Matt. 12:38-40; 16:1-2, 4; Mark 8:11-13; Luke 11:16, 29-30
(Huck 87, 119, 152; Aland 119, 154, 191;
Crook 141, 173, 218)
Updated: 8 December 2021
דּוֹר זֶה דּוֹר רָשָׁע הוּא סִימָן הוּא מְבַקֵּשׁ וְסִימָן לֹא יִנָּתֵן לוֹ [אֶלָּא] כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהָיָה יוֹנָה לְאַנְשֵׁי נִינְוֵה לְאוֹת כָּךְ יִהְיֶה בַּר אֱנָשׁ לְדוֹר זֶה
“This generation is a wicked one! It desperately searches for any sign of deliverance, but no such sign will be given to it. Rather, as Yonah was a portent of doom to the inhabitants of Nineveh, so henceforth will the Son of Man be a portent of doom to this generation.
|Table of Contents|
To view the reconstructed text of Sign-Seeking Generation, click on the link below:
In addition to the reconstruction provided above, we note that Flusser offered his own reconstruction of Luke 11:29, which reads as follows:
הדור הרע הזה מבקש אות ואות לא ינתן לו אלא אות של יונה
This evil generation seeks a sign, but a sign will not be given to it except the sign of Jonah.
In Luke’s Gospel the pericope we have entitled Sign-Seeking Generation (Luke 11:29-30) is sandwiched between A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing (Luke 11:27-28) and Generations That Repented Long Ago (Luke 11:31-32). While there is no obvious connection between Sign-Seeking Generation and A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing, Sign-Seeking Generation and Generations That Repented Long Ago are united by key terms and concepts, namely “this generation,” “Jonah” and “Ninevites.” Despite these common features, it is unlikely that the two pericopae were originally adjacent to one another, for whereas Sign-Seeking Generation deals with signs and the enigmatic figure of the Son of Man, Generations That Repented Long Ago describes eschatological events including the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. In addition, the goal of Generations That Repented Long Ago is to encourage repentance, whereas repentance plays no more role in Sign-Seeking Generation than it did in Jonah’s proclamation of doom: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overturned” (Jonah 3:4). For these reasons it appears that the splicing together of Sign-Seeking Generation with Generations That Repented Long Ago is a secondary development. Most probably, however, this secondary splicing is not the work of the author of Luke, but was already present in his source, since the same arrangement occurs independently of Luke in the Gospel of Matthew (see below).
In the Gospel of Mark Sign-Seeking Generation (Mark 8:11-13) occurs in a section that is otherwise unparalleled in Luke (Mark 6:45-8:21). It appears that with his placement of Sign-Seeking Generation following the Feeding 4,000 episode (Mark 8:1-10) the author of Mark intended to create a sense of irony: despite having miraculously provided the multitudes with bread, the Pharisees wanted Jesus to produce a sign.
Matthew’s Gospel contains two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation. The first (Matt. 12:38-40) agrees with Luke’s placement in as much as it is followed by Generations That Repented Long Ago and occurs in a cluster of Double Tradition (DT) pericopae that is associated in Luke and Matthew with The Finger of God. The table below indicates this cluster with blue lettering:
|Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (Part 1) (3:20-21)|
|The Finger of God (11:14-23)||The Finger of God (3:22-30)||The Finger of God (12:22-32)|
|Fruit of the Heart (12:33-35)|
|Giving Account On Judgment Day (12:36-37)|
|Sign-Seeking Generation (12:38-40)|
|Generations That Repented Long Ago (12:41-42)|
|Impure Spirit’s Return (11:24-26)||Impure Spirit’s Return (12:43-45)|
|A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing (11:27-28)||Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (Part 2) (3:31-35)||Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (12:46-50)|
|Sign-Seeking Generation (Luke 11:29-30)|
|Generations That Repented Long Ago (Luke 11:31-32)|
|Four Soils parable (4:1-9)||Four Soils parable (13:1-9)|
The independent clustering in Luke and Matthew of the pericopae marked in blue is strong evidence that these pericopae were already clustered together in the non-Markan source shared by Luke and Matthew. Probably Luke preserves the pericope order of the common source, whereas the author of Matthew rearranged and supplemented the materials in order to create a minor discourse.
Matthew’s second version of Sign-Seeking Generation (Matt. 16:1-4) agrees with the arrangement in Mark, as we can clearly see in the table below:
|Walking on Water (Mark 6:45-52)||Walking on Water (Matt. 14:22-33)|
|Healing at Gennesaret (Mark 6:53-56)||Healing at Gennesaret (Matt. 14:34-36)|
|Handwashing and Purity of Heart (Mark 7:1-23)||Handwashing and Purity of Heart (Matt. 15:1-20)|
|Jesus and a Canaanite Woman (Mark 7:24-30)||Jesus and a Canaanite Woman (Matt. 15:21-28)|
|Ephphatha! (Mark 7:31-37)||Jesus Heals Galileans (Matt. 15:29-31)|
|Feeding 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10)||Feeding 4,000 (Matt. 15:32-39)|
|Sign-Seeking Generation (Mark 8:11-13)||Sign-Seeking Generation (Matt. 16:1-4)|
|Warning About Leaven (Mark 8:14-21)||Warning About Leaven (Matt. 16:5-12)|
Thus, the doubling of Sign-Seeking Generation in Matthew reflects the arrangement of his two sources, the Anthology (Anth.) and Mark, rather than a historical recollection that a request for a sign was put to Jesus on multiple occasions.
Since none of the Gospels preserve the original setting of Sign-Seeking Generation, we have to ask ourselves where this pericope may have appeared in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Our first clue is that Sign-Seeking Generation sounds a note of profound pessimism regarding Jesus’ generation. Whereas his contemporaries sought for hopeful signs that their redemption was near, Jesus insisted that all hopeful signs were mere deceptions: for his generation, which had, on the whole, rejected the Kingdom of Heaven, calamity and turmoil were all they had in store. His generation, which had been seduced by Jewish nationalist fantasies of a victorious militant uprising against the Roman Empire, would search in vain for signs of redemption. Nevertheless, Jesus would himself be a different kind of sign, a portent of doom for the people of Israel. By claiming to be a sign to his generation, Jesus drew on an ancient Jewish tradition according to which certain prophets and holy men were regarded as signs and testimonies against the wickedness that prevailed in their times. The prophet Isaiah and his sons had been given as signs and portents in Israel (Isa. 8:18), Ezekiel had been given as a portent to the house of Israel (Ezek. 12:6), and, in post-biblical Jewish literature, Enoch was made a sign and witness to all generations (Jub. 4:22-24; Sir. 44:16). Apparently, Jesus drew on a tradition according to which Jonah was given as a sign against the wickedness of Nineveh. Accordingly, Jesus claimed that just as Jonah had been a sign of doom to the people of Nineveh, so Jesus would be a sign of doom to his own generation.
In our view, such a pessimistic message fits well into a context in which Jesus foretold judgment against his generation. One of the most stark pronouncements of judgment Jesus made against his generation is found in the pericope we have entitled Innocent Blood (Matt. 23:34-36 ∥ Luke 11:49-51). In that pericope Jesus announced that all the innocent blood that had been poured out on the holy land would be required of his generation. We think Sign-Seeking Generation makes a fitting continuation of Jesus’ speech in Innocent Blood. Therefore, we have included Sign-Seeking Generation in the reconstructed narrative-sayings complex entitled “Choose Repentance or Destruction.” For an overview of the “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex, click here.Click here to view the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. __________________________________________________________________
Conjectured Stages of Transmission
Several factors suggest that the author of Luke copied his version of Sign-Seeking Generation from the more ancient and comprehensive of his literary sources, the Anthology (Anth.). First, as we discussed in the Story Placement discussion above, Sign-Seeking Generation belongs to a pericope cluster common to Luke and Matthew but, apart from Sign-Seeking Generation, unknown to Mark. The clustering in Luke and Matthew of Sign-Seeking Generation together with The Finger of God, Generations That Repented Long Ago and Impure Spirit’s Return suggests that the authors of Luke and Matthew both drew on Anth. for these pericopae.
The substantial Lukan-Matthean minor agreements between Luke 11:29-30 and Matt. 16:1-4 (the second of Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation) are a second indication that Anth. was the origin of Luke’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation. While minor agreements with Matthew do occur when Luke’s source was FR, the quality and quantity of the minor agreements are usually greater when Luke’s source was Anth. Since the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements between Luke 11:29-30 and Matt. 16:1-4 are impressive, it is likely that the author of Luke copied Sign-Seeking Generation from Anth.
A third indication that the author of Luke drew his version of Sign-Seeking Generation from Anth. is the overall ease with which Luke 11:29-30 reverts to Hebrew. Lindsey described Anth. as a highly Hebraic, translation-style Greek source. On the other hand, Lindsey described Luke’s second source, the First Reconstruction (FR), as an epitomized paraphrase of Anth., which by virtue of its stylistic polishing of Anth.’s Greek is somewhat more resistant to Hebrew retroversion. Therefore, ease of Hebrew retroversion can be a useful test for determining from which of Luke’s two sources a pericope is derived.
What we have said about ease of Hebrew retroversion and derivation from Anth. applies to Luke 11:29-30, but not to Luke 11:16. This verse, which the author of Luke inserted into The Finger of God pericope, anticipates Sign-Seeking Generation by explaining that “others were testing Jesus by asking him for a sign from heaven.” It is likely that the author of Luke penned this verse independent of any source for two purposes:
- To give a semblance of unity to the pericope cluster encompassing The Finger of God (Luke 11:14-23), Impure Spirit’s Return (Luke 11:24-26), A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing (Luke 11:27-28), Sign-Seeking Generation (Luke 11:29-30) and Generations That Repented Long Ago (Luke 11:31-32), which the author of Luke incorporated from Anth.
- To attempt to explain what Jesus meant by declaring that his generation sought for a sign.
In the second of these two purposes the author of Luke failed, at least in terms of historical accuracy. The author of Luke misunderstood the sign-seeking Jesus referred to, assuming that Jesus’ generation wanted some miracle that would authenticate his messianic claims. However, Jesus was quite reticent regarding his role within the divine economy. Despite expressing an exalted self-awareness, Jesus rarely attempted to precisely define or label his unique status, preferring instead to redirect people’s attention to manifestations of the Kingdom of Heaven and away from speculations about himself. It is unlikely, therefore, that Jesus’ activity or teaching would have provoked a demand for proof of his messianic status, since his messiahship was neither the focus of his action nor the content of his message.
Flusser suggested a far more plausible background for the search for signs conducted by Jesus’ generation: they sought not for miracles to authenticate Jesus’ messianic status but for any sign that liberation from Roman domination was near. Josephus documented the appearance in the first century C.E. of several would-be prophets of redemption who promised various signs of deliverance from Roman imperial rule. During the governorship of Fadus (44-46 C.E.), Theudas, a self-proclaimed prophet, declared that at his command the Jordan River would part (Ant. 20:97-98; cf. Acts 5:36), evidently a sign that would inaugurate a reconquest of the Holy Land—this time against the Romans—as in the days of Joshua, who successfully led the Israelite campaign against the Canaanites. Josephus also described prophets with similar aims who arose during Felix’s tenure as governor of Judea (52-60 C.E):
πλάνοι γὰρ ἄνθρωποι καὶ ἀπατεῶνες, [ὑπὸ] προσχήματι θειασμοῦ νεωτερισμοὺς καὶ μεταβολὰς πραγματευόμενοι, δαιμονᾶν τὸ πλῆθος ἔπειθον καὶ προῆγον εἰς τὴν ἐρημίαν, ὡς ἐκεῖ τοῦ θεοῦ δείξοντος αὐτοῖς σημεῖα ἐλευθερίας. ἐπὶ τούτοις Φῆλιξ, ἐδόκει γὰρ ἀποστάσεως εἶναι καταβολή, πέμψας ἱππεῖς καὶ πεζοὺς ὁπλίτας πολὺ πλῆθος διέφθειρεν.
Deceivers and impostors, under the pretence of divine inspiration fostering revolutionary changes, they persuaded the multitude to act like madmen, and led them out into the desert under the belief that God would there give them signs of deliverance [σημεῖα ἐλευθερίας]. Against them Felix, regarding this as but the preliminary to insurrection, sent a body of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry, and put a large number to the sword. (J.W. 2:259-260; Loeb, adapted; cf. Ant. 20:167-168)
One of the sign-producing prophets who arose during the governorship of Felix was a Jew of Egyptian extraction who collected a following on the Mount of Olives and promised that the walls of Jerusalem would spontaneously crumble at his command—in a manner reminiscent of the walls of Jericho —in order to allow his entourage to recapture the holy city from the Romans (Ant. 20:169-172; cf. Acts 21:38).
Josephus also described a prophet who promised signs of deliverance in 70 C.E., even as the Temple was engulfed in flames:
ἧκον δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν λοιπὴν στοὰν τοῦ ἔξωθεν ἱεροῦ· καταφεύγει δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ αὐτὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ δήμου γύναια καὶ παιδία καὶ σύμμικτος ὄχλος εἰς ἑξακισχιλίους. πρὶν δὲ Καίσαρα κρῖναί τι περὶ αὐτῶν ἢ κελεῦσαι τοὺς ἡγεμόνας, φερόμενοι τοῖς θυμοῖς οἱ στρατιῶται τὴν στοὰν ὑφάπτουσι, καὶ συνέβη τοὺς μὲν ῥιπτοῦντας αὑτοὺς ἐκ τῆς φλογὸς διαφθαρῆναι, τοὺς δὲ ἐν αὐτῇ· περιεσώθη δὲ ἐκ τοσούτων οὐδείς. τούτοις αἴτιος τῆς ἀπωλείας ψευδοπροφήτης τις κατέστη κατ᾿ ἐκείνην κηρύξας τὴν ἡμέραν τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς πόλεως, ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ τὸ ἱερὸν ἀναβῆναι κελεύει δεξομένους τὰ σημεῖα τῆς σωτηρίας. πολλοὶ δ᾿ ἦσαν ἐγκάθετοι παρὰ τῶν τυράννων τότε πρὸς τὸν δῆμον προφῆται προσμένειν τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ βοήθειαν καταγγέλλοντες, ὡς ἧττον αὐτομολοῖεν καὶ τοὺς ἐπάνω δέους καὶ φυλακῆς γενομένους ἐλπὶς παρακροτοίη.
They [i.e., the Roman soldiers destroying the Temple—DNB and JNT] then proceeded to the one remaining portico of the outer court, on which the poor women and children of the populace and a mixed multitude had taken refuge, numbering six thousand. And before Caesar had come to any decision or given any orders to the officers concerning these people, the soldiers, carried away by rage, set fire to the portico from below; with the result that some were killed plunging out of the flames, others perished amidst them, and out of all that multitude not a soul escaped. They owed their destruction to a false prophet, who had on that day proclaimed to the people in the city that God commanded them to go up to the temple court, to receive there signs of their deliverance [τὰ σημεῖα τῆς σωτηρίας]. Numerous prophets, indeed, were at this period suborned by the tyrants to delude the people, by bidding them await help from God, in order that desertions might be checked and that those who were above fear and precaution might be encouraged by hope. (J.W. 6:283-286; Loeb, adapted)
The credence given to these sign-producing prophets despite repeated disappointments is a testimony to how desperately the Jewish populace yearned for deliverance from Roman rule. It is also a testament to their deep-seated conviction that militant action would be the catalyst for divine intervention.
Although the sign-producing prophets mentioned in Josephus’ works were active in the period following Jesus’ crucifixion, it is highly probable that there were precursors to these individuals who were active in Jesus’ lifetime and, perhaps, even earlier. Moreover, these prophets of liberation were certainly tapping into preexisting popular conceptions concerning Israel’s future redemption. They did not need to convince the populace of their vision of redemption, as Jesus had to do with his, they merely needed to convince their followers that the moment of redemption had finally arrived. By contrast, not only was Jesus’ vision of the redemption different from the majority of his contemporaries, the means by which he believed Israel’s redemption would be achieved were beyond the pale of normal expectations. For these reasons Jesus’ redemptive mission met with limited success.
Ironically, earlier in his career Jesus had proclaimed that the influence of foreign dominions and evil powers was retreating in the face of the Kingdom of Heaven. But Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven demanded that his generation give up aspirations of military victory and the lust for revenge, urging, to the contrary, that redemption would be achieved as acts of mercy and forgiveness, love for enemies and peacemaking unleashed the re-creative power of the Holy Spirit. In the political climate of rising militant Jewish nationalism, Jesus’ demand was, by and large, rejected by his generation, and eventually Jesus concluded that the opportunity for Israel’s redemption had passed. Deliverance from imperial domination was no longer in the cards for Israel, rather Jesus’ generation would be subjected to punishment in the short term and condemnation in the eschatological future because they had refused to repent of their violent nationalistic tendencies and embrace the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, according to Jesus, the only authentic signs that would be forthcoming to his generation would be portents of doom.
The sentiment Jesus expressed in Sign-Seeking Generation is remarkably similar to a statement attributed to Rabbi Simon bar Menasya:
א″ר סימון בר מנסיא אין ישראל רואין סימן גאולה לעולם עד שיחזרו ויבקשו שלשתם, הדא הוא דכתיב אחר ישובו בני ישראל ובקשו את ה′ אלהיהם זו מלכות שמים, ואת דוד מלכם זו מלכות בית דוד, ופחדו אל ה′ ואל טובו זה בית המקדש
Rabbi Simon bar Menasya said, “Israel will never see a sign of redemption [סִימַן גְּאוּלָּה] until it returns and seeks these three: the first is as it is written, Afterward the children of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God [Hos. 3:5]—this is the Kingdom of Heaven—and David their king [ibid.]—this is the kingdom of the House of David—and they will have respect for the LORD and his goodness [ibid.]—this is the Temple.” (Yalkut Shim‘oni §106)
Like Jesus, Rabbi Simon bar Menasya—a member of the Holy Congregation in Jerusalem, which existed in the late second century C.E. —believed that no signs of redemption would be forthcoming so long as Israel failed to repent and seek the Kingdom of Heaven.
Unfortunately, the author of Luke’s mistaken assumption that Jesus’ generation demanded divine confirmation of Jesus’ messianic claims had far-reaching consequences for the synoptic tradition. The author of Mark picked up this notion from Luke and incorporated it into his narrative introduction to Sign-Seeking Generation (Mark 8:11). In turn, Mark’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation influenced both versions of this pericope in Matthew.
It is clear from its placement in association with The Finger of God pericope cluster found in Luke and Matthew that the Matt. 12:38-40 version of Sign-Seeking Generation depends on Anth. It is equally clear from the placement of the Matt. 16:1-4 version of Sign-Seeking Generation in a series of pericopae paralleled in Mark but absent from Luke that this second version depends on Mark. Nevertheless, a considerable degree of cross-pollination between the two Matthean versions has resulted in very similar wording in the two versions. The narrative introductions to both versions depend on Mark 8:11, whereas Jesus’ speech in both versions depends on Anth., as is shown by the numerous agreements with Luke against Mark in Matt. 16:4. Cross-pollination between Matthean doublets and parallels is a redactional feature we have observed elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel.
In the writings of Justin Martyr we find a quotation of Sign-Seeking Generation that seems to betray the influence of all four canonical versions (Dial. §107).
- What is “the sign of Jonah”?
- What is the meaning of “Son of Man” in Sign-Seeking Generation?
L1-24 As we stated in the Conjectured Stages of Transmission discussion above, we regard Luke 11:16 as a redactional addition to The Finger of God pericope which the author of Luke composed in order to create a sense of unity between The Finger of God, Sign-Seeking Generation and the intervening materials, and also to explain to his readers what he thought was meant when Jesus claimed his generation was seeking a sign. The author of Mark incorporated a paraphrase of Luke 11:16 into his narrative introduction to Sign-Seeking Generation (Mark 8:11), and the author of Matthew relied on Mark 8:11 for his introductions to both of his versions of Sign-Seeking Generation. Thus, none of the narrative introductions to Sign-Seeking Generation can be traced back to a pre-synoptic source. In Anth., Sign-Seeking Generation probably lacked any kind of introduction or explanation, which accounts for the author of Luke’s need to create one and for the author of Matthew’s reliance on Mark 8:11 to provide an introduction to his Anth. version of Sign-Seeking Generation.
L1-4 As we already have had occasion to note, we believe Luke 11:16, which appears in The Finger of God pericope and lays the groundwork for Sign-Seeking Generation, was composed by the author of Luke without the aid of an underlying source. Several indications lead us to this conclusion. First, the word order of Luke 11:16 is distinctly un-Hebraic, as we can see from a comparison of the Greek text with Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation:
|Luke 11:16||Delitzsch’s Translation|
|ἕτεροι δὲ||וְיֵשׁ אֲשֶׁר|
|others / But||And there are / which|
|testing||they tested him|
|from / heaven|
|were seeking||and they asked|
|from / him.||from him|
|from / the heavens.|
Second, the author’s vague use of ἕτεροι (heteroi, “others”) to describe the persons who were testing Jesus suggests that the author of Luke did not know, and did not wish to guess, the identity of those who were seeking a sign. From Anth. the author of Luke could have learned only that Jesus’ generation sought for a sign, but the author of Luke could hardly write in Luke 11:16 that Jesus’ entire generation tested him, especially since the author of Luke was at pains to show in his Gospel and Acts that there were many who were sympathetic to Jesus and his teachings. Moreover, the use of otherwise unspecified “others” appears to be one of the author of Luke’s redactional reflexes; it occurs in Luke 8:3 (unique); 10:1 (redactional); 11:16; Acts 2:13; 15:35; 17:34.
Third, it can be no accident that there are only two instances of the verb πειράζειν (peirazein, “to test,” “to tempt”) in Luke’s Gospel. The first occurs in Yeshua’s Testing (Luke 4:2), where the devil tempts Jesus to prove his messianic status by performing certain miracles. The only other instance of πειράζειν occurs in Luke 11:16, where the author of Luke explains that certain persons wanted Jesus to produce a sign. The restriction of πειράζειν in Luke’s Gospel to these two passages gives every impression of editorial cross-referencing intended to direct readers to interpret the sign-seeking of Jesus’ generation as a diabolical temptation to produce miraculous proofs of his messianic status.
The author of Luke’s editorial framing in Luke 11:16 of sign-seeking as temptation (L2) and his redactional clarification that the sign being sought was to be produced by Jesus (L4) from heaven (L3), like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat, had an outsized influence on the synoptic tradition. Not only did Luke 11:16 obscure the original meaning of the sign-seeking Jesus disparaged (on which, see the Conjectured Stages of Transmission discussion above), which obfuscation was unwittingly passed along to Mark, and via Mark to Matthew, Luke 11:16 also appears to be the genesis of the notion that certain of Jesus’ opponents used to test or tempt him. In Luke’s Gospel this concept only occurs in Luke 11:16, but in Mark it occurs in Sign-Seeking Generation (Mark 8:11), On Divorce (Mark 10:2) and Paying Tribute (Mark 12:15). Each of these instances of temptation were picked up by the author of Matthew (Matt. 16:1 [Sign-Seeking Generation]; 19:3 [On Divorce]; 22:18 [Paying Tribute]), who also expanded the temptation motif to the question concerning the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:35).
It is also possible that Luke 11:16 influenced the Gospel of Mark in another way. Luke 11:16 prepares for Sign-Seeking Generation by adding to The Finger of God a second challenge to the main accusation that it was by alliance with the prince of demons that Jesus exorcised lesser demons (Luke 11:15). This double challenge, in which one is addressed in the immediate context and the other is postponed, is paralleled in Mark 3:21-22, in which two accusations against Jesus are articulated: the first (“He is out of his mind!”) by Jesus’ family members (Mark 3:21), the second (“By the prince of demons he drives out demons”) by scribes from Jerusalem (Mark 3:22). In Mark the second accusation is addressed immediately (Mark 3:22-30), while the first accusation explains Jesus’ chilly reception of his mother and brothers (Mark 3:31-35). It seems likely, therefore, that Luke’s foreshadowing of Sign-Seeking Generation in The Finger of God provided the author of Mark with a model for the two-part narration of Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers. This possibility becomes even more probable when we compare the ordering of pericopae involving The Finger of God in Luke and Mark:
|The Finger of God (Luke 11:14-15)|
|Sign-Seeking Generation preview (Luke 11:16)||Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (Part 1) (Mark 3:20-21)|
|The Finger of God continued (Luke 11:17-23)||Prince of Demons Accusation (Mark 3:22)|
|The Finger of God (Mark 3:23-30)|
|Impure Spirit’s Return (Luke 11:24-26)||[omitted]|
|A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing (Luke 11:27-28)||Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (Part 2) (Mark 3:31-35)|
|Sign-Seeking Generation (Luke 11:29-30)||[omitted]|
The author of Mark did not want to foreshadow the Sign-Seeking Generation pericope, which he intended to omit. He therefore transferred the foreshadowing technique he observed in Luke 11:16 to Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers, which the author of Mark adopted in lieu of A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing.
L6-7 τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων (Luke 11:29). As with Luke 11:16, we suspect that the author of Luke independently composed the narrative (re)introduction to Sign-Seeking Generation in L6-7, L13 and L24. The genitive absolute construction τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων (tōn de ochlōn epathroizomenōn, “as the crowds increased”) is certainly un-Hebraic, and the use of genitives absolute is typical of Lukan redaction. In addition, the use of the verb ἀθροίζεσθαι (athroizesthai, “to gather”; Luke 24:33) and compounds thereof (ἐπαθροίζεσθαι [epathroizesthai, “to converge upon”; Luke 11:29] and συναθροίζεσθαι [sūnathroizesthai, “to converge”; Acts 12:12; 19:25]), which belong to a higher register of Greek than is typical of Anth. or even FR, occurs in the writings of Luke but not in the other Synoptic Gospels, nor indeed anywhere else in NT. Thus, the presence of ἐπαθροίζεσθαι in Luke 11:29 is best attributed to Lukan redaction.
L8-9 τότε ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ (Matt. 12:38). In Matthew’s first version of Sign-Seeking Generation the demand for a sign comes in answer to a minor discourse (Matt. 12:25-37) in which Jesus refutes the charge that it was only because he was in league with the prince of demons that he was able to drive out lesser demons. By transforming the request for a sign into a response to Jesus’ discourse, the author of Matthew succeeded in integrating Sign-Seeking Generation more fully into its context. However, Matthew’s wording in L8-9 is redactional. The narrative τότε (tote, “then”) with which Matt. 12:38 opens is typically Matthean, and although ἀπεκρίθησαν…λέγοντες (apekrithēsan…legontes, “they answered…saying”; L8, L13) in Matt. 12:38 can be reconstructed easily as וַיַּעֲנוּ…לֵאמֹר (vaya‘anū…lē’mor, “and they answered…saying”; cf. Gen. 23:5), we have found that the author of Matthew was capable of using ἀποκρίνειν…λέγειν/εἰπεῖν in redactional material.
L8 καὶ ἐξῆλθον (Mark 8:11). The going out of the Pharisees to meet Jesus in Mark 8:11 is a redactional bridge that unites Mark’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation to the preceding Feeding 4,000 pericope (Mark 8:1-10). Matthew’s καὶ προσελθόντες (kai proselthontes, “and approaching”) in Matt. 16:1 is simply a redactional paraphrase of καὶ ἐξῆλθον (kai exēlthon, “and they went out”) in Mark 8:11.
L10 τινες τῶν γραμματέων (Matt. 12:38). In the first of Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation Jesus’ opponents are identified as the scribes (L10) and Pharisees (L11). The addition of scribes, which is unparalleled in Mark 8:11, may be due to the author of Matthew’s recollection that in The Finger of God pericope Mark’s Gospel had attributed the accusation leveled against Jesus to the scribes (Mark 3:22), whereas Matthew had attributed the same accusation to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:24). Thus, by adding the scribes to the list of those who tested Jesus, the author of Matthew was able to compensate for his earlier omission of the same.
L11 οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι (Mark 8:11). The author of Mark identified the sign-seekers, who remain anonymous in Luke, as the Pharisees. This identification was subsequently taken up by the author of Matthew in both his versions of Sign-Seeking Generation. What was it that caused the author of Mark to think that it was the Pharisees who demanded a sign? It may have been the series of woes against the Pharisees recorded in Luke 11:37-54 that suggested this identification to him. These anti-Pharisaic polemics in Luke occur in close proximity to Sign-Seeking Generation (Luke 11:29-30), and the author of Mark easily could have assumed that this proximity of these polemics revealed the identity of the anonymous sign-seekers in Luke.
Following the woes against the Pharisees in Luke 11:37-54, the author of Luke recorded a saying of Jesus in which he warns his disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). The author of Mark, who skipped over Luke’s series of woes against the Pharisees, made Jesus’ warning about “leaven” his sequel to the Sign-Seeking Generation pericope. However, the author of Mark made significant changes to Jesus’ warning: in Mark the “leaven” is no longer hypocrisy, and reference is made to the leaven of Herod as well as to the leaven of the Pharisees. These two changes are undoubtedly related.
From the information that can be gleaned about the Pharisees and Herod in the Gospel of Mark, it is difficult to determine what “leaven” the Pharisees could have had in common with Herod, especially since Herod is nowhere accused of hypocrisy. If we turn to the Gospel of Luke, however, we find that Herod Antipas had long desired to see Jesus perform some miracle, but when he finally met Jesus in person he was disappointed (Luke 23:8). Antipas’ unsatisfied desire for wonder-working is parallel to the denial of a sign to the Pharisees in Mark’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation.
Identifying sign-seeking as the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod in Mark 8:15 helps make sense of the pericope arrangement in Mark 8 (Feeding 4,000→Sign-Seeking Generation→Warning About Leaven): despite Jesus’ having miraculously provided the crowds with bread, the Pharisees demand a sign. Jesus denies their request, reasoning that if the Pharisees are unwilling to believe the evidence right before their eyes, no sign from heaven will be able to convince them of the truth. Jesus then warns his disciples against the “leaven” of sign-seeking, but they think Jesus is talking about their failure to bring bread with them in the boat. Their stupidity reveals that even the disciples had failed to understand the significance of the miracles that were happening right before their eyes.
If this analysis is correct, it shows how heavily the author of Mark depended on the Gospel of Luke. It also reveals that Mark’s Gospel is such a creative reworking of Lukan materials that it can be of very little use in reconstructing the Hebrew Life of Yeshua.
L12 καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι (Matt. 16:1). Whereas in Matthew’s first version of Sign-Seeking Generation the scribes and Pharisees are the sign-seekers, in Matthew’s second version the sign-seekers are the Pharisees and Sadducees. Not only is an alliance of Pharisees and Sadducees historically improbable, the combination is unique among the synoptics to the Gospel of Matthew and appears to reflect the author of Matthew’s desire for Jesus’ experience to reflect that of John the Baptist. In Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance the author of Matthew had portrayed the Pharisees and Sadducees as a united front against John the Baptist (Matt. 3:7), so here he unites the Pharisees and Sadducees in their plot to test Jesus.
L13 ἤρξαντο συνζητεῖν αὐτῷ (Mark 8:11). There is every reason to suppose that Mark’s wording in L13 is entirely redactional. The use of ἄρχειν + infinitive in Mark’s Gospel qualifies as what Lindsey referred to as a “Markan stereotype.” Likewise, Mark’s is the only version of Sign-Seeking Generation to include the verb συζητεῖν (sūzētein, “to discuss,” “to argue”). Moreover, neither Luke nor Matthew ever support Mark’s use of this verb, despite the author of Luke’s willingness to use συζητεῖν elsewhere in his writings (Luke 22:23; 24:15; Acts 6:9; 9:29). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s use of this verb is a good indication that it did not occur in Anth.
It may be that the author of Mark’s use of συζητεῖν is an example of what Lindsey called a “Markan pick-up,” in other words, vocabulary the author of Mark picked up from the writings of Luke and sprinkled throughout his Gospel. Mark’s use of συζητεῖν in Sign-Seeking Generation certainly resembles Luke’s use of the same verb in Betrayal Foretold:
|Mark 8:11||Luke 22:23|
|καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν αὐτῷ, ζητοῦντες παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ σημεῖον ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, πειράζοντες αὐτόν.||καὶ αὐτοὶ ἤρξαντο συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς τὸ τίς ἄρα εἴη ἐξ αὐτῶν ὁ τοῦτο μέλλων πράσσειν|
|And the Pharisees went out and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, testing him.||And they began to argue with one another who of them it might be that was going to do this.|
L14 διδάσκαλε (Matt. 12:38). The first of Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation is the only one of the four synoptic versions in which the request for a sign is put into direct speech. The request begins with the scribes and Pharisees addressing Jesus as διδάσκαλε (didaskale, “teacher”). Gundry regarded the addition of διδάσκαλε as characteristically Matthean, however we cannot substantiate this claim. The vocative διδάσκαλε occurs 6xx in Matthew (Matt. 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16; 22:24; 22:36), but only twice without the agreement of Luke and/or Mark (Matt. 8:19; 12:38).
Flusser, being impressed by a rabbinic story in which the disciples of Rabbi Yose ben Kisma say to him, רבינו תן לנו אות (“Our master, give us a sign!”; b. Sanh. 98a), regarded the request in Matt. 12:38 as original, but there are important differences between the request in Matt. 12:38 and that in b. Sanh. 98a. In the first place, the request in Matt. 12:38 comes from Jesus’ opponents, whereas the request in b. Sanh. 98a comes from Rabbi Yose ben Kisma’s disciples. In the second place, the request for a sign in b. Sanh. 98a is a direct response to Rabbi Yose ben Kisma’s prediction about the future, whereas in Matt. 12:38 there is no logical connection between the demand for a sign and the discourse that preceded it. Moreover, as Matthew tells the story, Jesus’ response is disproportionate to the request. For whereas the request for a sign comes from a discrete group of scribes and Pharisees, Jesus’ denial is addressed to his entire generation. The discrepancy between the limited group making the request and the much wider target of Jesus’ condemnation suggests that the former (viz., the group making the request) is an editorial addition to the original saying. There is another way in which Jesus’ response does not match the request: whereas the scribes and Pharisees want a sign from Jesus, Jesus replies that no sign will be forthcoming from anyone. This discrepancy, too, reinforces the impression that the request is an editorial addition to the original saying. Finally, the word order of the request in Matt. 12:38 is un-Hebraic, which suggests that it did not come from Matthew’s source. However, the request does resemble the request of James and John as reported in Mark 10:35:
|Matt. 12:38||Mark 10:35|
|we want||we want|
|σημεῖον||ὃ ἐὰν αἰτήσωμέν σε|
|a sign||whatever we might ask you|
|to see.||you might do for us.|
Thus, despite the rabbinic parallel, we cannot agree with Flusser’s assessment that Matt. 12:38 preserves the original form of the request for a sign.
L15 πειράζοντες (Matt. 16:1). The reference to “testing” in Matthew’s second version of Sign-Seeking Generation echoes Mark 8:11 (L20), which in turn derives from Luke 11:16 (L2).
L16-20 Not only does Mark’s wording in L16-20 echo Luke’s in L2-4, the two are almost perfect mirror images of one another:
We encountered similar mirroring of a sentence in Luke in Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers:
Thus, mirror imaging appears to be a trait of Markan redaction.
L16 ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν (Matt. 16:1). Matthew’s ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτόν (epērōtēsan avton, “they asked him”) is a stylistic improvement over Mark’s ζητοῦντες παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ (zētountes par avtou, “seeking from him”). Mark’s wording echoes Luke 11:16 (L4), which merely reflects Jesus’ statement that his generation σημεῖον ζητεῖ (sēmeion zētei, “seeks a sign”; L29). As we discussed in the Conjectured Stages of Transmission section above, the author of Luke composed Luke 11:16 in order to explain what he thought Jesus meant by declaring that his generation sought a sign.
L17-18 σημεῖον ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (Mark 8:11). Mark’s σημεῖον ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (sēmeion apo tou ouranou, “sign from the heaven”) echoes Luke’s σημεῖον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (sēmeion ex ouranou, “sign from heaven”; Luke 11:16). The parallel in Matt. 12:38 omits “from heaven,” while in Matt. 16:1 the author of Matthew wrote ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (ek tou ouranou, “from the heaven”). Matthew’s ἐκ (“from”) in L18 thus forms a minor agreement with Luke’s ἐξ (“from”) in L3. It is extremely doubtful, however, that this particular minor agreement points to an underlying narrative introduction to Sign-Seeking Generation in Anth. It is more likely that the agreement is simply an accidental result of Matthew’s paraphrasing of Mark 8:11. The author of Matthew probably preferred ἐκ (“from,” “out of”) to Mark’s ἀπό (“from”) because it made for a better connection to Interpreting the Time (Matt. 16:2b-3)—“a sign out of [ἐκ] the sky” fits better with the meteorological phenomena discussed in Matt. 16:2b-3 than “a sign originating from [ἀπό] heaven”—which the author of Matthew inserted into his second version of Sign-Seeking Generation.
L19 ἰδεῖν (Matt. 12:38) / ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς (Matt. 16:1). The addition of ἰδεῖν (idein, “to see”) in Matt. 12:38 and ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς (epideixai avtois, “to show them”) in Matt. 16:1 sharpens the demand for a sign in a way that is not as clear in the Markan or Lukan versions of Sign-Seeking Generation. The greater specificity in Matthew’s two versions is a literary improvement, but also an indication of his greater remove from the original intention of Jesus’ saying, in which Jesus’ generation sought for signs of deliverance, but not necessarily from Jesus himself, let alone proofs of Jesus’ messianic status.
L21-22 καὶ ἀναστενάξας τῷ πνεύματι αὐτοῦ (Mark 8:12). The groaning of Jesus in his spirit that Mark 8:12 describes is absent in the Lukan and Matthean parallels, a good indication that no such action was reported in Anth. However, Jesus’ groaning in the spirit reminds us of the following passage in Romans:
οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις συστενάζει καὶ συνωδίνει ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν· οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοὶ τὴν ἀπαρχὴν τοῦ πνεύματος ἔχοντες, ἡμεῖς καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἑαυτοῖς στενάζομεν υἱοθεσίαν ἀπεκδεχόμενοι, τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν τοῦ σώματος ἡμῶν.
For we know that all the creation groans together [συστενάζει] and suffers together until now. And not it alone, but those having the firstfruits of the Sprit [τοῦ πνεύματος], we also in ourselves groan [ἐν ἑαυτοῖς στενάζομεν] while awaiting adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:22-23)
Might the author of Mark have wished to allude to these verses? Lindsey believed that the author of Mark frequently worked allusions to the Pauline epistles into his Gospel. What is more, there might be a very good reason for the author of Mark to have alluded to this passage, since in the verses that follow Rom. 8:22-23 we read this:
τῇ γὰρ ἐλπίδι ἐσώθημεν· ἐλπὶς δὲ βλεπομένη οὐκ ἔστιν ἐλπίς· ὃ γὰρ βλέπει τίς ἐλπίζει; εἰ δὲ ὃ οὐ βλέπομεν ἐλπίζομεν, δι᾿ ὑπομονῆς ἀπεκδεχόμεθα
For with the hope [i.e., of redemption—DNB and JNT] we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await it with patience. (Rom. 8:24-25)
The author of Mark may have felt that this passage in Romans was an apt commentary on the demand for a sign. In the author of Mark’s opinion, the demand for a sign was a display of impatience and lack of hopeful trust in God. Those who demanded a sign from Jesus had cut themselves off from the Spirit and alienated themselves from the suffering common to the rest of creation. By portraying Jesus’ spiritual groaning, the author of Mark may have wished to demonstrate Jesus’ solidarity with creation’s suffering and Jesus’ sympathy with the Holy Spirit.
L23-24 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς (Matt. 12:39; 16:2). The wording of the two Matthean versions of Sign-Seeking Generation is identical in L23-24. This point marks the beginning of the cross-pollination which characterizes much of the rest of the two Matthean versions of Sign-Seeking Generation.
L24 λέγει (Mark 8:12). Mark’s historical present (“he says”) is un-Hebraic but typical of the author of Mark’s redactional style.
L25 [omission] (Matt. 16:2b-3). Scholarly opinion is divided concerning whether the insertion of Interpreting the Time into the second of Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation is original or a scribal interpolation. Arguments against the originality of the insertion include its absence from authoritative manuscripts (such as Codex Vaticanus) and the presence of several lexical items not found elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew. Arguments for the originality of the insertion include its broad attestation and the difficulty of explaining the dramatic departure from scribal practice such an interpolation would entail. A scribal interpolation would be more credible if it had been copied directly from Luke 12:54-56, but the extremely low levels of verbal identity between the Lukan and Matthean versions of Interpreting the Time require us to assume either that the scribes who interpolated Interpreting the Time also extensively revised the Lukan version or that they interpolated Interpreting the Time from an otherwise unknown source, neither of which seems likely. On the other hand, extensive revision of sayings is characteristic of the author of Matthew’s style (his treatment of Sign-Seeking Generation is a case in point!), as is the gathering together of disparate materials in order to form longer discourse units. Meanwhile, the unique vocabulary in Matt. 16:2b-3 can be accounted for by the unusual subject matter, and the omission of Interpreting the Time can be explained by its obvious intrusion into the Sign-Seeking Generation context (as any scribe could discern from the earlier version in Matt. 12:38-40, as well as the Markan and Lukan parallels). The inaccuracy of Matthew’s weather signs for regions other than that in which the Matthean community was located may have been another factor in the scribal omission of Matthew’s version of Interpreting the Time.
If the insertion of Interpreting the Time can be attributed to the author of Matthew, then his reason for doing so may be two-fold. First, the insertion makes Matthew’s second version of Sign-Seeking Generation more than an abbreviated repetition of the first. Second, the author of Matthew may have wished to counter the inference that Jesus was incapable of producing a sign. By inserting Interpreting the Time, the author of Matthew may have been communicating to his readers that producing a sign would have been useless because those who demanded a sign out of heaven were not even capable of interpreting natural atmospheric phenomena. Explaining away uncomfortable facts is an attested Matthean strategy.
L26 τί ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη (Mark 8:12). Mark’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation is unique in having Jesus respond to the demand for a sign with a question. The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s interrogative is less strong than it might be because each author formulates Jesus’ opening statement differently. Nevertheless, the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark in L27 confirms that Luke preserves Anth.’s non-interrogative form of the saying.
ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη (GR). It is only with the commencement of Jesus’ direct speech in L26 that the Synoptic Gospels begin to follow the wording of Anth. The phrase ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη (hē genea havtē, “this generation”) is one of the verbal links that binds Sign-Seeking Generation to the two previous pericopae in the reconstructed “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex (Generations That Repented Long Ago, L10, L17; Innocent Blood, L17, L26).
By omitting ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη the author of Matthew was not only able to streamline Jesus’ saying, he was also able to eliminate the temporal sense of γενεά (“generation”), leaving his readers to infer that the meaning of γενεά is “race.” Thus, the author of Matthew besmirched the entire Jewish people (regardless of time or place) instead of leveling a critique at certain dangerous trends in contemporary Jewish society, as Jesus’ saying originally intended.
דּוֹר זֶה (HR). On reconstructing γενεά (genea, “generation”) with דּוֹר (dōr, “generation”), see Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L10.
Since in Mishnaic Hebrew the demonstrative adjective and the noun it modifies rarely take the definite article, and since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in Mishnaic-style Hebrew, both דּוֹר and זֶה are anarthrous in HR.
L27-35 Beginning in L27 and continuing until L35 the wording of the two Matthean versions of Sign-Seeking Generation is identical, except for a variant reading of Codex Vaticanus in L29 and the addition of τοῦ προφήτου (tou profētou, “the prophet”) to Jonah’s name in L36. This agreement is to be explained by the Matthean method of cross-pollination by which the author of Matthew allowed doublets and parallel sayings to influence one another. It is clear from the Lukan-Matthean agreements in L27-35 that the author of Matthew preferred Anth.’s formulation of Jesus’ saying over Mark’s, though not without adding certain touches of his own.
L27 γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν (GR). Since the absence of ἐστιν (estin, “he/she/it is”) in Matt. 12:39 and Matt. 16:4 is of a piece with the author of Matthew’s omission of ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη (“this generation”) in L26 (on which, see Comment to L26), it is probable that Luke’s ἐστιν in L27 comes from Anth.
דּוֹר רָשָׁע הוּא (HR). On reconstructing γενεά (genea, “generation”) with דּוֹר (dōr, “generation”), see above, Comment to L26.
There are two main possibilities for reconstructing πονηρός (ponēros, “evil”): רַע (ra‘, “evil”) and רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”). The first option is well established by a plentitude of instances in which πονηρός occurs as the LXX translation of רַע, and it has a parallel in Deut. 1:35, where הַדּוֹר הָרָע הַזֶּה (hadōr hārā‘ hazeh, “this evil generation”) refers to the generation that wandered with Moses forty years in the desert. The second option finds less support from LXX, although there are instances in which πονηρός occurs as the translation of רָשָׁע (2 Kgdms. 4:11; Isa. 53:9), but it has parallels in rabbinic literature, where the term דּוֹר רָשָׁע (dōr rāshā‘, “wicked generation”) is applied to the contemporaries of Noah:
כל אדם כשר שעומד בתוך דור רשע זכה ליטול שכר כולו נח עמד בדור המבול זכה ליטול שכר כולו
Every upright person who stands out in a wicked generation [דּוֹר רָשָׁע] deserves to take the wage of the whole generation. Noah, who stood out in the generation of the flood, deserved to take the wage of the whole generation…. (Sifre Num. Zuta 27:1 [ed. Horovitz, 316])
כעבור סופה ואין רשע וצדיק יסוד עולם. כעבור סופה ואין רשע זה דור המבול, וצדיק יסוד עולם זה נח
As a whirlwind passes and is no more, [so with] a wicked [רָשָׁע] [one], but a righteous [one is] established forever [Prov. 10:25]. As a whirlwind passes and is no more, [so] a wicked [רָשָׁע] [one]: this is the generation of the flood [דּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל]. But a righteous [one is] established forever: this is Noah. (Gen. Rab. 30:1 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:270])
We find reconstructing γενεὰ πονηρά (“evil generation”) as דּוֹר רָשָׁע (“wicked generation”), with its possible allusion to Noah’s generation, to be attractive, for as we noted in Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L10, the phrase “this generation” (cf. L26) occurs only once in Scripture, when God describes Noah as צַדִּיק לְפָנַי בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה (tzadiq lefānai badōr hazeh, “righteous before me in this generation”; Gen. 7:1).
Noah and the Ark illustrated by Pauline Baynes
That Jesus would compare his sign-seeking generation to the generation of the flood is made more plausible when we recollect that elsewhere Jesus compared the sudden catastrophe that engulfed the people of Noah’s generation to the cataclysmic events that would take place “in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26-27; cf. Matt. 24:37-39). Indeed, it is likely that it was 1) the reorganizing work of the Anthologizer, who clumped Son of Man sayings together after separating them from their original contexts, and 2) slight editorial changes introduced by the synoptic evangelists that make it seem like Days of the Son of Man describes the eschatological judgment. Originally, Days of the Son of Man may have been about the destruction Jesus warned was about to come upon his generation. For this reason we have placed Days of the Son of Man after Sign-Seeking Generation in the reconstructed “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex. Given our suspicion that Jesus intended to compare his contemporaries to Noah’s generation, we think דּוֹר רָשָׁע is preferable for HR, since reconstructing γενεὰ πονηρά as דּוֹר רָע would more naturally lead to a comparison with the generation that wandered with Moses in the desert.
L28 καὶ μοιχαλὶς (Matt. 12:39) ∥ καὶ μοιχαλεὶς (Matt. 16:4). Some scholars have argued that the description “and adulterous,” which Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation add to “evil generation,” is original and that the author of Luke dropped καὶ μοιχαλίς (kai moichalis, “and adulterous”) because he feared his Gentile readers would not understand that “adulterous” is Jewish parlance for “unfaithful to God.” But even if Gentile readers were incapable of appreciating the Jewish connotation of “adulterous,” they certainly would have understood its pejorative sense, since in the ancient world abhorrence of adultery (defined as sexual intercourse with another man’s wife) was not unique to Judaism. Thus, the suggestion that the author of Luke dropped “and adulterous” from Sign-Seeking Generation lacks conviction.
It is more likely that καὶ μοιχαλίς in L28 is a product of the author of Matthew’s denigration of the Jewish people. The author of Matthew would have encountered the phrase “adulterous generation” in Mark 8:38, and his recollection of this memorable phrase probably accounts for its presence in the two Matthean versions of Sign-Seeking Generation.
L29 σημεῖον ζητεῖ (GR). Text critics regard σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ (sēmeion epizētei, “demands a sign”), rather than Vaticanus’ σημεῖον αἰτεῖ (sēmeion aitei, “asks for a sign”), as the original reading in Matt. 16:4. We concur with this judgment, since in both his versions of Sign-Seeking Generation the author of Matthew appears to have intentionally worded Jesus’ refusal to give a sign identically. We have therefore to choose between Matthew’s ἐπιζητεῖν (epizētein, “to demand”) and Luke’s and Mark’s ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”) for GR. Since Matthew’s emphatic ἐπιζητεῖν gives Jesus’ saying an even more negative coloring than the versions in Luke and Mark by implying that sign-seeking was itself a culpable action (i.e., the demand was impudent), it is likely that ζητεῖν in Luke and Mark reflects the wording of Anth.
סִימָן הוּא מְבַקֵּשׁ (HR). For reconstructing σημεῖον (sēmeion, “sign”) we have two main options. The first option is אוֹת (’ōt, “sign”), which the LXX translators usually rendered as σημεῖον. Likewise, most instance of σημεῖον in LXX occur as the translation of אוֹת. The second option is סִימָן (simān, “sign,” “omen”), a post-biblical Hebrew term derived from σημεῖον. The following are examples of סִימָן that occur in tannaic sources:
הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל וְטָעָה סִימַן רַע לוֹ וְאִם שְׁלִיח צִיבּוּר הוּא סִימַן רַע לְשׁוֹלְחָיו
The one who prays and makes a mistake, it is a bad sign [סִימַן רַע] for him. And if he is a public representative, it is a bad sign [סִימַן רַע] for his constituents. (m. Ber. 5:5)
בזמן שהמאורות לוקין סימן רע לאומות העולם…ר′ מאיר או′ בזמן שהמאורות לוקין סימן רע לשונאיהן של ישראל מפני שהן למודי מכות…בזמן שחמה לוקה סימן רע לאומות העולם לבנה לוקה סימן רע לשונאיהם של ישראל מפני שהגוים מונין לחמה וישראל מונין ללבנה בזמן שלוקה במזרח סימן רע ליושבי מזרח במערב סימן רע ליושבי מערב באמצע סימן רע לעולם
When the heavenly bodies are eclipsed it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the peoples of the world…. Rabbi Meir says, “When the heavenly bodies are eclipsed it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the enemies of Israel [i.e., for Israel itself—DNB and JNT], for they are accustomed to beatings….” When the sun is eclipsed it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the peoples of the world, when the moon is eclipsed it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the enemies of Israel [i.e., for Israel itself—DNB and JNT], because the Gentiles calculate the date by the sun, but Israel calculates the date by the moon. When the sun is eclipsed in the east it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the inhabitants of the east, when it is eclipsed in the west it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the inhabitants of the west, when it is eclipsed at the zenith it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the world. (t. Suk. 2:6; Vienna MS)
עצרת פעמים שחל להיות בחמשה ובששה ובשבעה לא פחות ולא יותר ר′ יהודה אומר חל להיות בחמשה סימן רע לעולם בששה סימן בינוני בשבעה סימן יפה לעולם אבא שאול אומר כל זמן שיום טוב של עצרת ברור סימן יפה לעולם
Atzeret [i.e., Shavuot—DNB and JNT] sometimes happens to be on the fifth, sometimes on the sixth, and sometimes on the seventh of the month [of Sivan—DNB and JNT], neither less nor more. Rabbi Yehudah says, “If it is on the fifth, it is a bad sign [סִימָן רַע] for the world, on the sixth it is an ambivalent sign [סִימָן בֵּינוֹנִי], on the seventh a good sign [סִימָן יָפֶה] for the world.” Abba Shaul says, “As long as the holiday of Atzeret is clear it is a good sign [סִימָן יָפֶה] for the world.” (t. Arach. 1:9 [ed. Zuckermandel, 543])
Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have adopted סִימָן for HR.
On reconstructing ζητεῖν (zētein, “to seek”) with בִּקֵּשׁ (biqēsh, “seek,” “request”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12. Several instances of בִּקֵּשׁ סִימָן (biqēsh simān, “seek/request a sign”) occur in the following rabbinic source:
וְרַ′ יְהוּדָה בְּרַ′ שָׁלוֹם אָמַר: כַּהֹגֶן הוּא מְדַבֵּר תְּנוּ לָכֶם מוֹפֵת, וְכֵן אַתָּה מוֹצֵא בְנֹחַ אַחַר כָּל הַנִּסִים שֶׁעָשָׂה לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוךְ הוּא בַּתֵּבָה וְהוֹצִיאוֹ מִמֶּנָּה אָמַר לוֹ: וְלֹא יִהְיֶה עוֹד מַבּוּל לְשַׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ, הִתְחִיל מְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן עַד שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנַן וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ, וּמָה נֹחַ הַצַּדִּיק הָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן, פַּרְעֹה הָרָשָׁע עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה. וְכֵן אַתַּה מוֹצֵא בְחִזְקִיָּה בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּא יְשַׁעְיָה וְאָמַר לוֹ כֹּה אָמַר ה′ וְגוֹ′ הִנְנִי רֹפֵא לָךְ בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי תַּעֲלֶה בֵּית ה″, הִתְחִיל לְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיֹּאמֶר חִזְקִיָּהוּ אֶל יְשַׁעְיָהוּ מָה אוֹת כִּי יִרְפָּא ה′ לִי וְעָלִיתִי בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בֵּית ה″, וּמָה חִזְקִיָּהוּ הַצַּדִּיק בִּקֵּשׁ אוֹת, פַּרְעֹה הָרָשָׁע לֹא כָל שֶׁכֵּן…וּמָה אִם הֵצַּדִּיקִים מְבַקְּשִׁים סִמָּן, הָרְשָׁעִים, עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה
And Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Shalom, “It was natural when he [i.e., Pharaoh—DNB and JNT] said, Give a sign [Exod. 7:9], for so you find with Noah. After all the miracles that the Holy One, blessed be he, did for him in the ark he brought him out and he said to him, And a flood will never again wipe out the earth [Gen. 9:11], whereupon he [i.e., Noah—DNB and JNT] began asking for a sign [מְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן] until the Holy One, blessed be he, said, My rainbow I have put in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth [Gen. 9:13]. Now if Noah, who was righteous, would ask for a sign [הָיָה מְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן], how much more [would] Pharaoh, who was wicked [ask for a sign]? And so too you find with Hezekiah: when Isaiah came to him and said, Thus says the LORD…‘Behold! I am healing you. On the third day you will go up to the house of the LORD’ [2 Kgs. 20:5], he began to ask for a sign [לְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן], as it is said, And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What is the sign that the LORD will heal me and I will go up on the third day to the house of the LORD?’ [2 Kgs. 20:8]. Now if Hezekiah, who was righteous, asked for a sign [בִּקֵּשׁ אוֹת], how much more [would] Pharaoh, who was wicked [ask for a sign]? …So if the righteous ask for a sign [מְבַקְּשִׁים סִמָּן], the wicked will do so all the more.” (Exod. Rab. 9:1 [ed. Merkin, 5:122-123])
On the other hand, בִּקֵּשׁ אוֹת (biqēsh ’ōt, “seek a sign”) also occurs in rabbinic sources:
שאלו תלמידיו את רבי יוסי בן קיסמא אימתי בן דוד בא אמר מתיירא אני שמא תבקשו ממני אות אמרו לו אין אנו מבקשין ממך אות א″ל לכשיפול השער הזה ויבנה ויפול ויבנה ויפול ואין מספיקין לבנותו עד שבן דוד בא אמרו לו רבינו תן לנו אות אמר להם ולא כך אמרתם לי שאין אתם מבקשין ממני אות אמרו לו ואף על פי כן אמר להם אם כך יהפכו מי מערת פמייס לדם ונהפכו לדם
His disciples asked Rabbi Yose ben Kisma, “When will the son of David come?” He said, “I am afraid lest you should ask of me a sign [תְּבַקְּשׁוּ מִמֶּנִּי אוֹת].” They said to him, “We are not asking of you a sign [מְבַקְּשִׁין מִמְּךָ אוֹת].” He said to them, “When this gate will have fallen and been rebuilt and fallen [a second time] and rebuilt and fallen [a third time] and they have not yet finished rebuilding, then the son of David will have come.” They said to him, “Our Rabbi, give us a sign [אוֹת]!” He said to them, “And did you not say to me that you were not seeking a sign from me [מְבַקְּשִׁין מִמֶּנִּי אוֹת]?” They said to him, “Nevertheless.” He said to them, “If it is so, let the waters of the cave of Paneas turn to blood.” And they were turned to blood. (b. Sanh. 98a)
As we discussed in the Conjectured Stages of Transmission section above, it is likely that the original meaning of Jesus’ statement that “this generation seeks a sign” was not that his contemporaries demanded proof from Jesus of his messianic status, but that his generation was desperately searching for signs that Israel was about to be divinely liberated from its subjection to the Roman Empire. By stating that no sign would be given to his generation, Jesus indicated that his generation had missed its opportunity to witness the redemption of Israel. The majority of his contemporaries had rejected the Kingdom of Heaven, and therefore the entire generation would be swallowed up in the destruction that would result from the inevitable collision with the legions of Rome.
L30 ἀμὴν λέγω (Mark 8:12). Although Codex Vaticanus omits ὑμῖν (hūmin, “to you”) in L30 following ἀμὴν λέγω (amēn legō, “Amēn I say”), text critics are surely correct in regarding this omission as a scribal error. Every other instance of ἀμήν in Mark is followed by λέγω ὑμῖν/σοι. In Mark “Amen I say to you” is a stereotyped phrase indicative of Markan redaction.
The Lukan-Matthean agreement to omit ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (amēn legō hūmin, “Amēn! I say to you”) and Mark’s un-Hebraic use of ἀμήν as an adverb meaning “truly” are strong indications that these words did not occur in Anth.’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation.
L31 καὶ σημεῖον (GR). In contrast to Mark’s un-Hebraic use of ἀμήν in L30, the authors of Luke and Matthew agreed upon the Hebraic use of καί (kai, “and”) to mean “but.” Their agreement against Mark is a clear indication that they reflect the wording of Anth.
וְסִימָן (HR). On reconstructing σημεῖον with סִימָן, see above, Comment to L29.
L32 εἰ δοθήσεται (Mark 8:12). Many scholars regard Mark’s εἰ δοθήσεται (ei dothēsetai, “if it will be given”) as a blatant Hebraism, the εἰ (“if”) being equivalent to אִם (’im, “if”) in an expression of emphatic negation. For this reason some scholars have drawn the further conclusion that Mark’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation must be original. Nevertheless, there are reasons to doubt whether Mark’s εἰ δοθήσεται really is a Hebraism. The Hebraic use of εἰ (ei, “if”) to express negation implies a self-imprecation, e.g., “[May the LORD do so-and-so to me] if [אִם] I do such and such.” However, there is not a single example in all of Hebrew literature where אָמֵן (’āmēn, “Amen!”) introduces an unarticulated imprecation. Moreover, Mark 8:12 is the only supposed instance of εἰ to express negation in the Gospel of Mark and, indeed, in the entire synoptic tradition.
Rather than regarding Mark’s εἰ as representing a suppressed oath, we believe it is preferable to regard Mark’s εἰ as interrogative (i.e., “Should [εἰ] a sign be given to this generation?”). This interpretation has three main advantages:
- Rapid-succession questions from a speaker delivered before the interlocutor(s) can respond are a typical feature of Markan style.
- The interrogative use of εἰ is attested elsewhere in Mark (Mark 8:23; 10:2), thereby eliminating the need to posit an otherwise unattested usage in Mark’s Gospel.
- The author of Mark’s transformation of Luke’s negation in L31-35 (“No sign will be given…”) into an interrogative (“Should a sign be given…?”) would parallel his transformation of Luke’s declarative statements in L26-29 (“This generation is an evil generation. It seeks a sign.”) into a question (“Why does this generation seek a sign?”). Interpreting εἰ in Mark 8:12 as an interrogative, therefore, takes the author of Mark’s reworking of Luke’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation fully into account.
In summary, Jesus’ words in Mark 8:12 are best paraphrased as “Why does this generation seek for a sign? Honestly, I ask you, should this generation be given a [or possibly: another] sign?”
οὐ δοθήσεται (GR). Since it is doubtful that Mark’s εἰ δοθήσεται preserves a Hebraic negation, and since the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to write οὐ δοθήσεται (ou dothēsetai, “will not be given”) in L32 undoubtedly reflects the wording of Anth., their shared non-Markan source, we have accepted οὐ δοθήσεται for GR.
לֹא יִנָּתֵן (HR). On reconstructing διδόναι (didonai, “to give”) with נָתַן (nātan, “give”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L18. In LXX οὐ δοθήσεται (“will not be given”) occurs as the translation of לֹא יִנָּתֵן (lo’ yinātēn, “will not be given”) in the following example:
וְעַתָּה לְכוּ עִבְדוּ וְתֶבֶן לֹא יִנָּתֵן לָכֶם
And now, go! Slave away! But straw will not be given [לֹא יִנָּתֵן] to you. (Exod. 5:18)
νῦν οὖν πορευθέντες ἐργάζεσθε· τὸ γὰρ ἄχυρον οὐ δοθήσεται ὑμῖν
Now, therefore, go get working! For straw will not be given [οὐ δοθήσεται] to you. (Exod. 5:18)
This verse is similar to our reconstruction in L31-33 not only in terms of vocabulary (viz., οὐ δοθήσεται/לֹא יִנָּתֵן), it also resembles our reconstruction in terms of word order (Greek: object→οὐ δοθήσεται→pronoun; Hebrew: -וְ + object → לֹא יִנָּתֵן → -לְ + pronominal suffix).
L33 αὐτῇ (GR). Once again the Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark’s wording in L33 reveals the text of Anth.
L34-35 σημεῖον (Mark 8:12). His transformation of “No sign will be given…” into “Should a sign be given…?” forced the author of Mark to drop the exception clause found in the Lukan and Matthean versions of the saying (i.e., “except the sign of Jonah”). Dropping the reference to Jonah was convenient for the author of Mark, who, by omitting Generations That Repented Long Ago, chose not to develop the Jonah theme in his Gospel.
εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to write “except the sign of Jonah” ensures that this exception clause did appear in Anth. (hence its inclusion in GR). Nevertheless, there are serious reasons for doubting that these words reflect the underlying Hebrew Ur-text. In other words, it may be that the Anthologizer added the words εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ (ei mē to sēmeion Iōna, “except the sign of Jonah”) as an explanatory gloss, probably introduced in order to remove the apparent contradiction within Jesus’ statement that no sign would be given but that the Son of Man would be a sign to this generation.
What are the reasons for regarding εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ as a secondary addition to Sign-Seeking Generation? First, no other ancient Jewish source attests the existence of a “sign of Jonah.” Second, whether “the sign of Jonah” should be understood as “the sign that is Jonah” (i.e., Jonah is himself the sign) or “the sign Jonah gave,” it is hard to see how a prophet from the distant past could be a sign for (or have given a sign to) “this generation,” namely Jesus’ contemporaries. Third, the words “except the sign of Jonah” contradict Jesus’ statement in Luke 11:30 that “the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation” (i.e., the Son of Man, not the sign of Jonah, will be the sign given to Jesus’ generation).
If the words “except the sign of Jonah” are a secondary addition, why was their insertion deemed to be desirable, and how did the insertion come about? The most likely scenario is as follows: in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua Jesus said something like, “This generation seeks a sign [i.e., of deliverance], but no sign will be given to it. As Jonah was a sign [of doom] to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign [of doom] to this generation.” It may be that in the original Hebrew saying Jesus used two different terms for “sign” in this pericope: סִימָן (simān) in the first sentence, אוֹת (’ōt) in the second. Or, Jesus may have used אוֹת in both parts of the saying. Either way, in Hebrew it would have been clear to listeners that Jesus meant two different things when he spoke of signs. In the first sentence “sign” was clearly used in a positive sense. Jesus’ generation was looking for a good omen, a sign of hope, a divine manifestation. In the second sentence “sign” would have conveyed a distinctly negative sense. As Hebrew speakers steeped in the scriptural tradition would have known, prophets and holy men who became “signs” bore witness against their generations and signaled their doom. Thus, in Hebrew, Jesus’ meaning would have been understood in the following manner: You are looking for one kind of sign (i.e., a sign of deliverance) and you won’t get it. But you will get another kind of sign you’re not looking for (i.e., a sign of doom).
When Jesus’ saying was translated into Greek, the contrasting meanings of “sign” were flattened as “sign” was translated in both sentences with the same term, σημεῖον (sēmeion). As a result, in Greek, Jesus’ saying sounded contradictory: No sign will be given. The Son of Man will be a sign. Either the Greek translator did not notice the apparent contradiction in his translation, or he believed that his readers would understand the Hebrew nuances behind his translation, or he assumed that the original meaning of Jesus’ saying would be explained when his translation was read in a communal setting. In any case, the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua let the contradiction stand in the text he produced.
When the Anthologizer read the Greek translation of Sign-Seeking Generation he sensed the contradiction and attempted to alleviate it by inserting the exception clause between the two statements. “Except the sign of the Son of Man” would have been more apt as an emendation, but Jonah is mentioned first in Jesus’ saying, which probably accounts for the Anthologizer’s word choice: No sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation.
We believe that regarding “except the sign of Jonah” as an editorial addition to Jesus’ saying is a better solution than the alternative, which is to accept “except the sign of Jonah” as original and either ignore the contradictions the inclusion of these words creates or attempt to explain them away. Scholars who regard “except the sign of Jonah” as original have to scramble to explain what “the sign of Jonah” could possibly be. Some scholars believe that Jonah’s deliverance from the belly of the great fish was the sign of Jonah, but this explanation relies too heavily on the Matthean version of Jonah, which is highly suspect. Identifying the sign of Jonah as Jonah’s deliverance from the great fish cannot explain how Luke’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation, which makes no reference to the great fish, came into being. Other scholars maintain that “the sign of Jonah” should not be taken at face value to refer to the biblical prophet. Either Ἰωνᾶς (Iōnas, “Jonah”) is a mistaken translation of יוֹנָה (yōnāh, “dove”), and “the sign of the dove” refers to Jesus’ baptism, or, instead of Jonah, John the Baptist was originally intended as the sign that would be given to “this generation.” Of course, accepting either of these two explanations requires us to assume that both Luke 11:30 and Matt. 12:40 are later elaborations of the Sign-Seeking Generation saying that were developed after the original identity of the sign was forgotten. Our solution is less drastic than any of these alternatives. It removes the contradictions inherent in Luke’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation, it avoids having to invent contrived explanations of what the sign of Jonah might be, and it explains why and how the explanatory gloss was inserted into Jesus’ saying.
[אֶלָּא] (HR). Since we consider the words “except the sign of Jonah” to be an explanatory gloss added by the Anthologizer, we have not provided a reconstruction of εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ in HR. It is just possible, however, that the Anthologizer wrote εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ in place of a transition marker such as ἀλλά (alla, “but”), which might have represented אֶלָּא (’elā’, “but,” “rather”) in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. On account of this possibility, we have placed אֶלָּא within brackets in L34.
L36 τοῦ προφήτου (Matt. 12:39). Although it is easy to revert Matthew’s τοῦ προφήτου (tou profētou, “the prophet”) to Hebrew, we suspect that this title was added to Jonah’s name by the author of Matthew. The author of Luke would have had no particular reason to omit Jonah’s title had he seen it in Anth. Moreover, we have observed a tendency elsewhere in Matthew to add additional identifiers after an individual’s name—for example, Matthew “the toll collector” in Matt. 10:3 (see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L35) and Abel “the righteous” and Zechariah “son of Berechiah” in Matt. 23:35 (see Innocent Blood, Comment to L18 and Comment to L20).
L37-46 Although the analogies drawn between Jonah and the Son of Man in Luke 11:30 and Matt. 12:40 are very different, their identical structures (καθὼς/ὥσπερ γὰρ…Ἰωνᾶς…οὕτως ἔσται…ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου [“For just as…Jonah…so will be…the Son of Man”]) prove that a single tradition stands behind the two disparate versions. Most scholars are agreed that the original tradition standing behind Luke 11:30 and Matt. 12:40 is better preserved in Luke than in Matthew, since it is difficult to explain why the author of Luke would have rejected Matthew’s Christological interpretation with its allusion to Jesus’ death and resurrection had he known it, whereas it is easy to see how a source like Luke 11:30 could be adapted into an allegorical interpretation like Matt. 12:40. Moreover, the wording of Luke 11:30, which mentions “Ninevites” (L39) and “this generation” (L44), reveals how Generations That Repented Long Ago, which includes these key terms at L15 and L17, came to be attached to the end of Sign-Seeking Generation. Had Sign-Seeking Generation originally referred to the three days and three nights of Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the great fish instead of the Son of Man’s being a sign to “this generation” as Jonah had been a sign to the “Ninevites,” it would be more difficult to explain how these two pericopae came to be conjoined at the pre-synoptic stage of transmission.
L37 καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο (GR). Since the authors of Luke and Matthew never agree on the use of the adverb καθώς (kathōs, “just as”) and only agree on the use of ὥσπερ (hōsper, “just as”) once (Matt. 24:27 ∥ Luke 17:24), it is difficult to decide which to accept for GR. Ease of Hebrew retroversion is no help in reaching this decision, since both options revert to Hebrew with equal facility. In our opinion, two points tip the balance slightly in favor of Luke’s καθώς. The first point is simply the pervasive Matthean editorial activity throughout Matt. 12:40. The author of Matthew extensively paraphrased Anth.’s wording in L37-46, and therefore it is a priori more likely that he changed καθώς to ὥσπερ than that the author of Luke changed ὥσπερ to καθώς. The second point is that in Days of the Son of Man the author of Luke twice used the adverb καθώς (Luke 17:26, 28). This is significant because the author of Luke likely relied on Anth. as the source for this pericope, and what is more, prior to the Anthologizer’s reorganizing activity, Days of the Son of Man may have appeared immediately on the heels of Sign-Seeking Generation. In that case, it would be natural for καθώς to have been used in both pericopae.
With regard to our preference for Luke’s verb form ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it was”) over Matthew’s ἦν (ēn, “it was being”), it is evident that beginning with ἦν and continuing to the end of the first half of the comparison (L38-41) the author of Matthew quoted directly from the book of Jonah (LXX):
καὶ προσέταξεν κύριος κήτει μεγάλῳ καταπιεῖν τὸν Ιωναν· καὶ ἦν Ιωνας ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας
And the Lord commanded a great sea monster to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster three days and three nights. (Jonah 2:1)
Thus, Luke’s non-Septuagintal phrasing is more likely to represent the Greek translation of the words of Jesus.
כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהָיָה (HR). Whereas in Biblical Hebrew comparisons were usually constructed with formulae such as כְּ-…כֵּן (ke-…kēn, “as…so”) or כַּאֲשֶׁר…כֵּן (ka’asher…kēn, “as when…so”), in Mishnaic Hebrew comparisons were typically expressed with the formula כְּשֵׁם שֶׁ-…כָּךְ (keshēm she-…kāch, “just as…so”). Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have adopted the latter formulation for HR.
L38 Ἰωνᾶς (GR). The definite article ὁ (ho, “the”) which precedes Ἰωνᾶς (Iōnas, “Jonah”) in Codex Vaticanus (Luke 11:30) is probably a scribal accretion added (perhaps unconsciously) as a stylistic improvement of Luke’s Greek. The absence of the definite article in the Matthean parallel is due to the author of Matthew’s conformity to the LXX wording of Jonah 2:1, but the absence of ὁ before Ἰωνᾶς in other textual witnesses to Luke 11:30 probably reflects the original Lukan text, which in turn reflects the wording of Anth.
יוֹנָה (HR). On reconstructing Ἰωνᾶς with יוֹנָה, see Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L20.
L39 ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους (Matt. 12:40). Matthew’s wording in L39 is identical to the LXX version of Jonah 2:1. We have already cited reasons why Matthew’s version of the comparison between Jonah and the Son of Man is likely to be secondary (viz., Matthew’s version eliminates key vocabulary that was instrumental in joining Generations That Repented Long Ago to Sign-Seeking Generation; it is easier to explain development from Luke’s version to Matthew’s than the reverse). Here we note that allegorization was a method of exegesis with which the author of Matthew was familiar and which he practiced (cf., e.g., his allegorical interpretations of the Darnel Among the Wheat and Bad Fish Among the Good parables). Thus, the transformation of an original comparison between Jonah and the Son of Man into an allegory about Jesus’ death and resurrection is precisely the kind of redactional move we have come to expect from the author of Matthew. Evidently, the author of Matthew was not unduly troubled by the fact that the allegorical interpretation of Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the fish as foreshadowing the death and resurrection of Jesus is obviously forced—Jesus did not spend three nights in the tomb, as even Matthew’s Gospel attests.
τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον (GR). Since Νινευίτης (Ninevitēs, “Ninevite”) is one of the catchwords that led to the splicing of Generations That Repented Long Ago to the end of Sign-Seeking Generation in Anth., we have accepted Luke’s wording in L39 for GR.
לְאַנְשֵׁי נִינְוֵה לְאוֹת (HR). On reconstructing Νινευίτης (Ninevitēs, “Ninevite”) with אִישׁ נִינְוֵה (’ish ninevēh, “man of Nineveh”), see Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L15.
Whereas in L29 and L31 we reconstructed σημεῖον (sēmeion, “sign”) with סִימָן (simān, “sign”), here we have preferred to reconstruct σημεῖον with אוֹת (’ōt, “sign”), since in the comparison between Jonah and the Son of Man Jesus used the term “sign” in a different sense than he had when referring to his generation’s obsession with sign-seeking, and because the noun אוֹת was used in contexts that describe prophets or holy persons as a “sign.” For instance:
הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי וְהַיְלָדִים אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לִי יי לְאֹתוֹת וּלְמוֹפְתִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל
Behold! I and the children whom the LORD has given to me are signs [לְאֹתוֹת] and portents in Israel…. (Isa. 8:18)
ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ καὶ τὰ παιδία, ἅ μοι ἔδωκεν ὁ θεός, καὶ ἔσται εἰς σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ
Behold! I and the children whom God has given to me will be for signs [εἰς σημεῖα] and portents in the house of Israel…. (Isa. 8:18)
Ενωχ εὐηρέστησεν κυρίῳ καὶ μετετέθη ὑπόδειγμα μετανοίας [Some MSS: διανοίας] ταῖς γενεαῖς
Enoch was pleasing to the Lord and was removed, an example of repentance [Some MSS: knowledge] to the generations. (Sir. 44:16)
חנוך [נמצ]א תמים והתהלך עם ייי ו[נל]קח אות דעת לדור ודור
Enoch was found blameless and he walked with the LORD and was taken, a sign [אוֹת] of knowledge for all generations. (MS B)
Another option for HR is מוֹפֵת (mōfēt, “sign,” “portent”), since this term was applied to the prophet Ezekiel:
כִּי מוֹפֵת נְתַתִּיךָ לְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל
…for as a portent [מוֹפֵת] I have given you to the house of Israel. (Ezek. 12:6)
διότι τέρας δέδωκά σε τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ
…for as a portent [τέρας] I have given you to the house of Israel. (Ezek. 12:6; cf. Ezek. 12:11)
וְהָיָה יְחֶזְקֵאל לָכֶם לְמוֹפֵת כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה תַּעֲשׂוּ
And Ezekiel will be for you as a portent [לְמוֹפֵת]. According to all that he did, you will do. (Ezek. 24:24)
καὶ ἔσται Ιεζεκιηλ ὑμῖν εἰς τέρας· κατὰ πάντα, ὅσα ἐποίησεν, ποιήσετε
And Ezekiel will be for you as a portent [εἰς τέρας]. According to all that he did, you will do. (Ezek. 24:24)
We have preferred אוֹת for HR because the correlation of σημεῖον to אוֹת is stronger than its correlation to מוֹפֵת.
On the basis of these parallels we conclude that Jesus was heir to a tradition according to which the prophet Jonah was considered to be a sign of doom to the Ninevites, just as Ezekiel had been a portent of doom to Jerusalem and as Enoch was made a sign of doom to all generations on account of their wickedness (Jub. 4:22-24).
Contrary to the repeated assertions of New Testament scholars who comment on Sign-Seeking Generation, Jonah was not a preacher of repentance. Nowhere in the book of Jonah is the prophet said to have encouraged repentance. Quite the reverse is true. Scripture portrays Jonah as being distressed that his message of doom prompted the Ninevites to repent, and he reproaches God for responding to their repentance with mercy. Thus, the point of comparison between the prophet Jonah and the Son of Man, as the reference to both figures as “signs” implies, is that both Jonah and the Son of Man relayed messages of doom to their respective audiences.
Compare our reconstruction of ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον (“Jonah was to the Ninevites a sign”; L37-39) as הָיָה יוֹנָה לְאַנְשֵׁי נִינְוֵה לְאוֹת (“Jonah was to the people of Nineveh for a sign”) to the following examples:
וְהָיָה לְךָ לְאוֹת עַל־יָדְךָ
And it will be to you for a sign on your hand…. (Exod. 13:9)
καὶ ἔσται σοι σημεῖον ἐπὶ τῆς χειρός σου
And it will be to you a sign upon your hand…. (Exod. 13:9)
וְהָיוּ בְךָ לְאוֹת
And they will be against you for a sign…. (Deut. 28:46)
καὶ ἔσται ἐν σοὶ σημεῖα
And it will be in you signs…. (Deut. 28:46)
L40-41 τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας (Matt. 12:40). In L40-41 the author of Matthew continued his quotation of Jonah 2:1. The redactional comparison between the three days and three nights of Jesus’ entombment to Jonah’s sojourn in the fish’s belly is comparable to Matthew’s redactional comparison of the forty days and forty nights of Jesus’ fast in the desert to Moses’ fast prior to receiving the Torah on Sinai.
L42-43 οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to write οὕτως ἔσται [καὶ] ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (houtōs estai [kai] ho huios tou anthrōpou, “so [also] will be the son of the human”) in L42-43 assures us that these words occurred in Anth. The only disagreement between Luke and Matthew in these lines is whether or not to include καί (kai, “and,” “also”). Since the inclusion of καί is stylistically better Greek than its omission, it is likely that the author of Luke added the conjunction.
Some scholars have attached great significance to the future tense of the verb ἔσται (estai, “will be”) in Jesus’ statement about the Son of Man’s being a sign to his generation. Jeremias, for instance, cited the future tense as proof that even in Luke’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation Jesus alluded to his death and resurrection. According to Jeremias, the future tense rules out the possibility that Jesus’ preaching is “the sign of Jonah” because all along Jesus had been preaching repentance. The future tense marks a transition or turning point prior to which the Son of Man was not a sign. For Jeremias, that turning point was Jesus’ resurrection.
While we agree that the future tense marks a turning point, we do not accept Jeremias’ identification of when that turning point took place. And while we concede that Jesus had attached great importance to repentance all along, we do not agree that preaching repentance was what Jesus and Jonah had in common. Jonah proclaimed the destruction of Nineveh, nothing more, and he was reluctant to do even that because he feared that the inhabitants might repent and find mercy from God. Jesus, by contrast, yearned for Israel’s repentance, even when he feared that it might be too late. Jesus’ realization that his generation had allowed the opportunity for repentance and redemption to slip past is the turning point we believe is indicated by Jesus’ use of the future tense in this saying. Prior to this turning point Jesus had been optimistic that his generation would respond to the offer of redemption via the Kingdom of Heaven. But at a certain point Jesus realized that the offer of redemption he proclaimed was not being embraced by the majority of his contemporaries, who preferred Jewish nationalist visions of a miraculous victory God would deliver to those with faith enough to violently cast off the yoke of Roman oppression. At that point Jesus’ former optimism gave way to a pessimistic fatalism: Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles, the Temple would be destroyed, and the entire Jewish people would suffer, the innocent along with the guilty, because they had provoked the mighty legions of Rome. Henceforth Jesus’ mission changed. The redemption that had been available to Israel was withdrawn, and from now on it would be Jesus’ task to testify against Israel as a sign of doom, pointing out the unfaithfulness of his generation which had rejected the Kingdom of Heaven.
כָּךְ יִהְיֶה בַּר אֱנָשׁ (HR). On reconstructing οὕτως (houtōs, “thus,” “so”) with כָּךְ (kāch, “thus,” “so”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L35. On καθώς…οὕτως (kathōs…houtōs, “just as…so”) as the equivalent of כְּשֵׁם שֶׁ-…כָּךְ (keshēm she-…kāch, “just as…so”), see above, Comment to L37.
How best to reconstruct ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ho huios tou anthrōpou, “the son of the human”), an un-Greek phrase as virtually all scholars admit, remains a vexed question. Lindsey suggested that although Jesus’ teachings were delivered in Hebrew, the phrase ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου should be reconstructed with the Aramaic phrase בַּר אֱנָשׁ (bar ’enāsh, “son of man”). According to Lindsey, whenever Jesus referred to himself as בַּר אֱנָשׁ (“Son of Man”) he alluded to the vision of Daniel 7 in which a heavenly figure כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ (kevar ’enāsh, “like a son of man”; LXX: ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου [hōs huios anthrōpou, “like a son of man”]) is brought into God’s presence on the clouds and given everlasting dominion over the earth (Dan. 7:13-14). Lindsey maintained that by switching to Aramaic in the midst of Hebrew discourse, Jesus was able to transform בַּר אֱנָשׁ into a self-referential title that indicated his messianic status. Our reconstruction in L43 reflects Lindsey’s suggestion.
Nevertheless, positing the title בַּר אֱנָשׁ behind every authentic instance of ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in the Synoptic Gospels leaves certain problems unresolved. One such problem is the fact that בַּר אֱנָשׁ does not occur as a title for the messiah (or any other eschatological figure) in any ancient Jewish source. Even the vision in Daniel 7 does not refer to the heavenly figure as “the Son of Man,” rather the heavenly figure is said to be “like a son of man” (Dan. 7:13), that is, not actually a human being, but merely someone (or something) resembling a human in certain respects. A second problem is that the role Jesus assigned to the figure referred to as ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in the Synoptic Gospels does not conform to the role played by the one “like a son of man” in Daniel’s vision. In Daniel 7 the one “like a son of man” is a heavenly figure who represents “the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:27). This heavenly figure is ushered into the divine presence on the clouds and given universal and everlasting dominion. By contrast, when Jesus refers to ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου he often emphasizes the lowliness and suffering of “the son of man” in his earthly existence, or he anticipates the final judgment when “the son of man” will play the role of the eschatological judge. Neither of the roles Jesus assigned to the figure called ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου in the Synoptic Gospels resembles that played by the figure described as being כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ (“like a son of man”) in the vision of Daniel 7. What advantage, then, would Jesus have gained by signaling Dan. 7:13 with the title בַּר אֱנָשׁ when describing a figure whose job description does not match that of the human-like being described in the vision of Daniel 7?
Let us scrutinize the two problems mentioned above more closely. First, “Son of Man” is not a title for a messianic or eschatological figure in ancient Jewish sources. It is true that the various figures who assume the role of eschatological judge in ancient Jewish sources are sometimes described with imagery borrowed from the vision of Daniel 7, and in these sources the eschatological judge is sometimes referred to as a “son of man.” This is certainly the case in the Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71), where the eschatological judge bears the title of “Righteous One” (e.g., 1 Enoch 38:2) and “Chosen One” (e.g., 1 Enoch 48:6). The Similitudes of Enoch repeatedly refer to the eschatological judge as “the son of man who…” (e.g., 1 Enoch 46:3) or “this/that son of man” (1 Enoch 46:4), but these descriptions of the eschatological judge with “son of man” vocabulary do not amount to a title. In other words, the Similitudes of Enoch do not refer to the eschatological judge as “the Son of Man.”
Some ancient Jewish sources refer to the eschatological judge without borrowing imagery from Daniel 7 or using “son of man” terminology. This is the case with 11QMelchizedek, an Essene work that assigns to Melchizedek a cosmic role as eschatological priest and judge but does not allude to the vision in Daniel 7 or refer to Melchizedek as “the Son of Man.” Other ancient Jewish sources describe the eschatological judge without overt reference to the vision of Daniel 7, although Daniel’s vision of the one “like a son of man” may be playing a role in the background. For instance, some scholars have detected in John the Baptist’s description of a “coming” eschatological priest who will execute judgment against the wicked (Matt. 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:15-17) an allusion to the one like a son of man “coming with the clouds of heaven” (Dan. 7:13). Likewise, the Testament of Abraham identifies the eschatological judge as Abel, the son of Adam who was murdered by his brother Cain (T. Abraham, Version A, 13:1-3). Although T. Abraham does not describe Abel’s role as eschatological judge with imagery borrowed from Daniel 7, it is reasonable to suppose that the “son of man” vocabulary used in association with the eschatologial judge in other ancient Jewish sources gave rise to the identification of Abel, literally a son of Adam/son of man (Heb.: בֶּן אָדָם [ben ’ādām]), as the eschatological judge. Incidentally, the identification of Abel as the eschatological judge proves that “son of man” vocabulary used to describe the eschatological judge was not restricted to Aramaic, since the wordplay “son of man/son of Adam” works in Hebrew (בֶּן אָדָם in both cases) but not Aramaic (בַּר אֱנָשׁ = “son of a human”; בַּר אָדָם = “son of Adam”). Therefore, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to resort to Aramaic in order to use “son of man” vocabulary when speaking of the eschatological judge.
The second problem we noted is that the roles Jesus assigns to the figure described in the Synoptic Gospels as ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου do not match the description of the “one like a son of man” portrayed in Daniel 7. The heavenly human-like being in Daniel 7 does not play the forensic role of eschatological judge in Daniel’s vision. Daniel’s “one like a son of man” neither vindicates the righteous nor passes sentence on the wicked, while according to Jesus, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου does precisely that. But eschatological judgment is not the only role Jesus assigned to the figure designated in the Gospels as ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. The term ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου also occurs in contexts where Jesus discussed his passion (Matt. 17:22-23 ∥ Mark 9:30-32 ∥ Luke 9:43b-45; Matt. 26:24 ∥ Mark 14:21 ∥ Luke 22:22), an experience definitely not envisioned in Daniel 7. In Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, on the other hand, ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου connotes the homeless existence of Jesus and his disciples: unlike the wild animals, which have their place in nature, Jesus and his disciples had no automatic guarantee of daily sustenance. They relied completely on God’s providential care. In Sign-Seeking Generation the role of ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου is not that of eschatological judge but as a portent of doom to Jesus’ generation. Jesus spoke of himself as “the son of man” who, as a prophet, would testify against his generation, just as Jonah had testified against the wickedness of Nineveh.
Could the title בַּר אֱנָשׁ, intended to signal Dan. 7:13, be so versatile as to cover the full range of meanings Jesus assigned to “the son of man” concept in his teachings? And would Jesus have found it impossible to express his understanding of the role of “the son of man” figure without resorting to Aramaic? Unfortunately, short of the discovery of the Hebrew (or Aramaic) source(s) behind the Synoptic Gospels, these are questions for which there can be no definitive answer.
L44 ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς (Matt. 12:40). The first of Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation describes Jesus’ entombment as being “in the heart of the earth.” Where did this phrase come from? The phrase ἡ καρδία τῆς γῆς (hē kardia tēs gēs, “the heart of the earth”) does not recur in NT and never occurs in LXX. It is possible, however, that Matthew’s phraseology is an adaptation of Jonah 2:4, where the prophet poetically refers to being cast εἰς…καρδίας θαλάσσης (eis…kardias thalassēs, “into…[the] heart of [the] sea”). If this explanation is correct, it shows how far the author of Matthew had to stretch in order to give an allegorical interpretation to the story of Jonah.
τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ (GR). If our hypothesis is correct that the words “except the sign of Jonah” in Luke 11:29 ∥ Matt. 12:39 are an explanatory gloss, then Luke’s “to this generation” in L44 is necessary to the complete Jesus’ thought: This generation seeks for a sign of deliverance, but no such sign will be given to it. Rather, the Son of Man will be a sign of doom to this generation. Since τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ (tē genea tavtē, “to this generation”) plays such an important role in tying together what we regard as the original form of Jesus’ saying, we have accepted Luke’s wording in L44 for GR.
לְדוֹר זֶה (HR). On reconstructing γενεά (genea, “generation”) with דּוֹר (dōr, “generation”) see above, Comment to L26.
We considered placing לְאוֹת (le’ōt, “for a sign”) in brackets prior to the words לְדוֹר זֶה (ledōr zeh, “for this generation”) so as to complete the comparison between Jonah and the Son of Man, but the laconic style of the Greek text is not un-Hebraic and could reflect the wording of an underlying Hebrew Ur-text.
The notion that the Son of Man would be a sign to Jesus’ generation is anticipated in Simeon’s words to Mary that Jesus “will be set down…for a spoken-against sign [σημεῖον]” (Luke 2:34).
L45-46 τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας (Matt. 12:40). Since in Comment to L39 we noted the problems created by Matthew’s three-day-and-three-night timeline for the duration of Jesus’ entombment, we have no need to deal with them here. Instead, we take this opportunity to point out the connection the author of Matthew created between Sign-Seeking Generation and the uniquely Matthean two-part story about the guard placed on Jesus’ tomb (Matt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15). According to Matt. 27:63, the reason the guard was placed on Jesus’ tomb is that Jesus had allegedly claimed, “After three days I will arise.” The guard was placed on the tomb to prevent any such thing from happening (or from appearing to have happened). Since the only place in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus publicly alludes to a timeline for his death and resurrection is Matt. 12:40, this must be the passage the author of Matthew wanted his readers to recall when the chief priests and Pharisees report Jesus’ resurrection prediction. In this way the author of Matthew clearly deciphered for his readers the allegory he had composed in Matt. 12:40. That it is historically incredible to suppose that the chief priests and Pharisees would have been able to deduce from the statement “the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” that Jesus meant he would rise three days after his crucifixion is completely beside the point. The author of Matthew wanted to make it crystal clear to his readers that Jesus had openly proclaimed his resurrection prior to the event and therefore “the Jews” were fully culpable for disbelieving the resurrection when it actually happened.
L47-49 The author of Mark supplied his version of Sign-Seeking Generation with a narrative conclusion describing Jesus’ departure for the opposite side of the lake. That Mark 8:13 is redactional is indicated by his use of πάλιν (palin, “again”), a classic “Markan stereotype,” and by his use of the adverb πέραν (peran, “across,” “beyond”) as a substantive. The substantival use of τὸ πέραν (“the other side”) without further qualifier occurs in Mark 4:35; 5:21; 6:45; 8:13 and appears to have been picked up from the sole instance of πέραν in Luke, where it occurs as part of the phrase εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς λίμνης (eis to peran tēs limnēs, “to the other side of the lake”; Luke 8:22). This sole instance of πέραν in Luke is parallel to Mark’s first instance of τὸ πέραν absent qualifier. It thus appears that Mark’s substantival use of τὸ πέραν qualifies as a “Markan pick-up.”
The author of Matthew improved Mark’s Greek by writing καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτούς (kai katalipōn avtous, “and leaving them”; Matt. 16:4) in place of Mark’s καὶ ἀφεὶς αὐτούς (kai afeis avtous, “and leaving them”; Mark 8:13). He omitted Mark’s reference to reembarking (L48) and delayed mentioning “the other side” until the opening of Warning About Leaven (Matt. 16:5).
Sign-Seeking Generation is an unusual pericope in that its redaction began at an earlier stage of transmission than is typical for those pericopae that descended from the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. In Sign-Seeking Generation we likely encounter one of the rare instances of the Anthologizer’s changes to the wording of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. The Anthologizer’s redaction consisted of adding an editorial gloss, “except the sign of Jonah,” between Jesus’ statement that his generation would receive no sign and his statement that the Son of Man would be a sign to his generation. By adding this gloss the Anthologizer attempted to resolve an apparent contradiction in Jesus’ saying. How could no sign be given and yet the Son of Man be a sign? The original answer is that Jesus spoke of two different signs, the signs of deliverance his generation sought and portents of doom, the only authentic sign his generation would receive. These two contrasting meanings of “sign” did not come through in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. The Anthologizer’s gloss was a noble attempt to make sense of Jesus’ words in Greek. Unfortunately, it created problems of its own. Ever since this gloss was added to Jesus’ saying, people have been wondering what “the sign of Jonah” might be. The version of Sign-Seeking Generation in Matthew 12, with its treatment of Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the great fish as an allegory for Jesus’ death and resurrection, is the earliest known attempt to solve the riddle the Anthologizer’s editorial activity inadvertently created.
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Just as the Anthologizer’s editorial gloss set Sign-Seeking Generation on a strange trajectory away from its original intention, so too did the author of Luke’s redactional addition of a narrative setting for the pericope. By composing the explanation that “others were testing” Jesus “seeking a sign out of heaven from him” (Luke 11:16), the author of Luke hoped to communicate to his readers what Jesus meant by saying that his generation sought a sign.
The sign of which Jesus originally spoke was a sign that Israel’s deliverance from Roman oppression was at hand. Such signs were, in fact, promised by various (self-proclaimed) prophets and charismatic leaders in the first century. In the hands of these false prophets the promised signs were tools for catapulting their followers, already captivated by Jewish nationalist ideology, into militant action against the Roman Empire. Jesus opposed sign-producing prophets and the ideology they espoused. According to Jesus, Israel had rejected its opportunity for redemption via the Kingdom of Heaven. As a result, the Jewish people would be plunged into a catastrophe of their own making. The violent Jewish nationalism which had turned Jesus’ generation against the Kingdom of Heaven was soon to bring down the wrath of the Roman Empire upon the entire Jewish people. The author of Luke, misunderstanding the sign-seeking attributed to Jesus’ generation, supposed that Jesus’ contemporaries sought divine authentication of Jesus’ messianic status, which Jesus refused to give.
The author of Luke’s reinterpretation of Sign-Seeking Generation had a profound influence on the entire synoptic tradition as it was fully adopted by the author of Mark and subsequently passed on from Mark’s Gospel to Matthew. Despite Luke’s redactional framing of Sign-Seeking Generation, the author of Luke refrained from tampering with Anth.’s wording of Jesus’ saying. Luke faithfully reproduced Jesus’ words in Sign-Seeking Generation almost exactly as they appeared in Anth.
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As usual, Mark’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation represents a thorough-going paraphrase of the version recorded in Luke. The author of Mark, who wholeheartedly embraced Luke’s explanation that the sign Jesus’ generation sought was one that confirmed Jesus’ messianic status, proceeded to integrate this Lukan understanding more fully into his version of Sign-Seeking Generation. This he did in two ways: 1) by placing Sign-Seeking Generation after an account of a miraculous feeding, so as to create an ironic contrast between the open manifestations of Jesus’ messianic power and the demand for a sign by those who refused to see; and 2) by giving a paraphrase of Luke 11:16 as the narrative introduction to Sign-Seeking Generation.
The author of Mark made other changes to Sign-Seeking Generation as well. He identified the sign-seekers as Pharisees (L11). He added an emotional response to the Pharisees’ request (L21-22), which may have been modeled on a passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 8:22-25). He transformed Jesus’ statements into questions (L26, L32). The transformation of Jesus’ second statement into a question involved the elimination of the exception clause referring to “the sign of Jonah” (L34-35). The author of Mark characteristically added an un-Hebraic “Amen” (L30) to Jesus’ words and omitted Jesus’ final statement about the Son of Man’s being a sign to Jesus’ generation as Jonah had been a sign to the people of Nineveh (L37-44), perhaps because this comparison could not so easily be transformed into a question. Finally, the author of Mark provided Sign-Seeking Generation with a narrative conclusion that described Jesus’ departure for the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee (L47-49).
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The Gospel of Matthew records two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation (Matt. 12:38-40; 16:1-4). Matthew’s first version of Sign-Seeking Generation agrees with the placement of this pericope in Anth., while Matthew’s second version agrees with the placement of Sign-Seeking Generation in Mark. Both versions of Sign-Seeking Generation in Matthew, however, betray the influence of Matthew’s two sources (Mark and Anth.). The Markan influence on the first of Matthew’s versions of Sign-Seeking Generation is reflected in the narrative introduction, where the Pharisees (together with scribes not mentioned in Mark) demand a sign from Jesus (L8-19). Anth.’s influence on the second of Matthew’s versions of Sign-Seeking Generation is reflected in the wording of Jesus’ statement that an evil generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah (L27-35). Thus, Matthew’s two versions of Sign-Seeking Generation exhibit a significant degree of cross-pollination, which is typical of Matthean redaction.
Despite the author of Matthew’s blending of his two sources in both of his versions of Sign-Seeking Generation, the author of Matthew saw to it that each version struck out on its own. Matthew’s first version of Sign-Seeking Generation diverges from both of his sources by forging an allegorical interpretation of Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the great fish in terms of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Matthew’s second version of Sign-Seeking Generation diverges from both of his sources by incorporating a saying about interpreting atmospheric phenomena to predict the weather (Matt. 16:2b-3). By striking out on his own in this way, the author of Matthew was able to avoid stale repetition of the story. The author of Matthew used each version of Sign-Seeking Generation to make a different point: the allegory in the first version proved that Jesus had spoken of his death and resurrection prior to the event, while the second version proved that producing a sign would have been futile.
Other instances of Matthean redaction in Sign-Seeking Generation include the conflation of two statements (“this generation is evil” and “it seeks a sign”) into a single assertion (“an evil generation seeks a sign”; L27-29), the description of Jesus’ generation as “adulterous” (L28), the appending of the title “the prophet” to Jonah’s name (L36, first version only), and paraphrasing the narrative conclusion (L47-49, second version only).
Results of This Research
1. What is “the sign of Jonah”? “The sign of Jonah” is a red herring. Ancient interpreters and modern scholars have expended extraordinary efforts attempting to identify what “the sign of Jonah” might be. The author of Matthew thought “the sign of Jonah” was the prophet’s miraculous deliverance from the belly of the great fish, which allegorically symbolized Jesus’ death and resurrection. The author of the Lives of the Prophets imagined that Jonah foretold signs that would indicate when the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand. Modern scholars have suggested that “the sign of Jonah” was really the sign of the dove descending on Jesus at his baptism, or the sign of John the Baptist, who summoned Jesus’ generation to repentance. We believe that Jesus never referred to a “sign of Jonah,” rather this unfortunate phrase was coined by the Anthologizer, who attempted to resolve what he perceived to be a contradiction in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. The Anthologizer could not understand how Jesus could simultaneously maintain that no sign would be given to his generation and that the Son of Man would be a sign to his generation. He therefore wrote “except the sign of Jonah” between these two seemingly contradictory affirmations. But what was incomprehensible to the Anthologizer in Greek had made sense when Jesus spoke in Hebrew. Jesus played with the different connotations of “sign” in Hebrew. The sign his generation wanted was a sign of deliverance, but Jesus insisted the only authentic sign his generation would receive was a kind they were not seeking. When a prophet was made a “sign” it was as a testimony against Israel’s unfaithfulness. By rejecting the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus’ generation had demonstrated its wickedness. Therefore, it would receive no sign of deliverance. Rather, the Son of Man would be a portent of doom and a testimony against Jesus’ generation.
2. What is the meaning of “Son of Man” in Sign-Seeking Generation? The function of “Son of Man” in the Gospels is fraught with difficulty, mainly because “Son of Man” never functioned as a title in ancient Jewish sources, and no Second Temple-period “Son of Man” concept has been proven to exist. At best, we have examples of “son of man” vocabulary applied to eschatological figures such as the Messiah and the eschatological judge, but it was always possible to discuss these eschatological figures without using “son of man” vocabulary. Outside the New Testament there is no evidence of an independent figure known as the “Son of Man.” To further complicate matters, “son of man” vocabulary could be applied to non-eschatological figures. God repeatedly addressed the prophet Ezekiel as “son of man,” and “son of man” could be used in Hebrew to mean “a person in general.” Jesus’ use of “son of man” in diverse contexts suggests that for him the term was dynamic and versatile. In Sign-Seeking Generation “son of man” appears to be non-eschatological and related to Jesus’ prophetic task. It is not as an exalted end-time judge that Jesus would be a sign to his generation. It was as a sign that was spoken against (cf. Luke 2:34), as Jesus’ prophetic testimony was rejected or ignored, that Jesus fulfilled his role as “son of man.”
Sign-Seeking Generation has charted an unusual course in the process of transmission through pre-synoptic stages to Luke and then to Mark and finally to Matthew. Originally an expression of Jesus’ pessimism regarding the militant nationalist ambitions of his contemporaries, Sign-Seeking Generation came to be used as an apology for the failure or refusal of the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. To counter the argument that if Jesus had been the Messiah he would have proved it to the entire Jewish people, Sign-Seeking Generation was variously used to suggest that Jesus had intentionally declined to give his contemporaries an authenticating sign (so Mark), or that Jesus’ death and resurrection was the sign that “the Jews” were unwilling to accept (so Matthew).
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-  For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’” ↩
-  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. ↩
-  Flusser’s reconstruction of Luke 11:29 appears in David Flusser, “Jesus and the Sign of the Son of Man” (Flusser, JOC, 526-534, esp. 527). The English translation of Flusser’s reconstruction is our own—DNB and JNT. ↩
-  See our discussion in Generations That Repented Long Ago, under the subheading “Story Placement.” ↩
-  See the “Story Placement” discussion in Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers. ↩
-  Pace Gundry, Matt., 243. ↩
-  Cf. Fitzmyer, 2:930; Luz, 2:214. ↩
-  Cf. Bovon, 2:136. ↩
-  On Jesus’ aversion to speculations about his unique status and his disdain for cults of personality, even those centered on himself, see our discussion in A Woman’s Misplaced Blessing. ↩
-  Cf. Beare, Matt., 282. Nevertheless, in our opinion Beare drew the wrong conclusion from Jesus’ reticence. Beare believed that the entire scene described in Sign-Seeking Generation must have been a Christian invention, whereas we regard Luke 11:16 as secondary but the main body of Sign-Seeking Generation (Luke 11:29-30) as an authentic dominical saying. ↩
-  See Flusser, “Jesus and the Sign of the Son of Man,” 526-527. Gibson arrived at a similar conclusion by a different route. See Jeffrey Gibson, “Jesus’ Refusal to Produce a ‘Sign’ (Mk 8.11-13),” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 38 (1990): 37-66. ↩
-  On the significance of Theudas’ promise to part the waters of the Jordan, see Daniel R. Schwartz, “Temple and Desert: On Religion and State in Second Temple Period Judaea,” in his Studies in the Jewish Background of Christianity (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1992), 29-43, esp. 30. ↩
-  See Gibson, “Jesus’ Refusal to Produce a ‘Sign’ (Mk 8.11-13),” 50. ↩
-  See Return of the Twelve and the study based on this LOY segment entitled “Like Lightning from Heaven (Luke 10:18): Jesus’ Apocalyptic Vision of the Fall of Satan.” ↩
-  See Shmuel Safrai, “The Holy Congregation in Jerusalem,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 23 (1972): 62-78. ↩
-  Despite these similarities, it is possible that Rabbi Simon bar Menasya’s political outlook contrasted with Jesus’. The emphasis Rabbi Simon bar Menasya placed on seeking the reinstatement of the Davidic monarchy and the rebuilding of the Temple suggests that Rabbi Simon bar Menasya may have entertained revolutionary anti-Roman sympathies. ↩
-  Cf. Kilpatrick, 87; Bundy, 285 §172-174; Davies-Allison, 2:553. ↩
-  Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:577. ↩
-  On cross-pollination between similar sayings in Matthew, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L115-122, and Woes on Three Villages, Comment to L24-28. ↩
-  In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho we read:
Καὶ ὅτι τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα ἔμελλεν ἀναστήσεσθαι μετὰ τὸ σταυρωθῆναι, γέγραπται ἐν τοῖς ἀπομνημονεύμασιν ὅτι οἱ ἀπὸ τοῦ γένους ὑμῶν συζητοῦντες αὐτῷ ἔλεγον, ὅτι Δεῖξον ἡμῖν σημεῖον. Καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτοῖς· Γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ, καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτοῖς, εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ. Καὶ ταῦτα λέγοντος αὐτοῦ παρακεκαλυμμένα ἦν νοεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουόντων, ὅτι μετὰ τὸ σταυρωθῆναι αὐτὸν τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα ἀναστήσεται.
And that He would rise again on the third day after the crucifixion, it is written in the memoirs that some of your nation, questioning [συζητοῦντες] Him, said, ‘Show us a sign;’ and He replied to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and no sign shall be given to them, save the sign of Jonah.’ And since He spoke this obscurely, it was to be understood by the audience that after his crucifixion He should rise again on the third day. (Dial. §107 [ed. Trollope, 2:75-76])
The translation of Justin is according to The Ante-Nicene Fathers (10 vols.; ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and Allan Menzies; repr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980-1986), 1:252.
Justin’s use of the participle συζητοῦντες (sūzētountes, “questioning,” “arguing”) appears to reflect Mark 8:11, the only canonical version of Sign-Seeking Generation in which the verb συζητεῖν (sūzētein, “to discuss,” “to argue”) occurs.
Stendahl asserted that in the above-cited passage Justin quoted from Matt. 12:39 and that Justin’s failure to continue the quotation into Matt. 12:40 is evidence that Matt. 12:40 is actually a late scribal insertion into the original text of Matthew, since “It is unbelievable that Justin would have passed over or forgotten this quotation in Mt. 1240 if it had been in his text” (Krister Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and its Use of the Old Testament [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968], 132-133). But it is far from certain that Justin was quoting exclusively from Matt. 12:39, since Justin’s quotation conforms precisely to Matt. 16:4. The version of Sign-Seeking Generation in Matt. 16:1-4 lacks the typological interpretation found in Matt. 12:40, and, in fact, there is an indication that the Matt. 16:1-4 version is the one Justin had in mind. Justin quotes Jesus’ interlocutors as saying, “Show us a sign!” using the verb δεικνύναι (deiknūnai), while the version of Sign-Seeking Generation in Matt. 16:1-4 is the only one in which a compound form of the same verb (ἐπιδεικνύναι [epideiknūnai]) occurs in the request for a sign (Matt. 16:1). Although Stendahl claims that Justin would have quoted Matt. 12:40 if he had known it, we are not convinced this is a valid assumption. First, Matt. 12:40 does not explicitly refer to the resurrection, but only to the duration of Jesus’ entombment “in the heart of the earth,” which, as Justin notes, is at best an obscure reference to the resurrection. Second, in his discussion of the sign of Jonah, Justin wove together elements from Matt. 12:40 and Luke 11:30 (“Christ said amongst you that He would give the sign of Jonah, exhorting you to repent of your wicked deeds at least after He rose again from the dead, and to mourn before God as did the Ninevites, in order that your nation and city might not be taken and destroyed, as they have been destroyed; yet you…have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead”; Dial. §108), something that would have been more difficult if he had only quoted one of these verses. ↩
-  Pace Flusser (“Jesus and the Sign of the Son of Man,” 526 n. 2), who regarded the introduction to Sign-Seeking Generation in Matt. 12:38 as “more original…than Luke 11:16 and Mark 8:11.” Flusser based his opinion on a talmudic parallel (b. Sanh. 98a) in which the disciples of Rabbi Yose ben Kisma ask him for a sign in confirmation of his messianic prediction. ↩
-  Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:353. ↩
-  Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:351. ↩
-  Cf. Fitzmyer, 2:921. ↩
-  The mention of seventy-two “others” in Luke 10:1 was a redactional device that allowed the author of Luke to incorporate two versions of the Sending the Twelve discourse into his Gospel. See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L26-28. ↩
-  In Matthew there is only a single instance of unspecified “others” expressed with ἕτεροι (Matt. 16:14; cf. Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19). No examples of unspecified “others” expressed with ἕτεροι occur in Mark. ↩
-  Cf. Plummer, Luke, 301; Conzelmann, 193. ↩
-  The proliferation of temptations in the Gospel of Mark as compared to Luke is an example of what Lindsey termed a “Markan pick-up.” On this phenomenon, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes,” and our LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups. ↩
-  On the redactional character of “part one” of Mark’s version of Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers (Mark 3:20-21), see Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers, Comment to L1-10. ↩
-  On genitives absolute in the Gospel of Luke as indicative of redactional activity, see LOY Excursus: The Genitive Absolute in the Synoptic Gospels, under the subheading “The Genitive Absolute in Luke.” ↩
-  See Creed, 162. ↩
-  See Gundry, Matt., 242; Luz, 2:214. On τότε as an indicator of Matthean redaction, see Jesus and a Canaanite Woman, Comment to L22. ↩
-  On the author of Matthew’s redactional use of ἀποκρίνειν…λέγειν/εἰπεῖν, see Yeshua’s Immersion, Comment to L17-18. ↩
-  Cf. Gundry (Matt., 242) and Luz (2:214 n. 2), who likewise regard Matthew’s reference to the scribes in Matt. 12:38 as redactional. ↩
-  Although Codex Vaticanus omits καὶ Φαρισαίων (kai Farisaiōn, “and of Pharisees”) in Matt. 12:38, most text critics regard it as original. ↩
-  Cf. Taylor, 363-364. ↩
-  See Tomson, 275. ↩
-  See Albright-Mann, 192. ↩
-  On the Matthean tendency to create parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus, see John P. Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99.3 (1980): 383-405. ↩
-  See Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance, Comment to L1-2. ↩
-  See Gundry, Matt., 322; Davies-Allison, 2:579; Luz, 2:348. ↩
-  On ἄρχειν + infinitive as a Markan stereotype, see the LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups, under the entry for Mark 1:45. ↩
-  See Lindsey, GCSG, 3:220. The table below shows all the instances of συζητεῖν in the Gospels of Mark and Luke (there are no instances in Matthew) and the synoptic parallels (if any):
Mark 1:27 Lk-Mk (cf. Luke 4:36)
Mark 8:11 TT (cf. Matt. 12:38; 16:1; Luke 11:16)
Mark 9:10 Mk-Mt (cf. Matt. 17:9)
Mark 9:14 TT (cf. Matt. 17:14; Luke 9:37)
Mark 9:16 TT (cf. Matt. 17:14; Luke 9:37)
Mark 12:28 TT (cf. Matt. 22:35; Luke 10:25)
Luke 22:23 TT (cf. Matt. 26:25; Mark 14:21)
Luke 24:15 U
Key: TT = pericope has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; Mk-Mt = Markan-Matthean pericope; Lk-Mk = Lukan-Markan pericope; U = verse unique to a particular Gospel
-  Cf. LHNS, 94 §119; LHNC, 922. ↩
-  See Gundry, Matt., 242. ↩
-  Luke’s Gospel, by contrast, has seven instances of διδάσκαλε without agreement from Mark and/or Matthew (Luke 3:12; 7:40; 11:45; 12:13; 19:39; 20:39; 21:7). ↩
-  See Flusser, “Jesus and the Sign of the Son of Man,” 526 n. 2. ↩
-  Cf. Bundy, 287 §174. ↩
-  The same applies to “the Pharisees and Sadducees” in Matt. 16:1, “the Pharisees” in Mark’s version (Mark 8:11) and the “others” in Luke’s (Luke 11:16). ↩
-  That the word order of the request in Matt. 12:38 is un-Hebraic can be seen from a comparison of the Greek text with Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation:
Matt. 12:38 Delitzsch’s Translation διδάσκαλε רַבִּי Teacher My rabbi θέλομεν חָפַצְנוּ we want we wanted ἀπὸ σοῦ from you σημεῖον a sign ἰδεῖν לִרְאוֹת to see. to see אוֹת a sign עַל־יָדֶךָ by your hand.
-  In Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple the author of Matthew had “one scribe” address Jesus as διδάσκαλε (Matt. 8:19). In that instance we found the identification of the speaker, but not the address, to be redactional. ↩
-  On the mirroring of Luke 8:21 in Mark 3:35, see Yeshua, His Mother and Brothers, Comment to L48-53. On inversion as a stylistic feature of Markan redaction, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  Note, however, the typically Markan stacking of prepositional phrases (“seeking from him a sign from heaven”). On the stacking up of prepositional phrases as typical of Markan redaction, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  Note, moreover, that the verb ἐπιδεικνύναι (epideiknūnai, “to point out,” “to show”) occurs 3xx in Matthew (Matt. 16:1; 22:19; 24:1), but never in Mark and only once in Luke (Luke 17:14). See further, Temple’s Destruction Foretold, Comment to L8. ↩
-  Mark 7:34 also contains a description of Jesus’ groaning. ↩
-  On Markan allusions to the Pauline epistles, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke”; idem, “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.” ↩
-  Is it a coincidence that in his version of The Finger of God pericope—which in Mark’s source (viz., Luke) was clearly linked to Sign-Seeking Generation by the insertion of Luke 11:16—the author of Mark accused Jesus’ opponents of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29), while in Sign-Seeking Generation the author of Mark has Jesus groaning in the spirit? ↩
-  For a different interpretation of Jesus’ groaning, see Jeffrey B. Gibson, “Mark 8.12a: Why Does Jesus ‘Sigh Deeply’?” Bible Translator 38.1 (1987): 122-125; idem, “Another Look at Why Jesus ‘Sighs Deeply’: ἀναστενάζω in Mark 8:12a,” Journal of Theological Studies 47.1 (1996): 131-140. ↩
-  Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:354. ↩
-  On the historical present as an indicator of Markan redaction, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  Scholars who regard Matt. 16:2b-3 as a scribal interpolation include Allen (173), McNeile (235), Bundy (286 §173) and Luz (2:347). See also Toshio Hirunuma, “Matthew 16:2b-3,” in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis (ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee; Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), 35-45. Vocabulary distinctive to Matthew’s version of Interpreting the Time includes εὐδία (evdia, “fair weather”), πυρράζειν (pūrrazein, “to be fiery”) and στυγνάζειν (stūgnazein, “to be gloomy”). The construction γινώσκειν + infinitive is also unique to Matthew’s version of Interpreting the Time. ↩
-  Scholars who regard Matt. 16:2b-3 as an original part of Matthew’s Gospel include Gundry (Matt., 323), Davies-Allison (2:581) and Nolland (Matt., 646). ↩
-  Only 25% of Matthew’s wording in Interpreting the Time is identical to Luke’s parallel (9 words out of 36 total), and only 18.75% of Luke’s wording in Interpreting the Time is identical to Matthew’s parallel (9 words out of 48 total). For these statistics, see LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae. ↩
-  Interpolation from an otherwise unknown source is the view Hirunuma champions. See Hirunuma, “Matthew 16:2b-3,” 35. Cf. Allen, 173; Streeter, 241-242; Plummer, Luke, 335. ↩
-  Cf. Metzger, 41. ↩
-  So Nolland, Matt., 646. ↩
-  An example of this strategy is the Matthean insertion of a dialogue between Jesus and John the Baptist to prove that Jesus’ baptism was not strictly necessary but was good for appearances. See Yeshua’s Immersion, Comment to L12-22. ↩
-  Changing statements into questions seems to have been a habit of the author of Mark. We observe the same phenomenon in Four Soils interpretation (L14) and Temple’s Destruction Foretold (L14-15). ↩
-  Cf. Gundry, Matt., 243. ↩
-  The author of Matthew similarly emphasized the racial meaning of γενεά in Matt. 23:36. See Innocent Blood, Comment to L26. The author of Matthew famously exhibited his willingness to malign the entire Jewish people in his notorious and redactional addition to the passion narrative in which he has the “Jews” say, “His [i.e., Jesus’] blood be upon us and our children!” (Matt. 27:25). ↩
-  See Segal, 201 §411; Chanan Ariel, “The Shift from the Biblical Hebrew Far Demonstrative ההוא to the Mishnaic Hebrew אותו,” in New Perspectives in Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew (ed. Aaron D. Hornkohl and Geoffrey Khan; Cambridge: University of Cambridge and Open Book Publishers, 2021), 167-195, esp. 184. ↩
-  Fitzmyer (2:934-935) drew attention to the phrase דור עול[ה — ] (dōr ‘avlāh, “generation of injustice”), which occurs in 1QSb III, 7 as a parallel to “evil generation” in Sign-Seeking Generation. ↩
-  See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1186-1188. On reconstructing πονηρός (ponēros, “evil”) as רַע (ra‘, “evil”), see Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L25. ↩
-  Jubilees 23:14-25 describes an evil generation that will arise in the future and on account of which wild beasts, domestic animals, birds and fish will be destroyed (Jub. 23:18). Such wholesale destruction is reminiscent of the fate of Noah’s evil generation. Unfortunately, this portion of Jubilees has not been preserved in Hebrew, so we cannot know what “evil generation” in Jub. 23:14 represented in the original Hebrew text. ↩
-  See Beare, 103 §87; Marshall, 484; Davies-Allison, 2:355. ↩
-  A metaphorical sense of “adulterous” in Jewish contexts may be overemphasized. When various ancient Jewish factions accused one another of adultery they often meant it literally, according to their distinct halachic perspectives. For instance, Jesus accused the Pharisees of condoning adultery because they permitted a man to marry a divorced woman while her first husband was still alive (Matt. 5:32; Luke 16:18; cf. 1 Cor. 7:10-11, 39; Rom. 7:2-3). ↩
-  See LHNS, 69 §87; 95 §119. Cf. Taylor, 363; Catchpole, 243; Bovon, 2:137; Luz, 2:214 n. 3. ↩
-  Cf. Gundry, Matt., 243; Davies-Allison, 2:355; Bovon, 2:137. ↩
-  See Dos Santos, 5. ↩
-  See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1263-1264. ↩
-  On the derivation of סִימָן from σημεῖον, see Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “σημεῖον,” TDNT, 7:200-261, esp. 228; Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language for Readers of English (Jerusalem: Carta, 1987), 443. ↩
-  Gill (7:137) was an early scholar to note this parallel to Sign-Seeking Generation. ↩
-  In an alternate version of this tradition the disciples say to Rabbi Yose ben Kisma, מְבַקְּשִׁים אֲנוּ אוֹת מִמְּךָ (“We are seeking a sign from you!”; Tanhuma, VaYishlaḥ §8 [ed. Buber, 1:166]). ↩
-  Gill (7:137) also noted this parallel to Sign-Seeking Generation. ↩
-  The following table lists all of the occurrences of ἀμήν in the Gospel of Mark and the parallels in the Gospel of Matthew and/or Luke. All but one instance of ἀμήν in Mark occurs in the phrase ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν. That sole instance is in Mark 14:30, where ἀμήν occurs in the phrase ἀμὴν λέγω σοι:
Mark 3:28 TT (cf. Matt. 12:31; Luke 12:10)
Mark 8:12 TT (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29)
Mark 9:1 TT = Matt. 16:28 (cf. Luke 9:27)
Mark 9:41 Mk-Mt = Matt. 10:42
Mark 10:15 TT = Matt. 18:3; Luke 18:17
Mark 10:29 TT = Matt. 19:28; Luke 18:29
Mark 11:23 Mk-Mt = Matt. 21:21 (cf. Luke 17:6)
Mark 12:43 Lk-Mk (cf. Luke 21:3)
Mark 13:30 TT = Matt. 24:34; Luke 21:32
Mark 14:9 Mk-Mt = Matt. 26:13 (cf. Luke 7:47)
Mark 14:18 TT = Matt. 26:21 (cf. Luke 22:21)
Mark 14:25 TT (cf. Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:18)
Mark 14:30 TT = Matt. 26:34 (cf. Luke 22:34)
Key: TT = pericope has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; Mk-Mt = Markan-Matthean pericope; Lk-Mk = Lukan-Markan pericope
The table above shows that there are only three instances where Luke and Mark agree to write ἀμήν (Mark 10:15 ∥ Luke 18:17; Mark 10:29 ∥ Luke 18:29; Mark 13:30 ∥ Luke 21:32). Three instances of Mark’s use of ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν were almost certainly redactional (Mark 3:28; 8:12; 14:25), since in these three instances Luke and Matthew agree against Mark’s use of ἀμήν. The remaining instances of ἀμήν are probably redactional too, since they are used in an un-Hebraic adverbial sense (“truly”) rather than as an affirmative response. How did the author of Mark come to believe that ἀμήν was an adverb? He may have been influenced by Luke’s use of ἀληθῶς (alēthōs, “truly”). This adverb occurs 3xx in Luke, always in conjunction with λέγω ὑμῖν (Luke 9:27; 12:44; 21:3). All three of these instances of ἀληθῶς in Luke are probably attributable to the redactional activity of the First Reconstructor or the author of Luke himself. Opposite ἀληθῶς in Luke 12:44 Matthew’s parallel—copied from Anth.—reads ἀμήν (Matt. 24:47). The author of Mark may have concluded from this instance of Luke’s equation of ἀληθῶς with ἀμήν that ἀμήν is an adverb meaning “truly.” This erroneous conclusion would explain why opposite Luke’s use of ἀληθῶς in Luke 9:27 and Luke 21:3 the author of Mark wrote ἀμήν (Mark 9:1; 12:43). It would also explain the author of Mark’s frequent misuse of ἀμήν elsewhere in his Gospel.
-  Lindsey, sensing Mark’s un-Hebraic use of ἀμήν, translated ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν in Mark 8:12 as הָאֱמֶת אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (“The truth I declare to you”; HTGM, 117). ↩
-  See Plummer, Mark, 197; Abbot, Corrections, 125 §408; Moulton-Howard, 468-469; Taylor, 362; Moule, 179. See also N.D. Coleman, “Some Noteworthy Uses Of εἰ Or εἶ in Hellenistic Greek, with a Note on St Mark VIII 12,” Journal of Theological Studies 28.110 (1927): 159-167. ↩
-  Some scholars suggest that Mark’s “Hebraic” use of εἰ in Mark 8:12 to express strong negation is the result of LXX imitation. See Luz, 2:215; Collins, 385. ↩
-  See Takamitsu Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Leuven: Peeters, 2009), 190. ↩
-  Pace George Wesley Buchanan, “Some Vow and Oath Formulas in the New Testament,” Harvard Theological Review 58.3 (1965): 319-324. There are examples where אָמֵן is used to signal acceptance of prior explicitly stated imprecations (e.g., Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15-26). However, there are no examples where אָמֵן is used to imply an unstated imprecation. ↩
-  Two or more questions occurring in close proximity in Mark are found in Mark 1:24; 2:7, 8-9; 4:13, 21, 30, 40; 6:2, 3; 7:18-19; 8:17-19, 36-37; 9:19; 11:28; 12:14; 13:4; 14:37, 63-64. On rapid-succession questions as a stylistic feature of Mark’s Gospel, see LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style, under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.” ↩
-  In other words, we are suggesting that the author of Mark transformed Luke’s οὐ δοθήσεται…εἰ μὴ… (“[A sign] will not be given…except…”) into εἰ δοθήσεται… (“Should [a sign] be given…?”). ↩
-  Cf. Neh. 13:10; Ezek. 44:28. ↩
-  The Greek Reconstruction represents the text of the non-Markan Greek source common to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, i.e., the Anthology. According to Lindsey, the Anthologizer rearranged the contents of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, but generally did not change its wording. It is possible that in L34-35 we encounter one of those extremely rare cases in which the Anthologizer altered the wording of his source by adding an explanatory gloss. On the other hand, it is possible, although in our estimation less probable, that the gloss was already present in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, having been added by the Greek translator himself. ↩
-  The only possible attestation of a “sign of Jonah” in Jewish tradition is found in the following account given in the pseudepigraphical Lives of the Prophets:
καὶ ἔδωκε τέρας ἐπί Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ ὅλην τὴν γῆν, ὅτε ἴδωσι λίθον βοῶντα οἰκτρῶς, ἐγγίζεν τὸ τέλος· καὶ ὄτε ἴδωσιν ἐν Ἱερουσαλὴν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, ὅτι ἡ πόλις ἔως ἐδάφους ἀφανισθήσεται.
And he [i.e., Jonah—DNB and JNT] placed a portent [τέρας] on Jerusalem and on the whole land, that when they might see a stone shouting lamentations, the end is near. And when they see in Jerusalem all the Gentiles, that the city will be razed down to its foundations. (Lives of the Prophets, Jonah §8)
Text according to Charles Cutler Torrey, The Lives of the Prophets, 27-28.
However, as Satran has demonstrated, Lives of the Prophets should be regarded as a Christian composition of the Byzantine period (see David Satran, “Biblical Prophets and Christian Legend: The Lives of the Prophets Reconsidered,” in Messiah and Christos: Studies in the Jewish Origins of Christianity Presented to David Flusser on the Occasion of His 75th Birthday [ed. Ithamar Gruenwald, Shaul Shaked, and Gedaliahu G. Stroumsa; Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 1992], 143-149; idem, Biblical Prophets in Byzantine Palestine: Reassessing the Lives of the Prophets [Leiden: Brill, 1995]). The above-cited passage, in particular, appears to be indebted to the New Testament Gospels (a stone crying out sounds like Luke 19:40, while the presence of all the Gentiles in Jerusalem sounds like Luke 21:20-24; cf. Buchanan, 1:540) and may even have been composed in order to supply an answer to the question “What is the ‘sign of Jonah’?”
Wolter (2:112) noted that the Lukan version of Sign-Seeking Generation was certainly not dependent on the tradition in Lives of the Prophets, since according to Luke 11:30 Jonah is a sign for the Ninevites, not for Jerusalem. ↩
-  That “the sign of Jonah” means “the sign that is Jonah” is supported by the statement in Luke 11:30 that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. ↩
-  The second and third objections were already raised by Cavendish Moxon, “Τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνα,” Expository Times 22.12 (1911): 566-567. Moxon, however, proposed a different solution to the problem exposed by these objections than the one adopted here. ↩
-  Alternatively, Jesus could have used אוֹת in the first sentence and מוֹפֵת (mōfēt, “portent”) in the second. ↩
-  See Isa. 8:18; Ezek. 12:6, 11; 24:24; Jub. 4:22-24; Sir. 44:16 (Heb.). ↩
-  Even if the Greek translator had rendered “sign” differently in the two statements (e.g., with σημεῖον in the first and τέρας [teras, “portent”] in the second), he would not have succeeded in conveying the contrast evident in Hebrew, as τέρας and σημεῖον are synonyms. ↩
-  Jeremias was a leading proponent of the view that even Luke’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation alludes to Jonah’s miraculous deliverance from the great fish. According to Jeremias, Matthew’s version of Sign-Seeking Generation, which draws an analogy between Jonah’s deliverance and Jesus’ resurrection, is secondary, but Luke’s version means essentially the same thing. The author of Matthew simply made explicit what was already embedded in Jesus’ saying. See Joachim Jeremias, “Ἰωνᾶς,” TDNT, 3:406-410, esp. 409. Cf. Allen, 139; Carsten Colpe, “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,” TDNT, 8:400-477, esp. 449; Marshall, 485; Gundry, Matt., 244. See also John Bowman, “Jonah and Jesus,” Abr-Nahrain 25 (1987): 1-12. Jeremias and Bowman rely on extremely late rabbinic sources (mainly Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer) to establish their interpretation of Sign-Seeking Generation.
Upon closer inspection, however, the analogy between Jonah’s deliverance and Jesus’ resurrection breaks down. The book of Jonah never states that the people of Nineveh were aware of Jonah’s deliverance from the great fish, neither is the Ninevites’ awareness of this deliverance implied in early Jewish sources. Thus, Jonah’s deliverance from the great fish was not an authenticating miracle for the Ninevites. Moreover, Jonah’s deliverance from the great fish took place before Jonah’s arrival in Nineveh with his message of doom, whereas Jesus’ death and resurrection came after his public prophetic career. Thus, even if we were to grant that Jonah’s deliverance from the great fish was an authenticating miracle for the Ninevites, the analogy with Jesus’ death and resurrection, which could only be an authentication after the fact, is a poor one.
Our disagreement with Jeremias’ line of interpretation goes even deeper, however, since we do not accept the premise that Jesus’ words in Sign-Seeking Generation were a response to a demand that he produce an authenticating sign. The notion that the sign sought by Jesus’ generation was proof of his messianic status was the invention of the author of Luke (see above, Comment to L1-4). The original meaning of “this generation seeks a sign” was “this generation seeks for a sign of deliverance,” such as the signs that were later produced by the false prophets documented in the works of Josephus (see the Conjectured Stages of Transmission section above). ↩
-  So Abbott, Corrections, 129 §412. Even less convincing is the suggestion that “the sign of the dove” refers to Israel, the dove being a symbol for Israel in some Jewish sources. What could Jesus possibly have meant by “No sign will be given to this generation except the sign of Israel?” ↩
-  The suggestion that “the sign of Jonah” was originally “the sign of John [the Baptist]” is based on the apparently conflicting testimony in the Gospels regarding the name of Peter’s father. According to Matt. 16:17, the name of Peter’s father was Jonah, while according to the Gospel of John, the name of Peter’s father was John (John 1:42; 21:15, 16, 17). In an attempt to harmonize this conflicting testimony, some scholars have suggested that “Jonah” was a shortened form of the name “John.” Advocates of “the sign of John” solution include Moxon, “Τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνα,” 566-567; J. Hugh Michael, “‘The Sign of John,’” Journal of Theological Studies 21.82 (1920): 146-159. For a critique of the view that “the sign of Jonah” was originally “the sign of John [the Baptist],” see Clayton R. Bowen, “Was John the Baptist the Sign of Jonah?” American Journal of Theology 20 (1916): 414-421.
Allen (175-176) rejected the view that “Jonah” could be a shortened form of “John.” Tal Ilan, too, appears to have rejected this view, since she cites Matt. 16:17 in the entry for יוֹנָה in her Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I Palestine 330 BCE—200 CE (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002), 143. ↩
-  Cf. Manson, Sayings, 90. ↩
-  For another attempt at identifying “the sign of Jonah,” see James Swetnam, “Some Signs of Jonah,” Biblica 68.1 (1987): 74-79. ↩
-  On reconstructing ἀλλά with אֶלָּא, see Call of Levi, Comment to L61. ↩
-  Cf. Harnack, 23; Gundry, Matt., 243; Catchpole, 243; Davies-Allison, 2:355; Nolland, Luke, 2:652; Bovon, 2:137. See also Colpe, “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,” 449. ↩
-  It is odd, therefore, that Bundy (214 §126, 350 §228) regarded Matt. 12:40 and Luke 11:30 as independent Matthean and Lukan additions to Sign-Seeking Generation. ↩
-  See Allen, 138-139; Harnack, 23; McNeile, 182; Schweizer, 290; Catchpole, 243; Davies-Allison, 2:355; Bovon, 2:137; Luz, 2:214; Nolland, Matt., 509; Witherington, 256 n. 30. See also David Flusser, “‘It Is Not a Serpent that Kills’” (Flusser, JOC, 543-551, esp. 550 n. 23). Merrill is an outlier in viewing Matt. 12:40 as original, but it is apparent that his opinion is more indebted to his religious commitments than to critical thinking. See Eugene H. Merrill, “The Sign of Jonah,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23.1 (1980): 23-30. His footnote 14 on page 25 is a prime example of Merrill’s theological rather than rational mode of argumentation. Swetnam, too, assumed that Matt. 12:40 represented the original form of Jesus’ saying. See James Swetnam, “No Sign of Jonah,” Biblica 66.1 (1985): 126-130. ↩
-  See Generations That Repented Long Ago, under the “Story Placement” subheading. ↩
-  See Lindsey, GCSG, 2:26-27. ↩
-  See Lindsey, GCSG, 3:298. ↩
-  Examples of καθὼς…οὕτως (“just as…so”) as in Luke 11:30 occur in Gen. 41:13; Num. 8:22; Judg. 1:7; 15:11; 2 Kgdms. 3:9; 14:17; Esth. 6:10; Jer. 49:18. Examples of ὥσπερ…οὕτως (“just as…so”) as in Matt. 12:40 occur in Josh. 1:5; Prov. 10:26; 26:1, 2; 27:8; Jer. 38:28. ↩
-  Cf. Marshall, 483; Gundry, Matt., 243. Pace Harnack, 23; Lindsey, LHNS, 69 §87. ↩
-  See Segal, 233 §497. ↩
-  See above, Comment to L37-46. Cf. Bultmann, 118; Manson, Teaching, 219; Albright-Mann, 159; Fitzmyer, 2:931; Davies-Allison, 2:352. ↩
-  On the duration of Jesus’ entombment, see David N. Bivin, “How Long Was Jesus in the Tomb?”; Joseph Frankovic, “A Different Way to Reckon a Day.” ↩
-  In which case, the transformation of Jonah’ sojurn in the belly of the fish into an allegory of Jesus’ death and resurrection may be another example of the author of Matthew’s redactional sloppiness. For other instances of sloppiness in Matthean redaction, see Woes on Three Villages, Comment to L24. ↩
-  Cf. Nolland, Luke, 2:652. ↩
-  It is not unusual in rabbinic sources for סִימָן and אוֹת to occur in the same context as synonyms:
ילמדנו רבינו, מה סימן נתן ר′ יוסי בן קיסמא לתלמידיו, שהיו מטיילין בטבריא, אמרו לו לר′ יוסי רבי אימתי בן דוד בא, אמר להם ר′ יוסי אם אני אומר לכם אתם תבקשו ממנו אות, אמרו לו לאו, אמר להם הרי השער הזה יבנה ויפול יבנה ויפול, ואין מספיקין לבנותו עד שבן דוד בא, אמרו לו רבותינו לר′ יוסי מבקשים אנו אות ממך
Let our rabbis teach us! What sign [סִימָן] did Rabbi Yose ben Kisma give to his disciples? When they were walking about Tiberias they said to Rabbi Yose, “Rabbi, when will the son of David come?” Rabbi Yose said to them, “If I tell you, you will ask of me a sign [אוֹת].” They said to him, “No.” He said to them, “Behold, this gate will be rebuilt and fall and be rebuilt and fall, and they will not have finished rebuilding it when the son of David comes.” They said to our master Rabbi Yose, “We are asking for a sign [אוֹת] from you.” (Tanhuma, VaYishlaḥ §8 [ed. Buber, 1:166])
In the above example סִימָן occurs in the editorial framework while אוֹת occurs in the body of the tradition. In the next example סִימָן occurs in the rabbinic discussion while אוֹת occurs in the biblical quotations.
הִתְחִיל מְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן עַד שֶׁאָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת קַשְׁתִּי נָתַתִּי בֶּעָנַן וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת בְּרִית בֵּינִי וּבֵין הָאָרֶץ…הִתְחִיל לְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיֹּאמֶר חִזְקִיָּהוּ אֶל יְשַׁעְיָהוּ מָה אוֹת כִּי יִרְפָּא ה′ לִי
He [i.e., Noah—DNB and JNT] began asking for a sign [מְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן] until the Holy One, blessed be he, said, My rainbow I have put in the clouds, and it will be a sign [וְהָיְתָה לְאוֹת] of the covenant between me and the earth [Gen. 9:13]…. He [i.e., Hezekiah—DNB and JNT] began to ask for a sign [לְבַקֵּשׁ סִמָּן], as it is said, And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign [אוֹת] that the LORD will heal me…?” [2 Kgs. 20:8]. (Exod. Rab. 9:1 [ed. Merkin, 5:122-123])
This second example of oscillation between סִימָן and אוֹת is similar to our reconstruction, where we use סִימָן for colloquial speech but אוֹת when Jesus refers to a scriptural concept (viz., prophet as a sign of doom). ↩
-  On the variant readings μετανοίας (“repentance”) and διανοίας (“knowledge”), see Flusser, “Jesus and the Sign of the Son of Man,” 528 n. 7. See also Michael E. Stone, “Apocalyptic Literature,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (CRINT II.2; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 383-441, esp. 395 n. 60. ↩
-  See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1263-1264. ↩
-  Pace Catchpole (245), who argued that Jonah could not have been a sign, since being a “sign” entailed an “essentially visual reality” that “points forward to the future divine judgment, and it is not the audible speech or the message issued by the prophet” (e.g., going naked in public [Isa. 20:3] or visually enacting the exile [Ezek. 12:6]). But Catchpole’s reasoning is refuted by Enoch’s appointment as a sign (which Catchpole did not discuss). Enoch, who was hidden away in the Garden of Eden, was not visible to anyone, yet he was a sign for all generations (Jub. 4:22-24). ↩
-  Cf. Wolter, 2:113. ↩
-  Cf., e.g., Fitzmyer, 2:933. ↩
-  Cf. McNeile, 181-182; Kloppenborg, 132-133; Nolland, Luke, 2:653; Wolter, 2:113. ↩
-  On the author of Matthew’s redactional comparison of Jesus’ forty-day fast to Moses’ fast of the same duration, see Yeshua’s Testing, Comment to L17-19. ↩
-  Cadbury (Style, 146-147) cited several examples in DT pericopae, including Luke 11:30 ∥ Matt. 12:40, where, opposite the absence of a conjunction in Matthew, Luke inserts καί “in the apodosis of relative or conditional clauses.” ↩
-  See Jeremias, “Ἰωνᾶς,” 409. ↩
-  See Colpe, “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,” 404; Geza Vermes, “The Present State of the ‘Son of Man’ Debate,” Journal of Jewish Studies 29.2 (1978): 123-134, esp. 123. ↩
-  See Robert L. Lindsey, “The Hebrew Life of Jesus,” under the subheading “Jesus’ Interrogation by the Chief Priests.” For a similar approach, see Randall Buth, “‘Son of Man’: Jesus’ Most Important Title”; idem, “Comments on ‘Son of Man’ Relating to NOT 75,” Notes On Translation 101 (1984): 42-48; idem, “A More Complete Semitic Background for בר־אנשא, ‘Son of Man,’” in The Function of Scripture in Early Jewish and Christian Tradition (ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 176-189. ↩
-  In addition to Lindsey’s conviction that whenever Jesus used the term “Son of Man” he did so in order to allude to the cosmic כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ figure of Daniel 7, Lindsey (“The Hebrew Life of Jesus,” under the subheading “Jesus’ Interrogation by the Chief Priests”) offered two arguments to explain why Jesus would not have used the Hebrew term בֶּן אָדָם (ben ’ādām, “son of a human being/Adam”). First, according to Lindsey, there is no evidence that בֶּן אָדָם was used as a synonym for “person” during Jesus’ period. Second, according to Lindsey, the definite phrase בֶּן הָאָדָם (ben hā’ādām, “the son of the human being/Adam”) never occurs in MT and never would be used because it is too difficult to distinguish in spoken Hebrew between the definite and indefinite forms of the phrase. However, both arguments are spurious.
There is, in fact, evidence of the continued (if limited) use of בֶּן אָדָם as a synonym for “person” in Mishnaic Hebrew, as the following examples demonstrate:
לא תאמץ את לבבך, יש בן אדם שמצטער אם יתן אם לא יתן. ולא תקפוץ את ידך, יש בן אדם שפושט את ידו וחוזר וקופצה.
You must not harden your heart [Deut. 15:7]. [This is said because] there is a person [בֶּן אָדָם] who troubles himself whether to give [to a poor person] or not to give. And you must not shut your hand [Deut. 15:7]. [This is said because] there is a person [בֶּן אָדָם] who stretches out his hand and then withdraws it. (Sifre Deut. §116 [ed. Finkelstein, 175])
וְעָלָיו הַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי וגו′ בְּצוּר יְרוֹמְמֵנִי מַהוּ בְּצוּר יְרוֹמְמֵנִי זָה יְהוֹיָדָע הַכֹּהֵן בֶּן אָדָם שֶׁהוּא דוֹמֶה לְצוּר
And concerning him [i.e., Joash—DNB and JNT] the Scripture says, For he will hide me…on a rock he will lift me up [Ps. 27:5]. And what is [the meaning of] on a rock he will lift me up? This is Jehoiada the priest, a person [בֶּן אָדָם] who was like a rock. (Seder Olam §18 [ed. Guggenheimer, 160])
As for the definite phrase בֶּן הָאָדָם, it is, admittedly, exceedingly rare. It is not, however, impossible, as proven by the fact that in 1QS XI, 20 a scribe intentionally changed the indefinite phrase בֶּן אָדָם to בֶּן הָאָדָם by inserting the definite article -ה. The scribal insertion of the definite article proves both that the scribe who inserted it knew that the phrase בֶּן הָאָדָם could occur and that he believed it should occur at this specific point in his text.
Thus, pace Lindsey, there is no a priori reason why Jesus could not have referred to himself as בֶּן הָאָדָם. Lindsey’s argument that Jesus would not have used the phrase בֶּן הָאָדָם because it “would have given Jesus’ listeners no meaningful hint of Daniel 7:13” simply begs the question.
There may, in fact, be indirect evidence of Jesus’ self-referential use of בֶּן (הָ)אָדָם. In a polemical statement aimed against Christians the third-century sage Rabbi Abbahu claimed:
אם יאמר לך אדם אל אני מכזב הוא בן אדם אני סופו לתהות בו שאני עולה לשמים ההוא אמר ולא יקימנה
If a person says to you, “I am God,” he is a liar. [If he says,] “I am [the] Son of Man [בֶּן אָדָם],” he is destined to regret it. [If he says] that “I am ascending to heaven,” that one may have said it, but he will not fulfill it. (y. Taan. 2:1 [9a])
Rabbi Abbahu’s statement is an anti-Christian exegesis of Num. 23:19, which reads:
לֹא אִישׁ אֵל וִיכַזֵּב וּבֶן אָדָם וְיִתְנֶחָם הַהוּא אָמַר וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה וְדִבֶּר וְלֹא יְקִימֶנָּה
God is not a man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said [a thing] and will not do [it], or spoken and will not fulfill it? (Num. 23:19)
Rabbi Abbahu subverted the plain meaning of Num. 23:19 in order to combat the claims that Christians maintained Jesus made about himself. Was it only against Greek-speaking Gentile Christianity that Rabbi Abbahu polemicized, or was he also familiar with Christian Jews from the land of Israel who preserved the memory of Jesus’ words in their original language? If so, Rabbi Abbahu’s implication that Jesus called himself בֶּן אָדָם (not בַּר אֱנָשׁ!) may preserve an echo of Jesus’ speech. On Rabbi Abbahu’s polemical exegesis of Num. 23:19, see Dalman, 246-247. ↩
-  See Dalman, 241-249; Geza Vermes, “Jesus the son of man” (Vermes, Jew, 160-191, 256-261). ↩
-  As such, the being “like a son of man” corresponds to the four beasts who appear earlier in the vision. The first beast was כְאַרְיֵה (che’aryēh, “like a lion”; Dan. 7:4), but, having wings and human feet, the first beast was not actually a lion. The second beast was דָּמְיָה לְדֹב (domyāh ledov, “like a bear”; Dan. 7:5), but, having ribs in its mouth, it was not actually a bear. The third beast was כִּנְמַר (kinmar, “like a leopard”; Dan. 7:6), but, having four wings and four heads, it was not actually a leopard. The fourth beast (Dan. 7:7) was not likened to any particular animal, being more terrifying than anything known in the animal kingdom. ↩
-  See Colpe, “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,” 423-426; Vermes, “Jesus the son of man,” 173-175; George W. E. Nickelsburg, Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism and Early Christianity (2d ed.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006), 285-286. ↩
-  See David Flusser, “Melchizedek and the Son of Man” (Flusser, JOC, 186-192). ↩
-  See David Flusser, “Son of Man,” Encyclopedia Judaica (2d ed.; 22 vols.; ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik; Detroit: Macmillan, 2007), 19:25; R. Steven Notley, “Jesus and the Son of Man”; Marc Turnage, “Jesus and Caiaphas: An Intertextual-Literary Evaluation” (JS1, 139-168), esp. 151 n. 34, 163-165. ↩
-  See Nickelsburg, Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism and Early Christianity, 283. ↩
-  Pace Bultmann, 118; Colpe, “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,” 449. For a critique of Bultmann’s view, see Fitzmyer, 2:933. ↩
-  There may be a connection between Jesus’ use of “son of man” to connote his homeless existence and his use of “son of man” to signify his status as a prophet of doom. Jonah, who left his home and belongings behind to carry his message to far-away Nineveh, may have served as a scriptural model for Jesus’ itinerant lifestyle. See Gerd Theissen, “Jesus as an Itinerant Teacher: Reflections from Social History on Jesus’ Roles,” in Jesus Research: An International Perspective (ed. James H. Charlesworth and Petr Pokorný; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 98-122, esp. 108-109. ↩
-  See Gundry, Matt., 244. ↩
-  See David Flusser, “‘It Is Not a Serpent that Kills’” (Flusser, JOC, 543-551), esp. 550 n. 23; Bovon, 2:140. ↩
-  There is no mention of a guard placed on Jesus’ tomb in the Gospels of Luke or Mark. The Gospel of John, too, lacks any reference to a guard placed on Jesus’ tomb, despite this Gospel’s anti-Roman orientation. On the anti-Roman tendency of the Gospel of John, see David Flusser, “The Gospel of John’s Jewish-Christian Source,” under the subheading “Intentions and Tendencies of the Jewish-Christian Source.”
That the story of the Roman guard placed on Jesus’ tomb is unique to the Gospel of Matthew is sufficient grounds for questioning its historicity. Additional causes for doubt are 1) the un-Hebraic style in which this account is written and 2) the anti-Jewish viewpoint it expresses is congenial to the worldview of the author of Matthew. On the un-Hebraic style of Matt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15, see Raymond A. Martin, Syntax Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1987), 116 (no. 43 and no. 44). On the author of Matthew’s anti-Jewish bias, see David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560); idem, “Matthew’s ‘Verus Israel’” (Flusser, JOC, 561-574); R. Steven Notley, “Anti-Jewish Tendencies in the Synoptic Gospels”; Tomson, 406-408. On Matt. 27:63, see Flusser, Jesus, 256 n. 7; David Flusser, “The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels” (JS1, 17-40), 35 n. 58. NB: An error occurs in the crucial sentence on p. 35 of Flusser’s “The Synagogue and the Church in the Synoptic Gospels.” The sentence should read: “These are the pertinent passages: The death of Judas (Matt 27:3-5); the legendary report about the miracles after the burial of Jesus
(Matt 27:62-66)58(Matt 27:52-53); and the guard at the tomb (Matt 27:62-66)58 and the bribing of the soldiers (Matt 28:11-15).” ↩
-  The passion predictions in Matt. 16:21, 17:23 and 20:19 are addressed solely to the disciples. ↩
-  See Gundry, Matt., 244-245. ↩
-  The author of Matthew similarly transformed Darnel Among the Wheat and Bad Fish Among the Good into allegories about the coming of the Son of Man by providing both parables with interpretations. Likewise, he transformed the Wicked Tenants parable into an allegory about the transfer of the Kingdom of God from the Jews to the Gentile followers of Jesus by adding Matt. 21:43. ↩
-  Elliott argues in favor of the textual variant of Mark 8:13 that refers explicitly to embarking on the boat. See J. K. Elliott, “An Eclectic Textual Commentary on the Greek Text of Mark’s Gospel,” in New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis (ed. Eldon Jay Epp and Gordon D. Fee; Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), 47-60, esp. 52. ↩
-  See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes”; LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups, under the entry for Mark 2:1. ↩
-  Cf. LHNC, 790. ↩
-  See LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups, under the entry for Mark 4:35. ↩
-  Three times the author of Matthew described Jesus’ departure using the verb καταλείπειν (kataleipein, “to leave”): Matt. 4:13; 16:4; 21:17. The first has no parallel in Luke or Mark, while the other two have parallels in Mark only (Mark 8:13; 11:11), and in neither instance does Mark have the verb καταλείπειν. Thus, καταλείπειν belongs to the author of Matthew’s redactional vocabulary. ↩
Sign-Seeking Generation Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed) τῶν δὲ ὄχλων ἐπαθροιζομένων ἤρξατο λέγειν ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν σημεῖον ζητεῖ καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο ὁ Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευείταις σημεῖον οὕτως ἔσται καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν σημεῖον ζητεῖ καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ Total Words: 42 Total Words: 34 Total Words Identical to Anth.: 34 Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 34 Percentage Identical to Anth.: 80.95% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 100.00%
Sign-Seeking Generation Mark’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed) καὶ ἐξῆλθον οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι καὶ ἤρξαντο συνζητεῖν αὐτῷ ζητοῦντες παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ σημεῖον ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πειράζοντες αὐτόν καὶ ἀναστενάξας τῷ πνεύματι αὐτοῦ λέγει τί ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη ζητεῖ σημεῖον ἀμὴν λέγω εἰ δοθήσεται τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ σημεῖον καὶ ἀφεὶς αὐτοὺς πάλιν ἐμβὰς ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὸ πέραν ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν σημεῖον ζητεῖ καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ Total Words: 46 Total Words: 34 Total Words Identical to Anth.: 8 Total Words Taken Over in Mark: 8 Percentage Identical to Anth.: 17.39% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Mark: 23.53%
Sign-Seeking Generation Matthew’s Version (Anth.) Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed) τότε ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ τινες τῶν γραμματέων λέγοντες διδάσκαλε θέλομεν ἀπὸ σοῦ σημεῖον ἰδεῖν ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλὶς σημεῖον ἐπιζητεῖ καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ιωνᾶ τοῦ προφήτου ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ τρεῖς νύκτας ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη γενεὰ πονηρά ἐστιν σημεῖον ζητεῖ καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ καθὼς γὰρ ἐγένετο Ἰωνᾶς τοῖς Νινευίταις σημεῖον οὕτως ἔσται ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ Total Words: 66 Total Words: 34 Total Words Identical to Anth.: 21 Total Words Taken Over in Matt.: 21 Percentage Identical to Anth.: 31.82% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 61.76%
Sign-Seeking Generation Matthew’s Version (Mark) Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed) καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρεισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς γενεὰ πονηρὰ καὶ μοιχαλεὶς σημεῖον αἰτεῖ καὶ σημεῖον οὐ δοθήσεται αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ τὸ σημεῖον Ἰωνᾶ καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἀπῆλθεν Total Words: 40 Total Words: 34 Total Words Identical to Anth.: 13 Total Words Taken Over in Matt.: 13 Percentage Identical to Anth.: 32.50% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 38.24%