Lost Sheep and Lost Coin Similes

& LOY 17 Comments

With the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes Jesus explained to his critics that he ate and drank with "sinners" because God rejoices when a person repents. God wants his friends—including Jesus and Jesus' critics—to join him in the celebration.

by David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton

Matt. 18:10-14; Luke 15:3-10
(Huck 133, 172; Aland 169, 219, 220; Crook 188, 265, 266)[1]

Revised: 20-May-2019


וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם אֶת הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר מִי אָדָם בָּכֶם שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מֵאָה צֹאן וְנִדַּחַת אַחַת מֵהֶן הֲלֹא יַנִּיחַ אֶת הַתִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה עַל הֶהָרִים וְיֵלֵךְ וִיבַקֵּשׁ אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה וּכְשֶׁהוּא מוֹצֵא אֹתָה שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ בְּשִׂמְחָה וּבָא לְבֵיתוֹ וְקֹרֵא לְאוֹהֲבָיו וְלִקְרוֹבָיו לוֹמַר לָהֶם שִׂמְחוּ עִמִּי שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַשֶּׂה שֶׁלִּי הָאֹבֶדֶת אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה בַּשָּׁמַיִם עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה מֵעַל תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה צַדִּיקִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ בִּתְשׁוּבָה

וּמִי אִישָׁה שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָה עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִים וְהִיא מְאַבֶּדֶת דִּינָר אֶחָד הֲלֹא תַּדְלִיק נֵר וּתְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבַּיִת וּתְבַקֵּשׁ עַד שֶׁתִּמְצָא אֹתוֹ וּכְשֶׁהִיא מֹצֵאת אֹתוֹ קֹרֵאת לְאוֹהֲבוֹתֶיהָ וְלִקְרוֹבוֹתֶיהָ לוֹמַר לָהֶן שְׂמַחְנָה עִמִּי שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַדִּינָר שֶׁאִבַּדְתִּי אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה לִפְנֵי מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה

Then Yeshua told them this parable: “Imagine you have a hundred sheep and one of them strays from the flock. Won’t you leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go search for the one that got lost until you’ve found it? And when you’ve finally found it, won’t you carry it home on your shoulders and invite all your nearest and dearest and tell them: ‘Come celebrate with me! I’ve found my missing sheep!’?

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: God rejoices over one sinner who repents even more than he does over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need to repent.

“Or can you imagine a woman who has ten coins each worth a day’s wage, but she’s lost one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the house, and search until she’s found it? And when she’s finally found it, won’t she invite all her nearest and dearest and tell them: ‘Come celebrate with me! I’ve found the coin I lost!’?

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: God has this kind of joyful celebration in the presence of the angels over every single sinner who repents.”[2]







To view the reconstructed text of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes click on the link below:

Download (PDF, 170KB)

Story Placement

In Luke’s Gospel the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (Luke 15:3-10) are given in response to questions regarding the propriety of Jesus’ conduct in associating with sinners.[3] The wording of the introduction to the similes is so closely paralleled in the Call of Levi story that it appears Luke 15:1-3 is, in fact, the First Reconstruction’s (FR) summary of the Call of Levi story, which the First Reconstructor copied from the Anthology (Anth.) (see below, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission”). Evidently, the First Reconstructor was more interested in the Pharisaic criticism of Jesus’ association with “toll collectors and sinners” and the parables that Jesus gave in response than he was in the personality of Levi the toll collector. He therefore omitted the specifics of Levi’s call and the banquet Levi held in Jesus’ honor, but retained the Pharisaic criticism of Jesus’ free association with sinners and the twin similes Jesus gave in response. Nevertheless, the First Reconstructor preserved, in a highly condensed form, the original context of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes by correctly explaining that the twin similes were a defense of Jesus’ social contact with tax collectors (Luke 15:1-3).[4] Since it was the First Reconstructor’s method to epitomize Anth. and polish its Greek style, it is likely that neither simile has reached us in as pristine a form as we might have had if the author of Luke had copied them directly from Anth. To the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes the author of Luke appended the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:11-32).

The author of Matthew incorporated the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:10-14) into the fourth major discourse of his Gospel (Matt. 18:1-19:1). This discourse is based on Mark 9:33-50,[5] but the author of Matthew added additional materials from his non-Markan source (i.e., Anth.) and perhaps some items of his own composition, in accordance with his usual procedure when compiling the major discourses.[6] The theme of Matthew’s fourth discourse is pastoral care for the Christian community.[7] As such, the position of the “little ones” within the church (cf. Matt. 18:6, 10, 14) and the restoration of straying members are of primary concern. Beginning with the importance of children (Matt. 18:1-5), the discourse moves on to those who have been enticed to sin. Those who lead them astray are harshly condemned (Matt. 18:6-9), but the little ones themselves are not to be despised (Matt. 18:10-14). Instead, they are to be gently rebuked (Matt. 18:15-20) and forgiven repeatedly from the heart (Matt. 18:21-35). In order to fit the Lost Sheep simile into the context he created for it, the author of Matthew extensively revised the wording of his source and subtly changed the application of the simile from a justification of Jesus’ conduct to a model for pastoral care.[8]

It was during one of Professor David Flusser’s Synoptic Gospel seminars at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in February of 1978 that Robert Lindsey realized that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were likely the continuation of the Call of Levi story at a pre-synoptic stage.[9] This realization dawned on Lindsey when he noticed the distinctive vocabulary that appears in the Call of Levi story and the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. This distinctive vocabulary includes the phrase οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (“no need they have”; Luke 5:31; 15:7), δίκαιοι (“righteous persons”; Luke 5:32; 15:7), ἁμαρτωλός (“sinner”; Luke 5:30, 32; 15:1, 2, 7, 10) and μετάνοια (“repentance”; Luke 5:32; 15:7, 10). Lindsey’s insight that the Call of Levi story and the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes fit together perfectly is confirmed by our finding that Luke 15:1-10 represents FR’s truncated version of Anth.’s account of Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector. Accordingly, in the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua we have placed the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes immediately following the Call of Levi story in the section entitled “Calling and Training Disciples.” To see an overview of the entire “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” complex, click here.


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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

As we noted above, the Lost Sheep simile is attested in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.[10] The Lukan and Matthean versions display wide verbal disparity, which classifies the Lost Sheep simile as a Type 2 Double Tradition (DT) pericope.[11] Lindsey attributed the wide verbal disparity between Matthean and Lukan versions of Type 2 DT pericopae to Matthew’s dependence on the Anthology (Anth.) versus Luke’s dependence on the First Reconstruction (FR), an improved Greek epitome of Anth. In the present case, some of the verbal disparity between the Lukan and Matthean versions of the Lost Sheep simile probably is due to their use of different sources, but it also appears that the author of Matthew subjected the Lost Sheep simile to heavy redaction in order to make its message conform to the new context in which he placed it in his Gospel. We have found that the author of Matthew generally copied Anth. with a high degree of fidelity to its wording, but he did not always follow this procedure, especially when he wanted to express a theological opinion not found in his source.[12] In the present case, the author of Matthew omitted the Lost Coin simile altogether[13] and substantially abbreviated the Lost Sheep simile.[14] In addition, since he was adapting the simile to illustrate the value of the “little ones” and to encourage church leaders to provide them with pastoral care, the author of Matthew entirely eliminated the theme of God’s pleasure in repentance, which was the original point of comparison between God and the actors in the two similes. As a result of this editorial activity, much of Anth.’s wording was lost from Matthew’s version of the Lost Sheep simile.

The conclusion that the author of Luke copied the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from FR is supported by the following considerations:[15]

  • First, as we have just noted, Lindsey ascribed the verbal disparity of Type 2 DT pericopae to Matthew’s use of Anth. where Luke depended on FR.
  • Second, Luke 15:1-3 is a doublet of Luke 5:29-31. Lindsey explained the phenomenon of Lukan Doublets as being the result of Luke’s having copied parallel versions of the same pericope from each of his two sources, Anth. and FR.[16] Since Lindsey described FR as a condensed version of Anth. with a more refined Greek style, and since the Greek of Luke 15:1-3 is more polished than that of its doublet in Luke 5:29-31, we are naturally led to the conclusion that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were copied from FR.
  • Third, as we shall see in the Comment section below, the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes in Luke have proven to be more difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew than we have come to expect from pericopae copied from Anth. Although it is possible that the author of Luke was himself responsible for all the editorial activity we find in these similes, usually the author of Luke did not subject the sources he copied to the level of redaction evident in the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. Presuming that Luke treated these similes with the same measure of fidelity to his sources as was his usual custom, it is more likely that the degree of Greek redaction we have detected in Luke’s version of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes was mainly due to the First Reconstructor.
  • Fourth, we think it is unlikely that the author of Luke would have detached the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from their original context as the continuation of the Call of Levi story on his own initiative. It is more likely that the author of Luke knew two versions of the Call of Levi story. The first version, from Anth., told the “complete story,” including Levi’s call, the banquet Levi held in Jesus’ honor (Luke 5:27-29 and parallels), the skeptical inquiry of the Pharisees (Luke 5:30 and parallels), Jesus’ witty response (“It is not the healthy who need a doctor…”; Luke 5:31-32 and parallels), and the twin Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. The second version, from FR, presented a highly condensed version that included only the most minimal narrative introduction (Jesus consorted with toll collectors and sinners), the thrust of the Pharisees’ criticism, and the twin similes that conveyed in the most pointed manner the essence of Jesus’ response. Confronted with these two versions, which were different enough so that he was not certain that they described the same episode, the author of Luke chose to copy both accounts, giving Anth.’s longer version in Luke 5:27-32, and FR’s distillation of the incident in Luke 15:1-10. However, since Luke did not want to repeat the similes twice in his Gospel, and since there would be nothing left of the FR version if he omitted the similes there, he omitted the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from the version he copied from Anth.[17]

The combination of all these factors leaves little room for doubt that the author of Luke copied the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes from FR.

Fortunately, due to Lindsey’s realization that stories about Jesus often became fragmented in the process of transmission, and his observation that Lukan Doublets are in fact two versions of the same story copied from parallel sources, we are able to restore the “complete” story of “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” as it likely appeared in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

Crucial Issues

  1. Is it true that the Pharisees despised all shepherds?


L1-6 Matthew 18:10 was probably composed by the author of Matthew in order to integrate the Lost Sheep simile into its new context within his discourse on pastoral care. This verse creates a bookend for the Lost Sheep simile, which mirrors the application in Matt. 18:14. Both Matt. 18:10 and Matt. 18:14 mention “one of these little ones,” both mention the “Father in heaven,” and the warning not to despise the little ones in Matt. 18:10 is balanced by the declaration that it is not the will of the Father that any of the little ones be destroyed. It is possible that the author of Matthew found some inspiration for the composition of Matt. 18:10 in the application of the Lost Coin simile, since Matthew’s mention of the angels of the little ones who see the Father’s face is somewhat reminiscent of the angels of God who rejoice over the one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

L1 ὁρᾶτε μὴ καταφρονήσητε (Matt. 18:10). In phrasing the warning “See that you do not despise,” the author of Matthew utilized his preferred vocabulary. Imperatival forms of ὁρᾶν (horan, “to see”) are typical of Matthew’s editorial style.[18]

L2 ἑνὸς τῶν μεικρῶν τούτων (Matt. 18:10). The designation μικρῶν τούτων (mikrōn toutōn, “these little ones”) was a favorite Matthean term for members of his community. The author of Matthew did not coin the phrase μικρῶν τούτων, which occurs in Jesus’ warning against causing “these little ones” to stumble (Luke 17:2; Mark 9:42; Matt. 18:6). However, the author of Matthew expanded the use of this phrase, adding it to Matt. 10:42; 18:10; and 18:14. The verses where the author of Matthew added the phrase “these little ones” were either composed by the author of Matthew himself or subjected to his redaction.[19]

L3 λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι (Matt. 18:10). Although he discarded much of the original wording of the Lost Sheep simile, and despite having omitted the Lost Coin simile in its entirety, the author of Matthew did salvage some of the original vocabulary from the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. In Luke 15:7 and Luke 15:10 “I say to you” occurs in applications of the twin similes, which the author of Matthew omitted. As we noted above (Comment to L1-6), Matt. 18:10 seems to have been formulated with the original applications of both similes in mind.

L4-6 The concept of angels who watch over individuals is not alien to ancient Judaism (cf., e.g., Gen. 24:7; 48:15-16; Ps. 91:11; Tob. 5:22; 1QS III, 20; t. Shab. 17:2).[20] In Matt. 18:10, however, the angels function as representatives of “these little ones” in the heavenly courts. We believe the author of Matthew adapted this idea from the original application of the Lost Coin simile, which describes the joy the angels experience over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

L7 Some NT MSS insert the statement ἦλθεν γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ζητῆσαι καὶ) σῶσαι τὸ ἀπολωλός (“For the Son of Man came [to seek and] to save the lost”) between Matt. 18:10 and Matt. 18:12. It is all but certain, however, that later copyists interpolated this statement from Luke 19:10, since it is inconceivable that a scribe would have dropped this verse had it appeared in the original text.[21]

L8-9 וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם אֶת הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר (HR). In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew we encounter the phrases λέγειν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to say in parables”; e.g., Mark 3:23; Matt. 22:1) and λαλεῖν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to speak in parables”; e.g., Mark 12:1; Matt. 13:3, 10, 13, 34),[22] and Mark also has the phrase διδάσκειν ἐν παραβολαῖς (“to teach in parables”; Mark 4:2) to introduce parables. Matthew is alone in using the phrase παρατιθέναι + παραβολή (“to set before [it] a parable”; e.g., Matt. 13:24, 31). The Gospel of Luke, in which all the aforementioned phrases are lacking, is unique among the Synoptics in introducing parables and similes with the construction λέγειν + παραβολή (“to tell [lit., say]” + “a parable”).[23] Unlike the phrases found in Mark and Matthew, Luke’s construction is paralleled in LXX and easily reverts to Hebrew. On four occasions in Ezekiel the construction λέγειν + παραβολή is used to translate מָשַׁל מָשָׁל (“tell a parable”).[24] In addition, we find that parables in rabbinic sources are introduced with statements such as מָשְׁלוּ מָשָׁל (“they told a parable”)[25] or אֶמְשׁוֹל לְךָ מָשָׁל (“I will tell you a parable”).[26] It therefore appears, with regard to the construction λέγειν + παραβολή, that the author of Luke preserved a Hebraic manner of introducing parables and similes.[27] Undoubtedly the author of Luke picked up this Hebraic usage from his sources.

The Lost Sheep

The following rabbinic parable bears a strong resemblance to the Lost Sheep simile:


ואף משה לא בחנו הקב″ה אלא בצאן, אמרו רבותינו כשהיה מרע″ה רועה צאנו של יתרו במדבר ברח ממנו גדי ורץ אחריו עד שהגיע לחסית כיון שהגיע לחסית נזדמנה לו בריכה של מים ועמד הגדי לשתות, כיון שהגיע משה אצלו אמר אני לא הייתי יודע שרץ היית מפני צמא עיף אתה הרכיבו על כתיפו והיה מהלך, אמר הקב″ה יש לך רחמים לנהוג צאנו של בשר ודם כך חייך אתה תרעה צאני ישראל, הוי ומשה היה רועה

Also Moses was tested by God through sheep. Our Rabbis said that when Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness, a little kid escaped from him. He ran after it until it reached a shady place. When it reached the shady place, there appeared to view a pool of water and the kid stopped to drink. When Moses approached it, he said: ‘I did not know that you ran away because of thirst; you must be weary.’ So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked away. Thereupon God said: ‘Because thou hast mercy in leading the flock of a mortal, thou wilt assuredly tend my flock Israel.’ Hence now Moses was keeping the flock. (Exod. Rab. 2:2; trans., Soncino)

L10 τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ (Matt. 18:12). Matthean redaction is evident not only in the framing of the Lost Sheep simile, but also in the wording of the simile proper. In NT the question τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ (ti hūmin dokei, “What do you think?”) is limited almost entirely to the Gospel of Matthew.[28] Although we do sometimes encounter the question מָה אַתֶּם סְבוּרִים (māh ’atem sevūrim, “What are you thinking?”) in rabbinic sources,[29] in light of the typical use of τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν to introduce similes (see below, Comment to L12), and in view of Matthew’s editorial activity throughout this pericope, we conclude that Matthew’s τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ in L10 is redactional.[30]

L11 ἐὰν γένηταί (Matt. 18:12). Matthew’s hypothetical “If it might happen…” occurs twice in Matthew’s version of the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:12, 13), but nowhere else in the Gospels, which leads us to suspect that this phrase, too, is redactional.[31] It is possible, however, that Matthew’s use of γίνεσθαι (ginesthai, “to be”) is recycled from the wording of Anth., since this verb appears in Luke’s application of the Lost Coin similes (Luke 15:10; L56) and may have appeared in the original application of the Lost Sheep simile as well (GR L35).

L12 τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν (GR). We have accepted Luke’s “What person among you…?” for GR. Elsewhere we have traced the interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (tis ex hūmōn) in Luke to Anth.[32] The origin of τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν in Anth. is confirmed by the agreement of Luke and Matthew to use this phrase in Matt. 6:27 // Luke 12:25, and the near agreement in Matt. 7:9 // Luke 11:11, both of which occur in DT pericopae.

The addition of ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”)—less precise than ἀνήρ (anēr, “man”)—to the interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν may be intended to highlight the contrast with the protagonist in the second simile, a woman (Luke 15:8; L39). Using characters from contrasting walks of life is a feature of many of Jesus’ twin illustrations.[33] We have encountered similarly contrasting figures in the Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl parables, where the protagonists were a poor laborer and a wealthy merchant, and in Tower Builder and King Going to War, where the contrast was between commoner and royalty.

מִי אָדָם בָּכֶם (HR). On the reconstruction of τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν as מִי בָּכֶם, see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L1.

We have chosen to reconstruct ἄνθρωπος as אָדָם (’ādām, “person”) instead of אִישׁ (’ish, “man”) for two reasons. First, in MH אָדָם became more common than אִישׁ.‎[34] Second, אָדָם is a more precise equivalent of ἄνθρωπος than אִישׁ, although in LXX ἄνθρωπος was used to render both terms.[35] In rabbinic sources we sometimes find אָדָם paired with אִשָּׁה (’ishāh, “woman”) in places where we might have expected אִישׁ, for instance:


נושא אדם אשה על מנת שלא לזון, על מנת שלא לפרנס, ולא עוד אלא שפוסק עמה שתהא זנתו ומפרנסתו ומלמדתו תורה

A person [אדם] can marry a woman [אשה] even though he will not support her and even though he will not provide for her, and not only that, but he can agree with her that she will be his support and his provider and that she will teach him Torah. (t. Ket. 4:7; Vienna MS)


לא ילך אדם אחר האשה בשוק ואפילו אחר אשתו ואין צ″ל אשה אחרת מפני טענת הבריות

A person [אדם] should not walk behind a woman [האשה] in the market, not even behind his wife, and needless to say some other woman, because of public opinion. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 2:2 [ed. Schechter, 9])


לא ישא אדם אשה עד שתגדל בת אחותו, או עד שימצא את ההגון לו

A person [אדם] should not marry a woman [אשה] until the daughter of his sister is grown or until he finds someone suitable for him. (t. Kid. 1:4; Vienna MS)


אלולי יצר הרע לא בנה אדם בית ולא נשא אשה

If not for the evil inclination a person [אדם] would not build a house or marry a woman [אשה]. (Gen. Rab. 9:7 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:72])

A modern-day shepherd leads his flock past Absalom’s Pillar in Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Some scholars have objected that the Lost Sheep simile would have shocked and offended the Pharisees, who despised the shepherding profession.[36] Moreover, the question “What person among you…?” would have been inapplicable to the Pharisees, since none of them were shepherds. The validity of this objection, however, can be challenged on three fronts. First, while it is true that some rabbinic sources reflect a negative view of shepherds,[37] this opinion is by no means universal.[38] There were, indeed, some sages who raised sheep and/or goats.[39] Second, it is only in the Gospel of Thomas that the owner of the sheep is explicitly identified as a shepherd. It may be that the audience was intended to identify the main actor in the Lost Sheep simile not as a shepherd per se, but as a farmer who owned a medium-sized flock of sheep. Such a farmer could have afforded to hire a shepherd to tend his flock for him.[40] Third, even if there were no sheep owners among the Pharisees to whom the Lost Sheep simile was addressed, they were certainly capable of imagining what they would do if they had lost a sheep and how they would feel upon its recovery. Thus we do not find the objection that the Lost Sheep simile could not originally have been addressed to Pharisees to be compelling.

L13 שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מֵאָה צֹאן (HR). On reconstructing ἔχειν (echein, “to have”) with יֵשׁ (yēsh, “there is”), see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L4.

Both Matthew and Luke agree on the phrase ἑκατὸν πρόβατα (ekaton probata, “one hundred sheep”). In LXX we encounter the phrase ἑκατὸν πρόβατα in 3 Kgdms. 5:3 as the translation of מֵאָה צֹאן (mē’āh tzo’n, “one hundred sheep”). The phrase מֵאָה צֹאן is also a normal way of referring to a hundred sheep in rabbinic sources.[41]

A hundred sheep made for a medium-sized flock in the ancient Roman world.[42] The Tosefta mentions a flock of three hundred sheep as unusually large (t. Bab. Kam. 6:20).[43] The owner of the sheep described in this simile should therefore probably be imagined as being reasonably well-to-do, but not extremely wealthy.

L14-20 It is in this brief section of the Lost Sheep simile that the author of Matthew appears to have adhered more closely to his source than in any other portion of the Lost Sheep simile. In these lines the author of Matthew was not adapting the simile to its new context or reworking the wording of the simile to make it fit his new application. In other words, in L14-20 we encounter the kernel of the Lost Sheep simile that Matthew copied from his source. As a result, there are points in this section at which Matthew’s version seems preferable to Luke’s. This is not surprising, since the Anthology, Matthew’s source for the Lost Sheep simile, is one step closer to the Greek translation of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua than Luke’s source for the Lost Sheep simile, the First Reconstruction.

L14 καὶ πλανηθῇ (GR). According to Matthew’s version, the sheep strayed of its own accord, whereas in Luke’s version the man loses the sheep (καὶ ἀπολέσας; Luke 15:4). Not only is Matthew’s depiction more true to life—a person does not misplace a sheep, but a sheep can wander from the flock—but we find several instances in LXX where the verb πλανᾶν (planan, “to wander,” “to stray”) is used to describe the actions of sheep (or of people who are compared to sheep). Examples of πλανᾶν used to describe sheep going astray include the following:

Μὴ ἰδὼν τὸν μόσχον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου ἢ τὸ πρόβατον αὐτοῦ πλανώμενα ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ὑπερίδῃς αὐτά ἀποστροφῇ ἀποστρέψεις αὐτὰ τῷ ἀδελφῷ σου καὶ ἀποδώσεις αὐτῷ.

When you see your brother’s bull calf or his sheep straying away [πλανώμενα] on the road, do not overlook them; by restoring, you shall restore them to your brother. (Deut. 22:1; NETS)

ἐπλανήθην ὡς πρόβατον ἀπολωλός

I went astray [ἐπλανήθην] like a lost sheep. (Ps. 118:176; NETS)[44]

ὡς πρόβατον πλανώμενον, καὶ οὐκ ἔσται ὁ συνάγων

…like a wandering [πλανώμενον] sheep, and there will be no one to gather them…. (Isa. 13:14; NETS)[45]

Our decision to accept καὶ πλανηθῇ for GR was also influenced by our conviction that the Lost Sheep simile draws on the imagery of Ezekiel 34, a chapter in which God chastises the shepherds of Israel for not retrieving the sheep that wandered (τὸ πλανώμενον/הַנִּדַּחַת) and not seeking the sheep that were lost (τὸ ἀπολωλός/הָאֹבֶדֶת) (Ezek. 34:4, 16).[46] It appears that neither the author of Matthew nor the First Reconstructor recognized Ezekiel 34 as the source for the imagery in the Lost Sheep simile, and therefore both writers homogenized the vocabulary, with the First Reconstructor consistently using ἀπολλύειν (apollūein, “to lose”; L14, L21, L32, L41, L51) and the author of Matthew mainly using πλανᾶν (L14, L21, L38).[47]

We note, moreover, that accepting καὶ πλανηθῇ for GR helps us to understand why the owner of the sheep, when summoning his friends and neighbors, does not take responsibility for the loss of the sheep (“I have found my lost sheep”; Luke 15:6) the way the woman in the Lost Coin simile, when summoning her friends and neighbors, takes responsibility for losing her coin (“I have found the coin that I lost”; Luke 15:9).[48]

וְנִדַּחַת (HR). We have reconstructed καὶ πλανηθῇ (kai planēthē, “and might stray”) as וְנִדַּחַת (venidaḥat, “and strays”). In MT the verb נִדַּח (nidaḥ, “be driven away,” “stray”) describes the straying of sheep in Deut. 22:1; Ezek. 34:4, 16. In LXX πλανᾶν translates the verb נִדַּח in Deut. 4:19; 22:1; 30:17; Ezek. 34:4, 16.

L15 ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s word order ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν (hen ex avtōn, “one from them”) for GR because it is more Hebraic than Luke’s ἐξ αὐτῶν ἓν (ex avtōn hen, “from them one”). Luke’s order is probably a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor, whereas the author of Matthew probably copied ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν directly from Anth.

A rabbinic source offers a parallel to one sheep out of a hundred, albeit in an entirely different context:


איזה הוא אתנן זונה האומר לזונה הילך טלה זה בשכרך אפילו מאה כולם אסורים

What is the hire of a prostitute [Deut. 23:19]? The one who says to a prostitute, “Let this lamb be your wage.” Even if there are a hundred [lambs], they are all forbidden. (Sifre Deut. §261 [ed. Finkelstein, 283])

L16 οὐχὶ καταλείπει (GR). Not only did the author of Matthew write οὐχί (ouchi, “not”) in this section where he is reflecting Anth. more faithfully than in other parts of the Lost Sheep simile, but in the grammatically parallel sections of the Lost Coin (L42), Tower Builder (L3) and King Going to War (L13; L20 [GR]) similes we likewise find οὐχί, which leads us to conclude that Luke’s οὐ (ou, “not”) is an improvement from FR.[49]

Deciding between Matthew’s ἀφήσει (afēsei, “he will leave”) and Luke’s καταλείπει (kataleipei, “he leaves”) is more difficult. As we have just noted, the author of Matthew adhered more closely to Anth. in this section than in the rest of the Lost Sheep simile. In addition, ἀφιέναι (afienai, “to leave”) is more common in the Gospels than καταλείπειν (kataleipein, “to leave”).[50] On the other hand, the author of Matthew may have changed καταλείπει to ἀφήσει precisely because ἀφιέναι was more familiar.

Our decision to accept Luke’s καταλείπει for GR rests on two points. First, καταλείπειν is not characteristically Lukan terminology, so there is no reason to suspect that the author of Luke altered his source to reflect his personal preference. Second, καταλείπειν also occurs in the Call of Levi story (L18; Luke 5:28). The presence of distinctive vocabulary in Call of Levi and the twin similes supports Lindsey’s suggestion that at a pre-synoptic stage the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were the continuation of the Call of Levi story.

הֲלֹא יַנִּיחַ (HR). On reconstructing οὐχί as הֲלֹא, see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L3. On reconstructing καταλείπειν with הִנִּיחַ (hiniaḥ, “leave”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L18. Luke’s καταλείπει (“he leaves”) is in the present tense, but we have reconstructed with a Hebrew imperfect. We also reconstructed a present tense verb with an imperfect in Tower Builder and King Going to War at L3.

Our reconstruction understands the simile as asking two questions: “What person among you has a hundred sheep…?” and “Will he not leave the ninety-nine…?”

L17 τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα (GR). In Codex Vaticanus, which we use as our base text for our reconstruction, Matt. 18:12 reads τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα πρόβατα (“the ninety-nine sheep”) at L17.[51] Critical editions of NT, however, regard πρόβατα (probata, “sheep”) as spurious, probably added by the copyist who produced Vaticanus. Given the absence of πρόβατα in Luke and the probability that πρόβατα does not properly belong to the text of Matthew, we have omitted πρόβατα from GR.

אֶת הַתִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה (HR). Contrasting “one” with “ninety-nine” is a stock image in rabbinic sources,[52] as the following examples illustrate:


אֲפִילּוּ תִשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה אוֹמְ′ לְחַלֵּק וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵ′ לָבוֹז לָזֶה שׁוֹמְעִין שֶׁאָמַר כַּהֲלָכָה

Even if ninety-nine say, “Apportion it [for peah, i.e., a portion of the harvest set aside for the poor—DNB and JNT],” but one says, “Use it [for ourselves],” they listen to this one, for he spoke according to the halachah. (m. Peah 4:1)


אֲפִילּוּ תִשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה אוֹ′ לָבוֹז וְאֶחָד אוֹמֵ′ לְחַלֵּק לָזֶה שׁוֹמְעִין שֶׁאָמַר כַּהֲלָכָה

Even if ninety-nine say, “Use it [for ourselves],” but one says, “Apportion it [for peah],” they listen to this one, for he spoke according to the halachah. (m. Peah 4:2)


לוג מים שנפל לתוך תשעי′ ותשעה יין

A log [i.e., a unit of liquid measure—DNB and JNT] of water that fell into ninety-nine [logs of] wine…. (t. Ter. 6:7; Vienna MS)

Some scholars have suggested that we ought to understand from the number ninety-nine that the owner of the sheep had just counted his flock as he was putting them into the fold at night.[53] This ingenious suggestion attempts to resolve the problematic implication that the ninety-nine sheep were put in danger by being left without anyone to defend them while the man went looking for the one lost sheep. The problem this imaginative proposal attempts to resolve, however, is more apparent than real, since there is no reality behind or beyond the sparse Lost Sheep narrative of which we can ask questions. Jesus’ parables and similes do not describe real events that actually took place, and therefore the question “What happened to the ninety-nine sheep?” is meaningless. Any details that are omitted from the narrative have nothing to do with the comparison that Jesus intended to make.[54]

L18 ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη (GR). Deciding between Matthew’s ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη (epi ta orē, “on the hills”) and Luke’s ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ (en tē erēmō, “in the wilderness”) is extremely difficult.[55] Both options can easily be reconstructed in Hebrew, the first option as עַל הֶהָרִים (‘al hehārim, “on the mountains”)[56] and the second option as בַּמִּדְבָּר (bamidbār, “in the wilderness”).[57] Three considerations tip the balance in favor of accepting Matthew’s “on the mountains” for GR. First, as we have noted, in L14-20 the author of Matthew adhered more closely to the wording of Anth. than in any other part of the Lost Sheep simile, so there is a good chance that Matthew’s ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη reflects the reading of Anth. Second, Matthew’s “on the mountains” can be explained as drawing on the imagery of Ezekiel 34, where mountains and hills are mentioned repeatedly (cf. Ezek. 34:6, 13, 14 [2xx], 26).[58] Third, Luke’s reading, “in the wilderness,” the normal grazing ground for sheep (cf. m. Bab. Kam. 7:7), can be explained as the First Reconstructor’s attempt to prevent readers from drawing the problematic inference that the owner of the sheep risked the lives of the ninety-nine sheep by abandoning them in the mountains.[59] Thus, we have identified a motive that can account for why the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor might have changed ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη to ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, but there is no obvious reason why the author of Matthew would have changed “in the desert” to the possibly theologically problematic “on the mountains” if he had found ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ in his source.

עַל הֶהָרִים (HR). The vast majority of the instances of the noun ὄρος (oros, “mountain”) in LXX occur as the translation of הַר (har, “mountain,” “hill”).[60] Likewise, we find that the LXX translators nearly always rendered הַר as ὄρος.[61]

L19-21 καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ τὸ ἀπολωλὸς (GR). We have preferred Matthew’s καὶ πορευθεὶς ζητεῖ (kai porevtheis zētei, “and going he seeks”) to Luke’s καὶ πορεύεται ἐπὶ (kai porevetai epi, “and he goes after”) for GR. Scholars have noted that the construction πορεύεσθαι + ἐπί + accusative is characteristically Lukan,[62] and, as Harnack noted, Luke’s wording looks like a Greek improvement of Matthew’s more Hebraic phrasing.[63] “Seeking,” moreover, is an important theme that unites the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes (cf. L44; Luke 15:8), which carries echoes of Ezekiel 34.[64]

On the other hand, we have preferred Luke’s τὸ ἀπολωλός (to apolōlos, “the lost one”) over Matthew’s τὸ πλανώμενον (to planōmenon, “the wandering one”). For pastoral reasons the author of Matthew wanted to stress the theme of bringing strays back into the fold,[65] whereas in its original form the Lost Sheep simile was probably intended to allude to Ezekiel 34, where we twice find ζητεῖν in combination with τὸ ἀπολωλός (Ezek. 34:4, 16).[66] As we noted earlier (Comment to L14), in his statement “It is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost” (Matt. 18:14), the author of Matthew betrays his knowledge that in its original form the simile referred to a sheep that was lost.

A sheep on Givat haMivtar in Jerusalem rests its head on a stone. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

L19-20 וְיֵלֵךְ וִיבַקֵּשׁ (HR). Elsewhere we have found that καί + participle + aorist is often used in LXX to translate two vav-consecutives.[67] Here we have a somewhat analogous situation with καί + participle + present, which we have reconstructed with two imperfects each prefixed with vav. Segal noted that in MH using successive imperfects to describe a series of future acts replaced the BH use of perfect vav-consecutives, citing the following examples:[68]


הִיזָּהֲרוּ בְדִיבְרֵיכֶם שֶׁמֵּא תָחוֹבוּ חוֹבַת גָּלוּת וְתִיגְלוּ לִמְקוֹם הַמַּיִם הָרָעִים וְיִשְׁתּוּ הַתַּלְמִידִים הַבָּאִים אַחֲרֵיכֶם וְיַמוּתוּ

Be careful of your words, lest you incur the guilt of exile, and you be exiled to a place of evil waters, and your disciples who come after you drink them and they die…. (m. Avot 1:11)


אלך לביתי ואוכל קימעא ואשתה קימעא ואישן קימעא, ואחר כך אקרא קריאת שמע ואתפלל

I will go to my house and I will eat a little and I will drink a little and I will sleep a little, and afterward I will recite the Shema and I will pray. (b. Ber. 4b; cf. b. Taan. 11a)

On reconstructing πορεύεσθαι (porevesthai, “to go”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2. On reconstructing ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”) with בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12.

L21 אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת (HR). In the LXX translation of Ezekiel 34 the lost sheep is twice described as τὸ ἀπολωλός (Ezek. 34:4, 16), and in both instances the Hebrew text has אֶת הָאֹבֶדֶת (’et hā’ovedet, “the lost one”).

L22 ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ αὐτό (GR). According to Luke, the search for the lost sheep continues until its owner has found it. In Matthew’s version, whether or not the sheep will be found is left uncertain. We regard Luke’s version as more authentic, being paralleled in the Lost Coin simile (L45; Luke 15:8).[69] From this point onward the author of Matthew begins once more to depart from the wording of Anth.

In the Lost Sheep simile Luke has ἕως εὕρῃ (heōs hevrē, “until he might find”; Luke 15:4), but in the parallel phrase in the Lost Coin simile Luke has ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ (heōs hou hevrē, “until that she might find”; Luke 15:8). We have added the relative pronoun οὗ (hou, “who,” “what,” “that”) to GR in L22 on the supposition that οὗ originally occurred in both parallel phrases and functioned as the translation of the relative pronoun -שֶׁ.

עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה (HR). In LXX ἕως (heōs, “until”) occurs frequently as the translation of עַד (‘ad, “until”).[70] The LXX translators rendered the phrase עַד אֲשֶׁר (‘ad ’asher, “until that”) in a variety of ways, such as ἕως τοῦ + infinitive[71] or ἕως ἂν + subjunctive.[72] The translation of עַד אֲשֶׁר as ἕως οὗ + subjunctive, similar to our reconstruction with -עַד שֶׁ, was fairly common.[73] Our reconstruction of ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ αὐτό as עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא אֹתָה reflects MH rather than BH style.

An example of עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא plus the direct object marker אֶת is found in the following rabbinic text:


לא ישא אדם אשה עד שתגדל בת אחותו, או עד שימצא את ההגון לו

A person should not marry a woman until the daughter of his sister is grown or until he finds someone [עד שימצא את] suitable for him. (t. Kid. 1:4; Vienna MS)

L23-32 Did the author of Luke (or his source) add the details about the owner finding the sheep, putting it on his shoulders, and calling upon his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him, or did the author of Matthew eliminate them? We believe it to be the latter. As we shall see, the wording of Luke 15:5-6 can be reconstructed in Hebrew with relative ease, so it is unlikely that the author of Luke penned these verses himself. It is more likely that Luke was copying a source. Luke’s source for the Lost Sheep simile was FR, a source that typically pared down what was written in Anth.[74] Given this tendency, it is unlikely that the First Reconstructor would have added details to the simile not found in Anth.

L23 καὶ εὑρὼν αὐτὸ (GR). We have added the personal pronoun αὐτό (avto, “it”) to GR. The First Reconstructor may have omitted αὐτό, finding it redundant. Matthew’s parallel phrase, καὶ ἐὰν γένηται εὑρεῖν αὐτό (kai ean genētai hevrein avto, “and if he finds it”), does have the personal pronoun, and maybe the personal pronoun was also included in Anth.

Third-century C.E. fresco in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome depicting a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L24 שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ (HR). Although in Greek we find the plural ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ (epi tous ōmous avtou, “on his shoulders”), Hebrew seems to have preferred to keep “shoulder” in the singular in such cases. In LXX we frequently find that “shoulders” (plural) is written in Greek where the Hebrew text has “shoulder” (singular).[75] Compare our reconstruction of ἐπιτίθησιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ (“he sets on his shoulders”) as שָׂם עַל כְּתֵפוֹ (“he sets on his shoulder”) to the following example:


וַיָּשֶׂם עַל שִׁכְמוֹ

…and he put [it] on his shoulder. (Judg. 9:48)

καὶ ἐπέθηκεν ἐπὶ τοὺς ὤμους αὐτοῦ

…and he put [it] on his shoulders. (Judg. 9:48)

In rabbinic sources, which preserve a style of Hebrew closer to what we believe was found in the non-narrative sections of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua than BH, we have found several examples of עַל כָּתֵף (‘al kātēf, “on [the] shoulder”),[76] but no examples of עַל שְׁכֶם (‘al shechem, “on [the] shoulder”) that are not part of biblical quotations. Examples include the following:


אמ′ ר′ אלעזר בר′ צדוק תינוק הייתי והייתי רוכב על כתפו של אבא וראיתי בת כהן וגו′‏

Rabbi Eleazar said in the name of Rabbi Zadok, “When I was a toddler I was riding on my father’s shoulder [על כתפו] and I saw the daughter of a priest, etc.” (t. Sanh. 9:1 [ed. Zuckermandel, 429])


רבי יוחנן בן זכאי אומר חס המקום על כבודן של בריות שור לפי שהולך ברגליו ישלם חמשה שה לפי שהוא טוענו על כתפו ישלם ארבעה

Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “The Omnipresent one has consideration for the dignity of his creatures [i.e., human beings—DNB and JNT]. An ox, because it walks on its own feet, [a thief who stole it—DNB and JNT] must pay five times its value. A lamb, because he carries it on his shoulder [על כתפו], [a thief who stole it—DNB and JNT] need only pay four times its value.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin chpt. 12 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:425])

L25 μετὰ χαρᾶς (GR). In Return of the Twelve we read that the apostles returned to Jesus rejoicing (Luke 10:17), where the Greek phrase is μετὰ χαρᾶς (meta charas, “with joy”). In that instance we believe Luke was copying Anth.[77] We suspect that χαίρων (chairōn, “rejoicing”) here in Luke 15:5 is FR’s replacement for Anth.’s more Hebraic μετὰ χαρᾶς. On reconstructing μετὰ χαρᾶς as בְּשִׂמְחָה (besimḥāh, “with joy”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L4.

L26 וּבָא לְבֵיתוֹ (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L4. On reconstructing οἶκος (oikos, “house”) with בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L33.

Although the Greek text lacks a possessive pronoun, we have reconstructed εἰς τὸν οἶκον (eis ton oikon, “to the house”) as לְבֵיתוֹ (levētō, “to his house”) with the pronominal suffix. We have found that Greek translators often dropped possessive pronouns where the underlying Hebrew text has a noun with a pronominal suffix.[78]

L27-28 וְקֹרֵא לְאוֹהֲבָיו וְלִקְרוֹבָיו (HR). Although we doubted whether συγκαλεῖν (sūnkalein, “to call together”) stemmed from Anth. when we encountered it in Luke 9:1 (see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L14), here we have accepted συγκαλεῖν for GR and reconstructed it with -קָרָא לְ (qārā’ le, “call to,” “summon”).[79]

The Lost Sheep simile illustrated in stained glass. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The combination of φίλος (filos, “friend”) and γείτων (geitōn, “neighbor”), which occurs in both the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin similes, is not familiar from LXX, nor is it found elsewhere in NT. We do, however, find the phrase φίλων ὄντων καὶ γειτνιώντων (“being friends and neighbors”) in Josephus’ retelling of the story of Abraham’s rescue of his nephew Lot (Ant. 1:176).

Although we considered reconstructing φίλος and γείτων with חָבֵר (ḥāvēr, “companion,” “friend”) and שָׁכֵן (shāchēn, “neighbor”) respectively, the pairing of חָבֵר with שָׁכֵן is not common in ancient Jewish sources.[80] Nor do we find any examples in LXX where φίλος is the translation of חָבֵר. We have therefore decided to reconstruct φίλος as אוֹהֵב (’ōhēv, “friend”)[81] and γείτων with קָרוֹב (qārōv, “relative”) based on the collocation of these two terms in rabbinic sources.[82] In LXX γείτων is usually the translation of שָׁכֵן,‎[83] but the LXX evidence is not decisive, since קָרוֹב in the sense of “relative” is not encountered in the Hebrew Bible. Given its basic sense of “nearness,” it is not difficult to imagine that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua might have rendered קָרוֹב as γείτων.

The description of the owner of the sheep summoning his friends and neighbors (or relatives) highlights the communal aspect of the simile. Herein is the point of comparison between the simile and the situation it was given to illustrate (namely, Jesus’ eating with toll collectors and sundry sinners): Just as the owner of the flock called his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him over the recovery of his lost sheep, so God calls the righteous (i.e., Jesus, the disciples, and also the scribes and Pharisees) to join him in rejoicing over sinners who repent. In other words, it is not enough that the owner of the sheep was happy, he wanted others to share in the celebration. So, too, it is not enough that God is happy about repentant sinners, he wants the righteous to celebrate over them—and with them—too.

L29 לוֹמַר לָהֶם (HR). Since we are in dialogue we prefer to reconstruct λέγων (legōn, “saying”) as לוֹמַר (lōmar, “to say”) in accordance with MH style. Compare our reconstruction of λέγοντες (legontes, “saying”) with לוֹמַר in Tower Builder and King Going to War, L9.

L30 συγχάρητέ μοι (GR). Since the verb συγχαίρειν (sūnchairein, “to rejoice with”) occurs only once in LXX (Gen. 21:6), where συγχαρεῖταί μοι (sūnchareitai moi, “he will rejoice with me”) serves as the translation of יִצְחַק לִי (yitzḥaq li, “he will laugh with me”), we considered whether in GR we ought to have the simple imperative χαίρετε (chairete, “Rejoice!”). However, in MH sources we encounter the phrase שָׂמַח עִם (sāmaḥ ‘im, “rejoice with”).[84] Since συγχάρητέ μοι (sūncharēte moi, “Rejoice with me!”) is a literal translation of שִׂמְחוּ עִמִּי (simḥū ‘imi, “Rejoice with me!”), which could have been the reading in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text, there is no reason to amend συγχάρητέ μοι to χαίρετε in GR.

L31 שֶׁמָּצָאתִי (HR). In MH the relative pronoun -שֶׁ (she-, “who,” “that”) can also mean “because.”[85] In LXX ὅτι (hoti, “that,” “because”) is usually the translation of כִּי (ki, “because”),[86] but it was sometimes also used to translate אֲשֶׁר (asher, “that,” “which,” “because”), the BH equivalent of -שֶׁ.‎[87] A similar usage of שֶׁמָּצָאתִי (shemātzā’ti, “because I have found”) appears in a rabbinic source:


באותה שעה שלח יוסף אצל פרעה ואמר לו שלח לי ע′ גבורים מאצלך שמצאתי ליסטים ואני מבקש ליתן עליהם כבלים

In that very hour Joseph sent to Pharaoh and said to him, “Send me seventy men from you, because I have found [שמצאתי] robbers and I am seeking to put them in chains.” (Gen. Rab. 91:6; printed eds.)

L32 אֶת הַשֶּׂה שֶׁלִּי הָאֹבֶדֶת (HR). Hebrew has a variety of words for a sheep, including כֶּבֶשׂ (keves, “sheep”), כַּר (kar, “young ram”), טָלֶה (ṭāleh, “lambkin”) and אַיִל (’ayil, “ram”). The noun צֹאן (tzo’n) can mean either “sheep” or “flock,” but with a pronominal suffix it seems always to have the latter sense.[88] We have settled on שֶׂה (seh), a common word for a sheep in biblical and post-biblical sources. Usually שֶׂה is treated as a masculine noun, but in Ezekiel 34, where שֶׂה is used to designate single members of the flock (צֹאן), שֶׂה is treated as feminine (Ezek. 34:20).[89] Since we believe Jesus intended the Lost Sheep simile to echo the words of Ezekiel, שֶׂה is the obvious choice for HR.[90]

L33-38 In Matt. 18:13 the author of Matthew departed significantly from his source, but this did not prevent him from recycling words and phrases he found in Anth. It appears that the author of Matthew turned the original application of the Lost Sheep simile—“Amen! I say to you there is greater joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance”—into the conclusion of the simile itself—“Truly I say to you, he [i.e., the owner of the sheep] rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine non-straying ones”—having dropped the details about the owner setting the sheep upon his shoulders and inviting his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him (see above, Comment to L23-32). By reworking the conclusion of the Lost Sheep simile in this way, the author of Matthew was able to reiterate the theme of straying (L38), which assisted him in his reapplication of the simile as a pastoral exhortation for the leaders of the Matthean community to care for those who were drifting away from the church (see above, “Story Placement”). His editorial changes also allowed the author of Matthew to rework the application of the Lost Coin simile into a new application for the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:14).

A man and a woman tend to their flock near the traditional site of the shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem. Photograph courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

L33-34 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). In Matt. 18:13 the phrase ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (amēn legō hūmin) occurs in a very un-Hebraic manner, appearing in the middle of a sentence with the meaning “truly I say to you.” In Hebrew אָמֵן (’āmēn) is an affirmative response to a prior statement.[91] This does not mean, however, that Matt. 18:13 is not reflecting Anth. in some way. The author of Matthew cut away much of the original simile, and rewrote its ending and application, but this did not prevent him from recycling some of the words and phrases he found in his source. Luke 15:7 also has the phrase λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι, and while Luke seems to preserve the original position of this phrase as the introduction to the application, Matthew probably preserved the original formulation, which included ἀμήν.[92] The author of Luke, or more probably the First Reconstructor, likely dropped ἀμήν because it was a foreign word that may not have been familiar to a non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience. In GR ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι occurs in a Hebraic position as an affirmation of what preceded (ἀμήν) and a spelling out of further implications (λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι). We have not included an equivalent to ὅτι (hoti, “that”) in HR. While ὅτι is often used to introduce direct speech in Greek, a Hebrew equivalent is superfluous.[93]

L35 οὕτως γείνεται χαρὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (GR). We suspect that in Luke 15:7 a redactor, probably the First Reconstructor, attempted to polish the Greek style and in doing so eliminated a Hebraism and changed the tense of the verb for “to be” to the future. The First Reconstructor probably eliminated a Hebraism by changing ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“in the heavens [plur.]”) in Anth. to ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ (“in the heaven [sing.]”). In Hebrew “heaven” is always plural, and this is probably reflected in phrases such as Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“Our Father, the one in the heavens”; Matt. 6:9), which opens Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.[94] The present tense, indicated by γείνεται (geinetai, “there is”) in GR, not only occurs in the Lost Coin simile’s parallel statement (L56; Luke 15:10), but the present tense also makes better sense. Both similes defend Jesus’ action in the present (eating with toll collectors and sinners) because God rejoices over repentant sinners in the present, too. The editorial change to the future tense is probably not laden with theological meaning. It may simply reflect the First Reconstructor’s preference for variation of wording in the parallel applications of the two similes. Evidently, he considered verbatim repetition to be tedious for his Greek readers.

כָּךְ יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה בַּשָּׁמַיִם (HR). We have decided to reconstruct the phrase οὕτως γείνεται (houtōs geinetai, “in this manner there is”) as כָּךְ יֵשׁ (kāch yēsh, “so there is”), examples of which are found in rabbinic sources:


כשם שיש לי בה חלק כך יש לאחרים בה חלק

Just as there is to me a claim upon her, so there is [כך יש] to others a claim on her. (t. Ned. 6:5; Vienna MS)


ר′ פינחס בשם ר′ יהושעיה כחלל שבין הארץ לרקיע כך יש בין רקיע למים העליונים

Rabbi Pinhas said in the name of Rabbi Yehosheah, “Like the chasm that is between the earth and the firmament, so there is [כך יש] [a chasm—DNB and JNT] between the firmament and the waters on high.” (Gen. Rab. 4:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:26])


תני בשם רבי מאיר כשם שיש דיעות במאכל ובמשתה כך יש דיעות באנשים

It was taught [in a baraita] in the name of Rabbi Meir: Just as there are opinions about food and drink, so there are [כך יש] opinions about people. (y. Sot. 1:7 [6b])

Some scholars have supposed that “there will be rejoicing in heaven” in Jesus’ statement refers to the eschatological judgment,[95] but this is not necessarily the force of Luke’s future tense,[96] and seems to be refuted by the present tense in the parallel Lost Coin simile. In ancient Jewish sources God’s response to repentance is immediate, and not delayed until the eschaton, as we see in the following example:


ר′ ישמעאל ארבעה חלוקי כפרה הן עבר על מצות עשה ועשה תשובה אין זז ממקומו עד שמוחלין לו שנ′ שובו בנים שובבים ארפא משובתם

Rabbi Ishmael [says], “There are four kinds of atonement: one who committed a transgression of the positive commandments and who did repentance—he does not even move from his place before it is forgiven him, as it is said, Return, O faithless children, I will heal your faithlessness [Jer. 3:22]….” (t. Yom. 4:6; Vienna MS; cf. Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 7 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:326]; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 29:5 [ed. Schechter, 88])

On reconstructing χαρά (chara, “joy”) with שִׂמְחָה (simḥāh, “joy”), see above, Comment to L25.

L36 עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (HR). Examples of שָׂמַח עַל (sāmaḥ ‘al, “rejoice over”), such as we have in our reconstruction (L35-36), occur in the Hebrew Bible,[97] DSS,[98] and in rabbinic sources.[99]

On the reconstruction of ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinner”) as רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L29.

Our reconstruction of μετανοοῦντι (metanoounti, “repenting”) as שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (she‘oseh teshūvāh, “who does repentance”) requires some explanation. Hebrew lacks a specific verb for “repent.” The verb שָׁב (shāv) can mean “turn,” “return” or “repent.” In Modern Hebrew “repent” can be expressed as חזר בתשובה (ḥāzar bitshūvāh, lit., “return in repentance”), but we have not found examples of this phrase in early rabbinic sources. In MH “repent” is expressed as עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (‘āsāh teshūvāh, lit., “do repentance”), as we see in the following examples:


כָל הַמַּחֲטִיא אֶת הָרַבִּים אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין בְּיָדוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה

All who cause the public to sin—they are not given the opportunity to do repentance [לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה]. (m. Avot 5:18)


היה אדם רשע כל ימיו ועשה תשובה באחרונה, המקום מקבלו שנ′ ורשעת הרשע לא יכשל בה ביום שובו מרשעו וגו′‏

If a person was wicked all his days, but he did repentance [ועשה תשובה] at the last, the Omnipresent one receives him, as it is said, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not fall because of it on the day of his turning from his wickedness [Ezek. 33:12]. (t. Kid. 1:16; Vienna MS)


כיון ששמע יעקב כן נזדעזע אמר אוי לי שמא אירע פסולת בבניי עד שנתבשר מפי הקדש שעשה ראובן תשובה שנאמר ויהיו בני יעקב שנים עשר, והלא בידוע ששנים עשר הם אלא שנתבשר מפי הקדש ברוך הוא שעשה ראובן תשובה

As soon as Jacob heard this [i.e., that his son Reuben had committed a sexual transgression—DNB and JNT], he was shaken and said, “Woe to me! Perhaps one who is unworthy has arisen among my sons,” until he was informed from the mouth of the Holy one that Reuben did repentance [עשה ראובן תשובה], as it is said, And the sons of Jacob were twelve [Gen. 35:22]. And was it not well known that they were twelve? But it was to inform him from the mouth of the Holy one, blessed be he, that Reuben did repentance [עשה ראובן תשובה]. (Sifre Deut. §31 [ed. Finkelstein, 52])[100]

On תְּשׁוּבָה (teshūvāh, “repentance”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L68. “Repentance” is a key term that links the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes to the Call of Levi story.

L37 ἢ ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα (Matt. 18:13). Matthew’s recycling of Anth.’s wording is particularly evident in L37, where every single word except for τοῖς (tois, “the”) is paralleled in Luke 15:7. Whereas the comparison between the one and the ninety-nine originally concerned God’s pleasure over one repentant sinner versus ninety-nine righteous persons, as it does in Luke, the author of Matthew has reworked the comparison, making it refer to the owner’s joy over the one sheep that had strayed.

מֵעַל תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה צַדִּיקִים (HR). On reconstructing ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα (enenēkonta ennea, “ninety-nine”) as תִּשְׁעִים וְתִשְׁעָה (tish‘im vetish‘āh), see above, Comment to L17. On reconstructing δίκαιος (dikaios, “righteous”) as צַדִּיק (tzadiq, “righteous”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L66.

L38 οἵτινες οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν μετανοίας (Luke 15:7). The phrase οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (ou chreian echousin, “no need they have”) is an important verbal link that unites the Call of Levi story with the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 9:12 // Mark 2:17 // Luke 5:31; 15:7). See Call of Levi, Comment to L59.

שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ בִּתְשׁוּבָה (HR). On reconstructing οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν (ou chreian echousin, “no need they have”) as אֵין לָהֶם צוֹרֶךְ (’ēn lāhem tzōrech, “there is not to them a need”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L59. A striking parallel to our reconstruction of the phrase “have need of repentance” is found in a rabbinic parable:


דבר אחר שובה ישראל עד ה′ אלהיך מצינו שמא לא היה אחריו שירחק אמר הריני שב. לבן מלכים שהיה חולה. אמר הרופא אם יאכל מן החפץ הוא מתרפא. היה הבן מתיירא לאוכלו, אומר לו אביו תדע שאינו מזיקך הריני אוכל ממנו. כך אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל מתביישים אתם [לעשות] תשובה הריני שב ראשון שנאמר כה אמר ה′ הנני שב. ומה מי שאין לו חטא ולא סרחון חס ושלום אמר הנני שב. בני אדם על אחת כמה וכמה צריכים לעשות תשובה ולבא אצל הקדוש ברוך הוא שובה ישראל עד ה′ אלהיך

Another interpretation of Return, O Israel, unto the LORD your God [Hos. 14:2]. We have found that when [Israel] was not [following] after him [i.e., God—DNB and JNT] that he made himself distant. Nevertheless, he said, “Behold, I am returning.” [It may be compared] to a son of kings [i.e., a prince—DNB and JNT] who was sick. The doctor said, “If he will eat from the foods I want him to, he will be healed.” But the son was afraid to eat it, so his father says to him, “So that you will know that it is not harmful to you, look, I am eating from it.” In the same way, the Holy one, blessed be he, said to Israel, “You are embarrassed to do repentance, but look, I repent first, as it says, Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I repent’ [Jer. 30:18].” Now then, if one who has no sin and has never been a sinner said, “Behold, I repent,” how much more do human beings need to do repentance [צריכים לעשות תשובה] and to come to the Holy one, blessed be he? [Thus it is written,] Return, O Israel, unto the LORD your God. (Pesikta Rabati §44 [ed. Friedmann, 184a])

This rabbinic parallel is of interest not only because of the linguistic parallel to “have need of repentance,” but also because of its comparison of a sinner to a sick person who needs a doctor, a comparison that also occurs in the Call of Levi story (Matt. 9:12 // Mark 2:17 // Luke 5:31).

Jesus’ statement that there is greater rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance ought to be compared and contrasted with rabbinic statements that draw conclusions about God’s attitude toward the righteous based on the plight of the wicked, such as:


אָמַר ר′ מֵאִיר בִּזְמָן שֶׁאָדָם מִצְטָעֵר מָה הַלָּשׁוֹן אוֹמֶרֶת קַלְעינִי מֵרֹאשִׁי קַלְעינִי מִזְּרוֹעִי אִם כָּךְ אָמַר הַכָּתוּב מִצְטָעֵר אֲנִי עַל דָּמָן שֶׁלָּרְשָׁעִין קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל דַּם צַדִּיקִים שֶׁנִּישְׁפַּךְ

Rabbi Meir said, “When a man suffers, what words does the Tongue [i.e., God—DNB and JNT][101] say? ‘My head hurts! My arm hurts!’ If the [one who spoke] Scripture thus said, ‘I am suffering,’ on account of the blood of the wicked, how much more over the blood of the righteous which is shed?” (m. Sanh. 6:5)

Rabbi Meir’s bold assertion that God feels the pain of the wicked pertains to a person who is executed by the courts, and expresses his humane attitude toward those who are condemned. Although the rhetorical thrust of Rabbi Meir’s statement is to say that God feels the unjust suffering of the righteous even more, it nevertheless underscores the value of all human life, whether that of the wicked or the righteous. Rabbi Meir made a similar kind of argument in a discussion about houses that exhibit scale disease-like symptoms (cf. Lev. 14:33-57), regarding the command to remove all items from the house prior to its inspection by the priest so that they not be declared impure (Lev. 14:36):


אָמַ′ ר′ מֵאִיר וְכִי מָה מִיטַּמֵּא לוֹ אִם תֹּאמֵר כְּלֵי עֵצָוֹ וּבְגָדָיו וּמַתַּכְתּוֹ מַטְבִּילָ{י}ן וְהֵן טְהוֹרִין וְעַל מָה חָסָה הַתּוֹרָה עַל כְּלֵי חַרְשׂוֹ וְעַל פַּכוֹ וְעַל תַּ{י}פְיוֹ …אִם כַּךְ עַל שֶׁלָּרָשָׁע קַל וָחוֹמֶר עַל שֶׁלַּצַּדִּיק

Rabbi Meir said, “But what would be made impure? If you say his vessels of wood, or his clothes, or his [vessels of] metal, they immerse these and they are pure. Upon what does the Torah have pity? On his earthenware vessels, his flask and his pitcher. …If it is thus in the case of what belongs to the wicked, how much more in the case of what belongs to the righteous?” (m. Neg. 12:5)

Rabbi Meir’s statement presupposes the notion that a house exhibiting scale disease-like symptoms is a divine punishment for sin. Nevertheless, he underscores that the Torah’s provisions demonstrate God’s concern and compassion for the wicked person he punishes. Once again, the rhetorical thrust of Rabbi Meir’s statement is to highlight how much greater is God’s concern for the righteous than for the wicked, but he achieves this goal by stressing that God cares even for the wicked.

A third example of drawing conclusions about the righteous from the plight of the wicked is found in a discussion about how in 2 Chr. 20:21 the Israelites toned down their celebration of their certain victory over their enemies out of respect for God’s feelings:


אם על מיתתן של רשעים לא היתה שמחה במרום קל וחומר על הצדיקים

If over the deaths of the wicked there was no joy on high, how much more [is there no joy on high] over [the deaths of] the righteous? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:172])

In comparison with the above examples, Jesus’ declaration that there is greater rejoicing over one wicked person who repents than over ninety-nine righteous individuals runs counter to expectations. Unlike the rabbinic examples, Jesus does not make a kal vahomer argument about God’s attitude toward the righteous based on his concern for the wicked. Nevertheless, Jesus’ declaration and the rabbinic arguments do agree that God does care for the wicked. While Jesus’ assertion in the Lost Sheep simile may have been shocking to his listeners, it was founded on a premise with which his critics would probably have agreed.

Scholars and theologians routinely question whether Jesus could have been serious when he referred to righteous persons who have no need of repentance.[102] Are we really to suppose that such persons actually existed? Have not all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23)? A rabbinic tradition that describes the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Temple toward the end of the Second Temple period (cf. m. Suk. 5:4) suggests that Jesus might well have been serious when he referred to righteous individuals who did not need to repent:


חסידים ואנשי מעשה היו מרקדין לפניהן באבוקות ואומרי′ לפניהם דברי תושבחות, מה היו אומרין, אשרי מי שלא חטא וכל מי שחטא ימחל. ויש מהן או′ אשרי ילדותי שלא בייש את זקניתי, אילו אנשי מעשה. ויש מהן שהיו אומ′ אשריך זקנתי שתכפרי אל ילדותי, אילו בעלי תשובה.‏

The Hasidim and men of deeds[103] would dance before them with flaming torches and would recite before them words of praise. What did they say? “Blessed is the one who has not sinned, but all who have sinned he will cancel their debt [i.e., forgive their sin—DNB and JNT].”[104] And there were some of them who would say, “Blessed is my youth, which has not put my old age to shame”—these were the men of deeds. And there were some of them who would say, “Blessed are you, my old age, for you atone for my youth”—these were the practitioners of repentance. (t. Suk. 4:2; Vienna MS)

According to this source, the Hasidim of the Second Temple period recognized two classes of people among their ranks: those who had been pious their entire lives (and consequently had no need of repentance), and those who had repented at some point in their adulthood and had begun leading a pious existence thereafter.[105] Since there are numerous points of agreement between the teachings of Jesus and those of the Hasidim, it is reasonable to consider the possibility that Jesus agreed with them regarding the existence of individuals who had no need of repentance.

The rabbinic sages also discussed the (at least theoretical) possibility of thoroughly righteous individuals, who would logically have no need of repentance. The rabbinic term for such individuals was צַדִּיק גָּמוּר (tzadiq gāmūr, “completely righteous”). According to one rabbinic text, God rewards the completely righteous only in the world to come, whereas the completely wicked receive all their reward for whatever small acts of goodness they may have done in this world, so that there is no reward left for them in the world to come (Sifre Deut. §307 [ed. Finkelstein, 345]). According to the Tosefta, Bet Shammai classed humanity into three groups: the completely righteous, the completely wicked, and an intermediate group. The completely righteous will escape judgement altogether; the completely wicked will be consumed in Gehenna; the intermediate group will be purified in Gehenna’s flames but ultimately enter the world to come (t. Sanh. 13:3). Since this division of humanity into three classes is attributed to Bet Shammai it is reasonable to assume that the concept of the completely righteous existed during the late Second Temple period when Bet Shammai was active.

If Jesus had held the opinion that there were individuals who, having lead completely blameless lives, never needed to repent, the above sources demonstrate that his view would not have been unprecedented. Nevertheless, neither the Call of Levi story nor the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes establish that this was, in fact, Jesus’ position. In Call of Levi Jesus was willing, for the sake of argument, to accept his critics’ assumption that they (certain Pharisees) were righteous. Granting that these Pharisees were righteous, Jesus said to them, “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.” After all, the healthy have no need of a doctor, but the sick. In these statements Jesus referred to the Pharisees’ status vis-à-vis God at the time of their conversation, conceding that they were currently in good standing with their creator. Jesus’ view of his critics’ present status implied nothing about his opinion regarding whether or not the same Pharisees had needed to repent in the past. Perhaps Jesus believed these Pharisees had needed to repent at some point in order to attain their righteous standing before God, perhaps not. The question is beyond the scope of Jesus’ argument. Similarly, the statement “the healthy have no need of a doctor” implies nothing about the patient’s medical history. Perhaps at some point in the past the healthy person had been ill and had required the services of a physician. But that is hardly the point. A person who is currently healthy has no need of a doctor now.

The same considerations apply to Jesus’ reference to righteous people who have no need of repentance in the application of the Lost Sheep simile. Jesus’ point is not that such righteous persons never needed to repent in the past. Perhaps these righteous individuals did have to repent at some previous time, perhaps not. Anything beyond their current status as righteous persons, however, is simply beyond the scope of Jesus’ argument in which Jesus contrasted the rush of joy God feels over the repentance of a sinner with the calm satisfaction God takes in someone who is currently righteous. The point is not that God values a sinner more than a righteous person, but merely that when a sinner repents it catches God’s attention. He does not ignore the righteous, in fact, he wants them to share his thrill of excitement and to celebrate with him. Whereas God feels no anxiety over the righteous, whom he knows to be safe in his care, he constantly worries about people trapped in wickedness who might be lost to him forever. Therefore he feels a flood of relief whenever a sinner repents. Jesus’ rhetorical strategy in Call of Levi and in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin was not to convince the Pharisees that they, too, were sinners in need of repentance. Rather it was to convince the Pharisees that God wanted them to join him in his celebration over one sinner’s (Levi’s) repentance. Based on this strategy, Jesus was willing to concede that the Pharisees were indeed righteous, not currently in need of repentance. Precisely because they were in good standing with their creator, God wanted these righteous Pharisees to follow Jesus example, rejoicing at the banquet in honor of Levi’s repentance.

The Lost Coin

The following rabbinic parable is remarkably similar to the Lost Coin simile:


ר′ פנחס בן יאיר פתח אם תבקשנה ככסף וכמטמונים תחפשנה. אם אתה מחפש אחד ד″ת כמטמונים הללו אין הקב″ה מקפח שכרך, משל לאדם אם מאבד סלע או בולרין בתוך ביתו הוא מדליק כמה נרות כמה פתילות עד שיעמוד עליהם, והרי דברים קל וחומר ומה אלו שהם חיי שעה של עולם הזה אדם מדליק כמה נרות וכמה פתילות עד שיעמוד עליהם וימצאם, דברי תורה שהם חיי העולם הזה וחיי העה″ב אין אתה צריך לחפש אחריהם כמטמונים הללו, הוי אם תבקשנה ככסף.‏

Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair opened [his discourse with] If you will seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasures [Prov. 2:4]: If you search for even one of the words of the Torah as you would for hidden treasures, be assured that the Holy One, blessed be he, will not hold back your reward. A parable: [It may be compared] to a person if he loses a sela or a bolrin [i.e., various types of coin—DNB and JNT] within his house, he lights a few lamps and a few lanterns until he discovers them. And behold, it is a matter of kal vahomer. If even for things that last only an hour in this world a person lights a few lamps and a few lanterns until he discovers them and finds them, how much more the words of Torah, which last in this world and in the world to come? Do you not need to search after them as you would for hidden treasures? Hence, If you seek for it like silver [Prov. 2:4]. (Song Rab. 1.1.9 [ed. Etelsohn, 18])

L39 ἤ τίς γυνὴ (GR). We encountered an identical use of (ē, “or”) at the juncture of twin similes in Tower Builder and King Going to War, L12 (Luke 14:31). Also similar to the Tower Builder and King Going to War similes, we do not encounter the phrase ἐξ ὑμῶν (ex hūmōn, “from you”) in the opening line of Lost Coin as we did in the Lost Sheep simile, just as ἐξ ὑμῶν is lacking in the opening line of the King Going to War simile (L12), though it was present in the opening line of the Tower Builder simile. The reason for the omission of ἐξ ὑμῶν in the second of both sets of twin similes is probably the same in both cases. While it is conceivable that there were farmers among Jesus’ audience who might consider building a tower or who might own a herd of sheep, there were no kings and probably no women among the individuals to whom the similes were addressed.[106]

וּמִי אִישָׁה (HR). On reconstructing γυνή (gūnē, “woman,” “wife”) with אִשָּׁה (’ishāh, “woman,” “wife”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L6.

L40 ἔχουσα δέκα δηνάρια (GR). We suspect that Luke 15:8 has been subjected to a fair amount of redactional activity, probably at the hand of the First Reconstructor. The word order δραχμὰς ἔχουσα δέκα (“drachmas having ten”) is un-Hebraic, as is the noun δραχμή (drachmē, “drachma”) itself.[107] While the loanword דַּרְכְּמוֹן (darkemōn) does occur 4xx in MT,[108] its relationship to the Greek term δραχμή is disputed,[109] and there is no evidence for its use in Hebrew beyond the Persian period.[110]

In NT the noun δραχμή is found exclusively in the Lost Coin simile, although in Matt. 17:24 we encounter the related term δίδραχμον (didrachmon, “two-drachma coin”) in a pericope either entirely composed in Greek or thoroughly rewritten by a Greek redactor.[111] The preference for the term δηνάριον (dēnarion, “denarius”) in the Gospels is somewhat surprising given that in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire the denarius was usually referred to as δραχμή in Greek.[112] In the writings of Philo and Josephus, for instance, we never encounter the term δηνάριον, whereas δραχμή occurs 11xx in Philo’s works[113] and 26xx in Josephus’ writings.[114] Given the preference for “drachma” over “denarius” among Greek writers, we suspect that the First Reconstructor changed “denarius” to “drachma” as a stylistic improvement to his source (Anth.). Our reconstruction in GR reflects this suspicion, and in addition restores a more Hebraic word order such as we find in L13 of the Lost Sheep simile.

שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָה עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִים (HR). Mishnaic Hebrew often adopted the Latin names of Roman coins.[115] The term דִּינָר (dinār, “dinar”), attested numerous times in the Mishnah, comes from the Latin denarius. A parallel to our reconstruction of “ten dinars” is found in the following example:


הרי עלי לבונה לא יפחות מן הקומץ ר′ יהודה או′ משקל עשרה דינרין

[The one who says,] “Behold I will make an offering of incense,” should not bring less than a handful. Rabbi Yehudah says, “He weighs out ten dinars’ [עשרה דינרין] worth.” (t. Men. 12:15; Vienna MS)[116]

In this example the plural form of דִּינָר is spelled with a final nun. Examples of plural forms of דִּינָר spelled with the final mem, as in our reconstruction, are found in m. Maas. Shen. 2:9.

Jeremias popularized the view that the ten coins belonging to the woman in the simile were part of a headdress, but there is nothing in the simile to support this surmise.[117]

L41 καὶ ἀπολέσῃ δηνάριον ἓν (GR). In the parallel to this question in the Lost Sheep simile (L14) we encountered καί (kai, “and”) instead of ἐάν. Given this parallel, and the fact that καί is easier to reconstruct in Hebrew than ἐάν in this sentence, we suspect that ἐάν (ean, “if”) in Luke 15:8 is a Greek improvement from the hand of the First Reconstructor. On our preference for δηνάριον in GR, see above, Comment to L40.

וְהִיא מְאַבֶּדֶת דִּינָר אֶחָד (HR). In BH we usually read “it was lost to him” rather than “he lost it,” as in the story of Saul’s search for his father’s lost donkeys:


וַתֹּאבַדְנָה הָאֲתֹנוֹת לְקִישׁ אֲבִי שָׁאוּל

And the donkeys were lost to Kish, the father of Saul. (1 Sam. 9:3)

In MH this type of formulation is possible, but it also became common to say “he lost it” using the verb אִבֵּד (’ibēd, “lose”). The following are examples of losing coins or money using אִבֵּד:


מִי שֶׁהָלַךְ לוֹ לִמְדִינַת הַיָּם וְעָמַד אַחֵר וּפִירְנֵס אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ חָנָן אוֹ′ אִיבֵּד אֶת מָעוֹתָיו

The one who took himself to a province across the sea and another stood [in his place] and supported his wife—Hanan says, “He [i.e., the one who supported the other man’s wife—DNB and JNT] has lost his money.” (m. Ket. 13:2)


הַשּׁוֹלֵחַ אֶת בְּנוֹ אֵצֶל הַחַנְוָונִי וּמָדַד לוֹ בְאִסָּר שֶׁמֶן וְנָתַן לוֹ אֶת הָאִסָּר שָׁבַר אֶת הַצְּלוֹחִית וְאִיבֵּד אֶת הָאִסָּר הַחַנְוָונִי חַיָּיב

The one who sends his son to a shopkeeper, and he [i.e., the shopkeeper—DNB and JNT] measured for him an issar’s worth of oil or he gave him the issar coin, and he [i.e., the son—DNB and JNT] broke the flask or he lost the issar, the shopkeeper is liable. (m. Bab. Bat. 5:9)


אפילו כתובתה מאה מנה איבדה את הכל

Even if her ketubah [i.e., marriage contract—DNB and JNT] is for a hundred minas, she has lost the entirety. (t. Ket. 7:7; Vienna MS)

The phrase דִּינָר אֶחָד (dinār ’eḥād, “one dinar”) occurs in the following example:


אם יאמר לך אדם קח לך שדה שוה אלף דינרים בדינר אחד אל תקח

If a person says to you, “Buy for yourself this field worth a thousand dinars for one dinar,” do not take it. (b. Avod. Zar. 9b)

One drachma/denarius was the average day’s pay of a hired laborer during the Second Temple period,[118] which is a significant amount for anyone to lose, and especially so for the woman in the simile for whom the loss represented one tenth of her savings, a much more significant financial loss than one sheep from a flock of one hundred head. Thus Fitzmyer’s suggestion that the woman described in the Lost Coin simile was miserly is unfounded.[119]

First or early second-century C.E. lamp found at Tel Shosh near Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek. Photographed at the Israel Museum by Joshua N. Tilton.

L42 הֲלֹא תַּדְלִיק נֵר (HR). On reconstructing οὐχί as הֲלֹא, see above, Comment to L16.

In LXX ἅπτειν (haptein, “to kindle”) is never used to translate הִדְלִיק (hidliq, “kindle,” “ignite”).[120] However, the compound verb ἐξάπτειν (exaptein, “to kindle”) is twice used in LXX to refer to lighting a lamp (Exod. 30:8; Num. 8:3) where ἐξάπτειν λύχνος (exaptein lūchnos, “to light a lamp”) is the translation of הֶעֱלָה נֵר (he‘elāh nēr, “set up a lamp”).[121]

Our reconstruction of ἅπτει λύχνον as תַּדְלִיק נֵר is based on MH models, since we prefer to reconstruct dialogue in a MH style of Hebrew. In rabbinic sources the phrase הִדְלִיק נֵר (“light a lamp”) is common.[122]

In LXX, wherever λύχνος (lūchnos, “lamp”) has a Hebrew equivalent, it is always the translation of נֵר (nēr, “lamp”).[123]

As scholars frequently observe,[124] the use of a lamp to conduct the search was necessitated by the poor lighting in most ancient homes, where windows were few and usually small.[125]

L43 וּתְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבַּיִת (HR). The BH verb for “sweep” was טֵאטֵא (ṭē’ṭē’), but even in MT this verb occurs only once (Isa. 14:23), and it appears not to have survived into MH. According to the Talmud, the sages in the time of Yehudah ha-Nasi (ca. 200 C.E.) did not know how to interpret טֵאטֵא in Isaiah until they overheard a maid using a cognate verb in Aramaic (b. Meg. 18b).[126] From this it appears that טֵאטֵא fell out of spoken Hebrew at a very early stage. We have therefore chosen to reconstruct σαροῦν (saroun, “to sweep”) as כִּבֵּד (kibēd), which in MH was used for “sweep,”[127] as we see in the following examples:


בֵּית שַׁמַיִ אוֹמְ′ מְכַבְּדִין אֶת הַבַּיִת וְאַחַר כָּךְ נוֹטְלִים לַיָּדַיִם וּבֵית הֶלֵּל אוֹמְ′ נוֹטְלִים לַיָּדַיִם וְאַחַר כָּךְ מְכַבְּדִין אֶת הַבַּיִת

Bet Shammai says, “They sweep [מְכַבְּדִין] the house and after that they wash their hands.” Bet Hillel says, “They wash their hands and after that they sweep [מְכַבְּדִין] the house.” (m. Ber. 8:4; cf. t. Ber. 5:28)


מְכַבְּדִין בֵּין הַמִּיטּוֹת וּמַנִּיחִים אֶת הַמִּגְמָר בְּיוֹם טוֹב

They sweep [מְכַבְּדִין] between the beds and put the spices on the fire on a minor holiday. (m. Betz. 2:7)[128]


מעשה בריבה אחת בהיתלו שהיתה מכבדת את הבית

An anecdote about a certain young woman in Hitlu, who was sweeping the house [מְכַבֶּדֶת אֶת הַבַּיִת]…. (b. Yev. 59b)[129]

An early example of this useage of כִּבֵּד is found in the Temple Scroll, which was discovered in Qumran:


וביום אשר יוציאו ממנו את המת יכבדו את הבית מכול תגאולת שמן ויין ולחת מים

And on the day when they take out the dead from it, they must cleanse [יְכַבְּדוּ] the house from all pollution of oil and wine and moisture of water. (11QTa [11Q19] XLIX, 11-12)

On reconstructing οἰκία (oikia, “house”) as בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L7-8.

L44 καὶ ζητεῖ (GR). We suspect that ἐπιμελῶς (epimelōs, “carefully,” “thoroughly”) in Luke 15:8 is a Greek addition introduced by the First Reconstructor. Not only is a parallel to ἐπιμελῶς lacking in the Lost Sheep simile, but of the three instances of ἐπιμελῶς in LXX, two have no equivalent in the underlying Hebrew text,[130] and in the one verse where there is a Hebrew equivalent the underlying word is שִׁחֵר (shiḥēr, “seek”), which is superfluous in the present context. A possible Hebrew equivalent for ἐπιμελῶς is הֵיטֵב (hēṭēv, “well,” “thoroughly”), but in LXX adverbial uses of הֵיטֵב are translated either as σφόδρα (sfodra, “exceedingly”),[131] ἀκριβῶς (akribōs, “diligently”)[132] or ἀγαθῶς (agathōs, “well”).[133]

On reconstructing ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”) with בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek”), see above, Comment to L19-20.

L45 ἕως οὗ εὕρῃ αὐτό (GR). To GR we have added the pronoun αὐτό (avto, “it”) on the basis of the parallel to this sentence in the Lost Sheep simile (L22; Luke 15:4), and because including the pronoun is more Hebraic.

עַד שֶׁתִּמְצָא אֹתוֹ (HR). Compare our reconstruction in L22, which is identical apart from the gender of the verb and the object.

L46 καὶ εὑροῦσα αὐτὸ (GR). To GR we have added the pronoun αὐτό, just as we did in L23 and L45.

וּכְשֶׁהִיא מֹצֵאת אֹתוֹ (HR). Apart from changes of gender, our reconstruction is identical to that in L23.[134]

L47-50 Apart from changing the gender of the participle, the imperative, nouns and pronominal suffixes to the feminine, our Hebrew reconstruction is identical to that in L27-30.

L51 ὅτι εὗρον τὸ δηνάριον ὃ ἀπώλεσα (GR). On the substitution of δραχμή in Luke 15:9 for δηνάριον in GR, see above, Comment to L40.

שֶׁמָּצָאתִי אֶת הַדִּינָר שֶׁאִבַּדְתִּי (HR). On שֶׁמָּצָאתִי (shemātzā’ti, “because I found”), see above, Comment to L31. On אִבֵּד (’ibēd, “lose”), see above, Comment to L41. Contrast the woman’s statement (“because I found the dinar that I lost”) with that of the owner of the sheep (“because I found the lost sheep”). Whereas the woman takes responsibility for losing an inanimate object, the owner of the flock rejoiced over finding a sheep that had strayed of its own volition.[135] This difference, however, has no bearing on the point of the simile.

Lost Coin simile illustrated in stained glass. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L52-56 The opening of Luke 15:10 has an un-Hebraic word order, which is probably the result of the First Reconstructor’s redactional activity. Instead of Luke’s οὕτως λέγω ὑμῖν γείνεται χαρὰ (“In this way—I say to you—there is joy…”), we suspect that Anth. read ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτως γείνεται χαρὰ (“Amen! I tell you, in this way there is joy…”). The omission of ἀμήν (amēn) is typical of FR’s redaction (see above, Comment to L33-34), and the omission of ὅτι recitative is unsurprising, but the shifting of word order is somewhat puzzling. Perhaps it is simply a stylistic variation.

L52 ἀμὴν (GR). We have added ἀμήν on the basis of the parallel with L33.[136] Luke frequently omitted ἀμήν from λέγω ὑμῖν (“I say to you”) statements, often under the influence of FR.

L53 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). Our reconstruction is parallel to that of L34.

L54 οὕτως (Matt. 18:14). Matthew’s use of οὕτως in L54 is another example of his recycling of Anth.’s terminology in his rewritten application of the Lost Sheep simile.

כָּךְ (HR). Our reconstruction of οὕτως with כָּךְ is the same as that which is found above in L35.

L55 λέγω ὑμῖν (Luke 15:10). It appears that the First Reconstructor shifted the position of λέγω ὑμῖν (“I say to you”) from before οὕτως in Anth. to its current position after οὕτως in Luke 15:10. This change weakens the parallelism between the applications of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes. Perhaps the change was made simply because the First Reconstructor found verbatim repetition to be tedious.

L56 יֵשׁ שִׂמְחָה (HR). Our reconstruction of γείνεται χαρὰ is identical to that in L35.

L58 ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων (GR). For GR we have added the definite article before ἀγγέλων in agreement with the critical editions of NT, since it is likely that the definite article was simply overlooked by the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus.

Whether to prefer Luke’s ἐνώπιον (enōpion, “before”) or Matthew’s ἔμπροσθεν (emprosthen, “before”) for GR proved a difficult problem to solve. As we have noted, Matt. 18:13-14 is mainly the author of Matthew’s own composition, but he did recycle some original words and phrases from the applications of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes in these verses. Could Matthew’s ἔμπροσθεν be a reflection of Anth., and Luke’s ἐνώπιον be a Greek improvement introduced by the First Reconstructor? Both prepositions occur in LXX as the translation of לִפְנֵי (lifnē, “before”),[137] so ease of Hebrew retroversion cannot be a deciding factor in this case.

One clue that might lead to the solution of this problem is the fact that whereas ἐνώπιον occurs 22xx in Luke, ἐνώπιον never occurs in Matthew’s Gospel. But how are we to interpret this datum? Does it mean that the author of Luke had a preference for ἐνώπιον, or does it indicate that the author of Matthew had an aversion to this preposition?

Digging deeper, we find that the author of Luke was comfortable using either ἐνώπιον or ἔμπροσθεν, and that he did not mind copying ἔμπροσθεν when it occurred in his sources.[138] The author of Matthew, on the other hand, may well have avoided ἐνώπιον in his sources: in at least one DT pericope where Luke has ἐνώπιον, Matthew’s version of the saying seems less Hebraic than Luke’s (Matt. 10:29 // Luke 12:6).[139] It seems likely, therefore, that the complete absence of ἐνώπιον in the Gospel of Matthew is an editorial decision of its author, and we have therefore accepted Luke’s use of ἐνώπιον for GR.

לִפְנֵי מַלְאֲכֵי (HR). In LXX ἄγγελος (angelos, “messenger,” “angel”) usually represents מַלְאָךְ (mal’āch, “messenger,” “angel”) in the underlying Hebrew text.[140] Occasionally מַלְאָךְ was translated by a word other than ἄγγελος, but these instances are in the minority.[141] There can be no real cause for doubt regarding the reconstruction of ἄγγελος with מַלְאָךְ here in L58.

L59 τοῦ θεοῦ (Luke 15:10). The phrase “angels of God” is unique to Luke among the Synoptic Gospels, where it occurs 3xx (Luke 12:8, 9; 15:10).[142] Strangely, in each instance where Luke has “angels of God” the Matthean parallels have “my/your Father in heaven.”[143] Perhaps what lies behind both the Lukan “angels of God” and the Matthean “your Father in Heaven” in these instances is an original οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν (hoi angeloi tōn ouranōn, “the angels of Heaven”), where “Heaven” is a substitute for the divine name (i.e., the Tetragrammaton). Elsewhere we have concluded that whenever the First Reconstructor encountered the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (“the Kingdom of Heaven”) in Anth., he changed it to ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (“the Kingdom of God”) for the sake of his non-Jewish readers.[144] The author of Luke, following the First Reconstructor’s lead, continued this practice. Perhaps the same operation was at work in the phrase “the angels of heaven”: whenever the First Reconstructor encountered οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν in Anth., he automatically changed it to οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ for the sake of clarity among his non-Jewish readers. If this hypothesis is correct, then we must suppose that the author of Matthew employed a different strategy. Whenever he encountered the phrase “the angels of Heaven,” he changed it to “my/your Father in heaven,” since he regarded “the angels of Heaven” as an oblique way of referring to God. The few instances where Matthew retains the phrase “the angels of/in heaven” (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; 24:36) are cases where replacing “angels” with “my/your Father” is a nonsensical option.[145] Thus, both Matthew and Luke adapted the phrase “the angels of Heaven,” but their different methods of adaptation preserved different parts of the original phrase. By putting the evidence of Matthew and Luke together we are able to restore a Hebraic phrase that can explain their divergent readings.

שָׁמַיִם (HR). We have been unable to find any examples of the phrase מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם (mal’achē shāmayim, “angels of Heaven”) in rabbinic sources. That מַלְאֲכֵי שָׁמַיִם was current in the Second Temple period, however, is proved by an instance of this phrase in DSS (1QHa XXIV, 11). Jesus’ statement that “there is joy before the angels of Heaven” is an indirect way of saying “God rejoices,”[146] but it is possible that Jesus also alluded to traditions according to which the angels voiced their opposition to God’s acceptance of repentance,[147] an example of which is found in the following aggadic treatment of the story of King Manasseh’s repentance:


והיו מלאכי השרת מסתמין את החלונות שלא תעלה תפילתו של מנשה לפני הקב″ה והיו מלאכי השרת אומרים לפני הקב″ה רבונו של עולם אדם שעבד ע″ז והעמיד צלם בהיכל אתה מקבלו בתשובה אמר להן אם איני מקבלו בתשובה הרי אני נועל את הדלת בפני כל בעלי תשובה

And the ministering angels were closing the windows [of heaven] so that the prayer of Manasseh would not ascend before the Holy one, blessed be he. And the ministering angels were saying before the Holy one, blessed be he, “Master of the universe! A person who served idols and who erected images in the Temple—you receive him in repentance?” He said to them, “If I do not receive him in repentance, behold, I close the door in the face of all those who repent.” (y. Sanh. 10:2 [51b])

Alternatively, Jesus may have been suggesting that God calls the angels to celebrate with him over repentant sinners in a manner that is analogous to the way the woman in the simile called her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her.

L60 עַל רָשָׁע אֶחָד שֶׁעֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה (HR). Our reconstruction is identical to that in L36.

L61 ἵνα ἀπόληται (Matt. 18:14). In his final statement, “It is not the will of my Father in heaven that one of these little ones might be lost,” the author of Matthew betrays his knowledge that “lost” was originally a key word that occurred in both the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin similes (L21, L32, L41, L51). As we have noted, despite extensive rewriting in Matt. 18:13-14, the author of Matthew reused some original wording from Anth.

L62 ἓν τῶν μεικρῶν τούτων (Matt. 18:14). With his closing phrase, “one of these little ones,” the author of Matthew artfully returns to the subject with which he introduced the Lost Sheep simile—concern lest the little ones be despised (Matt. 18:10). In this way, the author of Matthew reinforced his pastoral concern for the vulnerable members of his community.

Redaction Analysis

Luke’s Version

Luke’s version of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes appears to have undergone a significant degree of Greek redaction, all of which was intended to polish the Greek style of the similes rather than to change their meaning or application. Such editorial improvements involve changes of word order (L15, L40, L53-55), changes of verb tense (L35), the use of synonyms (L14, L18, L25, L40, L59), and the omission of pronouns and the definite article where these are superfluous in Greek (L23, L45, L46, L48, L49). Some of the changes, such as the omission of “Amen” (L33, L52) and the use of “God” rather than “heaven” (L59), may have been motivated by a desire for clarity for non-Jewish readers. Other changes may have been introduced in order to avoid verbatim repetition, which Greek readers might have found tiresome. Most, perhaps all, of these editorial changes should be attributed to the First Reconstructor.

Matthew’s Version

Although Matthew’s version of the Lost Sheep simile is based on Anth., Luke’s FR version is on the whole more reliable because the author of Matthew thoroughly revised the Lost Sheep simile in order to assimilate it to a new context—Matthew’s discourse on pastoral care for “these little ones”—and to adapt its application to the conditions of the Matthean community. Despite his thoroughgoing revisions, Matthew’s version preserves several authentic readings from Anth., including “stray” in L14 (as opposed to Luke’s “lose”), “on the mountains” in L18 (as opposed to Luke’s “in the desert”), “seek” in L20 (omitted in Luke’s version), and “Amen” in L33 (omitted in Luke’s version). At other points, Matthew’s version indirectly supports our reconstruction where on other grounds we detected redactional activity in Luke, as in L58-59, where Matthew’s “my Father in heaven” indirectly supports our reconstructed “the angels of heaven.”

Results of This Research

Is it true that the Pharisees despised all shepherds? It is difficult to believe that all Pharisees despised all shepherds. Without shepherds there would have been no wool for clothing, no milk for consumption, and no lambs to sacrifice in the Temple. But more than that, heroes of the Bible such as Moses and King David had been shepherds, and the LORD himself was portrayed in Holy Scripture as the shepherd of Israel. It is true that shepherds were often regarded as careless of other people’s property for allowing their flocks to graze on land that was not their own, and it also is true that members of the upper classes (to which some Pharisees belonged) sometimes looked down upon shepherds as uncouth. But these stereotypes notwithstanding, scholars who claim that Jesus could not have addressed the Lost Sheep simile to the Pharisees because the Pharisees despised shepherds stretch the facts too far. This is especially the case since it is not even clear that the fictitious man in the Lost Sheep simile was intended to be a shepherd. He could just as easily be imagined to have been the owner of a flock who employed shepherds to care for his sheep and goats.


The Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes offer down-to-earth illustrations of God’s response to repentance: God feels about repentant sinners the way a man feels who has just found a sheep that strayed from the flock, or the way a woman feels who has just found a coin that had gone missing. Jesus’ purpose in telling these similes was to explain why he didn’t mind eating and drinking in the home of Levi with toll collectors and other sinners. Like the owner of the lost sheep and the woman who found her missing coin, God wants those who are closest to him to come and rejoice with him that a sinner has repented. It would be nothing short of rude to refuse God’s invitation. Jesus had joined in the celebration over the recovery of lost sinners. By telling the twin similes he invited his critics to do the same.[148]

Catacomb depiction of a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Click here to return to “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” main page. _______________________________________________________
  • [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] In “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” we distinguish between parables (illustrations given in narrative form) and similes (illustrations given in the form of a question). See Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes, Comment to L1.
  • [4] Among the scholars who agree that the original purpose of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes was to explain Jesus’ association with toll collectors and sinners are Jeremias, Parables, 40; Beare, 178.
  • [5] See Jeremias, Parables, 40.
  • [6] On the author of Matthew’s compilation of the Sending the Twelve discourse, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [7] See Jeremias, Parables, 38-40; Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear Then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 406; Jacobus Liebenberg, The Language of the Kingdom and Jesus: Parable, Aphorism, and Metaphor in the Sayings Material Common to the Synoptic Tradition and the Gospel of Thomas (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2001), 420. Adapting his sources in order to apply Jesus’ teachings to contemporary circumstances within his community was one of Matthew’s editorial strategies. We observed this strategy in the way the author of Matthew “updated” the Sending the Twelve discourse in order to curtail abuses on the part of itinerant teachers, which the Matthean churches had evidently experienced. See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comments to L52-62, L62, L68, L70 and Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comments to L82-83, L97.
  • [8] See Bundy, 324; Beare, 150; Hagner, 2:526.
  • [9] For the date of Lindsey’s discovery, see LHNS, 135. An account of this discovery is found in Robert L. Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists,” under the subheading “Restoration of Narrative-Sayings Complexes.” See also, idem, “Jesus’ Twin Parables,” under the subheading “The Full ‘Call of Levi’ Story.”
  • [10] A version of the Lost Sheep simile is found in the Gospel of Thomas:

    Jesus said: The Kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them went astray, which was the largest. He left behind ninety-nine, he sought for the one until he found it. Having tired himself out, he said to the sheep: I love thee more than ninety-nine. (Gos. Thom. §107 [ed. Guillaumont, 53])

    Distinctive features of the version in the Gospel of Thomas include the following: 1) the comparison to “the Kingdom”; 2) the description of the man whose sheep went missing as a shepherd (in Luke and Matthew he is the owner of the sheep, not necessarily a shepherd); 3) the description of the lost sheep as the largest; 4) the shepherd’s fatigue; and 5) the shepherd’s declaration to the rescued sheep that he loves it more than the ninety-nine.

    Petersen argued that the version of the Lost Sheep simile in the Gospel of Thomas is more original than either of the canonical versions, and proposed that the original message was about God’s love for Israel in contrast to the Gentiles. See William L. Petersen, “The Parable of the Lost Sheep in the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptics,” Novum Testamentum 23.2 (1981): 128-147. Nevertheless, Liebenberg points out that since the lesson of the Gospel of Thomas version of the Lost Sheep simile—that God’s love is not unconditional but reserved only for those who deserve it—is diametrically opposed to the lesson given by the synoptic versions, it is more likely that the version in the Gospel of Thomas was written in response to the earlier canonical and/or pre-synoptic versions of the Lost Sheep simile. See Liebenberg, The Language of the Kingdom and Jesus, 430.

  • [11] For a catalog of the Type 1 and Type 2 Double Tradition pericopae, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition.”
  • [12] See, for instance, the author of Matthew’s redactional activity in Blessedness of the Twelve, summarized under the subheading “Redaction Analysis: Matthew’s Version.”
  • [13] See Bundy, 377; Luz, 2:438.
  • [14] See Marshall, 601-602.
  • [15] Manson (Sayings, 283), Davies-Allison (2:769) and Luz (2:438) are among the scholars who suppose that the author of Luke found the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes already joined in his source.
  • [16] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Unlocking the Synoptic Problem: Four Keys for Better Understanding Jesus,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets”; idem, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets.”
  • [17] Lindsey believed that it was the Anthologizer who was mainly responsible for separating parables and sayings from their narrative contexts. On the whole, Lindsey was probably correct in this regard, but in the present case we are forced to conclude that the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes were still joined to the Call of Levi narrative in Anth., for otherwise we cannot explain how the First Reconstructor knew that Jesus told the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes in defense of his free association with toll collectors and sinners.
  • [18] See Davies-Allison, 2:769. The command ὁρᾶτε/ὅρα occurs once in Luke (Luke 12:15), 2xx in Mark (Mark 1:44; 8:15) and 5xx in Matthew (Matt. 8:4 [= Mark 1:44]; 9:30; 16:6 [= Mark 8:15]; 18:10; 24:6).
  • [19] On Matt. 10:42 see Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender, Comment to L151-156.
  • [20] See Davies-Allison, 2:770-771; Luz, 2:441.
  • [21] See Metzger, 44-45.
  • [22] On the phrase ἐν παραβολαῖς (en parabolais), see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L19.
  • [23] See Cadbury, Style, 106-107. The construction λέγειν + παραβολή is used to introduce a parable in Luke 4:23 (ἐρεῖτέ μοι τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην); 5:36 (ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς); 6:39 (εἶπεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς); 8:4 (εἶπεν διὰ παραβολῆς); 12:16 (εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων); 13:6 (ἔλεγεν δὲ ταύτην τὴν παραβολήν); 14:7 (ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς κεκλημένους παραβολήν); 15:3 (εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγων); 18:1 (ἔλεγεν δὲ παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς); 18:9 (εἶπεν δὲ…τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην); 19:11 (εἶπεν παραβολὴν); 20:9 (ἤρξατο δὲ πρὸς τὸν λαὸν λέγειν τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην); 21:29 (καὶ εἶπεν παραβολὴν αὐτοῖς). Cf. Luke 12:41 (πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην λέγεις) and Luke 20:19 (ἔγνωσαν γὰρ ὅτι πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἶπεν τὴν παραβολὴν ταύτην; cf. Mark 12:12).
  • [24] The LXX examples where λέγειν + παραβολή translates מָשַׁל מָשָׁל are:


    וּמְשֹׁל מָשָׁל אֶל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל

    …and tell a parable to the house of Israel…. (Ezek. 17:2)

    καὶ εἰπὸν παραβολὴν πρὸς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Ισραηλ

    …and tell a parable to the house of Israel…. (Ezek. 17:2)


    אִם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם עוֹד מְשֹׁל הַמָּשָׁל הַזֶּה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל

    …if there will still be for you the telling of this parable in Israel. (Ezek. 18:3)

    ἐὰν γένηται ἔτι λεγομένη ἡ παραβολὴ αὕτη ἐν τῷ Ισραηλ

    …if there might still be this parable spoken in Israel. (Ezek. 18:3)


    הֲלֹא מְמַשֵּׁל מְשָׁלִים הוּא

    Is he not a teller of parables? (Ezek. 21:5)

    οὐχὶ παραβολή ἐστιν λεγομένη αὕτη

    Is not this parable told? (Ezek. 21:5)


    וּמְשֹׁל אֶל בֵּית הַמֶּרִי מָשָׁל

    …and tell the rebellious house a parable…. (Ezek. 24:3)

    καὶ εἰπὸν ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον τὸν παραπικραίνοντα παραβολὴν

    …and tell the rebellious house a parable…. (Ezek. 24:3)

  • [25] Examples of מָשְׁלוּ מָשָׁל are found, inter alia, in t. Hag. 2:5; t. Sot. 11:4; 15:7; t. Bab. Kam. 7:3, 4.
  • [26] Examples of אֶמְשׁוֹל לְךָ מָשָׁל are found, inter alia, in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 6 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:325); Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 6:2 (ed. Schechter, 29); 9:2 (ed. Schechter, 41); 16:3 (ed. Schechter, 64); b. Yom. 76a.
  • [27] Jeremias (Parables, 93 n. 13) likewise opined that Luke’s λέγειν + παραβολή construction came from his source(s).
  • [28] See Hawkins, 33. In NT the question τί ὑμῖν/σοι δοκεῖ is found in Matt. 17:25; 18:12; 21:28; 22:17, 42; 26:66. Cf. τίς…δοκεῖ σοι in Luke 10:36.
  • [29] An example of the question מָה אַתֶּם סְבוּרִים occurs in Sifre Deut. §12 (ed. Finkelstein, 20). Examples of מָה אַתָּה סָבוּר occur, inter alia, in Gen. Rab. 19:5 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:174); 20:8 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:191); 46:9 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:466).
  • [30] See Scott, Hear Then the Parable, 406; Luz, 2:438; Bovon, 2:407.
  • [31] See Davies-Allison, 2:773.
  • [32] See Tower Builder and King Going to War, L1, where τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν reached Luke from Anth. via FR. The interrogative phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν occurs in Matt. 6:27; 7:9; Luke 11:5; 12:25; 14:28; 15:4; 17:7; cf. τίνα…ἐξ ὑμῶν in Luke 11:11. See Hawkins, 46.
  • [33] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [34] See Bendavid, 337.
  • [35] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:96-102.
  • [36] See, for example, Marshall, 598; Bailey, 1:147; John R. Donahue, The Gospel in Parable (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1988), 148.
  • [37] Negative opinions of shepherds are expressed, e.g., in m. Kid. 4:14 (printed editions); t. Bab. Kam. 8:15 (a shepherd who repents of his profession as a shepherd); b. Sanh. 25b (shepherds disqualified as judges and witnesses); b. Sanh. 57a (shepherds compared to Samaritans); Midrash Tehillim 23:2 (ed. Buber, 2:198) (shepherds have the most despised profession in the world). It should be noted that the claim in the midrash on Psalm 23 that shepherding is more despised than any other trade is for rhetorical effect.
  • [38] Shepherds are portrayed positively in a story about the high priest Shimon haZadik, who commended a shepherd who became a Nazirite (t. Naz. 4:7; b. Ned. 9b; b. Naz. 4b), and in a story about how Rabbi Yehudah haNasi accepted the testimony of an elderly shepherd when setting the Sabbath limits in a certain town (t. Eruv. 4:16).
  • [39] Rabbi Eleazar ben Dalgai (m. Tam. 3:8) and Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba (t. Bab. Kam. 8:13) are two examples of sages who raised sheep and/or goats. Hanina ben Dosa is also said to have raised goats (b. Taan. 25a).
  • [40] Cf. Plummer, 368. According to Safrai, it was common for well-to-do farmers to hire shepherds to care for their sheep (cf. m. Betz. 5:3; m. Bab. Kam. 6:2). See Ze’ev Safrai, “Agriculture and Farming” (OHJDL, 246-263, esp. 257).
  • [41] Examples of the phrase מֵאָה צֹאן in rabbinic texts include the following:


    קבל ממנו מאה צאן במאה של זהב

    If he accepted from him a hundred sheep for a hundred gold pieces…. (t. Bab. Metz. 5:1; Vienna MS)


    היה לפניו מאה צאן ואמ′ לו

    If there was before him a hundred sheep and he said to him…. (t. Bab. Metz. 6:6; Vienna MS)

  • [42] See Shimon Applebaum, “Animal Husbandry,” in The Roman World (ed. John Wacher; 2 vols.; London: Routledge, 1987), 504-526, esp. 510.
  • [43] See Jeremias, Parables, 133.
  • [44] This example from Ps. 118:176 is particularly instructive for GR, for in it the verb πλανᾶν describes the sheep’s action, while the participle ἀπολωλός describes the condition the sheep is in on account of its having strayed, just as we have it in our reconstruction.
  • [45] Additional examples of πλανᾶν used to describe sheep going astray include the following:

    πάντες ὡς πρόβατα ἐπλανήθημεν

    All we like sheep have gone astray [ἐπλανήθημεν]…. (Isa. 53:6; NETS)

    Πρόβατον πλανώμενον Ισραηλ, λέοντες ἐξῶσαν αὐτόν

    Israel is a wandering [πλανώμενον] sheep; lions drove him away. (Jer. 27:17; NETS)

    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 you do not feed my sheep. You did not strengthen the weakened and did not build up the unwell and did not bind up the crushed and did not turn about the one that strayed [τὸ πλανώμενον] and did not seek the lost…. (Ezek. 34:3-4; NETS; cf. Ezek. 34:16)

  • [46] Davies-Allison (2:769), Young (Parables, 191-192), Nolland (Matt., 742), Luz (2:439) and Snodgrass (105) are among the scholars who detect the influence of Ezekiel 34 on the Lost Sheep simile. Ezekiel 34:4 not only mentions retrieving strayed sheep and seeking lost ones, but also healing sheep that were injured. Perhaps the shepherds’ duty to heal the injured of their flock originally helped tie the twin similes to the previous saying about the sick who need a doctor (Luke 5:31).
  • [47] Nevertheless, the author of Matthew betrayed his knowledge that his source also used ἀπολλύειν. See Comment to L61.
    Since both the Matthean and the Lukan versions of the Lost Sheep simile each lost some of the original imagery derived from Ezekiel 34, we cannot accept the opinion of Davies-Allison (2:769) that the allusions to Ezekiel 34 are secondary.
  • [48] Marshall (601) also regarded Matthew’s use of πλανᾶν as original.
  • [49] Cf. LHNS, 109, 135.
  • [50] The verb καταλείπειν occurs in Matthew 4xx (Matt. 4:13; 16:4; 19:5; 21:17), in Mark 4xx (Mark 10:7; 12:19, 21; 14:52), and in Luke 4xx (Luke 5:28; 10:40; 15:4; 20:31). The verb ἀφιέναι, on the other hand, occurs over 40xx in Matthew, over 30xx in Mark, and over 30xx in Luke.
  • [51] On our rationale for basing the reconstruction documents on Codex Vaticanus, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” under the subheading “Codex Vaticanus or an Eclectic Text?”
  • [52] This was already noted by Lightfoot (2:253). See also Manson, Sayings, 208; Bundy, 324; Fitzmyer, 2:1076; Nolland, Luke, 771.
  • [53] See E. F. F. Bishop, “The Parable of the Lost or Wandering Sheep,” Anglican Theological Review 44.1 (1962): 44-57, esp. 45; Jeremias, Parables, 133; Marshall, 601.
  • [54] Snodgrass (104-105) argues this point admirably.
  • [55] Some scholars have attempted to explain “in the wilderness” and “on the hills” as translation variants in Matthew and Luke of a single Aramaic term. See F. Bussby, “Did a Shepherd Leave Sheep upon the Mountains or in the Desert?” Anglican Theological Review 45.1 (1963): 93-94; Jeremias, Parables, 133; Snodgrass, 104. This explanation, however, founders on strong evidence that the authors of Luke and Matthew worked with Greek sources, not Hebrew or Aramaic texts. For a refutation of the hypothesis that translation variants can account for differences between Lukan and Matthean versions of a pericope, see John S. Kloppenborg, The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 54-59. A better explanation of the variation between “on the hills” and “in the wilderness” in the Lukan and Matthean versions of the Lost Sheep simile may be that ὄρος and ἔρημος were considered synonymous in Greek. See Henry J. Cadbury, “Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts. I.,” Journal of Biblical Literature 44.3 (1925): 214-227, esp. 221-223.
  • [56] In LXX ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος is the translation of עַל (הָ)הָר in Gen. 8:4; Exod. 19:11, 20; 24:16; Deut. 12:2; Judg. 11:37, 38; 1 Chr. 12:9; Ps. 103[104]:6; 132[133]:3; Song 2:8; Amos 3:9; Joel 2:2; Obad. 16; Nah. 2:1; 3:18; Hag. 1:11; Zech. 14:4; Isa. 29:8; 31:4; 52:7; 65:7; Jer. 9:9; Lam. 4:19; Ezek. 11:23; 18:15; 32:5; 39:2, 4, 17.
  • [57] In LXX of the Pentateuch alone ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ is the translation of בַּמִּדְבָּר in Gen. 16:7; 21:20, 21; 36:24; 37:22; Exod. 5:1; 7:16; 8:24; 14:11, 12; 15:22; 16:32; Lev. 7:38; Num. 1:1, 19; 3:4, 14; 9:1, 5; 10:12, 31; 12:16; 14:2, 16, 22, 29, 32, 33 (2xx), 35; 15:32; 16:13; 21:5, 11, 13; 26:64, 65; 27:3, 14; 32:13, 15; 33:15, 36; Deut. 1:1, 31; 4:43; 8:2, 16; 9:7, 28; 11:5; 29:4.
  • [58] Cf. Hagner, 2:527.
  • [59] That ancient readers found Matthew’s version troubling is demonstrated by the variant reading in many witnesses, οὐχὶ ἀφεὶς τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἐννέα, ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη πορευθεὶς, ζητεῖ τὸ πλανώμενον (“Will he not, leaving the ninety-nine, going on the hills, seek the strayed one?”), a reading that is still reflected in older translations such as the KJV. See Bishop, “The Parable of the Lost or Wandering Sheep,” 46.
  • [60] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1014-1017.
  • [61] See Dos Santos, 50.
  • [62] See Davies-Allison, 2:774. Examples of πορεύεσθαι + ἐπί + accusative in the writings of Luke include Luke 15:4; Acts 8:26; 9:11; 17:14; 25:12.
  • [63] Harnack, 92.
  • [64] The verb ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”), or a compound thereof, is found in Ezek. 34:4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16. If we are correct that the First Reconstructor omitted the verb ζητεῖν, this is probably an indication that he did not recognize the allusions to Ezekiel 34 in the Lost Sheep simile.
  • [65] See above, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [66] If we are correct that the author of Matthew replaced ἀπολωλός with πλανώμενον, this is probably an indication that he did not recognize the allusions to Ezekiel 34 in the Lost Sheep simile.
  • [67] See Return of the Twelve, Comment to L1.
  • [68] See Segal, 154 §316.
  • [69] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:774.
  • [70] If Genesis may be used as a representative example, we find that ἕως is usually the translation of עַד (Gen. 3:19; 6:7 [2xx]; 7:23; 8:5, 7; 10:19; 11:31; 12:6; 13:3 [2xx], 15; 14:6, 14, 15, 23; 15:16, 18; 19:11, 22, 37, 38; 22:5; 24:19, 33; 25:18; 26:13, 33; 27:44; 28:15; 29:8; 32:5, 25, 33; 33:3, 14; 34:5; 35:20; 38:1, 11, 17; 39:16; 41:49; 43:25; 46:34; 47:21, 26; 48:15; 49:10). The second most common Hebrew antecedent of ἕως is בֹּאֲכָה (bo’achāh, lit., “your coming [to/towards]”; Gen. 10:19 [2xx], 30; 13:10; 25:18), but in these instances LXX translates the Hebrew with ἕως ἐλθεῖν (εἰς/πρός).
  • [71] Examples where עַד אֲשֶׁר was translated as ἕως τοῦ + infinitive are found in Gen. 27:44; 28:15; 29:8; 33:14; Ruth 3:18; 1 Chr. 19:5; Mic. 7:9.
  • [72] Examples where עַד אֲשֶׁר was translated as ἕως ἂν + subjunctive are found in Exod. 23:30; Lev. 22:4; Num. 11:20; 20:17; 32:17; Deut. 3:20; Josh. 1:15; Isa. 6:11.
  • [73] Examples where עַד אֲשֶׁר was translated as ἕως οὗ + subjunctive are found in Ruth 1:13; Ps. 111[112]:8; Eccl. 2:3; 12:2; Hos. 5:15; Jonah 4:5. In addition, we find examples of עַד אֲשֶׁר translated as ἕως ὅτου + subjunctive in 1 Kgdms. 22:3; 2 Esd. 14:5; Eccl. 12:1, 6.
  • [74] We saw an example of this tendency in FR in Luke 15:1-2, FR’s parallel to Anth.’s Call of Levi story, where only the barest details of the story are preserved (see above, “Conjectured Stages of Transmission”).
  • [75] Examples where LXX has “shoulders” (plural) when MT has “shoulder” (singular) include Gen. 24:15, 45; Exod. 12:34; Num. 7:9; Josh. 4:5; Judg. 9:48; 2 Chr. 35:3; Job 31:36; Isa. 14:25; 46:7; 49:22; Ezek. 12:6, 7, 12; 34:21. Note that “shoulder” is yet another lexical item found in both Ezekiel 34 and the Lost Sheep simile.
  • [76] In the Mishnah alone we find עַל כָּתֵף in m. Kil. 9:4; m. Shev. 3:9; m. Bik. 3:4, 6; m. Shab. 10:3; m. Pes. 5:9 (4xx); m. Betz. 4:1; m. Hag. 1:1; m. Bab. Metz. 7:3; m. Ohol. 16:1, 2; m. Neg. 13:9; m. Par. 7:9.
  • [77] See Return of the Twelve, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [78] See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L10.
  • [79] In LXX συγκαλεῖν is the translation of -קָרָא אֶל/לְ in Exod. 7:11; Josh. 9:22; 10:24; 22:1; 23:2; 24:1; Zech. 3:10; Jer. 1:15.
  • [80] An example of חָבֵר in close proximity to שָׁכֵן, though not a pair, is found in the following passage:


    אָמַ′ לָהֶם צְאוּ וּרְאוּ אֵי זוֹ הִיא דֶרֶךְ טוֹבָה שֶׁיִּדְבַּק בָּהּ הָאָדָם ר′ אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹ′ עַיִן טוֹבָה ר′ יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹ′ חָבֵר טוֹב ר′ יוֹסֵה אוֹ′ שָׁכֵן טוֹב

    He said to them, “Go out and see what is the good path that a person should stick to.” Rabbi Eliezer says, “A good eye.” Rabbi Yehoshua says, “A good companion [חָבֵר].” Rabbi Yose says, “A good neighbor [שָׁכֵן].” (m. Avot 2:9)

  • [81] In LXX φίλος is the translation of אוֹהֵב in Esth. 5:10, 14; 6:13; Ps. 37[38]:12; 87[88]:19; Prov. 14:20; 27:6; Jer. 20:4, 6. In addition, φίλος serves as the equivalent of אוֹהֵב in James 2:23, which alludes to Isa. 41:8 (אֹהֲבִי).
  • [82] The pairing of אוֹהֵב with קָרוֹב may be observed in the following examples:


    מִי שֶׁזָּכָה בָקְטֹרֶת הָיָה נוֹטֵל אֶת הַבָּזֶךְ מִתּוֹךְ הַכַּף וְנוֹתְנוֹ לְאוֹהֲבוֹ אוֹ לִקְרוֹבוֹ

    The one who was awarded the incense would take the dish from his hand and give it to his friend [לְאוֹהֲבוֹ] or his relative [לִקְרוֹבוֹ]. (m. Tam. 6:3)


    משל למלך שהיה מבקש ליתן מתנה לאחד מבניו והיה המלך מתירא מפני אחיו ומפני אוהביו ומפי קרוביו

    A parable: [It may be compared] to a king who was seeking to give a gift to one of his sons, but the king was afraid of his [i.e., the son’s] brothers, and of his friends [אוהביו], and of his relatives [קרוביו]. (Sifre Deut. §343 [ed. Finkelstein, 397])


    אין אומר ממי במקדש אלא הממונה היה מגביה מצנפתו של אחד מהן והן יודעין שממנו היה הפייס מתחיל וחש לומר שמא לאוהבו או לקרובו

    In the Temple one does not say, “From whom [does the counting start]?” Rather, the one who was appointed would lift one of their turbans, and they all would know that the count would start with him. And one should not say that he selected his friend [אוהבו] or his relative [קרובו]. (y. Yom. 2:1 [10b])

  • [83] In LXX γείτων is the translation of שָׁכֵן in Exod. 3:22; 12:4; Ruth 4:17; 4 Kgdms. 4:3; Ps. 30[31]:12; 43[44]:14; 78[79]:4, 12; 79[80]:7; 88[89]:42; Jer. 6:21; 12:14; 30:4 [49:10].
  • [84] Examples of שָׂמַח עִם include the following:


    וכל המתאבלים עליה בעולם הזה שמחים עמה לעולם הבא

    And all who mourn over her [i.e., Jerusalem—DNB and JNT] in this world rejoice with her [שמחים עמה] in the world to come. (t. Sot. 15:15; Vienna MS; cf. t. Taan. 3:14; t. Bab. Bat. 2:17)


    מפני מה אמרו אלמנה ליום החמישי שאם נושא אותה באחד מכל ימות השבת מניחה והולך למלאכתו התקינו שיהא נושא אותה בחמישי שיהא בטיל שלשה ימים חמישי וערב שבת ושבת שלשה ימי בטילה נמצא שמח עמה שלשה ימים

    Why did they say, “A widow [is to be married] on the fifth day of the week [i.e., Thursday—DNB and JNT]?” Because if someone married her on any other day of the week he might leave her and go to his work. They ordained that he should marry her on the fifth day so that he would suspend [work] for three days: the fifth day of the week, the day before the Sabbath, and the Sabbath—three days of suspension [from work]. We find that he rejoices with her [שמח עמה] three days. (t. Ket. 1:1; Vienna MS)

  • [85] On causal clauses introduced with -שֶׁ, see Segal, 227 §482, and cf. the examples we cited in Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L20.
  • [86] See Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Comment to L6.
  • [87] In LXX (Gen.-Deut.) ὅτι is the translation of אֲשֶׁר in Gen. 34:13; 38:10; 42:21; Exod. 5:21; 18:9, 10; Lev. 26:40 (2xx); Num. 20:13; Deut. 9:19; 17:15; 23:5.
  • [88] Examples of צֹאן + pronominal suffix in MT are plentiful. Examples in rabbinic sources include m. Hul. 11:2 and m. Arach. 8:4.
  • [89] Cf. וְשֶׂה אַחַת מִן הַצֹּאן (“and one sheep from the flock”; Ezek. 45:15).
  • [90] Note that in LXX both צֹאן and שֶׂה are translated as πρόβατον.
  • [91] See Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [92] Cf. LHNS, 135.
  • [93] For an identical reconstruction of λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L116; and Blessedness of the Twelve, L10.
  • [94] See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L11.
  • [95] So Jeremias (Parables, 39, 135-136) and Fitzmyer (2:1077).
  • [96] Nolland (Luke, 773) suggests that the future tense in Luke should be understood as “a logical future and not a distinctly eschatological future.”
  • [97] Examples of שָׂמַח עַל in MT include Jonah 4:6; Isa. 9:16; 39:2; Lam. 2:17; 1 Chr. 29:9; 2 Chr. 15:15; 29:36. Cf. Neh. 12:44.
  • [98] An example of שָׂמַח עַל occurs in 4QCatenaa [4Q177] III, 15.
  • [99] An example of שָׂמַח עַל in a rabbinic text is found in Lev. Rab. 26:7 (ed. Margulies, 2:606). Cf. …לא היתה שמחה…על (“there was no joy…over…”) in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 1 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:172).
  • [100] Further examples of עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה are found, inter alia, in m. Yom. 8:9; m. Ned. 9:3; m. Avot 5:18; t. Shev. 8:11; t. Yom. 4:6 (quoted in Comment to L35); Sifre Deut. §43 (ed. Finkelstein, 102); Pesikta Rabati §44 (ed. Friedmann, 184a; cited in Comment to L38).
  • [101] Rabbi Meir’s statement occurs in several variant forms that aim to temper the anthropomorphic description of God in this saying. Cf. y. Sanh. 6:8 [29b]; b. Hag. 15b; b. Sanh. 46a.
  • [102] See Plummer, Luke, 369; Nolland, Luke, 773; Luz, 2:35; Bovon, 2:410; James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 436.
  • [103] According to Shmuel Safrai, no distinction is to be made between the Hasidim and men of deeds. “Men of deeds” was simply an additional epithet by which the Hasidim were known. See Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33, esp. 16 n. 11.
  • [104] On the mixing of metaphors of sin forgiveness and debt cancellation, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L19.
  • [105] We possess very little information about how the Hasidim attracted sinners to their way of life, but the Tosefta passage cited above suggests that it may have had to do with their emphasis on God’s mercy (“but all who have sinned he will cancel their debt”). Shmuel Safrai, who greatly advanced the scholarly study of the Hasidim, suggested that they were known as “men of deeds” because of their active involvement in society. See Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” 16, 32. In other words, the Hasidim did not practice their piety in cloistered seclusion. They did so by interacting with people from all walks of life. Safrai also demonstrated that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings bear a strong resemblance to the conduct rabbinic literature ascribes to the Hasidim. See Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.” Perhaps the Call of Levi story and the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes offer us an additional glimpse at how the Hasidim attracted sinners to their way of life.
  • [106] See Plummer, Luke, 370; Nolland, Luke, 775.
  • [107] In LXX δραχμή occurs 7xx, but never as the translation of דַּרְכְּמוֹן: Gen. 24:22 (= בֶּקַע); Exod. 39:3 (= בֶּקַע); Tob. 5:15; 2 Macc. 4:19; 10:20; 12:43; 3 Macc. 3:28.
  • [108] The four instances of דַּרְכְּמוֹן in MT are found in Ezra 2:69; Neh. 7:69, 70, 71.
  • [109] See BDB, 204.
  • [110] Klausner suggested that אדרכמון is the Hebrew equivalent of δραχμή, but Jastrow does not have an entry for אדרכמון in his Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, nor have we been able to locate any instances of אדרכמון in DSS or rabbinic texts. See Joseph Klausner, “The Economy of Judea in the Period of the Second Temple,” in The World History of the Jewish People: The Herodian Period (ed. Michael Avi-Yonah; New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1975), 179-205, esp. 191.
  • [111] On the pure Greek style of Matt. 17:24-27, see Moule, Idiom, 173; idem, Birth, 217. Martin classified this unique Matthean pericope as indeterminate according to his criteria for testing whether a source is a translation from a Semitic language or whether it is a purely Greek composition. See Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987), 115.
  • [112] See A. H. M. Jones, The Roman Economy: Studies in Ancient Economic and Administrative History (ed. P. A. Brunt; Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1974), 75.
  • [113] The instances of δραχμή in Philo’s works occur in Her. §145, 186, 187, 189; Congr. §113 (2xx); Ios. §258; Spec. 2:33 (4xx).
  • [114] The instances of δραχμή in Josephus’ works occur in J.W. 1:308, 658; 7:218; Ant. 3:195, 320; 8:189; 9:233; 11:16, 297; 12:25, 28, 33, 146, 168, 198; 13:55; 14:26, 28, 417; 17:172; 18:67; 19:247; Life §75 (2xx), 224 (2xx).
  • [115] See Klausner, “The Economy of Judea in the Period of the Second Temple,” 198.
  • [116] Another example of עֲשָׂרָה דִּינָרִין is found in m. Ket. 6:4.
  • [117] See Jeremias, Parables, 134. Plummer (370) rejected the headdress interpretation long before it was popularized by Jeremias. Cf. Young, Parables, 194 n. 15; Bovon, 2:412.
  • [118] See Tob. 5:15; Matt. 20:2. According to Klausner (“The Economy of Judea in the Period of the Second Temple,” 191), “There was little change in wage rates from the time of the Persians to the reign of Nero.” Applebaum, citing b. Yom. 35b, according to which Hillel worked for half a denarius a day, suggested that a denarius per day wage reflects post-70 C.E. rates. Nevertheless, it is questionable how much weight should be given to this late evidence when evaluating the average pay for workers in the first century, especially since the story in b. Yom. 35b is meant to emphasize the exceptional poverty of Hillel the Elder when he was a student of Shemiah and Avtalion. In another story about Hillel, day laborers in Jerusalem claim to earn from one to two denarii for a day’s work (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 26 [ed. Schechter, 54]). On daily wages and living expenses in the Roman period, see also F. M. Heichelheim, “Roman Syria,” in An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome (6 vols.; ed. Tenney Frank et al.; Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1933-1940), 4:121-257, esp. 178-188.
  • [119] See Fitzmyer, 2:1080.
  • [120] Hif‘il forms of ד-ל-ק, however, are rare in MT, occurring only in Isa. 5:11 and Ezek 24:10.
  • [121] See also Tob. 8:13 (Sinaiticus); 1 Macc. 4:50; 2 Macc. 1:8, where ἅπτειν/ἐξάπτειν are used to refer to lighting a lamp (λύχνος).
  • [122] Examples of הִדְלִיק נֵר in rabbinic sources include m. Shab. 2:7; 16:8; m. Pes. 4:4; t. Ter. 10:9; Gen. Rab. 3:1 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:18-19).
  • [123] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:891.
  • [124] See Plummer, Luke, 370; Jeremias, Parables, 135; Marshall, 603; Fitzmyer, 2:1081; Bovon, 2:413.
  • [125] See Shmuel Safrai, “Home and Family” (Safrai-Stern, 2:734).
  • [126] For a discussion on the b. Meg. 18b passage, see Randall Buth, “A More Complete Semitic Background for בר־אנשא, ‘Son of Man,’” in The Function of Scripture in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 176-189, esp. 184-186.
  • [127] See Segal, 48 §88.
  • [128] Another example of כִּבֵּד in the sense of “sweep” occurs in m. Mik. 8:4, where, however, the verb is employed euphemistically.
  • [129] A similar anecdote to the one reported in b. Yev. 59b occurs in the external tractate Arayot (Kaufmann §10) Tosefta Derek Erez 3:7 (ed. Higger, 269, ET: 97).
  • [130] In LXX ἐπιμελῶς occurs in Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Prov. 13:24.
  • [131] In LXX σφόδρα is the translation of הֵיטֵב in Deut. 9:21; 13:15; 17:4; 27:8.
  • [132] In LXX ἀκριβῶς is the translation of הֵיטֵב in Deut. 19:18.
  • [133] In LXX ἀγαθῶς is the translation of הֵיטֵב in 4 Kgdms. 11:18.
  • [134] An example of the feminine participle מֹצֵאת (motzē’t, “finding”) is located in 2 Sam. 18:22.
  • [135] See above, Comment to L14. Cf. Plummer, 369.
  • [136] Marshall (603-604) wondered whether ἀμήν might originally have opened the application of the Lost Coin simile.
  • [137] On ἔμπροσθεν as the translation of לִפְנֵי, see Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Comment to L10-11. On ἐνώπιον as the translation of לִפְנֵי, see Henry St. John Thackeray, A Grammar of the Old Testament in Greek According to the Septuagint (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1909), 1:42. Examples of ἐνώπιον as the translation of לִפְנֵי include, inter alia, Gen. 24:51; 30:33; Exod. 21:1; Lev. 4:4, 18, 24; 24:3; Num. 17:25; 19:3; 32:4; Deut. 1:8, 42; 4:8, 44; 11:26, 32; Josh. 8:32; Judg. 4:15, 23; 6:18; 8:28; 11:9, 11; 13:15; 20:23, 28, 32, 42; 21:2.
  • [138] An example where Luke and Matthew agree to write ἔμπροσθεν is found in Matt. 11:26 // Luke 10:21 (see Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, L11). Other examples include Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27 and 2xx in Matt. 10:32 // Luke 12:8.
  • [139] Compare Luke’s “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6) to the rabbinic statements אין שכחה לפני המקום (“there is no forgetfulness before the Omnipresent one”; t. Yom. 2:7; y. Yom. 3:9 [20a]) and אין שכחה לפני כסא כבודך (“there is no forgetfulness before the throne of your glory”; b. Ber. 32b).
  • [140] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:7-9.
  • [141] See Dos Santos, 112.
  • [142] In LXX the phrase οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ (hoi angeloi tou theou, “the angels of God”) is the translation of מַלְאֲכֵי אֱלֹהִים (mal’achē ’elohim, “the angels of God”) in Gen. 28:12; 32:2.
  • [143] See Matt. 10:32 // Luke 12:8; Matt. 10:33 // Luke 12:9; Matt. 18:14 // Luke 15:10.
  • [144] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “Which is correct: ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’?”
  • [145] In Comment to L1-6, we noted that the author of Matthew likely composed Matt. 18:10 using vocabulary from Anth.’s conclusion of the Lost Coin simile. If this theory is correct, then “their angels in heaven” in L4 might have been inspired by “the angels of heaven” mentioned in L58-59.
  • [146] See A. F. Walls, “‘In the Presence of the Angels’ (Luke XV 10),” Novum Testamentum 3.4 (1959): 314-316.
  • [147] On the angelic opposition to repentance, see Solomon Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology: Major Concepts of the Talmud (New York: Schocken, 1961), 321.
  • [148] See Otto Michel, “τελώνης,” TDNT, 8:88-105, esp. 105 n. 157.

Comments 17

  1. Pingback: “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” complex | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  2. Pingback: LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  3. Pingback: Scripture Key to “The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction” | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  4. Pingback: Friend In Need Simile | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  5. Pingback: Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  6. Pingback: Mustard Seed and Starter Dough Parables – Test site for JPs new search engine

  7. Pingback: Mustard Seed and Starter Dough Parables | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  8. Pingback: Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  9. Pingback: The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  10. Pingback: Fathers Give Good Gifts Simile | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  11. Pingback: Persistent Widow Parable | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  12. Pingback: Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  13. Pingback: Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  14. Pingback: Praying Like Gentiles | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  15. Pingback: Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl Parables | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  16. Pingback: Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  17. Pingback: Call of Levi | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

Leave a Reply

Online Hebrew Course

Do you want to learn Hebrew? Check out our online Hebrew course Aleph-Bet: Hebrew Reading and Writing for Christians in 17 Easy Lessons.

Most Recent LOY Articles