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Luke Chapter 7:1-10

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

Text

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

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

When all these things of him having been said to those listening to the speech, he came into Caphernaum. (2) The slave of a certain hundred leader had a disease and he was about to die, who by him was esteemed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary Luke Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 6:46-49 (Conclusion)

There’s no way this section isn’t going to be short. We have a total of four verses. Of course, this is another story allegedly from Q, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount vs Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, so there will likely be some back-and-forth on that. Who knows what will turn up? So, without any further ado, let’s proceed to the 

Text

46 Τί δέ με καλεῖτε, Κύριε κύριε, καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε ἃ λέγω;

47 πᾶς ὁ ἐρχόμενος πρός με καὶ ἀκούων μου τῶν λόγων καὶ ποιῶν αὐτούς, ὑποδείξω ὑμῖν τίνι ἐστὶν ὅμοιος:

48 ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομοῦντι οἰκίαν ὃς ἔσκαψεν καὶ ἐβάθυνεν καὶ ἔθηκεν θεμέλιον ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν: πλημμύρης δὲ γενομένης προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμὸς τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν σαλεῦσαι αὐτὴν διὰ τὸ καλῶς οἰκοδομῆσθαι αὐτήν.

49 ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας καὶ μὴ ποιήσας ὅμοιός ἐστιν ἀνθρώπῳ οἰκοδομήσαντι οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν χωρὶς θεμελίου, ἧ προσέρηξεν ὁ ποταμός, καὶ εὐθὺς συνέπεσεν, καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ ῥῆγμα τῆς οἰκίας ἐκείνης μέγα.

“And why does someone call me, “Lord, lord,” and not do what I say? (47) All coming towards me and hearing the words of me and doing them, I will show you someone the same as this: (48) he is like unto a person building a home who dug and went deep and placed the foundation upon the rock. There became a flood the river beat that house, and not strong to shake it on account of the beautiful building of it. (49) And the one hearing is not like the man building his house upon the land without a foundation, which the river battered and immediately it collapsed, and it became a great ruin of that house.”

First of all, Luke is really going to town on the unusual vocabulary. About a half-dozen of the words in here occur in Luke and nowhere else in the NT. Recall how a few verses back we got the bit about lending at interest, which Matthew used but once while Luke jammed it in three times in two verses. Here, we had Luke slavishly following the verbiage of, ahem, Matthew–I mean Q–in the story of the good and bad trees, only then to cut loose and let fly with barrage of fairly obscure words, to the point that there is very little overlap of vocabulary between Luke’s version and Matthew’s. What do we make of that? Is it me? Am I the only one who sees a bit of puckish humour in Luke’s approach here? Given the enormous creative ability of Luke as an author–the author of The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, etc–and Luke’s obvious depth of Greek vocabulary, would we not expect him to come up with more stories like this one, in which he does not follow the letter of Q so closely? This proves beyond doubt that he had the capability, so why didn’t he do it more often? I don’t know the answer to that; nor do I fully understand whether the number of times Luke adheres to “Q” (by which I mean Matthew) vs the number of times he doesn’t supports or undercuts my dismissal of Q. No doubt a decent rhetorician could make the case either way. Heck, if I thought about it, I could probably argue it either way.

And again, either the previous example or this one could easily be written off, but do not the two of them together add up to something a bit more? That’s a very difficult question, but it’s one I would like to see discussed in the context of the pro/con arguments for Q. And it’s exactly the sort of thing that we do not see in the literature, and more’s the pity.

46 Quid autem vocatis me: “Domine, Domine”, et non facitis, quae dico?

47 Omnis, qui venit ad me et audit sermones meos et facit eos, ostendam vobis cui similis sit:

48 similis est homini aedificanti domum, qui fodit in altum et posuit fundamentum supra petram; inundatione autem facta, illisum est flumen domui illi et non potuit eam movere; bene enim aedificata erat.

49 Qui autem audivit et non fecit, similis est homini aedificanti domum suam supra terram sine fundamento; in quam illisus est fluvius, et continuo cecidit, et facta est ruina domus illius magna ”.

Luke Chapter 6:39

When setting this section up, I had no intention of making this single verse a stand-alone post. However, the commentary on this ran rather long, so I made the radical decision to put this one out there all by its lonesome. Hope it works for you all.

The last The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with an admonition not to judge.  We start with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the

Text

39 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς: Μήτι δύναται τυφλὸς τυφλὸν ὁδηγεῖν; οὐχὶ ἀμφότεροι εἰς βόθυνον ἐμπεσοῦνται; 

 

And he also told a  parable ( lit =throwing-beside) to them. Are the blind at all able to lead the blind? Would not both fall into a pit? 

These two short sentences present three vocabulary issues. The first is “parable”. This is another of those words that has an absolutely specific meaning in English, whereas in Greek it was nothing special. If you break down the components (para-bole), you get a “throw beside”. More figuratively, it basically means “analogy” or even “metaphor”.  We have come to regard parables as class of literary output, along with fables. Both are stories that have a homely exterior yet which contain a lesson. In fact, in this instance, the “blind leading the blind” would be better served by translating the word as “metaphor”. There really is no story, even though there is a lesson. I’ve been leaving this as parable for the duration so far, without really giving it much thought. A great example of the buried assumption. Time to dig it up and look at it.

But the real value of this verse are two other words. They are the ones translated as “lead” and “pit”.  The first is a very unusual word; the Great Scott (Liddell & Scott, unabridged; as opposed to the Middle Liddell, the abridged version) provides barely a half-dozen cites of the word. The standard word for “to lead” is “agō”. But that’s not even the truly remarkable word. That is “pit”. What makes this stand out is that the word here, “bothunos” is not even a standard Greek word. The L&S does not even provide a definition. Rather, the reader of L&S is presented with a cross-reference to “bothros”. And even this “standard” is barely used, with about as many cites as the word for “to lead”. And to underscore, both Matthew and Luke use both these words in exactly the same context, with the metaphor of the blind leading the blind, and both falling into the pit.

What does this mean? I think that, without reservation, we can conclude that Luke read both of these words. And more, we can conclude one of two possibilities. Either 1) They both found the words in Q; or 2) Luke got them both from Matthew. This takes us back to the discussion we had in the previous section about the word for “lending at interest”. What is Q supposed to be? A writing-down of the sayings of Jesus. More, it’s supposed to be a very early recording, dating back no later than the early 40s, shortly after Jesus’ death. And one more: Q was also written by an early follower of Jesus, one who was an eyewitness, one who heard these utterances from Jesus with his own ears. Absent any of these three conditions, and the degree of the probability of authenticity plummets. Remember, Q is all about having an unbroken source that traces directly back to Jesus. If it’s not that, if the provenance cannot be determined, then much of the value of Q evaporates. Oh, sure, it’s still interesting, but if the stuff got into Matthew and Luke, then how interesting is it, unless it can be posited that the words recorded trace directly back to Jesus himself? 

Now, who were the early followers of Jesus? Those who would have heard him speak? To have been a witness to the entire story, it would have to have been Peter, James, John, or Andrew. These men, by the words of the texts themselves, were fishermen. Perhaps they could read and/or write a little Greek, but to come up with really and truly obscure words like the three we’ve come across in the last few verses staggers the imagination. None of them are even remotely likely to have been erudite enough to come up with the vocabulary here. And there is more; I’ve only just begun to collect these, but there were others before. So, maybe Matthew Levi? As a tax collector, he was more likely to have been better versed in Greek than his more humble fellows. I admit the possibility. But Matthew Levi was not there for the whole story. He missed part. Sure, he could have been filled in by the others, or maybe Jesus had a fairly standard stump speech and repeated things. But note that this adds an additional layer of complexity to the story; each layer decreases the likelihood of the suggested chain of events. Each layer presents another place where the chain has a weak link. The other possibility is that one of the early disciples dictated the sayings to someone well versed in Greek. After all, this is what Paul did. In antiquity, persons of importance had a secretary or amanuensis, to do this. Julius Caesar is said to have been flanked by two such secretaries as he went about his business. He dictated to both of them alternatively, saying something to one, then while that secretary wrote down the words, he’d give the other a sentence for a different letter. But think about this. If this dictation were done early, who were Jesus’ followers? Remember, we’re talking about the very early days, possibly even before Paul began his career. So these followers would have been Jews, from the general area of Galilee, Judea, and possibly Tyre or Sidon or the Dekapolis. Would the secretary, presumably very well versed in Greek, have seen fit to write down what Jesus said in words that the audience would not have known? Would I be generally understood if I used the word “obfuscate” to an audience with a minimal level of education?

And it’s not like we don’t have evidence of this. Paul provides it. In Galatians, he very clearly describes the clash of cultures when he, obviously for the first time, begins to bring significant numbers of pagans into the fold, creating the questions that divided him and James and left Peter/Cephas sort of stuck in the middle, depending on whether he was dining with pagans or under the watchful eye of James. So we are safe again to conclude that Q was not written in Greek for the first several decades of its alleged existence.

But moving the translation back several decades does not solve the problem, not really. You are still left with the question of why the translator chose such non-normal words, even at a later date. Does it not make more sense to suppose that the unusual words were chosen by someone who had been raised in a Greek-predominant milieu, who read the LXX in Greek rather than Hebrew, who was familiar with the pagan world, and was quite likely a pagan himself chose the words? And then another Greek-speaker saw them, repeated them, and then sort of riffed on the “lending at interest” by repeating it two additional times?

Once again, it’s very important to appreciate that I am not presenting a smoking gun. Nor is a smoking gun ever likely to be found. It’s a question of probability. And it’s also a question of why haven’t these points been raised before? Why is the whole argument over Q predicated on explaining why Luke would deface the “masterful” arrangement of the Q material as presented by Matthew? That’s not an argument. It’s quibbling over stylistic preferences. It’s time we made the Q proponents actually defend their thesis. They’ve had a free ride long enough. 

39 Dixit autem illis et similitudinem: “ Numquid potest caecus caecum ducere? Nonne ambo in foveam cadent?

 

 

 

 

 

Luke Chapter 6:31-38

The Sermon on the Plain continues. Here we get some sense of the collected aspect of the sayings as we rather move from one topic to another without too much (if any) connecting verbiage.  With that brief intro, let’s move onto the

Text

31 καὶ καθὼς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως.

32 καὶ εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶσιν.

33 καὶ [γὰρ] ἐὰν ἀγαθοποιῆτε τοὺς ἀγαθοποιοῦντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν; καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν.

“And as you wish people might do to you, do to them equally. (32) For if you love those loving you, how is this favour to you? For also the sinners those loving them love. (33) For also if you do good to those doing good to you, how is this a favour to you? Also the sinners do the same.

Here is an expanded version of the Golden Rule accompanied by somethixjung that doesn’t quite say love your enemies. That is certainly the implication, but that is not, explicitly, what Luke says here. Matthew said it. So the question is, does Luke represent a more “primitive” version of the saying? One that hadn’t quite evolved to “love your enemy”, but rather was still on “loving those who don’t love you”? Of course, if you choose to argue that, it becomes necessary to provide a convincing reason to prove, or at least explain, why “enemy” is more evolved, more of a complex thought, than what Luke has. And against whatever argument for the more primitive nature of Luke, I would contend exactly the opposite: that “enemy” is the more primitive, less developed, form of the statement. Why? “Enemy” is very obvious, setting up a very facile and overly sharp, overly distinct dichotomy. It’s very black-and-white. And it’s also much, much narrower. Think about it: how may enemies do you have? If you can get to a handful, then perhaps you’re a super heroine who has collected them by ending their lawless ways and bringing them to justice. Most of us, OTOH, have a few people that we actively dislike, and maybe we’d find ways to sabotage some of their efforts, but let’s be real. “Enemies” are few and far between. But the world is chock-a-block full of people we don’t love. The dude who cut you off on the road this morning, or the rude person in the queue ahead of you who holds up the line with a myriad of petty demands. Or just the people you see that you don’t know, and that you never will know. Do you hate them? No. Are they enemies? No. Do you love them? No. Your attitude is one of general indifference. How far would you extend yourself for them? Do you let them into your traffic lane, or do you pull ahead to cut them off? Those are the people we’re discussing. You don’t love them, they don’t love you, and you’re both fine with the arrangement. Commanding us to love them is a much more demanding task because we have to see the humanity in each and every one of them. The odd thing is that people will very often do heroic things for a complete stranger: pull them off a subway line, jump into the water to save someone drowning, that sort of thing. But a small act of kindness that recognizes their humanity? Dang, that’s tough. So no, this is not the more primitive version of “love your enemy”. Quite the opposite, and far from it in fact.

That is one very significant aspect of this, but there is another.  In the expression <<ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστίν >>, note the bolded word which transliterates to “charis”. This is the root of both “charity” and “eucharist”. It is almost always translated into Latin as “gratia”, and so has come into English as “grace”. “The grace of God”. “Prevenient grace”. “Saving grace”. “Amazing grace”. Can one come up with a more thoroughly Christian concept than that of grace? There are a few, but not many. Well, here’s the thing: this word does not appear in either Mark or Matthew. I found that so hard to believe that I had to check Strong’s words. That wasn’t enough so I went back to the Vulgate to search for “gratia” in 2M. I found the latter, but almost always in the context of “giving thanks”, such as what Jesus did before breaking the bread to feed the 5,000 and then the 4,000. This is not the first time Luke has used it, but it didn’t strike me as unusual the first couple of times, so I didn’t look into it.

What does this imply? First, let’s be clear that Paul uses the word a number of times in the works we’ve read, but it’s not all that common, either. This is more than a bit surprising given the centrality of the concept to the later Christian doctrine of salvation. But for our purposes, that’s not the issue. Rather, how and why did the term and the concept surface in Paul’s work and then go dormant until Luke? This indicates, I think, that the earlier evangelists were not aware of his works, that Paul’s works only spread across the Christian milieu after Matthew and Mark had written. Why? At first glance, or my first thought is to consider what this means for the foci of Christian teaching. We know that Paul’s work was spread out, scattered across a number of communities, but that Mark–and I would argue Matthew–were more concentrated. By this I mean that Mark spread among the same communities that Matthew and Luke belonged to, so that both certainly were aware of Mark, and Luke was most likely aware of Matthew. Given that Luke was also aware of Paul, I’m not sure how you construct a scenario in which Luke was not also aware of Matthew. The inclusion of Paul into the corpus of writing indicates a fusion and a merging of the various Christian traditions. That Paul is added when it was unknown to 2M makes a pretty strong case for this. And, of course, this makes it harder to argue that, somehow, Luke got ahold of both Mark and Paul, but not Matthew. There we have to ask ourselves how that worked? What sort of circumstances would allow that to happen? It means a lack of communication among the communities that read Matthew and those that produced Luke.

Given Acts, Luke knew of Paul’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean; this argues against a situation in which Luke, writing in, say, Rome, knew about Mark–who also supposedly wrote in Rome, even though there is no evidence for this–and knew about Paul from Romans. That’s not enough to provide the basis for Acts. Luke would also have to have known at least of the letters to the Ephesians and the Corinthians–and likely others–since Acts recounts of Paul’s exploits in both those cities. That Luke knew of these exploits implies that he likely knew of the existence of those communities, and by extension, of the letters written to those communities. And if he knew about the (admittedly) Deutero-Pauline Epistle to the Ephesians, is it really conceivable that he somehow missed Matthew? Well, yes, it’s conceivable, but is that really likely? There I’m not so sure. It seems much more conceivable that he was the first to be aware of most, if not all, of what became the orthodox Christian corpus. He may not have been aware of some of the other letters of Paul; although I’m hard pressed to name which one of the Certain Seven he would have missed. Philippians? Maybe, but Acts does recount Paul’s activities there. 1 Thessalonians? Less likely, given the passage about Jesus coming down from the clouds and it’s similarity to Luke’s story of the Ascension. Deutero-Paul letters, like 1 & 2 Timothy, don’t count because they likely had not been written yet.

So couple all these scenarios together with their un/likelihood, it becomes increasingly difficult to suggest that, somehow, Luke missed Matthew. The only likely scenario for that is that Matthew, having supposedly been written in Antioch, remained local while Luke was writing in Greece, or one of the cities of Asia Minor. But then we’re supposed to believe that Matthew remained local while Q circulated widely. IOW, that people familiar with Matthew, and his masterful arrangement of the Q material, didn’t share Matthew as a means of superseding the need for Q. Because remember that Mark was every bit as redundant as Q would have been, and Mark survived while the sayings of Jesus himself were allowed to perish. Then if we add in the internal evidence of the way Luke treats stuff in Matthew, the quirks that I’ve been pointing out and the ideas of the Virgin Birth, Bethlehem, the name of Joseph, etc., the case for Q becomes really suspect. None of those other ideas were in Q; where did they come from if not Matthew?

31 Et prout vultis, ut faciant vobis homines, facite illis similiter.

32 Et si diligitis eos, qui vos diligunt, quae vobis est gratia? Nam et peccatores diligentes se diligunt.

33 Et si bene feceritis his, qui vobis bene faciunt, quae vobis est gratia? Si quidem et peccatores idem faciunt.

34 καὶ ἐὰν δανίσητε παρ’ ὧν ἐλπίζετε λαβεῖν, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις [ἐστίν]; καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἁμαρτωλοῖς δανίζουσιν ἵνα ἀπολάβωσιν τὰ ἴσα.

35 πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες: καὶ ἔσται μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου, ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς.

“And if you lend at interest from whom you hope to take, how is this thanks to you? Also those sinning to sinners lend at interest in order to take back the same. (35) Except love your enemies and do good and lend without expecting anything in return; and let it be the most reward, and be sons of the most high, that he himself is good upon the unblessed and wicked. 

Well, there is the admonition to love your enemies. This does not reflect upon the Q question directly, but taken with what I said about this in the previous section, I think the idea that Luke preserves a more primitive version of Q is pretty much risible. Luke’s treatment of this material is, if anything, more sophisticated than  what we found in Matthew, at least in my opinion. This, in turn, increases the probability that Luke knew Matthew and improved on what Matthew said. IOW, no Q.

Just a note on the Greek. Note that I’ve translated the word in Verse 34 as “lend at interest”. What is interesting here is that Matthew uses the same word in his version of the story. In my four crib translations (KJV, ESV, NIV, NASB), they all translate the phrase “if you lend to…” However, three of these same four translations render the phrase as “if you give to those who ask from you…”, and the other (ESV) substitutes “beg” for “ask”. Even more interesting, Kloppenborg, the lead editor of the Q Thomas Reader, also chooses the word “beg”, for both Matthew’s and Luke’s versions. This all seems a bit disingenuous on the part of some or all of these translations. In Classical Greek, the word means to “lend at interest”, as in usury. Giving to someone begging is very, even wholly a different thing than lending money at interest. So why is it rendered in Luke as “lend”, but in Matthew as “ask/beg”, and in Kloppenborg as “beg” in both instances? I find this latter the most unsettling, largely because he has made no attempt to retain any of the original sense of the word. At least the translations of Luke I cited do this. And really, it makes no sense to expect a return from someone who’s begging from you, does it? Isn’t that rather the point of giving to someone begging, that you don’t expect return? If they had the wherewithal or resources to pay you back, would they be said to be “begging” in the first place? Really, though, I suppose all four crib translations are no better, rendering the word differently in different places leaves something to be desired as far as consistency is concerned.

The other aspect about this is the frequency of the word. Luke uses it three times, all of them within the confines of these two verses. Matthew uses it once (5:42), within the confines of the Sermon on the Mount. That’s it. It’s used nowhere else in the NT, and Liddell & Scott don’t cite its usage in the NT or the LXX. So, what are we to make of that? It’s not the first time we’ve found that Q used a very unusual word that managed to make it into both Matthew and Luke. I need to make a list of these words. The thing is, Q is supposedly someone writing down all these sayings of Jesus. Was Jesus so fluent in Greek that he knew all of this off-beat vocabulary and tossed it off in full confidence that his follower would catch his drift? Or was the person who wrote the sayings down the fluent speaker of Greek, who also supposed those reading the book would understand all these obscure words? Somehow, neither of these strike me as likely. Much more probable is that someone writing down what Jesus said would tend to a vocabulary and probably a style more like Mark’s: simple, plain, unadorned, most likely translation Greek. Instead, we’re getting all these fancy word in Greek, words that show up in Matthew and Luke’s version of the same story, and nowhere else? And this is why Kloppenborg particularly annoyed me: by re-creating the text of Q to read as “beg” really obscures the original, changing the implications enormously, and gives the impression of a simplicity that did not exist with the original Greek word. Recall that Mark was probably not a native speaker of Greek; likely he read the LXX in Hebrew. We know that Matthew read the LXX in Greek, which is where he got the idea of the virgin giving birth, So the question becomes, who is more likely to have come up with the very unusual word here: an early follower of Jesus, who probably spoke Aramaic but had some knowledge of Greek, or Matthew, who had read the LXX in Greek, and may have been a native speaker? The probability is wholly on the latter choice.

34 Et si mutuum dederitis his, a quibus speratis recipere, quae vobis gratia est? Nam et peccatores peccatoribus fenerantur, ut recipiant aequalia.

35 Verumtamen diligite inimicos vestros et bene facite et mutuum date nihil desperantes; et erit merces vestra multa, et eritis filii Altissimi, quia ipse benignus est super ingratos et malos.

36 Γίνεσθε οἰκτίρμονες καθὼς [καὶ] ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστίν.

37 Καὶ μὴ κρίνετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ κριθῆτε: καὶ μὴ καταδικάζετε, καὶ οὐ μὴ καταδικασθῆτε. ἀπολύετε, καὶ ἀπολυθήσεσθε:

38 δίδοτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: μέτρον καλὸν πεπιεσμένον σεσαλευμένον ὑπερεκχυννόμενον δώσουσιν εἰς τὸν κόλπον ὑμῶν: γὰρ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτεἀντιμετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.

“Become merciful, as [also] your father is merciful. (37) And do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn. Destroy, and you will be destroyed. (38) Give, and it will be given to you. They will give the good measure having been pressed, having been shaken, having been poured out, having overflowed in your bosom. For by which measurement (you use, presumably) you will be measured.

Speaking of unusual words, the pressing and the shaking and the outpouring are all words that only occur here. Some I got from the Vulgate, some I pieced together by taking them apart and finding the root under all the prefixes, etc. The bit about the bosom, it can also be used for lap; the thing is, the word transliterates as }”kolpos”, and it’s the root of the word “gulf”; you will find it on maps denoting a gulf, as in Gulf of Mexico. And the Latin is “sinus”, and that also means an empty or hollow area, so decide for yourself if bosom or lap makes more sense. 

But truly the odd thing is that, when you put them together, does the sentence make a lot of sense? The NASB gives a pretty good rendition, and it’s not completely divorced from the Greek, so I guess it can make sense. 

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

I can live with that. Now, this is not in Matthew’s version of this, so Luke added it. Now, let’s return to the idea of the unusual words. In the verses before, Luke repeats a word used only by Matthew in the NT; he not only repeats it once, he uses it a total of three times. And then immediately following he practically coins some new words. Do you get the sense that maybe he’s trying to go one up (or two up) on Matthew? If Matthew is going to exercise his erudition, then Luke is going to see that bet and raise him a couple of other words. Really, it’s not like the whole phrase about shaking and stirring and whatever really adds anything to the meaning of the text. Yes, it intensifies the whole thing, but in a very awkward way. So, apologies, but I add this to the list of indications that Luke was fully aware of what Matthew said.

I’ve been going back over 1 Corinthians to start to pull out themes. In Chapters 5 & 6, several instances Paul seems to foreshadow themes that will be said later, paraphrased as it were, in the gospels. As these come up, I will make note of them. In Chapter 6 he talks about judging. The discussion really doesn’t quite follow the theme here, because Paul is saying that the community of the holy will be, and should be, judges of other people and even angels. There is a real possibility that I would not have made the connexion between this passage and that had I not been reading them on sequential days. Still, the thematic echoes are interesting, so I will bring up the references as they come up during the gospels.

37 Et nolite iudicare et non iudicabimini; et nolite condemnare et non condemnabimini. Dimittite et dimittemini;

38 date, et dabitur vobis: mensuram bonam, confertam, coagitatam, supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum; eadem quippe mensura, qua mensi fueritis, remetietur vobis”.

36 Estote misericordes, sicut et Pater vester misericors est.

Luke Chapter 6:20-25

Here we begin the actual teaching of the Sermon on the Plain. Does anyone really think that’s a coincidence? Really?

Regardless, kept the section short because it engendered quite a bit of commentary. And if you do think this Mount/Plain was a coincidence, I hope that this next section helps make you feel even less certain about that.

20 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔλεγεν, Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοί, ὅτι ὑμετέρα ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

And he raising his eyes to his disciples he said, “Blessed (are) the poor, that of them is the kingdom of heaven.

We are going to stop right here. Of course we all know that Matthew has this as “blessed are the poor in spirit“. so the obvious conclusion is that Luke’s version here represents a “more primitive” version of the Q text. This one is more primitive, supposedly, because it is simpler, because it has fewer words and a more straightforward message. Everyone knows who “the poor” are; who are the “poor in spirit” after all? That one takes a certain amount of consideration, and perhaps some explaining, after all. And I have to concede that this is not a terrible interpretation, or understanding of the two texts. Luke’s does seem more straightforward. But it is justified to use the term “more primitive” for that reason? I think not, or at least not necessarily. “Primitive” is rather a loaded word, one that’s at least a little pejorative. The intent may simply be to capture the aspect that Luke’s version is closer to Q; just as Luke’s version of the pater noster is, supposedly, closer to Q. Whatever the intent, the result is to raise up Matthew at the expense of Luke. This, in turn, helps preserve the illusion of Q…at least, I guess that’s what the intent is. 

Whatever the intent, the reality is that “blessed are the poor”/”poor in spirit” are two very different thoughts. I suppose it can be argued that the latter represents a more advanced stage in thinking, but it could also be argued, IMO, anyway, that “poor in spirit” is a bit of a shill for wealthy people. You don’t actually have to be poor, but just have the humility of the poor. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t quite jibe with some of the other teachings of Jesus, such as the bit about the eye of the needle. Also, FWIW, Mark and Matthew each use the word “ptochos” (beggar, beggarly = poor) five times each. For Matthew, once is here, and once is in the aphorism about always having the poor with you–a story that is not in Luke. IOW, the poor are not too far to the front of Matthew’s message. Of five uses of the word, once is a waffle and once is nearly a disparagement. Luke, OTOH, uses the word ten times, albeit twice in the story of Dives and Lazarus, but that still leaves eight other examples.

I did read somewhere–the cite escapes me, and shame on me for not writing it down; however, it was a reputable source–that Luke is the gospel of the poor. I put this out there to show that there is a school of thought–or one scholar, at least–that believes Luke devotes more attention to the poor than either Mark or Matthew. Now, on top of that, I notice that Paul apparently only uses the word four times in eight letters, and one of them is him saying how James the Just pressed Paul to remember the poor. As such, that’s not exactly evidence that the poor are at the top of his agenda, either. In contrast, the short epistle of James–probably not written by James the Just–uses the word four times, and all of them are in reference to the poor as we think of the term. IOW, the poor, far from being an early aspect of proto-Christian, or Christian belief, was a later one. It became more important in later works, rather than the earlier ones that are, at least, potentially closer to Jesus. As such, it is Matthew’s “poor in spirit” that is the more “primitive” version of this teaching. It is Luke, not Matthew, who advances the teaching on the poor. That also knocks another prop out from under the reasons why Q has to have existed.

There is one other thing that should be mentioned. There is an apocryphal Gospel of the Ebionites, the latter word relating to the poor. And there is a tradition that this was written, if not by James the Just, then by one of his later followers, as the Epistle of James may have been. I do not know what the arguments for this position are, but no doubt they rely on a great deal of speculation and inference, since there is no evidence to speak of. I have mentioned several times that much of what I had always been taught was the Christian attitude towards social justice actually was Jewish in origin and emphasis. We have seen from Paul that James was more concerned with maintaining the ties to Judaism than Paul was. So the question becomes, did the later attitude and teaching on the poor only emerge as this aspect of the teaching of James the Just had been more thoroughly integrating into the main stream of Christian thought? This is pure speculation, based on the sort of huge leaps of faith and tenuous connexions that I tend to disparage. But, FWIW, there it is. The fact remains, though, that when it becomes appropriate to talk about The Church, social justice was decidedly part of the message. And the idea of apostolic poverty was a main theme in the heresies of Western Europe from the 12th Century forward. The Waldensians, for example, were firm believers in apostolic poverty, as were the Cathars, who were exterminated by Innocent III in the early 13th Century. And then there was St Francis of Assisi, whose order became split into those who believed in maintaining the founder’s practice of poverty, and those who thought corporate wealth was just fine. So, yes, teaching about “The Poor” was something of a later tradition. I have been very surprised at the lack of emphasis on this topic as I’ve gone through the letters of Paul and the first two gospels.

20 Et ipse, elevatis oculis suis in discipulos suos, dicebat: “Beati pauperes, quia vestrum est regnum Dei.

21 μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες νῦν, ὅτι χορτασθήσεσθε. μακάριοι οἱ κλαίοντες νῦν, ὅτι γελάσετε. 22μακάριοί ἐστε ὅταν μισήσωσιν ὑμᾶς οἱ ἄνθρωποι, καὶ ὅταν ἀφορίσωσιν ὑμᾶς καὶ ὀνειδίσωσιν καὶ ἐκβάλωσιν τὸ ὄνομα ὑμῶν ὡς πονηρὸν ἕνεκα τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

23 χάρητε ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ σκιρτήσατε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ: κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς προφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.

“Blessed are those hungering now, that you will be filled. Blessed are those weeping now, that you will laugh. (22) Blessed are (you) when people hate you, and when they cast you out and cast in insults and throw our your name as knavish because of the son of man; (23) for rejoice on that day and leap, for behold your reward is great in the sky; for upon the same things the forbears of them did to the prophets.

These verses are not exactly part of the Beatitudes as they are set out in Matthew, or, at least, in some editions of Matthew. These lines come at the end of the Beatitudes proper. I suppose this is part of the “masterful” arrangement of Matthew vs the muddled arrangement of Luke. The sentiments expressed obviously extol the outcast, or perhaps those despised. In ancient society, this would–or at least could–include the poor. For example, both of the words “mean” and “villain” refer to lower-class people and serfs. Assuming that these are the people referred to, far from being a muddle of Matthew’s arrangement, this represents an excellent pairing with the opening line. The poor will inherit the earth, and the poor people who are despised and outcast now will be filled, they will get the Great Reward in the Sky. The order of the verses are rearranged because, since the “poor” and the “poor in spirit” are not the same people, the order of the verses here reinforce each other to emphasize the point about the poor. This is important because it undercuts the whole–and wholly ridiculous–idea that Matthew’s treatment of the so-called Q material was infinitely superior to that of Luke. The two are different. Matthew made certain editorial choices, Luke made others. And there is no burden of proof on the opponents of Q that requires these latter to explain why Luke differed in every single instance. That’s absurd. The burden of proof is on those who claim Q ever existed, and that should never, ever be forgotten or conceded.

As for the content and its intent and its raison d’être, the question is whether this fits circumstances of Jesus’ lifetime. This seems to be meant as a morale booster for a community that was under some pressure from the outside. So why is it here? Now, if this does refer to the poor, then that question is largely answered, I believe. The poor were under pressure and duress. Does it go beyond that? Or, if you do not believe that these lines do refer to the poor, but to the Christian community as at large, then you have to discuss the circumstances under which these words were conceived. One clue is to look back at Matthew’s “poor in spirit”. He did not couple that verse with the verses about being hungry. That implies that Matthew saw the groups as separate. That, I think, would imply that he did not intend these verses about being outcast as referring to the general way the poor were despised. And recall that Matthew blessed those who hungered and thirsted for justice; Luke leaves it at those who were, quite simply, hungry, as in physically hungry. This, in turn, implies that Matthew did not connect the two ideas, that the poor were not those who were outcast. The implication of this chain of logic is that, for Matthew, being outcast was a condition of being a Christian rather than of being poor.

When were Christians experiencing anything that can reasonably be described as “persecution”? There is, quite frankly, no indication in the gospels that the followers of Jesus were in any way being subjected to anything that can be called “persecution” in the lifetime of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was supposedly crucified for his beliefs, but I have pointed out many times that only Jesus was arrested and punished. This is pretty clear evidence that the people arresting Jesus were not the least interested in any of Jesus’ followers. Recall that the Passion narrative is likely the later creation of some group of Jesus’ followers–I would suggest the Galilean group, led, or at least subsidized, by Mary the Magdelane–so it reflects the Christians’ own perspective. As such, it seems that there was very little in the way of persecution in Jesus’ lifetime. So, if these lines  are not to be seen as a description of the poor, then they are unlikely to date to the time before the Resurrection. Ergo, by necessity they describe circumstances of the earlier days of the proto-church, such as the “pressure” that Paul and his associates applied to the followers of Jesus.

The chain of logic supporting that conclusion is, I believe, quite strong, even if it’s not overwhelming and irrefutable. It does, however, provide a level of certainty that is not frequently found in such biblical arguments. Taking this conclusion as a datum, as a given, there is then one further conclusion to be gleaned. Since Luke changed the words from “poor in spirit” to “poor”, and since he rearranged the material to the form seen here, it’s reasonable to conclude that he made the changes because he wanted to make them. This, of course, raises (but does not beg) the question of why did he make the change? I would suggest it’s because the levels of persecution implied had been either forgotten, or had never really been learned by the group for which Luke wrote. The memory of those days was dim, perhaps vague to the point of being perceived a story than actual events. So Luke rearranged the material to fit into a new paradigm, one in which it was the poor who came to the fore, in which they were the ones being despised. Most likely this new paradigm arose in circumstances in which the poor had become a more prominent segment of the Christian community. This makes sense, I think. Whether I’m correct is, however, a different matter.

21 Beati, qui nunc esuritis, quia saturabimini. Beati, qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis.

22 Beati eritis, cum vos oderint homines et cum separaverint vos et exprobraverint et eiecerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum propter Filium hominis.

23 Gaudete in illa die et exsultate, ecce enim merces vestra multa in caelo; secundum haec enim faciebant prophetis patres eorum.

24 Πλὴν οὐαὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς πλουσίοις, ὅτι ἀπέχετε τὴν παράκλησιν ὑμῶν.

25 οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, οἱ ἐμπεπλησμένοι νῦν, ὅτι πεινάσετε. οὐαί, οἱ γελῶντες νῦν, ὅτι πενθήσετε καὶ κλαύσετε.

Except woe to the rich, that have your appeal. (25) Woe to you, those filled now, that you will hunger. Woe, you laughing now, that you will mourn and weep.

And on cue, here we have Luke casting woe to the wealthy, the full, those happy now. This provides some really strong support to the thesis set out in the previous comment. There is one issue: the word that I’ve rendered as “appeal”. That obviously doesn’t really work very well. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you would notice that the word is “consolationem”; and, in fact, this is how most English editions translate the word. The problem is, Classical Greek, first of all, doesn’t use the word very often; and second, never uses it to mean “consolation”. This usage is confined to a couple of uses in the LXX and one other time in the NT. This is why I get so uneasy about the idea that such an animal as “NT Greek” actually exists. Classicists, or specialists in the Hellenic language, will rarely–if ever–use the term “NT Greek”. “Koine”, yes, but not NT Greek. It’s really obvious that, far from going back to the original Greek, many of the Reformation scholars were content to fall back on the Vulgate from time to time. This is not the first time when we’ve had to use the Vulgate because the Greek word was too rare to be understood. An argument could be presented–and perhaps won–that not going along with consolation makes me a bit of a prig, a charge for which I’m not sure I’d have a defense. Regardless, I do believe it’s important to point out these potholes in the road as they come up; really, it does help remind us that this whole issue is not as settled as we often pretend.

Just a final note. It’s important to grasp that Luke is casting woe to the materially wealthy, to those that have and their prayers of prosperity answered. They have their reward now, and later they will be hungry. And the implication is that the hunger, while perhaps allegorical, will be allegorical to the point of physical. After all, the notion of Hell is that our immaterial souls feel physical pain and torment. Even the most cursory glance through Dante will demonstrate that most amply.

It’s also interesting to wonder if the emphasis on Matthew’s version of these verses is not somehow tied up in the desire to de-emphasize the perils and coming torments of the prosperous. “Poor in spirit”, after all provides a fair bit of wiggle room, that can be applied subjectively; “poor”, however, does not, and the way Luke drives the point home eliminates whatever wiggle room may have been left. These words are uncomfortable in a way “poor in spirit” are not. Matthew provides hope; Luke does too, but he threatens punishment as well. And let’s recall Paul’s injunctions in 1 Corinthians telling the wealthy to share their meal so that other members of the community do not go hungry. Luke is the first evangelist who was obviously aware of Paul, and, we presume, Paul’s writings. Did Luke have those words of Paul in mind when he rearranged Matthew’s version of this material? 

24 Verumtamen vae vobis divitibus, quia habetis consolationem vestram!

25 Vae vobis, qui saturati estis nunc, quia esurietis! / Vae vobis, qui ridetis nunc, quia lugebitis et flebitis!

Luke Chapter 3:15-38

This will conclude Chapter 3; however, it’s going to be a very short section. The last fifteen verses or so are the genealogy of Jesus. I am not going to translate a list of names; it seems rather pointless. Of course the real question about this genealogy is why it differs from that recorded by Matthew. In particular, if Luke had read Matthew, why not just record the genealogy provided by the earlier writer? This would seem to be a telling argument against my position that Luke knew Matthew. I did bring this difficulty up in the corresponding section of Matthew, and I admitted that I do not have a truly strong argument to explain this. (As an aside, it’s less embarrassing for me than it is for proponents of a an inerrant scripture, but the point remains.) One thing I would like to use in my favour is that there is still the fact that only Matthew and Luke provide such a genealogy. Are we to assume, or simply accept, that they both had the idea independently of one another? Sure, it’s possible, but does that seem more likely than the possibility that Luke was well aware of Matthew’s list, thought it was wrong, and decided to correct it? Somehow, that seems more plausible to me. This also conforms to the fact that Luke followed Matthew in naming Joseph as the (apparent) father of Jesus.

Perhaps we will have more on this later.

Text

15 Προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου, μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ Χριστός,

16 ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάννης, Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς: ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑπο δημάτων αὐτοῦ: αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί:

17 οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.

18 Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερα παρακαλῶν εὐηγγελίζετο τὸν λαόν:

The people expecting and all debating in their hearts about John, whether he might be the anointed, (16) John responded saying to all, “While I dunk you with water, but he who comes is mightier than I, nor am I worthy to loosen the strap of his shoe. He will dunk you in the sacred breath and fire. (17) Is not the winnowing fan in his hand to clear the (“threshing” is implied) floor and gather the grain into his barn, but the chaff he will burn in the unquenchable fire”. (18) For many things thus and other things calling forth he preached to the people. 

To a large extent this last verse is word-for-word from Matthew; the words rendered as “winnowing fork” and “(threshing) floor” occur here and in Matthew and nowhere else in the NT. Oh, but of course, they both copied them from Q. That is a distinct possibility. But which is more probable: that two sources copied the same source? Or that a second person writing will copy from the first? I can tell you straight out that the latter scenario is the more likely, since it only involves a single act of volition, rather than two. And it’s hard to over-stress the identity of the two passages; Matthew has an extra “and”, Luke has an extra “his”, and twice Matthew uses a future tense where Luke goes with an aorist infinitive. The verb tenses imply that one or the other deliberately chose to deviate from Q while the other chose to retain Q; IOW, two choices were made. Or, Luke chose to change Matthew; IOW, one choice. That Luke copies Matthew has a much higher level of probability than both of them mostly copying but changing the verb tenses.

I suppose we could/should get into a discussion of what the subtle differences are between the future indicative active vs the aorist infinitive. The aorist, after all, is a past-tense, while the future tense is the, well, future. And yes, there are subtle differences between the two, and why one is used rather than the other; however, I don’t think this is one of those distinctions that make a whole lot of difference. Yes, you could easily read a commentary or some other learned tome that goes into great detail about the difference, but I honestly doubt that. The obvious implication of Matthew’s future tense is that something will happen. The happening is both real, in the future, and to be expected, pretty much without fail. The aorist infinitive, OTOH, shifts the idea to the past tense, although the distinctions between the aorist and the present in literary usage is not as clear-cut as it would be in English. There is really no way to translate an infinitive into past tense in English; I’ve tried a dozen different methods, but none of them really capture the real nuance of the aorist infinitive. For example, the KJV, NIV, ESV, and NASB all render Luke’s infinitives as “he will”; that is, they all revert to Matthew’s future tense because that’s the only way to make sense of this in English. And note that I did exactly the same thing. Because it’s the only way to make this make sense in English. 

That is probably the most salient point about this passage. Mark has the disavowal of John that he is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandal, and Luke includes Matthew’s bit about dunking in the sacred breath and fire, so there’s not much there. All three also have the idea that many, supposedly, wondered if John were the Christ. But notice how “baptizing in the Holy Spirit and fire” invokes a very different set of images than “dunking in the sacred breath and fire”. The thing is, translating as “to baptise” really is no more than a transliteration. It’s as if I translated  <<καὶ>> as “kai” and left it. It means “and”; believe me when I say that the two are interchangeable inside my head; I will sometimes write the Greek word when translating, and use the English when copying the Greek. [Note, however, that there are times when “kai” can mean “also”, “or”, and even “but”. As such one does need to be vigilant; however, the context pretty much gives it away in most cases.] The point being that we are so comfortable with “baptizo”  that we don’t even consider the word as meaning anything other than “baptise”. That is really a bad way to approach the word. Same with “Holy Spirit” (especially when capitalised”) and “sacred breath”. Both are completely legitimate. It’s just that we are the heirs of Latin Christianity, in which “spirit” has come to mean something other than “breath”. The words are more or less divorced from each other, which is simply not the case in Greek.

15 Existimante autem populo et cogitantibus omnibus in cordibus suis de Ioanne, ne forte ipse esset Christus,

16 respondit Ioannes dicens omnibus: “ Ego quidem aqua baptizo vos. Venit autem fortior me, cuius non sum dignus solvere corrigiam calceamentorum eius: ipse vos baptizabit in Spiritu Sancto et igni;

17 cuius ventilabrum in manu eius ad purgandam aream suam et ad congregandum triticum in horreum suum, paleas autem comburet igni inexstinguibili ”.

18 Multa quidem et alia exhortans evangelizabat populum.

19 ὁ δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης, ἐλεγχόμενος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ περὶ Ἡρῳδιάδος τῆς γυναικὸς τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ περὶ πάντων ὧν ἐποίησεν πονηρῶν ὁ Ἡρῴδης,

20 προσέθηκεν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πᾶσιν [καὶ] κατέκλεισεν τὸν Ἰωάννην ἐν φυλακῇ.

21 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν

22 καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ’ αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα.

Herod the Tetrarch, having been exposed by him (John) regarding Herodias, the wife of his brother, and regarding all of the wicked things which Herod did, (20) he imposed upon him upon all and locked John under guard. (21) It happened in the to dunk all the people also that Jesus having been dunked and prayed to have opened the sky (22) and descended the sacred breath embodied in form like a dove upon him, and a voice from the sky became, “You are my son, the beloved, in you I am pleased.” 

The Greek for this is interesting. It tells us how the sacred breath was embodied, actually taking on a physical body as opposed to being a non-corporeal emanation taking a coherent shape. Now, what Luke says does not necessarily gainsay what 2M described; rather, it takes the description a bit further, confirming that an actual corporeal presence was…present.

However, I’ve jumped the gun a bit here. The passage tells us that John was imprisoned by Herod, for reasons apparently too well-known to need explaining. And the passage then says Jesus was baptized, but it does not specify that he was immersed by John. It’s interesting to speculate on why Luke wrote himself into a corner like this, so he had to be so vague about who did the baptizing. Just a bit too much compression? But what, we only got a first draft here? He couldn’t revise this? It’s really rather odd, don’t you think? He got the baptism and John’s arrest taken care of and out of the way pretty darn quickly.

Now, once again, think about Luke’s story in relation to that told by 2M. Does Luke compress so many things out existence because he believed that they had been adequately covered by 2M? As such, there was no need to tell the story of Salome again? Or even the whole story of the baptism? Although we do hit the highlights. This may be something to watch for as we progress: does Luke tend to syncopate material when both Mark & Matthew have provided full accounts? Wouldn’t that be an interesting observation.

However, far and away THE most interesting aspect of this passage comes via a different mss tradition. Variant manuscripts say that the voice from the sky said “You are my son, this day I have begotten you”. Whoa. That is a really serious variation. First, it totally disagrees with what 2M report, but, beyond that, it throws an entirely different light on the whole episode here. “Today I have begotten you?” This is blatant Adoptionism. As such, it hearkens back to Mark and then amplifies what Mark maybe kinda sorta implied about the heritage of Jesus and his relation to God. However, for once, I think I have to downplay the potential controversy and hold for the dominant reading and tradition. This alternative reading simply flies too flagrantly, and violently, in the face of everything Luke has told us to this point. It completely undercuts the whole virgin birth, the Annunciation, the stories of Simeon and Anna when Jesus was presented for circumcision. It just does not fit with any of that. As such, I have to believe that the alternative ending was a later interpolation, probably something that the Adoptionists, or maybe even more likely the Arians added to the text. Of course, one has to wonder why, if the Arians went to such lengths, why only this one bit of an attempted re-direction of the text remains. Or are there more? I don’t know. I did not know of this alternative text until last Sunday, when I was reading through Luke in church, before mass began. It was a footnote in the NSRV that the church as so thoughtfully placed in a number of the pews, which is wonderful for someone like me. So, perhaps there are more. I’ll have to check.

19 Herodes autem tetrarcha, cum corriperetur ab illo de Herodiade uxore fratris sui et de omnibus malis, quae fecit Herodes,

20 adiecit et hoc supra omnia et inclusit Ioannem in carcere.

21 Factum est autem, cum baptizaretur omnis populus, et Iesu baptizato et orante, apertum est caelum,

22 et descendit Spiritus Sanctus corporali specie sicut columba super ipsum; et vox de caelo facta est: “Tu es Filius meus dilectus; in te complacui mihi”.

23 Καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν Ἰησοῦς ἀρχόμενος ὡσεὶ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα, ὢν υἱός, ὡς ἐνομίζετο, Ἰωσὴφ τοῦ Ἠλὶ,

24τοῦ Μαθθὰτ τοῦ Λευὶ τοῦ Μελχὶ τοῦ Ἰανναὶ τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ…

And Jesus was leading so many as thirty years, being the son, as it was supposed, of Joseph son of Heli, (24) son of Matthew son of Levi son of Melchi son of Jannai son of Joseph…(etc…)

One point: I read in a commentary that 30 years was more or less the time priests came into their full duties. So it was a situation not unlike that of Hobbits; only after they had passed through their riotous tweens (teens & twenties) were they deemed to be entering into full maturity. This is when you became an elder, someone who deserved the respect of experience. Now, I won’t go into the actual math; I’ve mentioned it. If Jesus were 30 in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, then he must have been born in the year One. The problem is that Herod was four years dead at that point, and Quirinius was still lacking about six years before becoming the governor of Syria. So the math does not work. Although, Jesus could have been older than 30, if he had been born under Herod, but that messes with the census of Quirinius. There is simply no way to make all of this work.

But let’s talk about this genealogy. We’ve mentioned some of the problems it presents, all of them predicated on the fact that it does not match the one found in Matthew. I’ve been doing a bit of checking on this, and a lot of people want to claim that this is actually the genealogy of Mary rather than Joseph. Obviously, if Joseph were not Jesus’ actual father–which both Matthew and Luke tell us he wasn’t–Jesus was not of the lineage of David. Or, the only way he could have been of David’s lineage would be if Mary were part of that family tree. So, presto-changeo, that’s what a lot of people have concluded. The only problem is that there is not really any evidence for this. The text simply does not say that Heli was the father of Mary. It’s supposed that this means Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, but that’s not what the text says. I was sort of saving this genealogy of Mary business to complete the discussion of many of the stories that we have read.

Throughout Chapters 1 & 2, we have had a lot of focus on Mary. First it was her cousin Elisabeth who gave birth to John the Dunker; then we have the Annunciation story, where the messenger tells Mary, rather than Joseph. And the stories of Jesus’ childhood pretty much focus on Mary, who treasures or ponders these things in her heart. Given this Mary-focus, one could make a definite case for putting her genealogy in here. And it’s a very attractive idea, regardless. I just wish there were something more definite about it, something a bit more concrete. But we also have the example of the baptism: did John do it or not? So here we have, is this Mary’s genealogy or not? I don’t have an answer to this, but neither does anyone else. That this is the genealogy of Mary seems to be the prevailing or consensus opinion, but that’s really all it is: an opinion based on not a whole lot. Or, perhaps it doesn’t even constitute an opinion; perhaps it should be called something closer to “wishful thinking”.  

But now for the real killer. Back when we read (or skipped) Matthew’s genealogy, I said that the fact that Luke had a different one was a real problem for my idea that Luke had read Matthew. Now, however, I’m not so sure about that. In fact, I think that the different lineage actually supports my contention that Luke knew about, and and read Matthew. Think about it. We have exactly two of these. Did both the evangelists suddenly and independently get the idea for a genealogy? Perhaps. It could happen. But let’s think about why Matthew added his: because there were accusations that Jesus was a bastard. To counter these, Matthew both had to come up with a father for Jesus, and provide a lineage that traced back to David. Matthew fails on both counts. For he gives us the name of Joseph, who was Mary’s husband, but he was not Jesus’ father. And so to say that Jesus traced his ancestry back to David through Joseph pretty much just wrong. So what does Luke do? Recall, Luke is trying to be as specific as possible, by pinning John’s conception to the reign of Herod, and Jesus’ birth to the Roman governor, and John’s ministry as beginning in the fifteenth year of Tiberius. To be consistent with this, here we have Luke correcting the record by providing the accurate genealogy of Jesus. In fact, if we only had some really concrete evidence that this was supposed to be the lineage of Mary, we would have definitive proof that Q did not (have to) exist, because we would know that Luke read Matthew because Luke was very consciously trying to correct Matthew’s faulty genealogy.

If only.

It must be acknowledged, however, that this absence of definitive evidence does not torpedo my contention about Q, or the lack thereof. Not necessarily, or not completely at least. No one suggests that Q had a genealogy. The Q people absolutely cannot suggest this, because the disagreement would seriously cripple their rationale for Q. So if the idea for a genealogy didn’t come from Q, where did it come from? Did Luke arrive at the idea independently. Sure, it’s possible, but how likely is that? And if there were an independent third source, then why the discrepancy? No, the most likely explanation is that Luke was fully aware of Matthew and Matthew’s genealogy, and was fully aware that it was faulty. So Luke decided to correct the record. To do so, he decided to trace descent–not through Joseph, who had no part in Jesus’ existence–but through Mary. To bolster the reasoning for doing this, Luke came up with some stories about Mary that took place before and shortly after the birth of her son. We get her cousin as the mother of the Baptist, and the angel coming to talk to her, rather than the cipher to whom she would be married. IOW, the importance of Mary in the story has been increased. Dramatically. Because she is the vessel that carried the line all the way back, not just to David, but to Adam himself, emphasizing, as one commentary put it, that Jesus was the Second Adam. This would all be so apparent if the text only said, Joseph, son-in-law of Heli. But even this is not insuperable. After all, we saw how some mss traditions changed the words from the sky to “today I have begotten you”; how much easier is it to change the text from son-in-law to son? Even granting that the two words in Greek do not have the affinity that they do in English, this would hardly strain credulity to posit this as an emendation.

So, far from being fatal to my case, I believe that the different genealogies actually support, reinforce, and further my argument. As always, feel free to disagree.

23 Et ipse Iesus erat incipiens quasi annorum triginta, ut putabatur, filius Ioseph, qui fuit Heli,

24 qui fuit Matthat, qui fuit Levi, qui fuit Melchi, qui fuit Iannae, qui fuit Ioseph,..[ etc….]

Christmas 2013

I wish I’d thought of posting this last night.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

I suppose that, if I were truly a good blogger, I’d find the YouTube clip of Linus reciting those lines at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, but this piece of poetry always moves me. I have always loved “sore afraid”.

Aside from that, though, it’s such a message of hope.

Merry Christmas.