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Luke Chapter 15:11-32 The Prodigal Son

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

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

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



11 Εἶπεν δέ, Ἄνθρωπός τις εἶχεν δύο υἱούς.

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

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

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

11 Ait autem: “ Homo quidam habebat duos filios.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Et surgens venit ad patrem suum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Luke Chapter 14:25-34

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 14:7-15

The break between the last piece and this is not entirely sharp. In Verses 1-6, Jesus was at dinner with some Pharisees. There was some contention about whether it was lawful to heal on the sabbath. Presumably the “those” in Verse 7 still refers to the group that is gathered at the table—or the group reclining on couches, as was the standard means of eating in much of the ancient Mediterranean. This was true to the point that “reclining” was more or less a synonym for “eating a dinner”. Hence we come to the term translated “first couches”. The word is compound, the second part being a place to lie down; hence, a place to recline, or a couch.


7 Ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς κεκλημένους παραβολήν, ἐπέχων πῶς τὰς πρωτοκλισίας ἐξελέγοντο, λέγων πρὸς αὐτούς,

8 Οταν κληθῇς ὑπό τινος εἰς γάμους, μὴ κατακλιθῇς εἰς τὴν πρωτοκλισίαν, μή ποτε ἐν τιμότερός σου ᾖ κεκλημένος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ,

9 καὶ ἐλθὼν ὁ σὲ καὶ αὐτὸν καλέσας ἐρεῖ σοι, Δὸς τούτῳ τόπον, καὶ τότε ἄρξῃ μετὰ αἰσχύνης τὸν ἔσχατον τόπον κατέχειν.

10 ἀλλ’ ὅταν κληθῇς πορευθεὶς ἀνάπεσε εἰς τὸν ἔσχατον τόπον, ἵνα ὅταν ἔλθῃ ὁ κεκληκώς σε ἐρεῖ σοι, Φίλε, προσανάβηθι ἀνώτερον: τότε ἔσται σοι δόξα ἐνώπιον πάντων τῶν συνανακειμένων σοι.

He said to those who had been called (= invited) a parable, having beheld how they chose the first couches, speaking to them, (8) “When having been called ( = invited) by someone to a wedding, do not recline yourself on the first couches, lest, someone in higher honor ( = social rank) having been invited, (9) and coming the one who invited you and the other says to you, ‘Give (up) this place’, and then you may begin with shame the last place to have. (10) But when invited, go to and fall into the lowest place, so that when the inviter may come (and) will say to you, ‘Friend, march up towards a higher (place)’. Then there will be glory to you in front of all of those having been invited together with you.

Let’s pause for some Greek. First, this is a fairly complex bit of writing, that takes some real gymnastics to put into decent English. This borders on Classical Greek, and is another demonstration that Luke (as in, the author of –) was rather well educated. The other thing is the word for going up to the higher table is ‘prosanabethi’, containing the word ‘anabasis’. This is the title of a famous work of Xenophon, who was a Greek mercenary, fighting for one of the claimants to the Persian throne. The claimant was killed, so there were 10,000 (or so) Greek soldiers at loose ends in the middle of Asia Minor. This was a difficult situation, so they had to “march up country” to the south shore of the Black Sea. The title thus is “Anabasis”, which I’ve seen rendered as “The March Upcountry” and the “March of the Ten Thousand”. I point this out to demonstrate how multi-purposed a lot of Greek words are. This can make translation difficult, since the same word can be rendered to mean a number of different things. My particular bête noir in this is “logos”. The opening of John is “in the beginning was the Logos’; which got translated into Latin as “Verbum” which is more or less “Word”. This translation, while correct, is unfortunate, because the Greek word ‘logos’ has so many other meanings not included in the English ‘word’. It is, after all, the -ology ending of the-ology, or psych-ology, or soci-ology. “Word” doesn’t come close to covering that. Finally, the word rendered as “glory” is a bit overstated here. It is the word that is used for “glory”, as in “glory to God…”  I gave it the elevated translation to make the same point. Feel free to substitute your own modified synonym. The KJV gives this as ‘worship’; the NASB, NIV, and ESV all use ‘honor’. The problem with that Greek has a separate word for ‘honor’. It was used in Verse 8.

7 Dicebat autem ad invitatos parabolam, intendens quomodo primos accubitus eligerent, dicens ad illos:

8 “Cum invitatus fueris ab aliquo ad nuptias, non discumbas in primo loco, ne forte honoratior te sit invitatus ab eo,

9 et veniens is qui te et illum vocavit, dicat tibi: “Da huic locum”; et tunc incipias cum rubore novissimum locum tenere.

10 Sed cum vocatus fueris, vade, recumbe in novissimo loco, ut, cum venerit qui te invitavit, dicat tibi: “Amice, ascende superius”; tunc erit tibi gloria coram omnibus simul discumbentibus.

11 ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὑψῶν ἑαυτὸν τα πεινωθήσεται καὶ ὁ ταπεινῶν ἑαυτὸν ὑψωθήσεται.

12 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ τῷ κεκληκότι αὐτόν, Οταν ποιῇς ἄριστον ἢ δεῖπνον, μὴ φώνει τοὺς φίλους σου μηδὲ τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου μηδὲ τοὺς συγγενεῖς σου μηδὲ γείτονας πλουσίους, μήποτε καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀντικαλέσωσίν σε καὶ γένηται ἀνταπόδομά σοι.

13 ἀλλ’ ὅταν δοχὴν ποιῇς, κάλει πτωχούς, ἀναπείρους, χωλούς, τυφλούς:

14 καὶ μακάριος ἔσῃ, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνταποδοῦναί σοι, ἀνταποδοθήσεται γάρ σοι ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν δικαίων.

15 Ἀκούσας δέ τις τῶν συνανακειμένων ταῦτα εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Μακάριος ὅστις φάγεται ἄρτον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.

“That all of those raising themselves will be humbled, and the one humbling him/herself will be raised”. (12) And he said to the one inviting him, “When you make the best meal, do not call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, and never those having invited you and having become inviters of you. (13) Rather, when you make a reception, call the poor, the the crippled, the lame, the blind. (14) And you will be blessed, that they do not have (i.e. have the means) to return to you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the just”. (15) Hearing, someone of those reclining with (him = Jesus) said these things to him (Jesus), “Blessed is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God.”

Here we get a tying-together of several strands of what we think of as basic Christian belief. We get the humble/exalted contrast which was made in Mark and Matthew, and this is yoked together with the resurrection of the just and the kingdom of God. No doubt we’ve covered this before, but the idea of humility is very non-pagan. I cannot speak with authority on whether this was considered a positive attribute, or the degree to which it was considered positive, in Judaism to this point; however, given the consistent message of social justice that pervades Judaism, I would suspect this is not entirely novel with Jesus. There may–emphasis on may— be a difference in degree, but this may be very standard in Jewish thought and teaching. I suspect I may be guilty of Christian-centric thinking to suggest there is much of a change. If there is one thing I’ve learned through this exercise, it’s that there wasn’t a drastic change in the message of social justice between Judaism and Jesus. Thus the admonition to invite the poor, the blind, and the physically challenged is not something new or unique to Jesus’ message. Given that, it’s possible to see this as something that may very well trace back to Jesus’ teaching*.

Not only that, I’ve been doing more reading on early Greek thought. One discovery is that the idea of reward–or at least punishment–in the afterlife was not a Christian invention, either. The Greek philosopher Herakleitos believed that shady magicians would be/should be punished in the afterlife. What is intriguing here is the idea of the Resurrection of the Just, and particularly the way it seems to be synonymous with the Kingdom of God. It should be noted that there appears to be a distinction between the former idea and what became Christian orthodoxy. The raising of the “Just” carries the distinct implication that only the good people will rise on the last day. There have been allusions to this idea before, but I did not make a sufficiently careful record of when they occurred, and by whom they were voiced. My apologies. But here, using this term, this possible differentiation is more clear than it has been previously, clear enough even to get through to me. However, while this differentiation is possible, or possibly inclined, it is still not stated explicitly. If the Just are to be raised up, what happens to the bad people? Do they remain mouldering in the grave? How does that square with the parable of the (presumably poor) wedding guest who got thrown into the outer darkness, where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth because he was improperly dressed? This latter, I think, can safely be taken as a metaphor for ‘having lived a blameful life’. There another reference to a fiery Gehenna. What does that mean, and how does it square with the “Resurrection of the Just”?

That was the chore facing the early church. In order to create a set of beliefs that would be considered “orthodox”, it was necessary to reconcile such seemingly contradictory statements. If they could not be reconciled, they had to be papered over, or reinterpreted. I think that the Resurrection of the Just is the belief of the Pharisees, who said that there would be a resurrection of the body. This, as opposed to the Sadducees, who said there would be no resurrection. And that is where the kingdom of God comes in: what Luke is implying here is that the Kingdom will come when the just are raised bodily, and the reign of God will be eternal (although that is not stated here), and that what we think of as Heaven is actually a physical existence. In Christian orthodoxy, Heaven has become a place of disembodied spirits, which idea is very, very Greek. So where does a resurrected body come in? Or, is “resurrection” metaphorical, to mean that the Just will be raised, but only in spirit? Here is where it’s important to grasp the idea that the evangelists were story-tellers, myth-makers; they were decidedly not theologians. That term is wholly anachronistic for writers of the NT, and perhaps in general. The term is not a Greek concept; for them, the term philosophy covered it all, from natural science to the One of Plato which served as the basis for the Christian God of the Middle Ages. Theology was coined by the Christians, in order to distinguish it from secular philosophy. So the early thinkers who created The Church had to invent the term and then identify and define all its concepts, then decide which were, and which were not to be considered “orthodox”, literally “straight belief”. We need constantly to bear in mind that the doctrine (from the ‘dox’ root, which also spawned ‘dogma’) of the Trinity did not exist until well into the Second, or even the Third Century. That is, two- or three hundred years after Luke and even John. This is why I’m insistent about using “sacred breath” for “spiritus sanctus”; the term ‘holy spirit’ has too much accrued baggage, and Holy Spirit is just grossly anachronistic for the NT. I won’t go into the reasons why it was necessary to reify the sacred breath as the Holy Spirit because I really don’t remember them. Jaroslav Pelikan has a great discussion on this in Volume 1 of his The Christian Tradition series.

Back to the point, it is worth noting that what Luke is describing is not necessarily consistent what we have come to believe as the standard idea of the Christian afterlife. This sort of free-for-all in ideas is exactly why a group of Christian elders came together and decided it was time to define orthodox belief. But it is important to know that much of Christian belief came about, not through considered contemplation and study, but in the heat of controversy. Perhaps the first real spur to this came from Valentinus in the 30s of the Second Century. He was a Gnostic (to use terms very loosely), and he gathered a following large enough to make the non-gnostics feel threatened. So the latter banded together, and came up with reasons why gnosticism was not consistent with ‘true belief’ (since even the term ‘orthodox’ is still not quite appropriate).

In short, what Christians believe was not settled in NT times. As such, there are moments in the NT–like this one–where what we read is not consistent with what we are taught to believe now. Of course, this was the theological basis of the Reformation; but the Reformation was not “wholly, nor even primarily, a religious event”.

* But watch this space. I’m toying with a new theory about who Jesus was, and how he was seen by contemporaries. It’s too soon to broach the topic, but one of the implications would be that this message of social inclusion may actually, in fact, trace to James the Just, brother of Jesus, rather than to Jesus himself. Deciding that will depend on a much deeper understanding of the message of Paul. 

11 Quia omnis, qui se exaltat, humiliabitur; et, qui se humiliat, exaltabitur”.

12 Dicebat autem et ei, qui se invitaverat: “Cum facis prandium aut cenam, noli vocare amicos tuos neque fratres tuos neque cognatos neque vicinos divites, ne forte et ipsi te reinvitent, et fiat tibi retributio.

13 Sed cum facis convivium, voca pauperes, debiles, claudos, caecos;

14 et beatus eris, quia non habent retribuere tibi. Retribuetur enim tibi in resurrectione iustorum”.

15 Haec cum audisset quidam de simul discumbentibus, dixit illi: “Beatus, qui manducabit panem in regno Dei”.

Luke Chapter 13:1-9

We have crossed into the second half of the gospel, when counting by the number of chapters. Whether the remaining chapters have more, less, or the same amount of text as those preceding is another story to which I do not know the ending.

I do know that, as we progress through this second half, we will begin to encounter more of the material unique to Luke and less that is part of the triple tradition part of the alleged Q gospel. This unique material is often, or usually, said to belong to the L material. This is simply shorthand for labeling this text that is unique to Luke. That is simple enough. However, the implication is that L represents a source that Luke tapped into, or used. That is, the L material existed before Luke, who then copied it down verbatim, or at most, shaped it a bit. The same is said about material unique to Matthew, the so-called M material. Matthew supposedly copied this down from earlier sources, too. This attitude, or belief, represents a colossal failure of understanding of the evangelists and the composition of the gospels. These guy were not taking dictation; they were not transcribed oral stuff as they found it; they were not copying down–and then destroying–older sources. To suggest this does a grave injustice to those people who composed these gospels. Each author was so much more than a copyist or an amanuensis. Nor were any of them, but Matthew & Luke especially, interested in telling the same story as their predecessor(s). Rather, each author was just that: an author. Each evangelist had his own particular story to tell, his own particular understanding of what the material and the traditions he inherited from the past meant, and he believed that this material needed to be told in a certain manner. That is, each one was creating the story, if not quite from scratch, then as it had developed to that point.

We return to the question: why does someone choose to undertake such an odd undertaking as to write a gospel? The answer is because that individual believes he has something that needs to be said. Another way to put this is to say that he believed the story, as received, wasn’t quite correct, or was at least incomplete. Mark saw the distinction between the wonder worker and the messiah stories and felt a powerful need to demonstrate that Jesus was actually both of those men. Matthew saw that Mark hadn’t gone far enough in insisting that Jesus was a divine entity, and was divine from birth, so he took Mark’s gospel and added new material to show exactly this. Some of this may have been, and probably was, extracted from stories he heard repeated, stories that had grown up in between the time Mark wrote and the time he did. But some of this new material was, I strongly believe, his own creation. The birth narrative would be the prime example of material that Matthew composed himself; the Sermon on the Mount is likely an amalgam of material that he heard and material that he created himself. Luke wrote because the conception of Jesus had been undergoing a change since Matthew wrote; the degree to which this change was in the larger community itself, or was the peculiar understanding of Luke, is another issue. He believed that the behaviours that led to salvation needed to be further explained and clarified. He believed we needed to see the common humanity that we share with our neighbours, and to define who those neighbours are. He believed that the poor–and not the poor in spirit–were blessed.

Realizing that there was no one, single, unitary Truth, a single story to be told, is to take a huge step in understanding the thought process behind the gospels, and to understand the intent of the authors. It is very important to keep in mind that there was no single version of many Greek myths. They were told and retold with different aspects and emphases. If Matthew and Luke were both pagans, such an understanding would have been integral to their world-view. They would have felt no need to retell the same story that Mark (and Matthew) had already told. What is the point of that? If you’re going to write a gospel, you’re going to write a different gospel; otherwise, why bother?

So anyway, let’s get on with this by actually reading the


1 Παρῆσαν δέ τινες ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ καιρῷ ἀπαγγέλλοντες αὐτῷ περὶ τῶν Γαλιλαίων ὧν τὸ αἷμα Πιλᾶτος ἔμιξεν μετὰ τῶν θυσιῶν αὐτῶν.

2 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Δοκεῖτε ὅτι οἱ Γαλιλαῖοι οὗτοι ἁμαρτωλοὶ παρὰ πάντας τοὺς Γαλιλαίους ἐγένοντο, ὅτι ταῦτα πεπόνθασιν;

3 οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ’ ἐὰν μὴ μετανοῆτε πάντες ὁμοίως ἀπολεῖσθε. 

“Some were at that time reporting  about those of Galilee of whom the blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices. (2) And answering he said to them, “Does it seem that these Galileans were sinners besides (i.e., when compared to) all Galileans, that they suffered these things? (3) No, I say to you, but except if you repent, you will all perish this way.

This is really interesting. Josephus tells us of a couple of instances when Pilate was forced to confront an angry mob of Judeans. The first occurred upon Pilate’s arrival, when he installed Roman shields inside the Temple. They did not have images, but they did have inscriptions. Regardless, the placement of anything of pagan origin would likely have caused offense, so there was something of a tense stand-off between the governor and the populace. Not wishing to cause a riot–or worse–Pilate backed down and had the shields removed. The second is known as the Aqueduct Riot, which did actually result in bloodshed. I cannot find a date for when this event likely occurred. Luke tells us that Jesus was still alive when it happened, so if Luke were in any way reliable as a source for dates, Jesus’ death would be considered a terminus ante quem, an end-point after which the event could not have occurred. According to Luke, Jesus began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign; Tiberius ascended to the throne in 14 CE, so that would mean Jesus began preaching in 29 (give or take). Since he was preaching when this event occurred, the year 29 becomes a terminus post quem; the event could not have happened before 29. Pilate governed in Judea from 26 – 36, so Jesus died sometime before 36 if Pilate was in charge when Jesus was executed. So the Aqueduct Riot would have occurred in the period 29 – 36. But we have to add a very large caveat: it appears from the passage that the event is being announced as something that Jesus is just being told about, but this is by no means a sure thing. This means we can only date this securely to some point in Pilate’s term as governor; that is, between 26 – 36. The first of those dates is the terminus post quem; it had to be after Pilate became governor. The second is the terminus ante quem; it had to have happened before Pilate ended his term. The other big problem is that the Aqueduct Riot occurred in Jerusalem. The dead people are said to be Galileans. That means we have to explain why there were Galileans in Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that Pilate was in Jerusalem when this happened, which is taken as an indication that it happened during a festival. Pilate went to Jerusalem from his actual seat in Tiberias for festivals, which is why he was there for Jesus’ execution during the Passover. A festival would bring Jews from different places together, so it is likely that some of them would have Galileans.

So all of that can work. We can fit a chronology together. It is imperative to remember, however, that there are other possibilities. We only have Luke’s word that Jesus began his ministry in circa 29. We have no independent corroboration for this; Luke may simply have made it up. And if Pilate was in Jerusalem for festivals, there is no reason to accept that Jesus was executed during Passover. We only have the gospels’ authority on that and we have seen that Matthew and Luke had no qualms inventing historical events: the first being the Slaughter of Innocents, the second being the census that made everyone go back to their ancestral city. So it is not so wise to be overly confident of the historicity of the gospel accounts.

That’s all fine and good, but what is really interesting is the last verse. Jesus is threatening–er, warning–his listeners with a similar fate. What does Luke mean by this? My first take is that it is another post-fact prediction of coming persecutions: beware, or face martyrdom. Or is that correct? The listeners are told to repent; are we to assume that the subsequent martyrs did not repent? That doesn’t entirely make sense. According to some of the commentators, the thought process was that such that anyone who suffered such a fate must have been some kind of heinous sinner. In this case, I have to agree that this is likely the sentiment Luke was trying to put across: repent, or be killed. I’ve been trying to stretch this to make it into some kind of allegorical pronouncement, or some kind of metaphor for the persecutions that would “follow” this warning, but it doesn’t seem to work. Perhaps additional thought would turn up something, but there’s nothing that I can see at the moment.

1 Aderant autem quidam ipso in tempore nuntiantes illi de Galilaeis, quorum sanguinem Pilatus miscuit cum sacrificiis eorum.

2 Et respondens dixit illis: “ Putatis quod hi Galilaei prae omnibus Galilaeis peccatores fuerunt, quia talia passi sunt?

3 Non, dico vobis, sed, nisi paenitentiam egeritis, omnes similiter peribitis.

4 ἢ ἐκεῖνοι οἱ δεκαοκτὼ ἐφ’ οὓς ἔπεσεν ὁ πύργος ἐν τῷ Σιλωὰμ καὶ ἀπέκτεινεν αὐτούς, δοκεῖτε ὅτι αὐτοὶ ὀφειλέται ἐγένοντο παρὰ πάντας τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τοὺς κατοικοῦντας Ἰερουσαλήμ;

5 οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ’ ἐὰν μὴ μετανοῆτε πάντες ὡσαύτως ἀπολεῖσθε.

“Or those eighteen upon whom fell the tower in Siloam and killed them, do you think that they became sinners from among all the men those persons living in Jerusalem? (5) No, I say to you, unless you repent, all in such a way will die.”

In case we missed it the first time, Jesus feels it beneficial to repeat it. Once again, “repent or you will die” really sounds like a metaphor for the Christian idea of salvation: repent, or the one who can throw the soul into Gehenna will do so, and you will not enter ‘the life’ (= will die). It is very flattering to interpret this injunction in this way. The only problem is the single word ὡσαύτως. This means ‘in such a way’; it’s hard not to understand this as a reference to physical death via a falling tower, or some other calamity. As such, it’s difficult to take this as anything other than physical death.  

4 Vel illi decem et octo, supra quos cecidit turris in Siloam et occidit eos, putatis quia et ipsi debitores fuerunt praeter omnes homines habitantes in Ierusalem?

5 Non, dico vobis, sed, si non paenitentiam egeritis, omnes similiter peribitis”.

6 Ἔλεγεν δὲ ταύτην τὴν παραβολήν: Συκῆν εἶχέν τις πεφυτευμένην ἐν τῷ ἀμπελῶνι αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἦλθεν ζητῶν καρπὸν ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ οὐχ εὗρεν.

7 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τὸν ἀμπελουργόν,Ἰδοὺ τρία ἔτη ἀφ’ οὗ ἔρχομαι ζητῶν καρπὸν ἐν τῇ συκῇ ταύτῃ καὶ οὐχ εὑρίσκω. ἔκκοψον [οὖν] αὐτήν: ἱνα τί καὶ τὴν γῆν καταργεῖ;

8 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς λέγει αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἄφες αὐτὴν καὶ τοῦτο τὸ ἔτος, ἕως ὅτου σκάψω περὶ αὐτὴν καὶ βάλω κόπρια:

9 κἂν μὲν ποιήσῃ καρπὸν εἰς τὸ μέλλον εἰ δὲ μή γε, ἐκκόψεις αὐτήν.

He told this parable. “Someone had planted fig (trees) in his vineyard and he came seeking fruit in it (the fig trees) and he did not find (any). (7) He said to the vineyard worker, ‘Look, three years after which I have come seeking fruit in this fig tree and I have not found (any)’. [Thus] cut it down. Why let the ground be idle?’ Answering he (the worker) said to him, ‘Lord, leave it also this year, until this I dig around of it and I throw dung (fertilizer).’ (9) And then it will make fruit better, or if not, you will cut it down’.”

Here is another instance where Luke changes a story that is told in both M&M. In this case, he changed it radically. In its previous two incarnations, the fig tree without fruit is not the subject of a parable, but the object of Jesus’ anger. Mark is particularly caustic. In that version Jesus curses the tree because it has no fruit, even though we are specifically told that it was not the season for the figs to be ripe. This is sheer petulance on Jesus’ part, not entirely different from cursing a fig tree because it doesn’t produce oranges, the action of an exasperated man who is fed up by the world around him. In this case, the curse leads to the death of the fig tree; it is not stretching the situation too much to say that Jesus killed the tree unjustly; the tree could not bear fruit out of season, so it was completely unable to comply with Jesus’ wishes. So Jesus punished the tree for behaving in accordance with nature.

Matthew altered the scenario to soften it by deflecting the action from the tree itself to its untimely demise. In Mark, Jesus cursed the tree in the morning and it was dead upon the return of Jesus & company in the evening. In Matthew, the withering of the tree is instantaneous. This is what gets the disciples’ attention and they marvel at the action, that Jesus was able to cause a growing tree to die before their eyes. Jesus explains this as a matter of faith; with even a tiny amount of faith, they, too, could perpetrate defoliation at a whim, and even throw mountains into the sea. More, Matthew does not say that it was not the season for figs, which makes Jesus’ action less petulant & irrational than it was in Mark, but it’s still well down the path of extreme reaction.

This is yet another example of Luke changing a story found in the Triple Tradition. I have used the term “fully told” to describe these, when the pericope has received a complete telling in the previous two gospels. These are the times when Luke appears to feel free either to greatly condense the story–or, in some cases, combine two of them into a single story–or change it as he does here. In other cases, when Matthew has abridged one of Mark’s stories–as the Gerasene demonaic–Luke will restore much of the text that Matthew eliminated. Of course, this has implications for Q. Given that Luke never saw Matthew, it is uncanny that Luke seems to know exactly when to reduce and when to add to stories. For now, I will leave it at that. We’ve covered this ground before, and we will, no doubt, cover it again when the time is more appropriate.

6 Dicebat autem hanc similitudinem: “Arborem fici habebat quidam plantatam in vinea sua et venit quaerens fructum in illa et non invenit.

7 Dixit autem ad cultorem vineae: “Ecce anni tres sunt, ex quo venio quaerens fructum in ficulnea hac et non invenio. Succide ergo illam. Ut quid etiam terram evacuat?”.

8 At ille respondens dicit illi: “Domine, dimitte illam et hoc anno, usque dum fodiam circa illam et mittam stercora,

9 et si quidem fecerit fructum in futurum; sin autem succides eam’.”

Summary Luke Chapter 12

Due to editorial oversight, this follows hot on the heels of the Summary to Chapter 11. But then, maybe it will be useful to read the two in close proximity.


There are two main themes in the chapter by my reading. Or perhaps one, with a couple of subdivisions. The first provides something of a ring composition. We start with it in the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees, and ends with it with the admonition about being hauled off to gaol*. Both these relate to the primary theme, which is the coming of the kingdom. It’s happening, so we best be ready for it. Preparatory to that, there will be strife and dissension here on earth. Luke does warn about being hauled before the authorities, and assures us that we will be given what to say by the sacred breath. This is in Matthew, and even in Mark. But here it gets a slightly different treatment, that leads in something of a different direction.

The idea of the sacred breath providing one’s defense is, after all, one way in which God will take care of us. And Luke assures us of this with metaphors from Nature: the ravens, the lilies, and sparrows. God provides for them, so God will take care of us humans, too. And here is where and how the second theme comes in: we need not be, we should not be, concerned about the things of this world, because God will provide. So we should not be afraid of those who can only kill the body, but of those who can throw us into Gehenna, and I think “Hell” is not entirely inappropriate. The concept has not reached full maturity in this writing, not by a long shot, but it’s progressing towards that final goal (and not gaol). And who can throw us into that awful place? Why, God of course. And because of this, we need to be watchful about the coming kingdom by avoiding the “leaven of the Pharisees” and not being contentious in litigations with our fellow humans, lest you end up being hauled off to the gaol, which at the end of the chapter is a metaphor for Gehenna. Luke applied his writer’s craft very effectively: By starting off the section with Gehenna, that image is there to be alluded to by the threat of jail.

This is a very sophisticated literary construction. Part of the reason I felt the seams, I think, is that I break these chapters into small sections and then take these sections piecemeal. Only now that I’ve taken that moment to step back and look at the chapter as a whole do I see how well this is all arranged. IMO, it’s much more masterful than Chapters 5-7 of Matthew, which feel like beads of different material strung together on a single string, but otherwise not relating to each other all that much.

The result is a message that it very “Christian” in the sense of the word that most of us understand it. Luke is giving us a very clear warning: behave, because the kingdom is coming at some time unknown. If we are not watchful, and if we do not behave properly, we will end up in gaol, by which he means Gehenna, or Hell. And one way to be watchful, and to behave properly, is not to be concerned with worldly things, like the rich man who wants to build new barns to hold his wealth. Rather, be simple, let the sacred breath tell you what to say, and give no more thought to what you eat or what you wear than the ravens or the lilies, and be mindful that the master may come at any moment. Now, much of this is implicit in Mark and Matthew, but this feels like a much more thorough and sophisticated expression of this message that had always been rather disparate, or separate, or disjointed until now. We got flashes of this in Matthew, but here we get the synthesized and homogenized and all-encompassing version. The idea, the concept has developed, and been developed. Going back to the analogy I used about Mark, Luke has woven many of the separate threads of M&M together into a piece of whole cloth, into a single garment. Maybe it was there in Matthew as well, but I don’t think so. No doubt my perceptions and understandings have evolved as we’ve moved along, but I was very conscious of what I was not reading in M&M.

Having been raised in the Roman Rite, as a Catholic, my understanding of Christianity was very simple: Do good, or go to Hell. Simple, straightforward, and binary. Yes, the Purgatory thing sort of muddled the issue somewhat, but not all that much. And yes, I get the whole hellfire and brimstone sort of preaching, which is not considered something the Catholics are not known for, something they don’t do all that often or all that well. Instead there is that binary choice that is absolutely foundational, and expressed in such crystal-clear language and repeated so often that the whole hellfire and brimstone thing seemed…unnecessary. I never got Billy Graham. My religious message did not come from inspired rhetoric, but from pure fear. And here in this chapter we get the bottom-line formulation of this message that had not been present to this point. I do need to add the caveat, or the qualifier, that I did attend a Catholic school, run by Dominicans, for grades 2-8. As such, I was available to receive the message for six hours per day, 180 days per year. But that’s just it: the message was not elaborate. It was blunt, as blunt as the paddle that Sister Janice, the principal of the elementary school, used to carry.

One question that occurred to me about this: has the sense of urgency about the return of “the master” has been ratcheted upward again. Remember, this is the first gospel written that was aware of Paul’s career, and that Galatians, one of Paul’s earliest letters, was written in almost breathless anticipation that the return should be expected momentarily. By the time of 1 Corinthians, however, this feeling of immediacy had abated significantly. In the first two gospels the expectation of return also felt muted. In this chapter, however, I felt that Luke was a bit more concerned about this. The problem with this judgement is, of course, that it’s a judgement. As such, it’s necessarily subjective, like saying Matthew’s handling of the alleged Q material is masterful. As mentioned, this occurred to me; whether the judgement is justified or not is a matter for speculation, and for different readers to consider individually.

The second theme of the chapter, or theme 1)B is the sense of other-worldliness. Here again it feels like Luke has become much more closely aligned with later Christian doctrine than his predecessors. Luke weaves this theme skillfully into his narrative, using the story of the foolish rich man as his jumping-off point. We are told the uselessness of placing value on wealth because the rich man was unaware of his impending death. The vanity of riches is a theme with a long future ahead of it. The empty (the Latin root of vanity actually means empty) promise of wealth is sort of the obverse side of being unconcerned about the empty value of the things that money can buy. These latter include clothes, food, etc. Of course, food is necessary, but God provide for the ravens, so God will provide for us. That is a bit step to the sort of asceticism that will take deep root in the Middle Ages; at least, for a few centuries. It is what will give rise to the monastic ideal, even if that ideal eventually will fall short in practice. This feels like a major development in Christian practice.

So, either I haven’t been paying attention, or Chapter 12 of Luke’s gospel is a pivotal point in the history of Christianity. We will start getting into more of those stories unique to Luke; as we progress, we need to keep this chapter in our minds to see if it truly is such a point.


*Gaol: the danger, and possible price of pretentiousness. I just looked this up. Apparently, the current British pronunciation of this word is “jail”. Originally, the word had a hard ‘g’ sound (as goat) that eventually softened into the ‘j’ sound. The two spellings actually come from the same root, but via two different routes. The hard G is Middle English, while the J is Parisian French, both deriving from the same Latin root. I have been (mentally) pronouncing the hard G as “ga-ole”. Good thing I’ve never used it conversationally, or I would have been shown up for the pretentious bastard that I am. Of course, it would hardly be the first time. “Ennui”: Pronounced “En-you-ee”, right? Oh? It’s “en-nwi“? Oops. Now how about “homage”? What is given to a king, as in “give HOM-age” vs paying respect to a literary precursor, paying ‘oh-MAJE”? Whatever. I am much more likely to encounter new words in written form rather than hearing them, so I assign them a pronunciation that is, all too often, incorrect. The same thing happens with sports stars. I read sports, I don’t watch the programming so much.

Luke Chapter 12:49-59

We were discussing the way the Gospels of Matthew and Luke fit together, and what this says about the likelihood of Q’s existence. Naturally, I was dubious, or skeptical, or whichever word most suits this particular set of circumstances. Since I never read ahead before I start translating, I have no real clue of what’s coming up. Perhaps more of the same; perhaps not.


49 Πῦρ ἦλθον βαλεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, καὶ τί θέλω εἰ ἤδη ἀνήφθη.

“Fire I came to throw upon the earth, and what I wish if indeed it were already (…kindled..)

There’s a bit of a problem with the last word. The NT Greek dictionaries–including Strong’s Words–tell us that the word means “to kindle”. As such, Jesus wishing the fire were already kindled. There is no (well, not much) doubt that the form is intended to be read as an aorist passive. The problem is the root word. The root is ana-apō, elided to be anapō. This, however, is not to be found in Liddell & Scott. OK. So let’s try it without the prefix ana which leaves us with apō. Hmmm…That doesn’t exist per L&S either. OK, when all else fails, let’s check the Vulgate. What did St Jerome do with this? OK, he’s bailed us out, giving us the very rare Latin form accensus, which does mean “kindled”. The implication is that we really do not know what the Greek word actually is. It appears twice in the NT; here, and again in Acts 28:2, where it has a similar usage, that the pyre has been lighted. There is a cognate use in James 3:5, but there the Latin is in the form incedit, which is standard. Think, incendiary. I bring this up to show how even the Latin is dicey; there is no form cendo, to which the prefixes a- and in- are added, so taking the Latin as our pole star isn’t exactly a sure thing, either. The form used here, accensus is very rare in Latin. I suppose back filling from the use in James where the Latin is secure, and then replacing the very odd Greek based on a similar Latin translation is valid enough. The point remains, however, that there are still a bunch of different places where we are not wholly and 100% certain of the meaning of the Greek.

49 Ignem veni mittere in terram et quid volo? Si iam accensus esset!

50 βάπτισμα δὲ ἔχω βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ πῶς συνέχομαι ἕως ὅτου τελεσθῇ.

“I have the baptism to be baptised and how do l hold together until this is completed?

These two verses form an interesting couplet as regarding the content. First, it is unique to Luke. But not only is the action or speech unique but the sense of the words is unique as well. Even if I went with the standard “how stressed am I?” rather than my much more literal, but also very telling, “how do I hold (it?) together?”, this sort of exclamation from Jesus is a bit unexpected, to say the least, IMO. It truly hearkens back to Mark, where Jesus not infrequently gets exasperated. What do we make of this? Is there some deep, theological message here? Or is Luke simply having a bit of fun? The commentaries, of course explain this as a cry of anguish at the coming trials Jesus knows he must face. And this is a fully justified interpretation. Part of my reading is that I prefer the more literal meaning of “sunechomai”, which literally means “hold together”. As such there is a very modern feel to the idea of Jesus “holding it together”. Perhaps that colloquial undertone (which is purely accidental, of course) is what makes it sound less than serious coming from Luke. Most render the word as “I am constrained”, which kinda sorta makes sense as the verb is passive, but it wanders a bit from the more basic root, which is sun-echo, “hold with” (reversed in English), as in “hold with”. “To constrain” is a legitimate translation, with a proper Classical pedigree, but it is definition #5. 

As for content, these two verses serve as the introduction to the rest. These verses are unique to Luke, but the rest (most of it, at least the general drift) is shared with Matthew and so categorized as Q material. More on that shortly.

50 Baptisma autem habeo baptizari et quomodo coartor, usque dum perficiatur!

51 δοκεῖτε ὅτι εἰρήνην παρεγενόμην δοῦναι ἐν τῇ γῇ; οὐχί, λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀλλ’ ἢ διαμερισμόν.

52 ἔσονται γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν πέντε ἐν ἑνὶ οἴκῳ διαμεμερισμένοι, τρεῖς ἐπὶ δυσὶν καὶ δύο ἐπὶ τρισίν,

53 διαμερισθήσονται πατὴρ ἐπὶ υἱῷ καὶ υἱὸς ἐπὶ πατρί, μήτηρ ἐπὶ τὴν θυγατέρα καὶ θυγάτηρ ἐπὶ τὴν μητέρα, πενθερὰ ἐπὶ τὴν νύμφην αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφη ἐπὶ τὴν πενθεράν.

“Do you expect that I am here to bring peace to the earth? Not so, I say to you, but division. (52) For they will be of five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. (53) The father will be divided agains son, and son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, the mother-in-law against the bride, the bride against the mother.”

 Not much to say here. This we encountered this in Matthew. Kloppenborg does not indicate whether Q read “bring division”, per Luke, or “the sword” as per Matthew. Burton Mack, OTOH, has the courage of his convictions and posits the original reading as “sword”. And honestly, if you are going to contrast “peace”, something related to war would be my first impulse. So once again, Luke is the more “primitive” version, except when he’s not. When we read this in Matthew, we discussed how this is an ex-post-facto “prediction”, a “foretelling” of what happened to the movement some time after Jesus’ death. At least, we are lead to believe that this happened. Was it an actual persecution? If so, when did it happen? Before the destruction of the Temple? In the 40s, when it was led by Paul? Then why doesn’t Mark dwell on this a bit more? Or is this a folk memory of the Jewish Revolt, in which Josephus tells us there were a number of factions, and there were two or three inside Jerusalem duking it out with each other and at the same time trying to fight off the Romans. No doubt there was a lot of this sort of thing going on: betrayal, treachery, internecine fighting. Mark does have the section where Jesus tells the disciples that not one stone of the Temple will be left standing on another stone. The scenario he described there was terrible, but it doesn’t have anything of the enmity among families that we get here and in Matthew. And I wonder why? 

And here is another instance where the content of the words is wholly ignored when deciding whether something belongs in Q. I skimmed a few commentaries, and they all seemed to dance around the “predictive” aspect of all of this. Sound historical judgement pretty much demands that this passage, and those similar, be read as backward-looking, a description of what did happen, rather than what will happen. As such, it is all-but certain that Jesus never uttered these words. Given that, we have to ask what this passage is doing in a collection of sayings of Jesus. It simply does not fit the criteria to be included as something Jesus said. So, once more, so much of the “argument” for Q proves to be specious. 

And quickly, he mentions the mother-in-law vs the bride. I believe this relationship is specified because the wife would come to join the husband’s family, so the bride would be in contact with her in-law, whereas the husband would not be set against his father-in-law. So the relationship described by Jesus would be much more common, and much more deleterious to the smooth functioning of the household if the relationship went sour.

51 Putatis quia pacem veni dare in terram? Non, dico vobis, sed separationem.

52 Erunt enim ex hoc quinque in domo una divisi: tres in duo, et duo in tres;

53 dividentur pater in filium et filius in patrem, mater in filiam et filia in matrem, socrus in nurum suam et nurus in socrum”.

54 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ τοῖς ὄχλοις, Οταν ἴδητε [τὴν] νεφέλην ἀνατέλλουσαν ἐπὶ δυσμῶν, εὐθέως λέγετε ὅτι Ὄμβρος ἔρχεται, καὶ γίνεται οὕτως:

55 καὶ ὅταν νότον πνέοντα, λέγετε ὅτι Καύσων ἔσται, καὶ γίνεται.

56 ὑποκριταί, τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς καὶ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οἴδατε δοκιμάζειν, τὸν καιρὸν δὲ τοῦτον πῶς οὐκ οἴδατε δοκιμάζειν;

And he said to the crowd, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say that ‘rain is coming’, and so it becomes this way. (55) And when the south (wind) blows, you say, ‘It will be hot’, and it happens. (56) Hypocrites, the countenance of the earth and sky you know how to discern, this season how do you not know how to interpret?

54 Dicebat autem et ad turbas: “Cum videritis nubem orientem ab occasu, statim dicitis: “Nimbus venit”, et ita fit;

55 et cum austrum flantem, dicitis: “Aestus erit”, et fit.

56 Hypocritae, faciem terrae et caeli nostis probare, hoc autem tempus quomodo nescitis probare?

To be honest, I’m not sure how we go from civil war that divides families to (mis)judging the weather, and this inability to judge the weather makes one a hypocrite. I mean, of course I understand that this is all very metaphorical and all that, but it seems a bit of a stretch. Another example of one of the evangelists sticking a couple of things together that really were separate thoughts, but they had to be worked in somewhere, somehow. I should have more to say on this in the chapter summary.

57 Τί δὲ καὶ ἀφ’ ἑαυτῶν οὐ κρίνετε τὸ δίκαιον;

58 ὡς γὰρ ὑπάγεις μετὰ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου σου ἐπ’ ἄρχοντα, ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ δὸς ἐργασίαν ἀπηλλάχθαι ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ, μήποτε κατασύρῃ σε πρὸς τὸν κριτήν, καὶ ὁ κριτής σε παραδώσει τῷ πράκτορι, καὶ ὁ πράκτωρ σε βαλεῖ εἰς φυλακήν.

59 λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως καὶ τὸ ἔσχατον λεπτὸν ἀποδῷς.

(57) And what is from yourselves that you do not judge what is just? (58) For as you lead your adversary before the magistrate (lit = ruler), on the way (there) be delivered of your work from him, lest he pull you down (by) the judgement, and the judge hands you over to the official who executes the judgement (all in the same word), and the official who executes the judgement throws you in the guard-house (gaol). (59) I tell you, you may not come out of there and your last small brass coin you may give over.”

Wow. There is a whole bunch of really unusual, or rather, specialised, vocabulary in this section. A lot of it is unique to Luke in the NT, but, for the most part, the vocabulary is not obscure in the corpus of Classical/pagan Greek. Rather the opposite. Let’s start with archontas/archon. It’s a generic word for “ruler”, but by this point “magistrate” is not a bad translation. The real ruler, of course, was the Emperor, so the various rulers of the towns, etc were local offices. Archaic Athens had three annual archons, the king archon, the eponymous (chief, as in primus inter pares) and war archon. From there the term became generic; Gnostic cosmology posits a sometimes bewildering number of archons, who rule various aspects of the universe. So, it’s kind of a generic term. I happened to notice that it gets translated as “prince of the devils” or “prince of the pagans”. I’m not crazy about using it in terms of royalty since the word is of very secular origin; however, there is no real equivalent in Greek–or Latin, for that matter–for our concept of “prince”. The word is Latin, and comes from princeps, which means “first”. It’s actually a combination of primus caput, literally “first head”. So it’s the first in line, etc. Then it comes to mean “distinguished”. Then Augustus becomes known as Princeps; the First Citizen, and so it became a title. But it did not become a rank until the Mediaeval period, when royalty became the norm in Europe, in those areas where Latin served as the root language.

“The official who executes the judgement” is all captured by a single word: praktor. If you look at it, the derivation of “proctor” is pretty obvious. Vowels are very malleable, and they transition easily as words evolve, especially when moving from one language to another. So many English words with Germanic roots have identical consonant groupings, but the vowels are different. An example is something like vergessen, “forgotten”. Remember that the German “V” is pronounced as an English “F”. 

Then there lepton, a small brass coin. Think, penny, or farthing–whatever the hell a farthing is. “Penny” is another good German-to-English example. Pfenning. The terminal “IG” in German almost always comes across as “-Y” in English. Again, though, the word is very rare in the NT. Aside from here, Mark uses it in the tale of the Widow’s Mite. 

I used to hate the term “gaol”. Times change. I’m more pretentious now.

The word “adversary” has been deliberately saved for last. In Hebrew, adversary is usually rendered as satan; in the OT, this is rarely a capital word. In fact, it’s used in 1 Kings to describe the military adversaries of…one of the kings. The word here is closer to a legal term, referring to an adversary in court. Is there an English term? The party of the first part vs the party of the second part? It is used in the same way in the same story by Matthew. Again, let’s ask ourselves: would an early, Jewish follower of Jesus know this word? Would Jesus know this word? It’s not out of the question. Justice, higher justice anyway, in the easter Mediterranean at the time would have been dispensed in Greek. Pilate spoke Greek, and all the educated Jews like Josephus spoke Greek. But would someone from a backwater like Caphernaum ever encounter Greek justice? Hard to say. So, once again, we have to ask if we should reasonably expect a word like this to be found in Q. Offhand, I would say “no”. It is much more likely that it originated with an educated individual like Matthew.

And then note what Luke does: he takes the basic story as told by Matthew and then throws in about a dozen (well, four or five) additional legal terms. As for the implications here, first and foremost we can toss any notion that Luke’s version is the more “primitive” version which more closely resembled what Q must have looked like. That is patently risible. Think about it: the attempt is to couple Luke with being the more primitive when his version here is clearly much–much–more sophisticated. And this is the second example of this that we’ve come across in this chapter. The sense I derive from this is that Luke, as he has done in the past, “improves” upon, or “corrects” Matthew. He’s seeing Matthew’s technical term–adversary–and raising him praktor and a few others. 

So much for the technical stuff. What about the meaning? This is blunted, to a certain extent, by having encountered it in Matthew. The tone feels slightly different here; in Matthew, this is part of the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s really meant to be an injunction to put aside your differences and come to a settlement before bad things happen to you. The bit about gaol is more of a metaphor, of course, but effective. Here there is more of a sense of menace, that the threat of jail is really that: a threat, and not one to be taken lightly. It’s tempting to see this as an allusion to Hell, and that’s possible, but just barely. And it’s much more likely here than it was in Matthew. I say that largely because of the change in tone, from admonishment something very close to a threat.

57 Quid autem et a vobis ipsis non iudicatis, quod iustum est?

58 Cum autem vadis cum adversario tuo ad principem, in via da operam liberari ab illo, ne forte trahat te apud iudicem, et iudex tradat te exactori, et exactor mittat te in carcerem.

59 Dico tibi: Non exies inde, donec etiam novissimum minutum reddas”.

Luke Chapter 12:1-12 – Updated & Revised

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 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. 

So why does Luke change the surroundings? I do not have a ready answer for that. However, as I see it, what matters is that Luke did change the surroundings. There is a lot made of how Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark when it comes to placement of stories. He does, however, frequently disagree with both Mark and Matthew when the latter two agree. Luke does not scruple not only to change the location of the story in the narrative flow, but he also has no qualms about changing the actual setting, the physical circumstances that existed around Jesus when he delivers his message. The fact that Luke consistently does this in situations where M&M agree, but not when Matthew disagrees with Mark should not be seen as coincidental. It happens too often, and only in this one direction.

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 (= not one of them is 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 diapherete. 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. But it is very interesting to note that Matthew uses the word consistently to mean “is of more value”. Luke only uses the word once, but he uses it exactly like Matthew does, and in an identical pericope. Yes, of course, the word is in Q. However, the word is rare in the NT. It is used by Paul in Gal 4:1, but he uses it as M Aurelius does: to mean “different”. This is, admittedly, very weak evidence on my part, but it adds yet one more straw–however thin and slight it may be–to the burden on the back of the camel that is carrying the “argument” for Q.

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 (which I encourage; that’s why it’s there), 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 ”.