Persistent Widow Parable

& LOY 6 Comments

In what way is God similar to a crooked judge? Do believers have to pester God into action? Explore questions such as these in the LOY commentary on the Persistent Widow Parable.

Luke 18:1-8
(Huck 185; Aland 236; Crook 289)[1]

Revised: 28-February-2018

וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם מָשָׁל לֵאמֹר דַּיָּן הָיָה בְּעִיר פְּלוֹנִית שֶׁלֹּא יָרֵא שָׁמַיִם וְאָדָם לֹא כִּבֵּד וְאַלְמָנָה הָיְתָה בָּעִיר הַהִיא וְהָיְתָה בָּאָה אֵלָיו לוֹמַר שָׁפְטֵנִי מִיַּד בַּעַל דִּינִי וְהָיָה מְמָאֵן זְמַן הַרְבֵּה וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן אָמַר בְּלִבּוֹ אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינִי יָרֵא שָׁמַיִם וְאָדָם אֵינִי מְכַבֵּד מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמֵּבִיאָה עָלַי צָרָה אַלְמָנָה זוֹ אֶשְׁפוֹט אוֹתָה שֶׁמָּא תָּבוֹא וְתִפְגַּע בִּי לְעוֹלָם וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָדוֹן שִׁמְעוּ מַה דַּיַּן הָרֶשַׁע אוֹמֵר וְהֲלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁמַיִם מִשְׁפַּט בְּחִירָיו הַצּוֹעֲקִים לוֹ בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה הֲמִתְאַפֵּק עֲלֵיהֶם אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּטָם בִּמְהֵרָה

Then Yeshua told them this parable: “There was a judge in a certain town who was not a God-fearing man, neither was he concerned about human welfare. Nevertheless, there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him demanding, ‘Rescue me from my legal opponent’s power!’ But the judge kept refusing her for a long time.

Some time later, however, the judge thought to himself, ‘Although I am not a God-fearing man, and although I have no concern for human welfare, yet because this widow keeps on bothering me, I will rescue her, or else she’ll keep on coming to pester me forever!’”

And the Lord said, “Consider what the wicked judge did. And will not God all the more work justice on behalf of his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night to be rescued? Do you think he holds himself back from helping them? I can assure you that he will swiftly bring them justice.”[2]


a

a

a

a

a

a

a

a

Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of the Persistent Widow parable, click on the link below:

Download (PDF, 119KB)

Story Placement

By placing the Persistent Widow parable immediately following the Days of the Son of Man discourse (Luke 17:22-37), the author of Luke attempted to draw a lesson from the dire warnings about the Days of the Son of Man, when some will be taken to a place of punishment to be feasted upon by vultures. That lesson was to persevere in prayer so that when the Son of Man comes he will find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8). Although the author of Luke correctly connected the parable with prayer, the placement of the parable and the lesson he drew from it are secondary.

Indications supporting our suspicion that the author of Luke adapted the Persistent Widow parable to a new context are found in Luke 18:1 (L2-3) and in Luke 18:8 (L27-28). These redactional bookends to the parable are in tension with assumptions that are expressed in the parable’s original core.[3] Thus, in L2 the author of Luke encourages the readers to keep on praying, an admonition that suggests that some of Luke’s readers had given up, whereas the assumption expressed in the core of the parable is that its audience prays unceasingly (Luke 18:7; L23).[4] Likewise, the core of the parable addresses doubts in the hearts of the original audience concerning whether God will answer their prayers for deliverance.

The original aim of the parable was to assure the audience that if even a wicked judge who cares nothing about justice for the vulnerable in society will eventually give in when a persistent widow keeps on pestering him, then surely the God of Israel, the champion of widows and orphans (cf. Ps. 68:6), will deliver swift and just judgment when they pray.[5] However, in the redactional bookend appended to the parable certainty in the coming judgment is taken for granted, and doubt is expressed not in God, but in the believers. The bookend is pessimistic about whether the Son of Man will find faith when he comes (Luke 18:8; L27-28).

A final indication that the placement of the Persistent Widow parable is secondary is the uncomfortable way in which the themes of prayer and the Son of Man stand out from their surroundings.[6] The Son of Man discourse in Luke 17:22-37, which precedes the Persistent Widow parable, never discusses prayer, and prayer seems only loosely related to the question of whether the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when he comes. Likewise, there is nothing inherent in the original core of the parable that would suggest an eschatological interpretation concerning the coming of the Son of Man. It appears rather that a mention of the Son of Man was tacked on to the end of the Persistent Widow parable in order to assimilate it (somewhat unsuccessfully) to the discussion concerning the Days of the Son of Man.

Since the context in which the Persistent Widow parable appears in Luke is likely to be secondary, we must ask in what context the parable appeared at a pre-Lukan stage. One clue we have already discovered is that although the theme of prayer is out of place in the Son of Man discourse, the author of Luke was unable or unwilling to completely erase the parable’s connection to prayer. It seems probable, therefore, that the Persistent Widow parable appeared in a section dealing with prayer in Luke’s source. This possibility is strengthened by Lindsey’s observation that the Persistent Widow parable shares themes and vocabulary in common with the Friend in Need simile, which may indicate that these two pericopae originally appeared side-by-side as “twin” or companion illustrations.[7]

The author of Luke’s rearrangement of the Anthology’s block of material on prayer.

In Luke the Friend in Need simile is situated in a discourse on prayer. It appears, moreover, that the author of Luke found this discourse on prayer as a single block of material in his source. The author of Luke reproduced that block of material in Luke 11:1-13 more or less as it had appeared in his source (the Anthology), apart from two major exceptions:

  • First, the author of Luke replaced the Anthology’s (Anth.’s) version of the Lord’s Prayer with the version found in the First Reconstruction (FR).[8]
  • Second, the author of Luke removed the Persistent Widow parable from Anth.’s block of material on prayer in order to include it in the discussion concerning the Son of Man.

We have, accordingly, included the Persistent Widow parable in the reconstructed discourse on prayer, which we have dubbed the “How to Pray” complex.

Thanks to clues left by the authors of Matthew and Luke it is possible to determine where the Persistent Widow parable belonged within Anth.’s block of material on prayer. Since the Persistent Widow parable and the Friend in Need simile are twin illustrations,[9] one must have followed on the heels of the other. The author of Matthew omitted both illustrations, but he did preserve the Friend in Need simile’s application (Matt. 7:7-8 // Luke 11:9-10).[10] Since Matthew and Luke both agree to place the Fathers Give Good Gifts simile immediately thereafter, we know that this must have been the order of the material in Anth. In other words, Matthew and Luke agree that there was no space for the Persistent Widow parable to appear between Friend in Need and Fathers Give Good Gifts. Therefore, Persistent Widow must have been the first of the twin illustrations, which was then reinforced with Friend in Need. For an overview of the entire “How to Pray” complex, click here.

Supposing that the Persistent Widow parable was included in Anth.’s block of material on prayer explains how the author of Luke knew that prayer was the original topic of the parable. Through his efforts to adapt the parable to its new setting, however, the author of Luke slightly altered the parable’s focus. Instead of focusing on the contrast between God’s character and that of the wicked judge, which was intended to inspire confidence that God responds to prayer, Luke focused on the widow’s persistence in order to convince his readers to persevere. The Lukan additions in L2-3 (Luke 18:1) and in L27-28 (Luke 18:8) suggest that the reason the author of Luke was willing to make these changes to the parable’s focus and setting was pastoral. From L2-3 we learn that the author of Luke observed that a deep discouragement had settled upon some of the believers for whom he wrote, while in L27-28 we find a hint that some members of Luke’s community had begun to fall away. In response to the hardships his community was facing, the author of Luke placed the Persistent Widow parable in an eschatological context, following the Days of the Son of Man discourse (Luke 17:22-37), in order to reaffirm that the day of the Son of Man’s appearing was not far away, but in the meantime the believers must not lose heart.

 

 

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

 

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

As we noted in the discussion above, it appears that the author of Luke copied the Persistent Widow parable from the Anthology (Anth.), the more Hebraic of Luke’s two main sources. Although the purpose clause in L2-3 is written in good Koine Greek style, this redactional section should be attributed to the author of Luke rather than to the First Reconstructor (the creator of the First Reconstruction [FR], the second of Luke’s two main sources). A pericope copied from FR would be expected to show signs of editing throughout, whereas the main body of the parable reconstructs easily into Hebrew. The redactional bookends in Luke 18:1 and 18:8 are from Luke’s pen and are the result of his attempt to integrate the Persistent Widow parable into its new Lukan context.

Crucial Issues

  1. In what way is God like the judge in the Persistent Widow parable?
  2. Who are the “elect” referred to in Luke 18:7?
  3. What is the lesson of the Persistent Widow parable?

Comment

L1 וַיִּמְשׁוֹל לָהֶם מָשָׁל (HR). On reconstructing λέγειν παραβολήν (legein parabolēn, “to tell a parable”) with מָשַׁל מָשָׁל (māshal māshāl, “tell a parable”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin similes, Comment to L8-9. As we noted there, מָשַׁל מָשָׁל frequently serves to introduce parables in rabbinic literature, the only other ancient corpus aside from the Synoptic Gospels to contain story parables.[11]

L2-3 πρὸς τὸ δεῖν πάντοτε προσεύχεσθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ μὴ ἐγκακεῖν (Luke 18:1). The purpose clause (“to convince them of the need to be always praying and not be discouraged”; L2-3) is written in good Koine Greek style and resists retroversion to Hebrew.[12] The verb δεῖν (dein, “to be necessary”), moreover, is characteristic of Lukan redaction.[13] Thus the style of L2-3 and its vocabulary, as well as the tension between the exhortation to continue praying and the assumption in L23 that the original addressees prayed constantly, support our conclusion that these lines are redactional.[14]

L5 דַּיָּן הָיָה בְּעִיר פְּלוֹנִית (HR). Compare our reconstruction of κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει (“a certain judge was in a certain city”) with the LXX translation of the opening verse of Job:

אִישׁ הָיָה בְאֶרֶץ עוּץ אִיּוֹב שְׁמוֹ

A man was in the land of Uz, Job was his name…. (Job 1:1)

Ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν ἐν χώρᾳ τῇ Αυσίτιδι, ᾧ ὄνομα Ιωβ

There was a certain man in the land of Ausitis, whose name was Iob…. (Job 1:1; NETS)

In LXX κριτής (kritēs, “judge”) usually appears as the translation of שֹׁפֵט (shofēṭ, “judge”), but κριτής also translates the two instances of דַּיָּן (dayān, “judge”) that occur in MT (1 Kgdms. 24:16; Ps. 67[68]:6). We have chosen to use the latter term in our reconstruction for three reasons:

  1. In MH דַּיָּן was the more common term for “judge,” and we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in a style resembling MH.
  2. In all the rabbinic parables we have found in which a judge features as one of the characters, the term used is דַּיָּן‎.[15]
  3. The paring of דַּיָּן with אֱלֹהִים (elohim, “God”) is familiar from rabbinic sources.

In rabbinic literature we find instances in which אֱלֹהִים in Scripture is interpreted as דַּיָּן (“judge”).[16] In other places, rabbinic sources portray God himself as a ‎דַּיָּן‎.[17] Moreover, the portrayal of God as דַּיָּן is attested already in Scripture:

אֲבִי יְתוֹמִים וְדַיַּן אַלְמָנוֹת אֱלֹהִים בִּמְעוֹן קָדְשׁוֹ

Father of orphans and judge of widows is God in his holy dwelling. (Ps. 68:6)

τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν ὀρφανῶν καὶ κριτοῦ τῶν χηρῶν ὁ θεὸς ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ αὐτοῦ

The father of orphans and judge of widows is God in his holy place. (Ps. 67:6)

If Jesus used the term דַּיָּן in the telling of this parable, then this verse from Psalm 68 must have been on his mind and in the minds of his audience, since this is one of only two instances of דַּיָּן in the Hebrew Bible. Jesus’ audience would have instantly recognized the contrast between the behavior of the wicked judge in putting off a decision in the widow’s case and God’s concern that widows receive justice.

A possible reconstruction for ἔν τινι πόλει (en tini polei, “in a certain city”) might be בְּעִיר אַחַת (be‘ir ’aḥat, “in one city”), but most instances of עִיר אַחַת in rabbinic sources generally convey the meaning “a single city” rather than “a certain city.”[18] We have therefore adopted בְּעִיר פְּלוֹנִית (be‘ir pelōnit, “in a certain city”) as the reconstruction of ἔν τινι πόλει in Luke 18:2.[19] Compare our reconstruction of ἔν τινι πόλει as בְּעִיר פְּלוֹנִית in L5 to our reconstruction of ἐν τόπῳ τινί (en topō tini, “in a certain place”) as בִּמְקוֹם פְּלוֹנִי (bimqōm pelōni, “in a certain place”) in Lord’s Prayer, L2.

L6 שֶׁלֹּא יָרֵא שָׁמַיִם (HR). In LXX φοβεῖν (fobein, “to fear,” “to be afraid”) usually translates יָרֵא (yārē’, “fear,” “be afraid”), a term particularly common when referring to the fear of God. In the story of how Moses’ father-in-law Jethro advised him to appoint judges over Israel (Exod. 18:13-26) the fear of God is one of the qualities Moses sought in potential judges (Exod. 18:21). The description of the judge in L6 of the Persistent Widow parable brands him as unfit for office.

We have reconstructed θεός (theos, “God”) with שָׁמַיִם (shāmayim, “heaven”) because we suspect that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua frequently rendered שָׁמַיִם as θεός when it was clear to him that the former was a substitute for the divine name. Occasionally the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua made mistakes in this regard, translating שָׁמַיִם as οὐρανός (ouranos, “heaven”), as for instance in the statement “I have sinned toward heaven [εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν] and before you” in the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:18, 21).[20] Our reconstruction is similar to the term φοβούμενος τὸν θεόν (“fearer of God”) in the writings of Luke (e.g., Acts 10:2; 13:16), which is equivalent to יְרֵא שָׁמַיִם (“fearer of Heaven”) in rabbinic sources.[21] Both terms refer to Gentiles who worship the God of Israel but who have not converted to Judaism.[22]

“The Court” by William Hogarth (ca. 1758). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The description of the judge as not fearing God, has led some scholars to suggest that Jesus’ audience would have imagined that the judge was a Gentile.[23] While cultic, ritual and many private disputes could be decided by Jewish judges, some matters were under the sole jurisdiction of Roman officials. No details as to the nature of the suit are given in the parable, apart from the fact that the woman had a nameless opponent from whom she wished to be delivered. In any case, the characters and scenarios described in Jewish parables generally lacked distinctively Jewish traits,[24] so we cannot even be sure that Jesus’ audience would have assumed that the widow herself was Jewish. But, as Snodgrass correctly observes, the point of the parable does not hinge on whether the judge was a Jew or a Gentile.[25] Whatever Jesus’ audience imagined the judge’s ethnic origin to be, the only important fact about the judge was that he was unfit for office.

L7 καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος (GR). Although Young suggested that μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος (mē entrepomenos, “not respecting”) is redactional, and proposed reconstructing the Hebrew source behind Luke 18:1-8 as לֹא יָרֵא אֶת אֱלֹהִים וְאֶת אָדָם (“he did not fear God or man”),[26] we have not accepted Young’s conclusion. First, “he did not fear God or respect human beings” looks like a Hebrew parallelism, the balance of which is damaged if we remove the second verb. Second, fear of fellow human beings is not a desirable quality in a judge or other leader.[27] Fear of fellow human beings would make for a weak and easily manipulated judge who would cave to pressure or public opinion when rendering a just verdict was unpopular or unwelcome to those in power. Pontius Pilate, who wished to ingratiate himself with Caesar, and was, therefore, easily manipulated by Jesus’ accusers, is a case in point.

וְאָדָם לֹא כִּבֵּד (HR). On reconstructing ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”) as אָדָם (’ādām, “person”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L12.

A few scholars have maintained that “he did not respect human beings” was intended to be a positive description, indicating the judge’s impartiality.[28] However, καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος (kai anthrōpon mē entrepomenos, “and a person not respecting”) bears no resemblance to the Hebrew expressions for “show partiality”: הִכִּיר פָּנִים (hikir pānim, lit. “recognize a face”)[29] or נָשָׂא פָּנִים (nāsā’ pānim, lit. “lift a face”).[30] While a Greek translator might choose to render such idioms in a non-literal fashion, impartiality would not have been an impediment to justice, which even the judge admits is true of his lack of respect for persons (Luke 18:4). The parable hinges on the assumption that although he failed to meet any of the criteria expected of judges in the ancient world,[31] even such a poor excuse for a judge as this would eventually give in to the widow’s tenacious demand for justice. Therefore, the description of the judge’s lack of respect for human beings must be regarded as a negative quality,[32] and we have accordingly rejected הִכִּיר פָּנִים and נָשָׂא פָּנִים as options for HR.

In Hebrew “to honor” or “to respect” a fellow human being is commonly expressed with the verb כִּבֵּד (kibēd). The duty to respect others is emphasized in the following rabbinic saying:

אֵי זֶה הוּא מְכוּבָּד הַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּריּוֹת

Who is he that is honored? The one who honors his fellow creatures. (m. Avot 4:1)[33]

In the book of Hebrews we find a hint that ἐντρέπειν (entrepein, “to respect”), the verb found in Luke 18:2, could be used as an equivalent of כִּבֵּד. The author of Hebrews remarks that “we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected [ἐνετρεπόμεθα] them” (Heb. 12:9; RSV), a likely allusion to the command to honor one’s father and mother in Exod. 20:12, where the verb is כִּבֵּד.

L8 וְאַלְמָנָה הָיְתָה בָּעִיר הַהִיא (HR). On reconstructing χήρα (chēra, “widow) with אַלְמָנָה (’almānāh, “widow”) see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L8. In LXX ἡ πόλις ἐκείνη (hē polis ekeinē, “that city”) is often the translation of הָעִיר הַהִיא (hā‘ir hahi’, “that city”).[34]

L9 וְהָיְתָה בָּאָה אֵלָיו לוֹמַר (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L4. The imperfect tense of the Greek verb ἔρχεσθαι indicates that the widow’s action was habitual.[35] In other words, we are to imagine that the widow constantly badgered the judge. In MH habitual action was expressed with הָיָה + participle.[36] Although the preposition אֶל (’el, “to”) became rare in MH,[37] we have used אֶל in conjunction with בָּא, as in the following example:

אמר שמעון הצדיק מימי לא אכלתי אשם נזיר טמא חוץ מאדם אחד שבא אלי מן הדרום

Shimon the Righteous said, “In all my days I never ate the guilt offering of an impure Nazirite, except for one person who came to me [שבא אלי] from the south….” (b. Naz. 4b)

We have also used the phrase בָּא אֶל in the reconstruction of the Friend in Need simile (L6-7), one of several verbal links between these twin illustrations.

Also in MH style is the infinitive לוֹמַר (lōmar, “to say”), whereas BH style would call for ‎‎‎לֵאמֹר, as in L4. This oscillation between BH and MH styles in our reconstruction reflects our preference for reconstructing narrative in a biblicizing style, and direct speech in more colloquial Hebrew.

L10 שָׁפְטֵנִי מִיַּד בַּעַל דִּינִי (HR). Two main options are available for reconstructing ἐκδικεῖν (ekdikein, “to avenge”): נָקַם (nāqam, “avenge”) and שָׁפַט (shāfaṭ, “judge”). Although in LXX ἐκδικεῖν is more often the translation of the former than of the latter,[38] we have adopted שָׁפַט for HR since a just judgment, vindication, and deliverance from her oppressor (all of which are connoted by שָׁפַט), rather than vengeance, would seem to be the object of the widow’s quest. Moreover, the imperative שָׁפְטֵנִי (shofṭēni, “Judge me!” “Deliver me!”) is encountered several times on the lips of the psalmist, who cries to the LORD for saving judgment.[39] Since the psalmist’s plea may well have been a model for the prayers of the elect who beseech God day and night (Luke 18:7), which are echoed in the widow’s plea to the unjust judge, שָׁפְטֵנִי appears to be a more probable reconstruction than the imperative נָקְמֵנִי (noqmēni, “Avenge me!”), a form that is not attested in the Psalms, nor anywhere else in MT, nor in DSS, Hebrew MSS of Ben Sira, nor tannaic literature.

We have reconstructed ἐκδίκησόν με ἀπό (“Avenge me from…”) with שָׁפְטֵנִי מִיַּד (“Deliver me from the hand of…”), based on verses such as the following:

וְהָיָה יי לְדַיָּן וְשָׁפַט בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ וְיֵרֶא וְיָרֵב אֶת רִיבִי וְיִשְׁפְּטֵנִי מִיָּדֶךָ

May the LORD be the judge and judge between you and me, and may he see and plead my case and deliver me from your hand. (1 Sam. 24:16)

אָרוּצָה נָּא וַאֲבַשְּׂרָה אֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי שְׁפָטוֹ יי מִיַּד אֹיְבָיו

Pray let me run that I may proclaim to the king that the LORD has delivered him from the hand of his enemies. (2 Sam. 18:19)

יִתְבַּשֵּׂר אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי שְׁפָטְךָ יי הַיּוֹם מִיַּד כָּל הַקָּמִים עָלֶיךָ

Let it be proclaimed, my lord the king, that the LORD has delivered you today from the hand of all who rise against you. (2 Sam. 18:31)

Although מִיַּד (miyad, “from the hand of”) is usually translated in LXX as ἐκ χειρός (ek cheiros, “from the hand”), there are instances in LXX where מִיַּד is simply translated as ἀπό (apo, “from”).[40]

In LXX ἀντίδικος (antidikos, “adversary”) occurs only four times as the translation of a word in the underlying Hebrew text, and in every instance that underlying term is either the verb or the noun רִיב (riv; verb: “conduct a case”; noun: “case”).[41] In MH, however, the term for an opposing litigant was בַּעַל דִּין (ba‘al din).[42] Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in Mishnaic-style Hebrew, we have adopted בַּעַל דִּין for HR. An example of בַּעַל דִּין is found in the following rabbinic ruling:

הרי זה אזהרה לבעל דין שלא ישמיע דבריו לדיין עד שיהא בעל דינו עמו שנאמר ועמדו שני האנשים וגו′

This is a warning to the litigant [בעל דין] that he may not make his case to the judge until his opposing litigant [בעל דינו] is with him, because it is said, and the two will stand [Deut. 19:17] etc. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Kaspa chpt. 2 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:467])

This example shows that it was not unusual for a pronominal suffix to be attached to בַּעַל דִּין, as we have also done in HR.

L11 וְהָיָה מְמָאֵן זְמַן הַרְבֵּה (HR). The imperfect tense of θέλειν (thelein, “to want”) once again indicates that the action was repeated or sustained. Although we initially intended to reconstruct οὐκ ἤθελεν (ouk ēthelen, “he was not wanting”) as לֹא הָיָה רוֹצֵה (lo’ hāyāh rōtzēh, “he was not wanting”), closer examination reveals that in LXX οὐ + θέλειν is the standard equivalent of מֵאֵן (mē’ēn, “refuse”).[43] The verb מֵאֵן remained current in MH.

The expression ἐπὶ χρόνον (epi chronon, “for a [long] time”) does not occur in LXX. Similar constructions are found, however, elsewhere in NT.[44] The noun χρόνος (chronos, “time”) appears over 130xx in LXX, but only once as the translation of זְמַן (zeman, “time”; Eccl. 3:1). This exceptionally low ratio, however, is the result of the late entry of זְמַן into the Hebrew language. The noun זְמַן is a post-exilic term that occurs only 4xx in MT. In post-biblical sources, however, זְמַן became quite common.[45] The expression זְמַן הַרְבֵּה (zeman harbēh, “much time”) reflects MH usage, an example of which is found in the following rabbinic text:

אמר להם זמן הרבה אתם עושים שם

He said to them, “Much time [זמן הרבה] you are spending there….” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:295])

L12 וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן אָמַר בְּלִבּוֹ (HR). Compare our reconstruction of μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα (meta de tavta, “but after these [things]”) as וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן (ve’aḥarē chēn “and afterward”) here in L12 to our reconstruction of καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα (kai meta tavta, “and after these [things]”) with the same Hebrew expression, וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן, in Call of Levi, L1.

Luke’s construction, εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ (eipen en heavtō, “he said in himself”), looks like an attempt to render the Hebrew idiom אָמַר בְּלֵב/לֵבָב (’āmar belēv/lēvāv, “say in the heart,” i.e., “think to oneself”).[46] In LXX this idiom is generally translated as λέγειν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ (legein en tē kardia, “to say in the heart”)[47] and less commonly as λέγειν ἐν τῇ διανοίᾳ (legein en tē dianoia, “to say in the mind”).[48] We do, however, find one instance in LXX where אָמַר בְּלֵב is rendered λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτῷ:

וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן בְּלִבּוֹ לְמִי יַחְפֹּץ הַמֶּלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת יְקָר יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנִּי

And Haman said in his heart [בְּלִבּוֹ], “To whom would the king desire to do honor more than me?” (Esth. 6:6)

εἶπεν δὲ ἐν ἑαυτῷ Αμαν Τίνα θέλει ὁ βασιλεὺς δοξάσαι εἰ μὴ ἐμέ

And Haman said to himself [ἐν ἑαυτῷ], “Whom would the king want to extol if not me?” (Esth. 6:6; NETS)

Based on this example from Esther it seems unnecessary to amend GR to μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶπεν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ, as we initially considered doing.[49]

In MH we find an example of the idiom אָמַר בְּלֵב in an aggadic treatment of the story of Joseph in Egypt:

אמ′ יעקב בלבו יודע אני שבפרק עגלה ערופה פירש ממני יוסף

Jacob said in his heart [אמ′ יעקב בלבו], “I know that it was on the chapter of the calf whose neck must be broken that Joseph left me.” (Gen. Rab. 95:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 3:1188])

L13 εἰ καὶ τὸν θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι (Luke 18:4). In his soliloquy the judge repeats the narrator’s description of his character, which serves to underscore the point that the judge is acting contrary to his nature by giving in to the widow. The concession εἰ καί (ei kai, “although”) forms a verbal link with the Friend in Need simile (L16; Luke 11:8).[50]

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינִי יָרֵא שָׁמַיִם (HR). The concession אַף עַל פִּי (’af ‘al pi, “although”) is common in MH.[51] A grammatical parallel to our reconstruction is found in the following statement:

בטוח אני בעצמי שאע″פ שאני הולך לשם איני נכשל בה

I am confident in myself, that although I walk there [i.e., past a prostitute’s corner] I will not stumble on account of her. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 2:7 [ed. Schechter, 14])

On reconstructing φοβεῖν with יָרֵא and θεός with שָׁמַיִם, see above, Comment to L6.

L14 וְאָדָם אֵינִי מְכַבֵּד (HR). On reconstructing ἄνθρωπος with אָדָם and ἐντρέπειν with כִּבֵּד, see above, Comment to L7.

L15 διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον (Luke 18:5). The expression διά γε (dia ge, “nevertheless”) and the idiom παρέχειν κόπον (parechein kopon, “to present trouble”) provide two additional verbal links between the Persistent Widow parable and the Friend in Need simile.[52] Shared themes and vocabulary are hallmarks of Jesus’ twin parables.[53]

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמֵּבִיאָה עָלַי צָרָה (HR). In LXX the idiom παρέχειν κόπον (“to present trouble”) occurs only once, in a passage from Ben Sira for which there is unfortunately no Hebrew parallel (Sir. 29:4). Parallels to our reconstruction of παρέχειν κόπον as הֵבִיא צָרָה (hēvi’ tzārāh, “bring trouble”) are found in the following example:

ואף מלכות בבל הבאתי עליהם צרות קימעה ולא יכלו לעמוד בהם…. אבל ישראל אע″פ שאני מביא עליהם צרות וייסורים בעולם אינן נדחים מלפני אלא הרי הם קיימים לעולם ולעולמים

And even the kingdom of Babylon: I brought upon them a few troubles and they were not able to withstand them…. But Israel: even though I bring upon them troubles and sufferings in the world, they do not fail before me. Rather, behold, they stand firm forever and ever! (Pesikta Rabbati 35:2 [ed. Friedmann, 160a])

A similar example is found in a midrash on Psalm 120:

אני מביא עליהם עשרה ימים של צרה

I am bringing upon them ten days of trouble. (Midrash Tehillim 120:3)

L18 שֶׁמָּא תָּבוֹא וְתִפְגַּע בִּי לְעוֹלָם (HR). Much scholarly consideration has been given to the meaning of the verb ὑπωπιάζειν (hūpōpiazein) in Luke 18:5. The Greek verb comes from the noun ὑπώπιον (hūpōpion), which refers to the portion of the face below the eyes.[54] The verb originally referred to striking someone in the face, or possibly to giving someone a black eye. In the New Testament Paul uses ὑπωπιάζειν to refer to blows (perhaps rhetorical) not limited to those directed at the face: ὑπωπιάζω μου τὸ σῶμα (“I pummel my body”; 1 Cor. 9:27). The verb also acquired a figurative use meaning “to defame” or “to castigate.”

Running with the notion that ὑπωπιάζειν could mean “to blacken an eye,” Derrett proposed that ὑπωπιάζειν in Luke 18:5 was an attempt to render the “oriental” expression “blacken the face,” i.e., “to disgrace.”[55] Examples of the Hebrew idiom הִשְׁחִיר פָּנִים (hishḥir pānim, “blacken the face,” i.e., “humiliate”) are found in rabbinic sources.[56] Nevertheless, the similarity between giving a blow to the face that results in a black eye and the darkening of one’s countenance due to humiliation is remote, and although one could imagine a frustrated widow striking out at the judge in anger, there is another option for HR that is more in keeping with the details of the parable.

Mosaic depiction of Ruth with a sheaf of barley in the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Young suggested that behind ὑπωπιάζειν stands the Hebrew verb פָּגַע (pāga‘),[57] which can mean either “strike” or “entreat.” A classic example of the second meaning of פָּגַע is found in Ruth’s statement to Naomi: אַל תִּפְגְּעִי בִי לְעָזְבֵךְ לָשׁוּב מֵאַחֲרָיִךְ (“Do not entreat me to forsake you and turn back from you”; Ruth 1:16). In this verse Ruth tells her widowed mother-in-law to stop pestering her to go back to Moab, Ruth’s home.[58] Reconstructing Luke 18:5 in Hebrew results in a more rational deliberation on the part of the judge. He was not afraid that the widow would end up hitting him in the face, rather he reasoned that the state of affairs he had endured thus far would continue indefinitely. The widow would keep coming and entreating him forever. In order to put an end to her incessant pestering, he decided to grant her justice.

We have reconstructed εἰς τέλος (eis telos, “to the end”) as לְעוֹלָם (le‘ōlām, “forever”). Already in the mid-1600s, Hugo Grotius noted that εἰς τέλος was the LXX equivalent of לָנֶצַח (lānetzaḥ, “forever”), and on the basis of this observation he concluded that the judge meant that the widow would keep coming continually.[59] In MH לָנֶצַח became obsolete and was replaced by לְעוֹלָם.‎[60]

Bust of King Philip the Macedonian, father of Alexander the Great. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It is possible that a popular tale concerning King Philip the Macedonian, father of Alexander the Great, was a source of inspiration for the Persistent Widow parable.[61] As Plutarch (ca. 46-120 C.E.) relates:

Πρεσβύτιδος δὲ πενιχρᾶς ἀξιούσης ἐπ᾽αὐτοῦ κριθῆναι καὶ πολλάκις ἐνοχλούσης, ἔφη μὴ σχολάζειν ἡ δὲ πρεσβῦτις ἐκκραγοῦσα, καὶ μὴ βασίλευε, εἶπεν. ὁ δὲ θαυωάσας τὸ ῥηθὲν οὐ μόνον ἐκείνης ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ἄλλων εὐθὺς διήκουσεν.

When a poor old woman insisted that her case should be heard before him, and often caused him annoyance, he said he had no time to spare, whereupon she burst out, “Then give up being king.” Philip, amazed at her words, proceeded at once to hear not only her case but those of the others. (Plutarch, Moralia: Sayings of Kings and Commanders: Philip the Father of Alexander §31; Loeb)[62]

L19-26 While there is broad consensus among scholars that Luke 18:8b was added to the end of the Persistent Widow parable at the stage of Lukan composition, there has been less agreement as to whether any or all of the application in Luke 18:6-8a was originally integral to the parable or whether it is a secondary addition.[63] Since L19-26 revert to Hebrew with relative ease, and since the application in Luke 18:6-8a agrees with the details of the parable, we regard the application as original.

L19 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος (GR). Many scholars attribute the use of ὁ κύριος (ho kūrios, “the Lord”) in Luke 18:6 to Lukan redaction.[64] If, however, the disciples of Jesus were accustomed to addressing him as אֲדֹנֵינוּ (adonēnū, “our Lord”)[65] or אֲדֹנִי (adoni, “my Lord”),[66] there is no reason why they should not have referred to him in the third person as הָאָדוֹן (hā’ādōn, “the Lord”), and it would be natural if this usage was reflected in the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. We have therefore accepted εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος (“And the Lord said”) for GR.

וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָדוֹן (HR). On reconstructing ὁ κύριος as הָאָדוֹן, see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L10.

L20 שִׁמְעוּ מַה דַּיַּן הָרֶשַׁע אוֹמֵר (HR). Compare ἀκούσατε τί ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει (“Hear what the judge of wickedness says!”) with ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει (“Let him hear what the Spirit says!”) in Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22. In LXX, instances of ἀκούειν (akouein, “to hear”) are overwhelmingly the translation of שָׁמַע (shāma‘, “hear”).[67] On reconstructing ἀκούειν with שָׁמַע, see Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L24-25. Parallels to שָׁמַע מָה + speaking verb are found in the following examples:

עִמְדוּ וְאֶשְׁמְעָה מַה יְצַוֶּה יי לָכֶם

Stand, and I will hear what the LORD commands you. (Num. 9:8)

וְשָׁמַעְתָּ מַה יְדַבֵּרוּ

And you will hear what they say…. (Judg. 7:11; cf. Jer. 5:15; Ps. 85:9)

לֹא שָׁמַעְתִּי מַה אָמְרָה לוֹ

I did not hear what she said to him. (m. Yad. 3:1)

How to reconstruct ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας (“the judge of the wickedness”) has given us pause. The Greek text looks like the reflection of the Hebrew construct phrase דַּיַּן הָרֶשַׁע (“the judge of the wickedness”), but we note that in the Pesher Habakkuk, which abounds in code names made from construct phrases (e.g., Man of Lies, Spreader of Deceit, Teacher of Righteousness), the code name for the high priest who persecuted the Teacher of Righteousness is הכוהן הרשע (“the wicked priest”).[68] Why would the pesher’s author have avoided a construct phrase in this particular case? Did a construct with רֶשַׁע sound wrong to Second Temple-period Hebrew speakers? Perhaps the code name הכוהן הרשע was modeled after the title כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל (kohēn gādōl, “high priest”), which was also not a construct phrase.[69]

Many scholars have drawn attention to the similarities between the Persistent Widow parable and a passage from Ben Sira. Whether a direct literary relationship exists between Jesus’ parable and Ben Sira, or whether both drew on common traditions relating to Exod. 22:21-22, upon which the Ben Sira passage seems to be based, is uncertain. In any case, the Persistent Widow parable and the Ben Sira passage share some themes and vocabulary that do not come directly from Exodus. Here is the Ben Sira passage in full:

Μὴ δωροκόπει, οὐ γὰρ προσδέξεται, καὶ μὴ ἔπεχε θυσίᾳ ἀδίκῳ· ὅτι κύριος κριτής ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν παρ᾿ αὐτῷ δόξα προσώπου. οὐ λήμψεται πρόσωπον ἐπὶ πτωχοῦ καὶ δέησιν ἠδικημένου εἰσακούσεται· οὐ μὴ ὑπερίδῃ ἱκετείαν ὀρφανοῦ καὶ χήραν, ἐὰν ἐκχέῃ λαλιάν· οὐχὶ δάκρυα χήρας ἐπὶ σιαγόνα καταβαίνει καὶ ἡ καταβόησις ἐπὶ τῷ καταγαγόντι αὐτά; θεραπεύων ἐν εὐδοκίᾳ δεχθήσεται, καὶ ἡ δέησις αὐτοῦ ἕως νεφελῶν συνάψει· προσευχὴ ταπεινοῦ νεφέλας διῆλθεν, καὶ ἕως συνεγγίσῃ, οὐ μὴ παρακληθῇ· καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀποστῇ, ἕως ἐπισκέψηται ὁ ὕψιστος καὶ κρινεῖ δικαίοις καὶ ποιήσει κρίσιν. καὶ ὁ κύριος οὐ μὴ βραδύνῃ οὐδὲ μὴ μακροθυμήσῃ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς, ἕως ἂν συντρίψῃ ὀσφὺν ἀνελεημόνων καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀνταποδώσει ἐκδίκησιν, ἕως ἐξάρῃ πλῆθος ὑβριστῶν καὶ σκῆπτρα ἀδίκων συντρίψει, ἕως ἀνταποδῷ ἀνθρώπῳ κατὰ τὰς πράξεις αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ ἔργα τῶν ἀνθρώπων κατὰ τὰ ἐνθυμήματα αὐτῶν, ἕως κρίνῃ τὴν κρίσιν τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ εὐφρανεῖ αὐτοὺς ἐν τῷ ἐλέει αὐτοῦ. ὡραῖον ἔλεος ἐν καιρῷ θλίψεως αὐτοῦ ὡς νεφέλαι ὑετοῦ ἐν καιρῷ ἀβροχίας.

35:11 (ET 35:14)Do not offer a bribe, for he will not accept it, and do not be intent on an unrighteous sacrifice, 35:12 (ET 35:15)because the Lord is judge, and with him there is no reputation of person. 35:13 (ET 35:16)He will not receive a person against a poor person, and he will listen to the petition of one who is wronged. 35:14 (ET 35:17)He will never ignore an orphan’s supplication [ἱκετείαν ὀρφανοῦ; MS B: צעקת יתום], nor a widow, if she pours out speech.[70] 35:15 (ET 35:18)Do not a widow’s tears run down upon her cheek, 35:16 (ET 35:20)One who serves with goodwill will be accepted, and his petition [ἡ δέησις; MS B: צעקה] will reach to the clouds. 35:17 (ET 35:21)A humble person’s prayer passed through the clouds, and until it draws near, it will never relent, 35:18 (ET 35:21)and it will never desist until the Most High takes notice. (ET 35:22)And he will adjudicate for righteous persons [καὶ κρινεῖ δικαίοις; MS B: ושופט צדק] and will execute judgment. 35:19 (ET 35:22)And the Lord will never be slow, nor will he ever be patient [οὐδὲ μὴ μακροθυμήσῃ; MS B: לא יתאפק] regarding them 35:20 (ET 35:22)until he crushes the loins of unmerciful persons (ET 35:23)and will repay vengeance [ἐκδίκησιν; MS B: נקם] upon the nations, 35:21 (ET 35:23)until he removes the multitude of insolent persons and will shatter the scepters of unrighteous persons, 35:22 (ET 35:24)until he repays a person according to his deeds and the works of human beings according to their notions, 35:23 (ET 35:25)until he judges the case of his people and will gladden them with his mercy. 35:24 (ET 35:26)Timely is his mercy in a time of distress, as are clouds of rain in a time of drought. (Sir. 35:11-24 [ET 35:14-26]; NETS)

Whereas the Greek text of Sir. 35:18 (ET 35:22) reads καὶ κρινεῖ δικαίοις καὶ ποιήσει κρίσιν (“he judges for righteous persons and does judgment”), a medieval Hebrew manuscript (MS B) reads ושופט צדק יעשה משפט (“and the judge of righteousness will do justice”).[71] If the reading of MS B reflects a text that was current in the first century C.E., and if Jesus intended to allude to the Ben Sira passage while telling the Persistent Widow parable, then it is possible that the construct phrase “judge of wickedness” was intended to mirror the phrase “judge of righteousness” in Ben Sira.

L21 ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ (Luke 18:7). The οὐ μή construction with which the question is formed prepares the audience for an affirmative response.[72]

וְהֲלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁמַיִם (HR). We considered whether, in the parable’s application, we ought to reconstruct “God” as “your Father in heaven” rather than as “Heaven,” since Jesus frequently referred to God as “your Father in heaven” when addressing his disciples. However, Luke 18:7 does not exclusively address the disciples, but makes a more general statement about God’s responsiveness to all his chosen ones. Thus, “your Father” or “your Father in heaven” would be incongruous with the rest of the sentence, and we have therefore reconstructed θεός with שָׁמַיִם in L21, just as we did in L6 and L13.

L22 מִשְׁפַּט בְּחִירָיו (HR). In LXX ποιεῖν ἐκδίκησιν (poiein ekdikēsin, “to do vengeance”), the combination we find in L21-22, is usually the translation of עָשָׂה נְקָמָה (’āsāh neqāmāh, “do vengeance”)[73] or עָשָׂה שְׁפָטִים (’āsāh shefāṭim, “do judgments”),[74] in the latter case always in the plural. As we discussed above in Comment to L10, deliverance and vindication are more appropriate to the parable than vengeance,[75] and therefore שְׁפָטִים is a serious contender for HR.[76]

Nevertheless, we have reconstructed ἐκδίκησις with מִשְׁפָּט (mishpāṭ, “justice,” “judgment”).[77] This decision is informed in part by the genitive phrase τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ (tōn eklektōn avtou, “of his elect”), which modifies ἐκδίκησις in Luke 18:7. “The vengeance of his elect” looks like a reflection of a Hebrew construct, but whereas שְׁפָטִים never appears in the construct state in MT,[78] מִשְׁפָּט occurs frequently in the construct state and in a manner that suits the context of Luke 18:7. Examples of מִשְׁפָּט in the construct which are similar in form and in spirit to our reconstruction, מִשְׁפַּט בְּחִירָיו (mishpaṭ beḥirāv, “the justice of his elect”), include the following:

לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט אֶבְיֹנְךָ בְּרִיבוֹ

Do not pervert the justice of your destitute in his case. (Exod. 23:6)

עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה

…who does justice of the fatherless and widow. (Deut. 10:18)

לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר יָתוֹם וְלֹא תַחֲבֹל בֶּגֶד אַלְמָנָה

Do not pervert the justice of the alien or the fatherless, and do not take a widow’s garment in pledge. (Deut. 24:17)

אָרוּר מַטֶּה מִשְׁפַּט גֵּר יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה

Cursed is the one who perverts the justice of the alien, the fatherless, or the widow. (Deut. 27:19)

וְלִגְזֹל מִשְׁפַּט עֲנִיֵּי עַמִּי

…and to rob the justice of the poor of my people. (Isa. 10:2)

יַעֲשֶׂה יי דִּין עָנִי מִשְׁפַּט אֶבְיֹנִים

The LORD will do judgment of the poor and justice of the destitute. (Ps. 140:13)

דִּין לֹא דָנוּ דִּין יָתוֹם וְיַצְלִיחוּ וּמִשְׁפַּט אֶבְיוֹנִים לֹא שָׁפָטוּ

The case of the fatherless they did not decide, yet they prosper, and the justice of the destitute they did not judge. (Jer. 5:28)

לֹא יְחַיֶּה רָשָׁע וּמִשְׁפַּט עֲנִיִּים יִתֵּן

He will not preserve the life of the wicked, but the justice of the poor he will give. (Job 36:6)

Our preference for מִשְׁפָּט in HR is also influenced by the likelihood that Luke 18:7-8 echoes the request Solomon made when he dedicated the Temple:

1 Kgs. 8:49[79] HR of Luke 18:7-8a
וְשָׁמַעְתָּ הַשָּׁמַיִם מְכוֹן שִׁבְתְּךָ וְהֲלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁמַיִם
And from heaven, the place of your dwelling, hear And will not Heaven do
אֶת תְּפִלָּתָם וְאֶת תְּחִנָּתָם מִשְׁפַּט בְּחִירָיו הַצּוֹעֲקִים לוֹ בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה הַמִתְאַפֵּק עֲלֵיהֶם
their prayer and their supplication the justice of his elect, who cry out to him day and night? Will he restrain himself concerning them?
וְעָשִׂיתָ מִשְׁפָּטָם אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּטָם בִּמְהֵרָה
and do their justice. I say to you, he will do their justice quickly.

The phrase עָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט (“do justice”), which we have employed in L21-22 and L26, occurs frequently in MT[80] and is also found in rabbinic sources, for instance:

אבל דוד המלך לא עשה כן אלא עושה משפט תחלה ואחר כך צדקה

But King David did not do thus, rather he did judgment first and afterward charity. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 33:1 [ed. Schechter, 94])

In LXX ἐκλεκτός (eklektos, “chosen,” “elect”) is often the translation of בָּחִיר (bāḥir, “chosen,” “elect”).[81] Although in DSS the noun בָּחִיר is freighted with sectarian overtones, and although the author of Mark used ἐκλεκτός in a similarly sectarian manner,[82] both terms could also be used in a non-sectarian sense to refer to the chosen people of Israel as a whole, which is more in keeping with the tenor of Jesus’ teachings.[83] An example of a non-sectarian usage of ἐκλεκτός/בָּחִיר is found in the Psalms:

זִכְרוּ נִפְלְאוֹתָיו אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה מֹפְתָיו וּמִשְׁפְּטֵי פִיו: זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם עַבְדּוֹ בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב בְּחִירָיו

Remember his wonders that he wrought, his signs, and the judgments of his mouth, O seed of Abraham, his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones [בְּחִירָיו]. (Ps. 105:5-6)

μνήσθητε τῶν θαυμασίων αὐτοῦ, ὧν ἐποίησεν, τὰ τέρατα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ κρίματα τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ, σπέρμα Αβρααμ δοῦλοι αὐτοῦ, υἱοὶ Ιακωβ ἐκλεκτοὶ αὐτοῦ.

Remember the wonderful things which he did, his miracles and the judgments of his mouth, O offspring of Abraam, his slaves, sons of Iakob, his chosen [ἐκλεκτοὶ αὐτοῦ]. (Ps. 104:5-6; NETS)

By speaking of the chosen who call out to God in the third person, Jesus avoids implying to his audience that God only hears the prayers of his own disciples. God hears the prayers of all those who pray for the coming redemption.

L23 הַצּוֹעֲקִים לוֹ בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה (HR). In LXX βοᾶν (boan, “to shout”) occurs mainly as the translation of קָרָא (qārā’, “call,” “cry out”) or צָעַק (tzā‘aq, “cry out,” “complain”).[84] We have preferred the latter for HR, since צָעַק is often used for urgent prayers of supplication. Examples of צָעַק as a form of prayer include:

הַצּוֹעֵק לְשֶׁעָבַר הֲרֵי זוֹ תְּפִילַּת שָׁוְא

The one who cries out [הַצּוֹעֵק] for something that is already past, behold this is a vain prayer. (m. Ber. 9:3)

הַנִיכְנַס לִכְרַךְ מִתְפַּלֵּל שְׁתַּיִם אַחַת בִּכְנֵיסָתוֹ וְאַחַת בִּיצִיאָתוֹ בֶּן עַזַּי אוֹמֵ′ אַרְבַּע שְׁתַּיִם בִּכְנֵיסָתוֹ וּשְׁתַּיִם בִּיצִיאָתוֹ וְנוֹתֵן הוֹדָיָיה לְשֶׁעָבַר וְצוֹעֵק לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא

The one who enters a walled city prays twice: once upon his entry and once upon his exit. Ben Azzai says, “Four times: twice upon his entry and twice upon his exit, each time giving thanks for what is past and crying out [צוֹעֵק, i.e., making supplication] for the future ahead.” (m. Ber. 9:4)

המדת בשר ודם אינו יכול לשמוע משני בני אדם כשהן צועקין כאחת אבל מי שאמר והיה העולם אינו כן אלא אפילו כל באי העולם באין וצועקין לפניו הוא שומע צעקתם שנאמר שומע תפלה עדיך כל בשר יבאו

The nature of flesh and blood is that it cannot listen to two people when they cry out [צועקין] at once, but the One who spoke and the world came into being is not like that. Rather, even if all those who have entered the world come and cry out before him, he hears their cries, as it is said, O hearer of prayer, unto you all flesh comes [Ps. 65:3]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 8 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:208-209])

Especially pertinent for the understanding of the Persistent Widow parable and its application is this rabbinic comment on a verse in Exodus:

כל אלמנה ויתום לא תענון: אם ענה תענה אתו] כי אם צעק יצעק אלי שמוע אשמע צעקתו כל זמן שהוא צועק אני שומע ואם אינו צועק איני שומע ת″ל שמוע אשמע צעקתו מכל מקום הא מה ת″ל כי אם צעק יצעק אלי שומע אשמע אלא ממהר אני להיפרע על ידי שהוא צועק יותר ממי שאינו צועק. והרי הדברים קל וחומר אם כשהיחיד צועק המקום שומע צעקתו קל וחומר כשהרבים צועקים

[You must not oppress any widow or orphan. If you do oppress him,] then if he surely cries out to me, I will surely hear his cry [Exod. 22:21-22]. Does it mean “Only when he cries I hear, but if he does not cry I do not hear”? The Torah states, I will surely hear his cry in any case. But what does the Torah intend by if he surely cries out to me I will surely hear? Only that I will hasten to punish on behalf of the one who is crying out [צועק] more than for the one who does not cry out [צועק]. And is this not a matter of kal vahomer: If when a single individual cries out [צועק] the Omnipresent one hears his cry, how much more when many are crying out [צועקים]? (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin, chpt. 18 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:455])

This rabbinic comment concerns the same verses upon which the Ben Sira passage, which we have discussed above, is based. Common to the rabbinic midrash, the Persistent Widow parable, and the Ben Sira passage is the notion that God hastens to respond when the oppressed cry out to him.[85] If, as seems likely, Exod. 22:21-22 stands behind all three passages, then the contrast between God’s character and that of the judge would have been obvious to Jesus’ audience.

In LXX ἡμέρα καὶ νύξ (hēmera kai nūx, “day and night”) is the standard translation of יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה (yōmām vālaylāh, “by day and night”).[86] Examples of יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה are found in DSS,[87] but not in rabbinic sources outside biblical quotations. This is because in MH the expression יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה was replaced by בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה (bayōm ūvalaylāh, “by day and by night”),[88] which which we find in the following examples:

וְהַיָה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ לְוַיֹּאמֶר שֶׁוְהָיָה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ נוֹהֵג בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה וַיֹּאמֶר אֵינוּ נוֹהֵג אֶלָּא בַיּוֹם

[And why does the paragraph beginning] And if you listen [Deut. 11:13ff] come before [the paragraph beginning] And he said [Num. 15:37ff]? Because [the paragraph beginning] And if you listen applies in the day and in the night [בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה], but [the paragraph beginning] And he said only applies in the day. (m. Ber. 2:2)

ופסח יי על הפתח והרי דברים קל וחומר ומה אם דם פסח מצרים הקל שאינו אלא לשעה ואינו נוהג ביום ובלילה ואינו נוהג לדורות נאמר בו ולא יתן המשחית מזוזה שהיא חמורה שיש בה עשרה שמות מיוחדין ונוהגת ביום ובלילה ונוהגת לדורות על אחת כמה וכמה שלא יתן המשחית וגו′ אלא ומי גרם עונותינו

And the LORD will pass over the door [Exod. 12:23]. Is it not a matter of kal vahomer, that if concerning the blood of the passover offering in Egypt, which is the lighter matter—since it was only temporary, and it did not apply in the day and in the night [ביום ובלילה], and it did not apply for all generations—it was said and the destroyer will not be permitted to enter your houses to strike you [Exod. 12:23], then in the case of the mezuzah, which is the heavier matter—since it contains ten instances of the divine name, and it applies in the day and in the night [ביום ובלילה], and it applies for all generations—how much more should it deny the destroyer entry? But what caused it [i.e., the mezuzah] [to become ineffective against the destroyer]? Our sins. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 11 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:61-62])

רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר בא וראה עושרה וגודלה של מלכות חייבת זו שאין לה נומירן אחת בטלה שכולן רצות ביום ובלילה וכנגדן של מצרים וכולן עומדות בטילות

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, “Come and see the wealth and greatness of this culpable kingdom [i.e., the Roman Empire—DNB and JNT], which has not a single division of troops that is idle, for all of them are running in the day and in the night [ביום ובלילה], as opposed to those of Egypt, who were all standing idle.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallaḥ chpt. 2 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:135])

שמעון התימני אומר בזכות המילה אני קורע להם את הים שנאמר אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חוקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי אמרת צא וראה איזו היא ברית שהיא נוהגת ביום ובלילה אין אחת מוצא אלא מצות מילה

Shimon of Teman says, “On account of the merit of circumcision [the Holy one, blessed be he, said,] ‘I am dividing the sea for them,’ as it is said, If I have not established my covenant by day and night [יומם ולילה], or the decrees of heaven and earth, [only in such a case will I reject the seed of Jacob or of David from taking of his seed to rule over the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] [Jer. 33:25-26]. Go and see which is the covenant that applies in the day and in the night [ביום ובלילה]. You will not find one other than the commandment of circumcision.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallaḥ chpt. 4 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:145])

The final example cited above is of particular interest because it uses בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה as a gloss for the antiquated expression יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה in the biblical text. Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech, including the parables, in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have adopted בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה for HR.

L24 καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς (Luke 18:7). The change in mood from the subjunctive in L21 to the indicative here in L24 indicates that L24 comprises a separate sentence.[89] Whereas L21-23 poses a hypothetical question demanding an affirmative response, we regard L24 as a rhetorical question demanding a negative response. In LXX there are only two instances in which μακροθυμεῖν (makrothūmein, “to be long-suffering”) translates a Hebrew word, and in both cases it is the verb הֶאֱרִיךְ (he’erich, “extend,” “prolong”; Prov. 19:11; Eccl. 8:12 [Sinaiticus]).

הֲמִתְאַפֵּק עֲלֵיהֶם (HR). We have based our reconstruction on a line from the Ben Sira passage discussed above. In Sir. 35:19 (ET 35:22) we read, “And the Lord will never be slow, nor will he ever be patient regarding them [οὐδὲ μὴ μακροθυμήσῃ ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς]” (NETS). Parallel to μὴ μακροθυμήσῃ (mē makrothūmēsē, “he might not be patient”), a Hebrew manuscript of Ben Sira (MS B) reads לא יתאפק (lo’ yit’apēq, “he will not restrain himself”). The verb הִתְאַפֵּק (hit’apēq) occurs in the story of Joseph with respect to his attempts to control his emotions upon reuniting with his brothers (Gen. 43:31; 45:1), and it refers to self-restraint in Isaiah (Isa. 42:14; 64:11). Similar to our reconstruction, in as much as it poses a rhetorical question demanding a negative answer, is the following passage:

בֵּית קָדְשֵׁנוּ וְתִפְאַרְתֵּנוּ אֲשֶׁר הִלְלוּךָ אֲבֹתֵינוּ הָיָה לִשְׂרֵפַת אֵשׁ וְכָל־מַחֲמַדֵּינוּ הָיָה לְחָרְבָּה׃ הַעַל אֵלֶּה תִתְאַפַּק יי תֶּחֱשֶׁה וּתְעַנֵּנוּ עַד מְאֹד

Our holy and beautiful house, wherein our fathers praised you, was burned in fire and all our pleasant places were laid waste. Regarding these things will you restrain yourself [תִתְאַפַּק], O LORD, will you be silent and afflict us to the extreme? (Isa. 64:10-11)

L25 אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (HR). 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.

L26 יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּטָם בִּמְהֵרָה (HR). On reconstructing ποιεῖν ἐκδίκησιν as עָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט, see above, Comment to L22. Examples of מִשְׁפָּט + third person plural pronominal suffix are found in Num. 27:5; 1 Kgs. 8:45, 49; Jer. 49:12; 2 Chr. 6:35, 39.

In LXX the adverbial phrase ἐν τάχει (en tachei, “in haste,” “quickly”) translates מַהֵר (mahēr, “quickly”) in Deut. 28:20 and מְהֵרָה (mehērāh, “quickly”) in Josh. 8:19. In late biblical Hebrew the phrase בִּמְהֵרָה (bimhērāh, “in haste,” “quickly”), a more exact grammatical parallel to ἐν τάχει, appeared. The only instance of this phrase in MT occurs in Eccl. 4:12, where LXX rendered it as ταχέως (tacheōs, “quickly”).

The adverbial phrase בִּמְהֵרָה occurs in rabbinic sources such as the following:

וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ זֶה בִּינְיָין בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ יְהִי רָצוֹן שֶׁיִּבָּנֶה בִּמְהַרָה בְיָמֵינוּ

and in the day of the rejoicing of his heart [Song 3:11]: this is the building of the Temple. May it be pleasing that it will be built quickly [בִּמְהַרָה] in our days. (m. Taan. 4:8; cf. m. Tam. 7:3; t. Rosh Hash. 2:9)

והריקותי אחריכם חרב. החרב הנשמטת אחריכם לא במהרה היא חוזרת וכמים הנשפכים שוב אין חוזרים לכלים

And I will unsheathe the sword after you [Lev. 26:33]. The sword that is loosed after you is not quickly [במהרה] returned, and like water that is spilled, it is not returned again to the vessels. (Sifra, BeḤukotai chpt. 6 [ed. Weiss, 112b])

There has been no little discussion regarding whether ἐν τάχει in Luke 18:8 means “soon” or “suddenly.”[90] If ἐν τάχει reflects a Hebrew source that read בִּמְהֵרָה, this supports the former meaning: Is God dragging his feet, as it were, with respect to his elect? No, he will quickly give them justice.

L27-28 To the end of the Persistent Widow parable the author of Luke tacked on the question, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Above, we discussed the incongruity between the parable and its application and the question posed in Luke 18:8b.[91] Whereas the parable and its application presume that the elect are unwavering in their faith, praying day and night for deliverance, the question in Luke 18:8b implies a negative answer. The author of Luke attached the question in Luke 18:8b to the end of the Persistent Widow parable in order to integrate it into the Son of Man discourse of the previous chapter. It is possible that although the placement of the question in Luke 18:8b is secondary, the question itself derives from one of Luke’s sources (Anth. or FR).[92] Since Luke 18:8b was not part of the Persistent Widow parable in Anth., however, we have not attempted to reconstruct it here.

Redaction Analysis

Luke’s redactional activity is concentrated at the bookends of the Persistent Widow parable. It appears that the author of Luke partially rewrote the introduction of the parable (L2-3; Luke 18:1) and that he tacked the question about whether the Son of Man would find faith on the earth onto the parable’s conclusion (L27-28; Luke 18:8b). Otherwise, the author of Luke carefully preserved the wording of Anth.[93]

Results of This Research

1. In what way is God like the judge in the Persistent Widow parable? With God the wicked judge shares a single point of similarity: both God and the judge are appealed to by someone in need. In the judge’s case it is the persistent widow who pleads for deliverance. In God’s case it is the elect who cry out for justice.[94]

2. Who are the “elect” referred to in Luke 18:7? Although the term “elect” is often expressive of a dualistic worldview characteristic of sectarian “insider vs. outsider” ideology, in the application of the Persistent Widow parable the “elect” seems to be used in a broader sense to refer to all those who pray for the coming redemption. The term is not limited to Jesus’ disciples, much less to the Church.

3. What is the lesson of the Persistent Widow parable? The mechanism by which the parable makes its point is a kal vahomer argument, extrapolating from a minor example to a major one. Jesus’ point is that if even a wicked judge will eventually give in to a widow’s persistent demands, then surely the God of justice will not be slow in answering the prayers of those who cry out to him for deliverance.

Conclusion

The Persistent Widow parable is the first of two twin illustrations that use comic contrast to reassure Jesus’ full-time disciples that God will, indeed, respond to their prayers.

 


 

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] Cf. Knox, 2:110.
  • [4] See Manson, Sayings, 305; Beare, 188.
  • [5] See Snodgrass, 454; Notley-Safrai, 138.
  • [6] See Nolland, Luke, 2:870.
  • [7] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Jesus’ Twin Parables,” under the subheading “The ‘How to Pray’ Story.” Cf. Bundy, 391-392.
  • [8] On the reasons behind Luke’s preference for the FR version of the Lord’s Prayer, see the discussion in Lord’s Prayer, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [9] On the standards by which we determine whether two illustrations are twins, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [10] See Friend in Need, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [11] See Notley-Safrai, 6-7.
  • [12] See Young, Parables, 56 n. 31. The πρὸς τὸ δεῖν + infinitive construction is un-Hebraic and never occurs in LXX. Likewise, the verb ἐγκακεῖν (enkakein, “to be discouraged”) never occurs in LXX, and finding a Hebrew equivalent is difficult.
  • [13] So Jeremias, Parables, 93 n. 13. The verb δεῖν occurs 8xx in Matt. and 6xx in Mark, compared to 18xx in Luke and 22xx in Acts.
  • [14] Montefiore (RLGT, 368) has shown that Strack and Billerbeck’s oft-repeated claim that unceasing prayer was un-Jewish is in error (Strack-Billerbeck, 2:237-238; cf. Marshall, 671; Edwards, Luke, 497 n. 101). Nevertheless, we concur with those who suggest that continual (i.e., frequent) rather than continuous (i.e., non-stop) prayer is what Luke 18:1 recommends. See Marshall, 671; Fitzmyer, 2:1178; Nolland, Luke, 867.
  • [15] The parables in which judges appear are, however, admittedly from post-tannaic sources:

    משל לדיין שבא דין של יתומה לפניו וזיכה אותה

    A parable: [It may be compared] to a judge who tried the case of an orphan girl and he cleared her…. (Exod. Rab. 30:19)

    לאשת אלמנה שהיתה קובלת על בנה לדיין

    [A parable: It may be compared] to a widow-woman who kept bringing charges against her son to a judge…. (Lev. Rab. 27:6 [ed. Marguiles, 2:635])

    משל לשנים שנכנסו אצל הדיין

    A parable: [It may be compared] to two people who appeared before the judge…. (Lev. Rab. 30:2 [ed. Marguiles, 2:794])

    Pesikta de-Rav Khana 15:9 (ed. Mandelbaum, 1:260-261) preserves several accounts of individuals, some of them widows, who were forced to contend with corrupt judges. In these stories the term for judge is דַּיָּן and the term for widow is אַלְמָנָה, just as in our reconstruction.

  • [16] The following is an example of אֱלֹהִים interpreted as דַּיָּן:

    אלהים לא תקלל…רבי ישמעאל אומר בדיינין הכותב מדבר שנאמר עד אלהים יבא דבר שניהם

    You must not curseelohim [Exod. 22:27]. Rabbi Ishmael says, “This scripture speaks about judges, as it is said, toelohim must come the matter of the two of them [Exod. 22:8].” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Kaspa chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:461])

    Cf. Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Kaspa chpt. 2 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:467).

  • [17] Rabbinic examples in which God is styled as a judge (דַּיָּן) include:

    שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹצר וְהוּא הַבּוֹרֵא הוּא הַמֵּבִין וְהוּא הַדַּיָּין הוּא עֵד הוּא בַעַל דִּין וְהוּא עָתִיד לָדוֹן שֶׁאֵין לְפָנָיו לֹא עַוְלָה וְלֹא שִׁכְחָה וְלֹא מַשּׂוֹא פָנִים וְלֹא מַקַּח שֹׁחַד

    …for he is the maker and he is the creator and he is the understanding one and he is the judge. He is witness, he is opposing litigant and in the future he will judge, for there is no iniquity before him, nor is there forgetfulness or partiality or taking of bribes…. (m. Avot 4:22)

    ומה יוסף הצדיק שהוא בשר ודם כשהוכיח את אחיו לא יכלו לעמוד בתוכחתו, הקב″ה שהוא דיין ובעל דין ויושב על כסא דין ודן כל אחד ואחד על אחת כמה וכמה שאין כל בשר ודם יכול לעמוד בתוכחתו

    And if in the case of Joseph the righteous, who was only flesh and blood, when he rebuked his brothers they were unable to withstand his rebuke, how much more in the case of the Holy one, blessed be he, who is judge and opponent in the suit and sits on the seat of judgment and judges each and every person, will flesh and blood be unable to withstand his rebuke? (Gen. Rab. 93:11 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 3:1170])

  • [18] Note the following examples of עִיר אַחַת from rabbinic sources:

    בני טבריא ובני חמתה חזרו להיות עיר אחת

    The residents of Tiberias and the residents of Hammata determined to become a single city [עיר אחת]. (t. Eruv. 5:2; Vienna MS)

    למה הדבר דומה לשנים שעשו משתה בעיר אחת אחד קרא את בני העיר ואת המלך לא קרא ואחד לא קרא לא המלך ולא את בני העיר

    To what may the matter be compared? To two people who made a banquet in a single city [עיר אחת]. One invited the residents of the city, but the king he did not invite, and one did not invite the king or the residents of the city…. (t. Bab. Kam. 7:2; Vienna MS)

    עיר אחת מביאה ואין שתי עיירות מביאות שתי עגלות

    A single city [עיר אחת] brings it, and two cities do not bring two heifers. (Sifre Deut. §206 [ed. Finkelstein, 241])

  • [19] Examples of עִיר פְּלוֹנִית are found in t. Peah 1:13; t. Bab. Kam. 11:3; t. Bab. Bat. 9:11. Cf. עִיר פְּלוֹנִי in t. Yev. 14:8; Sifra, VaYikra chpt. 22 (ed. Weiss, 27c).
  • [20] Bovon noted the similarity between “neither fearing God nor respecting people” in the Persistent Widow parable and “I have sinned toward heaven and before you” in the Prodigal Son parable. See François Bovon, “Apocalyptic Traditions in the Lukan Special Material: Reading Luke 18:1-8,” Harvard Theological Review 90.4 (1997): 383-391, esp. 386.
  • [21] For examples of יְרֵא שָׁמַיִם in rabbinic literature, see inter alia, Mechilita de-Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin chpt. 18 [ed. Lauterbach, 454]; Gen. Rab. 28:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:264]).
  • [22] On the phenomenon of God fearers in the first century C.E. and their fluid relationship to Judaism, see Paula Fredriksen, “‘If It Looks like a Duck, and It Quacks like a Duck…’: On Not Giving Up the Godfearers,” in A Most Reliable Witness: Essays on Honor of Ross Shepard Kraemer (ed. Susan Asbrook Harvey, et al.; Providence: Brown University, 2015), 25-33.
  • [23] See Plummer, Luke, 411. Derrett suggested that the widow was at fault for appealing to a Gentile instead of a Jewish judge. See J. Duncan M. Derrett, “Law in the New Testament: The Parable of the Unjust Judge,” New Testament Studies 18 (1972): 178-191. We do not find this suggestion to be convincing.
  • [24] See Notley-Safrai, 44-47. The Pharisee and the Toll Collector parable (Luke 18:9-14) would have been an exception to this rule.
  • [25] See Snodgrass, 454. Cf. Nolland, Luke, 2:867.
  • [26] See Young, Parables, 57.
  • [27] In the Hebrew Scriptures leaders are constantly exhorted not to fear fellow human beings. Cf. Num. 14:9; 21:34; Deut. 3:2; Ezek. 3:9. Conversely, Gideon (Judg. 6:27) and Saul (1 Sam. 15:24) were criticized for their fear of their fellow human beings.
  • [28] See Derrett, “Law in the New Testament: The Parable of the Unjust Judge,” 191.
  • [29] In LXX הִכִּיר פָּנִים is variously rendered as ἐπιγνώσκειν πρόσωπον (“to recognize a face”; Deut. 1:17; 16:19), αἰδεῖσθαι πρόσωπον (“to respect a face”; Prov. 24:23) and αἰσχύνειν πρόσωπον (“to feel shame [before] a face”; Prov. 28:21).
  • [30] In LXX נָשָׂא פָּנִים is variously rendered as θαυμάζειν πρόσωπον (“to marvel at a face”; Gen. 19:21; Deut. 10:17; 28:50; 4 Kgdms. 5:1; Prov. 18:5; Job 22:8; Isa. 9:14), προσδέχεσθαι πρόσωπον (“to receive a face”; Gen. 32:21), λαμβάνειν πρόσωπον (“to receive a face”; Lev. 19:15; Mal. 1:8; 2:9), αἴρειν πρόσωπον (“to lift a face”; 2 Kgdms. 2:22), ἐπαίρειν πρόσωπον (“to lift up a face”; 4 Kgdms. 9:32), αἱρετίζειν πρόσωπον (“to choose a face”; 1 Kgdms. 25:35), πρόσωπον ἀναλάμπειν (“a face to shine”; Job 11:15), αἰσχύνειν (“to feel shame”; Job 32:21), ἐπαισχύνεσθαι πρόσωπον (“to be ashamed [before] a face”; Job 34:19) and ἀνταλλάσσειν (“to take compensation”; Prov. 6:35).
  • [31] On the qualifications for judges in the Hebrew Bible and in ancient Near Eastern texts, see Moshe Weinfeld, “Judge and Officer in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East,” Israel Oriental Studies 7 (1977): 65-88. Scholars often cite examples such as the following to demonstrate that Greek authors regarded fear of God (or the gods) and respect for human beings as requisite qualities for leaders:

    ἐτύγχανε δ᾿ ὢν τὴν φύσιν ἄδικος καὶ κακοῦργος καὶ μήτε πρὸς θεὸν ὅσιος μήτε πρὸς ἀνθρώπους ἐπιεικής

    He proved to be unjust and wicked by nature, and was neither reverent toward God nor kind to man. (Jos., Ant. 10:83; Loeb)

    ταῦτ᾽ ἐστὶν ἅ βεβούλευνται ὑπὸ σκότους καὶ μέλλουσι δρᾶν, ὧ βουλή, δεινὰ καὶ ἀνόσια ἔργα, οὔτε θεῖον φοβηθέντες χόλον οὔτε ἀνθρωπίνην ἐντραπέντες νέμεσιν.

    These are the dreadful and wicked plans, senators, which they have concocted under cover of darkness and intend to carry out without either fearing the anger of the gods or heeding the indignation of men. (Dionysius of Halicarnassus [ca. 60 B.C.E.-7 C.E.], Ant. rom. 10:10 §7; Loeb)

  • [32] See David R. Catchpole, “The Son of Man’s Search for Faith (Luke XVIII 8b),” Novum Testamentum 19.2 (1977): 81-104, esp. 88.
  • [33] Cf. m. Avot 2:10; 4:12.
  • [34] In LXX ἡ πόλις ἐκείνη is the translation of הָעִיר הַהִיא in Deut. 21:3, 4, 6; 22:18; 2 Kgdms. 17:13. In Deut. 13:16 ἡ πόλις ἐκείνη renders הָעִיר הַהוּא.
  • [35] See Marshall, 672.
  • [36] See Segal, 156 §324.
  • [37] See Segal, 141 §301.
  • [38] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:422. In LXX ἐκδικεῖν is the translation of שָׁפַט in 1 Kgdms. 3:13; Obad. 21; Ezek. 7:7[3], 27; 16:38; 20:4; 23:24, 45.
  • [39] The imperative שָׁפְטֵנִי is found in Ps. 7:9; 26:1; 35:24; 43:1.
  • [40] In LXX מִיַּד is translated with ἀπό in Exod. 2:19; Num. 21:26; 35:25; Ps. 140[141]:9; Dan. 8:7.
  • [41] In LXX ἀντίδικος is the translation of רִיב in 1 Kgdms. 2:10; Isa. 41:11; Jer. 27[50]:34; 28[51]:36.
  • [42] See Jastrow, 301.
  • [43] In LXX οὐ + θέλειν is the translation of מֵאֵן in Gen. 37:35; 39:8; 48:19; Num. 20:21; 22:14; Deut. 25:7; 2 Kgdms. 13:9; 3 Kgdms. 21[20]:35; Ps. 77[78]:10; Hos. 11:5; Jer. 5:3 (2xx); 8:5; 9:5; 11:10; 27[50]:33; 38[31]:15; μή + θέλειν translates מֵאֵן in Exod. 10:4; Isa. 1:20; Jer. 45[38]:21.
  • [44] Compare ἐπὶ χρόνον in Luke 18:4 to ἐπὶ πλείονα χρόνον (“for much time”; Acts 18:20), ἐφ᾿ ὅσον χρόνον ζῇ (“for as much time as he lives”; Rom. 7:1; 1 Cor. 7:39), ἐφ᾿ ὅσον χρόνον ὁ κληρονόμος νήπιός ἐστιν (“for as much time as the heir is a minor”; Gal. 4:1), ἐπ᾿ ἐσχάτου τῶν χρόνων (“in the last times”; 1 Pet. 1:20), and ἐπ᾿ ἐσχάτου χρόνου (“in the last time”; Jude 18).
  • [45] See Hurvitz, 112-114.
  • [46] Cf. Black, 237.
  • [47] In LXX אָמַר בְּלֵב/לֵבָב is rendered λέγειν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ in, e.g., Deut. 8:17; 9:4; 18:21; 3 Kgdms. 12:26; Ps. 4:5; 9[10]:27[6], 32[11], 34[13]; 13[14]:1; 34[35]:25; 52[53]:2; 73[74]:8; Eccl. 2:1, 15; 3:17, 18; Obad. 3; Zeph. 1:12; 2:15; Isa. 47:8; 49:21; Jer. 5:24; 13:22.
  • [48] In LXX אָמַר בְּלֵב/לֵבָב is rendered λέγειν ἐν τῇ διανοίᾳ in Gen. 17:17; 27:41; Deut. 7:17; Isa. 14:13.
  • [49] Another example in which LXX rendered בְּלִבּוֹ as ἐν ἑαυτῷ is found in Exod. 4:14.
  • [50] According to Plummer (Luke, 412), εἰ καί implies that what the judge concedes is actual fact, whereas καὶ εἰ would express a hypothetical concession.
  • [51] On MH concessive clauses, see Segal, 232 §494.
  • [52] The only other instance of διά γε in the Gospels occurs in Friend in Need, L18 (Luke 11:8). The phrase μή μοι κόπους πάρεχε (“Do not present me troubles!”) is found on the lips of the boorish friend in Friend in Need, L10 (Luke 11:7). Luke 11:7 and Luke 18:5 account for the only two instances of παρέχειν κόπον in the writings of Luke. Two additional instances are found in the Synoptic Gospels in parallel verses (Mark 14:6 // Matt. 26:10).
  • [53] See Lindsey, “Jesus’ Twin Parables”; Bivin and Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Criteria for Identifying Separated Twin Parables and Similes in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [54] See Konrad Weiss, “ὑπωπιάζω,” TDNT, 8:590-591.
  • [55] See Derrett, “Law in the New Testament: The Parable of the Unjust Judge,” 190.
  • [56] On the idiom הִשְׁחִיר פָּנִים, see Jastrow, 551. Examples include:

    דברים שאדם עושה בילדותו משחירים פניו לעת זקנתו

    Things that a person does in his youth blacken his face [i.e., humiliate him] in the time of his old age. (b. Shab. 152a)

    דרש רבי יהודה ברבי סימון כל המשחיר פניו על דברי תורה בעולם הזה הקדוש ברוך הוא מבהיק זיויו לעולם הבא שנאמר מראהו כלבנון בחור כארזים

    Rabbi Yehudah expounded in the name of Rabbi Simon: “Everyone who blackens his face [i.e., humiliates himself] on account of the words of Torah in this world, the Holy one, blessed is he, will his luster shine in the world to come, as it is said, His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as cedars [Song 5:15].” (b. Sanh. 100a)

    The idiom הִשְׁחִיר פָּנִים might more plausibly stand behind ἀφανίζειν τὸ πρόσωπον in Matt. 6:16.

  • [57] See Young, Parables, 59.
  • [58] Additional examples of פָּגַע in the sense of “entreat” are found in Gen. 23:8; Jer. 7:16; 27:18; Job 21:15.
  • [59] See Bovon, 2:534 n. 43. In LXX לָנֶצַח is rendered εἰς τέλος in Ps. 9:7, 19, 32[10:11]; 43[44]:24; 48[49]:10; 51[52]:7; 67[68]:17; 73[74]:1, 10, 19; 76[77]:9; 78[79]:5; 88[89]:47; 102[103]:9; Job 14:20; 20:7; 23:7; Hab. 1:4.
  • [60] A rabbinic comment on Job 14:20 furnishes an example where לָנֶצַח in the biblical text is glossed as לְעוֹלָם:

    ר′ סימון פתח תתקפהו לנצח וגו′ תוקף שנתן הקב″ה לאדם הראשון לנצח לעולם היה

    Rabbi Simon opened [his homily with the verse] You made him strong forever etc. [Job 14:20]. The strength that the Holy one, blessed be he, gave to the first man was lānetzaḥ, that is, it was forever [לְעוֹלָם]. (Gen. Rab. 16:1 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:142])

  • [61] See Boring-Berger-Colpe, 230.
  • [62] Text and translation according to Frank Cole Babbit et al., trans., Plutarch’s Moralia (16 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927-2004), 3:52-53.
  • [63] For a variety of opinions see Bultmann, 175; Jeremias, Parables, 156-157; Marshall, 670-671; Fitzmyer, 2:1176-1177; Nolland, Luke, 2:869; Bovon, “Apocalyptic Traditions in the Lukan Special Material: Reading Luke 18:1-8,” 383-391.
  • [64] See Marshall, 673; Fitzmyer, 2:1179.
  • [65] Cf. Lord’s Prayer, L5; Return of the Twelve, L9.
  • [66] Cf. Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, L19, L30.
  • [67] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:45-49.
  • [68] The code name הכוהן הרשע occurs in 1QpHab I, 13; VIII, 8; IX, 9; XI, 4; XII, 2, 8.
  • [69] The title כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל always lacks the definite article. See Segal, 184 §378.
  • [70] This assertion and what follows appears to be based on a passage in Exodus that reads:

    כָּל־אַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם לֹא תְעַנּוּן׃ אִם־עַנֵּה תְעַנֶּה אֹתוֹ כִּי אִם־צָעֹק יִצְעַק אֵלַי שָׁמֹעַ אֶשְׁמַע צַעֲקָתוֹ

    You must not oppress any widow or orphan. If you do oppress him, then if he surely cries out to me, I will surely hear his cry. (Exod. 22:21-22)

    πᾶσαν χήραν καὶ ὀρφανὸν οὐ κακώσετε· ἐὰν δὲ κακίᾳ κακώσητε αὐτοὺς καὶ κεκράξαντες καταβοήσωσι πρός με, ἀκοῇ εἰσακούσομαι τῆς φωνῆς αὐτῶν

    You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. (Exod. 22:21-22)

  • [71] See Patrick W. Skehan and Alexander A. Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira (AB 39; New York: Doubleday, 1987), 420. If the reading of MS B is original, then an allusion to Abraham’s protest הֲשֹׁפֵט כָּל הָאָרֶץ לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט (“Will not the judge of all the earth do justice?”; Gen. 18:25) is likely.
  • [72] See Marshall, 673.
  • [73] In LXX ποιεῖν ἐκδίκησιν translates עָשָׂה נְקָמָה in Ps. 149:7; ποιεῖν ἐν ἐκδικήσει translates עָשָׂה בִּנְקָמָה in Ezek. 25:15; and ποιεῖν ἐκδικήσεις (plur.) translates עָשָׂה נְקָמוֹת (plur.) in Judg. 11:36; Ezek. 25:17.
  • [74] In LXX ποιεῖν ἐκδίκησιν translates עָשָׂה שְׁפָטִים in Exod. 12:12; Num. 33:4; Ezek. 16:41; 25:11; 30:14.
  • [75] On the other hand, in the Ben Sira passage discussed above in Comment to L20, parallel to the noun ἐκδίκησις the medieval Hebrew MS B reads נקם (Sir. 35:20 [ET 35:23]). To what extent MS B reflects readings that were current in the first century C.E., and how heavily the Persistent Widow parable was influenced by the Ben Sira passage, however, are open questions.
  • [76] In the Hebrew Bible שְׁפָטִים generally refers to God’s saving acts of deliverance, especially those he wrought for Israel when redeeming them from Egypt. The following example demonstrates that שְׁפָטִים continued to be used in MH:

    מי כמוכה באלים יי כיון שראו ישראל שאבד פרעה וחילו בים סוף ובטלה מלכותן של מצריים ושפטים נעשו בעבודה זרה שלהן פתחו כולם פיהם ואמרו מי כמוכה באלים יי ולא ישראל בלבד אמרו שירה אלא אף אומות העולם אמרו שירה כיון ששמעו אומות העולם שאבד פרעה וחילו בים ובטלה מלכותן של מצריים ושפטים נעשו בעבודה זרה שלהן כפרו כולן בעבודה זרה שלהן ופתחו כולן פיהם והודו במקום ואמרו מי כמוכה באלים יי

    Who is like you among the gods, O LORD? [Exod. 15:11]. As soon as Israel saw that Pharaoh and his army had perished in the Red Sea and that the reign of the Egyptians was abolished and that judgments [שפטים] were carried out against their idols, everyone opened their mouths and said, “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD?” And not only Israel recited this song, but even the nations of the world recited this song. When the nations of the world heard that Pharaoh and his army had perished in the sea and that the reign of the Egyptians was abolished and that judgments [שפטים] were carried out against their idols, everyone renounced their idols and opened their mouths and praised the Omnipresent one and said, “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD?” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 8 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:206-207]; cf. Shirata chpt. 9 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:214])

    Presuming that the chosen ones who called out day and night were petitioning God for the redemption of Israel (cf. Luke 2:25, 38), Jesus’ assurance that God will work saving judgments (שְׁפָטִים) on their behalf would be entirely apt.

  • [77] In LXX ἐκδίκησις translates מִשְׁפָּט in Ezek. 16:38; 23:45 (2xx).
  • [78] The only instance in MT where שְׁפָטִים does not occur in the absolute state is in Ezek. 14:21, which reads: כִּי אַרְבַּעַת שְׁפָטַי הָרָעִים חֶרֶב וְרָעָב וְחַיָּה רָעָה וָדֶבֶר שִׁלַּחְתִּי אֶל יְרוּשָׁלִָם (“For my four evil judgments—sword and hunger and savage beast and plague—I sent against Jerusalem”). Here, the first person singular pronominal suffix is attached to שְׁפָטִים.
  • [79] Cf. 2 Chr. 6:39; 1 Kgs. 8:45 // 2 Chr. 6:35.
  • [80] In addition to the examples of עָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט we have already cited (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 10:18; 1 Kgs. 8:45, 49), further examples include:

    וַיְהִי דָוִד עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה לְכָל עַמּוֹ

    And David did justice and righteousness for all his people. (2 Sam. 8:15)

    כִּי חָכְמַת אֱלֹהִים בְּקִרְבּוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט

    For the wisdom of God was within him to do justice. (1 Kgs. 3:28)

    הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם יי וַהֲקִמֹתִי לְדָוִד צֶמַח צַדִּיק וּמָלַךְ מֶלֶךְ וְהִשְׂכִּיל וְעָשָׂה מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה בָּאָרֶץ

    Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and a king will reign, and be wise and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jer. 23:5)

    הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב וּמָה יי דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ כִּי אִם עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלֹהֶיךָ

    He told you, O human being, what is good and what the LORD demands from you: nothing else but doing justice, and loving kindness, and walking humbly with your God. (Mic. 6:8)

    עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט לָעֲשׁוּקִים נֹתֵן לֶחֶם לָרְעֵבִים יי מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים

    He does justice for the oppressed, he gives bread to the hungry, the LORD releases the bound. (Ps. 146:7)

    יְהִי יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּרוּךְ אֲשֶׁר חָפֵץ בְּךָ לְתִתְּךָ עַל כִּסְאוֹ לְמֶלֶךְ לַיי אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּאַהֲבַת אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַעֲמִידוֹ לְעוֹלָם וַיִּתֶּנְךָ עֲלֵיהֶם לְמֶלֶךְ לַעֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה

    May the LORD your God be blessed, because he delighted in you to set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God on account of the love of your God for Israel, to establish him forever and to make you king over them to do justice and righteousness. (2 Chr. 9:8)

    On the technical sense of the phrase מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה (“justice and righteousness”), see Moshe Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East (Jerusalem: Magnes; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 25-39.

  • [81] In LXX ἐκλεκτός is the translation of בָּחִיר in 2 Kgdms. 21:6; 1 Chr. 16:13; Ps. 88[89]:4; 104[105]:6, 43; 105[106]:5, 23; Isa. 42:1; 43:20; 45:4; 65:9, 15.
  • [82] See David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,” under the subheading “Mark’s Sectarian Redaction.”
  • [83] See Flusser, Jesus, 246 n. 25.
  • [84] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:222.
  • [85] In MS B the noun צְעָקָה (tze‘āqāh, “cry,” “shout”), from the same root as צָעַק, occurs in Sir. 35:14 (ET 35:17) and Sir. 35:16 (ET 35:20).
  • [86] On reconstructing ἡμέρα (hēmera, “day”) as יוֹם (yōm, “day”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L5. In LXX ἡμέρα καὶ νύξ is the translation of יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה in Lev. 8:35; Josh. 1:8; 3 Kgdms. 8:59; 1 Chr. 9:33; 2 Chr. 6:20; 2 Esd. 11:6; 14:3; Ps. 1:2; 31[32]:4; 41[42]:4; 54[55]:11; Isa. 60:11; Jer. 8:23; Lam. 2:18.
  • [87] Examples of יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה in DSS are found in 1QS VI, 6; 1QM XIV, 13; 1QHa XVI, 29; XVIII, 15; 11QTa [11Q19] LVII, 10.
  • [88] See Segal, 134 §294. There are three examples of בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה in MT (Gen. 1:18; Isa. 28:19; Eccl. 8:16). The instance in Gen. 1:18 is not really applicable, since it refers to ruling over the day and the night, not about an action taking place day and night.
  • [89] See Jeremias, Parables, 154.
  • [90] See Nolland, Luke, 2:870.
  • [91] See the discussion under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [92] Cf. Nolland (Luke, 2:870), who entertains the possibility that the question is an authentic saying of Jesus.
  • [93] Note that Martin classified the Persistent Widow parable as of the “translation Greek” type. See Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987), 108.
  • [94] Reid argues that the Persistent Widow parable compares God to the widow, not the judge. See Barbara E. Reid, “A Godly Widow Persistently Pursuing Justice: Luke 18:1-8,” Biblical Research 45 (2000): 25-33. The impetus for this interpretation is the assumption that there is something in the parable that “a disciple of Jesus [is] supposed to emulate” (26). The assumption that parables are intended to teach conduct, however, is unfounded. The purpose of the parable was to give insight into God’s character by drawing a shocking and humorous contrast between the wicked judge and the true and faithful judge of the universe.

Comments 6

  1. Excellent work and insight. Especially appreciated the part bout what the elect might mean. May you have the energy and wisdom to continue this important project. Thank you.

  2. Your work is very much appreciated. This is so good. You guys are a huge blessing. Thank you. Especially liked the insight into what the elect means. May you have energy and wisdom to continue.

  3. Pingback: “How to Pray” complex | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

  4. Pingback: Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

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

  6. Pingback: A Groundbreaking Attempt to Reconstruct the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua | JerusalemPerspective.com Online

Leave a Reply