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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


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 


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 6:40-45

The last two sections of the chapter will be fairly short, especially since I got all the commentary on Verse 39 out of the way. I think the quick hitters are probably easier to read, especially if something takes me off on a tangent like in the last section. However, the tangents are rather the point; they indicate something of significance. The Sermon on the Plain continues. We left off with a parable. With that by way of introduction, let’s get on to the


40 οὐκ ἔστιν μαθητὴς ὑπὲρ τὸν διδάσκαλον, κατηρτισμένος δὲ πᾶς ἔσται ὡς ὁ διδάσκαλος αὐτοῦ.

The student is not over the teacher. All having been prepared will be as his teacher.  

I have to confess that I’ve never quite understood this aphorism. Taken either literally, or perhaps to its logical extreme, it means that this is as good as it gets? We can never advance because the teachers we have today will never be surpassed? How does that work? It has me wondering if this isn’t a sideways shot at James the Just, who maybe tried to put on airs as if he were superior to Jesus? I don’t know. I doubt that’s the intent, but it makes very little sense to me. FYI, I resisted the impulse to render this as “All having been mended”; the Greek word is the same one that was used to describe the sons of Zebedee mending their nets when called by Jesus in Matthew. The Latin is “perfectus”, but that means something more on the order of completed, or prepared, than something made perfect as we use the word. Or then, I could just be suffering from hyper-literalness due to reading too much philosophy, where “perfect” has a pretty specific meaning.

40 Non est discipulus super magistrum; perfectus autem omnis erit sicut magister eius.

41 Τί δὲ βλέπεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου, τὴν δὲ δοκὸν τὴν ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ ὀφθαλμῷ οὐ κατανοεῖς;

42 πῶς δύνασαι λέγειν τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου, Ἀδελφέ, ἄφες ἐκβάλω τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σου, αὐτὸς τὴν ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ σοῦ δοκὸν οὐ βλέπων; ὑποκριτά, ἔκβαλε πρῶτον τὴν δοκὸν ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ, καὶ τότε διαβλέψεις τὸ κάρφος τὸ ἐν τῷ ὀφθαλμῷ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἐκβαλεῖν.

“Who sees the small, dry particle in the eye of his brother, but the bearing-beam in his own eye he does not perceive? (42) How can he say to his brother, ‘Brother, begone, cast away the bearing-beam, the one in your eye’, while he that bearing-beam in his own eye not seeing? Hypocrite, cast away first the bearing-beam from your own eye, and then stare with wide eyes to cast out the bearing-beam in the eye of your brother.

Here again, we have another instance of an unusual word. “Diablepō” means something like “stare with wide open eyes” in Classical Greek, and I’ve rendered it so here. It’s most often given as “see clearly” in this context. Matthew and Luke both use the exact same word in this exact context, and nowhere else. Mark uses it once in a different context, and L&S provide a handful of Classical cites. By this point I don’t need to point out the significance; however, I will say that each one of these diminishes the likelihood of Q. What is the probability that two different authors will choose to use the exact same word on so many occasions? That probability seems to be decreasing. Of course, why would Luke copy Matthew verbatim? That question is unanswerable, and no amount of redactionist explanation (or whatever the “proper” term is) can provide an answer to satisfy everyone. The question comes down to whether two different authors are more likely to choose to follow a common text in a half-dozen (more or less, but we’re also still counting) times, or whether it’s more likely that one author followed another. Each time two choices are involved, the probability is cut at least in half. Luke using Matthew’s words, OTOH, only requires a single choice in each instance. We haven’t gotten into editorial fatigue yet, but to continue to come up with a word different from Matthew each time seems like it could easily induce editorial fatigue. But that’s another question. 

41 Quid autem vides festucam in oculo fratris tui, trabem autem, quae in oculo tuo est, non consideras?

42 Quomodo potes dicere fratri tuo: “Frater, sine eiciam festucam, quae est in oculo tuo”, ipse in oculo tuo trabem non videns? Hypocrita, eice primum trabem de oculo tuo et tunc perspicies, ut educas festucam, quae est in oculo fratris tui.

43 Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν.

44 ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ ἰδίου καρποῦ γινώσκεται: οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἀκανθῶν συλλέγουσιν σῦκα, οὐδὲ ἐκ βάτου σταφυλὴν τρυγῶσιν.

45 ὁ ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ τῆς καρδίας προφέρει τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ προφέρει τὸ πονηρόν: ἐκ γὰρ περισσεύματος καρδίας λαλεῖ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ.

For a good tree does not make rotten fruit, nor again does a rotten tree make good fruit. (44) For each tree is known from the individual fruit; for from an acanthus spinus they do not collect figs, nor from a bramble do they gather grapes. (45) The good person from the treasure of goodness of the heart brings forth good, and the wicked from their wickedness brings forth wickedness. For from the abundance of their heart speaks his/her tongue.

The question is whether this represents an improvement, a diminution, or something neutral in relation to Matthew’s version of the tale. There is enough verbatim overlap that it’s pretty apparent that both are getting the wording from the same source. Of course, that means we have to decide if they are both getting it from a third source, or if Luke is paraphrasing Matthew. But since Matthew’s handling of the Q material is masterful then the question is settled. Correct? So the Q people will tell you. The interesting thing about Matthew’s version is that there are, essentially, two versions of this extended metaphor set out in “by their fruits ye shall know them”. The first comes in Matthew’s Chapter 7, which is smack in the middle of the (masterful) Sermon on the Mount. The second occurs later, in Chapter 12:33 & c. Now, here’s another question. Matthew repeats himself. Does that mean that he got the stuff from another source, forgot that he’d already used it, and so used it again, then never went back and read the whole of his work to see the flow, or failed to realize he’d used it twice. And it’s not just the “by their fruits”; he also repeats the “brood of vipers” injunction, also in this same section of Chapter 12. So did Matthew forget? Or did he just like it so much that he used it twice, even at the cost of being redundant? And if he realized he was being redundant, was he more apt to do this because he thought that the stuff in Q was absolute dynamite, or was he so impressed with his own creativity that he wanted to work it in the second time? Personally, I have often found that writers tend to be on the vain side, especially when it comes to stuff they’ve created. So we know where I fall on this last question.

But there is another aspect of this to consider. Luke’s version here actually has elements of both these sections of Matthew.  The basic bit about “by their fruits” comes, as I said, from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, and appears here  in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. (That’s a coincidence? Really?) Both refer to the acanthus spina, which is a species of acanthus with spines; i.e., thorns, which is how KJV renders it. Matthew says that one does not find grapes among acanthus, while here Luke says it’s figs. Much of the verbiage is very, very close, with the “kalon” and “agathon”, and both use “sullegein” as the word for “to gather”. This is not terribly unusual, but it’s not the first word I think of when thinking of a verb for “to gather”. So that’s all very interesting. What makes it remarkable is that Matthew throws the part about the “treasure of good” into Chapter 12. IOW, Luke combined what are two passages in Matthew. Now, it appears that most of the reconstructions of Q see these two as sections of a single whole; that is, the scholars doing the reconstructing agree with Luke’s version. Of course, part of the reason they do that is because Luke supposedly preserves the more “primitive” version of Q. So let’s ask the question: does Luke’s version here seem more primitive? I suppose that depends on your definition of the word. If by “primitive” one means “less redundant”, then I would agree with the assessment. Is Matthew’s version more “masterful”? That is a more difficult question. What it comes down to is that, given Q, Matthew had to make a conscious decision to split the two sections into two parts. Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Personally, I prefer Luke’s method, but that is, one imagines, a personal choice. The point being that either Matthew chose to split the two or to repeat himself, and both of these choices seem, to my mind, less than ideal. 

So masterful? Not really. And this does matter as a question beyond mere personal taste or literary preference. So very much of the (ahem) “argument” for Q rests on Matthew’s “masterful” handling of the Q material. If than handling was, perhaps, not so masterful, then much of the “argument” (sic) collapses.

43 Non est enim arbor bona faciens fructum malum, neque iterum arbor mala faciens fructum bonum.

44 Unaquaeque enim arbor de fructu suo cognoscitur; neque enim de spinis colligunt ficus, neque de rubo vindemiant uvam.

45 Bonus homo de bono thesauro cordis profert bonum, et malus homo de malo profert malum: ex abundantia enim cordis os eius loquitur.

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


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


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 5:1-11

Here starts Chapter 5. Perhaps this time we can talk about the text that’s here, and not about Q. While hopeful, I’m not optimistic.


1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ τὸν ὄχλον ἐπικεῖσθαι αὐτῷ καὶ ἀκούειν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἑστὼς παρὰ τὴν λίμνην Γεννησαρέτ,

2 καὶ εἶδεν δύο πλοῖα ἑστῶτα παρὰ τὴν λίμνην: οἱ δὲ ἁλιεῖς ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἀποβάντες ἔπλυνον τὰ δίκτυα.

There was pressing (lit = lying on top) him and to hear the word of God, and he was on the harbour (of) Gennesaret, (2) and he saw to boats standing beside the harbour. The fishermen disembarked from them washing the nets.

One of the commentaries I found noted that the body of water in question has four biblical names. We are most familiar with it as the Sea of Galilee. Lake Genneseret is another, as is Lake Tiberias, and the Sea of Chinneroth, which means “heart-shaped”, which the lake is, more or less. Genneseret is also a town on the shore of the lake, and there is an inlet forming something of a peninsula on which this town is situated. Chorazin is at the head of this inlet. Gennesaret is perhaps three miles south and west of Caphernaum along the shore of the lake. Nazareth, OTOH, is a good twenty miles (or more; not sure how accurate the scale on the map is) inland. This separation of Nazareth and the fact that most of the action in Galilee takes place in or near Capheranaum, and none of it takes place in Nazareth is a big part of the reason I think Jesus was actually from Caphernaum. As I said, Mark only mentions Nazareth once, in 1:9. Matthew mentions it thrice. Nazareth scarely plays any role in any of the narrative. The only action that is set there is Jesus return to his home town that we just read in Chapter 4.

I have translated the word as “harbour” in reference to the inlet. Based on no local topographical knowledge, but understanding the principles of geography, it would make sense that fishermen would put their boats in this inlet. Apparently, the lake is prone to sudden and violent storms, so seeking safe harbour would be something a prudent boat owner would do. Also, in this way, I don’t think Luke is actually saying that the lake is named Genneseret. It is not at all necessary, or even a good idea, to read the Greek that way. The Greek word does not naturally mean “lake”, and I tend to suspect that our biblically-trained biblical scholars rather just get this wrong. Rather, I believe that Luke is referring to this inlet that formed something of a natural harbour; and recall that boats were simply drawn up onto the beach, Such a shallow draught and corresponding lack of keel would explain why boats were particularly at risk of capsizing in a storm. There was little to nothing to hold it upright.

1 Factum est autem, cum turba urgeret illum et audiret verbum Dei, et ipse stabat secus stagnum Genesareth

2 et vidit duas naves stantes secus stagnum; piscatores autem descenderant de illis et lavabant retia.

3 ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων, ὃ ἦν Σίμωνος, ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπαναγαγεῖν ὀλίγον, καθίσας δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου ἐδίδασκεν τοὺς ὄχλους.

Getting onto one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him from the land to put out (into the water) a little way, sitting in the boat he taught the crowd.

A bit of a bizarre scenario. A stranger, followed by a crowd, comes down the shore and commandeers your boat. Then, he uses it was a lecture platform while you do not very much that’s useful, he having taken you away from a necessary chore of washing your nets. This is all very fanciful, and I’m not sure Luke entirely meant us to take this seriously. As with the passing through the midst of the angry mob in the synagogue, this scene feels a bit whimsical, as if Luke is deliberately playing “once upon a time”. There is a decided lack of a sense of reality in this set-up and description. IMO, at least.

3 Ascendens autem in unam navem, quae erat Simonis, rogavit eum a terra reducere pusillum; et sedens docebat de navicula turbas.

4 ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατολαλῶν, εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα, Ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν εἰς ἄγραν.

5 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν,Ἐπιστάτα, δι’ ὅλης νυκτὸς κοπιάσαντες οὐδὲν ἐλάβομεν, ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ῥήματί σου χαλάσω τὰ δίκτυα.

As he paused speaking, he (Jesus) said to Simon, “Put out into the deep (water) and let down your nets into the fish”. (5) And answering, Simon said, “Overseer (lit = one standing near), through the whole night labouring we took up nothing, but on your word I will let down the nets.”

There are several things worth pointing out in this relatively short passage. First, the whole scenario just gets weirder. Now this stranger is telling you to go out into the water and fish. Um, sure. Get right on that, guv’nah. Another is the use of the term I have rendered as “overseer”. This word is used by Luke alone in the NT; and, he only uses it in the gospel and not in Acts. Which immediately sets me off wondering if, indeed, Luke & Acts were written by the same person. Finally, Simon does what the stranger told him, on the stranger’s word alone.

Of course, we really don’t have to marvel at this whole bizarre situation. The meaning, or the intent is clear enough: Luke is demonstrating for us just how compelling a  personality Jesus was, to the point that he can convince some total stranger to do what he asks. If anyone has watched any of  Jessica Jones on Netflix, this all sounds a lot like the villain played by David Tenant, of Dr Who fame. But of course Jesus is not evil, but compelling  in a very good way.

4 Ut cessavit autem loqui, dixit ad Simonem: “Duc in altum et laxate retia vestra in capturam”.

5 Et respondens Simon dixit: “ Praeceptor, per totam noctem laborantes nihil cepimus; in verbo autem tuo laxabo retia”.

6 καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσαντες συνέκλεισαν πλῆθος ἰχθύων πολύ, διερρήσσετο δὲ τὰ δίκτυα αὐτῶν.

7 καὶ κατένευσαν τοῖς μετόχοις ἐν τῷ ἑτέρῳ πλοίῳ τοῦ ἐλθόντας συλλαβέσθαι αὐτοῖς: καὶ ἦλθον, καὶ ἔπλησαν ἀμφότερα τὰ πλοῖα ὥστε βυθίζεσθαι αὐτά.

8 ἰδὼν δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ λέγων, Ἔξελθε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε:

And doing this (i.e. letting out the nets), they enclosed a plethora of fish, breaking through their nets. (7) And they made a sign by nodding their heads to their partners in the other boat of coming to receive with them. And they came, and they filled both the boats so that to sink them.  (8) Seeing this Simon Peter fell to his knees of Jesus, saying, “Go away from me, that I am a sinful man, lord”. 

Here, of course, is the payoff to this story. Jesus knows. If you listen to Jesus, you prosper. I would like to say this is a particularly pagan attitude: do ut des. I give so that you give. The you being God. The idea is that we give something in sacrifice so that God gives us (one hopes) more in return. But this is not a pagan attitude. It’s the rationale behind the story of Job as well. The adversary taunts God by saying, “of course Job is faithful to you. Look at how richly you’ve rewarded him”. And this became a particularly Calvinist, if not Protestant, attitude: all God’s friends are rich. This attitude was carried to the shores of America by the Puritans, who prospered enormously. Remember: we are either saved, or we’re damned, and we can’t know which. But, by their fruits ye shall know them, so monetary wealth was considered the sign of God’s favour, so the wealthy were respected and considered Elect, while the poor despised as Foreknown and damned. This attitude still pervades a lot of religious thinking in 21st Century America: the poor can be disregarded because, what the hell, they’re damned anyway. But–and this is a big but–this attitude was very common among Greeks and Romans, too. The aristoi, the optimates, the best in Greek and Latin respectively were often considered so because of their wealth. Their wealth was an outward sign. This is because hereditary wealth, eventually, bought respectability. The Best Money, after all, was Old Money. Nouveau riche and arriviste are terms of scorn.

So it’s as such, as one who gave, Simon Peter recognised Jesus as “lord”. Jesus could bestow wealth, so he could bestow favour, and Simon immediately understands that he is in the presence of something More. But why does Luke add all these details to the story? This tale is unique to Luke. Looking at this, and at some of the other stories that only Luke has, I’m starting to see a pattern. These stories are what I will call, for want of a better term, amplifiers. That is, they are designed to amplify the impact of some aspect of Jesus’ life and divine status. I suppose magnify would also work, but whatever. Others stories that would fall into this would be the stories of the birth of the Baptist, which amplifies the nativity of Jesus narrative by elevating the status of the herald of Jesus to come. Another would be the way he passed through the midst of the angry crowd in Nazareth*, which demonstrated that Jesus’ power, his ability to perform miracles was certainly not dependent on the faith of those around him. And now here; it’s not enough to call Peter; he has to demonstrate his ability. Thinking about it, this in some ways diminishes Jesus: in the other two gospels, Peter follows without question. Here, he does so only after a huge demonstration of power. But, one can certainly look at that in a couple of different ways. 

So is that what Luke is doing? Amplifying?  Is that his overall intention, or goal? To say ‘yes’ is to be fairly obvious. After all, that’s a lot of what Matthew did, starting with the Nativity story. He amplified Jesus’ divinity, starting with the virgin birth and the Star of Bethlehem. Luke is really doing the same, here and in the other episodes mentioned. Now, I would love to tie this into the Q argument, and I think it would be a legitimate thing to do, but the bottom line is that it’s not necessary. Either way, we’re witnessing the process by which legends grow. Luke was doing this, either on his own or following the example of Matthew. I suspect the latter, of course, but let’s wait a bit to see if this is borne out by the subsequent narrative, whether it seems that Luke is building specifically on Matthew. If so, the pattern has not fully emerged.

*Nazareth: it only just occurs to me that this amplifier was designed to banish the idea that Jesus was unable to perform many miracles in Nazareth, due to the lack of faith of the townspeople. No miracles? Nonsense! Jesus’ power is not dependent on the faith of those around him.

6 Et cum hoc fecissent, concluserunt piscium multitudinem copiosam; rumpebantur autem retia eorum.

7 Et annuerunt sociis, qui erant in alia navi, ut venirent et adiuvarent eos; et venerunt et impleverunt ambas naviculas, ita ut mergerentur.

8 Quod cum videret Simon Petrus, procidit ad genua Iesu dicens: “Exi a me, quia homo peccator sum, Domine”.

9 θάμβος γὰρ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῇ ἄγρᾳ τῶν ἰχθύων ὧν συνέλαβον,

10 ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην υἱοὺς Ζεβεδαίου, οἳ ἦσαν κοινωνοὶ τῷ Σίμωνι. καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Μὴ φοβοῦ: ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν.

11 καὶ καταγαγόντες τὰ πλοῖα ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἀφέντες πάντα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.

Amazement encompassed him and all those with him regarding the catch of fish which they had taken, (and) (10) in the same way also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were with Simon, and Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now you will be one catching men”. (11) And driving the ship down upon the land, all having gotten off they followed him.

In the commentary to this on Mark, I suggested that, if Jesus had grown up on Caphernaum as I suspect, the way Peter & c left to follow Jesus would make much more sense. We know Peter was a follower; Paul verified that before any of these gospels were written. Notice that there is no mention of Andrew, Peter’s brother. He will come in later, probably when the Twelve are being named. In 2M, Andrew is mentioned exactly twice; at the initial calling, and when Jesus sends them out. Luke skips the first one. Interesting to note that as the legend of Jesus grew, the legend of Andrew had faded a bit. Now, this would be recovered since Andrew had a great career in front of him, ending up as the patron saint of Scotland. But it is worth noting that he is not here. The point being, that if Jesus had grown up in Caphernaum, then he and Peter would likely have known each other all their lives. This, in turn, would explain Peter’s eventual devotion and dedication to Jesus.

Something just occurred to me. Back in Chapter 4, after Jesus left the synagogue, he went to the house of Simon, where Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law so she could wait on them. I didn’t realize it then, but we had not yet been introduced to Simon when that happened. Good gracious boy howdy, would I ever like to spin some really interesting theories on how this “proves” that Jesus had grown up in Caphernaum, and had known Simon before the point when Jesus called him. However, it’s much more likely that Luke just sort of muddled the chronology a bit. He kept the story of going to Simon’s house in more or less its original context per Mark, without really noticing that he hadn’t actually introduced Simon yet. It’s similar to the way that the Baptist was arrested before he baptized Jesus. Oops. So, as deliberate as Luke was, he was more concerned with the overall story than he was with stuff like chronological consistency. This is important to note, because it plays a big role in how Luke treats the material he inherited, which would include Mark, either Q or Matthew, and probably other traditions. 

I have believe that I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating. At some point I read it suggested that James the son of Zebedee is no other than James the Just, the brother of the lord. I have a nagging sense that I brought this up before but dismissed it for whatever reason(s). If so, this is a good time to revisit that. This is pure speculation, but it would really make a lot of sense. The two people that Paul corroborates as members of the Jerusalem community are James, brother of the lord, and Peter. Here we have Peter and James. Being the son of  Zebedee really doesn’t pose any problem, since the name of Jesus’ father is problematic. Had Jesus’ father died some time ago, and had Mary then married Zebedee and had sons named James and John, then this would be a very tidy explanation. James, brother of Jesus, is only mentioned by Paul, and yet James son of Zebedee plays a consistent part in all four gospels. A brother named James is mentioned in Mark 6, when Jesus’ siblings are named. It would then make that Jesus was called “son of Mary” since his own father was dead, and his mother married to someone else. The fly in the ointment is that Mark 6 does not mention a John, but you can’t always have everything, And really, this feels like one of those theories that is too clever by half. Yes, it ties up a lot of loose ends, but that is part of the problem. It’s a little too neat. Real life usually isn’t quite so tidy, and this general slovenliness is what gives credence to conspiracy theories. Someone opening an umbrella on a sunny day in Dallas may be odd, but that does not mean it’s significant. Maybe he opened the umbrella to use as a parasol against the sun, but the people behind objected to having their view blocked. Same here. It would explain a lot of things, but…But I am leaning towards it, tidiness be damned. It fits, and nicely. Too nicely? Perhaps. It requires more pondering, but in the end, it’s one of those things on which one can change one’s mind every six months for the rest of one’s life and still never be able to make up one’s mind. 

This is an update. It occurred to me that I hadn’t addressed the idea of Simon & the brothers leaving everything behind to follow him. In fact, I haven’t addressed this at all, in any of the gospels. However, I don’t think tacking this on to the very end of a post is the proper time & place to consider the topic; rather, I’ll save it for the Summary.

9 Stupor enim circumdederat eum et omnes, qui cum illo erant, in captura piscium, quos ceperant;

10 similiter autem et Iacobum et Ioannem, filios Zebedaei, qui erant socii Simonis. Et ait ad Simonem Iesus: “ Noli timere; ex hoc iam homines eris capiens ”.

11 Et subductis ad terram navibus, relictis omnibus, secuti sunt illum.

Luke Chapter 4:31-39

The rest of Chapter 4 will be divided into two short sections of 9-10 verses each. This will keep the flow going, and, I hope, help me to get these out more quickly. It is better to publish shorter and more frequently, IMO.


31 Καὶ κατῆλθεν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας. καὶ ἦν διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ἐν τοῖς σάββασιν:

32 καὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ ἦν ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ.

And he came down to the city of Caphernaum of Galilee. And there he taught them on the Sabbaths. (32) And they were driven from their senses by his teaching, that in power was his speech.

Here’s another one of those situations involving the Mark/Matthew/Luke progression. In Mark, Jesus leaves Nazareth and comes to Caphernaum. In Matthew, we are told that Jesus came to dwell in Caphernaum. Here, Luke seems to follow Mark. This time, however, there does not appear to be any gravitational influence from Matthew. I get no sense in this passage that Luke is aware of Matthew, let alone that he is correcting Matthew. In this case, it would appear that Luke has completely ignored Matthew on this point. This would be consistent with the existence of Q; this would be one of those points where Luke does not agree with Matthew against Mark. So this does not support my denial of Q. It does not actively contradict my position; rather, it passively declines to support me. What we have to do is make note of these points, tally them up, and see if their combined weight is enough to offset the points I’ve brought up where Luke does agree with Matthew against Mark.

Here’s how this one shakes out. In the previous section, Luke says that Jesus returned to the town where he was raised. He specifically names this as Nazareth. Contrast to Mark 6, when Jesus returns to his home town and cannot perform many miracles due to their lack of faith. That is where he is called the son of Mary, and his siblings are named. Mark does not mention the name of the town. I suspect he does not because Mark did not know the name of Jesus’ home town, and did not particularly care. In fact, that story has the feel of a discrete unit that Mark swallowed more or less whole. The important lesson of that story was that a prophet is not without honour except in his homeland. However, the story does not, I believe, refer to the town where Jesus was raised, but to the Jewish community that had rejected Jesus as the saviour. That is, that story was a parable about why the new religion had caught on among pagans, but had been rejected by the Jews.

So there, in a sense, Luke was correcting Mark by naming the town. It could also be argued that Luke is undercutting Matthew by setting up this sequence the way he did, giving us Nazareth and then not agreeing that Jesus came to dwell in Caphernaum. So it is just possible that this sequence of verses was set up so that Luke could, without saying so, set the record straight on Matthew as well, but in a very passive manner. The neutral reading of this is that Luke was simply following Mark, and that would be a strong case here. To say Luke supports my position is admittedly a stretch, but it does not actively work against me, either.

As for Verse 32, this paraphrase is much closer to Mark’s language and grammar, but the sentiment is expressed by both the other evangelists. So on balance, this passage is much closer to Mark than Matthew. Now here’s a thought: what if part of Luke’s intent was to go back to Mark, by sort of pushing Matthew aside? That is, except for Bethlehem, Joseph, angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus, setting the conception of John in the reign of Herod, the virgin birth…you get the idea. I hate to keep bringing those things up but they carry an enormous amount of weight in the argument about Q.

31 Et descendit in Capharnaum civitatem Galilaeae. Et docebat illos sabbatis;

32 et stupebant in doctrina eius, quia in potestate erat sermo ipsius.

33 καὶ ἐν τῇ συναγωγῇ ἦν ἄνθρωπος ἔχων πνεῦμα δαιμονίου ἀκαθάρτου, καὶ ἀνέκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ,

34 Ἔα, τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί, Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ; ἦλθες ἀπολέσαι ἡμᾶς; οἶδά σε τίς εἶ, ὁ ἅγιος τοῦ θεοῦ.

35 καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων, Φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. καὶ ῥίψαν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον εἰς τὸ μέσον ἐξῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μηδὲν βλάψαν αὐτόν.

36 καὶ ἐγένετο θάμβος ἐπὶ πάντας, καὶ συνελάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντες, Τίς ὁ λόγος οὗτος, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ καὶ δυνάμει ἐπιτάσσει τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις πνεύμασιν, καὶ ἐξέρχονται;

37 καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο ἦχος περὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς πάντα τόπον τῆς περιχώρου.

And in the synagogue was a man having the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a great voice, (34) “Hey–what is (between) us and you, Jesus of Nazareth? You have come to expel us. I know who you are, the holy one of God!” (35) And censured him Jesus, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him”. And tossing him the little daimon into the midst came out of him and no longer hurt him. (36) And amazement became among all, and they talked to each other, saying, “What is this speech, that in authority and power that enjoins unclean spirits, and they go?” (37) And the sound (talking, rumour) went out about him to all places in the surrounding country. 

This episode, and its placement, are straight out of Mark. So once again, it’s whether we should see this as Luke not being aware of Matthew, or if Luke is deliberately going back to Mark. I would suggest the latter; from the first few verses of the last section, the “is he not the son of Joseph?”, it’s obvious that Luke has no qualms about arranging and rearranging to suit his particular purposes in a particular situation. He does not feel bound to follow anyone; as such, we can infer that Luke arranged his gospel the way he did because he wanted to do it that way. I do think that it’s a stretch, if not outright impossible, always to know his exact reasons. The idea that we have to provide an editorially consistent explanation for every time Luke deviates from Matthew is not only ridiculous, it’s impossible. Any such explanation is an attempt to recreate Luke’s mindset, and to think that we can do that is the height of arrogance. Any such explanation is necessarily subjective on the part of the explainer, and the next person can easily come along and blow it up with ever-so-withering criticism. IOW, the Q proponents are requiring an all-but impossible standard, all in the name of proving that Q did not exist.

So to start Jesus’ ministry, we have him announcing the fulfillment of Isaiah, enraging those listening, passing through the angry mob, and now expelling an unclean daimon. And note the usage: not an unclean spirit, but the spirit of an unclean daimon. No doubt you are all aware that the word “daimon” is a neutral term in Greek. An evil spirit would be specifically referred to as a kakodaimon; the transition of a neutral daimon into an always-evil demon was an accomplishment of the Christians. That being said, the Near Eastern heritage had more of a tradition of things more closely resembling what we would call a demon, but it took the Christians to create the system that has been in place for the past few millennia.

But this does not address why it’s the spirit of an unclean daimon rather than an unclean spirit, as it was in Mark. Now, we can’t compare this to Matthew directly since this episode does not occur in Matthew. And it’s not like the word daimon occurs more often in Matthew than Mark. So this is a new concept unique (so far, anyway) to Luke. I’m not entirely sure what it means, or if it means anything out of the ordinary. I would say it probably doesn’t.

Finally, we end with more wonder and astonishment, which leads to the word of him going out into the surrounding country. There’s really nothing much to be gleaned from this that wasn’t discussed when we came across this in both Mark and Matthew. The one thing that will be interesting will be to see if Luke gets back into the “messianic secret” of Mark. Or, perhaps we should call it “Schrodinger’s Messiah”: simultaneously famous and unknown.

33 Et in synagoga erat homo habens spiritum daemonii immundi; et exclamavit voce magna:

34 “ Sine; quid nobis et tibi, Iesu Nazarene? Venisti perdere nos? Scio te qui sis: Sanctus Dei ”.

35 Et increpavit illi Iesus dicens: “ Obmutesce et exi ab illo! ”. Et cum proiecisset illum daemonium in medium, exiit ab illo nihilque illum nocuit.

36 Et factus est pavor in omnibus; et colloquebantur ad invicem dicentes: “Quod est hoc verbum, quia in potestate et virtute imperat immundis spiritibus, et exeunt?”.

37 Et divulgabatur fama de illo in omnem locum regionis.

38 Ἀναστὰς δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς συναγωγῆς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν Σίμωνος. πενθερὰ δὲ τοῦ Σίμωνος ἦν συνεχομένη πυρετῷ μεγάλῳ, καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν περὶ αὐτῆς.

39 καὶ ἐπιστὰς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ πυρετῷ, καὶ ἀφῆκεν αὐτήν: παραχρῆμα δὲ ἀναστᾶσα διηκόνει αὐτοῖς.

Standing up from the synagogue he came to the house of Simon. The mother-in-law of Simon was held with a great fever, and they asked him about her. (39) And standing before her he rebuked the fever and it left her. Forthwith standing up she attended to them.

Boy howdy I’m really resisting the urge to say something like, hard to get decent help these days. They needed someone to minister (diakonos = deacon) to them, so Jesus had to heal her. Oh wait, I just said it.

From a doctrinal standpoint, it’s worth mentioning that Jesus rebuked the fever. This is the same word used a few verses ago  when Jesus rebuked the unclean daimon he was expelling. We could take this to mean that the fever was considered to be caused by a spirit. Now, Luke is generally considered to be Greek, and this was not a common Greek idea after the time of Alexander, or even previously. Greek medical thought was often horrifically wrong, but it had gotten past the idea of disease as demonic activity. Having said that, it’s worth pointing out that the verb is passive, that she was held by a great fever. That could be taken to imply an outside agency, but that may be pushing it a bit too far. Since neither Mark nor Matthew use this word in this context, perhaps it’s just Luke being poetic. 

38 Surgens autem de synagoga introivit in domum Simonis. Socrus autem Simonis tenebatur magna febri; et rogaverunt illum pro ea.

39 Et stans super illam imperavit febri, et dimisit illam; et continuo surgens ministrabat illis.

Matthew Chapter 27:1-10

There remains this very long chapter, and one shorter one in this gospel. This chapter describes the events of what Christians call Good Friday. The narrative is clear that Jesus died on the day before the Sabbath, so that clearly indicates a Friday. Of course, this assumes that we can trust the narrative. As we shall see, once again, there may be reason to be suspicious. There was less commentary on the previous chapter, and I suspect that will be true for large chunks of this one. Although, one never knows.

1 Πρωΐας δὲ γενομένης συμβούλιον ἔλαβον πάντες οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ κατὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ὥστε θανατῶσαι αὐτόν:

2 καὶ δήσαντες αὐτὸν ἀπήγαγον καὶ παρέδωκαν Πιλάτῳ τῷ ἡγεμόνι.

Having become morning, all the high priests took a conference together and the elders of the people upon Jesus in which way to kill him.  (2) And binding him and they handed him to Pilate the Leader.

Once again to point out a fairly glaring internal inconsistency within the story as presented. Last chapter, we were told that the high priests were afraid of the crowd, so they cautioned themselves against arresting Jesus during the Festival. But, here it is, the first full day of Passover, and what are they doing? Deciding, not to arrest him, but how to kill him.

Brief grammatical note: the “to kill” is an aorist infinitive. The aorist is pretty much the standard past tense. In English, the infinitive describes an action that will occur at some point after the time of the narrative. “They discussed how to kill him”. In temporal relation to the discussion, the killing has not occurred. But since the tense of the infinitive is past, it describes an action having occurred prior to the writing. It gets a bit tricky–nigh on impossible–to preserve the full sense of the Greek in such situations. Also, whenever you get to a commentary, and the commentator makes a big deal about explaining the nuance of the aorist, put your skeptical goggles on. The aorist is a standard past tense. I tend not to be terribly impressed with the explanation of why they aorist is so significant. Sometimes it seems that commentators like to toss out the expression “aorist tense” because it sounds so exotic to speakers of post-Latin languages, which includes English since it developed at the same time as the post-Latin languages. The tense worth discussing is the optative, but I believe there are only two of these in the NT. I’m concurrently reading The Anabasis, and the optative crops up all the time. 

“Leader” is the standard Greek word for Leader. Agamemnon is described in several places as the “leader of the Argives”. This signifies that he was the military commander-in-chief, even if not the king of the entire force of the Hellenic-speaking force. It is also appropriate to use the term for “leader of the chorus” at a play, or as a term for The Emperor. The Great Scott indicates that it is used in the NT to refer to the Roman governor. I have to admit ignorance of this. I didn’t get far enough into The Antiquities in Greek to come across the term for Pilate, nor did I read The Jewish War in Greek, so I don’t actually know what Pilate’s title would be in Greek. Shame on me. 

The point, though, is that the term is less than technical. In which case, the question becomes “why use the non-technical term?” There are two reasons, I suppose. The first is that Matthew did not know the term, or that he did not think his audience would know the term. True, there could be literary considerations; perhaps he just liked the sound of the word in this context.  But if either of the first two describe the reality, this throws at least a small monkey-wrench into the machinery of my argument that Matthew was a pagan writing for pagans. Would they not have known the proper title? Perhaps, and I admit that this word cannot be dismissed; rather, it has to be explained if I am to consider my argument credible. One suggestion is that I can never remember if Pilate was the Prefect or the Procurator. The title changed after Pilate, and I can never remember which came first. Matthew may have known that the current title was not accurate, and perhaps he could not remember the previous title, so he fudged with a generic. It’s not like educated children had a civics class in which they discussed the development of the Roman governing apparatus in the Near East. Someone truly educated, like Suetonius or Tacitus or even Josephus would probably have known, but I doubt that any of the evangelists were educated to anything close to that level. The evangelists probably had HS diplomas, but the other writers had Ph.Ds.

1 Mane autem facto, consi lium inierunt omnes princi pes sacerdotum et seniores populi adversus Iesum, ut eum morti traderent.

2 Et vinctum adduxerunt eum et tradiderunt Pilato praesidi.

3 Τότε ἰδὼν Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ὅτι κατεκρίθη μεταμεληθεὶς ἔστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ πρεσβυτέροις

4 λέγων, Ημαρτον παραδοὺς αἷμα ἀθῷον. οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Τί πρὸς ἡμᾶς; σὺ ὄψῃ.

5 καὶ ῥίψας τὰ ἀργύρια εἰς τὸν ναὸν ἀνεχώρησεν, καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἀπήγξατο.

Then Judas the betrayer seeing him that he was condemned, repentant returned the 30 pieces of silver to the high priests and elders, (4) saying, “I sinned giving over innocent blood”. They said, what is it to us? You will see.” (5) And throwing the silver into the Temple, he left, and going away he [did something]. 

Of course, we all know that Judas hanged himself. But the Greek is not really pellucid on that. One NT Greek dictionary says there is no definition available; another translates it as “to strangle” & such, and Strong’s Words agrees with this. Liddell & Scott have nothing, and I looked via a number of different stem changes. The Latin, OTOH, is reasonably clear: laqueo se suspendit. The last two words are pretty much “hanged/hung himself”, and the laqueo is like a snare, so it’s a reference to the noose. So once again St Jerome bails us out.

And while we’re talking about words, there is the ‘innocent blood’. Some manuscript traditions have this reading as ‘just blood’. Here, the ‘just’ is the word that gets translated as “justify” most frequently. Personally, I think that this may be the more accurate reading since it is harder to, well, justify. After all, “innocent blood” is obvious; “just blood”, perhaps not so much. Be that as it may, “innocent” seems to be the more common word. All of my crib translations use “innocent”.

And while we’re on the aorist, note the “I sinned over innocent blood”. The natural way to express this in English is “I have sinned”. All my crib translations translate it this way. Indeed, even the Latin, “peccavi”, is the perfect tense: I have sinned. However, the Greek is an aorist, denoting completed action. Ergo, “I sinned”.

Got to tell this story. One of the British generals was trying to capture the Indian city of Sindh. The Home Office got a telegram from him with a single word. “Peccavi”. IOW, “I have sinned (Sindh).” Love that story, but I’m a Classics geek, so there you go. And there’s the whole imperialist theme there, too, which isn’t something to promote, but sometimes you have to push the envelope a bit.

3 Tunc videns Iudas, qui eum tradidit, quod damnatus esset, paenitentia ductus, rettulit triginta argenteos principibus sacerdotum et senioribus

4 dicens: “Peccavi tradens sanguinem innocentem”. At illi dixerunt: “Quid ad nos? Tu videris!”.

5 Et proiectis argenteis in templo, recessit et abiens laqueo se suspendit.

6 οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς λαβόντες τὰ ἀργύρια εἶπαν, Οὐκ ἔξεστιν βαλεῖν αὐτὰ εἰς τὸν κορβανᾶν, ἐπεὶ τιμὴ αἵματός ἐστιν.

7 συμβούλιον δὲ λαβόντες ἠγόρασαν ἐξ αὐτῶν τὸν Ἀγρὸν τοῦ Κεραμέως εἰς ταφὴν τοῖς ξένοις.

8 διὸ ἐκλήθη ὁ ἀγρὸς ἐκεῖνος Ἀγρὸς Αἵματος ἕως τῆς σήμερον.

9 τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος, Καὶ ἔλαβον τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια, τὴν τιμὴν τοῦ τετιμημένου ὃν ἐτιμήσαντο ἀπὸ υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ,

10 καὶ ἔδωκαν αὐτὰ εἰς τὸν ἀγρὸν τοῦ κεραμέως, καθὰ συνέταξέν μοι κύριος.

The chief priest taking the silver said, “It is not worthy to put this in the Korban, since it is blood honour.” (7) Taking a conference they bought the Field of Potters as a burial for strangers. (8) Because of this the field was called the Blood Field until this day. (9) Then was fulfilled the writing of the prophet Jeremiah saying, “And the took the thirty silvers, the honour of having been honoured, the one they honoured from the sons of Israel. (10) And they gave this to the field of the potters, accordingly the lord arranged to me.”

A bunch of things here. First, we probably should address the translation of Verse 9. This is obviously pretty literal, probably to a fault. The word is << τιμὴ >>, and it’s a really key concept of Greek thought. The problem is, perhaps, that it doesn’t work so well in the context of Hebrew thought. Some form of the word is repeated three times in Verse 9, so I repeated it three times. The base meaning of timē is honour. In particular, it’s the honour due someone, especially to the gods, and to each god. Poseidon felt that Odysseus did not give him proper honour, so Poseidon saw fit to punish Odysseus on his journey home from Troy. In the English versions of this verse, it is rendered as “value”, at least some of the time. Honour and value may have be related in some ways, or may overlap, but they are not the same thing. In English, “value” has too much of a monetary implication that is almost (but not quite) missing from the Greek. The point is that Matthew is trying to shoehorn the words of Jeremiah into a meaning that is not entirely natural.

We’ve run across the term “korban” before, exactly once to be exact. This was in Mark 7:11, when Jesus accuses the Pharisees of not truly honouring their father and mother because they declared their goods “korban”. I didn’t understand the term at all back then, but now I have some inkling, at least. The word is probably usefully rendered as “sacred”; the Pharisees declared their goods to be sacred, dedicated to God, so they weren’t available to be used in support of father and mother. So too, here, the blood money cannot be used for sacred purposes. 

The Field of Potters. The Greek is keramaos, and you should be able to see the word “ceramic” in there. This is backed up by the Latin ‘figulus’, which is a potter. So the field was bought from the pottery section of the city, or probably adjoined this quarter, or was related in some way to the local manufacture of pottery in Jerusalem. This act has given the name “Potter’s Field” to English, meaning a burial place for the indigent. Here, however, it was for foreigners who did not have ancestral ties to the area, so they did not have family burial grounds.

6 Principes autem sacerdotum, acceptis argenteis, dixerunt: “Non licet mittere eos in corbanam, quia pretium sanguinis est”.

7 Consilio autem inito, emerunt ex illis agrum Figuli in sepulturam peregrinorum.

8 Propter hoc vocatus est ager ille ager Sanguinis usque in hodiernum diem.

9 Tunc impletum est quod dictum est per Ieremiam prophetam di centem: “Et acceperunt triginta argenteos, pretium appretiati quem appretiaverunt a filiis Israel,

10 et dederunt eos in agrum Figuli, sicut constituit mihi Dominus”.


Matthew Chapter 26:46-54

Judas has just appeared on the scene.

46 ἐγείρεσθε, ἄγωμεν: ἰδοὺ ἤγγικεν ὁ παραδιδούς με.

47 Καὶ ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἰδοὺ Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα ἦλθεν καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ ὄχλος πολὺς μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων ἀπὸ τῶν ἀρχιερέων καὶ πρεσβυτέρων τοῦ λαοῦ.

48 ὁ δὲ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς σημεῖον λέγων, Ὃν ἂν φιλήσω αὐτός ἐστιν: κρατήσατεαὐτόν.

49 καὶ εὐθέως προσελθὼν τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, ῥαββί: καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.

50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἑταῖρε, ἐφ’ ὃ πάρει. τότε προσελθόντες ἐπέβαλον τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἐκράτησαν αὐτόν.

“Get up, let’s go. Look, my betrayer approaches”. (47) And while was yet speaking, behold, Judas to the Twelve came, and with him a great crowd with swords and pieces of wood from the high priests and the elders of the people. (48) The one betraying him (Jesus) showed to them (the crowd) the sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the one. Seize him”. (49) And immediately coming to Jesus he said, “Hail, rabbi,” and he planted some love on him. (50) And Jesus said to him, “Companion, upon which you are here (do what you’re here to do)”. Then coming forward they laid hands upon Jesus and overpowered (arrested) him.

As a grammar note, “pieces of wood” usually gets translated as “clubs”, and that’s probably as good as anything. However, just wanted to get across the generic nature of the term.

Other than that, I’m not sure there’s much comment required here. This is very similar to Mark’s version. The most noteworthy detail is the kiss. First, the Greek for this is fairly generic as well. The Latin, however, is much more specific, ‘osculum’ carrying through for centuries as “kiss”. In fact, the “osculum infame” shows up in the witch-hunting manuals and descriptions of the 15-17th centuries. This was the ‘obscene kiss’ demanded by Satan to seal the pact he had made with witches who (purportedly) had sold their souls to the Devil for magical powers. That the action was a fact only in the overwrought imaginations of later churchmen isn’t the point; it’s the verification of the vocabulary word. And, truth be told, had I read more Greek poetry, I might have come across the word once in a while. It doesn’t, IIRC, show up in The Symposium, Plato’s dialogue about erotic love.

But to return to the kiss itself, once again, the detail carries a lot of dramatic impact. Does it represent something that happened? Probably not.

46 Surgite, eamus; ecce appropinquavit, qui me tradit ”.

47 Et adhuc ipso loquente, ecce Iudas, unus de Duodecim, venit, et cum eo turba multa cum gladiis et fustibus, missi a principibus sacerdotum et senioribus populi.

48 Qui autem tradidit eum, dedit illis signum dicens: “Quemcumque osculatus fuero, ipse est; tenete eum!”.

49 Et confestim accedens ad Iesum dixit: “Ave, Rabbi!” et osculatus est eum.

50 Iesus autem dixit illi: “Amice, ad quod venisti!”. Tunc accesserunt et manus iniecerunt in Iesum et tenuerunt eum.

51 καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.

And, behold, one of those with Jesus stretching out his hand drew his sword , and, having struck the slave of the high priest, cut off his ear.

This is worthy of note. First, what is meant by “one of those with Jesus”? This would almost have to be one of the disciples, no? We are not told of any followers of Jesus other than the disciples. Second, Mark describes the sword-wielder as “a bystander”. Once again, a minor detail that Matthew chooses to alter. Why? Especially since there is almost zero chance that one of the disciples would have been carrying a sword. I am not certain of the severity of the offense, but this would be seriously frowned upon by the Romans. Civilians in Jerusalem, especially during the festival, when tensions were high, were not likely to be allowed to carry weapons. Since the crowd came “armed swords and clubs”, it would seem more likely that it was a bystander who used the weapon. Of course, it could be a bystander who “was (secretly) with Jesus”, one who tipped his hand at this crucial moment. This sort of thing would actually lend credence to the likelihood of it reporting–in some form–an event somehow based on something almost like an actual event.

Unfortunately, this event suffers from the flaw–a fatal flaw, IMO–that runs through the whole notion of Jesus being arrested and executed on a charge of insurrection. There is no follow-up on the part of the authorities. We know from Paul that Peter and James lived and worked in Jerusalem for decades after Jesus’ death. That is, they were not arrested and executed with Jesus. And I find this leniency on the part of the Romans incredulous. If they thought Jesus was a revolutionary, there is a very high chance that they would have arrested and executed the whole lot–and a few extra, just to make sure. More, there was no Roman suppression of  Jesus’ followers afterwards. Had Jews been gathered in the name of a Revolutionary, there would have been Roman repercussions. In the same way, the crowd has come to arrest Jesus, someone resists, and nothing happens to that resister. Yes, it’s possible that the mob let it slide, but that seems much less likely than the anecdote was fabricated.

That brings up what should be the major question: does the arrest in Gethsemane have any sort of founding on historical events? Which, of course, circles back to the truly fundamental question of why, and at whose instigation, Jesus was executed in the first place. If the Romans did it on their own initiative, for reasons short of insurrection, this whole cloak-and-dagger, middle-of-the-night intruguey sort of thing seems a bit overblown. It’s possible. Perhaps a Roman patrol grabbed Jesus for breaking curfew. That is plausible, and under proper circumstances could be considered a capital crime by the Romans–who had a very broad definition of what constituted a capital crime. But again, if this were the case, any who were with Jesus would have been arrested as well. Paul never mentions the why, and he wrote decades before the Jewish War. So my suggestion is that, since we don’t really know why Jesus was executed, the reason wasn’t considered relevant.

Spoiler alert! The creators of the Passion narrative were fully capable of inventing the entire Barabbas episode. Not only did they invent the man, they invented the custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the Festival. There is no historical corroboration for this whatsoever. So, if that episode was invented, so too could all of this in the Garden of Gethsemane.

51 Et ecce unus ex his, qui erant cum Iesu, extendens manum exemit gladium suum et percutiens servum principis sacerdotum amputavit auriculam eius.

52 τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀπόστρεψον τὴν μάχαιράν σου εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς, πάντες γὰρ οἱ λαβόντες μάχαιραν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀπολοῦνται.

53 ἢ δοκεῖς ὅτι οὐ δύναμαι παρακαλέσαι τὸν πατέρα μου, καὶ παραστήσει μοι ἄρτι πλείω δώδεκα λεγιῶνας ἀγγέλων;

54 πῶς οὖν πληρωθῶσιν αἱ γραφαὶ ὅτι οὕτως δεῖ γενέσθαι;

Then Jesus said, “Put away the sword of yours into its place, for all those carrying swords on the sword will perish. (53) Or think you that my father is unable to order, and to have stand by me now full twelve legions of angels? How then will the writings be fulfilled that in this way it must be?” 

This is full of some very rich theological ideas. Let’s start with the fact that nothing in these three verses is in Mark. The bit about the sword was not necessary for Mark because it was a bystander who did the striking. So Mark’s Jesus need show no concern about general principles in this case. The phrase “live by the sword, die by the sword” has become an aphorism in English.

Here, though, it serves another purpose. This isn’t just some pearl of wisdom–which it is–tossed out by Jesus in some off-hand manner. Rather, it leads into the next verse about the legions of angels. In Mark, Jesus wasn’t necessarily divine. Perhaps his version of the Passion Narrative persists in this belief, whereas for Matthew, the reason that God did not intervene to rescue Jesus must be explained. In fact, this becomes one of the central tenets of post-apostolic Christianity, the idea that Jesus was a king, but not of this world. Paul blazed the trail, creating the idea of Jesus the Anointed, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christos, and he took the novel tack of identifying Jesus the Christ as only the post-resurrection Jesus. Given this, I think what Matthew here is fighting is the reaction of Jews who wanted to know how the warrior scion of David went so meekly to his death at the hands of the very people the true messiah was supposed to overthrow, leading the reborn Israel to a new Golden Age. Recall that the Christ aspect of Jesus was not a major theme in most of Mark, implying that it was a late addition, probably coming about only after the influence of Paul, indirectly, started to permeate the thought-world of the young proto-church.   This indirect influence was still incomplete when Mark wrote, but was the “orthodoxy”* for Matthew. It’s important to recognize that the idea of the Messiah had to undergo this sort of development, that it was not “baked in” from the start. 

*(“Orthodoxy” in quotes because the word is anachronistic, and would remain so for several decades. My suggestion is that the Valentinian controversy would be the point at which the idea of a generally accepted set of beliefs became itself generally accepted. It was after this that the idea of orthodoxy took hold.)

So Jesus here foreswears, as it were, the idea of being rescued, so that the writings could be fulfilled. Which is our last point. The writings, I believe, are usually taken to mean the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, with some references to the Psalms as well (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). The point, of course, is to assure everyone that the crucifixion had always and forever been part of The Plan. In turn, The Plan had to be fulfilled, or God’s will would have been thwarted. As such, this is all awfully close to flat-out pagan Fatalism, in which a only a single course of action, with a single outcome, is possible. All is ordained, and has been so since the foundation of the universe. That being said, it should be noted that the idea of Free Will is not terribly well-founded on biblical evidence. Rather, like Original Sin, this was something derived on an as-needed basis by later Church fathers. As such, we should not be surprised to see such sentiments expressed.

We should especially not be surprised to hear such a pagan sentiment spoken (written) by a former pagan. Notice the non-specific nature of this “it is written”. There is no real cross reference, no text cited. Just that it has to be fulfilled. This reminds me of the story of the road to Emmaus as told by Luke. There we are told that the “stranger” explained all the texts in the HS that pointed to the coming of Jesus, but we are never told what these texts might be. And, an admittedly cursory skim of commentaries does not specify what texts Matthew might have in mind here. Meyer refers to texts in Acts and Luke–the road to Emmaus, as it happens. It has generally been conceded that Luke was a pagan; odd, then, that Matthew demonstrates the same sort of attitude, despite the “fact” that Matthew is supposedly Jewish. As always, this is hardly conclusive, but it does constitute another small stone on that side of the scale, I believe. 

I’m not sure if this is the point to talk about Judas or not. My question about him is, if the scripture has to be fulfilled, then Judas is God’s chosen instrument to effect this necessary event. How then can we say Judas is damned? We are put on earth to do God’s will, and this is precisely what Judas did. Yes, it led to the arrest and execution of Jesus, but this was not a bad thing, except for the man Jesus. For the Divine Will, and for the rest of humanity, this was an event of cosmic benefit. How can it be that what Judas did was evil, if this was God’s will?

Of course, that question is unanswerable.

52 Tunc ait illi Iesus: “Converte gladium tuum in locum suum. Omnes enim, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt.

53 An putas quia non possum rogare Patrem meum, et exhibebit mihi modo plus quam duodecim legiones angelorum?

54 Quomodo ergo implebuntur Scripturae quia sic oportet fieri?”.