Monday, June 11, 2007


I recently read Jenny Read-Heimerdinger's "Where is Emmaus? Clues in the Text of Luke 24 in Codex Bazae" (Studies in the Early Text of the Gospels and Acts, ed. D. G. K. Taylor. Atlanta: SBL, 1999, pp. 229-244). Basically, Read-Heimerdinger suggests that in Luke 24.13, Bazae's reading of Oulammaous is to be preferred over Vaticanus' Emmaous. Oulammaous was the former name of Bethel (Gen28.19). Jacob was responsible for the name change. Genesis 28.10-20 tells of Jacob's marking of the spot where God dwelt on earth (thus the change to "Bethel"). Jacob dreams of a ladder, conneting heaven and earth, upon which angels descend and ascend.

I agree with Read-Heimerdinger's assessment. But I'd like to add something to her notion. I have suggested before that Luke is perhaps rewriting John's history in symbolic or parabolic form (cf. my post on
the rich man and Lazarus). (I am also working on the possibility of Luke's "Cleopas" [Lk24.18] being John's "Clopas" [Jn9.25]). If the preferred reading of Luke 24.13 is Bazae's Oulammaous in place of Vaticanus' Emmaous, and if Luke is perhaps rewriting John's history, I am compelled to believe that John 1.45-51 is rewritten in Luke 24. John 1.45-51 reads:

45: Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46: Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
47: Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"
48: Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
49: Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
50: Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these."
51: And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."

Notice a two important parallels between John's text and Luke 24.13-35:

1. Both speak of Jesus' fulfillment of the "Moses and the prophets" (Jn1.45 // Lk24.27).

2. Both speak of visions of the angels (Jn1.51 // Lk24.23). Moreover, Luke's mention of Oulammaous (24.13) directly links his story to Jacob's dream (Gen28), in which angels were descending and ascending, representing God's provision for mediation between heaven and earth (cf. Jn1.51).

Copyright 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sceva: Initial Thoughts

I am working on the pericope in Acts 19 about the seven sons of the "Jewish high priest" (RSV) Sceva. The name "Sceva" is nowhere attested of any Jewish priestly figure, which has caused many commentators to suggest that he is a Jew who became a "chief priest" in an Imperial pagan cult. Others make much of the variant reading involving arxierewn ("high priest", RSV), suggesting the more general "chief priest" is to be preferred.

Perhaps a more interesting suggestion is offered by Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, Sacra Pagina Commentary), that the latin equivalent of the greek Skeua is in view. In Latin it means "untrustworthy". Perhaps Luke is meaning to indicate that the priesthood known first-hand to Theophilusis from "untrustworthy" stock. The "seven sons" would then represent Theophilus' and his four brothers, Annas his father, and Caiaphas his brother-in-law - all of whom have been implicated, either specifically or generally, in Luke's previous volume (for example, see
here, and here).

I understand that The Anchor Bible Dictionary (5:1004) claims that "Sceva" may mean "left-handed". I'm not yet sure if there's something to this. I will be checking this next trip to the library.

Copyright 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Luke 3.30 and Mark 6.3 (Matthew 13.55)?

Again, with the genealogy...

During this morning's service, my attention was drawn to the brothers of Jesus. We read Mark 6.3: "Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" I recalled that Luke does not mention this list. Matthew does, though swapping the order of the last two names (13.55). But I did note that in Luke's genealogy, four names very similar to these show up in the same sequence as Mark's (though descending in chronology). Luke 3.30: "...the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam...". The Greek names:



I have asserted elsewhere (
here and here) that Luke's genealogy is deliberately arranged. I have not yet come to any conclusion as to why. I affirm Lukan priority. Because it is quite apparent to any caferful reader of Luke's genealogy that he arranged his list, and because Luke's list doesn't jive with Matthew's (which is most probably artificial as well, given his arrangement), I wonder if perhaps there is an indication somewhere which reveals the reason for it, or the significances of his names. I wonder if perhaps Mark realized the significance of at least this portion of Luke's list, and inserted that significance here in Mark 6.3. Notice that Luke only names males and Mark doesn't list a single sister's name, only vaguely referring to them. Perhaps he realized the significance of this portion of Luke's list and realized that there were no female names and inserted what he could based on what he knew. This is pure conjecture, I realize. And I will keep it under that status, pending evidence forwarding the argument. I just thought it worth mentioning.

[I have thought that Matthew preceded Mark as well. But, if it be possible that an inkling of what I've said can be true, and if Mark did take from Luke, and given Matthew's skewing of the order here and Mark's harmony with Luke's list, it seems more likely that Matthew followed Mark. So, regarding this instance, and assuming Lukan priority, the order seems Luke-Mark-Matthew.]

Copyright 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

Priests and Tax Collectors

I recently read in Richard D. Nelson's Raising Up a Faithful Priest an interesting comment: "Priests served as tax collectors and assessors, determining the monetary worth of vowed animals and real estate (Lev27.12, 18) and the ability of individuals to pay the required amounts (v. 8)" (p. 47). While I realize it's probably not what Luke (or any other Gospel writer) referred to by the title "tax collector", I am reminded that Matthew was a tax collector and formerly named "Levi". Any significance?

One the other hand, the biggest problem with equating the tax collectors in GLuke with the temple establishment is that Pharisees rebuke Jesus for associating with them. Luke 5.27ff. tells of Levi the tax collector's call to follow Jesus. Subsequently, Jesus eats with the tax collectors and the Pharisees are upset. If these tax collectors are temple people, then the Pharisees would hardly be upset.

Copyright 2007

Age of Annas?

I have been trying to find any indication of the ages of the first century high priests. Some suggest Annas was 37 when he took office in 6CE: (see under "Facts")

Is this claim substantiable?

This website suggests that Annas was alive until the revolt of 66 CE: Is that possible/probable?

Copyright 2007

Luke's Jesus and Isaiah 52

Luke 7.36-50 tells of the anointing of Jesus' feet. Luke 8.1ff. describes Jesus' "preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God". Perhaps there is something lurking behind Luke's narrative.

Recall Isaiah 52.7: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news , who publishes peace, who brings good news of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns' " (emphasis added).

Is Luke therefore suggesting here that Jesus, whose feet were anointed, is then the "lovely one" who preaches the "good news" as spoken of by Isaiah?

I also find it interesting that the latter half of Isaiah 52 speaks of ritual purity, culminating into the refrain:

"Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him -- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men -- so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand." (52.13-15).

Copyright 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hypocrisy in Luke 12 and 2 Maccabees 6

Richard once asked me, regarding hypocrites and hypocrisy as they relate to Luke 12:

"In 2nd Macc, the Jewish people are ordered to eat meat that has been sacrificed to the idols and Eleazar is offered 'kosher' meat to eat to make it appear he is in compliance with the order of the king but he refuses saying it would be hypocrisy to do so (and misleading) to the Jewish people. In his refusal, he becomes a Jewish martyr. Is Jesus [in Luke 12] in saying, 'beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy' somehow alluding to Eleazar and contrasting the behavior and conduct of the Pharisees with Eleazar?"

Richard was considering Jesus' admonition as an allusion to the sory of Eleazar as told in 2 Maccabees 6. I responded:

1. Hypocrisy in Luke 12.1ff. is defined as saying something in secret or hiding something (12.1-3; the hidden thing will be revealed); not confessing before men (12.8ff.). This is essentially the same phenomenon expected from Eleazar [the refusal of which led to his martyrdom].

2. More importantly, there is a deeper parallel involving the two texts:

In Luke 12.4ff., [we find the] admonition to not fear (me phobethete; cf. 12.7) those who can kill the body (soma); "fear (phobethete) him who can destroy body (soma) in hell".

2Macc6.30: Eleazar suffers in his body (soma); Eleazar says, "I will suffer these things because I fear (phobov) him [the Almighty]; 2Macc6.26 = Eleazar says, "Whether I live or die, I shall not not escape the hands of hte Almighty".


I have not studied this line further since these remarks. Perhaps time will permit it soon. In the meantime, if you find this line of inquiry interesting or have something to contribute here, please leave a note. I'm interested in others' thoughts.

Copyright 2007

Jesus on Divorce (and Sadducees?)

Richard and I have been considering the possibility that Luke's Jesus may be employing the narrative of Ezra 7-10 as a background for his parable of the dishonest steward and subsequent teachings in Luke 16.1-18. Two things interigued me at the time of initial study which I have yet to follow up on. Here are my initial comments and queries:

1) There are two major passages in Luke dealing with marriage and divorce. The first is the seemingly random saying of 16.18. In Ezra's day, the Levites (plus a few others) were guilty of intermarriage, for which Ezra commanded a mass divorce. So, the Levites violated the Law (Deut7.1-7), thus requiring a purging via divorce. What if, in Jesus' day, the Pharisees, et al, were not guilty of intermarriage, but deemed themselves worthy of divorce (cf. Deut24.1-4), perhaps even in en masse, which would therefore provoke Luke's Jesus to employ Ezra's story as an under-narrative? Can this case be made? If so, notice the smoothe(r) reading through 16.14-18 (paraphrased below):

"You Pharisees seek men's approval, and forget about God's. What men seek is abominable! The Law was preached until John. Since John, the kingdom has come and people are pressing into it. But, do not think that this nullifies the Law. For, not one dot will pass away from the Law - which, by the way, prohibits divorcing you wives in the manners in which you have been dealing in it. You are not guilty of intermarriage [as in Ezra's day], but simply of divorce by preference. You all are adulterers!"

The second passage in Luke dealing with divorce and marriage is that of 20.27ff., where the Sadducees bring up the ridiculous scenario of a husband and his 6 brothers, all who die in succession, marrying in succession the wife of the first. This wife has no child from any of the brothers. The question posed to Jesus is, "Whose wife will she be?" In Deuteronomy 25.5-10 (a passage immediately following the previously mentioned Deut. text dealing with divorce), we find Moses concerned about the purity of the people, about husbands not desiring to procreate and keep their line going. That husband was to be publicly shamed. The Sadducees of Jesus' day ultimately are posing a question of purity - else why mention that she was unable to have any children? This means that she and the brothers were shamed, in a sense, for not procreating and extending their line. Can this interpretation be sustained?

2) In rereading Luke 20.27-40, I am reminded of the story of the rich man and Lazarus (16.19-31). Recall my interpretation, that the three elements which Sadducees find objectionable (resurrection, angels, and spirits) are present there. The same is true of 20.27-40. Their question involves marriage status in the resurrection. In Jesus' answer, we find a kind of proof that the resurrection is real, based on an implication in Moses (20.37-38). We also find a seemingly unnecessary reference to angels (20.36). Why does Jesus include it here? And the whole scenario presupposes an afterlife existence, implying spiritual existence. I am beginning to believe that, like Caiaphas, Theophilus was a Sadducee. And Luke, in Jesus' teachings, is trying to break that philosophy down. These details are not necessary for Jesus' answer to be satisfactory. In fact, upon rereading of the Sadducess' scenario, I am compelled to think that the initial concern from them (purity of the race, as described in Deut25.5-10) has been demoted, so to speak, by Luke's Jesus so that he can introduce rebuttals to the Sadducean philosophy. Why else would these details emerge?

Copyright 2007

Jesus and Ritual Cleansing

When Jesus declares one's sins to be forgiven (implying that atonement has been made), why is there no mention of the requirement of sacrifice? Why does no one ask about it? Those forgiven instantly assume that Jesus' authority matches, or perhaps replaces, that of the temple's.

Paula Fredriksen has suggested that Jesus may have undergone ritual cleansing after having contacted ritually impure people (such as lepers). (I apologize. I will have to find the citation for this.) Her point is that Jesus was a faithful Jew, and we have no data suggesting that he didn't undergo such purification. So, I suppose a case might be made that those whom Jesus forgave took it upon themselves to make atonement at the temple, to confirm what Jesus had said. Or, Jesus may have asked them to present themselves at the temple, though it not be recorded, unless one interprets Jesus' admonition to present themselves to the priests as a submission to ritual cleansing via the temple.

I wonder if perhaps a certain case might be made regarding the question of sacrifice and forgiveness from Jesus. Crispin Fletcher-Louis has
argued that Jesus understood himself to be the echatological high priest, as described in Daniel 7, and that he presented himself in those terms. If correct, then it might very well be that his followers understood him in that way as well, and word may have gotten around of his teachings and claims. If so, then those whom he healed would have understood that they did not need to make an atoning sacrifice at the temple. Daniel 7 makes no mention of sacrifice (apart from the allusion to incense). Therefore, those healed by Jesus, the son of man, can conceive of forgiveness apart from atoning sacrifice.

Crispin does not make this point, unfortunately. I hope to explore it further.

Copyright 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Luke 12.42-48 and Joseph?

Honestly, I'm not so sure that there is anything to this. But, I thought it worth mentioning.

Two posts ago, I wrote: "5. In 12.42, Luke uses the terms 'measures of grain' (sitometrion) where Matthew [...] says 'food' (trophe). I wonder if these measures of grain are temple-oriented. I wonder if the 'grain' of 12.42 corresponds to the 'grain' stored up by the rich fool in 12.18. In both cases, the servants/fool disregard the coming sudden judgment/return in favor of fattening themselves (and, in the case of the servants, beating the other servants)."

Perhaps Jesus' parable in Luke 12.42-48 leans on the narrative of Genesis 45-47, involving Joseph and his brothers.

1. Jesus' stewards were responsible for providing food for the master's therapeias ("household") while the master was away. Genesis 45 tells of Joseph's reconciliation with his brothers. Upon learning of the arrival of Joseph's brothers, Pharaoh and his therapeia were pleased to take care of them during the famine (Gen45.16-20).

2. Jesus' stewards were responsible for distributing sitometrion ("measures of grain/food") to his master's household. In Genesis 47.12, we find Joseph esitometrei ("providing food") for his father, his brothers, and all of his father's household, under Pharaoh's provision (again, Genesis 45.16-20). (See A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 158). [I am yet unable to account for Luke's employment of therapeias while in Genesis 47, regarding Joseph's father's household, we find oikw, and in Genesis 45, regarding Pharaoh's household, we find therapeia.]

Again, I am not sure if there anything significant here. I am inclined to believe that this may be, at very least, an example of what I have termed
unintentional cognitive association. I am learning, however, that if such a phenomenon exists, it is virtually impossible to demonstrate. On the other hand, suggestion may work where demonstration doesn't, though the force of suggestion be inferior.

Copyright 2007

Monday, May 21, 2007

Luke and Pilate

I have been thinking about Pilate's slaughtering of Galileans, as told in Luke 13.1ff. I believe that this incident is the issue over which Pilate and Herod became bitter enemies (Lk23.12). Upon hearing that Jesus was Galilean, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod (who was in Jerusalem; Lk23.6ff). Herod was overjoyed at this, and Pilate and Herod then became friends (Lk23.12).

I find it extremely interesting that since Pilate had such a terrible reputation (cf. Philo, Leg. ad Gaium 38.302), he was courteous enough to allow Jesus to be given over to Herod. Where did this courtesy come from? Was he in that much fear of the Jews over the decisions regarding Jesus? I doubt it. I believe that he was trying to make good with Herod, after having enraged him for slaughtering Herod's people.

Richard reminded me of Matthew's testimony, that Pilate's wife advised him to leave Jesus alone on account of her dream (27.17-19). But this detail is lacking in Luke's story. And because Luke tells so clearly of the schism between Herod and Pilate, and of the incident of Luke 13.1ff., and of their reconciliation, I am compelled to believe that Luke has another explanation in mind: namely, that Pilate was trying to make good with Herod after having slaughtered some of Herod's people. Else, why include the story of 13.1ff. at all, while balancing the animosity and subsequent reconciliation between Pilate and Herod? The pericope of 13.1ff. has more to do with the political landscape leading up to Jesus' arrest and death than with that single otherwise randomly-placed, cryptic incident. And the fact that the people were merely informing Jesus of the incident shows that Luke was more interested in including the pericope than in having Jesus comment on it, as does Jesus' response.

So, if this be correct, what possible indicators in Luke's text might there be?

Perhaps the nobleman of Luke 19.12 is Pilate. He was known to be a violent man (Jos. Ant. 18.3.2[60-62]; 18.4.1-2[87-89]; Philo, Leg. ad Gaium 38.302), and thus was feared and dreaded by his constituents (cf. Luke 19.14, 21). In Jesus' parable of the wicked servant in Luke 19.12ff., the nobleman slays his enemies, "those who did not want me to be king over them". The nobleman commands his subjects to "kill [my enemies] before me". In Josephus (Ant. 18.3.2[60-62]), many Jews ("ten thousands") rose up against Pilate, in revolt, because he used the "sacred money" to "bring a current of water to Jerusalem". Pilate had soldiers armed with daggers surround the Jewish rebels. When the Jews would not go away at his bidding, he signaled the soldiers, and they slew the Jewish rebels (though Pilate did not mean for such a severe attack to take place). The soldiers slaughtered both the guilty and innocent. As a result, a "great number of them were slain...and thus an end was put to this sedition." In essense, these Jewish rebels were slain "before Pilate", just as those in Jesus' parable were slain "before [the nobleman]".

Whiston, in footnote, suggests that these Jews "may very well be those very Galilean Jews, 'whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices' (Luke 13.1-2)" (fn 553). Recall that Pilate queried as to whether or not Jesus was Galiliean (Luke 23.6-7). As a proof that the episode above corresponds to Luke 13.1, Whiston cites Noldius (de Herod. No. 249): "The cause of the enmity between Herod and Pilate seems to have been this, that Pilate had intermingled with the tetrarch's jurisdiction, and had slain some of his Galilean subjects [cf. Luke 13.1]; and, as he was willing to correct that error, he sent Christ to Herod this time" (Whiston, fn 553). So, apparently, Herod and Pilate were at odds with one another, but had made amends when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod (Luke 23.12 [cf. vv.6-7]).

(I have written about the possible significance of Pilate's misuse of the sacred money here.)

Copyright 2007

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Luke 12.35-48: Details

Upon rereading Luke 12.35-48, I noticed some new details which seem to bear more significance than I previously realized. I once asserted that Jesus' stories and admonitions of 12.35-48 correspond to his parable of the dishonest steward. I now believe 12.35-48 bears more similarities to other pericopes in Luke. Reasons (and queries) follow:

1. The master is going to gird himself for a table meal with his servants (12.37; see also 12.35). This is a practice for Israel during their feasting of Passover (Exodus 12.11). Might these robes be priestly? Also, during Passover, Israel ate unleavened bread (Ex12.8). I wonder if this has anything to do with Jesus' comment on the leaven of the Pharisees in 12.1.

2. The thief of 12.39 most certainly refers to Jesus, as his unexpected coming seems to be the dominant theme, according to the conclusion of 12.40. But here, I get confused. In 12.35-36 Jesus encourages his followers to be ready as ones awating their master's return. So, in v35 it seems as though the master represents Jesus. But, in v39 things change - unless the "householder" of v39 does not refer to the "master" of 25-28, which would make for an even more confusing admonition.

3. In 12.40, the disciples are admonished to fulfill the role of the aforementioned servants/master: to be ready for the arrival of the thief. If the servants once again represent the corrupt priesthood and if the master represents the high priest (as in Luke 16.1ff.), then perhaps Jesus is admonishing his disciples to take up the priestly duties.

4. Notice that in 12.41ff. Jesus modifies the master-servant scenario to the master-steward, just as that of Luke 16.1ff.

5. In 12.42, Luke uses the terms "measures of grain" (sitometrion) where Matthew simply says "food" (trophe). I wonder if these measures of grain are temple-oriented. I wonder if the "grain" of 12.42 corresponds to the "grain" stored up by the rich fool in 12.18. In both cases, the servants/fool disregard the coming sudden judgment/return in favor of fattening themselves (and, in the case of the servants, beating the other servants).

6. In 12.42, the measures of grain are to be given "at the proper time" (en kairo). This same term is used in 20.10 (though without the definite article) of the wicked tenants, whom Richard and I have identified as the corrupt priests. Apparently, there was a "proper time" at which offerings were collected or measures (of grain [here] or fruit [as in ch. 20]) were given. The steward who distributes the grain to the household will be blessed by the master (12.43f.). But, if these "stewards/servants...beat the servants, and to eat, drink, and get drunk", then the unexpected master will return to punish. Interestingly, the wicked tenants were guilty of beating the servants of the master in chapter 20. Also interesting, the eating and drinking corresponds nicely with that of the rich fool (12.19). It seems to me that these bear priestly significances.

7. After this pericope, Jesus declares that his mission is not one of peace, but division. The details of that declaration include this: "henceforth, in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided , father against son and son against father..." (12.52-53). I wonder if Luke is probing at Theophilus. Theophilus was one of five brothers. All five of them, and their father Annas, served as high priests. Perhaps this lies behind Jesus' reference to "five divided" all being of "one house". If so, then the "father" represents Annas and the "son" represents Theophilus. I realize other family members are mentioned. But this can easily be explained as Luke's using Jesus' originally general statement regarding family division as an application to Theophilus' specific situation.

8. Luke's Jesus closes in 12.48 with one of his syllogistic maxims: "To whom much is given, much is required...". Note other similar maxims in Luke, and to whom they are addressed: 7.47: to the Pharisee Simon; 16.10: to the dishonest steward - both of whom represent the priestly leadership!

Two final notes:

1. Leviticus 7.1-10 gives the priests legitimate rights to eat the remains of Israel's offerings. I wonder if in Jesus' day the priests were taking advantage of this practice, as 12.18f.; 45ff. perhaps demonstrate.

2. Luke 12.48 refers to unknowingly doing wrong. Leviticus 4.2-12 speaks to priests who sin unkowingly. Is there any significance there?

I know there is much more to be said here. I will continue to investigate.

Copyright 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Unintentional Cognitive Association?

Richard and I have been working on possible associations between Ezra and Luke. Richard has posted here, here, here, here, and here, and I here on the possible parallels. I cannot help but think that there is a link the the "friends" of Luke 16.8-9 and the "friends" of Artaxerxes who gave Ezra the permissions and blessing and resources for trekking to Jerusalem (1 Esdras 8.11, 13, 26; cf. Jos. Ant. 11.5.2, where Ezra gained "great favor" from Artaxerxes).

Might there also be a correlation between the twelve priests Ezra chose (1 Esdras 8.54) and the twelve disciples Jesus chose? (Though Richard does not agree with my assertion that Luke is portraying Jesus as the new high priest, I think this detail, if valid, may strengthen my case. We both agree that the primary significance of Jesus' choosing of the twelve has more to do with the twelve tribes of Israel.) I believe that Jesus is condemning the temple establishment, and against that backdrop of condemnation, he is admonishing his disciples to be faithful in those areas in which the priests have failed. If there is something to this possible correlation between Luke and Ezra (1 Esdras), I'm convinced it has to do with Jesus' condemnation of the temple and admonition to his followers. But that might be a point at which my imagination has taken over.

I have considered one other possibility. I know that when I recall stories of my childhood (whether stories of my lifetime or stories of old), and intend to relate those stories to others or to my current situation, I (often unintentionally) use the same rhetoric used by those who related the stories to me from the beginning, whether in print or oral. Applied to Luke, I wonder if perhaps Luke (or Jesus?) has intentionally pointed to Ezra by way of allusion (as with the parallels of intermarriage, divorce, choosing of the twelve, and the identical offerings in identical measures), but unintentionally included certain details which might lead one to believe that Jesus means to apply that story to himself and his followers (as with the mention of "friends"). I don't know of a technical term for this phenomenon, but I imagine it has something to do with unintentional cognative association. Is there such a thing?

I intend to post on the details of my initial assertions that Luke's Jesus alludes to Ezra's narrative in his parables. These include both verbal and conceptual allusions: intermarriage, divorce, choosing of twelve, identical offerings in identical measures. I also intend to further investigate the idea of unintentional cognitive association.

Copyright 2007

Themes in Luke

In the previous post, I suggested that the parable of the wicked tenants is the culminating point of Jesus' criticism of the priesthood, of which the priests became well aware (Luke 20.19). I believe that in the Gospel records, Jesus' final speeches bear enourmous weight. (Recall my comment regarding Luke 24.50-51.) Just before the process of his arrest, trial, death and resurrection in the Gospels, Jesus is recorded as packing everything he has previously taught into tight speeches (see esp. John 12, which contains elements of every episode of Jesus' life and teachings up to that point; see also Matthew's Olivet discourse). It's as though he's trying to give his followers a final word in hopes that they'll remember everything - sort of like a farewell under fire, though not so nervously. But the information relayed by these writers comes as most urgent, even neglecting any narrative signposts (as in John 14-17, which contain no setting indicators whatsoever).

I see Luke progressively growing his story in this kind of direction, beginning in ch. 14, and culminating in 21, closing with a word of his coming. Luke 20.46-47 is a magnificent example of this phenomenon. Note the parallels:

20.46 // 7.31-32 = The scribes and Pharisees love the market places and publicity.

20.46 // 14.7-11 = Pharisees love places of honor.

20.46 // 11.43 (7.31-32?) = Parisees love the best seats in the synagogues and salutations in the marketplace.

20.47 // 21.1-4 = The widows in poverty are vidicated against their adversaries.

20.47 // 18.9-14 = Pharisees love long prayers.

These parallels perhaps indicate what Jesus' emphases were throughout his ministry. Luke 20.46-47 then would be a brief synopsis of important themes in his teachings - important enough to merit mention at this point in Luke's story. He then moves to topics of his coming and the temple's coming destruction.

Copyright 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thoughts on Jesus' Parables in Luke

Richard once posted on Luke's parable of the unjust steward (Lk16.1-13). I had some initial notes on Richard's thoughts which I had not made public. After rereading them today, I feel that they may bear some relevance, or at least point us in a right direction for better conclusions. My initial thoughts on Jesus' parable of the unjust steward, and the other parables told in Luke 15-20, prompted by Richard's post:

1) The parable of the wicked tenants (Lk20.9-16) is the only parable after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. If the "step progression method" is being used by Jesus in Luke [as
suggested by Richard], then we should expect that Jesus has fully finished his indictment on the priesthood with this parable - a notion which is validated by the priests' reaction in 20.19.

2) Jeremias has suggested that the chief priests were constitued by a small number, maybe 15-20 persons [the citation elludes me at present]. Perhaps the 10 servants of Luke 19.13 represent the chief priests of Jesus' day. Again, the chief priests recognized that they were the ones under attack in these parables (cf. 19.47-48; 20.1, 19).

3) Concerning the parable of the prodigal son (15.11-32) - perhaps figure of the younger son is meant to represent the office of the high priest, and not a specific priest. If so, then the son's departure and squandering of possessions (mirrored again in 16.1, of the dishonest steward, whom we believe to be the high priest) might refer to the corruption of the priesthood. Conversely, the son's return, coming to his senses, and reception of a celebration might refer to Jesus as the high priest, reconstituting the office of high priest as a faithful priest [cf. my post
here], contra those "dishonest" and "unfaithful" and "wicked" folk normally employed to represent the high priest. In essense, Jesus is perhaps saying that one day the high priesthood will be worthy (contra the "unworthiness" of those previously holding that office, 15.19).

Additionally, NT Wright has argued that 15.24, 32 refers to resurrection, of Israel's "true return from exile" (Luke for Everyone, SPCK, p. 188). But what if Jesus meant to refer to his own resurrection? The story hinges on that one event, when the son who was "once dead is now alive, once lost is found" (15.24, 32). If the son represents the office of the high priesthood, then the son's resurrection and return would constitute a reconstitution of the faithfulness of the high priesthood. And, according to Jesus, who would bring that about? Jesus explicitly refers to a resurrection as the turning point in this story. Would it not be ironic if he did not mean his own resurrection, which he were to accomplish only days later?

Finally, note the elder son's accusation of the younger, that he "devoured [the father's] living with harlots". I wonder if perhaps the elder son represents the corrput priests of Jesus' day who accused Jesus of mingling with sinners throughout his ministry.

4) Notice these parallels in Luke, Jesus' use of maxims to convey the same general idea at the close of various parables and teachings: 7.41-43; 12.48; 14.11; 16.10; 18.14, 28-30; 19.17. Richard has suggested [somewhere!!!] that Luke is using Ezekiel's maxim-practice.

Again, these are initial thoughts made in early December 2006 following a post by Richard on Luke's parable of the unjust steward.

Copyright 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Theophilus and the Rich Young Ruler

I have been contemplating Luke's story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18. Might he be a young Theophilus? Some notes:

1. A priest (like the lawyer of Luke 10) would no doubt have been well-versed in and in full compliance with the Law. If Jesus had a conversation with a young member of the priestly family, the Law would no doubt have been a point of departure, conversationally.

2. The ruler's response (18.23) seems odd, as though he is unable to relinquish his riches. This would certainly be true of a member of the high priestly family, he himself expected to reign someday.

3. Jesus concludes the pericope with a statement of leaving family (18.29-30). If the ruler was of priestly stock, this admonition would have hit home deeply. So far as I can tell, though Jesus addressed this comment ot Peter, it still was a public statement, within the ruler's hearing.

4. Luke 10.25-37 is a parallel event, where a lawyer approaches Jesus with the same question as the ruler: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus' subsequent story of the good neighbor involves a priest and a Levite, both of whom are corrupt. Might this be an indication that that both the lawyer and the ruler are of priestly descent?

If the ruler is indeed our young Theophilus, perhaps Jesus' call to abandon his riches and family is what caused Theophilus to initially reject Jesus. If so, the Luke's inclusion of this story might be giving Theophilus' rejection of Jesus a new context from which to present Jesus to Theohilus.

I have considered why Matthew and Mark both include this story where they do not include other pericopes unique to Luke which have priestly significance, specifically of Theophilus' family. I think the safest response would be that these stories were handed down by other witnesses as well, and Luke, perhaps drawing from those accounts, recognized the significance of them, and thus included them, where the other Gospel writers did not see their significance regarding a specific priest.

Copyright 2007

Theophilus in Acts?

I have been wondering if Theophilus was a Sadducee. Here are my clues:

1. Sadducees deny the resurrection, angels, and spirits (or spiritual existence) (cf. Acts 23.6ff.; Josephus).

2. Luke makes much of angels (Luke 1.11, 13, 18-19, 26, 30, 34-35, 38; 2.9-10, 13, 15, 21; 4.10; 9.26; 12.8-9; 15.10; 16.22; 20.36; 22.43; 24.23; Acts 5.19; 6.15; 7.30, 35, 38, 53; 8.26; 10.3, 7, 22; 11.13; 12.7-11, 15, 23; 23.8-9; 27.23).

3. Luke has an extended resurrection narrative, including an ascension into heaven as realm of spiritual existence (Luke 24.1-52; Acts 1.1ff.).

4. Luke most often names the high priest(s) in question [I need to find references to all mentions by name of high priests]. However, in 5.17ff (cf. also 4.1), he simply refers to a high priest without naming him. In both instances, that high priest is said to be of the party of the Sadducees. Why not name him here?

Can it be demonstrated with relative certainty that Acts 5.17 (and 4.1ff?) constitutes events post-37AD, when Theophilus was serving as HP? It comes on the heels of a general summary statement with no indication of time span (5.12-16), common in the early chapters of Acts (2.42-47; 4.32ff; 5.12-16; 5.42). There was probably a 14 year gap between Acts 9 and 13, between Paul's conversion and his ministry beginning (according to Galatians). What can also say with relative certainty (with the majority of scholars) that Acts 8, the "Samaritan Pentecost", must have been a number of years after the Pentecost event of Acts 2. Can we know what time Acts 6 and 7 depicts, it being a single event (Stephen's sermon and stoning)? If so, then maybe we can come close to determining when Acts 5 took place, and whether or not Theophilus was the unusually-anonymous high priest of 5.17, thus making him a Sadducee, according to the text.

Copyright 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Luke's Geneaology Revisited

I have previously tried to make sense of Luke's genealogy: here, here, and here. It seems to me that Luke has included a number of patriarchal and priestly names not present in Matthew's account. One detail mentioned by Goulder in Luke: A New Paradigm (pp. 289f.), referring to Jeremias' Jerusalem at the Time of Jesus (pp. 213-221, 275-302), caught my attention: "Jeremias gives evidence of contemporary keeping of genealogies; but this is mainly by priestly families for whom purity was important, and the presence of the names Levi, Simeon, Judah and Joseph is agreed by Jeremias to be unknown in the pre-exilic period." If it is true that genealogies are kept for the sake of purity, and if I have been correct to give significance to the priestly names in Luke's genealogy of Jesus, perhaps then Luke is in fact demonstrating Jesus' purity and right to fulfill the prophecy as told in 1 Samuel 2.35, among others.

Further, Goulder: "In any case the stylized pattern of the Geneaology forbids taking it as in any sense historical" (289). I am pleased to find scholars making such conclusions. I recall that Fitzmyer (AB, the source being away from me at present) suggests that Luke's genealogy is more accurate historically than Matthew on accounts of Luke's number of generations and Matthew's artificial patterns of 14 generations. Kuhn's delineation of two lists works, though I prefer my own explanation so far, with Zerubbabel holding a place of prominence among a string of otherwise unknown names. All of this considered, Luke's "stylized pattern" must be accounted for non-historically and in light of Luke's initial reader, whom I assert was the high priest of 37-41CE.

Finally, Goulder (p. 291) notes that in Luke 3.24, Jobed does not accord with the genealogies of 1Chron2.12 and Ruth4.21, which read Obed. However, Luke agrees with Matthew. After having searched briefly through Stoldt's History and Criticism of the Marcan Hypothesis, I am growing convinced of Lukan priority. The agreement between Matthew and Luke here against the OT records probably demonstrates dependence on the part of either writer. Of course, there could have been an addtional source known to both, but no known source precludes such a conclusion if another suits well. And, since Matthew's genealogy seems less strategic in name choice, Luke's reading of Jobed is most probably to be preferred. This suits well with what can be deduced from Luke's work.

Copyright 2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

What Luke Assumed Theophilus Would Have Known and Recognized

It is asserted here (and here) that Luke wrote to Theophilus the high priest of 37-41CE. I have wondered for years what this Theophilus would have known, assumed, and recognized in Luke's writings. How many of Luke's named characters would Theophilus have known, either personally or by reputation? What events would Theophilus have understood as particularly significant?

Theophilus' family members included two high priests significant to Luke's Jesus story: Annas (father) and Caiaphas (brother-in-law), listed in Luke 3.2. Archaeological evidence links a Johanna to Theophilus the high priest. Luke mentions Johanna in 8.3; 24.10. Most probably, Theophilus would have known (of) Zechariah the priest, who served in the temple in the days of Herod (1.5, 8, 9), and who is mentioned by Luke in 3.2 following Annas and Caiaphas. He probably knew much concerning Zechariah's son, John. John, having been put to death by Herod (3.19-20; cf. Matt 14.6-12), would have been a familiar subject to both Theophilus and Johanna, who married Herod's steward, Chuza (8.3).

Now concerning John:

For some reason, it is a popular position in NT scholarship to assert that John was NOT associated with the Qumran sect. The reasoning generally rests upon the lack of any explicit reference to John's association with Qumran, and any lack of specific location for John's wilderness and Jordan ventures. But, what if this reasoning is incorrect? We know from the Dead Sea scrolls that Qumran was a counter-temple sect: the people retreated into the wilderness because they thought the priesthood was corrupt. If Luke were to describe anyone coming from the south Jordan region doing and preaching things similar to what we find in the scrolls, then would it have been necessary to explicitly say that individual was from the Qumran sect, especially considering the recipient, Theophilus, was a member of the temple establishment and would have been most familiar with counter-temple movements such as Qumran?

Aside from his close proximity to Qumran, there are other elements to John's life which indicate that he would have been considered a temple defiant. His baptism was of repentance and for the remission of sins. These ethical standards were sanctioned by the temple establishment, not individual radicals in the countryside and wilderness. These were temple rituals, performed by the priesthood. John's declaration that a person was free from sin because of his baptism in the Jordan river would have been seen as counter-temple to any first century Jew. Theophilus would have recognized these details in Luke's story.

Now concerning Jesus:

Since John was Jesus' forerunner, it follows that Jesus was probably most interested in John's agenda. And since John is portrayed as a temple-defiant, might the same be true of Jesus? Luke cites Isaiah 40.3-5, a favorite Qumran text, to describe John, the one "preparing the way" for Jesus (Luke 3.4-6). Jesus likewise cited Isaiah to describe his own ministry (Isaiah 58.6; 60.1-2 in Luke 4.18-19). And Jesus contrasted John with those who are "beautifully adorned in palaces" (Luke 7.25), an adequate description of the priesthood. (It might also be that Luke is contrasting John's ministry with that of the priesthood in 3.2ff.) Jesus' acceptance of John's ministry as a contrasting or competitive effort was widely known. He even employed some of John's language in his own preaching (compare, for example, Luke 3.7ff. [and Matthew 3.7ff.] with Matthew 12.33; 23.33).

Jesus himself behaved like a counter-temple movement. Luke 4.1ff. tells of Jesus' retreat from the Jordan into the wilderness, the wilderness region previously identified with John, being the starting point for his own ministry, and to which he returned at times (5.16). By saying that Jesus was "led away by the Holy Spirit...into the wilderness", perhaps Luke is suggesting that it was divinely intended or authorized that Jesus became identified with (and eventually assumed for himself the role of) a counter-temple movement. Jesus forgave sins (Luke 5.21-24; 7.36-50; 15.11-32; 23.40-43). (Interestingly, in 5.21-24 Jesus links his authority [ezousian] to forgive sins with his being the Son of Man - a trait possibly linked to the one like a son of man in Daniel 7.13-14 [LXX], who is given dominion [ezousia]. Crispin Flether-Louis has argued successfully that Daniel 7 is a high priestly text, and that Jesus interpreted it for himself with this in mind.) On occasion, after having healed someone, Jesus sent that one to present him-/herself to the priests. While it might be suggested that Jesus was simply obeying the Law of Moses in sending those healed to the temple, most probably Jesus was demonstrating that what was previously sanctioned by the priesthood (confirming healings) had been transferred to him. Two details of Luke 5.12-15 help exemplify this: 1) Jesus assumed that the rite detailed in the Law remained legitimate (see Leviticus 13.2-17, 49; 14.2-9). 2) Jesus desired to "prove to them" (the priests) that his work was legitimate. He did what priests did, and therefore was in no need of the temple priesthood. His work was sanctioned by God. The temple needed cleansing (Luke 19.45-46), and Jesus predicted its destruction (21.5-6). He was, in essense, counter-temple.

Theophilus the high priest of 37-41CE would have recognized all of this immediately upon reading it. This is why Luke mentions these details - to give his Jesus story a force only a high priest could appreciate.

Copyright 2007

Trip to Iowa

I am currently in Iowa City, IA, visiting my brother at UI. While here, I plan to visit the university library, reading the likes of Stoldt, Farmer, Goulder, Streeter, and Lockton on the synoptic problem, as well as a source from Gaston on word statistics of the synoptics. Any significant findings will be posted here.

Though I have been using this blog primarily to post extended studies, I intend to begin posting all data relevant to Lukan studies, as my memory and filing system has proven faulty of late.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

New Homepage

I have created a new homepage, where I intend to offer rough papers on the New Testament. Most of the material presented there will most likely have been addressed here or on my Romans blog. My hope is to eventually have something worth publishing.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Luke 2.40-52: Jesus the Child

Luke 2.40-52 and 1 Samuel 2-3

Luke 2.40 and 2.52 act as bookends to the story of Jesus' childhood experience in the temple. At the age of twelve, Jesus accompanied his parents on their customary annual journey (2.42) to Passover. Upon returning to their hometown, Jesus' parents noticed his absence, and turned back to Jerusalem to find him in the temple with the Jewish teachers, who were astonished at his questions and answers.

Why does Luke (alone) include this single detail of Jesus' childhood? If he, with his family, made the trip every year, what made this particular year significant, or at least worth mentioning? There a couple of reasons why Luke's audience, Theophilus the high priest of 37-41 CE, might have found the story significant.

Theophilus was the son of Annas, high priest from 8-15 CE. Annas would have been the high priest during the twelve-year-old Jesus' visit. Theophilus would perhaps have been familiar with the story from his own childhood. The fact that "all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers" (2.47) might have resonated with Theophilus.

Secondly, Luke 2.40-52 is a strong parallel to 1 Samuel 2-3. Luke three times mentions the “growth” of a child: 1.80, of young John the Baptist; 2.40 and 2.52, of young Jesus. Between the latter two we find the story of Jesus in the temple. There are three such comments in 1 Samuel 2-3 as well: 2.21; 2.26; 3.19, all concerning young Samuel. Between the latter two we find a detail of the corruption of the priesthood and God’s plan to make adjustments. Is Luke suggesting that the priesthood of Jesus' day was corrupt just as the priesthood of Samuel's day? Perhaps…

Like Jesus' family, little Samuel's family was accustomed to making an annual trek to make sacrifice (1 Samuel 2.19; see also 1.3, 21). Though the text of 1 Samuel does not give Samuel’s age, Jewish historian Josephus has somehow come to conclude he was twelve at the time of God's calling him to prophesy (Ant. 5.10.4[348]).[1]

A cursory read of the story of 1 Samuel 2-3 will reveal a striking parallel to Luke's story:

After the "growth" comment in 2.26, the writer details why God has turned against the priesthood, blaming Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas (2.12ff.). God promised that they would drop dead, and that he would raise up a faithful priest. (2.34-35). The passage contains four references to "your father’s house" (2.27, 28, 30, 31). Samuel's mother had made for him a "linen ephod" to wear on the annual trips to sacrifice (2.18). This is one of God’s requirements of the priests when "going before [him]" (2.28). Eli had favored his sons more than God (3.29). So, God promised to remove Eli's sons and place his own priest in charge. From 3.1-18, we get the idea that Samuel fits the requirements God had established for the priests, thus seemingly fulfilling the promise to "raise up for myself a faithful high priest"(2.35). Though Samuel did not serve as a priest proper, he did perform many of the priestly duties.

Luke has shown the corruption of the priesthood in Theophilus' day, using the family members of Theophilus as examples of such corruption.[2] Jesus' outstanding character before the teachers in the temple demonstrate that God's hand is upon him, that just as young Samuel was called by God for service so God was calling young Jesus. Jesus' question to his parents upon their finding him was, "Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?" (Luke 2.49, emphasis added). Perhaps this is an allusion to God's fulfilling his promise to raise up a faithful priest in "a sure house", "your father's house" (1 Samuel 2.30, 35, emphasis added).

I suspect that Luke told the story of Jesus' childhood to establish to Theophilus that Jesus is the eschatological [high] priest, fulfilling the promise God made in 1 Samuel 2. Luke has subtly pointed to data personal to Theophilus (such as Annas' witness of the twelve-year-old Jesus) to prove his case. The story of Eli's sons is perhaps the best known story of the Jewish priesthood's corruption. For Luke to parallel Jesus' childhood experience to that of Samuel's in a context where the corrupt priesthood is specifically targeted by God, who promised to raise up a faithful priest for his house, would have given his story special leverage, being addressed to a certain high priest.

Four extra tidbits which might help establish a relationship between Luke and 1 Samuel:

1. Hannah, Samuel's mother, after Samuel was born, exalted God (1 Samuel 2.1-10). When Mary visited Elizabeth to share her good news, Mary magnified the Lord in similar fashion (Luke 1.46-55). Just as in Samuel's story Hannah's prayer precedes the story of Samuel's boyhood experience, so also in Luke's story Mary's prayer precedes the childhood experience of Jesus. If Luke were drawing attention by was of parallel, this is yet another indicator to his that he is doing so.

2. There is in both a comment that "this shall be a sign unto you" in close proximity to the stories in question (1 Samuel 2.34; Luke 2.12).

3. There is a formulaic "X blessed X" found in both contexts (1 Samuel 2.20; Luke 2.34).

4. In 1 Samuel 2.36, God says that the destitute will come to his faithful priest begging for a piece of silver or a morsel of bread. Perhaps passages such as Luke 14.1-24; 15.8, 17 (as a negative correlation) mean to fulfill this in some way.


[1] There is also a slight parallel of Luke's comment about Jesus' growth with that of a young Moses in Jos. Ant. 2.9.6[228-231].
[2] See my post:

Copyrighted 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Luke 16.19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus

I thought it important to finish my thougths on Luke 16, having posted on 16.1-18 below.

Luke's story of the rich man and Lazarus has sparked much debate regarding issues of the afterlife. Some argue over whether or not the story is a parable. (If so, this is the only one in which Jesus names a player.) This study hopes to look beyond such debates, to find the kernel of Jesus' presentation based on the given textual data.

I have argued elsewhere that Jesus’ teachings found in GLuke implicate the priesthood. I believe this story to be one such instance. Five points demonstrate:

1. The rich man is said to be "clothed in purple and fine linen" (Luke 16.19). This is a description of the high priestly garments, according to Exodus 39.27-29: "The also make the coats, woven of fine linen, for Aaron and his sons, and the turban of fine linen, and the caps of fine linen, and the linen breeches of fine twined linen, and the girdle of fine twined linen and of blue and purple and scarlet stuff, embroidered with needlework; as the Lord had commanded Moses" (see also Leviticus 16.4). The apocryphal book of Sirach says likewise: "[The Lord] clothed [Aaron] in perfect splendor...with the sacred vestment, of gold and violet and purple, the work of an embroiderer" (45.8-11). Josephus notes the same: "[In Alexander's presence] The priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high priest in purple scarlet clothing..." (Antiquities 11.8.5 [331]). So, Jesus' description of this rich man matches that of the high priest.

2. In Jesus' story, Lazarus laid "at his [the rich man's] gate" (Luke 16.20). This might very well refer to the gate which guarded the temple. Luke, in Acts 3.2, 10, mentions another beggar at the temple gate, there called Beautiful.

3. Jesus' story may have some close ties to the story told in John 11, in which Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead. First, note the aftermath of the miracle in John 11.47-53. Caiaphas the high priest sought to retaliate against Jesus' raising of Lazarus (11.49ff.). Second, note that Caiaphas was a member of the Sadducees (Acts 5.17). Some of the priests were Sadducees, some were Pharisees (see Acts 23.6). The Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead, angels, and the spirit (Acts 23.8). Jesus' story in Luke 16 includes all three of these elements: allusion to Lazarus' resurrection, angels carrying Lazarus' body away, and several conscious figures after death. Jesus used this data to create an ironic story to show the priesthood's corruption. Luke’s ironic story then is perhaps a creative telling of John’s history.

4. The rich man in Jesus' story is said to have five brothers (Luke 16.27-28). It has been argued both here at this blog and at Richard Anderson’s
blog that Luke wrote to Theophilus the high priest of 37-41 CE. This Theophilus had four brothers (Mattathias, Annanas, Johnathan, and Eliezer), one brother-in-law (Caiaphas), and a father (Annas) who each served as high priest in the first century. If Jesus was exposing the priesthood in his story, which is perhaps an ironic presentation of the raising of Lazarus (as told in John 11), then Caiaphas would have been the rich man in Luke 16. For he had five brothers[-in-law].

If all of this be true, note the irony of Jesus’ tale: Caiaphas the Sadducean high priest, who denied the resurrection from the dead, angels, and the spirit, begged father Abraham to raise Lazarus from the dead and send him as a witness to his family, to warn them of the coming judgment. Abraham's reply: "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [which they surely knew well], neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead [emphasis added]."

Perhaps the greater irony: Jesus DID raise Lazarus from the dead! It was that fact that Caiaphas scoffed (John 11.49ff.).


[1] I have briefly studied the terms for “gate” as they appear in Luke’s writings, as well as other literature. I did not find anything which seemed significant to my case here. Further study may prove otherwise, in which case I’ll modify this point.

Final comment:

Regarding the high priestly garments:James VanderKam, scholar of Hebrew scriptures, writes: “During the period when the Romans assumed control of Judea, the governor took over [the high priestly garments] and permitted the high priest to have them only during festivals” (An Introduction to Early Judaism, 180). After Herod died, the garments were in the custody of Tiberius (14-37 CE). Then, as a favor, Vitellius (governor of Syria) gave the people back the garments. They remained in Jewish control until the death of Agrippa 1 in 44 CE. When Rome tried to reclaim the garments, the Jewish people sent a delegation to Rome and were apparently granted custody.

VanderKam concludes, “The garment was thought to convey such a powerful impression that the authorities worried about the political and social effect it might have” (181). The apocryphal Sirach 45.6-13 and chapter 50
indicate that the garments bestowed great splendor upon the high priest, Simon at the time (50.11; see also Wisdom of Solomon 18.24). Philo suggests that the garments had cosmic symbolism (Life of Moses, 2.109-126, esp. 2.117ff.). Josephus also gives an elaborate description of the garments (War, 5.6.7 [231-36]). Indeed, he says the high priest was the "captain of [Israel's] salvation" (War, 4.5.2 [318]).

If it is true that these garments bestowed such glory and (political) power upon the high priest, perhaps their absence helps explain why temple-defiant groups emerged. Theophilus, high priest of 37-41 CE, would have been the first in some time to have enjoyed the priestly glory of old. (His father, Annas, high priest of 8-15 CE, would have been the last to wear the garments before Theophilus.)

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

Luke 16.1-18: The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward

Given the numerous (and often bizarre) interpretations of Jesus’ parable of the unrighteous steward as found in Luke 16.1ff., I thought it important to study the text further in hopes to make better sense of it, for both personal and ecclesial purposes. My study has proven fruitful from a personal perspective; I do hope this interpretation proves as fruitful for the church.

I have elsewhere
[1] suggested that in Luke 16.19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus is condemning the priesthood, and Caiaphas in particular. The following interpretation helps, I believe, synthesize the whole of Luke 16 (and beyond).

The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward (16.1-8)

This parable has proven to be one of the more difficult passages to interpret. What are we to make of the master’s praising of his “dishonest” steward? What does Jesus mean by “make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon” (v.9)? Is Jesus calling us to become “shrewd”, like the “dishonest” steward? Is there virtue in the steward’s actions?

I suggest that these are wrong questions. They emanate from the assumption that since 1) Jesus in other parables uses a master-figure to denote God, and 2) at the conclusion of this parable Jesus polarizes two masters, one being mammon and the other being God (v.13), Jesus therefore must mean for the master here to denote God. The stewards then logically become God’s workers, responsible for what he has given them. But perhaps another scenario better fits the data in the text. One follows.

The master is the high priest in Jerusalem.
[2] The steward is a lesser priest responsible for the treasury of the temple. The origin for this priestly position, whether permanent or temporary, can be dated at least as far back as Ezra’s day (Ezra 8.24-30, when the priests were commissioned to carry back to Jerusalem the riches and offerings granted by Artaxerxes during the exile).[3] Ezra’s narrative offers more background to Jesus’ parable. In the parable, the debts are specifically stated: “100 baths of oil” and “100 cors of wheat” (vv.6-7). These very measurements appear elsewhere together only in the book of Ezra (7.22)[4], included in the offerings to be taken back to the temple in Jerusalem by the assigned stewards (7.17-28).[5] These commodities, even in these increments, are temple-related wares.[6]

The steward is called “dishonest” because he has failed to collect the sacrifices as was customarily expected of him. Instead, this steward “squandered” his master’s goods.[7] Yet, somehow this activity merits him high praise from the master, the high priest (16.8).

The conclusion that the sons of this world are more shrewd with their own kind/generation than are the sons of light is a call to become shrewd. It is simply a statement of fact which demonstrates the difference between sons of this world and sons of light. Sons of light are not shrewd like those of this world. Sons of light are faithful, righteous, serving God and not mammon (16.10-13).

The Pharisees knew full well the implications of Jesus’ teachings, which is why they become upset (16.14). Their rage compliments the understanding that the master and the steward denote temple authorities, and the storied activities denote the regular dealings in the temple.

Ethical Exhortations from the Parable (16.9-13)

If this reading of Jesus’ parable might be accepted, then the difficult questions surrounding the traditional interpretations begin to dissipate. For example, most interpreters assert that Jesus is admonishing his followers to become like the dishonest steward in 16.9. On the contrary, if we understand the players to be not God and his servants, but rather the temple establishment, then Jesus’ admonition is for his followers to not be like the steward. The steward knows his source of income is doomed to fail (vv.3-4). As a result, he compromises the debts owed so that he might keep his job. He tries to gain the favor of his debtors by reducing their debt in the hope of gaining their friendship so that when his means of income fails, they might receive him into their homes. In reality, instead of trusting in his friends and remaining honest, he becomes “shrewd” and “dishonest” in order to keep his position, his means of wealth. In that, he was successful. But Jesus has something else in mind for his followers. They are to remain honest and faithful in even little things (vv.10-11) and make friends by means of unrighteous mammon so that when (hotan) that means of income fails, they might be received into “eternal homes”. They are to make friends beforehand so that they need not resort to shrewdness and thus become dishonest and unfaithful, slaves of mammon and not of God (v.13).

Four points from 16.10-13 demonstrate that Jesus is not commending but condemning shrewdness:

1. In the syllogistic saying of verse 10, Jesus is saying that even the slightest episode of dishonesty proves the magnitude of the individual’s/individuals’ actual dishonesty. In other words, the dishonest steward is not worthy of continuing his regular duties. His little episode of dishonesty demonstrates the magnitude of his dishonest heart (16.10, 15). The master ought to have followed through with his threat to terminate the steward’s account. But, the fact that the master does not follow through with his threat demonstrates his own dishonesty as well. If Jesus is commending the “dishonest” steward’s shrewdness, then his claim in verse 10 loses force – for how can the key “dishonest” individual of Jesus’ own story contradict his moral conclusion to not be dishonest even in the little things?!

2. In verse 11, Jesus is saying that one’s eventual handling of “true riches” is directly proportionate to his handling of “unrighteous mammon”. In other words, the dishonest steward forfeits his right to “true riches” because of his dealings with “unrighteous mammon”. Again, if Jesus is commending the steward for his dealings, then his moral conclusion loses all force.

3. In verse 12, Jesus is saying that reception of “that which is your own” is directly proportionate to one’s handling of “that which is another’s”. In other words, the steward is in jeopardy of losing anything “of his own” because he has mishandled (“squandered”, v.1) another’s goods. There is nothing commendable in the steward’s dealings as regards the eventual gain of something better.

4. In verse 13, Jesus is saying that homage to two masters, God and mammon, will not work. In other words, the steward, who should have remained faithful and honest in his dealings, pays more homage to mammon that to God, and is not really concerned with his integrity and trusting in his friends to help him when mammon fails him. Simply put, because of the steward’s shrewd dishonesty, mammon did not fail him. His friends did not need to bail him out because he learned how to manipulate the situation through dishonesty, for which he forfeits any future “true” gain.

Understood in this way, Jesus can hardly be understood as commending the steward for his shrewdness. Actually, Jesus in 16.10-13 is demonstrating that the temple establishment is corrupt for worshiping mammon rather than God, that it is slave to the master of mammon.

Reaction and Further Comment (16.14-18)

The Pharisees, being lovers of money and recognizing the implications of Jesus’ teaching against the temple establishment, become enraged and scoff at him. Jesus unequivocally retorts: “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (16.15). It is interesting that very little objective criteria has been offered as grounds for judging the Pharisees abominable. Simply denouncing them because they love money can be somewhat arbitrary, even slanderous. But Jesus immediately introduces the objective standard by which the Pharisees judge even themselves: the Law.

John the Baptist came preaching about the kingdom. His was not a message about the Law specifically. He warned of coming judgment and prepared the way for the Messiah. Jesus points that out, saying that until John’s coming the Law had been thoroughly preached. Since John and up to Jesus’ ministry, the kingdom and coming judgment had been stressed. Then Jesus brings the relevant contrast: “But [de] it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void” (16.17). He contrasts the message of the kingdom with the message of the Law, saying that even though in recent memory the Law had taken a back seat to the kingdom, the Law is still firmly binding. These Pharisees cannot escape the Law’s requirements. The coming of the kingdom does not eradicate the Law’s presence. Heaven and earth will first pass away before the Law ceases to be effective.

Jesus then gives on example, of which the Pharisees must have been guilty: divorce. This saying has been puzzling for many interpreters, seemingly random in its placement here, as though Luke remembered it and needed to fit it in somewhere. But, the above interpretation helps keep the chapter a cohesive unit. Notice the logic of thought through Jesus’ teaching and Luke’s writing:

1. The temple leaders are guilty of dishonesty and unfaithfulness (16.1-8).
2. Jesus gives moral exhortation based on his parable (16.9-13).
3. The Pharisees recognize Jesus’ denouncement of their sacred throng and scoff at him (16.14).
4. Jesus reacts by revealing their abominable deeds – deeds which men exalt (16.15).
5. Jesus continues by reminding of the ever-present, ever-effective Law (16.16-17).
6. The two abominable deeds mentioned are unrighteousness (or shrewdness, or unfaithfulness – all of which describe the same individuals 16.1-13) and divorce (16.18).
[7. Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16.19ff.).

And so Luke 16.1-18 reads as a cohesive unit.

A Final Note Regarding Divorce

Interestingly the narrative in Ezra described above concludes with an issue of mass divorce. In Ezra’s day, the priests and Levites had married foreign women (Ezra 9.1-10.44), against the command of God (Leviticus 18.24-30). As a result, Ezra commanded all of those guilty to divorce their wives for the sake of purity (10.4; et al). Perhaps the Pharisees of Luke 16 were guilty of divorcing their wives in haste, or something along those lines. Perhaps they considered Ezra’s story to be adequate grounds for divorcing their wives, under the guise of purifying themselves when in reality the motives were corrupt. We are not told why these Pharisees may have been guilty of divorce. Jesus simply reminds them that the Law is not a forgotten standard, and that the prohibition of divorce specifically still stands. I find it fascinating that both Luke and Ezra end these pericopes with the issue of divorce.


[1]; and now the post immediately following:
[2] I believe Luke writes assuming that Theophilus will know exactly what he means by his referents, not only here but throughout his Gospel, and therefore does not employ the indicators which seem necessary for us moderns. If Theophilus was well-versed in temple culture, then employing language of that culture would suffice in getting Luke’s point across. I believe the “master” of 12.41-48, a text remarkably similar to our text in chapter 16, also refers to the high priest.
[3] Josephus mentions priests of Israel more contemporary of Jesus’ day who fulfilled duties of treasurer as well. [I will include references soon.]
4 There are variations of these measurements in the OT. The closest example apart from Ezra is 2 Chronicles 2.10, mentioning 20,000 baths of oil and 20,000 cors of wheat, and in connection with Solomon’s temple, which indicates that these were temple-related wares. 1 Kings 5.11, a parallel to 2 Chronicles 2.10, mentions 20,000 cors of wheat and a puzzling 20,000 cors of oil, though the Hebrew reads “twenty” cors.
[5] Another possible significance of Ezra, I wonder if the master’s requirement of his steward’s records and payments (Luke 16.1-3) is a violation of Artaxerxes’ decree: “It shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll upon any one of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or other servants of this house of God” (Ezra 7.24). Of course, this is not to say that Araxerxes’ decree should have been kept even in first century Jerusalem. But the parallel between Luke 16 and Ezra’s tale is perhaps stronger than I’ve previously considered. (See also “A Final Note Regrading Divorce” below.)
[6] This would have been easily recognizable to Jesus’ initial audience, especially the Pharisees, as well as to Luke’s recipient, Theophilus.
[7] Interestingly, the term used here for “squandered” (diaskorpizwn) is the same as that of the prodigal in 15.13 (dieskorpisen).
[8] Luke 16.8 could be understood thus: “The sons of this world are more accepting of shrewdness with their own generation than are the sons of light.” If this be accepted, the mere statement of it is highlighted and a seeming call to become shrewd loses its force.
[9] Again, see; and now the post immediately following:

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