Blog Archives

Luke Chapter 21:10-24 (with edit)

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

Added a section to the commentary of vv 16-19

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

Text

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

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

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

13 ἀποβήσεται ὑμῖν εἰς μαρτύριον.

14 θέτε οὖν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν μὴ προμελετᾶν ἀπολογηθῆναι,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 continget autem vobis in testimonium.

14 Ponite ergo in cordibus vestris non praemeditari quemadmodum respondeatis;

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

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

17 καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι ὑπὸ πάντων διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου.

18 καὶ θρὶξ ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὑμῶν οὐ μὴ ἀπόληται.

19 ἐν τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὑμῶν κτήσασθε τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν.

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum.

18 Et capillus de capite vestro non peribit.

19 In patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 21:1-9

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

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

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

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

Text

 

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

2 εἶδεν δέ τινα χήραν πενιχρὰν βάλλουσαν ἐκεῖ λεπτὰ δύο,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Vidit autem quandam viduam pauperculam mittentem illuc minuta duo

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summary Luke Chapter 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Luke Chapter 20:41-47

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

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

Text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

42 Ipse enim David dicit in libro Psalmorum:

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

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

45 Audiente autem omni populo, dixit discipulis suis: 

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

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

Luke Chapter 20:9-19

This entire chapter is devoted to Jesus teaching in the Temple. In Verse 1, Luke said the events were transpiring in “one of those days”. Now, “those” is a pretty vague term that can mean a lot of things. But this chapter comes immediately after the Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple; it’s also before the Passion. Reading this to mean “one of those days after the Entry and before the Crucifixion” does not strain the language. The point is that Jesus struck at the economic foundations of the wealth of the Temple, and so its curators and staff, a day or two before, and now is calmly having a discussion. Those curators and staff, the High Priest and high priests, are trying to get Jesus into trouble by tricking him into saying something they can use against him in a court of law. That seems a bit odd, since he pretty much caused a riot–or at least a major disturbance– a few days earlier. I would think that disturbing the peace and/or vandalism would be much more serious charges, and ones that are much easier to prosecute. He committed those acts in front of a Temple courtyard full of witnesses. Would it not be easier to obtain a judgement of condemnation for those actions than to trap him into something like blasphemy? Especially since the difference between orthodox teaching and blasphemy can be a reasonably slippery distinction to make? And especially if Jesus has to be tried by the Romans. The army of occupation, led by Pilate, really had no knowledge of, and less interest in, the intricacies of Jewish faith. Disturbing the peace, OTOH, was something the Romans cared about, and a lot. I’ve been beating this argument, but it is critical if we want to understand the situation and make any kind of attempt to figure out why Jesus was executed. Starting with Mark, the evangelists have been careful to concoct a story in which it seems like the Jewish authorities were the ones to blame, and this because they found Jesus’ teachings to be heterodox, or possibly dangerous because he was trying to foment rebellion. Well, Jesus carried out an act that could easily be classified as rebellious and…nothing. A day or two later, they are having a discussion with him to trick him into blasphemy.

How does that make sense? Seriously. We are supposed to take the gospels seriously as history, but then they present a series of events that simply makes no sense if we’re to read it as history. The accounts make a lot of sense if read allegorically, or as myth, or as a presentation of dogma, or at least belief. But as history? Not so much.

Text

9 Ἤρξατο δὲ πρὸς τὸν λαὸν λέγειν τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην: Ἄνθρωπός [τις] ἐφύτευσεν ἀμπελῶνα, καὶ ἐξέδετο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν χρόνους ἱκανούς. 

He began (to teach) to the people this parable: “There was a (certain) man (who) planted a vineyard, and he leased this to farmers (lit = something like tenders of fields), and he went out of the territory/village for a sufficient time.

Right out of the gate there are a couple of things. Note that Jesus is preaching to “the people”. This is after I said he was discoursing with the high priests, etc. But recall that in the first section he was indeed talking to the high priests and/or scribes, etc. And after this story, he will again address the priestly group directly. Here, I think, we are supposed to imagine that, as the priests look on, Jesus begins to address those assembled. Had they been listening all along? Or did he suddenly turn away from the knot of scribes, etc, and begin declaiming to the crowd, more or less uninvited, relying on his personal charisma to catch and hold their attention? Or was the evangelist not paying attention, and just sort of launched into this? Is this, in fact, an example of the infamous “editorial fatigue”, wherein the evangelist can’t focus on his narrative for more than a few verses sequentially? As it turns out, this question will be answered later on.

The other thing is the “sufficient time”. Once again, I am over-literal, but that is the base meaning of the word: sufficient, or even worthy. Those are overlapping concepts; at least, they can be. All of my four crib translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, and KJV) render this as “for a long time”. Now, this idea of length does fall into the meaning of the word; however, it also completely lacks the nuances of sufficient and worthy. The Latin, OTOH, renders this as << multis temporibus >>; literally, a lot of, a long time. Once again, we find that our scholarly predecessors favored the Latin over the Greek text, despite all their protestations of going back to the original. Yes, this translation may make more sense in English, but it also ignores some of the subtleties of the Greek. In particular, we can note that the KJV stuck with the more familiar Latin reading. This is not the first time we’ve noted this.

9 Coepit autem dicere ad plebem parabolam hanc: “ Homo plantavit vineam et locavit eam colonis et ipse peregre fuit multis temporibus. 

10 καὶ καιρῷ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς δοῦλον, ἵνα ἀπὸ τοῦ καρποῦ τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος δώσουσιν αὐτῷ: οἱ δὲ γεωργοὶ ἐξαπέστειλαν αὐτὸν δείραντες κενόν. 

11 καὶ προσέθετο ἕτερον πέμψαι δοῦλον: οἱ δὲ κἀκεῖνον δείραντες καὶ ἀτιμάσαντες ἐξαπέστειλαν κενόν. 

“And in the season he sent to the husbandmen a slave, so that from the fruit of the vineyard they (the renters) will give him (i.e., like a sharecropping arrangement; or they would pay a money rent). The renters sent him away empty, he having been beaten. (11) And he added another, he sent a slave (i.e., he added a second, sending another slave); and also beating and dishonouring him they sent him away empty.

“Husbandmen” is an archaic word in English. I lifted this directly from the KJV. The various translations are ‘vine-growers’ or ‘tenants’, both of which are accurate enough. The root of the word is ‘georg-‘, which should be recognizable as the root of the English name “George”. In Greek, this root gives rise to the words for ‘field’, ’tillage/farming’, and farmer. It’s one who tends to the field, field being taken in a broad sense. So if I translate it as ‘tenant’, don’t be surprised; however, ‘sharecropper’ might actually capture the sense better by combining the ideas of paying rent and tilling the field itself. In various translations, one will encounter this story under the rubric, “The Wicked Tenants”.

The bit about adding the second slave is difficult to put into English. The meaning is clear enough. It’s just that both verbs, “added” and “sent” modify both the direct object and adjective. So, he added another slave (and) sent another slave would be the most direct translation, but it totally misses the Greek. Again, the meaning is not affected, but the intricacy of the Greek gets lost. And the same construction recurs in Verse 12 below.

BTW, the Latin word for “empty” is “inane”; well, technically, << inanem >>, the root being << inanus >>, but the root is clear enough,

10 Et in tempore misit ad cultores servum, ut de fructu vineae darent illi; cultores autem caesum dimiserunt eum inanem. 

11 Et addidit alterum servum mittere; illi autem hunc quoque caedentes et afficientes contumelia dimiserunt inanem. 

12 καὶ προσέθετο τρίτον πέμψαι: οἱ δὲ καὶ τοῦτον τραυματίσαντες ἐξέβαλον.

13 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος, Τί ποιήσω; πέμψω τὸν υἱόν μου τὸν ἀγαπητόν: ἴσως τοῦ τον ἐντραπήσονται.

14 ἰδόντες δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ γεωργοὶ διελογίζοντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους λέγοντες, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος: ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, ἵνα ἡμῶν γένηται ἡ κληρονομία.

“And he added a third and he sent a third; but they, having traumatized him (literally) they threw (him) out. (13) The lord of the vineyard said,  ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, my beloved. Perhaps they will be shamed by him’. (14) Seeing him the farmers spoke amongst themselves saying, ‘He is the heir. Let us kill him, so that we will be the heirs’.

Even if we had not read the other versions of the story, I suspect we can guess where this is going. But no spoilers in case anyone is coming to this fresh.

12 Et addidit tertium mittere; qui et illum vulnerantes eiecerunt. 

13 Dixit autem dominus vineae: “Quid faciam? Mittam filium meum dilectum; forsitan hunc verebuntur”. 

14 Quem cum vidissent coloni, cogitaverunt inter se dicentes: “Hic est heres. Occidamus illum, ut nostra fiat hereditas”. 

15 καὶ ἐκβαλόντες αὐτὸν ἔξω τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος ἀπέκτειναν. τί οὖν ποιήσει αὐτοῖς ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος;

16 ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργοὺς τούτους, καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις. ἀκούσαντες δὲ εἶπαν, Μὴ γένοιτο.

“And throwing him out of the vineyard, they killed him. So what will the lord of the vineyard do to them? (16) He will go and he will destroy (= kill) those husbandmen, and he will give the vineyard to others”. Hearing, they said, “Let this not become (come to pass/happen)”.   

This story is part of the Triple Tradition; both Mark and Matthew include this story. We have an example where Luke follows Mark in a very specific way, then he diverges from both. Both Mark and Luke say that the lord “will give” the vineyard to others. Matthew says that he will (paraphrasing a bit) “rent it out to others who will pay him the rent that is due”. This is yet another example of what I’ve been talking about. Mark says he will give it to others. Matthew says he will rent it and will be paid for it. Once again, Luke, having read the two previous versions, decides that Matthew got it wrong, once again, and corrected Matthew. God isn’t going to rent out the Kingdom; he’s going to give it to new people. The Q people say that Luke never agrees with Matthew against Mark; they do not explain why on earth he would do so. On a number of occasions, we’ve asked why someone would decide to do something as odd as writing a gospel. The answer, clearly, is that the author does so because s/he believe s/he has something more to say about the story. Mark gave us bare bones; Matthew filled it out. Luke read both and decided that there were places where Matthew got it wrong, or at least where his interpretation left the reader with the wrong impression. So Luke set out to correct the record. He did not seek to supersede Matthew, just as Matthew did not seek to supersede Mark; rather, Luke wanted to get us back to the proper intent of the parable. God has no intention of being a landlord, and Luke wants to underscore that.

Also, this comes hard on the heels of the last chapter, with its stories of Palm Sunday and the Cleansing of the Temple. In both instances, Matthew was in sufficient agreement with Mark, and both told the story in full, so Luke decided enough was enough. He did not omit the stories, but he presented them with what someone called “epic compression”. (Sorry; I read these things and a phrase sticks subconsciously. A proper scholar would make a note of the citation. But I’m not a proper scholar; I’m a guy writing a blog, so my notes are not as meticulous as perhaps they could be. But that expression is not my own. It’s likely to be from Robert Eisenman, since he is the last secondary source I read, and I believe I came upon the quote recently. Who knows? When I make the attempt to turn this into proper scholarship, I will be much more careful. I promise.)

The divergence from both is also interesting. “Let this not come to pass”. This is said by those having heard the story. This raises the questions: Why is this here/Why did Luke add it? The second is, what does this tell us about Luke’s overall outlook? The two are related, but not entirely synonymous. The first question to ask about the first question is Who said this? Those hearing. Which people hearing. Spoiler alert: in the next couple of verses we will get the answer posed for the first couple verses about the audience. Jesus was talking to the high priests, etc, in the first eight verses. Then in Verse 9 he starts talking to “the people”, presumably the civilians, to whom he relates this parable. Then in Verse 19 we find that the high priests are still about. So who uttered the phrase, which is, per the commentator Ellicott, the equivalent of “God forbid”. You see, I cheated on this and went to look at some commentaries. As for who said the words, the commentators are divided. Gill said it was the high priests and scribes; The Expositor’s Greek Testament says that it was the people who said it.  A couple of others seem not to care, other than that it was said by “Jews”, or “The Jews”, as they will be called by John the Evangelist. This outward lament is supposed to be the cry of anguish as “The Jews” realize and understand the parable, and that they are to be the ones excluded from the Kingdom that will come.

But none of that explains why Luke included it. Several commentaries mention that this is a Pauline expression; that Paul uses this expression, or something similar, ten times in Romans per the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. I wonder a bit about that, since this is in the optative, which is very rare in the NT; hence, the qualification of “or something similar”. But that just deals with the language in which the thought is expressed; it does not touch on why the thought is there. Really , this is not such a big mystery. By the time Luke wrote, most of the Jewish elements had been purged from what can–even should– be called Christianity. There is no way to quantify this, of course; however, Eusebios makes it reasonably clear that this was what was happening. I do not entirely trust Eusebios on this. the nascent anti-Semitism in his writing indicates that he was, at best, ambivalent about the Jewish element of Christianity. He loved loved loved it when he was claiming the ancient heritage that legitimized Christianity in the eyes of some people; OTOH, as much as he loved Abraham and Moses, he was not at all fond of Jews who lived in the time of, or the time after Jesus. These Jews were the ones who rejected Jesus. And here Luke provides an expression of their collective anguish when they realize that they have been superseded, that Christians have jumped the line giving entrance into the Kingdom. Unfortunately, this seems to indicate that Luke shared the view that Jews had been pushed aside.

15 Et eiectum illum extra vineam occiderunt. Quid ergo faciet illis dominus vineae? 

16 Veniet et perdet colonos istos et dabit vineam aliis”.  Quo audito, dixerunt:“ Absit!”. 

17 ὁ δὲ ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς εἶπεν, Τί οὖν ἐστιν τὸ γεγραμμένον τοῦτο: Λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας;

18 πᾶς ὁ πεσὼν ἐπ’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν λίθον συνθλασθήσεται: ἐφ’ ὃν δ’ ἂν πέσῃ, λικμήσει αὐτόν.

19 Καὶ ἐζήτησαν οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς ἐπιβαλεῖν ἐπ’ αὐτὸν τὰς χεῖρας ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν λαόν: ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν τὴν παραβολὴνταύτην. 

He (Jesus), looking on said to them, “So what is this writing, ‘The stone the builders rejected, this has become the head of the angle/corner’?  (18) All falling upon the stone will be broken. The one on whom it falls, it will grind him’.” (19) And the scribes and the high priests sought to lay hands on him at that hour, but they feared the people. For they knew that he spoke the parable against them.  

Here we solve the mystery of whom he is addressing. While Jesus addressed the crowd, he was actually speaking to the the priests and scribes. Not sure I ever completely “got it” before, but the rejected stone was a reference to Jesus. Seriously, that should have . been a no-brainer, but it wasn’t. I thought it was the Christian humility thing. Anyway, this clearly marks the comment as post-Jesus; it only makes sense after he had been rejected; perhaps “rejected with extreme prejudice” would be the best description. Interestingly, Luke does add a wrinkle to the narrative. None of the other two evangelists have the comment about falling on the stone and getting broken, or being ground if the stone fell on them is completely novel. When the third version adds something in this manner, we really are required to ask why, if we wish to be taken seriously as commentators and/or historians. Some of the Commentaries link this back to Isaiah or Jeremiah, others to the stone that is a stumbling block on 1 Corinthians 1:23. My gut reaction is that this is yet another reference to the fate of the Jews who were ground by the Roman millstone in the Jewish War; or, perhaps it is a bit more subtle, referring to the way Jews were superseded as the majority of Jesus’ followers by the time the gospels were written. In the final analysis, of course, we can never be certain why Luke added this. That’s a lame conclusion, utterly betraying the concept of historical judgement. My take is that there is a certain amount of malevolence intended. The Expositor’s Greek Testament credits this to Daniel 2:35, but only in part. The implication is that the scribes and high priests would be ground to chaff and blown away, which doesn’t entirely work with the passage here. In turn, Daniel refers back to Isaiah et al, passages in which the wicked will be no more because they will have been ground to chaff.

So yeah, malevolent.

17 Ille autem aspiciens eos ait: “Quid est ergo hoc, quod scriptum est:

‘Lapidem quem reprobaverunt aedificantes, hic factus est in caput anguli’?

18 Omnis, qui ceciderit supra illum lapidem, conquassabitur; supra quem autem ceciderit, comminuet illum ”. 

19 Et quaerebant scribae et principes sacerdotum mittere in illum manus in illa hora et timuerunt populum; cognoverunt enim quod ad ipsos dixerit similitudinem istam.

Summary Luke Chapter 19

The chapter was another mixed bag, with a lot of different ideas, themes, and types of story. The first was the tale of Zaccheus. Two things stand out for me. The first is that the inclusion of a story set in Jericho indicates the spread and growth of the Jesus Legend. Much earlier in the gospel we had the story of Jesus raising the son of the widow of Nain from the dead. Both of these are unique to Luke, and both of them represent settings in places where no previous stories had been set. Indeed, Nain had never been mentioned; and while Jericho was the setting for the returning the sight of bar Timaeus, this had occurred outside the gates in previous tellings. The tale of Zaccheus takes place inside Jericho itself, which widens the net of places where Jesus acted. Presumably, the stories indicate locations where assemblies of the followers of Jesus– it is probably correct to call them Christians at this point– had taken root. Not wanting to feel left out, one suspects that they sort of grew their own tales to demonstrate their participation in the movement. Yes, of course, this flies in the face of the idea that all of the events described are factually accurate down to the smallest detail, but that idea is simply untenable. I suspect that anyone holding that view has long since abandoned reading anything I say, and I don’t blame them for that decision. So there you have it. To believe that the stories of the events in the life of Jesus circulated intact and underground until picked up by Matthew or Luke– and worst of all, by John– just is not tenable. It is at this point that someone  starts to talk about the reliability of oral traditions and waves their hand as if disputing the accuracy of oral tradition is the height of folly. To which I respond: the Song of Roland is based on indisputably historical events, the course of which are known and pretty much settled. And yet, the Song of Roland relates these historical events and gets the enemy wrong. So, yeah, stories got made up to include Nain and Jericho.

While we’re talking about these two stories, there are a couple of things that should be pointed out, traits that carry a bit more weight than when considered in isolation. Luke has the story of the Widow of Nain; he does not have the story of Jairus’ daughter. I would suggest that Luke omitted the latter because he had a replacement for it. The import of Jairus daughter is that Jesus brought the dead girl back to life. Jesus does exactly that by revivifying the widow’s son, but the circumstances are much more dramatic. After all, Jairus’ daughter died just moments (hours?) before Jesus arrived; the widow’s son had been dead some time. Jesus raised the girl more or less in private; he raised the widow’s son while the latter was on his way to the tomb, and in front of all in the funeral procession. It was very public. The upshot is that Luke had a better story than that of Jairus, and the latter story had been well-covered by Mark and Matthew. We saw this same sort of abridgement later in this chapter when we read Luke’s versions of Palm Sunday, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, and the Cleansing of the Temple. All of these stories are part of the triple tradition; all of them were reported in full by Luke’s two predecessors. As a result, Luke did not feel the need to tell the full story as he had done with the story of the Gerasene Demonaic, which Matthew shortened, and by a lot. So Luke, apparently, did not see the point of retelling the story of Jairus, but substituted that of the Widow of Nain, which carried a lot more dramatic wallop. In the same way, at the end of Chapter 18, we were told the story of bar Timaeus. Again, the story was carried in full by Mark and Matthew; again, Luke gave us a shorter version, to the point where Luke does not provide the name of the man whose sight was restored. So here we have a cluster of stories all exhibiting a common trait: Luke tells a short version when the longer version has been, to his mind, adequately covered. Are all these a mere coincidence? It’s possible, of course, but in these two chapters we have a half-dozen such examples, and there are others I don’t recall offhand. That’s a lot of coincidence. Of course, this carries the strong implication that Luke was, indeed, very well aware of Matthew. Luke never goes short when Matthew does; rather, Luke goes short when Matthew goes long. Put another nail in the coffin of Q.

The other part of the Zaccheus story is that we are told the Z-man merited salvation. The more exact cite would be that Jesus said that salvation had come to Zaccheus’ house; the cause of the salvation was given in the previous verse, when Z-man promised to make restitution, and to take no more than was due in the future. In short, he repented and promised to change his ways. Bingo. Also to be noted is that Luke used the word “salvation”, sōtēria. This is exactly the fourth time the word has been used in the gospels; the first three all came in Chapter 1, and they all come between Verses 69-77. They are part of the prophecy Zaccharias gives regarding his coming son, John-who-will-be-called-Baptist, after Zaccharias has regained his powers of speech that he lost for doubting that he and Elizabeth would have a son in their old age. John, Zaccharias says, is going to preach and offer salvation to the children of Abraham. There, however, the Lord God will give salvation Israel from their enemies; this is a different kind of salvation. So, this is the first time that the idea of salvation, in its Christian sense, is mentioned in the gospels. It’s also the first time in the whole NT where the nexus of salvation is connected to merit.

This distinction is important because it is not the first time the word salvation is used in the NT. Paul uses it several times, most especially in Romans, but also tracing back to Philippians and 1 Thessalonians. The last two, with Galatians, are the earliest pieces of writing in all of the NT; that Paul uses the term as Luke does here indicates that the concept of salvation dates back to the first days of the development of what would become Christianity. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 is very explicit about this: we are to obtain salvation from the wrath through the lord, who died for us that we might live with him. Then, after Paul, the concept more or less disappeared until showing up in the first chapter of Luke: Zaccahrias talks about salvation and the angels tell the shepherds that a saviour has been born this day. John’s Gospel uses each of the words exactly once. Then the terms salvation and saviour are used numerous times in the later epistles, like Timothy, Titus, Peter 1&2, and even in Revelations. Think about that: Jesus is referred to as The Saviour exactly twice in all four gospels, and only in the last two written.

What happened? I ask this because the term “saviour” became very popular with the Ante-Nicene Patristic writers. I’m currently reading The Refutation of All Heresies. This was written in the early 3rd Century CE by Hippolytus Romanus. He uses the term “saviour” for Jesus the Christ frequently, and by the time Eusebios wrote in the early-mid 4th Century, referring to Jesus as “our Saviour” was a standard form of address. So the question is what happened between Paul and Luke? Why was the term not used by the first two evangelists?

My first impulse is to exhibit this split up as powerful evidence of how the different traditions of Jesus told different stories. Backing up a step, it’s really good evidence that there were at least two different traditions. There was the tradition that ignored the term saviour and the tradition that kept it alive. In turn, it also reinforces, to some degree, my contention that Mark welded the traditions of the Wonder Worker and The Christ into a single story; but then if we notice that the Christ tradition did not include the saviour tradition, perhaps our count is now up to three separate story lines. And here is where Luke takes on a new level of significance: since he is the one who uses the term in his gospel, what he did was to merge the Pauline tradition into the two that were preserved by Mark and expanded by Matthew. Going forward, since the Christ tradition likely originated with Paul (so far as we know), the fact that the Christ was maintained by one group but the saviour tradition was lost perhaps indicates that the Pauline tradition itself was bifurcated. Then if we recall the tradition that resulted in the Didache, we can argue that there was a fourth– or fifth, depending on how you define it– tradition. Given the Pauline split, it should not surprise us that at least one–and probably more– Gnostic interpretation evolved later. In fact, Hippolytus Romanus describes a plethora of what he calls heresies, and heresies continued to develop until eventually one was called the Reformation.

As I mentioned, I’m currently reading (well, I’ve started to read; the book is 1000+ pages) the book James, Brother of Jesus, by Robert Eisenman. The author is reputable; he did a lot of work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, but he may have gone a bit off the rails in this one. As the title suggests, the book is an attempt to re-establish James in his rightful place in Christian development. He believes we can identify two major strains of Christian development: the Hellenistic, founded by Paul, which eventually became the orthodox version, and a Jewish or Palestinian branch, founded by James. This group, he says, was part of the sect that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, which he dates to the First Century CE, rather than the widely accepted First Century BCE. This latter group was anti-Roman in both a religious as well as a political sense. The group included the Zealots, and Eisenman numbers James among them. They were, supposedly, much like the English Puritans, intellectual descendants of the Maccabees who were vehemently opposed to foreign rule. He identifies them with one branch of Saducees, which term he derives from the name of the High Priest Zadok. Saducees, he says, is the Hellenized form of Zadokites. There is much that I’ve found interesting so far, but I have a foreboding that he’s going to base too much on linguistic similarities and/or coincidences. Time will tell. But he is certainly on solid ground to argue that James was more or less erased from history by the Hellenizers, former pagans, who had no real connexion to Jewish Christians to start with, but who lost even this once James was killed in the mid-60s, which event was followed closely by the Jewish War. If nothing else, there is the Didache giving evidence that such a non-Pauline strain did hang on to leave the document.

What’s really fascinating is that he links James to the Ebionites–something everyone does–but then takes this a step further. The Ebionites, the Poor Ones, were concerned with the status of the downtrodden; we have noted that much of “Christian” concern with the poor and the meek is actually part of the Jewish tradition, something running through numerous books of the Hebrew Scriptures (HS). So if it were James who was concerned with the poor and the meek, perhaps the Sermon on the Mount originated with James, and not his more famous brother. This appeals to me for a couple of reasons. I have been harping on the idea that James was the head of the ekklesia for nigh on 30 years; as a result, it’s impossible that he did not have some kind of major impact on what the group believed and how it saw itself. I also want to believe I’ve suggested that material in the Sermon on the Mount may have originated with James and not Jesus, and that I came up with this thought independently. The problem is that I started reading this book at some point a couple of years ago, but I don’t remember how much I read. It wasn’t a lot, but how much is “not a lot”? Ten pages? One hundred (10% of a 1,000 page book…) So did these ideas lodge there to be reawakened “on my own” at a later date? This is sort of the phenomenon of “inadvertent copyright infringement. You hear a song once or twice, forget about it, and then one day you compose a song that sounds a lot like it. You didn’t knowingly steal it, but there it is.

The second reason the idea appeals, of course, because this all-but completely eliminates the need for Q. Jesus never said this stuff, so it never got written down, which means no Q, and Luke got it all from Matthew.

This has gotten way off topic. Regardless, it’s important to see the broader implications of what is going on in this writing. The focus in too much writing on the NT is much, much too narrow, usually only stepping back when needed to make a particular point. This is the risk, and the result, when non-historians try to write about the historical Jesus.

The rest of the chapter was dedicated to stories that are part of the Triple Tradition. These include the Triumphal Entry, Jesus Weeping Over Jerusalem, and The Cleansing of the Temple. In all three cases, the version presented here is short and sweet, almost to the point of perfunctory. This is in keeping with what I perceive to be a pattern: where Mark and Matthew present a full-length version of a story, Luke provides a condensed version as he does here in all three cases. Alternatively, if Matthew abridges one of Mark’s stories, such as that of the Gerasene Demonaic, Luke is content to give us a redacted form of the story as he did here.

The one place where Luke added material was in the Tale of the Talents. This is my term for the Gospel of Capitalism, where the slaves of the master are expected to turn a profit for him on the money he entrusted to them. As I’ve mentioned in the other two versions, I’ve always had a problem with this; however, I’ve finally figured out that the money is a metaphor for spiritual growth. The lord gave his slaves spiritual gifts; two of the slaves were able to increase their gifts, to become more spiritual, but the third was afraid to try. This is a metaphorical inducement that, as followers of Jesus, we can’t be passive and hide our spirituality by burying it in the ground. And now it occurs to me that this story is much more apt to refer to conditions in the 60s or 70s as in the 30s or 40s. There was unrest in Judea in the later 30s, so it could date to that period. After all, if the story was already in Mark who wrote shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem, that provides a pretty tight chronology for the events to occur and the story to be created. It’s possible either way. The point is that during times of trouble, certain followers likely buried their spiritual gifts by denying their religious affiliation rather than let their freak flag fly and face persecution. Of course, it’s always easy after the fact, from the comfort of a secure, non-threatening environment, to tell people how they should have behaved when placed in mortal danger.

One thing that is very important to remember about facing danger for one’s beliefs is that the idea of martyrdom was most emphatically not a Christian invention. Like concern for social justice, this was something the Christians appropriated from their Jewish forerunners, and then tried to imply that they were the only ones with this degree of courage of convictions. The fact is that Josephus relates several stories in which crowds of Jews bared their necks to Roman swords to force the Romans to choose between desecration of the Temple (e.g.) or the mass slaughter of hundreds of Jews, which would have inflamed passion against Rome even further. Nor is there any real reason to suspect that they would not have submitted to the execution; or, at least, they may have submitted to start, but I can see where after a few minutes the crowd may have chosen to riot rather than allow more slaughter.

But that’s all by way of incidental. The real issue with Luke’s adaptation is the addition of the part with the kingdom. In the other two versions, the lord is simply going on a journey. In this version, the lord is going to accept a kingdom. And once again, I failed to catch the symbolism intended. Of course the lord is Jesus. And of course the kingdom is the kingdom of God. And of course he’s “going away” because he’s been crucified. And he came back because that’s what he’s promised to do. And now that he’s back, he’s settling accounts. Who’s done what with the gifts, or the commission, or the instructions, that they’ve been given? Of course, you all knew all of that. I, OTOH, well, not so much. As such, this is not the major deviation I had originally thought it was. It’s just an addition, sort of filling out the story in order to make the meaning more obvious. But then, people like me come along and completely miss this.

So what is the point? I think that this represents a reminder. We saw in Paul how the Second Coming was expected hourly, if not sooner. We saw how Mark and Matthew stepped away from that, with injunctions that no one knows the day and the hour except the father, so be ready, but don’t hold your breath. Now I think Luke is using this story to remind us that it is going to happen. Maybe not immediately, but it will. Perhaps he believed that the sense of urgency about the Return had waned a bit too much, so he decided that a bit of a warning might be in order. So, while not earth-shattering, it’s a change from Mark and Matthew.

Luke Chapter 19:41-48

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

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

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

Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

41 Et ut appropinquavit, videns civitatem flevit super illam 

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

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

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

45 Καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας,

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

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

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

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

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

45 Et ingressus in templum, coepit eicere vendentes 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 19:11-27

Now we return to our regularly scheduled programming. Verse 11 is included below, but the comment on it is included in the separate post.

That being said, we are brought to the story of the talents, or the Money Usage, or however one wishes to label it. I have never particularly liked this story. It always seemed a bit too harsh; actually, my objection is that it’s a bit (or a lot) too capitalistic for my taste. An alternative rubric, or title, could easily be The Rich Get Richer. And this is a long section of text; however, since the story itself is familiar, it may not require much commentary. This has become something of a problem for the Triple Tradition material: it’s hard to come up with a new take, so I either repeat what I’ve said about the other two versions, or I say nothing at all. Which is better? Or worse?

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, since he was near to Jerusalem and it seemed to them that the kingdom of God was to be immediately apparent.

See Post Luke Chapter 19:11 for comment on Verse 11.

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

12 εἶπεν οὖν, Ἄνθρωπός τις εὐγενὴς ἐπορεύθη εἰς χώραν μακρὰν λαβεῖν ἑαυτῷ βασιλείαν καὶ ὑποστρέψαι.

13 καλέσας δὲ δέκα δούλους ἑαυτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς δέκα μνᾶς καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς, Πραγματεύσασθε ἐν ᾧ ἔρχομαι.

14 οἱ δὲ πολῖται αὐτοῦ ἐμίσουν αὐτόν, καὶ ἀπέστειλαν πρεσβείαν ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ λέγοντες, Οὐ θέλομεν τοῦτον βασιλεῦσαι ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς.

15 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἐπανελθεῖν αὐτὸν λαβόντα τὴν βασιλείαν καὶ εἶπεν φωνηθῆναι αὐτῷ τοὺς δούλους τούτους οἷς δεδώκει τὸ ἀργύριον, ἵνα γνοῖ τί διεπραγματεύσαντο.

Thus he said, “A certain man, well-born (i.e. noble) left to a far country to receive to himself a kingdom, and to return. (13) Calling ten slaves to himself he gave to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage yourselves until I come (back)’. (14) The citizens of him hated him, and they sent messages after him saying, ‘We do not want him to rule over us’. (15) And it happened upon his return having received the kingdom and he said to be called to him the slaves to whom he had given the silver, in order that he might know what they had realized in commerce.

First, the whole set-up for the story seems a bit bizarre. The nobleman has been called to receive a kingdom? Really? Someone just sent an angel (messenger) with a note asking for the guy to come? And then “the citizens” send their own angel (i.e., messenger) with a different note to say they hate the guy. Presumably, these are the citizens of the kingdom to be received; that is not entirely clear, but it’s difficult to find another way to take this that makes any sense. But the nobleman does receive the kingdom, at which point he does return. OK. Got it?

The story of the consigned money is also in Matthew, but not in Mark; ergo, it’s considered to be part of Q. Now, here we have a setting, a description of surrounding circumstances for the story that is completely missing from Matthew. Therefore, the implication is that Matthew chose not to include this backstory, and probably for obvious reasons. So then we have to ask which version is the more “primitive”. Is it Matthew, who left out stuff? Or Luke, because he included material that was in Q? Now, Kloppenborg, in his “definitive” Q text, leaves out the part about the message from the citizens, so that part is not purported to be in Q. So I guess that means Luke made it up? Or, he got it from some mysterious L Source, presumably an oral source that kept alive material that bypassed Mark and Matthew. So is this L material older than Q? If so, why wasn’t it included in Q? Well, it could be that it was contemporaneous with Q, but it traveled through a different line of transmission. Was the author of Q aware of this part of the story and chose not to include it? Why not? If there were two lines of transmission, each reaching back to Jesus, then we have one origin who chose to include this part, while another either chose not to include these details. Again, why not? If both lines trace back to Jesus, there is a common source that then became bifurcated, with some material left out. On what criteria did the author of Q chose to omit these details? Has anyone ever offered an explanation why Q omitted this part? Of course, if Q did include these details, what are Matthew’s criteria for leaving it out? Anyone? Bueller? 

The other alternative is that it may not be older than, or contemporaneous with Q; however, that necessarily means that someone else made it up, and this presents an entirely different set of problems and questions. If Matthew got his story directly from Q, and Q did not have these details as Kloppenborg says it didn’t, then Matthew provides the more primitive version of the story. But who made up these other details? And when? And if these details were made up later, what other material was made up later? Now, this is an exercise that desperately needs to be done. We need to stop and think and try to reconstruct a path of development that the story of Jesus took. It should start during his ministry, continue through his death and resurrection (whether literal or figurative; that is a discussion yet to be had), through the years when James the Just was leading the ekklesia in Jerusalem, then branching into the ekklesiai that Paul established, bringing us Mark, Matthew, Luke, & John. The epistles that were not written by Paul truly need not concern us much; they are minor stops on the larger journey. To the best of my knowledge, this undertaking I am suggesting has never been done. If it has, I would appreciate someone giving me the cite(s), so that I can follow up on my own. Tracing the path of development would be very instructive, IMO. It would help us understand more completely just what we are up against when we try to sort out questions of the sort we face in this section of text. Where did these details about the kingdom, the existence of which is not hinted at in Matthew, originate? When did they originate? Where did the M Source originate? The L Source? We can’t just attribute them to some vague “oral tradition”. That is woefully insufficient.

Let’s notice something else. The stories in the L Source are more elaborate than those in the M Source. This latter gives us the story of the banquet where no one comes. The former gives us the Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, The Good Shepherd, and all the details about the kingdom that we get here. Why is that? And, for that matter, why are Matthew’s stories attributed to the M Source, more elaborate, for the most part, than the stories in Mark? Mark has the Geresene Demonaic, which Matthew shortened and Luke restored more closely to its original length. As a general rule, stories become more complex as they are told, as new tellers add their own touches and flourishes. There are all the studies of how oral traditions work, and we have an idea of how something like The Iliad was recited, how each poet more or less composed his own version, a process that was finally ended when Homer (or someone) wrote it down. This would imply that the elaboration of Luke’s stories took time; or they took a very creative author, and we may as well call him Luke.

12 Dixit ergo: “ Homo quidam nobilis abiit in regionem longinquam accipere sibi regnum et reverti. 

13 Vocatis autem decem servis suis, dedit illis decem minas et ait ad illos: “Negotiamini, dum venio”. 

14 Cives autem eius oderant illum et miserunt legationem post illum dicentes: “Nolumus hunc regnare super nos!”. 

15 Et factum est ut rediret, accepto regno, et iussit ad se vocari servos illos, quibus dedit pecuniam, ut sciret quantum negotiati essent. 

16 παρεγένετο δὲ ὁ πρῶτος λέγων, Κύριε, ἡ μνᾶ σου δέκα προσηργάσατο μνᾶς.

17 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εὖγε, ἀγαθὲ δοῦλε, ὅτι ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ πιστὸς ἐγένου, ἴσθι ἐξουσίαν ἔχων ἐπάνω δέκα πόλεων.

“And it happened the first saying to him, ‘Lord, your mina I have parlayed into ten minas’. (17) And he (the lord) said to him (the slave), ‘Well done, good slave, that in small things faith has been in you, you having power are above ten cities’.

Just a few technical points. The Greek is a bit oblique;, I’ve done the best I could to put it into English that still retains some of the oblique character. The meaning is clear enough, but Greek allows some twists of grammar that English cannot convey. For example, in Verse 17, the word ‘faith’ is in the nominative, which means it should be the subject, but the verb form is second person singular, ‘you’. This sort of straightens out in the final clause, but it remains a bit awkward. Second, my imagination fails me for the word rendered as “parlayed”. I tried “invested”, but that has connotations in English that are completely anachronistic to the first century. The root of the verb used is ‘to go to market’; the concept conveyed is that he bought and sold to reap a profit of 1000%. Not bad.

And a mina is a weight of silver, as is a talent, and, I believe, a shekel.

16 Venit autem primus dicens: “Domine, mina tua decem minas acquisivit”. 

17 Et ait illi: “Euge, bone serve; quia in modico fidelis fuisti, esto potestatem habens supra decem civitates”. 

18 καὶ ἦλθεν ὁ δεύτερος λέγων, Ἡ μνᾶ σου, κύριε, ἐποίησεν πέντε μνᾶς.

19 εἶπεν δὲ καὶ τούτῳ, Καὶ σὺ ἐπάνω γίνου πέντε πόλεων.

20 καὶ ὁ ἕτερος ἦλθεν λέγων, Κύριε, ἰδοὺ ἡ μνᾶ σου ἣν εἶχον ἀποκειμένην ἐν σουδαρίῳ:

21 ἐφοβούμην γάρ σε, ὅτι ἄνθρωπος αὐστηρὸς εἶ, αἴρεις ὃ οὐκ ἔθηκας καὶ θερίζεις ὃ οὐκ ἔσπειρας.

22 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ἐκ τοῦ στόματός σου κρίνω σε, πονηρὲ δοῦλε. ᾔδεις ὅτι ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος αὐστηρός εἰμι, αἴρων ὃ οὐκ ἔθηκα καὶ θερίζων ὃ οὐκ ἔσπειρα;   

23 καὶ διὰ τί οὐκ ἔδωκάς μου τὸ ἀργύριον ἐπὶ τράπεζαν; κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν σὺν τόκῳ ἂν αὐτὸ ἔπραξα.

“And the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, lord, I have made five minas’. (19) And he (the lord) said to him (the slave), ‘And you come over five cities’. (20) And the other came, saying. ‘Lord, behold your mina, having which I wrapped in a cloth. (21) For I feared you, that you are a stringent man, you take up what you do not put down, and you reap what you do not sow’. (22) He (the lord) said to him (the slave), ‘From your mouth you judge yourself, wicked slave. Did you know that I an a stringent man, taking up what I did not put down, and reaping what I did not sow? (23) And on account of what did you not give my silver to the money changers and I coming with interest which it has performed’.

It’s a little difficult putting this into terms that make sense in both the ancient and modern worlds. The lord literally asks why the slave didn’t put the silver on a table; however, this came to be understood to be a money-changer’s table. The idea is that by giving the silver to money changers who took a certain percentage of the money exchanged, it would have earned a return. It is not proper to call it interest; a transaction fee is perhaps more accurate. The word used for this transaction fee actually means ‘usury’, but that has connotations of a loan. Which I suppose isn’t too far off, since the slave would be, in effect, loaning the money to the changers. And I have to say, lending the silver to money-changers doesn’t seem like a bad way to invest. From the disparaging way they are talked about, it would seem that they had a pretty good track record when it came to financial return. It wasn’t a venture likely to result in the loss of capital invested. Perhaps the slave feared they wouldn’t give him a fair return? Or even a return of the principal? Finally, the word for ‘stringent’ transliterates as ‘austeros’, ‘austere’. I believe stringent more effectively captures the idea that the lord is s hard man rather than one who lives a Spartan lifestyle.

18 Et alter venit dicens: “Mina tua, domine, fecit quinque minas”. 

19 Et huic ait: “Et tu esto supra quinque civitates”. 

20 Et alter venit dicens: “Domine, ecce mina tua, quam habui repositam in sudario; 

21 timui enim te, quia homo austerus es: tollis, quod non posuisti, et metis, quod non seminasti”. 

22 Dicit ei: “De ore tuo te iudico, serve nequam! Sciebas quod ego austerus homo sum, tollens quod non posui et metens quod non seminavi? 

23 Et quare non dedisti pecuniam meam ad mensam? Et ego veniens cum usuris utique exegissem illud”. 

24 καὶ τοῖς παρεστῶσιν εἶπεν, Ἄρατε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὴν μνᾶν καὶ δότε τῷ τὰς δέκα μνᾶς ἔχοντι.

25 καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἔχει δέκα μνᾶς.

26 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι παντὶ τῷ ἔχοντι δοθήσεται, ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ μὴ ἔχοντος καὶ ὃ ἔχει ἀρθήσεται. 

27 πλὴν τοὺς ἐχθρούς μου τούτους τοὺς μὴ θελήσαντάς με βασιλεῦσαι ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς ἀγάγετε ὧδε καὶ κατασφάξατε αὐτοὺς ἔμπροσθέν μου. 

“And to those standing around he (the lord) said, “Take from him the mina and give (it) to the one having ten minas’. (25) And he (the slave) said to him (the lord), ‘I have ten minas.’ (26) ‘I say to you that to all (individuals) having (it/something/more) will be given, but (δὲ) from the one(s) not having, even what he has will be taken. (27) Except those my enemies not wishing me to rule over them, lead them (here) so that you can also slay them in front of me’.”

And there you go, the First Church of Christ Capitalist. We discussed the lesson here in the commentary on Matthew’s version of the story. Does it not seem contrary to the idea of a humble saviour, one who tells us to turn the other cheek? What we have here is a many riding roughshod over his enemies, consigning them to public execution while he watches. This is a damn sight worse than simply taking the mina away from the slave who perhaps did not have the market savvy to put the money to work and produce a return. This inability to make money is offensive to the lord, and he will not tolerate it.

OF course, this is not to be taken literally. The ability to make money is symbolism for spiritual growth. The one with faith will have, or produce more, while the one with little will lost even that. Such a symbolic meaning does blunt the unsettling aspect of the parable; but only to a point. I don’t entirely like the sound of a lesson that tells me the person needing an infusion of faith will not receive it. Or, I suspect, we should substitute “grace” for “faith”. Outside of Romans, I do not know the scriptural passages Augustine used as a basis for his argument for predestination; however, it seems like this would be a prime candidate. The whole thing rests upon whether or not humans can merit salvation. Augustine and Luther, and especially Calvin following, believed that we are so wretchedly depraved that the initiative had to come from God in the form of prevenient grace which God grants to some-but only some–humans, thereby allowing them to start on the path to redemption and salvation. I really don’t like that message. Really, if it’s all God’s choice, than what is the point? And I see this thinking on display in some very ugly ways in these United States. Thanks to the Calvinist heritage brought over by the Pilgrims/Puritans (there is no functional difference), we know that all God’s chosen are rich. This provides a justification for ignoring the poor; they’re all Foreknown and will be damned, so why bother? It’s also apparent in the heritage of the Scots-Irish, and their attitude towards the US as a country. Since the USA is the new Chosen People, we can commit all manner of atrocities on non-Christians for much the same reason. So this strain that runs through Christianity has had some very pernicious consequences.

Pardon the rant. The real significance of this version of the story comes from the fact that the lord is also a king. We’ve already discussed what this means for Q. The length and elaboration of this version would indicate that it was later, at least in part, than Matthew’s version. Just to repeat, Kloppenborg does not believe the part about the king was in Q. So someone made it up. And if someone made that up, then other stuff could have been made up as well. There is no evidence for an L Source, or an M Source, except for the fact that Luke and Matthew have material found nowhere else in the NT. Calling it an oral source really doesn’t help because oral sources are impossible to pin down. That is not to say they didn’t exist; they did, and probably numbered in the hundreds. Zaccheus could easily be the result of an oral source that originated in Jericho came that up with a story that included Jericho in the Jesus cycle of stories. Many of the stories of Jesus interacting with pagans probably started as oral sources. So what is my point? That these oral sources very likely were invented after, perhaps decades after Jesus died. The “oral source” trick is to imply that the material contained originated at the time of Jesus and survived to be included in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and even John. Of course, a few of these stories did just that; the Parable of the Sower is probably one of them; or, it is more likely to represent a genuine survival than almost all of the others. And it is entirely possible that one or two of the stories unique to Matthew or Luke had an origin in or about the time of Jesus. It’s possible, but not very likely.

Why not? That is an extremely difficult topic. It goes back to the question of why nothing was written about Jesus until thirty years after his death. More, it is the question of how the traditions that reached Mark were formulated and transmitted. That is a very difficult question; it’s also one that has been pretty much completely ignored. 

As an aside, back in Verse 13, there were ten slaves who were each given a mina. We have had an accounting from only three. What happened to the other seven? Were they erased due to editorial fatigue? Luke lost count? Actually, that was intended as a glib, throwaway remark; however, having been committed to paper, it resonates more than I had expected. Along with the kingdom, the number of slaves presents a significant discrepancy with Matthew– but only at the beginning of the story. The term “editorial fatigue” is the condition where someone working from an earlier source starts out by making initial changes to give a fresh coat of paint to the older story, but then sort of gets ‘fatigued’ from all that new thinking, and eventually just slips back into following the original source. On one hand, I find this a bit ludicrous; after all, we’re talking about a few paragraphs and not an epic poem. OTOH, how to explain the change that ends up where we started: in Matthew’s version of the story? One plausible resolution is that it should be called copyist fatigue; the scribe, copying a manuscript, doesn’t feel like going into the whole rigamarole with seven more slaves, and whacks it back to the smaller number reported by Matthew. The difference between editor and copyist has major ramifications. If it’s editorial fatigue, this will imply, if not require, that Luke was working with knowledge of Matthew. This blows a hole in Q. If the fatigue arose in the copyist, any later copyist could have had access to both Matthew and Luke. This does not require that Luke be aware of Matthew. The laziness could have occurred hundreds of years after Luke was written. Hence, there is no impact on the Q discussion. So which is it?

Finally, there is the discrepancy between the measures of silver; here we have minas, but Matthew has talents. This need not detain us. Each author could have easily substituted the weight more common to the area he was writing. That is a minor change, and any conclusions drawn from the substitution lack any real substance. IMO, anyway. 

24 Et adstantibus dixit: “Auferte ab illo minam et date illi, qui decem minas habet”. 

25 Et dixerunt ei: “Domine, habet decem minas!”. 

26 Dico vobis: “Omni habenti dabitur; ab eo autem, qui non habet, et, quod habet, auferetur. 

27 Verumtamen inimicos meos illos, qui noluerunt me regnare super se, adducite huc et interficite ante me! ”.

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”.