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Luke Chapter 12:1-12

Apologies for the long hiatus. The real world can intrude into the life of a blogger!

So on to Chapter 12. Completing this chapter will put us half-way through the gospel. I believe this is more Q stuff, and I believe it corresponds to material in the Sermon on the Mount. Personally, I prefer Luke’s arrangement of Matthew’s material; I found that having three successive chapters of Jesus’ lessons got to be a bit tiresome. Granted, that may just be a symptom of my anti-Q bias; but it is equally probable that the insistence on Matthew’s “masterful arrangement” is simply a manufactured argument created to bolster the “case” for Q.


1 Ἐν οἷς ἐπισυναχθεισῶν τῶν μυριάδων τοῦ ὄχλου, ὥστε καταπατεῖν ἀλλήλους, ἤρξατο λέγειν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ πρῶτον, Προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς ἀπὸ τῆς ζύμης, ἥτις ἐστὶν ὑπόκρισις, τῶν Φαρισαίων.

In those days having gathered myriads of the crowd, so that they were trampling each other, he began to speak to his disciples first, “Take heed amongst yourselves from the yeast, which is hypocricy, of the Pharisees. 

This is interesting. First of all, “myriad” means both 10,000 or simply “a whole lot”. So either Luke is telling us that there were 20 or 30,000 people in the crowd, or simply that the crowd was very large. It’s rather a more literary description than we have gotten from the other two; whether it should be taken literally, however, is another matter. Regardless, I like the bit about them trampling upon each other. This is a novel detail, and it’s the sort of thing that leads me to refer to Luke as the novelist of the Evangelists.

Second, this is a serious case of misdirection. By opening with the size of the crowd, one might expect that we were embarking on a retelling of the feeding of 5,000 or something. Instead, we get a warning about the yeast of the Pharisees. In either Mark or Matthew, this warning comes up as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and they had forgotten to bring bread, and the disciples thought that Jesus was making reference to that lack of provision. Given that this makes the disciples look like dolts, chances are this setting was in Mark. OK, upon further review, turns out it’s in both gospels. 

1 Interea multis turbis circumstantibus, ita ut se invicem conculcarent, coepit dicere ad discipulos suos primum: “Attendite a fermento pharisaeorum, quod est hypocrisis.

2 οὐδὲν δὲ συγκεκαλυμμένον ἐστὶν ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται, καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. 

3 ἀνθ’ ὧν ὅσα ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτὶ ἀκουσθήσεται, καὶ ὃ πρὸς τὸ οὖς ἐλαλήσατε ἐν τοῖς ταμείοις κηρυχθήσεται ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων.

“For nothing is covered up which shall not be spread about, and nothing is is hidden which will not be known. (3) Against which however much you speak in the shadows, in the light will be heard, and about which those things you speak inside will be proclaimed upon the house. 

This is a really interesting passage. We heard this sentiment expressed expressed in Matthew, but Luke has recast the vocabulary and the metaphors with some real literary flair. At least, I consider it literary flair; this is, after all, a value judgement, like the one that says Matthew’s arrangement of the Q material was so masterful. Regardless, it indicates a very deliberate and conscious effort on Luke’s part to add a new twist to the words that came to him. Whether these words came from Q or Matthew is not the issue here; at least, it’s not entirely the issue. Because with me, that’s always the issue, or at least part of it. There are two things to note here. 

We’ve already brought up the issue of the more literary quality here. Second, Luke’s version is longer than that of Matthew. Why? I am very willing to bet that none of the Q proponents has ever bothered to explain that fact. Put together, these two observations would, seemingly, blow a huge hole in the idea that Luke retains the more is the more primitive version of Q of the two gospels, wouldn’t it?  Of course, Q proponents say that Luke is the more primitive. Except when he isn’t. IOW, they are not terribly consistent about this, which is interesting since they demand the redactionally consistent explanation for every instance in which Luke deviates from Matthew. What about when Matthew deviates so glaringly from the Q text–taking “Q” as equivalent to “Luke”, which is standard in the Q argument–as Matthew does in this quote? Do we get explanations for those cases? Of course not. Only those attempting to refute Q have to be consistent.

2 Nihil autem opertum est, quod non reveletur, neque absconditum, quod non sciatur.

3 Quoniam, quae in tenebris dixistis, in lumine audientur; et, quod in aurem locuti estis in cubiculis, praedicabitur in tectis.

4 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν τοῖς φίλοις μου, μὴ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεινόντων τὸ σῶμα καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα μὴ ἐχόντων περισσότερόν τι ποιῆσαι.

5 ὑποδείξω δὲ ὑμῖν τίνα φοβηθῆτε: φοβήθητε τὸν μετὰ τὸ ἀποκτεῖναι ἔχοντα ἐξουσίαν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν: ναί, λέγω ὑμῖν, τοῦτον φοβήθητε.

“I say to you my friends, do not fear from those killing the body and afterwards not having anything more to do. (5) I will demonstrate to you something you should fear: fear the one after the killing having power to throw you into Gehenna. Yes, I say to you, you should fear this. 

Once again, let’s remind ourselves of the context here. Jesus & crew are in the midst of an innumerable multitude, in a crowd so dense that they are stepping on each other. And yet, Jesus turns to his disciples first, and starts talking about the Pharisees. Then he starts talking about killing the body and throwing it into Gehenna. If he spoke to the disciples first, is he still speaking to them solely? Or has he  turned to the wider crowd? In both Mark and Matthew, these speeches of Jesus occur in situations in which Jesus is alone with the disciples. 

4 Dico autem vobis amicis meis: Ne terreamini ab his, qui occidunt corpus et post haec non habent amplius, quod faciant.

5 Ostendam autem vobis quem timeatis: Timete eum, qui postquam occiderit, habet potestatem mittere in gehennam. Ita dico vobis: Hunc timete.

6 οὐχὶ πέντε στρουθία πωλοῦνται ἀσσαρίων δύο; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐκ ἔστιν ἐπιλελησμένον ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

7 ἀλλὰ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν πᾶσαι ἠρίθμηνται. μὴ φοβεῖσθε: πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε.

“Are not two sparrows sold for five (small coins)? And one of them is not forgotten before God. (7) But also the hairs of your heads are all numbered. Do not fear: you are different from many sparrows.

Just a few comments on the Greek. The term assarios is not at all common in Greek of any sort. The only translation I can find is “farthing”, which is an English coin no longer in use, which was equal to a quarter of a penny. Obviously, no one in the ancient world was buying and selling with English currency. Nor is the Latin any help. The word is dipundio, which means two-pundi (or something). So this is is the first example of a consensus translation in the two verses. Obviously, in this case, the meaning is clear enough; the comparison is to something very inexpensive, and sparrows are about as common–and therefore cheap–as they come. The price quoted would be the cost to purchase these sparrows for sacrifice in the Temple. As I said, this is a very uncommon word; it does, however, appear in both Luke and Matthew. Can you guess where we are going with this? How likely is it that a source that claims to be words of Jesus would use such a rare word? Would Jesus have used such a word? Almost certainly not. Would the collector of the sayings that became Q use the word? Impossible to be sure, unlikely in the extreme. It would depend on the literary chops of the collector. But let’s do a thought experiment: we know that Mark does indeed represent a more “primitive” version of the gospel than either of the other two. One salient aspect of this primitivism is the rather poor quality of Mark’s Greek. If Q dates back to shortly after the time of Jesus, then for the compiler of Q to use a word like assarios, we have to conclude that the compiler is more adept in Greek than Mark was. Does that make sense? For the compilation of Q to date back to Jesus, the aggregation would needs have been done by an early follower. Such early followers were probably Jewish/Aramaic in background; that is, they were probably not native Greek speakers, and they probably were not well enough educated to be able to write Greek.

So who was this compiler? That question is never addressed, let alone answered. There is no hypothetical discussion of this. There are a number of anonymous Greek texts dealing with political life in Athens. The controversy about who these authors were–or, at least, what sort of background they had–is fierce and contentious. My favourite attribution is to someone referred to as the “Old Oligarch”, the author of a text not terribly fond of the idea of democracy. And yet in the Q discussion, there is absolutely nothing. Crickets, as the common vernacular would put it. This is not surprising since there is essentially no discussion of the vocabulary of Q in itself, let alone any discussion of the content of the sayings of Q; do they fit the period of the 30s? Or do they seem to fit a much later period? This would be a very fruitful discussion to have.

On the other hand, we know that Matthew was rather adept at Greek. He had a decidedly large and rather sophisticated vocabulary; and Luke exceeded Matthew on both accounts. So ask yourself this question: is this word more likely to have originated in the text of some lesser-educated, non-Greek compiler, or from the pen of someone much more educated and likely much more fluent in Greek? The answer seems pretty obvious to me. By no means a slam-dunk, but nothing is in NT studies. IMO, it’s much more likely that the word came from Matthew, and was then copied by Luke.

The second consensus translation is diapherte. Here, the sense of the text is that the disciples are valued more than a sparrow, hardly an earth-shaking statement. The problem is that this is not what the word really means in Classical Greek. In my favourite quote from Marcus Aurelius, written in his Meditations, is the expression “many grains of incense on the same altar. One falls first, then another. There is no difference”. The last four English words are expressed in Greek as diapherei d’ouden. That is, the word used is the same as here. Except in Aurelius, it means there is no difference, and this is one of the standard meanings of the word in Greek. And please to note, Meditations was written about a century after the NT. So it’s not a case that the meaning of the word had evolved by the time Luke wrote. Now, in this case, the Latin very clearly says ‘you are worth more than many sparrows’, so I will have to concede this point. St Jerome knew his Greek much better than I ever could.

6 Nonne quinque passeres veneunt dipundio? Et unus ex illis non est in oblivione coram Deo.

7 Sed et capilli capitis vestri omnes numerati sunt. Nolite timere; multis passeribus pluris estis.

8 Λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν, πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὁμολογήσει ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ:

9 ὁ δὲ ἀρνησάμενός με ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρνηθήσεται ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ.

“I say to you, all who speak the same as me before men, and the son of man will speak the same as him before the angels of God. (9) But the one denying me before men will be denied before the angels of god. 

Just a quick question: where did the angels come from? The couple of restored versions of Q that I’ve checked include the angels in the text. IOW, once again, or by default, Luke is the more primitive version, so if Luke has angels, then Q obviously had angels. The logic supporting this conclusion is atrocious. It’s a combination of circularity and post hoc ergo propter hoc. There is no coherent or consistent case for taking Luke as the more primitive version aside from the fact that he doesn’t say “our father” and he says “blessed are the poor”, omitting the “in spirit” of Matthew. Yes, there are a few other such instances, but there is no way that they add up to a satisfactory argument that can be used to take Luke’s “primitivity” as a given. I see absolutely no reason to take the inclusion of angels here as an indication of the older version. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is an understanding of angels in a sense somewhat divorced from the idea of a messenger

BTW: homologein literally means speak the same, but it more idiomatically means to agree. Here, however, it is taken as to confess, as in, to acknowledge. If you sneak a peek at the Latin, you will see confessus, so the etymology is apparent. So, it’s stretching the original meaning of the word, but we’ve experienced worse.

8 Dico autem vobis: Omnis, quicumque confessus fuerit in me coram hominibus, et Filius hominis confitebitur in illo coram angelis Dei;

9 qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, denegabitur coram angelis Dei.

10 καὶ πᾶς ὃς ἐρεῖ λόγον εἰς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἀφεθήσεται αὐτῷ: τῷ δὲ εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα βλασφημήσαντι οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται.

11 ὅταν δὲ εἰσφέρωσιν ὑμᾶς ἐπὶ τὰς συναγωγὰς καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας, μὴ  μεριμνήσητε πῶς ἢ τί ἀπολογήσησθε ἢ τί εἴπητε:

12 τὸ γὰρ ἅγιον πνεῦμα διδάξει ὑμᾶς ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ ἃ δεῖ εἰπεῖν.

“And all who will speak a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven to him. To him against the sacred breath they blaspheme, it will not be forgiven,. (11) When they bring you in upon the synagogues and the magistrates and those in authority, do not be concerned how either you will defend yourselves or what you will say. (12) For the sacred breath will teach you in that hour what must be said.”

My first reaction when we went from stuff being shouted from the rooftops to not being afraid of those who can only kill the body, it seemed like we had a non sequitur. However, after reading the whole section that we’ve just finished, I see the overall structure more completely. It is:

  • do not fear those killing the body;
  • you are worth more than sparrows, and God cares for them;
  • just be faithful to me (Jesus) before men and I will be faithful to you before of men;
  • but have a care not to blaspheme against the sacred breath;
  • for it will be the sacred breath telling you what to say when you’re on trial before those men–who happen to have authority.

So, yeah, that works. With one possible exception: what happened to the huge crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands? What was that all about? It would make sense if this fell into, say, the Sermon on the Mount in corresponding section of Matthew; Jesus was talking to a crowd there as well. But here? Not so much. Perhaps if I be but patient, the purpose of the crowd will become apparent.

10 Et omnis, qui dicet verbum in Filium hominis, remittetur illi; ei autem, qui in Spiritum Sanctum blasphemaverit, non remittetur.

11 Cum autem inducent vos in synagogas et ad magistratus et potestates, nolite solliciti esse qualiter aut quid respondeatis aut quid dicatis:

12 Spiritus enim Sanctus docebit vos in ipsa hora, quae oporteat dicere ”.


Luke Chapter 11:1-4

This first section of this new chapter opens with the Our Father, which I pretentiously like to refer to as the Pater Noster. As an excuse, I do offer that I am a student of Classics, but that’s just an excuse. Oddly enough, since this is–supposedly–the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, it does not appear in Mark. Given this absence in Mark, I find it really hard to believe two things. First, this lack in Mark seems to put a serious crimp in the idea that he is writing stuff from Peter. Add this and the fact that Mark does not record the “upon this rock” statement, IMO, really seems to blow a big hole in this bit of tradition. Mark is either unaware of so much of Jesus’ teaching–the biggest and best parts, it could be argued–or he chose not to record these biggest and best parts. Why did he not record the Sermon on the Mount? Why did he not record the Our Father? Those are very serious questions. Sure, perhaps this borders on the Argument from Silence, but that is only a fallacy when there is reason to believe that the author could have and should have known about the issue on which she or he is being silent. In both cases, Mark recording Peter should have known about these two pieces of Jesus’ teaching; if so, then he simply chose not to report them, and the “Rock” speech, too? On top of that, Mark is very hostile to Peter, and all the disciples, for that matter, throughout his gospel. This is a third strike against Mark being Peter’s disciple. I think that canard needs to buried, once and for all.

The second thing that it makes it hard to believe is that the Lord’s Prayer came from Jesus. Once again, here is another really major teaching of Jesus that went underground for 40 years, only to reappear in Matthew’s gospel? Sorry. That is really implausible. So this ends up in the bucket with all the other Q material.

Then there is the whole bit about whether Matthew’s version of this prayer is the more primitive, or whether Luke does. However, this presupposes the existence of Q; without Q, the question of the more “primitive” version becomes nonsensical. Matthew has the more primitive version, because Matthew wrote first. So his is the more primitive. End of story. However, I believe the Q people believe Luke has the more primitive version; but then, Luke is almost always said to be the more primitive. This is odd since Luke wrote later than Matthew. You see, the Q people tend to believe, whether they admit it or not–whether they’re even aware of it or not–that Q was completely static. They take it for given that once Q was written, it was carved in stone and not a word of it changed. Which is ridiculous because it’s impossible. Any hand-copied text will change with transmission. The only exception would be that Q was actually carved in stone, and then set up somewhere for everyone to see. This is the example of the stele of Hammurabi: the law was carved in stone and then put on public display. Again, whether they realize it or not, the Q people assume something very much like this happened with the Q text. Make that the Q text.

Enough of this, let’s get to the


1Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν τόπῳ τινὶ προσευχόμενον, ὡς ἐπαύσατο, εἶπέν τις τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν, Κύριε, δίδαξον ἡμᾶς προσεύχεσθαι, καθὼς καὶ Ἰωάννης ἐδίδαξεν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ.

And it happened in that he was in a certain place praying, so that he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, in the same way John taught his disciples.

The Greek at the beginning of the sentence is a bit interesting. There is a rather peculiar combination of accusative mixed in with using the infinitive as a substantive. The bit <<ἐν τῷ εἶναι  >> should be something like “in the being”, like “in the (time he) was being…”, but then the verb << εἶναι >> gets combined with the accusative << αὐτὸν >> which is accusative case, but it stands in as the subject of “to be”. So deucedly clever Luke to come up with this.

As for the content, the set up is very paper thin. He’s in a certain place and we aren’t even told which of the disciples asked the question. This is a very clear case of making up the setting in order to spring the punchline. Add this to the list of reasons why this prayer does not actually trace back to Jesus himself.

Finally, there is the last bit. According to this unnamed disciple, John taught his disciples how to pray, so Jesus’ disciples are asking Jesus to do the same for them. This is also unique to Luke, and one wonders what the genesis of this comment was. Oddly, because it’s so odd, I would be willing to consider whether Luke didn’t tap into a tradition that had been maintained by John-the-Baptistians. Based on Josephus’ treatments of Jesus and John, even assuming that everything in our text was actually written by Josephus, and was not a later Christian interpolation–which I doubt very much–John gets a much bigger chunk of Josephus’ time and writing. In short, based strictly on Josephus’ testimony, John was likely the more popular of the two–at least among Jews. We need to remember here that Josephus was a Jew, writing to explain Jews to the Romans. As such, he would naturally have given more attention to a figure who was more popular among Jews. And we have commented that John, for whatever novelty he introduced, seems to have remained firmly ensconced in the “mainstream” of Jewish tradition. (For that matter, Jesus probably was, too, until Paul and others started introducing seriously Greek thought into Jesus’ message.) The point here that, even to Luke’s time, which approximated the time when Josephus was writing because the lives of Luke and Josephus overlapped to no small degree, it is entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that there were still groups of John-the-Baptistians floating about the eastern Mediterranean, in particular in the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea, and perhaps a few others. So it is just possible that Luke came across some such adherents and added this bit to acknowledge this existence.

Admittedly, this is a stretch, and likely a big one. But why else is this in here? Why did Luke feel it necessary, or even desirable, to add this little detail. Had it been omitted, no one would have noticed. We’re talking about it because it is there; were it not, the hole would not be detected. The Q people demand a redactionally consistent interpretation of everything Luke says that is different from Matthew. Well, there is a lot of that. Where the anti-Q people go wrong, IMO, is first to concede to this demand. Really? They have to prove the existence of Q; the burden of proof is on them. It is not for the n0n-Q people to disprove its existence. Secondly, and only slightly less importantly, is to try to do this while only focusing on the stuff that is supposedly in Q. If one is to give a redactionally consistent explanation of Luke, it has to be done in toto, and not just about selected material. Remember my suggestions–which may have become worthy to be called an argument, but maybe not–that Matthew was a pagan, and was writing to reach a wider audience of pagans? Well, Luke is acknowledged a pagan. In spite of–or is it because of?–this, I’ve started to suggest that Luke is trying to pull this back into the Jewish context to some degree. Hence the introduction of Samaritans. So maybe that is what Luke is doing here, and he could be doing it whether or not he was aware of any John-the-Baptistians still hanging about. But were there any, there is no reason to suppose that Luke would not have been aware of them.

One final aspect of this is that there is this completely unchallenged assumption, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the gospels were written once and then never changed. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a safe assumption. The authors are anonymous; it is entirely possible that these works were edited, perhaps expanded over time. Perhaps that is what happened to Mark, which prompted Matthew bring in all these new developments and then to re-write Mark in order to bring Mark up to date, and so create a “new” gospel. In the same may be true of Luke. Maybe Matthew was confronted by four or five versions of Mark, so he fit them altogether, adding what he thought was of value (Sermon on the Mount) and omitting things he found not so valuable (many of the magical practices). Then perhaps the same happened with Luke. Really, though, it’s more likely that Matthew, Luke, and John incorporated later traditions or developments that were largely transmitted orally. But it’s something that needs to be considered and discussed, and not just assumed. There has been altogether too much of that.

That’s a lot of commentary on a single line. 

1 Et factum est cum esset in loco quodam orans, ut cessa vit, dixit unus ex discipulis eius ad eum: “Domine, doce nos orare, sicut et Ioannes docuit discipulos suos”.

2 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς, Οταν προσεύχησθε, λέγετε, Πάτερ, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου: ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου:

3 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δίδου ἡμῖν τὸ καθ’ ἡμέραν:

He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, let your name be blessed; let your kingdom come, give to us the our bread of existence each day.

Gotta stop here. Note: it begins simply “Father”. Not “our father”. What are we to make of that? Per Kloppenborg, who appears to be the single major proponent of Q (and who, to my chagrin, teaches at the University of Toronto, my alma mater), this is the more “primitive” version, and this is how the pater starts in his/their reconstruction of Q. So why did Matthew change it to “our father”? That’s never explained. As far as I can tell, the operative principle here is something akin to Occam’s Razor; since Luke has fewer words here, and when he says more simply, “blessed are the poor”, the fewer words makes it the more primitive version. The thinking is that versions get elaborated and not reduced. And that is not a terrible operating principle. There could be many worse. But that is not to concede that it’s the only principle, or even necessarily the best. It’s simply better than some, while possibly being worse than others. 

The point of this is that the Q people demand the redacti0naly consistent interpretation (RCI) for any instance when Luke “changes” Matthew’s word order, or arrangement, if we are going to argue that Luke read and used Matthew. OK. Kind of reverses the usual order of proof, but, OK. So do they have an RCI for each time that Matthew deviates from Q? Anyone? Bueller? Why do I only hear crickets? Why did Matthew change it to “our father”? Well, because…it sounds better. Sure, after two millennia of saying it Matthew’s way, we’ve come to assume that it’s somehow better, more correct. But is it? Is it really? Why? It has, perhaps, the advantage of sounding more “correct” when spoken by a congregation, but does it really? Why can’t each person simply say “Father”? After all, we all say “credo”, I believe. 

 So why did Luke drop the “our”? Or, if this is from Q, why did Matthew add it?  One could argue that Matthew added it to foster the sense of universal siblinghood among the communities of Jesus. That would be reasonable. And it would be equally reasonable to suggest that Luke dropped it because it’s redundant. I suppose one could also say Luke dropped it because he’s telling the disciples to say this when they pray as individuals. In which case it would make more sense to call Luke’s the more primitive version, since Matthew added the “our” when this became a communal, rather than a personal prayer. But did that necessarily come later? It could easily be argued that the communal prayer came first; that groups of initiates were taught the prayer to be said in unison, so it was “our” father. Then, later, the prayer became more individualized, so Luke dropped the “our” to reflect this development. I can see this going either way.

Again, it’s important to admit that questions like this will not be, indeed cannot be answered in a forum such as this. But it’s even more important to acknowledge that these questions need to be asked. And they require serious consideration and an equally serious response. It is not at all sufficient for the Q people to pooh-pooh the very idea that perhaps, just maybe, Q never existed.

2 Et ait illis: “ Cum oratis, dicite: / Pater, sanctificetur nomen tuum, / adveniat regnum tuum; 

3 panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis cotidie,

4 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν, καὶ γὰρ αὐτοὶ ἀφίομεν παντὶ ὀφείλοντι ἡμῖν: καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν.

” ‘And discharge for us our sins, for and we discharge to all debts to us. And do not carry us towards trial.

Now this is really interesting. And I mean, really interesting. We discussed this when we did Matthew’s version. There, Jesus is telling the disciples << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν >>. Here, Luke says << ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν >>. These two words have very different meanings. Matthew’s word means debts, as in monetary debts owed to creditors. Luke’s word means sins, as in mortal and venal sins. Two words, two meanings, two very different sets of implications. The other thing to note is the word used for “take away” does not really mean forgive, in the sense that we generally understand the word in English. One can forgive a debt, but that has a technical, legalistic meaning. It is similar to, but not the same as, forgiving a sin. Hence I translated as “discharge”. And just out of curiosity, I checked the Vulgate version of Matthew, and it follows the Greek: here the Latin is peccata, “sins”; there the Latin is debita, “debts”. So the different words were not glossed over in the Vulgate.

Now here’s the thing. The surrounding language seems to fit better with Matthew’s version, in which we talk about debts. It seems less attuned to Luke’s version, using “sins”. Because he says “discharge our sins” as “we discharge all debts owed to us”. So Luke reverts to “debts”. Is this “editorial fatigue”? Must have been a tough couple of word that Luke got fatigued that quickly. But the point is that if the original concept was “debt” rather than “sin”, it’s almost impossible to say that Luke’s is the more primitive version. Luke changed the original word. If the original was “debt”, which is what the entire structure seems to require, then this change of Luke more or less precludes it being the more primitive version.  Why is that important? Because it reflects back to the beginning, “father” vs. “our father”. Did Luke change that, too? So if Luke made two changes, then the idea that his version is more primitive gets even harder to defend. This brings us to another really annoying aspect of the Q argument: Luke is considered to be the more primitive version, the one more like Q, except when he isn’t. There is more than a bit of legerdemain involved. But it’s worse than that; there is a real element of intellectual dishonesty at work. All these twists and turns and curlicues should be a seriously red flag; if the status of Q is so secure and so obvious, all of these back-flips to make it all work would not be necessary. I honestly think that part of the motivation for labeling Luke as the more primitive, is that it allows the existence of the document to carry further ahead in time, which does provide a bit more basis for the existence of the document. Except it really doesn’t, but it seems like it should. Read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his refutation of the ontological argument for God and you’ll know what I mean. Saying that an hypothetical document lasted 40 years instead of 30 doesn’t make said document any more real. 

4 et dimitte nobis peccata nostra, / si quidem et ipsi dimittimus omni debenti nobis, / et ne nos inducas in tentationem ”.


Luke Chapter 10:38-42

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


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

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

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

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός ⸃·

Luke Chapter 10:25-37: The Good Samaritan

This section brings us to one of the most famous stories in the NT, or in the Bible as a whole (at least for Christians). The term “Good Samaritan” has a cultural meaning that most people in the country would know, and would understand, even if not raised Christian. Or, at least, that was true when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s not any longer, but that doesn’t really matter. The point is that this story lodged itself in Christian doctrine in a very real, very intense way. In some ways, it could almost be called Christian belief in a nutshell. Or, that’s how it was presented to me as I was being raised in the Roman Rite. I have much the same impression of this story’s outsized importance is true in Episcopalian and even Lutheran tradition. Or, perhaps that was a function of the time and place where I grew up, and the people teaching me religion.

But that is to digress. One can still use the term “Good Samaritan” and have a reasonable expectation of being understood. There is a charity group called The Samaritans who offer help to troubled individuals, especially those contemplating suicide. A chapter or so ago, when Jesus was en route to Jerusalem, Jesus and his traveling companions entered a Samaritan town, but were rebuffed when the inhabitants of said town learned that Jesus was going to Jerusalem. The Samaritans and Jews have a complex history; the former claim to be the remnants of the tribes of Israel, those who weren’t destroyed or dislocated by the Assyrian conquest. As such, they claim to represent the true Judaism, untainted by the Babylonian Captivity of Judah. One particular sticking point, IIRC, was that the Judeans insisted that the Temple in Jerusalem was the only legitimate source of Jewish worship, while the Samaritans did not recognise this claim of the primacy of Jerusalem. Interestingly, this would seem to discredit the legend of a United Kingdom, with its capital in Jerusalem. According to the Book of Kings, Samaria was, in fact, the capital of Israel during the time of Omri and/or Ahab. However, “Samaria” generally refers to an area rather than a single town, as we saw back in the last chapter. And in Matthew, when sending out the 12, Jesus instructs them not to go into any Samaritan town. The point of all this is that Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along.

There is no reason to believe that Luke is not the author of this story, and all the stories unique to his gospel. It is interesting to consider why he chose a Samaritan. After all, if he were writing for pagans, the underlying antipathy of Jews and Samaritans may not have been all that well-known; as such, Luke risks having much of his point missed by a sizable chunk of is audience. Perhaps the last story about the rebuff in the Samaritan town served as sufficient warning.


25 Καὶ ἰδοὺ νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτὸν λέγων, Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσας ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up testing him, saying, “Teacher, doing what will I inherit eternal life?” 

Honestly, I thought I could get through to the actual story of the Good Samaritan without having to pause after every verse, but there you go. First, the verb here rendered as “testing”. This is one of those NT Greek words; it only appears in Christian settings. Which is fine and good, but then they seem to get it wrong–at least in the NT Greek lexicon I use. The word is formed from a standard word “to test” or “make proof” or a whole bunch of other things. However, here the prefix “ek” is added. “Ek” usually means “out of”; which literally makes this mean something like, “out of testing” or something else equally nonsensical. (Note: it is entirely possible that I am simply missing the point here. That is always entirely possible, whatever it is I say.) But the point is, why translate this as “tempt” as the NT lexicon does? The Latin gets the gist, and uses a word that is easily rendered as “to test”. But the KJV and the NASB both choose to use “tempt”. Sorry, but the context is clearly “to test”, as the ESV and the NIV both translate it. 

“Lawyer” is a very loose translation. The occupation simply didn’t exist among the Greeks and Romans. The Vulgate gives this as “one prepared in the law”; I have the sense that the interlocutor here is supposed to be Jewish, and so he would be an expert in Jewish law. 

Finally, of course, is the “eternal life”. Luke did not originate the story; rather, it came to Luke from Mark via Matthew. All three have some version of this story; or perhaps better to say it that the elements in this story are all present in each of the other two gospels, but the slicing and dicing has created different combinations of these elements. In Mark’s version, the person asking how to inherit eternal life << ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω;>> is said, more or less, by a young man of unspecified profession. Matthew has a version of this story, but he has another in which a “lawyer” seeks to test/tempt Jesus. Mark has a young man asking what to do to inherit eternal life; Matthew has a lawyer testing Jesus, and another tale where a man of unspecified profession asks what he must do to have eternal life. So, all of the elements, just in different combinations, and possibly in different stories. So Luke has sort of given us a greatest hits version, or taken what were two separate stories and distilled the elements into a single story. So does this qualify as one pericope? Or two? 

The question is a bit facetious, of course. But the word nomikos, <<νομικός>> does not occur in Mark. It occurs exactly once in Matthew, in a story of a nomikos who wishes to test/tempt Jesus. Now, what is very interesting is that these verses are, as far as I can tell, not included in the text of Q. That means we have a nomikos in Matthew who is testing/tempting Jesus. The verb Matthew uses is the same one as here, <<πειράζω>> minus the prefix that Luke adds here. BUT, there is an instance of the word, plus prefix, in Matthew. It occurs in the Temptations of Jesus; the word is repeated in Luke in the same context. That section is supposedly in Q, even though it’s a dialogue between Jesus and the devil, whereas Q is supposed to be the sayings of Jesus. Except when it’s also stuff that the Baptist said. And pretty much anything else that is in both Luke and Matthew, but not Mark. It’s a remarkably plastic document. But all snark aside, the use of these words surely has to carry a certain amount of weight in the anti-Q argument. Of course, the Q people will never, ever concede that point, because they will never let the argument be held on any ground but that of their choosing. And their chosen turf is literary, based on arrangement, rather than substantive, based on the content of the words.

25 Et ecce quidam legis peritus surrexit tentans illum dicens: “Magister, quid faciendo vitam aeternam possidebo?”.

26 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἐν τῷ νόμῳ τί γέγραπται; πῶς ἀναγινώσκεις;

27 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν, Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης [τῆς] καρδίας σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου, καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

28 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης: τοῦτο ποίει καὶ ζήσῃ.

And he (Jesus) said to him, (the lawyer) “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”  (27) And he (the lawyer) answering said to him (Jesus), “Love the lord your god from your whole heart, and in all your soul and in all your might and in all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”. (27) He (Jesus) to him (the lawyer) answering said, “You have answered straightly. Do this and you will live”.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we have the interlocutor pronouncing the Great Commandments rather than Jesus. Secondly, this lawyer is obviously meant to be Jewish, given his familiarity with the law. This question and its answer is found in both Mark and Matthew, and Luke apparently deemed it important enough to include. Or course, part of the reason he did this was because he wanted to tell his brand-new story of the Good Samaritan. Still, the overall sense of this section, and the coming parable is yet remarkably still very firmly tied to the Jewish tradition. The man versed in the law, the Great Commandments, and then the story based on the conflict between Jews and Samaritans.  

26 At ille dixit ad eum: “In Lege quid scriptum est? Quomodo legis?”.

27 Ille autem respondens dixit: “Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo et ex tota anima tua et ex omnibus viribus tuis et ex omni mente tua et proximum tuum sicut teipsum”.

28 Dixitque illi: “Recte respondisti; hoc fac et vives”.

29 ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον;

He, wishing to justify himself said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

I’m stopping here to comment on the word “justify”. The Greek is dikaios; the Latin is iustificare; the definition in the NT lexicon is often “to make righteous”, which of course derives from the word “right” which is derived from the German recht. So we have three different words from three different roots that have three very different base meanings and linguistic fields. For all practical purposes, and as far as I can tell, the English and German words have a very large amount of overlap, so for the sake of this discussion, we can simply use the English. For example, both the English and German can refer to the “right hand”; neither the Greek nor Latin has this connotation. In the Venn diagram of the three words, the overlap comes in the sense of “proper”. Great Scott gives the primary definition of dikē as “custom, usage” in the sense that this is the proper way to do something; the secondary definition is “nothing short of what is fit”. Now, notice what is missing: any sense of legal basis, or any sense of entitlement. The Latin iustificare is “to make something that is according to law”. The base ius is given as “that which is binding, duty, law”. An oath in Latin is ius iurandum, which is a bit difficult to get across in English. But the basic idea is something binding, and given the peculiar direction in which Roman civil society developed, it very early came to be deeply associated with the law and what is legal, and so what is legally binding. Note that this connotation is mostly missing from the Greek root. Finally, “right” ultimately derives from the same root as rex, or raj; the former means “king” in Latin and the latter means something similar in a language derived from Sanskrit. Think of the British “raj” in India. As such, the word has the sense of privilege, which comes down to us as the idea of a natural right, or inalienable rights, which are something close to an entitlement. These rights may have a legal basis, but then again, they may not. In all of the literature that I’ve found, biblical scholar want to pretend that the three words dikaiō/dikaiosunē, iustificare, and righteousness all pretty much mean the same thing. Well, they don’t. I’ve mentioned this before, but read a book called Iustitia Dei by Alister McGrath discusses this very topic at length, except he starts with the Hebrew term that I won’t pretend to understand. I can’t even transliterate it.

Now that we’ve gone through all of that, I think that the use of “justify” in this particular instance is absolutely perfect. It means that the lawyer is trying to fit in with custom and usage of the Jewish culture. So it really works with the Greek word in this case. Hey–sometimes you get lucky.

29 Ille autem, volens iustificare seipsum, dixit ad Iesum: “Et quis est meus proximus?”.

30 ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄνθρωπός τις κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ καὶ λῃσταῖς περιέπεσεν, οἳ καὶ ἐκδύσαντες αὐτὸν καὶ πληγὰς ἐπιθέντες ἀπῆλθον ἀφέντες ἡμιθανῆ.

Responding, Jesus said, “A certain man departed from Jerusalem for Jericho, and he fell in with some robbers, and they stripped him and striking him they went away, leaving him half-dead.

The word rendered as “half-dead” literally means “half-dead”. Another good one-to-one correlation. 

The real reason I stopped, however, was to talk about the word “robbers.” In his book Zealot, Reza Aslan put forth the notion that crucifixion was reserved for insurrectionists. Since Jesus was crucified, he must have been an insurrectionist, IOW, a zealot. As further proof, he said that the two men crucified with him were described as <<λῃστας>>, which is used here. This word, he said, may mean “robber/thief”, in reality, all robbers were actually freedom fighters who had taken to the hills and used highway robbery towards a political end. This is all patent nonsense. The Romans crucified all manner of lawbreakers, largely because crucifixion is so horribly cruel and agonising, and has the added feature that it sometimes took days to die, which meant that these poor sods were screaming in pain out in public for a very long time. Talk about an advertisement and a warning! And the word here is generic for “robber/thief”. It’s the word Jesus uses in the story of the Cleansing of the Temple. If anything, if this word in Greek has a particular shading, it’s more apt to mean a sea-borne robber, what we call a pirate (arrrghhh…). In short, Aslan’s theory is pretty much patent nonsense.

I’ve ranted about this before, probably when discussing the Cleansing of the Temple in Matthew. I don’t think the book had come out when I was discussing the same story in Mark. But it bears repeating. Thanks to FOX News, Aslan and his book were given a huge dollop of publicity. The folks at FOX were puzzled and a bit miffed at the notion of a Muslim writing about Jesus, so they spent a lot of time denouncing him. In the vein of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, this denunciation served to get the book into the public’s eye, and I suspect he sold a lot of copies of it. And the problem with that is that a lot of people took Aslan’s points as gospel, and I’ve been in debates/arguments with people who assume that crucifixion was only for rebels. What was that pirate quote? Arrrghhhh…

30 Suscipiens autem Iesus dixit: “ Homo quidam descendebat ab Ierusalem in Iericho et incidit in latrones, qui etiam despoliaverunt eum et, plagis impositis, abierunt, semivivo relicto.

31 κατὰ συγκυρίαν δὲ ἱερεύς τις κατέβαινεν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν:

“Upon chance a certain priest came by on that road, and seeing him, he passed by on the other side of the road.  

Just quickly on the Greek. That whole last phrase, starting with “he passed” is all contained in that last word. The other thing to mention is that the word translated as “chance”, <<συγκυρίαν>> is extremely rare. Liddell & Scott cite two instances of it in the entire corpus of Greek literature up to about 400 CE. There is one in Hippocrates, and then there is this one. It’s a compound work, comprised of the word for “lord” and the prefix for “with”. So the word has something like the idea of “with the lord”, the latter presumably referring to God. At least, I would have taken that as a given had we been talking just about Luke, or any other Christian writer. In pre-Christian Greek, kyrios did not generally have an overtone of “God”; but the same could probably be said about the Latin dominus. So rather a curious word. As for the Latin, note the first word below: accidit. It’s the root of “accident”. Here, it simply means “it happened” with the sense of a random, just-so-happened sense to it. 

31 Accidit autem, ut sacerdos quidam descenderet eadem via et, viso illo, praeterivit;

32 ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Λευίτης [γενόμενος] κατὰ τὸν τόπον ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν ἀντιπαρῆλθεν.

33 Σαμαρίτης δέ τις ὁδεύων ἦλθεν κατ’ αὐτὸν καὶ ἰδὼν ἐσπλαγχνίσθη,

34 καὶ προσελθὼν κατέδησεν τὰ τραύματα αὐτοῦ ἐπιχέων ἔλαιον καὶ οἶνον, ἐπιβιβάσας δὲ αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ ἴδιον κτῆνος ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς πανδοχεῖον καὶ ἐπεμελήθη αὐτοῦ.

35 καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν αὔριον ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια τῷ πανδοχεῖ καὶ εἶπεν, Ἐπιμελήθητι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὅ τι ἂν προσδαπανήσῃς ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ ἐπανέρχεσθαί με ἀποδώσω σοι.

36 τίς τούτων τῶν τριῶν πλησίον δοκεῖ σοι γεγονέναι τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς;

37 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὁ ποιήσας τὸ ἔλεος μετ’ αὐτοῦ. εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Πορεύου καὶ σὺ ποίει ὁμοίως.

“In the same way a Levite [happened] upon the place coming and seeing he passed by on the other side of the road. (32) And a certain Samaritan on the roading (that’s too literal, ‘journeying’ is more appropriate) seeing he came to the same side of the road. (A play on words, working off the “passed by on the other side that’s been repeated twice), (34) and coming (to him–the victim) he–the Samaritan–bound up his–the victim’s–wounds, putting on them oil and wine. putting him upon his own beast (presumably a donkey, or something such) he led him to the inn and he was ameliorated. (35) And upon the next day he threw out two denarii to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him, and what more is spent I on the return trip will give to you’. (36) Which of the three does it seem to you is the neighbor of the man fallen to the robbers?” (37) He said, “The one doing the mercy with him”. And Jesus said to him “Go and do the same”.

What is to be said about this? The content is so familiar to anyone even nominally Christian, and it’s been discussed for so long that there is probably nothing that can be said about it that hasn’t been said. At least, I’ll probably never be able to say anything new. So what I would like to mention is the very Jewish elements here. First we have the despised Samaritan, then we have the priest–which could be any culture, of course–and finally the Levite. How many non-Jews would understand that reference? That’s not a serious question, because there is no real answer to it; but it needs to be asked nonetheless. This seems striking, or particularly relevant since I’ve been postulating that, since at least Matthew, the Jesus movement has become increasingly pagan. Perhaps Luke included these elements to counteract that movement? 

The other aspect that needs some acknowledgement is that this is the single most comprehensive, coherent, and specific set of instructions on how to behave that we’ve had in the NT so far. Paul was full of Thou Shalt Not stuff, but this is a positive paradigm, Christian ethos in a nutshell. Is that a true statement? Does this transcend the Beatitudes? I think it does, mainly because it’s so concrete. It is, I think, because of stories like this–or because of this story–that I was expecting more explicit instructions on how to live a Christian life throughout more of the NT. But that is not what we have found through most of the work. Mark is full of wonders Jesus worked, an apocalyptic prophecy, and a Passion Narrative that ends with an empty tomb. Matthew is full of attitudinal exhortations like the Beatitudes and other things, but there is nothing quite like this in Matthew. For example, Matthew uses the word “neighbor” three times and Mark uses it twice. All five cites are injunctions to love your neighbor as yourself, but none of them have anything remotely close to being as instructive as this. The only pericope with anything close is when the young man asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain the kingdom, and Jesus’ response love his neighbour as himself and then to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Hmm…come to think of it, that is actually the setting for this. Here, when the interlocutor says that he has loved God and his neighbour, he does not say he has done so and then ask Jesus what else he must do. Rather, he asks Jesus who is my neighbour?

That, I think, is telling. It seems to have two implications. The first is that this appears to be another example of Luke seeing that the story has been told well enough by Mark and Matthew, and that the injunction to sell his possessions does not require repetition. So instead of merely repeating that command, Luke changes the young man’s question and then  provides a story to illustrate. To one with an inquiring mind, this change in the tale provokes (but does not beg) the question of why did Luke change the story? Was it because he felt the need for some specific instruction on this? There are some fundamental divisions within Christian thought, one of the most basic being the distinction between faith and deeds. Mark and Matthew were all about faith; did Luke fall into the deeds category? Was this stimulated by a new understanding of Paul’s message? We know the author of Luke/Acts* was well aware of Paul. Was Paul’s emphasis on faith in Romans enough to make Luke feel the need to stress works? Naturally, this question has no answer, but it truly needs to be asked. The Q people are always spouting off about the need to explain every redactional choice made by Luke, but, somehow, I doubt that they have ever considered this question.

* This, of course, assumes the unity of authorship of the two works. As of this writing I am not sufficiently familiar with Acts to have an opinion on that subject. However, given the track record of so much biblical scholarship–Q, anyone?–I am beginning to doubt that unity simply on basic principles.

32 similiter et Levita, cum esset secus locum et videret eum, pertransiit.

33 Samaritanus autem quidam iter faciens, venit secus eum et videns eum misericordia motus est,

34 et appropians alligavit vulnera eius infundens oleum et vinum; et imponens illum in iumentum suum duxit in stabulum et curam eius egit.

35 Et altera die protulit duos denarios et dedit stabulario et ait: “Curam illius habe, et, quodcumque supererogaveris, ego, cum rediero, reddam tibi”.

36 Quis horum trium videtur tibi proximus fuisse illi, qui incidit in latrones?”.

37 At ille dixit: “Qui fecit misericordiam in illum”. Et ait illi Iesus: “ Vade et tu fac similiter ”.

Luke Chapter 8:40-48

Jesus and crew have left the land of the Gerasenes and returned to the shore of the lake, presumably around Caphernaum. This seems to be Jesus’ home-base, even in Luke, who does not tell us that Jesus moved there. Even so, Luke can’t really disguise the fact that the action takes place in and around the Sea of Galilee, and this means Capheraum, which is situated on the northern shore of the lake.This will take us into the stories of the Bleeding Woman, and the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. One point that I added to the bottom of my last post is that it appears that the land of the Gerasenes/Gadarenes is at the opposite end of the Sea of Galilee. The lake is long and narrow, running north and south. Caphernaum is on the north shore; Gadara, apparently, was situated on the southern side. Not only that, it’s some way off, perhaps even several miles, the shore of the lake. But, not sure how significant that really is, so I suppose we should get on with the


40 Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑποστρέφειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἀπεδέξατο αὐτὸν ὁ ὄχλος, ἦσαν γὰρ πάντες προσδοκῶντες αὐτόν.

Upon his return (from the land of the Gerasenes), the crowd received Jesus, for all were expecting him.  

This is worthy of a comment, I believe. Why would they be expecting him, and so waiting for him? Here is where the length of the trip to Gadara becomes a bit more relevant. How long would it take to sail from one end to the other? A map I found says it’s 21 km long; that’s a bit over ten miles. According to one website, the speed of a modern sailing cruiser is about 7 knots (=nautical miles, = 1.15 statute/land miles). I once sailed from Olcott, NY to Youngstown, NY, at the mouth of the Niagara river, and I’m pretty sure we were hitting about 10 knots. I remember this because the skipper was extremely pleased at the speed his boat was making, but that was perhaps a faster-than-average boat. Anyway, even at five knots, a 10-12 mile trip could be done in two hours. This means Jesus could have embarked from Caphernaum in the morning, sailed to Gadara, expelled Legion, and easily have been back by the late afternoon, with time to spare. So if folks saw him set out in the morning, it would not have been unusual for them to expect him back by nightfall. Why does this matter? It really doesn’t in any truly significant way, but it’s interesting to note that it is within the realm of probability, unlike Mark Chapter 3 when Jesus’ family walks twenty miles from Nazareth to take him home from Caphernaum. This, I suspect, is part of the reason that people suppose Mark wasn’t familiar with the geography of Galilee, although this episode is entirely possible if Jesus & family actually lived in Caphernaum. It’s also interesting to note that only Luke has this little bit of the story. Does it imply that Luke was familiar with the geography of Galilee? That would be a reasonable conclusion, but it could also be something he picked up from his source. Or, he could have just included this without knowing whether or not it was possible. You see, it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from so much of this stuff.

FWIW: I found another map, and it appears that Gadara had a good harbor at the south end of the lake.

40 Cum autem rediret Iesus, excepit illum turba; erant enim omnes exspectantes eum.

41 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἦλθεν ἀνὴρ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰάϊρος, καὶ οὗτος ἄρχων τῆς συναγωγῆς ὑπῆρχεν, καὶ πεσὼν παρὰ τοὺς πόδας [τοῦ] Ἰησοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ,

42 ὅτι θυγάτηρ μονογενὴς ἦν αὐτῷ ὡς ἐτῶν δώδεκα καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέθνῃσκεν. Ἐν δὲ τῷ ὑπάγειν αὐτὸν οἱ ὄχλοι συνέπνιγον αὐτόν.

And look, there came a mane named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue was there, and falling beside his (Jesus’) feet he asked him to come to his home, (42) that his only-born daughter to him was as twelve years (old) and she was dying. In the leading him (in leading Jesus to Jairus’ home) the crow pressed him.  

This is interesting.  Luke invented the whole detail of the crowd waiting for Jesus; doing so filled two needs for the coming story. The first is to allow Jairus to be present; the second is to provide the crowd as the backdrop needed for the story of the Bleeding Woman. This is what I mean about Luke being a novelist; doing this he displays an economy of words that is a hallmark of a good storyteller, or of a good writer in general. 

Now, circling back to the bit about being able to sail from Gadara and back in a single day, we have the crowd. As mentioned, the trip to Gadara was most likely a two-to-three hour affair. As such, it’s possible to have done the trip and returned by the not-late afternoon; however, evening is more likely. And yet, this crowd does not seem to behave as if it were already evening. So the realism of the sailing time sort of goes out the window very quickly. This, I suppose, could be an example of the famous “editorial fatigue”, in which the person copying the story finds it too tiresome to continue with the editing/updating after a sentence or two. I mean, that quill, or stylus was soooooo heavy! The real implication, I think, is that the realism of the sailing time was more illusory than actual. Or perhaps “accidental” is the better term.

41 Et ecce venit vir, cui nomen Iairus, et ipse princeps synagogae erat, et cecidit ad pedes Iesu rogans eum, ut intraret in domum eius,

42 quia filia unica erat illi fere annorum duodecim, et haec moriebatur. Et dum iret, a turbis comprimebatur.

43 καὶ γυνὴ οὖσα ἐν ῥύσει αἵματος ἀπὸ ἐτῶν δώδεκα, ἥτις [ἰατροῖς προσαναλώσασα ὅλον τὸν βίον] οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἀπ’ οὐδενὸς θεραπευθῆναι,

44 προσελθοῦσα ὄπισθεν ἥψατο τοῦ κρασπέδου τοῦ ἱματίου αὐτοῦ, καὶ παραχρῆμα ἔστη ἡ ῥύσις τοῦ αἵματος αὐτῆς.

And there was being a woman in a discharge of blood for twelve years, who, [having wasted her whole life on physicians] was not made strong (i.e., healthy) by anyone to be healed, (44) having come close she touched the hem of his robe, and immediately stopped (lit = ‘stood‘) the discharge of her blood. (or, ‘her discharge of blood‘; this would be more literal)

I’m largely stopping here to comment on the  bit in [brackets]. This part is in Mark, but not Matthew. And apparently it’s not in all mss traditions of Luke, which is what the brackets are meant to indicate. The KJV includes it as part of the text, as does the ESV, but the NASB and the NIV do not. That the KJV includes it probably indicates that the mss available at that time included the words. Indeed, the Vulgate below includes the bracketed phrase. That it was later suspected of being an interpolation is why mss traditions are so important, even if they are almost exclusively the province of specialists. That the Vulgate includes the phrase indicates that it crept in a long time ago. Some copyist was trying to align this version more closely with Mark’s version. The basic point, of course, is that human knowledge, or even the knowledge of pagan physicians who relied on pagan gods, could not compare to the power of the  the real God, as god had come to be defined in the Hebrew tradition. That being said, this is pretty much a straightforward story of a wonder-worker. Whether we like it or not, the early, non-Pauline, tradition of Jesus was that this is what he was. At least, that’s what Mark tells us. 

43 Et mulier quaedam erat in fluxu sanguinis ab annis duodecim, quae in medicos erogaverat omnem substantiam suam nec ab ullo potuit curari;

44 accessit retro et tetigit fimbriam vestimenti eius, et confestim stetit fluxus sanguinis eius.

45 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τίς ὁ ἁψάμενός μου; ἀρνουμένων δὲ πάντων εἶπεν ὁ Πέτρος, Ἐπιστάτα, οἱ ὄχλοι συνέχουσίν σε καὶ ἀποθλίβουσιν.

And Jesus said, “Who is it who touched me?” (With) everyone denying, Peter said, “Overstander (master), the crowds hold you and press tightly on you”.

Need to stop for a couple of vocabulary notes. First, the word “Overstander”. That is a literal translation of the root word + prefix; although “stander-upon” might be even more literal. Luke uses this word a total of seven times, all of them in the gospel. No one else uses it. The other thing worth noting is that the Vulgate recognizes that this is not the usual “kyrios” or “despotes”, and provides rather an unusual word in “praeceptor”. This most commonly means “teacher”. So why the odd word? Of course, there’s no answer to that question.

The other word is the one rendered as “press”. I call this out because it’s part of the root of the word that is often translated as “persecution”. The “apo” prefix appears to add the sense of “tightly”. And I should point out that the Great Scott does give “persecute” as one of the meanings of the root “thlipsos”. However, the examples cited there do not quite get across the sense of a group being “persecuted” in the way that we conceive the word. Now, some of that may be historical; such persecutions for a set of beliefs was actually quite rare in the ancient world with its tendency towards syncretism. The prevailing attitude was that different peoples worshipped the same god, but used different names. Hence Tacitus says that the chief god of the Germania was Mercury, the closest Roman counterpart to Wotan/Woden/Odin. (There is a whole speculative literature on how Wotan supplanted Donner/ Thor as the chief god. Thor was, after all, the sky god, the wielder of thunder the was Zeus did.) This is part of the reason that I have trouble believing that the persecutions of Christians–as we understand the concept–was anything widespread or systemic, and it was largely done on political, rather than religious, grounds; however, trying to separate those terms in the first few centuries of the Common Era is horribly anachronistic. The aspect to bear in mind is that such persecution as Christians faced was due to their refusal to participate in the emperor cult. This, in turn, was held to be more akin to treason than to religious dissent, although Christians were accused of atheism from time to time. So much depends on reference and perspective.

45 Et ait Iesus: “Quis est, qui me tetigit? ”. Negantibus autem omnibus, dixit Petrus: “Praeceptor, turbae te comprimunt et affligunt”.

46 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ηψατό μού τις, ἐγὼ γὰρ ἔγνων δύναμιν ἐξεληλυθυῖαν ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ.

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I felt the power go out of me.” 

This has always fascinated me. The power acted independently of Jesus’ will to use it. The power acted of its own accord. What does that mean? How do we interpret this statement? In my hardly exhaustive search of the various commentaries at BibleHub I found a marvelous dancing around in the discussion–or lack thereof–of this part of the verse. Obviously, this story and that of Jairus are examples of the faith that can move mountains, but this little detail hints at something else. To me, it says that the power is somehow a separate entity from Jesus. This, in turn, makes Jesus an agent of God, rather than God himself. It has been argued, at least from the time of Calvin, that Jesus knew, and willed, the power to go out of him because he knew the woman was about to touch him; there is a certain logic behind this, but that’s not what the text says. Of course, what it says and what it means are not always the same thing, either. But to me, this wording  hints at the Adoptionism that is often lurking just beneath the surface of Mark’s narrative.

Now, that Luke left this part in the story is the sort of thing that a Q proponent should be raising to support the case that Luke was unaware of Matthew. After all, the latter removed this from his version, as well as making his version significantly shorter than Mark’s, and still shorter than Luke’s version. I suggested that Matthew took this out for more or less the reasons I’ve suggested: that it was a bad look, it carries implications that don’t sit well ir Jesus was God from before the time of his human conception. As such, Matthew took the proper course by removing this from his story. And you know, if the Q people posed this argument, I would have some trouble in refuting it because it does not seem consistent with Jesus’ thoroughgoing divinity. But the Q people don’t present this as an argument. Instead, they tout the “masterful arrangement” of Matthew and claim that only a fool or a madman would mangle this arrangement. That is not an argument. And it’s not even valid, since it poses a false dichotomy that there can’t be other reasons for rearranging the material.

46 At dixit Iesus: “ Tetigit me aliquis; nam et ego novi virtutem de me exisse”.

47 ἰδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γυνὴ ὅτι οὐκ ἔλαθεν τρέμουσα ἦλθεν καὶ προσπεσοῦσα αὐτῷ δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἥψατο αὐτοῦ ἀπήγγειλεν ἐνώπιον παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ ὡς ἰάθη παραχρῆμα.

48 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ, Θυγάτηρ, ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

The woman seeing that she did not escape notice, trembling, came and fell before him to tell through which cause she touched him before the whole people how she had been healed immediately. (48) And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you, go forth in peace”.

Notice the difference in vocabulary between what Jesus says and what the woman says. The latter says she was healed immediately; Jesus says her faith has saved her. This goes back to the meaning of “saved” in the NT. Of course, for later Christians, saved has a very specific meaning. And fact, the most common translation of this is not “saved”, but “healed” or “made you well”. Why is that? I’ve been reading a lot more pagan Greek lately, and the word here, “sōzō” << σωζω >> which means “to save”, almost always means “to save one’s life”. That is obviously the meaning here; the question is when is it appropriate to take it in the later Christian sense of being “saved”. What are the clues? What is the context? I do not think this has been fully worked out, just as the clues and context for translated “psyche” as “soul” rather than “physical life” have truly been defined. Rather, the instances have been determined, and agreed upon, but it’s very much on an “everyone knows/agrees” basis. To complicate this question further, the Vulgate below choses “salvam“, “saved”. So what does that tell us about the underlying Greek word? Probably it tells us that the Latin word is just about as ambiguous–from our 21st Century perspective–as it’s Greek counterpart.

As a final note, the last verse has garnered some attention as being slightly unusual. Supposedly this is the only instance in which someone is addressed as “daughter”. This would make me wonder if the term was coming into use in later Christian communities as they were growing hierarchical. It’s not a huge thing, but it anything unusual is worth noting. All the same, we need to bear in mind that Luke is one for unusual vocabulary. The bit about going in peace, however, has a slightly different twist. The word is used many times in the NT, starting with Paul. But, it is used exactly once by Mark, and it’s in the context of this story. So the question becomes, can we take that unusual word in Mark as perhaps indicating that this expression did, in fact, go back to Jesus? We can never be sure of this, but we can be sure–reasonably so, at least–that it was an old part of the story, imbedded as it was in the account that Mark heard and repeated, and that Luke retained where Matthew did not; Matthew retained the use of “daughter” as a form of address, but he left out the injunction that she go in peace. Why Luke and not Matthew? We will never know Luke’s reasons for doing so. Perhaps he felt it may have been spoken by Jesus. Recall that Luke was definitely aware of Paul and his career, which we cannot say about Matthew. Did Luke’s familiarity make this word resonate? 

47 Videns autem mulier quia non latuit, tremens venit et procidit ante eum et ob quam causam tetigerit eum indicavit coram omni populo et quemadmodum confestim sanata sit.

48 At ipse dixit illi: “Filia, fides tua te salvam fecit. Vade in pace”.

Luke Chapter 8:9-18

Well, that didn’t work. This was supposed to follow hard on the heels of the previous post. That one got published in the expectation that this would follow within a day or two. Oh well. It’s the difference between being off and working.

To recap, we just had the parable of the Sower. Now we get to Jesus’ explanation of the parable. Again, this is also part of the triple tradition, found in all three Synoptic Gospels.


9 Ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τίς αὕτη εἴη ἡ παραβολή.

10 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς, ἵνα βλέποντες μὴ βλέπωσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες μὴ συνιῶσιν.

His learners asked him what this parable might be. (10) He said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; to the rest (it is given) in parables, so that seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand”.

Up until this point, the idea that Jesus chose to “teach” people in a way that will, deliberately, hinder their understanding always struck me as…odd, to say the least. Bizarre comes closer to my feeling. After all, what is the point of this? Why does one teach if one is going to hide the message To weed out those who fell among the rocks? (Pun not intended, but accepted.) To see who will come back for more instruction? And this is a legitimate question on my part. How, on what level, does this make sense?

This takes us right back to the commentary where we left off in the last section. These words serve to amplify the injunction that concluded the parable itself. The answer is, it doesn’t make sense. At least, it doesn’t make sense if the purpose is to teach everyone the method to attain that Perfect State, whether that term is defined in Christian fashion as going to heaven post mortem, or in a Gnostic sense of attaining Knowledge. That is, emphatically, not the point of the teaching. It is designed to weed out the unworthy. Why it’s designed to do that is another question, one much harder to answer without moving completely into the realm of theology. So, while it may be bizarre, that is the intent. No other answer truly makes sense.

These words go all the way back to Mark, and are retained by the other two. Matthew & Luke retain this even though it does not exactly fit with their message. It fits quite comfortably with Mark; after all, Mark is the purveyor of the theme of the “Messianic Secret”. This fits with that. It fits rather nicely with Mark as the proto-Gnostic, for whom there were secrets and mysteries that were not for hoi polloi. But even then, the fit is rather nice, but not complete. For Mark, the disciples as a group were rather a collection of ¡dullards! who did not “get it” on a number of topics, and on a number of occasions. I suppose this is meant to underscore just how thick they really were; in Mark’s narrative, this comes at the beginning of Chapter 4, when Jesus is starting his ministry in earnest. That he tells the disciples the meaning of what he says, and they still don’t get it is a pretty savage indictment of the disciples. And this is one of the reasons I do not believe that Mark was the John Mark of Acts who was Peter’s assistant. If anything, Mark was an adherent of one of Peter’s rivals for primacy in the new organization.

The other thing, if this goes all the way back to Mark, it has a much better chance of being traceable back to Jesus. At least, the parable may trace back to Jesus, even if the explanation that we have here does not. Personally, I believe it quite likely (70-75%) that the Parable of the Sower may be “Genuine Jesus (GJ™)”;I have about the same level of certainty that the Sermon on the Mount was not. At least, not in anything like the way it’s presented. I suspect that some of the aphorisms in there–particularly the ones found in Mark, like the salt–may be GJ™. While reading Mark, we discussed the possible reasons why Mark kept repeating the theme; the answer that made the most sense to me was was that he was trying to explain why most Jews remained Jews. Then, on top of that, there was the insider’s nudge-nudge-wink-wink that, we got it, but they didn’t. From there, it’s not so long of a step to reading the idea of secret doctrines into the texts, or at least the implication that there was a secret doctrine to be learned, perhaps above and beyond what the text provided. IOW, it’s a short step from here to the idea of Gnosticism, or at least to the point that Gnosticism seems to be a logical inference. Was that the point of this? Perhaps. Mark was, I believe, hinting at there being more, something that even the disciples didn’t quite get. That’s a pretty strong invitation to induce someone to want to learn what that extra something might be.

So why do Matthew and Luke retain this bit? As we’ve seen, Luke in particular is not at all shy about ditching parts of Mark. I believe that he only retains 45% (IIRC; in that neighborhood) of Mark while Matthew retained close to 80 0r 90%. The question, of course, cannot be answered, even if you are able to come up with a redactionally consistent explanation for Luke’s gospel. The most likely reason that both kept this part is probably no different for why Mark added it in the first place: to explain why most Jews, ultimately, did not become followers of Jesus. They hear, but they did not understand. That may seem like a cop-out answer, but I don’t think that question would have gone away in a few generations. In fact, it only worsened, so that by the time John wrote, the Jews were portrayed as downright hostile. 

9 Interrogabant autem eum discipuli eius, quae esset haec parabola.

10 Quibus ipse dixit: “ Vobis datum est nosse mysteria regni Dei, ceteris autem in parabolis, ut videntes non videant et audientes non intellegant.

11 Ἔστιν δὲ αὕτη ἡ παραβολή: Ὁ σπόρος ἐστὶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ.

12 οἱ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, εἶτα ἔρχεται ὁ διάβολος καὶ αἴρει τὸν λόγον ἀπὸ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, ἵνα μὴ πιστεύσαντες σωθῶσιν.

13 οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς πέτρας οἳ ὅταν ἀκούσωσιν μετὰ χαρᾶς δέχονται τὸν λόγον, καὶ οὗτοι ῥίζαν οὐκ ἔχουσιν, οἳ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ ἀφίστανται.

14 τὸ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας πεσόν, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἀκούσαντες, καὶ ὑπὸ μεριμνῶν καὶ πλούτου καὶ ἡδονῶν τοῦ βίου πορευόμενοι συμπνίγονται καὶ οὐ τελεσφοροῦσιν.

15 τὸ δὲ ἐν τῇ καλῇ γῇ, οὗτοί εἰσιν οἵτινες ἐν καρδίᾳ καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον κατέχουσιν καὶ καρποφοροῦσιν ἐν ὑπομονῇ.

“Here is the parable. The seem is the word of God. (12) Those beside the road are those hearing, the the devil come and takes the word word from their hearts, so that lest believing, they be saved. (13) Those upon the rock are those (that) when they year with gladness they receive the word, but they do not have roots, they for a time believe and in time having been tested the stand away (from the word). (13) And that having fallen in the thorns, they are those hearing, but under thoughts of wealth and the pleasures of life going they are choked and they do not carry through to the end. (15) That which on the good soil, they are those who, hearing in a beautiful and good heart they receive and they bear fruit in abundance.” 

Perhaps the most notable part of this explanation is what is not there. Mark says that one of the reasons that some of the seed falls away is persecution and tribulation. Matthew follows. Many suspect, or interpret Mark as referring to the time of the conquest of Jerusalem. Writing after this fall, the idea of persecution or tribulation would have been fresh in the minds of most of the audience. Even for Matthew, writing fifteen years later, this whole time of troubles would have been a familiar concept. For Luke, however, we have to ask whether this would still be true. Oh sure, old timers would have remembered, and they would have told some of their kids and grandkids, but if Luke were writing somewhere other than Palestine (as it was then called) or Syria, how many would know of the Jewish War and its consequences? The number is impossible to estimate, but it’s pretty easy to put the estimate as much lower than the number during the life of Matthew, and especially the time of Mark. So why bring up a topic that would make people scratch their heads at the reference? And remember, Luke is the first of the evangelists about whom we can definitively say that he was aware of Paul, and probably at least some of Paul’s writings. Paul talked about persecution, or at least about “pressure” which is the word he most frequently used. So that Luke chose to drop this part about persecution is, I would suggest, very significant.

And not just because some fading of the urgency was due to the temporal receding of the tribulations. It also demonstrates very clearly that Luke will syncopate stories that are in the triple tradition. Luke’s is the shortest version of this story, and by a fairly sizable margin. This is the second time we’ve encountered this. At least, I thought it was. Now that I’m looking or it, I can’t find the first example. The story of the Gerasene/Gadarene demonaic is coming up, and Luke’s is not the shortest version of that pericope. This point again matters for the discussion of Luke as redactor, and what his “editorial policy” might be. It indicates that he was willing to change pretty much anything, even pieces that quite possibly originated with Jesus. As such, changing the order in Matthew’s material would not have seemed terribly radical to Luke. We saw, after all, how Luke had no qualms about moving the “prophet without honor in his home country” speech from it’s Markan context to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Here, Luke edits out some reasonably important words. This combination indicates, I believe, that Luke saw the tradition as very plastic, something to be worked rather than something to be maintained at all costs. Indeed, had he felt the latter, chances are he would not have written a gospel in the first place.

Which leads to a very interesting question. This is not one that will be found in the circles of standard NT scholarship. I’ve never seen it in Ehrman or Crossan, but my ignorance is in no way proof. I may be wrong. The question is, how did the evangelists perceive the inherited tradition? Specifically, how did they perceive the words that were supposedly uttered by Jesus? The answer to the first part, I believe, is that Matthew felt the tradition should be maintained, which is why Matthew retained so much of Mark. Luke on the other hand, had a much more fluid perception of the tradition; what’s more, I believe this attitude towards the tradition was, or was becoming prevalent. My proof for this? The Gospel of John, which pretty much jettisons most of the framework that even Luke maintained. Even more, I think that this attitude of plasticity even extended to the words of Jesus. “I am the vine, you are the branches”; “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; these are such foundation stones of Christian belief that I suspect it’s hard for most to accept that John made them up. Think about it: can we seriously expect that such beautifully-worded expressions were only retained by a single tradition, lying “dormant” as it were, until John picked them up and wrote them down? My apologies, but that is almost certainly impossible. Even by the time of Luke, the cross-fertilization of Christian (as it’s appropriate to call them) communities had reached the point that Paul was being incorporated into the body of belief, if perhaps not the written corpus quite yet–although that is certainly possible. To expect that there was still another isolated tradition that had cultivated these wonderful words that we find in John beggars the imagination. As Eliza Doolittle put it, “not bloody likely”.

After that conclusion, the question becomes one of “how far backwards did this plastic attitude extend”? Luke will make up the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; John made up the quotes mentioned above; did Mathew make up the Sermon on the Mount? I would suggest so, at least in part. But I’ve been pretty clear about that, so this opinion should come as no surprise.

11 Est autem haec parabola: Semen est verbum Dei.

12 Qui autem secus viam, sunt qui audiunt; deinde venit Diabolus et tollit verbum de corde eorum, ne credentes salvi fiant.

13 Qui autem supra petram: qui cum audierint, cum gaudio suscipiunt verbum; et hi radices non habent, qui ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recedunt.

14 Quod autem in spinis cecidit: hi sunt, qui audierunt et a sollicitudinibus et divitiis et voluptatibus vitae euntes suffocantur et non referunt fructum.

15 Quod autem in bonam terram: hi sunt, qui in corde bono et optimo audientes verbum retinent et fructum afferunt in patientia.

16 Οὐδεὶς δὲ λύχνον ἅψας καλύπτει αὐτὸν σκεύει ἢ ὑποκάτω κλίνης τίθησιν, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ λυχνίας τίθησιν, ἵνα οἱ εἰσπορευόμενοι βλέπωσιν τὸ φῶς.

17 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ φανερὸν γενήσεται, οὐδὲ ἀπόκρυφον ὃ οὐ μὴ γνωσθῇ καὶ εἰς φανερὸν ἔλθῃ.

18 βλέπετε οὖν πῶς ἀκούετε: ὃς ἂν γὰρ ἔχῃ, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, καὶ ὃς ἂν μὴ ἔχῃ, καὶ ὃ δοκεῖ ἔχειν ἀρθήσεται ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ.

“No one lighting a lamp hides the vessel, but puts it under the bed, but in a lamp stand puts it, so that those coming towards will see the light. (17) For naught that is hidden which will not become revealed, nor secreted away which will not be known and come into the light. (18) Therefore look how you listen. For he that has, it will be given to him, and he who does have, and what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

From a literary standpoint, these three verses really have nothing to do with each other. The idea of not hiding a light really is not related to hidden things becoming manifest. Yes, it’s possible to stretch the two metaphors so they overlap, suggesting that the lighted lamp is what brings the hidden things to light, but that’s exactly what it is: a stretch. And neither has anything to do with having and not having. Here is where the Q people really miss their opportunity. Rather than blathering about Matthew’s magnificent arrangement of the material, talk about the material itself. And this sort of  aggregation of non-connected aphorisms is the best material we have for a collection of Jesus’ sayings. These are all in Mark, so they cannot be considered Q material–rather, they represent the Mark-Q overlap–but I believe there is a high likelihood that they did originate with Jesus. I would be tempted to state that probability as exceeding 50%; better-than-even, IOW. How did these sayings get passed down? They could have been part of an oral tradition, which became fixed when Mark wrote them down. Or, they could have been collected. Rather than swinging for the fences by trying to claim all Matthew/Luke material is Q, set more modest goals, ones for which an actual argument or case can be constructed.

We need to face facts. Paul almost completely ignored anything Jesus said when the latter was alive. There are a few odds and end, the implementation of the Eucharist and Jesus’ teaching on divorce, which Paul contradicts. As has been frequently pointed out, the amount of teaching in Mark is pretty minimal. The Sermon on the Mount by itself probably has close to as many words spoken by Jesus as in all of Mark. Why the sudden explosion in verbosity on the part of Jesus between the two gospels? Because Matthew discovered Q? Or because Matthew encountered a passel of sayings attributed to Jesus, so he decided a new gospel was in order? At this point, I simply don’t know. A thread of logic has not presented itself. Despite all my pontificating and blowhardiness (to coin a word) I am not completely averse to the idea per se of a collection of Jesus’ sayings existing; I am vehemently opposed to Q as it currently “exists” in the minds of its adherents. Although as I go along at the moment, willing to make concessions, I find the concessions that I’m willing to make are shrinking. The ultimate sticking point is the utter, complete, and absolute lack of any evidence for such a collection. But more on this later. What I need to do is sketch out what a logical chain of events between the death of Jesus and the writings of Mark and then Matthew would look like, the focus being on what gotten written when, and possibly why. That is no small undertaking, and will be pure speculation. Sounds like fun. 

16 Nemo autem lucernam accendens operit eam vaso aut subtus lectum ponit, sed supra candelabrum ponit, ut intrantes videant lumen.

17 Non enim est occultum, quod non manifestetur, nec absconditum, quod non cognoscatur et in palam veniat.

18 Videte ergo quomodo audiatis: qui enim habet, dabitur illi; et, quicumque non habet, etiam quod putat se habere, auferetur ab illo ”.

Luke Chapter 8:4-8

This next passage is the Parable of the Sower. The original intent was to take the whole thing, parable and explanation in a single chunk straight through. This seemed reasonable since we’ve been through it twice already, so it seemed that, barring any unexpected deviations from the other two, the content of the story should not require much comment. Indeed, since we’ve been through it a couple of times, I thought I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything new and exciting to say about this. Cooler heads have prevailed and it’s been split into Parable and then Explanation.

I determined on this course before reading the passage below; for better or for worse, that is my chosen approach. The idea is to look at these stories and passages with eyes as fresh as possible. That way, I can–with luck–not simply see what has been seen for the past several centuries. So much of NT “scholarship” is sclerotic; conventions have been settled, translations have been chosen, and words are taken for granted. This is not how scholarship should work. The text has to be mined, repeatedly. With Greek history, much of the academic debate focuses on what the text actually says; Thucydides is the best/worst example of this, and scholars continue to go over each word looking for fresh insights. And this continued contention is good. We all know about angels and baptism and salvation, so we decided, a long, very long, time ago that the evangelists used the words as we do today. This is simply and horribly wrong, a very bad method for reading any text.

So the original approach seemed all well and good; however, like so much theory, it didn’t survive contact with reality.  Some new aspects have presented themselves. Overall, what I am finding is that having Luke as the third point really allows me to define the plane in a way not possible with just a comparison between Mark and Matthew. With three texts, triangulation becomes possible. Differences between the three stand out in much sharper relief.

So, let’s not make a short passage longer and go straight to the


4 Συνιόντος δὲ ὄχλου πολλοῦ καὶ τῶν κατὰ πόλιν ἐπιπορευομένων πρὸς αὐτὸν εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς,

5 Ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν αὐτὸν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν, καὶ κατεπατήθη καὶ τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατέφαγεν αὐτό.

6 καὶ ἕτερον κατέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν, καὶ φυὲν ἐξηράνθη διὰ τὸ μὴ ἔχειν ἰκμάδα.

7 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν ἀκανθῶν, καὶ συμφυεῖσαι αἱ ἄκανθαι ἀπέπνιξαν αὐτό.

8 καὶ ἕτερον ἔπεσεν εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν ἀγαθήν, καὶ φυὲν ἐποίησεν καρπὸν ἑκατονταπλασίονα. ταῦτα λέγων ἐφώνει, Ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω.

A large crowd and those having traveled into the city towards him he spoke through a parable, (5) Went out a sower of seed with his seeds. And some fell upon the road, and it was trod under and the birds of the heaven ate it. (6) And other fell upon the rocks, and grew it was withered because it did not have moisture. (7) And other fell in the middle of the acanthus, and it grew and the thorns strangled it. (8) And other fell on the good soil, and grew it made fruit one hundredfold. Having said these things, he spoke “The one having ears to hear, let him hear.”

That is the basic story. The interesting thing about it is the comparison. This is the shortest version; Mark’s is the longest. IOW, this runs contrary to what I’ve been saying about how legends grow over time. This one appears to be shrinking. What’s up with that? Am I wrong? Well, more wrong than usual?

It comes down to “always” and “never”. Never say always; alway avoid never. Almost nothing about human experience is binary, yes-or-no, black-or-white. If you’ll recall, Matthew’s version of the Gerasene demoniac was also shorter than Mark’s version. What we are witnessing is, I believe, the expectation that the reader would be familiar with, or have reference to the long version available in Mark. Neither Matthew nor Luke saw the need to repeat verbatim a story that had been told elsewhere. And this gets back to the issue of “why does one write a gospel?” Or even more, “why does one write a second/third gospel?” My theory about Mark is that he wrote in reaction to the fall of Jerusalem. An important–the important–centre of the proto-Christian world had been obliterated and the traditions started to fragment, or the fragmentation was growing worse. Mark sought to step into that breach and pull some of the most important aspects of the tradition into a united source. Mostly he succeeded, and marvelously, even if the seams do show. That can’t always be helped. Mark, as I see him, was more journalist than literary figure. 

What has been eliminated, both by Matthew and Luke are some of the incidental details, like the plants withering because they lacked moisture because of the sun. Blaming the sun is a tad redundant; it can be assumed. Matthew drops some of these, Luke some more. For example, both Mark and Matthew say that the good soil yielded 100, 60, or 30. Luke leaves it at one hundred. The other two numbers don’t add that much of significance. One last point: Matthew says that Jesus left his house to begin this parable; this would mean that he had moved to Caphernaum, which Matthew states explicitly. Luke rejects this move, telling us just as explicitly that Jesus lived in Nazareth, sounding for all the world like he is correcting Matthew. So Jesus cannot leave his house and to to the seaside because Nazareth is not on the Sea of Galilee, while Caphernaum is.

Then there’s Matthew. We see that his versions of this story and the Gerasene demoniac (and probably others) are shorter than Mark’s. But we also see that his version of the Temptations of Jesus is longer than Mark’s. Why the apparent contradiction? Because it’s more apparent than contradiction. Matthew added material to Mark when he had material to add (the source of the material to be discussed separately; Q is a valid discussion). When he didn’t, he either maintained or shortened what he found in Mark. The salient point about this subtraction is why? My impulse is, as suggested above, that Matthew expected that his audience knew of Mark, and so repeating certain things was, as he knew, redundant. If this is correct, it gives us insight into Luke as well. Luke omitted parts of Matthew, as well as parts of Mark because he knew they had been covered elsewhere. So Luke provides an alternative because he knew what was in both Mark and Matthew. 

Of course, this cannot be “proven”. Almost nothing about the NT can be “proven” in any way that the hard sciences or a court of law would recognise as “proof”. This statement is true about historical research in general, especially when discussing history before the 19th Century, becoming increasingly true the farther one goes back. We can say that the NT was written of course, but we cannot with any solid confidence say when or by whom it was written. Sometime between 70 and 120 seems reasonable, but that’s a mighty big span of time, like saying something was written between 1910 and 1960. A lot of stuff happened in the interim; however, the pace of change was much slower in the ancient world. In any case, history becomes a question of which set of probabilities seems the most likely. To me, it makes more sense that Luke shortened this story as much as he did because he knew about the other two versions. Now, Luke will add material to the triple tradition (the Synoptic material, in M/M/L); see the calling of the first disciples, with the addition of the Miraculous Catch of Fish.

The other thing I’m starting to suspect about triple tradition material is that it has the most potential to be something that can trace back to Jesus. This story is a perfect example. I think there is a greater likelihood that Jesus told this parable than that he gave the Sermon on the Mount. A much greater likelihood, in fact. One of the things we have to face is the possibility that Jesus was not the teacher that we believe he was, that he didn’t give speeches like the Sermon on the Mount. We have to face the possibility that Mark’s Jesus is much closer to the real thing than Matthew’s is, and that by the time of Luke all the new stuff is pretty much fiction that we can’t use to triangulate the “truth” about the historical Jesus. Always, always, always recall that Paul said almost nothing about Jesus as a teacher, focusing almost entirely on Jesus as the Christ who had been raised from the dead. If you start from that place, the additions of Matthew and then Luke seem pretty clearly to be later additions; then, since the additions of Matthew and Luke are just that, the point of Q is largely lost.

The last injunction about letting those with eyes/ears see/understand I think gets dismissed too readily as pro-forma. I say that because I have pretty much dismissed it a pro-forma until about a minute ago. If we take this in the context of Christian thinking, perhaps it is pro-forma; however, if we look at it from a proto-Gnostic perspective, it may take on a different set of implications. It may help that I’ve been translating something called Poimandres, the Shepherd of Men/Humans. It is now classified as a Gnostic text, and it probably dates to the mid Second Century, perhaps eight or nine decades after Mark. I mention this because there are several strains of thought that have become explicit in that text that were only implicit in Mark. It’s also interesting to note that this was taken as a legitimate bit of Christian writing for a while; obviously, it never made the cut to canonical status, but a number of Second and possibly even Third Century Christian thinkers accepted it as orthodox. The injunctions that Jesus speaks are eminently Gnostic in approach; or perhaps better to say they were taken up wholly by later Gnostics. What are they, after all, but admonitions to learn, actually to see what is before us, and to understand what we hear. The technical term for this is “paying attention”, or perhaps “learning”.  And what do we learn? Knowledge. And what does Gnosis mean? Knowledge. 

Now in a strictly Christian setting, these injunctions can be explained in completely orthodox fashion. After all, “Narrow is the gate” that leads to the kingdom. Not all will make it. Some would, and have, said that most, in fact, will not make it through the gate. Why? Because they did not learn the lessons Jesus taught them. They did not actually see, nor did they understand what they heard. So Jesus’ words here watered what became two very different traditions; or are they so different? That is the point I’m trying to make here. A shade here, a shade there, and two can start from the same point–let him with ears understand–and end up in rather different places, whether the kingdom of God or Enlightenment, for want of a better term. And then we have additional implications. The message of  the Gospel of Thomas is very clearly Gnostic, rather than Christian. Regarding this, it must be kept in mind that this separation really did not exist in the First Century; it only came into being in the Second. And here is where historical training pays off, because it looks at concepts diachronically, through time and as they develop. Textual analysis tends not to pay attention to this development through time of the content of the text. This is why I do not, and cannot, accept a date in the First Century for the Gospel of Thomas; this is has implications for Q; The discovery of Thomas was seen as a huge victory for the Q position, since it demonstrated the existence of a sayings gospel of the sort that Q was purported to be. By pushing the date of Thomas back to the 50s of the First Century, it could be claimed that Thomas proved that a gospel like Q could have existed in the 50s; it showed that the first gospels were, in fact, sayings gospels rather than narrative gospels like Mark. Unfortunately for the Q position, a date anywhere in the First Century for Thomas is unsustainable on the grounds of content. Just as the Q proponents ignore the content of stories–does the healing of the centurion’s slave really fit in the 30s?–so they ignore the content of Thomas when assigning dates–is such a fully developed Gnostic attitude possible in the First Century? In my opinion, the answer to both is “No”. A resounding “No”.

4 Cum autem turba plurima conveniret, et de singulis civitatibus properarent ad eum, dixit per similitudinem:

5 “Exiit, qui seminat, seminare semen suum. Et dum seminat ipse, aliud cecidit secus viam et conculcatum est, et volucres caeli comederunt illud.

6 Et aliud cecidit super petram et natum aruit, quia non habebat umorem.

7 Et aliud cecidit inter spinas, et simul exortae spinae suffocaverunt illud.

8 Et aliud cecidit in terram bonam et ortum fecit fructum centuplum”. Haec dicens clamabat: “Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat”.


Luke Chapter 8:1-3

We’re beginning the chapter with a very short segment. The narrative is such that the next section is the Parable of the Sower; there is no really clean break in there between the parable and the explanation to the disciples. So rather than try to cram too much together, I’ll take the breaks as logically as possible, but forcing them when necessary. These first three verses are unique to Luke. In some ways, they have little or nothing with the overall course of the narrative as it unwinds. Rather than making them irrelevant, I think this makes them fascinating. Without further ado, let’s get to the


1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ καθεξῆς καὶ αὐτὸς διώδευεν κατὰ πόλιν καὶ κώμην κηρύσσων καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενος τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ οἱ δώδεκα σὺν αὐτῷ, 2 καὶ γυναῖκές τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν, Μαρία ἡκαλουμένη Μαγδαληνή, ἀφ’ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει, 3 καὶ Ἰωάννα γυνὴ Χουζᾶ ἐπιτρόπου Ἡρῴδου καὶ Σουσάννα καὶ ἕτεραι πολλαί, αἵτινες διηκόνουν αὐτοῖς ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐταῖς.

And it happened in the next part he also went into the city and village proclaiming and evangelizing the kingdom of God, and the Twelve with him, (2) and some women who were healed from wicked spirits and illnesses, Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven demons she was released, (3) and Johanna the wife of Chouza the steward of Herod, and Susanna and many others, they who administered to them (masculine = Jesus & disciples) from the possessions to them (feminine = the women. The women administered to Jesus & Co from their own funds/resources).

Let’s start at the end, because that is where the fascinating part resides. “They administered (diacon = deacon) to them (masculine; = Jesus & the Twelve) from the possessions to them (feminine, = the women). I don’t recall whether I first speculated on this with Matthew or all the way back in Mark, but I did so without (conscious, at least) knowledge of this passage. In Mark and Matthew the Magdalene does not appear until the crucifixion (Mark) or burial (Matthew), and then afterwards she plays a very prominent role in the Resurrection stories. This struck me as odd that this woman appears very late in the story and then takes on a starring role. Mark says that she followed Jesus in Galilee; this, coupled with the suggestion of the men in white that the disciples should return to Galilee, seemed suggestive. What it suggested to me is “confirmed” here: that she was a financial s0% upporter of Jesus. IOW, Jesus was a “kept” man who was liberated from the necessity of anything so pedestrian as earning a living because Mary of Magdala was supporting him monetarily. This financial support, I suspected, gave her a role in crafting the Resurrection story, and perhaps that of the Passion as well.

I put “confirmed” in quotes because we really have to question whether Luke really had a line on this. OTOH, this is really an odd thing to say out of the blue. Let’s go back to Paul, and some of the women that he mentions who seem like they held important roles in the organization of the various communities. Here’s the thing: older men married young girls in the ancient world. The result was a lot of youngish (mid-30s, give or take; not an exact number) widows with not-negligible financial resources. It has been suggested that Paul was so intent that widows not remarry so that they could better support the communities; a bit cynical, but not out of the question; churches have been doing much the same for centuries. Should we believe this? Can we believe this? Tough questions. The circumstances by themselves are more than plausible, so there is no inherent logical flaw. There are lots of analogous situations, but does that mean these circumstances prevailed in this situation? I would put the likelihood of this being true at better than 50/50, but that’s not really a ringing endorsement. Saying it’s more likely than a coin flip isn’t saying much. I would stretch to maybe a 1/3 chance, but not much higher. Normally, I would suggest that Luke reinforces the statement by providing reasons why the women followed him: because they had been cured of demons. The problem with this is that Luke is such a late source, that any historical information he gives shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I’d like it to be true since it would help my case, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Here’s the thing. I do believe that the early rulers of the church believed that these women were financial supporters. Or, perhaps more accurately, I believe that these early churchmen were afraid this was true. The problem this raises is that it gives women too important, and too prominent a role in the founding of Jesus’ ministry. Without some kind of monetary support, the whole thing would probably have not gotten off the ground. And the church men would have found this reliance on women to be both mortifying and unacceptable. As such, they would have found it necessary to undercut this prominence. How? Well, by spreading the rumor that the woman who anointed Jesus was none other than Mary Magdalene, whom we just discovered in the previous passage, was a prostitute. So there you go: instant and extensive devaluation of her credibility. Never mind that none of the evangelists make the connexion between the two women, but let’s run the smear campaign. If enough people think it’s accurate, then it becomes accurate, no? Jeez, where have I heard that sort of thinking before?

And the juxtaposition of the two stories also argues against Mary M being the woman who anointed Jesus. If they were the same woman, why not just say so? Luke will be introducing Mary M in the very next chapter anyway, so why not move it back a few verses and make the identification clear? 

It’s worth pointing out that this is only the third time that Luke references the Kingdom of God. The first two came during the Sermon on the Plain. The references will start to come much faster. It’s interesting; I just took a look back at Luke so far. Until this point, something less than half the narrative has dealt with the period of Jesus’ public ministry. The Temptations by Satan occurred in Chapter 4, as did the miraculous catch of fish. Only now are we sort of getting to the heart of the message.  There were quite a few miracles in these last few chapters; will that number decrease? Has Luke sort of gotten them out of the way, so that he can focus on the teaching now? Time will tell.

Just wanted to mention that Joanna/Johanna was the wife of the steward of Herod. This is novel and unique. It need not be taken seriously. It does, however, provide a great insight into how the legend grew. We’ve already incorporated Nain; now the Herodians are joining, too.

The other thing is the Twelve. This is only the second time Luke has mentioned them, the first being when they were chosen back in Chapter 6. They will be mentioned again in the next chapter, and then will go back into hibernation until Chapter 19. Overall, the Twelve really don’t do much. In fact, only five of Jesus’ followers have names: Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Levi. Or rather, only these five are more than just a name, and Levi/Matthew barely being more than that. It is interesting to note that in all three Synoptics the Twelve are mentioned most often in the Passion and Resurrection stories. This suggests to me that these latter two stories were not added until later, and that the Twelve had been instituted by that point. I believe that the Twelve were named by James, brother of Jesus, the ‘caliph’ (as he has been called) after Jesus had died. That is when the sending out of preachers would have become a more important function of the community, perhaps that of Jerusalem in particular. It’s interesting to see the list of “Twelve” as used in Matthew. The number comes up thirteen times, but five of them are not references to The Twelve. Rather, the Bleeding Woman had been discharging blood for twelve years, there were twelve baskets of crumbs left after one of the feedings, the Twelve will sit on twelve thrones for the twelve tribes (capitalised?) and Jesus could call down twelve legions of angels to save him from arrest. The symbolism, and the importance of the symbolism, is clear enough. Twelve months, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes…

Hey, I just made it through an entire comment without a reference to Q!

 1 Et factum est deinceps, et ipse iter faciebat per civitatem et ca stellum praedicans et evangelizans regnum Dei; et Duodecim cum illo

2 et mulieres aliquae, quae erant curatae ab spiritibus malignis et infirmitatibus: Maria, quae vocatur Magdalene, de qua daemonia septem exierant,

3 et Ioanna uxor Chuza, procuratoris Herodis, et Susanna et aliae multae, quae ministrabant eis de facultatibus suis.

Luke Chapter 7:40-50

This actually is part of the previous story, a continuation of the woman who anointed Jesus. He is dining at the house of a Pharisee. After the woman anointed Jesus, the Pharisee became put out because of the sort of woman she was, and if Jesus was a prophet, he would have known this and avoided her. However, the Pharisee didn’t actually say this, but merely thought it. So to avoid any spoilers, let’s move on to the


40 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Σίμων, ἔχω σοί τι εἰπεῖν. ὁ δέ, Διδάσκαλε, εἰπέ, φησίν. 

Answering, Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you”. But he (Simon) said, “Teacher, speak it.” 

First, commend my restraint for not making a Simon Says joke. Second, this is the first time we get the Pharisee’s name. What is interesting is that in the 2M versions of this story, this event takes place at the home of Simon the Leper. Luke, in contrast, placed it in the home of an unknown Pharisee. Now, he’s suddenly–and suspiciously–given the name of Simon. Coincidence? You decide. All of the proper biblical scholars will jump on this as a great example of “editorial fatigue”, that phenomenon when a later editor starts out to change the circumstances (some of them, anyway) of a story and starts out doing so. But then, some part of the way through, the task of changing details becomes ever so tiresome and the editor slips back into the circumstances found in the original version. My thought on this concept has tended towards…really? It’s that hard? But the we run into this and it gives pause. The question of course, is whether Luke just decided to call him Simon because…Why not? The thing is, Jesus did not have a discussion with Simon in either of the other versions. The dinner took place in his home, but Jesus had the discussion about the propriety of the action with the disciples. I would guess that this is not so much fatigue as Luke deciding to use the name Simon to connect back to those earlier versions. We have seen Luke do things like this: find the unusual word and repeat it three times in two verses, or choose to echo Matthew, to dance all around Matthew’s narrative without ever quite mentioning it. This just feels like something Luke would do here, to throw it back to M&M while never citing them directly.

The third thing is that Jesus is in another of those situations in which he can read minds. The interesting thing is that he does this most often with the mind of a Pharisee. It’s not always a Pharisee; just most cases. This goes all the way back to Mark when they are muttering to themselves about Jesus’ actions in the synagogues. Just something I noticed. As for the mind reading, it’s clearly Jesus being a divine being. By this point, this trait has become rather commonplace for Jesus in these narratives.

40 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad illum: “ Simon, habeo tibi aliquid dicere ”. At ille ait: “Magister, dic”.

41 δύο χρεοφειλέται ἦσαν δανιστῇ τινι: ὁ εἷς ὤφειλεν δηνάρια πεντακόσια, ὁ δὲ ἕτερος πεντήκοντα.

42 μὴ ἐχόντων αὐτῶν ἀποδοῦναι ἀμφοτέροις ἐχαρίσατο. τίς οὖν αὐτῶν πλεῖον ἀγαπήσει αὐτόν;

43 ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν,Ὑπολαμβάνω ὅτι ᾧ τὸ πλεῖον ἐχαρίσατο. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ὀρθῶς ἔκρινας.

44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς ἐξέμαξεν.

45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας.

46 ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας: αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου.

47 οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγον ἀγαπᾷ.

48 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι.

49 καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;

50 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

Two debtors owed to a certain money lender; the first owed five hundred denarii, the other fifty. (42) They not having to give back, he graced both. So which of them loved him (the creditor) more? (43) Answering, Simon said, “I would undertake that the one owing more. He (Jesus) said to him, “You have answered straight”. (44) And turning to the woman he (Jesus) said to Simon, “Look at this woman. I have come to your home, water to me upon the feet you did not give. She with tears washed my feet, and with her hair dried them. (45) You did not give me a kiss; she has from which (i.e., the time/hour which) I came has not stopped kissing my feet. (47) You did not anoint my head with oil. She has anointed my feet with ointment. (47) Of which grace I tell you her many sins have been taken away, that she will love much. To whom little has been taken, loves a little. (48) I say to her, ‘your sins are forgiven’.” (49) And those seated around began to say among themselves, “Who is he who also to take away sins?” (50) He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”.

With this ending, the story now offers a radically different message than it did in 2M, or than it will in John. It is not at all about the poor, nor is it about Jesus’ impending death. Neither of these are mentioned, and neither plays any role in the moral, or the lesson, or the purpose of the tale. Rather, Luke has transformed it into a tale about the way Jesus was–or, more properly, was not–accepted by “polite” Jewish society. It also explains why we are in the home of a Pharisee, and not of a former leper; the former is an intrinsic member of that “polite society” whereas a leper would  not have been. I have no idea what the status of a healed/cleansed leper would have been, because I have the understanding that such cleansing/healing did not happen very often; as such, rules would not have formed on how to deal with the situation. But there were rules about how a member of polite society should accept a guest, just as there are today. Novels of upper crust society written in the 19th Century are replete with such rules; read enough of this fiction and one could become sufficiently competent to fulfill them. On the other hand, I don’t know enough about these rules to judge whether what Jesus describes the actions that Simon did not do were actually standard practice.

The good news is that we don’t have to know to effect a judgement on the intent of the story. Jesus provides rules and, presumably, those hearing the story may not have necessarily been sufficiently versed to know that Simon had violated social protocol, but, to the average listener, these rules seem sufficiently reasonable, or logical, to be accepted under the conditions of a “willing suspension of disbelief”.  Jesus gives the rules, points out that Simon did not follow them, but the woman did. That’s enough; this is not history, or even historical fiction. It’s myth and/or hagiography. These stories operate under their own rules. That’s all we need. This reminds me of one of the books written by JD Crossan, The Historical Jesus (IIRC), in which he seeks to recreate the society of Jesus by analogy to other traditional societies in the Mediterranean, not all of them necessarily contemporaneous with Jesus. I did not find this book terribly convincing, but the point here is that it does not matter. This “pericope” is not “based on a true story”, and it doesn’t depend on whether Simon violated polite practice. None of that matters.

What does matter is that, in this version, Jesus was not treated as someone who was treated as a full member of “society” (as Tolstoy used the term in Anna Karenina), whatever the actual rules were. In contrast, a woman, a “sinner”, an outcast from society regardless of whether she was a prostitute did fulfill the rules of welcome and acceptance. To her, Jesus was an esteemed guest to be received with full–more than full–honors. Of course, the episode is a metaphor, or symbolic of the rejection of Jesus by most Jews. Perhaps by the time Mark wrote, and certainly by the time Matthew wrote, the followers of Jesus were mostly pagans, and both of the previous evangelists were at some pains to explain why. Luke, I think, is doing that here. This is likely why he changed the dinner host from an erstwhile leper to a Pharisee, to show how polite Jewish society had not embraced Jesus and his teachings. This is not entirely the first time Luke has done this; the first time occurred very early in Jesus’ career, when he went back to Nazareth in Chapter 3. At the time we (or I) wondered why Luke changed the timing of the story as he had. Now I think we (or I) know: that was more than just to show that Jesus had not been accepted in his home town. The story was meant to have wider implications. Not only was Jesus not accepted in Nazareth, but in Galilee and Judea as a whole.

44 καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα τῷ Σίμωνι ἔφη, Βλέπεις ταύτην τὴν γυναῖκα; εἰσῆλθόν σου εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, ὕδωρ μοι ἐπὶ πόδας οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἔβρεξέν μου τοὺς πόδας καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆςἐξέμαξεν.

45 φίλημά μοι οὐκ ἔδωκας: αὕτη δὲ ἀφ’ ἧς εἰσῆλθον οὐ διέλιπεν καταφιλοῦσά μου τοὺς πόδας. 46ἐλαίῳ τὴν κεφαλήν μου οὐκ ἤλειψας:αὕτη δὲ μύρῳ ἤλειψεν τοὺς πόδας μου. 47οὗ χάριν λέγω σοι, ἀφέωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι αὐτῆς αἱ πολλαί, ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ: ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον ἀφίεται, ὀλίγονἀγαπᾷ. 48εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῇ, Ἀφέωνταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι. 49καὶ ἤρξαντο οἱ συνανακείμενοι λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν;50εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα, Ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε: πορεύου εἰς εἰρήνην.

Here, too, we see the literary quality of Luke. He arranges his pieces deliberately. He set this scene up in Chapter 3 and then drove home the point here. Mark’s gospel is purely episodic; many, many verses start with “and…” Matthew is mostly so, but with long–or longer–interludes of teaching, such as the three-point-five chapters containing the Sermon on the Mount. Luke is much less so, and John will culminate this trend with his unitary, thematic gospel. Of course this ties back in with Q; Luke takes entirely a different approach to his gospel than even Matthew. The second gospel written mainly preserved Mark’s framework while adding long–or longer–sections of teaching. Luke, in contrast, re-thinks the entire process to create a more literary gospel, one more closely resembling a novel rather than something vaguely like a biographical essay. 

41 “Duo debitores erant cuidam feneratori: unus debebat denarios quingentos, alius quinquaginta.

42 Non habentibus illis, unde redderent, donavit utrisque. Quis ergo eorum plus diliget eum? ”.

43 Respondens Simon dixit: “ Aestimo quia is, cui plus donavit ”. At ille dixit ei: “ Recte iudicasti ”.

44 Et conversus ad mulierem, dixit Simoni: “ Vides hanc mulierem? Intravi in domum tuam: aquam pedibus meis non dedisti; haec autem lacrimis rigavit pedes meos et capillis suis tersit.

45 Osculum mihi non dedisti; haec autem, ex quo intravi, non cessavit osculari pedes meos.

46 Oleo caput meum non unxisti; haec autem unguento unxit pedes meos.

47 Propter quod dico tibi: Remissa sunt peccata eius multa, quoniam dilexit multum; cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit ”.

48 Dixit autem ad illam: “Remissa sunt peccata tua”.

49 Et coeperunt, qui simul accumbebant, dicere intra se: “Quis est hic, qui etiam peccata dimittit?”.

50 Dixit autem ad mulierem: “ Fides tua te salvam fecit; vade in pace! ”.


Luke Chapter 7:36-39

At the end of the last section, we left Jesus talking about the children of wisdom, or perhaps of Sophia. One thing I neglected to mention is that Sophia wasn’t exclusively, or wasn’t originally, a Gnostic concept. It had roots in Judaism as well as Greek thought. So many of the ideas and concepts of a religious  nature kept floating around in the eastern Mediterranean in particular, combining and recombining and mutating that it gets to be very difficult to untangle the skein and figure out who thought of it first, who influenced whom, etc.

In any case, we’re coming into the story of the woman with the perfume who anointed Jesus. This is part of the Triple Tradition, so it shows up in all three Synoptic gospels. I made this point in the discussion of the story when we came across it in Matthew, but it bears repeating: in none of the three versions is the woman ever identified by name. In particular, she is never identified as Mary Magdalene. And yet, tradition has come to identify the anointing woman with the Magdalene. This is a very, very strong cautionary tale about the value of tradition. Pappias said this, Eusebios said that, Mark the Evangelist was John Mark of Acts who was the associate of Peter…all these things get asserted without any real–or even tenuous–evidence. We have the bald word of the later writer, and sometimes the assertions are only preserved because it was quoted by an even later author. I read a bunch of Eusebios, and I was not at all impressed. He was a contemporary of Constantine, who set about creating more or less the Official History of the Church. This was the Authorized Version, published after Christianity had come out from the shadows and become the religion of the Emperor. I don’t find such a chain of evidence terribly convincing.

So there is absolutely no reason to  assume this woman is Mary Magdalene. But wait, there’s more. At the end of the passage, we are told that the woman was a “sinner”…On second thought, let’s leave that for the commentary at the end. For now, let’s get into the


36 Ἠρώτα δέ τις αὐτὸν τῶν Φαρισαίων ἵνα φάγῃ μετ’ αὐτοῦ: καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Φαρισαίου κατεκλίθη.

Some one of the Pharisees asked in order that he (Jesus) might eat with him (the Pharisee). And coming into the house of the Pharisee, he reclined.

Quick note: “reclined” became synonymous with “eating”, since one reclined on couches to eat.

36 Rogabat autem illum quidam de pharisaeis, ut manducaret cum illo; et ingressus domum pharisaei discubuit.

37 καὶ ἰδοὺ γυνὴ ἥτις ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἁμαρτωλός, καὶ ἐπιγνοῦσα ὅτι κατάκειται ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ Φαρισαίου, κομίσασα ἀλάβαστρον μύρου

38 καὶ στᾶσα ὀπίσω παρὰ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ κλαίουσα, τοῖς δάκρυσιν ἤρξατο βρέχειν τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ταῖς θριξὶν τῆς κεφαλῆς αὐτῆς ἐξέμασσεν, καὶ κατεφίλει τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ καὶ ἤλειφεν τῷ μύρῳ.

39 ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Φαρισαῖος ὁ καλέσας αὐτὸν εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων, Οὗτος εἰ ἦν προφήτης, ἐγίνωσκεν ἂν τίς καὶ ποταπὴ ἡ γυνὴ ἥτις ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ἁμαρτωλός ἐστιν.

And look, some woman, a sinner in the city, and knowing that he reclined in the house of the Pharisee, having carried an alabaster jar of ointment (38) and standing behind by his feet weeping, her tears began to wash his feet and with the hair of her head wiped, and kissed his feet and anointed with the ointment. (39) Seeing the Pharisee calling him said to himself, “This is (as) if he were a prophet, he knew (would have known) of what sort this woman (is who) touches him, that she is a sinner.”

We are told twice that she is a “sinner”. We are, I suppose, to infer from this that she was a special kind of sinner, which implies, I suppose, a prostitute. At least, I suppose that is what we are supposed to suppose. The later tradition has not only identified the Magdalene with this woman, and that Mary M has become a prostitute in the same tradition. This passage is the only possible biblical basis for this later tradition. And it conflates prostitution, the Magdalene, and the anointing of Jesus, when in fact there is no reason to believe this woman was Mary Magdalene. And Luke is the only version that emphasizes that she was a “sinner”, just as Luke is the only one to tell us that Jesus cured Mary M of seven demons. 

This very nicely a couple of the points I’ve been making throughout this effort. The first is that stories grow. I’ve made repeated references, allusions, and comparisons to the legend of King Arthur. There is a general consensus that Arthur, in some form, did exist as a living man. There is universal consensus that virtually all the rest is later invention. Hence Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, the Round Table, the Holy Grail, Percival, Gawaine, and all the rest are the creations of later poets. The story grew with time. And so here we have Mary Magdalene. In one of the previous commentaries I speculated that she was a financial supporter of Jesus from Galilee. She arrives in Mark only in the Passion Narrative, and then she is prominent in the Resurrection story. In Matthew, this includes the disciples returning to Galilee, which I would posit indicates the influence of Mary. (As an aside, Wikipedia says that there are two places in Galilee that were named, or could have been named, Magdala; both cites come from the HS, and Matthew mentions a place that has been transliterated as Magdala and as Magadan. The point is, they are all in Galilee.) We are all much too familiar with the way women were excised from the canonical NT; Paul in particular mentions several women who seemed to take leading roles in various communities. As a result, leaving the Magdalene in a role of prominence did not suit the ideas of the patristic fathers, so Mary had to be downgraded. But this tradition of Mary grew in a different way, too, the culmination of which was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code; however, it should be noted that this rumour of Mary’s relationship to Jesus predates Mr Brown by numerous centuries.

The second point this demonstrates is just how unreliable the later tradition can be. And if it can be this unreliable, it probably is unreliable. Bear in mind that Pappias had no evidence that Mark the Evangelist was John Mark of Acts. The way this latter inference was drawn is pretty much identical to the way the inference about this woman and the Magdalene was drawn. This woman is in all three gospels, but is named in none of them. Yet, Jesus says (in Mark and Matthew, anyway), that her deed will be remembered as long as Jesus is remembered. And yet, the performer of the deed has disappeared. But we have Mary Magdalene floating about at loose ends, so let’s connect the dots, whether making this connexion is warranted or not. Just so, we have a gospel attributed to Mark. Who the hell was Mark? Oh wait, there’s a guy who is named–sort of–Mark in Acts; ergo, they must be the same person. This conclusion was made despite the fact that, while Mark supposedly recorded for Peter, the “upon this rock” quote is missing, as is most of what Jesus supposedly taught, plus that Mark’s Peter is a dullard at best. With a friend like Mark, Peter certainly didn’t need any enemies. So we see the danger, the great danger, of relying on anything the later tradition said. Just based on probability, some of the points of the tradition may have gotten some things correct, but which things? Since we have no real way to know which traditions are reliable, we have to look–very carefully–at the internal evidence of the texts to see which traditions can be seen to be internally consistent. Mark = John Mark fails this test of internal consistency, in my opinion, anyway. You have one tenuous connexion of names vs. several points which seem to invalidate that connexion; this implies failure. And we have three versions of this story, and the woman is not named in any of them, and she is only–possibly–identified as a prostitute in one of them. So based on this lack of supporting evidence, plus the fact that Mary does not appear until the Passion, indicates, in my opinion, that this woman was not Mary the Magdalene,

This version of the story is also very interesting from another perspective. Matthew followed Mark’s version very closely, whereas Luke cut out about half of the story, but adds the detail about the woman being a prostitute. What are the implications? I would suggest that Luke did not feel the need to repeat the story in full because there were already two versions of the story that said pretty much the same thing. Why go over such well-trodden ground again? Here we see that Luke was not afraid to change or edit Mark; why do we suppose he would have been reluctant to change or edit Matthew? Yes, this goes back to Q, and all the ridiculous questions of “Why, on earth, would Luke change Matthew?” Why indeed? The answer to this question, which is always posed as some unsolvable conundrum, continues to be very simple: because if Luke simply followed Matthew, he’d simply be re-writing Matthew. And it is said, over and over again, how Luke situates his stories (his pericopae) differently than Matthew. Well, here he’s located it in a very different place from Mark as well. In the other two versions, this event occurs just before the Last Supper, in the final week of Jesus’ life. Here it’s well before that. So if he’s not afraid to mess with Mark’s placement, why the faux puzzlement about messing with Matthew’s placement? This staring askance at Luke’s outrageous behavior is simply a rhetorical dodge, something that the Q proponents resort to because they don’t have a legitimate case to make. And let’s recall that Luke also moved Jesus’ return to his hometown from the middle of Mark (Chapter 6) to the very early days of Jesus’ ministry (Chapter 4). Again, Luke’s not afraid to mess things up a little bit, or even a lot. And again, part of the reason Luke did this–maybe the main reason Luke did this, and many other changes–is to make sure he didn’t just re-create Matthew. the very fact that it is so messed up so consistently makes me see the hand of intent behind this. And that doesn’t mean Luke was a crank or a madman. That whole “only a crank would do this deliberately” really grates on my nerves because, first and foremost, it’s not an argument, but a value judgement.

So yes, Luke deliberately messed with Matthew’s organization. But no, he was not a crank or a madman.

There are other omissions from the story as seen in Mark and Matthew. One is that Jesus said the woman was preparing his body for burial. That omission makes sense since this event occurs close to the time of Jesus’ death in M&M, but not here. Perhaps incidentally, but certainly more puzzling is the question of why Luke changed the physical location of this. In both Mark and Matthew it’s set, we are told, in the house of Simon the (most likely former) leper. Here it’s in the house of a Pharisee. Apologies, but I cannot come up with an explanation that will account for this change that is redactionaly* consistent with all the other changes Luke makes. Of course, suggesting that I need to do this in order to account for no-Q is absurd; I don’t have to prove Q didn’t exist. The people who propose the theory have to prove (or at least present a decent case) that Q did exist. The takeaway from this is that I’m not sure I can imagine a rationale that would make sense, but then, I could just be lacking in imagination.

The most glaring omission, however, is the lack of disciples and the bit about how “the poor will always be with you”. Now, Luke is supposedly more concerned with the poor than either of the other two, a position with which I tend to agree; hence, “blessed are the poor…the hungry…” That being the case, why are the disciples not here to object? Even more than M&M, John puts the story back in, with the added detail that Judas objected because he wanted to embezzle some of the money for himself. Essentially, Luke jettisons all of that in favor of the Pharisee calling her (apparently) a prostitute, and being unsettled and a bit disgusted that Jesus can’t see the woman for what she is. And since Luke made the switch, Luke obviously (well, at least apparently) saw this as the more important message to get across. Why? Part of the reason, of course, is to show how closed-minded and short-sighted the Pharisee is, but that’s a given, and it’s also implicit in the disciples lack of understanding. Or is that it? Luke didn’t want it to be the disciples who missed the point? I’m not positive, but that seems like a possible explanation. After all, John subsequently comes up with a more elegant way to dodge that issue. That sort of just occurred to me, but the idea is growing on me.

Maybe it will stick. Maybe not. I’m open to suggestions.

While we’re at it, let’s tack this on. Matthew began the rehabilitation of the disciples. Here, by substituting the Pharisee as the villain, Luke is continuing on in that tradition. Yes, it could be that Luke was doing this independently of Matthew, but…really? Apologies, but I think this is another marker to put on the side of non-Q.

[* Apparently not a real word, but I swear I came across it in one of the Q proponents. It was likely a different form of the word. Or, perhaps that writer was willing to attempt to coin the neologism. ]

37 Et ecce mulier, quae erat in civitate peccatrix, ut cognovit quod accubuit in domo pharisaei, attulit alabastrum unguenti;

38 et stans retro secus pedes eius flens lacrimis coepit rigare pedes eius et capillis capitis sui tergebat, et osculabatur pedes eius et unguento ungebat.

39 Videns autem pharisaeus, qui vocaverat eum, ait intra se dicens: “ Hic si esset propheta, sciret utique quae et qualis mulier, quae tangit eum, quia peccatrix est ”.