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Luke Chapter 11:5-13

This was originally to be part of the previous section. However, discussion of the Our Father ran on longer than expected. So I broke this into two sections. This has expedited the publishing of the two sections, and one hopes this has been beneficial. The main story here is a piece that has appeared only in Matthew, and so is considered part of the Q material. Of course, I don’t particularly subscribe to the existence of Q, so there is that whole issue. Enough of that, let’s get straight to the

Text

5 Καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἕξει φίλον καὶ πορεύσεται πρὸς αὐτὸν μεσονυκτίου καὶ εἴπῃ αὐτῷ, Φίλε, χρῆσόν μοι τρεῖς ἄρτους,

6 ἐπειδὴ φίλος μου παρεγένετο ἐξ ὁδοῦ πρός με καὶ οὐκ ἔχω ὃ παραθήσω αὐτῷ:

7 κἀκεῖνος ἔσωθεν ἀποκριθεὶς εἴπῃ, Μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε: ἤδη ἡ θύρα κέκλεισται, καὶ τὰ παιδία μου μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἰς τὴν κοίτην εἰσίν: οὐ δύναμαι ἀναστὰς δοῦναί σοι.

8 λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰ καὶ οὐ δώσει αὐτῷ ἀναστὰς διὰ τὸ εἶναι φίλον αὐτοῦ, διά γε τὴν ἀναίδειαν αὐτοῦ ἐγερθεὶς δώσει αὐτῷ ὅσων χρῄζει.

And he said to them, “Who of you has a friend and going towards him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, furnish me three (loaves of) bread’, (6) since my friend came from the road to me and I do not have which I will set in front of him’. (7) And he from inside answering says, ‘Do not trouble me. Indeed, the door is shut, and my boy is gone to bed. Having risen I am not able to give to you’. (8) I say to you, and if standing up he will not give to him through being his friend, through what shamelessness having arisen he will give to him (the friend) how so much he needs.  

The idea here is that the person come knocking in the night will continue to be shameless and keep asking. Eventually, the householder who has been so rudely awakened will eventually given in, get up, and give his shameless friend what is asked. The Greek is not terribly straightforward, but I’ve read a lot worse. It’s some of the most literary Greek encountered so far in the NT. I’ve been reading Xenophon’s Anabasis and Herodotus’ Histories lately, and the Greek there, especially in the latter author, is significantly more complex than what is found in the NT. Here is a good example. 

Speaking of the Greek, in Verse 7 we have the awakened one telling the importune one that “my boy has gone to bed”. Here is a great example of the use of “boy” to mean “servant”. This came up in the discussion of the Centurion’s “boy”; in Matthew, the term was ambiguous whereas Luke removed the doubt by dropping in the term for “slave”, making the relationship very clear. The use here, I think, should probably tilt the scale definitively that even in Matthew, a slave was meant, rather than a child.

These verses are only the setup for the lesson to come. So let’s proceed. 

5 Et ait ad illos: “ Quis vestrum habebit amicum et ibit ad illum media nocte et dicet illi: “Amice, commoda mihi tres panes,

6 quoniam amicus meus venit de via ad me, et non habeo, quod ponam ante illum”;

7 et ille de intus respondens dicat: “Noli mihi molestus esse; iam ostium clausum est, et pueri mei mecum sunt in cubili; non possum surgere et dare tibi”.

8 Dico vobis: Et si non dabit illi surgens, eo quod amicus eius sit, propter improbitatem tamen eius surget et dabit illi, quotquot habet necessarios.

9 κἀγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, αἰτεῖτε, καὶ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν: ζητεῖτε, καὶ εὑρήσετε: κρούετε, καὶ ἀνοιγήσεται ὑμῖν.

10 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ αἰτῶν λαμβάνει, καὶ ὁ ζητῶν εὑρίσκει, καὶ τῷ κρούοντι ἀνοιγ[ής]εται.

11 τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν τὸν πατέρα αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς ἰχθύν, καὶ ἀντὶ ἰχθύος ὄφιν αὐτῷ ἐπιδώσει;

12 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν, ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον;

13 εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὑπάρχοντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ [ὁ] ἐξ οὐρανοῦ δώσει πνεῦμα ἅγιον τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.

“And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. (10) For all who asks will receive, and the one seeking will find, and to the one knocking it will be opened. (11) To one of you the son asking for a fish and instead of a fish a serpent you him will give? (12) Or also will ask for an egg, he will give to him a skorpion? (13) Therefore, if you are being wicked know that the good gift to give to your children, so much more the father [who] is from the sky will give the sacred breath to those asking him.”

This is a pretty straightforward recapitulation of Matthew’s version. Once again we have a situation where only one of the previous evangelists has a story so Luke follows it fairly closely. But here’s the thing about the message conveyed here. This is the age-old story of Judaism, that YHWH is forgiving, and giving. How many times in the HS are we told that the Israelites “did evil in the site of YHWH” by chasing after the baals or the elohim or whichever pagan deity was around at the time. And yet, time after time, YHWH was willing to forgive and forget, to welcome these naughty children back into the fold, to let bygones be bygones and give everyone a fresh start. That really is the basis of the message here: that God in the sky is so much more loving than any human parent. Whereas even bad people can and will do good things for their children, God in the sky is so much better, so much more merciful, so much more giving. In short, there is no real “Christian” innovation here. Matthew (the author, or recorder of this message) was not introducing anything new. Rather, it was simply a renewed emphasis on what Judaism had always preached: the love of YHWH for the people of the covenant–which also explains the emphasis that Jesus’ death was the beginning of a New Covenant. 

Now two odd things here that a real history scholar would pick up on from this. Given that this only appears in Matthew, and given the non-existence of Q–you say it exists? Burden of proof is on you. Prove it–this message “from Jesus” was interpolated at some point between Jesus and Matthew. If Matthew didn’t invent this story, if he only recorded it, or recorded the gist of the message in his own way, then where did it come from. Hmmm…who was leading the Jesus movement for almost thirty years between the death of Jesus and the time Matthew wrote? Hmmm…Oh wait, James, brother of the Lord! And the funny thing is, Paul tells us that James was a fairly conservative individual in the sense that he wanted to maintain the ties to the background in Judaism. This is a tempting thought, at least prima facie. A more considered approach, however, should–does–bring up some problems with this. At least, there is one, and it’s the same problem I’m always bringing up about Q. If this was the message of James, and James was killed in the early 60s as Josephus says, then why wasn’t Mark aware of stuff like this? How did it bypass Mark? What this is all starting to point to is that something very significant happened in the period between the death of James, or between the destruction of the Temple and the time Matthew wrote his gospel. There was an explosion of content between Mark and Matthew. Why? What happened? At the moment, I can’t answer that. Rather, my contribution is that I have formulated the question. The answer to this that has been sitting out there for the past thousand years really does not withstand even a minimal amount of scrutiny. It’s time to ask the question and maybe get started on producing some different hypotheses on what happened.

One last thing that comes in here as a tangent. In Judges, and certainly in Kings, there is talk about the destruction of the high places. In reading about the genesis of the Persian Empire and the coming of Zoroastrianism, I’ve noted that the latter religion was also skittish about erecting images of a deity; rather, Zoroastrians preferred to worship on hilltops–IOW high places. The time period for this is much later than Elijah, by several centuries. I have to do more research on this, but if the kings of Israel were worshipping at high places, and this means Zoroastrian hilltops, do we not have as serious anachronism here? One that should seriously make us question when Kings I & II were written? Perhaps. If I’m wrong, I sure do want to hear someone explain exactly why I’m wrong. For too long the chronology of the writing of these books of the HS has gone unchallenged by any sort of critical analysis. The time for these free rides is over. It should have ended decades ago.

9 Et ego vobis dico: Petite, et dabitur vobis; quaerite, et invenietis; pulsate, et aperietur vobis.

10 Omnis enim qui petit, accipit; et, qui quaerit, invenit; et pulsanti aperietur.

11 Quem autem ex vobis patrem filius petierit piscem, numquid pro pisce serpentem dabit illi?

12 Aut si petierit ovum, numquid porriget illi scorpionem?

13 Si ergo vos, cum sitis mali, nostis dona bona dare filiis vestris, quanto magis Pater de caelo dabit Spiritum Sanctum petentibus se”.

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Summary Luke Chapter 10

The most important section of this chapter, of course, was the story of the Good Samaritan. It is a landmark of Christian literature that has become so famous that it’s crossed into secular vernacular. While perhaps not quite as universally understood in English writing as it once was, it seems likely that a large majority of the English speakers in North America understand the reference to some degree. In some ways, it is perhaps the Christian morality tale par excellence. It very neatly sums up the Christian ethos of what it means to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Funny thing about that.

No doubt my impression of this story was seriously–mayhap fatally–distorted by my upbringing. The town I grew up in was small and white and Catholic; that is, there were no Jews. And then I went to a Catholic school and was largely taught religion by Dominican nuns. The result was that I had no exposure to Jewish thought, or the Jewish heritage that lay behind Christianity. Oh, the Jewish roots were acknowledged, and a sanitized version of Judaism was taught, including the stories of Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, the Flood, the Exodus and…a few odds and ends. Looking back, I realize we were taught about Genesis ad Exodus and some stuff about the Prophets and basically nothing else. As such, I had no real sense of Judaism as a religion, only that it had become ossified and sclerotic by the time of Jesus, who swept it away for an internal religion of faith and love, rather than an external, formulaic, and overly ritualized shell.

Well, guess what. The story of the Good Samaritan is very Jewish. What’s more, given the other stories in the chapter, the setting is very Jewish. These aspects were mentioned in the commentary of the translation. The fact that the man who acted as a foil to allow Jesus to introduce the central story, was learned in the Law and repeated the two Great Commandments, the story of Satan, and the very concept of a Samaritan all require an understanding of Judaism if we are to grasp fully their import and the true meaning of the story. Luke is not introducing, or even just illuminating some novel aspect of Jesus’ teaching; he is providing context in which the second commandment–love your neighbour as yourself–is truly put into practice. Who is the man’s neighbour? The priest or the Levite? Or the despised other who stops and helps the man? The full impact of the story is missed unless we understand the level of animosity between the Jewish traveler and the Samaritan who helps the man. Luke even prepped us to a degree when he told us that Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed into the Samaritan town because the residents understood that Jesus was going to Jerusalem.

So the upshot is that this is a story of how Judaism should be practised. And throughout the HS, there are numerous instances where the author regales the audience with injunctions about social justice. There was the story in Mark, repeated in Matthew, about Jesus chastising the Pharisees for the way they declared their property korban, holy, as in dedicated to the Temple, when the Pharisees should have been honouring their mothers and fathers by assisting them financially with this property. Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell of the time when the Jews were allowed to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple are full of injunctions about social justice, admonishing the rich for trodding roughly on the poor. This would be another example of not “loving your neighbor as yourself”. So Luke is not introducing novel examples of how to behave with one another. He’s not even expanding on the teachings that undergirded the desired behaviour. He is providing an excellent and concrete example of what the desired behaviour looks like. This, he is saying, is how one love’s one neighbor as oneself.

This is not to say, however, that Luke might have something of a novel slant on the matter. Why does the lawyer want to know how to behave? What is his motivation? He wants to know what he must do to gain eternal life. By this point it should be clear that the idea of the immortal soul, more or less as Christians conceive of it, was not derived from Judaism, but from the Greeks. Now, by the time of Jesus, Judea had been ruled by Greek-speakers (this includes Romans; educated Romans, who were the governing class, were largely bilingual in Latin and Greek) since the time of Alexander the Great, more than 300 years. Greek thought and philosophy had been incrementally seeping into the educated class of Jews, who were learning Greek and abandoning the Aramaic native to Judea at the time. All major metropolitan centres had significant Jewish enclaves, the educated members of these expatriate populations learned Greek. The epitome of this is Philo of Alexandria, who was both a Jewish scholar and more or less a thoroughgoing Platonist. The result was that the idea of an immortal soul had penetrated into Jewish thinking. I suspect (but do not know for certain) that this is the root of the idea of the resurrection of the dead that the Pharisees held as a central tenet.

The point is, even the desire for eternal life had Jewish antecedents, even if those antecedents had Greek antecedents, which they certainly did. As a result, the idea the lawyer was asking how to gain eternal life is not a distinctly Christian thought process. The lawyer (or generic young man, as Mark called him) asking about gaining eternal life could represent someone fully within mainstream Jewish thought of the time.

All of this matters for various reasons. I was Googling for the answer to..something else, which led me to the question of whether this parable is considered authentic; that is, do scholars believe that this came directly from Jesus. According to the overwhelming number of scholars in the Jesus Seminar, the answer is a resounding YES!!! Apparently some 60% code it as red (definitely authentic) and another 29% code it pink (probably authentic). A quick calculation shows that puts us at 89% positive, against only 4% negative. I often criticise the Q proponents for not considering content when they consider authenticity. Apparently the Jesus Seminar only considers content. This group, however, is very vague about transmission. How did this parable kick around for 50+ years, totally evade Mark and Matthew, and then appear in Luke? IOW, there is no provenance for the parable. It simply appears. Yes, it resembles other Jewish/midrasnhic material, but that’s so general as to be pretty much meaningless. Parables do resemble each other; that’s how they get classified as parables. But there is another element. One blog I found said that, of course this is authentic, because it sounds so much like other stuff Jesus said. To which I respond: give me an example of this similarity from Mark or Matthew, or preferably both. To point: there are none. Mark’s parables include the Mustard Seed and the Sower; neither of these are similar to the Good Samaritan in either form or content. The parable of the Wicked Tenants does more closely resemble the form of the Good Samaritan, but the content is not at all similar. It’s not a description of proper behaviour; rather, it’s a tale of what has happened, and what will happen to those wicked tenants. There is no real morality tale. And I would seriously argue that the Wicked Tenants is much later than Jesus. After all, it presumes the understanding that the landlord’s son is Jesus, and that we all know Jesus died, was killed by other wicked tenants. More, this parable comes from the Christ section of Mark, which likely originated only after Jesus’ death, a belief propagated, if not created, by Paul. Other possibilities would be the Parable of the Vineyard workers, but that does not appear in Mark. So, the parable presents severe difficulties both on the question of provenance and content. I do not see how this can be considered authentic.

This requires a lot more discussion than is appropriate for a summary like this.

This discussion about the lawyer/young man has interesting implications for the Q debate. All three of the Synoptics contain a story where someone from the crowd asks Jesus what must be done to inherit eternal life. This person was described by Mark as a young man and by Matthew a lawyer. In those two versions Jesus responds by reciting the decalogue. When the man says he has done these things, Jesus then tells him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. Luke changes this; he alters the external circumstances and ends up making a slightly different point. These alterations suggest that this is another of those stories where Luke saw that M&M had covered the topic very well already, so he engaged his poetic license to provide a slightly different message. We have noticed that Luke does this when M&M tell essentially the same story in much the same way. That, to me, is a significant clue, a telling indication that Luke was, indeed, aware of Matthew, since he seems to know when to do this. In contrast, Luke has Jesus asking the man about the commandments; he’s turned the situation around. When the man answers with the Great Commandment, or the two Great Commandments, Luke uses the man’s answer as an entrée point to the Good Samaritan. Deucedly clever! However, the key aspect about this story is that only Matthew and Luke say that the man was a lawyer. So here we have a very clear case where Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark. The Q mantra is that this never happens. So how to explain this situation where it does? The answer is: they don’t. They ignore these situations and pretend that they didn’t happen.

We should at least mention the 70/72. Here again is something that obviously dates from a time much later than Jesus. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have stories about the sending of the Twelve; Luke alone has the Seventy. Why? As discussed, this serves two purposes. Perhaps the most important is that it allows Jesus’ direct disciples to cover a lot more ground than the Twelve could have done. As such, it allows all the different Christian communities scattered throughout much of the Mediterranean basin to imagine, to believe, that their community was, indeed, founded by a direct disciple of Jesus. The historical context here is doubtless key. As Acts proves beyond doubt, the story of Paul had become part of the background knowledge of an evangelist–assuming the identity of authorship of Luke and Acts. As such, there was likely to be greater scrutiny of who was saying what; recall Paul’s “different gospel”. As such, being able to trace one’s lineage back to the Mayflower, or to the Conqueror. This is important because it allows the disparate communities to have a sense of cohesion, that they are all the same group, that they share a common belief system. As the network of communities grew, and as they became aware of one another, this sense of unity would be desirable from both human and doctrinal standpoints. In addition, we have yet another occurrence of the need to dispense with Jewish dietary laws. Upon being sent out, they are told to “eat whatever is put in front of you”; IOW, if they serve you pork, eat it. We’ve come across three or four of these so far, and there will be at least one more in Acts. Giving permission to ignore this aspect of Judaism was very important for the early proto-Christian and Christian communities. Too strict an insistence on maintaining them would have greatly restricted the spread of the new religion. Indeed Paul had figured this out by the time he wrote Galatians. And yet, other subsequent writers felt the need to include their own version of Jesus giving the OK for this. Very important, indeed.

Finally there is the story of Martha and Mariam. As with the injunction about eating, we have a post-Jesus approval of women taking an active interest in matters of doctrine. Jesus himself reproves Martha’s remonstrance against her sister’s un-womanly behavior. This I think is an indication of the importance of the role women had assumed by the time Luke wrote. Otherwise, there would be no need for such an ex post facto from Jesus. The time when Luke is writing is perhaps an especially fluid time, the point where the forward momentum of the movement was creating a sense of how widespread the acceptance of Jesus had become–hence the 70–but it was before a true hierarchy had settled in and taken control. That would come in the next few decades.

Luke Chapter 10:38-42

Somehow I managed to set up the last post without noticing that there was such a short section left in this chapter. Oh well. This is very short, and it should go fairly quickly. Those sound like famous last words, so let’s get on to the

Text

38 Ἐν δὲ τῷ πορεύεσθαι αὐτοὺς αὐτὸς εἰσῆλθεν εἰς κώμην τινά: γυνὴ δέ τις ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτόν.

39 καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαριάμ, [ἣ] καὶ παρακαθεσθεῖσα πρὸς τοὺς πόδας τοῦ κυρίου ἤκουεν τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ.

40 ἡ δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν: ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπεν, Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπεν διακονεῖν; εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός

41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ κύριος, Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ θορυβάζῃ περὶ πολλά,

42 ἑνὸς δέ ἐστιν χρεία/ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός. Μαριὰμ γὰρ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο ἥτις οὐκ ἀφαιρεθήσεται αὐτῆς.

In their departing, he (Jesus) came to a certain village. A certain woman by the name Martha received them. (39) And to her (dative of possession, like c’est a moi in French) was a sister named Mariam, [who] having sat herself by the feet of the lord listened to his speech. (40) Martha, OTOH, being encumbered regarding much ministering, standing said, “Lord, does it not concern you that my sister left to me the ministering (as in, “waiting upon them”). So tell her in order that she assist me.” (41) Answering, the lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you care about and are trouble by many things. One thing is necessary. {Variant reading of this: But of a few (things), one is necessary}. For Mariam has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. 

First, just want to point out that there is apparently a fairly significant variation in the different mss traditions for the first half of Jesus’ last sentence.  I have provided the Greek for both, and translated both. I checked several different versions of the Greek NT, and found both versions more less equally distributed. This means I checked four versions, and found each reading twice; however, this may not be a bad sample size for this and may indicate a rough equality in occurrence. Either way, I’m simply not qualified to render an opinion on which is the superior tradition. However, I will venture an uneducated guess and say that the first version, “one thing is necessary” is most likely to be the original. I say this because I can see where this reading is perhaps not entirely clear. The second version, “of a few (things), one is necessary” is a more complicated sentence structure. Now, there are reasons to think that structure should simplify rather than become more complex, and that is valid. But it’s also possible to look at this and say that the more complicated reading is an attempt to clarify the meaning. It also makes the Greek a bit more elegant, setting up something like a chiastic construction, or a parallel construction, or whatever you want to call it by playing off the contrast between many…few. This cross-reference doesn’t work quite as well in the shorter version, because the grammatical contrast between many…one is not nearly as sharply drawn. Regardless, this can be argued in either direction, and it apparently has been argued in both directions given the rough equality of the distribution. And there are more aspects to the argument than mere style, which is the only one receiving my attention. So, we’ll leave it at that.

Editor’s note: Just noticed the Latin. It seems to agree more closely with the first version, the shorter one. So that is definitely another factor in its favour. 

As for the text itself, this is unique to Luke. Interestingly, while the characters of Martha and Mary were not found in M&M, they do reappear later in John; not only do they reappear in the fourth gospel, they are given a brother named Lazarus, which name we will encounter in a story later on in Luke. So we can be pretty certain that John was very much aware of Luke. As for the appearance of these two women, and their continued role in John, I might suspect that two women by these names became significant patrons of the nascent movement at some point after Mark, and perhaps after Matthew. The names entered the story from somewhere, and for some reason. What are those reasons? I tend to suspect they resemble the introduction of the Magdalene at the beginning of the Passion Story. Especially interesting is that we are talking about three women. It has been pointed out that in the ancient world, young women–teenage girls, really–often married older men. Taking the initial age disparity and adding the general tendency of men to die younger, the result was a significant number of fairly young widows. I has been suggested that Paul encouraged these widows to remain celibate and not remarry as a means of preserving their money for use by the communities Paul founded. My suspicion is that Mary Magdalene and Martha and Mary were such patrons. 

And note that Mariam is particularly taken with Jesus’ teaching, to the point she neglects her “traditional” role as a caretaker. What is more interesting is that, not only does Jesus not reprove Mariam for this “unwomanly” interest in his teaching, he tells Martha that Mariam is correct to take this interest, and that Mariam has her priorities straight. Thus this falls into the category of stories that include the Faith of the Centurion and the All Food is Clean speech, wherein Jesus is giving retroactive approval to behaviour that came about from the circumstances after his death. The Centurion allows acceptance of pagans into the fold; the All Food is Clean speech allows the relaxation (or ignoring) of Jewish dietary restrictions; this story gives permission for women to listen to the teachings and take an active role in learning.

Also, let’s not forget that someone named Mariam was there at the crucifixion. She was with  We are told that these women ministered to Jesus. This is code for providing financial backing, I suspect. And I do not suggest that this Mariam is the same as the Mariam mentioned by Mark, largely because the Mariam from Mark was said to have come with Jesus from Galilee, whereas this Mariam seems to be living more or less outside Jerusalem. And John picks this up as well, since Mary and Martha and Lazarus are said to live in Bethany, which is just outside Jerusalem. Bethany is where Mark says Jesus stayed in the last week of his life. What this indicates to me is that there was a patron who sponsored the group, perhaps at the end of Jesus’ life, but more likely in the years following. This sponsor was a woman, and she was important enough to the group that stories were created about her, just as stories were created about the Magdalene. Mary and Martha were eventually given a brother, but the Magdalene was credited with being one of the first to see Jesus after the Resurrection–in the gospel stories, anyway. Paul doesn’t mention her. Giving this cluster of facts a proper historical analysis, I would suggest that Mary M became a sponsor sometime after Paul, after his doctrine of Resurrection had become entrenched in the tradition, or perhaps she helped entrench it in the tradition. She may have been responsible in some large degree for the creation of the Passion Story, explaining a) why this is when she appears in the narrative; and b) why she plays such a large role in the post-resurrection story. She may help account for the implication in M&M that the centre of the movement moved back to Galilee after Jesus’ death, when Paul clearly indicates that James the Just and the important leaders of the group were in Jerusalem. Perhaps Mary and Martha belong to this latter group; but they definitely came into the story after Mary Magdalene, and they–or the community that was originally founded by one or both of these women–continued to be important enough to be included in the story by John. 

Here I think is where we double back to the permission spoken of in the previous paragraph. Since these women were, or became, so important to the movement, it became necessary to grant this permission. Given that it would have taken quite a bit to force the men to grant this privilege, I’m thinking that the leverage the women had was financial. Money talked even back then.

38 Cum autem irent, ipse intravit in quoddam castellum, et mulier quaedam Martha nomine excepit illum.

39 Et huic erat soror nomine Maria, quae etiam sedens secus pedes Domini audiebat verbum illius.

40 Martha autem satagebat circa frequens ministerium; quae stetit et ait: “Domine, non est tibi curae quod soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare? Dic ergo illi, ut me adiuvet”.

41 Et respondens dixit illi Dominus: “Martha, Martha, sollicita es et turbaris erga plurima,

42 porro unum est necessarium; Maria enim optimam partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea”.

 

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός ⸃·

Luke Chapter 10:17-24

In this short section we have the return of the Seventy(-two) and then a brief private discussion between Jesus and his gang of followers. With luck we’ll be able to get through this relatively quickly, but who knows what the text will actually turn up? There is a strong argument that I should read this stuff ahead of time; however, I prefer the spontaneity, but I especially like the immediate reaction free from preconceived notions of what to expect. If the text is surprising, let’s be surprised and deal with it on those terms.

Text

17 Ὑπέστρεψαν δὲ οἱ ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο] μετὰ χαρᾶς λέγοντες, Κύριε, καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια ὑποτάσσεται ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου.

18 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ἐθεώρουν τὸν Σατανᾶνὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα.

The Seventy(-two) returned with joy, saying, “Lord, and the demons were arranged under us in your name”. (18) He said to them, “Behold Satan as lightening from the sky falling “. 

This is really interesting. Contrary to popular belief, most elements of the Satan myth are extra-biblical. Those aspects that are in the canonical Scripture are largely found in Apocalypse. One key fact to remember is that the name Lucifer is found nowhere in the Bible. Bear in mind that the etymology of “Lucifer” is Latin; satannos is Hebrew and diabolos is Greek. The Latin base for Lucifer is a priori evidence of its late entry into the myth. However, this throwaway line had a completely outsized role in the development of the myth, Everyone knows the story of Satan/Lucifer’s rebellion against God and his subsequently being overthrown and cast into the deepest part of Hell. This line helped create that story. What happened with the NT is that, once it was written and accepted, subsequent generations kept re-reading the words. When they came across something like this–and this line in particular–they had to explain what it meant and make it work with other parts of the NT–and the OT–so that the whole thing fit together to tell a single, complete, story. Of course it didn’t all fit; there are discrepancies, inconsistencies, and downright contradictions all over the place. Which version of Paul’s conversion is correct? But it was lines like this that spurred the growth of the stories about Satan/Lucifer. Why did he fall? That question had to be answered. Thus was born the great body of inferential knowledge that led to things like Mary Magdalene being a prostitute, Purgatory, and the entire myth of Fallen Lucifer. In this development, as with the stories of people like St Phillip, we see a really clear parallel to the way the Arthur legend grew, accumulating characters and deeds as it progressed forward through time.

17 Reversi sunt autem septuaginta duo cum gaudio dicentes: “ Domine, etiam daemonia subiciuntur nobis in nomine tuo! ”.

18 Et ait illis: “ Videbam Satanam sicut fulgur de caelo cadentem.

19 ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ὑμῖν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων, καὶ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ ἐχθροῦ, καὶ οὐδὲν ὑμᾶς οὐ μὴ ἀδικήσῃ. 

20 πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ μὴ χαίρετε ὅτι τὰ πνεύματα ὑμῖν ὑποτάσσεται, χαίρετε δὲ ὅτι τὰ ὀνόματα ὑμῶν ἐγγέγραπταιἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

“Look, I gave to you the power to trample upon serpents and skorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing disrespected you. (20) Except in this do not be glad that you placed the spirits under you, but be glad that the name of you (plural) has been written in the heavens.   

These two verses are unique to Luke, although the bit about snakes is implied in Mark. This is all very interesting in its content, but the what catches me short is the bit about “no one disrespected you”. The Greek is <<adikese>>, which is formed from the root <<dikē>> with the prefix of negation <<a>>. Now, this is all very fine and good, but the root of the word in Greek has an entirely different connotation than the English translation. Even the Latin comes from an entirely different direction. The root forms <<δικαιοσύνη>>, which is one of Paul’s favourite words; it is usually translated as “justify”. The problem is that all the Latin words are built from the root of ius, which is “law”. <<dikē>> does not have this connotation whatsoever. The Greek word for “law” is nomos, which is the ending of words like astro-nomy. The Latin is noceo, which implies physical harm, which is how the word is usually rendered in English. But the Greek word, in Classical usage, generally lacks the idea of physical harm. Of course, “NT Greek” (whatever that is) recognizes that doing physical harm is a legitimate meaning of the word; but let’s recall that NT Greek was created by people who had been steeped in the Latin tradition for a millennium, and that this is an instance where that very deep tradition demonstrates its continued influence.

OK, so how should the word be translated here? I have chosen “disrespected”, and a good case could be made that my rendering is no better than the standard one. I chose this because it reflects an attitude rather than physical confrontation, like torches and pitchforks, or cudgels and stones, and I chose this because the reflection of an attitude is, IMO, closer to the original word. Granted, the idea that “nothing” disrespected them may feel a bit awkward, I think that is more a reflection of English rather than Greek. And it could be argued that “disrespect” just doesn’t make as much sense in the context, and that the word had come to include physical harm, and I would have to respect those positions, because they are certainly valid. But, again, one of the intentions of this blog is to provide a tool for anyone wishing to learn (or brush up on) Greek. So I’m hewing more closely to the original than might be poetic or euphonious, or even common-sensical. Oh well.

One last word. The final verse, which tells them to rejoice because their names are written in the heavens is interesting. In Judaism, on Rosh Hashanah, the idea is that God writes your name in the Book of Life, and you will live to see the next new year. One can find the influence of that attitude here. But I would suggest that it also carries the residue of pagan astrology. This suggestion is especially potent if we choose to translate it as “in the heavens” rather than as “in Heaven”, or even “heaven” as it usually is rendered. Luke’s word is plural just as it was in Matthew. In the pagan sense, the idea of a name being written in the heavens is astrological. So which is it? The idea of names written in the heavens is unique to Luke; does this represent the developing Christian doctrine of salvation? Or a hangover from paganism? I just did some looking through the Great Scott and noticed something peculiar: among pagan Greek authors in the cites provided, the word is always singular. However, in the LXX, we get ouranoi, the heavens, as we get here. That would explain why Matthew uses the plural form, and probably accounts for the usage here. So, based on this bit of research, I would say it’s Christian. 

19 Ecce dedi vobis potestatem calcandi supra serpentes et scorpiones et supra omnem virtutem inimici; et nihil vobis nocebit.

20 Verumtamen in hoc nolite gaudere, quia spiritus vobis subiciuntur; gaudete autem quod nomina vestra scripta sunt in caelis ”.

21Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἠγαλλιάσατο [ἐν] τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ καὶ εἶπεν, Ἐξομολογοῦμαί σοι, πάτερ, κύριε τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅτι ἀπέκρυψας ταῦτα ἀπὸ σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν, καὶ ἀπεκάλυψας αὐτὰ νηπίοις: ναί, ὁ πατήρ, ὅτι οὕτως εὐδοκία ἐγένετο ἔμπροσθέν σου.

“In that hour he rejoiced [in] the sacred breath and said, ‘I confess to you, father, lord of the sky and the earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and sagacious and revealed (apokalypsas) them to your childish ones. Yes, oh father, that in this way it became good will before you’.

Who is doing the rejoicing? That is not entirely clear. It is what the Latin says, and how all four of my crib translations render this. Hmmm…did some closer checking. All the translations I checked close the quote of Jesus talking at the end of the previous verse (20), and this verse marks a shift. Strictly speaking, it’s not part of the discourse above, but it’s apparently Jesus rejoicing that the names of the 70(2) have been written in the heavens. I guess that makes sense enough. But it’s a great example of how reading the straight Greek, w/o the intervention of centuries of editors, can give one a different perspective on all of this. So this is an example of what happens when one ventures into this terra incognito without a guide. Am I missing things? Of course. But I think I’m also seeing things that the standard guides do not, since they largely stopped looking long ago.

Looking at it again, what this really feels like is a one-off, something stuck in here because Luke didn’t know where else to put it. Update: Having taken a glance back at Matthew, this pericope comes directly after the “Woes” speech. As such, the context is a bit more clear. This is actually one of those times where Luke messed a bit with the order, and Luke’s placement did not work nearly as well as Matthew’s did. Score one (very minor) point to the Q people.

“Childish ones” is sort of an irreverence on my part. The word is nepios, ultimately the root of “nepotism”. Interestingly, in Latin, nepos means “nephew”. In Greek it does mean “child”, particularly a child between birth and puberty. The Latin renders this as parvuli, “little ones”, the way the French might say mes petites, as Miss Clavell called Madeline and the other eleven girls in the children’s book. In Greek, the word also has the connotation of “childish”. Hence, this is the word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians when he says, “…when I was a child, I spoke as a child…” This is important to bring out here, I think, because it is so obviously contrasted with ‘the wise and sagacious ones’ in the sentence. So just rendering as “children” that contrast becomes, as they say, lost in translation. 

21 In ipsa hora exsultavit Spiritu Sancto et dixit: “ Confiteor tibi, Pater, Domine caeli et terrae, quod abscondisti haec a sapientibus et prudentibus et revelasti ea parvulis; etiam, Pater, quia sic placuit ante te.

22 Πάντα μοι παρεδόθη ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ οὐδεὶς γινώσκει τίς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ, καὶ τίς ἐστιν ὁ πατὴρ εἰ μὴ ὁ υἱὸς καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν βούληται ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι.

23 Καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπεν, Μακάριοι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ οἱ βλέποντες ἃ βλέπετε.

24 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι πολλοὶ προφῆται καὶ βασιλεῖς ἠθέλησαν ἰδεῖν ἃ ὑμεῖς βλέπετε καὶ οὐκ εἶδαν, καὶ ἀκοῦσαι ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ οὐκ ἤκουσαν.

“All was given to me by the father, and no one knows who is the son if not the father, nor (knows) who is the father if not the son, and to whom the son wishes to reveal”. (23) And turning towards his disciples, in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes (and) those seeing what you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings wished to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it”. 

Both of these sentiments are expressed in Matthew, making them supposedly Q material. However, IMO, the sentiments herein expressed are decidedly post-Jesus. These go beyond anything Paul ever said about Jesus. He never claimed that Jesus had this kind of a relationship with God, and he certainly didn’t claim this about the living Jesus. The latter, in Paul’s view, only became the anointed at the Resurrection. So these kinds of statements really don’t fit with a living Jesus. Which is why suspect so much of Q to date not much earlier than Matthew, assuming that Matthew is not their author. And I believe Matthew is their author in some degree. In some large degree. So the idea that these sayings were preserved in a written source that bypassed Mark and was passed down faithfully for fifty years, IMO, strains credulity. But, I’ve said that before; however, just to be clear, I suspect that I’ll say it again. And probably a few more times after that. 

22 Omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo; et nemo scit qui sit Filius, nisi Pater, et qui sit Pater, nisi Filius et cui voluerit Filius revelare”.

23 Et conversus ad discipulos seorsum dixit: “Beati oculi, qui vident, quae videtis.

24 Dico enim vobis: Multi prophetae et reges voluerunt videre, quae vos videtis, et non viderunt, et audire, quae auditis, et non audierunt ”.

Luke Chapter 10:1-16

Continuing our snail’s-pace progress with Luke, we start a new chapter. This section and at least a portion of the next will deal with the Sending of the Seventy. This both is, and is not, unique to Luke. In none of the other gospels does Jesus send out seventy, nor does he send out two batches of “apostles” as happens in Luke. We had the Sending of the Twelve at the beginning of the previous chapter, but that was a very brief affair. Most of what comes in this section applied to the sending of the twelve in M&M.

Why the duplication? Why Seventy? The number may indicate the changed circumstances of what can truly be called the nascent Church. Rather than the smaller circumstances described by Mark, who continually felt the need to explain why so many Jews were not Christians, by Luke’s time Christianity–as it can truly be called now–was a going concern. That’s one thing. Another, however, is the knowledge of the mission of Paul held by Luke. Because of the latter, there were church communities throughout the Eastern Mediterranean as well as a community in Rome that dated back 40 or 50 years. Rather than explain an apparent failure, or at least a less-than-optimal outcome as Mark did, Luke had to explain the movement’s success. But wait, there’s more. Given that the knowledge of Paul’s mission had come into a wider audience, one may suspect that there was a certain level of uneasiness about Paul’s somewhat ambiguous role in the success. After all, Paul had never met Jesus; this made the establishment of so many communities by him rather an awkward fact. Could Paul truly be called a disciple of Jesus? Well, yes, but only if you squint a little bit. So by sending seventy, Luke provides the basis for Paul’s later mission. Jesus sent out a large number of “those who were sent out”; they must have, or at least could have, covered a lot of ground. Thus, Paul’s later mission could be seen more as confirming, rather than founding, all of these widespread communities.

In a sense, we are saying that Luke domesticated Paul. Luke brought Paul fully into the Christian fold. And the way Luke did this may help explain two other things. First and foremost, it explains Acts. By coming up with a thrilling adventure tale along the lines of Voyage of the Argo, Luke–perhaps we should say “Luke”–created a true Christian hero. Or, perhaps a Hero. But the emphasis should be placed on the adjective, rather than the noun: Christian hero. Thus was Paul brought fully into the fold. Not only that, he became a starter on The Team. The other thing Luke does is to make sure that the epistles became second-class citizens to the gospels, something that persists today. So many tracts on Jesus focus exclusively on the gospels, or at most bringing in a cite from Paul that “proves the point”. The Wikipedia entry on Acts says that the book was written without knowledge of the epistles. I disagree. As we discussed when reading Galatians, the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts can easily be extrapolated from Paul’s account of the same event. Granted, the version in Acts is dramatized by several (dozen) orders of magnitude, but the outline is there. In any case, Paul becomes a major player in the gospel world, arguably second in importance only to Jesus. He is way more significant than Peter, after all.

Anyway, enough speculation, fun though it is. On to the

Text

1 Μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ἀνέδειξεν ὁ κύριος ἑτέρους ἑβδομήκοντα [δύο], καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτοὺς ἀνὰ δύο [δύο] πρὸ προσώπου αὐτοῦ εἰς πᾶσαν πόλιν καὶ τόπον οὗ ἤμελλεν αὐτὸς ἔρχεσθαι.

And* after those things, the lord proclaimed the election** of another seventy(-two), and sent them by twos towards facing towards all the cities and places where he wished (them) to go.

*Here, the particle << δὲ >> works as a conjunction. The base is “on the other hand…” which can quickly become “but”, and “but” is a conjunction the way “and” is. So, we get a process of word development here.

**Another glaring example of “New Testament” Greek wherein the translation given bears little connexion to the Classical meaning of the word. There is a scene in Herodotus where someone is accused of holding up a shield to reflect the sun as a signal to the Persians. The word Herodotus uses is the same on as here: << anadeiknumi >>. In fairness, the Latin uses designavit, designated. From there it’s but a short hop to “appointed’, which is how the word is most often translated.

Last word on the Greek. The word for “sent out” is apostellein, and I hope that root is clear. This is another example of a standard, run-of-the-mill, garden variety, very-ordinary word gets transliterated into English where it has a very specific and religious meaning. Like baptizo.

This is perhaps the clearest evidence I could ask for to prove the point I try to make in the introduction. Why was Christianity successful by the time of Luke? Well, Jesus did sent out seventy (some mss traditions read 72, as does the Vulgate below) people to go to all the cities and places. I fudged that quote a bit; properly, it concludes with “that he wished them to go.  Makes a bit of difference. However, the point remains: Jesus sent them out, and he sent out a lot of them, and he did it before Paul. This way, the communities that were founded could be traced back to Jesus himself rather than some later follower.

This provenance is important. It is, after all, at the root of the insistence on Q. Without Q, it’s very hard to argue that Jesus actually spoke the Beatitudes or any of the other material in Mathew, but not Mark. And so with this; now the line of descent goes all the way back to the beginning, to people who were taught by Jesus. I would suggest that this became more important with the discovery of Paul and its attendant realization that many of the scattered Christian communities did not have a direct affiliation to Jesus. Once again, this is not direct evidence that Luke was aware of the Pauline corpus of writing, but throughout this book we have come across many, many instances where an inference can easily be drawn that Luke was aware of Matthew. Luke’s avoidance of Matthew is too clean. So here we have, perhaps, an implication that Luke knew of Paul and his writing, and so crafted a story to account for Paul without bringing up all the messy conflicts. 

1 Post haec autem designavit Dominus alios septuaginta duos et misit illos binos ante faciem suam in omnem civitatem et locum, quo erat ipse venturus.

2 ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Ὁ μὲν* θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ* ἐργάται ὀλίγοι: δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐργάτας ἐκβάλῃ εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ.

3 ὑπάγετε: ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς ἄρνας ἐν μέσῳ λύκων.

4 μὴ βαστάζετε βαλλάντιον, μὴ πήραν, μὴ ὑποδήματα, καὶ μηδένα κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἀσπάσησθε.

5 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν εἰσέλθητε οἰκίαν, πρῶτον λέγετε, Εἰρήνη τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ.

He said to them, “On one hand* the reaping/harvest is great; on the other* the workers are few. So pray to the lord of the harvest how he may throw towards his harvest. (3) Rise up: Look, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. (4) Do not carry a bag, nor money, no cloak, and greet no one on the road. (5) In which house you enter, first say ‘Peace (be) upon this house’.”

*This is a rare instance when both parts of the << μὲν…δὲ >> construction are present. The first is generally omitted, as being understood. Boy howdy, do I remember how much I hated that when I was learning Greek and Latin.

There is not much here, really. The sheep among wolves bit is considered Q because it’s here and in Matthew. There is a difference in vocabulary. Matthew used the term “probata”, which is a very generic term, one that could almost be applied to any quadruped kept in a flock or a herd. It is reasonable to translate this as “cattle”, even in American usage that word always refers to cows. Here, Luke uses “arnas”; in Apocalypse, the sacred are washed in the blood of the “arnion”. So which word was in Q? Those who (claim to) know, probably choose the word Luke uses here. Because, we know (for a fact!) that Luke’s version is the more “primitive”, which means it holds more closely to the original text (of a book that was never written. Fiendishly clever, that!); hence, “blessed are the poor” rather than “poor in spirit”. 

However, I’ve just made a discovery. The word used here is actually “aren”, which is the base for for “sheep”; the use here is unique. Revelations uses “arnion”, which is a little sheep, hence, a lamb. Revelation uses the word a lot, and John uses it once. The rest of the time, when we’re talking about sheep, chances are the word used is “probaton”. IOW, the word in Q would almost certainly not have been “aren/arnion”; most likely, it would have been “probaton” which means Matthew is the more “primitive”. Oops. PS. Kloppenberg’s Q Reader agrees, and translates as “sheep”, which I’m assuming sits atop “probaton”. So Luke is the more primitive, except when he’s not. The rules for Q are very, very fluid.

2 Et dicebat illis: “Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci; rogate ergo Dominum messis, ut mittat operarios in messem suam.

3 “Ite; ecce ego mitto vos sicut agnos inter lupos.

4 “Nolite portare sacculum neque peram neque calceamenta et neminem per viam salutaveritis.

5 “In quamcumque domum intraveritis, primum dicite: “Pax huic domui”.

6 καὶ ἐὰν ἐκεῖ ᾖ υἱὸς εἰρήνης, ἐπαναπαήσεται ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν: εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἀνακάμψει.

(6) And if a son of peace should be there, your peace should rest upon him. If not, it (the peace) will return upon you.

I have to stop and comment on this. I checked, and this reads much the same in Matthew. What arrests me is the idea of peace returning to them as if it’s a tangible object that can be passed back and forth rather than an abstract concept that is not really there even when it is. Are we talking about an inner peace? It’s kind of hard to tell exactly what this means. When I say that I mean that it’s hard to be sure what the author meant, or understood by this. I checked in the Great Scott (L&S unabridged) and the overwhelming Classical use of the word is to describe the active state of non-war. It’s largely a political and/or military concept. Here we have something else. Now, we in the modern world are very familiar with the idea of “inner peace”; we’re familiar with the idea even if we’re not so familiar with the actual experience of it. We need to be very careful about not reading an anachronistic understanding of the expression back into the First Century. There are a couple of places in Plato’s Republic that could be referring to a state such as we think of, but it’s not a common thing. At least, it hadn’t been. Whether the followers of Jesus were pioneers in this attitude, or whether they were simply moving along with the cultural stream is a question that, for the present, is difficult to answer.

6 Et si ibi fuerit filius pacis, requiescet super illam pax vestra; sin autem, ad vos revertetur.

7 ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ μένετε, ἐσθίοντες καὶ πίνοντες τὰ παρ’ αὐτῶν, ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ. μὴ μεταβαίνετε ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν.

“Remain in that house, eating and drinking the thinks they have, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Do not go out from house to house.

First of all, I keep thinking that I can lump several of these injunctions into a single block that can then be commented on in toto. But each line has something worth noting, so I stop. In going to compare this section to Matthew, it appears the harmonies consider this a different bit of text from the sending of the twelve. As such, it stands alone, without the comparison text next to it. So this has to be compared to those texts. But what caught me short was the “worker is worthy of his wage”. This reads a bit differently than in Matthew. Instead of “wage”, Matthew says “the labourer is worthy of his nourishment”, the sense being is that those preaching will be fed rather than paid. This seems significant, but I can’t for the life of me say why it should be. Both imply something given in exchange for the preaching. Recall in Galatians that Paul self-justifies by saying he was never a burden to the community where he was staying, but that he earned money as a tent-maker. Then I wanted to tie this to Paul, since it’s a word he uses, but it’s not uncommon in Matthew either. In both of those, however, the word usually means “reward”, or, at least, that’s how it gets translated. The original Classical meaning is closer to the way Luke uses it here, as wages. I suppose the thing to do is go back to those passages where “reward” is used to see if, perhaps, “wages” might be more appropriate. But, even then, “reward” is also an acceptable use of the word in Classical Greek.

7 In eadem autem domo manete edentes et bibentes, quae apud illos sunt: dignus enim est operarius mercede sua. Nolite transire de domo in domum.

8 καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν πόλιν εἰσέρχησθε καὶ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐσθίετε τὰ παρα τιθέμενα ὑμῖν,

9 καὶ θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς, καὶ λέγετε αὐτοῖς, Ἤγγικεν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

“And in each city you go to and they receive you, eat what is put before you. (9) And heal those (who are) debilitated in it (the city), and say to them, ‘the kingdom of God is nearly upon you’.

I missed this in the previous verse. The injunction to eat what they have, or what is put before you is actually permission not to fuss about Jewish dietary laws. Indeed, this is more like a command not to follow them. It’s very cleverly presented so that this implication does not stand out on first read. Or second or third or fourth. Again, Jesus never said these words; had he, Paul would not have talked about all things being clean and Peter would not have had the dream in Acts. These permissions not to be Jews would not have been necessary because it would have been clear that Jesus had authorized this from the start. That didn’t happen, so it had to be put into the mouths of later speakers.

8 Et in quamcumque civitatem intraveritis, et susceperint vos, manducate, quae apponuntur vobis,

9 et curate infirmos, qui in illa sunt, et dicite illis: “Appropinquavit in vos regnum Dei”.

10 εἰς ἣν δ’ ἂν πόλιν εἰσέλθητε καὶ μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς, ἐξελθόντες εἰς τὰς πλατείας αὐτῆς εἴπατε,

11 Καὶ τὸν κονιορτὸν τὸν κολληθέντα ἡμῖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ὑμῶν εἰς τοὺς πόδας ἀπομασσόμεθα ὑμῖν: πλὴν τοῦτο γινώσκετε ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.

12 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι Σοδόμοις ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ.

“And in each city you go to and they do not receive you, going out to the streets of it and say, ‘And the dust from your city we wipe the clinging dust clinging from our feet, but know this, that the kingdom of God approaches’. I tell you, that for the Sodomites in the day that approaches it will be more tolerable than for that city.

We finally have a section that does not particularly require much comment. Aside from the reference to Sodom, his is Triple Tradition material, and doesn’t really carry any unique features. While it may not be unique, I would like to say a few words about Sodom. Obviously, Sodom was a Jewish cultural reference. I am curious as to how well non-Jews would have gotten the reference. Now, this particular verse is not in Mark in most ms traditions, although it is in Mark in the KJV. It is not in the version of the Vulgate below, and this version has the nihil obstat of the Vatican. It is footnoted in my hard-copy Greek NT. So, assuming that this was not in Mark, as most translations apparently do, the most likely possibility is that this was added by Matthew. And this would fit in nicely with the rest of Matthew, who was wont to display his erudition by working in lots of quotes from the OT to “prove” it was about Jesus. There was “calling his son out of Egypt” when the Holy Family was called back from Egypt after the death of Herod the Great, and the quote that “he will be called a Nazarene” when he locates Jesus’ home town there to match the quote, and dozens of others. So here is another place where Matthew does this again, and Luke follows.

Here’s the funny thing. Had the woe to Sodom been in Mark, I would have seriously given it consideration as something Jesus authentically said. As I’ve gone on, I’m coming to think that Christianity has very little to do with Jesus, and a lot to do with those who came after him. As such, something peculiarly Jewish like Sodom I would seem much more likely to be coming from the Jewish Jesus rather than the much more pagan later writers, meaning Matthew and later. But, this can’t be traced to Mark. The irony? Since it’s not in Mark, it supposedly came from Q, which supposedly came from Jesus. So, stuff in Q, which is supposed to be authentic, isn’t. Stuff in the Triple Tradition, or simply in Mark, is much more likely to be authentic. It’s not necessarily authentic, but it has to be given serious consideration. The stuff in Q is almost assuredly of later composition. Or, at least 90% of later composition. It’s possible a few things slipped past Mark and made it to Matthew more or less intact, but it’s a very few things indeed.

10 In quamcumque civitatem intraveritis, et non receperint vos, exeuntes in plateas eius dicite:

11 “Etiam pulverem, qui adhaesit nobis ad pedes de civitate vestra, extergimus in vos; tamen hoc scitote, quia appropinquavit regnum Dei”.

12 Dico vobis quia Sodomis in die illa remissius erit quam illi civitati.

13 Οὐαί σοι, Χοραζίν: οὐαί σοι, Βηθσαϊδά: ὅτι εἰ ἐν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἐγενήθησαν αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ γενόμεναι ἐν ὑμῖν, πάλαι ἂν ἐν σάκκῳ καὶ σποδῷ καθήμενοι μετενόησαν.

14 πλὴν Τύρῳ καὶ Σιδῶνι ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται ἐν τῇ κρίσει ἢ ὑμῖν.

15 καὶ σύ, Καφαρναούμ, μὴ ἕως οὐρανοῦ ὑψωθήσῃ; ἕως τοῦ ἅ|δου καταβήσῃ.

16 Ὁ ἀκούων ὑμῶν ἐμοῦ ἀκούει, καὶ ὁ ἀθετῶν ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ ἀθετεῖ: ὁ δὲ ἐμὲ ἀθετῶν ἀθετεῖ τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με.

“Woe to you, Chorazin; woe to you, Bethsaida; that if in Tyre and Sidon had occurred the powers which occurred in you, long ago in sack-cloth (i.e., burlap) and ashes being seated they had repented, (14) Except to Tyre and Sidon it will be more bearable in the judgement than for you, (15) And you, Caphernaum, why not until you be exalted to the sky? Until Hades comes down. (16) The one hearing you hears me, and the one despising you despises me. But the one despising me despises the one who sent me”.

This is so obviously post-Jesus that it shouldn’t need the slightest bit of comment. Well…Seriously, this is clearly an ex-post facto rationalization of why the pagans had converted and most Jews hadn’t. The reason? I have come to suspect that Jesus’ original message did not resonate all that well with Jews. He was likely a charismatic figure who attracted a certain following, but it was the coming of Paul and his appeal to the pagans that changed the game. This is an “explanation” for that process. By the time Matthew wrote (presumably of his own creation) these words, some fifty years had passed since the standard reckoning of Jesus’ death. Matthew, being versed in the HS, was well aware of, say the books of Judges, or Kings, in which the leaders of Israel* did evil in the sight of God. So Matthew updated that to, more or less, the time of Jesus. This fits in nicely with the OT prophets preaching repentance, and woe-ing about the neglect of YHWH. So now they neglected Jesus, and the circle was complete.

 

*Israel. As I understand the history embedded deeply–very, very deeply–in the HS, Israel and Judea both spoke Hebrew, so they had that in common. What they did not share was a steadfast adherence to YHWH; that was a Judahite thing. And the Judeans created this myth of a united monarchy ruled from Jerusalem. This is almost certainly a pious fiction. The situation was most likely a strongish, middling kingdom in Israel that had periods of middling power, and then there were the poor cousins in Jerusalem. When Israel was crushed by Assyria, Judah jumped on the propaganda bandwagon to create a myth whereby they were the rightful successors to the former territory of Israel. This led to the united monarchy when, in fact, David was a breakaway from the rule of Saul in Israel. David rebelled, lucked into the capture of Jerusalem, and there set up his own line that really and truly had nothing to do with Israel.

13 Vae tibi, Chorazin! Vae tibi, Bethsaida! Quia si in Tyro et Sidone factae fuissent virtutes, quae in vobis factae sunt, olim in cilicio et cinere sedentes paeniterent.

14 Verumtamen Tyro et Sidoni remissius erit in iudicio quam vobis.

15 Et tu, Capharnaum, numquid usque in caelum exaltaberis? Usque ad infernum demergeris!

16 Qui vos audit, me audit; et, qui vos spernit, me spernit; qui autem me spernit, spernit eum, qui me misit ”.

 

Luke Chapter 9:37-45-Updated

Update: I added a comment to Verse 45 at the bottom of the page. I realized I completely neglected this.

Here we continue with yet another abridged version of a Triple Tradition story.  In between sections, I took a few minutes to go through the first bit of my Harmony. So far, my theory is holding. Luke is generally the shortest version when all three gospels have a story. It’s not always by a lot, but it is pretty consistent. And I haven’t gotten to Chapters 8 & 9 where I believe the phenomenon becomes more pronounced. Conversely, when Matthew significantly shortens Mark, Luke’s version comes somewhere in between. There are a few times when Luke has the longest version. Having glanced ahead (spoiler alert!) I saw that we will be coming onto the material unique to Luke, including (in no particular order) The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son, Zaccheus, etc. My sense in reading Chapter 9 has been that Luke is trying to hurry through the required bits of the Triple Tradition so that he can get to his own original material. And yes, I fully suspect Luke is the author of most of his unique material. With that, on to the

Text

37 Ἐγένετο δὲ τῇ ἑξῆς ἡμέρᾳ κατελθόντων αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄρους συνήντησεν αὐτῷ ὄχλος πολύς.

38 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐβόησεν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, δέομαί σου ἐπιβλέψαι ἐπὶ τὸν υἱόν μου, ὅτι μονογενής μοί ἐστιν,

39 καὶ ἰδοὺ πνεῦμα λαμβάνει αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξαίφνης κράζει, καὶ σπαράσσει αὐτὸν μετὰ ἀφροῦ καὶ μόγις ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ συντρῖβον αὐτόν:

40 καὶ ἐδεήθην τῶν μαθητῶν σου ἵνα ἐκβάλωσιν αὐτό, καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν.

It became on the next day they having come from the mountain a multitudinous crowd met him. (38) And behold, a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I need you to look upon my son, that is my only born, and behold, a spirit seized him, and he suddenly cries out, and he makes him retch with foam, and scarcely goes away from him it bruises him, (40) and I asked your disciples in order they cast it out, and they were not able”.

Let’s start with a comment on the Greek. I was always puzzled by the translation of “tore him with foam”. That doesn’t entirely make sense. So I check the Great Scott and, behold! one of the other meanings of the word rendered as “tore” is “to retch, w/o being able to vomit”. Now that makes sense. The kid goes into spasms where he convulses with dry heaves and, subsequently or consequently, he foams at the mouth. I do not know much about epilepsy or other afflictions that may cause this, so I shan’t speculate. I will, however, take credit for taking a deeper look at this. Then, taking a look at my crib translations, I noticed that, while the KJV does render this as “teareth”, more modern translations change this to “convulse”, as I did. It’s also worth pointing out that the KJV uses the same word in the versions of Mark and Matthew, saying that the demon “tears” at the boy with foam. I point this out because the KJV is most often the closest to the original Greek; it’s considered the definitive work in English, IIRC, among fundamentalists who take the words literally. I’m not sure what they may have to say about this.

Note that we are dealing with a sprit, not a demon. Mark always refers to it as such, but later in the story Luke will call it a demon, and then an unclean spirit. This is linguistic evidence that, by the time Luke wrote at least, these terms were interchangeable. I believe that they were in the earlier gospels, but I never really noted, or noticed the use of these different words in the same story. Also note that Mark alone calls the spirit “mute” (alalon). Neither Matthew nor Luke does so. But let us recall that Matthew did not say that the boy was possessed by a spirit, or demon, or anything else. Matthew says that the boy was a lunatic, which is a fairly literal translation of the Greek word he used. “To be lunaticking”, or something like that, would be even more literal. The root of Matthew’s Greek word is selene, “moon”. The root of lunatic is luna, which is “moon” but in Latin.

This discrepancy should, I believe, be considered in conjunction with noting the term used to address the father in the various gospels. Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew is in the word used; here and in Mark it’s didaskelon, teacher. In Matthew it’s kyrios, lord. All three evangelists use both words frequently, so I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions from this difference. Now, the Q people would zealously use this as an example of Lk + Mk <> Mt, and they have a point.

Taking a contrary position, OTOH, it can also be pointed out that Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark by omitting that the spirit was mute. Of course, the Q people would object to that characterization; they would say something like this is not an active agreement, but a passive omission, which could have been omitted independently. And besides, there was no spirit in Matthew, so how could it be mute? This is certainly an accurate description of the situation, but other interpretations of these circumstances are certainly possoble. Recall that Luke very pointedly stressed that Jesus did not move to Caphernaum, as Matthew explicitly states. At the time, I suggested that Luke had deliberately corrected Matthew. I also think that returning back to the idea of a spirit was another deliberate decision by Luke to correct Matthew once again. Personally, I think there is a lot of this sort of “correction” of Matthew done in Luke, which is why these two “never” agree against Mark. Except for Joseph, Bethlehem, the angels…So I’m still going to put it on the Lk+Mt <> Mk. These little things are insignificant on their own, but the accumulated weight should be considered; enough of these small instances makes for telling evidence. In this way we shall steal a page from the Q peoples’ playbook: make the assertion, and then make them prove it’s wrong. This will put them on the horns of a dilemma: argue against the assertion, thereby crediting that it has merit and must be disproven; or, say the demand to prove a negative is ridiculous. In which case, they will be agreeing with me about the existence of Q.

Finally, the man asks about his “son”. He does not use the word pais that the Centurion did; rather, it’s huios, which is the standard word used for “son of God” or “son of man”. Perhaps this is the final bit of ‘proof’ needed to show that we were indeed, talking about the Centurion’s servant. Perhaps I’m the only one who still needed to be convinced of that.

There are a couple of other things to be discussed, like the disciples’ inability to cast out the spirit. That one in particular will be saved for later.

37 Factum est autem in sequenti die, descendentibus illis de monte, occurrit illi turba multa.

38 Et ecce vir de turba exclamavit dicens: “Magister, obsecro te, respice in filium meum, quia unicus est mihi;

39 et ecce spiritus apprehendit illum, et subito clamat, et dissipat eum cum spuma et vix discedit ab eo dilanians eum;

40 et rogavi discipulos tuos, ut eicerent illum, et non potuerunt”.

41 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, *)=ω γενεὰ ἄπιστος καὶ διεστραμμένη, ἕως πότε ἔσομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; προσάγαγε ὧδε τὸν υἱόν σου.

Answering, Jesus said, “O faithless and twisted generation! How long shall I be towards you and shall I bear with you? Lead your son hither.”

Ha! Guess what? I just found a place where Matthew and Luke actively agree against Mark; this is despite the fact that this never happens according to the Q people. Mark has Jesus bewailing the “faithless generation”; Matthew and Luke add the second word, here rendered as “twisted”, but is perhaps more metaphorically (and commonly) rendered as “perverse”. So, the entire superstructure of the Q argument collapses.

Maybe. To be fair, if this is indeed the only such instance, one has to be prepared to acknowledge, if not necessarily accept, the possibility that the presence of this single word, in exactly the same case, is an interpolation. See how fair I am? I point out the weaknesses in my own position; ideally, I would then provide proactive refutation of arguments based on this hole in my theory. That is, after all, how proper scholarship is done. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to create an actual argument for whether this is or is not an interpolation. It’s a single word, used in the same context and in the same case, etc. We have to ask whether this degree of exactitude argues for, or against, interpolation. The simplest explanation is, after all, that Luke simply copied Matthew. But why would Luke choose this one time and place to become a passive scribe, transcribing exactly what he found? To which a good response is, “why not here and now?” Would a later copyist of either gospel be likely to get it so perfectly? He would have to physically have to get the other text and write it in. Or, perhaps he remembered the text of the other. None of these, strictly speaking, is much of an actual argument. Rather, they are simple binary choices not terribly amenable to an argument. 

For now, we will leave it as noted that this agreement did occur, and see what happens later.

41 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “O generatio infidelis et perversa, usquequo ero apud vos et patiar vos? Adduc huc filium tuum”.

42 ἔτι δὲ προσερχομένου αὐτοῦ ἔρρηξεν αὐτὸν τὸ δαιμόνιον καὶ συνεσπάραξεν: ἐπετίμησεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ, καὶ ἰάσατο τὸν παῖδα καὶ ἀπέδωκεν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ.

43 ἐξεπλήσσοντο δὲ πάντες ἐπὶ τῇ μεγαλειότητι τοῦ θεοῦ. Πάντων δὲ θαυμαζόντων ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐποίει εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ,

44 Θέσθε ὑμεῖς εἰς τὰ ὦτα ὑμῶν τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ὁ γὰρ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μέλλει παραδίδοσθαι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων.

When he (the lad) having come up, the daimonion dashed him (the lad to the ground]) and tore him. But Jesus censured the spirit the unclean, and he healed the boy and gave him to his father. (43)  They were astounded upon the magnificence of God. All marveling upon all the things he did, he said to his disciples, (44) “Put these words into your ears, for the son of man is fated to be given over to the hands of men”. (45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.

Before getting to the main event, let’s have a bit from the warm-up act. “Put these words into your ears” is a perfectly novel, probably unique, turn of phrase. I can’t just pass over that without noting it.

The first thing to note is what is not in here. Both Matthew and Mark have Jesus say that, after being handed over, the son of man will be killed, and on the third day will rise. Why? Why not include this? First of all, we have to acknowledge that this was a conscious decision on Luke’s part. He chose not to include it for whatever reason. This seems obvious, of course, but maybe only after it’s been pointed out. This is an aspect of gospel writing that too often is overlooked, or given insufficient  thought. It may seem strange to say this, given the Q proponents’ insistence on providing a “redactionally consistent” explanation of Luke that explains every single instance where he varies from Matthew. However, I would suggest that this is not a legitimate thing to demand from the Q-naysayers; that it is not a legitimate argument, or even a legitimate aspect of an argument. Luke varies from Matthew because he is Luke, and not Matthew. Matthew is largely consistent with Mark in the placement of the so-called pericopes; Luke differs from both in placement, and largely because Matthew follows Mark’s placement so consistently. This is, once again, another of those instances where Luke felt it unnecessary to add the bit about rising because it was adequately treated in his two predecessors. Luke, once again, truncates a story of Mark because Matthew did not. 

As an aside, the Harmony I consulted separates this last part from the story of the boy with the spirit. This is sensible; the two are not related. 

There is one final trope to be discussed in this piece. We have noted that the father of the boy asked why Jesus’ disciples were not able to expel (ekballei) the spirit. This is common to all three gospels, and they all report Jesus remonstrating about the faithless (and perverse) generation. This has always seemed a bit…odd. This cry of disgust makes sense in the context of the Pharisees (or others) asking for a sign, as occurs in Mark 10. Here, perhaps, not so much. Railing about a lack of faith, OTOH, does make sense. The implication is that faith is required to make wonders happen, and that certainly makes sense. In fact, Matthew explicitly says that the reason the disciples could not cast out the demon was their “little faith”, and supplements this by adding that having faith the size of a mustard seed can give you the power to move a mountain. 

There is a caveat to this, however. 

In Mark, after this event, the disciples privately (kat’ idian) ask Jesus why they were not able to drive out the demon. Matthew repeats this, using exactly the same phrase, (kat’ idian). However, the two evangelists give very different answers. Mark said it’s because this kind (to genos) can only be expelled by prayer. I pointed this out at the time as an example of Mark’s interest in, and description of, the “magical practices” Jesus employed to effect some of his miracles. In Mark this interest has the feel of a how-to guide to exorcism or other wonders. It’s what gets called a “coaching opportunity” in the business world, a chance for Jesus to give the disciples on-the-job training. Another notable example of magical practices was Jesus spitting into some dirt to make mud that he then applied to the eyes of a blind man. Matthew, OTOH, eliminates this part of the story. Instead, he blames the failure on the disciples’ lack of faith. This is not surprising that Matthew provided a different answer, since he eliminated all descriptions of magical practice from his gospel. As an aside, it is interesting to note that some mss traditions have added the “this kind can only be driven out by prayer” into the text of Matthew. The consensus is that this is indeed a later interpolation, intended to bring Matthew more closely into line with Mark. This is an excellent example of how stories grow and the tradition becomes enlarged, and is a great cautionary tale not to be too skeptical of suggestions of interpolation.

Luke, as we see, dropped the whole (kat’ idian) section. He does not have the disciples asking Jesus anything in private, about the demon or anything else. Of course, the question should be, ‘why not?’ What is Luke’s “redactionally consistent” explanation for eliminating the whole sequence? Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my consistent explanation has been that Luke has consistently eliminated sequences like this because they have been adequately covered by both Mark and Mathew. The instances of this redactional policy of Luke are starting to a accumulate, like snowflakes. A few snowflakes aren’t worth bothering about; when they start to accumulate, however, they become significant.

42 Et cum accederet, elisit illum daemonium et dissipavit. Et increpavit Iesus spiritum immundum et sanavit puerum et reddidit illum patri eius.

43 Stupebant autem omnes in magnitudine Dei. Omnibusque mirantibus in omnibus, quae faciebat, dixit ad discipulos suos:

44 “Ponite vos in auribus vestris sermones istos: Filius enim hominis futurum est ut tradatur in manus hominum”.

45 οἱ δὲ ἠγνόουντὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο, καὶ ἦν παρακεκαλυμμένον ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἵνα μὴ αἴσθωνται αὐτό, καὶ ἐφοβοῦντο ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν περὶ τοῦ ῥήματος τούτου.

(45) They did not understand these things he said, and which having been hidden from them in order that they would not perceive him, and they feared to ask him about these words.

45 At illi ignorabant verbum istud, et erat velatum ante eos, ut non sentirent illud, et time bant interrogare eum de hoc verbo.

I have to say something about this last verse. It’s one that is in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew. But before getting to the implications of that, let’s take a moment to appreciate what this verse says. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about. That is fair enough. Jesus is making a prediction, so why would the disciples understand? I mean, on the one hand, it does seem pretty plain…but perhaps only if we assume that the disciples understood Jesus to be the son of man that Jesus is discussing. We get it, of course. When discussing Mark, one theme that kept recurring was the messianic secret; the term is not mine, but is part of the larger discourse, and it’s encountered often in the literature. My particular take on this is that Mark was trying to explain to later audiences why Jesus was not regarded as the messiah by his earliest followers. Or perhaps “make excuses” is a more appropriate description. Because the fact is, he wasn’t. Hence the bifurcation of Mark’s text into the earlier wonder-worker section, and the section on the anointed coming later. I mean, if Jesus’ own disciples didn’t fully understand who or what Jesus was, how could anyone outside the group be expected to get it? Then, as a corollary to this comes the bit about being afraid to ask. After all, if they didn’t understand, they could have asked, no? So why didn’t they? Because they were afraid. Why were they afraid? Well, that question is not even asked, let alone answered.

But let’s kept this lack of understanding in mind.

Now let’s talk about the Mark & Luke but not Matthew. On the whole, the disciples fare much better in Matthew than they did in Mark. Matthew presents them in a much, much more positive light. So it’s hardly surprising that Matthew omitted the contents of this verse. It fits with his portrayal of the disciples; IOW, it’s redactionally consistent*. So here we have yet another example of Luke putting back something that Matthew excised. 

 

*Honestly, some of the attributes that modern scholars demand of the evangelists are borderline ridiculous. These guys were not writing a thesis that was going to be graded and that they would have to defend before a panel of (possibly hostile–but, then again, maybe not) professors. They are writing about Divine Truth; the details didn’t always matter. Truth has a higher sense of vision than something that’s only striving for factual accuracy, or to be a reasonably coherent interpretation. Because one thing that’s often overlooked is that many of these same modern scholars are far from being “redactionally consistent” in their presentations.

Luke Chapter 9:18-27

This next section is the lead-up to the Transfiguration and includes the confession of Peter. This is where Mark fully made the transition from wonder-worker to Christ. As such, the passage, especially Peter’s confession, has a staged feel to it. The section has the sensibility of being created because it was necessary. So even though this was in Mark, that does not imbue this with any halo of authenticity. The question of who made this up is completely open; did it start with Mark, who needed it for the transition to the Christ narrative? Or did it come about earlier, and Mark recorded what he found. Of the three evangelists that we’ve read, I give Mark the least credit for creativity. His narrative feels too much like reporting; in fact, I’ve often categorized Mark as the journalist of the evangelists. Likewise Matthew was the rabbi (albeit of pagan origin), Luke is a novelist, and John is a theologian. Each tells more or less the same story, but from a very different perspective, uisng a very different toolkit.

Text

18 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον κατὰ μόνας συνῆσαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, καὶ ἐπηρώτησεν αὐτοὺς λέγων, Τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ὄχλοι εἶναι;

19 οἱ δὲ ἀποκριθέντες εἶπαν, Ἰωάννην τὸν βαπτιστήν, ἄλλοι δὲ Ἠλίαν, ἄλλοι δὲ ὅτι προφήτης τις τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀνέστη.

And it happened therein he praying by himself the disciples came to him and he asked them saying, “Who does the crowd say me to be?” (19) Answering, they said, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, others that (you are) some prophet of old who rose (from the dead).”

Note that this is pretty close to a verbatim repetition of what Herod said about Jesus. Given all of Luke’s creativity, he surely could have come up with another set of speculative answers, couldn’t he? The answer, probably, is “probably”; ergo, that he didn’t is likely to be significant. At least to some degree. Really, it is, IMO, a case of doubling down for emphasis. These were the prevalent speculations about Jesus–at least, after the fact–so let’s repeat them twice to ensure that no one misses the point here. And since we’ve only just discussed the implications of each of these, ther is no reason to belabor the point any further.

The unique twist, albeit a minor one, that Luke gives is that he asks what “the crowd” says of him. It bears to remember that “the crowd” was not exactly a term of endearment back then, with all sorts of negative connotations. The aspiration was to be one of the best (aristoi, optimates), and “common” is still rather a term of disparagement in England. 

18 Et factum est, cum solus esset orans, erant cum illo discipuli, et interrogavit illos dicens: “Quem me dicunt esse turbae?”.

19 At illi responderunt et dixerunt: “ Ioannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero: Propheta unus de prioribus surrexit”.

20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; Πέτρος δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ.

21 Ὁ δὲ ἐπιτιμήσας αὐτοῖς παρήγγειλεν μηδενὶ λέγειν τοῦτο,

22 εἰπὼν ὅτι Δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ ἀρχιερέων καὶ γραμματέων καὶ ἀποκτανθῆναι καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγερθῆναι.

He said to them, “Who do you say me to be?” Peter answering said, “The anointed one of God”. (21) He rebuking commanded them no one to tell this, (22) saying that “The Son of Man must suffer much and to be handed over to the elders and the high priests and scribes and to be killed and on the third day be raised”.

A word about the Greek. << τίνα >> means “who”. << τινα >> means “anyone”. Can you tell the difference? It escaped me, too, but then I cheated and looked at the Latin. The difference is that the former has an accent over the iota. I missed that at first.

There is a serious case of compression here. Luke has squeezed out every possible bit of extraneous information to get right down to the hard, crystalline crux of the matter here. That is, this is another example of the abridgement of a story told by the other two evangelists. Is this a coincidence? If we but take a moment to look at the context, something really jumps out. In the other gospels, this passage comes directly before the Transfiguration, and so it does here, too. But–and this is a big “but”–the other two gospels have several stories in between: walking on water, feeding the 4,000, eating with unclean hands, et alia.  All of them are in both gospels. IOW, Luke felt it unnecessary to include them because they had been adequately covered in both the other gospels. This, of course, implies–indeed requires–that Luke knew Matthew’s gospel. So we’ve collected a number of examples by this point. How many others are like this? And what does Luke do when Matthew doesn’t give a full account of Mark? A run through the Harmony is called for to examine this issue a bit more closely. I have a theory of what we’ll find, but it needs testing.

20 Dixit autem illis: “Vos autem quem me esse dicitis?”. Respondens Petrus dixit: “ Christum Dei”.

21 At ille increpans illos praecepit, ne cui dicerent hoc,

22 dicens: “Oportet Filium hominis multa pati et reprobari a senioribus et principibus sacerdotum et scribis et occidi et tertia die resurgere”.

23 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς πάντας, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεσθαι, ἀρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ’ ἡμέραν, καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι.

He spoke to all of them, “If someone wishes hereafter to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross each day, and follow me”.

Is it just me, or is this a rather sharp discontinuity from the previous verse? It may have something to do with the numerous pericopes that are in the other gospels that are omitted in between here. Or, I suppose the real break comes before Verse 18 that opens this section. Here’s the real issue: this is what I find so annoying about the Q people and their non-existent argument for the existence of Q. It’s the whole issue of these discontinuities. For all the world, what they feel like is a collection of disparate, unrelated sayings; that is, they sound like a collection of sayings that have nothing to do with one another. This is what a real argument for Q looks and sounds like. Lord knows that I find it reasonable to suppose the existence of such a collection based on the textual evidence. It has not so much to do with the arrangement of the material–which is a subjective measure at best–but the fact that we are dealing with pericopes in the first place. Mark famously makes almost no attempt to smooth the transitions between pericopes; in a very large number of verses, especially those beginning a new story, the first word is simply “and”. The same is so with a number of these sayings, or these stories that have Jesus making a statement. So why do the Q people insist on the “argument” from arrangement? I have no idea.

We’ve discussed this before, so I’ll point it out and move along. The injunction to “take up one’s cross” is, of course, a later invention, added after Jesus had been crucified. It simply makes no sense before then, and it’s a reference to the tribulations that came with the destruction of Jerusalem.

23 Dicebat autem ad omnes: “ Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum et tollat crucem suam cotidie et sequatur me.

24 ὃς γὰρ ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν: ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, οὗτος σώσει αὐτήν.

25 τί γὰρ ὠφελεῖται ἄνθρωπος κερδήσας τὸν κόσμον ὅλον ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἀπολέσας ἢ ζημιωθείς;

“For he who would save his life must lose it. But he who might lose his life because of me, that one will save it. (25) For what should it profit a man should he gain the whole world but himself he should destroy or cause to lose (himself).

Oh, now this is interesting for a couple of reasons. To begin, this is is another example of compression; this compresses sentiments that are expressed in two separate places in Mark & Matthew. So, once again, Luke “just happens” to edit down pericopes* or sayings* that get full treatment in the two previous gospels. How many examples of that do we now have? 

Then, there is no way to render psyche as “soul”. …”He who would save his own soul will lose it“…doesn’t really work. The tendency to us “soul” for psyche reflects, IMO, the later Christian interpretation with which we are all familiar; so saving your soul should be the goal, and losing it by trying to save it doesn’t really make sense. And, to be fair, in the save/lose part of the saying, it is pretty much always translated as “life”. We have also seen how the combination of pysche and “to save” occur together in a context which makes it pretty clear that what is being saved is the physical life of the person in question, and not her immortal soul. Here, this could not be more clear.

The most interesting feature of this compression, however, comes in the last half. In its two previous incarnations, it is often rendered as “what shall it profit…to gain the world and lose one’s psyche“, which is almost always rendered as “soul”. At least in the discussion of Mark, I argued that the translation more attuned to the sense of the Greek word would be “life”. Here, Luke is forced to deal with this in a novel way, and for novel reasons. Because he has just used psyche twice, to avoid redundancy he uses an entirely different word in the back end. Here, he says, but should lose himself, using this word in all its glorious ambiguity. We can ask if this is more apt to shade towards soul or towards life? Or towards something that is neither? My sense is that it shades more towards “soul”. This is, IMO, why Luke chose to write it the way he did, to remove that ambiguity.

I’ll be honest: gaining the world and losing one’s soul has more literary impact that gaining the world and losing one’s life. Despite this, we have to ask if we are not seeing this expression as the result of two millennia of dualist tradition, in which the body and the soul are believed to be separate entities. We think it makes more sense as soul because that is how we think. The question becomes whether Mark saw things that way. Luke could very likely share something closer to our perspective. Everyone has always pretty much agreed that Luke was a pagan rather than a Jew, and I have seen no reason to doubt that, even if I haven’t seen all that much evidence that he was a pagan. He’s rather more of a continuation of Matthew in that way; the break between Jew and pagan comes, I believe, between Mark and Matthew. That was my position pretty much throughout Matthew’s gospel. 

So if Mark meant life and Luke meant soul, what did Matthew mean? If he were a pagan, why did he not clarify the ambiguity? One could answer that Matthew did not see the ambiguity; for him, Mark’s psyche meant more or less what it did to Luke, so Matthew saw no need to make the change. Luke, being a bit more educated–and let’s not kid ourselves, Luke is the most educated of the three–did understand the potential ambiguity and so made the change. These gospels were written in Greek, but in what language were they preached? Did the people who read the Greek address speakers of Aramaic in Greek? This is rather a profound question, and not one that is amenable to a quick and simple answer. My immediate reaction is that those preaching would have done so in the language of the audience. This only makes sense. Given this, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Luke made the change because this passage had caused problems due to the potential ambiguity. I don’t know that, but it’s a fairly apparent explanation. Whether it’s the correct explanation is rather a different issue.

24 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, hic salvam faciet illam.

25 Quid enim proficit homo, si lucretur universum mundum, se autem ipsum perdat vel detrimentum sui faciat?

26 ὃς γὰρ ἂν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους, τοῦτον ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπαισχυνθήσεται, ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων.

27 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, εἰσίν τινες τῶν αὐτοῦ ἑστηκότων οἳ οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

“For he who is ashamed of me and my words, this one the son of man will be ashamed of, when he should come into his judgement and of the father and the holy angels. (27)  I say to you truly, there are some of those standing he who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.

At first glance, the transition from Verse 25 to Verse 26 seemed to be a non-sequitur. A bit more reflection, and a bit less rigidity of thinking made me think otherwise. Now that I’ve relaxed my perspective, I almost wonder if I made the break in translation at the proper place. This does seem to go with the bit about losing oneself. After all, losing oneself seems like a fairly predictable consequence of facing the judgement of the father, a judgement in which the son of man disowns the person standing in the dock. But does one lose one’s soul? Or one’s life? Or both, since one’s eternal soul is lost to a negative judgement? This last is not a contradiction; there are hints throughout the NT where those who attain The Life will continue, the implication being that without entering The Life, one is no more. This, I suspect, is sort of the direction Jewish thought

Being ashamed of “the son of man”–whoever that might be–and facing judgement have only a peripheral connexion to losing oneself. The loss presumably could come from the adverse judgement. This would tie in with the idea of being condemned to death–if only in the negative sense of not being able to enter into The Life. So this does work. It must be said, however, that, in the final analysis, this very much preserves the sense of Mark’s original intent. The idea of the eternal soul is still binary: enter The Life and persevere, or don’t enter The Life and cease existence. Later Christian dogma will change the latter choice to suffering eternal damnation. That is, the choice is still binary, but the second, less pleasant, option changes, and arguably becomes much less pleasant. 

The final verse, in contrast, really does not fit here at all. This is due to its having been ripped pretty much completely out of context. In the other two gospels, this comes during the predictions of apocalypse, the “prediction” of the “coming” destruction of the Temple and perhaps the “coming persecutions” conducted by Saul. So sticking it in here simply doesn’t truly work.

26 Nam qui me erubuerit et meos sermones, hunc Filius hominis erubescet, cum venerit in gloria sua et Patris et sanctorum angelorum.

27 Dico autem vobis vere: Sunt aliqui hic stantes, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant regnum Dei”.

* (from above) Really, the proper word for these is logoi. This captures the sense of wording rather than the overall story. “Saying” is the closest English equivalent, but that does not quite capture the full extent of how a logos implies the full meaning of the saying. Too frequently the latter term is used almost independently of what it means; it’s a short-hand for the expression that is then used to compare where the various evangelists place said saying, Sure, the idea of the meaning is implicit in these discussions, but it’s most often only implicit. Any discussion of the meaning is wholly secondary.

Luke Chapter 6:39

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

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

Text

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

A Cursory Review of Bart Ehrman’s “Jesus Before The Gospels”

The book in question is the latest of Ehrman’s works. In a nutshell, the book is not without merit, but it’s not exactly a must-read either.

The main focus of the book is to discuss human memory, and how it relates to oral traditions that are passed on for any length of time without the benefit of being written down. Much of what he discusses is not exactly new; perhaps a half-decade ago the New Yorker had an article discussing the latest findings on eyewitness testimony. But having it put into this context is definitely a good thing. To make a long story short, eyewitness testimony is extremely unreliable. Just because someone was on the scene and saw what happened does not make them a reliable witness. Obviously, this has enormous implications for the criminal justice system because eyewitness testimony is often the evidence that clinches a conviction. Unfortunately, any number of people who have been convicted on such evidence were, in fact, innocent. The overturning of convictions based on DNA evidence has shown how unreliable eyewitness testimony is. People don’t always see what they think they did, of course, but the real problem is that human memory is very often fallacious.

That is the crux of the book: that we cannot trust memories. Study after study, dating back a century or even more, has shown that memory just does not work very well most of the time. More, it can be influenced significantly by outside suggestion, like the questions of a prosecuting attorney. A great test of this is to talk to siblings about something that happened as children, and different members of the family will remember very different events. And it’s not just the interpretation of events, but the basic facts. We were in the blue Chevy. No, it was the red Ford. I was wearing my cowboy boots. No, this was the year before you got them. Et cetera. But that’s not all: one member of the discussion can introduce something absolutely wrong, something completely fabricated, and other members of the discussion will often come to accept this as fact. Then, when these other members recount the story, they incorporate these fabrications into the story and will swear up and down that the fabrication happened, and that s/he can remember it as plain as day.

Of course these new revelations about the evidence of memory carries a tremendous impact for the likely historicity of the events of Jesus’ life. Since there was no written record, and since the stories of Jesus were passed down orally for forty years, these “memories” are very likely to have been corrupted, distorted, or flat-out fabricated somewhere along the way. In fact, taking Ehrman’s arguments to their logical conclusion, there is approximately zero probability that any of the stories of Jesus happened in any way even vaguely resembling the way they’re described. If they happened at all.

Before anyone brings up the whole “oral tradition” thing, Ehrman deals with that as well. It turns out that oral traditions–think The Iliad–are not all that reliable in the way that we usually think of the term. We’ve mentioned family events, and how differently they are remembered. Long stories passed down orally have an enormous amount of variation in each telling. Different anthropologists have sat with different groups of oral story tellers on numerous occasions and have come to an interesting conclusion. When a long story is related orally, the same storyteller can–and will, and does–tell the same story differently on different occasions. On every different occasion. The different variants have been recorded and compared and they are not only different, but the length of the story can vary with each telling. Sometimes the second telling is twice as long–or half as long–as the first. And yet, the storyteller will insist that the story is absolutely the same. The conclusion is that, in an oral tradition, “reciting” a story is synonymous with “composing” the story as the teller goes along. This strikes us as incredible. Impossible, even, but there it is. Anyone familiar with Homer knows that Achilles is fleet of foot, or that Odysseos is a wily sacker of cities, or that the child of morning is rosy-fingered Dawn*. More, these epithets are repeated dozens of times throughout the work. What these rote phrases do is give the poet a moment to reflect and decide what comes next. The implication of all this is that the idea of a single, unvarying story is a creation of the written word. It does not exist in oral traditions. Anyone who’s actually read primary sources of Greek myth realizes that there is no one “gospel truth” text for a lot of myths. They can and do vary from telling to telling. The playwrights, perhaps Euripides in particular, did not feel compelled to tell the story the way that Hesiod had told it.

[ * As an aside, each figure usually has two or three such epithets. The poet uses different ones to fit different aspects of the metre. So sometimes Achilles is fleet of foot; at others, he is the son of Peleus. ]

So we have a toxic combination of bad memories combined with unstable  oral traditions. This is why we might question whether we can trust anything. This is a very useful thing to keep in mind when reading the NT, the basis of which is stories told (presumably) by eyewitnesses and passed down for a few decades before being written down. Based on Ehrman’s argument, or his evidence, we cannot be sure any of it happened.

This is a tad disconcerting, to say the least.

One thing that I found interesting is the way he describes that we see the past through the lens of the present. Thus, some of the stories told about Jesus are actually more about the group telling the story 10 or 20 or 30 years later than it is about the time of Jesus. Ehrman uses the example of John’s virulent antipathy towards “the Jews”. This was, he reasons, probably a story told by a group that had come into serious and protracted conflict with “the Jews”. That is, it dates from a time when Christians had Jews has become pretty much separated, which necessarily means the stories date from a time decades after Jesus. Just so, the stories of the Destruction–the so-called apocalyptic teachings of Jesus–actually date to a time after the destruction of Jerusalem in the Jewish war. Odd, but Ehrman doesn’t draw that conclusion about the apocalyptic stories. I wonder why.

There are two main flaws in the book. The first is that, while it clocks in at 295 pages, he could have gotten the same point across in perhaps half that time. He gives five examples when two would have sufficed, that sort of thing. This is annoying, but only minimally so. It means I skimmed over pages at a time. So this is minor.

The real problem is in the approach he takes. He tells us repeatedly that the memories, as recorded, are likely unreliable; but he never, ever, not once steps back to ask if the people telling the stories were at all concerned that the facts may not have been accurate. It never seems to occur to him that factual accuracy may not have been the point of the authors of the NT. The authors of the gospels were writing neither history or nor biography; it was hagiography. The failure to understand this, or at least acknowledge that the possibility that this possibility exists, is a major flaw in my opinion. He is examining the text on terms that may not have been important to the task the authors were setting out to accomplish.

In the end, it comes down to a difference in philosophy between Dr Ehrman and me. He is bringing in as much evidence as he can to perform valid source criticism. The gods know that people like Martin Luther and others have been psych0-analyzed a hundred times in order to get at their motivations so we can explain why they really did what they did. In a lot of cases, perhaps particularly in the case of Luther, the why didn’t matter so much, largely because he didn’t do or say anything all that different from what others had said before him. The difference was that the world was ready to listen to Luther when it hadn’t been willing to listen to Jan Huss, for example. And the difference in motivation between Peter Valdes (founder of the Waldensian heretics) was not very different from that of St Francis of Assisi, yet one became a heretic and the other a saint because the world perceived them differently (an oversimplification, of course, but general statements are always oversimplifications, and pretty much by definition). Source criticism is crucial to good historical method, to the point of being sine qua non. However, in this case, it seems that perhaps Dr. Ehrman should have paused a moment to ask if this method, as applied in this set of circumstances, is a useful tool.

Taking his implications to their logical conclusion, we must infer that nothing in the NT has any real basis in fact. Now, one could argue that this is not only a valid inference (it likely is), but that it’s also a true inference. Are we prepared to say that?

Then the point becomes that, prepared or not, we are compelled, by weight of evidence, to make that statement; however, I have to disagree. This may be true logically, but it’s not necessarily true in a real sense. In the course of reading Matthew, the question of whether something can trace back to Jesus has become increasingly prominent in our method of examining the text. Since the technique is mine, I obviously believe that it’s  not only a valid line of inquiry, but also a fruitful one. And the results have been that much–if not most–of what we have read in Matthew seemingly does not trace back to Jesus. Ehrman would agree with this, and in the book presents examples of situations that almost certainly originate in post-resurrection conditions. There are some sayings, however, where this is not necessarily true. The Parable of the Sower contains nothing that requires it to be post-Jesus. Did Jesus speak the words that we read? Perhaps not, perhaps most likely not. Did he use the analogy of the sower? Possibly. Did he speak about the kingdom? Probably. Or, it’s probable that he probably did.

In some ways this is being way too critical of Ehrman and his method. He provides an excellent caveat about the trustworthiness–or otherwise–of what we are told in the gospels. We do well to keep this in mind. As such, the book is very well written and very effective. The accounts are not trustworthy at face value. But the book is, perhaps, a starting place rather than a final destination. To get to the latter, we have to apply the principles of historical criticism. Fortunately, that is what we’ve been doing right along. It is gratifying to note that, in those examples he cites that we have covered, he has corroborated my analysis. So we’re definitely on the right track here.

Matthew Chapter 19:13-30

This will conclude Chapter 19. The section is on the long side, but there was no place to break that wouldn’t distort the flow of the text, so we get it all at once. Much of it may not require specific comment. Of course, I always think/say that.

13 Τότε προσηνέχθησαν αὐτῷ παιδία, ἵνα τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιθῇ αὐτοῖς καὶ προσεύξηται: οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτοῖς.

14 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄφετε τὰ παιδία καὶ μὴ κωλύετε αὐτὰ ἐλθεῖν πρός με, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

15 καὶ ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῖς ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖθεν.

And then were brought forth children, so that his hands he would place on them and bless them. The disciples censured them. (14) But Jesus said, “Allow the children and do not forbid them to come to me; for of such is the kingdom of the heavens. (15) And he placing his hands on them, he went away from there. 

In heresies of the Middle Ages, the laying-on of hands was considered the mark of real holiness. I’m not sure when or how the established Church got away from that as a general practice, but the insistence of the heretics on this placement of hands seems to indicate that the Church had let this practice fall into abeyance. And having read as much of the NT as I have, I can see why the heretics were so keen to do this; it’s a very common thing for Jesus and the disciples to do. I do not know the origin of the practice, whether it’s Jewish, or pagan, or what; but it’s the sort of thing that is pretty obvious in many ways. I do want to point out, however, that the real origin of the practice was probably magical, and may in fact pre-date Judaism and other religions. I would not be surprised that the practice did not arise in hunter-gatherer bands, and that the shaman would do this as a means of healing, expelling spirits, etc. I think that for the authors of the NT, that meaning has largely been lost. Even so, I truly believe it’s a residual magical practice.

In the last chapter we also had a child as the exemplar of who will enter the kingdom of the heavens. Here we have it again. Coming as it does in close proximity to the previous child, my guess is that these two stories represent either a twinning of a single event, or that this was something Jesus actually did on a frequent basis. The frequency then gave rise to a number of stories relating this. I don’t think there’s much reason to debate which it is; I bring it up because the repetition in two successive chapters does amount to a bit of editorial clumsiness. It feels redundant, so I tend to lean towards twinning, but the other possibility is just about as likely.

I suppose another question to go with this is to ask what are the implications of each? If it’s a twin, it entails a bifurcation of the tradition. The same story came down to Mark/Matthew via two different streams. This is not surprising. The tradition was doubtless split into any number of threads; we’ve discussed this at length in relation to Mark. If it was repeated, then this represents a major theme of Jesus’ ministry. And I think this likely does trace back to Jesus. It is difficult to fit into another tradition; it’s out of place in the pagan world, and it doesn’t fit with Jewish tradition, either. If you think about it, the only pre-adult to appear in any capacity in the HS (OT) is David. Isaac appears as a potential sacrifice; there is the widow’s son that Elijah raises from the dead, but the implication is that he is an adult. So the sheer oddness of the idea, it would seem, implies that it was an innovation that traced to Jesus himself. Paul doesn’t mention this, but Paul–with a few exceptions–is not concerned with anything that Jesus did while alive; ergo, its absence in Paul is not entirely meaningful. The theme is in Mark, so it likely did not come through the filtre of James the Just.

So that is worth bearing in mind. 

13 Tunc oblati sunt ei parvuli, ut manus eis imponeret et oraret; discipuli autem increpabant eis.

14 Iesus vero ait: “ Sinite parvulos et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire; talium est enim regnum caelorum ”.

15 Et cum imposuisset eis manus, abiit inde.

16 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς προσελθὼν αὐτῷ εἶπεν, Διδάσκαλε, τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω ἵνα σχῶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον;

And look (one) coming towards him (Jesus) said, “Teacher, what good things shall I do that I might have life eternal?

The position here is interesting. Not long ago, I posed the question of whether the Life–or life eternal–was the same as the kingdom of (the) heaven(s). The immediate juxtaposition of the children entering the kingdom and this one asking about life eternal seems to suggest that they are more or less the same thing. This equivalence is something that most Christians over most of the past 1900 years or so would have answered affirmatively without a second thought. Until very recently, it never occurred to me even to ask the question; of course they are.

So why do we have two different terms for the same thing? Terms that are not obviously related on the face of it. That is a question that I think has to be answered. And some part of this would depend on whether both phrases trace back to Jesus. If I had to come up with an explanation, I would suggest that “kingdom of God/heaven/the heavens” does trace to Jesus. But the idea of the Life may not have existed before Paul.

The phrase “the life/life eternal” appears in Mark and Matthew only in conjunction with two stories: this one, about the young man of wealth, and the story that recommends self-mutilation, that it is better to give up a hand, or a foot, or an eye and attain eternal life. Paul talks about eternal life most extensively in Romans–his last work. But he also uses it in Galatians, which is one of the first. What this tells me is that Jesus may have talked about the kingdom, but he may not have talked about the Life. And even with Paul, the idea of the Life was something that became part of his mature work, but did not play a large role in his earlier epistles; does this mean it wasn’t a large part of his thinking on what was to happen when Jesus returned? Or possibly before, when we died?

Now, we need to be careful here. We need to remember that in Jewish belief the faithful pray on Yom Kippur to be written in the book of life for the next year. And so we find another situation where something that is considered to be a hallmark of Christianity has, at the very least, its roots in Judaism, even if there may have been some minor adjustments during the transition into Christianity. So we have the book of life and eternal life that sound like very similar concepts. And let’s not forget that the idea of going into the Life maimed–minus a hand, foot, or eye–only makes sense if we think in terms of the resurrection of the actual body, rather than a spiritual body that is whole and sound. Recall that Paul even made reference to this in talking about Jesus’ post-resurrection body as being somehow different from the earthly body. Taking all of this as a complex of interrelated concepts, we may be justified in seeing the passage about cutting off hands or feet to enter the life as fundamentally Jewish ideas, however they’ve been modified.

Then the question becomes one of provenance. I am becoming convinced that the idea of the kingdom, albeit of God/heaven/the heavens does trace back to Jesus, even if he perhaps did not originate it. At least, I’ve become convinced that a decent, and perhaps strong, argument can be made for this. I’m not quite as sure about the idea of the Life. This does trace back to Paul as we have seen. And prior to Paul, the resurrection of the righteous and the idea of the book of life (or, Book of Life) can both be found in Pharisaical Judaism. So the question is why doesn’t “the Life” play a more prominent role in the gospels of Mark and Matthew? Glancing ahead, it appears that this idea becomes fully ensconced in Luke, and especially John, showing that it has become a bedrock principle of what, by then, can be called Christianity. 

16 Et ecce unus accedens ait illi: “Magister, quid boni faciam, ut habeam vitam aeternam?”. Qui dixit ei:

17 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός. εἰ δὲ θέλεις εἰς τὴν ζωὴν εἰσελθεῖν, τήρησον τὰς ἐντολάς.

And he (Jesus) said to him (the interlocutor) “Why do you talk to me about the good? One is good. If you wish into the life to enter, keep the commandments.”

Here we have a rare instance when the KJV is the least accurate of my crib translations. As I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that part of the reason the KJV is so hard to read is because it adheres most closely to the Greek; it’s not as nearly as bad as many of my translations, but it follows the literal sense more than most. Here, however, instead of talking about the good, Jesus asks, “why do you call me good?”, which the interlocutor does not do. Also, I have only rendered “one is good” because that is what the Greek says. Most translations add “only one is good”. Even the Latin below omits the “only”. Now, one can argue that the “only” is implied, and perhaps it is. But it’s not stated, so I have not added it to the translation.

My guess is that the KJV translated it the way it did because the passage in Mark does gave Jesus ask, “why do you call me good”, and also that “only” God is good.

Theologically, the “one is good” has some interesting implications. This seems like it could be the basis for some of the vitriol that came later about human nature is hopelessly depraved, and so cannot do anything to merit its salvation. Now the other thing is that this is always assumed to refer to God, but leaving out the “only” sure makes that a lot less certain, doesn’t it? Is this the original Jesus pointing to the Christ that is to come? That may be a stretch, but it’s not precluded by the Greek. It could be interpreted to mean something like that.

17 “Quid me interrogas de bono? Unus est bonus. Si autem vis ad vitam ingredi, serva mandata”.

18 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ποίας; ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τὸ Οὐ φονεύσεις, Οὐ μοιχεύσεις, Οὐ κλέψεις, Οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις,

19 Τίμα τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα,καί, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

20 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ νεανίσκος, Πάντα ταῦτα ἐφύλαξα: τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ;

21 ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Εἰ θέλεις τέλειος εἶναι, ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι.

He (the interlocutor) said to him (Jesus), “Of what kind?” Jesus said to him, “Do not murder, do not adulterize, do not steal, do not witness falsely. (19) Honour your father and your mother, love your neighbor as yourself.” (20) The young man said, “All these I have guarded. What is the last?” (= the final, the ultimate, is there anything else?) (21) Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be completed (= perfected) withdraw, sell the things belonging to you, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in the heavens, and follow me here.” (here = hither, which implies motion towards as opposed to a static place “here”

The man’s response to the question about the commandments is interesting. Every Christian today knows that the “commandments” refers to the Ten Commandments. And one suspects that every Jew in the First Century would have known that, too. The man’s question implies one of two things: either he thought that Jesus might have some novel twist on the concept; or, he wasn’t a Jew who was familiar with the Decalogue. Which is more likely? The first possibility is hardly to be dismissed. Who knows what was said of Jesus? Who knows what sort of ideas about Jesus this young man brought to the moment of the question? Certainly he had heard about Jesus, that this was a novel teaching, or he taught novel things; so it’s no wonder that he would have had apprehensions about which commandments Jesus was telling him to follow. So it’s highly plausible. It’s much simpler, however, to infer that he was a pagan. Okham’s razor being what it is, this makes the second more plausible.

Or, there is a third possibility. Matthew inserted this question so that the pagans in the audience would understand what Jesus meant. Matthew realized that the pagans would not simply know what “the commandments” meant, so he put these words into the young man’s mouth to clarify that for these pagans. Now, we really can’t stretch this into more proof that Matthew himself was a pagan; he could have been very aware that pagans wouldn’t know about the commandments without being a pagan himself. It doesn’t hurt my position on this, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of support and/or evidence for this.

Should we ascribe this to Jesus? Or does it make more sense that it came from James? Offhand, I’d say the latter, largely because that’s what I want to believe in order to support my radical contention about the teachings of James. Against this we have the fact that this story is in Mark. However, the fact remains that the young man asks about eternal life, which is not a concept that is well-represented in Mark/Matthew. Here, I think, is where we can sort of glimpse at the complexity of the narrative sources. Different things came from different strands of the sources, and just because a concept appears in Matthew and Paul does not mean, necessarily, that Matthew got the story from Paul. Everyone wants to see affiliation where none may exist. The exception to this are those who refuse to believe that Luke knew about Matthew, preferring instead the existence of a document for which there is absolutely zero evidence.

18 Dicit illi: “ Quae? ”. Iesus autem dixit: “ Non homicidium facies, non adulterabis, non facies furtum, non falsum testimonium dices,

19 honora patrem et matrem et diliges proximum tuum sicut teipsum ”.

20 Dicit illi adulescens: “ Omnia haec custodivi. Quid adhuc mihi deest? ”.

21 Ait illi Iesus: “ Si vis perfectus esse, vade, vende, quae habes, et da pauperibus, et habebis thesaurum in caelo; et veni, sequere me ”.

22 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος, ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.

23 Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πλούσιος δυσκόλως εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

24 πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

Hearing this speech, the young man went away being sad, for he was holding many possessions. (23) And Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen I say to you that the rich with difficulty into the kingdom of the heavens. (24) Again I say to you, it is more easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The most interesting aspect of these two verses is the use of “kingdom of God” in Verse 24. Matthew almost never uses this term, but Mark uses it frequently. Here is a very clear case of Matthew almost, but not quite, copying Mark without much editing. In fact, a lot of the words in Mark are repeated by Matthew, even if in different forms. This is very clearly proof of the extent to which Matthew used Mark.Is it possible that Mark used Matthew, and sort of abridged the longer work? While there is a body of scholarship claiming this, it’s very much a minority opinion. I find it very difficult to conceive how anyone could actually take the idea seriously. 

22 Cum audisset autem adulescens verbum, abiit tristis; erat enim habens multas possessiones.

23 Iesus autem dixit discipulis suis: “Amen dico vobis: Dives difficile intrabit in regnum caelorum.

24 Et iterum dico vobis: Facilius est camelum per foramen acus transire, quam divitem intrare in regnum Dei”.

25 ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο σφόδρα λέγοντες, Τίς ἄρα δύναται σωθῆναι;

Hearing this the disciples were driven out of their senses, saying to themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

I want to pause on this a moment. We touched on this in discussing Mark, but it very much bears repeating. In the amazement of the disciples, we get a very potent demonstration of the belief that wealth had a moral dimension. Put simply, there was a strong belief that all God’s friends were rich. The Jews believed this, as the story of Job amply demonstrates. But they were not alone: most cultures believed that the favor of God, or a god would be manifest on earth. And this idea has had pernicious and deleterious effects ever since, despite the fact that Jesus’ words here could not be more plain. This belief was lodged–implicitly–in Calvinism. As such, it was brought to the New World, especially by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay colony. And since Boston became one of the first commercially successful cities in the British colonies, and since New England exported its ministers to the rest of the country, this belief has become lodged in the culture of the United States, and is still operating to this day. It may not be explicitly formulated, but it’s all the more dangerous because of that; it’s a buried assumption, one that goes unchallenged.

What is particularly astonishing is that this belief persists, that it ever came into being, because Jesus couldn’t be much more clear here if he tried. And it always strikes me that many of those who refuse to countenance any interpretation of “what God has joined, let no man put asunder” will completely overlook this dictum about the eye of the needle. Selective application, indeed.

25 Auditis autem his, discipuli mirabantur valde dicentes: “ Quis ergo poterit salvus esse?”.

26 ἐμβλέψας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις τοῦτο ἀδύνατόν ἐστιν, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ πάντα δυνατά.

Looking them in the face Jesus said to them, “For humans, this is not possible, but for God all is possible.  

Notice that God is now omnipotent. We are so used to this notion that it’s ofttimes easy to forget that God was not always considered thus. Certainly the pagan gods, for the most part, were not truly though to be omnipotent as we understand the term; none of them were responsible for creation ex nihilo, as occurred in Genesis. But even YHWH was never truly omnipotent; it appears that he could be surprised by the outcome of events; why create Adam and Eve and tell them not to eat the fruit if he knew full well that they would? This is the quandary that Calvin sought to solve. But God did not truly become omnipotent until systematic theology had been invented through the marriage of the Scripture to Greek philosophy. This passage anticipates that development by a couple of centuries, at the least; but the NT is not fully consistent on this, and it’s especially not internally consistent. These inconsistencies were the cracks in the pavement that eventually spawned heresies. 

After all that, what really matters is that Jesus is basically saying that the rich can only be saved through the sheer omnipotence of God. That is a glaring contradiction to what Peter said in the previous verse, when he assumes there is a large moral component to being wealthy. Jesus is flatly denying that, cutting against the grain of the thinking of most cultures at the time. As such, it’s very progressive thinking for the time.

Now, an interesting thing came up while I was thinking about whether this actually originated with Jesus. I looked into the various forms of “wealthy” in Strong’s Concordance. (The root in Greek is “plousios”, the root of “plutocracy”.) What I found was that the word, in any form, is barely used by either Matthew or Mark. The latter uses some form of the word about three times; once in his version of the story, once during the explanation of the parable of the Sower, and once in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. Matthew uses it twice here, once with the Sower, and the last time to describe Joseph of Arimathaea, who is said to be “rich”. That’s it. It becomes more popular in Luke, but Paul uses it a lot in 1 Corinthians and especially Romans. It also shows up a lot in the deutero-Pauline letter to the Ephesians, and a number of times in the fairly short letter of James. 

So here Jesus is being very hard on the rich, but it’s almost a one-off as a theme in the first two gospels. And this is despite the fact that it wasn’t uncommon in Paul’s letters, documents that pre-date the gospels. And this particular story is really the only one in which the idea of wealth is really intrinsic to the point of the tale. That is, the idea of wealth was imported into the thinking of Mark and Matthew pretty much solely in conjunction with this story.

I also looked up the instances of the use of the terms “possessions” and “poor”. Interestingly, neither of these are show up much in Mark and Matthew, either, both of them occurring at approximately the same frequency as “wealth”.

The implication is pretty clear here. As much as we think of the poor being a major theme of Christian thought, the fact of the matter is that it just isn’t really all that important in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. This is something to consider.

26 Aspiciens autem Iesus dixit illis: “ Apud homines hoc impossibile est, apud Deum autem omnia possibilia sunt”.

27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι: τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν;

28 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι, ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.

29 καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου ἑκατονταπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει.

30 Πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι.

Then answering, Peter said to him, “Look, we left behind everything and followed you. What will be ours?”

28) And Jesus said to them, “Amen I say to you, that you, those following me, in the regeneration, when the son of man is seated upon the throne in his glory, you will also be seated upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29) And all who have left behind home, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother or children, or fields because of my name a hundredfold will receive and eternal life will be their allotment (share of the inheritance).

Just need to insert a word. This phrase << ἑκατονταπλασίονα >> (a hundredfold) is not in all ms traditions. It appears there is variant reading of <<πολλαπλασίων>>. That would be significant, because according to Strong, the only instance of this word is in Luke’s version of this story. If it were here, too, this would pretty much prove that Luke copied Matthew because it would be the equivalent of being proven a cheater by copying someone’s wrong answer. So this is an important textual variation. And I have two different texts with the Matthew/Luke  <<πολλαπλασίων>>. OTOH, the L&S cites the Gospel of Matthew as an example of “hundredfold”. It does not recognize the other word.

30) For many will be first who are last and last (those who are) first.  

Aside from the textual issue mentioned, what jumps out here is “regeneration”. This is a legitimate Greek word. The question is, what does it signify in this context? Well, L&S cite Mt 19:28 as an example of this word being used to mean “resurrection”. Otherwise, it is a term from Stoic philosophy, as in the regeneration of the cosmos, which signifies the cyclical nature of existence; everything is a cycle, including the universe as a whole. Interestingly, none of my crib translations render it as “resurrection”, despite L&S; this is another example of why I get a little nervous about NT dictionaries. They tend to make it up as they go along. And the only other use of this in the NT is in Titus.

As with the hundredfold, the translation of this word matters. Maybe because I’m familiar with Stoic philosophy, but the use of the word there makes perfect sense. It was thought that history was cyclical, in the way life overall was cyclical. It didn’t repeat, but the cosmos ended and restarted, again and again and again. It was Augustine who came up with the idea of linear time; otherwise, this would mean that Jesus’ coming was not a unique event, but something that has happened and would happen again. This didn’t work for him, so he re-cast our understanding of the progress of time, bending it from a circle into a straight line. Or perhaps a ray is the more technical term: a fixed origin with an infinite extension. For even though the world would end, the righteous will spend eternity in the presence of God, who is beyond time.

This just occurred to me. Did Matthew slip here? Did he slip into his pagan way of thinking? Was he thinking about Stoic philosophy, so he used a concept he borrowed from them? That would be about as close to definitive proof that Matthew was a pagan as we could ever expect him to state explicitly. It would mean L&S was wrong, but either Liddell or Scott was a churchman, so his point of view would have been strongly Christian, which could certainly influence his conception of the word as used here. He would take it on faith (ahem) that it referred to the resurrection even though the term came from Stoic philosophy. Contra this, the term is used for the rebirth of the world after the flood in Genesis in the Septuagint; so Matthew as a Jew–Greek-speaking, but Jew nonetheless–could have gotten the term there. We have seen that Matthew probably got the virgin birth from the (mis-)translation of Isaiah to predict that a “virgin” would give birth.

Here is where my theory on the Twelve has some significant ramifications. If, as I suspect, the Twelve were instituted after Jesus died, then there is no chance that he said this bit about the twelve thrones and judging the twelve tribes. Then the question becomes, if Jesus didn’t say this, did he say any of this? If he did, which parts go back to Jesus, and which are later? 

To be honest, I would suspect most of the verse 27-30 post-date Jesus. To be just as honest, I’m not sure I can construct a valid–or even worthwhile–argument to support this. Peter’s question is the sort of thing that could be experienced either by Jesus’ immediate followers, or by those that came later. And I did try to construct something to demonstrate that the circumstances described here were more appropriate for a later group, but I was unsuccessful. My instincts tell me this is a later addition, but “instincts” do not make a good argument, The part about the Twelve, I am sure, is later, but that does not necessarily invalidate the rest. I believe it does–or may–but my beliefs are no stronger proof than my instincts. 

On the face of it, there is nothing in these verses to indicate that we are presented with a situation that involves circumstances faced by Jesus’ immediate followers, or those faced by a later group. That’s the surface view. After more consideration, however, I think this falls into the “later group” scenario. The implication here 

The last point here involves the eschaton. Once again the use of “son of man” indicates that this is taken mostly from Mark. For the most part, Matthew uses “son of man” in passages that he has extracted from Mark. Here is a situation in which the coming end, brought about by the Parousia, by the coming of the son of man. As is true in Mark, this passage could be read to imply that Jesus is talking about someone else, that he is not identifying himself as the son of man. The other point about this is that the vision presented here is not terribly dissimilar to that of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Thus, we have to ask, once again, if this came from Jesus, or if it came from Paul? This matters, because if it’s from Paul, it would help support the idea that the entire passage dates from a time after Jesus. The number of times that Jesus refers to the Parousia in Mark are very limited, and are not entirely intrinsic to the rest of the text. There are any number of legitimate NT scholars–JD Crossan comes to mind–who are dead certain that Jesus’ primary message (or one of them, at least) was the coming End. Personally, I’m not sure I buy it. He bases a lot of his position on the idea of Jesus’ use of “kingdom of heaven/God/the heavens”. However, I remain semi-agnostic on this; I haven’t done the requisite homework, or fieldwork, or footwork of pulling out all the references and doing the compare/contrast and exegesis.

To end, the last line about the first/last transposition is, from what I understand, classic apocalyptic rhetoric. I don’t recall who, but one of the legitimate scholars I read described apocalyptic literature as sort of the last revenge/refuge of the downtrodden. The point of this literature is to envision the day when the current oppressor is overthrown, is pitched headlong into eternal fire, and We the Downtrodden take our rightful place as the divine favourites. People in offices talk like this all the time, about the boss getting his comeuppance. As such, this last/first transposition is probably something that could have been said or written at any time during the time Judea was under the heel of either the Seleucid or Roman Empires. As such, it’s not much help in figuring out if this traces to Jesus. Even if we could be dead certain he did say this, who’s not to say that he didn’t get it from someone else? It’s too universal as a statement of desire. 

27 Tunc respondens Petrus dixit ei: “Ecce nos reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te. Quid ergo erit nobis?”.

28 Iesus autem dixit illis: “Amen dico vobis quod vos, qui secuti estis me, in regeneratione, cum sederit Filius hominis in throno gloriae suae, sedebitis et vos super thronos duodecim, iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

29 Et omnis, qui reliquit domos vel fratres aut sorores aut patrem aut matrem aut filios aut agros propter nomen meum, centuplum accipiet et vitam aeternam possidebit.

30 Multi autem erunt primi novissimi, et novissimi primi.