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Luke Chapter 22:21-30

We’re still in the middle of the Lord’s/Last Supper. Jesus has dedicated the bread and wine as his body and blood. The section is fairly long, so had to make some less-than-graceful breaks. We actually broke in mid-speech of Jesus. Not exactly elegant, but the previous post had gotten too long to continue. And this is a very long chapter.


21 πλὴν ἰδοὺ ἡ χεὶρ τοῦ παραδιδόντος με μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης:

22 ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον πορεύεται, πλὴν οὐαὶ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ δι’ οὗ παραδίδοται.

“Except behold, the hand of the one handing me over is with me at the table. (22) That the son of man according to having been ordained (has)to pass through, except woe to that man through whom he is betrayed.”  

The word is, literally, handed over. One can use the term in a neutral context, as in, the merchants handed over the merchandise once payment was made. In English, the word “betrayed” is not a synonym for “handed over” in this example. This is yet another good example of linguistic fields. All of my crib translations choose “betrayed”, and one can argue that “handed over” is too weak an too neutral in this context. That would be a legitimate point because “betrayed” is a legitimate meaning in Greek; however, the word also means “hand over” as for justice. So the word has both positive and negative connotations in Greek, whereas “betrayed” is wholly negative. I don’t particularly like how I handled “according to having been ordained…” The “ordained part is a participle. Using a substantive like “according to destiny” is too neutral. “Destiny” is an abstract concept; the participle form of the verb here imparts a sense of action. Someone/something has done the ordaining.

And this is an interesting thought. All the crib translations go with a verb form: it has been decreed/determined/etc. By whom? By the Father? Mark and Matthew state that the Son of Man is to go because it was written. This has all the trappings of Fate. It was written in the Scriptures; it was written in the stars. What is the effective difference? The whole debate about Fate vs Free Will is fraught with problems. Christians sort of invented the idea of Free Will as a weapon against pagan fatalism; even Zeus, at times, was not able to resist Fate, but given his desire to save Hector’s life in contravention of Hector’s fate, the implication is that Zeus could do so if he so chose. The other gods, however, would not hear of this, and so Hector died by the hand of Achilles. So even the Greeks were conflicted about this. It goes back to the debate about Predestination: it’s an ineluctable conclusion if one posits an omnipotent and omniscient deity. Otherwise, one is compelled to concede that the deity can be surprised at the outcome of an event, and few Christians are willing to admit this point, even if they cavil at accepting Calvin’s thesis of Double Predestination, by which some people are born with no way to avoid damnation when they die. So here, Jesus must go, he must pass through the trial to come. Which brings us back to Judas: could he have done otherwise? If he had no choice, it was because God determined he was to be the one to betray Jesus. If he was wholly incapable of doing otherwise, does he deserve damnation? If you say “yes”, then why? Is a cat guilty for killing a young bird? This is what cats do. Grasping the nettle of this debate is something very few people will do. Most will hold what are essentially mutually exclusive ideas: an omniscient God being somehow compatible with Free Will. This is positing A and Not-A, combining matter and antimatter. This is why I have a sneaking admiration for Calvin: agree or disagree with him, you have to give him props for bravery. He wasn’t afraid to take on the challenge.

21 Verumtamen ecce manus tradentis me mecum est in mensa;

22 et quidem Filius hominis, secundum quod definitum est, vadit; verumtamen vae illi homini, per quem traditur!”.

23 καὶ αὐτοὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς τὸ τίς ἄρα εἴη ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁ τοῦτο μέλλων πράσσειν.

24 Ἐγένετο δὲ καὶ φιλονεικία ἐν αὐτοῖς, τὸ τίς αὐτῶν δοκεῖ εἶναι μείζων.

25 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν κυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἐξουσιάζοντες αὐτῶν εὐεργέται καλοῦνται.

And they began to discuss amongst themselves who would be from the the one destined to be successful. (24) And strife came into being among them, which one of them seemed to be the greatest. (25) And he said to them, “The kings of the peoples lord it over (those) of theirs, and those exercising authority over them are called go-gooders. 

Want to stop to make few points. “Do gooders” is a literal translation. The transliteration is Euergetes, and it was an epithet, or surname for some of the Hellenistic kings. Ptolemy Euergetes, Ptolemy the One Who Does Good, Ptolemy the Benefactor. Other such epithets were Epiphanes (God Manifest), Soter (Saviour), and there was at least one Ptolemy Auletes, the Flute Player. Some of Charlemagne’s successors were Charles the Bald, Louis the Fat; and his name was Charles le Magne, Karl der Grosser, or simply Charles the Great. 

The word <<κυριεύουσιν>> is used by Luke and by Paul. That seemed likely to be significant until I checked this story in Mark and Matthew. They both add the prefix  <<κατὰ>>, so it becomes<<κατὰ-κυριεύουσιν>>. The prefix adds the sense of exercising authority downwards, that the lord is up above and throwing out orders to those below him. And the verb derives from kyrios, which is “Lord”. Anyone with any kind of background in, or knowledge of, Latin High Masses is familiar with the vocative case of this, which comes out as kyrie, as in kyrie eleison, “lord have mercy”, repeated thrice. If you check the libretto of any of the High Masses written by Bach or Mozart, this is called the Kyrie; in the Book of Common Prayer, I’ve seen it labeled the Trisagion, a reference to being repeated three times. So “lord it over” is not entirely a whimsical translation. “Play the lord”, or “exercise authority/lordship” would work, too. The NASB follows my lead and actually reads “lord it over”. That works here, because the term is more than slightly derogatory, said with a sniff of contempt, and Jesus obviously (IMO) doesn’t approve of this sort of behaviour. 

The big thing here is the placement of the story. Both Mark and Matthew put this story on the road to Jerusalem after the Transfiguration and before Palm Sunday. For some reason that I do not quite understand, the placement of stories– excuse me, pericopae (really, it should be perokopai)– by Luke plays a big role in the Q debate. I read the passage disparaging Luke’s placement, think I understand the point, but comprehension melts away by the time I turn the page. As near as I can tell, it has to do with the fact that, since Luke didn’t copy Matthew exactly, down to every iota, then Luke was obviously not aware of Matthew because, if he had been aware of Matthew, he would not have changer an iota. Because Matthew’s handling of any and all pericopae is obviously superior, to the point of infallibility. Or something. And then Q-doubters are expected– nay, required— to produce a “redactionally consistent” explanation for every time Luke varies from Matthew by that single iota. And somehow, I expect “Luke varied from Matthew because he was Luke and not Matthew” would not be satisfactory, even though it’s consistent and works in every case. Look, I will admit that this placement feels a bit awkward and a bit forced, but IMO a lot of the Sermon on the Mount feels a bit like it’s been stitched together with bubble-gum and binder twine.Apparently, it has never occurred to the Q people that Luke chose a different spot just to be different. Shake it up a bit. Otherwise, you get a derivative drone of a narrative. Honestly, not a lot more to be said. Luke changed the location of this story; it’s in a different place than in M&M, where each situates it in approximately the same location. That’s it.

23 Et ipsi coeperunt quaerere inter se, quis esset ex eis, qui hoc facturus esset.

24 Facta est autem et contentio inter eos, quis eorum videretur esse maior.

25 Dixit autem eis: “ Reges gentium dominantur eorum; et, qui potestatem habent super eos, benefici vocantur.

26 ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως, ἀλλ’ ὁ μείζων ἐν ὑμῖν γινέσθω ὡς ὁ νεώτερος, καὶ ὁ ἡγούμενος ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

27 τίς γὰρ μείζων, ὁ ἀνακείμενος ἢ ὁ διακονῶν; οὐχὶ ὁ ἀνακείμενος; ἐγὼ δὲ ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν εἰμι ὡς ὁ διακονῶν.

28 ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε οἱ διαμεμενηκότες μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἐν τοῖς πειρασμοῖς μου:

29 κἀγὼ διατίθεμαι ὑμῖν καθὼς διέθετό μοι ὁ πατήρ μου βασιλείαν

30 ἵνα ἔσθητε καὶ πίνητε ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης μου ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ μου, καὶ καθήσεσθε ἐπὶ θρόνων τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς κρίνοντες τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 

“But you (are) not like this, but the greatest amongst you becomes as the newest, and the leader as the ministrant. (27) For who (is) the greatest, the one reclining at the table or the deacon? Who is the one reclining? I in your midst (am) as the deacon. (28) You are those having remained with me in my trials. (29) And I distribute to you accordingly as my father distributed the kingdom to me (30) so that you will be be drinking at my table in my kingdom, and you will be seated upon twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel.”

The Twelve Thrones judging the Twelve Tribes of Israel occurs in Matthew 19:28. It does not occur in Mark. Kloppenborg includes this in his Reconstructed Q. Here’s a question: what happens if Jesus didn’t actually institute a Band of Twelve? What if the Twelve only came about after Jesus’ death? We’ve discussed this; the Twelve really only figure in two different stories: when they are named, and when they are sent out, and return more or less immediately. John has two names that don’t occur in the lists of the other evangelists; that is usually a red flag that the names varied because the names were not really known because they hadn’t been established by Jesus. Paul mentions the Twelve; they existed in his time. But prior? I’m not at all convinced of that. Which means, if there was no Twelve, then the reference here and in Matthew 19 is essentially fraudulent, made up after the fact. Which means that it probably wasn’t in Q, or shouldn’t have been in Q, because Jesus never said this. If it was in a Q that actually existed, then that Q is fraudulent, or at least heinously misleading because Jesus never said it. That sort of blows a big hole in the credibility of this hypothetical document, even if it did ever exist, which I doubt. There are lots of reasons to disbelieve in Q, and this is another one.

A bit of vocabulary: the word translated as “ministrant” in verse 26 transliterates as “diakonōn”. This is readily recogniseable as the root of “deacon”. In Greek, this means “to minister to”, or “to serve”. So I translated it one, then more or less transliterated it the remaining instances to get across the connexion between the Greek and our word in English. We need to be made aware that “diakonōn” does not refer to an official in the Catholic or Anglican/Episcopalian/or other? Rite. It means “to serve”. 

Is this a bit of a tell*? “You are the ones having remained…” My crib translations all put their verb in the perfect tense: have remained, have stayed, have stood, have continued. Hearing this tense used in conversation, the sense imparted is an action that occurred in the past. It has been “perfected”, which means “completed”. This is why the Greek word for “end” in philosophical-religious contexts often or usually means “perfected”. So, the perfect tense implies a completed action. And just to be clear, this neither the pluperfect (had) nor the future (will have had) perfect. It’s the simple perfect. So when Jesus says “you having remained” he is referring to the past, which means that his trials are completed. This seems an odd thing to say given that he’s about to undergo some horrific torture in the next 12-18 hours. In other words, this is the statement of someone who’s looking backwards on events that have not occurred in the narrative. That is to say, Jesus is not uttering these words; the author Luke is uttering these words, from the vantage point of 50 years in the future from the moment he is recounting. Hence, this becomes a tell that Jesus did not say these words. And if Jesus did not say these words, which others did he not speak? The bit about the Twelve, perhaps? 

In any case, this is one of the times when verb tense matters. Frankly, there have not been that many of them, but they occur.

*For non-poker players, a ‘tell’ is a quirk, or a twitch, or an habitual expression or motion that gives away the emotions of one of the players. It is often as simple as raising eyebrows when viewing a good hand. This little quirk “tells” other players at the table that s/he has good cards, so maybe don’t be too proud of your own hand. Of course, the term need not be specific to poker; it can be adapted to any number of circumstances where someone gives away sensitive information without intending to do so. A courtroom trial would be another good example, if the witness doesn’t make eye contact with the opposing attorney, which may indicate the witness is lying.

26 Vos autem non sic, sed qui maior est in vobis, fiat sicut iunior; et, qui praecessor est, sicut ministrator.

27 Nam quis maior est: qui recumbit, an qui ministrat? Nonne qui recumbit? Ego autem in medio vestrum sum, sicut qui ministrat.

28 Vos autem estis, qui permansistis mecum in tentationibus meis;

29 et ego dispono vobis, sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus regnum,

30 ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo et sedeatis super thronos iudicantes duodecim tribus Israel.

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.)


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 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.


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”.

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 18:1-14

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 νηστεύω δὶς τοῦ σαββάτου, ἀποδεκατῶ πάντα ὅσα κτῶμαι.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Chapter 16:14-18

The original intent was that this section would conclude the chapter. The reason is that Luke seems to have more blocks than his predecessors. This gospel seems to have longer stories that make it difficult to split these chapters up into more than a few section; too, the chapters in Luke may be be a bit shorter on average than those in Matthew. But let’s talk about the longer stories. I have often said that Mark was a journalist, Matthew was a rabbi (of pagan birth, perhaps), and Luke is a novelist. That becomes most apparent in Acts– assuming, of course, that Luke is actually the author of Acts. I am agnostic on that for the time being; I don’t know the arguments for or against. Regardless, that Luke worked the material into more continuous stories indicates the increasing sophistication of the NT. Stylistically, this sophistication may hit apex in Luke; theologically, the apex is John. Now, of course I’m going to tie this literary quality back to Q. If you think about literary development, does it make more sense to progress from the succinct Mark and a collection of random sayings to the cultivated literary quality of Luke? Or does it make more sense if Luke is sitting on top of Matthew as well as the other two? After all, Matthew elaborated Mark to a great degree– largely by making up a bunch of new pericopae, for which the Q people give him no credit. Luke took Matthew’s elaboration to a higher plane by creating more blocks of stories rather than a bunch of unconnected sayings. Again, hardly smoking-gun proof for the non-existence of Q, but such proof of a negative is impossible. Rather, it’s another small stone on the scale, and any fair assessment should indicate that the non-Q side is becoming very heavy. Think about it: how many of these “little stones” have I added to the commentary? Be honest, and you will (I think) have to admit there have been quite a few. Probably to the point of “this is getting tedious”. At least, I hope that is the reaction. If so, it means I’m piling up a lot of “little stones” that might have reached the point of becoming evidence. After all, the plural of “anecdote” is “evidence”. And this is what changed my mind. I got into yet another diatribe about Q. So, we save the story of Dives and Lazarus for the next section.

Here we have a direct continuation of the story before; or, this is perhaps an integral part of the story begun in the previous section of the chapter. We are hearing about the unjust steward who bought his way out of a predicament using his lord’s resources, and the lord seemed to think it was a good move by the steward. However, Jesus then editorialized at the end, indicating that perhaps there is a bit more to this than would first meet the eye. To find out, let’s get to the


14 Ἤκουον δὲ ταῦτα πάντα οἱ Φαρισαῖοι φιλάργυροι ὑπάρχοντες, καὶ ἐξεμυκτήριζον αὐτόν.

Having heard this, all the Pharisees being taken as money-lovers, and mocked him.

Hadn’t planned on such a quick pause, but have to mention a couple of things. Just to be clear, the Pharisees are reacting to the dictum of God and Mammon; they don’t like the implication so they mock/deride Jesus. The word used is unique to Luke; L&S cites usage in Psalm 2.4 in the LXX and here. Not a lot to go on. The Latin is pretty clear: deridebant. This is pretty obviously the origin of ‘deride’, but it’s also formed from the root of ridere, to laugh. My first-year Latin prof was fond of the word ‘risible’, as in, what you just said was absolutely risible. Of course, he did it in such an affable way that he came across as funny, so in response, risimus. We laughed. But the main point is the way he sticks in the poke at the Pharisees as being money-loving. Here’s my point about this: it almost feels like he adds this, rather clumsily I might add, because the audience may not simply understand that this was a trait of the Pharisees. This could be due to a pagan audience, a separation of distance from Judea; or is it a distance of time? Had the Pharisees stopped being quite so well-recognized as they once had been? Probably the former.

This just occurred to me. The money-grubber jab feels an awful lot like an interpolation, something stuck in by a scribe for his edification, or that of his readers. I’ll go no further than that, but there is something very inelegant about it.

14 Audiebant autem omnia haec pharisaei, qui erant avari, et deridebant illum.

15 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ὑμεῖς ἐστε οἱ δικαιοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁ δὲ θεὸς γινώσκει τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν: ὅτι τὸ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὑψηλὸν βδέλυγμα ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ.

16 Ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται μέχρι Ἰωάννου: ἀπὸ τότε ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίζεται καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται.

And he said to them, “You are the ones justifying yourselves in front of humans, but God knows your hearts. That in human affairs you are elevated (but) an abomination before God. The law and the prophets (were?) until John: from then the Kingdom of God was preached (lit = “good newsed“) and all force into it.  

Apologies, but we have to make an unscheduled stop. The first verse is clear enough; just want to mention that the word for “abomination” is a Judeo-Christian word, showing up in the LXX and NT and pretty much nowhere in pagan literature. That’s fine. It may be based on something Hebrew? But the second verse is a problem. First, the grammar is exceedingly odd. There is no verb in the first clause, but understanding a form of “to be” is hardly all that unusual for Greek of any sort. And Latin, too; there is no verb in the first clause in the Vulgate below. The second clause…on second thought does make sense. There are actually a couple of ideas contained therein. First, is that The Law and The Prophets were not sufficient, or not conclusive, or…something. Whatever the trait is that I can’t name, it has allowed people– like the Pharisees; or perhaps especially people like Pharisees– to force their way into the Kingdom. Was it that the rules were not stringent, or specific enough that humans could force their way into the kingdom? But how can that be, if The Kingdom of God is Heaven? Is something that we merit only in the afterlife, and only if we’ve led a good life? Are we to infer that The Kingdom and The Life are not, perhaps, synonymous? This passage doesn’t necessarily say that, but it is, IMO, a valid inference.

Perhaps this makes more sense if we think of this more in terms of a Jewish conception of The Kingdom. The problem is that I can barely discuss Christian concepts in any intelligent manner, let alone try to tackle how Jewish thought in the centuries either side of the change of era may have looked at this sort of thing. The idea of some sort of afterlife was a part of Greek thought going back centuries. It is explicit in Homer; Odysseus travels to the land of the dead and speaks to the shade of Achilles, of his mother, and of the seer Tiresias. These individuals are dead, and yet they retain their individual personalities; they are in death who they were in life. There was rather a similar belief in the Near East, or at least in parts. In The Epic of Gilgamesh the eponymous hero travels to the land of the dead to converse with his erstwhile companion, Enkidu. There are numerous uses of the word sheol (Strong’s #7585)in the HS; perhaps half of them simply mean “grave”.  Of the other half, many are often translated as “hell”, but a quick scan of them shows that many of these could also be rendered simply as “grave” as well. The point being that an afterlife was not an integral part of earlier Hebrew belief; much that is seen, IMO, by Christians who are reading things backward. The Christian philosophy of history is that Jesus was the inevitable fulfillment of the Divine Plan, and that human history sort of fills in around that destiny. Ergo, this was all planned out from time immemorial and so, of course, the HS is just a precursor to the NT. So of course the ideas presented in HS are foreshadowings of what was to come, so of course sheol should be translated as “hell” whenever it was possible to do so. Because if the two words did not, ultimately, have essentially the same meaning, then we’re dealing with a discontinuity.

So the point of all this we may very well be dealing with two different ideas. The Life and The Kingdom of God may not, in fact, have been synonymous. And if you go back to the conception of the anointed in the HS, he is not a divine entity. He (and it was to be a ‘he’) was fully human, and he was expected to lead Israel (which, by the time of Jesus, had not existed for 600 years, give or take) to restore its past political glory. IOW, to restore the Kingdom of God. The Baptist/Dunker would have fit very easily into that framework, since it was the framework of mainstream Jewish thought. John could have been teaching about the Kingdom to come in a purely political sense. Later, the followers of Jesus would begin to co-opt John’s earthly kingdom, converting it to the Kingdom, not of God, but of the Heavens. But it was Matthew who came up with this latter term, just as it was Matthew who introduced stuff like the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, and a whole lot more Christian ideas. If we read Mark with the understanding that Jesus was carrying on John’s preaching of the Kingdom of God as a political kingdom, then the mustard seed takes on an entirely different set of implications than it carries in the Christian understanding of the idea. In fact, this would very much explain why Mark wrote, and why he wrote as he did. Mark lived through the revolt, even if he did not participate the way Josephus did. Mark was aware of the idea that a political kingdom was being bandied about only to be crushed by the Roman with their usual brutal efficiency. But then Mark saw the outcome, and realized he had to change the narrative, picking up on the Christ tradition, or rather the interpretation of the Christ that Paul had introduced. In this reading, Paul first understood the Christ in a different manner than other Jews to explain the fact of Jesus’ death. Then a Passion Narrative had to be invented, all of it running right up to political ideas, Jesus the King of the Jews, but a king of a different sort of kingdom. Matthew took this new interpretation and expanded it further, adding the divinity of Jesus. Luke sought to tie all of this together, with Jesus and John as relatives, in a relationship in which John recognised his subordinate position in utero, when Mary comes to visit Elisabeth.

But the incompatibility of the two ideas leads to certain awkward moments, like Verse 16, where the attempted weld of the different ideas, and that The Kingdom is not synonymous with The Life, shows. There is a seam in the fabric.

This seems a tad anticlimactic at this point, but there is a second aspect to this verse. Simply put, the Law and the Prophets have been superseded. Wealth and status are no longer enough to allow one to force his way into the (political being understood) kingdom. The rules have changed.

15 Et ait illis: “Vos estis, qui iustificatis vos coram hominibus; Deus autem novit corda vestra, quia, quod hominibus altum est, abominatio est ante Deum.

16 Lex et Prophetae usque ad Ioannem; ex tunc regnum Dei evangelizatur, et omnis in illud vim facit.

17 Εὐκοπώτερον δέ ἐστιν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν παρελθεῖν ἢ τοῦ νόμου μίαν κεραίαν πεσεῖν.

18 Πᾶς ὁ ἀπολύων τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ γαμῶν ἑτέραν μοιχεύει, καὶ ὁ ἀπολελυμένην ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς γαμῶν μοιχεύει.

It is easier for the sky and the earth to pass than for a single stroke of a letter to fall from the law. (18) All who send away his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he marrying the one having been separated from the man commits adultery.

 First of all, it is just me, or does it seem like these last two verses really don’t follow from the two previous? (And, spoiler alert, they don’t logically flow into the next section, either.) If the Q people wanted to mount an actual argument, the existence of such short sayings unattached to context present a much stronger case than a bland– or even vehement– statement that Luke is mad to change the masterful arrangement of the Sermon on the Mount. The former actually requires an explanation; the latter can be waved off as a subjective assessment of literary style, because that is exactly what it is. There is also another consideration: the word (it is a single word in Greek) translated here as “stroke of a letter” occurs twice in the NT: here, and in Matthew’s version of this aphorism. More, the word actually means ‘horn’, or something like the antennae of a cray/crawfish, or the spur of a mountain. In Ev Mt and Ev Lk, it means the upward stroke of a letter. More: Matthew’s version is “…a single iota or upward stroke of a letter…” Iota (ι)is the Greek letter ‘I”; it is a single quick stroke of a writing implement, the smallest letter, orthographically speaking, in the Greek alphabet. It is often rendered as “jot”, because later Latin orthography began replacing the initial Latin “I” with a “J” when the second letter of the word was also a vowel. Hence, “Iuppiter” becomes “Jupiter”. I have the impression that Hebrew uses such little strokes to indicate vowels. If this is correct, then Matthew is covering both languages, the iota from Greek and the upward stroke of Hebrew. Luke drops the former for whatever reason. 

But wait, there’s more. Matthew and Luke use different versions of the word. If you check Liddell & Scott, (which I almost always do), you will find that Matthew’s word is the standard word for “horn”; as the horn of a bull, or even a wing of an army, the left horn being the left flank. Luke, OTOH, uses a form derived from the standard, but a word more often used figuratively, as in the antennae of a crayfish, the yardarm on a mast, or the horns of the moon. So which is the original? Let’s check the Greek text of Q to find out…oh, wait. There is no Greek text of Q. There is no text of Q in any language. There are only the various reconstructions based on…what, exactly? The literary tastes of the editors, and an adamant refusal to consider an actual debate on merits. I’ve been using Kloppenborg et alia book entitled The Q/Thomas Reader as my text for Q. Kloppenborg, of my alma mater, University of Toronto (the shame!) is probably the foremost proponent of Q, so it seems like a good choice. He chooses Luke’s “not a serif” which strikes me as an excellent translation) over Matthew’s “iota nor serif”. This is hardly surprising, since Luke is considered the more “primitive” version, in large part because he says “blessed are the poor” rather than hedging like Matthew to “blessed are the poor in spirit“. Now, of course I am being unfair. This is a blog, not a dissertation, although I am seriously smelling a book in here. The consensus opinion is of “alternating primitivity”. But the choice of Luke as the more primitive here seems unfortunate; and it also demonstrates how the focus of the Q argument is on externals, rather than the content, the actual meaning of the words. If anything, Matthew is the more primitive in his choice of horn, κερeα rather than κεραίαν, as Luke used. The former is the standard, by far the more common word. The latter is more literary in the sense of more figurative, and the more descriptive. 

So why did each choose the one they did? Aye, there’s the rub. Each one chose the word he did because he felt it was the best word. Luke’s Greek is more sophisticated than Matthew’s; he uses more unique and unusual words. Sometimes he uses fewer words, omitting “in spirit” and “iota” as he did here. Does his word choice here function within the framework of the “redactionally consistent” explanation Q proponents demand for every deviation from Matthew? Probably irrelevant, since Luke is the base version, the one following Q. Ah, now there’s another question. Who wrote Q?  Well, no one, IMO. The more appropriate, because more serious, question is “what sort of person wrote Q?”. We have seen Mark’s Greek. It’s functional, but basic. Paul’s Greek verges on incomprehensible several times in 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, until he found a better secretary. (I can never remember how to spell amanuensis. Spellcheck to the rescue.) Then 1 Corinthians is a bit higher on the scale. Paul has a lot of unique words, but it’s a tendency to stick extra prefixes on existing words. The point is, if Q was written down in the 30s, what sort of people were in the Jesus movement? Most likely, it was mostly Jews. Paul was still a decade or so away from converting pagans in the 30s. Were these Jews likely to be well-educated in Greek? Not impossible, certainly, but not likely, either. So if someone wrote  Q in the 30s, it would indeed have been more primitive than either Matthew or Luke. Which implies that the text in Q should probably be more like Luke’s than Matthew’s version. Of course, Kloppenborg et al can cheat; they don’t have to provide the Greek word behind their translation. They can just provide a word of their choosing. Granted, serif is a good choice, but that would imply Luke’s more sophisticated and unusual word κεραίαν over Matthew’s more standard κερeα. That Kloppenborg chose “serif” seems to imply that he understands that Luke’s word is the term used in Q. That is not, in my opinion, a “redactionally consistent” position on his part. He is choosing his ideology over his sound judgement.   

17 Facilius est autem caelum et terram praeterire, quam de Lege unum apicem cadere.

18 Omnis, qui dimittit uxorem suam et ducit alteram, moechatur; et, qui dimissam a viro ducit, moechatur.

Matthew Chapter 26:46-54

Judas has just appeared on the scene.

46 ἐγείρεσθε, ἄγωμεν: ἰδοὺ ἤγγικεν ὁ παραδιδούς με.

47 Καὶ ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος ἰδοὺ Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα ἦλθεν καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ ὄχλος πολὺς μετὰ μαχαιρῶν καὶ ξύλων ἀπὸ τῶν ἀρχιερέων καὶ πρεσβυτέρων τοῦ λαοῦ.

48 ὁ δὲ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς σημεῖον λέγων, Ὃν ἂν φιλήσω αὐτός ἐστιν: κρατήσατεαὐτόν.

49 καὶ εὐθέως προσελθὼν τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, ῥαββί: καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.

50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἑταῖρε, ἐφ’ ὃ πάρει. τότε προσελθόντες ἐπέβαλον τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἐκράτησαν αὐτόν.

“Get up, let’s go. Look, my betrayer approaches”. (47) And while was yet speaking, behold, Judas to the Twelve came, and with him a great crowd with swords and pieces of wood from the high priests and the elders of the people. (48) The one betraying him (Jesus) showed to them (the crowd) the sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the one. Seize him”. (49) And immediately coming to Jesus he said, “Hail, rabbi,” and he planted some love on him. (50) And Jesus said to him, “Companion, upon which you are here (do what you’re here to do)”. Then coming forward they laid hands upon Jesus and overpowered (arrested) him.

As a grammar note, “pieces of wood” usually gets translated as “clubs”, and that’s probably as good as anything. However, just wanted to get across the generic nature of the term.

Other than that, I’m not sure there’s much comment required here. This is very similar to Mark’s version. The most noteworthy detail is the kiss. First, the Greek for this is fairly generic as well. The Latin, however, is much more specific, ‘osculum’ carrying through for centuries as “kiss”. In fact, the “osculum infame” shows up in the witch-hunting manuals and descriptions of the 15-17th centuries. This was the ‘obscene kiss’ demanded by Satan to seal the pact he had made with witches who (purportedly) had sold their souls to the Devil for magical powers. That the action was a fact only in the overwrought imaginations of later churchmen isn’t the point; it’s the verification of the vocabulary word. And, truth be told, had I read more Greek poetry, I might have come across the word once in a while. It doesn’t, IIRC, show up in The Symposium, Plato’s dialogue about erotic love.

But to return to the kiss itself, once again, the detail carries a lot of dramatic impact. Does it represent something that happened? Probably not.

46 Surgite, eamus; ecce appropinquavit, qui me tradit ”.

47 Et adhuc ipso loquente, ecce Iudas, unus de Duodecim, venit, et cum eo turba multa cum gladiis et fustibus, missi a principibus sacerdotum et senioribus populi.

48 Qui autem tradidit eum, dedit illis signum dicens: “Quemcumque osculatus fuero, ipse est; tenete eum!”.

49 Et confestim accedens ad Iesum dixit: “Ave, Rabbi!” et osculatus est eum.

50 Iesus autem dixit illi: “Amice, ad quod venisti!”. Tunc accesserunt et manus iniecerunt in Iesum et tenuerunt eum.

51 καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς τῶν μετὰ Ἰησοῦ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἀπέσπασεν τὴν μάχαιραν αὐτοῦ καὶ πατάξας τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον.

And, behold, one of those with Jesus stretching out his hand drew his sword , and, having struck the slave of the high priest, cut off his ear.

This is worthy of note. First, what is meant by “one of those with Jesus”? This would almost have to be one of the disciples, no? We are not told of any followers of Jesus other than the disciples. Second, Mark describes the sword-wielder as “a bystander”. Once again, a minor detail that Matthew chooses to alter. Why? Especially since there is almost zero chance that one of the disciples would have been carrying a sword. I am not certain of the severity of the offense, but this would be seriously frowned upon by the Romans. Civilians in Jerusalem, especially during the festival, when tensions were high, were not likely to be allowed to carry weapons. Since the crowd came “armed swords and clubs”, it would seem more likely that it was a bystander who used the weapon. Of course, it could be a bystander who “was (secretly) with Jesus”, one who tipped his hand at this crucial moment. This sort of thing would actually lend credence to the likelihood of it reporting–in some form–an event somehow based on something almost like an actual event.

Unfortunately, this event suffers from the flaw–a fatal flaw, IMO–that runs through the whole notion of Jesus being arrested and executed on a charge of insurrection. There is no follow-up on the part of the authorities. We know from Paul that Peter and James lived and worked in Jerusalem for decades after Jesus’ death. That is, they were not arrested and executed with Jesus. And I find this leniency on the part of the Romans incredulous. If they thought Jesus was a revolutionary, there is a very high chance that they would have arrested and executed the whole lot–and a few extra, just to make sure. More, there was no Roman suppression of  Jesus’ followers afterwards. Had Jews been gathered in the name of a Revolutionary, there would have been Roman repercussions. In the same way, the crowd has come to arrest Jesus, someone resists, and nothing happens to that resister. Yes, it’s possible that the mob let it slide, but that seems much less likely than the anecdote was fabricated.

That brings up what should be the major question: does the arrest in Gethsemane have any sort of founding on historical events? Which, of course, circles back to the truly fundamental question of why, and at whose instigation, Jesus was executed in the first place. If the Romans did it on their own initiative, for reasons short of insurrection, this whole cloak-and-dagger, middle-of-the-night intruguey sort of thing seems a bit overblown. It’s possible. Perhaps a Roman patrol grabbed Jesus for breaking curfew. That is plausible, and under proper circumstances could be considered a capital crime by the Romans–who had a very broad definition of what constituted a capital crime. But again, if this were the case, any who were with Jesus would have been arrested as well. Paul never mentions the why, and he wrote decades before the Jewish War. So my suggestion is that, since we don’t really know why Jesus was executed, the reason wasn’t considered relevant.

Spoiler alert! The creators of the Passion narrative were fully capable of inventing the entire Barabbas episode. Not only did they invent the man, they invented the custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the Festival. There is no historical corroboration for this whatsoever. So, if that episode was invented, so too could all of this in the Garden of Gethsemane.

51 Et ecce unus ex his, qui erant cum Iesu, extendens manum exemit gladium suum et percutiens servum principis sacerdotum amputavit auriculam eius.

52 τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀπόστρεψον τὴν μάχαιράν σου εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς, πάντες γὰρ οἱ λαβόντες μάχαιραν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀπολοῦνται.

53 ἢ δοκεῖς ὅτι οὐ δύναμαι παρακαλέσαι τὸν πατέρα μου, καὶ παραστήσει μοι ἄρτι πλείω δώδεκα λεγιῶνας ἀγγέλων;

54 πῶς οὖν πληρωθῶσιν αἱ γραφαὶ ὅτι οὕτως δεῖ γενέσθαι;

Then Jesus said, “Put away the sword of yours into its place, for all those carrying swords on the sword will perish. (53) Or think you that my father is unable to order, and to have stand by me now full twelve legions of angels? How then will the writings be fulfilled that in this way it must be?” 

This is full of some very rich theological ideas. Let’s start with the fact that nothing in these three verses is in Mark. The bit about the sword was not necessary for Mark because it was a bystander who did the striking. So Mark’s Jesus need show no concern about general principles in this case. The phrase “live by the sword, die by the sword” has become an aphorism in English.

Here, though, it serves another purpose. This isn’t just some pearl of wisdom–which it is–tossed out by Jesus in some off-hand manner. Rather, it leads into the next verse about the legions of angels. In Mark, Jesus wasn’t necessarily divine. Perhaps his version of the Passion Narrative persists in this belief, whereas for Matthew, the reason that God did not intervene to rescue Jesus must be explained. In fact, this becomes one of the central tenets of post-apostolic Christianity, the idea that Jesus was a king, but not of this world. Paul blazed the trail, creating the idea of Jesus the Anointed, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christos, and he took the novel tack of identifying Jesus the Christ as only the post-resurrection Jesus. Given this, I think what Matthew here is fighting is the reaction of Jews who wanted to know how the warrior scion of David went so meekly to his death at the hands of the very people the true messiah was supposed to overthrow, leading the reborn Israel to a new Golden Age. Recall that the Christ aspect of Jesus was not a major theme in most of Mark, implying that it was a late addition, probably coming about only after the influence of Paul, indirectly, started to permeate the thought-world of the young proto-church.   This indirect influence was still incomplete when Mark wrote, but was the “orthodoxy”* for Matthew. It’s important to recognize that the idea of the Messiah had to undergo this sort of development, that it was not “baked in” from the start. 

*(“Orthodoxy” in quotes because the word is anachronistic, and would remain so for several decades. My suggestion is that the Valentinian controversy would be the point at which the idea of a generally accepted set of beliefs became itself generally accepted. It was after this that the idea of orthodoxy took hold.)

So Jesus here foreswears, as it were, the idea of being rescued, so that the writings could be fulfilled. Which is our last point. The writings, I believe, are usually taken to mean the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, with some references to the Psalms as well (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). The point, of course, is to assure everyone that the crucifixion had always and forever been part of The Plan. In turn, The Plan had to be fulfilled, or God’s will would have been thwarted. As such, this is all awfully close to flat-out pagan Fatalism, in which a only a single course of action, with a single outcome, is possible. All is ordained, and has been so since the foundation of the universe. That being said, it should be noted that the idea of Free Will is not terribly well-founded on biblical evidence. Rather, like Original Sin, this was something derived on an as-needed basis by later Church fathers. As such, we should not be surprised to see such sentiments expressed.

We should especially not be surprised to hear such a pagan sentiment spoken (written) by a former pagan. Notice the non-specific nature of this “it is written”. There is no real cross reference, no text cited. Just that it has to be fulfilled. This reminds me of the story of the road to Emmaus as told by Luke. There we are told that the “stranger” explained all the texts in the HS that pointed to the coming of Jesus, but we are never told what these texts might be. And, an admittedly cursory skim of commentaries does not specify what texts Matthew might have in mind here. Meyer refers to texts in Acts and Luke–the road to Emmaus, as it happens. It has generally been conceded that Luke was a pagan; odd, then, that Matthew demonstrates the same sort of attitude, despite the “fact” that Matthew is supposedly Jewish. As always, this is hardly conclusive, but it does constitute another small stone on that side of the scale, I believe. 

I’m not sure if this is the point to talk about Judas or not. My question about him is, if the scripture has to be fulfilled, then Judas is God’s chosen instrument to effect this necessary event. How then can we say Judas is damned? We are put on earth to do God’s will, and this is precisely what Judas did. Yes, it led to the arrest and execution of Jesus, but this was not a bad thing, except for the man Jesus. For the Divine Will, and for the rest of humanity, this was an event of cosmic benefit. How can it be that what Judas did was evil, if this was God’s will?

Of course, that question is unanswerable.

52 Tunc ait illi Iesus: “Converte gladium tuum in locum suum. Omnes enim, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt.

53 An putas quia non possum rogare Patrem meum, et exhibebit mihi modo plus quam duodecim legiones angelorum?

54 Quomodo ergo implebuntur Scripturae quia sic oportet fieri?”.

Mark Chapter 12:1-12

We now begin Chapter 12. We have now completed approximately 80% of the original text of Mark.

1 Καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοῖς ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖν, Ἀμπελῶνα ἄνθρωπος ἐφύτευσεν, καὶ περιέθηκεν φραγμὸν καὶ ὤρυξεν ὑπολήνιον καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδετοαὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν.

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and he put a hedge around it, and he dug a wine vat, and built a tower, and leased it out to farmers and he journeyed away.

It appears that Jesus is still talking to the Pharisees & C as he was in the previous chapter. Jesus has just told them that he will not tell them by whose authority he does what he does, since they won’t say whether John was sent by men or by heaven. Now, I don’t know about you, but it strikes me as odd that in the middle of a semi-contentious conversation, he breaks into a parable.

So, we have to ask, did it happen this way? Hate to say it, but this really strikes me as a literary convention. Mark is trying to work this story into the narrative. and this how he figured out how best to do it. But if it didn’t happen like Mark describes, this has implications. Did it happen? Did Jesus tell this story? Did Jesus tell any of the stories or parables that we’ve read so far? 

IOW, what was it that got people to talk about Jesus after he died?

The assumption, or belief, or inference is that it was these stories that people remembered. This was what the Gospel of Q was supposedly contained: the oral tradition. The difference between Mark and Matthew/Luke are the stories, and the assumption is that Mark did not have access to Q, and Matthew & Luke did. But Luke has more stories than Matthew, who has more stories than Mark. There are things in Luke that aren’t in the other two. Does this mean Luke had access to a second source, one unknown to Matthew as well as Mark? Perhaps. However, we’re now going off on a tangent, and I believe this topic would be best left for a separate entry. I haven’t done one of those in a while.

The point is, if the context is suspicious, we should also be suspicious of the implications. We’ll get to those at the end of this section.

1 Et coepit illis in parabolis loqui: “ Vineam pastinavit homo et circumdedit saepem et fodit lacum et aedificavit turrim et locavit eam agricolis et peregre profectus est.

2 καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς τοὺς γεωργοὺς τῷ καιρῷ δοῦλον, ἵνα παρὰ τῶν γεωργῶν λάβῃ ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος:

“And he sent to the farmers (tenants) in the season a slave, so that from the tenants he (the slave) should receive from the fruit of the vineyard (= so they could pay the rent; in kind, in this case)

2 Et misit ad agricolas in tempore servum, ut ab agricolis acciperet de fructu vineae;

3 καὶ λαβόντες αὐτὸν ἔδειραν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν κενόν.

“And taking hold of him they beat him and they sent him away (having, = with) nothing.

3 qui apprehensum eum caeciderunt et dimiserunt vacuum.

4 καὶ πάλιν ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἄλλον δοῦλον: κἀκεῖνον ἐκεφαλίωσαν καὶ ἠτίμασαν.

“And again he sent to them another slave; and this one they hit/beat/wounded on the head and dishonoured him.

<< ἐκεφαλίωσαν >>This word does not appear in Liddell and Scott; nor does it appear elsewhere in the NT. Ergo, it is difficult to be completely confident about the meaning of the word; however, it is safe to say that it relates in some way to the head <<κεφαλη >>

4 Et iterum misit ad illos alium servum; et illum in capite vulneraverunt et contumeliis affecerunt.

5 καὶ ἄλλον ἀπέστειλεν, κἀκεῖνον ἀπέκτειναν, καὶ πολλοὺς ἄλλους, οὓς μὲν δέροντες οὓς δὲ ἀποκτέννοντες.

“And he sent another, and that one they killed, and many others, some being beaten, others being killed.

Classic << μὲν … δὲ >> construction, showing contrast, often translated as << on the one hand…on the other >>. But it’s actually fairly rare to see both used like this.  The <<μὲν>> is generally omitted as being understood.  And I’ve often translated << δὲ >> as ‘but’, or even ‘and’, since it becomes, in effect, a conjunction. In fact, using both like this is so rare that I deeply suspect that the section of Josephus that discusses Jesus is a later insertion because it uses both of them, like the textbook says you should. It made me raise my eyebrows here, too. I did not realize how littered with possible interpolations this text was.

5 Et alium misit, et illum occiderunt, et plures alios, quosdam caedentes, alios vero occidentes.

6 ἔτι ἕνα εἶχεν, υἱὸν ἀγαπητόν: ἀπέστειλεν αὐτὸν ἔσχατον πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων ὅτι Ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.

“Then he had one, a beloved son. He (the landlord) sent him (the son) finally to them, saying that ‘They will respect my son.’

6 Adhuc unum habebat, filium dilectum. Misit illum ad eos novissimum dicens: “Reverebuntur filium meum”.

7 ἐκεῖνοι δὲ οἱ γεωργοὶ πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς εἶπαν ὅτι Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ κληρονόμος: δεῦτε ἀποκτείνωμεν αὐτόν, καὶ ἡμῶν ἔσται ἡ κληρονομία.

“But these farmers/tenants to themselves said that ‘This is the heir; Follow, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

Here, IMO, is the dead giveaway that this story does not go back to Jesus; rather, it was invented later. For here again we have the prediction of Jesus’ coming death. Given that this is an historical reading of the text, we have to assume that any such predictions were inserted after the fact. As such, this very much calls into question the authenticity of this entire sequence, to the point that, IMO, we have to doubt that the preceding discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees & C ever took place. As such, this really casts doubt on Mark’s attempt to suggest that Jesus was executed because the religious authorities felt threatened by Jesus.

Does this say anything about the ‘clearing/cleansing’ of the Temple? I’m not sure. Looking back on that now, it does seem like a bit of an insertion there, like there is a pretty noticeable seam around that episode. But I realize that I could be seeing that because I’m looking for it.

7 Coloni autem illi dixerunt ad invicem: “Hic est heres. Venite, occidamus eum, et nostra erit hereditas”.

8 καὶ λαβόντες ἀπέκτειναν αὐτόν, καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξωτοῦ ἀμπελῶνος.

“And, seizing (him) they killed him, and they threw him outside the vineyard,

The single incidence of  <<αὐτόν>> neatly serves as the direct object (him) of both ‘seized’ and ‘killed’. Very economical.

8 Et apprehendentes eum occiderunt et eiecerunt extra vineam.

9 τί [οὖν] ποιήσει ὁ κύριος τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος; ἐλεύσεται καὶ ἀπολέσει τοὺς γεωργούς, καὶ δώσει τὸν ἀμπελῶνα ἄλλοις.

“What (then) will the lord of the vineyard do? He will come himself and destroy the the tenants, and he will give the vineyard to others.

This is very late. This comes at a time when Jews have stopped being the main source of converts to the nascent Christian movement. They, obviously, are the wicked tenants who will be destroyed so the vineyard can and will be given to others, the Gentiles.

9 Quid ergo faciet dominus vineae? Veniet et perdet colonos et dabit vineam aliis.

10 οὐδὲ τὴν γραφὴν ταύτην ἀνέγνωτε, Λίθον ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας:

“Are you not aware of this writing? ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner (cornerstone).’

10 Nec Scripturam hanc legistis: “Lapidem quem reprobaverunt aedificantes, / hic factus est in caput anguli;

 11 παρὰ κυρίου ἐγένετο αὕτη, καὶ ἔστιν θαυμαστὴ ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν;

” ‘this has become by the lord, and is it (not) marvelous in our eyes?’.”

11 a Domino factum est istud / et est mirabile in oculis nostris”? ”.

 12 Καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν κρατῆσαι, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν τὸν ὄχλον, ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν εἶπεν. καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθον.

And they sought to take control (e.g., arrest) of him, and they feared the crowd,  for they knew that towards them the parable spoke. And leaving him they went away.

12 Et quaerebant eum tenere et timuerunt turbam; cognoverunt enim quoniam ad eos parabolam hanc dixerit. Et relicto eo abierunt.

Once again, this is Mark trying to use this as an argument that Jesus was killed because the authorities were  jealous or envious or threatened by Jesus; but I do not believe that we can trust this judgement, or this assessment of the situation. We have seen how this is clearly a later reconstruction, or interpretation, or explanation of the events leading to Jesus’ death. As such, there probably isn’t good cause to put a lot of faith in its accuracy. This was how Mark’s generation wanted to explain things, which is not at all the same thing as explaining things as they were.

As for the disruption of the vendors in the Temple, the episode is too quick, too concise, too lacking in detail, IMO, to have been anything of much significance. If this was the reason for Jesus’ execution, would it not have warranted a longer treatment? What I mean is, wouldn’t Mark have told a more complete story? In the case of the Gerasene demonaic, or John’s death, we have seen that Mark is capable of telling long, fairly complex stories in the context of his narrative. But he dashes off something potentially so momentous in a few lines, with a snarky quote at the end. 

Sorry, but I do not have a lot of faith in either of these as valid causes for Jesus’ explanation. I know that some members of the QHJ folks–going back to Albert Schweitzer IIRC–insist that Jesus’ death had to be attributable to some thing that Jesus either said or did. I don’t believe there is any such necessity. Jesus’ execution could have been for any number of petty reasons, or for no reason at all.

A Commercial Announcement

I came across this site yesterday.

He’s got some really interesting stuff posted; I would recommend that you take a look. Or more than one, actually.

So Far

To date we have taken on 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. These are two of Paul’s earlier works; as such, they represent the oldest surviving writing in what came to be the Christian Scripture, or the Christian corpus as a whole.

I hope it seems clear that Galatians represents something of an ‘advance’ over 1 Thessalonians. By this I mean that it should seem that Galatians has an extra layer. 1 Thessalonians is, primarily, and to a large extent, a pastoral letter. That is, its main focus seems to be on exhortation and comfort of the Thessalonian community. Some of it recapitulates Paul’s experience there. The ‘theological’ content is rather oh-by-the-way, consisting mainly of the choice of phrases (Lord Jesus Christ; God our Father; preach with power). Galatians, on the other hand, is almost a legal argument setting out the ‘case’ for ‘his’ gospel over the ‘other’ gospel, apparently that of the Jerusalem Assembly.

It should be noted, though, that 1 Thessalonians also has implications of ‘competing’ gospels. Paul is quick to point out that he took great pains not to be a burden, working ‘day and night’, presumably to make money, so that he didn’t have to rely on the recompense he says was due to an apostle.  This may imply that others had come, and had claimed the support of the community. And there are references in 1 Corinthians, to other preachers, such as Peter and Apollos.  Overall, we are given the sense that Paul was not alone in his missionary activity.  There were others; and, given the lack of real central control, there was not a consistency of message. This is not, or should not be surprising. This was one of the motivating forces for the development of the Institutional Church.

The other overall impression we are given is that these early communities had already accepted the notion of being children of God. Jesus was The Christ, raised from the dead by Our Father, after Jesus had been crucified. More, the Christ was expected to return, riding on the clouds. The dead would join the living in…well, someplace. The heavens, or the heaven, which does not seem to have become Heaven quite yet. There have been a couple of hints of an idea that will come to be seen as Predestination once it gets spelled out in Romans.  This much is common to both epistles.

In addition, Galatians has told us that faith is primary, especially over the Law. As such, the assemblies of Jesus had begun, to some degree, to pull away from their Jewish roots. Perhaps this is why the Jerusalem Assembly thought it was a good idea to send other missionaries to places where Paul had already been: to reel in these groups that were drifting too far from the Jewish heritage. Paul may have been given sanction to preach to the Gentiles in the way that Peter preached to the circumcised, but Paul does not say that James and the Pillars gave him leave to cut ties to the Jerusalem Assembly completely. In fact, Paul seems to concede that he was obligated to ‘remember the poor’, which likely means pay the temple tax to the group in Jerusalem.

We have also been introduced to the concept of grace; but we’re not quite sure what this actually means. Whatever Paul intended with the term, it seems likely he didn’t mean what later theologians decided it came to mean.

So, where do we go from here?

At this point, I think it would be best to go on to the Gospel of Mark.  Ideally, we should do at least 1 Corinthians and Romans before moving on to the gospels, but I believe it will be useful to see how the gospel message differs from what Paul has been telling us. After looking at Mark, I think it would be best to come back to 1 Corinthians and Romans. That will make the ‘compare and contrast’ more effective.  I believe.  Or, ‘I hope’ might be more accurate. Maybe, too, once we get to more familiar ground, those of you reading this will feel more comfortable about commenting.

So let me say, once more and with feeling, that I am not an expert on this. My dread is that someone who truly knows what they are talking about will come along and blow me out of the water!  If this happens, so be it.  However, I think we’re getting to the actual words that were written. We may not have approached the ‘historical Jesus’, but that is not the point. The goal is to get to the historical message propagated by the followers of Jesus. These are two very different things.