Indiscriminate Catastrophe

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The consequences of persisting in violent struggle with the Roman Empire would be suffered by the innocent and the guilty alike.

Matt. 24:40-41; Luke 17:34-35

(Huck 184, 224; Aland 235, 296; Crook 288, 336)[1]

אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם [בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא] יִהְיוּ שְׁנַיִם עַל הַמִּטָּה אֶחָד נָטוּל וְאֶחָד מוּנָּח יִהְיוּ שְׁנַיִם בַּשָּׂדֶה אֶחָד נָטוּל וְאֶחָד מוּנָּח יִהְיוּ שְׁתַּיִם טוֹחֲנוֹת בָּרֵחַיִם אַחַת נְטוּלָה וְאַחַת מוּנַּחַת

“Yes! And I’ll tell you what: [On the day calamity strikes] two people will be lying on a bed: one of them will be removed, and one of them will be left unharmed. Two people will be in a field: one of them will be removed, and one of them will be left unharmed. Two women will be grinding flour with a mill: one of them will be removed, and one of them will be left unharmed.[2]

A reproduction of our reconstruction in an ancient Hebrew script. Font, based on the Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa), created by Kris Udd.





To view the reconstructed text of Indiscriminate Catastrophe click on the link below:

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In addition to the reconstruction provided above, we note that Flusser provided a retroversion of Indiscriminate Catastrophe, which reads as follows:

אני אומר לכם בלילה ההוא יהיו שנַים על מִטה אחת אחד ילקח ואחד יאָסף שתים תהיינה טוחנות יחד אחת תילקח והשניה תאָסף…שנים יהיו בשדה אחד ילקח והשני יאָסף

I say to you, in that night two will be on one bed: one will be taken, and one will be left. Two will be grinding together: one will be taken, and the second will be left. …Two will be in a field: one will be taken, and the second will be left.[3]

“Choose Repentance
or Destruction” complex
Calamities in Yerushalayim

Woes on Three Villages

Generations That Repented Long Ago

Innocent Blood

Sign-Seeking Generation

Days of the Son of Man

Lesson of Lot’s Wife

Preserving and Destroying

Indiscriminate Catastrophe

Carrion Birds

Like Children Complaining

Story Placement

The author of Luke preserved Indiscriminate Catastrophe in its pre-synoptic context as part of a block of material relating to the Son of Man which included Like Lightning, Days of the Son of Man, Lesson of Lot’s Wife, Preserving and Destroying, Indiscriminate Catastrophe, and Carrion Birds. The author of Matthew, on the other hand, having decided to incorporate the bulk of these materials into his expanded version of Jesus’ eschatological discourse, dislodged Indiscriminate Catastrophe from its pre-synoptic surroundings in order to insert it at what he deemed to be a suitable point within the eschatological discourse. Nevertheless, in Luke and Matthew we witness the same general sequence of Days of the Son of Man→(…)→Indiscriminate Catastrophe.[4]

Anth.’s Son of Man block

We believe it was the inclusion of Like Lightning in the pre-synoptic block of material on the Son of Man that gave the authors of Luke and Matthew (and subsequent readers) the impression that the entire Son of Man block described the eschatological appearance of the Son of Man. There are indications, however, that at an earlier stage of transmission only Like Lightning, which originally belonged to a different context, had an eschatological focus.[5] The remainder of the pericopae in the pre-synoptic Son of Man block described a period within history when Jesus, in his capacity as the Son of Man, functioned as a portent of destruction to his generation.

Just as Jonah had been a sign of doom to the people of Nineveh, so Jesus had become a portent of destruction to the people of his generation.[6] The destruction Jesus foresaw would be the tragic outcome of a violent clash between the Jewish people in the land of Israel and the Roman Empire, which Jesus feared would be the inevitable conclusion of a growing trend of anti-Roman Jewish nationalist militancy.[7] But whereas Jonah’s prophecy of doom had led to Nineveh’s repentance and a revocation of its decreed punishment, Jesus had come to realize that his prophetic warnings of destruction had fallen on deaf ears. Thus Jesus compared—in Days of the Son of Man—his generation to the people in the days of Noah, who carried on as usual, despite the warnings they received from Noah, until they were overwhelmed in the flood. So, too, he compared his generation to the Sodomites in the days of Lot, who ignored Lot’s pleas to change their ways and were ultimately wiped out in the overturn of Sodom.

A first-century C.E. fresco depicting a gladiator. Photographed by Wolfgang Sauber. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Being convinced that the doom decreed against his generation could no longer be averted, Jesus offered his generation—in Lesson of Lot’s Wife and Preserving and Destroying—some practical advice: when the war with Rome finally breaks out, they should take a lesson from the story of Lot’s escape from Sodom; they should drop their possessions and run, without looking back as Lot’s wife had done. Those who dithered over their possessions as Lot had done would risk losing their lives. For—as Jesus warned in Indiscriminate Catastrophe—no distinction would be made in the coming destruction between the deserving and the undeserving, the evil and the good, the righteous and the wicked. Who would die and who would survive would be more or less random.[8] Some would be captured, some put to the sword, some burned in flames. Others would be crucified, or crushed in collapsed buildings, while others might starve. Only those with wisdom enough to take flight and those who escaped by sheer luck would survive. But whether one was taken or one was left, everyone would be a victim of the Roman suppression of the Jewish revolt. Those who were taken would be dead or enslaved. They might end up in the gladiatorial games or in Roman brothels. Those who were left would have to cope with the aftermath of the destruction: the loss of the Temple, the loss of human life, the need to rebuild civic institutions and renew social cohesion. They would also have to come to terms with the fact that all these tragic consequences of the revolt could have been averted had they not rejected Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thus, originally Indiscriminate Catastrophe did not describe a supernatural whisking away of the elect to heaven or a divine snatching away of the damned to hell.[9] Indiscriminate Catastrophe described the horrible fortunes of a coming war in which there would be no rhyme or reason as to why some people would live and some people would die.

Although it is not yet expressed in the pericopae belonging to the “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex, from statements found elsewhere in the Gospels it is apparent that Jesus came to view himself as one of the innocent victims caught up in the clash between the Jews of the land of Israel and the Roman Empire. On being led out to be crucified, Jesus warned the women to weep not for him but for themselves and their children, for if the Romans were willing to kindle green wood (i.e., Jesus, who opposed a militant Jewish uprising), one could only imagine what they would do with wood that was dry (i.e., the Jewish people engaged in an open revolt against the Roman Empire) (Luke 23:27-31). Hence, it was not only in his prophetic capacity that Jesus functioned as a portent of destruction to his generation; his violent and humiliating execution on a Roman cross became a more gruesome sign of the doom awaiting his generation.[10]

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Despite Indiscriminate Catastrophe’s status as a Type 2 Double Tradition (DT) pericope characterized by relatively low verbal agreement,[11] it is probable that the authors of Luke and Matthew both relied on the Anthology (Anth.) for their versions of this pericope. As we have discussed elsewhere, it appears that in his seventeenth chapter the author of Luke took over from a single source a large block of Son of Man material that included Indiscriminate Catastrophe.[12] The identity of that single source is likely to be Anth., since some of the pericopae contained in this block have doublets elsewhere in Luke with distinct First Reconstruction (FR) characteristics.[13] We conclude, therefore, that the low level of verbal identity between the Lukan and Matthean versions of Indiscriminate Catastrophe is due to redactional activity on the part of the authors of Luke and/or Matthew.

A partial parallel to Indiscriminate Catastrophe appears in the Gospel of Thomas.[14]

Crucial Issues

  1. What event does Indiscriminate Catastrophe describe?
  2. Is it better to be taken or better to be left?


L1 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν (GR). We are in agreement with those scholars who suppose that the words λέγω ὑμῖν (legō hūmin, “I say to you”) appeared in Luke’s source.[15] The author of Matthew may have omitted these words in order to create a smoother transition between Days of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:37-39) and Indiscriminate Catastrophe (Matt. 24:40-41). We think it is likely, however, that the interjection ἀμήν (amēn, “Amen!”) occurred in Anth. before λέγω ὑμῖν (“I say to you”). An exclamation of “Amen!” would be appropriate here, since what Jesus says in Indiscriminate Catastrophe (i.e., that the coming destruction will have no respect of persons) reinforces and clarifies the advice Jesus had given in Lesson of Lot’s Wife and Preserving and Destroying (namely that when the calamity strikes, the people should abandon their belongings and take immediate flight). Moreover, we have observed elsewhere that the author of Luke tended to omit the foreign word ἀμήν when it occurred in his source(s).[16]

אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם (HR). On reconstructing ἀμήν (amēn, “Amen!”) with אָמֵן (’āmēn, “Amen!”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L115.

As Lindsey noted, Jesus used “Amen!” to affirm a previous statement (of his own or of another) or (less often) as a positive response to an action. The statement following “Amen!” would then reinforce the statement Jesus affirmed or explain his positive response to the action he observed.[17]

L2 [ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ] (GR). Neither Matthew’s τότε (tote, “then”) nor Luke’s ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ (tavtē tē nūkti, “in this night”) appear to reflect the wording of Anth. The use of τότε is one of the most outstanding features of Matthean redaction,[18] while Luke’s “in this night” is jarring in a context that has referred to the outbreak of war as “in that day” (see Lesson of Lot’s Wife, L1).[19] It is possible, however, that the Lukan-Matthean agreement to open Indiscriminate Catastrophe with a time marker (Matt: “then”; Luke: “in this night”) indicates that Anth., too, had a time marker at the opening of Indiscriminate Catastrophe. If so, that time marker might have been ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ (en ekeinē tē hēmera, “in that day”), the same time marker found at the opening of Lesson of Lot’s Wife.

The author of Luke might have felt compelled to change “in that day” to “in this night” because the example that follows describes two individuals in bed, which suggests a night-time setting. On the other hand, it is possible that Anth. had no opening time marker whatsoever, but the author of Luke still felt compelled to write “in that night” because of the earlier reference to “in that day” in Lesson of Lot’s Wife (L1), which he felt clashed with the apparent night-time depiction of two people in bed. Given our uncertainty whether Anth. had a time marker in L2, in GR we have placed ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ within brackets.

[בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא] (HR). If Anth. read ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ (“in that day”) in L2, this was probably a reflection of בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (bayōm hahū’, “in that day”).[20] However, since we are not entirely confident that ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ was present at this point in Anth., we have placed HR in L2 inside brackets.

L3-10 Although Luke and Matthew both present two scenarios in which one member of a pair is taken and the other is left, only the final scenario (two women grinding flour) is the same. Luke’s first scenario describes a pair in bed, while Matthew’s first scenario describes a pair in a field. Did the author of Luke transform the pair-in-the-field scenario into his pair-in-bed scenario? Or did the author of Matthew transform the pair-in-bed scenario into his pair-in-the-field scenario?[21] Or did Anth. have three scenarios, and by chance the author of Luke selected the pair-in-bed and women-grinding-flour scenarios, while the author of Matthew picked the pair-in-the-field and women-grinding-flour scenarios?[22]

Several considerations make it plausible that Anth. contained three scenarios. First, the author of Luke’s likely addition of “in this night” (see above, Comment to L2) was motivated by the presence of the pair-in-bed scenario in his source, so we can safely conclude that the pair-in-bed scenario occurred in Anth. Second, Matthew’s pair-in-the-field scenario bears no obvious signs of Matthean redaction[23] and easily reverts to Hebrew, so there is no reason why it could not have appeared in Anth. Third, in Fathers Give Good Gifts we encountered a parallel case where Anth. likely had three examples (rock-for-bread, snake-for-fish, scorpion-for-egg), of which the authors of Luke and Matthew each took two examples with only one overlapping (Luke: snake-for-fish, scorpion-for-egg; Matt.: rock-for-bread, snake-for-fish). If such an occurrence could happen once, there is no reason why it could not happen again. Fourth, reasons can be adduced why the authors of Luke and Matthew omitted the scenarios they did: Lesson of Lot’s Wife had previously described a scenario in which someone was out in a field, so the author of Luke might have felt that including the pair-in-the-field scenario in Indiscriminate Catastrophe was redundant. The author of Matthew, meanwhile, may have felt the same tension between the day-time vocabulary of the surrounding context and the night-time imagery of the pair-in-bed scenario that had prompted the author of Luke to write “in this night” in L2. In that case, the author of Matthew’s more elegant solution was simply to omit the pair-in-bed scenario.[24]

Some scholars in favor of the hypothesis that the pre-synoptic source behind the Lukan and Matthean versions of Indiscriminate Catastrophe included all three scenarios have cited a parallel to the three scenarios found in a fragmentary apocalypse.[25] The apocalypse in question is sometimes called An Anonymous Apocalypse and sometimes the Apocalypse of Zephaniah.[26] Whether this apocalypse is a Jewish, Jewish-Christian or Gentile-Christian work, or whether it is an originally Jewish work that was retouched by a Christian editor, is still uncertain, which makes the usefulness of the parallel to Indiscriminate Catastrophe more difficult to assess. In any case, the relevant passage reads thus:

But I went with the angel of the Lord. He took me over my whole city. There was no one to be seen. Then I saw two men walking together on the same road: I saw ⟨them talking⟩. And I saw also two women grinding at a mill together: and I saw them talking. And I saw ⟨also⟩ two on ⟨one⟩ couch, ⟨both of them taking⟩ their ⟨rest(?)⟩ on their couch. ⟨And I saw⟩ the whole world ⟨suspended⟩ like a drop of ⟨water, hanging from a bucket⟩ that comes up ⟨from⟩ a well. (An Anonymous Apocalypse 1:2-5[27] [ed. Sparks, 920])[28]

It is possible that the three scenarios in An Anonymous Apocalypse are indebted to the Gospels, but if that were the case, one wonders why two-men-on-a-road takes the place of Matthew’s pair-in-the-field scenario. One also wonders why the two members of each pair are not separated from one another as they are in the Gospels. According to Wintermute, “the reader was expected to supply a traditional understanding of the visitation of the Angel of Death, who would remove one of the partners in each of these vignettes,”[29] but this is a big assumption with nothing in the text to back it up. We think it is more likely that the three scenarios in An Anonymous Apocalypse functioned as typical examples of people going about their usual business, which the seer witnessed on his journey away from the land of the living toward the abodes of the dead. In other words, the seer “zoomed out” from wherever he was standing and watched his own city diminishing into the distance until finally the whole world appeared to be a drop of water suspended in the air.

In our view, the scenarios described in An Anonymous Apocalypse are probably not derived from the Gospels, but neither can they prove or disprove the hypothesis that the pre-synoptic version of Indiscriminate Catastrophe contained three scenarios of separated pairs. On the contrary, the partial overlap of only two scenarios (pair-in-bed, women-grinding-flour) suggests that Indiscriminate Catastrophe and An Anonymous Apocalypse independently drew from a larger collection of stock examples of people engaging in routine activities (one that included pair-in-a-field, pair-on-the-road, and perhaps others as well).

In Indiscriminate Catastrophe the stock examples of routine activities served much the same function as had the eating and drinking, giving and taking of women in marriage, buying and selling, and building and planting in Days of the Son of Man. Just as calamity had struck in the days of Noah and the days of Lot while the people carried on with their usual activities, so the people of Jesus’ generation would be carrying on with their normal lives when the violent confrontation with Rome would suddenly erupt. When that happened, anyone who failed to flee immediately would be subject to the vicissitudes of war.

Pair-in-Bed Scenario

Photograph by Willem van de Poll (Netherlands, 1933). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L3-6 Our decision to place the pair-in-bed scenario first in the Greek and Hebrew reconstructions rests mainly on our supposition that the presumed night-time setting of the pair-in-bed scenario is what motivated the author of Luke to write “in this night” in L2 and what motivated the author of Matthew to omit this scenario entirely. Such actions make the most sense if pair-in-bed was the first of the three scenarios in Anth. But since the same actions could have been taken if pair-in-bed had been the middle scenario, we freely admit that our ordering of the scenarios is merely a guess.

L3 ἔσονται δύο (GR). Luke’s verb→subject word order in L3 is Hebraic and in agreement with Matthew’s word order in his parallel pair-in-the-field scenario, according to the text of Codex Vaticanus. Other MSS and the critical editions, however, read δύο ἔσονται in Matt. 24:40.

יִהְיוּ שְׁנַיִם (HR). In Hebrew cardinal numbers (e.g., “two”) usually modify a noun (e.g., שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים [shenē ’anāshim, “two men”]), but a cardinal on its own can also serve as the subject of a sentence, as we see in the following examples:

גַּם אִם יִשְׁכְּבוּ שְׁנַיִם וְחַם לָהֶם וּלְאֶחָד אֵיךְ יֵחָם

Also, if two [שְׁנַיִם] lie down, they keep themselves warm, but how does one [אֶחָד] keep warm alone? (Eccl. 4:11)

שְׁנַיִם שֶׁהָיוּ בָעִיר וְשֵׁם אֶחָד יוֹסֵה בֶן שִׁמְעוֹן וְשֵׁם אֶחָד יוֹסֵה בֶן שִׁמְעוֹן

Two [שְׁנַיִם] who were in a city, and the name of one was Yose ben Shimon, and the name of [the other] one was [also] Yose ben Shimon…. (m. Bab. Bat. 10:7)[30]

The verse from Ecclesiastes is not only grammatically similar to our reconstruction, it is also similar in content to the pair-in-bed scenario.

A woman lounges in bed in this fresco from Pompeii photographed by Carole Raddato from Frankfurt, Germany. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L4 ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης (GR). Although omitted in Codex Vaticanus, it is likely that μιᾶς (mias, “one”) appeared after ἐπὶ κλίνης (epi klinēs, “upon a bed”) in the original text of Luke, as the critical editions indicate. It appears that the author of Luke sought to emphasize the proximity and intimacy of the pairs in the two scenarios he presented in Indiscriminate Catastrophe.[31] This he did by writing “on a single bed” in L4 and writing “together” in L12. The fact that different strategies were required to emphasize the intimacy of the pairs suggests that the emphasis is secondary.[32] We have therefore omitted μιᾶς from GR in L4.

In addition to inserting μιᾶς, we think it is likely that the author of Luke dropped the definite article before κλίνης (klinēs, “bed”), since we note that in the Matthean scenarios the locations of the pairs are definite (ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ [“in the field”; L8]; ἐν τῷ μύλῳ [“at the mill”; L12]).

עַל הַמִּטָּה (HR). On reconstructing ἐπί (epi, “upon”) with עַל (‘al, “upon”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L11.

In LXX the noun κλίνη (klinē, “bed,” “couch”) usually occurs as the translation of מִטָּה (miṭāh, “bed,” “couch”).[33] We also find that the LXX translators rendered מִטָּה almost exclusively as κλίνη.[34] The phrase ἐπὶ (τὴν) κλίνην (epi [tēn] klinēn, “on [the] bed”) occurs frequently in LXX as the translation of עַל (הַ)מִּטָּה ( ‘al [ha]miṭāh, “on [the] bed”).[35] Given these data, we are confident in our reconstruction of L4.

Although definite in form, “on the bed” is best understood generically (i.e., “on a bed”), just like “on the roof” and “in the field” were generic in Lesson of Lot’s Wife (L2, L8).

A man reclines in bed in this fresco from Pompeii photographed by Carole Raddato from Frankfurt, Germany. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Both the Greek term κλίνη and the Hebrew term מִטָּה can refer either to a bed for sleeping or a couch for reclining and dining. Therefore, it is not entirely clear whether the scene depicts two people eating together or two people sleeping together. It is also unclear whether the pair consists of two men or of a man and a woman, since grammatically the scene would be worded in Greek and Hebrew in the masculine gender so long as at least one member of the group was male,[36] and since either activity could involve two men or a man and a woman.[37] There are reasons to suspect, however, that two persons sleeping on a bed is the more likely scenario. First, reclining at meals was not customary among the peasant classes except on special occasions.[38] Since the purpose of the scenarios was to depict routine activities, the everyday activity of lying in bed is more likely to have been intended than the exceptional activity of reclining at a festive meal. Second, the author of Luke, and probably the author of Matthew as well (see above, Comment to L3-10), assumed that the scenario took place at night. Night was the customary time for sleeping, whereas festive meals at which one dined in a recumbent position usually began in the late afternoon.[39] The authors of Luke and Matthew could have been wrong in assuming a night-time setting, but their assumption tells us a great deal about their cultural expectations. On reading about two people on a κλίνη, they immediately concluded that the scene took place at night. Since the purpose of the scenario was to depict a routine activity, it is probable that night-time sleeping is the one intended.

L5 εἷς παραλαμβάνεται (GR). Luke’s ὁ εἷς…καὶ ὁ ἕτερος (ho heis…kai ho heteros, “the one…and the other”; L5-6) is stylistically better Greek than Matthew’s εἷς…καὶ εἷς (heis…kai heis, “one…and one”; L9-10).[40] Matthew’s εἷς…καὶ εἷς construction also reverts more easily to Hebrew (see below). We therefore suspect that Luke’s ὁ εἷς…καὶ ὁ ἕτερος construction is a replacement of an εἷς…καὶ εἷς construction in Anth.[41] The author of Luke probably is also responsible for the future passive form παραλημφθήσεται (paralēmfthēsetai, “will be taken”) in L5 and L13, which is a stylistic improvement upon Matthew’s present passive form παραλαμβάνεται (paralambanetai, “is taken”) in L9 and L13.[42] We have therefore modeled GR in L5 on Matthew’s wording in L9 and L13.

אֶחָד נָטוּל (HR). Instances of אֶחָד…וְאֶחָד used to express contrast between two items in a pair are found in the following examples:

הַנִיכְנַס לִכְרַךְ מִתְפַּלֵּל שְׁתַּיִם אַחַת בִּכְנֵיסָתוֹ וְאַחַת בִּיצִיאָתוֹ

The one who enters a city prays two times: one [אַחַת] upon his entrance and one [וְאַחַת] upon his exit. (m. Ber. 9:4)

שְׁנַיִם שֶׁבָּצְרוּ אֶת כַּרְמֵיהֶן לְתוֹךְ גַּת אַחַת אֶחָד מְעַשֵּׂר וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ מְעַשֵּׂר

Two who gathered their vintage in a single winepress, one [אֶחָד] of whom tithed and one [וְאֶחָד] of whom did not tithe…. (m. Dem. 6:7)

שְׁנַיִם שֶׁהָיוּ מְהַלְּכִין בִּרְשׁוּת הָרַבִּים אֶחָד רָץ וְאֶחָד מְהַלֵּך

Two who were using a public walkway, one [אֶחָד] of whom was running and one [וְאֶחָד] of whom was walking…. (m. Bab. Kam. 3:6)

Elsewhere we have reconstructed the simple verb λαμβάνειν (lambanein, “to take”) with נָטַל (nāṭal, “take”).[43] Here it makes sense to reconstruct the related compound verb παραλαμβάνειν (paralambanein, “to take along,” “to apprehend”) with the same Hebrew verb.[44] The passive participle of נָטַל, נָטוּל (nāṭūl), can mean “taken away” or “removed,” as we see in the following example:

בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה הָיוּ אוֹמְרִין שָׁלוֹשׁ נָשִּׁים יוֹצְאוֹת וְנוֹטְלוֹת כְּתוּבָּה הָאוֹמֶרֶת טְמֵאָה אֲנִי לָךְ שָׁמַיִם בֵּינִי לְבֵינָךְ וּנְטוּלָה אֲנִי מִן הַיְּהוּדִים חָזְרוּ לוֹמַר…הָאוֹמֶרֶת טְמֵאָה אָנִי לָךְ תָּבִיא רְאָיָיה לִדְבָרֶיהָ שָׁמַיִם בֵּינִי לְבֵינָךְ יַעֲשׂוּ דֶרֶךְ בַּקָּשָׁה וּנְטוּלָה אֲנִי מִן הַיְּהוּדִים יָפֵר עַל חֶלְקוֹ וּתְהֵא מְשַׁמְּשַׁתּוּ וּתְהֵא נְטוּלָה מִן הַיְּהוּדִים

The earlier sages used to say, “Three women go out [from their husbands, i.e., they are divorced—DNB and JNT] and they take their ketubot [i.e., marriage settlements]: the one who says, ‘I am impure for you!’; [the one who says,] ‘Heaven is between me and you!’; and [the one who says,] ‘I am removed [נְטוּלָה] from the Jews!’” Later they said…, “The one who says, ‘I am impure for you!’—let her bring the proof of her words. [The one who says,] ‘Heaven is between me and you!’—they find a way to appease her. And [the one who says,] ‘I am removed [נְטוּלָה] from the Jews!’—he revokes the vow so far as it concerns him, and she serves him, but she is removed [נְטוּלָה] from [the rest of] the Jews.” (m. Ned. 11:12)

The use of the passive participle נָטוּל in a vow formula suggests that this form would have been commonly used in everyday speech.

L6 καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται (GR). As we discussed in the previous comment, the εἷς…καὶ εἷς (“one…and one”) construction and the present tense verbs of Matthew’s parallel scenario are more likely to reflect the wording of Anth. than Luke’s stylistically better ὁ εἷς…καὶ ὁ ἕτερος (“the one…and the other”) and future passive verb. We have accordingly modeled GR in L6 on Matthew’s wording in L10.

וְאֶחָד מוּנָּח (HR). On reconstructing ἀφιέναι (afienai, “to leave”) with הִנִּיחַ (hiniaḥ, “leave”), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L97. The passive participle מוּנָּח (mūnāḥ) usually has the sense of “left alone” or “remain undisturbed,” as we see in the following examples:

ר′ מֵאִיר אוֹמֵ′ מוֹתַר הַמֵּת יְהֵא מוּנַּח עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹא אֵלִיָּהוּ

Rabbi Meir says, “Excess [monies collected on behalf] of the dead [person]: it must be left [מוּנַּח] until Elijah comes.” (m. Shek. 2:5)

מָצָא שְׁטָר בֵּין שְׁטָרוֹתָיו וְאֵין יָדוּעַ מַה טִּיבּוֹ יְהֵא מוּנַּח עַד שֶׁיָּבֹא אֵלִיָּהוּ

If he found a document among his documents, and it was not known what its nature was, it must be left [מוּנַּח] until Elijah comes. (m. Bab. Metz. 1:8; cf. m. Bab. Metz. 3:4, 5)

The following passage provides examples of מוּנָּח contrasted with נָטַל (nāṭal, “take”):

והיה מונח עד רחבעם בא שישק מלך מצרים ונטלו מרחבעם שנאמר ויהי בשנה החמישית למלך רחבעם עלה שישק מלך מצרים [על ירושלים] ויקח את אוצרות בית ה’ ואת אוצרות בית המלך בא זרח מלך כוש ונטלו משישק בא אסא ונטלוהו מזרח מלך כוש ושיגרו להדרימון בן טברימון באו בני עמון ונטלום מהדרימון בן טברימון בא יהושפט ונטלו מבני עמון והיה מונח עד אחז בא סנחריב ונטלו מאחז בא חזקיה ונטלו מסנחריב והיה מונח עד צדקיה באו כשדיים ונטלוהו מצדקיה באו פרסיים ונטלוהו מכשדיים באו יוונים ונטלוהו מפרסיים באו רומיים ונטלוהו מיד יוונים ועדיין מונח ברומי

And it [i.e., the treasure the redeemed Hebrew slaves took from the Egyptians—DNB and JNT] was left undisturbed [מוּנָּח] until [the time of] Rehoboam. Shishak king of Egypt came and took it [וּנְטָלוֹ] from Rehoboam, as it is said, And in the fifteenth year of King Rehoboam Shishak king of Egypt went up against Jerusalem. And he took the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the house of the king [1 Kgs. 14:25-26]. Zerah king of Cush came and took it [וּנְטָלוֹ] from Shishak, Asa came and they took it [וּנְטָלוּהוּ] from Zerah king of Cush and sent it to Hadrimon son of Tavrimon. The Ammonites came and took them [וּנְטָלוּם] from Hadrimon son of Tavrimon. Jehosaphat came and took it [וּנְטָלוֹ] from the Ammonites, and it remained undisturbed [מוּנָּח] until the time of Ahaz. Sennacherib came and took it [וּנְטָלוֹ] from Ahaz. Hezekiah came and took it [וּנְטָלוֹ] from Sennacherib, and it remained undisturbed [מוּנָּח] until Zedekiah. The Babylonians came and took it [וּנְטָלוּהוּ] from Zedekiah. The Persians came and took it from the Babylonians. The Greeks came and took it [וּנְטָלוּהוּ] from the Persians. The Romans came and took it [וּנְטָלוּהוּ] from the Greeks, and it still remains [מוּנָּח] in Rome. (b. Pes. 119a)

Pair-in-the-Field Scenario

Wheat harvest in Ein Hahoresh sometime between 1930 and 1940. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L7-10 Some ancient MSS of Luke have a parallel to Matthew’s pair-in-the-field scenario following women-grinding-flour in Luke 17:36, but the attestation for this verse is poor. A scribal addition intended to harmonize the Lukan and Matthean versions of Indiscriminate Catastrophe probably is the best way to account for the presence of pair-in-the-field in the few MSS that include Luke 17:36.[45]

L7 ἔσονται δύο (GR). Whether or not the word order ἔσονται δύο in Codex Vaticanus reflects the original text of Matthew or a scribal error (critical editions read δύο ἔσονται), ἔσονται δύο is the more Hebraic word order, and it is corroborated by Luke 17:34 in L3. We have therefore adopted Vaticanus’ reading for GR.

יִהְיוּ שְׁנַיִם (HR). On reconstructing ἔσονται δύο (esontai dūo, “two will be”) with יִהְיוּ שְׁנַיִם (yihyū shenayim, “two will be”), see above, Comment to L3.

L8 ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ (GR). Since Matthew’s wording in L8 reverts to Hebrew without difficulty, there is no reason to suspect that it deviates in any way from the wording of Anth. We have accordingly accepted Matthew’s wording in L8 for GR.

בַּשָּׂדֶה (HR). On reconstructing ἀγρός (agros, “field”) with שָׂדֶה (sādeh, “field”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L4. The phrase ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ (en tō agrō, “in the field”) also occurs in Lesson of Lot’s Wife (L8), where we likewise reconstructed it as בַּשָּׂדֶה (basādeh, “in the field”). Both there and here “in the field” is definite in form but generic in meaning (i.e., “in a field”).

L9 εἷς παραλαμβάνεται (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L5, we believe Matthew’s εἷς παραλαμβάνεται (heis paralambanetai, “one is taken”) reflects the wording of Anth. We have therefore accepted εἷς παραλαμβάνεται for GR.

אֶחָד נָטוּל (HR). On reconstructing εἷς παραλαμβάνεται (heis paralambanetai, “one is taken”) as אֶחָד נָטוּל (’eḥād nāṭūl, “one is removed”), see above, Comment to L5.

L10 καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L6, we believe Matthew’s καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται (kai heis afietai, “one is left”) reflects the wording of Anth. We have therefore accepted καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται for GR.

וְאֶחָד מוּנָּח (HR). On reconstructing καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται (kai heis afietai, “one is left”) as וְאֶחָד מוּנָּח (ve’eḥād mūnāḥ, “and one is left undisturbed”), see above, Comment to L6.

Women-Grinding-Flour Scenario

Photograph of two bedouin women grinding at a mill in Palestine during the late Ottoman period or the British Mandatory period. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L11 ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι (GR). Matthew and Luke are in agreement as to the wording in L11 with the exception of ἔσονται (“will be”), which Luke includes and Matthew omits. Since Luke’s wording reverts to Hebrew exactly, we have accepted ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι (esontai dūo alēthousai, “two will be grinding”) for GR.[46]

יִהְיוּ שְׁתַּיִם טוֹחֲנוֹת (HR). Although the Greek in L11 is not gender specific, the Greek in L13-14 is feminine, and therefore we must use feminine forms (שְׁתַּיִם [shetayim, “two”]; טוֹחֲנוֹת [ṭōḥanōt, “grinding”]) for HR in L11. Whereas lying in a bed or working in a field were activities that either men or women would normally engage in, using a hand mill to grind grain into flour was generally the responsibility of women, as rabbinic sources attest (cf., e.g., m. Shev. 5:9; m. Ket. 5:5; m. Git. 5:9; m. Toh. 7:4).

Flusser[47] and Resch[48] used the feminine form תִּהְיֶינָה (tihyenāh, “they will be”) to reconstruct ἔσονται in L11. In Mishnaic Hebrew, however, the (originally) masculine form of third person plural imperfect verbs served for both genders.[49] Our reconstruction of ἔσονται with יִהְיוּ (yihyū, “they will be”) reflects our preference for reconstructing direct speech in Mishnaic-style Hebrew.

In LXX the verb ἀλήθειν (alēthein, “to grind”) occurs 4xx: 3xx as the translation of טָחַן (ṭāḥan, “grind”; Num. 11:8; Judg. 16:21; Eccl. 12:3) and 1x as the translation of טַחֲנָה (ṭaḥanāh, “mill”; Eccl. 12:4).[50] The verb טָחַן occurs 8xx in MT (Exod. 32:20; Num. 11:8; Deut. 9:21; Judg. 16:21; Isa. 3:15; 47:2; Job 31:10; Eccl. 12:3), which the LXX translators more often rendered with ἀλήθειν than with any other verb.[51] Since the verb טָחַן continued to be used for “grind” in Mishnaic Hebrew, we feel confident in our selection for HR.

The following examples provide instances of טָחַן used to describe women’s grinding of flour:

אֵשֶׁת חָבֵר מַשְׁאֶלֶת לְאֵשֶׁת עַם הָאָרֶץ נָפָה וּכְבָרָה וּבוֹרֶרֶת וְטוֹחֶנֶת וּמְרַקֶּדֶת עִימָּהּ

The wife of a haver may lend to the wife of an am haaretz a sifter or a sieve, and she may winnow and grind [וְטוֹחֶנֶת] and sift with her. (m. Shev. 5:9; cf. m. Git. 5:9)

אֵלּוּ מְלָאכוֹת שֶׁהָאִשָׁה עוֹשָׂה לְבַעְלָהּ טוֹחֶנֶת וְאוֹפָה [וּמְכַבֶּסֶת] וּמְבַשֶּׁלֶת וּמֵנִיקָה אֶת בְּנָהּ וּמַצַּעַת אֶת הַמִּיטָּה וְעוֹשָׂה בַצֶּמֶר

These are the labors that a wife performs for her husband: she grinds [טוֹחֶנֶת], and bakes, [and launders,] and boils, and nurses her child, and makes the bed, and works with wool. (m. Ket. 5:5)

אֵשֶׁת חָבֵר שֶׁהִנִּיחָהּ לְאֵשֶׁת עַם הָאָרץ טוֹחֶנֶת בְּתוֹךְ בֵּיתָהּ פָּסְקָה הָרֵיחַיִים הַבַּיִת טָמֵא

The wife of a haver who left the wife of an am haaretz grinding inside her house, and she took a break from the hand mill: the house is impure. (m. Toh. 7:4)

Two women in Palestine grinding grain at a hand mill (1920). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L12 ἐν τῷ μύλῳ (GR). As we discussed above in Comment to L4, it appears that the author of Luke’s special emphasis on the intimacy of the pairs in Indiscriminate Catastrophe accounts for the reading ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό (epi to avto, “together”) in Luke 17:35.[52] Aside from Luke 17:35, there is only one other instance of the phrase ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό in the Synoptic Gospels, namely Matt. 22:34, where it is probably redactional. On the other hand, there are four instances of ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό in Luke’s prose in Acts (Acts 1:15; 2:1, 44, 47),[53] which lends credibility to the supposition that the one instance of ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό in Luke’s Gospel came not from Luke’s source but from the author of Luke’s pen. Matthew’s phrase, ἐν τῷ μύλῳ (en tō mūlō, “at the mill”), meanwhile, conforms to the way the locations are described in the other two scenarios in Indiscriminate Catastrophe (pair-in-bed: ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης [“on the bed”], L4; pair-in-the-field: ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ [“in the field”], L8) and reverts easily to Hebrew (see below).[54]

בָּרֵחַיִם (HR). While we have not found examples of the phrase “grinding together” (à la Luke) in Hebrew sources, we have found examples of “grinding with a mill” (à la Matthew), for instance:

שָׁטוּ הָעָם וְלָקְטוּ וְטָחֲנוּ בָרֵחַיִם

The people went about and gathered [the manna—DNB and JNT] and ground it with the mill…. (Num. 11:8)

καὶ διεπορεύετο ὁ λαὸς καὶ συνέλεγον καὶ ἤληθον αὐτὸ ἐν τῷ μύλῳ

And the people went about and gathered [the manna—DNB and JNT] and ground it with the mill…. (Num. 11:8)

בנות כפרים העליון בא תחלה מפני שהן טוחנות בריחים ונושאות כדין על גיסיהן

In the case of women from villages, the [signs of physical maturity on the] upper [part of the body] come first, because they grind with the mill [טוֹחֲנוֹת בָּרֵיחַיִם] and carry jars on their sides. (t. Nid. 6:9; Vienna MS)

The Babylonian Talmud even considers a scenario in which two women were grinding with a hand mill (שתי נשים שהיו טוחנות ברחיים של יד; b. Nid. 60b).

In LXX most instances of μύλος (mūlos, “mill,” “millstone”) occur as the translation of רֵחַיִם (rēḥayim, “mill,” “millstone”),[55] and the LXX translators always rendered רֵחַיִם as μύλος.[56] Although there are Hebrew synonyms for “mill,” such as טַחֲנָה (ṭaḥanāh), we have not been able to find instances of טָחַן בַּטַּחֲנָה (ṭāḥan baṭaḥanāh, “grind with the mill”), whereas we have already supplied instances of טָחַן בָּרֵחַיִם (ṭāḥan bārēḥayim, “grind with the mill”) above.

L13-14 μία παραλαμβάνεται καὶ μία ἀφίεται (GR). On our preference in GR for Matthew’s μία…καὶ μία (mia…kai mia, “one…and one”; L13-14) over Luke’s stylistically better ἡ μία…ἡ δὲ ἑτέρα (hē mia…hē de hetera, “the one…but the other”; L13-14), see our discussion on the analogous εἷς…καὶ εἷς (“one…and one”) versus ὁ εἷς…καὶ ὁ ἕτερος (“the one…and the other”) in Comment to L5.[57]

Likewise, on our preference in GR for Matthew’s present tense verbs, παραλαμβάνεται (“is taken”) and ἀφίεται (“is left”), over Luke’s future tense verbs, παραλημφθήσεται (“will be taken”) and ἀφεθήσεται (“will be left”), see above, Comment to L5.

אַחַת נְטוּלָה וְאַחַת מוּנַּחַת (HR). On reconstructing παραλαμβάνειν (paralambanein, “to take along,” “to apprehend”) with נָטַל (nāṭal, “take”), see above, Comment to L5.

On reconstructing ἀφιέναι (afienai, “to leave”) with הִנִּיחַ (hiniaḥ, “leave”), see above, Comment to L6. Here the forms in Greek and Hebrew are feminine because both members of the pair are women.[58]

Redaction Analysis

Both the Lukan and Matthean versions of Indiscriminate Catastrophe made significant departures from the version in Anth. But each version also preserved certain original features: Luke’s version preserves the original literary setting of Indiscriminate Catastrophe, while Matthew’s version adheres closely to the wording of Anth.

Luke’s Version[59]

Indiscriminate Catastrophe
Luke Anthology
29 Total
34 [38]
to Anth.:
12 [13] Total
Taken Over
in Luke:
12 [13]
to Anth.:
41.38 [44.83] % of Anth.
in Luke:
35.29 [34.21]
Click here for details.

The author of Luke made numerous stylistic “improvements” to Indiscriminate Catastrophe: dropping the foreign word “Amen!” in L1; dropping the definite article before “bed” in L4; adding the definite article before “one” in L5 and L13; changing verbs to the future tense in L5, L6, L13 and L14; changing “one” to “the other” in L6 and L14; and changing καί (“and”) to δέ (“but”) in L14.

Other changes the author of Luke made to Indiscriminate Catastrophe were not so much a matter of grammatical style but of literary quality: he wrote “in this night” in L2 because of the night-time setting; he omitted the pair-in-the-field scenario because a person-in-a-field scenario had occurred just a few sentences earlier in Lesson of Lot’s Wife; and he emphasized the intimacy of the pairs by writing “in one bed” (L4) in the pair-in-bed scenario and “together” instead of “at the mill” (L12) in the women-grinding-flour scenario.

Matthew’s Version[60]

Indiscriminate Catastrophe
Matthew Anthology
21 Total
34 [38]
to Anth.:
20 Total
Taken Over
in Matt.:
to Anth.:
95.24 % of Anth.
in Matt.:
58.82 [52.63]
Click here for details.

Despite adhering closely to the wording of Anth. in the parts of Indiscriminate Catastrophe that he decided to include, the author of Matthew made two significant changes to Indiscriminate Catastrophe as he had found it in his source: 1) he integrated it into his version of Jesus’ eschatological discourse, based on Mark 13, and 2) he omitted the pair-in-bed scenario, probably because its night-time setting seemed discordant in a context about the day(s) of the Son of Man. The author of Matthew also added his trademark τότε (“then”) at the opening of the pericope.

Results of This Research

1. What event does Indiscriminate Catastrophe describe? In the Gospels of Luke and Matthew Indiscriminate Catastrophe describes events surrounding the eschatological appearance of the Son of Man. For this reason Indiscriminate Catastrophe is usually interpreted as a description of the eschatological ingathering of the renewed Israel or the eschatological removal of the wicked.[61] Nevertheless, there are reasons to suppose that the eschatological context of Indiscriminate Catastrophe is artificial, ultimately owing to the clumping together in Anth. of originally unrelated Son of Man sayings.[62] At an earlier stage of transmission it is likely that Indiscriminate Catastrophe belonged to a context in which Jesus warned of a coming clash between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire that would end in calamity for Israel. In that context Indiscriminate Catastrophe described the more or less random destruction that would be wreaked by the conquering Roman legions.[63]

A first-century C.E. coin depicting a Jewish woman in a posture of mourning beneath a palm tree in front of a Roman soldier, symbolizing the Roman triumph over the Jewish revolt. The inscription reads IVDAEA CAPTA (“Judea Is Captured”). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

2. Is it better to be taken or better to be left? There is no consensus among those scholars who interpret Indiscriminate Catastrophe as referring to the eschatological appearance of the Son of Man whether it is better to be taken or left, since the “taking” could either refer to being swept away in judgment or to the ingathering of the redeemed.[64] Among the minority of scholars who regard Indiscriminate Catastrophe as an apocalyptic description of the confrontation Jesus anticipated would take place between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire, there is general agreement that being left is a providential mercy or a lucky escape. In our view, neither being taken nor being left is particularly enviable. Those who are taken will be casualties or captives of the Roman legions, while those who remain will be left to pick up the pieces and mourn the tragedy that has befallen Israel.


In Indiscriminate Catastrophe Jesus underscored the reason why it would be prudent to take flight without concern for one’s possessions when the war with Rome finally erupts: when the legions come sweeping through the land of Israel, the soldiers will not stop to ask whether individual Jews are “good” or “bad”; they will reconquer the land with swift and merciless expediency.

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See David Flusser, “The Literary Relationship Between the Three Gospels,” in his Jewish Sources in Early Christianity: Studies and Essays (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1979 [in Hebrew]), 28-49, esp. 46. The English translation of Flusser’s retroversion is our own.
  • [4] See our discussion in Days of the Son of Man, under the “Story Placement” subheading.
  • [5] On the secondary attachment of the eschatologically oriented Like Lightning pericope to the pre-existing Son of Man block pertaining to the Son of Man’s role in the present and the coming destruction in the near future, see Days of the Son of Man, under the “Story Placement” subheading.
  • [6] On Jesus’ role as a sign of doom to his generation, see Sign-Seeking Generation, Comment to L39.
  • [7] On Jesus’ warnings against the rising tide of anti-Roman Jewish nationalist militancy, see Calamities in Yerushalayim, Comment to L12-13.
  • [8] Pace Fitzmyer (2:1167), who maintained that Luke 17:34-35 ∥ Matt. 24:41 emphasizes “the discretionary or discriminatory aspect of the judgment which will occur on the day(s) of the Son of Man.” As Guenther rightly observed, the basis upon which one is taken and the other left is never stated. See Heinz O. Guenther, “When ‘Eagles’ Draw Together,” Forum 5.2 (1989): 140-150, esp. 143. We think this omission of a rationale for the taking of some and the leaving of others is intentional. Who is taken and who is left is entirely arbitrary, a matter of chance. Hence the title we have given to this pericope: Indiscriminate Catastrophe. Cf. Gill, 7:674.
  • [9] Cf. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 366. Note that the flood in the days of Noah and the overturn of Sodom in the days of Lot, to which Jesus compared the coming catastrophe, were natural phenomena. The wicked were not sucked up in a supernatural vacuum hose, neither were the righteous transported to safety via divinely controlled pneumatic tubes. Jesus did, of course, describe the calamity he anticipated in apocalyptic terms, as was natural in a first-century Jewish context. However, Jesus’ use of apocalyptic imagery and vocabulary does not exclude the historical realization of these predictions in mundane events.
  • [10] It is possible that Jesus’ developing realization that it was not only in his teaching and exhortation but also in his manner of death that he would be a portent of doom to his generation contributed to a shift in Jesus’ use of Son of Man terminology. Initially, Jesus used Son of Man terminology to refer to his Jonah-like function as a prophet of doom to his generation, but eventually Jesus began using Son of Man terminology in the predictions of his martyrdom. If he understood both his teaching and his manner of death as signs of a coming judgment, this would go a long way in explaining why Jesus used Son of Man terminology in both contexts.
  • [11] For precise measurements of verbal agreement in Indiscriminate Catastrophe, see LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae. Low levels of verbal agreement in DT pericopae are often an indication that the author of Luke relied on FR, whereas the author of Matthew relied on Anth.
  • [12] See Days of the Son of Man, under the “Story Placement” subheading.
  • [13] Thus, for instance, the doublet of Preserving and Destroying that appears in Luke 9:24 belongs to a “string of pearls” characteristic of FR, it contains distinctive FR vocabulary, and it exhibits a christological soteriology not present in the Luke 17:33 (Anth.) version of the saying. See further Preserving and Destroying, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [14] The parallel to Indiscriminate Catastrophe in the Gospel of Thomas reads:

    Jesus said: Two will rest on a bed: the one will die, the one will live. (Gos. Thom. §61 [ed. Guillaumont, 33-35])

  • [15] Cf., e.g., Marshall, 667; Fitzmyer, 2:1172; Kloppenborg, 162.

    In support of tracing λέγω ὑμῖν to Luke’s source, Fitzmyer (2:1172) claimed that this formula “is characteristically non-Lucan.” However, it is not easy to substantiate Fitzmyer’s claim. The Gospel of Luke has a total of forty-eight instances of λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν, compared to sixty instances in Matthew and nineteen instances in Mark (see table below). Of Luke’s forty-eight instances, twenty-five have no corroboration from Mark or Matthew (9xx in pericopae unique to Luke; 5xx in TT pericopae but in verses that have no parallel in Mark or Matthew; 1x in a TT pericope with parallel verses in Mark and Matthew; 10xx in DT pericopae). In these twenty-five instances of uncorroborated λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν in Luke, we must either suppose that Luke copied λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν from his source(s)—difficult in the case of the TT pericopae if one is a Markan Priorist—or that he added λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν to his text. We think it is probable that most of Luke’s instances of λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν do reflect the wording of his source(s), but each instance must be weighed on its individual merits. So far we have concluded that the uncorroborated instances of λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν in Luke 7:14; 11:9 (cf. Matt. 7:7); 13:3, 5; 15:10 (cf. Matt. 18:14); 18:8 stem from Luke’s source(s). To this list we may now also add Luke 17:34 (cf. Matt. 24:40). On λέγω + σοι in Luke 7:14, see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L15; on λέγω + ὑμῖν in Luke 11:9, see Friend in Need, Comment to L21; on λέγω + ὑμῖν in Luke 13:3, see Calamities in Yerushalayim, Comment to L12; on λέγω + ὑμῖν in Luke 13:5, see Calamities in Yerushalayim, Comment to L20; on λέγω + ὑμῖν in Luke 15:10, see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comments to L53 and L55; on λέγω + ὑμῖν in Luke 18:8, see Persistent Widow, Comment to L25.

    We note, too, that there are eight instances in DT pericopae where Matthew’s use of λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν is not reflected in Luke (Matt. 5:39 [cf. Luke 6:29]; 8:11 [cf. Luke 13:29]; 10:27 [cf. Luke 12:3]; 11:22 [cf. Luke 10:14], 24 [cf. Luke 10:14]; 12:36 [cf. Luke 6:45]; 17:20 [cf. Luke 17:6]; 18:22 [cf. Luke 17:4]). Some or all of these could be instances where the author of Matthew added λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν to his text, but if not, they might indicate that the author of Luke was not always willing to accept λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν from his source, and perhaps as a corollary we might suspect that the author of Luke was unlikely to add λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν on his own initiative.

    The following table shows all the instances of λέγω + σοι/ὑμῖν in the Synoptic Gospels with parallels (if any):

    Matt. 3:9 DT = Luke 3:8

    Matt. 5:18 U

    Matt. 5:20 U

    Matt. 5:22 U

    Matt. 5:26 DT = Luke 12:59

    Matt. 5:28 U

    Matt. 5:32 TT (cf. Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18)

    Matt. 5:34 U

    Matt. 5:39 DT (cf. Luke 6:29)

    Matt. 5:44 DT = Luke 6:27

    Matt. 6:2 U

    Matt. 6:5 U

    Matt. 6:16 U

    Matt. 6:25 DT = Luke 12:22

    Matt. 6:29 DT = Luke 12:27

    Matt. 8:10 DT = Luke 7:9

    Matt. 8:11 DT (cf. Luke 13:29)

    Matt. 10:15 DT = Luke 10:12

    Matt. 10:23 U

    Matt. 10:27 DT (cf. Luke 12:3)

    Matt. 10:42 Mk-Mt = Mark 9:41

    Matt. 11:9 DT = Luke 7:26

    Matt. 11:11 DT = Luke 7:28

    Matt. 11:22 DT (cf. Luke 10:14)

    Matt. 11:24 DT (cf. Luke 10:14)

    Matt. 12:6 TT (cf. Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4)

    Matt. 12:31 TT = Mark 3:28 (cf. Luke 12:10)

    Matt. 12:36 DT (cf. Luke 6:45)

    Matt. 13:17 DT = Luke 10:24

    Matt. 16:18 TT (cf. Mark 8:[–]; Luke 9:[–])

    Matt. 16:28 TT = Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27

    Matt. 17:12 Mk-Mt = Mark 9:13

    Matt. 17:20 DT (cf. Luke 17:6)

    Matt. 18:3 TT (cf. Mark 9:35; Luke 9:48)

    Matt. 18:10 U

    Matt. 18:13 DT = Luke 15:7

    Matt. 18:18 U

    Matt. 18:19 U

    Matt. 18:22 DT (cf. Luke 17:4)

    Matt. 19:9 TT (cf. Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18)

    Matt. 19:23 TT (cf. Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24)

    Matt. 19:24 TT (cf. Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25)

    Matt. 19:28 TT = Mark 10:29; Luke 18:29

    Matt. 21:21 Mk-Mt = Mark 11:23

    Matt. 21:27 TT = Mark 11:33; Luke 20:8

    Matt. 21:31 U

    Matt. 21:43 TT (cf. Mark 12:[–]; Luke 20:[–])

    Matt. 23:36 DT = Luke 11:51

    Matt. 23:39 DT = Luke 13:35

    Matt. 24:2 TT (cf. Mark 13:2; Luke 21:6)

    Matt. 24:34 TT = Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32

    Matt. 24:47 TT = Luke 12:44 (cf. Mark 13:[–]; Luke 21:[–])

    Matt. 25:12 U

    Matt. 25:40 U

    Matt. 25:45 U

    Matt. 26:13 Mk-Mt = Mark 14:9

    Matt. 26:21 TT = Mark 14:18 (cf. Luke 22:21)

    Matt. 26:29 TT = Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18

    Matt. 26:34 TT = Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34

    Matt. 26:64 TT (cf. Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69)

    Mark 2:11 TT = Luke 5:24 (cf. Matt. 9:6)

    Mark 3:28 TT = Matt. 12:31 (cf. Luke 12:10)

    Mark 5:41 TT (cf. Matt. 9:25; Luke 8:54)

    Mark 8:12 TT (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29)

    Mark 9:1 TT = Matt. 16:28; Luke 9:27

    Mark 9:13 Mk-Mt = Matt. 17:12

    Mark 9:41 Mk-Mt = Matt. 10:42

    Mark 10:15 TT = Luke 18:17 (cf. Matt. 19:14)

    Mark 10:29 TT = Matt. 19:28; Luke 18:29

    Mark 11:23 Mk-Mt = Matt. 21:21

    Mark 11:24 Mk-Mt (cf. Matt. 21:22)

    Mark 11:33 TT = Matt. 21:27; Luke 20:8

    Mark 12:43 Lk-Mk = Luke 21:3

    Mark 13:30 TT = Matt. 24:34; Luke 21:32

    Mark 13:37 TT (cf. Matt. 24:[–]; 25:13; Luke 12:40; 21:[–])

    Mark 14:9 Mk-Mt = Matt. 26:13

    Mark 14:18 TT = Matt. 26:21 (cf. Luke 22:21)

    Mark 14:25 TT = Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:18

    Mark 14:30 TT = Matt. 26:34; Luke 22:34

    Luke 3:8 DT = Matt. 3:9

    Luke 4:24 TT (cf. Matt. 13:57; Mark 6:4)

    Luke 4:25 TT (cf. Matt. 13:[–]; Mark 6:[–])

    Luke 5:24 TT = Mark 2:11 (cf. Matt. 9:6)

    Luke 6:27 DT = Matt. 5:44

    Luke 7:9 DT = Matt. 8:10

    Luke 7:14 U

    Luke 7:26 DT = Matt. 11:9

    Luke 7:28 DT = Matt. 11:11

    Luke 7:47 U

    Luke 9:27 TT = Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1

    Luke 10:12 DT = Matt. 10:15

    Luke 10:24 DT = Matt. 13:17

    Luke 11:8 U

    Luke 11:9 DT (cf. Matt. 7:7)

    Luke 11:51 DT = Matt. 23:36

    Luke 12:4 DT (cf. Matt. 10:28)

    Luke 12:5 DT (cf. Matt. 10:28)

    Luke 12:8 DT (cf. Matt. 10:32)

    Luke 12:22 DT = Matt. 6:25

    Luke 12:27 DT = Matt. 6:29

    Luke 12:37 TT (cf. Matt. 24:[–]; Mark 13:[–]; Luke 21:[–])

    Luke 12:44 TT = Matt. 24:47 (cf. Mark 13:[–]; Luke 21:[–])

    Luke 12:51 DT (cf. Matt. 10:34)

    Luke 12:59 DT = Matt. 5:26

    Luke 13:3 U

    Luke 13:5 U

    Luke 13:24 DT (cf. Matt. 7:13)

    Luke 13:35 DT = Matt. 23:39

    Luke 14:24 DT (cf. Matt. 22:[–])

    Luke 15:7 DT = Matt. 18:13

    Luke 15:10 DT (cf. Matt. 18:14)

    Luke 16:9 U

    Luke 17:34 DT (cf. Matt. 24:40)

    Luke 18:8 U

    Luke 18:14 U

    Luke 18:17 TT = Mark 10:15 (cf. Matt. 19:14)

    Luke 18:29 TT = Matt. 19:28; Mark 10:29

    Luke 19:26 DT (cf. Matt. 25:29)

    Luke 19:40 TT (cf. Matt. 21:[–]; Mark 11:[–])

    Luke 20:8 TT = Matt. 21:27; Mark 11:33

    Luke 21:3 Lk-Mk = Mark 12:43

    Luke 21:32 TT = Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30

    Luke 22:16 TT (cf. Matt. 26:[–]; Mark 14:[–])

    Luke 22:18 TT = Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25

    Luke 22:34 TT = Matt. 26:34; Mark 14:30

    Luke 22:37 U

    Luke 23:43 TT (cf. Matt. 27:[–]; Mark 15:[–])

    Key: TT = pericope has parallels in all three Synoptic Gospels; DT = Lukan-Matthean pericope; Mk-Mt = Markan-Matthean pericope; Lk-Mk = Lukan-Markan pericope; U = pericope unique to a particular Gospel; [–] = no corresponding word and/or verse

  • [16] On the author of Luke’s tendency to omit or replace ἀμήν when it occurred in his source(s), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L115.
  • [17] See Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [18] Cf. Gundry, Matt., 494. On τότε as an indicator of Matthean redaction, see Jesus and a Canaanite Woman, Comment to L22.
  • [19] See Bovon, 2:522-523.
  • [20] On reconstructing ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ with בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, see Lesson of Lot’s Wife, Comment to L1.
  • [21] For the view that Matthew changed the pair-in-bed scenario into his pair-in-the-field scenario, see Gundry, Matt., 494; Bovon, 2:523.
  • [22] McNeile (357), Knox (1:114 n. 2) and Davies-Allison (3:382) entertained the possibility that the source behind Luke and Matthew contained all three scenarios. Manson (Sayings, 146) and Nolland (Luke, 2:857; Matt., 994) championed this view.
  • [23] See Luz, 3:212.
  • [24] The suggestion of Davies and Allison that the author of Matthew omitted the pair-in-bed scenario because “the saying put him in mind of homosexuality” (Davies-Allison, 3:382) seems improbable.
  • [25] See Davies-Allison, 3:382.
  • [26] On the many problems involved with this strange apocalypse, see Richard Bauckham, “Apocalypses in the New Pseudepigrapha,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26 (1986): 97-117, esp. 100-103.
  • [27] In Charlesworth this passage is designated as Apocalypse of Zephaniah 2:1-5.
  • [28] Translation according to H. F. D. Sparks, The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984).
  • [29] See Charlesworth, 1:509-510.
  • [30] For additional examples from rabbinic sources of שְׁנַיִם as the subject of a sentence, see Comment to L5.
  • [31] Cf. Bovon, 2:523.
  • [32] While it was possible for the author of Luke to write ἐπὶ κλίνης μιᾶς (“on a single bed”), he did not find it convenient to write ἐν μύλῳ ἑνί (en mūlō heni, “at a single mill”), and had he retained the pair-in-the-field scenario, writing ἐν ἀγρῷ ἑνί (en agrō heni, “in a single field”) would have done little to emphasize intimacy, since two people might be quite distant from one another despite being in the same field.
  • [33] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:771.
  • [34] See Dos Santos, 110.
  • [35] The combination ἐπί (+ ἡ) + κλίνη occurs as the translation of עַל (הַ)מִּטָּה in Gen. 48:2; 2 Kgdms. 4:7; 3 Kgdms. 17:19; 20[21]:4; 4 Kgdms. 4:21, 32; 2 Chr. 24:25; Esth. 7:8; Prov. 26:14; Amos 6:4; Ezek. 23:41.
  • [36] See Plummer, Luke, 409; Manson, Sayings, 146; Fitzmyer, 2:1172.
  • [37] Among the Jewish peasant class it was normal for unrelated men (e.g., two hired workers) to share a bed (cf. m. Kid. 4:14) or for an entire family to sleep together. See Friend in Need, Comment to L13; cf. Bovon, 2:523. Manson’s suggestion (Sayings, 146) that the three scenarios depict a landowner and his wife (pair-in-bed), their two menservants (pair-in-the-field) and their two maidservants (women-grinding-flour) is pleasing, but cannot be proven. One wonders, too, why the children of the married couple are omitted if the scenes were intended to give “a complete picture of a Palestinian household,” as Manson believed.
  • [38] See Call of Levi, Comment to L25-26.
  • [39] See Blake Leyerle, “Meal Customs in the Greco-Roman World,” in Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times (ed. Paul F. Bradshaw and Lawrence A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), 29-61, esp. 30.
  • [40] See Harnack, 108; Cadbury, Style, 193.
  • [41] Cf. Davies-Allison, 3:383.
  • [42] See Kloppenborg, 163 n. 273; Nolland, Luke, 2:857.
  • [43] On reconstructing λαμβάνειν with נָטַל, see Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L10. For instances where we have reconstructed λαμβάνειν with נָטַל, see LOY Excursus: Greek-Hebrew Equivalents in the LOY Reconstructions.
  • [44] In LXX most instances of παραλαμβάνειν occur as the translation of לָקַח (lāqaḥ, “take”), but as we noted in Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, לָקַח came to mean “buy” in MH, while נָטַל became the usual verb for “take.”
  • [45] See Metzger, 168; Bovon, 2:512, 524; Wolter, 2:313. Manson (Sayings, 146), on the other hand, viewed Luke 17:36 as original, but his arguments are weak.
  • [46] Pace Davies-Allison, 3:383, who regard ἔσονται as a Lukan addition.
  • [47] See Flusser’s Hebrew retroversion of Indiscriminate Catastrophe under the Reconstruction subheading near the top of this page.
  • [48] See Resch, 141.
  • [49] See Segal, 71 §153; Kutscher, 125 §208.
  • [50] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:53.
  • [51] See Dos Santos, 73.
  • [52] Cf. Marshall, 668; Fitzmyer, 2:1172-1173; Davies-Allison, 3:383; Nolland, Matt., 994 n. 141; Bovon, 2:523.
  • [53] The phrase ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό also occurs in Acts 4:26 as part of a scriptural quotation.
  • [54] In LXX ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό occurs as the translation of יַחְדָּו (yaḥdāv, “together”) in Deut. 22:10; 25:5, 11; Josh. 9:2; 11:5; Judg. 6:33; 19:6; 2 Kgdms. 2:13; 12:3; 1 Chr. 10:6; 2 Esd. 14:2; 16:2, 7; Ps. 4:9; 18[19]:10; 33[34]:4; 36[37]:38; 47[48]:5; 54[55]:15; 70[71]:10; 82[83]:6; 101[102]:23; 121[122]:3; Hos. 2:2; Amos 1:15; 3:3; Isa. 66:17; Jer. 3:18; 6:12; 26[46]:12; 27[50]:4. In 2 Kgdms. 10:15; 21:9; 2 Esd. 4:3; Ps. 2:2; 40[41]:8; 48[49]:3; 61[62]:10; 73[74]:6, 8; 97[98]:8; 132[133]:1; and Mic. 2:12 ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό occurs as the translation of יַחַד (yaḥad, “together”). Cf. Wolter, 2:313. In Mishnaic Hebrew, however, יַחְדָּו and יַחַד fell into disuse and were replaced with כְּאַחַת (ke’aḥat, “as one,” “together”). See Segal, 139 §298.
  • [55] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:936.
  • [56] See Dos Santos, 192 (רֵחֶה).
  • [57] Cf. Harnack, 108; Cadbury, 193; Nolland, Luke, 2:862.
  • [58] On the morphology of מוּנַּחַת, see Segal, 85 § 186.
  • [59]
    Indiscriminate Catastrophe
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    λέγω ὑμῖν ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ ἔσονται δύο ἐπὶ κλείνηςεἷς παραλημφθήσεται καὶ ὁ ἕτερος ἀφεθήσεται ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό ἡ μία παραλημφθήσεται ἡ δὲ ἑτέρα ἀφεθήσεται ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν [ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ] ἔσονται δύο ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης εἷς παραλαμβάνεται καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται ἔσονται δύο ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ εἷς παραλαμβάνεται καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐν τῷ μύλῳ μία παραλαμβάνεται καὶ μία ἀφίεται
    Total Words: 29 Total Words: 34 [38]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 12 [13] Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 12 [13]
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 41.38 [44.83]% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 35.29 [34.21]%

  • [60]
    Indiscriminate Catastrophe
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    τότε ἔσονται δύο ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ εἷς παραλαμβάνεται καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐν τῷ μύλῳ μία παραλαμβάνεται καὶ μία ἀφίεται ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν [ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ] ἔσονται δύο ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης εἷς παραλαμβάνεται καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται ἔσονται δύο ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ εἷς παραλαμβάνεται καὶ εἷς ἀφίεται ἔσονται δύο ἀλήθουσαι ἐν τῷ μύλῳ μία παραλαμβάνεται καὶ μία ἀφίεται
    Total Words: 21 Total Words: 34 [38]
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 20 Total Words Taken Over in Matt.: 20
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 95.24% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 58.82 [52.63]%

  • [61] We first encountered the view that Indiscriminate Catastrophe describes the eschatological removal of the wicked (for judgment) in Brian Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 103-104. This view has found favor with Witherington (455) and France (Matt., 941).
  • [62] See the Story Placement discussion above.
  • [63] For this view of Indiscriminate Catastrophe, see Gill, 7:674; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 366.
  • [64] Of the two possibilities, taking away to judgment strikes us as the most probable. Cf. Gen. 7:23, according to which Noah and those with him on the ark are the only ones to “remain,” and Jub. 22:22, according to which the people of Sodom were “taken” away from the earth. Also compare 4 Ezra 6:25 (“And it shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall himself be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world”; RSV).

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    David N. Bivin

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