Fathers Give Good Gifts Simile

& LOY 1 Comment

Would you give a hungry child a poisonous arachnid to eat? Probably not, because even sinful human beings are not totally depraved. Would God give you something dangerous and destructive when you ask him for help? Certainly not, because he is the source and foundation of all goodness. In the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile, Jesus concludes his reassuring arguments that God can be trusted to provide for his full-time disciples when they pray the Lord's Prayer.

Matt. 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13
(Huck 38, 148; Aland 70, 187; Crook 53, 212)[1]

וּמִי בָּכֶם אָדָם שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל בְּנוֹ לֶחֶם וְאֶבֶן יִתֵּן לוֹ אוֹ שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל דָּג וְנָחָשׁ יִתֵּן לוֹ אוֹ שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל בֵּיצָה וְעַקְרָב יִתֵּן לוֹ לְפִיכָךְ אִם אַתֶּם שֶׁרָעִים יְדַעְתֶּם לִיתֵּן מַתָּנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לְיַלְדֵיכֶם עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם שֶׁיִּתֵּן [מַתָּנוֹת] טוֹבוֹת לַשּׁוֹאֲלִים מִמֶּנּוּ

“Now what father is there among you who, when his son asks for bread, would give him a rock instead? Or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, would give him a scorpion? Not a single one of you! So if even you, with your inclination to do evil, still instinctually give good gifts to your children, how much more do you think your heavenly Father will give good gifts to his children when they ask him?”[2]


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Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile, click on the link below:

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Story Placement

As we discussed in the commentary to the Friend in Need simile,[3] although the author of Matthew omitted Friend in Need’s illustration, he preserved Friend in Need’s application (Matt. 7:7-8 // Luke 11:9-10) and immediately afterward copied Fathers Give Good Gifts (Matt. 7:9-11 // Luke 11:11-13). Since the author of Luke presented this material in the same order, it is safe to conclude that both authors received this pericope order from the Anthology (Anth.), their shared pre-synoptic source.

In Luke, Friend in Need and Fathers Give Good Gifts are part of a larger discourse on prayer (Luke 11:1-13), all of which the author of Luke copied en bloc from Anth., apart from two important exceptions. First, instead of using Anth.’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, the author of Luke copied the First Reconstruction’s (FR’s) version, which was more user-friendly for his non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience.[4] Second, the author of Luke removed the Persistent Widow parable from Anth.’s block of prayer material and incorporated it into a discourse on the Son of Man (Luke 17:22-18:8).[5] Thus, it appears that Anth. preserved a great deal of the “How to Pray” complex intact. The author of Luke minimally disturbed what remained of the complex in Anth. by relocating a single pericope (the Persistent Widow parable), whereas the author of Matthew dropped the twin Persistent Widow and Friend in Need illustrations, and redistributed the remainder of the material within the Sermon on the Mount.

In its original position within the “How to Pray” complex, the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile served as a final illustration of God’s good character. The aim of Fathers Give Good Gifts, as well as of the preceding Persistent Widow and Friend in Need illustrations, was to alleviate the disciples’ anxiety concerning whether or not God would answer their prayers. The rigorous lifestyle of full-time disciples, which required them to leave family and possessions behind and to forsake livelihoods in order to itinerate with Jesus, was a source of great anxiety for Jesus’ full-time followers.[6] Full-time disciples had to dedicate themselves to a radical trust in Jesus’ promise that God would supply their day-to-day needs, a commitment which is expressed in the petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer.[7] In order to reassure his disciples that God would indeed hold up his end of the bargain, Jesus used these humorous illustrations to instill confidence that God does indeed hear and answer prayer. For an overview of the entire “How to Pray” complex, which we believe was the original literary setting of the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile, click here.

 

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

The high level of verbal agreement in this Double Tradition (DT) pericope supports our conclusion that the authors of Matthew and Luke copied Fathers Give Good Gifts from the same source, the Anthology (Anth.). Verbal disparity in this pericope is due to Matthean and/or Lukan redactional activity.

Crucial Issues

  1. There are some fathers who do harm their children. Doesn’t this fact undermine the message of Fathers Give Good Gifts?

Comment

L1 ἢ τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s opening for GR, since the phrase τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν (tis ex hūmōn, “Who from you…?”) is characteristic of other similes, including Tower Builder and King Going to War, L1; Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L12; Friend in Need, L2. Luke’s τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν (“But whom from you…?”) looks like an attempt to improve the Greek style of the sentence. We have retained (ē, “or”) since both Luke and Matthew agree that some kind of conjunction belonged at the opening of the simile. A conjunction is natural since Fathers Give Good Gifts is a continuation of the teaching in the preceding Friend in Need simile.

וּמִי בָּכֶם (HR). On reconstructing τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν as מִי בָּכֶם (mi bāchem, “Who among you…?”), see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L1.

L2 אָדָם (HR). On reconstructing ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”) with אָדָם (’ādām, “person”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L12. In Luke 15:4 we reconstructed the phrase τίς ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ὑμῶν (“What person among you…?”) as מִי אָדָם בָּכֶם (“Who is a person among you…?”). Here, the word order is slightly different: τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος (“Who among you is a person…?”; Matt. 7:9), which we have reconstructed as מִי בָּכֶם אָדָם (“Who among you is a person…?”).

L3 ὃν αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ (GR). Here, too, we suspect that the author of Luke has engaged in some redactional polishing of the Greek text, replacing Anth.’s ἄνθρωπος (L2) with τὸν πατέρα (ton patera, “the father”), perhaps for the sake of clarity or specificity.[8]

שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל בְּנוֹ (HR). We have reconstructed the relative pronoun ὅς (hos, “who,” “what”) with the relative pronoun -שֶׁ (she-, “who,” “what”) also in Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, L22, L45; Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, L5; and Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, L31.

On reconstructing the verb αἰτεῖν (aitein, “to ask,” “to request”) with שָׁאַל (shā’al, “ask,” “request”), see Friend in Need, Comment to L22.

Examples of asking for food expressed with שָׁאַל are found in BH and MH sources:

וַיִּשְׁאַל וַיָּשִׂימוּ לוֹ לֶחֶם וַיֹּאכַל

…and he asked, and they set out bread for him, and he ate. (2 Sam. 12:20)

καὶ ᾔτησεν ἄρτον φαγεῖν, καὶ παρέθηκαν αὐτῷ ἄρτον, καὶ ἔφαγεν

…and he asked for bread to eat, and they set bread before him, and he ate. (2 Kgdms. 12:20; NETS)

וַיְנַסּוּ אֵל בִּלְבָבָם לִשְׁאָל אֹכֶל לְנַפְשָׁם

They tested God in their hearts by asking for food for their souls. (Ps. 78:18)

שָׁאַל וַיָּבֵא שְׂלָו וְלֶחֶם שָׁמַיִם יַשְׂבִּיעֵם

He asked, and he brought quail, and with the bread of heaven he filled them. (Ps. 105:40)

ᾔτησαν, καὶ ἦλθεν ὀρτυγομήτρα, καὶ ἄρτον οὐρανοῦ ἐνέπλησεν αὐτούς

They asked, and quails came, and with heaven’s bread he filled them. (Ps. 104:40; NETS)

עוֹלָלִים שָׁאֲלוּ לֶחֶם פֹּרֵשׂ אֵין לָהֶם

…children ask for bread, there is none to distribute it to them. (Lam. 4:4)

νήπια ᾔτησαν ἄρτον, ὁ διακλῶν οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῖς

…babes begged for food; there was no one to break it up for them. (Lam. 4:4; NETS)

תנא משמיה דרבי יהושע בן קרחה: בשר ששאלו שלא כהוגן ניתן להם שלא כהוגן לחם ששאלו כהוגן ניתן להם כהוגן

It was taught [in a baraita] in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korha: “The flesh that they asked for inappropriately was given to them in an inappropriate manner; the bread that they asked for appropriately was given to them in an appropriate manner.” (b. Yom. 75b)

The noun υἱός (hūios, “son”) is ubiquitous in LXX, and only in a tiny percentage of its instances does it occur as the translation of a word other than בֵּן (bēn, “son”).[9] The LXX translators often rendered בֵּן with a term other than υἱός because בֵּן can also be used in the sense “member of a group.” Other times בֵּן was simply represented by the Greek definite article, since in Greek “son” can simply be implied when expressing a familial relationship. Nevertheless, in LXX υἱός is by far the most common translation of בֵּן.‎[10]

L4-10 Matthew and Luke each propose two improbable scenarios intended to elicit the response, “No one! Not me!” Matthew has a father giving a rock instead of bread and a snake instead of a fish. Luke has a father giving a snake instead of a fish and a scorpion instead of an egg. While some scholars have suggested that the author of Matthew took the rock-for-bread switch from the temptation narrative (Matt. 4:3 // Luke 4:3), and others have suggested that the author of Luke created the scorpion-for-egg swap since the pairing of snakes and scorpions occurs elsewhere in a uniquely Lukan pericope,[11] we believe that all three scenarios belonged to Anth., and that Matthew’s choice of the first and second scenarios versus Luke’s selection of the second and third scenarios is simply accidental.[12] Moreover, the three scenarios in Fathers Give Good Gifts provide a nice balance to the tripartite “Ask, seek, knock” saying, which concludes the Friend in Need simile. We have accordingly included all three scenarios in GR and HR.

A scorpion photographed in Israel somewhat resembling an egg. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is frequently pointed out that the substitutions (rock, snake, scorpion) bear a slight resemblance to the items requested. A rounded rock, such as one might find in the Judean desert, resembles a round loaf of bread;[13] a snake, in as much as it has scales, resembles a fish; and when a scorpion rolls itself into a ball it looks something like an egg. The superficial resemblance between each of the substitutions and the item the child requested suggests that an attempt to fool the child is implied in Jesus’ question. It is less often observed that the three substitutions are articles that would typically be found in desert areas.

Some scholars maintain that the substitutions in Matthew’s version (rock, snake) are useless, whereas the substitutions in Luke’s version (snake, scorpion) are harmful. This distinction breaks down, however, since both Gospels share the snake substitution in common. Moreover, a child who broke his teeth from biting into a rock he took for a loaf of bread would hardly agree that a rock is merely useless. The intention of the three scenarios is simply to suggest courses of action that would be repugnant to any father.

A first-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii depicting a youth (possibly a slave) asking a man for bread at a bread seller’s booth. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L4 לֶחֶם (HR). On reconstructing ἄρτος (artos, “bread”) as לֶחֶם (leḥem, “bread”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L68.[14] Scholars have noted that the requested foodstuffs—bread, fish and egg—in the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile were staples of the simple diet of Galilean peasants.[15]

L5 καὶ λίθον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ (GR). In GR we have replaced Matthew’s μή (, “not”) with καί (kai, “and”), since Luke consistently lacks μή in his version (cf. L8, L10), but Luke does have the conjunction καί in L7, which scholars have identified as a Semitism.[16] Probably the author of Matthew replaced καί with μή, which implies a negative response,[17] in L5 and L8 as a Greek stylistic improvement to Anth.’s Hebraic text.

The compound verb ἐπιδιδόναι (epididonai, “to give over”) is relatively rare in LXX, the simple διδόναι (didonai, “to give”) being far more common. Nevertheless, there cannot be any doubt that ἐπιδιδόναι is the verb that occurred in Anth., since the authors of Matthew and Luke, who were not acquainted with each other’s Gospels, both agreed to use this verb in L8.

וְאֶבֶן יִתֵּן לוֹ (HR). The vast majority of instances of λίθος (lithos, “rock”) in LXX are the translation of אֶבֶן (’even, “rock”).[18] The noun λίθος must have been used to translate אֶבֶן at least occasionally in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua, since there is a בֵּן/אֶבֶן (“son”/“stone”) wordplay behind Matt. 3:9 // Luke 3:8 (“from these rocks God is able to raise sons”)[19] and Matt. 21:42 // Mark 12:10 // Luke 20:17 (the rejected stone/son).[20] In the Fathers Give Good Gifts pericope a בֵּן/אֶבֶן wordplay is not operative, at least not on the surface,[21] but אֶבֶן remains a good option for HR.

Photograph of a carbonized loaf of bread from Pompeii. Note the resemblance of this loaf to those depicted in the fresco from Pompeii shown above. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Of the five instances in LXX where ἐπιδιδόναι corresponds to a word in the underlying Hebrew text, it is twice the translation of נָתַן (nātan, “give”; Gen. 49:21; 4 Kgdms. 9:9 [Alexandrinus]).[22] For examples of נָתַן paired with שָׁאַל, which we have in L3-5, see Friend in Need, Comment to L23.

L6-8 Giving one’s child a snake instead of a fish is the one scenario in Fathers Give Good Gifts that is common to Luke and Matthew. Black cited a parallel to the snake-for-fish scenario that occurs in the Jerusalem Talmud:

לית אורחיה דבר נש מימר לחבריה זבין לי נון והוא זבין ליה כלכיד

It surely would not be usual for someone to say to his fellow, ‘Buy me fish,’ and he would buy him chalkis [כַּלְכִּיד]. (y. Ned. 6:3 [20b]; Neusner trans.)[23]

According to Jastrow, כַּלְכִּיד (kalkid) derives from the Greek term χαλκίς (chalkis, a variety of fish), and refers to “a small fish resembling sardines.”[24] Black, however, claimed that “כלכיד was also used for a species of ὄφις [i.e., snake—DNB and JNT],” although he cited no examples to substantiate his case.[25] While it is true that χαλκίς was also a name given to a poisonous reptile,[26] Jastrow gives no indication that כַּלְכִּיד also shared this meaning. Of course, one could hypothesize that a translator read כַּלְכִּיד in a Semitic sayings source and mistakenly rendered this as “snake,” not realizing that “sardine” was the intended meaning, but such a hypothesis is not what Black suggested, and the hypothesis is tenuous at best given the late attestation of כַּלְכִּיד in exclusively Aramaic contexts. There is no evidence that כַּלְכִּיד had entered the Hebrew language by the first century C.E.[27] Thus we concur with Black, who concluded that “it is doubtful if we can find here any connexion other than a general one with Lk. xi. 11.”[28]

Another parallel to the snake-for-fish substitution is the proverb ἀντὶ πέρκης σκορπίον (“instead of a perch [i.e., a variety of fish—DNB and JNT], a scorpion”), which is first attested in the writings of the second-century C.E. Greek author Zenobius, but which may have existed already in the first century or even earlier.[29] If this proverb was known to the author of Luke, it may account for the divergence between the Lukan and Matthean versions of the snake-for-fish scenario, since in L7 the author of Luke added καὶ ἀντὶ ἰχθύος (“and instead of a fish”), a Greek stylistic improvement over Matthew’s version that may have intentionally echoed the Greek form of the proverb.

L6 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ἰχθὺν (GR). Matthew’s ἢ καὶ ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει (“or for a fish he will ask”) is nearly identical to Luke’s ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν (“or he will ask for an egg”) in L9, except that in Matthew the pattern is noun→verb (“fish”→“will ask”), whereas Luke has verb→noun (“will ask”→“egg”). The pattern in L3-4 in Matthew also had verb→noun (“will ask”→“bread”), which suggests to us that the verb→noun pattern was the same in all three illustrations in Anth. Changing the pattern to verb→noun in GR for L6 also yields a more Hebraic word order.

אוֹ שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל דָּג (HR). On reconstructing (ē, “or”) with אוֹ (’ō, “or”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L47. In LXX the combination ἤ καί (ē kai, “or and”) is used to translate אוֹ (’ō, “or”) in Ezek. 14:17, 19, exactly as we presume occurred in L6 and L9. On reconstructing αἰτεῖν (aitein, “to ask,” “to request”) with שָׁאַל (shā’al, “ask,” “request”), see above, Comment to L3.

In LXX ἰχθύς (ichthūs, “fish”) is more often the translation of דָּגָה (dāgāh, “fish”) than דָּג (dāg, “fish”),[30] and although דָּגָה would be perfectly acceptable for HR, we have opted for דָּג since the latter is sometimes paired with בֵּיצָה (bētzāh, “egg”) in rabbinic discussions, just as asking for an egg follows the request for a fish in Luke 11:11-12.[31]

First-century C.E. mosaic depicting fish, which are to be served up for a tasty meal. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L7 καὶ (GR). As we noted in Comment to L6-8, it appears that the author of Luke attempted to adapt the wording of Anth. to conform to a familiar Greek proverb, an understandable move for an author whose work was geared toward a non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience. We have retained Luke’s καί (“and”) in GR because scholars have identified it as a Semitism.[32] The καί in L7 corresponds to the -וְ (ve, “and”) in L8.

Detail of a fresco from Pompeii depicting Isis holding a cobra. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L8 ὄφιν ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ (GR). On the omission of Matthew’s μή from GR, see above, Comment to L5. Otherwise, we have adopted Matthew’s word order, which is more Hebraic than Luke’s.

וְנָחָשׁ יִתֵּן לוֹ (HR). On reconstructing ὄφις (ofis, “snake”) with נָחָשׁ (nāḥāsh, “snake”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L19-20. In LXX ὄφις is mainly the translation of נָחָשׁ.‎[33]

Giving a child a snake to eat would not only have offended parental instincts, it would have transgressed scriptural norms, since the Torah forbids the eating of reptiles. According to rabbinic halachah, anyone who fed a fellow Israelite forbidden food was as culpable as the Israelite who ate it.[34] Jesus, too, condemned in the strongest of terms those who caused others to sin (cf., e.g., Matt. 5:19; 18:6; Luke 17:2).

L9-10 ἢ καὶ αἰτήσει ᾠόν ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον (Luke 11:12). As we noted above in Comment to L4-10, the scorpion-for-egg scenario is absent in Matthew, however we believe it is likely that all three scenarios appeared in Anth., and that the authors of Matthew and Luke simply made different selections from the three scenarios. Making up a saying is not consistent with the author of Luke’s editorial methods.

First-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii depicting a dish of eggs. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L9 אוֹ שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל בֵּיצָה (HR). On reconstructing ἤ καί with אוֹ, see above, Comment to L6. On reconstructing αἰτεῖν (aitein, “to ask,” “to request”) with שָׁאַל (shā’al, “ask,” “request”), see above, Comment to L3.

In LXX ᾠόν (ōon, “egg”) occurs 6xx, always as the translation of בֵּיצָה (bētzāh, “egg”).[35]

A story about giving children eggs to eat is reported in the following rabbinic source:

מעשה באדם אחד שנכנסו אצלו שלשה אורחין בשני בצורת והיו לו שלש בצים והניחן לפניהם ובא בנו של בעל הבית ועמד לפניהם ונטל אחד מהן חלקו ונתן לו וכן השני וכן השלישי

An anecdote about a certain man, who had three guests who entered his house during years of famine. He had but three eggs, and he set them before them. But the host’s son came and stood before them. And one of them took his portion and gave it to him, and the second and the third did likewise. (Pirke Ben Azzai 7:3 [ed. Higger, 234-235])

In this story even the guests, who were not related to the child, had compassion on him and gave him eggs to eat to relieve his hunger.

L10 καὶ σκορπίον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ (GR). To L10 we have added the conjunction καί, which we have also done in L5. We have also altered the word order, placing the noun “scorpion” ahead of “he will give to him,” in conformity with the pattern established in L5 and L8, where “rock” and “snake” appear before ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ (“he will give to him”).

An egg-shaped scorpion depicted in a second-century C.E. mosaic. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

וְעַקְרָב יִתֵּן לוֹ (HR). On reconstructing σκορπίος (skorpios, “scorpion”) with עַקְרָב (‘aqrāv, “scorpion”), see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L20.

Basing his conjecture on his travels in India in the early twentieth century, where he observed on multiple occasions a conjuring trick in which the conjurer surprises a volunteer by placing a disarmed scorpion in his or her hand, Pegg suggested that in Luke 11:12 Jesus alluded to a well-known trick or jest.[36] However, not only is it unwise to extrapolate from observations in twentieth-century India to conditions in first-century Israel, Pegg’s suggestion also misses the point that for Jesus’ audience handing one’s child a scorpion was simply inconceivable. Had Jesus alluded to a well-known prank, the response could easily have been “I’ve done that!” whereas the intended response was “It would never cross my mind to do such a thing!”

As with the previous scenario, which involved transgressing the laws of kashrut, fooling a fellow Israelite into eating a scorpion would entail a violation of the Torah’s dietary commandments.

L11-20 Although the verbal agreement between Matt. 7:11 and Luke 11:13 is not one hundred percent, it is very close. According to Lindsey’s hypothesis, the achievement of greater verbal agreement in this portion of the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile is due to the stricter adherence to Anth. on the part of the authors of Matthew and Luke.

L11 לְפִיכָךְ אִם אַתֶּם (HR). The combination לְפִיכָךְ אִם (lefichāch ’im, “therefore if”) occurs regularly in the Mishnah to draw out the implications of a foregoing discussion,[37] and forms a suitable reconstruction for εἰ οὖν (ei oun, “if therefore”). On reconstructing οὖν with ‎‎לְפִיכָךְ, see Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L44.

L12 πονηροὶ ὄντες (GR). We have adopted Matthew’s πονηρός + εἶναι for GR, since scholars generally agree that Luke’s πονηρός + ὑπάρχειν is a stylistic improvement, and a preference for ὑπάρχειν is typical of Lukan redaction.[38] On the use of ὑπάρχειν in the sense of “be” or “exist” as a distinctively Lukan trait, see Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L15.

שֶׁרָעִים (HR). Our reconstruction of ὄντες (ontes, “being”) with -שֶׁ (she-, “who,” “that”) is based on our observation that in LXX ὄντες is sometimes the translation of אֲשֶׁר (asher), the BH equivalent of -שֶׁ. Examples include:

וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר עִמּוֹ

…and the men who were with him…. (Gen. 24:54)

καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ ὄντες

…and the men, the ones with him being…. (Gen. 24:54)

הַמַּשְׁקֶה וְהָאֹפֶה…אֲשֶׁר אֲסוּרִים בְּבֵית הַסֹּהַר

…the cup-bearer and the baker…who are locked up in the prison…. (Gen. 40:5)

ὁ ἀρχιοινοχόος καὶ ὁ ἀρχισιτοποιός…οἱ ὄντες ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ

…the chief cup-bearer and the chief baker…the ones being in the prison…. (Gen. 40:5)

כִּי אֶת כָּל הַתּוֹעֵבֹת הָאֵל עָשׂוּ אַנְשֵׁי הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵיכֶם

For all these abominations the people of the land who were before you committed…. (Lev. 18:27)

πάντα γὰρ τὰ βδελύγματα ταῦτα ἐποίησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι τῆς γῆς οἱ ὄντες πρότεροι ὑμῶν

For all these abominations the people of the land, the ones being prior to you, committed…. (Lev. 18:27)

The pessimistic view of human nature expressed in Jesus’ statement is closer to what we find in the writings from Qumran than what we find in rabbinic literature.[39] Examples of a pessimistic view of human nature expressed in DSS include passages such as the following:

ואני לאדם רשעה ולסוד בשר עול עוונותי פשעי חטאתי {…}עם נעוית לבבי לסוד רמה והולכי חושך כיא ל(וא ל)אדם דרכו ואנוש לוא יכין צעדו כיא לאל המשפט ומידו תום הדרך

But I belong to wicked humanity, and to the congregation of perverse flesh. My iniquities, my transgressions, my sins…with depravity of my heart belong to the congregation of worms and to those who walk in darkness. For to humanity his path does not belong, and humankind cannot ordain his step. For justice belongs to God and from his hand is perfection of the way. (1QS XI, 9-11)

ואני יצר החמר ומגבל המים סוד הערוה ומקור הנדה כור העוון ומבנה החטאה רוח התועה ונעוה בלא בינה ונבעתה במשפטי צדק

But I am a creature of clay and admixture of water, a foundation of shame and a source of impurity, an oven of iniquity and an edifice of sin, a spirit of error and depravity without understanding and terrified by just judgments. (1QHa IX, 21-23)[40]

L13 יְדַעְתֶּם לִיתֵּן מַתָּנוֹת טוֹבוֹת (HR). On reconstructing εἰδεῖν with יָדַע, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L20.

On reconstructing διδόναι (didonai, “to give”) with נָתַן (nātan, “give”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L18. For the infinitive of נָתַן we have adopted the MH-style לִיתֵּן instead of the BH-style לָתֵּת, based on our preference for reconstructing direct speech in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew. We did the same in Friend in Need, L14.

In LXX the noun δόμα (doma, “gift”) occurs as the translation of מַתָּנָה (matānāh, “gift”) more often than of any other Hebrew word,[41] and likewise, most instances of מַתָּנָה were rendered as δόμα by the LXX translators.[42] Similarly, ἀγαθός (agathos, “good”) in LXX usually represents טוֹב (ṭōv, “good”),[43] and most instances of טוֹב in MT were rendered as ἀγαθός in LXX.[44] Parallel to the phrase δόματα ἀγαθά (domata agatha, “good gifts”) in Matt. 7:11 and Luke 11:13 is δόμα ἀγαθόν (doma agathon, “good gift”) in a passage of Ben Sira:

οὐκ ἰδοὺ λόγος ὑπὲρ δόμα ἀγαθόν

Look! Does not a word exceed a good gift? (Sir. 18:17; NETS)

Unfortunately, a parallel to this verse has not been preserved in the Hebrew MSS of Ben Sira.

Examples of the expression מַתָּנוֹת טוֹבוֹת (matānōt ṭōvōt, “good gifts”), an exact equivalent to δόματα ἀγαθά, are found in the following rabbinic sources:

רבי שמעון בן יוחאי אומר חביבין הן יסורין ששלש מתנות טובות נתנו לישראל ואומות העולם מתאוין להם ולא נתנו להם אלא ביסורין ואלו הן תורה וארץ ישראל ועולם הבא

Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai says: “Beloved are chastisements, because three good gifts [מתנות טובות] were given to Israel (and the peoples of the world covet them) only through hardships, and these are they: the Torah, the land of Israel and the world to come.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 10 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:346])

שְׁלֹשָה פַרְנָסִים טוֹבִים עָמְדוּ לָהֶן לְיִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן וּמִרְיָם וְשָׁלשׁ מַתָּנוֹת טוֹבוֹת נִתְּנוּ עַל יְדֵיהֶם וְאֵלּוּ הֵן בְּאֵר וְעַמּוּד עָנָן וְהַמָן.‏

Three good providers arose for Israel, and these are they: Moses, Aaron and Miriam. And three good gifts [מַתָּנוֹת טוֹבוֹת] were given by their hands, and these are they: the well, the pillar of cloud and the manna. (Seder Olam, chpt. 10 [ed. Guggenheimer, 102])

אם נתן אדם לחברו כל מתנות טובות שבעולם ופניו כבושים בארץ מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו לא נתן לו כלום. אבל המקבל את חבירו בסבר פנים יפות אפילו לא נתן לו כלום מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו נתן לו כל מתנות טובות שבעולם

If a person gives his companion all the good gifts [מתנות טובות] that are in the world, but his face is cast down to the ground, the Scripture accounts it to him as though he had not given him anything. But the one who receives his companion with a welcoming face, then even if he did not give him anything, the Scripture accounts it to him as though he had given him all the good gifts [מתנות טובות] that are in the world. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 13:4 [ed. Schechter, 57])

אמר דוד שלשה מתנות טובות נתן הקב″ה לישראל ביישינן ורחמנין וגומלי חסדים

[King] David said: “Three good gifts [מתנות טובות] the Holy one, blessed be he, gave to Israel: humble persons, merciful persons and doers of kind deeds.” (y. Sanh. 6:7 [29b])

עתיד הב″ה ליתן שלש מתנות טובות לישראל שנאמר כי יי יתן חכמה מפיו דעת ותבונה ושלשתן נתנו למלך המשיח שנאמ′ ונחה עליו רוח יי רוח חכמה ובינה רוח עדה וגבורה רוח דעת ויראת יי

In the future the Holy One, blessed be he, will give three good gifts [מתנות טובות] to Israel, as it is said, For the LORD will give wisdom from his mouth, knowledge and understanding [Prov. 2:6]. And these three will be given to the anointed king [i.e., the Messiah—DNB and JNT], as it is said, And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD [Isa. 11:2]. (Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, chpt. 3 [ed. Horowitz, 27])

The sense of “good gifts” in Matt. 7:11 and Luke 11:13 is closest to that in the example from Avot de-Rabbi Natan cited above. Both refer to good gifts in a general sense of benefits a person might bestow on a fellow human being.

L14 לְיַלְדֵיכֶם (HR). In LXX τέκνον (teknon, “child”) usually translates בֵּן (bēn, “son”),[45] but τέκνον also translates יֶלֶד (yeled, “child”) on occasion.[46] We have preferred יֶלֶד for HR because it accounts for the variation between υἱός (“son”; L3) and τέκνον (“child”; L14) in Fathers Give Good Gifts.[47]

L15 עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה (HR). Since the phrase πόσῳ μᾶλλον (posō mallon, “How much more?”) is not found in LXX, it is likely that it is a reflection of a Hebrew phrase that did not become current until after the books of the Hebrew Bible were composed. Two possible options for reconstructing πόσῳ μᾶλλον are קַל וָחוֹמֶר (qal vāḥōmer, lit., “light and heavy”) and the option we have adopted, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה (‘al ’aḥat kamāh vechamāh, lit., “Concerning one, how many and how many?”), both idiomatic phrases meaning “How much more?” Either option is perfectly acceptable for HR, and deciding between them is difficult, since both phrases are common in rabbinic sources. We have adopted the latter phrase mainly because קַל וָחוֹמֶר looks like rabbinic jargon. It appears that initially קַל וָחוֹמֶר referred to a type of argumentation based on analogy from minor to major cases (a minore ad maius). Subsequently, קַל וָחוֹמֶר became a kind of shorthand term used in the argument itself, instead of the more cumbersome phrase עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה‏.‎[48] Since Jesus’ teachings were not directed toward the rabbinic academy, and since it is possible that the secondary use of קַל וָחוֹמֶר within an argument (instead of as a type of argument) may not have developed prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, we have preferred עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה for HR, on the supposition that this idiom belonged to the realm of everyday speech.

Below is a sampling of instances of עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה in rabbinic sources:

מָה אִם לַגָּבוֹהַּ שֶׁאֵין אָדָם רַשַּׁיִי לְהַחֲרִים אֶת כָּל נְכָסָיו עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה יְהֵא אָדָם חַיָּיב לִהְיוֹת חָס עַל נְכָסָיו

If to the Highest [i.e., to God—DNB and JNT] a person is not allowed to devote all his belongings, how much more so [עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה] is a person obligated to be sparing of his belongings? (m. Arach. 8:4)

אמ′ ר′ ישמעאל מה אם להטיל שלום בין איש לאשתו אמ′ המקום ספר שנכתב בקדושה ימחה על המים ספרי מינין שמטילין איבה בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים על אחת כמה וכמה שימחו

Rabbi Ishmael said, “If in order to establish peace between a man and his wife the Omnipresent one said, ‘Let this book that was written in holiness be erased in the water,’ then in the case of the books of the heretics that engender enmity between Israel and their father in heaven, how much more [על אחת כמה וכמה] that they should be erased?” (t. Shab. 13:5; Vienna MS)

אם מי שנתכוון לעלות בידו בשר חזיר ועלה בידו בשר טלה ואכלו צריך כפרה המתכוון לעלות בידו בשר חזיר ועלה בידו בשר חזיר על אחת כמה וכמה צריך כפרה וסליחה

If the one who intends to pick up in his hand the flesh of a pig, but picks up in his hand the flesh of a lamb and eats it needs atonement, the one who intends to pick up in his hand the flesh of a pig and did pick up in his hand the flesh of a pig, how much more [על אחת כמה וכמה] does he need atonement and forgiveness? (t. Naz. 3:14; Vienna MS)

ומה אם בשבע מצוות שנצטוו בני נח לא יכלו לעמוד בהן על אחת כמה וכמה בכל המצות שבתורה

If in the case of the seven commandments that were enjoined on the sons of Noah they were not able to stand up under them, how much more [על אחת כמה וכמה] in the case of all the commands of the Torah? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 5 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:318])

אם כך ענש הכתוב למי שאינו יודע על אחת כמה וכמה שיענוש למי שיודע

If this is how the Scripture punishes one who does not know, how much more so [על אחת כמה וכמה] that it should punish one who does know? (Sifra, Vayikra chpt. 12 [ed. Weiss, 26d])

אם כך ענש הכתוב למי שבא לידו ספק עבירה על אחת כמה וכמה שישלם שכר לעושה מצוה

If this is how the Scripture punishes one whose transgression is in doubt, how much more [על אחת כמה וכמה] that it should pay a wage to the one who does a commandment? (Sifra, Vayikra chpt. 12 [ed. Weiss, 26d-27a])

אם כך חס המקום על עוברי רצונו על אחת כמה וכמה יחוס על עושי רצונו

If this is how the Omnipresent one is merciful to those who transgress his will, how much more [על אחת כמה וכמה] will he show mercy to those who do his will? (Sifre Num. §11 [ed. Horovitz, 17])

הא אם מי שהיה מגויי הארצות וממשפחות האדמה על שעשה מאהבה נתן לו המקום מאהבה על אחת כמה וכמה אלו היה מישראל

If for someone who was from the gentile lands or the families of the earth, because he acted out of love, the Omnipresent one gave love in return, how much more so [על אחת כמה וכמה] if he were from Israel? (Sifre Zuta, BeHe‘elotcha chpt. 9 [ed. Horovitz, 263])

L16-18 Textual problems, as well as the differences between Matthew and Luke, make reconstruction of these lines particularly challenging. According to Matthew’s version, Jesus said, “how much more will your Father, the one in heaven, give,” whereas Luke reads, “how much more will the Father, the one from heaven, give,” or, according to a textual variant, “how much more will the Father give out of heaven.”[49]

The last of the above readings is attractive,[50] especially if the gift God gives from heaven originally referred to the daily bread mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, a petition that seems to allude to the provision of manna, which God rained down on Israel from heaven day by day.[51] According to the Jewish sages, God rained down the manna “from Heaven’s [i.e., God’s—DNB and JNT] good treasure” (מאוצר הטוב של שמים; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:234]).[52] The mention of “good treasure” combined with the rabbinic identification of the manna as one of God’s “good gifts” (Seder Olam, chpt. 10 [ed. Guggenheimer, 102]; see above, Comment to L13) makes this option all the more attractive.

Nevertheless, we have not accepted Luke’s variant reading for GR or HR, not because the traditions regarding the good gift of manna from God’s good treasure might not be somewhere in the background of Jesus’ saying, but because “how much more will your Father give good gifts from heaven” is difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew in a way that can be easily reconciled to the Greek text of Matt. 7:11 and Luke 11:13. To say, “how much more will your Father give good [gifts] from heaven” would require something like עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁיִתֵּן [מַתָּנוֹת] טוֹבוֹת מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם (“how much more your Father, that he should give good [gifts] from heaven”), which we would expect to have been rendered πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν δώσει [δόματα] ἀγαθὰ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (“how much more will your Father give good [gifts] from heaven”), a word order that is not supported by either the Matthean or Lukan versions of the saying. We conclude, therefore, that Luke’s ὁ πατὴρ [ὁ] ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (“the Father [the one] from heaven”) is simply an attempt to paraphrase in better Greek Anth.’s more Hebraic ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“your Father, the one in the heavens”), which was preserved in Matthew.

L16 ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν (GR). We have preferred Matthew’s “your Father” over “the Father” in Luke’s version, because the only other instances in the Synoptic Gospels where God is referred to as “the Father” without a possessive pronoun (“my,” “your,” “our”) are likely to be secondary.[53] The dropping of possessive pronouns seems to have been a common move for editors who wished to polish the Greek style of their source.[54]

אֲבִיכֶם (HR). On reconstructing πατήρ (patēr, “father”) with אָב (’āv, “father”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L5.

L17 ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L16-18, we regard Luke’s “the Father from heaven” as an attempt to render Anth.’s more Hebraic “your Father, the one in the heavens” in terms more comprehensible to his non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience. We have therefore accepted Matthew’s reading for GR.

שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם (HR). Compare our reconstruction to that in Lord’s Prayer, L10-11. The designation אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם (“your [plur.] Father who is in heaven”) also occurs in the Mishnah:

אָמַ′ ר′ עֲקִיבָה אַשְׁרֵיכֶם יִשְׂרָאֵ′ לִפְנֵי מִי אַתֶּם מִיטַּהֲרִים וּמִי מְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם אֲבִיכֶם שֶׁבַּשַּׁמַיִם

Rabbi Akiva said, “Blessed are you, O Israel! Before whom are you pure? And who purifies you? Your Father who is in the heavens.” (m. Yom. 8:9)

L18 שֶׁיִּתֵּן (HR). To HR we have added the relative pronoun -שֶׁ, despite its lack of support in the Greek text, based on our observation of sentences containing עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה, where the verb following this phrase is often prefixed with -שֶׁ. See the examples cited above in Comment to L15.

L19 πνεῦμα ἅγιον (Luke 11:13). In Luke’s version the gift God gives in answer to prayer is the Holy Spirit or, according to a variant reading, a good spirit.[55] Although the author of Luke may have reflected an ancient Jewish-Christian tradition regarding the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile by making this change (see previous footnote), Matthew’s ἀγαθά (agatha, “good [things]”) probably reflects the reading of Anth. As scholars have noted, in order for the kal vahomer argument to function properly, the earthly fathers must be giving the same kinds of gifts as the heavenly Father.[56] For even better symmetry, L19 should read δόματα ἀγαθά (“good gifts”), just as in L13. But it is difficult to come up with a reasonable explanation why the author of Matthew would have omitted δόματα if it had been present in Anth. Due to this uncertainty, in GR we have placed δόματα in brackets.[57]

מַתָּנוֹת] טוֹבוֹת] (HR). On reconstructing δόματα ἀγαθά with מַתָּנוֹת טוֹבוֹת, see above, Comment to L13. We have placed מַתָּנוֹת in brackets because, although the presence of מַתָּנוֹת in both L13 and L19 provides greater balance to the saying, a Greek equivalent is not supported in either the Lukan or Matthean versions of the saying.

L20 לַשּׁוֹאֲלִים מִמֶּנּוּ (HR). On reconstructing αἰτεῖν + personal pronoun as שָׁאַל מִן (shā’al min, “ask from”), see Praying Like Gentiles, Comment to L10.

Redaction Analysis

Although there are many points of disagreement between the Lukan and Matthean versions of the Fathers Give Good Gifts pericope, it appears that both versions depend on Anth. The differences between the two versions are due to editorial decisions on the part of the authors of Luke and Matthew.

Luke’s Version

The redactional changes the author of Luke made to the Fathers Give Good Gifts pericope are mainly attempts to polish the Greek style of his source.[58] This accounts for the change from ἢ τίς ἐξ ὑμῶν to τίνα δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν (L1), changing “person” (L2) to “father” (L3), adding ἀντὶ ἰχθύος (L7), changing the word order from ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ to αὐτῷ ἐπιδώσει (L8), changing the word order from σκορπίον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ to ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ σκορπίον (L10), replacing ὄντες with ὑπάρχοντες (L12), and writing “the Father from heaven” instead of “your Father, the one in the heavens” (L16-17).

A different motivation appears to be behind Luke’s change of “good [things/gifts]” to “Holy Spirit” (L19). It may be that the author of Luke knew an ancient Jewish-Christian tradition that identified the good gifts in Jesus’ saying with the Holy Spirit, which is also enumerated among God’s good gifts in some rabbinic sources.

The biggest difference between the Lukan and Matthean versions is Luke’s omission of the rock-for-bread scenario and his inclusion of the scorpion-for-egg scenario, which is absent in Matthew’s version. We believe all three scenarios were found in Anth. and that the authors of Matthew and Luke simply made a different selection of the scenarios to include in their Gospels. As we discussed in Comment to L6-8, it is possible that the author of Luke was familiar with a Greek proverb that said, “Instead of a perch [a type of fish], a scorpion.” This proverb may have influenced Luke’s selection of the snake-for-fish and the scorpion-for-egg scenarios, since the elements “fish” and “scorpion” also occur in the Greek proverb.

Matthew’s Version

The author of Matthew appears to have adhered very closely to Anth.’s wording in Fathers Give Good Gifts.[59] The few stylistic changes he introduced include changing καί to μή (L5, L7-8), changing the word order from αἰτήσει ἰχθύν to ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει (L6), and possibly omitting δόματα in L19. The author of Matthew also abbreviated his source by omitting the scorpion-for-egg scenario.

Results of This Research

1. There are some fathers who do harm their children. Doesn’t this fact undermine the message of Fathers Give Good Gifts? While it is important to acknowledge the sad truth that this world has more than its fair share of abusive fathers, it was often Jesus’ way to assume the best about people. By framing his question as “What person among you would act in this way?” Jesus elevated his audience to a high level of morality, and elicited from them a negative response: “None of us would do such a thing, surely!” At the same time, Jesus fully accounts for the human propensity for evil (“if even you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts”), and argues that God is to be trusted much more than any human father or mother. In this way, the tragic fact of abusive fathers cannot seriously undermine Jesus’ argument. The experience of having an abusive father, however, can pose a serious impediment to trusting in the goodness of the heavenly Father. The apparent ease with which Jesus placed absolute faith in the character of his heavenly Father may say a great deal about the strong and healthy relationships in the family into which Jesus was born.

Conclusion

The Fathers Give Good Gifts simile concludes the “How to Pray” complex with a final assurance to the disciples that God will indeed answer their prayers. The deep anxiety in the hearts of the disciples that the numerous illustrations in the complex aim to expel was probably focused on the petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer, with which Jesus’ full-time disciples renewed their commitment to leave their possessions and means of supporting themselves behind in order to itinerate with their teacher. Jesus assured the disciples that God would indeed supply them with their daily bread, as well as answer the other petitions contained in the Lord’s Prayer.

 


 

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See Friend in Need, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [4] See Lord’s Prayer, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [5] See Persistent Widow, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [6] On the rigorous demands of full-time discipleship, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L9-11; Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L18.
  • [7] See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L17.
  • [8] Cf. Harnack, 10; Ronald A. Piper, “Matthew 7:7-11 par. Luke 11:9-13: Evidence of Design and Argument in the Collection of Jesus’ Sayings,” in The Shape of Q: Signal Essays on the Sayings Gospel (ed. John S. Kloppenborg; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 131-137, esp. 134.
  • [9] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1384-1404.
  • [10] See Dos Santos, 27.
  • [11] The pairing of snakes and scorpions occurs in Luke 10:19, on which, see Return of the Twelve, Comment to L20.
  • [12] A few scholars suggest that the differences between Matt. 7:9-10 and Luke 11:11-12 are due to different recensions of their pre-synoptic source. See McNeile, 92; Luz, 1:357. Scholars who regard all three scenarios as stemming from the Lukan-Matthean pre-synpotic source include T. W. Manson, 81; Beare, 163; C. Leslie Mitton, “Threefoldness in the Teaching of Jesus,” Expository Times 75.8 (1964): 228-230.
  • [13] Cf., e.g., Davies-Allison, 1:681-682; Nolland, Matt., 327.
  • [14] It is also possible to reconstruct ἄρτος (artos, “bread”) as כִּכַּר לֶחֶם (kikar leḥem, “loaf of bread”), as in Friend in Need, L5. Adopting כִּכַּר לֶחֶם here in L4 of Fathers Give Good Gifts would provide another direct connection with the vocabulary of Friend in Need, but לֶחֶם by itself is perfectly suitable in the context of Fathers Give Good Gifts.
  • [15] See Bundy, 120; Bovon, 1:106. On the diet of first-century Jewish peasants in Israel, see Magen Broshi, “The Diet of Palestine in the Roman Period—Introductory Notes,” Israel Museum Journal 5 (1986): 41-56. According to Safrai, “The meal of an ordinary person would have consisted of bread with a vinegar and/or olive oil dip in the morning, and bread with lentil soup and an egg or some other substitute in the evening.” See Ze’ev Safrai, “Agriculture and Farming” (OHJDL, 246-263, quotation on 252). Bread and fish were the two foodstuffs involved in Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the crowds.
  • [16] See Metzger, 157.
  • [17] Cf. Plummer, Luke, 300.
  • [18] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:876-878.
  • [19] On the בֵּן/אֶבֶן wordplay in Matt. 3:9 // Luke 3:8, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “On the Jewish Background of Christianity,” in Studies in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity: Text and Context (ed. Dan Jaffé; Leiden: Brill, 2010), 87-105, esp. 100.
  • [20] On the בֵּן/אֶבֶן wordplay in the parable of the Wicked Tenants, see Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Critical Notes on the VTS” (JS1, 299-300).
  • [21] The parallels to Jesus’ rock-for-bread saying that are often adduced are weak (Prov. 20:17; Seneca, On Benefits 2:7 §1; on which, see below). It is tempting to suppose that the Gospels reflect an otherwise lost midrash on the character of God based on a father’s provision of bread rather than rocks for food. In the two instances where the bread-for-rocks comparison is made (Temptation Narrative, Fathers Give Good Gifts), the issue at stake is a father-son relationship with God; in Matt. 4:3 // Luke 4:3 Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.”

    What might the basis of this conjectured midrash have been? One possibility is a passage from the Psalms that reflects on the manna in the wilderness story, where we read:

    לֶחֶם אַבִּירִים אָכַל אִישׁ צֵידָה שָׁלַח לָהֶם לָשׂבַע

    The bread of the mighty ones a man ate, provision he sent to them for satiety. (Ps. 78:25)

    Perhaps instead of reading אַבִּירִים (’abirim, “mighty ones”) a midrashist read אֲבָנִים (avānim, “rocks”), yielding “bread of rocks a man ate.” Such an interpretation, if it existed, would readily fit the Temptation Narrative, for we could imagine Satan saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread, as it is written, Bread of rocks a man ate.” To which Jesus replied, “It is written, Man does not live by bread alone.” In that case, both Satan’s suggestion and Jesus’ response would have quoted verses having to do with the manna from heaven story. We can even imagine that Satan’s (mis)quotation of Ps. 78:25 was dropped because a translator or editor was unable to identify the (mis)quoted verse. That similar substitutions were read into Ps. 78:25 is proven by the following rabbinic source:

    תנו רבנן לחם אבירים אכל איש לחם שמלאכי השרת אוכלין אותו דברי רבי עקיבא וכשנאמרו דברים לפני רבי ישמעאל אמר להם צאו ואמרו לו לעקיבא עקיבא טעית וכי מלאכי השרת אוכלין לחם והלא כבר נאמר לחם לא אכלתי ומים לא שתיתי אלא מה אני מקיים אבירים לחם שנבלע במאתים וארבעים ושמונה אברים

    Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: The bread of the mighty ones [אבירים] a man ate [Ps. 78:25]. They ate the same bread that the ministering angels eat—the words of Rabbi Akiva. And when these words were told to Rabbi Ishmael, he said to them, “Go and say to Akiva: Akiva, you are in error! Do the ministering angels really eat bread? And is it not already stated, Bread I did not eat and water I did not drink [Deut. 9:18]? How then do I interpret אבירים [’abirim]? It refers to bread that was absorbed by the two hundred forty-eight אברים [’ēvārim, ‘body parts’].” (b. Yom. 75b; cf. Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 4 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:241]; Num. Rab. 7:4)

    The weakness of the suggestion that Satan (mis)quoted Ps. 78:25 in the Temptation Narrative is that it does not explain the father-son dynamic behind the bread-for-rock substitution.

    The parallels to Jesus’ rock-for-bread saying that are typically cited are:

    עָרֵב לָאִישׁ לֶחֶם שָׁקֶר וְאַחַר יִמָּלֵא פִיהוּ חָצָץ

    Sweet for a man is the bread of falsehood, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. (Prov. 20:17)

    Fabius Verrucosus beneficium ab homine duro aspere datum panem lapidosum vocabat, quem esurienti accipere necessarium sit, esse acerbum.

    Fabius Verrucosus used to say that a benefit rudely given by a hard-hearted man is like a loaf of gritty bread, which a starving man needs must accept, but which is bitter to eat. (Seneca, On Benefits 2:7 §1; Loeb)

    Both of these proposed parallels allude to the liability of crunching on small bits of grit embedded in a loaf of bread due to poorly sifted flour (ground in stone mills), from which the bread was baked. They have nothing to do with handing someone a rock instead of a loaf of bread.

  • [22] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:519.
  • [23] See Black, 234-235.
  • [24] See Jastrow, 643.
  • [25] See Black, 235.
  • [26] See LSJ, “χαλκίς,” 1973.
  • [27] The hypothesis that a Semitic sayings source read, “Or he will ask for a fish, and he will give him a sardine,” is also problematic when we consider that a sardine is indeed a type of fish, although a small one. Thus, this scenario would not be as drastic as the rock-for-bread or the scorpion-for-egg scenarios. The hypothetical sardine-for-fish scenario does not fit the overall context of a father who gives his hungry son completely inedible objects.
  • [28] See Black, 235.
  • [29] See Knox (2:30 n. 3), who traces the proverb from Zenobius to Byzantine authors.
  • [30] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:696.
  • [31] Examples of דָּג paired with בֵּיצָה include:

    מוֹדִים בְּדָג וּבְבֵיצָה שֶׁעָלָיו שֶׁהֶן שְׁנֵי תַבְשִׁילִין

    They [i.e., Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel—DNB and JNT] concur that fish with egg on it ought to be considered two dishes. (m. Betz. 2:1)

    אמ′ ר′ שמעון בן לעזר מודים בית שמיי ובית הלל שהן שני תבשילין על מה נחלקו על הדג והביצה שעליו שבית שמיי או′ תבשיל אחד ובית הלל או′ שני תבשילין מודים שאם בישל שני מינין בקדירה או שפירפר ביצה על גבי הדג או שחתך קפלוט תחת הדג שהן שני תבשילין

    Rabbi Shimon ben Lazar said, “Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel concur that they are two dishes. Over what did they disagree? Over the case of a fish that has egg on it: for Beit Shammai says they are a single dish, while Beit Hillel says they are two dishes. They concur that if one cooked two species in one pot, or crumbles a [hard-boiled] egg over fish, or slices a leek under a fish, that these are two dishes.” (t. Betz. 2:4; Vienna MS)

  • [32] See above, Comment to L5.
  • [33] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1042.
  • [34] The prohibition against feeding a fellow Israelite forbidden food is assumed in the following statement:

    רבי יצחק אומר אינו צריך מה אם שרצים קלים עשה בהם המאכיל כאוכל חמץ החומר אינו דין שנעשה בו את המאכיל כאוכל

    Rabbi Yitzhak says, “It is not necessary, for if in the case of swarming things, which is a lesser matter, it treats the one who causes others to eat in the same manner as the one who eats, so in the case of leaven, which is a greater matter, will it not treat the one who causes others to eat the same as the one who eats?” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 16 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:94-95])

  • [35] In LXX ᾠόν occurs in Deut. 22:6 (2xx); Job 39:14; Isa. 10:14; 59:5 (2xx).
  • [36] See Herbert Pegg, “‘A Scorpion for an Egg’ (Luke xi. 12),” Expository Times 38.10 (1927): 468-469.
  • [37] In the Mishnah לְפִיכָךְ אִם is found in m. Ter. 6:6; m. Maas. 2:1 (2xx); m. Eruv. 6:7; m. Pes. 8:7; m. Git. 6:1, 3, 7; 9:5; m. Bab. Metz. 2:7 (2xx); m. Bab. Bat. 1:1, 2 (2xx); m. Mak. 1:9; m. Zev. 4:1, 2; m. Hul. 5:4; m. Bech. 8:8; m. Meil. 6:5 (3xx).
  • [38] See Harnack, 9; Hawkins, 23; Marshall, 469; Fitzmyer, 2:914.
  • [39] Safrai noted that there is a baraita in b. Eruv. 13b according to which the members of Beit Shammai opined that it would have been better had humankind not been created, but Safrai also questioned the accuracy of this report, since in other sources Beit Shammai expressed an optimistic view of humankind. See Shmuel Safrai, “Oral Torah,” in The Literature of the Sages (ed. Shmuel Safrai; 2 vols.; CRINT II.3; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 1:35-119, esp. 112-113. In rabbinic sources, opposition to the creation of humankind is found on the lips of the ministering angels, but God overrules their opinion, from which we learn that the sages generally believed that the creation of human beings was for the best. On the angelic opposition to the creation of humankind, see Ginzberg, 1:51-53.
  • [40] On the pessimistic evaluation of human nature in DSS, see David Flusser, “The Dead Sea Sect and its Worldview” (JSTP1, 1-24, esp. 19-21); idem, “Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christianity,” under the subheading “The Dead Sea Sect and Christian Anthropology.”
  • [41] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:341.
  • [42] See Dos Santos, 125.
  • [43] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:2-4.
  • [44] See Dos Santos, 73.
  • [45] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1340-1342.
  • [46] In LXX τέκνον is the translation of יֶלֶד in Gen. 33:6, 7; 2 Esd. 22:43; Hos. 1:2; Isa. 2:6; 29:23; 57:4, 5.
  • [47] The noun יֶלֶד occurs 11xx in the Mishnah: m. Suk. 5:2; m. Ket. 12:3; m. Bab. Kam. 5:4 (2xx); m. Avot 3:10; 4:20; m. Arach. 4:4 (3xx); m. Mik. 8:4; m. Yad. 3:1.
  • [48] An example where קַל וָחוֹמֶר clearly refers to the type of argumentation, but where עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה is used in the argument itself, is found in the Tosefta:

    והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה אם בשעת כעסן של צדיקים מרחמין עליהם, בשעת הרחמים על אחת כמה וכמה

    And is it not a matter of kal vahomer [קל וחומר]? If in the hour of anger against the righteous they [i.e., the righteous] are shown mercy, then in the hour of mercy, how much more so [על אחת כמה וכמה]? (t. Ber. 4:16; Vienna MS)

    Additional examples will be cited below.

    On the use of kal vahomer arguments in the teachings of Jesus and in rabbinic literature, see David N. Bivin, “The ‘How Much More’ Rabbinic Principle of Interpretation in the Teaching of Jesus.”

  • [49] On the textual variants in Luke 11:13, see Fitzmyer, 2:915.
  • [50] Scholars who preferred this reading include McNeile (92) and T. W. Manson (82), who cited James 1:17 in support of this interpretation.
  • [51] On the probable relationship of the petition for daily bread to the manna from heaven story, see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L17.
  • [52] The notion that the manna came from God’s treasure chest stems from a verse that states, “The LORD will open his good treasure for you: the heavens…” (Deut. 28:12). The sages linked Exod. 16:4 with Deut. 28:12 because of their common vocabulary; both verses speak about rain (מ-ט-ר) from heaven.
  • [53] The only examples in the Synoptic Gospels of God being referred to as “the Father” are in Matt. 24:36 // Mark 13:32; Matt. 28:19; and Luke 9:26.

    • “The Father” in Matt. 24:36 was copied from Mark 13:32, where “the Father” is probably due to Mark’s editorial activity.
    • “The Father” in Matt. 28:19 occurs in the trinitarian baptism formula which is unique to Matthew and probably secondary.
    • “The Father” in Luke 9:26 comes from FR’s version of a Lukan doublet that also occurs in Luke 12:9 // Matt. 10:33. The Matthean parallel (from Anth.) has “my Father” where Luke 9:26 has “the Father.”

     

    The “no one knows the Father” saying in Matt. 11:27 // Luke 10:22 is not a true example of Jesus referring to God as “the Father,” since it is likely that Jesus was making a general statement about fathers and sons that was also applicable to his own unique relationship to God. For this interpretation of Matt. 11:27 // Luke 10:22, see Jeremias, Prayers, 47; Marshall, 436; Lindsey, JRL, 21-22.

  • [54] On Greek editors dropping possessive pronouns, see Lord’s Prayer, Comments to L5 and L10.
  • [55] For a discussion of this variant, see J. Lionel North, “Praying for a Good Spirit: Text, Context and Meaning of Luke 11.13,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 28.2 (2005): 167-188. As North notes, the phrase “good spirit” also occurs, among other places, in the book of Nehemiah, where we read:

    And you in your great mercy did not abandon them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud you did not turn aside from them by day, to lead them in the way, or the pillar of fire by night to give light to them and to the way in which they walked. But your good spirit [MT: רוּחֲךָ הַטּוֹבָה; LXX: τὸ πνεῦμά σου τὸ ἀγαθόν] you gave to them to make them understand, and your manna you did not withhold from their mouths, but you gave water to them for their thirst. (Neh. 9:19-20 [= 2 Esd. 19:19-20; LXX])

    The mention of “your good spirit,” which could easily be identified as the Holy Spirit, in connection with the pillar of cloud, the manna and the water in the above passage is of interest when we recall that some rabbinic traditions (cited above, Comment to L13) identified the manna, the well and the pillar of cloud as the three “good gifts” God gave to Israel (Seder Olam, chpt. 10 [ed. Guggenheimer, 102]), while others identified God’s “good gift” as the Holy Spirit (Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, chpt. 3 [ed. Horowitz, 27]). Although some scholars assume that the author of Luke changed “good gifts” to “Holy Spirit” on account of his personal interest in the gift of the Holy Spirit, it may well be that in Luke 11:13 the author of Luke tapped into an ancient Jewish-Christian tradition that numbered the Holy Spirit among the “good gifts” referred to in the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile.

    Rodd challenged the view that the author of Luke habitually added references to the Holy Spirit to his Gospel by pointing out that, with the exception of the infancy narratives where the Holy Spirit is mentioned quite frequently, the Gospel of Luke has no more references to the Holy Spirit than Matthew. See C. S. Rodd, “Spirit or Finger,” Expository Times 72.5 (1961): 157-158.

  • [56] See David R. Catchpole, “Q and ‘The Friend at Midnight’ (Luke XI.5-8/9),” Journal of Theological Studies 34.2 (1983): 407-424, esp. 414. Piper’s observation is also important: “In the absence of any other interpretive clues for ἀγαθά one seems compelled to allow at least for the meeting of physical needs in this promise. Indeed if one has here only a vague promise of ‘spiritual blessing,’ it would hardly have required the extensive and persuasive argument which has been presented. The impression is that the persuasion is employed to counter doubts about very real problems of need facing followers” (Piper, “Matthew 7:7-11 par. Luke 11:9-13,” 135).
  • [57] Compare Matthew’s ἀγαθά (Matt. 7:11; L19) to the following passage in the writings of Philo:

    καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ μάννα οὖν καὶ ἐπὶ πάσης δωρεᾶς, ἣν ὁ θεὸς δωρεῖται τῷ γένει ἡμῶν, καλὸν τὸ ἐνάριθμον καὶ μεμετρημένον καὶ μὴ τὸ ὑπὲρ ἡμᾶς λαμβάνειν· πλεονεξίας γὰρ τοῦτό γε. τὸ τῆς ἡμέρας οὖν εἰς ἡμέραν συναγαγέτω ἡ ψυχή, ἵνα μὴ ἑαυτὴν φύλακα τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἀλλὰ τὸν φιλόδωρον θεὸν ἀποφήνῃ

    Both in the case of manna then, and in the case of every boon which God confers upon our race, it is good to take what is fixed by strict measure and reckoning and not that which is above and beyond us; for to do this is to be over-reaching. Let the soul, then, gather the day’s portion for a day (Exod. xvi. 4), that it may declare not itself but the bountiful God guardian of all good things [τῶν ἀγαθῶν]. (Leg. 3:166; Loeb)

  • [58] Note that Martin classified Luke’s version of Fathers Give Good Gifts as a pericope trending toward the “translation Greek” type. See Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987), 92.
  • [59] Martin (Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels, 92) classified Matthew’s version of Fathers Give Good Gifts as a pericope of the “translation Greek” type.

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