Like Children Complaining

& LOY Commentary Leave a Comment

Were Jesus and John the Baptist like children who played a dance and a dirge? Or was Jesus' generation one that complained like whining children about the prophets who came to warn it?

Matt. 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35

(Huck 65, 82; Aland 107; Crook 126)[1]

לְפִיכָךְ לְמָה אֲדַמֶּה אֶת הַדּוֹר הַזֶּה וּלְמַה הֵם דּוֹמִים לִילָדִים יוֹשְׁבִים בַּשּׁוּק שֶׁקּוֹרְאִים זֶה לָזֶה וְאוֹמְרִים הִכִּינוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם בֶּחָלִיל וְלֹא רִקַּדְתֶּם קוֹנַנּוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם קִינָה וְלֹא סְפַדְתֶּם שֶׁבָּא יוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל אֵינוּ אוֹכֵל וְאֵינוּ שׁוֹתֶה וְאוֹמְרִים הַשֵּׁד בּוֹ בָּא בַּר אֱנָשׁ אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה וְאוֹמְרִים הֲרֵי אִישׁ רַעַבְתָן וְגַרְגְּרָן אוֹהֵב שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים וְנִזְדַּכָּה הֶחָכְמָה מִבָּנֶיהָ

“So, what comparison can I make that will describe the behavior of this generation? What are they like? They are like children playing in a market who complain about their friends with the chant, ‘We struck up a tune for you on the pipe, but you would not dance! We sang you a sorrowful tune, but you would not show signs of grief!’

“For when Yohanan the Immerser came partaking of neither food nor drink with them, this generation said, ‘He must be possessed by a demon!’ But when the Son of Man came partaking of both food and drink with them, this generation said, ‘He must be a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of toll collectors and sinners!’

“But Lady Wisdom is vindicated by her sons and daughters.”[2]

Updated: 19 May 2022

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

Reconstruction

To view the reconstructed text of Like Children Complaining click on the link below:

“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 Gospels of Luke and Matthew both place Like Children Complaining at the end of a block of material pertaining to John the Baptist. In Luke 7 and Matthew 11 this John the Baptist unit includes, inter alia, Yohanan the Immerser’s Question and Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser.[3] Undoubtedly, the Lukan and Matthean placement of Like Children Complaining at the end of this unit reflects the position of Like Children Complaining in the Anthology (Anth.).[4] It is unlikely, however, that Anth.’s unit on John the Baptist was the original context of Like Children Complaining.[5] The Anthologizer, following his usual method of lumping together thematically related materials, appended Like Children Complaining to the end of the John the Baptist unit because Like Children Complaining makes reference to the Baptist. We therefore have to consider where Like Children Complaining might have occurred in the Life of Yeshua before the Anthologizer rearranged its contents.

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

Lindsey suggested that Like Children Complaining may originally have followed Question About Fasting (Matt. 9:14-17 ∥ Mark 2:18-22 ∥ Luke 5:33-39).[6] This suggestion is understandable, since both pericopae mention John the Baptist and also refer to the Baptist’s eating habits.[7] Nevertheless, the connection between Question About Fasting and Like Children Complaining is not as strong as it might be. There is no distinctive vocabulary to link Like Children Complaining to Question About Fasting, such as we usually find when two pericopae originally belonged to the same literary context. Moreover, Question About Fasting possesses a narrative→teaching→illustrations structure (interlocutors pose a question about fasting→Jesus responds that when the bridegroom is present it is inappropriate to fast→Jesus drives home the point with garment and wineskins illustrations), the very structure Lindsey believed was characteristic of “complete” stories or “complexes” that once existed in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. In other words, Question About Fasting appears to be a narrative-sayings “complex” that the Anthologizer left intact (presumably on account of its relative brevity).[8] As such, Question About Fasting has no need of supplementary materials to make its story complete.

We believe a more suitable location for Like Children Complaining is in a complex we have entitled “Choose Repentance or Destruction.” This complex includes a narrative incident—the report of Pilate’s massacre in Calamities in Yerushalayim—in which Jesus warns that unless his contemporaries repent of their aspirations to violently throw off Roman rule, many more innocents will suffer a fate similar to the Galilean pilgrims. The complex continues with an extended teaching discourse in which Jesus 1) pronounces Woes on Three Villages for their failure to repent; 2) anticipates the condemnation of his generation in the final judgment (Generations That Repented Long Ago); 3) quotes an apocryphal source in which the personified Wisdom of God pronounces doom upon “this generation” (Innocent Blood); 4) announces that despite his contemporaries’ search for omens of national liberation, the only sign that will be given to them is a portent of destruction—the Son of Man himself (Sign-Seeking Generation); and 5) proceeds to describe the coming destruction in apocalyptic terms in Days of the Son of Man, Lesson of Lot’s Wife, Preserving and Destroying, Indiscriminate Catastrophe and Carrion Birds. Like Children Complaining provides a concluding illustration that gives the complex the narrative→teaching→illustration(s) structure Lindsey believed was characteristic of “complete” units in the Hebrew biography of Jesus.

The Anthologizer’s changes to the “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex.

Even more important than rounding out the complex’s literary structure, Like Children Complaining pulls together several of the most prominent themes and employs some of the distinctive vocabulary contained elsewhere in the conjectured “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex. Key terms in Like Children Complaining that occur at other points in “Choose Repentance or Destruction” are “this generation,” “Son of Man” and “wisdom.”

“The Flood,” handprinted by Adi Holzer. It is part of the Noah Zyklus from 1975. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“This generation” is a distinctive term Jesus used to refer to his contemporaries in Generations That Repented Long Ago (L10, L17), Innocent Blood (L17, L26) and Sign-Seeking Generation (L26, L44); it also occurs in Like Children Complaining (L2). The phrase “this generation” appears only once in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it refers to the evil generation that lived in the time of Noah and that was engulfed in the great flood (Gen. 7:1). It seems likely, therefore, that Jesus used the phrase “this generation” to refer to his contemporaries in order to allude to the coming destruction Jesus believed would sweep over them.[9] In Days of the Son of Man Jesus explicitly compared the fate of his contemporaries to the catastrophe that befell the people who lived in the time of Noah.

“Son of Man” is a distinctive phrase Jesus used in Sign-Seeking Generation (L43) to refer to his role as a prophet of doom, analogous to Jonah, who was a sign of doom to the populace of Nineveh. “Son of Man” also occurs in Days of the Son of Man (L11, L34). It appears in Like Children Complaining (L17), where Jesus compared his role as a prophet of doom to John the Baptist’s role as a prophet of repentance.

The Queen of Sheba as depicted in a manuscript (ca. 1405) of Bellifortis by Konrad Kyeser. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Wisdom” occurs in Generations That Repented Long Ago (L13), where we hear of the Queen of Sheba’s quest for wisdom, and in Innocent Blood (L2), where Wisdom is personified as a supernatural female figure who sent prophets, messengers and scribes to Israel to dissuade them from pursuing a path that would lead to their destruction. In Like Children Complaining (L22-23) Wisdom is portrayed as having sent John the Baptist and Jesus to Israel on a similar mission.[10]

An important theme we have not yet mentioned that unites Like Children Complaining with the other pericopae in “Choose Repentance or Destruction” is Jesus’ perception of his contemporaries’ obduracy. Throughout “Choose Repentance or Destruction” Jesus upbraided his contemporaries for their unresponsiveness to his Kingdom of Heaven message and for continuing to sympathize with a mindset and with actions Jesus believed would lead to a head-on collision with the Roman Empire. Similarly, in Like Children Complaining Jesus castigates his contemporaries for dismissing the calls to repentance issued by John the Baptist and himself. John they dismissed as a demoniac, while Jesus they ridiculed as a “friend of toll collectors and sinners.” Rather than perceiving that the repentance of sinners is a cause for celebration, Jesus’ critics found in his rejoicing with penitents an excuse to revile Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard.

Thus, there is much in the way of shared vocabulary and common themes to link Like Children Complaining to the other pericopae in the “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex. For a complete overview of “Choose Repentance or Destruction,” click here.

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

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

In the Story Placement discussion above we already had occasion to note our supposition that the authors of Luke and Matthew each copied their versions of Like Children Complaining from the Anthology (Anth.). This supposition is based on the Lukan-Matthean agreement to cluster Like Children Complaining together with two other pericopae, namely Yohanan the Immerser’s Question and Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser. Their agreement to so arrange these pericopae points to their having drawn Like Children Complaining from their only shared source, Anth. The derivation of the Lukan as well as the Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining from Anth. is also corroborated by the relatively high levels of verbal identity between their respective versions.[11] Such high levels of verbal agreement were usually achieved when both authors worked from the same source (i.e., Anth.).

Some scholars have opined that Like Children Complaining is a composite pericope made up of three originally unrelated parts that were only brought together at a late stage of the transmission of the synoptic materials.[12] Those three parts are the comparison of “this generation” to children in a market (Matt. 11:16-17 ∥ Luke 7:31-32), the application of the comparison to the rejection of John the Baptist and the Son of Man (Matt. 11:18-19a ∥ Luke 7:33-34), and the saying about the vindication of Wisdom (Matt. 11:19b ∥ Luke 7:35). Alternatively, some scholars have suggested that only the first part (comparing Jesus’ generation to children in a market) belongs to the original tradition, and the second and third parts represent successive accretions as the original tradition was reinterpreted by the early church.[13] Other scholars regard the simile and the application as an original unit, but the saying about Wisdom as originally unconnected.[14] We subscribe to the integrity of the entire pericope for reasons we will discuss below.

Scholars who regard the application of the simile to John the Baptist and Jesus as a Christian accretion usually point out that Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man,” which they take to be an indication of a late Christian origin of the saying.[15] They also note that Jesus speaks not only of John the Baptist but also of his own mission in the past tense (“the Son of Man came eating and drinking”).[16] Cotter challenged the authenticity of the application on other grounds. She argued that there is no historical basis for the slander of John the Baptist (viz. that he was demon-possessed), pointing out that according to the Gospels and Josephus, John the Baptist was popularly hailed as a prophet. Cotter argued that the libel against John was fabricated by early Christians in order to mirror the accusation that Jesus was a libertine. These early Christians then used the contradictory accusations to prove that the critics of Jesus (and of the early Christians) were inconsistent and shallow.[17]

As to the first objection, that Jesus’ use of “Son of Man” is inauthentic, we have argued that Jesus’ self-referential use of “Son of Man” is not necessarily a messianic claim, but indicated (at least initially) Jesus’ prophetic task to be a sign of doom for his generation. Since Jesus compares (or rather, contrasts) himself with John the Baptist, a prophet of repentance, there is every reason to suppose that his self-referential use of “Son of Man” was intended to highlight his role as a prophet of doom. In any case, Jesus’ use of “Son of Man” hardly proves that the saying is an early Christian creation.[18]

With regard to the second objection, that the saying is phrased in the past tense, there is no reason why Jesus could not have retrospectively commented upon the futility of his mission. Indeed, there appears to have been a turning point sometime during Jesus’ career when his initial optimism in proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven faded. Realizing that the majority of his contemporaries were unswayed by his message of peace, Jesus began to speak pessimistically about his generation. The opportunity for redemption had passed, and a great calamity for Israel was now baked into the historical process. Like Children Complaining coheres well with Jesus’ pessimistic outlook following the turning point in his career.

As for Cotter’s objections, her main argument is based on silence: apart from Like Children Complaining, the ancient sources at our disposal invariably cast John the Baptist in a positive light. It must, however, be admitted that the sources at our disposal are extremely limited: we learn of John the Baptist only from the New Testament and from the writings of Josephus. The authors of the New Testament had a vested interest in portraying John favorably, since John the Baptist lent credibility to their claims about Jesus. Josephus’ account of John the Baptist was also tendentious; the only reason he told the story of the Baptist’s execution was to paint Antipas in sinister hues. Considered objectively, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that John the Baptist had his detractors. His message concerning the coming of an eschatological priest who would purify the Temple cannot have been welcomed by the high priestly oligarchy in Jerusalem.[19] Moreover, despite the popular appeal of John the Baptist’s campaign of immersion,[20] it must be admitted that the Baptist had no lasting impact on Judaism, and even his influence on first-century Jewish society must have been minimal. Most of his contemporaries probably regarded John and his followers as a passing fad. And, as is the case with any non-conformist, John the Baptist would have received his fair share of ridicule. Thus, we regard Cotter’s hyper-skepticism of the negative reports about John the Baptist in Like Children Complaining as unjustified. With the failure of her primary thesis, the rest of Cotter’s argument collapses. There is no reason why Jesus could not have compared his contemporaries to jealous children who complained that their peers would not play with them. Such criticism did not need to be invented by the early church, nor would it have been likely to do so.

A game carved in the paving stones of the streets of Sepphoris (Tzippori). Photographed by Carole Raddato from Frankfurt, Germany. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The reasons for regarding the simile and the application as originally independent traditions are more cogent, but by no means conclusive. Some scholars have demurred that the application does not fit the simile, pointing out that “we piped for you…we sang a dirge for you” does not follow the historical order of John’s austere summons to repentance versus Jesus’ celebratory embrace of repentant sinners.[21] This objection, however, begs the question of how the simile ought to be interpreted.[22] Are the children in the marketplace who call out to their peers to dance and mourn to be equated with John the Baptist and Jesus or with their critics? Whereas many interpreters have assumed that “this generation” was unwilling to waltz to the tunes Jesus and John played,[23] the true point of comparison is the griping of the two groups about their peers. Just as the children in the market complained that their friends were unwilling to play with them, so “this generation” criticized John and Jesus for not living up to their expectations.[24] The conclusion to be drawn from the simile is that “this generation” is like a group of children who whine about their friends. Thus, the objections to the original unity of the simile and the application are overcome by more carefully assessing the point of the comparison.

Scholars who regard the concluding remark about Wisdom’s children as an originally independent tradition rightly point out that this remark is not necessary for the interpretation of the simile. Nevertheless, Suggs perceptively noted that the saying about Wisdom’s children need not be understood as a commentary solely on Like Children Complaining; the concluding remark is better understood as a commentary on a much larger literary unit.[25] Whereas Suggs argued that the saying about Wisdom’s children summed up the pre-synoptic unit on John the Baptist that included Yohanan the Immerser’s Question and Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, we believe that the remark about Wisdom’s children makes a fitting conclusion for a discourse in which Jesus had mentioned the Queen of Sheba’s quest for wisdom (Generations That Repented Long Ago) as well as personified Wisdom’s warning that “this generation” would be held accountable for all the innocent blood spilled on the holy land (Innocent Blood). Wisdom’s children, then, are not restricted to John the Baptist and Jesus, but include all those who paid heed to Wisdom’s messengers, whether the Queen of Sheba, or the inhabitants of Nineveh in the distant past, or the “sons of peace” (cf. Luke 10:6)[26] who responded to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven in the (i.e., Jesus’) present.

Crucial Issues

  1. Does Jesus compare the roles of John the Baptist and the Son of Man to the children playing in the market, or are the people of Jesus’ generation, who criticized both John the Baptist and the Son of Man, compared to naughty children who mock their peers?
  2. In his concluding statement does Jesus personify Wisdom or does he quote a proverb about human wisdom?

Comment

L1 τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω (GR). In the opening line of Like Children Complaining Luke and Matthew are in agreement except for the conjunction. It is possible that each author added his own conjunction to smooth the transition into the pericope[27] and that neither δέ (de, “but”) nor οὖν (oun, “therefore”) appeared in Anth. On the other hand, οὖν in Luke’s version creates a non sequitur in his narrative: having just asserted that all the people—apart from the Pharisees and Torah experts—had accepted John’s baptism, it is rather jarring to read that Jesus “therefore” compared his contemporaries to jeering children.[28] Thus, it is possible that the author of Luke accepted οὖν from Anth. without noticing the contradiction it created.[29] Had οὖν appeared in Anth., the author of Matthew might well have changed the conjunction to δέ, since Like Children Complaining is not a logical conclusion to be drawn from the declaration that John the Baptist is Elijah (Matt. 11:14-15).[30]

לְפִיכָךְ לְמָה אֲדַמֶּה (HR). On reconstructing οὖν (oun, “therefore”) with לְפִיכָךְ (lefichāch, “therefore”), see Fathers Give Good Gifts, Comment to L11.

On reconstructing ὁμοιοῦν (homoioun, “to make like”) with דִּמָּה (dimāh, “compare”), see Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L6. The questions introducing the Mustard Seed parable and Like Children Complaining are strikingly similar.

L2 τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην (GR). As we noted in the Story Placement discussion above, the phrase “this generation” is one of the key links uniting Like Children Complaining to several of the other pericopae in the “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex.[31] The author of Luke probably changed “this generation” to “the people of this generation,”[32] just as he changed “this generation” to “the men of this generation” in Generations That Repented Long Ago (L10).

Linton offered the plausible suggestion that the author of Luke changed τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην (tēn genean tavtēn, “this generation”) to τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης (tous anthrōpous tēs geneas tavtēs, “the people of this generation”) in order to improve the grammar of his source, for in the question that follows the subject is plural (“And to what are they similar?”).[33] Whereas treating γενεά (genea, “generation”) as a plural apparently seemed odd to the author of Luke, in Hebrew it is not unusual to treat דּוֹר (dōr, “generation”) like a plural (collective) noun. For instance:

דּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל אֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא…דּוֹר הַמִּדְבָּר אֵין לָהֶם חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא

The generation [sing.] of the flood: they [plur.] have no portion in the world to come…. The generation [sing.] of the desert [wanderings in the time of Moses]: they [plur.] have no portion in the world to come…. (m. Sanh. 10:3)

דור המבול אין להם חלק לעולם הבא ואין חיין לעולם הבא

The generation [sing.] of the flood: they [plur.] have no portion in the world to come and they [plur.] are not alive to the world to come. (t. Sanh. 13:6; Vienna MS)

דור המגדל אין להן חלק לעולם הבא ואינן חיין לעולם הבא

The generation [sing.] of the tower [of Babel—DNB and JNT]: they [plur.] have no portion in the world to come and they [plur.] are not alive to the world to come. (t. Sanh. 13:7; Vienna MS)

דור המדבר אין להן חלק לעולם הבא ואינן חיין לעולם הבא

The generation [sing.] of the desert: they [plur.] have no portion in the world to come and they [plur.] are not alive to the world to come. (t. Sanh. 13:10; Vienna MS)

דור הפלגה אין להם חלק לעולם הבא

The generation [sing.] of the dispersion: they [plur.] have no portion in the world to come. (y. Sanh. 10:3 [53a])

Thus, Luke’s “the people of this generation” probably is a stylistic improvement, as Harnack suggested.[34]

אֶת הַדּוֹר הַזֶּה (HR). On reconstructing γενεά (genea, “generation”) with דּוֹר (dōr, “generation”), see Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L10.

L3 καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι (GR). In Luke’s version of Like Children Complaining the simile is introduced with a double question (“To what shall I compare [the people of] this generation? And to what are they similar?”), similar to the double questions that introduce the Lukan and Markan versions of the Mustard Seed parable (L4-6). Like most other scholars, we regard the double question in Luke’s version as original.[35]

וּלְמַה הֵם דּוֹמִים (HR). On reconstructing τίς + εἶναι + ὅμοιος with לְמָה + pronoun + דּוֹמֶה, see Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L4.

Compare our reconstruction to the following example from a rabbinic source:

דורו של מנשה למה הן דומין, למלך בשר ודם ש….‏

The generation [sing.] of Manasseh, to what are they [plur.] similar [plur.]? To a mortal king who…. (Eliyahu Rabbah §[31] 29 [ed. Friedmann, 162])

Not only does this rabbinic parallel provide us with an example of treating “generation” as a plural, it also occurs in the introduction of a parable.

Simile: Children in a Market (L4-11)

A sixth-century Byzantine mosaic depicting a child playing with hoops. On display in the Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Istanbul. Photographed by Prioryman. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The simile of the children in a market paints an unflattering portrait of children’s behavior, a portrait that contrasts with other statements of Jesus in which children are spoken of affectionately and according to which childlike qualities are to be emulated.[36] In this simile the children complain that their friends are unwilling to play with them. Jesus compared the children’s whining to his contemporaries’ criticisms of John the Baptist and himself. Just as the children in the market complained that their friends would not play with them, so “this generation” complained that John and Jesus did not associate with the right sorts of people (viz. themselves).

Flusser drew attention to Hellenistic and rabbinic sources that describe how children’s worst qualities often find expression in their play.[37] These childish foibles are then compared to more serious failures committed by adults. Thus, according to Epictetus we read:

ὡς ὀστρακίοις τὰ παιδία παίζοντα περὶ μὲν τῆς παιδιᾶς διαφέρεται, τῶν ὀστρακίων δ᾽ οὐ πεφρόντικεν….

…as children playing with potsherds strive with one another about the game, but take no thought about the potsherds themselves…. (Epictetus, Discourses 4:7 §5; Loeb)

Likewise, children are depicted as squabbling with one another in the following parable:

היה רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר, משלו משל למה הדבר דומה לתינוקות שהיו משחקין בגלעינין, כל זמן שהן משחקין אם יטול אחד מהן גלעינה מחבריו, הוא עומד ומקרע את בגדיו, גמרו מלשחוק הם הולכין ומפזרין את הגלעינין, כך הן הרשעים, הן חוטפין וגוזלין וגונבין זה מזה, ובשעת מיתתן הן מניחין כל מה שיש להן לאחרים, שנאמר ועזבו לאחרים חילם

Rabbi Shimon ben Eleazar would say, “They told a parable: To what is the matter similar? To little children who were playing with fruit pits. All the while they played, if one of them took a pit from his friend, he [i.e., the loser—DNB and JNT] stopped and tore his clothes. When they finished playing, they went and scattered the pits. Thus it is with the wicked. They seize and rob and steal from one another, but in the hour of their death they leave all that they have to others, as it is said, and they leave to others their wealth [Ps. 49:11].” (Semaḥot de-Rabbi Hiyyah 3:5 [ed. Higger, 222])

Jesus’ simile of the children in the market is of a piece with these Hellenistic and rabbinic parallels in its depiction of children not getting along with one another. His realistic depiction of children’s play suggests that Jesus’ favorable statements regarding children were not based on an unrealistic or romanticized view of children unmoored from reality.

L4 ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις (GR). The author of Matthew, who dropped the second introductory question in L3 where the number and gender change took place, was now forced to change “they are like children” to “it is like children” so as to avoid an ungrammatical answer to Jesus’ rhetorical question. Apart from these minor modifications, the authors of Luke and Matthew are in agreement in L4.

לִילָדִים (HR). Although the Lukan-Matthean agreement to write “they/it are/is like” indicates that some such phrase appeared in Anth., this phrase is not represented in HR. We suspect the Greek translator added ὅμοιοί εἰσιν in L4 to satisfy the demands of Greek style, just as he added ὁμοία ἐστίν to the Mustard Seed parable (L7), to the Starter Dough parable (L29), to the Hidden Treasure parable (L3) and to the Priceless Pearl parable (L11). As we explained in Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L7, whenever a parable or simile is introduced with a question like לְמַה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה (lemah hadāvār dōmeh, “To what is the matter similar?”), the answer always begins with -לְ (le, “to”), never -דּוֹמֶה לְ (dōmeh le, “it is similar to”).

On reconstructing παιδίον (paidion, “child”) with יֶלֶד (yeled, “child”), see Friend in Need, Comment to L12.

L5 καθημένοις ἐν ἀγορᾷ (GR). In L5 the authors of Luke and Matthew both appear to have made a few stylistic changes to the wording of Anth. Matthew’s word order is more Hebraic than Luke’s,[38] but his plural “in the markets” is probably less original than Luke’s “in a market.”[39] Luke’s version describes a single scenario, which is typical of Hebrew parables and similes. By writing “like children sitting in the markets” the author of Matthew no longer describes a discrete event, but depicts an everyday occurrence that an observer could witness anywhere.[40]

יוֹשְׁבִים בַּשּׁוּק (HR). On reconstructing καθῆσθαι (kathēsthai, “to sit”) with יָשַׁב (yāshav, “sit”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L14.

In LXX ἀγορά (agora, “market”) is not very common, but when it does occur in books with counterparts in MT it does so either as the translation of עִזָּבוֹן (‘izāvōn, “merchandise,” “wares”), a term that did not survive into MH, and which is in any case inappropriate for HR, or as the translation of שׁוּק (shūq, “market,” “street”).[41] The noun שׁוּק is rare in MT, occurring only 4xx (Prov. 7:8; Song 3:2; Eccl. 12:4, 5).[42] In all but the first instance (Prov. 7:8) the LXX translators rendered שׁוּק as ἀγορά.

Sitting in a market is an activity occasionally reported in rabbinic sources, for instance:

פעם אחת היה ר′ יוסי יושב בשוק

On one occasion Rabbi Yose was sitting in the market [יוֹשֵׁב בַּשּׁוּק]…. (Midrash Tannaim, Deut. 26:19 [ed. Hoffmann, 262])

מה כת′ למעלה מן הענין ויהי יוסף יפה תאר ויפה מראה ותשא אשת אדניו, לגבור שהיה יושב בשוק ומשמשם בעיניו ומתקן בשערו ומתלה בעקיבו,

What is written prior to this matter? And Joseph was beautiful of form and of beautiful appearance [Gen. 39:6]. [Thereafter it is written,] And the wife of his master raised [her eyes] [Gen. 39:7]. [The matter may be compared] to a man who was sitting in the market [יוֹשֵׁב בַּשּׁוּק] and penciling his eyes and styling his hair and swinging his heel…. (Gen. Rab. 87:3 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 3:1063])

רבי חנניא בן תרדיון אומר כל שנים ושלשה שהם יושבים בשוק ואין ביניהם דברי תורה הרי זה מושב לצים שנאמר ובמושב לצים לא ישב:

Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon says, “Any two or three who are sitting in the market [יוֹשְׁבִים בַּשּׁוּק] [together] and there are no words of Torah between them—Behold! This is the seat of mockers, as it is said, In the seat of mockers do not sit [Ps. 1:1].” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, §34 [ed. Schechter, 74]; cf. m. Avot 3:2)

Cotter, noting that in Greco-Roman society judges set up their tribunals in the marketplaces where they sat to try their cases, suggested that in Like Children Complaining the children have put on a mock trial of their peers.[43] Her suggestion is intriguing and suits the acrimonious mood of the pericope, but is difficult to establish with certainty.[44]

L6 ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις (GR). Both authors have the relative pronoun (ha, “who”), either in L6 (Matt.) or in L7 (Luke), so it is probable that this relative pronoun appeared in Anth. Matthew’s placement of more likely reflects the word order in Anth., since Matthew’s syntax in L4-7 is less refined than Luke’s.[45] Moreover, Matthew’s sentence structure reverts easily to Hebrew.

Games etched into the paving stones of the streets of Sepphoris (Tzippori). Photographed by Bukvoed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We have also accepted Matthew’s τοῖς ἑτέροις (tois heterois, “to the others”) for GR.[46] Who “the others” are is left undefined in Matthew’s version, whereas Luke’s ἀλλήλοις (allēlois, “to one another”) requires no further explanation. Since the author of Matthew was willing to use the pronoun ἀλλήλων (allēlōn, “one another”) elsewhere in his Gospel (Matt. 24:10 [2xx]; 25:32),[47] it is hard to imagine why he would have written the difficult τοῖς ἑτέροις in place of the stylistically better ἀλλήλοις in Like Children Complaining. On the other hand, since Luke’s use of ἀλλήλων yields an improved Greek text compared to Matthew’s version, and since the author of Luke demonstrates a (possibly redactional) preference for ἀλλήλων,[48] it requires no stretch of the imagination to attribute ἀλλήλοις in L6 to the author of Luke.[49]

שֶׁקּוֹרְאִים זֶה לָזֶה (HR). On reconstructing ὅς (hos, “who,” “which”) with -שֶׁ (she-, “who,” “which”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L5. We regard the Mishnaic -שֶׁ as preferable to Biblical אֲשֶׁר (asher, “who,” “which”), since in Like Children Complaining we are reconstructing direct speech.

The verb προσφωνεῖν (prosfōnein, “to address,” “to call to”) is rare in LXX, occurring only in books not translated from a Hebrew original (1 Esd. 2:16; 6:6, 21; 2 Macc. 15:15). Thus, we cannot rely on LXX precedent to substantiate our reconstruction. Our best guess is that προσφωνεῖν represents קָרָא (qārā’, “call,” “read”). Instances of “call to one another” expressed with קָרָא occur in the following examples:

וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל זֶה וְאָמַר קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יי צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ

And [the seraph] called [וְקָרָא], one unto the other [זֶה אֶל זֶה], and said [וְאָמַר], “Holy! Holy! Holy is the LORD of hosts! The entire land is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3)

καὶ ἐκέκραγον ἕτερος πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον καὶ ἔλεγον Ἅγιος ἅγιος ἅγιος κύριος σαβαωθ, πλήρης πᾶσα ἡ γῆ τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ.

And the other cried to the other, and they were saying, “Holy! Holy! Holy is the Lord Sabaoth. All the land is full of his glory.” (Isa. 6:3)

תְּהוֹם אֶל תְּהוֹם קוֹרֵא לְקוֹל צִנּוֹרֶיךָ…בּוֹא וּרְאֵה: כַּמָּה בֵּין אֵלּוּ לְאֵלּוּ וְקוֹרְאִין זֶה לָזֶה וּבְנֵי אָדָם בֵּנָתַיִם וְאֵינָן (יוֹדְעִין) [שׁוֹמְעִין] הֱוֵי: יַרְעֵם אֵל בְּקוֹלֹו נִפְלָאוֹת

Deep cries to deep at the voice of your waterfalls [Ps. 42:8]…. Come and see! How [great a space exists] between these and those, yet they call one to the other [וְקוֹרְאִין זֶה לָזֶה], and human beings are in between yet they do not (know) [hear]. Hence: God thunders with his voice wonderfully [Job 37:5]. (Exod. Rab. 5:9 [ed. Merkin, 5:93])

For “one to the other” we have preferred זֶה לָזֶה (zeh lāzeh) to זֶה אֶל זֶה (zeh ’el zeh), which is more biblical in style. The phrase זֶה לָזֶה does not occur in MT, but appears as early as DSS:

יברכנו עם קצים אש[ה]ר חקקא ברשית ממשלת אור עם תקופתו ובהאספו על מעון חוקו ברשית אשמורי חושך כיא יפתח אוצרו וישתהו עלת ובתקופתו עם האספו מפני אור באופיע מאורות מזבול קודש עם האספם למעון כבוד במבוא מועדים לימי חודש יחד תקופתם עם מסרותם זה לזה

…he will bless him during the times that he decreed: at the beginning of the dominion of light, during its course and at its gathering to its appointed dwelling; at the beginning of the watches of darkness, when he opens his treasury and sets it above and in its course during its gathering before the light; when the luminaries shine from the holy abode during their gathering to the glorious dwelling; at the commencement of appointed times for the days of the month together with their course, during the transition from one to the other [זֶה לָזֶה]…. (1QS IX, 26-X, 4)

Notice that the LXX translators rendered זֶה אֶל זֶה in Isa. 6:3 as ἕτερος πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον, which lends support to our decision to accept Matthew’s τοῖς ἑτέροις for GR.[50]

L7 λέγουσιν (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L6, Luke’s ἃ λέγει (ha legei, “who says”)[51] is stylistically better Greek than Matthew’s λέγουσιν (legousin, “they say”), which leads us to accept Matthew’s wording in L7 for GR.[52] It is possible that the author of Matthew omitted the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) before λέγουσιν, since in Hebrew we would expect to find a corresponding -וְ (ve, “and”). But it is also possible that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua omitted the conjunction and that the author of Matthew faithfully transmitted the wording of Anth. Since Matthew displays significant fidelity to Anth. in L6-22, we have given him the benefit of the doubt by declining to add καί to GR.

וְאוֹמְרִים (HR). The description of the calling of the seraphim to one another and saying, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” in Isa. 6:3 (cited above, Comment to L6) affords a close linguistic parallel to our Hebrew reconstruction in L6-7.[53]

L8 ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν (GR). Since in L8 the Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining are in full agreement, we may safely assume that both authors faithfully copied these words from Anth.

The Greek text of Like Children Complaining does not explicitly mention what instrument the children played but the verb αὐλεῖν (avlein, “to play a pipe”) indicates that it was the αὐλός (avlos, “reed pipe”), depictions of which in paintings, mosaics and reliefs we include below.[54]

Detail of a first-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii depicting a seated person playing the avlos, a reeded pipe instrument common in the Hellenistic world. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

הִכִּינוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם בֶּחָלִיל (HR). The verb αὐλεῖν (avlein, “to play a pipe”) does not occur in LXX, but it is found in Aquila’s translation of 1 Kgs. 1:40, where the only instance of the verb חִלֵּל (ḥilēl, “play a pipe”) occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures.[55] There we read:

וַיַּעֲלוּ כָל הָעָם אַחֲרָיו וְהָעָם מְחַלְּלִים בַּחֲלִלִים וּשְׂמֵחִים שִׂמְחָה גְדוֹלָה

And all the people went up after him [i.e., King Solomon—DNB and JNT], piping on pipes and rejoicing a great rejoicing. (1 Kgs. 1:40)[56]

In this verse, which describes the inauguration of Solomon’s reign, the playing of pipes is strongly associated with festivity. This festive association continued into the Second Temple period and beyond, since we read of pipe playing as a prominent feature of the water-drawing ceremony in the Temple during the feast of Sukkot (m. Suk. 5:1) and of bridal processions (m. Bab. Metz. 6:1). On the other hand, pipers are also mentioned as taking part in funeral processions.[57] Undoubtedly, pipe players selected tunes appropriate to the mood of the occasion.

In Mishnaic Hebrew the verb חִלֵּל (“play the pipe”) ceased to exist, and instead we find the expression הִכָּה בֶּחָלִיל (hikāh beḥālil, “play the pipe”), as we see in the following example:

לא היה מכה בשני חלילין אלא בחליל אחד

One did not play [מַכֶּה] on two pipes [on the Sabbath], but only on a single pipe. (t. Arach. 1:13)

Additional examples of הִכָּה used for pipe playing are cited below:

הַקְּרוֹבִים מֵבִיאִים תְּאֵינִים וַעֲנָבִים הָרְחוֹקִים מְבִיאִין גְּרוֹגְרוֹת וְצִימּוּקִים וְהַשּׁוֹר הוֹלֵךְ עִימָּהֶן וּקְרָנָיִו מְצוּפּוֹת זָהָב וַעֲטָרָהּ שֶׁלַּזַּיִת בְּרֹאשׁוֹ וְהֶחָלִיל מַכֶּה לִפְנֵיהֶם עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעִין קָרוֹב לִירוּשָׁלִַם…. הֶחָלִיל מַכֶּה לִפְנֵיהֶם עַד שֶׁמַּגִּיעִין לְהַר הַבַּיִת

Those from near by [Jerusalem—DNB and JNT] brought figs and grapes, and those from far off brought dried figs and raisins. And the bull goes with them, and its horns are overlaid with gold, and a crown of olive leaves is on its head. And the piper[58] plays [מַכֶּה] before them until they come near to Jerusalem…. The piper plays [מַכֶּה] before them until they reach the Temple Mount. (m. Bik. 3:3-4)[59]

הֶחָלִיל מַכֶּה לִפְנֵי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ בִּשְׁחיטַת פֶּסַח רִאשׁוֹן בִּשְׁחִיטַת פְּסַח שֵׁינִי בְּיוֹם טוֹב רִאשׁוֹן שֶׁלַּפֶּסַח בְּיוֹם טוֹב שֶׁלָּעֲצֶרֶת וּבִשְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי הֶחָג לְֹא הָיָה מַכֶּה בְּאַבּוּב שֶׁלִנְחוֹשֶׁת אֶלָּא בְאַבּוּב שֶׁלַּקָּנֶה

The piper plays [מַכֶּה] before the altar during the slaughter of the first Passover, during the slaughter of the second Passover, during the first holy day of Passover, during the first holy day of Pentecost, and during the eight days of the Feast [i.e., Sukkot]. And he did not play [מַכֶּה] on a pipe of bronze but on a pipe of reed. (m. Arach. 2:3)

A piper playing the avlos depicted in a relief from the southern theater in Jerash (in present-day Jordan). Photographed by Gre regiment. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the above examples, “play for a group” or “play for an occasion” is expressed with הִכָּה plus לִפְנֵי (lifnē, “before,” “in the presence of”). This explains our reconstruction of ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν (ēvlēsamen hūmin, “we played the pipe for you”) as הִכִּינוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם בֶּחָלִיל (hikinū lifnēchem beḥālil, “we played before you on the pipe”).

A synonym for חָלִיל (ḥālil, “pipe”) is אַבּוּב (’abūv).[60] This latter term could have been used for HR, but we preferred חָלִיל, which occurs more frequently in rabbinic texts.

L9 וְלֹא רִקַּדְתֶּם (HR). No comment on GR for L9 is necessary, since in this line Luke and Matthew are in complete agreement.

On reconstructing ὀρχεῖσθαι (orcheisthai, “to dance”) with רִקֵּד (riqēd, “dance”), see Yohanan the Immerser’s Execution, Comment to L40.

We have not found examples in ancient Jewish sources of one person taunting another for refusing to dance to piping, but this taunt is attested in ancient Greek sources. Herodotus (fifth century B.C.E.) related the story of how the Persian emperor Cyrus told the fable in which this taunt occurs:

Ἴωνες δὲ καὶ Αἰολέες, ὡς οἱ Λυδοὶ τάχιστα κατεστράφατο ὑπὸ Περσέων, ἔπεμπον ἀγγέλους ἐς Σάρδις παρὰ Κῦρον, ἐθέλοντες ἐπὶ τοῖσι αὐτοῖσι εἶναι τοῖσι καὶ Κροίσῳ ἦσαν κατήκοοι. ὃ δὲ ἀκούσας αὐτῶν τὰ προΐσχοντο ἔλεξέ σφι λόγον, ἄνδρα φὰς αὐλητὴν ἰδόντα ἰχθῦς ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ αὐλέειν, δοκέοντα σφέας ἐξελεύσεσθαι ἐς γῆν· ὡς δὲ ψευσθῆναι τῆς ἐλπίδος, λαβεῖν ἀμφίβληστρον καὶ περιβαλεῖν τε πλῆθος πολλὸν τῶν ἰχθύων καὶ ἐξειρύσαι, ἰδόντα δὲ παλλομένους εἰπεῖν ἄρα αῦτὸν πρὸς τοὺς ἰχθῦς “Παύεσθέ μοι ὀρχεόμενοι, ἐπεὶ οὐδ᾽ ἐμέο αὐλέοντος ἠθέλετε ἐκβαίνειν ὀρχεόμενοι.” Κῦρος μὲν τοῦτον τὸν λόγον τοῖσι Ἴωσι καὶ τοῖσι Αἰολεῦσι τῶνδε εἵνεκα ἔλεξε, ὅτι δὴ οἱ Ἴωνες πρότερον αὐτοῦ Κύρου δεηθέντος δι᾽ ἀγγέλων ἀπίστασθαι σφέας ἀπὸ Κροίσου οὐκ ἐπείθοντο, τότε δὲ κατεργασμένων τῶν πρηγμάτων ἦσαν ἕτοιμοι πείθεσθαι Κύρῳ.

As soon as the Lydians had been subdued by the Persians, the Ionians and Aeolians sent messengers to Cyrus [in Sardis—DNB and JNT], offering to be his subjects on the same terms as those which they had under Croesus. Having heard what they proposed, Cyrus told them a story. Once, he said, there was a flute-player who saw fishes in the sea and played upon his flute [αὐλέειν], thinking that so they would come out onto the land. Being disappointed of his hope, he took a net and gathered in and drew out a great multitude of the fishes; and seeing them leaping, “You had best,” said he, “cease from your dancing [ὀρχεόμενοι] now; you would not come out and dance [ὀρχεόμενοι] then, when I played [αὐλέοντος] to you.” The reason why Cyrus told a story to the Ionians and Aeolians was that the Ionians, who were ready to obey him when the victory was won, had before refused when he sent a message asking them to revolt from Croesus. (Herodotus, Hist. 1:141)[61]

A centaur plays the avlos in this detail from the Dionysus Mosaic in Sepphoris (Tzippori). Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton.

If there is any veracity to Herodotus’ account, Cyrus’ familiarity with the fable may suggest that it was known not only to the Greeks, but was familiar in the east as well. A version of Cyrus’ fable appears in Babrius’ collection of Aesop’s fables (second century C.E.):

Ἁλιεύς τις ἀυλοὺς εἶχε καὶ σοφῶς ηὔλει· καὶ δή ποτ᾽ ὄψον ἐλπίσας ἀμοχθήτως πολὺ πρὸς αὐλῶν ἡδυφωνίην ἥξειν, τὸ δίκτυον θεὶς ἐτερέτιζεν εὐμούσως. ἐπεὶ δὲ φυσῶν ἔκαμε καὶ μάτην ηὔλει, βαλὼν σαγήνην εἷλκεν ἰχθύων πλήρη. ἐπὶ τῆς δ᾽ ἰδὼν σπαίροντας ἄλλον ἀλλοίως, τοιαῦτ᾽ ἐκερτόμησε τὸν βόλον πλύνων· “ἄναυλα νῦν ὀρχεῖσθε. κρεῖσσον ἦν ὕμας πάλαι χορεύειν, ἡνίκ᾽ εἰς χοροὺς ηὔλουν.”

A fisherman had a flute [ἀυλοὺς] and was skilled in playing on it [ηὔλει]. One day in the hope that a large mess of fine fish, without any toil on his part, would come to him charmed by the sweet sound of his pipes [αὐλῶν], he put aside the net and began to warble melodious notes. When, however, he grew tired of blowing and found his piping [ηὔλει] was in vain, then at last he threw out his seine and hauled it in full of fish. Seeing them quivering and flopping about on the ground each in his own way, he taunted them, saying, as he washed his net: “Dance [ὀρχεῖσθε] now without any music [ἄναυλα]; it would have been better for you to have danced sometime ago, when I was supplying music [ηὔλουν] for the dance.” (Babrius §9)[62]

Since adaptations of Aesop’s fables appear in rabbinic sources,[63] some scholars have suggested that in Like Children Complaining Jesus alluded to this Aesopic fable.[64] Appearing to strengthen their case is the fact that Rabbi Akiva (second century C.E.) told a version of this very fable, which reads as follows:

אמשול לך משל למה הדבר דומה לשועל שהיה מהלך על גב הנהר וראה דגים שהיו מתקבצים ממקום למקום אמר להם מפני מה אתם בורחים אמרו לו מפני רשתות שמביאין עלינו בני אדם אמר להם רצונכם שתעלו ליבשה ונדור אני ואתם כשם שדרו אבותי עם אבותיכם אמרו לו אתה הוא שאומרים עליך פקח שבחיות לא פקח אתה אלא טפש אתה ומה במקום חיותנו אנו מתיראין במקום מיתתנו על אחת כמה וכמה

I will tell you a parable. To what is the matter similar? To a fox that was walking along a river and saw fish that were schooling from place to place. He said to them, “From what are you fleeing?” They said to him, “From the nets that human beings are casting over us.” He said to them, “Do you want to come up on dry land and we will live, you and I, just like my ancestors lived with yours?” They said to him, “Are you the one who they say is the most clever of all? You are not clever but foolish! If in the place where we live we are afraid, how much more will we be afraid in the place of our death?” (b. Ber. 61b)

Rabbi Akiva told this parable in order to explain why he defied the orders of the Roman authorities by continuing to teach Torah in public. Rabbi Akiva’s point was that Israel without Torah is like a fish out of water.

A woman plays the avlos in this detail of the Dionysus Mosaic from Sepphoris (Tzippori). Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton.

Rabbi Akiva’s parable probably is adapted from Aesop’s fable. Both stories describe scenarios in which someone (a fisherman or a fox) unsuccessfully attempts to entice fish out of the water. But there the similarities end. In the fable the fisherman taunts the fish after having caught them (“You would not dance to the tune of my pipe, but now you flop around on the ground”), while in Rabbi Akiva’s parable the fish taunt the fox, who never catches the fish (“They say you’re clever, but you are really a fool!”). Like Children Complaining has even less in common with the Greek fable than does Rabbi Akiva’s parable. There is no fisherman and there are no fish in Like Children Complaining. The only point of contact between the Greek fable and Like Children Complaining is the taunt “I played the pipes for you, but you did not dance,”[65] but that common trait is not sufficient to prove that Jesus knew or alluded to the Greek fable. Rather, the Greek fable and Jesus’ simile are better seen as independently attesting to the taunt “You would not dance to my tune.”[66]

L10 קוֹנַנּוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם קִינָה (HR). Since Luke and Matthew agree to write ἐθρηνήσαμεν (ethrēnēsamen, “we sang a lament”) in L10, no comment is required for GR.

In LXX θρηνεῖν (thrēnein, “to lament”) more often occurs as the translation of בָּכָה (bāchāh, “cry”) than of קוֹנֵן (qōnēn, “lament”).[67] On the other hand, the LXX translators rendered most instances of קוֹנֵן with θρηνεῖν.[68] Reconstructing θρηνεῖν with קוֹנֵן is preferable in Like Children Complaining because קוֹנֵן can refer to a musical performance (i.e., singing a lament), whereas בָּכָה lacks this connotation. In the first taunt a musical performance (pipe playing) failed to elicit a physical response (dancing). Therefore, in the second taunt a musical performance’s (singing a lament’s) failure to elicit a physical response (pounding the chest [Matt.] or weeping [Luke]) creates a better parallel than a display of emotion’s (crying’s) failure to elicit more tears.

The words לִפְנֵיכֶם קִינָה (lifnēchem qināh, “before you a lament”), which we have included in HR, are not strictly necessary and have no equivalent in the Greek text, but they balance the words לִפְנֵיכֶם בֶּחָלִיל (lifnēchem beḥālil, “before you on the pipe”) in L8. An example of קוֹנֵן קִינָה (qōnēn qināh, “sing a lament”) occurs in the story of David’s reaction to the news that Saul and Jonathan were dead:

וַיְקֹנֵן דָּוִד אֶת הַקִּינָה הַזֹּאת עַל שָׁאוּל וְעַל יְהוֹנָתָן בְּנוֹ

And David sang this lament for Saul and for Jonathan his son. (2 Sam. 1:17)

καὶ ἐθρήνησεν Δαυιδ τὸν θρῆνον τοῦτον ἐπὶ Σαουλ καὶ ἐπὶ Ιωναθαν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ

And David sang this lament for Saul and for Jonathan his son. (2 Kgdms. 1:17)

L11 καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε (GR). In L11 the authors of Luke and Matthew used different verbs to describe what the children refused to do in response to the song of lamentation. Matthew’s version has κόπτειν (koptein, “to cut,” “to strike”), which in the middle voice, κόπτεσθαι (koptesthai), means “to pound [one’s chest] in grief” or, more generically, “to grieve” or “to mourn.” Luke’s version has the verb κλαίειν (klaiein, “to weep,” “to cry”), which could also be used in the broader sense of “to grieve.”[69] It has been popular among scholars to explain that the author of Luke changed κόπτειν to κλαίειν in his version of Like Children Complaining for the sake of his Greco-Roman audience, who felt an aversion to the violent and passionate expressions of grief practiced among the Jews.[70] But this explanation does not hold water for two reasons. In the first place, the author of Luke’s supposed sensitivity to his readers’ aversion to chest pounding as an expression of bereavement did not prevent him from using the verb κόπτεσθαι to describe chest pounding in Luke 8:52 (Yair’s Daughter) or Luke 23:27 (Daughters of Yerushalayim).[71] Nor did it prevent him from writing καὶ πάντες…τύπτοντες τὰ στήθη ὑπέστρεφον (“and everyone…pounding their chests returned”) in Luke 23:48 (Yeshua’s Death). Thus, the suggestion that the author of Luke was suddenly seized by an aversion to chest pounding while incorporating his version of Like Children Complaining is implausible.[72] The second reason why the explanation that the author of Luke avoided κόπτεσθαι out of sensitivity to his readers is implausible is that pounding one’s chest was a perfectly ordinary and acceptable expression of grief in Greco-Roman society. Accordingly, Plutarch (mid-first to mid-second cent. C.E.) counseled a friend with regard to mourning practices in the following manner:

τὸ γὰρ δὴ ἀτελεύτητον νομίζειν τὸ πένθος ἀνοίας ἐστὶν ἐσχάτης, καίτοι γ᾽ ὁρῶντας ὡς καὶ οἱ βαρυλυπότατοι καὶ πολυπενθέστατοι παρότατοι γίγνονται πολλάκις ὑπὸ τοῦ χρόνου, καὶ ἐν οἷς ἐδυσχέραινον σφόδρα μνήμασιν ἀνοιμώζοντες καὶ στερνοτυπούμενοι λαμπρὰς εὐωχίας συνίστανται μετὰ μουσουργῶν καὶ τῆς ἄλλης διαχύσεως.

For to regard our mourning as unending is the mark of the most extreme foolishness, especially when we observe how those who have been in the deepest grief and greatest mourning often become most cheerful under the influence of time, and at the very tombs where they gave violent expression to their grief by wailing and beating their breasts [στερνοτυπούμενοι], they arrange most elaborate banquets with musicians and all the other forms of diversion. (Moralia: Letter to Apollonius §26 [114f])[73]

Thus, according to Plutarch, pounding one’s chest and other such expressions of grief are perfectly acceptable unless prolonged indefinitely. It is natural to vent one’s emotions. It is morbid to remain inconsolable.

Lucian (second cent. C.E.), like Plutarch, mentioned chest pounding as a typical expression of mourning:

Οἰμωγαὶ δὲ ἐπὶ τούτοις καὶ κωκυτὸς τυναικῶν καὶ παρὰ πάντων δάκρυα καὶ στέρνα τυπτόμενα καὶ σπαραττομένη κόμη καὶ φοινισσόμεναι παρειαί· καί που καὶ ἐσθὴς καταρρήγνυται καὶ κόνις ἐπὶ τῇ κεφαλῇ πάσσεται, καὶ οἱ ζῶντες οἰκτρότεροι τοῦ νεκροῦ·

Next comes cries of distress, wailing of women, tears on all sides, beaten breasts [στέρνα τυπτόμενα], torn hair, and bloody cheeks. Perhaps, too, clothing is rent and dust sprinkled on the head, and the living are in a plight more pitiable than the dead…. (On Funerals §12)[74]

It is true that Lucian was critical of these outpourings of emotion, but his criticisms are due to his philosophical belief that any mourning of the dead whatsoever is foolish and selfish. Nevertheless, Lucian bears witness to normal mourning customs for which ordinary people would not feel ashamed.

While the reasons so many scholars have given for attributing κλαίειν to Lukan redaction have proven to be specious, this does not prove that their conclusion is false.[75] In our view, three reasons recommend accepting Matthew’s ἐκόψασθε (ekopsasthe, “you pounded your chest,” “you grieved”) for GR. First, the traditional opposite of κλαίειν (“to weep”) is γελᾶν (gelan, “laugh”), as we see, for example, in Eccl. 3:4; Luke 6:21, 25. But in the first taunt the children do not complain that their friends did not laugh, they complain that their friends did not dance. On the other hand, Eccl. 3:4 demonstrates that dancing (ὀρχεῖσθαι) and mourning (κόπτεσθαι) were traditional opposites.[76] Thus, Matthew’s ἐκόψασθε is a better fit in Like Children Complaining (L11), where the refusal to mourn parallels the refusal to dance (L9). Second, the verbs θρηνεῖν (“to lament”) and κόπτεσθαι (“to mourn”) traditionally went hand in hand (cf., e.g., Luke 23:27; Jos., Ant. 6:377; 8:273), so it is natural that mourning or chest pounding was the response the children who sang the lament expected to elicit. Third, Linton pointed out that the author of Luke may have had a stylistic reason for avoiding κόπτεσθαι in Like Children Complaining.[77] Whenever Luke used the verb κόπτεσθαι, he always did so with an object:

ἔκλαιον δὲ πάντες καὶ ἐκόπτοντο αὐτήν

But everyone wept and mourned her. (Luke 8:52)

ἠκολούθει δὲ αὐτῷ πολὺ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ γυναικῶν αἳ ἐκόπτοντο καὶ ἐθρήνουν αὐτόν

But a great multitude of the people followed him, also women who were mourning and lamenting him. (Luke 23:27)

In Like Children Complaining, however, there is no object to be mourned, and therefore Luke may have preferred κλαίειν, which does not require an object. Thus, we concur with the majority view and have adopted Matthew’s wording in L11 for GR.

וְלֹא סְפַדְתֶּם (HR). In LXX κόπτειν, when used in the sense of “pound one’s chest” or “mourn,” usually occurs as the translation of סָפַד (sāfad, “mourn”).[78] Likewise, the LXX translators usually rendered סָפַד with κόπτειν (generally in the middle voice, κόπτεσθαι).[79] In Eccl. 3:4 סָפַד (“mourn”) is considered the antithesis of רָקַד (rāqad, “dance”):

עֵת לִבְכּוֹת וְעֵת לִשְׂחוֹק עֵת סְפוֹד וְעֵת רְקוֹד

…a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…. (Eccl. 3:4)

καιρὸς τοῦ κλαῦσαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ γελάσαι, καιρὸς τοῦ κόψασθαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ὀρχήσασθαι

…a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…. (Eccl. 3:4)

Bovon noted that the children’s game described in Like Children Complaining, in which they accuse one another of not playing at rejoicing or weeping, is not otherwise attested.[80] Jeremias claimed to have found a parallel to children enacting a funeral in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Yev. 121b),[81] but it is not at all clear that the Talmud is citing a real example and not simply describing a hypothetical scenario. The context in which a children’s mock funeral is mentioned is a rabbinic debate over whether children can be reliable witnesses to a person’s death. It is in this context that a scenario is described in which children say, “We are returning from mourning and burying so-and-so”—a truthful claim insofar as it goes, but confusion arises because the children have given an insect a man’s name. Perhaps such a scenario really did take place, but there is no proof that it did, much less that it was common. Those who regard the rabbinic report in b. Yev. 121b as providing historical context for understanding Like Children Complaining are treading on very shaky ground.[82]

First-century Roman relief depicting a funeral procession. Photographed by Sailko. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Application: Criticism of John the Baptist and Jesus (L12-21)

L12 ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης (GR). In L12 the Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining are in agreement except with regard to the tense of the verb ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”). Whereas Luke has the perfect form ἐλήλυθεν (elēlūthen, “he has come”), Matthew has the aorist form ἦλθεν (ēlthen, “he came”). Most scholars suppose that the author of Luke is responsible for the change in tense,[83] and their judgment appears to be correct. Cadbury noted that Luke has a disproportionately high number of instances of ἔρχεσθαι (“to come”) and ἐξέρχεσθαι (“to go out”) in the perfect tense as compared to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.[84] There is also no agreement among the Synoptic Gospels to use either ἔρχεσθαι or ἐξέρχεσθαι in the perfect tense. In Call of Levi, Comment to L65, we attributed the perfect form ἐλήλυθα (elēlūtha, “I have come”) in Luke 5:32 to Lukan redaction.

שֶׁבָּא יוֹחָנָן (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L8.

On reconstructing Ἰωάννης (Iōannēs, “John”) with יוֹחָנָן (yōḥānān, “John”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L25.

If we are correct in placing Like Children Complaining in the “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex, which expresses a change in Jesus’ outlook that came late in his career, then it is likely that Jesus spoke these words about John in the period after the Baptist’s execution.

L13 ὁ βαπτιστὴς (GR). Although some scholars regard the title ὁ βαπτιστής (ho baptistēs, “the immerser,” traditionally, “the Baptist”) in Luke 7:33 as a Lukan addition,[85] the author of Luke used the Baptist’s title only 3xx in his entire Gospel (Luke 7:20, 33; 9:19) and, notably, he often refrained from using the Baptist’s title when the authors of Mark and/or Matthew did so (Matt. 3:1 ∥ Mark 1:4 [cf. Luke 3:2]; Matt. 11:11 [cf. Luke 7:28]; Matt. 11:12 [cf. Luke 16:16]; Matt. 14:2 ∥ Mark 6:14 [cf. Luke 9:7]). In these examples Mark uses the title ὁ βαπτίζων (ho baptizōn, “the one immersing”) rather than ὁ βαπτιστής.[86] This reticence on the part of the author of Luke to use the Baptist’s full title makes us wary of attributing ὁ βαπτιστής in L13 to Lukan redaction. Our wariness is increased by the fact that the author of Matthew had already used John’s title twice in Matt. 11:11-12, so he may well have omitted John’s title in Matt. 11:18 in order to avoid redundancy.[87] Moreover, if we are correct that Like Children Complaining was not originally connected to Yohanan the Immerser’s Question or Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser,[88] then it would make sense for Jesus to have used John’s title, since otherwise which John he was referring to would not have been immediately clear to his audience. Therefore, we have adopted the words ὁ βαπτιστής in L13 for GR.

הַמַּטְבִּיל (HR). On reconstructing βαπτιστής (baptistēs, “immerser”) with מַטְבִּיל (maṭbil, “immerser”), see Yohanan the Immerser’s Question, Comment to L21.

L14-15 μὴ ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων (GR). Since Matthew’s μήτε…μήτε (mēte…mēte, “neither…nor”) in L14-15 represents more standard Greek than Luke’s μὴ…μήτε (mē…mēte, “not…and not”),[89] and since Luke’s wording reverts more exactly to Hebrew than Matthew’s μήτε…μήτε, we have accepted Luke’s μή (, “not”) in L14 for GR.[90]

According to Nestle-Aland, Matthew and Luke agreed to write ἐσθίων (esthiōn, “eating”) in L14. That the reading ἔσθων in Codex Vaticanus is a scribal error involving the accidental omission of the letter iota (ι) is reinforced by the reading ἐσθίων in Luke 7:34 (L18). Thus, for GR in L14 we have adopted the form ἐσθίων.

Scholars are almost universally agreed that it was the author of Luke who added “bread” and “wine” in L14-15 rather than supposing that the author of Matthew omitted these words from his source.[91] Their opinion appears to be confirmed by the absence of “bread” and “wine” in Luke 7:34 (L18).[92] We concur with the consensus view since, as we will discuss below, the addition of “bread” and “wine” misses the original point of the saying.

It is possible that the author of Luke added “wine,” recalling the words the angel had spoken to the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, prohibiting John from ever imbibing wine or alcoholic drink (Luke 1:15).[93] The addition of “bread” would then be explained as restoring balance to the saying following his decision to add “wine.” On the other hand, it is possible that the author of Luke added “bread” and “wine” as representative of the categories of food and drink.[94] To detect an allusion to the eucharist in the Lukan addition of “bread” and “wine” is unwarranted, since for a historian like the author of Luke the anachronism would have been intolerable.

אֵינוּ אוֹכֵל וְאֵינוּ שׁוֹתֶה (HR). On reconstructing ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”) with אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L5.

On reconstructing πινεῖν (pinein, “to drink”) with שָׁתָה (shātāh, “drink”), see Yeshua’s Discourse on Worry, Comment to L6.

An alternative reconstruction we considered for L12-15 is שֶׁלֹּא בָּא יוֹחָנָן הַמַּטְבִּיל אוֹכֵל אוֹ שׁוֹתֶה (“For John the Baptist did not come eating or drinking”). However, this reconstruction less closely resembles the Greek text.

Scholars typically interpret Jesus’ reference to the Baptist’s “neither eating nor drinking” as an allusion to John’s habitual and/or extreme manner of fasting.[95] But, as Cotter noted, there are no other ancient sources that highlight the extraordinary nature of John’s fasting.[96] Josephus made no reference to John’s fasting, and the one time John’s fasting is mentioned in the Gospels (Question About Fasting [Matt. 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39]), “John’s fasting is not represent[ed] as a marginal activity, but as a conventional one” (emphasis original).[97] For this reason Cotter concluded that the claim made in Like Children Complaining “that John was indicted as demon possessed for fasting…seems quite artificial.”[98] However, we are by no means convinced that Like Children Complaining intended a reference to John’s fasting.

Let us notice, in the first place, that the charge leveled against Jesus in L20-21 is not merely that Jesus ate and drank to excess, but that he did so in bad company. Indeed, it is the bad company that Jesus kept that appears to be the real issue in Like Children Complaining, since the charge of overconsumption is merely an exaggeration, whereas Jesus’ openness with regard to table fellowship is undisputed and was criticized on other occasions (cf., e.g., Call of Levi). Jesus’ open table fellowship policy also found expression in the instructions he gave to the twelve apostles when he sent them on their healing and teaching expedition. According to Luke 10:7, the apostles were commanded to eat and drink what belonged to the people into whose homes they were invited to stay. In Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L95-96, we discussed how this command contrasts with the economic separatism practiced by the Essenes. When the Essenes traveled they either took their own food with them, ate with fellow Essenes who lived in the places they visited, or, in urgent cases, they would buy food with money (1QS V, 16-20). The Essenes did not tolerate table fellowship with “outsiders,” who were deemed to be ritually and morally impure. The apostles, on the other hand, were to enjoy table fellowship with anyone who would receive them, for it was precisely in the intimate setting of table fellowship that Jesus’ message of peace through the Kingdom of Heaven could be optimally shared. The miraculous provision of food for the crowds who came to hear Jesus’ teaching is another example of Jesus’ openness with regard to table fellowship and the important role this policy played in the propagation of his message.

It strikes us as highly improbable that John the Baptist would have shared Jesus’ policy of open fellowship at mealtimes. John the Baptist’s worldview was much closer to that of the Essenes, and it is likely that he maintained a certain degree of economic separation from the masses who came to listen to his teaching and undergo his ritual immersion. Some of those who were initially attracted to John the Baptist may have taken offense at his refusal to eat and drink with them, interpreting his refusal as a form of rejection, and as Cotter amply demonstrated, anti-social behavior and its consequent estrangement from the community were associated with demon possession.[99] Thus, those who were insulted that John the Baptist rejected their table fellowship may well have responded by accusing John of having a demon.[100]

Our interpretation of “John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking” (i.e., that he did not share table fellowship with the crowds who were attracted to him) gives better balance to Like Children Complaining than the traditional interpretation according to which John was infamous for fasting. In our view, both complaints against John and Jesus had to do with table fellowship. In both cases the complaint is that John the Baptist and Jesus were not eating with the right people—the ones making the complaint! “John, don’t you think we’re good enough for you?” the people grumbled. “Jesus, why don’t you eat with respectable people like us instead of those lowlifes and ne’er-do-wells?” In fact, Jesus was perfectly happy to eat (and drink!) with anyone. It was his critics who, by remaining aloof from the disreputable company of toll collectors and sinners, found themselves obliged to keep their distance from Jesus too.

If our interpretation of John’s abstention from eating and drinking is correct, then the addition of “bread” and “wine” misses the original point. It is not what John did not eat but with whom that was the issue.[101]

L16 καὶ λέγουσιν δαιμόνιον ἔχει (GR). Since Luke’s “and you say” is stylistically better Greek than Matthew’s impersonal “and they say,” it is probable that Luke’s wording is an improvement to Anth.’s, which is preserved in Matthew.[102] The impersonal “they” refers back to “this generation,” which was mentioned at the opening of Like Children Complaining (L2).[103]

וְאוֹמְרִים הַשֵּׁד בּוֹ (HR). On reconstructing δαιμόνιον (daimonion, “demon”) with שֵׁד (shēd, “demon”), see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L20.

We have not found a precise parallel to “to have a demon” in ancient Hebrew sources. Early rabbinic sources are surprisingly reticent regarding demons and exorcism, and while demons and spirits play a larger role in DSS, descriptions of demon possession (as opposed to external demonic affliction) are scarce or simply not to be found. This may reflect a belief held by the authors of the scrolls that the members of the sect were immune from demon possession.[104] We do, however, find the following statement about a demon-possessed person in a tannaic source, upon which we have modeled our reconstruction:

כל מי שהשד בו הוא מיריר

Everyone who the demon is in him drools. (Sifre Deut. §321 [ed. Finkelstein, 368])

In this rabbinic text, as in our reconstruction, the definite הַשֵּׁד (hashēd, “the demon”) has an indefinite sense (i.e., “a demon”).

L17 ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (GR). On our preference for Matthew’s ἦλθεν (ēlthen, “he came”) over Luke’s ἐλήλυθεν (elēlūthen, “he has come”), see above, Comment to L12.

בָּא בַּר אֱנָשׁ (HR). On reconstructing ἔρχεσθαι (erchesthai, “to come”) with בָּא (bā’, “come”), see above, Comment to L12.

On reconstructing ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (ho huios tou anthrōpou, “the son of the human”) with the Aramaic title בַּר אֱנָשׁ (bar ’enāsh, “son of man”), see Sign-Seeking Generation, Comment to L42-43.

Jesus’ self-referential use of “Son of Man” appears to be connected to his perception of being a sign of doom to his contemporaries. It is fitting, therefore, that Jesus used this designation when disparaging “this generation.”

L18 אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה (HR). GR for L18 requires no comment because the wording in the Lukan and Matthean versions is in agreement.

On reconstructing ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”) with אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”) and on reconstructing πινεῖν (pinein, “to drink”) with שָׁתָה (shātāh, “drink”), see above, Comment to L14-15.

As we have already discussed (see above, Comment to L14-15), the Son of Man’s “eating and drinking” refers not to Jesus’ refusal to fast[105] but to his policy of openness with regard to table fellowship. Jesus was willing to eat with anyone willing to accept him, whether “respectable” Pharisees or “disreputable” toll collectors and sinners who responded to Jesus’ message of repentance and forgiveness.

L19 καὶ λέγουσιν ἰδοὺ (GR). On our preference for Matthew’s third-person plural impersonal verb for GR, see above, Comment to L16.

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

L20 ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης (GR). Since the wording of the Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining is identical in L20, GR requires no comment other than to note that the indefinite use of ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”) in apposition to a noun is generally regarded as a Semitism.[106]

אִישׁ רַעַבְתָן וְגַרְגְּרָן (HR). On reconstructing ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, “person”) with אִישׁ (’ish, “man”), see Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12.

Some scholars believe that the accusation that Jesus was an “eater” (φάγος [fagos]) and “wine drinker” (οἰνοπότης [oinopotēs]) alludes to the Torah’s commandment regarding a rebellious son,[107] in which his parents denounce him before the elders with the words:

בְּנֵנוּ זֶה סוֹרֵר וּמֹרֶה אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ בְּקֹלֵנוּ זוֹלֵל וְסֹבֵא

This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he does not listen to our voice [i.e., he disobeys us—DNB and JNT], he is a squanderer [זוֹלֵל] and a drinker [סֹבֵא]. (Deut. 21:20)

While the term סֹבֵא (sovē’) always means “(heavy) drinker,” זוֹלֵל (zōlēl) does not necessarily mean “glutton.” It can refer to someone who wastes valuable resources or one who is deemed to be worthless. The LXX translators evidently understood זוֹלֵל וְסֹבֵא in Deut. 21:20 to refer not to two parallel tendencies—the first with regard to food, the second with regard to drink—but to two complementary tendencies that lead to a single result:

ὁ υἱὸς ἡμῶν οὗτος ἀπειθεῖ καὶ ἐρεθίζει, οὐχ ὑπακούει τῆς φωνῆς ἡμῶν, συμβολοκοπῶν οἰνοφλυγεῖ

This son of ours disobeys and provokes, he does not listen to our voice, reveling [συμβολοκοπῶν] he gets drunk with wine [οἰνοφλυγεῖ]. (Deut. 21:20)

In the LXX version of Deut. 21:20, συμβολοκοπεῖν (sūmbolokopein, “to revel”) leads to οἰνοφλυγεῖν (oinoflūgein, “to be intoxicated with wine”). Compare the LXX usage of συμβολοκοπεῖν in the following verse:

μετὰ ὑπάνδρου γυναικὸς μὴ κάθου τὸ σύνολον καὶ μὴ συμβολοκοπήσῃς μετ᾿ αὐτῆς ἐν οἴνῳ

With a married woman do not sit at all, and do not revel with her in wine…. (Sir. 9:9)

Here, too, συμβολοκοπεῖν involves drinking, not eating to excess.

On the other hand, an early rabbinic tradition does interpret זוֹלֵל וְסֹבֵא in Deut. 21:20 as referring to a glutton and drunkard:

זולל וסובא, זולל בבשר וסובא ביין

A squanderer and a drinker [Deut. 21:20]: A squanderer with respect to meat, and a drinker with respect to wine. (Sifre Deut. §219 [ed. Finkelstein, 252])

This rabbinic tradition interprets Deut. 21:20 in light of Prov. 23:20, which reads:

אַל תְּהִי בְסֹבְאֵי יָיִן בְּזֹלֲלֵי בָשָׂר לָמוֹ

Do not be with drinkers of wine or with squanderers of meat. (Prov. 23:20)

Thus, an allusion to the rebellious son of Deut. 21:20 in the accusation made against Jesus in Like Children Complaining is possible. On the other hand, a scriptural allusion may be overly subtle in the exaggerated claims made about Jesus.[108] Moreover, the terms זוֹלֵל (“squanderer”) and סֹבֵא (“drunkard”) became either exceedingly rare or entirely extinct in Mishnaic Hebrew,[109] while other terms for those who overindulge in food and drink took their place. Thus, according to one of the Derech Eretz treatises we read:

ולא יאחוז פרוסה כביצה בידו ויאכל, ואם אכל הרי זה רעבתן. ולא ישתה כוסו בבת אחת, ואם שתה הרי זה גרגרן…. לא יאכל אדם שום ובצל מראשו אלא מעליו, ואם אכל הרי זה רעבתן. ולא ישתה אדם שתי כוסות ויברך ברכת המזון, מפני שנראה כגרגרן.

And he should not hold a piece [of bread] the size of an egg in his hand and eat it, but if he ate [in this way]: Behold! He is a glutton [רַעַבְתָן]. And he should not drink [the contents of] his cup in one gulp, but if he drank [in this way]: Behold! He is a guzzler [גַּרְגְּרָן]. (Pirke Ben Azzai 4:5 [ed. Higger, 211-212])

In this rabbinic text, which deals with proper table manners, the terms for “glutton” (רַעַבְתָן [ra‘avtān])[110] and “guzzler” (גַּרְגְּרָן [gargerān])[111] are paired, but without alluding to the rebellious son of Deut. 21:20.

Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech, such as that found in Like Children Complaining, in a Mishnaic style of Hebrew, we have adopted רַעַבְתָן וְגַרְגְּרָן for HR. We leave open the question of whether or not Jesus’ accusers intended to allude to the rebellious son of Deut. 21:20.

The payment of taxes depicted on a second- or third-century C.E. stele in France. Photographed by Fab5669. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L21 φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν (GR). In L21 the Lukan and Matthean versions agree with respect to the words but not with respect to their order. Scholars have offered contradictory opinions about whether Luke’s or Matthew’s word order is the more refined.[112] We have accepted Luke’s word order for GR in L21 because it reverts to Hebrew more exactly than Matthew’s.

אוֹהֵב שֶׁלְּמוֹכְסִים וּרְשָׁעִים (HR). On reconstructing φίλος (filos, “friend”) with אוֹהֵב (’ōhēv, “friend”), see Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, Comment to L27-28.

On reconstructing τελώνης (telōnēs, “toll collector”) with מוֹכֵס (mōchēs, “toll collector”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L10.

On reconstructing ἁμαρτωλός (hamartōlos, “sinful”) with רָשָׁע (rāshā‘, “wicked”), see Call of Levi, Comment to L29.

Similarly constructed phrases such as אוֹהֲבוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ (’ōhavō shel melech, “the friend of the king”),[113] אוֹהֲבוֹ שֶׁל אָבִיו (’ōhavō shel ’āviv, “the friend of his father”)[114] and אוֹהֲבוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם (’ōhavō shel ’ādām, “the friend of a man”)[115] are fairly common in rabbinic sources.

Cotter regarded the accusation “[he is] a friend of toll collectors and sinners” as a secondary addition,[116] because unlike the accusations “he has a demon” and “[he is] a glutton and a dipsomaniac,” which are not only false but preposterous, this final accusation is true. According to Cotter, the critics of John the Baptist and Jesus make wildly unwarranted extrapolations: because John fasts he must be possessed, because Jesus does not fast he must be overindulgent. But if, as we have suggested, the issue is not fasting but table fellowship, then the accusation that Jesus is a friend of toll collectors and sinners falls into place. The people (mis)interpreted the Baptist’s refusal to eat with the crowds as implying he was too good for their company, and the people, taking offense at this, attributed his anti-social behavior to demonic possession. The people took offense at Jesus’ willingness to eat with anyone, feeling that they were too good be seen in his disreputable company, and so they accused him of bad table manners (gorging his food and guzzling his drink).[117] In this regard the critics of John the Baptist and Jesus really were like children who found fault with their playmates, first for one thing (“We piped for you, but you would not dance”) and then for its opposite (“We sang a lament, but you would not mourn”).[118]

Final Remark: Wisdom and Her Children (L22-23)

L22 וְנִזְדַּכָּה הֶחָכְמָה (HR). Since the Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining are in agreement in L22, GR for this line requires no further comment.

In LXX the verb δικαιοῦν (dikaioun, “to vindicate,” “to justify”) is not especially common. In most instances where δικαιοῦν does occur, it appears as the translation of the צ-ד-ק root in its various stems.[119] Reconstructing ἐδικαιώθη (edikaiōthē, “he/she/it was vindicated”) in L22 with the nif‘al form נִצְדְּקָה (nitzdeqāh, “she was vindicated”) or the hof‘al forms הוּצְדְּקָה/הָצְדְּקָה (hotzdeqāh/hūtzdeqāh, “she was caused to be vindicated”) is possible, but the absence in Mishnaic Hebrew of צ-ד-ק in the nif‘al or hof‘al stems creates difficulties.[120] An additional difficulty is that the preposition ἀπό (apo, “from”) in L23 points to an underlying מִן (min, “from”),[121] but מִן + צ-ד-ק implies being cleared of a false accusation or having one’s unjust circumstances rectified. Reconstructing with מִן + צ-ד-ק would therefore put wisdom at odds with her children (Luke) or its works (Matt.), which goes against the natural interpretation of Jesus’ saying, according to which the children/works are the means by which wisdom is justified. These obstacles suggest that we should look for an alternative reconstruction.

There are two instances in LXX where δικαιοῦν occurs as the translation of the root ז-כ-ה:

אַךְ רִיק זִכִּיתִי לְבָבִי וָאֶרְחַץ בְּנִקָּיוֹן כַּפָּי

But for nothing I have kept my heart pure [זִכִּיתִי], and I washed my palms in innocence. (Ps. 73:13)

ἄρα ματαίως ἐδικαίωσα τὴν καρδίαν μου καὶ ἐνιψάμην ἐν ἀθῴοις τὰς χεῖράς μου

So in vain did I keep my heart just [ἐδικαίωσα], and I washed my hands in innocence. (Ps. 72:13)

הַאֶזְכֶּה בְּמֹאזְנֵי רֶשַׁע וּבְכִיס אַבְנֵי מִרְמָה

Will I acquit [הַאֶזְכֶּה] with scales of wickedness or with a bag of deceitful weights? (Mic. 6:11)

εἰ δικαιωθήσεται ἐν ζυγῷ ἄνομος καὶ ἐν μαρσίππῳ στάθμια δόλου;

Will the lawless be acquitted [δικαιωθήσεται] with scales, and deceitful weights with a bag? (Mic. 6:11)

In Mishnaic Hebrew the ז-כ-ה root occurs in the nitpa‘el stem with the meaning “be acquitted” or “have favorable evidence presented.”[122] Examples of נִזְדַּכֶּה (nizdakeh, “be acquitted”) include the following:

והוא שנזדכה מפי עצמו אין מושיבין אותו דיין

And he that is acquitted [שֶׁנִּזְדַּכֶּה] from his own mouth [i.e., by his own testimony—DNB and JNT], they do not seat him as a judge. (y. Sanh. 5:5 [26b])

מדבריכם נזדכה פלוני

From your words so-and-so is acquitted [נִזְדַּכֶּה]. (b. San. 32b)

Note that in the above-cited examples נִזְדַּכֶּה is used in conjunction with מִן (“from”) to mean “be acquitted by.” Thus, reconstructing L22-23 as וְנִזְדַּכָּה הֶחָכְמָה מִבָּנֶיהָ/מִמַּעֲשֶׂיהָ would mean “and wisdom is justified by her children/its deeds.” Given these advantages, we have adopted נִזְדַּכָּה for HR.

On reconstructing σοφία (sofia, “wisdom”) with חָכְמָה (ḥochmāh, “wisdom”), see Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L13.

A statue of personified Sofia in Bulgaria. Image photographed by Bin im Garten, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L23 ἀπὸ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς (GR). In L23 we have to choose between Luke’s “by all her children” and Matthew’s “because of its works.”[123] Luke’s version personifies Wisdom as a woman who has become the mother of her adherents. In Matthew’s version wisdom could be personified, but probably is not. More likely, Matthew’s version could be paraphrased as “wisdom is as wisdom does,” in other words, a person’s wisdom is borne out by his or her actions.

There are good reasons for supposing Luke’s personification of Wisdom is original. First, Wisdom personified as a woman is a commonplace in ancient Jewish literature.[124] Wisdom personified as a mother is less common, but not unprecedented. For instance, in Proverbs Wisdom addresses her followers saying:

וְעַתָּה בָנִים שִׁמְעוּ־לִי וְאַשְׁרֵי דְּרָכַי יִשְׁמֹרוּ

And now, O sons, listen to me, and blessed are those who keep my ways. (Prov. 8:32)

Likewise, in the Wisdom of Ben Sira we read:

ἡ σοφία υἱοὺς αὐτῆς ἀνύψωσεν καὶ ἐπιλαμβάνεται τῶν ζητούντων αὐτήν.

Wisdom exalts her sons and receives those who seek her. (Sir. 4:11)[125]

Second, the author of Matthew appears to have been averse to the personification of Wisdom. In Innocent Blood the author of Matthew replaced “Therefore, the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send…’” with “Therefore, behold, I am sending…,” thereby transferring the words of personified Wisdom to Jesus.[126] Thus, eliminating or suppressing a personification of Wisdom in Like Children Complaining is consistent with Matthean editorial activity observed elsewhere in his Gospel.

Third, “wisdom is vindicated by its works” in Matt. 11:19, a declaration that closes the section on John the Baptist that opened in Matt. 11:2, echoes the statement in that opening verse that John the Baptist had heard of τὰ ἔργα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (“the works of Christ”). It appears, therefore, that the author of Matthew intentionally crafted the opening and closing verses of this unit on John the Baptist so that they would echo one another.[127] The works of Christ are vindicated, having been shown to be wise.

Fourth, it is difficult to imagine the author of Luke changing “wisdom is vindicated by its works” to “[Lady] Wisdom is vindicated by her children.”[128] If he had changed “works” to “children,” one wonders why he chose to write τέκνων (teknōn) instead of παιδίων (paidiōn), since the noun παιδίον (“little child”) occurs in L4.[129] The more probable explanation is that the author of Luke copied τέκνων from Anth.

More difficult to decide is whether Luke’s πάντων (pantōn, “all”), which has no parallel in Matt. 11:19, is a Lukan addition or whether it was copied from Anth. Most scholars consider Luke’s πάντων in L23 to be redactional, pointing to the author of Luke’s tendency to generalize.[130] On the other hand, “all her children” makes a good deal of sense if we are correct in understanding L22-23 as a final remark not just on Like Children Complaining but on the entire “Choose Repentance or Destruction” complex. In that case, “all Wisdom’s children” would refer to all of the prophets sent to Israel during its long history (including John the Baptist and Jesus), as well as to the Queen of Sheba, who quested from the ends of the earth in search of wisdom. Then again, “Wisdom is vindicated by her children” without the addition of “all” can be understood in the same way. Thus, “all” is unnecessary, and, as some scholars have pointed out, the author of Luke may have added “all” in order to include “all the people” mentioned in Luke 7:29 (in the pericope just before Like Children Complaining) among Wisdom’s children.[131] We have therefore omitted Luke’s πάντων in L23 from GR, but not without a measure of uncertainty.

מִבָּנֶיהָ (HR). On reconstructing τέκνον (teknon, “child”) with בֵּן (bēn, “son”), see Yohanan the Immerser Demands Repentance, Comment to L16.

Wisdom’s acquittal by her sons (and daughters) is a fitting conclusion to “Choose Repentance or Destruction,” in which Jesus not only anticipated a near-term catastrophe in which his contemporaries would be swept up in a losing confrontation with the Roman Empire, but also warned of his contemporaries’ fate in the final judgment. Jesus warned that in the final reckoning Tyre and Sidon and even Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better than his contemporaries, and the Queen of the South and the inhabitants of Nineveh will rise up to bear witness against them. The trial Jesus’ contemporaries will face in the last judgment will be a reversal of the trial Jesus’ contemporaries were conducting against Wisdom in the present. By refusing Wisdom’s counsel and rejecting her emissaries, Jesus’ contemporaries had, in effect, accused Wisdom herself. But Wisdom had been and would continue to be acquitted by the fearless conduct of her daughters and sons who spoke out against evil, called Israel to repentance and warned of the consequences to come if repentance was refused.[132] Wisdom’s acquittal in the past and the present ensured that Wisdom’s detractors would be held to account in the final judgment.

Redaction Analysis

The Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining are not identical, but they are substantially the same. The points of disagreement between the two versions are nearly all of a stylistic nature. On the whole, it was the author of Luke who made the most “improvements” to Like Children Complaining. The one change motivated by ideology rather than stylistic concerns is the author of Matthew’s decision to suppress the image of personified Wisdom by referring to wisdom’s deeds rather than Wisdom’s sons.

Luke’s Version[133]

Like Children Complaining
Luke Anthology
Total
Words:
76 Total
Words:
70
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
58 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Luke:
58
%
Identical
to Anth.:
76.32 % of Anth.
in Luke:
82.86
Click here for details.

The stylistic changes the author of Luke made to Anth.’s wording of Like Children Complaining include increased precision (“the people of this generation” in place of “this generation” in L2; the addition of “bread” in L14; the addition of “wine” in L15), grammatical improvements (streamlining the sentence structure in L5-7; writing ἀλλήλοις in place of τοῖς ἑτέροις in L6; using a third-person singular verb [λέγει] in L7 to agree with the neuter plural subject [παιδίοις]; writing ἐλήλυθεν in place of ἦλθεν in L12 and L17; changing the third-person plural impersonal verbs [λέγουσιν] in L16 and L19 to second-person plural verbs [λέγετε]), clarification (writing ἐκλαύσατε in place of ἐκόψασθε in L11), and widening of the application of Jesus’ concluding remark by inserting “all” in L23.

By adding “bread” and “wine” in L14 and L15 the author of Luke inadvertently diverted focus away from the real issue John the Baptist’s critics had with his manner of eating and drinking. It was not what the Baptist did not eat, but with whom he declined to share meals that aroused the people’s resentment. Luke’s mistake has proven to be a red herring, misleading interpreters of Like Children Complaining for millennia.

Matthew’s Version[134]

Pericope Title
Matthew Anthology
Total
Words:
65 Total
Words:
70
Total
Words
Identical
to Anth.:
58 Total
Words
Taken Over
in Matt.:
58
%
Identical
to Anth.:
89.23 % of Anth.
in Matt.:
82.86
Click here for details.

The author of Matthew made relatively few changes to Anth.’s wording of Like Children Complaining. Characteristically for the author of Matthew, the changes he did make are concentrated at the beginning and end of the pericope. The author of Matthew wrote δέ (“but”) in place of οὖν (“therefore”) in L1, and he dropped the second of the two questions (L3) introducing the simile, a change that required him to write ὁμοία ἐστίν (“it is like”) in place of Anth.’s ὅμοιοί εἰσιν (“they are like”) in L4. In L5 he made “markets” plural and added the definite article. At the end of the pericope the author of Matthew wrote “her works” in place of Anth.’s “her children,” thereby suppressing the personification of wisdom. The only other changes the author of Matthew made to Anth.’s wording of Like Children Complaining were to drop John the Baptist’s title in L13, to write μήτε in place of μή in L14, and to slightly alter the word order in L21.

Results of This Research

1. Does Jesus compare the roles of John the Baptist and the Son of Man to children playing in the market, or are the people of Jesus’ generation, who criticized both John the Baptist and the Son of Man, compared to naughty children who mock their peers? The point of comparison between Jesus’ contemporaries (“this generation”) and the children in the market is that both groups criticize their peers for contradictory reasons. The children in the market first criticized their playmates for not dancing and then complained about them for not mourning. Jesus’ contemporaries first criticized the Baptist for being too exclusive by not eating with anyone and later criticized Jesus for being too inclusive by eating with everyone. They resented John for being too good for their company, and they slandered Jesus for not keeping company that was good enough. The real issue is that for one reason or another neither John the Baptist nor Jesus fellowshipped with them at table, just like the real issue for the children in the market is that their peers did not play with them no matter what game they suggested. The children in the market were jealous of their playmates, just as the people of “this generation” felt slighted by John and by Jesus. These popular and charismatic figures ought to have graced “respectable” people with their company. Instead, both John and Jesus challenged the status quo, undermining the social fabric that conferred status on the “respectable” members of first-century Jewish society.

2. In his concluding statement does Jesus personify Wisdom or does he quote a proverb about human wisdom? The Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining appear to be at variance regarding the personification of wisdom. Luke’s version, in which Wisdom is portrayed as a mother who is vindicated by her offspring, clearly personifies Wisdom. In Matthew’s version, according to which wisdom is vindicated on account of the deeds it produces, the personification of wisdom is severely curtailed if not entirely absent. Which version is more original? Probably Luke’s, as it taps into the time-honored tradition of personifying Wisdom in ancient Jewish sources.

Scholars who have sought to give a mundane interpretation to Jesus’ final remark in Like Children Complaining typically argue that Jesus cited a proverb equivalent to “a tree is known by its fruit,” roughly meaning “wisdom is as wisdom does.”[135] According to this view, Jesus quoted the proverb to refute his critics: “You claim to be wise, but your wisdom is not borne out by your deeds. You criticized John for his abstinence and me for my overindulgence. You cannot have it both ways. Only a fool makes contradictory arguments!” There are, however, serious difficulties with this “mundane” line of interpretation. In the first place, there is no evidence outside Like Children Complaining to corroborate the existence of such a proverb.[136] In the second place, to accuse John of being too ascetic while simultaneously accusing Jesus of being too sensuous is not, in fact, contradictory. Anyone who prefers “moderation in all things” argues against the extremes of total abstinence and the excesses of overindulgence. The “golden mean” of the philosophers is generally acknowledged to be wise.[137] In the third place, in order to have made the point that “wisdom is as wisdom does,” the “proverb” would have been much more effective if it had been stated as ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία τοῦ σοφοῦ ὑπό τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ (“the wisdom of a wise man is vindicated by his deeds”).[138] Matthew’s ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς (“wisdom is vindicated because of its works”) looks like a redactional attempt to suppress the personification of wisdom in the original form of the saying, which read ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς (“Wisdom is vindicated by her children”). Finally, contrary to Lindsey, we do not see how נִזְדַּכָּה הֶחָכְמָה מִבָּנֶיהָ (“Wisdom is acquitted by her sons”), or any other Hebrew reconstruction, can be read as a proverb meaning “wisdom is as wisdom does.” The personification of Wisdom as a mother to all her adherents is inescapable.

Conclusion

Like Children Complaining compares the resentment and jealousy people harbored against John the Baptist and Jesus to children who complained that their friends would not play with them.


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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] On the block of material pertaining to John the Baptist found in Luke 7 and Matthew 11, see our introduction to the “Yohanan the Immerser and the Kingdom of Heaven” complex.
  • [4] Cf. Bundy, 201 §112.
  • [5] Cf. Bundy, 171 §85; Nolland, Luke, 1:341.
  • [6] See Lindsey, JRL, 160-163; idem, “Jesus’ Twin Parables,” under the subheading “Jesus’ Parables and Their Contexts.” Cf. LHNS, 53 §65, 65 §82.
  • [7] However, as we will discuss in Comment to L14-15, it is by no means obvious that John the Baptist’s fasting is at issue in Like Children Complaining.
  • [8] We also found that the Anthologizer left the “Yeshua and Levi the Toll Collector” complex intact. See our discussion in Call of Levi, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [9] See Generations That Repented Long Ago, Comment to L10.
  • [10] Cf. M. Jack Suggs, Wisdom, Christology, and Law in Matthew’s Gospel (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), 35-36. The personification of Wisdom in Luke 11:49 (Innocent Blood) and Luke 7:35 (Like Children Complaining) may put the statements about Jesus’ being filled with wisdom (Luke 2:40) and increasing in wisdom (Luke 2:52) in a new light.
  • [11] We have found that 69.23% of Matthew’s wording in Like Children Complaining is identical to Luke’s, while 59.21% of Luke’s wording in Like Children Complaining is identical to Matthew’s. For these figures see LOY Excursus: Criteria for Distinguishing Type 1 from Type 2 Double Tradition Pericopae.
  • [12] Cf., e.g., Kloppenborg, 110-111.
  • [13] Cf., e.g., Bultmann, 172; Bundy, 171 §85; Wendy J. Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place, Q (Lk) 7:31-35: An Examination of the Parable’s Image and Significance,” Novum Testamentum 29.4 (1987): 289-304, esp. 293-294.
  • [14] See John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (5 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1991-2016), 2:150-154; Bovon, 1:287. Luz (2:146) regarded Matt. 11:19b ∥ Luke 7:35 as a Christian accretion added to the end of Like Children Complaining.
  • [15] This despite the fact that the early Christians appear not to have been fond of this title. As a title for Jesus, “Son of Man” is most common in the Synoptic Gospels, occurs somewhat less often in the Gospel of John, and then falls into relative disuse.
  • [16] See Bultmann, 155; Bundy, 171 §85.
  • [17] Wendy J. Cotter, “Children Sitting in the Agora: Q (Luke) 7:31-35,” Forum: Foundations and Facets 5.2 (1989): 63-82, esp. 74-79.
  • [18] Cf. Luz, 2:148.
  • [19] On John the Baptist’s anticipation of an eschatological high priest who would purify the Temple, see Yohanan the Immerser’s Eschatological Discourse.
  • [20] Josephus seems to indicate that there was a popular misconception that simply by undergoing John’s immersion a person could receive pardon for his or her sins (Ant. 18:117). John’s message was far more nuanced and rigorous than an offer of cheap grace.
  • [21] Cf. Kloppenborg, 110.
  • [22] For a survey of the ways in which the simile of the children in the market has been interpreted, see John P. Meier, “John the Baptist in Matthew’s Gospel,” Journal of Biblical Literature 99.3 (1980): 383-405, esp. 398 n. 51.
  • [23] For the identification of the children who pipe and sing laments with Jesus and John the Baptist, see McNeile, 157; Creed, 108; Fitzmyer, 1:679; Vermes, Religion, 103 n. 29; Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:148; Nolland, Luke, 1:344; Bovon, 1:236.
  • [24] For the identification of the children in the market who pipe and sing laments with the critics of John the Baptist and Jesus, see Plummer, Luke, 207; Jeremias, Parables, 161; Marshall, 301; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 302-303; Davies-Allison, 2:262; Luz, 2:147. See also Olof Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game: Baptist and Son of Man (Matt. XI. 16-19 = Luke VII. 31-5): A Synoptic Text Critical, Structural and Exegetical Investigation,” New Testament Studies 22.2 (1976): 159-179, esp. 173; R. Steven Notley, “Luke 5:35: ‘When the Bridegroom Is Taken Away’—Anticipation of the Destruction of the Second Temple,” in The Gospels in First-Century Judaea (ed. R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey Paul García; Leiden: Brill, 2016), 107-121, esp. 110-111.
  • [25] See Suggs, Wisdom, Christology, and Law in Matthew’s Gospel, 35.
  • [26] On the meaning of “son of peace” in Luke 10:6, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L88.
  • [27] Cf. Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 290.
  • [28] See Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 160 n. 3.
  • [29] Pace Fitzmyer, 1:678.
  • [30] Cf. Gundry, Matt., 211.
  • [31] The phrase “this generation” occurs in Generations That Repented Long Ago (L10, L17), Innocent Blood (L17, L26) and Sign-Seeking Generation (L26, L27, L44).
  • [32] Cf. Harnack, 18; Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 160; Fitzmyer, 1:679; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 290; Davies-Allison, 2:260; Bovon, 1:279. Pace Hagner, 1:309.
  • [33] Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 161.
  • [34] See Harnack, 18. Marshall’s suggestion (300) that the author of Luke added τοὺς ἀνθρώπους in order to imply that the adult men of “this generation” behave no better than immature children is not convincing, since the noun ἄνθρωπος does not mean “adult.”
  • [35] Cf. Harnack, 18; Bultmann, 172; Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 161; Marshall, 299; Fitzmyer, 1:678; Gundry, Matt., 211; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 290; Davies-Allison, 2:260; Nolland, Luke, 1:343; Luz, 2:145. Harnack (18) believed that Luke’s source read καὶ τίνι ἐστὶν ὁμοία (kai tini estin homoia, “And to what is it [i.e., this generation] like [fem.]?”), which the author of Luke changed to καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι (kai tini eisin homoioi, “And to what are they like [masc.]?”) on account of his insertion of “the people of” in L2. We, on the other hand, agree with Linton that it was the change in number and gender in the second question that motivated the author of Luke to insert “the people of” in L2.
  • [36] See Henry J. Cadbury, “Animals and Symbolism in Luke (Lexical Notes on Luke-Acts, IX,” in Studies in New Testament and Early Christian Literature: Essays in Honor of Allen P. Wikgren (ed. David Edward Aune; Leiden: Brill, 1972), 3-15, esp. 13.
  • [37] See David Flusser, Die rabbinischen Gleichnisse und der Gleichniserzähler Jesus (Bern: Peter Lang, 1981), 154.
  • [38] Cf. Fitzmyer, 1:678; Nolland, Luke, 1:343.
  • [39] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:261; Bovon, 1:280 n. 17; Brian C. Dennert, “‘The Rejection of Wisdom’s Call’: Matthew’s Use of Proverbs 1:20-33 in the Parable of the Children in the Marketplace (Matthew 11:16-19//Luke 7:31-35),” in Searching the Scriptures: Studies in Context and Intertextuality (ed. Craig A. Evans and Jeremiah J. Johnson; London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 46-63, esp. 47-48, 55. Elsewhere in his Gospel the author of Luke had no compunction about using the plural of ἀγορά (agora, “market”; Luke 11:43; 20:46), so there is no reason why he would have avoided the plural form in Like Children Complaining had it occurred in his source.
  • [40] Cf. McNeile, 157; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 290; Bovon, 1:280 n. 17.
  • [41] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:16.
  • [42] In Eccl. 12:4, 5 the LXX translators rendered the definite phrase בַּשּׁוּק (bashūq, “in the market”) as ἐν ἀγορᾷ (en agora, “in a market”). The same indefinite rendering of בַּשּׁוּק appears to have taken place in Like Children Complaining. Incidentally, in the second half of Acts, where the author of Luke’s personal writing style is most clearly visible, he used the definite article with ἀγορά: εἰς τὴν ἀγοράν (eis tēn agoran, “to the market”; Acts 16:19); ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ (en tē agora, “in the market”; Acts 17:17). Therefore, it is likely that the anarthrous ἐν ἀγορᾷ (“in a market”) in Luke 7:32 came from Anth. Cf. Bovon, 1:280 n. 17.
  • [43] See Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 298-302; idem, “Children Sitting in the Agora,” 67-68. Dennert (“‘The Rejection of Wisdom’s Call,’” 50-51) accepted Cotter’s suggestion.
  • [44] Cf. Luz, 2:147 n. 21.
  • [45] Cf. Bovon, 1:280 n. 17. Luke 7:32 is a single sentence in which two participles, καθημένοις (kathēmenois, “sitting”) and προσφωνοῦσιν (prosfōnousin, “addressing”), in the dative (modifying παιδίοις [paidios, “to children”]) are subordinate to the main verb, λέγει (legei, “he says”), which, true to proper Greek form, is singular:

    They are like children (that sit in the market and address one another) who say….

    Matthew 11:16-17 consists of two sentences:

    It is like children sitting in the markets who address the others. They say….

    Not only is Matthew’s syntax less streamlined, his verb λέγουσιν (legousin, “they say”), being plural, is less correct than Luke’s singular verb λέγει, since in polished Greek plural neuter nouns, like παιδία (paidia, “children”), take singular verbs.

  • [46] Cf. Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 291; Bovon, 1:280.
  • [47] The table in the next footnote shows that every time the author of Matthew wrote ἀλλήλων in his Gospel he did so without the agreement of Mark or Luke.
  • [48] See Cadbury, Style, 195. The pronoun ἀλλήλων occurs 3xx in Matthew (Matt. 24:10 [2xx]; 25:32), 5xx in Mark (Mark 4:41; 8:16; 9:34, 50; 15:31), 11xx in Luke (Luke 2:15; 4:36; 6:11; 7:32; 8:25; 12:1; 20:14; 23:12; 24:14, 17, 32) and 8xx in Acts (Acts 4:15; 7:26; 15:39; 19:38; 21:6; 26:31; 28:4, 25). The table below shows each of the instances of ἀλλήλων in the Synoptic Gospels and the parallels (if any):

    Matt. 24:10 [2xx] TT (cf. Matt. 10:21-22; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 21:16-17)

    Matt. 25:32 U

    Mark 4:41 TT = Luke 8:25 (cf. Matt. 8:27)

    Mark 8:16 Mk-Mt (cf. Matt. 16:7)

    Mark 9:34 TT (cf. Matt. 18:1; Luke 9:46)

    Mark 9:50 TT (cf. Matt. 5:13; Luke 14:35)

    Mark 15:31 TT (cf. Matt. 27:41; Luke 23:35)

    Luke 2:15 U

    Luke 4:36 Lk-Mk (cf. Mark 1:27)

    Luke 6:11 TT (cf. Matt. 12:14; Mark 3:6)

    Luke 7:32 DT (cf. Matt. 11:16)

    Luke 8:25 TT = Mark 4:41 (cf. Matt. 8:27)

    Luke 12:1 TT (cf. Matt. 16:6; Mark 8:15)

    Luke 20:14 TT (cf. Matt. 21:38; Mark 12:7)

    Luke 23:12 U

    Luke 24:14 U

    Luke 24:17 U

    Luke 24:32 U


    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 = verse unique to a particular Gospel

  • [49] Cf. Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 291.
  • [50] But cf. Exod. 14:20, where the LXX translators rendered זֶה אֶל זֶה as ἀλλήλοις.
  • [51] On textual variants at this point in Luke 7:32 (some textual witnesses read λέγοντες instead of ἃ λέγει), see Wolter, 1:313-314.
  • [52] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:263.
  • [53] Additional examples of קָרָא…וְאָמַר (“call…and say”) occur in Gen. 19:5; 24:58; Exod. 32:5; Judg. 9:7; 15:18; 2 Sam. 18:28; 1 Kgs. 2:36, 42; 17:10, 11, 20, 21; 2 Kgs. 4:22; Jonah 1:14; 3:4; Dan. 8:16.
  • [54] On the avlos, see Anderson, Music And Musicians In Ancient Greece (Ithaca, N. Y.; Cornell University Press, 1994), 179-184. For discussions of avloi that have survived from antiquity, see J. G. Landels, “A Newly Discovered Aulos,” Annual of the British School at Athens 63 (1968): 231-238; Stefan Hagel, “Re-evaluating the Pompeii Auloi,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 128 (2008): 52-71.
  • [55] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:177.
  • [56] The LXX translators read מְחַלְּלִים (meḥalelim, “playing pipes”) not as coming from the root ח-ל-ל (“play the pipe”) but as coming from ח-ו-ל (“dance”).
  • [57] For pipers in funerary contexts, see m. Shab. 23:4; m. Ket. 4:4. Cf. Matt. 9:23.
  • [58] The same word, חָלִיל, can mean “pipe” or “piper” depending on the context. See Jastrow, 468.
  • [59] On the procession of the first fruits into Jerusalem and Hellenistic analogies, see Lee I. Levine, Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E.-70 C.E.) (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2002), 259.
  • [60] Cf. b. Arach. 10b.
  • [61] Text and translation according to A. D. Godley, trans., Herodotus (Loeb; 4 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920-1925), 1:180-181.
  • [62] Text and translation according to Ben Edwin Perry, ed. and trans., Babrius and Phaedrus (Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965), 14-17.
  • [63] On Aesop’s fables in rabbinic sources, see Joseph Jacobs, ed., The Fables of Aesop, as first printed by William Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso and Poggio (2 vols.; London: David Nutt in the Strand, 1889), 1:110ff.; Haim Schwarzbaum, “Aesop’s Fables and the Parables of the Sages,” WholeStones.org.
  • [64] See Arnold A. T. Ehrhardt, “Greek Proverbs in the Gospel,” Harvard Theological Review 46.2 (1953): 59-77, esp. 66; Flusser, Jesus, 55; idem, Die rabbinischen Gleichnisse und der Gleichniserzähler Jesus, 153-154.
  • [65] Like Children Complaining has nothing at all in common with Rabbi Akiva’s parable.
  • [66] As Cotter put it, “the pairs ‘fluting’ and the responsive ‘dancing’ [were] ‘in the air’ of the Hellenistic world.” See Cotter, “Children Sitting in the Agora,” 69. Cotter also noted the Aesopic proverb ὡς αὐλεις, ὀρχοῦμαί σοι (“As you play the pipes, I will dance for you”), which seems more apropos than the fables. For the proverb, see Ben Edwin Perry, Aesopica: A Series of Texts Relating to Aesop or Ascribed to Him or Closely Connected with the Literary Tradition that Bears His Name (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1952), 282 §115.
  • [67] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:654-655.
  • [68] The verb קוֹנֵן occurs in 2 Sam. 1:17; 3:33; Jer. 9:16; Ezek. 27:32; 32:16 (3xx); 2 Chr. 35:25. The LXX translators rendered קוֹנֵן with θρηνεῖν in 2 Kgdms. 1:17; 3:33; Jer. 9:16; Ezek. 32:16 (3xx); 2 Chr. 35:25.
  • [69] Jeremias (Parables, 160 n. 37) thought that κόπτεσθαι and κλαίειν in the two versions of Like Children Complaining were translation variants of an Aramaic verb, but his translation variant hypothesis cannot explain the otherwise high degree of verbal agreement between the Lukan and Matthean versions of Like Children Complaining. For a critique of the translation variant hypothesis in general, see Kloppenborg, 55-56. For a dismissal of the translation variant hypothesis with respect to Like Children Complaining in particular, see Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 164.
  • [70] See Ehrhardt, “Greek Proverbs in the Gospel,” 67; Marshall, 300; Nolland, Luke, 1:343; Davies-Allison, 2:263 n. 119.
  • [71] See Luz, 2:145 n. 8.
  • [72] We might also add that Josephus, who wrote for a Greek-speaking Roman audience, had no reservations about describing chest pounding as an expression of grief (cf., e.g., Ant. 6:377; 13:399).
  • [73] Text and translation according to Frank Cole Babbitt et al., trans., Plutarch’s Moralia (Loeb; 16 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927-2004), 2:174-175.
  • [74] Text and translation according to A. M. Harmon, K. Kilburn and M. D. Macleod, trans., Lucian (Loeb; 8 vols.; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1913-1967), 4:118-119.
  • [75] Cotter (“Children Sitting in the Agora,” 64-65) is one of the few scholars to argue for the originality of Luke’s κλαίειν in Like Children Complaining. She noted that on at least one other occasion the author of Matthew avoided κλαίειν when it appeared in (one of) his source(s), viz. Mark 5:38 (cf. Matt. 9:23), so perhaps he also avoided κλαίειν in Like Children Complaining (Matt. 11:17). Cotter also noted that the author of Matthew added κόπτειν in Matt. 24:30 where it did not occur in his source (Mark 13:26), which may be taken as evidence that the author of Matthew also inserted κόπτειν in Matt. 11:17. Finally, Cotter noted that since the author of Luke was willing to pair κόπτεσθαι with θρηνεῖν in Luke 23:27, there is no reason why he should have been unwilling to pair these two verbs in Like Children Complaining (Luke 7:32). As far as they go, none of Cotter’s reasons for preferring κλαίειν in Like Children Complaining are invalid. (Note that in her previous article, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 291, Cotter had opined that “ἐκόψασθε…represents Q’s formulation.”)
  • [76] Cf. Zech. 12:10 LXX (κατορχεῖσθαι vs. κόπτειν). Flusser noted the bearing Eccl. 3:4 has on Like Children Complaining. See David Flusser, “Hystaspes and John of Patmos” (Flusser, JOC, 390-453, esp. 423 n. 121). Cf. Luz, 2:147-148 n. 28.
  • [77] Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 162.
  • [78] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:799.
  • [79] See Dos Santos, 143.
  • [80] See Bovon, 1:286.
  • [81] See Jeremias, Parables, 161.
  • [82] Cf. Dennert, “‘The Rejection of Wisdom’s Call,’” 50-51.
  • [83] See Harnack, 18; Marshall, 301; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 292; Bovon, 1:280 n. 19. For a dissenting view, see Gundry, Matt., 212; Luz, 2:145. Nolland (Luke, 1:345) was non-committal.
  • [84] See Cadbury, Style, 163. There are no instances of ἔρχεσθαι or ἐξέρχεσθαι in the perfect tense in Matthew. Mark has two instances of ἔρχεσθαι in the perfect tense (Mark 9:1, 13) and two instances of ἐξέρχεσθαι in the perfect tense (Mark 7:29, 30). Luke has four instances of ἔρχεσθαι in the perfect tense (Luke 5:17, 32; 7:33, 34) and one instance of ἐξέρχεσθαι in the perfect tense (Luke 8:46). There are two instances of ἔρχεσθαι in the perfect tense in Acts (Acts 18:2; 21:22).
  • [85] Cf., e.g., Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 163-164; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 292; Davies-Allison, 2:263.
  • [86] For an analysis of all the instances of the Baptist’s full title in the Synoptic Gospels, see Yeshua’s Words about Yohanan the Immerser, Comment to L32.
  • [87] Cf. Gundry, Matt., 212; Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:211 n. 146; Hagner, 1:310.
  • [88] See the Story Placement discussion above.
  • [89] Examples of μήτε…μήτε occur in 3 Macc. 3:7; 4 Macc. 2:9; Philo, Leg. 1:93, 95; 2:53, 64, 65; Det. §8, 58; Jos., J.W. 1:209, 459, 474, 585; 5:61; and elsewhere.
  • [90] Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:263.
  • [91] See Harnack, 18; Creed, 108; Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 164; Marshall, 301; Fitzmyer, 1:678; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 292; Nolland, Luke, 1:344; Davies-Allison, 2:263; Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:211 n. 147; Bovon, 1:280; Wolter, 1:314. Gundry (Matt., 212) and Hagner (1:310) are exceptional in supposing that the author of Matthew omitted “bread” and “wine.”
  • [92] See Bovon, 1:280 n. 18.
  • [93] See Bovon, 1:280.
  • [94] See Harnack, 18; Davies-Allison, 2:263 n. 123; Wolter, 1:314. Nolland (Luke, 1:344), on the other hand, suggested that the Lukan addition of “bread” and “wine” was intended to limit the scope of Jesus’ saying so as not to give the impression that the Baptist never ate or drank anything.
  • [95] See McNeile, 158; Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 175-177; Marshall, 302; Fitzmyer, 1:681; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 303; Nolland, Luke, 1:345; Hagner, 1:310; Wolter, 1:314. For a different view, see Bovon, 1:287.
  • [96] It is true that Matt. 3:4 ∥ Mark 1:6 highlight the Baptist’s unusual diet consisting of locusts and wild honey, but emphasizing what John did eat is hardly the same thing as drawing attention to his fasting.
  • [97] See Cotter, “Children Sitting in the Agora,” 74.
  • [98] Ibid.
  • [99] See Cotter, “Children Sitting in the Agora,” 71-73.
  • [100] Compare the accusation of misanthropy that some Gentiles leveled against Jews on account of restrictive table fellowship practices (Tacitus, Hist. 5:5 §2; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 5:33) and the heated rhetoric in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians concerning the issue of table fellowship (Gal. 2:11-14).
  • [101] The Baptist’s demand in Yohanan the Immerser’s Exhortations that those with food should share with those who are hungry (Luke 3:11) might seem to challenge our hypothesis that John did not eat with the crowds who came out to him. Would not John have taken his own advice and shared his food with the hungry members of the crowd? But, according to Josephus, the Essenes were also known to give alms to outsiders, and Josephus specifically mentions their practice of giving food to the needy (J.W. 2:134). Since we may safely assume that the Essenes’ almsgiving did not undermine their separatist practices regarding table fellowship, John’s demand that food be shared with those who lack it need not undermine our hypothesis regarding John’s table fellowship either. Thus, in answer to our question, John undoubtedly would have shared his food with the hungry, but he probably would not have sat down with them to eat while they consumed what he had given them.
  • [102] Cf. Harnack, 18; Fitzmyer, 1:678; Bovon, 1:280 n. 19.
  • [103] See McNeile, 158.
  • [104] On the immunity of sect members from demon possession, see Menahem Kister, “Demons, Theology and Abraham’s Covenant (CD 16:4-6 and Related Texts),” in The Dead Sea Scrolls at Fifty (ed. Robert A. Kugler and Eileen M. Schuller; Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1999), 167-181.
  • [105] Pace Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 175-177. Linton admits that “we never hear that Jesus ‘ate and drank’ on the great common fasting days, only that he ate and drank on days when some pious people fasted.” On Jesus’ fasting observances, see Notley, “Luke 5:35: ‘When the Bridegroom Is Taken Away’—Anticipation of the Destruction of the Second Temple,” 108-109.
  • [106] See Moulton-Howard, 433; Black, 249-250; Moule, Birth, 218; Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl, Comment to L12.
  • [107] See Jeremias, Parables, 160; Gundry, Matt., 213; Nolland, Luke, 1:346; Dennert, “‘The Rejection of Wisdom’s Call,’” 52-53; Wolter, 1:315. Other scholars question whether an allusion to Deut. 21:20 is intended. See Fitzmyer, 1:681; Meier, A Marginal Jew, 2:212 n. 155; Luz, 2:149 n. 39.
  • [108] In other words, sophisticated scriptural allusions are appropriate to teaching discourses but out of place in popularly circulated derogatory remarks.
  • [109] Ben Sira evidently wrote אל תהי זולל וסובא ומאומ[ה] אין בכיס (“Do not be a squanderer and a drunkard and one who has nothing in his purse”; Sir. 18:33 according to MS C; cf. 4Q525 25 I, 4), but he was clearly echoing Prov. 23:20.
  • [110] Examples of the noun רַעַבְתָן (and various spellings) are found in the following sources:

    ר′ אֶלְעָזָר חַסָמָא אוֹ′ לֹא יֹאכַל פּוֹעֵל יָתֵר עַל שְׂכָרוֹ וַחֲכָמִ′ מַתִּירִין אֲבַל מְלַמְּדִים אֶת הָאָדָם שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא רוֹעְבְתָן וִיהֵא סוֹתֵם אֶת הַפֶּתַח לְפָנָיו

    Rabbi Eleazar Hasama says, “A worker may not eat more than [the worth of—DNB and JNT] his wage.” But the sages permit, yet they instruct the person not to be a glutton [רוֹעְבְתָן] or to slam the door in his face [i.e., by making himself undesirable for hire—DNB and JNT].” (m. Bab. Metz. 7:5)

    ר′ שמעון בן לעזר אומ′ מערבין לחולה ולאסטניס ולקטן במזונו ולרעבתן בבינונית של כל אדם

    Rabbi Shimon ben Lazar says, “They make an eruv for a sick person and a frail person and for a child with his [accustomed] food, but for a glutton [וּלְרַעַבְתָן] with what is typical for any person.” (t. Eruv. 6:4; Vienna MS)

    אמרו אוכל כשיעור הזה הרי זה בריא ומבורך פחות מכאן קללה במעיו יותר מכן הרי זה רעבתן

    They said, “The one who ate [the manna—DNB and JNT] according to this measure: Behold! This one is healthy and blessed. [The one who ate] less than that, it was a curse to his gut. [The one who ate] more than that: Behold! This one is a glutton [רַעַבְתָן]!” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ §5 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:242])

  • [111] Cf. Gill, 7:121. The noun גַּרְגְּרָן does not exclusively refer to a guzzler of drink; depending on the context it can have the broader meaning of an “overindulger” of any sort (cf. m. Toh. 7:9; t. Sot. 13:7; m. Nid. 10:8). An early example of גַּרְגְּרָן is found in the following source:

    ולא תהיה גרגרן פן תמאס

    And do not be a guzzler lest you be despised. (Sir. 31:16 according to MS B)

  • [112] Cotter (“The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 292) regarded Matthew’s placement of φίλος as awkward, while Bovon (1:280 n. 19) regarded Matthew’s placement of φίλος as elegant.
  • [113] Cf., e.g., Sifre Num. §86 (ed. Horovitz, 85).
  • [114] Cf., e.g., Sifre Num. Zuta, BeHa‘alotcha 11:2 (ed. Horovitz, 268).
  • [115] Cf., e.g., Sifre Num. Zuta, BeHa‘alotcha 11:8 (ed. Horovitz, 276).
  • [116] See Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 303 n. 58.
  • [117] For a comparison of Jesus’ attitude toward toll collectors with the attitudes of the rabbinic sages, see Shmuel Safrai, “A Friend of Tax Collectors.”
  • [118] Cf. Luz, 2:147-148.
  • [119] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:334.
  • [120] On verbs formed from the צ-ד-ק root in MH, see Jastrow, 1263.
  • [121] Marshall (303) was correct that the ἀπό in Luke 7:35 likely reflects מִן, but his citation of Is. 45:25 did not prove his point. In Isa. 45:25 ἀπὸ κυρίου δικαιωθήσονται (“from the Lord they will be vindicated”) is the translation of בַּיי יִצְדְּקוּ (“in the LORD they will be righteous”).
  • [122] See Jastrow, 399.
  • [123] The different agents of vindication—“children” in Luke vs. “works” in Matthew—color the meaning of ἀπό (“from”) in the two versions: “by” in Luke vs. “because of” in Matthew. See Luz, 2:149.

    The suggestion that Luke’s τέκνα (tekna, “children”) and Matthew’s ἔργα (erga, “deeds”) are translation variants of the Aramaic עבדיה, which McNeile (159) and Manson (Sayings, 71) cautiously considered as a possibility, has not found acceptance among more recent scholars (cf. Gottlob Schrenk, “δικαιόω,” TDNT, 2:211-219, esp. 214 n. 13; Suggs, Wisdom, Christology, and Law in Matthew’s Gospel, 35 n. 9; Metzger, 30 n. 1; Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 164; Luz, 2:145 n. 7), even among those who typically espoused Aramaic explanations for discrepancies in the Gospels (cf., e.g., Jeremias, Parables, 162 n. 44; Zimmermann, 49).
  • [124] For examples of the personification of Wisdom in ancient Jewish sources, see Prov. 1:20-33; 8:1-36; 9:1-12; Sir. 24:1-17.
  • [125] Cf. Sir. 15:2. Given the examples in Prov. 8:32; Sir. 4:11; 15:2 of the portrayal of Wisdom as a mother, it is surprising that Ilan regarded Luke 7:35’s portrayal of Wisdom as a mother to be an innovation. See Tal Ilan, “The Women of the Q Community within Early Judaism,” in Q in Context II: Social Setting and Archaeological Background of the Sayings Source (ed. Markus Tiwald; Göttingen: V&R Press, 2015), 195-209, esp. 204.
  • [126] See Innocent Blood, Comment to L2.
  • [127] See Richard A. Edwards, “Matthew’s Use of Q in Chapter 11,” in Logia Les Paroles de Jésus—The Sayings of Jesus: Mémorial Joseph Coppens (ed. Joël Delobel; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1982), 257-275, esp. 266; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 293; Kloppenborg, 110 n. 36.
  • [128] Cf. Bundy, 202 §112; Catchpole, 48.
  • [129] See Cotter, “Children Sitting in the Agora,” 66.
  • [130] See Harnack, 18; Creed, 109; Linton, “The Parable of the Children’s Game,” 165; Cotter, “The Parable of the Children in the Market-place,” 292; Nolland, Luke, 1:346; Davies-Allison, 2:264. On the generalizing tendency in Luke, see Cadbury, Style, 115.
  • [131] See Fitzmyer, 1:678; Kloppenborg, 110 n. 36.
  • [132] Cf. Bovon, 1:287.
  • [133]
    Like Children Complaining
    Luke’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις τοῖς ἐν ἀγορᾷ καθημένοις καὶ προσφωνοῦσιν ἀλλήλοις λέγει ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκλαύσατε ἐλήλυθεν γὰρ Ἰωάνης ὁ βαπτιστὴς μὴ ἔσθων ἄρτον μήτε πείνων οἶνον καὶ λέγετε δαιμόνιον ἔχει ἐλήλυθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πείνων καὶ λέγετε ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις καθημένοις ἐν ἀγορᾷ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις λέγουσιν ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς μὴ ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων καὶ λέγουσιν δαιμόνιον ἔχει ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων καὶ λέγουσιν ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς
    Total Words: 76 Total Words: 70
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 58 Total Words Taken Over in Luke: 58
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 76.32% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Luke: 82.86%

  • [134]
    Like Children Complaining
    Matthew’s Version Anthology’s Wording (Reconstructed)
    τίνι δὲ ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην ὁμοία ἐστὶν παιδίοις καθημένοις ἐν ταῖς ἀγοραῖς ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις λέγουσιν ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάνης μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πείνων καὶ λέγουσιν δαιμόνιον ἔχει ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθείων καὶ πείνων καὶ λέγουσιν ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην καὶ τίνι εἰσὶν ὅμοιοι ὅμοιοί εἰσιν παιδίοις καθημένοις ἐν ἀγορᾷ ἃ προσφωνοῦντα τοῖς ἑτέροις λέγουσιν ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε ἐθρηνήσαμεν καὶ οὐκ ἐκόψασθε ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστὴς μὴ ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων καὶ λέγουσιν δαιμόνιον ἔχει ἦλθεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων καὶ λέγουσιν ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης φίλος τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς
    Total Words: 65 Total Words: 70
    Total Words Identical to Anth.: 58 Total Words Taken Over in Matt.: 58
    Percentage Identical to Anth.: 89.23% Percentage of Anth. Represented in Matt.: 82.86%

  • [135] See Rangar Leivestad, “An Interpretation of Matt 1119,” Journal of Biblical Literature 71.3 (1952): 179-181; Lindsey, JRL, 162; idem, TJS, 19-20.
  • [136] Both Leivestad (“An Interpretation of Matt 1119,” 181) and Lindsey (TJS, 20 n. 7) acknowledged the lack of attestation of this “proverb.”
  • [137] Phillips has suggested that “wisdom is justified by its works (or its children)” should not be read against the background of ancient Jewish wisdom literature but as part of the Hellenistic discourse concerning drunkenness. See Thomas E. Phillips, “‘Will the Wise Person Get Drunk?’ The Background of the Human Wisdom in Luke 7:35 and Matthew 11:19,” Journal of Biblical Literature 127.2 (2008): 385-396. “The problem of drunkenness,” Phillips noted, “was commonly discussed in the context of wisdom and madness. The wise were expected to adopt a position between the extremes of abstinence…and excessive drunkenness (a habit leading to ‘madness’)” (“‘Will the Wise Person Get Drunk?’” 393-394). Based on these arguments, Phillips regarded the “proverb” in Matt. 11:19 ∥ Luke 7:35 not as a rebuttal from Jesus but as the continuation of the people’s accusation against John and Jesus: “John the Baptist’s total abstinence is madness (= he has a demon), Jesus’ indulgence is excessive (= he is a glutton and a dipsomaniac). Wisdom is plain for everyone to see, and since neither John nor Jesus avoided extremes, neither can be wise.”

    Nevertheless, Phillips’ interpretation is fraught with difficulties. Like others before him, Phillips was unable to produce evidence of any such proverb’s having existed. In addition, madness in the Hellenistic discourse on drunkenness was associated not with abstinence but with drinking to excess. Therefore, it is Jesus, not John the Baptist, who ought to have been accused of madness if the Hellenistic discourse on drunkenness really was the background of Like Children Complaining. Finally, Phillips too easily equates the Hellenistic discourse on drunkenness with the eating and drinking of John and Jesus. As we have argued above (Comment to L14-15), the real issue was not what John and Jesus ate and drank, nor how little or how much, but the company they kept. John the Baptist observed a Qumran-like separatism from the broader Jewish population, while Jesus practiced a policy of openness with regard to table fellowship. Jewish table fellowship, not a Greek philosophical debate on the propriety of drinking alcoholic beverages, is the proper contextualization of Like Children Complaining.
  • [138] Cf. Dennert, “‘The Rejection of Wisdom’s Call,’” 54 n. 47.

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