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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.

Luke Chapter 19:11

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I did not set out with the intention of doing an entire post on a single verse. In fact, this was meant to go straight through to Verse 27; however, the comment on Verse 11 grew to the point that splitting it off seemed to be a wise move. I will include it with the next post as well, just for the sake of continuity.

So with that as a means of a (brief) introduction, let’s get to the


11 Ἀκουόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι Ἰερουσαλὴμ αὐτὸν καὶ δοκεῖν αὐτοὺς ὅτι παραχρῆμα μέλλει ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναφαίνεσθαι.

They having heard these things he spoke an added parable, on account (of) being near to Jerusalem and it seemed to them that the kingdom of God was to be immediately apparent.

So after saying how a lot of commentary shouldn’t be required, immediately at the start we run into a really interesting statement and so we have to break for a comment. “For it seemed to them that the Kingdom of God was to be immediately apparent“. We can infer that those who heard these things were his immediate followers, those traveling with him. To refresh memories, this comes immediately after Jesus had said that salvation had come to the house of Zaccheus. The question then becomes, “why did they think that the Kingdom was to be immediately apparent?” Are we to assume it was related to the incident with Zaccheus? If it’s not thus connected, then what? Here’s something to bear in mind.

Luke is the first evangelist who had knowledge of Paul; at least, that is true if indeed Luke/Acts are from the same author. If we go back to some of Paul’s epistles, we should recall that in some of these, Paul was fully expecting the kingdom any day, or even at any hour. Did Luke infer that the early disciples felt that way as well? If Paul felt that way, why wouldn’t the original followers have shared that sense of imminence? Is that what we have here? Luke channeling Paul? Intriguing as I find the thought, it seems unlikely, but then why? To some degree it’s a question of how conscious Luke was when he wrote this. My first thought was that Luke may have gotten carried away, After reading Paul and the other two gospels, he may have drifted into authorial omniscience, where the writer knows what is happening and makes unsupported statements under the unquestioned assumption that the statement is simply self-evident, and so requires no explanation. I followed this line of argument for a fair distance down the rabbit-hole before realizing that the evidence was barely persuasive, let alone conclusive.

So what, then?

The aspect that most strikes me is the way that this sentence, or at least the second clause, sort of sticks our like the proverbial sore thumb. This is the part beginning with <<διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι>>, which I rendered as “on account of being near…” Then I looked at the grammar of the whole a bit more closely. “They having heard this” is a genitive absolute*, usually used to set up the circumstances while remaining more or less independent of the grammar of the rest of the sentence. That is, it can be removed without affecting how the remainder of the sentence operates. In this case, these are plural participles; hence translating as “they”. But “he” spoke the parable. The grammatical implication is that Jesus did this to some degree because “they”, presumably his followers, had done this hearing. Jesus speaking is a consequence, or even an effect of them hearing. But his decision to speak is also depending upon the proximity to Jerusalem. The preposition very clearly indicates a causal connexion; Jesus spoke specifically on account of, or due to the proximity to Jerusalem. The verb “to be” is an infinitive, which means there is no distinction to number, it’s neither singular nor plural; in English we would use a participle, “due to being near…” making it a statement of general conditions. But he also spoke because it seemed to them that the kingdom was approaching, so we’re back to the mental state of the followers. In short, the last part of this sentence is a bit of a jumble.

The conclusion I draw from this is that, at least, the last part of the sentence is a marginal gloss that became incorporated into the body of the text. That is, it was a note that someone scribbled in the margin of the manuscript as an explanatory note to himself, or to other readers that some subsequent scribe, perhaps copying a manuscript he could not read all that well, took the note to be an integral part of the text. I don’t offer this suggestion lightly, but perhaps I am not to be taken too seriously on this point. Arguing about the incorporation of glosses requires a degree of knowledge of Greek that is beyond mine. I can provide my general impression of the text, and how it seems to me that this is likely a gloss, but I cannot construct a truly persuasive argument. Bear in mind, however, that I have encountered this many times with Classical/pagan authors, so I am not completely unfamiliar with how this works. Bear in mind also that the incorporation of glosses does occur. In fact, I recently (within the last 5-10 years) read that the discovery of an early fragment of Isaiah showed that several sentences had been added to the text, likely as the result of a marginal gloss becoming incorporated into the body of the text. So it was much more than a random sentence like we have here. So this does happen, even with biblical texts. And at the risk of offending, it seems to me that biblical scholarship is much less likely to raise the question of incorporated glosses than academics working on pagan texts. This has been my criticism of biblical scholarship for some time: since most of them come from a theological/divinity background, the critical thinking has been blunted overmuch. This is how we got Q, after all. Too few people are willing to grasp the nettle and argue that Q is completely unsubstantiated.

So we have the assessment of a later copier who believes that it seems to the followers of Jesus that the kingdom is becoming apparent. Now let’s stop and ask how this fits in with other parts of the gospel. Recall that back in Chapter 17, not that long ago, Jesus told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is among/within you. Do these two statements contradict each other? Or, if they aren’t explicitly contradictory in the sense of being mutually exclusive, do they tell a consistent story? Or, perhaps more accurately, do they describe a consistent theology? On the face of it, I would say not. Yes, there are ways to square the circle, and to take the specific words in figurative ways so that they do not actually say what they seem to say at first glance. And there is nothing wrong with doing this, I have no quarrel about doing this. In fact, I advocate taking the words as symbolic, referring to a Truth that is not necessarily factually accurate. But let’s ask what those hearing the message as preached by Luke & his brethren would think, how they would take what was said. If this gospel were being read, hearing several chapters in one sitting would hardly be a stretch. So it’s entirely conceivable that people could have heard “the kingdom is within/among you” and “it seemed to them that the kingdom was imminent” within the space of an hour or so. How would this have struck our hypothetical listener?

That is an interesting question. I suspect it would be confusing, because I find it a tad confusing; however, I’m looking at it from a theological point of view, and I’m expecting a consistent message. The relatively close juxtaposition does make very clear the extent to which what became Christian theology was created on a very ad hoc basis. No one sat down and explained this theology only after having thought this through and worked to create a consistent message based on a consistent view of what the term “Kingdom of God/the heavens/heaven” meant. No one came up with that definition and then crafted a text to explain that definition in clear, non-ambiguous language. Prior to starting this blog, I had sort of done some semi-casual, semi-serious reading of the NT, and had sort of tried to work through what it actually said. This proved to be a very unsatisfying exercise, and it is one of the primary reasons I undertook this undertaking of translating and commenting on the NT; the underlying purpose was to figure out just exactly what the thing says. And the farther I’ve gone, the more I realize that my initial impression was accurate: it is confusing, it is inconsistent, and it says a lot of different things at a lot of different times. This gives me a new appreciation for what specifically became the Roman Church, because I have a better appreciation of what Augustine and the rest were up against when they had to refute ideas that became deemed heretical. In fact, they had to invent that term. It also explains why the Roman Church has never been super keen on just anyone reading the Bible, which, in turn, helps explain why they resisted having the Bible translated into vernacular language. If it were left in Latin, a lot of people could not read it, and that was considered a good thing. Otherwise, letting just anyone read the darn thing could–and did–lead to a lot of people getting a lot of different ideas. By keeping a monopoly on Scripture, the Roman Church, and the Roman Church alone, could decide what it said. That way, you didn’t get people reading Mark’s Chapter 1 and deciding that Jesus was Adopted at that point. Nor did you get people reading Luke 19:9 and deciding that we can merit our salvation. 


*Latin does the same thing, but the case used is the ablative rather than the genitive. In fact, the ablative absolute is a fundamental aspect of Latin grammar & rhetoric. Below it comes to <<illis audientibus>>, “they having heard“. As an aside, of the Indo-European languages I’ve studied (a list limited to Greek, Latin, and the rudiments of German), Latin is the only one to have an ablative case. I’m not sure why that is, but I’ve never attempted to research this question.

11 Haec autem illis audientibus, adiciens dixit parabolam, eo quod esset prope Ierusalem, et illi existimarent quod confestim regnum Dei manifestaretur. 

Summary Luke Chapter 18 – Addendum

These chapters do not necessarily have theme. Very few of them do, except perhaps for Mark 5 and Mark 6. The former is mostly composed of the story of the Gerasene Demonaic, and the latter to the two stories of the Bleeding Woman and the Daughter of Jairus. Even then, the first perhaps doesn’t so much have a theme as it is almost wholly committed to a single story. I think that Chapter 6 can be said to have a theme of how faith can save/heal/make someone whole without too much danger of being gainsaid. Does this chapter have a theme? That is the question I always ask when I start writing a chapter summary like this. In the back of my mind was a lingering impression that the major theme was The Poor vs The Rich. This impression doubtless was left by the Rich Young Man and the Pharisee and the Publican. But the latter is not about wealth per se, as the story of the rich ruler is. The Pharisee and the Publican leads into Jesus telling his audience that the Kingdom must be accepted as a child: in innocence and humility. These are not traits the Pharisee exhibits. And even then the Rich Ruler follows the Children, so that the latter is sandwiched between two other stories that demonstrate exactly the wrong attitude for someone wishing to enter the Kingdom. The Pharisee and the Rich Ruler are too enamoured of this world with its trappings and its possessions; these are not the innocence and humility of the child that we are to emulate. So by sheer weight of words, the idea of innocence and humility would properly be taken as the theme; this assumes, of course, that it is proper to claim that the chapter has a theme. But three of the five stories thus form a unit to instruct us on the proper approach towards the goal of entering the kingdom.

And yet it feels like the idea of the poor is lurking there, just below the surface. It never quite leaves our consciousness even if it never takes center stage, which is how it leaves its imprint on our mind. Note that I’m using my own experience to generalize; this is the impression it left on me, and I can’t be unique in this assessment, can I? Some of it derives from the placement of the Rich Ruler at the end of the chapter, so it’s a rhetorical thing. But it feels like the idea of the poor is a more significant theme in Luke than it was for the previous evangelists.  This perception makes me question whether the concern for the poor evinced by Luke is this another example of Luke trying to ‘correct’ the record of Matthew, by bringing up the emphasis on social justice? This is a fairly bold suggestion, since Matthew is said to be the most “Jewish” of the gospels, and that Matthew was a Jew while Luke was, supposedly, a pagan. But this sort of goes away if Matthew, in fact, was a pagan as well. Then we could read this as Luke believing that the pagan Matthew rather lost sight of this part of Jewish tradition; as such, Luke attempted to re-invigorate the idea of social justice. I am convinced that Luke was deeply aware of Matthew, and that the construction & content of Luke’s gospel were a  response, or even a reaction to what he read in Matthew. They both read Mark, and each interpreted Mark in his own way. This is rather a complex and very difficult argument to make; it requires almost line-by-line comparison of Matthew and Luke. I’m not up to that task. Yet. Regardless, this is another example of a question that needs to be asked and brought into the open. If nothing else, it will help clarify the Q discussion as well, by forcing scholars to assess the relationship rather than simply assuming–on no real evidence–that there was no direct relationship between Matthew and Luke because the latter certainly had not read the former.

Let’s take this in a different direction. Mark mentions the poor five times; in his much longer gospel, Matthew mentions them five times. In both evangelists, two of the uses of the word “poor” come in the single story in which one of the disciples says of giving the proceeds from the sale of the costly perfume to the poor. (He is named as Judas Iscariot, but only by John.) Jesus more or less dismisses this by saying that the poor will always be with you. Also, another incidence in Matthew comes when he blesses the “poor in spirit”. In contrast, Luke mentions them eleven times in his gospel, but not once in Acts. From these numbers it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Jesus and the earliest Christians may not have been all that concerned with the poor. In fact, John is even worse; he uses the word four times, three of which are in his version of the “poor will always be with you” story. The two who bring it up the most, especially as a percentage of their text, are Luke and the Epistle of James, and probably not in that order. The implication of this is that Christian concern for the poor, and so perhaps social justice as a whole, comes from and through its Jewish roots rather than through any increased emphasis on this by Jesus.

More, all of Mark’s first use of the word “poor” comes in Chapter 10, and the others are later. This is the part of his gospel that emphasizes the Christ tradition rather than the Wonder-worker tradition. Paul uses the word sparingly, but one salient incidence comes in Galatians, where James, brother of Jesus, admonishes Paul to “remember the poor” as part of the deal James and Paul cut on what Paul’s message can and should include. This leads to the possible connexion between James and the Ebionites, which may be carried on to the Epistle of James, even though the general consensus is that this letter is not properly ascribed to James, brother of Jesus. The Ebionites got their name from the Aramaic (?) word for “poor”. And the assembly (ekklesia) led by James was likely more in line with mainline Judaism; as such, James’ group put more emphasis on the poor than Jesus did. This, in turn, highlights the earlier half of Mark in which Jesus was, first and foremost, a wonder-worker. A very elaborate theory; it’s most likely wrong, but it’s an interesting set of connexions. I can think of several problems immediately. It requires that they nascent church became more concerned with social justice as it became less Jewish, as the number and percent of pagan followers far outstripped Jewish followers. But viewing Jesus as primarily a wonder-worker would help account for the lack of social message in the first half of Mark.

As sort of an interesting side-bar to this, we should note one of the elements Luke left our of one of the stories– pericopae– in the chapter. After the “eye of the needle” proclamation, in Verse 28 Peter asks what will happen to them who have given up all to follow Jesus. In fact, we get the sense that Peter is rather uncomfortable about this, he’s feeling a little unsure of himself. In the other two gospels Jesus is quick to assure a return of a hundredfold to those who have followed him, AND will inherit eternal life. Mark is even more interesting because his version of Jesus promises a return of a hundredfold in this age AND eternal life in the age to come. IOW, following Jesus was to be a money-making proposition. Matthew toned this down, and Luke holds out only the promise of a reward to come. This is a fascinating little bit of doctrine and its evolution. Mark’s promise, again, seems more appropriate for a wonder-worker than for an ascetic follower of Jesus. So once again Luke sort of stresses the idea of poverty as an ideal much more so than his predecessors. And the three-step process from Mark to Matthew to Luke again helps reinforce the suggestion that Luke is writing with Matthew very much in mind. Yes, he could have eliminated the idea of a return in this age without knowing Matthew, but it seems to make more sense if Luke had read Matthew. However, note that this is a stylistic judgement and not one based on real textual evidence.

Finally, in this chapter we take a very big step towards finalizing the Christian meaning of being “saved”. For the first time we have a very clear connexion drawn between the Kingdom of God, eternal life, and being saved. There has been a fair bit of transitive-property* equating of the three terms, but I believe this is the first time the this equivalence is made as explicitly clear as it has been in this chapter. I don’t want to make too big a deal of this because the degree of significance is very much in the eye of the beholder. However, I have been watching this develop, and for the first time I am convinced all three terms are meant to be used interchangeably, as synonyms. Remember that John the Dunker also preached the Kingdom; given the ambivalence of Jewish belief in an afterlife, we cannot dismiss the idea that this was an earthly kingdom. Here we are very clearly, and finally, told that it is not.


I completely neglected to discuss the story of the blind man receiving his sight. Technically, this story is part of the Triple Tradition, since Jesus restores sight outside of Jericho in all three gospels. However, there are significant differences. Mark names the man healed a bar-TImmaeus (often conflated aa Bartimmaeus, even though the “bar” is an indicator of the father’s name, as the “Mc” in Scottish names and is technically not part of the name; see also Barabbas). In Matthew’s version, two men, neither of them named, have their sight restored. Luke is back to a single individual, even though the man’s name is not recounted. This, I think, is a great example of how each evangelist molded the stories they chose to include, sort of picking and choosing what to include, what to omit, and what to add. Luke omitted the name. Why? Because he thought it was redundant, since the man was named in Mark? Possibly. Everyone (well, almost everyone) agrees that Mark wrote first and that Matthew and Luke were well aware of Mark’s gospel. So it’s unlikely that Luke omitted the name because he simply didn’t know what it was. The bigger question is why did Matthew omit the name AND add a second blind man? The speculations are potentially endless and I doubt a single answer will ever be considered convincing. But we’re not discussing Mark or Matthew, so we’re concerned with why Luke has a single person who is not named. That is sort of a compromise between the previous two, no? One man as in Mark, unnamed as in Matthew.

Of course this flies in the face of Q. Per that theory, Luke only had one man because Mark only had one man, and Luke was unaware that Matthew had two. Then the question is why didn’t Luke include the man’s name? What is the basis for this editorial choice? The Q proponents never even address the question, let alone answer it. My theory is this. In other cases, the Gerasene Demonaic being my favorite example, Matthew’s version is abbreviated from Mark’s version. Luke restores Mark’s length, and some of the details Matthew omitted. In the story of the Woman Anointing Jesus, both Matthew and Mark provide a full account, and Luke has the short version. It seems that Luke makes decisions based on the comparison of the previous two gospels. Do M&M treat the story fully? Then provide a short form and move on. Does Matthew not handle Mark’s version properly? Then add more back. Here, Luke found no compelling reason to add the man’s name since that was supplied by Mark, but he also “corrected” Matthew by having Jesus heal only a single individual. This, I think, is the basis for a theory of Luke’s editorial choices that is “redactionally consistent” as demanded by the Q proponents.


*If a=b, and b=c, then a=c

Luke Chapter 18:1-14

This chapter starts with more instruction. In truth, the content of this opening scene appears to be a continuation of the last chapter rather than the start of something new. I honestly do not know the rationale behind the designation of chapters & verses. The system is a bit different from the way it’s done for a Classical author like Herodotus. Whatever the logic behind the chapter/verse breaks, the result is that we get chapter breaks that don’t always make much sense. The most glaring example is Mark 9:1, which clearly should be part of Chapter 8. It may have something to do with scrolls, but I don’t think so. IIRC, part of the argument for Matthew having been written first is that Mark is a summary, a text that can fit on a single scroll. My response to this is, have they read Mark? So if all of Mark can fit on a single scroll, how does that impact the chapter divisions? And, btw, I’m not saying definitively that Mark can fit on a single scroll; I’m saying that my (admittedly often faulty) memory has a vague recollection of something such.


1 Ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ μὴ ἐγκακεῖν,

He spoke a parable to them with the intention ( πρὸς.= pros = towards) the necessity of them all to pray and not to omit it. 

Let’s take a brief pause. The last word in the verse is a tad problematic. It’s a verb formed from kakos, which is a very broad word with the essential meaning of bad. And it can mean bad in many different ways. Opposed to kalos, beautiful, kakos can mean ugly. In Greek thought, daimon was a neutral term, but a kakodaimon was a bad one. Here the verb form could simply mean “do something bad”, but the second definition is to “culpably omit a thing”. The Latin is sufficiently similar as to require no comment; the KJV, however, renders this as “not to faint”. More modern translations opt for “that they not lose heart”. The idea of fainting is present in the Latin, but it’s completely absent from the Greek. So, once again, rather than going back to the original, a lot of English translations only get as far back as the Vulgate.

To make the pause not so brief, let’s note that we do not know whom he is addressing. It could be his disciples; it could be a crowd in general. It’s not specified. What this means, I think, is that Luke does not feel that the audience is particularly important. That, of course, is obvious; the real question is why does he feel this way? What comes immediately to mind is that, by the time he wrote, Luke didn’t believe that the setting was all that crucial. He was not terribly concerned about the placement, etc., which means, I think, that Luke isn’t concerned with the historicity of the stories any longer. He doesn’t seem to care if Jesus was on a mountain, or on a plain, or in a boat, or speaking to a crowd or in a synagogue or any of these things. He’s concerned about the what, and not the who, where, or how. The why, of course, is obvious; to spread the message. But this is something to note. IIRC, Luke is very short on these contextual details; however, that is something to verify rather than trust my faulty memory.

1 Dicebat autem parabolam ad illos, quoniam oportet semper orare et non deficere,

2 λέγων, Κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει τὸν θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος.

saying “There was a judge in a certain city not fearing God (the judge did not fear God) and did not hold humans in regard.  

This probably requires no comment or explanation, but this line had always struck me as odd. It simply (?) means that the judge was a very strong-willed man who thought himself capable in matters divine and human. It occurred to me that he may not fear God because he knew in his heart that he was righteous, but that reading is completely undercut by “not regarding people”. The judge does not care for anyone, human or divine. He is a bada$$ dude. It’s worth noting that the Latin is more clear on this: the judge did not honour God and he did not revere men”. 

2 dicens: “Iudex quidam erat in quadam civitate, qui Deum non timebat et hominem non reverebatur. 

3 χήρα δὲ ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσα, Ἐκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου.

4 καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν ἐπὶ χρόνον, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Εἰ καὶ τὸν θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι οὐδὲ ἄνθρωπον ἐντρέπομαι,

5 διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην ἐκδικήσω αὐτήν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑπωπιάζῃ με.

6 Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Ἀκούσατε τί ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει:

7 ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός, καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς;

8 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει. πλὴν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐλθὼν ἆρα εὑρήσει τὴν πίστιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς;

“There was a widow in that town and she came before him (the judge) saying, ‘Give me justice from the injustice I receive’. (4) And he did not wish for a time; after which he said to himself, ‘(For) if I do not fear God, nor do I regard men, (5) for what cause does that widow hand over trouble to me? I will avenge/provide a legal remedy to her so that she will not come to me in the end (and) weary me’.” (6) And the lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge says. But will God not avenge/give satisfaction of the cries of his elect of the cries to him day and night, and will he be patient upon them? (8) I say to you that he will  avenge/give satisfaction quickly. However, the son of man coming, will he find such faith on earth?

The word <<ἐκδίκησιν>> presents a bit of a nuance. At base, the concept is “avenge”, but this quickly trails into “satisfaction” and “provide legal remedy”. Which is the intent here? I used “avenge” when the judge is having his rumination on what to do about the widow; I provided the range of avenge/give satisfaction when talking about God. One of the epithets of the god Mars– the notorious god of war, known as Ares by the Greeks– was Mars Ultor, Mars the Avenger. Is God in his Christian guise a god of vengeance? I would hope most people would answer this in the negative since Jesus preached a God of love and forgiveness. In the HS, YHWH can certainly be called a god of vengeance; there is no doubt a thread of vengeance running through the scene when pharaoh’s army is destroyed by the Red Sea. But didn’t the message of Jesus supersede that? Maybe. To anyone saying that the God of the NT was not interested in vengeance, I would suggest that person read Revelations. That is a revenge fantasy, which is sort of the point of all apocalyptic literature. Honestly, in this scene, the translation of “legal remedy” arguably makes the most sense. He is a judge, after all, and that is what judges are supposed to do. But when we’re talking about redressing the cries of the elect, “legal remedy” doesn’t really make sense. In that case, we have to ask ourselves if there is any real difference between giving satisfaction and wreaking vengeance? One can quibble about this, but look deep; since this is set in a context of apocalyptic writing, the idea of vengeance is not really out of place. The KJV chose to render this as God will avenge his elect; more modern translations opt for “give justice to his elect”.

We need to talk about the judge, but before getting to that, there is something I want to note. The word for “widow” used here does not appear in Matthew. This parable is unique to Luke, so of course we don’t find it in Matthew’s version of the story. The same is true of the story of the widow of Nain, whose son Jesus raised from the dead back in Chapter 4. The other two notable examples are the parable of the Widow’s Mite, and Jesus castigating the Pharisees as men who devour the houses of widows, etc. I find this a tad puzzling; of all the downtrodden and hopeless people in the ancient world, the poor widow was among those with the least chance of bettering her lot in life. Slaves could be freed, and if they were not, they were usually provided for so they might provide a valuable economic return. Orphaned children had it bad, but they could end up with some means of providing for their physical needs of food and shelter. The widow, OTOH, especially an older widow was in dire straits, especially if she were the widow of a man who worked for a living, because wealthy widows were, well, wealthy, to the point that they were courted by Paul to provide economic support for his fledgling assemblies. Why does Matthew omit them? Could this be part of the reason he blessed the “poor in spirit”? Was he, perhaps, not as concerned with the economically downtrodden? Did Luke remove the “in spirit” to correct this lack of emphasis he found– or didn’t find– in Matthew? 

Now for the judge. In the harmony I just consulted, he is referred to as the “unjust judge”. Why is that? Because he neither fears God nor respects people? Or because he continuously refused to provide justice to the widow? Of course, one could easily argue that the latter was a function of the former. Jewish morality as expressed throughout the HS was very keen on protecting the weak. [As an aside, is this another clue that Matthew was, indeed, a pagan?] My point is that he is labeled “unjust” without any real background on why he was so, but this is the fault of later commentators and interpreters rather than of the gospel itself. My point is that Luke’s description is understood in a certain way even though there isn’t a lot of supporting evidence. Not fearing God and not granting justice, it seems, are short-hand which is meant to be stand in for a larger context. Trying to come up with a modern analogy, I might suggest an expression like ‘fairy-tail ending’, which elicits a set of circumstances and values and implications without further explanation. Do the expressions used by Luke function in the same manner? This may not be a merely idle speculation; it possibly calls into question who Luke’s audience was. But then again, it has to be reiterated that labeling the judge “unjust” is a later phenomenon. We get the idea from the story itself. He is possibly unjust for not giving the widow satisfaction in the first place. So we come back to the question of whether he is giving her satisfaction or extracting revenge.

The point isn’t whether we can answer these questions. The point is that the questions have to be asked.

In the end, the judge is not to be taken too literally. The purpose he serves is to represent justice or vengeance delayed. It doesn’t come immediately for the widow, and neither will it come immediately for God’s chosen. But it will come. So we are getting much more deliberate promises that all will receive their due at some point. Here and now that point is undefined, but I think the idea of a post-mortem judgement where each individual is punished or rewarded on merits accumulated– or not– while living is becoming more and more settled. It is very, very important to continue to emphasize the pagan background of this concept. I’ve been reading a lot of Pre-Socratic philosophy of late, and the idea of reward/punishment in the afterlife was largely established in Greek thought half a millennium before Jesus made it a Christian thing. It was not an integral part of the HS; recall that the Pharisees were controversial because they believed in the resurrection of the body. Josephus tells us this, but nowhere does he talk about the immortality of the soul. If one reads the Apocrypha, there are (apparently; I admit I haven’t read them thoroughly) indications that the idea of the immortal soul had been incorporating itself into mainstream Jewish belief; however, I’m not sure this is has been settled in Jewish teaching. A quick Google search of “Do Jews Believe in an Afterlife” brought back a bunch of ambivalent answers; as such, I feel able to put forth the answer of “not definitively”. It seems, rather, that this idea really became a central tenet of Christianity only after the new sect became predominantly pagan in origin. And even then, it probably was not fully worked out for a century or so after Jesus. Many core beliefs of Christianity were not fully established as orthodox until the second or third centuries, if not later. A great example of this is the Trinity; this wasn’t worked out until the mid-200s. As such, translating it as “sacred breath” is meant to serve as a reminder that the author was decidedly not writing about the Holy Spirit.

This actually serves as a great segue into the question in the last verse: will the son of man find such faith on earth? Faith in what? In God? Sure, that’s the easy answer, but does it actually address the question that has been asked? Because there are two questions asked: (1) will God ignore the cries?; and (2) will the son of man find the faith? The answer to the first is assumed to be affirmative. Of course God won’t ignore the cries; after all, the hard-hearted judge finally gave in, so God most definitely do the same. The fact that Luke puts the second question into Jesus’ mouth refers back to the discussion about the afterlife. Will people on earth believe that they will be given satisfaction in the end? Now, technically, there is no reference to an afterlife. Jesus does not say when the satisfaction/vengeance will be meted out; it could be here on earth, which is, apparently, not an alien concept to Jewish thought, even today. From my quick search, it seems that this is still current in Jewish beliefs, and remains so because there is no general consensus, let alone single dogma, on the topic. 

However, the emphasis on the eventual nature of the justice, the fact that it took so long for the judge to do the proper thing seems to be an indication that this justice will not necessarily happen soon, and so could be understood to be something that occurs in the afterlife. This is the pagan understanding, one that stretches back to the Egyptians a thousand or more years or more prior to Jesus. And note that the question is not about whether the Son of Man is God, and whether the Son of Man will return, but about the eventual coming of justice/vengeance. Apparently this was an important question for Luke: had the idea of eventual justice truly taken hold among the assemblies? This has all the earmarks of an insider question; of course there will be such faith because of course all those hearing the question believe that it will come. This nudge-nudge-wink-wink expectation of an affirmative answer most likely follows if the followers were largely pagan  In other words, this question marks a significant milestone in the development of Christian doctrines and beliefs. That there will be eventual justice is, as of Luke’s writing, a standard belief of the Christian community. At least, that is one way to read this, but I think (at the moment, anyway), that it has a lot of merit and so is likely to be the most correct interpretation.

We have to mention, at least, the elect.  In Greek, elect and chosen are synonyms. Elect is most properly translated as chosen. A candidate is elected because she is the one chosen by most people. This word, in all its implications, will run like a thread through Christian theology and come to full fruition in the theology of Calvin. We must remember, however, that the word with its attendant baggage was first used by Paul, most particularly in Romans, which is the foundation document for belief in predestination. Of course, it is a natural continuation of the idea that the Israelites were God’s chosen people, God’s elect people. The two ways of expressing the thought are identical. So the word will spur real acrimony among Christian thinkers for a couple of millennia.  

3 Vidua autem erat in civitate illa et veniebat ad eum dicens: “Vindica me de adversario meo”. 

4 Et nolebat per multum tempus; post haec autem dixit intra se: “Etsi Deum non timeo nec hominem revereor, 

5 tamen quia molesta est mihi haec vidua, vindicabo illam, ne in novissimo veniens suggillet me”.” 

6 Ait autem Dominus: “Audite quid iudex iniquitatis dicit; 

7 Deus autem non faciet vindictam electorum suorum clamantium ad se die ac nocte, et patientiam habebit in illis? 

8 Dico vobis: Cito faciet vindictam illorum. Verumtamen Filius hominis veniens, putas, inveniet fidem in terra?”.

9 Εἶπεν δὲ καὶ πρός τινας τοὺς πεποιθότας ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῖς ὅτι εἰσὶν δίκαιοι καὶ ἐξουθενοῦντας τοὺς λοιποὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην:

10 Ἄνθρωποι δύο ἀνέβησαν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν προσεύξασθαι, ὁ εἷς Φαρισαῖος καὶ ὁ ἕτερος τελώνης.

11 ὁ Φαρισαῖος σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ταῦτα προσηύχετο, Ὁ θεός, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὥσπερ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἅρπαγες, ἄδικοι, μοιχοί, ἢ καὶ ὡς οὗτος ὁ τελώνης:

12 νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι.

13 ὁ δὲ τελώνης μακρόθεν ἑστὼς οὐκ ἤθελεν οὐδὲ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπᾶραι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, ἀλλ’ ἔτυπτεν τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ λέγων, Ὁ θεός, ἱλάσθητίμοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ.

14 λέγω ὑμῖν, κατέβη οὗτος δεδικαιωμένος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ παρ’ἐκεῖνον: ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν ταπεινωθήσεται, ὁ δὲ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

And he said to certain ones having been persuaded upon themselves (ie., they had taken it upon themselves to believe) that they were just and spurned the others this parable. (10)  Two men going up to the Temple to pray, one was a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector (publicanus, in Latin). (11) The Pharisee standing towards himself prayed, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humankind, greedy, unjust, adulterers, or even (kai) this publican. (12) I fast twice of the Sabbath (apparently = twice in the week), I give a tenth of all so much I possess’. (13) But the publican having stood far off did not wish either to raise his eyes to the sky, but beat his breast saying, ‘O God, may my sins be forgiven’. (14) I say to you, the latter went down having been set right to his home from this (i.e., act/action). That all raising himself will be humbled, the one humbling himself will be lifted.”

If you’ll recall, we noted out at the beginning of the section that we were not given any sort of indication of who the audience for this was. We still do not really know. I think this reinforces what I said at the beginning: that the context and the who and where don’t really matter any more. What matters is the message. 

As far as the content of the story itself, my feeling is that it requires no comment. But is that true? The exalt/humble thing is not a new message, having been found in both M&M. But the dramatis personae of this version are very different from the characters in Matthew’s version, where the words are spoken in the “Woes” speech. By this point you should be able to guess at my next question: how does this impact the Q debate? Assuming we get the concept of the aphorism from Mark, even if the set-up and wording are slightly different,* the thought is the same: the earthly roles will be reversed, the mighty and powerful and those taking precedence will be brought low and put in their places. (Yes, it can be argued that the thoughts expressed are not the same, but that argument will likely not be convincing.) As such, what we have is Luke siding with Matthew against Mark. Per the Q proponents, this “never” (a quote) happens. And Kloppenborg does not include this humble/exalted aphorism in his the reconstruction of Q. So there you have it. Yes, the argument will be that this doesn’t count since it really came from Mark, but that is precisely the point: Luke following Matthew rather than Mark. Else, how to explain how Luke managed to come up with the same wording, using the same words, as Matthew did? This says that the non-existence of Q is pretty much Q.E.D., IMO. 

*Mark 9:35: the first will be last, and the last will be first. 

9 Dixit autem et ad quosdam, qui in se confidebant tamquam iusti et aspernabantur ceteros, parabolam istam: 

10 “Duo homines ascenderunt in templum, ut orarent: unus pharisaeus et alter publicanus. 

11 Pharisaeus stans haec apud se orabat: “Deus, gratias ago tibi, quia non sum sicut ceteri hominum, raptores, iniusti, adulteri, velut etiam hic publicanus; 

12 ieiuno bis in sabbato, decimas do omnium, quae possideo”. 

13 Et publicanus a longe stans nolebat nec oculos ad caelum levare, sed percutiebat pectus suum dicens: “Deus, propitius esto mihi peccatori”. 

14 Dico vobis: Descendit hic iustificatus in domum suam ab illo. Quia omnis, qui se exaltat, humiliabitur; et, qui se humiliat, exaltabitur ”.

Summary Luke Chapter 17

Doing a review of the text in preparation for writing this, I noted that it was difficult to find any sort of common theme running between the various episodes. These include an admonition about not corrupting the little ones, telling a mulberry tree to throw itself into the sea, the cleansing of ten lepers, all ending with sort of a trailer for the coming prediction of the apocalypse. It would be possible to suggest that the common thread is faith, and it would not be difficult to argue against such a conclusion; however, the theme of faith is so generic, and so common to so much of the NT that claiming this as the central theme is almost meaningless. It’s simply too broad of a concept. So let’s return to the metaphor of the thread; perhaps we should thing of it as a string, as in the connecting thread used to create a string of pearls. I’ve used this analogy before in describing the text of the various gospels. They are only loosely connected around the theme of Jesus preaching and then taking the fatal trip to Jerusalem. As such, they do not form a coherent whole; rather, they are more reminiscent of a string of beads, each distinct and possibly unique, only connected to the other beads by the string.

This tells us something about how the stories of Jesus came about, how they came into existence. There was no unifying narrative at first. What happened was that individual stories popped up here and there, sort of like mushrooms: each one is unique, each one is separate, and the sole unifying common denominator is that they are all mushrooms. They might not even be the same species: some could be button mushrooms, others porcini, others portobello. And so it is, I truly believe, with stories about Jesus. They popped here and there. Some were about his healing powers. Some were about the kingdom. Some were about faith. Different stories featured, or emphasized different aspects of Jesus’ life and career. But note the difference: was he a teacher? A wonder worker? A preacher of repentance? Or of salvation? The answer, of course is “yes”, he was each of these things; at least, that’s what the stories tell us. And this, I think, is the key to the eventual “success” of Christianity as a religion: Jesus was– or could be made to be– all things to all people. We discussed how Mark seemed to be a concerted effort to converge the two primary traditions, the two main threads of the Jesus cult in his gospel. These are stories of Jesus the Wonder-Worker, and Jesus the Christ.

In addition, recalling that Luke adds a lot of rich detail to the tapestry, one could argue that he represents another tradition: What it means to be a Christian*. And it is wholly appropriate to describe the people Luke was writing for as Christians*. These are the stories of The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, and Dives and Lazarus. Here we get the story of the Ten Lepers, which, while novel, doesn’t quite fit the category I’m describing.

As far as the stories in this chapter, given the lack of thematic connexion, it seems difficult to summarize the chapter as a whole. We get a little of this and a little of that. The apocalypse will recur later, so perhaps the two most salient features of the chapter are the returning leper was a Samaritan, and the idea that just doing your duty is not enough. The former fits in with the Good Samaritan parable in two ways. It does demonstrate how we should behave as Christians. In addition, it is a not-so-subtle disparagement of the Jews. Who was the neighbor? The Samaritan. Which of the lepers returned? The Samaritan. We are now at the point when Christians start doing the doublespeak on their Jewish heritage. On the one hand, writers like Hippolytus Romanus (circa 200 CE) stress the connexion, even while disparaging certain leaders of “heretical” sects as introducing “novel” ideas and doctrines. I have said this repeatedly, but it bears repeating even more: to the mind of someone in the Roman world of Jesus, novelty was not a good thing. One respected ideas that were old, that had withstood the test of time. Egypt is the premiere example of this. Even half a millennium before Jesus, the Greeks were in awe of the civilisation of Egypt. Many teachings, Pythagoras being an outstanding example, were said to trace back to Egypt. So in order to fit into this, Christians needed– almost desperately– to claim the centuries-old heritage of the Jews. At the same time, however, they had to explain why the Jews had rejected Jesus. This was a bit of an awkward, or inconvenient fact. Stories like the Good Samaritan and the Ten Lepers do not, in fact, explain why the Jews rejected Jesus, but they do emphasize that the Jews did reject Jesus. And the way they rejected him leads us into the story of the lepers.

The first section we discussed ended with Jesus using the metaphor of the slave. He has returned from working all day in the fields, but the master does not wait on the slave. Rather, the slave is then expected to wait on the master while the latter is at his meat. This leads Jesus to ask if we are not grateful for such slaves, but adds the admonition that doing what we are told is not enough. We must go, in modern parlance, over and above mere duty. When read, this seems a bit of a non-sequitur. Jesus makes a logical jump, and the landing on the other side is a bit jarring. The slave was told to wait on the master; how was this going the extra mile? I’m not sure. This admonition to do more is what leads us into the Ten Lepers. These lepers approached Jesus as a group. Jesus healed all ten, and then gave them instructions to go show themselves to the priests, to show that they were now ritually cleansed, and then they were to make the sacrifices as prescribed by Moses. Again as a body, the ten trundle off to do what they were told. At least, ten of them started to do this; nine of them continued, but the tenth returned, groveled before Jesus, and gave thanks. In other words, he did more than just what he was told to do. He took the extra step, went the extra mile, went over and above mere duty.  This is how the Christian is expected to act. And, as a personal note, I’ve always felt this way. Think about situations when you’ve done something for someone and they are thankful, and say “you didn’t need to do this”. Well, of course not; that is exactly the point. Doing only what is expected is good, but it’s expected. Not doing this, of course is bad; but the point is, what is expected is necessary, but it’s not sufficient.


*The term “Christian” came into existence sometime in the period of Matthew, so by the time of Luke it was probably not uncommon. In particular, Tacitus uses the term writing in or around 112 CE.

Luke Chapter 17:20-39

There is a lot of text to cover here. Here we get to a prelude to Luke’s version of the coming “apocalypse”, or day of wrath, or however you wish to describe it. This is kind of an odd bit coming here, or at least an odd place to put something like this. It follows hard on the heels of the Ten Lepers. I suppose one could argue that the intent of this passage in this location is meant to illustrate what will happen to those like the nine who did not return to give thanks, although their place is taken over by Pharisees. They are the ones who initiate the conversation about the arrival of the Kingdom of God. Is that question unique to Luke? Is he the only evangelist who puts this question into the mouths of people around Jesus? I don’t recall it, at least not in so many words, but I suppose there are different versions of it, or many and various ways to couch the implication of the question to evoke Jesus’ response.

What is, perhaps, more interesting is the placement of the reference to Noah. This occurs in Matthew as well, and Kloppenborg includes this as part of Q. But there is a “but” here; Matthew has this reference in the context of his version of the coming wrath, and it’s all together in his Chapter 24. Luke, OTOH, splits this off from his main narrative of the apocalypse. which will come in Chapter 21. This is sort of a teaser, or perhaps the trailer for the main story that is to come. What this means is that one of them, Matthew or Luke, changed the order of the Q material. It may have been Matthew moving it to be part of the longer apocalypse story, or Luke who removes it from the longer apocalypse and places it here. I mention this because the handling and organization of the Q material presented in the Sermon on the Mount is a major prop for the pro-Q argument. Why would Luke mess with this masterful arrangement if he’d read Matthew? Perhaps because Luke tended to rearrange the material he had, whether in the form of Q, or in Matthew’s gospel. More will be said on this later.

As a final note, I forget who said it, whether Ehrman, or Crossan, or someone else, but apocalyptic writing is the last resort of the downtrodden. Sure, we’re your chattel now, but just you wait. OUR GOD is gonna come and clean your clock and teach you a lesson. Him and my big brother. So you better watch it, buster. Honest. I mean it. So anyway, here what Luke has to say about the End Times, or the Time of Retribution, or whatever you wish to call it.


20 Ἐπερωτηθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Φαρισαίων πότε ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν, Οὐκ ἔρχεται ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ παρατηρήσεως,

21 οὐδὲ ἐροῦσιν, Ἰδοὺ ὧδε: ἤ, Ἐκεῖ: ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν.

Having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God is coming, he answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with observable things (more literally, observations). (21) Nor will they say, ‘Look here’, or ‘look there’, for the kingdom of God is within you.”

This finishes Jesus’ response to the Pharisees, so we can pause here a moment.  “The kingdom of God is within you”. The problem with that perfectly legitimate translation is that “you” is plural. If Jesus had said, “within you(singular)” the meaning would be crystal clear, that each of us carries the kingdom within ourself, as in we carry it in our hearts, or in some such metaphorical manner. It is within me, it is within my friend and my sister and each of us individually. But it’s within us plurally, as a group, as a plural number of us. So do we take this in the distributive sense, as it’s within each of you and you and you? This, in fact, is how the Liddell and Scott understands this usage. They have a specific entry referring explicitly and specifically to this passage, rendering is as “within your hearts”. So where is the problem?

The problem, such as it is, is that this is most frequently rendered as “in your midst”. To me, this is sort of saying that there are three people sitting in a triangle, and the kingdom is sort of sitting there on the grass in between them all. It is in their midst, which is a way of saying “it is in the middle of the three of them, but not specifically within any one of them”. At least, that is how I would understand “midst”. Or is that a needlessly strict understanding of “midst”? What else does it mean, if not “in the middle of all of you”? So my point is that I really do not agree with the “in your midst” translation. It lacks, IMO, the personal implication of what is in the Greek. And if we check the Latin, the Vulgate says intra vos, which is a pretty literal rendering of the Greek. “Within you”, again as in, “within your heart”, i.e. And, for those keeping score at home, the KJV comes in with what I would consider the authoritative reading, of “within you”. It is the modern translations that go astray. I wonder why?

I will be quite honest: I’m more than half-way through the third gospel and like three epistles, and the number of times that reading the original has made a tremendous difference can probably be counted on two hands. Or at least two hands and two feet. But this, I think, is definitely one of them.

One last note. The idea of the kingdom being within us is an extension of the admonition not to look here, or look there, for it. Both are part of the same idea.

20 Interrogatus autem a pharisaeis: “Quando venit regnum Dei?”, respondit eis et dixit: “Non venit regnum Dei cum observatione,

21 neque dicent: “Ecce hic” aut: “Illic”; ecce enim regnum Dei intra vos est”.

22 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητάς, Ἐλεύσονται ἡμέραι ὅτε ἐπιθυμήσετε μίαν τῶν ἡμερῶν τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἰδεῖν καὶ οὐκ ὄψεσθε.

23 καὶ ἐροῦσιν ὑμῖν, Ἰδοὺ ἐκεῖ: [ἤ,] Ἰδοὺ ὧδε: μὴ ἀπέλθητε μηδὲ διώξητε.

24 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ ἀστραπὴ ἀστράπτουσα ἐκ τῆς ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανὸν εἰς τὴν ὑπ’ οὐρανὸν λάμπει, οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου [ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ αὐτοῦ].

He said to his disciples, “The days are coming that you will yearn for one of the days of the son of man to see and you will not see (you will long to see the son of man, but you will not see him). (23) And they will say you, ‘Look there’, or ‘look here’; but he will not come nor should you follow him. (24) For as the lightening lightens from the one under the sky to the one under the sky it shines, so will be the son of man on that day.

The Greek in that last verse is a bit odd. Nor is the Latin much help, because it follows the Greek pretty closely, and neither of them seem to match the English translations of (more or less) “lightening flashes from one part of the sky to the other”. There may be some sort of idiom involved that persons more adept in Greek & Latin can follow that are simply beyond me. Part of the confusion is that this verse is connected to the one before, with people saying “he’s here or there”, so it seems like the sense is that lightening flashes, and the son of man is seen here, and it flashes again the son of man is seen over there. Sort of a celestial strobe effect, with the son of man changing places in the time between the flashes. And “lightening lightens” is a very clumsy attempt to get across the fact that the words for both the noun and the verb are derived from the same root.

22 Et ait ad discipulos: “ Venient dies, quando desideretis videre unum diem Filii hominis et non videbitis.

23 Et dicent vobis: “Ecce hic”, “Ecce illic”; nolite ire neque sectemini.

24 Nam sicut fulgur coruscans de sub caelo in ea, quae sub caelo sunt, fulget, ita erit Filius hominis in die sua.

25 πρῶτον δὲ δεῖ αὐτὸν πολλὰ παθεῖν καὶ ἀποδοκιμασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης.

26 καὶ καθὼς ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Νῶε, οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου:

27 ἤσθιον, ἔπινον, ἐγάμουν, ἐγαμίζοντο, ἄχρι ἧς ἡμέρας εἰσῆλθεν Νῶε εἰς τὴν κιβωτόν, καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ κατακλυσμὸς καὶ ἀπώλεσεν πάντας.

28 ὁμοίως καθὼς ἐγένετο ἐνταῖς ἡμέραις Λώτ: ἤσθιον, ἔπινον, ἠγόραζον, ἐπώλουν, ἐφύτευον, ᾠκοδόμουν:

29 ἧ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ ἐξῆλθεν Λὼτ ἀπὸ Σοδόμων, ἔβρεξεν πῦρ καὶ θεῖον ἀπ’οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἀπώλεσεν πάντας.

30 κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ ἔσται ἧ ἡμέρᾳ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀποκαλύπτεται.

But first it must be that he (son of man) suffer much, and be rejected by this generation, (26) and accordingly it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man. (27) They ate, they drank, they married, they married until the day Noah went into the Ark, and the cataclysm (a straight transliteration of the Greek kataklysmos) came and destroyed everything. (28) It was similar in the day of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought at the market, they sold, they planted, they built. (29) But on the day Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from the sky (or, from heaven) and destroyed all. (30) Accordingly it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed (apokalyptai).  

I mentioned the placement of this in the introduction. The references to Noah and Lot occur in Matthew, but as a part of his “complete” version of the apocalypse. Why is it separated out by Luke? As a prefiguration? Is it, as such, as a literary device? Or is Luke just slavishly following the layout of Q, putting stuff where the compiler of Q left it?

Such a suggestion should be seen as risible even at first glance. To suggest, to think, that the author of The Good Samaritan or The Prodigal Son didn’t have the literary chops to know how to organize his material is ridiculous. When Luke does something like this, he does it with purpose aforethought. This has to carry through to the discussion of Q, but, of course, it doesn’t. The focus is on how badly he mangled the Sermon on the Mount. Now, saying, that, I seem to recall Mark Goodacre, a prof at Duke, suggested something along the lines of Luke not liking long stories. Goodacre is one of the few people I’ve run across who is willing to take a stand against Q; but I do recall that his suggestion that Luke likes to keep things more concise was met with a wave of derision and what bordered on outright dismissal. This is a topic on which I need to do much more research; so, for this particular moment at least, I will drop the topic of Q and move on. Yes, I show forbearance. 

As for the actual content, this is a direct throwback to Jewish culture. As such, it fits in nicely with the Jewish slant that Matthew is said to have.  Thus, one has to admit, it is the sort of thing that a Jew like Jesus would be familiar with, and so would use as an example. As such, it is honestly very difficult to gainsay this inference and argue that it does not show Jewish heritage. One question this raises, however, is how often did Jesus actually make references to the HS in Mark? The quick answer is: not that many. The hard copy Greek NT that I have (wonderful little book, btw; Bible Society, ca 1912 or thereabouts; it’s still around) has book, chapter, & verse to all the HS cites that are made. In Mark, most of the cites are to other Gospels, some to Acts, and some to epistles. In the first half of the gospel, I came up with about a dozen refs; of those, perhaps eight are things Jesus said. That’s 75%, which is a high number; however, even a glance at the margins of the pages, the cites in Mark are sparse while the margins in the gospel of Matthew are crammed with cites. Which indicates, IMO, that the author of Matthew spent a lot of time poring through the HS to find relevant passages, or passages that could be made to fit in a Procrustean Bed* sort of way. It seems, for example, that Matthew made up the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents to use a passage from Jeremiah about the wailing coming from Rama. Or the fight to Egypt so he could use the line from Hosea that YHWH called his son from Egypt. Indeed, he placed Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem so he could use a quote from Micah. Or that he put Jesus in Nazareth because Isaiah said “He will be called a Nazarene”.

Now, all that being said, it is worth noting that Matthew did not include the bit about Lot. Regardless, there is no purchase to be gained by parsing this out in terms of Q; Luke added another example of destruction, whether he got the first from Matthew or from Q really can’t be deduced from the evidence. Luke is going one up on someone. To my mind, it makes more sense that he would go up on Matthew, who was familiar to some members of his audience, rather than going one-up on Q, because one has to wonder the extent to which the general public would have been familiar with Q, assuming it existed. Since it, allegedly, disappeared without a trace, we have to suspect the answer is that the general public– in the sense of those listening to the gospels–was not terribly aware of Q.

We shouldn’t pass this by without mentioning the fire and brimstone. In English, brimstone is another word for “sulphur”, the element. It’s yellow, and burns, and lets off a rather foul odor. Pitch has a high sulphur content, so it tends to smell pretty awful when it burns. If you check the Latin below, you will see that the Greek translates to sulphur. This is the only time this word is used in any part of the NT– with the exception Revelation. 

*Greek myth, exploits of Theseus. In his journey Theseus comes across a man named Procrustes who offered food and lodging to travelers on the road. The main selling point Procrustes offered was a bed, that was the perfect size for any and all. Well, turns out, if the traveler was too sort, Procrustes stretched the traveler until the latter was long enough. Too tall? No problem. Just lop of the excess. Of course Theseus overcame the man and left him a victim of his own bed. Not sure if he was too short or too tall.

25 Primum autem oportet illum multa pati et reprobari a generatione hac.

26 Et sicut factum est in diebus Noe, ita erit et in diebus Filii hominis:

27 edebant, bibebant, uxores ducebant, dabantur ad nuptias, usque in diem, qua intravit Noe in arcam, et venit diluvium et perdidit omnes.

28 Similiter sicut factum est in diebus Lot: edebant, bibebant, emebant, vendebant, plantabant, aedificabant;

29 qua die autem exiit Lot a Sodomis, pluit ignem et sulphur de caelo et omnes perdidit.

30 Secundum haec erit, qua die Filius hominis revelabitur.

31 ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὃς ἔσται ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος καὶ τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, μὴ καταβάτω ἆραι αὐτά, καὶ ὁ ἐν ἀγρῷ ὁμοίως μὴ ἐπιστρεψάτω εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω.

32 μνημονεύετε τῆς γυναικὸς Λώτ.

33 ὃς ἐὰν ζητήσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ περιποιήσασθαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ ζῳογονήσει αὐτήν.

34 λέγω ὑμῖν, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἔσονται δύο ἐπὶ κλίνης μιᾶς, ὁ εἷς παραλημφθήσεται καὶ ὁ ἕτερος ἀφεθήσεται:

35 ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό, ἡ μία παραλημφθήσεται ἡ δὲ ἑτέρα ἀφεθήσεται.

36 καὶ 37 ἀποκριθέντες λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Ποῦ, κύριε; ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οπου τὸ σῶμα, ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ ἀετοὶ ἐπισυναχθήσονται.

On that day, one will be upon the (ie, roof of) the house, and his belongings will be in the house, do not go down to take it up, and one will be in the field (and) in the same way let him not turn back. (32) Recall the wife of Lot. (33) The one seeking to preserve his life it will be destroyed, and the one who will destroy it will live it. (34) I say to you, that night will be two upon a single couch; one will be taken up and the other will be left behind.  (35) Two (women) will be grinding upon the same (millstone?), the one will be taken you and the other will be left.” (36) And (37) responding, they said, “Where, lord?” He said to them, “Where the body, there also the eagles will be gathered.”

Numerous points to discuss. Let’s get some of the minor ones out of the way. Due to the gendered grammar of Greek, we know there are two men on the couch; presumably they are eating because that is how they dined. In the same way, we know that there were two women grinding– presumably at the same millstone, but I don’t know enough about how these tasks were done in First Century Galilee. Eventually, this became a specialized profession, resulting in the surname “Miller”, but at the time of Jesus my impression is that a village would have numerous smaller ones that were used in common. But don’t cite me as an expert who knows that kind of thing.

More interesting is the verse before: the one seeking to save his life. The word used is psyche, which we are told means “soul”. Well, it does, but it often means life. We saw this in both Mark and Matthew, both of whom have this axiom in their gospels. I know we discussed this when we ran across it in Mark; I have always seen it translated in that context as soul: what shall it profit…gain the world, lose one’s soul? We discussed whether “soul” was the proper translation. In English, there is a very big difference between losing one’s life and losing one’s soul; not so much in Greek. where the same word can– and does– have both meanings. In Mark, translating as “soul” had metaphysical, or salvation aspects whereas it obviously gains one nothing to acquire the world and die a physical death. In all three gospels, when Jesus says, as he does here, that whoever would save his psyche will lose it, all the translations render it as “life”. Context is everything. And, btw, back in Luke 9, when he gives his version of Mark’s question about gaining the world, Luke renders it as “what shall it profit…gain the world…and lose oneself?” That very much eliminates the ambiguity, and makes me wonder if we have to rethink the consensus translation of Mark’s question.

The idea of one being taken while the other was left is the basis for the idea of the Rapture. The title of the series of novels called Left Behind, will certainly corroborate that. Beyond that, we’ve discussed much of this when we read Matthew, and we will discuss more when we get to Luke Chapter 21.

31 In illa die, qui fuerit in tecto, et vasa eius in domo, ne descendat tollere illa; et, qui in agro, similiter non redeat retro.

32 Memores estote uxoris Lot.

33 Quicumque quaesierit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam; et, quicumque perdiderit illam, vivificabit eam.

34 Dico vobis: Illa nocte erunt duo in lecto uno:

unus assumetur, et alter relinquetur;

35 duae erunt molentes in unum: una assumetur, et altera relinquetur ”.

(36) 37 Respondentes dicunt illi: “ Ubi, Domine? ”. Qui dixit eis: “ Ubicumque fuerit corpus, illuc congregabuntur et aquilae ”.

Luke Chapter 17:11-19; with Addendum

This is a short section of text. I’m never sure how long these will take, whether it will be a straightforward piece of translation and commentary, or if something will come up that sends me off onto a very long tangent. Time will tell. But the one after this definitely will be a long piece of text, so let’s try to keep this one on-track, shall we?

When last we saw our hero, he was telling stories about servants and mulberry trees. The general sense is that Jesus is progressing towards Jerusalem. That is sort of the general, ambient setting for the Synoptics as a whole: Jesus teaching in and around Galilee, even up to Tyre & Sidon, but then making the fateful trek to Jerusalem, where he will meet his doom. Doom? Funny you should ask. It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘death’, although that is a strong undercurrent. Rather, it’s synonymous with ‘fate’, rather than simply ‘to die’. However, in Christian terms, meeting one’s fate is what happens when you die and are subject to the Last Judgement. So, in order to meet your fate, your doom, you have to die first. So, saying “We’re doomed” became a euphemism for dying, but it skipped the bit about actual physical death and went straight to the part about the Judgement. And, btw, once we die and our soul is released from our physical, temporary, and temporal body, we step into the realm of the eternal. Hence when we die we go straight to the Last Judgement, because we are no longer bounded by time. Now, there are all sorts of problems with this, but let’s not get into them. That’s more the realm (now, anyway) of theoretical physics.


11 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ πορεύεσθαι εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ αὐτὸς διήρχετο διὰ μέσον Σαμαρείας καὶ Γαλιλαίας.

And it came into being in the journey towards Jerusalem and he passed through Samaria and Galilee. 

Geography lesson. In the time of Jesus, Samaria sat smack in between Galilee and Judea. The city of Samaria was the capital of Israel after the split of the United Kingdom after the death of Solomon. The problem with this is that I do not believe there ever was a United Kingdom ruled from Jerusalem. This latter city does not provide clear archaeological evidence for such an exalted position in the 9th or 10th Century BCE. Rather, it seems more likely that Israel was the power, was a significant kingdom in a period when neither Egypt nor any other power was able to exert control over Israel/Judea. The latter was likely, or possibly, a client state; perhaps nominally independent with its king (who could easily have been men named David, Solomon, etc), but who owed fealty– that is, tribute– to Israel. Then, when Israel was captured by Assyria, Judea asserted a claim to the lands that had been Israel. Hence was the “United Monarchy” born, several centuries after the fact. Much of the OT was sort of a foundation myth meant to prove that Judea and Jerusalem was rightwise ordained as the divine kingdom of the Chosen People.

There is also this: much of the books of Kings is about how wicked the kings of Israel were, always chasing after the baals, and worshipping in the high places. This would translate, roughly, to meaning that Israel did not recognise YHWH as their primary deity. Israelites worshipped Ba’al and Ishtar and the rest because they were still mostly what we would call pagans. YHWH, OTOH (!) was the tribal god of the hill people in Judea; IOW, a local deity for a  very petty state. This would help explain the animosity the Judeans felt for the Samaritans: the latter did not accept the Judean version of history, and so did not acknowledge the primacy of the Temple in Jerusalem. A nice little theory, no? But that’s all it is. And I have no ready explanation for why Galilee, which was separated from Judea by Samaria, did recognise the Temple in Jerusalem. There are all sorts of possible explanations of varying degrees of plausibility, but this is neither the time nor the place. I’m a verse into this section, and I’ve already had my first tangent.

What I’m about to say is semi-risible; but that won’t stop me, because it’s the sort of things that historical analysts– especially those studying ancient history– will bring up. They will do this because there is so little evidence for ancient history that every last drop of implication has to be wrung out of every word. Dead horses are still beaten, over and over. Looking at a map as I just did, I noted that Galilee is uppermost north of the three provinces. So, if I were writing this verse, I would say he passed through Galilee and Samaria to indicate the geographic progression. But what if I didn’t have Google, or even a decent library, and could not pull up a map? What if I were writing somewhere else, and only had the vaguest idea of how the three territories were arranged? Then I might easily have written as Luke did here. The point is that this is the sort of thing that lets historians piece together the derivation of these works, and to conclude that they were not written by someone familiar with the geography of the area, thereby inferring that they were written somewhere else.


There is something to be added to this. In Matthew 10:5, when he is sending out the Twelve, he specifically instructs them not to preach to pagans, nor to enter any Samaritan town. When writing the commentary above, I had forgotten about this instruction; this is what happens when one is not well-versed in Scripture, and I am certainly not. The upshot here is that I’m not entirely sure what to do with this. Or, perhaps I do know, but don’t want to get into it. My initial impulse is that, to some degree, Matthew was trying to counteract the influx of pagan thought; that is, he was trying to re-Judaize (to coin a term? Are there enough syllables?) the belief system that had developed. And this would actually play well with my idea that he was a pagan himself; as a convert, he had the zeal of a convert and was bending over backwards to be as Jewish as possible. Hence, his assertion that not an iota of the Law was to be superseded.

Of course this is speculation. There are a thousand ways to look at this, and probably ten thousand questions to be addressed before this can even reach the level of theory, let alone hypothesis. It would require weighing such attempts to reinstitute Jewish ideas against those places where he shows his pagan background. Why, for example, use the Greek Hades instead of the Aramaic Gehenna? Of course, this choice could easily be explained as he was using the term he thought his readers would best understand. But then, that is the issue. Matthew was aware of how far he was going to paganize the vocabulary, and so the concepts and thought-world of the emerging religion. So he counteracted where and when he could. Then why include the story of the centurion and his slave? I don’t know the answer. But I am asking the question. That is a huge step forward.

11 Et factum est, dum iret in Ierusalem, et ipse transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilaeam.

12 καὶ εἰσερχομένου αὐτοῦ εἴς τινα κώμην ἀπήντησαν [αὐτῷ] δέκα λεπροὶ ἄνδρες, οἳ ἔστησαν πόρρωθεν,

13 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦραν φωνὴν λέγοντες,Ἰησοῦ ἐπιστάτα, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.

And he, coming into a certain village, ten lepers met [him]. they stood from afar, and they called out in a loud voice, saying, “Jesus, overseer, have mercy on us!” 

The word rendered as “overseer” is almost universally translated as “master”. This isn’t wrong, but it’s misleading. Even the Latin doesn’t truly support “master”. So we get “overseer”, or maybe “boss” would work…or maybe not. But it’s more of a word that refers to someone appointed by the master/lord to supervise the underlings. 

12 Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi, qui steterunt a longe

13 et levaverunt vocem dicentes: “ Iesu praeceptor, miserere nostri! ”.

14 καὶ ἰδὼν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες ἐπιδείξατε ἑαυτοὺς τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν. καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτοὺς ἐκαθαρίσθησαν.

15 εἷς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν, ἰδὼν ὅτι ἰάθη, ὑπέστρεψεν μετὰ φωνῆς μεγάλης δοξάζων τὸν θεόν,

16 καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ εὐχαριστῶν αὐτῷ: καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν Σαμαρίτης.

And seeing he said to them, “Going, show yourselves to the priests”. And it happened in the going they were cleansed. (15) One of them, seeing that he was healed, turned around (and) in a loud voice thought about (in Christian usage only = praised) God, and (16) fell on his face before his (Jesus’) feet giving thanks (euchariston) to him. And he was a Samaritan. 

This last bit, of course, is the punchline. It was the Samaritan who did this. Note that we’ve already had the parable of the Good Samaritan, so Luke is apparently very keen on pointing out how the Jews have fallen by the wayside. It’s a bit more than that, actually. Since the Jews had such a low opinion pf Samaritans (despised, might be the proper term), to hold them up for praise is really kind of rubbing the Jews’ collective face in it. Sure, you were the Chosen People, but what about now? Except it’s more they were the Chosen People. I make this correction because at this point Luke is doubtless talking to an audience that’s north of 90% pagan; there probably just weren’t that many Jews left in the Jesus movement; there weren’t that many formerly Jewish Christians left, and probably barely a trickle of new converts from Judaism. This will culminate with John talking about The Jews in a very disparaging fashion.

Once again, this sort of raising other groups at the expense of the Jews is not terribly appropriate to Jesus’ lifetime. Paul became the first to attempt to convert pagans in any numbers; that means for twenty years (plus or minus), most new members of the assemblies (ekklesiai) were Jews. As such, a story like this would not have been great recruiting material. So the likelihood of this tracing back to Jesus is, IMO, pretty much nil. This is a point I’ve raised numerous times before, so it doesn’t require a whole lot of additional discussion at this point.

Of course we notice that Jesus tells them all to go show themselves to the priests. Why the priests? Why not a physician? Because they had been cleansed, not so much cured of a disease as cleansed of ritual pollution. It was a moral cleansing, not so much a physical one. This is something more entrenched in Jewish thinking than in Greek thought. The Greeks had notions of ritual pollution as the source of disease– check out the opening of The Iliad, for example– but that was a bit different. Hippocrates was a Greek, and not Jewish, or even Persian for a reason. However, this does lead to one question: are we to assume that the Samaritan was going off to show himself to the Jewish priests, too? Actually, this is a really interesting question. I have become more sure that much of the Bible (OT/HS) was likely written during the Exile in Babylon. This is more or less to say that the legends were worked up and compiled (stuff like the two versions of creation that appear in the first dozen verses of Genesis, for example) and shaped into something like final form in the 6th Century BCE. That is to say, the form was achieved several hundred years after Israel had ceased to exist after being crushed by the Assyrians. If the Kingdom of Israel did not honor YHWH above all others, then would they have held the Pentateuch as their foundational myth, too? Offhand, and at first glance, I would tend to doubt it. But I have never heard that discussed because no one (to the best of my knowledge) has ever asked that question, because it’s simply assumed that the United Monarchy actually existed, and that Israel worshipped YHWH. Of course, 2 Kings in particular tells us otherwise. So that was all a big roundabout to the question of whether the Samaritan would have understood Jesus’ instructions to show themselves to the priests. The Samaritan probably would not have understood because there is a real possibility that the Samaritans weren’t adherents to Mosaic Law. And this is all additional indication that the story does not date from the time of Jesus. 

14 Quos ut vidit, dixit: “ Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus ”. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt.

15 Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia sanatus est, regressus est cum magna voce magnificans Deum

16 et cecidit in faciem ante pedes eius gratias agens ei; et hic erat Samaritanus.

17 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Οὐχὶ οἱ δέκα ἐκαθαρίσθησαν; οἱ δὲ ἐννέα ποῦ;

18 οὐχ εὑρέθησαν ὑποστρέψαντες δοῦναι δόξαν τῷ θεῷ εἰ μὴ ὁ ἀλλογενὴς οὗτος;

19 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἀναστὰς πορεύου: ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε.

Answering, Jesus said to him, “Were there not ten that were cleansed? Where are the (other) nine? (18) The ones not turning back were not found to give glory to God, except the person of another ethnicity?” And he (Jesus) said to him (the Samaritan), “Rising, go. Your faith has saved you.”

The translation of Verse 18 is a bit rough in English. Jesus is making the point that it was the Samaritan, and not the other nine who were, presumably, Jewish, that returned to give thanks. The use of <<ἀλλογενὴς>> is unique to this passage in the NT. I have been avoiding the term “gentile” at all costs for a very long time because it’s a made-up word that I suspect was derived from Latin rather than Greek. I could easily be wrong on that, given that the Latin root is gens, gentis, while the Greek genea lacks the “t” in declension.  Also, the Romans used the plural form gentes to mean foreigner. That is a very short step to gentile. If the word used here were the standard term, then I might be more inclined to consider using the standard word for “those other people”. Because I tend to use the term pagan where most English versions use gentile; but my choice is pretty much exclusively a Latin root. Oh well. So much for consistency and purity.

We mentioned above that this story is meant to explain why there weren’t many (any?) Christians of Jewish origin any longer. As such, there is no way this story dates to the 30s. Another question occurs to me: would Jewish lepers pal around with a Samaritan leper? All were outcast, of course, so perhaps their being outcast brought about camaraderie; however, it’s just as likely that the social barriers remained, even among the despised class. If Jewish lepers could still despise Samaritan lepers as somehow lesser, then I tend to believe that Jewish (or any other ethnicity; not singling out Jews) would have despised Samaritan lepers as lesser. People are funny that way, as we in the early 21st Century are still learning about ourselves.

The last point I want to cover (something else may yet occur) is the last bit. “Your faith has saved you”. Saved him from what? He’s already been cleansed of his disease. This is analogous to the situation with the paralytic lowered through the hole in the roof. Jesus first cures him, then tells him that his sins are forgiven. It’s the latter that sets off the sticklers in the crowd. So, given that the physical cure is already historical fact, it would seem that he is saved would mean something other than he has been healed physically. More, he has been saved by faith. Now, this is nothing new; the Bleeding Woman was healed by her faith, and Jesus tells her she has been saved by her faith. Most translations do not say that the woman has been saved; they tend to say she has been made whole; that is, she has been healed. This is the ambiguous nature of the Greek word for to save. In fact, the word means either to heal physically or to save a physical life. It is the Christians who add the extra dimension of meaning to the word, by thinking in terms of eternal salvation; id est, the saving of the immortal soul. In the case of the Bleeding Woman, is Jesus telling her that she has been healed, or that her soul has been saved by her faith? Which is Jesus saying here? Why do you think what you do? This is the beauty of being able to read this in the original: the translation to another language can/does mask when a single word in the original can have different meanings. It can/does blunt the impact of the text as written.

17 Respondens autem Iesus dixit: “ Nonne decem mundati sunt? Et novem ubi sunt?

18 Non sunt inventi qui redirent, ut darent gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena? ”.

19 Et ait illi: “ Surge, vade; fides tua te salvum fecit ”.

Luke Chapter 17:1-10

Since my production is down, I’m going to try the short-and-quick route by doing short sections. I’m also going to skip an intro and jump right into the


1 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν, πλὴν οὐαὶ δι’ οὗ ἔρχεται:

2 λυσιτελεῖ αὐτῷ εἰ λίθος μυλικὸς περίκειται περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔρριπται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἢ ἵνα σκανδαλίσῃ τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ἕνα.

He said to his learners, “It is not admissible that the stumbling not come, but woe to the one through whom it comes. It is more profitable for him if a millstone be hung around his neck (trachea) and he be thrown into the sea than to make stumble to one of these little ones.   

I deliberately made some idiosyncratic choices for translations here. The first is “learners” instead of “disciples”. That is a very literal translation of the Greek. “Disciple” comes from the Latin, which happens also to mean “learners”. Like “baptize”, disciple has taken on a very specific meaning in English that was not present in either the original Greek or the Latin translation. It is a good idea to throw a little sand in the gears once in a while to obviate the tendency for us, as modern readers, to get too comfortable with the standard rendering of a particular word. This is especially true for words like this that have become ossified in English into a specifically theological sense. These were just garden-variety words in Greek & Latin; that needs to be remembered. Jesus is just speaking; he is not uttering Holy Writ.

The second involves “skandala”. The English result of this word is transparent. The meaning in Greek is “to stumble”, from “stumbling block”. However, I notice that, while the KJV renders as “offenses”, several modern translations use “to stumble”. So I’m not being as weird as I had thought.

More interesting is the idea expressed. Of course we’re all going to stumble, because we’re human likely to be understood. Let’s think about that for a moment. Recall that Luke is (possibly/probably) the first evangelist to be aware of Paul’s writing. At least, he’s the first that we’re sure who knew about Paul as an apostle, even if he was not aware of Paul’s writing. I don’t see a lot made of this for whatever reason. Having read 1 Corinthians, we know that Paul was sort of hung up on sex. Reading this passage with that in mind, I wonder if perhaps some Christian communities went to extremes about sex, going full-bore puritanical. Of course, it doesn’t have to be about sex, but the next line seems to indicate that it is. At least, this admonition which is also in M&M, that is how this was presented to me back whenever. And let’s be honest: pederasty was a common practice in the Graeco-Roman world. Tacitus, and especially Suetonius have all sorts of lurid stories about the sexual depravity that Tiberius was (said to be) practising in his pleasure dome on Capri. And recall that Tiberius was on the throne when Jesus was executed, if the chronologies are to be believed–and there’s no really good reason not to believe them so far as I know; admittedly, however, that isn’t very far. OTOH, while this is the sort of thing historians would debate endlessly, it never seems to occur to biblical scholars to question it. Eusebios very confidently accepts the standard chronology, and places Jesus’ execution in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign (IIRC. Might be off a bit on that).

So anyway, Luke, like Mark & Matthew before him, is telling us that it’s not the sin per se that is horrible; it’s the corrupting of “one of the little ones”. It’s certainly easy to interpret that as children, and it’s probably difficult to interpret it any other way, at least, not credibly. “Little ones” can refer to the downtrodden or the peasants, in the way that Oscar winners thank the “little people” who helped make their performance possible. Realistically, though, taking “little ones” to mean anything other than children is a stretch. To emphasize, this story in Mark is part of the story in which Jesus tells the disciples to become like the child he is holding in his arms (one envisions Jesus sitting with the child on his lap. Perhaps due to artistic depictions?). What is interesting about this version, IMO, is that Luke does not feel the need to give us the context like this. He just says, “these little ones”, but we have absolutely no context on where they are. At the end of the previous chapter, they–or at least Jesus–was in the company of Pharisees as he told the story of Dives and Lazarus. At the outset of this one Jesus is simply with his disciples. Where? Where are “these” little ones? The answer, I think, is that they are in the other two gospels. We have seen this before in Luke. In stories that have been well-told, and adequately handled by the other two, Luke shortens his version or leaves out details as he does here. In places where perhaps Matthew summarized Mark a bit too severely, Luke provides a long version to fill out the narrative omitted by Matthew. And yes, of course this ties back to Q; at least, it ties to the question of whether Luke had read Matthew. When there is a high level of correlation in situations as described, this comes down rather convincingly as evidence that Luke was very much aware of Matthew.  

1 Et ad discipulos suos ait: “Impossibile est ut non veniant scandala; vae autem illi, per quem veniunt!

2 Utilius est illi, si lapis molaris imponatur circa collum eius et proiciatur in mare, quam ut scandalizet unum de pusillis istis.

3 προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς. ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἐπιτίμησον αὐτῷ, καὶ ἐὰν μετανοήσῃ ἄφες αὐτῷ:

4 καὶ ἐὰν ἑπτάκις τῆς ἡμέρας ἁμαρτήσῃ εἰς σὲ καὶ ἑπτάκις ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς σὲ λέγων, Μετανοῶ, ἀφήσεις αὐτῷ.

5 Καὶ εἶπαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι τῷ κυρίῳ, Πρόσθες ἡμῖν πίστιν.

6 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ [ταύτῃ],Ἐκριζώθητι καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ: καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν.

“Devote yourselves (as in, ‘pay attention!’). If your brother might sin against you, (rebuke) him, and if he repents forgive him. (4) And if he should sin against you seven times in a day, turn to him saying, ‘Repent,’ (and) leave him.” And his apostles said to the lord, “Put upon/within us faith.” (6) The lord said, “If you have the faith as a seed of mustard, if you said to [the/that] sycamine tree, ‘Uproot yourself and throw yourself in the sea’, and it would heed you.” 

First, let’s talk about the tree. It appears there is a whole thing about the “sycamine” tree; “sycamine” is a straight transliteration, which means the English letters are substituted for the Greek letters and the word is pronounced (more or less) the same. “Logos” is a great example. I was going to translate as “sycamore” tree and leave it at that, but then I wanted to check to see what sort of tree it was that Zacchaeus will climb. Back in Catholic school, we sang a song about Zacchaeus, and how he climbed a sycamore tree, so it seemed wise to corroborate the genus and species across verses. The KJV renders the word as ‘sycamine’; modern translations render as ‘mulberry’. Well, it turns out that a sycamine tree is actually a mulberry tree. A Google search turns up a whole bunch of stuff on the mulberry tree mentioned here, of which two species are common to Palestine. Luther apparently translated the word as “mulberry tree.” Wikipedia says he made his German translation directly from Hebrew and Greek, so he would have encountered sycamine. However, Luther learned his Bible in Latin; going back to the Greek was still an unusual activity in his time and everyone in the west learned the Bible in Latin. And the word used in Latin is “morus”; and the genus of the mulberry trees common to Palestine is “morus”. This makes me wonder if the whole mulberry thing is based on Luther’s reading of the Vulgate, which means it may indeed have been the same tree that Zacchaeus will climb in 19:4. We’ll come back to this again, but, in the meantime, I will defer to St Jerome whose knowledge of Mediterranean flora was doubtless much superior to mine.

Perhaps of more interest to most is the admonition on forgiving your brother. Most of us recall that Matthew enjoined us to forgive seven times seventy, or seventy-seven times. Luke, here, only tells us to do it seven times. Per my Absolutely Official version of Q, the “correct” version of this, as found in Q, is the seven we find here. Ergo, Luke has the more “primitive” version. In this case, I would tend to agree with that assessment, assuming I actually believed in Q. Which I don’t. So this becomes problematic, which, in turn, sure makes it convenient to have a Q so that we don’t really have to weigh the two versions and decide why they are different. But is that true? If the more primitive version is seven, why did Matthew change it? Do we have a redactionally consistent explanation of every time Matthew varies from Q? That is what the Q people demand of those who do not accept Q, but it seems to me they’ve got that backwards, doesn’t it? The question isn’t– or shouldn’t be, really– why Luke deviates from Matthew, but why Matthew deviates from Q? What reason does Matthew have for changing it to “poor in spirit” or “seventy-seven” times? Because I will grant that it does seem curious that Luke only tells us to do it seven times. The “poor in spirit” change is easy enough to explain, but the seven, vs the seventy-seven, is a bit more difficult.

As a quick aside, I seriously doubt that one can come up with an redactionally consistent explanation for why Luke changed Matthew in this case. Luke disagreed. He had his own view, but is it realistic to believe that he had a consistent, abiding understanding, or re-interpretation of Matthew from which he never deviated? Really? What human being in the world is capable of that degree of consistency? None that I know of. Which is where and why the whole divine inspiration thing comes in handy. But I do think the Q people have, once again, managed to shift the burden of proof onto those who don’t accept the idea. The Q people should be made to prove that it did exist, and then explain every instance where Matthew diverged from the “original” text. Instead, they demand that we prove it didn’t exist– which is impossible, btw; one cannot prove a negative– and provide a redactionally consistent explanation for every time Matthew chose to ad lib.

But even more interesting is that Luke gives us leave to leave. Matthew’s ‘seventy-seven’ times is a sort of rhetorical short-hand for “ad infinitum”; that is, there is no limit to the number times we should forgive our sibling. (Practically speaking, however, if we are talking about a literal sibling, forgiving seventy-seven times over the course of a lifetime is hardly “infinite”.) So what this means is, if Q did exist, Matthew was being more lenient than Jesus. Luke tells, OTOH, that seven is enough, after which we can leave the sibling and go one’s own way. And, given Q, this is the original message of Jesus. Think about that. Jesus did not preach a forgiveness that was infinite. You get your set number of chances, but after that, you’ve proven yourself to be incorrigible and you’re on your own. So, this means that if Luke was less forgiving than Matthew, Jesus was also less forgiving than Matthew. Of course, this latter conclusion vanishes if we follow the evidence and accept that Q never did exist. This means that Luke was less forgiving than Matthew, and that’s the end of it. Jesus never enters the comparison. The commentaries don’t have a lot to say on the differences between the two versions. That is the problem with commentaries: they do not always cross-reference sufficiently; Rather, they focus too narrowly on the passage before us at the moment. An effective discussion would have to come from a theologian who is discussing the concept of forgiveness in the NT. Ellicott does provide an interesting insight. He says that the leave to leave is Luke enjoining the listener to get up and leave the moment after forgiving seven times rather than remain and lose your temper. That does make sense. 

The final point is one I’ll leave to you to determine the level of importance. It seems hugely significant to me, but then my perspective is usually a bit off-kilter. I’m like Pluto: I don’t lie on the same plane as the rest of the solar system. The point is that I cannot ever remember hearing any of this chapter read aloud as the gospel. That includes nineteen years growing up in the Roman Rite, and then another eighteen or nineteen as an adult in the Episcopal Church. Never. Of course, that’s not to say it never happened. One possibility is that this reading is done on a Tuesday in April or something when I wasn’t at church. Why is that? Of course, the most likely answer is that this would highlight the difference between this passage and the corresponding version in Matthew. That would lead to the uncomfortable questions about the appropriate number of times we should forgive our sibling.

3 Attendite vobis! Si peccaverit frater tuus, increpa illum et, si paenitentiam egerit, dimitte illi;

4 et si septies in die peccaverit in te et septies conversus fuerit ad te dicens: “Paenitet me”, dimittes illi ”.

5 Et dixerunt apostoli Domino: “ Adauge nobis fidem! ”.

6 Dixit autem Dominus: “ Si haberetis fidem sicut granum sinapis, diceretis huic arbori moro: “Eradicare et transplantare in mare”, et oboediret vobis.

7 Τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν δοῦλον ἔχων ἀροτριῶντα ἢ ποιμαίνοντα, ὃς εἰσελθόντι ἐκ τοῦ ἀγροῦ ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ, Εὐθέως παρελθὼν ἀνάπεσε,

8 ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ ἐρεῖ αὐτῷ, Ἑτοίμασον τί δειπνήσω, καὶ περιζωσάμενος διακόνει μοι ἕως φάγω καὶ πίω, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα φάγεσαι καὶ πίεσαι σύ;

9 μὴ ἔχει χάριν τῷ δούλῳ ὅτι ἐποίησεν τὰ διαταχθέντα;

10 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς, ὅταν ποιήσητε πάντα τὰ διαταχθέντα ὑμῖν, λέγετε ὅτι Δοῦλοι ἀχρεῖοί ἐσμεν, ὃ ὠφείλομεν ποιῆσαι πεποιήκαμεν.

“Who among you having a slave that having been ploughing or herding, who comes from the field says to him, ‘Immediately coming in, get off your feet’, (8) but does not say to him, (rather than saying to him) ‘Prepare the dinner, and gird yourself to minister to me while I eat and drink, and after that you will eat and drink’? (9) Do you not have thanks to/for the slave that performs the commands? (10) It is also this way for you, when you do all the commands (given to) you, you say that ‘We are useless slaves, we have done what we were obligated to do.”

Upon reading this the first time, I was beginning to question my reading comprehension. How did we go from the mulberry tree throwing itself into the ocean to having a slave who ploughs/herds? But the payoff does come at the end when it kinda sorta maybe relates to having faith. Or maybe not. The lesson is that just doing what you’re told is not sufficient; you have to go above and beyond that, and such a lesson makes sense. And so it’s by going above and beyond that you have the faith of a mustard seed and can move trees. At least. that’s how I’m reading this.

7 Quis autem vestrum habens servum arantem aut pascentem, qui regresso de agro dicet illi: “Statim transi, recumbe”,

8 et non dicet ei: “Para, quod cenem, et praecinge te et ministra mihi, donec manducem et bibam, et post haec tu manducabis et bibes”?

9 Numquid gratiam habet servo illi, quia fecit, quae praecepta sunt?

10 Sic et vos, cum feceritis omnia, quae praecepta sunt vobis, dicite: “Servi inutiles sumus; quod debuimus facere, fecimus’ ”.


Luke Chapter 15:11-32 The Prodigal Son

This is a very long piece of Greek. I try not to do sections that are too long so I can keep the posts moving along, but this is all a single story, and breaking it into arbitrary pieces would only complicate matters.

This follows hard on the heels of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. All three are unique to Luke, and most likely created by him. There is no sound historical reason to doubt or question that he is the author. The idea of an “L” source is just creating bodies needlessly, and there is no evidence of any such thing. At some point it will be necessary to take a step back and attempt to create a likely series of events that occurred after Jesus’ death. The interesting thing is that what happened after his death is more important than what actually happened when he was alive. We have nothing written about him before the 50s, which comes from Paul. It is key to note that Paul showed pretty much no interest in anything Jesus did before rising from the dead.

The common theme of these three stories is repentance. The lost is found. This is a very important, indeed crucial topic. As such, it’s probably best to save the discussion & comparison for the chapter summary. With that expectation, here is the



11 Εἶπεν δέ, Ἄνθρωπός τις εἶχεν δύο υἱούς.

12 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ νεώτερος αὐτῶν τῷ πατρί, Πάτερ, δός μοι τὸ ἐπιβάλλον μέρος τῆς οὐσίας. ὁ δὲ διεῖλεν αὐτοῖς τὸν βίον.

(11) And he said, “There was a certain man who had two sons. (12) And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share being thrown on me (= inheritance, apparently) of the things existing (= your possessions, apparently). He (the father) divided his life to them.

Have to note the Greek vocabulary here. I’ve given the literal translations along with the “standard” meaning in parentheses. “Share being thrown on me” is rather colorful. But the word meros means portion or share, usually used with the allotment of land given to someone, as when a colony was founded and the land divided, or the portion of an inheritance. It’s the “being thrown upon me” that is a bit…odd, but the Greek word is that for “to throw”. And here is where the Greek verb tenses get a little funky. “Being thrown” is a present participle, so the published translations say something like, “that comes/falls to me”. Maybe it’s just me, but I think of the estate being divided at the death of the father, so I would put this in the future. But this may be my lack of understanding of how inheritance worked at the time. Next, the things divided are ousias; this is a participle of the verb “to be”. It gets used a lot in philosophy for “existence”, but it does stretch to “possessions” in pagan Greek as well. So not too much of a mental leap. One thing I note is that Greek uses a lot of participles when we would use nouns. A participle is the -ing form of a verb. So, rather than being just something static, possessions, the thought behind is active, existing. These things don’t just sit there and exist; they are performing an action by existing. Finally, “divided his life”. That is, the father divided the things that make up his life; hence, his possessions. We call it the estate. Peeking at the Latin, we have substantia, which = “resources”. The cognate shows it means ‘things of substance’, but the form of the word is a noun, so much closer to our way of thinking. Actually, can’t recall where I read it, but someone commented that using the Latin Bible for a millennium or more really had a profound impact on the Western Church, and that much of the theological history of the Western Church was the result of translating Greek thoughts into Latin language. The two languages do look at the world differently.

11 Ait autem: “ Homo quidam habebat duos filios.

12 Et dixit adulescentior ex illis patri: “Pater, da mihi portionem substantiae, quae me contingit”. Et divisit illis substantiam.

13 καὶ μετ’ οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας συναγαγὼν πάντα ὁ νεώτερος υἱὸς ἀπεδήμησεν εἰς χώραν μακράν, καὶ ἐκεῖ διεσκόρπισεν τὴν οὐσίαν αὐτοῦ ζῶν ἀσώτως.

“And after not many days gathering all the younger son went abroad to a distant country, and there he squandered his existing things in a life unsaved.

The last word is interesting. It’s from the root of “to save”, and is very close to the word for “saviour”. But it has the a- prefix, which is negation, such as a-moral. It’s an adverb, describing how he was living: in a manner not saved, or perhaps ‘not safe’. The ESV translates as “reckless”, and that’s much better than “riotous” or “loose”. The Latin is luxuriose, which probably needs no translation. Again, a difference in the way the two languages approach the concept. 

13 Et non post multos dies, congregatis omnibus, adulescentior filius peregre profectus est in regionem longinquam et ibi dissipavit substantiam suam vivendo luxuriose.

14 δαπανήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ πάντα ἐγένετο λιμὸς ἰσχυρὰ κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἐκείνην, καὶ αὐτὸς ἤρξατο ὑστερεῖσθαι.

15 καὶ πορευθεὶς ἐκολλήθη ἑνὶ τῶν πολιτῶν τῆς χώρας ἐκείνης, καὶ ἔπεμψεν αὐτὸν εἰς τοὺς ἀγροὺς αὐτοῦ βόσκειν χοίρους:

16 καὶ ἐπεθύμει χορτασθῆναι ἐκ τῶν κερατίων ὧν ἤσθιον οἱ χοῖροι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδίδου αὐτῷ.

“Having squandered all of his (money), there became a strong famine upon that country, and he began to fall behind (= to be left behind = to want, as in being at the end of the line and there’s nothing left). (15) And going/departing he glued himself to a citizen of that country, and the citizen sent him to his fields to feed the swine. (16) And he wished to eat of the husks of which the pigs fed, and no one gave anything to him.

I like the “glued himself”. I also could have chosen “cemented himself”; the concept of “attaching” is pretty clear. Second, the man was probably a pagan. There are two clues for this. First, if the man is raising swine, chances are, he was pagan. This is interesting, because Luke is supposed to be the pagan of the four (but I suspect Matthew was, too). The idea of feeding pigs would have been the lowest of the low to Jewish sensibilities, since pigs were unclean. I suppose Jews may have owned pigs, but I don’t think we’re supposed to go that direction. Rather, ties in with second clue, which is the “far country” in Verse 13. If one left Judea or Galilee and went any distance– even a short one, really– one would pretty much be in pagan territory. There were places that had large Jewish populations, like Alexandria and Babylon, but still the territory would have a pagan majority. Finally, is he working for free? Why does he not have a paycheck to purchase food? Wasn’t that the point? Or even if he were working for room & board, he should, theoretically, be recompensed for his labor. That’s kind of how it works, and that is why he got himself a job. Now, maybe the board provided was insufficient to keep him full; in times of famine, one would expect a surplus of labor, which would drive down the wages labor can command. This would mean that the wage paid may not have been sufficient for keeping a working person. And the odd thing is that slaves actually fared better than hired hands. Slaves represented an investment of capital, and the owner understood that it worked to his favor to maintain the slave at a level that kept the slave productive. A hired hand, OTOH, was completely expendable. Hire them when needed, fire them when not.

14 Et postquam omnia consummasset, facta est fames valida in regione illa, et ipse coepit egere.

15 Et abiit et adhaesit uni civium regionis illius, et misit illum in villam suam, ut pasceret porcos;

16 et cupiebat saturari de siliquis, quas porci manducabant, et nemo illi dabat.

17 εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθὼν ἔφη, Πόσοι μίσθιοι τοῦ πατρός μου περισσεύονται ἄρτων, ἐγὼ δὲ λιμῷ ὧδε ἀπόλλυμαι.

18 ἀναστὰς πορεύσομαι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ ἐρῶ αὐτῷ, Πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου,

19 οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου: ποίησόν με ὡς ἕνα τῶν μισθίων σου.

“Coming to himself, he said, ‘How much abundance of bread the hired hands of my father (have); but I in hunger in this way am destroyed (I perish). (18) Standing, I will go to my father and say to him, (19) “Father, I have sinned against the sky and before you, I (am) no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hirelings”.’

The ‘coming to himself’ is an interesting usage. It sort of took me by surprise that the Greek would use an expression like this; it seems too modern. The Latin is “reversing to himself”, or “turning back to himself”, which is similar if not quite exact. Also, the word for ‘hireling’ is also the word often used for ‘reward’. Perhaps the common ground is ‘recompense’; so those recompensed will be paid, or they will receive their recompense in the sky as in Mt 5:12. “Great is your recompense in the heavens”. Looking at this from Matthew, the shading of recompense/reward becomes very clear. The concept behind “great is your reward in the heavens” carries a rather different set of connotations. And, BTW, the Latin for “hirelings” is mercennarii, the root of “mercenary”. It simply means “doing it for pay”.

17 In se autem reversus dixit: “Quanti mercennarii patris mei abundant panibus, ego autem hic fame pereo.

18 Surgam et ibo ad patrem meum et dicam illi: Pater, peccavi in caelum et coram te

19 et iam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus; fac me sicut unum de mercennariis tuis”.

20 καὶ ἀναστὰς ἦλθεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ. ἔτι δὲ αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος εἶδεν αὐτὸν ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐσπλαγχνίσθη καὶ δραμὼν ἐπέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.

21 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτῷ, Πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου, οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου.

22 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ, Ταχὺ ἐξενέγκατε στολὴν τὴν πρώτην καὶ ἐνδύσατε αὐτόν, καὶ δότε δακτύλιον εἰς τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ καὶ ὑποδήματα εἰς τοὺς πόδας,

23 καὶ φέρετε τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν, θύσατε καὶ φαγόντες εὐφρανθῶμεν,

24 ὅτι οὗτος ὁ υἱός μου νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἀνέζησεν, ἦν ἀπολωλὼς καὶ εὑρέθη. καὶ ἤρξαντο εὐφραίνεσθαι.

“And standing he came to his father. Yet while he was still far away at a distance his father saw (him) and was moved to compassion and running fell upon his neck and kissed him. (21) The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against the sky and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ The father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring forth a robe first and dress him, and give rings to his fingers and sandals to his feet. (23) And bring the fatted calf, sacrificing eating we will rejoice. That this my son was dead and is (now) up living, was lost and is found’. And they began to celebrate. 

A number of things in here. First, in Verse 21, a minority of mss traditions add “make me as one of your hirelings”, which was in the speech the son practiced in Verse 21. The ESV, NIV, NASB, and KJV all exclude this extra bit of wording. It’s easy to see how it got into the text; some scribe somewhere was sort of going by wrote from what he had written a few verses before, and just kept going and added the part about the hireling. Or, it got truncated. Generally, the majority opinion represents the most likely explanation, and that could easily hold here. Offhand, I would say that the second set of circumstances would be more likely, so I would tend towards it getting left out rather than added to; however, that then requires explaining how the left out became the majority opinion and is found in the largest number of mss traditions. So, once again, I will plead agnostic on this; textual stuff is the realm of specialists, and I do not have the chops to have an opinion that’s worth anything.

Still, it’s an interesting style point to note how we get the practice speech and then the actual speech separated by a few verses. What does this say? Most notably the reader/listener really understands what the son’s message to the father is. That he is not worthy to be called son. This would be an argument in favor of the shorter version that we have here: this ends the son’s address to the father with “I am not worthy”, thereby giving this part of the message a greater rhetorical impact. And this then becomes more or less the theme of this whole parable. Despite not being worthy, we can all still be reconciled with God. This is a significant part of the Christian message, albeit one that some, perhaps, would like to ignore. We’ll get back to that when we discuss the overall message of this parable at the end of this section.

Just a bit on “up living’. The word here was coined by Luke; at least, this is the only recorded use of the word in any sort of literary context that has survived to our day. It is composed of the word “to live” with the prefix “ana”, which means “up”. So, “up to live”. The Latin is revixit, literally “to live again”, or, actually, “to re-live”. Can we stretch this to “resurrection”? It’s not out of the question. Is this a reference to being saved? Most likely, since he was lost but now has been found. More on this in a bit.

20 Et surgens venit ad patrem suum.

Cum autem adhuc longe esset, vidit illum pater ipsius et misericordia motus est et accurrens cecidit supra collum eius et osculatus est illum.

21 Dixitque ei filius: “Pater, peccavi in caelum et coram te; iam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus”.

22 Dixit autem pater ad servos suos: “Cito proferte stolam primam et induite illum et date anulum in manum eius et calceamenta in pedes

23 et adducite vitulum saginatum, occidite et manducemus et epulemur,

24 quia hic filius meus mortuus erat et revixit, perierat et inventus est”. Et coeperunt epulari.

25 ην δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐν ἀγρῷ: καὶ ὡς ἐρχόμενος ἤγγισεν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, ἤκουσεν συμφωνίας καὶ χορῶν,

26 καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα τῶν παίδων ἐπυνθάνετο τί ἂν εἴη ταῦτα.

27 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι Ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἥκει, καὶ ἔθυσεν ὁ πατήρ σου τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν, ὅτι ὑγιαίνοντα αὐτὸν ἀπέλαβεν.

28 ὠργίσθη δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν εἰσελθεῖν. ὁ δὲ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐξελθὼν παρεκάλει αὐτόν.

29 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ, Ἰδοὺ τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω σοι καὶ οὐδέποτε ἐντολήν σου παρῆλθον, καὶ ἐμοὶ οὐδέποτε ἔδωκας ἔριφον ἵνα μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου εὐφρανθῶ:

30 ὅτε δὲ ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος ὁ καταφαγών σου τὸν βίον μετὰπορνῶν ἦλθεν, ἔθυσας αὐτῷ τὸν σιτευτὸν μόσχον.

31 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τέκνον, σὺ πάντοτε μετ’ ἐμοῦ εἶ, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά ἐστιν:

32 εὐφρανθῆναι δὲ καὶ χαρῆναι ἔδει, ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου οὗτος νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἔζησεν, καὶ ἀπολωλὼς καὶ εὑρέθη.

“And his older son was in the field. And as he was coming nigh to the house, he heard symphonies and choruses, (26) and calling one of the boys (slaves) he asked what these things would be. (27) He (the slave) said to him (the elder), ‘Your brother arrived, and your father sacrificed the fatted calf, that healthy he received him back’. (28) He was angered and did not wish to come in. His father coming out called to him. (29) He (the son) answering said to his father, ‘Look, how so many years I slave for you and never circumvented your commandments and never did you give me a kid so that with my friends I may have celebrated. (30) But that your son came, he who having eaten your possessions with harlots returned, you sacrificed for him the fatted calf’. (31) He (the father) said to him (the elder), ‘Son, you always are with me, and all that I have is yours. (32) But look, rejoice and be happy that your brother who was dead and now lives (again; same verb as in Verse 23) and was lost, and has been found’.”

First, I just want to note that this is the end of the chapter. There is no further lesson, no explanation of the lesson, and no rebuttal by a Pharisee. Rhetorically and stylistically, this is the last word on the topic. It just stands.

And this lesson is similar to that of the Lost Sheep. There the shepherd leaves the 99 in the wilderness to find the one lost. Now, a sheep may have been an expensive loss, but I doubt the cost-benefit analysis on regaining the one outweighs the potential of the loss of the 99. The latter are left to fend for themselves. In similar manner, here the older brother is miffed that the younger is restored to good graces and– to the elder’s mind– so easily. In these stories the good people, the just (dikaios) as they are called here, seem to get short shrift. And, unfortunately, this is one of the hardest lessons for some Christians to learn. With whom do we identify in this story? Perhaps you were the riotous youth, but I was generally the sober one, studying and learning Greek whereas my older brother was, shall we say, a bit of a party animal. So yeah, I understand the chagrin of the just. We want the rotten kid to suffer. At least some, and even if we never admit it to ourselves, let alone anyone else. This is the innate and slightly counterintuitive appeal of Calvinism. All those “good folk” are convinced of which side they are on, so why bother with the reprobates? They’re just damned, and there’s nothing we can do for them. And since all God’s friends are rich, well, it’s easy to tell who’s on which team.

Many cultures in the ancient world had a concept that one’s soul would be judged post-mortem, and that the judgement would be something of a balancing act. Did your good outweigh your bad? The Egyptians believed our heart would be put on one side of the scale, and a feather on the other. If your heart outweighed the feather, you flunked the test. Catholicism is sort of in the mindset of the good/bad scale. Do something wrong, and you have to do penance for it, and it’s usually impossible to atone for all your sins in a single lifetime. Hence, the need for Purgatory, which the nuns assured us, we would all experience. Now, that’s not to argue for or against Purgatory, but it demonstrates very effectively the mindset of the ancient world. It’s also one of the most egregious things that Martin Luther saw as wrong with Catholic thinking. And there is good reason to argue that this was not the intent of this story, or that of the Lost Sheep. The Latin says do penance. The Greek says, be penitent, or repent. I can assure you that the penance that must be done for one’s sins was meted out at the end of confession. There are Mediaeval handbooks of penance that were intended as how-to manual for priests. Sin X should be atoned by Penance Y. That is not the message here.

Interestingly, this concept described here better reflects the Jewish attitude than the pagan attitude. After all, repentance was the word that the Baptist used in Mark. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, when devout Jews spend the whole day in Temple praying and asking forgiveness. [Full disclosure: I have never been in a Temple on Yom Kippur, so I cannot specify exactly what happens. That is the inference I’ve drawn from things I’ve heard.] 

The point here is that Jesus tells us that we don’t need to make up for all those misdeeds by trying to counterbalance them with good works, or works of penance. Rather, we need to repent, to be penitent. The word in Greek literally means “change (as in redirect) your mind”. When you have that change of mind, Luke says, and of heart, you will be given your full reward. 

25 Erat autem filius eius senior in agro et, cum veniret et appropinquaret domui, audivit symphoniam et choros

26 et vocavit unum de servis et interrogavit quae haec essent.

27 Isque dixit illi: “Frater tuus venit, et occidit pater tuus vitulum saginatum, quia salvum illum recepit”.

28 Indignatus est autem et nolebat introire. Pater ergo illius egressus coepit rogare illum.

29 At ille respondens dixit patri suo: “Ecce tot annis servio tibi et numquam mandatum tuum praeterii, et numquam dedisti mihi haedum, ut cum amicis meis epularer;

30 sed postquam filius tuus hic, qui devoravit substantiam tuam cum meretricibus, venit, occidisti illi vitulum saginatum”.

31 At ipse dixit illi: “Fili, tu semper mecum es, et omnia mea tua sunt;

32 epulari autem et gaudere oportebat, quia frater tuus hic mortuus erat et revixit, perierat et inventus est” ”.


Luke Chapter 14:25-34

This section will conclude Chapter 14. When last we saw our hero, he was teaching at a dinner party that included Pharisees and Scribes. He was providing a lesson on why or how the Jews had been superseded, and no longer had a privileged place in the queue to enter the kingdom. By this, we can probably assume that we can substitute “The Life” as a more or less synonymous term. He has now left the party, and is traveling about. Without further ado, let’s get to the


25 Συνεπορεύοντο δὲ αὐτῷ ὄχλοι πολλοί, καὶ στραφεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς,

26 Εἴ τις ἔρχεται πρός με καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τὰς ἀδελφάς, ἔτι τε καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἑαυτοῦ, οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής.

27 ὅστις οὐ βαστάζει τὸν σταυρὸν ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἔρχεται ὀπίσω μου οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής.

Proceeding with him were great crowds, and turning he said to them, (26) “If someone comes to me and  does not hate his own father and mother, and his wife and children and his own brothers and sisters, and even yet his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (27) Who does not take up his cross and come after me is not able to be my disciple.

Just a note on the Greek. Jesus is not being followed by “great crowds”, but by a “great crowd”. The word for “crowd” is pluralized in Greek, whereas in English it’s an aggregate term (like “herd”), so it’s usually used in the singular except when there are different groups. Then it can be pluralized as “crowds”.

This is something else that Jesus never said; regardless, it is included in Q, which is supposed to be a collection of the sayings of Jesus. Except when it includes stuff that he never said (most of it) or stuff that John the Baptist said. It is actually a collection of instances where Luke agrees with Matthew against Mark, which supposedly never happens. It doesn’t only because, such instances, by definition, are what constitutes Q. There is a significant amount of circularity in this “argument”. It’s in Q because it’s in Matthew & Luke but not in Mark, and we know it’s in Q because it’s not in Mark but it’s in Matthew and Luke. This is where if scholars would take a step back and look at what the text actually says, rather than recording where it is and isn’t, they might arrive at a different conclusion. But then, to jettison Q is to admit that Jesus probably never gave the Sermon on the Mount or instituted the Pater. That conclusion has to be avoided at all costs.

Why do we know it’s post-Jesus? Because it betrays a knowledge of the end of the road. It has an other-worldly focus that is largely absent in Mark. It also more or less assumes the crucifixion, which a living Jesus would not have known about (unless he was a divine individual with foreknowledge); however, that part of the narrative is easily excised, or removed from the preceding part. The judgement that Jesus did not say the first part is based on a couple of things. First, this message does not play much of a role in Mark’s portrayal. My new working theory is that Jesus was primarily a wonder-worker in his lifetime, and that he was executed for this crime. Forty-five men were executed for magic during the reign of Tiberius, who was emperor when Jesus was executed if we are to believe Luke’s time-line. My source for this number does not say whether this was the total in Rome, or throughout the empire; the former is more likely since the primary sources available would have been largely focused on the capital. It is very important to stress that only one pagan emperor– Diocletian, in the early 3rd Century– conducted anything resembling a systemic, programatic persecution of a particular group. Astrologers– often a generic term for magicians of all sorts– were expelled from Rome on a number of occasions, but they were, generally, not executed. And what happened in the provinces was often different from what happened in the capital; even under Diocletian, the various provincial governors pursued the persecution with varying degrees of enthusiasm. OTOH, there were governors who undertook persecution even when the emperor was not terribly interested. There is the famous letter of Pliny the Younger asking for guidance on how to deal with this new group called Christians. Still, if the emperor had a bee in his bonnet about a certain thing, there was incentive for an ambitious governor to fall in line and toady up to the big guy by going along in their province. So Jesus’ being executed for magic is within the realm of possibility, and is not without support. In fact, there is a stronger historical argument for this position than there is for the tall-tale in the gospels.

The point of all that is, if Jesus was primarily a wonder-worker, then this sort of next-world focus doesn’t make a lot of sense. This is not the sort of thing a wonder-worker would focus on. Of course, that is a big “if”. A contrary argument can be made from Paul, who is very focused on salvation. The question is whether this was a Pauline creation based on his understanding of the resurrection. Honestly, this is a topic and an argument that needs to happen. There needs to be a major debate about what happened between Jesus and Paul. What were the conditions that Paul found. This sort of debate goes on all the time in Greek history (Rome has rather better sources). The 490s in Athens, for example, is largely– but not completely– a blank slate, but the debate to fill in the blanks is ferocious. When it comes to the period between Jesus and Paul, and Jesus/Paul and Mark is…crickets, as the current saying goes. There is nothing, or, at most, next to nothing.  This is yet another indication that the debate about the historical Jesus is not being conducted by historians, but by Scripture experts. More, these experts make no attempt even to set the debate on a solid basis of historical research and argument. I approached Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God with high hopes and great enthusiasm, only to have this dashed within the first dozen or so pages. It proved to be just another retelling of the story that assumed the gospels could– indeed, should– be taken seriously as historical records, and that the evangelists (Paul largely absent, IIRC, but I could be wrong) were taking excruciating pains to ensure they were telling exactly the same story. Well, that may be (grossly) overstated regarding this particular book, but it’s the approach taken by pretty much every work on the historical Jesus I’ve read. So if I’ve mashed this in with others, I apologize, but the point remains that there was almost nothing in this book that differentiated it significantly from so many others. 

25 Ibant autem turbae multae cum eo; et conversus dixit ad illos:

26 “Si quis venit ad me et non odit patrem suum et matrem et uxorem et filios et fratres et sorores, adhuc et animam suam, non potest esse meus discipulus.

27 Et, qui non baiulat crucem suam et venit post me, non potest esse meus discipulus.


28 τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας ψηφίζει τὴν δαπάνην, εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν;

“For if a certain one of you wishing to build a tower do you not first sitting down count the costs, (to see) if you have enough towards the finishing? 

There you go: Jesus advising a cost-benefit analysis before undertaking a capital improvement project. Quite the little capitalist there, no?

28 Quis enim ex vobis volens turrem aedificare, non prius sedens computat sumptus, si habet ad perficiendum?


29 ἵνα μήποτε θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι πάντες οἱ θεωροῦντες ἄρξωνται αὐτῷ ἐμπαίζειν

30 λέγοντες ὅτι Οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἤρξατο οἰκοδομεῖν καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι.

31 ἢ τίς βασιλεὺς πορευόμενος ἑτέρῳ βασιλεῖ συμβαλεῖν εἰς πόλεμον οὐχὶ καθίσας πρῶτον βουλεύσεται εἰ δυνατός ἐστιν ἐν δέκα χιλιάσιν ὑπαντῆσαι τῷ μετὰ εἴκοσι χιλιάδων ἐρχομένῳ ἐπ’ αὐτόν;

32 εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἔτι αὐτοῦ πόρρω ὄντος πρεσβείαν ἀποστείλας ἐρωτᾷ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην.

33 οὕτως οὖν πᾶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ὃς οὐκ ἀποτάσσεται πᾶσιν τοῖς ἑαυτοῦ ὑπάρχουσιν οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής.

34 Καλὸν οὖν τὸ ἅλας: ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἀρτυθήσεται;

35 οὔτε εἰς γῆν οὔτε εἰς κοπρίαν εὔθετόν ἐστιν: ἔξωβάλλουσιν αὐτό. ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.

“For if a certain one of you wishing to build a tower do you not first sitting down count the costs, (to see) if you have enough towards the finishing? (29) In order lest when the foundation of it is laid, and not being able to finish it completely, those seeing he began will mock him (30) saying ‘This dude began to build and was not able to finish.’ (31) If a certain king going out to ponder a war with another king, does he not first sitting down take counsel if he is able to encounter with ten thousand the other with twenty thousand coming against him? Otherwise, upon him being far away he sends his elders to ask for peace. (33) In this way all of you who do not arrange all his possessions to begin, he is not able to be my disciple. (34) Salt is good. But if salt becomes bland, what does it season? (35) Neither is it well placed for the earth nor for the dunghill. Throw it away. The one having ears to hear, let him hear.”

Here we have what are really two distinct thoughts. The first is warning of the preparations needed to follow Jesus. The second is the bit about salt. They really have nothing to do with each other. Yes, it is possible to stretch them so that they can be made to fit together, if a bit tenuously, but the fact is that in plain sense they don’t. The bit about building towers and going to war does work with the section directly previous since it follows up on what is necessary to become a disciple. The metaphors are novel; they are not held to be part of Q because they are not in Matthew in any similar form. Whence did they come? Were they part of a separate tradition that traced from Jesus while it managed to bypass both Mark and Matthew? Sure, it’s possible. But we’re talking oral transmission for going on 60 years. Stuff that MLK Jr said is remembered, but it was all recorded or written down, so the analogy doesn’t hold at all. It comes to the point where someone will believe what they want to believe, but from the perspective of writing history, connecting this to Jesus is really unlikely. Now, there are Greek & Roman historians who argue about how much we can rely on Arrian’s stories of Alexander the Great, and some will argue that much of it is likely based on fact since Alexander was such a well-known person. Stories of his exploits & conquests were written down and told continuously from the time of Alexander until the 2nd Century CE; moreover, because there was such familiarity with the story, with the facts, Arrian would not have been able to deviate much from these facts. It would be like an American historian saying that the Pilgrims landed in what is now Florida, where they opened a resort. Everyone knows that’s simply wrong. 

Even so, the gap between Alexander and Arrian is pushing half a millennium.  That takes us back to the 17th Century. Funny thing, we can actually know more about the life of someone like Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) than Luke would have known with firm basis about Jesus. Why? Because Richelieu left records and things were written by him and about him while he was alive. This is not true about Jesus. People did not start writing things down about him until twenty years after his death. This is because Richelieu was recognised as someone important, and that we should remember what he did even while he was alive. Plato, writing about Socrates, was writing about someone he had known personally; odd thing about that is one has to question how much Plato distorted Socrates’ teachings to fit his own agenda.

In contrast, people did not start writing about Jesus until twenty years after he died. He was an obscure figure, and there was no conventional wisdom about him, about what happened to him, or what he did during his life. As such, twenty years is plenty of time for misconceptions and outright fabrications to take hold. To hear Reagan discussed by certain conservative popularists is to hear about a president who never existed, and this has occurred in a world with so much information it’s– literally– mind-boggling. And twenty years takes us to Paul; it’s another twenty before we get to Mark and something vaguely resembling a biography. The point of all this that we really need to be suspicious about anything we are told that Jesus said or did that occurs in the so-called Q material. We need to be suspicious of all of it.

OTOH, the aphorism about salt is one of the things that Jesus may actually have said. It’s in Mark, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense in any context that we’ve encountered. Here, it feels like it’s been attached with tape. It’s not so much as an afterthought as the evangelist throwing up his hands, not knowing where it belongs, so he just sort of stuck it here for want of a better place. The Q Reader does include this as part of Q, as well it should; the interesting thing is that it’s exactly the disjointed nature of so much of what Jesus is reported to have said that is the best argument for something like Q. If Jesus was considered a wise man by the ancients, it’s exactly these pithy little aphorisms that would have been passed down. Of the famous Seven Sages of Greek thought, all we know about them consists of the adages they are reputed to have uttered. So perhaps. This should probably be pursued more in the summary to the chapter.


29 Ne, posteaquam posuerit fundamentum et non potuerit perficere, omnes, qui vident, incipiant illudere ei

30 dicentes: “Hic homo coepit aedificare et non potuit consummare”.

31 Aut quis rex, iturus committere bellum adversus alium regem, non sedens prius cogitat, si possit cum decem milibus occurrere ei, qui cum viginti milibus venit ad se?

32 Alioquin, adhuc illo longe agente, legationem mittens rogat ea, quae pacis sunt.

33 Sic ergo omnis ex vobis, qui non renuntiat omnibus, quae possidet, non potest meus esse discipulus.

34 Bonum est sal; si autem sal quoque evanuerit, in quo condietur?

35 Neque in terram neque in sterquilinium utile est, sed foras proiciunt illud. Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat”.