Call of Levi

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In the Call of Levi story we learn about Jesus' attitude toward sinful persons and about his relationship with the Pharisees.

Matt. 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32; 15:1-2
(Huck 53; Aland 44, 93; Crook 67, 97)[1]

Revised: 8-April-2019

וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יָצָא וַיַּרְא מוֹכֵס וּשְׁמוֹ לֵוִי יוֹשֵׁב אֵצֶל בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֵךְ אַחֲרַי וַיַּנַּח אֶת הַכֹּל וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרָיו וַיַּעַשׂ לֵוִי מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל לוֹ וַיְהִי הוּא מֵסֵב בְּבֵיתוֹ וְהִנֵּה אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים שֶׁהָיוּ בָּאִים לִשְׁמוֹעַ לוֹ וַיִּלּוֹנוּ הַפְּרוּשִׁים וְסוֹפְרֵיהֶם עַל תַּלְמִידָיו לֵאמֹר לָמָּה עִם הַמּוֹכְסִים וְהָרְשָׁעִים הוּא אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֵה וַיַּעַן יֵשׁוּעַ וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֵין צוֹרֶךְ לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא אֶלָּא לַחֹלִים [לְכוּ וְלִמְדוּ מָה הוּא חֶסֶד חָפַצְתִּי וְלֹא זָבַח] לֹא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא לַצַּדִּיקִים אֶלָּא לָרְשָׁעִים לִתְשׁוּבָה

Some time later, Yeshua went out and noticed a toll collector named Levi sitting at a toll house, and he said to Levi, “Follow me as my disciple!” So leaving everything behind, Levi got up and followed Yeshua.

Levi prepared a sumptuous banquet in honor of Yeshua. As Yeshua was eating in Levi’s home, a whole crowd of toll collectors and other sinners came to listen to him.

But the Pharisees and their leaders complained against his disciples by asking, “Why is he celebrating with toll collectors and other sinners?”

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do,” Yeshua replied. “[Instead of criticizing me, go find out what God meant when he said: Mercy is more desirable to me than sacrifice.] God sent me to invite sinners to repent, not righteous people.”[2]





To view the reconstructed text of Call of Levi click on the link below:

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Story Placement

The Call of Levi story is a Triple Tradition (TT) pericope, which all three synoptic evangelists place at an early stage of Jesus’ career. All three evangelists also agree to place the Healing a Paralyzed Man narrative (Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26) immediately before the Call of Levi story, and to place Why Yeshua’s Disciples Do Not Fast (Matt. 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39) immediately afterward. This agreed-upon arrangement of pericopae is due to Mark’s acceptance of Luke’s story order and Matthew’s subsequent acceptance of the story order in Mark. This arrangement of pericopae probably originated with Luke; it probably does not go back to either of Luke’s pre-synoptic sources: the Anthology (Anth.) or the First Reconstruction (FR).

There are, however, indications that at a pre-synoptic stage the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story. Luke 15:1-2, which introduces the twin Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes, appears to be FR’s abridged version of the Call of Levi story.[3] It appears that the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) was less interested in the details of Levi’s biography and the story of the banquet that was celebrated in his home than he was in Jesus’ defense of his association with sinners, which is so memorably driven home by the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. Accordingly, the First Reconstructor pared down the Call of Levi story to the minimum required to introduce the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes.

If this description of FR’s editorial activity is correct, then we must conclude that the First Reconstructor knew that the twin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story in Anth. The author of Luke would have known this, too, since he also had access to Anth., but since he failed to recognize that the introduction to the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (Luke 15:1-2) was simply an abbreviated version of the Call of Levi story, he retained the version from Anth. (Luke 5:27-32) as well as the version from FR (Luke 15:1-10), omitting the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from Anth.’s version because these he did recognize as parallel to those in FR. The author of Matthew would likewise have known that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story in Anth., but seeing that they did not continue the Call of Levi story in Mark, the author of Matthew found it convenient to include the Lost Sheep simile in his discourse on pastoral care and to omit the Lost Coin simile altogether.[4]

We have dubbed the “complete” story of Jesus’ interaction with Levi the toll collector, including the twin similes with which Jesus underscored his argument, as the “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” complex, which can be viewed by clicking here. We have placed the entire complex within the section of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua entitled “Calling and Training Disciples.”

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

As we stated in the foregoing discussion, we believe the author of Luke copied Call of Levi from the Anthology (Anth.). Robert Lindsey characterized Anth. as a highly Hebraic-Greek text, which the author of Luke sometimes altered slightly in order to present a more polished Greek story to his non-Jewish Greek-speaking readers. A few instances of such polishing on the part of the author of Luke will be mentioned in the Comment section below. The author of Mark based his version of Call of Levi on Luke’s, but he reworked it in his characteristically expansive and periphrastic style.[5] The author of Matthew copied his version of Call of Levi from Mark, but the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark and the points of contact between the Matthean and FR versions of Call of Levi indicate that at certain points the author of Matthew corrected Mark’s version on the basis of Anth.

Witnesses to Jesus’ statement, “I have not come to call the righteous, etc.,” are also found in early Christian sources including 2 Clement (first half of the second cent. C.E.), the Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 130 C.E.)[6] and Justin Martyr’s First Apology (ca. 147-161 C.E.).[7] A version of Jesus’ statement about the healthy who have no need of a doctor is found in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1224, a document copied in the fourth cent. C.E.,[8] but perhaps representing a composition written somewhat earlier.[9]

A papyrus fragment (Oxyrhynchus 1224) containing a parallel to the Call of Levi story. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Crucial Issues

  1. Where did the Call of Levi story take place?
  2. Why is the toll collector named “Levi” in Luke and Mark, but “Matthew” in Matthew?
  3. What were toll collectors, and why were they considered to be inappropriate company in Jewish society?
  4. Who were the Pharisees?
  5. Who were the “scribes,” and what was their relationship to the Pharisees?
  6. What were the Pharisees doing at the party if they didn’t approve of eating and drinking with sinners?


L1 καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα (GR). The use of μετὰ ταῦτα (meta tavta, “after these things”) is often cited as characteristically Lukan,[10] since this phrase occurs 6xx in Luke,[11] but only 1x in Mark and 0xx in Matthew.[12] However, we suspect that μετὰ ταῦτα in Luke is a reflection of Luke’s pre-synoptic sources.

וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן (HR). In LXX μετὰ ταῦτα is most frequently the translation of אַחֲרֵי כֵן (’aḥarē chēn, “after this”),[13] and וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן followed by a verb in the perfect, which is often used to open a new sentence in the Hebrew Bible, is generally translated in LXX as μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα or καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα + aorist, the same formula we find in Luke 5:27.[14] Since we believe narrative portions of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua are best reconstructed in a BH style, we have adopted וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן for HR.

L2 יָצָא (HR). On reconstructing ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”) with יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L98.

L3-6 Apart from καὶ ἐξῆλθεν, which the author of Mark copied from Luke, Mark 2:13 is entirely the product of the author of Mark’s pen, which he composed in order to create a bridge between the Healing a Paralyzed Man narrative and the Call of Levi story.[15]

L3 πάλιν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν (Mark 2:13). It is only Mark’s redactional phrase “again beside the sea,”[16] which is absent in Matthew and Luke, that has given scholars the impression that Levi’s toll station was located in or near Capernaum.[17] Nevertheless, Mark 2:13 does not specify the name of a town or village where Levi collected his tolls. Did the author of Mark have personal knowledge concerning where Call of Levi took place, or is his mention of the Sea of Galilee simply a reflection of Mark’s tendency to mention the sea at the transition to a new story?[18] Neither Luke nor Matthew indicate where Call of Levi took place, and we cannot be sure whether in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua the story was set in the Galilee or in Judea, although a Galilean setting seems more probable, since it was in the Galilee that Jesus began recruiting and training disciples. It is possible that Mark’s reference to the sea is due to his conforming of the Call of Levi story to his version of Yeshua Calls His First Disciples (Mark 1:16-20), on which, see below, Comment to L7.

L4 In Mark’s redactional bridge we find a reference to the “crowd” (ὄχλος; ochlos). Perhaps the author of Mark picked up the word ὄχλος from Luke’s description of the crowd of toll collectors who dined with Jesus in the home of Levi (Luke 5:29). Mark’s parallel to Luke 5:29 omits ὄχλος (Mark 2:15; L28). Lindsey noted that when the author of Mark picked up a term from Luke he would frequently refuse to use that term at the same point where Luke had used it in his Gospel.[19]

L7 παράγων (Mark 2:14). The verb παράγειν (paragein, “to pass by”) does not occur in the Gospel of Luke. In LXX παράγειν is usually the translation of הֶעֱבִיר (he‘evir, “lead past,” “cause to pass by”).[20] In Mark παράγειν occurs 3xx (Mark 1:16; 2:14; 15:21). The first two instances in Mark occur in similarly worded descriptions of the calling of disciples:

  Mark 1:16-18 Mark 2:13-14
L1   καὶ ἐξῆλθεν πάλιν παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν·καὶ πᾶς ὁ ὄχλος ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν, καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτούς.
L2 καὶ παράγων παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ παράγων
L3 εἶδεν Σίμωνα καὶ Ἀνδρέαν τὸν ἀδελφὸν Σίμωνος εἶδεν Λευὶν τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου
L4 ἀμφιβάλλοντας ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον,
L5 ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς  
L6 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ·
L7 δεῦτε ὀπίσω μου, ἀκολούθει μοι.
L8 καὶ ποιήσω ὑμᾶς γενέσθαι ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων.  
L9 καὶ εὐθὺς ἀφέντες τὰ δίκτυα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ. καὶ ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ.

Both of Mark’s calling narratives take place “beside the sea”; both begin with “and passing by” (L2); both mention Jesus seeing the prospective recruits (L3) at their places of work (L4); in both accounts Jesus issues the prospective recruits a command (L6-7); and both accounts end with the statement “they/he followed him.”

These stylized accounts of Jesus’ calling of disciples are due to Mark’s editorial activity, and we regard καὶ παράγων in L7 as redactional. The author of Matthew copied this phrase from Mark.

L8 ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκεῖθεν (Matt. 9:9). The author of Matthew probably added Jesus’ name for the sake of clarity. The adverb ἐκεῖθεν (ekeithen, “from there”) was probably also added by the author of Matthew, for although ἐκεῖθεν is not in itself un-Hebraic,[21] most of the time when Matthew has ἐκεῖθεν this adverb is lacking in the Markan and Lukan parallels, which suggests that the author of Matthew habitually added ἐκεῖθεν when revising his sources.[22]

L9 καὶ ἐθεάσατο (GR). Since Luke’s verb θεάσασθαι (theasasthai, “to see”) occurs only 8xx in LXX and is the translation of רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”) only once,[23] Mark and Matthew’s verb, ἰδεῖν (idein, “to see”), which is common in LXX as the translation of רָאָה,‎[24] might seem the more likely verb to have been derived from Anth. Nevertheless, we have accepted Luke’s καὶ ἐθεάσατο (kai etheasato, “and he saw”) for three reasons: 1) The parallel usage of θεάσασθαι in Matt. 11:7 and Luke 7:24 demonstrates that the verb θεάσασθαι occurred in Anth. at least occasionally; 2) Luke’s καί + aorist looks like the literal translation of a vav-consecutive; and 3) Mark’s εἶδεν (followed by Matthew) is part of Mark’s stylized disciple-calling narratives (see above, Comment to L7).

L10 τελώνην (Luke 5:27). It is only in Luke’s version of Call of Levi that it is explicitly stated that Levi was a toll collector (τελώνης; telōnēs), although his occupation can easily be inferred from Mark’s statement that Levi was sitting at the toll station (Mark 2:14; cf. Matt. 9:9; L14).[25] In order to understand why we have rendered τελώνης as “toll collector,” instead of the traditional “tax collector,” it is necessary to acquaint oneself with the systems of taxation in the Roman Empire.

During the Roman period the people in the provinces and client kingdoms were subject to both direct and indirect taxation,[26] which was payable either to the Roman Senate, to the emperor himself in the case of imperial provinces (e.g., Judea), or to the ruler of a client kingdom (e.g., the tetrarch Herod Antipas in the Galilee).[27] Local cities also imposed their own taxes on their inhabitants.[28] Direct taxes were of two kinds. The first was a poll tax (Lat., tributum capitis), which was paid by adults between the ages of twelve or fourteen and sixty-five.[29] The poll tax was a highly regressive form of taxation since the same amount was paid by rich and poor alike.[30] The second form of direct taxation was a property tax (Lat., tributum soli) on cultivated land, amounting to 12.5 percent of the annual harvest in Judea,[31] and agricultural equipment including slaves and domestic animals.[32] The property tax was also burdensome, especially for subsistence farmers, because the property tax was assessed at a fixed rate that did not reflect the year-to-year productivity of the land.[33] As a consequence, in years that saw a poor harvest, farmers often had difficulty paying taxes on their property, and this became one factor in the increasing levels of indebtedness among Jews living in the land of Israel at the end of the Second Temple period.[34] The collection of direct taxes was the responsibility of the local ruling magistrates, and was not farmed out to private individuals,[35] thus Levi would not have been a collector of direct taxes.

First-century C.E. Roman fresco from Pompeii depicting many of the tools of the toll collector’s trade: coins, moneybag, account book and writing utensils. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There were also various types of indirect taxes, especially tolls (Lat., portoria) paid on the movement of goods within the empire.[36] Ordinarily, these indirect taxes were not collected by Roman officials. Rather, the right to collect tolls on imported and exported merchandise was auctioned off to private individuals (Lat., publicani; Gk., τελῶναι).[37] As a means of increasing capital and minimizing liability, toll collectors often formed toll-collecting corporations (Lat., societas).[38] Levi the toll collector, who had other toll collector friends (Luke 5:29), was likely a member of such a corporation.

Toll collectors had to work within certain parameters. For instance, it was the Roman authorities, not the toll collectors, who set toll rates,[39] and merchants were aware, to a greater or lesser degree, of how much the toll collectors were legally permitted to collect on their wares. If a merchant felt that a toll collector had extracted more than his due it was possible to appeal to the Roman authorities for relief, although resorting to such measures would have been practical only in extreme cases.[40] Toll collectors were also limited by the need to keep commerce flowing through their districts. Extracting too much would stifle trade and dry up their sources of revenue. While these factors set upper limits on the amounts toll collectors were able to siphon off trade, the need to outbid their competitors and their need to make a profit were incentives for collecting as much as the markets could bear.

This system of indirect taxation on the movement of goods worked greatly to the advantage of the Roman government or the rulers of client kingdoms under Roman influence because it guaranteed a predictable income for the governing authorities.[41] The system also benefited those toll collectors who had good business sense, for as long as they had calculated correctly they could recoup the cost of their bid and collect substantially more for their personal enjoyment. But this system was detrimental to merchants and ordinary consumers whose interests were not represented within the system. Privatizing the right to collect tolls on trade only made the cost of doing business and the price of goods that much more expensive, and unsurprisingly toll collectors were resented as parasites who made no positive contribution to society, but who leeched off the livings of producers and consumers alike.

Such negative attitudes are reflected in classical and rabbinic sources. For instance, Cicero, writing in the first century B.C.E. and reflecting elitist attitudes, advised:

Primum improbantur ii quaestus, qui in odia hominum incurrunt, ut portitorum, ut faeneratorum.

First, those means of livelihood are rejected as undesirable which incur people’s ill will, as those of tax-gatherers [portitorum] and usurers. (Cicero, Off. 1:42 §150; Loeb)

Likewise, Lucian, in the second century C.E., included toll collectors in a list of unsavory characters:

ἐλέγοντο δὲ εἶναι μοιχοὶ καὶ πορνοβοσκοὶ καὶ τελῶναι καὶ κόλακες καὶ συκοφάνται καὶ τοιοῦτος ὅμιλος τῶν πάντα κυκώντων ἐν τῷ βίῳ.

…they were said to be adulterers, procurers, toll collectors [τελῶναι], toadies, informers, and all that crowd of people who create such confusion in life. (Lucian, Men. §11; Loeb, adapted)

Rabbinic sources similarly class toll collectors with other disreputable persons,[42] for instance:


נוֹדְרִים לֶהָרָגִים וְלֶחָרָמִים וְלַמּוֹכְסִים שֶׁהִיא תְרוּמָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָה תְרוּמָה שֶׁהֵן שֶׁלְּבֵית הַמֶּלֶךְ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָה שֶׁלָּהֶן

Those who make a vow to murderers or to oppressors or to toll collectors [מוֹכְסִים] that it [i.e., their merchandise—DNB and JNT] is terumah [i.e., owed to the priests—DNB and JNT], even if it is not terumah, or that it belongs to the royal estate,[43] even if it does not belong to the royal estate…. (m. Ned. 3:4)

In the above quotation the sages not only grouped toll collectors with other transgressors, but they considered it legitimate to evade payment of tolls by taking false oaths, since they regarded toll collectors as no better than robbers. Their estimation of a toll collector’s income as stolen goods is also reflected in other rulings of the sages, for example:


אֵין פּוֹרְטין לֹא מִיתֵּבָת הַמּוּכְסִים וְלֹא מִכִּיס שֶׁלַּ גַּבַּיִים וְאֵין נוֹטְלִין מֵהֶן צְדָקָה

They do not make change from the cash box of toll collectors [מוּכְסִים, Kaufmann’s defective pointing of מוֹכְסִים] or from the purse of poll tax collectors [גַּבַּיִים], and they do not take alms from them. (m. Bab. Kam. 10:1)


נָטְלו מוֹכְסִים חֲמוֹרוֹ וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ חָמוֹר אַחֵר הַלֶּיסְטִים כְּסוּתוֹ וְנָתְנוּ לוֹ כְסוּת אַחֶרֶת הֲרֵי אֵילּוּ שֶׁלּוֹ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהַבְּעָלִים מִיתְיַיאֲשִׁים מֵהֶן

If toll collectors [מוֹכְסִים] took his donkey and gave him a different donkey, or if robbers took his set of clothes and gave to him a different set of clothes, behold they are his [to keep] because their [former] owners give up hope of recovering them. (m. Bab. Kam. 10:2)

Here the association of toll collecting with robbery is explicit (cf. Luke 3:12-13).

A dim view of the tolls collected by the toll collectors is expressed in such statements as:


רבי גמליאל אומר בד′ דברים מלכות אוכלת במכסאות במרחצאות ותרטייאות וארנוניות שלהן

Rabbi Gamliel says, “By four things does the empire subsist: by tolls [מכסאות], by public baths, by theaters, and by their agricultural tax.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 28:4 [ed. Schechter, 85])


נענה רבי שמעון בן יוחאי ואמר כל מה שתקנו לא תקנו אלא לצורך עצמן תקנו שווקין להושיב בהן זונות מרחצאות לעדן בהן עצמן גשרים ליטול מהן מכס

Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai answered and said, “All that they [i.e., the Romans—DNB and JNT] established was only for their own needs. They established markets to make prostitutes dwell therein, they made public baths to refresh themselves therein, bridges to take a toll [מכס] from them.” (b. Shab. 33b)

The ruins of the Tariff Court at Palmyra, where the Palmyrian Tariff was discovered. Engraving by Louis-François Cassas (ca. 1799). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

מוֹכֵס (HR). In the rabbinic sources cited above we find that the sages differentiated between the גַּבַּיי (gabai), collector of the poll tax, and the מוֹכֵס (mōchēs), collector of tolls on the movement of goods.[44] Levi probably belonged to the latter class of individuals,[45] since he carried out his duties at a toll station rather than going into the homes of individuals to collect the poll tax or the property tax.[46] His likely membership in a toll-collecting corporation points to the same conclusion.[47]

A second-century C.E. Greek and Aramaic inscription known as the Palmyrian Tariff stipulates the tolls charged on various goods that passed through that ancient city.[48] It is noteworthy for the purposes of Hebrew reconstruction that in the Palmyrian Tariff the Greek term τελώνης (telōnēs, “toll collector”) and the Aramaic term מָכְסָא (mochsā’, “toll collector”), a cognate of the Hebrew מוֹכֵס (mōchēs, “toll collector”), are treated as equivalent terms.[49]

Column 1 of the Greek-Aramaic Palmyrian Tariff as reproduced in the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum (CIS III 3913). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L11 καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ (GR). Our reconstruction supposes that the author of Luke slightly amended Anth.’s wording for stylistic purposes. The formula used to introduce Levi’s name in Luke 5:27, ὀνόματι + proper name, is rare in Mark and Matthew, but a common occurrence in Luke-Acts.[50] The ὀνόματι + proper name formula is also extremely rare in LXX, and never occurs in books that are included in MT.[51] In Hebrew, names are often introduced with the formula וְשֵׁם + pronominal suffix + proper name, for instance וּשְׁמוֹ אֶבְיָתָר (ūshemō ’Evyātār, “and his name [was] Abiathar”; 1 Sam. 22:20). In LXX this formula is usually translated καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ/αὐτῇ + proper name, as, indeed, we find in 1 Kgdms. 22:20: καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ Αβιαθαρ (kai onoma avtō Abiathar, “and [the] name to him [was] Abiathar”).[52] Less often the וְשֵׁם + pronominal suffix + proper name formula is translated as ᾧ/ᾗ ὄνομα + proper name; for example, in Gen. 16:1 וּשְׁמָהּ הָגָר (ūshemāh Hāgār, “and her name [was] Hagar”) is rendered in LXX as ᾗ ὄνομα Αγαρ (hē onoma Agar, “whose name [was] Hagar”).[53] Thus, ᾧ ὄνομα Λευεὶς is another possibility for GR.

A bilingual inscription on a first-century ossuary discovered in Jerusalem with the name “Levi” in Greek and Hebrew. Published by Hans H. Spoer, “Some Hebrew and Phoenician Inscriptions,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 28 (1907): 354-359.

L12 Λευεὶς (GR). The Hebrew name לֵוִי (lēvi, “Levi”) was put into Greek in a variety of ways. In LXX לֵוִי is generally transliterated as Λευι (Levi),[54] while the declinable form Λευίς (Levis) occurs in books that were originally composed in Greek (1 Esd. 9:14; 4 Macc. 2:19).[55] Josephus sometimes used other forms such as Ληουείς (Lēoueis; J.W. 2:642; Life §43, 131, 171, 189) or Λευῖτις (Levitis; Ant. 4:64; 5:144).

Inscriptions on ossuaries and ostraca, as well as literary sources, attest to individuals who bore the name Levi in the first century C.E.[56] The nominative form Λευείς in GR is required by the preceding phrase, καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ. Compare the spelling of Levi’s name in Luke 5:29 (L24).

לֵוִי (HR). The name Levi probably denotes that the toll collector called by this name in the Call of Levi story belonged to the tribe of Levi.[57] In the Temple the Levites played a supporting role to the priests,[58] serving as singers,[59] musicians,[60] gatekeepers,[61] bailiffs (שֹׁטְרִים; shoṭrim)[62] and secretaries (סוֹפְרִים; sōferim).[63] Most Levites, as indeed most priests, were not employed full-time in the Temple. As a result, the Levites had to find secular occupations in order to earn their livelihoods. The Levite named Levi in this story earned his livelihood by becoming a toll collector.

L13 τὸν τοῦ Ἁλφαίου (Mark 2:14). Only Mark includes the detail that Levi was the son of Alphaeus, or חַלְפִי (Ḥalfi) in Hebrew.[64] Adding additional biographical detail is one of the characteristics of Mark’s editorial style,[65] but our conclusion that this detail is secondary does not imply that it was factually incorrect.[66] The author of Mark may have been personally acquainted with Levi the toll collector, or, alternatively, he could have gleaned this information secondhand from someone acquainted with Levi.

L14 καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον (GR). The description of the toll collector sitting at his toll station is the first point of agreement between all three synoptic writers in the Call of Levi story.

יוֹשֵׁב אֵצֶל בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס (HR). In LXX καθῆσθαι (kathēsthai, “to sit”) is almost always the translation of יָשַׁב (yāshav, “sit”).[67] We also find that the LXX translators rendered יָשַׁב with καθῆσθαι and καθίζειν more often than with any other Greek verbs.[68]

In Greek ἐπί + accusative means “at” or “beside.”[69] For HR we have chosen to reconstruct this as אֵצֶל (’ētzel, “at,” “beside”), although in LXX אֵצֶל is never translated with ἐπί + accusative. Examples of יָשַׁב אֵצֶל are found in the following rabbinic texts:


מעשה בארבעה זקנים שהיו יושבין אצל ר′ אליעזר בן עזריה

An anecdote concerning four elders who were sitting by [יושבין אצל] Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah…. (t. Kel. Bab. Bat. 2:2 [ed. Zuckermandel, 591])


מעשה ברבי יוחנן בן נורי ורבי אלעזר בן חסמא שהושיבם רבן גמליאל בישיבה ולא הרגישו בהם התלמידים לעתותי ערב הלכו וישבו להם אצל התלמידים

An anecdote concerning Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri and Rabbi Eleazar ben Hisma, whom Rabban Gamliel appointed over the academy, but the disciples were not aware of this. When evening came, they went and sat themselves by [וישבו להם אצל] the disciples. (Sifre Deut. §16 [ed. Finkelstein, 26])


וכן שני בני אדם שעשו מריבה זה עם זה הלך אהרן וישב לו אצל אחד מהם ואמר לו בני ראה חברך מהו אומר מטרף את לבו וקורע את בגדיו אומר אוי לי היאך אשא את עיני ואראה את חברי בושתי הימנו שאני הוא שסרחתי עליו הוא יושב אצלו עד שמסיר קנאה מלבו. והולך אהרן ויושב לו אצל האחר וא″ל בני ראה חברך מהו אומר מטרף את לבו וקורע את בגדיו ואומר אוי לי היאך אשא את עיני ואראה את חברי בושתי הימנו שאני הוא שסרחתי עליו הוא יושב אצלו עד שמסיר קנאה מלבו. וכשנפגשו זה בזה גפפו ונשקו זה לזה לכך נאמר ויבכו את אהרן שלשים יום כל בית ישראל

And so when two people would quarrel with one another, Aaron went and sat himself by [וישב לו אצל] one of them and said to him, “My son, see what your fellow says: he is rending his heart and tearing his clothes and saying, ‘Woe to me! How can I raise my eyes and look at my fellow? I am ashamed because it is I who did him wrong!’” He would sit by him [יושב אצלו] until the jealousy was removed from his heart. Then Aaron would go and sit himself by [ויושב לו אצל] the other and say to him, “My son, see what your fellow says: he is rending his heart and tearing his clothes and saying, ‘Woe to me! How can I raise my eyes and look at my fellow? I am ashamed because it is I who did him wrong!’” He would sit by him [יושב אצלו] until the jealousy was removed from his heart. And when they met one another they hugged and kissed one another. Because of this it is said, And the whole house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days [Num. 20:29]. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 12:3 [ed. Schechter, 48-49])

The translation of τελώνιον (telōnion) as “tax collector’s booth”[70] may give the misleading impression of a tiny and impermanent structure. “Customs house” or “toll station” is nearer the mark. In rabbinic sources the term for toll station is בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס (bēt hameches, “the house of the toll”).[71] Examples of this term include:


היה עובר על בית המכס ואמר בני הוא וחזר ואמר עבדי הוא נאמן אמר עבדי הוא וחזר ואמר בני הוא אינו נאמן

If someone was passing by a toll house [בית המכס] and he said, “He is my son,” and later he said, “He is [really] my slave,” he is believed. If he said, “He is my slave,” and later he said, “He is [really] my son,” he is not believed. (b. Bab. Bat. 127b)

The above ruling provides yet another example of rabbinic leniency toward toll evasion. Someone might falsely claim that his slave was his son when passing a toll station in order to avoid paying a toll on his slave, and the sages did not regard such a person as untrustworthy. A second example of בֵּית הַמֶּכֶס strikes a different chord:


ואמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יוחי: מאי דכתיב כי ה′ אהב משפט שנא גזל בעולה משל למלך בשר ודם שהיה עובר על בית המכס אמר לעבדיו תנו מכס למוכסים אמרו לו והלא כל המכס כולו שלך הוא אמר להם ממני ילמדו כל עוברי דרכים ולא יבריחו עצמן מן המכס אף הקדוש ברוך הוא אמר אני ה′ שנא גזל בעולה ממני ילמדו בני ויבריחו עצמן מן הגזל

And Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, “What is the meaning of that which is written, For I the LORD love justice, hating robbery in iniquity [Isa. 61:8]? A parable: [It may be compared] to a king of flesh and blood who was passing by a toll house [בית המכס]. He said to his slaves, ‘Give the toll [מכס] to the toll collectors [מוכסים].’ They said to him, ‘But is not the entire toll your very own?’ He said to them, ‘Let all travelers learn from me, that they must not evade the toll.’ Even so the Holy One, blessed be he, says, ‘I the LORD hate robbery in iniquity. Let my sons learn from me that they may avoid robbery.’” (b. Suk. 30a)

This story, seemingly so supportive of paying tolls, is surprising coming from Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, who made his anti-Roman sentiments unmistakable in other sayings (cf., e.g., b. Shab. 33b), especially since the main criticism of toll collectors in rabbinic literature is that they were guilty of robbery. Perhaps this parable should be read as a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the Roman system of indirect taxation, since a scenario in which Caesar would pay tolls was unimaginable. In other words, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai might be highlighting a contrast between God and Caesar: whereas God hates robbery, Caesar uses robbery to enrich himself at the expense of his subjects.

L15 Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον (Matt. 9:9). In Luke and Mark the toll collector is named Levi, but in Matthew he is identified as “a person called Matthew.” A harmonizing approach has been to suppose that the toll collector described in this story was called by two names, “Levi” and “Matthew.” However, as Bauckham has shown, an individual bearing two common Hebrew names is virtually unprecedented in the cumulative onomasticon of first-century Jewish names in the land of Israel.[72] It therefore seems more likely that the author of Matthew intentionally transferred the Call of Levi story to the apostle Matthew. Why would the author of Matthew have done this? Scholars have proposed two plausible scenarios. Meier, noting that the author of Matthew limited the number of Jesus’ disciples to twelve, supposed that the author of Matthew eliminated the name Levi so that the story of the calling of a disciple who was not numbered among the twelve apostles would not appear in his Gospel.[73] Bauckham, on the other hand, supposed that the Gospel of Matthew was composed for a community for whom the apostle Matthew was an important figure. The author of Matthew therefore transferred the Call of Levi story, which he copied from the Gospel of Mark, to the apostle Matthew so that his Gospel would include the story of the calling of the apostle his community so highly esteemed.[74] Perhaps these two suggestions are not mutually exclusive. In either case, the change of Levi’s name to Matthew in Matt. 9:9 and the notice in Matthew’s version of the apostolic list that the apostle Matthew was a toll collector (Matt. 10:3) are clearly related and are due to the author of Matthew’s editorial activity.[75]

Our supposition that the name change from “Levi” to “Matthew” is editorial finds confirmation in the fact that introducing a name or title with the participle λεγόμενος is far more frequent in the Gospel of Matthew than in Mark or Luke.[76] Using λεγόμενος to introduce a name is also un-Hebraic. In LXX λεγόμενος is used to introduce personal names only in books originally composed in Greek, or in verses that do not adhere to the underlying Hebrew text.[77]

L16 καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ (Mark 2:14). Mark has an historical present (“and he says to him”), which is also picked up in Matthew. Historical presents are un-Hebraic and characteristic of Mark’s editorial activity.[78] The author of Matthew often, though not always, copied historical presents from Mark. Historical presents are infrequent in Luke (13xx) compared to the number of instances in Matthew (99xx) and Mark (156xx). We have accepted Luke’s much more Hebraic καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ (“and he said to him”) for GR.

L17 ἀκολούθει μοι (GR). All three synoptic writers agree on the wording of Jesus’ command to Levi: “Follow me.”

לֵךְ אַחֲרַי (HR). For the identical reconstruction of ἀκολούθει μοι as לֵךְ אַחֲרַי, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, L25; Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L50.

L18 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα (Luke 5:28). The statement that Levi “left everything” is unique to Luke, and on that score many scholars have regarded this notice as a secondary Lukan addition to the Call of Levi story.[79] Nevertheless, we retained this detail in GR, since leaving one’s possessions, family and livelihood was required of all of Jesus’ full-time disciples,[80] which gives this detail in Call of Levi a ring of authenticity. In addition, the verb καταλείπειν (kataleipein, “to leave”) occurs 4xx in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 5:28; 10:40; 15:4; 20:31), and one of these (Luke 15:4) is found in the Lost Sheep simile. Thus, καταλείπειν creates a verbal link between the two pericopae, which, on other grounds, we believe were part of a single literary unit at a pre-synoptic stage.[81]

וַיַּנַּח אֶת הַכֹּל (HR). In LXX καταλείπειν is the translation of הִנִּיחַ (hiniaḥ, “leave”) on several occasions.[82] Compare our reconstruction here to that in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L97.

L19 וַיָּקָם (HR). On reconstructing ἀναστῆναι (anastēnai, “to stand up,” “to rise”) with קָם (qām, “stand up,” “rise”), see Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L2.

L20 ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ (GR). Whereas Luke has an imperfect form of ἀκολουθεῖν, Mark and Matthew have an aorist. In LXX there are examples where καί + participle + participle + aorist is used to translate a succession of three vav-consecutives,[83] but we have found no instances of καί + participle + participle + imperfect as the translation of three successive vav-consecutives. Lindsey noted that occasionally the author of Mark would preserve a more Hebraic reading than the Lukan parallel.[84] We suspect that this is one such example. Luke’s imperfect is likely a slight change to the wording of Anth., probably made by the author of Luke for the sake of a more polished Greek style.

וַיֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרָיו (HR). Compare our reconstruction here to that in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L98.

L21-24 It is only in Luke’s version of Call of Levi that we find a description of Levi preparing a banquet for Jesus. The author of Mark probably omitted this sentence in order to hasten the pace of the narrative. He may have felt that the description of Levi’s preparations contained no essential information, but by omitting this sentence the author of Mark created some ambiguity as to whom the house in which the banquet was held belonged.[85] Without Luke’s description of Levi as preparer of the banquet, Mark’s statement that Jesus was reclining “in his house” (Mark 2:15; L27) could be interpreted as referring either to Jesus’ house or to Levi’s, but if Levi was the one who prepared the banquet, it is hardly likely that he would have done so in someone else’s house. In addition, as most scholars rightly point out, the likelihood of Jesus owning a house during the itinerant stage of his public career is remote (cf. Matt. 8:20 // Luke 9:58).[86] However, such little aporias as Mark’s (and Matthew’s) ambiguity regarding the ownership of the house where the banquet took place are inevitable whenever an author attempts to rework a received text.[87]

L22 Λευεὶς (GR). It appears that the author of Luke slightly altered the word order of his source. A more Hebraic word order would be for Levi’s name to appear after the verb ποιεῖν (poiein, “to do,” “to make”) and before the accusative δοχήν (dochēn, “banquet”).[88] We suspect that this was the word order in Anth. and that the author of Luke made a change to the word order of his source.

לֵוִי (HR). On reconstructing the name Λευείς as לֵוִי, see above, Comment to L12.

L23 מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל (HR). In LXX δοχή (dochē, “banquet”) is always the translation of מִשְׁתֶּה (mishteh, “banquet”) wherever there is an equivalent in the underlying Hebrew text.[89] Likewise, ποιεῖν δοχήν (poiein dochēn, “to prepare a banquet”) is often used to translate עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה (‘āsāh mishteh, “prepare a banquet”), for example:

καὶ ἐποίησεν Αβρααμ δοχὴν μεγάλην

וַיַּעַשׂ אַבְרָהָם מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל

And Abraham made a large banquet…. (Gen. 21:8)[90]

A glass of wine as depicted in a first-century C.E. fresco from Herculaneum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As the term mishteh, from the root ש-ת-ה (“to drink”), implies, Levi’s banquet would have included the drinking of wine, a fact alluded to in Luke’s version of the question Jesus’ critics posed to his disciples: “Why do you eat and drink with toll collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30).[91] The drinking of wine marked banquets as festive occasions,[92] and it was Jesus’ attendance at a banquet with toll collectors and sinners for the purpose of celebration that was the target of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ criticism.[93] The theme of celebration also ties the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes to the Call of Levi story, while the criticism directed against Jesus’ celebration with toll collectors and sinners explains why celebration is such a prominent theme in these twin similes.[94]

L24 לוֹ (HR). On the basis of the following parallels we considered whether we ought to reconstruct this sentence as וַיַּעַשׂ לֵוִי לְיֵשׁוּעַ מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל (lit., “And made Levi for Jesus a banquet big”):


וַיַּעַשׂ יי אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins…. (Gen. 3:21)


וַיַּעַשׂ דָּוִד לְאַבְנֵר וְלַאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ מִשְׁתֶּה

And David made for Avner and for the men who were with him a banquet. (2 Sam. 3:20)

In the above examples we find the order וַיַּעַשׂ + name of the maker + -לְ + name of the recipient + thing that was made.[95]

However, such a reconstruction would require us to presume a higher level of redactional activity on the part of the author of Luke than is necessary, given Hebrew parallels that are closer to the word order of Luke 5:29 such as:


וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל עֲבָדָיו

And he [i.e., Pharaoh—DNB and JNT] made a banquet for all his servants. (Gen. 40:20)


וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל עֲבָדָיו

And he [i.e., Solomon—DNB and JNT] made a banquet for all his servants. (1 Kgs. 3:15)


בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלוֹשׁ לְמָלְכוֹ עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל שָׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו

In the third year of his reign he [i.e., Ahasuerus—DNB and JNT] made a banquet for all his princes and servants. (Esth. 1:3)


וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ מִשְׁתֶּה גָדוֹל לְכָל שֶׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו

And the king made a big banquet for all his princes and servants. (Esth. 2:18)


כשעשה רבן גמליאל סעודה לחכמים היו כל חכמי ישראל מסובים אצלו עמד רבן גמליאל ושמשן

When Rabban Gamliel made a banquet for the sages, all the sages of Israel were reclining with him, but Rabban Gamliel stood and served them. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 3:280])

L25-37 The first part of Matt. 9:10 contains some wording that is highly Hebraic in style (e.g., καὶ ἐγένετο in L25, and καὶ ἰδοὺ in L28), which suggests that in this section the author of Matthew relied heavily—though not exclusively—on the wording of Anth.[96] Matthew’s Hebraisms in L25-37 and a fascinating point of agreement at L31 between Matthew’s wording and a detail preserved in FR’s truncated version of Call of Levi in Luke 15:1 suggest that in Anth.’s version of Call of Levi the motive for the arrival of the other toll collectors at the banquet was not merely for a good meal and a good time, but also to listen to Jesus’ teachings. The author of Luke, in his parallel to Matt. 9:10, seems to have departed from Anth.’s wording in order to portray the toll collectors as reclining with Jesus. Perhaps the author of Luke introduced this change in order to prepare his readers for the question posed by the Pharisees and scribes: “Why do you eat and drink with toll collectors and sinners?” Whatever his reasons, Luke’s editorial decision influenced Mark’s story and, via Mark, Matthew’s, such that Luke 5:29, Mark 2:15 and Matt. 9:10 describe the toll collectors reclining with Jesus, whereas the original story may not have included this detail at all.

L25-26 καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἀνακειμένου (GR). Although the genitive absolute is often indicative of Greek redaction,[97] it is likely that, as in LXX, some instances of the genitive absolute in the Synoptic Gospels reflect a Hebrew undertext. The Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο construction, which introduces the genitive absolute in Matt. 9:10, suggests that this might be one such instance. There are several LXX examples of καὶ ἐγένετο introducing a genitive absolute construction.[98] Moreover, the καὶ ἐγένετο + gen. pronoun + participle word order with which the author of Matthew opens Matt. 9:10 looks like the Hebrew narrative structure וַיְהִי + pronoun + participle, which is translated in LXX in precisely the same manner in the following examples:


וַיְהִי הֵם יֹשְׁבִים אֶל הַשֻּׁלְחָן וַיְהִי דְּבַר יי אֶל הַנָּבִיא

And it happened they are sitting at the table, and the word of the LORD came to the prophet…. (1 Kgs. 13:20)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτῶν καθημένων ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης καὶ ἐγένετο λόγος κυρίου πρὸς τὸν προφήτην

And it was of them sitting at the table, and the word of the Lord came to the prophet…. (3 Kgdms. 13:20)


וַיְהִי הוּא מְסַפֵּר לַמֶּלֶךְ אֵת אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱיָה אֶת הַמֵּת וְהִנֵּה הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱיָה אֶת בְּנָהּ צֹעֶקֶת אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ

And it happened he [i.e., Gehazi—DNB and JNT] is telling the king how he [i.e., Elisha—DNB and JNT] made the dead alive, and behold, the woman whose son he had made alive is crying out to the king…. (2 Kgs. 8:5)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἐξηγουμένου τῷ βασιλεῖ ὡς ἐζωπύρησεν υἱὸν τεθνηκότα, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ γυνή, ἧς ἐζωπύρησεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς Ελισαιε, βοῶσα πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα

And it was of him explaining to the king how he brought back to life the dead son, and behold the woman, whose son Elisha brought back to life, is crying to the king…. (4 Kgdms. 8:5)


וַיְהִי הוּא קָם לַיְלָה וַיַּכֶּה אֶת אֱדוֹם

And it happened he is rising at night, and he struck Edom…. (2 Kgs. 8:21)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ ἀναστάντος καὶ ἐπάταξεν τὸν Εδωμ

And it was of him rising and he struck Edom…. (4 Kgdms. 8:21)


וַיְהִי הֵם קֹבְרִים אִישׁ וְהִנֵּה רָאוּ אֶת הַגְּדוּד וַיַּשְׁלִיכוּ אֶת הָאִישׁ בְּקֶבֶר אֱלִישָׁע

And it happened they are burying a man, and behold, they saw the troop and they tossed the man into the grave of Elisha. (2 Kgs. 13:21)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτῶν θαπτόντων τὸν ἄνδρα καὶ ἰδοὺ εἶδον τὸν μονόζωνον καὶ ἔρριψαν τὸν ἄνδρα ἐν τῷ τάφῳ Ελισαιε

And it was of them burying the man, and behold, they saw the troop and they tossed the man in the grave of Elisha. (4 Kgdms. 13:21)


וַיְהִי הוּא מִשׁתַּחֲוֶה בֵּית נִסְרֹךְ אֱלֹהָיו

And it happened he is worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god…. (2 Kgs. 19:37)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτοῦ προσκυνοῦντος ἐν οἴκῳ Νεσεραχ θεοῦ αὐτοῦ

And it was of him worshipping in the house of Neserach his god…. (4 Kgdms. 19:37)

As in some of the verses with the καὶ ἐγένετο + genitive absolute construction cited above (4 Kgdms. 8:5; 13:21), Matt. 9:10 also includes a καὶ ἰδού clause. The strong resemblance between Matthew’s wording and these Hebraic structures argues in favor of our supposition that Matthew copied them from his Hebraic-Greek source, Anth.

καὶ γείνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν (Mark 2:15). The καὶ γείνεται + infinitive construction in Mark 2:15 (L25-26) is un-Hebraic,[99] but it probably represents the author of Mark’s paraphrase of Anth.’s Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο structure, which is more accurately preserved in Matthew. It is possible that Mark’s use of γείνεται, an historical present, was inspired by the two instances of γείνεται in the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (L36, L57), which we have reason to believe were an integral part of the Call of Levi story in Anth.

Mosaic from Zippori (Sepphoris) depicting diners reclining at table in a banqueting hall. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

וַיְהִי הוּא מֵסֵב (HR). In the various versions of the Call of Levi story we encounter three different, though related, verbs for “reclining.” In Matt. 9:10 we find ἀνάκεισθαι (anakeisthai, “to recline”) at L26, where the author of Matthew appears to be copying Anth., and συνανάκεισθαι (sūnanakeisthai, “to recline with”) in L32, where he appears to be following Mark. In Mark 2:15 we find κατάκεισθαι (katakeisthai, “to recline”) in L26, where the author of Mark appears to be paraphrasing Anth., and, as we noted, συνανάκεισθαι (sūnanakeisthai, “to recline with”) in L32, where he appears to be paraphrasing Luke’s statement, ἦσαν μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κατακείμενοι (“they were with him reclining”). Luke 5:29 has only one verb for “recline,” κατάκεισθαι (katakeisthai), but it appears that the author of Luke delayed the reference to reclining in order to state that the toll collectors were reclining at the banquet with Jesus, whereas his source likely stated that while Jesus reclined at a banquet in the house of Levi a group of toll collectors came to listen to Jesus. The author of Mark, reading in Anth. that Jesus reclined in Levi’s home, and noticing that in Luke the toll collectors reclined with Jesus, decided to record both references to reclining and passed on this double reference to reclining to Matthew. Since Mark probably picked up his use of κατάκεισθαι in L26 from Luke’s use of the same verb in L32, and since in L26 the author of Matthew appears to be relying on Anth., we have accepted his use of ἀνάκεισθαι for GR.

None of the three verbs for “reclining” in the various versions of Call of Levi are common in LXX. The verb κατάκεισθαι occurs 4xx (Jdt. 13:15; Prov. 6:9; 23:34; Wis. 17:7), ἀνάκεισθαι occurs 2xx (1 Esd. 4:11; Tob. 9:6 [Sinaiticus]), and συνανάκεισθαι occurs 1x (3 Macc. 5:39). The usual verb in Hebrew for “recline at a meal” was הֵסֵב (hēsēv, “recline”), which we encounter in the following examples:


הָיוּ יוֹשְׁבִים כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מְבָרֶךְ לְעַצְמוֹ הֵסַבּוּ אֶחָד מְבָרֵךְ לְכֻלָּם

If they were sitting each by themselves, he says a blessing on his own. If they were reclining [הֵסַבּוּ, Kaufmann’s defective pointing of הֵסֵבוּ] [together—DNB and JNT], one says a blessing on everyone’s behalf. (m. Ber. 6:6)


מֵיסֵב עִימּוֹ עַל הַמִּיטָּה וְאוֹכֵל עִימּוֹ עַל הַשּׁוּלְחָן

The one reclining [מֵיסֵב] with him on the couch and eating with him on the table…. (m. Ned. 4:4)


בעל הבית שהיה מסב ואוכל

A landlord who was reclining [מסב] and eating…. (t. Ber. 4:20; Vienna MS)

As the first example cited above demonstrates, reclining at a meal was not universal. Sitting was the more common position for eating, especially among the poorer classes (cf., e.g., t. Dem. 5:7).[100] Reclining at a meal was normal only among the well-to-do. Otherwise, reclining at table was reserved for special occasions,[101] such as the celebration of the Passover, when:


אֲפִלֻּ עָנִי שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵ′ לֹא יֹאכַל עַד שֶׁיֵּסֵב

Even the poorest in Israel does not eat until he reclines [יֵסֵב]. (m. Pes. 10:1)

As noted above with respect to the drinking of wine, so also the description of Jesus reclining at table in the home of Levi marks the banquet as a festive occasion. Levi had good cause to celebrate: he had left his former life of wickedness behind, and by inviting him to become a full-time disciple Jesus had welcomed Levi into the Kingdom of Heaven.[102]

L27 ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ (GR). Matthew, Mark and Luke each have the phrase ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ (en tē oikia, “in the house”), with Mark and Luke agreeing to add the possessive pronoun αὐτοῦ (avtou, “of him”). But whereas Mark and Matthew portray Jesus reclining “in his/the house,” Luke has Levi preparing the banquet “in his house.” In this instance we believe that Mark and Matthew preserve the original placement of the phrase ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ [αὐτοῦ], and that it was Luke’s editorial activity that transferred ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ to the end of the preceding sentence. In the first place, to say that Levi prepared the banquet in his own home hardly needs stating, for it is unlikely that he would have prepared a banquet in someone else’s house. In second place, following the statement “And as he was reclining” is an appropriate place to add a note about the location where the reclining took place so that readers would know that this new sentence was a continuation of the same story. The placement of ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ as we have it in GR resembles a verse we cited above in Comment to L25-26:


וַיְהִי הֵם יֹשְׁבִים אֶל הַשֻּׁלְחָן

And it happened they are sitting at the table…. (1 Kgs. 13:20)

καὶ ἐγένετο αὐτῶν καθημένων ἐπὶ τῆς τραπέζης

And it was of them sitting at the table…. (3 Kgdms. 13:20)

The above verse has a καὶ ἐγένετο + gen. pronoun + participle construction followed by a description of the location where the action took place, which is exactly the pattern we have in our reconstruction of L25-27.

בְּבֵיתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing οἰκία (oikia, “house”) with בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L7.

L28 καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλος πολὺς (GR). We suspect that the author of Matthew blended his two sources in L28, copying καὶ ἰδού (“and behold”) from Anth. and πολλοί (“many”) from Mark. Whereas Luke, and probably also Anth., described “a big crowd [ὄχλος πολύς] of tax collectors,” Mark simply mentioned “many [πολλοί] tax collectors.”

The change from Anth.’s καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλος πολὺς (“And behold! A large crowd…”) to Luke’s καὶ ἦν ὄχλος πολὺς (“And there was a large crowd…”), is a stylistic improvement, and a natural one: although καί ἰδοὺ (kai idou, “And behold!”) is by far the most common LXX translation of וְהִנֵּה (vehinēh, “And behold!”), there are several examples in which the LXX translators rendered וְהִנֵּה as καὶ ἦν (kai ēn, “And there was…”; cf. e.g., Gen. 6:12; 41:7; 42:27, 35; Exod. 34:30; Num. 32:1).

וְהִנֵּה אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל (HR). Here we have reconstructed ἰδού (idou, “Behold!”) with הִנֵּה (hinēh, “Behold!”) rather than with הֲרֵי (ha, “Behold!”) as we did in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven (L96), “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” (L49), Return of the Twelve (L18) and Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb (L22) because those instances occurred in direct speech, which we reconstruct in a MH style, whereas here we are in narrative, which we reconstruct in a blended BH and MH style such as we find in the Copper Scroll from Qumran and in the baraita preserved in b. Kid. 66a. We likewise reconstructed a narrative ἰδού with הִנֵּה in Widow’s Son in Nain (L6).

On the reconstruction of ὄχλος πολύς (ochlos polūs, “large crowd”) with אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל (’uchlūs gādōl, “big crowd”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L4. אֻכְלוּס is a loanword from Greek (ὄχλος), attested in MH sources.

L29 τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (GR). Deciding between “toll collectors and others” (Luke 5:29) and “toll collectors and sinners” (Matt. 9:10; Mark 2:15) is difficult, since both can be reconstructed in Hebrew easily: Luke as מוֹכְסִים וַאֲחֵרִים (mōchsim va’aḥērim, “toll collectors and others”), and Mark and Matthew as מוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים (mōchsim ūreshā‘im, “toll collectors and wicked persons”). We considered the possibility that Luke’s “others” was copied from Anth., and that the author of Mark changed “others” to “sinners” in order to adopt the more familiar pairing of toll collectors and sinners, which occurs later in the Call of Levi pericope and elsewhere in the Gospels, but ultimately we concluded that it is more likely that Luke changed “toll collectors and sinners” to “toll collectors and others” in order to adopt a more neutral description of the visitors who came to Levi’s home. Adopting a more neutral description of the visitors in Luke 5:29 makes the tone of the Pharisees’ question in Luke 5:30 sound all the more harsh and accusatory. Thus, “others” in L29 serves a literary function in Luke’s version of the Call of Levi story that looks like a secondary attempt to heighten the dramatic effect of the narrative.

A more important factor in our decision to adopt “sinners” for GR, however, is the mention of “sinners” in Luke 15:1 (L34), which was copied from FR. While “sinners” in Matt. 9:10 could be attributed to either Mark or Anth., “sinners” in Luke 15:1 cannot be explained in this way. The best explanation for “sinners” in Luke 15:1 is that the First Reconstructor copied it from Anth. Thus, as we have seen on occasion elsewhere,[103] “others” vs. “sinners” in Luke 5:29 vs. Luke 15:1 appears to be an example where an FR version of a Lukan Doublet preserves the wording of Anth. better than the version of the doublet the author of Luke copied from Anth. and then modified.

שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים (HR). In HR we have reconstructed ὄχλος πολὺς τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (“a big crowd of toll collectors and sinners”; L28-29) as אֻכְלוּס גָּדוֹל שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים. Other examples of אֻכְלוּס שֶׁלְּ (“a crowd of…”) in Hebrew sources include: אוּכְלוּסִין שֶׁל יָוָן (“crowds of Greece”; Exod. Rab. 15:6 [ed. Merkin, 5:167]), אוכלוסין של פרעה (“crowds of Pharaoh”; Pesikta de-Rav Kahanah, Supplement 2:2 [ed. Mandelbaum, 2:453]), אוֹכְלוֹסִין שֶׁל בְּנֵי אָדָם (“crowds of human beings”; Num. Rab. 21:2 [ed. Merkin, 10:279]) and אוכלוסים של אומות (“crowds of Gentiles”; Pesikta Rabbati 10:3 [ed. Friedmann, 36b]). In the first two of these instances, the formulation אֻכְלוּס‎ + ‎שֶׁלְּ + X describes who owns or rules the crowds, while the last two examples describe of whom the crowds consist, which is similar to our reconstruction, “a big crowd of toll collectors.” The main difference between these examples and our reconstruction is that, whereas the rabbinic examples are phrased in the plural (“crowds of…”), our reconstruction is phrased in the singular (“a big crowd of toll collectors etc.”). Also, we have attached the -שֶׁלְּ (equivalent to the שֶׁל in the rabbinic examples) to the following word (מוֹכְסִים), which was the common practice in late BH (cf. Song 3:7) and early rabbinic sources.[104]

Our choice of reconstructing ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinful”; substantive: “sinner”) with רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”; substantive: “wicked person,” “sinner”) is based on two main considerations:

  1. In LXX ἁμαρτωλός is the translation of רָשָׁע more often than of חַטָּא (ḥaṭā’, “sinful”; substantive: “sinner”),[105] and the equivalence between ἁμαρτωλός and רָשָׁע is amplified when ἁμαρτωλός is paired with δίκαιος (dikaios, “righteous”; substantive: “righteous person”).[106] This correspondence between ἁμαρτωλός and רָשָׁע in LXX supports our reconstruction, since in Call of Levi ἁμαρτωλός is paired with δίκαιος (L66-67).
  2. The adjective חַטָּא (ḥaṭā’, “sinful”) rarely occurs in MT in the singular form, and never in the singular form as a substantive (i.e., “sinner”).[107] The adjective רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”), on the other hand, occurs in both singular and plural forms and is frequently used as a substantive (i.e., “wicked person,” “sinner”).[108] This implies that when reconstructing a substantival use of ἁμαρτωλός in the singular (i.e., “sinner”) רָשָׁע is the better option. Now, in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, which we believe formed the continuation of the Call of Levi story, we encounter precisely such a use of ἁμαρτωλός as a substantive in the singular (i.e., “sinner”).[109] Since we would expect to reconstruct ἁμαρτωλός with the same Hebrew noun in both pericopae, the probability that ἁμαρτωλός should be reconstructed with רָשָׁע in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin increases the probability that ἁμαρτωλός in Call of Levi should be reconstructed in the same manner, namely, with ‎רָשָׁע.‎[110]

Who were the individuals labeled “sinners” in the Call of Levi story? Some scholars have identified these sinners as ame haaretz, a term used in rabbinic literature to refer to those who did not observe the stringent purity and tithing practices of the haverim (t. Avod. Zar. 3:10).[111] However, the identification of the sinners in the Call of Levi story as ame haartez is mistaken, since Jesus himself was not a haver and therefore he, too, would have been considered an am haaretz,[112] and no one would have challenged Jesus for eating with his own kind.[113]

The “sinners” must therefore be identified as those whose way of life was deemed to be inconsistent with the Torah’s commandments. Nevertheless, describing the sinners in Call of Levi as those “who had abandoned the law,” as some scholars do, strikes us as an overstatement.[114] Surely not every Jewish sinner was an apostate.

Sources of the Lukan Doublets According to Lindsey’s Hypothesis.

L30-53 As we noted above, there is a parallel to the Call of Levi story in Luke 15:1-2.[115] This Lukan Doublet is due to Luke’s reliance on two parallel sources, Anth. and FR. FR was an epitome of Anth. which presented condensed versions of Anth.’s stories in a more polished Greek style. In the present instance, FR’s version is so condensed that it entirely omits the description of Levi’s encounter with Jesus at the toll station and simply narrates that toll collectors and sinners came to listen to Jesus.

However, as we noted above in Comment to L29, despite their condensed and polished style, the FR versions of a Lukan Doublet sometimes preserve the wording of Anth. better than the versions Luke copied directly from Anth. This happened when the author of Luke revised the wording of Anth. on his own initiative.[116] Under such circumstances, the FR version is sometimes less edited than the Anth. version the author of Luke edited, or the FR version can at least preserve traces of Anth.’s wording that did not survive in Luke’s edited version of an Anth. pericope. Often it is difficult to evaluate whether the Anth. or FR version of a Lukan Doublet preserves Anth.’s wording more faithfully, but there are two tests that can help us make a determination. One test is whether there is agreement between Matthew’s version and one or both versions of a Lukan Doublet. Those points of agreement can be traced back to Anth. The other test is Hebrew reconstruction. If one version, or words of one version, can be reconstructed in Hebrew with relative ease, but the parallel version presents difficulty, this is a good indication that the easier-to-reconstruct version preserves the wording of Anth.

L30 οἳ ἦσαν (GR). In L30 we encounter a convergence between the Anth. and FR versions of the Call of Levi story in Luke: both have the verb ἦσαν (ēsan, “they were”) describing the action of the toll collectors and their companions. Although the agreement is a small one, the use of the same verb at the same point in the two versions is not insignificant. The agreement in the two versions to write ἦσαν is a strong indication that this verb was indeed part of the original wording of the story as it occurred in Anth.

שֶׁהָיוּ (HR). On reconstructing the relative pronoun ὅς (hos, “who,” “which”) with -שֶׁ (she-, “who,” “which”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L5.

In a survey of the 76 instances of the verb εἶναι (einai, “to be”) that occur in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we found that thirty-nine occurred as the translation of הָיָה (hāyāh, “be”),[117] thus corroborating our selection of הָיָה for HR.

L31 ἐλθόντες (GR). In L31 we find a point of agreement between the Matthean and FR versions of the Call of Levi story. According to Matt. 9:10, the toll collectors and sinners were “coming,” whereas, according to Luke 15:1, the toll collectors and sinners were “approaching.” Although the verbs are not identical, both are participles and both convey the same basic meaning. This convergence of detail in the Matthean and FR versions of the Call of Levi story strongly suggests that the depiction of the toll collectors’ arrival derives from Anth., the source behind both versions. We have accepted Matthew’s ἐλθόντες (elthontes, “coming”) for GR; ἐγγίζοντες (engizontes, “approaching”) may be FR’s paraphrase of Anth.’s simpler verb.

בָּאִים (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L4.

L32 μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κατακείμενοι (Luke 5:29). As we discussed above in Comment to L25-26, we believe the author of Luke delayed the mention of Jesus’ reclining in the home of Levi in order to say that the toll collectors and sinners reclined with Jesus. By comparing Luke and Anth., the author of Mark noticed that his two sources mentioned reclining at two different points in the narrative and decided to copy both. Opposite Luke’s μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κατακείμενοι (“with him reclining”), however, Mark wrote συνανέκειντο (sūnanekeinto, “they were reclining together”), paraphrasing Luke’s words rather than copying them verbatim. The author of Matthew subsequently copied συνανέκειντο from Mark.

L33-34 οἱ τελῶναι καὶ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ (Luke 15:1). As we noted in Comment to L29 above, the mention of “sinners” in the FR version of Call of Levi supports our conclusion that “sinners,” not “others,” was the original reading in Anth.

L35-36 ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ (GR). We suspect that FR preserved the original purpose for which the toll collectors and sinners gathered in Levi’s home: “they were coming to listen to him [i.e., Jesus]” (Luke 15:1).

לִשְׁמוֹעַ לוֹ (HR). On reconstructing ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) with שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L24-25. In MT לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל (lishmoa‘ ’el) is more common than -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ (lishmoa‘ le), but -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ does occur as the underlying text for ὑπακούειν μου (hūpakouein mou, “to listen to me”) in Lev. 26:21 and ἀκοῦσαι αὐτοῦ (akousai avtou, “to listen to him”) in Judg. 19:25. Neither of these translations of -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ is identical to ἀκούειν αὐτοῦ in GR, but they are close. The following is an example of -לִשְׁמֹעַ לְ in MH:


כל מה שאמר לך אביך חייב אתה לשמוע לו

Whatever your father says to you, you are obligated to listen to him [לשמוע לו]. (Pesikta Rabbati 27:5 [ed. Friedmann, 132b])

L37 καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ (Mark 2:15). Building on Luke’s secondary description of the toll collectors and sinners reclining with Jesus, Mark included the disciples among those who reclined. Matthew copied this detail word for word from Mark.

L38-39 ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ (Mark 2:15). Continuing to build on Luke’s secondary description of the toll collectors and sinners reclining with Jesus, Mark further added the explanation “for they were many and they were following him.” Matthew omitted this expansion, perhaps because he found it redundant. Mark’s πολλοί (polloi, “many”) is a repetition from L28, while ἦσαν (ēsan, “they were”) may be a reflection of Luke’s use of ἦσαν in L30, and ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ (ēkolouthoun avtō, “they were following him”) is a reiteration of Mark’s ἠκολούθησεν αὐτῷ (ēkolouthēsen avtō, “he followed him”) in L20. The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit this description confirms our suspicion that it did not appear in Anth.

L40 καὶ ἰδόντες (Matt. 9:11). The author of Matthew once again demonstrates his method of weaving together the wording of his two sources: Mark and Anth. From Mark 2:16 (L42) the author of Matthew picked up the participle ἰδόντες (idontes, “seeing”), but from Anth. the author of Matthew copied the word order καί + verb + οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι.

καὶ ἐγόγγυζον (GR). We have in Luke’s parallel versions at L40 a good example of how the First Reconstructor polished the Greek style of Anth. In this case he used the compound verb διαγογγύζειν (diagongūzein, “to grumble”) in place of Anth.’s simpler γογγύζειν (gongūzein, “to grumble”).[118] For GR we have adopted the spelling ἐγόγγυζον in agreement with the corrector of Vaticanus and the critical editions.

וַיִּלּוֹנוּ (HR). Both γογγύζειν and διαγογγύζειν, often in the imperfect as in GR, are used in LXX as the translation of the Hebrew root ל-ו-נ,‎[119] which in the nif‘al and hif‘il stems (נִלּוֹן and הִלִּין respectively) means “complain” or “grumble.” The verbs נִלּוֹן and הִלִּין are rare in MH and usually occur only when relating to a biblical text in which these verbs appear, but the continued use of these verbs in the Second Temple period is confirmed in DSS, where the root ל-ו-נ occurs in the Community Rule and in the Thanksgiving Hymns:


והאיש אשר ילון על יסוד היחד ישלחהו ולוא ישוב ואם על רעהו ילון אשר לא במשפט ונענש ששה חודשים

And the man who grumbles [ילון] against the foundation of the Community will be expelled and will not be permitted to return, but if he grumbles [ילון] against his fellow when it is done unjustly, then he will be punished for six months. (1QS VII, 17-18)


ואנשי [עד]תי סוררים ומלינים סביב

…and the men of my [congrega]tion are stubborn and are complaining [מלינים] all around. (1QHa XIII, 24-25)

Given the information presented above, וַיִּלּוֹנוּ (vayilōnū, “and they grumbled”) is a good candidate for HR, especially since L40 is narrative, which we suppose was composed in a biblicizing style of Hebrew.

L41 οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρεισαίων (Mark 2:16). Unlike Luke 5:30, where Jesus’ critics are designated “the Pharisees and their scribes,” or Luke 15:2, which has “the Pharisees and the scribes,” or Matt. 9:11, which simply names “the Pharisees,” in Mark Jesus’ critics are said to be “the scribes of the Pharisees.” This unusual designation is found nowhere else in NT, although a similar description, τινὲς τῶν γραμματέων τοῦ μέρους τῶν Φαρισαίων (“some of the scribes of the party of the Pharisees”), is found in Acts 23:9. We suspect that Mark’s “scribes of the Pharisees” is simply a paraphrase of Luke’s “Pharisees and their scribes,” reflecting Mark’s love of inverting the word order of his sources.[120]

οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι (Matt. 9:11). The author of Matthew does not mention scribes among Jesus’ critics in the Call of Levi story. His wording, οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι (hoi Fareisaioi, “the Pharisees”), does, however, provide a Lukan-Matthean minor agreement against Mark and also agrees with the wording in Luke 15:2, strongly suggesting that οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι is the way the Pharisees were referred to in Anth.

οἵ τε Φαρεισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς (Luke 15:2). The description of Jesus’ critics in the FR version of Call of Levi is very close to that in Luke 5:30, however the addition of the conjunction τε (te, “both”) and the omission of the possessive pronoun αὐτῶν (avtōn, “their”) are small improvements intended to narrate the story in a more refined Greek style.[121]

οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν (GR). The FR doublet in Luke 15:2 and the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark in L41 confirm that “the Pharisees and their scribes” was the wording of Anth.

הַפְּרוּשִׁים (HR). There can be little doubt that Φαρισαῖος (Farisaios, “Pharisee”) and פָּרוּשׁ (pārūsh) are equivalent terms, since the Greek and Hebrew sources that describe the struggle between the Pharisees and Sadducees for power and influence in the last decades of the Second Temple Period use the terms Φαρισαῖοι/פְּרוּשִׁים. Nevertheless, challenges arise with regard to how the term פְּרוּשִׁים (perūshim) ought to be understood in the context of the Call of Levi story when we consider that “Pharisee” had different connotations in Greek than it did in Hebrew.

In first-century Greek Φαρισαῖος was a term that identified anyone who bore this epithet as a member of the Pharisaic movement.[122] In Greek sources individuals could proudly identify themselves as Pharisees (e.g., Paul [Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:5] and Josephus [Life §12]), and certain individuals who are recognized in rabbinic sources as belonging to the class of Jewish sages are identified in Greek sources as Pharisees (e.g., Rabban Gamliel [Acts 5:34] and his son Shimon ben Gamliel [Jos., Life §191]). Thus, in Greek Φαρισαῖος was an unambiguous term for a particular Jewish sect that lacked inherently positive or negative connotations.[123]

In Hebrew, by contrast, פָּרוּשׁ was a loaded term. Derived from the root פ-ר-ש (“to separate”), the primary meaning of פָּרוּשׁ was “separatist” or even “schismatic.” Moreover, פָּרוּשׁ was non-specific;[124] it could refer to a Pharisee, but it could equally be used to refer to someone who, by rejecting the halachah of the sages, kept themselves aloof from the mainstream of Judaism.[125] The generally negative connotations of the term פָּרוּשׁ‎[126] explain why none of the Jewish sages—not even those who lived while the Temple still stood, nor even those who are identified as Φαρισαῖοι in Greek sources—are ever referred to in rabbinic sources as “Pharisees.”[127] “Pharisee” was the name used to refer to the sages by their opponents.[128] The only context in which the sages used the term “Pharisee” quasi-self-referentially was in critical remarks in which the sages identified typical attitudes and behaviors that characterized some of their fellows. Yet by virtue of the criticisms they voiced in these contexts, the sages disassociated themselves from the name “Pharisee,” claiming, “Those Pharisees are not really one of us.”[129]

Properly understanding the term “Pharisee” in the Call of Levi story and elsewhere in the Gospels requires a nuanced approach given the different connotations the term “Pharisee” carries in Greek and Hebrew. The complexity increases—and consequently the greater need for care—when the unique character of the Synoptic Gospels is taken into consideration, for while the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were composed in Greek, we are convinced that they are based on documents ultimately derived from a Hebrew source. Thus, the Hebraic connotations of the term “Pharisee” may be present in the canonical Greek texts. When attempting to reconstruct the Hebrew source behind the Gospels it is incumbent upon us to ask how the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term פְּרוּשִׁים. Did he use פְּרוּשִׁים the way the Sadducees and other opponents of the Pharisees used it, as a pejorative term meaning “schismatics,” intended as a blanket condemnation of the sages’ interpretation of Judaism? Did the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua use פְּרוּשִׁים the way the sages themselves used it, as an insider’s critique of individuals who adhered to the halachah of the sages but whose personal shortcomings did not represent the Pharisaic party as a whole? Or is there a middle option that allowed the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua to refer to the sages as פְּרוּשִׁים without necessarily denigrating them, but without identifying with them either?[130]

A few test cases should clarify the issue. If the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term “Pharisee” as a means of rejecting the sages out of hand, then “schismatic” will be an acceptable gloss in our test cases. On the other hand, if the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used “Pharisee” as an internal critique, then “humbug” or “imposter” will be an acceptable gloss in our test cases. If neither gloss is acceptable, then we must conclude that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was able to refer to the sages as פְּרוּשִׁים in a neutral manner.[131]

Test Case A: Woe Against the Pharisees

Woe to you schismatics, for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but neglect justice and the love of God. These you should have done, without neglecting those. (Luke 11:42; cf. Matt. 23:23)

Woe to you humbugs, for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but neglect justice and the love of God. These you should have done, without neglecting those. (Luke 11:42; cf. Matt. 23:23)

For Test Case A we have selected one of the woes that occurs in slightly different forms in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. At first glance, either gloss—“schismatic” or “humbug”—would seem to be acceptable. “Woe to you Pharisees” is similar to the repeated refrain “We cry out against you, Pharisees” in the recorded disputes between the Pharisees and Sadducees in rabbinic literature. Closer examination, however, reveals that Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees is unlike that of the Sadducees in one crucial detail: whereas the Sadducees reject the Pharisaic halachah out of hand, Jesus accepts the Pharisaic halachah as valid, and merely criticizes the Pharisees for failing to correctly order their priorities. Jesus’ acceptance of the Pharisaic halachah rules out “schismatic” as a valid option in this test case. “Humbug,” on the other hand, cannot be ruled out quite so easily, especially given the parallels between Jesus’ woes against the Pharisees and the lists of seven kinds of Pharisees that are found in rabbinic sources. We can only speculate whether Jesus reworked a critique of the Pharisees that was already current among the sages, or whether the sages adapted an external critique of the Pharisees for internal consumption. In either case, Jesus’ use of “Pharisee” in Test Case A falls somewhere between the use of “Pharisee” to signal outright rejection of the sages, which characterized the Sadducees, and the sages’ self-critical use of “Pharisee.”

Test Case B: Pharisee and Toll Collector

Two people went up to the Temple to pray, the one a schismatic and the other a toll collector. (Luke 18:10)

Two people went up to the Temple to pray, the one a humbug and the other a toll collector. (Luke 18:10)

For Test Case B we have selected the beginning of the Pharisee and Toll Collector parable. The parable describes how two individuals went to the Temple for prayer, how the Pharisee’s prayer was self-aggrandizing whereas the toll collector’s prayer was self-deprecating, and how the toll collector received a favorable judgment from God but the Pharisee did not. The mechanism that drives home the point of the parable is irony. A contrast is set up between the ostensibly upright Pharisee and the notoriously sinful toll collector. Contrary to expectations, the ostensibly upright Pharisee receives a harsh judgment, while the notoriously sinful toll collector receives mercy. In this context, equating “Pharisee” with “schismatic” does violence to the parable, since a schismatic is worse than an ordinary sinner. Accordingly, no one would be surprised to learn that the schismatic was condemned. “Humbug,” on the other hand, is closer to the mark. A humbug passes himself off as something that he is not, just as in the parable the Pharisee boasts of a righteousness he had not actually attained. If Jesus’ use of “Pharisee” in this parable is not an internal critique, it at least expresses the expectation that the Pharisees ought to be righteous, which accounts for the surprise and disappointment that is felt upon discovery that they (or some of them) are not.

Test Case C: Dining with a Pharisee

One of the schismatics asked Jesus to eat with him, and going to the house of the schismatic he reclined. (Luke 7:36)

One of the humbugs asked Jesus to eat with him, and going to the house of the humbug he reclined. (Luke 7:36)

If in Test Cases A and B we found that Jesus’ use of “Pharisee” was similar to the way the sages used “Pharisee” as an internal critique, here in Test Case C, which unlike the previous cases occurs in narrative rather than direct speech, neither “schismatic” nor “humbug” will do. A neutral term is required, one that identifies the individual’s affiliation without passing judgment on his character. If “Pharisee” in this story reflects פָּרוּשׁ in an underlying Hebrew text, then we must conclude that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used this term as an outsider, but without the polemical overtones of a sectarian dispute.

Test Case D: Pharisees Warn Jesus

At that very hour some schismatics came, saying to him [i.e., Jesus], “Go out and continue on from here, since Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)

At that very hour some humbugs came, saying to him [i.e., Jesus], “Go out and continue on from here, since Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)

Our final test case also requires a neutral meaning for “Pharisee.” Either “schismatic” or “humbug” as a gloss in this context would be churlish. There is no hint of rejection, nor even of criticism in this context. If “Pharisee” reflects פָּרוּשׁ in this story, then the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua must have used פָּרוּשׁ in a neutral manner.

In the Call of Levi story, too, “Pharisee” should be understood in a neutral sense. The Pharisees are disconcerted by Jesus’ free association with toll collectors and sinners, but they are not Jesus’ enemies and Jesus does not reject their legitimacy out of hand. On the contrary, the twin similes of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin are an invitation to the Pharisees to join in the celebration over Levi’s repentance. We conclude, therefore, that in the Call of Levi story the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term פְּרוּשִׁים as a non-hostile outsider.[132] We are left to ponder whether Jesus’ often more critical use of the term פְּרוּשִׁים is an indication that he saw himself as more a part of the world of the sages than did the author of his Hebrew biography.

וְסוֹפְרֵיהֶם (HR). The relationship between the NT scribes and Pharisees is debated among scholars. Rivkin argued that the scribes and Pharisees are identical, going so far as to suggest that “Pharisees” is a secondary gloss intended to explain for non-Jewish readers who the scribes were.[133] Schwartz, by contrast, has suggested that the scribes and Pharisees represent competing currents within first-century Judaism, the scribes (whom he identifies as Levites) representing priestly Judaism, and the Pharisees representing non-priestly Judaism.[134]

At least with respect to the Call of Levi story, it is improbable that the scribes and the Pharisees are competitors. The scribes and the Pharisees act in concert, voicing the same concerns regarding Jesus’ free association with toll collectors and sinners. Nevertheless, conflating the scribes with the Pharisees ignores the distinction that is drawn between these two entities in Luke and Mark. In some unspecified manner the scribes are a subset of the Pharisees according to Luke 5:30 and Mark 2:16.

An additional difficulty with which we are faced is how γραμματεύς (grammatevs, “secretary,” “scribe”) ought to be reconstructed. In LXX γραμματεύς is used to represent two very different Hebrew terms: שׁוֹטֵר (shōṭēr, “bailiff,” “official”) and סוֹפֵר (sōfēr, “secretary,” “scribe”).[135]

In the context of the Call of Levi story, הַפְּרוּשִׁים וְשׁוֹטְרֵיהֶם (“the Pharisees and their bailiffs”) is a defensible reconstruction, especially since the γραμματεῖς do not have a secretarial function—they are not described as making records or keeping accounts—but they might be understood as having an enforcement role, pressuring Jesus’ disciples to conform to Pharisaic halachah. Such a reconstruction would imply a subordinate role for the γραμματεῖς, as they would be acting at the Pharisees’ behest.

Two considerations have led us to prefer the other option, הַפְּרוּשִׁים וְסוֹפְרֵיהֶם (“the Pharisees and their scribes”), for HR. First, the γραμματεῖς do not usually have a subordinate role to the Pharisees in the Gospels.[136] The equal, or perhaps even superior, status of the γραμματεῖς as compared to the Φαρισαῖοι in most Gospel passages cautions against regarding the γραμματεῖς as subordinate to the Pharisees in the Call of Levi story, thus weighing against reconstructing with שׁוֹטֵר in HR.

Ossuary inscription reading יועזר בר יהודה הסופר (yō‘ezer bar yehūdāh hasōfēr, “Yoezer, son of Yehudah, the scribe”). Image courtesy of

Second, we are not aware of any examples in Hebrew sources where the Pharisees or the sages are said to be accompanied by or to have been equivalent to שׁוֹטְרִים (shōṭerim, “bailiffs”). On the other hand, דִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים (divrē sōferim, “words of [the] scribes”) in rabbinic sources refers to certain teachings of the sages not founded upon Scripture.[137] Some of these “words of the scribes” date to the days of the Second Temple. The practice of wearing tefillin (phylacteries), for example, which certainly dates to the Second Temple period,[138] is attributed to the “words of the scribes” in m. Sanh. 11:3. Likewise, as Rivkin observed, in the sectarian dispute recorded in m. Yad. 4:6, the Sadducees impute the concept of the ritual impurity of the hands in distinction from the rest of the body to the Pharisees, a halachic innovation attributed to the “words of the scribes” in m. Yad. 3:2.[139] This association of sages/Pharisees with scribes provides some precedent for our pairing סוֹפְרִים with פְּרוּשִׁים in HR.[140]

Reconstructing γραμματεῖς as סוֹפְרִים casts the scribes in a different role in relation to the Pharisees than שׁוֹטְרִים (“bailiffs”). While שׁוֹטְרִים implies a subordinate role as bailiffs who carry out the Pharisees’ wishes, סוֹפְרִים casts the scribes as the intellectual leaders of the Pharisaic movement. There must have been many followers of Pharisaic teachings who were incapable of making halachic decisions on their own. Such individuals could properly be called Pharisees, but not scribes. The scribes were the Pharisaic scholars who were qualified to formulate halachic rulings. This distinction between partisans and party leaders, which must have existed among the Pharisees, as within any movement, is the most likely explanation of why scribes and Pharisees are mentioned together so frequently in the Gospels.

One final note on γραμματεύς in the Gospels. It is likely that there are two distinct classes of γραμματεῖς who are mentioned in the Gospels, those whom we have discussed who are associated with the Pharisees, and those who are associated with the chief priests and the Temple. It may be that this second class of γραμματεῖς, who are clearly subordinate to the chief priests and who seem to fulfill an enforcement role, are Levites, as Schwartz suggested. Regarding this second class of γραμματεῖς, שׁוֹטְרִים (“bailiffs”) might be the preferable reconstruction. The שׁוֹטְרִים are identified as Levites in some ancient Jewish sources (1QM VII, 14; Sifre Deut. §15 [ed. Finkelstein, 25]).

L42-44 By describing what the scribes witnessed (“that he eats with sinners and toll collectors”), the author of Mark replicated the wording of the question the scribes pose to the disciples (“Why with toll collectors and sinners does he eat?”; L48-53). Such repetition is characteristic of Mark’s editorial activity, as is the use of the historical present (ἐσθίει [esthiei, “he eats”]), and the transposition of words (“sinners and toll collectors” vs. “toll collectors and sinners” in the rest of the pericope). These editorial features, so characteristic of Mark’s redactional style, and the Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit these words strongly support our conclusion that they did not appear in Anth.

L45 ἔλεγον (Mark 2:16). The use of the imperfect ἔλεγον (elegon, “they were saying”) is also characteristic of the author of Mark’s editorial work.[141] In this particular case, the author of Mark may have been inspired to use the imperfect tense by Luke’s ἐγόγγυζαν (egongūzan, “they were complaining”; L40), which is also in the imperfect tense. The author of Matthew copied ἔλεγον from Mark.

L46 πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ (GR). We have preferred Luke’s “they were complaining to his disciples” (L40, L46) for GR. We consider “they were saying to his disciples” (L45-46) to be the author of Mark’s paraphrase of Luke’s wording.

עַל תַּלְמִידָיו (HR). Nif‘al and hif‘il verbs from the root ל-ו-נ (“to complain,” “to grumble”) take the preposition עַל (‘al) in order to indicate the person(s) against whom the complaint is addressed. While עַל + ל-ו-נ is more commonly translated in LXX as γογγύζειν + ἐπί, we do find one example of γογγύζειν + πρός as the translation of עַל + הִלִּין:


וַיָּלֶן הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה

And the people complained against Moses…. (Exod. 17:3)

καὶ ἐγόγγυζεν ἐκεῖ ὁ λαὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν

And the people were complaining there to Moses…. (Exod. 17:3)

Thus Luke’s ἐγόγγυζαν…πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ poses no obstacle to our reconstruction with וַיִּלּוֹנוּ…עַל תַּלְמִידָיו.

On reconstructing μαθητής (mathētēs, “student,” “disciple”) as תַּלְמִיד (talmid, “student,” “disciple”) see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L4.

L47 לֵאמֹר (HR). In MT, when עַל + ל-ו-נ is followed by the words of the complaint, we sometimes find the pattern ל-ו-נ + subject + עַל + person(s) against whom the complaint is made + the infinitive construct לֵאמֹר. For example:


וַיִּלֹּנוּ הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר מַה נִּשְׁתֶּה

And the people complained against Moses saying [לֵּאמֹר], “What will we drink?” (Exod. 15:24)


וַיִּלֹּנוּ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמָּחֳרָת עַל מֹשֶׁה וְעַל אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר אַתֶּם הֲמִתֶּם אֶת עַם יי

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained the next day against Moses and Aaron saying [לֵאמֹר], “You have killed the people of the LORD!” (Num. 17:6)

In these examples לֵאמֹר is rendered in LXX as λέγοντες, which is what we find in Luke 5:30. In other cases we find וַיֹּאמֶר instead of לֵאמֹר:


וַיָּלֶן הָעָם עַל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר לָמָּה זֶּה הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם

And the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt?” (Exod. 17:3)


וַיִּלֹּנוּ עַל מֹשֶׁה וְעַל אַהֲרֹן כֹּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם כָּל הָעֵדָה לוּ מַתְנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם

And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt!” (Num. 14:2)

In the first of these two examples LXX translated וַיֹּאמֶר as λέγοντες, while in the second example וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם is translated as καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτούς. These examples prove that λέγοντες in Luke 5:30 could be reconstructed as וַיֹּאמְרוּ or לֵאמֹר with equal justification. We have adopted לֵאמֹר for HR as the simpler and more obvious choice.

L48 ὅτι (Mark 2:16). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to write διὰ τί (dia ti, “on account of what?” “why?”) confirms that this was the wording of Anth. But why did the author of Mark use the unusual ὅτι interrogative (ὅτι in the sense of “why?” instead of its more common meaning “that”) when paraphrasing the scribes’ question?[142] It is possible that Mark picked this up from Luke 15:2, which also has ὅτι interrogative,[143] but perhaps a more likely explanation is that using ὅτι enabled him to replicate the words in L42-44 all the more closely. Scholars have noted that interrogative ὅτι occurs elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:11, 28), so perhaps this rare usage was simply part of Mark’s editorial repertoire.[144]

לָמָּה (HR). The two main contenders for reconstructing διὰ τί in Biblical Hebrew are מַדּוּעַ (madūa‘, “why?”) and לָמָּה (lāmāh, “why?” “for what?”). Although in LXX διὰ τί is more often the translation of מַדּוּעַ than לָמָּה,‎[145] we have preferred the latter for HR since in MH לָמָּה displaced מַדּוּעַ in the spoken language. Another option for HR is מִפְּנֵי מָה (mipnē māh, “because of what?” “why?”), which occurs in rabbinic sources.[146]

L49 οὗτος (Luke 15:2). Above in Comment to L47 we cited an example in which the people complain to Moses, asking, לָמָּה זֶּה הֶעֱלִיתָנוּ מִמִּצְרַיִם (“Why have you brought us up from Egypt?”; Exod. 17:3). In LXX the interrogative phrase לָמָּה זֶּה (lāmāh zeh, lit., “why this?”) is often translated as ἵνα τί τοῦτο (hina ti touto, lit., “in order for what this?”).[147] This raises the question whether οὗτος (houtos, “this”) might be a reflection of לָמָּה זֶּה in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text. To us, this possibility seems unlikely, since neither לָמָּה זֶּה nor לָמָּה זוֹ is found in MH, the style of Hebrew in which we believe direct speech was composed. The οὗτος in Luke 15:2 is more likely an editorial addition stemming from FR.

L50 μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν (GR). Luke 5:30, Mark 2:16 and Matt. 9:11 agree to write μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν (“with the toll collectors”). Luke 15:2 has συνεσθίει αὐτοῖς (“he eats with them”) in L53, rendering the preposition μετά (meta, “with”) in L50 superfluous. Since the compound verb in L53 is more elegant Greek, we believe that this was an editorial change introduced by the First Reconstructor. The First Reconstructor also omitted τῶν τελωνῶν in L50, probably because toll collectors had already been mentioned in L33 and because toll collectors could easily be subsumed under the heading “sinners,” whom FR does mention in L51.

עִם הַמּוֹכְסִים (HR). We have reconstructed μετά with עִם (‘im, “with”) in accordance with MH style. The use of אֵת (’ēt) in the sense of “with” disappeared in Mishnaic Hebrew,[148] which we use as our model for reconstructing direct speech. On reconstructing τελώνης as מוֹכֵס, see above, Comment to L10.

L51 καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (GR). Noting that καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (“and sinners”) is missing from Luke 5:30 in Codices Ephraemi Syri (C) and Bezae (D), Flusser supposed that “and sinners” in the question posed by the scribes and Pharisees “crept into Luke 5:30 (and in the two parallels) from Jesus’ answer in Luke 5:32 (and parr.).”[149] According to Flusser, “From the halachic standpoint the expression, ‘the sinners’ is nonsensical,”[150] evidently because “eating ‘with sinners’ is, according to classical Judaism, an overly abstract accusation.”[151] We wish that Flusser had elaborated this argument more fully.

While it is always hazardous to disagree with Flusser, we cannot concur with Flusser either on text critical or halachic grounds. Except for the two text witnesses cited above, “sinners” are mentioned in all four versions of the Call of Levi story. The mention of sinners in the FR version preserved in Luke 15:2 is of particular importance, since we believe the First Reconstructor relied on Anth. The presence of καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν in Anth. is the best explanation for the agreement of all four versions to include “sinners” in the question posed by the Pharisees and their scribes. Moreover, as we discussed above in Comment to L29, we believe the author of Luke avoided writing “sinners” earlier in the Call of Levi narrative precisely in order to underscore its use by Jesus’ critics in L51. Placing the first occurrence of the word “sinners” in the Call of Levi story in the mouths of Jesus’ critics is an effective literary device that sharpens the criticism leveled against Jesus and underscores Jesus’ defense of sinners.

Likewise, we do not understand why some Pharisees and their intellectual leaders could not have raised objections to Jesus’ free association with sinners. An Aramaic story told about Rabbi Zera, a third generation amora, bears a certain resemblance to the Call of Levi story:


הנהו בריוני דהוה בשיבבותיה דרבי זירא דהוה מקרב להו כי היכי דניהדרו להו בתיובתא והוו קפדי רבנן כי נח נפשיה דרבי זירא אמרי עד האידנא הוה חריכא קטין שקיה דהוה בעי עלן רחמי השתא מאן בעי עלן רחמי הרהרו בלבייהו ועבדו תשובה

In the neighbourhood of R. Zera there lived some lawless men. He nevertheless showed them friendship in order to lead them to repent; but the Rabbis were annoyed [at his action]. When R. Zera’s soul went to rest, they said: Until now we had the burnt man with the dwarfed legs[152] to implore Divine mercy for us; who will do so now? Thereupon they felt remorse in their hearts and repented. (b. Sanh. 37a; trans. Soncino)

Although this story dates from a much later period (mid-fourth cent. C.E.), it illustrates that at least some representatives of classical Judaism might well have been irritated with someone for showing a friendly and open attitude toward sinners, even when this friendly attitude was for the sake of leading sinners to repentance. In the story about Rabbi Zera, the other sages could not prevent him from associating with sinners, although they did exert peer pressure in an attempt to make him conform to their wishes. Eventually, the sages came to realize that Rabbi Zera had been in the right all along. In the same way, the Pharisees may not have approved of Jesus’ behavior, but they had no halachic grounds upon which to prevent him from eating with sinners. And, as with Rabbi Zera and his contemporaries, we should be open to the possibility that the Pharisees who objected to Jesus’ behavior were possessed of teachable hearts and may well have been convinced by Jesus’ compelling response to their inquiry.

L52 προσδέχεται (Luke 15:2). In the Gospels the verb προσδέχεσθαι (prosdechesthai) is rare; apart from Luke 15:2, it is found only in Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25, 38; 12:36; 23:51, and in all these other instances προσδέχεσθαι is used in the sense of “wait for” or “expect.” Only in Luke 15:2 does προσδέχεσθαι mean “receive” or “welcome.” This unique usage of προσδέχεσθαι in the Gospels supports our suspicion that it was added to the Call of Levi story by the First Reconstructor.

L53 ἐσθίει (GR). Our initial instinct was to suppose that the phrasing of the question in the second person (i.e., “Why do you eat?”) in Luke 5:30 was original and that the author of Mark was responsible for changing the question to the third person (i.e., “Why does he eat?”). But the phrasing of the question in the third person in Luke 15:2 required us to reevaluate this assumption. Although the First Reconstructor used the compound verb συνεσθίειν (sūnesthiein, “to eat together”) instead of the simple ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”), his formulation of the question in the third person is significant. It is difficult to believe that the First Reconstructor and the author of Mark independently changed the question from second person to third person, and since there is little indication that the author of Mark made reference to Luke 15:1-2 when paraphrasing the Call of Levi story, the likeliest scenario is that the author of Luke was responsible for making the Pharisees include the disciples in their question in Luke 5:30.

הוּא אוֹכֵל (HR). In LXX ἐσθίειν is most often used as the translation of אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”).[153] We likewise find that although אָכַל is rendered by a great variety of Greek verbs in LXX, ἐσθίειν is by far its most common translation.[154]

L54 καὶ πίνει (GR). In Luke 5:30 Jesus’ critics include drinking as well as eating in their question. Although we believe the author of Luke changed the form of the verb from third to second person, the inclusion of drinking may be an authentic detail derived from Anth. “Eating and drinking” are often mentioned together in Hebrew,[155] and what is more, “drinking,” a mark of celebration, gets to the heart of why the Pharisees and scribes were bothered by Jesus’ conduct in the company of toll collectors and sinners.

Some scholars have suggested that the reason the Pharisees were opposed to Jesus’ eating with toll collectors and sinners had to do with ritual purity.[156] Others have supposed that the issue of concern was that the toll collectors and sinners may have served Jesus untithed produce[157] or even non-kosher food.[158] These explanations, however, are not convincing.

The suggestion that what Jesus was eating was the focus of concern can be rejected out of hand. Had the critics believed that Jesus was eating food forbidden by the Torah, they would have said, “Why is he a sinner and law-breaker?” not “Why does he eat and drink with toll collectors and sinners?” The question Jesus’ critics did ask proves that their concern was with the company Jesus kept, not the food he ingested. The underlying presupposition of the critics’ question—that Jesus was not himself a sinner—rules out the suggestion that Jesus broke the Torah’s commandments by consuming forbidden foods.

A ritual immersion bath (mikveh) discovered at Magdala. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

As to being concerned about ritual purity, while the Pharisees may have undertaken to maintain a higher degree of purity than the Torah demands,[159] they were well aware that such an undertaking was entirely voluntary.[160] Contracting ritual impurity was not in itself a violation of the Torah’s commandments, and the remedy for contracting impurity from someone else who was impure was easy: all one had to do was to immerse in a mikveh. Thus, even if the toll collectors and sinners were suspected of being impure,[161] there would have been no grounds for criticizing Jesus for associating with them on that score. Moreover, as with the explanation that the problem concerned what Jesus ate, the explanation that Jesus’ critics were concerned about ritual purity fails to take seriously the Pharisees’ stated objection, that it was the company he kept, not his ritual status, that was problematic.[162]

What, then, did the Pharisees find objectionable about Jesus’ eating and drinking with toll collectors and sinners? As Jeremias correctly explained, the issue “was exclusively moral.”[163] The Pharisees who criticized Jesus’ behavior in the Call of Levi story objected to his keeping of bad company. Not only did Jesus freely associate with moral reprobates, he even celebrated with them.

Jesus’ openness toward sinners is an expression of what Flusser referred to as the “new sensitivity” that developed within Second Temple Judaism.[164] This sensitivity consisted of a growing recognition on the part of religious thinkers that human beings are neither wholly sinful nor wholly righteous, which led to a more humble assessment of one’s own character and a more compassionate attitude toward one’s fellows. This new sensitivity coexisted, and sometimes clashed, with the more traditional view that tended to “otherize” sinners.

As Flusser demonstrated, the new sensitivity created a rift within the Pharisaic movement. It is therefore not surprising to find conflicting attitudes toward sinners in rabbinic sources. An otherizing attitude is expressed, for example, in a statement of a first-century B.C.E. Galilean sage:


מַתַּיִי הָאַרְבֵּלִי אוֹמֵ′ הַרְחֵק מִשָּׁכֵן רָע וְאַל תִּתְחַבַּר לָרֵשָׁע וְאַל {ואל} תִּתְיוֹאַשׁ מִ(י)ן הַפּוּרְעָנוּת

Mattai the Arbelite says, “Distance yourself from a bad neighbor and do not befriend the wicked and do not despair of [their—DNB and JNT] punishment.” (m. Avot 1:7)

Later sages elaborated on this saying, commenting:


ואל תתחבר לרשע שכל מי שהוא מתחבר לרשע סופו לשאת ממנו דבר מועט שנאמר ואלי דבר יגונב ותקח אזני שמץ מנהו

“And do not befriend the wicked” because everyone who befriends the wicked in the end takes away a little bit [of wickedness with him], as it is said, A word was sneaked to me and my ear took a whisper from it [Job 4:12]. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 16 [ed. Schechter, 36])

This fearful attitude toward sinners is also expressed in the answers of Rabbi Yehoshua (“an evil companion”) and Rabbi Yosef (“an evil neighbor”) to Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai’s instruction to “Go out and see what is the evil path that a person should avoid” (m. Avot 2:9). This instruction echoes the Two Ways doctrine that juxtaposed the Way of Life and the Way of Death, and that admonished everyone to “flee from evil and everything that resembles it” (cf. Did. 3:1).[165] Some sages were so afraid of the morally degrading influence of sinners that they taught that one should not befriend a wicked person even in order to draw him near to the Torah (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:273]; cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 9:4 [ed. Schechter, 42]). This suspicious and otherizing attitude, however, was countered by other sages, who advocated a more humane approach, for instance:


הֶלֵּל אוֹ′ הֱוֵויִ תַלְמִידו שֶׁלְּ אַהֲרֹן אֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שְׁלוֹם אֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָה

Hillel says, “Be disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving one’s fellow [human] creatures and bringing them near to the Torah.” (m. Avot 1:12)

Hillel’s open attitude toward those who were far from the Torah challenged the traditional wisdom that warned the righteous to keep themselves far from sinners. This humane approach was advocated by another first-century C.E. sage whose words were used to elucidate Hillel’s instruction to love one’s fellow human creatures:


רבי חנינא סגן הכהנים אומר דבר שכל העולם כולו תלוי בו נאמר עליו (שמועה) [שבועה] מהר סיני אם שונה חבירך שמעשיו רעים כמעשיך אני ה′ דיין להפרע מאותו האיש ואם אוהב את הבירך שמעשיו כשרים כמעשיך אני ה′ נאמן ומרחם עליך

Rabbi Hanina, prefect of the priests, says: “A word upon which the entire world depends was sworn from Mount Sinai—If you hate your fellow whose deeds are evil like your own, I the LORD am judge to punish that very man [who hates—DNB and JNT]. But if you love your fellow whose deeds are acceptable like your own, I the LORD am faithful and merciful toward you.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 26 [ed. Schechter, 53])

The prefect of the priests based his humane attitude on Lev. 19:18, the command to love one’s neighbor, interpreting this verse to mean “love your neighbor who, like yourself, is subject to human frailty.”

Hillel and Hanina the prefect of the priests, as sages from the pre-70 C.E. era, were almost certainly Pharisees.[166] Recognizing this fact cautions us against simplistic equations of Pharisees with narrow-mindedness, legalism or hypocrisy.[167] While Jesus’ humble and compassionate approach toward sinners may have scandalized some individual Pharisees, the examples of Hillel and Hanina prove that Jesus’ behavior would not have been unanimously condemned by the Pharisaic movement as a whole.

L55 ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν (Matt. 9:11). Only Matthew has the Pharisees refer to Jesus as “your teacher” in the Call of Levi story. While ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν could be reconstructed as רַבְכֶם (ravchem, “your master”), the only other time Jesus is called “your teacher” in the Gospels is in a unique Matthean pericope that exhibits a high degree of editorial activity (Matt. 17:24). We suspect that ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν was added by the author of Matthew for the sake of clarification and that it is not a reflection of Anth.

L56 καὶ ἀκούσας (Mark 2:17). Luke’s καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν (“And answering, Jesus said…”; Luke 5:31) looks like the combination of וַיַּעַן with וַיֹּאמֶר, which is standard in biblical narratives.[168] We suspect that Mark’s “And having heard, Jesus says…” is a paraphrase of Luke’s wording. The author of Matthew copied ἀκούσας from Mark.

וַיַּעַן (HR). In LXX most instances of the verb ἀποκρίνειν (apokrinein, “to answer”) occur as the translation of עָנָה (‘ānāh, “answer”).[169] Likewise, the LXX translators rendered most instances of עָנָה with ἀποκρίνειν.[170]

L57 יֵשׁוּעַ (HR). On reconstructing the name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous, “Jesus”) as יֵשׁוּעַ (yēshūa‘), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L12.

L58 εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς (GR). The use of the historical present (λέγει; “he says”) in Mark 2:17 is indicative of Markan editorial activity, while the Lukan-Matthean agreement to write εἶπεν is also confirmed by the FR version in Luke 15:3. The double attestation of πρὸς αὐτούς (pros avtous, “to them”; Luke 5:31; 15:3) opposite Mark’s αὐτοῖς (avtois, “to them”) also suggests that Luke preserves the wording of Anth.

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם (HR). In Luke 5:31 (L56-58) we find the pattern καὶ ἀποκριθείς + speaker + εἶπεν. This same pattern is used in LXX to translate וַיַּעַן + speaker + וַיֹּאמֶר in the following examples:


וַיַּעַן אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמַר

And Abraham answered and said…. (Gen. 18:27)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Αβρααμ εἶπεν

And answering, Abraham said…. (Gen. 18:27)


וַיַּעַן יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן מְשָׁרֵת מֹשֶׁה מִבְּחֻרָיו וַיֹּאמַר

And Joshua son of Nun, attendant of Moses from his youth, answered and said…. (Num. 11:28)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Ἰησοῦς ὁ τοῦ Ναυη ὁ παρεστηκὼς Μωυσῇ ὁ ἐκλεκτὸς εἶπεν

And answering, Joshua son of Nave, the chosen attendant of Moses, said…. (Num. 11:28)


וַיַּעַן בִּלְעָם וַיֹּאמֶר

And Balaam answered and said…. (Num. 23:26)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Βαλααμ εἶπεν

And answering, Balaam said…. (Num. 23:26)


וַיַּעַן הָעָם וַיֹּאמֶר

And the people answered and said…. (Josh. 24:16)

Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ λαὸς εἶπεν

And answering, the people said…. (Josh. 24:16)


וַיַּעַן הַשָּׂטָן אֶת יי וַיֹּאמַר

And the accuser answered the LORD and said…. (Job 1:7)

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ διάβολος τῷ κυρίῳ εἶπεν

And answering, the devil said to the Lord…. (Job 1:7)

The above examples demonstrate that the wording of Luke 5:31 in L56-58 is exactly what we would expect of a Greek translation of a Hebrew source.

L59 οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (GR). All three versions of Jesus’ response agree on the phrase “no need they have.” Although it is possible that the author of Luke made a change to his source, and that this was passed along to Mark, and from Mark to Matthew, the ease with which this phrase is reconstructed in Hebrew supports our conclusion that οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν does, indeed, go back to Anth.

אֵין צוֹרֶךְ (HR). To express in Hebrew that “X has no need of Y” we find in various combinations לְ- + אֵין צוֹרֶךְ + X + -בְּ + Y. For example, in a discussion concerning whether pallbearers are required to recite the Shema on the day of a funeral, we read that those who are actually required to carry the bier are exempt, while alternates who prove to be unnecessary are not:


וְאֵת שֶׁאֵין לַמִּיטָּה…צוֹרֶךְ בָּהֶן חַיָּיבִין

…but those that the bier has no need of are obligated [to recite the Shema]. (m. Ber. 3:1)

A similar example is found in a question about the prophets who are mentioned in Scripture but whose words are not recorded therein:


ומפני מה לא נתפרסמה נבואתם שלא היה בה צורך לדורות

And why was their prophecy not published? Because there was not a need for it for the generations to come [לא היה בה צורך לדורות]. (Ruth Rab. Proem §2)

In the above example we find לֹא הָיָה (lo’ hāyāh, “it was not”) instead of אֵין (’ēn, “there is not”) because the answer is given in the past tense.

Examples in which the need is negated are rare, but questions that ask, “What need does X have for Y?” also provide a useful model for our reconstruction. This type of question is sometimes asked with respect to seemingly irrelevant information in Scripture, for example:


כיוצא בו אתה אומר ודנה וקרית סנה היא דביר, ובמקום אחר הוא אומר ושם דביר לפנים קרית ספר, נמצאת קרויה שלשה שמות, וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך אלא שהיו שלש מלכיות מתכתשות עליה זו אומרת תקרא על שמי וזו אומרת תקרא על שמי

It turns out that one verse says, And Danah and Kiryat Sanah, which is Devir [Josh. 15:49], but in another place it says, And the name of Devir formerly was Kiryat Sefer [Josh. 15:15]. So we find that it was called by three names. And what need do those who come into the world have of this [וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך]? It is only to teach that there were three kingdoms who fought over it, this one saying, “Let it be called after my name!” and the other saying, “Let it be called after my name!” (Sifre Deut. §37 [ed. Finkelstein, 72])


כיוצא בו אתה אומר עלה אל הר העברים הזה הר נבו, ובמקום אחר הוא אומר עלה ראש הפסגה, נמצא קרוי שלשה שמות, וכי מה צורך לבאי העולם בכך אלא שהיו שלש מלכיות מתכתשות עליו זו אומרת יקרא על שמי וזו אומרת יקרא על שמי

It turns out that one verse says, Go up on the mount of Avarim, which is Mount Nebo [Deut. 32:49], but in another place it says, Go up to the summit of Pisgah [Deut. 3:27]. So we find that it was called by three names. And what need do those who come into the world have of this [וכי מה צורך לבאי העולם בכך]? It is only to teach that there were three kingdoms who fought over it, this one saying, “Let it be called after my name!” and the other saying, “Let it be called after my name!” (Sifre Deut. §37 [ed. Finkelstein, 72])

The question “What need has X of Y?” is also asked of a rabbinic tradition that seems to impart useless information:


עשרה דורות מנח ועד אברהם וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך אלא ללמד שכל אותן הדורות היו מכעיסין לפניו ולא היה אחד מהם שיהלך בדרכי הקב″ה עד שבא אברהם אבינו והלך בדרכי הקב″ה

There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham. And what need do those who come into the world have of this [וכי מה צורך לבאי עולם בכך]? It is only to teach that all those generations caused him to be angry and there was not one from them who walked in the ways of the Holy one, blessed be he, until Abraham our father came and walked in the ways of the Holy one, blessed be he. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 33:1 [ed. Schechter, 93-94])

The above cited examples demonstrate that our reconstruction, אֵין צוֹרֶךְ לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא (lit., “there is no need to the healthy for a doctor”), is idiomatic Hebrew, while the exact correspondence of word order to the canonical Greek text supports Lindsey’s theory that a Hebrew source ultimately stands behind the Synoptic Gospels.

Note, too, that in Ben Sira where the Greek text has χρείαν ἔσχηκέν (chreian eschēken, “he had a need”), Hebrew MS A reads צֹרֶיך לו (tzorech lo, “[there is] a need to him”; Sir. 13:6).

L60 οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ (GR). In L60 we are faced with a difficult decision in choosing between Luke’s οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες (“the ones being healthy”) and οἱ ἰσχύοντες (“the ones being strong”) in Mark and Matthew. The verb ὑγιαίνειν (hūgiainein, “to be well”) is found only 3xx in the Synoptic Gospels, each time in Luke (Luke 5:31; 7:10; 15:27). This exclusive use by the author of Luke might prejudice us against accepting οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες for GR. On the other hand, ὑγιαίνειν never occurs in Acts, so we cannot say that this verb is definitely Lukan. As for the verb ἰσχύειν (ischūein), it is always used in the Gospels with the meaning “to be able,” with the exception of Mark 2:17 and its parallel in Matt. 9:12. This unique usage of ἰσχύειν in the Call of Levi story could be explained as the author of Mark’s attempt to paraphrase Luke’s wording.

There are parallels to Jesus’ saying, “The healthy have no need of a doctor, but the sick,” in Greek sources, indicating that Jesus made use of a popular proverb to answer the charge that he fraternized with sinners. One of these Greek parallels is found in the writings of Plutarch (late first century C.E.), who recounted the story of Pausanias, king of Sparta from 408-394 B.C.E., who went into exile with his people. According to Plutarch, when Pausanias was asked why he had not remained in Sparta rather than going into exile, his response was:

ὅτι οὐδ᾽ οἱ ἰατροί…παρὰ τοῖς ὑγιαίνουσιν, ὅπου δὲ οἱ νοσοῦντες, διατρίβειν εἰώθασιν.

Because physicians, too, are wont to spend their time, not among the healthy [τοῖς ὑγιαίνουσιν], but where the sick are. (Plutarch, Moralia 230F; Loeb)[171]

In his version of the king’s proverbial response, Plutarch used the same verb—ὑγιαίνειν—that the author of Luke used to describe “the ones being healthy.”

There is no way to prove whether Luke or Mark and Matthew preserve Anth.’s terminology for “the healthy,” but given Mark’s tendency to substitute synonyms for Luke’s wording and Matthew’s tendency to accept changes from Mark, we have chosen to adopt Luke’s οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες for GR. Fortunately, whichever term for “the healthy” is used in GR, בָּרִיא (bāri’, “healthy”) remains the best option for HR.

לַבְּרִיאִים בְּרוֹפֵא (HR). In LXX the noun ἰατρός (iatros, “doctor”) is the translation of רוֹפֵא (rōfē’, “healer,” “doctor”) in 2 Chr. 16:12 and Jer. 8:22. The LXX translation of Ben Sira also has ἰατρός where medieval Hebrew MSS read רוֹפֵא in Sir. 10:10; 38:1, 3, 12, 15.

An example of using בָּרִיא and חוֹלֶה (ḥōleh, “sick”) as a pair of opposites, as we have done in HR L60-61, is found in the following rabbinic statement:


ר′ יוֹסֵה אוֹמ′ בָּחוֹלֶה וּבַזָּקֵן טָמֵּא בַּיֶּלֶּד וּבַבָּרִיא טָהוֹר

Rabbi Yose says, “In the case of the sick [חוֹלֶה] and the aged, they are impure. In the case of the young and the healthy [בָּרִיא], they are pure.” (m. Mik. 8:4)

L61 ἀλλὰ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες (GR). The Call of Levi story is the only place where all three synoptic writers agree to use the phrase κακῶς ἔχειν (kakōs echein, lit., “badly to have”) to refer to those who are ill. Luke used this phrase on one other occasion, in the Healing a Centurion’s Slave narrative (Luke 7:2). In Mark’s Gospel, in addition to Mark 2:17, the phrase κακῶς ἔχειν occurs twice in the Sick Healed at Evening pericope (Mark 1:32, 34), which was thoroughly reworked by the author of Mark, and once in Healings at Gennesaret (Mark 6:55), a Markan-Matthean pericope. The author of Matthew took κακῶς ἔχειν from Mark in Matt. 8:16 (= Mark 1:34) and Matt. 14:35 (= Mark 6:55), and also used this phrase in one other redactional passage that summarized Jesus’ healing activity (Matt. 4:24). It is possible that the author of Mark picked up the phrase κακῶς ἔχειν from the Call of Levi story as he saw it in Luke and Anth. and proliferated its use by inserting it into redactional passages that were subsequently copied by the author of Matthew.

אֶלָּא לַחֹלִים (HR). We cannot appeal to LXX in support of reconstructing ἀλλά (alla, “but”) with אֶלָּא (’elā’, “but,” “rather”), since אֶלָּא is a MH word. Nevertheless, the correspondence between ἀλλά and אֶלָּא is close, and since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in MH style, there is no better alternative.

Reconstructing οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες presents us with a challenge, since there is no word-for-word equivalent in Hebrew. We considered whether יֵשׁ בָּהֶם מַחֲלָה (“there is in them a sickness”) might work, on the analogy of אֵין בָּהֶם מַחֲלָה (“there is not in them a sickness”), found in the following rabbinic statement:


רבי יצחק אומר הא אם אין בהם מחלה מפני מה הם צריכין רפואה

Rabbi Yitzhak says, “Now if they have no sickness in them, why do they need healing?” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:229])

In context, however, יֵשׁ בָּהֶם מַחֲלָה is a poor fit, since the grammatical structure demands that -לְ be prefixed to “the sick” (see above, Comment to L59), and we have found no instances where -לְ is prefixed to יֵשׁ.

In LXX there is one instance of κακῶς ἔχειν for “sick,” and we have allowed this example to guide our reconstruction. This example is found in Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the shepherds of Israel:

καὶ τὰ πρόβατά μου οὐ βόσκετε· τὸ ἠσθενηκὸς οὐκ ἐνισχύσατε καὶ τὸ κακῶς ἔχον οὐκ ἐσωματοποιήσατε καὶ τὸ συντετριμμένον οὐ κατεδήσατε καὶ τὸ πλανώμενον οὐκ ἐπεστρέψατε καὶ τὸ ἀπολωλὸς οὐκ ἐζητήσατε

…but my sheep you do not feed. The one being weak you did not strengthen, and the one being sick [τὸ κακῶς ἔχον] you did not tend its body, and the one being crushed you did not bind up, and the straying one you did not restore, and the lost one you did not seek…. (Ezek. 34:3-4)

In this verse, which criticizes the guardians of Israel for failing to care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, τὸ κακῶς ἔχον (to kakōs echon, lit., “the one [neut.] badly having”) is a translation of הַחוֹלָה (haḥōlāh, “the sick [fem.]”). It is likely that Jesus alluded to this passage from Ezekiel with the Lost Sheep simile, and it is possible that his reference to the sick needing a doctor also hints at the Ezekiel 34 imagery. The parallelism in Ezek. 34:4 between healing the sick and restoring (or “causing to repent”)[172] those that strayed matches two parts of Jesus’ response to his critics: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” and “I have not come to call the righteous, but the wicked to repentance.”

The imagery of healing as God’s response to repentance is found in the prophets (cf., e.g., Isa. 6:10; Hos. 14:1-4) and was carried over into rabbinic literature. An example is found in a rabbinic homily on the verse “‘Peace, peace to the one far off and to the one nearby,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will heal him’” (Isa. 57:19):


מה רפואה [הוא] צריך, [אלא] זה רשע שהיה [רחוק] ועשה תשובה ונתקרב אצל הקדוש ברוך הוא

What healing does he [i.e., the one who is near—DNB and JNT] need? None, but this refers to a wicked person who was formerly far off but who did repentance and thus brought himself near to the Holy one, blessed be he. (Pesikta Rabbati 44:8 [ed. Friedmann, 184b])

These examples show that even if Jesus did draw upon a widely-circulating proverb in the Greco-Roman world about doctors being in the company of the sick, he did not do so at random. Jesus integrated this Hellenistic proverb into a thoroughly Jewish and biblical worldview.

L62-64 The command “But go and learn what Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice is” (Matt. 9:13), in which Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea (Hos. 6:6), is unique to Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel is also unique in recording one other instance of Jesus’ quoting this verse from Hosea (Matt. 12:7), where the quotation is lacking in the Lukan and Markan parallels. These facts arouse suspicion that it was the author of Matthew who placed the quotation of Hos. 6:6 in Jesus’ mouth.[173] On the other hand, Matthew’s Greek in L62-64 reverts easily into Hebrew. In addition, on another occasion Jesus is again reported to have criticized the Pharisees for giving insufficient weight to the virtue of mercy (Matt. 23:23; cf. Luke 11:42), this time by alluding to the prophet Micah (Mic. 6:8).[174] Thus, the citation of Hos. 6:6 in Matt. 9:13 does not appear to be out of character for Jesus, while the ease with which L62-64 reverts into Hebrew could be evidence that the author of Matthew copied these words from Anth. Since strong arguments for and against the unique Matthean material in L62-64 can be made, we have included these lines in GR and HR, but placed them within brackets in order to indicate our uncertainty as to whether this material truly comes from a pre-synoptic source.

L62 πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε (Matt. 9:13). Matthew’s πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε (porevthentes de mathete, “But going, learn”) can easily be reconstructed as לְכוּ וְלִמְדוּ (lechū velimdū, “Go and learn”). Not only is a participle + imperative commonly used in LXX to render two successive imperatives in MT,[175] but we also find that הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk,” “go”) and לָמַד (lāmad, “learn,” “study”) are sometimes used as complimentary verbs in rabbinic sources.[176] An alternative Hebrew reconstruction is צְאוּ וְלִמְדוּ (tze’ū velimdū, “Go out and learn”), a phrase that is also encountered in rabbinic sources.[177]

On reconstructing πορεύεσθαι (porevesthai, “to go”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2.

L63 τί ἐστιν (Matt. 9:13). Matthew’s τί ἐστιν (ti estin, “what is?”) could easily represent מָה הוּא (māh hū’, “what is it?”) or the contracted form מָהוּ (māhū, “what is it?”), which is attested in rabbinic sources. In MT the phrase מָה הוּא is rare, occurring only 3xx (Exod. 16:15; Num. 16:11; Esth. 8:1), but LXX renders the first two of these examples as τίς + εἶναι. Moreover, מָה הוּא and its contraction מָהוּ is often used in exegetical contexts for “what is the meaning of…?” with the intention of elucidating a difficult term or getting to the deeper meaning of a particular verse, in a manner exactly parallel to Jesus’ question, τί ἐστιν, in Matt. 9:13.[178]

L64 ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν (Matt. 9:13). Whether the Hosea quotation conforms to the LXX version of Hos. 6:6 is a vexed question, since there is a variant reading in the textual tradition of this verse, with Vaticanus reading ἔλεος θέλω ἢ θυσίαν (“Mercy I desire rather than sacrifice”), and Alexandrinus reading ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν (“Mercy I desire and not sacrifice”) in agreement with Matthew’s quotation. Gundry argued that the reading preserved in Vaticanus is original and that the variant is due to scribal correction of Hos. 6:6 on the basis of Matt. 9:13.[179] The variant readings and the small sample size make it impossible to make any definite pronouncement.[180] If the Hosea quotation in Matthew is an independent rendering of the Hebrew not based on LXX, this could point to the quotation’s derivation from Anth. and ultimately from the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. But even if the Hosea quotation is taken from LXX this would not prove that the author of Matthew added the quotation to the Call of Levi story, since the author of Matthew could have changed the wording of the quotation in order to make it agree with the LXX text with which he was familiar.

Although we cannot be certain whether the Matthean material in L62-64 was penned by the author of Matthew, some other explanation is required to account for the Jewishness of this material and the ease with which it can be reconstructed in Hebrew. If this material was taken from Anth., then perhaps we should understand Jesus’ response in the following manner: Jesus first quoted a well-known proverb—“The healthy have no need of a doctor, but the sick”—and applied this proverb to his critics and then to himself. In Jesus’ estimate, his critics did not measure up to the proverb’s lesson; they wanted the doctor (Jesus) to stay aloof from the sick (the toll collectors and their friends). Therefore, they should go and learn the meaning of the verse, “I desire mercy more than sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6). In applying the lesson of the proverb to himself, Jesus concluded that he had applied its lesson correctly: “I have come to invite the people who need repentance to repent.”

L65 οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι (GR). In Luke 5:32 we encounter the only example in the Synoptic Gospels of the perfect form ἐλήλυθα (elēlūtha, “I have come”) from the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”). We suspect that this is one of the rare instances in which Mark and Matthew preserve the wording of Anth., whereas the author of Luke has made an editorial improvement to his source in order to achieve a more polished Greek style.[181] The γάρ (gar, “for”) in Matt. 9:13 is probably a stylistic improvement to Anth.’s wording as well.[182]

לֹא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see above, Comment to L31. In LXX καλεῖν (kalein, “to call”) is usually the translation of קָרָא (qārā’, “call”).[183] Likewise, although קָרָא is translated in LXX by a variety of Greek verbs, καλεῖν is by far its most common translation.[184]

Jesus’ pronouncement, “I have come…,” expresses an acute awareness that he had been entrusted with a divine commission.[185] Jesus expressed this high self-awareness elsewhere in terms of being God’s emissary or apostle (Heb., shāliaḥ),[186] a concept that is parallel to Jesus’ self-identification as a prophet. In his answer to his critics Jesus expressed confidence that in celebrating with Levi and his friends he was fulfilling the will of God who had sent him to summon the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repent.

An aggadic tradition assigns the task of bringing Israel to repentance to the Messiah, which will usher in the final redemption:


ד″א חדרך, זה מלך המשיח שעתיד להדריך כל באי העולם בתשובה לפני הקב″ה

Another interpretation of ḥadrāch [Zech. 9:1]: This is the anointed king [i.e., the Messiah—DNB and JNT] who in the future will lead [lehadrich] all who enter the world in repentance before the Holy one, blessed be he. (Song Rab. 7:5 §3)

L66 לַצַּדִּיקִים (HR). Although δικαίους is indefinite in Matthew, Mark and Luke, for HR we have preferred a definite form. Hebrew often makes generic nouns definite, and these are frequently made indefinite when translated to Greek.[187] In LXX δίκαιος (dikaios, “righteous”) is commonly used to translate צַדִּיק (tzadiq, “righteous”).[188] In Hebrew sources צַדִּיק (“righteous person”) and רָשָׁע (“wicked person”) are frequently paired as opposites.[189] A few examples will suffice to demonstrate the pairing of these terms:


כי אתה בראתה צדיק ורשע

For you created the righteous and the wicked…. (1QHa XII, 38)


כי לא יבין משפטם להצדיק צדיק ולהרשיע ר[שע]

For he does not understand their judgment to vindicate the righteous or to condemn the wicked. (4Q424 3 I, 1-2)


בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה יִידּוֹן לְשֵׁם סוֹפוֹ יָמוּת זַכַּיִי וְאַל יָמוּת חַיָּיב שֶׁמִיתָתָן שֶׁלָּרְשָׁעִין הֲנָיָיה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָיה לָעוֹלָם וְלַצִּדִּיקִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם יַיִן וְשֵׁינָה לָרְשָׁעִין הֲנָיָיה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָיה לַעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם פִּיזּוּר לָרְשָׁעִין הֲנָיָיה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָיה לָעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם כִּינּוּס לָרְשָׁעִים רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים הֲנָיָה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָה לָעוֹלָם שֶׁקֶט לָרְשָׁעִין רַע לָהֶן וְרַע לָעוֹלָם וְלַצַּדִּיקִים הֲנָיָה לָהֶן וַהֲנָיָה לָעוֹלָם

A stubborn and rebellious son is judged for the sake of his end. Let him die innocent but let him not die guilty, because the death of the wicked is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world, but [the death of] the righteous is an evil for themselves and an evil for the world. Wine and sleep for the wicked is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world, but [wine and sleep] for the righteous is an evil to themselves and an evil to the world. Scattering for the wicked is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world, but [scattering] for the righteous is an evil to themselves and an evil to the world. Gathering for the wicked is an evil for themselves and an evil for the world, but [gathering] for the righteous is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world. Quiet for the wicked is an evil to themselves and an evil to the world, but [quiet] for the righteous is a benefit to themselves and a benefit to the world. (m. Sanh. 8:5)

The last cited passage from the Mishnah is a good example of how generic uses of “righteous” and “wicked” are given in definite forms.

L67 אֶלָּא לָרְשָׁעִים (HR). On reconstructing ἀλλά (alla, “but”) with אֶלָּא (’elā’, “but,” “rather”), see above, Comment to L61. On reconstructing ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinner”) with רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked person”), see above, Comment to L29.

L68 εἰς μετάνοιαν (GR). The words εἰς μετάνοιαν (eis metanoian, “to repentance”) are found only in Luke’s version of Call of Levi. Consequently, many scholars, especially those who subscribe to the theory of Markan Priority, regard εἰς μετάνοιαν as a secondary gloss.[190] We note, however, that εἰς μετάνοιαν reverts easily to Hebrew, and the concept of God’s messengers summoning his people to repentance is paralleled in Hebrew texts (see below).

Sanders, who regarded the mention of repentance in Luke 5:32 as a secondary Lukan addition to the Call of Levi story, suggested that Jesus did not demand repentance from sinners, which included making restitution and perhaps also sacrificial offerings, as a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of Heaven. This leniency toward sinners, Sanders supposed, was what offended the Pharisees.[191]

According to a rabbinic source, restitution was a formidable obstacle in the way of a toll collector’s repentance:


הגבאין והמוכסין תשובה קשה, ומחזירין למכירין, והשאר עושין בהן צרכי רבים

Poll tax collectors and toll collectors: repentance is difficult [for them], and they make restitution to those they recognize, and the rest they use for the needs of the public. (t. Bab. Metz. 8:26; Vienna MS)

No demand for restitution is mentioned in the Call of Levi story, but in the story of Zakkai the Toll Collector (Luke 19:1-9), the repentant chief toll collector does express his intention to make restitution in terms that conform closely to the above-quoted rabbinic requirement:

And standing, Zakkai said to the Lord, “Behold! Half my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone I will give back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8)

Thus, Sanders’ interpretation rests on discounting the evidence from the Gospel of Luke.

A modified version of Sanders’ interpretation, however, may be closer to the truth. While Jesus did call sinners to repentance, Jesus did not demand repentance as a prerequisite for social interactions with them. Jesus regarded table fellowship as a catalyst that could lead sinners to repentance and draw non-committed persons into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ instruction to his twelve apostles to eat with anyone who offered them hospitality (Luke 10:7) had the same function.[192] In addition, Tilton believes Jesus probably relaxed the demand to make restitution by requiring his full-time disciples to forego demands for repayment from would-be followers (cf. Matt. 6:12; Luke 11:4).[193] The disciples’ voluntary renunciation of the demand for restitution would have significantly eased the way for toll collectors who were drawn to Jesus’ message of repentance. For Tilton, it is difficult to imagine that Jesus would have allowed his full-time disciples to block toll collectors or other sinners from entering the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e., joining his band of itinerant disciples)[194] by insisting on their right to collect debts and restitution from potential disciples.[195] Surely he would have said to the disciples who were demanding payment, “You wicked disciple! Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow Israelite, just as God has had mercy on you?” (cf. Matt. 18:33). Bivin, on the other hand, believes that in the Lord’s Prayer the word “debts” is the well-known Second Temple-period Hebraic and Aramaic idiom meaning “sins.”[196] Therefore, Bivin does not believe Jesus’ disciples were necessarily required to forgive actual monetary debts.

לִתְשׁוּבָה (HR). The noun μετάνοια (metanoia, “repentance”) is rare in LXX, since an abstract term for “repentance” did not exist in Biblical Hebrew.[197] The noun תְּשׁוּבָה (teshūvāh, “repentance”) is a product of Second Temple Judaism.[198] Compare our reconstruction of “call to repentance” to the following rabbinic statement:


כל הנביאים קוראים לישראל לתשובה

All the prophets summon Israel to repentance. (Pesikta Rabbati 44:5 [ed. Friedmann, 183b])

In his Hebrew translation of Luke 5:32 Delitzsch relocated the phrase “to repentance” from the end of the sentence—the position indicated by the Greek text—and placed it after “the righteous” as follows: לֹא בָאתִי לִקְרוֹא הַצַּדִּיקִים לַתְּשׁוּבָה כִּי אִם הַחַטָּאִים (“I did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but rather the sinners”). In rabbinic sources we find a few examples of לֹא בָּאתִי אֶלָּא (“I did not come except…”) to express singularity of purpose:


אני לא באתי אלא להדיר אליעזר בני מנכסיי

I did not come except to disinherit my son Eliezer from my possessions. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 6:3 [ed. Schechter, 31])


לא באנו לכאן אלא לניסיון

We did not come to this place except for a test. (Gen. Rab. 13:9 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:118])


לא באתי אלא ללמד

I did not come except to learn. (Gen. Rab. 74:15 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:873])

A more idiomatic translation of לֹא בָּאתִי אֶלָּא than “I did not come except…” would be “I came only….” These models in which singularity of purpose is expressed would lead us to expect Jesus’ statement to have been formulated as: לֹא בָּאתִּי אֶלָּא לִקְרֹוא לָרְשָׁעִים לִתְשׁוּבָה (“I came only to call the wicked to repentance”). The Greek text, however, does not support this model for reconstruction.

We also find in rabbinic sources numerous examples of mutually exclusive alternatives expressed with לֹא…אֶלָּא. For instance:


לֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הַעִיקָּר אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה

It is not the study that is the main thing, but the doing. (m. Avot 1:17)


לא מעצמי אני אומר לכם אלא מפי הקדש אני אומר לכם

Not on my own do I speak to you, but from the mouth of the Holy one I speak to you. (Sifre Deut. §5 [ed. Finkelstein, 13])


לא על ישראל בלבד הוא נגלה אלא על כל האומות

Not unto Israel alone did he reveal himself, but unto all the peoples. (Sifre Deut. §343 [ed. Finkelstein, 396])


לא רצה הקב″ה לאבדן מן העולם אלא פזרם בארבע רוחות העולם

The Holy one, blessed be he, did not want to destroy them from the world, but to scatter them in the four winds of the world. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 12:6 [ed. Schechter, 52])[199]

The above examples of alternatives expressed with לֹא…אֶלָּא might lead us to expect a reconstruction such as לֹא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא לַצַּדִּיקִים לִתְשׁוּבָה אֶלָּא לָרְשָׁעִים (“I did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but the wicked”), which is similar to Delitzsch’s translation, or perhaps even לֹא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא לַצַּדִּיקִים לִתְשׁוּבָה אֶלָּא בָּאתִּי לִקְרֹוא לָרְשָׁעִים לִתְשׁוּבָה (“I did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but I came to call the wicked to repentance”). Thus, the word order of our reconstruction appears to be somewhat unusual from the standpoint of Hebrew syntax. Nevertheless, we believe it is preferable to produce a slightly idiosyncratic, though not impossible, Hebrew reconstruction that respects the Greek word order, than to disregard the Greek word order for the sake of producing a completely smooth reconstruction.

Redaction Analysis

The Call of Levi story has reached us in four canonical versions: a long and a short form in Luke, a paraphrase of Luke’s longer form in Mark, and a version in Matthew based on Mark and the source behind Luke’s longer form. Each version contributes to our understanding of the pre-synoptic sources that were ultimately derived from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Luke’s Versions

The long form of the Call of Levi story in Luke 5:27-32 appears to be based on Anth., the more Hebraic of Luke’s two main literary sources. On the whole, the author of Luke preserved Anth.’s wording with a high degree of fidelity, but it appears that he did make some slight changes to his source, most of which were probably for the sake of improved Greek style. For instance, we suspect that the author of Luke substituted the phrase ὀνόματι Λευεὶν (“with the name Levi”), a common way of introducing names in Luke-Acts, for an original καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ Λευεὶς (“and a name to him, Levi”) in L11-12. It also seems likely that the author of Luke changed the tense of the verbs in L20 and L65, and altered the word order in L22-24 for the sake of producing a more polished Greek text.

A more significant change the author of Luke made to his source was shifting the location of the phrase “in his house” to the end of the sentence “And Levi made a large banquet for him,” rather than preserving “And as he reclined with him in his house,” which we believe was the original position of “in his house” in Anth. The author of Luke may have shifted the location of this phrase because he wished to state explicitly that Jesus reclined at table with other toll collectors and sinners in the home of Levi. It is also possible that the shifting of this phrase was motivated by the author of Luke’s desire to eliminate the Hebraic καὶ ἐγένετο (L25) and καὶ ἰδοὺ (L28) formulae, which may have sounded strange to his non-Jewish Greek-speaking audience.

Another small but significant change the author of Luke made to Anth. was to replace “sinners” with “others” in L29. We suspect that this change was made for the literary effect it produced, whereby the author of Luke placed the first reference to Jesus’ companions as “sinners” in the mouths of Jesus’ critics (L51). This change sharpened the contrast between Jesus and his interlopers, and underscored the defense Jesus made of his mission to call sinners to repentance.

It also seems likely that the author of Luke abridged Anth.’s version of Call of Levi by omitting the statement that the guests in Levi’s home had come with the purpose of listening to Jesus (L35-36), and perhaps also by omitting Jesus’ quotation of Hos. 6:6 (L62-64).

The slight alteration of the critics’ question from “Why does he eat and drink…?” to “Why do you [disciples] eat and drink…?” may have been intended to deflect the accusation from Jesus, or perhaps to acknowledge that later believers followed their master’s example by continuing to reach out to sinners.

The shorter form of Call of Levi in Luke 15:1-2 was probably copied from FR, which was an epitome of Anth. The FR version pared down the story by eliminating the description of Levi’s personal encounter with Jesus in order to focus solely on the criticism leveled at Jesus that he ate with toll collectors and sinners. Despite the major omissions and the many stylistic improvements of FR’s version, we believe that this version preserves some of Anth.’s details more faithfully than Luke’s edited version of Anth.’s Call of Levi story in Luke 5:27-32. Among the details FR preserved from Anth. that were changed by the author of Luke in Luke 5:27-32 is the purpose for which Levi’s guests came to the banquet: they came (L31, partially confirmed by Matthew’s version) to listen to Jesus (L35-36). The FR version also presents the critics’ question in the third person (“Why does he eat…?”), which is probably an accurate reflection of Anth.

The FR version is also useful for confirming details in the longer Luke 5:27-32 version that are not supported by the Markan or Matthean versions of Call of Levi, such as the use of ἦσαν (“they were”) in L30, the use of a verb for “grumble” in L40, and the use of λέγοντες (“saying”) in L47.

Note that we believe the author of Luke preserved the wording of the FR version more faithfully than the version from Anth. Whereas the author of Luke seems to have made several editorial “improvements” to Anth., which we have highlighted above, this does not seem to have been his policy with respect to FR. The author of Luke appears to have preserved the wording of FR more or less intact. The reason for this difference in policy regarding his two main literary sources probably has to do with their different characters. Whereas FR needed little Greek improvement, having already been polished by the First Reconstructor, the author of Luke felt that the rough translation-style Greek of Anth. demanded revision.

Mark’s Version

Mark’s version is essentially a dramatic paraphrase of the longer Luke 5:27-32 version of Call of Levi. The most notable features of Mark’s version are the long expansions at L3-6, L38-39 and L42-44, which are absent in the Lukan and Matthean versions of Call of Levi. The first of these expansions is what has given the impression that Levi the toll collector may have been stationed in or near Capernaum.

Mark’s version of Call of Levi is filled with characteristically Markan changes.[200] In addition to the expansions, we also note the addition of biographical information in L13; the use of the historical present in L16, L25, L42 and L58; the use of ἔλεγον in L45; the use of synonyms for Luke’s vocabulary in L9, L28, L32, L48, L56 and L60; and the use of transposition in L41 and L43-44. The author of Mark also appears to have omitted some details, either to pick up the pace of the narrative (L18, L21-24) or to strengthen the punch of Jesus’ response to his critics (L68). At certain points, the author of Mark made changes to Luke by comparing it to Anth. and adopting the wording of the latter (L20, L26, L29, L53). At these points, Mark’s version preserves valuable information regarding the wording of Anth.

It appears that the author of Mark reworked Mark 2:14 in particular in order to echo the story of the Call of Yeshua’s First Disciples.

Matthew’s Version

Matthew’s version of Call of Levi is a blend of Mark’s version with Anth.’s. At certain points, the author of Matthew also introduced changes of his own, most notably the change of the toll collector’s name from Levi to Matthew (L15), which entailed referring to Levi as “a person” in L12. Other Matthean changes not based on Anth. or Mark include the insertion of ἐκεῖθεν (“from there”) in L8; the omission of “scribes” in L41; the reference to Jesus as “your teacher” in L55; the use of δέ instead of καί in L56; the omission of the name Ἰησοῦς in L57; the omission of “to them” in L58; and the addition of γάρ in L65. These minor changes were probably made for stylistic purposes.

We are undecided whether the quotation of Hos. 6:6 at L62-64 was added by the author of Matthew or copied from Anth. We note, however, that other Matthean additions, such as the purported conspiracy to cover up the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-14), are pure Greek, whereas L62-64 are easily reconstructed in Hebrew.

Matthew’s Hebraisms (L25, L28), the Matthean-Lukan agreements against Mark (L41, L48, L58), the Matthean-Lukan agreements of omission against Mark (L3-6, L13, L38-39, L42-44), and the fascinating point of contact between the Matthean and FR versions of Call of Levi (L31) provide invaluable data for reconstructing the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text and its earliest translation into Greek.

Results of This Research

1. Where did the Call of Levi story take place? We cannot be sure where the Call of Levi story took place. Neither Luke nor Matthew describe the physical setting, while Mark’s setting of the story “by the sea” is likely secondary and hardly specific enough to locate the story in Capernaum with any certainty. Since the Call of Levi probably took place at the time when Jesus first started calling full-time disciples, a Galilean setting is likely.

2. Why is the toll collector named “Levi” in Luke and Mark, but “Matthew” in Matthew? It is probable that at a pre-synoptic stage the toll collector’s name was “Levi” in the Call of Levi story. The author of Matthew was responsible for changing the toll collector’s name to “Matthew.” Various explanations have been advanced to account for this change, the most common being that the toll collector bore both names, “Levi” and “Matthew.” Two more convincing explanations have been suggested by scholars. The first (advanced by Meier) is that the author of Matthew labored under the false assumption that Jesus had only twelve disciples. This mistaken impression came about by conflating the roles of apostle and disciple. The two roles were originally distinct. Having acquired this mistaken opinion, the author of Matthew could not tolerate in his Gospel the story of the call of a disciple who was not numbered among the Twelve. He therefore changed the name of Levi to Matthew, who was one of the twelve apostles. The weakness of this explanation is that it does not explain why the name “Matthew” was selected in particular. The second explanation, advanced by Bauckham, is that the apostle Matthew was an important figure in the community for which Matthew’s Gospel was written. The author of Matthew knew that the apostle Matthew had been a toll collector, but he did not have a record of the apostle Matthew’s call, so in order to include a story of the call of the apostle his community so highly revered, he transferred the Call of Levi story to the apostle Matthew. Perhaps it is not necessary to assume that these two explanations are mutually exclusive.

3. What were toll collectors, and why were they considered to be inappropriate company in Jewish society? Toll collectors were private entrepreneurs who extracted tariffs on the movement of goods from merchants on behalf of the Roman senate, the Roman emperor, or the ruler of a client kingdom under the thumb of the Roman Empire. Toll collectors were resented for skimming off profits from commerce, which increased costs for average consumers, without contributing to society. In Jewish society they were regarded as robbers because they were suspected of taking more than was required by law.

Second Temple Judaism witnessed a development in which the black-and-white view of humanity described in Scripture began to be replaced by a more nuanced view of the complexity of human nature. Whereas the older view recommended abhorrence of sinners, lest they lead good people astray, this “new sensitivity” recognized that sublime ideals vie with base motives in every human breast, and this recognition led to a more compassionate attitude toward sinners on the part of some spiritual leaders. The clash of opinions described in Call of Levi is evidence that in the time of Jesus the old view and the emerging new sensitivity were still in competition with one another.

4. Who were the Pharisees? The Pharisees represented one stream of Second Temple Judaism, a stream that emphasized non-priestly authority derived from the interpretation of Scripture and ancestral tradition.[201] Their approach to issues such as ritual purity was lenient in comparison with other groups such as the Sadducees and Essenes. The Pharisaic movement attempted to curry the favor of the common folk and also to influence their behavior—facts which explain, to a certain degree, the numerous interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees.

The name “Pharisee” was originally a pejorative term meaning “separatist,” intended to denigrate the Pharisees as schismatics. When taken over into Greek, the name “Pharisee” shed its negative baggage, but the negative connotations of the term “Pharisee” in Hebrew explains why no Jewish sage ever claims to be or is identified as a Pharisee in any rabbinic source, even though the rabbinic sages were the heirs of the Pharisees. Sometimes Pharisees appear in rabbinic literature as negative caricatures of the sages themselves. This was a strategy for neutralizing the negative application by admitting that there were indeed some Pharisees with shortcomings, but denying that such individuals were representative of Pharisaism as a whole.

An appreciation of the nuances of the term “Pharisee” in Greek and Hebrew is necessary for those who wish to avoid simplistic stereotyping that distorts the complexity of the cultural context of the Gospels.

5. Who were the “scribes,” and what was their relationship to the Pharisees? The identity of the scribes has been debated by scholars, with opinions ranging from a complete identification of Pharisees with scribes to supposing that the scribes and Pharisees represent competing trends within Judaism. In our view, the scribes in the Call of Levi story are probably best understood as the leaders of the Pharisees who were qualified to make halachic decisions.

6. What were the Pharisees doing at the banquet if they didn’t approve of eating and drinking with sinners? Some scholars have doubted the veracity of the Call of Levi story, pointing out that it would be ludicrous for Jesus’ critics to complain that he ate with sinners while they themselves were present at Levi’s banquet.[202] While we agree that such a scenario is highly improbable, we hasten to add that this is not what is described in any of the canonical versions of the Call of Levi story. Placing Jesus’ critics in Levi’s home is a detail that has to be read into the text, since none of the canonical versions of Call of Levi actually state that Jesus’ critics were in attendance at the banquet. Jesus’ critics could have seen Jesus entering Levi’s home before the meal or leaving Levi’s home afterward, or someone could have informed them about Jesus’ presence at Levi’s banquet at some later point.[203] Narratives in the Gospels are usually concise, typically leaving non-essential information unstated and often telescoping events.[204] To doubt the veracity of the Call of Levi story on the basis of a detail that is not actually present in the text is a mistake.


In the Call of Levi story we encounter two competing approaches to the problem of sin. The first approach, represented by Jesus’ critics, is to distance oneself as far as possible from sinners so as to avoid being influenced by persons of dubious character. The second approach, represented by Jesus, is to display an open and friendly attitude toward those with moral failings based on the conviction that God commanded Israel to love one’s neighbor who has the very same weaknesses as we observe in ourselves. While noting these differences of approach, we should be cautious of overstating the conflict described in the Call of Levi story. The question Jesus’ critics asked about Jesus’ conduct was just that, a question. There is no need to assume that their question expressed outrage or amounted to an attack. While the Pharisees wondered how Jesus could celebrate with toll collectors and other persons who had violated the Torah’s commands, when Jesus explained to them using the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes that it was because God rejoices over every sinner who repents and wants the rest of his people to celebrate with him, too, the Pharisees may well have accepted the validity of Jesus’ response.

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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 Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [4] See Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [5] On Mark’s periphrastic style, see Robert L. Lindsey, “My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution (1959-1969)”; David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.”
  • [6] On the Epistle of Barnabas in relation to the Bar Kochva revolt, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “On Barnabas and Bar-Kokhba,” in his Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1992), 147-153.
  • [7] In 2 Clement we read:

    καὶ ἑτέρα δὲ γραφὴ λέγει ὅτι οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς.

    And another Scripture also says, “I have not come to call righteous [persons], but sinners.” (2 Clem. 2:4)

    Note that the author of 2 Clement claims to be quoting a written text.

    In Barnabas we find the following paraphrase of Jesus’ statement:

    οὐκ ἦλθεν καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς

    …he did not come to call righteous [persons], but sinners…. (Barn. 5:9)

    According to Justin, Jesus said:

    Οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους, ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν. θέλει γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὁ οὐράνιος τὴν μετάνοιαν τοῦ ἁμαρτωλοῦ ἢ τὴν κόλασιν αὐτοῦ.

    I did not come to call righteous [persons], but sinners to repentance. For the heavenly Father desires the repentance of the sinner rather than his punishment. (1 Apol. 15:8)

    It is possible that the second sentence in the above quotation is Justin’s commentary on Jesus’ saying.

  • [8] On the date of Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1224, see Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha (2 vols.; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963-1966), 1:113-114.
  • [9] In Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1224 we find the following:

    οι δε γραμματεις κα[ι Φαρισαι]οι και ιερεις θεασαμ[ενοι αυ]τον ηγανακτουν [οτι συν αμαρ]τωλοις ανα με[σον κειται. ο] δε Ιη{σους} ακουσας [ειπεν· ου χρειαν] [εχ]ουσιν οι υ[γιαινοντες] [ιατρου,] α[λλα….]

    But the scribes an[d Pharisee]s and priests see[ing h]im were angry [that with sinn]ers in the mid[st he reclined.] But Je{sus} hearing [said: no need ha]ve the h[ealthy for a doctor,] b[ut….] (P. Oxy. 1224 frag. 2 verso, column 2 [page 175])

  • [10] Cf., e.g., Hawkins, 43.
  • [11] In Luke the phrase μετὰ ταῦτα occurs in Luke 1:24; 5:27; 10:1; 12:4; 17:8; 18:4.
  • [12] In Mark the phrase μετὰ ταῦτα occurs in Mark 16:12.
  • [13] In LXX μετὰ ταῦτα is the translation of אַחֲרֵי כֵן in Gen. 15:14; 23:19; 41:31; 45:15; Exod. 3:20; 11:1, 8; 34:32; Lev. 16:26, 28; Num. 4:15; 8:15, 22; 9:17; Josh. 8:34; Judg. 16:4; 1 Kgdms. 9:13; 24:6; 2 Kgdms. 2:1; 8:1; 10:1; 13:1; 21:14, 18; 4 Kgdms. 6:24; 1 Chr. 18:1; 19:1; 20:4; 2 Chr. 20:1, 35; 24:4; 33:14; Joel 3:1; Isa. 1:26; Jer. 16:16; 21:7.
  • [14] In MT the formula וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן followed by a perfect occurs in Gen. 23:19; 25:26; 45:15; Exod. 34:32; Num. 8:22; Josh. 8:34; 2 Chr. 33:14. Of these instances, LXX translated וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן followed by a perfect with either μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα or καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα + aorist in Gen. 45:15; Exod. 34:32; Num. 8:22; 2 Chr. 33:14. In Gen. 25:26 וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן + perfect is translated as καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο + aorist, while in Josh. 8:34 וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן + perfect is translated as καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα οὕτως + aorist.

    Where μετὰ ταῦτα renders phrases such as אַחַר or וְאַחַר rather than וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן the underlying Hebrew text often (though not exclusively) has an imperfect verb (cf., e.g., Gen. 24:55; Lev. 14:8; 15:28; Num. 5:26; 6:20; 19:7; 31:24; 32:22; Josh. 2:16; Judg. 7:11; Hos. 3:5), which does not fit GR or HR.

  • [15] See Bundy, 142; Guelich, 98; Marcus, 228.
  • [16] On πάλιν (palin, “again”) as a Markan redactional word, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes.”
  • [17] Among the scholars who assume that Call of Levi took place in Capernaum are Allen, Matt., 89; France, Mark, 131; John R. Donahue, “Tax Collectors and Sinners: An Attempt at Identification,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 33.1 (1971): 39-61, esp. 54; Roland K. Harrison and Edwin M. Yamauchi, “Taxation,” in Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-biblical Antiquity (ed. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson; 4 vols.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2016), 4:226-236, esp. 227.
  • [18] In addition to the Call of Levi story, the Gospel of Mark mentions the sea when transitioning to the Yeshua Heals the Crowds narrative (Mark 3:7; cf. Matt. 12:15; Luke 6:17), the Gergesene Demoniac story (Mark 5:1; cf. Matt. 8:28; Luke 8:26) and Yair’s Daughter and a Woman’s Faith (Mark 5:21; cf. Matt. 9:18; Luke 8:40). The Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark to omit reference to the sea at the opening of these stories suggests that these references to the Sea of Galilee are Mark’s editorial contribution to these narratives. Note that even in the Gergesene Demoniac story, although Luke mentions “sailing” and describes Jesus stepping out “on the land” (Luke 8:26), thereby recognizing that Jesus had crossed a body of water, he avoided using the term θάλασσα (“sea”), which appears in Mark’s parallel (Mark 5:1). On the term θάλασσα in the Gospel of Luke, see Cadbury, Style, 186.
  • [19] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Mark’s Midrashic Technique.”
  • [20] In LXX παράγειν is the translation of הֶעֱבִיר in 1 Kgdms. 16:9, 10; 20:36; 2 Esd. 12:7; Eccl. 11:10. In 2 Esd. 9:2, the LXX translators seem to have mistakenly translated וְהִתְעָרְבוּ (“and they mingled”) with καὶ παρήχθη (“and it passed by”), perhaps confusing the Hebrew root ע-ר-ב with the root ע-ב-ר.
  • [21] In LXX ἐκεῖθεν occurs over 120xx, usually as the translation of מִשָּׁם (mishām, “from there”). See Hatch-Redpath, 1:427-428.
  • [22] Matthean instances of ἐκεῖθεν in TT that are unsupported in the Markan and Lukan parallels include Matt. 4:21 (cf. Mark 1:19; Luke 5:2); 9:9 (cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27); 12:9 (cf. Mark 3:1; Luke 6:6); 12:15 (cf. Mark 3:7; Luke 6:17); 14:13 (cf. Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10). In verses unique to Matthew and Mark, Matthew has ἐκεῖθεν 2xx where it is unsupported in Mark’s parallel: Matt. 15:29 (cf. Mark 7:31); 19:15 (cf. Mark 10:16). Matthew twice uses ἐκεῖθεν in verses unique to his Gospel: Matt. 9:27; 11:1. See Lindsey, GCSG, 1:311-312.
  • [23] In LXX θεάσασθαι occurs in 2 Chr. 22:6 (= רָאָה); Jdt. 15:8; Tob. 2:2; 13:7, 16; 2 Macc. 2:4; 3:36; 3 Macc. 5:47.
  • [24] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:669-673.
  • [25] See Wm. O. Walker, “Jesus and the Tax Collectors,” Journal of Biblical Literature 97.2 (1978): 221-238, esp. 235. In the same article, Walker speculated that τελώνης (“toll collector”) might have entered the Gospel tradition as an erroneous transliteration of the Aramaic term טְלָנֵי (elānē), which he suggests might have referred to the male counterpart of women prostitutes, either “playboy,” “pimp” or “male prostitute” (237). In this way, Walker suggests, an Aramaic accusation that Jesus was a friend of sinners and “playboys” eventually gave rise to Greek stories about Jesus befriending toll collectors. However, Walker offers no evidence that the term טְלָנֵי ever had any of the meanings he proposed. According to Jastrow (538), טְלָנֵי refers to “night demons” or “urchins,” coming from the verb טְלַל (elal), meaning “to play.” Walker’s suggestion therefore strikes us as incredible. Moreover, if the Call of Levi story descended from a Hebrew source there was no opportunity for stories about Jesus’ association with toll collectors to arise in Greek oral tradition from a misunderstanding of an Aramaic accusation leveled against Jesus.
  • [26] On Roman taxation, see A. H. M. Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” in his The Roman Economy: Studies in Ancient Economic and Administrative History (ed. P. A. Brunt; Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1974), 151-185; Graham Burton, “Government and the Provinces,” in The Roman World (ed. John Wacher; 2 vols.; London: Routledge, 1987), 1:423-439, esp. 426-429; P. A. Brunt, “The Revenues of Rome,” in his Roman Imperial Themes (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 324-346, 531-540.
  • [27] On the likelihood that Levi’s tolls were collected on behalf of Antipas rather than on behalf of Rome, see Manson, Luke, 54; Taylor, 203; Donahue, “Tax Collectors and Sinners: An Attempt at Identification,” 45; Mann, 229; Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 212; Brunt, “Publicans in the Principate,” in his Roman Imperial Themes, 354-432, esp. 409; France, Matt., 351.
  • [28] On the taxes imposed by local cities, see Martin Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, A.D. 132-212 (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Allanheld, 1983), 132.
  • [29] In Egypt only men were liable for the poll tax, while in Syria both men and women were liable for the poll tax. See Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” 165.
  • [30] See Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” 173.
  • [31] See Jos., Ant. 14:206; F. M. Heichelheim, “Roman Syria,” in An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome (ed. Tenney Frank et al.; 6 vols.; Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press, 1933-1940), 4:121-257, esp. 235.
  • [32] See Burton, “Government and the Provinces,” 427; Brunt, “The Revenues of Rome,” 335.
  • [33] See Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” 174.
  • [34] On indebtedness as a social concern in the late Second Temple period, see Shimon Applebaum, “Economic Life in Palestine” (Safrai-Stern, 2:631-700, esp. 691-692); idem, “Judaea as a Roman Province; the Countryside as a Political and Economic Factor,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt 2.8 (1977): 355-386, esp. 368-373; Brunt, “Josephus on Social Conflicts in Roman Judaea,” in his Roman Imperial Themes, 282-287, esp. 285; Martin Goodman, “The First Jewish Revolt: Social Conflict and the Problem of Debt,” Journal of Jewish Studies 33 (1982): 417-427. Cf. Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L18-21.
  • [35] See Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” 165; Menahem Stern, “The Province of Judea” (Safrai-Stern, 1:308-376, esp. 332); Burton, “Government and the Provinces,” 427, 429; Brunt, “Romanization of the Local Ruling Classes,” in his Roman Imperial Themes, 267-287, esp. 270.
  • [36] See Burton, “Government and the Provinces,” 428.
  • [37] See Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” 166, 171, 181.
  • [38] On toll-collecting corporations, see Brunt, “Publicans in the Principate,” 360-376.
  • [39] See Jones, “Taxation in Antiquity,” 171; Burton, “Government and the Provinces,” 428; Brunt, “Publicans in the Principate,” 386.
  • [40] On the difficulty of appealing to the Roman government in cases of tax abuse, see Stephen R. Llewelyn, “Tax Collection and the τελῶναι of the New Testament,” in New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity (ed. Greg H. R. Horsley, Stephen R. Llewelyn et al.; 10 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976-2012), 8:47-76, esp. 75.
  • [41] See Brunt, “Publicans in the Principate,” 378.
  • [42] For an introduction to rabbinic views of toll collectors, see Shmuel Safrai, “A Friend of Tax Collectors.”
  • [43] According to Ginzberg, the reference to the royal estate in m. Ned. 3:4 indicates that this ruling originated in the Second Temple period, since “king” refers to a Jewish king, whereas the emperor is uniformly referred to as Caesar in tannaic sources. See Louis Ginzberg, “The Significance of the Halachah for Jewish History,” in his On Jewish Law and Lore (New York: Atheneum, 1970), 77-124, 246-253, esp. 86-87.
  • [44] See Jastrow, 206, 741; Plummer, Luke, 159; Lawrence M. Wills, “Methodological Reflections on the Tax Collectors in the Gospels,” in When Judaism and Christianity Began: Essays in Memory of Anthony J. Saldarini (ed. Alan J. Avery-Peck, Daniel Harrington, and Jacob Neusner; 2 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 1:251-266, esp. 252 n. 4; Harrison and Yamauchi, “Taxation,” 234.
  • [45] See Donahue, “Tax Collectors and Sinners: An Attempt at Identification,” 39-61; Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, 212.
  • [46] See Jeremias, Theology, 111.
  • [47] For a different view, see Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, 131.
  • [48] For the text and English translation of the Palmyrian Tariff, see George A. Cooke, A Text-book of North Semitic Inscriptions (Oxford: Clarendon, 1903), 313-340. On the Palmyrian Tariff, see Kenneth Lönnqvist, “The Tax Law of Palmyra and the Introduction of the Roman Monetary System to Syria—A Re-Evaluation,” in Jebel Bishri in Context: Introduction to the Archaeological Studies and the Neighbourhood of Jebel Bishri in Central Syria (ed. Minna Lönnqvist; BAR International Series 1817; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2008), 73-88, esp. 76.
  • [49] See Otto Michel, “τελώνης,” TDNT, 8:88-105, esp. 99 n. 115.
  • [50] See Hawkins, 44; Plummer, Luke, 159. The ὀνόματι + proper name formula occurs once each in Mark and Matthew: Mark 5:22 (ὀνόματι Ἰάϊρος; “Yairos by name”); Matt. 27:32 (ὀνόματι Σίμωνα; “Simon by name”). In Luke-Acts, by contrast, the ὀνόματι + proper name formula occurs frequently: Luke 1:5 (ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας; “Zacharias by name”); 5:27 (ὀνόματι Λευίν; “Levi by name”); 10:38 (ὀνόματι Μάρθα; “Martha by name”); 16:20 (ὀνόματι Λάζαρος; “Lazarus by name”); 23:50 (ὀνόματι Ἰωσήφ; “Joseph by name”); 24:18 (ὀνόματι Κλεοπᾶς; “Kleopas by name”); Acts 5:1 (Ἁνανίας ὀνόματι; “Ananias by name”); 5:34 (ὀνόματι Γαμαλιήλ; “Gamaliel by name”); 8:9 (ὀνόματι Σίμων; “Simon by name”); 9:10 (ὀνόματι Ἁνανίας; “Ananias by name”); 9:11 (Σαῦλον ὀνόματι; “Saul by name”); 9:12 (Ἁνανίαν ὀνόματι; “Ananias by name”); 9:33 (ὀνόματι Αἰνέαν; “Aeneas by name”); 9:36 (ὀνόματι Ταβιθά; “Tabitha by name”); 10:1 (ὀνόματι Κορνήλιος; “Cornelius by name”); 11:28 (ὀνόματι Ἅγαβος; “Agabus by name”); 12:13 (ὀνόματι Ῥόδη; “Roda by name”); 16:1 (ὀνόματι Τιμόθεος; “Timothy by name”); 16:14 (ὀνόματι Λυδία; “Lydia by name”); 17:34 (ὀνόματι Δάμαρις; “Damaris by name”); 18:2 (ὀνόματι Ἀκύλαν; “Aquila by name”); 18:7 (ὀνόματι Τιτίου Ἰούστου; “Titius Justus by name”); 18:24 (Ἀπολλῶς ὀνόματι; “Apollos by name”); 19:24 (Δημήτριος…ὀνόματι; “Demetrius…by name”); 20:9 (ὀνόματι Εὔτυχος; “Eutychus by name”); 21:10 (ὀνόματι Ἅγαβος; “Agabus by name”); 27:1 (ὀνόματι Ἰουλίῳ; “Julius by name”); 28:7 (ὀνόματι Ποπλίῳ; “Publius by name”).
  • [51] In LXX the ὀνόματι + proper name formula occurs in Tob. 6:11 (ὀνόματι Σαρρα; “Sarra by name”) and 4 Macc. 5:4 (ὀνόματι Ελεαζαρος; “Eleazar by name”).
  • [52] Other examples of καὶ ὄνομα αὐτῷ/αὐτῇ as the translation of וְשֵׁם + pronominal suffix + proper name are found in Judg. 13:2; 16:4; 17:1; Ruth 2:1; 1 Kgdms. 1:1; 9:1, 2; 21:8; 2 Kgdms. 4:4; 9:2, 12; 13:1, 3; 14:27; 16:5; 17:25; 20:1; 1 Chr. 2:26, 34; Esth. 2:5.
  • [53] Other examples of ᾧ/ᾗ ὄνομα + proper name as the translation of וְשֵׁם + pronominal suffix + proper name are found in Gen. 24:29; 25:1; 38:2, 6; Josh. 2:1.
  • [54] Examples of the transliteration Λευι are found in Gen. 29:34; 34:14, 25, 30; 35:23; 46:11; 49:5.
  • [55] The spelling Λευίς is also attested in Let. Aris. §48; Jos. Asen. 22:7, 9; 23:8, 9, 10, 15; 26:27; 27:6; 28:15; 29:3, 5, 6.
  • [56] See Tal Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I Palestine 330 BCE—200 CE (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 2002), 182-185.
  • [57] See Menahem Stern, “Aspects of Jewish Society: The Priesthood and Other Classes” (Safrai-Stern, 2:561-630, esp. 599).
  • [58] On the role of the Levites in the Temple see Shmuel Safrai, “The Temple” (Safrai-Stern, 2:865-907, esp. 872); R. Steven Notley, Jerusalem: City of the Great King (Jerusalem: Carta, 2015), 93.
  • [59] The role of Temple singers is assigned to the Levites according to Jos., Ant. 20:216; m. Bik. 3:4; m. Rosh Hash. 4:4; m. Arach. 2:6; m. Mid. 2:5; m. Tam. 5:6; 7:3, 4.
  • [60] Levites are described as Temple musicians in 1 Chr. 23:5; m. Suk. 5:4; m. Mid. 2:6.
  • [61] Levites are described as Temple gatekeepers in 2 Chr. 34:13; Philo, Spec. 1:156; Jos., Ant. 9:155; m. Mid. 1:1.
  • [62] The role of bailiff (שׁוֹטֵר) is ascribed to the Levites in 2 Chr. 34:13; 1QM VII, 14, 16; Sifre Deut. §15 (ed. Finkelstein, 25).
  • [63] Levites appear as scribes in 2 Chr. 34:13. In addition, Bickerman identified the “scribes of the Temple” mentioned in an edict of Antiochus III preserved in Jos., Ant. 12:142 as Levites. See Elias J. Bickerman, The Jews in the Greek Age (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University Press, 1988), 182.
  • [64] On the name Alphaeus, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L37.
  • [65] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [66] Bauckham notes that the names recorded in the Gospels are highly compatible with the known onomasticon of first-century Jewish names in the land of Israel. Such compatibility hardly could have been achieved if the names had been made up at a later date, or by individuals unfamiliar with first-century Jewish naming customs in Israel. See Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 73-74, 84.
  • [67] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:700-701.
  • [68] See Dos Santos 87.
  • [69] See Gould, 41; Plummer, Luke, 159; Taylor, 203.
  • [70] The translation “sittynge in a tolbothe” is found as early as John Wycliffe’s 1389 translation of the New Testament.
  • [71] On the other hand, Goodman suggested that ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον in Call of Levi refers to the תֵּיבַת הַמּוֹכְסִין (tēvat hamōchesin; “the tēvāh of the toll collectors”) mentioned in rabbinic texts such as t. Bab. Kam. 10:22. See Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, 131. Goodman defines תֵּיבָה as “bench,” whereas the meaning is “chest” according to Jastrow (1643).
  • [72] See Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 109-110. Cf. Luz, 2:32.
  • [73] John P. Meier, “The Circle of the Twelve: Did It Exist During Jesus’ Public Ministry?” Journal of Biblical Literature 116.4 (1997): 635-672, esp. 638 n. 8.
  • [74] See Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 111-112. Kiley proposed a third scenario, namely that the author of Matthew changed the name of Levi to Μαθθαῖος (Maththaios, “Matthew”) because to the ear it resembles the word μαθητής (mathētēs, “disciple”). By making this change the author of Matthew transformed the Call of Levi story into a universal calling paradigm for all would-be disciples. See Mark Kiley, “Why ‘Matthew’ in Matt 9,9-13?” Biblica 65 (1984): 347-351. Hagner (237), with whom we concur, writes: “Kiley’s suggestion that the name Matthew was picked up becaused it served as a symbol of learning-discipleship remains, without indication from the evangelist, ingenious speculation. The similarity between Μαθθαῖος and μαθητής is probably only coincidental.”
  • [75] On the description of the apostle Matthew as a toll collector in Matt. 10:3, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L7 and L35.
  • [76] See Hawkins, 31. In Matthew we encounter the following examples:

    • Ἰησοῦς ὁ λεγόμενος Χριστός (“Jesus, the one called Christ”; Matt. 1:16; 27:17, 22)
    • πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ (“a city called Nazareth”; Matt. 2:23)
    • Σίμων ὁ λεγόμενος Πέτρος (“Simon, the one called Peter”; Matt 4:18; 10:2)
    • ἄνθρωπον…Μαθθαῖον λεγόμενον (“a person…called Matthew”; Matt. 9:9)
    • τοῦ ἀρχιερέως τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα (“of the high priest, the one called Caiaphas”; Matt. 26:3)
    • εἷς τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰούδας Ἰσκαριώτης (“one of the Twelve, the one called Judas Iscariot”; Matt. 26:14)
    • εἰς χωρίον λεγόμενον Γεθσημανί (“to a place called Gethsemane”; Matt. 26:36)
    • δέσμιον…λεγόμενον Βαραββᾶν (“a prisoner…called Barabbas”; Matt. 27:16)
    • εἰς τόπον λεγόμενον Γολγοθᾶ (“to a place called Golgotha”; Matt. 27:33)
    • ὅ ἐστιν Κρανίου Τόπος λεγόμενος (“which is called Place of a Skull”; Matt. 27:33)

    By contrast, in Mark we find one example:

    • ὁ λεγόμενος Βαραββᾶς (“the one called Barabbas”; Mark 15:7)

    In Luke we encounter two examples:

    • ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν ἀζύμων ἡ λεγομένη πάσχα (“the feast of unleavened bread, the one called Passover”; Luke 22:1)
    • ὁ λεγόμενος Ἰούδας εἷς τῶν δώδεκα (“the one called Judas, one of the Twelve”; Luke 22:47)

  • [77] On introducing a name with λεγόμενος in LXX, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L19.
  • [78] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [79] Among the scholars who regard “and leaving everything” as a secondary Lukan addition are Beare, 78; Fitzmyer, 1:590; Nolland, Luke, 1:245.
  • [80] On the necessity for full-time disciples to leave behind property and give up their means of support, see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L17.
  • [81] On the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes as the original continuation of the Call of Levi story, see above, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [82] In LXX καταλείπειν is the translation of הִנִּיחַ in Exod. 16:23, 24; Lev. 7:15; Num. 32:15; 2 Kgdms. 16:21; 2 Chr. 1:14; Isa. 65:15; Jer. 34[27]:11; 50[43]:6.
  • [83] Examples in LXX where καί + participle + participle + aorist translates three successive vav-consecutives include:

    καὶ ἀποσκηνώσας Αβραμ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν παρὰ τὴν δρῦν τὴν Μαμβρη

    And moving his tent, Abram came and settled by the oak of Mambre…. (Gen. 13:18; NETS)

    וַיֶּאֱהַל אַבְרָם וַיָּבֹא וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא

    And Abram tented, and he came, and he dwelt among the oaks of Mamre…. (Gen. 13:18)

    καὶ σχίσας ξύλα εἰς ὁλοκάρπωσιν ἀναστὰς ἐπορεύθη

    And splitting wood for a whole burnt offering, rising, he [i.e., Abraham—DNB and JNT] went…. (Gen. 22:3)

    וַיְבַקַּע עֲצֵי עֹלָה וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ

    And he [i.e., Abraham—DNB and JNT] split whole burnt offering wood, and he rose, and he went…. (Gen. 22:3)

    καὶ σπεύσας Μωυσῆς κύψας ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν προσεκύνησεν

    And quickly, bowing down to the earth, Moyses did obeisance. (Exod. 34:8; NETS)

    וַיְמַהֵר מֹשֶׁה וַיִּקֹּד אַרְצָה וַיִּשְׁתָּחוּ

    And Moses hastened, and he bowed down toward the earth, and he did obeisance. (Exod. 34:8)

    We also have an example of καί + participle + καί + participle + aorist as the translation of three successive vav-consecutives:

    καὶ ἰδὼν τὸν Αμαληκ καὶ ἀναλαβὼν τὴν παραβολὴν αὐτοῦ εἶπεν

    And seeing Amalek, and taking up his parable, he [i.e., Balaam—DNB and JNT] said…. (Num. 24:20)

    וַיַּרְא אֶת עֲמָלֵק וַיִּשָּׂא מְשָׁלוֹ וַיֹּאמַר

    And he [i.e., Balaam—DNB and JNT] saw Amalek, and he took up his parable, and he said…. (Num. 24:20; cf. Num. 24:21, 23)

  • [84] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups.”
  • [85] See, for example, Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, “ΤΗ ΟΙΚΙΑ ΑΥΤΟΥ: Mark 1.15 in Context,” New Testament Studies 31 (1985): 282-292; David M. May, “Mark 2.15: The Home of Jesus or Levi?” New Testament Studies 39 (1993): 147-149.
  • [86] On Matt. 8:20 // Luke 9:58, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple.
  • [87] For analogous examples of the unexpected use of titles, names and pronouns in the writings of Josephus due to the reworking of his sources, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “Many Sources but a Single Author: Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities,” in A Companion to Josephus (ed. Honora Howell Chapman and Zuleika Rodgers; Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, 2016), 36-58, esp. 39, 42-44.
  • [88] Examples of καὶ ἐποίησεν + name + accusative as the translation of וַיַּעַשׂ + name + direct object include:

    καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ στερέωμα

    And God made the firmament…. (Gen. 1:7)

    וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָרָקִיעַ

    And God made the firmament…. (Gen. 1:7; cf. Gen. 1:16, 21, 25, 27)

    καὶ ἐποίησεν Βεσελεηλ τὴν κιβωτὸν

    And Beseleel made the ark. (Exod. 38:1; NETS)

    וַיַּעַשׂ בְּצַלְאֵל אֶת הָאָרֹן

    And Bezalel made the ark…. (Exod. 37:1)

    καὶ ἐποίησεν Μωυσῆς ὄφιν χαλκοῦν

    And Moses made a bronze snake…. (Num. 21:9)

    וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת

    And Moses made a serpent of bronze…. (Num. 21:9)

  • [89] In LXX δοχή is the translation of מִשְׁתֶּה in Gen. 21:8; 26:30; Esth. 1:3; 5:4, 5, 8, 12, 14.
  • [90] Other examples where ποιεῖν δοχήν is the translation of עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה are found in Gen. 26:30; Esth. 1:3; 5:4, 8.
  • [91] The drinking of wine is mentioned in passing in an account of a rabbinic discussion that took place at a banquet recorded in Sifre Deut. §38 (ed. Finkelstein, 74-75).
  • [92] On the association of wine and rejoicing, note the following rabbinic statement regarding wine which was drunk on the pilgrimage festivals:


    מצוה על אדם לשמח בניו ובני ביתו ברגל. במה משמחן, ביין, דכת′ ויין ישמח לבב אנוש

    It is a mitzvah for a person to make his children and the members of his household rejoice on the pilgrimage festivals. With what does he make them rejoice? With wine, as it is written, And wine will make the heart rejoice [Ps. 104:15]. (t. Pes. 10:4; Vienna MS)

  • [93] On this point, see below, Comment to L54.
  • [94] The point of the similes is that God wants his people to rejoice with him when the wicked repent. See Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, under the subheading “Conclusion.”
  • [95] Additional examples of עָשָׂה + recipient + מִשְׁתֶּה are found in Gen. 19:3; 26:30.
  • [96] According to Lindsey, when the author of Matthew had parallel versions of a story in Mark and Anth., it was Matthew’s practice to weave the two sources together, thereby producing a hybrid version of the story that reflected the wording of Anth. at some points and of Mark at others. See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Significance of the Minor Agreements”; idem, “A New Approach to the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Mark Secondary to Luke.”
  • [97] See LOY Excursus: The Genitive Absolute in the Synoptic Gospels.
  • [98] Instances of καὶ ἐγένετο + gen. abs. are found in Exod. 40:17; 2 Kgdms. 6:16; 11:1; 13:30; 3 Kgdms. 12:24x; 13:20; 21:26; 4 Kgdms. 2:11; 8:5, 21; 13:21; 19:37; Jer. 33[26]:8; 48[41]:4, 7. And cf. Exod. 12:29; 1 Kgdms. 25:30; 30:1; Jer 43[36]:23 where gen. abs. is introduced with the analogous καὶ ἐγενήθη/ἐγενήθη δὲ.
  • [99] In LXX the phrase καὶ γίνεται occurs only 5xx: 1 Kgdms. 5:9; 14:1; 25:42; 2 Kgdms. 14:27; Prov. 24:31. The construction καὶ γίνεται + infinitive never occurs in LXX.
  • [100] On sitting as the customary eating position among the poor, see Baruch M. Bokser, Origins of the Seder: The Passover Rite and Early Rabbinic Judaism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 62, 130 n. 48; Blake Leyerle, “Meal Customs in the Greco-Roman World,” in Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times (ed. Paul F. Bradshaw and Lawrence A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), 29-61, esp. 30-31. According to Josephus (J.W. 2:130), the Essenes sat while eating rather than reclining. Their adoption of the sitting posture at meals was probably a sign of their voluntary poverty and a result of their preference for simplicity.
  • [101] See Safrai-Safrai, 55.
  • [102] On “entering the Kingdom of Heaven” as a synonym for becoming a full-time disciple of Jesus, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L64-65; 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: Jesus’ Band of Itinerating Disciples.”
  • [103] For other examples where we have concluded that an FR version of a Lukan Doublet preserves the wording of Anth. more faithfully than the version the author of Luke copied directly from Anth., see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L68; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L98, L109; Return of the Twelve, Comment to L2, L5, L6.
  • [104] See Joüon-Muraoka, 2:475-476 §130e, 543 §146f n. 1; Segal, 189 §385.
  • [105] In LXX ἁμαρτωλός is the translation of רָשָׁע in 2 Chr. 19:2; Ps. 3:8; 7:10; 9:17, 18, 24 [10:3], 25 [10:4], 36 [10:15]; 10[11]:2, 6; 27[28]:3; 31[32]:10; 33[34]:22; 35[36]:12; 36[37]:10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 20, 21, 32, 34, 40; 38[39]:2; 49[50]:16; 54[55]:4; 57[58]:4, 11; 67[68]:3; 70[71]:4; 72[73]:3, 12; 74[75]:9, 11; 81[82]:2, 4; 90[91]:8; 91[92]:8; 93[94]:3 (2xx), 13; 96[97]:10; 100[101]:8; 105[106]:18; 108[109]:2, 6; 111[112]:10; 118[119]:53, 61, 95, 110, 119, 155; 128[129]:4; 138[139]:19; 139[140]:5, 9; 140[141]:10; 144[145]:20; 145[146]:9; 146[147]:6; Prov. 24:19; Isa. 14:5; Ezek. 33:8, 19; Dan. 12:10 (2xx). In LXX ἁμαρτωλός is the translation of חַטָּא in Gen. 13:13; Num. 17:3; 32:14; 3 Kgdms. 1:21; Ps. 1:1, 5; 103[104]:35; Prov. 23:17; Amos 9:8, 10; Isa. 1:28; 13:9.
  • [106] In LXX, where ἁμαρτωλός is paired with δίκαιος, the word behind ἁμαρτωλός in the underlying Hebrew text is רָשָׁע in Ps. 7:10; 36[37]:12, 16, 17, 32; 124:3, whereas the underlying word is חַטָּא only in Ps. 1:5.
  • [107] The adjective חַטָּא occurs 19xx in MT: Gen. 13:13; Num. 17:3; 32:14; 1 Sam. 15:18; 1 Kgs. 1:21; Isa. 1:28; 13:9; 33:14; Amos 9:8, 10; Ps. 1:1, 5; 25:8; 26:9; 51:15; 104:35; Prov. 1:10; 13:21; 23:17. Of these, only in Amos 9:8 does חַטָּא occur in the singular. There is only one example of חַטָּא in the entire corpus of the Mishnah (m. Sanh. 10:3), and it, too, occurs in the plural form. The paucity of examples of חַטָּא for “sinner” in the Mishnah is another reason for seeking an alternative reconstruction for ἁμαρτωλός, such as רָשָׁע.
  • [108] Substantival uses of רָשָׁע in the singular form are found in MT numerous times. Examples from the five books of Moses include: Gen. 18:23, 25 (2xx); Exod. 2:13; 23:1, 7; Deut. 25:1. In the Mishnah רָשָׁע appears in the singular and as a substantive. Cf., e.g., m. Sot. 3:4; m. Avot 5:10; m. Neg. 12:5.
  • [109] See Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L33, L60.
  • [110] The likelihood that רְשָׁעִים stands behind ἁμαρτωλοί in the Call of Levi story has also been discussed by other scholars. According to Sanders, “Behind hamartōloi stands, almost beyond question, the Hebrew word resha‘im (or the Aramaic equivalent).” See E. P. Sanders, “Jesus and the Sinners,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 19 (1983): 5-36, esp. 8. Cf. Swete, 41; Manson, Teaching, 324-325.
  • [111] According to Ilan, the use of am haaretz in the sense of non-haver was original. At a later point, although already in the tannaic period, am haaretz acquired a different meaning, namely, one who does not fulfill the Torah’s commandments due to ignorance or carelessness. See Ilan, Silencing the Queen: The Literary Histories of Shelamzion and Other Jewish Women (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 103.
  • [112] On Jesus as an am haaretz, see Eyal Regev, “Pure Individualism: The Idea of Non-Priestly Purity in Ancient Judaism,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 31.2 (2000): 176-202, esp. 200.
  • [113] See Sanders, “Jesus and the Sinners,” 11-14.
  • [114] See Davies-Allison, 2:101; Hagner, 238.
  • [115] See above, “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.” Cf. Montefiore, 1:519.
  • [116] In other words, when Luke polished the Greek of Anth. he sometimes polished it even more than had the First Reconstructor.
  • [117] The verb εἶναι occurs as the translation of הָיָה in Gen. 1:2, 6, 14, 15, 29 (2nd instance); 2:18, 24, 25; 3:1, 5; 4:2, 8, 10, 14 (2xx), 17, 20, 21; 5:32; 6:3 (2nd instance), 4 (1st instance), 9, 19, 21; 9:2, 3 (2nd instance), 11, 13, 14, 15 (2nd instance), 16 (1st instance), 18 (1st instance), 25, 26, 10:8, 9; 11:1, 3, 30. In Gen. 1:7, 29 (1st instance); 2:5, 11, 12; 3:3, 6, 9; 4:9 (2xx), 22; 6:4 (2nd instance), 17 (2xx); 7:15, 19, 22, 23; 8:1, 9, 17; 9:12, 15 (1st instance) 16 (2nd instance), 17, 19; 11:4 the LXX translators supplied εἶναι. In Gen. 3:7, 10, 11, 19, 6:2, 3 (1st instance); 9:3 (1st instance), 18 (2nd instance) εἶναι occurs as the equivalent of a Hebrew pronoun. In Gen. 6:12 εἶναι occurs as the equivalent of הִנֵּה (hinē, “behold”) and in Gen. 7:6 εἶναι occurs as the equivalent of בֶּן (ben, “son”) in the Hebrew idiom for stating a person’s age.
  • [118] Cf. LHNS, 135.
  • [119] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:274, 299-300.
  • [120] On inversion of word order as characteristic of Markan redaction, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [121] On dropping possessive pronouns to improve Greek style, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L10.
  • [122] The fact that in the Gospels and the writings of Josephus “Pharisee” is transliterated in precisely the same manner probably indicates that Φαρισαῖος was a term that was commonly used among Greek-speaking Jews to refer to the Pharisees.
  • [123] Undoubtedly the neutrality and specificity of the term Φαρισαῖος was due to its derivation from a foreign language. The baggage the term “Pharisee” had in Hebrew was not carried over into Greek.
  • [124] That the noun פָּרוּשׁ need not necessarily mean “Pharisee” is a point that was underscored by Rivkin. See Ellis Rivkin, “Defining the Pharisees: The Tannaitic Sources,” Hebrew Union College Annual 40-42 (1970): 205-249.
  • [125] Hence, according to t. Ber. 3:24, the sages ordained a malediction against the פְּרוּשִׁין (i.e., “schismatics”), which was to be included among the Eighteen Benedictions. Compare Hillel’s dictum, אַל תִּיפְרוֹשׁ מִן הַצִּיבּוּר (“Do not separate from the public”; m. Avot 2:4), and the rabbinic condemnations of those who separate from the public (פּוֹרְשֵׁי מִדַרֵי צִבּוּר) described in Seder Olam chpt. 3 (ed. Guggenheimer, 42); Semahot 2:8.
  • [126] There are rare examples of פָּרוּשׁ used in a positive sense in rabbinic sources, for example:


    כשם שאני קדוש כך אתם קדושים. כשם שאני פרוש כך אתם היו פרושים

    Just as I [i.e., the LORD—DNB and JNT] am holy, so you must be holy. Just as I am set apart [פרוש], so you must be set apart. (Sifra, Shemini chpt. 12 [ed. Weiss, 57a])

    It is clear from the context, however, that this statement has nothing to do with the Pharisees, and the separation that is envisioned in this statement is not from the body of the Jewish people, as in the case of schismatics; the separation encouraged here is rather that of Israel from the Gentiles.

  • [127] On this point, see David Flusser, “Jesus and Judaism: Jewish Perspectives,” in Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism (ed. Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata; Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1992), 80-109, esp. 88-89; idem, “4QMMT and the Benediction Against the Minim” (Flusser, JSTP1, 70-118, esp. 99).
  • [128] See, for example, m. Yad. 4:6-8, where we repeatedly find the refrain קוֹבְלִין אֲנוּ עֲלֵיכֶן פָּרוּשִׁין (“We complain against you, O Pharisees…”). In one rabbinic text (b. Kid. 66a) we find “Pharisees” used as a synonym for “the sages of Israel,” but even in this case “Pharisee” is found only on the lips of their enemies. Likewise, the advice attributed to King Yannai regarding the Pharisees (“Do not be afraid of the Pharisees, or of those who are not Pharisees, but of the painted ones who seem like Pharisees, whose deeds are like the deed of Zimri, but who seek the reward of Phineas”; b. Sot. 22b) may have been a bit of Pharisaic propaganda, as Ilan and Noam suggest, but the fact remains that the term “Pharisee” is placed on the lips of the Sadducean high priest. The sages did not willingly use this term to refer to themselves.

    On the issues of dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees in m. Yad. 4:6-8, see Joseph M. Baumgarten, “The Pharisaic-Sadducean Controversies about Purity and the Qumran Texts,” Journal of Jewish Studies 31 (1980): 157-170; Daniel R. Schwartz, “On Pharisees and Sadducees in the Mishnah: From Composition Criticism to History,” in Judaistik und nuetestamentliche Wissenschaft (ed. Lutz Doering, Hans-Günther Waubke, and Florian Wilk; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), 133-145, esp. 137-140. On the baraita in b. Kid. 66a, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction’ Addendum: Linguistic Features of the Baraita in b. Kid. 66a,” and the literature cited there. On Yannai’s advice concerning the Pharisees in b. Sot. 22b, see Tal Ilan and Vered Noam, “Remnants of a Pharisaic Apologetic Source in Josephus and in the Babylonian Talmud,” in Tradition, Transmission, and Transformation from Second Temple Literature through Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity (ed. Menahem Kister, Hillel I. Newman, Michael Segal, and Ruth A. Clements; Leiden: Brill, 2015), 112-133, esp. 127-131.

  • [129] Rabbi Yehoshua, for example, voiced critical remarks regarding Pharisees:


    חָסִיד שׁוֹטֶה רָשָׁע עָרוּם אִשַּׁה פְרוּשָׁה מַכֹּת פְּרוּשִׁים הָרֵי אֵילּוּ מְכַלֵּי{ה} עוֹלָם

    A foolish Hasid, a wicked person who is clever, a Pharisaic woman, the injuries of the Pharisees: these destroy the world. (m. Sot. 3:4)

    On Rabbi Yehoshua’s disparaging remarks, see Tal Ilan, “The Attraction of Aristocratic Women to Pharisaism During the Second Temple Period,” Harvard Theological Review 88.1 (1995): 1-33, esp. 9-11; idem, Silencing the Queen, 74-97.

    Likewise critical are the various enumerations of the seven kinds of Pharisee found in rabbinic sources:


    ז′ פרושים הם. פרוש שכמי. פרוש קוזי. פרוש מדוכיא. פרוש נקפי. פרוש (ארנע חובות) [אדע חובותי]. פרוש יראה כאיוב. פרוש אהבה כאברהם

    There are seven kinds of Pharisee: A shoulder Pharisee, a qvzy Pharisee, a mdvky’ Pharisee, a nqpy Pharisee, a “Make known to me my debt” Pharisee, a Pharisee of fear, like Job, and a Pharisee of love, like Abraham. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 45 [ed. Schechter, 124]; cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 37:4 [ed. Schechter, 109]; y. Ber. 9:5 [67a]; b. Ber. 14b; b. Sot. 22a)

    Some of the types of Pharisee enumerated are obscure, and we have left these untranslated. Rivkin (“Defining the Pharisees,” 240) disputed the identification of the פְּרוּשִׁים in these lists with the Pharisees, but Flusser (JSTP1, 103) demonstrated the similarity between these lists and Jesus’ seven woes against the Pharisees, suggesting that Jesus knew an earlier form of this critique in which all seven stereotypes were negative. If Flusser is correct, then there can be little doubt that פְּרוּשִׁים in these lists refers to Pharisees.

  • [130] Another factor to consider is whether the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used the term פָּרוּשׁ in the same way that Jesus had used it. It is possible, moreover, that פָּרוּשׁ was used in different ways in different contexts.
  • [131] Flusser (JSTP1, 100) supposed that “Pharisee” gained a wider currency among first-century Hebrew speakers than just among the opponents of the sages.
  • [132] If it is impossible to imagine using פְּרוּשִׁים without polemical overtones, then it is tempting to consider whether a word such as פָּרוֹשִׁים (pārōshim) occurred in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text. Baumgarten suggested that the pre-70 C.E. sages may have called themselves פָּרוֹשִׁים (“specifiers”) in reference to the exactitude and specificity of their interpretation of Torah, speculating that this was the original name of the Pharisees and that their opponents twisted their name to mean “separatists.” Alternatively, Baumgarten suggests that “specifiers” could have been an attempt to put a positive spin on a derogatory name. See Albert I. Baumgarten, “The Name of the Pharisees,” Journal of Biblical Literature 102.3 (1983): 411-428. We have not accepted this suggestion for HR, first because we agree with Flusser’s surmise that פְּרוּשִׁים came to be used by non-Pharisees in a neutral sense, and second because there are no examples in Hebrew sources where the sages definitely refer to themselves as פָּרוֹשִׁים.
  • [133] See Ellis Rivkin, “Scribes, Pharisees, Lawyers, Hypocrites: A Study in Synonymity,” Hebrew Union College Annual 49 (1978): 135-142.
  • [134] See Daniel R. Schwartz, “‘Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites’: Who are the ‘Scribes’ in the New Testament?” in his Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1992), 89-101.
  • [135] See Dos Santos, 144, 207. In LXX γραμματεύς translates שׁוֹטֵר in Exod. 5:6, 10, 14, 15, 19; Num. 11:16; Deut. 20:5, 8, 9; Josh. 1:10; 3:2; 8:33; 23:2; 24:1; 1 Chr. 23:4; 27:1; 2 Chr. 19:11. In LXX γραμματεύς translates סוֹפֵר in 2 Kgdms. 8:17; 20:25; 3 Kgdms. 4:3; 4 Kgdms. 12:11; 18:18, 37; 19:2; 22:3, 8, 10, 12; 25:19; 1 Chr. 2:55; 18:16; 24:6; 27:32; 2 Chr. 24:11; 26:11; 34:13, 15, 18, 20; 2 Esd. 7:6, 11; 18:1, 4, 9, 13; 22:26, 36; 23:13; Esth. 3:12; 8:9; Ps. 44[45]:2; Isa. 36:3, 22; 37:2; Jer. 8:8; 43[36]:10, 12 (2xx), 23; 44[37]:15, 20; 52:25.
  • [136] The author of Matthew pairs γραμματεῖς with Φαρισαῖοι 10xx in his Gospel: 9xx he mentions γραμματεῖς before Φαρισαῖοι (Matt. 5:20; 12:38; 23:2, 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29); he places γραμματεῖς subsequent to Φαρισαῖοι on only one occasion (Matt. 15:1; cf. Mark 7:1). The author of Mark associates γραμματεῖς with Φαρισαῖοι 3xx (Mark 2:16; 7:1, 5): in two of these instances Pharisees are mentioned first (Mark 7:1, 5). In the Gospel of Luke γραμματεῖς are paired with Φαρισαῖοι 5xx: γραμματεῖς are named first in Luke 5:21; 6:7; 11:53; Pharisees are mentioned first in Luke 5:30 and 15:2, and these two instances, as we have seen, are two versions of the same story.
  • [137] On the expression דִּבְרֵי סוֹפְרִים in rabbinic sources, see Shmuel Safrai, “Halakha,” in The Literature of the Sages (ed. Shmuel Safrai; CRINT II.3; 2 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:121-209, esp. 151.
  • [138] Tefillin are among the artifacts discovered at Qumran. In addition, the wearing of tefillin is attested in the Letter of Aristeas §158-160 and in Matt. 23:5.
  • [139] See Rivkin, “Defining the Pharisees,” 231-232; idem, “Scribes, Pharisees, Lawyers, Hypocrites,” 141. The dual attribution of the ritual impurity of the hands to the scribes and to the Pharisees in rabbinic literature led Rivkin to conclude that the scribes are identical to the Pharisees.
  • [140] Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the irony of referring to the champions of the traditions of the fathers that were specifically not written down as “scribes.” See, for instance, the comments of Elias J. Bickerman, The Jews in the Greek Age (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University Press, 1988), 163.
  • [141] See Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem,” thesis 7.
  • [142] On the interrogative sense of ὅτι in Mark 2:16, see Taylor, 206; Moule, 159.
  • [143] On ὅτι as an interrogative in Luke 15:2, see Henry J. Cadbury, “Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts IV. On Direct Quotation, With Some Uses of Ὅτι and Εἰ,” Journal of Biblical Literature 48.3 (1929): 412-425, esp. 424-425; Jeremias, Parables, 39.
  • [144] On interrogative ὅτι in Mark, see Edwin A. Abbott, The Corrections of Mark Adopted by Matthew and Luke (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1901), 76; Hawkins, 35; C. H. Turner, “Marcan Usage: Notes, Critical and Exegetical, on the Second Gospel,” Journal of Theological Studies 27 (1925): 58-62.
  • [145] In LXX διὰ τί translates מַדּוּעַ in Exod. 5:14; 18:14; Lev. 10:17; Num. 12:8; 16:3; Josh. 17:14; Judg. 5:28 (2xx); 3 Kgdms. 1:6; 2 Chr. 24:6; 2 Esd. 12:2, 3; 23:11, 21; Job 18:3; 21:4, 7; 24:1; 33:13; Isa. 63:2; Jer. 2:14, 31; 8:5, 19, 22; 13:22; 26[46]:15; 30[49]:17[1]; 39[32]:3; 43[36]:29. In LXX διὰ τί is used to translate לָמָּה in Exod. 2:13; 5:22; Num. 11:11; 22:37; Josh. 9:22; 1 Kgdms. 26:15; Ps. 41[42]:10; Job 3:11; 7:20; 13:24; 19:22; Jer. 36[29]:27. In Job 9:29 διὰ τί translates לָמָּה זֶּה.
  • [146] Examples of מִפְּנֵי מָה in the Mishnah include m. Shab. 16:1; m. Yev. 14:1; m. Edu. 1:14; m. Avod. Zar. 2:5.
  • [147] See Gen. 25:22, 32; 32:30; 33:15; Exod. 17:3; Josh. 7:10; Judg. 13:18; 1 Kgdms. 26:18; 2 Kgdms. 12:23; 18:22; Amos 5:18; Jer. 20:18.
  • [148] See Segal, 141.
  • [149] Flusser, Jesus, 101 n. 22; cf. Young, Parables, 196 n. 26.
  • [150] Flusser, “Jesus’ Opinion about the Essenes” (Flusser, JOC, 150-168, esp. 165 n. 39).
  • [151] Flusser, Jesus, 101 n. 22.
  • [152] On the reasons for this unusual description of Rabbi Zera’s appearance, see Jacob Z. Lauterbach, “Ze‘era,” JE, 12:651-652.
  • [153] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:554-557.
  • [154] See Dos Santos, 9.
  • [155] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L95-96.
  • [156] The scholars who suggest that ritual purity was a main cause of the Pharisees’ concern include Manson, Luke, 55; Marshall, 219; Chana Safrai, “Jesus and his Disciples: The Beginnings of their Organization,” Immanuel 24/25 (1990): 95-108, esp. 98; Witherington, 200.
  • [157] Manson (Luke, 55) mentions tithes as one of the issues that concerned the Pharisees in the Call of Levi story.
  • [158] Scholars who suppose that the food Jesus ate was a cause of concern include France, Mark, 134; Marcus, 227.
  • [159] Whether the Pharisees did strive to achieve a higher level of ritual purity than the Torah demands depends in part on whether the haverim described in rabbinic sources were identical to the Pharisees. This is a point that is disputed among scholars. For a recent argument in favor of this identification, see Ilan, Silencing the Queen, 101. On religious and social reasons that made achieving a high degree of purity an important goal for some Pharisees, see Regev, “Pure Individualism: The Idea of Non-Priestly Purity in Ancient Judaism,” 192-199.
  • [160] As Rivkin noted, “The halaka no more requires one to be a ḥaver than a nazirite, but once one underakes the role, the halaka spells out the halakic consequences.” See Rivkin, “Defining the Pharisees,” 245.
  • [161] Being a sinner did not make someone particularly likely to be impure, since sin did not, according to biblical and Pharisaic halachah, make a person impure. Ritual impurity, especially as it was understood by the Pharisees and their rabbinic successors, had practically zero correlation to morality.
  • [162] On this point, see Sanders, “Jesus and the Sinners,” 13.
  • [163] Jeremias, Theology, 111. In his commentary on Mark, France wrote that “J. Jeremias has argued that the Jewish τελώνης, unlike the collector of the poll tax, was not obligated to enter unclean houses and therefore was not technically unclean in a ritual sense, so that to enter Levi’s house put Jesus’ moral standing rather than his ritual purity in question. It may be doubted, however, how far most people (even most scribes?) saw this as a significant distinction” (France, Mark, 133). We find France’s assessment to be incomprehensible, for if anyone could be expected to make fine distinctions with respect to purity it was surely the scribes. Klawans has shown that Scripture makes a clear distinction between ritual impurity and the moral desecration of an individual caused by sin. Whereas ritual impurity is natural, unavoidable and communicable, the moral desecration caused by sin is voluntary and non-transferable. Klawans also shows that the early rabbinic sages in particular compartmentalized the concepts of ritual and moral impurity. As Klawans writes, “In tannaitic literature, sinners are not ritually defiling unless they have been struck with…an affliction [such as leprosy—DNB and JNT].” See Jonathan Klawans, “The Impurity of Immorality in Ancient Judaism,” Journal of Jewish Studies 48.1 (1997): 1-16, quotation on 12. For an introduction to the ancient Jewish concept of ritual purity, see Joshua N. Tilton, “A Goy’s Guide to Ritual Purity.”
  • [164] See David Flusser, “A New Sensitivity in Judaism and the Christian Message” (Flusser, Judaism, 469-489); idem, Jesus, 101. More recently, Regev has suggested that Jesus’ openness toward sinners was a strategy for eliminating the dangerous effects of moral impurity by inviting sinners to repent. See Eyal Regev, “Moral Impurity and the Temple in Early Christianity in Light of Ancient Greek Practice and Qumranic Ideology,” Harvard Theological Review 97:4 (2004): 383-411, esp. 402-409.
  • [165] On the relationship of Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai’s instruction to the Two Ways doctrine, see Sandt-Flusser, 174-176; David Flusser, “‘Which Is the Straight Way That a Man Should Choose for Himself?’ (m. Avot 2.1)” (Flusser, JSTP2, 232-247).
  • [166] On Hillel as a Pharisee, see Ilan, Integrating Women into Second Temple History (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2001), 44. On Hananiah the prefect of the priests as a Pharisee, see Flusser, Judaism, 477.
  • [167] For a discussion of Pharisees and legalism, see Jack Poirier, “Were the Pharisees ‘Legalistic’?
  • [168] Examples of וַיַּעַן followed by וַיֹּאמֶר are found in Gen. 18:27; 24:50; 27:37, 39; 31:31, 36, 43; 40:18; Exod. 4:1; 24:3; Num. 11:28; 22:18; 23:12, 26; Josh. 7:20; 24:16; Judg. 7:14; 20:4; 1 Sam. 1:17; 4:17; 9:19, 21; 10:12; 14:28; 16:18; 20:32; 21:5, 6; 22:9, 14; 23:4; 25:10; 26:6, 14, 22; 29:9; 30:22; 2 Sam. 4:9; 13:32; 14:18; 15:21; 19:22, 44; 20:20; 1 Kgs. 1:28, 36, 43; 2:22; 3:27; 13:6; 18:24; 20:4, 11; 2 Kgs. 3:11; 7:2, 13, 19; Isa. 21:9; Joel 2:19; Amos 7:14; Hab. 2:2; Hag. 2:14; Zech. 1:10, 12; 3:4; 4:5, 6; 6:5; Job 1:7, 9; 2:2, 4; 3:2; 4:1; 6:1; 8:1; 9:1; 11:1; 12:1; 15:1; 16:1; 18:1; 19:1; 20:1; 21:1; 22:1; 23:1; 25:1; 26:1; 32:6; 34:1; 35:1; 38:1; 40:1, 6; 42:1; Ruth 2:6, 11; Ezra 10:2; 1 Chr. 12:18; 2 Chr. 29:31; 34:15.
  • [169] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:133-134.
  • [170] See Dos Santos, 158.
  • [171] Text and translation according to Frank Cole Babbit et al., trans., Plutarch: Moralia (Loeb Classical Library; 16 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927-2004), 3:382-383.

    Other Hellenistic parallels to Jesus’ saying include the following:

    οὐδεπώποτε γοῦν ὤφθη κεκραγὼς ἢ ὑπερδιατεινόμενος ἢ ἀγανακτῶν, οὐδ᾽εἰ ἐπιτιμᾶν τῳ δέοι, ἀλλὰ τῶν μὲν ἁμαρτημάτων καθήπτετο, τοῖς δὲ ἁμαρτάνουσι συνεγίνωσκεν, καὶ τὸ παράδειγμα παρὰ τῶν ἰατρῶν ἠξίου λαμβάνειν τὰ μὲν νοσήματα ἰωμένων, ὀργῇ δὲ πρὸς τοὺς νοσοῦντας οὐ χρωμένων

    He [i.e., Demonax—DNB and JNT] never was known to make an uproar or to excite himself or get angry, even if he had to rebuke someone; though he assailed sins, he forgave sinners, thinking that one should pattern after doctors, who heal sickness but feel no anger at the sick. (Lucian [mid-second century C.E.], Demonax §7; Loeb)

    ὀνειδιζόμενός ποτ᾽ἐπὶ τῷ πονηροῖς συγγενέσθαι, καὶ οἱ ἰατροί φησί μετὰ τῶν νοσούντων εἰσίν, ἀλλ᾽οὐ πυρέττουσιν.

    One day when he [i.e., Antisthenes—DNB and JNT] was censured for keeping company with evil men, the reply he made was, “Well, physicians are in attendance on their patients without getting the fever themselves.” (Diogenes Laertius [third cent. C.E.], Lives of Eminent Philosophers 6:6; Loeb)

    Text and translation of Lucian according to K. Kilburn et al., trans., Lucian (Loeb Classical Library; 8 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1933-1967), 1:146-147. Text and translation of Diogenes Laertius according to R. D. Hicks, trans., Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers (Loeb Classical Library; 2 vols.; New York: Putnam, 1925), 2:6-9.

    On Hellenistic parallels to Jesus’ saying, see Boring-Berger-Colpe, 75.

  • [172] The Hebrew verb שָׁב (shāv) can mean either “return” or “repent,” and in the hif‘il stem could be understood to mean either “restore” or “cause to repent.”
  • [173] See David Hill, “On the Use and Meaning of Hosea VI. 6 in Matthew’s Gospel,” New Testament Studies 24.1 (1977): 107-119; Hagner, 237; Luz, 2:33.
  • [174] See Hill, “On the Use and Meaning of Hosea VI. 6 in Matthew’s Gospel,” 110.
  • [175] See Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, Comment to L13-14. Examples of participle + imperative as the translation of double imperatives include:


    קְחוּ וָלֵכוּ

    …take and leave. (Gen. 42:33)

    λαβόντες ἀπέλθατε

    …taking, leave. (Gen. 42:33)


    מַהֲרוּ וַעֲלוּ אֶל אָבִי

    Make haste and go up to my father…. (Gen. 45:9)

    σπεύσαντες οὖν ἀνάβητε πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου

    Hastening, therefore, go up to my father…. (Gen. 45:9)


    לְכוּ זִבְחוּ לֵאלֹהֵיכֶם

    Go, sacrifice to your God…. (Exod. 8:21)

    Ἐλθόντες θύσατε τῷ θεῷ ὑμῶν

    Going, sacrifice to your God…. (Exod. 8:21)


    מִשְׁכוּ וּקְחוּ לָכֶם צֹאן

    Go and take sheep for yourselves…. (Exod. 12:21)

    Ἀπελθόντες λάβετε ὑμῖν ἑαυτοῖς πρόβατον

    Going, take a sheep for yourselves…. (Exod. 12:21)


    בֹּאוּ וּרְשׁוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ

    Enter and possess the land…. (Deut. 1:8)

    εἰσπορευθέντες κληρονομήσατε τὴν γῆν

    Entering, possess the land…. (Deut. 1:8)


    עֲלֵה רֵשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יי אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ לָךְ

    Go up, possess, just as the LORD the God of your fathers spoke to you. (Deut. 1:21)

    ἀναβάντες κληρονομήσατε, ὃν τρόπον εἶπεν κύριος ὁ θεὸς τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν ὑμῖν

    Going up, possess, in the manner that the Lord the God of your fathers said to you. (Deut. 1:21)


    פְּנוּ וּלְכוּ לָכֶם לְאָהֳלֵיכֶם

    …turn and go to your tents…. (Josh. 22:4)

    ἀποστραφέντες ἀπέλθατε εἰς τοὺς οἴκους ὑμῶν

    …turning back, go away to your houses…. (Josh. 22:4)


    בֹּאוּ הַכּוּם

    Enter, strike them. (2 Kgs. 10:25)

    Εἰσελθόντες πατάξατε αὐτούς

    Entering, strike them. (4 Kgdms. 10:25)

  • [176] Examples of הָלַךְ with לָמַד include:


    האחין שנטל אחד מהן מאתים זוז, והלך ללמוד תורה

    If there were brothers and one of them took two hundred zuz and went to learn Torah…. (t. Bab. Bat. 10:4; Vienna MS)


    רבי יהודה בן אילעי אומר אדם שמת והניח בן ולא למד תורה מאביו והלך ולמד תורה מאחרים הרי [זה] חנופה מבקש

    Rabbi Yehudah ben Ilai says, “A man who died and left behind a son who did not learn Torah from his father, and he [i.e., the son] went and learned from others—behold, this is one who seeks flattery.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 26:6 [ed. Schechter, 83])


    לֵךְ וּלְמַד תּוֹרָתָן וְאַל תִּמּוֹל

    Go and learn their Torah, but do not be circumcised. (Exod. Rab. 30:12 [ed. Merkin, 6:45])

  • [177] This reconstruction was already suggested by Gill, 7:91. Cf. Strack-Billerbeck, 1:499; Krister Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and Its Use of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968), 129; Hill, “On the Use and Meaning of Hosea VI. 6 in Matthew’s Gospel,” 111; Kiley, “Why ‘Matthew’ in Matt 9, 9-13?” 349; Luz, 2:34 n. 41. Hagner (239) refers to צא ולמד as an Aramaic formula without noting that צא ולמד is also equally Hebrew. Examples of יָצָא with לָמַד include:


    צא ולמד משלש עשרה מדות שהתורה נדרש בהן

    Go out and learn from the thirteen rules of exegesis by which the Torah is interpreted. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 8 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:334])


    ר′ נתן אומר אין לך כל מצוה ומצוה שבתורה שאין מתן שכרה בצדה צא ולמד ממצות ציצית

    Rabbi Natan says: “There is not a single mitzvah in the Torah that does not give its reward in its wake. Go out and learn from the commandment of the tzitzit [i.e., fringes—DNB and JNT]….” (Sifre Num. §115 [ed. Horovitz, 128])


    צא ולמד ממשה, אבי חכמה, אבי הנביאים, שהוציא ישראל ממצרים ועל ידו נעשו כמה נסים במצרים, ונפלאות בארץ חם נוראות על ים סוף ועלה לשמי מרום והוריד תורה מן השמים

    Go out and learn from Moses, the father of wisdom, the father of the prophets, who brought Israel out from Egypt and by whose hand so many miracles were performed in Egypt, and wonders in the land of Ham, and dreadful works by the Red Sea, and who ascended to the highest heavens and brought down the Torah from heaven…. (Lev. Rab. 1:15 [ed. Margulies, 1:32-33])

  • [178] Examples of מָה הוּא and its contraction מָהוּ in exegetical contexts include:


    יי אלהי צבאות מי כמוך חסין יה מהו צבאות אות הוא בתוך צבא שלו

    O LORD God of hosts [צְבָאוֹת], who is mighty like you, O LORD? [Ps. 89:9]. What is [the meaning of] “hosts” [צְבָאוֹת]? He is a sign [אוֹת] in the midst of his host [צָבָא]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:175])


    לא אמרו איה יי המעלה אותנו מארץ מצרים המוליך אותנו במדבר בארץ ערבה ושוחה בארץ ציה וצלמות מהו צלמות מקום צל ועמו מות

    They did not say, “Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt and led us in the wilderness in a land of desert and pits, a land of dryness and צַלְמָוֶת [tzalmāvet]? [Jer. 2:6]. What is [the meaning of] צַלְמָוֶת? A place of shadow [צֵל], and with it, death [מָוֶת]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:224])


    עורי צפון זו העולה שהיתה נשחטת בצפון, מה הוא עורי דבר שהיה ישן ומתעורר

    Awake, O north wind! [Song 4:16]: this is the whole burnt offering that was slaughtered on the north [side of the altar]. And what is [the meaning of] “Awake”? A thing that was asleep and that awakes. (Gen. Rab. 22:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:208])


    הן אראלם צעקו חוצה, מהו חוצה רבי עזריה אמר חוצה חיצה

    Behold, their mighty ones shout outside [חוּצָה] [Isa. 33:7]. What is [the meaning of] חוּצָה? Rabbi Azariah said, “Strange [חִיצָה].” (Gen. Rab. 56:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:600])


    וישא אברהם את עיניו וירא והנה איל אחר וגו′ מהו אחר, אמר ר′ יודן אחר כל המעשים ישראל נאחזים בעבירות ומסתבכין בצרות וסופן להיגאל בקרניו שלאיל וי″י אלהים בשופר יתקע וגו′‏

    And Abraham raised his eyes and looked and behold: A ram is behind [אַחַר] him! [Gen. 22:13]. What is [the meaning of] אַחַר [“behind,” “after”]? Rabbi Yudan said, “After [אַחַר] all the things that happened [in Scripture], Israel is still caught in sins and subject to hardships, but their destiny is to be redeemed by the horns of the ram, [as it is said,] And the LORD God will sound the ram’s horn, etc. [Zech. 9:14].” (Gen. Rab. 56:9 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:605])


    וידר יעקב נדר לאמר וגו′…. מהו לאמר לאמר לדורות כדי שיהיו נודרין בעת צרתן

    And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, etc. [Gen. 28:20]. What is [the meaning of] “saying”? “Saying” to the generations to come that it is advisable to make vows in a time of their distress. (Gen. Rab. 70:1 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:799])


    ויכו בהם אביה ועמו מכה רבה מהו מכה רבה ר′ אבא בר כהנא אמ′ העביר הכרת פניהם

    And Aviyah and his people struck them with a mighty blow [2 Chr. 13:17]. What is [the meaning of] “a mighty blow”? Rabbi Abba bar Kahana said, “[It means that] he disfigured their faces.” (Lev. Rab. 33:5 [ed. Margulies, 2:763])

  • [179] Robert H. Gundry, The use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel: With special reference to the Messianic hope (Leiden: Brill, 1967), 111.
  • [180] See Nolland, Matt., 387.
  • [181] In LXX the perfect form ἐλήλυθα is found only in 2 Macc. 14:7, an original Greek composition.
  • [182] Schweizer (226) suggests that the author of Matthew added γάρ in order to stress that Jesus’ actions were a fulfillment of Hos. 6:6.
  • [183] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:712-716.
  • [184] See Dos Santos, 185.
  • [185] See Tomson, 134.
  • [186] On Jesus’ self-perception as God’s emissary, see Joshua N. Tilton, “Jesus the Apostle,” and the literature cited there.
  • [187] See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L77.
  • [188] Examples of δίκαιος as the translation of צַדִּיק include Gen. 6:9; 7:1; 18:23, 24, 25, 26, 28; 20:4. See Hatch-Redpath, 1:330-332.
  • [189] Cf. Albright-Mann, 106. In MT צַדִּיק is paired with רָשָׁע in Gen. 18:23, 25 (2xx); 2 Sam. 4:11; Isa. 5:23; Ezek. 21:8, 9; Hab. 1:4, 13; Mal. 3:18; Ps. 1:6; 7:10; 11:5; 34:22; 37:12, 16, 17, 21, 32; 75:11; Prov. 3:33; 10:3, 6, 7, 11, 16, 20, 25, 28; 11:23; 12:5, 12, 21, 26; 13:5, 9; 14:19; 15:29; 17:15; 18:5; 21:12, 18; 24:15, 16; 25:26; 28:1; 29:7, 16, 27; Eccl. 3:17; 9:2. Examples of the pairing of צַדִּיק with רָשָׁע in the Mishnah include m. Sanh. 6:5; 10:3, 5; m. Avot 1:8; 4:15; m. Neg. 12:5.
  • [190] Among the scholars who regard εἰς μετάνοιαν in Luke 5:32 as a Lukan addition are Bultmann, 92; Taylor, 207; Knox, 1:14 n. 1; Bundy, 145; Beare, 78; Marshall, 221; Fitzmyer, 1:592; Sanders, “Jesus and the Sinners,” 6; Nolland, Luke, 1:146-247; Marcus, 1:228.
  • [191] See Sanders, “Jesus and Judaism,” 23-27. For a discussion of Sanders’ view, see Regev, “Moral Impurity and the Temple in Early Christianity,” 402-403.
  • [192] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L95-96.
  • [193] On Jesus’ expectation that literal debt forgiveness would be practiced among his followers, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L19.
  • [194] On “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” as a technical term for becoming a full-time member of Jesus’ traveling school of disciples, see 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: Jesus’ Band of Itinerating Disciples.”
  • [195] For Jesus’ scathing remarks toward certain Pharisees who blocked people’s entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, see Matt. 23:13 (cf. Luke 11:52).
  • [196] See David N. Bivin, “Hebraisms in the New Testament,” reissued from Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics (ed. Geoffrey Khan; 4 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 2013), 2:198-201.
  • [197] The noun μετάνοια occurs in Pr. Man. 8 (2xx); Prov. 14:15; Wis. 11:23; 12:10, 19; Sir. 44:16.
  • [198] See Shmuel Safrai, “Oral Tora,” in The Literature of the Sages (ed. Shmuel Safrai; 2 vols.; CRINT II.3; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:35-119, esp. 108-111. Cf. Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (trans. Israel Abrahams; 2 vols.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975), 1:462.
  • [199] Further examples include:


    לֹא הָיוּ אוֹפִין אֶת פִּתָּן גְּרִיצוֹת אֶלָּא רְקִיקִים

    They did not bake their bread in large loaves, but in small cakes. (m. Betz. 2:6; m. Edu. 3:10)


    חבר שמת והניח בנים חברים ועמי הארץ לא יוריש טהרותיו לעמי הארץ אלא לחברים בלבד

    A haver who died and left behind sons who were haverim and sons who were ame haaretz: they do not cause his pure foods to be inherited by the ame haaretz, but the haverim alone. (t. Dem. 6:8)


    המוכר הבית לא מכר את החצר אלא אוירה של חצר

    The one who sells the house does not sell the courtyard, but the open space of the courtyard. (t. Bab. Bat. 3:1; Vienna MS)


    לא היו קוברין אותו בקברות אבותיו אלא בקברות בית דין

    They did not bury him in the tombs of his fathers, but in the tombs of the bet din. (t. Sanh. 9:8 [ed. Zuckermandel, 429])


    לא אותה בנה אלא אחרת בנה

    He did not build the same city, rather he built another one. (t. Sanh. 14:10; Vienna MS)


    רצועה לא היתה ארוכה אלא קצרה

    The lash was not long, but short. (t. Mak. 5:15; Vienna MS)


    לא היה טוחנן ברחים אלא כותשן במכתשת לא היה טוחנן בקורה אלא באבנים

    They did not grind them [i.e., olives—DNB and JNT] in a mill, but crushed them in a press. They did not grind them with a beam, but with stones. (t. Men. 9:6; Vienna MS)


    לא בעבדי דברתם אלא בי דברתם

    Not in my favor did you speak, but against me you spoke. (Sifre Num. §103 [ed. Horovitz, 102])


    לא פדאם לשום בנים אלא לשום עבדים

    He did not redeem them to be sons, but to be slaves. (Sifre Num. §115 [ed. Horovitz, 127])


    לא שמעה כל בריה אלא המקום בלבד

    The whole creation did not hear it, but the Omnipresent one alone. (Sifre Deut. §1 [ed. Finkelstein, 5])


    לא נגלה עליהם מרוח אחת אלא מארבע רוחות

    He did not appear to them from one wind, but from four winds. (Sifre Deut. §314 [ed. Finkelstein, 356])


    לא בלשון אחד נגלה אלא בארבעה לשונות

    It was not revealed in one language, but in four languages. (Sifre Deut. §343 [ed. Finkelstein, 395])


    לא יקנח אדם עצמו בימין אלא בשמאל

    A person does not wipe himself with his right hand, but with his left hand. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 40:13 [ed. Schechter, 128])


    לא היה ראוי לבא בימי דוד אלא בימי שאול

    By rights it should not have been in the days of David, but in the days of Saul. (Gen. Rab. 25:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:242])


    לא באו כלם בימי בני אדם שפופים אלא בימי [בני] אדם גבורים

    They did not come in the days of lowly people, but in the days of mighty people. (Gen. Rab. 25:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:242])


    לא היה לשם זנות אלא לשם שמים

    It was not for the sake of sexual indulgence, but for the sake of Heaven. (Gen. Rab. 51:10 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:540])

  • [200] On redactional changes characteristic of the author of Mark, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style.”
  • [201] For a discussion of how the various religious groups within Second Temple Judaism related to one another, see Eyal Regev, “Flourishing Before the Crisis: Mapping Judean Society in the First Century CE,” in Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries: How to Write Their History (ed. Peter J. Tomson and Joshua Schwartz; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 52-69.
  • [202] See, for example, Bultmann, 18; Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence, 215-216. Cf. Sanders, “Jesus and the Sinners,” 9-10.
  • [203] On this point, see Allen, Matt., 90; Marshall, 219-220.
  • [204] See Nolland, Luke, 1:245; Buchanan, 1:413.

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