Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Idle Tale

When the women, including Johanna, granddaughter of Theophilus, returned from the tomb they told the apostles about the two men at the tomb in dazzling apparel “but these words seemed to them to be an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”[i] The apostles did not believe Johanna and the other women!

lhroV is a Lucan hapax. Idle tale is gossip and Luke in setting forth an accurate account for Theophilus may be responding to gossip being spread giving a sense of urgency and mission to this first letter Luke has composed. Luke is also implicitly suggesting that the persons who spread idle tales, not Johanna, about Jesus are in fact bearing false witness and spreading hearsay. The prohibition against idle tale is based upon Exodus 23:1. It states in part: “You shall not utter a false report.” Philo provides considerable detail concerning the single witness, the false witness, hearsay evidence and the accuser in a court of law. “The first instruction that the law gives to the judge is that he should not accept idle hearing . . . .”[ii] This sentence appears in the discussion on Thou shalt not bear false witness. If Philo is typical of Jewish thinking on false witness, it is easier to understand the Lucan imperative that the message to Theophilus be such that he “may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”[iii]

[i] Lk. 24:11.
[ii] Philo, Spec. Leg. IV.59-61.
[iii] Lk. 1:4.

copyrighted 2005


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