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

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