Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Corporate Responsibility

One of my questions about the OT metaphors of accountability used by Luke in his gospel is whether his usage means that he has also adopted Hebrew corporate responsibility. Matthew and Mark did not use these metaphors but did adopt Hebrew corporate responsibility as evidenced most particularly in their rewriting of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

As a related question, are the Jubilee legislation and land tenure laws related to corporate or group responsibility? Something to think about while I am hiking in the Rocky Mountains!

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Luke and the Thessalonian correspondence

I been studying the Thessalonian correspondence and the “affliction” and “suffering” that marked the Thessalonian experience. The Greek word θλίψει usually translated as tribulation, but sometimes as persecution or affliction,appears five times in the Thessalonian correspondence but not once in the Gospel of Luke.

The word does appear five times in Acts but first two instances are in Stephen’s last sermon. This verse represents the third instance: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoeni'cia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews.”

Acts 14:21-22

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Ico'nium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Acts 20:22-23

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

My simple question is this: why does not this Greek word, which appears 182 times in the Septuagint and New Testament, appear in the Gospel of Luke? Is it because the Gospel of Luke was published prior to 1st and 2nd Thessalonians?

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Concept of Time

Many years ago I wrote a retirement speech for someone that began with the word of Hebrew scripture: “there is a season and time for everything under the heavens.” Friends and close relatives were present as I started writing. The people praised the clergyman for his great speech and questioned the timing of his retirement. I had written there is a time to plant and now is the time for to retire. The people questioned the timing because they viewed time chronologically which is a cultural trait. The idea that there was a “right” time had not occurred to them. Biblical time is not necessarily chronological.

The Book of Ecclesiates, the preacher, also reminds us that God “has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” It further reminds us that “God will judge the righteous and the wicked for he has appointed a time for every matter and for every work.” The preacher provides this example: “For man does not know his time. Like fish which are taken in an evil net, and like birds which are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” It is true that “For every matter has its time and way, although man's trouble lies heavy upon him.” The Book of Job tells us “He has not appointed a time for any man to go before God in judgment.”

The Hebrew concept of time is different.

The real question is whether an examination of the writings of Luke will reveal his view of time. One would not normally ask such a question of a “Gentile” but there are several Lucan examples such as these things “will be fulfilled in their time" and “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” Furthermore, Luke has used expressions that require that Theophilus would know what was meant by the time of incense; the day of Unleavened Bread; day of Preparation and time of visitation.

This is a project to work on when I have more time!

Copyrighted 2007

Friday, June 15, 2007

The sea stood

“And the sea ἔστη from its tossing about.”

Jonah 1:15 uses the Greek word ἔστη which appears 103 times in the Septuagint but only 9 times in the NT: 4 times in Luke, 3 times in John and 2 times in Acts.

Luke 6:8

But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." And he rose and stood there.

Luke 6:17

And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;

Luke 8:44

43: And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one,
44: came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased.

Luke 24:36

33: And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them,
34: who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"
35: Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36: As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them.
37: But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit.

John 20:19; 26

19: On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
20: When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21: Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
22: And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
23: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
24: Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25: So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."
26: Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you."

John 21:4

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

Acts 3:8

And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

Acts 10:30

And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was keeping the ninth hour of prayer in my house; and behold, a man stood before me in bright apparel,

In each of the nine NT usage of the Greek word στη, something special happens. In Jonah 1:15 and Luke 8:44 divine action made the sea and the blood stand still respectively. In the eight other NT usage, it is not an ordinary person who stood but a person who was cured because he or she stood or Jesus stood nearby or the word is used in connection with post resurrection appearances of Jesus or the appearance of an angel. In one instance, Peter healed the lame man and he stood. Zhubert says that στη is an “(active causative) make stand, bring to standstill” but this explanation is somehow incomplete in that the divine action is not mentioned.

ἔστη is an example of the use of special language to describe divine action.

Copyrighted 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Understanding perplexity

Last year I wrote a series of articles on Jonah and Luke. This past weekend I recognized the possibility that Jonah may be the key to understanding perplexity. One commentator listed Jonah 1:15 as a possible source for Luke 21:25 without setting forth his reasoning. This of course was perplexing to me.

Jonah 1:15 LXX states: And they took Jonah and cast him into the sea. And the sea ἔστη from its tossing about. The Septuagint uses the Greek words ἔστη and σάλου translated in verse 15 as “stood” and “tossing” respectively. The RSV translate the verse as follow: “So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.” But in Luke 21:25 the translation reads as follow: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

Does the usage of σάλου in the Jonah 1:15 provide us with the clue for understanding of the perplexing verse 25?

I had noted that the Greek words for “perplexity” and “the waves” ἀπορίᾳ and σάλου are both Lucan hapax. Unlike ἀπορίᾳ which appears seven times in the Septuagint, σάλου only appears in Jonah 1:15. Zhubert does note occurrences of the lemma.

Assuming that σάλου is a true “double hapax” appearing only once in the Septuagint and once in the NT, does its usage by Luke allude to Jonah 1:15? How does this allusion assist our understanding?

Luke 8:23-24 we read: “and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a storm of wind came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; and they ceased, and there was a calm.” The Lucan Jesus calmed the storm just as “the sea ceased from its raging” when they threw Jonah into the sea.

The perplexity verse uttered alludes back to Lk 8:23-24 and also Jonah 1:15 reminding the First Reader that Jesus “commands even wind and water, and they obey him?" More importantly it reminds the First Reader that Jonah and Luke are about repentance and unexpected reversals and that God seeks their repentance and deliverance from destruction. The final point of the story of Jonah reveals that the chief obstacle to the extension of Yahweh's salvation to the nations was Yahweh's own messenger, Jonah. Perhaps the First Reader is being reminded he too is an obstacle to the extension of Yahweh's salvation.

God sent Jonah to the city of Ninevah to preach to them the coming wrath. But the 120,000 citizens of Ninevah led by their king repented changing from their evil ways and God relented and did not impose the wrath that Jonah had expected. The Lucan Jesus is using the story of the sign of Jonah to persuade the First Reader to take the necessary steps so that the wrath is not imposed upon the people of Jerusalem.

In the same verse that the Lucan Jesus warns the people of the ἀπορίᾳ (perplexity; Lev. 26:16; Dt 28:22; Pr 28:27; Isa 5:30; 24:19; Jer 8:21; 29:18) to come, σάλου reminds the people that it is not too late for the coming wind and the raging waves and the distress of the nations to be rebuked.

I will discuss the use of ἔστη in another segment.

Copyrighted 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Luke uses the Greek word ἀπορίᾳ which the RSV has translated as perplexity. This Greek wood is a Lucan hapax legomenon.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,” Lk. 21:25.

This Greek word appears seven times in the Septuagint: Lev. 26:16; Dt 28:22; Pr 28:27; Isa 5:30; 24:19; Jer 8:21; 29:18. The English translations of these verses appear below.

Leviticus 26:16 LXX appears in a section starting with verse 14 that tells the people the results of disobeying God’s Orders. Verse 16 states: “then I will do this to you and I will to set upon you perplexity and also the mange and jaundice inflaming of your eyes and life wasting away And you shall sow ineffectually of your seeds and your opponents shall eat them.”

Deuteronomy 28:22 LXX appears in a section starting with verse 15 that tells the people results from the curse. Verse 22 states: “The Lord strike you with perplexity and burning heat and shivering and aggravation and carnage and windblown and paleness and may they pursue until whenever they destroy you.”

Proverbs 28:27 LXX The one who gives to the poor shall not be in want; but the one who turns his eye will be in much perplexity.

Isaiah 5:30 LXX appears in a section starting with verse 11 that says Woe to the Sinner. “And he shall yell on account of them in that day as the sound of the sea swelling up And they shall look into the heaven upward and below and behold a hard darkness in their perplexity.”

Isaiah 24:19 LXX appears in a section beginning with verse 1 addressing the Desolation of the Inhabitable World. Verse 19 states: “By disturbance the earth shall be disturbed and with perplexity the earth shall be perplexed.

Jer 8:21 Upon destruction of the daughter of my people I have been enveloped in darkness; in perplexity pangs prevailed over me a woman giving birth.

Jer 29:18 LXX And I shall pursue them with a sword and famine and pestilence. And I shall give them for movement in all the kingdom of the earth and for a curse and for perplexity, and for a blessing, and for a scorning to all the nations to whom I shall cast them.”

Isaiah 5:30 contains these words “the sound of the sea swelling up” in a verse ending with the word “perplexity” and thus appears to be the partial Lucan source for 21:25. However, Luke does not use any Greek words appearing in Isaiah 5:30 LXX with the exception of ἀπορίᾳ.

I suspect the mere use of the word ἀπορίᾳ conjured for the First Reader some of the imagery contained in the other six verses of the Septuagint containing this Greek word.

The Greek words for “perplexity” and “the waves” ἀπορίᾳ and σάλου are both Lucan hapax. Does the usage of σάλου in the Septuagint provide us with the clue for understanding of the perplexing verse 25?

The investigation of the 21st chapter of Luke continues. The Lucan hapax legomenon are always in view.

Copyrighted 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Circumcision Debate

The academics are still debating the circumcision question. Some provocative issues have been raised concerning the reasons why Saul was issued letters from the High Priest to persecute the followers of Jesus. It is agreed that they were violating the laws of Moses but it is not known which violation triggered the issuance of the letters. Could it have been circumcision?

There are several authors that present critical information about the circumcision question.

In 1 Maccabees, we read about some Jews who built a gymnasium in Jerusalem and "made themselves uncircumcised." Thus it is evident that there were many Jewish men in the Hellenistic period who were uncircumcised, never having been circumcised, or underwent a surgical procedure to reverse the sign of their circumcision. Therefore we must assume that there was a wide variety of Jewish views on circumcision in the First Century. The evidence for uncircumcised yet practicing Jews is indirect but unequivocal.

The Jewish followers of Jesus attracted to their movements many Jews who had ceased to practice Judaism, some because they had been excluded by Jewish society and other because their occupation or their conduct had made them pariahs. The movement probably also attracted Jews who shared the Greek and Roman abhorrence of circumcision.

The Circumcision Party objected to the inclusions of these Jewish males as full members of Jewish society quoting Genesis: "Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised on the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." Perhaps these certain Jews viewed the actions of Paul as threatening cultural survival.

Consequently we should review some of the writings.

The Book of Jubilees, as confirmed by Christiansen, is an important example of Palestinian Jewish writing. Christiansen notes that the author of the Book of Jubilees introduces the angel of presence as the writer of the tablets received by Moses on Sinai. Stephen’s last sermon includes the idea that the laws were promulgated through angels. Secondly, “... Israel’s identity depends on Jerusalem as its geographical centre of holiness.” The third reason is Jubilees has elevated the importance of the rite of circumcision from a sign of obedience “by adding eternal validity in making it a law written on heavenly tablets (Jub 15:25-34).” Finally, “It is noteworthy that Jubilees lacks criticism of contemporary religious structures. The established cult is accepted; the present temple is a valid means for atonement and moreover serves as an important centre for holiness and for social and religious identity. Because Jerusalem is a centre of shared identity, it unites the nation and helps to maintain the social structure, and as such it is not questioned.”

Luke is the only New Testament writer to tell us about the circumcision of the Messiah and the only New Testament writer to defend the covenant of circumcision.

According to Talbert, “The echoes are unmistakable. Sound, fire, and speech understood by all people were characteristic of the Sinai theophany. The same ingredients are found in the Pentecost events.” The Book of Jubilees connects Pentecost to the covenant of Noah. The Book of Jubilees also connects Pentecost in book 1:1 to the giving of the laws during the Sinai theophany. Therefore, it is clear that Luke is alluding to the Sinai theophany of the Book of Jubilees as well as paradise, the centrality of Jerusalem and importance of circumcision.

In Matthew, Chapter 22, Jesus answers a question about the greatest commandment. Although the commentators uniformly conclude that Jesus with his answer has done away with the need for sacrifices, the addition Mark makes to this pericope is more pointed: "This is much more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." For the Lucan Jesus, it is not a question of the priority of love over law but of the priority of love within the law. Love is not the only commandment. As noted by Jacob Jervell, Luke can have no summary of the Law in one commandment because for Luke, the law is not altered and is permanently valid. God's laws continue in effect for Jews even when they become followers of the Christ. Luke's position accurately reflects the views of the Jewish Christians and the Jerusalem church in its earliest years and is clearly pre-Pauline. It is a position that the High Priest would have found commendable. After all, “Moses was the first and greatest prophet: all that was communicated to the prophets, who followed him, he had already received. No prophet could contradict him or change or add to what he had proclaimed” (citations omitted).

During the first century, the debates were about scripture including the meaning thereof. That the New Testament contains a number of scriptural references to circumcision is an indication that the subject of circumcision was still hotly contested at the time of the publication of each of the passages in question. By the time Matthew and Mark were written, the issue was no longer debated.

Luke 1:59-60 Circumcision of John the Baptist.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zecheriah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."

Luke 2:21-39. Circumcision of Jesus.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

John 7:21-24 Jesus teaches at the feast.
Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all astonished. Yet because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a child on the Sabbath. Now if a child can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing the whole man on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment."

Acts 21:17-25 Paul's Arrival at Jerusalem
When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to their customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses so they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."

Christiansen has something to say which provides some possible insight into the circumcision passages we read in the Acts of the Apostles, although admittedly she is discussing the Book of Jubilees. Christiansen states: “For a symbol to qualify as sign of belonging, visibility is vital, because a clear and visible sign of belonging, taking the form of an act of confession, or a rite of affirmation of belonging, is the obvious way to express what status one has within a group or society. In the context of Jubilees this visibility can be found particularly in circumcision, and to a certain degree in the celebration of festivals, either weekly Sabbath, or the yearly seasonal feasts.” Luke notes that Paul “was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” Luke also reports that Paul shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem made what Christiansen would call “a rite of affirmation of belonging”.

The Galatians agitators also quoted scripture but we do not have the full report of the debate and thus need to reconstruct the theological argument advanced by them. Undoubtedly they relied heavily upon the Book of Jubilees. According to Jub. 15, circumcision is the eternal covenant showing the circumcised belong to the Lord. The Galatians agitators must have relied upon Genesis 17:9-14, Jub. 15:25-34 and the Maccabean tradition. If circumcision was an identity marker of the covenant people that the people must maintain so as to avoid being uprooted from the land, why then was James able to put forth a compromise solution that was acceptable. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was conducted outside of the Land of Israel. The significance of this fact has not been appreciated. Covenant identity, election and associated laws and ordinances do not apply outside Israel.

The next author whose views should be considered is Josephus.

Josephus rewrote the traditional view of circumcision. In Judaism the rite of circumcision is the sign of covenant between God and Abraham. In Book One, God charged Abram “that they should be circumcised in the flesh of their foreskin.” However, according to Josephus, the purpose is “to keep his posterity unmixed with others.”

Josephus lived the later portion of his life in Rome, in the Diaspora. In Rome, Josephus was permitted to obtain a divorce from his Jewish wife and to marry a Roman. This violated the priestly marriage rules in Leviticus 21. It also violated the rule that Josephus asserted in his rewriting of Joshua.

Joshua 22 tells the story of the construction of an altar to the Lord beyond the river Jordan by two of the tribes of Israel. The people of Israel on the west side of the Jordan sought to punish those on the east side for a possible transgression of the Mosaic code. In Joshua 22, the potential misunderstanding is clarified when it is explained that the altar of the Lord was built “to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, that we do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings; lest your children say to our children in time to come, ‘You have no portion in the LORD.’”

Josephus rewrites Joshua 22. In the preamble, Josephus has Joshua remind the tribes departing for their territories beyond the Jordan that Abrahamic descent carries with it the responsibility to fulfill Mosaic religious duties, and that this responsibility is not negated by one’s place of residence. According to Josephus, observance of the Law will ensure God’s alliance, while turning away “to imitate other nations” will result in God turning away from them. When the people of Israel learn of the altar being built beyond the Jordan by their kinfolk, they quickly mobilized to punish them, “For they held they should take no account of their kinship . . . but of the will of God and the fashion in which He delights to be honored.” For Josephus, ethnic descent from Abraham imposes the requirement of obedience to the Mosaic Law. At the end of story as told by Josephus, the trans-Jordanian tribes state they had been guilty of “new-fangled ways that are perversions of our customary practices” and that they deserved to be extirpated.

To whom is the rewriting of Joshua 22 directed? Apparently at the end of the first century when Josephus published Antiquities, there are Jews asserting that because they are living outside of the land of Israel they do not have to have to strictly obey the Mosaic Law in order to maintain their Jewish identity. Josephus believes that Abrahamic descent requires strict obedience of the Mosaic Law by all Jews regardless where they might reside.

According to Christiansen, covenant identity, election and associated laws and ordinances do not apply outside Israel. The fact that the debates occurred inside and outside Israel is perhaps indicative that the boundary markers had not been firmly set. In rewriting Joshua 22, Josephus joined the debate. Was Josephus directing his comments to the Jews who associated with the followers of Jesus as depicted in Acts of the Apostles?

Christine Hayes, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud, viewed the inevitable break between Jews and Christians as aided by Ezran ideologies that denied Jewish identity to non-native Jews and converts:

"... for the first time, the Jewish community was confronted with persons who met none of the requirements of Jewish identity: neither the sufficient condition of genealogical filiation nor the condition of moral-religious conversion as signalled by circumcision and observance of Jewish law. By no definition, then, could such persons lay claim to Jewish identity -- certainly not by those espousing an Ezran concern for genealogy and not even by tannaitic rabbis, who required, at the very least, the adoption of Jewish religious practices. And so, a new religion was born."

Although the debate will still continue, it is important to recognize that even within Judaism, there were mixed views regarding the importance of circumcision.

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007