Like Lightning from Heaven (Luke 10:18): Jesus’ Apocalyptic Vision of the Fall of Satan

The above image shows a miniature painting by Dirc van Delf appearing in an illuminated manuscript (ca. 1400) depicting the fall of Satan from heaven. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Revised: 16-November-2017

I saw Satan falling like lightning from heaven. (Luke 10:18)

Luke 10:18 is unique in that it records the only apocalyptic[1] vision attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.[2] According to Luke, Jesus described his vision of Satan’s expulsion from heaven in response to the apostles’ report of the successful exorcisms they performed in the course of their missionary endeavor.

The apocalyptic character of Jesus’ vision is underscored by a striking parallel to Jesus’ vision which occurs in the Apocalypse (or, Revelation) of John:[3]

12:7Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev. 12:7-12; RSV)

Miniature painting by Silvestro dei Gherarducci (14th cent.) depicting Michael’s battle with the dragon. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In John’s vision the dragon who is hurled down to earth is identified as Satan, so it would appear that both John and Jesus described the same event. John’s vision is much more developed than the one attributed to Jesus, and there are indications that the revelator based the description of his vision of the expulsion of Satan on an earlier Jewish source.[4] One of the reasons scholars have suggested that Rev. 12:7-12 is based on a Jewish source is that the hero who opposes the dragon is not the cosmic Christ, it is rather the archangel Michael, a figure who appears in Jewish sources as early as the book of Daniel (Dan. 10:13), who triumphs over Satan. Giving such a prominent role to any other figure, scholars have suggested, is unthinkable for a Christian author.[5] Therefore, the description of the battle between Michael and the dragon must be based on a pre-Christian text.[6] Another, more compelling, reason that has led scholars to suspect that Rev. 12:7-12 is based on a Jewish source is that parts of the vision are highly Hebraic, suggesting that the revelator made use of a Hebrew document that described the expulsion of Satan from heaven when he composed this part of the apocalypse.[7] If it is true that a number of visions describing the expulsion of Satan from heaven were circulating among Jewish communities in the first century, then it is likely that with his brief description of the fall of Satan Jesus was tapping into a tradition that was already familiar to the apostles.[8] If so, this would explain why the details of the vision required no elaboration,[9] and it also suggests that the meaning of the apocalyptic vision would have been immediately understood by Jesus’ original audience.

A distinctive trait of apocalypses is their use of symbolic or coded language to describe historical events in order to reveal how human history is viewed from a heavenly perspective. Very frequently the apocalypses were politically subversive, and for this reason, too, it was prudent to use symbolic imagery, for in doing so they might escape the attention of the imperial authorities.[10] This feature of apocalyptic literature raises the possibility that Jesus’ vision of the downfall of Satan had a symbolic meaning that may not be immediately apparent to modern readers.

In the course of preparing our Hebrew reconstruction of the Return of the Twelve pericope, David Bivin and I came across the following rabbinic source, which shares certain key terms (viz., “see,” “fall”) with Jesus’ apocalyptic vision:

Another interpretation: he threw [רָמָה; Exod. 15:1] means that when Israel saw the [angelic] prince of the kingdom [of Egypt] falling they began to give praise, accordingly it is said, a high place [רָמָה]. And so you find that the Holy One, blessed be he, will not punish the empires until he has punished their [angelic] princes first, as it is said, And on that day the LORD will visit judgment on the host of heaven on high, and afterward it says, on the kings of the earth on the earth [Isa. 24:21]. And it says, How you have fallen from heaven, O Morning Star, son of the dawn, and afterward it says, you are cut to the ground, who brought the nations down [Isa. 14:12]. And it says, For in heaven my sword has drunk its fill, and afterward it says, Behold, it shall descend upon Edom [Isa. 34:5]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 2 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:181-182])

This midrashic discussion of the first verse of Israel’s triumphant Song at the Sea is based on the ancient Jewish concept that each of the world’s great empires is governed by an angelic prince or “guardian angel” who represents his earthly kingdom in the heavenly court.[11] By playing on the dual meanings of רָמָה (rāmāh; as a verb, “throw”; as a noun, “high place”), the sages suggested that the Israelites rejoiced at the Red Sea because they saw (in a vision?) Egypt’s angelic prince falling from on high. Having witnessed the downfall of the angelic prince of Egypt, the former slaves knew that the demise of their political oppressor was immanent. Now that the angelic prince had fallen, Israel’s liberating redemption was at hand. Might Jesus’ vision of Satan’s downfall be related to the downfall of the angelic prince of Egypt?

The above-cited midrash pertains not only to the redemption from Egypt, it also sets forth a general rule that the angelic princes of the empires must always be toppled before the empires that oppress Israel can fall. In support of this view the midrash cites two verses from Isaiah that (according to the sages’ understanding) describe the downfall of the angelic princes of Babylon[12] and of Edom. Since Edom was often a codeword for Rome in rabbinic sources,[13] it is likely that this midrash points ahead to the future redemption of Israel from the yoke of Roman oppression. Just as the angelic prince of Egypt had to be thrown down from heaven in order to bring about the first redemption, so would the angelic prince of Edom (i.e., Rome) have to be vanquished in order to bring about the redemption that was yet to come.

Another rabbinic source correlates the elevation and demotion of the angelic princes to the rise and fall of the empires that ruled Israel in a manner that is similar to the above-cited midrash. This source expands upon the account of Jacob’s dream about the ladder that reaches to heaven (Gen. 28:12):

…the Holy One, blessed be He, showed our father Jacob the Prince of Babylon ascending seventy rungs of the ladder, the Prince of Media fifty-two rungs, the Prince of Greece one hundred and eighty, while the Prince of Edom ascended till Jacob did not know how many rungs. Thereupon our father Jacob was afraid. He thought: Is it possible that this one will never be brought down? Said the Holy One, blessed be he, to him: ‘“Fear thou not, O Jacob My servant [Jer. 30:10].” Even if he ascend and sit down by Me, I will bring him down from there!’ Hence it is written, Though thou make thy nest as high as the eagle, and though thou set it among the stars, I will bring thee down from thence (Obad. I, 4). (Lev. Rab. 29:2 [ed. Marguiles, 2:670-671]; trans. Soncino)

Jacob’s dream as depicted on the ceiling of the Monheim Town Hall in Bavaria, Germany. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

According to this source, Jacob’s dream foretold the fortunes of Israel.[14] The angels Jacob saw going up and down on the ladder were the angelic princes of four world empires.[15] Each step they ascended symbolized the number of years that angel’s empire would have dominion over Israel. The descent of the angels on the ladder marked the hour of his empire’s demise. The last of the empires in Jacob’s dream is also the greatest threat to Israel: its angel ascends higher than any of the other angelic princes and Jacob is terrified that its dominion will never end. Since Jacob’s dream presumably describes the future up to the end of human history, it is significant that the final empire is identified as Edom, that is to say, the Roman Empire. In other words, the Roman Empire will be the last of the empires to dominate the children of Israel prior to the final redemption.

That the Roman Empire is the fourth and final empire in the rabbinic interpretation of Jacob’s dream is hardly surprising given the way the book of Daniel was interpreted following the Roman conquest of the land of Israel. The book of Daniel describes a succession of four world empires that would have dominion over Israel prior to the inbreaking of the eschatological rule of God. The original identities of Daniel’s four empires were Babylon, Media, Persia and Greece, but following Pompey’s conquest of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E., the identities of Daniel’s four empires were reinterpreted as Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome. The earliest attestation of this reinterpretation of Daniel is found in the writings of Josephus (Ant. 10:276-277),[16] but it was certainly not Josephus’ invention and must have been widespread in the first century C.E.[17]

All this leads us to ponder whether Jesus’ apocalyptic vision conveyed a political as well as a spiritual message, namely, that with the fall of Satan from heaven the way was cleared for the demise of the Roman Empire and the commencement of the final liberating redemption of Israel from foreign oppression. An affirmative answer would be supported if it could be shown that Satan was regarded as the angelic prince of the Roman Empire.

Is there any evidence that Satan was regarded as an angelic prince, and the patron of the Roman Empire in particular? One hint that Satan did indeed play the role of angelic prince is found in the temptation narratives in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. In exchange for Jesus’ worship, Satan offered to make Jesus ruler over all the world’s kingdoms (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8), essentially making Jesus an emperor. Since the Roman Empire ruled the world at the time Satan made this offer,[18] it is reasonable to conclude that Satan was the angelic prince who was the real power behind Caesar’s throne, and it was on this account that he was in a position to offer world domination to Jesus.

Another hint that Satan was numbered among the angelic princes is found in Paul’s statement that Satan was wont to masquerade as an Angel of Light (2 Cor. 11:14). Scholars have noted that Paul’s terminology in this verse is very similar to that which is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[19] According to the Community Rule, all of humanity is divided into two groups: those who are ruled by the Prince of Lights (שר אורים), and those who are ruled by the Angel of Darkness (מלאך חושך) (1QS III, 20-21). This division of humanity under the rule of two angelic beings appears to be a permutation of the concept of the angelic princes appointed over the kingdoms of the earth. It appears that in 2 Cor. 11:14 Paul regards Satan as the angelic prince (i.e., the Angel of Darkness) who rules the wicked, and that Satan has a reputation for disguising himself as his main adversary, the Prince of Lights.

The Angel of Darkness is probably identical with Belial, the name given to Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls, since elsewhere in the Qumran texts wicked human beings are said to belong to the lot of Belial (cf., e.g., 1QS II, 5), and according to other texts Belial acts in opposition to the Prince of Lights (CD-A V, 17-19; 1QM XIII, 9-12). This, too, would indicate that Satan (Belial) was regarded as an angelic prince.[20]

That Satan’s main opponent is usually the archangel Michael also suggests that Satan was an angelic prince.[21] Michael was the angelic prince appointed over Israel (Dan. 12:1), and it stands to reason that Michael would contend with the angelic prince of the empire that kept Israel under its thumb, in other words, Rome.

The dragon hands his authority to the beast from the sea in the Tapisserie de l’Apocalypse (Tapestry of the Apocalypse). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The book of Revelation likewise depicts Satan, in the guise of a dragon, in a manner that is consistent with his conjectured role as the angelic prince of Rome. According to Rev. 13:2, “the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority” to the beast that came up from the sea. Since the beast is symbolic of the Roman Empire,[22] Satan is shown to be the spiritual being who stands behind and upholds Caesar’s throne.

A rabbinic legend set during the week of creation concerning the primordial light that was stored up for the world to come closely associates Satan with the angelic princes of the empires:

Satan said before the Holy one, blessed be he, “Ruler of the universe, the light that is stored beneath your throne of glory—whose is it?” He replied, “It is for the one who in the future will turn you back and humiliate you.” He said to him, “Ruler of the universe, show him to me.” He replied, “Come and see him.” But as soon as he saw him he shuddered and fell on his face and said, “Surely this is the Messiah who in the future will cause me to fall, together with all the angelic princes of the peoples of the world, into Gehenna!” (Pesikta Rabbati 36:1 [ed. Friedmann, 161b])

This legend, which predicts the expulsion of Satan from heaven at the coming of the Messiah, places Satan among, or possibly at the head of, the angelic princes of the kingdoms.

The depiction of Satan as the leader of the angelic princes (cf. Rev. 12:7) may explain how one source, 3 Enoch, a Hebrew apocalyptic work from the fifth or sixth century C.E., came to distinguish between Samael, whom 3 Enoch identifies as the angelic patron of Rome, and Satan.

Every day Satan sits with Samma’el, Prince of Rome, and with Dubbi’el, Prince of Persia, and they write down the sins of Israel on tablets…. (3 Enoch 26:12)

The identification of Samael as the angelic prince of Edom (i.e., Rome) is also made in late rabbinic sources,[23] but, unlike 3 Enoch, Samael is usually regarded in these sources as none other than Satan himself.[24] If, however, Satan was regarded as chief of the angelic princes, it is understandable that some traditions would make Satan the prince of the last and most terrible of the evil empires (i.e., Rome), whereas other traditions, which might have regarded the Roman Empire as simply one kingdom among many others, might make the angelic prince of Rome one of Satan’s underlings.[25]

The survey we have conducted above demonstrates that there is evidence to support the conclusion that Satan was regarded as the supernatural patron of the Roman Empire, and that Jesus’ apocalyptic vision of Satan’s fall from heaven may have conveyed a political as well as a spiritual message to Jesus’ audience. The political message of such a vision would have been that, with the fall of the angelic prince who backed Israel’s oppressor, the liberating redemption of Israel was at hand. With the downfall of Satan the way was opened for the supernatural reign of God to break in upon the human stage and to disrupt the political scene. The imperialist system stood condemned and was soon to be replaced by God’s better reign, under which Israel’s faithfulness would be vindicated, the wrongs that the strong perpetrated against the weak would be set right, and the wounds inflicted on God’s creation would be healed.[26]

  • [1] The English noun “apocalypse” and the English adjective “apocalyptic” derive from the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις (apokalūpsis, “uncovering,” “revelation”). In popular usage “apocalypse” is a synonym for end-time catastrophe (e.g., the “Zombie Apocalypse”), but in biblical studies “apocalypse” refers to a literary genre concerned with the uncovering of mysteries. These mysteries are not exclusively or even primarily concerned with eschatology (i.e., end times). Apocalypses can explore the hidden workings of the universe, uncover secret truths of the story of creation or of current events, as well as reveal God’s hidden plan for the future. Jesus’ vision of Satan’s fall is apocalyptic in the sense that Jesus was afforded a glimpse of the happenings in the spiritual realms that are not ordinarily accessible to the physical senses. See Michael E. Stone, “Apocalyptic Literature,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (CRINT II.2; ed. Michael E. Stone; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 383-441; David Flusser, “Apocalypse,” in Encyclopedia Judaica (2d ed.; 22 vols.; ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik; Detroit: Macmillan, 2007), 2:256-258.
  • [2] See Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (trans. John Marsh; New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 108; François Bovon, Luke: Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (3 vols.; trans. Donald S. Deer; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002-2013), 2:25. Partly for this reason, some scholars have suggested that it was not Jesus who witnessed the fall of Satan, but the demons whom the apostles had exorcised. In addition, there is a built-in ambiguity in the text since the Greek verb ἐθεώρουν could either be a first person singular (“I was seeing”) or a third person plural (“they were seeing”). See Julian V. Hills, “Luke 10.18—Who Saw Satan Fall?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 46 (1992): 25-40.
  • [3] Pace Fitzmyer, who denies that Luke 10:18 describes an actual vision. See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke (AB 28A and 28B; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981, 1985), 860.
  • [4] It is not necessary to suppose that John of Patmos did not see a vision of the expulsion of Satan from heaven. Rather, I am suggesting that when the revelator sat down to put his vision into writing he used pre-existing sources to help him craft the literary presentation of his vision.
  • [5] See J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation (AB 38; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), 193. Further support for this view is found in the attempts among some Christian theologians, including Martin Luther, to identify Michael in Rev. 12 as the Son of God. See Charles A. Gieschen, “The Identity of Michael in Revelation 12: Created Angel or the Son of God?” Concordia Theological Quarterly 74 (2010): 139-143.
  • [6] Note that in Luke 10:18 Jesus is only a witness to the expulsion of Satan from heaven, he is not a participant in the event. Does this imply that Jesus’ vision, too, is pre-Christian?
  • [7] See R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John (2 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1920), 1:321-329.
  • [8] The expulsion of Satan from heaven by Michael is certainly attested in later Jewish tradition. See Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer chpt. 27 (on Abraham’s sixth trial). In this source the name given to Satan is Samael.
  • [9] As already noted in a footnote above, according to Luke 10:18 Jesus is merely a spectator of the events in heaven. Jesus plays no active role in the expulsion of Satan, and it would not be inconsistent with the report of Jesus’ vision to suppose that Michael was the main actor in Jesus’ vision. The reference to the apostles’ names being written in heaven (Luke 10:20), which Jesus mentions shortly after reporting his vision, may hint that this was indeed the case. The inscribing of the apostles’ names in heaven probably alludes to the following verse in Daniel:

    And in that time Michael, the great prince who stands over the sons of your people, will arise, but it will be a time of distress such as has not been since there was a nation until that time, and in that time your people will escape, all those found written in the book. (Dan. 12:1)

    As in the vision of Michael and the dragon in Rev. 12:7-12, which predicts a violent reaction from Satan in response to his expulsion from heaven, Jesus indicates that the apostles will require protection from the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). The important role Michael plays in Dan. 12:1 and Rev. 12:7-12 bolsters the suggestion that Michael also played a role in Jesus’ vision.
    On the backlash from Satan implied by Luke 10:19, see Simon Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision of the Fall of Satan: Luke 10,18 Reconsidered,” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (2003): 143-163.

  • [10] See John J. Collins, “The Symbolism of Transcendence in Jewish Apocalyptic,” Biblical Research 19 (1974): 5-22, esp. 14. The Roman emperors were well aware of the politically subversive nature of apocalyptic writings. Caesar Augustus, for instance, ordered the burning of books composed in Greek and Latin that contained prophecies of the downfall of the Roman Empire (Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 2:31). Likewise, Justin Martyr mentions that a sentence of death had been decreed against persons who read certain oracular books (1 Apol. 44:12). See David Flusser, “Hystaspes and John of Patmos,” in his Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), esp. 390-453, 393; idem, “The Roman Empire in Hasmonean and Essene Eyes,” in his Judaism of the Second Temple Period, Volume 1—Qumran and Apocalypticism (Grand Rapids and Jerusalem: Eerdmans, Jerusalem Perspective, and Magnes Press, 2007), 175-206, esp. 199.
  • [11] On the concept of angelic princes in ancient Jewish sources, see Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (trans. Israel Abrahams; 2 vols.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975), 1:137-138; Darrell D. Hannah, “Guardian Angels and Angelic National Patrons in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity,” Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook (2007): 413-435. The concept of angelic princes appointed over the nations is found inter alia in Deut. 32:8 (LXX); Dan. 10:13, 20; Sir. 17:17; Jub. 15:31-32. On the possibility that the MT version of Deut. 32:8 was censored in order to suppress the idea of guardian angels who ruled over the nations, see Menahem Kister, “Ancient Material in Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli‘ezer: Basilides, Qumran, the Book of Jubilees,” in ‘Go Out and Study the Land’ (Judges 18:2): Archaeological, Historical and Textual Studies in Honor of Hanan Eshel (ed. Aren M. Maeir, Jodi Magness, and Lawrence H. Schiffman; Leiden: Brill, 2012), 69-93, esp. 73.
  • [12] That Isa. 14:12 refers to Babylon is clear from Isa. 14:4. Ancient Jewish exegetes assumed that Isa. 14:12-14 could not pertain to a mere mortal, and therefore interpreted these verses as describing the demise of Babylon’s angelic prince. Ancient Christian exegetes read Isa. 14:12 as a description of the downfall of Satan for the same reason (cf., e.g., Origen, De Principiis 1:5 §5). See Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 145-146. Some scholars continue to detect an allusion to Isa. 14:12-14 in Jesus’ apocalyptic vision recorded in Luke 10:18, while others disagree. See I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 428-429; John Nolland, Luke (WBC 35A-35C; Dallas: Word Books, 1989-1993), 2:563.
  • [13] On Edom as a symbol of Rome in ancient Jewish literature, see Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews (2 vols.; 2d ed.; trans. Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2003), 1:254 n. 19; Louis H. Feldman, Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 322-324. Flusser detected an allusion to Esau (= Edom) as a symbol of Rome in a saying of Jesus. See David Flusser, Jesus (3d ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 2001), 76-77.
  • [14] For a discussion of this rabbinic treatment of Jacob’s dream, see James Kugel, “The Ladder of Jacob,” Harvard Theological Review 88.2 (1995): 209-27; Chaim Milikowsky, “Notions of Exile, Subjugation and Return in Rabbinic Literature,” in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions (ed. James M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 265-296, esp. 275-278.
  • [15] On the ancient concept of four world empires, see David Flusser, “The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and in the Book of Daniel,” in his Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 317-344.
  • [16] See Flusser, “Four Empires,” 327-328; Louis H. Feldman, “The Concept of Exile in Josephus,” in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions, 145-172, esp. 167-171.
  • [17] The four empires motif, with Rome as the fourth and final empire, is also attested in 4 Ezra 12:11; 2 Bar. 39:5; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 9 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:339). Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallaḥ chpt. 2 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:132) mentions Assyria, Babylon, Media and Greece and then, peculiarly, mentions a fourth [sic] unnamed empire, which presumably refers to Rome. An aggadic interpretation of Gen. 32:12 in which Jacob prays for deliverance from Esau likewise identifies the fourth empire as the “wicked kingdom” (i.e., Rome), but the first three empires are not identified (Gen. Rab. 76:6 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:903-904]).
  • [18] The notion that the Roman Empire ruled the entire world is reflected in Luke 2:1. On the Roman propaganda of worldwide domination, see P. A. Brunt, “Roman Imperial Illusions,” in his Roman Imperial Themes (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 433-480.
  • [19] See David Flusser, “The Dead Sea Sect and Pre-Pauline Christianity,” in his Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, 23-74, esp. 26.
  • [20] Satan is referred to by many different names in ancient Jewish sources: Mastema, Belial and Samael, to name a few. The reason for the multiplicity of names may be due to the fact that שָׂטָן (sāṭān) in Hebrew is a title rather than a personal name. In Hebrew sources שָׂטָן is usually prefixed with the definite article when referring to the angelic archenemy of Israel. Eventually, Satan came to be treated as though it were a personal name.
  • [21] Michael is the opponent of the devil (i.e., Satan) in Jude 9; Rev. 12:7-9; Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer chpt. 27 (on Abraham’s sixth trial). It is possible that the Prince of Lights in the DSS is identical with Michael. This is suggested by a passage in the War Scroll that states:

    Today is his appointed time to subdue and debase the prince of the wicked kingdom. And he will send his eternal help to the lot of his redemption in the power of the majestic angel for the dominion of Michael in eternal light to enlighten with joy the covenant of Israel, peace and blessing for the lot of God, to raise the dominion of Michael above the gods and the kingdom of Israel over all flesh. (1QM XVII, 5-8)

    Note the emphasis on light in this description of Michael, and that the fortunes of Israel are paralleled to those of Michael, suggesting that the Prince of Lights, the angelic prince of the righteous, is none other than Michael. On the possible identity of Michael as the Prince of Lights, see Erik W. Larson, “Michael,” in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 vols.; ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 1:546-548.

  • [22] On the beast from the sea as a symbol of the Roman Empire, see Charles, Revelation, 1:333; Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation—New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 251; M. Eugene Boring, Revelation—Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989), 155.
  • [23] See Midrash Tanhuma, VaYishlaḥ §8; Yalkut Shimoni I, 110; Rashi on b. Sot. 10b. See also Ludwig Blau, “Samael,” Jewish Encyclopedia (12 vols.; ed. Isidore Singer; New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1901-1906), 10:665-666; Hugo Odeberg, 3 Enoch or The Hebrew Book of Enoch (New York: Ktav, 1973), part 2, 93.
  • [24] See Blau, “Samael,” 10:665; idem, “Satan,” Jewish Encyclopedia, 11:68-71, esp. 69.
  • [25] Such a perspective on the Roman Empire would make sense in regions not under Roman rule, such as among the Jews in Babylonia. Note that scholars have concluded that 3 Enoch probably originated among Babylonian Jews. See P. Alexander, “3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; ed. James H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1983-1985), 1:229.
  • [26] If this interpretation of Jesus’ apocalyptic vision is correct, then Ford’s statement that “Jesus indicated no hostility toward the state” (Revelation, 210) requires reevaluation. On political aspects of Jesus’ message concerning the Kingdom of Heaven, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “The Kingdom of Heaven in the Teachings of Jesus: Political Aspect.”

Return of the Twelve

Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10a; 10:17-20

(Huck 140; Aland 180; Crook 204)[1]

Revised: 16-November-2017

וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הַשְּׁלִיחִים אֶל יֵשׁוּעַ בְּשִׂמְחָה וַיְסַפְּרוּ לוֹ אֶת כֹּל אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ לֵאמֹר אֲדוֹנֵנוּ אַף הַשֵּׁדִים מִשְׁתַּעְבְּדִים לָנוּ בְּשִׁמְךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם רָאִיתִי אֶת הַשָּׂטָן כְּבָרָק מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם נֹפֵל הֲרֵי נָתַתִּי לָכֶם רָשׁוּת לִדְרֹךְ עַל נְחָשִׁים וְעַקְרַבִּים וְעַל כֹּל גְּבוּרַת הָאֹיֵב וְלֹא יַזִּיק לָכֶם כְּלוּם אַף בְּזוֹ אַל תִּשְׂמְחוּ שֶׁהָרוּחוֹת מִשְׁתַּעְבְּדוֹת לָכֶם אֶלָּא שִׂמְחוּ שֶׁשְׁמוֹתֵיכֶם כְּתוּבִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם

The twelve emissaries returned to Yeshua full of excitement and they told him about everything they had done. “Lord!” they said, “even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Yeshua told them, “I saw Satan expelled from heaven like a flash of lightning from the sky. Look, I have given you power to step on snakes and scorpions and over all the enemy’s might: Nothing will hurt you. But don’t get excited about that, instead be excited that your names are recorded in heaven in the Book of Life.”[2]










To view the reconstructed text of Return of the Twelve click on the link below:

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Story Placement

It appears that no stories about the apostles’ experiences during their mission were included in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua. Perhaps this is because the author who wrote the Hebrew Life of Yeshua was not one of the twelve apostles, and therefore had no direct knowledge of what took place during the mission. Or, perhaps the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua, who was, after all, telling Jesus’ story, preferred to allow any action Jesus was not directly involved with to take place “off stage.” In any case, it seems likely that the Return of the Twelve pericope immediately followed the Sending discourse, as in Luke 10. The story about Herod that comes between Sending the Twelve and Return of the Twelve in Luke 9:7-9 was probably inserted by the First Reconstructor (the creator of the First Reconstruction [FR]) in order to create the impression of the passage of time. The author of Mark not only copied Luke’s story about Herod (Mark 6:14-16), but took the opportunity to include an additional story about Herod and John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-29) before reporting the Return of the Twelve (Mark 6:30).

To see an overview of the entire “Mission of the Twelve” complex, click here.


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


Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Return of the Twelve is reported in three versions, two in Luke and one in Mark.[3] The version in Luke 10:17-20, which reports the return of the Seventy-two, is based on the Anthology (Anth.), the more Hebraic of Luke’s sources. The version in Luke 9:10, which reports the return of the Twelve, is derived from the First Reconstruction (FR). Originally, both versions pertained to the mission of the Twelve, but since the author of Luke desired to include both versions of the apostles’ mission in his Gospel, he attributed the Anth. version to the Seventy-two rather than to the Twelve.[4]

Mark’s version of Return of the Twelve is mainly based on Luke 9:10, but since Mark also used Anth., it is possible that some of the differences between Luke 9:10 and Mark 6:30 reflect Mark’s knowledge of Anth.[5]

Crucial Issues

  1. Did the apostles exorcise demons by pronouncing Jesus’ name, or did they exorcise demons on the strength of Jesus’ authority?
  2. Who saw Satan fall—Jesus or the demons?
  3. When did the fall of Satan happen?
  4. Did Satan fall from heaven, or was his fall like lightning from the sky?
  5. What do snakes and scorpions have to do with the fall of Satan?


L1 καὶ συνάγονται (Mark 6:30). Mark opens Return of the Twelve using an historical present. Since historical presents are un-Hebraic and characteristic of Markan redaction, we conclude that καὶ συνάγονται (kai sūnagontai, “and they gather”) in Mark 6:30 is simply a paraphrase of Luke 9:10.[6]

καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες (GR). Both of Luke’s versions of Return of the Twelve open with the verb ὑποστρέφειν (hūpostrefein, “to return”). Although Luke 10:17 is based on Anth., while Luke 9:10 is based on FR, we believe that FR preserved the original wording of Anth. in Luke 9:10 better than the author of Luke did in Luke 10:17.[7] The author of Luke thoroughly edited the narrative introduction of Return of the Twelve in Luke 10:17, changing “the apostles” to “the Seventy-two” (see below, Comment to L2), and likely abbreviating the description of the apostles’ return (see below, Comments to L5 and L6). Moreover, sentences with the καί + participle + aorist structure, such as we find in Luke 9:10 (καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες…διηγήσαντο; “and returning…they reported”), are common in LXX where they translate vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive sentences. Observe the following examples from Genesis:

וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ

…and he saw and he ran….

καὶ ἰδὼν προσέδραμεν

…and seeing, he ran…. (Gen. 18:2)

וַיִּגַּשׁ אַבְרָהָם וַיֹּאמַר

And Abraham approached and said….

καὶ ἐγγίσας Αβρααμ εἶπεν

And approaching, Abraham said…. (Gen. 18:23)

וַיַּעֲקֹד אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתוֹ עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ

…and he bound Isaac, his son, and set him on the altar….

καὶ συμποδίσας Ισαακ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐπέθηκεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον

…and binding Isaac, his son, he set him on the altar…. (Gen. 22:9)

וַיִּשָּׂא אֶת קֹלוֹ וַיֵּבְךְּ

…and he raised his voice and wept.

καὶ βοήσας τῇ φωνῇ αὐτοῦ ἔκλαυσεν

…and raising his voice, he wept. (Gen. 29:11)

וַיְחַבֶּק לוֹ וַיְנַשֶּׁק לוֹ

…and he embraced him and kissed him….

καὶ περιλαβὼν αὐτὸν ἐφίλησεν

…and embracing him, he kissed him…. (Gen. 29:13)[8]

L2 οἱ ἑβδομήκοντα δύο (Luke 10:17). NT manuscripts vary regarding whether the number of disciples was seventy-two or seventy.[9] In either case, we regard the Seventy-two (or Seventy) as a literary device created by the author of Luke, which allowed him to report both versions of the apostles’ mission in his two main sources, Anth. and FR, without appearing to be redundant. In both Luke 9:10 and Mark 6:30 we find οἱ ἀπόστολοι (hoi apostoloi, “the apostles”), which appears to be the original wording of Anth.[10] On reconstructing ἀπόστολος with שָׁלִיחַ, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L10-11.

L3 πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν (Mark 6:30). It is difficult to decide whether Mark added “to Jesus” on his own, or whether he copied πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν (pros ton Iēsoun, “to the Jesus”) from Anth. Against Mark is the agreement of both of Luke’s versions to omit “to Jesus”; however, since the author of Luke thoroughly edited Luke 10:17, the omission of πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν in both of Luke’s versions may simply be coincidental. Robert Lindsey described FR as an abbreviated version of Anth. with a more polished style of Greek. It would therefore be unsurprising if the First Reconstructor omitted “to Jesus,” even if this phrase had appeared in his source. It is common in Hebrew narrative to find sentences like “And Abraham returned to his servants” (Gen. 22:19) or “And the messengers returned to Jacob” (Gen. 32:7), which are similar to “And the apostles returned to Jesus.” So perhaps in L3 we have one of those rare instances where Mark preserves a little of the Anthology’s wording better than Luke does.

אֶל יֵשׁוּעַ (HR). On reconstructing the name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous, “Jesus”) as יֵשׁוּעַ (Yēshūa‘), see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L12.

Compare our GR and HR to the following biblical verses:

וַיָּשָׁב אַבְרָהָם אֶל נְעָרָיו

ἀπεστράφη δὲ Αβρααμ πρὸς τοὺς παῖδας αὐτοῦ

And Abraham returned to his servants. (Gen. 22:19)

וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הַמַּלְאָכִים אֶל יַעֲקֹב

καὶ ἀνέστρεψαν οἱ ἄγγελοι πρὸς Ιακωβ

And the messengers returned to Jacob…. (Gen. 32:7)

וַיָּשָׁב מֹשֶׁה אֶל יי

ὑπέστρεψεν δὲ Μωυσῆς πρὸς κύριον

And Moses returned to the LORD…. (Exod. 32:31)

וַיָּשָׁב אַהֲרֹן אֶל מֹשֶׁה

καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν Ααρων πρὸς Μωυσῆν

And Aaron returned to Moses…. (Num. 17:15)

וַיָּשֻׁבוּ אֶל יְהוֹשֻׁעַ

καὶ ἀνέστρεψαν πρὸς Ἰησοῦν

And they returned to Joshua…. (Josh. 7:3)

L4 μετὰ χαρᾶς (Luke 10:17). According to the version of Return of the Twelve that Luke copied from Anth., the apostles returned “with joy.” Although some scholars regard μετὰ χαρᾶς (meta charas, “with joy”) as editorial,[11] it is easy to reconstruct “with joy” in Hebrew, and joy is an important theme of the entire pericope. We have retained μετὰ χαρᾶς in GR, supposing that the First Reconstructor omitted this detail in Luke 9:10, just as he had omitted πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν (see above, Comment to L3).

בְּשִׂמְחָה (HR). The phrase μετὰ χαρᾶς could be reconstructed either as בִּרְנָנָה (birnānāh, “with rejoicing”) or בְּשִׂמְחָה (besimḥāh, “with joy”), but since רְנָנָה is quite rare in comparison with שִׂמְחָה we have preferred the latter for HR.[12]

In LXX בְּשִׂמְחָה is usually translated as ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ (en evfrosūnē, “in joy”),[13] but it is also rendered as μετ᾿ εὐφροσύνης (met evfrosūnēs, “with joy”; 2 Esd. 3:12; Ezek. 36:5), and once as μετὰ χαρᾶς (1 Chr. 29:22), the phrase found in Luke 10:17. If “with joy” in Luke 10:17 does reflect the phrase בְּשִׂמְחָה from an underlying Hebrew Ur-text, then its translation as μετὰ χαρᾶς was not based on the standard translation of בְּשִׂמְחָה in LXX.

L5 διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ (GR). As noted above (Comment to L1), in LXX καί + participle + aorist constructions are frequently used to translate vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive sentences. Not only is Luke 9:10 easy to reconstruct in Hebrew, but since the author of Luke edited Luke 10:17 to a greater or lesser degree, we have preferred the longer FR version of the introduction to Return of the Twelve for GR here in L5. Mark appears to have used ἀπαγγέλειν (apangelein, “to bring news”) as a replacement for Luke’s διηγεῖσθαι (diēgeisthai, “to tell,” “to explain”). In LXX διηγεῖσθαι is almost always the translation of סִפֵּר (sipēr, “tell,” “explain”).

L6 πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησαν (GR). Again in L6 we encounter one of those exceptional cases where Mark appears to preserve the reading of Anth. better than Luke does. Whereas Luke 9:10 reads ὅσα ἐποίησαν (hosa epoiēsan, “that they did”), Mark 6:30 has πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησαν (panta hosa epoiēsan, “all that they did”). The inclusion of the single word πάντα (panta, “all”), which the author of Mark evidently picked up from Anth., suggests that in the introduction of the Return of the Twelve pericope the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua intended to allude to Exod. 18:8, where Moses tells his father-in-law Jethro about all that God had done for Israel.[14] Compare GR and HR L1-6 with Exod. 18:8:

καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες οἱ ἀπόστολοι πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν μετὰ χαρᾶς διηγήσαντο αὐτῷ πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησαν


וַיָּשֻׁבוּ הַשְּׁלִיחִים אֶל יֵשׁוּעַ בְּשִׂמְחָה וַיְסַפְּרוּ לוֹ אֶת כֹּל אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ


And the apostles returned to Jesus with joy and told him all that they had done.

καὶ διηγήσατο Μωυσῆς τῷ γαμβρῷ πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησεν κύριος τῷ Φαραω καὶ τοῖς Αἰγυπτίοις ἕνεκεν τοῦ Ισραηλ, καὶ πάντα τὸν μόχθον τὸν γενόμενον αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ καὶ ὅτι ἐξείλατο αὐτοὺς κύριος

וַיְסַפֵּר מֹשֶׁה לְחֹתְנוֹ אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יי לְפַרְעֹה וּלְמִצְרַיִם עַל אוֹדֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל אֵת כָּל־הַתְּלָאָה אֲשֶׁר מְצָאָתַם בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיַּצִּלֵם יי

And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to Egypt on behalf of Israel, every hardship that encountered them on the road and how the LORD delivered them. (Exod. 18:8)

Just as Moses had made a report to Jethro, so the apostles made a report to Jesus. And just as Jethro rejoiced (Exod. 18:9) and recited a special blessing (Exod. 18:10), so in the next pericope, Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Jesus rejoices (Luke 10:21a) and recites a special blessing (Luke 10:21b-22). By drawing a parallel between Moses and the apostles, the author of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua may have wished to underscore that the redemption that was taking place through the Kingdom of Heaven was patterned after Israel’s redemption from Egypt, except that the second redemption was now on a cosmic scale. Whereas Israel had been redeemed from slavery to Pharaoh, now the whole world was being redeemed from the tyranny of Satan.[15]

There is also a contrast, however, between Moses and the apostles. Moses reported all that the LORD had done, whereas the apostles reported all that they had done. Perhaps Jesus’ remarks in Luke 10:20 were a gentle corrective to the apostles’ enthusiasm.

אֶת כֹּל אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ (HR). In LXX πάντα ὅσα + ποιεῖν translates כֹּל אֲשֶׁר + עָשָׂה numerous times.[16] We have reconstructed ὅσα with אֲשֶׁר rather than -שֶׁ since in narrative contexts we prefer to use BH style, whereas in dialogue we prefer MH style.

L7 καὶ ὅσα ἐδίδαξαν (Mark 6:30). Although we accepted πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν (L3) and πάντα (L6) from Mark 6:30 for GR, we regard “and what they taught” as Mark’s own editorial insertion. As some scholars have noted, “and what they taught” is superfluous, since we already know the content of the apostles’ message (“The Kingdom of Heaven has arrived!”).[17] It is possible that the author of Mark added “and what they taught” under the influence of Acts 1:1, where the author of Luke-Acts refers to “all that Jesus began to do and teach.”[18] Lindsey noted that the author of Mark often picked up words and phrases from Acts, which he then used while paraphrasing Luke’s Gospel.[19] Perhaps the author of Mark added this allusion to Acts 1:1 in order to show that the apostles’ mission was simply an extension of Jesus’ activity.

L8 לֵאמֹר (HR). In LXX the participle λέγοντες (legontes, “saying”) is usually the translation of the infinitive construct לֵאמֹר (lē’mor, “to say”).[20] Unlike HR in L8 of Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes, where we reconstructed λέγοντες with לוֹמַר (lōmar, “to say”), here we have adopted לֵאמֹר. The reason for this apparent inconsistency is that in the Tower Builder simile לוֹמַר occurs in the context of direct speech, where we prefer to reconstruct in MH style. Here, however, we are in narrative, where we prefer to reconstruct in biblical-style Hebrew.[21]

L9 אֲדוֹנֵנוּ (HR). On “Lord” as a title of address in first-century Jewish culture, see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L10. In contrast to Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, L19, L30, where we reconstructed κύριε (kūrie, “Lord!”) with אֲדוֹנִי (adōni, “my Lord”), here we have reconstructed with אֲדוֹנֵנוּ (adonēnū, “our Lord”), since in Luke 10:17 Jesus is addressed by several persons.[22]

L10 καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια (Luke 10:17). Only that part of the apostles’ report that was to become the focus of Jesus’ remarks is recorded as direct speech in Luke 10:17. Perhaps their declaration that “Even the demons submit to us in your name” was the concluding statement of their report.

Scholars note that whereas exorcism is not mentioned in the Luke 10 version of the Mission Charge, the submission of demons is the sole focus of the report of the returning Seventy-two. This inconsistency led Beare to conclude that “the whole of v. 17 is an editorial construction of Luke’s own devising, framed to introduce the group of sayings which follow.”[23] We see this inconsistency as a symptom of Luke’s reworking of two sources, Anth. and FR, that reported the same event. Originally, both Anth. and FR mentioned exorcism in the commissioning of the twelve apostles,[24] but when the author of Luke attributed the Anth. version of the Commissioning pericope to the Seventy-two he also made additional changes to Anth., including the omission of exorcism from the Mission Charge. This led to the unintentional inconsistency between the Luke 10 version of the Sending discourse and the report of the apostles’ return.

אַף הַשֵּׁדִים (HR). The LXX translators often rendered sentences beginning with גַּם (gam, “also,” “even”) with καί (kai, “and,” “also,” “even”). For example:

וַיִּתֵּן יי אֶת חֵן הָעָם בְּעֵינֵי מִצְרָיִם גַּם הָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה גָּדוֹל מְאֹד בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם בְּעֵינֵי עַבְדֵי פַרְעֹה וּבְעֵינֵי הָעָם

κύριος δὲ ἔδωκεν τὴν χάριν τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ ἐναντίον τῶν Αἰγυπτίων, καὶ ἔχρησαν αὐτοῖς· καὶ ὁ ἄνθρωπος Μωυσῆς μέγας ἐγενήθη σφόδρα ἐναντίον τῶν Αἰγυπτίων καὶ ἐναντίον Φαραω καὶ ἐναντίον πάντων τῶν θεραπόντων αὐτοῦ.

And the LORD gave the people favor in the eyes of the Egyptians. Even the man Moses was great in the land of Egypt in the eyes of Pharaoh’s servants and in the eyes of the people. (Exod. 11:3)

וְאִישׁ לֹא יַעֲלֶה עִמָּךְ וְגַם אִישׁ אַל יֵרָא בְּכָל־הָהָר גַּם הַצֹּאן וְהַבָּקָר אַל יִרְעוּ אֶל מוּל הָהָר הַהוּא

καὶ μηδεὶς ἀναβήτω μετὰ σοῦ μηδὲ ὀφθήτω ἐν παντὶ τῷ ὄρει· καὶ τὰ πρόβατα καὶ αἱ βόες μὴ νεμέσθωσαν πλησίον τοῦ ὄρους ἐκείνου.

And a man may not go up with you, and neither may a man be seen in all the mountain. Even the flocks and the cattle may not graze opposite that mountain. (Exod. 34:3)

וּמִן פְּלִשְׁתִּים מְבִיאִים לִיהוֹשָׁפָט מִנְחָה וְכֶסֶף מַשָּׂא גַּם הָעַרְבִיאִים מְבִיאִים לוֹ צֹאן אֵילִים

καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀλλοφύλων ἔφερον τῷ Ιωσαφατ δῶρα καὶ ἀργύριον καὶ δόματα, καὶ οἱ Ἄραβες ἔφερον αὐτῷ κριοὺς προβάτων

…and from the Philistines they brought to Jehoshaphat an offering and silver as tribute. Even the Arabs brought him flocks of rams…. (2 Chr. 17:11)

In MH, however, the conjunction אַף (’af, “also,” “even”) largely replaced גַּם‎.[25] Since here we are reconstructing direct speech, where we prefer MH style, we have adopted אַף for HR.

In the Mishnah sentences beginning -אַף הַ (’af ha-, “Even the…”) are quite common. For example:

רֶ′ מֵאִיר רֶ′ שִׁמְעוֹן אֹמְ′ אַף הַנוֹטֵעַ אֶת כַּרִמְּוֹ עַל שְׁמוֹנֶה שְׁמוֹנֶה אַמּוֹת מוּתָּר

Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Shimon say, “Even the one who plants his vineyard in rows eight cubits apart—it is permitted.” (m. Kil. 4:9)

בֵּית שַׁמַּיִ אוֹמְ′ הַכֹּל טָמֵא וּבֵית הֵלֵּל אוֹמְ′ הַתַּנּוּר טָמֵא וְהַבַּיִת טָהוֹר ר′ עֲקִיבָה אוֹ′ אַף הַתַּנּוּר טָהוֹר

The House of Shammai says, “Everything is impure.” But the House of Hillel says, “The oven is impure but the house is pure.” Rabbi Akiva says, “Even the oven is pure.” (m. Ohol. 5:1)

בֵּית שַׁמַּיִ אוֹמְ′ הַחַדּוּת טָהוֹר וְהַמְּנוֹרָה טְמֵאָה וּבֵית הֵלֵּל אוֹ′ אַף הַמְּנוֹרָה טְהוֹרָה

The House of Shammai says, “The cistern is pure but the lamp is impure.” But the House of Hillel says, “Even the lamp is pure.” (m. Ohol. 11:8)

On reconstructing δαιμόνιον (daimonion, “demon”) with שֵׁד (shēd, “demon”), see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L20. Compared to the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, DSS and NT, early rabbinic literature is quite reticent where demons are concerned.[26] While halachic rulings about evil spirits do attest to popular belief in demons,[27] the relative paucity of information about demons that can be gleaned from tannaic sources suggests that the sages were either not interested in demons and exorcism, or that they actively suppressed such interest.[28] In this regard Jesus and his apostles were probably closer to the Essenes[29] and the early Jewish pietists known as the Hasidim[30] (and perhaps also to popular beliefs) than they were to the Pharisaic-rabbinic tradition, which downplayed the importance of demons, or to the Sadducees, who denied the existence of spirits.[31]

L11 ὑποτάσσεται ἡμῖν (Luke 10:17). Here, a third person singular verb, ὑποτάσσεται (“she/he/it submits”) is applied to a plural subject, δαιμόνια (“demons”). This is because it is common in Greek for neuter plural subjects to take singular verbs.[32] We encounter this phenomenon again in L25 and L27 of the Return of the Twelve pericope. Usually the author of Luke used singular verbs in conjunction with demons (plur.),[33] but occasionally he would use plural verbs applied to demons (plur.).[34]

מִשְׁתַּעְבְּדִים לָנוּ (HR). In LXX the verb ὑποτάσσειν (hūpotassein, “to put under,” “to make subject”) translates a variety of Hebrew roots and expressions, but none with great consistency. For HR we have selected the verb הִשְׁתַּעְבֵּד (hishta‘bēd, “be subjugated,” “be slave of”; cf., e.g., m. Git. 4:4).[35]

A rabbinic source enables us to more fully comprehend the reasons for the apostles’ joy:

מה דרכו של שד נכנס באדם וכופה אותו

What is the way of a demon? It enters a person and coerces him. (Sifre Deut. §318 [ed. Finkelstein, 364])

According to this source, demons overpower a person’s will, forcing him or her to do things that may be harmful or sinful.[36] The apostles, by contrast, have witnessed a dramatic reversal whereby human beings are no longer mastered by demons. The demons have now become subject to them.

L12 ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου (Luke 10:17). Ought we to understand that the apostles used Jesus’ name as a talisman or an incantation to drive out demons?[37] In LXX the phrase ἐν [τῷ] ὀνόματι (en [tō] onomati, “in [the] name”) is usually the translation of בְּשֵׁם (beshēm, “in [the] name [of]”)[38] and it is sometimes possible to understand בְּשֵׁם to mean “by invoking the name.” For instance, נִשְׁבַּע בְּשֵׁם יי (nishba‘ beshēmadōnāi; cf. Lev. 19:12; Deut. 6:13; 10:20) seems to mean “swear using the LORD’s name” (although it is possible that this phrase should be understood as “swear by the LORD’s reputation”), and בֵּרֵךְ בְּשֵׁם יי (bērēch beshēmadōnāi; cf. Deut. 10:8; 21:5) probably means “bless using the LORD’s name,” and likewise קִלֵּל בְּשֵׁם יי (qilēl beshēmadōnāi; cf. 2 Kgs. 2:24) probably means “curse using the LORD’s name” (although it is possible that these phrases should be understood as “bless or curse by the LORD’s authority”). On the other hand, to act “in the name” of someone else usually means to act on that person’s commission or authority,[39] as the following examples demonstrate:

כִּי בוֹ בָּחַר יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ מִכָּל־שְׁבָטֶיךָ לַעֲמֹד לְשָׁרֵת בְּשֵׁם יי

For the LORD your God chose him from all the tribes to stand and to serve in the name of the LORD. (Deut. 18:5)

Here, בְּשֵׁם means that the priests of the tribe of Levi stand and serve on the LORD’s authority. They had this authority because God had commissioned them to be priests.

וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמַע אֶל דְּבָרַי אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בִּשְׁמִי אָנֹכִי אֶדְרֹשׁ מֵעִמּוֹ

And the man who does not listen to my words that he will speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deut. 18:19)

Here, too, the prophet speaks with the LORD’s authority because God had commissioned him to be a prophet. In light of this usage of בְּשֵׁם, we might understand the apostles to mean that the demons had to submit to them because they wielded Jesus’ authority.

Perhaps, however, the two senses of “in the name” are not mutually exclusive. In Acts we find this description of an exorcism:

διαπονηθεὶς δὲ Παῦλος καὶ ἐπιστρέψας τῷ πνεύματι εἶπεν· παραγγέλλω σοι ἐν ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐξελθεῖν ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς· καὶ ἐξῆλθεν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ

But Paul was annoyed and turning to the spirit he said, “I command you in the name of Jesus the Messiah to go out from her!” And it went out that very hour. (Acts 16:18)

Since Paul utters the name of Jesus, this passage could support the supposition that uttering Jesus’ name was itself instrumental in performing the exorcism, but Paul could also be understood to mean, “Not on my own authority, but on Jesus’ authority I command you, etc.” Elsewhere in Luke and Acts we encounter stories of people who presumed to drive out demons by invoking the name of Jesus without having been commissioned to do so. Sometimes these exorcisms were successful (cf. Luke 9:49), but other times they were not (cf. Acts 19:13-16).[40] These varying results would seem to imply that it was not the invocation of Jesus’ name, but the investiture of authority from Jesus, that was the factor that determined success. Jesus certainly highlighted the latter aspect when in Luke 10:19 he affirmed to the disciples, “I have given you authority…over all the power of the enemy.” In other words, the apostles successfully exorcised demons not because the demons could not bear to hear Jesus’ name spoken in their presence, but because the apostles acted on the authority Jesus had given them when he appointed them as his official representatives.

L14 We contemplated adding “Amen! And what’s more, I tell you…” to GR and HR, since Jesus’ response to the apostles’ report in Luke 10:18 appears to be an affirmation and intensification of what the apostles had said. Often in situations where Jesus expands upon a previous statement, whether his own or someone else’s, we find an “Amen!” exclamation.[41] But although the author of Luke often omitted ἀμήν or replaced ἀμήν with a substitute, we rarely find that he omitted λέγω σοι/ὑμῖν. We have therefore refrained from adding an “Amen!” statement to GR and HR, although we cannot exclude the possibility that such a statement appeared in Anth.

ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν (Luke 10:18). Although ἐθεώρουν (etheōroun) is almost universally taken to be a first person singular imperfect verb, Hills made a provocative case for reading ἐθεώρουν as a third person plural, in which case Jesus would have declared: “They [i.e., the demons] saw Satan fall.”[42] If the first person is understood, then Jesus described some kind of personal visionary experience. But since this would make the statement in Luke 10:18 the only vision attributed to Jesus in the canonical Gospels,[43] it might seem attractive to eliminate this one exception by attributing the vision of Satan’s fall to the demons. But such an interpretation does not really solve the problem, since there remains the problem of how Jesus obtained the esoteric knowledge concerning what the demons saw. The broader context of Luke 10:18 is apocalyptic, in the sense that Jesus speaks about what has been revealed to the apostles (Luke 10:21-23) and how they are blessed because of what they have seen (Luke 10:23-24).[44] Since we believe the sayings in Luke 10:21-22 and in Luke 10:23-24 belonged to the same literary complex as the Return of the Twelve pericope, it appears that the apocalyptic theme permeated the entire conclusion of the complex.[45] In the Return of the Twelve pericope Jesus describes his own visionary experience, while in the subsequent pericopae that belonged to the “Mission of the Twelve” complex, Jesus elaborates on what had been revealed to the apostles.[46]

As many scholars have noted, the imperfect form of θεωρεῖν (theōrein, “to see”) should not be over-interpreted (e.g., “I used to see”), since in Greek θεωρεῖν was used almost exclusively in the present and imperfect tenses, the aorist being essentially obsolete.[47]

רָאִיתִי (HR). We considered two main options for reconstructing θεωρεῖν in Hebrew: חָזָה (ḥāzāh, “see”) and רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”). Both verbs can be used for ordinary sight as well as for seeing a vision not perceptible by the ordinary senses, but חָזָה is more strongly associated with visionary experiences as the many nouns derived from the root ח-ז-ה, such as חֹזָה (ḥozeh, “seer,” i.e. “prophet”), חָזוֹן (ḥāzōn, “vision”), חִזָּיוֹן (ḥizāyōn, “vision”) and מַחֲזֶה (maḥazeh, “vision”), demonstrate. Jesus’ vision of the fall of Satan was not plainly observable to everyone,[48] and for that reason חָזָה might be deemed preferable. On the other hand, in LXX θεωρεῖν is the translation of חָזָה only in Ps. 26[27]:4, whereas θεωρεῖν translates רָאָה several times.[49] Although either reconstruction seems possible, we have decided in favor of רָאָה in part because of the evidence from LXX and in part because of this fascinating parallel from rabbinic literature, which may help us to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ vision:

דבר אחר רמה כיון שראו ישראל שרה של מלכות נופל התהילו נותנין שבח לכך נאמר רמה וכן אתה מוצא שאין הקב″ה עתיד להפרע מן המלכיות לעתיד לבא עד שיפרע משריהן תחלה שנאמר והיה ביום ההוא יפקוד יי על צבא המרום ברמום ואחר כך על מלכי האדמה באדמה ואומר איך נפלת משמים הילל בן שחר ואחר כך נגדעת לארץ חולש על הגוים ואומר כי רותה בשמים חרבי ואחר כך הנה על אדום תרד

Another interpretation: he threw [רָמָה; Exod. 15:1] means that when Israel saw the [angelic] prince of the kingdom [of Egypt] falling they began to give praise, accordingly it is said, a high place [רָמָה]. And so you find that the Holy One, blessed be he, will not punish the empires until he has punished their [angelic] princes first, as it is said, And on that day the LORD will visit judgement on the host of heaven on high, and afterward it says, on the kings of the earth on the earth [Isa. 24:21]. And it says, How you have fallen from heaven, O Morning Star, son of the dawn, and afterward it says, you are cut to the ground, who brought the nations down [Isa. 14:12]. And it says, For in heaven my sword has drunk its fill, and afterward it says, Behold, it shall descend upon Edom [Isa. 34:5]. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 2 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:181-182])

This midrash is based on the ancient Jewish notion that corresponding to each of the world empires stands an angelic prince (or “guardian angel”) who represents his empire in heaven.[50] These angelic princes compete for world domination and thereby resist God’s redemptive purposes for Israel. By playing on the verb רָמָה (rāmāh, “throw”), which appears in Exod. 15:1, and the identically-formed noun רָמָה (rāmāh, “high place”), the above-cited midrash suggests that before redemption on earth can take place, the heavenly powers who oppose Israel must first be conquered.[51] When the Israelites at the Red Sea saw (רָאוּ) the angelic prince falling (נוֹפֵל), they began to sing praises because they knew their redemption was assured. This is a striking parallel to Jesus’ claim to have seen (ἐθεώρουν / רָאִיתִי) Satan, the evil power that stood in the way of Israel’s redemption, falling (πεσόντα / נֹפֵל) from heaven.[52]

The Limbourg brothers’ “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” from the fourteenth-century C.E. Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry illuminated manuscript. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The midrash on Exod. 15:1 draws a clear parallel between Israel’s redemption from Egypt and the future redemption, and it explicitly cites Isaiah 14:12 (“How you have fallen from heaven, O Morning Star”), which many scholars agree is alluded to in Luke 10:18.[53] It is possible that Jesus was familiar with an early form of this midrash and alluded to it.[54] Having seen Satan fall, Jesus knew that the redemption of Israel was not far away.[55]

אֶת הַשָּׂטָן (HR). In MT שָׂטָן (sāṭān, “accuser,” “adversary,” “satan”) often refers to a human opponent,[56] and even in rabbinic sources שָׂטָן was still occasionally used in its older sense of a ordinary human adversary.[57] As early as in the books of Zechariah and Job, however, שָׂטָן with the definite article (הַשָּׂטָן; “the Adversary”) began to be used as a title for a heavenly being who accuses human beings before God and who opposes God’s redemptive purposes.[58] Eventually, שָׂטָן without the definite article began to be used as a quasi-name for the archenemy of God and Israel,[59] although the use of הַשָּׂטָן (with the definite article) as a title for Israel’s supernatural adversary never disappeared.[60]

The awareness that “Satan” is really a title may help account for the variety of names given to the archenemy of God and Israel in Second Temple sources (e.g., Mastema,[61] Belial/Beliar[62] and Samael[63] ), and it also accounts for the usage of שָׂטָן as the equivalent of “impure spirit” in DSS (cf. 11Q5 [11QPsalmsa] XIX, 15), as well as the presumption in some sources that there is more than one “satan” (cf., e.g., 1 Enoch 40:7; 1QHa XXII, 25; XXIV, 23; T. Levi after 2:3 in the Mount Athos MS [= Prayer of Levi §10]).

The LXX translators usually rendered שָׂטָן as διάβολος (diabolos, “adversary”),[64] but in 3 Kgdms. 11:14 (2xx) and 3 Kgdms. 11:23 (Alexandrinus) שָׂטָן was simply transliterated as σατάν (satan, “satan”). On the other hand, in Job 2:3 (Alexandrinus) and in Sir. 21:27 we find the spelling σατανᾶς (satanas),[65] the same as we encounter in Luke 10:18. The two instances of σατανᾶς in LXX are instructive because although in both instances the translators were working from Hebrew texts, they used σατανᾶς, derived from the the Aramaic noun סָטָנָא (sāṭānā’, “satan,” “accuser”), to render the Hebrew noun שָׂטָן, which undoubtedly occurred in their source texts.[66] Some “Jewish” terms, it appears, entered Greek via Aramaic and these Aramaic-derived terms were employed even when translating Hebrew texts into Greek since the Aramaic-derived forms had already become familiar to Jewish Greek-speakers. A classic example of this phenomenon is the use of πασχα (pascha), derived from the Aramaic פַּסְחָא (pasḥā’), to represent פֶּסַח (pesaḥ, “Passover”) in LXX.[67] Thus, the appearance of the Aramaic-derived σατανᾶς in Luke 10:18 poses no challenge to Hebrew retroversion; neither does it undermine Lindsey’s hypothesis that a Hebrew source ultimately stands behind the Synoptic Gospels.[68]

L15-17 In Codex Vaticanus Luke 10:18 reads: ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς ἀστραπὴν πεσόντα (lit., “I saw the satan from the heaven/sky like lightning falling”). Critical editions of NT, however, have a different word order: ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα (lit., “I saw the satan like lightning from the heaven/sky falling”). P75 and some patristic citations, on the other hand, read: ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν πεσόντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (lit., “I saw the satan like lightning falling from the heaven/sky”). These variations are probably due to the ambiguity of the sentence, since it is unclear whether the phrase ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“from the heaven/sky”) was intended to refer to the place from which lightning originates, or whether it was intended to describe the place from which Satan fell.[69] In other words, does ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ in Luke 10:18 refer to lightning from the sky or to Satan falling from heaven?

In the Luke column of the reconstruction document we have reproduced the wording of Vaticanus, since we use this manuscript as our base text,[70] but using Hebrew word order to determine which of the Greek versions ought to be adopted for GR is unhelpful, since Hebrew also allows for a great deal of flexibility with respect to word order in such comparisons.[71] Since any word order attested in the Greek MSS could be reconstructed in Hebrew, we have adopted the order found in the critical editions for GR, as this is most likely to be the original reading of Luke’s text.

Hebrew reconstruction also fails to give a definitive answer for whether “from the heaven/sky” refers to the origin of the lightning or the place from which Satan fell. It is likely that if Luke 10:18 reflects a Hebrew source, then that source was not interested in making such a distinction. In Hebrew we encounter comparisons in which the prepositional phrase equally modifies both parts of the comparison, for example:

וַיְנַהֲגֵם כַּעֵדֶר בַּמִּדְבָּר

…and he guided them like a flock in the wilderness. (Ps. 78:52)

“In the wilderness” could refer either to the location of the flock or to the place where God led the children of Israel, or more likely, it refers to both at the same time: God guided Israel in the wilderness the way flocks are guided there. Likewise, if Luke 10:18 reflects a Hebrew source, “from the heaven/sky” could refer either to the place where lightning comes from or the place from which Satan fell, but probably refers to both simultaneously.

L16 כְּבָרָק (HR). In LXX ἀστραπή (astrapē, “lightning”) is the most common translation of בָּרָק (bārāq, “lightning”), and ἀστραπή is never used to translate a word other than בָּרָק‎.[72] In Zech. 9:14 the LORD’s arrow is compared to lightning (כַבָּרָק; chabārāq), a phrase rendered ὡς ἀστραπή (hōs astrapē, “like lightning”) in LXX, which is identical to the phrase that appears in Luke 10:18.

In another biblical text we find not an object, but an action, compared to lightning:

בַּחוּצוֹת יִתְהוֹלְלוּ הָרֶכֶב יִשְׁתַּקְשְׁקוּן בָּרְחֹבוֹת מַרְאֵיהֶן כַּלַּפִּידִם כַּבְּרָקִים יְרוֹצֵצוּ

The chariots go crazily in the streets, they rush about in the squares, their appearance is like torches, like lightnings they sprint. (Nah. 2:5)

We also find a comparison to lightning in rabbinic literature:

אם שנותי, ברק חרבי, כשפורענות יוצאה מלפני קלה היא כברק

If I whet my glittering sword [Deut. 32:41]. When calamity goes out before me it is quick like lightning. (Sifre Deut. §331 [ed. Finkelstein, 380])

The point of comparison between Satan’s fall and lightning in Luke 10:18 is probably the suddenness with which Satan came crashing down.[73]

L17 מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם (HR). In LXX the prepositional phrase ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (ek tou ouranou, “from the heaven”) usually translates מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם (min hashāmayim, “from the heavens”)[74] or some slight variation thereof, such as מִן שָׁמַיִם (Judg. 5:20), מִשָּׁמַיִם (Ps. 13[14]:2; 52[53]:3; 75[76]:9; 84[85]:12; Isa. 14:12; 63:15) or מֵהַשָּׁמַיִם‎ (2 Chr. 7:1). For HR we have selected מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם both because it is the most common Hebrew phrase behind ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ in LXX, and because מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם is also found in rabbinic literature, for instance:

כְּשֶׁהוּא מִתְנַחֵם מֵאֲחֵרִים כָּל הָעָם אוֹמְרִין לוֹ אָנוּ כַפָּרָתָךְ וְהוּא אוֹמֵ′ תִּתְבָּרְכוּ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם

When he [i.e., the high priest—DNB and JNT] receives condolences from other people all the people say to him, “We are your atonement.” And he says, “May you be blessed from heaven.” (m. Sanh. 2:1; cf. t. Sanh. 4:1)

וְאֵילּוּ שֶׁאֵין לָהֶן חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא {הָאוֹמֵ′} הָאוֹמֵר אֵין תְּחָיַית הַמֵּתִים וְאֵין תּוֹרָה מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאַפִּיקוֹרֹס

And these have no portion in the world to come: The one who says, “There is no resurrection of the dead,” or “The Torah is not from heaven,” and the Epicurean. (m. Sanh. 10:1)

Since these examples are intended to represent normal speech, we feel confident reconstructing ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ in Luke 10:18 as מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם.

As we noted in Comment to L15-17 above, there is some question as to whether Luke 10:18 teaches that Jesus saw Satan falling from heaven or whether he saw Satan falling from some unspecified location the way lightning shoots down from the sky. It is possible that Jesus described seeing Satan being hurled from his position of authority without claiming that the seat of Satan’s power had been located in heaven.[75] On the other hand, there are stories, such as the opening chapter of Job, where Satan is portrayed as having access to God’s heavenly council chamber, which leaves open the possibility that an expulsion from heaven is what Jesus envisioned.[76] This possibility is strengthened if one detects an allusion to Isa. 14:12 in Jesus’ words.[77] Also in support of the view that Jesus described an expulsion of Satan from heaven is the similarity between Luke 10:18 and John’s vision in Rev. 12:7-12 of the war in heaven in which the angel Michael casts Satan to the earth. Because parts of Rev. 12:7-12 are highly Hebraic, Charles suggested that John’s vision of the war in heaven may have been based on a Hebrew source.[78] If Charles is correct, descriptions of the fall of Satan may have been circulating among Jewish groups in the first century and Jesus may have alluded to this expectation. We believe that Jesus did have a vision of the fall of Satan from heaven, but the phrase “from the heaven/sky” need not be limited to the place from which Satan was expelled, it could also apply to the lightning’s place of origin, just as “in the desert” refers in Ps. 78:52 simultaneously to the place where the LORD guided Israel and to the place where flocks are led.

נֹפֵל (HR). The LXX translators used πίπτειν (piptein, “to fall”) more often than any other verb to render נָפַל (nāfal, “fall”),[79] and although πίπτειν was occasionally used in LXX to render some other Hebrew root,[80] נֹפֵל is the obvious choice for HR.[81]

Untitled work by Israeli artist Miri Nishri from a 1988 series entitled “Fallen Angels.” Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

At what point Jesus witnessed Satan’s fall is a question that has been debated for centuries. Patristic sources often assume that Jesus witnessed Satan’s expulsion from heaven prior to the incarnation, whereas more recent scholars usually suppose that Jesus’ visionary experience took place while the apostles were away on their mission.[82] Whether Jesus’ vision describes a past incident or a future event, or whether Jesus witnessed the fall of Satan as it was happening, is also debated.[83] In our view, Jesus’ visionary experience could have taken place at any time leading up to the moment Jesus described what he had seen. It is even possible that Jesus saw the vision at the same time as the apostles were delivering their report.

As to whether Jesus’ vision pertained to the past, present or future, it is tempting to suppose that the fall of Satan was simultaneous with the apostles’ exorcistic activity.[84] This view is unsustainable, however, since on a different occasion Jesus explained that he was able to exorcise demons only because the strong man (that is, Satan) had already been overcome (Luke 11:22). If the removal of Satan was a necessary precondition for Jesus’ exorcisms, then all the more so in the case of the apostles, whose authority to drive out demons derived from Jesus. This leads to the conclusion that Satan’s fall took place at some point prior to the mission of the Twelve.

In the same pericope in which Jesus argued that it was only possible to plunder the house after overpowering the strong man, Jesus also claimed that the casting out of demons is proof that the Kingdom of God had arrived (Luke 11:20). Another first-century Jewish source, the Assumption of Moses, likewise links the defeat of Satan with the arrival of the Kingdom of God:

And then His kingdom will appear throughout all His creation,
And then Satan will be no more,
And sorrow will depart with him. (As. Mos. 10:1)[85]

Since Jesus linked the downfall of Satan to the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom to the inauguration of his own mission (cf., e.g., Matt. 11:12-13; Luke 16:16), it is logical to suppose that Satan’s fall occurred when Jesus launched his public career. The inbreaking of God’s Kingdom was what toppled Satan from his power and sent Jesus forth to proclaim the victory of God.[86]

It is fascinating to observe in the Return of the Twelve pericope that redemption is taking place on three separate but interlocking levels. The apostles describe the redemption taking place on the personal level: demons were being driven out such that individual Israelites were being restored to health and sanity. Jesus describes redemption taking place on a cosmic level: Satan was being overthrown as God asserted his reign over Israel. And on an intermediate level, between the personal and the cosmic plains, communal redemption was also unfolding: the people of Israel as a whole were being brought under God’s reign, the tribes of Israel were being restored, and the powers opposed to Israel’s redemption were being rendered impotent. Evidence of redemption on any one level was confirmation of the redemption taking place on all the others.[87] The liberation of even one human being from demonic possession was proof of the downfall of Satan and a sign that the liberation of all Israel was near.[88]

Nevertheless, while his fall to earth spelled Satan’s ultimate defeat, the immediate fallout could be catastrophic. This is certainly the case in John’s vision of the war between Michael and Satan, where the revelator registers two contradictory reactions to Satan’s expulsion from heaven:

Rejoice because of this, O heavens and those who dwell therein.
Woe, O earth and sea, that the devil has come down to you having great anger, knowing that he has little time. (Rev. 12:12)

In the verses that follow the account of his vision, Jesus seems to describe troubles that will come in the wake of Satan’s fall.[89] The apostles will require protection from harmful creatures and the power of the enemy, and they are to take courage from knowing that their “names are recorded in heaven.” This last phrase is reminiscent of Dan. 12:1, where we read:

וְהָיְתָה עֵת צָרָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא נִהְיְתָה מִהְיוֹת גּוֹי עַד הָעֵת הַהִיא וּבָעֵת הַהִיא יִמָּלֵט עַמְּךָ כָּל־הַנִּמְצָא כָּתוּב בַּסֵּפֶר

And it will be a time of distress that has never been since there was a nation until that time, and in that time your people will be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. (Dan. 12:1)

Having their names recorded in heaven in Luke 10:20, therefore, likely alludes to a time of tribulation, and those tribulations are evidently a consequence of Satan’s fall. The upheaval that would result from the fall of Satan accounts for Jesus’ mixed reaction to the apostles’ report. The apostles were right to rejoice, since with the downfall of Satan Israel’s redemption was assured. However, the submission of demons was not the reason to be excited, rather the apostles should take courage that they would survive the birth pangs of the messianic redemption.

L18 הֲרֵי נָתַתִּי לָכֶם רָשׁוּת (HR). In the account of the apostles’ commissioning (Matt. 10:1; Luke 9:1), when Jesus granted the Twelve authority to exorcise demons, we reconstructed ἐξουσία (exousia, “authority”) with רָשׁוּת (rāshūt, “authority”).[90] Since here in Luke 10:19 Jesus refers back to the commissioning,[91] we have reconstructed ἐξουσία in the same manner. We regard this allusion to the commissioning of the Twelve in Luke’s account of the return of the Seventy-two as another hint that the mission of the Twelve in Luke 9 and the mission of the Seventy-two in Luke 10 are actually two versions of the same story.[92]

On the reconstruction of ἰδού (idou, “behold”) with הֲרֵי (ha, “behold”), see Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L49.

L19-20 τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων (Luke 10:19). When Jesus spoke of trampling snakes and scorpions it is likely that he alluded to a verse in Psalm 91:[93]

עַל שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּין

Upon the lion and the asp you will tread, you will trample the young lion and the sea serpent. (Ps. 91:13)

Psalm 91 as a whole is an apotropaic psalm, that is, a psalm of protection from danger. In Judaism there is a long tradition of interpreting Psalm 91 as referring to various types of demons, and this may well have been the original intention of this psalm.[94] As early as the DSS we find that Psalm 91 was recited in order to ward off demons (cf. 11QapocrPs [11Q11]),[95] and later midrashic treatments of Psalm 91 are among the richest sources of information for the rabbinic understanding of what demons were and how they behaved.[96] In the context of the Return of the Twelve pericope, where the apostles report how the demons are subject to them, it makes sense that Jesus would have alluded to a psalm of protection against harmful spirits.[97]

Fitzmyer, however, regards the allusion to Ps. 91:13 as “farfetched” on the grounds that “Greek ophis, ‘serpent, snake’ never renders Hebrew tannîm, ‘dragon,’ in the LXX.”[98] Despite Fitzmyer’s misgivings, we believe the allusion to Psalm 91 in Luke 10:19 is all but certain. Fitzmyer’s objection is weak since פֶּתֶן (peten) and תַּנִּין (tanin), the terms for snake in Ps. 91:13, are synonyms for נָחָשׁ (nāḥāsh, “snake”),[99] which LXX usually did render as ὄφις (ofis, “snake”).[100]

The likelihood of an allusion to Ps. 91:13 in Luke 10:19 is strengthened when we consider that in LXX and in a version of Ps. 91 in DSS three kinds of snake are named instead of just two, as in MT:

ἐπ᾿ ἀσπίδα καὶ βασιλίσκον ἐπιβήσῃ καὶ καταπατήσεις λέοντα καὶ δράκοντα.

Upon the asp and the basilisk you will trample, and you will trample lion and dragon underfoot. (Ps. 90:13)

על] פתן [ואפעה תד]רוך תרמו[ס כפיר] ותנין]

[Upon] viper [and asp shall you s]tep, you will tramp[le lion] and dragon. (11QapocrPs [11Q11] VI, 12; DSS Study Edition)

Since both נָחָשׁ and ὄφις are generic terms for “snake,” it would not be surprising if Jesus used a general term to allude to a verse that used two or, depending on the version of Ps. 91:13 Jesus had in mind, even three synonyms for “snake.”[101]

If Jesus really did intend to allude to Psalm 91, however, why did he say “snakes and scorpions” instead of “snakes and lions,” which is what appears in Ps. 91:13? In Comment to L20, we will discuss examples from rabbinic sources in which snakes and scorpions are associated with magical and demonic powers on the one hand, and with divine protection on the other, so perhaps these associations contributed to the substitution of “scorpions” for “lions” in Luke 10:19. It is also possible that the substitution of “scorpions” for “lions” was due to the assumption that the creatures mentioned in Ps. 91:13 were of a fantastic nature. This assumption is expressed in the LXX version of the psalm, which also mentions basilisks[102] and dragons.[103] Since ancient sources describe fantastic composite creatures of lions and scorpions,[104] might Jesus have drawn on a tradition that identified yet one more fantastic creature in Ps. 91:13, one that was part lion and part scorpion?

A mid sixth-century B.C.E. coin from Mylasa (south-western coast of the Anatolian peninsula) depicting a lion’s head on one side and a scorpion on the other. Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.A coin from Laodicea ad Mare, modern Latakia in Syria, (ca. 45 B.C.E.) depicting a lion attacking a bull on one side and a scorpion on the other side. Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.A silver drachma from southern Gaul (late third to early second century B.C.E.) depicting a lion with a scorpion head. Image courtesy of the <a href="">Classical Numismatic Group</a>.

L19 לִדְרֹךְ (HR). Although Lindsey indicated that πατεῖν (patein, “to trample”) without τοῦ (tou, “[of] the”) would have been more Hebraic,[105] there are numerous instances in LXX where an infinitive construct in the underlying Hebrew text was translated as τοῦ + infinitive.[106] We considered two main candidates for reconstructing πατεῖν: דָּרַךְ (dārach, “tread”) and רָמַס (rāmas, “trample”), both of which occur in Ps. 91:13. Tipping the balance slightly in favor of דָּרַךְ in HR is the fact that in LXX πατεῖν translates דָּרַךְ more frequently than ‎רָמַס‎.[107] Also, if Jesus did intend to allude to Ps. 91:13, we might expect him to use the first verb from that verse, which is דָּרַךְ.

L20 עַל נְחָשִׁים וְעַקְרַבִּים (HR). Snakes and scorpions are often mentioned together in ancient sources, both Jewish and non-Jewish,[108] probably because both were considered to be fatally poisonous.[109] A number of rabbinic sources attest to how dangerous snakes and scorpions were considered to be:[110]

ר′ שמעון או′ הרי שהיו יושבין ואוכלין וראו נחש או עקרב עוקרין אילו את פסחיהן ואוכלין אותו במקום אחר

Rabbi Shimon said, “Behold, if they were sitting and eating [the Passover lamb], and they saw a snake or a scorpion, these take up their Passover lamb and eat it in a different place.” (t. Pes. 6:9[11]; Vienna MS)

A Levant Viper, the only poisonous snake common in all parts of the land of Israel. Plate from H. B. Tristram, The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1884), opposite 147. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ordinarily it was not permitted to take the Passover lamb from one house to another (cf. t. Pes. 6:11), but an exception was made in the case of snakes and scorpions because they were considered to be so dangerous.

תני רבי יעקב אומר הרואה נחש ועקרב בתוך ארבע אמות ראוי היה שימות בהם אלא שרחמים של מקום מרובין

It was taught [in a baraita]: Rabbi Akiva says, “The one who sees a snake or a scorpion at a distance of four cubits is liable to die by them. He is spared only because the mercies of the Omnipresent One are so many.” (y. Shab. 14:1 [74b]; cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 35 [ed. Schechter, 81]; Eliyahu Rabbah 18:18)

According to this source, snakes and scorpions were regarded as so deadly that any person who so much as approached them was spared only by divine intervention.

עֲשָׂרָה נִיסִים נֶעֱשׂוּ בְּבֵית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ…לֹא הִיזִּיק נָחָשׁ וְעַקְרָב בִּירוּשָׁלַםִ

Ten miracles were performed in the Temple…neither a snake nor a scorpion did harm in Jerusalem…. (m. Avot 5:5)

Here, too, preservation from snakes and scorpions is presented as an example of miraculous intervention.

נפל לבור אריות אין מעידין עליו אומר אני נעשה לו ניסים כדניאל. נפל לכבשן האש אין מעידין עליו אומר אני נעשה לו ניסים כחנניה מישאל ועזריה. נפל לבור מלא נחשים ועקרבים אין מעידין עליו. רבי יהודה בן בבא אומר אומר אני חבר היה.‏

If someone fell into a pit of lions they do not testify concerning him [that he is dead]. I say, “Perhaps a miracle occurred for him like Daniel.” If someone fell into a fiery furnace they do not testify concerning him [that he is dead]. I say, “Perhaps a miracle occurred for him like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” If someone fell into a pit full of snakes and scorpions they do not testify concerning him [that he is dead]. Rabbi Yehudah ben Bava says, “I say, ‘He was a snake charmer.’” (y. Yev. 16:3 [83a])

A Deathstalker or Yellow Scorpion (Leiurus quinquestriatus) photographed in Israel’s Negev. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This last source warrants our attention because it exemplifies a certain ambivalence regarding snakes and scorpions. On the one hand, deliverance from these creatures is mentioned along with the miracle of Daniel in the lions’ den and the miracle of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. But on the other hand, Rabbi Yehuda ben Bava associates the taming of snakes and scorpions with magic rather than with miracles.

Other sources make an even more explicit connection between snakes, scorpions and magic. Note, for instance, the following comment on Deut. 18:11, which enumerates a series of forbidden magical practices:

וחבר חבר…אחד חובר את הנחש ואת העקרב

[There shall not be found among you someone who passes his son or his daughter through the fire, or one who practices divination]…or a charmer [Deut. 18:(10-)11]. [This refers to]…someone who charms the snake or the scorpion. (Sifre Deut. §172 [ed. Finkelstein, 219])

What is more, a ruling from the Tosefta associates magical incantations used to ward off snakes and scorpions with the demonic:

רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומ′…לוחשין על העין ועל הנחש ועל העקרב ואין לוחשין בדבר שדים ר′ יוסה אומ′ אף בחול אין לוחשין בדבר שדים

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, “…They whisper incantations over an [evil] eye,[111] a snake, and a scorpion [on the Sabbath], but they do not whisper incantations over a matter involving demons.” Rabbi Yose says, “Even on an ordinary day they do not whisper incantations in a matter involving demons.” (t. Shab. 7:23; Vienna MS; cf. b. Sanh. 101a)[112]

A scorpion as depicted in the sixth-century C.E. Beit Alpha synagogue mosaic. The inscription above the scorpion reads עקרב (the Hebrew word for scorpion). Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Such association of snakes and scorpions with magic and the demonic[113] helps us comprehend why, in response to the apostles’ report about their successful exorcisms, Jesus spoke about protection from snakes and scorpions.

The other main context in ancient Jewish sources where we find snakes and scorpions mentioned together is in reference to God’s protection of the children of Israel when he led them through the desert. This linking of snakes and scorpions with God’s protection of Israel in the desert first appears in the Jewish Scriptures:

וְשָׁכַחְתָּ אֶת יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ הַמּוֹצִיאֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים הַמּוֹלִיכֲךָ בַּמִּדְבָּר הַגָּדֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא נָחָשׁ שָׂרָף וְעַקְרָב וְצִמָּאוֹן אֲשֶׁר אֵין מָיִם הַמּוֹצִיא לְךָ מַיִם מִצּוּר הַחַלָּמִישׁ

…and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible desert containing snake and fiery serpent and scorpion and thirsty ground that had no water, who brought out water for you from the flinty rock. (Deut. 8:14-15)

According to later sources, the pillar of cloud would kill all the snakes and scorpions in Israel’s path,[114] while other sources emphasize the unusual size of the snakes and scorpions the Israelites encountered in the wilderness,[115] but most illuminating for our understanding of Jesus’ response to the apostles in Luke 10:19 is the rabbinic conviction that the protection of Israel from snakes and scorpions in the past implies that God will continue to protect Israel in the future:

כי ה′ אלהיכם ההולך עמכם, מי שהיה עמכם במדבר הוא יהיה עמכם בעת צרה וכן הוא אומר ה′ ילחם לכם ואתם תחרישון. להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם משרפים ועקרבים ורוחות הרעים

For the LORD your God is the one who walks with you [Deut. 20:4]. The one who was with you in the desert, he will be with you in the time of distress, and therefore Scripture says, the LORD will fight on your behalf, but you will be still [Exod. 14:14]. To fight on your behalf with your enemies to save you [Deut. 20:4] from fiery snakes and scorpions and the evil spirits. (Sifre Deut. §193 [ed. Finkelstein, 234])

This rabbinic comment on Deut. 20:4, which assures Israel that God will deliver them from snakes, scorpions and evil spirits, is an almost exact parallel to Jesus’ assurance that the apostles will not be harmed by snakes, scorpions or the power of the enemy. Common to both the rabbinic comment and Jesus’ saying is the promise of deliverance in times of distress. Jesus applied this promise to the period of acute turmoil that would come in the wake of Satan’s fall (see above, Comment to L17).

In L17 of Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-Law we also reconstructed ἐπάνω (epanō, “upon”) with עַל (‘al, “upon”).

A first-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii shows a snake slithering toward an altar. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L21-22 וְעַל כֹּל גְּבוּרַת הָאֹיֵב (HR). We have been unable to identify any definite parallel to “power of the enemy” in Jewish sources. One question we have not been able to answer is whether “the enemy” here is a synonym for Satan or whether the reference is to a human enemy, the definite article being a Hebraic way of referring to a generic noun.[116] An ordinary human enemy is a real possibility, since “power of the enemy” is parallel to “snakes and scorpions.” If this option were adopted, then snakes, scorpions and enemies would be manifestations of Satan’s power that he intends to hurl against the apostles.

Another question posed by the phrase “all the power of the enemy” is which word for “enemy” Jesus was more likely to have used. In LXX ἐχθρός (echthros, “enemy”) is usually the translation of אֹיֵב (’oyēv, “enemy”), but sometimes ἐχθρός is used to translate שׂוֹנֵא (sōnē’, “hater,” “enemy”).[117] The latter option is attractive, since in MH שׂוֹנֵא took the place of אֹיֵב‎,[118] and we generally prefer to reconstruct direct speech in MH style. On the other hand, אֹיֵב is a common term in DSS and it does occur in tannaic sources, for instance:

עַל אֹיְבֵיכֶם אַתֶּם הוֹלְכִים שֶׁאִם תִּיפְּלוּ בְיָדָם אֵינָן מְרַחֲמִין עֲלֵיכֶם

You are going against your enemies who, if you fall into their hands, will have no mercy upon you. (m. Sot. 8:1; cf. Sifre Deut. §192 [ed. Finkelstein, 233])

Thus, אֹיֵב was probably still in common use in the spoken Hebrew of Jesus’ time.

Our reconstruction reflects the supposition that the enemy Jesus refers to is none other than Satan. HR is modeled on the similar construct phrase גבורת אל (gevūrat ’ēl, “the power of God”), which occurs in DSS,[119] on the supposition that גְּבוּרַת הָאֹיֵב (gevūrat hā’oyēv, “the power of the enemy”) might have been deemed an appropriate antithesis to גְּבוּרַת אֵל in first-century Hebrew.[120] It is possible that by referring to the fallen Satan as “the enemy” Jesus alluded to a biblical verse:

בִּנְפֹל אוֹיְבֶיךָ אַל תִּשְׂמָח

At the fall of your enemy do not rejoice…. (Prov. 24:17)

Such an allusion would fit with the content of Jesus’ vision (Luke 10:18) and with his warning that the apostles should not rejoice in their triumph over the enemy, but in the fact that their names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20).

L23 וְלֹא יַזִּיק לָכֶם כְּלוּם (HR). For our similar reconstruction of μηδείς (mēdeis, “nothing”) with כְּלוּם (kelūm, “anything”), see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L63.

We have chosen to reconstruct ἀδικεῖν (adikein, “to harm”) with הִזִּיק (hiziq, “harm,” “damage”), a verb that does not occur in MT.[121] Our decision is largely based on the statement in m. Avot 5:5 that neither snake nor scorpion caused harm in Jerusalem, where the verb is הִזִּיק.‎[122] Recall, too, that evil spirits are sometimes referred to as מַּזִּיקִין (maziqin, “harmers,” i.e., “harmful spirits”) in rabbinic sources (cf., e.g., m. Avot 5:6).

The verb הִזִּיק can take the prepositions -בְּ, -‎לְ or the definite direct object marker אֶת.‎[123] Our reconstruction with the preposition -לְ may be compared to the following example:

צויתי את האור שלא יזיק לחנניה מישאל ועזריה, צויתי את האריות שלא יזיקו לדניאל

I commanded the fire that it not harm Hananyah, Mishael, and Azaryah. I commanded the lions that they not harm Daniel. (Gen. Rab. 5:5 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 1:35])

Note that in Psalm 91 we find a similar statement to Jesus’ promise that “nothing will harm you”:

לֹא תְאֻנֶּה אֵלֶיךָ רָעָה

Evil will not befall you. (Ps. 91:10)

οὐ προσελεύσεται πρὸς σὲ κακά

Evil will not come toward you. (Ps. 90:10)

L24 אַף בְּזוֹ (HR). In LXX πλήν (plēn, “nevertheless”) is the translation of several conjunctions including אֲבָל (avāl, “but”), אַךְ (’ach, “only,” “nevertheless”) and רַק (raq, “only”).[124] The phrase πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ (plēn en toutō, “nevertheless in this”) does not occur in LXX, but we do find μόνον ἐν τούτῳ (monon en toutō, “only in this”) as the translation of אַךְ בְּזֹאת (’ach bezo’t, “only on this [condition]”; Gen. 34:22), which is similar.[125] We considered reconstructing Luke’s πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ with אַךְ בְּזֹאת, but אַךְ had become obsolete in MH, and likewise בְּזוֹ (be, “in this”) took the place of בְּזֹאת in MH.[126] Phrases such as אֲבָל בְּזוֹ (“but in this”) and רַק בְּזוֹ (“only in this”) do not occur in rabbinic literature, but we do somtimes encounter אַף בְּזוֹ (“even in this”), for instance:

אבא שאול אומ′ אף בזו היא מחלוקת

Abba Shaul says, “Even in this case [אַף בְּזוֹ] it is in dispute.” (t. Ohol. 6:6; Vienna MS)

ראוה שנבעלה חוששין משום קידושין נתן לה כספים חוששין משום זנות…רבי יוסי בר′ יהודה אומר אף בזו חוששין משום קידושין

If someone sees that he had sexual relations [with a woman], they presume that he has thereby betrothed her. If he gave her money, they presume it was a case of fornication…. Rabbi Yose in the name of Rabbi Yehudah says, “Even in this case [אַף בְּזוֹ] they presume betrothal.” (b. Git. 73a-b)[127]

Reconstructing πλὴν ἐν τούτῳ with אַף בְּזוֹ has the advantage of using MH style, which we prefer in dialogue, and of using a construction that is attested in ancient sources. Moreover, reconstructing with אַף harks back to the opening words of the apostles’ report, where in L10 we reconstructed καί (kai, “and,” “also”) with אַף.

אַל תִּשְׂמְחוּ (HR). Above in L4 we reconstructed χαρά (chara, “joy”) with שִׂמְחָה (simḥāh, “joy”). Here in L24 we have reconstructed the cognate verb χαίρειν (chairein, “to rejoice”) with שָׂמַח (sāmaḥ, “rejoice”). In LXX שָׂמַח is usually translated as εὐφραίνειν (evfrainein, “to rejoice”), but χαίρειν comes in second place.[128]

L25 שֶׁהָרוּחוֹת מִשְׁתַּעְבְּדוֹת לָכֶם (HR). Whereas the apostles had reported that the demons submitted to them (Luke 10:17; L10), Jesus here refers to spirits, which is a more general and inclusive term. All demons are spirits, but not all spirits are demons. Nevertheless, in ancient Jewish sources “demon” and “spirit” were often treated as interchangeable (cf., e.g., 11Q11 II, 3; Jos., Ant. 6:211).

In LXX πνεῦμα (pnevma, “wind,” “spirit”) is almost always the translation of רוּחַ (rūaḥ, “wind,” “spirit”).[129] Likewise, we find that רוּחַ is translated in LXX as πνεῦμα far more often than any other Greek term.[130] On the reconstruction of ὑποτάσσειν (hūpotassein, “to put under,” “to make subject”) with הִשְׁתַּעְבֵּד (hishta‘bēd, “be subjugated,” “be slave of”), see above, Comment to L11.

L27 ἐγγέγραπται ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (Luke 10:20). In LXX the verb ἐγγράφειν (engrafein, “to inscribe”)[131] usually translates either the passive participle כָּתוּב (kātūv, “written,” “inscribed”) or the nif‘al verb נִכְתַּב (nichtav, “was written,” “was inscribed”). We have reconstructed Luke’s phrase as כְּתוּבִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם (“written in the heavens”). Note the Hebraic ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (“in the heavens [pl.]”).

In Luke 10:20 Jesus draws upon the ancient Near Eastern concept of a heavenly archive that contains records of human activities and divine judgments.[132] While divine record keeping is alluded to fairly often in the Hebrew Bible,[133] the term “Book of Life,” which is a narrower concept,[134] is found only once:

יִמָּחוּ מִסֵּפֶר חַיִּים וְעִם צַדִּיקִים אַל יִכָּתֵבוּ

Blot their name from the Scroll of Life, and with the righteous do not let them be written. (Ps. 69:29)[135]

Nevertheless, biblical and post-biblical writers often referred to the Scroll of Life without naming it explicitly. For instance:

וְהָיָה הַנִּשְׁאָר בְּצִיּוֹן וְהַנּוֹתָר בִּירוּשָׁלִַם קָדוֹשׁ יֵאָמֶר לוֹ כָּל הַכָּתוּב לַחַיִּים בִּירוּשָׁלִָם

And it will be that the one who remains in Zion and the one who is left in Jerusalem, “Holy” will be said of him—each one who is written for life in Jerusalem. (Isa. 4:3)[136]

וּבָעֵת הַהִיא יִמָּלֵט עַמְּךָ כָּל הַנִּמְצָא כָּתוּב בַּסֵּפֶר

And in that time your people will escape, each one found written in the scroll. (Dan. 12:1)

By declaring that their names were recorded in heaven, Jesus assured the Twelve that God would preserve them through the troubled times ahead.[137] As scholars have noted, Jesus contrasted Satan’s fall from heaven with the inscribing of the apostles’ names in heaven.[138]

Redaction Analysis

Many scholars have doubted the literary integrity of Luke 10:17-20, supposing this pericope to consist of originally unrelated sayings artificially pieced together by the author of Luke or his source.[139] These doubts mainly stem from the apparent lack of connection between exorcisms and seeing Satan fall, and especially between the description of Jesus’ vision and the promise that the apostles will survive encounters with snakes and scorpions unscathed. From careful examination of ancient Jewish sources, however, an inner coherence to the Return of the Twelve pericope is allowed to emerge. The connection between the apostles’ exorcisms and Jesus’ vision of the fall of Satan makes sense when it is understood that the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven—the message the apostles proclaimed and demonstrated through healing and exorcism—would bring the rule of Satan to an end. In other words, the submission of the demons to the apostles simply confirmed that what Jesus had seen in his vision was true. Likewise, the connection between exorcisms and protection from harmful creatures is clarified when the allusion to Ps. 91:13 is recognized, since in the Second Temple period Psalm 91 was believed to be effective for warding off evil spirits. Finally, the reason for mentioning that the apostles’ names are recorded in heaven becomes apparent when it is understood that Satan was expected to vent his wrath on earth in response to his expulsion from heaven.[140] Thus, the skepticism regarding the literary integrity of the Return of the Twelve pericope can be overcome when Luke 10:17-20 is read within the context of ancient Jewish sources.

Luke’s Versions

The author of Luke transmitted two versions of the return of Jesus’ emissaries from their preaching and healing mission. The bare bones report in Luke 9:10 is characteristic of FR, which Robert Lindsey described as an improved Greek abridgment of Anth., crafted into a fast-paced narrative. The version in Luke 10:17-20, which focuses on Jesus’ reaction, is typical of Anth., which Lindsey described as a highly Hebraic collection of anecdotes, sayings and parables of Jesus organized according to genre rather than presented as a continuous narrative. On the whole, the author of Luke faithfully preserved the wording of his sources; however, by comparing Luke’s two versions with the version in Mark, and by attempting to reconstruct these versions in Hebrew, we have detected evidence of Luke’s editorial activity.

Luke 10:17-20

The most glaring example of Luke’s editorial activity is Luke 10:17, where the author of Luke attributes the Anth. version to the Seventy-two instead of the (twelve) apostles (L2). Originally, both the FR and Anth. versions described the same event, the return of the twelve apostles, but the author of Luke used the Seventy-two as a literary device that allowed him to include both versions in his Gospel. The author of Luke also adapted the introduction to the Anth. version by replacing καὶ ὑποστρέψαντες with the more polished Greek ὑπέστρεψαν δὲ (L1) and by omitting the statement that the apostles “reported to him all that they did” (L5-6), thereby eliminating a probable allusion to Exod. 18:8. Otherwise, Luke left the Anth. version unchanged, even copying a Hebraism—“in the heavens (plur.)”—from Anth. (L27) rather than improving the Greek by changing the plural to a singular.

Luke 9:10

It is difficult to determine whether the author of Luke made any changes to FR, since all of the differences between Luke 9:10 and Anth., which is reconstructed in the GR column, could be the handiwork of the First Reconstructor. Whether Luke or FR omitted πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν in L3, or μετὰ χαρᾶς in L4, or πάντα in L6 is impossible to say. What we can say is that in L1 and L2 the First Reconstructor preserved the wording of Anth. more exactly than the author of Luke did in Luke 10:17. These examples of FR’s faithfulness to Anth. illustrate the kinds of adaptations the author of Luke made to his sources.

Mark’s Version

The author of Mark based his version of the Return of the Twelve pericope on Luke 9:10. In keeping with his usual practice, Mark paraphrased Luke’s wording, substituting synonyms and creating allusions to the Acts of the Apostles (L7). However, since the author of Mark constantly compared Luke to Anth., and occasionally picked up a word or phrase from Anth. that Luke omitted, Mark sometimes preserved an original reading not found in Luke. This appears to be the case in L3 where Mark adds πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, and in L6, where by restoring the word πάντα, an allusion to Exod. 18:8 is recovered. These examples demonstrate how important the witness of each of the Synoptic Gospels is for reconstructing the earliest record of Jesus’ life and teachings.

Results of this Research

1. Did the apostles exorcise demons by pronouncing Jesus’ name, or did they exorcise demons on the strength of Jesus’ authority? As Jesus’ sheliḥim, or official representatives, the apostles were authorized to act in Jesus’ name, or in his stead. In other words, the apostles acted with Jesus’ authority. This seems to be the original concept behind driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Their ability to drive out demons was not based on uttering Jesus’ name, but on the authorization Jesus had given to the apostles to cast out evil spirits.

It appears, however, that when Jesus’ followers encountered demon-possessed persons they would often say to the demon, “I command you in Jesus’ name to come out of this person.” Since they cited Jesus’ name in the course of performing exorcisms, it was easy for a subtle shift to take place whereby Jesus’ name itself was regarded as a potent charm against demons. This understanding seemed to be confirmed by the at least partial success of exorcists who were not followers of Jesus but who used Jesus’ name as an incantation to drive out demons. By the time of Justin Martyr in the mid-second century C.E., the transference of meaning from “in Jesus’ name” to “by the power of Jesus’ name” was commonplace even among Jesus’ followers, while the original meaning was largely forgotten.

2. Who saw Satan fall—Jesus or the demons? Although Hills deserves a great deal of credit for exploring an exegetical option that New Testament scholars had, perhaps unanimously, overlooked, we favor the interpretation that it was Jesus who saw a vision of the downfall of Satan. When the apostles returned from their mission, Jesus’ remarks emphasized what God had revealed to them and what they had seen. It makes sense that in such an apocalyptic context Jesus would also describe a revelation that he himself had seen. We have also noted that other visions of the fall of Satan were probably circulating in the first century, and it is even possible that Jesus alluded to a tradition about how the Israelites had witnessed the downfall of the angelic prince of Egypt at the Red Sea. All of this supports the traditional interpretation, according to which Jesus witnessed the downfall of Satan.

3. When did the fall of Satan happen? Ancient sources attest to conflicting timetables for the fall of Satan. According to some sources, Satan was evicted from heaven during the first week of creation (cf., e.g., 2 Enoch [J] 29:4-5). Other sources seem to envision Satan’s expulsion from heaven as an eschatological event (e.g., Rev. 12:7-12), while other sources link the downfall of Satan to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven (As. Mos. 10:1). Since Jesus explicitly linked the exorcism of demons to the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven, and since he regarded exorcisms as confirmation of Satan’s fall, it appears that Jesus correlated the downfall of Satan with the inauguration of his own Kingdom of Heaven movement.

4. Did Satan fall from heaven, or was his fall like lightning from the sky? Either interpretation is grammatically possible, since the phrase ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“from the heaven/sky”) could indicate either the place from which Satan fell or the place from which lightning originates. Supposing that Luke 10:18 reflects a Hebrew saying of Jesus, it is unnecessary to chose between the two options, hence our paraphrase: “I saw Satan expelled from heaven like a flash of lightning from the sky.”

5. What do snakes and scorpions have to do with the fall of Satan? According to Bundy, Luke 10:19 “conceives of religion as a sort of magical spell which surrounds the ardent and protects him from harm, a conception that is hardly above the level of primitive superstition.”[141] That is not how we would describe it. Ancient Jewish sources demonstrate that snakes and scorpions were considered to be dangerous, even deadly, creatures that were associated with forbidden magical practices and demonic powers. God had preserved the children of Israel from snakes and scorpions when he led them out of Egypt, and this divine protection served as an example of how God would continue to preserve Israel during times of distress. Since Jesus expected a severe backlash from Satan in response to his expulsion from heaven, Jesus assured the apostles that through this acute period of distress God would protect them from snakes and scorpions and all the power of the enemy.


When the apostles returned to Jesus with the report that even the demons were forced to obey them, Jesus explained their success as confirmation of his vision of the downfall of Satan. From the time the Kingdom of Heaven had begun to break forth, Satan had been toppled from his position of power. Just as the fall of the angelic prince of Egypt had guaranteed the redemption of Israel from slavery in the time of Moses, so the downfall of Satan was a sure sign that the final redemption of Israel, humankind and the whole of creation was afoot. Nevertheless, the downfall of Satan would likely result in a period of acute distress when the Adversary of Israel and Accuser of God would marshal his forces for a last assault against the LORD’s redeemed community. Jesus assured the apostles that just as God had protected the twelve tribes of Israel from snakes, scorpions and evil spirits during their wilderness wanderings, so God would protect the twelve apostles to Israel in the turbulent time ahead. In the face of adversity, the apostles could take courage from knowing that their names were inscribed in the Scroll of Life as participants in the messianic redemption.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Return of the Twelve pericope is the way it allows us to observe how the redemption that was unfolding through Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven movement was operative on three interlocking levels. On the personal level, individuals were being set free from demonic possession. On the communal level, the twelve tribes were being renewed and the God of Israel was asserting his reign over his people. And on the cosmic level, evil was being uprooted from creation forever. The apostles were to rejoice, not merely because they had exercised control over demons on the personal level,[142] but all the more so because on the cosmic level they were being promoted to the place of authority that Satan had recently been forced to vacate.



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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] According to Nolland (Luke, 2:562), “The return of the Seventy-two could easily be a secondary formulation based on [Luke] 9:10a.”
  • [4] See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [5] Justin Martyr (mid-second century C.E.) quoted a form of Jesus’ saying about snakes and scorpions that is different from the version preserved in Luke 10:19:

    Δίδωμι ὑμῖν ἐξουσίαν καταπατεῖν ἐπάνω ὄφεων καὶ σκορπίων καὶ σκολοπενδρῶν, καὶ ἐπάνω πάσης δυνάμεως τοῦ ἐχθροῦ.

    I give you authority to step on snakes and scorpions and centipedes, and over all the power of the enemy. (Dialogue with Trypho chpt. 76)

    It is uncertain whether Justin knew the Gospel of Luke and if the differences between Justin’s version and Luke 10:19 are due to Justin’s imperfect memory, or whether Justin knew this saying from some other written or oral source.

  • [6] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [7] We have identified several instances where, due to the author of Luke’s editing of Anth., the FR version of the Sending the Twelve pericope preserves the wording of Anth. better than the version Luke based directly on Anth. See, for instance, Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, L17, L20, L22; Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, L66, L70, L74; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L85, L109, L110, L112, L113, L114.
  • [8] Further examples from Genesis where καί + participle + aorist translates vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive include Gen. 24:26; 24:54, 63; 25:8, 17; 27:27; 29:10; 33:4, 5; 35:29; 38:15; 48:2. There are many examples elsewhere in LXX.
  • [9] See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L23.
  • [10] In the Gospel of Mark the term ἀπόστολος (apostolos, “apostle,” “emissary”) occurs only in Mark 3:14 and 6:30.
  • [11] See, for example, Fitzmyer, 2:861.
  • [12] In MT רְנָנָה occurs four times (Ps. 63:6; 100:2; Job 3:7; 20:5), compared to over ninety instances of שִׂמְחָה.
  • [13] In LXX ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ is the translation of בְּשִׂמְחָה in Deut. 28:47; 2 Kgdms. 6:12; 1 Chr. 15:25; 29:17; 2 Chr. 20:27; 23:18; 30:21; 2 Esd. 6:22; Ps. 44:16; 67[68]:4; 99[100]:2; 105[106]:5; Eccl. 2:1; 5:19; 9:7; Isa. 55:12; 66:5.
  • [14] We suppose that the author of Mark picked up πάντα from Anth. rather than simply supplying πάντα himself, since, in our estimation, the author of Mark does not seem capable of making the kind of subtle allusion to Scripture that was evidently present in the introduction to the Return of the Twelve pericope.
  • [15] In Luke 11:20 (cf. Matt. 12:28) Jesus himself drew a parallel between the Kingdom of Heaven and Israel’s redemption from Egypt. See R. Steven Notley, “By the Finger of God.”
  • [16] On reconstructing πᾶς (pas, “all,” “every”) with כֹּל (kol, “all,” “every”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L26. Examples of πάντα ὅσα + ποιεῖν as the translation of כֹּל אֲשֶׁר + עָשָׂה are found in Gen. 1:31; 39:22; Exod. 18:1, 8, 14; Num. 22:2; Deut. 1:30; 3:21; 4:34; 29:1, 8; Ruth 3:16; 1 Kgdms. 19:18; 2 Kgdms. 3:36; 3 Kgdms. 11:41; 4 Kgdms. 8:23; 10:34; 12:20; 13:8, 12; 14:3, 28; 15:3, 6, 21, 26, 31, 34; 18:3; 21:17; 23:28, 32, 37; 24:3, 5, 9, 19; 2 Chr. 26:4; 27:2; 29:2; 2 Esd. 15:19; Eccl. 3:14; Jer. 27[50]:29; Ezek. 14:23; 16:63; 24:24.
  • [17] See Marshall, 359; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L105.
  • [18] In NT the pairing of ποιεῖν (poiein, “to do”) with διδάσκειν (didaskein, “to teach”) is found in Matt. 5:19; 28:15; Mark 6:30; John 8:28; Acts 1:1.
  • [19] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups”; idem, “My Search for the Synoptic Problem’s Solution (1959-1969),” under the subheading “Markan Pick-ups”; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.”
  • [20] For instance, out of fifty-four instances of the participle λέγοντες in the Pentateuch, forty-four are the translation of the infinitive construct לֵאמֹר: Gen. 22:20; 23:5; 32:7; 34:20; 38:13, 24; 42:28, 29; 45:16, 26; 47:15; 48:20; 50:4, 16; Exod. 5:8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 19; 11:8; 14:12; 15:1, 24; 32:12; Lev. 11:2; Num. 11:13, 18, 20; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 40; 17:6, 27; 20:3; 32:2, 25, 31; Deut. 1:28; 13:14; 18:16; 20:5; 27:9.
  • [21] Compare our reconstruction of λέγων with לֵאמֹר in Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L6, and our reconstruction of εἰπών with לֵאמֹר in Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, L12.
  • [22] Cf. Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L5.
  • [23] See Beare, 157; cf. Bundy, 336-337.
  • [24] See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, L17-21.
  • [25] See Jastrow, 99, 251. An example of how אַף supplanted גַּם in MH is found in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 4 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:311), where גַּם in the biblical text is paraphrased using אַף.
  • [26] The term שֵׁד, for instance, does not occur at all in the Mishnah and only in a single passage of the Tosefta (t. Shab. 7:23). On reticence toward the demonic in tannaic literature, see Peter J. Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakhah in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles (CRINT III.1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 156-157; Louis Isaac Rabinowitz, “Demons, Demonology: In the Talmud,” in Encyclopedia Judaica (2d ed.; 22 vols.; ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik; Detroit: Macmillan, 2007), 5:574. Not only do early rabbinic sources mention demons much less frequently than the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, DSS and NT, but some of the rabbinic notions about the origins and characteristics of demons conflict with the views expressed in Second Temple sources. For instance, whereas the sages believed that the מַזִּיקִין (maziqin, “harmful spirits”) were formed at the end of the sixth day of Creation (m. Avot 5:6; cf. Sifre Deut. §355 [ed. Finkelstein, 418]), a variety of Second Temple sources describe demons as the ghosts of the illegitimate offspring of sexual union between angels and human beings (cf., e.g., 1 Enoch 15:8; Jub. 10:5; 11Q11 V, 6). The latter explanation of the origin of demons is also attested in the Christian writings of Justin Martyr, 2 Apol. 5:2-4; cf. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 2:15. Likewise, the description of demons in Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 37:2 (ed. Schechter, 109), according to which demons eat and procreate, conflicts with the view that demons are the ghosts of the giants who where drowned in the flood. On the “Enochic Aetiology of Demons,” see Philip S. Alexander, “The Demonology of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls After Fifty Years (2 vols.; ed. Peter W. Flint and James C. Vanderkam; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 2:331-353, esp. 337-341.
  • [27] For halachic rulings that mention evil spirits, see m. Shab. 2:5; m. Eruv. 4:1; t. Eruv. 3:8; t. Taan. 2:12.
  • [28] In later rabbinic sources, and especially among Babylonian sages, there is a renewed interest in demons.
  • [29] Josephus describes how he witnessed a certain Essene perform an exorcism (Ant. 8:46-48). In addition, among the Dead Sea Scrolls certain exorcism texts have been discovered, which also suggests that demons and exorcism were part of the Essene worldview. On demons in DSS, see Philip S. Alexander, “The Demonology of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 2:331-353; Herman Lichtenberger, “Demonology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament,” in Text, Thought and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity (ed. Ruth A. Clements and Daniel R. Schwartz; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 267-280.
  • [30] Rabbinic literature attests to the ability of Hanina ben Dosa, a first-century C.E. Hasid, to command demons (b. Pes. 112b). For additional sources on exorcisms performed by Hanina ben Dosa, see Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim,” under the subheading “Miracle Workers.”
  • [31] See Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law, 156.
  • [32] See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 399-400.
  • [33] Luke uses a singular verb applied to demons (plur.) in Luke 4:41; 8:2, 30, 35, 38; 10:17.
  • [34] See Luke 4:41 where there are four verbs used with δαιμόνια, one singular, three plural; cf. Luke 8:33 where there are two verbs used with δαιμόνια, both plural. Also, Luke uses a singular verb two out of three times for πνεύματα (“spirits”) when it is the subject of a sentence (Luke 10:20; 11:26). Once in Matthew πνεύματα is the subject of a sentence, with one of its verbs in the plural form, one in the singular (Matt. 12:45 [ // Luke 11:26]). Mark uses a plural verb with πνεύματα every time (Mark 3:11 [4xx]; 5:13 [2xx]).
  • [35] See Jastrow, 1608.
  • [36] Cf. the description of demon possession in Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, chpt. 13.
  • [37] It is clear from his writings that Justin Martyr (mid-second century C.E.) understood exorcisms to be performed by means of Jesus’ name (κατά τοῦ ὀνοματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ; Dial. chpt. 30; cf. chpt. 85; 2 Apol. 6:6). For a survey of Justin’s understanding of demons, see F. C. Conybeare, “Demonology of the New Testament,” Jewish Quarterly Review 8.4 (1896): 576-608, esp. 597-599.
  • [38] In LXX ἐν [τῷ] ὀνόματι translates בְּשֵׁם in 1 Kgdms. 17:45; 20:42; 25:9; 2 Kgdms. 6:18; 3 Kgdms. 18:24 (2xx), 25, 26, 32; 22:16; 4 Kgdms. 2:24; 5:11; 1 Chr. 4:38; 12:32; 16:2, 8, 10; 21:19; 2 Chr. 18:15; 28:15; 31:19; 2 Esd. 8:20; 10:16; Ps. 19[20]:6, 8; 32[33]:21; 43[44]:6; 53[54]:3; 62[63]:5; 88[89]:13, 17, 25; 104[105]:3; 117[118]:26; 123[124]:8; 128[129]:8; Mic. 4:5; Zech. 10:12; Jer. 36[29]:23.
  • [39] On this usage of בְּשֵׁם, see Hans Kosmala, “‘In My Name,’” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute 5 (1967): 87-109, esp. 91-93, 108.
  • [40] Origen mentions that there were people who drove out demons by invoking the name of Jesus even though they were not believers (Celsus 1:6), but it is uncertain whether he knew personally of such cases, or whether he was simply alluding to the story in Acts 19:13-16. Be that as it may, Smith presents abundant evidence that Jesus’ name was used by non-Christians in magical spells for driving out demons. See Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 62-63.
  • [41] See Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?” For examples of “Amen!” affirmations followed by an intensification, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L115-116; Blessedness of the Twelve, L9-10.
  • [42] See Julian V. Hills, “Luke 10.18—Who Saw Satan Fall?” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 46 (1992): 25-40.
  • [43] See Bultmann, 108; Bovon, 2:25; Simon Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision of the Fall of Satan: Luke 10,18 Reconsidered,” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (2003): 143-163, esp. 145.
  • [44] The English noun “apocalypse” and the English adjective “apocalyptic” derive from the Greek word ἀποκάλυψις (apokalūpsis, “uncovering,” “revelation”). In popular usage “apocalypse” is a synonym for end-time catastrophe (e.g., the “Zombie Apocalypse”), but in biblical studies “apocalypse” refers to a literary genre concerned with the uncovering of mysteries. These mysteries are not exclusively or even primarily concerned with eschatology (i.e., end times). Apocalypses can explore the hidden workings of the universe, uncover secret truths of the story of creation or of current events, as well as reveal God’s hidden plan for the future. Jesus’ vision of Satan’s fall is apocalyptic in the sense that Jesus was afforded a glimpse of the happenings in the spiritual realms that are not ordinarily accessible to the physical senses. See Michael E. Stone, “Apocalyptic Literature,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (CRINT II.2; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 383-441; David Flusser, “Apocalypse,” in Encyclopedia Judaica, 2:256-258.
  • [45] Click here to see an overview of the entire “Mission of the Twelve” complex.
  • [46] See Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, Blessedness of the Twelve, Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • [47] See Marshall, 428; Fitzmyer, 2:862; Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 151 n. 37.
  • [48] On visions in the Second Temple period, see David Flusser, “Visions,” in Encyclopedia Judaica, 20:543-544.
  • [49] In LXX θεωρεῖν is the translation of רָאָה in Josh. 8:20; Judg. 13:19, 20; 16:27 (Alexandrinus); Ps. 21[22]:8; 30[31]:12; 49[50]:18; 63[64]:9; 65[66]:18; 67[68]:25; 72[73]:3; Eccl. 7:11; Dan. 8:15.
  • [50] For שַׂר (sar) as “angelic prince” or “guardian angel,” see Dan. 10:13, 20. For additional examples, see Jastrow, 1627. On the concept of angelic princes in ancient Jewish sources, see Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (trans. Israel Abrahams; 2 vols.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975), 1:137-138; Darrell D. Hannah, “Guardian Angels and Angelic National Patrons in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity,” Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook (2007): 413-435. The notion of angelic princes appointed over the nations is also found in Deut. 32:8 (LXX); Sir. 17:17; Jub. 15:31-32. In some sources Michael is the guardian angel of Israel, in others it is the LORD himself who guards Israel. In the Community Rule (1QS III, 20-21) the concept of angelic princes who rule the Gentile kingdoms is morphed into the division of all humanity into two groups, those ruled by the Prince of Light (שר אורים) and those ruled by the Angel of Darkness (מלאך חושך). According to 2 Cor. 11:14, Satan was known to masquerade as an “angel of light,” using terminology that might have been borrowed from Qumran (viz., שר אורים). See David Flusser, “The Dead Sea Sect and Pre-Pauline Christianity” (JOC, 23-74, esp. 26). If so, 2 Cor. 11:14 provides early evidence that Satan was identified as one of the angelic princes who ruled over the empires of the world. This is also implied by Satan’s offer to make Jesus ruler over all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would bow down and worship him (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-8).
  • [51] On the concept that the angelic princes must first be toppled before the earthly empires can be vanquished, see Ginzberg, 1:558 n. 41.
  • [52] A midrashic treatment of Jacob’s dream of the ladder upon which angels ascended and descended (Lev. Rab. 29:2 [ed. Marguiles, 2:670-671]; cf. Gen. 28:12) interprets the angels as the angelic princes of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. The number of rungs each prince ascended was interpreted as marking the number of years of each empire’s dominion over Israel, and their descent was interpreted as marking the end of their reign. The descent of an angelic prince on Jacob’s ladder is not dissimilar to the fall from heaven of the angelic prince of Egypt described in the above-cited midrash on Exod. 15:1 in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 2, or to the fall of Satan described in Luke 10:18. On the midrashic treatment of Jacob’s dream, see James Kugel, “The Ladder of Jacob,” Harvard Theological Review 88.2 (1995): 209-227; Chaim Milikowsky, “Notions of Exile, Subjugation and Return in Rabbinic Literature,” in Exile: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Conceptions (ed. James M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 265-296, esp. 275-278.
  • [53] See Lightfoot, 3:97; T. W. Manson, 258; Marshall, 428-429; Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 155; Bovon, 2:31. The association of Luke 10:18 with Isa. 14:12 is ancient, and can be traced back at least as far as Origen (Princ. 1:5 §5). See Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 146.
  • [54] According to Kister, “notwithstanding significant changes in style, tone, context, and content, aggadic statements in rabbinic literature should be regarded principally as traditions, and the sages to whom these utterances are attributed as tradents of ancient material. Studies that consider rabbinic literature together with writings of the Second Temple period (such as Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran, Philo, Josephus, Gospels) validate time and again this assertion.” See Menahem Kister, “Allegorical Interpretations of Biblical Narratives in Rabbinic Literature, Philo, and Origen: Some Case Studies,” in New Approaches to the Study of Biblical Interpretation in Judaism of the Second Temple Period and in Early Christianity (ed. Gary A. Anderson, Ruth A. Clements, and David Satran; Leiden: Brill, 2013), 133-183, quotation on 141-142.
  • [55] The mention of Edom in the Mechilta passage probably alludes to Rome, since in rabbinic literature Edom is often a symbol of Rome. On Edom as a symbol of Rome in ancient Jewish literature, see Ginzberg, 1:254 n. 19; Louis H. Feldman, Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 322-324. Note, too, that in some sources Samael (= Satan) is identified as the angelic prince of Rome (3 En. 26:12). See Ginzberg, 1:306 n. 275; Ludwig Blau, “Samael,” JE, 10:665-666.
  • [56] For examples in MT where שָׂטָן refers to a human opponent, see 1 Sam. 29:4; 2 Sam. 19:23; 1 Kgs. 5:18; 11:14, 23, 25; Ps. 109:6.
  • [57] Cf., e.g., Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 17 (ed. Schechter, 37); Seder Olam chpt. 28 (ed. Guggenheimer, 237). On the occurence of שָׂטָן in the example from Avot de-Rabbi Natan, see Anthony J. Saldarini, trans., The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan (Abot de Rabbi Nathan) Version B (Leiden: Brill, 1975), 117 n. 7.
  • [58] For הַשָּׂטָן as a title, see Zech. 3:1, 2; Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12; 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7. In LXX הַשָּׂטָן is translated as ὁ διάβολος (ho diabolos, “the Adversary”), from which the English title “the devil” is derived.
  • [59] The earliest example of שָׂטָן as a quasi-name may be found in 1 Chr. 21:1, although some scholars interpret this instance as “a satan” (i.e., not a proper name). See T. H. Gaster, “Satan,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (4 vols.; ed. George A. Buttrick et al.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 4:224-228, esp. 225. The transformation of “satan” from a title to a personal name is analogous to the transformation of “christ” from a title to a name witnessed in Christian writings.
  • [60] For examples of הַשָּׂטָן in rabbinic literature see Gen. Rab. 38:7; 48:3; 91:9; y. Ber. 1:1 [6a]; y. Shab. 2:6 [19b]; b. Ber. 33a; b. Shab. 89a; 104a; b. Pes. 112b; b. Rosh Hash. 16b; b. Yom. 67b.
  • [61] Mastema is the name for Satan in the book of Jubilees (cf. Jub. 10:8-11). See David Flusser, “Mastema,” in Encyclopedia Judaica, 13:668-669.
  • [62] The name Belial (בליעל) for Satan is particularly common in the Dead Sea Scrolls (cf., e.g., 1QS I, 18; II, 19; 1QM I, 1, 5, 13; 1QHa X, 18, 24). This name also occurs in NT in 2 Cor. 6:15.
  • [63] Samael as a name for Satan is particularly common in rabbinic sources. See Gen. Rab. 56:4; Deut. Rab. 11:10; b. Sot. 10b. Samael is also mentioned in Ascension of Isaiah 11:43 and 3 Enoch 14:2. In the Byzantine chronicle Palaea Historica the participants in the dispute over Moses’ body are named as Michael and Samuel (a corruption of Samael), whereas in Jude the disputants are Michael and the Devil. See David Flusser, “Palaea Historica: An Unknown Source of Biblical Legends,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 22 (1971): 48-79, esp. 72.
  • [64] See Dos Santos, 199.
  • [65] See Hatch-Redpath, 3:139.
  • [66] Unfortunately, Sir. 21:27 has not been preserved in the fragmentary Hebrew MSS of Ben Sira. In any case, Ben Sira was translated from Hebrew, not Aramaic (see Sir. prologue).
  • [67] For a discussion of the the use of the Aramaic-derived πασχα to represent the Hebrew term פֶּסַח in LXX, see Randall Buth and Chad Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 66-109, esp. 87-88). Another example of using Aramaic-derived vocabulary to represent a Hebrew term is σάτον (saton), from Aramaic סָאתָא (sā’tā’), where the underlying Hebrew text reads סְאָה (se’āh, “seah,” a measure of quantity). See our discussion in Mustard Seed and Starter Dough, Comment to L34.
  • [68] On transliterated and Hellenized Semitic terms in the Gospels, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Greek Transliterations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Hebrew/Aramaic Words in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [69] See Fitzmyer, 2:861; Nolland, Luke, 2:563.
  • [70] On our rationale for using Vaticanus for our base text, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction,’” under the subheading “Codex Vaticanus or an Eclectic Text?”
  • [71] The order in Vaticanus (ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς ἀστραπὴν πεσόντα) could be reconstructed as רָאִיתִי אֶת הַשָּׂטָן מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם כְּבָרָק נֹפֵל, to which we may compare מֵעַי לְמוֹאָב כַּכִּנּוֹר יֶהֱמוּ (“my inward parts wail for Moab like the lyre”; Isa. 16:11). The order found in the critical editions (ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα) could be reconstructed as רָאִיתִי אֶת הַשָּׂטָן כְּבָרָק מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם נֹפֵל, to which we may compare צַדִּיק…כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה (“a righteous [person]…like a cedar in Lebanon he will grow”; Ps. 92:13). The order in P75 and patristic sources (ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν πεσόντα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) could be reconstructed as רָאִיתִי אֶת הַשָּׂטָן כְּבָרָק נֹפֵל מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם, to which we may compare הָרִים כַּדּוֹנַג נָמַסּוּ מִלִּפְנֵי יי (“the hills like wax melted before the LORD”; Ps. 97:5). It would also be possible to reconstruct Luke 10:18 as רָאִיתִי אֶת הַשָּׂטָן נֹפֵל כְּבָרָק מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם, to which we may compare יֵרֵד כְּמָטָר עַל גֵּז (“he will descend like rain on mown grass”; Ps. 72:6). This last word order, however, is not supported by any Greek witnesses.
  • [72] Ἀστραπή is the translation of בָּרָק in Exod. 19:16; Deut. 32:41; 2 Kgdms. 22:15; Ps. 17[18]:15; 76[77]:19; 96[97]:4; 134[135]:7; 143[144]:6; Job 20:25; Nah. 2:5; Hab. 3:11; Zech. 9:14; Jer. 10:13; 28[51]:16; Ezek. 1:13; Dan. 10:6. Aside from ἀστραπή, LXX translates בָּרָק with κεραυνός (keravnos, “lightning”) in Job 38:35, with στίλβωσις (stilbōsis, “shining”) in Ezek. 21:15, 20, and with the verbs στίλβειν (stilbein, “to shine”) in Ezek. 21:33 and ἐξαστράπτειν (exastraptein, “to flash like lightning”) in Nah. 3:3.
  • [73] See Werner Foerster, “ἀστραπή,” TDNT, 1:505.
  • [74] In LXX ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ translates מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם in Gen. 19:24; 21:17; 22:11, 15; Exod. 16:4; 20:22; Deut. 4:36; 26:15; 28:24; Josh. 10:11; 2 Kgdms. 21:10; 4 Kgdms. 1:10 (2xx), 12 (2xx), 14; 1 Chr. 21:26; 2 Chr. 6:21, 23, 25, 30, 33, 35, 39; 2 Chr. 7:14; Job 1:16; Isa. 55:10. In Ps. 148:1 ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν translates מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם.
  • [75] For this view, see F. Warburton Lewis, “I Beheld Satan Fall As Lightning From Heaven (Luke X. 18),” Expository Times 25 (1913-1914): 232-233.
  • [76] See Job 1:6, 2:1; cf. Zech. 3:1-2.
  • [77] Although Isa. 14:12 is a taunt against the king of Babylon (cf. Isa. 14:4), in early Jewish exegetical tradition this verse was understood to refer to the fall of Babylon’s angelic representative in the heavenly council. A connection between Luke 10:18 and Isa. 14:12 has been suggested since the early church fathers (cf., e.g., Origen, De Principiis 1:5 §5). See Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 145-146. Marshall (428-429) agrees that Luke 10:18 alludes to Isa. 14:12, while Nolland (Luke, 2:563) supposes that the allusion to Isa. 14:12 in Luke 10:18 is illusory.
  • [78] See R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John (2 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1920), 1:321-329.
  • [79] See Dos Santos, 134.
  • [80] Hatch-Redpath, 2:1135-1137.
  • [81] It is of interest to note that, in Hebrew sources, lightning is said to “give light” (הֵאִיר; hē’ir; Ps. 77:19; 97:4; Gen. Rab. 60:1), to “dart” (רוֹצֵץ; rōtzētz; Nah. 2:5; cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 43 [ed. Schechter, 120]), or to “go forth” (יָצָא; yātzā’; Ezek. 1:13; Zech. 9:14; Sifre Deut. §331 [ed. Finkelstein, 380]), but never to “fall.” Neither have we found Greek sources that describe lightning as falling.
  • [82] See W. Manson, 126.
  • [83] For a thorough review of these questions, see Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 143-163. As the title of his article indicates, Gathercole supposes that Luke 10:18 describes an event that has yet to take place.
  • [84] For this view, see T. W. Manson, 258.
  • [85] Translation according to R. H. Charles, The Assumption of Moses (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1897).
  • [86] A rabbinic source attributes the expulsion of Satan from heaven to the work of the Messiah:

    אמר השטן לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא [רבונו של עולם אור שנגנז תחת כסא הכבוד שלך למי, א″ל למי שהוא עתיד להחזירך ולהכלימך בבושת פנים, א″ל] רבונו של עולם הראהו לי, אמר לו בא וראה אותו, וכיון שראה אותו נזדעזע ונפל על פניו ואמר בודאי זהו משיח שהוא עתיד להפיל לי ולכל שרי אומות העולם בגיהנם

    The Adversary said before the Holy one, blessed be he, “Ruler of the universe, the light that is stored beneath your throne of glory: whose is it?” He replied, “It is for the one who in the future will turn you back and humiliate you.” He said to him, “Ruler of the universe, show him to me.” He replied, “Come and see him.” But as soon as he saw him he shuddered and fell on his face and said, “Surely this is the Messiah who in the future will cause me to fall, together with all the angelic princes of the nations of the world [שרי אומות העולם], in Gehenna!” (Pesikta Rabbati 36:1 [ed. Friedmann, 161b])

    While the story is set during the week of creation, it looks forward to the eschatological messianic redemption. Note that in this source Satan is closely associated with the angelic princes who govern the human empires and represent them in the heavenly council. According to this source, when the messianic redemption takes place Satan and the angelic princes will be thrown into Gehenna, implying that Israel will be freed from the yoke of foreign domination when the Kingdom of Heaven finally breaks forth.

  • [87] For more on this theme, see Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), 184-190.
  • [88] This interlocking of redemption at the communal and cosmic levels is paralleled in ancient Jewish sources, including the War Scroll from Qumran, where on one level Belial and his angels fight against the heavenly hosts, and on another level the Kittim (i.e., Romans) fight against the Sons of Light (i.e., the Essenes) (cf., e.g., 1QM I, 9-16). The rabbinic midrash on the song of the sea, where the fall of the angelic prince of Egypt was the precursor to the defeat of Pharaoh, is another example of the same phenomenon (see above, Comment to L14).
  • [89] See Gathercole, “Jesus’ Eschatological Vision,” 155-158.
  • [90] See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L19.
  • [91] See Marshall, 429; Fitzmyer, 2:863.
  • [92] Evidently, the author of Luke had a version of the apostles’ mission in both of his sources, Anth. and FR, and in order to present both versions in his Gospel Luke attributed the FR version to “the Twelve” and the Anth. version to “the Seventy-two.” See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [93] See T. W. Manson, 259; Beare, 158; Marshall, 429; Nolland, Luke, 2:565; Bovon, 2:30 n. 60. Foerster considered an allusion to Ps. 91:13 possible, but expresses reservations. See Werner Foerster, “ὄφις,” TDNT, 5:579 n. 146.
  • [94] See Gaster, “Demon,” 1:820; Delbert Roy Hillers, “Demons, Demonology: Specific Demons,” in Encyclopedia Judaica, 5:573.
  • [95] See Hermann Lichtenberger, “Demonology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament,” in Text, Thought, and Practice in Qumran and Early Christianity (ed. Ruth A. Clements and Daniel R. Schwartz; Leiden: Brill, 2009), 267-280, esp. 271-272.
  • [96] See Rabinowitz, “Demons, Demonology: In the Talmud,” in Encyclopedia Judaica, 5:575.
  • [97] Also compare Luke 10:19 to the following passage from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which pertains to the eschatological priest:

    καὶ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἔσται ἐπ᾿ αὐτοῖς. καὶ ὁ Βελιὰρ δεθήσεται ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ, καὶ δώσει ἐξουσίαν τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτοῦ τοῦ πατεῖν ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ πνεύματα. καὶ εὐφρανθήσεται κύριος ἐπὶ τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτοῦ, καὶ εὐδοκήσει κύριος ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀγαπητοῖς αὐτοῦ ἕως τῶν αἰώνων

    And the spirit of holiness shall be on them. And Beliar shall be bound by him. And he shall give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits. And the Lord shall rejoice in His children. And be well pleased in His beloved ones for ever. (T. Levi 18:11b-13)

    Translation according to R. H. Charles, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917).

    Whether this portion of T. Levi is pre-Christian, or whether this text has been influenced by the Gospels, is debated by scholars. For the view that T. Levi 18:11-13 is pre-Christian, see Craig A. Evans, “Inaugurating the Kingdom of God and Defeating the Kingdom of Satan,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 15.1 (2005): 49-75, esp. 58-59. For the opposite view, see Graham H. Twelftree, “Exorcism and the Defeat of Beliar in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” Vigiliae Christianae 65 (2011): 170-188, esp. 183-185.

  • [98] See Fitzmyer, 2:863.
  • [99] The following two rabbinic sources mention several synonyms for “snake”:

    ששה שמות נקרא נחש שרף תנין צפעוני אפעה עכשוב

    By six names is the snake [נָחָשׁ, nāḥāsh] called: sārāf, tanin, tziph‘ōni, ’ef‘eh, ‘achshūv. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 39:3 [ed. Schechter, 119])

    ז′ שמות נקרא נחש [נחש] פתן אפעה שרף צפעוני תנין שפיפון

    By seven names is the snake [נָחָשׁ, nāḥāsh] called: [nāḥāsh,] peten, ’ef‘eh, sārāf, tziph‘ōni, tanin, shefifōn. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 43 [ed. Schechter, 122])

  • [100] The LXX translators rendered נָחָשׁ with ὄφις in Gen. 3:1, 2, 4, 13, 14; 49:17; Exod. 4:3; 7:15; Num. 21:6, 7, 9 (3xx); Deut. 8:15; 4 Kgdms. 18:4; Ps. 57[58]:5; 139[140]:4; Prov. 23:32; 30:19; Eccl. 10:8, 11; Amos 5:19; Mic. 7:17; Isa. 14:29; 27:1 (2xx); 65:25; Jer. 8:17; 26[46]:22.
  • [101] Oddly enough, LXX twice renders כְּפִיר (kefir, “young lion”) as δράκων (drakōn, “snake,” “dragon”); see Job 4:10; 38:39. Might some ancient exegetes have assumed that all four creatures mentioned in Ps. 91:13 were various types of snake?
  • [102] The basilisk (βασιλίσκος, basiliskos) was a serpentine creature thought to have deadly breath (cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. 8:33).
  • [103] The δράκων (drakōn, “snake,” “dragon”), the LXX equivalent of תַּנִּין, was an enormous, sometimes winged, serpent in some Greek sources. See Erik Eynikel and Katrin Hauspie, “The Use of δράκων in the Septuagint,” in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker (ed. Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 126-135. The תַּנִּין is described as a sea monster in Ps. 74:13 and Job 7:12.
  • [104] Some sources describe the μαρτιχώρα (martichōra, “manticore”), a beast with a lion’s body and a scorpion’s tail (cf. Pliny the Elder’s description of “the mantichora [sic]” which “has a…lion’s body, inflicting stings with its tail in the manner of a scorpion”; Nat. 8:30; Loeb; cf. Aelian, De Natura Animalium 4:21), while ancient coins depict creatures with a lion’s body and a scorpion’s head. In Revelation 9:8-10, the revelator describes terrifying locusts with lions’ teeth and scorpions’ tails.
  • [105] Lindsey, LHNS, 114.
  • [106] To cite only examples from the historical books, LXX uses τοῦ + infinitive to translate an infinitive construct in Gen 1:14 (τοῦ διαχωρίζειν = לְהַבְדִּיל); 19:19 (τοῦ ζῆν = לְהַחֲיוֹת); 34:22 (τοῦ κατοικεῖν = לָשֶׁבֶת); Exod. 9:34 (τοῦ ἁμαρτάνειν = לַחֲטֹא); Lev. 7:35 (τοῦ ἱερατεύειν = לְכַהֵן); 26:45 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיֹת); Deut. 11:32 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 12:1 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); Josh. 22:27 (τοῦ λατρεύειν = לַעֲבֹד); 23:11 (τοῦ ἀγαπᾶν = לְאַהֲבָה); Judg. 2:17 (τοῦ εἰσακούειν = לִשְׁמֹעַ); 5:16 (τοῦ εἰσακούειν = לִשְׁמֹעַ); 6:5 (τοῦ διαφθείρειν αὐτήν = לְשַׁחֲתָהּ); 7:20 (τοῦ σαλπίζειν = לִתְקוֹעַ); 12:3 (τοῦ πολεμεῖν = לְהִלָּחֶם); 18:1 (τοῦ κατοικεῖν = לָשֶׁבֶת); 20:39 (τοῦ τύπτειν = לְהַכּוֹת); Ruth 1:18 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 2:15 (τοῦ συλλέγειν = לְלַקֵּט); 1 Kgdms 14:34 (τοῦ ἐσθίειν = לֶאֱכֹל); 17:33 (τοῦ πολεμεῖν = לְהִלָּחֵם); 23:15 (τοῦ ζητεῖν = לְבַקֵּשׁ); 27:1 (τοῦ ζητεῖν με = לְבַקְשֵׁנִי); 2 Kgdms. 2:19 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 2:28 (τοῦ πολεμεῖν = לְהִלָּחֵם); 7:8 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 7:29 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 12:10 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 14:17 (τοῦ ἀκούειν = לִשְׁמֹעַ); 18:3 (τοῦ βοηθεῖν = לַעְזִיר); 19:7 (τοῦ ἀγαπᾶν = לְאַהֲבָה); 19:16 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 3 Kgdms. 1:35 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 2:3 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 3:9 (τοῦ συνίειν = לְהָבִין); 3:11 (τοῦ εἰσακούειν = לִשְׁמֹעַ); 3:28 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 7:2[14] (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 7:27[41] (τοῦ καλύπτειν = לְכַסּוֹת); 8:16 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 8:25 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 8:29 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 8:29 (τοῦ εἰσακούειν = לִשְׁמֹעַ); 8:58 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 8:59 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 9:4 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 10:9 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 12:21 (τοῦ πολεμεῖν = לְהִלָּחֵם); 12:32 (τοῦ θύειν = לְזַבֵּחַ); 16:7 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 16:31 (αὐτῷ…τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לֶכְתּוֹ); 17:9 (τοῦ διατρέφειν σε = לְכַלְכְּלֶךָ); 4 Kgdms. 6:2 (τοῦ οἰκεῖν = לָשֶׁבֶת); 11:17 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 21:6 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 22:13 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 22:19 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 23:3 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 23:3 (τοῦ φυλάσσειν = לִשְׁמֹר); 23:10 (τοῦ διάγειν = לְהַעֲבִיר); 1 Chr. 1:10 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 10:8 (τοῦ σκυλεύειν = לְפַשֵּׁט); 16:7 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהֹדוֹת); 16:35 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהֹדוֹת); 16:37 (τοῦ λειτουργεῖν = לְשָׁרֵת); 16:40 (τοῦ ἀναφέρειν = לְהַעֲלוֹת); 16:41 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהֹדוֹת); 17:6 (τοῦ ποιμαίνειν = לִרְעוֹת); 17:7 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 17:27 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 22:12 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לִשְׁמוֹר); 22:13 (τοῦ ποιεῖν = לַעֲשׂוֹת); 23:5 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהַלֵּל); 23:13 (τοῦ θυμιᾶν = לְהַקְטִיר); 23:30 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהֹדוֹת); 2 Chr. 2:3 (τοῦ θυμιᾶν = לְהַקְטִיר), 5 (τοῦ θυμιᾶν = לְהַקְטִיר); 3:1 (τοῦ οἰκοδομεῖν = לִבְנוֹת); 4:6 (τοῦ πλύνειν = לְרָחְצָה); 6:5 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 6:16 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת); 6:20 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 7:16 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 8:13 (τοῦ ἀναφέρειν = לְהַעֲלוֹת); 8:14 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהַלֵּל); 13:12 (τοῦ σημαίνειν = לְהָרִיעַ); 18:31 (τοῦ πολεμεῖν = לְהִלָּחֵם); 22:3 (τοῦ ἁμαρτάνειν = לְהַרְשִׁיעַ); 26:15 (τοῦ εἶναι = לִהְיוֹת); 32:8 (τοῦ σῴζειν = לְעָזְרֵנוּ; τοῦ πολεμεῖν = לְהִלָּחֵם); 33:16 (τοῦ δουλεύειν = לַעֲבוֹד); 34:31 (τοῦ φυλάσσειν = לִשְׁמוֹר); 35:12 (τοῦ προσάγειν = לְהַקְרִיב); 2 Esd. 3:10 (τοῦ αἰνεῖν = לְהַלֵּל); 4:4 (τοῦ οἰκοδομεῖν = לִבְנוֹת); 20:30 (τοῦ πορεύεσθαι = לָלֶכֶת).
  • [107] In LXX πατεῖν is the translation of דָּרַךְ in Deut. 11:24; Judg. 9:27 (Vaticanus); Neh. 13:15; Job 22:15; 28:8; Isa. 16:10; 42:16; Jer. 31[48]:33; Lam. 1:15. Only in Isa. 1:12 and Isa. 26:6 does πατεῖν translate רָמַס.
  • [108] Among the ancient sources that pair snakes with scorpions are Philo, Mos. 1:192; Praem. §90; Spec. 3:103; Pliny, Nat. Hist. 10:93; 28:44; Aelian, De Natura Animalium 10:14, 29.
  • [109] Pliny the Elder (first century C.E.), for example, compares the poisons of these two creatures:

    Scorpions…are a horrible plague, poisonous like snakes, except that they inflict a worse torture by despatching the victim with a lingering death lasting three days…. Their tail is always engaged in striking and does not stop practising at any moment, lest it should ever miss an opportunity it strikes both a sideway stroke and one with the tail bent up. (Nat. Hist. 9:30; Loeb)

    The asp and serpent have similar teeth, but two extremely long ones on the right and left side of the upper jaw, perforated by a slender tube like the stings of the scorpion, which inject poison. (Nat. Hist. 9:62)

  • [110] In fact, most snakes in Israel are harmless toward humans, and scorpion stings are almost never fatal, although they are extremely painful. Tristram reported an infant fatality due to a scorpion sting, and Bodenheimer cited the death of a man who was stung in the neck by a scorpion, but these are exceptional cases. See H. B. Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible (9th ed.; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1898), 303; F. S. Bodenheimer, Animal Life In Palestine: An Introduction to the Problems of Animal Ecology and Zoogeography (Jerusalem: Mayer, 1935), 366. The one species of poisonous snake in Israel whose habitat includes places normally occupied by humans is the Levant Viper (Bodenheimer, Animal Life in Palestine, 189-190). Its venom is deadly unless an antiserum is administered. See Azaria Alon, The Natural History of the Land of the Bible (London: Hamlyn, 1969), 209.
  • [111] A baraita in b. Sanh. 101a that is parallel to t. Shab. 7:23 refers to covering an eye rather than whispering an incantation over an eye. That the reference is to preventing the harmful effects of the evil eye, and not to curing a sore eye, is confirmed by a comment on Deut. 18:10:

    מעונן, רבי ישמעאל אומר זה המעביר על העין

    A soothsayer [Deut. 18:10]. Rabbi Ishmael says, “This is someone who places [an article] over the eye.” (Sifre Deut. §171 [ed. Finkelstein, 218])

    On the dangers of the evil eye, see Ludwig Blau, “Evil Eye,” JE, 5:280-281.

  • [112] For a discussion of this Tosefta passage, see Baruch M. Bokser, “Wonder-Working and the Rabbinic Tradition: The Case of Ḥanina ben Dosa,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 16.1 (1985): 42-92, esp. 50.
  • [113] Thus, Manson’s unsubstantiated comment that “serpents and scorpions may be thought of as semi-demonic creatures” (T. W. Manson, 259) is vindicated, contrary to Fitzmyer’s assertion that snakes and scorpions “were neither ‘half demonic’ nor symbols of demons” (Fitzmyer, 2:863). Perhaps in this connection mention should also be made of the πνεῦμα πύθωνα (pnevma pūthōna, “Python spirit”), which Paul exorcized from a girl in Philippi (Acts 16:16). This oracular spirit of the python serpent is also mentioned in connection with magical practices and demonic forces in rabbinic literature (cf. m. Sanh. 7:7; t. Sanh. 10:6), where פִּיתוֹם (pitōm) is the Hebrew version of πύθων (see Jastrow, 1173). For a detailed discussion of the πνεῦμα πύθωνα in Acts 16:16, see Werner Foerster, “πύθων,” TDNT, 6:917-920.
  • [114] See, for example:

    והיה מכה נחשים ועקרבים לפניהם

    And it [i.e., the pillar of cloud—DNB and JNT] would strike down snakes and scorpions. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallah chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:124])

  • [115] See, for example:

    ונסע מחורב ונלך את כל המדבר הגדול והנורא ההוא, בני אדם שראו נחשים כקורות ועקרבים כקשתות סרוחים ומושלכים לפניהם, עליהם הוא אומר את כל המדבר הגדול והנורא ההוא, והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה דברים שאינם הימורין כבשתים לפניהם דברים שהם הימירין על אחת כמה וכמה לכך נאמר ונסע מחורב

    And we journeyed from Horeb and went through all that great and dreadful wilderness ([Deut.] 1:19): To people who had seen serpents as large as beams and scorpions as large as bows stinking and cast before them, to them he speaks of that great and dreadful wilderness? However, is this not a logical inference from the minor to the major: if I have overcome for them things that are not tame, how much more so will I be able to overcome things that are tame? Hence And we journeyed from Horeb, etc. (Sifre Deut. §18 [ed. Finkelstein, 30-31]; trans. Hammer)

  • [116] On Hebrew generic nouns with the definite article, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L77.
  • [117] In LXX ἐχθρός is the translation of שׂוֹנֵא in Exod. 23:5; Ps. 9:14; 40[41]:8; 117[118]:7; Prov. 25:21; 26:24; 27:6; Job 8:22.
  • [118] See Bendavid, 1:336. Examples of שׂוֹנֵא in the sense of “enemy” in rabbinic literature include m. Sanh. 3:5; m. Mak. 2:3; t. Bab. Metz. 2:26; t. Mak. 2:10; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa chpt. 7 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:251); Amalek chpt. 1 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:254); Gen. Rab. 66:4; 71:4.
  • [119] For examples of the construct phrase גבורת אל, see 1QM I, 11, 14; IV, 4, 12; VI, 2, 6; X, 5.
  • [120] In LXX δύναμις (dūnamis, “strength,” “power”) is the translation of גְּבוּרָה (gevūrāh, “power,” “might”) in Judg. 5:31 (Alexandrinus); 8:21; 4 Kgdms. 18:20; 1 Chr. 29:11; Ps. 53[54]:3; 144[145]:4, 12 (Alexandrinus); Eccl. 9:16; 10:17; Job 12:13; 39:19; 41:4; Jer. 16:21.
  • [121] In MT the noun נֵזֶק (nēzeq, “damage”) does occur once in Esth. 7:4, a book that was composed in late Biblical Hebrew.
  • [122] The phrase לֹא יַזִּיק (lo’ yaziq, “it will not cause harm”) occurs in m. Bab. Bat. 2:8.
  • [123] In the following example הִזִּיק takes the definite direct object marker אֶת:

    כל זמן שהיה יהושע והזקנים קיימים…לא הזיקו אומות את ישראל

    As long as Joshua and the elders were alive…the Gentiles did not harm Israel. (t. Sot. 11:10; Vienna MS)

  • [124] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1145-1147.
  • [125] In LXX the phrase ἐν τούτῳ is the translation of בְּזֹאת in Gen. 34:15, 22; 42:15, 33; Exod. 7:17; Num. 16:28; Josh. 3:10; Ps. 40[41]:12; Mal. 3:10; Jer. 9:23.
  • [126] For examples of בְּזוֹ in MH, see m. Ter. 4:9, 10; m. Eruv. 5:4; m. Yev. 5:4; m. Kid. 2:1; m. Avot 5:15; m. Toh. 6:10; 10:8.
  • [127] Further examples of אַף בְּזוֹ are found in b. Pes. 32a; b. Men. 15a; 18a.
  • [128] In LXX χαίρειν is the translation of שָׂמַח in Exod. 4:14; 1 Kgdms. 19:5; 3 Kgdms. 5:21; 4 Kgdms. 11:20; Esth. 8:15; Hos. 9:1; Jonah 4:6; Zech. 4:10; 10:7; Isa. 39:2; Jer. 38[31]:13; Ezek. 7:12.
  • [129] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:1151-1153.
  • [130] See Dos Santos, 190.
  • [131] In LXX ἐγγράφειν occurs in Exod. 36:21; 3 Kgdms. 22:46 (Vaticanus); 2 Chr. 34:31 (Alexandrinus); 1 Macc. 13:40; Jer. 17:13 (Sinaiticus); 28[51]:60 (Alexandrinus); Dan. 12:1.
  • [132] See Shalom M. Paul, “Heavenly Tablets and the Book of Life,” Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University 5 (1973): 345-353.
  • [133] Divine record keeping is mentioned, for instance, in Exod. 32:32-33; Isa. 34:16-17; 65:6; Mal. 3:16; Ps. 87:6; 139:16; Dan. 7:10. In post-biblical Jewish literature, cf., e.g., 1QHa IX, 23-24; 4Q180 I, 3; m. Avot 2:1.
  • [134] Whereas all human events are recorded in the heavenly archive, only the righteous have their names recorded in the Book of Life.
  • [135] See the similar entreaty in 4QNon-Canonical Psalms B [4Q381] 31 I, 8.
  • [136] Compare Isa. 4:3 to the phrase כול הכתוב בספר החיים (“each one who is written in the Scroll of Life”; 4QDibHama [4Q504] 1-2 VI, 14), and to οὗ οὐ γέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ ἀρνίου τοῦ ἐσφαγμένου (“whose name is not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb that was slain”; Rev. 13:8).
  • [137] To have one’s name written in heaven implies preservation from death, but the ink with which names are recorded in the Book of Life is not indelible. A name could be blotted out of the Scroll of Life (cf. Ps. 69:29) on account of a person’s wicked behavior, while according to later Jewish tradition, the names of everyone on earth came up for review on an annual basis to determine who would be enrolled for life for another year (cf. b. Rosh Hash. 16b). Recognition of this fact alleviates the apparent contradiction between Jesus’ assertion that the names of the Twelve (including Judas Iscariot) are recorded in heaven, and Jesus’ later statements concerning the certainty of Judas’ condemnation (cf. Matt. 26:24; Mark 14:21; Luke 22:22).
  • [138] See Fitzmyer, 2:860; Nolland, Luke, 2:566.
  • [139] See T. W. Manson, 258; Bundy, 336; Fitzmyer, 2:859.
  • [140] We owe this insight to Gathercole.
  • [141] See Bundy, 337.
  • [142] If there was an allusion in the original introduction of the Return of the Twelve pericope to Exod. 18:8, where Moses reports to Jethro everything the LORD had done for Israel, perhaps there was an intended contrast beween the apostles’ emphasis on the personal level and Moses’ focus on the cosmic level of Israel’s redemption.

LOY Excursus: Greek-Hebrew Equivalents in the LOY Reconstructions

A first-century C.E. fresco from Pompeii of a woman holding a stylus and wax tablet. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Updated: 17-January-2018

The table in the document below indexes Greek terms and their Hebrew equivalents that occur in the Greek Reconstruction and Hebrew Reconstruction columns of the Life of Yeshua reconstruction documents. This is a work in progress, which is subject to change as the LOY team continues to refine their reconstructions in light of their ongoing research. The document was designed as an aid to producing future reconstructions as a way to keep track of the decisions that were made in the reconstructions completed thus far. While partially incomplete and constantly in flux, the LOY team has found this index to be a powerful reconstruction tool.

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A Farewell to the Emmaus Road

A painting of the Emmaus Road encounter described in Luke 24 by artist Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A painting of the Emmaus Road encounter described in Luke 24 by artist Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Revised: 17-April-2017

The Emmaus Road narrative is the climax of Luke’s Gospel. In it, two of Jesus’ disciples encounter their resurrected Lord as they follow the road leading west from Jerusalem. Not only do the hearts of the disciples burn as they speak with their risen Master, the hearts of the readers burn as well, since, unlike the disciples, we know that it is Jesus himself who is accompanying them as the disciples relate the sad tale of how all their hopes for the redemption of Israel were dashed when Jesus was crucified outside the walls of the holy city. Readers feel almost as if they were present with the disciples on the road as Jesus walked and spoke with them.


Despite the importance of this story and its location for Jesus’ followers living in Israel today as well as for modern-day pilgrims who visit the land of the Bible, little has been done to preserve the ancient remains of a Roman road that are still visible in the area where Jesus traveled with two of his disciples on the day of his resurrection.

Searching for Luke’s Emmaus

A Roman tombstone found near Emmaus-Nicopolis. The inscription mentions the fifth Roman legion Macedonica, which according to Josephus (J.W. 4:443) Vespasian stationed at Emmaus in 68 C.E. before marching the rest of his forces to Jerusalem. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A Roman tombstone found near Emmaus-Nicopolis. The inscription mentions the fifth Roman legion Macedonica, which, according to Josephus (J.W. 4:444-445), Vespasian stationed at Emmaus in 68 C.E. before marching the rest of his forces to Jerusalem. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Identifying the village Luke referred to as Ἐμμαοῦς (Emmaous) has challenged ancient pilgrims as well as modern scholars.[1] At least two sites bore the name Ἀμμαοῦς (Ammaous)—a slight variation in spelling from the name recorded in Luke’s Gospel—in the land of Israel during the Second Temple period. The book of 1 Maccabees mentions a location called Emmaus, which was situated near the topographical boundary between the Shephelah and the coastal plain (1 Macc. 3:40).[2] Josephus referred to this Emmaus as a πόλις (polis, “city”),[3] a term normally reserved for a large and well-organized population center. Perhaps this city ought to be identified with the אַמְאוּס (’am’ūs, “Emmaus”) mentioned in rabbinic sources (e.g., m. Arach. 2:4; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 27 [ed. Schechter, 55]; Eccl. Rab. 7:7 §2),[4] which is described as having a market (m. Ker. 3:7).[5] The city was later renamed Nicopolis in the third century C.E.[6] After the Byzantine Empire lost control of the Holy Land, Nicopolis reverted to the name ‘Imwas (derived from Emmaus) among the Arabic speakers who lived in the area.


Coin of Elagabalus dated to "Year Two" of the foundation Nicopolis-Emmaus. Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.
Coin minted during the reign of the Emperor Elagabalus (218-222 C.E.) dated to “Year Two of (the renaming of) Nicopolis.” Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.
Remains of a Byzantine church at Emmaus-Nicopolis. Photographed by Todd Bolen, courtesy of
Remains of a Byzantine church at Emmaus-Nicopolis. Photographed by Todd Bolen, courtesy of

Although a tradition emerged during the Byzantine period identifying Emmaus-Nicopolis as the Emmaus mentioned in Luke 24:13,[7] the distance of this site from Jerusalem (some nineteen miles) contradicts the information given in the Gospel account. Luke described the disciples as going down from Jerusalem to Emmaus and back again to Jerusalem on the same day (Luke 24:33). But disciples traveling by foot would have been hard pressed to cover in a single day the thirty-eight mile round trip necessitated by an identification of Luke’s Emmaus with Emmaus-Nicopolis. Moreover, Luke 24:13 explicitly states that the distance to Emmaus was sixty stadia, that is, only about seven miles from Jerusalem.[8] Therefore, despite the strong and relatively early Christian tradition equating Emmaus-Nicopolis with Luke’s Emmaus, this identification is unlikely to be correct.

Four proposed locations of Luke’s Emmaus. Nicopolis was favored in the Byzantine period and still has its supporters among scholars. Castellum (Abu Ghosh) and el-Qubeibeh were favored in the Crusader period and are approximately located 60 stadia from Jerusalem, the distance indicated in Luke. Qaloniyeh (Qalunya)-Motza has recently found support among a handful of leading scholars. Map courtesy of Carta Jerusalem, used here with permission.

There was, however, another Emmaus that was known to have existed in the Second Temple period, and this second Emmaus fits the information presented in Luke’s Gospel far more comfortably than Emmaus-Nicopolis. Josephus reports that after Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 C.E. and the rebellion was suppressed, the Roman emperor Vespasian set aside land near Jerusalem as a settlement for veteran Roman soldiers:

About the same time Caesar sent instructions to Bassus and Laberius Maximus, the procurator, to farm out all Jewish territory. For he founded no city there, reserving the country as his private property, except that he did assign to eight hundred veterans discharged from the army a place [χωρίον] for habitation called Emmaus [ὃ καλεῖται μὲν Ἀμμαοῦς], distant thirty stadia from Jerusalem. (J.W. 7:216-217; Loeb, adapted)

The information regarding this second Emmaus accords well—though not perfectly—with the details of Luke’s narrative. Unlike Emmaus-Nicopolis, which Josephus referred to as a πόλις (polis, “city”), Josephus calls this other Emmaus a χωρίον (chōrion, “place,” “field”), which is closer to Luke’s description of Emmaus as a κώμη (kōmē, “village”). The distance Josephus measures between this Emmaus and Jerusalem (about three and a half miles) also fits with Luke’s description of the disciples making the journey to Emmaus from Jerusalem and back again on the same day.

Nevertheless, one hitch remains. While Josephus states that this Emmaus was thirty stadia distant from Jerusalem, Luke 24:13 measures the distance as sixty stadia, twice the distance reported by Josephus. This discrepancy might be overcome, however, if we were to suppose that Luke cited the entire distance the disciples traveled the day of Jesus’ resurrection on their round trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus and back again, instead of the distance between the two locations.[9]


A rabbinic discussion of the Feast of Tabernacles celebrations that were observed in the days of the Second Temple sheds additional light on the Emmaus described in Luke 24:13 and J.W. 7:217:

The commandment of the willow branch: how was it carried out? There was a place [מָקוֹם, māqōm] below Jerusalem called Motza [מוֹצָא, mōtzā’]. They went down there and gathered from there willow branches and brought them and stood them up on the sides of the altar and their tops bowed over the altar…. (m. Suk. 4:5)

Commenting on this mishnah, the Jerusalem Talmud adds that according to Rabbi Tanhuma, a fourth-century C.E. sage, “Kalonya [קָלוֹנְיָיא, qālōnyyā’] was its [i.e., Motza’s—DNB] name” (y. Suk. 4:3 [18b]).[10] The Babylonian Talmud ascribes the same statement to an anonymous tannaic authority (i.e., a baraita), adding that the name Motza was derived from Kalonya’s exemption from imperial taxation (b. Suk. 45a).


Steps leading down to one of Motza’s springs. Each year orthodox Jews come here to get water for baking their matzah for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.

This rabbinic evidence is invaluable for identifying the location of Luke’s Emmaus for three reasons. First, the name Kalonya and its tax-exempt status connects the Mishnah’s Motza to Josephus’ second Emmaus, the one that became the location of a Roman veteran’s settlement. This is because the most plausible explanation of the name Kalonya is that it comes from the Latin word colonia (“colony”),[11] a term that could have loosely applied to a veteran’s settlement. Moreover, a tax exemption would have been a natural incentive to encourage the Roman veterans of the war to settle the area.[12] Second, if the Emmaus-Motza-Kalonya identification is accepted, the Mishnah’s evidence of a Jewish presence at Motza lends credibility to Luke’s account of disciples traveling, perhaps even returning home, to Emmaus.[13] Archaeological discoveries also indicate a late Second Temple-period Jewish presence at Motza.[14] Third, the rabbinic description of Motza as merely a מָקוֹם (māqōm, “place”) matches Josephus’ characterization of Emmaus as a χωρίον (chōrion, “place”), both of which are compatible with Luke’s reference to Emmaus as a κώμη (kōmē, “village”). Thus, the combined evidence from Luke’s Gospel, Josephus and rabbinic literature strongly supports the identification of Luke’s Emmaus with Motza-Kalonya.

Luke Josephus Rabbinic Literature
Place Name: Emmaus (Ἐμμαοῦς) Emmaus (Ἀμμαοῦς) Motza (מוֹצָא)
Description: village (κώμη) place (χωρίον) place (מָקוֹם)
Distance from Jerusalem: 60 stadia (round trip?) 30 stadia “Below Jerusalem,” evidently within easy walking distance.
Status: Became a veterans’ settlement. Called Kalonya (קָלוֹנְיָיא, “colony”).

The “place below Jerusalem called Motza” referred to in the Mishnah is mentioned as early as the book of Joshua, where it is assigned to the tribal allotment of Benjamin. The book of Joshua refers to Motza as הַמֹּצָה (hamotzāh, “the Motza”; Josh. 18:26), spelled with a final ה instead of an א as in the Mishnah, and with the definite article prefixed to the name.[15] Whereas the translators of the Septuagint rendered ha-Motza in Josh. 18:26 as Αμωσα (Amōsa),[16] Josephus appears to have transliterated ha-Motza as Ἀμμαοῦς (Ammaous).[17] If this analysis of the name Ἀμμαοῦς is correct, then Luke’s Ἐμμαοῦς (Emmaous, “Emmaus”) is best understood as an independent transliteration of ha-Motza, again with the definite article, which the author of Luke found in his written source.

A willow tree (salix acmophilla). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Mishnah’s association of Motza with willow trees suggests that the name “Motza,” literally “that which brings forth,” refers to the springs that water the valley where Motza is located, since willows prefer to grow in places where there is a permanent source of water.[18] The word מוֹצָא (mōtzā’) in the sense of spring is attested, for example, in Isaiah 41:18, which refers to מוֹצָאֵי מָיִם (mōtzā’ē māyim, “springs of water”). Doubtless the Romans chose to found a colony at Motza in part because of the permanent springs that watered the valley there. The Romans must also have been attracted to this location by the fact that just to the north of Motza the valley broadens, offering a pleasant and spacious area for settlement. Since the valley was well watered and had rich soil, it was an excellent spot for agricultural development. Another advantage of Motza’s location that made it suitable for a Roman veterans’ colony was its strategic position protecting the ascent to Jerusalem on the road leading from Jaffa.[19]

If the identification of Luke’s Emmaus with the Emmaus mentioned by Josephus as the location of a Roman colony is correct, and if the identification of this Emmaus with the Motza-Kalonya known from rabbinic literature is accepted, then we are able to pinpoint the approximate location of Luke’s Emmaus, since the Hebrew-Latin name Kalonya was retained as Qalunya by the Arabic speakers who resided in this location until modern times.[20]

The hilltop village shown in the center of this photo is Motza Illit. On the slopes across the highway from Motza Illit was the Arab village (until 1948) of Qalunya. Photographed by Horst Krüger, February 2003.

Physical evidence of a Roman presence at Motza-Kalonya is supplied by the remains of an ancient Roman bath,[21] and a Roman tombstone adorned with the bust of a girl and bearing a Latin inscription.[22] Regarding this tombstone, Fischer, Isaac and Roll state, “In the eastern Roman provinces the use of Latin on private inscriptions is typical of genuine (as opposed to titular) veteran settlements…. It is, in fact, so rare that this inscription may be considered important additional confirmation of the identity of Motza with Vespasian’s veteran settlement.”[23]

Drawing of Qalunya (here spelled "Calonia" in the central peak) from Giovanni Zuallardo's (Jean Zuallart's) <a href="" target="_blank"><i>Il deuotissimo viaggio di Gierusalemme</i></a> published in 1586. The bridge, shown also in the image to the bottom right, may have been built on Roman period foundations. The Latin title reads <i>Vallis Terebenti</i> ("Valley of Terebinths," i.e., Elah Valley) since pilgrims at that time mistakenly identified this site as the place where David's battle with Goliath took place. Hence the Latin inscription beneath the hill that reads <i>Hic occisus fuit Goliad</i> ("Here Goliath was slain.") Image courtesy of <a href="" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>.A sketch of Qalunya as it was in the 1870s, which appeared in Charles Wilson's <a href=""_blank"><i>Picturesque Palestine Sinai and Egypt</i></a> (4 vols.; London: J. S. Virtue; 1880). The bridge, which may have been built on Roman foundations, was washed away in a flood in the winter of 1877-1878, an event that was described by Conrad Schick in the <a href=""_blank"><I>Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement</i></a> 19 (1887): 51. Image courtesy of <a href=",_and_Wady_Beit_Han%C3%AEna,_favourtie_place_of_resort_of_the_people_of_Jerusalem;_it_is_famous_for_its_well-kept_vineyards_and_vegetable_gardens_(NYPL_b10607452-80384).jpg"_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>.In the center of this photo is a highway bridge that now spans one of the tributaries of the Sorek Valley. Water flows down the narrow valley during the winter rainy season. A corner of Ramat Motza can be seen in the upper left of the photo. Photographed by Horst Krüger, February 2003.Photograph of the Arab village of Qalunya as it was in 1918. Image courtesy of <a href=""_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>.

My Experiment

An aerial view of the Motza neighborhood photographed by Moshe Milner. Courtesy of Israel’s National Photo Collection.

Because I found the above-cited evidence regarding the location of Luke’s Emmaus at Motza-Qulonya to be compelling, I conducted an experiment to put this hypothesis to the test. On October 2nd of the year 1987, I walked with my son Natan from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the Kotel) to the springs at Motza following the route of the Roman road (on which, see below) as closely as possible in order to measure how long such a journey would take. It was the eve of Yom Kippur, so no vehicles were moving on the streets to slow us down, and we set out from the Western Wall at 6:10 p.m. under a full moon, walking at a leisurely pace. Together we covered the distance from the Western Wall to the Motza springs in one hour and twenty minutes.[24] My experiment proves that Jesus’ disciples could easily have made the trip down from Jerusalem to Motza-Emmaus and back again within the time frame Luke describes. According to Luke, the two disciples who were heading to Emmaus set out from Jerusalem sometime after morning, for they knew of the women’s report of the empty tomb (Luke 24:22-24), but it could have been as late as mid-afternoon. The disciples did not head back to Jerusalem until after they had sat down for their evening meal in Emmaus (Luke 24:29, 33).

Aerial photograph of Jerusalem’s environs from Gustaf Dalman’s Hundert deutsche Fliegerbilder aus Palästina (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1925). Superimposed on the photograph is the approximate route of the Emmaus-Jerusalem road marked in red. Part of the route is hidden from view as the road descends into the valley as it approaches Qalunya.

The Roman Road

Facing east toward Jerusalem up the valley through which the road to Emmaus once ran. The Har Hamenuhot cemetery, the light colored structure in the center of the photo, now dominates the landscape.
View from the hill upon which the Arab village of Qalunya was situated facing east toward Jerusalem up the valley through which the road to Emmaus once ran. The Har Hamenuhot cemetery, the light colored structure in the center of the photo, now dominates the landscape. Photographed by Horst Krüger, February 2003.

Even if readers do not find the identification of Luke’s Emmaus with Motza-Qalunya convincing, we can still agree that the remains of the Roman road that runs down from Jerusalem past Motza to Emmaus-Nicopolis marks the route Jesus and his disciples took to Emmaus on the day of Jesus’ resurrection.[25]


In 2002, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) surveyed the remains of a paved road that led west from Jerusalem to Emmaus-Nicopolis which can still be observed in the vicinity of modern-day Motza.[26] The IAA’s report, which identifies the remains of the road as Roman, states that “the road runs, for most of its length, in the depth of the ravine, and finally, zigzags and ascends next to Har Hamenuhot cemetery.”[27] The road continues east from Motza, through a ravine past the Har Hamenuhot cemetery “to Giv‘at Shaul, to Giv‘at Ram, and through the Jaffa Gate to Jerusalem.”


The pink shading shows the area where the remains of the Roman road from Jerusalem to Emmaus are still (barely) visible.

When I measured the remains of the Roman road some twenty years ago, when the remains were much more visible than they are today, I found that the Roman road was about twelve feet (or three meters) wide. According to the IAA’s report: “The road was paved with the usual road-building technique: cleaning and straightening of the route, laying down of the curbstones on the road’s edges, and filling in the space in between them with a layer of foundation stones, upon which the paving was laid. The paving was done, apparently, with the help of flat stones or carved stones that were fitted one to another, or with a layer of gravel, or pebbles, etc. (according to Israel Roll).”


When I first became acquainted with the Roman road near Motza, some of the pavement and many of the curbing stones were still clearly visible. Sadly, over the past recent decades I have watched as the Roman road has fallen prey to severe erosion, such that in many places the remains of the road have been completely obliterated. The IAA’s report notes that the condition of the Roman road is poor, adding that “the road in its present state is torn up, and often it is accompanied by the smell of sewage.” The odor of which the IAA’s report complains, is undoubtedly caused by the sewage pipe, which follows the path of the ancient Roman road.

The Mekorot pumping station, part of the National Water Carrier, located near the village of Ramat Motza that boosts the water piped from Israel’s costal plain to Jerusalem. Part of Mekorot’s “Fourth [Pipe]line.” Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.

A sketch of the remains of the Roman road to Emmaus drawn by Margaret Dickinson, a member of a Bill Bean (CSBR) tour group which David Bivin took to visit the site.

The natural beauty of the Emmaus road was initially marred by the installation of a pumping station and enormous water-main that supplies Jerusalem. Much of the physical damage to the Roman road, however, can be attributed to the expansion of the Har Hamenuhot cemetery, mentioned above. Covering two large hills along the modern highway leading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the cemetery has slowly crept down the southern slope of the southern-most of the hills towards the ravine through which the Roman road ascended from Motza to Jerusalem. During the course of the cemetery’s expansion, huge boulders were knocked down the slope by the unsupervised bulldozers at work above. These boulders crashed into everything in their path, knocking down the forest of 50-year-old cedar and pine trees that once lined the Roman road. The boulders also flattened picnic tables and slides and swings used by children of the families who came to this formerly beautiful spot on recreational outings. The cemetery construction also ruined monuments and memorial plaques honoring those who had donated to Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund) to create the recreational area where the remains of the Roman road are now barely visible.

The series of slides from the years 1992, 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2016 featured below is a testimony to how much of the Roman road has already been irrevocably lost.

Emmaus Road Photos 1992:

The route of the Roman road leading west from Jerusalem toward Emmaus. A gravel quarry can be seen on the hillside at the left-center. The Har HaMenuhot cemetery is on the slopes to the right. The highest point on the horizon is Kastel. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.The steep ascent of the road as one ascends beside the hospital. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.Facing east. The beginning of the steep ascent. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.The rock crusher-gravel maker was positioned beside the British Mandate road, next to a quarry. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.Already by 1992 the damage to the road caused by erosion was severe. But the trees are still standing on the cemetery side of the water main. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.David Bivin surveys the remains of the ancient Roman road near Motza-Emmaus. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.The curbing of the road in relation to the water main. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.Closeup of a section of curbstones. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.Tour group member sitting on one of the curbing stones that has been revealed by the erosion. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.A row of curbstone with only their tops showing. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.A long section of curbing but with a gully caused by erosion down the middle of the road. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.Wider-angle view of the same section of the road as in the previous photo, but here we can see the relation of the road to the water main. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.A ground-level view of a piece of the road which remained whole in 1992. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.The Emmaus Road, the water main, and, on the horizon, the Kastel peak. Photographed by Lucinda Dale-Thomas, spring 1992.

Emmaus Road Photos 1997:

Photographed by Joel Fishman.Photographed by Joel Fishman.Photographed by Joel Fishman.Photographed by Joel Fishman.Photographed by Joel Fishman.Photographed by Joel Fishman.Photographed by Joel Fishman.

Emmaus Road Photos 1999:

David Bivin with a tour group at the Emmaus road.The water main that now runs alongside, and sometimes through, the ancient remains of the Roman road to Emmaus. Here, in this hidden valley, the 42-inch water pipe, part of the “Fourth Line,” was not buried, as it was for most of its length from Beth Shemesh. The pipe’s stanchions destroyed one side of the ancient roadbed.Runoff has washed out a section across the remains of the Emmaus Road.David Bivin with a tour group at the Emmaus road.Close up of remains of the Emmaus Road.Photographed by Diane Marroquin.Dedicatory plaque commemorating the donation by Goldie Bechal of London, England of recreational equipment to <i>Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael</i> (Jewish National Fund) in memory of her husband and son. Photographed by Diane Marroquin.Photographed by Diane Marroquin.Photographed by Diane Marroquin.Photographed by Diane Marroquin.Photographed by Diane Marroquin.

Emmaus Road Photos 2003:

Almond blossoms in the foreground. In the background, Motza Elite, and above, houses of Kastel and the Kastel peak. Photographed by Horst Krüger.Looking down on the area of the cemetery that borders the Emmaus Road when only the foundation platforms of this area had been built. Photographed by Horst Krüger.View of the cemetery from higher up the opposite hill. Photographed by Horst Krüger.View from the opposite hill showing the new terraces of the cemetery, the water pipeline running down the ravine, and the rock crusher. Photographed by Horst Krüger.Photograph taken by Horst Krüger in 2003 of the area with which the IAA's report on the Roman road is concerned. Most of the Roman remains are hidden from view behind the trees.View showing the destruction of the upper part of the road below the hospital. Photographed by Horst Krüger.The valley floor is now covered with surface soil and rock that has washed down from above (in the background to the left is the rock crusher). Photographed by David Bivin.It’s now easier to walk on the water main than on the eroded road. Photographed by David Bivin.An old pipe buried in the center of the road is now exposed. Severe erosion has given us a look deep into the road. Photographed by Horst Krüger.Closeup of the pipe shown in previous photo. To the left of the pipe curbing stones are visible. Photographed by David Bivin.The erosion is horrendous; however, it has revealed much of the interior of the roadbed. Photographed by David Bivin.A bit of the road’s curbing in still visible, but most of the road has washed away. Photographed by David Bivin.Horst Krüger inspects a line of stones. Photographed by David Bivin.A very long stretch of curbing that has held together. Photographed by David Bivin.Temporarily, some of the road’s curbing remains in place, but mostly we see gravel and rocks that have washed down from higher up the valley. Photographed by David Bivin.Here, a bit of the road’s curbing remains. Photographed by David Bivin.The destruction of the Emmaus Road is complete in this section of the valley. Photographed by David Bivin.The rock crusher at the top of this section of the road (view to the east). Photographed by David Bivin.Not much, if any, left of the road. Photographed by David Bivin.The valley floor is now just a gulley. Photographed by David Bivin.

Emmaus Road Photos 2007:

Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Expansion of the Har Hamenuhot cemetery encroaches onto the path of the Roman road to Emmaus. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Expansion of the Har Hamenuhot cemetery encroaches onto the path of the Roman road to Emmaus. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.David Bivin stands beside the Bechal dedication monument with its missing metal plaque. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Wider angle photo showing the relationship of the cemetery to the park and the dedicatory monument. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.David Bivin surveys the smashed picnic tables destroyed by falling rocks during the careless expansion of the Har Hamenuhot cemetery. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.These picnic tables have been nearly swallowed up in the rubble from the Har Hamenuhot cemetery above. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.Some of the remaining trees beside the Emmaus Road’s northern side have been knocked down due to the cemetery’s expansion, and have covered the water main. Photographed by Chris deVries, March 16, 2007.The remains of a red slide, part of the play equipment in the former KKL park. The rubble ran down the slopes of the cemetery and destroyed the park before the wall and fence were erected by cemetery authorities. Photographed by David Bivin.

Emmaus Road Photos 2016:

Photographed by Gary Asperschlager, November 12, 2016.Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton, November 12, 2016.Gravel crusher next to the British Mandate period road that runs beside the Roman remains. Photographed by Gary Alley, October 17, 2016.Photographed by Gary Alley, October 17, 2016.Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton, November 12, 2016.Photographed by Gary Alley, October 17, 2016.Rubble, refuse and other debris from the Har Hamenuhot cemetery above have tumbled into the valley where the Roman road to Emmaus once ran, partially covering the water main that was blackened in a recent fire. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton, November 12, 2016.The huge water main that now runs beside the remains of the Roman road that led from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Photographed by Gary Alley, October 17, 2016.This manhole cover next to the water main shows where the sewer line disturbs the remains of the Roman road. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton, November 12, 2016.Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton, November 12, 2016.Photographed by Gary Alley on October 17, 2016.Photographed by Gary Alley on October 17, 2016.Photographed by Gary Asperschlager on November 12, 2016.Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton on November 12, 2016.Photographed by Gary Asperschlager on November 12, 2016.Photographed by Gary Asperschlager on November 12, 2016.Photographed by Gary Asperschlager on November 12, 2016.Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton on November 12, 2016.The Kastel peak rises above the remains of the Roman road to Emmaus. Photographed by Joshua N. Tilton on November 12, 2016.
Most archaeologists are of the opinion that the network of roads the Romans built in the land of Israel was not constructed prior to the period of the First Jewish Revolt (ca. 70 C.E.), and that the most extensive Roman road construction took place during the reign of Hadrian in the second century C.E.[28] The earliest dated milestone belonging to a Roman road in Israel is from 69 C.E.[29] Despite the probable construction of the Roman road near Motza after the time of Jesus, the route it follows traces the same path Jesus and his two disciples followed to Emmaus. The ravine is so narrow that any road built in it could not have been more than a few meters to the left or right of path on which Jesus and his disciples walked. It is therefore a shame to see the remnants of this potent reminder, which has withstood the passing of so many centuries, disappearing so dramatically in so short a time.


This relief from Trajan's Column (erected 113 C.E.) depicts Roman soldiers engaged in road construction. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
This relief from Trajan’s Column (erected 113 C.E.) depicts Roman soldiers engaged in road construction. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


The IAA’s report on the Roman road near Motza states that although “the road has been badly damaged, with proper restoration there exists a high potential for developing the road as a scenic route for hikers (‘pilgrims’) from Motza to Jerusalem.” Fourteen years on from the writing of the IAA’s report, the window of opportunity for this dream to be realized is closing rapidly. I fear that soon we may have to bid the Emmaus road a final farewell. Perhaps it is a good reminder that what is built by flesh and blood has its season and then is no more, while those whom Heaven has acclaimed endure forever.

I wish to express my gratitude to Professor Ronny Reich and Dr. Stephen J. Pfann for directing me to useful resources on Roman roads in general, and concerning the Emmaus road in particular. I would also like to thank all those who contributed photographs to this article including Gary Alley, Gary Asperschlager, Lucinda Dale-Thomas, Chris deVries, Horst Krüger, Diane Marroquin, Joshua N. Tilton, Israel’s National Photo Collection (Photography Dept. of the Government Press Office), the Classical Numismatic Group and Wikimedia Commons. Special thanks are due to Carta Jerusalem for allowing me to use their map of the various possible locations of Luke’s Emmaus. In addition, I would like to thank Brian Becker for making the slideshows, which are such an essential part of this article, possible on JP’s website. Finally, I wish to thank my editor, Joshua N. Tilton, for his assistance in preparing this article for publication.
  • [1] Among the many scholars who have weighed in on the debate are, Stanley A. Cook, “Emmaus,” in Encyclopaedia Biblica (4 vols.; London: Adam and Charles Black, 1899-1903), 2:1289-1290; Kirsopp Lake, The Historical Evidence For the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (London: Williams & Norgate; New York: Putnam & Sons, 1907), 99-100; Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.–A.D. 135) (ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Matthew Black; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1973), 1:512-513, n. 142; John Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus Knew It: Archaeology as Evidence (London: Thames and Hudson, 1978), 162-164; Richard M. Mackowski, “Where Is Biblical Emmaus?” Science et Esprit 32.1 (1980): 93-103; Moshe Fischer, Benjamin Isaac and Israel Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II: The Jaffa-Jerusalem Roads (BAR International Series 628; Oxford: 1996), 222-224; Carsten Peter Thiede, “Where Exactly Is Emmaus?” Israel Today (2002): 15; Anson F. Rainey and R. Steven Notley, The Sacred Bridge: Carta’s Atlas of the Biblical World (Jerusalem: Carta, 2006), 367-68; Paul H. Wright, Greatness Grace & Glory: Carta’s Atlas of Biblical Biography (Jerusalem: Carta, 2008), 197; Hershel Shanks,“Emmaus Where Christ Appeared,” Biblical Archaeology Review 34.2 (2008): 40-80.
  • [2] The Shephelah is an intermediate zone of low rolling hills that forms a north-to-south band between the coastal plain and the hill country of Judea.


    A passage from the Jerusalem Talmud also locates this Emmaus on the boundary between the Shephelah and the coastal plain:

    Rabbi Yohanan said: …from Beit Horon to Emmaus [אמאוס] is the mountainous region, from Emmaus to Lod it is Shephelah, from Lod to the sea it is a plain. (y. Sheviit 6:2 [25b])

    In the above statement Rabbi Yohanan describes the road that ran south-west from Beit Horon to Emmaus and then turned north-west from Emmaus to Lod along the boundary between the coastal plain and the Shephelah.

  • [3] See Jos., J.W. 3:55; Ant. 12:298; 13:15; 14:436; cf. 1 Macc. 9:50.
  • [4] Additonal rabbinic sources that may refer to Emmaus-Nicopolis are discussed by Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 153-155.
  • [5] Certainly the Emmaus referred to in the Jerusalem Talmud passage cited in the footnotes above is to be identified with Emmaus-Nicopolis. It is reasonable to suppose that the same Emmaus is referred to in all of the rabbinic passages we have cited.

    The vocalization אַמְאוּס (’am’ūs) is that given in the Kaufmann codex. Jastrow vocalizes this name as אִמָּאוּס (’imā’ūs) and traces it back to Ἐμμαοῦς / Ἀμμαοῦς, which he takes to be a Hellenized form of חַמְּתָה (ḥametāh, “hot springs”). See Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (2d ed.; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1903; repr. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2005), 74. Other scholars, however, question this derivation. See Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 151.

  • [6] See Mackowski, “Where Is Biblical Emmaus?” 96-97; Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 153.
  • [7] Cf. Eusebius, Onomasticon 90:15; Jerome, Letter 108:8.
  • [8] Some New Testament manuscripts read 160 stadia (approximately 19 miles) instead of 60 stadia. This secondary reading appears to be a scribal attempt to conform the biblical text to the tradition that identified Luke’s Emmaus as Emmaus-Nicopolis. See Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London and New York: United Bible Societies, 1975), 184-185; c.f. R. Steven Notley, In The Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land (Jerusalem: Carta, 2014), 81-82.
  • [9] See Lake, Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, 100; Notley, In the Master’s Steps, 82.
  • [10] The sixth-century C.E. monk Cyril of Scythopolis also knew of a place by this name, as he refers in his writings to αἰ πηγαὶ Κολωνίας τε καὶ Νεφθοῦς (“the springs of Kolōnia and Nefthous”; Life of Sabas §67 [ed. Schwartz, 168]). Cited by Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 223, who state that Nefthous is to be identified as “Nephtoa (Lifta) near Motza, to the NE.”
  • [11] See Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, 1379; Fischer, Isaac and Roll (Roman Roads in Judaea II, 223) state: “Josephus’ Ammaus must be the same place [as the Kalonya mentioned in the Talmud—DNB] because only a veteran settlement would acquire the name Colonia. Josephus emphasizes that only one such settlement was founded in the area of Jerusalem and there is only one place-name which indicates a connection with veterans in the region.”
  • [12] The rabbinic derivation of the name Motza from the verb for tax exemption (יצא) is not a serious etymology, but the wordplay probably does convey accurate information regarding the Roman settlement at Motza. See Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 222. It is likely that the Jewish population in Motza was either extinguished or displaced prior to the establishment of the veterans’ settlement, and consequently the memory of the Second Temple-period village of Motza had begun to fade by the Talmudic period.  This could explain why Motza had to be identified as Kalonya in rabbinic sources.
  • [13] If the two disciples were, indeed, returning home to Emmaus, this might provide further evidence in support of Robert Lindsey’s theory that at an early stage of his public career Jesus had itinerated throughout Judea. See Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus, Rabbi & Lord: A Lifetime’s Search for the Meaning of Jesus’ Words, 61-62; David N. Bivin, “Jesus in Judea.” Safrai, on the other hand, suggested that Emmaus was not the final destination of the disciples, but was a stop on their return route to the Galilee. See Shmuel Safrai, Pilgrimage at the Time of the Second Temple (Tel Aviv: Am Hassefer, 1965), 116 (in Hebrew). Safrai appears to have assumed that the Emmaus of Luke 24 was Emmaus-Nicopolis.
  • [14] Archaeological evidence for a Jewish presence in Motza at the end of the Second Temple period include a richly decorated Herodian-period private house south of the road near Motza and the use of Motza marl, a type of clay found at Motza, at a Herodian-period kilnworks at the outskirts of Jerusalem near and above the Emmaus Road. On the Herodian-period house, see Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 226, 229. On the kilnworks, see Benny Arubas and Haim Goldfus, “The Kilnworks of the Tenth Legion Fretensis,” in The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 14; Ann Arbor: 1995), 95-107.
  • [15] The name Motza also appears on seal impressions on jar handles from the late sixth or early fifth century B.C.E. The reference is probably to the same location as that mentioned in Josh. 18:26. Note that the spelling on the jar handles (מצה and מוצה) agrees with the spelling in Joshua (with a final ה) instead of the spelling in the Mishnah (with the final א). On these seal impressions, see Nahman Avigad, “New Light on the MSH Seal Impressions,” Israel Exploration Journal 8 (1958): 113-119.
  • [16] Alexandrinus. Vaticanus renders הַמֹּצָה as Αμωκη (Amōkē).
  • [17] The “a” at the beginning of “Ammaous” evidently is Josephus’ representation of the Hebrew definite article. According to Fischer, Isaac and Roll (Roman Roads in Judea II, 223), “The name ‘Ammaus’ can only with some difficulty be understood as a derivative of ‘Hamoza,’ although this is not impossible.
  • [18] See Michael Zohary, Plants of the Bible: A Complete Handbook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 131.
  • [19] See Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 95, 222, 229.
  • [20] See Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 223.
  • [21] Fischer, Isaac and Roll (Roman Roads in Judaea II, 226) cite J. Press, Eretz-Israel, Topographical and Historical Encyclopedia, iii (1952, Heb.), 558-559, for the Roman bath, but have no further information to offer.
  • [22] See Y. H. Landu, “Unpublished Inscriptions From Israel: A Survey,” in Acta of the Fifth Epigraphic Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy Cambridge 1967 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971), 387-390, esp. 389.
  • [23] Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 228.
  • [24] Fischer, Isaac and Roll (Roman Roads of Judaea II, 223) estimated that it would take about an hour to walk thirty stadia, the distance Josephus measured between Jerusalem and the Emmaus that became a Roman colony. However Fischer, Isaac and Roll also note that Josephus’ measurement of thirty stadia from Jerusalem to Motza-Emmaus is only a rough estimate. They measure the distance as thirty-eight stadia, which agrees even better with the results of my walking experiment.
  • [25] See Wright, Greatness Grace & Glory, 197.
  • [26] The Israel Antiquities Authority’s report, entitled “Ma’ale Romaim, Road” was completed by Shachar Poni, Jerusalem’s city architect, and Jon Seligman, Jerusalem’ regional archaeologist, in the summer of 2002. The report can be viewed at the following web address:, and is archived here. Translations of the IAA’s report quoted in this article are my own.
  • [27] For a more comprehensive description of this part of the Roman road, see Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads of Judaea II, 95-97.
  • [28] See M. Avi-Yonah, “The Development of the Roman Road System in Palestine,” Israel Exploration Journal 1 (1950): 54-60; Israel Roll, “The Roman Road System in Judaea,” Jerusalem Cathedra 3 (1983): 136-161; Yoram Tsafrir, Leah Di Segni and Judith Green, Tabula Imperii Romani Iudaea Palestina: Eretz Israel in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1994), 21; Fischer, Isaac and Roll, Roman Roads in Judaea II, 1.
  • [29] The milestone, which makes reference to the Emperor Vespasian, was found near present-day Afula in the Jezreel valley. On this milestone see, Benjamin Isaac and Israel Roll, “A Milestone of A.D. 69 From Judaea: The Elder Trajan and Vespasian,” Journal of Roman Studies 66 (1976): 15-19. On Roman milestones from the land of Israel in general, see Benjamin Isaac, “Milestones in Judaea from Vespasian to Constantine,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 110 (1978): 47-60.

A Nativity Meditation for 2016

For Charity Adele (my sister).

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

The words quoted above were spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel, who came to announce the birth of Jesus and the inauguration of the messianic era. It strikes me with awe and joyful wonderment to consider that God’s rescue mission of redemption and salvation began with a proclamation of acceptance and divine approval: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” This simple fact should not be missed: that divine favor is the source of the gospel. The story of Jesus’ birth begins with God’s goodwill toward humankind.


Sometimes we can forget that divine favor is at the heart of the gospel message. So often we can look at the world and only see what is wrong. We look at nature and we see the pollution of the atmosphere, the acidification of the oceans, and the razing of majestic rainforests. We think about global climate change and the extinction of species. Or we look at society and we see injustice and callousness toward our fellow human beings. We see the privilege of the rich and the exploitation of strangers. We look upon corruption and incompetence with incomprehension. We look at the Church and we see how disappointing it can be, that in the Church there is just as much idolatry and sexual immorality and justification of violence as there is in the rest of the world, but practiced with an air of self-righteousness that makes it all the more appalling. Then we look at one another and see the faults and flaws and annoying habits in the people we deal with: our co-workers, our family members, our friends. Finally, if we are honest, we look at ourselves and we see our own failings and shortcomings, and, worst of all, our hypocrisy, for deep in our heart of hearts we know that we are no better than the worst specimen of our kind. It is all too easy to be disgusted, to respond with contempt, with disdain, and in anger.


We know that things are not right and we long for God to put them right. We want judgement. We want punishment. We want revenge. We want all those stupid, wicked, blasphemous people to see how wrong they have been. We want them to feel that pain, the frustration, the disappointment, the shame we have been made to suffer.


Our feelings of hurt and anger are justified. The world is broken and life is unfair. But it is part of the great good news of the gospel to know that God’s response to the human condition is not one of anger or rejection, but of favor. God set his rescue mission into motion because when God looked upon us he found something there to love, something worth saving. The gospel does not begin with divine wrath or rejection, it begins with a proclamation of God’s favor for all humankind.


“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” It would be Jesus’ task to proclaim the LORD’s favor to the entire house of Israel, to share the good news that God is receiving everyone back again: men and women, high and low, children and elders, pure or impure, the simple and the wise, the observant and the unobservant, the faithful and the unfaithful, too. Everyone was welcome to join the Kingdom of God. And yet the open invitation began with the proclamation of favor to just one individual, a young woman of Galilee whom we call Mary.  If so great a movement could begin with just one person receiving the gift of divine favor, how much more when we hear and believe that God’s favor includes each of us as well?

The image at the top of this page is an artistic representation of an angel created by Meister von Cefalù (ca. 1150 C.E.). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Didache and its Relevance for Understanding the Gospel of Matthew

The image featured above, intended to symbolize the Two Ways of Life and Death, which are of central importance to the Didache, was photographed by Imen Bouhajja in Ghar Elmelh, Tunisia (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

1. The Didache

A portrait of Philotheos Bryennios found opposite the title page of Philip Schaff’s The Oldest Church Manual Called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (1885). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1873, Philotheos Bryennios, the metropolitan of Serres (Serrae) in Macedonia, discovered a Greek parchment manuscript in the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople. The document contained several early Christian writings, including the text of the famous Didache. Bryennios edited the treatise in 1883. In 1887, the manuscript was transferred to the Greek patriarchate in Jerusalem where it is still preserved today as Hierosolymitanus 54. In the colophon of the manuscript (folium 120, front side) the name of the scribe and the date are preserved. “Leon the scribe and sinner” was the one who produced this codex, which he completed on Tuesday, 11 June 1056.

The ancient textual basis of the eleventh-century minuscule copied by Leon should be narrowed down to its central part only (fol. 39front-80back). The source of this text, extending from the Letter of Barnabas to the end of the Didache, may have originated in the patristic period.[1] In this article, the text of the Didache (fol. 76front-80back) is studied in isolation from the other works contained in the Jerusalem Manuscript. Of course, there are also a few smaller and fractional witnesses to the text of the Didache. For the establishment of the text of the Didache, however, the bearing of these fragments is meagre.

1.1. The Contents of the Didache

The Didache is a compilation of several older sources which are structured into four clearly separated thematic sections: The Two Ways document (chs. 1-6), a liturgical treatise (chs. 7-10), an exposition on church organization (chs. 11-15) and a section relating to the end time (ch. 16). Each individual part belongs to a different literary genre, evolved over a period of time, and makes up a coherent unity.

Two Ways
The opening line of the Didache, “There are two ways, one of life (zōē), the other of death” (1:1), introduces the subject treated in its first part. The Way of Life (Did. 1-4) covers moral instruction, which is expounded at greater length than the Way of Death, which contains a mere list of warnings (Did. 5). Let’s have a first look at the opening of the Two Ways document (1:1-3a):

There are two ways, one of life, the other of death, and between the two ways there is a great difference. Now the way of life is this: First, you shall love God who created you, then your neighbour as yourself, and do not yourself do to another what you would not want done to you. The teaching [that flows] from these words is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies,….

The Way of Life begins with a conventional summary of the Law consisting of the double love command (the “love of God” and the “love of neighbour”) and the Golden Rule in its negative form (“do not yourself do to another what you would not want done to you”).[2] The topic clause in 1:3a (“The teaching [that flows] from these words is this”) shows the following part to be interpretation.

This interpretation continues all the way through three chapters before reaching its conclusion in 4:14b. It includes first a series of positive admonitions found in verses 1:3b-2:1, which reflect some of the radical requirements of the Sermon on the Mount and are particularly close to Synoptic tradition. Then follows a list of precepts intended to cover the essentials of the second table of the Ten Commandments (2:2-7), a distinctive literary unit (3:1-6) that closely reflects the Decalogue themes of the preceding chapter and, finally, two chapters dealing with morals, humility and constructive social behaviour (3:7-4:14). The Way of Death in fact represents a catalogue consisting of twenty-three vices in the first part and a list of nineteen evildoers in the second (5:1-2).

Two things may be noted about the form of the Two Ways in Did. 1-6. Firstly, one would expect the exhortation in 6:1 to conclude the Two Ways section of the Didache: “See to it that no one leads you astray from this way of the teaching, for such a person teaches you apart from God.” Both formulation and content suggest that the Two Ways doctrine comes to a close in Did. 6:1. This impression is strengthened by the predominant tenor in the following verses (6:2-3), which appear to reflect an atmosphere of concession. At the end of the comprehensive ethical treatise, Did. 6:2 suddenly grants that partial compliance with all previous admonitions suffices. Furthermore, with respect to food, everyone is allowed to determine what is to be eaten, and only a minimum requirement is laid down (6:3). As will be corroborated below, the statements in Did. 6:2-3 appear to be a later addition to a basic tradition of the Two Ways.

A second remarkable feature occurs in Did. 1:3b-2:1. The passage clearly interrupts the connection between Did. 1:3a and 2:2 and it stands out from the immediate context in chs. 1-6 with respect to its high number of close parallels to the Gospels of Luke and, especially, Matthew. This is all the more striking because a similar accumulation of traditional Gospel motifs is absent from the remainder of the Two Ways in Did. 1-6. The situation is in fact such that apart from the collection of Jesus tradition in 1:3b-2:1 (and the concessive items in 6:2-3), there is hardly any reference to specific Christian doctrine in the Two Ways manual. Nowhere are obvious soteriological and Christological motifs such as the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ to be found. By inserting the “Evangelical Section” right after 1:3a, the explanation of the double love command and the Golden Rule (1:2) was Christianized while the traditional Jewish interpretation in Did. 2:2-7 accordingly became the “second commandment” (2:1). On the other hand, it has been observed that the text in Did. 1:1-3a. 2:2-6:1 displays numerous links with materials in sources of early Judaism.[3] It is closely related to traditional Jewish materials in the Testament of Asher 1:3-5, the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies VII, 3, 3-5; 7, 1-2 and the Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides. For these reasons, it was argued as early as the end of the nineteenth century that this or a similar form of the Two Ways is derived from a Jewish origin.

The view that a Jewish tradition is behind the present form of the Two Ways in the Didache—with the exception of Did. 1:3a-2:1 and 6:2-3—may be substantiated as follows. In addition to the Didache, the Two Ways tradition ranges across a variety of Christian documents from the first five centuries, including the Doctrina Apostolorum, the Letter of Barnabas 18-20 and some five later writings.[4] Each of these writings represents an independent witness to the ancient Two Ways tradition in which the basic pattern is essentially the same, particularly the appearance of the two ways and the presence of a double catalogue of virtues and vices in which each of the ways consists. It is interesting to see, however, that the various forms of the Two Ways demonstrate no familiarity with the collection of Jesus tradition in Did. 1:3b-2:1 and the supplement in Did. 6:2-3. Moreover, they do not display any acquaintance with Did. 7-16. The obvious explanation for this phenomenon is that these Christian documents are somehow affiliated with a form of the Two Ways tradition lacking these parts.

Since we do not have a copy of the original source extant, our knowledge is at best indirect, being only deducible from the Doctrina, Didache, and Barnabas. The late David Flusser and I have attempted to reconstruct the Jewish prototype of this teaching, which we called the ‘Greek Two Ways’ (GTW) because the text of this pre-Didache source was in Greek. As a matter of fact, this (hypothetical) version of the pre-Didache source, except the Christianized sections of 1:3b-2:1 and 6:2-3, is reflected by and large in the wording of the Didache.

The ancient Greek Two Ways, freed from the secondary context as provided in the Didache, was constructed, preserved, and handed on within pious Jewish circles that maintained highly refined ethical standards.[5] The text shows an undeniable relationship with a particular type of rabbinic literature called Derekh Erets (“The Way on Earth”). Both the Greek Two Ways and the rabbinic Derekh Erets tractates reveal a specific trend in early Jewish thought that calls on a newly refined moral sensitivity. Part of the oral tracts with subjects concerning Derekh Erets reflect the teachings of pious Jewish circles in the first and second centuries C.E. on moral behavior.[6] These men constituted Hasidic groups within the society of the rabbis, practicing charities and performing friendly deeds of compassion.[7] Thus, the tradition of the Two Ways was transmitted and kept alive within virtuous Jewish factions. At the same time, however, the ancient Two Ways also developed into a pre-baptismal catechesis for Gentiles in the Didache community and, as we will see below, probably in other first-century Christian communities as well.

Liturgical Treatise
The ritual of baptism, the Lord’s Prayer, and the eucharistic celebration in Did. 7-10, are deeply affected by the pattern of Jewish daily worship. Did. 7 is linked to the preceding Chapters 1-6 by a directive (7:1b) that the Two Ways doctrine should be the substance of the teaching of candidates for baptism:

As for baptism, baptize this way. After you have said all these things [i.e., all that is written above], baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in running water. If you do not have running water, however, baptize in another kind of water; if you cannot [do so] in cold [water], then [do so] in warm [water]. But if you have neither, pour water on the head thrice in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit (Did. 7:1-3).

The baptism of Jesus as depicted in a catacomb painting from Rome. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Did. 7 is the earliest surviving description of the administration of baptism.[8] It is likely that in the days of the Didache’s composition, the Two Ways as presented in the first section served as a basic catechetical instruction prior to baptism. At the same time, the interest in ritual purity is still paramount in Did. 7 as the text reflects the concern that one should use the most appropriate water available for baptism. In the Hebrew Bible, purification was necessary before participating in Temple worship and this remained for ancient Jews, first and foremost, the prerequisite for encountering the sacred. Ritual impurity bars a person from God’s presence and it is a biblical principle that it forms a barrier that must be removed (Num. 19:20).

The directives in Did. 7:1c-3a with regard to the kinds of water to be used in baptism are clearly borrowed from Judaism. The discussion of the various types of water alludes to Jewish ablutions for ritual purification, and the directives in Did. 7 seem to have their parallels in Jewish halakhic instructions about water for ritual washings. It was a principal issue to determine what sort of water was needed for the purificatory washing. In rabbinic sources, six types of water supply are distinguished in an ascending order of value beginning with the lower qualities of water and proceeding to the higher ones (m. Miqw. 1:1-8).

The text in Did. 7:1c-3a itself, however, may reflect a development that abandoned an originally strict ritual practice. On the one hand, the purity required to approach God is still attained through the performance of ablutions or immersions. On the other hand, the text does not reflect a continuous, strong adherence to Jewish halakhot governing ritual purity. The normal condition of the water found in the rite of Christian baptism is indicated by the phrase “living water” (Acts 8:36; 16:13), and also in the Mishnah it has the highest rank within the classification of kinds of water. But the Didache regulations give the impression that the importance of the baptismal instruction with regard to correct practice is diminishing.[9] They embody concessions toward a formerly strict practice. Should circumstances so demand, the rules permit performance of the rite of baptism “in another kind of water” (Did. 7:2a). And if there is neither cold nor warm water, one was allowed to pour water onto the person’s head instead of immersing them in it. This is an even further concession to the rigorous standards regarding the water for baptism: mere affusion is allowed in case water is scarce. Whereas the interest in ritual purity is still paramount in Did. 7, the rules governing ritual purity were losing their significance.

A ritual immersion bath (mikveh) discovered at Magdala. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Interestingly, the directives in Did. 7 are influenced by Jewish halakhic debates on ritual washings, but at the same time reflect a liberalization of the rigorous demands with respect to the baptismal water. The ritual is on its way to a stage in which the effect of baptism is unquestioned, even if the water is less suitable. The prefacing of the baptismal ceremony in Did. 7 with the original Jewish instruction of the Two Ways in Did. 1-6 resulted in an “ethicization” of the baptism ritual. Because baptism is not limited here to a mere cultic action but has taken an ethical shape as a result of being preceded by the original Jewish Two Ways instruction, its precise ritual details become less relevant. What is important is that baptism in Did. 7 carried with it a commitment to a right conduct (Did. 1-6). The Didache still does articulate an interest in issues relating to ritual impurity but probably prioritized the maintenance of moral impurity over the preservation of ritual impurity.[10]

The mention of a pre-baptismal fast in 7:4 appears to have prompted the observation about fasting as an independent phenomenon in 8:1, that is, the stationary fast. Whereas the “hypocrites” fast on Mondays and Thursdays, the readers of the Didache should keep Wednesdays and Fridays as their fast-days. In the same way, a transition is made by the word “hypocrites” to a further differentiation between two practices in the next verse. Instead of “praying as the hypocrites” do, the members of the community are required to recite the Lord’s Prayer three times a day (8:2-3). The Lord’s Prayer is offered in an obligatory text without mentioning or quoting additional prayers. This circumstance, and the requirement to say the Lord’s Prayer three times a day, may indicate that this prayer took the place of the Jewish Tefillah, which was recited three times a day as well.[11] One may assume that individual members of the Didache community still prayed the Tefillah, and when the number of Gentiles in the community increased, this practice undoubtedly caused a strong tension between non-Jewish Christians and Judaizing Christians. The prayer formulary in Did. 8 may have served as a means to prevent people within the Didache community from imitating Jewish practices. The version of the Lord’s Prayer written out in full here, varies from Matt. 6:9-13 in some details only but, even so, probably is not dependent on Matthew. Both the redactor of Did. 8:1-3 and Matthew might have known the prayer from its regular use in their respective church traditions. The agreements are probably to be assigned to the liturgical tradition they have in common.

The congregation is required to distinguish itself from the “hypocrites” by fasting on different days and observing divergent prayer customs. Opponents are disparagingly characterized as “hypocrites” here and again in the next verse. Who were these hypocrites? A possible suggestion, which is widely advocated, proposes that the term reflects the rivalry between a Jewish-Christian faction within the boundary of Judaism and another Jewish group. It has repeatedly been suggested that the label ‘hypocrites’ might refer to Pharisees in particular.[12] For in the period after the Jewish war, the rise of rabbinism led to promulgations of legal decisions which laid claim to religious authority. Members of the Didache community might have felt bitter about the Jewish central authority’s attempts to manage their lives and resented the rabbis gaining control of the public sphere.

But was the community of the Didache still a competing group within the larger fabric of Judaism in its day or had it already ceased to consider itself a variety of Judaism? And if the latter applies, what may have caused the congregation to move away from its roots? One thing is clear: The Didache obviously was composed for the initiation of Gentiles into the community. This already becomes noticeable in the supplementary long title of the Didache (“Doctrine of the Lord [brought] to the Nations by the Twelve Apostles”). The Two Ways doctrine of chs. 1-6 apparently was intended as a prescriptive code principally for Gentiles who had grown up in households in which pagan gods and pagan standards of morality abounded. The Two Ways dichotomy served as a framework for understanding the radical alteration in behaviour and commitments that the Gentile convert was expected to make. Thus, the rules for Jewish life were modified into a pre-baptismal catechesis for Gentiles entering the community. These circumstances might have moved the Sages to harbour suspicions. Moreover, this is the period during which the Birkat Ha-Minim, the benediction against the heretics, appears to have been inserted into the Jewish liturgy.[13] It not impossible, then, that at this stage the Didache community shared a consciousness of their views being suppressed by contemporary Judaism in general. Jewish Christians are likely to have been a major target of this synagogue denouncement. Within this framework the term “hypocrites” in Did. 8 might reflect the deteriorated relations between the particular Didache community and its Jewish opponents in general.

The title and the opening words of the Didache as these appear in MS Hierosolymitanus 54. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Chapters 9 and 10 present the prayers, rubrics and regulations for the Eucharist. Binding formulae are given for the pertinent prayers. The eucharistic celebration is introduced in 9:2-4 by blessings over the cup and the bread based on Jewish prayers of blessing. After the first table prayer in 9:2-4, a rubrical comment follows in Did. 9:5, emphasizing that no one who has not been baptized is allowed to eat and drink of the Eucharist. It is the only place in the Didache outside Did. 7 that mentions the verb ‘to baptize’ or ‘baptism’:

Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist save those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord, for concerning this the Lord has spoken, “Do not give what is holy to dogs” (Did. 9:5).

The term “Eucharist” in this verse not only refers to the utterance of the thanksgiving prayer like that in 9:1, but also to the Eucharistic food over which the blessing is spoken. In Did. 9:5, baptism is indeed referred to as the general prerequisite authorizing participation in the Eucharist and preventing pagans from sharing the meal. Didachic baptism is a ritual act marking the initiation of new members into the community and, at the same time, seems to set the acceptable limits of table fellowship.

As we see in the rubric of Did. 10:1, a regular meal follows upon these prayers which is concluded by an additional prayer of thanksgiving. This is the second part of the eucharistic prayer in Did. 9-10. In recent decades has it come to be generally accepted that the ultimate roots of the eucharistic prayers in Did. 9-10 lay in Jewish liturgical practice. Attempts have been made to link the prayer in Did. 10:2-5 with the rabbinic Birkat ha-Mazon, the prayer that concludes the Jewish meal.[14] In the last few years, however, this supposition has become controversial as Jewish liturgical traditions of Temple times are no longer taken to be as fixed and uniform as was once supposed. We should therefore be cautious and not be too eager to draw the conclusion that these prayers had a standardized form in the first century.[15] On the other hand, it is of importance to note that, in spite of this variation in wording, the Jewish after-dinner prayer Did. have a number of stable elements. The general structure of this prayer was probably already known to the author of the Book of Jubilees in the second century B.C.E. When Abraham says Grace after meals (Jub. 22:6-9), we find him uttering a three-part prayer, i.e. a benediction, a thanksgiving, and finally a supplication,[16] a pattern very much like the later texts of the Birkat Ha-Mazon.

The prayers in Did. 9:2-4 and 10:2-5 encircling a real meal represent some vestiges of Gentile Christian usage as well. The petitions in 9:4 and 10:5 regarding the gathering of the church are bound up with the biblical expectation of salvation that the dispersed of Israel will be collected in the day of salvation (Deut. 30:3-5a; Isa. 11:12b-c; Ezek. 37:21). Later this desire was kept alive in the tenth benediction of the Tefillah. The transfer of this concept to the Christian church in Did. 9:4 and 10:5, however, involving a gathering of the church without further reference to the Jewish people, is a conspicuous characteristic of Christian refashioning. It is clear that a petition for the gathering of the dispersed people of Israel is beyond the liturgical range of the community of the Didache. The formulation reflects a Gentile, rather than a particular Jewish position and perspective.[17] One may therefore assume that the supplications in Did. 9:4 and 10:5 were formulated in a Gentile Christian community. They clearly illustrate the fact that, as the church won more and more Gentiles, it gradually alienated itself from its Jewish background.

Church Organization
What follows next is the section comprising Did. 11-15 with guidelines for good order and church discipline. These chapters present authoritative ‘apostolic’ rules on matters of ecclesiastical organization that end in 15:4, just before the doctrine concerning the things that will happen at the end of the world in Chapter 16. The instructions give a glimpse of the local church or churches for which the Didache was written. A variety of disciplinary measures is presented, designed particularly to correct abuses in the life of the Didache community. The regulations in this section specify how certain classes of visitors must be tested so as to protect the community from troublesome visitors. In Did. 11:1-12:5, the emphasis is on testing Christians who would stop over at the Didache community. The passage provides guidelines by which to ascertain the legitimacy of these Christians, whether they claim to be apostles, prophets or just laymen. Although these preachers could expect a hospitable reception within the community, they all had to be subjected to an examination. The community reserved the right to judge outsiders in order to prevent a number of charlatans from taking advantage of its hospitality.

The apostles are the first class of visitors considered here. They are persons sent out on a mission from elsewhere and because they were in transit, they were not allowed to stay longer than two days or to ask for money (11:4-6). The second class of strangers dealt with here are the prophets. It was rather difficult, however, to equip the community with criteria enabling them to differentiate between true and false prophets. Since prophets were regarded as speaking in the Spirit, they had a privileged status that distinguished them from other teachers. The Didache, however, sanctions the prophetic gifts without endangering the community. While preserving the high valuation of speaking in the Spirit, the manual recommends an examination of a prophet’s lifestyle as a chief criterion for credibility (11:7-12).

Discussing ordinary people who come to the community and claim to be Christians, the Didache in the next chapter demands a further testing and setting of conditions as well. If a travelling Christian layman wants to settle in the community, the general rule is that such a person must earn his own living with a trade (12:1-5). Christians wishing to reside within the community will have to work for a living: “If he wants to settle in with you, … , let him work and [thus] eat” (12:3). In this context, the passage in 13:1-7 is not some peculiar afterthought or a part not reflected upon in Did. 11. The connection between Did. 13 and 12:3-5 is clearly indicated in the phrase “wanting to settle in with you” in 13:1 (and 12:3). Apparently, the instruction in Did. 13 is meant to counteract the wording of 12:3-5 insofar as the classes of the prophets and teachers are regarded. This instruction does not apply in the case of a teacher and a genuine prophet. When true prophets or genuine teachers desire to settle down in the community, they are to be given material support as a reward for their labours (13:1-2).

Visiting prophets (and even traveling apostles) were still active in the church by the time of the redaction of the Didache, and this phenomenon fits the general mobility of contemporary religious teachers of popular Hellenistic religion.[18] At the time when the Didache was composed, the number of itinerant religious propagandists appears to have increased to such an extent, however, that it opened the door for abuses to set in. Because Christians were generally expected to offer a generous and cordial welcome to guests and strangers, this hospitable attitude could easily be misused.

In Did. 14, the concern is no longer with the attitude of the local community towards outsiders, towards those who visit the community, but rather with circumstances within the settled community itself. The successive topics are loosely connected. The confession of sins and reconciliation is the central theme. Both rules are laid down as a requirement for the admission to the celebration of the Eucharist.[19] The pleonastic phrase “on the Sunday of the Lord” with reference to the Eucharist in 14:1 might indicate a polemic against those who still preferred the Sabbath to the Lord’s day for the weekly celebration of the Eucharist.[20] The author once again seems to be taking a stand against Judaizing Christians. Evidence from other sources (Gal 4:8-11; Col 2:16-17 and Ignatius, Magnesians 9:1-2), indicating that some Christian circles conti-nued to observe the Sabbath, strengthens this impression. The phrase, then, might suggest that these Christians should exchange the Sabbath for the Sunday as the day of the celebration of the Eucharist. In 15:1-2, another theme is introduced. The community members are advised to select for themselves bishops and deacons who are qualified for their offices. They are to be honest, unassuming and not greedy. After the digression in 15:1-2, the statement in 15:3 reminds of the admonition in 14:3. Someone who, in spite of the congregation’s correction, continues to wrong his brother has to be peacefully excluded from the community until he repents.

The End Time

The final page of the Didache as it appears in MS Hierosolymitanus 54. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The concluding section in ch. 16, which is incomplete in the manuscript left to us (Hierosolymitanus 54), contains a premonition related to the end of human history and the return of Christ to ensure obedience to the preceding provisions in Did. 1-15. The hortatory passage of vv. 1-2 functions as a warning to the reader for the retribution at the end of time. This parenetic passage includes two concrete admonitions, i.e., a call for vigilance (16:1a) and an admonition to meet frequently (16:2a). Both incentives are substantiated by a succinct portentous scenario (16:3-8), which portrays the events at the end, starting with the multiplication of false prophets and corrupters.

1.2. Conclusion

The first section specifies how new Gentile members are to be instructed prior to baptism (Did. 1-6/7). There are good grounds for arguing that the materials in Did. 1-6 represent at least two layers of composition, related to two different stages in the literary history of the Two Ways. In fact, it appears that this part of the Didache attests to a separate circulation of a form of the Two Ways, closely related to Did. 1-6 but without the Christian materials in 1:3b-2:1 and 6:2-3.

The ultimate roots of Christian baptism in Did. 7:1-3 lay in the Jewish immersion ceremony carried out whenever one was preparing to visit the Temple. In Did. 7:1c-3a, various types of water are mentioned, which shows a paramount interest in ritual purity as it reflects the central concern that one should use the most appropriate water available for baptism. But, at the same time, baptism in Did. 7 appears to embody concessions with regard to a formerly strict practice. The fading interest in a stringent performance of this purity ritual can be explained by reference to the increasing emphasis on the ethical dimension of baptism by the prefix of the Two Ways in Did. 1-6.

In Did. 7-10, a section follows giving rules for those having been baptized and providing the required text of the Lord’s prayer and the Eucharist (Did. 7-10). It is not unrealistic to assume that at a later stage of the development of the Didache, the community included a variety of groups. There probably was an increasing quantity of Gentiles grown up in non-Jewish households, a number of members who were Jewish in their own self-conception and halakhic practice, and various shades of other believers-in-Jesus in the middle. The Didache attempts to overcome the tension between these groups and movements by replacing Jewish traditions and prayers that might have been operative earlier in his community with a modified and transformed worship reflecting the liturgical traditions that were maintained by the majority at a later time. The presence of the Christianized parts (1:3b-2:1; 6:1-2) in the prebaptismal catechesis, the Lord’s Prayer taking the place of the Jewish Tefillah (8:2), the supplications (9:4; 10:5) in the set of eucharistic prayers and also the substitution of the Sabbath for the Sunday (14:1) are intended to prevent a seemingly irreversible division within the community.

In addition to the admission of Gentiles into the Didache community, also the hospitable treatment of transient outsiders caused significant problems. The manual offers an appropriate set of rules in Did. 11-15 to prevent the community’s hospitality from being exploited. Did. 16, finally, may be regarded as a reaffirmation of the grave importance of the instructions given in the preceding chapters.

To sum up: since the Didache was composed in a time of transition, its major concern was to safeguard the unity and identity of the community against threats from the inside and outside world.

2. The Relevance of the Didache for Understanding the Gospel of Matthew

The common assumption is that Matthew’s gospel took shape at some point in the years between 80 and 100 C.E.[21] If we want to examine this gospel in light of the Didache, we are faced with an array of difficult questions, one of them pertaining to the Jewish parent body and the identity of the Matthean community. Who were the Christians standing behind the Didache and Matthew? Did. the Didache and Matthew indeed emanate from the same geographical, social and cultural setting? Can we trace the developing interests of the respective community or communities in the different textual layers of the Didache and Matthew?

2.1. The Nature of the Agreements between Didache and Matthew

Both writings, the Didache and Matthew, show significant agreements as these share words, phrases and motifs. The collection of Jesus sayings in the Evangelical Section of Did. 1:3-2:1 is very close to the Sermon on the Mount. The radical exposition about the love of one’s neighbour as love of one’s enemies (Did. 1:3b-d) recalls Synoptic tradition in Matt. 5:44. 46-47 and Luke 6:27-28. 32-33. Besides this paragraph, the Evangelical Section includes two additional passages comparable to the Synoptics articulating the prohibition of violent resistance (Did. 1:4; par. Matt. 5:39-41; Luke 6:29) and the exhortation to be charitable (Did. 1:5-6; par. Matt. 5:25c-26. 40; Luke 6:30; 12:58c-59).

Additionally, the correspondence of the Trinitarian baptismal formula in the Didache and Matthew (Did. 7 and Matt. 28:19) as well as the similar shape of the Lord’s Prayer (Did. 8 and Matt. 6:5-13) apparently reflect the use of resembling oral forms of church traditions. Moreover, both the community of the Didache (Did. 11-13) and Matthew (Matt. 7:15-23; 10:5-15.40-42; 24:11.24) were visited by itinerant apostles and prophets, some of whom were illegitimate. There is also the admonition in Did. 16:1-2 to always be on the alert and watch over one’s life (par. Matt. 24:42.44; 25:13) which are followed by a succinct revelatory scenario in Did. 16:3-8 portraying the events at the end of time (par. Matt. 24-25).

Also other instructions, sayings, phrases and motifs in the Didache are shared with Matthew: Did. 11:2.4 commands that the messengers of the Lord are to be received as the Lord himself (par. Matt. 10:40); in Did. 11:7 the warning is given not to put those who speak in the Spirit to the test since that would be a sin against the Holy Spirit (Did. 11:7; par. Matt. 12:31); according to Did. 13:1-2 it is the community’s duty to provide for the daily needs of a genuine prophet and true teacher because they are “worthy of their food” (par. Matt. 10:10); and in Did. 14:2, the rule is articulated that Christians who have a quarrel with a companion may not participate in worship until they have been reconciled (par. Matt. 5:23-24).

A main obstacle in the investigation of the extent to which the Didache might be relevant to the interpretation of Matthew is of course the question whether the composer of the Didache was familiar with the finished gospel of Matthew or vice versa. Scholars time and again have assumed that the Didache draws on the final form of the Gospel of Matthew.[22] And, indeed, if the document was composed in the second half of the second century or later, as some believed,[23] the Didache would present a strong case for the use of the gospels as we have them. In recent scholarship, however, a new consensus is emerging for a date of the Didache’s composition about the turn of the first century C.E. If the Didache was redacted that early, the view of dependence of the document on one of the Synoptic Gospels becomes all but a certainty. An alternative solution might be that Matthew is dependent on the Didache as a direct source.[24] But this proposal is problematic too, as it would imply a very early date for the composition of the Didache. It is more likely, therefore, that the close relationship between the documents might equally suggest that both documents were created in the same cultural, historical and geographical setting, for example in the Greek-speaking part of Syria.

In comparison with Matthew, the Didache is a ‘primitive’ teaching manual, largely unaffected by theological developments. Now, if the Didache is not dependent on the Gospel of Matthew but reflects materials used by Matthew, it would mean that we have in the Didache a window on the social and religious milieu out of which the Gospel of Matthew arose. In the next subdivision, we will present examples of this ‘primitive’ teaching manual in Did. 9:5 and 15:3. These instances are particularly interesting as they display traces of the historical situation behind Matthew’s text (2.2).

But there is more. One must differentiate between the text as presented in Did. 1-6 and the one offered in Did. 7-16, since the earlier layer of Did. 1-6 is closely connected with a Jewish pattern of the Two Ways. This teaching was conceivably taken as its basic framework. In the above section on the Didache, it was ascertained that this Jewish form was modified once the Two Ways came to be used as an initiatory catechesis for Gentile catechumens in the Didache community. Still, the basic tradition of the Two Ways doctrine put forward in Did. 1:1-3a.2:2-6:1 may have circulated for a long time in Jewish and Christian communities apart from its eventual incorporation and modification in the Didache. We will see that the Two Ways doctrine was also known to the Matthean community. Like the Didache, also Matthew in all probability made use of the Two Ways in both his Sermon on the Mount and the Story of the Rich Young Man (2.3).

2.2. Matthew in Light of Didache 7-16: Two Examples

It is worth noticing that Did. 9:5d and 15:3 are two instances in the Didache unambiguously referring to the “gospel” and “the Lord has spoken” while providing explicit echoes more or less corresponding to particular occurrences in Matt. 7:6a and Matt. 18:15-17, respectively. The following section will demonstrate that the passages in Did. 9:5 and 15:3 are related in their dependence on a common tradition used by Matthew as well.

Matt. 7:6 in Light of Did. 9:5
If we pay attention to the saying “do not give what is holy to dogs” in Did. 9:5 a parallel with Matt. 7:6 can easily be found. Since the saying is introduced by the formula “concerning this the Lord has spoken,” there are scholars who take the Didache to be quoting Matthew’s Gospel here. [25]

The saying in Did. 9:5d is verbally identical to the first part of the dual saying in Matthew, which has no parallel in Mark and Luke:

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine lest they trample them under foot and tear you to pieces. (Matt. 7:6)

Does the saying indicate that the Didache has ripped it from its original Matthean context and applied it wrongly to the issue of correct participation in the Eucharistic observance? Since after the instructions for blessing the wine (9:2) and blessing the bread (9:3-4), the Didache verse reads as follows:

Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist save those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord, for concerning this the Lord has spoken, “Do not give what is holy (to hagion) to dogs.” (Did. 9:5)

The saying in Did. 9:5d (“Do not give what is holy to dogs”) is undoubtedly quoted as a conclusive word of the Lord to emphasize that all those who have not been baptized are to be excluded from the Eucharist.

The tenor of the clause supporting this exclusion (9:5d) is particularly close to that of the Temple purity terminology. The wording “what is holy” (to hagion) probably refers to sacrificial food, a meaning suggested by its usage in the Septuagint translation of Exod 29:33; Lev. 2:3; 22:6.7.10-16; Num. 18:8-19; Ezra 2:63 and its parallel text in Neh 7:65. Particularly relevant to our investigation is the following passage in the Septuagint translation of Lev. 22:6-7.10:

…he shall not eat of the holy things (apo tōn hagiōn) unless he has bathed his body in water. When the sun is down he shall be clean; and then shall he eat of the holy things (tōn hagiōn), for they are his bread. … And no stranger shall eat the holy things (hagia): a sojourner of the priest’s or a hired servant shall not eat the holy things (hagia).

The term “holy things” refers to the animal meat or agricultural produce designated for sacrifice in the Temple. Since the expression in Did. 9:5d deals with “what is holy” (to hagion), it has a cultic ring to it and suggests a customary Jewish sacrificial Temple ritual. The eucharistic prayers in 9:2-4 and 10:2-5, therefore, encircle a real meal and the food consumed is not understood as ordinary food, but as something special. The holy food was set aside exclusively for baptized members of the community, while the non-baptized were prohibited from taking part in the Eucharist “since the Lord has said, ‘Do not give what is holy to the dogs’” (9:5d).

The idea of dogs devouring dedicated food was felt to be particularly horrifying in the Second Temple period. This concern is reflected in the Qumran scrolls. In the halakhic letter 4QMMT (Miqsat Ma’ase ha-Torah or Some Precepts of the Law), written by members of the Qumran community against their opponents, there was a prohibition against dogs in Jerusalem in order to prevent the defilement of the Temple and the holy city (4QMMT 58-62).[26] The saying “Do not give what is holy to dogs” represents a Jewish maxim, which has its roots in the Jewish purity discussions. Maybe the opponents of the sect took precautions to avoid defilement of the Temple by keeping dogs out of the sanctuary, whereas the Qumran group had extended the field of defilement to the whole of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is the “camp of holiness” (4QMMT 60), dogs are not allowed to enter.[27]

Also relevant to our subject is a passage in the pseudepigraphic work Joseph and Aseneth, which was probably composed for Jews between the first century B.C.E. and the second century C.E. The pagan Egyptian girl Aseneth, daughter of the priest of Heliopolis, expresses her disgust with her ancestral religion when she converts to the worship of the God of Israel by throwing the sacrifices through the window to the dogs as food (10:14). A similar thought may be expressed in Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities of which the original (Hebrew) form according to many scholars was composed between 70 and 135 C.E. in Jewish Palestine. The pertinent text concerns the rage of God against Jephthah’s rash and careless vow in Judg 11:30-31 to offer to God “whatever meets him first on the way” since his sacrifice might also have consisted of something unclean like a dog (BA 39:11).

The particular antonymy of the holy thing(s) and dogs in Did. 9:5 provides the Eucharist with distinct features of a sacrificial offering in the sanctuary. Whereas the longer Matthean saying is not found in Jewish writings at all, the shorter saying in Did. 9:5 bears a marked similarity with a common expression in rabbinic literature. The adage “Holy things (dedicated sacrifices) are not to be redeemed to feed them to dogs” was widely disseminated and the extent of this spread is attested to by many references in rabbinic writings in the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud until far into the fourth century C.E.[28] In view of the early examples mentioned above, it is not unlikely that the fixed rabbinic formula itself was widespread as early as the first century C.E.

First-century C.E. mosaic from Pompeii of a guard dog chained to a post. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But what does the verb “to be redeemed” mean in the above adage? For the Jewish Sages, the admonition “holy things are not to be redeemed to feed them to dogs” was obviously a standard reason for prohibiting the sacrificial food belonging exclusively to God ever to coincide with the most forbidden impurity. Holy animals were set apart and dedicated to God. In midrash Siphre on Num. 18:15,[29] it says that even if an animal meant to be sacrificed died, it should be treated as sacred food. The owner was not allowed to pay the Temple redemption money so that the animal could be used to any advantage. Consumption of its meat was prohibited and the animal had to be buried. This accords with another early witness found in the Mishnah suggesting that a dedicated animal, although blemished, still has a lasting status of belonging to the divine sphere (m. Tem. 6:5). It does not lose its holiness and still belongs to God. The release of holy things from divine ownership (by paying redemption money) was forbidden. Blemished animals or those slain were unqualified to be sacrificed in accordance with biblical law, but even so, redeeming them was the equivalent of feeding them to the dogs. The feeding of holy things to dogs was so appalling and scandalous that it underlies the denial of one’s right to dispose freely of sacrificial meat.

In Did. 9:5d the use of “what is holy” (to hagion) involves a degree of transference. The status of being explicitly sacrificial, originally restricted to the Temple service, is conferred on what in essence is not a sacrificial meal.[30] The saying “Do not give what is holy to dogs” shows the application of the cultic terminology to an extra-Temple domain and to figurative dogs. The established proverb is used in a metaphorical way as it is meant to enforce and justify the exclusion of the unbaptized—characterized here as (scavenging) dogs—from the eucharistic food. Dogs represent the Gentiles in their impure state. The Jewish requirement of being in a state of ritual purity became the precondition for partaking in the ceremony of eating holy food within the community of the Didache.

Although it is impossible to say with certainty how the saying in Matt. 7:6 was given its present form, the following reconstruction of its history of transmission seems likely. Initially, there was a separate short statement presupposing the Jewish proverb “Holy things are not to be redeemed to feed them to dogs.” The maxim in the Didache suggesting a different cultic setting and associating “dogs” with Gentiles reflects a second stage in the development of the tradition. It may have been a genuine saying of Jesus (“for concerning this the Lord has spoken”), but it is equally possible that the maxim was attributed to Jesus in a later period. In any case, the verbal identity of the Greek wording suggests the use of a common Greek source as far as the one-member clause in Did. 9:5d and Matt. 7:6a is concerned. The entirety of Matt. 7:6 apparently represents some further point in history where the line about the pearls and the swine came to be coupled to the basic saying about the holy and dogs. The focus on purity as a separate concern disappeared and the former meaning gave way altogether to a new sense. It remains difficult to tell, however, whether the latter modification in Matt. 7:6 emerged only in the final stage of the editing of the gospel or whether it had already taken place in the tradition before it came to Matthew.

Matt. 18:15-17 in Light of Did. 15:3
The section in Matt. 18:15-20 outlines the procedure to be adopted when a fellow believer digresses from the norms of the community. The text in Matt. 18:15-17, missing in both Mark and Luke, contains a halakhic rule for how to respond to a personal offence committed by a fellow believer:

18:15If your brother sins against you, go and reprove him (elenxon), between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.

The offender is given three chances to settle the issue. If a brother has sinned against another, the offended party should reprove his brother in private and discuss the issue in such a way as to lead him to accept his fault. If this first admonishment fails, the wronged individual should take along two witnesses according to Jewish law (Deut. 19:15). If this second effort likewise does not bring about a satisfactory resolution, the matter is to be brought before the whole community. When the offender remains recalcitrant and refuses to listen to the “church,” he should be treated like a “Gentile and tax-collector,” meaning that the associations with the sinner are broken off.[31] He is declared to be outside the limits of the community. Verses 18-20, though in contrast to the immediately preceding text addressing the audience in the second person plural, continue the section with some proverbial statements by Jesus that ground the jurisdiction of the church in these matters. The decision of the community after the three-step legal process is immediately ratified in heaven.

In Jesus’ presentation the ill-treated party takes the initiative to resolve a grievance in three well-defined stages: first, privately, then with the help of a few witnesses, and finally with the force of the entire community. Those who have been persistently reluctant to recognize the criticism of their sinfulness end up being shunned. The conditional sentences (eight times in vv. 15-20) are typical of casuistic law as they describe various situations that might arise. The judicial style of our passage is underscored by the reference to witnesses who may be called by the prosecution.

There is widespread recognition that the contents of Did. 15:3 match those of Matt. 18:15-17 as both passages deal with reproof.[32] In Did. 15:3, it is the instruction itself which displays an intense preoccupation with the spirit in which reproof is undertaken:

Reprove one another (elenchete de allēlous) not in anger (en orgē) but in peace (en eirēnē), as you have it in the gospel; and let no one speak to anyone who wrongs another—let him not hear [a word] from you—until he has repented. (Did. 15:3)

Here it concerns the “reproof of a brother,” implying someone being confronted in a friendly manner with an error he or she has committed. If the errant brother (or sister), despite this reproof, continues to wrong his fellow believer, the members of the community are prohibited from further relating to him until he repents. The Didache appeals to “the gospel” here. The directive to reprove one another not in a hostile way, but with a respectful attitude, is something that can be read or heard in the “gospel.” In this specific case where the statement attached to this introduction formula provides a quotation or allusion showing detailed textual agreement with the Gospel of Matthew, one might expect the Didache to be dependent on Matthew.

Before going into the subject, however, it is of significance to point out that in addition to Matt. 18:15-17 and Did. 15:3, the act of reproof is also found elsewhere in the Jewish cultural world at the time. The forensic course of proceedings connected with reproof which probably lies buried in the text of Matt. 18:15-17 was developed exclusively by the Qumran community.[33] It was not part of the legal system in the rest of Palestine. The most relevant passage in this respect is found in the following part of the Community Rule (1QS):

23They shall register them in the rule, one before the other, according to his insight and his works that they may all obey one another, the lower one (in rank obeying) the higher one (in rank). In order to examine
24their spirit and their works year after year that they may promote each according to his insight and the perfection of his way, or to demote him according to his failings. They shall reprove (lehokhiakh)
25one another in t[ru]th, humility, and compassionate love (be’e[met] we’anwah we’ahavat khesed) toward man.—empty space—Let no one speak to his neighbour with anger or with a snarl,
26or with a [stiff] neck [or in a jealous] spirit of wickedness. And he must not hate him [in the fores]k[in] of his heart but let him reprove him (yokhikhenu) on the same day lest
VI, 1he incur a sin because of him. And in addition, let no man bring a matter against his neighbour before the Many except after reproof before witnesses (1QS V, 23b-VI, 1b).

This segment deals with the annual examination of all members of the Qumran community and the reproof of fellow members. Interestingly, in the middle of line 25, the scribe of 1QS left a space, and made a mark in the margin as a paragraph sign. Since this is also the point at which the third person plural changes into the singular, these features may indicate a distinct break in the literary pattern and leave us with a basic division of the passage. The lines 24b-25a are closely linked to 23c-24a, which describe the annual inspection of the position of each member of the community’s complex hierarchic system. The statements are linked grammatically by the third person plural. The reproach is to be administered “in truth, and humility and compassionate love.” This passage thus reveals a particular concern for the offender. Reproof in 23b-25a seems to belong to the private sphere of relationships where the precepts are formulated in terms of warm encouragement. In this segment, reproof does not function within the judicial framework of a violation of the Law of Moses but serves as part of the annual examination and classification of the Qumran members. The notion of reproof occurs in 1QS V, 23b-25b in the context of the setback in status due to disloyalty to the community’s moral instruction in the preceding year.[34]

The substance of the second part (1QS V, 25b-VI, 1) enlarges on the exegesis of the biblical reproof passage in the Damascus Document, that is, CD IX, 2-8, 16-23. In the two units, not presented here for brevity’s sake, reproof is part of a judicial procedure. Reproof in front of witnesses, it is stated in CD IX, 2-8, was a legal requirement to be carried out prior to the judicial decision. The other passage in the same document (CD IX, 16-23) deals with the duty of witnesses to reprove. Reproving is again a necessary part of the legal process. At variance with CD IX, 2-8, however, in which the “elders” are the instance before whom the reproof is brought, here it is the “Examiner” (or the “Overseer”) in whose presence the process must take place. Anyway, the statements in CD IX, 2-8 (3-4) and 16-23 (17-19) show that reproof in front of witnesses is required when carrying out a legal action. Instead of reproving a fellow privately, it must be part of a formal procedure in the presence of witnesses. Also in 1QS, the reproaching of one’s fellow seems at first sight to be presented as a preliminary step in the judicial process: one must reproach one’s fellow before bringing the case before witnesses and in a later stage before “the many” (ha-rabim), a technical term referring to the full members of the community. The statements in 1QS VI, 1; CD IX, 3-4 and 17-19 show that reproof in front of witnesses is required when carrying out a legal action. Instead of reproving a fellow privately, it must be part of a formal procedure in the presence of witnesses. In general, reproof had a juridical character in Qumran.[35]

The caves at Qumran. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

It is doubtful, however, whether 1QS shows the same extent of legality as do the two passages in the Damascus Document. The passage V, 23b-VI, 1b reveals a particular concern for the offender. Even if it belongs to a forensic procedure that must be executed in accordance with specific legal norms, it has no judicial air to it. Each year, the community is to convene in a special session to examine the spiritual qualities and actions even of full members so as to re-allot their positions in the community. The verb lehokhiakh (‘to reprove, expose, uncover, demonstrate the mistake or guilt’) in line 24 conceivably prepares for the phrase “let him reprove him (yokhikhenu)” in the second part of the unit (V, 25b-VI, 1). The members are apparently stimulated to solve their difficulties between themselves, and they should appeal to the legal system when this fails. In 1QS the first act of the reproach is to take place privately (in the form of a moral exhortation) between the two contenders alone[36] whereas, in CD, the presence of witnesses is vital for reproving from the very first step. While in CD IX, 2-8, 16-23, the process of reproving occurs in two stages, in 1QS, the member at fault has three chances to have the problem solved. Since the judicial scenario of reproach was developed uniquely by the sect, the Matthean tradition must have been influenced by (a document or oral tradition from) Qumran or a similar community. Reproof in 1QS V, 23-VI, 1, as in Matthew, involves a three-step process: in private (V, 23-26 = Matt. 18:15), before witnesses (VI, 1 = Matt. 18:16), and before the Many (VI, 1 = Matt. 18:17).

The evidence is thus almost completely against the hypothesis that the composer of the Didache took the reproof materials from Matt. 18:15-17. Comparing the reproof passage in Did. 15:3 with the one in Matt. 18:15-17, one can only conclude that these passages are very different, as the former displays a striking concern for charity toward the offender. Whereas Matthew emphasizes reproof as a necessary part of the legal process, any legal connotation is missing in Did. 15:3. On the contrary, Did. 15:3 does not even mention witnesses! The act of reproving is marked by brotherly love. Moreover, the Didache limits the duration of expulsion to the moment of repentance whereas in Matthew we find a rigidly official procedure emphasizing the possibility of permanent expulsion without any indication that the offender can be received back again in the community.[37]

It might be appropriate, therefore, to suggest that 1QS V, 24b-25 or a similar text was the source for Did. 15:3a:

They shall reprove one another (lehokhiakh ish et re’eho) in t[ru]th, humility, and compassionate love (be’e[met] we’anwah we’ahavat khesed) toward man. Let no one speak to his neighbour with anger (be’af) or with a snarl,…. (1QS V,24b-25)

The Greek phrase “reprove one another” (elenchete de allēlous) in Did. 15:3a may even be a translation of its Hebrew counterpart “they shall reprove one another” (lehokhiakh ish et re’eho) in 1QS V, 24b-25. Moreover, the circumstances in which mutual correction is to take place should not be rage or agitation (en orgē // Hebrew par. be’af) but harmony and friendliness (en eirēnē // Hebrew par. be’e[met] we’anwah we’ahavat khesed).[38] Both passages, Did. 15:3a and 1QS V, 24b-25, emphasizing fraternal reproof in a spirit of generosity, friendliness, and compassion demonstrate similarity in that they are almost identical verbally. The reproof passages in Matthew and the Didache show clear indications of having been developed from a text closely related to the one in 1QS V, 23-VI, 1.

Conclusion: The Relevance of Did. 7-16 for the interpretation of Matthew

The term “gospel” in Did. 15:3 or the phrase “the Lord has spoken” in Did. 9:5c do not seem to entail a dependence on Matthew. On the contrary, these designations are probably best understood as references to oral or written collections of sayings ascribed to the authority of Jesus upon which both Didache and Matthew drew. The text of these collections was likely to be circulating among its hearers and readers.

As we have seen, there are more instances in Did. 7-16 showing agreement with Matthew.[39] They too may be reproducing Jewish or Jewish Christian sources. Apparently independently of each other, Didache and Matthew drew these materials from a common pool of traditions, but reworked and contextualized them differently. In any case, it is significant to know that the Didache, in specific cases, reflects sayings at an earlier stage of their development than their parallels in Matthew.

2.3. Matthew in Light of Didache 1-6: The Two Ways

The motif of the Two Ways in Matthew 7:13-14 recalls the beginning of the Two Ways teaching in the first six chapters of the Didache. The Matthean passage has often been taken to be the source of Did. 1:1.[40] We have seen that in the Didache, the statement on two contrasting moral ways serves as a framework for the subsequent exposition of two sets of opposing ethical characteristics or antagonistic groups of people associated with the way of life (Did. 1-4) and the way of death (Did. 5), respectively. In Matt. 7:13-14, however, the metaphor has a different function. There it refers to reactions to the main body of Jesus’ explanation of the Law in the preceding part of the Sermon on the Mount (5:17-7:12). This brings us to a range of difficult questions about the Law in Matthew’s gospel. How does Matthew understand Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah? How does this Sermon relate to the Greek Two Ways? What was the relationship of Matthew’s community to Judaism? What is the role of the Torah in Matthew’s Gospel? How should we portray the type of Judaism Matthew is in dispute with?

As seen above (section 1.1), early versions of the Two Ways, found in Did. 1-6, Barnabas 18-20, and the Doctrina Apostolorum, attest to a separate circulation of a form of the Two Ways very much akin to Did. 1-6 and prove that the doctrine was widely known in the first Christian centuries. For our purposes it is important to realise that the (hypothetical) version generally reflects the wording of the Two Ways in the Didache, except for the Christianised sections 1:3b-2:1 and 6:2-3. Therefore, this paper will stick with the Christian Didache excluding those parts and details differing from the hypothesized Greek Two Ways.

The following pages will clarify that Didache 1-6 Did. not draw on Matthew but, rather that Matthew in all probability made use of the Two Ways in both his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-7:27) and the Story of the Rich Young Man (Matt. 19:16-30).

The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-7:27) in Light of the Two Ways

Within first-century Christian circles, the doctrine of the Two Ways was employed in pre-baptismal instruction. This is explicitly stated in Did. 7:1, in a verse that directly follows the rendering of the Two Ways section: “As for baptism, baptize this way. After you have said all these things [i.e., all that is written above], baptize” (7:1). The candidate who applied for baptism was instructed in the ethical catechesis as contained in a written or oral Two Ways tradition. It is possible that the supposed life situation of a Two Ways tradition used by Matthew—that is the setting of the Two Ways before it was introduced into the present context of the Gospel—might have also been a catechetical situation, perhaps even an instruction for neophytes.[41]

Essentials of the Two Ways are particularly similar to elements of Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 5:3-7:27. The Sermon on the Mount, bracketed by the ascent of and descent from the mountain in 5:1 and 8:1, is the first detailed portrayal of Jesus as a teacher in Matthew’s Gospel. In the Sermon we can distinguish three main parts:

  1. the introduction (5:3-16),
  2. the main body (5:17-7:12) and
  3. the last section representing concluding warnings (7:13-27).

For our purpose, it is important to note that the outlook and practice promoted in the Beatitudes of the first part of the Sermon are thoroughly Jewish.

1. These proclamations (5:3-12) are pervaded with a tone of promise but, at the same time they breathe an atmosphere of exhortation and moral admonition on appropriate attitudes and correct conduct. Matthew shares four Beatitudes with Luke (6:20-22), referring to the poor, the hungry, those who weep, and those who are persecuted.

The additional five Beatitudes in his gospel (Matt. 5:5-9) show a great interest in highly developed ethical behaviour. This advanced standard of morality, permeating the entire Sermon on the Mount, reflects the views operative in Hasidic Jewish circles,[42] a distinct group within the society of Pharisees and rabbis practising an austere interpretation of halakhoth, performing good deeds and showing a far-reaching trust in God and providence.[43] Rather than emphasising a strictly legal, halakhic approach to the Law, their instructions display a moral, personal and ethical attitude to life. As seen above (section 1.1), it was especially the early layer of this Derekh Erets literature that embodied a refined human ethic, highlighting acts of charity, modesty and humility. Prominent in this doctrine is a rigorous attitude towards the prevailing halakha and the propensity for good deeds in public life, such as the redemption of captives, the restoration of property, the consolation of mourners, the giving of alms, etc. Because they believed that a literal interpretation of the commandments resulted from a lack of positive motivation, they Did. more than the Law required. In Matt. 5:5-9, God’s blessing is promised to those disciples who exhibit attitudes of meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace making.

2. The central section of the Sermon in Matthew opens and closes with references to “the Law and the Prophets” (5:17 and 7:12). This section in turn is divided into two further parts. The first part is the unit in 5:17-48, which presents a collection of materials dealing with the Law. This unit begins with an introduction containing a programmatic statement on the validity of the Torah in Matt. 5:17-20. In the next segment of this first unit (5:21-48), the so-called “antitheses” occur, each of which is made up of two parts including an initial quotation from the Law and, so it seems at first glance, Jesus’ refutation of it. The second half of the Decalogue is likely to be at the background of this section.[44]

Both the introduction (Matt. 5:17-20) and the antitheses (5:21-48) presuppose a similar spiritual and ethical thought that can also be found within the pious Jewish circles mentioned above. They believed that fulfilment of explicit halakhic duty was not in itself enough in that it Did. not exhaust one’s moral responsibility and, as a consequence, they Did. more than the literal interpretation of the Law required. The traditional material behind Matt. 5:17-48 may have been derived from a source that was identical or similar to the child (teknon) passage in Did. 3:1-6. In order to really appreciate the relevance of this unit a more detailed comment is needed.

Did. 3:1-6 consists of five small strophes, each structured according to the same distinctive, symmetrical pattern not present elsewhere in the Two Ways. Apart from some slight changes, they are built in the same framework and employ the same terminology. The verses 2-6 display a particular repetitive pattern in that each is divided into two parallel halves. The first half contains a warning against a specific minor transgression because such a sin, so it says, “leads to” a major transgression. Then, in the second half, an admonishment is offered against two or more minor sins, for these too are considered to “give birth to” a major transgression. With respect to Matt. 5:17-48 the first three verses are rendered here:

(3:1) My child (teknon mou), flee from all evil and from everything like it.

(3:2) a. Be not angry,

b. for anger leads to murder,

c. nor jealous nor irascible nor hot-tempered

d. for from these murders are born.

(3:3) a. My child, be not desirous,

b. for desire leads to sexual immorality,

c. nor foul-mouthed nor indiscreetly peering

d. for from all these adulteries are born.

Theme and terminology of Did. 3:1-6 betray close affinities with material collected and preserved in the pious milieu of early Hasidic Sages. The concept presupposed in Did. 3:1-6 is the Jewish distinction between “minor and major” or “light and heavy” commandments. The emphasis is on minor transgressions like, for example, in 4 Macc. 5:19-21. Dismissing the suggestion that less weighty sins are less serious, these verses say:

Accordingly, you must not regard it as a minor sin for us to eat unclean food; minor sins are just as weighty as great sins, for in each case the Law is despised.

The focus on the light commandments also occurs in instances of rabbinic literature like m. ’Abot 2:1; m. ’Abot 4:2 and in various other cases.[45] Moreover, an echo of the rabbinic usage of “light” and “weighty” precepts is found in the wording of Jesus: “and you have neglected the weightier matters of the Law” in Matt. 23:23b. Although explicit statements with regard to light and weighty directives are not found in the Greek Two Ways, the section in 3:1-6 is related to these views. It explains the connection between a light sin and a heavy one as the transgression of a minor precept (no anger, envy, irascibleness, etc.) leading to a transgression of a major one (murder etc.). The passage not only requires strict observance of the major precepts, but adherence to the minor commandments as well.

The most pertinent parallel to the preamble in Did. 3:1 and the subsequent strophes in 3:2-6 is found in the rabbinic Derekh Erets tractates. In these tracts, the following ethical rule serves as a résumé of moral codes:

Keep aloof from that which leads to transgression, keep aloof from everything hideous and from what even seems hideous. Shudder from committing a minor transgression, lest it leads you to commit a major transgression. Hurry to (perform) a minor precept, for this will lead you to (perform) a major precept.[46]

Certain things, not forbidden by the Law, were taken in these pious circles to be actual transgressions and are referred to as light sins. The saying shows that the popular adage, to be as careful of an unimportant precept as of an important one, in its original meaning was an alternative form of the counsel:

My child, flee from all evil and from anything resembling it. (Did. 3:1)

The preoccupation of this teknon-section as a whole, with its repetitive use of the phrase teknon mou (“my child”) is expressed in the introductory sentence of 3:1. It is intended to highlight the avoidance of anything resembling evil because it leads to evil itself. The tradition is the basis upon which the hasidically-oriented materials have been formulated as a moral guide for Derekh Erets.

The opening unit in Matt. 5:17-20 has the programmatic significance of supplying the reader with a clue as to the right interpretation of the Scripture quotations in the subsequent antitheses. In this opening section, we face the transparent principles of hermeneutics which are applied to the traditional commandments of the Scripture in Matt. 5:21-48. It is not difficult to envisage that the sayings in Matt. 5:19 and GTW 3:1 belong to the same particular strand of Jewish tradition:

5:18For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

When Matthew has Jesus demand that the disciples’ righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20), he not only validates the maintenance of the Torah (v. 18) but also the keeping of the “least of these commandments” (v. 19). The jot and tittle stand for both the smallest graphic elements of the Law in a literal (v. 18) and figurative (v. 19) sense. The Matthe-an features become particularly clear in Matt. 5:20, which certainly exhibits Matthew’s favorite diction, that is, his choice of words and phraseology.[47] Through redactional shaping Matthew seems to be countering contemporary issues of authority. The “scribes and Pharisees,” his opponents, are negative counterparts to the disciples.[48] The expression about “righteousness” going “beyond” that of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20) is echoed in 5:48: “You, therefore, must be perfect (teleioi), as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleios).” The idea of greater righteousness is found again in the idea of perfection in 5:48 and both verses 5:20 and 48 serve to frame the six antitheses in 5:21-47.

In Matt. 5:21-48, Jesus is presented as an authoritative teacher in order to establish a binding interpretation of the Torah against the views of a contending party. His counterstatement radicalises, intensifies and transcends the premise rather than revoking or changing it.[49] The sayings concern anger and murder, lust and adultery, divorce, and teachings about oaths, retaliation, and love of one’s enemy. Their meaning boils down to the following: Not only must you not kill, you must not even reach that level of anger (5:21-22). Not only must you not commit adultery, you must not even look desirously at another man’s wife (5:27-28) and so forth.[50]

This was also the quintessence of pious ethics. The maxim “be heedful of a light precept as of a weighty one” (m. ’Abot 2:1) serves as a recapitulation of morality found in the refined ethics represented by the Derekh Erets tracts.[51] The saying provides the critical principle by which the Law is to be read, interpreted and evaluated within the early milieu of Derekh Erets and within the circles in which the Two Ways and Matt. 5:17-48 were originally kept alive. In Matt. 5:21-48 Jesus carries forward the teaching already implicit in the weighty commandments by expounding them within the parameters of the maxim that a light commandment is as important as a weighty one.[52]

The second division (Matt. 6:1-7:12) of the central section of the Sermon on the Mount is only indirectly connected with issues of the Law and is somewhat loosely related to the other Sermon elements as well. In 7:12, finally, this middle section is brought to a close by a positive formulation of the Golden Rule:

So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew’s version of the Golden Rule is somewhat peculiar as compared with Luke since in Matt. 7:12c the ensuing phrase is provided, indicating that the Golden Rule can serve as an underlying principle of “the Law and the Prophets.” The clause is missing in the parallel verse in Luke 6:31. It may have been inserted by Matthew to create a deliberate link between the Golden Rule and the almost identical phrase in 5:17.

The vv. 5:17 and 7:12, then, form a thematic inclusion around the core of the middle section. Inserted at the end of the main body of the Sermon, the Golden Rule occupies a significant position. Matthew perceives the Golden Rule as an eminent summary and decisive climax of the preceding demands, prohibitions, and ethical discussion in 5:17-7:12.[53] In the final resolution, the Law is reaffirmed and joined with the principle of love of neighbour. To love God and one’s neighbour embraces the entirety of the Law and the prophets (Matt. 22:34-40). At this point it is essential to note that the same phenomenon occurs in the teaching of Didache 1-6. In the Greek Two Ways 1:2, the double love commandment, i.e., love of God and love of neighbour, and the Golden Rule serve as the essential components of the Way of Life.[54]

The importance of this observation increases when one sees that Matthew—unlike Mark and Luke—places the Golden Rule in close proximity to a statement on the Two Ways in Matt. 7:13-14:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life (zōē), and those who find it are few.

These verses show close affinities to Luke 13:23-24:

And someone said to him: ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, ‘Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’

Both Matthew and Luke might have drawn on the common Q source. We cannot deal with this verse extensively here, but suffice it to note that according to many scholars Luke has retained the statement in a more authentic form.[55] Because the Two Ways motif in Matthew appears to seriously interfere with the structural pattern of the statement on the gates in Luke, it may have been added to the proclamation at a later stage.[56] In that case, Matthew or his tradition adapted and expanded the original gate saying by the inclusion of the Two Ways emphasis.

3. At the beginning of the final section of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew opens a general drift of two opposing paradigms by presenting the Two Ways (7:13-14), contrasting the way that leads to destruction with the way that leads to life. In these concluding units he confronts the readers with an ultimatum. The choice is between these alternatives and there is no middle way. They represent the dualistic trend of answering Jesus’ call for acceptance of his words. The metaphor of the Two Ways and its elaboration in Matt. 7:13-27 reflects the reactions to Jesus’ explanation of the Law in the preceding part of the Sermon on the Mount. The admonition against false prophets (7:15-23) offers a polarity of good trees and virtuous fruit (good natures generating good deeds) with bad trees and evil fruit (bad natures producing bad deeds). The community is warned against false prophets who are hard to identify. But since a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit, the disciples can discern these disguised false prophets by their practices and lifestyle. In 7:19 the Matthean Jesus depicts their fate at the final judgment. The tree that bears bad fruit will be cut down for firewood.[57]

This subject of false prophets continues through vv. 21-23, mentioning those who do the will of the Father as opposed to those who do not. Although the false prophets confess Jesus as Lord, prophesy in his name and perform other mighty works, Matthew has Jesus radically dismiss them with the words from Ps 6:9 as “workers of lawlessness” (7:23). They fail to do the will of the Father. In the subsequent parable of the two builders (7:24-27), the antithesis is between those hearing and obeying the words of Jesus and those hearing but not obeying them. He who hears Jesus’ words and obeys them is compared to a wise man who built his house upon a rock. On the other hand, he who hears Jesus’ words and does not obey them is compared to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. The first house built on the solid foundation (that is, those who hear and follow the teachings of Jesus) will survive the overwhelming and threatening storm and flood, that is, final judgment,[58] whereas the latter (those who hear but do not follow Jesus’ teachings) will be entirely devastated.

The Way of Life and the Way of Death as metaphor in Matt. 7:13-14 have been given an orientation toward the ultimate destiny of humankind. Closely related to the ethics of the Greek Two Ways, Jesus is the one who definitively interprets the Law so that his words provide the basis for “life” (5:21-48; 7:24-27; 12:1-14). Entering the narrow gate or going down the constricted way by means of bearing good fruit (7:17), performing the will of the Father (7:21), or complying with the words of Jesus (7:24) ultimately leads to a state of unending blessedness. Going the right way is responding to the words of Jesus which, in fact, comes down to living in accordance with his exposition of the Law (5:17 and 7:12) as it is delivered in the Sermon on the Mount.

Examining the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, one establishes that the Two Ways motif (Matt. 7:13-14) appears close to the Golden Rule (7:12), which is the essential scope and climax of the preceding rules of conduct for believers. Furthermore, it was observed that the section in 5:17-48 reflects the second half of the Decalogue and emphasizes a distinct characteristic of Derekh Erets.[59] Finally, the macarisms (beatitudes) in 5:3-12 embodied the type of norms and values which pious Hasidic Jews strived for. The same elements are found in the Greek Two Ways, albeit in an inverted position. There the metaphor of the Way of Life (1:1) is followed by the Golden Rule and the double love command as the fundamental principles underlying the further explanation of the Way of Life (1:2). Did. 2:2-7 contains a list of precepts clearly meant to illustrate, expand and expound upon the second half of the Decalogue.[60] A similar catalogue of Decalogue materials is found in the vices listed in the teknon-unit in Did. 3:1-6. This part of the Two Ways is followed by and concluded with a list of moral values in which counsel about social conduct, acquiescent meekness and a gentle heart prevails (3:7-4:14). The portions Matt. 5:3-12, 17-48; 7:12, 13-14 probably represent a reworking of a pre-Matthean Q source which is also reflected in Luke 6:20-49 and 13:23-24. Matthew may have considerably revised the Q sermon here under the influence of an ancient Two Ways version.

The Story of the Rich Young Man (Matt. 19:16-30) in Light of the Two Ways

In addition to the Sermon on the Mount, the Matthean version of the story of the Rich Young Man is also coloured by a form of the Two Ways. Matthew’s acquaintance with the Two Ways suggests the possibility that he read the Markan version of the rich man’s account in a similar vein.

The story—as reported by Matthew—consists of three parts.[61] In the first subsection (19:16-22) a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments of the second half of the Decalogue. The young man claims he has observed them and Jesus then instructs him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. This proves too much to ask of the young man. He goes away sad. The second and third subsections render Jesus’ discussions with his disciples. He first (vv. 23-26) instructs them about wealth, emphasizing that it will be as impossible for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom as it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The disciples ask whether anyone can be saved and Jesus replies that God is able to do everything. The third subsection (vv. 27-30) contrasts the rich man’s refusal to give away his wealth with the disciples’ response of leaving families and possessions. Peter asks what he and the other disciples who have left everything and followed Jesus will receive as their reward.

The Matthean version of the story as a whole is based upon Mark 10:17-31. Both accounts evidence the basic idea of a fundamental contrast between possessions and property in this life and the treasures of the coming kingdom. Closer examination, however, shows that Matthew has exercised considerable freedom in rewriting Mark’s account. The story of the rich young man opens with the question in Matt. 19:16: “What good deed must I do to have eternal life (zōē aiōnion)?” The first usage of the word “life” in Matthew’s Gospel is found in Matt. 7:13-14, where there is mention of an easy way “that leads to destruction” and a hard way “that leads to life (zōē).” The antithetical parallelism recalls the beginning of a teaching of the Two Ways section passed on in the first six chapters of the Didache.

Matthew might have read the Markan version of the rich man’s story along the same lines. What changes does he make to his Markan source? Right at the beginning, Matthew has the rich young man ask: “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life? (19:16). Matthew has Jesus reply in v. 17 by replacing the man’s wording of “to have” with “to enter” and changing “eternal life” to just “life”: “If you wish to enter life (zōē), keep the commandments.” A first indication suggesting an image of a way or road is found right at the beginning of Jesus’ dialogue with the rich man. This revision is redactional and seems to reflect an attempt to conceive the question within the framework of the Two Ways. It “transfers the man from the market to the road and implies that he must make a pilgrimage instead of a purchase.”[62]

Another remarkable change in comparison to Mark is Matthew’s transformation of the man into a young man in v. 20. Matthew drops the phrase “from my youth” in Mark 10:20 and labels him “the young man” twice (19:20, 22). In Luke 18:18 the young man is called a “ruler” which may be considered another hint of his being mature in age. Why Did. Matthew alter the man’s age? Matthew may have identified the questioner as a “young man” so as to emphasize the instruction needed to enter a new life. We have seen that the Two Ways often served as a basic catechetical instruction preceding the ritual of baptism. Since the life situation (Sitz-im-Leben) of the teaching used by Matthew was a catechetical one, perhaps even an instruction for neophytes, Matthew compared the rich man to a convert and calls him “young.”[63]

Additional alterations introduced in Mark’s version of the story betray Two Ways traits as well. Matthew’s negative formulation of the commandments—all having the Greek negative ou (“not”) followed by a second person future indicative instead of (“not”) followed by an aorist subjunctive—deviates from Mark’s wording. Matthew Did. not assimilate the rendering of Scripture here to the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, but instead adapted Mark’s rendering of the commandments to the phraseology of his Two Ways version. In his usage of the negative ou followed by a second person future indicative, Matthew falls back on the Two Ways wording that exhibits the same phraseology.[64]

More important is the adjustment in Matt. 19:18-19. Jesus instructs the questioner to keep the second table of the Decalogue in order to enter life. The link between “life” and commandments was quite common in Jewish tradition.[65] Matt. 19:18-19 might thus reflect traces of a common catechism, a view that is substantiated by the Greek article to (“the”) preceding the Decalogue commands in Matt. 19:18. When Matthew, deviating from Mark 10:19 (and Luke 18:20), appends this to, he as much as says he is reproducing familiar (catechetical) material. And there is something else here that is significant. Unlike Mark, Matthew attaches the summary command of Lev. 19:18 as well. The commands from the second table of the Decalogue are associated with neighbourly love:

You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. (Matt. 19:18b-19)

By stressing the triad of life (zōē in v. 16 and again in v. 17), the second table of the Decalogue (vv. 18b-19a), and the principle of neighbourly love (v. 19b) Matthew’s version of the Rich Man’s episode reflects a substantial part of the Two Ways teaching.[66] For we have seen that the reconstructed Way of Life is defined first by a fusion of the commandments of divine and altruistic love, the subsequent Golden Rule and a list of precepts covering the second table of the Ten Commandments in Did. 2:2-7.[67] By introducing this material through the article to Matthew was able to recall the whole of the common instruction about the Way of Life.

The term “perfect” (teleios) in the clause “if you wish to be perfect” (v. 21) has no Markan counterpart and, aside from the additional occurrence in Matt. 5:48, it is not found anywhere else in the Gospels. In Matt. 5:48 it serves to conclude 5:21-48, the pericope which presents examples of what it means to abide by a “greater righteousness.” Jesus’ requirement in 5:20 that the disciples’ righteousness must “go beyond” than that of the scribes and Pharisees[68] is echoed in 5:48: “You, therefore, must be perfect (teleioi), as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleios).” The charge in Matt. 19:21 corresponds to the greater righteousness announced in Matt. 5:20, implying that more Torah must be done than the legal minimum.[69] Following Jesus requires observing the commandments along with their explanation by Jesus. Since the word teleios is lacking in the other Gospels it is surprising to find it in the Didache twice. In Did. 1:4 the phrase “and you will be perfect” occurs in a context of non-retaliation, while in Did. 6:2a those who are able to carry the “whole yoke of the Lord” are called “perfect.” As already indicated, I believe Did. 1:3b-2:1 and 6:2-3 to be later Christian additions to a basic Jewish Two Ways tradition. On the other hand, the repeated occurrence of the term “perfect” in precisely those Matthean contexts which display a close affinity with the Two Ways may indicate that Matthew was acquainted with a copy of the Two Ways that included Did. 6:2-3. Matthew might have used a Christianized Two Ways since the instruction probably preceded baptism in his community.

We can draw the conclusion, then, that the Two Ways teaching sheds light on the story of the rich young man in Matt. 19:16-22 in two respects. First, it is clear that observance of the second table of the Decalogue in vv. 18-19 does not suffice to be qualified for eternal life. In Matthew the rich man asks: “What do I still lack” (v. 20b)? Obviously the speaker believes he has faithfully observed the Law, but in spite of his obedience Matthew shows him to be aware of his failure to enter life. Matthew has Jesus reply in v. 21: “If you wish to be perfect (teleios), then go, sell all your possessions and give to the poor.” This higher ethical standard is not an additional requirement but the concrete enactment of the command to love one’s neighbour.[70]

This brings us to the second point. There appears to be a significant distinction between keeping Torah within a normal Jewish framework of expectations (vv. 18-19) and keeping Torah as defined by the love command (vv. 18-22). In Matthew, the emphasis on obeying the second half of the Decalogue is far more than simply a quantitative demand for compliance with every commandment; it is a requirement to live out all the implications of loving one’s neighbour. Of course, Matthew’s presentation varies from the pattern in the Two Ways tradition since he relies significantly on Mark’s Gospel and largely follows his word order. Yet, by adding the love commandment to the second part of the Decalogue, Matthew indicates that rather than considering all injunctions of the Torah of equal weight, he prioritizes values. In Matthew and the Two Ways the love commandment is a principle of primary significance. The Law is subordinated to a single dominant perspective through which all the other commandments and directives are interpreted.[71]

It is important to establish that in describing Jesus’ general statement about the rich in vv. 23-26, Matthew still follows Mark’s narrative quite closely and preserves the same solution: ultimately only God makes salvation possible (v. 26). In v. 23 Matthew largely agrees with the phraseology of Mark 10:23 where Jesus turns from the rich man to his disciples commenting on what has just happened: “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.’” The next verse in Mark, however, is not found in Matthew: “And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard is it to enter the kingdom of God!’” It is striking that after 19:23 Matthew omits the wide-ranging statement of Mark 10:24. Whereas Mark has changed the subject from the rich man to all men, Matthew keeps the discussion on the subject of riches and the kingdom.[72] He finds it impossible for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom.

According to Matthew, one either lives by God’s values or by those based on wealth. A similar dualistic trend is found in Matt. 7:13-14 where the Two Ways theme sets the stage for the contrasting replies to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that follow in the final section (7:13-27). The Two Ways represent the dualistic trend of answering Jesus’ call for acceptance of his words. The deeds or behaviour of the false prophets (7:15-23) offers a polarity of good trees and virtuous fruit with bad trees and evil fruit. This subject continues through vv. 21-23, mentioning those who do the will of the Father as opposed to those who do not. Also, in the subsequent parable of the two builders (7:24-27) the antithesis is between those hearing and practising the words of Jesus and those hearing but not practising them.

The call for voluntary poverty in Matt. 19:21 was not answered in v. 22. For the sake of his wealth the rich man rejected Jesus’ offer of eternal life by walking the right path. In 19:23-26, the image of the two ways is applied in terms of a behavioural contrast between the wealthy and others. Wealth and prosperity is a power that forces a rich man to choose between God and his possessions, between treasure in heaven and treasure on earth. In Mark 10:21, Jesus looks at the man and loves him. In Matthew there is no mention of Jesus’ love for the rich young man. After all, this man has forfeited life (see also 6:24 and 16:26) since when given the choice he opted for mammon.

At the beginning of the final section (vv. 27-30), Peter, picking up on Jesus’ promise to the rich man of a “treasure in heaven” (19:21), asks about the disciples’ future and reward (19:27). For in contrast to the rich man, they were not trapped by wealth but “left everything and followed you.” Where the rich man fails, Peter and others succeed. Jesus responds in vv. 28-30. It would take too much space to enter into details here.[73] Suffice it to say that Jesus’ response focuses on the disciples’ fortune at the Last Judgment.

In order to understand we must turn to Matt. 7:13-27 again since that passage closely parallels 19:23-30. We noted above that Matt. 7:13-27 offers the Two Ways (7:13-14) as interpreting two mutually exclusive modes of answering Jesus’ call. The ways of life and death take on new meanings here. In 7:19 the Matthean Jesus depicts the fate at the final judgment of trees that bear bad fruit. They will be cut down for firewood. This is followed by the solemn declaration of a primary criterion of divine judgment in 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” The concluding passage in 7:24-27 sets out stark alternatives again. The first house built on the solid foundation will survive the overwhelming and threatening storm and flood, that is, Last Judgment, whereas the latter will be entirely shattered. The Way of Life and the Way of Death as metaphor in Matt. 7:13-14 have been given an eschatological connotation, an explanation targeted at the End Time. Closely related to the ethics of the Greek Two Ways, Jesus is the one who definitively interprets the Law such that his words provide the basis for “life” (5:21-48; 7:24-27).

A similar Two Ways interpretation seems to be presupposed in Matt. 19:27-30. Since following Jesus involved complete fulfilment of the Torah’s requirements in accordance with Jesus’ exposition, the Twelve are rewarded with the special privilege of sitting on twelve thrones and judging the twelve tribes of Israel (v. 28c).[74] The themes of life and death are interpreted in the perspective of the ultimate destiny of the world. Obedience to the right way is not determined by its puny earthly reward, but instead is remunerated by the infinitely greater post-Judgment reward. This reward is not expected in this mortal life, but as an eschatological good to be realized in immortality. With respect to the approaching End, the word “life” comes to indicate divine exoneration and acquittal contrary to conviction and being found guilty. The interpretation of the terms “life” and “death” is updated to eternal life and eternal death. By his present conduct, by following Jesus, that is, by carrying out the ethical mandates provided, man can also become worthy of eternal life.

3. General Conclusions

It is worth noticing that Did. 9:5d and 15:3 are two instances in the Didache unambiguously referring to “the Lord has spoken” and the “gospel” while at the same time reflecting explicit quotations more or less corresponding to particular occurrences in Matthew. If this meant that the text of the manual derives from Matthew then it would be hard to corroborate, substantiate or readjust a portrayal of the historical situation behind Matthew’s text. In light of the above evidence the conclusion seems justified, however, that rather than the Didache referring to Matthew, both Matthew and the Didache independently transmuted and rewrote similar Jewish traditions. This practice may have been a result of the immediate ties each work had with the community where these traditions were transmitted. It is thus not far-fetched to suppose that at least parts of the text of the Didache 7-16 were compiled in fairly close contact with the community in which Matthew’s gospel arose.

It seems unlikely that the Two Ways teaching, orally or in writing, was restricted to the community from which the Didache is derived. The instruction might have been used as a pre-baptismal catechesis in many local Christian communities other than the Didache. This opens up a whole new area of research that awaits further fruitful exploration with respect to New Testament literature because it allows us additional insight into the situation of the writer and hearers. If familiarity with the Two Ways’ catechesis preceding the rite of baptism was indeed widespread among first-century Christian communities, we will gain a deeper insight in the preconception of early Christians and this would help us better understand their documents.[75] The identification of a pre-literary tradition in literary texts grants us knowledge about the situation of the writer and hearers that otherwise may be overlooked. When we restrict ourselves to the example of the Rich Young Man in Matt. 19:16-30, this line of approach helps us to discover the significance of various themes in vv. 16-22, that is, the question about life, the second half of the Decalogue, the addition of the love command and the reference to perfection. Moreover, this approach also clarifies why Matthew left out most of Mark 10:24 and inserted the eschatological role of the Twelve in Matt. 19:28. Matthew applies the conceptual tool of a choice between life and death by drawing a sharp contrast between voluntary poverty and wealth. Wealthy people cannot enter eternal life (vv. 16-22. 23-26). Only when one observes the rulings of the right Way, “life” becomes “eternal life” which lies entirely in the future (vv. 27-30). Choosing the right way leads to eternal life. Matthew probably envisaged a role for the Two Ways in this Rich Man narrative because he and his intended readers—all baptized followers of Jesus—might have been reminded of their initiation into the Matthean community by reading Mark’s story of discipleship, wealth and eternal life. For this reason, Matthew even emphasizes the rich man’s youth.

It would be conjectural to restore here the form of the Two Ways version that guided Matthew in systematizing his material for the gospel. The tradition of the Two Ways was kept alive within virtuous Jewish factions but developed within the Didache community into a pre-baptismal catechesis for Gentiles. As a result of their education, Jews generally would have grasped what God required of them. For non-Jews, however, the Jewish Two Ways dichotomy served as a framework for understanding the radical alteration in behaviour and commitments that the Gentile convert was expected to make. On the other hand, Matthew also assumed there to be a great difference between his community’s ethos and that of Jewish outsiders. He describes the substantial discrepancy between the tougher standards of his group’s elevated ethics and the circles of scribes and Pharisees as a “going beyond” relation expressed in the ideal of attaining a “perfect” (teleios) moral behaviour. In order to set apart his community from its Jewish environment he probably used a Christianized version of the Two Ways. The insiders were considered a Law-fulfilling community whose righteousness—based on Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah—was even greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20).

The basic ethical unit of the Two Ways finds its best explanation in the light of traditions that were current in Jewish Hasidic circles, i.e., those pious Jewish groups responsible for the formation of the earliest kernel of Derekh Erets literature. The early portions of Derekh Erets and the Two Ways as well as the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (which I did not deal with here), represent a well-defined trend in early Judaism, which met a definite local need in providing humane ethical principles. It is possible that Jesus belonged to these Hasidim. In any case, his moral views of life and humanity, especially his position in the Sermon on the Mount, are so closely related to the ethics of the Greek Two Ways that his approach seems to have evolved out of these very circles.

Of course, Matthew’s portrait of Jesus’ attitude towards the Law must not be separated from Matthew’s own attitude towards the Law and that of his community. We should constantly be aware that in exploring Jesus’ attitude towards the Law, one is, in fact, investigating Jesus’ attitude towards the Law according to Matthew. This is not to deny, however, that some form of the Golden Rule, being a summary of all provisions of the Torah, may have its ultimate roots in Jesus’ ministry. As seen above, the diverse precepts in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:17-7:12 and the Way of Life in Did. 1:2-4:14 are organized by and subsumed under the love command (Matt. 7:12 and Did. 1:2). In Matthew, the absolute importance of this principle of love for interpreting the law is also emphasized in many other ways. The love command of Lev. 19:18 is quoted as many as three times in Matthew (5:43; 19:19; 22:39). Moreover, it is also repeatedly articulated with the help of cognates expressing the concept of “mercy” like eleos (9:13; 12:7; 23:23), eleein (“to have pity” in 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30. 31) and splanchnizesthai (“feel compassion / mercy” in 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34). The emphasis on the love commandments and mercy serve both the community in its internal orientation and in its contrast to other groups.

However, this theme is not just found in Matthew. Evidence in other New Testament writings (Mark 22:31 par.; Luke 6:27-36; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14) indicates that also for Jesus himself the love commandment probably served as the centre of Law. Thus, although the precise formulation and location of the Golden Rule in Matt. 7:12 might be Matthew’s, it hardly seems likely that it would not represent what Jesus actually taught.

  • [1] Huub van de Sandt and David Flusser, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity, (Compendia rerum iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 3/5; Assen: Van Gorcum-Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 16-24.
  • [2] This latter rule is not only reflected in the Two Ways 1:2c but is frequently found throughout Jewish, Christian, and Hellenistic sources. About the so called “Golden Rule,” see Philip S. Alexander, “Jesus and the Golden Rule,” in Hillel and Jesus: Comparative Studies of Two Major Religious Leaders (ed. J. H. Charlesworth and L. L. Johns; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 363-388.
  • [3] Willy Rordorf and André Tuilier, La Doctrine des douze Apôtres (Didachè) (2nd ed.; Sources Chrétiennes 248 bis; Paris: Cerf, 1998), 24; Kurt Niederwimmer, The Didache: A Commentary (trans. L. M. Maloney; Hermeneia, Minneapolis; Fortress, 1998), 36-38.59-63.
  • [4] Such as the Apostolic Church Order, the Epitome of the Canons of the Holy Apostles, the Arabic Life of Shenute, the Ps.-Athanasian Syntagma Doctrinae, and the Fides CCCXVIII Patrum.
  • [5] Van de Sandt and Flusser, The Didache, 155-182.
  • [6] The early layer of these tractates reflects a lifestyle which is called “derekh hasidut,” the way of the pious. It reveals the teachings of the early Hasidim who, according to Myron B. Lerner, “The External Tractates,” in The Literature of the Sages (ed. S. Safrai; Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2/3; Assen: Van Gorcum-Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987) 367-404 (380), “placed extreme stress on self-deprival and the performance of good deeds and acts of loving kindness.”
  • [7] See, e.g., “Hasidim,” Encyclopaedia Judaica (16 vols.; Jerusalem: Keter, 1962), 7:1383-1388; Heinz Kremers, “Die Ethik der galiläischen Chassidim und die Ethik Jesu,” in K. Ebert, Alltagswelt und Ethik (Wuppertal: Peter Hammer Verlag, 1988), 143-156.
  • [8] Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 202.
  • [9] Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, for example, considers the “allowance of pouring instead of immersion” as an “anomaly” and “a break with Jewish practice” (206). However, this need not necessarily be a rupture with its Jewish environment. The highlighting of “moral purity,” common in early Christian literature, was also widespread in in Philo’s works and in the Qumran scrolls, see Jonathan Klawans, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 64-66; 48-56, 67-91. One may thus view this change in emphasis as an inner-Jewish phenomenon.
  • [10] This is not the appropriate place to dig deeper into the distinction between “ritual” and “moral” impurity. Whereas the sources of ritual impurity are mostly confined to natural phenomena, including childbirth, the carcasses of animals, menstrual and seminal emissions, skin disease, or a human corpse, moral impurity results from immoral acts such as sexual sins (Lev. 18:24-30), idolatry (Lev. 19:31; 20:1-3), and bloodshed (Num. 35:33-34). See Klawans, Impurity and Sin, 21-31.
  • [11] See for instance Dan. 6:11; 2 En. 51:4; m. Ber. 4:1 (and see also 4:3.7).
  • [12] See for example Peter J. Tomson, “The wars against Rome, the rise of Rabbinic Judaism and of Apostolic Gentile Christianity, and the Judaeo-Christians; elements for a synthesis,” in The Image of the Judaeo-Christians in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature (ed. P. J. Tomson and D. Lambers-Petry; Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 158; Tübingen: Mohr, 2003), 1-31 (9-10 and n. 40); Marcello Del Verme, Didache and Judaism: Jewish Roots of an Ancient Christian-Jewish Work (New York-London: T&T Clark, 2004), 185; Jonathan A. Draper, “Christian Self-Definition against the ‘Hypocrites’ in Didache VIII,” in The Didache in Modern Research (ed. J. A. Draper; Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums 37; Leiden: Brill, 1996), 223-243.
  • [13] Peter J. Tomson, “The Lord’s Prayer (Didache 8) at the Faultline of Judaism and Christianity,” in The Didache: A Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Early Christianity (ed. J. A. Draper and C. N. Jefford; Early Christianity and Its Literature 14; Atlanta: SBL, 2015), 165-187 (183-185).
  • [14] See for example Enrico Mazza, The Origins of the Eucharistic Prayer (trans. R. E. Lane; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1995), 13-18; Niederwimmer, The Didache, 156-160; Alan J. P. Garrow, The Gospel of Matthew’s Dependence on the Didache (Journal for the Study of the New Testament—Supplement Series 254, London: T&T Clark, 2004), 17-19; Van de Sandt and Flusser, The Didache, 309-329; etc.
  • [15] See also Aaron Milavec, The Didache: Faith, Hope, and Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. (New York: Newman, 2003), 416-421; Jonathan A. Draper, “Ritual Process and Ritual Symbol in Didache 7-10,” Vigiliae Christianae 54 (2000): 121-158; Matthias Klinghardt, Gemeinschaftsmahl und Mahlgemeinschaft: Soziologie und Liturgie frühchristlicher Mahlfeiern (Texte und Arbeiten zum neutestamentlichen Zeitalter 13, Tübingen: Francke Verlag, 1996), 407-427.
  • [16] Jonathan Schwiebert, Knowledge and the Coming Kingdom: The Didache’s Meal Ritual and its Place in Early Christianity (Library of New Testament Studies 373, London: T&T Clark, 2008), 119; Mazza, Origins of the Eucharistic Prayer, 156-159; Van de Sandt and Flusser, The Didache, 316-318.
  • [17] Huub van de Sandt, “The Gathering of the Church in the Kingdom: The Self-Understanding of the Didache Community in the Eucharistic Prayers,” in Society of Biblical Literature—Seminar Papers 42 (Atlanta: SBL, 2003), 69-88.
  • [18] See Van de Sandt and Flusser, The Didache, 340-341.
  • [19] The community is required to “break bread, and give thanks,” expressions that correspond with “broken bread” and “giving thanks” in Did. 9-10. The descriptions in Did. 14:1 seem to refer to one and the same eucharistic ritual. The text associates this meal with the idea of sacrifice (thysia); see Schwiebert, Knowledge and the Coming Kingdom, 167.
  • [20] Rordorf and Tuilier, La Doctrine, 64-65.
  • [21] William D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (3rd ed.; International Critical Commentary; vols. 1-3, London-New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 1:127-138 and see the list of scholars there adopting a similar position (128).
  • [22] For references, see John S. Kloppenborg, “The Use of the Synoptics or Q in Did. 1:3b-2:1,” in Matthew and the Didache: Two Documents from the same Jewish-Christian Milieu? (ed. H. van de Sandt; Assen: Van Gorcum-Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 105-129 (105, n. 2).
  • [23] R. Hugh Connolly, “Canon Streeter on the Didache,” Journal of Theological Studies 38 (1937): 364-379 (367-370); Frederick E. Vokes, The Riddle of the Didache. Fact or Fiction, Heresy or Catholicism? (The Church Historical Society 32; London: SPCK, 1938), 51-61.
  • [24] Minus Did. 8:2b; 11:3b; 15:3-4 and 16:7 according to Garrow, The Gospel of Matthew’s Dependence.
  • [25] Édouard Massaux, Influence de l’Évangile de saint Matthieu sur la littérature chrétienne avant saint Irénée (Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 75; Leuven: University Press-Peeters, 1950; repr. Leuven, 1986), 604-646 (618); Donald A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome (Novum Testamentum Supplements 34; Leiden: Brill, 1973), 280; Kurt Wengst, Didache (Apostellehre): Barnabasbrief. Zweiter Klemensbrief. Schrift an Diognet (Schriften des Urchristentums 2; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1984), 28; Helmut Köster, Synoptische Überlieferung bei den apostolischen Vätern (Texte und Untersuchungen 65, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1957), at first leaves the question open (198-200), but after having dealt with other similar instances in the Didache, he is inclined to believe that the document is not dependent on (one of) the Synoptic Gospels (240). For a more elaborate version of this section, see my ‘“Do not Give What is Holy to the Dogs” (Did. 9:5d and Matt. 7:6a): the Eucharistic Food of the Didache in its Jewish Purity Setting’, Vigiliae Christianae 56 (2002): 223-46.
  • [26] See Elisha Qimron and John Strugnell, Qumran Cave 4 5: Miqsat Maʻaśe ha-Torah (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 10; Oxford: Clarendon 1994), 52-53. A similar ban applied to chickens as well; see also Elisha Qimron, “The Chicken and the Dog and the Temple Scroll,” Tarbiz 64 (1994) 473-476 (Hebrew) (for an English translation of Qimron’s article, click here). Joshua Tilton kindly provided me with this publication.
  • [27] It has been noted that the acquaintance with the above halakha was not restricted to the Qumran community only since it is probably echoed in Rev 22:15 where it says: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood” (compare 21:8). The author of Revelation apparently was familiar with the established halakha of 4QMMT and explains the rule in a spiritual way (See Marc Philonenko, “’Dehors les chiens.’ Apocalypse 22.16 et 4QMMT B 58-62,” New Testament Studies 43 [1997] 445-450). He applies it to the heavenly Jerusalem and considers the “dogs outside” to represent the apostates and false teachers. The text suggests the disciplinary measure of excluding false teachers and those who commit the most grievous sins (the sorcerers, fornicators, murderers and idolaters) from the city.
  • [28] Such as in m. Temurah 6:5; t. Temurah 4:11; y. Maʻaśer Šeni 2:5, 53c; b. Temurah 17a; 31a; 33a-b; b. Bekorot 15a (2x); b. Šebuʻot 11b. For the specific quotations of these instances, see the notes in my ‘“Do not Give What is Holy to the Dogs,”’ 229-231.
  • [29] Pisqa 118; see H. S. Horovitz (ed.), Siphre d’be Rab I: Siphre ad Numeros adjecto Siphre zutta (Corpus Tannaiticum 3/1; Leipzig 1917; corr. repr Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1966), 138.
  • [30] The Qumran Essenes seem to have anticipated the propensity to extend the sacred meals beyond the altar and the temple in Jerusalem and, like the Qumran group, many other Jews of the Second Temple period observed ritual purity when participating in secular meals; see Huub van de Sandt, “Why does the Didache Conceive of the Eucharist as a Holy Meal?” Vigiliae Christianae 65 (2011): 1-20.
  • [31] The wording “as a gentile and tax-collector” in Matt. 18:17b, referring to the punishment of expulsion, stands out from the Matthean gospel as a whole with respect to its pejorative tone. The gist of the expression applies neither to the life of Jesus nor to the Gospel of Matthew. It is improbable that the historical Jesus, who extended the possibility of conversion to the toll-collectors and sinners, would have used this phraseology in such a context. With regard to Matthew, the expression appears to contradict the favourable attitude toward pagans and tax-collectors displayed throughout Matthew’s gospel. It is therefore unlikely that we are dealing here with words pronounced by Jesus or created by Matthew.
  • [32] For references, see Niederwimmer, The Didache, 204, n. 10. For a more detailed treatment of this subject, see my “Two Windows on a Developing Jewish-Christian Reproof Practice: Matt. 18:15-17 and Did. 15:3,” in Van de Sandt (ed.), Matthew and the Didache, 173-192.
  • [33] See Lawrence H. Schiffman, “Reproof as a Requisite for Punishment,” in Sectarian Law in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Courts, Testimony and the Penal Code (ed. L. H. Schiffman; Brown Judaic Studies 33; Chico Calif.: Scholars, 1983), 89-109 (97-98); this article was published in an almost identical version as “Reproof as a Requisite for Punishment in the Law of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Jewish Law Association Studies 2: The Jerusalem Conference Volume (ed. B. S. Jackson; The Jewish Law Association. Papers and Proceedings; Atlanta Ga: Scholars, 1986), 59-74; Moshe Weinfeld, The Organizational Pattern and the Penal Code of the Qumran Sect: A Comparison with Guilds and Religious Associations of the Hellenistic-Roman Period (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus 2; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), 74-76; Bernard S. Jackson, “Testes singulares in Early Jewish Law and the New Testament,” in Essays in Jewish and Comparative Legal History (ed. B. S. Jackson; Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 10; Leiden: Brill, 1975), 172-201 (175-76) and n. 6.
  • [34] See Van de Sandt, “Two Windows,” 185-186.
  • [35] Florentino García Martínez, “La Reprensión fraterna en Qumrán y Mt 18,15-17,” Filologia Neotestamentaria 2 (1989): 23-40; trans. “Brotherly Rebuke in Qumran and Mt 18:15-17,” in The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices (ed. F. García Martínez and J. Trebolle Barrera; Leiden: Brill, 1995), 221-232; Schiffman, “Reproof as a Requisite for Punishment,” 94-96.
  • [36] See Weinfeld, The Organizational Pattern, 38-41, 75; Jacob Licht, The Rule Scroll: A Scroll from the Wilderness of Judaea: 1QS – 1QSa – 1QSb (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1965), 137 (Hebr.); Michael Knibb, The Qumran Community (Cambridge Commentaries on Writings of the Jewish and Christian World 200 BC to AD 200; Cambridge: University Press, 1987), 115.
  • [37] “There is nothing to indicate that he can be received back again;” see Goran Forkman, The Limits of the Religious Community: Expulsion from the Religious Community within the Qumran Sect, within Rabbinic Judaism, and within Primitive Christianity (Coniectanea neotestamentica or Coniectanea biblica: New Testament Series 5; Lund: Gleerup, 1972), 129. See also Ingrid Goldhahn-Müller, Die Grenze der Gemeinde: Studien zum Problem der Zweiten Busse im Neuen Testament unter Berücksichtigung der Entwicklung im 2. Jh. bis Tertullian (Göttinger Theologischer Arbeiten 39; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), 181; Alois Schenk-Ziegler, Correctio fraterna im Neuen Testament: Die “brüderliche Zurechtweisung” in biblischen, frühjüdischen und hellenistischen Schriften (Forschung zur Bibel 84; Würzburg: Echter Verlag, 1997), 298.
    On the other hand, Matthew may have incorporated this unit precisely at this very position in his gospel for a special purpose. In Matt. 18, the forensic process passage is set within a literary context of humility (1-5), responsibility (6-9), individual loving care (12-14), forgiveness, and mercy (21-35). Matthew surrounds the traditional segment on fraternal reproof with material promoting a spirit of generosity and unbounded compassionate love. In the light of the wider context of Matt. 18, the regulation in Matt. 18:15-17 displays an essential correspondence with the reproof passage in Did. 15:3. The act of reproach here might have the same purpose as the one in Did. 15:3, that is, to gain a brother by having him listen to the evidence of his culpability and admit his sin.
  • [38] See Jean-Paul Audet, La Didachè: Instructions des apôtres (Études bibliques; Paris: Gabalda, 1958), 180 and Schenk-Ziegler, Correctio fraterna, 126-58 (130-32). A more distant parallel is found in T. Gad 6:3: “Therefore, love one another from the heart, and if a man sins against you, speak to him in peace (en eirēnē)….”
  • [39] Like for example Did. 7:1.3 (par. Matt. 28:19); Did. 11:2.4 (par. Matt. 10:40); Did. 11:7 (par. Matt. 12:31); Did. 13:1-2 (par. Matt. 10:10); Did. 14:2 (par. Matt. 5:23-24); Did. 16:1-2 (par. Matt. 24:42.44; 25:13); and Did. 16:3-8 (par. Matt. 24-25). See also above, pp. 12-13.
  • [40] See Philip Schaff, The Oldest Church Manual, Called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1886), 18 (on top); James Muilenburg, The Literary Relations of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, (Marburg, n.p., 1929), 73; Frederick E. Vokes, The Riddle of the Didache: Fact or Fiction, Heresy or Catholicism? (The Church Historical Society 32; London: SPCK; New York: Macmillan 1938), 19; etc.
  • [41] Georg Braumann, “Zum Traditionsgeschichtlichen Problem der Seligpreisungen MT V 3-12,” Novum Testamentum 4 (1960): 253-260 (259-260); Wiard Popkes, “Die Gerechtigkeitstradition im Matthäus-Evangelium,” in Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche (1989), 1-23 (17).
  • [42] See Martin Hengel, “Zur matthäischen Bergpredigt und ihrem jüdischen Hintergrund,” Theologische Rundschau 52 (1987): 355-356; see also 379-380. For the ideological and literary affinity of the first three Beatitudes with the Dead Sea Scrolls, see David Flusser, “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit,” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity. Collected articles (ed. D. Flusser; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 102-114; repr. from Israel Exploration Journal 10 (1960): 1-13; idem, “Some Notes to the Beatitudes,” in Judaism, 115-125; repr. from Immanuel 8 (1978), 37-47.
  • [43] See Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965), 15-33 (32-33); idem, “Hasidim we-Anshei Maase,” Zion 50 (1984-85), 133-154 (144-154); idem, “Jesus and the Hasidim,” Jerusalem Perspective (1994) 3-22; idem, “Jesus and the Hasidic Movement,” in The Jews in the Hellenistic Roman World. Studies in Memory of Menahem Stern (ed. I. M. Gafni, A. Oppenheimer and D. R. Schwartz; Jerusalem: Graphit, 1996), 413-436 (415) (Hebr.).
  • [44] The second half of the Decalogue is even more likely to stand in the background of Matt. 5:21-48 since the last unit (5:43-48) stresses the love of one’s neighbor which, as we have seen, is often used in early Judaism to express in crystalized form the second table of the Decalogue (see Matt. 19:18-19; Rom. 13:8-10; Jas 2:8-11). Rather interestingly, the items “murder” and “adultery” (in this order) also head the rather long catalogue of prohibitions in GTW 2:1-7 and again the list of vices that serves as an explication of the Way of Death in Greek Two Ways 5. Altogether, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that the first two items in the arrangement of the lists, which are modeled after the second tablet of the Decalogue, are more strung together by tradition than the remainder, which rather seems a haphazard and free adaptation in the various lists.
  • [45] b. Menah. 44a, top; b. Ned. 39b; y. Pe’ah 1,15d; Siphre Deut. 79 to Deut. 12:28 in Louis Finkelstein (ed.), Siphre ad Deuteronomium (Corpus Tannaiticum 3/2; Berlin: Jüdischer Kulturbund, 1939; repr. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1969), 145; Siphre Deut. 82 to Deut. 13:1 (ibid., 148), Siphre Deut. 96 to Deut. 13:19 (ibid., 157).
  • [46] See the treatise Yir’at Het (“fear of transgression,” and a separate denotation of chapters I-IV and IX of the Derekh Erets Zuta tract) II, 16-17 or Derekh Erets Zuta II, 16-17 according to Marcus van Loopik, ed., The Ways of the Sages and the Way of the World (Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 26: Tübingen: Mohr, 1991), 229-231 (with commentary) = Massekhet Derekh Erets I, 26 according to Michael Higger, ed., The Treatises Derek Erez: Masseket Derek Erez; Pirke Ben Azzai; Tosefta Derek Erez (2 vols.; New York 1935; repr., Jerusalem: Makor, 1970), 1:78-79 (Hebr.) and 2:38 (English Translation).
  • [47] See Ulrich Luz, “Die Erfüllung des Gesetzes bei Matthäus (Mt 5,17-20),” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 75 (1978): 398-435; repr., in trans. “The Fulfilment of the Law in Matthew (Matt. 5:17-20),” in Studies in Matthew (ed. U. Luz; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 185-218 (197); Robert Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount: A Foundation for Understanding (2nd ed.; Waco TX: Word, 1983), 135. 156; Luz, Matthäus, 1:230; Albert Descamps, “Essai d’interprétation de Mt 5,17-48: Formgeschichte ou Redactionsgeschichte?,” Studia Evangelica 1 (1959): 156-173 (163); Jacques Dupont, Les Béatitudes 3: Les évangélistes (Études Bibliques; Paris: Gabalda, 1973), 251, n. 2; J. P. Meier, Law and History in Matthew’s Gospel: A Redactional Study of Mt. 5:17-48 (Analecta biblica 71; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1976), 116-119; Davies and Allison, Matthew 1:501.
  • [48] See also Matt. 23, where Matthew levels the usual charge of hypocrisy (vv. 4-7) against the “scribes and Pharisees” and attacks the Jewish community leadership (of his own post A.D. 70 situation?) in seven woe oracles, in which Jesus condemns the “scribes and Pharisees” seven times; see David C. Sim, The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism: The History and Social Setting of the Matthean Community (Studies of the New Testament and Its World; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 130-131. See also Petri Luomanen, Entering the Kingdom of Heaven: A Study on the Structure of Matthew’s View of Salvation (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/101; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998), 85. 120.
  • [49] See also Matthias Konradt, “Rezeption und Interpretation des Dekalogs im Matthäusevangelium” in The Gospel of Matthew at the Crossroads of Early Christianity (ed. D. Senior; Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 243; Leuven: Peeters, 2011), 131-158 (135-154).
  • [50] Most commonly, the specific antithetical formulations of the first, second, and fourth antitheses (Matt. 5:21-22. 27-28. 33-34a) are considered pre-Matthean while the antithetical pattern in the remainder of the series is assumed to be a secondary arrangement on the basis of the earlier three. This means that those antitheses, showing a radicalisation of the commandments rather than a direct opposite character, are generally considered to have been received by Matthew in antithetical form. In short, the first, second and fourth antitheses are traditional (pre-Matthean) while the other three (with Lukan parallels) are assigned to Matthew’s redaction; see Rudolph Bultmann, Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition (8th ed.; Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments 29; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1970), 143-144; Ulrich Luz, Matthäus: Mt 1-7 (Evangelisch-katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 1/1; Zürich: Benziger-Verlag, 1985), 246 (though he is inclined to believe that the fourth antithesis is redactional too); Maarten J. J.Menken, Matthew’s Bible: The Old Testament Text of the Evangelist (Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 173; Leuven: University Press-Peeters, 2004), 265-266; Jan Lambrecht, The Sermon on the Mount. Proclamation and Exhortation (Good News Studies 14; Wilmington Del: Glazier, 1985), 94-95; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:504-505 and many others.
  • [51] See Van de Sandt and Flusser, Didache, 176-179, 216-234.
  • [52] See above, p. 26 (“keep aloof from everything hideous and from what even seems hideous”) and compare also the following statement:

    Keep aloof from everything hideous and from whatever seems hideous lest others suspect you of transgression

    in Yir’at Het I, 13 according to Van Loopik, The Ways, 194-197 (with commentary) = Massekhet Derek Erets I, 12 according to Higger, The Treatises Derek Erez, 1:63 (Hebr.) and 2:35 (English translation).

  • [53] Graham N. Stanton, A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992), 303-304; Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount, 360-363, 379-381; Hans Dieter Betz, The Sermon on the Mount: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, including the Sermon on the Plain (Matthew 5:3-7:27 and Luke 6:20-49) (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 518; etc.
  • [54] Jewish tradition attributes a negative form of this saying to Hillel who presents the Rule as the summation of the Law. According to b. Shab 31a, Hillel summarized the essence of the whole Law by rendering the negative form of the Golden Rule (“Whatever is hateful to you, do it not unto your fellow”) and adding: “the rest is a mere specification.” The reduction of the laws to basic principles very much resembles our passage in Did. 1:2-3. In 1:2, the essential core of the Way of life is found in the double love commandment combined with the negative form of the Golden Rule. These three precepts which have special prominence and serve as the basic elements of the Way of Life are then followed by the clause: “The explanation of these words is as follows.”
  • [55] See Georg Strecker, Die Bergpredigt: Ein exegetischer Kommentar (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984), 161; Luz, Matthäus 1:395-396; Clayton N. Jefford, The Sayings of Jesus in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 11; Leiden: Brill, 1989), 25-26 and the Appendix A (146-159). See also Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:696-698.
  • [56] Adelbert Denaux, “Der Spruch von den zwei Wegen im Rahmen des Epilogs der Bergpredigt (Mt 7,13-14 par. Lk 13,23-24): Tradition und Redaktion,” in Logia. Les Paroles de Jésus—The Sayings of Jesus (ed. J. Delobel; Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium 59; Leuven: University Press-Peeters, 1982, 305-335 (322-323); Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:696-698.
  • [57] John the Baptist had previously employed this image of judgment in Matt. 3:10 against the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Matthew everyone, whether disciples, Pharisees and Sadducees, are judged by one law.
  • [58] See Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:721-722; Luz, Matthäus, 1:537-538; Joachim Gnilka, Das Matthäusevangelium (Herders theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 1/2; Freiburg: Herder, 1988), 1:282; W. Wiefel, Das Evangelium nach Matthäus (Theologischer Handkommentar zum Neuen Testament 1; Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1998), 156; Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (2nd ed.; Black’s New Testament commentaries; London: Black, 1971), 108
  • [59] In his treatment of the minor sins, Jesus’ argument in Matthew seems rather more rigorous than the line of reasoning in the Two Ways or in the early stratum of Derekh Erets. Although the loss of temper, a lustful look, or the taking of an oath do not replace the acts of murder, infidelity and perjury, they are valued in the Sermon on the Mount as sins in their own right, incurring the same penalty as murder or adultery. The view that anger equals murder and that lust equals adultery, is toned down in the Greek Two Ways 3:1-6 (and in, say, Yir’at Het II, 16-17 as well). The passage in the Greek Two Ways 3:1-3 appears largely to represent preventive measures to protect someone from transgressing weighty commandments.
  • [60] In addition to the double love commandment and the single commandment to love one’s neighbour (or its variant version in the Golden Rule) also the second table of the Decalogue was commonly seen as summarizing the essentials of the Law as may be derived from instances in Pseudo-Phocylides, Sentences 3-7 and Rom. 13:8-10.
  • [61] See, e.g., Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:38; Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (The Bible and Liberation Series; Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 2000), 387; Luz, Matthäus, 3:120. For a more elaborate version of this section, see my “Eternal Life as Reward for Choosing the Right Way: The Story of the Rich Young Man (Matt. 19:16-30),” in Life Beyond Death in Matthew’s Gospel: Religious Metaphor or Bodily Reality? (ed. W. Weren, H. van de Sandt, J. Verheyden; Biblical Tools and Studies 13; Leuven: Peeters, 2011), 107-127.
  • [62] Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:43.
  • [63] See Pierre Bonnard, L’Évangile selon Saint Matthieu (Commentaire du Nouveau Testament 2/1; 4th ed.; Genève: Labor et Fides, 2002), 288: “ce mot est peut-être une allusion aux catéchumènes de l’Église matthéenne.”
  • [64] See also Menken, Matthew’s Bible, 211-212.
  • [65] See Deut. 30:15-20; Lev. 18:5; Prov. 6:23; Mal. 2:4-5; Bar. 3:9; Ps. Sol. 14:2; Rom. 7:10; 4 Ezra 14:30; m.’Abot 2:7.
  • [66] See for example also Jefford, The Sayings of Jesus, 54-56. 62; Garrow, The Gospel of Matthew’s Dependence, 240-241, 247-248.
  • [67] The second table of the Decalogue has nevertheless been expanded here with specific elements, including pederasty, magic, sorcery, abortion, infanticide and additional injunctions.
  • [68] See Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount, 135. 156; Luz, Matthäus, 1:230; Meier, Law and History, 116-119; Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:501.
  • [69] Davies and Allison, Matthew, 3:46; Warren Carter, Households and Discipleship: A Study of Matthew 19-20 (Journal for the Study of the New Testament: Supplement Series 103; Sheffield: JSOT, 1994), 117; Luz, Matthäus, 3:46. 123-125; Joachim Gnilka, Das Matthäusevangelium (1988), 2:165.
  • [70] See also Wim J. C. Weren, “The Ideal Community According to Matthew, James, and the Didache,” in Studies in Matthew’s Gospel: Literary Design, Intertextuality, and Social Setting (ed. W. J. C. Weren; Biblical Interpretation Series 130; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 222-247 (232-235); Matthias Konradt, “Die volkommene Erfüllung der Tora und der Konflikt mit den Pharisäern im Matthäusevangelium,” in Das Gesetz in frühen Judentum und im Neuen Testament (ed. D. Sänger, M. Konradt and C. Burchard; Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus 57; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006), 129-152 (152); idem, “The Love Command in Matthew, James, and the Didache,” in Matthew, James and Didache: Three Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Settings (ed. H. van de Sandt and J. K. Zangenberg; Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 45; Atlanta: SBL, 2008), 271-288 (274-278); William R. G. Loader, Jesus’ Attitude towards the Law: A Study of the Gospels (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/97; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 226-227. 269.
  • [71] As seen above, the diverse precepts in the Sermon in Matt. 5:17-7:12 and the Way of Life in Did. 1:2-4:14 are organized by and subsumed under the love command (Matt. 7:12 and Did. 1:2).
  • [72] See also C. Coulot, “La Structuration de la péricope de l’homme riche et ses différentes lectures (Mc 10,17-31; Mt 19,16-30; Lc 18,18-30),” Recherches de Science Religieuse 56 (1982): 240-252 (249).
  • [73] For more specifics, see my “Eternal Life as Reward,” 121-124.
  • [74] Jacques Dupont, “Le logion des douze thrônes (Mt 19,28; Lc 22,28-30),” Biblica 45 (1964): 355-92 (378); Filson, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 210. Jesus was the judge who authoritatively interprets Torah. In the Antitheses of Matt. 5:21-48 Jesus seems to use the controlling clause “but I say to you” to expound the demands of Torah and in Matt. 11:27 the power to disclose “these things” to infants is delivered to the Son so as to reveal the Father to whom he chooses.
  • [75] See also Huub van de Sandt, “James 4,1-4 in the Light of the Jewish Two Ways Tradition 3,1-6,” Biblica 88 (2007): 38-63; Darian R. Lockett, “Structure or Communicative Strategy: The ‘Two Ways’ Motif in James’ Theological Instruction,” Neotestamentica 42 (2008): 269-287. See also Matthew Larsen, and Michael Svigel, “The First Century Two Ways Catechesis and Hebrews 6:1-6,” in Draper and Jefford, The Didache, 477-496.

Corrections and Emendations to Flusser’s Judaism of the Second Temple Period

The image above shows David Flusser at a book signing event held on August 20, 1997. With him are Liz and Chuck Kopp.
Revised: 31-May-2017

The English translation of David Flusser’s two volume collection of essays, entitled Judaism of the Second Temple Period, and jointly published by Magnes, Eerdmans, and Jerusalem Perspective, presents to the English-speaking world important essays that had formerly been accessible only to speakers of Modern Hebrew.

As with any major undertaking of this kind, a few errors were not detected by the editors and proof readers before the final publication. In this blog we have collected the mistakes we have noticed, and we welcome readers to add any further corrections they may have noticed by submitting a comment below.

Flusser_Judaism & the 2nd Temple_HC_3 imprint.qxdCorrections to Volume One: Qumran and Apocalypticism

  1. “Foreword” (1:vii). A typographical error should be corrected as follows (correction marked in bold):

    Flusser’s contributions to Dead Sea Scrolls research, Apocalypticism, and Apocalyptic Literature is inestimable.

  2. “The Apocryphal Psalms of David” (1:258-282). It is unfortunate that the English title refers to “Psalms” of David, since the Hebrew title of the essay, שירי דוד החיצונים (“The Apocryphal Songs of David”), refers to a work designated as the “Songs of David” by G. W. Lorien and E. van Staalduine-Sulman, “A Song of David for Each Day: The Provenance of the Songs of David” Revue de Qumran 22 (2005): 33-59. Moreover, in this article Lorien and van Staalduine-Sulman refer to Flusser and Safrai’s article by the title “Songs of David.” Confusion could have been avoided had the title of the essay been translated as “The Apocryphal Songs of David.”
  3. “The Apocryphal Psalms of David” (1:280). Two mistaken omissions, one of a key word, the other of a few sentences, seriously affect the meaning of the paragraph which reads (omissions supplied in bold):

    The early Christians opposed this view, arguing that Psalm 16 could not be referring to David since he had died and remained in his grave to this very day. David, moreover, was a prophet and thus it was the resurrection of Jesus that he foretold, as Jesus had not been given up to Sheol, nor his flesh allowed to decompose for he ascended to heaven. David could not have prophesied about himself, for of course David did not ascend to heaven, and yet David said, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet,’” (Ps. 110:1). This verse is related to Ps. 16:8 which says, “from my right hand I will not be shaken.” The LXX translates this as, “because he is at my right hand,” but of course there is no difference for our interpretation whether the LORD is at his right hand or whether it says, “Sit at my right hand.” Clearly then the words of Psalm 16 were applied to both Jesus and David. We may suppose the same is true for Psalm 110. Similarly we find that Acts (13:33-35) applies Psalm 2:7—“You are my son; today I have begotten you”—to the risen Christ. These same words are used by the sages to refer to the Jewish messiah, and the psalm could quite naturally be interpreted as referring to David, since he was viewed as the author of Psalms and, at least in some circles, as the messiah himself.

  4. “The ‘Flesh-Spirit’ Dualism in the Qumran Scrolls and the New Testament” (1:285). A typographical error in the second line results in the phrase “relatively light.” The correct reading is “relatively late.”
  5. “The ‘Flesh-Spirit’ Dualism in the Qumran Scrolls and the New Testament” (1:292). A typographical error in the first line should be corrected to “Satan claims ownership on the grounds that he is the ruler of the material world….”

jstpv2Corrections to Volume Two: The Sages and Their Literature

  1. “Judaism in the Second Temple Period” (2:6-43). An English version of this article had already appeared as “The Jewish Religion in the Second Temple Period,” in The World History of the Jewish People; First Series: Ancient Times; Volume Eight: Society and Religion in the Second Temple Period (ed. Michael Avi-Yonah and Zvi Baras; Jerusalem: Masada Publishing; London: W.H. Allen, 1977), 3-40, 322-324. This previous English version, which was approved by Flusser, is not acknowledged in the present volume.
  2. “The Image of the Masada Martyrs in Their Own Eyes and in the Eyes of Their Contemporaries” (2:80). In the top paragraph just prior to footnote 17, the sentence ought to be emended as follows:

    Hillel and Shammai convinced the people to accept Herod as legitimate king, but since on account of their sins they could not be saved from him.

    This change is necessary because on the same page Flusser remarks:

    It appears that the refusal of the Houses of Hillel and Shammai was rooted in the conviction that his [i.e., Herod’s] reign was illegitimate.

  3. “The Image of the Masada Martyrs” (2:82). The sentence after footnote 26 ought to read:

    Second, it appears that both the sages and the zealots linked the concept of liberty with “the kingdom of heaven,” and this phrase likely played an important role in the zealot ideology.

  4. “The Image of the Masada Martyrs” (2:94). The sentence following footnote 72 should be corrected as follows:

    Up to that point, the Jews both within Israel and without were subjugated by foreign nations, the land was oppressed by the Romans Greeks, the priesthood was illegitimate, and the temple was desecrated.

    The cause of this mistake is that in the Hebrew version of the essay Flusser wrote “the wicked kingdom,” which in Rabbinic literature usually refers to the Roman empire, but “the wicked kingdom” was also used to describe the Hellenistic kingdoms that ruled Israel after the conquest of Alexander the Great.

  5. “‘What Is Hanukkah?’: The Historical Setting of the Hasmonean Temple Dedication” (2:131). We find the same mistake caused by misunderstanding “the wicked kingdom,” in the sentence that should read:

    Up to that time, the Jewish People in Israel and abroad were under foreign rule, and the land of Israel part of the wicked Roman Greek Empire.

  6. “‘But Who Can Detect Their Errors?’ (Ps 19:13): On Some Biblical Readings in the Second Temple Period” (2:167). A typographical error between footnotes 17 and 18 should be corrected as follows (correction marked in bold):

    It is unlikely that the word was due to the influence of the Gospel version,17 since the rest of the verse shows not such influence.18

  7. “The Decalogue and the New Testament” (2:172-190). An English version of this article had already appeared as “The Ten Commandments and the New Testament,” in The Ten Commandments in History and Tradition (ed. Ben-Zion Segal; English version ed. Gershon Levi; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1990), 219-246. This previous English version, which was approved by Flusser, is not acknowledged in the present volume.
  8. “‘Who Sanctified Our Beloved from the Womb’” (2:191-198). An English version of this article had already appeared as “Who Sanctified the Beloved in the Womb,” Immanuel 11 (1980), 46-55. This previous English version, which was approved by Flusser, is not acknowledged in the present volume.
  9. “‘Which is the Straight Way That a Man Should Choose for Himself?’ (m. Avot 2.1)” (2:232). A footnote ought to be added to the first sentence clarifying that the article by Shmuel Safrai that Flusser refers to was entitled מובנו של המונח דרך ארץ (“The Meaning of the Expression “Derech Eretz”), which appeared in the journal Tarbiz 60.2 (1991): 147-162. Flusser’s essay originally appeared in the same journal immediately following Safrai’s article.
  10. “‘Which is the Straight Way That a Man Should Choose?’” (2:245). Following footnote 48 there is a sentence that reads:

    Reflect before the word issues from your mouth. Consider your actions in accordance with good manners (derekh ’eretz). Set a reward for every step you take. Submit to divine judgment and refrain from grumbling.

    “Good manners” is problematic here because it is precisely this narrow definition of derekh eretz which Flusser claims does not fit in the passage. A better strategy would have been to have simply left derekh eretz untranslated.

  11. “Martyrology in the Second Temple Period and Early Christianity” (2:252). The omission of an entire sentence renders Flusser’s argument nonsensical. The translation should read (with omitted sentence in bold):

    The idea of purification through suffering also appears in the New Testament, e.g., in 1 Peter: “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold, that though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor” (1:6-7). The early Christians also believed, therefore, that the righteous are purified by means of trials and persecutions, similar to the purification of gold and silver. However the idea that the suffering of the righteous is like purification appears, of course, much earlier, for instance in the Jewish book The Wisdom of Solomon 3:5-6. There the suffering of the righteous is discussed: “Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them,” (RSV). To be sure, this passage refers only to the suffering of the righteous, not their death, and the suffering in question is not even said to be the result of persecution. Nonetheless, the passage is important both for its reference to being tested by fire, like gold, and for the alluded-to idea that the righteous are accepted by God as a well-being offering (shalem). Here lies the nexus between the notions of sacrifice and the suffering and death of the righteous.

  12. “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion Toiling as a Porter?’” (2:332). An accidental omission caused footnote 6 to read simply “Luke 12:32.” The footnote should be restored as:

    In the place of this sentence (Mt. 6:34) a different saying is found in Luke 12:32.

  13. “‘Have You Ever Seen a Lion Toiling as a Porter?’” (2:333). In the middle of the second paragraph, Rabbi Eleazar’s saying should be corrected as follows:

    Whoever has what something to eat today, but says ‘What will I eat tomorrow?’—he is without faith.

Holy Land Postcard: Hula Valley Nature Reserve

The featured image above shows numerous migratory birds who find refuge in the Hula Valley Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.
A boardwalk allows visitors to walk out over the Hula lake. Blinds (shown here on the left) conceal visitors from the local wildlife. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.
A boardwalk allows visitors to walk out over the Hula Lake. Blinds (shown here on the left) conceal visitors from the local wildlife. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.

The Hula Valley is the site of a wide shallow marsh and lake fed by the Jordan River as it flows from its sources at the foot of Mount Hermon. When modern Israelis began to populate the Hula Valley, a serious problem was malaria infection, which was transmitted by the Anopheles mosquitoes that bred in the valley’s wetlands. War and conflicts delayed early plans to drain the swamp in order to make the land useful for agriculture, with the result that major drainage of the Hula Valley did not begin until the early 1950s. In hindsight that decision has been rethought as naturalists came to realize how important diverse ecosystems are to a healthy environment, and efforts were made to return at least some of the area to the natural ecosystem that was lost. The result of this effort is the Hula Valley Nature Reserve, which I visited on a recent trip to Israel.

Catfish team in the waters of the Hula lake. These non-kosher fish (because they lack scales) were the "bad fish" in Jesus' parable of the drag net. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.
Catfish teem in the waters of the Hula Lake. These non-kosher fish (because they lack scales) were the “bad fish” in Jesus’ parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:48). Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.

The Hula Valley Nature Reserve protects the habitat of some of Israel’s rarest wetland flora and fauna. The reserve also provides visitors with access to a fascinating range of wildlife, with easy walking trails and shelters to observe them without too much disruption of their environment.

A coypu swims past a group of lazily sunbathing turtles. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.
A coypu swims past a group of lazily sunbathing turtles. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.

On my visit I was able to photograph some broad shots for an overview of the lake, as well as migrating pelicans flying overhead, catfish swimming in the waters below, turtles sunning themselves on rocks, water buffalo grazing, and coypu (an aquatic rodent originally from South America) nibbling on the vegetation.

The beautiful white-throated kingfisher is a common sight at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.
The beautiful white-throated kingfisher is a common sight at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.

A coypu contentedly munches on the abundant vegetation. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.
A coypu contentedly munches on the abundant vegetation. Photo courtesy of Gary Asperschlager.


A visit to the Hula Valley Nature Reserve adds the enjoyment of observing the natural beauty of God’s creation to the usual pilgrim’s goal of experiencing the biblical geography of the Holy Land.

Gospel Postcard: Magdala

The earliest mention of Magdala, a town which lay on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, is found in the writings of Strabo (mid-first cent. B.C.E to early first cent. C.E.). Strabo, who referred to Magdala by its Greek name Taricheae (“salted fish”), stated: “At the place called Taricheae the lake supplies excellent fish for pickling; and on its banks grow fruit-bearing trees” (Geography 16:2 §45; Loeb). Magdala’s Hebrew name, Migdal Nunia (“fish tower”; b. Pes. 46a), also refers to the fishing industry, which was the economic backbone of this town. Both the Babylonian Talmud (ibid.) and Josephus (Life §157) mention Magdala with respect to its proximity to the city of Tiberias.

View from Magdala's shore facing south toward Tiberias. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
View from Magdala’s shore facing south toward Tiberias. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
The cliffs of Arbel overshadow the site of Magdala. Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
The cliffs of Arbel overshadow the site of Magdala. Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

The Gospels do not mention Magdala except obliquely as the hometown of “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out” (Luke 8:2; cf. Mark 16:9). Since “Mary” was one of the most common names for Jewish women in the first century C.E., mentioning the town of her origin helped to distinguish this Mary from the other Marys who were associated with Jesus.

Despite the absence of any definite report in the Gospels to confirm our suspicions, the probability that Jesus visited Magdala during his itinerant mission is strong. Not only did Jesus have at least one follower from Magdala—the Mary mentioned above—but literary and recent archaeological evidence reveals that Magdala boasted a vibrant Jewish community in the first century C.E.

A Magdal street blocked with column drums, perhaps part of Josephus' defensive preparations for the Roman assault. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
A Magdala street blocked with column drums, perhaps part of Josephus’ defensive preparations for the Roman assault. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

According to Josephus, Magdala was an important Jewish population center at least as early as the mid-first century B.C.E. (J.W. 1:180). Josephus, who was commander of the Galilee during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, describes how, in preparation for the Roman assault, he had personally overseen the fortification of Magdala. Although Josephus boasts that Magdala was “completely surrounded…with solid ramparts” except for the side facing the water (J.W. 3:464), only hastily built roadblocks have been found in recent excavations. These finds confirm Josephus’ own admission that the fortification of Magdala was not as strong as that of Tiberias (J.W. 3:465).

A ritual immersion bath (mikveh) discovered at Magdala. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
A ritual immersion bath (mikveh) discovered at Magdala. Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

Other archaeological finds indicating a flourishing Jewish presence in Magdala include several ritual baths (mikva’ot), a public structure, which has been identified as the first-century synagogue, and a stone table bearing the earliest known carving of the Temple’s menorah (see featured image above). These new archaeological finds attest to the bustling Jewish town that thrived on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in the time of Jesus.



Aerial photograph of the first-century synagogue discovered at Magdala. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Aerial photograph of the first-century synagogue discovered at Magdala. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In The Master's Steps

To learn more about Magdala and other towns that Jesus may have visited, we recommend Dr. R. Steven Notley’s New Testament atlas, In the Master’s Steps: The Gospels in the Land (Jerusalem: Carta, 2014).

Why Do the Wicked Prosper?

For Kathy Ann Jewett Tilton (Mama).


An obtuse man cannot know, nor can a fool understand this: when wicked people sprout like grass and all the workers of iniquity blossom, it is in order to destroy them forever. (Psalm 92:6-7)

For people of conscience, it is deeply distressing to see abusive and reckless persons placed in positions of power and influence and to witness liars, cheats, crooks, and charlatans reveling in their success and enjoying the spoils of their dishonest behavior. For those of us who believe in a God of justice, however, the prosperity of the wicked poses a serious challenge to our worldview. How can evil flourish if the universe is governed by a completely good and all-powerful deity?

Ossuary of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.
Ossuary of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas. Photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.

For Judaism of the Second Temple period this problem was particularly acute. The return from exile and the rebuilding of the Temple implied that the punishment for their sins in the days of the Israelite monarchy had been paid in full (cf. Isa. 40:2). Nevertheless, the Jewish people continued to be subject to Gentile kingdoms whose rulers were guilty of idolatry, bloodshed, sexual transgressions, and every sort of wickedness. The Jewish people lived in a world that daily challenged the view that riches, power, happiness, and success are proof of God’s blessing and approval. All too often it was those who colluded with Israel’s oppressors who were awarded riches and honor, whether it be King Herod and his sons or the high priestly families who were infamous for their abuses (cf. t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a). Meanwhile, it was the pious who experienced humiliation and the faithful who suffered for their steadfast loyalty to their God and his Torah. The resolution to this contradiction offered by the Psalmist quoted above—that the temporary good fortune of evildoers ultimately leads to their destruction—was developed in ancient Judaism and is also reflected in the New Testament.

Using Up Their Reward

The Psalmist does not explain how the prosperity of the wicked ultimately leads to their destruction. One explanation put forward by the Sages of Israel was that God permits the wicked to thrive with impunity, and even rewards the wicked for every deed that might redound to their credit during their lifetime, so that at the final judgment the wicked will have no grounds for complaint when they are punished. The reward for every good deed they had performed would already have been paid in full during their lifetime, while the entire debt of sin would remain outstanding at the final judgment. According to the Sages, the reverse was true for the righteous. No good deed the righteous performed would be rewarded during their lifetime, but even the smallest infraction would be punished in this world so that at the final judgment there would be nothing to hand out but recompense for their faithfulness. Thus we read in an early rabbinic commentary on Deuteronomy:

Just as he [i.e., God—JNT] pays the wholly righteous the wage for a commandment that he performed in this world only in the world to come, so he pays the wholly wicked the wage for whatever minor commandment he may have performed in this world only in this world. And just as he punishes the wholly wicked for a transgression that he committed in this world only in the world to come, so he punishes the wholly righteous for whatever minor transgression he may have committed in this world only in this world. (Sifre Deut. §307 [ed. Finkelstein, 345])

Similarly, the Sages warned:

When a person sees that what is in his hand succeeds, let him not say, “Because I have merited it the Omnipresent one has given me food and drink in this world, while the principal is stored up for me in the world to come!” Rather, let him say, “Woe is me, lest before him there has not been found for me anything more than only one meritorious deed, so he has given me food and drink in this world in order that he may destroy me in the world to come!” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 9 [ed. Schechter, 42])

Rewarding the Wicked in the Teachings of Jesus

In the Gospels we encounter a comparable notion to the rabbinic idea that the wicked use up all their reward in this world so that all that remains in store for them is punishment in the world to come. Three times in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus refers to those who ostentatiously perform good works in order to be praised by the members of their community. In each instance, with respect to almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, Jesus comments, “Amen! I say to you, they have received their wage” (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16). Because these individuals acted out of a desire for self-aggrandizement rather than for the sake of Heaven, Jesus declared that they received both what they sought and what they deserved: the empty praise of mortal flesh, but no notice from their Father in Heaven.

A more sinister articulation of the principle that rewards in this world can detract from rewards in the world to come is found in the woes that accompany Luke’s version of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain:

Woe to you who are wealthy, for you have received your comfort.
Woe to you who stuff yourselves now, for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe when all the people speak well of you, for that is how their fathers spoke of the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-26)

The woes that Jesus pronounced imply that enjoying a reward in the present time will detract from one’s enjoyment of the coming redemption. This attitude toward present comfort and luxury, so similar to that which is expressed in the quotation from Avot de-Rabbi Natan cited above, is also found in even starker terms in the Epistle of James:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you. (James 5:1-6; RSV)

Tales of Hanina ben Dosa

First-century fresco from Herculaneum depicting a three-legged table. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
First-century fresco from Herculaneum depicting a three-legged table. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Many tales are told in rabbinic sources about Hanina ben Dosa, a Galilean hasid who lived at the end of the Second Temple period and who was known for his vibrant piety as well as his extreme poverty. One story preserved in the Babylonian Talmud illustrates the understanding that enjoying rewards for good deeds in the present time subtracts from the reward that will be received in the world to come. The hasidic tale recounts how Hanina ben Dosa’s wife became fed up with their hardships and privations and demanded that her husband pray for God to give them something to relieve their poverty. Hanina ben Dosa’s prayer was immediately answered as the figure of a hand was revealed to them holding out to them a golden table leg. That night in a dream, however, Hanina ben Dosa saw a vision of the word to come in which everyone sat at golden tables with three legs—nearly all tables were of the three-legged variety in first-century Israel—but Hanina and his wife were sitting at a golden table with only two legs, in other words, at a table that was perfectly useless because it could not stand. When he awoke, Hanina ben Dosa prayed that the golden table leg they had received would be taken back so that his present enjoyment of riches would not mar his happiness in the world to come, and this prayer too was answered (b. Taan. 25a).


Carob tree (Botanical Garden, Mount Scopus). Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
Carob tree (Botanical Garden, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem). Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

The stories and musings we have considered above were meant to alleviate, if not resolve, the contradiction between the conviction that God is powerful and just and the empirical fact that the wicked often prosper. The solution we have examined proposes that the temporary good fortune of the wicked paradoxically underscores God’s justice, for by giving them ample reward in the present time for the few good deeds that may have accrued to their credit, there can be no grounds of complaint when all that is reserved for them is punishment in the world to come. By enjoying success, comfort, and acclamation in the present the wicked are using up their empty reward. On the other hand, pious individuals like Jesus and Hanina ben Dosa suffer hardships and privations in the present time, but their lack of worldly success is no sign of divine disapproval. On the contrary, the Son of Man who had no place to rest his head was also the Son in whom God was well pleased (cf. Luke 9:58; 3:22). And of Hanina ben Dosa it was said that a heavenly voice daily proclaimed from Mount Horeb: “The whole world is sustained for the sake of Hanina, my son, but for Hanina, my son, a kav of carobs is enough from one Sabbath eve to the next” (b. Ber. 17b; cf. b. Taan. 24b).


My wife and I recently had the privilege of visiting the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where we saw displayed, within a few feet of each other, the likely sarcophagus of Herod the Great and the ossuary of Joseph Caiaphas the high priest. According to the Gospels, each of these men attempted to take Jesus’ life, the former failing to achieve his design when Jesus was an infant, the latter succeeding with the help of his friend, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. Each of these men enjoyed lavish lifestyles, exercised power, and boasted of success in their lifetimes. They received their reward in full. But now their bones have crumbled into dust and their success, their wealth, and their power are meaningless. My wife in particular found this testimony to God’s righteous judgment to be a comfort when she saw them.

Likely sarcophagus of Herod the Great discovered by archaeologist Ehud Netzer at the Herodium. Photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.
Likely sarcophagus of Herod the Great discovered by archaeologist Ehud Netzer at the Herodium. Photographed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by Joshua N. Tilton.

Did Jesus Call God “Abba”?

No Jew ever called God abba, yet the evangelists record
that Jesus always called God abba, ‘my Father
(except for the cry from the cross, Mark 15.34).”

(Joachim Jeremias; emphasis original)[1]

At first glance, the title of this article might seem to pose a preposterous question. “Of course Jesus called God ‘Abba,’” one might exclaim. “It says so in the New Testament!” That “Abba” was Jesus’ favorite term for addressing God is often taken for granted by laypersons and scholars alike. Some scholars have asserted that whenever Jesus addressed God as “Father” in the Gospels, this always goes back to an original “Abba.”[2] Moreover, Jesus’ use of “Abba” in prayer has been cited as evidence that Jesus attained a level of intimacy with God that was not possible within the confines of Second Temple Judaism.[3] It has even been claimed that calling God “Abba” would have been considered offensive, and perhaps blasphemous, to Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries.[4] At other times, scholars have pointed to Jesus’ use of “Abba” as evidence that Jesus spoke Aramaic rather than Hebrew.[5] All of this is a heavy load for one little word to bear, and it is for this reason that it makes sense to re-examine the evidence regarding Jesus’ use of the term “Abba.”

The Evidence for Jesus’ Use of “Abba”

In the past, scholars who defended the notion that Jesus always used the term “Abba” when addressing God as “Father” usually made their case in the following manner: In the first place, scholars claimed that the form אָבִי (’āvi, “my father”), which was the usual way for addressing one’s father in Biblical Hebrew (cf., e.g., Gen. 22:7), had become obsolete by Jesus’ time, having been completely replaced by the form אַבָּא (’abā’, “father”).[6] Thus, if Jesus had wanted to address God as “Father,” either in Hebrew or Aramaic, there was no alternative but to call him “Abba.” In the second place, scholars cited Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (where Jesus is reported as saying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you” [Mark 14:36]) as proof positive that Jesus did, indeed, call God “Abba.” Finally, these scholars traced the practice of calling out to God as “Abba, Father” among the Greek-speaking non-Jewish believers (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) back to Jesus. These scholars argued that since “Abba” was a foreign word, the only reason why these non-Jewish Greek-speakers would call God “Abba” was that they did so in imitation of Jesus, whose practice of addressing God in this way had transformed “Abba” into a sacred word.[7]

These arguments would be formidable if they were factual. Upon closer examination, however, we discover that these arguments are at best founded on baseless assumptions, and at worst are wholly erroneous. We will examine these arguments in reverse order, proceeding from the least egregious to the most.

“Abba” in Gentile Churches

The assumption that the practice of addressing God as “Abba” in Gentile churches is evidence of Jesus’ method of addressing God is questionable for two reasons. First, Paul, who is our earliest witness to this practice, never claimed that calling out “Abba, Father” to God goes back to Jesus’ personal example. Second, it is not so clear that “Abba” was a foreign word for Paul’s Gentile readers.

In his Epistle to the Galatians Paul wrote, “…God sent the spirit of his son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal. 4:6). It is the spirit of Jesus in the believers’ hearts (and not the historical Jesus) that addresses God as “Abba,” according to Paul. This distinction might seem trivial, but the implications are huge. Paul does not claim to be reporting how Jesus prayed in the past or what words Jesus had used in his prayers. Instead, Paul put into words what the spirit now expresses in a believer’s heart. But what the spirit currently does in a believer’s heart need not reflect, nor even be related to, Jesus’ practice prior to his crucifixion and resurrection. In Romans the connection between the cry “Abba, Father” and Jesus is even less clear: “…you received a spirit of adoption, in whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15). The spirit of adoption puts into words what it means to be made a daughter or son—the Gentile believers who formerly were estranged from God now know God as their father. In neither of the passages where Paul made reference to the practice of Greek-speaking believers calling God “Abba” did Paul appeal to the example of the historical Jesus; Paul rather described what the spirit does in a believer’s heart.

But surely the fact that Gentile believers were using a foreign word when addressing God as “Father” must preserve a reminiscence of the practice of the historical Jesus? Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not. According to the church fathers, in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire even Greek speakers in well-to-do families were known to address their fathers as “Abba.”[8] How could this be? Prior to the conquests of Alexander the Great, Aramaic was the lingua franca throughout the ancient Near East. Even after the spread of Hellenism in the wake of Alexander’s conquest, Aramaic remained an important language in those regions.[9] Greek became the language of culture and government, but Aramaic continued to be spoken in the homes and the marketplaces of the East. Since adoption and fatherhood are domestic affairs, it is not surprising that Gentiles with an Aramaic heritage might address God as “Abba.” For Gentiles in the East, addressing God as “Abba” might have seemed more natural than calling him “Pater,” the Greek word for “father.”

But What About Gethsemane?

The evidence from Mark 14:36 that Jesus did, indeed, call God “Abba” is less unequivocal than some scholars have been willing to admit. In their parallel versions of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, neither Matthew nor Luke state that Jesus called God “Abba.” Here are the three versions of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane side by side:

Matthew 26:39 Mark 14:36 Luke 22:42
My father [πάτερ μου], if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Abba, father [αββα ὁ πατήρ], all things are possible with you. Take away this cup from me. Father [πάτερ], if you will, take away this cup from me.

The agreement of Matthew and Luke against Mark’s form of address may indicate that it was the author of Mark who reworked the pre-synoptic tradition, and that the Matthean and Lukan versions of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane preserve the original address.

But what possible motive could the author of Mark have had for adding a foreign word to the Greek text of Jesus’ prayer? Perhaps the author of Mark wanted to echo the prayers of the Gentile believers (cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) in the words of Jesus’ prayer. Mark 14:36 is the only verse in the entire New Testament that places “Abba” on the lips of Jesus. Given the practice of addressing God as “Abba” in Gentile congregations, it behooves us to consider whether it was Mark’s intention to report the words of Jesus’ prayer verbatim, or whether he sought to paraphrase Jesus’ prayer in a way that made Jesus’ words more familiar for his readers.

The Disappearance of אָבִי (“my father”) from Hebrew

The strongest argument in favor of Jesus’ exclusive use of “Abba”—if only it were true—is that Jesus had no other option, since “Avi” (אָבִי; “my father”) had disappeared from the Hebrew language. But the notion that “Avi” had disappeared from the Hebrew language is simply false. “Avi” is attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the continued use of “Avi” in Hebrew after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. is attested in rabbinic literature. While it is true that “Abba” eventually became a more common address than “Avi,” it had by no means disappeared from Hebrew by Jesus’ time. Supposing that Jesus spoke Hebrew and supposing that he wanted to address God as “Father,” both “Avi” and “Abba” would have been at his disposal.[10]

Did Jesus Ever Call God “Abba”?

We have deconstructed the assumption held by some scholars that whenever Jesus addressed God as “Father” he always used the term “Abba.” But to suppose that Jesus never addressed God as “Abba” is a non sequitur.

An additional weakness of the assumption that Jesus always called God “Abba” is that in the Greek text of the Synoptic Gospels Jesus addresses God as “Father” in three different ways: πάτερ (pater, “Father!”; Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; 22:42; 23:34, 46), πάτερ μου (pater mou, “My Father!”; Matt. 26:39, 42) and ὁ πατήρ (o patēr, “the Father!”; Matt. 11:26; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21). Why would the same word, “Abba,” be put into Greek in so many different ways?[11] In our forthcoming attempt to propose a Hebrew reconstruction of Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn (Matt. 11:25-26; Luke 10:21), David Bivin and I concluded that Jesus probably used both forms, “Abba” and “Avi,” when he addressed God as “Father.”[12] We based this conclusion on the way “Avi” was put into Greek by the translators of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, and on the way “Abba” was put into Greek by two different New Testament authors.

“Avi” אָבִי

In the Septuagint “Avi” (“My Father!”) is almost always put into Greek simply as “Pater” (πάτερ; “Father!”), although sometimes “Avi” was translated more literally as “Pater mou” (πάτερ μου; “My Father!”).[13] Supposing Jesus prayed in Hebrew,[14] it is reasonable to conclude that “Pater” (“Father!”) and “Pater mou” (“My Father!”) in the Synoptic Gospels reflect “Avi” in Hebrew. In other words, we believe that when Jesus’ words were put into Greek from Hebrew, “Avi” was treated in exactly the same way that “Avi” had been treated by the translators of the Septuagint.

“Abba” אַבָּא

In two of his letters the Apostle Paul demonstrates that “Abba” was put into Greek as “O Patēr” (ὁ πατήρ; “the Father”; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). The author of Mark independently verifies that “O Patēr” was regarded as the Greek equivalent of “Abba” (Mark 14:36). Although we have reason to question whether Jesus really addressed God as “Abba” in his prayer in Gethsemane (see above), there is one other example in the Gospels of the address “O Patēr” on the lips of Jesus. This example occurs in Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn:

I thank you, Father [“Pater”], Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to the simple. Yes, Father [“O Patēr”], for this was your good pleasure! (Matt. 11:25-26; Luke 10:21)

The second time Jesus addressed God as “Father” in this prayer, the address was put into Greek as “O Patēr,” which, according to Paul and the author of Mark, is the equivalent of “Abba.” We can think of no better reason why a Greek translator would choose to phrase the address “Father” in this prayer in two different ways in such close proximity than that two different forms of address—“Avi” in the first instance, and “Abba” in the second—were used in the conjectured Hebrew vorlage.

Jesus, “Abba,” and Second Temple Judaism

Having concluded that Jesus probably did address God as “Abba” on at least one occasion (in Matt. 11:25-26; Luke 10:21), we now turn to the assertion that, by addressing God as “Abba,” Jesus transcended the limits of Second Temple Judaism. Does Jesus’ use of “Abba” really suggest that he attained an intimacy with God beyond what was possible within the Jewish religion? And would calling God “Abba” really have been perceived by his fellow Jews as offensive and disrespectful or even blasphemous?

Writing in the 1970s, Joachim Jeremias was able to accurately claim that “in the literature of Palestinian Judaism no evidence has yet been found of ‘my Father’ being used by an individual as an address to God” (emphasis original).[15] This lack of evidence became a cornerstone of Jeremias’ argument that, by calling God “Abba,” Jesus was utterly unique. (Remember that Jeremias labored under the false impression that “Abba” was the only option available in Hebrew or Aramaic for addressing God as “Father.”) Since the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, Jeremias’ statement has become antiquated. Two prayer texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered in which an individual addresses God as “Avi.” One of these prayers begins with the address “Avi v’Elohai” (אבי ואלהי; “My Father and my God”; 4Q372 1 I, 16). The other prayer includes the address “Avi v’Adonai” (אבי ואדוני; “My Father and my Lord”; 4Q460 5 I, 6).[16] These prayer texts demonstrate that addressing God as “Father” was not unique to Jesus.

But might there not have been something special about “Abba” as opposed to “Avi” that could salvage the hypothesis of Jesus’ transcendence of Judaism? Maybe “Avi” was considered reverential, while “Abba” was considered informal? Maybe “Avi” was considered sacred, while “Abba” was considered profane? The examples of the continued use of “Avi” in Mishnaic Hebrew cited in the end notes below give the lie to the notion that “Avi” was regarded as sacred. According to aggadic traditions, Job used the term “Avi” when he cursed the day on which Job’s father was told that Job’s mother was pregnant with Job, and Esau used the term “Avi” when contemplating the murder of his own father. These are hardly reverential uses of “Avi.” Likewise, it cannot be maintained that “Abba” was an informal and homely term. On several occasions rabbinic sages described halakhic practices they had observed in their youth to their colleagues, saying, “In my father’s [‘Abba’s’] house they used to….”[17] In the same way, we find examples of “Abba” as a form of address that implies no disrespect, for instance:

אָמַ′ לוֹ אֲבָּא פַּקֵּד עָלַיִ לַחֲבֵירֶךָ

He said to him, “Abba, commend me to your colleagues.” (m. Edu. 5:7)

מעשה בחסיד אחד ששכח עומר בתוך שדהו ואמ′ לבנו צא והקריב עלי פר לעולה ופר לשלמים אמ′ לו אבא מה ראית לשמוח מצוה זו מכל מצות האמורות בתורה אמ′ לו כל מצות שבתורה נתן לנו המקום לדעתנו זו שלא דעתנו שאילו עשינוה כרצון לפני המקום לא באה מצוה זו לידינו לדעתנו

An anecdote about a certain Hasid who forgot a sheaf in the middle of his field. And he said to his son, “Go out and sacrifice a bull for a whole burnt offering and a bull for a peace offering for me.”[18] His son said, “Abba, what have you seen that causes you to rejoice over this commandment more than all the other commandments that are stated in the Torah?” He said to him, “All the commands that are in the Torah the Omnipresent one gave to us for our conscious intention, but this is not for our conscious intention. For even though we did it according to the desire of the Omnipresent one, this command did not come about by our own volition.”[19] (t. Peah 3:8; Vienna MS)

מעשה שאמר רבי יהודה לבנו צא והבא לי קציעות מן החבית אמר לו אבה של דבש היא

It happened that Rabbi Yehudah said to his son, “Go out and bring me figs from the jar.” He said to him, “Abba, it is full of honey.” (Sifre Deut. §316 [ed. Finkelstein, 358])

א″ר יצחק בשעה שבקש אברהם לעקוד יצחק בנו אמר לו אבא בחור אני וחוששני שמא יזדעזע גופי מפחדה של סכין ואצערך ושמא תפסל השחיטה ולא תעלה לך לקרבן

Rabbi Yitzhak said, “In the hour that Abraham sought to bind Isaac, his son said to him, ‘Abba, I am a young man and I am afraid that my body might tremble from fear of the knife and I might grieve you and you might invalidate the slaughtering and your offering might not be accepted.’” (Gen. Rab. 56:8)

These examples demonstrate that “Abba” was an address that could be used on formal occasions when grave matters (such as giving up one’s own life, as in the case of Isaac) were being discussed.

Although no prayers have yet been discovered in which God is addressed as “Abba,” experience cautions us not to put too much weight on lack of attestation. An example may yet turn up. But even in the absence of specific examples, it is untenable to maintain that simply by using “Abba” instead of “Avi” Jesus could have offended his contemporaries or transcended the bounds of Judaism.[20]

The Language Debate

Jesus’ use of “Abba” has also been marshaled as evidence in the debate over whether Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. For some reason, Jesus’ use of “Abba” was considered to weigh heavily in favor of Aramaic, even though “Abba” exists in both Semitic languages. In fact, all of the examples of “Abba” cited above appear in Hebrew contexts. By the time of Jesus, “Abba” had been fully assimilated into the Hebrew language; it was not regarded as a foreign word and it did not indicate a switch from Hebrew to Aramaic. Insisting that “Abba” somehow helps to settle the language issue is completely disingenuous.


We now return to the question posed in the title of this article: Did Jesus call God “Abba”? In the past, this question was answered affirmatively, but often for poor reasons that led to unfounded conclusions. We have shown that it is possible to arrive at an affirmative answer on more solid grounds. Moreover, it is our hope that our conclusions will lead to a more accurate understanding of Jesus’ self-awareness and his place within Second Temple Judaism.

  • [1] Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus (trans. C. Burchard and J. Reumann; London: SCM, 1967), 111.
  • [2] See, for instance, Gustaf H. Dalman, The Words of Jesus Considered in the Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and the Aramaic Language: I. Introduction and Fundamental Ideas (trans. D. M. Kay; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1902), 191-192; Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), 65.
  • [3] See Gerhard Kittel, “ἀββᾶ,” in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; 10 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976), 1:6.
  • [4] See Jeremias, New Testament Theology, 67.
  • [5] For scholars who have argued that Jesus’ use of “Abba” points to an Aramaic original of the Lord’s Prayer, see, for instance, W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew (3 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988-1997), 1:593; Ulrich Luz, Matthew: Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (3 vols.; trans. James E. Crouch; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001-2007), 1:311.
  • [6] On the supposed obsolescence of אָבִי, see Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 22-23, 56. Cf. Dalman, Words of Jesus, 192.
  • [7] See Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 55; idem, New Testament Theology, 65.
  • [8] See Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 59-60. In the writings of Theodoret of Cyrus (fifth cent. C.E.), for example, we read the following comment on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

    Ἐν ᾧ κράζομεν Ἀββᾶ, ὁ Πατήρ. Καὶ γὰρ τὴν μυστικὴν εὐχὴν τῷ Δεσπότῃ προσφέροντες, Πατέρα καλεῖν αὐτὸν προσετάχθημεν, καὶ λέγομεν· Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. Τὸ δὲ, Ἀββᾶ, προστέθεικε, τὴν παῤῥησίαν τῶν καλούντων διδάσκων. Τὰ γάρ τοι παιδία, πλείονι παῤῥησίᾳ κεχρημένα πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας (οὐδέπω γὰρ τελείαν τὴν διάκρισιν ἔχει), συχνότερον πρὸς αὐτοὺς τῇδε κέχρηται τῇ φωνῇ.

    in whom we cry, Abba, Father [Rom. 8:15]: when offering the mystical prayer to the Lord, we are bidden to call him Father, and say, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Now, he inserted Abba to bring out the confidence of those who call: children, of course, addressing their parents with greater confidence (not having complete discernment, you see), frequently employ this word. (Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, on Rom. 8:15)

    (Translation according to Robert Charles Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul [2 vols.; Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001], 1:91.)

    According to the translator of this passage, “Theodoret, for whom Syriac (i.e., a dialect of Aramaic) is his mother tongue, speaks of children generally employing this term [i.e., ‘Abba’—JNT]. He does not give color to the view…that it survives from an Aramaic form of the Lord’s Prayer” (Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus, 1:149).

  • [9] On the continuing importance of Aramaic in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire, see Randall Buth, “Aramaic Language,” in Dictionary of New Testament Background (ed. Craig Evans and Stanley Porter; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2000), 86-91; Peter J. Tomson, ‘If this be from Heaven…’ Jesus and the New Testament Authors in their Relationship to Judaism (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 31.
  • [10]

    Some Examples of “Avi” in the Dead Sea Scrolls

    ועתה מבקש [אני אות]כה אבי אשר תשלחני והלכתי אל אבי

    And now I beseech you, my Father [“Avi”], that you send me and I will go to my father [“Avi”]…. (4QTobe [4Q200] 4 I, 4-5)

    [ויאמר] לו אל תירא אבי

    And he said to him, “Do not be afraid, my Father [‘Avi’].” (4QTobe [4Q200] 5 I, 3)

    כיא אבי לא ידעני ואמי עליכה עזבתני כי אתה אב לכול בני אמתכה

    For my father [“Avi”] did not know me and my mother abandoned me to you, but you are father to all the sons of your truth. (1QHa XVII, 34-35)

    יקרא אל אל גבור להושיעו מידם ויאמר אבי ואלהי אל תעזבני ביד הגוים

    He cried to the God of might to save him from their hand. And he said, “My Father [‘Avi’] and my God, do not abandon me in the hand of the Gentiles.” (4Q372 1 I, 16)

    Some Examples of “Avi” in Rabbinic Literature

    מכות אלו גרמו לי ליאהב לאבי שבשמים

    These injuries caused me to be loved by my father [“Avi”] who is in heaven. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Baḥodesh chpt. 6 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:325]) (Jeremias was aware of this example, but he considered “My father who is in heaven” to be a fossilized form that did not represent colloquial speech. See Jeremias, Prayers of Jesus, 22-23.)

    כיון שמת משה היה יהושע בוכה ומצעק ומתאבל עליו במרד והיה אומר אבי אבי רבי רבי אבי שגדלני רבי שלמדני תורה

    Upon the death of Moses, Joshua was weeping and crying and mourning over him with bitterness, and he was saying, “My father [‘Avi’]! My father [‘Avi’]! My master! My master! My father [‘Avi’] who raised me! My master who taught me Torah!” (Sifre Deut. §305 [ed. Finkelstein, 327])

    יאבד יום אולד בו והלילה אמר הורה גבר. יאבד יום שבא אבי אצל אמי ואמרה לו אני הרה

    May the day on which I was born perish, and the night when it was said, “A male baby is born” [Job 3:3]. May the day perish when my father [“Avi”] came to my mother and she said to him, “I am pregnant.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 37:13 [ed. Schechter, 112])

    מהו ויאמר עשו בלבו אמר קין הרג אחיו ולא עשה לו הקב″ה כלום וסוף שהוליד אדם בנים אחרים וירשו עמו את העולם, אף אני אהרג את אבי תחילה ואחרכך את אחי ואירש את העולם לבדי

    What is the meaning of And Esau said in his heart [Gen. 27:41]? He said, “Cain murdered his brother and the Holy One, blessed be he, did nothing to him, and the result was that Adam fathered other children and they inherited the world along with him. So I will murder my father [‘Avi’] first, and only afterward my brother, so that I will inherit the world all to myself.” (Gen. Rab. 75:9 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:888])

  • [11] This question was fully investigated by James Barr, “’Abbā Isn’t Daddy,” Journal of Theological Studies 39.1 (1988): 28-47.
  • [12] See (forthcoming) David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn,” Comment to L9, and also under the subheading “Results of this Research.”
  • [13] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L10.
  • [14] All Second Temple-period prayers from the land of Israel actually intended for liturgical use (as opposed to prayers incorporated into literary works) were composed in Hebrew. See Shmuel Safrai, “Literary Languages in the Time of Jesus,” under the subheading “Prayers”; Bivin and Tilton, Lord’s Prayer, under the subheading “Results of this Research.”
  • [15] Jeremias, New Testament Theology, 64.
  • [16] On these prayer texts, see Eileen M. Schuller, “The Psalm of 4Q372 1 within the Context of Second Temple Prayer,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 54 (1992): 67-79.
  • [17] See, for example, m. Peah 2:4; m. Shab. 1:9; m. Betz. 2:6; m. Edu. 3:10.
  • [18] Note that this story is set in the period when the Temple was still standing.
  • [19] Unlike the rest of the Torah’s commandments, which a person sets out to perform intentionally, the commandment of the forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) depends on an unintentional action, namely, accidentally forgetting a sheaf in the field. Thus, a completely Torah-observant person who is also possessed of a good memory might never have the opportunity to fulfill the commandment of the forgotten sheaf. The opportunity comes by chance (or Providence), and it is for this reason the man described as a Hasid was so pleased to fulfill the commandment of the forgotten sheaf. He regarded the opportunity to fulfill this commandment as a sign of God’s favor.
  • [20] As Paula Fredriksen wrote, “…some scholars have wanted to see in Jesus’ particular use of abba—less formal, more intimate and affectionate than the Hebrew ab—an indication of Jesus’ personal consciousness of his uniquely close relationship with and to God. This interpretation asks abba to bear the burden of later theological developments, which made particular claims about Jesus’ unique metaphysical nature as divine Son” (Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988], 140).

A Declaration of Independence and a Pledge of Allegiance

For S. Cooper Tilton (Papa).

I am someone who is deeply skeptical of nationalism and patriotism.[1] Affection for one’s local customs and traditions has its place, but I believe that place is not among the virtues at the core of Jesus’ Gospel. Indeed, natural affections and preferences are among those things that often cause disagreements and divisions, which I believe followers of Jesus are called to overcome for the sake of a much larger mission and a much grander purpose than the celebration of ourselves. That is why I have always been uncomfortable with the celebration of the Declaration of Independence as part of worship on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July, and why I refrain from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag during religious gatherings. To my mind, these displays of nationalism and patriotism for a particular country—even for one as great as the United States—are in direct competition with Jesus’ invitation to participate with him in the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps the simplest way to my explain my unease with mixing expressions of nationalism and patriotism with Christian worship is for us to consider the Lord’s Prayer together.

I regard the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of Declaration of Independence—though not for the establishment of any human government—and as a kind of Pledge of Allegiance—though not to any political system devised by flesh and blood. I understand the Lord’s Prayer in this way because when Jesus’ prayer is studied in relation to Second Temple Judaism and ancient Jewish sources it quickly becomes clear that the content of the Lord’s Prayer is not merely spiritual and religious, it is also concrete and practical, with social, political, and economic implications.

Hallowed Be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will Be Done.

In the days of the Second Temple, the people of Israel were longing for redemption—not, I must hasten to clarify, for personal salvation in the next life, but for the collective vindication of the entire people of Israel in the here and now. Collective vindication would come when the scattered children of Israel were regathered into Jerusalem and when the foreign rule of Gentile kingdoms was lifted from Israel’s shoulders so that all Israel would be set free to fulfill the Torah’s commandments.[2] When these things happened, the collective vindication of Israel would be achieved because all the world would know and believe that the LORD God of Abraham is Israel’s only savior, redeemer, and king.

The first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer—the so-called “Thou” petitions because they address God in the second person—are intimately related to the longing for Israel’s redemption. This connection becomes clear when it is understood that according to the prophetic books of the Bible God’s name is profaned among the Gentiles on account of Israel’s subjection to foreign kingdoms (cf., e.g., Ezek. 36:20-24). In other words, the Gentiles lacked proper respect for Israel’s God because they assumed he was either unwilling to help the people who worshiped him, or because the LORD was not as strong as the Gentile kingdoms and their gods. Either way, the Gentiles deemed the God of Israel to be of no account, for otherwise Israel would have been saved from their humiliating circumstances.[3] Thus, “Hallowed be Thy name” is a prayer for God to redeem Israel in order to show that the LORD is king of kings and god of gods. The story of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt taught that when God intervenes on behalf of Israel the Gentiles begin to show reverence for God (cf. Exod. 12:12; Josh. 2:8-11). According to rabbinic tradition, the Gentiles threw away their idols when they saw how much more powerful the God of Israel was than the gods of Egypt.[4] It was believed that the redemption of Israel in the future would be even more glorious than Israel’s redemption in the past, and therefore God’s name would be sanctified throughout the whole world when redemption came to Israel at last.

Philippians“Thy kingdom come” is a more transparent prayer for redemption than the previous petition. When God’s Kingdom comes there will be no room for any other rulers to have power over Israel. According to the rabbinic sages, God first revealed his Kingdom at the Red Sea when he triumphed over Pharaoh, and God’s Kingdom will be revealed again at the final redemption when all of Israel’s enemies will be overthrown and God alone will be hailed as Israel’s king. When that day finally comes, God’s will will be done everywhere by everyone. The Gentiles will serve God willingly because they will know that he is the rightful king of all creation. So we see that all three “Thou” petitions are focused on the redemption of Israel, a redemption that will bring about drastic changes in the real world.

When in the Course of Human Events….

diognetusUnderstood in this way, we can agree that the Lord’s Prayer has something in common with the Declaration of Independence. In 1776 the American colonists declared independence from what they perceived as the tyrannical rule by a foreign power. Their Declaration of Independence not only envisioned a new and different ordering of society, it also summoned that new order into existence. The Declaration of Independence expressed revolutionary sentiments that were not welcomed by King George III, who ruled the colonies, or by his local representatives. In a similar way, the Lord’s Prayer envisions a new and different world order, and although it spells the salvation of all humankind, I doubt that Caesar would have found it to his liking if it ever reached his ears in Rome.

Of course, there are enormous differences between the Declaration of Independence and the Lord’s Prayer. For one thing, the Declaration of Independence aimed at the establishment of human government, and like all human endeavors, human error and human sinfulness is built into the system the “Founding Fathers” created. The enslavement of captives from Africa, the near extermination of the indigenous population of North America, and the unequal status of women are among the evils woven into the fabric of the nation the Declaration of Independence summoned into existence, and we in the United States continue to struggle with the consequences of our original sins to the present day.

Already by Jesus’ time the people of Israel had begun to learn from hard experience that replacing foreign rule with a human government could not bring about their longed-for redemption. In the wake of the religious persecutions under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Jews living in the land of Israel had experienced a brief period of political independence under the Hasmoneans, the family of priests who had led the fight for religious freedom and who claimed the high priesthood and the royal crown as their reward for victory. Although the Hasmoneans styled themselves as the divinely-anointed redeemers of Israel, their reign quickly degenerated into an imitation of the worst abuses of Gentile rulers, which ultimately led to civil war and the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. In the first century of the Common Era there were, indeed, militant Jewish nationalists who wanted to throw off Roman rule through violent insurgence, but others resisted the urge to revolt, arguing that such a revolution could only set up another kingdom of flesh and blood. It seems likely that the Jewish sages coined the phrase “the Kingdom of Heaven” in order to express their simultaneous desire for redemption and their rejection of revolutionary ideology.[5] Bitter experience had taught these sages that only God, whose reign is free from evil and corruption, could ever bring about a true and lasting redemptive order to the universe. Since Jesus’ teachings and his prayer embrace the view that only God’s reign can bring about redemption, I believe his followers should be cautious of nationalism and patriotism in all its expressions, but especially when these sentiments attempt to insinuate themselves into Christian worship.

I Pledge Allegiance….

I have described the Lord’s Prayer not just as a kind of Declaration of Independence but also as a kind of Pledge of Allegiance. This is because I see the Lord’s Prayer as encompassing both active and passive aspects. The Lord’s Prayer calls upon God to act, but it also binds the person praying the Lord’s Prayer to take certain kinds of action. This dual functionality of the Lord’s Prayer is most obvious in the petition “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This petition explicitly articulates a reciprocal relationship, which I believe runs through the entire prayer. “Hallowed be Thy name” is at once hortatory (urging God to do it) and declarative (committing oneself to actions that will cause God’s reputation to be elevated in the world). “Thy kingdom come” asks God to bring redemption, but it also binds the one praying to participate in God’s redemptive reign. Likewise, “Thy will be done” can only be prayed when one is determined to fulfill God’s will in her or his own life.

In the “We” petitions—so called because they are phrased in the first person—the practical aspects of the Lord’s Prayer come to the fore. Here we find petitions that affect our social relations, our political affiliations, and our pocketbooks. When we pray these petitions we are pledging ourselves to the kind of conduct that assures that our practical experience will be transformed. “Give us this day our daily bread” requires a commitment to be satisfied with nothing more than what we need for today. In essence, the prayer for bread is a vow of poverty prayed by the disciples who followed Jesus from place to place with no means of supporting themselves.[6] This petition requires deep and abiding trust in God’s faithfulness to provide for those who dedicate themselves heart and soul to the Kingdom of Heaven’s redemptive mission.

justin-allegiance-quote“Forgive us our debts” is couched in fiscal imagery and has economic implications. While the scope of forgiveness is much wider than the cancellation of monetary loans, releasing the poor from the burden of debt is certainly the most natural place to begin implementation of the Lord’s Prayer. It is not possible to pray the Lord’s Prayer with sincerity while also aiming to profit from the economic vulnerabilities of the poor. And yet we all participate in a global economy in which the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Therefore, we pray for God’s better reign and the coming of his divine economy while committing ourselves now to the relief of those in poverty and the sharing of our wealth with those in need.[7]

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is also extremely practical, since it pertains not merely to psychological temptations, but to faithfulness in times of testing. When our commitment to the Kingdom of Heaven is challenged and when our actions in accordance with Jesus’ teachings are put on trial, then we pray that God will find us faithful, that he will give us the strength to resist pressure to surrender our loyalty to God’s Kingdom, and that when we do stand firm for his Kingdom we will be spared retaliation from those who pressured us to conform.

Like the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, in which adults and schoolchildren affirm their loyalty to a government of flesh and blood—a loyalty that may include the duty to die or even to kill for their country—the Lord’s Prayer is also a declaration of loyalty, on pain of death, to the Kingdom of Heaven. Although some traditions hold that there are two kingdoms or two spheres in which Christians live and operate, one being the temporal sphere ruled by human institutions whose will is enforced with the sword, and the other being the spiritual sphere ruled by God whose will is revealed in the Word, the Lord’s Prayer entertains no such dichotomy.[8] The redemption it longs for is redemption in this world in the here and now, and the loyalty it calls for is to be practiced and upheld precisely in the realm where other rulers and kingdoms dictate competing claims for obedience and loyalty.[9]

On Earth as it Is in Heaven

I am convinced that Jesus believed the Kingdom of Heaven was breaking into the here and now through his own healing and teaching ministry and among his own followers. And since I yearn to belong to the Kingdom of Heaven—God’s redeeming reign over Israel and all humankind, and indeed, over all his creation—I am unwilling to pledge my allegiance to any other ruler or institution established by mortal, sinful humankind. Instead, I want to participate in a prophetic community that declares to all nations and kingdoms ruled by flesh and blood that Jesus is the divinely-anointed king whose rule is healing and whose judgment is peace. To my mind, patriotic and nationalistic fervor in the context of worship can only distract from this mission.[10] In this election year that has witnessed presidential candidates play on our fears and stir up divisions with insults and innuendo, I hope that followers of Jesus in the United States will question why we should swear allegiance to a flag and to the republic for which it stands when we already belong to a much better Kingdom, and when we have already been redeemed by a much greater King.

The song in the video below expresses the essence of what I attempted to articulate above, only in a much more eloquent style. “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,” words by James Montgomery (1771-1854).

The album Welcome to the Welcome Wagon was released in 2008 by Asthmatic Kitty Records.

  • [1] This article is Joshua Tilton’s personal reflection based on his research on the Lord’s Prayer for the Life of Yeshua project.
  • [2] The song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55 and the song of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79 are two expressions of the hope for Israel’s collective vindication.
  • [3] See the discussion in David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L13.
  • [4] Cf., e.g., Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 8 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:206-207).
  • [5] See David Flusser, Jesus (3d ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 2001), 105-107; David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “The Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish Literature: Political Aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  • [6] For more on the petition for bread, see Joseph Frankovic, “Over and Under-Familiarity with Matthew 6:11.”
  • [7] Members of the early church “shared everything they had…and there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:32-34; cf. Acts 2:44-45).
  • [8] I refer here to Martin Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms. Wrongly interpreted, Luther’s doctrine can be used to justify the living of a double life, one a religious life practiced in the context of the Church, the other a secular life practiced in the context of the world. The dichotomy here is not between public and private life, but in the division of some kinds of acts as “religious” and other kinds of acts as “secular.” Such compartmentalization is what allows people who think of themselves as religious to so completely spiritualize concepts like forgiveness, for example, that they do not even consider the possibility that forgiveness must be practiced in social, economic, and political life as well as in the heart.
  • [9] The competing claims of kingship between Caesar and God was keenly felt by ancient Jews and early Christians, many of whom refrained from swearing oaths of allegiance to Caesar despite the often dangerous consequences to themselves for their refusal. For examples of Jewish resistance to pledging allegiance to Caesar, see Josephus’ account of how, when Herod attempted to impose a pledge of allegiance to himself and to Caesar on the inhabitants of his kingdom, over six thousand Pharisees refused to make the pledge (Ant. 17:42; cf. Ant. 15:369). The Essenes likewise refused to make this pledge (Ant. 15:371). Cadbury noted that one reason early Christians refused to take part in military service was the unconditional military oath, which they believed conflicted with their unconditional obligation to God. See Henry J. Cadbury, “The Basis of Early Christian Antimilitarism,” Journal of Biblical Literature 37 (1918): 66-94, esp. 81.
  • [10] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was fully acquainted with the dangers of nationalism and patriotism when mixed with the Christian message from his experiences in Germany, remarked on how odd it was for him to discover, in a country founded on the principle of the Separation of Church and State, the American flag routinely displayed in places of worship. See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Protestantism with Reformation,” in his No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures and Notes, 1928-1936, from the Collected Works, Volume 1 (ed. Edwin H. Robertson; trans. John Bowden; London: Collins, 1965), 88-113, esp. 106-107.