Blog Archives

Luke Chapter 22:47-53

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




“He had a sword”.

“Crucify him. Next.” 

End of trial, and end of transgressor, forthwith. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 22:21-30

We’re still in the middle of the Lord’s/Last Supper. Jesus has dedicated the bread and wine as his body and blood. The section is fairly long, so had to make some less-than-graceful breaks. We actually broke in mid-speech of Jesus. Not exactly elegant, but the previous post had gotten too long to continue. And this is a very long chapter.


21 πλὴν ἰδοὺ ἡ χεὶρ τοῦ παραδιδόντος με μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης:

22 ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον πορεύεται, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι’ οὗ παραδίδοται.

“Except behold, the hand of the one handing me over is with me at the table. (22) That the son of man according to having been ordained (has)to pass through, except woe to that man through whom he is betrayed.”  

The word is, literally, handed over. One can use the term in a neutral context, as in, the merchants handed over the merchandise once payment was made. In English, the word “betrayed” is not a synonym for “handed over” in this example. This is yet another good example of linguistic fields. All of my crib translations choose “betrayed”, and one can argue that “handed over” is too weak an too neutral in this context. That would be a legitimate point because “betrayed” is a legitimate meaning in Greek; however, the word also means “hand over” as for justice. So the word has both positive and negative connotations in Greek, whereas “betrayed” is wholly negative. I don’t particularly like how I handled “according to having been ordained…” The “ordained part is a participle. Using a substantive like “according to destiny” is too neutral. “Destiny” is an abstract concept; the participle form of the verb here imparts a sense of action. Someone/something has done the ordaining.

And this is an interesting thought. All the crib translations go with a verb form: it has been decreed/determined/etc. By whom? By the Father? Mark and Matthew state that the Son of Man is to go because it was written. This has all the trappings of Fate. It was written in the Scriptures; it was written in the stars. What is the effective difference? The whole debate about Fate vs Free Will is fraught with problems. Christians sort of invented the idea of Free Will as a weapon against pagan fatalism; even Zeus, at times, was not able to resist Fate, but given his desire to save Hector’s life in contravention of Hector’s fate, the implication is that Zeus could do so if he so chose. The other gods, however, would not hear of this, and so Hector died by the hand of Achilles. So even the Greeks were conflicted about this. It goes back to the debate about Predestination: it’s an ineluctable conclusion if one posits an omnipotent and omniscient deity. Otherwise, one is compelled to concede that the deity can be surprised at the outcome of an event, and few Christians are willing to admit this point, even if they cavil at accepting Calvin’s thesis of Double Predestination, by which some people are born with no way to avoid damnation when they die. So here, Jesus must go, he must pass through the trial to come. Which brings us back to Judas: could he have done otherwise? If he had no choice, it was because God determined he was to be the one to betray Jesus. If he was wholly incapable of doing otherwise, does he deserve damnation? If you say “yes”, then why? Is a cat guilty for killing a young bird? This is what cats do. Grasping the nettle of this debate is something very few people will do. Most will hold what are essentially mutually exclusive ideas: an omniscient God being somehow compatible with Free Will. This is positing A and Not-A, combining matter and antimatter. This is why I have a sneaking admiration for Calvin: agree or disagree with him, you have to give him props for bravery. He wasn’t afraid to take on the challenge.

21 Verumtamen ecce manus tradentis me mecum est in mensa;

22 et quidem Filius hominis, secundum quod definitum est, vadit; verumtamen vae illi homini, per quem traditur!”.

23 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς τὸ τίς ἄρα εἴη ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁ τοῦτο μέλλων πράσσειν.

24 Ἐγένετο δὲ καὶ φιλονεικία ἐν αὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς αὐτῶν δοκεῖ εἶναι μείζων.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν κυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἐξουσιάζοντες αὐτῶν εὐεργέται καλοῦνται.

And they began to discuss amongst themselves who would be from the the one destined to be successful. (24) And strife came into being among them, which one of them seemed to be the greatest. (25) And he said to them, “The kings of the peoples lord it over (those) of theirs, and those exercising authority over them are called go-gooders. 

Want to stop to make few points. “Do gooders” is a literal translation. The transliteration is Euergetes, and it was an epithet, or surname for some of the Hellenistic kings. Ptolemy Euergetes, Ptolemy the One Who Does Good, Ptolemy the Benefactor. Other such epithets were Epiphanes (God Manifest), Soter (Saviour), and there was at least one Ptolemy Auletes, the Flute Player. Some of Charlemagne’s successors were Charles the Bald, Louis the Fat; and his name was Charles le Magne, Karl der Grosser, or simply Charles the Great. 

The word <<κυριεύουσιν>> is used by Luke and by Paul. That seemed likely to be significant until I checked this story in Mark and Matthew. They both add the prefix  <<κατὰ>>, so it becomes<<κατὰ-κυριεύουσιν>>. The prefix adds the sense of exercising authority downwards, that the lord is up above and throwing out orders to those below him. And the verb derives from kyrios, which is “Lord”. Anyone with any kind of background in, or knowledge of, Latin High Masses is familiar with the vocative case of this, which comes out as kyrie, as in kyrie eleison, “lord have mercy”, repeated thrice. If you check the libretto of any of the High Masses written by Bach or Mozart, this is called the Kyrie; in the Book of Common Prayer, I’ve seen it labeled the Trisagion, a reference to being repeated three times. So “lord it over” is not entirely a whimsical translation. “Play the lord”, or “exercise authority/lordship” would work, too. The NASB follows my lead and actually reads “lord it over”. That works here, because the term is more than slightly derogatory, said with a sniff of contempt, and Jesus obviously (IMO) doesn’t approve of this sort of behaviour. 

The big thing here is the placement of the story. Both Mark and Matthew put this story on the road to Jerusalem after the Transfiguration and before Palm Sunday. For some reason that I do not quite understand, the placement of stories– excuse me, pericopae (really, it should be perokopai)– by Luke plays a big role in the Q debate. I read the passage disparaging Luke’s placement, think I understand the point, but comprehension melts away by the time I turn the page. As near as I can tell, it has to do with the fact that, since Luke didn’t copy Matthew exactly, down to every iota, then Luke was obviously not aware of Matthew because, if he had been aware of Matthew, he would not have changer an iota. Because Matthew’s handling of any and all pericopae is obviously superior, to the point of infallibility. Or something. And then Q-doubters are expected– nay, required— to produce a “redactionally consistent” explanation for every time Luke varies from Matthew by that single iota. And somehow, I expect “Luke varied from Matthew because he was Luke and not Matthew” would not be satisfactory, even though it’s consistent and works in every case. Look, I will admit that this placement feels a bit awkward and a bit forced, but IMO a lot of the Sermon on the Mount feels a bit like it’s been stitched together with bubble-gum and binder twine.Apparently, it has never occurred to the Q people that Luke chose a different spot just to be different. Shake it up a bit. Otherwise, you get a derivative drone of a narrative. Honestly, not a lot more to be said. Luke changed the location of this story; it’s in a different place than in M&M, where each situates it in approximately the same location. That’s it.

23 Et ipsi coeperunt quaerere inter se, quis esset ex eis, qui hoc facturus esset.

24 Facta est autem et contentio inter eos, quis eorum videretur esse maior.

25 Dixit autem eis: “ Reges gentium dominantur eorum; et, qui potestatem habent super eos, benefici vocantur.

26 ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως, ἀλλ’ ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν γινέσθω ὡς ὁ νεώτερος, καὶ ὁ ἡγούμενος ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

27 τίς γὰρ μείζων, ὁ ἀνακείμενος ἢ ὁ διακονῶν; οὐχὶ ὁ ἀνακείμενος; ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν εἰμι ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

28 ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε οἱ διαμεμενηκότες μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς μου:

29 κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι ὁ πατήρ μου βασιλείαν

30 ἵνα ἔσθητε καὶ πίνητε ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης μου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ μου, καὶ καθήσεσθε ἐπὶ θρόνων τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς κρίνοντες τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 

“But you (are) not like this, but the greatest amongst you becomes as the newest, and the leader as the ministrant. (27) For who (is) the greatest, the one reclining at the table or the deacon? Who is the one reclining? I in your midst (am) as the deacon. (28) You are those having remained with me in my trials. (29) And I distribute to you accordingly as my father distributed the kingdom to me (30) so that you will be be drinking at my table in my kingdom, and you will be seated upon twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel.”

The Twelve Thrones judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel occurs in Matthew 19:28. It does not occur in Mark. Kloppenborg includes this in his Reconstructed Q. Here’s a question: what happens if Jesus didn’t actually institute a Band of Twelve? What if the Twelve only came about after Jesus’ death? We’ve discussed this; the Twelve really only figure in two different stories: when they are named, and when they are sent out, and return more or less immediately. John has two names that don’t occur in the lists of the other evangelists; that is usually a red flag that the names varied because the names were not really known because they hadn’t been established by Jesus. Paul mentions the Twelve; they existed in his time. But prior? I’m not at all convinced of that. Which means, if there was no Twelve, then the reference here and in Matthew 19 is essentially fraudulent, made up after the fact. Which means that it probably wasn’t in Q, or shouldn’t have been in Q, because Jesus never said this. If it was in a Q that actually existed, then that Q is fraudulent, or at least heinously misleading because Jesus never said it. That sort of blows a big hole in the credibility of this hypothetical document, even if it did ever exist, which I doubt. There are lots of reasons to disbelieve in Q, and this is another one.

A bit of vocabulary: the word translated as “ministrant” in verse 26 transliterates as “diakonōn”. This is readily recogniseable as the root of “deacon”. In Greek, this means “to minister to”, or “to serve”. So I translated it one, then more or less transliterated it the remaining instances to get across the connexion between the Greek and our word in English. We need to be made aware that “diakonōn” does not refer to an official in the Catholic or Anglican/Episcopalian/or other? Rite. It means “to serve”. 

Is this a bit of a tell*? “You are the ones having remained…” My crib translations all put their verb in the perfect tense: have remained, have stayed, have stood, have continued. Hearing this tense used in conversation, the sense imparted is an action that occurred in the past. It has been “perfected”, which means “completed”. This is why the Greek word for “end” in philosophical-religious contexts often or usually means “perfected”. So, the perfect tense implies a completed action. And just to be clear, this neither the pluperfect (had) nor the future (will have had) perfect. It’s the simple perfect. So when Jesus says “you having remained” he is referring to the past, which means that his trials are completed. This seems an odd thing to say given that he’s about to undergo some horrific torture in the next 12-18 hours. In other words, this is the statement of someone who’s looking backwards on events that have not occurred in the narrative. That is to say, Jesus is not uttering these words; the author Luke is uttering these words, from the vantage point of 50 years in the future from the moment he is recounting. Hence, this becomes a tell that Jesus did not say these words. And if Jesus did not say these words, which others did he not speak? The bit about the Twelve, perhaps? 

In any case, this is one of the times when verb tense matters. Frankly, there have not been that many of them, but they occur.

*For non-poker players, a ‘tell’ is a quirk, or a twitch, or an habitual expression or motion that gives away the emotions of one of the players. It is often as simple as raising eyebrows when viewing a good hand. This little quirk “tells” other players at the table that s/he has good cards, so maybe don’t be too proud of your own hand. Of course, the term need not be specific to poker; it can be adapted to any number of circumstances where someone gives away sensitive information without intending to do so. A courtroom trial would be another good example, if the witness doesn’t make eye contact with the opposing attorney, which may indicate the witness is lying.

26 Vos autem non sic, sed qui maior est in vobis, fiat sicut iunior; et, qui praecessor est, sicut ministrator.

27 Nam quis maior est: qui recumbit, an qui ministrat? Nonne qui recumbit? Ego autem in medio vestrum sum, sicut qui ministrat.

28 Vos autem estis, qui permansistis mecum in tentationibus meis;

29 et ego dispono vobis, sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus regnum,

30 ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo et sedeatis super thronos iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

Luke Chapter 22:14-20

The final verse from the previous post is included here again to provide context and continuity. We are at the Last Supper, or Lord’s Supper as it seems now to be generally called. This is one of the few times we can bring in Paul as a comparison text, since he describes the words of Jesus in 1 Corinthians, and of course some version is found in the other three gospels. Paul’s inclusion of the event is extremely significant for a couple of reasons, First, it’s one of a very few times when Paul actually describes something Jesus did while he was alive. Secondly, I believe this makes it one of the very few incidents in Jesus’ life that we can say is independently corroborated. There is virtually no one who claims, or even suggests, that Mark was aware of Paul when he wrote his gospel so this gives two sources for which a reasonable argument can be mounted were truly independent. The other three gospels, however, all depend on Mark; even Q does not eliminate the dependence of Matthew and Luke on Mark to some degree. Q, of course, would/could/should be considered an independent source, but only if it actually existed. Since it (almost certainly) did not, all the gospels derive from Mark. Of course, each includes material not found in any of the others. This unique material may derive from other written sources that have since disappeared, from oral traditions that were correspondingly unique to each author, or the material may have been created by that particular author. This latter possibility is almost never discussed, or even suggested, which strikes me as academic negligence. All possibilities must be considered. Obviously, there a minimum standard of probability must be applied; there is no reasonable reason to discuss whether Jesus was actually an alien–although if evidence presented itself, then it would require consideration. But given this standard of probability, everything should be fair game, no matter how distasteful it may be. I have no doubt that suggesting any of the evangelists created material that he thought belonged, whether he had factual verification or not, whether he had an oral tradition or not, whether the tradition was reliable if one existed, would be distasteful to the large majority of biblical scholars.


14 Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡ ὥρα, ἀνέπεσεν καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι σὺν αὐτῷ. 

15 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα τοῦτο τὸ πάσχα φαγεῖν μεθ’ ὑμῶν πρὸ τοῦ με παθεῖν:

16 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ φάγω αὐτὸ ἕως ὅτου πληρωθῇ ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

And when the hour had come, he sat down and the apostles with him. (15) And he said to them, “Heartily I desire to eat this Passover with you before my suffering. (16) I say to you that I will nor eat until this (my suffering) has been fulfilled in the Kingdom of God”.

Really quick grammar point. What I have translated “my suffering” is actually the infinitive form of the verb “to suffer”. In this way Greek is able to convey the ideas of a gerund or a gerundive, for which Latin has a special form. But actually, using the verb form, almost always the infinitive, as a substantive is a very old trait in Greek.

We discussed the anachronistic use of the term “apostle” in the last segment, so no need to go over that again. Having a desirous desire to eat with the disciples is new and unique. Why is this here? Did Luke have a super-special-secret “L” source that recorded this quip of Jesus? Which written document Luke then burned after using? Or did the son of a friend of the son of a friend whose grandfather knew one of the (non-existent) apostles tell Luke the story? Seriously, that is what we are talking about here. It’s wildly anachronistic and even more improbable that one of the attendants of the supper was taking notes that were written up the next morning. So what we have somebody told somebody who told somebody…who knew Luke and told Luke. That is exactly what our chain of evidence looks like, spread out over fifty or sixty years. Yes, pre-literate societies have people with remarkable memories who can memorize The Iliad and The Odyssey; but this fails to recognize that any stories of Jesus were heard by a bunch of people who were not particularly trained in mnemonic techniques, who then went home and told their family and the neighbors, none of whom were trained in memorization, and the stories spread like gossip.

Or Luke thought this was a nice touch and added it himself.

The significant part of this bit is the last verse. We found this, more or less, in both Mark and Matthew, but it is absent from Paul. What, if anything, does that mean? What are we to make of this? Did Paul know about this and leave it out? And Mark and Luke refer to it as the Kingdom of God; Matthew refers to it as the Kingdom of my Father. Was Matthew wrong? Did he have a source that Mark’s version was incorrect, which led Matthew astray? Then recall that Matthew tended to prefer “kingdom of the heavens” to “kingdom of God”, so does that blow a hole in Matthew’s overall credibility? But what does the line even mean, anyway? Well, it’s a bit of prophesy, Jesus telling those assembled that he was having his last meal on earth. Which brings us to another point about Paul. Of the four we have read so far (excluding John), Paul alone tells us that the meal was instituted by Jesus on the night he was betrayed. This tastes a bit like high drama, but the fact is that we know Jesus was executed, but the act of betrayal takes this to a whole other level. Naturally, the betrayal of Judas plays a prominent role in the Passion Narrative, so we have to take that part quite seriously. I am of the opinion that the Passion Narrative was a later addition to the saga of Jesus (and was possibly commissioned by Mary Magdalene who first appears at the foot of the cross and then is prominent for the rest of the story).

Now, we must be very clear that corroboration of a detail of the Passion Narrative, or any part of the gospel, the NT, or the Bible as a whole is just exactly that: corroboration of a detail. From that, it does not follow that we can infer anything else in the narrative, except things which can be deduced directly from the act of betrayal. The point is that just because we know Jesus was handed over by someone, we do not know either the motivation or the charges. I would be willing to accept that an exchange of money took place, but, then again, the “betrayer” may have agreed to save his own skin. It must be conceded that we can see the outline of the eventual “official” view of the Passion starting to take form, but remember that I said an exchange of money, or avoidance of duress, would be easy to accept. This is not to say that either occurred; there is no shred of contemporary evidence for this. It must also be conceded that we could detect the echo of the “official” Passion Narrative in Paul; he may have been sufficiently aware of the narrative that he referred to it in an offhand manner here. Indeed, that Paul says nothing more could easily be an indication that he felt no need to say more because the story well-known. This seriously undercuts my position, but it’s an objection that I need to address if my argument is to carry any weight. 

14 Et cum facta esset hora, discubuit, et apostoli cum eo.

15 Et ait illis: “ Desiderio desideravi hoc Pascha manducare vobiscum, antequam patiar.

16 Dico enim vobis: Non manducabo illud, donec impleatur in regno Dei ”.

17 καὶ δεξάμενος ποτήριον εὐχαριστήσας εἶπεν, Λάβετε τοῦτο καὶ διαμερίσατε εἰς ἑαυτούς:

18 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν [ὅτι] οὐ μὴ πίω ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως οὗ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἔλθῃ.

And taking/receiving the cup giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it amongst you. (18) For I say to you that I will not drink from the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God may come.

Note that Jesus merely sharing the bread and the cup and saying he shall neither eat nor drink until the arrival of the Kingdom of God. We do not entirely know what is meant by the term, “Kingdom of God”. Our lack of knowledge on the topic is largely due to the fact that the term is not used consistently in any one sense. Also, the term develops over time, and across gospels, and even within gospels. We had an instance a few chapters ago when the term kingdom was very obviously synonymous with the standard Christian concept of “heaven” or whatever you wish to call it. (And note that the term ‘heaven’ is also very problematic; the term that gets translated as singular ‘heaven’ could also be rendered just as accurately by ‘sky’.) In any case, it bears repeating that the idea that the Kingdom of God would be here on earth was the standard Jewish understanding (I believe…). Even though Jewish thought was moving towards the idea of a “heavenly” kingdom more like the Christian conception, there are sources contemporary with Jesus, or even a bit later, that still conceive of the Kingdom as coming into being on this earth. It will be idealized, of course, but it’s still thought of as a material, physical place and not the disembodied spiritual existence that is standard Christian thinking. This is largely because Christians absorbed a lot of Greek ideas on the subject, and for the Greeks, the afterlife was decidedly non-material. And note that the kingdom ‘may come’; we don’t die and go there, but it comes, presumably to us. “Thy kingdom come”, after all. So it’s still decidedly ambiguous despite the tendency to read backwards into every word in the NT.

17 Et accepto calice, gratias egit et dixit: “Accipite hoc et dividite inter vos.

18 Dico enim vobis: Non bibam amodo de generatione vitis, donec regnum Dei veniat”.

19 καὶ λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς λέγων, Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον: τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.

20 καὶ τὸ ποτήριον ὡσαύτως μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι, λέγων, Τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου, τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυννόμενον.

And taking bread, (and) giving thanks, he broke it and gave (it) to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you; do this towards my memory. (20) And likewise (taking) the cup after dinner, saying “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, which for you has been poured.”

Let’s think about this for a moment. Remember that 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 has very similar words about the body and blood, that it is given for them/us, and that the ritual should be done in memory of Jesus. Thematically, Luke is closest to Paul, which includes the detail of Jesus taking the cup after the meal, while Mark and Matthew do not make so clear a distinction. In one sense, it doesn’t really make that much difference, but it does indicate that Luke may have been aware of Paul’s words on the topic. As we’ve stated, Luke is the first evangelist who we can be sure was aware of Paul and his mission and his writings. At least, we can be sure if Luke and Acts are by the same individual. Regardless, these few words here indicate more than a passing familiarity with Paul on Luke’s part. 

So we know that the ideas expressed, the blood of Jesus that seals (Paul’s word) the covenant, trace back into the late 50s or early 60s, when Paul wrote. The question then becomes, when were they actually said? Or, were they actually spoken by Jesus? This is a very important question, and one that I’ve never seen asked. It is simply assumed that Jesus spoke these words which are still recited by Catholics and Anglicans/Episcopalians at the Consecration. (I can personally attest to these two; there may be other denominations that use these words. Lutherans?) But think about it. The words are, at root, prophetic, just as Jesus talking about how the Son of Man must suffer at the hands of the Nations, or that no stone of the Temple will be left on another stone. Jesus is saying these words in anticipation of what is to come: his crucifixion, when his body will be broken like the bread, and his blood will indeed be spilled, or poured out. Does this foresight not make it more likely that Jesus never actually said these words? I tend to believe this to be the case. How could the human Jesus have known what was to come? It is possible that he knew they were coming for him in a general sense, that he couldn’t escape the law much longer, so he may have been able to anticipate his horrendous death to come. And, if he was, in fact, charged as a magician, crucifixion was probably the way in which he would be executed. This had been one of the prescribed punishments for magicians since the 82 BCE, when the lex Cornelia de sicaris et veneficis was passed in Rome by Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who set himself up as dictator in Rome after some nasty particularly nasty civil strife. So there is that, but if he knew he was to be executed as a magician, why would he talk about the new covenant sealed by his blood. He wouldn’t. So, like the Pater Noster, Jesus probably never spoke the words.

But even if Jesus did not, the point is that their appearance in Paul indicates that they became part of the tradition very early on in the history of the Jesus cult. They are not, I think, the earliest words of the Jesus cult; I tend to suspect that the parable of the mustard seed may be authentic, although that will prove to be difficult to reconcile with my contention that Jesus was a magician. But then, it only is necessary that Jesus was executed as a magician; but given some of the stories in Mark, it’s hard not to entertain the idea that Jesus was considered to be a magician.

But back to the actual topic, the theme of body & blood, what does this say about how the followers were understanding Jesus’ death? The first question to ask is whether the followers really knew the reason for the execution. Of course, the earliest ones knew full well. Peter certainly knew, as did James, brother of Jesus. But did they share the facts? Or did they sugar-coat it, or smudge over it a bit? So did Paul know the reason? Based on what he said in 1 Cor 11:23-26, he is hinting at what would become the official version, since Jesus says his body is “for you”. Why should we not believe that this was, in fact, the real reason Jesus was killed? The fact remains that Jesus was killed by the Romans. This means Jesus did something that violated Roman law. Well, sedition would certainly fit the bill there, and any number of people have come to this conclusion. In my mind, if Jesus had been executed for sedition, the Romans would have rounded up several dozen of his followers, and another dozen or so perfectly innocent persons just to make sure that they had gotten the lot of them. I have raised this objection to the official version any number of times, but I find it compelling. The Romans were a lot of things: tough, competent, and thorough. One thing they were not was soft, and merciful wasn’t a desired quality among them. Look up “Manlian discipline” and you’ll find the story of a Roman consul having his son executed for disobeying an order. And this was considered a good thing. BTW, this is a great example of a story that is True, whether or not it ever happened. For, even if it’s not it’s factually accurate, this is part of the Roman Myth that they constructed about themselves. And I ask you: which is worse? Whether it happened, demonstrating a level of brutality that existed, or whether it didn’t, in which case this is what the Romans wanted to believe about themselves.

So yeah, Peter and James and everyone else would have been arrested and the lot of them would have been set up on crosses lining both sides of the main road into Jerusalem.

And Matthew adds that Jesus’ blood was shed for “forgiveness of sins”. This is a clear indication that the story about Jesus was evolving. Luke leaves this out, and so gives us the more “primitive” version of the story. Alternatively, we could say that Luke, once again, follows Mark and so “corrects” Matthew’s version. This is an aspect of Luke/Matthew/Mark that gets no discussion in the Q debate: much is made that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark; except of course, all the times when he does and they call it “Q”. But what about the times Luke agrees with Mark against Matthew? We’ve been pointing out those instances when Luke goes short on a story told in full by M&M, or goes long when Matthew cuts his version short. But let us move on now with the question still unanswered; this comment has gotten too long already.

19 Et accepto pane, gratias egit et fregit et dedit eis dicens: “Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis datur. Hoc facite in meam commemorationem”.

20 Similiter et calicem, postquam cenavit, dicens: “ Hic calix novum testamentum est in sanguine meo, qui pro vobis funditur.



21 πλὴν ἰδοὺ ἡ χεὶρ τοῦ παραδιδόντος με μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης:

22 ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον πορεύεται, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι’ οὗ παραδίδοται.

23 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς τὸ τίς ἄρα εἴη ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁ τοῦτο μέλλων πράσσειν.

24 Ἐγένετο δὲ καὶ φιλονεικία ἐν αὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς αὐτῶν δοκεῖ εἶναι μείζων.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν κυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἐξουσιάζοντες αὐτῶν εὐεργέται καλοῦνται.

26 ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως, ἀλλ’ ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν γινέσθω ὡς ὁ νεώτερος, καὶ ὁ ἡγούμενος ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

27 τίς γὰρ μείζων, ὁ ἀνακείμενος ἢ ὁ διακονῶν; οὐχὶ ὁ ἀνακείμενος; ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν εἰμι ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

28 ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε οἱ διαμεμενηκότες μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς μου:

29 κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι ὁ πατήρ μου βασιλείαν

30 ἵνα ἔσθητε καὶ πίνητε ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης μου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ μου, καὶ καθήσεσθε ἐπὶ θρόνων τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς κρίνοντες τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 


21 Verumtamen ecce manus tradentis me mecum est in mensa;

22 et quidem Filius hominis, secundum quod definitum est, vadit; verumtamen vae illi homini, per quem traditur! ”.

23 Et ipsi coeperunt quaerere inter se, quis esset ex eis, qui hoc facturus esset.

24 Facta est autem et contentio inter eos, quis eorum videretur esse maior.

25 Dixit autem eis: “ Reges gentium dominantur eorum; et, qui potestatem habent super eos, benefici vocantur.

26 Vos autem non sic, sed qui maior est in vobis, fiat sicut iunior; et, qui praecessor est, sicut ministrator.

27 Nam quis maior est: qui recumbit, an qui ministrat? Nonne qui recumbit? Ego autem in medio vestrum sum, sicut qui ministrat.

28 Vos autem estis, qui permansistis mecum in tentationibus meis;

29 et ego dispono vobis, sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus regnum,

30 ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo et sedeatis super thronos iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

Luke Chapter 22:1-14

We have reached the antepenultimate chapter of Luke. I meant to brag and show off at the beginning of Chapter 21, because I’ve coined a new term: pre-antepenultimate. Ultimate is the final; penultimate the last but one; antepenultimate, one before the penultimate, is third from the end, and the pre-antepenultimate is fourth from the end. But oh well.

We now enter into the final phase of the life of Jesus. The chapter opens with Jesus sending some disciples to make arrangements for the Passover supper.


1Ἤγγιζεν δὲ ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν ἀζύμων ἡ λεγομένη πάσχα.

2 καὶ ἐζήτουν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς τὸ πῶς ἀνέλωσιν αὐτόν, ἐφοβοῦντο γὰρ τὸν λαόν.

3 Εἰσῆλθεν δὲ Σατανᾶς εἰς Ἰούδαν τὸν καλούμενον Ἰσκαριώτην, ὄντα ἐκ τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τῶν δώδεκα:

4 καὶ ἀπελθὼν συνελάλησεν τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ στρατηγοῖς τὸ πῶς αὐτοῖς παραδῷ αὐτόν.

5 καὶ ἐχάρησαν καὶ συνέθεντο αὐτῷ ἀργύριον δοῦναι.

6 καὶ ἐξωμολόγησεν, καὶ ἐζήτει εὐκαιρίαν τοῦ παραδοῦναι αὐτὸν ἄτερ ὄχλου αὐτοῖς.

The holy day of the Unleavened (Bread) which they call Passover. (2) And the high priests and the grammarians sought how to kill him, they feared the people. (3) But Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, being from the number of the Twelve. (4) And coming from, he spoke with the high priests and generals, about how to hand him over to them. (5) And they agreed to give to him silver. (6) And he promised, and he sought a favourable season for handing him over to them without the crowd.

Lots to say about words here. First up we  have Pascha. Obviously, it’s the root of Paschal, as in “paschal lamb”. Apparently, it’s Hebrew, which would make sense given that the celebration comes from Judaism. Secondly, Satan. The rules for use of the definite article in Greek are a tad vague. We see ho Iesous very frequently, but here it’s just Satanas. This indicates a proper name, because one doesn’t use a definite article with proper names unless one does. It’s fun to read the fusty old Victorian grammars as they slice & dice the rules of grammar into ever-more-specific examples. But the focus and attention to detail in these grammars is awe-inspiring. Anyway, after doing a survey of the uses of Satan, my finding is that the use of Satan where the word is clearly a Proper Noun because there is no definite article are fairly easily balanced by instances where it could easily be translated as “the devil” because the proper noun is included. Now, what matters is when the word appears in the nominative case; when occurring in other cases, the definite article is (almost) always used. One of the ideas I’ve been following as we go through the NT has been that of the devil, whether the adversary (ho satanas), the slanderer (ho diabolos), or Satan (Satanas; ho Satanas). I’ve paid attention to the term used. Interesting to note is that Mark never uses the Greek diabolos; Matthew and Luke are about evenly split between the Greek word and satan/Satan. Make another tick mark in the column of why Matthew was a pagan.

[ Note: I just spent a fair bit of time researching every use of satan in the HS. Had to learn how to spell it in Hebrew, and what the letters look like. Then I cross-correlated to the LXX, to see what Greek word the translators used to render satan. This will probably be the subject of a special post. ]

Judas spoke with the high priests and generals. This is the first time we’ve encountered this word. Luke will use it again later in the chapter, and half-a-dozen times in Acts. (This alone should be enough to alert us that Luke/Acts may indeed have been written by the same author.) The NT lexicon attached to gives the definition as “captains” or “magistrates”. The original meaning is “commander of an army”; that is, a general. In addition, starting in the just before the turn of the 6th to the 5th Century BCE, the leading magistrates in Athens were known as strategoi, which is the nominative plural form of strategos. If you look closely, you will see the origin of the word “strategy”. After the reforms of Kleisthenes at the end of the 6th C, the citizen population of Athens was divided into ten tribes, and each tribe elected its own strategos. The board of ten strategoi were elected annually, and they comprised the executive branch of the Athenian democracy. Since the Athenian army, and the armies of most city-states, were a citizen militia, the Athenian army was organized by tribe, so there were effectively ten regiments, one per tribe, each led by its own strategos. Hence, the term is usually translated as “general”. With the coming first of the Macedonian empire under Phillip, then the monarchies of Alexander’s successors, the Diadochoi, city magistrates became minor officials in the larger government of the monarchy. A strategos became a magistrate or lesser official, which is the meaning or reference here. Elsewhere it is apparently translated as “captains”, but that is a far cry from its original usage.

Now for substance. I’m not sure where the theory arose, but there is a streak out there to equate, or correlate, Judas’ surname Iscariot, with the sicarrii.  These were true Zealots, committed to the overthrow of the Roman government. In today’s parlance, we would call them either freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on whose side you were on. They were assassins, which is why the term “terrorist” is not the least bit out of line. The term is Greek for “dagger men”, because that was their method of murder. Per Josephus, they tended to mingle in crowds with the knife beneath their robes and then slip the weapon home during the press of the crowd. The sicarrii were supposedly the ones responsible for coming up with, and carrying out the idea of mass suicide at Masada. The implication of making this connexion to Judas’ surname is that he was one of these extremist Zealots. The other suggestion is that the name refers to his place of origin, the village of Kerioth. This is were one has to be very careful with suggested etymologies, especially when proposed by someone without a really strong background in philology, or at least in the languages involved. Here we are mixing languages, Greek and Hebrew, so caution is needed. 

A strict reading of this passage tells us that Judas was not actually responsible for betraying Jesus. In fact, the devil made him do it. But this gets into the notion of temptation, and the belief that humans are fully capable of resisting temptation, if they choose to do so. That we don’t resist is why the sin is counted against us. But there is also another line of thinking: could Judas have indeed chosen to resist the temptation? If so, then what? Here is where the theology gets really messy. The fact that Jesus was executed meant that later followers felt compelled to explain why this happened. I won’t go into it here, but I have a suspicion that he may have been executed as a magician. Regardless, it was deemed necessary to the plot that Jesus was betrayed by one of his own, because that makes for a much more dramatic story. The point is then, what happened if Judas did not betray Jesus? What then? That would mean the ransom was never paid, or atonement sacrifice was never made. If Jesus doesn’t die then there is no Resurrection, which means no Christianity. Ergo, Jesus had to die. And, if he had to be betrayed, there had to be someone to do the deed. So that betrayer was necessary to the unfolding of the salvation of humanity, so that betrayer had to turn Jesus over. This all by way of saying that Judas–or someone– had no choice. If we have no choice but to do something, how can we be held accountable for this action if there is no theological possibility of doing otherwise? That act of betrayal is necessary, so the person committing it is just doing what s/he was born to do. So God picked Judas, and Judas had to do it. Or was God surprised by Judas’ action? If the father knows the hour of the End of Times, how can he not know that Judas is going to betray Jesus? Can God be tricked? Or fooled? Or surprised? Of course, this line of thinking totally destroys the argument of free will, and takes us squarely into the predestination scenario, in which God creates people who will be damned, no matter what they do. How about Judas? Fobbing it off on Satan is a dodge, and not a good one. Can Satan thwart God’s plans? If so, that implies Satan is more powerful than God, does it not?

Finally, we need to say a word about the fear of the crowd. That has never struck me as credible given that the crowd was screaming for Jesus’ crucifixion within a day or two. I suppose the fear was based on not having the Roman cohort around as was the case during the crucifixion. It didn’t stop Herod from arresting John, either. And we’ve never been given a convincing reason why the powers in Jerusalem were so eager to have him executed. The pretext is the Cleansing of the Temple, I suppose; at least, that’s what the plot dictates. But you have heard my arguments, several times, explaining why this never happened. There is no argument for the Cleansing, except that is the story in the NT.

1 Appropinquabat autem dies festus Azymorum, qui dici tur Pascha.

2 Et quaerebant principes sacerdotum et scribae quomodo eum interficerent; timebant vero plebem.

3 Intravit autem Satanas in Iudam, qui cognominabatur Iscarioth, unum de Duodecim;

4 et abiit et locutus est cum principibus sacerdotum et magistratibus, quemadmodum illum traderet eis.

5 Et gavisi sunt et pacti sunt pecuniam illi dare.

6 Et spopondit et quaerebat opportunitatem, ut eis traderet illum sine turba.

7) ηλθεν δὲ ἡ ἡμέρα τῶν ἀζύμων, [ἐν] ἧ ἔδει θύεσθαι τὸ πάσχα.

8 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάννην εἰπών, Πορευθέντες ἑτοιμάσατε ἡμῖν τὸ πάσχα ἵνα φάγωμεν.

9 οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Ποῦ θέλεις ἑτοιμάσωμεν;

10 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἰδοὺ εἰσελθόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν πόλιν συναντήσει ὑμῖν ἄνθρωπος κεράμιον ὕδατος βαστάζων: ἀκολουθήσατε αὐτῷ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν εἰς ἣν εἰσπορεύεται.

11 καὶ ἐρεῖτε τῷ οἰκοδεσπότῃ τῆς οἰκίας, Λέγει σοι ὁ διδάσκαλος, Ποῦ ἐστιν τὸ κατάλυμα ὅπου τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου φάγω;

12 κἀκεῖνος ὑμῖν δείξει ἀνάγαιον μέγα ἐστρωμένον: ἐκεῖ ἑτοιμάσατε.

13 ἀπελθόντες δὲ εὗρον καθὼς εἰρήκει αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἡτοίμασαν τὸ πάσχα.

14 Καὶ ὅτε ἐγένετο ἡ ὥρα, ἀνέπεσεν καὶ οἱ ἀπόστολοι σὺν αὐτῷ. 

The day of the Unleavened (bread) came, on which it was necessary to kill the pascha. (8) And he sent Peter and John, saying, “Going prepare for us the pascha in order that we (can) eat”. (9) They said to him, “Where do you wish us to prepare?” (10) He said to them, “Behold, you going to the city you will encounter a man carrying water jars. Follow him to his house which you will go to. (11) And ask the master of the house ‘The teacher says to you, “Where is the lodging where I will eat the passover with my disciples”?’ (12) And he will show you a second story (lit = above the ground) large [word is unclear in Greek;] upper room [taken from the Latin]. Prepare there.” (13) Coming from they discover according to what he said to them, and they prepared the Passover (seder?). (14) And when the hour came, the apostles reclined with him.

OK, started with “pascha” and ended up with seder. I do not know if it the term is anachronistic; I assume it probably is, but it’s convenient. We are told here, very specifically, this was the Day of Preparation, on which the paschal lamb was slaughtered for the evening meal. It could not be more clear. I mention this because John changes the time scheme on us. John has the execution take place on the Day of Preparation to make sure he gets across the idea that Jesus is the Paschal Lamb that was slaughtered on the Day of Preparation. This is a straight-out irreconcilable difference. The two are mutually exclusive, and both cannot be correct, regardless of the mental gymnastics performed. Regardless, it seems pretty clear to me that Jesus is giving Peter and John instructions to prepare the seder. The choice is binary to the point that even I can’t worry it to death. OTOH, it bears mentioning, but not much more, that the set of instructions is very clearly on the pattern of the instructions given to the disciples to procure a colt for the entry into Jerusalem. Again, it sounds very much like Jesus had sealed the deal ahead of time, and sent the disciples to conclude the arrangements made previously. And note that he sent Peter and John; this is like the A-Team, not a couple of unknowns that only have a name back in the chapter when the Apostles are named.

And then there are the apostles. Mark and Matthew each use the word “apostle” once: in the respective chapters when they name who the apostles were. Luke uses it a half-dozen times or so, two of which are when he names them and when they give their report upon returning from having been sent out (Greek: apo-stellein). Luke uses it a couple of times casually, when we might expect the term “disciples”. John uses it once, but in its strictly neutral sense of “one who has been sent out” rather than to identify specific individuals who were “officially” called by this term. Acts is when the term comes into full-blown usage, but there is a reason for that. Paul also uses it a lot, in 1 Corinthians especially. Why is this? Think about it: Acts is the story of the time of Paul. At that point, specific individuals actually had been “sent out” to preach the “good news”. Paul was one of these, and he calls himself an apostle. That Mark and Matthew only use the word once strikes me as blatant interpolation. The sequence in which the Apostles were name had to be present, had to have been instituted by Jesus; otherwise, it had little authority. My guess is that the idea began with James, especially since there were twelve of them, one to represent each of the (mythical) Twelve Tribes. Luke is the first evangelist that we know was aware of Paul and his mission; that is, we “know” this assuming Luke is also the author of Acts. I’ve been taking that more or less as a given because I haven’t really done any research on the topic. I don’t know what the counter-arguments are. The point of this is that I firmly do not believe that there were Twelve Apostles named by Jesus. He had followers, but he did not sent them out (apo-stellein) to preach the good news. That did not happen until after Jesus death, and was probably done at the instigation of James the Just, brother of Jesus. After all, Paul went to him to get a blessing for his mission.

Regarding Verse 12. The word used seems not to have existed in Classical Greek. The root, however, refers to things like beds, or couches, or coverlets. The idea is furnishings of some sort, or couches would refer to the style of dining while reclining on couches. In this instance, I think we’re justified using the Vulgate as a cheat sheet. But while the word in Greek is obscure, in Latin it seems redundant, as if it’s saying an upper room raised a storey above the ground floor. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It’s “mega” and it’s on the second floor. We are entitled to use our imaginations.

7 Venit autem dies Azymorum, in qua necesse erat occidi Pascha.

8 Et misit Petrum et Ioannem dicens: “Euntes parate nobis Pascha, ut manducemus”.

9 At illi dixerunt ei: “Ubi vis paremus?”.

10 Et dixit ad eos: “ Ecce, introeuntibus vobis in civitatem, occurret vobis homo amphoram aquae portans; sequimini eum in domum, in quam intrat.

11 Et dicetis patri familias domus: “Dicit tibi Magister: Ubi est deversorium, ubi Pascha cum discipulis meis manducem?”.

12 Ipse vobis ostendet cenaculum magnum stratum; ibi parate ”.

13 Euntes autem invenerunt, sicut dixit illis, et paraverunt Pascha.

14 Et cum facta esset hora, discubuit, et apostoli cum eo.


Luke Chapter 21:10-24 (with edit)

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

Added a section to the commentary of vv 16-19

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


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

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

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

13 ἀποβήσεται ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον.

14 θέτε οὖν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν μὴ προμελετᾶν ἀπολογηθῆναι,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 continget autem vobis in testimonium.

14 Ponite ergo in cordibus vestris non praemeditari quemadmodum respondeatis;

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

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

17 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.

18 καὶ θρὶξ ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν οὐ μὴ ἀπόληται.

19 ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum.

18 Et capillus de capite vestro non peribit.

19 In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 21:1-9

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

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

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

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



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

2 εἶδεν δέ τινα χήραν πενιχρὰν βάλλουσαν ἐκεῖ λεπτὰ δύο,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Vidit autem quandam viduam pauperculam mittentem illuc minuta duo

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Summary Luke Chapter 20

Generally after concluding the translation of a chapter, I scan through to refresh my memory of the content. The translation of these chapters is often spread over several weeks, if not longer, so the details slip through the cracks. The idea is to detect an underlying theme in the chapter; most don’t have one, but it’s worth a look. Having done that with this chapter, the first bit of unifying thread that jumped out to me is that there is almost no chance that Jesus said or did anything described herein. I say this even though pretty much all of the material can be found in Mark, and his gospel is the one most likely to record actual events from the life of Jesus. However, everything in here smacks of post-crucifixion, and post-destruction spin, of how the evangelists tried to present Jesus, rather than as any indication of trying to describe how he actually had been. This realization came as soon as I hit the parable of the Wicked Tenants. This is symbolic, or metaphorical, or so thinly disguised as to be almost pure allegory. One expects the list of dramatis personae to read something like Wicked Tenant 1, Wicked Tenant 2, Dutiful Slave 1, etc. They don’t need names, because they are meant to represent a Thing rather than an actual person. That alone is enough to make me conclude that we are dealing with something entirely post facto. (Two Latin terms in three sentences; is that a record?) The parable was concocted to explain Jesus’ life. In a training seminar on training people, we were instructed to “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them”. That way you could increase your chances that what you said would stick, because by the third time around it’s at least somewhat familiar. Just so here. In case anyone missed the moral of Jesus’ life as it had played out, a story like this was added to help drive the point home.

One other thing just occurred. In all three Synoptics Gospels, the “plot” follows a pattern. There is the part where Jesus is wandering around in Galilee and environs. He preaches, but the majority of his healings and miracles take place there. Then in the last part of the gospel, in the final quarter or so, Jesus moves into Jerusalem. In Luke, this occurred at the end of Chapter 19, of a total of 24 chapters. That’s not quite 20% of the gospel. In Mark, it occurs in the tenth of 15 chapters; that’s more like a third. In Matthew, it happens in Chapter 21 of 28, which is a quarter. Whatever the exact count, it’s a substantial portion of the gospel. The traditional dating, based on absolutely no evidence, is that Jesus’ ministry lasted three years, having begun– Luke being the only source for this– when he was thirty; however, per the outline of the story, Jesus was in Jerusalem less than a week, from the entrance on the first day of the week until his execution on Friday. He did not participate in the Sabbath while there. IOW, the sojourn in the capital, which didn’t last a week out of three years, comprises something between 20 and 33% of the gospel. More, despite the brevity of his stay, we get lot of text of Jesus teaching. This strikes me as very odd. There are possible explanations, of course. The most obvious is that the three years is a great exaggeration.

I read once that all of the activity in Mark’s gospel could be compressed into about three weeks. In this case, the proportion is about correct. My first instinct is to disagree with this compression; it does not allow time for Jesus’ popularity to spread. Then again, that may be a more accurate reflection of reality. The better explanation is that Jesus spoke to a lot of different people in fairly small groups while preaching in Galilee. Mark, of course, is constantly telling us of the multitudes, of 5,000 and 4,000 on two occasions. Perhaps those numbers are correct, but are recorded precisely because they were exceptional. The point being that small audiences, comprised of different people each time was not as conducive to Jesus’ teaching being remembered. There were snippets here and there, but much of it was lost. Based on the internal evidence in Mark, what was remembered were the miracles. This, frankly, is very plausible. Chapters 1-8 (approximately) was the story of Jesus the Wonder-Worker. In Chapter 9 Jesus was transfigured and then moves into Jerusalem, thus initiating the part of his gospel that concerns the Christ. In this section, the miracles more or less cease, and we get a lot of teaching. In Jerusalem, Jesus was more likely to be addressing bigger crowds. It was the week before Passover. The city was full of people who were not engaged in their normal economic activity, giving them leisure, which can entail a bit of boredom so that they’re apt to seek out entertainment, such as listening to someone speak. This was a fairly common diversion in the ancient world; indeed, this pastime persisted in small towns into the 20th century. Witness the popularity of traveling medicine shows. Since the crowds were larger, and packed into a confined space, there is likelihood that some people saw him more than once, and that those in the audience would chat with strangers, each relating what they had heard, or what they had been told, what Jesus said the day before. So the stories circulated, reaching a bigger group of people, and were remembered. This seems eminently plausible. In fact, by describing this, I’ve almost convinced myself that this is most likely what happened; however, I would need time to reflect to come up with the holes in the story.

There is a third possibility. We can be pretty much certain that, after Jesus’ death, the center of his following was located in Jerusalem. Paul tells us this, and there is no good reason to disbelieve him. We have seen, in Luke, that the towns of Nain and Jericho wrote themselves int the Jesus story. It would only make sense that later stories of Jesus would take place in Jerusalem since this is where the the biggest concentration of his followers was to be found. Either way this would account for the large percentage of stories occurring in the capital. When I first thought of this, the intent was to tie it into the Passion Narrative. That was also constructed some time after Jesus’ death, either more or less concurrently with, or later than the time  Paul wrote most of his epistles. Paul knows that Jesus was executed, crucified to be precise, and, far from hiding the fact, he proclaims it. This is the single most convincing bit of evidence to prove that a) Jesus was a real person; and b) he was, indeed, crucified. It’s an acutely embarrassing bit of information, that he was executed as a common criminal (the Romans crucified everyone; it was not a special treat for insurrectionists).

We noted that Mark more or less splits in two; the earlier part being concerned with the wonder-worker; the latter with the Christ. Is it coincidental that this second part is also largely set in Jerusalem? That bears some closer scrutiny: what are the topics of Jesus’ teaching when he is in Jerusalem? Do they obviously pertain to a time after Jesus died? Are any of them likely to have been spoken by Jesus? Of his teachings, my sense is that The Sower and The Mustard Seed (and similar) are the most apt to be authentic. They do not refer to Jesus at all, but are about the word/kingdom of God. There is no temporal specificity involved. Technically, Chapter 20 is the first set after Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, so we don’t have a real sense of comparison. However, the largest part of Chapter 19 was devoted to the Parable of the Talents, which is also likely to be a post-mortem development.

While we’re on the topic of post-mortem developments, Paul does not tell us why Jesus was executed. Why not? Did he not know, or did he not care? And why not? Because it did not seem important to his good news. Basically nothing that happened to Jesus while alive seems to have concerned Paul; his interest starts with the Resurrection. Then, and only then, did Jesus become the Christ. What can we infer from this as to the cause of Jesus’ death? Anything? I ask this because it may shed some kind of light on how the movement developed through time. This is a question too often neglected; it is more or less glossed over that forty years (give or take) separate the execution and Mark. A lot of things could have–and certainly did–happen in that interim. And note that James, brother of Jesus, was the leader of the movement for virtually that entire span of time. It is impossible to believe that much of what Mark wrote about came from James, and his interpretation of his more famous brother, than what actually came from Jesus. Among this material that Mark got from James was doubtless these later stories set in Jerusalem, but not the Passion Narrative. For various reasons, I suspect that came from Mary Magdalene and originated in Galilee; that is my working hypothesis, and so is subject to change. But then we have to ask where the Q material came from. Why did Mark not include it? Indeed, he seems completely unaware of it. And Paul never alludes to any teachings of Jesus (except divorce in 1 Cor, when he disagrees with Jesus. This, in itself, is a telling datum) let alone anything written about Jesus. And since Q supposedly pre-dated Paul by s decade or more, this silence from both Paul and Mark is telling. So where did Matthew get the Q material? Apparently, not from the James tradition.

So all of this is remarkably inconclusive; there’s very to grab onto at this point. However, the questions are always worth asking.


Luke Chapter 20:41-47

(made a couple of minor edits: corrected the verses covered, added a comment about the last verse.)

This is one of those tail-end sections. It was too much to add to the end of the last one, but it’s really not enough for its own post. Whatever. Here is the end of the chapter. There are four chapters left in this gospel; after which I will need to figure out whence from here. So let’s have at it.


41 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς, Πῶς λέγουσιν τὸν Χριστὸν εἶναι Δαυὶδ υἱόν;

42 αὐτὸς γὰρ Δαυὶδ λέγει ἐν βίβλῳ ψαλμῶν, Εἶπεν κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου, Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου

43 ἕως ἂν θῶ τοὺς ἐχθρούς σου ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν σου.

44 Δαυὶδ οὖν κύριον αὐτὸν καλεῖ, καὶ πῶς αὐτοῦ υἱός ἐστιν;

45 Ἀκούοντος δὲ παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς [αὐτοῦ],

46 Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν γραμματέων τῶν θελόντων περιπατεῖν ἐν στολαῖς καὶ φιλούντων ἀσπασμοὺς ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς καὶ πρωτοκαθεδρίας ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ πρωτοκλισίας ἐν τοῖς δείπνοις,

47 οἳ κατεσθίουσιν τὰς οἰκίας τῶν χηρῶνκαὶ προφάσει μακρὰ προσεύχονται: οὗτοι λήμψονται περισσότερον κρίμα. 

He said to them, “How do they say that the Christ is the son of David? (42) For David himself said in the Book of Psalms, ‘The lord speaks to my lord, “Sit at my right (hand), (43) until I may place your enemies under your feet”.’ (44) Thus David calls him lord, so how is he (Christ) his (David) son?” (45) Having heard all people, he said to his disciples, (46) “Beware of the scribes wishing to walk around in stoles* and loving greetings in the marketplace** and the first seats in the synagogues and the first seats at dinner parties. (47) They devour the houses of the widows and shine forth long as they pray. They will receive an extraordinary judgement.”

First, let me address the “shine forth long as they pray”. What is rendered “shine forth” can either be a feminine noun or a 3rd person plural verb. Here it is obviously a verb. Unfortunately, this verb only has one occurrence cited by the Great Scott (L&S); more, this is not the cite. The definition is “shine forth”. Peaking at the Latin, we get simulant. This being the root for “simulate” should be fairly obvious. All four of my crib translations render it along these lines, the idea being that they make a long, but hypocritical display of praying for a long time. They are simulating holiness. The noun form, interestingly, does not have the sense of falseness; it means plea, as in a court, but in a neutral sense. It means a falsely alleged motive, and that, according to the Latin and a contextual reading, does not fit here. The idea, supposedly, is that it is the scribes that are false, that their praying is false, not that Jesus is ascribing false motives. If you step back and let your eyes blur a bit, perhaps you can see how “shine forth” came from ascribing a motive, and then how the two became a negative, as conveyed by the Latin “to simulate”. We must always remember that St Jerome lived something like 300 years after Jesus, so there was plenty of time for words to develop. We must also bear in mind that it’s possible that even someone as erudite as St Jerome could be unaware of an obscure verb like this, so he read the meaning from the context, which he largely derived from the other two tellings of this story. We all get it that Jesus is calling them fakers, so St Jerome decided to clarify that in the Latin. 

It only just occurred to me to check other uses in the NT. There are several. The most relevant is Mk 12:40, which is not exactly parallel to Luke’s story. That his the story of the Widow’s Mite, wherein Mark excoriates the rich in general rather than single out the scribes as Luke does here. And, perhaps even more interesting is that most textual traditions leave this story out of Matthew; it would be Mt 23:13, but the KJV and most manuscript traditions not not include it. In those that do, the wording is similar to  that used by Luke; it only makes sense that this passage was inserted into Matthew because someone noticed it was missing, and took Luke as their example. The Greek word is used in Mark, and four other times, including twice by Paul in two of his earlier letters, 1 Thessalonians and Philippians. The other two are in Acts, which is presumably Luke again, and finally once by John. In all cases it is rendered as “cloak”, which is a metaphor for pretense. However, checking the Vulgate, in none of these other places is the verb “simulo” used in as a translation. The standard is praetextus, as a pretense, the derivation of the latter from the former being reasonably straightforward.

So what is the point? Just that a lot of this stuff is not cut as clearly as some would have you believe. I have long since passed the point where I can read any religious or philosophical or theological text translated from Greek or Latin into English. Historical works don’t matter quite as much, but the linguistic fields for a lot of these religious or philosophical or theological texts is just too important to trust a translation. And, interestingly, as a youngster I found the Victorian translations unbearably stilted; now I realize how much closer to the original they are. Except, are they really? Or is it because the Greek & Latin lexica were also creations of the Victorian era, so they use the same words the Victorian translators did? The answer, of course, is yes.

There are a couple of other translation issues that were worth flagging. Translated as “stole”. *Grk = stolai; Lat = stolis. If ypu are of a certain age, you will recall the mink stole being a standard item on the wish-list of every suburban housewife. At least, you would think that if your only historical source were sitcoms.

**Translated as marketplace: In Greek, = agora. In Latin = forum. The latter word has passed into English with a much, much broader range of meanings, almost none of them associated with markets, trade, or commerce. People are given. forum in which to be heard; sports teams, especially professional hockey and basketball, used to play in a place called The Forum. At root, the agora in a Greek polis, and the Forum in Rome were simply a large, open area, more or less centrally located, where the merchants would sell their wares. The Greek word agora maintained this commercial implication, whereas the Forum in Rome did not. It had always been the meeting place for political or legal (which were often the same thing) or religious events, speeches, trials, funerals, etc. It became ringed by many temples.  At some point the commercial aspect became decidedly a secondary, or even a tertiary, function, then more or less supplanted completely, those functions moved elsewhere. The meaning of the word remained. In other Latin/Roman cities, the forum retained its function as a marketplace. 

I initially wondered why the Scribes became the villain du jour in this story. A glance, however, showed me this is not the case. All three evangelists refer to them a number of times. And not in a kindly manner. Having mentioned Eisenman and his theory about which groups of Jews sided with or against the Romans may have some validity. It may not. What I do believe is knowable is that we cannot reasonably expect the NT to reflect any of these divisions with any degree of historical accuracy. Looking in the NT for the political situation is like looking in Little Women for a description of the politics of the Jefferson and Madison presidencies. Or, perhaps, the period of Andrew Jackson. The world had changed in the interim. This simply goes back to the nostrum that the evangelists were not writing history, but there is an addendum to that. Even if the evangelists intended to write history, they were very, very poorly positioned to do so. They did not have much background in the discipline, even as it existed then. We only need to read Josephus to grasp this. I found The Antiquities very tedious to read because I found it to be focused on the internal gossip of the Herodian family. He’s not exactly the most credible source one can find, but at least had access to records and some exposure real historical writing. The evangelists had neither. Given that, I would be very leery of drawing any political conclusions about the political situation of the 30s based on the gospels. So why the Scribes? I guess a reasonable answer would be “Why not?” Had to pick on someone, so they got the short straw this time.

[ Addendum: Scarcely ten minutes after posting, I realized I had neglected to comment on the “great” judgement, as I originally translated this. However, I took a second look at the word for “great” and realized it wasn’t what I had thought it was. So I changed it to “extraordinary”. In this case, that’s in the bad sense. “One helluva judgement” might more or less capture the sense, that it’s  (a) not good thing; and (b) that it’s going to be a doozie. These people are going to have the book thrown at them, to use a 1950s police cliché. IOW they were in for a world of hurt. ] 

41 Dixit autem ad illos: “ Quomodo dicunt Christum filium David esse? 

42 Ipse enim David dicit in libro Psalmorum:

“Dixit Dominus Domino meo: Sede a dextris meis, / 43 donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum”.

44 David ergo Dominum illum vocat; et quomodo filius eius est?”.

45 Audiente autem omni populo, dixit discipulis suis: 

46 “Attendite a scribis, qui volunt ambulare in stolis et amant salutationes in foro et primas cathedras in synagogis et primos discubitus in conviviis, 

47 qui devorant domos viduarum et simulant longam orationem. Hi accipient damnationem maiorem”.

Luke Chapter 20:21-40

This section includes a lot of verses, but the subject matter is mostly part of the triple tradition, so there will likely not be much new to say. We start with the Render Unto Caesar story, and then we move to the One Bride for Seven Brothers. Those of you who are of a certain age may recall a movie called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. IIRC, it had something to do with convincing seven women from back east to come west to marry a family of seven brothers. Whatever. Let’s have at it. Allons y. That was, IIRC, a favorite expression of the David Tenant Dr Who.


21 καὶ ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ὀρθῶς λέγεις καὶ διδάσκεις καὶ οὐ λαμβάνεις πρόσωπον, ἀλλ’ ἐπ’ ἀληθείας τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ διδάσκεις:

22 ἔξεστιν ἡμᾶς Καίσαριφόρον δοῦναι ἢ οὔ;

And they questioned him, saying, “Teacher, we know that you you speak and teach straight, and that you do not receive a face, but upon the true way of God you teach. Is it allowed to us to give tribute to Caesar?”

First, a comment on the “speaking & teaching straight”. The idiom of “straight” used for “properly” or “correctly” or some such synonym goes way back into Greek history, specifically Athenian history. The Greek transliterates as “orthos”, as in “ortho-dontist,” a medical practitioner who straightens teeth. I do not recall the exact quote, or context, but I believe the Athenian lawgiver Solon, who lived in the early 7th century BCE, was credited with “straightening” the laws of the city. Then again, it may have been Kleisthenes, who lived and reformed the politics of Athens circa 508 BCE. Which, coincidentally enough, is very close to the founding of the Roman Republic, the traditional date for this being 509 BCE. Anyway…

Second, “receive a face”. All three versions have some variant on this idea of a face. It’s not an idiom that I’ve encountered in pagan lit, and I recall being very perplexed by it when first reading it in Mark. I guess the root concept is that one is not overly influenced by a pretty face; from there, however, it goes to the idea of accepting a person because they are important, or whatever rather than based on merit or moral content.

Finally, there is the crux of the situation: is it allowed to pay tribute to a pagan? Of course, to formulate the question in this manner is to put a certain slant on it. The idea of a separation of church and state would have seemed incomprehensible to Jews of the 1st Century CE. It’s still incomprehensible to a lot of different groups even today. Even the Romans mixed the ideas of church and state. By accident, Julius Caesar got himself elected–by way, apparently, of massive bribery; which was pretty much standard procedure in the latter decades of the Republic– Pontifex Maximus, High Priest, as he was ascending the ladder towards absolute power. So it thereafter the Princeps (the title “Emperor” is really not accurate; Augustus and his successors were called Princeps, the root of prince, of course, but in Latin it meant first. The so-called emperors were technically the First, as in the First Citizen.) Thereafter the Princeps was also always Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Roman state and the Roman religion; but a Roman would not have understood that distinction. This was the problem with dissident and exclusivist religious groups who refused to recognize the divinity of the Princeps. The Romans were not religiously intolerant; far from it. They just threw all the pantheons of the subject peoples into the blender and shook well. This is how you end up with Tacitus making the statement that the chief god of the Germania was Mercury, because Mercury was a closer fit than Zeus. So Odin/Wotan = Mercury/Hermes. There is a question of how the Wotan supplanted Thor/Donner, the sky/storm god who ruled in a lot of Indo-European pantheons. But he did. Hence, we have Wotansday, French = Mercredi, or Miercoles in Spanish, followed by Thorsday. Of course, in German, Donnerstag/ Thorsday isn’t preceded by Wotanstag, but Mittwoch. Mid-week. Go figure. Also, while we’re on the subject, Hippolytus Romanus wrote his Refutation of All Heresies. In this work, the group he labels the first Gnostics, the Naaseni, are really not Christian heretics at all. Rather, they are a polytheistic, syncretist group of pagans who try to absorb most of the Judeo-Christian pantheon into a pagan framework. Jesus is equated with the Primal Man, who is Adam, but also goes by several other names in the various traditions of the Assyrians, the Phrygians, the Egyptians, etc. 

But the point of all that was to demonstrate that the Romans were far from religiously intolerant. The problem came when the exclusivist Jews and Christians refused to honor the pagan gods. This refusal was treason against the Roman state. So by paying tribute to Caesar, the Jews, in effect, were honoring the divine genius of the Princeps. So, in effect, Jews paying tribute were, in fact, worshipping a foreign god. So you see how complicated this all gets. The thing that usually sparked unrest among the Jews was the Romans introducing pagan practices related, however peripherally, to religion. The legions bringing their standards with images on them into the city of Jerusalem was enough to cause problems when Pilate did it in the 20s, according to Josephus. So that is why the interlocutors ask if it is allowed to pay tribute.

In his book, James, Brother of Jesus, Eisenman talks a lot about the political unrest that was occurring in Judea in these decades. He raise an excellent point that the, overall, the NT gives no sense of how politically turbulent the times were. Josephus mentions the problems Pilate caused in the 20s, and then in the mid-late 30s Gaius Caligula created a ruckus by insisting that an image of him be placed in the Holy of Holies. But Gaius was assassinated before he could insist on the order being carried out. Eisenman goes further to claim that Josephus, Jesus, and Paul belonged to the collaborationist wing of the Christian faction; James, the brother of the Lord, OTOH, stood with the purist Sadducees and Essenes, and that this was a large part of the contention between James and Paul. This is the sort of thesis that grabs one’s attention when first encountered, but, upon reflection, doesn’t carry as much weight as it seemed prima facie. Then add the additional layer that Jesus probably never spoke the words he’s going to pronounce in the next couple of verses, and Eisenman’s thesis tends to fall apart.

21 Et interrogaverunt illum dicentes: “Magister, scimus quia recte dicis et doces et non accipis personam, sed in veritate viam Dei doces

22 Licet nobis dare tributum Caesari an non?”. 

23 κατανοήσας δὲ αὐτῶν τὴν πανουργίαν εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς,

24 Δείξατέ μοι δηνάριον: τίνος ἔχει εἰκόνα καὶ ἐπιγραφήν; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν, Καίσαρος.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Τοίνυν ἀπόδοτε τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ.

26 καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ἐπιλαβέσθαι αὐτοῦ ῥήματος ἐναντίον τοῦ λαοῦ, καὶ θαυμάσαντες ἐπὶ τῇ ἀποκρίσει αὐτοῦ ἐσίγησαν.

Understanding their knavery, (couldn’t resist, sorry!) he said to them, (24) “Show me a denarius. Whose image is inscribed?” They said, “Caesar’s”. (25) He said to them, “Therefore give over unto Caesar the things of Caesar, and the things of God to God”. (27) And they were not strong enough to lay hold of him opposing the crowd, and marveling upon his answer the silenced (IOW, they shut their collective mouth).

First, I chose “lay hold of him” because the object him is in the genitive rather than the accusative, the standard case for the direct object. “of him” gets that sense across. I do want to help explain such things in case anyone out there is trying to learn NT Greek. Godspeed on that task!

I’ve said this more than once: it’s a bit specious, or disingenuous, or just plain misleading to use the crowd as an excuse. They felt no such qualms a few days later, and they had a crowd whipped into a frenzy demanding his crucifixion, if we are to believe the story. And we really have no reason to believe the story; the whole thing is so riddled with internal inconsistencies that it falls apart at the merest touch. Yes, per the story, they arrested him at night, but seriously, I keep coming back to the alleged cleansing of the Temple. There was the perfect opportunity to arrest him. After all, the crowd of pious Jews assembled therein were present to make use of the moneylenders and the vendors. The crowd wanted them there. And here was this lunatic making a mess? Blasphemy! The Temple guards grab him, or the Roman soldiers grab him as he exits, and the crowd would probably have cheered the arrest. That is the sort of thing I mean by “internal inconsistency”. So no more needs to be said.

23 Considerans autem dolum illorum dixit ad eos: 

24 “Ostendite mihi denarium. Cuius habet imaginem et inscriptionem?” 

25 At illi dixerunt: “ Caesaris ”. Et ait illis: “ Reddite ergo, quae Caesaris sunt, Caesari et, quae Dei sunt, Deo ”. 

26 Et non potuerunt verbum eius reprehendere coram plebe et mirati in responso eius tacuerunt.

27 Προσελθόντες δέ τινες τῶν Σαδδουκαίων, οἱ [ἀντι] λέγοντες ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἶναι, ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν

Some of the Sadducees coming, they (who) were saying [against] the standing up, {that is, the resurrection of the body} does not happen.

This requires comment. The word in square brackets represents an alternative textual tradition. The word I used is also in square brackets. The standard parentheses provides a word that is not in the Greek, but is necessary for a smoother translation. The curly brackets { } provide a more reasonable translation of what I translated very literally. This is not the first time we’ve come across the word, but it bears repeating: “resurrection”, like “angel” and “baptism” are words with a specialized religious implication in English that is simply not there in Greek. Hence my perverse preference for John the Dunker. Referring to him a the “baptizer” is to transliterate the Greek without actually translating it. As such, the actual meaning of the word is not conveyed. John was emphatically not baptizing people; he was washing–or dunking–them. And so the Sadducees did not doubt resurrection; they disbelieved that the body would not stand up again. 

Since we’ve stopped, we may as well talk about this idea of standing up again. It is very important to realize that the idea of some sort of personal immortality was not Jewish. It was not part of the Mosaic religion. Isaiah nor Deuteronomy nor Samuel nor Elijah talk about personal immortality. Rather, this was a concept that the Jews absorbed from other traditions. I would normally say it was Greek, but the Egyptians were there long before the Greeks. There was a Greek afterlife, Hades, but The Odyssey gives us a graphic picture of this, a grey, gloomy place inhabited by grey, brooding…what to call them? Spirits? That works in English, but that word in English carries too many connotations. Something like…shadow is much closer, I think. The shadows do have a memory of who they were above ground, but they cannot tell us unless Odysseus gives them blood to drink. Even Achilles, the demigod, suffered this as his fate. There were exceptions. Herakles (Hercules, to the Romans and mostly to us) was not send to Hades; rather, he experienced apotheosis and spent eternity with the gods on Olympus. So, even for the Greeks, the idea of an afterlife did not resemble our idea for some long time, if the Greek concept ever actually did come close to what we believe.

I am simply not qualified to talk about Egyptian beliefs; however, the whole process of mummification and the grave goods that were buried with the important people tell us that the Egyptians believed that the individual continued to exist after death. Or, at least pharaohs and other high-ranking people could expect this; whether regular people would also share this experience I cannot say. If anyone happens to know this, please do share. Anyone? Bueller?

With time, however, the idea of an afterlife did infiltrate Jewish belief, whatever the source(s). However, since the Jews did not have a strong concept of an immortal soul, the afterlife tended to be physical. The body would become re-animated and rise (stand up) again. With this went the idea that the kingdom of God that the blessed would enjoy for eternity (or thereabouts) would be located in the physical plane, and on this earth. This is what Enoch says; even in the Second Century, Eusebios tells us that Papias, a (mostly) Christian author & thinker took the idea of a millennium literally, and expected the Kingdom of God to be here on the physical earth.

Contra this idea we have the Sadducees. In this way, they represent what can, to some degree, be called the “authentic” Jewish tradition, the original Jewish belief on the subject. Part of Eisenman’s thesis in James, Brother of Jesus, is that the Sadducees–or at least the purist version of the Sadducees– were opposed to pretty much all forms of foreign contamination. As such, they formed sort of a nucleus of the anti-Rome party. He also says that James and the Essenes were members of this anti-Rome party; OTOH, the Pharisees and Paul, who was a Pharisee, and Josephus represent the Hellenizing, collaborationist party. Interesting theory. But, opposition to the idea of the resurrection of the body would certainly fit with this theory; after all, the idea of an afterlife is a bit of foreign contamination of Jewish belief. 

27 Accesserunt autem quidam sadducaeorum, qui negant esse resurrectionem, et interrogaverunt eum,

27 Προσελθόντες δέ τινες τῶν Σαδδουκαίων, οἱ [ἀντι] λέγοντες ἀνάστασιν μὴ εἶναι, ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν

28 λέγοντες, Διδάσκαλε, Μωϋσῆς ἔγραψεν ἡμῖν, ἐάν τινος ἀδελφὸς ἀποθάνῃ ἔχων γυναῖκα, καὶ οὗτος ἄτεκνος ᾖ, ἵνα λάβῃ ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ ἐξαναστήσῃ σπέρμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ.

29 ἑπτὰ οὖν ἀδελφοὶ ἦσαν: καὶ ὁ πρῶτος λαβὼν γυναῖκα ἀπέθανεν ἄτεκνος:

30 καὶ ὁ δεύτερος

31 καὶ ὁ τρίτος ἔλαβεν αὐτήν, ὡσ αύτως δὲ καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ οὐ κατέλιπον τέκνα καὶ ἀπέθανον.

32 ὕστερον καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἀπέθανεν.

33 ἡ γυνὴ οὖν ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τίνος αὐτῶν γίνεται γυνή; οἱ γὰρ ἑπτὰ ἔσχον αὐτὴν γυναῖκα.

Some of the Sadducees coming, they (who) were saying [against] the standing up, {that is, the resurrection of the body} does not happen. (28) Saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote to us, if some brother dies having a wife, and he (the decedent) was childless, so that the brother should receive the wife of the (deceased) and carry on the the seed of his brother (who is deceased). (29) So there were seven brothers: and the first having the wife died childless. (30) And the second (31) and the third, so that in this way also the seven did not leave children and died. (32) Finally, the woman died. (33) So at the resurrection of which of them will the woman be the wife?”

Does it strike anyone as odd that the Sadducees would ask this question when we had Antipas being excoriated for marrying his brother’s wife? Just saying. Trying to figure out if there is some underlying point here. Per Eisenman, the Christians came out of the Hellenizing faction of Jews, where the Sadducees were the Jewish purists. Can we spin this to fit that theory? Or is that over the top? Thinking about it, Antipas, and all the Herodians, was a collaborator, so he would have been on the opposite side from the Purist Sadducees. So we have a party on both sides of this theoretical divide being attacked; herein lies the danger of theories.

Honestly, there isn’t much to say at this point. It’s a “gotcha” question, just like the question about taxation was. Shall we see how Jesus wiggles his way out of this sticky wicket? Or is that a mixed metaphor?

28 dicentes: “Magister, Moyses scripsit nobis, si frater alicuius mortuus fuerit habens uxorem et hic sine filiis fuerit, ut accipiat eam frater eius uxorem et suscitet semen fratri suo. 

29 Septem ergo fratres erant: et primus accepit uxorem et mortuus est sine filiis; 

30 et sequens 

31 et tertius accepit illam, similiter autem et septem non reliquerunt filios et mortui sunt. 

32 Novissima mortua est et mulier. 

33 Mulier ergo in resurrectione cuius eorum erit uxor? Si quidem septem habuerunt eam uxorem”. 

34 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου γαμοῦσιν καὶ γαμίσκονται,

35 οἱ δὲ καταξιωθέντες τοῦ αἰῶνος ἐκείνου τυχεῖν καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται:

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and get married. (35) But those having been deemed worthy of that age to have happened and those of the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor get married.

Quick comment on “to have married”. This sounds like a future infinitive; it’s actually an aorist infinitive. This tense is used as is the aorist in general, to represent a completed action. The only way that I can figure to do this is to try to incorporate the perfect tense– to have done– but then it’s not really a perfect tense in English. It describes an action that will be in the past when something else happens, but it is currently in the future. So there you go. We now return you to our regularly scheduled translation.

34 Et ait illis Iesus: “ Filii saeculi huius nubunt et traduntur ad nuptias; 

35 illi autem, qui digni habentur saeculo illo et resurrectione ex mortuis, neque nubunt neque ducunt uxores. 

36 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀποθανεῖν ἔτι δύνανται, ἰσάγγελοι γάρ εἰσιν, καὶ υἱοί εἰσιν θεοῦ, τῆς ἀναστάσεως υἱοὶ ὄντες.

37 ὅτι δὲ ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροὶ καὶ Μωϋσῆς ἐμήνυσεν ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου, ὡς λέγει κύριον τὸν θεὸν Ἀβραὰμ καὶ θεὸν Ἰσαὰκ καὶ θεὸν Ἰακώβ:

38 θεὸς δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νεκρῶν ἀλλὰ ζώντων, πάντες γὰρ αὐτῷ ζῶσιν.

39 ἀποκριθέντες δέ τινες τῶν γραμματέων εἶπαν, Διδάσκαλε, καλῶς εἶπας:

40 οὐκέτι γὰρ ἐτόλμων ἐπερωτᾶν αὐτὸν οὐδέν.  

(36) “For nor will they be able to die, for they are equal to angles, (iso-angeloi) and they are the sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (37) That the dead rise Moses also disclosed this upon the bush, as the lord God said ‘(I am) the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’. (38) And God is not (the God of the) dead but of the living, for all are living to him”. (39) Some of the scribes said, “Teacher, you speak well. (40) For no longer were they bold to ask him nothing (In English: they were no longer bold to ask him anything; in Greek, double negative = negative).  

To start, the bottom line is he doesn’t answer the question. In fact, he completely changes the subject. What exactly does he say? The most interesting point is that, to God, all are living; But it is worth noting that Luke’s formulation is slightly different from that of M&M. Both of them use pretty much the same phrase: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”. Luke says “all are living to him”. This latter translation fudges part of the distinction between M&M and Luke. The former use a participle; the form living, as to convey immediate action. She is coming: she is in the midst of act even as we speak, walking up the stairs to ring the bell upon arrival. Luke uses the form lives. The problem with saying “all live to him” which is how I would have to render the verb w/o using the progressive participle, is that…it sounds off, odd. It puts into the mind an image of someone living in a certain direction. Nevertheless, this is how the KJV, NASB, and ESV all chose to translate the phrase. I don’t much care for it, but your mileage may vary. Plus, in English, we would probably say that “all are alive to him”. This gets the point across effectively, but it changes the Greek verb into an English adjective. Even so, this is what the NIV used.  

This has enormous implications for the argument about Free Will and/or Predestination. If all are alive to God, that means God stands outside spacetime, what used to be called the space-time continuum. To God, there is no past or future, but only an eternal Now. God sees the entirety, from Big Bang (of which God was doubtless the cause) to the final victory of Entropy, absolute heat death. This is a terrific example of something that was more or less a throwaway line, but, once written down, it took on canonical status and so became an absolute truth. For centuries these implications went more or less unnoticed, until the proto-Renaissance of the 11th Century, when churchmen flush with a whole lot of recovered learning, and the time and leisure to start parsing these scriptures started noticing things like this, and drawing logical conclusions. And Mediaeval thinkers were thorough-going Platonists, attempting to peer into the Real world, the world of Forms/Ideas, and a statement like this would set them off. It did set them off. The argument over Predestination, which had initially sprung from the mind of Augustine who was trying to counter the Pelagian heresy came up with the concept to prove that humans could not possibly ever merit salvation based on their own actions. Prevenient Grace was necessary, and this originated only from God. In effect, it meant God pre-selected those who stood even a chance of attaining salvation. Conversely, anyone to whom God did not bestow prevenient grace was foreknown, damned from the moment they were born. And, because God stands outside spacetime and sees the beginning, the end, and everything in between, God knows the outcome of creation from the moment of creation–which, to God, is also the moment of Judgement Day. So God necessarily knows which of its creatures will succeed and attain salvation, and which will fail and end up in Hell for eternity. And, since God is omnipotent, God can create the kosmos in any way it wants. Therefore, if something turns out a certain way, it’s because God set it up that way. Ergo, no free will. Do what we will, the outcome is predetermined. We are predestined, either to become saved, or–more likely–to roast for all time.

Sweet, eh?

Numerous thinkers over the centuries reached this same conclusion, but then backed down. Or were forced to. This is not a palatable doctrine. It’s not distinguishable from pagan Fatalism; arguing against fatalism was the reason Free Will was invented in the first place. Now we have it’s opposite. Naturally, if we’re damned regardless, may as well have a good time in this life since we’re toast in the next. Not exactly conducive to persuading people to be good and pay their tithe.

It also bears mention that Moses said the same thing: this is not a new idea. Now, we can argue about what the passage in the HS meant, when God said he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph. Honestly, I think this is to be taken historically, as in, he was the God of each, but successively. That would be the plain-sense reading of the text, but the evangelists were not content to leave it at that. I suppose this all came about as the idea of the resurrection took hold, and people started contemplating the implications, that people actually were asking questions like this. As such, the nascent church had to come up with and answer to this, and did so fairly early, early enough for this story to end up in Mark. 

Because there is just about zero chance that Jesus said anything of the sort. The idea of Jesus’ resurrection probably did not come into existence until after he had died. But that is an argument for another day. This section has gone on long enough. 

36 Neque enim ultra mori possunt: aequales enim angelis sunt et filii sunt Dei, cum sint filii resurrectionis. 

37 Quia vero resurgant mortui, et Moyses ostendit secus rubum, sicut dicit: “Dominum Deum Abraham et Deum Isaac et Deum Iacob”. 

38 Deus autem non est mortuorum sed vivorum: omnes enim vivunt ei ”. 

39 Respondentes autem quidam scribarum dixerunt: “ Magister, bene dixisti ”. 

40 Et amplius non audebant eum quidquam interrogare.

Luke Chapter 19:41-48

If I had realized the rest of the chapter was so short, it probably could have been included in the previous section. However, multiple short sections are probably better, less taxing to read and digest, than some of the interminable tomes I’ve tossed into publication. The disadvantage, of course, is a lack of continuity. The story becomes choppy and loses context.

This section is a mash-up of Jesus “predicting” the destruction of Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple. This is all Triple Tradition material that we have covered before. However, fresh insight can always be found, and, if not, some things bear repeating. By now, I should not have to, but I will, repeat that, IMO, both events are fictional.

So let’s be done with it and get on to the


41 Καὶ ὡς ἤγγισεν, ἰδὼν τὴν πόλιν ἔκλαυσεν ἐπ’ αὐτήν,

42 λέγων ὅτι Εἰ ἔγνως ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ καὶ σὺ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην νῦν δὲ ἐκρύβη ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου.

43 ὅτι ἥξουσιν ἡμέραι ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ παρεμβαλοῦσιν οἱ ἐχθροί σου χάρακά σοι καὶ περικυκλώσουσίνσε καὶ συνέξουσίν σε πάντοθεν,

44 καὶ ἐδαφιοῦσίν σε καὶ τὰ τέκνα σου ἐν σοί, καὶ οὐκ ἀφήσουσιν λίθον ἐπὶ λίθονἐν σοί, ἀνθ’ ὧν οὐκ ἔγνως τὸν καιρὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς σου.

And as he approached, seeing the city, he wept upon it, (42) saying that “If you knew on that day (what moves) you towards peace, now it is hidden from your eyes. (43) That the days will come upon you and the enemies will surround you with a trench and encircle you and detain you completely, (44) and flatten you and your children like a floor with you, and not a stone one stone will remain, against whom you do not know the season of visitation of you.

Let’s start with an observation. Note that we are told “as he approached…he wept over the city”. This means that he was not yet inside the city. In turn, this means that Jesus did not make an entry into the city, let alone a triumphal one. Rather, he stopped outside, and there he wept. This sort of turns the narrative of the events of the day around, which seriously undercuts the idea that the adulation of the crowd was a major factor in the religious leaders deciding that Jesus needed to be put to death.

Grammatical point about “moving towards peace”: The Greek is a bit unclear; apparently St Jerome thought so, too, since the Vulgate changes things a bit. I chose to render as I did since the preposition, eis, is most commonly used to indicate motion towards a thing or place, and here the thing is peace. The Vulgate clarifies this a bit and goes pretty much the way I went with this. So the ambiguity is clarified, and we can make sense of this. Luke has had more obscure passages like this than any writer since Paul, but with a difference: one got the sense Paul wasn’t sure what he was doing, whereas one does believe that Luke does. Of course, the other possibility is that I know what I’m doing better when in comes to translating. Indeed, I’m nervous about going back to look at those translations of 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, and even Mark that I did seven years ago. I was still very much a neophyte– for the second time; however, it is reassuring to not that progress was possible, and in fact progress occurred. Let that encourage any of you who are trying to do something as ridiculous as learn ancient Greek. It’s possible, and it’s very rewarding. I think of it as a game; rather than spend time doing Soduku or Fortnight, I do Greek and Latin. The difference is that, at the end, I’ve got more understanding of a piece of writing and the history it reveals.

So with those two things out of the way, let’s talk about the actual content. Of course I believe this is a post-facto prophecy. I believe all of the “prophecies” uttered by Jesus were post-facto. This sort of backward-looking prophecy was fairly common in the ancient world. In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius records the alleged signs and prodigies that portended the death of an emperor, or the accession of the successor. In his Antiquities, Josephus* describes the signs and wonders that foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. To be honest, I got this from Eusebios’ Ecclesiastical History, which I have begun reading; technically, I’m re-reading it, but I honestly don’t remember what I’d read. So far, he’s providing a summary of Josephus, as a means of “proving” the factual accuracy of the NT, especially of Acts. So far, this is the only non-Christian source he’s cited, which is very annoying. Of course, we cannot expect non-Christian sources to be concerned with the early development of the Church as it became established as an institution, so it’s hardly a surprise that no one does, but the implications of this lack source material are profound. It means that all we have for the earliest history of the Church are traditions; and this latter term can readily be replaced by the term ‘propaganda’, or ‘foundation myths’. They are horribly unreliable since the fathers of the early Church had every reason to make stuff up to suit their needs.

For example, the Bishop of Rome greatly benefitted from the story that Peter established the ekklesia there, which gave the Bishop of Rome a claim to primacy, one that was based on the maxim, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church”. Interestingly, this is found only in Matthew’s gospel. It is not found in Mark, and yet Mark was supposedly Peter’s secretary, who wrote his gospel based on first-hand information from Peter. All this, and yet Mark neglects the single most important justification of Petrine Primacy in the whole history of Christendom? In fact, it’s not only the most important justification, it’s the only justification of Petrine Primacy. So why is this in Matthew, but not in the gospel written by Peter’s right-hand man? This makes no sense. Without the claim, the entire history of the Latin Church, and the history of northern/western Europe would have been radically different. Absent the prestige of the Pope, there may not have been a Latin Church at all. I can suggest a reason why it’s in Matthew and not Mark: the Latin Church decided that Matthew was chronologically the first gospel written, which is why they put it first in the NT. I would suggest that the Bishop of Rome was responsible for inserting that line into Matthew’s gospel. This is perhaps far-fetched, but perhaps it’s not. It’s a question of manuscript traditions, of getting the line into enough traditions that it became the accepted version. This would mean getting it into all of the versions being copied everywhere. Or, it would mean commissioning Matthew from the outset.

All of these possibilities are remote, of course, and I would say the probability of any one of them being factually accurate is small, but not zero. But if you dismiss all of them, one has to explain where that line came from. The simplest explanation, of course, is that Jesus said it and Matthew had a way of knowing this. Of course, if we accept that there was an actual follower of Jesus named Matthew, and that the author of the Gospel of Matthew was the same Matthew, then it’s pretty simple. This exchange took place in the presence of all the followers, and Matthew was a follower, so Matthew heard the exchange. But that brings us back to the question of why Peter did not tell Mark to insert such an important line into the latter’s gospel. That Luke didn’t include it is not really a problem because Luke had no direct access to the event, so he just missed it. Or, there’s the chance that Luke did know, but chose to leave it out. The problem is, none of these is terribly convincing on face value. It comes down to a question of which one is the least unlikely? I find the idea that Mark knew and left it out the most unlikely. As Peter’s assistant & companion, he had almost no motive to leave it out. I find the idea of an interpolation, at the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the least unlikely. The motive is clear; in fact, it’s overwhelming. And it makes the most sense to find it in Matthew since this was considered the first gospel written; Eusebios validates this claim in the 4th Century, after Constantine had converted. In fact, this premise was not seriously challenged until the 18th or even 19th Century. The improbability is based on the difficulty of the logistics of getting this into enough ms traditions; however, much of this could be avoided if the interpolation happened very early, by the end of the 1st Century. The Bishop of Rome could have “flooded” the market with enough texts with the interpolation that it became the standard, accepted version.

 That was a very long digression, but I believe it was a profitable one. But let’s get back to the content. 

As stated when we came across this “prophecy” for the first time in Mark, the purpose is to reassure followers who had experienced either the destruction of Jerusalem, persecution, or both that this was all foreordained and so necessary. There is one big difference between Luke’s version and the other two. Mark talked about the abomination of pagans entering the Temple, and Matthew more or less followed. Luke describes Roman siege tactics. Surrounding a city with a trench and then putting stakes at the bottom was pretty standard. And the walls were certainly flattened; again, standard procedure. The idea was to eliminate a future threat from the rebellious city by demolishing the defensive walls, thereby giving a future Roman army easier access. Jerusalem rebelled again in the 130s; that time the city was razed. When it was rebuilt, it was given a new name. Again, because I am reading Eusebios, something has occurred to me. I’ve read The Jewish War (Penguin Title) by Josephus, but not all of the relevant parts of the much longer Antiquities. (Largely because the latter is very gossipy, with all sorts of descriptions of the inner workings of the Jewish leadership team, from Herod on down. It has a soap-opera quality that becomes tedious. But, that’s just me, perhaps.) Eusebios, however, has read the whole thing. What is interesting is how he uses Josephus to corroborate some of the material of Acts, which was also written by Luke. What if Luke read Josephus, and used the material from the latter as a basis for material in Acts*? And what if he got the details of the Roman siege, here described, however briefly, from Josephus? The historian would have provided the evangelist with details of who the Roman governors were. The shorter Jewish War was completed in 78; the longer Antiquities in the early 90s, supposedly in 93 or 94. If Matthew wrote in the mid-80s, then Luke writing ten years later would have had, or could have had, access to these works of Josephus, so this theory cannot be dismissed out of hand based on chronology. More, I’ve often suspected that any legitimate material on Jesus found in Josephus may have been based on the Christian story. In particular, Josephus tells us that Jesus was executed at the behest of “some of the best men among us” (= leaders of the Jews). I believe one of the Roman historians says something similar. Because the thing is, there were likely no other records, or even any other memory of Jesus outside the stories the Christians told. No one else would have cared much. Even among Christians, the earliest dates for the publication of the separate Passion Narrative that Mark and all the other evangelists incorporated is somewhere in the 50s. IOW, even the Christians, or the Jewish followers of Christ didn’t bother to come up with an explanation for why Jesus was executed. Even more, scholars of the stature of JD Crossan now doubt the existence of a pre-Markan Passion Narrative; this really undercuts the idea that Jesus was killed for his teachings. Paul mentions no reason for the execution; one presumes this is because he didn’t know, or didn’t deem it relevant. The conclusion of all this is that there could easily have been a cross-fertilization of tales about Jesus, and the state of Judea in the First Century between Christians, Josephus, and even the Roman historians. The bad new of this is that, in the final analysis and for the most part, we have exactly one source for much of the story of Jesus, and that would be the gospel of Mark.

*I’ve just read the first viii or x pages of the intro of a book called James, Brother of Jesus, by Robert Eisenman. I had started this book some years ago, but didn’t get very far for reasons I’ve now forgotten. Anyway, Eisenman sort of throws out the connexion between Josephus and Acts as more or less a foregone conclusion. I would have read this part, since it’s very early in the book, so it is entirely possible that the idea of a connexion between Acts & Josephus had been planted, and that the idea germinated and sprouted when I started reading Eusebios. The good news is that I’m not a complete dunderhead for believing in the possibility of such a connexion; others have seen it, too. The bad news is that I cannot claim it as an original insight. But, to be truthful, a lot of what I had thought might be original insights have turned out to be theories put forth by reputable scholars. So my conclusions appear to be, generally, sound.

41 Et ut appropinquavit, videns civitatem flevit super illam 

42 dicens: “Si cognovisses et tu in hac die, quae ad pacem tibi! Nunc autem abscondita sunt ab oculis tuis. 

43 Quia venient dies in te, et circumdabunt te inimici tui vallo et obsidebunt te et coangustabunt te undique 

44 et ad terram prosternent te et filios tuos, qui in te sunt, et non relinquent in te lapidem super lapidem, eo quod non cognoveris tempus visitationis tuae ”.

45 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας,

46 λέγων αὐτοῖς, Γέγραπται, Καὶ ἔσται ὁ οἶκός μου οἶκος προσευχῆς, ὑμεῖς δὲ αὐτὸν ἐποιήσατε σπήλαιον λῃστῶν.

And coming into the Temple, he began to throw out the sellers, (46) saying to them, “It is written, ‘And my house will be (one) of prayer, and you have made it a cave of thieves.

Sorry, have to stop here for two points. First, it is a ‘spelaion of thieves’;  people who go in for cave exploration are called spelunkers. Here is the root of that. And it’s carried over into the Latin as well: speluncam. I just noted that Mark and Matthew both use exactly the same expression. For whatever reason, I never really noticed until this iteration.

Second, and most importantly, note the word that Jesus uses for “thieves”. It is lestōn, genitive plural of lestēs. Somewhere, biblica scholars with an incomplete understanding of Greek started to propagate the idea that the word lestēs was reserved for insurrectionists. I don’t know the origin, but the book Zealot, by Reza Aslan really put this notion into general circulation. Then again, it is also possible that Aslan only picked up on the general thought and I credit (blame, would be more accurate) him for putting this out there because I read it at the beginning of my studies on the NT. It was not so reserved. It was the general term for thief, or even pirate, as we clearly see here. Aslan then extrapolates from this and claims that crucifixion was reserved for traitors and insurrectionists. This is also patently not true. 

Finally, I really prefer “Den of Thieves” as a translation, if only because it has such a poetic ring to it. 

45 Et ingressus in templum, coepit eicere vendentes 

46 dicens illis: “Scriptum est: “Et erit domus mea domus orationis”. Vos autem fecistis illam speluncam latronum”.

47 Καὶ ἦν διδάσκων τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ. οἱ δὲ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν ἀπολέσαι καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι τοῦ λαοῦ:

48 καὶ οὐχ εὕρισκον τὸ τί ποιήσωσιν, ὁ λαὸς γὰρ ἅπας ἐξεκρέματο αὐτοῦ ἀκούων. 

And he was teaching each day in the Temple. The high priests and the scribes and the first ones of the people sought to destroy him. (48) And they did not find the thing (= pretext, or cause) to do this, for the whole people were in suspense hearing him.

Before going into the details, let’s make note of one thing. In these last two sections we have crammed the Palm Sunday Procession, the Weeping Over Jerusalem, and the Cleansing of the Temple into about thirteen verses; or, nearly twenty, if we include the part about the colt. That seems like some epic compression. Why? Here I think we have a great example of Luke deciding that the stories had been sufficiently told, and so he didn’t need to tell them again in any detail. So he gives us the bare-bones facts and we go on our way. And here is another example of why Luke was keenly aware of Matthew; since these stories had already been told twice, they need not be gone over again. Compare this with Luke’s treatment of my favorite story, that of the Gerasene Demonaic. Mark tells the story in full; Matthew abridges; Luke restores pretty much the whole thing.

And here we get even more evidence that Jesus was not killed for threatening the economic basis of the Temple. This was the thesis of JD Crossan in Who Killed Jesus. There he argued that it was this episode which galvanized the Temple authorities into having Jesus executed. By driving out the money-changers and the merchants, Crossan says, Jesus was cutting at the profit machine that was the Temple. But then, as in the other two versions, Jesus has this hissy-fit, and immediately goes into the Temple to teach. Not sure about you, but I am of the opinion that the violent outburst would have had Jesus removed from the premises, and not in any gentle way. Think about it: go into any place of business, tip over some tables or display cases, and then see what happens. If you do this in a restaurant, do you think they would then allow you to take a table? And yet, we are supposed to believe that this is what happened here. Mark told us that Jesus waited until the next day to return to preach, whereas Matthew has Jesus go directly into the Temple and start to teach. The former is slightly more credible, but only slightly so. Which means this episode is likely a fiction. Which means the episode cannot be used to explain anything, let alone something with the consequence and moment of Jesus’ execution.

Then we have the notion that the authorities demurred due to some fear of the crowd. And yet, a few days later, the crowd was more than happy to fill the courtyard of the Praetorium and scream for Jesus to be executed. That performance by “the people” badly undercuts, IMO, the notion of “the people” being “in suspense”– that is, hanging on every word of Jesus. All in all, there seems to be little reason to believe that anything in these last two sections has any historical validity.

47 Et erat docens cotidie in templo. Principes autem sacerdotum et scribae et principes plebis quaerebant illum perdere 

48 et non inveniebant quid facerent; omnis enim populus suspensus erat audiens illum.