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Luke Chapter 19:11

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

So what, then?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Luke Chapter 19:1-10

Jesus is traveling towards Jerusalem. To get to Jerusalem, the most direct route is to head almost due south from Galilee and follow the West Bank of the River Jordan; this route will take the traveler past Jericho. Looking at a map, it appears that the road to Jerusalem turns west at or around Jericho, because it appears there is a a pass, or valley between Jericho and Jerusalem. This bit of geography lesson all comes from a few minutes of looking at a map; people with more knowledge or actual experience can correct me if/where I’ve gone astray. At the end of the previous chapter, we have Jesus healing a blind man outside the walls of Jericho. That story is in the Triple Tradition, but in three rather different variants. Alone in Luke do Jesus and his posse enter the city and encounter a man named Zaccheus. At Catholic school, in grade 4 or 5 we sang a song about him that is with me to this day. Be that as it may, this story is only found in Luke. Why? One phenomenon that occurs as legends gain momentum is that stories about the main character or the main action are made up in different places. This is where Launcelot originates, as the tale of Arthur grew in popularity on the mainland, the French came up with their own hero, Launcelot, who played a major role in the central tale as the lover of Arthur’s queen. Another such character was Parzifal, created by Wolfram von Eschenbach in Bavaria. Or, if he didn’t create the character, e nihilo, then he greatly elaborated Parzifal’s role in the epic. And so we have the followers of Jesus in Jericho concocting a tale set on their home ground. We don’t know if Jesus went to Jericho, but he certainly could have, so we have an episode in Jesus’ life set in that town. If my scenario is correct, this may only be in Luke because the tale had not been created, or had not gained sufficiently wide currency until later in time, until Luke wrote. Or, for reasons we’ll never know, Luke may have invented it himself.

Text

1 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν διήρχετο τὴν Ἰεριχώ.

2 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ὀνόματι καλούμενος Ζακχαῖος, καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἀρχιτελώνης καὶ αὐτὸς πλούσιος.

And entering, he was passing through Jericho. (2) And behold a man called by name Zaccheus, and he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.

Don’t think I was aware that our man Zaccheus was a chief tax collector. I’m not entirely sure how that would work. I suppose he was like the head contractor, who then subcontracted out the actual collection of the taxes and taking a cut of what was collected. This sounds like a pretty good formula for getting rich. Recall that the Romans did not have government officials to collect taxes. There was no equivalent to the IRS or the Inland Revenue (which apparently merged into HM Revenue and Customs as of 2005); rather, individuals, or syndicates, contracted with the government representatives to collect the tax. Rome would set the amount to be paid to them, and anything above that figure was retained by the contractor as profit. Talk about creating incentives for extortion. This is why tax collectors were so thoroughly hated. And in the provinces, these contractors were often natives who spoke the language, etc. This offered Rome a layer of insulation against popular hatred of these figures. The anger at high taxes was directed to the locals, and not towards the actual oppressors. Perhaps you’ll recall that the idea of privatizing the collection of taxes in the US was bandied about for a bit. Fortunately, it did not go far. 

1 Et ingressus perambulabat Iericho. 

2 Et ecce vir nomine Zacchaeus, et hic erat princeps publicanorum et ipse dives. 

3 καὶ ἐζήτει ἰδεῖν τὸν Ἰησοῦν τίς ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἠδύνατο ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου ὅτι τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μικρὸς ἦν.

4 καὶ προδραμὼν εἰς τὸ ἔμπροσθεν ἀνέβη ἐπὶ συκομορέαν ἵνα ἴδῃ αὐτόν, ὅτι ἐκείνης ἤμελλεν διέρχεσθαι.

And he(Zaccheus) sought (a way) to see who Jesus was, and he was not able (to do so) from the crowd, for he was of small stature. (4) And running ahead towards the front and climbed up a sycamore in order to see him, that he (Jesus) intended to pass.

The Greek for the tree transliterates to “sikamorean’. It’s interesting that the type of tree is specified. Why? Because this is an actual specific bit of local detail? Or to let us know it wasn’t a palm tree, which are hard to climb? Or is it the sort of detail that gets attached to provide realism? Interesting question, IMO. Luke didn’t bother with the name of bar Timmaeus in the story of healing the blind man outside the gates at the end of the last chapter, but he throws in the name of the tree? I’m guessing it was to let us know it wasn’t a palm tree. Regardless, the set-up, or concept of the story is also fascinating. The dude was vertically challenged, so he found a way? Actually, that kind of makes sense. Z-man wanted to see Jesus, he ran into an obstacle, so he figured out a way of getting around it. Shows some determination. Or, as my mother used to say, some gumption. Rather than whine, do something. And it was worth doing something to see Jesus. This is sort of a subtle way of telling us how popular Jesus was. Mark used to describe the mobs of people following Jesus, that the crowd often made it difficult to enter towns. This is sort of on those lines: Zaccheus had to go out of his way, and he wanted to go out of his way because Jesus had created such a stir. Of course, this is all fiction, but it gets a point across. This is Luke being the novelist; he shows us how much interest there was in Jesus whereas Mark the Journalist told us. This is a very nice, very effective literary device, or technique, which makes me suspect that the story originated with Luke himself. Why Jericho? Perhaps because it was outside the realm of the ‘normal’ places that Christians were familiar with, and so few could either verify or contradict details about the location.

But beyond all that, there is one thing to notice about this story: that it’s a story. You have a short guy trying to see the latest phenomenon over the crowd of taller people, so what does he do? He climbs a tree. It’s practical and rather humorous all at the same time. That is to say, it’s a catchy little story. It’s a nice human touch. This is one great example of why I refer to, or think of, Luke as a novelist. 

3 Et quaerebat videre Iesum, quis esset, et non poterat prae turba, quia statura pusillus erat. 

4 Et praecurrens ascendit in arborem sycomorum, ut videret illum, quia inde erat transiturus. 

5 καὶ ὡς ἦλθεν ἐπὶ τὸν τόπον, ἀναβλέψας ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ζακχαῖε, σπεύσας κατάβηθι, σήμερον γὰρ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ σου δεῖ με μεῖναι.

And as he came to the spot, looking up Jesus said to him, “Zaccheus, hastily come down, for I must remain at your house.

Just a quick note on this. Again the novelist shines through. One dictum of good fiction is to show rather than tell. Luke sets this up so that Jesus does show us. ‘…Reaching the spot, he looked up…’ Why did Jesus look up? By pure chance? Or because Jesus knows he’s there? IOW, because, being divine, Jesus just knows stuff. Like Zaccheus’ name. It’s subtle, and I’d have passed it by if not for the kicker at the end. Jesus has to tarry a bit in Zaccheus’ house. And mind you, he has to. The Greek implies obligation, if not compulsion; the idea of fate can also be implied. The cognate root is “to bind/fetter”; hence, one can be bound to the obligation to do…whatever.  Saying that, here is where one has to step back and remember that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. That is, just because Luke uses a word that can mean ‘it is fated’, doesn’t mean he means to say that it’s been fated. People say things that have unintended implications. Of course, that goes back to Freud and his cigar, but even the master of the unconscious realized that not everything carried some deep hidden meaning. He smoked a lot of cigars not because of some deep, unconscious oral/phallic impulse, but because he was addicted to nicotine. This is the problem we run into when reading any text: how much did the author mean, and how much just sort of happened?

5 Et cum venisset ad locum, suspiciens Iesus dixit ad eum: “ Zacchaee, festinans descende, nam hodie in domo tua oportet me manere”. 

6 καὶ σπεύσας κατέβη, καὶ ὑπεδέξατο αὐτὸν χαίρων.

7 καὶ ἰδόντες πάντες διεγόγγυζον λέγοντες ὅτι Παρὰ ἁμαρτωλῷ ἀνδρὶ εἰσῆλθεν καταλῦσαι.

And he (Zaccheus) came down hastily, and rejoicing received him (Jesus).  (7) And knowing (lit = seeing) muttering saying that “With (lit = beside, next to) a sinning man he goes to be a guest in his house.    

A couple of things. First, the verb translated as ‘to be a guest in his house’ in about 95% of the times it gets used means, ‘to destroy’. Buried way down there, in definition seven, we get the ‘be a guest’ thing. I’m sure there is some sort of logical progression to get from one to the other, but I’ll leave that for you to figure it out. Second, note the muttering people in the crowd. We’ll come back to them because I don’t want to tarry longer than necessary at this point.  

6 Et festinans descendit et excepit illum gaudens. 

7 Et cum viderent, omnes murmurabant dicentes: “ Ad hominem peccatorem divertit! ”. 

8 σταθεὶς δὲ Ζακχαῖος εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν κύριον, Ἰδοὺ τὰ ἡμίσιά μου τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, κύριε, τοῖς πτωχοῖς δίδωμι, καὶ εἴ τινός τι ἐσυκοφάντησα ἀποδίδωμι τετραπλοῦν.

9 εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Σήμερον σωτηρία τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ ἐγένετο, καθότι καὶ αὐτὸς υἱὸς Ἀβραάμ ἐστιν: 

10 ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ζητῆσαι καὶ σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός.

Standing, Zaccheus said towards the lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone I will give back fourfold. (9) Jesus said to him that “This day salvation became in your house, due to that and you are a son of Abraham. (10) For the son of man came to seek and save those having been lost.”  

A few technical details about the Greek. The word here rendered as “defrauded” transliterates to sykophant. Switch the k for a c, and the English derivation is pretty obvious: sycophant. The problem is that the definitions in Greek & English seem to be more or less contradictory. And the Greek is odd. It seems to be a compound word “fig-speaker”. Of course, just because the initial few letters seem to be the word for ‘fig’ may be coincidental. Most likely this is a word that came out of Greek but was misunderstood and taken too literally early in its English usage. “Fig-talker” could be taken as “sweet-talker”, meaning one who tells people things they want or like to hear. The Latin is more or less ‘defrauded’, so I went with that.

Then Jesus closes with the bit about salvation, and saving the lost. This brings up the notion of salvation, and whether we are truly talking about salvation as Christians generally think of the word. I just learned that the word “Soter”, “Saviour” was not used of Jesus until the term occurs in Luke/Acts. Luke used it in Chapters 1 & 2, and then twice in Acts. It does not become commonly used until the later epistles, and even then we’re talking about a dozen or so usages. This strikes me as telling; after all, “saviour” is one of the key concept associated with Jesus. In the “ICTHUS” fish emblem, the final S stands for “Soter/Saviour”. And yet, he is never called that by Mark or Matthew, and it’s only found once in the entire corpus of the authentic letters of Paul. It’s in Phillipians, and it could very easily be an interpolation. Bear that in mind the next time you get annoyed because I’m parsing what is meant by “saved” when we encounter the word. Luke could easily be the first to so designate Jesus. In Chapter 1, it occurs in the Magnificat, and in Chapter 2 the shepherds are told that a saviour is born to you this day. This ties back with the discussion we had in Chapter 18:24-27(ish) where we get the first real nexus of the terms ‘saved’, ‘kingdom of God’ and ‘eternal life’, the first time they are essentially equated and treated as synonyms. 

Now let’s talk about the story of Zaccheus as a whole. What do we have? We have a rich man, a tax-collector who merits* salvation by promising to give half of what he owns to the poor, and to repay fourfold if he has cheated anyone. And it’s not just Zaccheus personally; it’s his household. So, as with Saviour, so the concern for the poor seems to be something that Luke felt especially strongly about, and so he created opportunities to bring this out. And the story as a whole seems to bear this out. Why else invent this story, unless to teach the lesson about the problem of wealth? Remember that the last chapter ended with the tale of the Rich Ruler who went away sad because Jesus told him to sell all his possessions; in contrast, Zaccheus here volunteers to give away half (perhaps not the whole, but still pretty good). Upon making the promise, he is saved. Cause >>> Effect. Luke here demonstrates that the wealthy can attain heaven, but only if they divest. I can think of a whole lot of “Christians” who would do well to take this lesson to heart.

The final element is the mumblers in the crowd. We are not told who they are. I had to go back and check that because I was pretty much certain that these mumblers had been Pharisees. Well, not in this case. But that is somewhat my point. By this stage of the narrative, after having read through Mark AND Matthew, perhaps Luke didn’t feel the need to beat a dead horse. Perhaps it didn’t seem necessary for him to repeat who the mumblers were because the other two gospels had made this point abundantly clear. So here, once again, we get a back-handed argument against Q. Luke, again, does not need to go into the details because those details were sufficiently covered by the other two gospels. IOW, he was fully aware of the existence AND the content of Matthew’s gospel. Now, assuming that to be true, this would help explain the “son of Abraham” quip there at the end. If the mumblers were Pharisees, and if they are condemned by their mumbling, Luke throws in the bit about the son of Abraham to remind us that anyone, whether Jew or pagan, can be saved. At this point in the development of the church, perhaps the pagan followers needed to be reminded of this: it’s not too late for even the Jews.

*As a bit of an aside, note that I said Zaccheus has merited salvation. This really flies in the face of the predestination argument, that we cannot hope to merit salvation, wretched and foredoomed sinners that we are. The predestination argument is ever so clever, but it also feels a bit forced, like Augustine and his later followers were reaching for it, and by a lot. Predestination, IMO, makes sense if one assumes the Double-O deity: one that is both omniscient, omnipotent. Such a deity can create any universe it desires because it is omnipotent, and said deity will know how it will all turn out in the end because it is omniscient. Therefore, it knows whether or not someone will be damned even if the prevenient grace is bestowed as the free gift of that deity. But that is the theological, or ontological, or simply logical case for Pre-D. It is not the case built on scripture; IMO, there are many, many more passages like this that imply–or state–that salvation is the result of our efforts, and not due to the gift of God. In fact, even Romans, which is the primary text Augustine used, is decidedly ambivalent about this. 

8 Stans autem Zacchaeus dixit ad Dominum: “Ecce dimidium bonorum meorum, Domine, do pauperibus et, si quid aliquem defraudavi, reddo quadruplum ”. 

9 Ait autem Iesus ad eum: “Hodie salus domui huic facta est, eo quod et ipse filius sit Abrahae; 

10 venit enim Filius hominis quaerere et salvum facere, quod perierat”.

Luke Chapter 17:11-19; with Addendum

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

Addendum:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 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

Text

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.

Text

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 14:1-6

These updates have been growing fewer and further between over the last several months. I will try to get back on track. This is a really short piece, and the next will only be slightly longer. Perhaps this will put me back on schedule.

Text

1 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς οἶκόν τινος τῶν ἀρχόντων [τῶν] Φαρισαίων σαββάτῳ φαγεῖν ἄρτον καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦσαν παρατηρούμενοι αὐτόν. 2 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν ὑδρωπικὸς ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ. 3 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς νομικοὺς καὶ Φαρισαίους λέγων, Ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεῦσαι ἢ οὔ;  4 οἱ δὲ ἡσύχασαν. καὶ ἐπιλαβόμενος ἰάσατο αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπέλυσεν. 5 καὶ πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν, Τίνος ὑμῶν υἱὸς ἢ βοῦς εἰς φρέαρ πεσεῖται, καὶ οὐκ εὐθέως ἀνασπάσει αὐτὸν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ σαββάτου; 6 καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ἀνταποκριθῆναι πρὸς ταῦτα.

And it happened in him coming to the house of a certain ruler of the Pharisees, on the sabbath to eat bread and they were watching him closely. (2) And, behold, a certain man  who was a dropsy (sufferer) approached him. (3) And Jesus asked towards the lawyers and Pharisees, saying,  “Is it allowable on the sabbath to heal or not?” (4) And they were silent. And taking him (the man) he (Jesus) healed him and he went away. (5) And towards them he said, “Who of you, a child or a cow will fall into a well, and not immediately raise him up on the day of the sabbath?” (6) And they did not have the power to respond to him. 

This is another of those “lift and load” modules that constitute much of what the evangelists tell us about Jesus. Each gospel contains dozens of these little modules. I’m not sure how much this is discussed, but what it indicates is that there were bunches of these single episodes floating around that the evangelists collected. Or, in some cases, they probably created their own. This story is more or less in both the other two gospels, but neither of them are quite like this. It’s the theme that matters, IMO, not the actual wording, Too much time is spent counting “kai vs de” instances and using this as the basis to determine how much one gospel owes to a predecessor. This is nonsense. Matthew and Luke were both accomplished writers, and in neither case was the intent to repeat what had gone before. Instead, the intent was to put the story in a new way, to reinterpret, or even add something to it.

Here’s the problem. Christians have The Bible, literally The Book. We have become accustomed to there being one, single, and absolutely authoritative document that has All The Answers. This is not how myth works. Many people who get past the most basic retellings of Greek myth are a little bewildered when they find out that different authors tell the stories a bit differently. There is no real, single creation myth, for example. It changed, evolved. The idea of there being chaos (or Chaos) at the beginning didn’t come into existence until something like the time of Hesiod. And really, it has been pointed out that Genesis is actually two separate stories mashed together. This is how myth works. 

Myth is not a single story set in stone, unchanging and unchangeable. Myth is a process. The analogy continues to be the Arthur legend. As it became increasingly popular, it grew in scope. New heroes were added as it sort of amalgamated tales that originally were of more local provenance. Gawaine would probably be a good example. So the cast of characters grew to include Guinevere, and Uther Pendragon, and Launcelot. Then in the 13th century Wolfram von Eschenbach added the stand-alone work Parzival, which was written in (what would later be part of ) Germany in High German, and that character was incorporated and Percival was part of the cast collected by Thomas Mallory.  This is what the evangelists were doing: they were adding and reinterpreting, and doing it consciously.

Unfortunately, having The One True Book has led to a mindset that there was One True Story that all of the evangelists were trying to tell. This is where lots of clumsy circumlocutions and Rube Goldberg-type connexions between the gospels are created in a vain attempt to synthesize them into a single, unitary story. The result is that the different tellings of stories, or the way themes are handled differently are compared under an electron microscope and ever-so-slight differences in grammar are considered to be major variations that prove–mostly disprove–the dependence of one text on another. Usually, small cracks are touted to demonstrate the impossibility that Luke knew and used Matthew. Such analysis while fine on its own terms, is misguided, or perhaps distractive. It misses, I think, the forest because the individual trees are different, and even two pine trees have minor discrepancies in their appearance. 

So this story falls under the rubric of “Jesus vs. the established religion”. This theme is perhaps the most common in the gospels providing story after story to “prove” that Jesus was executed because the establishment felt threatened and/or jealous by/of Jesus. This, of course, is the orthodox understanding and explanation, one that has been pushed for 2,000+ years and one that is rarely, if ever, questioned. There are different interpretations of how Jesus saw himself and how he was seen by contemporaries, from the Cynic Sage of Burton Mack to the Zealot of Reza Aslan. The one thing these interpretations have in common is that they see Jesus at the head of some sort of a group which posed this threat. I am currently reading a book Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, a multi-volume work covering a span of several thousand years. The volume I’m reading covers the Classical World, which means Jesus comes into its purview. The section I’ve just read treats Jesus as one of many public magicians, on the order of Apollonius of Tyana. Magic was a capital offense under Roman law, so it would provide a sufficient charge to warrant Jesus’ execution. I find this very compelling; in fact, I’m writing a special topic essay to present my argument in more detail. Other than that, there isn’t much that’s novel about this particular section. So we’ll just move on. 

1 Et factum est, cum intraret in domum cuiusdam princi pis pharisaeorum sabbato manducare panem, et ipsi observabant eum. 2 Et ecce homo quidam hydropicus erat ante illum. 3 Et respondens Iesus dixit ad legis peritos et pharisaeos dicens: “ Licet sabbato curare an non? ”. 4 At illi tacuerunt. Ipse vero apprehensum sanavit eum ac dimisit. 5 Et ad illos dixit: “ Cuius vestrum filius aut bos in puteum cadet, et non continuo extrahet illum die sabbati? ”. 6 Et non poterant ad haec respondere illi.

Summary Luke Chapter 13

The chapter opens with Jesus talking about people who were killed, either by Pilate during a riot (of sorts) or by sudden accident when a tower collapsed and fell on them. The interesting part is that Jesus appears to threaten his followers with this sort of unexpected and violent death if they do not repent. In fact, he repeats the warning. Of course, we have to stop and ask whether Jesus is referring simply to physical death. To confuse the matter, Jesus asks his crowd if they believe that this death was a punishment because they were more wicked than others.

A quick look at the compiled commentaries indicates that many of these authors saw the story of the tower as prophetic. They see this reference to something that Jesus indicates had happened to be a foreshadow of something that was yet to happen: the destruction of Jerusalem. In the latter event, the city was more or less razed, and doubtless many died as walls–and tower–collapsed upon people. Of course, Luke wrote after this event, but in the narrative Jesus is uttering these words before the event. If we assume that Luke accurately records words of Jesus spoken before, then of course they are prophetic, and they provide proof of Jesus’ divine foreknowledge. If you ask how Luke–and Luke alone–had record of Jesus saying these things, and conclude it to be unlikely that he did say the words, then we get another perspective. Of course, for our purposes here, we have to assume that Luke is simply putting words in Jesus’ mouth. As such, the focal point of our inquiry is not whether Jesus was uttering a prophecy, but what message Luke intended to put across to the community of believers 50 or 60 years after the events supposedly took place.

There are two sorts of ideas being yoked together here. Do we die a horrible death because we are being punished for our sins? There was certainly a school of thought in the Jewish tradition of such a quid-pro-quo punishment in this lifetime–one that ended this lifetime. Nor was this attitude restricted to Judaic thought, or to the ancient world. The second idea is whether Luke intends for Jesus to be taken literally, thereby buying into the first idea. Here we have to ask whether 2,000 years of Christianity has likely warped our understanding, or at least seriously influenced the way we read something like this. Reading this, I suspect most Christians would take it on faith that no, Jesus should not be taken literally; rather, losing one’s life in this world is symbolic for losing the prospect of eternal life in the next.

The question with this interpretation is whether or not it’s anachronistic. When did the standard Christian doctrine of eternal life after death really become fixed in the belief system? Answering this question was a major part of the reason I undertook this task of going through the NT line-by-line. At this point, it’s still not entirely clear that this is what Luke believes. If Luke doesn’t believe this, it will not appear in his gospel. Why else does he need to speak metaphorically here? Or maybe why does he speak metaphorically here? To hedge his bets? Or to put the point across by way of parable? Taken on its own, it’s difficult to say; in the context of the rest of the chapter, I think the implications become clearer.

Before continuing with that, I would like to set something down as a datum upon which we should build, which I believe will help clarify my question. In the late 6th Century BCE (the 500s), the Greek philosopher was promising punishments in the afterlife to fraudulent magicians and wonder-workers. As such, the idea of reward or punishment in the afterlife was not new–and it was apparently not a Jewish idea, at least in genesis. But books of the HS, some canonical, some apocryphal, written during the Hellenistic period (300 BCE and on) start to adopt this idea. So it was not something Jesus, or even Christians, invented. They did, perhaps, systematize it clearly and explicitly at some point in the late First/early Second Centuries CE. That should help us answer the question.

Moreover, the rest of the chapter reinforces this. The next section deals with Jesus healing a woman in the synagogue on a sabbath. So it is made fairly explicit that the woman’s illness was not a matter of being wicked, just as those Galileans killed by the falling tower were not more wicked than other Galileans. But let’s compare this to the healing of the paralytic, who was lowered down to Jesus through a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus did not say “get up and walk”, at least, not at first. That is what he tells the woman here: you are released from your illness. Rather, he told the paralytic “your sins are forgiven”, which, of course, caused a stir among the onlookers because it could be taken as blasphemous. What is the difference? Why the difference? 

First, let’s note that Luke does not include the story of the paralytic. This seems to be another of those instances where he felt that M&M had covered it in sufficient detail. But this goes a step further. In that story there was at least an implicit connexion between the man’s sins and his paralysis. Once the sins are forgiven, the man’s physical ailment is removed. That step is skipped in the story of the woman in this chapter. Jesus did not first forgive her sins and then heal her; he cut to the chase and healed her. In doing so, he severed the connexion between sin and bodily affliction. Affliction is not the result of sin. And so, too, the Galileans were not killed by the falling tower because they were wicked. The were killed because the tower fell on them. So that Jesus threatens his audience with sudden and horrible death if they do not repent, it seems fairly clear– upon reflection, at least– that he is talking about eternal life.

This is further reinforced in the remaining sections of the chapter. Immediately following the hubbub created by Jesus for healing the woman on the sabbath, he is questioned about being saved. Here Jesus launched into an oblique narrative about the narrow gate, and the competition to enter that narrow gate. At first, the idea of competing towards salvation seemed a bit…capitalist to me. But we need to bear in mind the oblique approach. The competition is not amongst individuals; it is amongst peoples. Specifically, Jesus is addressing this speech to the Jews. After all, they are the ones whom the master will shut out of the wedding feast, the ones who ate with him and the ones he taught. This relationship will avail them nothing, however; they will be left on the outside, wailing and gnashing their teeth. (Sorry; love that phrase.)

Then, in a stroke true brilliance, Luke concludes the chapter with Jesus, again obliquely, predicting his own death. He’s not afraid of the Herodians even though warned that “that fox” wants to kill Jesus. Rather, he has to go to Jerusalem to meet his fate. It is worth noting that Jerusalem was not part of Herod’s tetrarchy, which included Galilee. Jerusalem was part of Judea, an it was ruled directly by the Romans through Pilate. So, by going to Jerusalem, Jesus would be leaving Herod’s jurisdiction behind, effectively removing himself from Herod’s power. Later, when Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, Pilate is, again effectively, extraditing Jesus back into Herod’s jurisdiction. The brilliance of this passage comes from it’s context, following the story of the Galileans killed by the tower. Just as they were no more guilty than anyone else, but killed nonetheless, so Jesus is going to Jerusalem to be killed, even though he is blameless. Such were the prophets treated of old. \

This last bit is important because it gives Jesus a pedigree. I’ve often mentioned that the ancient Greeks and Romans were not impressed by novelty; they were impressed by antiquity. The Latin term for “revolution”, in the political sense, was res novae; literally, new things.  New things were not good things; quite the opposite. Of course, this was the view of the conservative authors & politicians who had vested interest in maintaining the old things. The point here, is that by putting himself in the long line of prophets who had been killed in Jerusalem, Jesus was placing himself in their line. IOW, he was connecting himself to that ancient tradition that Judaism claimed, and the age of that tradition is what drew so many pagans to Judaism, pagans like Matthew.

Just a word about a word. I used the word “oblique” as a description for Jesus’ speech a couple of times. The first was descriptive; any that followed were rhetorical, a repetition when other words could be used. Why was Jesus so oblique? The answer to this has some connexion with the idea of the mysterion of ancient Greco-Roman culture. This, of course, is the root of “mystery”, especially as it relates to “mystery religions”, such as the rites of Eleusis or Isis. Such religions maintained secrets that were only divulged to those who became initiated into the cult. Jesus, and especially his later followers, adopted this approach, at least to some limited extent, and at least at first. This idea of secrets continued to develop into what became known as Gnosticism, based on a hidden gnosis, or knowledge. Mark in particular has undertones of a gnostic attitude; the parables are the clearest example of this. After all, Jesus spoke in parables to the public, but revealed the meanings in private to his disciples.

There are debates about whether Gnosticism pre-dated Christianity; many would argue that it did. I am not one of these. Marcion became a Christian heretic by advocating Gnostic ideas, and the Gospel of Thomas has a fairly explicit Gnostic aspect. Prior to Jesus, however, Gnosticism is not really on the radar. It’s not necessary to say that Gnosticism derived from Christianity; indeed, I believe that would be greatly overstating the case. Rather, it seems that Christianity and Gnosticism both derived from a pre- or proto-Gnostic milieu, which itself was a development on the idea of the mystery religions. Part of my argument for a later date for Gospel of Thomas derives from these explicitly Gnostic elements; they are too fully developed as such to date from the 50s, as the Q people want us to believe. There are simply no real precursors (to the best of my knowledge; I need to look into that) to ideas like those expressed in Gospel of Thomas at that early date. As such, a date from the mid-Second Century or later seems more appropriate. But that is an entirely different discussion.

Luke Chapter 13:31-35

Well, this is my mistake. Had I realized how short the remainder of the chapter was, this next section would have been tacked on to the end of the last. 

In the last section, we were discussing the narrow way, and that only a few would be saved. This is something of an appendix to that. So, on to the

Text

31) Ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ προσῆλθάν τινες Φαρισαῖοι λέγοντες αὐτῷ, Ἔξελθε καὶ πορεύου ἐντεῦθεν, ὅτι Ἡρῴδης θέλει σε ἀποκτεῖναι. (32) καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Πορευθέντες εἴπατε τῇ ἀλώπεκι ταύτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἐκβάλλω δαιμόνια καὶ ἰάσεις ἀποτελῶ σήμερον καὶ αὔριον, καὶ τῇ τρίτῃ τελειοῦμαι. (33) πλὴν δεῖ με σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καὶ τῇ ἐχομένῃ πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι οὐκ ἐνδέχεται προφήτην ἀπολέσθαι ἔξω Ἰερουσαλήμ. (34) Ἰερουσαλὴμ Ἰερουσαλήμ, ἡ ἀποκτείνουσα τοὺς προφήτας καὶ λιθοβολοῦσα τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους πρὸς αὐτήν, ποσάκις ἠθέλησα ἐπισυνάξαι τὰ τέκνα σου ὃν τρόπον ὄρνις τὴν ἑαυτῆς νοσσιὰν ὑπὸ τὰς πτέρυγας, καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε. (35) ἰδοὺ ἀφίεται ὑμῖν ὁ οἶκος ὑμῶν. λέγω [δὲ] ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἴδητέ με ἕως [ἥξει ὅτε] εἴπητε, Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου.

At that moment (lit = ‘hour”) some Pharisees came up to him, saying, “Go away and depart from here, the Herodians want to kill you.” (32) And he said to them, “Going away,  you tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and healings I complete today and tomorrow, and on the third (unspecified) I will be finished’. (33) Except it is necessary for me today and tomorrow and on the one coming (the next day) to go away, that it is not allowed to the prophet to die outside Jerusalem. (34) Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city having killed the prophets and having stoned (lit = thrown stones) those sent to her, how often have I wished to gather upon your children in which way a bird her brood under her wings, and you did not want this. (35) Look, your home goes away from you. [But] I say to you, you will not see me until [it has arrived (i.e., the time has arrived) that] you say, ‘Blessed is the one coming in the name of the lord’.”

There is a fair bit that could be said just about the Greek. In the last verse, the bracketed part about the time arriving is not in many mss traditions, so you may not see that in some translations. The ESV and the NIV do not have it; the KJV and the NASB do. As always, I’m agnostic about this; I do not have the chops to have an intelligent opinion on textual traditions and/or emendations. That’s way above my pay grade. One point worth making is the word I’ve rendered as “bird”. The Greek is “ornis”, which is the root of “ornithology”, the study of birds. All four of the translations mentioned render this as “hen”; however the Greek word is more generic. It doesn’t even translate to “fowl”, which identifies a subset of birds. And if it does refer to a chicken in Classical usage, it more often means “rooster” rather than hen. Now, the context makes it pretty clear that we are talking about a hen rather than a rooster, but I’m prickly enough that I want to remind everyone just how not-settled and inexact a lot of these words and terms are.

And aside from the actual Greek, some of the phrases used could be commented; especially coming to mind is calling Herod a fox. Luke is the only one to have Jesus saying this. Why? Perhaps by the time Luke wrote Herod had been dead long enough that he had passed, more or less, into folklore. The problem with this is that there was still a Herod with political power in Judea. This would be Herod Agrippa II, the   grandson of the Herod who executed John the Dunker–usually called Herod Antipas, one of the tetrarchs, and the son of Herod the Great. So, not sure what to make of this. Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive. Either way, it’s curious, and it is a virtual certainty that the use of the term does not trace back to Jesus. Luke may have picked it uo from Jesus’ lament that ‘foxes have their dens’, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Or, Luke could certainly have come up with this on his own.

A few words should be said about the today and tomorrow section. The exact meaning of the Greek is a bit slippery. Anytime we see “the third” in conjunction with “days”, we generally leap to the idea of the third day, as in the Resurrection. I am not sure that is what Jesus is meant to mean here; but, if not, I’m not sure what it is meant to mean. He’s doing things today and tomorrow, but on the third he will…be finished, or go away. Of course “today & tomorrow” are metaphorical, meaning now and in the immediate future, whereas the third day is still some distance away, and then Jesus will no longer be on the earth. Again, nothing really earth-shattering, but, again, an indication of just how unsettled some of this verbiage is. It makes it difficult to accept the words as literally true if you’re not entirely sure what those words actually mean.

But overall, the point of this section is delivered in the last two verses. Jesus is going to Jerusalem because he is to die. More, it is the only place that a prophet can be killed. So this implies that he is a prophet, which is kind of interesting. A prophet was never a divine individual, so for Jesus to call himself a prophet is for him to step down from divinity to the merely human realm. Of course, he’s being metaphorical again, which brings us back to the whole literal interpretation. But all of that is beside the point to some extent. The passage is meant to foreshadow Jesus’ coming death. We get a lot of this in all the gospels so that the audience can feel assured that Jesus understood the trial coming to him, and that the eventual outcome will be his death; followed, of course, by the Resurrection. 

We also need to recognize that the lament of Jerusalem is also intended to explain, or at least address, the fact that so few Jews became followers of Jesus. The latter wants to gather the children of the city, the Jews, under his protective grasp. Unfortunately, Jerusalem does not want this. Instead, the city kills prophets and stones those sent, just as the city will shortly (?–what is the time frame between the “now” of this section and the coming crucifixion?) kill the latest of the prophets and the latest one sent. And there is a bit of a prophecy–if not a curse–at the end. Jerusalem will not see Jesus until they say the words that the one coming in the name of the lord is blessed. As everyone hearing these words knows, the one coming is Jesus. Until Jerusalem recognises what has happened, the current situation will continue: the Jews have been replaced by the pagans; the home of the Jews has gone away from them.

And the verb is “lithoballo”; literally, this is “throw stones”.

31 In ipsa hora accesserunt quidam pharisaeorum dicentes illi: “ Exi et vade hinc, quia Herodes vult te occidere ”.

32 Et ait illis: “Ite, dicite vulpi illi: “Ecce eicio daemonia et sanitates perficio hodie et cras et tertia consummor.

33 Verumtamen oportet me hodie et cras et sequenti ambulare, quia non capit prophetam perire extra Ierusalem”.

34 Ierusalem, Ierusalem, quae occidis prophetas et lapidas eos, qui missi sunt ad te, quotiens volui congregare filios tuos, quemadmodum avis nidum suum sub pinnis, et noluistis.

35 Ecce relinquitur vobis domus vestra. Dico autem vobis: Non videbitis me, donec veniat cum dicetis: “Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini” ”.


Luke Chapter 10:38-42

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

Text

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

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

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

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ὀλίγων δέ ἐστιν χρεία ἢ ἑνός ⸃·

Luke Chapter 10:25-37: 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.

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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 ”.