculated that one of the prophets from the olden days had “stood up” as I so charmingly and literally translated it. Really, it means that the prophet rose–for which “stood up” is a synonym–as in from the dead. This is not the only time this word is used for “rise from the dead”, so I have to back off from my position that Jesus was not necessarily the actor when he returned from the Great Beyond. Also, it is interesting to note that the Latin Vulgate says that John rose–surrexit, active voice–from the dead. The KJV waffles on this, coming down somewhere between the Greek and the Latin: John was risen from the dead. It’s not truly a passive; it’s a past participle. The NASB renders this as an active: John had risen. The NIV and the ESV are faithful to the Greek, saying that John had been raised from the dead. How much does it matter? Not as much as I would have thought, given that one of the prophets of old “stood up”.
7 Audivit autem Herodes tetrarcha omnia, quae fiebant, et haesitabat, eo quod diceretur a quibusdam: “ Ioannes surrexit a mortuis ”;
8 a quibusdam vero: “ Elias apparuit ”; ab aliis autem: “ Propheta unus de antiquis surrexit ”.
9 εἶπεν δὲ Ἡρῴδης, Ἰωάννην ἐγὼ ἀπεκεφάλισα: τίς δέ ἐστιν οὗτος περὶ οὗ ἀκούω τοιαῦτα; καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν αὐτόν.
And Herod said, “I (as in, I myself, I personally; use of the pronoun adds emphasis) beheaded John. Who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to know him (Jesus).
And thus endeth the story of the death of the Baptist. “Abridged” doesn’t go nearly far enough. All the rationale for the execution is completely missing. I have to believe this is because Luke thought that the story was more than amply covered by his predecessor(s). That Luke (presumably) believed this, I think, lends support to my suggestion that Luke was aware of Matthew, but there is really no hard link between the two. Mark’s story was longer than Matthew’s version, so it could be very plausibly argued that Mark alone would have been sufficient to convince Luke that the story had been told in full. However, Matthew also provides an account nearly as long as Mark’s; surely two such tellings would have been more likely to convince Luke that the story need not be told again in full? More on this as we compare other aspects of the Triple Tradition.
9 Et ait Herodes: “ Ioannem ego decollavi; quis autem est iste, de quo audio ego talia? ”. Et quaerebat videre eum.
10 Καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ ὅσα ἐποίησαν. καὶ παραλαβὼν αὐτοὺς ὑπεχώρησεν κατ’ ἰδίαν εἰς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά.
11 οἱ δὲ ὄχλοι γνόντες ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀποδεξάμενος αὐτοὺς ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς περὶ τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ τοὺς χρείαν ἔχοντας θεραπείας ἰᾶτο.
And returning the apostles recounted to him what they had done. And taking them they went off privately to the city called Bethsaida. (11) And the crowd learning followed him, and receiving them he spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and those having need of healing, he cured.
This is minimalist to the point of ridiculous; that being said, however, it should be noted that the other two gospels are not all that much more loquacious, if they are at all. This is another clue that the idea of the “apostles” being sent out is not to be taken seriously. Someone decided that the term “apostle” didn’t make sense if they had never been sent out. So a story was created to have this happen. Unfortunately for the narrative, not a lot of detail accrued to the legend. It was created bare-bones and it got left that way. Why? Most likely because this didn’t fire anyone’s imagination sufficiently to inspire the accumulations of details. And here is also where we can get a sense of the (un)reliability of the later traditions. St Philipp, IIRC, went to India. Or wait, that was Thomas. And it gives a sense of how much later these non-canonical works were created. At a point within two generations, more or less, of Jesus we haven’t even come up with anything the least bit…interesting for any of these Twelve to have done. It took another century or more–probably significantly more–to craft some of these other tales.
As for the last bit, it sure seems a bit like it was mailed in. Luke rather just throws it in there without a lot of ado or even interest. Mark has numerous little throw-away lines like this with Jesus preaching and healing. Even there, in Mark, they feel a bit forced, sort of a more sophisticated way of saying “and so forth”. Or, “Jesus did some stuff”. In Luke this feels positively forced. That it does, and that Luke included it regardless I think speaks to the depth of the traditions that were still flowing in the popular mind. Jesus was a healer, a wonder-worker, but one who preached about the kingdom of God, which concept remains vague throughout all the gospels. That, in turn, is a good indication of how the stories that ended up in the gospels were something on the order of random. My late father-in-law called them “volunteers”, plants of the sort that are deliberately cultivated, such as flowers, that spring up of their own accord, the result of a seed landing in a fortunate spot by happenstance.
10 Et reversi apostoli narraverunt illi, quaecumque fecerunt. Et assumptis illis, secessit seorsum ad civitatem, quae vocatur Bethsaida.
11 Quod cum cognovissent turbae, secutae sunt illum. Et excepit illos et loquebatur illis de regno Dei et eos, qui cura indigebant, sanabat.
For the most part, this chapter consists of material we have found in both of the other two gospels. Ergo, and a priori, it is part of the so-called “Triple Tradition”. This gives us a chance to look at the way each of them handled each story, and see what was said and not said by whom.
There is one part of this that is unique to Luke. It’s very brief, covered in the commentary to Verses 1-3. It concerns the women who followed Jesus. Mary the Magdalene, or Mary called the Magdalene as Luke puts it, is common to all three. Or actually to all four gospels, since John mentions her as well. Luke has two unique aspects specifically about Mary M. First, we are told that Jesus expelled seven demons from her. No one else mentions this. As such, this seems to be another great example of how the story grew. I would even be willing to infer that there is a complete story behind this little tidbit, the tale of how Jesus encountered Mary and describing the specifics of her possession and the circumstances under which Jesus cured her. Luke encountered–or possibly created–this story but chose not to include the whole thing; rather, he was satisfied with adding the most important part. The existence of this additional detail, and the possible existence of the story behind it, ties in with the other thing that Luke adds to the account of Mary M. Against the other two, Luke introduces Mary M much earlier in the narrative than any of the other evangelists. In Mark and Matthew, we do not meet her until the crucifixion scene. This, in turn, ties in with something Luke omits: that Mary M and the women were followers of Jesus in Galilee, and that they had (presumably) come to Jerusalem with Jesus.
This is a fascinating glimpse into the way the character (as in, dramatis persona) of the Magdalene is developing. In 2M, she pops up only at the end, as part of the Passion narrative. I suspect she is the reason that the young man in white in the empty tomb tells Mary and the disciples to return to Galilee: she will take care of them there. I would not be surprised to learn that, in some way, responsible for the creation of the Passion narrative. By introducing her early, and hinting that there were other stories to be told about her, Luke is sort of cutting her loose from being limited to a minor role (but not really that minor, either; Jesus appeared to her first) at the end. Her role is expanding, people are making up stories about her, and she is, overall, just becoming more prominent. This is how and why she ended up a prostitute: because people made up stories. She has become more a part of the story, albeit still in a fairly peripheral fashion. She will go on to become a major figure in Roman Catholic tradition; she is so much a part of the cultural landscape that “Magdalene” is recognized by spellcheck. However, the negative aspect of this particular part of her story was designed, in large part, to take her down a notch or two. Or three. Rather than being a financial supporter, and so someone of rank, she was downgraded to being a prostitute.
One of the other stories in the chapter is that of Jesus calming the storm. There is one aspect of this that needs to be emphasized. Much of the “argument” for Q is that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark. Well, in the three versions of the storm, we have a very clear example of exactly that: Luke telling the same story as Matthew. Granted, it’s a negative agreement, based on an omission, but I’d like to hear an argument for why this doesn’t count. In Mark, the terrified disciples ask Jesus, “do you not care if we are perishing?”. Matthew left this out, and so did Luke. That is an agreement between the latter two against Mark. I somehow suspect that the Q people would vehemently object to this, but then they somehow miss the fact that Matthew and Luke–against Mark–agree on Joseph and Bethlehem and the angel announcing Jesus’ coming birth and, well all of the so-called Q material. But this latter doesn’t count, for whatever reason.
Luke also radically changed the context and timing of the “who are my mother and brothers?” pericope. This–and many other such placements–amply demonstrates that Luke was not particularly particular about how he re-arranged the text of his predecessors.
There are three other stories in this chapter, and all three of them are part of the Triple Tradition. The stories are that of the Gerasene demonaics, the Jairus/Bleeding Woman diptych, and the Parable of the Sower. Two are miracle stories and the other is a parable; however, I believe they should be considered together along with the Calming of the Storm. We touched on this latter briefly above, but it is worth a bit more examination in the way that it fits in the chapter. The Q people would have you believe that stuff like the Sermon on the Mount is the actual real, official, traces back to Jesus material of the gospels. Given that there is no evidence of Q, I find this hard to accept. Rather, I would suggest that these four stories represent the oldest stratum of material in the gospels. It only makes sense, given that they are found in Mark whereas the Sermon on the Mount is not. Plain logic suggests that the oldest gospel written is most likely to have the oldest material, but the Q people seem to disagree with this premise.
Note that three of these are miracle stories. They also share the common feature that the disciples are either more or less non-existent or only serve as stage props. They have virtually no role in the Gerasene adventure; in the story of the Bleeding Woman/Jairus they exist only so one of the disciples can say that it would be impossible to tell who it was that touched Jesus in the crowd; in the Calming of the Storm they are the witless fools scared for their lives and lacking faith. In the Parable of the Sower, their participation is to act as the straight men who ask Jesus to explain what the parable means. This sort of behaviour and portrayal fits with the overall pattern of the way Mark treats the disciples throughout his gospel; it has been retained by Matthew and Luke. Throughout this commentary, I have been highly skeptical of the Twelve, and these episodes reinforce that skepticism. Mark can barely find employment even for Peter, James, and John, while Matthew and Andrew show up for their calling. The rest are only names, with the exception of Judas who appears in the Passion Story, which was a later addition to the gospel; as such, it would seem logical that he was a later addition to the story.
All of this, in turn, indicates that these stories form the core of the earliest narrative about Jesus, or that they were among the earliest stories repeated about Jesus. It it significant that they also portray Jesus as a wonder worker in three of the four. Here we come to an interesting dichotomy. Our earliest source, Paul, says nothing of miracle performed by Jesus; indeed, he suggests that performing miracles was not an uncommon gift, along with prophesy and speaking in tongues. Nor does Paul do more than mention Jesus’ teachings. Yet, the earliest popular stories about Jesus portray him differently, as a wonder-worker who talked about the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven, or of the heavens. I would suggest that the Christ tradition of Paul is largely theological, while the wonder-worker tradition of the miracles is more popular, intended to reach more of a mass audience. These two different views of Jesus are not mutually exclusive, but neither is the overlap is not immediately obvious. For Paul, it was the Resurrection that made Jesus into the Christ, which is what made him significant. For the Mark, it was largely Jesus’ miracles that made him significant, and the miracles are strung together until sometime in Chapter 7/8/9 when Mark transitions to speaking of Jesus as the Christ. This dissection of Mark is not completely clean and not nearly as clear-cut as I may seem to be suggesting, but it is the overall pattern. If you count word occurrences, the pattern becomes pretty clear; different sets of words that represent themes, are used in the first part of the gospel than are used in the latter part.
Perhaps the aspect of this that should be most noted is that neither Matthew nor Luke radically alter this perception of Jesus in these four stories that we are discussing. Jesus and the disciples are portrayed by the latter two much as they are by Mark. This is evidence for a very strong tradition about Jesus as a wonder worker. Rather than downplay it, the gospels emphasize Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. This has led to a whole lot of discussion that the miracles are the demonstration, the proof that Jesus is divine. He can contravene the laws of nature. In this, he is really no different from earlier prophets like Elijah who also raised the dead; rather than qualitative, the difference between Jesus and these earlier prophets is quantitative. Jesus performed a lot of miracles. Even John retained (or invented) nine miracle stories. In my analysis of Mark, I said that he wove the different stories into a (mostly) coherent skein. It could also be said that he began the welding of the two traditions, wonder worker and Christ, into a single whole. Matthew and Luke continue the process, but they create a framework that puts the miracles more directly in the context of Jesus’ divinity: both Matthew and Luke start with a story of a divinely-ordained and divine birth that tells us from the start who Jesus is. Once this is established, they retain the wonder-worker tradition, but put more emphasis on the Christ. This trend is culminated by John, who starts by telling us that Jesus was the Logos, and it was with God from the beginning.
One implication of this two-fold tradition becomes manifest when it’s set out like this. While Paul may be our earliest written source, we have to ask if he represents the earlier tradition. I’m not sure that we can make that assumption, or draw that inference. That is something to be considered as we proceed.
Jesus and crew have left the land of the Gerasenes and returned to the shore of the lake, presumably around Caphernaum. This seems to be Jesus’ home-base, even in Luke, who does not tell us that Jesus moved there. Even so, Luke can’t really disguise the fact that the action takes place in and around the Sea of Galilee, and this means Capheraum, which is situated on the northern shore of the lake.This will take us into the stories of the Bleeding Woman, and the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. One point that I added to the bottom of my last post is that it appears that the land of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes is at the opposite end of the Sea of Galilee. The lake is long and narrow, running north and south. Caphernaum is on the north shore; Gadara, apparently, was situated on the southern side. Not only that, it’s some way off, perhaps even several miles, the shore of the lake. But, not sure how significant that really is, so I suppose we should get on with the
40 Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑποστρέφειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπεδέξατο αὐτὸν ὁ ὄχλος, ἦσαν γὰρ πάντες προσδοκῶντες αὐτόν.
Upon his return (from the land of the Gerasenes), the crowd received Jesus, for all were expecting him.
This is worthy of a comment, I believe. Why would they be expecting him, and so waiting for him? Here is where the length of the trip to Gadara becomes a bit more relevant. How long would it take to sail from one end to the other? A map I found says it’s 21 km long; that’s a bit over ten miles. According to one website, the speed of a modern sailing cruiser is about 7 knots (=nautical miles, = 1.15 statute/land miles). I once sailed from Olcott, NY to Youngstown, NY, at the mouth of the Niagara river, and I’m pretty sure we were hitting about 10 knots. I remember this because the skipper was extremely pleased at the speed his boat was making, but that was perhaps a faster-than-average boat. Anyway, even at five knots, a 10-12 mile trip could be done in two hours. This means Jesus could have embarked from Caphernaum in the morning, sailed to Gadara, expelled Legion, and easily have been back by the late afternoon, with time to spare. So if folks saw him set out in the morning, it would not have been unusual for them to expect him back by nightfall. Why does this matter? It really doesn’t in any truly significant way, but it’s interesting to note that it is within the realm of probability, unlike Mark Chapter 3 when Jesus’ family walks twenty miles from Nazareth to take him home from Caphernaum. This, I suspect, is part of the reason that people suppose Mark wasn’t familiar with the geography of Galilee, although this episode is entirely possible if Jesus & family actually lived in Caphernaum. It’s also interesting to note that only Luke has this little bit of the story. Does it imply that Luke was familiar with the geography of Galilee? That would be a reasonable conclusion, but it could also be something he picked up from his source. Or, he could have just included this without knowing whether or not it was possible. You see, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from so much of this stuff.
FWIW: I found another map, and it appears that Gadara had a good harbor at the south end of the lake.
40 Cum autem rediret Iesus, excepit illum turba; erant enim omnes exspectantes eum.
41 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἦλθεν ἀνὴρ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰάϊρος, καὶ οὗτος ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς ὑπῆρχεν, καὶ πεσὼν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας [τοῦ] Ἰησοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ,
42 ὅτι θυγάτηρ μονογενὴς ἦν αὐτῷ ὡς ἐτῶν δώδεκα καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέθνῃσκεν. Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι συνέπνιγον αὐτόν.
And look, there came a mane named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue was there, and falling beside his (Jesus’) feet he asked him to come to his home, (42) that his only-born daughter to him was as twelve years (old) and she was dying. In the leading him (in leading Jesus to Jairus’ home) the crow pressed him.
This is interesting. Luke invented the whole detail of the crowd waiting for Jesus; doing so filled two needs for the coming story. The first is to allow Jairus to be present; the second is to provide the crowd as the backdrop needed for the story of the Bleeding Woman. This is what I mean about Luke being a novelist; doing this he displays an economy of words that is a hallmark of a good storyteller, or of a good writer in general.
Now, circling back to the bit about being able to sail from Gadara and back in a single day, we have the crowd. As mentioned, the trip to Gadara was most likely a two-to-three hour affair. As such, it’s possible to have done the trip and returned by the not-late afternoon; however, evening is more likely. And yet, this crowd does not seem to behave as if it were already evening. So the realism of the sailing time sort of goes out the window very quickly. This, I suppose, could be an example of the famous “editorial fatigue”, in which the person copying the story finds it too tiresome to continue with the editing/updating after a sentence or two. I mean, that quill, or stylus was soooooo heavy! The real implication, I think, is that the realism of the sailing time was more illusory than actual. Or perhaps “accidental” is the better term.
41 Et ecce venit vir, cui nomen Iairus, et ipse princeps synagogae erat, et cecidit ad pedes Iesu rogans eum, ut intraret in domum eius,
42 quia filia unica erat illi fere annorum duodecim, et haec moriebatur. Et dum iret, a turbis comprimebatur.
43 καὶ γυνὴ οὖσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος ἀπὸ ἐτῶν δώδεκα, ἥτις [ἰατροῖς προσαναλώσασα ὅλον τὸν βίον] οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἀπ’ οὐδενὸς θεραπευθῆναι,
44 προσελθοῦσα ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ, καὶ παραχρῆμα ἔστη ἡ ῥύσις τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς.
And there was being a woman in a discharge of blood for twelve years, who, [having wasted her whole life on physicians] was not made strong (i.e., healthy) by anyone to be healed, (44) having come close she touched the hem of his robe, and immediately stopped (lit = ‘stood‘) the discharge of her blood. (or, ‘her discharge of blood‘; this would be more literal)
I’m largely stopping here to comment on the bit in [brackets]. This part is in Mark, but not Matthew. And apparently it’s not in all mss traditions of Luke, which is what the brackets are meant to indicate. The KJV includes it as part of the text, as does the ESV, but the NASB and the NIV do not. That the KJV includes it probably indicates that the mss available at that time included the words. Indeed, the Vulgate below includes the bracketed phrase. That it was later suspected of being an interpolation is why mss traditions are so important, even if they are almost exclusively the province of specialists. That the Vulgate includes the phrase indicates that it crept in a long time ago. Some copyist was trying to align this version more closely with Mark’s version. The basic point, of course, is that human knowledge, or even the knowledge of pagan physicians who relied on pagan gods, could not compare to the power of the the real God, as god had come to be defined in the Hebrew tradition. That being said, this is pretty much a straightforward story of a wonder-worker. Whether we like it or not, the early, non-Pauline, tradition of Jesus was that this is what he was. At least, that’s what Mark tells us.
43 Et mulier quaedam erat in fluxu sanguinis ab annis duodecim, quae in medicos erogaverat omnem substantiam suam nec ab ullo potuit curari;
44 accessit retro et tetigit fimbriam vestimenti eius, et confestim stetit fluxus sanguinis eius.
45 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τίς ὁ ἁψάμενός μου; ἀρνουμένων δὲ πάντων εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος, Ἐπιστάτα, οἱ ὄχλοι συνέχουσίν σε καὶ ἀποθλίβουσιν.
And Jesus said, “Who is it who touched me?” (With) everyone denying, Peter said, “Overstander (master), the crowds hold you and press tightly on you”.
Need to stop for a couple of vocabulary notes. First, the word “Overstander”. That is a literal translation of the root word + prefix; although “stander-upon” might be even more literal. Luke uses this word a total of seven times, all of them in the gospel. No one else uses it. The other thing worth noting is that the Vulgate recognizes that this is not the usual “kyrios” or “despotes”, and provides rather an unusual word in “praeceptor”. This most commonly means “teacher”. So why the odd word? Of course, there’s no answer to that question.
The other word is the one rendered as “press”. I call this out because it’s part of the root of the word that is often translated as “persecution”. The “apo” prefix appears to add the sense of “tightly”. And I should point out that the Great Scott does give “persecute” as one of the meanings of the root “thlipsos”. However, the examples cited there do not quite get across the sense of a group being “persecuted” in the way that we conceive the word. Now, some of that may be historical; such persecutions for a set of beliefs was actually quite rare in the ancient world with its tendency towards syncretism. The prevailing attitude was that different peoples worshipped the same god, but used different names. Hence Tacitus says that the chief god of the Germania was Mercury, the closest Roman counterpart to Wotan/Woden/Odin. (There is a whole speculative literature on how Wotan supplanted Donner/ Thor as the chief god. Thor was, after all, the sky god, the wielder of thunder the was Zeus did.) This is part of the reason that I have trouble believing that the persecutions of Christians–as we understand the concept–was anything widespread or systemic, and it was largely done on political, rather than religious, grounds; however, trying to separate those terms in the first few centuries of the Common Era is horribly anachronistic. The aspect to bear in mind is that such persecution as Christians faced was due to their refusal to participate in the emperor cult. This, in turn, was held to be more akin to treason than to religious dissent, although Christians were accused of atheism from time to time. So much depends on reference and perspective.
45 Et ait Iesus: “Quis est, qui me tetigit? ”. Negantibus autem omnibus, dixit Petrus: “Praeceptor, turbae te comprimunt et affligunt”.
46 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ηψατό μού τις, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔγνων δύναμιν ἐξεληλυθυῖαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ.
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I felt the power go out of me.”
This has always fascinated me. The power acted independently of Jesus’ will to use it. The power acted of its own accord. What does that mean? How do we interpret this statement? In my hardly exhaustive search of the various commentaries at BibleHub I found a marvelous dancing around in the discussion–or lack thereof–of this part of the verse. Obviously, this story and that of Jairus are examples of the faith that can move mountains, but this little detail hints at something else. To me, it says that the power is somehow a separate entity from Jesus. This, in turn, makes Jesus an agent of God, rather than God himself. It has been argued, at least from the time of Calvin, that Jesus knew, and willed, the power to go out of him because he knew the woman was about to touch him; there is a certain logic behind this, but that’s not what the text says. Of course, what it says and what it means are not always the same thing, either. But to me, this wording hints at the Adoptionism that is often lurking just beneath the surface of Mark’s narrative.
Now, that Luke left this part in the story is the sort of thing that a Q proponent should be raising to support the case that Luke was unaware of Matthew. After all, the latter removed this from his version, as well as making his version significantly shorter than Mark’s, and still shorter than Luke’s version. I suggested that Matthew took this out for more or less the reasons I’ve suggested: that it was a bad look, it carries implications that don’t sit well ir Jesus was God from before the time of his human conception. As such, Matthew took the proper course by removing this from his story. And you know, if the Q people posed this argument, I would have some trouble in refuting it because it does not seem consistent with Jesus’ thoroughgoing divinity. But the Q people don’t present this as an argument. Instead, they tout the “masterful arrangement” of Matthew and claim that only a fool or a madman would mangle this arrangement. That is not an argument. And it’s not even valid, since it poses a false dichotomy that there can’t be other reasons for rearranging the material.
46 At dixit Iesus: “ Tetigit me aliquis; nam et ego novi virtutem de me exisse”.
47 ἰδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γυνὴ ὅτι οὐκ ἔλαθεν τρέμουσα ἦλθεν καὶ προσπεσοῦσα αὐτῷ δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἥψατο αὐτοῦ ἀπήγγειλεν ἐνώπιον παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ὡς ἰάθη παραχρῆμα.
48 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.
The woman seeing that she did not escape notice, trembling, came and fell before him to tell through which cause she touched him before the whole people how she had been healed immediately. (48) And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you, go forth in peace”.
Notice the difference in vocabulary between what Jesus says and what the woman says. The latter says she was healed immediately; Jesus says her faith has saved her. This goes back to the meaning of “saved” in the NT. Of course, for later Christians, saved has a very specific meaning. And fact, the most common translation of this is not “saved”, but “healed” or “made you well”. Why is that? I’ve been reading a lot more pagan Greek lately, and the word here, “sōzō” << σωζω >> which means “to save”, almost always means “to save one’s life”. That is obviously the meaning here; the question is when is it appropriate to take it in the later Christian sense of being “saved”. What are the clues? What is the context? I do not think this has been fully worked out, just as the clues and context for translated “psyche” as “soul” rather than “physical life” have truly been defined. Rather, the instances have been determined, and agreed upon, but it’s very much on an “everyone knows/agrees” basis. To complicate this question further, the Vulgate below choses “salvam“, “saved”. So what does that tell us about the underlying Greek word? Probably it tells us that the Latin word is just about as ambiguous–from our 21st Century perspective–as it’s Greek counterpart.
As a final note, the last verse has garnered some attention as being slightly unusual. Supposedly this is the only instance in which someone is addressed as “daughter”. This would make me wonder if the term was coming into use in later Christian communities as they were growing hierarchical. It’s not a huge thing, but it anything unusual is worth noting. All the same, we need to bear in mind that Luke is one for unusual vocabulary. The bit about going in peace, however, has a slightly different twist. The word is used many times in the NT, starting with Paul. But, it is used exactly once by Mark, and it’s in the context of this story. So the question becomes, can we take that unusual word in Mark as perhaps indicating that this expression did, in fact, go back to Jesus? We can never be sure of this, but we can be sure–reasonably so, at least–that it was an old part of the story, imbedded as it was in the account that Mark heard and repeated, and that Luke retained where Matthew did not; Matthew retained the use of “daughter” as a form of address, but he left out the injunction that she go in peace. Why Luke and not Matthew? We will never know Luke’s reasons for doing so. Perhaps he felt it may have been spoken by Jesus. Recall that Luke was definitely aware of Paul and his career, which we cannot say about Matthew. Did Luke’s familiarity make this word resonate?
47 Videns autem mulier quia non latuit, tremens venit et procidit ante eum et ob quam causam tetigerit eum indicavit coram omni populo et quemadmodum confestim sanata sit.
48 At ipse dixit illi: “Filia, fides tua te salvam fecit. Vade in pace”.
My apologies for the long hiatus; I must confess that I’ve been cheating on the NT, indulging in an orgy of non-NT Greek consisting of Xenophon’s Anabasis and a Gnostic-Hermetic text called Poimandres, Shepherd of Men, or Poimandres, the Man-Shepherd. It seems to be a pretty basic text of the Corpus Hermeticum, a body of work that is comprises some foundational Gnostic texts. Sections of Poimandres (also Poemander, or even Pimander) are borderline bizarre in the generation of various entities, which I have always found a bit off-putting about a lot of Gnostic texts. The text, however, is interesting, since it acts as a mirror for the content of the NT texts that we’re reading. The date of Poimandres is conjectural, like most texts of the time. The consensus appears to put it in the second quarter of the Second Century, around the time of the Gnostic heretic Valentinius. I am not familiar with this latter author; no one is. His works were all destroyed by the neophyte Church, and everything we know about him and his teachings is derived from his orthodox attackers. One thing that is particularly interesting is the level of the development of the Gnostic elements; they seem to be largely implicit unlike the explicit Gnosticism of Gospel Thomas. Count that as another blow at the idea that Thomas was written in the First Century. But back to our story.
This is a short section; or rather, it’s two short sections. After this the tale of the Gerasene demonaic comes up, so had to cut this one short. In context, Jesus has just explained the Parable of the Sower to his disciples, and then finished with the three short aphorisms about the lamp, all things becoming manifest, and that those who have will be given more.
19 Παρεγένετο δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡ μήτηρ καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύναντο συντυχεῖν αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον.
20 ἀπηγγέλη δὲ αὐτῷ, Ἡ μήτηρ σου καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοί σου ἑστήκασιν ἔξω ἰδεῖν θέλοντές σε.
21 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Μήτηρ μου καὶ ἀδελφοί μου οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀκούοντες καὶ ποιοῦντες.
And there came to hims his mother and his brothers, and they were not able to approach to him because of the crowd. (20) It was announced to him, “Your mother and your brothers stand outside wishing to see you.” (21) He, answering, said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those hearing and doing the word of God”.
This scene as presented here has been ripped so badly out of its context that it barely makes sense. In Mark, his family comes because they believe that Jesus has rather gone off the deep end. It is prefaced by the “house divided” episode, in which it is suggested that Jesus has a demon himself. Here, coming after the Parable of the Sower, it doesn’t particularly make sense. Nor is the location made specific; at the beginning of the chapter, we are simply told that he and the Twelve were going from one city and village to another. Mark located this story in Caphernaum, which made the idea of Jesus’ family coming from Nazareth seem far-fetched due to the distance (20-30 miles, IIRC) between the two towns. Matthew sort of eliminated that problem by telling us specifically that Jesus moved to Caphernaum, presumably with the rest of his family? Luke, in contrast, specifically said that Jesus did not move, pointedly locating the “prophet without honor in his home town” episode in Nazareth. Here…it’s hard to say. If Jesus’ family comes to him, we assume they cannot be too far away. Beyond that, we are not given any sense of why they came to him. He doesn’t need to be “rescued”, even if from himself as in the other two versions. So, once again, we have a great example that emphatically demonstrates Luke has no qualms whatsoever about messing with settings, locations, context, or anything else. This is completely removed from its Markan (really don’t like that term) context and placed wherever Luke chose, whether the context makes sense or not. And it doesn’t.
19 Venerunt autem ad illum mater et fratres eius, et non poterant adire ad eum prae turba.
20 Et nuntiatum est illi: “ Mater tua et fratres tui stant foris volentes te videre ”.
21 Qui respondens dixit ad eos: “ Mater mea et fratres mei hi sunt, qui verbum Dei audiunt et faciunt”.
22 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἐνέβη εἰς πλοῖον καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς λίμνης: καὶ ἀνήχθησαν.
23 πλεόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ἀφύπνωσεν. καὶ κατέβη λαῖλαψ ἀνέμου εἰς τὴν λίμνην, καὶ συνεπληροῦντο καὶ ἐκινδύνευον.
24 προσελθόντες δὲ διήγειραν αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Ἐπιστάτα ἐπιστάτα, ἀπολλύμεθα. ὁ δὲ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ τῷ κλύδωνι τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἐπαύσαντο, καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη.
25 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ποῦ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν; φοβηθέντες δὲ ἐθαύμασαν, λέγοντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους, Τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι καὶ τοῖς ἀνέμοις ἐπιτάσσει καὶ τῷ ὕδατι, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ;
It happened one day that he and his disciples went to the boat and he said to them, “Let us go to the other shore.” And they departed. (23) They having sailed (while) he was sleeping. And there arose a furious storm of wind upon the lake, and they were taking water and endangered. (24) Coming they awakened him saying, “Get up! Get up! We are being destroyed!” He having awakened rebuked the wind and the waves of the water. And they stopped, and it was calm. (25) He said to them, “Where is your faith?” Fearing, they marveled, saying to each other, “Who indeed is this that he commands both the wind and the water and they obey him?”
A word about the vocabulary. << λαῖλαψ >> and << συνεπληροῦντο >> are unusual words in the NT. The former is found only in Luke, the latter twice in Luke and once in 1 Peter. They are not, however, terribly unusual in Classical or Hellenistic authors. So, once again, we see that Luke had a fairly high level of education, that he had a pretty good range of reading.
As for the story itself, once again we find a story completely divorced from either Mark’s or Matthew’s context. Of course, the question that Mark’s disciples ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing” is gone. It was also excised by Matthew. Obviously, this portrays the disciples in a really bad light, which raises two major questions in my mind. The first is what this tells us of Mark’s view of the disciples. Obviously, it wasn’t very flattering. Which makes me wonder how it is that so many people believe that Mark was Peter’s assistant. If Mark was Peter’s assistant, we’re up against a situation in which we have to ask, if Peter (and the other disciples) have friends like Mark, who needs enemies? I mean, seriously. There is no way that Mark wrote what he did under the auspices of Peter or any of the original disciples. Why on earth would they stand for this sort of hatchet job? This is the sort of internal evidence that seems to be wholly ignored by virtually all scholars, who opt instead for the nice tradition that Mark was the John Mark of Acts. The reason? Why attribute a book to Mark, unless he was someone important, like the John Mark of Acts. My response to this is, John Mark is famous? The question of Mark’s name, and who he was, is legitimate. The answer usually provided, IMO, is not.
Then we have to ask what this says about the triple tradition. Remember, the Q people insist that Luke did not know Matthew. So, this means that, wholly independent of each other, Matthew and Luke decided to drop that question that the found in Mark. That’s convenient. Does it not make sense, rather, that Luke followed Matthew’s lead on this? Occam’s Razor says this is the more likely explanation.
22 Factum est autem in una dierum, et ipse ascendit in navem et discipuli eius, et ait ad illos: “Transfretemus trans stagnum”. Et ascenderunt.
23 Navigantibus autem illis, obdormivit. Et descendit procella venti in stagnum, et complebantur et periclitabantur.
24 Accedentes autem suscitaverunt eum dicentes: “Praeceptor, praeceptor, perimus!”. At ille surgens increpavit ventum et tempestatem aquae, et cessaverunt, et facta est tranquillitas.
25 Dixit autem illis: “ Ubi est fides vestra? ”. Qui timentes mirati sunt dicentes ad invicem: “ Quis putas hic est, quia et ventis imperat et aquae, et oboediunt ei? ”.
The chapter is comprised of four separate stories. The first is that of Jesus healing the centurion’s slave; the second is Jesus raising the man in the town of Nain; third is Jesus talking to the disciples of the Baptist; fourth is the story of the woman anointing Jesus with the costly ointment. The first two are miracle stories, the second two are more difficult to classify. One of the miracle stories was in Matthew, but the Widow of Nain was not. The last two were both in Matthew, and the fourth was in Mark as well. So half of them are Q material, one is unique, and one is in all four gospels. Aside from the first two, there is no real thematic unity–at least, none that I can discern. The first has the closest analogue to a story in another gospel; the second and the fourth are unique and offer radically different takes on its counterparts in other gospels, respectively.
That breakdown was another attempt to find some sort of underlying connexion. It failed. Perhaps the common thread is how they reflect upon the likelihood of Q. Regardless of anything else, the four stories help point out the “building block” nature of the gospel stories. Each is pretty much an independent unit. They can be strung together in different ways without really affecting the overall impact of the gospel. Yes, some have to preceded others, but these prerequisites are truly few and far between.
The story of the centurion’s servant is very similar to that in Matthew. There are two different elements. The first is the addition of Jewish elders who act as character references for the centurion. They assure Jesus of the man’s good actions towards Jews. Just how curious this addition is didn’t really occur to me while discussing the story. When discussing the story in Matthew, I made what seemed like a fairly obvious point about this story representing the transition from Jewish to non-Jewish followers of Jesus. Non-Jews get exactly one reference in Mark, the Syro-Phoenician woman. They crop up a bit more frequently after that, often accompanied by Jesus proclamations that the House of Israel does not have such faith. So why go back to the Jewish elders? This question is especially pertinent since the story is about how Jews are being superseded by pagans. While this is a relevant question, I’m not sure I have a relevant answer. It may be a reference to the God-fearers; pagans who studied and prayed at synagogues without actually becoming Jews. Matthew may have been such a pagan. Perhaps the most obvious reason for including this is to tie the centurion to this tradition; to indicate that the man was not someone who found religion when he needed it to save the life of his slave, but someone who had spent time with the Jews, who admired them, who supported them. The thing to remember, is that the addition of this detail is for the benefit of the audience rather than for Jesus. That should go without saying.
The other change, which may actually be the more significant, is that Luke first refers to the slave as a doulos, and only later uses the term pais. Matthew used the latter term exclusively. Why? Why does the change matter? Now, that seemingly innocuous question is actually loaded; calling it a ‘change’ implies that Matthew has the original version and that Luke altered Matthew’s original word. One really must be careful about wording. The correct question is whether the difference is significant. A hint at the answer can be inferred from the caveat about wording: did Matthew create the story? Or did he at least write it for the first time? Or did Matthew and Luke both find the story in Q? If so, which word did Q use? Did Matthew change it, or did Luke? If the former, why? To add the extra level of concern felt by the centurion? That makes sense. If Luke changed it from pais to doulos, again the question is why? To remove the ambiguity in the term? This explanation would make sense, whether the term came from Matthew or from Q. Does either scenario seem more likely than the other? My sense is that it makes more sense to assume that Luke made the change to remove the ambiguity, but it could just as easily go the other way. The more common word for child, especially for a son, is either teknos or uios. It is the latter word that Jesus always uses when referring to the Son of Man, or the Son of God.
However, looking at the word pais as used in the Synoptics, we see that it was never used by Mark. Luke and Matthew both use the term to refer to a slave or to a child. Notably, Luke uses this word to describe the “child Jesus” who was left in Jerusalem when he was twelve. Given this, I would suggest that it is more likely that Luke changed the word from pais to doulos. He had used the former to refer to a child, so it would make sense that he would want to clear up the ambiguity by stating forthwith that it was a slave being discussed.
Given that, the question becomes the source; who used pais in the first place? My suggestion is, once again, to look at the word itself, and to decide who would be most likely to use the word pais. I would suggest that the term implies a high degree of comfort with the Greek language, and a keen sense for deriving proper meaning from context. The most likely candidate here would be Matthew. I keep returning to the author of Q: who was it? And to the age of Q: was it written in the 30s or 40s? If so, how likely is it that the author would have had the degree of comfort with Greek that Matthew had later? Let’s think about this for a moment: Jesus is talking to a Roman soldier. What language did they speak? Just because he was in the Roman army at this time doesn’t mean the centurion spoke Latin; one might suppose that, since he was stationed in the East, he spoke Greek, but that is not necessarily true. Legions were moved, but Greek is the most likely language that the centurion spoke. If he were a native of Syria, he may have spoken Aramaic, but that’s not a given either. Or, the elders of the Jews may have interpreted. One hopes this indicates the difficulties we’re facing here in our attempted reconstruction. It doesn’t work out very well in the details. Assuming it did take place, chances are it was repeated in Aramaic before being set down in Greek. Which brings us back to the question of whether a follower of Jesus in the 40s had enough proficiency with Greek to write the story in the first place, or to use the term pais when slave was the underlying word. My answer is “probably not”.
All of this, however, is a bit of a fool’s errand. The most likely scenario is that the conversation simply never took place. In which case, the story was written later. Since it’s not in Mark, I would suggest that it was written after him. We’ve discussed several times that the inten of this story is to explain why the Jews got left behind. There is no indication in Paul that Jesus ever preached to pagans; in fact, Galatians and 1 Thessalonians seem to indicate quite clearly that the idea of preaching to pagans was a fairly new concept, or undertaking, when Paul started doing it. We know that Jews were hostile towards the new movement, and that by the time John wrote the fourth gospel, the split between the sects was pretty much set and irrevocable. So it makes sense to infer that the transition to a pagan movement was well underway by the 70s and was likely almost complete by the 80s. This state of affairs would require some explanation to the audience, so stories like the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite, in Matthew) and this one were added. Given the confluence of circumstances, I would suggest that this story was most likely created by Matthew himself. There is, I firmly believe, altogether too much crediting of some undefined “oral tradition” and not nearly enough credit given to the evangelists themselves. I would suggest the use of pais indicates someone very comfortable in Greek, and Matthew fits that bill nicely. And I would further suggest that Luke amended the first use of pais to doulos to help clarify the situation. Therefore, we have another (?) example of Luke following Matthew if only to “correct” him.
The story of the Widow of Nain and her dead son is unique to Luke. In the commentary, I had suggested he used this to replace the story of Jairus’ daughter. Oops. My bad. The story of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman are in Luke. My apologies for missing that and I’ve gone back and edited the commentary on this section to reflect that. In any case, the questions for this story are “why was it added?” and “where did it come from?” Taking the second one first as it seems to be more easily answered. Contrary to what I said above about the evangelists not getting due credit for creativity, I believe that here we are dealing with something that Luke got from oral tradition. The setting of Nain is the reason. It lies very much outside the orbit of the territory Jesus habituated. Luke probably was not aware of this, so he has Jesus getting there the day after curing the centurion’s slave. Nain and Caphernaum are about thirty miles distant, which makes it unlikely that Jesus got between the two in a single day. Plus, Nain is a very obscure place as far as the Bible is concerned, so chances are Luke would not have encountered the name in his reading of HS or earlier parts of the NT. More likely, followers of Jesus from Nain–or the surrounding countryside–started telling the story as a way to include this town in the narrative of Jesus’ life.
This thesis is supported in several different ways. Some of these ways will help answer the first question above about why it was included by Luke. As discussed in the commentary, the circumstances of this raising are much, very much more elevated and dramatic than they were with Jairus’ daughter. The dead man was being carried out for burial, so he had been dead for some time, unlike the girl who had only died while Jesus was going to the house. Second, he was the only son of a widow; the loss of her son would have left her destitute, very much unlike the circumstances of Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. This increased drama, and the inclusion of a heretofore unmentioned town, together with this story only occurring in Luke all tell me the story is a later addition to the corpus. Again, go back to King Arthur. It is very likely that he wasn’t a king, but a dux, a war-leader. He later became elevated to king. As the legend grew, the number of characters grew, and so did the exploits of Arthur and these later-added knights. Percivale was a much later addition; he’s in Mallory because Mallory wrote after the creation of Parzifal by Wolfram von Eischenbach. So this story was encountered only by the later evangelist. Also, IMO, this story does not have the polished literary quality of the stories that I do believe Luke wrote, such as the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan. This feels much more basic. All-in-all, I believe that this cluster of circumstances point to it being encountered via the oral tradition. Luke included it because he liked the way it increased the dramatic tension of Jesus raising someone from the dead. There was no doubt in this case.
Now that we’ve gone all through that, it only now dawns on me that this is the highlight of the chapter, the most important story, and by a lot. Jesus has power over death. If that’s not divine power, nothing is. Death is the ultimate enemy of mortals, so to vanquish death is to raise humans to a new level. Here’s the thing, however. We have no hints that we’re dealing with anything other than standard physical death. We haven’t spoken about The Life, and there have only been a few allusions to the kingdom, most of them repetitions of things said in the other two gospels. And I’ve begun to see a two-step process that we’ve seen operating in 2M, especially in Mark. It has to do with the verb “to save”, and whether it means save a physical life (as a lifeguard at the beach), or the immortal soul. The first step is the physical life, and most of the instances in Mark, and many in Matthew, use “to save” in this manner. Luke has talked about neither saving nor the soul, whether psyche or pneuma. These are terms and concepts that we will have to watch. I’m still hazy on how this all works, based solely on the gospel texts that we’ve read. One reason I started doing this translation was to come to better grips with what came from Paul and what came from the gospels. So far, it still feels like most of what we believe as far as salvation and/or entering the kingdom comes from Paul.
So too with the story about the disciples of John. I also believe this was part of the oral tradition rather than the creation of Matthew. As mentioned, this story is internally inconsistent with aspects of the stories of Jesus being baptised as told by both Matthew and Luke. In the former, John demurs–or tries to–from baptising Jesus. John says Jesus should baptise him. Since John obviously knew who Jesus was, why send disciples to ask Jesus if he is “the one?” This pretty clearly indicates an outside provenance for this story. In the same way Luke made John into Jesus’ first cousin. More, in utero, John leapt for joy when Mary came to visit his mother. So again we have an internal inconsistency that is difficult to explain except by positing that the story came from a third source. Yes, this would fit very nicely with Q. Sort of. Once again we run into Q supposedly being a sayings gospel, but, when needed, all this other stuff keeps getting thrown in. To me, this story does not entirely fit the mold of a true sayings gospel, like that of Thomas.
Regardless, the upshot is that we have two stories that may have come from the oral tradition. At least, I firmly believe they came from a source other than the evangelists themselves.
Finally, we have the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with the costly ointment. This is one of the few stories that appears in all four gospels. However, the version here is very different from the other three, which are all pretty much of a piece. We discussed the issue that there is absolutely no reason to identify this woman with Mary Magdalene at some length in the commentary. That identification is flat wrong, in my opinion, the product of later tradition that deliberately sought to downgrade her status in the early church. We will discuss her more as she appears in the narrative. And that Luke does not identify this woman as the Magdalene, IMO, is very strong evidence that the connexion should not be made.
Where Luke’s account differs is in the discussion that follows the event. This discussion is, to some extent, dependent on the change of scene for the event; rather than being at the house of Simon the Leper, as in Mark and Matthew, it is in the house of a Pharisee, whom we later learn is named Simon. I believe the choice of name was deliberate, rather than the result of “editorial fatigue”. I believe Luke chose to retain the name as a means of tying this back to the original stories, because it is here that Luke goes off on his particular tangent. Rather than a discussion with the disciples about how the poor will always be with us, it is a discussion with the Pharisee. And the topic is about the forgiveness of sins. Since the woman is called a sinner by Simon, from which we are to infer she is a prostitute, Jesus provides an ad hoc (and unique) parable about two debtors, and how the one who had the larger debt waived would be the more grateful. Just so, since this woman is such a big sinner, she will be all the more grateful that her sins will be forgiven than will the upright and uptight Simon the Pharisee. This is a very interesting turn from the other versions of the story. The question, of course, becomes ‘why did he do this?’ Why indeed.
One impulse is to say that 2M covered the story so well that Luke wanted to put a different spin on it. I think this makes sense, but it’s a bit circular. And there are plenty of other stories where Luke just goes along with the pack. Given that, the question becomes, why did he change this story? There is a extra level of problem here, since Luke is supposedly so very focused on the poor. So why change the moral of the story away from the poor? Of course, there is no answer to this. There is nothing to offer that is both redactionally consistent with Luke’s editorial policy and that is not simply speculations on literary tastes and themes. As for Luke and the poor, I’ve seen no real indication of this, aside from changing Matthew’s “poor in spirit” to “poor”. Other than that, nothing has jumped out at me. There is the story of Dives and Lazarus coming up, but other than that, nothing comes to mind. And sneaking a peak at Strong’s words, I see nine occurrences of some form of ptōchēs, which is hardly a staggering amount. And two of those are the word repeated twice in two passages, it’s use in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. This accounts for 33.33% of uses. So yeah, Luke missed a golden opportunity to talk about the poor here. Or–here’s a thought–is that why he changed it? Because he didn’t care for the attitude of “the poor will always be with you”? Did he find that sentiment a bit too cavalier, especially coming from Jesus? So he chose to talk about sinners instead? Another glance at Strong shows that he actually talks about sinners about twice as often as the poor.
Overall, there is no overall summary. The chapter is divided into four stories, if not quite in quarters. The message in the second story outweighs the messages of the other three combined.
This actually is part of the previous story, a continuation of the woman who anointed Jesus. He is dining at the house of a Pharisee. After the woman anointed Jesus, the Pharisee became put out because of the sort of woman she was, and if Jesus was a prophet, he would have known this and avoided her. However, the Pharisee didn’t actually say this, but merely thought it. So to avoid any spoilers, let’s move on to the
40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Σίμων, ἔχω σοί τι εἰπεῖν. ὁ δέ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπέ, φησίν.
Answering, Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you”. But he (Simon) said, “Teacher, speak it.”
First, commend my restraint for not making a Simon Says joke. Second, this is the first time we get the Pharisee’s name. What is interesting is that in the 2M versions of this story, this event takes place at the home of Simon the Leper. Luke, in contrast, placed it in the home of an unknown Pharisee. Now, he’s suddenly–and suspiciously–given the name of Simon. Coincidence? You decide. All of the proper biblical scholars will jump on this as a great example of “editorial fatigue”, that phenomenon when a later editor starts out to change the circumstances (some of them, anyway) of a story and starts out doing so. But then, some part of the way through, the task of changing details becomes ever so tiresome and the editor slips back into the circumstances found in the original version. My thought on this concept has tended towards…really? It’s that hard? But the we run into this and it gives pause. The question of course, is whether Luke just decided to call him Simon because…Why not? The thing is, Jesus did not have a discussion with Simon in either of the other versions. The dinner took place in his home, but Jesus had the discussion about the propriety of the action with the disciples. I would guess that this is not so much fatigue as Luke deciding to use the name Simon to connect back to those earlier versions. We have seen Luke do things like this: find the unusual word and repeat it three times in two verses, or choose to echo Matthew, to dance all around Matthew’s narrative without ever quite mentioning it. This just feels like something Luke would do here, to throw it back to M&M while never citing them directly.
The third thing is that Jesus is in another of those situations in which he can read minds. The interesting thing is that he does this most often with the mind of a Pharisee. It’s not always a Pharisee; just most cases. This goes all the way back to Mark when they are muttering to themselves about Jesus’ actions in the synagogues. Just something I noticed. As for the mind reading, it’s clearly Jesus being a divine being. By this point, this trait has become rather commonplace for Jesus in these narratives.
40 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illum: “ Simon, habeo tibi aliquid dicere ”. At ille ait: “Magister, dic”.
41 δύο χρεοφειλέται ἦσαν δανιστῇ τινι: ὁ εἷς ὤφειλεν δηνάρια πεντακόσια, ὁ δὲ ἕτερος πεντήκοντα.
42 μὴ ἐχόντων αὐτῶν ἀποδοῦναι ἀμφοτέροις ἐχαρίσατο. τίς οὖν αὐτῶν πλεῖον ἀγαπήσει αὐτόν;
43 ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν,Ὑπολαμβάνω ὅτι ᾧ τὸ πλεῖον ἐχαρίσατο. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἔκρινας.
44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς ἐξέμαξεν.
45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.
46 ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας: αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου.
47 οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγον ἀγαπᾷ.
48 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.
49 καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;
50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.
Two debtors owed to a certain money lender; the first owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. (42) They not having to give back, he graced both. So which of them loved him (the creditor) more? (43) Answering, Simon said, “I would undertake that the one owing more. He (Jesus) said to him, “You have answered straight”. (44) And turning to the woman he (Jesus) said to Simon, “Look at this woman. I have come to your home, water to me upon the feet you did not give. She with tears washed my feet, and with her hair dried them. (45) You did not give me a kiss; she has from which (i.e., the time/hour which) I came has not stopped kissing my feet. (47) You did not anoint my head with oil. She has anointed my feet with ointment. (47) Of which grace I tell you her many sins have been taken away, that she will love much. To whom little has been taken, loves a little. (48) I say to her, ‘your sins are forgiven’.” (49) And those seated around began to say among themselves, “Who is he who also to take away sins?” (50) He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”.
With this ending, the story now offers a radically different message than it did in 2M, or than it will in John. It is not at all about the poor, nor is it about Jesus’ impending death. Neither of these are mentioned, and neither plays any role in the moral, or the lesson, or the purpose of the tale. Rather, Luke has transformed it into a tale about the way Jesus was–or, more properly, was not–accepted by “polite” Jewish society. It also explains why we are in the home of a Pharisee, and not of a former leper; the former is an intrinsic member of that “polite society” whereas a leper would not have been. I have no idea what the status of a healed/cleansed leper would have been, because I have the understanding that such cleansing/healing did not happen very often; as such, rules would not have formed on how to deal with the situation. But there were rules about how a member of polite society should accept a guest, just as there are today. Novels of upper crust society written in the 19th Century are replete with such rules; read enough of this fiction and one could become sufficiently competent to fulfill them. On the other hand, I don’t know enough about these rules to judge whether what Jesus describes the actions that Simon did not do were actually standard practice.
The good news is that we don’t have to know to effect a judgement on the intent of the story. Jesus provides rules and, presumably, those hearing the story may not have necessarily been sufficiently versed to know that Simon had violated social protocol, but, to the average listener, these rules seem sufficiently reasonable, or logical, to be accepted under the conditions of a “willing suspension of disbelief”. Jesus gives the rules, points out that Simon did not follow them, but the woman did. That’s enough; this is not history, or even historical fiction. It’s myth and/or hagiography. These stories operate under their own rules. That’s all we need. This reminds me of one of the books written by JD Crossan, The Historical Jesus (IIRC), in which he seeks to recreate the society of Jesus by analogy to other traditional societies in the Mediterranean, not all of them necessarily contemporaneous with Jesus. I did not find this book terribly convincing, but the point here is that it does not matter. This “pericope” is not “based on a true story”, and it doesn’t depend on whether Simon violated polite practice. None of that matters.
What does matter is that, in this version, Jesus was not treated as someone who was treated as a full member of “society” (as Tolstoy used the term in Anna Karenina), whatever the actual rules were. In contrast, a woman, a “sinner”, an outcast from society regardless of whether she was a prostitute did fulfill the rules of welcome and acceptance. To her, Jesus was an esteemed guest to be received with full–more than full–honors. Of course, the episode is a metaphor, or symbolic of the rejection of Jesus by most Jews. Perhaps by the time Mark wrote, and certainly by the time Matthew wrote, the followers of Jesus were mostly pagans, and both of the previous evangelists were at some pains to explain why. Luke, I think, is doing that here. This is likely why he changed the dinner host from an erstwhile leper to a Pharisee, to show how polite Jewish society had not embraced Jesus and his teachings. This is not entirely the first time Luke has done this; the first time occurred very early in Jesus’ career, when he went back to Nazareth in Chapter 3. At the time we (or I) wondered why Luke changed the timing of the story as he had. Now I think we (or I) know: that was more than just to show that Jesus had not been accepted in his home town. The story was meant to have wider implications. Not only was Jesus not accepted in Nazareth, but in Galilee and Judea as a whole.
44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆςἐξέμαξεν.
45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας. 46ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας:αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου. 47οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγονἀγαπᾷ. 48εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. 49καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;50εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.
Here, too, we see the literary quality of Luke. He arranges his pieces deliberately. He set this scene up in Chapter 3 and then drove home the point here. Mark’s gospel is purely episodic; many, many verses start with “and…” Matthew is mostly so, but with long–or longer–interludes of teaching, such as the three-point-five chapters containing the Sermon on the Mount. Luke is much less so, and John will culminate this trend with his unitary, thematic gospel. Of course this ties back in with Q; Luke takes entirely a different approach to his gospel than even Matthew. The second gospel written mainly preserved Mark’s framework while adding long–or longer–sections of teaching. Luke, in contrast, re-thinks the entire process to create a more literary gospel, one more closely resembling a novel rather than something vaguely like a biographical essay.
41 “Duo debitores erant cuidam feneratori: unus debebat denarios quingentos, alius quinquaginta.
42 Non habentibus illis, unde redderent, donavit utrisque. Quis ergo eorum plus diliget eum? ”.
43 Respondens Simon dixit: “ Aestimo quia is, cui plus donavit ”. At ille dixit ei: “ Recte iudicasti ”.
44 Et conversus ad mulierem, dixit Simoni: “ Vides hanc mulierem? Intravi in domum tuam: aquam pedibus meis non dedisti; haec autem lacrimis rigavit pedes meos et capillis suis tersit.
45 Osculum mihi non dedisti; haec autem, ex quo intravi, non cessavit osculari pedes meos.
46 Oleo caput meum non unxisti; haec autem unguento unxit pedes meos.
47 Propter quod dico tibi: Remissa sunt peccata eius multa, quoniam dilexit multum; cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit ”.
48 Dixit autem ad illam: “Remissa sunt peccata tua”.
49 Et coeperunt, qui simul accumbebant, dicere intra se: “Quis est hic, qui etiam peccata dimittit?”.
50 Dixit autem ad mulierem: “ Fides tua te salvam fecit; vade in pace! ”.