Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”

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Yeshua told his twelve emissaries: “There’s a huge harvest, but a shortage of harvesters. So send word to the owner of the field to hire more workers to help them finish the job. “Go! But beware, I’m sending you out like a defenseless flock into a pack of ravenous wolves.”

Matt. 9:37-38; 10:16a; Luke 10:2-3

(Huck 58, 139; Aland 98-99, 177; Crook 102, 197-198)[1]

Revised: 2 November 2021

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם הַקָּצִיר מְרֻבֶּה וְהַפֹּעֲלִים מְמֻעָטִים בַּקְּשׁוּ מִבַּעַל הַקָּצִיר שֶׁיּוֹצִיא פֹּעֲלִים לִקְצִירוֹ לְכוּ הֲרֵינִי שׁוֹלֵחַ אֶתְכֶם כַּצֹּאן לְתוֹךְ זְאֵבִים

Yeshua told his twelve emissaries: “There’s a huge harvest, but a shortage of harvesters. So send word to the owner of the field to hire more workers to help them finish the job.

“Go! But beware, I’m sending you out like a defenseless flock into a pack of ravenous wolves.[2]







To view the reconstructed text of Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” click on the link below:

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“Mission of the Twelve” complex
Choosing the Twelve

Sending the Twelve: Commissioning

Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is
Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”

Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road

Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town

Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender

Story Placement

“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are unique to Luke and Matthew. Both Matthew and Luke agreed to include these sayings within the context of the mission of the Twelve (Matthew) or the Seventy-Two (Luke). Nevertheless, Matthew and Luke placed “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings at different points in their Sending discourses. In Luke, the two sayings appear consecutively and serve as the introduction to Jesus’ instructions to the apostles. Matthew, on the other hand, presents these sayings separately, placing “The Harvest Is Plentiful” prior to the apostles’ commissioning, and making “A Flock Among Wolves” introduce predictions of persecution—material that Luke does not include in his Sending discourse.

In Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, we found that the author of Matthew extensively edited his sources, rearranging material and incorporating pericopae from contexts other than the apostles’ mission, in order to make the Sending the Twelve the second major discourse of his Gospel.[3] Such intense editorial activity on the part of the author of Matthew in the Sending discourse calls into question his placement of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings in Matt. 9 and 10, whereas the placement of these sayings in Luke 10 makes good sense.[4] Having been commissioned to drive out impure spirits, heal diseases, and proclaim the restoration of Israel through the inbreaking of God’s reign, the apostles must have been impressed with the enormity of the task. Could a mere handful of emissaries accomplish such an ambitious goal? Jesus acknowledged these concerns with “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. “The workers are, indeed, few, but don’t let that discourage you. Ask God for more helpers, and in the meantime get on with the task he’s given you.”[5]

Some scholars, however, prefer Matthew’s placement of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying, which makes the apostles’ mission a response to the prayer for more harvesters.[6] These scholars have been influenced by the literary skill the author of Matthew demonstrated in his rearrangement of materials, but they overlook the fact that the details of “The Harvest is Plentiful” saying are not well suited to Matthew’s placement, since until the apostles were commissioned the workers were not few, they were non-existent. In Luke’s arrangement, the details of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying match the apostles’ situation: like harvesters who need extra help to bring in the crop, the apostles could not complete their task on their own. It is precisely because they confronted the impossibility of their assignment that they were compelled to ask for help.

We also regard Matthew’s placement of “A Flock Among Wolves” as secondary.[7] In Matthew, “A Flock Among Wolves” is spliced together with the warning to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16b), but aside from the zoological imagery, the connection between these two sayings is unclear. Since Luke omits the “Serpents and Doves” saying, it is unlikely that the two sayings appeared together in a pre-synoptic source.[8] For Matthew, “A Flock Among Wolves” sets the tone for the persecution predictions he imported into the Sending discourse from other contexts, but precisely how the apostles will be like sheep among wolves is not spelled out. In Luke, on the other hand, there is a clear point of comparison between the situation of the sheep and that of the apostles: just as sheep have no natural defenses from predators, so the apostles were to go on their mission without provision or protection of their own. For their sustenance the apostles were to rely on the hospitality of those who received them (Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town), and the apostles were to rely on God for their protection from dangerous animals, bandits, and perhaps from unfriendly local authorities (Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L66).

For our reconstruction of the “Mission of the Twelve” complex, we have adopted Luke’s placement of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings at the opening of Jesus’ instructions to the apostles. To see an overview of the entire “Mission of the Twelve” complex, click here.

Click here to view the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. __________________________________________________________________

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Anth-Luke-MattObserving that there are two types of Double Tradition pericopae—those in which there is a high degree of verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke, and those that are characterized by verbal disparity between them—Robert Lindsey hypothesized that Matthew and Luke copied the DT pericopae with high verbal identity from the same source, which he referred to as the Anthology (Anth.). To account for the DT pericopae characterized by high verbal disparity, Lindsey theorized that Luke used a second pre-synoptic source not used by or known to Matthew, which Lindsey described as a paraphrased epitome of Anth.[9] This source, which Lindsey referred to as the First Reconstruction (FR), often polished the Greek style of the Anthology’s highly Hebraic text. Since “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are nearly identical in Luke and Matthew, it is likely that both Matthew and Luke copied them directly from Anth. The few differences that do appear are more likely due to the editorial activity of the authors of Matthew and Luke themselves rather than their use of different sources.

A version of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying is found in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas (logion 73).[10] It is also possible that the extended harvest metaphor in John 4:35-38 is based on, or was influenced by, “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying.[11]

Crucial Issues

  1. What is the harvest to which Jesus refers?
  2. Who is the lord of the harvest?
  3. In what way were the apostles comparable to sheep?
  4. Who was being compared to wolves? And why?


L40-41 The introductions to “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying in Matthew and Luke were probably penned by the authors of their respective Gospels. The τότε (tote, “then”) in Matt. 9:37 is characteristic of Matthew’s style,[12] the historical present (λέγει; legei, “he says”) is un-Hebraic,[13] and addressing the saying to the disciples rather than to the apostles is a typically Matthean move.[14] Likewise, ἔλεγεν δέ (elegen de, “and he was saying”) in Luke 10:2 is un-Hebraic[15] and characteristic of Luke’s style.[16]

καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς (GR). The two likeliest Greek reconstructions for L40-41 are εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς and καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς. The former option assumes a minimal amount of editing by Luke; the latter represents a wooden translation-Greek style. Although the combination εἶπεν δέ + πρός is well attested in LXX[17] as the translation of וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל, or less often of -וַיֹּאמֶר לְ (Esth. 4:10; 9:12), examples in LXX of καὶ εἶπεν + πρός as the translation of -וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל/לְ are much more numerous.[18] Since we believe Anth. generally preserved a highly literal translation-style Greek, we have adopted the latter option for GR.[19] The exact phrase καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς occurs in LXX as the translation of וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם/אֲלֵהֶם over 40xx,[20] however, we have favored וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם for HR, since this is closer to late biblical and MH style.[21]

“The Harvest Is Plentiful”

L42-47 A saying with strikingly similar content and vocabulary to Matt. 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2 is found in the Mishnah:[22]

ר′ טַרְפוֹן אוֹ′ הַיּוֹם קָצָר וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְּרוּבָּה וְהַפּוֹעֲלִים עֲצֵלִים וְהַשָּׂכָר הַרְבֵּה וּבַעַל הַבַּיִת דּוֹחֵק

Rabbi Tarfon[23] says, “The day is short and the work is plentiful and the workers are lazy but the pay is great and the landlord is urgent.” (m. Avot 2:15)

The similarity between the sayings of Jesus and Rabbi Tarfon suggests that both sages drew on a common stock of proverbial images. Flusser believed that both Jesus and Rabbi Tarfon were influenced by Hippocrates’ famous aphorism:

Ὁ βίος βραχύς, ἡ δὲ τέχνη μακρή, ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὀξύς, ἡ δε πεῖρα σφαλερή, ἡ δὲ κρίσις χαλεπή.

Life is short, the Art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult. (Hippocrates, Aphorisms 1:1; Loeb)[24]

If Flusser is correct, then an important point of contact between the sayings of Jesus and Rabbi Tarfon is the harvest imagery, which is absent in Hippocrates’ aphorism.

Sheaves of wheat gathered from the harvest. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sheaves of wheat gathered from the harvest. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels caution against interpreting Jesus’ saying in exclusively eschatological terms, since neither Hippocrates’ aphorism nor Rabbi Tarfon’s saying are eschatologically oriented. Hippocrates’ aphorism concerns the day-to-day responsibilities of the physician, while Rabbi Tarfon’s saying probably pertains to the professional duties of the Jewish sage, in other words, to Torah study.[25] Likewise, the primary reference in Jesus’ saying is to the apostles’ responsibility to proclaim Jesus’ message to the Jewish inhabitants of the Galilean and Judean towns Jesus intended to visit.[26] Although there may be an eschatological aspect to Jesus’ saying,[27] comparison with Hippocrates’ aphorism and Rabbi Tarfon’s saying shows that the temporal aspect is much less prominent in Jesus’ saying. Whereas shortage of time is explicitly stated as a cause for urgency in the Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels, in Jesus’ saying the cause for urgency is a shortage of workers.[28] Unlike the Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels, shortage of time is only implicit in Jesus’ saying. If Jesus was aware of Hellenistic or Jewish parallels, then he consciously downplayed the temporal aspect in his version of the saying. Thus, not only the similarities between Jesus’ saying and Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels, but also the differences indicate that the eschatological aspect of Jesus’ saying should not be exaggerated.

Comparison with Rabbi Tarfon’s saying clarifies the interpretation of Jesus’ saying in another important way. Some scholars, usually basing their interpretation of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying on a faulty interpretation of the verb ἐκβάλλειν (see below, Comment to L46), detect in Jesus’ saying a reluctance on the part of the workers to bring in the harvest.[29] While unwilling workers who have to be urged on by the landlord are a problem in Rabbi Tarfon’s version, in Jesus’ saying it is the workers who take the initiative and petition a distracted or oblivious landlord.[30] The problem in Jesus’ saying is not the workers, who are overwhelmed by the increased workload at harvest time, but the landlord who neglected to hire extra help to bring in the crop. Jesus’ saying exemplifies the audacious style of prayer he advocated elsewhere (cf. Friend in Need simile [Luke 11:5-8]; Persistent Widow parable [Luke 18:1-8]), which also characterized the charismatic Hasidim (cf. m. Taan. 3:8; b. Ber. 34b).[31]

L42 הַקָּצִיר מְרֻבֶּה (HR). In Rabbi Tarfon’s saying it is the day that is short (קָצָר; qātzār) and the work that is in large supply (מְּרוּבָּה; merūbāh). Jesus’ saying conflates the two ideas: it is the harvest (קָצִיר; qātzir) that is abundant (מְרֻבֶּה; merubeh).

In LXX θερισμός (therismos, “harvest”) is almost always the translation of קָצִיר‎.[32] Moreover, קָצִיר‎ was translated more often with θερισμός than any other Greek synonym.[33]

Our choice of מְרֻבֶּה as the equivalent of πολύς (polūs, “much”) was guided by the rabbinic parallel in m. Avot 2:15. The adjective מְרֻבֶּה does not occur in BH, Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira, or DSS, but it is common in the Mishnah and later rabbinic literature. HR reflects our preference to reconstruct direct discourse in MH style.[34]

We have omitted an equivalent for μέν (men, “indeed”) from HR despite its presence in both the Lukan and Matthean versions of Jesus’ saying. Of the 218 instances of μέν in LXX, only 56 occur in books included in MT. Even with respect to those 56 instances, it is usually impossible to identify a word in the Hebrew text that corresponds to μέν.[35] Rather than reflecting a word in the Hebrew text, the LXX translators supplied μέν in places where it was felt to be necessary in Greek. In a similar fashion, μέν was probably supplied by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, retained by the Anthologizer (the creator of Anth.), and subsequently copied by the authors of Luke and Matthew, hence our inclusion of μέν in GR.

L43 וְהַפֹּעֲלִים מְמֻעָטִים (HR). The noun ἐργάτης (ergatēs, “worker”) refers to a wage laborer who works in construction (cf. Jos., Ant. 8:58; 15:390), agriculture (cf. James 5:4; Philo, Sacr. 51; Det. 108; Agr. 5, 22; Jos., Ant. 12:194), or some other trade (cf. Jos., J.W. 4:480, 557).[36] In LXX ἐργάτης is quite rare, occurring 4xx in books not included in MT (1 Macc. 3:6; Wis. 17:16; Sir. 19:1; 40:18). In the sole instance where ἐργάτης translates a Hebrew word in the underlying text, that word is פּוֹעֵל (pō‘ēl, “hired worker”; Sir. 19:1), the word we have used in HR. The word פּוֹעֵל does not occur in the sense of hired worker in MT,[37] but it is well attested in the Mishnah and in later rabbinic literature.[38]

In LXX ὀλίγος (oligos, “small,” “few”) is frequently the translation of מְעַט (me‘aṭ, “a little,” “a few”).[39] Our reconstruction of ὀλίγος with מְמֻעָט (memu‘āṭ, “few”) is based on our observations that מְעַט is quite rare in the Mishnah,[40] and that in the Mishnah מְמוּעָט is frequently paired with מְרוּבֶּה, as we see in the following examples:

מִי שֶׁיֶּשׁ לוֹ אֳוכָלִים מְרוּבִּים וּנְכָסִים מְמוּעָטִים מֵבִיא שְׁלָמִים [מִרוּבִין] וְעוֹלוֹת מְמוּעָט<וֹת> אֳוכְלִים מְמוּעָטִים וּנְכָסִים מְרוּבִּים מֵבִיא עוֹלוֹת מְרוּבּוֹת וּשְׁלָמִים מְמוּעָטִים

The one who has many [people] who will eat [with him] but [who owns] few possessions brings many peace offerings and few whole burnt offerings.[41] [The one who has] few [people] who will eat [with him] but many possessions brings many whole burnt offerings and few peace offerings.[42] (m. Hag. 1:5)

הִלְכוֹת שַׁבָּת וַחֲגִיגוֹת וּמְעִילוֹת כַּהֲרָרִים תְּלוּיִם בִּסְעָרָה מִקְרָא מְמוּעָט וַהֲלָכוֹת [מְרוּבּוֹת]‏

The rulings concerning Sabbath, holiday offerings, and sacrilege are like mountains that hang in the air by a hair: the Scriptures say little but the rulings are many. (m. Hag. 1:8)

מִי שֶׁמֵּת [[וְ]]הִנִּיַח בָּנִים וּבָנוֹת בִּזְמָן שֶׁהַנְּכָסִין מְרוּבִּין הַבָּנִים יִרָשׁוּ וְהַבָּנוֹת יִזּוֹנוּ בִּזְמַן שֶׁהַנְּכָסִין מְמוּעָטִין הַבָּנוֹת יִזּוֹנוּ וְהַבָּנִים יִשְׁאֲלוּ עַל הַפְּתָחִים

The one who dies and leaves behind sons and daughters: when his possessions are many the sons inherit and the daughters receive maintenance. When his possessions are few the daughters receive maintenance and the sons beg at the gates. (m. Bab. Bat. 9:1)

וְכָל שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו מְרוּבִּין מֵחָ{ו}כְמָתוֹ לְמָה הוּא דוֹמֶה לְאִילָן שֶׁנּוֹפוֹ מְמוּעָט וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מְרוּבִּים אֲפִלּוּ כָל הָרוּחוֹת בָּאוֹת עָלָיו אֵין מְזִיזוֹ<ת> אוֹתוֹ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ

And everyone whose deeds are more plentiful than his wisdom, to what may he be compared? To a tree whose branches are few and whose roots are many: even when all the winds come against it they cannot move it from its place. (m. Avot 3:17[18])

יֵשׁ גֶּפֶן שֶׁיֵּינָהּ מְרוּבֶּה יֵשׁ גֶּפֶן שֶׁיֵּינָהּ מְמוּעַט

There are vines that produce much wine and vines that produce little. (m. Nid. 9:11)[43]

An important exegetical principle laid down by Rabbi Akiva also exemplifies the pairing of מְמוּעָט with מְרוּבֶּה:

א″ר עקיבה כל ששמועו מרובה ושמועו ממועט תפשתה המרובה לא תפשת תפשת את הממועט תפשת

Rabbi Akiva said, “In every instance where the meaning [of a scriptural text—DNB and JNT] could either refer to a large or a small quantity, if you grasp at the larger amount you have grasped nothing, but if you grasp at the smaller amount [i.e., the minimum amount the meaning of the text allows—DNB and JNT] then you have something to hold on to. (y. Yom. 2:4 [13a])[44]

L44 δεήθητε οὖν (GR). Whether οὖν (oun, “therefore”) should be retained in GR is not in doubt, since this conjunction appears in both the Lukan and the Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful.” Nevertheless, as we will discuss below, we think it is unlikely that οὖν represented a word such as לְפִיכָךְ (lefichāch, “therefore”) in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text. It is more likely that οὖν was supplied by the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, retained by the Anthologizer, and subsequently copied by the authors of Luke and Matthew.

בַּקְּשׁוּ (HR). In a survey of all the instances of imperative + οὖν in LXX we found that most occur as the translation of a simple imperative,[45] while others occur as the translation of imperative + נָא.[46] Since נָא (nā’, “please”) became obsolete in MH, and since in so many instances of imperative + οὖν the conjunction has no Hebrew equivalent, it is preferable to suppose that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua supplied οὖν in L44 than to attempt to reconstruct οὖν as לְפִיכָךְ.[47]

The verb δεῖσθαι (deisthai, “to ask,” “to pray”) is typically Lukan.[48] In this instance, however, δεῖσθαι undoubtedly comes from a pre-synoptic source since it occurs in both the Lukan and the Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. In LXX δεῖσθαι is the standard translation of הִתְחַנֵּן (hitḥanēn, “plead,” “request”).[49] In MH the verb הִתְחַנֵּן in the sense of “plead” is rare, but it is attested, as in the following examples:

והיו מתחננין לאספקלטור זה אמר [לו] אני כהן בן כהן גדול הרגני תחלה ואל אראה במיתת חבירי

And they were pleading with the executioner, and he [Rabbi Ishmael—DNB and JNT] said to him, “I am a priest, the son of a high priest. Kill me first that I may not see the death of my friend.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 38:3 [ed. Schechter, 114])

וישלך אל המים אחרים אומרים היו ישראל מתחננין ומתגדרים לפני אביהן שבשמים כבן שהוא מתחנן לפני אביו וכתלמיד שהוא מתגדר לפני רבו ואומרים לפניו רבונו של עולם חטאנו לפניך שנתרעמנו על הים

And he cast it into the water [Exod. 15:25]. Others say, Israel was pleading and beseeching before their father in heaven like a son who pleads before his father and like a disciple who humbles himself before his teacher, and they were saying before him, “Master of the universe, we have sinned before you in that we complained about the water.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:227])

Reconstructing with הִתְחַנֵּן is attractive not only because it was usually translated with δεῖσθαι in LXX, but the forcefulness of הִתְחַנֵּן, meaning “plead” or “beseech,” suits the urgency of the situation in “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. Grammatical considerations, however, prevent us from adopting הִתְחַנֵּן in HR. Typically הִתְחַנֵּן is used in a descriptive sense without a purpose clause, for example:

וָאֶתְחַנַּן אֶל יי בָּעֵת הַהִוא לֵאמֹר

And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying…. (Deut. 3:23)

וְשָׁבוּ וְהִתְחַנְּנוּ אֵלֶיךָ בְּאֶרֶץ שֹׁבֵיהֶם לֵאמֹר

…and they repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying…. (1 Kgs. 8:47; cf. 2 Chr. 6:37)

וַיָּבֹא שַׂר הַחֲמִשִּׁים הַשְּׁלִישִׁי וַיִּכְרַע עַל בִּרְכָּיו לְנֶגֶד אֵלִיָּהוּ וַיִּתְחַנֵּן אֵלָיו וַיְדַבֵּר אֵלָיו אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים תִּיקַר נָא נַפְשִׁי…בְּעֵינֶיךָ

And the third commander of fifty men came and knelt opposite Elijah and he pleaded with him and said to him, “O man of God, let my life be valuable…in your eyes….” (2 Kgs. 1:13)

We have found only one example where הִתְחַנֵּן is used with a purpose clause, and there it is expressed with an infinitive:

וַתִּתְחַנֶּן לוֹ לְהַעֲבִיר אֶת רָעַת הָמָן הָאֲגָגִי וְאֵת מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר חָשַׁב עַל הַיְּהוּדִים

…and she pleaded with him to avert the evil of Haman the Agagite and his intentions that he devised against the Jews. (Esth. 8:3)

As we will explain below (see Comment to L46), we believe ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ should be reconstructed as שֶׁיּוֹצִיא rather than with an infinitive. Reconstructing δεῖσθαι with הִתְחַנֵּן is, therefore, unlikely. We have instead opted for בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek,” “request”) for HR.[50] As we will demonstrate below (Comment to L46), there are grammatical parallels to our reconstruction with בִּקֵּשׁ in rabbinic literature. We also note that בִּקֵּשׁ can mean “ask” or it can be used in the more forceful sense of “demand.”

L45 מִבַּעַל הַקָּצִיר (HR). The verb בִּקֵּשׁ usually takes the preposition מִן (min, “from”). What is unusual is the construct phrase בַּעַל הַקָּצִיר (ba‘al haqātzir, “the owner of the harvest”), for which we can find no parallel in MT, Ben Sira, DSS or rabbinic literature. The closest approximations are בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה (ba‘al hasādeh, “the owner of the field”), which occurs in two passages in the Mishnah (m. Peah 3:5 [2xx]; m. Bab. Kam. 6:3 [2xx]), and the more common בַּעַל הַבַּיִת (ba‘al habayit, “the owner of the house”), which is the term usually used for the landowner who hires workers (m. Peah 5:7; m. Avot 2:15; cf. the pairing of οἰκοδεσπότης with ἐργάτης in Matt. 20:1). Since Luke and Matthew both have τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ (“the lord of the harvest”), this must have been the phrase that appeared in their pre-synoptic source, and since we believe the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text translated in a literal style, we have reconstructed with בַּעַל הַקָּצִיר, despite its lack of precedent in Hebrew sources.

L46 ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας (GR). We have preferred Matthew’s more Hebraic word order, ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας, over Luke’s ἐργάτας ἐκβάλῃ for GR.[51] The author of Luke was himself responsible for the improved Greek word order, since both the Lukan and Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying were copied directly from Anth. The change might not even have been a conscious decision on the part of Luke.

שֶׁיּוֹצִיא פֹּעֲלִים (HR). In an unpublished essay Lindsey explained:

Because both βάλλειν (ballein) and ἐκβάλλειν (ekballein) in Classical Greek and LXX usage have the intensive sense of “throw” and “cast out,” it has been common to suppose that [in the Gospels] each of these verbs retains the older, more vigorous, suggestion of violence…. In the non-literary papyri, however, it is clear that βάλλειν no longer carries in our period the intensive sense it once had, at least not always.[52] Very often in the Gospels βάλλειν means not “to cast” or “to throw” but simply “to put,” or “to place.” An even greater weakening of meaning can be seen in ἐκβάλλειν in the NT. This verb is used only four times in the NT outside the Gospels and Acts. One of these speaks of the harlot Rahab’s leading out of the spies (James 2:25) and another shows the meaning “omit,” “leave out” (Rev. 11:2). …[In the Gospels] we find the good Samaritan “taking two dinars” out of his pocket (ἐκβαλὼν ἔδωκεν δύο δηνάρια; Luke 10:35), or the disciples commanded to “take out” the beam in their eye (ἔκβαλε…ἐκ τοῦ ὀφθαλμοῦ σοῦ τὴν δοκόν; Matt. 7:5) or the command to pray that God will “send out laborers into his harvest” (ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμόν; Matt. 9:38; cf. Luke 10:2). [This use of] ἐκβάλλειν exactly corresponds to the Hebrew verb הוֹצִיא.

For over a century scholars have been aware of the weakened sense of ἐκβάλλειν in Koine Greek that Lindsey refers to in this excerpt.[53] Moulton and Milligan supply an excellent example from a first-century papyrus:

ἐκβάλετε εἰς τὰ χώματα [τοῦ Πατεμίτου] Ἄνωι ὑδροφύλακας

Send out irrigation-guards on to the banks of the Upper Patemite district. (Moulton-Milligan, 191)

In the above example ἐκβάλλειν is used for “to send out” in precisely the same way as in “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying. Nevertheless, some commentators persist in detecting an element of compulsion or coercion on the part of the lord of the harvest in Jesus’ saying.[54] The evidence from Greek sources ought to be enough to convince commentators to abandon this discredited interpretation. The hypothesis that Jesus delivered “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying in Hebrew further undermines the erroneous interpretation of ἐκβάλλειν as proof of compulsion. If ἐκβάλλειν is the translation of הוֹצִיא, as Lindsey suggested, it is clear that Jesus simply used the normal expression for sending out laborers into the fields, as a rabbinic parallel cited by Davies-Allison (2:149) shows:

הַמּוֹצִיא פוֹעֲלָיו לַשָּׂדֶה בִּזְמַן שֶׁ<יֵּשׁ> לָהֶם עָלָיו מְזוֹנוֹת אוֹכְלִים פְּטוּרִין

The one who sends out his workers to the field on condition that he must provide them with food: they eat [from the harvest] and are exempt [from tithes]…. (m. Maas. 3:2)

A similar example is found in the Tosefta:

המוציא את פועליו לשדהו אין רשאי להאכילן אלא אם כן עישר

The one who sends out his workers to the field is not entitled to feed them [from the harvest] unless he tithes [the produce]…. (t. Maas. 2:11[10])

Likewise, in a baraita we find:

תנא בן בית שאמרו לא שנכנס ויוצא ברגליו אלא מכניס לו פועלין ומוציא לו פועלין

It was taught [in a baraita]: The “son of the household” that they spoke of is not one who enters and exits on his feet, but one who brings in workers for him and send workers out for him…. (b. Shevu. 48b)

Although in LXX ἐκβάλλειν usually translates the root ג-ר-ש, there are four instances in LXX where ἐκβάλλειν is the translation of הוֹצִיא‎ (2 Chr. 23:14; 29:5, 16; 2 Esd. 10:3).[55] In support of our reconstruction of ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ as שֶׁיּוֹצִיא, we note that ὅπως (hopōs, “so that”) is the translation of אֲשֶׁר (asher, “that,” “which”) 13xx in LXX.[56] In three instances ὅπως + subjunctive (the same pattern as ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ) is the translation of אֲשֶׁר + imperfect:

וְאַשְׁמִעֵם אֶת דְּבָרָי אֲשֶׁר יִלְמְדוּן לְיִרְאָה אֹתִי

καὶ ἀκουσάτωσαν τὰ ῥήματά μου, ὅπως μάθωσιν φοβεῖσθαί με

…and I will cause them to hear my words so that they will learn and fear me…. (Deut. 4:10)

וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ

καὶ φύλαξαι ποιεῖν, ὅπως εὖ σοι ᾖ

…and be careful to do them so that it will be well for you…. (Deut. 6:3)

וַתִּשְׁאַל לְךָ חָכְמָה וּמַדָּע אֲשֶׁר תַּשְׁפּוֹט אֶת עַמִּי

καὶ ᾔτησας σεαυτῷ σοφίαν καὶ σύνεσιν, ὅπως κρίνῃς τὸν λαόν μου

…but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge so that you may judge my people…. (2 Chr. 1:11)

Finally, in support of our reconstruction, we cite examples from rabbinic literature in which בִּקֵּשׁ is found in combination with -שֶׁ (the MH equivalent of אֲשֶׁר)‎[57] plus an imperfect verb in the sense of “request of X that he/she do Y”:

יְבָמָה שֶׁאָמְרָה בְתוֹךְ שְׁלוֹשִׁים יוֹם לֹא נִבְעַלְתִּי כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ אַחַר שְׁלוֹשִׁים יוֹם מְבַקְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָּהּ

If during thirty days a widow of one’s brother who died childless said, “[My brother-in-law] has not married me [according to the law of levirate marriage],” they compel him to perform the rite of halitzah for her. If it is after thirty days, they request of him that he will perform the rite of halitzah for her. (m. Yev. 13:12)

הַנּוֹדֶרֶת הֲנָיָיה מִיבָמָהּ בְּחַיֵּי בַעָלָהּ כּוֹפִין אוֹתוֹ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ אַחַר מִיתַת בַּעְלָהּ מְבַקְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ אִם נִיתְכַּוְּנָה לְכֵן אֲפִילּוּ בְחַיֵּי בַעְלָהּ מְבַקְּשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ שֶׁיַּחֲלוֹץ לָהּ

[In the case of] a woman who vows during her husband’s lifetime not to derive benefit from her brother-in-law, they compel [the brother-in-law] to perform the rite of halitzah for her. But if she made the vow after her husband’s death, they request of him that he perform the rite of halitzah for her. If this was the intention of her vow, then even if it was made during her husband’s lifetime, they can only request of him that he perform the rite of halitzah for her. (m. Yev. 13:13)

אָמַ′ ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ יְבַקֵּשׁ מֵאֶחָד מִן הַשּׁוּק שֶׁיִּדּוֹר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ

Rabbi Yehoshua said, “Let him request of someone from the street that he make a vow in his place….” (m. Naz. 8:1)

A shepherd, his sheep and a wolf as depicted in The Fables of Æsop the Celebrated Ancient Philosopher (Paisley: Caldwell and Son, 1839), 5.

“A Flock Among Wolves”

L48-50 The enmity between sheep and wolves, with the sheep as the inevitable victims, is a stock image in Jewish literature, as indeed in ancient literature generally. One of Aesop’s fables included in the collection of Babrius (late first to second cent. C.E.) tells of a wolf who tried to lure a sheep from its fold. The wolf argues that, as it happened to be a sacred holiday on which sheep were being sacrificed, the sheep had better not be caught in its pen. In the fable the sheep wisely retorts that it would rather become an offering to a god than a meal for a hungry wolf.[58] The fable is a poignant reminder that sheep were not only the victims of wolves, but also of the sacrificial cult, which was true not only in the broader Greco-Roman culture, but also within Second Temple Judaism. Their acceptability as offerings in the Temple made sheep a particularly apt image for the Jewish people, who considered themselves to be consecrated to God.[59] Below are a number of examples of sheep-wolf imagery from across different genres of ancient Jewish literature.

מה יחובר זאב אל כבש כך רשע לצדיק

τί κοινωνήσει λύκος ἀμνῷ; οὕτως ἁμαρτωλὸς πρὸς εὐσεβῆ.

What fellowship can a wolf have with a lamb? So it is with the wicked toward the righteous. (Sir. 13:17)

Writing in the relatively tranquil period before the persecutions under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Ben Sira used wolf-lamb imagery to illustrate the incompatibility of sinners associating with the upright. The wolves, of course, represent the wicked.

‏[…ואם] יעשוׄ [הזאבי]ם֯ שלםׄ ע֯ם֯ הטלים ל֯[בלתי אוכלם והצק להם ואם ]י֯היהיׄ לבם [עליהם] לׄ[היטיב] [עליה]ם֯ אז יהיה בלביׄ[ עליכה שלום…]‏

[And if the wolve]s make peace with the lambs, [not] to [eat and oppress them, and if] their heart is [intent to do good towards th]em, then there will be in my heart [peace towards you]. (4QpapJubh [4Q223-224] 2 IV, 8-10 = Jub. 37:21; DSS Study Edition, adapted)

The book of Jubilees was probably composed prior to the Hasmonean revolt.[60] The above quotation is placed in the mouth of Esau, who makes war on Jacob after the death of their father Isaac. Jubilees 37:9-10 depicts Esau as the leader of Israel’s traditional enemies (Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Edom), as well as more contemporary enemies, the Kittim, who are probably to be identified with the Greeks (cf. 1 Macc. 1:1). For the author of Jubilees, the enmity between Esau and Jacob, likened to the enmity between wolves and lambs, stands for the natural enmity between the Gentiles and Israel.

Now on the second night, Phaltiel, a chief of the people, came to me [i.e., Ezra—DNB and JNT] and said, “Where have you been? And why is your face sad? Or do you not know that Israel has been entrusted to you in the land of their exile? Rise therefore and eat some bread, so that you may not forsake us, like a shepherd who leaves his flock in the power of cruel wolves.” (4 Ezra 5:16-18)

4 Ezra is a pseudepigraphical book written in response to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. In the above quotation, the condition of exile is compared to that of a flock at the mercy of wolves. The wolves stand for the Gentiles who prey upon defenseless Israel.

אדרינוס קיסר אמר לו לר′ יהושע: גדולה היא הכבשה שעומדת בין שבעים זאבים. אמר לו: גדול הוא הרועה שמצילה ושוברן לפניהם

The emperor Hadrian said to Rabbi Yehoshua [ben Hananiah], “Great is the lamb that abides among seventy wolves.” Rabbi Yehoshua replied, “Great is the shepherd who delivers it and scatters them before them.” (Esth. Rab. 10:11 [ed. Tabory-Atzmon, 181]; cf. Tanhuma, Toledot 5)

The purported exchange between the Roman emperor and the Jewish sage is set in the period prior to the Bar Kochva revolt.[61] In the rabbinic dialogue the lamb stands for Israel and the seventy wolves refer to the seventy nations of the Gentiles.

A wolf leaps on an unsuspecting sheep in this first-century C.E. fresco from the temple of Isis in Pompeii. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A wolf leaps on an unsuspecting sheep in this first-century C.E. fresco from the temple of Isis in Pompeii. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The nearly unanimous identification of the wolves with Gentiles in ancient Jewish sources that use wolf-sheep imagery challenges the assumption, common in New Testament studies, that Jesus applied the wolf imagery to fellow Jews who stood outside, or who perhaps opposed, his movement. The author of Matthew, who made “A Flock Among Wolves” the introduction to the prediction that “they will deliver you up to the councils, and flog you in their synagogues” (Matt. 10:17), certainly intended to create this impression. But the juxtaposition of “A Flock Among Wolves” and the prediction of persecution is artificial,[62] the product of Matthew’s editorial activity, and symptomatic of Matthew’s anti-Jewish bias.[63] In Luke, “A Flock Among Wolves” does not introduce a prediction of Jewish persecution, but heads a set of instructions regarding how the apostles were to conduct themselves on their mission, including a list of items the apostles were forbidden to bring with them. There is no suggestion in Luke 10 that the seventy-two were expected to be victims of persecution. Neither, according to Luke, did the seventy-two report having experienced persecution upon their return. In Luke the point of comparison between the apostles and lambs is their defenselessness: just as sheep have no natural defenses against wolves, the apostles were forbidden to bring protection or provision for their mission.[64] If we had only Luke’s version of “A Flock Among Wolves,” there would be little reason to suppose that Jesus compared his fellow Jews to wolves.

L48 ὑπάγετε (Luke 10:3). The imperative of ὑπάγειν (hūpagein, “to go”) is found 17xx in Matthew,[65] 12xx in Mark,[66] 2xx in Luke,[67] but never in Acts. In LXX the verb ὑπάγειν occurs 7xx,[68] 4xx in the imperative (Tob. 8:21; 10:11, 12; 12:5 [all according to Sinaiticus]). Only one instance of ὑπάγειν in LXX has an underlying Hebrew verb in, which is הוֹלִיךְ‎ (Exod. 14:21).

We have retained ὑπάγετε (hūpagete, “Go!”) in GR first because it is difficult to explain why the author of Luke would have added this command to his source when he used this imperative so rarely, and second because such a command makes sense where it appears in Luke at the beginning of the Sending discourse. In Luke ὑπάγετε is the first in a series of imperatives that appear in the context of Jesus’ instructions to the seventy-two. The author of Matthew, who moved “A Flock Among Wolves” to a much later position in the Sending discourse, would have dropped the command to go because it does not make sense in its new position.

L49 ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς (Matt. 10:16). Matthew and Luke are identical in L49 with the exception of Luke’s omission of the first person pronoun ἐγώ (egō, “I”). Harnack commented that “ἐγώ is often struck out by St. Luke.”[69] Our research somewhat bears out Harnack’s comment. We identified nine instances where Luke does not have ἐγώ where Matthew’s parallel does. In five of those instances, however, the parallel sentences are formulated so differently in Matthew and Luke (e.g., what Matthew reports in direct discourse, Luke relates in the third person) that we cannot simply say Luke dropped ἐγώ from his source.[70] That leaves four examples where Matthew and Luke have nearly identical wording except for the absence of ἐγώ in Luke’s version. All four examples occur in DT pericopae: Matt. 5:44 opposite Luke 6:27; Matt. 10:16 opposite Luke 10:3; Matt. 11:10 opposite Luke 7:27; and Matt. 23:34 opposite Luke 11:49. We have retained ἐγώ in GR because its omission in Luke appears to be a stylistic improvement over Matthew’s more Hebraic inclusion of ἐγώ.[71]

הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹלֵחַ אֶתְכֶם (HR). In LXX ἰδού (idou, “behold”) usually translates הִנֵּה (hinēh, “behold”). In MH, however, הֲרֵי (ha, “behold”) replaced הִנֵּה.‎[72] In the Mishnah הֲרֵי + pronominal suffix occurs 48xx.[73] However, הֲרֵי אֲנִי (harē ’ani, “behold I”) also occurs frequently in the Mishnah, often followed by a participle as in our reconstruction.[74] Since the Greek text of Matt. 10:16 // Luke 10:3 places emphasis on the first person pronoun ἐγώ, we have preferred for HR.

In LXX the verb ἀποστέλλειν (apostellein, “to send”) occurs over 500xx in books also included in MT. In the vast majority of instances, ἀποστέλλειν translates the root ‎‎שׁ-ל-ח.‎[75]

L50 ὡς ἄρνας (Luke 10:3). According to Matthew, Jesus described the apostles as “sheep among wolves,” whereas Luke wrote “like lambs among wolves.” It is difficult to decide which version is more original. In most of the examples of the sheep-wolf imagery from Jewish sources cited above (see Comment to L48-50), we find a synonym for lamb (כֶּבֶשׂ, טָלֶה). We also find examples of wolf and lamb in MT.[76] An early non-canonical version of “A Flock Among Wolves” (ca. 150 C.E.) uses a different word for “lamb” (ἀρνίον) than does Luke (ἀρήν):

λέγει γὰρ ὁ κύριος· Ἔσεσθε ὡς ἀρνία ἐν μέσῳ λύκων.

For the Lord says, “You will be as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (2 Clem. 5:2)

Nevertheless, we have adopted Matthew’s reading, ὡς πρόβατα (hōs probata, “like sheep”), for GR. In DT pericopae we often find that the author of Matthew, though he may rearrange his material or omit one rib of a parallelism, copied the actual wording of his source more accurately than Luke. In our Comment to L49 above, we noted that ἐγώ in Matt. 10:16a is probably closer to Anth. than Luke’s omission of ἐγώ. Despite having moved the saying to a later position in the Sending discourse and despite splicing the “A Flock Among Wolves” saying together with the “Serpents and Doves” saying, the author of Matthew adhered more strictly to Anthology’s wording than Luke, who introduced minor stylistic improvements to the wording of his source.[77] Further support for Matthew’s ὡς πρόβατα will be discussed below.

εἰς μέσον (GR). Although in critical editions of the Greek text of NT both Matthew and Luke agree to write ἐν μέσῳ (en mesō, “in the middle,” “among”), in the text of Vaticanus, which serves as the basis for our reconstruction, Matt. 10:16a reads εἰς μέσον.[78] We have accepted εἰς μέσον for GR because it is closer to the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text than ἐν μέσῳ (see below, under לְתוֹךְ).

כַּצֹּאן (HR). In a survey of all the instances of ὡς (hōs, “like,” “as”) in Genesis, we found that ὡς occurs far more often as the translation of -כְּ (ke, “like,” “as”) than of any other Hebrew term or phrase.[79] While a survey of the entire LXX might yield slightly different results, our survey of ὡς in Genesis is sufficient to establish that -כְּ is a reasonable reconstruction of ὡς.

In LXX the great majority of instances of πρόβατον (probaton, “sheep”) occur as the translation of צֹאן (tz’on, “flock”).[80] Likewise the LXX translators rendered צֹאן far more often as πρόβατον than any other Greek word.[81]

While Luke’s phrase, ὡς ἄρνας (hōs arnas, “like lambs”), occurs only once in LXX (Jer. 28:40), where it is the translation of כְּכָרִים (kechārim, “like young rams”; Jer. 51:40),[82] Matthew’s phrase, ὡς πρόβατα (hōs probata, “like sheep” [plur.]), and ὡς πρόβατον (hōs probaton, “like a sheep” [sing.]) are found 19xx in LXX, all of which occur in books also included in MT, except for one instance in Judith 11:19, a book many scholars believe was originally composed in Hebrew.[83] In fifteen of the remaining instances ὡς πρόβατα/πρόβατον translates כַּצֹּאן (katzo’n, lit. “like the flock,” but always indefinite in meaning despite the definite form) or כְּצֹאן (ketzo’n, “like a flock”).[84] In Zech. 10:2 ὡς πρόβατα translates כְמוֹ צֹאן (chemō tzo’n, “like a flock”), which leaves only two instances where ὡς πρόβατον (sing.) translates כַּשֶּׂה (kaseh, “like the sheep”; Isa. 53:7) or כְּשֶׂה (keseh, “like a sheep”; Ps. 118[119]:176).[85] Thus, ὡς πρόβατα is the usual and expected translation of כַּצֹּאן.

צֹאן is a collective noun meaning “a flock of small cattle.”[86] “Sheep” can be a misleading translation of צֹאן, since both sheep and goats were tended together in a single flock.[87] It is difficult to decide whether to use כַּצֹּאן or כְּצֹאן for HR since, despite the difference in form, there is no discernible difference in meaning. In Greek, ὡς πρόβατα (Matt.) and ὡς ἄρνας (Luke) are indefinite, which might seem to favor reconstructing with כְּצֹאן, but as we saw above in LXX ὡς πρόβατα is the translation of both כְּצֹאן and כַּצֹּאן.‎[88] Tipping the balance ever so slightly in favor of כַּצֹּאן are two points: 1) In LXX ὡς πρόβατα translates כַּצֹּאן slightly more often (8xx) than כְּצֹאן‎ (6xx); and 2) the single instance where “like a flock” is used with the verb שָׁלַח we find the definite form כַצֹּאן (Job 21:11).

Other reconstructions with nouns such as כְּבָשִׂים‎ (kevāsim, “lambs”), טְלָאִים (elā’im, “lambkins”) or כָּרִים (kārim, “young rams”) are also possible. These alternative reconstructions reflect Luke’s version of Jesus’ saying. We do find כְּכֶבֶשׂ (kecheves, “like a lamb”) twice in MT, but both times it is in the singular (Jer. 11:19; Hos. 4:16). There are no examples of טָלֶה‎ + -כְּ, and although there is one instance of כְּכָרִים (kechārim, “like young rams”; Jer. 51:40), it appears that the noun כַּר became quite rare in MH.[89] On balance, therefore, כַּצֹּאן seems to be the best option for HR.

לְתוֹךְ (HR). In LXX μεσός (mesos, “middle,” “among”) most commonly occurs either as the translation of בֵּין (bēn, “between”) or תָּוֶךְ (tāvech, “middle,” “midst”).[90] We also found in a survey of all the instances of תָּוֶךְ in the Torah (Gen.-Deut.) that the LXX translators more often rendered תָּוֶךְ as μεσός than any other alternative.[91]

With respect to the phrase ἐν μέσῳ (en mesō, “in the middle”), the reading found in Luke 10:3 and in most MSS of Matt. 10:16a, in LXX it usually represents בְּתוֹךְ (betōch, “in the middle,” “among”) in the underlying Hebrew text,[92] while εἰς μέσον, which appears in Vaticanus’ version of Matt. 10:16a, occurs only 20xx in books corresponding to MT and translates בְּתוֹךְ‎ 7xx[93] and אֶל תּוֹךְ (’el tōch, “into the middle”) 8xx.[94]

Of the 22 instances of אֶל תּוֹךְ in MT, all but two are accompanied by verbs that imply movement into a space, such as “enter,” “bring,” “run,” “fall,” “gather,” or “fling.”[95] Likewise, in the Mishnah לְתוֹךְ—the MH equivalent of אֶל תּוֹךְ‎[96] —usually involves movement into a space: “pour into” (b. Ber. 3:5; m. Maas. Sh. 3:12), “enter into” (m. Kil. 3:3), “fall into” (m. Ter. 4:12), “go down into” (m. Bik. 3:1), etc. While בְּתוֹךְ can be used with verbs implying movement, it is frequently employed in descriptions of static situations: “let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters” (Gen. 1:6); “the tree that is in the garden” (Gen. 3:3); “he dwelt among the sons of Het” (Gen. 23:10); “those who are in my house” (m. Ber. 9:3); “a tree that is in his field” (m. Peah 3:5); “ant hills among the standing grain” (m. Peah 4:11). Both לְתוֹךְ and בְּתוֹךְ are good options for HR.[97] We have preferred לְתוֹךְ because “I am sending you” implies movement into a space, a particularly dangerous space, as it happens, occupied by wolves.

זְאֵבִים (HR). In the ancient world wolves were perceived as dangerous and threatening animals,[98] and were therefore feared and hated.[99] Fear of wolves was not altogether unjustified, not only because of the damage they could inflict upon valuable livestock,[100] but also because attacks on humans did occasionally take place. The Mishnah, for instance, reports that on one occasion a fast was held because two children had been eaten by wolves (m. Taan. 3:6). Such attacks on human beings were probably rare, but real enough in the minds of the Jewish sages to be mentioned not only in parables,[101] but also in halachic discussions.[102]

Photograph taken of a wolf in southern Israel scavenging at night. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Photograph taken of a wolf in southern Israel scavenging at night. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Human antagonism toward wolves, combined with loss of habitat, probably account for the wolf’s population decline in Israel. In 1884 Tristram reported that “The Wolf is still common in Palestine…. It is found in every part of the country,”[103] but fifty years later Bodenheimer reported that “Its number is greatly diminished, since Tristram’s time.”[104] In recent decades, however, wolf populations have begun to recover.[105]

As we noted above, in ancient Jewish sources wolves often represent people with negative traits, including sinners, and especially Gentiles. Usually in Jewish sources wolf imagery was applied to those who threatened the community from the outside. In Christian sources, on the other hand, we frequently find wolf imagery applied to community members who posed a threat from within (cf., e.g., Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29; Did. 16:3; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 1:1).[106]

Our reconstruction of λύκος (lūkos, “wolf”) with זְאֵב (ze’ēv, “wolf”) is reasonably secure. Every instance of זְאֵב in MT that is not the name of an individual is translated in LXX as λύκος.[107]

Redaction Analysis[108]

“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”
Luke Anthology
34 Total
to Anth.:
29 Total
Taken Over
in Luke:
to Anth.:
85.29 % of Anth.
in Luke:
Click here for details.
“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”
Matthew Anthology
35 Total
to Anth.:
30 Total
Taken Over
in Matt.:
to Anth.:
85.71 % of Anth.
in Matt.:
Click here for details.

The Matthean and Lukan versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are nearly identical, so similar that it is reasonable to assume that the authors of Matthew and Luke copied these sayings from a shared written source (Anthology). Aside from the introductions to these sayings (L40-41), which were composed by the authors of Matthew and Luke, the differences are minor: the omission of single words (L48, L49), the transposition of two words (L46), or the use of synonyms (L50). In most instances where Matthew and Luke disagree we found that Matthew preserves the more Hebraic version. The only exception to this rule is in L48 where Matthew omitted the imperative ὑπάγετε. The author of Matthew probably omitted this command because he placed “A Flock Among Wolves” later in the Sending discourse. Luke appears to have preserved the original position of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings. The changes Luke made to his source are probably best accounted for as stylistic improvements for the sake of Greek readers.

The differences we observe in the Lukan and Matthean versions of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings are characteristic of the editorial habits of their respective authors. The author of Luke was more careful to preserve the original context and intention of the sayings, but he had no qualms about giving the Greek style a light polish. The author of Matthew, on the other hand, preserved the wording of his source, but by changing the context of the sayings he also introduced subtle changes to their meanings. Through Matthew’s literary skill, the apostles’ mission became the answer to the disciples’ prayer to the lord of the harvest, and the wolves became the very people—the Jews—to whom the mission was directed.

Results of This Research

1. What is the harvest to which Jesus refers? As in Hippocrates’ aphorism and Rabbi Tarfon’s saying, where the abundant work symbolizes the professional responsibilities of the physician or the rabbinic sage, the plentiful harvest in Jesus’ saying is a symbol or metaphor for the apostles’ mission to heal diseases, exorcise spirits, and proclaim Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of Heaven to the people of Israel. Each of these actions on the part of the apostles demonstrated that the messianic redemption of Israel had begun to take place. The mission itself, carried out as it was by twelve emissaries, symbolized the restoration of Israel’s twelve tribes. Healing of diseases represented the lifting of the curse of exile, while exorcism of impure spirits was a sign of deliverance from the spiritual powers that resisted God’s reign. The proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived was an unmistakable declaration that in and through Jesus and his band of full-time disciples God was unleashing his saving power that would redeem Israel, humankind, and the whole of creation.

2. Who is the lord of the harvest? In homilies and theological writings, Jesus himself is sometimes portrayed as the lord of the harvest, but this is not the original intention of “The Harvest is Plentiful” saying. As in Rabbi Tarfon’s saying, where God is depicted as an urgent landowner, in Jesus’ saying the lord of the harvest represents God. Just as field hands would petition their employer to hire more workers if the work was too much for them, so Jesus urged the apostles to pray for more people who could bear to God’s people the good news of Israel’s redemption.

3. In what way were the apostles comparable to sheep? In Matthew, “A Flock Among Wolves” introduces predictions of persecution. Not so in Luke, where there is not even a hint that Jesus expected the apostles to experience persecution in the course of their mission. In Luke 10:3, “A Flock Among Wolves” is introduced by the command “Go!” and it is followed by instructions about how they are to go, including prohibitions against bringing the usual gear travelers carried with them on the road. The original point of comparison between the apostles and sheep appears to be their lack of natural defenses. Just as sheep had to depend on a shepherd for provision and protection, so the disciples would have to depend on God.

4. Who was being compared to wolves? And why? It is not certain that the wolves in Jesus’ saying stand for anyone in particular. Perhaps, as Vermes believed, the saying involved a certain degree of hyperbole.[109] It is also possible that, as in most ancient Jewish sources, the wolves in Jesus’ saying represent Gentiles who would be hostile to the message of Israel’s redemption. It is unlikely that the Gentile inhabitants in the land of Israel would welcome news of Israel’s redemption, and the local Roman authorities would certainly be alarmed to hear that God was in the process of restoring the twelve tribes and fulfilling his promises to the patriarchs, which included the restoration of the Davidic throne and the judgment of Israel’s enemies.[110] Even though Jesus was himself peaceful, his message that God’s reign was breaking into the world and bringing about the redemption of Israel would have sounded to Roman officials too much like the nationalist ideology that had sparked so many Jewish uprisings against the empire and which Rome, therefore, mercilessly suppressed.

Whether or not Jesus had a specific target for his wolf imagery, it is most unlikely that Jesus aimed it at fellow Jews, the very people whom he desired to reach with the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.


“The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings probably formed the first part of Jesus’ Sending discourse, as they do in Luke 10. Jesus impressed upon the apostles the enormity of their task and alluded to the conditions under which they would carry out their healing and teaching mission to Israel. The urgency of the situation left no opportunity for the apostles to worry about their adequacy for the task. The harvest was huge and needed to be brought in, but without a surplus of workers, the apostles had to rely on such strength and heart and wits as they had been given.[111] Whether faced with an overwhelming task or a threatening environment, Jesus taught the apostles to trust God to meet their needs.

Harvest is Plentiful

Illustration by Marjorie Cooper.

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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] On the compilation of Matthew’s Sending the Twelve discourse, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading, “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [4] See Knox, 2:51.
  • [5] Cf. m. Avot 2:16: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you authorized to desist.”
  • [6] So Marshall, 416; Nolland, Luke, 550.
  • [7] Cf. Kilpatrick, 98; Knox, 2:51.
  • [8] See Nolland, Luke, 551; Luz, 2:84-85; Vermes, Authentic, 110.
  • [9] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition”; idem, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Collecting Further Evidence.”
  • [10] The version of “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying in the Gospel of Thomas is as follows:

    Jesus said: The harvest is indeed great, but the labourers are few; but beg the Lord to send labourers into the harvest. (Gos. Thom. §73 [ed. Guillaumont, 41])

  • [11] On the possible relationship of the Gospel of John to the synoptic tradition, see David Flusser, “The Gospel of John’s Jewish-Christian Source.”
  • [12] See Randall Buth, “Edayin/Tote—Anatomy of a Semitism in Jewish Greek,” Maarav 5-6 (1990): 33-48; idem, “Matthew’s Aramaic Glue.”
  • [13] On the use of the historical present in the Synoptic Gospels, see the charts in “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.”
  • [14] The author of Matthew gives the inaccurate impression that Jesus had only twelve disciples, all of whom he made apostles. See Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L7; Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L16.
  • [15] In LXX the phrase ἔλεγεν/ἔλεγον δέ is rare. The four instances are in books composed in Greek (2 Macc. 15:22; 4 Macc. 17:1; 18:6, 12).
  • [16] In NT ἔλεγεν/ἔλεγον δέ occurs 13xx: 1x in Matthew (Matt. 26:5); 1x in Mark (Mark 7:20); 9xx in Luke (Luke 5:36; 9:23; 10:2; 12:54; 13:6; 14:7, 12; 16:1; 18:1); and 2xx in John (John 6:71; 10:20).
  • [17] The combination εἶπεν/εἶπαν δέ + πρός occurs in Gen. 14:21, 22; 15:7; 16:2, 5, 6; 17:18; 18:9; 19:7, 12, 18, 31; 22:7; 24:5, 6; 26:16; 27:11, 38, 46; 29:21; 31:3; 34:4, 11; 35:1; 37:19, 26; 43:8; 45:3, 4, 17; 46:31; Exod. 2:9; 3:7; 4:10, 11, 19, 21, 27; 6:10, 13; 7:14, 19, 26; 8:1, 5, 12, 16; 9:1, 8, 13, 22; 10:1, 12, 21; 11:1, 9; 12:1, 43; 13:1, 3; 14:13, 15, 26; 16:4, 9, 15, 19, 23, 28; 17:14; 19:9, 10; 20:22; Ruth 3:5; 2 Kgdms. 18:12; Esth. 4:10; 6:7; 9:12; Job 2:3; Bel 9.
  • [18] Examples of καὶ εἶπεν/εἶπαν + πρός as the translation of -וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל/לְ in LXX are found in Gen. 4:8, 9, 13; 6:13; 17:9; 18:13; 19:34; 22:1; 37:13; 42:21; 46:30; 47:5; 48:11; Exod. 3:11, 13, 14; 4:4; 6:1, 2; 7:1, 8; 10:10; 12:21; 14:11; 16:3, 33; 17:5; 19:21, 23; 24:12; 30:34; 32:22, 33; 33:12, 17; 34:1, 27; 35:1, 4; Lev. 8:31; 9:2; 10:3, 6; 16:2; 21:1; Num. 3:40; 7:4, 11; 9:8; 10:30; 11:11, 16, 23; 12:4, 11, 14; 13:17; 14:11, 13; 15:37; 16:8, 15, 16; 17:11, 25; 18:1; 20:10, 12, 18, 23; 21:8, 34; 22:8, 10, 12, 37, 38; 23:3, 4, 11, 13, 15, 25, 27, 29; 24:10, 12; 27:12; 32:20, 29; Deut. 1:42; 2:2, 9, 31; 3:2, 26; 5:1, 28; 9:12, 13; 10:11; 18:17; 29:1; 31:2, 14, 16; 32:46; 34:4; Josh. 2:9; 3:7; 6:2; 7:10; 8:1, 18; 9:8; 10:8, 25; 11:6; 13:1; 14:6; 23:2; 24:2, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27; etc.
  • [19] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L51.
  • [20] In LXX καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς translates וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם/אֲלֵהֶם in Exod. 10:10; 12:21; 35:1; Num. 9:8; 13:17; 22:8; 32:20, 29; Deut. 5:1; 29:1; 31:2; 32:46; Josh. 9:8; 10:25; 23:2; Judg. 3:28; 7:17; 8:2, 23, 24; 12:2; 18:4, 18; 19:23; 1 Kgdms. 11:2; 2 Kgdms. 2:5; 18:4; 21:2; 3 Kgdms. 12:5; 4 Kgdms. 1:2, 5; 6:11, 19; 10:18; 11:15; 12:8; 18:19, 27; 2 Esd. 10:10; Jonah 1:9; Jer. 21:3; Ezek. 9:7.
  • [21] In Num. 20:10 and 2 Esd. 4:3, καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς translates וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם, exactly as in HR. The combination καὶ εἶπεν πρός as the translation of -וַיֹּאמֶר לְ is mostly found in the later books of the Jewish Scriptures. See Num. 20:10; 23:3; 1 Chr. 21:27; 2 Chr. 1:2, 8, 11; 2 Esd. 4:3; Esth. 5:14; 8:7.
  • [22] See David N. Bivin, “Jesus’ ‘Harvest’ Saying.”
  • [23] Rabbi Tarfon was born prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. Cf. y. Yom. 3:7; Eccl. Rab. 3:11 §3.
  • [24] H. S. Jones, trans., Hippocrates IV (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959), 99. See דוד פלוסר, ”משלי ישו והמשלים בספרות חזל,“ יהדות ומקורות הנצרות; מחקרים ומַסוֹת (תל אביב: ספרית פועלים, תשל″ט‎),‎ 195-193.
  • [25] See Young, JHJP, 36.
  • [26] Chana Safrai examines the parallel roles that the concepts of Torah study and the Kingdom of Heaven play in the Gospels and in rabbinic literature in “The Kingdom of Heaven and the Study of Torah” (JS1, 169-189).
  • [27] Since the mission was a mission of twelve apostles who heralded the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, and since Isaiah used harvest imagery to describe the ingathering of the exiles (Isa. 27:12-13), it is possible that Jesus intended “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying to allude to the miraculous redemption of the lost tribes.
  • [28] In David Flusser, “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion Toiling as a Porter?’” (Flusser, JSTP2, 331-342), Flusser observed another rabbinic parallel to a different saying of Jesus that showed more Hellenistic influence than the saying recorded in the Gospels.
  • [29] So Nolland, Luke, 551; Edwards, 305.
  • [30] See Notley-Safrai, 325.
  • [31] In “The Harvest Is Plentiful” saying, the landlord represents God. It is audacious to blame God for the lack of laborers, but that is what Jesus asks of his apostles! On the affinity between Jesus and the first-century pietists known as the Hasidim, see Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [32] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:649.
  • [33] See Dos Santos, 185. LXX translated קָצִיר with θερισμός in Gen. 8:22; 30:14; Exod. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 19:9 (2xx); 23:10 (2xx), 22 (2xx); Josh. 3:15; Judg. 15:1; Ruth 1:22; 2:23 (2xx); 1 Kgdms. 6:13; 12:17; 2 Kgdms. 21:9 (2xx), 10; Job 14:9; 18:16; 29:19; Isa. 18:5; Jer. 5:17, 24; 27[50]:16.
  • [34] See “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” under the subheading “Guiding Principles.”
  • [35] Hatch and Redpath, for instance, do not list any Hebrew equivalents for μέν. See Hatch-Redpath, 2:910.
  • [36] See “ἐργάτης,” LSJ, 682.
  • [37] In MT פֹּעֵל occurs in the generic sense of “doer,” often in the construct phrase פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן (po‘alē ’āven, “doers of iniquity”). Cf. Isa. 31:2; Hos. 6:8; Ps. 6:9; 14:4; 28:3; 36:13; 53:5; etc.
  • [38] For examples of פּוֹעֵל in the sense of “hired worker,” cf. m. Peah 5:7; m. Shev. 8:4; m. Maas. 2:7; 3:3; 5:5; m. Shab. 23:3; m. Bab. Metz. 2:9; 5:4; 7:1, 7; m. Avod. Zar. 5:1; m. Avot 2:15; m. Bech. 4:6.
  • [39] In LXX ὀλίγος translates מְעַט in Lev. 25:52; Num. 13:18; 26:56; Deut. 28:38; Josh. 7:3; 1 Kgdms. 14:6; 3 Kgdms. 17:10, 12; 4 Kgdms. 10:18; 2 Chr. 29:34; 2 Esd. 12:12; 17:4; Ps. 36[37]:10, 16; 108[109]:8; Prov. 5:14; 6:10 (3xx); 24:33 (3xx); Eccl. 5:1, 11; 9:14; 10:1; Job 10:20; 15:11; Sir. 6:19; 32:8; 40:6; 42:4; 43:32; 51:16; Hag. 1:6, 9; Zech. 1:15; Isa. 10:7; Jer. 49[42]:2; Ezek. 5:3.
  • [40] There are three instances of מְעַט in the Mishnah: m. Avot 1:15; 4:10; m. Mik. 2:7.
  • [41] The reason for this ruling is that peace offerings were eaten by the ones bringing the offering, whereas whole burnt offerings were completely consumed on the altar. By bringing more peace offerings than whole burnt offerings the person of limited means will have more to share with his companions.
  • [42] The person of greater means can afford to bring a larger proportion of offerings that are completely consumed on the altar. He has no need for a large number of peace offerings, because there are only a few people who are eating with him.
  • [43] Further examples of מְמוּעָט paired with מְרוּבֶּה appear in m. Dem. 5:5; m. Bab. Bat. 9:2, 5; m. Arach. 6:4; m. Kin. 1:2.
  • [44] For a discussion of this exegetical principle in rabbinic literature, see Guggenheimer, 6 n. 5.
  • [45] In LXX imperative + οὖν occurs as the translation of a simple imperative in Gen. 6:14; 19:22; 23:4; 29:27; 45:9; Exod. 2:20; 8:24; 9:28; Num. 21:7; Deut. 2:3; Josh. 1:7; Job 7:7.
  • [46] In LXX imperative + οὖν occurs as the translation of imperative + נָא in Gen. 12:13; 16:2; 34:8; 40:8; Exod. 10:17; 11:2; 1 Kgdms. 19:2; Job 4:7.
  • [47] On reconstructing οὖν as לְפִיכָךְ, see Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L11.
  • [48] Of the 22 instances of δεῖσθαι in NT, 8 occur in Luke and 7 occur in Acts, compared to a single instance in Matthew and zero instances of δεῖσθαι in Mark.
  • [49] In LXX δεῖσθαι translates הִתְחַנֵּן in Deut. 3:23; 3 Kgdms. 8:33, 47, 59; 9:3; 4 Kgdms. 1:13; 2 Chr. 6:24, 37; Esth. 8:3 (Sinaiticus); Ps. 29[30]:9; 141[142]:2; Job 8:5; 9:15; 19:16; Hos. 12:5.
  • [50] An example of the imperative of בִּקֵּשׁ is found in m. Pes. 9:9.
  • [51] Cf. Marshall, 416.
  • [52] See Moulton-Milligan, 102.
  • [53] See Allen, Matt., 99.
  • [54] According to Nolland (Luke, 551), “The present low number of workers and the verb here for ‘send out’ (ἐκβάλῃ), which normally carries overtones of force, may suggest a reluctance on the part of the potential harvesters.” Likewise, Edwards (305) wrote, “ekballein is stronger than ‘send’…and is slightly unusual, implying that workers will not volunteer for this mission but must be dispatched for it.”
  • [55] See the discussion in Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L21.
  • [56] In LXX ὅπως is the translation of אֲשֶׁר in Deut. 4:10; 6:3; 3 Kgdms. 22:16; 2 Chr. 1:11; 2 Esd. 18:14, 15; Eccl. 3:11; 7:21, 22; 8:12; Mic. 5:6; Ezek. 12:12; Dan. 1:8.
  • [57] See Segal, 42-43.
  • [58] Babrius, Aesopic Fables of Babrius in Iambic Verse, fable 132.
  • [59] The fact that sheep were offered as sacrifices made them especially suited as symbols of those who died for their faithfulness to Torah. The New Testament, which is rife with the imagery of martyr as sacrificial lamb, not only with reference to Jesus (John 1:29; Acts 8:32-35; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Rev. 5:12), but also to early believers (Rom. 8:36), reflects this Jewish tradition.
  • [60] On the date of Jubilees’ composition, see George W. E. Nickelsburg, “The Bible Rewritten and Expanded,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus (CRINT II.2; ed. Michael E. Stone; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 89-156, esp. 101-103.
  • [61] On exchanges between the Jewish sages and Roman emperors in rabbinic literature, see Moshe David Herr, “The Historical Significance of the Dialogues Between Jewish Sages and Roman Dignitaries,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 22 (1971): 123-150.
  • [62] Cf. Bundy, 159.
  • [63] On the anti-Jewish tendency of Matthew’s Gospel, see David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560); idem, “Matthew’s ‘Verus Israel’” (Flusser, JOC, 561-574); idem, “Anti-Jewish Sentiment in the Gospel of Matthew” (Flusser, JSTP2, 351-353); R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels”; Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Redaction Analysis: Matthew’s Version.”
  • [64] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L66.
  • [65] The imperative of ὑπάγειν appears in Matt. 4:10; 5:24, 41; 8:4, 13, 32; 9:6; 16:23; 18:15; 19:21; 20:4, 7, 14; 21:28; 26:18; 27:65; 28:10.
  • [66] Mark 1:44; 2:11; 5:19, 34; 6:38; 7:29; 8:33; 10:21, 52; 11:2; 14:13; 16:7.
  • [67] Luke 10:3; 19:30.
  • [68] The verb ὑπάγειν is found in Exod. 14:21; Tob. 8:21 (Sinaiticus); 10:11 (Sinaiticus), 12 (Sinaiticus); 12:5 (Sinaiticus); 4 Macc. 4:13; Jer. 43[36]:19 (var.).
  • [69] See Harnack, 13.
  • [70] The five examples of this kind are Matt. 8:7 opposite Luke 7:3; Matt. 22:32 (= Mark 12:26) opposite Luke 20:37; Matt. 26:22 (= Mark 14:19) opposite Luke 22:23; Matt. 26:33 (= Mark 14:29) opposite Luke 22:33; and Matt. 26:39 (= Mark 14:36) opposite Luke 22:42.
  • [71] We regard the personal pronoun ἐγώ in L49 to be Hebraic because it is superfluous in Greek, the person being indicated by the form of the present tense verb ἀποστέλλω (“I send”). In Hebrew, on the other hand, participles require a personal pronoun (or a pronominal suffix) + הֲרֵי to indicate person (i.e., הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹלֵחַ or הֲרֵינִי שׁוֹלֵחַ).
  • [72] See Bendavid, 343; Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, Comment to L22.
  • [73] In the Mishnah הֲרֵי + pronominal suffix occurs in: m. Bik. 4:4, 5; m. Naz. 1:1 (3xx), 3 (3xx), 5, 6, 7; 2:1, 2, 3 (2xx), 4, 5, 7, 8 (2xx), 9 (2xx), 10; 3:1 (2xx), 3 (2xx), 4; 4:1 (4xx), 2 (2xx), 7; 5:5 (3xx), 6 (2xx), 7 (7xx); m. Men. 13:10.
  • [74] Examples of הֲרֵי אֲנִי + participle are found in m. Peah 6:11 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי קוֹצֵר; “Behold, I am harvesting”); m. Ter. 8:11 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי מְטַמֵּא; “Behold, I am making ritually impure”); m. Pes. 8:3 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹחֵט; “Behold, I am slaughtering”); m. Bab. Metz. 8:3 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי מְשַׁלְּחָהּ; “Behold, I am sending her”); m. Bab. Metz. 9:7 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי לוֹקֵיַח; “Behold, I am purchasing”); m. Bab. Bat. 9:3 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי עוֹשָׂה וְאוֹכֶלֶת; “Behold, I am making and eating”); m. Arach. 7:1 (הֲרֵי אֲנִי נוֹתֵן; “Behold, I am giving”).
  • [75] We have reconstructed ἀποστέλλειν with שָׁלַח in Tower Builder and King Going to War, L20; Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, L29; Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”, L49; Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, L10.
  • [76] In MT we find “lamb” paired with “wolf” in Isa. 11:6 (זְאֵב עִם כֶּבֶשׂ = λύκος μετὰ ἀρνός) and in Isa. 65:25 (זְאֵב וְטָלֶה = λύκοι καὶ ἄρνες).
  • [77] Cf. Harnack (13): “the original word was πρόβατα (ἄρνας is more refined).”
  • [78] On the rationale for basing the reconstruction text on Codex Vaticanus, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” under the subheading “Codex Vaticanus or an Eclectic Text?”
  • [79] In the LXX translation of Genesis ὡς occurs as the equivalent of -כְּ in Gen. 3:5, 22; 9:3; 10:9; 13:10 (2xx), 16; 18:25 (2xx); 19:31; 22:17 (2xx); 26:4; 27:12, 23, 27; 28:14; 29:13, 20; 31:2, 5, 26; 32:13; 34:7; 38:29; 39:13, 18, 19; 44:10; 48:5, 20 (2xx); 49:4, 9 (2xx); 50:20. The second most common term or phrase behind ὡς in the LXX version of Genesis is כַּאֲשֶׁר (ka’asher, “like that,” “when that”). In Genesis ὡς serves as the translation of כַּאֲשֶׁר in Gen. 18:33; 27:4, 9; 29:10; 30:25. Our statistics exclude instances of ὡς ἂν, which occur in Gen. 6:4; 12:12; 16:16; 30:38; 33:10.
  • [80] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1204-1205.
  • [81] See Dos Santos, 174.
  • [82] In Mic. 5:6 ὡς ἄρνες ἐπὶ ἄγρωστιν (“like lambs upon the grass”) is the translation of כִּרְבִיבִים עֲלֵי עֵשֶׂב (“like rains upon the grass”).
  • [83] See Nickelsburg, “Stories of Biblical and Early Post-Biblical Times,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, 33-87, esp. 52; Randall Buth, “Distinguishing Hebrew from Aramaic in Semitized Greek Texts, with an Application for the Gospels and Pseudepigrapha” (JS2, 247-319, esp. 295).
  • [84] In LXX ὡς πρόβατα/πρόβατον is the translation of כַּצֹּאן/כְּצֹאן in 2 Chr. 18:16; Ps. 43[44]:12, 23; 48[49]:15; 76[77]:21; 77[78]:52; 106[107]:41; Job 21:11; Mic. 2:12; Zech. 9:16; Isa. 13:14; 53:6; Ezek. 36:37, 38 (2xx).
  • [85] LXX also translates כַּצֹּאן as ὡσεὶ πρόβατα (Num. 27:17; Ps. 79[80]:2) and as ὡς ποίμνιον (hōs poimnion, “like a flock”; 3 Kgdms. 22:17).
  • [86] See BDB, 838; Jastrow, 1257; Joüon-Muraoka, 2:497. According to Broshi, the ratio of sheep to goats in an average flock was about 7:3. See Magen Broshi, “The Diet of Palestine in the Roman Period—Introductory Notes,” Israel Museum Journal 5 (1986): 41-56, esp. 48. Perhaps it was because sheep so outnumbered goats that צֹאן was so frequently translated in LXX as πρόβατα (“sheep” [plur.]).
  • [87] The story of Jacob’s agreement with Laban supplies an excellent example of how צֹאן can refer to a flock made up of both sheep and goats:

    אֶעֱבֹר בְּכָל צֹאנְךָ הַיּוֹם הָסֵר מִשָּׁם כָּל שֶׂה נָקֹד וְטָלוּא וְכָל שֶׂה חוּם בַּכְּשָׂבִים וְטָלוּא וְנָקֹד בָּעִזִּים וְהָיָה שְׂכָרִי

    Today I will pass through your flock to remove from there every speckled and spotted individual, that is, every brown individual among the sheep, and every spotted and speckled individual among the goats, and they will be my wage. (Gen. 30:32)

  • [88] In MT the indefinite form כְּצֹאן is found in Isa. 13:14; Jer. 12:3; Ezek. 36:38 (2xx); Mic. 2:12; Zech. 9:16; Ps. 44:12, 23. The definite form כַּצֹּאן is found in Num. 27:17; 1 Kgs. 22:17; Isa. 53:6; Ezek. 36:37; Ps. 49:15; 77:21; 78:52; 80:2; 107:41; Job 21:11; 2 Chr. 18:16.
  • [89] In rabbinic literature כַּר appears mainly in biblical quotations, though there are a few examples where כַּר appears in non-biblical contexts (cf., e.g., t. Kel. Bab. Metz. 7:1[2]; b. Meg. 12b).
  • [90] In a survey of all the instances of μεσός in the Pentateuch we found that μεσός occurs as the translation of תָּוֶךְ in Gen. 1:6 (1st instance); 2:9; 3:3, 8; 15:10; 19:29; 23:10; 35:2; 37:7; 40:20; Exod. 7:5; 11:4 (2nd instance); 14:16, 22, 23, 27, 29; 15:19; 24:16, 18; 26:28 (2nd instance); 28:32, 33; 36:30 [39:23], 32 [39:25]; Lev. 16:16; 22:32; 25:33; Num. 1:49; 2:17; 3:12; 4:2, 18; 5:21; 8:6, 14, 16, 19; 9:7; 16:21, 33; 17:10, 21; 18:6, 20, 23, 24; 19:6, 20; 25:7; 26:62 (2xx); 27:3, 4 (2xx), 7; 33:8; 35:5, 34; Deut. 3:16; 4:12, 15, 33, 36; 5:4, 22, 23, 24, 26; 10:4; 11:3; 19:2. In the Pentateuch μεσός occurs as the translation of something other than תָּוֶךְ, usually בֵּין, in Gen. 1:4 (2xx), 6 (2xx), 7 (2xx), 14 (2xx), 18 (2xx), 3:15 (4xx); 9:12 (2xx), 13, 15 (2xx), 16 (2xx), 17 (2xx): 10:12 (2xx); 13:3 (2xx), 7 (2xx), 8 (2xx); 15:17; 16:5, 14 (2xx); 17:2 (2xx), 7 (3xx), 10 (2xx), 11; 20:1 (2xx); 23:15; 26:28 (2xx); 30:36 (2xx); 31:37, 44 (2xx), 46, 48, 49, 53; 32:17; 42:23; 49:14; Exod. 8:18 (2xx); 9:4 (2xx); 11:4 (1st instance), 33; 30:18 (2xx); 31:14; Lev. 10:10 (2xx); 11:47 (2xx); 20:25 (3xx); 23:5; 26:46 (2xx); 27:12 (2xx), 14 (2xx); Num. 7:89; 17:2, 13; 21:13 (2xx); 26:56; 30:17 (2xx), 27 (2xx); 33:49; 35:24 (2xx); Deut. 1:1, 16 (4xx); 2:16; 4:36; 5:5; 11:6; 14:1; 17:8 (4xx); 25:1; 29:10, 15; 33:12. The number of times μεσός occurs as the translation of בֵּין is inflated because of the usual doubling of בֵּין in a sentence.
  • [91] In a survey of all the instances of תָּוֶךְ in the Torah, we found that the LXX translators rendered תָּוֶךְ with μεσός in Gen. 1:6; 2:9; 3:3, 8; 15:10; 19:29; 23:10; 35:2; 37:7; 40:20; Exod. 7:5; 11:4; 14:16, 22, 23, 27, 29; 15:19; 24:16, 18; 26:28; 28:32, 33; 39:23 [36:30], 25 [39:32]; Lev. 16:16; 22:32; 25:33; Num. 1:49; 2:17; 3:12; 4:2, 18; 5:21; 8:6, 14, 16, 19; 9:7; 16:21, 33; 17:10, 21; 18:6, 20 (2nd instance), 23, 24; 19:6, 20; 25:7; 26:62 (2xx); 27:3, 4 (2xx), 7; 33:8; 35:5, 34 (2nd instance); Deut. 3:16; 4:12, 15, 33, 36; 5:4, 22, 23, 24, 26; 10:4; 11:3; 19:2. In the same survey we found that the LXX translators rendered תָּוֶךְ with something other than μεσός in Gen. 9:21; 18:24, 26; 23:6, 9; 41:48; 42:5; Exod. 2:5; 3:2, 4; 9:24; 12:31, 49; 25:8; 28:1; 29:45, 46; 33:11; 36:33; 39:3 [36:10] (4xx); Lev. 11:33; 15:31; 16:29; 17:8, 10, 12, 13; 18:26; 20:14; 24:10; 26:11, 12, 25, 28 (1st instance); Num. 1:47; 2:33; 5:3; 13:32; 15:14, 26, 29; 16:3; 17:12; 18:20 (1st instance); 19:10; 25:11; 32:30; 35:15, 34 (1st instance); Deut. 9:10; 13:17; 21:12; 22:2; 23:11, 12; 32:31 (2xx). Thus we find that the LXX translators rendered תָּוֶךְ as μεσός more than half the time.
  • [92] The phrase ἐν μέσῳ occurs in LXX 287xx (254xx in books also in MT), where it translates בְּתוֹךְ in Gen. 1:6; 2:9; 3:3, 8; 23:10; 37:7; 40:20; Exod. 14:29; 15:19; Lev. 16:16; 22:32; 25:33; Num. 1:49; 5:21; 9:7; 18:20, 23, 24; 26:62 (2xx); 27:3, 4, 7; 35:34; Deut. 11:3; 19:2; Josh. 3:17; 13:9; 15:3; 17:4, 6; 19:9; 21:41; Judg. 7:16; 9:51; 12:4 (2xx); 18:1; 20:42; 1 Kgdms. 10:10, 23; 25:29; 2 Kgdms. 1:25; 7:2; 20:12; 23:12, 20; 24:5; 3 Kgdms. 3:8; 6:19, 27; 11:20 (2xx); 4 Kgdms. 4:13; 6:20; 23:9; 1 Chr. 11:14; 16:1; 21:6; 2 Chr. 6:13; 2 Esd. 14:16; 19:11; Ps. 21[22]:15, 23; 39[40]:9; 67[68]:26; 108[109]:30; 115[116]:10[19]; 134[135]:9; 136[137]:2; Prov. 5:14; 27:22 (?); Job 2:1; 20:13; Amos 3:9; Mic. 2:12; 7:14; Zeph. 2:14; Hag. 2:5; Zech. 2:8, 9, 14, 15; 5:4, 7; 8:3, 8; Isa. 5:2; 6:5; 24:13; 41:18; Jer. 12:16; 27[50]:37; 36[29]:32; 44[37]:12; 46[39]:14; 47[40]:1, 5, 6; 48[41]:8; 52:25; Ezek. 1:1; 2:5; 3:15, 24; 5:2, 5, 8, 10, 12; 6:7, 13; 7:6[9], 8[4]; 8:11; 9:2, 4; 10:10; 11:1, 7, 11; 12:2, 10, 12, 24; 14:14, 16, 18, 20; 16:53; 17:16; 18:18; 19:2, 6; 20:8, 9; 21:37; 22:3, 9, 13, 18, 21, 22 (2xx), 25 (2xx), 26; 23:39; 24:5, 7, 11; 26:5, 15; 27:27, 34; 28:14; 29:3, 12 (2xx), 21; 30:7 (2xx); 31:14, 17, 18; 32:20, 25, 28, 32; 33:33; 34:12, 24; 36:23; 37:1, 26, 28; 39:7; 43:7, 9; 44:9; 46:10; 47:22 (3xx); 48:8, 10, 15, 21, 22.
  • [93] In LXX εἰς μέσον is the translation of בְּתוֹךְ in Exod. 11:4; 14:16, 22; 1 Kgdms. 9:14, 18; 2 Kgdms. 6:17; Ezek. 26:12.
  • [94] In LXX εἰς μέσον is the translation of אֶל תּוֹךְ in Exod. 14:23; Num. 19:6; Josh. 4:5; 2 Esd. 4:5; Jer. 28[51]:63; Ezek. 5:4; 22:19, 20. The remaining instances of εἰς μέσον in LXX that correspond to MT are found in Ps. 77[78]:28 (= בְּקֶרֶב); Ezek. 10:7 (= מִבֵּינוֹת); Ezek. 31:3 (= בֵּין); Ezek. 31:10, 14 (= אֶל בֵּין).
  • [95] The two exceptional cases of אֶל תּוֹךְ are in 1 Kgs. 6:27 (used with נֹגְעֹת) and Jer. 41:7b (used with וַיִּשְׁחָטֵם). The other instances of אֶל תּוֹךְ are found in Exod. 14:23; Lev. 11:33; Num. 17:12; 19:6; Deut. 13:17; 21:12; 22:2; 23:11, 12; Josh. 4:5; 2 Sam. 3:27; Jer. 21:4; 41:7a; 51:63; Ezek. 5:4; 22:19, 20; Zech. 5:8; Neh. 4:5; 6:10.
  • [96] In the Mishnah אֶל תּוֹךְ occurs only in biblical quotations (m. Sot. 5:2; m. Sanh. 10:6), whereas לְתוֹךְ occurs over 300xx.
  • [97] In Ezek. 19:2 we find בְּתוֹךְ כְּפִרִים רִבְּתָה גוּרֶיהָ (“among young lions she raised her cubs”), and in Ezek. 19:6 we read וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ בְּתוֹךְ אֲרָיוֹת (“and he prowled among lions”), which might be similar to “among wolves.” But in neither of these cases is there movement from outside into the lions’ space.
  • [98] The Mishnah states:

    הַזְּאֵב וְהָאֲרִי וְהַדּוֹב וְהַנָּמֵר וְהַפַּרְדְּלֵס וְהַנָּחָשׁ הֲרֵי אֵילּוּ מוּעָדִים

    The wolf and the lion and the bear and the leopard and the panther and the snake: behold, these are attested dangers. (m. Bab. Kam. 1:4)

    Did the Mishnah name wolves first among these dangerous animals because they were the most feared, or the most common, or for some other reason? In Avot de-Rabbi Natan, wolves, lions, bears, leopards, panthers and snakes are classed together with brigands and robbers as the kind of life-threatening danger that can both see and be seen (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 40:7 [ed. Schechter, 128]). And cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 29:2 (ed. Schechter, 87). Likewise, in printed texts of the Mishnah, the same list of animals appears in m. Sanh. 1:4, as creatures that are likely to kill a human being, but in the Kaufmann and Parma MSS זְאֵב (“wolf”) is omitted.

  • [99] For Jewish and non-Jewish references in ancient literature to wolves as dangerous creatures, especially for flocks, see Günther Bornkamm, “λύκος,” TDNT 4:308-311.
  • [100] Wolf attacks on flocks are discussed in m. Bab. Metz. 7:9.
  • [101] Cf., e.g., t. Ber. 1:13[11] (Notley-Safrai, 77).
  • [102] In the Tosefta, for instance, the question is asked:

    מהו להציל את הרועה מפי הזאב

    What is the halachah pertaining to rescuing a shepherd from the mouth of a wolf? (t. Yev. 3:3[1]; Zuckermandel)

  • [103] H. B. Tristram, The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1884), 20-21.
  • [104] F. S. Bodenheimer, Animal Life In Palestine: An Introduction to the Problems of Animal Ecology and Zoogeography (Jerusalem: Mayer, 1935), 110.
  • [105] See Alon Reichmann and David Saltz, “The Golan Wolves: The Dynamics, Behavioral Ecology, and Management of an Endangered Pest,” Israel Journal of Zoology 51.2 (2005): 87-133. Reichmann and Saltz projected that by 2015 the wolf population in the Golan Heights would reach around 80 to 100 individuals. As the title of their article attests, wolves are still regarded by some people in a negative light.
  • [106] See Bornkamm, “λύκος,” TDNT 4:311.
  • [107] In MT זְאֵב occurs 13xx: 6xx as a personal name (Judg. 7:25 [4xx]; 8:3; Ps. 83:12)—always transliterated as Ζηβ (Zēb)—and 7xx as the word for “wolf” (Gen. 49:27; Isa. 11:6; 65:25; Jer. 5:6; Ezek. 22:27; Hab. 1:8; Zeph. 3:3). In Prov. 28:15 λύκος appears in LXX where MT has דֹּב (dov, “bear”), but the entire verse is a very loose translation.
  • [108]
    The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐργάτας ἐκβάλῃ εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦὑπάγετε ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς ἄρνας ἐν μέσῳ λύκων καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦὑπάγετε ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα εἰς μέσον λύκων
    Total Words: 34 Total Words: 35
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 29 Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 29
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 85.29% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 82.86%


    The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves”
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    τότε λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα εἰς μέσον λύκων καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ ὑπάγετεἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα εἰς μέσον λύκων
    Total Words: 35 Total Words: 35
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 30 Total Words Taken Over in Matt: 30
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 85.71% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 85.71%

  • [109] See Vermes, Authentic, 106, 321.
  • [110] See Manson, Sayings, 75.
  • [111] The allusion here is to Gandalf’s words to Frodo in “The Shadow of the Past.” See J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (2d ed.; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 70.

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