The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing

& LOY Commentary 3 Comments

An investigation of the possible Hebrew background of one of Jesus' most difficult sayings.

Matt. 11:12-15; Luke 16:16
(Huck 65, 176; Aland 107, 226; Crook 125, 272)[1]

מִימֵי יוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל וְעַד עַכְשָׁיו מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פּוֹרֶצֶת וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ שֶׁכָּל הַנְּבִיאִים וְאַף הַתּוֹרָה עַד יוֹחָנָן מִתְנַבְּאִים

“Since Yohanan the Immerser, and continuing into the present time, God’s redeeming reign has begun to increase, and the number of participants in his reign is on the rise.

“For all the prophets—and even the Torah—down to Yohanan tell of the coming redemption. But now the redemption is happening before your very eyes!”[2]


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Reconstruction

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The reconstruction provided above is deeply indebted to an unpublished reconstruction of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing that Robert Lindsey proposed in his personal notes, which reads as follows:

מִימֵי יוֹחָנָן (הַמַּטְבִּיל) עַד עַתָּה מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פֹּרֶצֶת וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ

From the days of John (the Baptist) until now the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through and breakers-through break through with it.[3]

The English translation of Lindsey’s reconstruction is our own, but it reflects Lindsey’s understanding (communicated privately to David Bivin) of the pericope we have entitled The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing.

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke preserve two very different—but definitely related—versions of an extremely difficult saying of Jesus. Matthew’s version appears as part of a discourse on John the Baptist and states, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven is oppressed and oppressors plunder it” (Matt. 11:12).[4] Luke’s version appears without a context in a short string of other disconnected sayings and states, “The Law and the prophets [were proclaimed] until John; since then the Kingdom of God is proclaimed and everyone is urged into it” (Luke 16:16).[5] While it is always possible to conjecture that Jesus spoke two different forms of a saying on separate occasions, and that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke happen to preserve the two different forms, positing two different interpretations (one in Matthew and one in Luke) of an obscure or otherwise hard-to-understand saying is far more probable.

The breaker-through will go up before them. They will break through and pass the gate and go out by it. And their king will pass through before them, and the LORD at their head (Mic. 2:13). Illustration by Phil Crossman.

Taking his lead from David Flusser’s suggestion (see below, Comment to L8) that Jesus’ saying is related to a verse in Micah that describes the return from exile in terms of a shepherd breaking an opening through a sheep pen, and the sheep bursting their way through the opening (Mic. 2:13), Lindsey proposed a reconstruction (cited above in the Reconstruction section) of Jesus’ saying that could have given rise to the very different interpretations of it found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. According to Lindsey’s reconstruction, the root cause of the diverging interpretations of Jesus’ saying is a Hebrew wordplay on the root פ-ר-צ, which occurs in Mic. 2:13, and which can mean “break through,” “spread,” “increase,” or even “lash out.” In Mic. 2:13 the shepherd who makes the opening in the sheep pen represents a redeemer figure who enables Israel’s return from exile. This shepherd-redeemer is called הַפֹּרֵץ (haporētz, “the breaker-through”); the sheep are then said to “break through” (פָּרְצוּ [pāretzū]) after him. Playing on this imagery Jesus said (according to our take on Lindsey’s reconstruction), “The Kingdom of Heaven is increasing (פּוֹרֶצֶת [pōretzet]) and breakers-through (פּוֹרְצִים [pōretzim]) are increasing (פּוֹרְצִים [pōretzim]) in it.” According to this reconstruction, Jesus characteristically avoided speaking of himself as a redeemer figure (he did not style himself as הַפֹּרֵץ [“the breaker-through”]), preferring instead to focus attention on the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven is what was opening the way for Israel’s redemption, and now that the Kingdom of Heaven was increasing (a play on the root פ-ר-צ), so, too, were those who were embracing the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven (peacemaking, forgiveness, prioritizing mercy over ritual, sanctifying the divine name through unwavering obedience in the face of hostility, etc.) as Jesus publicly taught them to the crowds who listened to him.

When the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua came to this saying he was confronted with difficult choices. Should he attempt to clearly convey the meaning of the saying in normal Greek idiom, but sacrifice the wordplay and the allusion to Mic. 2:13? Or should he attempt to capture the form of Jesus’ saying with a more literal translation that might sound odd to his Greek readers? The Greek translator appears to have opted for the latter alternative. Perhaps he was relying on well-informed teachers in the communities for which he produced his translation to explain the meaning of Jesus’ difficult saying to his readers. In any case, the Greek translation of Jesus’ saying sounded (according to our conjectured reconstruction) something like this: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven is forcing through and forcers-through force into it.” Such a saying might be understood in a variety of ways. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven “forcing through” is a positive image, and forceful persons jamming their way into the Kingdom could be seen as extolling the virtues of a courageous, risk-taking faith. On the other hand, the saying could sound like it was describing a violent clash between the Kingdom of Heaven and those who were opposed to it or who were attempting to infiltrate or commandeer it. The complexities of the Greek language are also a factor here. The verb we have translated as “force through” can have either a passive or an active meaning. If the active meaning is adopted, the Kingdom of Heaven is understood to be overcoming some kind of resistance. If the passive meaning is adopted, the Kingdom of Heaven is understood to be the victim of some kind of violent opposition.

Matthew’s version of Jesus’ saying appears to reflect the literal Greek translation of Jesus’ saying. The author of Matthew copied the saying from the Anthology (Anth.) and made only minor alterations to its wording. Unfortunately, the few vocabulary changes the author of Matthew did make altered the meaning of the saying, giving it an exclusively negative interpretation: The Kingdom of Heaven is oppressed and oppressors plunder it.

Luke’s version of Jesus’ saying appears to have reached us via one additional stage of redaction, having been copied from the First Reconstruction (FR). Despite its improved Greek style, the loss of any semblance of the original wordplay, and the disappearance of the allusion to Mic. 2:13, Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing captures the positive sense of Jesus’ difficult saying: The Kingdom of Heaven is being proclaimed and everyone is being urged into it. The positive interpretation the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) gave to Jesus’ saying suggests that he may have been in touch with the well-informed teaching the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua hoped would accompany his translation.

Positing FR as the source of Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing fits with the observable characteristics of Luke 16:16. First, the idiomatic Greek style of Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, especially as compared with Matthew’s coarser version,[6] fits Lindsey’s description of FR as a stylistically improved paraphrase of Anth. Second, Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing is situated in a string of pithy sayings pertaining to the Jewish Law (Luke 16:16-18). According to Lindsey, the First Reconstructor sometimes lifted sayings out of their original narrative contexts and organized them thematically in a “string of pearls.”[7] Thus the arrangement of Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing in a collection of thematically-related sayings points to its origin in FR.

It is important to recall that, according to Lindsey’s hypothesis, FR is a derivative of Anth. In other words, despite their differences the Lukan and Matthean versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing ultimately derive from a common source.[8]

An early attestation of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing is found in the writings of Justin Martyr (mid- to late second century C.E.), which combines features of both the Matthean and the Lukan versions of the saying.[9]

Story Placement

The reconstructed “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex as it appeared in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

As we have noted, the Lukan and Matthean versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing appear in disparate contexts. In Luke, The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing (Luke 16:16) appears as the first in a string of three sayings pertaining to the efficacy and applicability of the Jewish Law (Luke 16:16-18). It is likely that the Lukan placement of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing is secondary,[10] and stems from FR.[11]

In Matthew, The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing is part of a discourse concerning John the Baptist. We believe this to be the original context of Jesus’ saying and that the author of Matthew placed the pericope where he did because that is where he found it in Anth.[12] Not only does The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing make sense in the context of a lengthy discourse on John the Baptist,[13] but there may be an indication that the First Reconstructor saw The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing within such a context in Anth. In the FR version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing (L8; Luke 16:16) we find a passive form of the verb εὐαγγελίζειν (evangelizein, “to give a good report”). The only other example of a passive form of εὐαγγελίζειν in the Synoptic Gospels is found in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question (L43; Matt. 11:5 // Luke 7:22). We believe that the First Reconstructor saw the passive use of εὐαγγελίζειν in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, close to where he found The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing in Anth., and used this verb to elucidate the meaning of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing for his non-Jewish, Greek-speaking audience.[14] In other words, the Anth. context of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing influenced the FR redaction of this saying.

The Anthologizer’s rearrangement of the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex.

In the Anthology, The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing likely belonged to the remnant of an original narrative-sayings “complex” that existed in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua and its Greek Translation, in which the incident of the question from the Baptist’s disciples (Yohanan the Immerser’s Question) prompted a teaching discourse from Jesus (Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser and The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing), which concluded with supporting illustrations (the Mustard Seed and Starter Dough parables). The original contours of this narrative-sayings “complex” began to break down when the Anthologizer removed the twin parables to a different section of his proto-Gospel and tacked “Like Children Playing” to the end of this block of John the Baptist material.

The author of Luke’s changes to the Anthology’s unit on John the Baptist.

The author of Luke, having chosen to include the FR version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, dropped the more difficult Anth. version of the saying from the block of material on John the Baptist in Luke 7:18-35.

Click here to read an introduction to the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex.

 

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

Crucial Issues

  1. Why are the Lukan and Matthean versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing so different from one another?
  2. Does The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing discuss violence that is either inflicted upon or committed by followers of Jesus?
  3. Does The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing have something to say about an end to the validity of the Torah?

Comment

L1-3 From the very outset of our reconstruction we are faced with a difficult decision: whether to accept the order of the two main statements that comprise the pericope as they are given in Luke, or whether to accept the order of the statements as they are presented in Matthew. Luke’s order is smoother and more logical; it first discusses an earlier period characterized by the Law and the prophets, and then it moves on to discuss a later period characterized by God’s Kingdom. John the Baptist stands on the threshold between these two periods. In Matthew the order is different. Matthew’s version begins by saying that something new began in the time of John the Baptist, and then it reflects on a period that came before and included the Baptist.

Although it is tempting to accept Luke’s order of the statements, we will discuss in detail in the comments below how Matthew’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing is more Hebraic than Luke’s, which signals to us that, of the two, Matthew’s version is likely closest to Anth. Given this situation, we must ask with Harnack whether we are “to suppose that St. Luke, who here everywhere shows himself to be less original than St. Matthew, is right in placing verse 13 before verse 12…? It is in his favour that his order of the sentences is more natural than that of St. Matthew. But does this decide the question?”[15]

We believe that Luke’s more natural order does not decide the question, especially because there is an obvious reason why Luke’s version might have inverted the original (i.e., Matthean) order of the statements. As we noted above (see Story Placement), Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing appears in a small cluster of sayings pertaining to the Jewish Law (i.e., the Torah). Since the theme of the Torah is what gives Luke 16:16-18 its unity, it is reasonable that the First Reconstructor would have desired to make the statement about the Torah appear first and so changed the original order accordingly. Moreover, within the context of the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex, the Matthean order of the statements makes sense. Having remarked that the smallest in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John, Jesus went on to describe when the Kingdom of Heaven began to make its presence known and the role that participants in the Kingdom of Heaven play within it. Jesus then followed up this remark by reflecting on the difference between the period that concluded with John and the new period in which the Kingdom of Heaven was manifest to all observers who cared to look.

Since we have accepted Matthew’s ordering of the two main statements that comprise our pericope, we will discuss the differences between the Lukan and Matthean wording in Comments to L10 to L12 below.

L4 ἀπὸ τῶν ἡμερῶν (GR). We have accepted Matthew’s wording for GR in L4 with the exception of δέ (de, “but,” “and”), which we suspect the author of Matthew added as a minor stylistic improvement. It seems unlikely that the “days of X” formula in Matt. 11:12 is due to Matthean redaction, since this formula occurs only 3xx in Matthew (Matt. 2:1; 11:12; 24:37 [= Luke 17:26]), and at least one of these definitely comes from Anth., as the Lukan parallel demonstrates.[16] Moreover, according to Jeremias, Matthew’s phrase “from the days of X” is unusual in Greek and likely reflects the wording of a Semitic source.[17] Since Hebraic Greek was typical of Anth., Jeremias’ observation supports our acceptance of Matthew’s wording in L4 for GR.

מִימֵי (HR). On reconstructing ἡμέρα (hēmera, “day”) as יוֹם (yōm, “day”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L5. In LXX ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν + noun is often the translation of מִימֵי + noun in the underlying Hebrew text, as the following examples demonstrate:

כִּי לֹא נַעֲשָׂה כַּפֶּסַח הַזֶּה מִימֵי הַשֹּׁפְטִים

For such a Passover as this was not observed since the days of [מִימֵי] the judges…. (2 Kgs. 23:22)

ὅτι οὐκ ἐγενήθη τὸ πασχα τοῦτο ἀφ᾿ ἡμερῶν τῶν κριτῶν

For this Passover had not been done since the days [ἀφ᾿ ἡμερῶν] of the judges…. (4 Kgdms. 23:22)

מִימֵי אֵסַר חַדֹּן מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר

…since the days of [מִימֵי] Esarhaddon, king of Assyria…. (Ezra 4:2)

ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν Ασαραδδων βασιλέως Ασσουρ

…since the days [ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν] of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria…. (2 Esd. 4:2)

וְלֹא־נַעֲשָׂה פֶסַח כָּמֹהוּ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל מִימֵי שְׁמוּאֵל הַנָּבִיא

And a Passover like it had not been observed in Israel since the days of [מִימֵי] Samuel the prophet…. (2 Chr. 35:18)

καὶ οὐκ ἐγένετο φασεχ ὅμοιον αὐτῷ ἐν Ισραηλ ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν Σαμουηλ τοῦ προφήτου

And there was no Passover like it in Israel from the days [ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν] of Samuel the prophet…. (2 Chr. 35:18)[18]

The formula מִימֵי + noun is also encountered in rabbinic sources, for instance:

ואין מקימין בה קברות חוץ מקברי בית דוד וקבר חולדה הנביאה שהיו שם מימי הנביאים הראשונים

They do not establish tombs within it [i.e., Jerusalem—DNB and JNT] apart from the tombs of the house of David and the tomb of Huldah the prophetess, which have been there since the days of [מִימֵי] the early prophets. (t. Neg. 6:3; Vienna MS)

L5 Ἰωάνου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ (GR). Lindsey expressed some hesitation as to whether “the Immerser” was original or whether it had been added by the author of Matthew.[19] Had we adopted the Lukan order of the two main sections of our pericope (see above, Comment to L1-3), we would have felt more reluctant to include “the Immerser” in GR and HR, since the longer form of the name seems more natural at the opening of a statement than at its end. In any case, as we discussed in Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L32, most instances of John’s full title (Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστής) in DT and TT pericopae probably derive from Anth.

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

L6 ἀπὸ τότε (Luke 16:16). When the First Reconstructor rearranged the order of the statements in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, the perspective of the saying shifted somewhat. Whereas Anth.’s version described what began at a certain point (“from the days of John the Baptist”) and continued into the present (“until now”), the FR version described something that had come to an end (“[the looking forward of? proclaiming of?] the Law and the prophets”) at a certain point (“until John”) and the commencement (“since then”) of something different (“the proclaiming of the Kingdom of God”). Since we believe Matthew’s order and perspective reflect that of Anth., the ἀπὸ τότε (apo tote, “since then”) should be attributed to the work of FR.[20]

τοῦ νῦν (GR). In contrast to the absence of the adverb ἄρτι (arti, “now”) in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Matthew’s Gospel uses ἄρτι 7xx (Matt. 3:15; 9:18; 11:12; 23:39; 26:29, 53, 64). One of Matthew’s instances of ἄρτι occurs in a clearly redactional context: the uniquely Matthean addition of a conversation between John the Baptist and Jesus in Yeshua’s Immersion (Matt. 3:15). Another instance occurs in a declaration in Yeshua’s Arrest that is found only in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 26:53). These facts caution us against accepting Matthew’s ἄρτι in L6 for GR.[21]

Opposite one of Matthew’s instances of ἄρτι (Matt. 26:64), the Gospel of Luke has νῦν (nūn, “now”; Luke 22:69), which may have been the reading of Anth. In LXX ἕως τοῦ νῦν (heōs tou nūn, “until the present”) is fairly common,[22] and we believe this phrase was the reading of Anth. in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing (L6). The change from ἕως τοῦ νῦν to ἕως ἄρτι (heōs arti, “until now”) is probably nothing more than a reflection of the author of Matthew’s stylistic preferences.

As scholars have noted, “until now” in Matt. 11:12 does not mark an end point, as if to indicate that the situation that obtained between the days of John the Baptist and the time in which Jesus was now speaking had come to an end. The meaning is rather that a new situation began in the days of John the Baptist, it held true when Jesus spoke, and it would continue indefinitely.[23]

וְעַד עַכְשָׁיו (HR). On reconstructing ἕως (heōs, “until”) with עַד (‘ad, “until”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L22.

In MT we find a few examples of “from the days of X until,” such as we encounter in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, L4-6, expressed as עַד→מִימֵי:

מִימֵי יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ וְעַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

…since the days of [מִימֵי] Josiah and until [עַד] this day. (Jer. 36:2)

ἀφ᾿ ἡμερῶν Ιωσια βασιλέως Ιουδα καὶ ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης

…since the days [ἀφ᾿ ἡμερῶν] of King Josiah of Judah and until [ἕως] this day. (Jer. 43:2)

כִּי לֹא עָשׂוּ מִימֵי יֵשׁוּעַ בִּן נוּן כֵּן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד הַיּוֹם הַהוּא

…for the children of Israel had not done so since the days of [מִימֵי] Joshua son of Nun until [עַד] that day. (Neh. 8:17)

ὅτι οὐκ ἐποίησαν ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν Ἰησοῦ υἱοῦ Ναυη οὕτως οἱ υἱοὶ Ισραηλ ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης

…because the children of Israel had not done so since the days [ἀπὸ ἡμερῶν] of Joshua son of Nun until [ἕως] these days. (2 Esd. 18:17)[24]

Nearly half of the instances of the phrase ἕως [τοῦ] νῦν (“until [the] present”) in LXX stand for עַד עַתָּה (‘ad ‘atāh, “until now”),[25] and the LXX translators rendered most instances of עַד עַתָּה as ἕως τοῦ νῦν.[26] Both Lindsey and Flusser indicated that “until now” in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing should be reverted to Hebrew as עַד עַתָּה.[27] These facts notwithstanding, we have preferred to reconstruct νῦν (nūn, “now”) with עַכְשָׁיו (‘achshāv, “now”) because in MH this adverb had come to replace עַתָּה (‘atāh, “now”).[28] The displacement of עַתָּה by עַכְשָׁיו is illustrated in the following rabbinic comment on the story of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro:

עתה ידעתי עד עכשיו לא הודה בדבר

Now [עַתָּה] I know [that the LORD is greater than all the gods] [Exod. 18:11]. Until now [עַד עַכְשָׁיו] he [i.e., Moses’ father-in-law—DNB and JNT] had not confessed it in words. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Amalek chpt. 3 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:279])

That עַכְשָׁיו was already in use by the time of Jesus is proven from DSS:

ומלאכי המ[שטמה — ] שמחים ואומרים עכשו יאבד

And the angels of Ma[stema –] rejoicing and saying, “Now [עַכְשָׁו] he will be destroyed!” (4QpsJuba [4Q225] 2 II, 6-7)[29]

Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech using a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have adopted עַד עַכְשָׁיו for HR. Additional examples of the prepositional phrase עַד עַכְשָׁיו include:

כָּל בֵּית דִּין וְּדִּין שֶׁעָמַד מִימוֹת משֶׁה וְעַד עַכְשָׁיו

…every court that has existed since the death of Moses until now [וְעַד עַכְשָׁיו]…. (m. Rosh Hash. 2:9)

איה מתי [מבול] איה הרוגי נבוכדנצר איה ההרוגים שנהרגו מן המלחמה ועד עכשיו

Where are the dead of the Flood? Where are the slain of Nebuchadnezzar? Where are the slain who were killed in the war until now [וְעַד עַכְשָׁיו]? (t. Edu. 3:3; Vienna MS)

Since numerous examples of עַד→מִן have the coordinating conjunction -וְ prefixed to עַד we have added the conjunction to HR.[30]

L7 ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (GR). Elsewhere we have discussed the First Reconstructor’s tendency to change “Kingdom of Heaven” to “Kingdom of God.”[31] Since Luke 16:16 stems from FR, it is likely that at this point the author of Luke simply copied his source. Matthew’s “Kingdom of Heaven” reflects the wording of Anth.

מַלְכוּת 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 (Comments to L34 and L35) we suggested that Jesus used the term “Kingdom of Heaven” in its temporal sense. In The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing the temporal sense is still present, but the Kingdom of Heaven in the sense of divine redemptive action is primary. In other words, the period of the Kingdom of Heaven began in the days of John the Baptist, when God’s redeeming reign began to increase as Jesus and his followers began to teach and perform miracles of healing and deeds of mercy.[32]

L8 εὐαγγελίζεται (Luke 16:16). Most scholars regard εὐαγγελίζειν (evangelizein, “to give a good report”) in Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing as secondary, and since Luke’s ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίζεται (“the Kingdom of God is announced”) resists Hebrew retroversion,[33] we concur. The majority of scholars attribute this change directly to the author of Luke, mainly on the grounds that εὐαγγελίζειν belongs to the repertoire of Luke’s preferred vocabulary.[34] Despite this near consensus among scholars, we believe the change to εὐαγγελίζειν was made by the First Reconstructor, and thus already existed in Luke’s source. Although the author of Luke may well have added εὐαγγελίζειν from time to time, we have encountered at least one other verse (Luke 9:6) where εὐαγγελίζειν may have been copied from FR.[35] In Luke 16:16 there is an additional reason to attribute εὐαγγελίζειν to FR, which is that the First Reconstructor appears to have been inspired to make this change under the influence of Jesus’ statement that “poor persons are evangelized” (πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται; Luke 7:22; cf. Matt. 11:5), which occurred in the Anth. context from which FR lifted The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing (see our discussion above in Story Placement).

Evidently, the First Reconstructor was aware of a tradition according to which The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing was a positive statement about the spread of God’s redeeming reign. Knowing that Anth.’s wording of the saying was ambiguous, he paraphrased the statement in a way that captured what he regarded as the essence of Jesus’ saying. From the point of view of the First Reconstructor, the Kingdom of Heaven grew as the gospel was proclaimed to all peoples.

βιάζεται (GR). Scholars tend to agree that Matthew’s more difficult wording in L8 is original.[36] One of the reasons Matthew’s wording is so difficult is that βιάζεται can be understood either as a middle (i.e., “the Kingdom of Heaven is forcing through”) or as a passive (i.e., “the Kingdom of Heaven is being oppressed”). It is our contention that the author of Matthew understood βιάζεται in the passive sense (“being oppressed”), whereas the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua intended βιάζεται to be understood as “forcing through.”

The use of βιάζεσθαι (biazesthai, “to press hard,” “to act with force”) to describe forcing through a barrier is found in classical sources as well as in sources more or less contemporary with the Gospels, as the following examples illustrate:

οὗτος γὰρ ἐνδὺς στολήν, μιμούμενος τὰ ἱερὰ ἐπεδείκνθε τοῖς ἀμυήτοις καὶ εἶπε τῇ φωνῇ τὰ ἀπόρρητα, τῶν δὲ θεῶν, οὓσ ἡμεῖς νομίζομεν καὶ θεραπεύοντεσ καὶ ἀγνεύονεσ θύομεν καὶ προσευχόμεθα, τούτος περιέκοψε…. ὡμολόγησε δὲ οὗτος ποιῆσαι. ἔτι δὲ παρελθὼν τὸν νόμον ὃν ὑμεῖς ἔθεσθε, εἴργεσθαι τῶν ἱερῶν αὐτὸν ὡς ἀλιτήριον ὄντα, ταῦτα πάντα βιασάμενος εἰσελήλυθεν ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν πόλιν, καὶ ἔθυσεν ἐπὶ τῶν βωμῶν ὧν οὐκ ἐξῆν αὐτῷ καὶ ἀπήντα τοῖς ἱεροῖς περὶ ἃ ἠσέβησεν….

For this man donned a ceremonial robe, and in imitation of the rites he revealed the sacred things to the uninitiated, and spoke with his lips the forbidden words: those deities whom we worship, and to whom with our devotions and purifications we sacrifice and pray, he mutilated…. He has admitted this action. Moreover, transgressing the law that you made, whereby he was debarred from the temples as a reprobate, having broken through [βιασάμενος] all these restrictions he has entered into our city; he has sacrificed on the altars which were forbidden him, and come into the presence of the sacred things on which he committed his impiety…. (Lysias [ca. 445-380 B.C.E.], Against Andocides §51, 53; Loeb adapted)[37]

τὸ δὲ ζῷον, εἰ καὶ βραχύτατον, ὅμως ἀργαλεώτατον· οὐ γὰρ μόνον λυμαίνεται τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν κνησμοὺς ἐμποιοῦν ἀηδεῖς καὶ βλαβερωτάτους, ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰς τἀντὸς βιάζεται διὰ μυκτήρων καὶ ὤτων· σίνεται δὲ καὶ κόρας ὀφθαλμῶν εἰσπετόμενον, εἰ μὴ φυλάξαιτό τις

Now the gnat is a very small creature, but exceedingly troublesome, for it not only causes mischief to the surface of the body, and produces an unpleasant and very noxious itching, but it forces [βιάζεται] its way inside through the nostrils and ears, and also flies into and damages the pupils of the eyes, if one does not take precautions. (Philo, Mos. 1:108; Loeb)

ἀθυμία δὲ τοὺς Ῥωμαίους καταλειφθέντας μόνους ὑπέλαβεν· οὔτε γὰρ βιάσασθαι τοσοῦτον πλῆθος ἐδύναντο καὶ τὸ δεξιὰς αἰτεῖν ὄνειδος ὑπελάμβανον, πρὸς τῷ μηδὲ πιστεύειν εἰ διδοῖτο

The Romans, left alone [i.e., in Herod’s palace after Jerusalem had been captured by the Jewish rebels—DNB and JNT], were now despondent; they despaired of forcing their way through [βιάσασθαι] such a multitude and were ashamed to sue for terms; besides, even were they granted, they could put no faith in them. (Jos., J.W. 2:438; Loeb)

κἂν εἴπερ ἠθέλησεν κατ᾿ αὐτὴν ἐκείνην τὴν ὥραν ἐντὸς τῶν τειχέων βιάσασθαι, παραυτίκα τὴν πόλιν ἔσχεν καὶ τὸν πόλεμον συνέβη καταλελύσθαι

Had he, at that particular moment, decided to force his way [βιάσασθαι] through the city walls, he would have captured the city forthwith, and the war would have been over…. (J.W. 2:531; Loeb)

Τίτος δὲ τοὺς μὲν κατόπιν προσκείμενος ἀνῄρει, τῶν δὲ διεκπαίων ἀθρόων, οὓς δὲ φθάνων κατὰ στόμα διήλαυνεν, πολλοὺς δὲ συνηλοία περὶ ἀλλήλοις πεσόντας ἐμπηδῶν, πᾶσιν δὲ τὰς πρὸς τὸ τεῖχος φυγὰς ὑπετέμνετο καὶ πρὸς τὸ πεδίον ἀπέστρεφεν, ἕως τῷ πλήθει βιασάμενοι καὶ διεκπεσόντες εἰς τὴν πόλιν συνέφευγον

Titus, hotly pursuing, now cut down the laggards in the rear, now made lanes through their bunched masses; here rode ahead of them and charged in front, there dashed into groups which had fallen foul of each other and trampled them to pieces. For all, in short, he sought to intercept retreat to the walls and to head them off into the plain, until at length, by superior numbers, they succeeded in forcing a way through [βιασάμενοι] and flinging themselves into the town. (J.W. 3:490-491; Loeb)

κρεῖτον γὰρ ἡγοῦμαι ὃ ὁ θεὸς θέλει ἢ ὃ ἐγώ. προσκείσομαι διάκονος καὶ ἀκόλουθος ἐκείνῳ, συνορμῶ, συνορέγομαι, ἁπλῶς συνθέλω. ἀποκλεισμὸς ἐμοὶ οὐ γίνεται, ἀλλὰ τοῖς βιαζομένοις. διὰ τί οὖν οὐ βιάζομαι; οἶδα γάρ ὅτι ἔσω ἀγαθὸν οὐδὲν διαδίδοται τοῖς εἰσελθοῦσιν.

For I regard God’s will as better than my will. I shall attach myself to Him as a servant and follower, my choice is one with His, my desire one with His, in a word, my will is one with His will. No door is locked in my face, but rather in the face of those who would force themselves in [βιαζομένοις]. Why, then, do I not force myself in [βιάζομαι]? Why, because I know that within nothing good is distributed among those who have entered. (Epictetus, Discourse IV 7:20-21; Loeb)[38]

As we will discuss in the next paragraph, we think the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua used βιάζεσθαι in the sense of “forcing through” to render a statement of Jesus that alluded to a biblical verse.

פּוֹרֶצֶת (HR). The LXX translators did not use βιάζεσθαι (biazesthai, “to press hard,” “to force through”) as a translation of פָּרַץ (pāratz, “breach,” “break through,” “increase”).[39] Nevertheless, both βιάζεσθαι and פָּרַץ can mean “break through,” and, as we shall see, reconstructing βιάζεσθαι with פָּרַץ may account for the very different understandings of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

David Flusser realized that the verb פָּרַץ could stand behind βιάζεσθαι in Matt. 11:12 while reading a commentary on the prophecy of Micah by Rabbi David Kimhi (Radak [1160-1235]).[40] The passage upon which Kimhi commented was this:

אָסֹף אֶאֱסֹף יַעֲקֹב כֻּלָּךְ קַבֵּץ אֲקַבֵּץ שְׁאֵרִית יִשְׂרָאֵל יַחַד אֲשִׂימֶנּוּ כְּצֹאן בָּצְרָה כְּעֵדֶר בְּתוֹךְ הַדָּבְרוֹ תְּהִימֶנָה מֵאָדָם׃ עָלָה הַפֹּרֵץ לִפְנֵיהֶם פָּרְצוּ וַיַּעֲבֹרוּ שַׁעַר וַיֵּצְאוּ בוֹ וַיַּעֲבֹר מַלְכָּם לִפְנֵיהֶם וַיי בְּרֹאשָׁם

I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob, I will surely bring the remnant of Israel together. I will put them like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy collection of humanity. The breaker-through [הַפֹּרֵץ] will go up before them. They will break through [פָּרְצוּ] and pass the gate and go out by it. And their king will pass through before them, and the LORD at their head. (Mic. 2:12-13)[41]


Rabbi David Kimhi’s Commentary on Micah 2:12-13.

Concerning this Micah passage, Rabbi David Kimhi wrote, בדברי רז″ל ובדרש הפורץ זה אליהו· מלכם זה צמח בן דוד (“According to our rabbis, of blessed memory, and in the midrash: the breaker-through, this is Elijah; their king, this is the shoot, the son of David”).[42]

The messianic interpretation given to this passage in Micah suggested to Flusser that Jesus alluded to Mic. 2:13 in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing and that βιάζεσθαι in Matt. 11:12 represents the Hebrew verb פָּרַץ.[43]

A somewhat similar interpretation of this Micah passage is found in an earlier rabbinic work known as Pesikta Rabbati:

דבר אחר רני ושמחי אימת מתקיים הדבר הזה, בשעה שהקדוש ברוך הוא גואל את ישראל, קודם שלשה ימים שיבא משיח בא אליהו ועומד על הרי ישראל ובוכה ומספיד עליהם ואומר הרי ארץ ישראל עד מתי אתם עומדים בחורב צייה ושממה, וקולו נשמע מסוף העולם ועד סופו, ואח″כ אומר להם בא שלום לעולם שנאמר הנה על ההרים רגלי מבשר משמיע שלום, כיון ששמעו רשעים הם שמחים כולם ואומרים זה לזה בא שלום לנו, ביום השני בא ועומד על הרי ישראל ואומר טובה באתה לעולם שנאמר מבשר טוב, ביום השלישי בא ואומר באתה ישועה לעולם שנאמר משמיע ישועה, וכיון שהוא רואה את הרשעים שהם אומרים כך לכך אומר לציון מלך אלהיך, ללמדך לציון ולבניה בא ישועה ולא לרשעים, באותה השעה מראה הקדוש ברוך הוא את כבודו ומלכותו לכל באי עולם וגואל את ישראל ונגלה בראשם שנאמר עלה הפורץ לפניהם פרצו ויעבורו [שער] ויצאו בו ויעבר מלכם לפניהם וה′ בראשם.

Another interpretation of “Sing and rejoice [O daughter of Zion, for behold, I am coming and I will dwell among you,” says the LORD] [Zech. 2:14]. When will this come to pass? At the time when the Holy one, blessed is he, redeems Israel. Three days prior to his sending of the Messiah, Elijah comes and stands on the hills of Israel and he cries and laments over them and he says, “O hills of the land of Israel, how long will you stand desolate and dry and destroyed?” And his voice is heard from one end of the world to the other. Afterward he says to them, “Peace comes to the world!” As it is said, Behold! On the hills the feet of the messenger who announces peace [Nah. 2:1; cf. Isa. 52:7]. As soon as the wicked hear it they all are glad and say to one another, “Peace is coming to us!” On the second day he [i.e., Elijah] comes and stands on the hills of Israel and says, “Goodness is coming to the world!” As it is said, the good messenger [Isa. 52:7]. On the third day he comes and says, “Salvation is coming to the world!” As it is said, proclaiming salvation [ibid.]. But as soon as he sees that the wicked are speaking this way to one another, he says to Zion, “Your God reigns” [ibid.] to teach you that salvation comes to Zion and her children, and not to the wicked. In that very hour the Holy one, blessed is he, causes his glory and his kingdom to appear to all the inhabitants of the world, and he redeems Israel, and he is revealed at their head, as it is said, The breaker-through will go up before them. They will break through and pass the gate and go out by it. And their king will pass through before them, and the LORD at their head [Mic. 2:13]. (Pesikta Rabbati 35:5 [ed. Friedmann, 161a])[44]

According to Pesikta Rabbati, God’s causing his kingdom to appear to all the world’s inhabitants is equated with the breaker-through (הַפֹּרֵץ [haporētz]) going up before them, as becomes clear when we put the rabbinic interpretation and the scriptural verse side-by-side:

Rabbinic Interpretation Micah 2:13
…the Holy one, blessed is he, causes his glory and his kingdom to appear to all the inhabitants of the world [לְכָּל בָּאֵי עוֹלָם], The breaker-through [הַפֹּרֵץ] will go up before them [לִפְנֵיהֶם].
and he redeems Israel, They will break through [פָּרְצוּ] and pass the gate and go out by it.
and he is revealed at their head [בְּרֹאשָׁם]. And their king will pass through before them, even the LORD at their head [בְּרֹאשָׁם].

In other words, the Kingdom of Heaven is the breaker-through (הַפֹּרֵץ). This rabbinic identification of הַפֹּרֵץ is remarkably similar to Matt. 11:12, where Jesus states, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven βιάζεται [is forcing through].”[45] On the basis of this similarity we have reconstructed Matthew’s difficult phrase ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται (“the Kingdom of Heaven forces through”) as מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פּוֹרֶצֶת, which Lindsey rendered as “the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through” (see the Reconstruction section above).

The statement מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פּוֹרֶצֶת could also be interpreted as “the Kingdom of Heaven is increasing.” Indeed, when פָּרַץ occurs in MT without an object and not governed by a preposition such as -בְּ, “increase” or “spread out” is its usual sense.[46] Either or both meanings could be at play in Jesus’ saying, although “the Kingdom of Heaven is increasing” demands no further explanation, whereas “the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through” prompts the question, “Breaking through what?”—a question for which there is no clear-cut answer. Is the Kingdom of Heaven breaking through the tyranny of the world empires and the diabolical powers that stand behind them? Is the Kingdom of Heaven breaking through the veil that separates heaven and earth? Is the Kingdom of Heaven breaking into the field of human perception, when before it had been invisible? Or is it breaking onto the stage of world history? We think that “the Kingdom of Heaven is increasing” is the best fit for the continuation of Jesus’ saying, even though הַפֹּרֵץ in Mic. 2:13 clearly means “the breaker-through.” Jesus’ saying consciously played on the different meanings of פָּרַץ.

Comparable examples of interpreting פָּרַץ in a sense different from that intended in a verse occur in rabbinic sources:

עושה אני הבטחה שהבטחי אבותיהם שאני קורע לכם את הים שנאמר והיה זרעך כעפר הארץ ופרצת ימה וקדמה רמז לו פרוץ את הים

I am doing the thing I promised when I promised your fathers that I will split the sea for them, as it is said, Your seed will be like the dust of the earth and you will spread out [וּפָרַצְתָּ] toward the sea and toward the east [Gen. 28:14]. This hinted to him [i.e., to Abraham—DNB and JNT], “You must break through [פְּרוֹץ] the sea!” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallaḥ chpt. 4 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:144]; cf. Gen. Rab. 69:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:795])

ויפרץ האיש מאד מאד וגו′ ר′ שמעון בר אבא אמר נפרצה לו פרצה מעין עולם הבא

And the man increased [וַיִּפְרֹץ] exceedingly, etc. [Gen. 30:43]. Rabbi Shimon bar Abba said, “A breach was opened [נִפְרְצָה] for him to the source of the world to come.” (Gen. Rab. 73:11 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:855])

Because we believe two meanings of פּוֹרֶצֶת—“increasing” and “breaking through”—were operative in Jesus’ saying, we have given two interlinear translations in L8 of our Hebrew reconstruction.

The breaker-through removes stones to create a breach in the sheep pen. Illustration by Phil Crossman.

βιάζεται (Matt. 11:12). Although we believe the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua intended βιάζεται to be understood in an active sense (i.e., “the Kingdom of Heaven forces through”), it appears that the author of Matthew mistakenly read this verb in a passive sense (i.e., “the Kingdom of Heaven is oppressed”).[47] His mistake indicates that the author of Matthew was not himself acquainted with the Hebrew form of the saying and also that he was not aware of the intended allusion to Mic. 2:13. The author of Matthew, who was probably a Gentile believer, knew the saying only in Greek and interpreted the saying as best he could from his own frame of reference.[48] Perhaps the author of Matthew interpreted the saying in the light of his community’s experience of rejection or persecution.[49]

L9 καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν (Matt. 11:12). The exclusively negative interpretation the author of Matthew imposed on Jesus’ saying begins in L9. The verb ἁρπάζειν (harpazein, “to grab,” “to plunder”) refers to a sudden forceful act of aggression or, in rarer instances, to a swift snatching away from danger in response to aggression.[50] The use of ἁρπάζειν in conjunction with the βιά- root virtually requires that Matt. 11:12 be read in a negative sense,[51] as the following examples illustrate:

Κοστόβαρος δὲ καὶ Σαοῦλος αὐτοὶ καθ᾿ αὑτοὺς μοχθηρὰ πλήθη συνῆγον γένους μὲν ὄντες βασιλικοῦ καὶ διὰ τὴν πρὸς Ἀγρίππαν συγγένειαν εὐνοίας τυγχάνοντες, βίαιοι δὲ καὶ ἁρπάζειν τὰ τῶν ἀσθενεστέρων ἕτοιμοι

Costobar and Saul also on their own part collected gangs of villains. They themselves were of royal lineage and found favour because of their kinship with Agrippa, but were violent [βίαιοι] and quick to plunder [ἁρπάζειν] the property of those weaker than themselves. (Jos., Ant. 20:214; Loeb adapted)

τί γὰρ (ἔφασαν) ὑμᾶς δεινὸν ἢ λυπηρὸν ἐργασάμεναι, τὰ μὲν ἤδη πεπόνθαμεν, τὰ δὲ πάσχομεν τῶν σχετλίων κακῶν; ἡρπάσθημεν ὑπὸ τῶν νῦν ἐχόντων βίᾳ καὶ παρανόμως, ἁρπασθεῖσαι δ᾽ ἠμελήθημεν ὑπ᾽ ἀδελφῶν καὶ πατέρων καὶ οἰκείων χρόνον τοσοῦτον ὅσος ἡμᾶς πρὸς τὰ ἔχθιστα κεράσας ταῖς μεγίσταις ἀνάγκαις, πεποίηκε νῦν ὑπὲρ τῶν βιασαμένων καὶ παρανομησάντων δεδιέναι μαχομένων καὶ κλαίειν θνησκόντων

Wherein, pray (they said), have we done you wrong or harm, that we must suffer in the past, and must still suffer now, such cruel evils? We were violently [βίᾳ] and lawlessly ravished [ἁρπασθεῖσαι] away by those to whom we now belong, but though thus ravished, we were neglected by our brethren and fathers and kinsmen until time had united us by the strongest ties with those whom we had most hated, and made us now fear for those who had treated us with violence [βιασαμένων] and lawlessness, when they go to battle and mourn for them when they are slain. (Plutarch, Parallel Lives: Romulus 19:3; Loeb)[52]

…καὶ μέσον ἔχων τὸν Ἰόνιον ἁρπάζεται βορέᾳ ἀνέμῳ παρ᾽ ὥραν ἐκραγέντι καὶ βιασθεὶς ἀυτὸς μὲν ἀρετῇ καὶ προθυμίᾳ ναυτῶν καὶ κυβερνητῶν ἐξανέφερε καὶ προσανῆγε τῇ πολυπόνως καὶ παραβόλως

…but when he was half way across the Ionian sea he was swept away [ἁρπάζεται] by a north wind that burst forth out of all season. In spite of its violence [βιασθεὶς] he himself, through the bravery and ardour of his seamen and captains, held out and made the land, though with great toil and danger…. (Plutarch, Parallel Lives: Pyrrhus 15:2; Loeb)[53]

ἐπεὶ δὲ πεμφθεὶς εἰς Σικελίαν ὑπὸ Σύλλα στρατηγὸς ἐπυνθάνετο τοὺς στρατιώτας ἐν ταῖς ὁδοιπορίαις ἐκτρεπομένους βιάζεσθαι καὶ ἁρπάζειν….

When he was sent by Sully to Sicily in his capacity of general, he perceived that the soldiers on the marches kept dropping out of the ranks to do violence [βιάζεσθαι] and to plunder [ἁρπάζει]…. (Plutarch, Moralia: Sayings of Romans: Gnaeus Pompey §2 [203D]; Loeb)[54]

…πολλὰ καὶ παράνομα οἱ πλούσιοι δρῶσι παρὰ τὸν βίον ἁρπάζοντες καὶ βιαζόμενοι καὶ πάντα τρόπον τῶν πενήτων καταφρονοῦντες…

…many lawless deeds are done in life by the rich, who plunder [ἁρπάζοντες] and oppress [βιαζόμενοι] and in every way humiliate the poor…. (Lucian, Menippus §20; Loeb)[55]

οἷα δὲ πολλὰ γίγνεται παρ᾽ ἡμῖν—ἁρπαζόντων καὶ βιαζομένων καὶ πλεονεκτούντων—οὐδὲν ἂν ἴδιος, φασίν, ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ πόλει τολμώμενον

All those things that you find here—robbery [ἁρπαζόντων], violence [βιαζομένων], cheating—they say you would find none of them ventured in that city [i.e., the city of virtue—DNB and JNT]…. (Lucian, Hermotimus §22; Loeb)[56]

Despite the inescapably negative meaning of Matt. 11:12,[57] we believe it was the author of Matthew who made it so. His source, we suspect, was more ambiguous. The diverging interpretations of Jesus’ saying in its Lukan and Matthean forms support this hypothesis. In further support of this supposition, we note that in the Synoptic Gospels the verb ἁρπάζειν occurs 3xx, all of which are in the Gospel of Matthew.[58] In each case ἁρπάζειν is absent in the Lukan and Markan parallels. It might be possible to conclude from the distribution of ἁρπάζειν in the Synoptic Gospels that the author of Luke studiously avoided ἁρπάζειν whenever he encountered it in his sources (Anth. and FR) and that the author of Mark followed Luke in avoiding this verb, whereas the author of Matthew restored ἁρπάζειν to its proper place on the basis of Anth. But since the author of Luke was willing to use ἁρπάζειν twice in Acts (Acts 8:39; 23:10), this explanation of the evidence is unconvincing. The more probable explanation is that the author of Matthew inserted ἁρπάζειν at three points in his Gospel where it did not occur in his sources.[59]

καὶ βιασταὶ βιάζονται εἰς αὐτήν (GR). If we are to regard ἁρπάζουσιν (“they plunder”) as the author of Matthew’s replacement for a verb in Anth., we must now attempt to determine what might that verb have been. Because we believe that Jesus’ statement alluded to Mic. 2:13, where the root פ-ר-צ occurs in the first and second stanzas of the verse (“the breaker-through [הַפֹּרֵץ] will go up…they will break through [פָּרְצוּ]…”), we suspect that βιάζονται (biazontai, “they force” [from βιάζεσθαι]) appeared in Anth. where ἁρπάζουσιν now stands in Matt. 11:12. It is unlikely that the author of Matthew recognized the allusion to Mic. 2:13—How could he, when the Greek translator of Jesus’ Hebrew saying used a different verb to translate פָּרַץ than the one used by the LXX translators?—and therefore he was probably unaware that he was changing an ambiguous saying in Anth. into one that can only be understood in a negative sense. The motive behind changing βιάζονται εἰς αὐτήν (“they force into it”) to ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν (“they plunder it”) may simply have been that the author of Matthew found the repetition of the βιά- root three times in the space of four words to be redundant, and he mistakenly believed that ἁρπάζουσιν approximated the meaning and intention of βιάζονται in Anth. After all, the author of Matthew knew full well that “thieves break through and steal” (Matt. 6:19; cf. Matt. 24:43). In fact, however, the author of Matthew transformed the saying into a completely negative statement about the maltreatment of the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas Anth. had an ambiguous statement that described forceful persons (forceful in their faith? in their personality? in their actions?) pushing their way into the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται καὶ βιασταὶ βιάζονται εἰς αὐτήν (“The Kingdom of Heaven forces through and forcers-through force into it”) was the Greek translator’s best attempt to render a difficult and multivalent saying in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, which read מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פּוֹרֶצֶת וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ, which could be understood either as “The Kingdom of Heaven is increasing and ‘breakers-through’ [alluding to Mic. 2:13] are increasing within it,” or as “The Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through, but transgressors are lashing out against it.”

וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ (HR). The noun βιαστής (biastēs) does not occur in LXX and, indeed, it is exceedingly rare.[60] In fact, Matt. 11:12 is its earliest known occurrence. As a consequence, βιαστής is difficult to define, but it is obviously related to βιάζεσθαι (“to act with force”), being constructed from the same βιά- root.

We suspect that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua selected this obscure term—it is improbable that he actually coined it—because his source had a noun formed from the same root as the verb he had rendered as βιάζεσθαι. In other words, βιαστής in Matt. 11:12 was chosen as much for its form as its meaning, which suggests that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was trying to capture something odd that was going on in his source. We believe that odd something was the multifaceted way in which Jesus used the root פ-ר-צ to allude to Mic. 2:13 and to convey a complex and multivalent message about the Kingdom of Heaven.

One option for reconstructing βιαστής that we considered is פָּרִיץ (pāritz), a relatively rare noun in MT[61] that has the basic sense of “one that breaks through.”[62] However, since פָּרִיץ always has a negative connotation in Scripture and usually has a negative connotation in rabbinic sources as well,[63] reconstructing with פָּרִיץ (“ruffian,” “violent person”) would make it nearly impossible to understand Jesus’ saying in any way other than a negative sense. We suspect that the saying originally admitted of a positive as well as a negative interpretation, and therefore a more neutral or ambiguous term is called for in our reconstruction.

The substantive participle פּוֹרֵץ (pōrētz, “breaker-through”) fits this requirement. This term could be used in either a neutral sense or with a negative connotation, as the following examples demonstrate:

הכובש קמה לפני האור והפורץ גדר לפני בהמה אי″נו [חייבין לו מן הדין ואין השמים מוחלין להן עד שישלם]

The one who pushes grain [belonging to another—DNB and JNT] in front of a fire [so that it burns—DNB and JNT] and the one who breaks through [וְהַפּוֹרֵץ] a fence before an animal [belonging to another so that it wanders out and is lost—DNB and JNT] is not liable [to make restitution—DNB and JNT] by jurisdiction of the court, but Heaven will not release their debt until he pays restitution. (t. Shevu. 3:3; Vienna MS)

כל הפורץ גדירן של חכמים לסוף פורענות באה עליו שנ′ ופורץ גדר ישכנו נחש

Regarding everyone who breaks through [הַפּוֹרֵץ] the fence of the Sages, in the end punishment will come upon him, as it is said, and breaking through a fence, a snake will bite him [Eccl. 10:8]. (t. Hul. 2:24; Vienna MS; cf. Sifre Deut. §48 [ed. Finkelstein, 109])

תני ר′ שמעון בן יוחאי הנחש פרץ גדרו של עולם תחלה לפיכך נעשה ספקלטור לכל פורצי גדרות

Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai taught: The snake broke through the fence of the world first, therefore it was made the executioner of all breakers-through of [פּוֹרְצֵי] fences [cf. Eccl. 10:8—DNB and JNT]. (Lev. Rab. 26:2 [ed. Margulies, 2:591])

In these examples it is not the action of breaking through that is inherently negative, but the intention behind the breaking through, or the thing that is broken through, that gives “breaker-through” a negative connotation. Because פּוֹרֵץ was so frequently used to refer to someone who broke through moral or legal barriers, פּוֹרֵץ could be nearly synonymous with “transgressor.” But פּוֹרֵץ could also be used in a neutral sense: one who breaks through any kind of barrier for any purpose, constructing a road or a house, for instance. And, because of Mic. 2:13, פּוֹרֵץ could also have a positive sense, as one who participates in Israel’s redemption. This is the connotation of פּוֹרֵץ in the following rabbinic source:

ויהי כמשיב ידו וגו′ [ותאמר מה פרצת עליך פרץ] זה רבה על כל הפרצים ממך יעמוד עלה הפורץ לפניהם

But when he drew in his hand [behold, his brother came out. And she (i.e., the midwife—DNB and JNT) said, “What a breach you have breached for yourself!”] [Gen. 38:29]. [She thereby foretold that] this one is greater than all the breakers-through [הַפֹּרְצִים],[64] for from you will arise [the one about whom it is said,] the breaker [הַפּוֹרֵץ] will go up before them [Mic. 2:13]. (Gen. Rab. 85:14 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:1049])

According to this tradition, Peretz, one of the forefathers of King David, was one of many פּוֹרְצִים (“breakers-through”) because from his line the Messiah, הַפּוֹרֵץ (the breaker-through par excellence), would be born.

We suspect that Jesus used פּוֹרְצִים (“breakers-through”) to refer, not to the Messiah’s ancestors, but to the participants in God’s redeeming reign now that the Kingdom of Heaven was breaking through (פּוֹרֶצֶת) or beginning to increase (פּוֹרֶצֶת). In order to verify this interpretation, we turn again to the tradition preserved in Pesikta Rabbati, which we discussed above in Comment to L8:

Rabbinic Interpretation Micah 2:13 Jesus’ Saying
…the Holy one, blessed is he, causes his glory and his kingdom to appear to all the inhabitants of the world, The breaker-through [הַפֹּרֵץ] will go up before them. …the Kingdom of Heaven is increasing/breaking through [פּוֹרֶצֶת]
and he redeems Israel, They will break through [פָּרְצוּ] and pass the gate and go out by it. and breakers-through [וּפוֹרְצִים] are increasing [פּוֹרְצִים] in it.
and he is revealed at their head [בְּרֹאשָׁם]. And their king will pass through before them, even the LORD at their head [בְּרֹאשָׁם].

According to the rabbinic tradition, “they will break through” in Mic. 2:13 is interpreted as a reference to the redemption of Israel. We suggest that in Jesus’ saying the “breakers-through” (פּוֹרְצִים) likewise corresponds to those who break through and pass through the gate in Mic. 2:13. In other words, “the breakers-through” refers to Jesus’ own followers, who participated in the increase of the Kingdom of Heaven by healing diseases, exorcising demons and, perhaps even more importantly, practicing Jesus’ teachings and teaching others to do the same.

פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ (HR). The construction -פָּרַץ בְּ can mean “break through” (2 Kgs. 14:13; 2 Chr. 25:23), “break out against” (Exod. 19:22, 24; 2 Sam. 6:8; Ps. 106:29; 1 Chr. 13:11; 15:13) or “increase within,” as we see in the following example:

מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו בֵּרַכְתָּ וּמִקְנֵהוּ פָּרַץ בָּאָרֶץ

The works of his hands you have blessed, and his possessions have increased [פָּרַץ] within the land. (Job 1:10)

Reconstructing with -פָּרַץ בְּ allows for a positive interpretation of Jesus’ saying (“and ‘breakers-through’ [i.e., participants in God’s redeeming reign] are increasing within it [i.e., the Kingdom of Heaven]”), whereas reconstructing with פָּרַץ אֶת (“break through [something]”) only allows for a negative interpretation.[65] But if reconstructing with -פָּרַץ בְּ is necessary for an open-ended interpretation, this suggests that Luke’s prepositional phrase εἰς αὐτήν (“into it”) in L9 preserves (via FR) the wording of Anth.

Reconstructing Jesus’ saying as מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פּוֹרֶצֶת וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ allows for a positive interpretation: The Kingdom of Heaven is increasing and “breakers-through” are increasing within it.[66] But these very same words could also be understood in a more sinister manner: The Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through, but transgressors are lashing out against it. Understood in this way, the saying refers to a negative reaction against Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven movement. Such an interpretation would be consistent with other sayings of Jesus that acknowledged that the Kingdom of Heaven would be confronted with resistance and even violence. He warned prospective disciples that becoming his follower was tantamount to becoming an enemy of the state condemned to carry his own cross to the place of his execution (Matt. 10:38 // Luke 14:27; Matt. 16:24 // Mark 8:34 // Luke 9:23). He fully expected that when he sent his apostles to carry his message to all the towns and villages of Israel that in some places their message of peace would be rejected and they would be refused hospitality. Jesus pronounced a special blessing upon those who would be mocked and persecuted, comparing the ill treatment of those who remained loyal to his teachings to the abuse endured by the prophets (Matt. 5:11-12 // Luke 6:22-23). Indeed, there may have been in Jesus’ mind a correlation between the success of the Kingdom of Heaven and the backlash that would break out against it. The more the Kingdom of Heaven increased, the more negative attention its members would receive. Thus a simultaneously positive and negative interpretation of Jesus’ saying seems appropriate. The Kingdom of Heaven was breaking through, and participants within it were increasing, but because of the increase of the Kingdom of Heaven, transgressors, violators of God’s will, scoffers at the teachings of Jesus, would lash out against it.

In the context of Jesus’ discourse on John the Baptist, the positive sense of Jesus’ saying in Matt. 11:12 // Luke 16:16 must have been primary, but the latent negative sense of Jesus’ saying must have become clearer to his followers as they began to face opposition from preservers of the status quo, such as the ruling high priests, and from revolutionaries whose militant zeal was offended by Jesus’ message of transformative peacemaking and redeeming love.

καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται (Luke 16:16). Cortés and Gatti made a compelling case that Luke 16:16 should be understood as “the Kingdom of God is being announced, and everyone is being urgently invited into it.”[67] This interpretation makes the best sense of Luke’s πᾶς (pas, “all,” “every”), since the only other options are 1) to render καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται in a positive sense (e.g., “and everyone forces into it” [taking βιάζεται as a middle]), though such a universal statement does not square with the opposition to God’s Kingdom that so frequently arises when it is proclaimed, or 2) to render it in a negative sense (e.g., “and everyone is being forced into it” [taking βιάζεται as a passive]), which implies coercive measures and as such goes against Jesus’ ethic of peace.[68] As Cortés and Gatti observe, there is no need to give a forced interpretation of Luke 16:16 to make it agree with the meaning of Matt. 11:12.[69] Their exhortation holds true in any case, but especially for followers of Lindsey’s hypothesis, reading each version on its own terms is all the more imperative, since according to Lindsey the Gospel of Luke and the sources behind it are older than Matthew’s exclusively negative reinterpretation of Jesus’ saying.

If a correct understanding of Jesus’ Hebrew saying was, “the Kingdom of Heaven is increasing and ‘breakers-through’ are increasing within it,” then FR’s paraphrase of this saying, “the Kingdom of God is being proclaimed and everyone is being urged into it,” is not so wide of the mark. The allusion to Mic. 2:13 is lost, but at least it is a comprehensible statement that accurately captures the positive sense of Jesus’ saying. Since the proclamation of good news to the poor was one of the ways in which the Kingdom of Heaven was increasing (Matt. 11:5; Luke 7:22; cf. Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, L43), and since urging others to join Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven movement was one of the means by which the number of “breakers-through” increased, we believe that Luke 16:16 captures much of the essence of the original saying.

That he was able to give an accurate interpretation of Jesus’ saying suggests to us that the First Reconstructor was in close contact with groups that maintained a living recollection of Jesus’ teachings. Perhaps the First Reconstructor was acquainted with the community in Jerusalem that was led by the twelve apostles. Such a possibility does not seem so remote if the author of Luke truly was Luke the doctor, companion of Paul, and sometime visitor in Jerusalem with opportunity to consult with James, the brother of Jesus, and doubtless with other eyewitnesses to the events he read about in the Anthology and the First Reconstruction.

L10-12 Matthew 11:13 is paralleled by the opening statement of Luke 16:16. The vocabulary in the Matthean and Lukan parallels is mostly the same, but in addition to their different placements of the statement—either following the statement about the Kingdom of Heaven (as in Matthew) or introducing the statement about the Kingdom of God (as in Luke)—there is also an inversion of the order προφῆται→νόμος (Matt.) versus νόμος→προφῆται (Luke). The portion of Luke 16:16 parallel to Matt. 11:13 also lacks a verb, leaving readers to infer what it was the law and the prophets did until John the Baptist. Matthew 11:13, by contrast, specifies that the prophets and the law engaged in prophecy (ἐπροφήτευσαν) until John’s time. In each of these respects we regard Matthew’s version as reflecting the wording of Anth., while we consider Luke’s version as representing the wording of FR’s paraphrase.

FR’s placement of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing in a string of sayings relating to the continuing validity and applicability of the Torah (see above, Story Placement) may account for some of the changes the First Reconstructor made to Anth.’s wording. Both the reversal of the order to νόμος→προφῆται and the placement of this statement at the introduction of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing have the effect of highlighting the subject (the Jewish Law) that gives thematic unity to the small cluster of sayings in Luke 16:16-18.[70] FR’s motivation for omitting the verb προφητεύειν (profētevein, “to prophesy”) may simply have been stylistic. The phrase “prophets prophesy” occurs over 20xx in MT, but when they could get away with it the LXX translators avoided translating the verb, probably because “prophets prophesy” sounded somewhat jarring to Greek ears.[71]

Despite the omission of the verb, the First Reconstructor probably meant that the law and the prophets proclaimed their message until John.[72] It is most unlikely that he intended to convey that since the time of John the Jewish Law was no longer of importance or had ceased to be in force,[73] since in the very next verse the First Reconstructor placed the statement that the Jewish Law, even in its minutest details, remains valid while heaven and earth endure (Luke 16:17).[74] Our interpretation of Luke’s statement in L10-12 (= L1-3) parallels the rest of Luke 16:16, which asserts that since John a new proclamation—one that is in agreement with and in fulfillment of the law and the prophets—has been announced.

L10 πάντες γὰρ οἱ προφῆται (GR). Although numerous scholars attribute πάντες γάρ (“for all”) to Matthean redaction,[75] the similarity of Matt. 11:13 (“all the prophets…prophesied”) to rabbinic statements that “all the prophets prophesied in such-and-such a manner” (see below, Comment to L12) suggests that Matthew’s reference to “all the prophets” accurately preserves a stock phrase referring to the culmination of prophecy.

שֶׁכָּל הַנְּבִיאִים (HR). On reconstructing πᾶς (pas, “all,” “every”) with כָּל (kol, “all,” “every”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L26. On reconstructing πᾶς + γάρ + definite article as -שֶׁכָּל הַ, see Friend in Need, Comment to L26. On reconstructing προφήτης (profētēs, “prophet”) with נָבִיא (nāvi’, “prophet”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L22.

L11 καὶ ὁ νόμος (GR). Some scholars have questioned whether the reference to the law (i.e., the Torah) belongs to the original form of the saying.[76] Nevertheless, since νόμος (nomos, “law”) appears in both the Lukan and Matthean versions of Jesus’ saying, we are forced to conclude that νόμος appeared in Anth. The unusual word order “prophets”→“law” can be accounted for by supposing that Jesus inserted “and even the Torah” into the well-known phrase “all the prophets prophesied in such-and-such a manner” (see below, Comment to L12).

וְאַף הַתּוֹרָה (HR). Although GR merely has καί (kai, “and”), for HR we have adopted וְאַף (ve’af, “and also,” “and even”), since this more clearly indicates that Jesus has inserted (almost parenthetically) the reference to the Torah into a well-known saying about the culmination of prophecy. In LXX it is not uncommon to find וְאַף rendered simply as καί, for instance:

וְזָכַרְתִּי אֶת בְּרִיתִי יַעֲקוֹב וְאַף אֶת בְּרִיתִי יִצְחָק וְאַף אֶת־בְּרִיתִי אַבְרָהָם אֶזְכֹּר וְהָאָרֶץ אֶזְכֹּר

And I will remember my covenant with Jacob and also [וְאַף] my covenant with Isaac and also [וְאַף] my covenant with Abraham I will remember, and I will remember the land. (Lev. 26:42)

καὶ μνησθήσομαι τῆς διαθήκης Ιακωβ καὶ τῆς διαθήκης Ισαακ καὶ τῆς διαθήκης Αβρααμ μνησθήσομαι καὶ τῆς γῆς μνησθήσομαι

And I will remember the covenant of Jacob and [καὶ] the covenant of Isaac, and [καὶ] the covenant of Abraham I will remember, and I will remember the land. (Lev. 26:42)[77]

In LXX νόμος (nomos, “law”) is usually the translation of תּוֹרָה (tōrāh, “instruction,” “Torah”),[78] and no other word was used to translate תּוֹרָה more often than νόμος.[79] Even without this supporting evidence there could not be any serious doubt regarding how νόμος ought to be reconstructed.

Some scholars have claimed that they were unable to find any examples of the order “prophets”→“Torah,”[80] but a near equivalent is found in Paul’s speech before King Agrippa in Acts:

ἕστηκα μαρτυρόμενος μικρῷ τε καὶ μεγάλῳ οὐδὲν ἐκτὸς λέγων ὧν τε οἱ προφῆται ἐλάλησαν μελλόντων γίνεσθαι καὶ Μωϋσῆς εἰ παθητὸς ὁ χριστός, εἰ πρῶτος ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν φῶς μέλλει καταγγέλλειν τῷ τε λαῷ καὶ τοῖς ἔθνεσιν

I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22-23; RSV)

It is typical of Luke to write “Moses” where we might expect to find νόμος (i.e., “Torah”).[81] In any case, we find the order “prophets”→“Torah” in Hebrew sources, such as the following:

מְדַלְּגִים בַּנָּבִיא וְאֶין מְדַלְּגים בַּתּוֹרָה

They skip verses in a prophetic book, but they do not skip verses in the Torah. (m. Meg. 4:4; t. Meg. 3:19)

באותה שעה מביא הקב″ה אליהו ומשיח וצלוחית של שמן בידיהם [ומקליהם בידיהם]. ומקבצים כל ישראל בפניהם. ושכינה לפניהם ונביאים מאחריהם והתורה מימינם ומלאכי השרת משמאלם. ומוליכין אותם אל עמק יהושפט המלך

In that hour the Holy one, blessed is he, will bring Elijah and the Messiah with cruses of oil in their hands [and staves in their hands]. And they assemble all Israel before them. And the Shechinah is before them and the prophets are behind them and the Torah is on their right and the ministering angels are on their left. And they [i.e., Elijah and the Messiah] lead them to the valley of King Yehoshaphat. (Eliyahu Zuta, chpt. 21 [ed. Friedmann, 34])

הרגנו את נביאינו ועברנו כל המצות שבתורה

We have killed our prophets and we have transgressed all the commandments that are in the Torah. (Pesikta Rabbati 29:11 [ed. Friedmann, 138a])

L12 ἕως Ἰωάνου ἐπροφήτευσαν (GR). Some scholars have pointed out that Luke’s use of μέχρι (mechri, “as far as”) is more elegant Greek than Matthew’s ἕως (heōs, “until”).[82] Moreover, Catchpole noted that there are instances of agreement between Luke and Matthew to use ἕως in DT,[83] indicating that ἕως is known to have occurred in their common source, whereas there are no instances of Lukan-Matthean agreement in DT to use μέχρι, although both authors used this preposition when not following their common source (e.g., Matt. 28:15; Acts 10:30; 20:7), and therefore neither author would have been likely to have rejected μέχρι had it occurred in his source.[84] From this we conclude that in Luke 16:16 the author of Luke copied μέχρι from FR, whereas Matthew’s ἕως in Matt. 11:13 reflects the wording of Anth.

Although numerous scholars have suspected that the author of Matthew added the verb προφητεύειν (profētevein, “to prophesy”) to his source,[85] we have already noted that “prophets prophesy” is a Hebraism,[86] which the LXX translators took pains to avoid (see above, Comment to L10-12), so it is improbable that the author of Matthew would have intentionally created a phrase that Greek readers found so jarring. Scholars frequently cite the undisputed presence of νόμος (“law”) in the saying as the reason for doubting the originality of προφητεύειν (“to prophesy”), since, they claim, the law does not prophesy.[87] But the modern assumption that the law does not prophesy may not have been held by ancient authors. There are passages in the Torah, such as Jacob’s blessings of the twelve patriarchs in Gen. 49, Balaam’s oracles in Num. 23-24, and Moses’ song in Deut. 32, that were regarded by ancient Jewish writers as prophecies of future events.

The New Testament also attests to a belief that the days of the Messiah were referred to in the books of Moses. In one of Peter’s speeches in Acts we find the following statement:

For Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people….” Indeed all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. (Acts 3:22, 24)

Thus, according to Peter, the Torah as well as the prophets spoke of the coming messianic redemption.

The notion that the Torah spoke of the Messiah is also attested in the Gospel of John. Early in the Fourth Gospel, and parallel to Andrew’s exclamation to Simon that “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41), we find Philip’s exclamation to Nathaniel that “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote!” (John 1:45). It is likely that these stories consciously deployed for their own purposes a pre-existing Jewish idea that the Torah itself promised the messianic redemption. Accordingly, we find that in Luke’s account of the resurrection appearances Jesus expounds from both Moses and the prophets concerning the Messiah (Luke 24:27), and he reminds his disciples that prior to the crucifixion he had told them, “Everything had to be fulfilled that was written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and the Psalms about me” (Luke 24:44). If what was written in the Torah had to be fulfilled, then the inference is that the Torah itself had prophesied about the messianic redemption.

Therefore, it does not strike us as improbable that Jesus himself might add a reference to the Torah to a saying that all the prophets prophesied about the messianic redemption.

עַד יוֹחָנָן מִתְנַבְּאִים (HR). On reconstructing ἕως (heōs, “until”) with עַד (‘ad, “until”), see above, Comment to L6. On reconstructing the name Ἰωάνης as יוֹחָנָן, see above, Comment to L5.

In LXX προφητεύειν (profētevein, “to prophesy”) is nearly always the translation of the root נ-ב-א.[88] Likewise, נ-ב-א verbs are rendered with προφητεύειν in LXX in the vast majority of instances.[89]

Our reconstruction ought to be compared to three rather different rabbinic statements. The first is from the rabbinic chronography Seder Olam,[90] which claims that prophecy ceased in the time of Alexander the Great:

עַד כַּאן הָיוּ הַנְּבִיאִים מִתְנַבְּאִים בְּרוּח הַקּוֹדֶשׁ, מִּכַּאן וָאֵילַךְ הַט אָזְנְךָ וּשְׁמַע דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים

Until [עַד] this point the prophets would prophesy [הָיוּ הַנְּבִיאִים מִתְנַבְּאִים] by the Holy Spirit, from this point [מִּכַּאן] on incline your ear and listen to the words of the sages. (Seder Olam, chpt. 30 [ed. Guggenheimer, 259])

The use of עַד (“until”) to mark the cessation of prophetic activity in the rabbinic statement is the same as we have adopted for HR in L12 (עַד יוֹחָנָן [“until John”]), while the use of מִּכַּאן (mika’n, “from here”) to mark the inception of a new period parallels מִימֵי יוֹחָנָן (mimē yōḥānān, “from the days of John”) in HR for L4-5. Not only is the language that is used to describe the periodization of history into “the time of the prophets” and “the time after the prophets” similar, but in both Seder Olam and The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing we encounter the opinion that there is a new kind of authority that takes the place vacated by the prophets. According to Seder Olam, with the cessation of prophecy came the ascendency of the rabbinic sages, whereas according to Jesus, what was hinted at in prophetic oracles was now manifesting itself through the Kingdom of Heaven. The greatest difference between the statement from Seder Olam and The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing concerns when the historical turning point was supposed to have taken place. According to Seder Olam, the division of historical periods took place in the distant past; prophecy had ceased long ago, and since then it has been incumbent upon the faithful to accept the leadership of the rabbinic sages. This projection of rabbinic authority back into time immemorial had the apologetic function of legitimating rabbinic authority in the present. By contrast, it appears that Jesus did not share the rabbinic opinion that prophecy had ceased with Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi and would only be resumed with the coming of the eschatological prophet.[91] His statement in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing implies that the prophetic tradition had continued unabated until John the Baptist, the last of the “biblical” prophets. It is not clear whether many of Jesus’ contemporaries would have shared this opinion.

The second rabbinic statement to which our reconstruction ought to be compared concerns the content, rather than the duration, of prophecy:

אמר רבי חייא בר אבא אמר רבי יוחנן כל הנביאים כולן לא נתנבאו אלא לימות המשיח אבל לעולם הבא עין לא ראתה אלהים זולתך

Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yohanan, “All the prophets [כָּל הַנְּבִיאִים] prophesied [נִתְנַבְּאוּ] only for the days of the Messiah. But as for the world to come, the eye has not seen, O God, except you [Isa. 64:3].” (b. Ber. 34b; cf. b. Shab. 63a; b. Sanh. 99a)

According to this source, all the prophetic promises concerned the coming messianic redemption; the good things in store for the world to come were beyond the scope of the prophetic visions. Due to the inclusion of the Torah along with the prophets in The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, it appears that Jesus wished to indicate that both the Torah and the prophets had anticipated the redemption that was now breaking into the world.

Although the talmudic statement primarily concerns the content of prophecy, it, too, conceives of a periodization of history, which may be broken down into three stages: 1) the present age, 2) the days of the Messiah, and 3) the eschatological future (i.e., the world to come). The chronological scheme envisioned in this source is particularly close to Jesus’ three-stage view of redemption history. According to Jesus’ chronological scheme, the first stage, which we might refer to as “the days of the prophets,” took place between Moses (the father of the prophets) and John the Baptist (the last and greatest of the prophets); the second stage, which Jesus referred to as “the Kingdom of Heaven,” began in the time of John the Baptist and would continue for an unspecified period; and the third stage, which does not come into view in the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex, would begin with the coming of the Son of Man at some point in the future.

Jesus’ Redemptive Timeline

The third rabbinic statement with which our reconstruction ought to be compared is cited in order to demonstrate that “all the prophets prophesy in such-and-such a manner” was something of a stock phrase in Hebrew:

חייך שכל הנביאים קבלו נביאות נביא מן נביא ויאצל מן הרוח אשר עליו. ויאמרו נחה רוח אליהו על אלישע. אבל אתה מפי הקב″ה רוח י″י אלהים עלי יען משח י″י אותי. חייך שכל הנביאים מתנבאים נבואות פשוטות ואתה נחמות כפולות, עורי עורי. התעוררי התעוררי. שוש אשיש בי″י, אנכי אנכי הוא מנחמכם, נחמו נחמו עמי.‏

By your life [know] that all the prophets received prophethood from one prophet to the next, [as it is said,] and he took from the spirit that was upon him [and set it upon the seventy elders] [Num. 11:25], [and likewise] and they said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha” [2 Kgs. 2:15]. But you [i.e., Isaiah] [received prophecy] from the mouth of the Holy one, blessed is he, [as it is said,] the spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD anointed me [Isa. 61:1]. By your life [know] that all the prophets prophesy [שֶׁכָּל הַנְּבִיאִים מִתְנַבְּאִים] simple prophecies, but you will prophecy doubled comforts, [as it is said,] Awake! Awake! [Isa. 51:9]; Be wakened! Be wakened! [Isa. 51:17]; Rejoicing I will rejoice [Isa. 61:10]; It is I, it is I who comforts you [Isa. 51:12]; Comfort! Comfort my people [Isa. 40:1]. (Lev. Rab. 10:2 [ed. Margulies, 1:199]; cf. Pesikta de-Rav Khana 16:4 [ed. Mandelbaum, 1:270])[92]

Although we find προφητεύειν in the aorist tense in Matt. 11:13 and in GR, we have adopted the participial form for HR in accordance with the stock phrase encountered in rabbinic sources.[93]

L13-16 We concur with the many scholars who regard Matt. 11:14-15 as an addendum to our pericope that was composed by the author of Matthew himself.[94] In addition to the lack of any parallel to Matt. 11:14 in Luke, which in itself casts doubt on this verse’s origin in Anth., the main reason for suspecting Matt. 11:14-15 of Matthean authorship is the explicit identification of John the Baptist with Elijah that it attributes to Jesus, whereas we saw in Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan (Comment to L23-27) that Jesus attempted to counter speculation about the Baptist’s Elijianic identity by recasting John the Baptist as a prophet like Moses. The opinion expressed in Matt. 11:14 is at odds, therefore, with the opinion Jesus himself expressed in the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex.

That Matt. 11:14 reflects the author of Matthew’s personal opinion is indicated by the Matthean redaction to the Markan Elijah Must Come First pericope (Matt. 17:10-13 // Mark 9:11-13), where once again the author of Matthew added an explicit identification of John the Baptist as Elijah (Matt. 17:13). In order to underscore the importance the author of Matthew attached to his understanding of John’s Elijianic role, which he expressed in Matt. 11:14, the author of Matthew added the warning, “The one having ears, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). Originally, this exhortation belonged to the Four Soils parable (Matt. 13:9; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8), where it served to drive home the parable’s message.

L13 καὶ εἰ θέλετε δέξασθαι (Matt. 11:14). Matthew 11:14 is usually read as though it was spoken by Jesus, but Bundy suggested that the author of Matthew may have intended the words “and if you are willing to receive it, etc.” to be understood as his own parenthetical contribution to the subject at hand.[95] In any case, the construction εἰ + θέλειν (“if” + “to be willing”) occurs with a much higher frequency in Matthew than in Luke or Mark.[96] While it is possible that by copying εἰ + θέλειν the author of Matthew preserved a grammatical feature of Anth. that was largely rejected by the authors of Luke and Mark, it is more probable that the εἰ + θέλειν construction was added by the author of Matthew, especially since this construction appears in verses that are also suspected of Matthean authorship or redaction on other grounds.

L14 αὐτός ἐστιν Ἠλείας (Matt. 11:14). In the reconstruction document Elijah’s name appears according to the spelling in Codex Vaticanus. The spelling of Elijah’s name in critical editions of NT is Ἠλίας (Ēlias). In LXX Elijah’s name usually appears as Ηλιου (Ēliou) or Ηλειου (Ēleiou),[97] but in Malachi, 1 Esdras, 1 Maccabees and Ben Sira, Elijah’s name appears as Ηλιας (or Ηλειας).[98] The latter spelling is also that which appears in the writings of Josephus.[99]

L15 ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι (Matt. 11:14). In Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L33, we discussed the great difficulty of reverting μέλλειν ἔρχεσθαι (“to be about to come”) to Hebrew. There we resorted to using a rare BH construction, but here we are in direct speech where a BH construction would be out of place. We believe these words represent the author of Matthew’s personal opinion.[100] The identification of John the Baptist as “Elijah who is about to come” (Matt. 11:14) plays on the question the Baptist addressed to Jesus, “Are you he who is coming?” (Matt. 11:3 // Luke 7:19). Edwards suggested that this tension between identifying both John and Jesus as “the coming one” resulted from the author of Matthew’s interpreting the source behind Matt. 11:2-19 through the lens of Mark’s Elijah Must Come First pericope (Mark 9:11-13).[101]

L16 ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω (Matt. 11:15). The admonition to listen in Matt. 11:15 reflects the importance the author of Matthew attached to the identification of John the Baptist as Elijah. This identification was so important to him that he was willing to rework his sources in order to make the identification explicit. The admonition to let those with ears hear was unmoored from its original location as the conclusion to the Four Soils parable (Matt. 13:9 // Mark 4:9 // Luke 8:8)[102] and floated within the Synoptic tradition from one context to another.[103]

The form of the admonition to listen is specifically Matthean; in Luke and Mark we always find the infinitive ἀκούειν (“to hear”) after ὦτα (“ears”).[104] The author of Matthew repeated the admonition to listen following his allegorical interpretation of the Darnel Among the Wheat parable (Matt. 13:36-43), a section that, like Matt. 11:14-15, was also composed by the author of Matthew.

Redaction Analysis

Despite differences of ordering, vocabulary and meaning, it is clear that the Lukan and Matthean versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing share some kind of “genetic” relationship. Both versions are descendants from the Anthology, and ultimately from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Luke’s version came through an additional stage of transmission, passing through the editorial processing of the First Reconstructor before reaching its final form in Luke 16:16. Matthew’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing was copied directly from Anth., but it was subjected to the author of Matthew’s editorial activity. As a result, the two versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing in the New Testament are more like cousins than twins or siblings.

Luke’s Version

Luke 16:16 represents FR’s thoroughgoing paraphrase of Anth.’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing. Nearly every word has been altered or at least shifted from its original position. The only words in Luke 16:16 to remain in exactly the same position as in Anth. are ἡ βασιλεία (“the kingdom”) in L7 and καί (“and”) in L9. On the other hand, Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing accurately preserves the use of the verb βιάζεσθαι and the prepositional phrase εἰς αὐτήν (“into it”) in L9. In these two respects Luke’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing appears to be closer to Anth.’s wording than is Matthew’s version.

Despite the nearly complete overhaul of Anth.’s wording, FR’s paraphrase has captured much of the essence of Jesus’ saying and made it comprehensible for non-Jewish Greek speakers. FR’s successful paraphrase of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing suggests that the First Reconstructor was in contact with a community with close ties to Jesus’ earliest followers.

We have not detected any changes the author of Luke made to FR’s paraphrase of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing.

Matthew’s Version

By and large, the author of Matthew copied The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing as it appeared in Anth. The only changes we suspect the author of Matthew made were to write ἄρτι (“now”) instead of τοῦ νῦν (“the present”) in L6, and ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν (“they plunder it”) instead of βιάζονται εἰς αὐτήν (“they force into it”) in L9. While the changes are slight, and although the author of Matthew probably believed that he was simply making stylistic improvements, the changes the author of Matthew made in L9 drastically altered the meaning of Jesus’ saying by limiting the ways in which it could be interpreted. Whereas Anth.’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing could be interpreted in either a positive or negative sense (“The Kingdom of Heaven is forcing through and forceful persons force their way into it”), Matthew’s changes permitted only a negative interpretation (“The Kingdom of Heaven is being oppressed and oppressors are plundering it”).

The source of the author of Matthew’s misunderstanding was the verb βιάζεται, which could be read either in the middle voice meaning “it forces through” or in the passive voice meaning “it is oppressed.” Lacking knowledge of the original meaning of Jesus’ saying, the author of Matthew interpreted it in light of his own experience as a member of an isolated community.[105]

As an addendum to The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, the author of Matthew added two verses of his own composition (Matt. 11:14-15), in which he identified John the Baptist as Elijah. These verses obscured Jesus’ more nuanced approach to John the Baptist, which he articulated in Yeshua’s Words About Yohanan the Immerser.

Results of This Research

1. Why are the Lukan and Matthean versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing so different from one another? The major differences between the Lukan and Matthean versions of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing are due to their differing transmission histories. Luke’s version of Jesus’ saying went through the longest chain of transmission and was subjected to the most extensive editing. But at each stage of the transmission the redaction was carried out by individuals who had a good understanding of the meaning and intent of Jesus’ saying. The Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was aware that Jesus’ saying depended on a play on the root פ-ר-צ and that the saying could be understood in a positive and in a negative sense. In order to capture the wordplay, the Greek translator used three forms of the βια- root to translate the three instances of פ-ר-צ. His translation was open-ended, admitting of a positive or negative interpretation. When the First Reconstructor paraphrased the Greek translation of Jesus’ saying preserved in Anth., he understood that its original context in Jesus’ discourse on John the Baptist gave it a primarily positive sense. He therefore paraphrased Anth.’s “The Kingdom of Heaven forces through and forceful persons force their way into it” as “The Kingdom of God is being announced, and everyone is being urged into it.” The author of Luke’s reliance on FR for his version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing meant that he passed on to his readers a positive interpretation of Jesus’ saying.

The author of Matthew’s reliance on Anth. for his version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing meant that he passed on to his readers a less thoroughly redacted version of Jesus’ saying. Ironically, the minor alterations he made to Anth.’s wording transformed the essentially optimistic saying of Jesus—albeit with undertones foreboding difficulties to come—into a saying that could only be understood in a negative sense (“The Kingdom of Heaven is oppressed and oppressors plunder it”). We suspect that the author of Matthew was led to (mis)interpret Jesus’ saying in this way partly due to his community’s experience of rejection and partly due to his disconnection from the apostolic tradition that preserved an accurate understanding of Jesus’ sayings. The author of Matthew’s sectarian views and isolationist policies served him as poorly as the author of Luke’s contact and continuity with the apostolic tradition served him well.

2. Does The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing discuss violence that is either inflicted upon or committed by followers of Jesus? Luke’s version of the saying could be misunderstood as affirming, or even advocating, that Jesus’ followers coerce people into God’s Kingdom (“The Kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone is forced into it”). Nevertheless, the best interpretation of Luke 16:16 is “The Kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone is being urged into it.” Matthew’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing does refer to hostility, if not outright persecution, and probably reflects the Matthean community’s experience. We believe the original version of Jesus’ saying was sophisticated and multivalent. On the surface the saying was one of optimism, based on a messianic interpretation of Micah’s prophecy about “the one that breaks through” and those who break through after him: “The Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through/increasing, and ‘breakers-through’ are increasing within it.” But in Hebrew the same words could be understood in a more sinister sense: “The Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through/increasing, but transgressors are lashing out against it.” The negative interpretation is the opposite side of the coin of the positive interpretation. As a consequence of the Kingdom of Heaven’s success, there will be a backlash from those who are opposed to Jesus’ message.

The combination of optimism and realism, the paradoxical nature of the saying, and the understated messianism of the saying, in which the focus is not on Jesus’ person but on the Kingdom of Heaven and those who take part in it, are true to the style of Jesus’ teaching.

3. Does The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing have something to say about an end to the validity of the Torah? Sometimes Luke’s version of this saying has been misconstrued as proclaiming the end of the Torah’s validity since the Gospel began to be preached. Such an interpretation requires a willful neglect of the context in which the saying appears, since in the very next verse, Luke 16:17, Jesus proclaims that the Jewish Law will remain in effect so long as heaven and earth endure. The original saying delineated different stages of redemption history: the first stage was one in which prophetic activity continued down to the time of John the Baptist, and the second stage was one in which all that the prophets had promised was being achieved.

Conclusion

Having paradoxically announced that, although John the Baptist was greater than any other human being, the least participant in the new age of the Kingdom of Heaven was greater than John, Jesus expanded upon the theme of the stages of redemption: since John the Baptist, the Kingdom of Heaven was on the rise, God’s redemptive activity had begun to increase as people were cured of diseases, set free from evil spirits, and reconciled to God and their fellow human beings through acts of mercy, forgiveness and love. Likewise, the number of participants in God’s reign was on the rise. More and more people were choosing to accept Jesus’ teaching on the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven. Prior to the Kingdom of Heaven’s breaking through, which marked a turning point in human and divine history, the prophets—and even the Torah—had foretold the coming redemption of Israel, humankind and God’s creation as a whole.

There was, however, another side to the Kingdom of Heaven’s success. The greater the influence Jesus and his followers exerted in their society, the stronger the opposition to that influence would be. Opposition would likely come from different quarters. The high priestly class, which benefitted from its close ties to Israel’s Roman overlords, would not look kindly upon a movement that spoke earnestly of the redemption of Israel and that opposed the oppression, violence and rapacity upon which Roman imperialism was based. But Jesus’ message of peacemaking, forgiveness and mercy would not appeal to militant Jewish nationalists who were thirsty for Roman blood.

And yet, despite his realistic assessment of the forces at play in his place and time, Jesus remained hopeful. God’s reign would break though every obstacle and its redeeming influence would continue to increase as Jesus and his followers fearlessly proclaimed and enacted the Kingdom of Heaven.

 


 

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See LHNS, 53 §65. Lindsey proposed an alternate reconstruction of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing, which appears in Brad Young’s Jesus the Jewish Theologian:

    מִימֵי יוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל וְעַד עַתָּה מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם פּוֹרֶצֶת וְכֹל פּוֹרֵץ בָּהּ

    From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven breaks forth and everyone breaks forth with it. (Young, JJT, 54)

  • [4] Llewelyn, citing legal terminology in Greek papyri, made a case for understanding βιάζεσθαι (biazesthai) in Matt. 11:12 in the sense of “illegal appropriation of property” and rendered the verse as, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven is acquired by force and violent men plunder it.” See Stephen R. Llewelyn, “Forcible Acquisition of the Meaning of Matt. 11.12,” in New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity 7 (1994): 130-162. Were Llewelyn’s suggestion to be adopted, the Matthean version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing might be understood as a polemical statement against false (i.e., Pauline) Christians. Sim has shown how the author of Matthew edited his sources with an anti-Pauline agenda. See David C. Sim, “Matthew’s anti-Paulinism: A neglected feature of Matthean studies,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 58.2 (2002): 767-783; idem, “Matthew 7.21-23: Further Evidence of its Anti-Pauline Perspective,” New Testament Studies 53 (2007): 325-343; idem, “Matthew, Paul and the origin and nature of the gentile mission: The great commission in Matthew 28:16-20 as an anti-Pauline tradition,” HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 64.1 (2008): 377-392. Nevertheless, the anti-Pauline interpretation of Matt. 11:12 founders on the dating of the forceful acquisition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the time of John the Baptist rather than to the time of the Apostle Paul.
  • [5] For this interpretation of Luke 16:16, see Juan B. Cortés and Florence M. Gatti, “On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” Journal of Biblical Literature 106.2 (1987): 247-259. Cf. Fitzmyer, 2:1117; Bock, 268. Ramelli interprets Luke 16:16 similarly, but takes βιάζεται as a divine passive (i.e., “God forces everyone into it”). Ramelli notes that early Syriac, Latin and Ethiopic versions understood βιάζεται in Luke 16:16 as a passive, as did Cyril of Alexandria (late fourth to mid-fifth century C.E.). See Ilaria L. E. Ramelli, “Luke 16:16: The Good News of God’s Kingdom Is Proclaimed and Everyone Is Forced into It,” Journal of Biblical Literature 127.4 (2008): 737-758.
  • [6] See Harnack, 16; Creed, 207; Knox, 2:99; Daube, 294.
  • [7] See Robert L. Lindsey, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan ‘Pick-ups’ and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists,” under the subheading “Lukan Doublets: Sayings Doublets”; idem, TJS, 36-37.
  • [8] As Catchpole observed, “The verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke is sufficient to show that we are dealing with Q material.” See David R. Catchpole, “On Doing Violence to the Kingdom,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 25 (1978): 50-61, esp. 51. The “Q” of the Two-source Hypothesis is roughly equivalent to the Anthology of Lindsey’s hypothesis.
  • [9] Justin Martyr quotes Jesus’ saying as follows:

    ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται μέχρι Ἰωάννου τοῦ βαπτιστοῦ ἐξότου ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται, καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν.

    The law and the prophets until John the Baptist; from then the Kingdom of Heaven is oppressed, and oppressors grasp at it. (Dial. chpt. 51 [ed. Trollope, 104])

  • [10] See Fitzmyer, 1:662; 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. 263-264. Some scholars have suggested that precisely because the Lukan context of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing is difficult it must, therefore, be original, since there is no reason why the author of Luke would have moved the saying to its current, improbable location. Cf., e.g., Burnett H. Streeter, “On the Original Order of Q,” in Studies in the Synoptic Problem (ed. W. Sanday; Oxford: Clarendon, 1911), 141-164, esp. 156-157; Vincent Taylor, “The Original Order of Q,” in New Testament Essays: Studies in Memory of Thomas Walter Manson (ed. A. J. B. Higgins; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959), 246-269, esp. 255-256; Ron Cameron, “‘What Have You Come Out to See?’ Characterizations of John and Jesus in the Gospels,” Semeia 49 (1990): 35-69, esp. 37. However, if the author of Luke found an improved Greek version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing in FR, which was also easier to understand than the Anth. version, then it becomes clear why the author of Luke would have preferred FR’s version and arrangement in a cluster of three loosely-related statements on the Jewish Law.
  • [11] Other scholars have likewise concluded that the arrangement of Luke 16:16-18 is pre-Lukan, since the theme of the Jewish Law is unrelated to the rest of the material in Luke 16. See Luz, 2:137 n. 4.
  • [12] Jeremias (Theology, 46) similarly concluded that Matthew preserves the original setting of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing.
  • [13] For our discussion of Anth.’s block of material on John the Baptist, see “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex.
  • [14] Llewelyn similarly suggested that εὐαγγελίζειν in Luke 16:16 was due to the influence of Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, although he attributed the change to the author of Luke himself. See Stephen R. Llewelyn, “The Traditionsgeschichte of Matt. 11:12-13, par. Luke 16:16,” Novum Testamentum 34.4 (1994): 330-349, esp. 339-342.
  • [15] See Harnack, 16.
  • [16] Catchpole noted that since the formula “days of X” occurs in the DT Days of the Son of Man pericope (αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ Νῶε [“the days of Noah”; Matt. 24:37] // ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Νῶε [“in the days of Noah”; Luke 17:26]), the “days of X” formula in Matt. 11:12 may well be “pre-Matthaean.” See Catchpole, “On Doing Violence to the Kingdom,” 57. In Luke the “days of X” formula occurs 4xx (Luke 1:5; 4:25; 17:26, 28), all of which have a good claim to derivation from Anth. Did the author of Matthew pick up the phrase ἐν ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου (“in [the] days of Herod”; Matt. 2:1) from the Infancy Narrative in Anth. (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου [“in the days of Herod”; Luke 1:5])?
  • [17] See Jeremias, Theology, 47.
  • [18] Additional examples include 2 Chr. 30:26; 2 Esd. 18:17 (= Neh. 8:17); Jer. 43[36]:2.
  • [19] See Lindsey’s reconstruction in the Reconstruction section above, where he placed הַמַּטְבִּיל (“the Immerser”) in brackets in his Hebrew reconstruction. On the other hand, הַמַּטְבִּיל appears in the reconstruction Young (JJT, 54) attributed to Lindsey.
  • [20] The author of Matthew displayed a strong preference for τότε (tote, “then”) throughout his Gospel and usually accepted τότε when it appeared in Mark. We also find that the author of Matthew inserted the phrase ἀπὸ τότε where it likely did not appear in his source (Matt. 4:17; 16:21; 26:16). See Catchpole, “On Doing Violence to the Kingdom,” 57. It might seem, therefore, that had ἀπὸ τότε appeared in Anth.’s version of The Kingdom of Heaven Is Increasing the author of Matthew would have accepted it. But this argument fails because the overall perspective of Matthew’s version of the saying prohibited him from using ἀπὸ τότε in L6. “From the days of John the Baptist from then” is nonsensical.
  • [21] Note, too, that although ἄρτι occurs 12xx in LXX (Jdt. 9:1; 2 Macc. 3:28; 9:5, 8; 10:28; 13:11; 3 Macc. 4:6; 5:23; 6:16, 29; Dan. 9:22; 10:11), it only occurs twice with a Hebrew equivalent in MT. On the two occasions when ἄρτι does have a Hebrew equivalent in MT, that equivalent is עַתָּה (‘atāh, “now”; Dan. 9:22; 10:11).
  • [22] The phrase ἕως [τοῦ] νῦν occurs in Gen. 15:16; 18:12; 32:5; 46:34; Num. 14:19; Deut. 12:9; Judg. 16:13; 1 Kdgms. 1:16; 2 Kgdms. 19:8; 3 Kgdms. 3:2; 4 Kgdms. 8:6; 2 Esd. 5:16; 1 Macc. 2:33; Eccl. 4:2; Ezek. 4:14.
  • [23] See Catchpole, “On Doing Violence to the Kingdom,” 59; D. A. Carson, “Do the Prophets and the Law Quit Prophesying before John? A Note on Matthew 11.13,” in The Gospels and the Scriptures of Israel (ed. Craig A. Evans and W. Richard Stegner; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 179-194, esp. 188.
  • [24] Additional examples are found in Ps. 93[94]:13; 2 Esd. 9:7; 19:32.
  • [25] Of the fifteen instances of ἕως [τοῦ] νῦν in LXX (Gen. 15:16; 18:12; 32:5; 46:34; Num. 14:19; Deut. 12:9; Judg. 16:13; 1 Kdgms. 1:16; 2 Kgdms. 19:8; 3 Kgdms. 3:2; 4 Kgdms. 8:6; 2 Esd. 5:16; 1 Macc. 2:33; Eccl. 4:2; Ezek. 4:14), six are the translation of עַד עַתָּה (Gen. 32:5; 46:34; Deut. 12:9; 2 Kgdms. 19:8; 4 Kgdms. 8:6; Ezek. 4:14).
  • [26] The phrase עַד עַתָּה, which occurs 9xx in MT, is usually translated ἕως τοῦ νῦν in LXX (Gen. 32:5; 46:34; Deut. 12:9; 2 Kgdms. 19:8; 4 Kgdms. 8:6; Ezek. 4:14). In Exod. 9:18 the LXX translators rendered עַד עַתָּה as ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης (“until this day”). There is no equivalent to עַד עַתָּה in 4 Kgdms. 13:23. In Ruth 2:7 עַד עַתָּה is rendered ἕως ἑσπέρας (“until evening”).
  • [27] For Lindsey’s reconstruction, see the Reconstruction section above. For Flusser’s retroversion of Matt. 11:12 to Hebrew, see David Flusser, “Reflections of Jewish Messianic Beliefs in Early Christianity,” in his Judaism of the Second Temple Period: Sages and Literature (ed. Serge Ruzer; Jerusalem: Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi and Magnes, 2002 [in Hebrew]), 246-277, esp. 248 (repr. from Messianism and Eschatology: A Collection of Articles [ed. Zvi Baras; Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 1983], 103-134).
  • [28] See Segal, 134 §294.
  • [29] The work (Pseudo-Jubilees) from which the above text is excerpted was probably composed in the second century B.C.E. The Herodian script in which 4QpsJuba was written suggests that it was copied sometime between 30 B.C.E. and 20 C.E. On 4QpsJuba, see Geza Vermes, “New Light on the Sacrifice of Isaac from Qumran,” in his Jesus in his Jewish Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 109-113, 181-184.
  • [30] There are many examples of the Hebrew phrase עַד→מִן, with the conjunction -וְ prefixed to עַד, which are translated in LXX without a conjunction (cf. GR, L6). Examples from the Pentateuch alone include Gen. 13:3; 14:23; 19:4, 11; 46:34; 47:21; Exod. 9:18, 25; 11:7; 12:12; 13:15; 23:31; 28:42; Lev. 13:12; 27:3, 5, 6; Num. 4:30, 35, 39, 43, 47; 6:4; 14:19; Deut. 3:16; 4:32; 13:8; 28:35, 64. Lindsey’s reconstruction (as reported in Young, JJT, 54) also had the conjunction prefixed to עַד. Cf. Dalman, 142.
  • [31] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “Which is Correct: ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’?”
  • [32] On the term מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (malchūt shāmayim, “the Kingdom of Heaven”) in the teachings of Jesus, and the different senses in which he used this important phrase, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua.”
  • [33] In Hebrew the phrase מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם מִתְבַּשֶּׂרֶת would mean, “the Kingdom of Heaven is informed of good news.” Thus, for example, the statement כבר נתבשרה בחלב means, “she [i.e., Sarah] had already been informed of the good news that she would produce milk [for her son Isaac]” (Gen. Rab. 47:2 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:472]). Cf. Dalman, 102.
  • [34] See Harnack, 16; Creed, 207; Black, 263 n. 3; Marshall, 629; Jeremias, Theology, 47 n. 1; Davies-Allison, 2:253; Catchpole, 233.
  • [35] Luke 9:6 forms the conclusion of the FR version of the Mission of the Twelve (Luke 9:1-6). On the attribution of Luke 9:1-6 to FR, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.” On Luke 9:6, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L124-132.
  • [36] See Harnack, 16; T. W. Manson, 134; Marshall, 629.
  • [37] Text and translation (with minor adaptation) according to W. R. M. Lamb, Lysias (Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930).
  • [38] Additional examples of βιάζεσθαι used to describe forcing through a barrier are found in Philo, Deus §166; Jos., J.W. 2:262, 328.
  • [39] In the few places where they seem to have done so (1 Kgdms. 28:23 [παραβιάζεσθαι]; 2 Kgdms. 13:25, 27; 4 Kgdms. 5:23 [Alexandrinus]) פָּרַץ occurs in the sense of “urge,” a sense that does not properly belong to פָּרַץ, and therefore the editors of BDB conjectured that the correct reading is not פָּרַץ but פָּצַר (pātzar, “press,” “urge”) in these cases. See BDB, 823, 829. This conjecture has since been confirmed with the discovery of pre-Masoretic manuscripts of the Books of Samuel and Kings among DSS (see below), and we can safely conclude that the LXX translators read פָּצַר in the Hebrew texts behind 1 Kgdms. 28:23; 2 Kgdms. 13:25, 27; and 4 Kgdms. 5:23.

    Whereas MT reads וַיִּפְרָץ בּוֹ (vayifrotz bō) in 2 Sam. 13:25, 4QSama 106 I, 19 reads ויפצר בו (vayiftzor bō, “and he urged him”), which agrees with the LXX translation καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτόν (kai ebiasato avton, “and he urged him”; 2 Kgdms. 13:25). Likewise, in 2 Sam. 13:27 MT again has וַיִּפְרָץ בּוֹ, but 4QSama 106 I, 21 reads ויפצר בו, and in agreement with this pre-Masoretic reading LXX has καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτόν (2 Kgdms. 13:27). Unfortunately, the text of 1 Sam. 28:23 and 2 Kgs. 5:23 has not been preserved among DSS, but it is probably safe to infer from καὶ παρεβιάζοντο αὐτόν (kai parebiazonto avton, “and they were urging him”) in 1 Kgdms. 28:23 and καὶ ἐβιάσαντο αὐτόν (kai ebiasanto avton, “and they urged him”) in 4 Kgdms. 5:23 (Alexandrinus) that there, too, the LXX translators read ויפצרו בו (“and they urged him”) and ויפצר בו (“and he urged him”) in their vorlage.

  • [40] Lindsey describes how Flusser excitedly shared with him his new insight in JRL, 75-76. Flusser discussed his interpretation in “Jewish Messianism Reflected in the Early Church” (Flusser, JSTP2, 158-288, esp. 260 n. 6); idem, Jesus, 52, but his interpretation is already reflected in 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. Joseph Frankovic pointed out to Lindsey that in 1672 Edward Pococke had arrived at a similar interpretation of Jesus’ words based on Mic. 2:13 (Lindsey, TJS, 56). See Edward Pococke, A Commentary on Micah, in Leonard Twells, ed., The Theological Works of the Learned Dr. Pocock (2 vols.; London: R. Gosling, 1740), 1:22. Cf. Young, JJT, 65-66. Young (JJT, 73 n. 2) also notes that in 1559 the reformer Calvin was already aware of this interpretation of Mic. 2:13. See John Calvin, Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets (5 vols.; trans. John Owen; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1846-1849), 3:211. See also 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. 305. Daube (286-287) also discussed the possibility of interpreting Matt. 11:12 in light of Mic. 2:13.
  • [41] On the pastoral imagery Micah employed in this passage, see Robert L. Lindsey, “The Kingdom of God: God’s Power Among Believers.”
  • [42] See Rabbi David Kimhi, Duodecim Prophetæ cum comentariis R. Dauid Kimhi (Paris: ex officina Roberti Stephani, typographi Regii, 1539), on Mic. 2:13.
  • [43] Black (262 n. 3) also suggested that βιάζεσθαι might represent “the Semitic root p r ṣ,” but he did not make the connection to Mic. 2:13.
  • [44] It is uncertain whether it is to this passage in Pesikta Rabbati that Rabbi David Kimhi referred or to a different messianic interpretation of Mic. 2:13. Young (JJT, 73 n. 19) supposes that he was acquainted with an earlier source.
  • [45] If our reconstruction is correct, and if Jesus did intend to allude to Mic. 2:13, then we might well ask why the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua did not use the verb διακόπτειν (diakoptein, “to cut apart,” “to divide”) with which LXX rendered פָּרַץ in Mic. 2:13, for as we have discussed elsewhere, the Greek translator typically relied on LXX when he encountered Scripture quotations in his source (see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L43). One explanation may be that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua simply did not recognize the intended allusion, and therefore did not consult the LXX version of Mic. 2:13. Another explanation is that the LXX version of Mic. 2:13 is rather different from the sense of the Hebrew text, and for that reason the Greek translator made his own translation.

    Compare the Hebrew and Greek versions of Mic. 2:13:

    עָלָה הַפֹּרֵץ לִפְנֵיהֶם פָּרְצוּ וַיַּעֲבֹרוּ שַׁעַר וַיֵּצְאוּ בוֹ וַיַּעֲבֹר מַלְכָּם לִפְנֵיהֶם וַיי בְּרֹאשָׁם

    The breaker-through will go up before them. They will break through and pass the gate and go out by it. And their king will pass through before them, and the LORD at their head.

    διὰ τῆς διακοπῆς πρὸ προσώπου αὐτῶν διέκοψαν καὶ διῆλθον πύλην καὶ ἐξῆλθον δι᾿ αὐτῆς, καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ὁ βασιλεὺς αὐτῶν πρὸ προσώπου αὐτῶν, ὁ δὲ κύριος ἡγήσεται αὐτῶν

    They have cut through the breach before them, and they passed through the gate and went out through it. And their king went out before them, but the Lord shall lead them. (NETS)

  • [46] Examples of פָּרַץ in the sense of “increase” or “spread out” occur in Gen. 28:14; 30:30, 43; Exod. 1:12; Isa. 54:3; Hos. 4:10; Job 1:10; 1 Chr. 4:38; 2 Chr. 31:5.
  • [47] Cf. Nigel Turner, Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1965), 59-60. Some scholars have attempted to read Matt. 11:12 as an antithetical parallelism (i.e., “the Kingdom of Heaven is forcing through but oppressors are grasping it”), thereby ascribing a positive meaning to ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν βιάζεται (cf., e.g., Nolland, Matt., 458). Were this interpretation correct, however, we would expect to find an adversative conjunction such as ἀλλά (alla, “but”) rather than καί (kai, “and”) to make the antithesis clear. See Llewelyn, “Forcible Acquisition and the Meaning of Matt. 11:12,” 159. Read on its own, without taking Luke 16:16 into account, which the author of Matthew never saw, it is more natural to interpret Matt. 11:12 as a statement about violence done to the Kingdom of Heaven. See Gottlob Schrenk, “βιάζομαι,” TDNT, 1:609-613, esp. 610-611; B. Green, 116; Schweizer, 262; Davies-Allison, 2:255-256; Hagner, 1:307; Luz, 2:141; Witherington, 233; France, Matt., 429-430.
  • [48] On the author of Matthew’s non-Jewish status, see Praying Like Gentiles, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.” Moore points out that, at least in the writings of Josephus, βιάζεσθαι is rarely intransitive, hence, “It is difficult to find the middle of βιάζω used simpliciter, or absolutely, with some such meaning as ‘pressing violently forward’, ‘showing its power’, ‘makes its way with triumphant force’.” See Ernest Moore, “BIAZΩ, APΠAZΩ and Cognates in Josephus,” New Testament Studies 21.4 (1975): 519-543, esp. 519, cf. 520. Thus, it would be natural for the author of Matthew to have taken this verb as a passive. Moreover, if the instances of βιάζεσθαι in the writings of Josephus may be regarded as representative of general usage, then βιάζεσθαι was typically used in contexts concerning military or sexual conquest or otherwise violent imposition upon the will of others. See ibid., 521-523. This too would lead a Greek-speaking Gentile with no appreciation for the Hebrew substratum of the Gospels, like the author of Matthew, to instinctually interpret (the source behind) Matt. 11:12 as a negative statement about the maltreatment of the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • [49] On the tendency of the author of Matthew to modify Jesus’ sayings to reflect conditions within his own community, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L52-62; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L82-83. On editorial remarks in the Gospel of Matthew that appear to be a response to the reforms of Rabban Gamliel II in the period after the destruction of the Temple, see Peter J. Tomson, “The Wars Against Rome, the Rise of Rabbinic Judaism and of Apostolic Gentile Christianity, and the Judaeo-Christians: Elements for a Synthesis,” in The Image of the Judaeo-Christians in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature (ed. Peter J. Tomson and Doris Lambers-Petry; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 1-31; idem, “Transformation of Post-70 Judaism: Scholarly Reconstructions and Their Implications for our Perception of Matthew, Didache, and James,” in Matthew, James, and Didache: Three Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Setting (ed. Huub van de Sandt and Jürgen K. Zangenberg; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 91-121; idem, “The Didache, Matthew, and Barnabas as Sources for Early Second Century Jewish and Christian History,” in Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries: How to Write Their History (CRINT 13; ed. Peter J. Tomson and Joshua Schwartz; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 348-382.
  • [50] See Moore, “BIAZΩ, APΠAZΩ and Cognates in Josephus,” 525-526. In LXX ἁρπάζειν usually occurs as the translation of גָּזַל (gāzal, “rob,” “take by force”; Lev. 5:23; 19:13; Deut. 28:31; Judg. 21:23; 2 Kgdms. 23:21; Ps. 68[69]:5; Job 20:19; 24:2, 9, 19; Mic. 3:2; Isa. 10:2; Ezek. 18:7, 12, 16, 18) or טָרַף (ṭāraf, “tear”; Gen. 37:33; Ps. 7:3; 21[22]:14; 49[50]:22; Hos. 5:14; 6:1; Amos 1:11; Mic. 5:7; Nah. 2:13; Ezek. 19:3, 6; 22:25, 27).
  • [51] See Schrenk, “βιάζομαι,” TDNT, 1:611; Moore, “BIAZΩ, APΠAZΩ and Cognates in Josephus,” 528-530; Catchpole, 234; Luz, 2:140.

    It was not uncommon prior to the Enlightenment period for Matt. 11:12 to be interpreted in positive terms. Clement of Alexandria (mid-second to early third century C.E.), for example, interpreted “and oppressors are grabbing it” in a positive sense, as follows:

    πάλιν καὶ τοῦτο μεγάλης σοφίας μεστόν ἐστιν, ὅτι καθ᾽ αὑτὸν μὲν ἀσκῶν καὶ διαπονούμενος ἀπάθειαν ⟨ὁ⟩ ἄνθρωπος οὐδὲν ἀνύει, ἐὰν δὲ γένηται δῆλος ὑπερεπιθυμῶν τούτου καὶ διεσπουδακώς, τῇ προσθήκῃ τῆς παρὰ θεοῦ δυνάμεως περιγίνεται βουλομέναις μὲν γὰρ ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὁ θεὸς συνεπιπνεῖ, εἰ δὲ ἀποσταῖεν τῆς προθυμίας, καὶ τὸ δοθὲν ἐκ θεοῦ πνεῦμα συνεστάλη τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἄκοντας σῴζειν ἐστὶ βιαζομένου, τὸ δὲ αἱρουμένος χαριζομένου. οὐδὲ τῶν καθευδόντων καὶ βλακευόντων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀλλ᾽ οἱ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν. αὕτη γὰρ μόνη βία καλή, θεὸν βιάσασθαι καὶ παρὰ θεοῦ ζωὴν ἁρπάσαι, ὁ δὲ γνοὺς τοὺς βιαίως, μᾶλλον δὲ βεβαίως αντεχομένους [συνεχώρησεν] εἶξεν χαίρει γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τὰ τοιαῦτα ἡττώμενος.

    This again is full of great wisdom, because when practising and striving after the passionless state by himself man achieves nothing, but if he makes it clear that he is eagerly pursuing this aim and is in deep earnest, he prevails by the addition of the power that comes from God. For God breathes His own power into souls when they desire, but if ever they desist from their eagerness, then too the spirit given from God is withdrawn; for to save men against their will is an act of force [βιαζομένου], but to save them when they choose is an act of grace. Nor does the kingdom of God belong to sleepers and sluggards, but “the men of force seize it.” This is the only good force [βία], to force [βιάσασθαι] God and to seize [ἁρπάσαι] life from God; and He, knowing those who forcibly [βιαίως], or rather persistently, cling to Him, yields; for God welcomes being worsted in such contests. (The Rich Man’s Salvation §21; Loeb)

    Text and translation according to G. W. Butterworth, Clement of Alexandria (New York: Putnam, 1919), 312-315.

    The reformer Martin Luther (sixteenth century C.E.) interpreted Matt. 11:12 along similar lines, likening violence and seizure to impetuosity and persistence in prayer:

    “Be constant in prayer” [Rom. 12:12]. In this passage he [i.e., Paul—DNB and JNT] is emphasizing that Christians ought to engage in frequent as well as diligent prayer. For “to be constant” means not only to take a great deal of time, but also to urge, to incite, to demand. For just as there is no work which for Christians ought to be more frequent, so no other work that requires more labor and effort and therefore is more efficacious and fruitful. For here “the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Matt. 11:12). For prayer in my opinion is a constant violent action of the spirit as it is lifted up to God, as a ship is driven upward against the power of the storm. …Thus we must all practice violence and remember that he who prays is fighting against the devil and the flesh. (Lectures on Romans: Scholia, to Rom. 12:12)

    Translation of Luther according to Jacob A. O. Preus in Luther’s Works (55 vols.; ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann; Saint Louis, Mo.: Concordia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1958-1986), 25:460-461.

    France (Matt., 340) is among the minority of modern scholars who attempt to put a positive spin on Matt. 11:12.

  • [52] Text and translation according to Bernadotte Perrin, trans., Plutarch’s Lives (11 vols.; Loeb; New York: MacMillan; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1914-1926), 1:148-149.
  • [53] Text and translation according to Perrin, Plutarch’s Lives, 9:390-391.
  • [54] Text and translation according to Frank Cole Babbit et al., trans., Plutarch’s Moralia (16 vols.; Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927-2004), 3:206-207.
  • [55] Text and translation according to K. Kilburn et al., trans., Lucian (8 vols.; Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1933-1967), 4:104-105.
  • [56] Text and translation according to Kilburn, Lucian, 6:300-301.
  • [57] As Moore noted, “if the last few words of Matt. xi. 12 were isolated from the rest, and we read βιάζεται καὶ βιασταὶ ἁρπάζουσιν αὐτήν, we might think we were reading about a rape: ‘…is being raped, and violent men seize her’.” See Moore, “BIAZΩ, APΠAZΩ and Cognates in Josephus,” 522. Cf. W. Ernest Moore, “Violence to the Kingdom: Josephus and the Syrian Churches,” Expository Times 100 (1989): 174-177, esp. 174.
  • [58] The following table shows all of the instances of ἁρπάζειν in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and the parallels (if any) in the other Synoptic Gospels:

    Matt. 11:12 DT (cf. Luke 16:16)
    Matt. 12:29 TT (cf. Mark 3:27; Luke 11:22)
    Matt. 13:19 TT (cf. Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12)


    Key: TT = pericope has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; DT = Lukan-Matthean pericope.

  • [59] According to Young (JJT, 54), Lindsey suspected that the author of Matthew inserted ἁρπάζειν into Matt. 11:12.
  • [60] The entry for βιαστής in LSJ (315) cites only Matt. 11:12 and refers users to the cognate adjective βιατάς (biatas, “violent,” “forceful”). BDAG (176) cites a variant reading in the works of Philo (Agr. §89), a single instance in the works of Aretaeus (second century C.E.), and an example in a twelfth-century C.E. Byzantine author. Cf. Gottlob Schrenk, “βιαστής,” TDNT, 1:613-614.
  • [61] The noun פָּרִיץ occurs in Isa. 35:9; Jer. 7:11; Ezek. 7:22; 18:10; Ps. 17:4; Dan. 11:14.
  • [62] See Jastrow, 1227.
  • [63] Examples of פָּרִיץ with a negative connotation in rabbinic sources include:

    ויאכל וישת הכניס עמו כת שלפריצים

    And he [i.e., Esau—DNB and JNT] ate and drank [Gen. 25:34]. He brought in with him a band of ruffians [פָּרִיצִים]. (Gen. Rab. 53:14 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:699])

    אין דור שאין בו ליצנים מה היו פריצי הדור עושין היו הולכין אצל חלונותיו של דוד ואומרים לו דוד אימת יבנה בית המקדש

    There is no generation that has no scoffers in it. What were the ruffians of [פְּרִיצֵי] that generation [i.e., the generation of King David—DNB and JNT] doing? They would go near David’s windows and say to him, “David, when will you build the Temple?” (y. Ber. 2:1 [13a])

  • [64] Jastrow (1227) believed the reading in Gen. Rab. 85:14 ought to be הַפָּרִצִים, which is supported by the parallel in Yalkut Shimoni §145, which reads הפריצים. But the textual evidence for Gen. Rab. 85:14 shows that some copyists believed the correct reading was הפורצים (see critical notes in Theodor-Albeck, 2:1049), which is the most natural reading given the citation of Mic. 2:13 that follows.
  • [65] The phrase וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים אוֹתָה could only be understood as “but transgressors are breaking through it.”
  • [66] Lindsey attempted to interpret וּפוֹרְצִים פּוֹרְצִים בָּהּ as “and breakers-through are breaking through with it [i.e., the Kingdom of Heaven]” (see Reconstruction section above), but we have not found a single example in which -פָּרַץ בְּ means “break through with.”
  • [67] See Cortés and Gatti, “On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” 247-259. That βιάζεσθαι could be used in the sense of “urge” can be seen in the following example (cited by Fitzmyer, 2:1117) from a letter composed by a man named Sarapion in Alexandria in the early part of the first century C.E., which was discovered among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri:

    ἐγὼ δὲ βιάζομαι ὑπὸ φίλων γενέσθαι οἰκιακὸς τοῦ ἀρχιστράτορος Ἀπολλωνίου

    I am being pressed [βιάζομαι] [i.e., urged—DNB and JNT] by my friends to enter the service of Apollonius, the chief usher…. (P. Oxy. II 294)

    Text and translation according to Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri (15 vols.; London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1898-1922), 2:294-295.

    Clearly in the above example βιάζεσθαι cannot be taken to imply violence, since those who are doing the urging are described as the author’s friends and he expresses no hint of resentment. Another example of βιάζεσθαι in the sense of “urge” (cited by Cortés and Gatti, “On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” 254) is found in the Hellenistic Jewish romance Joseph and Aseneth (early second century C.E.), where we read:

    Καὶ εἶπε πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἀσενέθ· οὐχί, κύριε, διότι αἱ χεῖρές μου χεῖρές σου καὶ οἱ πόδες σου πόδες μου, καὶ οὐ μὴ νίψῃ ἄλλη τοὺς πόδας σου. Καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτὸν καὶ ἔνιψε τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ.

    And Aseneth said to him, “No, lord, for my hands are your hands and your feet are my feet, and no one but myself will wash your feet.” And she urged [ἐβιάσατο] him and washed his feet. (Jos. Asen. 20:3)

    Since Joseph and Aseneth is a love story, it is clear that Aseneth’s urging in the above example does not imply violence. Cortés and Gatti (“On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” 253) pointed out that the compound verb παραβιάζεσθαι (parabiazesthai, “to do something by force”) is similarly used in the sense of “urge” in the Gospel of Luke. In the Emmaus Road story we read:

    καὶ παρεβιάσαντο αὐτὸν λέγοντες· μεῖνον μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν, ὅτι πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἐστὶν καὶ κέκλικεν ἤδη ἡ ἡμέρα

    And they urged [παρεβιάσαντο] him saying, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is already far gone.” (Luke 24:29)

    Likewise, in Luke’s account of the baptism of Lydia in Philippi we read:

    ὡς δὲ ἐβαπτίσθη καὶ ὁ οἶκος αὐτῆς, παρεκάλεσεν λέγουσα· εἰ κεκρίκατέ με πιστὴν τῷ κυρίῳ εἶναι, εἰσελθόντες εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου μένετε· καὶ παρεβιάσατο ἡμᾶς

    When she and her household were baptized, she entreated him saying, “If you deem me to be faithful to the Lord, enter my house and stay with me.” And she urged [παρεβιάσατο] us. (Acts 16:15)

    The verb παραβιάζεσθαι is also used in LXX with the meaning “to urge” (1 Kgdms. 28:23), as is βιάζεσθαι, for instance:

    καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτόν καὶ ἔλαβεν

    And he urged him [καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτόν] and he received it. (Gen. 33:11)

    καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτὸν ὁ γαμβρὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ πάλιν ηὐλίσθη ἐκεῖ

    And his father-in-law urged him [καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτὸν], so he again spent the night there. (Judg. 19:7)

    καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτόν, καὶ οὐκ ἠθέλησεν τοῦ πορευθῆναι

    …and he urged him [καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτόν], but he was not willing to go…. (2 Kgdms. 13:25)

    καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτὸν Αβεσσαλωμ, καὶ ἀπέστειλεν μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ τὸν Αμνων καὶ πάντας τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ βασιλέως

    And Absalom urged him [καὶ ἐβιάσατο αὐτὸν], and he sent with him Amnon and all the sons of the king. (2 Kgdms. 13:27)

  • [68] A third, and even more improbable, interpretation would be to take καὶ πᾶς εἰς αὐτὴν βιάζεται to mean “and everyone in it is being oppressed,” but in that case we would expect the preposition ἐν (en, “in”) rather than εἰς (eis, “into”). Cf. Schrenk, “βιάζομαι,” TDNT, 1:612.
  • [69] See Cortés and Gatti, “On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” 258.
  • [70] On the order νόμος→προφῆται in Luke 16:16 as secondary, see Jeremias, Theology, 47 n. 1; Llewelyn, “The Traditionsgeschichte of Matt. 11:12-13, par. Luke 16:16,” 335. We note, moreover, that in Matthew the order is always νόμος→προφῆται, except in Matt. 11:13, the one time νόμος and προφῆται definitely occurred in his source. In all the other instances (Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 22:40) it is likely that the author of Matthew added “prophets.” See Catchpole, “On Doing Violence to the Kingdom,” 53; cf. Flusser, Jesus, 91 n. 29. If the author of Matthew was so particular about adding “prophets” after “law” in all these other instances, why would he give the order “prophets”→“law” in Matt. 11:13 unless that was the order he found in his source?
  • [71] Observe in the following examples how LXX avoided translating the Hebrew phrase “prophets prophesy”:

    וַיִּרְאוּ וְהִנֵּה עִם נְבִאִים נִבָּא וַיֹּאמֶר הָעָם אִישׁ אֶל רֵעֵהוּ מַה זֶּה הָיָה לְבֶן־קִישׁ הֲגַם שָׁאוּל בַּנְּבִיאִים

    And they saw, and behold, with the prophets he prophesied [עִם נְבִאִים נִבָּא]. And the people said to one another, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 10:11)

    καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἰδοὺ αὐτὸς ἐν μέσῳ τῶν προφητῶν, καὶ εἶπεν ὁ λαὸς ἕκαστος πρὸς τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ Τί τοῦτο τὸ γεγονὸς τῷ υἱῷ Κις; ἦ καὶ Σαουλ ἐν προφήταις;

    …and [they] saw, and behold, he was in the midst of the prophets, and the people said each to his neighbor, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kis? Is Saoul also among the prophets?” (1 Kgdms. 10:11; NETS)

    וַיַּרְא אֶת לַהֲקַת הַנְּבִיאִים נִבְּאִים וּשְׁמוּאֵל עֹמֵד נִצָּב עֲלֵיהֶם

    And he saw the company of the prophets prophesying [הַנְּבִיאִים נִבְּאִים] and Samuel was standing appointed over them. (1 Sam. 19:20)

    καὶ εἶδαν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τῶν προφητῶν, καὶ Σαμουηλ εἱστήκει καθεστηκὼς ἐπ᾿ αὐτῶν

    …and they saw the assembly of the prophets, and Samouel stood as appointed over them…. (1 Kgdms. 19:20; NETS)

    אַל תִּשְׁמְעוּ עַל דִּבְרֵי הַנְּבִאִים הַנִּבְּאִים לָכֶם מַהְבִּלִים הֵמָּה אֶתְכֶם חֲזוֹן לִבָּם יְדַבֵּרוּ לֹא מִפִּי יי

    Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying [הַנְּבִאִים הַנִּבְּאִים] to you; they are making you empty, they speak a vision of their own hearts, not from the mouth of the LORD. (Jer. 23:16)

    Μὴ ἀκούετε τοὺς λόγους τῶν προφητῶν, ὅτι ματαιοῦσιν ἑαυτοῖς ὅρασιν, ἀπὸ καρδίας αὐτῶν λαλοῦσιν καὶ οὐκ ἀπὸ στόματος κυρίου

    Do not hear the words of the prophets, because they are rendering a vision empty. They speak from their own heart and not from the mouth of the Lord. (Jer. 23:16; NETS)

    הַאַתָּה הוּא אֲשֶׁר דִּבַּרְתִּי בְּיָמִים קַדְמוֹנִים בְּיַד עֲבָדַי נְבִיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַנִּבְּאִים בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם שָׁנִים לְהָבִיא אֹתְךָ עֲלֵיהֶם

    Are you the one whom I spoke about in earlier days by the hand of my servants the prophets of Israel who were prophesying [נְבִיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַנִּבְּאִים] in those days of years in which I would bring you against them? (Ezek. 38:17)

    Σὺ εἶ περὶ οὗ ἐλάλησα πρὸ ἡμερῶν τῶν ἔμπροσθεν διὰ χειρὸς τῶν δούλων μου προφητῶν τοῦ Ισραηλ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις καὶ ἔτεσιν τοῦ ἀγαγεῖν σε ἐπ᾿ αὐτούς

    You are the one of whom I spoke before the former days by a hand of my slaves, the prophets of Israel, in those days and years to bring you up against them. (Ezek. 38:17; NETS)

  • [72] Cf. Jacob Jervell, “The Law in Luke-Acts,” in his Luke and the People of God: A New Look at Luke-Acts (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1972), 133-151, esp. 150 n. 35; Marshall, 628; Fitzmyer, 2:1115; Bock, 268. A similar statement is attributed to Jesus’ brother James in Acts: “For since ancient generations Moses has those who proclaim him in every city; in the synagogues on every Sabbath he is being read” (Acts 15:21). For a provocative take on this verse (which we do not necessarily endorse), see Daniel R. Schwartz, “The Futility of Preaching Moses (Acts 15,21),” Biblica 67.2 (1986): 276-281.
  • [73] Translations of Luke 16:16 that imply that the Law and the prophets had become obsolete include James Moffatt, trans., A New Translation of the Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (rev. ed.; New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935), which reads, “The Law and the prophets lasted till John,” and the NRSV, which reads, “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came.” Among scholars who take Luke 16:16 to imply a cessation of the law are Cortés and Gatti (“On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” 258-259) and Bock (269).
  • [74] On attributing the arrangement of Luke 16:16-18 to FR, see above, Story Placement.
  • [75] Cf., e.g., Davies-Allison, 2:257; Catchpole, 46; Bovon, 2:465 n. 56.
  • [76] See Flusser, “The Literary Relationship Between the Three Gospels,” 41 n. 20 (Hebrew); Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 280.
  • [77] Additional instances where וְאַף was translated simply as καί are found in Lev. 26:40; Num. 11:33; Deut. 15:17; 1 Chr. 9:38; 2 Esd. 12:18; 23:15; Hab. 2:15; Isa. 44:19.
  • [78] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:947-949.
  • [79] See Dos Santos, 220.
  • [80] Cf., e.g., Davies-Allison, 2:256.
  • [81] In the writings of Luke we find “Moses” as a synonym for “law” (i.e., “Torah”) in Luke 16:29, 31; 24:27; Acts 15:21. See Jervell, “The Law in Luke-Acts,” 137.
  • [82] See Harnack, 16; Bovon, 2:465 n. 57.
  • [83] Lukan-Matthean agreements to write ἕως in DT are found in Matt. 5:26 // Luke 12:59; Matt. 11:23 // Luke 10:15 (2xx); Matt. 13:33 // Luke 13:21; Matt. 23:39 // Luke 13:35. There is also a Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to write ἕως in Matt. 24:34 // Luke 21:32 (cf. Mark 13:30, which has μέχρι). See Lindsey, GCSG, 1:401-403.
  • [84] See Catchpole, 233 n. 11.
  • [85] See Dalman, 140; T. W. Manson, 134; Marshall, 628; Catchpole, 46. Codex Bezae and a few other manuscripts supplied the verb προφητεύειν (“to prophesy”) in Luke 16:16; the interpolation is an obvious attempt on the part of later Christian scribes to harmonize Luke’s version of the saying with the parallel in Matt. 11:13. See Cortés and Gatti, “On the Meaning of Luke 16:16,” 248.
  • [86] Cf. Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 280.
  • [87] See Catchpole, 46; Notley, “The Kingdom of Heaven Forcefully Advances,” 280.
  • [88] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1231-1232.
  • [89] See Dos Santos, 127.
  • [90] For an introduction to Seder Olam, see Chaim Milikowsky, “Seder Olam,” in The Literature of the Sages (CRINT II.3; 2 vols.; ed. Shmuel Safrai, Zeev Safrai, Joshua Schwartz and Peter J. Tomson; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987-2006), 2:231-241.
  • [91] Cf. t. Sot. 13:3. The view that prophecy had ceased is also attested in 1 Macc. 4:46 (and cf. 1 Macc. 14:41). Since the author of 1 Maccabees was not a Pharisaic sympathizer, it appears that the concept of the cessation of prophecy had wider currency than just among the Pharisaic-rabbinic sages.
  • [92] The stock phrase שֶׁכָּל הַנְּבִיאִים מִתְנַבְּאִים is also found in Gen. Rab. 82:2 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:979); cf. Pesikta Rabbati 17:2 (ed. Friedmann, 85b).
  • [93] Cf. 3 Kgdms. 22:10 and 2 Chr. 18:9, where וְכָל הַנְּבִיאִים מִתְנַבְּאִים (“and all the prophets were prophesying”) was rendered in the imperfect tense as καὶ πάντες οἱ προφῆται ἐπροφήτευον (“and all the prophets were prophesying”); cf. 3 Kgdms. 22:12; 2 Chr. 18:11.
  • [94] See Bultmann, 165; T. W. Manson, 185; Kilpatrick, 27; Bundy, 171 §84; Fitzmyer, 1:663; Edwards, “Matthew’s Use of Q in Chapter 11,” 267; Davies-Allison, 2:258.
  • [95] See Bundy, 171 §84.
  • [96] There is only one instance in the Synoptic Gospels where all three evangelists agree to use the εἰ + θέλειν construction (Matt. 16:24 // Mark 8:34 // Luke 9:23). The author of Luke did not use this construction anywhere else in his Gospel. The author of Mark used the εἰ + θέλειν construction on one other occasion (Mark 9:35). The author of Matthew used the εἰ + θέλειν construction on five additional occasions (Matt. 11:14; 17:4; 19:17, 21; 27:43). See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L17. Cf. Edwards, “Matthew’s Use of Q in Chapter 11,” 267; Davies-Allison, 2:258.
  • [97] See Hatch-Redpath, 3:68.
  • [98] See 1 Esdr. 9:27; 1 Macc. 2:58; Sir. 48:1, 4, 12; Mal. 3:22.
  • [99] See J.W. 4:460; Ant. 8:329, 331, 335, 337, 338, 339, 343, 344, 345, 347, 348, 353, 354, 360, 407, 417; 9:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 99, 101, 119, 124, 129.
  • [100] Cf. Catchpole, “On Doing Violence to the Kingdom,” 51.
  • [101] See Edwards, “Matthew’s Use of Q in Chapter 11,” 267.
  • [102] See Malcolm Lowe and David Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” New Testament Studies 29.1 (1983): 25-37, esp. 36-37; Four Soils parable, Comment to L61.
  • [103] See Bundy, 171 §84; Nolland, Matt., 459.
  • [104] See Jeremias, Parables, 84 n. 88.
  • [105] We believe the author of Matthew belonged to a Gentile community that regarded itself as the true Israel, which was on unfriendly terms with both the Jewish-Christian offshoots of the Jerusalem Church and with the Gentile-Christian offshoots of the Pauline mission.

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