Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes

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The Tower Builder and King Going to War similes attempt to explain why full-time discipleship was not suitable for everyone. Not everyone had the freedom and the ability to give up their livelihoods and leave their families in order to travel with Jesus from place to place. Full-time discipleship was for the select few who could set aside their ordinary activities and engagements in order to master Jesus’ message in order that they, in turn, might accurately pass it on to others. Jesus was willing to take on as full-time disciples only those whom he believed were up to this extraordinary task.

Luke 14:28-32
(Huck 171; Aland 217; Crook 261)[1]

Revised: 13-July-2017

מִי בָּכֶם שֶׁרוֹצֶה לִבְנוֹת מִגְדָּל לֹא יֵשֵׁב תְּחִלָּה וִיחַשֵּׁב אֶת הַיְּצִיאָה אִם יֵשׁ לוֹ לְהַשְׁלִים שֶׁמָּא יִתֵּן תְּמַלְיוֹס וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִגְמֹר וְכָל הַרֹאִים אוֹתוֹ יַתְחִילוּ לְהַלְעִיג עָלָיו לוֹמַר הָאָדָם הַזֶּה הִתְחִיל לִבְנוֹת וְלֹא יָכוֹל לִגְמֹר מִי מֶלֶךְ שֶׁיּוֹצֵא לְמִלְחָמָה עַל מֶלֶךְ אַחֵר וְלֹא יֵשֵׁב תְּחִלָּה וְיִמָּלֵךְ אִם יָכוֹל בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים לִקְרַאת הַבָּא נֶגְדּוֹ בְּעֶשְׂרִים אֶלֶף וְאִם לָאו הַלֹא יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים וְיִשְׁאַל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ

“Can you imagine anyone who would begin construction of a watchtower without first working out the cost to see if he has enough money to complete the job? Otherwise, he might only get the foundations in before running out of money. Then all those who saw it would ridicule him. ‘Look,’ they would say, ‘he couldn’t finish what he started!’

“Can you imagine a king who would attack another king without first sitting down with his staff to discuss whether he is able to withstand the king who is coming with an army twice the size of his own? If the consensus was that he could not, wouldn’t he send messengers to signal his submission?”[2]


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Reconstruction

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Story Placement

The Tower Builder and King Going to War similes, which are unique to the Gospel of Luke, appear sandwiched between the second and third statement describing persons who cannot be Jesus’ disciple in the Demands of Discipleship saying.[3] Two reasons make it unlikely that this was the original context of the twin similes: First, the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes interrupt the three-part parallelism of the Demands of Discipleship saying. Second, the twin similes are much more difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew than are the verses that describe the three types of people who cannot be Jesus’ disciple. We believe that the author of Luke spliced the twin similes into the Demands of Discipleship saying from another source.[4]

Where the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes were positioned in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua is extremely difficult to determine. Probably these similes were separated from their original narrative context by the Anthologizer (the creator of the Anthology [Anth.]).[5] The First Reconstructor (the creator of the First Reconstruction [FR]) may not have provided a context for these sayings when he copied them from Anth., and Luke’s insertion of the similes into the Demands of Discipleship saying may have been motivated by his desire to contextualize the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes.

We have placed the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes following the Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple pericope because the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes aptly illustrate the situations described in Matt. 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62.[6] There we find three stories about individuals who want to join Jesus’ band of disciples, but who are not equal to completing the task. The Tower Builder and King Going to War similes also describe individuals who want to take on ambitious projects, but who discover that they are not able to complete their respective tasks. The man who contemplated building a tower would be mocked by his neighbors and he would suffer the waste of time, money and effort spent on laying the foundations if the tower could not be finished. The king going out to battle faced even more serious consequences if his resources proved unequal to the task: the defeat of his army and the loss of his kingdom. The point of both similes is that there are times when it is better not to embark on a venture if one’s resources are insufficient to bring it to completion, a lesson that fits the context of the Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple pericope.

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Conjectured Stages of Transmission

FR-LukeAs we discussed in the “Story Placement” section above, the author of Luke spliced the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes into the Demands of Discipleship saying from another source. The resistance to Hebrew reconstruction we encountered at certain points, and the presence of several Greek words that occur in the similes but nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels suggest that the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes have undergone a certain degree of redaction at the hands of a Greek editor, which points to the First Reconstruction (FR) as the source behind Tower Builder and King Going to War.[7]

Crucial Issues

  1. What is the situation Jesus intended to illustrate with the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes?
  2. What is the meaning of ἐρωτᾷ εἰς εἰρήνην (“he asks for peace”) in the King Going to War simile (Luke 14:32; L18)?

Comment

Agricultural watch tower in a vineyard near Taibeh. Photographed in 1937 by the American Colony in Jerusalem. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Agricultural watch tower in a vineyard near Taibeh. Photographed in 1937 by the American Colony in Jerusalem. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

L1-10 It is uncertain whether the tower in the first simile refers to a city’s fortification, in which case the tower builder would be a king or ruler of some kind, or to an agricultural structure,[8] in which case the tower builder could be an ordinary farmer.[9] In the former case, the individuals in both similes would be of approximately the same social class. In the latter case, there would be a considerable difference between the social classes of the individuals described in the two similes. In the twin parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Priceless Pearl, the actor in the first parable was a commoner, whereas the merchant in the second parable belonged to the upper classes. We believe that this pattern is repeated in the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes. Our view finds additional support in the phrase τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν (“for which of you…?”; Luke 14:28; L1), which suggests that the man who builds the tower comes from the lower classes of society like the majority of the people in Jesus’ audience.

Reconstruction of a watchtower at Yad HaShmona. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

Reconstruction of a watchtower at Yad HaShmona. Photo courtesy of BiblePlaces.com.

L1 τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (GR). The interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (tis ex hūmōn, “Who from you?) used to introduce this illustration is one criterion we use to distinguish a simile from a parable. We define a parable as a brief realistic narrative that describes a scenario and or characters that are comparable in some definite way to a situation or concept being discussed.[10] Parables are a teaching device for making the subject clearer for the teacher’s audience. In the Life of Yeshua we have identified 24 parables.[11] We define similes as questions that invite the audience to consider their own experiences, impulses and reactions in order to understand the actions and motivations of someone else in a comparable situation. Sometimes the situations described in the similes are more developed, as in the Tower Builder and King Going to War, which makes them almost indistinguishable from parables, and at other times the similes are extremely simple, for example, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matt. 7:9).

Thus, the illustration in Luke 11:5-8 about the friend who arrives at midnight, which many class as a parable, we classify as a simile because it is introduced with the formula τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (Luke 11:5). Likewise, we classify as similes the Lost Sheep (Matt 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7) and the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) because they are presented in the form of questions. For the same reason, we do not consider the illustration about the master and his servants in Luke 17:7-10 (“Just Doing My Job”; introduced with the phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν) to be a parable. Sometimes a Gospel writer will refer to an illustration as a parable that does not fit our criteria.[12]

We regard the addition of γάρ (gar, “for”) to the phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν in Luke 14:28 as a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor or, perhaps, by the author of Luke. We have accordingly omitted γάρ from GR.

מִי בָּכֶם (HR). Although the Greek phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν might lead us to expect מִי מִכֶּם (mi mikem, “who from you?”) for HR, it appears that the interrogative מִי (mi, “who”) followed by the preposition מִן (min, “from”) is quite rare.[13] Much more common for “who among…?” is מִי followed by the preposition -בְּ.‎[14] Most significantly for our reconstruction, in two instances the LXX translators rendered מִי בָּכֶם (mi bachem, “who among you”) with τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (Hag. 2:3 and 2 Chr. 36:23).[15]

L2 θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι (Luke 14:28). The noun πύργος (pūrgos, “tower”) appears 4xx in NT, 76xx in LXX, 32xx in Pseud., 21xx in Philo[16] and 174xx in Jos. Πύργος can refer to agricultural watchtowers, to columbaria (towers for raising pigeons),[17] towers built for the defense of cities, wooden siege towers,[18] and even the wooden towers mounted on the backs of elephants (1 Macc. 6:37). In the Tower Builder simile, Jesus probably had in mind an agricultural tower.[19]

Migdal David, or David's Tower near Jaffa Gate is built on the base of one of the three towers that guarded Herod's palace in Jerusalem. View from inside the citadel. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.)

Migdal David, or David’s Tower, near Jaffa Gate is built on the base of one of the three towers that guarded Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. View from inside the citadel. Probably not the kind of tower envisioned in Jesus’ simile. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton)

לִבְנוֹת מִגְדָּל (HR). The Hebrew word for tower, מִגְדָּל (migdāl), appears 58xx in MT and is translated as πύργος 43xx.[20] מִגְדָּל occurs 15xx in DSS and 18xx in the Mishnah. In rabbinic literature מִגְדָּל can mean “cupboard” or “store closet” (e.g., m. Shab. 16:5; m. Bab. Kam. 9:3; m. Kel. 15:1; 18:3; 20:5), but it also retained the meaning “tower,” as numerous passages (e.g., m. Shek. 4:2; m. Par. 3:8) and the reference to the builders of the tower of Babel as אנשי מגדל (“men of the tower”; t. Sot. 3:10) prove.[21]

οἰκοδομῆσαι πύργον (GR). The phrase “build a tower” in Hebrew is expressed with a combination of the verb בָּנָה plus the noun מִגְדָּל (e.g., Gen. 11:4; Isa. 5:2; 2 Chr. 26:9, 10), rendered with οἶκοδομεῖν + πύργος in LXX. When not quoting LXX, Philo and Josephus often prefer the reverse word order (πύργος + οἶκοδομεῖν),[22] the same order as in Luke 14:28.[23] The word order πύργος + οἶκοδομεῖν in Luke 14:28 is un-Hebraic and is likely due to Luke’s editorial “improvement” of his source’s Greek style.

L3 λογίζεται τὴν τιμήν (GR). Although ψηφίζειν (psēfizein, “to add up using pebbles”) and δαπάνη (dapanē, “cost”) are fairly common Greek words,[24] they do not look like translation Greek vocabulary, which is what we expect from the conjectured Greek Translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua (represented by GR). We therefore suspect that these words are stylistic “improvements” to the simile introduced by the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR). For GR we have substituted the verb λογίζεσθαι (logizesthai, “to count,” to reckon”) for Luke’s ψηφίζειν. Whereas ψηφίζειν occurs 2xx in NT (Luke 14:28; Rev. 13:18) and not at all in LXX, λογίζεσθαι occurs 40xx in NT and 115xx in LXX. For Luke’s δαπάνη, which is the only instance of this word in NT, we have reconstructed the Greek vorlage with τιμή (timē), which can be used for “price.”[25]

הֲלֹא יֵשֵׁב תְּחִלָּה וִיחַשֵּׁב אֶת הַיְּצִיאָה (HR). In LXX, οὐχί (ouchi, “not”) is generally the translation either of לֹא (lo’, “no”)[26] or הֲלֹא (halo’, “[Is/will] not?”).[27] Questions beginning with מִי (mi, “Who?”) followed up by הֲלֹא in the Hebrew Bible were sometimes translated in LXX with τίς (tis, “Who?) followed by οὐχί, as in the following examples:

מִי הִכָּה אֶת אֲבִימֶלֶךְ בֶּן יְרֻבֶּשֶׁת הֲלוֹא אִשָׁה הִשְׁלִיכָה עָלָיו פֶּלַח רֶכֶב מֵעַל הַחוֹמָה וַיָּמָת בְּתֵבֵץ

Who struck Avimelech son of Yerubeshet? Was it not a woman who cast on him an upper millstone from the wall, and he died in Tevetz? (2 Sam. 11:21)

τίς ἐπάταξεν τὸν Αβιμελεχ υἱὸν Ιεροβααλ; οὐχὶ γυνὴ ἔρριψεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν κλάσμα μύλου ἐπάνωθεν τοῦ τείχους καὶ ἀπέθανεν ἐν Θαμασι;

Who struck Abimelech son of Ierobaal? Did not a woman throw a piece of millstone on him from the top of the wall, and he died at Thamasi? (2 Kgdms. 11:21; NETS)

לְמִי אֲנִי אֶעֱבֹד הֲלוֹא לִפְנֵי בְנוֹ

To whom will I be a slave? Is it not before your son? (2 Sam. 16:19)

τίνι ἐγὼ δουλεύσω; οὐχὶ ἐνώπιον τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ;

To whom will I be a slave? Is it not before your son? (2 Kgdms. 16:19)

מִי פֶשַׁע יַעֲקֹב הֲלוֹא שֹׁמְרוֹן וּמִי בָּמוֹת יְהוּדָה הֲלוֹא יְרוּשָׁלִָם

Who is the sing of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And who is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? (Micah 1:5)

τίς ἡ ἀσέβεια τοῦ Ιακωβ; οὐ Σαμάρεια; καὶ τίς ἡ ἁμαρτία οἴκου Ιουδα; οὐχὶ Ιερουσαλημ;

What is the impiety of Iakob? Is it not Samaria? And what is the sin of the house of Ioudas? Surely it is Ierousalem? (Micah 1:5; NETS)

Many more examples of questions beginning with מִי and followed up by הֲלֹא occur in MT and in rabbinic sources.[28]

On reconstructing καθίζειν (kathizein, “to sit”) with יָשַׁב (yāshav, “sit”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L16.

If we were reconstructing in BH style, we would have opted for רִאשׁוֹנָה as the equivalent of πρῶτος, since this is what the majority of instances of πρῶτος represent in LXX.[29] In the similes, however, we have reconstructed with תְּחִלָּה, reflective of MH style, which we consider appropriate for dialogue. For a linguistic parallel to our Hebrew reconstruction, compare:

יְקַבֵּל עָלָיו מַלְכוּת שׁמַיִם תְּחִילָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ יְקַבֵּל עָלָיו עוֹל מִצְווֹת

[A person] should take upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven first [תְּחִילָּה], and only afterward take upon himself the yoke of the commandments. (m. Ber. 2:2)

Likewise, on account of our preference for MH style in speech contexts, we have reconstructed with יְצִיאָה (yetzi’āh, “expense,” “cost”)[30] rather than with מְּחִיר (meḥir, “price,” “cost”), which is known from BH but in talmudic literature is restricted to quotations and allusions to Scripture. A passage in the Tosefta offers a linguistic parallel to our Hebrew reconstruction:

ומחשב אדם יציאותיו במועד

And a person reckons up his expenses on the intermediate days. (t. Moed Katan 2:3[4]; Neusner)

A man sits down to figure the cost in this work entitled A Merchant Making Up the Account by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) (1760–1849). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A man sits down to figure the cost in this work entitled A Merchant Making Up the Account by Japanese artist
Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) (1760–1849). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L4 εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν (Luke 14:28). According to Moulton-Milligan (53) the noun ἀπαρτισμός (apartismos, “completion”)[31] is relatively rare,[32] however the verbal phrase εἰς τὸ ἀπαρτίζειν is not unusual in the papyri. We suspect that Luke’s source may have read εἰ ἔχει εἰς τὸ ἀπαρτίζειν, which is closer to HR.[33]

אִם יֵשׁ לוֹ לְהַשְׁלִים (HR). There are a number of Hebrew verbs for “to finish” which we might have chosen for HR, including כִּלָּה and גָּמַר, however we have chosen to reconstruct with הִשְׁלִים. On the basis of linguistic parallels in rabbinic literature, it is our opinion that גָּמַר is a good reconstruction for ἐκτελέσαι in L6 and L10 (see below, Comment to L10). The Greek text of Luke 14:28 has a word other than ἐκτελέσαι here in L4 for “completion,” which may be a clue that the Hebrew Ur-text also used a word other than the conjectured גָּמַר of L6 and L10. The verb הִשְׁלִים in the sense of “to complete” occurs 5xx in MT (Isa. 38:12, 13; 44:26, 28; Job 23:14) and 26xx in the Mishnah. For example, in tractate Taanit we read the following:

שָׁלוֹשׁ תַּעֲנִיּוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת אַנְשֵׁי מִשְׁמַר מִתְעַנִּים וְלֹא מַשְׁלִימִים וְאַנְשֵׁי בֵית אָב לֹא הָיוּ מִתְעַנִּים שָׁלוֹשׁ שִׁנִיּוֹת אַנְשֵׁי מִשְׁמַר מִתְעַנִּים וּמַשְׁלִימִים וְאַנְשֵׁי בֵית אָב מִתְעַנִּים וְלֹא מַשְׁלִימִים שֶׁבַע אַחֲרוֹנוֹת אֵלּוּ וָאֵלּוּ מִתְעַנִּים א′ א′ וּמַשְׁלִימִים דִּבַרֵ′ ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וַחֲכָמִ′ אוֹמְ′ שָׁלוֹשׁ תַּעְנִּיּוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת אֵלּוּ וָאֵלּוּ לֹא הָיוּ מִתְעַנִּים שַׁלּוֹשׁ שְׁנִיּוֹת אַנְשֵׁי מִשְׁמָר מִתְעַנִּים וְלֹא מִשְׁלִימִים וְאַנְשֵׁי בֵית אָב לֹא הָיוּ מִתְעַנִּים וְשֶׁבַע אַחֲרוֹנוֹת אַנְשֵׁי מִשְׁמָר מִתְעַנִּים וּמַשְׁלִימִים וְאַנְשֵׁי בֵית אָב מִתְעַנִּים וְלֹא מַשְׁלִימִים

On the first three fast days,[34] the men of the priestly division fast, but they do not complete it [וְלֹא מַשְׁלִימִים], and the men of the Bet Av would not fast at all.[35] On the second set of three days, the men of the priestly division fast and they complete it, and the men of the Bet Av fast but do not complete it. On the final seven fast days, both the men of the priestly division and the men of the Bet Av fast, and both groups complete it—the words of Rabbi Yehoshua. But the sages say: On the first three fast days neither the men of the priestly division nor the men of the Bet Av would fast. On the second set of three days the men of the priestly division fast, but they do not complete it, and the men of the Bet Av would not fast at all. On the final seven fast days, the men of the priestly division fast and complete it, and the men of the Bet Av fast, but do not complete it. (m. Taan. 2:6)[36]

L5 שֶׁמָּא יִתֵּן תְּמַלְיוֹס (HR). In LXX μήποτε (mēpote, “perhaps”; BDAG: “[in order] that…not, often expressing apprehension”) usually translates פֶּן (pen, “lest”); however, for our reconstruction we have used שֶׁמָּא (shemā’, “lest”) since in MH פֶּן had become obsolete.[37]

Reconstructing θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον (“laying of him a foundation”) poses a challenge. The noun θεμέλιον/θεμέλιος (themelion/themelios, “foundation”) occurs 53xx in LXX, where it translates מוֹסָד (mōsād, “foundation”) 12xx,[38] אַרְמוֹן (’armōn, “stronghold,” “citadel”) 10xx[39] and יְסוֹד (yesōd, “foundation”) 6xx.[40] However, אַרְמוֹן is clearly not suitable for our reconstruction, while מוֹסָד does not occur in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud or Babylonian Talmud except in biblical quotations, and although יְסוֹד appears 19xx in the Mishnah and 33xx in the Tosefta, the reference is always to the base of the altar, not to the foundation of a building. To further complicate our reconstruction, there is no model for back-translating this phrase since the combination τιθέναι + θεμέλιος does not occur in LXX. In MT the combination of a verb for “to lay a foundation” plus a noun for “foundation” appears not to exist.[41] This is because in BH it usually sufficed to simply use a verb for “to found” or “to lay a foundation” without the corresponding noun “foundation.”[42] In DSS, however, we do find the combination of a verb plus a noun for “laying a foundation” in the phrase ליסד מוסד אמת (“to lay a foundation of truth”; 1QS V, 5). However, this phrase from Qumran appears to be an attempt to imitate biblical style, for, as we noted above, מוֹסָד appears in rabbinic literature only in quotations of Scripture. Thus we find the model afforded by the Community Rule less than satisfactory because in dialogue contexts, such as the Tower Builder simile, we expect a style closer to MH than BH.

We have therefore opted for reconstructing θεμέλιος with תְּמַלְיוֹס (temalyōs, “foundation”), a loanword from Greek which is attested in rabbinic literature.[43] The phrase נָתַּן תְּמַלְיוֹס (“to lay a foundation”) that appears in the Yalkut Shim‘oni parable cited in the previous footnote is a close parallel to Luke’s θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον, especially since the verb τιθέναι is a translation of נָתַן‎ 86xx in LXX.[44]

L6 μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι (Luke 14:29). The use of ἰσχύειν (ischūein, “to be strong”) to mean “to be able” appears to be a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor.[45] The Septuagint renders יָכֹל with δύνασθαι 182xx and with ἰσχύειν in only two instances.[46] and Josephus.[47] Since ἰσχύοντος appears to have been introduced by a Greek editor, we have used δυναμένου for GR.

וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִגְמֹר (HR). On reconstructing δύνασθαι (dūnasthai, “to be able”) with יָכוֹל‎ (yāchōl, “able”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L10. For conditional clauses similar to that in our reconstruction, compare the following sentences from the Mishnah:

ר′ לְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה או′ קוּפָּה מָטָּהּ עַל צִידָּהּ וְנוֹטֵל שֶׁמֵּא יִטּוֹל וְאֵינוּ יָכוֹל לְהַחְזִיר

R. Eleazar b. Azariah says: The basket should be turned over on its side and the food thus removed, lest perchance the pot is removed in such wise that it cannot be replaced. (m. Shab. 4:2; Danby)

וְעוֹד אָמַ′ ר′ מֵאִיר פּוֹתְחִין לוֹ מִן הַכָּתוּב שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה וְאוֹמְ′ לוֹ אִילּוּ הָיִיתָה יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁאַתָּה עוֹבֵר עַל לֹא תִיקּוֹם וְלֹא תִיטּוֹר וְעַל לֹא תִשְׂנָא אֶת אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵיעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ וְחֵי אָחִיךָ עִמָּךְ שֶׁמֵּא יַעְנִי [[וְ]]אֵין אַתְּ יָכוֹל לְפַרְנְסוֹ

And also Rabbi Meir said, “They open [a way] for him [to be released from his vow] from that which is written in the Torah, and they say to him, ‘If you had known that you were transgressing [the commandment] You must not take vengeance and you must not bear a grudge [Lev. 19:18], and You must not hate your brother in your heart [Lev. 19:17], And you must love your neighbor as yourself [Lev. 19:18], and Your brother must live with you [Lev. 25:36] [would you have still made your vow,] lest he should become poor and you would not be able to assist him? (m. Ned. 9:4)

As in HR, the conditional clauses from the Mishnah share the pattern שֶׁמֵּא, followed by an imperfect verb, followed by וְאֵין יָכוֹל, followed by an infinitive.

L7 וְכָל רוֹאָיו הַרֹאִים אוֹתוֹ יַתְחִילוּ לְהַלְעִיג עָלָיו (HR). On the reconstruction of πᾶς + definite article as -כָּל הַ, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L35. On reconstructing θεωρεῖν (theōrein, “to see”) with רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L14.

For “they will begin” we have not used יַחֵלוּ, as in Widow’s Son in Nain L17. There we adopted a BH style for HR because Widow’s Son in Nain, L7 is a narrative context. Here we are in dialog where we prefer to reconstruct in MH style. We have therefore adopted יַתְחִילוּ for HR. Although the root ח-ל-ל occurs 4xx in the Mishnah in the hif‘il stem with the meaning “to begin,”[48] הִתְחִיל is much more common (52xx).[49]

For “to mock” two options were available in HR. In LXX, ἐμπαίζειν is the translation of צָחַק/שָׂחַק (sāḥaq/tzāḥaq, “to laugh”) 6xx.[50] In Neh. 3:33; 1QpHab IV, 2; and Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 7, on Exod. 15:9, הִלְעִיג takes the preposition עַל.

L8 לוֹמַר (HR). Had we been reconstructing in BH style we would have adopted לֵאמֹר (lē’mor, “to say”), as we did, for example in the narrative introduction to Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L6 or Widow’s Son in Nain, L21. On reconstructing λέγοντες (legontes, “saying”) with לֵאמֹר see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L8. In Greek ὅτι (hoti, “that”) is often used to introduce direct speech, but a Hebrew equivalent such as -שֶׁ is unnecessary and has accordingly been omitted from HR.[51]

L9 הָאָדָם הַזֶּה (HR). On reconstructing ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”) with אָדָם (’ādām, “person”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L12.

L10 οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι (Luke 14:30). As in L6 above, we believe Luke’s use of ἰσχύειν with the meaning “to be able” is a Greek stylistic improvement. Note that in L14 Luke switches to δυνατός. In GR we have attempted to restore the pre-synoptic Greek text as it may have appeared before Luke’s editorial activity.

הִתְחִיל לִבְנוֹת וְלֹא יָכוֹל לִגְמֹר (HR). For our Hebrew reconstruction, compare the vocabulary of the following examples in which people discuss starting and finishing a task:

קָבְרוּ אֶת הַמֵּת וְחָזָרוּ אִם יְכוּלִין לְהַתְחִיל וְלִגְּמוֹר עַד שֶׁלֹּא {י}גִּיעוּ לַשּׁוּרָה יַתְהִילוּ וְאִם לָאו לֹא יַתְחִילוּ הָעוֹמְדִין בַּשּׁוּרָה הַפְּנִימִין פְּטוּרִין וְהַחִיצוֹנִין חַיָּיבִין

When they have buried the dead and returned, if they can begin [the Shema‘] and finish it before reaching the Row they begin it; but if they can not, they do not begin it. Of them that stand in the Row, they of the inner line are exempt [from reciting the Shema‘] but they of the outer line are not exempt. (m. Ber. 3:2; Danby)

ר′ מֵאִיר או′, כָּל מְלָאכָה שֶׁהִתְחִיל בָּהּ קוֹדֶם לְאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר גּוֹמְרָהּ בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר אֲבָל לֹא יַתְחִיל בָּה כַּתְּחִילָה בְּאַרְבָעָה עָשָׂר אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא יָכוֹל לְגוֹמְרָהּ

R. Meir says: Whatsoever work a man has begun before the 14th he may finish on the 14th; but he may not begin it from the beginning on the 14th even though he was able to finish it. (m. Pes. 4:6; Danby)

The verb גָּמַר occurs 5xx in MT, 1x in DSS and 174xx in the Mishnah.[52] The combination גָּמַר‎ + מְלָאכָה (“to complete work”) is very common in the Mishnah (31xx).

L11-17 Jesus’ simile may be compared to Socrates’ advice concerning a city going to war:

Οὐκοῦν, ἔφη, τόν γε βουλευσόμενον, πρὸς οὕστινας δεῖ πολεμεῖν δύναμιν καὶ τὴν τῶν ἐναντίων ἐιδέναι δεῖ, ἵνα ἐὰν μὲν ἡ τῆς πόλεως κρείττων ᾗ, συμβουλεύῃ ἐπιχειρεῖν τῷ πολέμῳ, ἐὰν δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐναντίων, εὐλαβεῖσθαι πείθῃ.

Therefore, in order to advise her [i.e., the city—DNB and JNT] whom to fight, it is necessary to know the strength of the city and of the enemy, so that, if the city be stronger, one may recommend her to go to war, but if weaker than the enemy, may persuade her to beware. (Xenophon, Memorabilia 3:6.8; Loeb)[53]

The King Going to War simile is also similar to Philo’s discussion on virtue:

καίτοι τῆς ἀρετῆς εἰρηνικωτάτην φύσιν ἐχούσης, ᾗ φασιν ἐπιμελὲς εἶναι, ὅταν εἰσ χειρῶν ἅμιλλαν ἰέναι μέλλῃ, τῆς ἰδίας δυνάμεως ἀποπειρᾶσθαι πρότερον, ἵν᾽, εἰ μὲν ἰσχύοι καταγωνίσασθαι συνιστῆται, εἰ δ᾽ ἀσθενεστέρᾳ χρῷτο τῇ δυνάμει, μηδὲ συγκαταβῆναι τὴν ἀρχὴν εἰς τὸν ἀγῶνα θαρρήσῃ

And yet virtue’s nature is most peaceable, and she is so careful, so they say, to test her own strength before the conflict, so that if she is able to contend to the end she may take the field, but if she finds her strength too weak she may shrink from entering the contest at all. (Abr. 105; Loeb)[54]

L11-12 וּמִי הַמֶּלֶךְ שֶׁיּוֹצֵא לְמִלְחָמָה עַל מֶלֶךְ אַחֵר (HR). There can be little doubt regarding the reconstruction βασιλεύς (basilevs, “king”) as מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”). In LXX βασιλεύς translates a number of different Hebrew terms, but none with such frequency as מֶלֶךְ.‎[55] Similarly, there are a number of instances in which מֶלֶךְ is translated in LXX by some other Greek word, but they are insignificant compared the number of times מֶלֶךְ is rendered βασιλεύς.[56]

In Hebrew sources that describe a person (often a king) or a people going to war, the verb is usually either נִלְחַם (nilḥam, “to wage war”),[57] or we find a combination of the verb יָצָא (yātzā’, “to go out”) followed by the preposition -לְ (le, “to”) and the noun מִלְחָמָה (milḥāmāh, “war,” “battle”).[58] Since the Greek text of Luke 14:31 has a preposition (εἰς) plus a noun (πόλεμος), it makes sense to reconstruct with יָצָא לְמִלְחָמָה.

When we find the combination יָצָא לְמִלְחָמָה in the sense “he went out to war against so and so” the preposition for “against” is usually עַל.‎[59]

τίς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐξερχόμενος εἰς πόλεμον επί βασιλεῖ ἑτέρῳ (GR). Luke 14:31 appears to have been heavily redacted by a Greek editor. Evidence of Greek redaction includes un-Hebraic word order and the use of the verb συμβαλεῖν (sūmbalein, “to join in battle”). This usage of συμβαλεῖν is common in Greek compositions,[60] but συμβαλεῖν is not used in this way in LXX portions translated from Hebrew. For GR we have given a more literal translation of the Hebrew reconstruction than what we find in Luke. Back-translation is the only method we have for reconstructing the conjectured Greek Translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua when we are confronted with a heavily redacted Greek text and there are no synoptic parallels for comparison. For πορευόμενος…συμβαλεῖν we have used ἐξέρχεσθαι, which is the translation of יָצָא‎ 522xx in LXX. Likewise, εἰς πόλεμον επί βασιλεῖ ἑτέρῳ is a literal translation of לְמִלְחָמָה עַל מֶלֶךְ אַחֵר.‎[61] This may be close to what the pre-synoptic text looked like before the First Reconstructor attempted to improve the Greek style of the similes.

L13 οὐχὶ καθίσας πρῶτον βουλεύσεται (Luke 14:31). In the Synoptic Gospels the verb βουλεύεσθαι (boulevesthai, “to deliberate,” “to resolve”) occurs only in Luke 14:31 (cf. Acts 5:33; 27:39).[62]

הַלֹא יֵשֵׁב תְּחִלָּה וְיִמָּלֵךְ (HR). For הַלֹא and תְּחִלָּה see our discussion above at L3. Although we considered reconstructing Luke’s βουλεύσεται as וְיִתְיָעֵץ (“and he will take counsel”), we preferred to reconstruct with וְיִמָּלֵךְ (“and he will consult”) since the root י-ע-ץ does not occur in the Mishnah, but there are a few examples in the Mishnah of מ-ל-כ in the nif‘al stem with the meaning “to consult”:

בָּמֵּי דְבָרִים אֲמוּרִ′ בְּכֹהֵן נִימְלָךְ אֲבַל בְּכֹהֵן שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִמְלָךְ

This holds good in the case where the priest had consulted, but if the priest had not consulted…. (m. Kin. 3:1)

נְתָנָן לַכֹּהֵן וְכֹהֵן צָרִיךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת שָׁלֹשׁ פְּרִידִים מִלְּמַעְלָן וְאַחַת מִלְּמַטָּן לְא עָשָׂה כֵן אֶלָּא עָשָׂה שְׁתַּיִם מִלְּמַעְלָן וּשְׁתַּיִם מִלְּמַטָּן לֹא נִימְלַךְ צְרִיכָה לְהָבִיא עוֹד פְּרִידָה אַחַת וְיַקְרִיבֶנָּה לְמַעְלָן

If [before she had assigned them] she gave them to the priest, who should sprinkle the blood of three of the birds above the line and one below, and he did not do so but sprinkled the blood of two of them above and the blood of two of them below, and he had not consulted her, she must bring another bird of like kind which she must offer above. (m. Kin. 3:6)[63]

The use of מ-ל-כ in the nif‘al stem with the meaning “to consult” is attested already in late BH. Significantly, at Neh. 5:7 the LXX translated וַיִּמָּלֵךְ לִבִּי (“and I consulted my heart”) as καὶ ἐβουλεύσατο καρδία μου, using the same verb, βουλεύεσθαι, as appears in Luke 14:31.

L14 אִם יָכוֹל בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים לִקְרַאת (HR). The phrase אִם יָכוֹל occurs 6xx in the MT[64] and 22xx in the Mishnah.[65] The LXX equivalents of אִם יָכוֹל are either ἐι + δύνασθαι or ἐὰν + δύνασθαι.

Luke’s phrase ἐν δέκα χειλιάσιν (“in ten thousand”) is paralleled in 1 Macc. 4:29: καὶ συνήντησεν αὐτοῖς Ιουδας ἐν δέκα χιλιάσιν ἀνδρῶν (“and met them Judas in ten thousand men”). Both 1 Macc. 4:29 and Luke 14:31 may reflect a Hebrew undertext that reads בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים (“with [lit., in] ten thousand”).[66] In non-translation Greek, however, we usually do not find ἐν plus the number of men in a description of someone coming with x number of troops. The prepositions σύν or μετά, or the simple dative without a preposition, appear to be more common. See, for instance, the following descriptions in 2 Maccabees and Josephus:

καὶ σὺν αὐτῷ Λυσίαν τὸν ἐπίτροπον καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν πραγμάτων ἕκαστον ἔχοντα δύναμιν Ἑλληνικὴν πεζῶν μυριάδας ἕνδεκα καὶ ἱππέων πεντακισχιλίους τριακοσίους καὶ ἐλέφαντας εἴκοσι δύο ἅρματα δὲ δρεπανηφόρα τριακόσια

…and with him Lysias, the guardian and chancellor, also a Greek force of one hundred ten thousand infantry, five thousand three hundred cavalry, twenty–two elephants and three hundred chariots bearing scythes. (2 Macc. 13:2; NETS)

μετὰ στρατιᾶς τὸν υἱὸν ἐπιπέμπει πεντακοσίων μὲν ἱππέων χιλίων δὲ πεζῶν

…with an army his son sent of 500 cavalry and 1000 footmen…. (J.W. 3:299)

ἐστράτευσεν ἐπὶ τὸν Ἀριστόβουλον μετὰ πέντε μυριάδων ἱππέων ἅμα καὶ πεζῆς στρατιᾶς

…waged war against Aristobulus with 50,000 horses and foot [soldiers]…. (Ant. 14:9)

τοὺς μὲν ἐπελθεῖν εἴκοσι στρατοῦ μυριάσι

…came with an army of 200,000 men…. (Apion 1:263)

εἰ δυνατός ἐστιν ἐν δέκα χειλιάσιν εἰς ὑπάντησιν (GR). In LXX the verb ὑπαντῆσαι (hūpantēsai, “to meet”) occurs 6xx, though only once in a Hebrew context (Dan. 10:14) where it is the translation of קָרָה (qārāh, “to happen”).[67] Given its lack of a clear Hebrew equivalent, we suspect that ὑπαντῆσαι in Luke 14:31 may be due to the redactional activity of the First Reconstructor. What might the First Reconstructor have read in Anth. that he changed to ὑπαντῆσαι? Perhaps he encountered the phrase εἰς ὑπάντησιν (“to a meeting”). In LXX the rare phrase εἰς ὑπάντησιν twice occurs as the translation of לִקְרַאת (liqra’t, “to meet”; Judg. 11:34; Prov. 7:15 [Vaticanus]).[68] The more usual translations of לִקְרַאת in LXX are the very similar εἰς συνάντησιν (eis sūnantēsin, “to a meeting”)[69] and εἰς ἀπαντὴν (eis apantēn, “to a meeting”).[70]
If Anth. had εἰς ὑπάντησιν, reflecting a literal translation of לִקְרַאת in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text,[71] the First Reconstructor might have decided to change this to the infinitive of the same root, namely ὑπαντῆσαι (“to meet”) because he considered this to be a more elegant way of saying the same thing.

Note that לִקְרַאת often occurs in conjunction with יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”), just as it does in HR, L11-14.[72]

L16 εἰ δὲ μή γε (GR). The phrase εἰ δὲ μή γε occurs with a high frequency in the Synoptic Gospels as compared with the rest of the NT, LXX, Pseudepigrapha and the writings of Philo and Josephus.[73] We have omitted the phrase ἔτι αὐτοῦ πόρρω ὄντος (“still being distant from him”), which appears in Luke 14:32, from GR because it is difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew and may be a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor. The use of the adverb πόρρω (porrō, “far away”) is relatively rare in LXX and the use of the participle ὄντος (ontos, “being”) looks like a mark of Greek redaction. In a normally constructed Hebrew sentence we would have expected such clause to appear at the end of the sentence, in other words, “And if not, will he not send messengers and ask for peace while he is still far off?”

וְאִם לָאו (HR). The phrase וְאִם לָאו occurs 135xx in the Mishnah and is the counterpart of אִם יָכוֹל in m. Ber. 3:2 (cited above, Comment to L10).[74]

The combination of עוֹד + pronominal suffix occurs 40xx in MT and 5xx with the preposition -בְּ prefixed to עוֹד.‎[75] Most instances of עוֹד are translated ἔτι in LXX.[76] The combination of עוֹד + pronominal suffix also occurs in the Mishnah (m. Bik. 3:6; m. Neg. 7:3; m. Ket. 6:5; 7:8; m. Bech. 8:1; m. Nid. 5:7; 10:1).

All instances of πόρρω (porrō, “far away”) in LXX that have an equivalent in the underlying Hebrew text of MT translate the root ר-ח-ק.

L17 πρεσβείαν ἀποστείλας (Luke 14:32). The noun πρεσβεία (presbeia, “embassy,” “delegation”) is probably a Greek improvement introduced by FR or, perhaps, by the author of Luke.[77] According to Marshall (594), “πρεσβεία, ’embassy’, is an example of use of abstract for the concrete, ‘ambassadors’.”

Josephus records an interpretation of Deut. 20:10ff that is similar to the King Going to War simile:

μέλλοντας δὲ πολεμεῖν πρεσβείαν καὶ κήρυκας πέμπειν παρὰ τοὺς ἑκουσίως πολεμίους· πρὸ γὰρ τῶν ὅπλων καλὸν εἶναι χρῆσθαι λόγιος πρὸς αὐτοὺς δηλοῦντας, ὅτι καὶ στρατιὰν πολλὴν ἔχοντες καὶ ἵππους καὶ ὅπλα καὶ πρὸ τούτων εὐμενῆ τὸν θεὸν καὶ σύμμαχον, ὅμως ἀξιοῦτε μὴ ἀναγκάζεσθαι πολεμεῖν αὐτοῖς μηδὲ τὰ έκείνων ἀφαιρουνένους ἀβούλητον αὑτοῖς κέδρος προσλαμβάνειν.

When ye are on the verge of war, send an embassy with heralds to your aggressive enemy; for, before taking arms, it is meet to parley with them and to represent that, though possessed of a large army, horses and munitions, and above all blest with God’s gracious favour and support, nevertheless ye desire not to be constrained to make war on them and, in robbing them of what is theirs, to annex to yourself unwanted profit. (Ant. 4:296; Loeb)

Whereas in Deuteronomy the Israelites are the aggressors, Josephus envisions a situation in which Israel is threatened by an invading army. According to Josephus’ scenario, the Israelites are to send an embassy (πρεσβεία) to dissuade the aggressors from attacking them. Unlike the King Going to War simile, in Josephus’ scenario the Israelites are assured of victory should their enemies attack.

הַלֹא יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים (HR). In HR we have added the interrogative הַלֹא before יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים to make this sentence a rhetorical question in keeping with the overall form of the similes.

In the place of Luke’s πρεσβεία, we have reconstructed with מַלְאָכִים (mal’āchim, “messengers”). In MT we find the combination שָׁלַח‎ + מַלְאָךְ‎ 26xx, which is generally translated in LXX as ἀποστελλεῖν + ἄγγελος. However, in a few instances we find שָׁלַח‎ + מַלְאָךְ‎ translated as ἀποστελλεῖν + πρέσβυς (presbūs, “ambassador”):

וַיִּשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים אֶל בִּלְעָם

καὶ ἀπέστειλεν πρέσβεις πρὸς Βαλααμ

And he sent ambassadors to Balaam…. (Num. 22:5; NETS)

In two examples LXX translates מַלְאָךְ as πρέσβυς in contexts roughly similar to the scenario described in the King Going to War simile:

וָאֶשְׁלַח מַלְאָכִים…אֶל סִיחֹון מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבֹּון דִּבְרֵי שָׁלֹום לֵאמֹר

καὶ ἀπέστειλα πρέσβεις…πρὸς Σηων βασιλέα Εσεβων λόγοις εἰρηνικοῖς λέγων

And I sent ambassadors from the wilderness of Kedmoth to King Seon of Hesebon with words of peace, saying…. (Deut. 2:26; NETS)

וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל מַלְאָכִים אֶל סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי לֵאמֹר

καὶ ἀπέστειλεν Μωυσῆς πρέσβεις πρὸς Σηων βασιλέα Αμορραίων λόγοις εἰρηνικοῖς λέγων

And Moyses sent ambassadors to Seon king of the Amorrites with peaceful words, saying…. (Num. 21:21; NETS)[78]

Key vocabulary in common with these verses and our reconstruction include שָׁלַח,‎ מַלְאָךְ and שָׁלֹום. The main difference between the above biblical verses and the King Going to War simile is that whereas the king in the simile anticipates defeat, the biblical verses recount one of Israel’s most famous victories. We saw the same contrast in the parallel in Josephus cited in the Comment to L17.

The Arch of Titus depicting the consequences of an ill-advised war. The spoils of Jerusalem's Temple are carried off by Roman soldiers. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Priore.)

The Arch of Titus depicting the consequences of an ill-advised war. The spoils of Jerusalem’s Temple are carried off by Roman soldiers. (Photo courtesy of Douglas Priore)

Might Jesus have intentionally subverted his listeners’ expectations in the King Going to War simile? Perhaps in this simile Jesus turned a triumphalist theme on its head, expressive of his anti-war stance. Whereas popular tales may have celebrated the glorious victories of Israel’s past, Jesus may have wanted to adopt a more sober tone at a time when anti-Roman sentiment was gaining momentum.[79] We are not suggesting that the King Going to War simile addresses the political climate in first-century Israel, but Jesus’ decision to craft the simile the way he did might be reflective of his anti-war attitude.

ἀποστελεῖ πρέσβεις (GR). Since we do not have any synoptic parallels for comparison, we have to imagine how the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua might have looked by putting HR back into Greek. Although πρεσβεία (“embassy”) appears to be a Greek “improvement,” the LXX examples of מַלְאָכִים translated as πρέσβεις suggest that this might be the word the First Reconstructor found in his source.[80] For GR we have also preferred a more Hebraic word order.

L18 ἐρωτᾷ εἰς εἰρήνην (Luke 14:32). The textual variant ἐρωτᾷ τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην (“he asks the [things] towards peace”) may have been influenced by the similar phrase in Luke 19:42 and appears to be a Greek editor’s attempt to explain the more Hebraic ἐρωτᾷ εἰς εἰρήνην. We therefore accept Vaticanus’ reading as original.[81] Note the phrase τότε αἰτοῦσι ἡμᾶς τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην (“then they petitioned us for terms of peace”) in T. Jud. 9:7.[82]

וְיִשְׁאַל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ (HR). The idiom שָׁאַל לְשָׁלוֹם appears in MT[83] and is rendered in LXX with ἐρωτᾶν τὰ εἰς εἰρήνην (1 Kgdms. 10:4; 30:21; 2 Kgdms. 8:10; 1 Chr. 18:10) or ἐρωτᾶν εἰς εἰρήνην (1 Kgdms. 25:5; 2 Kgdms. 11:7 [3xx]), but its meaning is always “ask about someone’s welfare” or “inquire about someone’s health” (i.e., “to greet”), never “ask for terms of peace.” In MH, the expression for “ask about someone’s welfare” changed to שָׁאַל בְּשָׁלוֹם.‎[84] Our reconstruction reflects this MH usage.[85]

Redaction Analysis

It seems unlikely that the Demands of Discipleship discourse (Luke 14:26-27, 33) was the original context of the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes. The author of Luke appears to have incorporated the similes into the Demands of Discipleship discourse from another source, probably FR.

We have identified FR as the source of the twin Tower Builder and King Going to War similes due to the more refined style of Greek we encounter in this pericope than is typical of material copied from Anth. These redactional improvements include the addition of conjunctions (L1) and explanatory details (16), changes of word order to achieve a more refined Greek style (L2, L12, L17), the use of more refined vocabulary (L3, L4, L6, L10, L11, L17) and the omission of superfluous wording (L14, L17, L18).

Due to the level of redactional activity in this pericope, we were confronted with the possibility that the similes lacked a Hebrew ancestor, and are in fact original Greek compositions. However, we have identified two possible wordplays in HR. The first pertains to the root ש-ל-מ. The tower builder considers whether he is able to complete (לְהַשְׁלִים; lehashlim) the tower, whereas the king considers whether he must signal his surrender by greeting (שָׁאַל בְּשָׁלוֹם; shā’al beshālōm) his adversary. The second wordplay is in the King Going to War simile where the wise king (מֶלֶךְ; melech) will first consult (נִמְלָךְ; nimlāch) before going to war. These presence of these wordplays strengthen our supposition that the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes can be traced back to the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Results of This Research

1. What is the situation Jesus intended to illustrate with the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes? Traditionally, the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes have been interpreted as an admonition to prospective disciples to consider carefully before joining Jesus’ movement. A minority opinion is that the similes illustrate Jesus’ reason for rejecting certain individuals as disciples.[86] The question comes down to whether the people in Jesus’ audience were supposed to compare themselves to the tower builder and the king, or whether Jesus wanted his audience to compare his decision not to accept certain individuals as disciples with the farmer’s decision not to build a tower and the king’s decision not to go to war.

Scholars who favor the latter interpretation note that usually when a simile is introduced with the formula τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν, Jesus was either explaining his own actions to people who questioned his behavior (cf., e.g., Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes; Matt. 18:10, 12-14; Luke 15:1-10) or he was explaining the mysterious actions of God (cf., e.g., Friend in Need simile; Luke 11:5-8). In these similes, Jesus helps his audience to understand his actions (or God’s) by comparing his behavior (or God’s) to the way the members of the audience themselves would behave in analogous circumstances. If in the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes Jesus expected his audience to compare their own situation as prospective disciples to the way they would act if they were about to build a tower or wage a war, this would be a departure from the way Jesus normally used similes.[87]

Juxtaposed to the Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple pericope, either interpretation seems possible.

2. What is the meaning of ἐρωτᾷ εἰς εἰρήνην (“he asks for peace”) in the King Going to War simile (Luke 14:32; L18)? We believe that ἐρωτᾷ εἰς εἰρήνην represents an attempt to translate the phrase יִשְׁאַל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ. As we noted above (Comment to L18), the idiom שָׁאַל שָׁלוֹם never has the meaning “ask for terms of peace.” How, then, are we to understand its meaning in the King Going to War simile where “asking for terms of peace” seems logical?

Thackeray proposed that, in contexts describing one king saluting another, שָׁאַל שָׁלוֹם implies the submission or surrender of the king who offers the salutation.[88] In support of his proposal, Thackeray drew attention to 2 Sam. 8:10, which reads:

וַיִּשְׁלַח תֹּעִי אֶת יוֹרָם בְּנוֹ אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד לִשְׁאָל לוֹ לְשָׁלוֹם וּֽלְבָרֲכוֹ עַל אֲשֶׁר נִלְחַם בַּהֲדַדְעֶזֶר וַיַּכֵּהוּ כִּי אִישׁ מִלְחֲמוֹת תֹּעִי הָיָה הֲדַדְעָזֶר וּבְיָדוֹ הָיוּ כְּלֵי כֶסֶף וּכְלֵי זָהָב וּכְלֵי נְחֹשֶׁת׃

To′i sent his son Joram to King David, to greet him, and to congratulate him because he had fought against Hadade′zer and defeated him; for Hadade′zer had often been at war with To′i. And Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold, and of bronze…. (RSV)

In this story, To‘i reasoned that if Hadade‘zer had succumbed to David’s forces, then he (To‘i), who had been defeated by Hadade‘zer, would surely be defeated in a military confrontation with David. To‘i averted disaster by voluntarily submitting to David, which was expressed by sending his son to offer a greeting (וַיִּשְׁלַח…אֶת…בְּנוֹ…לִשְׁאָל לוֹ לְשָׁלוֹם) and his payment of tribute.

The description of To‘i’s action is translated in LXX as:

…καὶ ἀπέστειλεν Θοου Ιεδδουραν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ πρὸς βασιλέα Δαυιδ ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν τὰ[89] εἰς εἰρήνην….

…and Thoou sent his son Ieddouran to King Dauid, to ask him matters of peace…. (2 Kgdms. 8:10; NETS)

The LXX translation of לִשְׁאָל לוֹ לְשָׁלוֹם as ἐρωτῆσαι αὐτὸν τὰ εἰς εἰρήνην resembles ἐρωτᾷ εἰς εἰρήνην, the Vaticanus text of Luke 14:32. In addition to the similar vocabulary in 2 Kgdms. 8:10 and Luke 14:32, the situations both verses describe are also similar. In both accounts a king who knows he is outmatched sends someone to meet his adversary to head off an armed conflict.

It therefore appears that the original meaning of Jesus’ simile was not that the weaker king negotiated terms of peace, but that his submission to his stronger adversary was expressed in offering a humble salutation. Luke preserved this Hebraism which he found in his pre-synoptic source, but its meaning was not understood by later copyists of Luke’s Gospel. They therefore attempted to make Luke’s sentence intelligible by improving the Greek, which accounts for the variant readings in New Testament manuscripts.

Conclusion

We believe that the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes are an attempt to explain why full-time discipleship is not suitable for everyone. Not everyone had the freedom and the ability to give up their livelihoods and leave their families in order to travel with Jesus from place to place, obligations that were incumbent upon Jesus’ full-time disciples. We believe that these historical circumstances must be recognized in order to appreciate Jesus’ teaching on this issue.

Jesus did not equate becoming a full-time disciple with salvation, nor did he regard non-disciples as hostile to his mission or exclude them from the benefits of his ministry. To the contrary, Jesus recognized that for the vast majority of people it was better that they enjoy his words and deeds as observers and beneficiaries and that they put his teachings into practice in their daily lives—like the crowds who listened to Jesus’ teachings and who held him in high regard—than to leave their homes and communities in order to become full-time disciples with absolute commitments and obligations to Jesus’ mission. Full-time discipleship was for the select few who could set aside their ordinary activities and engagements for a time in order to master Jesus’ message in order that they, in turn, might accurately pass it on to others.

In the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes it is not the willingness or the desire of the men to set about their tasks, but their ability to do the job that is at stake. Similarly, we believe that the situation the similes address does not pertain to the sympathy of would-be disciples to Jesus’ message, but to their ability to do their job well. Jesus was willing to take on as disciples only those whom he believed were up to the task.


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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See Demands of Discipleship, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission,” and Comment to L15.
  • [4] See Derrett, who wrote: “Some facts are obvious, and no one attempts to deny them, viz. that Luke obtained the parables or their basic substance from a different source from that of the surrounding material, adapting them somewhat inartistically to their present situation (v. 33 really follows on v. 27).” See J. Duncan M. Derrett, “Nisi Dominus Aedificaverit Domum: Towers and Wars (Lk XIV 28-32),” Novum Testamentum 19.4 (1977): 241-261, quotation on 241-242; cf. Peter G. Jarvis, “Expounding the Parables: V. The Tower-builder and the King going to War (Luke 14:25-33),” Expository Times 77 (1965-1966): 196-198.
  • [5] According to Lindsey’s hypothesis it was the Anthologizer who was mainly responsible for separating the narrative-sayings complexes into their component parts and rearranging them according to genre.
  • [6] See Jarvis, “Expounding the Parables,” 197.
  • [7] Words appearing in the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes, but found nowhere else in the synoptic corpus, include: ψηφίζειν (L3; Luke 14:28); δαπάνη (L3; Luke 14:28); ἀπαρτισμός (L4; Luke 14:28); ἐκτελεῖν (L6, L10; Luke 14:29, 30); βουλεύειν (L13; Luke 14:31); and χιλιάς (L14, L15; Luke 14:31).
  • [8] So Beyer, 177. Cf. Moulton-Milligan, 560; Jeremias, 196; Marshall, 593; Nolland, Luke, 2:763.
  • [9] Note that in the Wicked Tenants parable the owner of the vineyard builds an agricultural tower (Matt. 21:33; Mark 12:1; cf. Isa. 5:2).
  • [10] On defining parables, see Notley-Safrai, 3-6.
  • [11] The parables we believe were derived from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua include:

    1. Pharisee and Tax Collector parable (Luke 18:9-14)
    2. Great Banquet parable (Matt. 22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24)
    3. Hidden Treasure parable (Matt. 13:44)
    4. Priceless Pearl parable (Matt. 13:45-46)
    5. Persistent Widow parable (Luke 18:1-8)
    6. Mustard Seed parable (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
    7. Yeast parable (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)
    8. Creditor and Two Debtors parable (Luke 7:41-42a)
    9. Unforgiving Slave parable (Matt. 18:23-35)
    10. Sower and Soils parable (Matt. 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8)
    11. Wise and Foolish Builders parable (Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)
    12. Rich Fool parable (Luke 12:16-21)
    13. Rich Man and Lazar parable (Luke 16:19-31)
    14. Shrewd Manager parable (Luke 16:1-12)
    15. Talents parable (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27)
    16. Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:30-37)
    17. Wheat and Weeds parable (Matt. 13:24-30)
    18. Good and Bad Fish parable (Matt. 13:47-50)
    19. Two Sons parable (Matt. 21:28-32)
    20. Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:11-32)
    21. Unfruitful Fig Tree parable (Luke 13:6-9)
    22. Wicked Tenants parable (Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)
    23. Latecomers Get Equal Pay parable (Matt. 20:1-16)
    24. Waiting Virgins parable (Matt. 25:1-13)

  • [12] Cf., e.g., Luke 15:3, which refers to the Lost Sheep simile as a parable.
  • [13] Examples of מִי followed by the preposition מִן include: 2 Kgs. 6:11 (מִי מִשֶּׁלָּנוּ אֶל מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל; “who of our own is for the king of Israel?”); 2 Kgs. 9:5 (מִי מִכֻּלָּנוּ; “who of all of us…?”); Isa. 50:1 (מִי מִנֹּושַׁי; “who from my creditors…?”). Note especially the phrase מי מהם in the following text from Qumran:

    זכור את מלכי ישרא[ל] והתבנן במעשיהמה שמי מהם שהיא ירא את[ …התו]רה היה מצול מצרות והם מב[ק]שי תורה

    …remember the kings of Israe[l] and reflect on their deeds, how whoever of them was respecting [the … La]w was freed from afflictions; and those were the se[ek]ers of the Law…. (4QMMT [4Q398] 11-15 I, 6-7; DSS Study Edition)

  • [14] Examples of מִי followed by the preposition -בְּ include: 1 Sam. 22:14 (וּמִי בְכָל עֲבָדֶיךָ; “who among all your servants…?”); 2 Kgs. 18:35 (מִי בְּכָל אֱלֹהֵי הָאֲרָצֹותמִי בְּכָל אֱלֹהֵי הָאֲרָצֹות; “who among all the gods of the lands…?”); Isa. 42:23 (מִי בָכֶם יַאֲזִין; “who among you will listen…?”); Isa. 43:9 (מִי בָהֶם יַגִּיד; “who among them will tell…?”); Isa. 48:14 (מִי בָהֶם הִגִּיד; “who among them told…?”); Isa. 50:10 (מִי בָכֶם יְרֵא יי; “who among you fears the LORD…?”); Hag. 2:3 (מִי בָכֶם הַנִּשְׁאָר; “who among you that remain…?”); Mal. 1:10 (מִי גַם בָּכֶם; “who also among you…?”); Ezra 1:3 (מִי בָכֶם; “who among you…?”); 2 Chr. 32:14 (מִי בְּֽכָל אֱלֹהֵי הַגֹּויִם; “who among all the gods of the Gentiles…?”); 2 Chr. 36:23 (מִי בָכֶם מִכָּל עַמּוֹ; “who among you from all his people…?”). The interrogative phrase מי בכם also appears in 4Q301 2 I, 4; 4Q381 15 I, 6; 4Q381 76-77 I, 10.
  • [15] In a hand-written note Robert Lindsey suggested that τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν should be reconstructed as מִי בָּכֶם (LHNS, 38). Cf. Davies-Allison, 1:652.
  • [16] Of the 21 instances of πύργος in Philo, 18 appear in his treatise On the Confusion of Tongues, in which Philo discusses the Tower of Babel story (Gen. 11). Of the other three instances of πύργος in Philo, two more refer to the Tower of Babel story (Post. 53; Somn. 2:284).
  • [17] Cf., e.g., Jos., J.W. 5:181: πύργοι πελειάδων ἡμέρων (“towers for tame pigeons”). It has been suggested that the tower in Siloam referred to in Luke 13:4 was a tower of this type. See Boaz Zissu, “This Place Is for the Birds,” Biblical Archaeology Review 35.3 (2009): 30-37, 66-67, esp. 32.
  • [18] Cf., e.g., Philo, Spec. 4:229; Jos., J.W. 1:99; Ant. 13:390.
  • [19] See Wilhelm Michaelis, “πύργος,” TDNT 6:955.
  • [20] See Michaelis, TDNT 6:953.
  • [21] See Jastrow, 726.
  • [22] Cf., e.g., Philo, Post. 53; Conf. 196; Jos., Ant. 1:114, 115, 117; 10:131; 12:326; 13:16.
  • [23] In Josephus we find other phrases for tower building, such as πύργος + ἐποικοδομεῖν (J.W. 1:344), πύργος + ἀνιστάναι (Ant. 13:390; 14:64, 466) or πύργος + κατασκευάζειν (J.W. 5:37, 292; Ant. 15:424).
  • [24] The verb ψηφίζειν occurs, for example, 11xx in the writings of Philo and 29xx in the writings of Josephus. Likewise, δαπάνη occurs 8xx in the writings of Philo and 26xx in Josephus’ works. According to Moulton-Milligan (136), δαπάνη also occurs frequently in the papyri. Cf. Bovon, 2:390.
  • [25] For τιμή in the sense of “price” in NT, cf. Matt. 27:6, 9; Acts 4:34; 5:2, 3; 19:19; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23. For LXX examples, cf. Gen. 44:2; Exod. 34:20; Num. 20:19; 2 Chr. 1:16; Isa. 55:1.
  • [26] Οὐχί translates לֹא‎ 52xx in LXX: Gen. 18:15; 19:2; 42:10, 12; Lev. 20:23; Num. 16:29; 22:30; 23:19 [2xx]; 24:17; 36:7; Deut. 2:27; 4:26; 5:3; 7:10; 9:5, 6; 11:2; 20:15, 19; 28:56; 32:6, 27, 47; Josh. 24:21; Judg. 15:13; 1 Kgdms. 1:15; 2:16; 8:19; 12:12; 2 Kgdms. 16:18; 24:24; 3 Kgdms. 3:22, 23; 4 Kgdms. 5:26; 6:12; 20:10; 1 Chr. 21:24; Ps. 5:5; 40[41]:9; 77[78]:38; Job 6:30; 15:9; 31:17; Zech. 4:5, 13; Jer. 3:2; 10:23; 20:3; 23:23; 30[49]:31[25]; Ezek. 11:3.
  • [27] Οὐχί translates הַלֹא‎ 86xx in LXX: Gen. 40:8; Num. 12:2; 22:37; 23:12; 24:12; Judg. 4:6; 5:30; 6:13; 8:2; 10:11; 11:24; Ruth 3:2; 1 Kgdms. 6:6; 9:21; 10:1; 12:17; 15:17; 21:12 [2xx]; 29:4; 2 Kgdms. 10:3; 11:3, 10, 21; 13:28; 16:19; 19:14; 3 Kgdms. 1:13; 2:42; 4 Kgdms. 5:12 [2xx], 13; 6:32; 10:34; 13:8, 12; 14:15, 18, 28; 15:36; 16:19; 18:22, 27; 20:20; 21:17; 23:28; 1 Chr. 22:18; 2 Chr. 20:6, 7; 32:11; 2 Esdr. 13:18; Ps. 13[14]:4; 43[44]:22; 52[53]:5; 59[60]:12; 93[94]:9, 10; 107[108]:12; 138[139]:21; Job 7:1; 13:11; 31:3, 4; Amos 5:20; Mic. 1:5; 3:11; Hab. 1:12; 2:6; Mal. 2:10 [2xx]; Isa. 36:12; 42:24; 58:6; Jer. 2:17; 7:19; 14:22; 23:24, 29; 33[26]:19; 45[38]:15; 51[44]:21; Ezek. 17:9; 18:25, 29; 21:5; 24:25.
  • [28] In addition to the examples already cited, questions beginning with מִי and followed up by הֲלֹא are also found in Judg. 9:28, 38; 1 Sam. 17:29; Isa. 42:24; 45:21. Rabbinic examples include:

    מי קרוי איש הלא משה

    Who is called איש (’ish, “man”)? Is it not Moses? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:278])

    אמר ר′ חייא תלמיד הולך לפני רבו בלילה, מי נוטל הפנס הלא התלמיד לפני רבו, אבל הקב″ה נוטל את הפנס לפני ישראל

    Rabbi Hiyya said: “When a disciple is walking before his master at night, who takes the torch? Is not the disciple before his master [with the torch]? But the Holy one, blessed be he, takes the torch before Israel….” (Midrash Tehillim on Ps. 18:29)

    למי הדיין מהפך פניו, הלא לעשיר…. למי הדיין נזקק לשמוע, הלא לעשיר

    To whom does the judge turn his face [i.e., show favor]? Is it not to the wealthy? …To whom is the judge engaged in listening? Is it not to the wealthy? (Midrash Tehillim on Ps. 22:30)

  • [29] Cf. Delitzsch’s translation of Luke 14:28.
  • [30] For examples of יְצִיאָה in the sense of “cost,” cf. m. Maas. Sh. 5:4; m. Bab. Kam. 9:4; m. Bab. Metz. 10:3, 5; t. Bab. Metz. 9:7[16]; 11:3[4].
  • [31] According to Bovon (2:391), “The noun ἀπαρτισμός (‘enterprise’) suggests ‘adjustment’ or ‘finishing touches’ more than ‘completion.'”
  • [32] Ἀπαρτισμός does not occur in LXX, Pseud., Philo or Josephus, and occurs only this once in NT.
  • [33] For a structure similar to our proposed GR, see 1 Cor. 11:22 μὴ γὰρ οἰκίας οὐκ ἔχετε εἰς τὸ ἐσθίειν καὶ πίνειν. Note that we do not find ἔχειν + εἰς + τὸ + infinitive in LXX, Philo or Josephus.
  • [34] According to m. Taan. 1:5, if rain had not fallen by the first of Kislev (November-December), three days of public fasting were held (Monday, Thursday and the following Monday). If no rain fell, a second round of fasting (Monday, Thursday and the following Monday) was held (m. Taan. 1:6). And if there was still no rain, then seven days of fasting commenced (Monday, Thursday [week 1], Monday, Thursday [week 2], Monday, Thursday [week 3] and the following Monday; m. Taan. 1:6). See Hartwig Hirschfeld, “Fasting and Fast-Days” (JE, 5:347-349).
  • [35] Each of the twenty-four priestly divisions would serve one week in the Temple on a rotating basis. Each priestly division was further divided into a Bet Av (“father’s house”) which served on a particular day of that week. See Shmuel Safrai, “The Temple” (Safrai-Stern, 1:870). A special exemption was made for the members of the priestly divisions, and of the Bet Av in particular, because despite the normal cessation of labor during the fast days (cf. m. Taan. 1:6) the Temple service had to continue without interruption.
  • [36] For further examples of הִשְׁלִים in the sense of “to complete,” cf. m. Suk. 2:6; m. Rosh Hash. 4:6; m. Taan. 2:10; 3:9; m. Git. 8:10; m. Naz. 1:7; 2:9; 3:6 (= m. Edu. 4:11); 9:1; m. Kel. 27:7, 8.
  • [37] See Bendavid, 359. In the Mishnah, for example, פֶּן occurs only in biblical quotations (m. Shev. 10:3 [quoting Deut. 15:9]; m. Ned. 3:11 [2xx; quoting 2 Sam. 1:20]; m. Avot 3:8 [2xx; quoting Deut. 4:9]), while שֶׁמָּא, which is unattested in MT and DSS, appears 65xx.
  • [38] θεμέλιον/θεμέλιος = מוֹסָד in Deut. 32:22; 2 Kgdms. 22:8, 16; Ps. 17(18):8, 16; 81(82):5; Prov. 8:29; Mic. 6:2; Isa. 24:18; 40:21; 58:12; Jer. 28(51):26.
  • [39] θεμέλιον/θεμέλιος = אַרְמוֹן in Hos. 8:14; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; Isa. 25:2; Jer. 6:5.
  • [40] θεμέλιον/θεμέλιος = יְסוֹד in Job 22:16; Ps. 136(137):7; Mic. 1:6; Lam. 4:11; Ezek. 13:14; 30:4.
  • [41] In Ps. 104:5 one finds the phrase יָסַד אֶרֶץ עַל מְכוֹנֶיהָ (“he founded the earth upon its foundations”), but this is not laying a foundation but building upon a foundation. The Hebrew noun מָכוֹן does not appear to be a viable option for HR since it is never translated with θεμέλιος in LXX, and מָכוֹן in the sense of “foundation” appears to have fallen into disuse in MH. In DSS מָכוֹן occurs 22xx, but usually means “place” or “dwelling.” In 4Q258 IX, 12 we find the phrase מכון טובי (“Establisher of my well-being”) and in 11QPSa[11Q5] XXVI, 11 we find ואמת ומשפט מכון כסאו (“and truth and justice are the foundation of his throne”; cf. Ps. 89:15). The single instance of מָכוֹן in the Mishnah (m. Sanh. 8:3) also has the meaning “place.” Jastrow (781) does not include “foundation” as a definition for מָכוֹן.
  • [42] See, for example, אָרוּר הָאִישׁ לִפְנֵי יי אֲשֶׁ֤ר יָקוּם וּבָנָה אֶת הָעִיר הַזֹּאת אֶת יְרִיחוֹ בִּבְכֹרוֹ יְיַסְּדֶנָּה (“Cursed is the man before the LORD who shall arise and build this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn will he lay its foundation…”; Josh. 6:26); יְדֵי זְרֻבָּבֶל יִסְּדוּ הַבַּיִת הַזֶּה (“the hands of Zerubbabel will lay the foundation of this house”; Zech. 4:9); וְיִסְּדוּ הַבֹּנִים אֶת הֵיכַל (“the builders lay the foundation of the Temple”; Ezra 3:10).
  • [43] Cf. Jastrow, 1677. Examples of תְּמַלְיוֹס in rabbinic literature include:

    בשעה שבא דוד לחפור תימליוסים של בית המקדש

    In the hour when David came to dig the foundations of the Temple…. (y. Sanh. 10:2 [52b])

    ר′ יהודה אומר האור נברא תחילה, למלך שביקש לבנות פלאטין והיה אותו המקום אפל, מה עשה, הדליק נרות ופנסים לידע היאך הוא קובע תימיליאוס כך האור נברא תחילה

    Rabbi Yehudah says, “The light was created first. [It may be compared] to a king who sought to build a palace, but the place was dark. What did he do? He lit lamps and lanterns in order to know where to lay the foundations. Thus the light was created first. (Gen. Rab. 3:1 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:18-19])

    משל למלך שהיה מבקש לבנות היה חופר ויורד ומבקש ליתן תמליום והיה מוצא בצים של מים וכן במקומות הרבה לא עשה אלא חפר במקום אחר. היה מוצא למטה פטרא אמר כאן אני בונה ונתן תמליום ובנה

    A parable: [To what may the matter be compared?] To a king who was seeking to build. He dug down looking for a place to lay a foundation, but he found only mire. This happened in many places. Finally he found a place where there was bedrock. “Here’s where I’m building and laying a foundation,” he said. (Yalkut Shim‘oni 1.766 to Num. 23:9)

    For a discussion of the passage in Yalkut Shim‘oni 1.766, see David N. Bivin, “Jesus’ Petros-petra Wordplay (Matthew 16:18): Is It Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew?” (JS2, 375-394, esp. 383ff.); idem, “Matthew 16:18: The Petros-petra Wordplay—Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew?” under the subheading “Petra in a Midrash.”

  • [44] Τιθέναι translates נָתַן in the following verses: Gen. 1:17; 9:13; 15:10; 17:2, 5, 6; 40:3; 41:10, 48 [2xx]; 42:30; Exod. 12:7; 26:33, 35; [28:24]; 29:12; 30:6, 18, 36; 40:5, 6, 22; Lev. 10:1; 26:11, 19, 30; Josh. 22:25; 1 Kgdms. 6:8; 9:22; 2 Kgdms. 11:16; 3 Kgdms. 6:27 [Alexandrinus]; 7:25[39]; 4 Kgdms. 5:1 [Alexandrinus]; 2 Chr. 1:15; 3:16 [2xx (1x in Alexandrinus)]; 4:6, 7, 10; 5:10; 6:13; 24:8; 31:6; 32:6; 35:3; 36:7; 2 Esd. 17:71; Job 19:23; 29:2; Ps. 17[18]:33; 32[33]:7; 38[39]:6; 49[50]:20; 68[69]:12; 78[79]:2; 88[89]:28; 104[105]:32; 118[119]:110; 148:6; Eccl. 7:21; Isa. 49:6; Jer. 1:5, 15, 18; 9:10; 28[51]:16; 32[25]:18; 35[28]:14; 39[32]:14; Ezek. 4:1, 3, 6; 5:14; 6:14; 14:3; 16:18, 19, 38; 19:9; 25:13; 28:14; 30:24 [Alexandrinus]; 32:27; 35:9; 37:26; 43:8.
  • [45] Compare Luke 14:26, 27, 33 where Luke, copying Anth., writes οὐ δύναται εἶναί μου μαθητής (see Demands of Discipleship, L10, L14, L19).
  • [46] The two instances where the LXX renders יָכֹל with ἰσχύεινἰσχύειν for “to be able” can be found in Greek writers such as Philo[ref]For examples of ἰσχύειν in the sense “to be able” in the writings of Philo, cf., e.g., Leg. 2:29, 95; 3:6, 13, 27, 206, 242; Sacr. 64.
  • [47] For examples of ἰσχύειν in the sense “to be able” in the writings of Josephus, cf., e.g., Ant. 1:128; 2:86; 3:203, 318; 8:233, 383.
  • [48] Cf. m. Dem. 7:4; m. Tam. 2:2, 3; 6:1.
  • [49] See Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Critical Notes on the VTS” (JS1, 263 n. 12).
  • [50] Ἐμπαίζειν renders צָחַקשָׂחַקשָׂחַק in the Mishnah mean “to play” rather than “to mock,” and it is difficult to determine in which sense the single occurrence of צָחַק in the Mishnah (m. Git. 6:6) ought to be taken. We have therefore preferred הִלְעִיג (hil‘ig, “to mock”) which occurs in MT, DSS and rabbinic literature.[ref]For examples of הִלְעִיג, cf. Ps. 22:8; Job 21:3; Neh. 2:19; 3:33; 1QpHab IV, 2; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 7, on Exod. 15:9. Cf. Jastrow, 713.
  • [51] See Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L21.
  • [52] The Mishnah’s use of ′וגו (an abbreviation of וגומר, equivalent to “etc.” in English) for Scripture quotations considerably inflates the occurrences of גָּמַר in the Mishnah.
  • [53] See Plummer, 365.
  • [54] Cited by Snodgrass, 380.
  • [55] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:197-214.
  • [56] See Dos Santos, 113.
  • [57] Cf., e.g., Exod. 17:10; Num. 22:11; Judg. 1:1, 9; 8:1; 10:9, 18; 11:9, 27, 32; 12:1, 3.
  • [58] Cf., e.g., Deut. 20:1; 21:10; 1 Kgs. 8:44; 11QTa [11Q19] LVIII, 5-6; Semahot 6:10 [46a]; and the parables in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shira Beshallah chpt. 4 [ed. Horovitz, 130-131]; BaHodesh Yitro chpt. 6 [ed. Horovitz, 226].
  • [59] For examples of יָצָא לְמִלְחָמָה עַל, see Deut. 20:1; 21:10; 1 Kgs. 8:44; 2 Chr. 6:34; 11QTa [11Q19] LVIII, 5-6; LXI, 13; LXIII, 10. For exceptions where the preposition is עִם, see Judg. 20:20, 28.
  • [60] Cf., e.g., 1 Macc. 4:34; 2 Macc. 8:23; 14:17; Jos., Ant. 1:175; 2:248; 5:35, 45, 158, 160, 210, 228, 245, 263, 269.
  • [61] In LXX εἰς πόλεμον επί translates לְמִלְחָמָה עַל in Deut. 20:1, 3; 21:10; 1 Kgdms. 8:44; 2 Chr. 6:34; 22:5.
  • [62] Elsewhere in the Synoptic Gospels we find βούλεσθαι (boulesthai, “to desire,” “to plan”) in Matt. 1:19; 11:27 (= Luke 10:22); Mark 15:15; Luke 22:42.
  • [63] Examples of נִמְלָךְ outside the Mishnah include:

    מיד יועצים באחיתופל ונמלכין בסנהדרין ושואלין באורים ותומים

    They at once took counsel with Ahithofel and consulted the Sanhedrin and questioned the Urim and Tummim. (b. Ber. 3b; Soncino)

    כל מה שאני עושה אני נמלך במפיבשת רבי

    In all that I do I consult my teacher, Mephibosheth. (b. Ber 4a; Soncino)

  • [64] The phrase אִם יָכוֹל is found in Gen. 13:16; 15:5; 1 Sam. 17:9; 2 Kgs. 18:23; Isa. 36:8; Job 33:5.
  • [65] The phrase אִם יָכוֹל is found in m. Ber. 3:2, 5; m. Shev. 6:3; m. Ter. 8:9, 10; m. Orl. 1:3 [2xx]; m. Pes. 3:7; m. Bab. Metz. 6:8; m. Sanh. 9:1; m. Avod. Zar. 1:4; m. Men. 3:3; m. Kel. 5:10; 6:3; m. Ohol. 6:2 [3xx]; 18:7; m. Par. 11:1; m. Nid. 7:1; m. Ukz. 3:8 [2xx].
  • [66] For comparison, note the following examples in Hebrew and their LXX translations:

    וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל גִּדְעוֹן בִּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת הָאִישׁ הַמֲלַקְקִים אוֹשִׁיעַ אֶתְכֶם

    καὶ εἶπεν κύριος πρὸς Γεδεων ἐν τοῖς τριακοσίοις ἀνδράσιν τοῖς λάψασιν σώσω ὑμᾶς

    And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men…I will save you.” (Judg. 7:7)

    וְיָרָבְעָם עָרַךְ עִמּוֹ מִלְחָמָה בִּשְׁמוֹנֶה מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף אִישׁ בָּחוּר גִּבּוֹר חָיִל

    καὶ Ιεροβοαμ παρετάξατο πρὸς αὐτὸν πόλεμον ἐν ὀκτακοσίαις χιλιάσιν δυνατοὶ πολεμισταὶ δυνάμεως

    And Jeroboam waged war with him with 800,000 men…. (2 Chr. 13:3)

    וַיֵּצֵא אֲלֵיהֶם זֶרַח הַכּוּשִׁי בְּחַיִל אֶלֶף אֲלָפִים

    καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς Ζαρε ὁ Αἰθίοψ ἐν δυνάμει ἐν χιλίαις χιλιάσιν

    And Zerah the Cushite went out to them with an army of 1,000,000…. (2 Chr. 14:8[9])

    כִּי בְמִצְעַר אֲנָשִׁים בָּאוּ חֵיל אֲרָם

    ὅτι ἐν ὀλίγοις ἀνδράσιν παρεγένετο δύναμις Συρίας

    Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men…. (2 Chr. 24:24; RSV)

    וְיָעֵר כֹּחוֹ וּלְבָבוֹ עַל מֶלֶךְ הַנֶּגֶב בְּחַיִל גָּדוֹל וּמֶלֶךְ הַנֶּגֶב יִתְגָּרֶה לַמִּלְחָמָה בְּחַיִל גָּדוֹל וְעָצוּם עַד מְאֹד

    καὶ ἐγερθήσεται ἡ ἰσχὺς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἡ καρδία αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν βασιλέα Αἰγύπτου ἐν ὄχλῳ πολλῷ καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς Αἰγύπτου ἐρεθισθήσεται εἰς πόλεμον ἐν ὄχλῳ ἰσχυρῷ σφόδρα λίαν

    And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south with a great army; and the king of the south shall wage war with an exceedingly great and mighty army…. (Dan. 11:25; RSV)

  • [67] In NT ὑπαντῆσαι is confined to the Gospels and Acts: Matt. 8:28; 28:9; Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27; 14:31; John 4:51; 11:20, 30; 12:18; Acts 16:16.
  • [68] In LXX the phrase εἰς ὑπάντησιν occurs in Judg. 11:34 (Vaticanus; ἐξεπορεύετο εἰς ὑπάντησιν = יֹצֵאת לִקְרָאתוֹ); 1 Chr. 14:8 (Alexandrinus; καὶ ἐξῆλθεν εἰς ὑπάντησιν = וַיֵּצֵא לִפְנֵיהֶם); Judith 2:6 (Sinaiticus); 1 Macc. 9:39 (Sinaiticus); Prov. 7:15 (Vaticanus; ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν σοι = יָצָאתִי לִקְרָאתֶךָ). See TDNT 3:625.
  • [69] In LXX εἰς συνάντησιν is the translation of לִקְרַאת in Gen. 14:17; 18:2; 19:1; 24:17, 65; 29:13; 30:16; 32:7; 33:4; 46:29; Exod. 4:14, 27; 5:20; 18:7; 19:17; Num. 20:18, 20; 21:33; 22:34, 36; 24:1; 31:13; Deut. 1:44; 2:32; 3:1; 29:6; Josh. 8:5, 14, 22; 9:11; Judg. 6:35; 7:24; 15:14; 1 Kgdms. 17:48; [18:6]; 23:28; 25:20; 3 Kgdms. 18:7, 16; 4 Kgdms. 1:3, 6, 7; 2 Chr. 35:20; Ps. 58:5; Prov. 7:15; Zech. 2:7; Isa. 7:3; 21:14.
  • [70] In LXX εἰς ἀπαντὴν is the translation of לִקְרַאת in Judg. 4:22; 2 Kgdms. 10:5; 2 Kgdms. 15:32; 16:1; 19:16, 17, 21, 25; 3 Kgdms. 2:8, 19; 21:18, 27; 4 Kgdms. 4:26, 31; 5:21; 8:8, 9; 9:18, 21; 10:15; 16:10; 23:29.
  • [71] We encounter the phrase εἰς ὑπάντησιν 3xx in NT: Matt. 8:34 (ἐξῆλθεν εἰς ὑπάντησιν τῷ Ἰησοῦ); Matt. 25:1 (ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου); John 12:13 (ἐξῆλθον εἰς ὑπάντησιν αὐτῷ). According to Michel, “We see here the Sem. trend which characterizes the first and fourth Gospels (cf. Bik., 3,3: יוֹצְאִים לִקְרָאתָם).” See Otto Michel, “καταντάω, ὑπαντάω, ὑπάντησις,” TDNT 3:625.
  • [72] For examples of יָצָא + לִקְרַאת in MT, cf. Num. 21:23 (וַיֶּאֱסֹף סִיחֹן אֶת כָּל עַמּוֹ וַיֵּצֵא לִקְרַאת יִשְׂרָאֵל; “And Sihon gathered his people and went out to meet Israel”); Num. 21:33 (וַיֵּצֵא עֹוג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן לִקְרָאתָם; “And Og, king of Bashan, went out to meet them”); Deut. 2:32 (וַיֵּצֵא סִיחֹן לִקְרָאתֵנוּ; “And Sihon went out to meet us”); Deut. 3:1 (וַיֵּצֵא עֹוג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן לִקְרָאתֵנוּ; “And Og, king of Bashan, went out to meet us”); Deut. 29:6 (וַיֵּצֵא סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבֹּון וְעֹוג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן לִקְרָאתֵנוּ; “and Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, went out to meet us”); Josh. 8:14 (וַיֵּצְאוּ אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר לִקְרַאת יִשְׂרָאֵל; “And the men of the city went out to meet Israel”); 1 Sam. 4:1 (וַיֵּצֵא יִשְׂרָאֵל לִקְרַאת פְּלִשְׁתִּים; “And Israel went out to meet the Philistines”); 2 Sam. 18:6 (וַיֵּצֵא הָעָם הַשָּׂדֶה לִקְרַאת יִשְׂרָאֵל; “And the people of the field went out to meet Israel”). Note that many of the examples of יָצָא + לִקְרַאת in MT appear in the context of going out to battle.

    Examples of יָצָא + לִקְרַאת in rabbinic literature include:

    הַפַּחוֹת וְהַסְּגָנִים וְהַגִּיזְבָּרִים יוֹצְאִין לִקְרָאתָם

    The rulers and prefects and the treasurers of the Temple went forth to meet them. (m. Bik. 3:3; Danby)

    מעמיד אמהות מבחוץ והן גועות והבנים יוצאין לקראתן

    They put the cows outside and they low, and the calves go out to meet them. (t. Bech. 7:7[10])

    נתעטף ויצא לקראתו

    He [Hillel] wrapped himself in a cloak and went out to meet him (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 15 [ed. Schechter, 60])

    יצאו אנשי העיר לקראתו

    The men of the city went out to meet him. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 41 [ed. Schechter, 131])

    באותה שעה נאמר לאהרן לך לקראת משה המדברה וגו’ יצא לקראתו

    At the same time Aaron was told Go into the wilderness to meet Moses [Exod. 4:27], he went out to meet him…. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3, on Exod. 18:2)

    ומשה להיכן הלך והלא מתחלה יצא לקראתו שנא’ ויצא משה לקראת חותנו

    As for Moses, where did he go? Was he not first to go out to meet him, as it is said: And Moses went out to meet his father-in-law [Exod. 18:7]? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3, on Exod. 18:12)

  • [73] Εἰ δὲ μή γε occurs 2xx in Matthew (Matt. 6:1; 9:17), 5xx in Luke (Luke 5:36, 37; 10:6; 13:9; 14:32) and 1x in the rest of the NT (2 Cor. 11:16). The phrase appears 2xx in LXX (Dan. 3:15; Bel. 8), 1x in Pseud., 1x in Philo and 0xx in Jos. On this phrase, see Moulton-Milligan, 122.
  • [74] Another example of אִם יָכוֹל paired with אִם לָאו is found in a baraita in b. Bab. Bat. 133b-134a. Jastrow (685) notes that וְאִם לָאו is the opposite of אִם יֵשׁ (cf. HR, L4). On the use of אִם לָאו in MH, see Segal, 230.
  • [75] The combination בְּעוֹד + pronominal suffix occurs in Gen. 25:6; Deut. 31:27; Isa. 28:4; Ps. 104:33; 146:2.
  • [76] In LXX ἔτι translates בְּעוֹד + pronominal suffix in Gen. 25:6 and Deut. 31:27.
  • [77] Both instances of πρεσβεία in NT occur in Luke (Luke 14:32; 19:14). The single occurrence of πρεσβεία in LXX appears in 2 Macc. 4:11, a Greek composition. Πρεσβεία occurs 3xx in Pseud. (2xx in Let. Aris.; 1x in Hist. Jos.), 9xx in Philo and 29xx in Jos., all original Greek compositions.
  • [78] In this example, LXX has some interesting points of difference from MT. Moses is mentioned instead of Israel, and “words of peace” do not appear in the Hebrew text. Does LXX represent a different vorlage, or were these changes introduced intentionally by the LXX translator(s) in order to make the story in Num. 21 conform to the commandment in Deut. 20:10?
  • [79] Anti-Roman sentiment can be identified in a number of Second Temple period sources. For example, the DSS anticipate the defeat of the Kittim (= Rome) (4QpNah [4Q169]; 1QpHab; 1QM I, 9-15; XV-XIX), the people in Nazareth rejected Jesus’ message (Luke 4:16-30) because his message of salvation omitted any reference to vengeance against Israel’s enemies (= Rome), and Josephus reports a succession of false prophets and messianic pretenders who attracted popular support on the basis of their anti-Roman message (J.W. 2:55-65 [cf. Ant. 17:271-285], 118 [cf. Ant. 18:4-6], 258-263 [cf. Ant. 20:167-172]). On anti-Roman sentiment in DSS, see Brian Schultz, “Not Greeks But Romans: Changing Expectations for the Eschatological War in the War Texts From Qumran,” in The Jewish Revolt against Rome: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (ed. Mladen Popović; Leiden: Brill, 2011), 107-127. On the popular anti-Roman sentiment espoused by those attending the synagogue in Nazareth, see R. Steven Notley, “First-century Jewish Use of Scripture: Evidence from the Life of Jesus.” On Josephus’ reports of anti-Roman prophets, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “Temple and Desert: On Religion and State in Second Temple Period Judea,” in Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1992), 29-43. On Jesus’ anti-war stance, see David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,” under the subheading “Solidarity With Israel”; R. Steven Notley, “‘Give unto Caesar’: Jesus, the Zealots and the Imago Dei”; David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Political Aspect.”
  • [80] Notice that, in his paraphrase of Deut. 20:10, πρεσβεία might have been suggested to Josephus by the LXX examples of πρέσβεις in Num. 21:21 and Deut. 2:26, verses that are similar to the situation Deut. 20:10 describes.
  • [81] See H. St. J. Thackeray, “A Study in the Parable of the Two Kings,” Journal of Theological Studies 14 (1913): 390.
  • [82] Cited by Fitzmyer (2:1006).
  • [83] Examples of שָׁאַל לְשָׁלוֹם are found in Gen. 43:27; Exod. 18:17; Judg. 18:5; 1 Sam. 10:4; 17;22; 25:5; 30:21; 2 Sam. 8:10; 11:17; Jer. 15:5; 1 Chr. 18:10.
  • [84] For examples of שָׁאַל בְּשָׁלוֹם, cf., e.g., m. Ber. 5:1; m. Shev. 4:3; 5:9; m. Git. 5:9; m. Bik. 3:3; m. Sanh. 6:6.
  • [85] Note that εἰς can be the translation of the preposition -בְּ just as easily as of -ְל. For example, we suppose that in the phrase ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν γενόμενα εἰς τὴν Καφαρναοὺμ (“what we have heard you did in Capernaum”; Luke 4:23), εἰς would be reconstructed in Hebrew with -בְּ.
  • [86] See Thomas Verner Moore, “The Tower-builder and the King,” The Expositor 8.7 (1914): 519-537; W. Manson, 175; Jarvis, “Expounding the Parables.”
  • [87] See Moore, “Tower-builder and the King,” 532.
  • [88] Thackeray, “Study in the Parable of the Two Kings,” 389-399.
  • [89] Thackeray wrote that, “The insertion of τὰ was a slight accommodation of the Hebraism to Greek syntax” (“Study in the Parable of the Two Kings,” 392).

Comments 10

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  8. Great article! Will it be possible to say that this reflect the general mindset of many Jews during the time of Jesus? Many were following and looking for a Rabbi who could teach and intemperate the Torah as best possible ensuring keeping the mitzvot according to God ‘s requirement in order for the kingdom of God to return? In what way was Jesus’s requirements different from those of other rabbis?

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David N. Bivin

David N. Bivin
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David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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Joshua N. Tilton

Joshua N. Tilton

Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
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