Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser

& LOY Commentary 6 Comments

Did Jesus regard John the Baptist as a prophet? As more than a prophet? What did he mean that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist? Explore these questions in Yeshua's Words about Yohanan the Immerser.

Matt. 11:7-11; Luke 7:24-28
(Huck 65, 82; Aland 107; Crook 123)[1]

Revised: 17-April-2019

וְכֵיוָן שֶׁהָלְכוּ מַלְאֲכֵי יוֹחָנָן הִתְחִיל [יֵשׁוּעַ] לוֹמַר לָאֻכְלוּסִים עַל יוֹחָנָן מַה יְצָאתֶם לַמִּדְבָּר לִרְאוֹת קָנֶה נָד בָּרוּחַ אֶלָּא מַה יְצָאתֶם לִרְאוֹת אָדָם בַּחֲמוּדוֹת לָבוּשׁ הֲרֵי הָעֹטִים בַּחֲמוּדוֹת בְּבָתֵּי הַמְּלָכִים אֶלָּא מַה יְצָאתֶם לִרְאוֹת נָבִיא הֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם וְיָתֵר עַל נָבִיא זֶה הוּא שֶׁעָלָיו כָּתוּב הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי לְפָנֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר יְפַנֶּה דַּרְכְּךָ לְפָנֶיךָ אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם לֹא קָם בִּילוּדֵי אִשָּׁה גָּדוֹל מִיּוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל אַף הַקָּטֹן שֶׁבְּמַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם גָּדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ

As Yohanan the Immerser’s messengers departed, Yeshua asked the crowds, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A windblown reed? No? What, then, did you go out to see? Someone wearing Esau’s clothing? Of course not! People who wear such things are to be found in palaces. So what was it you went out to see? A prophet? Yes, I suspect you were looking for something even more than a prophet.

“Yohanan the Immerser is the one about whom Scripture says: Behold! I am sending my messenger ahead of you who will prepare your way ahead of you [Exod. 23:20; Mal. 3:1].

“Indeed, I can assure you that among all human beings there has not been anyone greater than Yohanan the Immerser. Nevertheless, the least participant in God’s redeeming reign is more privileged than Yohanan.”[2]






Download (PDF, 160KB)

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

On account of the high level of verbal agreement between the Lukan and Matthean versions of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Lindsey classified it as a Type 1 Double Tradition (DT) pericope.[3] This classification is a strong indicator that the Anthology (Anth.) was the source both the authors of Luke and Matthew used when incorporating this pericope into their respective Gospels.[4] According to Lindsey, Anth. was a Greek source that was highly Hebraic in style because it descended from a Hebrew biography of Jesus. When the authors of Luke and Matthew both copied a pericope from Anth., the result was a high level of verbal identity between the two versions, despite the fact that neither evangelist was aware of the work of the other.

Parallels to Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser are also found in the Gospel of Thomas.[5]

“Yohanan the Immerser and
the Kingdom of Heaven” complex
Yohanan the Immerser’s Question
Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser
The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing
Mustard Seed and Starter Dough parables

Story Placement

Since Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser follows Yohanan the Immerser’s Question in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, there can be little doubt that this was the ordering of these two pericopae in Anth. Although their wording is slightly different, both Luke and Matthew agree that Jesus uttered Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser after the Baptist’s disciples had taken their leave of Jesus in order to bring his reply back to their master (Matt. 11:7; Luke 7:24).

The departure of John’s disciples was precisely the kind of incident that tended to launch Jesus into a teaching discourse.[6] Lindsey believed that the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was arranged into a number of narrative-sayings “complexes” in which a narrative incident would lead into a teaching lesson, which Jesus would conclude with vivid illustrations, often in the form of twin parables. It was the Anthologizer (i.e., the creator of Anth.) who broke the longer complexes apart. The fact that Anth. had a narrative bridge between Yohanan the Immerser’s Question and Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser suggests that this link was already present in the Anthologizer’s source, namely, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Whereas the Anthologizer was disinclined to detach the teaching portion of the original complex from the narrative incident, he did remove the illustrations that concluded the complex. Click here to see an overview of the entire “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex, of which we believe Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser was the second part.

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

Crucial Issues

  1. Are the images of the shaking reed and the person dressed in fine clothing intended to portray John in a positive or a negative light?
  2. What does it mean to be “more than a prophet”?
  3. What Scripture verse did Jesus quote in this pericope?
  4. Who is “the smaller in the Kingdom of Heaven”?


L1-2 τούτων δὲ πορευομένων (Matt. 11:7). Matthew opens Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser with “And as these were going….” The antecedent of “these” is “his [i.e., John’s] disciples” (Matt. 11:2). Since Matthew’s opening is more difficult to revert to Hebrew than Luke’s, it is likely that the author of Matthew slightly revised the wording of Anth.[7]

L2 ἀπελθόντων δὲ (GR). Both Matthew and Luke open the Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser pericope with a genitive absolute construction, indicating that Jesus commenced his teaching as John the Baptist’s disciples were departing. Although the genitive absolute is often a sign of Greek redaction, the presence of this construction in both versions of our pericope strongly suggests that the authors of Matthew and Luke found a genitive absolute construction in Anth.[8] Genitive absolutes are difficult to reconstruct into Biblical Hebrew, but in Mishnaic Hebrew the construction -כֵּיוָן שֶׁ + perfect has a roughly parallel function. Usually we prefer to reconstruct narrative in a biblical style, but in L4 we encounter yet another construction that reverts better into Mishnaic Hebrew, which suggests that in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua slipped into a more colloquial style. On mixed styles of Hebrew in Second Temple sources, see Addendum to LOY Introduction: Linguistic Features of the Baraita in b. Kid. 66a.

וְכֵיוָן שֶׁהָלְכוּ (HR). The construction -כֵּיוָן שֶׁ (kēvān she-, “as soon as”) does not occur in MT, DSS or MSS of Ben Sira, but it is a common enough feature in rabbinic sources. Examples of -כֵּיוָן שֶׁ + perfect, as in our reconstruction, include:

הָאוֹמֵר לְבָנָיו הֲרֵי אֲנִי שׁוֹחֵט אֶת הַפֶּסַח לְמִי שֶׁיַּעֲלֶה מִכֶּם רִאשׁוֹן לִירוּשָׁלַםִ כֵּיוָון שֶׁהִכְנִיס הָרִאשׁוֹן רֹאשׁוֹ וְרוּבּוֹ לָעִיר זָכָה בְחֶלְקוֹ

If one said to his sons, “Behold, I will slaughter the Passover lamb for the one among you who goes up first to Jerusalem,” as soon as [-כֵּיוָון שֶׁ] he causes his head and the greater part of himself to enter the city, he has earned his portion. (m. Pes. 8:3)

ר′ שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹ′ כֵּיוָן שֶׁנִּיזְרַק עָלָיו אֶחָד מִן הַדָּמִים הוּתַּר הַנָּזִיר לִשְׁתּוֹת בַּיַּיִן וְלִיטַּמֵּא לַמֵּיתִים

Rabbi Shimon says, “As soon as [-כֵּיוָן שֶׁ] one drop of blood has been tossed [on the side of the altar—DNB and JNT] on his behalf, a Nazirite has been released to drink wine and to become impure by contact with the dead.” (m. Naz. 6:9)

כֵּיוָן שֶׁעָבְרוּ יִשְׂרָאֵ′ אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן וּבָאוּ לְהַר גְּרִיזִּים וּלְהַר עֵיבַל שֶׁבְּשׁוֹמְרוֹן

As soon as [-כֵּיוָן שֶׁ] Israel crossed the Jordan and came to Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, which are in Samaria…. (m. Sot. 7:5)

בִּזְמַן שֶׁכֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל נִיכְנַס לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹת שְׁלֹשָׁה אוֹחֲזִין בּוֹ אֶחָד בִּימִינוֹ וְאֶחָד בִּשְׂמֹאולוֹ וְאֶחָד בָּאֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וְכֵיוַון שֶׁשָּׁמַע הַמְמוּנֶּה קוֹל רַגְלָיו שֶׁלְּכֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל שֶׁהוּא יוֹצֵא הִגְבִּיהַ לוֹ אֶת הַפָּרֹכֶת

At the time when the high priest entered [the Temple] to worship, three people would take hold of him, by his right, and by his left, and one by the precious stones, and as soon as [-וְכֵיוַון שֶׁ] the officer heard the sound of the high priest’s feet as he came out, he lifted the veil for him. (m. Tam. 7:1)

כיון שהלך יהושפט מלך יהודה עם אחאב מלך ישראל לרמות גלעד נגזרה גזירה על יהושפט ליהרג

As soon as [-כֵּיוָן שֶׁ] Jehosaphat king of Judah went with Ahab king of Israel to Ramoth Gilead, a decree was decreed against Jehosaphat that he would die. (t. Sot. 12:2; Vienna MS)

In the final example quoted above we find -כֵּיוָן שֶׁ combined with הָלַךְ, indicating “as soon as he went,” which provides a strong verbal parallel to our reconstruction.

On reconstructing ἀπέρχεσθαι (aperchesthai, “to go away”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk,” “go”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L7.

L3 τῶν ἀγγέλων Ἰωάνου (GR). Since the placement of the subject (“the messengers of John”) in Luke agrees with Hebrew word order, we have accepted Luke’s reading for GR.

מַלְאֲכֵי יוֹחָנָן (HR). On reconstructing ἄγγελος (angelos, “messenger,” “angel”) with מַלְאָךְ (mal’āch, “messenger,” “angel”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L58. The description of John’s disciples as ἄγγελοι/מַלְאָכִים in L3 prepares readers for the next occurrence of ἄγγελος/מַלְאָךְ in L24 (Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27) by indicating how this term ought to be understood, namely as a human messenger rather than as a supernatural being. Perhaps the reason John’s disciples were referred to as “men” (ἄνδρες/אֲנָשִׁים) in L19 of Yohanan the Immerser’s Question (Luke 7:20) was also to lay the groundwork for understanding ἄγγελος/מַלְאָךְ in the composite quotation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 (Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27) as a “[human] messenger.”

On reconstructing the name Ἰωάνης (Iōanēs, “John”) as יוֹחָנָן (yōḥānān, “John”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L25.

L4 ἤρξατο [ὁ Ἰησοῦς] λέγειν (GR). Matthew and Luke agree in L4, except for whether to include the name “Jesus.” Since both versions can be reverted to Hebrew with equal ease, and since supposing that the author of Matthew added the name is neither more nor less plausible than supposing that the author of Luke omitted the same, we have placed Jesus’ name in brackets in GR and HR. If we were to hazard a guess, Luke’s version might be preferable, if only because it appears that the author of Matthew seems to be responsible for a fair amount of redaction in the narrative opening of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser.[9]

הִתְחִיל [יֵשׁוּעַ] לוֹמַר (HR). Ordinarily, we would reconstruct ἄρχειν + infinitive in a narrative context as הֵחֵל + infinitive, in accordance with BH style, as we did in L17 of Widow’s Son in Nain. Preventing us from doing the same here, however, is the fact that לֵאמֹר + הֵחֵל never occurs in MT. Evidently Delitzsch noted this, since he translated ἤρξατο λέγειν (“he began to say”) in Matt. 11:7 // Luke 7:24 as הֵחֵל לְדַבֵּר…וַיֹּאמַר (“he began to speak…and he said”), which is not supported by the Greek text. Another option might be to reconstruct ἤρξατο λέγειν as הֵחֵל לְדַבֵּר…לֵאמֹר (“he began to speak…saying”), but the same objection—namely, that such a reconstruction is not supported by the Greek text—applies. We have therefore adopted הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר (hitḥil lōmar, “he began to say”) as our reconstruction of ἤρξατο λέγειν.[10] Although reconstructing with הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר requires us to adopt a Mishnaic style of Hebrew in a narrative context, something we usually avoid in HR, here it appears to be the option that best conforms to the Greek text of Luke 7:24 and Matt. 11:7.

Examples of הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר in rabbinic sources include:

כיון שראה דוד שנתבססה מלכותו, התחיל לומר מזמור

As soon as David saw that his reign was firmly established, he began to say [הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר] a psalm…. (Midrash Tehillim 3:3 [ed. Buber, 2:35])

כיון שידעה אסתר התחילה לומר למרדכי, לך כנוס את כל היהודים

As soon as Esther learned this, she began to say [הִתְחִילָה לוֹמַר] to Mordecai, Go, assemble all the Jews [Esth. 4:16]. (Midrash Tehillim 22:7 [ed. Buber, 2:184])

כיון שקיבל מטרופוסו התחיל לומר ה′ הצדיק ואני ועמי הרשעים

As soon as he [i.e., Pharaoh—DNB and JNT] received his just deserts, he began to say [הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר], The Lord is just, and I and my people are wicked [Exod. 9:27]. (Midrash Tehillim 33:1 [ed. Buber, 2:244])

Notice how in each of the examples we have cited above the sentence that includes הִתְחִיל לוֹמַר opens with -כֵּיוָן שֶׁ (“as soon as”), just as in our reconstruction.

L5 πρὸς τοὺς ὄχλους (GR). Many scholars regard λέγειν + πρός + accusative as a sign of Lukan redaction,[11] and Fitzmyer regarded this construction as an attempt by the author of Luke to imitate the Septuagint.[12] Nevertheless, we have encountered λέγειν + πρός + accusative in places where the author of Luke appears to have been faithfully reproducing the wording of Anth., and we see no reason why we should not also accept Luke’s reading here.[13] It is the author of Matthew who appears to have been more editorially active in his introduction to Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser.

לָאֻכְלוּסִים (HR). On reconstructing λέγειν + πρός + accusative as -אָמַר לְ, see Friend in Need, Comment to L1. On reconstructing ὄχλος (ochlos, “crowd”) as אֻכְלוּס (’uchlūs, “crowd”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L4. The plural of אֻכְלוּס appears either as אֻכְלוּסִין or אֻכְלוּסִים in rabbinic sources.

L6 עַל יוֹחָנָן (HR). On reconstructing περί (peri, “concerning,” “around”) with עַל (‘al, “upon,” “concerning”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L30. On reconstructing Ἰωάνης with יוֹחָנָן, see above, Comment to L3.

L7 מַה יְצָאתֶם (HR). In LXX τίς (tis) is used to translate מִי (mi, “who?”), מָה (māh, “what?”) and לָמָּה (lāmāh, “why?”). The wording of Jesus’ question in Greek could be understood as, “What did you go out to the desert to see?” or as, “Why did you go out to the desert? To see a reed…?” We have opted for the former meaning and therefore reconstructed Jesus’ question as מַה יְצָאתֶם לַמִּדְבָּר לִרְאוֹת (“What did you go out to the desert to see?”).[14] Had we adopted the latter sense, we would have reconstructed Jesus’ question as לָמָּה יְצָאתֶם לַמִּדְבָּר (“Why did you go out to the desert?”).

On reconstructing ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”) with יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L98. The verb implies that the crowds had gone out of their way to see John the Baptist. He had not met them on their own turf; the people had gone out in search of John.

L8 לַמִּדְבָּר לִרְאוֹת (HR). In LXX ἔρημος (erēmos, “desert,” “uninhabited place”) translates a variety of Hebrew terms, but none so often as מִדְבָּר (midbār, “desert,” “uninhabited place”).[15] Likewise, we find that מִדְבָּר is translated into several different Greek terms, but ἔρημος is by far the most common.[16]

While all four canonical Gospels associate John the Baptist with the desert, they are less clear about where the Baptist carried out his activities. The Gospel of Matthew alone identifies John’s sphere of activity as the desert of Judea (Matt. 3:1). Notley has pointed out, however, that this unique Matthean detail may simply be a surmise based on Mark’s statement that all the country of Judea and all the Jerusalemites went out to John (Mark 1:5), a statement that may have been intended to reinforce the allusion to Isa. 40:3 by hinting at its broader context, which refers to the proclamation of good news to Jerusalem and Judah (Isa. 40:9).[17] Flusser suggested that a location along the Jordan north of the Sea of Galilee would make better sense, given the strong ties between John the Baptist and Jesus, whose early career was centered in the Galilee, and the clash that took place between the Baptist and the Galilean ruler, Herod Antipas.[18] Notley garnered further evidence in support of Flusser’s suggestion, noting in particular that since the location of the Baptist’s activity according to the Fourth Gospel—ἐν Βηθανίᾳ…πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (en Bēthania…peran tou Iordanou, “in Bethany…beyond the Jordan”; John 1:28)—was unknown to ancient authorities, “in Bethany” might have been a mistake for ἐν Βαταναίᾳ (en Batanaia, “in Batanea”), the Greek name for the region of biblical Bashan, which was located to the east of the Jordan and to the north of the Sea of Galilee.[19] Locating the Baptist’s activity in Batanea, not far from the Jewish populations of the Galilee, would also be consistent with the indications (to be discussed below) that Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser were addressed to a specifically Galilean audience.[20] A location east of the Jordan on the outskirts of Bethsaida, where there was an uninhabited region referred to in the Gospels as a “desert” (ἔρημος; Matt. 14:13, 15; Mark 6:32, 35; Luke 9:12),[21] would make sense if John the Baptist had attracted a large Galilean following, as the sources suggest.

On reconstructing θεάσασθαι (theasasthai, “to see”) with רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L9.

Two (partially obliterated) reeds (<i>Phragmites australis</i>) appear to the right and left of the bird in this detail of the fifth-century C.E. mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha. Image courtesy of <a href=",_the_earliest_known_examples_of_figured_pavement_in_Christian_art_in_the_Holy_Land,_Tabgha,_Galilee_(19054611495).jpg&oldid=242392848">Wikimedia Commons</a>.Reeds (<i>Phragmites australis</i>) as depicted in a fifth-century C.E. mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Image courtesy of <a href=",_the_earliest_known_examples_of_figured_pavement_in_Christian_art_in_the_Holy_Land,_Tabgha,_Galilee_(18868411359).jpg&oldid=242392853">Wikimedia Commons</a>.A real life scene, similar to the previous slide, of ducks dabbling among the reeds. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton in the <a href="">Hula Valley Nature Reserve</a>.Giant reeds (<i>Arundo donax</i>, a relative of the reeds [<i>Phragmites australis</i>] that grow in the Galilee) as depicted in the Nile Mosaic of Palestrina, Italy (ca. 100 B.C.E.). Image courtesy of <a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>.Coin of Herod Antipas from the year 20/21 C.E. depicting a reed with the inscription ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΤΕΤΡΑ(ΡΧΟΥ) ("Herod the Tetrarch") on the obverse. The reverse shows a wreath surrounding the inscription ΤΙΒΕΡΙΑΣ ("Tiberias"). Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.A second coin of Herod Antipas (20-21 C.E.) depicting a reed on the obverse. Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.A third coin of Herod Antipas (19-20 C.E.) depicting a reed on the obverse. Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.A later coin of Herod Antipas (ca. 29 C.E.) in which a palm branch replaced the reed on the obverse. Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.Reeds growing along the Sea of Galilee's shore with Tiberias in the background. Photographed at the site of ancient Magdala. Courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

L9 קָנֶה נָד בָּרוּחַ (HR). Most instances of κάλαμος (kalamos, “reed”) in LXX are the translation of קָנֶה (qāneh, “reed”).[22] Likewise, קָנֶה is usually translated in LXX by κάλαμος or by its diminutive form καλαμίσκος (kalamiskos, “branch of a candlestick”).[23] Our reconstruction of κάλαμος with קָנֶה is confirmed by the following rabbinic parallel:

לעולם יהא אדם רך כקנה ולא יהא קשה כארז. מה קנה זה כל הרוחות באות ונושבת בו הולך ובא עמהם דממו הרוחות חוזר הקנה עומד במקומו. ומה סופו של קנה זה זכה ליטול הימנו קולמוס לכתוב ספר תורה. אבל ארז אינו עומד במקומו אלא כיון שנשבה רוח דרומית עוקרתו והופכתו על פניו. ומה סופו של ארז באים עליו סתתין ומסתתין אותו ומסככין ממנו בתים והשאר משליכין אותו לאור. מכאן אמרו יהא אדם רך כקנה ואל יהא קשה כארז

Let a person be ever flexible like a reed [רַךְ כַּקָּנֶה] and not stiff like a cedar. What of the reed [קָנֶה]? All the winds [כָּל הָרוּחוֹת] come and blow against it, but it comes and goes with them. The winds [הָרוּחוֹת] are quieted and the reed returns to an upright position in its place. And what was the end of this reed [קָנֶה]? It merited to be made into a pen for writing a Torah scroll. But the cedar did not remain in its place, rather, as soon as the south wind blew, it [i.e., the wind—DNB and JNT] uprooted it and toppled it over. And what is the end of the cedar? Wood carvers come upon it and carve it and they cover houses with it and what is left they throw into an oven. On account of this they said, “Let a person be flexible like a reed [רַךְ כַּקָּנֶה] and not stiff like a cedar.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 41:1 [ed. Schechter, 66]; cf. b. Taan. 20a)

Phragmites australis. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The most common reed native to Israel is Phragmites australis, which has hollow and jointed stems that are covered with leaves along their entire length.[24]

In LXX, whenever the noun ἄνεμος (anemos, “wind”) translates a Hebrew word, that word is רוּחַ (rūaḥ, “wind,” “spirit”).[25] Usually, רוּחַ is translated as πνεῦμα (pnevma, “wind,” “spirit”) in LXX,[26] but it appears that the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua preferred to use ἄνεμος when referring to wind, and πνεῦμα when referring to a spirit.

We have chosen to reconstruct σαλεύειν (salevein, “to shake”) with the verb נָד (nād, “wave to and fro,” “shake”) on the basis of the following verse:

וְהִכָּה יי אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר יָנוּד הַקָּנֶה בַּמַּיִם

And the LORD will strike Israel, like the reed waves to and fro [יָנוּד] in the water. (1 Kgs. 14:15)

Most LXX manuscripts are lacking a counterpart to 1 Kgs. 14:15, but in Codex Alexandrinus we find πληξει τον Ισλ· καθα κινιται ο ανεμος εν τω υδατι (“and he will strike Israel like the wind moves in the water”). In any case, σαλεύειν is used in LXX to translate a wide variety of Hebrew verbs. It translates the root נ-ו-ד in 4 Kgdms. 21:8 and Ps. 35[36]:12. Although in Matt. 11:7 // Luke 7:24 σαλεύειν is used in a passive sense (“a reed shaken by the wind”), in HR we have adopted the active voice (“a reed waving in the wind”) in accordance with Hebrew preference.

The image of the windblown reed was proverbial by the first century,[27] and on that account some scholars believe that Jesus’ reference to the reed in the wind simply refers to something mundane that no one would bother to go out of their way to see.[28] Other scholars detect in Jesus’ question a reference to John the Baptist’s unyielding character, which is contrasted with that of the compliant reed. Some scholars go further, arguing that in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser Jesus alluded to the well-known friction that existed between John the Baptist and Herod Antipas, the Roman-appointed tetrarch of the Galilee.[29]

The antipathy between Antipas and John the Baptist is mentioned not only in the Gospels, but also in the writings of Josephus (Ant. 18:116-119), and would undoubtedly have been familiar to Jesus’ audience while the dramatic contest between the two antagonists was still playing itself out. The most famous clash between John and Antipas was over the validity of Antipas’ marriage to Herodias (Matt. 14:3; Mark 6:18),[30] but according to Luke, Antipas had come under John’s censure for other reasons as well (Luke 3:19-20), and Josephus states that Antipas came to fear that John might lead an uprising against him (Ant. 18:118), which also implies a multifaceted critique of the Roman-appointed ruler was leveled by John the Baptist.

In support of the view that Jesus alluded to the tensions between the Baptist and the tetrarch, Theissen noted that the reed is an apt cipher for Antipas, since the image of a reed appears on coins that Antipas minted in celebration of the founding of Tiberias.[31] Bowing to Jewish sensitivities, Antipas refrained from the usual practice of placing a portrait of himself on the head of these coins. In the place where his portrait was expected to appear, Antipas placed instead the image of a reed as a uniting symbol of the regions of Galilee and Perea over which he ruled.[32] The people who used these coins would have noted that a reed stood in for Antipas’ portrait, and this could easily have led to a strong identification between Antipas and the reed, such that the reed became a symbol for Antipas in the popular imagination. Thus, contrasting John the Baptist with a windblown reed could easily have conjured the image of Herod Antipas, John’s archenemy.

Theissen offered a plausible explanation of how the reed became a symbol for Antipas in the minds of his subjects, but on what grounds might Antipas have been accused of being easily swayed by the slightest breeze? Two possibilities present themselves. The first concerns Antipas’ relationship with Judaism, the second concerns Antipas’ relationship with his wife Herodias.

Let us begin with Antipas’ relationship with Judaism. On the one hand, Antipas made token displays of piety in order to impress his Jewish subjects, but on the other hand, a number of Antipas’ actions revealed that he had little personal commitment to the Torah’s commandments. We have already mentioned Antipas’ most flagrant act of disregard for the Torah’s commandments, which was his marriage to Herodias, formerly the wife of his own half-brother, in clear violation of Lev. 18:16.

Coin of Herod Antipas from the year 20/21 C.E. depicting a reed with the inscription ΗΡΩΔΟΥ ΤΕΤΡΑ(ΡΧΟΥ) (“Herod the Tetrarch”) on the obverse. The reverse shows a wreath surrounding the inscription ΤΙΒΕΡΙΑΣ (“Tiberias”). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

The aforementioned coin bearing the symbol of a reed (pictured to the left) is an example of a token concession Antipas made to the Torah’s prohibition against graven images. But the coin, which Antipas minted in honor of the founding of Tiberias, is also a symbol of his vacillating relationship with Judaism, since Antipas had built the city on a cemetery, which was offensive to Torah-observant Jews because it meant that anyone who entered the city became contaminated with corpse impurity. Josephus describes how, on account of this blunder, Antipas was forced to offer special incentives to induce Jewish subjects to move to Tiberias (Ant. 18:38). Moreover, although the Tiberias coin avoided graven images, Antipas adorned his palace in Tiberias with the figures of animals (Jos., Life §65), which only proved to pious Jews that Antipas’ concession on his coinage was nothing more than a hollow gesture.[33] Thus, the reed coins of Tiberias were a constant reminder of Antipas’ wavering attitude toward Judaism and the Torah’s commandments. Antipas’ vacillations on the one hand and his identification with the reed symbol on the other easily converge to suggest the comparison of Herod Antipas to a reed that is shaken this way and that by the wind.

The other reason Antipas might have been compared to a windblown reed is that there was a popular caricature of Antipas as a husband who was incapable of standing up to Herodias, his second wife. Josephus relates several stories that describe how Antipas bent to the will of Herodias, and how Antipas’ spinelessness had tragic consequences either for himself or for those around him. The first example of how Antipas submitted to the will of Herodias is the story of their marriage. According to Josephus, Antipas fell head over heels for Herodias, to the extent that Herodias was able to dictate the terms of their relationship. Refusing to play second fiddle to Antipas’ first wife, the daughter of Aretas the king of Petra, Herodias stipulated that Antipas must divorce Aretas’ daughter before she would marry him (Ant. 18:110). However, dismissing the Nabatean princess demolished the political alliance between Antipas and his father-in-law Aretas, which set off a regional crisis that eventually led to a serious defeat of Antipas’ military forces (Ant. 18:114).

Another instance of Antipas’ bowing to Herodias’ wishes was when Herodias requested that he give her brother, Agrippa, a position within his tetrarchy. Antipas, accordingly, made his nephew Agrippa the overseer of the market in Tiberias, but the personalities of Antipas and Agrippa clashed and the two became bitter enemies, and in the end Agrippa denounced Antipas to Caesar as a traitor to the Roman Empire (Ant. 18:148-150, 247).

A third example of Antipas’ bending to pressure from his wife is how, at Herodias’ insistence, Antipas appealed to the emperor Gaius Caligula to be made king instead of tetrarch. The emperor not only looked unfavorably upon this request, he responded by taking away Antipas’ tetrarchy and annexing it to Agrippa’s kingdom and sending Antipas and Herodias into exile (Ant. 18:240-246, 253-255).[34]

The New Testament offers a fourth example of Antipas’ yielding to Herodias’ wishes in the story of John the Baptist’s beheading.[35] According to Mark, Antipas did not want to execute John the Baptist (Mark 6:20). It was Herodias who, bearing a grudge against the Baptist, contrived to have him killed by painting Antipas into a corner in which the only way Antipas could escape without embarrassing himself in front of his noble guests was to have John the Baptist executed. If similar stories about Antipas’ inability to stand up to Herodias were already circulating in Jesus’ time, they might easily have inspired the comparison of the tetrarch to a reed that bends to the wind.

Deciding which of the two options best accounts for the comparison of Antipas to a windblown reed is difficult. Most of the stories about Antipas’ giving in to Herodias occurred after Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser takes place, but it is possible that other stories about Antipas’ giving in to Herodias were already in circulation by the time Jesus compared Antipas to a reed in the wind. On the whole, the connection to Antipas’ vacillating relationship to Judaism seems stronger than the connection to Antipas’ relationship with his wife, since the reed on Antipas’ coins was a reminder of the tetrarch’s inconstancy. It is, of course, possible that the two explanations we have considered—namely, Antipas’ wavering relationship to Judaism and Antipas’ yielding to his wife—mutually reinforced the comparison of Herod Antipas to an unstable reed that blows back and forth in the wind, so perhaps it is not necessary to choose between the two.

Painting by the French artist Achille Etna Michallon (1796–1822) depicting the fable of the Oak and the Reeds. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If Theissen is correct in identifying the reed in Matt. 11:7 // Luke 7:24 as Antipas, then the opinion of those scholars who suppose that Jesus’ reference to the reed shaken by the wind depends on Aesop’s fable of the Oak and the Reeds has been reinforced,[36] for in that case the response to Jesus’ question, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” would be, “No! We didn’t go out to see Antipas, the pushover reed. We went out to see John the Baptist, the rugged tree.” Also supporting the opinion that Jesus was influenced by Aesop’s fable is the fact that the rabbinic fable of the Reeds and the Cedar, which we cited above, was certainly indebted to Aesop’s (or related) Fables.[37] We know that Josephus, too, was acquainted with Aesop’s Fables, since he quoted a version of one such fable in Ant. 18:174-175. So there is ample reason to suppose that Aesop’s Fables had permeated the Jewish milieu by the time of Jesus.[38] But if Jesus did allude to Aesop’s fable of the Oak and the Reeds, he applied it in an unexpected manner.

According to Aesop, the rigid oak is uprooted by the winds whereas the supple reed offers no resistance and therefore the winds cause it no harm. The fable’s moral is that it is unwise to resist the will of the mighty. The rabbinic version of the fable draws a similar lesson, recommending that everyone should imitate the reed’s flexible attitude. But the derogatory tone of Jesus’ question, together with the likelihood that the reed is to be identified as Antipas, indicates that Jesus had a low opinion of the reed’s spinelessness. Nevertheless, the secular wisdom of the fable remained applicable, for although Jesus admired John’s uncompromising commitment to the Torah and his dauntless criticism of the tetrarch, by alluding to the fable Jesus hinted that the Baptist, like the mighty tree, had set himself up against forces over which he could not prevail. Antipas would survive the contest, while the Baptist would come crashing down.

This pessimistic prediction of the Baptist’s downfall, which proved all too true, is consistent with Jesus’ negative assessment of the aspirations of the militant Jewish nationalists who hoped to throw off the yoke of the Roman Empire by force of arms. An armed uprising would only provoke Rome to respond with overwhelming force. If redemption was to come, it would have to be achieved through other means. Hence Jesus’ confidence that peacemaking and love of one’s enemies, the practice of forgiveness and mercy, the actualization of human dignity and the sanctification of the divine name were the keys to unlocking the power of the Holy Spirit, through whom redemption would come into the world. In both cases, taking on Rome or its client rulers was a hopeless venture. This realistic view is what led Jesus to predict the coming destruction of the Temple, when he saw that the majority of his fellow countrymen were bent on revolution and would not accept the way of the Kingdom of Heaven.[39]

L10 אֶלָּא מַה יְצָאתֶם לִרְאוֹת (HR). On reconstructing ἀλλά (alla, “but”) with אֶלָּא (’elā’, “but,” “rather”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L61. On reconstructing τί ἐξήλθατε as מַה יְצָאתֶם, see above, Comment to L7.

The use of the verb ἰδεῖν (idein, “to see”) in L10 and L18 instead of θεάσασθαι as in L8 is puzzling, since the same verb, רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”), would seem to stand behind both Greek verbs. Nevertheless, we encountered a similar variation of Greek verbs for “seeing” in Blessedness of the Twelve, with ἰδεῖν in L14, but βλέπειν (blepein, “to see”) in L16. On reconstructing ἰδεῖν with רָאָה, see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L10.

Seventeenth-century painting by Pieter Fransz de Grebber depicting the contrast between John the Baptist’s modest attire and Herod Antipas’ finery. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L11 ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς (GR). The wording of the Matthean and Lukan versions diverge slightly in L11, with Matthew describing “a person in softs” (i.e., soft clothing) and Luke describing “a person in soft garments.” Luke’s word order (adjective→noun) is un-Hebraic, and we suspect that the author of Luke added ἱματίοις (himatiois, “garments”), since there would have been no reason for Matthew to have omitted this word had it appeared in his source, while the addition in Luke gives the sentence greater clarity.[40] We have accordingly adopted Matthew’s wording in L11 for GR.

אָדָם בַּחֲמוּדוֹת (HR). On reconstructing ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”) with אָדָם (’ādām, “person”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L12. Reconstructing the adjective μαλακός (malakos, “soft”) in L11 poses a more difficult problem. In LXX μαλακός is quite rare, occurring only in Prov. 25:15, where it is the translation of רַךְ (rach, “soft”), and in Prov. 26:22, where it is the translation of the participle מִתְלַהֲמִים (mitlahamim, “bits that are swallowed greedily,” “dainties”). The cognate adverb μαλακῶς (malakōs, “softly”) is also rare, occurring but once (Job 40:27), where it too is the translation of רַךְ. All things being equal, רַךְ would be the obvious choice for HR, were it not for the fact that we can find no examples of רַךְ used as a substantive for a type of clothing.

That אָדָם לָבוּשׁ בְּרַכִּים (’ādām lāvūsh berakim, “a person clothed in soft [things]”) is jarring in Hebrew is demonstrated by the avoidance of this phrase in Hebrew translations of NT. Delitzsch, for instance, rendered ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἠμφιεσμένον (anthrōpon en malakois ēmfiesmenon, “a person clothed in soft [things]”; Matt. 11:8) as אִישׁ לָבוּשׁ בִּגְדֵי עֲדָנִים (’ish lāvūsh bigdē ‘adānim, “a man clothed [in] garments of luxuries”; cf. 2 Sam. 1:24). Similarly, MHNT renders Matt. 11:8 as אִישׁ לָבוּשׁ בְּגָדִים מְעֻדָּנִים (’ish lāvūsh begādim me‘udānim, “a man clothed [in] refined garments”). The Hebrew New Testament produced by the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (1817) offered אִישׁ לָבוּשׁ בְּבִגְדֵי חֲמֻדּוֹת (’ish lāvūsh bevigdē ḥamudōt, “a man clothed in garments of fineries”) as the translation of ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἠμφιεσμένον in Matt. 11:8. This last translation was probably inspired by the story of Jacob’s deception of his father Isaac at his mother Rebekah’s request, where we read:

וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל הַחֲמֻדֹת אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ בַּבָּיִת

And Rebekah took the garments of Esau her eldest son, the fineries [הַחֲמֻדֹת] that were with her in the house. (Gen. 27:15)

The LXX translators rendered the noun חֲמוּדָה (amūdāh, “precious thing,” “finery”) with the adjective καλός (kalos, “good”) in the above-quoted verse. Perhaps the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua similarly translated the Hebrew noun חֲמוּדָה with an adjective, but in this case choosing μαλακός (“soft”) instead of καλός (“good”).

Drawing of John the Baptist by Sandro Botticelli (1480s). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

That חֲמוּדָה was, indeed, the term that stood behind μαλακός in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser might be supported by our foregoing discussion in which we established the likelihood that the windblown reed referred to John the Baptist’s archrival, Herod Antipas. If there are grounds for seeing the reed as a reference to the tetrarch, there are even more for seeing the person who wears fine clothes and lives in kings’ houses (Matt. 11:8 // Luke 7:25) as Antipas. True, Antipas was a tetrarch, not a king, but he was popularly referred to as a king (cf. Mark 6:14), and as the son of Herod the Great, he had certainly dwelt in kings’ houses. Moreover, Antipas likely continued to occupy a king’s palace when he visited Jerusalem,[41] and the palace in the fortress of Macherus, which he sometimes inhabited, had also housed kings,[42] and we have already mentioned the palace Antipas had built for himself in Tiberias. Now, if the man in fine clothing who dwells in kings’ houses is to be identified as Antipas, then referring to Antipas’ clothing by the term חֲמוּדוֹת (“fineries”) may have implied an anti-Herodian and anti-Roman polemic.

In order to understand how the term חֲמוּדוֹת could have implied a critique of the Herodians and their Roman backers, it is necessary first of all to observe that the only place in Scripture where the term חֲמוּדוֹת refers to clothing is in Gen. 27:15, the verse we have already cited. Therefore, if Jesus referred to clothing as חֲמוּדוֹת this would have immediately called Gen. 27:15 to mind. Second, it must be recalled that Antipas, as a member of the Herodian family, was of Idumean descent (Jos., J.W. 1:123; Ant. 14:403). The Idumeans, or Edomites, were the offspring of Esau, and opponents of the Herodian dynasty occasionally threw the Herodians’ Idumean roots back in their faces (cf., e.g., Ant. 14:403). According to Josephus, this insult touched a nerve for Herod the Great, who in response tried to claim ancestry among the Jews who returned from Babylon (Ant. 14:9). Thus, referring to Antipas’ clothing as חֲמוּדוֹת would not only have called to mind the story of Esau, it would have reminded listeners of Antipas’ Edomite heritage. Moreover, in the ancient Jewish imagination Esau was a symbol of Rome.[43] Using the term חֲמוּדוֹת to describe Antipas’ clothing, therefore, would have reminded listeners of Antipas’ tight relationship with Rome. Either way, referring to Antipas’ clothing as חֲמוּדוֹת would have conjured up negative associations, whether with regard to Antipas’ family origin or with regard to his political affiliations.

It is possible that the remnants of an anti-Herodian or anti-Roman polemic centered on the term חֲמוּדוֹת are preserved in rabbinic sources. An opinion recorded in the Jerusalem Talmud considers the חֲמוּדוֹת of Esau to be none other than the high priestly vestments (y. Meg. 1:11 [14b]).[44] Such an identification is not easily suggested by Gen. 27:15, but it may reflect a reminiscence of the fact that the Roman authorities kept the high priestly vestments under their control in the Antonia fortress in Jerusalem, a practice which began, we might add, under the reign of Herod the Great (Ant. 15:403-404).[45]

L12 לָבוּשׁ (HR). In Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, L41, we reconstructed ἀμφιεννύναι (amfiennūnai, “to clothe”) with הִלְבִּישׁ (hilbish, “cause to wear”). Here, we have reconstructed using the same root, but as a passive participle in the qal (or pa‘al) stem. The word order in HR is a little unusual for Hebrew, and above in Comment to L11 we saw that most Hebrew translations of Matt. 11:8 place לָבוּשׁ before the noun. Our reconstruction has been guided by the Greek word order. The placement of the noun (חֲמוּדוֹת) before the participle indicates emphasis. A similar example of placing the noun before לָבוּשׁ is found in the description of Goliath’s armor:

וְכוֹבַע נְחֹשֶׁת עַל רֹאשׁוֹ וְשִׁרְיוֹן קַשְׂקַשִּׂים הוּא לָבוּשׁ

And a helmet of bronze was on his head, and armor of mail he was wearing. (1 Sam. 17:5)

L13 הֲרֵי (HR). On reconstructing ἰδού (idou, “Behold!” “Look!”) as הֲרֵי (ha, “Behold!” “Look!”), see Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, Comment to L22.

L14-17 The descriptions of those who, unlike the Baptist, do wear fine clothing are quite different in Luke and Matthew. Luke’s description is more flowery, more refined in its Greek style, and more difficult to reconstruct in Hebrew. Matthew’s version is simpler and more readily reverts to Hebrew. Moreover, some of the vocabulary in Luke 7:25 is indicative of Lukan redaction (see below, Comment to L15). All these factors point to Matthew’s version as the one that better reflects the wording of Anth.[46]

L14 οἱ ἐν ἱματισμῷ ἐνδόξῳ (Luke 7:25). Harnack referred to Matthew’s οἱ τὰ μαλακὰ φοροῦντες (“the ones soft [things] wearing”) as “an awkward expression which offended St. Luke’s sense of style.”[47] In this judgment Harnack was probably correct. Matthew’s awkward Greek reverts quite nicely into Hebrew (see below), and therefore likely reproduces the wording of Anth. Nevertheless, Luke’s “glorious clothing” reminds us of the phrase בִּגְדֵי כָּבוֹד (bigdē kāvōd, “robes of glory”), which occurs in a fragment of Ben Sira discovered at Qumran and elsewhere in ancient Jewish sources.[48]

הָעֹטִים בַּחֲמוּדוֹת (HR). In LXX the verb φορεῖν (forein, “to carry,” “to wear”) is relatively rare,[49] and the only time φορεῖν has a Hebrew equivalent it is used as the translation of הוֹסִיף (hōsif, “add”; Prov. 16:23), which is not suitable for HR. In Hebrew MSS of Ben Sira we find the verb עָטָה (‘āṭāh, “wrap” “wear”) opposite both of its instances of φορεῖν (Sir. 11:5; 40:4), and since עָטָה fits our context and continued to be used in MH,[50] we have adopted this verb for HR.

An example of עָטָה in MH is found in a midrash on Song of Songs:

שלמה אהיה כעוטיה ר′ חלבו בשם ר′ הונא אמר שלא אהיה כאבל הזה שהוא עוטה על שפמו ובוכה…ד″א שלמה אהיה כעוטיה שלא אהיה כרועה זה שנכנסו זאבים בתוך עדרו ובקעוהו ועטה את בגדו ויצא

For why should I be veiled? [Song 1:7]. Rabbi Helbo in the name of Rabbi Huna said, “[It means] that I might not be like this mourner, who wraps [עוֹטֶה] his face and cries.” Another interpretation of For why should I be veiled?: [It means] that I might not be like this shepherd, for when the wolves entered his flock and tore it, he wrapped [עָטָה] his garment and went out. (Song Rab. 1:7 §1 [ed. Etelsohn, 68])

On reconstructing μαλακός with חֲמוּדָה, see above, Comment to L11.

L15 καὶ τρυφῇ ὑπάρχοντες (Luke 7:25). The likelihood that “and being in luxury” is redactional is high, given the facts that the noun τρυφή (trūfē, “luxury”) occurs nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels,[51] and that only the author of Luke among the synoptic writers used the verb ὑπάρχειν (hūparchein) in the sense of “be” or “exist.”[52] Moreover, καὶ τρυφῇ ὑπάρχοντες (“and in luxury being”) is difficult to revert to Hebrew. Delitzsch, for instance, rendered this phrase as וְהַמְעֻנָּגִים (“and the delicate ones”).

L16-17 ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις τῶν βασιλέων εἰσίν (GR). Many scholars agree that Matthew’s “in the houses of the kings they are”[53] is more Semitic than Luke’s “in the palaces they are,” and therefore more likely to reflect the pre-synoptic form of Jesus’ saying.[54] The phrase ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις τῶν βασιλέων (en tois oikois tōn basileōn, “in the houses of the kings”) looks like an attempt to translate the construct phrase בְּבָתֵּי הַמְּלָכִים (bevātē hamelāchim, “in [the] houses of the kings”).[55] Luke’s noun, βασίλειον (basileion, “kingly dwelling,” “palace”),[56] occurs nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels and probably reflects a Lukan stylistic improvement to the wording of Anth.

There can be little doubt regarding the reconstruction of βασιλεύς (basilevs, “king”) as מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”). In LXX βασιλεύς translates a number of different Hebrew terms, but none with such frequency as מֶלֶךְ.[57] Similarly, there are a number of instances in which מֶלֶךְ is translated in LXX by some other Greek word, but they are insignificant compared to the number of times מֶלֶךְ is rendered βασιλεύς.[58]

L18 ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν (GR). As we noted above (Comment to L7), in Greek Jesus’ questions could either be understood as “What did you go out to see?” or “Why did you go out? To see a…?” It appears that in order to eliminate this ambiguity the scribe who produced Codex Vaticanus moved the verb ἰδεῖν in Matt. 11:9 from its original position after ἐξήλθατε (“you went out”) to a new position after προφήτην (“prophet”). In this way, the verse clearly means, “Why did you go out? To see a prophet?” etc. For GR we have adopted the reading of Luke and of the critical editions of Matt. 11:9.

אֶלָּא מַה יְצָאתֶם לִרְאוֹת (HR). On reconstructing ἀλλὰ τί ἐξήλθατε ἰδεῖν as אֶלָּא מַה יְצָאתֶם לִרְאוֹת, see above, Comment to L10.

L19 נָבִיא (HR). On reconstructing προφήτης (profētēs, “prophet”) with נָבִיא (nāvi’, “prophet”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L22.

L20 הֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (HR). On reconstructing ναί (nai, “yes”) with הֵן (hēn, “yes”), see Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Comment to L9.

In the sayings of Jesus it is more common to find ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (“Amen! I say to you…”) than ναὶ λέγω ὑμῖν (“Yes, I say to you…”), but since both Luke and Matthew agree on the use of ναί in L20, we must conclude that ναί is what appeared in Anth.[59] Supposing that ναὶ λέγω ὑμῖν represents an original הֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (“Yes, I am saying to you…”), what might be the significance of Jesus’ departure from his normal way of speaking? McNeile pointed out that the statement that follows ναὶ λέγω ὑμῖν could be understood in two different ways. Either Jesus meant, “Yes, John the Baptist was, indeed, a prophet. But I’ll let you in on a secret: he was also something more!” or Jesus meant, “Did you go out to see a prophet? Yes you did. But you were also hoping that John the Baptist might be something more than a prophet, weren’t you?”[60]

That the latter meaning was what Jesus intended finds support in Luke’s report that the people who went out to see John speculated whether he might be the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Popular speculation about John the Baptist as a messianic or otherwise eschatological figure is also reflected in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:19-27). Similarly, Josephus reports that Antipas feared that John might have been preparing to lead a revolt against him (Ant. 18:118), and we know that other Jewish revolutionary leaders in the first century sometimes boasted messianic pretensions. Even if John denied playing such a role, this would in no way rule out the possibility that many of the people who had gone out to see John were more interested in catching a glimpse of an eschatological deliverer than in the specifics of his message. Indeed, this possibility might account for the terms of abuse (e.g., “brood of vipers”; Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7) with which John the Baptist excoriated his audience. And perhaps Jesus’ statement, too, about the crowd’s expectation to see more than a prophet, should be taken as a mild rebuke of Jesus’ audience rather than as a statement about Jesus’ personal assessment of John the Baptist.

If Jesus’ statement is understood in the way we have described, then his use of ναί / הֵן rather than his accustomed ἀμήν / אָמֵן becomes clearer. According to Lindsey, Jesus used “Amen!” as a response to a statement or action he had observed, or as an interjection in confirmation of something he himself had just said. Jesus would then follow up his “Amen!” exclamation with a further reinforcing point.[61] For instance, when Jesus pronounced his blessing on the apostles saying, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you’re seeing,” Jesus followed up this blessing with “Amen!” adding, “And what’s more, I tell you that many prophets and messengers desired to see what you see,” etc. But if in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser the statement about John’s being more than a prophet expresses the expectations of the crowd rather than the opinion of Jesus, then he would have avoided “Amen!” because Jesus was not reinforcing the point he had just made (i.e., that John was a prophet) by adding that John was more than a prophet. On the contrary, in his rhetorical question Jesus neither confirmed that John was a prophet nor added that he was more than a prophet; he simply asked what it was the people had gone out to the wilderness expecting to see. Had the crowds gone out to see a prophet? Yes they had. And they had also been hoping that John might be the anointed priest, or the anointed king, or, perhaps, the eschatological prophet. According to our reading, it is not until L22 (Matt. 11:10; Luke 7:27) that Jesus began to share his own estimate of the role John the Baptist played in the unfolding of redemption history.

L21 וְיָתֵר עַל נָבִיא (HR). The closest formal parallel we have found to προφήτην…καὶ περισσότερον προφήτου (“a prophet…and more than a prophet”) in Hebrew is in the following rabbinic passage:

מה דרך המזיקין נשכרים או מפסידין הוי אומר מפסידין אף דרך הניזקין נוטלין נזקן או יתר על נזקן הוי אומר נזקן ולא יותר על נזקן

What is the normal way of treating those who cause damage? Do they profit or suffer loss? You must say they suffer loss. Likewise, what is the normal way of treating those whose property is damaged? Do they collect their damages or more than their damages [נִזְקָן אוֹ יָתֵר עַל נִזְקָן]? You must say their damages and not more than their damages [נִזְקָן וְלֹא יוֹתֵר עַל נִזְקָן]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Nezikin chpt. 12 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:422])

As the above example shows, our reconstruction could either read וְיָתֵר עַל נָבִיא or וְיוֹתֵר עַל נָבִיא. We have selected the former simply because יָתֵר עַל occurs with greater frequency than יוֹתֵר עַל in the Mishnah.

L22 זֶה הוּא שֶׁעָלָיו כָּתוּב (HR). The phrase זֶה הוּא (zeh hū’, “this is he,” “this is the one”) occurs only on rare occasion in MT, and is translated οὗτος ἐστιν (houtos estin, “this is”) in the following examples:

קוּם מְשָׁחֵהוּ כִּי זֶה הוּא

Arise and anoint him, for this is the one [זֶה הוּא]. (1 Sam. 16:12)

ἀνάστα καὶ χρῖσον τὸν Δαυιδ, ὅτι οὗτος ἀγαθός ἐστιν

Arise and anoint David, for this one is good [οὗτος ἀγαθός ἐστιν]. (1 Kgdms. 16:12)

וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִיד זֶה הוּא בֵּית יי הָאֱלֹהִים

And David said, “This is [זֶה הוּא] the house of the LORD God.” (1 Chr. 22:1)

καὶ εἶπεν Δαυιδ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ οἶκος κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ

And David said, “This is [οὗτός ἐστιν] the house of the Lord God.” (1 Chr. 22:1)

In MH the phrase זֶה הוּא is common. A few examples include:

הַמַּדִּיַח זֶה הוּא הָאוֹמֵ′ נֵלֵךְ וְנַעֲבוֹד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה

The one leading astray: This is he who [זֶה הוּא] says, “Let’s go and serve idols” [cf. Deut. 13:14]. (m. Sanh. 7:10)

בְּנֵינוּ זֶה הוּא שֶׁלָּקָה בִפְנֵיכֶם

[And they shall say to the elders of his city,] “Our son, etc. [Deut. 21:20]. This is he [זֶה הוּא] who was whipped before you. (m. Sanh. 8:4)

אֵין לוֹ גְבִינִים אִם אֵין לוֹ אֶלָּא גְבִין אֶחָד זֶה הוּא הַגִבֵּן הָאָמוּר בַּתּוֹרָה

If he has no eyebrows, or if he has only one, this is [זֶה הוּא] the gibēn who is spoken of in the Torah [Lev. 21:20]. (m. Bech. 7:2)

זֶה הוּא שֶׁפָּתוּחַ לָעֲזָרָה

This is the one [זֶה הוּא] [i.e., the gate—DNB and JNT] that opened toward the [Temple’s] courtyard. (m. Mid. 1:7)

זֶה הוּא שֶׁאָמְרוּ מִשֶּׁנִיזְקַק לַטּוּמְאָה סְפֵיקוֹ טָמֵא

This is the one [זֶה הוּא] [i.e., the case—DNB and JNT] about which they said, “From the time that it was brought into proximity with impurity, its doubtful status causes it to be treated as impure.” (m. Neg. 5:5)

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

On reconstructing περί with עַל, see above, Comment to L6. In LXX the verb γράφειν (grafein, “to write”) is overwhelmingly the translation of כָּתַב (kātav, “write”).[62] Conversely, כָּתַב is almost always translated in LXX as γράφειν.[63] Jesus’ quotation formula (“about whom it is written”) is similar to formulae encountered in DSS, for example:

א]שר עליהם כתוב]

…that concerning them it is written…. (4Q177 II, 3)

ועל ישראל כתוב

And concerning Israel it is written…. (4Q266 11 I, 3-4)

In the examples cited above we encounter the word order עַל + pronominal suffix or noun + כָּתוּב.[64] While the reverse order (על + כָּתוּב + pronominal suffix or noun) is more common in MT, the examples we have provided demonstrate that there is no reason to correct the word order in GR.

L23-27 In Matt. 11:10 and Luke 7:27 we encounter a composite citation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1. The first half of the quotation (L23-25) agrees exactly with the LXX translation of Exod. 23:20,[65] while the second half of the quotation is strongly reminiscent of Mal. 3:1 as it occurs in MT.[66] In Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L43, we discussed how the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua tended to rely on LXX for Scripture quotations except in cases where LXX disagreed in some significant way with the quotation as it was given in his source, so the agreement with LXX in the first half of the quotation in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser should not deter us from tracing the composite citation back to the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Rather, it appears that Jesus quoted from Exod. 23:20 exactly,[67] whereas he paraphrased Mal. 3:1 under the influence of Exod. 23:20.

The mechanism that allowed Jesus to combine two verses that occur in separate books is known as gezerah shavah, an exegetical technique that joined verses on the basis of their uniquely shared vocabulary. Exodus 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 are unique in sharing the declaration “Behold! I am sending [my] messenger,” [68] and it appears that Jesus used Exod. 23:20 to put a novel interpretation on the usually eschatologically framed Mal. 3:1. The following table shows how we believe Jesus wove together Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1 to produce the quotation in Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27. Blue marks places where either verse could have contributed to the composite quotation, red marks the contribution that can only have come from Exodus, and purple marks the contribution that can only have come from Malachi. Grey is used to indicate how a verse may have been exerting background influence:

Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27 Malachi 3:1 Exodus 23:20
GR HR    
ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי הִנְנִי הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי
Behold! I Behold! I Behold! I
ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ [מַלְאָכִי][69]
am sending my messenger am sending my messenger am sending [my] messenger
πρὸ προσώπου σου לְפָנֶיךָ   לְפָנֶיךָ
ahead of you   ahead of you
ὃς κατασκευάσει אֲשֶׁר יְפַנֶּה וּפִנָּה לִשְׁמָרְךָ בַּדָּרֶךְ וְלַהֲבִיאֲךָ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר הֲכִנֹתִי
who will prepare and he will prepare to guard you in the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.
τὴν ὁδόν σου דַּרְכְּךָ דֶרֶךְ  
your way the way  
ἔμπροσθέν σου לְפָנֶיךָ לְפָנָי  
ahead of you. ahead of me.  

The above presentation shows that it is the crucial phrase שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי (“sending my messenger”) that links the two biblical verses. Our Hebrew reconstruction is based on our supposition that Exod. 23:20 is the verse that stands behind the first half of the composite citation (L23-25), and the above presentation shows that we detect a continuing influence of Exod. 23:20 on the paraphrase of Mal. 3:1 in the second half of the citation (L26-27). This may be an indication that, for Jesus, Exod. 23:20 was the more important verse and that he paraphrased Mal. 3:1 under its influence. Precisely because the second half of the quotation was a paraphrase, the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua could not rely on LXX for this portion of the citation; he instead had to translate the quotation from scratch. This fact may account for the different renderings of לְפָנֶיךָ (“ahead of you”) in L25 (πρὸ προσώπου σου; LXX) and L27 (ἔμπροσθέν σου; independent translation).

But why bother linking Mal. 3:1 to Exod. 23:20 in the first place? Read on its own terms, Mal. 3:1 portends the coming of an eschatological figure, perhaps a priestly redeemer, whose mission is to purify the Temple and the priesthood. As we discussed in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L15, John the Baptist, in his preaching, foretold the imminent arrival of just such a figure who was coming to exact judgment upon the wicked, and it is likely that some of John’s listeners wondered whether John the Baptist, a priest by birth and Elijianic in temperament, might be that eschatological figure (see above, Comment to L20). In that case, some of Jesus’ contemporaries may have already begun applying Mal. 3:1 to John the Baptist. In response to this (mis)interpretation, Jesus may have used Exod. 23:20 to tamp down the eschatological interpretation of Mal. 3:1 and especially its application to John.

John the Baptist’s Redemptive Timeline

As Flusser and Notley have discussed, Jesus and John had differing views of the divine timetable and where on that table their time was to be placed.[70] Whereas John (and perhaps also his followers) subscribed to a bipartite view of history, in which the major division came between the current world order and the eschatological future, Jesus subscribed to a tripartite view of history, in which the age of messianic redemption, a period Jesus referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven, interposed between the first stage and the eschatological future. Jesus believed that his generation was witnessing one age—the days of the prophets, in which the promised redemption was anticipated—coming to its conclusion, and a new age—the Kingdom of Heaven, in which the promised redemption began to be realized—coming into its own. Only after the age of the Kingdom of Heaven had been completed would the eschatological age of the world to come begin. Since, according to Jesus, the eschaton lay a great distance in the future, he would not have agreed that John the Baptist was an eschatological figure. John did not stand on the brink of the eschaton. Rather, he stood as the last in the succession of prophets. By reinterpreting Mal. 3:1, and its application to John the Baptist, in the light of Exod. 23:20, Jesus was able to send exactly this message.

Jesus’ Redemptive Timeline

In the first place, by tying Mal. 3:1 to Exod. 23:20 Jesus was able to tamp down eschatological speculation about John the Baptist by linking the messenger of Mal. 3:1 to the messenger who had prepared the way for Israel to enter the land that God had promised to give their forefathers. Jesus drew a parallel between the present redemption taking place through the Kingdom of Heaven and the former redemption of Israel from Egypt. Just as the first redemption was firmly rooted in history, so, too, the present redemption was taking place in this world, not the world to come.[71]

Icon of John the Baptist depicting him as an angel. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the second place, Jesus may have been attempting to counter eschatological speculations about John the Baptist by using Exod. 23:20 to give the messenger of Mal. 3:1 a Mosaic rather than an Elijianic interpretation. The similarity of Mal. 3:1 (“Behold! I am sending my messenger”) to Mal. 3:23 (“Behold! I am sending the prophet Elijah”; Eng.: Mal. 4:5), as well as their proximity, led to the identification of the messenger of Mal. 3:1 as none other than Elijah. According to some opinions, Elijah would come as the herald of the final judgment, offering a last chance for repentance before the great and terrible Day of the LORD (cf. Sir. 48:10). If people had begun to identify John the Baptist with the messenger of Mal. 3:1, then the implication was that John was the promised eschatological Elijah figure. Against drawing this conclusion, it appears that by using Exod. 23:20 Jesus attempted to recast John the Baptist as a prophet like Moses. It is known that some Jewish exegetes regarded the messenger of Exod. 23:20 to be Moses himself.[72] What is less certain is whether this interpretation existed as early as the Second Temple period. In any case, it is clear that in the next verse of our pericope (Matt. 11:11 // Luke 7:28) Jesus compares the Baptist to Moses (see below, Comment to L30), and therefore it is plausible that the comparison of John to Moses had already begun in Jesus’ composite citation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1. Strengthening the identification of the messenger in Exod. 23:20 with a prophet like Moses is the command in Exod. 23:21 to listen to the messenger’s voice (i.e., obey him). A similar command is given with regard to the prophet like Moses, whom God will raise up for Israel:

נָבִיא מִקִּרְבְּךָ מֵאַחֶיךָ כָּמֹנִי יָקִים לְךָ יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵלָיו תִּשְׁמָעוּן

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from among your brothers. To him you must listen! (Deut. 18:15)

The function of recasting John the Baptist as a Mosaic, rather than an Elijianic, figure is to make John the last of a long line of prophets that began with Moses. Moses and John the Baptist are two bookends to the age that has now come to an end—the days of the prophets—which is followed, according to Jesus’ scheme, not by the eschaton, but by the age of the Kingdom of Heaven.[73]

The recasting of John the Baptist as a prophet like Moses instead of an eschatological Elijah may explain the change of pronouns in Jesus’ paraphrase of Mal. 3:1. In Mal. 3:1 God sends the messenger “to prepare the way before me,” that is, before God’s coming in judgment. In Exod. 23:20, by contrast, the messenger “will prepare the way before you,” which is to say, he will prepare the way for Israel to enter the land of their inheritance. It appears that Jesus changed the pronouns from “me” to “you” in his paraphrase of Mal. 3:1 in order to downplay the connotations of imminent judgment, such as an Elijianic figure would portend, and to accentuate the connotations of redemption inherent in Exod. 23:20 and its associations with Moses or a Moses-like prophet.[74]

L23 ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω (GR). For GR we have accepted Matthew’s reading, which includes the first person pronoun ἐγώ (egō, “I”). This is in agreement with the LXX translation of Exod. 23:30, which we suppose the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua copied in the first half of Jesus’ composite citation. The author of Luke is known to have omitted the first person pronoun when he regarded it as superfluous.[75]

הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ (HR). Our reconstruction agrees with the text of Exod. 23:20, which comprised the first half of Jesus’ composite citation.

L24 מַלְאָכִי (HR). As we mentioned above, the pre-Masoretic version of Exod. 23:20 that was known to Jesus likely read מַלְאָכִי (mal’āchi, “my messenger,” “my angel”) in place of MT’s מַלְאָךְ (mal’āch, “messenger,” “angel”). The pre-Masoretic reading is supported by LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch.

Some scholars have detected an incongruence between the description of John the Baptist as a “prophet” in L19 (Matt. 11:9 // Luke 7:26) and the reference to him as a “messenger” or “angel” here in L24.[76] According to rabbinic sources, however, מַלְאָךְ (“messenger,” “angel”) is a synonym for נָבִיא (nāvi’, “prophet”).[77] It is perfectly natural, therefore, that having identified John as a prophet (נָבִיא) Jesus would, in the next breath, refer to the Baptist as a messenger (מַלְאָךְ).[78]

L25 לְפָנֶיךָ (HR). Our reconstruction conforms to the reading of Exod. 23:20. On reconstructing πρὸ προσώπου (pro prosōpou, “before [the] face”) with לִפְנֵי (lifnē, “ahead of,” “before”), see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L31.

L26 אֲשֶׁר יְפַנֶּה דַּרְכְּךָ (HR). In L26 the wording of Matthew and Luke, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου (“who will prepare your way”), is unlike LXX (καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου; “and he will oversee the way before me”; Mal. 3:1), but also unlike MT (וּפִנָּה דֶרֶךְ לְפָנָי; “and he will prepare the way before me”; Mal. 3:1), although the similarity of the Gospel quotation to MT is stronger than it is to LXX. Here, there can be no question of a pre-Masoretic version of Mal. 3:1 different from MT. While LXX and MT point to two different vocalizations of ופנה, there is no evidence of a version of Mal. 3:1 similar to our HR. Hence, we must suppose that Jesus paraphrased Mal. 3:1, adding the relative pronoun אֲשֶׁר (asher, “who”) and changing the pronoun from first to second person under the influence of Exod. 23:20 (see the table above, Comment to L23-27). The second half of the composite citation (L26-L27) is independent of LXX and points to a sophisticated Hebrew exegesis that is unlikely to have come from the later Greek-speaking church, but more probably derives from Jesus himself.

L27 לְפָנֶיךָ (HR). We noted above (Comment to L23-27) that it is odd that the same prepositional phrase לְפָנֶיךָ (lefānechā, “ahead of you”) should have been put into Greek differently in L25 and L27. The best explanation is that whereas the Greek translator copied the first half of the composite citation from LXX, here in the second half of the citation where the Hebrew text of Jesus’ biography was at odds with LXX, the Greek translator provided an impromptu translation of his own. On reconstructing ἔμπροσθεν (emprosthen, “ahead,” “before”) with לִפְנֵי (lifnē, “ahead,” “before”), see Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Comment to L10-11.

L28-29 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s reading for GR, not only because the presence of ἀμήν (amēn, “Amen!”) in L28 is highly appropriate, signaling a confirmation of and further elaboration on the surprising twist Jesus had put on Mal. 3:1 in light of Exod. 23:20, but also because the author of Luke tended to omit or replace ἀμήν when it appeared in his source.[79]

L30-35 Although clearly derived from the same source, there are significant differences between the Matthean and Lukan versions of our pericope with respect to the wording of the final verse. We believe Matthew preserves the wording of Anth. more faithfully than Luke does in this verse, since Matthew’s version is more Hebraic, whereas Luke’s version has a more refined Greek style. Thus, the author of Luke eliminated the statement “none has risen” (L30) in favor of the more refined “there is no one” (L32), moved “greater” to the opening of the sentence for emphasis (L31), and exchanged “Kingdom of Heaven” for “Kingdom of God” (L34).

L30 לֹא קָם (HR). As we mentioned above (Comment to L23-27), it is likely that, in stating that none had arisen greater than John the Baptist, Jesus was comparing this latter-day prophet to Moses. He did this by alluding to the eulogy in Deuteronomy,[80] which praised Moses as the greatest of all the prophets (Deut. 34:10; cf. 2 Kgs. 23:25):

Matt. 11:11 (cf. Luke 7:28) Deut. 34:10
οὐκ ἐγήγερται לֹא קָם וְלֹא קָם
Not has arisen And not has arisen
    נָבִיא עוֹד
  a prophet again
ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν בִּילוּדֵי אִשָּׁה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל
in those born to women in Israel
μείζων Ἰωάνου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ גָּדוֹל מִיּוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל כְּמֹשֶׁה
greater than John the Baptist. like Moses.

Notley noted that Deut. 34:10 is the only verse in the Hebrew Bible that opens with the phrase לֹא קָם (lo’ qām, “not has arisen”), and therefore if Jesus began a sentence with this phrase it was likely to call Deut. 34:10 to mind.[81] If an allusion to Moses’ eulogy was intended in Matt. 11:11, then it is notable that the allusion was independent of LXX, which reads οὐκ ἀνέστη (ouk anestē, “not has arisen”; Deut. 34:10), unlike Matthew’s οὐκ ἐγήγερται (ouk egēgertai, “not has arisen”). The same verb, ἐγείρειν (egeirein, “to raise,” “to lift up”; passive: “to get up,” “to arise”), was used to allude to Deut. 34:10 in Widow’s Son in Nain, L22. Jesus’ purpose in comparing John to Moses was to signal that the period to which those two towering figures belonged—the days of the prophets—had now come to an end. Moses inaugurated this period in Israel’s history and the Baptist brought it to a close.

L31 בִּילוּדֵי אִשָּׁה (HR). The phrase γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν (gennētois gūnaikōn, “those born of women”) looks like an attempt to render the expression יְלוּדֵי אִשָּׁה (yelūdē ’ishāh, “those born of a woman”).[82] The construct phrase יְלוּד אִשָּׁה (yelūd ’ishāh, “one born of a woman”) appears 3xx in MT and is simply an idiom for “human being.” In LXX each of the three instances of יְלוּד אִשָּׁה is rendered γεννητὸς γυναικός (gennētos gūnaikos, “one born of a woman”; Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4). The idiomatic phrase also occurs in DSS,[83] rabbinic literature,[84] and in 3 Enoch 6:2.[85] The phrase notably occurs exclusively in the singular and describes individuals. In GR we have used a plural form because the reference is to an entire class (i.e., all human beings), and a plural form is indicated by the Greek text of Matt. 11:11 // Luke 7:28.

Flusser noted that the phrase יְלוּד אִשָּׁה is sometimes applied to Moses in rabbinic sources,[86] examples of which include:

עמדו ואשמעה. כאדם שאומר אשמע דבר מפי רבי אשרי ילוד אשה שכך היה מובטח שכל זמן שהיה רוצה היה מדבר עמו

Wait and I will hear [Num. 9:8]. Like a person who says, “I will hear a word from the mouth of my master.” Blessed is the one born of woman [i.e., Moses—DNB and JNT] who was thus assured that every time he wanted he could speak with him [i.e., with God—DNB and JNT]. (Sifre Num. §68 [ed. Horovitz, 63])

והיו אומרים מה טיבו של ילוד אשה שעלה למרום

And they [i.e., the ministering angels—DNB and JNT] were saying, “What use is there in this one born of a woman [i.e., Moses—DNB and JNT] who ascended on high?” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 2:3 [ed. Schechter, 10]; cf. Pesikta Rabbati 20:4 [ed. Friedmann, 96b])

Note the parallelism, and indeed the magnification, between ἐν Ισραηλ / בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל (“in Israel”; Deut. 34:10) and ἐν γεννητοῖς γυναικῶν / בִּילוּדֵי אִשָּׁה (“in those born of women”; L31).[87]

Perhaps Jesus chose to describe John as “born of a woman” in order to downplay the eschatological speculations that swirled around him. The phrase “born of a woman” also has the effect of reinforcing the interpretation of ἄγγελος/מַלְאָךְ as “messenger” rather than “angel,” something that the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was at pains to do,[88] which may hint that some of the enthusiastic followers of John the Baptist regarded him as not only an eschatological figure, but also as a supernatural being.

L32 μείζων Ἰωάνου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L30-35, Luke improved the Greek of his source by changing “none has arisen” to “there is no one.”[89] More difficult to determine is whether Luke’s “John” or Matthew’s “John the Baptist” is more original. Here is a survey of all the instances where John is referred to by his full title (Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής [or, sometimes in Mark, Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτίζων]) in the Synoptic Gospels:

Matt. 3:1 DT (cf. Luke 3:2)
Matt. 11:11 DT (cf. Luke 7:28)
Matt. 11:12 DT (cf. Luke 16:16)
Matt. 14:2 TT (= Mark 6:14 [Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτίζων]; cf. Luke 9:7)
Matt. 14:8 Mk-Mt (= Mark 6:25)
Matt. 16:14 TT (= Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19)
Matt. 17:13 U
Mark 6:14 TT (= Matt. 14:2 [Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής]; cf. Luke 9:7)
Mark 6:24 U
Mark 6:25 Mk-Mt (= Matt. 14:8)
Mark 8:28 TT (= Matt. 16:14; Luke 9:19)
Luke 7:20 U
Luke 7:33 DT (cf. Matt. 11:18)
Luke 9:19 TT (= Matt. 16:14; Mark 8:28)

Key: DT = verse appears only in Luke and Matthew; TT = verse has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; U = verse unique to that Gospel; Mk-Mt = verse appears only in Mark and Matthew

The above survey reveals that the author of Matthew used John’s full title 7xx, compared to 4xx in Mark and 3xx in Luke, a fact that might superficially suggest that the high frequency of John’s full title in Matthew is due to Matthean redaction. Scratching below the surface, however, we find that three of Matthew’s uses of “John the Baptist” were definitely picked up from his source (Matt. 14:2 [= Mark 6:14], 8 [= Mark 6:25]; 16:14 [= Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19]), and in two further instances the author of Matthew appears to have been following the wording of Anth. more closely than Luke (Matt. 11:11; cf. Luke 7:28), or he was relying on Anth. where Luke relied on FR (Matt. 11:12; cf. Luke 16:16).[90] This leaves two instances of the use of John’s full title in Matthew in doubt (Matt. 3:1; 17:3), but our analysis at least shows that the author of Matthew more often copied John’s full title from his sources than added it on his own initiative.[91] In addition, we find that on the few occasions where John’s full title appears in Luke, the author of Luke was copying Anth., and therefore instances of John’s full title have a good claim to an origin in Anth.[92] These findings indicate that referring to John by his full title was a common occurrence in Anth., and they support our conclusion that most instances of the use of John’s full title in DT and TT pericopae should be attributed to Anth., including here in L32.

Note, moreover, that L32 represents the first time in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser that John’s name has been mentioned in direct speech. In the first instance of referring to someone by name it would have been expected to include the individual’s nickname or title, especially if that individual’s name was as common as “John.”

גָּדוֹל מִיּוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל (HR). Flusser suggested that Jesus’ words should be reconstructed as לֹא קָם בִּילוּדֵי אִשָּׁה כְּיּוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל (“Among those born of a woman none has arisen like John the Baptist”),[93] which would strengthen the connection to Deut. 34:10. In Flusser’s opinion, μείζων (meizōn, “greater”) crept into L32 from L35, but Flusser’s suggestion seems unnecessary. The allusion to Deut. 34:10 is clear enough without Flusser’s emendation, and the parallelism between the greatest among those born of a woman and the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven appears to be original, as the Lukan-Matthean agreement suggests. Apparently, by making his startling declaration in Matt. 11:11 // Luke 7:28, Jesus wished to underscore the privileges enjoyed by those who lived in the age of the Kingdom of Heaven as compared to those who lived in the days of the prophets. A similar contrast between those living in the days of the prophets and those who have lived to see the dawning of the Kingdom of Heaven is found in the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying and the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement.

Hebrew uses the construction גָּדוֹל מִן (gādōl min) to express “greater than.” This construction is attested in BH and continued to be used in MH. Examples of גָּדוֹל מִן in the sense of “greater than” include:

וַיִּירְאוּ מְאֹד כִּי עִיר גְּדוֹלָה גִּבְעוֹן כְּאַחַת עָרֵי הַמַּמְלָכָה וְכִי הִיא גְדוֹלָה מִן הָעַי

And they were much afraid because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than [גְדוֹלָה מִן] Ai…. (Josh. 10:2)

עוֹד תָּשׁוּב תִּרְאֶה תּוֹעֵבוֹת גְּדֹלוֹת מֵאֵלֶּה

You will see abominations yet greater than [-גְּדֹלוֹת מֵ] these. (Ezek. 8:15)

הָאִישׁ הַהוּא גָּדוֹל מִכָּל בְּנֵי קֶדֶם

That man is greater than [-גָּדוֹל מִ] all the inhabitants of the east. (Job 1:3)

כֹחוֹ שֶׁלַּבֵּן גָּדוֹל מִשֶׁלָאָב

The power of the son is greater than [-גָּדוֹל מִ] that of the father. (m. Yev. 7:5)

יוֹסֵף זָכָה לִקְבּוֹר אֶת אָבִיו וְאֵין בְּאֶחָיו גָּדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ

Joseph merited to bury his father, and there was none among his brothers greater than he [גָּדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ]. (m. Sot. 1:9)

מִפְּנֵי שְׁלוֹם הַבְּרִיּוֹת שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמַר אָדָם לַחֲבֵירוֹ אָבָּא גָדוֹל מֵאָבִיךָ

For the sake of peace among the creatures [a single human being was created] so that a person would not say to his companion, “My father is greater than [-גָדוֹל מֵ] your father.” (m. Sanh. 4:5)

הֶחָכָם אֵינוּ מְדַבֵּר לִפְנֵי מִי שֶׁהוּא גָדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ

The wise person does not speak before one who is greater than him [גָדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ]. (m. Avot 5:7)

On reconstructing ὁ βαπτιστής (ho baptistēs, “the immerser,” traditionally “the Baptist”) as הַמַּטְבִּיל (hamaṭbil, “the immerser”), see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L21.

L33 אַף הַקָּטֹן (HR). The conjunction אַף (’af) usually means “and” or “also,” but אַף can also be used to express contrast to a preceding statement (i.e., “no,” “but”).[94] Using אַף makes sense here since Jesus is about to make a startling statement after the high praise he accorded to John.

In L33 the comparative adjective μικρότερος (mikroteros, “smaller”) is best understood in a superlative sense (i.e., “smallest,” “least”).[95] In Hebrew “the smallest” is probably best expressed as הַקָּטֹן (haqāṭon, “the small one”). In LXX קָטֹן (qāṭon, “small”) is frequently rendered νεώτερος (neōteros, “newer,” “younger”), but we have one example where קָטֹן is rendered μικρότερος:

שְׁנֵים־עָשָׂר אֲנַחְנוּ אַחִים בְּנֵי אָבִינוּ הָאֶחָד אֵינֶנּוּ וְהַקָּטֹן הַיּוֹם אֶת־אָבִינוּ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן

We are twelve brothers, the sons of our father. One is no more, and the smallest [וְהַקָּטֹן] is with our father today in the land of Canaan. (Gen. 42:32)

δώδεκα ἀδελφοί ἐσμεν, υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν· ὁ εἷς οὐχ ὑπάρχει, ὁ δὲ μικρότερος μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν σήμερον ἐν γῇ Χανααν.

We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; the one is no more, and the smaller one [μικρότερος] is with our father today in the land of Chanaan (Gen. 42:32; NETS)

L34 ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν (GR). Perhaps following the lead of his second source, FR, the author of Luke consistently changed “Kingdom of Heaven” to “Kingdom of God.”[96] The latter term would have been more comprehensible to Luke’s non-Jewish, Greek-speaking readers, and may already have been familiar to them from the writings of Paul (cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 15:24). We have adopted Matthew’s Hebraic “Kingdom of Heaven” for GR.

שֶׁבְּמַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (HR). On reconstructing the phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (hē basileia tōn ouranōn, “the Kingdom of Heaven”) as מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (malchūt shāmayim, “the Kingdom of Heaven”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L39.

In Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser Jesus appears to have used the term “Kingdom of Heaven” in a temporal sense.[97] One way to express a superlative in MH is by using the adjective + -שֶׁבְּ + definite noun construction (e.g., קָטֹן שֶׁבְּמַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם [qāṭon shebemalchūt shāmayim, “smallest who is in the Kingdom of Heaven”]).[98]

L35 גָּדוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ (HR). On reconstructing μείζων as גָּדוֹל מִן, see above, Comment to L32.

Jesus’ statement is startling: the least participant in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater that John the Baptist. Although an argument could be made for understanding “Kingdom of Heaven” as a reference to Jesus’ band of itinerating full-time disciples, it is more likely that the temporal aspect is at the fore here. How can Jesus maintain that John the Baptist, who is ostensibly still alive at the time Jesus made this statement, is outside the age of the Kingdom of Heaven, which Jesus maintains has already begun? The answer appears to be that John was in this time, but he was not of this age. An analogy might be drawn between John the Baptist and the elves of Middle Earth in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, who lingered for a time after the downfall of Sauron, but who were definitely not of the Fourth Age.[99]

In a sense, John the Baptist was a living relic of the days of the prophets, and it is clear that he did not enjoy the privilege of seeing the manifestations of God’s reign breaking into the human sphere. Jesus had to send John’s disciples back to him to report what they had seen and heard, whereas to his own apostles Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see and the ears that hear what you hear. Amen! Many prophets and messengers desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (cf. Matt. 13:16-17; Luke 10:23-24).[100] As the last of the prophets and messengers, John the Baptist was not privileged to see the Kingdom of Heaven breaking forth. For him, the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven remained hidden from view.[101]

Redaction Analysis

Although there is broad agreement between the Lukan and Matthean versions of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, each author made changes to suit his own stylistic preferences. The author of Luke improved the Greek of his source, especially in the highly Hebraic words of Jesus, whereas the author of Matthew concentrated his editorial activity on the narrative introduction to Jesus’ remarks on John the Baptist.

Luke’s Version

Lukan redaction is concentrated in two main areas: the description of those who wear soft clothes (L11-17) and the description of John’s greatness relative to other human beings (L28-35). Thus, the author of Luke stipulated “garments” instead of Matthew’s “soft things” (L11), and he described the glorious clothing (L14) and the luxurious living (L15) of those who live in palaces (L17), as opposed to Matthew’s more bland tautology that those who wear soft things are in kings’ houses. All of these changes enhanced the Greek style of the pre-synoptic source for the benefit of Luke’s Greek readers. Similarly, in the description of John’s greatness the author of Luke eliminated the most overt Hebraisms: “Amen!” (L28), “none has arisen” (L30) and “Kingdom of Heaven” (L34). These omissions also required some changes of word order (“greater” was moved from L32 to L31) and paraphrase (“no one is” in L32, “Kingdom of God” in L34). The only other change we have found is in L23, where the author of Luke appears to have omitted the first person pronoun, which is superfluous in Greek. It is also possible that the author of Luke omitted Jesus’ name in L4. The stylistic changes the author of Luke made to his source do not appreciably affect the meaning of the pericope.

Matthew’s Version

The only changes the author of Matthew made to Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser are in its opening verse. The author of Matthew avoided referring to John’s disciples as ἄγγελοι (“angels,” “messengers”) and used a different verb to describe their departure (L2). It is possible that whereas Matthew’s source wished to demythologize the term ἄγγελος/מַלְאָךְ as it was applied to John the Baptist (i.e., “messenger,” NOT “angel”) by using ἄγγελος/מַלְאָךְ with reference to human beings, the author of Matthew, who had different views about John the Baptist, did not like to use the term ἄγγελος in a less than supernatural sense. Matthew, it must be recalled, is unique among the Gospels in explicitly identifying John the Baptist as Elijah (Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13). Thus, there may have been a theological motive behind some of the Matthean redaction in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser. The only other instances of Matthean redaction in this pericope are the possible addition of Jesus’ name in L4 and the use of the dative instead of Luke’s πρός + accusative in L5.

Results of This Research

1. Are the images of the shaking reed and the person dressed in fine clothing intended to portray John in a positive or a negative light? It is occasionally suggested that Jesus used these images to level a critique against John: John himself was like a shaking reed because he doubted whether Jesus was “the one who is to come,” and Jesus poked fun at John’s coarse mantle of hair cinched by a leather belt. But these explanations are shown to be false in light of the high regard for John that Jesus expresses in this pericope. It is our opinion that the images of the reed and the finely dressed person were not intended to cast John in any kind of light (negative or otherwise); the function was rather to allude to the mortal contest between John the Baptist and his archenemy Herod Antipas. Perhaps by alluding to John’s nemesis Jesus was stretching the identification of John as Elijah in a new (and unflattering) direction: comparing the enmity between John and Antipas to the ancient enmity between Elijah and Ahab. But if John’s enthusiasts expected to see John-Elijah prevail in his clash with Antipas-Ahab, they would be sorely disappointed: the mighty oak will come crashing down, while the wimpy reed will survive the storm.

2. What does it mean to be “more than a prophet”? We believe the opinion that John was more than a prophet was held by some of the people in the crowd rather than by Jesus himself. It appears that some of them hoped or believed that John the Baptist might be an eschatological figure or supernatural being. Despite his high praise for the Baptist, Jesus strenuously argued against this view of John because Jesus did not believe that his generation was on the brink of the eschaton. According to Jesus, the age of the Kingdom of Heaven had only just begun, and the eschatological age would not begin until the age of the Kingdom of Heaven had reached its completion. For Jesus, John the Baptist was the last of the prophets, and indeed the prophet like Moses, but John remained a prophet and nothing more.

3. What Scripture verse did Jesus quote in this pericope? Jesus spliced together two biblical verses—Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1—using an ancient Jewish exegetical technique known as gezerah shavah, which allowed verses to be intertwined and interpreted in light of one another based on uniquely shared vocabulary. It appears that Jesus combined these two verses in order to combat the view, based on Mal. 3:1, 24, that John the Baptist was Elijah. By reinterpreting Mal. 3:1 in light of Exod. 23:20, Jesus recast John as a Mosaic figure, the last of the prophets, who marked the end of the “biblical” past and the inauguration of the age of the Kingdom of Heaven.

4. Who is “the smaller in the Kingdom of Heaven”? Since in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser Jesus referred to the Kingdom of Heaven in its temporal sense, it is unlikely that by “the smaller (or, smallest) in the Kingdom of Heaven” Jesus referred to gradations among his own disciples. Instead, Jesus’ message seems to be that even people in his generation who have not attained personal greatness enjoy privileges that John the Baptist, as a relic of the former age, will never enjoy. Whereas John only glimpsed the Kingdom of Heaven through prophecies and predictions, other people of Jesus’ generation were seeing manifestations of the Kingdom of Heaven for themselves. In that sense, Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser is similar to the rabbinic statement that even maidservants at the Red Sea and at Sinai saw what no prophet was privileged to witness.[102]


In Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser Jesus challenged popular perceptions about John the Baptist. It appears that there were some enthusiasts who believed that John the Baptist was a supernatural or eschatological figure, none other than Elijah returned from heaven. They saw John’s clash with the tetrarch Herod Antipas as a reprise of Elijah’s famously rife relationship with Ahab, king of the northern tribes of Israel, only this time John-Elijah would win the decisive victory over his enemies. Jesus warned that those who held such triumphalist views would be sorely disappointed: in their mortal contest, John the mighty oak would come crashing down, while Antipas the wavering reed would come out unscathed. What is more, placing such fantastic hopes in the Baptist was misguided, for the eschaton was not at hand. Jesus held the Baptist in high esteem, but John’s time—the age of the prophets—was fading. Rather than clinging onto the past, Jesus redirected the people’s attention to the new work of redemption God was doing through the Kingdom of Heaven.

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] On the two types of DT pericopae, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition.”
  • [4] See LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae.
  • [5] Corresponding to the first part of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, we read this in the Gospel of Thomas:

    Jesus said: Why did you come out into the desert? To see a reed shaken by the wind? And to see a man clothed in soft garments? [See, your] kings and your great ones are those who are clothed in soft [garments] and they [shall] not be able to know the truth. (Gos. Thom. §78 [ed. Guillaumont, 43])

    The above logion fails to mention John the Baptist. Thus, the main thrust of the original saying has been lost in the Gospel of Thomas. A parallel to the final part of Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser is also found in the Gospel of Thomas:

    Jesus said: From Adam until John the Baptist there is among those who are born of women none higher than John the Baptist, so that his eyes will not be broken. But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child shall know the Kingdom, and he shall become higher than John. (Gos. Thom. §46 [ed. Guillaumont, 27])

    The author of Thomas failed to grasp the original comparison Jesus made between John the Baptist and Moses (on which, see Comments to L23-27 and L30), and therefore inserted Adam in order to make the statement about John’s greatness universally applicable.

  • [6] Cf. Marshall, 292; Nolland, Luke, 1:334.
  • [7] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:246.
  • [8] Cf. Richard A. Edwards, “Matthew’s Use of Q in Chapter 11,” in Logia Les Paroles de Jésus—The Sayings of Jesus: Mémorial Joseph Coppens (ed. Joël Delobel; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1982), 257-275, esp. 263.
  • [9] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:247.
  • [10] On reconstructing ἄρχειν as הִתְחִיל, see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L8.
  • [11] See Davies-Allison, 2:247; Nolland, Luke, 1:335; Bovon, 1:279 n. 13.
  • [12] See Fitzmyer, 1:116.
  • [13] We have accepted λέγειν + πρός for GR in Call of Levi, L58; Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, L1-2; Friend in Need, L1; “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” L40-41.
  • [14] As Cameron pointed out, the “emphasis is on the identity of the one in the ‘wilderness’…on what it is they went out to see. This indicates that one should not take the interrogative τί (‘what?’) to mean “why?’ (= διὰ τί…) and punctuate the Greek text to make the verb part of the answer.” See Ron Cameron, “‘What Have You Come Out to See?’ Characterizations of John and Jesus in the Gospels,” Semeia 49 (1990): 35-69, esp. 38-39.
  • [15] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:545-546.
  • [16] See Dos Santos, 104.
  • [17] See Rainey-Notley, 350; R. Steven Notley, In the Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land (Jerusalem: Carta, 2014), 16.
  • [18] See Flusser, Jesus, 43.
  • [19] See Rainey-Notley, 350; Notley, In the Master’s Steps, 17-18.
  • [20] Theissen argued that the allusions Jesus made to Antipas in Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser point to a Galilean audience. See Gerd Theissen, “The ‘Shaken Reed’ in Mt 11:7 and the Foundation Coins of Tiberias,” in his The Gospels in Context: Social and Political History in the Synoptic Tradition (trans. Linda M. Maloney; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 26-42.
  • [21] On the uninhabited region on the outskirts of Bethsaida, see Mendel Nun, “The ‘Desert’ of Bethsaida”; Rainey-Notley, 350; Notley, In the Master’s Steps, 17-18.
  • [22] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:712.
  • [23] See Dos Santos, 184.
  • [24] On reeds in Israel, see Michael Zohary, Plants of the Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 134.
  • [25] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:86-87.
  • [26] See Dos Santos, 190.
  • [27] Examples of the proverbial use of the image of a reed in the wind are found in Jewish and Greek sources. Describing how King Ptolemy of Egypt was punished by God for entering the Temple in Jerusalem, the author of 3 Maccabees (first century B.C.E.) wrote:

    Ἐνταῦθα ὁ πάντων ἐπόπτης θεὸς…κραδάνας αὐτὸν ὡς κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου ὥστε κατ᾿ ἐδάφους ἄπρακτον, ἔτι καὶ τοῖς μέλεσιν παραλελυμένον μηδὲ φωνῆσαι δύνασθαι δικαίᾳ περιπεπληγμένον κρίσει.

    Just then God, who watches over all things…shook him [i.e., King Ptolemy—DNB and JNT] this way and that like a reed in the wind [ὡς κάλαμον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου] so that he lay helpless on the floor, quite unable to speak and paralyzed in his limbs, bound up, as it were, by a just judgment. (3 Macc. 2:21-22; NETS)

    Similarly, Lucian (second cent. C.E.) warned that it is necessary to gain wide experience before adopting the teachings of a philosophical school, for otherwise a student will be easily misled, like a sheep that follows a leafy branch:

    ἢ καὶ νὴ Δία καλάμῳ τινὶ ἐπ᾽ ὄχθῃ παραποταμίᾳ πεφυκότι καὶ πρὸς πᾶν τὸ πνέον καμπτομένῳ, κἂν μικρά τις αὔρα διαφυσήσασα διασαλεύσῃ αὐτόν.

    …or indeed like a reed growing on a river bank, bending to every breath of wind, however slight the breeze that blows and shakes it. (Hermotimus §68; Loeb)

  • [28] This is the position taken by Allen (114), McNeile (153), Davies-Allison (2:247) and Nolland (Luke, 1:336; Matt., 454-455).
  • [29] See, for example, Fitzmyer, 1:674; David Flusser, “The Magnificat, the Benedictus and the War Scroll” (Flusser, JOC, 126-149, esp. 141).
  • [30] On the grounds for the Baptist’s objection to Antipas’ marriage, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution, Comment to L8.
  • [31] On the reed coins marking the founding of Tiberias, see Ya’akov Meshorer, A Treasury of Jewish Coins: From the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi; Nyack, N.Y.: Amphora, 2001), 81-82. Meshorer suggested that Antipas selected a reed to appear on his coins because the reed was a symbol of stability. How ironic, then, that the reed should have become a symbol of Antipas’ inconstancy!

    Meshorer and Theissen (“The ‘Shaken Reed’ in Mt 11:7 and the Foundation Coins of Tiberias,” 28) were under the impression that the reed coin from Tiberias was the first coin Antipas ever minted, but subsequent to their publications a coin from earlier in Antipas’ rule was discovered. On the earlier Antipas coin, see David Hendin, “A New Coin Type of Herod Antipas,” Israel Numismatic Journal 15 (2006): 56-61.

    Not all scholars agree that the image on Antipas’ coins depicts a reed. Wirgin, for instance, argued that it was a laurel branch. See W. Wirgin, “A Note on the ‘Reed’ of Tiberias,” Israel Exploration Journal 18.4 (1968): 248-249.

  • [32] See Theissen, “The ‘Shaken Reed’ in Mt 11:7 and the Foundation Coins of Tiberias,” 32.
  • [33] That his Jewish subjects were offended by the animal figures in Antipas’ palace is proven by the fact that when the revolt against Rome broke out Josephus was commissioned by the authorities in Jerusalem to demolish them.
  • [34] Schwartz suggested that Josephus drew all of his stories about Antipas’ capitulations to Herodias from a single source, which was highly critical of the tetrarch and his wife. See Daniel R. Schwartz, Agrippa I: The Last King of Judea (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1990), 2-11, 177-178.
  • [35] On the New Testament’ portrayal of Herodias and its relationship to her portrayal in the writings of Josephus, see Tal Ilan, “Josephus on Women,” in A Companion to Josephus (ed. Honora Howell Chapman and Zuleika Rodgers; Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2016), 210-221, esp. 217.
  • [36] See Flusser, Jesus, 51; Young, JHJP, 238; idem, Parables, 20; Tomson, 142; Notley-Safrai, 305. The fable of the Oak and the Reeds is recorded in Babrius’ collection of Aesop’s Fables (third cent. C.E.) as follows:

    Δρῦν ἀυτόριζον ἄνεμος ἐξ ὄρους ἄρας
    ἔδωκε ποταμῷ τὴν δ᾽ ἔσυρε κυμαίνων,
    πελώριον φύτευμα τῶν πρὶν ἀνθρώπων.
    πολὺς δὲ κάλαμος ἑκατέρωθεν εἱστήκει
    ἔλαφρον ὄχθης ποταμίης ὕδωρ πίνων.
    θάμβος δὲ τὴν δρῦν εἶχε, πῶς ὁ μὲν λίην
    λεπτός τ᾽ ἐὼν καὶ βληχρὸς οὐκ ἐπεπτώκει,
    αὐτὴ δὲ τόσση φηγὸς ἐξεριζώθη.
    σοφῶς δὲ κάλαμος εἶπε “μηδὲν ἐκπλήσσου.
    σὺ μὲν μαχομένη ταῖς πνοαῖς ἐνικήθης,
    ἡμεῖς δὲ καμπτόμεσθα μαλθακῇ φνώμῃ,
    κἂν βαιὸν ἡμῶν ἄνεμος ἄκρα κινήσῃ.”
    Κάλαμος μὲν οὕτως ὁ δέ γε μῦθος ἐμφαίνει
    μὴ δεῖν μάχεσθαι τοῖς κρατοῦσιν, ἀλλ᾽ εἴκειν.

    The wind [ἄνεμος] uplifted with its very roots an oak upon the mountain-side and gave it to the river; and the river swept it on amid its billows, that giant tree planted by men in former times. But many a reed [κάλαμος] stood firm on either side, drinking the quiet water by the river’s bank. Great wonder came upon the oak: how could it be that one so slender and so weak had not been felled, while he himself so great an oak had been uprooted? Wisely then the reed [κάλαμος] made answer, “Marvel not. You fought the winds and therefore lost the battle; but we as always bend ourselves in meek and yielding mood, if only with a little breeze the wind [ἄνεμος] bestirs our tops.”

    So spoke the reed [κάλαμος]. Our myth reveals this truth, it is not wise to struggle with the mighty, but to yield. (Aesopic Fables of Babrius in Iambic Verse, Babrius §36; Loeb)

  • [37] On the influence of Aesop’s Fables on rabbinic sources, see Joseph Jacobs, ed., The Fables of Aesop, as first printed by William Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso and Poggio (2 vols; London: David Nutt in the Strand, 1889), 1:110-124; idem, “Æsop’s Fables Among the Jews,” JE, 1:221-222; Haim Schwarzbaum, “Talmudic-Midrashic Affinities in Some Aesopic Fables,” IV International Congress for Folk-Narrative Research in Athens (1.9-6.9 1964): Lectures and Reports (Athens, 1965): 466-483; idem, “The Fables of Aesop and the Parables of the Sages,” Maḥanayim 112 (1967): 112-117 (for an English translation of this article, click here); Young, JHJP, 238-239.
  • [38] On Aesop’s Fables and other “international” folk traditions in the teachings of Jesus and in rabbinic sources, see Tomson 142. See also Danielle Parish, “Jesus’ Reference to Folklore and Historical Events.”
  • [39] On the important element of realistic pessimism in the teachings of Jesus, see David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,” especially under the subheading “Solidarity with Israel.”
  • [40] Cf. Bovon, 1:278.
  • [41] Josephus records that Agrippa, the nephew of Antipas, used to stay at the palace of the Hasmonean kings in Jerusalem (Ant. 20:190). It is likely that other members of the Herodian household did the same. See Harold W. Hoehner, Herod Antipas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972; repr. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 239; Notley, In the Master’s Steps, 73.
  • [42] On the palace Herod the Great built at Macherus, see J.W. 7:171-177.
  • [43] On Esau (= Edom) as a symbol of Rome in rabbinic literature, see Ginzberg, 1:254 n. 19. Ginzberg suggested that Edom as a codename for Rome may have been inspired by the fact that Herod the Great, the client king of Rome, was of Idumean (i.e., Edomite) descent. Flusser (Jesus, 76-77) detected an allusion to Esau as a symbol of Rome in a saying of Jesus.
  • [44] We read the following in the Jerusalem Talmud:

    ותקח רבקה את בגדי עשו בנה הגדול החמודות אשר אתה בבית מהו החמודות שהיה משמש בכהונה גדולה

    And Rebekah took the clothes of her eldest son Esau, the finest ones [הַחֲמוּדוֹת], which were with her in the house [Gen. 27:15]. What is the significance of the finest ones? That it was used for the high priesthood. (y. Meg. 1:11 [14b])

  • [45] Another rabbinic source identifies Esau’s חֲמוּדוֹת as imperial robes (בִּגְדֵי מַלְכוּת; Pesikta Rabbati 23/24:2 [ed. Friedmann, 124a]).
  • [46] Cf. Harnack, 15-16; McNeile, 153; Creed, 107; Marshall, 294; Bovon, 1:278.
  • [47] See Harnack, 15-16.
  • [48] The Ben Sira fragment mentioning “robes of glory” states:

    בגדי כבוד תלבשנה ועטרת תפארת תעטרנה

    You will wear her [i.e., Wisdom—DNB and JNT] as robes of glory [בִּגְדֵי כָּבוֹד] and you will don her as a crown of splendor. (2Q18 2 I, 12)

    στολὴν δόξης ἐνδύσῃ αὐτὴν καὶ στέφανον ἀγαλλιάματος περιθήσεις σεαυτῷ

    You will wear her as a robe of glory [στολὴν δόξης] and you will don her as a crown of gladness. (Sir. 6:31)

    On “robes of glory” see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L36.

  • [49] In LXX φορεῖν occurs in Esth. 4:17; Prov. 3:16; 16:23, 26; Sir. 11:5; 40:4.
  • [50] See Jastrow, 1063.
  • [51] See Harnack, 16.
  • [52] See Creed, 107. While ὑπάρχειν in the sense of “be” or “exist” never occurs in Mark or Matthew, in the writings of Luke it occurs in the following verses: Luke 7:25; 8:41; 9:48; 11:13; 16:14, 23; 23:50; Acts 2:30; 3:2; 4:34; 5:4; 7:55; 8:16; 10:12; 16:3, 20, 37; 17:24, 27, 29; 19:36, 40; 21:20; 22:3; 27:12, 21, 34; 28:7, 18. Note that we found ὑπάρχειν in Luke 11:13 to be redactional. See Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L12.
  • [53] Notice the textual variant in Matt. 11:8. In Codex Vaticanus εἰσίν is omitted after ἐν τοῖς οἴκοις τῶν βασιλέων. Critical editions of NT indicate that εἰσίν probably does belong to the original text of Matt. 11:8, and since εἰσίν also occurs in Luke 7:25 we have accepted εἰσίν in GR. Cf. Matt. 11:11 // Luke 7:28, which concludes with ἐστιν (L35).
  • [54] See McNeile, 153; Marshall, 294; Bovon, 1:278 n. 11.
  • [55] In LXX the phrase οἶκος τοῦ βασιλέως occurs as the translation of בֵּית (הַ)מֶּלֶךְ in 2 Kgdms. 11:2, 8; 15:35; 19:19; 3 Kgdms. 9:1, 10; 10:12; 14:26, 27; 15:18; 16:18 (2xx); 4 Kgdms. 7:9, 11; 11:5, 16, 19, 20; 12:19; 14:14; 15:25; 16:8; 18:15; 24:13; 25:9; 2 Chr. 7:11; 9:11; 12:9; 16:2; 21:17; 23:5, 15, 20; 25:24; 28:21; 2 Esd. 13:25; Hos. 5:1; Jer. 22:1; 33[26]:10; 39[32]:2; 43[36]:12; 52:13. Note that LXX rendered בְּבֵית הַמֶּלֶךְ in Jer. 38:7 as ἐν οἰκίᾳ τοῦ βασιλέως (LXX: Jer. 45:7), and in 2 Chr. 23:5 LXX rendered בְּבֵית הַמֶּלֶךְ as ἐν οἴκῳ τοῦ βασιλέως. On reconstructing οἶκος (oikos, “house”) as בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L33. On reconstructing βασιλεύς (basilevs, “king”) as מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”), see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L12-13.
  • [56] See LSJ, 309. Examples of ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις (“in the royal quarters,” “in the palace”) occur in LXX and in the writings of Philo and Josephus (cf. Esth. 1:9 [= בֵּית הַמַּלְכוּת]; Flacc. §92; J.W. 1:208, 443; 2:301; 7:162, 178; Ant. 9:202; 11:190 [= Esth. 1:9]; 15:306).
  • [57] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:197-214.
  • [58] See Dos Santos, 113.
  • [59] Cf. Marshall, 294-295.
  • [60] See McNeile, 153. Cf. Plummer, Luke, 204.
  • [61] See Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [62] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:276.
  • [63] See Dos Santos, 96.
  • [64] In rabbinic sources it is more common in quotation formulae to encounter נֶאֱמַר (ne’emar, “it is said”) rather than כָּתוּב (kātūv, “it is written”), but in rabbinic sources, too, we find the word order עַל + pronominal suffix or noun + נֶאֱמַר, for example:

    ועליהם נא′ כעל בני שמואל לא הלכו בניו בדרכיו וגו′‏

    And concerning them it was said [′וַעֲלֵיהֶם נֶאֱ] what [was said] concerning the sons of Samuel: his sons did not walk in his ways, etc. [1 Sam. 8:5]. (t. Sot. 14:5; Vienna MS)

    ובית הלל או′ ורב חסד מטה הוא כלפי חסד ועליהם אמ′ דוד אהבתי כי ישמע יי ועליהם נאמרה כל הפרשה כולה

    …but Bet Hillel says, “And great in mercy [Exod. 34:6]. He inclines toward mercy, and concerning them David said, I have loved him because the LORD heard [Ps. 116:1], and concerning them was spoken [וַעֲלֵיהֶם נֶאֱמְרָה] the entire chapter.” (t. Sanh. 13:3; Vienna MS)

    לאותה שעה אמ′ ר′ יהושע מעיד אני עלי את השמים ואת הארץ שאיני זז מכאן עד שאני פודה אותו בממון הרבה ופדאו בממון הרבה ושגרו לארץ ישראל ועליו נאמר בני ציון היקרים וגו′‏

    In that hour Rabbi Yehoshua said, “I call heaven and earth to bear witness against me if I move from here before I ransom him with a large amount of money.” And he did redeem him for a large amount of money and sent him to the land of Israel. And concerning him it is said [וְעָלָיו נֶאֱמַר], The precious sons of Zion, etc. [Lam. 4:2]. (t. Hor. 2:6; Vienna MS)

    מי כמוך באלים יי מי כמוך כאלו שאחרים קוראין אותם אלוהות ואין בהם ממש ועליהם נאמר פה להם ולא ידברו וגו′‏

    Who is like you among the gods, O LORD? [Exod. 15:11]. Who is like you among these whom others call gods, although they have no reality, and concerning them it is said [וַעֲלֵיהֶם נֶאֱמַר], a mouth they have, but they do not speak, etc. [Ps. 115:5]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shira chpt. 8 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:208])

  • [65] The following table shows the relationship of Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27 to LXX of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1, with blue marking wording that could have come from either verse, red marking wording that must have come from Exod. 23:20, and purple marking wording that must have come from Mal. 3:1:

    Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27 Exodus 23:20 Malachi 3:1
    ἰδοὺ [ἐγὼMatt.] καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ
    Behold! I And behold! I Behold! I
    ἀποστέλλω ἀποστέλλω ἐξαποστέλλω
    am sending am sending am sending out
    τὸν ἄγγελόν μου τὸν ἄγγελόν μου τὸν ἄγγελόν μου
    my messenger my messenger my messenger
    πρὸ προσώπου σου πρὸ προσώπου σου  
    ahead of you ahead of you  
      ἵνα φυλάξῃ σε ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ  
      so that he may guard you in the way  
      ὅπως εἰσαγάγῃ σε εἰς τὴν γῆν  
      so that he may lead you into the land  
      ἣν ἡτοίμασά σοι  
      that I prepared for you.  
    ὃς κατασκευάσει   καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται
    who will prepare   and he will oversee
    τὴν ὁδόν σου   ὁδὸν
    your way   the way
    ἔμπροσθέν σου   πρὸ προσώπου μου
    ahead of you.   ahead of me.

  • [66] Scholars have noted that the quotation of Mal. 3:1 in Matt. 11:10 // Luke 7:27 could not have been based on LXX, since the LXX translators understood the phrase ופנה דרך in Mal. 3:1 differently from the way it is understood in the Gospel quotation, which agrees with the way the verse is vocalized in MT. See Gundry, Use, 11; Marshall, 295; Fitzmyer, 1:674; Davies-Allison, 2:249; Luz, 2:138 n. 23. Whereas LXX rendered ופנה דרך as καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν (“and he will oversee the way”; NETS), treating פנה as a qal verb (i.e., וּפָנָה דֶרֶךְ [ufānāh derech, “and he will watch the way”]), the Gospel quotation κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν (“he will prepare the way”) treats פנה as a pi‘el verb (i.e., וּפִנָּה דֶרֶךְ [ūfināh derech, “and he will prepare the way”]). The independence from LXX displayed in the Gospel quotation is significant because it suggests that the linking of the two verses took place at a Hebrew stage of the tradition, and therefore is likely to have originated with Jesus himself (pace Nolland, Luke, 1:335). See R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García, “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible” (JS2, 349-374, esp. 357-362).
  • [67] The question arises as to what form of Exod. 23:20 Jesus was familiar with. Although MT reads אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ (“I am sending a messenger”), LXX reads ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου (“I am sending my messenger”), a reading that is also confirmed by the Samaritan Pentateuch. Since Jesus predates MT by over half a millennium, it is possible that the pre-Masoretic version of Exod. 23:20 familiar to Jesus read מַלְאָכִי (“my messenger”). On other examples of non-Masoretic quotations of Scripture in the Gospels, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L43.
  • [68] See R. Steven Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” in The Interpretation of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity: Studies in Language and Tradition (ed. Craig A. Evans; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 279-322, esp. 293; Notley and García, “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible” (JS2, 358), R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García, “The Hebrew Scriptures in the Third Gospel,” in Searching the Scriptures: Studies in Context and Intertextuality (ed. Craig A. Evans and Jeremiah J. Johnson; London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 128-147, esp. 134-139.
  • [69] The pre-Masoretic version of Exod. 23:20 that Jesus knew likely read מַלְאָכִי (“my messenger”), as we find in LXX and in the Samaritan Pentateuch.
  • [70] See David Flusser, “The Stages of Redemption History According to John the Baptist and Jesus” (Flusser, Jesus, 258-275); Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 279-322. See also David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Temporal Aspect.”
  • [71] A similar linkage between Mal. 3:1 and Exod. 23:20 is made in a rabbinic source:

    הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ-אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה מִי שֶׁשָּׁמַר אֶת הָאָבוֹת הוּא יִשְׁמֹר אֶת הַבָּנִים, וְכֵן אַתָּה מוֹצֵא בְּאַבְרָהָם כְּשֶׁבֵּרַךְ אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ אָמַר לוֹ ה′ אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְגוֹ′ הוּא יִשְׁלַח מַלְאָכוֹ לְפָנֶיךָ וְיַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ מָה אָמַר לְבָנָיו הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי וְגוֹ′ אָמַר לָהֶם הוּא גְאָלַנִי מִיַּד עֵשָׂו, הוּא הִצִּילַנִי מִיַּד לָבָן, הוּא זָנַנִי וּפִרְנְסַנִי בִּשְׁנֵי רְעָבוֹן, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה אַף עַכְשָׁיו מִי שֶׁשָּׁמַר אֶת הָאָבוֹת יִשְׁמֹר אֶת הַבָּנִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי…וְכֵן לֶעָתִיד לָבוֹא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁיְּגֲלֶּה הַגְּאֻלָּה בָּא עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר הִנְנִי שֹׁלֵחַ מֵלְאָכִי וּפִנָּה דֶרֶךְ לְפָנָי

    Behold, I am sending an angel [Exod. 23:20]. The Holy one, blessed be he, said to Moses, “The one who guarded the fathers, he will guard the sons.” And so you find with Abraham, when he blessed his son Isaac, he said to him, The LORD, God of heaven, etc., he will send his angel before you. And our father Jacob, what did he say to his sons? The angel who redeemed me, etc. He told them, “He redeemed me from the hand of Esau, he delivered me from the hand of Laban, he fed me and sustained me during the years of famine.” The Holy one, blessed be he, said to Moses, “Also now the one who guarded the fathers will guard the sons,” as it is said, Behold I am [sending an angel] [Exod. 20:23]…. And likewise in the future to come, in the hour the redemption is revealed he will come upon Israel as it is said, Behold, I am sending my angel and he will prepare the way before me [Mal. 3:1]. (Exod. Rab. 32:9 [ed. Merkin, 6:85-86])

  • [72] See Joseph Hertz, ed., The Pentateuch and Haftoras (2d ed.; London: Soncino, 1970), 319; Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 293.
  • [73] If we are correct that Jesus attempted to recast John the Baptist as a Mosaic rather than an Elijianic figure, then it is ironic that the authors of Mark and especially Matthew were at pains to present John the Baptist as none other than Elijah. Cf. Matt. 3:4 // Mark 1:6; Matt. 17:10-13 // Mark 9:11-13; Matt. 11:14. None of these verses have parallels in Luke and are likely of Matthean or Markan authorship.
  • [74] Cf. Marshall, 296; Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology (Sheffield: Sheffield Acacemic Press, 1987), 111-114.
  • [75] On the author of Luke’s tendency to drop ἐγώ, see “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L49.
  • [76] Cf., e.g., Cameron, “‘What Have You Come Out to See?’ Characterizations of John and Jesus in the Gospels,” 57.
  • [77] Thus, according to one source, we read:

    עשרה שמות נקרא נביא עבד. מלאך. שליח. צופה. חוזה. חולם. ציר. רואה. נביא. איש אלהים.‏

    By ten names is a prophet [נָבִיא] called: servant, messenger [מַלְאָךְ], emissary, watchman, visionary, dreamer, ambassador, seer, prophet, man of God. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 37 [ed. Schechter, 95])

  • [78] Cf. the comparison of prophet (נָבִיא) and messenger (מַלְאָךְ) in Blessedness of the Twelve, L12.
  • [79] On the author of Luke’s tendency to omit ἀμήν, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L115. Other scholars who regard ἀμήν in L28 as original include Plummer (Luke, 205), T. W. Manson (70), Marshall (296) and Bovon (1:279).
  • [80] See Flusser, Jesus, 261 n. 8.
  • [81] See Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 291 n. 48.
  • [82] Cf. Lindsey, TJS, 56; LHNS, 53. On reconstructing γυνή (gūnē, “woman,” “wife”) with אִשָּׁה (’ishāh, “woman,” “wife”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L12.
  • [83] Examples of יְלוּד אִשָּׁה in DSS include:

    וילוד אשה מה ישב לפניכה והואה מעפר מגבלו ולחם רמה מדורו

    And one born of a woman [יְלוּד אִשָּׁה], how can he abide before you? He was kneaded from dust and to be food for worms is his destiny. (1QS XI, 21)

    ומה ילוד אשה בכול [ג]ד[ו]ל[י]ך הנוראים

    And what is one born of a woman [יְלוּד אִשָּׁה] among all your great and terrible works? (1QHa V, 20)

    Additional examples of יְלוּד אִשָּׁה in DSS are found in 1QHa XXI, 2; 4Q482 1 I, 4.

  • [84] The following is an example of יְלוּד אִשָּׁה in rabbinic literature:

    יש לך ילוד אשה שאינו מוציא מה שהוא אוכל

    Do you have [an example of] someone born of a woman [יְלוּד אִשָּׁה] who does not put out [i.e., from his bowels—DNB and JNT] what he eats? (Sifre Num. Zut., BeHa‘alotcha 11:6 [ed. Horovitz, 269])

    In the above example, human beings, who need to vacate their bladders and bowels, are contrasted with the angels, who do not.
    Additional examples of יְלוּד אִשָּׁה will be cited in the continuation of this discussion.

  • [85] In 3 Enoch we find:

    כיון שהגעתי לשמי מרום והיו חיות הקודש ואופנעם ושרפים וכרובים וגלגלי המרכבה ומשרתי אש אוכלת מריחין את ריחי…ואומרים מה ילוד אשה בינינו

    As soon as I approached the highest heavens the holy living creatures and the wheels and the seraphim and the cherubim and the wheels of the chariot and the ministers of the consuming fire smelled my scent…and they said, “What is one born of woman [doing—DNB and JNT] among us?” (3 Enoch 6:2; Bodeleian MS MICH. 175 [ed. Odenberg, 12])

    The apostle Paul described Jesus as γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός (genomenon ek gūnaikos, “born of a woman”; Gal 4:4), likely reflecting his familiarity with the Hebrew idiom יְלוּד אִשָּׁה. On Paul’s knowledge of Hebrew, see Acts 21:40; 22:2; Phil. 3:5; Randall Buth and Chad Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 66-109, esp. 68-71).

  • [86] See Flusser, Jesus, 261 n. 8. Cf. Brad Young and David Flusser, “Messianic Blessings In Jewish and Christian Texts” (Flusser, JOC, 280-300, esp. 292 n. 28); Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 291 n. 48.
  • [87] See Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 291 n. 48.
  • [88] Above in Comment to L3 we saw that the narrator’s reference to John’s disciples as ἄγγελοι/מַלְאָכִים may have been intended to prepare readers for the proper understanding of מַלְאָךְ in Jesus’ composite citation of Exod. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1. This concern may already be reflected in the reference to John’s disciples as “men” in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, L19.
  • [89] Cf. Harnack, 16; Creed, 107; Nolland, Luke, 1:337; Bovon, 1:279. Curiously, Davies and Allison regard “the more Semitic οὐκ ἐγήγερται” in Matt. 11:11 to be due to Matthean redaction (Davies-Allison, 2:250). That a Greek writer such as the author of Matthew would intentionally barbarize the wording of his source seems highly improbable. Hebraic Greek is better taken as a sign of reliance upon a pre-synoptic source.
  • [90] On FR as the source behind Luke 16:16, see The Kingdom of Heaven Is Breaking Through, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [91] This conclusion is borne out by the number of times Matthew referred to John the Baptist without adding John’s full title: Matt. 3:4, 13, 14; 9:14; 11:2, 4, 7, 13, 18; 14:3, 4, 10; 21:25, 26, 32.
  • [92] On the derivation of Luke 7:20 from Anth., see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L17-25. On Luke’s use of Anth. in 7:33, see “Like Children Playing,” under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [93] See David Flusser, “The Literary Relationship Between the Three Gospels,” in his Jewish Sources in Early Christianity: Studies and Essays (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1979 [in Hebrew]), 28-49, esp. 41. Cf. Flusser, Jesus, 261 n. 8; Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 291 n. 47.
  • [94] See BDB, 65. Examples where אַף implies contrast are found in Ps. 44:10; 58:3.
  • [95] See Allen, 116; Moule, 98.
  • [96] On the author of Luke’s preference for “Kingdom of God,” see Bivin and Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “Which is Correct: ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’?”
  • [97] On the various nuances of the term “Kingdom of Heaven” in the teachings of Jesus, see Bivin and Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua.”
  • [98] See Segal, 194 §392.
  • [99] Of Galadriel, the elven mistress of Lothlorien, we read, “Already she seemed to him [i.e., Frodo—DNB and JNT], as by men of later days Elves still at times are seen: present and yet remote, a living vision of that which has already been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (2d ed.; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), 389.
  • [100] See Blessedness of the Twelve.
  • [101] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • [102] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L10-11.
  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
    [Read more about author]

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
    [Read more about author]

  • Online Hebrew Course

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