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.

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.

Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town

Matt. 10:11-15; 11:1; Mark 6:10-13; Luke 9:4-6; 10:5-12

(Huck 58, 63, 109, 139; Aland 99, 105, 142, 177; Crook 105-109, 121, 162, 200-201)[1]

Revised: 21-November-2017

וּלְאֵי זֶה בַּיִת שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ אִמְרוּ תְּחִילָה שָׁלוֹם לַבַּיִת הַזֶּה וְאִם יֵשׁ שָׁם בֶּן שָׁלוֹם יָנוּחַ עָלָיו שְׁלוֹמְכֶם וְאִם לָאו עֲלֵיכֶם יָשׁוּב וּבְאוֹתוֹ הַבַּיִת שְׁבוּ אוֹכְלִים וְשׁוֹתִים לָהֶם כִּי כְּדַי הַפּוֹעֵל לִשְׂכָרוֹ אַל תֵּצְאוּ מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת וּלְאֵי זוֹ עִיר שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ וִיקַבְּלוּ אֶתְכֶם רַפְּאוּ אֶת הַחוֹלִים בָּהּ וְאִמְרוּ לָהֶם הִגִּיעָה עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם וּלְאֵי זוֹ עִיר שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ וְלֹא יְקַבְּלוּ אֶתְכֶם צְאוּ מִן הָעִיר הַהִיא וְאֶת הָאָבָק מֵעַל רַגְלֵיכֶם נַעֲרוּ לְעֵדָה בָּהֶם אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם נוֹחַ יִהְיֶה לִסְדוֹם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא מֵהָעִיר הַהִיא

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘May this family have peace!’ If a person who is committed to peace is there, the peace you offer will remain with him. But if no such person resides there, the peace you offered will not remain. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they have to share, for the worker deserves his pay. Don’t hop around from family to family.

“If you enter a town where they receive you, heal the sick who are there and say, ‘God’s redeeming reign is here!’ But if you enter a town where they won’t receive you, leave the town and shake the dust off your feet as a sign that makes them face up to their inhospitable treatment toward strangers. Yes! It will go easier for Sodom on the day of reckoning than for a town that fails to show you hospitality.[2]










To view the reconstructed text of Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town click on the link below:

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Story Placement

Having instructed his emissaries about how they were to conduct themselves on the road, Jesus continued the Sending discourse with instructions about how the apostles were to act when they arrived in a town or village. We believe the Conduct in Town pericope is but one section of a larger literary complex that described the selection of the apostles, their commissioning, their sending out, their successful return, and Jesus’ response to the apostles’ good report. 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

Conduct in TownThe Synoptic Gospels preserve four versions of the Conduct in Town pericope (Matt. 10:11-15; 11:1; Mark 6:10-13; Luke 9:4-6; 10:5-12).[3] The version in Luke 10:5-12 appears to be based on the Anthology (Anth.), although the author of Luke made some editorial changes to his source. Luke 9:4-6 appears to reflect the First Reconstruction’s (FR’s) abbreviated version of the Anthology’s Conduct in Town pericope. Mark 6:10-13 represents the author of Mark’s reworked version of Luke 9:4-6. The author of Matthew based his version of the Conduct in Town pericope mainly on Mark 6:10-13, but the minor agreements with the version in Luke 9:4-6 and the similarities to Luke 10:5-12—most notably the instructions about greetings (Matt. 10:12; Luke 10:5) and the comparison of the fate of any town that does not accept the apostles to the judgment of Sodom (Matt. 10:15; Luke 10:12)—demonstrate that the author of Matthew also relied on the Anthology.

Crucial Issues

  1. What is the meaning of “son of peace” in Luke 10:6?
  2. What is the significance of the instruction to eat and drink with the people in whose home the apostles were invited to stay (Luke 10:7)?
  3. How are we to interpret the command to “shake the dust from your feet” when a town or village declined to accept Jesus’ apostles?


L79 καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς (Mark 6:10). In the Conduct on the Road pericope, where Matthew and Luke give Jesus’ instructions in direct speech, the author of Mark begins in the third person in Mark 6:8, but slips into direct speech at the end of Mark 6:9.[4] As if to acknowledge the transition, the author of Mark added “And he was saying to them” at the opening of Mark 6:10. The use of ἔλεγεν/ἔλεγον is characteristic of Mark’s editorial style, occurring with a much higher frequency in Mark than in either Luke or Matthew.[5] The construction is also un-Hebraic,[6] and we have accordingly omitted L79 from GR and HR.

L80 εἰς ἣν δ᾿ ἂν (GR). Opposite Mark’s ὅπου ἐὰν, Luke 9:4 and Matt. 10:11 have εἰς ἣν + ἄν, a minor agreement that establishes εἰς ἣν + ἄν as the reading of Anth.[7] The opening phrases of Luke 9:4 and Luke 10:5 are identical apart from the conjunction. Since Matt. 10:11 agrees with Luke 10:5 to use δέ (de, “and,” “but”), we have adopted εἰς ἣν δ᾿ ἂν for GR. This is a fascinating example of how, because of his use of Anth., Matthew’s version of the Conduct in Town pericope often is closer to both of Luke’s versions than to Mark’s. In NT the phrase εἰς ἣν δ᾿ ἂν occurs exclusively in the Conduct in Town pericope (Matt. 10:11; Luke 10:5, 10). The phrase καὶ εἰς ἣν ἂν is likewise confined to this pericope (Luke 9:4; 10:8).

וּלְאֵי זֶה (HR). Since neither εἰς ἣν δ᾿ ἄν nor καὶ εἰς ἣν ἄν occurs in LXX we have searched for models in MH upon which to base our reconstruction. Segal notes that “The interrogative pronoun אֵיזֶה,‎ אֵיזוֹ is used as a demonstrative to specify one out of a number of objects.”[8] The examples Segal cites of this usage include some of the following:

וַחֲכָמִ′ אוֹמְ′ [מברך] עַל אֵי זֶה מֵהֶן שֶׁיִּרְצֶה

The sages say, “He recites a blessing over whichever of them he wants.” (m. Ber. 6:4)

רְ′ יְהוּדָה או′ לְאֵי זֶה רוּחַ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה יֵלֵךְ

Rabbi Yehudah says, “In whatever direction he wants, he may walk.” (m. Eruv. 4:5)

ר′ שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹ′ מְיַיבֵּם לְאֵי זוֹ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה [[א]]וֹ חוֹלֵץ לְאֵי זוֹ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה

Rabbi Shimon says, “He contracts levirite marriage with whichever [sister-in-law] he wishes or performs the rite of halitzah with whichever [sister-in-law] he wishes.” (m. Yev. 2:2; cf. m. Yev. 3:9; 10:9)

אָמַ′ לַלִּיבְלָר כְּתוֹב אֵי זוֹ שֶׁאֶרְצֶה אֲגָרֵשׁ פָּסוּל מִלְּגָרֵשׁ בּוֹ

[If a man] said to a clerk, “Write [a bill of divorce such that it may be used for] whichever [wife] I want to divorce,” it is not valid to use for divorcing her. (m. Git. 3:1)

ר′ יוֹסֵה אוֹ′ שְׁתֵי נָשִׁים שֶׁלָּקְחוּ קִינֵּיהֶן בְּעֵירוּב אוֹ שֶׁנָּתְנוּ דְמֵי קִינֵיהֶן לַכֹּהֵן לְאֵיזוֹ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה כֹהֵן יַקְרִיב חַטָּאת וּ[[לְ]]אֵיזוֹ שֶׁיְּרְצֶה יַקְרִיב עוֹלָה

Rabbi Yose says, “If two women bought their pairs of doves jointly or if they gave the price of their pairs of doves to the priest, the priest can offer whichever [pair of doves] he wishes for a sin offering and whichever [pair of doves] he wishes for a whole burnt offering.” (m. Kin. 1:4)

As Segal notes, “In the older texts…the…components are still kept separate,”[9] which can be observed in most of the examples of אֵי זֶה from MS Kaufmann cited above. Since the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua would be among the very oldest examples of a MH text, we have written אֵי זֶה as two separate words in HR.

L81 πόλιν ἢ κώμην εἰσέλθητε (Matt. 10:11). Instead of recording two sets of instructions for how the apostles were to conduct themselves—one set pertaining to their behavior in a home and the second set pertaining to their behavior in a town—as in the Lukan and Markan versions of the Conduct in Town pericope, Matthew presents a single set of instructions about how the apostles were to behave when they enter a “city or village.” In doing so, the author of Matthew echoes his earlier description of Jesus going through the towns and villages on a teaching and healing mission (Matt. 9:35).[10] We attribute this departure from the Lukan and Markan versions of the Conduct in Town pericope to the author of Matthew’s editorial activity.

L82-83 The command to carefully investigate who in the town is worthy of the apostles’ fellowship is unique to Matthew. Not only does this command harp on the Matthean theme of worthiness, which is so prominent in Matthew’s version of the Sending discourse,[11] it is at odds with Jesus’ practice of eating with tax collectors and sinners (cf., e.g., Matt. 9:10; 11:19; Luke 19:1-9) and with the underlying assumption of the instructions in Matt. 10:13 and Luke 10:6 that the apostles had not previously vetted their host. The command to search out a worthy person is therefore likely to be redactional.[12] Although the practice of seeking out a like-minded stranger upon arrival in a city has parallels in Jewish sources,[13] it appears that Matt. 10:11 is an adaptation introduced by the author of Matthew to reflect circumstances at the time he composed his Gospel.[14] We have already observed that the author of Matthew may have modified the instructions for the Twelve in order to safeguard his community from potential abuses of itinerant teachers.[15] Perhaps the command to search out a worthy host reflects the conditions of itinerant teachers in Matthew’s day who, upon arriving in a new city, would seek out a church, which would then serve as the base of their operations.[16]

L84 κἀκεῖ μείνατε ἕως ἂν ἐξέλθητε (Matt. 10:11). Matthew’s streamlining of the instructions about the apostles’ behavior (see above, Comment to L81) caused him to move the command to stay in one house to an earlier point than its placement in the Lukan and Markan versions of the Conduct in Town pericope (L93-94), with the awkward result that the apostles are told to “stay there” before actually mentioning a house. Having found a worthy person, we would have expected Jesus to say, “Stay with him”; the command to “stay there” is retained from Matthew’s sources.

L85 בַּיִת שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ (HR). For our decision to reconstruct εἰσέρχεσθαι (eiserchesthai, “to enter”) with נִכְנַס (nichnas, “enter”), see Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L5. The expected Hebraic word order weighs in favor of οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε (oikian eiselthēte, “house you may enter”; Luke 9:4) for GR. This may be a case where FR, as preserved in Luke 9, is closer to the Anthology’s original wording than the version of the Conduct in Town pericope in Luke 10, which we believe is based directly on Anth. It appears that the author of Luke edited the version of the Conduct in Town pericope he copied from Anth. more thoroughly than he edited the version he copied from FR.

L86-92 Luke’s FR version of the Conduct in Town pericope (Luke 9:4-6) omits the instructions about greetings, as does Mark. Although he used the Gospel of Mark as his main source, the author of Matthew restored the greeting instructions on the basis of Anth. In this way agreement was achieved between the versions of the Conduct in Town pericope in Matt. 10 and Luke 10.

L86 אִמְרוּ תְּחִילָה (HR). Numerous examples of imperative forms of אָמַר (’āmar, “say”) occur in the Mishnah.[17] For our decision to reconstruct πρῶτος (prōtos, “first”) with תְּחִילָה (teḥilāh, “first”), and the verb + תְּחִילָה construction, see Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes, Comment to L3.

L87 ἀσπάσασθε αὐτήν (Matt. 10:12). In place of “say, ‘Peace to this house,’” (Luke 10:5), Matthew has “greet it.” Matthew’s version is almost certainly an attempt to clarify the Hebrew idiom he found in Anth.[18] By changing “say, ‘Peace…’” to “greet,” the author of Matthew has obscured the connection between the greeting and the explanation about the peace remaining with the host or returning to the apostles.[19] Matthew’s revision also betrays a misunderstanding of his source, since the author of Matthew wrote “greet it [i.e., the house],” whereas the words of the greeting in Luke 10:5 mean “peace to this family.”[20] Matthew’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope omits the command not to greet anyone on the road (καὶ μηδένα κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἀσπάσησθε; Luke 10:4), but perhaps the author of Matthew decided to retain the verb ἀσπάζεσθαι (aspazesthai, “to greet”) as a replacement for the words of the greeting here in the Conduct in Town pericope.[21]

שָׁלוֹם לַבַּיִת הַזֶּה (HR). The use of שָׁלוֹם (shālōm, “peace”) as a salutation is attested in MT and rabbinic literature.[22] In MT wishes for peace are usually formulated as שָׁלוֹם combined with the preposition -לְ (“peace to…”),[23] and less often as שָׁלוֹם עַל (“peace upon…”).[24] In rabbinic sources, on the other hand, wishes for peace are usually expressed with the phrase שָׁלוֹם עַל.‎[25] For HR we have opted for שָׁלוֹם לַבַּיִת הַזֶּה (“Peace to this house”) because the dative in Greek points to the preposition -לְ. On reconstructing οἶκος (oikos, “house”) as בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see “Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple,” Comment to L33.

Parallels to the greeting “Peace to this house” include the following:

וַאֲמַרְתֶּם כֹֹּה לֶחָי וְאַתָּה שָׁלוֹם וּבֵיתְךָ שָׁלוֹם וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

“…and say, ‘All hail! To you peace, and to your house peace, and to all you have peace.’” (1 Sam. 25:6)

The verse in 1 Samuel describes David’s instructions about greeting Nabal. This is the only verse in the Hebrew Bible where a greeting of peace is given to a house. “Peace to this house” (εἰρήνη τῷ οἴκῳ τούτῳ) in Luke 10:5 cannot be explained as an attempt to imitate LXX style since this verse is not rendered literally in LXX:

καὶ ἐρεῖτε τάδε Εἰς ὥρας· καὶ σὺ ὑγιαίνων, καὶ ὁ οἶκός σου καὶ πάντα τὰ σὰ ὑγιαίνοντα

“…and you shall say this: ‘To good times; may you be in good health and your house, and all that you have be in good health!’” (1 Kgdms. 25:6; NETS)

The Hebraic idiom in Luke 10:5 is best explained as reflecting a Hebraic source.[26]

Another parallel to the greeting Jesus instructed the apostles to deliver is found in a seventh-century B.C.E. papyrus containing the following sentence:

‏[ש]לח שלוח את שלום ביתך

I hereby send greetings to your house. (papMur 17a, 1)[27]

The blessing of a house with peace is also attested in a comment on Num. 6:26 made by a sage from the end of the Second Temple period:

ר′ חנניה סגן הכהנים אומר וישם לך שלום בביתך

Rabbi Hananiah the prefect of the priests says, “And grant you peace [Num. 6:26] in your house.” (Sifre Num., Naso chpt. 42)

Yet another example of the importance of peace in the home is found in a saying of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, also from the end of the Second Temple period:

רבי שמעון בן גמליאל אומר כל המשים שלום בתוך ביתו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאלו משים שלום בישראל על כל אחד ואחד וכל המטיל קנאה ותחרות בתוך ביתו כאלו מטיל קנאה ותחרות בישראל לפי שכל אחד ואחד מלך בתוך ביתו שנאמר להיות כל איש שורר בביתו

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, “Everyone who establishes peace in his house, Scripture attributes it to him as though he established peace among everyone in Israel. But everyone who establishes zeal [or ‘jealousy’—DNB and JNT] and strife in his house, it is as if he established zeal [or ‘jealousy’—DNB and JNT] and strife in Israel, for everyone is a king in his house, as it says, Let every man be ruler in his house [Esth. 1:22].” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 28:3 [ed. Schechter, 85])

Shimon ben Gamliel’s saying is not an illustration of a greeting, but it may afford us a deeper understanding of the cultural context in which peace in the home was considered to be of such great importance. How we understand Shimon ben Gamliel’s comment depends on the meaning of קִנְאָה (qin’āh, “zeal,” “jealousy”) in his saying. Did he refer to general feelings of jealousy and a quarrelsome temperament, or did he intend a more specific meaning? The latter possibility should be considered, given Shimon ben Gamliel’s political career as an opponent of zeal ideology. According to Josephus, Shimon ben Gamliel opposed the Zealots in Jerusalem during the revolt against Rome (J.W. 4:158-161). Perhaps Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel’s above-quoted saying is best understood, therefore, as polemic against zeal ideology. Strife in the home over whether to support the aims of zealous revolutionaries or whether to attempt to live in peace under imperial rule may provide an important clue for understanding the prominent place given to peace in Jesus’ instructions to his apostles (see below, Comment to L88).

L88 καὶ ἐὰν μὲν ᾖ ἡ οἰκία ἀξία (Matt. 10:13). The parallel with Luke 10:6 shows that the author of Matthew copied καὶ ἐὰν…ᾖ (kai ean…ē, “And if…may be”) from Anth., but he changed the wording of his source, which referred to a “son of peace” (as in Luke), to “And if indeed the house is worthy….”[28] This adaptation is the combined result of the author of Matthew’s emphasis on worthiness (see above, Comment to L87) and his misapprehension that it was literally the house, rather than the family, that the apostles addressed. We have accordingly adopted Luke’s Hebraic-looking “son of peace” in GR and HR.

וְאִם יֵשׁ שָׁם בֶּן שָׁלוֹם (HR). In MH conditional sentences do not require an imperfect verb (e.g., יִהְיֶה) when the condition is unfulfilled but capable of fulfillment in the present or future.[29] Despite the presence of a subjunctive form of the verb “to be” in Matt. 10:13 and Luke 10:6, and therefore the strong likelihood that this was the reading of Anth., the subjunctive verb was probably supplied by the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua. In the Mishnah, אִם + imperfect of הָיָה occurs only 3xx (m. Shab. 9:3; m. Avot 2:8 [2xx]), and one of these (m. Shab. 9:3) is a Scripture quotation. By contrast, the combination אִם יֵשׁ occurs over 170xx in the Mishnah.

Although there are some parallels to the figurative use of υἱός in non-Jewish Greek sources,[30] these occur primarily as honorary titles conferred by a polis or some other official entity.[31] Since Luke’s υἱὸς εἰρήνης (hūios eirēnēs, “son of peace”) does not appear to be normal Greek, some scholars have described it as a “Septuagintism,”[32] in other words an attempt by the author of Luke (or his source) to imitate LXX style. However, the phrase “son of peace” never occurs in LXX nor does it appear anywhere else in ancient Jewish sources.[33] What might be the meaning of “son of peace” in Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve?

One possibility that can be ruled out is that “son of peace” refers to someone who was already a disciple of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples were required to leave their homes and families and abandon their professions and property in order to itinerate with Jesus.[34] Therefore, someone who was already a disciple would not be home to show the apostles hospitality.[35] Moreover, the underlying assumption of Jesus’ instructions is that the apostles were to seek hospitality from strangers.[36] People who were already Jesus’ followers, on the other hand, would likely be known to the apostles.[37]

Perhaps the most fruitful approach is to examine the term “son of peace” in relation to Jesus’ other sayings about peace. In the Matthean form of the Beatitudes Jesus links peacemaking with sonship (Matt. 5:9), although he does not use the term “son of peace.”[38] Menahem Kister has drawn attention to the striking correspondence between the peacemaking beatitude and Jesus’ teaching on love for enemies:

Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:44-48
μακάριοι οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί, ὅτι αὐτοὶ υἱοὶ θεοῦ κληθήσονται ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν…ὅπως γένησθε υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, ὅτι τὸν ἥλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς καὶ βρέχει ἐπὶ δικαίους καὶ ἀδίκους…. ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God. Love your enemies…so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust…. You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The parallelism between “sons of God” and “sons of your heavenly Father” is self-evident, and the similarity between the concepts of peacemaking and loving one’s enemies might be granted, but the organic connection between these two passages becomes unmistakable when viewed from a Hebraic perspective, for it is likely that the Hebrew word behind τέλειος (teleios, “perfect,” “complete”) was שָׁלֵם (shālēm, “whole,” “complete”).[39] In other words, Jesus’ instructions about loving one’s enemies may play on different senses of the Hebrew root שׁ-ל-מ. Playing on the different senses of שׁ-ל-מ is known from other ancient Jewish sources. Compare, for example, the following rabbinic homily on Deut. 27:6:

הרי הוא או′ אבנים שלמות תבנה את מזבח יי אלהיך אבנים שמטילות שלום והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה אם אבנים שאינן לא רואות ולא שומעות ולא מדברות על שמטילות שלום בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים אמ′ המקום יהיו שלימות לפני בני תורה שהן שלום בעולם על אחת כמה וכמה שיהיו שלימים לפני המקום

Behold, it says, [From] whole stones [אבנים שלמות; avānim shelēmōt] you shall build the altar of the LORD your God [Deut. 27:6], that is, stones that establish peace [שלום; shālōm]. And is it not a matter of kal vahomer? If the Omnipresent One said of the stones of the altar—which neither see nor hear nor speak—“Let them be perfect [שלימות; shelēmōt] before me,” simply because they establish peace between Israel and their Father in heaven, how much more in the case of the Sons of Torah[40] who are peace in the world that they should be perfect [שלימים; shelēmim] before the Omnipresent One? (t. Bab. Kam. 7:7; Vienna MS; cf. Semaḥot 8:16)

The ancient Israelite temple in Arad had an altar built with unhewn stones, shown here (cube-saped object in lower right). Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.
The ancient Israelite temple in Arad had an altar built with unhewn stones, shown here (cube-shaped platform in lower right). Image courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.

In the above translation we have rendered שָׁלֵם as “perfect” in order to emphasize the similarity of this midrash to Jesus’ saying in Matt. 5:48, but the homily itself plays with two meanings of שָׁלֵם, namely, “whole” and “at peace” or “friendly.” The point of the rabbinic homily is that the Sons of Torah (i.e., disciples of the sages) are to make peace between Israel and their Father in heaven. The point of Jesus’ homily in Matt. 5:44-48 is slightly different: Jesus’ disciples are to emulate God’s friendliness by being peaceable in the world, loving their enemies, showing mercy, and offering forgiveness (cf. Luke 6:35). Nevertheless, the similarities are quite impressive; both Jesus’ teaching on love for enemies and the rabbinic homily on whole stones emphasize the fatherhood of God and draw the conclusion that disciples are to be שָׁלֵם/τέλειος. One wonders whether some form of the rabbinic homily was already in circulation in the time of Jesus and whether Jesus exploited the similarity of the Hebrew words for “son” (בֵּן; bēn) and “stone” (אֶבֶן; ’even) to coin the term “son of peace” (בֶּן שָׁלוֹם; ben shālōm).[41]

That the homily on whole stones did circulate at the end of the Second Temple period, and was modified in order to suit the views and opinions of the sage who refashioned it, is suggested by an alternate version of the homily reported in the name of Yohanan ben Zakkai:

רבן יוחנן בן זכאי אומר הרי הוא אומר אבנים שלמות תבנה אבנים שמטילות שלום והרי דברים קל וחומר ומה אם אבני המזבח שאינן לא רואות ולא שומעות ולא מדברות על שהן מטילות שלום בין ישראל לאביהם שבשמים אמר הקב″ה לא תניף עליהם ברזל המטיל שלום בין איש לאיש בין איש לאשתו בין עיר לעיר בין אומה לאומה בין משפחה למשפחה בין ממשלה לממשלה על אחת כמה וכמה שלא תבואהו פורענות

Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “Behold, it says, [From] whole stones [אבנים שלמות; avānim shelēmōt] you shall build [the altar] [Deut. 27:6]. That is, stones that establish peace [שלום; shālōm]. And it is a matter of kal vahomer: if the Holy One, blessed be he, said, Raise no iron against them [Deut. 27:5] of the stones of the altar—which neither see nor hear nor speak—simply because they establish peace between Israel and their Father in heaven, how much more in the case of a human being who establishes peace between one person and another, or a man and his wife, between one city and another, or one people and another, between two families, or between two governments, that for such a man no retribution should come to him?” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BaḤodesh chpt. 11 [ed. Lauterbach, 2:352-353]; cf. Sifra, Kedoshim chpt. 10 [ed. Weiss, 92d])

In this version of the homily, Yohanan ben Zakkai is critical of those who “raise iron” (i.e., wield weapons) against people who advocate peace. Peacemakers, he argues, should be treated with the same dignity as the whole stones of the altar. It seems likely that Yohanan ben Zakkai’s version of the homily was directed against the Sicarii and other adherents of zeal ideology who, according to Josephus, persecuted those who opposed war with Rome (cf., e.g., J.W. 2:254-257; 7:254-255).[42] Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai’s homily could be paraphrased as, “If God forbids violence toward a whole stone (אֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה) of the altar, how much more so toward a son of peace (בֶּן שָׁלוֹם)?”

This coin, struck in 71 C.E., depicts the inevitable result of revolt against Rome. The emperor Vespasian stands with his foot on his helmet victorious over Judea, represented by a woman in mourning seated beneath a palm tree. The Latin inscription reads IVDAEA CAPTA ("Judea Captive"). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.
This coin, struck in 71 C.E., depicts the inevitable result of revolt against Rome. Emperor Vespasian stands with his foot on his helmet, victorious over Judea who is represented by a woman in mourning seated beneath a palm tree. The Latin inscription reads IVDAEA CAPTA (“Judea Captive”). Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

Perhaps Jesus’ use of “son of peace” in Luke 10:6 is an expression of his anti-militant worldview.[43] The mission of the apostles was to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s redeeming reign over Israel, which would result in the restoration of the twelve tribes and the vindication of Israel in the presence of all its enemies.[44] The healing of “every disease and sickness” (Matt. 10:1; cf. Luke 9:1) was a sign that the curse of exile was being lifted,[45] and the driving out of demons spelled the doom of idolatrous empires that kept Israel under their thumb.[46] An important aspect of Jesus’ message, however, was that redemption would not come about through violent insurgency, as the militant Jewish nationalists believed. According to Jesus, acts of mercy and compassion, forgiveness, and loving one’s enemies would be the catalyst for redemption.[47]

Jesus evidently regarded armed resistance against the Roman Empire to be a hopeless endeavor. War against Rome would only lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.[48] A kingdom of flesh and blood could not throw off the yoke of the empire. Only by following Jesus’ way of peace could catastrophe be averted and the redemption of Israel through the Kingdom of Heaven take place. That is why Jesus wept over Jerusalem:

Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace [τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην]! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44; RSV)[49]

Upon his final pilgrimage to Jerusalem Jesus knew that the things that made for peace—his own teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven—had not been accepted by the majority of his fellow countrymen. But earlier, at the sending of the Twelve, there was still time and hope that his message would be embraced. It seems that a central purpose of the apostles’ mission was to garner support for Jesus’ way of peace as an alternative to the destructive—and ultimately doomed—path of the militant Jewish nationalists.[50]

If Jesus’ anti-militant message is the proper context for interpreting the term “son of peace” in Luke 10:6, then the greeting in Luke 10:5 takes on a deeper significance: “Peace to this house” was more than an ordinary salutation, it was rather the preamble to the apostles’ entire message. The peace the apostles spoke of when they entered a house would remain with the family so long as a son of peace—someone receptive to Jesus’ message of peace—was there. If there was not a son of peace—no one who accepted Jesus’ message—then it was all too likely that zeal and strife would be established in that home (cf. Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 28:3 [ed. Schechter, 85]; cited above in Comment to L87).

L89 ἐπαναπαήσεται ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν ἡ εἰρήνη ὑμῶν (GR). According to Luke, the apostles’ blessing of peace will rest upon a son of peace. Only a son of peace would be willing to accept the full implications of the apostles’ greeting, namely, that peacemaking and love for one’s enemies are the only means by which Israel’s redemption will be achieved.

Matthew’s version continues to make reference to the house. Matthew’s version, stated as an imperative, also makes the determination of whether the apostles’ blessing will remain depend not upon the disposition of the recipient, but on the apostles’ scrutiny of the worthiness of the home. These editorial changes reflect the author of Matthew’s interests and concerns.[51]

The verb ἐπαναπαύεσθαι (epanapavesthai, “to rest”) occurs 11xx in LXX,[52] where it translates the verb נָח (nāḥ, “rest”) 4xx.[53] In each of those four instances the subject of the verb is always the Holy Spirit.

L90 וְאִם לָאו (HR). Luke’s more succinct formula (εἰ δὲ μή γε) is probably closer to the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text than Matthew’s more detailed version (Matt. 10:13; L90-91). In Hebrew, the opposite of a condition that has already been articulated can simply be expressed with וְאִם לָאו (“And if not…”), without restating a complete conditional sentence.[54] On the reconstruction of εἰ δὲ μή γε with וְאִם לָאו see Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes, Comment to L16.

L92 ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἀνακάμψει (GR). Luke’s version, in which the outcome depends on the disposition of the members of the household, is to be preferred. By making the sentence a command, the author of Matthew transferred to the apostles the responsibility of recalling the peace.

עֲלֵיכֶם יָשׁוּב (HR). The verb ἀνακάμπτειν (anakamptein, “to return”) occurs 18xx in LXX,[55] where, with but a single exception, it always translates שָׁב (shāv, “return”) if there is an underlying Hebrew text in MT.[56] In MH הֵשִׁיב שָׁלוֹם (hēshiv shālōm) means “return a greeting.” For example:

וּבַפְּרָקִים שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַכָּבוֹד וּמֵשִׁיב וּבָאֶמְצָע שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַיִּרְאָה וּמֵשִׁיב דִּבְרֵי רְ′ מֵאִיר ר′ יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵ′ בָּאֶמְצַע שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַיִּרְאָה וּמֵשִׁיב מִפְּנֵי הַכָּבוֹד וּבַפְּרָקִים שׁוֹאֵל מִפְּנֵי הַכָּבוֹד וּמֵשִׁיב שָׁלוֹם לְכָל הָאָדָם

Between sections [of the Shema] he may greet [a person] out of respect and return a greeting, but in the middle [of recitation] he may greet [a person only] out of fear [of him] and return his greeting, so says Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehudah says, “In the middle [of recitation] he may greet [a person only] out of fear and return a greeting out of respect, and between sections [of the Shema] he may greet out of respect and return a greeting [וּמֵשִׁיב שָׁלוֹם] to anyone.” (m. Ber. 2:1)[57]

It appears that in his instructions to the apostles Jesus played on the two meanings of שָׁלוֹם: “peace” and “salutation.” Whereas in a context of issuing a greeting one might have expected to read about returning a salutation, Jesus spoke about the blessing of peace returning to the apostles.

Examples of the verb שָׁב combined with the preposition עַל are found in Gen. 29:3; 40:13; Exod. 15:19; Num. 33:7; 2 Sam. 16:8; 1 Kgs. 17:22; Jer. 16:15; Mal. 3:24; Prov. 26:11; Eccl. 12:7.

L93 ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ (Luke 10:7). Scholars have noted the awkwardness of Luke’s phrase. We might have expected Luke to write ἐν ἐκείνῃ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ (“And in that house”), but what are we to make of ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ (“And in it the house”)? Similar constructions, such as ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρᾳ (“in that very hour”),[58] ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ καιρῷ (“in that very time”)[59] and ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ (“in that very day”),[60] are found elsewhere in Luke,[61] but always as expressions of time. In LXX analogous constructions are found only in the book of Esther, where ἐν αὐταῖς ταῖς ἡμέραις is the translation of בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם (“in those days”; Esth. 1:2) and ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ is the translation of בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא (“on that day”; Esth. 8:1; 9:11). We have reconstructed Luke’s phrase as וּבְאוֹתוֹ הַבַּיִת (“And in the same house”), which is slightly closer to the Greek text than reconstructing L93 as וּבַבַּיִת הַהוּא (“And in that house”). In MT we do not find examples of the preposition -אֶת + בְּ + suffix, but such examples do occur in the Mishnah, for example: בְּאוֹתָהּ הָעִיר (“in the same city”; m. Eruv. 8:5; m. Ket. 7:8; m. Ned. 5:4, 5); בְּאוֹתָהּ שַׁבָּת (“on the same Sabbath”; m. Eruv. 9:3); בְּאוֹתוֹ הַמִּשְׁמָר (“in the same priestly course”; m. Taan. 4:2); בְּאוֹתָהּ הָאָרֶץ (“in the same land”; m. Ket. 13:10); בְּאוֹתוֹ הַמָּקוֹם (“in the same place”; m. Kid. 3:3); בְּאוֹתָהּ הַשָׂדֶה (“in the same field”; m. Bab. Kam. 6:2); etc. If a Greek translator encountered the phrase וּבְאוֹתוֹ הַבַּיִת in his Hebrew source, ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ οἰκίᾳ is probably the most literal translation he could have achieved. We would then understand Jesus’ instructions to mean, “Stay in that same house where you offered a greeting of peace, etc.”

L94 שְׁבוּ (HR). In LXX μένειν (menein, “to remain”) is usually the translation of עָמַד (‘āmad, “stand”) or קָם (qām, “stand”). There are, however, four instances in LXX where μένειν is the translation of יָשַׁב (yāshav, “sit,” “dwell”).[62] Since in the context of Luke 10:7 neither עָמַד nor קָם are a suitable reconstruction, we have opted for an imperative of יָשַׁב for HR.[63]

L95-96 אוֹכְלִים וְשׁוֹתִים לָהֶם (HR). The pairing of אָכַל (’āchal, “eat”) and שָׁתָה (shātāh, “drink”) is typical in Hebrew.[64] In NT the pairing of ἐσθίειν (esthiein, “to eat”) and πίνειν (pinein, “to drink”) is concentrated in the Synoptic Gospels (17xx) and in 1 Corinthians (7xx).[65]

Luke 10:7 reads, ἔσθοντες καὶ πείνοντες τὰ παρ᾿ αὐτῶν (“eating and drinking what is from them”). In LXX παρά + αὐτός (gen.) is usually the translation of מֵאֵת + suffix (where אֵת is the preposition “with,” not a dir. obj. marker), for instance:

וְזֹאת הַתְּרוּמָה אֲשֶׁר תִּקְחוּ מֵאִתָּם

καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ ἀπαρχή, ἣν λήμψεσθε παρ᾿ αὐτῶν

And this is the offering that you will receive from them…. (Exod. 25:3)

קַח מֵאִתָּם וְהָיוּ לַעֲבֹד אֶת עֲבֹדַת אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד

Λαβὲ παρ᾿ αὐτῶν, καὶ ἔσονται πρὸς τὰ ἔργα τὰ λειτουργικὰ τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου

Receive from them and they will be for the worship of the divine service in the Tent of Meeting. (Num. 7:5)

אֹכֶל תִּשְׁבְּרוּ מֵאִתָּם בַּכֶּסֶף וַאֲכַלְתֶּם וְגַם מַיִם תִּכְרוּ מֵאִתָּם בַּכֶּסֶף וּשְׁתִיתֶם

βρώματα ἀργυρίου ἀγοράσατε παρ᾿ αὐτῶν καὶ φάγεσθε καὶ ὕδωρ μέτρῳ λήμψεσθε παρ᾿ αὐτῶν ἀργυρίου καὶ πίεσθε

Buy food from them with silver so that you can eat, and likewise trade with them for water with silver so that you can drink. (Deut. 2:6)[66]

Examples of מֵאֵת + suffix are also found in DSS, for example:

ואיש ברבים ילך רכיל לשלח הואה מאתם ולוא ישוב עוד

And a man who goes as a talebearer against the Many: he shall be sent out from them and may never return. (1QS VII, 16-17)

לכה המלחמה ומאתכה הגבורה ולוא לנו

The battle is yours, the power is from you and is not ours. (1QM XI, 4-5)

ומאתך דרך כול חי

And from you is the path of every living thing. (1QHa VII, 25)

We have decided against reconstructing with מֵאֵת + suffix, however, since, apart from biblical quotations, this construction does not occur in Tannaitic sources, which we believe are closest to the Hebrew spoken by Jesus. Therefore, we have reconstructed τά παρ᾿ αὐτῶν as לָהֶם, in which case we would understand Jesus’ instructions to mean, “eating and drinking what is theirs.” Compare the following examples from rabbinic literature:

מוּרְחֲק אֲנִי מִמָּךְ שֶׁאֵנִי אוֹכֵל לָךְ

May I be distanced from you if I eat what is yours! (m. Ned. 1:1)

הָאוֹמֵר קוֹרְבַּן עוֹלָה וּמִנְחָה חַטָּאת תּוֹדָה וּשְׁלָמִים שֶׁאֵנִי אוֹכַל לָךְ אָסוּר

The one who says, “[Let it be] a whole burnt offering…” or “…a grain offering…” or “…a sin offering…” or “…a thank offering…” or “…a peace offering if I eat what is yours!”—[the vow] is binding. (m. Ned. 1:4)

וְאֵילּוּ מוּתָּרִין חוּלִּין שֶׁאוֹכַל לָךְ

And these [vows] are not binding: “[Let it be like] hulin if I eat what is yours!” (m. Ned. 2:1)

קָורְבָּן לֹא אוֹכַל לָךְ וְקָורְבָּן שֶׁאוֹכַל לָךְ לֹא קָורְבָּן לֹא אוֹכַל לָךְ מוּתָּר שְׁבוּעָה לֹא אוֹכַל לָךְ שְׁבוּעָה {שבועה} שֶׁאוֹכַל לָךְ לֹא שְׁבוּעָה לֹא אוֹכַל לָךְ אָסוּר

[If one says:] “An offering if I do not eat what is yours!” or “An offering if I eat what is yours!” or “Not an offering if I do not eat what is yours!” [the vow] is not binding. [If one says:] “By an oath I will not eat what is yours!” or “By an oath I will eat what is yours!” or “Not by an oath I will not eat what is yours!”—[the vow] is binding. (m. Ned. 2:2)

וכן היה בן זומא אומר אורח טוב מה הוא אומר זכור בעל הבית לטוב כמה מיני יינות הביא לפנינו כמה מיני חתיכות הביא לפנינו כמה מיני גלוסקאות הביא לפנינו כל שעשה לא עשה אלא בשבילי אבל אורח רע מה הוא אומר וכי מה אכלתי לו פת אחת אכלתי לו חתיכה אחת אכלתי לו כוס אחד שתיתי לו כל מה שעשה לא עשה אלא בשביל אשתו ובניו

And thus Ben Zoma used to say: “A good guest, what does he say? ‘May the master of the house be remembered for good! How many kinds of wine has he set before us! How many kinds of meats has he set before us! How many kinds of cakes has he set before us! All that he did was for my sole benefit!’ But a bad guest, what does he say? ‘And indeed what have I eaten of his [מה אכלתי לו]? I ate one piece of his [bread], and one slice of his [meat], and I drank one cup of his [wine]. All that he did was only for his wife and his children.’” (t. Ber. 6[7]:5; Zuckermandel)[67]

Ben Zoma’s comment not only supplies a linguistic parallel, it also provides a context in which to understand Jesus’ instructions. The apostles were to eat and drink what their hosts provided with gratitude and humility. They were to be good guests in accordance with the accepted standards of etiquette surrounding ancient hospitality.[68] The apostles were forbidden to make special requests or to demand something other than what had been served.

Being good guests was essential because itinerant sages and their disciples relied heavily on the hospitality of others. This reliance on hospitality is attested in sayings such as “Let your house be a meeting place for the sages” (m. Avot 1:4) and the comments on this saying in Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 6:1 (ed. Schechter, 27); Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 11 (ed. Schechter, 27-28). We also find evidence of the itinerant lifestyle of some of the sages and their consequent reliance on hospitality in the application of the phrase עֲנִיִּים מְרוּדִים (aniyim merūdim, “homeless poor”; Isa. 58:7) to the sages and their disciples in Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 14 (ed. Schechter, 34).[69]

Jesus’ instructions about receiving hospitality must also be understood in relation to the practices of the Essenes as described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. From statements in their writings it is clear that the Essenes regarded the wealth of outsiders as morally and spiritually tainted:

לוא יוכל מהונם כול ולוא ישתה ולוא יקח מידם כול מאומה אשר לוא במחיר כאשר כתוב חדלו לכם מן האדם אשר נשמה באפו כיא במה נחשב הואה כיא כול אשר לוא נחשבו בבריתו להבדיל אותם ואת כול אשר להם. ולוא ישען איש הקודש על כול מעשי הבל כיא הבל כול אשר לוא ידעו את בריתו וכול מנאצי דברו ישמיד מתבל וכול מעשיהם לנדה לפניו וטמא בכול הונם

[A member of the Community] may not eat from any of their possessions or drink or receive anything from their hand except by payment, as it is written: Keep yourselves away from the man whose breath is in his nostrils, for of what account is he? [Isa. 2:22]. For all those who are not accounted in his covenant will be separated, they and all that is theirs. And the man of holiness must not depend on any of the works of futility, for all those who do not know his covenant are futile and all who reject his word will be wiped from the earth and all their works are like menstrual impurity before him and impure in all their wealth. (1QS V, 16-20)[70]

Because they viewed the wealth of outsiders as impure, the Essenes maintained a strict economic separation from non-sectarians:

אל יתערב הונם עם הון אנשי הרמיה אשר לוא הזכו דרכם להבדל מעול וללכת בתמים דרך

Do not mix their [i.e., the sectarians’—DNB and JNT][71] wealth with the wealth of the men of deceit who have not purified their way to become separate from iniquity and to walk in perfection of way. (1QS IX, 8-9)[72]

Jesus, who freely associated with sinners, eating and drinking with tax collectors (Matt. 9:10-11; Luke 7:34; 15:2) in order to call them to repentance (Luke 5:32; cf. Matt. 9:13 // Mark 2:17), rejected the Essene practice of economic separation.[73] Unlike the Essenes, who separated themselves from the majority (4QMMTd 14-21 I, 7), Jesus expected his apostles to have fellowship with “outsiders” in order to gather into God’s Kingdom as many as possible.[74] Far from refusing to accept food or drink from “outsiders” without returning its price (1QS V, 17), Jesus regarded the food and drink his apostles received as their rightful wage (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; see below, Comment to L97).

An internal community of goods was the corollary to the Essenes’ external economic separation. Upon entering the sectarian covenant, new members placed their property at the disposal of the community (1QS VI, 19; Jos., J.W. 2:122). Josephus noted that when the Essenes traveled from place to place they had no need to carry equipment for their journey:

On the arrival of any of the sect from elsewhere, all the resources of the community are put at their disposal, just as if they were their own; and they enter the houses of men whom they have never seen before as though they were their most intimate friends. (J.W. 2:124; Loeb)

Jesus’ prohibition against the apostles taking equipment for the road (Luke 9:3; 10:4) bears an outward resemblance to Josephus’ description of the Essenes, but the ideological underpinnings of the Essene practice and Jesus’ instructions are diametrically opposed. Whereas the Essenes maintained a closed community of goods which supported their radical separation from outsiders, Jesus’ demand that the apostles go unequipped forced them to have fellowship with “outsiders.” This contrived contact created an opportunity for mutuality and reciprocity: the hosts shared their homes and their meals with the apostles, and in exchange the apostles shared with the hosts Jesus’ message of peace.

L97 ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ (GR). In light of the contrast with Essene practice discussed above (Comment to L95-96), Luke’s placement of “the worker is worthy” saying seems preferable to Matthew’s.[75] Jesus’ insistence that the apostles accept the hospitality of “outsiders” as their rightful wage is to be understood as a conscious rejection of the Essene concept of “the wealth of unrighteousness.”[76] It was the author of Matthew who made “the worker is worthy” saying a conclusion to the list of items the apostles were forbidden (in Matthew’s version) to acquire.[77]

Not only is Luke’s placement of “the worker is worthy” saying to be preferred, but his wording, according to which a worker deserves a wage, is also preferable to Matthew’s version.[78] “Food” does not fit the actual saying, since it is a wage that workers earn. The author of Matthew secondarily worked the application of the saying into the saying itself in order to emphasize that “food” is all that apostles are permitted to acquire in the course of their itinerary.[79] As we have discussed elsewhere (see above, Comment to L82-83), these editorial changes may be a reaction to the abuses of itinerant teachers who posed problems for Matthew’s community.[80]

כִּי כְּדַי הַפּוֹעֵל לִשְׂכָרוֹ (HR). In LXX the adjective ἄξιος (axios, “worthy”) occurs 40xx, but only 11xx in books included in MT, and only 8xx where it translates a word in the underlying Hebrew text. The adjective מָלֵא (mālē’, “full”) is translated with ἄξιος 3xx,[81] the verb שָׁוָה (shāvāh, “be like,” “be comparable”) is translated with ἄξιος 4xx,[82] and the remaining instance is the translation of בֵּן (bēn, “son”; Deut. 25:2). None of these options are suitable for HR. Delitzsch translated ἄξιος as רָאוּי (rā’ūy) in Matt. 10:10 and Luke 10:7; however, רָאוּי usually means “suitable” or “qualified” rather than “deserving.”[83] We have therefore chosen to reconstruct ἄξιος with כְּדַי (kedai, “worthy,” “deserving”), a usage unknown in BH, but well attested in rabbinic sources, for example:

אֵין הָעוֹלָם כּוּלּוֹ כְּדַיי כְּיוֹם שֵׁנִיתְּנָה שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁכֹּל הַכְּתוּבִים קוֹדֶשׁ וְשִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים קוֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים

The entire world is not as worthy as the day when Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is holy of holies. (m. Yad. 3:5)

נבוכדנצר אמ′ אין באי העולם כדי לדור ביניהם

Nebuchadnezzar said, “The inhabitants of the world are not worthy that I should dwell among them.” (t. Sot. 3:19; Vienna MS)

רבי נחמיה אומר…כל המקבל עליו מצוה אחת באמנה כדאי הוא שתשרה עליו רוח הקדש

Rabbi Nehemiah says, “…everyone who accepts one commandment in faith is worthy to have the Holy Spirit dwell upon him.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Beshalah chpt. 7 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:167])

אפילו איני כדיי אתם עיקמו עלי את הדרך

Even though I am not worthy, divert your course toward me. (Gen. Rab. 50:4 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:520])

Alternative options for “worthy” in HR include זָכָה (zāchāh) and כָּשֵׁר (kāshēr).[84]

L98 μὴ ἐξέρχεσθε ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν (GR). In Luke 10:7 we encounter the negative imperative μὴ μεταβαίνετε (mē metabainete, “Do not depart”). We suspect that the author of Luke introduced μεταβαίνειν as an improvement to his text. In LXX μεταβαίνειν occurs exclusively in books originally composed in Greek.[85] In the parallels to Luke 10:7 we find the verb ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”; Matt. 10:11; Mark 6:10; Luke 9:4; L99), and it is possible that Luke’s FR version of the Conduct in Town pericope (Luke 9:4) preserves the verb found in Anth.

אַל תֵּצְאוּ מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת (HR). In LXX ἐξέρχεσθαι is the translation of יָצָא (yātzā’, “go out”) over 500xx, far more than any other Hebrew verb.[86] Likewise no other Greek verb was used more often than ἐξέρχεσθαι to translate יָצָא.‎[87] There can be little doubt, therefore, that יָצָא is the best option for HR.

The phrase ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν (“out of a house into a house”) is found only once in LXX:

ἐπὶ μικρῷ καὶ μεγάλῳ εὐδοκίαν ἔχε καὶ ὀνειδισμὸν παροικίας οὐ μὴ ἀκούσῃς ζωὴ πονηρὰ ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν καὶ οὗ παροικήσεις οὐκ ἀνοίξεις στόμα

With little or much have contentment, and you will never hear reproach for being a sojourner. It is a miserable life going from house to house, and where you will be a sojourner, you shall not open your mouth. (Sir. 29:23-24; NETS)

Unfortunately, the Hebrew underlying this verse has not been preserved in any ancient manuscript.

In rabbinic literature, although not in earlier Hebrew sources, we find the phrase מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת (mibayit levayit, “from house to house”), which is an exact equivalent of ἐξ οἰκίας εἰς οἰκίαν:

הָאִשָּׁה שֶׁהִיא מְקַשָּׁה לֵילֵד וְהוֹצִיאוּהָ מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת הָרִאשׁוֹן טָמֵא בְסָפֵק וְהַשֵּׁינִי וַודַּיִי

A woman who has difficulty in giving birth so that they took her out from house to house [and gives birth to a stillborn baby], the first [house] is [treated as] impure because of doubt, and the second is certainly [impure]. (m. Ohol. 7:4)[88]

המוציא כזית בשר מבית לבית ומחבורה לחבורה בשעת אכילה הרי זה חייב

The one who takes an olive’s bulk of meat from house to house or from one company to another at the time of eating, behold he is liable…. (t. Pes. 6:11; Vienna MS; cf. t. Mak. 4:1)

In the above examples a more idiomatic translation of “from house to house” would be “from one house to another.”

Jesus forbade the apostles to move from one house to another in the same village. The apostles were neither to “upgrade” their accommodations by moving to the home of another (possibly more wealthy) family, which would be insulting to their original host, nor appear to fleece all the families in the village by staying with each of them. Instead, the apostles were to honor the host family that first offered them hospitality by staying with them until their work in that village reached its completion.

L100 וּלְאֵי זוֹ עִיר שֶׁתִכָּנְסוּ (HR). On the reconstruction of εἰς ἣν ἂν with וּלְאֵי זוֹ, see above, Comment to L80.

In LXX εἰσέρχεσθαι (eiserchesthai, “to enter”) + πόλις (polis, “city”) is usually the translation of בָּא (bā’, “come,” “arrive,” “enter”) + עִיר (‘ir, “city”).[89] In the Mishnah, however, the verb נִכְנַס (nichnas, “enter”) replaced בָּא, including in the phrase “enter a city.”[90]

L101 וִיקַבְּלוּ אֶתְכֶם (HR). In Hebrew it is common to express an idea, which in Greek (or English) would be expressed as a passive, in the third person plural.[91] For example, “and you are received” would be more natural in Greek (and English) than “and they receive you.” The impersonal “they receive you” may reflect a literal translation of a Hebrew source.

In LXX the verb δέχεσθαι (dechesthai, “to receive”)[92] often translates לָקַח (lāqaḥ, “take,” “receive”);[93] however, in books composed in late Biblical Hebrew, δέχεσθαι sometimes translates the verb קִבֵּל (qibēl, “receive,” “accept”).[94] We have used קִבֵּל for HR since this agrees with MH style, which we prefer when reconstructing direct speech.[95]

L102 ἐσθίετε τὰ παρατιθέμενα ὑμῖν (Luke 10:8). In LXX παρατιθέναι (paratithenai, “to set before”) is sometimes the translation of שָׂם לִפְנֵי (sām lifnē, “set before,” “serve”).[96] We have omitted the injunction to “eat what is set before you” from GR and HR, in part because it seems redundant (cf. Luke 10:7; L95-96), and in part because the command more properly belongs to instructions about conduct in private homes than conduct in public places. This command may have been inserted here by the author of Luke.[97]

It is possible that the author of Luke conformed the instruction to “eat what is set before you” to Paul’s teaching about believing Gentiles eating with Gentile non-believers.[98] According to Paul,

If one of the non-believers invites you and you want to go, eat everything that is served to you [πᾶν τὸ παρατιθέμενον ὑμῖν ἐσθίετε] without questioning because of consciousness.[99] (1 Cor. 10:27)

The similarity between 1 Cor. 10:27 and Luke 10:8 is unmistakable. Paul’s statement has nothing to do with the laws of kashrut, which do not pertain to Gentiles, but with the issue of foods tainted by idolatry.[100] In essence, Paul recommended that if the non-believing host did not treat the food like an idol offering, neither should a believing Gentile. Perhaps the author of Luke, who wrote for a Gentile audience, inserted this Pauline language in order to make Jesus’ instructions in the Conduct in Town pericope more directly applicable to situations his readers were likely to encounter.

L103 θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς (GR). The command to heal the sick in Luke 10:9 is paralleled in Matt. 10:8. Matthew’s command to heal is likely an expanded paraphrase of the Anthology’s equivalent to Luke 10:9.[101] Since we omitted the injunction to “eat what is set before you” in L102 from GR and HR, we have also omitted καί (kai, “and”) here in L103.

רַפְּאוּ אֶת הַחוֹלִים בָּהּ (HR). On reconstructing θεραπεύειν (therapevein, “to treat,” “to heal”) with רִפֵּא (ripē’, “heal”), see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L22-23. In LXX the adjective ἀσθενής (asthenēs, “sick,” “weak”) is relatively rare and there is no standard word in the underlying Hebrew text that it translates.[102] For HR we have chosen חוֹלִים (ḥōlim), which in rabbinic literature can be used as a generic term for sick people (cf., e.g., m. Ber. 5:5; m. Ter. 11:10).

L104 וְאִמְרוּ לָהֶם (HR). On the imperative of אָמַר see above, Comment to L86.

L105 ἤγγικεν ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (GR). Matthew’s parallel to Luke 10:9 has changed the order from “heal…proclaim” to “proclaim…heal” (Matt. 10:7-8). Although we regard Luke’s order as more original,[103] we regard Matthew’s ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (hē basileia tōn ouranōn, “the Kingdom of Heaven”) to be the wording of Anth.[104] Luke consistently changed “Kingdom of Heaven” to “Kingdom of God” for the sake of his non-Jewish Greek readers who might not have grasped the meaning of the Hebrew idiom.[105]

הִגִּיעָה עַלֵיכֶם מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם (HR). The most common roots that are translated with ἐγγίζειν (engizein, “to draw near,” “to approach”) in LXX are ק-ר-ב and נ-ג-שׁ, however we have decided to reconstruct ἐγγίζειν in L105 as הִגִּיעַ (higia‘, “arrive”) due to the following considerations:[106]

  1.  While the Gospels usually report Jesus’ message as ἤγγικεν…ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν/τοῦ θεοῦ (“The Kingdom of Heaven/God has come near”; Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9, 11), we also find ἔφθασεν…ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (“The Kingdom of God has arrived”) on one occasion (Matt. 12:28 // Luke 11:20).
  2. It seems likely to us that Jesus’ message about the Kingdom of Heaven was consistent and that the verbs ἐγγίζειν and φθάνειν (fthanein, “to arrive”) are simply variant renderings of the same Hebrew verb.
  3. In LXX הִגִּיעַ is translated with φθάνειν 7xx[107] and ἐγγίζειν 3xx.[108]

An example of הִגִּיעַ combined with the preposition עַל is found in the following expression:

עַל קַן צִיפּוֹר יַגִּיעוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ

Your compassion reaches [or, extends as far as] a bird’s nest. (m. Meg. 4:9; cf. m. Ber. 5:3)

An alternative for HR would be to reconstruct ἐγγίζειν with קָרַב (qārav, “approach,” “be near”). Sometimes the meaning of ק-ר-ב can be “to be present.” For instance, Moses encouraged the Israelites, saying:

כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא־נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא…כִּי־קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשׂתוֹ

This command that I command you with today is not too wonderful for you, neither is it far away…for the word is very near [קָרוֹב] to you: it is in your mouth and in your heart to do it. (Deut. 30:11, 14)

In this example קָרוֹב (qārōv, “near”) has the force of “here,” since according to Moses the word is already in the Israelites’ mouths and within their hearts. Whichever reconstruction we adopt, we would understand the apostles’ declaration to mean that the Kingdom of Heaven has become a present reality, which was visible through the miraculous healings they had been granted the authority to perform.[109]

L106 καὶ ὃς ἂν τόπος (Mark 6:11). Matthew 10:14 and Luke 9:5 agree against Mark to omit the word τόπος (topos, “place”). Mark never uses the word πόλις (polis, “city”) anywhere in the Sending discourse, whereas Matthew’s version of the Conduct in Town pericope and both of Luke’s versions discuss the non-acceptance of the apostles in “cities” or, more properly speaking, “towns” (Matt. 10:14; Luke 9:5; 10:10). In both of these respects Matthew and Luke more accurately reflect the wording of Anth. than does Mark.[110]

L107 καὶ μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς (GR). Only Matthew omits the verb δέχεσθαι (dechesthai, “to receive”). Both of Luke’s versions have μὴ δέχωνται ὑμᾶς (“they may not receive you”). By changing the verb to the third person singular, the author of Mark eliminated Luke’s Hebraic third person plural as a substitute for the passive form (on which, see above, Comment to L101).

L108 μηδὲ ἀκούσωσιν ὑμῶν (Mark 6:11). Having changed the verb to a third person singular in the previous line, the author of Mark now adds a third person plural verb, ἀκούσωσιν (akousōsin, “they might hear”). Perhaps Mark picked up the idea of “hearing” from Luke’s version of the Apostle and Sender saying: “The one who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16; cf. Matt. 10:40), which occurs in a section of the Sending discourse that Mark omitted.[111] The author of Matthew evidently preferred Mark’s language of “hearing” so much that he eliminated “may not accept you” in L107 and expanded “hear you” into “hear your words.”

L109 ἐκπορευόμενοι ἐκεῖθεν (Mark 6:11). Matthew and Luke agree against Mark to use ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”; Matt. 10:14; Luke 9:5) instead of Mark’s ἐκπορεύεσθαι (ekporevesthai, “to go out”). Matthew and Luke also agree to omit Mark’s ἐκεῖθεν (ekeithen, “from there”). In addition, there is a Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to include τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης (“that city”).

ἐξερχόμενοι ἀπὸ τῆς πόλεως ἐκείνης (GR). Without Matthew we might have assumed that the version in Luke 10:10-11, in which the disciples go out into the streets and address the inhabitants of the town, is closer to Anth. The Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark in L109, however, demonstrate that in Luke 10:10-11 the author of Luke edited his source, and consequently Luke’s FR version of the Conduct in Town pericope preserves the wording of Anth.

The editorial activity in Luke 10:10-11 creates an address the apostles are to deliver if they are not accepted in a city, an address that parallels the message they are to proclaim in a city where they are accepted. Evidently the author of Luke wanted to convey the notion that the coming of the Kingdom did not depend on whether or not the apostles were accepted (see below, Comment to L114). This Lukan innovation is a development away from the original concepts of the Kingdom of Heaven: on the one hand, as the human acceptance of God’s reign (hence the identification of receiving the Kingdom of Heaven with the recitation of the Shema in rabbinic literature), and on the other hand, as a divine activity in which God rescues his people (hence the appeal to miraculous healings as proof of this divine activity).

We further note that πλατεῖα (plateia, “street,” “square”; Luke 10:10) is rare in LXX, occuring only 3xx (Esth. 6:9, 11; Tob. 13:17).[112]

The author of Matthew, who conflated the instructions about the apostles’ conduct in homes with the instructions about their conduct in town (see above, Comment to L81), added τῆς οἰκίας (“of the house”) in Matt. 10:14. We have therefore omitted τῆς οἰκίας from GR.

צְאוּ מִן הָעִיר הַהִיא (HR). On the reconstruction of ἐξέρχεσθαι with יָצָא, see above, Comment to L98.[113]

L110 ἐκτινάξατε τὸν χοῦν (Mark 6:11). Matthew’s version of the Conduct in Town pericope and both of Luke’s versions are in agreement against Mark to use κονιορτός (koniortos) instead of χοῦς (chous) for “dust.” However, Matthew agrees with Mark to use the verb ἐκτινάσσειν (ektinassein; Matt. 10:14; Mark 6:11) for “shake off,” whereas Luke has ἀποτινάσσειν (apotinassein, “to shake off”; L113) in Luke 9:5 and ἀπομάσσειν (apomassein, “to wipe away”; L113) in Luke 10:11.

Although the difference between ἐκτινάσσειν (Mark-Matt.) and ἀποτινάσσειν (Luke) might initially seem insignificant, the variation in vocabulary becomes important when we discover that, in Acts, the author of Luke used ἐκτινάσσειν—the same verb used in Mark and Matthew in the Conduct in Town pericope—for Paul’s wiping off the dust from his feet (Acts 13:51; cf. Acts 18:6).[114] Adherents to the theory of Markan Priority must suppose that in Luke 9:5 the author of Luke changed Mark’s ἐκτινάσσειν to ἀποτινάσσειν, but they cannot explain why the author of Luke would have rejected Mark’s ἐκτινάσσειν even though this verb was Luke’s preferred vocabulary for situations in which a person wipes the dust from his feet.[115] Lindsey’s solution to the Synoptic Problem, according to which the author of Mark used the Gospel of Luke as his primary source, allows for a plausible explanation: the author of Luke copied ἀποτινάσσειν (despite his personal preference for ἐκτινάσσειν) from his source (FR). The author of Mark, who was familiar with the writings of Luke, including Acts, changed ἀποτινάσσειν in Luke 9:5 to ἐκτινάσσειν because he remembered that this was the verb used in the stories about Paul, and because he liked to create verbal links between the story of Jesus and the stories in Acts.[116]

καὶ τὸν κονιορτὸν (GR). The Lukan-Matthean agreement to use κονιορτός instead of Mark’s χοῦς for “dust” establishes κονιορτός as the reading in Anth. Since we believe ἐκτινάσσειν is Mark’s replacement for Luke’s ἀποτινάσσειν, we have not only adopted Luke’s vocabulary, we have also accepted Luke’s placement of the verb at L113 in GR.

וְאֶת הָאָבָק (HR). A good case can be made for reconstructing κονιορτός either with עָפָר (‘āfār, “dust”) or with אָבָק (’āvāq, “dust”). Both nouns are used to describe dust on one’s feet. We have identified three examples of the phrase “dust of the feet” written with עָפָר:

וַעֲפַר רַגְלַיִךְ יְלַחֵכוּ

καὶ τὸν χοῦν τῶν ποδῶν σου λείξουσιν

And the dust of your feet they will lick. (Isa. 49:23)

וֶהֱוֵוי מִתְאַבֵּק בַּעֲפַר רַגְלֵיהֶם

Dust yourself in the dust of their feet. (m. Avot 1:4)

עשה זאת בני והנצל לך והדבק בעפר רגליו וקבל מלכותו ואדנותו

Do this [Gen. 43:11], my son: throw yourself down, go and cling to the dust of his feet and receive his kingdom and lordship. (Gen. Rab. 93:1)

Since עָפָר is a much more common word than אָבָק,‎[117] one might suppose that עָפָר is the better candidate for HR. However, in combination with רֶגֶל (regel, “foot”), we found אָבָק to be more usual than עָפָר:

וְעָנָן אֲבַק רַגְלָיו

καὶ νεφέλαι κονιορτὸς ποδῶν αὐτοῦ

…and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nah. 1:3)

לֹא יִכָּנֵס לְהַר הַבָּיִת…וּבַאֲבַק שֶׁעַל רגְלוֹ

He may not enter the Temple Mount…with dust on his feet. (m. Ber. 9:5)[118]

לֹא יִטְבּוֹל בַּאֲבַק שֶׁעַל רַגְלָיו

He may not immerse with dust on his feet. (m. Mik. 9:2)

ולינו ורחצו רגליכם אברהם מקרים רחיצה ללינה ולוט מקרים לינה לרחיצה…. ויש אומרים אף זה עשה כשורה כדי שיצאו ויראו אבק רגליהם שלא יאמרו איכן לנו

“..and stay the night and wash your feet” [Gen. 19:2]. Abraham invited them to wash and then spend the night, but Lot invited them to stay the night and only then to wash their feet…. There are those who say, “He [Lot—DNB and JNT] did this intentionally so that when they [the angels—DNB and JNT] would go out and they [the people of Sodom—DNB and JNT] would see the dust on their feet, they would not say, ‘Where did they spend the night?’”[119] (Gen. Rab. 50:4 [ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:520])

יראו אותן באבק שעל רגליהם ויאמרו לא באו מן הדרך אלא עכשיו

They [the people of Sodom—DNB and JNT] will see them [the angels—DNB and JNT] with dust on their feet and say, “They have not come in from the road until just now.” (Derech Eretz Rabbah 4:2 [56b]; cf. Kalah Rabbati chpt. 7)

לך התרפס באבק רגליהם של שרים וגדולים ממך

Go humble yourself in the dust of the feet of princes and those greater than yourself. (Exod. Rab. 27:9)

What is the significance of shaking dust off the apostles’ feet? The prevailing opinion among scholars has been that shaking off the dust of the feet was a symbolic action intended to imply that the inhabitants of the town were henceforth to be regarded as Gentiles who were no longer a part of the true Israel.[120] This dubious interpretation, which has been advanced since at least the seventeenth century,[121] rests on the fact that, according to rabbinic halachah, soil from Gentile lands is deemed to be ritually defiling.[122] Thus, the instruction to shake the dust from their feet is understood to be an act of purification from the soil of a town that had, by virtue of rejecting Jesus’ message, forfeited its Jewish status.[123] In support of this interpretation many scholars appeal to an alleged ancient Jewish rite of dust shaking that was performed when Jewish travelers entered the Holy Land after visiting Gentile territory. However, there is no mention of any such dust-shaking ceremony in any ancient Jewish source.[124]

Sculpture of a foot from the sanctuary of Asclepius in Corinth. Photo by Todd Bolen, courtesy of
Sculpture of a foot from the sanctuary of Asclepius in Corinth. Photo by Todd Bolen, courtesy of

The earliest appeal to an alleged Jewish rite of dust shaking to support this interpretation that we have been able to find[125] dates from the second half of the nineteenth century in Henry Alford’s The New Testament for English Readers.[126] Already at the dawn of the twentieth century Abbott noted that “…nothing…justifies Alford (without alleging authority) in asserting: ‘It was a custom of the Pharisees, when they entered Judaea from a Gentile land, to do this act.’”[127] Despite Abbott’s objection, however, the myth of an ancient Jewish dust-shaking ceremony gained wide acceptance, probably due to the influence of Strack and Billerbeck’s Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (1922-1928).[128] Strack and Billerbeck actually claim less than those who cite them as an authority on the dust-shaking rite usually suppose.[129] Whereas Strack and Billerbeck merely presume that Jews would carefully remove dust from their shoes and clothing upon entering the Holy Land, scholars who cite Strack and Billerbeck typically appeal to the dust-shaking ceremony as an established fact.[130]

Since there is no evidence that an ancient Jewish dust-shaking rite upon entering the Holy Land ever existed, and since excluding fellow Jews from membership in Israel is contrary to Jesus’ own claims that his mission was to seek out the lost and bring them back into the fold, a different interpretation of the command that the apostles shake the dust from their feet is necessary. Fortunately, an alternative explanation is at hand, one that relates to the issue of inhospitality—which is the occasion for the command to shake off the dust—and that helps us understand the comparison between a town that rejects the apostles and the city of Sodom. This explanation presented itself when we read the aggadic retellings of the story of the angels who were entertained by Lot (cited above; Gen. Rab. 50:4; Derech Eretz Rabbah 4:2 [56b]),[131] according to which Lot intentionally avoided washing the angels’ feet so that the people of Sodom would not suspect that anyone had shown hospitality to the angels. Lot hoped that when the people of Sodom saw that the angels’ feet were still covered with dust from the road, the Sodomites would assume that the angels had just arrived and not suspect that they had spent the previous night in Lot’s home.

Abraham entertains his angelic guests, performing all the duties of a hospitable host in this painting by Rembrandt. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Abraham entertains his angelic guests, performing all the duties of a hospitable host in this painting by Rembrandt. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The underlying assumption of the aggadic retelling of the story of Lot and the angels is that it was considered rude and inhospitable not to welcome strangers into the home, to deny them food, or to fail to wash their feet.[132] That the angels still had dust on their feet was proof that Lot had been less than hospitable.[133] Likewise, the fact that the apostles still had dust on their feet when they left the town was proof that the townsfolk had not fulfilled their duties toward strangers who had entered their town. The connection between the town’s non-reception of the apostles, the apostles’ dust-shaking gesture, and the comment about the fate of that town being worse than Sodom’s, becomes clear when we recall that in Jewish tradition Sodom was notorious for its inhospitality.[134] Shaking the dust from their feet was a symbolic gesture that confronted the inhabitants of the town with their failure to show hospitality; it was not an act of repudiation of the townsfolk as part of the Jewish people. Since the inhabitants had failed to show proper hospitality to the apostles by washing their feet when they arrived, the apostles took it upon themselves to shake the dust from the road off their feet when they departed. Shaking off the dust from their feet drove their point home, because if the inhabitants of the town had shown Jesus’ apostles proper hospitality in the first place, the apostles could not have performed the dramatic gesture since there would have been no dust for them to shake off.

L111 τὸν ὑποκάτω (Mark 6:11). Neither Matthew’s version of the Conduct in Town pericope nor either of Luke’s versions describe the dust as “under” the apostles’ feet. This detail was added by the author of Mark.

τὸν κολληθέντα ἡμῖν ἐκ τῆς πόλεως ὑμῶν (Luke 10:11). The apostles’ speech upon their departure from an inhospitable town is an elaboration which the author of Luke added to his source (see above, Comment to L109). The secondary nature of the apostles’ speech is demonstrated by the misunderstanding of the dust-shaking gesture implied by the comment “the dust of your city that clings to us.” If our interpretation of the dust-shaking gesture is correct, then the apostles did not shake off the dust their feet had picked up in the town, but rather the dust they had picked up from the road prior to entering the town.[135]

L112 ἀπὸ τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν (GR). In Matt. 10:14 the author of Matthew seems to have been weaving together the wording of his two main sources (Mark and Anth.) while also adding a few touches of his own. In L109 the author of Matthew partly followed Anth., but added “outside of the house.” In L110 the author of Matthew accepted ἐκτινάξατε (“shake off”) from Mark, but κονιορτὸν from the Anthology. Matthew omitted Mark’s “under” in L111, but τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν (“of your feet”) in L112 is identical to the wording in Mark.

By omitting τόν ὑποκάτω the author of Matthew inadvertently created what looks like a Hebrew construct phrase, since τόν κονιορτὸν τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν (“the dust of your feet”) could easily be reconstructed as אֲבַק רַגְלֵיכֶם (“the dust of your feet”), but we believe this potential Hebraism is more apparent than real. We have accepted Luke’s ἀπό (apo, “from”) because Luke 9:5, while based on FR, seems to preserve the wording of Anth. more accurately than the parallels in Luke 10:11, Mark 6:11 or Matt. 10:14.

מֵעַל רַגְלֵיכֶם (HR). In the Hebrew sources cited in Comment to L110 above, when “dust of the feet” occurred it was stated either as a construct phrase (אֲבַק רֶגֶל, “dust of the foot”; Nah. 1:3; Gen. Rab. 50:4; Exod. Rab. 27:9) or as אָבָק שֶׁעַל רֶגֶל (“dust that is on the foot”; m. Ber. 9:5; m. Mik. 9:2; t. Ber. 7:19; Derech Eretz Rabbah 4:2 [56b]). Our reconstruction is built on the analogy of the latter formulation, but with the preposition מִן (“from”) instead of the relative pronoun -שֶׁ (“that”).

L113 ἀποτινάσσετε (GR). Since the author of Luke appears to have taken liberties with his source in Luke 10:11, and since the author of Mark appears to have exchanged ἐκτινάσσειν for ἀποτινάσσειν (see above, Comment to L110), we have accepted the imperative in Luke 9:5 for GR. In LXX ἀποτινάσσειν occurs in Judg. 16:20; 1 Kgdms. 10:2; and Lam. 2:7. In Judg. 16:20 ἀποτινάσσειν translates the root נ-ע-ר (“shake”) and in Lam. 2:7 the LXX translators evidently read נִאֵר (ni’ēr, “abhor”) as נִעֵר (ni‘ēr, “shake”). Since in rabbinic literature נָעַר is a common verb for “shake,” we have adopted it for HR.[136]

L114 πλὴν τοῦτο γεινώσκετε ὅτι ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (Luke 10:11). We noted above (Comment to L109) that the author of Luke uses the term “Kingdom of God” here in a way that is foreign to Jesus’ normal way of speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven. According to Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven is a divine redemptive activity in which human beings can participate when they obey God’s commandments. Jesus also used the Kingdom of Heaven to refer to his own band of itinerating disciples who were actively participating in God’s redemptive mission. The Kingdom of Heaven was happening wherever Jesus was, or, by extension, wherever the apostles were received, but not where the apostles were rejected. The author of Luke added this comment, probably in order to assert that God’s Kingdom cannot be thwarted by unbelief, but this is a development away from the original concept of the Kingdom of Heaven.

εἰς μαρτύριον ἐπ᾿ αὐτούς (GR). Luke 9:5 probably preserves the reading of Anth. In LXX εἰς μαρτύριον (eis martūrion, “for a testimony”) is typically the translation of לְעֵד (le‘ēd, “for a testimony”) or לְעֵדָה (le‘ēdāh, “for a testimony”).[137] In LXX we usually find ἐν σοὶ εἰς μαρτύριον (en soi eis martūrion, “in you for a testimony”) as the translation of בְּךָ לְעֵד/עֵדָה (bechā le‘ēd/‘ēdāh, “against you for a testimony”). Supposing that the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text read לְעֵדָה בָּהֶם (leēdāh bāhem, “for a testimony against them”), the use of the preposition ἐπί (epi, “on”) rather than ἐν (en, “in”) as the translation of -בְּ is non-Septuagintal.

לְעֵדָה בָּהֶם (HR). In MH עֵדוּת (‘ēdūt) is the usual word for “testimony,” but עֵדָה also occurs in rabbinic literature as a synonym for “testimony.”[138] We have chosen to reconstruct with עֵדָה because we have not found any instances of “testimony against” with עֵדוּת.

L115-122 The comparison of an inhospitable town to Sodom is found in Matthew’s account of Sending the Twelve (Matt. 10:15) and Luke’s account of the Seventy-two (Luke 10:12). Matthew also preserves a variant form of this saying in Jesus’ woe against Capernaum (Matt. 11:24). The wording of this saying is similar in all three versions, but there are some important differences.

Matthew 10:15 Matthew 11:24 Luke 10:12
1 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν πλὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι
2 ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται
3 γῇ Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρων γῇ Σοδόμων Σοδόμοις
4 ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται
5 ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ
6 ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται
7 ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ ἢ σοί ἢ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ

The most prominent difference between the three versions is that whereas in Matt. 10:15 and Luke 10:12 the town is referred to in the third person (τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ), the Matt. 11:24 version is phrased in the second person (σοί). We believe the author of Matthew is responsible for the direct address in the Matt. 11:24 version, which he introduced in order to adapt the saying into its new context of a woe against Capernaum. Luke’s parallel to the woe against Capernaum (Luke 10:15) omits the comparison to Sodom. Another prominent disagreement between the versions has to do with the placement of ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται (“more bearable it will be”), which appears at a different location in each of the versions. Other differences between the three versions will be mentioned in the discussion below.

L115 ἀμὴν (Matt. 10:15). Among the three versions of the saying comparing a town to Sodom, only Matt. 10:15 opens with “Amen.” We have retained “amen” in GR and HR not only because it agrees with Hebraic usage,[139] but also because Luke frequently omitted “amen” or used a synonym where “amen” appears in the Matthean parallel.[140] Perhaps the author of Luke omitted “amen” because its meaning was not familiar to his non-Jewish Greek readers.[141] Ἀμήν (amēn, “amen”) is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew word אָמֵן (’āmēn) and was therefore meaningless for Greek speakers unacquainted with Judaism.[142] Justin Martyr, who likewise wrote for non-Jewish Greek-speaking audiences, found it necessary to explain the term “amen” to his readers.[143]

L116 λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). We have retained ὅτι (hoti, “that”) in GR because ὅτι occurs in the Lukan and the Matt. 11:24 versions of the comparison to Sodom saying, and because ὅτι frequently introduces direct speech in Anth.[144] Since Hebrew does not require a word corresponding to ὅτι (such as כִּי or -שֶׁ) to introduce direct speech, there is no equivalent to ὅτι in HR.[145]

L117 נוֹחַ יִהְיֶה (HR). As we noted above, there is no agreement between the three versions of the comparison to Sodom saying as to the placement of the phrase ἀνεκτότερον ἔσται (“more bearable it will be”). We have chosen to follow Matt. 10:15 for the placement of this phrase in GR because this is the most natural place for it to occur in HR.

We have reconstructed ἀνεκτότερος (anektoteros, “more bearable”) with נוֹחַ (nōaḥ, “easy”) + preposition מִן (min, “from”), the standard construction for expression of degrees of comparison in Hebrew, which lacks superlatives.[146] For a similarly structured comparison in Hebrew to נוֹחַ יִהְיֶה לִסְדוֹם…מֵהָעִיר הַהִיא (“Easier it will be for Sodom…than for that city”; L117-122), note the following examples:

הוא היה אומר נוח למלוך על כל העולם כולו מלישב בפני בני אדם העטופים בסדינין

He would say, “It is easier to rule the whole world than to sit before people clothed in linen.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 25:5 [ed. Schechter, 82])

נוח למלוך על כל האדם מלדבר על פי שנים עדים ועל פי שלשה עדים עטופי סדינים

It is easier to rule over all humankind than to speak on the basis of two or three witnesses clothed in linen.[147] (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 33 [ed. Schechter, 73])

Sodom and Gomorrha as painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner (ca. 1920). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Sodom and Gomorrah oil on canvas painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner (ca. 1920). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L118 γῇ Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρων (Matt. 10:15). Since neither the Lukan version nor the Matt. 11:24 version of the saying mention Gomorrah, and since the balance of the saying is better if the future judgment of one inhospitable town (τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ; L122) is compared to the fate of one inhospitable city in the biblical past (Sodom), we regard “and Gomorrah” in Matt. 10:15 as an editorial addition.[148]

Both Matthean versions refer to the “land of Sodom,” whereas the Lukan version simply names the city. Again, the comparison of one city to another is better than the comparison of the fate of one city to that of an entire region. We also note that “land of Sodom” does not occur in Hebrew sources, whether MT, DSS, or rabbinic literature, but “land of Sodom” is found in Aramaic.[149] There is some evidence that the author of Matthew knew or was influenced by Aramaic.[150] Perhaps this is another example of Aramaic influence in Matthew.

L119-120 ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (GR). Deciding between “in the day of judgment” (Matt. 10:15; 11:24) and “in that day” (Luke 10:12) is difficult.[151] In the Gospels the phrase ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως (en hēmera kriseōs, “in the day of judgment”) is unique to Matthew, where it occurs 4xx (Matt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36).[152] We might therefore regard ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως as a Matthean addition, and prefer Luke’s ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (en tē hēmera ekeinē, “in that day”). The phrase “in that day” occurs over a hundred times in the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible as a reference to a coming day of reckoning, and would certainly have been familiar to the apostles, to whom Jesus’ statement was addressed.[153] On the other hand, יום הדין (yōm hadin, “the day of judgment”) is attested in rabbinic sources.[154] In the end we decided in favor of Luke’s reading for GR for the following three reasons:

  1. We have already encountered evidence of Matthean editorial activity in this part of the verse (namely, “land of Sodom” and the addition of “and Gomorrah”), which increases the likelihood that “day of judgment” is editorial, too.
  2. In the Matthean and the Lukan versions of the comparison to Sodom saying we have the preposition ἐν, which we would normally reconstruct with -בְּ, but in Hebrew we only found examples of ליום הדין, never ביום הדין, for “on the day of judgment.” Therefore, if “on the day of judgment” had been present in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text, we would have expected to find εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως in Matthew rather than ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως.[155]
  3. Luke’s ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ is exactly what we would expect to find if the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text read בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא.‎[156]

Does this warning refer to the judgment at the end of time, or does Jesus refer to a reckoning that will be worked out in the course of history? The latter interpretation might be preferable, since it could tie together the entire pericope with a single underlying thought. If, as we discussed above (Comment to L88), Jesus understood an important aspect of his calling to be a prophetic mission to call the people to repentance so as to avert a national crisis that would result from armed rebellion against the Roman Empire,[157] then the judgment Jesus envisions in Matt. 10:15 and Luke 10:12 could be none other than the crushing defeat by the Roman legions of the towns that had rejected Jesus’ message of peace. As Wright suggested, “Jesus had offered these Galilean towns the way of peace. By following him, they would find the god-given golden thread to guide them through the dark labyrinth of current political aspirations and machinations, and on to vindication as the true people of the creator and covenant god. If they refused, they were choosing the way that led, inevitably, to confrontation with Rome, and so, to unavoidable ruin.”[158] In the book of Judges and in the prophetic books of the Bible God’s judgment is often carried out by Gentile kingdoms.[159]

L124-132 The Luke 9 (FR) version of the Sending discourse concludes with a description of the apostles setting out to spread their message and to heal (Luke 9:6). The high concentration of participles in Luke 9:6, the use of the verbs διέρχεσθαι (dierchesthai, “to go through”) and ἐυαγγελίζειν (evangelizein, “to proclaim good news”), both of which occur in the writings of Luke with a much greater frequency than in the Gospels of Mark or Matthew,[160] the presence of πανταχοῦ (pantachou, “everywhere”), which occurs only once in LXX,[161] and the similarity of Luke 9:6 to other concluding summary statements in the Lukan corpus (cf. Luke 8:1; Acts 8:4, 25, 40), all suggest that Luke 9:6 was either composed either by the author of Luke himself, or possibly adapted from a conclusion composed by the First Reconstructor. In any case, it does not seem possible to recover a Hebrew source behind Luke 9:6.

Mark’s version of the Sending discourse, which is based on Luke 9:1-6, also concludes with a description of the apostles’ departure. That Mark 6:12-13 is a loose paraphrase of Luke 9:6 can be seen from Mark’s use of a different form of the verb ἐξέρχεσθαι (exerchesthai, “to go out”) in L124, a synonym for “proclaim” in L126, and Mark’s agreement with Luke 9:6 to mention healing in L131.

L127 ἵνα μετανοῶσιν (Mark 6:12). The ἵνα + subjunctive construction is often indicative of Greek composition. The translations of Delitzsch (וַיִּקְרְאוּ לָשׁוּב בִּתְשׁוּבָה) and Lindsey (וַיִּקְרְאוּ לָאֲנָשִׁים לָשׁוּב מִדַּרְכָּם; HTGM, 107) demonstrate how difficult it is to reconstruct ἐκήρυξαν ἵνα μετανοῶσιν in Hebrew.

L129 καὶ ἤλειφον ἐλαίῳ (Mark 6:13). Mark is unique in describing the apostles as anointing the sick with oil. Lindsey suggested that the author of Mark picked up the notion of anointing the sick from James 5:14, since this is the only other mention of healing the sick by anointing with oil in NT.[162]

L130 πολλοὺς ἀρρώστους (Mark 6:13). In NT ἄρρωστος (arrōstos) for “sick person” is rare; of the five instances, three are in Mark.[163] In Mark 6:5 and Mark 6:13 the author of Mark uses ἄρρωστος in summary statements of Jesus’ activity, which are likely redactional. The third instance of ἄρρωστος in Mark appears in the spurious ending of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 16:18). In LXX ἄρρωστος is the translation of חֹלֶה (ḥoleh, “sick person”) on only two occasions (3 Kgdms. 14:5; Mal. 1:8), thus ἄρρωστος is not typical of translation Greek. The presence of ἄρρωστος in Mark 6:13, therefore, is another hint that this verse does not reflect an original Hebrew source.

L133-136 Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς διατάσσων τοῖς δώδεκα μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, μετέβη ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ διδάσκειν καὶ κηρύσσειν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν αὐτῶν (Matt. 11:1). The first half of Matt. 11:1 (L133-134) is nearly identical to the conclusions of the other major Matthean discourses (Matt. 7:28; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1), which is a strong indication of Matthean composition, since the discourses themselves were compiled by the author of Matthew.[164] It is unlikely that any part of Matt. 11:1 reflects an underlying Hebraic source.[165]

L134 διατάσσων τοῖς δώδεκα μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ (Matt. 11:1). The verb διατάσσειν (diatassein, “to instruct”) occurs 20xx in LXX, half of which are in books not included in MT, and διατάσσειν is not the standard translation of any Hebrew verb.[166] The reference to the “twelve disciples” instead of the “twelve apostles” is characteristic of Matthean redaction.[167]

L135 μετέβη ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ διδάσκειν καὶ κηρύσσειν (Matt. 11:1). We have had occasion to note that the author of Matthew was far more interested in the instructions given to the apostles than he was in their actual mission. There can hardly be a better illustration of this fact than Matt. 11:1, which concludes the Sending discourse not with a description of the apostles going out to teach, as in Mark 6:12-13 and Luke 9:6, but of Jesus heading out on a teaching tour.[168]

The verb μεταβαίνειν (metabainein, “to depart”) occurs 12xx in NT, half of which are in the Gospel of Matthew, compared to zero instances of μεταβαίνειν in Mark and only one instance in Luke (Luke 10:7).[169] All but one of the remaining NT instances of μεταβαίνειν occur in Johannine literature, which is un-Hebraic.[170] In LXX μεταβαίνειν occurs exclusively in books originally composed in Greek.[171] It therefore seems unlikely that the author of Matthew copied μεταβαίνειν from Anth. The adverb ἐκεῖθεν (ekeithen, “from there”) is also Matthean, occurring 12xx in Matthew compared to 6xx in Mark and 4xx in Luke.[172] In several instances where Matthew has ἐκεῖθεν it is lacking in the Lukan and/or Markan parallel.[173] Likewise, the combination of μεταβαίνειν + ἐκεῖθεν is found in the Gospels only in Matthew (Matt. 11:1; 12:9; 15:29). All the evidence in L135 points to Matthean composition.

L136 ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν αὐτῶν (Matt. 11:1). The author of Matthew speaks of Jesus teaching and preaching “in their cities,” a phrasing that expresses discontinuity and alienation from the Jewish setting Matthew describes, similar to “their synagogues” in Matt. 9:35.[174] These are not the words of a Jewish eyewitness, who would have written “our cities” and “our synagogues.”

Redaction Analysis

The four versions of the Conduct in Town pericope are, despite many important differences, relatively unified in their descriptions of how the apostles were to behave when they arrived in a new town. Each version gives instructions about entering homes and how to respond to inhospitality. The Luke 9 and Mark 6 versions are closely related, as are the Matthew 10 and Luke 10 versions. We believe this to be the result of Mark’s preference for FR pericopae, hence his similarity to the Luke 9 version of the Conduct in Town pericope, whereas Matthew preferred the Anthology’s fuller version to the version in Mark 6, which caused Matthew’s version to resemble the version in Luke 10, which was also based on Anth.

Luke’s Versions

The Luke 10 version of the Conduct in Town pericope is, generally speaking, closer to Anth. than any of the other versions. Nevertheless, the author of Luke did not simply replicate Anth. in Luke 10:5-12. Sometimes the author of Luke made minor stylistic improvements, such as the transposition of two words (L85), supplying a synonym to replace a word in his source (L98), or omitting a foreign word that might have been unfamiliar to his readers (L115). At other times, however, the author of Luke adapted Anth. in more conspicuous ways. For instance, it is likely that the author of Luke added the command to “eat whatever is set before you” (L102) in order to “update” the instructions for his own time. An even more significant change is the addition of an entire speech in which the apostles voiced their reproach against an inhospitable town (L109-114). Perhaps, as a traveling companion of Paul, the author of Luke experienced the command to shake off the dust of their feet in a deeply personal way, since Paul had carried out this instruction on at least one occasion (Acts 13:51). Whatever the motivation, Luke’s editorial activity slightly changed the meaning of the dust-shaking action, since originally it was the dust from their travels on the road that the apostles were to shake off their feet as a token of the failure of the townsfolk to provide them with water to wash themselves. The author of Luke, however, made it the dust of the inhospitable town that was to be shaken off the apostles’ feet (L111). An even more significant change is the introduction of the idea that Jewish non-acceptance of the Gospel cannot hinder the Kingdom of God (L114). This is a departure from the original concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, according to which the Kingdom is a divine activity in which human beings can participate as they receive God as their king.

The Luke 9 version of the Conduct in Town pericope is based on FR’s improved-Greek epitome of the Anthology’s version. The First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) omitted the instructions about greeting the family (L86-92), “the worker is worthy” saying (L97), the instructions about conduct in a town that welcomes the apostles (L100-105), and the comparison to Sodom saying (L115-122). Despite these omissions, however, the First Reconstructor sometimes preserved the wording of Anth. more faithfully than did the author of Luke in the Luke 10 version because, as we have just discussed, at certain points the author of Luke modified the wording of Anth. in Luke 10:5-12. The most easily identifiable point at which the Luke 9 version of the Conduct in Town pericope preserves the wording of Anth. better than the Luke 10 version is in the instructions about shaking the dust from the apostles’ feet, for there the Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark were achieved by Matthew’s and FR’s adherence to Anth. (L109). Other places at which the Luke 9 version may have preserved the Anthology’s wording more accurately than the Luke 10 version are L85, where the word order in Luke 9:4 (οἰκίαν εἰσέλθητε) is more Hebraic than in Luke 10:5 (εἰσέλθητε οἰκίαν); L99, where we suspect that ἐξέρχεσθε in Luke 9:4 is more Hebraic than μεταβαίνετε in Luke 10:7 (L98); and L114, where “for a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5) is more Hebraic than “nevertheless know this: that the Kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:11). The examples in L85 and L114 lack support in Matthew, but their more Hebraic quality, as compared to what is in the Luke 10 version, makes it possible to identify them as ultimately stemming from Anth.

Mark’s Version

The Markan version of the Conduct in Town pericope reproduces the Luke 9 version with minimal editorial activity. Occasionally the author of Mark replaced a word in Luke 9 with a synonym (L109, L110) or added an additional detail, such as specifying that it was the dust under the apostles’ feet that they were to shake off (L111). In one instance the author of Mark may have exchanged the verb for “shake off” that he found in Luke 9 for the verb for “shake off” in Acts 13:51 in order to emphasize the continuity between Jesus’ instructions and the actions of the Apostle Paul (L110). By supplying the words “place” (L106) and “from there” (L109), the author of Mark avoided using the word πόλις (polis, “city”) in the Conduct in Town pericope, but it is unlikely that this avoidance had a particular ideological or theological motivation. It is simply an example of Mark paraphrasing Luke, his primary source.

Matthew’s Version

Perhaps the author of Matthew preferred the Anthology’s version of the Conduct in Town pericope over Mark’s version simply because he intended to make the sending of the Twelve the occasion for the second major discourse in his Gospel, and the Anthology’s more detailed version better suited this purpose than Mark’s bare-bones version. Whatever the motivation, Matthew’s preference for Anth. led to the many similarities between the Matthean and Luke 10 versions of the Conduct in Town pericope.

An overriding ideological concern, however, caused Matthew to significantly alter the Anthology’s wording. This ideological concern had to do with worthiness: the worthiness of the apostles to receive hospitality, and the worthiness of the hosts to receive the apostles. The author of Matthew wished to ensure that the apostles would be above reproach, especially with respect to the accusation that the apostles were seeking personal gain. This concern explains why Matthew moved “the worker is worthy” saying (L97) from its original position as a comment about receiving hospitality, and attached it to the command prohibiting the apostles from acquiring possessions in the course of their mission. It seems probable that Matthew’s concern about the apostles making personal gains at the expense of their hosts is a response to actual abuses experienced within Matthew’s community. It is also likely that Matthew’s concern about the host’s worthiness (L83, L88, L90) also reflects circumstances that were current at the time the author of Matthew composed his Gospel. In Matthew’s time itinerant teachers would stay with families who belonged to the community of believers. Upon arriving in a new city, the itinerant teachers would inquire of the Church leaders where they ought to stay. These circumstances are very different from what was envisioned when Jesus sent the apostles to places they had not visited and where there was no Church, because the Church, as Matthew used this term, had not yet come into existence. The Luke 10 version of the Conduct in Town pericope preserves the more original instructions, according to which the apostles were to stay with strangers, making no distinction between who was “worthy” to receive them and who was not.

Stylistic concerns also led to Matthew’s adaptation of the Anthology. Wishing to streamline the pericope’s content, the author of Matthew conflated the instructions about conduct in private homes with the instructions about public behavior in towns. This conflation resulted in the awkward sequence of giving a command to “stay there” (L84) before the house where the apostles were to stay was actually mentioned (L85). It also appears that the author of Matthew misunderstood his source, assuming that it was literally the house that was addressed with a greeting, rather than the family that dwelt within it (L87). In the comparison to Sodom saying the author of Matthew altered the wording of Anth. slightly by adding “and Gomorrah” (L118) and changing “that day” to “day of judgment” (L119-120). Adding “and Gomorrah” adversely affected the balance of the original saying in which one inhospitable town in the present was compared to one infamously inhospitable city (Sodom) in the biblical past. Likewise, by changing “that day” to “day of judgment” the author of Matthew destroyed the original agreement between τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (L119-120) and τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ (L122) that was preserved in Luke 10:12.

Results of this Research

1. What is the meaning of “son of peace” in Luke 10:6? It is unlikely that “son of peace” simply meant “friendly” or “hospitable person,” because the members of the household who had invited the apostles to stay with them had already proven themselves to be friendly and hospitable. It is also unlikely that “son of peace” meant someone who was already a disciple of Jesus, because the apostles, who had been with Jesus since he had begun training disciples, would almost certainly have recognized someone who had been a disciple of Jesus. From the instructions Jesus gave to the apostles, it is clear that when they greeted the household with peace they did not know beforehand whether or not anyone in the family would turn out to be a “son of peace.” Perhaps the term “son of peace” is related to Jesus’ other teachings about peace. According to Jesus, someone who is a peacemaker is called a son of God (Matt. 5:9). Evidently, Jesus defined peacemakers as people who loved even their enemies, for in this way they emulated their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:44-45). Just as God is peaceable toward the world, which is often at enmity with God, so are human beings to be peaceable toward one another (Matt. 5:48). Jesus’ teachings on peace in these related passages may be based on an ancient homily on the stones of the altar, according to which the disciples of the sages are required to be peaceable (שְׁלֵמִים; shelēmim), just as the stones of the altar were required to be whole (שְׁלֵמוֹת; shelēmōt). If such a homily undergirds Jesus’ teachings on peace, then it is possible that “son of peace,” בֶּן שָׁלוֹם (ben shālōm), is a wordplay on the term אֶבֶן שְׁלֵמָה (’even shelēmāh, “whole stone”).

2. What is the significance of the instruction to eat and drink with the people in whose home the apostles were invited to stay (Luke 10:7)? On the most basic level, Jesus instructed his apostles to be gracious guests who did not demand special treatment from their hosts. The apostles were to gratefully accept whatever they were offered, whether it was little or much, whether the quality was fine or coarse. On a deeper level, Jesus’ expectation that the apostles should have fellowship with strangers without testing their moral character or social standing contrasts sharply with the practice of the Essenes who maintained a strict separation between insiders and outsiders. The separation the Essenes maintained was not merely attitudinal, reserving love and friendliness exclusively for members of the sect, the Essenes also maintained an economic separation between covenanters and non-members, to the extent that they would not accept a gift from an outsider. Anything they received from outsiders had to be paid for, since to the Essenes having fellowship with outsiders meant participating in their wickedness. Jesus rejected the Essene demand for separation from sinners. According to Jesus, it was precisely through fellowship that “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” would be returned to the fold. That is why Jesus ate with tax collectors and required the apostles to associate with strangers.

3. How are we to interpret the command to “shake the dust from your feet” when a town or village declined to accept Jesus’ apostles? The long-held interpretation of the command to shake off the dust from the apostles’ feet, according to which the town was henceforth cut off from Israel and was to be regarded as equal to the impure land of the Gentiles, has to be abandoned, not only because this interpretation is based on a fictitious ceremony, but because it is contrary to Jesus’ worldview.[175] Whereas the Essenes might view fellow Jews who did not join their sect as cut off from Israel, Jesus rejected sharp divisions between “insiders” and “outsiders.” Jesus understood his mission to be about the restoration of Israel by calling the entire people to repentance. Declaring anyone to be irrevocably cut off from Israel is antithetical to the very spirit of Jesus’ teachings.

Instead of being an act of utter repudiation, shaking the dust from their feet is best understood as a dramatic demonstration on the part of Jesus’ apostles, a demonstration which highlights the town’s inhospitality toward strangers. Had the townspeople shown the apostles the basic hospitality that was expected to be offered to all strangers, there would have been no dust on the apostles’ feet to shake off, since supplying water for foot washing was considered to be as essential to hospitality as providing food and drink for one’s guests.[176] Understanding the shaking off of the dust from the apostles’ feet as a symbolic demonstration of the town’s inhospitality has the benefit of clarifying the connection between the inhospitable town, the apostles’ action, and the comparison of the inhospitable town to Sodom, the biblical archetype of inhospitable cities.


In the Conduct in Town pericope Jesus explained to his apostles how they were to behave when arriving in a town. The apostles were to accept hospitality from strangers and share their message of peace which would avert national catastrophe. The apostles were to demonstrate the inbreaking of God’s redemptive reign by healing the sick. If a town refused to extend hospitality to the apostles, then, as they departed, the apostles were to confront the townsfolk with dramatic proof of the town’s inhospitality: they were to shake off the dust that the townspeople ought to have washed from their feet when they arrived. Jesus commented on the fate of towns that are inhospitable to strangers: on the day of reckoning it will be worse for such towns than it will be for Sodom.

Adam Elsheimer, Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis (ca. 1608). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Adam Elsheimer, Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis (ca. 1608). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



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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] A version of the Conduct in Town pericope also appears in the Gospel of Thomas, where we read:

    And if you go into any land and wander in the regions, if they receive you, eat what they set before you, heal the sick among them. For what goes into your mouth will not defile you, but what comes out of your mouth, that is what will defile you. (Gos. Thom. §14 [ed. Guillaumont, 11])

  • [4] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L74.
  • [5] See Hawkins, 12; Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Two-source Solution to the Synoptic Problem,” thesis 7; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” under the entry for Mark 2:16.
  • [6] See Sending the Twelve: “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” Comment to L40-41.
  • [7] For a discussion of the importance of the Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark for reconstructing the wording of Anth., see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L63-67.
  • [8] Segal, 202 §415.
  • [9] Segal, 44 §80.
  • [10] On the sources of Matt. 9:35, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comments to L1-7, L6.
  • [11] Of the nine instances of ἄξιος (axios, “worthy”) in the Gospel of Matthew, seven occur in Matt. 10. See Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L10.
  • [12] Cf. Marshall, 419; Davies-Allison, 2:175.
  • [13] Compare Matt. 10:11 to the following passage in the Mishnah:

    הַנִּכְנַס לָעִיר וְאֵינוּ מַכִּיר אָדָם שָׁם וְאָמַר מִיכָן נֶאֱמָן וּמִיכָן מְעַשֵּׂר אָמַּ′ לוֹ אֶחָד אֲנִי אֵינו נֶאֱמָן אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי הֲרֵי זֶה נֶאֱמָן הָלַךְ וְלָקַח מִמֶּנּוּ

    The one who enters a city and does not know anyone there and he said, “Who here is faithful and who here tithes?” and someone said to him, “I am such a one,” he is not trusted, but if he said, “So-and-so,” behold this one is trusted, and he goes and takes from him. (m. Dem. 4:6)

  • [14] See Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 188.
  • [15] On changes the author of Matthew made to the Conduct on the Road pericope in response to itinerant teachers, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comments to L52-62, L62, L63, and under the subheading “Redaction Analysis: Matthew’s Version.”
  • [16] We have intentionally used the word “church” here, since this was the term the author of Matthew used for his community. In the Synoptic Gospels the noun ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia, “church”) occurs exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt. 16:18; 18:17 [2xx]).
  • [17] Examples of אָמַר in the imperative are found in m. Rosh Hash. 2:6; m. Yev. 16:7; m. Ned. 3:4; m. Bab. Metz. 7:1; m. Sanh. 3:6; 6:2; 7:5, 10; m. Avot 1:15; m. Arach. 8:7; m. Neg. 3:1; m. Yad. 4:3.
  • [18] Fitzmyer, 2:847.
  • [19] See Werner Foerster, “εἰρήνη,” TDNT, 2:413 n. 77.
  • [20] On the Hebraic use of “house” in the sense of “family” see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L113.
  • [21] Cf. Luz, 2:71 n. 9. For the prohibition against greetings on the road, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L77.
  • [22] Examples of שָׁלוֹם as a greeting are found in Judg. 19:20; 1 Sam. 25:6; m. Mid. 1:2; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 41:1 (ed. Schechter, 131); Gen. Rab. 92:1; 100:7 (end).
  • [23] We find examples of -שָׁלוֹם לְ in wishes for peace in Gen. 29:6; 43:23; Judg. 6:23; 19:20; Isa. 57:19; Dan. 10:19; 1 Chr. 12:19.
  • [24] Examples of שָׁלוֹם עַל in MT are found in Ps. 125:5; 128:6. Both are examples of the formula שָׁלוֹם עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל (“Peace [be] upon Israel”), rendered in both places by LXX as εἰρήνη ἐπὶ τὸν Ισραηλ (“Peace [be] upon the Israel”).
  • [25] Examples of שָׁלוֹם עַל in rabbinic literature include m. Mid. 1:2; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 41:1 (ed. Schechter, 131); Gen. Rab. 100:7 (ed. Theodor-Albeck, 3:1291); y. Ber. 2:1 [13a]; y. Moed Kat. 3:7 [18b]; y. Naz. 4:1 [16b]; y. Shevu. 2:4 [11a]; b. Ber. 3a (2xx); b. Rosh Hash. 25b; b. Taan. 20b (2xx).
  • [26] See Albert L. A. Hogeterp, “New Testament Greek as Popular Speech: Adolf Deissmann in Retrospect,” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 102 (2011): 178-200, esp. 197.
  • [27] Cited by Hogeterp, “New Testament Greek as Popular Speech,” 197.
  • [28] Cf. Francis Wright Beare, “The Mission of the Disciples and the Mission Charge: Matthew 10 and Parallels,” Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (1970): 1-13, esp. 11-12; Davies-Allison, 2:175-176; Nolland, Luke, 2:552.
  • [29] See Segal, 229 §486.
  • [30] See Moulton-Milligan, 649.
  • [31] See Wilfred Lawrence Knox, The Sources of the Synoptic Gospels (2 vols.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 1:90 n. 1; Hogeterp, “New Testament Greek as Popular Speech,” 186-190.
  • [32] See Fitzmyer, 2:848.
  • [33] According to Zimmerman, “…‘son of peace’ is an unparalleled locution except in Aramaic where בר שלמותא which means ‘one of the same mind, one of the same conviction’ i.e., one who is a kindred spirit”; however, the sources Zimmerman cites are Syriac, and may be influenced by the language of the New Testament. See Frank Zimmerman, The Aramaic Origin of the Four Gospels (New York: Ktav, 1979), 127.
  • [34] See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comments to L45-47, L97; Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L17.
  • [35] Bivin notes, however, that since the duration of a disciple’s study with a rabbinic sage could be as little as a few months due to family and work obligations, there could have been scores of Jesus’ disciples in the Galilee who had studied with him for a period of time and returned home prior to the mission of the Twelve.
  • [36] That the hosts were strangers is clear from the fact that it was not until after the apostles had accepted the invitation and entered the house that they learned whether or not a “son of peace” lived there.
  • [37] The implication of Acts 1:21-22 is that the twelve apostles had been with Jesus since the beginning of his teaching career. It seems highly unlikely, therefore, that Jesus would have had any disciples who were not personally known to the twelve apostles. In MT אִישׁ שָׁלוֹם (’ish shālōm; Jer. 38:22; Obad. 7; Ps. 41:10) usually means “friend” (and cf. אֱנוֹשׁ שָׁלוֹם; enōsh shālōm in Jer. 20:10). However, אִישׁ שָׁלוֹם is best translated as “man of peace” in Ps. 37:37. Perhaps Jesus refrained from using the term “man of peace” in his instructions to the Twelve in order to eliminate the misconception that the Twelve were to stay only with those who were either friends of Jesus or already known to be sympathetic to his message.
  • [38] On the Hebraic quality of the Beatitudes, especially in their Matthean form, see David Flusser, “Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit…” (Flusser, JOC, 102-114); idem, “Some Notes to the Beatitudes” (Flusser, JOC, 115-125); Robert L. Lindsey, “The Hebrew Life of Jesus,” under the subheading “The Two Versions of the Beatitudes.”
  • [39] See Menahem Kister, “Words and Formulae in the Gospels in the Light of Hebrew and Aramaic Sources,” in The Sermon on the Mount and its Jewish Setting (Cahiers de la Revue Biblique 60; ed. Hans-Jürgen Becker and Serge Ruzer; Paris: J. Gabalda, 2005), 115-147, esp. 131-133.
  • [40] On the designation בן תורה see Anthony J. Saldarini, trans., The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan (Abot de Rabbi Nathan) Version B (Leiden: Brill, 1975), 109 n. 4.
  • [41] Other examples of the אֶבֶן/בֵּן wordplay are found in John the Baptist’s claim that “from these stones God can raise up sons for Abraham” (Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8), and the rejected son/stone imagery of the Wicked Tenants parable (Matt. 21:33-44; Mark 12:1-11; Luke 20:9-18). Yet another example of this wordplay is found in Jos., J.W. 5:272. See Randall Buth and Brian Kvasnica, “Critical Notes on the VTS” (JS1, 299-300); Daniel R. Schwartz, “On the Jewish Background of Christianity,” in Studies in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity: Text and Context (ed. Dan Jaffé; Leiden: Brill, 2010), 87-105, esp. 100. Note that the wordplay between “son” and “stone” does not work in Aramaic.
  • [42] Yohanan ben Zakkai’s saying in t. Sot. 14:1-4, in which he bemoans murders that took place in the open, may also be a polemic against militant Jewish nationalists. Compare t. Sot. 14:1-4 with Josephus’ statement that the Sicarii committed murder in broad daylight (J.W. 2:254). 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 Jewish Literature: Political Aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  • [43] On Jesus’ rejection of Jewish militant nationalist ideology, see Flusser, Jesus, 105-107; idem, “Gamaliel and Nicodemus”; R. Steven Notley, “‘Give unto Caesar’: Jesus, the Zealots and the Imago Dei”; 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.”
  • [44] On the appointment of twelve apostles to signify the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L10-11.
  • [45] On the significance of the phrase “every disease and sickness” in the commissioning of the apostles, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L22-23.
  • [46] On idolatry as the worship of demons, see 1 Cor. 10:20.
  • [47] See R. Steven Notley, “Jesus’ Jewish Hermeneutical Method in the Nazareth Synagogue,” in Early Christian Literature and Intertextuality (2 vols.; ed. Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2009), 2:46-59, esp. 56.
  • [48] See David Flusser, “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,” under the subheading “Solidarity with Israel.”
  • [49] On this passage, see Flusser, Jesus, 244-245.
  • [50] According to Caird, “the sending out of the Twelve was not so much an evangelistic mission as a political manifesto. Jesus…believed that Israel was facing a great national crisis…and that she must choose either to follow Jesus in His programme of national renewal under the rule of God or else to follow the policy of nationalism to its inevitable and disastrous climax of war with Rome.” See George B. Caird, “Uncomfortable Words II. Shake off the Dust from Your Feet (Mk 611),” Expository Times 81 (1969): 40-43, esp. 41.
  • [51] Cf. Bovon, 2:23.
  • [52] In LXX ἐπαναπαύεσθαι is found in Num. 11:25, 26; Judg. 16:26; 4 Kgdms. 2:15; 5:18; 7:2, 17; 1 Macc. 8:11; Mic. 3:11; Ezek. 29:7; Isa. 11:2 (Sinaiticus).
  • [53] The verb ἐπαναπαύεσθαι is the translation of נָח in Num. 11:25, 26; 4 Kgdms. 2:15; Isa. 11:2.
  • [54] See Segal, 230 §489.
  • [55] In LXX ἀνακάμπτειν is found in Exod. 32:27; Judg. 11:39; 2 Kgdms. 1:22; 8:13; 3 Kgdms. 12:20; 1 Chr. 19:5; 1 Esd. 8:84; 4 Macc. 1:35 (Sinaiticus); Job 39:4; Sir. 40:11; Zech. 9:8; Jer. 3:1 (3xx); 15:5; Ezek. 1:13[14] (Alexandrinus); 7:13 (Alexandrinus); Sus. 14 (Theodotion).
  • [56] In Jer. 15:5 ἀνακάμπτειν translates סָר (sār, “turn aside”).
  • [57] There are also examples of הֶחֱזִיר שָׁלוֹם (heḥezir shālōm) in the sense of “return a greeting.” Cf. m. Avot 6:9 in printed editions of the Mishnah.
  • [58] See Luke 12:12; 13:31; 20:19.
  • [59] See Luke 13:1.
  • [60] See Luke 23:12; 24:13.
  • [61] Plummer (Luke, 274) notes that opposite these expressions, “The other Evangelists prefer ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὤρᾳ, κ.τ.λ.”
  • [62] In LXX μένειν translates יָשַׁב in Gen. 24:55; Ps. 9:8; 101[102]:13; Zech. 14:10.
  • [63] On the reconstruction of μένειν with יָשַׁב, see Robert L. Lindsey, “The Major Importance of the ‘Minor’ Agreements,” under the subheading “A Written Hebrew Source Behind the Synoptic Gospels?”
  • [64] In MT we find אָכַל paired with שָׁתָה numerous times. Cf., e.g., Gen. 24:54; 25:34; 26:30; Exod. 24:11; 32:6; Deut. 32:38; Judg. 9:27; 19:4, 21; 1 Sam. 30:16; 2 Sam. 11:11; 1 Kgs. 1:25; 4:20; 18:41, 42; 19:6, 8; 2 Kgs. 6:22, 23; 7:8; 9:34; Isa. 21:5; 22:13; Jer. 16:8; 22:15; Job 1:4, 13, 18; Prov. 23:7; Ruth 3:3; Eccl. 2:24; 3:13; 5:17; 8:15; Neh. 8:12; 1 Chr. 12:40; 29:22. In the Mishnah we find אָכַל וְשָׁתָה in m. Yom. 8:3; m. Suk. 2:4; m. Taan. 1:4, 5, 6; 3:9; m. Ned. 3:2; 5:6; m. Shevu. 3:1.
  • [65] In NT ἐσθίειν and πίνειν appear together in Matt. 6:31; 11:18, 19; 24:49; Luke 5:30, 33; 7:33, 34; 10:7; 12:19, 29, 45; 13:26; 17:8, 27, 28; 22:30; Acts 9:9; 23:12, 21; Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 9:4; 10:7, 31; 11:22, 27, 29; 15:32.
  • [66] Additional examples where παρά + αὐτός (gen.) is the translation of מֵאֵת + suffix are found in Num. 17:17; 18:26; 31:51; Deut. 3:4; 1 Kgdms. 8:10; 2 Kgdms. 2:31 (מֵתוּ reading as מֵאִתּוֹ); 4 Kgdms. 3:11; 4:5; 5:20; 8:8; 2 Chr. 18:6.
  • [67] A different version of Ben Zoma’s saying is found in a baraita:

    הוא היה אומר אורח טוב מהו אומר כמה טרחות טרח בעל הבית בשבילי כמה בשר הביא לפני כמה יין הביא לפני כמה גלוסקאות הביא לפני וכל מה שטרח לא טרח אלא בשבילי אבל אורח רע מהו אומר מה טורח טרח בעל הבית זה פת אחת אכלתי חתיכה אחת אכלתי כוס אחד שתיתי כל טורח שטרח בעל הבית זה לא טרח אלא בשביל אשתו ובניו

    He [Ben Zoma] used to say, “What does a good guest say? ‘What trouble the master of the house has undertaken for my comfort! He has set so much meat before me! He has set so much wine before me! He has set so many cakes before me! And all the trouble he took was done solely for me!’ But what does a bad guest say? ‘What does the trouble the master of the house has undertaken amount to? I have eaten one piece [of bread] and one slice [of meat] and I have drunk one cup [of wine]. All the trouble the master of the house undertook was only for the sake of his wife and children!’” (b. Ber. 58a)

  • [68] See Andrew Arterbury, Entertaining Angels: Early Christian Hospitality in its Mediterranean Setting (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2005), 143. On the virtue of hospitality in Jewish and Christian traditions, see Marvin R. Wilson, “Hospitality: Heritage of the Church.”
  • [69] On the application of the designation “homeless poor” to the sages and their disciples, see Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L14.
  • [70] Note that there is not the slightest suggestion that the Essenes were to avoid the food and drink of “outsiders” because it might be non-kosher. Not even the Essenes suspected fellow Jews of eating meats forbidden in the Torah. Their possessions might be morally and spiritually tainted, but if the food was paid for it could be consumed, which would not have been the case for forbidden meats. Likewise, Jesus’ command to eat and drink “what is theirs” has nothing to do with suspending or abolishing the Torah’s dietary laws. Among Jews of the Second Temple period in the land of Israel, the issue of serving (or being served) non-kosher food was inconceivable.
  • [71] “Their wealth” refers to “the wealth of the men of holiness who walk in perfection” (הון אנשי הקודש ההולכים בתמים), who are mentioned in the previous sentence.
  • [72] Cf. CD VI, 15.
  • [73] Flusser suggested that the Shrewd Manager parable (Luke 16:1-12) constitutes Jesus’ critique of the Essenes’ economic separatism. See David Flusser, “Jesus’ Opinion About the Essenes” (Flusser, JOC, 150-168).
  • [74] This is another reason why “son of peace” probably does not refer to someone who was already a follower of Jesus. The point of the mission was not to visit friends, but to spread Jesus’ message to people who were not familiar with it already.
  • [75] See Marshall, 420; cf. A. E. Harvey, “‘The Workman is Worthy of his Hire’ Fortunes of a Proverb in the Early Church,” Novum Testamentum 24 (1982): 209-221, esp. 218-219.
  • [76] Terms such as הון רשעה (“wealth of wickedness”; CD VI, 15; VIII, 5; XIX, 17) and הון חמס (“wealth of unrighteousness”; 1QS X, 19; 1QHa XVIII, 25) are characteristic of the outlook of the authors of the sectarian scrolls.
  • [77] See Nolland, Matt., 418; Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L78.
  • [78] See Lindsey, HTGM, 79 n. 1. For a different view, see Ze’ev Safrai and Peter J. Tomson, “Paul’s ‘Collection for the Saints’ (2 Cor 8-9) and Financial Support of Leaders in Early Christianity and Judaism,” in Second Corinthians in the Perspective of Late Second Temple Judaism (ed. Reimund Bieringer, Emmanuel Nathan, Didier Pollefeyt, and Peter J. Tomson; CRINT 14; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 132-220, esp. 185-186, 190.
  • [79] See Gundry, Matthew, 187.
  • [80] For a fuller discussion of the author of Matthew’s adaptations of the instructions Jesus gave to the apostles in order to respond to circumstances within his own community, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comments to L62, L63 and L70.
  • [81] In LXX ἄξιος is the translation of מָלֵא in Gen. 23:9; 1 Chr. 21:22, 24.
  • [82] In LXX ἄξιος is the translation of שָׁוָה in Esth. 7:4; Prov. 3:15; 8:11; Job 33:27.
  • [83] In the following examples רָאוּי means “suitable” or “qualified” without the connotation of merit:

    הֲרֵי זֶה רָאוּיִ לִהְיוֹת כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל

    Behold, this one is qualified to be a high priest. (m. Yev. 7:6)

    אִם אָמַ′ עַל מִי שֶׁהוּא רָאוּיִ לִירוּשָּׁה דְּבָרָיו קַיָּימִין וְעַל מִי שֶׁאֵינוּ רָאוּיִ לִירוּשָּׁה אֵין דְּבָרָיו קַיָּימִין

    If he said it about someone who was qualified to inherit, his words are upheld, but if about someone who was not qualified to inherit, they are not upheld. (m. Bab. Bat. 8:5)

    הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת הָרָאוּיִ לוֹ

    The altar sanctifies whatever is qualified to [be offered on] it. (m. Zev. 9:1)

    כָּל שֶׁאֵינוּ רָאוּיִ לַעֲבוֹדָה אֵינוּ חוֹלֵק בַּבָּשָׂר

    Any [priest] who is not qualified for the divine service may not share in the meat [of the sacrifices]. (m. Zev. 12:1)

  • [84] For an example of זָכָה in the sense of “worthy,” cf. אם זכה הוא מתפרנס בהם (“If he is worthy he makes a living by them”; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 27 [ed. Schechter, 55]). For an example of כָּשֵׁר in the sense of “worthy,” cf. יכנס כשר הוא (“Let him enter, he is worthy”; Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 28 [ed. Schechter, 57]).
  • [85] See below, Comment to L134.
  • [86] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:491-495.
  • [87] See Dos Santos, 84-84.
  • [88] Additional examples of מִבַּיִת לְבַיִת in the Mishnah are found in m. Pes. 1:2; m. Moed Kat. 2:4.
  • [89] In LXX εἰσέρχεσθαι + πόλις translates עִיר + בָּא in Gen. 34:25; Josh. 10:19; Ruth 2:18; 3:15; 1 Kgdms. 4:13; 9:13; 10:5; 21:1; 23:7; 2 Kgdms. 10:14; 17:17; 19:4; 4 Kgdms. 7:4, 12; 19:32, 33; 24:11; Hos. 11:9; Jonah 3:4; Isa. 37:33; Jer. 4:5; 8:14; 14:18; 48[41]:7.
  • [90] For examples in the Mishnah of “enter a city” with the verb נִכְנַס, see m. Dem. 4:6, 7; m. Avod. Zar. 5:6; cf. t. Ber. 6:16 (“enter a metropolis [כְּרָךְ]”).
  • [91] See Moule, 180-181; Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels (2d ed.; Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature, 1968), 198 n. 6.
  • [92] On δέχεσθαι in the sense of “receive hospitably,” see Walter Grundmann, “δέχομαι,” TDNT, 2:51-52. N.B.: In Nazi Germany Walter Grundmann served as director of the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben (Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life). Our citation of Grundmann’s scholarship in no way endorses his anti-Semitic worldview. On Grundmann, see Susannah Heschel, “Nazifying Christian Theology: Walter Grundmann and the Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life,” Church History 63.4 (1994): 587-605.
  • [93] In LXX δέχεσθαι translates לָקַח in Gen. 4:11; 33:10; Exod. 29:5 (Alexandrinus); 32:4; Deut. 32:11; Judg. 13:23; Ps. 49[50]:9; Prov. 1:3; 2:1; 4:10; 10:8; 21:11; Job 4:12; 40:24; Hos. 4:11; 10:6; Amos 5:11; Zeph. 3:2, 7; Isa. 40:2; Jer. 2:30; 5:3; 7:27[28]; 9:19; 17:23; 32[25]:28.
  • [94] In LXX δέχεσθαι translates קִבֵּל in 2 Chr. 29:16, 22; 2 Esd. 8:30; Job 2:10.
  • [95] On the verb קִבֵּל in late Biblical Hebrew and Mishnaic Hebrew, see Hurvitz, 213-216.
  • [96] In LXX παρατιθέναι is the translation of שָׂם לִפְנֵי in Gen. 24:33; Exod. 19:7; 21:1; Deut. 4:44; 1 Kgdms. 9:24 (2xx); 28:22; 4 Kgdms. 6:22. In Gen. 43:32 and 2 Kgdms. 12:20 παρατιθέναι is the translation of -שָׂם לְ, while in Gen. 18:8 παρατιθέναι is the translation of נָתַן לִפְנֵי (nātan lifnē, “give before,” i.e., “serve”).
  • [97] See Bovon, 2:24.
  • [98] See Marshall, 421; David R. Catchpole, “The Mission Charge in Q,” Semeia 55 (1991): 147-174, esp. 165-166.
  • [99] The translation of συνείδησις (sūneidēsis) as “consciousness,” rather than “conscience,” is intentional. In 1 Cor. 10:29 Paul makes it clear that it is the συνείδησις of the non-believer, not the believer, that is the issue. The question is not whether the non-believing Gentile would have a bad conscience for eating idol-food—he obviously would not—but whether in the non-believer’s mind, in his consciousness, the food was consecrated to a pagan diety. If the non-believer did not treat the food as consecrated, then neither should the believer. On this understanding of συνείδησις, see Peter J. Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles (CRINT III.1; Fortress: Minneapolis, 1990), 208-216.
  • [100] See Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law, 216-220.
  • [101] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L58-62.
  • [102] In LXX ἀσθενής occurs 16xx in books that are included in MT, where it translates eleven different Hebrew words. See Hatch-Redpath, 1:172.
  • [103] See Bovon, 2:24.
  • [104] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comment to L57.
  • [105] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “Which is correct: ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’?”
  • [106] After arriving at this conclusion, we discovered a handwritten note in the margins of Robert Lindsey’s copy of the Novum Testamentum Graece (ed. S. C. E. Legg), wherein Lindsey also suggested reconstructing ἐγγίζειν with הִגִּיעַ in Matt. 10:7.
  • [107] In LXX φθάνειν translates הִגִּיעַ in 2 Chr. 28:9; Eccl. 8:14 (2xx); 12:1; Song 2:12; Dan. 8:7 (Theodotion); 12:12 (Theodotion).
  • [108] In LXX ἐγγίζειν is the translation of הִגִּיעַ in Ps. 31[32]:6; 87[88]:4; 106[107]:18.
  • [109] See Robert L. Lindsey, “The Kingdom of God: God’s Power Among Believers.”
  • [110] See Caird, “Uncomfortable Words II. Shake off the Dust from Your Feet,” 41.
  • [111] See Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender, Comment to L137.
  • [112] In Esth. 6:9, 11 πλατεῖα is the translation of רְחוֹב (reḥōv, “street,” “square”).
  • [113] For imperative forms of יָצָא in MH, cf., e.g., m. Ter. 4:4; m. Shab. 9:1; m. Pes. 4:2; 7:2; 8:2; 9:9; m. Yom. 3:1; m. Taan. 3:8, 9; m. Avot 2:9; m. Tam. 3:2; m. Mik. 7:1.
  • [114] As Cadbury noted, the pseudepigraphical Acts of Barnabas describes shaking off the dust of the feet on two occasions. See Henry J. Cadbury, “Note XXIV: Dust and Garments” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 5:269-277, esp. 269 n. 6). In both instances, the verb used for “shake off” is ἐκτινάσσειν (Acts Barn. §20, 21). These descriptions are probably influenced by Acts 13:51.
  • [115] See Cadbury, “Dust and Garments” (Foakes Jackson-Lake, 5:269 n. 4).
  • [116] Lindsey referred to the vocabulary in Mark borrowed from Acts as “Markan pick-ups.”
  • [117] In MT אָבָק occurs 6xx, whereas עָפָר occurs 110xx. Likewise, in the Mishnah אָבָק occurs 6xx, whereas עָפָר occurs 62xx.
  • [118] The Tosefta’s parallel has אבק שעל רגליו (t. Ber. 7:19; Vienna MS).
  • [119] The sages noted that whereas Abraham first washed the angels’ feet and then offered them hospitality, Lot first invited the angels to stay the night and then offered to wash their feet (cf. Gen. 18:4; 19:2).
  • [120] See, for instance, Henry Barclay Swete, The Gospel According to St. Mark (3d ed.; London: Macmillan, 1913), 118; W. Manson, 101; T. W. Manson, 76; Taylor, 305; Davies-Allison, 2:178 n. 47; B. Green, 110.
  • [121] Commenting on Matt. 10:14 in his Horae Hebraicae et Talmudicae (1658), Lightfoot wrote:

    Therefore that Rite of shaking the dust off the feet commanded the disciples, speaks thus much; “Wheresoever a City of Israel shall not receive you; when ye depart, by shaking off the dust from your feet, shew that ye esteem that City, however a City of Israel, for a Heathen, prophane, impure City, and as such abhor it.”

  • [122] Cf., e.g., m. Ohol. 2:3; m. Toh. 4:5; b. Git. 8a-b; b. Sanh. 12b. For a discussion of the rabbinic concept of the ritual impurity of Gentile land, see Shmuel Safrai, “The Land of Israel in Tannaitic Halacha,” in Das Land Israel in biblischer Zeit (ed. Georg Strecker; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 201-215, esp. 206-207.
  • [123] Accordingly, Edwards writes: “In applying a Gentile figure of speech to a Jewish village, Jesus desacralizes Eretz Israel, and with it the presumption of salvation on the basis of ethnicity, nation, or race.” See James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 263; cf. 309.
  • [124] Scholars who cite the supposed Jewish dust-shaking ceremony include Plummer (Luke, 240): “It is said that Pharisees performed this action when re-entering Judæa from heathen lands”; Caird (“Uncomfortable Words II. Shake off the Dust from Your Feet,” 41): “the shaking off of dust from the feet was a Jewish gesture directed against Gentiles…. The astonishing thing about Jesus’ instruction…is that this Jewish gesture is now to be employed against Jews”; Marshall (354): “The action of shaking off the dust of a gentile city from one’s feet was practiced by Jews”; Fitzmyer (1:754): “Jews returning to Palestine were expected to do the same”; France (Mark, 250): “The rabbis shook the dust off their feet when leaving Gentile territory, to avoid carrying its defilement with them”; Keener (320): “But those who rejected Christ’s agents…were to be treated like spiritual pagans [(Matt.) 10:14]. Just as Jewish people returning to the holy land might shake the dust of Gentile lands from their feet, or those entering the holy temple might shake the relatively profane dust of the land of Israel from their feet…, so Jesus’ disciples were to treat as unholy those who rejected their message”; Hagner (1:273): “Jews shook the dust off their sandals when they returned from travelling in [unclean] gentile territory”; Guelich (322): “The Jews customarily shook dust from their feet when returning from gentile territory”; Vermes (276): “The mention of shaking dust from their feet recalls an old Jewish custom, which consisted in pilgrims and travellers cleansing themselves of the unclean dust of foreign lands before they entered the Holy Land”; Edwards (262): “When Jews traveled outside Palestine, they were commanded to shake themselves free of dust when returning to Israel, lest they pollute the Holy Land.” The most egregious example is probably that of Joel Green, who writes:

    Ordinarily an action related to self-purification, here it [shaking off dust—DNB and JNT] is specifically interpreted as a performative testimony against the village—designed not, then, to render the traveler clean (again), but to declare the village “unclean.” That is, Jesus’ instructions, albeit in a subtle way, circumvent ordinary rules of purity by turning them on their head. Jesus performed no such act of self-purification upon his return from the land of the Gentiles and the domain of the unclean in [Luke] 8:40, for he had found responsive faith even in the midst of impurity and rejection ([Luke] 8:26-39). No longer working narrowly within an ethnic definition of Israel as the people of God, he now declares that those who refuse the salvific visitation of God…are to be regarded as though they were outside the people of God. (J. Green, 360)

    Not only does Green base his interpretation on a custom that never existed, but on the basis of this fantasy he attempts to prove that Jesus abolished ancient Judaism’s system of ritual purity and that Jesus rejected “ethnic” Israel as the people of God.

    Even among scholars who reject the interpretation that the command to shake the dust from the apostles’ feet was a symbolic gesture implying that the Jewish inhabitants of the town that did not receive the apostles were henceforth to be regarded as Gentiles, there is often a failure to mention that no Jewish dust-shaking ceremony is ever attested in the ancient sources. See, for instance, Nolland (Luke, 1:428): “It probably has no relationship to the rabbinic tradition of carefully removing the dust of foreign lands before returning to the Holy Land”; Witherington (222): “Probably the action of Jesus’ disciples in shaking the dust off their feet has nothing to do with the later rabbinic gesture of shaking the dust off one’s feet when one leaves a Gentile country.”

  • [125] Gill, writing in the 1740s, for instance, made no reference to an alleged Jewish dust-shaking rite.
  • [126] Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers (2 vols.; 2d ed.; Cambridge: Deighton, Bell and Co., 1868-1872), 1:70.
  • [127] See Edwin A. Abbott, The Corrections of Mark Adopted by Matthew and Luke (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1901), 106.
  • [128] See Strack-Billerbeck, 1:571. Marcus (384) writes: “Strack-Billerbeck (1.571) asserts that Jews returning to the Holy Land from abroad would shake off the dust of the unclean pagan lands in which they had been sojourning, but the passages they cite (e.g., m. Ohol. 2:3; b. Ber. 19b) do not support this assertion.” Cf. Luz (2:81 n. 93): “The (later) rabbinical conviction that gentile land is unclean (references in Str-B 1.571) did not lead to a rite of shaking off the dust; this has been created (!) by Billerbeck.”
  • [129] Our thanks to Guido Baltes for consulting with us on Strack and Billerbeck’s interpretation of Matt. 10:14.
  • [130] Kosmala’s warning is apropos: “NT scholars should study the original texts and BILLERBECK’s translations and conclusions with care, and should not be too rash with their own conclusions.” See Hans Kosmala, “‘In My Name,’” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute 5 (1967): 87-109; quotation on 87-88.
  • [131] Subsequently, we discovered that this interpretation of Jesus’ command to shake the dust from the feet has been suggested by other scholars, though not in connection with the aggadic treatments of the story of Lot and the angels. See Andrew Arterbury, Entertaining Angels, 140, 143, cited by Mikeal C. Parsons, Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015), 147.
  • [132] On the expectation that foot washing was a normal part of hospitality, cf. Luke 7:44; 1 Tim. 5:10; Gen. Rab. 72:5. Abraham, who was the paradigm of Jewish hospitality, welcomed wayfaring strangers and washed their feet before serving them food (Gen. 18:4; Philo, Abr. §107, 114; Jos., Ant. 1:196, 200; T. Ab. (A) 3:7-9).
  • [133] For differing views in modern scholarship on Lot’s hospitality toward the angels in comparison with Abraham’s, see Yitzhak (Itzik) Peleg, “Was Lot a Good Host? Was Lot Saved from Sodom as a Reward for His Hospitality?” and Jonathan D. Safren, “Hospitality Compared: Abraham and Lot as Hosts,” both in Universalism and Particularism at Sodom and Gomorrah: Essays in Memory of Ron Pirson (ed. Diana Lipton; Leiden: Brill, 2012), 129-156 (Peleg), 157-178 (Safren).
  • [134] On inhospitality and greed as the sin of Sodom, see Ezek. 16:49; Wis. 19:14; Jos., Ant. 1:194; m. Avot 5:10; Sifre Deut. §43, on Deut. 11:6; b. Sanh. 109a. Given that the inhospitality of Sodom was proverbial, it is unnecessary to suppose that the aggadic treatments of the story of Lot that mention the dust on the angels’ feet already existed in the time of Jesus. All that is necessary is the cultural assumption that, had proper hospitality been shown to the apostles, there would no longer be any dust on their feet when they departed the town.
  • [135] On the other hand, the change to “dust…from your town” could be an intentional reworking of the tradition in order to allude to the concept of the condemned city (עיר הנדחת), the dust of which is forbidden for all uses (cf. b. Hul. 89a). We are indebted to Ze’ev Safrai for this suggestion (personal communication).
  • [136] For examples of נָעַר in rabbinic literature, see m. Shab. 21:2, 3; m. Maksh. 1:4; t. Avod. Zar. 4:11; t. Maksh. 3:12.
  • [137] In LXX the phrase εἰς μαρτύριον is the translation of לְעֵד‎ 5xx (Gen. 31:44; Deut. 31:19, 26; Job 16:8; Mic. 1:2) and the translation of לְעֵדָה‎ 3xx (Gen. 21:30; Josh. 24:27 [2xx]).
  • [138] See Jastrow, 1043.
  • [139] Lindsey observed that in the Synoptic Gospels Jesus usually says “Amen!” as an affirmative response to something someone else said or as a reaffirmation and amplification of something Jesus himself had just said, which conforms to the responsive use of “amen” in Hebrew sources. See Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [140] In the following Matthean-Lukan parallels Luke omits ἀμήν or uses a synonym:

    • Matt. 5:26 (ἀμὴν λέγω σοι) // Luke 12:59 (λέγω σοι); DT.
    • Matt. 8:10 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 7:9 (λέγω ὑμῖν); DT. Since the author of Matthew redacted this pericope, the authenticity of this instance of ἀμήν is in doubt.
    • Matt. 10:15 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 10:12 (λέγω ὑμῖν); DT.
    • Matt. 11:11 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 7:28 (λέγω ὑμῖν); DT.
    • Matt. 13:17 (ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 10:24 (λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν); DT.
    • Matt. 16:28 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 9:27 (λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς); cf. Mark 9:1 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν).
    • Matt. 18:13 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 15:5 (—); DT. Matthew’s un-Hebraic usage of ἀμήν in an interrogative sentence leads us to prefer Luke’s omission of ἀμήν in this instance.
    • Matt. 23:36 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 11:51 (ναὶ λέγω ὑμῖν); DT.
    • Matt. 24:47 (ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν) // Luke 12:44 (ἀληθῶς λέγω ὑμῖν); DT.
    • Matt. 26:34 (ἀμὴν λέγω σοι) // Luke 22:34 (λέγω σοι); cf. Mark 14:30 (ἀμὴν λέγω σοι). In this pericope Matthew seems to be following Mark rather than Anth. The usage of ἀμήν is un-Hebraic since it introduces a contrary statement, not an affirmation. Luke is probably to be preferred in this instance.

    See the discussion of Luke’s use of ἀμήν in Cadbury, 157.

  • [141] So Dalman, 227.
  • [142] On transliterated words in the Synoptic Gospels, see Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Greek Transliterations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Hebrew/Aramaic Words in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [143] See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L102.
  • [144] For examples of recitative ὅτι in Anth., see Widow’s Son in Nain, L22, L23; Tower Builder and King Going to War Similes, L8; Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102; Blessedness of the Twelve, L10.
  • [145] See Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L22.
  • [146] For a similar example, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L76.
  • [147] Saldarini interprets “clothed in linen” as a reference to people who are wealthy, since linen was worn by the well-to-do. In support of his view, Saldarini cites Luke 16:19, where the rich man in the parable wears garments of linen. See Saldarini, trans., The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan, 197 n. 18.
  • [148] See Marshall, 424; Luz, 2:71 n. 10; Bovon, 2:24.
  • [149] In b. Shab. 67a we find a reference to מלאכי דאישתלחו מארעא דסדום (“angels sent from the land of Sodom”).
  • [150] On Aramaic influence in Matthew, see Randall Buth, “Matthew’s Aramaic Glue.”
  • [151] See Harnack, 13.
  • [152] Parallel to ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κρίσεως (“in the day of judgment”) Luke has ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ (“in that day”; Luke 10:12 opposite Matt. 10:15; 11:24) or ἐν τῇ κρίσει (“in the judgment”; Luke 10:14 opposite Matt. 11:22). There is no Lukan parallel to Matt. 12:36.
  • [153] On reconstructing ἡμέρα (hēmera, “day”) as יוֹם (yōm, “day”), see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L5.
  • [154] The following passages contain examples of “the day of judgment” in rabbinic literature:

    רבי אלעזר אומר אם תזכו לשמור את השבת תנצלו משלש פורעניות מיומו של גוג ומחבלו של משיח ומיום דין הגדול

    Rabbi Eliezer says, “If you succeed in keeping the Sabbath you will be spared three tribulations: [you will be spared] from the day of Gog, from the tribulations preceding the Messiah, and from the Great Day of Judgment.” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 5 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:245])

    תניא בית שמאי אומרים שלש כתות הן ליום הדין אחת של צדיקים גמורין ואחת של רשעים גמורין ואחת של בינוניים

    It was taught [in a baraita]: The House of Shammai say, “There are three divisions on the Day of Judgment: one is of the completely righteous, one is of the completely wicked, and the other is of the mixed type.” (b. Rosh Hash. 16b)

    וכל העובר עבירה אחת בעוה″ז מלפפתו והולכת לפניו ליום הדין

    …and whoever commits one sin, it clings to him in this world and goes on ahead of him to the Day of Judgment…. (b. Sot. 3b; cf. b. Avod. Zar. 5a)

    עונות שאדם דש בעקביו בעולם הזה מסובין לו ליום הדין

    Sins that a man grinds with his heels [i.e., treats as insignificant—DNB and JNT] in this world surround him on the Day of Judgment. (b. Avod. Zar. 18a)

  • [155] In fact, we do find εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως in 2 Pet. 2:9; 3:7. In Jude 6 we find εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας—a near perfect equivalent for ליום דין הגדול—which we encountered in Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa chpt. 5 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:245]. In 1 John 4:17, which is remote from Hebrew influence, we find ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως.
  • [156] See Marshall, 424; Bovon, 2:24.
  • [157] Flusser characterized Jesus as a second Jeremiah, who called for repentance in order to avert a national crisis (Flusser, Jesus, 200).
  • [158] N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 330.
  • [159] Note that in response to the Assyrian invasion of the kingdom of Judah by Sennacherib, the prophet Isaiah exclaimed, “Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:9; NIV). Thus, according to Isaiah, suffering a fate like Sodom’s can come as a judgment from God via human actions.
  • [160] The verb διέρχεσθαι occurs 2xx in Matthew (Matt 12:43; 19:24) and 2xx in Mark (Mark 4:35; 10:25), compared to 10xx in Luke and 21xx in Acts (Luke 2:15, 35; 4:30; 5:15; 8:22; 9:6; 11:24; 17:11; 19:1, 4; Acts 8:4, 40; 9:32, 38; 10:38; 11:19, 22; 12:10; 13:6, 14; 14:24; 15:3, 41; 16:6; 17:23; 18:23, 27; 19:1, 21; 20:2, 25). Likewise, the verb ἐυαγγελίζειν occurs once in Matthew (Matt. 11:5) and not at all in Mark, compared to 10xx in Luke and 15xx in Acts (Luke 1:19; 2:10; 3:18; 4:18, 43; 7:22; 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1; Acts 5:42; 8:4, 12, 25, 35, 40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:7, 15, 21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18).
  • [161] The adverb πανταχοῦ occurs in Isa. 42:22.
  • [162] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Measuring the Disparity Between Matthew, Mark and Luke,” under the subheading “Further Proof of Mark’s Dependence on Luke”; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups,” under the entry for Mark 6:13.
  • [163] The two other instances of ἄρρωστος in NT are in Matt. 14:14 and 1 Cor. 11:30.
  • [164] See Beare, 87. The following diagram demonstrates how similar the conclusions of the five Matthean discourses are:

    Matthew 7:28 Matthew 11:1 Matthew 13:53 Matthew 19:1 Matthew 26:1
    1 Καὶ ἐγένετο Καὶ ἐγένετο Καὶ ἐγένετο Καὶ ἐγένετο Καὶ ἐγένετο
    2 ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν
    3 ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ἰησοῦς
    4 πάντας
    5 τοὺς λόγους τοὺς λόγους τοὺς λόγους
    6 τὰς παραβολὰς
    7 τούτους…. ταύτας…. τούτους…. τούτους….
    8 διατάσσων
    9 τοῖς δώδεκα μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ….

  • [165] See Luz, 2:123.
  • [166] In LXX διατάσσειν occurs in Judg. 5:9; 1 Kgdms. 13:11; 3 Kgdms. 11:18; 1 Chr. 9:33; 2 Chr. 5:11; Jdt. 2:16; 1 Macc. 6:35; 2 Macc. 5:3; 12:20; 14:22; 3 Macc. 1:19; 5:44; 4 Macc. 8:3; Prov. 9:12; Wis. 11:20; Pss. Sol. 18:10; Ezek. 21:24, 25; 42:20; 44:8.
  • [167] See Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L7.
  • [168] See Schweizer, 253-254; Gundry, Matthew, 203; Davies-Allison, 2:239.
  • [169] Note, moreover, that we regard μεταβαίνειν in Luke 10:7 as redactional. See above, Comment to L98.
  • [170] In the Johannine corpus μεταβαίνειν occurs in John 5:24; 7:3; 13:1; 1 John 3:14. The only other instance of μεταβαίνειν in NT is in the un-Hebraic second half of Acts (Acts 18:7).
  • [171] In LXX μεταβαίνειν occurs in 2 Macc. 6:1, 9, 24; Wis. 7:27; 19:19.
  • [172] In the Synoptic Gospels we find ἐκεῖθεν in Matt. 4:21; 5:26; 9:9, 27; 11:1; 12:9, 15; 13:53; 14:13; 15:21, 29; 19:15; Mark 6:1, 10, 11; 7:24; 9:30 (κἀκεῖθεν); 10:1; Luke 9:4; 11:53 (κἀκεῖθεν); 12:59; 16:26.
  • [173] Matthew has ἐκεῖθεν where it is absent in the Lukan and/or Markan parallels in Matt. 4:21 (opposite Mark 1:19; Luke 5:2); Matt. 9:9 (opposite Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27); Matt. 12:9 (opposite Mark 3:1; Luke 6:6); Matt. 12:15 (opposite Mark 3:7; Luke 6:17); Matt. 14:13 (opposite Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10); Matt. 15:29 (opposite Mark 7:31; no Lukan parallel); Matt. 19:15 (opposite Mark 10:16; no Lukan parallel).
  • [174] See Gundry, Matthew, 203; Hagner, 1:297; Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L6.
  • [175] See Joshua N. Tilton, “‘Shake the Dust from Your Feet’: What Did the Apostles’ Action Signify?
  • [176] In the broader Greco-Roman culture, as well as in ancient Jewish society, it was considered proper to wash the feet of one’s guests prior to serving them a meal. See Blake Leyerle, “Meal Customs in the Greco-Roman World,” in Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times (ed. Paul F. Bradshaw and Lawrence A. Hoffman; Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), 29-61, esp. 40.

Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road

Matt. 10:5b-10; Mark 6:8-9; Luke 9:3; 10:4

(Huck 58, 139; Aland 99, 142, 177; Crook 104-106, 162, 199)[1]

Revised: 12-December-2017

אֶל דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם אַל תֵּלְכוּ וּלְעִיר הַשֹּׁמְרֹנִים אַל תִּכָּנְסוּ אֶלָּא לְכוּ לַצּאֹן הָאֹבְדוֹת שֶׁלְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל אַל תִּשְׂאוּ כְּלוּם לַדֶּרֶךְ לֹא מַקֵּל וְלֹא תַּרְמִיל וְלֹא לֶחֶם וְלֹא כֶּסֶף וְלֹא מִנְעָלִים וְלֹא שְׁנֵי חֲלוּקוֹת וְאִישׁ בַּדֶּרֶךְ אַל תִּשְׁאֲלוּ בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ

“Don’t go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. Instead, go to the lost sheep who belong to the people of Israel. Don’t take along gear for your mission, not even a walking stick, or a pack, or food, or money, or shoes, or extra clothes. And don’t greet anyone on the road.[2]










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Story Placement

The Conduct on the Road pericope consists of a series of prohibitions that set limits on whom the apostles are to visit and what they are to bring on their mission. These instructions form an important piece of a larger literary complex that we refer to as the “Mission of the Twelve.”

We have placed Jesus’ instructions describing how the apostles were to conduct themselves on their mission immediately after “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings. In what way the apostles resemble a flock among wolves is made clear in the Conduct on the Road pericope. The apostles will go with neither provision nor protection for their journey. Like sheep, they will be defenseless, having to rely on God for all their needs.

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

121cThe Conduct on the Road pericope is attested in four versions: one each in Matthew and Mark, and two in Luke. We believe the double attestation in Luke is due to Luke’s use of multiple sources: the version in Luke 9 is based on the First Reconstruction (FR), whereas the version in Luke 10 is based on the Anthology (Anth.). Mark mainly copied the FR version from Luke, although Mark was also aware of Luke 10:4 (see L73). The version in Matthew is a combination of Mark and Anth. The instructions in Matt. 10:5b-8 are unique to Matthew, and the question arises whether Luke omitted this section only for it to be reinserted when Matthew copied Anth., or whether Matthew composed these verses on his own. We will examine this issue in the Comment section below.

Crucial Issues

  1. Why would Jesus forbid his apostles to go to Gentiles and Samaritans?
  2. Would Jesus have used a pejorative term or racial slur when referring to Samaritans?
  3. Why were the apostles forbidden to take provisions for their journey?
  4. Why does Mark’s version permit a staff, but the versions in Luke and Matthew prohibit a staff?


L51 καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς (Luke 9:3). “And he said to them” is unnecessary in HR since we are in the middle of Jesus’ discourse. We note, however, that καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς is precisely the phrase we used for GR in “The Harvest Is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves,” L40-41. Perhaps the First Reconstructor (the creator of FR) copied this phrase from Anth., omitted “The Harvest is Plentiful” and “A Flock Among Wolves” sayings, and resumed with the prohibition of provisions for the road. Mark’s καὶ παρήγγειλεν αὐτοῖς (“And he commanded them”; Mark 6:8) could be an intensification of “And he said to them” in Luke 9:3, while Matthew’s παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων (“commanding them saying”) is an adaptation of Mark’s wording for Matthew’s context.

L52-62 Here Matthew includes material that does not appear in the Markan parallel or in either of Luke’s versions of the Conduct on the Road pericope. Did the author of Matthew import this material from some other context, or did he restore it to its proper place by copying Anth.? Or must each of the sayings in this section be evaluated on its individual merits? Our answer to the latter question is “Yes.” Although grouped together by the author of Matthew in this section, not all the sayings are of a uniform character. Some show a Hebraic quality, while others look distinctively Matthean.

The first saying (Matt. 10:5b-6; L52-55), which sets limitations on where the apostles were permitted to travel, is easily reconstructed in Hebrew and is so counter to the author of Matthew’s theological agenda that its derivation from Anth. seems the likeliest explanation. We will examine this saying in much greater detail in Comments to L52, L53, L54 and L55.

The second saying (Matt. 10:7-8a; L56-61), on the other hand, lacks Hebraic word order and appears to have been composed in Greek. Much of the content in Matt. 10:7-8a, moreover, is paralleled in the instructions in Luke 10:9 about how the apostles are to behave when they enter a town:

Matthew 10:7-8a Luke 10:9
πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. ἀσθενοῦντας θεραπεύετε, νεκροὺς ἐγείρετε, λεπροὺς καθαρίζετε, δαιμόνια ἐκβάλλετε καὶ θεραπεύετε τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ ἀσθενεῖς καὶ λέγετε αὐτοῖς· ἤγγικεν ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ.
And going, proclaim, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. And heal the sick in it and say to them, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”

It seems, therefore, that in Matt. 10:7-8a the author of Matthew paraphrased and elaborated the contents of Luke 10:9, which he found in his non-Markan source (Anth.), and relocated it to this new position.

The third saying, “Freely you received, freely you must give” (Matt. 10:8b; L62), is so short—only four words in Greek—that it is hard to assess whether it is Hebraic. Although reconstruction seems possible (see below, Comment to L62), and despite parallels to this saying in ancient Jewish sources,[3] it is difficult to reconcile “Freely you received, etc.” either with “the worker is worthy of his food/wage,” a saying that occurs both in Matt. 10:10 and Luke 10:7, or with the assumption underlying the entire Conduct in Town pericope, that the apostles were to be sustained by the hospitality of those to whom they were sent. Given that “the worker is worthy of his food/wage” is well attested in early sources (Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Tim. 5:18; Did. 13:2), and that Paul, explicitly citing a teaching of “the Lord,”[4] justified the right of apostles to receive sustenance from the communities they served in the course of their mission (1 Cor. 9:14), it appears that the saying in Matt. 10:8b was inserted here in order to ameliorate abuses by itinerant teachers who took advantage of the communities for which the Gospel of Matthew was written.[5] This conclusion might explain why the author of Matthew changed “Do not take” to “Do not acquire” in Matt. 10:9 (see below, Comment to L63) and why he limited the scope of “the worker is worthy” saying to τροφή (trofē, “food,” “provision”; Matt. 10:10) instead of μισθός (misthos, “wage,” “hire”; Luke 10:7).[6] That the Matthean communities were troubled by itinerant teachers may be hinted at in other passages such as Matt. 7:15 and Matt. 24:11. The Didache, which shows many affinities with the Gospel of Matthew, also reacts to the problem of itinerant teachers who strain the resources of the community, and like Matthew its version of “the worker is worthy” saying limits the reward to “food” (Did. 13:2).[7]

We conclude, therefore, that in this section of unique Matthean material only the prohibition against going to the Gentiles and the command to go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” were copied directly from Anth. The rest of the material in this unique Matthean section of the Conduct on the Road pericope is the product of Matthew’s editorial activity.

L52 אֶל דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם אַל תֵּלְכוּ (HR). Some scholars have questioned the authenticity of the prohibition against going to the Gentiles.[8] According to Beare, the initial reluctance of the early believers to share the Gospel with Gentiles and Samaritans is proof that the apostles required no such prohibition,[9] and therefore Beare supposed that Matt. 10:5b was fabricated by Jewish Christians who opposed the mission to the Gentiles. Nolland, on the other hand, concluded that “The role of the negative statements can only be apologetic,” in other words, the prohibition against going to the Gentiles was created in order to show that the Jews had been given the right of first refusal, thus proving God’s faithfulness to Israel.[10]

But despite assertions that “Jesus can hardly be thought of as addressing disciples who are eager to go to the Gentiles!”[11] it does not seem unreasonable that Jesus would give his apostles instructions about whom they ought (and ought not) to visit when sending them out on their mission. In addition, Matt. 10:5 forms a Hebraic-looking parallelism forbidding the apostles to go to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. Moreover, it is difficult to suppose that the author of Matthew composed these instructions himself, since they are incompatible with his Gentile-inclusive attitude.[12] Where Matthew does have negative statements about Gentiles,[13] they are best understood as having been copied from a pre-synoptic source (Anth.).

In LXX most instances of ὁδός (hodos, “road,” “path,” “way”) occur as the translation of דֶרֶךְ (derech, “road,” “path,” “way”).[14] Similarly, the vast majority of instances of דֶרֶךְ in MT were rendered as ὁδός by the LXX translators.[15] We have reconstructed εἰς ὁδόν (eis hodon, “into [the] way”) in Matt. 10:5b as אֶל דֶּרֶךְ (’el derech), which can be translated variously as “in the road” or “toward,” as the following example from rabbinic literature demonstrates:

כגון סוחר אחד שקנה פרה לקנין והיה ביתו אצל בית השחיטה אמר אם אני מוליך אותה אל דרך ביתי היא רואה את בית השחיטה ואת הדמים והיא בורחת אלא הריני מוליכה אל דרך אחרת

…it is like a certain merchant who bought a cow to keep as his possession, but his house was near a slaughterhouse so he said, “If I lead the cow toward [אל דרך] my house it will see the slaughterhouse and the blood and she will run away, so therefore I’m leading it by a different path [אל דרך אחרת].” (Exod. Rab. 20:17)

Further examples of אֶל דֶּרֶךְ with the meaning “toward” or “in the direction of” are found in Judg. 20:42 and 1 Sam. 13:17.

In LXX εἰς + ὁδός is the translation of a variety of constructions, including לְדֶרֶךְ + pronominal suffix (e.g., לְדַרְכְּכֶם; “on your way”),[16] לַדֶּרֶךְ (“for the journey”),[17] עַל דֶּרֶךְ (“upon [the] road”),[18] and בְּדֶרֶךְ or בַּדֶּרֶךְ (“in a/the road”).[19] The reconstruction that best fits the context of Matt. 10:5b, where εἰς ὁδόν means “toward,”[20] is אֶל דֶּרֶךְ. In LXX אֶל דֶּרֶךְ is translated with εἰς + ὁδός in Judg. 20:42 and Prov. 7:25.

אַל תֵּלְכוּ (HR). Our reconstruction is strikingly similar to the warning in Jer. 10:2: אֶל דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם אַל תִּלְמָדוּ (“The way of the Gentiles do not learn”). In rabbinic literature the phrase דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם never occurs except in quotations of Jer. 10:2.[21] Did Jesus intend his prohibition against going to the Gentiles to allude to Jer. 10:2?

L53 וּלְעִיר הַשֹּׁמְרֹנִים אַל תִּכָּנְסוּ (HR). The authenticity of Jesus’ saying about the Samaritans is hard to deny. The prohibition against going to a Samaritan city forms the second part of a Hebraic-style parallelism, and may even reflect a Hebrew construct phrase. In addition, the author of Matthew shows no interest in the status of the Samaritans anywhere else in his Gospel, so it seems highly unlikely that he would have composed this prohibition on his own.[22] Luke, on the other hand, would have strong reasons for omitting this saying: not only does Luke demonstrate a keen interest in the role of the Samaritans (Luke 9:52; 10:33; 17:16; Acts 8:25), but the Sending the Seventy-two pericope (Luke 10:1-16), where we might have expected a parallel to Matt. 10:5b-6, comes shortly after a description of Jesus’ visit to Samaria. Therefore, Luke might have dropped the saying because of the contradiction that would otherwise have been created by Luke’s arrangement of his material.

The probable authenticity of Matt. 10:5b-6 notwithstanding, reconstructing καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαρειτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε (“and into a city of Samaritans do not enter”) in Hebrew poses not only a linguistic challenge, but also a theological quandary. Although πόλιν Σαμαρειτῶν (polin Samareitōn, “city of Samaritans”) looks like it could be the translation of the construct phrase עִיר הַשֹּׁמְרֹנִים (‘ir haShomronim, “city of the Samaritans”),[23] there is very little evidence that the term שֹׁמְרֹנִי (shomroni, “Samaritan”) was used in Hebrew during the late Second Temple period.[24] To the contrary, Josephus explicitly states otherwise in the following text:

…οἱ κατὰ μὲν τὴν Ἑβραίων γλῶτταν Χουθαῖοι, κατὰ δὲ τὴν Ἑλλήνων Σαμαρεῖται….

…those who are called Chūthaioi (Cuthim) in the Hebrew tongue, and Samareitai (Samaritans) by the Greeks…. (Ant. 9:290; Loeb)[25]

A third-century C.E. coin minted in Neapolis (modern Nablus) depicts Mount Gerizim with a colonnade and stairway leading up to a temple of Zeus built ca. 130 C.E. by the emperor Hadrian. To the right of the temple on a higher elevation is another structure that some scholars have identified as an altar or a synagogue of the Samaritans. Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.
A third-century C.E. coin minted in Neapolis (modern Nablus) depicts Mount Gerizim with a colonnade and stairway leading up to a temple of Zeus built ca. 130 C.E. by Emperor Hadrian. To the right of the temple on a higher elevation is another structure that some scholars have identified as an altar or a synagogue of the Samaritans. Image courtesy of the Classical Numismatic Group.

Josephus’ testimony appears to indicate that the gentilic שֹׁמְרֹנִי was not used in first-century Hebrew to refer to Samaritans.[26] This assertion is supported by the fact that Samaritans are exclusively referred to by the term כּוּתִים (kūtim, “Cutheans”) in the Mishnah, Tosefta, the early halachic midrashim, and in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, while the term שֹׁמְרֹנִי appears only once in MT (2 Kgs. 17:29), and never in DSS, Hebrew fragments of Ben Sira, or in any but the latest of rabbinic sources.[27] Based on Josephus’ testimony and rabbinic usage, we expect Jesus to have said, וּלְעִיר הַכּוּתִים אַל תִּכָּנְסוּ (“and into a city of the kūtim do not enter”).

But supposing that Jesus referred to Samaritans as Kutim is theologically unpalatable, since the term כּוּתִי was a racial slur.[28] Ancient Jews used the term כּוּתִי when referring to Samaritans because it emphasized the Samaritans’ foreign descent[29] while simultaneously denying the name Israel to the Samaritans (cf. m. Kid. 4:3). This dual function of the term כּוּתִי is demonstrated in a backhanded compliment paid to the Samaritans in rabbinic literature:

רבן שמעון בן גמליאל או′ כל מצוה שהחזיקו בה כותים הרבה מדקדקין בה יותר מישראל

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, “With respect to all the commandments that the Cutheans accept, they are more meticulous about their observance than an Israelite.” (t. Pes. 2:2; Vienna MS)[30]

Even Josephus, though writing in Greek, frequently used the term Χουθαῖος (Chouthaios, a Hellenized form of כּוּתִי) to refer to Samaritans.[31] Just as with the term כּוּתִי in rabbinic literature, Josephus used Χουθαῖος to emphasize the foreignness of the Samaritans and their exclusion from the people of Israel.

Jacob ben Aaron, Samaritan high priest, holding an ancient Samaritan Torah Scroll. Photographed in the late 1800s. A description of this image is found in Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, Traveling in the Holy Land Through the Stereoscope (New York: Underwood & Underwood, 1900), 137-139. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Jacob ben Aaron, Samaritan high priest (1861-1916), holding an ancient Samaritan Torah scroll. Photographed in the late 1800s. A description of this image is found in Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, Traveling in the Holy Land Through the Stereoscope (New York: Underwood & Underwood, 1900), 137-139. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The rivalry between Jews and Samaritans originated in the Persian period when some of the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland from exile in Babylon refused to recognize the Samaritan community as fully Israelite.[32] This happened because among certain Jews in Babylon there had developed an ideology of “the holy seed” (זֶרַע הַקֹּדֶשׁ; zera‘ haqodesh; Ezra 9:2), according to which only the Israelites who had gone into exile in Babylon, referred to as “the congregation of the exile” (קְהַל הַגּוֹלָה; qehal hagōlāh; Ezra 10:8), were the true Israel.[33] Israelites who had either remained in the land or who descended from the northern tribes were excluded from “the holy seed,” and were regarded as foreigners.[34]

For their part, although Samaritans would not have considered themselves Jews since they did not belong to the tribe of Judah, they did regard themselves as descendants of the northern tribes,[35] and accordingly referred to themselves as Israelites.[36] The rivalry between the two communities, however, was not absolute, since not all those who returned from the Babylonian exile espoused the “holy seed” ideology,[37] as can be seen from the reports of high priests in Jerusalem who married women who did not belong to “the congregation of the exile,” including Samaritans (Ezra 10:18; Neh. 13:28; Jos., Ant. 11:322).[38] Nevertheless, the “holy seed” ideology of Ezra and Nehemiah prevailed in the Jewish community, in large part because, as the Persian-appointed governor of Yehud (i.e., Judah), Nehemiah had the political authority to enforce his view within the province he governed.

As a result, most Jews came to regard the Samaritans as foreigners (cf. Sir. 50:25-26), and hostile incidents between Jews and Samaritans are reported in the writings of Josephus and in rabbinic sources (cf. J.W. 2:232-235; Ant. 18:30; m. Rosh Hash. 2:2).[39] The Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim was a point of contention between the two communities (John 4:20; Jos., Ant. 13:74; m. Ned. 3:10), and the destruction of the Samaritan temple by John Hyrcanus (Ant. 13:275-277)[40] certainly did nothing to improve relations, but the dispute over the right place of worship was a peripheral issue. The main source of contention concerned who had the right to be called Israel.

The saying in Matt. 10:5b-6 certainly denies the Samaritans any belonging to the house of Israel,[41] which to modern sensibilities is troubling enough,[42] but would Jesus, who taught his disciples not to call anyone רֵיקָה (rēqāh, “raca,” “fool”; cf. Matt. 5:22), have used an ethnically derogatory term? On the other hand, does it not seem overly convenient to suppose that Jesus would have used a less racially biased term like שֹׁמְרֹנִי, when such a usage is practically unprecedented in Second Temple Jewish literature? These questions cannot be answered with absolute certainty. On balance, however, probability favors the conclusion that Jesus referred to the Samaritans as שֹׁמְרֹנִים (shomronim) rather than כּוּתִים (kūtim).

In the first place, from the perspective of Lindsey’s hypothesis it is much simpler to suppose that Σαμαρειτῶν (Samareitōn, “of [the] Samaritans”) in Matt. 10:5 reflects הַשֹּׁמְרֹנִים (hashomronim, “the Samaritans”) in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text than it is to suppose that the Hebrew Ur-text read הַכּוּתִים (haKūtim, “the Cutheans”).[43] Lindsey believed that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua employed such a highly literal style of translation that even after two or three subsequent stages of transmission the original Hebrew text can still be reconstructed from the canonical Greek texts. Supposing that the Greek translator wrote Σαμαρειτῶν when the Hebrew text before him read הַכּוּתִים requires us to assume that the Greek translator departed from his accustomed literal translational style, perhaps for the sake of his Greek-speaking audience who might not be familiar with the term “Cuthean,” even though Josephus, who wrote in a highly polished classical Greek style, found no difficulty in rendering כּוּתִי as Χουθαῖος (Chouthaios, “Cuthean”) for his Greek readers. Why would we assume that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua adopted a more polished Greek style than Josephus?[44]

Second, the practically unattested use of שֹׁמְרֹנִי in Second Temple Jewish literature is misleading if it is taken as an argument in favor of supposing that Jesus referred to Samaritans as “Cutheans.” The fact is, due to the paucity of Jewish sources on Samaritans from the Second Temple period, there is no way to judge what terms Jews in Jesus’ day normally used when referring to Samaritans. Neither “Samaritan” nor “Cuthean” is attested in DSS, Hebrew manuscripts of Ben Sira, Megillat Ta‘anit, the Pseudepigrapha or the works of Philo. It is not until after the destruction of the Temple, in the writings of Josephus, that we encounter the term “Cuthean” as applied to the Samaritans. But even Josephus, a Jerusalem priest and descendant of the Hasmoneans who prized purity of lineage and who expressed anti-Samaritan sentiments, used both the terms “Samaritan” and “Cuthean.” Despite his explanation that “Cuthean” was the Hebrew term for “Samaritan,” this does not prove that שֹׁמְרֹנִי was not also used in Hebrew in the first century. Indeed there is some indirect evidence that שֹׁמְרֹנִי was in continuous use from the Second Temple period onward, side by side with the term כּוּתִי. This evidence comes a) from the reappearance of the term שֹׁמְרֹנִי in some late rabbinic works, and b) from the Samaritans’ self-designation as שָׁמְרִים (shomerim, “keepers [of the Torah]”),[45] evidently a twist on the name שֹׁמְרֹנִים (shomronim, “Samaritans”), a name that was probably developed to counter the negative connotations of “Samaritan.”[46]

Third, it is difficult to imagine that Jesus would call the Samaritans “Cutheans,” an undeniably derogatory term in the context of Jewish-Samaritan relations, since to have done so would have been wholly inconsistent with Jesus’ respectful attitude toward the Samaritans. Despite his opinion that Samaritans are not Israelites, Jesus always treated the Samaritans he encountered with dignity, sensitivity and respect. Admittedly, there is no rule stipulating that Jesus must have been consistent, but there is nothing to justify the assumption that Jesus would have acted in a manner contrary to his established pattern of behavior. For HR we have, therefore, adopted the less offensive עִיר הַשֹּׁמְרֹנִים (‘ir hashomronim, “city of the Samaritans”).

On the reconstruction of εἰσέρχεσθαι with נִכְנַס, see Healing Shimon’s Mother-in-law, Comment to L5, and Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L100.

L52-53 Jesus’ instructions limit the apostles’ mission not only ethnically, but geographically as well. Since the mission probably took place in the Galilee, which was bordered by Gentile lands to the north and east and Samaria to the south, the command to go neither toward the Gentiles nor the Samaritans would have confined the apostles to the Galilee.[47]

L54 πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον (GR). Although the text of Vaticanus has an infinitive (πορεύεσθαι; “to go”; Matt. 10:6), we have adopted the imperative form for GR.[48] This decision is not only in agreement with the reading adopted by N-A, but HR here demands an imperative form.

אֶלָּא לְכוּ (HR). On reconstructing πορεύεσθαι (porevesthai, “to go”) with הָלַךְ (hālach, “walk”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2.

L55 πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ (Matt. 10:6). The phrase “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” is found twice in Matthew (Matt. 10:6; 15:24), but nowhere else in the Synoptic Gospels or NT. However, the imagery of seeking lost sheep as applied to Jesus’ mission is familiar from other synoptic pericopae including the Lost Sheep simile (Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:1-7) and Zakkai the Toll Collector (Luke 19:10).[49] It is most unlikely that the author of Matthew would have invented such a statement, given his Gentile-inclusive policy, and it appears that Matthew extensively reworked the story of Jesus and a Canaanite Woman in order to neutralize the impact of Matt. 10:6.[50] Moreover, the use of the name “Israel” is usually indicative of insider speech, such as we would expect from a Jewish speaker addressing fellow Jews,[51] rather than the outsider perspective characteristic of the author of Matthew.

לַצּאֹן הָאֹבְדוֹת שֶׁלְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל (HR). It is also quite easy to reconstruct πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ in Hebrew as לַצּאֹן הָאֹבְדוֹת שֶׁלְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל. Not only is the word order the same, but the omission of the definite article before οἶκος (oikos, “house”)[52] appears to be a Hebraism reflecting a construct phrase in the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text.[53] We conclude, therefore, that the author of Matthew copied the instructions in Matt. 10:6 from Anth.[54]

Although the phrase “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” does not occur in MT, DSS or rabbinic sources, in Jer. 50:6 we encounter the phrase צֹאן אֹבְדוֹת הָיֻה [הָיוּ] עַמִּי (“My people were lost sheep”). In Choosing the Twelve (Comment to L10-11) we discussed the probability that the appointment of twelve apostles was intimately related to Jesus’ belief in the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel. This hypothesis would find further support if “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” in Matt. 10:6 alludes to Jer. 50:6 and its immediate context, for in Jer. 50:4-5 the prophet predicts the gathering of the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah together in Zion where there will be a renewal of God’s covenant.[55]

L56 πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες (Matt. 10:7). The introduction to the second saying in this unique Matthean section of the Conduct on the Road pericope is not particularly Hebraic. The participle + δέ + imperative + participle construction bears little resemblance to the string of imperatives we would expect in Hebrew. We also note that the combination of κηρύσσειν + λέγειν is quite rare in LXX, occurring only in Exod. 32:5; 36:6; 2 Chr. 36:22 (cf. 1 Esd. 2:1); and Esth. 6:9, 11. The combination of κηρύσσειν + λέγειν in NT is also quite rare, occurring only in Matt. 4:17; 10:7; and Mark 1:7. Although it is not impossible that the opening words of Matt. 10:7 reflect a Hebraic source, there is nothing in L56 to support this hypothesis.

L57 ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (Matt. 10:7). The declaration “The Kingdom of Heaven/God has come near” is found 6xx in NT,[56] but there is not a single instance where all three Synoptic Gospels agree to use this phrase in the same pericope. Matthew places this declaration in the mouth of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:2) without support from either Mark or Luke. Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15 describe Jesus as making this declaration in a pericope loosely paralleled in Luke 4:14-15, but the declaration “The Kingdom of God has come near” does not occur there. In Luke’s Sending the Seventy-two pericope Jesus twice instructs his apostles to announce that “The Kingdom of God has come near,” once in the regular course of their mission (Luke 10:9),[57] and again if their message is rejected (Luke 10:11). Although Matthew’s Sending Discourse does not have anything strictly parallel to Luke 10:9 where Jesus gives the apostles instructions about how they are to conduct themselves when entering a town, we believe that Matt. 10:7-8 is an amplified paraphrase of the source behind Luke 10:9 (i.e., Anth.). If we are correct in this supposition, then Matt. 10:7 might come closer to Anthology’s wording than Luke 10:9 in one respect: Matthew’s ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (hē basileia tōn ouranōn, “the Kingdom of the Heaven”) is more Hebraic than Luke’s ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ (hē basileia tou theou, “the Kingdom of the God”).[58]

L58-62 Matthew 10:8 consists of a series of accusatives, each of which is followed by an imperative: “Sick [persons] heal! Corpses raise! Scale-diseased [persons] purify! Demons put out!” This is precisely the opposite of the word order we would expect to find in Hebrew.[59] The un-Hebraic syntax of Matt. 10:8 is probably due to Matthew’s paraphrasing of the source behind Luke 10:9. Matthew’s paraphrase is amplified—Luke 10:9 only mentions healing the sick—perhaps on the basis of Jesus’ response to John in Yohanan the Immerser’s Question (Matt. 11:5 // Luke 7:22).[60] In his response to John, Jesus notes that scale-diseased persons were being purified and that deceased persons were being raised. The author of Matthew may have added the exorcism of demons to the list of imperatives because although Matt. 10:1 reports that the apostles were given authority to drive out demons, they had not yet been given an explicit command to do so.

We believe Luke 10:9 is closer to the wording of the pre-synoptic source that the author of Matthew paraphrased in Matt. 10:7-8.[61] Not only is Luke 10:9 generally more Hebraic than Matt. 10:7-8, but the progression in Luke 10:9 from miraculous healing to explaining the significance of the miracles (“The Kingdom of God has arrived!”) is more in keeping with Jesus’ usual practice. In Matt. 10:7-8 this order is reversed.

L62 δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε δωρεὰν δότε (Matt. 10:8). This saying, which is unique to Matthew, is in such tension with the larger context—where Jesus instructs the apostles to take no provisions but to accept hospitality from the people they meet in the course of their mission—that we suspect this saying is an editorial insertion by the author of Matthew. Perhaps the author of Matthew inserted this saying in order to curtail abuses of itinerant teachers who were active when Matthew was composing his Gospel.

It is possible that “Freely you received, freely give” is an authentic saying of Jesus that the author of Matthew took from some other context. If its original context has been lost, we can only guess what it is that the addressees received and what it is they are meant to give. A good guess, however, would be Torah instruction. There are numerous rabbinic sources that prohibit making financial gain from the Torah.[62] Compare the conclusion of Matt. 10:8 to the following source:

עשה תורתך בחנם ולא תטול עליה שכר שהמקום נתנה בחנם ואין נוטלין שכר על דברי תורה

Do your [teaching of] Torah gratuitously and accept no remuneration for it; because the Omnipresent gave it gratuitously and one may not take a fee for the [teaching of] words of Torah. (Derech Eretz Zuta 4:3 [58b]; Soncino)

Possible Hebrew reconstructions of δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε δωρεὰν δότε (dōrean elabete dōrean dote, “Freely you took/received, freely give”) are חִנָּם לְקַחְתֶּם חִנָּם תְּנוּ (ḥinām leqaḥtem ḥinām te, “Freely you took, freely give”), which is closer to a BH style, or חִנָּם קִבַּלְתֶּם חִנָּם תְּנוּ (ḥinām qibaltem ḥinām te, “Freely you received, freely give”), which is closer to MH style. In LXX δωρεάν is usually the translation of חִנָּם.‎[63] Either reconstruction seems possible for the Hebrew spoken in the late Second Temple period.

Since we do not believe that the “Freely you received” saying appeared in the context of the Conduct on the Road pericope in pre-synoptic sources, it does not appear in GR or HR.

First-century B.C.E. or first-century C.E. fresco from Villa Farnesina in Rome depicting the itinerant Cynic philosopher Crates (Κράτης, Kratēs) laden with a pack on his shoulders, carrying a staff in his right hand and holding the strap of his luggage in his left, and wearing sandals on his feet. The philosopher is wearing an animal skin cloak that covers a χιτών (chitōn, “tunic”) that reaches to just above his knees. (See Gisela M. A. Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks [3 vols.; London: Phaidon, 1965], 2:186.) Unlike this philosopher, the twelve apostles were sent on their mission without any travel gear whatsoever. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
First-century B.C.E. or first-century C.E. fresco from Villa Farnesina in Rome depicting the itinerant Cynic philosopher Crates (Κράτης, Kratēs) laden with a pack on his shoulders, carrying a staff in his right hand and holding the strap of his luggage in his left, and wearing sandals on his feet. The philosopher is wearing an animal skin cloak that covers a χιτών (chitōn, “tunic”) that reaches to just above his knees. (See Gisela M. A. Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks [3 vols.; London: Phaidon, 1965], 2:186.) Unlike this philosopher, the twelve apostles were sent on their mission without any travel gear whatsoever. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
L63-76 Each of the four versions of the Sending discourse includes a list of items that Jesus forbade his emissaries to take on their mission. The list of prohibited items is mentioned again in Luke 22:35 in the context of Jesus’ final evening with his disciples (the Two Swords pericope). Apart from Luke 10:4 and Luke 22:35, however, none of the lists are identical. As a result, it is extremely difficult to reconstruct the list of forbidden articles as it might have appeared in a pre-synoptic source. Davies and Allison were certainly correct when they stated, “No synoptic theory can readily explain the similarities and differences exhibited by Mt 10.9f. par.”[64] How, then, have we reached our decisions?

First, basing ourselves on Robert Lindsey’s solution to the Synoptic Problem, we attach great significance to the Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark because these minor agreements afford a glimpse of the pre-synoptic source (i.e., the Anthology) that ultimately stands behind the Synoptic Gospels.[65] We regard the agreements between the lists in Luke 9 and Matthew 10 against the list in Mark 6 as an even surer guide for establishing the text of Anth. than the list of prohibited items in Luke 10, even though we believe the version in Luke 10 is based on Anth.[66] This is because it is always possible that when copying Anth. in Luke 10 the author of Luke modified the wording of his source. It must be borne in mind that Luke was every bit as much an author and an editor of sources as he was a copyist. Thus, while the version in Luke 10 may be based on Anth., it is unsafe to assume that it reproduces Anth. verbatim. The minor agreements, on the other hand, provide two independent witnesses to the wording of Anth.

According to Lindsey’s solution to the Synoptic Problem, the Anthology directly influenced each of the Synoptic Gospels, as well as the First Reconstruction (Luke’s second source).

The Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark reveal the wording of Anth. even in cases when Luke’s source is FR, which we believe to be the case in Luke 9. This is because FR is itself a derivative of Anth. Thus, by correcting Mark on the basis of Anth., the author of Matthew was able to agree with the wording of a Lukan FR pericope in as much as FR preserved the wording of Anth. and Luke preserved the wording of FR. Since the author of Matthew did not have access either to Luke or FR, when Luke and Matthew manage to agree against Mark then, barring some improbable random occurrence, it must be that the Lukan-Matthean agreement reflects the wording of Anth., even when Luke’s source was FR.[67]

After the evidence of the minor agreements, we give preference to Luke when attempting to establish the wording of Anth. This is because Luke was either working directly from Anth. (Luke 10) or from FR, which was based on Anth. (Luke 9). Matthew’s agreement with either of Luke’s versions against Mark is due to Matthew’s dependence on Anth., but the level of Matthew’s editorial activity in the Sending discourse is so great that we are generally suspicious of any details that are unique to Matthew. Matthew’s divergence from Mark in L70 is a case in point. “Silver” is supported by Luke 9, but “gold” does not appear in either of Luke’s versions. We therefore regard “gold” as a Matthean addition. Thus, while we give preference to Luke’s versions, both of Luke’s versions are given equal weight since it seems that neither version is an exact copy of Anth. The minor agreements between Luke 9 and Matt. 10 show that in Luke 10 the author of Luke abbreviated the list of prohibited items, but there is also a point of contact between Luke 10 and Matt. 10. Whereas the list in Luke 9 omits footwear altogether, Luke 10:4 and Matt. 10:10 mention ὑποδήματα (hūpodēmata, “shoes”) against Mark’s σανδάλια (sandalia, “sandals”; Mark 6:9). Thus, we conclude that neither the FR version in Luke 9 nor the Anth. version in Luke 10 represent the complete list.

Mark’s version makes characteristic changes to the list: giving permission to carry a staff, using synonyms (e.g., “sandal” instead of “shoe”), and adding explanatory glosses (e.g., “put on” sandals, “wear” two cloaks). All of these changes we regard as secondary. Although Mark’s list is mainly based on the version in Luke 9, the mention of “sandals” demonstrates Mark’s awareness of the version in Luke 10.

Matthew’s version, as we have noted, is partially corrected on the basis of Anth., but it not only exhibits the influence of Mark, it also reflects the interests and concerns of the author of Matthew (e.g., “Do not acquire,” as opposed to “Do not carry,” in L63). Matthew’s version, therefore, must be assessed with caution. On the one hand, Matthew’s version is highly useful in helping us to decide between Luke’s versions of the Conduct on the Road pericope, for whenever Matthew confirms Luke he does so on the basis of Anth. On the other hand, details that are unique to Matthew must be regarded as highly suspect, for there is a strong likelihood that they are the product of Matthew’s editorial activity.

When weighing the merits of each version, another consideration is also part of the equation: Which version most easily reverts to Hebrew? We consider ease of retroversion to be an indication of greater fidelity to the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua, which ultimately stood behind the pre-synoptic Greek sources of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

L63 μὴ βαστάζετε μηδὲν (GR). Our Greek reconstruction here demonstrates that we do not accept any of the four versions of the list of prohibited items to be a perfect reflection of Anth. To arrive at our reconstruction, our procedure is to reconstruct each witness in Hebrew to test which version appears the most Hebraic.

Mark’s version, with its ἵνα + subjunctive construction, is the least Hebraic,[68] and from the perspective of Lindsey’s hypothesis Mark 6:8 is best explained as a paraphrase of Luke 9:3. Note that Mark’s version is different from all the others in that Mark 6:8 does not record direct speech.

Matthew’s μὴ κτήσησθε (“Do not acquire”) appears to be an adaptation of Matthew’s source in order to make the list of prohibited items agree with the previous verse in which the apostles were instructed to “freely give” (Matt. 10:8).[69] In doing so, the author of Matthew transformed Jesus’ instructions about what items not to take on the mission into a list of items the apostles were not to accept as gifts from the people they visited in the course of their mission.[70]

This leaves us to decide between Luke’s two versions. Both of Luke’s versions have particular points of merit. Compared to the limited set of specifically prohibited items in Luke 10:4, the general prohibition against taking anything for the road in Luke 9:3 seems preferable, since it avoids the impression that items not specifically mentioned were permitted. The version in Luke 9:3 makes it clear that the apostles were not to take anything for the journey, not even the most basic equipment usually expected of travelers. It also appears that the phrase εἰς τὴν ὁδόν (eis tēn hodon, lit., “into the road”) reflects a Hebrew Ur-text that read לַדֶּרֶךְ (laderech, “for the road”),[71] which supports the conclusion that the general prohibition against taking any gear for the mission was part of Anth. The verb βαστάζειν (bastazein, “to carry”), on the other hand, is the particular point of merit in Luke 10:4, since we have identified other instances where the author of Luke copied βαστάζειν from Anth.[72] Our solution is to suppose that both of Luke’s versions have undergone a degree of editorial activity.

We suppose that the author of Luke himself omitted the general prohibition from the Luke 10 version of the Conduct on the Road pericope. The Lukan-Matthean agreements against Mark in Luke 9:3 and Matt. 10:9-10 (i.e., not taking a staff rather than allowing a staff, and not taking silver) indicate that the author of Luke himself abbreviated the list of prohibited items in Luke 10:4, and it seems probable that, given this summarizing procedure, the author of Luke might have omitted the general prohibition as well. Thus, instead of copying a conjectured μὴ βαστάζετε μηδὲν εἰς τὴν ὁδόν μήτε ῥάβδον κ.τ.λ. (“Do not carry anything for the road, neither staff, etc.”) from Anth., the author of Luke may have simply written μὴ βαστάζετε βαλλάντιον κ.τ.λ. (“Do not carry a moneybag, etc.”), thereby retaining βαστάζειν from Anth. while eliminating the general prohibition.

Similarly, we suppose that the First Reconstructor, who also worked on the basis of Anth., decided to edit the wording of his source by exchanging αἴρειν (airein, “to raise,” “to lift”) for βαστάζειν, a change the First Reconstructor made to Anth. on at least one other occasion,[73] and by changing the more Hebraic formulation “Do not take anything” to “Take nothing,” which is more a polished Greek formulation. In Hebrew, which lacks a word for “nothing,”[74] the general prohibition against taking anything for the road would have to be stated along the lines of אַל תִּשְׂאוּ כְּלוּם לַדֶּרֶךְ (“Do not take anything for the road”).[75] If the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua had encountered אַל תִּשְׂאוּ כְּלוּם לַדֶּרֶךְ in his source he may well have translated this sentence as μὴ βαστάζετε μηδὲν εἰς τὴν ὁδόν (lit., “Do not carry nothing into the road”).[76] The LXX translators treated similarly formulated prohibitions in the Hebrew Bible in this manner. For example, in Jonah 3:7, where the Hebrew text reads אַל יִטְעֲמוּ מְאוּמָה (“May they not taste anything”), LXX has μὴ γευσάσθωσαν μηδὲν (“May they not taste nothing”). Similarly, in Gen. 22:12, where the Hebrew text reads וְאַל תַּעַשׂ לוֹ מְאוּמָּה (“And do not do to him anything”), LXX has μηδὲ ποιήσῃς αὐτῷ μηδέν (“And do not do to him nothing”), whereas a more natural Greek phrasing would be μηδὲν ποιεῖτε (“Do nothing”; cf. Ign. Phld. 7:2).[77] Supposing the First Reconstructor encountered μὴ βαστάζετε μηδέν (lit., “Do not carry nothing”) in Anth., it is easy to imagine that he polished the Greek style of his source by writing μηδὲν αἴρετε (“Take nothing”) instead.

Thus, for GR we accept elements from both of Luke’s versions: we accept the verb βαστάζειν from Luke 10:4, since we know βαστάζειν occurred elsewhere in Anth. and we know that the First Reconstructor replaced βαστάζειν with αἴρειν on at least one other occasion, and from Luke 9:3 we accept the general prohibition against bringing any gear or provisions for the journey.

אַל תִּשְׂאוּ כְּלוּם (HR).[78] Whether we adopted βαστάζετε (Luke 10:4) or αἴρετε (Luke 9:3; cf. Mark 6:8), נָשָׂא would remain the best option for HR, since this is the verb that stands behind most instances of αἴρειν (airein, “to raise,” “to lift”) and βαστάζειν (bastazein, “to carry,” “to bear”) in LXX.[79] Note that the major LXX manuscripts are at variance regarding the translation of נָשָׂא in Job 21:3; whereas Codex Alexandrinus renders נָשָׂא with βαστάζειν, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus translate נָשָׂא with αἴρειν. This example helps us understand why the author of Luke or the First Reconstructor might have changed Anthology’s βαστάζετε to αἴρετε—the two verbs were interchangeable.

Both Lindsey[80] and Delitzsch translated αἴρειν with לָקַח (lāqaḥ, “take”) in Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3, which is surprising given that out of the 246 instances of αἴρειν in LXX books that correspond to MT, there is only one instance where αἴρειν is the translation of לָקַח (Isa. 53:8). Perhaps they were guided by examples of נָטַל מַקֵּל (nāṭal maqēl, “he took a staff”) and לָקַח מַקֵּל (lāqaḥ maqēl, “he took a staff”) in rabbinic literature (cf., e.g., m. Rosh Hash. 1:9; 2:9; m. Avod. Zar. 3:10).[81]

We noted above that in MH כְּלוּם took the place of מְאוּמָה.

L64 לַדֶּרֶךְ (HR). In Greek, “Take nothing into the road” looks a little odd, but in Hebrew לַדֶּרֶךְ (laderech) can mean “for the road.” In MT, for example, we encounter the phrase צֵידָה לַדֶּרֶךְ (tzēdāh laderech, “provision for the road”; Gen. 42:25; 45:21; Josh. 9:11), which is consistently translated ἐπισιτισμὸν εἰς τὴν ὁδόν (episitismon eis tēn hodon) in LXX. Likewise, in Gen. 45:23 we encounter the following list: שָׁלַח…עֶשֶׂר אֲתֹנֹת נֹשְׂאֹת בָּר וָלֶחֶם וּמָזוֹן לְאָבִיו לַדָּרֶךְ (“[Joseph] sent…ten female donkeys bearing grain and bread and food for his father for the road”). There, too, LXX renders לַדֶּרֶךְ as εἰς ὁδόν.

Compare Jesus’ instruction to take nothing for the road to the following rabbinic comment on the story of Israel’s wilderness wandering:

ומה ת″ל ויסע משה את ישראל אלא להודיע שבחן של ישראל שכיון שאמר להם משה קומו סעו לא אמרו היאך אנו יוצאין למדבר ואין בידינו מחיה לדרך אלא האמינו והלכו אחרי משה

And what is the verse And Moses led Israel [Exod. 15:22] intended to teach other than to make known the excellence of Israel. For when Moses said to them, “Arise! Venture forth!” they did not say, “How can we go out into the desert when there is no provision for the road in our hands?” Instead, they trusted [God] and followed Moses. (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa chpt. 1 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:222])

L65 βαλλάντιον (Luke 10:4). The Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark to include silver among the prohibited items (L70) establishes that ἀργύριον (argūrion, “silver,” “money”) appeared in the pre-synoptic version of the list. If money was prohibited, would forbidding a moneybag be superfluous? Perhaps βαλλάντιον (ballantion, “moneybag”) in Luke 10:4 was Luke’s substitute for “silver” in Anth. (cf. Luke 9:3). The term βαλλάντιον occurs 4xx in NT, always in the Gospel of Luke.[82] In addition to Luke 10:4, the term βαλλάντιον appears in Luke 22:35-36, which refers back to the instructions given to the apostles in Luke 10:4. The only other instance of βαλλάντιον is in Luke 12:33, which records an unrelated saying about almsgiving.

First-century C.E. Roman fresco from Pompeii depicting coins and a money bag. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
First-century C.E. Roman fresco from Pompeii depicting coins and a moneybag. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Does Luke 22:35 provide independent testimony regarding the list of prohibited items as it appeared in Anth.? It appears not. The items mentioned in Luke 22:35 are identical to those in Luke 10:4, which is suspicious if we are correct that the minor agreements are the most solid evidence we have of Anthology’s contents. Having concluded that the author of Luke edited the list in Luke 10:4, we have to conclude that he also edited the list in Luke 22:35. This conclusion is supported by the relative difficulty we face in reconstructing the Two Swords pericope (Luke 22:35-38) in Hebrew. The language of the Two Swords pericope is unlike the Hebraic-Greek we expect from Anth. It is unlikely that the Two Swords pericope was copied from FR, which is characterized by a more refined Greek style, since in that case we would expect the list of prohibited items in Luke 22:35 to resemble the FR list of prohibited items in Luke 9:3. It therefore appears that the Two Swords pericope was edited to a greater or lesser extent by the author of Luke himself, and that the author of Luke conformed the list of items in Luke 22:35 to that in Luke 10:4.

Since none of the versions in Matthew, Mark or Luke give the full list as it appeared in Anth., it is possible that “moneybag” was one of the prohibited items. However, we have decided to omit βαλλάντιον from GR (and an equivalent from HR) on the supposition that “moneybag” is Luke’s substitution for “silver.”

L66 εἰ μὴ ῥάβδον μόνον (Mark 6:8). Unlike Matthew 10:10 (L76) and Luke 9:3 (L66), Mark’s version grants special permission to take a staff. It appears that in granting this exception the author of Mark has reworked his source.[83] It is possible that Mark’s motivation was to ease the restrictions in order to conform Jesus’ instructions to current practice, but it also is possible that Mark reworked his source in order to make the apostles’ equipment resemble that of the Hebrews when they were released from Egypt.[84] According to Exodus, Moses instructed the children of Israel to eat the Passover in the following manner:

מָתְנֵיכֶם חֲגֻרִים נַעֲלֵיכֶם בְּרַגְלֵיכֶם וּמַקֶּלְכֶם בְּיֶדְכֶם

αἱ ὀσφύες ὑμῶν περιεζωσμέναι, καὶ τὰ ὑποδήματα ἐν τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν, καὶ αἱ βακτηρίαι ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν ὑμῶν

…[with] your loins girded, shoes on your feet, and a staff in your hand. (Exod. 12:11)

Unlike the version in Luke 9, which we regard as the main source upon which Mark 6:8 is based, Mark permits taking a staff (L66), wearing a belt (L71), and putting on sandals (L73). These departures from Luke 9:3 are striking, not only because Luke 9 does not mention either belt or shoes, but also because the three items that are permitted correspond to the instructions in Exod. 12:11.

A first-century Roman fresco depicting an old man, perhaps a philosopher, wrapped in a pallium (the Latin equivalent of the Greek ἱμάτιον and Hebrew טלית), holding a staff, and wearing sandals. (See Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks, 2:244.) The fresco is from the Villa of Boscoreale, located about a mile from Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A first-century Roman fresco depicting an old man, perhaps a philosopher, wrapped in a pallium (the Latin equivalent of the Greek ἱμάτιον and Hebrew טלית), holding a staff, and wearing sandals. (See Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks, 2:244.) The fresco is from the Villa of Boscoreale, located about a mile from Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If the author of Mark changed his source on the basis of Exod. 12:11, however, then he did so in an unusual manner, assiduously avoiding LXX vocabulary. Whereas LXX has “your loins girded,” Mark has “belt”; instead of βακτηρία (baktēria, “staff”) Mark uses the synonym ῥάβδος (rabdos); instead of ὑπόδημα (hūpodēma, “shoe”) Mark uses σανδάλιον (sandalion, “sandal”).[85] Alluding to a biblical verse while at the same time conspicuously avoiding LXX’s terminology is no obstacle for supposing that the author of Mark really did rewrite Luke 9:3 on the basis of Exod. 12:11. Using synonyms for the words in his base text is one of Mark’s most outstanding editorial features.[86]

If Mark 6:8 was revised in order to allude to Exod. 12:11, the author’s intention was probably to suggest that the apostles’ mission heralded a second redemption patterned after the redemption from Egypt.[87]

μήτε ῥάβδον (GR). In Luke 9:3 and Matt. 10:9-10, Luke and Matthew agree against Mark not only to prohibit a staff, but also to use μήτε/μηδέ (“and not”) against Mark’s simple μή (“not”), which is also the pattern in Luke 10:4.

Commenting on Exod. 12:11, Philo mentions a twofold purpose for travelers carrying a staff:

…a staff is useful to lean on and to drive away poisonous reptiles and other beasts. (QE 1:19; Loeb)

The defensive purpose for carrying staves is also mentioned in a rabbinic source describing which items may be taken on the Sabbath for a journey to bring testimony to the courts about the New Moon:

אִם צוֹדֶה לָהֶם לוֹקְחִין בְּיָדָם מַקְלוֹת

If any lie in wait for them they take staves in their hands. (m. Rosh Hash. 1:9; Danby)

According to Josephus, when the Essenes traveled from place to place they would not carry provisions because they could rely on their fellow Essenes to afford them hospitality and supply all their needs, but one thing they would take with them was arms for protection against thieves (J.W. 2:124-125).

Against this cultural background, Jesus’ refusal to allow the apostles to carry staves stands out in sharp relief. Probably the prohibition against carrying a staff reflects Jesus’ radical trust in God’s providence and protection.[88] The first-century Jewish pietists known as the Hasidim exhibited a similar attitude by refusing to take normal precautions against danger. According to the Hasidim, one should not interrupt prayer even if a poisonous snake wrapped itself around one’s ankle (m. Ber. 5:1).[89] The Hasidim also refrained from killing poisonous snakes on the Sabbath (b. Shab. 121b), trusting that God would protect them from danger, and a story is told about a Hasid who defiantly drank water that had been poisoned by a snake’s venom (y. Avod. Zar. 2:3 [12a]; cf. m. Ter. 8:4). Likewise, a story is told about Hanina ben Dosa who was bitten by a poisonous reptile (עָרוֹד, ‘ārōd) and was miraculously preserved (t. Ber. 3:20; cf. b. Ber. 33a).[90] Rather than Hanina ben Dosa falling ill or dying, it was the snake that died. If, as Philo states, staves were regarded as protection from poisonous reptiles, Jesus’ prohibition against taking a staff would fit well with this Hasidic halachah.[91] It would also help to explain Jesus’ statement upon the apostles’ return: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes…nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:19).[92]

Disdain for normal defensive measures based on radical trust in divine protection is found in a statement recorded in Seder Eliyahu, a work that, according to Safrai, bears the marks of Hasidic influence:[93]

כל תלמיד חכם שעוסק בתורה בכל יום תמיד בשביל להרבות כבוד שמים אין צריך לא חרב ולא חנית ולא רומח ולא כל דבר שהקב″ה משמרו בעצמו ומלאכי השרת עומדין לו סביב סביב וחרבות ביד כולן ומשמרות אתו

Every disciple of the wise who every day without fail busies himself with Torah in order to increase the glory of Heaven needs no sword, no javelin, no spear, nor any other kind of weapon, for the Holy One Himself guards him, and the ministering angels stand around him, all of them with swords in their hands, and they, too, guard him…. (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 4:3; Braude-Kapstein, 41)

The above saying may hint at the reason for Jesus’ prohibition of a staff, and may be compared to Jesus’ rebuke in Matt. 26:52-53 of the disciple who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.

In summary, the Lukan-Matthean agreement to forbid a staff confirms the reading of the pre-synoptic source behind the Gospels, and the prohibition itself is in harmony with other sayings of Jesus about radical trust in God’s provision and protection. Therefore, unlike Beare and Hagner, we regard Mark’s permission to take a staff to be a secondary development.[94]

לֹא מַקֵּל (HR). According to LSJ, ῥάβδος (rabdos) means “rod” or “wand” and is “lighter than the βακτηρία or walking-stick.”[95] In LXX, however, ῥάβδος is the translation of several words for “staff” including מַטֶּה (maṭeh),[96] שֵׁבֶט (shēveṭ),[97] מִשְׁעֶנֶת (mish‘enet)[98] and מַקֵּל‎ (maqēl).[99] We have chosen מַקֵּל for HR because this is the most common term for “staff” in MH.[100]

Below we have collected several rabbinic sources that include a מַקֵּל among a traveler’s usual accoutrements:

לֹא יִכָּנֵס [אדם] לְהַר הַבָּיִת בְּמַקְלוֹ וּבְמַנְעַלּוֹ וּבַאֲפוּנְדָּתוֹ וּבַאֲבַק שֶׁעַל רַגְלוֹ

[A person] may not enter the Temple Mount with his staff, with his shoes, with his moneybag, or with the dust that is on his feet. (m. Ber. 9:5; cf. Sifre Deut. §258, on Deut. 23:15)[101]

נָטַל מַקְלוֹ וּמָעוֹתָיו בְּיָדוֹ וְהָלָךְ לְיַוְונֶהּ אֵצֶל רַבַּן גַּמְלִיאֵ′‏

He took his staff and his money in his hand and went to Yavneh to Rabban Gamliel…. (m. Rosh Hash. 2:9)

הַפּוֹנְדְּקִית הוֹצִיאָה לָהֶן מַקְלוֹ וּמַנְעַלּוֹ וְתַרְמִילּוֹ וְסֵפֶר תּוֹרָה שֶׁהָיָה בְיָדוֹ

The woman innkeeper brought out to them his staff and his shoes, and his bag and the Torah scroll that he owned. (m. Yev. 16:7)

These sources show that having a staff, a bag and money was routine for travelers. Only a Torah scholar would be expected to have his own Torah scroll.

First-century C.E. fresco of a traveler with a staff and a heavy pack. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
First-century C.E. fresco of a traveler with a staff and a heavy pack. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

L67 וְלֹא תַּרְמִיל (HR).[102] Although appearing in a different spot in each version, the πήρα (pēra, “bag”) is the only item that is mentioned in all four lists.[103] In LXX the word πήρα occurs only in the book of Judith,[104] and hence there is no Hebrew base text with which to draw a comparison. Our reconstruction is supported by m. Yev. 16:7 cited above (Comment to L66), and by the pairing of מַקֵּל וְתַרְמִיל (“staff and bag”) in discussions that mention a shepherd’s standard equipment (cf. t. Bab. Metz. 8:6[17]; b. Bab. Metz. 41a; y. Shevu. 8:1 [42a]), and the following stories about Shammai and Hillel who lived a generation before Jesus:

ת″ר מעשה באדם אחד שלא היו בניו נוהגין כשורה עמד וכתב נכסיו ליונתן בן עוזיאל מה עשה יונתן בן עוזיאל מכר שליש והקדיש שליש והחזיר לבניו שליש בא עליו שמאי במקלו ותרמילו א″ל שמאי אם אתה יכול להוציא את מה שמכרתי ומה שהקדשתי אתה יכול להוציא מה שהחזרתי אם לאו אי אתה יכול להוציא מה שהחזרתי אמר הטיח עלי בן עוזיאל הטיח עלי בן עוזיאל

Our rabbis taught [in a baraita]: An anecdote about a certain man whose sons were not behaving themselves properly. He therefore signed over his possessions to Yehonatan ben Uziel. What did Yehonatan ben Uziel do? He sold a third and consecrated a third and returned a third to his [i.e., the man’s—DNB and JNT] sons. Shammai came upon him with his staff and his bag [במקלו ותרמילו]. He said to him, “Shammai, if you are able to invalidate that which I sold and that which I consecrated, then you can invalidate that which I returned. If not, neither can you invalidate that which I returned.” He said, “The son of Uziel has cast mud on me![105] The son of Uziel has cast mud on me!” (b. Bab. Bat. 133b-134a)

מעשה בנכרי אחד שהיה עובר אחורי בית הכנסת ושמע לתינוק שקורא ואלה הבגדים אשר יעשו חשן ואפוד ומעיל בא לפני שמאי אמר לו רבי כל הכבוד הזה למי. אמר לכהן גדול שעומד ומשמש על גבי המזבח. אמר לו גיירני על מנת שתשימני כהן גדול [ואשמש ע″ג המזבח]. אמר לו אין כהן בישראל ואין לנו כהנים גדולים שיעמדו וישתמשו בכהונה גדולה [ע″ג המזבח] אלא גר הקל שלא בא אלא במקלו ובתרמילו ויבא וישתמש בכהונה גדולה גער בו והוציאו בנזיפה‏

An anecdote about a certain foreigner non-Jew who was going walking along behind a synagogue and heard a child who was reading And these are the vestments that they shall make: a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe [Exod. 28:4]. He came before Shammai and said to him, “Rabbi, to whom does all this honor belong?” He said, “To the high priest who stands and serves upon the altar.” He said to him, “Let me become a proselyte so that you will make me high priest [and I will serve upon the altar].” He said to him, “Is there no priest in Israel, and have we no high priests who can stand and serve as high priests upon the altar, that a simple proselyte who comes without anything but his staff and his bag [במקלו ובתרמילו] must come and serve as high priest?” He rebuked him and put him out in indignation. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 15:3 [ed. Schechter, 61]; cf. b. Shab. 31a)

In a variant of the story cited above the proselyte says to Hillel:

אני הגר הקל שבאתי במקלי ובמנעלי

“I am a simple proselyte who came with [nothing but] my staff and my shoes.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 29 [ed. Schechter, 61])

These examples suggest that “to come with staff and bag” meant to come in humility. The proselyte’s statement to Hillel could be paraphrased as “I came only with the shirt on my back.” A staff and bag are such meager possessions that even the most destitute person would be expected to own them. For Jesus to send the apostles without these bare necessities was a statement of their absolute dependence on God to protect them on their way and to provide for them through the hospitality of the people with whom they stayed.[106]

For examples of lists with the pattern לֹא…וְלֹא, such as we have in HR, cf., e.g., Num. 11:19; m. Shab. 1:2; m. Bab. Bat. 2:1; and the baraita in b. Ber. 26b parallel to m. Ber. 9:5 that we cited above (Comment to L66).

L68 μήτε ἄρτον (GR). Whether or not to include “bread” in the reconstruction is a difficult decision. Bread is not mentioned in Luke 10:4, but, as we have noted above, the list in Luke 10:4 shows evidence of abbreviation, and therefore “bread” could simply be one of the items that was omitted. In the FR version of Luke 9:3 we have not observed the opposite tendency toward expansion, and it is in 9:3 that we find bread among the prohibited items. Some doubt, however, must remain. Although Mark 6:8, which we believe was based on Luke 9:3, includes bread, Matthew’s version omits bread. Does this mean that Matthew deleted bread from the list on the basis of Anth.? Davies and Allison suggest that the author of Matthew omitted bread because he had already prohibited the carrying of a bag, which, among other things, was used for carrying bread, and therefore naming bread seemed redundant.[107]

A loaf of bread and two figs on a shelf in a first-century C.E. Roman fresco from Pompeii. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A loaf of bread and two figs on a shelf in a first-century C.E. Roman fresco from Pompeii. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Didache, which has many points of contact with the Gospel of Matthew, allows bread as the one thing apostles are permitted to carry when they set out on a journey (Did. 11:6). In Comments to L62 and L63 we noted that the author of Matthew appears to have revised the apostles’ instructions in order to safeguard his community from the abuses of itinerant travelers who called themselves apostles. The Didache seems to be responding to a similar situation, and some scholars have suggested that the Gospel of Matthew and the Didache were composed within the same cultural milieu and perhaps even in roughly the same period. Perhaps the author of Matthew omitted bread from the list of prohibited items because, when he was writing his Gospel, itinerant teachers who visited his community were permitted to carry bread on their journeys.

If the petition for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer reflects the lifestyle of Jesus’ itinerant band of disciples, then this petition might imply that they were not accustomed to carrying food supplies with them. Without stores of food in their luggage the itinerant disciples had to pray each day that God would provide for their physical needs. The instruction to the apostles not to take bread would then be understood as a continuation of their normal procedure, which in turn makes Jesus’ seemingly radical demand much less unlikely. On balance, we have decided to include “bread” in GR and HR.

L69 μὴ πήραν (Mark 6:8). Whereas Luke 9:3 has “staff…bag…bread,” Mark 6:8 has “staff…bread…bag.” Transposition is one of Mark’s most common editorial habits.[108]

L70 μήτε ἀργύριον (GR). Luke and Matthew agree against Mark to forbid the carrying of silver. Matthew’s version is different from Luke 9:3, however, by adding bronze in conformity with Mark 6:8 (L71), and gold, which is unique to Matthew. Lindsey noted that Matthew frequently wove his two sources—Mark and Anth.—together.[109] Finding “silver” in one source (Anth.) and “bronze” in the other (Mark), the author of Matthew may simply have combined them and added “gold” for good measure.[110] In any case, the care he took to specify different kinds of precious metals and his relocation of money to the top of the list of forbidden items is characteristic of the author of Matthew’s editorial concern in the Conduct on the Road pericope to curb abuses of itinerant teachers in his churches.[111] According to the Didache, an apostle who asks for money is a false prophet (Did. 11:6).[112]

וְלֹא כֶּסֶף (HR). In Hebrew כֶּסֶף (kesef) means “silver,” but it can also be used generically for “money.”[113]

L73 μήτε ὑποδήματα (GR). According to Mark 6:9, the apostles were to go having first strapped on their sandals (σανδάλια, sandalia). Luke 10:4 (L73) and Matt. 10:10 (L75), on the other hand, forbid the wearing of ὑποδήματα (hūpodēmata, “sandals,” “shoes”). This is a fascinating point of contact between the version of the Sending discourse Luke copied from Anth. and Matthew’s version. Although this Lukan-Matthean agreement against Mark does not strictly qualify as a “minor agreement,” since these are only possible in Triple Tradition pericopae,[114] it does support our reconstruction of Anth. in GR.

Where did Mark’s permission to wear sandals come from? Lindsey believed that one of the editorial methods the author of Mark employed was to pick up words and phrases from Acts in order to allude to the later experience of the Church in his telling of the story of Jesus.[115] Lindsey referred to these literary allusions as “Markan pick-ups.” Scholars have noted that the word σανδάλια (sandalia, “sandals”) occurs only twice in NT: here in Mark’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope (Mark 6:9), and once in the story of Peter’s escape from prison (Acts 12:8). Scholars who accept the theory of Markan Priority suppose Luke frequently rejected Mark’s vocabulary while writing the Gospel of Luke, only to use the rejected terminology in Acts.[116] While Markan priorists find it difficult to explain Luke’s motive for rejecting σανδάλια in his version of the Conduct on the Road pericope, and while the Lukan-Matthean agreement to mention “shoes” suggests that “sandals” in Mark 6:9 is editorial, we are able to suggest two reasons why Mark might have picked up σανδάλια from Acts 12:8.

First, supposing the author of Mark read the story of Peter’s escape from prison in Acts 12:1-17 and discovered that Peter, the most preeminent of the apostles, wore sandals (Acts 12:8), he may have wished to eliminate Peter’s apparent disregard of Jesus’ instructions to the apostles by changing those instructions to specifically permit sandals. Second, if we are correct that the author of Mark edited the list of items in the Conduct on the Road pericope in order to make the apostles resemble the Hebrew slaves on the eve of their redemption from Egypt, he may have recalled the story of Peter’s escape from prison, which is heavy with Exodus imagery.[117] By using vocabulary taken from Acts 12, the author of Mark could echo Israel’s redemptive history while at the same time foreshadow the experiences of the early Church.

Other shared vocabulary strengthens the supposition that there is a literary relationship between Peter’s escape in Acts 12 and Mark’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope. Not only is the noun σανδάλια unique to these two passages in NT, but the verb both passages use for strapping on sandals, ὑποδεῖσθαι (hūpodeisthai), occurs in only one other NT verse (Eph. 6:15). Moreover, the noun Mark uses for belt, ζώνη (zōnē), comes from the same root as ζώννυσθαι (zōnnūsthai, “to gird around the loins”), the verb the angel uses to command Peter in Acts 12:8. Of course, while shared vocabulary might suggest that a literary dependence between Mark 6 and Acts 12 exists, it cannot prove in which direction the literary relationship flowed. Luke could have used Mark’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope when writing the story of Peter’s escape, or Mark could have alluded to the story in Acts. What makes Lindsey’s solution more compelling is that Lindsey has a plausible explanation to account for Mark’s behavior: the author of Mark drew on vocabulary from a story about the most famous of the twelve apostles to retell the story of the apostles’ mission. Markan priorists are hard pressed to find a convincing explanation for why Luke would have drawn on Mark’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope to tell his story of Peter’s escape from prison.

Sandals (top and middle) and a child’s shoe (bottom) from the first century C.E. discovered in the North Palace at Masada. Photo courtesy of
Sandals (top and middle) and a child’s shoe (bottom) from the first century C.E. discovered in the North Palace at Masada. Photo courtesy of

וְלֹא מִנְעָלִים (HR). In LXX ὑπόδημα (hūpodēma, “sandal,” “shoe”) is almost always the translation of נַעַל (na‘al, “sandal,” “shoe”).[118] In MH, however, נַעַל had become largely obsolete, appearing almost exclusively in discussions of the biblical text (cf., e.g., m. Yev. 12:6). Instead of נַעַל, we typically find either מִנְעָל (min‘āl, “shoe”)[119] or סַנְדָּל (sandāl, “sandal”).[120] A distinction is usually maintained in rabbinic sources between the מִנְעָל, a shoe that covers the foot, and the סַנְדָּל, a sole bound to the foot with straps,[121] but it is possible that מִנְעָל was sometimes used as a generic term for all kinds of footwear.

Sandals from the second century C.E. discovered in the Cave of Letters in Nahal Hever. Photo courtesy of
Sandals from the second century C.E. discovered in the Cave of Letters in Nahal Hever. Photo courtesy of

The following considerations led to our decision to use מִנְעָל in HR. 1) In cases of direct speech we prefer to reconstruct in MH style. Since Jesus was not discussing a biblical text we eliminated נַעַל as an option for HR. 2) We believe the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua employed a highly literal style of translation. If סַנְדָּלִים had appeared in the Hebrew text we would have expected the Greek translator to have rendered this as σανδάλια (sandalia, “sandals”), from which the Hebrew term is derived. 3) In the rabbinic sources that mention items with which travelers are typically equipped (see Comments to L66 and L67), we encounter the term מִנְעָל, but not the term סַנְדָּל.‎[122] 4) In Deut. 33:25 the LXX translators incorrectly rendered מִנְעָלֶיךָ (min‘ālechā, “your bars”) as ὑπόδημα αὐτοῦ (hūpodēma avtou, “his shoe”), treating מִנְעָל according to its MH meaning.[123] This mistranslation in Deut. 33:25 not only shows us that מִנְעָל in the sense of “shoe” existed long before the time of Jesus, it also demonstrates that ὑπόδημα was considered to be the Greek equivalent of מִנְעָל.

It is a curious fact that the plural of מִנְעָל does not occur in the Mishnah, and the examples in m. Ber. 9:5 and m. Yev. 16:7 demonstrate that the singular form could have a plural sense. Nevertheless, examples from the Tosefta and Talmud prove that the plural of מִנְעָל was possible,[124] and since the plural form of ὑπόδημα occurs in Matt. 10:10 and Luke 10:4 we have used the plural form מִנְעָלִים in HR.

According to m. Shek. 3:2, when a person entered the Temple treasury he would not wear a garment with sleeves, shoes, sandals, tefillin, or an amulet in order to be above suspicion of having embezzled sacred funds. Perhaps the strict regulations Jesus placed on the apostles were also to keep them above reproach for making a profit from their mission.

L74 καὶ μὴ ἐνδύσασθε δύο χιτῶνας (Mark 6:9). With the imperative “do not wear” the author of Mark has slipped into direct speech, whereas previously he had reported the instructions about the restrictions to the apostles’ travel gear in the third person (see Comment to L63). Luke 9:3 and Matt. 10:10 agree against Mark 6:9 to omit the verb ἐνδύεσθαι (endūesthai, “to put on”). Perhaps Mark was inspired to add ἐνδύεσθαι by comparing Anth., which probably did not have a verb like ἔχειν (echein, “to have”), with Luke 9:3 where ἔχειν was probably copied from FR. Mark’s editorial adaptation relaxes the more rigorous versions in Matt. 10:10 and Luke 9:3 which prohibit taking two tunics, since Mark 6:9 simply prohibits wearing two tunics at the same time, but presumably allows the carrying of a spare undershirt. Mark’s version probably reflects the practice of wearing two tunics mentioned in ancient sources.[125]

Second-century C.E. shirt, sandals and belt discovered at the Cave of Letters in Nahal Hever. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Second-century C.E. shirt, sandals and belt discovered at the Cave of Letters in Nahal Hever. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

וְלֹא שְׁנֵי חֲלוּקוֹת (HR). The noun χιτών (chitōn, “tunic,” “undershirt”) occurs 31xx in LXX books that are also included in MT. The majority of those instances are the translation of כְּתֹנֶת (ketonet) or כֻּתֹּנֶת (kutonet), variant forms of a noun meaning “tunic.”[126] In rabbinic literature, however, כְּתֹנֶת/כֻּתֹּנֶת usually refers to priestly vestments.[127] The more usual MH word for tunic or undergarment is חָלוּק (ḥālūq). The חָלוּק was an undergarment, typically woven from linen, over which the woolen טַלִּית (ṭalit, “cloak”) was worn.[128]

In his description of the Essenes, Josephus states:

οὔτε δὲ ἐσθῆτας οὔτε ὑποδήματα ἀμείβουσι πρὶν διαρραγῆναι τὸ πρότερον παντάπασιν ἢ δαπανηθῆναι τῷ χρόνῳ.

They do not change their garments or shoes until they are torn to shreds or worn threadbare with age. (J.W. 2:126; Loeb)

In a parallel account of the Essenes, Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-236 C.E.) wrote:

χιτῶνας δὲ δύο ἤ διπλᾶς ὑποδέσεις οὐ κτῶνται ἐπὰν δὲ τὰ παρόντα παλαιωθῇ, τότε ἕτερα προσίενται.

They do not own two cloaks [χιτῶνας] or a double set of shoes, but when those that are in present use become antiquated, then they adopt others. (Refutation of All Heresies, 9:20)[129]

It is uncertain whether Hippolytus’ information about the Essenes was based directly on Josephus or whether both authors drew their descriptions from a common source. As Vermes and Goodman note, Hippolytus would not have had any motive to Christianize the Essenes by describing their conduct in terms familiar from the Gospels. On the other hand, it is possible that Hippolytus took his account of the Essenes from an earlier Christian source that did have this intention.[130] In any case, Jesus’ prohibitions against taking provisions for the road should not only be understood in light of the first-century pietists’ faith in divine protection, they should also be understood against the Essene practice of poverty. Just as the Essenes eschewed the accumulation of private wealth, so the apostles were to proclaim their message in a state of “royal poverty.”[131]

L76 μηδὲ ῥάβδον (Matt. 10:10). Some manuscripts of Matthew read “staves” (plur.).[132] This scribal change is an attempt to harmonize Matthew’s version with Mark’s. A similar attempt at harmonization is found in Tatian’s Diatessaron:

Get you not gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; and take nothing for the way, except a staff only; nor bag, nor bread; neither shall ye have two tunics, nor shoes, nor staff, but be shod with sandals…. (Diatess. 12:49-50)[133]

Although harmonization is an attractive option to explain away discrepancies in the biblical text, such an approach does not help us understand how each synoptic author operated or how the differences between the Synoptic Gospels came into being.

L77 καὶ μηδένα κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ἀσπάσησθε (Luke 10:4). The strange injunction against offering a greeting to passersby is found only in the version of Luke we believe was based on Anth. The prohibition is so brusque it is unlikely that Luke would have added it to his source. It seems rather that it was omitted by the First Reconstructor and consequently also in Luke 9, Mark 6 and Matt. 10.[134] Some scholars have compared Jesus’ instruction to greet no one to Elisha’s command to Gehazi in 2 Kgs. 4:29.[135] A more likely background, however, is the practice of the first-century pietists. According to the Mishnah, the early Hasidim would not interrupt prayer in order to offer a greeting, even if the passerby was a king (m. Ber. 5:1).[136] In a similar manner, the apostles were not to hinder the progress of their mission by taking time to socialize with other travelers on the road.

וְאִישׁ בַּדֶּרֶךְ אַל תִּשְׁאֲלוּ בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ (HR). In LXX μηδείς (mēdeis, “no one”) often translates אִישׁ (’ish, “man”) in the underlying Hebrew text when אִישׁ is the subject of a negated verb. In the following examples we provide overly literal translations of the Hebrew and Greek to emphasize the different ways these two languages structure these negative sentences:

וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ אַל יוֹתֵר מִמֶּנּוּ עַד בֹּקֶר

And Moses said to them, “Let a man not leave any of it [i.e., the manna—DNB and JNT] until morning.” (Exod. 16:19)

εἶπεν δὲ Μωυσῆς πρὸς αὐτούς Μηδεὶς καταλιπέτω ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ πρωί

And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it [i.e., the manna—DNB and JNT] until morning.” (Exod. 16:19)

אַל יֵצֵא אִישׁ מִמְּקֹמוֹ

Let a man not go out from his place. (Exod. 16:29)

μηδεὶς ἐκπορευέσθω ἐκ τοῦ τόπου αὐτοῦ

Let no one go out from his place. (Exod. 16:29)

וְאִישׁ לֹא יַעֲלֶה עִמָּךְ וְגַם אִישׁ אַל יֵרָא בְּכָל הָהָר

And let a man not go up with you and also let a man not be seen anywhere on the mountain. (Exod. 34:3)

καὶ μηδεὶς ἀναβήτω μετὰ σοῦ μηδὲ ὀφθήτω ἐν παντὶ τῷ ὄρει

And let no one go up with you nor be seen on any part of the mountain. (Exod. 34:3)[137]

These examples illustrate Hebrew’s preference for negating the verb in these sentences, while the Greek translation prefers to negate the subject of the verb. Here in L77, however, אִישׁ is not the subject of the negative command אַל תִּשְׁאֲלוּ בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ (“You [plur.] shall not greet him”). Nevertheless, the above examples do demonstrate that אִישׁ can be translated into Greek with μηδείς in negative sentences. Our reconstruction of μηδένα (“no one”) with אִישׁ (“a man”) in L77 is similar to our reconstruction of μηδέν (“nothing”) with כְּלוּם (“anything”) in L63.

Most examples of κατά + ὁδός in LXX are the translation of -דֶּרֶךְ + כְּ, but there are examples where κατά + ὁδός translates -דֶּרֶךְ + בְּ instead (Josh. 5:7; 2 Chr. 28:2).

The verb ἀσπάζεσθαι (aspazesthai, “to greet”) occurs 10xx in LXX, but only twice in books for which we have an underlying Hebrew text. In both instances where we do have the underlying Hebrew, ἀσπάζεσθαι is the translation of שָׁאַל לְשָׁלוֹם (shā’al leshālōm, “greet”; Exod. 18:7; Judg. 18:15). On our reconstruction with שָׁאַל בְּשָׁלוֹם, which is in accordance with MH style, rather than שָׁאַל לְשָׁלוֹם, see Tower Builder and King Going to War, Comment to L18.

L78 ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ (Matt. 10:10). The author of Matthew moved the saying about the worker being worthy of his wage from its original position in the Conduct in Town pericope (See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L97) to the end of the list of prohibited items.[138] This alteration fits with the change in Matt. 10:9 (L63) that transformed the list into things that the apostles must not acquire in the course of their mission instead of a list of items the apostles were not to take with them. Since we believe Luke’s placement of this saying is better, we will discuss it in Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town.

Redaction Analysis

The four versions of the Conduct on the Road pericope (one each in Matthew and Mark and two versions in Luke) mainly consist of negative imperatives forming a series of instructions concerning what the apostles were not to do on their mission. Matthew’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope, like his version of the Sending discourse overall, is the longest and the most detailed. Mark’s version is unique in granting permissions to the apostles as well as placing restrictions on them. Luke’s version in Sending the Twelve focuses strictly on the list of items the apostles were not allowed to take, while Luke’s version in Sending the Seventy-two includes a stricture against greeting people on the road in addition to the list of restricted articles.

Matthew’s Version

Matthew’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope is distinguished by the section of unique Matthean material found in Matt. 10:5b-8. Some of this material appears to be the result of Matthew’s editorial activity as he paraphrased his source (L56-61) and shifted the placement of the sayings to suit his purposes (L62, L78). The command to go only to Israel and avoid Gentiles and Samaritans (L52-55), on the other hand, probably came directly from the Anthology. Despite contradicting his Gentile-inclusive outlook, the author of Matthew may have felt constrained to include this commandment because it was too well known in his community to ignore. Instead of concealing the command to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the author of Matthew extensively reworked the Jesus and a Canaanite Woman story in order to show that Jesus himself had repealed the Israel-only policy long before the tragic events that led to the crucifixion.

Another motivation behind Matthew’s editorial activity is a desire to place limits on the itinerant teachers who called themselves “apostles.” Like the Didache, which strictly regulated what itinerant apostles were allowed to take from the communities they visited, the author of Matthew changed the wording of his source from what the apostles were not allowed to bring to what they were not allowed to acquire in the course of their mission (L63). Such a concern suggests that the author of Matthew wrote his Gospel for a settled community rather than a missionary movement. This suggestion fits well with Lindsey’s hypothesis that the Gospel of Matthew was the latest of the three Synoptic Gospels, since an established community that has grown suspicious of itinerant teachers has reached a more advanced stage of development than a mission-oriented movement.

In Matthew’s list of prohibited items we can observe the author of Matthew’s technique of blending his two sources (Mark and Anth.). By weaving his two sources together, Matthew achieved important agreements with Luke’s versions against Mark (L70, L74, L75, L76), agreements that afford a glimpse of the pre-synoptic version of the Conduct on the Road pericope.

Mark’s Version

The Lukan-Matthean minor agreements against Mark in the Conduct on the Road pericope demonstrate that the author of Mark reworked the instructions in his source (Luke 9:3). Mark’s revisions have two main effects: 1) the rigorous injunctions placed on the apostles are somewhat relaxed, and 2) the items the apostles are allowed to carry in Mark’s version echo the description of the liberated Hebrew slaves on the eve of the exodus from Egypt. Although Mark’s version of the Conduct on the Road pericope is based on Luke 9:3 and probably influenced by Exod. 12:11, the inclusion of sandals in Mark 6:9 (L73) betrays knowledge of the doublet to Luke 9:3 in Luke 10:4. The Markan revisions have a theological significance: by altering his source the author of Mark signaled that Sending the Twelve marked the eve of the messianic redemption.

Luke’s Versions

The many points of agreement between Luke 9:3 and Matt. 10:9-10 show the degree to which FR, Luke’s source for the Conduct on the Road pericope in the Sending the Twelve discourse, preserved the wording of Anth., and also how much the author of Luke abbreviated Anth. in Luke 10:4. Luke’s interests are revealed primarily in the omission from both versions of the Conduct on the Road pericope of the command to confine the scope of the apostles’ mission to Israel. Why the author of Luke would have abbreviated the list of prohibited items when copying the Anth. version of the Conduct on the Road pericope is unclear. Perhaps he felt that a summary of the prohibited items was sufficient since he had already spelled out a more complete list in Luke 9:3.

Results of This Research

1. Why would Jesus forbid his apostles to go to Gentiles and Samaritans? Despite its cosmic consequences, Jesus’ message that the Kingdom of Heaven was breaking in upon the human stage was primarily a message for Israel. The Kingdom of Heaven was God’s rescue mission to vindicate Israel’s faithfulness to the Torah, to redeem Israel from domination by foreign rulers, and to restore the lost tribes. Such a message was neither meaningful to nor desired by Gentiles. Since Jesus did not regard the Samaritans as an organic part of Israel, he did not believe his message directly concerned them, either. Israel was the primary audience for the good news of God’s redemption, and the primary beneficiary of the inbreaking of God’s reign.

2. Would Jesus have used a pejorative term or racial slur when referring to Samaritans? The project of reconstructing the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua has raised an issue that, so far as we know, has received no attention from New Testament scholars: What word did Jesus use when referring to Samaritans? The term כּוּתִי (kūti, “Cuthean”), the only term we find for Samaritans in rabbinic sources, was an unmistakably pejorative term intended to emphasize the Samaritans’ outsider status. Would Jesus have imitated the prevailing custom of his day by using a racial slur? The evidence of Matt. 10:5b, which we believe was copied from Anth., may suggest a possible answer. The Anthology’s Hebraic-Greek style indicates that the Greek translator of the Hebrew Life of Yeshua employed a highly literal method of translation. Since the term Χουθαῖος (Chouthaios, “Cuthean”) existed in Greek, as the writings of Josephus prove, we would have expected the Greek translator, following his usual method, to have used Χουθαῖος to translate כּוּתִי instead of Σαμαρίτης (Samaritēs, “Samaritan”), which is what we find in Matt. 10:5b. The presence of Σαμαρίτης in Matt. 10:5b suggests that Jesus may have used the word שֹׁמְרֹנִי (shomroni, “Samaritan”), a less offensive term, when referring to Samaritans.

3. Why were the apostles forbidden to take provisions for their journey? Their lack of travel gear cast the apostles solely on God’s providence and protection and emphasized their identification with the poor, for whom Jesus’ message was particularly good news (cf., e.g., Matt. 5:3; 6:12; Luke 1:53; 4:18).[139] The rigorous demands Jesus placed on his emissaries are in keeping with the austere lifestyle of Jesus and his full-time disciples who left their families, professions and property in order to itinerate with Jesus.[140]

The apostles’ need for complete reliance on God for protection is reminiscent of the first-century Jewish pietists who, because of their confidence in God’s watchfulness over them, insisted that taking the usual precautions from danger was unnecessary. The apostles’ lack of defensive weapons and of provisions against hunger and thirst and heat or cold is probably the reason Jesus compared the apostles to a flock among wolves. The flock would only survive if they were guarded by a competent shepherd.

Not carrying travel gear is also similar to the practice of the Essenes who relied on members of their community to meet their needs as they traveled from one Essene settlement to another (Jos., J.W. 2:124-125). An important distinction between Jesus’ instructions and Essene practice, however, is that whereas the Essenes maintained a strict separation between insiders and outsiders, refusing to accept anything from outsiders without payment (1QS V, 16-17), Jesus’ attitude was open. The bonds created with strangers through receiving their hospitality afforded an opportunity for the apostles to share the message of the Kingdom of Heaven.[141] This difference from Essene practice will be examined further in Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town. The Essenes’ understanding of the renunciation of personal property as a path toward the attainment of the Holy Spirit (1QH VI, 2-5; 4Q521 2 II, 6), on the other hand, illuminates the intimate relationship between the abandonment of wealth and entering the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus’ teachings (cf., e.g., Matt. 5:3).

Finally, their lack of travel equipment underscored the things the apostles did bring with them: Jesus’ message that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived, their authority over impure spirits, and their power to heal the sick. As fully-trained disciples of Jesus,[142] the twelve apostles carried Jesus’ teachings with them, especially as those teachings were encapsulated in the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer.[143] These tightly packed and highly portable distillations of Jesus’ message could be carried to any Jewish town or village to serve as the basis of the apostles’ teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven that had arrived with their coming.

4. Why does Mark’s version permit a staff, but the versions in Luke and Matthew prohibit a staff? For readers of the New Testament who are sensitive to “contradictions” in the Bible, the disagreement among the Synoptic Gospels about whether or not a staff was permitted on the apostles’ mission must seem troubling. The author of Mark probably did not see himself as contradicting Luke when he changed his version to allow the apostles to take a staff; instead, he probably thought that he was helping his audience to understand something about the apostles’ mission that they might not have appreciated fully. Mark wanted to alert his audience to the parallels between the first redemption from Egypt and the final messianic redemption that had begun through the work and teachings of Jesus. Rather than contradicting Luke, the author of Mark probably saw himself as complementing Luke. He likely expected the changes he introduced to be recognized immediately by his readers, and he may have hoped that these changes would elicit a chuckle from his readers as they enjoyed his creativity and pondered the serious message his playfulness was intended to communicate.


In the Conduct on the Road pericope Jesus instructed his twelve emissaries to stay focused on the people of Israel and to show radical trust in God’s power to protect them and provide for their needs.


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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’”
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See the detailed discussion in Ze’ev Safrai and Peter J. Tomson, “Paul’s ‘Collection for the Saints’ (2 Cor 8-9) and Financial Support of Leaders in Early Christianity and Judaism,” in Second Corinthians in the Perspective of Late Second Temple Judaism (ed. Reimund Bieringer, Emmanuel Nathan, Didier Pollefeyt, and Peter J. Tomson; CRINT 14; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 132-220.
  • [4] On the Jesus tradition as a source for Paul’s halachic instruction, 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), 82, 144.
  • [5] According to Gundry, “In Matthew we are reading about itinerant ministry in evangelized communities rather than about itinerant ministry in unevangelized communities.” See Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 188. In other words, the author of Matthew revised the instructions to the apostles to reflect the conditions that pertained to his own community.
  • [6] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L96.
  • [7] On the commonalities between the Gospel of Matthew and the Didache, see Sandt-Flusser, 40-52; Peter J. Tomson, “Transformations of Post-70 Judaism: Scholarly Reconstructions and Their Implications for our Perception of Matthew, Didache, and James,” in Matthew, James, and Didache: Three Related Documents in Their Jewish and Christian Setting (ed. Huub van de Sandt and Jürgen K. Zangenberg; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 91-121; idem, “The Didache, Matthew, and Barnabas as Sources for Early Second Century Jewish and Christian History,” in Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries: How to Write Their History (ed. Peter J. Tomson and Joshua Schwartz; CRINT 13; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 348-382.
  • [8] Beare, for example, stated, “A more unnecessary prohibition can hardly be imagined.” See Francis Wright Beare, “The Mission of the Disciples and the Mission Charge: Matthew 10 and Parallels,” Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (1970): 1-13, esp. 9.
  • [9] Of course, one might argue just as easily that the inital reluctance of the early believers to go to the Gentiles was because they remembered the prohibition recorded in Matt. 10:5b.
  • [10] See Nolland, Matt., 415; cf. Hagner, 1:271.
  • [11] Nolland, Matt., 415.
  • [12] The Gentile-inclusive stance of the Gospel of Matthew is expressed in the stories about the magi, who are the first people to recognize and worship Jesus (Matt. 2:11), the centurion, whose faith is greater than anyone’s in Israel (Matt. 8:10), and the Canaanite woman, who recognizes Jesus as the Son of David (Matt. 15:22). (For more on the Canaanite Woman story, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Jesus and a Canaanite Woman.”) The author of Matthew’s attitude toward Gentiles also finds expression in his LXX quotations that hint at a Gentile mission (Matt. 4:15-16; 12:18, 21), and in the predictions that the Gentiles will take the place of the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 8:11-12; cf. 21:43), verses where Matthew’s editorial activity is especially evident. See David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560). The Gentile-inclusive stance of the Gospel of Matthew finds its ultimate expression in Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), which the author of Matthew made the conclusion of his entire Gospel.
  • [13] Apart from Matt. 10:5b, negative views of Gentiles are expressed in Matt. 6:7, 31-32; 20:19.
  • [14] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:962-966.
  • [15] See Dos Santos, 45.
  • [16] Examples of לְדֶרֶךְ + pronominal suffix translated with εἰς + ὁδός are found in Gen. 19:2; 33:16; Josh. 2:16; Judg. 18:26; 19:9; 1 Kgdms. 1:18; 25:12; 26:25; 30:2; 3 Kgdms. 1:49; 19:15; Jer. 35[28]:11.
  • [17] Examples of לַדֶּרֶךְ translated with εἰς + ὁδός are found in Gen. 42:25; 45:21, 23; Josh. 9:11.
  • [18] Examples of עַל דֶּרֶךְ translated with εἰς + ὁδός are found in Judg. 4:9; 1 Kgdms. 6:12; Hag. 1:5, 7; Jer. 39[32]:19.
  • [19] Examples of בְּדֶרֶךְ or בַּדֶּרֶךְ translated with εἰς + ὁδός are found in 1 Kgdms. 24:8; Ps. 106[107]:7; Prov. 26:13; Isa. 10:26.
  • [20] See Nolland, Matt., 415 n. 30.
  • [21] Rabbinic quotations of Jer. 10:2, which include the phrase דֶּרֶךְ הַגּוֹיִם, are found in t. Suk. 2:7[6]; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pischa chpt. 2, on Exod. 12:2; b. Shab. 156a; b. Suk. 29a.
  • [22] See David R. Catchpole, “The Mission Charge in Q,” Semeia 55 (1991): 147-174, esp. 159-160.
  • [23] According to Jeremias, “That Matt. 10.5 f. is the translation of an original Semitic text is established by the absence of the article before πόλιν, which points to an underlying construct state.” See Joachim Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations: The Franz Delitzsch Lectures for 1953 (London: SMC Press, 1958), 20. On the Hebraic use of πόλις to refer to a town or village, see Robert L. Lindsey, “The Major Importance of the ‘Minor’ Agreements,” under the subheading “A Hebraic Usage of Πολίς in the Synoptic Gospels”; Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L2.
  • [24] Shomroni (שֹׁמְרֹנִי) simply means someone from the region of Samaria (שֹׁמְרוֹן; shomrōn). According to 1 Kgs. 16:24, Omri named the city of Samaria (שֹׁמְרוֹן; shomrōn) after Shemer (שֶׁמֶר), the previous owner of the hill upon which Samaria was built. Eventually, the region of which Samaria was the capital city also came to be known as Samaria (שֹׁמְרוֹן; shomrōn; cf., e.g., 1 Kgs. 13:32). In the Persian period Samaria was the name of the province (cf. Neh. 3:34 [Heb.] = Neh. 4:2 [Eng.]), and the region retained this name even when it was under the same rule as Judea, as was the case during the reigns of the Hasmoneans, Herod and the Roman governors.
  • [25] Although some scholars maintain that “the Hebrew tongue” refers to Aramaic, their case remains unproven. See Randall Buth and Chad Pierce, “Hebraisti in Ancient Texts: Does Ἑβραϊστί Ever Mean ‘Aramaic’?” (JS2, 66-109).
  • [26] On occasion Josephus referred to the Samaritans as Σικιμῖται (Sikimitai, “Shechemites,” i.e., “inhabitants of the town of Shechem”). See Ant. 11:342, 344, 346; 12:10. In Ant. 11:340 Josephus explains that Shechem, which is near Mount Gerizim, is the chief city of the Samaritans. Cf. Sir. 50:25-26.
  • [27] The term שֹׁמְרֹנִי does appear in the late rabbinic works Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chpt. 37, and Midrash Tanhuma, Vayashov chpt. 2.
  • [28] See Wayne A. Brindle, “The Origin and History of the Samaritans,” Grace Theological Journal 5.1 (1984): 47-75, esp. 55.
  • [29] According to 2 Kgs. 17:24, after the king of Assyria had conquered the northern tribes of Israel, he brought in many different peoples to inhabit the cities of Samaria, including some “from Kutah” (מִכּוּתָה; mikūtāh). In 2 Kgs. 17:30, these foreigners are designated as אַנְשֵׁי כוּת (’anshē chūt, “people of Kut”). In rabbinic literature the use of the term “Cuthean” underscores the Samaritans’ alleged foreign descent.

    In the Mishnah the term כּוּתִי is paired with נָכְרִי (nochri, “foreigner”) in m. Dem. 6:1; m. Ter. 3:9; m. Shek. 1:5; m. Toh. 5:8. This is similar to the parallelism of “Gentile” with “Samaritan” in Matt. 10:5b. In Sifre Deut. §331 (on Deut. 32:41) כּוּתִי is paired with מִין (min, “heretic”).

  • [30] Cf. b. Ber. 47b; b. Git. 10a; b. Kid. 76a; b. Hul. 4a.
  • [31] Josephus refers to the Samaritans by the term Χουθαῖος in J.W. 1:63; Ant. 9:288, 290; 10:184; 11:19, 20, 88, 302. Cf. Ant. 13:255 where the term for Samaritan is Κουθαῖος.
  • [32] See Menachem Mor, “Samaritan History: The Persian, Hellenistic and Hasmonean Period,” in The Samaritans (ed. Alan D. Crown; Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1989), 1-18.
  • [33] This included members of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi (cf. Ezra 1:5; 4:1), but excluded the other tribes who had been exiled by the Assyrians. On the inexactitude of the term “true Israel” in this context, see Sara Japhet, “People and Land in the Restoration Period,” in Das Land Israel in biblischer Zeit (ed. Georg Strecker; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 103-125, esp. 116-117.
  • [34] On the different Israelite groups that existed both in the land and in the diaspora in the Persian period, see Sara Japhet, “People and Land in the Restoration Period,” 104-106. The Elephantine papyri provide a fascinating example of a community that regarded itself as fully Israelite and that appears to have accepted both Jews and Samaritans as belonging to the same people. When the self-described Jewish community in Elephantine was threatened by the local Egyptian population, its leaders appealed equally to the Jews (including the high priest) and the Samaritans for aid. See A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923), Papyrus no. 30.
  • [35] According to Jacob ben Aaron, the Samaritans regard themselves as descendants of the tribes of Joseph and Levi. See Jacob, son of Aaron, The History and Religion of the Samaritans (ed. William E. Barton; trans. Abdullah ben Kori; Oak Park, Ill.: Puritan Press, 1906), 13. This claim is very ancient, being already contested in the works of Josephus (Ant. 9:291; 11:341).
  • [36] In two Second Temple-period inscriptions from the island of Delos, diaspora Samaritans refer to themselves as Ἰσραηλῖται οἱ ἀπαρχόμενοι εἰς ἰερόν ἅγιον Ἀργαριζεὶν (“Israelites who make offerings to hallowed, consecrated Mount Gerizim”). See A. T. Kraabel, “New Evidence of the Samaritan Diaspora Has Been Found on Delos,” Biblical Archaeologist 47.1 (1984): 44-46.
  • [37] Many scholars believe that the books of Ruth and Jonah were written in opposition to the “holy seed” ideology. See, for example, the lecture of Yair Zakovitch, “Intermarriage and Halachic Creativity: Reading the Book of Ruth,” 12th Annual Brenninkmeijer-Werhahn Lecture (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 24 October 2012).
  • [38] That high priests were willing to take Samaritan wives is of particular interest, since of all classes in Jewish society the high priestly aristocracy attached the greatest importance to lineage. On the universalist view held by some Jews who repudiated the “holy seed” ideology, see Mor, “Samaritan History: The Persian, Hellenistic and Hasmonean Period,” 3-4; Moshe Weinfeld, “Universalistic and Particularistic Trends During the Exile and Restoration,” in Normative and Sectarian Judaism in the Second Temple Period (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 251-266.
  • [39] On the Samaritans in the writings of Josephus, see Louis H. Feldman, “Josephus’ Attitude Toward the Samaritans: A Study in Ambivalence,” in Jewish Sects, Religious Movements and Political Parties (ed. Menachem Mor; Omaha, Nebr.: Creighton University, 1992), 23-45. On attitudes toward the Samaritans in rabbinic literature, see Gedalyahu Alon, “The Origin of the Samaritans in the Halakhic Tradition,” in Jews, Judaism and the Classical World: Studies in Jewish History in the Times of the Second Temple Period and Talmud (trans. Israel Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1977), 354-373; Lawrence H. Schiffman, “The Samaritans in Tannaitic Halakhah,” Jewish Quarterly Review 75.4 (1985): 323-350.
  • [40] On the dating of the destruction of the temple on Mount Gerizim, see Dan Barag, “New Evidence on the Foreign Policy of John Hyrcanus I,” Israel Numismatic Journal 12 (1992-1993): 1-12.
  • [41] According to Luke 17:18, Jesus identified a Samaritan as a foreigner. See the discussion in Joshua N. Tilton, “Jesus’ Attitude Toward the Samaritans.”
  • [42] The modern State of Israel recognizes Samaritans as belonging to the Jewish people. See Menachem Mor, “Who Is a Samaritan?” in Who Is a Jew?: Reflections on History, Religion, and Culture (ed. Leonard J. Greenspoon; West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2014), 153-168, esp. 157, 163. Already in the 1840s, during a period of instability for the Samaritan community, Haim Avraham Gagin, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, recognized “that the Samaritan people are a branch of the Children of Israel.” See Nathan Schur, “Samaritan History: The Modern Period (from 1516 A. D.),” in The Samaritans (ed. Alan D. Crown; Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1989), 113-134, esp. 122.
  • [43] Note that the sole instance of Σαμαρίτης in LXX (4 Kgdms. 17:29) is the translation of שֹׁמְרֹנִי.
  • [44] Alternatively, we could suppose that the Greek translator did write “Cuthean,” and that it was the author of Matthew who changed the wording to “Samaritan.” However, we have found that the author of Matthew usually copied the wording of Anth. quite faithfully, unless he had some particular point he wanted to make. But since the author of Matthew never mentions the Samaritans anywhere else in his Gospel, it is hard to explain why he would have chosen to tamper with the wording of his source.
  • [45] On the Samaritan self-designation as “keepers,” see James A. Montgomery, The Samaritans: The Earliest Jewish Sect (Philadelphia: John C. Winston, 1907), 318; Alan D. Crown, “The Samaritan Diaspora,” in The Samaritans (ed. Alan D. Crown; Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1989), 195-217, esp. 196.

    We do not know when the Samaritans began to call themselves “keepers,” but its use is attested in the works of Origen (late second to mid-third century C.E.) and Epiphanius (late fourth century C.E.). See Origen, Commentary on John 20.320-321 (on John 8:48); Epiphanius, Panarion 9.1; Jerome, Homily 42. Alon suggested that there may be an allusion to the Samaritans’ self-designation as “keepers” in the story of how Rabbi Abbahu (late third to early fourth century C.E.) sent for wine from among the Samaritans (b. Hul. 6a). See Alon, “The Origin of the Samaritans,” 362 n. 30.

  • [46] If by calling themselves “keepers [of the Torah]” the Samaritans sought to avoid the negative connotations of the name שֹׁמְרֹנִי, then this is indirect evidence that the term שֹׁמְרֹנִי was still in use among Jews who came into contact with Samaritans.
  • [47] See Knox, 2:50; Gundry, Matthew, 185; France, Matt., 381-382.
  • [48] On our rationale for basing the reconstruction documents on Codex Vaticanus, 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?”
  • [49] In Luke 19:10 “seek and save the lost” alludes to Ezek. 34:12, which reads, “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them…” (RSV). See Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus, Rabbi and Lord: A Lifetime’s Search for the Meaning of Jesus’ Words, 89.
  • [50] See our discussion in David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “Jesus and a Canaanite Woman,” Comment to L12-16.
  • [51] See Peter J. Tomson, “The Names Israel and Jew in Ancient Judaism and in the New Testament,” Bijdragen, tijdschrift voor filosofie en theologie 47 (1986): 120-140, 266-289.
  • [52] On reconstructing οἶκος (oikos, “house”) as בַּיִת (bayit, “house”), see “Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple,” Comment to L33.
  • [53] See Jeremias, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, 20 n. 2; Davies-Allison, 2:167 n. 10.
  • [54] In LXX the construct phrase בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל is translated variously as τὸν οἶκον Ισραηλ (Ruth 4:11; 2 Kgdms. 1:12; 12:8; Ps. 113[115]:20[12]; Amos 5:4; Ezek. 39:25, 29); ὁ οἶκος Ισραηλ (Lev. 10:6; 2 Kgdms. 6:15; 16:3; Ezek. 3:7; 22:18); τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ (Ps. 97[98]:3; Hos. 6:10; Amos 5:3; Isa. 63:7; Jer. 38[31]:31, 33; Ezek. 3:17; 12:6; 29:6, 16, 21; 33:7, 10; 36:22, 37; 43:10; 44:12); τοῦ οἴκου Ισραηλ (Ezek. 4:4, 5; 8:12; 9:9; 14:4, 7; 45:17); τὸν οἶκον τοῦ Ισραηλ (Hos. 1:6; Amos 9:9; Jer. 3:18; 13:11; Ezek. 3:4, 5; 13:5; 14:5, 6; 17:2; 20:13, 27, 30; 24:21; 44:6); τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ Ισραηλ (Ezek. 28:24; 40:4); ὁ οἶκος τοῦ Ισραηλ (Ezek. 3:7; 11:15; 12:9; 14:11; 18:29); οἶκος τοῦ Ισραηλ (Isa. 5:7); οἶκος Ισραηλ (Jer. 5:11; 31[48]:13); οἴκου Ισραηλ (Hos. 1:4; Jer. 11:17; Ezek. 45:17); and οἶκον Ισραηλ (3 Kgdms. 12:21). Not included in these examples are instances of the Greek vocative, since vocatives are always anarthrous.
  • [55] Since “sons of Israel” must mean something other than “sons of Judah” in Jer. 50:4, it would be natural for a first-century Jewish exegete to assume that “sons of Israel” referred to the ten lost tribes.
  • [56] The combination of ἐγγίζειν + ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν/τοῦ θεοῦ is found in Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9, 11.
  • [57] “Proclaim the Kingdom of God” in Luke 9:2 looks to us like FR’s condensed paraphrase of the source behind Luke 10:9. See Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, Comment to L37-39.
  • [58] See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua,” under the subheading “Which is correct: ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of God’?”
  • [59] In Hebrew we expect the direct object to follow the imperative. Cf., e.g., מִלְאוּ אֶת הַמַּיִם (“Fill the waters!”; Gen. 1:22), מִלְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ (“Fill the land!”; Gen. 1:28), רַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם (“Wash your feet!”; Gen. 18:4), לִקְטוּ אֲבָנִים (“Gather stones!”; Gen. 31:46), קְחוּ אֶת אֲבִיכֶם (“Take your father!”; Gen. 45:18), אִכְלוּ אֶת חֵלֶב הָאָרֶץ (“Eat the fat of the land!”; Gen. 45:18), etc.
  • [60] Cf. Marshall, 422.
  • [61] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L103.
  • [62] See David Flusser, “Jesus’ Opinion About the Essenes” (Flusser, JOC, 167 n. 43).
  • [63] Out of the twenty-six instances of δωρεάν in LXX, twenty are the translation of חִנָּם. See Gen. 29:15; Exod. 21:2, 11; Num. 11:5; 1 Kgdms. 19:5; 25:31; 2 Kgdms. 24:24; 3 Kgdms. 2:31; 1 Chr. 21:24; Ps. 34[35]:7, 19; 68[69]:5; 108[109]:3; 118[119]:161; Job 1:9; Mal. 1:10; Isa. 52:3, 5; Jer. 22:13; Lam. 3:52.
  • [64] Davies-Allison, 171.
  • [65] See Robert L. Lindsey, “The Major Importance of the ‘Minor’ Agreements.”
  • [66] On Anth. as Luke’s source for Sending the Seventy-Two, and FR as Luke’s source for Sending the Twelve, see our discussion in Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [67] This same phenomenon can be observed in the “Type 2” Double Tradition pericopae that exhibit low verbal identity. According to Lindsey’s hypothesis, the verbal disparity between Luke and Matthew is due to Luke’s use of FR while Matthew’s parallel is based on Anth. But the agreements in “Type 2” DT pericopae are the result of FR’s preservation of Anthology’s wording. In “Type 2” DT pericopae Luke and Matthew agree inasmuch as they both preserve, via different channels, the wording of Anth.

    For a list of “Type 2” Double Tradition pericopae, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition.”

  • [68] Lindsey’s translation (Lindsey, HTGM, 107) reveals how un-Hebraic Mark 6:8 is: וַיְצַו עֲלֵיהֶם לָקַחַת רַק מַטֶּה לַדֶּרֶךְ (“And he commanded them to take only a staff for the road”). In order to render Mark 6:8 in idiomatic Hebrew Lindsey found it necessary to depart from a strictly literal translation of the Greek text. Delitzsch’s translation is more literal but consequently less natural in Hebrew: וַיְצַו עֲלֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִקְחוּ מְאוּמָה לַדֶּרֶךְ זוּלָתִי מַקֵּל לְבַדּוֹ (“And he commanded them that they will not take anything for the road except a staff alone”). The construction צִוָּה‎ + עַל with suffix + אֲשֶׁר is extremely rare, occurring only once in MT: כִּי מָרְדֳּכַי צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא תַגִּיד (“For Mordecai commanded her that she will not tell”; Esth. 2:10). The equivalent construction צִוָּה‎ + עַל with suffix + -שֶׁ does not occur in the Mishnah.
  • [69] See Luz, 2:71.
  • [70] See Gundry, Matthew, 186.
  • [71] See below, Comment to L64.
  • [72] See Luke 7:14 (Widow’s Son in Nain, L14), Luke 14:27 (Demands of Discipleship, L11) and Luke 22:10 (Preparations for Eating Passover Lamb, L27).
  • [73] In Luke 9:23 (copied from FR) we find ἀράτω τὸν σταυρόν (“lift the cross”), whereas the Anth. version of this saying (Luke 14:27) has βαστάζει τὸν σταυρόν (“carry the cross”). See the diagram in Demands of Discipleship, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [74] Neither אַיִן (’ayin) nor אֶפֶס (’efes) occur in MH in the sense of “nothing.” The BH מְאוּמָה (me’ūmāh, “anything”) and the MH כְּלוּם (kelūm, “something,” “anything”) are positive terms that mean the opposite of “nothing.”
  • [75] Delitzsch’s translation of Luke 9:3 is אַל תִּקְחוּ מְאוּמָה לַדָּרֶךְ. Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in MH style we have opted for כְּלוּם (kelūm, “something,” “anything”), which replaced מְאוּמָה (me’ūmāh, “anything”) in MH. See Jastrow, 640; Segal, 210 §437. In the Mishnah מְאוּמָה only occurs in biblical quotations. Jastrow did not include an entry for מְאוּמָה in his dictionary.
  • [76] Double negatives are perfectly acceptable in Greek grammar. Unlike English, double negatives in Greek do not amount to a positive.
  • [77] Further examples of μηδείς + imperative in Greek authors include: μηδὲν ὀφείλετε (“Owe nothing”; Rom. 13:8); μηδὲν μεριμνᾶτε (“Be anxious for nothing”; Phil. 4:6); μηδὲν καταγινώσκετε (“Condemn nothing”; Jos., Ant. 5:113); μηδὲν πίστευε (“Believe nothing”; Herm. Mand. 11:17).
  • [78] Examples of the negative imperative אַל תִּשָּׂא occur in Isa. 2:9; Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 17:21; Prov. 19:18; Ezra 9:12.
  • [79] Of the 280 occurrences of the verb αἴρειν in LXX, more than half represent the underlying Hebrew verb נָשָׂא. There is a limited amount of data to analyze concerning the use of βαστάζειν in LXX, since the verb appears only a handful of times in LXX. In Ruth 2:16 βαστάζειν occurs twice, in both cases translating the Hebrew verb שָׁלַל (shālal, “draw out”). In 4 Kgdms. 18:14 βαστάζειν occurs once, translating נָשָׂא. An ancient Hebrew MS (2Q18) containing Sir. 6:25 also uses βαστάζειν to translate נָשָׂא. Note our comments concerning Job 21:3 in this paragraph.
  • [80] Lindsey, HTGM, 107.
  • [81] The verb נָטַל replaced לָקַח in MH, but there is evidence that לָקַח was still current in spoken Hebrew prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. See Moshe Bar-Asher, “Mishnaic Hebrew: An Introductory Survey,” in The Literature of the Sages (ed. Shmuel Safrai, Zeev Safrai, Joshua Schwartz, and Peter J. Tomson; CRINT II.3b; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 567-595, esp. 580.
  • [82] See Bovon, 2:27 n. 36.
  • [83] According to Black (159) the permission granted in Mark to take a staff was a reworking in Greek of an earlier version that forbade a staff. See Marshall, 352; Davies-Allison, 171; Flusser, JOC, 165 n. 40; Catchpole, “The Mission Charge in Q,” 148, 168; Bovon, 1:345. According to Beare, “it would appear to be necessary to postulate that Matthew and Luke have used in common a second source which forbade staff and sandals.” See Francis Wright Beare, “The Mission of the Disciples and the Mission Charge: Matthew 10 and Parallels,” Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (1970): 1-13, esp. 10.
  • [84] The possibility that Mark edited his source in order to allude to the departure from Egypt is discussed in Davies-Allison, 2:172 n. 23; cf. Marcus, 383, 385.
  • [85] Σανδάλιον is a diminutive of σάνδαλον. On the use of diminutive forms as characteristic of Mark’s redactional activity, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [86] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Paraphrastic Gospels.”
  • [87] See Marcus, 389.
  • [88] According to Theissen, “To renounce the staff meant renouncing the most modest means of self-defense…. Anyone who wandered through the country in this way had no choice other than to abide by Jesus’ saying, “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matt. 5:39-41).” See Gerd Theissen, Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics, and the World of the New Testament (trans. Margaret Kohl; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 47 n. 36.
  • [89] On the Hasidim and their distinctive halachah, see Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33.
  • [90] For an analysis of the various traditions about Hanina ben Dosa and the poisonous reptile, see Baruch M. Bokser, “Ḥanina ben Dosa and the Lizard: The Treatment of Charismatic Figures in Rabbinic Literature,” Proceedings of the Eighth World Congress of Jewish Studies: Division D (1982): 1-6.
  • [91] On the many commonalities shared by Jesus and the first-century Jewish pietists, see Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim.”
  • [92] See David Flusser, “‘It Is Not a Serpent That Kills,’” (Flusser, JOC, 534-551, esp. 543 n. 2).
  • [93] See Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and the Hasidim,” under the subheading “Poverty and Wealth.”
  • [94] See Beare, 82; Hagner, 1:269.
  • [95] LSJ, “ῥάβδος,” 1562.
  • [96] In LXX ῥάβδος is the translation of מַטֶּה ‎52xx: Gen. 38:18, 25; Exod. 4:2, 4, 17, 20; 7:9, 10, 12 (3xx), 15, 17, 19, 20; 8:1, 12, 13; 10:13; 14:16; 17:5, 9; Num. 17:17 (4xx), 18 (2xx), 20, 21 (5xx), 22, 23, 24 (2xx), 25; 20:8, 9, 11; 3 Kgdms. 8:1 (Alexandrinus); Ps. 109[110]:2; Isa. 9:3; 10:15; 28:27; Ezek. 7:10; 19:11, 12, 14 (2xx).
  • [97] In LXX ῥάβδος is the translation of שֵׁבֶט‎ 26xx: Exod. 21:20; Lev. 27:32; Judg. 5:14 (Alexandrinus); 2 Kgdms. 7:14; 23:21; 1 Chr. 11:23; Ps. 2:9; 22[23]:4; 44[45]:7 (2xx); 73[74]:2; 88[89]:33; 124[125]:3; Prov. 10:13; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 26:3; Job 9:34; Mic. 4:14; 7:14; Isa. 9:3; 10:5, 24; Lam. 3:1; Ezek. 20:37.
  • [98] In LXX ῥάβδος is the translation of מִשְׁעֶנֶת‎ 6xx: Exod. 21:19; Judg. 6:21; 4 Kgdms. 18:21; Zech. 8:4; Isa. 36:6; Ezek. 29:6.
  • [99] In LXX ῥάβδος is the translation of מַקֵּל‎ 15xx: Gen. 30:37 (2xx), 38, 39, 41 (2xx); 32:11; Num. 22:27; 1 Kgdms. 17:43; Hos. 4:12; Zech. 11:7, 10, 14; Jer. 31[48]:17; Ezek. 39:9.
  • [100] In the Mishnah מַטֶּה is found only once with the meaning “staff” (m. Avot 5:6), and there it refers to Moses’ staff (cf. Exod. 4:17, 20); שֵׁבֶט appears 4xx in the Mishnah with the meaning “staff” (m. Naz. 5:3 [2xx]; m. Bech. 9:7 [2xx]), but much more frequently with the meaning “tribe”; מִשְׁעֶנֶת is found only 2xx (m. Zav. 4:7), but there the meaning is not “staff.” Jastrow (857) defines מִשְׁעֶנֶת as “crutch.” By contrast, מַקֵּל occurs 24xx in the Mishnah and has the meaning “walking stick,” “staff” or “pole.” Cf. Jastrow, 831; Bendavid, 352.
  • [101] Variant versions of the halachah reported in m. Ber. 9:5 appear in the Tosefta and in the Babylonian Talmud:

    לא יכנס אדם להר הבית במעות צרורין לו בסדינו ובאבק שעל רגליו ובאפנדתו חגורה עליו מבחוץ

    A person may not enter the Temple Mount with his money tied up in a cloth, or with dust on his feet, or with his purse girded on him on the outside [of his clothing—DNB and JNT]. (t. Ber. 7:19; Vienna MS)

    תניא לא יכנס אדם להר הבית לא במקלו שבידו ולא במנעלו שברגלו ולא במעות הצרורים לו בסדינו ובפונדתו מופשלת לאחוריו

    It was taught [in a baraita]: A person may not enter the Temple Mount with his staff in his hand, or with his shoes on his feet, or with his money tied up in a cloth, or with his purse hung over his shoulder (b. Ber. 26b)

    Some scholars, pointing to m. Ber. 9:5, have suggested that the items Jesus prohibited the apostles to take on their journey were intended to demonstrate that the apostles were on a holy mission comparable to making pilgrimage to the Temple. See Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (2 vols.; London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1883; repr. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1993), 1:643; T. W. Manson, 181; See Robert E. Morosco, “Matthew’s Formation of a Commissioning Type-Scene out of the Story of Jesus’ Commissioning of the Twelve,” Journal of Biblical Literature 103.4 (1984): 539-556, esp. 555 n. 26.
    The restrictions in m. Ber. 9:5 were imposed in order that no one should use the Temple courts as a shortcut to bypass parts of the city. The only legitimate reason for visiting the Temple Mount was for worship. The prohibition against carrying travel gear on the Temple Mount was a means of ensuring the sanctity of that holy space. While the items enumerated in m. Ber. 9:5 provide useful information about normal equipment carried by travelers, it is a stretch to say on the basis of m. Ber. 9:5 that the apostles were to behave as though they were on a cultic mission. See Marshall, 352; Nolland, Luke, 1:427; France, Mark, 249 n. 19; Gundry, Matthew, 187.

  • [102] Gill may have been the first scholar to suggest that תַּרְמִיל is the equivalent of πήρα. See Gill, 7:104.
  • [103] See Davies-Allison, 2:172.
  • [104] We find πήρα in Jdt. 10:5; 13:10, 15.
  • [105] In other words, Shammai admitted that Yehonatan ben Uziel had prevailed.
  • [106] Catchpole drew attention to Gen. Rab. 60:11, which states: אם יוצא אדם לדרך ואין איסטרכיה עימו מסתגף (“If a man goes out on the road [i.e., begins a journey] and does not have with him the necessary provisions, he suffers privation”; ed. Theodor-Albeck, 2:652). See Catchpole, “The Mission Charge in Q,” 169.
  • [107] See Davies-Allison, 2:172.
  • [108] Mark’s tendency to transpose Luke’s word order was already noted by Lockton. See William Lockton, “The Origin of the Gospels,” The Church Quarterly Review 94 (1922): 216-239, esp. 217. See also David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: Mark’s Editorial Style,” under the subheading “Mark’s Freedom and Creativity.”
  • [109] See Robert L. Lindsey, “A New Approach to the Synoptic Gospels,” under the subheading “Mark Secondary to Luke.”
  • [110] For a similar example of Matthew’s weaving of sources, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L78.
  • [111] See Gundry, Matthew, 186.
  • [112] As noted above, the forbidden items in Matthew’s list were not to be acquired as gifts during the apostles’ journeys to various communities (see Comment to L63). Matthew’s context, therefore, differs slightly from the context of Mark and Luke, who mention prohibited items that were not to be taken or carried by the apostles on their journeys, presumably because the apostles were to rely on God for their sustenance, which often would have come in the form of hospitality from those communities who received them.
  • [113] Cf. BDB, 494; Jastrow, 655.
  • [114] The Mission of the Twelve in Matt. 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9 is considered Triple Tradition. The Mission of the Seventy-two in Luke 10 is unique to Luke, and is therefore not considered Triple Tradition.
  • [115] See Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Sources of the Markan Pick-ups”; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.”
  • [116] Cf., e.g., Edwin A. Abbott, The Corrections of Mark Adopted by Matthew and Luke (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1901), 113 n. 7.
  • [117] Scholars have noted that Luke told the story of Peter’s escape in such a way as to evoke the Exodus story. Not only does the story of Peter’s escape take place at Passover (Acts 12:3), Luke attributed the same motive to Herod (Agrippa)—wishing to do evil (κακοῦν, kakoun; Acts 12:1)—that LXX attributed to the Egyptians (Num. 20:15; Deut. 26:6). Also, Peter’s declaration νῦν οἶδα (“Now I know…”; Acts 12:11) is strikingly similar to Jethro’s response when he heard Moses tell of the Exodus: νῦν ἔγνων (“Now I know…”; Exod. 18:11). Luke also used vocabulary in the story of Peter’s escape from prison that recalls the description of how the Hebrew slaves were to eat the Passover lamb. For instance, τῇ νυκτὶ ἐκείνῃ (“that very night”; Acts 12:6) is similar to τῇ νυκτὶ ταύτῃ (“this night”; Exod. 12:8, 12); ἐν τάχει (“in quickness”; Acts 12:7) is reminiscent of μετὰ σπουδῆς (“with haste”; Exod. 12:11); and ζῶσαι καὶ ὑπόδησαι τὰ σανδάλιά σου (“gird yourself and strap on your sandals”; Acts 12:8) recalls αἱ ὀσφύες ὑμῶν περιεζωσμέναι, καὶ τὰ ὑποδήματα ἐν τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν (“your waists belted, and your shoes on your feet”; Exod. 12:11). See Daniel R. Schwartz, Agrippa I: Last King of Judea (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1990), 120 n. 51, n. 53.
  • [118] In LXX the noun ὑπόδημα occurs 26xx (24xx in books also included in MT); ὑπόδημα is the translation of נַעַל‎ 21xx: Gen. 14:23; Exod. 3:5; 12:11; Deut. 25:9, 10; 29:4; Josh. 5:15; 9:5, 13; Ruth 4:7, 8; 3 Kgdms. 2:5; Ps. 59[60]:10; 107[108]:10; Song 7:2; Amos 2:6; 8:6; Isa. 5:27; 11:15; Ezek. 24:17, 23.
  • [119] The noun מִנְעָל occurs 11xx in the Mishnah: m. Ber. 9:5; m. Shab. 15:2; m. Shek. 3:2; m. Betz. 1:10 (2xx); m. Yev. 12:1; 16:7; m. Ket. 5:8; m. Kel. 26:4 (2xx); m. Neg. 11:11.
  • [120] The noun סַנְדָּל occurs 37xx in the Mishnah: m. Shab. 6:2, 5; 10:3; 15:2; m. Yom. 8:1 (2xx); m. Shek. 3:2; m. Betz. 1:10; m. Taan. 1:4, 5, 6; m. Meg. 4:8; m. Yev. 12:1, 2 (2xx); m. Edu. 2:8; m. Bech. 8:1; m. Arach. 6:3, 5; m. Ker. 1:3; m. Kel. 14:5; 24:12; 26:1 (2xx), 4, 9; m. Ohol. 12:4; m. Neg. 11:11; 12:4; 13:9 (2xx); m. Par. 2:3; 8:2 (2xx); m. Mik. 10:3, 4; m. Nid. 3:4.
  • [121] The Tosefta, for instance, differentiates between a סנדל שנפחת ומקבל את רוב הרגל (“sandal that was damaged but still receives the majority of the foot”) and a מנעל שנפרם וחופה את רוב הרגל (“shoe that was torn but still covers the majority of the foot”; t. Yev. 12:8[10]). See Jastrow, 802, 1004; Zlotnick, 121 n. 12; Dafna Shlezinger-Katzman, “Clothing,” (OHJDL, 362-381, esp. 375).
  • [122] Perhaps this is because a shoe is sturdier than a sandal and therefore more suitable for travelers.
  • [123] Translation errors in LXX caused by familiarity with post-biblical Hebrew are not uncommon. See Emmanuel Tov, “The Septuagint,” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. Martin Jan Mulder; CRINT II.1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 161-188, esp. 170; Jan Joosten, “The Knowledge and Use of Hebrew in the Hellenistic Period, Qumran and the Septuagint,” in Diggers at the Well: Proceedings of a Third International Symposium on the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Ben Sira (ed. T. Muraoka and J. F. Elwolde; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 115-130, esp. 124-125.
  • [124] See Jastrow, 802. The plural of מִנְעָל occurs, for example, in the following statement:

    אין מגרדין לא מנעלים ישנים ולא סנדלים ישנים אבל סכין ומקנחין אותן

    They do not scrape either old shoes or old sandals [on the Sabbath] but they do rub them [with oil] and wipe them clean. (t. Shab. 3:15; Vienna MS)

    Zuckermandel’s edition reads לא מנעלים חדשים ולא מנעלים ישנים (“neither new shoes nor old shoes”). Cf. t. Shab. 4:11.

  • [125] Josephus mentions a slave who wore two tunics (Ant. 17:136); see Marshall, 353. The wearing of two or more tunics is also mentioned in t. Kil. 5:4[6], 10[15]; t. Nid. 3:2[5]; 7:2.
  • [126] In LXX χιτών is the translation of כְּתֹנֶת/כֻּתֹּנֶת‎ 25xx: Gen. 3:21; 37:3, 23, 31 (2xx), 32 (2xx), 33; Exod. 28:4, 39, 40; 29:5, 8; 36[39]:34[27]; 40:14; Lev. 8:7, 13; 10:5; 16:4; 2 Kgdms. 13:18, 19; 15:32; 2 Esd. 2:69 (Alexandrinus); Song 5:3; Job 30:18.
  • [127] See Jastrow, 680.
  • [128] See Jastrow, 465 (חָלוּק), ‎537‎ (טַלִּית); Shmuel Safrai, “Religion in Everyday Life” (Safrai-Stern, 793-833, esp. 797-798); David N. Bivin, “Jesus and the Oral Torah: The Hem of His Garment,” under the subheading “Two Garments”; Shlezinger-Katzman, “Clothing,” 367.
  • [129] Text and translation according to Geza Vermes and Martin D. Goodman, The Essenes According to the Classical Sources (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989), 64-65.
  • [130] See Vermes and Goodman, The Essenes, 63.
  • [131] The phrase “royal poverty” is borrowed from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Commenting on Matt. 10:9-10, Bonhoeffer wrote: “…nothing should be seen on Jesus’ messengers which would make their royal mission unclear or incredible. In royal poverty the messengers are to witness to the riches of their Lord.” See Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (ed. Geffrey B. Kelley and John D. Godsey; trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss; Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 4; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 189.
  • [132] See Nolland, Matt., 413.
  • [133] Translation according to Hope W. Hogg in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (10 vols.; ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and Allan Menzies; repr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980-1986), 10:63. On ancient and more recent attempts at harmonization, see Barnabas Ahern, “Staff Or No Staff?” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 5 (1943): 332-337.
  • [134] Cf. Marshall, 418; Catchpole, “The Mission Charge in Q,” 168.
  • [135] See Taylor, 302; Mann, 292.
  • [136] See Vermes, 276.
  • [137] Further examples are found in 1 Sam. 21:3 (= 1 Kgdms. 21:3); Hos. 4:4.
  • [138] Cf. Nolland, Matt., 418.
  • [139] On barefootedness as a sign of poverty, cf. the story of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karha in b. Shab. 152a.
  • [140] See Not Everyone Can Be Yeshua’s Disciple, Comment to L14; Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comments to L45-47, L97; Demands of Discipleship, Comment to L17.
  • [141] See David Flusser, “Jesus’ Opinion About the Essenes” (Flusser, JOC, 164-167); idem, “Jesus and the Essenes,” under the subheading “Broader Approach.”
  • [142] On the apostles as fully-trained disciples, see Choosing the Twelve, under the subheading “Results of This Research.”
  • [143] Catchpole (“The Mission Charge in Q,” 168-169) noted a striking correspondence between the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-23) and the specific items the apostles were forbidden to carry.

The Good Samaritan

This article is a sample chapter from Windows into the Bible: Cultural & Historical Insights into the Bible for Modern Readers by Marc Turnage. Reproduced on with the kind permission of the publisher.

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is perhaps one of the most well-known of Jesus’ parables. The origin of the parable derives from an exchange between Jesus and an expert in the Law. The scribe asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded to his question in a very Jewish manner with another question, asking the scribe to summarize the Law. The scribe responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul…” and Leviticus 19:18, “and your neighbor as yourself.”

Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 are two of three passages within the Old Testament that begin with the phrase וְאָהַבְתָּ (ve’āhavtā; “and you will love”). Jewish interpreters, like Jesus and Paul, connected biblical passages due to shared language between the two verses. The hermeneutical method was known as gezerah shevah. Language, not theology, drove the hermeneutic. Ancient Jewish interpreters assumed that God, who inspired the biblical writers, intended connections between passages that had shared vocabulary even if the passages came from different books. In their handling of Scripture, when they found passages that had shared vocabulary, language drove the hermeneutical method and by bringing the passages together the theological idea was birthed. Quite often, one passage was viewed as esoteric or abstract and the other passage provided a tangible, practical way to interpret the first passage. Loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength is abstract. Ancient Jewish interpreters would understand that the shared language between Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 pointed to Leviticus 19:18—“Love your neighbor who is like yourself”—providing a tangible, practical way one loved God: by loving the one created in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). The second passage interprets the first.

Deuteronomy 6:5 is part of the Shema (“Hear, O Israel”), which was recited daily by Jews in the first century (m. Berachot 1.1). Some believed that by reciting the Shema one accepted upon oneself the kingdom of heaven (m. Berachot 2.2). The second passage, Leviticus 19:18, played a central role in the developing humane spirit within ancient Judaism.[1] Certain circles identified Leviticus 19:18 as the great summary of the Torah (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8; Avot de Rabbi Nathan version B, 26; Sifra Kedoshim 45). Jesus Himself identified these two passages as the great commandments of the Torah (Matt. 22:34-30; Mark 12:28-34; see Didache 1:2).

Jesus replied to the scribe that he had answered correctly, “do this and you will live” (see Matt. 7:24-27; Matt. 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). The scribe proceeded to ask, “And who is my neighbor?” His question asked Jesus to draw a line indicating who was inside and who was outside the commandment, and thus, whom he was obligated to love.

In this video Marc Turnage discusses the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

To answer his question, Jesus told a parable based upon the third Old Testament passage that begins with וְאָהַבְתָּ (ve’āhavtā; “and you shall love”) Leviticus 19:34: “And you shall love him (the foreigner) as yourself….” This exchange demonstrates the erudition and Torah learning of Jesus, and that He functioned at the highest level of Jewish academic training. It also betrays His incredibly creative genius.

The Parable and its Spiritual Setting

Jesus’ story relates the common occurrence of a man traveling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Walking along the road, passing through the wilderness, the man fell among robbers, who beat him and left him “half-dead.” Jesus’ description of the man as “half-dead” indicates that he was on the threshold of dying. The man’s status as “half-dead” seems inconsequential to modern readers, apart from the fact that he was in desperate need of assistance. However, Jesus’ original audience would have immediately understood that in addition to the man’s dire need, his state raised concerns of ritual purity. The beaten man’s status as “half-dead” introduces the tension within Jesus’ story.

Remains of the Roman road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Photographed by Todd Bolen courtesy of
Remains of the Roman road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Photographed by Todd Bolen courtesy of

Ritual purity was a major issue within ancient Jewish spirituality.[2] It stood at the heart of many of the debates and differences of interpretation between the various streams of Jewish piety, i.e., Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The New Testament mentions that Mary and Paul both participated in acts of ritual purification due to their impurity (Luke 2:22; Acts 21:24, 26; 24:18; see also John 11:55). Anytime we find Jesus, His followers, or His family at the Jerusalem temple, we can assume that prior to ascending onto the temple platform they ritually immersed, which was required by Jewish law. Archaeological excavations near to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have uncovered a small clay seal with the inscription “Pure for the Lord.” The archaeologists have suggested that this seal represents a “ticket” that pilgrims received after immersing themselves in the ritual immersion pools (mikva’ot) around the Temple Mount for them to show the guards of the temple, proving their purity in order to enter onto the temple platform and into the sacred area.[3]

First-century C.E. seal discovered in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount with the Aramaic inscription דכא ליה ("Pure to the Lord").
First-century C.E. seal discovered in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount with the Aramaic inscription דכא ליה (“Pure to the LORD”).

Within ancient Judaism, ritual purity had nothing to do with sin. It primarily pertained to the temple, its holy things, and eating “sacred” foods. One contracted ritual impurity within the course of daily life: a woman’s menstrual period, a man and his wife after sexual relations, childbirth, contact with leprosy, and coming in contact with a corpse. None of these things were sinful; they simply made one impure so that they could not enter the sacred area of the temple and participate in certain religious ceremonies while they were impure. The Torah outlines that different actions cause different levels of ritual impurity. For example, a man and his wife after sexual relations had to bathe and were purified at sundown (Lev. 15:16-18; Deut. 22:10-12). A person who came into contact with a corpse was unclean for seven days and could only be purified by water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer (Num. 19:11-19).

Of those things that caused ritual impurity, corpse impurity was one of the more serious. According to the Torah, corpses make those who touch them and those under the same roof impure (Num. 19). As previously stated, corpse impurity was not wrong and had nothing to do with sin. Burial of the dead was considered one of the principal acts of piety within Judaism (Deut. 21:23; Tobit 1.17-20; 2.1-9; Josephus, Apion 2.211; Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). The Law of Moses, however, decreed that priests could not defile themselves for any dead among the people except for their closest relatives (Lev. 21:1-4). The Levitical command continues that a priest cannot enter where there is a dead body, even for his father and mother (Lev. 21:11; see Ezek. 44:25-27).
As Judaism developed and different streams of Jewish piety emerged, the biblical laws of purity evolved within each group, e.g., Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, and between the groups. For example, the humane spirit that emerged within Pharisaic Judaism caused the sages to question the biblical injunction that forbade a priest and a Nazirite from burying a neglected corpse.

A high priest or a Nazirite may not contract uncleanness because of their [dead] kindred, but they may contract uncleanness because of a neglected corpse (מת מצווה; mēt mitzvāh). If they were on a journey and found a neglected corpse, Rabbi Eliezer says: “The high priest may contract uncleanness but the Nazirite may not contract uncleanness.” But the sages say: “The Nazirite may contract uncleanness but the high priest may not contract uncleanness.” Rabbi Eliezer said to them: “Rather let the priest contract uncleanness for he needs not to bring an offering because of uncleanness, and let not the Nazirite contract uncleanness for he must bring an offering because of his uncleanness” (see Num. 6:19). They answered: “Rather let the Nazirite contract uncleanness, for his sanctity is not a lifelong sanctity, and let not the priest contract uncleanness, for his sanctity is a lifelong sanctity.” (m. Nazir 7.1)

It should be recognized first of all that the debate between Rabbi Eliezer (second century AD) and the sages sets aside the clear biblical command that priests cannot have contact with a corpse that was not a part of their immediate family (Lev. 21:1-4, 11; Ezek. 44:25-27). The argument assumes that care for the dead (one created in the image of God; Gen. 1:27) superseded the biblical command. This debate also shows that the actions a priest should take who came upon a corpse were not self-evident at the end of the first and beginning of the second century AD.[4] A difference of opinions existed as to how the priest should respond in this situation.

Josephus describes the Pharisees as being “naturally lenient in the matter of punishments” (Ant. 13.294). He says this in the context of describing a debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees in which the Pharisees took a more lenient stance in the application of penal law. Instead of calling for the execution of the offender, they felt he should have been beaten and imprisoned (Ant. 13.293-98). Josephus relates that the Pharisees “passed on to the people certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Laws of Moses, for which reason they are rejected by the Sadducean group, who hold that only those regulations should be considered valid which were written down (in Scripture), and that those which had been handed down by former generations need not be observed” (Ant. 13.297). Josephus here outlines a key difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees accepted the Written Law (the Old Testament) and the Oral Law (the traditions of interpretation on the Written Law orally passed down). The Sadducees, however, only accepted the Written Law, and therefore interpreted the biblical text quite literally and conservatively. Due to their more humane approach, the Pharisees tended to be more lenient regarding purity and penal laws than the Sadducees (Josephus, Ant. 20.199). In other words, as we saw with the discussion about the neglected corpse, the Pharisees could set aside the written Law with an oral law (see John 7:53-8:11). This was unacceptable to the more literal Sadducees who were stricter with regard to purity and punitive laws (Ant. 13.293-298; 20.199).

Josephus’ portrayal of the Sadducees as severely strict with regard to penal law and their adherence to a literal and strict interpretation of Scripture is remembered in the rabbinic commentary to Megillat Ta’anit, an ancient list of fast days:

“Upon the fourth of Tammuz the Book of Decrees became defunct.” For a Book of Decrees was written down and deposited with the Sadducees: “These are to be stoned, these are to be burnt, these are to be decapitated, these are to be strangled.” Were one to ask them during the session, then they showed the book; were one to ask for argumentation…then they knew not how to answer. The Sages said to them: “Is it not written, ‘According to [literally: to the mouth of] the Torah which they teach you’ (Deut. 17:11)—that teaches us that halakhot are not to be written down.” Another interpretation: “The Book of Decrees.” For the Boethusians (a group attached to the Sadducees) were accustomed to saying: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Exod. 21:24)—if someone hits another’s tooth out, then he must hit one of his out; if someone makes another’s eye blind, then he must make his eye blind, so that they are equal. (Scholion to Megillat Ta’anit, 10 Tammuz)[5]

Instead of reading the biblical commandment “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” literally as the Sadducees, the Pharisees interpreted these verses in a lenient manner, referring to financial compensation equal to the physical injury.

Large ritual immersion pool (mikveh) at the Temple Mount—possibly used by priests for their ritual washing. Photograph by Todd Bolen courtesy of
Large ritual immersion pool (mikveh) at the Temple Mount—possibly used by priests for their ritual washing. Photograph by Todd Bolen courtesy of

In the first century, prior to the destruction of the temple (AD 70), the majority of the priests and Levites belonged to the party of the Sadducees (see Acts 5:17; Josephus, Ant. 20.199; t. Parah 3.6-7).[6] The Sadducees focused upon the temple, its worship and priesthood, and a more strict understanding of purity and penal law based upon their literal, conservative interpretation of Scripture, which led them to reject the more humane spirit developing within Pharisaic circles. This Sadducean concern for purity over human life appears in a story preserved in rabbinic tradition.[7]

Our Rabbis taught: It once happened that two priests were side by side as they ran to mount the ramp [to the altar in the temple]. When one of them came first within four cubits of the altar, the other took a knife and thrust it into his heart. Rabbi Zadok stood on the steps of the Hall [leading to the interior of the temple] and proclaimed: “Our brethren of the house of Israel, listen carefully! Behold it says, ‘If one be found slain in the land…then your elders and judges shall come forth’ (Deut. 21:1). On whose behalf shall we offer the heifer whose neck is to be broken, on behalf of the city or on behalf of the Temple?” All the people burst out weeping. The father [also a priest] of the young man came and found him still in convulsions. He said: “May he be an atonement for you. My son is still in convulsions and the knife has not become unclean.” [His remark] comes to teach you that the cleanness of their vessels was of greater concern to them even than the shedding of blood. Thus it was also said: “More over Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other (2 Kings 21:16).” (b. Yoma 23a; t. Yoma 1.12)

Rather than assist the dying man, the concern of his father, a priest, centered on the purity of the knife to perform the temple service. The spirit of this tale fits with what we have seen regarding the Sadducean concern for purity and biblical literalness instead of a humane concern. It also fits the tension of Jesus’ story: the man, half-dead on the side of the road, presented a purity concern for the priest and Levite, both of whom most likely belonged to the party of the Sadducees.

The man on the side of the road was not a corpse, yet. He was “half-dead.” Pharisaic oral tradition permitted the violation of almost any commandment for the preservation of life (פִּיקוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ; piqūaḥ

Whence do we know that the duty of saving life supersedes the Sabbath laws? Rabbi Ishmael answered, “even shedding of blood, which defiles the land and causes the Shekinah to remove, is to supersede the laws of the Sabbath, how much more should the duty of saving life supersede the Sabbath law!”…Rabbi Akiva says: “If punishment for murder sets aside even the Temple service, which in turn supersedes the Sabbath, how much more should the duty of saving life supersede the Sabbath laws (see Matt. 12:1-8)!” (Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael on Exod. 31:12; see also b. Yoma 85a)

This oral tradition, however, did not fit the biblical literalness of the Sadducees and their strict concern for purity, especially for priests (Lev. 21:1-4, 11). The Hebrew term behind Luke’s Greek phrase “half-dead” was גוֹסֵס (gōsēs).[8] This refers to someone whose condition is so bad that death is most likely imminent (b. Arakhin 18a; and b. Gittin 28a). Pharisaic tradition afforded the same legal status to a dying man (גוֹסֵס; gōsēs) as to a living man (Semahot 1.1). The Sadducees and their concerns for purity, however, would not have embraced this humane spirit that saw in the dying man the image of God.

This explains the priest’s and Levite’s avoidance in helping the man. If they helped him, and he died, they would have become ritually impure from contact with a corpse, which was forbidden according to the Law of Moses (Lev. 21:1-4, 11; Ezek. 44:25-27). Herein lies the tension of the parable: purity and the Law of God versus the needs of the human individual.

The Samaritan

The tension between Jews and Samaritans in the first century is well known (War 2.232-49; Ant. 18.29-30; 20.118-36; Luke 9:52-53; John 4:9; and m. Rosh Hashanah 2.2). Samaritans at times waylaid and harassed Galilean pilgrims to Jerusalem (Ant. 20.118-36; Luke 9:52-53). Interpretations of Jesus’ parable usually focus only on these cultural tensions for understanding the appearance of the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable.

A question as to the legal status of Samaritans existed within ancient Judaism. Were Samaritans considered Jews, half-Jews, or Gentiles? Differences of opinion existed within Judaism (Ant. 11.341; t. Terumot 4.12, 14; see also Ben Sira 50:26; b. Hullin 6a).[9] Jesus belonged to those Jews who viewed Samaritans as Gentiles. Luke records an event where Jesus healed ten lepers, one of whom was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-19). Of the ten, only the Samaritan returned to thank Jesus. Jesus responded, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner (ἀλλογενὴς; allogenēs)” (Luke 17:17-18)?

A view of Mount Gerizim from the city of Shechem photographed by David Bivin. This photograph belongs to the collection Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin.
A view of Mount Gerizim from the city of Shechem photographed by David Bivin. This photograph belongs to the collection Views That Have Vanished: The Photographs of David Bivin.

Jesus’ description of the Samaritan as a “foreigner” indicates that He viewed Samaritans as equal to Gentiles. Within the Jerusalem temple, the outer court was separated from the sacred area by a low wall, the balustrade, and on this wall, were inscriptions in Greek and Latin that warned foreigners, Gentiles, not to pass that point or they would forfeit their lives (War 5.193-94; Ant. 15.417). Paul was arrested due to a riot that broke out in the temple because it was believed he took Trophimus the Ephesian past the barrier (Acts 21:26-36; see also Eph. 2:14). Archaeological excavations in Jerusalem in 1871 and 1935 uncovered two copies of the Greek inscription from this wall, which begins “No foreigner (ἀλλογενὴ; allogenē) is to enter within the balustrade….”[10] This inscription used the same Greek term to describe all foreigners that is used in Luke to describe the Samaritan who returned to give thanks. Jesus’ identification of Samaritans as Gentiles becomes an important detail to the thrust of His story.

To the lawyer’s summary of the Torah, citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, Jesus told a story in response to the lawyer’s follow-up question, “And who is my neighbor,” built off the third verse that begins “and you will love”: Leviticus 19:34, “And you shall love him (the stranger) as yourself.”[11] In the parable, the Samaritan behaves according to the Leviticus 19:34 passage. The Samaritan, a foreigner, acts to save the life of the half-dead man, a Jew. The Samaritan loved the foreigner (the man on the road) as himself. His actions stand in stark contrast to the priest and Levite, whose concern for ritual purity led them to pass by the one dying on the roadside.

The rhetorical punch of Jesus’ story is not simply the tensions between Jews and Samaritans. Rather, He portrays even a Gentile knowing and acting in a manner to save human life, something the religious elite would not do because of their strict concern for purity. The Samaritan, a Gentile, behaved in accordance with the Torah (Rom. 2:14), while the priest and the Levite missed the heart of the Torah.

Jesus would often use Gentiles in both positive and negative ways for rhetorical contrast in His teachings (Matt. 5:47; 6:7; Luke 7:9; and 12:30). When He taught in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), He used two examples of God showing mercy to Gentiles, those outside the covenant community (Luke 4:25-27), as a means of demonstrating that God does not distinguish to whom He shows mercy, and neither should Jesus’ listeners (see Matt. 5:45-48). In this parable, the Gentile Samaritan, not the priest and Levite, exemplified Leviticus 19:34.[12]

The parable came as a response to the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” He wanted Jesus to draw a circle defining who is inside, and therefore the neighbor I must love, and who is outside. Jesus, by using Leviticus 19:34, ingeniously turned the lawyer’s question on its head: “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Jesus refused to allow the man to draw a circle defining insiders and outsiders. His response: be the neighbor. Jesus viewed God as showing no partiality to His creation in His mercy:

For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust…. You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:45-48).[13]

For Jesus, God does not distinguish in His mercy, and neither should we!

Theology of the Parable

In the centuries leading up to the first century, Judaism experienced a theological revolution that evolved into a new sensitivity of the value of the human individual.[14] Two biblical verses stood at the heart of this revolution: Leviticus 19:18, which came to be read, “Love your neighbor who is like yourself” and Genesis 1:27, “In the image of God created He them.” Human beings bear the image of God and, therefore, have intrinsic value. Moreover, in the manner in which I treat a person created in the image of God, who is like myself, God will respond to me.

The scribe Jesus ben Sira, writing at the beginning of the second century BC, stated, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray. Does anyone harbor anger against another, and expect healing from the Lord? If one has no mercy toward another like himself, can he then seek pardon for his own sins?” (Sir. 28:2-4). In the book of Jubilees, written around the same time as Ben Sira, we find, “And among yourselves, my sons, be loving of your brothers as a man loves himself, with each man seeking for his brother what is good for him, and acting together on the earth, and loving each other as themselves” (Sir. 36:4). Rabbi Shimon ben Eleazar said, “This word: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ has been proclaimed with a ‘great oath’: I—the Lord, have created him (i.e., your neighbor). If you love him, I can be relied upon to reward you, but if you do not love him—I can be relied upon to visit my judgment on you” (Avot de Rabbi Nathan version A, 16).

Although this humane spirit began to emerge in the centuries prior to Jesus, it was not wholly embraced within Judaism. To many, this new sensitivity would have seemed like heresy. Judaism eventually came to accept this humane approach as the heart of its moral philosophy, but that only came after three devastating and tragic revolts in the first and second centuries AD. Jesus embraced this emerging Jewish humanism and its emphasis upon the value of the human individual, as well as God acting toward us in the manner we act toward others. He stood on the cutting edge of this developing new sensitivity, and in a time of great ethnic, social, and religious tension, He exhibited the boldness to make the radical leap: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

The question of the lawyer in Luke 10:29 sought to further clarify who is my neighbor. Jesus answered this question by building a parable upon Leviticus 19:34 and making the hero of the parable a Samaritan, someone outside of the Jewish community, who showed mercy (Luke 10:37) towards one like himself. In response to Jesus’ question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” the lawyer replied, “The one who showed (literally, did) mercy with him.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan as depicted in the sixth-century Rossano Gospels manuscript. This depiction is an example of an allegorical interpretation according to which Jesus himself plays the part of the Good Samaritan. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The parable of the Good Samaritan as depicted in the sixth-century C.E. Rossano Gospels manuscript. This depiction is an example of an allegorical interpretation according to which Jesus himself plays the part of the Good Samaritan. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The new sensitivity created a certain tension because of the emphasis it placed upon the value of the “one” to God (Luke 15:1-10; m. Sanhedrin 4.5). The needs, then, of a single human being can run in conflict with religious obligation, like ritual purity and Sabbath. This is the tension of the parable of the Good Samaritan. For Jesus, the needs of the one created in the image of God supersede the commands of purity. A similar tension, although concerning the Sabbath, is reflected in the story of Abba Tahnah, the Hasid:

Abba Tahnah, the Hasid, was entering his city on the Sabbath-eve at dusk with his bundle slung over his shoulder, when he met a man afflicted with boils lying at the cross-roads. The latter said to him, “Rabbi, do me an act of charity and carry me into the city.” He remarked, “If I abandon my bundle, from where shall I and my household support ourselves? But if I abandon this afflicted man I will forfeit my life!” What did he do? He allowed the Good Inclination to master the Evil Inclination, and carried the afflicted man into the city. He then returned for his bundle and entered at sunset. Everybody was astonished and exclaimed, “Is this Abba Tahnah, the Hasid?” He too felt uneasy in his heart and said, “Do you think that I perhaps desecrated the Sabbath?” At that time the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the sun to shine, as it is written, “But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise (Mal. 3:20).” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 9:7)

Abba Tahnah acted mercifully to the one hurt along the side of the road, and, therefore, God extended the day so that he would not break the Sabbath. This is indicative of the new sensitivity. But not everyone accepted this humane spirit in the first century. The Sadducees, with their literal reading of Scripture and strict adherence to ritual and penal laws, did not embrace the value of the “one.” And this is the contrast of Jesus’ parable. The priest and Levite acted to rigidly protect their ritual purity; the Samaritan, a Gentile, acted in a humane manner.

Shimon the Righteous, a sage who lived in the third century BC, stated, “On three things the world stands: on the Torah, on the Temple service, and on deeds of loving-kindness” (m. Avot 1:2). The order of the three indicates their priority according to Shimon, so for him, Torah study was preeminent but the temple service superseded deeds of loving-kindness. The attitude reflects that of the priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable: their ritual duty, their calling, was more important than the needs of the human individual. For Jesus, however, something greater than the temple existed (Matt. 12:6): the needs of the human individual and our need before God to show mercy towards others like ourselves.[15]

Windows Into the Bible


This article is just one chapter of Marc Turnage’s, Windows into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights into the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2016). If you enjoyed this chapter, be sure to check out the entire book!


  • [1] David Flusser, “A New Sensitivity in Judaism and the Christian Message,” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 469-89; and Marc Turnage, “Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds That of the Scribes and Pharisees” in Windows into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights into the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, Mo.: Logion, 2016).
  • [2] Shmuel Safrai, “Religion in Everyday Life,” in The Jewish People in the First Century (2 vols.; ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 2:828.
  • [3] See Eli Shukron, “Did Herod Build the Foundations of the Western Wall?” in City of David Studies of Ancient Jerusalem. The 13th Annual Conference (Jerusalem: Megalim, 2012), 13-26.
  • [4] Thomas Kazen, Issues of Impurity in Early Judaism (Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series 45; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2010), 146.
  • [5] Vered Noam, Megillat Ta’anit. Versions, Interpretation, History with a Critical Edition (Jerusalem: Yad ben-Zvi Press, 2003), 78-79, 211-14 [Hebrew].
  • [6] Menahem Stern, “Aspects of Jewish Society: The Priesthood and Other Classes,” in The Jewish People in the First Century (2 vols.; ed. Shmuel Safrai and Menahem Stern; Philadelphia: Fortress), 2:596-612.
  • [7] See Brad Young, The ParablesParables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1998), 113.
  • [8] Young, The Parables, 111-13.
  • [9] Gedalyahu Alon, Jews, Judaism and the Classical World (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1977), 354-73.
  • [10] See Cotton, Di Segni, Eck, et al., eds. Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae. Volume 1, Jerusalem, 42-45.
  • [11] See also R. Steven Notley and Jeffery P. Garcia, “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible,” in The Language Environment of First-Century Judaea (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 362-66.
  • [12] There is a certain irony in the parable, for although Jesus considered Samaritans as Gentiles, they had the Five Books of Moses as their Bible with certain Samaritan readings. The Samaritans, more or less, had the same Bible as the Sadducees, yet only the Samaritan acted in accordance with Leviticus 19:34.
  • [13] “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful” Luke 6:36.
  • [14] Flusser, “A New Sensitivity,” 469-89; Marc Turnage, “Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds That of the Scribes and Pharisees” in Windows Into the Bible; idem, “Who’s Image?” Enrichment Journal (Summer, 2011): 116; idem, “The Three Pillars of Jesus’ Faith,” Enrichment Journal (Fall, 2001): 100.
  • [15] Many interpreters of Matthew 12:6 assume that, when Jesus’ spoke about “something greater” than the temple, He referred to Himself, particularly in light of His statement, “The son
    of man is lord of the Sabbath.” There are two problems with this interpretation: (1) the Greek of Matthew 12:6 for “something greater” is in the neuter case, and therefore, cannot refer to Jesus, which would have been in the masculine case. Charity towards others fits the neuter case. (2) Jesus’ statement about the “son of man is lord of the Sabbath” does not refer to Jesus either as the parallel in Mark makes clear: “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” The son of man in this instance is the common use of the term in Hebrew meaning “a human being” (see Psalm 8). In the Gospels, Jesus used the term son of man in three ways: (1) meaning a human being, the everyman, (2) as part of the Passion predictions, and (3) to speak about the future end-of-days judge. Quite simply, the only one of these three meanings that makes sense in the context of Matthew 12:6 is “the everyman.” The son of man is not a messianic title. Moreover, we find an exact parallel to the Markan statement, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” in the earliest rabbinic commentary on Exodus, the Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, which verifies my reading of the sentence that “the son of man (i.e., a human being) is lord of the Sabbath.” This statement, too, is not about Jesus; see “One Is Here Greater Than the Temple” in my Windows into the Bible, 387-98.

Parables on the Character of God

R. Steven Notley is co-author with Ze’ev Safrai of Parables of the Sages (Jerusalem: Carta, 2011).

<i>Jerusalem Perspective is excited to announce that in the coming months Dr. R. Steven Notley will be sharing a series of blogs on Jesus’ parables with our readers. In anticipation of these blogs, and as a preview of what we might expect from Dr. Notley, we are sharing two sermons on the parables that Dr. Notley delivered to the Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem. Enjoy!



Matthew 18:21-35: The Unforgiving Servant (16-Jan.-2016)

In this sermon Dr. Notley discusses how the concept of creation in the image of God came into its own in the Second Temple period and how this concept gave rise to new ways of thinking about human relationships to God and neighbor. On the one hand, human beings are to emulate God’s attribute of mercy in our relations to one another. On the other hand, God will relate to us the way we relate to one another.


Luke 15:11-32: The Generous Father (1-Feb.-2010)

This sermon is a new take on the Prodigal Son parable, in which Dr. Notley points out that neither son understood their father’s unconditional love.

Unforgiving Servant
Domenico Fetti, Parable of the Wicked Servant, oil on canvas (ca. 1620). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Video Clip: David Pileggi on “Jesus the Sin Fearer”

In this video, excerpted from his lecture “Jesus the Sin Fearer,” delivered at the 2006 Jerusalem Perspective Conference, “Insights into Jesus of Nazareth: His Words, His Wisdom, His World,” David Pileggi describes the first-century Jewish pietists known as the Hasidim and discusses their influence on Jesus’ teachings.

JP-Conference-LogoThe complete lecture, along with the rest of the presentations delivered at the 2006 Jerusalem Perspective conference, is available through the En-Gedi Resource Center. To purchase the lectures in audio MP3 format, or to purchase video recordings of the lectures included in an 8 DVD set, click here.











“Treasure in Heaven”: Examining an Ancient Idiom for Charity

For my brother, Jeff, whose charity towards me was always done with a “good heart;” truly he has stored his “treasure in heaven.”


The growing value placed on charity in the first century C.E. cannot be overstated.[1] As a new sensitivity developed within Judaism that challenged the compensatory “blessings and curses” paradigm of the Hebrew Bible (cf. Deut. 28) as a basis to serve God, so there was a shifting emphasis towards altruistic love[2] embodied in the Levitical commandment, “…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself (וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יי; Lev. 19:18).” This unique relationship between serving God without care of reward—that “the fear of heaven [God] be upon you” (m. Avot 1:3)—and loving your neighbor as yourself, that is, one who is like you[3] is reflected in contemporary linguistic-based exegesis that pairs Deut. 6:5 with Lev. 19:18.[4]

And you shall love the Lord with all you heart, soul, and might. וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶךָ (Deut. 6:5)…. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יי…. (Lev. 19:18)[5]

What comes to be known as the dual-commandment—which is preserved elsewhere in Second Temple Jewish literature (e.g., T. Iss 5:2)—is attested in the New Testament as part of Jesus’ reply to the question, “what is the greatest commandment” (e.g., Mark 12:18-35; Luke 10:25-28).[6] Along with these novel developments in the religious perspective of Judaism came parallel linguistic developments. In Hebrew, and Greek (when the Greek is a translation of a Hebrew base-text), the term “righteousness” (Hb. צְדָקָה [Jastrow 1903, 1063]; Gk. δικαιοσύνη [cf. Matt. 6:1]) begins to be utilized idiomatically as “charity” (e.g., Tob. 4:7, 14:2).[7] Among the changing semantic parameters of specific Hebrew and Greek terms, there was a developing conception, which eventually developed into another idiomatic expression for charity. Jewish authors in the generations preceding the life and ministry of Jesus began to utilize the idea of laying up treasure before God, or in heaven, to indicate the giving of alms. Eventually, this concept developed into the phrase “treasure in heaven,” which is attested five times in the New Testament, and is the focal point of this article.

Storing Treasure and the Language Charity in Jewish Literature

Before continuing, however, a contextualization of storing “treasure” in heaven (that is with God) is warranted. Anderson has suggested that the initial impetus for this expressions derives from a Second Temple understanding of Prov. 10:2, “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness (וּצְדָקָה) delivers from death.”[8] As noted above, to the readers of Prov. in the Greco-Roman period, “righteousness” would have been understood to mean charity. This exegesis of Prov. is also attested in Tobit, a Jewish work written between the 3rd and 2nd century B.C.E.:

If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. So you will be laying up a good treasure (θησαυρίζεις) for yourself against the day of necessity. For charity (ἐλεημοσύνη) delivers from death and keeps you from entering the darkness (Tob. 4:9-10, emphasis added).[9]

One of the commandments, which Tobit stresses to his son Tobias, is the importance of providing for the poor.

Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold (καλὸν ποιῆσαι ἐλεημοσύνην ἢ θησαυρίσαι χρυσίον; Tobit 12:8)

The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, a work that details Jacob’s final testimony to his twelve sons, juxtaposes charity with storing treasure: “Do charity (δικαιοσύνην; lit. righteousness), therefore, my children, upon the earth, that you find it in heaven (ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς; T. Levi 13:5).” 2 Enoch, a work that likely originates in the Second Temple period but attains the form as it is known now at a much later period, depicts the individual that is willing to spend gold or silver on behalf of his brother as storing treasure, “Whoever of you spends gold or silver for his brother’s sake, he will receive ample treasure in the world to come” (2 Enoch 50:5).[10] Ben Sira, a work originally written in Hebrew, is likely the inspiration for the expression “treasure in heaven”:[11]

Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. Store up almsgiving in your treasury (or storehouse), and it will rescue you from all affliction…(σύγκλεισον ἐλεημοσύνην[12] ἐν τοῖς ταμιείοις σου, καὶ αὕτη ἐξελεῖταί σε ἐκ πάσης κακώσεως). (Sir. 29:11-12)

Anderson notes regarding Tobit and Ben Sira,

the power of almsgiving to save the generous soul from any imaginable danger that might confront him in this world. The figure of Tobit followed a similar strategy. But rather than providing us with several different metaphors for rendering the ides of being ‘delivered from death,’ he gave us just one: almsgiving delivers from death and ‘keeps you from going into Darkness.[13]

The best exposition on this concept appears in the Tosefta, a Rabbinic supplement to Mishnah. During the first century C.E. there was a famine in Jerusalem; Monobazus,[14] the king of Adiabene, a convert to Judaism decided to open the royal coffers in order to feed the hungry. His family members immediately protested that he had given away their inheritance. To their protests, Monobazus responded:

My ancestors stored treasures for this lower [part], but I have stored up treasures above…my ancestors stored up treasures where [human] hand can reach, but I have stored up treasures where [human], hand cannot reach, as it says [in Scripture], Righteousness and justice[15] (צדקה ומשפט) are the foundation of your throne [Psalm 89:14]…. My ancestors stored up treasures in this world, but I have stored treasures in the world to come (אבותי גנזו אוצרות בעולם הזה ואני גנזתי לעולם הבא), as it says [in Scripture], And your righteousness (צדקך) shall go before you [Isa. 58:8]…. (t. Peah 4:18)[16]

The interpretation ascribed to Monobazus of Ps. 89:14 and Isa. 58:8 reflect the understanding of “righteousness” with charity. Although the connection between “righteousness” and caring for hungry and the afflicted can already be seen in Isa. 58, “…righteousness (צִדְקֶךָ) shall go before you…if you give yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted (וְתָפֵק לָרָעֵב נַפְשֶׁךָ וְנֶפֶשׁ נַעֲנָה תַּשְׂבִּיעַ), then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday…” The Tosefta is likely pointing the reader to the larger Isaianic context, which is perhaps even the inspiration for Tobit’s, “for charity…keeps you from entering the darkness (Tob. 4:10).”

The Gospels, Charity, and the Kingdom

There are five texts in the NT that preserve the idiom “treasure in heaven.”

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth (Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (θησαυρίζετε δὲ ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ),[17] where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-20)

Matthew’s lack of explanation for what the expression “treasure in heaven” means assumes that his readers will naturally understand its idiomatic usage. The second text, which accounts for three attestations of “treasure in heaven(s),” is The pericope of the Rich Young Ruler:

And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in [the] heaven (θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς[18] ); and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. (Matt. 19:16-22)

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ); and come, follow me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in [the] heaven (θησαυρὸν ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς); and come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. (Luke 18:18-23)

The final text is part of a extended Lukan teaching on charity.

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail (θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς), where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

The teaching begins in Luke 12:13, where Jesus is asked to weigh in on the question of a brother’s inheritance. Jesus responds in familiar style with a parable, specifically the “Parable of the Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-21). Before the parable, Jesus issues a stern warning, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (v 15). The moral of the parable is closely connected with focus of this study, “So is he [i.e. the fool] who lays up treasure for himself (οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ), and is not rich toward God” (v 21, emphasis added). Luke 12:22-31 (=Matt. 6:25-34), the “Anxieties about Earthly Things” pericope, is the second part of this Lukan teaching on charity. The context of the passage in Luke is not simply about anxiety, but instead not concerning oneself with what one will drink, eat, or how one will clothe him/herself. The assumption of the Lukan (and Matthean) text is that the individual who lacks these vital items has given them to those who are in need. The support for this reading is punctuated by the final statement of the pericope, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (=his charitableness towards you), and all these things shall be yours as well” (cf. 12:33). Further, the final portion of Luke 12 seems to support this reading as well,

for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens (Πωλήσατε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα ὑμῶν καὶ δότε ἐλεημοσύνην ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς βαλλάντια μὴ παλαιούμενα, θησαυρὸν ἀνέκλειπτον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ὅπου κλέπτης οὐκ ἐγγίζει οὐδὲ σὴς διαφθείρει ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρὸς ὑμῶν, ἐκεῖ καὶ ἡ καρδία ὑμῶν ἔσται). (Luke 12:32-34)

Here again, as in the Matthean parallel,[19] the kingdom and the storing of “treasure in heaven” (in Matt., “righteousness” [both of which mean charity]) are linked. The connection between the two will help us to shed light on the manner which Jesus employed the term “treasure in heaven” in his teaching and its meaning within his ministry. The “Kingdom of Heaven”[20] is a disputed topic among NT scholars. Suggestions as to the function of the kingdom have spanned the spectrum from political, ethical, to eschatological. Sanders who allows for the present reality of the kingdom, sides with the prevailing “primarily eschatological” function that now embodies modern NT research[21] Flusser contends,

…the kingdom of heaven is not only the eschatological rule of God that has dawned already, but a divinely willed movement that spreads among people throughout the earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is not simply a matter of God’s kingship, but also the domain of his rule, an expanding realm embracing ever more and more people, a realm where into which one may enter and find one’s inheritance, a realm where there are both great and small.[22]

Young, discussing the present reality of the kingdom, states that the Kingdom of God comes from God alone, it is a driving force in that it brings healing to suffering humanity.[23] To this it appears that “according to Jesus and the Rabbis, the kingdom of heaven emerges, indeed, out of the power of God, but it is realized upon earth by men.[24] While the kingdom—a thoroughly Rabbinic concept—might have an eschatological function in Jesus’ ministry, the vast majority of “kingdom” sayings have to do with the here and now (e.g., Luke 17:21), while others appear to deal with the contemporary hopes of redemption (cf. Luke 21:31). In fact, we have several texts that pair the kingdom of God with healing (e.g., Luke 9:2, 10:9) and the “preaching of good news” (e.g., Luke 8:1, 16:16; Acts 8:12), whose Greek verb, εὐαγγελίζω should draw our attention back to its Hebrew equivalent, מְבַשֵּׂר (“bringer of good tidings,” Isa. 41:27). These so-called good tidings appear to involve the establishment of justice (Isa. 42:1) and the healing of those afflicted (Isa. 7-8), among whom the poor and the needy are numbered (Isa. 41:17). That said, it appears the primary driving force of the Kingdom of God, which is realized by humanity, is to bring justice and healing to those afflicted. It is not surprising, then, that “righteousness” (=charity) is associated with the kingdom of heaven in the Gospels.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ (δικαιοσύνης) sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν; Matt. 5:10).[25] For I tell you, unless your righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν; Matt. 5:20). But seek first his kingdom (τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ [Tisch]) and his righteousness (δικαιοσύνην), and all these things shall be yours as well (Matt. 6:33).

This appears to perhaps have its genesis in the redemptive/messianic speculation of Isaiah,

 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore (לְמַרְבֵּה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין־קֵץ עַל־כִּסֵּא דָוִד וְעַל־מַמְלַכְתּוֹ לְהָכִין אֹתָהּ וּלְסַעֲדָהּ בְּמִשְׁפָּט וּבִצְדָקָה מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם קִנְאַת יי צְבָאוֹת תַּעֲשֶׂה־זֹּאת׃ דָּבָר שָׁלַח אֲדֹנָי בְּיַעֲקֹב וְנָפַל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל). (Isa. 9:6-7).[26]

It is in Luke 12 that we find a connection between the God’s willingness to give the kingdom and the selling of one’s possessions in order to distribute it amongst the poor, “for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves…” (Luke 12:32-33). By selling one’s possession and by giving alms, one can store up “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail” (v. 34). Thus, it appears that storing treasure in heaven, that is, giving alms, is crucial part of being given, and receiving, the kingdom. As an aside, it should also be noted that the statement, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34=Matt. 6:21), likely reflects contemporary ideas regarding the “good heart.” The “good heart” (לב טוב) is often understood to be that person, who gives mercifully to those in need,

Now I will declare to you what I did. I saw a person who was in distress in nakedness during winter, and had compassion upon him, and stole away clothing from my house, and gave it secretly to him who was in distress. Therefore you also, my children, from that which God provides you, with unwavering compassion show mercy to all, and provide for every person with a good heart (ἀδιακρίτως πάντας σπλαγχνιζόμενοι ἐλεᾶτε, καὶ παρέχετε παντὶ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐν ἀγαθῇ καρδίᾳ).” (T. Zeb 7:1-2)

To this we might add, “Therefore guard yourselves, my children, from all jealousy and envy, and walk in generosity of soul and in goodness of heart…” (TSim 4:5). Thus, the ending of the Lukan teaching on charity sheds partial light on Jesus’ use of the “treasure in heaven” and unique value into the growth of the kingdom of God on earth—a kingdom that is realized by what humanity does to their fellow.

Charity, the Hasid, and the Hasidim

Illustration by N. C. Wyeth from 1911 edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Illustration by N. C. Wyeth from 1911 edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

We should add that the larger context of Luke 12 appears to imply that selling one’s possession involves selling “all” and distributing it amongst the poor and needy, which accords with Jesus’ response to the rich young man in Luke 18, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor.” Otherwise, had the almsgiver been expected to retain any possession in Luke 12 or Matt. 6, why would the reader be instructed to depend on God to cloth or feed him (v. 28)? In other words, the individual described in Luke 12:22-31 (and Matt. 6) depicts someone who has given all and must utterly depend on God. The same holds true for vv. 32-34. The individual who has given all in charity is he who has a “good heart” and has truly stored his treasure in heaven rather than on earth as the fool does “who lays up treasure for himself…” (cf. 16-21). Therefore, Jesus’ statement to “sell all (πάντα) that you have…” (Luke 18:22=Mark 10:21=Matt. 19:21) fits neatly within Jesus’ message regarding the kingdom of heaven. Still, the peculiarity of the demand to “sell all” is unique, since it goes beyond what becomes the normative Rabbinic prohibition against giving more than one-fifth of one’s possessions to charity—a requirement that appears to have its roots in the first century B.C.E. (cf. Tob. 4:8). Anderson, however, has related Jesus’ so-called radical command to “sell all” to both the Mishnaic statement regarding those things that have no measure (i.e. no limit; שֶׁאֵין לָהֶן שֵׁיעוּר) and the “heroic almsgiving” of later Christianity.[27] The Mishnaic statement in tractate Peah (4:19), which describes those things that have no measure: peah,[28] first fruits offering, pilgrim’s offering, acts of loving-kindness, and Torah study. The only item on the list that involves, in some sense, charity in the form of alms are “acts of loving-kindness” (גְמִילוּת חֶסֶד). These acts of loving-kindness (also גמילות חסדים ) appear to be an umbrella term for several things, among which charity (צְדָקָה) is included. Even still the Tosefta draws a line of distinction between charity and acts of loving-kindness,

Charity and acts of loving-kindness outweigh all other commandments that are in the Torah except that charity is for the living and acts of loving-kindness are for the living and the dead; charity is for the poor, [while] acts of loving-kindness are the for the poor and the rich; charity [helps] with one’s finances, [while] acts of loving-kindness [helps] one’s financial and physical needs (‏צדקה וגמילות חסדים שקולין כנגד כל מצות שבתורה אלא שהצדק’ בחיים גמילות חסדי’ בחיים ובמתים צדקה בעניים גמילות חסדים בעניים ובעשירים צדקה בממונו גמילות חסדים בממונו ובגופו׃). (t. Peah 4:19; author’s translation).

It is worth noting, that within the list of those things in the Mishnah that have no limit, charity is not specifically mentioned. In fact the toseftan passage indicates that charity served specific function and can be seen in distinction to acts of loving-kindness.[29] Furthermore, having “no measure” is not the same as “giving all.” Anderson is right to note that the demand to “give all” is part of demands of kingdom of heaven, as we have discussed,[30] but the Mishnaic statement provides little to no help to understand the radical nature of Jesus’ statement. So our search to understand Jesus peculiar demand moves us away from the Mishnaic statement, as argued by Anderson, but not from ancient Judaism. Rabbinic literature preserves narratives of individuals who go beyond the legal requirements regarding charity. In fact, Anderson himself, utilizes one such story to show that some went beyond the determined limits, but misses a key aspect to unlocking Jesus’ statement. The story involves R. Eliezer ben Bartota,

Whenever the collectors of charity caught sight of R. Eleazar b. Bartota they would hide themselves from him, because he was in the habit of giving away to them all that he had. One day he was going to the market to buy wedding garments for his daughter. When the collectors of charity caught sight of him they hid themselves from him. He ran after them and said to them: “I adjure you, [tell me] on what mission are you engaged?” And they replied: “[The marriage of] an orphaned pair.” He said to then: “I swear, they must take precedence over my daughter.” And he took all that he had and gave to them. He was left with one zuz and with this he bought wheat which he deposited in the granary. When his wife returned to the house she asked her daughter, “what did your father bring home?” She replied, “He has put in the granary all that he had bought.” She thereupon went to open the door of the granary and she found that it was so full of wheat that the wheat protruded through the hinges of the door-socket and the door would not open on account of this. The daughter then went to the Beth-Hamidrash and said to him [her father], “Come and see what your Friend has done for you.” Whereupon he said to her, “I swear, they shall be to you as devoted property, and you shall have no more right to share in them than any poor person in Israel” (b. Ta’an 24a).

Eliezer is so used to giving all he has that the charity collectors hide from him. When he confronts them and finds out why they are collecting, Eliezer is of the opinion that the two orphans who are in need of money to get married take precedence over his daughter who has a family. This is despite the fact that his purpose with going out that day was to buy his own daughter wedding garments. With the remaining one zuz—a very small amount of money—he buys what wheat he can afford only for it to be multiplied in abundance after he heads to study. When informed by his daughter about this blessing, he proclaims that even what he has been blessed with will go to the poor. Thus, Eliezer gives all that he has to charity. Elsewhere, a dictum attributed to him is generally interpreted to reflect a unique view of charity, “R. Eleazar of Bartota says, ‘Give him [God] what is his, for you and yours are his:’ ‘For so does it say about David, For all things come of you, and of your own have we given you’ (1 Chron. 29:14)” (m. Avot 3:7a). In other words, you should give all you have to charity (which is equal to giving to God, cf. Matt. 25:31-46) since all you have is God’s because all comes from him. In the same tractate, the individual who says, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours,” this is a truly pious man (m. Avot 5:10). In other words, the truly pious individual reserved nothing for himself but gives all. The Hebrew term used for “the pious one” here is חָסִיד. During the first century there was a group of Jewish pietists known as the Hasidim or anshei maaseh (men of action). They were known in particular as miracle workers, whose style of prayer found popularity amongst public (m. Ber. 5:1, 5:5). This group appeared to exist on the fringe of the houses of study (beth hamidrashim or beth midrashim) and some tension with the larger Rabbinic class existed—although some rabbis were themselves Hasidim.[31] One of the unique qualities of this group is their emphasis on living lives of poverty,

In Hasidic thought, penury (poverty) is considered the ideal state that leads to all the other positive and praiseworthy qualities of character. Moreover, the stories about Hasidim usually stress their poverty. Rabbinic sources, on the other hand, generally mention the poverty of sages only during especially difficult times economically…[32]

and contrastingly, “the pietists emphasize derekh eretz [i.e. proper behavior], that is, concern for societal needs and care of the needy.”[33] Utilizing the talmudic narrative of Eliezer b. Bartota, who was likely a Hasid—as defined by m. Avot 5:10—in order to shape a general picture of these Jewish pietists, whatever the Hasid receives, even if through divine blessing, is given back to poor as charity. Very little if anything is retained, and all is given, with the knowledge that God will provide for the needs of that Hasid, and perhaps even his disciples, a la Luke 12 and Matt. 6. If Jesus belonged to this group of pietists—as we and others suggest—then his demand that his followers give all of their possessions to charity is no longer peculiar but rather a reflection of a distinct stream of Jewish piety that flourished in the first century C.E.[34]


Returning to the focal point of our study, once again, Jesus’ teaching reflects the novel developments, which occurred within the landscape of Second Temple Jewish thought in the years prior to his birth; in particular, “that altruistic, social love achieved the highest value index by being considered the very essence of Judaism.”[35] Luke’s extended teaching on charity (c. 12) and the pericope of Rich Young Man (c. 18), when examined in light of Second Temple Judaism, provide a historical and cultural context for Jesus’ use of the term “treasure in heaven.” As noted above, in extra-biblical Jewish texts the concept of storing up treasure with God is clearly associated with almsgiving. In some cases this laying up of treasure appears to protect from death and perhaps even the Day of Judgment (Tob. 4). Almsgiving, however, takes on a special significance in Jesus’ ministry and such is partially described with idiomatic expression “treasure in heaven.” But this phraseology is not simply a monetary donation but, quite distinctly, involves the selling of all of one’s possessions and distributing it to the poor. Moreover, a comparison with other Hasidim reveals why Jesus told the Rich Young Man to sell “all” that he had. While this ran contrary to the limits set by the Rabbis, the “heroic almsgiving” was not unique to Jesus or what would later become Christianity, as contended by Anderson, but instead was part of the Hasidic stream of Jewish piety that chose a life of austerity and asceticism. This austere life of the Hasid appeared to emphasize caring for the poor, so much so that what one receives, even if miraculously given, is returned in full to those in need. Yet, for Jesus, storing “treasure in heaven” played one more important role in that it allows the kingdom of heaven on earth—God’s present rule that is intended to bring healing to the afflicted—to be realized by humanity through the practice of giving charity.

  • [1] This paper was also presented during the ETS Northeast Regional Meeting (April 6th, 2013, Nyack, NY).
  • [2] David Flusser, “A New Senstivity in Judaism and the Christian Message” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1988), 469-489; repr. from HThR 61/2 (1968):107-127. Flusser draws a connection with this so-called new sensitivity and the statement of Antigonus of Sokho: “Do not be like servants who serve the master [God] on condition of receiving a reward, but [be] like servants who serve the master not on condition of receiving a reward, and let the awe [love] of Heaven be upon you (470).”
  • [3] It appears that the term כָּמוֹךָ could be understood as “one who is like yourself.” Notley has noted, “The definition is not, in fact, an external one, but a challenge for us to recognize that in each person we can find both good and bad—just like ourselves. We are to love even those we do not deem worthy, because we ourselves stand unworthily in need of God’s mercy (R. Steven Notley, Jesus Jewish Command to Love).”
  • [4] See R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García, “Hebrew-Only Exegesis: A Philological Approach to Jesus’ Use of the Hebrew Bible” in The Language Environment of First Century Judaea: Jerusalem Studies in the Synoptic Studies (JCP 26; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 349-374.
  • [5] The first evidence of such a unique pairing occurs is in the book of Jubilees (36:7-8); See Flusser, “A New Sensitivity,” 474.
  • [6] A Talmudic tradition depicts Hillel the Elder responding to the desirous proselyte that Lev. 19:18 was the essence of the entire Torah (b. Shab. 31a)
  • [7] See, Jeffrey P. García, “Matt 19:20: ‘What Do I Still Lack?’ Jesus, Charity, and the Early Rabbis” (Presented at the Nyack College Graduate Program’s Inaugural Conference “The Gospels in First Century Judaea,” August 29th, 2013); Raphael Posner, “Charity” in Encyclopedia Judaica (ed. F. Skolnik and M. Birnbaum; 22 vols; 2nd ed.; Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA; Jerusalem: Keter Publishing Ltd.; 2007), 4:569-571; also, E.P. Sanders, “Charity and Love” in Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 B.C.E-66 C.E. (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Trinity International Press, 2005), 230-235. So important was charity that in Rabbinic Judaism it comes to be known as “the commandment (ha mitzvah);” see, Saul Lieberman, “Two Lexicographical Notes,” JBL 65/1 (Mar., 1946): 69-72; Gary Anderson, Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2013).
  • [8] Gary Anderson, “A Treasury in Heaven: The Exegesis of Proverbs 10:2 in the Second Temple Period” in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel 1/3 (2012): 351-367.
  • [9] The “day of necessity” (ἡμέραν ἀνάγκης) appears to have an apocalyptic character in 1 Enoch (cf. 1:1, 100:7).
  • [10] Several dates have been posited for this work, and while the entire texts is only extant in Slavonic, the overwhelming consensus is that it is both ancient and Jewish. The text quoted here fits well within the world of Second Temple Jewish thought and shares parallels with what appears in Tobit. See Michael Stone, “Apocalyptic Literature” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Literature (ed. M. Stone; Assen: Van Gorcum; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 406; F. I. Andersen, “Enoch, Second Book of” in ABD (6 vols.; Doubleday: New York, 1992), 2:517.
  • [11] There is some thought that the phrase entered Judaism through Persian influence. See Almut Hintze, “Treasure in Heaven: A Theme in Comparative Religion” in Irano-Judaica VI: Studies Relating to Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages (ed. S. Shaked and A. Netzer; Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi, 2008), 9-36. Hintze surveys Persian and Jewish literature that deal with heavenly account-keeping, which developed first from Zoroastrianism and then was borrowed by Judaism in the Persian period (11).
  • [12] In several texts where Tobit refers to almsgiving, ἐλεημοσύνη and δικαιοσύνη are juxtaposed. For example, Tob. 12:8, 9, for which a partial Qumran fragment exists (4Q200 f2:6-8), Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. “A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to store up gold” (ἀγαθὸν προσευχὴ μετὰ νηστείας καὶ ἐλεημοσύνης καὶ δικαιοσύνης·ἀγαθὸν τὸ ὀλίγον μετὰ δικαιοσύνης ἢ πολὺ μετὰ ἀδικίας· καλὸν ποιῆσαι ἐλεημοσύνην ἢ θησαυρίσαι χρυσίον.) and “For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fullness of life…” (ἐλεημοσύνη γὰρ ἐκ θανάτου ῥύεται, καὶ αὐτὴ ἀποκαθαριεῖ πᾶσαν ἁμαρτίαν· οἱ ποιοῦντες ἐλεημοσύνας καὶ δικαιοσύνας πλησθήσονται ζωῆς·). The synonymous parallelism evident in Tobit is an indication that both Greek terms can function as “almsgiving” (cf. Sir. 44:10; perhaps also Sybl. 6:360); such is the case for δικαιοσύνη in Matt. 6:1. It should be noted, however, that in Greek thought δικαιοσύνη does not share precisely the same lexical range as צדקה; δικαιοσύνη in Classical Greek literature does not mean “charity” (δικαιοσύνη; LSJ, 429). Therefore, it perhaps might stand that the appearance of δικαιοσύνη with the meaning of “charity” reflects the translation of a Hebrew/Aramaic original, the direct influence of either language, or a text composed by an author whose native language was either.
  • [13] Anderson, “A Treasury in Heaven,” 366.
  • [14] In Josephus, the charitable deeds are credited to Queen Helena and not Monobazus; see, L.H. Schiffman, “The Conversion of the Royal House of Adiabene in Josephus and Rabbinic Sources” in Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity (ed. L. Feldman and G. Hata; Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1987), 293-312.
  • [15] Moshe Weinfeld, “‘Justice and Righteousness’—משפט וצדקה—the Expression and Its Meaning” in Justice and Righteousness: Biblical Themes and their Influence (ed. H.G. Reventlow and Y. Hoffman; JSOTSup 137; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), 245. See also, Lawrence H. Schiffman, “Foundations of Tzedek and Tzedakah: Righteousness and Charity in Jewish Tradition” (unpublished article).
  • [16] See also, Roger Brooks, “Peah” in The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew with a New Introduction (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Press, 2002), 1:74-75.
  • [17] The language of the Matthean passage, “do not treasure…treasure” is decidedly redundant and betrays a Semitic feel.
  • [18] David Bivin has noted here that the minor agreement in Matt. and Luke, utilizing the plural “heavens” is a Hebraism which reflects the Hebrew שמים. See David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY 47: Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven,” Comment to L48-49. Cf. T. Levi 13:5, noted above
  • [19] It should be noted that the Matthean parallel does not explicitly teach on charity.
  • [20] The “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God” are synonymous; Heaven is a well-known circumlocution for God in this time period.
  • [21] E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985), 154-156.
  • [22] David Flusser and R. Steven Notley, Jesus (3rd ed.; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2001), 111; and, idem, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).
  • [23] Brad Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian (Michigan: Baker Academic Press, 1993), 108.
  • [24] Flusser and Notley, Jesus, 108, emphasis added.
  • [25] Lindsey suggests that one can read this passage “blest are the righteousness-driven,” in other words those who seek “righteousness” (=our definition, almsgiving) are blessed (Jesus, Rabbi, and Lord (Jerusalem Perspective), 123). See also, Randall Buth, “Pursuing Righteousness,” (Jerusalem Perspective) who suggests “although Lindsey’s proposal may reflect the intent of what Jesus originally said, it is a reconstruction that can only be adopted by a theologian or a historian. A translator of Matthew must translate what Matthew wrote, and it is most probable that he intended a passive idiom.”
  • [26] Steven Notley brought the collocation of “righteousness” and “kingdom” to my attention in a private correspondence.
  • [27] Gary Anderson, Sin: A History (Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2012), 180
  • [28] Peah is strictly the agricultural-based charity where the landowner would leave certain corners of his field so that the poor could glean from these corners. The biblical source of the laws of Peah appear in Lev. 19:19, 23:22. These laws as such appear to encompass more than the corners of the field; they include “gleanings” (לֶּקֶט), “forgotten sheaves” (הַשִּׁכְחָה), “immature clusters of grapes” (הָעוֹלֵלוֹת), “grapes that fall from their clusters” (פֶרֶט), and the tithe which is given to the poor מַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁינִי (cf. Lev. 19:10, 19, 23:22; Deut. 24:19, 24:21, 14:28-29, 26:12-13).
  • [29] NT readers will find that acts of loving-kindness are attested in the judgment scene of Matt. 25.
  • [30] Anderson, Sin, 180.
  • [31] Chana Safrai and Ze’ev Safrai, “Rabbinic Holy Men” in Saints and Role Models in Ancient Judaism and Christianity (ed. Marcius Poorthuis and Joshua Schwartz; JCP 7; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 60.
  • [32] Shmuel Safrai, “Jesus and Hasidim,” (Jerusalem Perspective)
  • [33] Safrai and Safrai, “Rabbinic Holy Men,” 62.
  • [34] Cf. also S. Safrai, “Jesus as a Hasid” in Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1990), 1–7 [Hebrew]; idem, “Mishnat Hasidim in Tannaitic Literature” in Ve-Hinei Ein Yosef, A Collection in Memory of Yosef Amorai (Tel Aviv, 1973), 136-52 [Hebrew]; idem “The Pious and the Men of Deeds,” Zion 50 (1985): 133-54 [Hebrew]; idem, “The Term Derekh Erez,” Tarbiz 60 (1991): 147-62 [Hebrew].
  • [35] Flusser, “A New Sensitivity,” 474.

The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century

There is a great deal of literature describing the Jewish cultural nature of Galilee in the first century C.E. Several scholarly fields are involved.

The issue is discussed by scholars of Jewish history and of the history of the Oral Torah for subsequently, during the second to fourth centuries and even later, Galilee was the living center of the Jewish people and its leadership, and the place in which the Oral Torah was collected and in large degree created. It also is extensively dealt with by scholars of the beginnings of Christianity, since Jesus grew up in Nazareth in Lower Galilee, and his activity was centered mainly within the bounds of Galilee. Conversely, Jewish scholars of the history of the Halakhah or of talmudic literature in general, when discussing the cultural image of Galilee, refer in some degree to the history of Christianity or to the background of the beginnings of Christianity.

Furthermore, the issue has been discussed in the general literature of Jewish history and of the history of the Land of Israel. Similarly, many scholars, especially Christians, deal with it extensively both in general works on the life of Jesus and in studies devoted to Galilee and its Jewish cultural image.[1]

According to the opinion that was prevalent from the middle of the nineteenth century on, Galilee, which was annexed by the Hasmoneans to the Jewish state only during a later stage of their rule, was far removed from Jewish cultural life, as well as from the Torah and the observance of Jewish law. Although Jewish settlement, which was sparse in Galilee before the period of Hasmonean rule, subsequently expanded, scholars insist that the expansion did not contribute to a growth and deepening of Jewish life. According to this school of thought, the world of the Pharisees (meaning the world of the sages and their teachings) was limited to Judea. Galilee stayed far removed from the world of Torah and observance of the commandments, both before the destruction of the Temple and during the Yavneh period, until the Sanhedrin and its sages moved to Galilee after the Bar Kokhba war.

This opinion, which has been formulated in various ways with differing emphases, leads to the drawing of major basic conclusions in many areas of Jewish history: the political sphere, the spiritual-cultural sphere and the theoretical sphere of the history of the Halakhah. On this basis, some scholars view the Christianity of Galilee as a manifestation of ignorance of Judaism, and Jesus and his disciples as the representatives of the ignorant in their war with the sages of the Torah and the Pharisees, who were meticulous in their observance of the commandments. Only in a Galilee having that character, they suppose, could incipient Christianity have found its expression.

It is on such hypotheses that these scholars base their interpretations of major episodes in the history of the Halakhah, such as the struggles of the sages in the post-Bar Kokhba period to inculcate the laws of ritual cleanness and uncleanness and their practical applications among the Jews of Galilee. They likewise seek to understand the zealot movements in Galilee, seeing them as manifestations of a nationalist rural ideology based on ignorance and directed against the urban sages of the Torah.

In the last generation, especially under the influence of studies by Gedalyahu Alon,[2] those hypotheses about Galilee have been extensively undermined and refuted. Nevertheless, several of his arguments have not been understood in their entirety. Alon dealt mainly with an investigation of life in Galilee during the period between the destruction of the Second Temple and the Bar Kokhba revolt. Many of the scholars dealing with this issue did not read his studies or those studies which followed him, especially since most of them were written in Hebrew. We keep hearing that the achievements of the Pharisees in Galilee were meager, and that in general there were no Galileans among the Pharisees and the sages. Scholars even claim that only one sage—Rabbi Jose ha-Galili—came from Galilee; those living in Galilee were Jews, but not rabbinic; Galilee was a focal point of Hellenistic cities and centers of Hellenistic culture, and the Jewish content of Galilee was extremely sparse.

In this essay we shall briefly review the arguments of Alon and others, adding proofs and arguments, mainly from the period preceding the destruction of the Temple. We must also re-examine the alleged positive proofs of the dearth of Torah and observance of the commandments in Galilee during the Second Temple and Yavneh periods.

Some of the proofs from the tannaitic tradition refer to the Yavneh period. It may be assumed, however, that on the whole they reflect the general reality of the cultural life in Galilee during the period prior to the destruction as well. This is the picture we also receive from Josephus and the New Testament. There are many proofs, however, from both halakhic and aggadic literature about Jewish life in Galilee during the Second Temple period itself. They will show that, contrary to the views outlined above, Galilee was a place where Jewish cultural life and a firm attachment to Judaism flourished well before the destruction of the Second Temple. Apart from Jerusalem, it even excelled the other parts of the Land of Israel in these respects.

Sages in Galilee

We shall begin with the talmudic traditions about the presence of sages in Galilee during the Second Temple and Yavneh periods, referring chiefly to those sages who were active during the first century, and not listing those about whom we have information mainly from the end of the Yavneh period.

Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai

The earliest tradition, apparently dating to the first half of the first century, is about Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai who lived and taught Torah in Arav in Lower Galilee. He is mentioned twice in Mishnah Shabbat with the formula: “An occurrence came before Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai in Arav, and he said….”[3]

The talmudic traditions about Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai link him to one of four groups by location: Arav, Jerusalem, Yavneh and Beror Hayil. It seems, as is assumed by Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai’s biographers, that during his youth, he lived in Arav, where he taught Torah; afterwards he came to Jerusalem where he stayed until close to the destruction of the Temple; from there he went to Yavneh (which is mentioned in many sources); and toward the end of his life he came to Beror Hayil after he had left or had been forced to leave Yavneh.[4]

When he lived in Arav, Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, who was also a resident of that city, “sat before him” (i.e., learned from him).[5] Furthermore, the Babylonian Talmud relates: “It once happened that Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa went to learn Torah from Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, and his son fell ill” (Berakhot 34b). This report, too, suggests that Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai was a young man at the time, the father of a sick child.

There is no hint in the sources of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai having come to Arav from another place, such as Jerusalem, or that he was sent there as the New Testament relates regarding certain scribes[6] who arrived in Galilee from Jerusalem. He may have been a native of Arav, as was his disciple Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa. In either case, we have a clear tradition of the permanent residence during the course of years[7] of a sage, one of the pillars of the Oral Torah, who lived and taught in one of the cities of Galilee during a period for which we have almost no reports of sages living and teaching outside the city of Jerusalem.

We must also add that the rulings which were determined before Rabban Johanan—whether it is permitted to invert a dish over a scorpion on the Sabbath, with this not being considered an instance of the prohibited work of “trapping,” and secondly whether it is permitted to put wax on the hole in a jug on the Sabbath—are not trivial self-explanatory questions that could be addressed to any novice. Opinions were divided,[8] and even Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai did not give an unequivocal answer; regarding each of them he said, “I fear for him from a hatat.” That is, he feared lest he would err and be liable to bring a hatat (sin-offering). Incidentally, we learn that the Second Temple was still in existence, and a person who sinned would bring a hatat sacrifice to atone for his sin.[9]

The Jerusalem Talmud cites the Amora Ulla on these two traditions:

Rabbi Ulla said that he resided in Arav for eighteen years, and they asked him only these two questions. He said: “Galilee, Galilee, you hated the Torah; you will eventually be forced by the officers.”[10]

This saying by Ulla is regarded by all the scholarly works as unequivocal proof of Galilee’s distance from, and hatred of, the Torah. It is not, however, a direct tradition of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai. The Mishnah cites only the two cases which were brought before Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai in Arav, not saying anything about a comment by him. It is Ulla, who lived in the second half of the third century, who possessed a tradition that Rabban Johanan, in contrast with the many cases brought before his contemporary Rabban Gamaliel, was consulted in only two cases during the eighteen years he lived in Arav, and that he prophesied that Galilee, for not studying Torah, would eventually be oppressed by the government officials.

It should not be forgotten that Galilee resembled Judea, and the Land of Israel in general, in being oppressed by government officials.[11] Thus this vague rebuke cannot cancel or even lessen the generality of the proofs of the presence of the sages and their teaching of Torah, in great measure in Galilee as we shall see below.

But even if we accept Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai’s authorship of this statement, we can draw no definite conclusions from its blunt language which was employed under specific circumstances. It may be simply an unobjective denigration of the kind we find elsewhere directed against the residents of other geographical areas. An example is another tradition in the Jerusalem Talmud:

Rabbi Simlai came before Rabbi Johanan. He said to him: “Teach me Aggadah.” He said to him: “I possess a tradition from my fathers not to teach Aggadah, neither to a Babylonian nor to a Southerner, because they are haughty and possess little Torah, and you are a Nehardean and live in the South.”[12]

The same charges are raised against Lod in another context. The Jerusalem Talmud asks why the determination of the new month is not made in Lod; Rabbi Zeira, Rabbi Johanan’s disciple, replies, “because they are haughty and possess little Torah.”[13]

These denigrations certainly cannot be taken at face value. During the period of Rabbi Johanan, the middle of the third century, neither the Babylonians—and certainly not the Nehardeans—nor the Southerners (i.e., those from Lod) were either “possessing little Torah” or “haughty.” Nehardea had been a place of Torah since early times and was the first, or possibly the second, center of Torah in Babylonia. The South was the second most important center of Torah during that period. It contained the academy of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi, and many sages of the first order were from Lod where they taught Torah. “The rabbis of the South,” “our rabbis in the South,” and similar expressions appear frequently in talmudic literature.[14]

In several places the tradition adds the opinion of the people of the South to that of the people of the North, Sepphoris or Tiberias, or it compares the position of the Southerners with that of the sages from Sepphoris and Tiberias, just as it brings baraitot and traditions from the South.[15] Rabbi Hanina, the teacher of Rabbi Johanan, who lived in Sepphoris, said, “Southerners have soft hearts; they hear a word of Torah and they are persuaded”[16] This harsh comment directed against the Southerners apparently was formulated in Galilee, Sepphoris or Tiberias; it declares that the people of Galilee are superior in both their Torah and personal attributes to the Southerners. It is quite doubtful, however, whether this is objectively accurate. Likewise, the statement attributed by Ulla to Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai indicates the intent to denigrate the people of Galilee, and no real conclusions can be drawn from it.

Furthermore, the two laws about which Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai was asked are from the realm of Sabbath law. Regarding one of them, whether it is permitted to harm a potentially dangerous animal, the sages and the Hasidim (pietists) disagreed. A baraita states: “The Hasidim are displeased with the person who kills snakes and scorpions on the Sabbath.” Rava bar Rav Huna adds: “And the sages are displeased with these Hasidim.”[17] It is possible that the thrust of this comment against the people of Galilee regarding this law is directed against the Hasidim who were in Galilee and who were criticized, beginning with Hillel and continuing through Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, for not being sufficiently occupied with Torah because they explicitly stressed the superiority of the “deed” over study.[18]

Rabbi Halafta

Rabbi Halafta (or Abba Halafta), who came from Sepphoris, was a younger contemporary of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai. He was the father of the well-known Tanna Rabbi Jose ben Halafta, who was one of the disciples of Rabbi Akiva. The Tosefta relates that Rabbi Halafta introduced the rules for communal fast-days in Sepphoris, together with his colleague Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradyon in Sikhnin. When the sages learned of this, they said that this was practiced only at the Eastern Gates (Ta’anit, end of ch. 1 and parallels).[19] It is logical to date this event after the destruction of the Temple but before the Bar Kokhba revolt, for Rabbi Halafta, who cites teachings from the time of the Temple, from the period of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder (as will be shown below), certainly did not live until after the Bar Kokhba revolt. He was born many years before the destruction of the Temple, for his son, Rabbi Jose, relates about him:

It once happened that Rabbi Halafta went to Rabban Gamaliel, to Tiberias, and he found him sitting at the table of Johanan ben Nezif, with the Targum of the Book of Job in his hand. Rabbi Halafta said to him: “I remember that Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, your father’s father, would sit on a stair of the Temple Mount. They brought before him the Targum of the Book of Job, and he said to the builder, ‘Bury it under the rubble.’”[20]

Here Rabbi Halafta meets Rabban Gamaliel II who has come to Tiberias for a visit, where he finds a Targum of Job. Abba Halafta, who lives in Sepphoris, comes to visit him and tells him of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder’s attitude toward the Targum of Job. Rabban Gamaliel’s visit to Tiberias took place c. 100, for it cannot be assumed that Rabban Gamaliel could have headed the leadership in Yavneh before the decline of the Flavian emperors in the year 96. The incident involving Rabban Gamaliel the Elder occurred c. 50-60. The Galilean sage, therefore, tells of an incident involving the Targum of Job in Jerusalem during this same period; we may assume that he saw this when he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in his youth.

We do not know from whom he learned Torah or where he studied, nor do we find him in Yavneh. Rabbi Halafta does not cite teachings in the name of the sages of Yavneh. It is possible that he went to Jerusalem to study in his youth; it is also possible that he received his knowledge in Galilee. At any rate, he had an academy, or something approaching an academy, in Galilee. Johanan ben Nuri, who also was one of the sages of Galilee in the post-destruction generation, would go to Rabbi Halafta and ask him questions on points of law; several times he adds that this is his opinion, while Rabbi Akiva holds a different opinion.[21] We do not find Rabbi Halafta in Yavneh, possibly because of his advanced age, while Rabbi Johanan ben Nuri, who was younger and who was still alive after the Bar Kokhba war,[22] was the one who went to Yavneh and reported the opinions of the Yavneh sages to Rabbi Halafta.

Rabbi Halafta lived until the time of the revolt against Trajan in the years 115-116. His son Rabbi Jose relates:

It once happened that four elders were sitting silently [in the store][23] of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah in Sepphoris, [the other three were] Rabbi Huzpit [ha-Meturgeman],[24] Rabbi Yeshevav and Rabbi Halafta [Abba],[25] and they brought before them the top of a post which had been removed with a chisel.[26]

We should accept the opinion of the scholars[27] who state that the “silent” nature of their meeting indicates that this was a clandestine gathering in a time of persecution. It cannot have been the period of persecution during the Bar Kokhba war, for it is difficult to assume that Rabbi Halafta and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah were still alive at that time. It is more reasonable to date this event during the period of the revolt against Trajan, even though these two sages were already then extremely advanced in years.

In general it can be stated that Abba Halafta was a native of the city of Sepphoris and was born in the fourth or fifth decade of the first century. He was in Jerusalem during the time of Rabban Gamaliel; he had an academy in Sepphoris during the time of the Second Temple, or shortly after its destruction, and he was still alive during the revolt against Trajan.

Rabbi Hananiah (Hanina) ben Teradyon

Rabbi Hananiah (or Hanina) ben Teradyon must be mentioned together with Abba Halafta. He was a contemporary of Abba Halafta, but apparently younger, as will be shown below. The tradition that tells of the rules for communal fast-days introduced by Rabbi Halafta in Sepphoris states that they were also introduced by Rabbi Hanina in Sikhnin.[28] baraita listing all the courts in Israel from the time of the Chamber of Hewn Stone to the time of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi states: “‘Justice, justice shall you pursue’ [Deut. 16:20]—follow a proper court…said Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon to Sikhni.”[29] We find that questions are directed to him regarding the ritual cleanness of the mikveh of Beit Anat in Lower Galilee.[30]

Particular to Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon are the traditions regarding the great scholarship of his daughter Beruriah.[31] She acquired her knowledge in Galilee before the Bar Kokhba war.[32]

Various traditions link Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon and his family with events before the Bar Kokhba revolt and during the period of persecutions that followed the revolt. He was one of the Ten Martyrs, and their act of martyrdom took place after the revolt.[33]

Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah

The baraita describing the sages’ silent meeting in Sepphoris mentions that they sat in the shop of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah. Many scholars in the field of Jewish history and culture have erred in establishing the period of this sage. In the well-known tradition of the deposition of Rabban Gamaliel from the post of Nasi, which is taught in both Talmuds,[34] it is stated that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who was appointed instead of Rabban Gamaliel, was sixteen or eighteen years old at the time.[35] These scholars accepted the tradition as a historical fact. Since the deposition occurred shortly after the year 100, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah would then have been born a number of years after the destruction of the Temple.

It is not at all reasonable, however, that the sages would decide to appoint a man so young in place of Rabban Gamaliel, relying upon eighteen rows of his hair miraculously to turn white. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah’s “youth” is not a tradition, but rather a quasi-“exposition” of his statement in the Mishnah: “Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said: ‘Behold, I am as a seventy-year-old, and I have not merited’” (Berakhot 1:5). The Gemara interprets this: “‘I am as a seventy-year-old,’ and not an actual seventy-year-old,” because he was appointed when young, and his hair turned white in order to give him the distinguished appearance of age. But such a statement was also made by Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah without his being the beneficiary of a miracle turning his hair white.[36] Furthermore, the passage in the Jerusalem Talmud on the same mishnaic statement[37] understands that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah actually was seventy years old and comments on his statement, “Even though he attained a high position, he lived a long life.”

It can be learned from various sources that he was already an elderly man during the time of the Temple. In Tractate Shabbat, Rabbi Judah states in the name of Rav that each year Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah would set aside as ma’aser (tithe) 12,000 calves from his herd. According to the Halakhah, ma’aser from animals is not in effect after the destruction of the Temple; it may, therefore, be assumed that this is a tradition from the Temple period.[38] Rabbi Judah relates that Rabbi Eleazar (ben Azariah) purchased a synagogue from Tarsians in Jerusalem, “and he used it for his own purposes” (b. Megillah 26a).[39] He, therefore, was an adult who set aside ma’aser and purchased a synagogue in Jerusalem. It is related in midrashim of the Land of Israel and in j. Ketuvot[40] that Rabbi Jose ha-Galili suffered from his wife but could not divorce her because her get (writ of divorce) was for a large sum. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who was visiting in his house and saw this, gave him the money he needed. (This event undoubtedly took place in Galilee.)

To sum up: Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was a well-to-do, even wealthy, man. He served as an example of a wise and wealthy person,[41] a priest of distinguished lineage[42] and one of the greatest sages both of his generation and of all times.[43] He was present in Jerusalem, like other Galilean families, some of whom we shall mention below. After the destruction of the Temple, he was present in Yavneh; he served at one point as head of the Sanhedrin there and afterwards as Rabban Gamaliel’s deputy. He participated in the delegation of Rabban Gamaliel and other sages that went to Rome;[44] with them he visited the ruins of Jerusalem.[45] He originated, however, from Sepphoris in Galilee, where he had a “shop.” Like Rabbi Halafta, he also lived a long life, being still alive during the revolt against Trajan. There is no information about him dating from after that revolt.

If we determine that he was born in the fifth decade C.E., then it is possible to arrange all the traditions in chronological order. At the age of twenty-five he stayed in Jerusalem and purchased a synagogue in the city. About the year 100 Rabban Gamaliel was deposed as Nasi and Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed in his place; he was about 60 years old at the time. He visited Rome and Jerusalem, and lived until the time of the revolt against Trajan, or shortly after it, being then about 70 years old. It should be added that his father, Azariah, also was one of the sages. For when a delegation of sages, which included Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, came to the aged Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas, the latter asked, referring to Eleazar: “And does our colleague Azariah have a son?”[46]

Rabbi Zadok and Elisha ben Avuyah

Similar things can be said about Rabbi Zadok, who was one of the outstanding personalities among the Pharisaic sages in the generation before the destruction of the Temple, in which he served as a priest. While standing on the stairs of the ulam in the Temple, he raised his voice against those priests for whom “the ritual uncleanness of a knife for Israel was more severe than murder.”[47] He frequently fasted so that Jerusalem would not be destroyed, and he was saved upon the request of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai who greatly honored him.[48] He served as head of the court when Rabban Gamaliel was the Nasi,[49] or according to other traditions concerning Rabban Gamaliel.[50]

It may logically be assumed that he was born in Galilee. He sent his son to study under Rabbi Johanan ben ha-Horanit[51] and, it may be assumed, to his place of residence in Transjordan. Rabbi Zadok, who was well-to-do, sent his son olives during years of drought. From Tivon in Lower Galilee he sent questions on matters of ritual cleanness to Yavneh. The wording of the baraita implies that these questions had first been brought before Rabbi Zadok:

Rabbi Eleazar the son of Rabbi Zadok said: “Father brought two cases from Tivon to Yavneh…a case involving a certain woman…and they came and asked Rabbi Zadok, and Rabbi Zadok went and asked the sages…once again, a case involving a certain woman and they asked Rabbi Zadok, and Rabbi Zadok went and asked the sages.”[52]

Tivon was a center of Torah even before Rabbi Zadok, as well as for generations after him. The Mishnah relates: “Rabbi Joshua said, in the name of Abba Jose Holi-Kofri of Tivon.”[53] Rabbi Joshua belonged to the generation of the destruction of the Temple. He served in the Temple, and his teachings were heard during the time the Temple was still in existence.[54] Afterwards he was active in Yavneh.[55] It may be assumed that Abba Jose of Holi-Kofri, in whose name Rabbi Joshua cites a teaching, lived in the generation before Rabbi Joshua, i.e., during the Temple period.

Rabbi Zadok’s son, Rabbi Eliezer ben Zadok, who frequently speaks about his father, also was a sage. One tradition states that he and Abba Saul ben Batnit were shopkeepers in Jerusalem, selling oil.[56] He speaks of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Temple.[57] His coming from Galilee did not prevent him from living for a certain amount of time in Jerusalem, where he built a synagogue[58] like other important Galilean families, some of whose sons lived for a period of time in Jerusalem. At any rate, we find him after the destruction of the Temple in Acre.[59] It is almost certain that he lived where his father had lived, in Tivon.

Next to Rabbi Zadok we must mention Elisha ben Avuyah, the sage who left Judaism for the non-Jewish world and even participated, according to some versions, in persecutions of Israel and its religion, during the time of the Hadrianic persecutions.[60] A tradition relates that he was born in Jerusalem, the son of one of the leading residents of the city; major sages attended his circumcision, which took place during the Temple period. The traditions of his public teaching of the Torah, before he abandoned Judaism, and his teachings are connected with Galilee: “He would sit and review in Ginnosar.”[61]

One of the versions in the Midrash reads: “Since he was speaking and expounding in the Chamber of Hewn Stone or in the academy in Tiberias….”[62] baraita in the Babylonian Talmud, a portion of which is also found in Tractate Semahot, states:

It happened that the father of Rabbi Zadok died in Ginzak. They informed him three years later. He came and asked Elisha ben Avuyah and the elders with him, and they said: “Observe [the mourning periods of] seven [days] and thirty [days].”[63]

We also find “and four elders who were with him.”[64] That is, he was the colleague of five people, a number that is recurrently cited to denote a limited number of sages. Since Rabbi Zadok lived in Galilee and Elisha ben Avuyah was active as a sage in Galilee, it may be assumed that Rabbi Zadok’s inquiry to Elisha ben Avuyah took place in Galilee. We learn from this that during the time of the Temple, or shortly thereafter (for Rabbi Zadok’s father certainly did not die many years after the destruction of the Temple), he lived in a city in Galilee, apparently Tiberias, was a colleague of sages and taught Torah.

It is certainly possible to construct a chronology for Rabbi Zadok and Elisha ben Avuyah that permits us to include the various traditions about these two figures without having to invent two people by the name of “Rabbi Zadok” as is accepted practice among several scholars.[65] Rabbi Zadok was born during the years 20-30 C.E. As an adult, between thirty and forty years of age, he totally opposed distorted religious conduct in the Temple, and he also fasted in order to prevent the destruction of the Temple. In the sixties, his son was also present in Jerusalem, selling oil and purchasing a synagogue. They returned to Galilee after the destruction of the Temple. During these years (approximately 80-85), when he was fifty-five to sixty years old, his father died. Elisha ben Avuyah, who was already an outstanding sage by this time,[66] was sitting with a group of sages in Galilee when Rabbi Zadok came to ask him to rule on a point of practical law. During this period Rabbi Zadok went to Yavneh, and when Rabban Gamaliel became head of the Sanhedrin, he sat next to him; he was not older than seventy at the time.

During the later years of Rabban Gamaliel’s activity, about the year 100, we hear no more of Rabbi Zadok. The tradition reporting the deposition of Rabban Gamaliel[67] speaks of Rabbi Zadok; however, he is mentioned in connection with an event that had occurred in the past, and he himself was not present. Similarly, he is not mentioned in any of the many meetings of the sages that took place during the time of Rabban Gamaliel or after his death.

Rabbi Jose ben Kisma

Rabbi Jose ben Kisma is another sage who is connected with Tiberias. As we see from the traditions about him and his relations with his contemporaries, he was one of the well-known sages in his generation, although very few of his teachings are extant. All the traditions about him which are related to a specific place or which explicitly mention a place name are connected with Galilee, especially with Tiberias and its environs.

When the teaching of Torah was prohibited and he disagreed with Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon’s defiance of the edict, it seems he was the sage asked by Rabbi Hanina: “How do I stand with respect to the World to Come?” Rabbi Jose ben Kisma died during that period of persecutions, and all the leaders of Rome came to his grave.[68] It is safe to assume that this dispute between Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon (of the city of Sikhnin) and Rabbi Jose ben Kisma was conducted in Galilee, and “the leaders of Rome” refers to the rulers of Tiberias or Sepphoris. Other traditions which we shall cite explicitly mention places in Galilee.

The Mishnah speaks of a problem of Sabbath law concerning which the sages disagreed, relating that “It once happened in the synagogue in Tiberias that they treated it as permitted, until Rabban Gamaliel came and the Elders prohibited them,” or the opposite according to the opinion of one sage (m. Eruvin 10:10). The sources relate about this event[69] that the disagreement was so sharp it led to physical violence until they tore (in another version: was torn)[70] a Torah Scroll in their anger. Rabbi Jose ben Kisma, who was present, said: “I should wonder if this synagogue will not become a place of idolatry.” There was a synagogue in Tiberias which was visited by Rabban Gamalil and the Elders. It seems that after this visit the dispute erupted on this question, and Rabbi Jose ben Kisma was present at the time.

It is possible that he merely happened to be in Tiberias on that occasion. However, in the chapter “Acquisition of the Torah” which is appended to Tractate Avot, Rabbi Jose ben Kisma relates:

Once I was walking along the way, when a man met me and greeted me, and I returned his greeting. He said to me, “My master, where do you come from?” I said to him, “I come from a great city of sages and scholars.” He said to me, “My master, do you wish to dwell with us in our place? I will give you a million golden dinars and precious stones and pearls.” I said to him, “My son, if you were to give me all the silver and gold and precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere except in a place of Torah.” (m. Avot 6:9)

It may be assumed that his “great city” was Tiberias, where there was a synagogue. This is a proof that it was a city of Torah before the Bar Kokhba revolt. Even if we disregard the rhetoric of “a great city of sages and scholars,” we are still left with testimony that Tiberias was the residence of sages.

A tradition in Midrash Tanhuma reads:

It once happened that Rabbi Jose ben Kisma and Rabbi Ilai and their disciples were walking about in Tiberias. He said to Rabbi Jose: “When will the son of David come?”…“I say to you, at the time when Tiberias falls and is rebuilt”…“From where do we know this?” He said to them: “Behold, the cave of Pameas [Paneas] turns from side to side, in accordance with his words.”[71]

Rabbi Ilai, too, belonged to the generation before the Bar Kokhba revolt, but he came from Usha in Galilee, as we shall see below. In this account he has gone to Rabbi Jose ben Kisma in Tiberias where they walk with their disciples and talk about the coming of the son of David, bringing examples from geographic features of the area.

Infrequently Mentioned Sages

We just saw Rabbi Ilai walking about in Tiberias. The sources do not state where he resided, but from the fact that his son Rabbi Judah, one of the most frequently mentioned sages in tannaitic literature, was from the city Usha,[72] it may be assumed that the father came from the same city. Rabbi Ilai came at times to Yavneh and tells of his meetings with the sages of Yavneh.[73] He was the outstanding disciple of Rabbi Eliezer (ben Hyrcanus) ha-Shammuti,[74] and once when he came to his teacher on the festival of Sukkot, the latter was not pleased and chastized him for leaving his home on the holiday.[75] He accompanied Rabban Gamaliel on his visits to Galilee.[76]

We know more details about Rabbi Johanan ben Nuri, who is mentioned in many traditions about the Yavneh generation; he even played a role in the leadership of the Sanhedrin in Yavneh.[77] He, too, was a disciple of Rabbi Eliezer ha-Shammuti and cites teachings in his name.[78] It appears from many traditions that he was from Galilee, going back and forth between Galilee and Yavneh.[79] We can also establish that he resided in Beit Shearim.[80]

Rabbi Eleazar ben Parta is mentioned a number of times in tannaitic literature together with the sages of Yavneh, but especially with those of Galilee.[81] He was seized by the authorities together with Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon, but released.[82] His residence was apparently in Sepphoris, for it was stated[83] that when “evil decrees arrived from the authorities [on the Sabbath] for the great ones of Sepphoris,” they came to Rabbi Eleazar ben Parta for advice.[84]

Rabbi Eleazar ben Teradyon is mentioned once, in a question he asked of the sages.[85] Since the name “Teradyon” otherwise appears only in reference to Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon, scholars assume that they were brothers.[86] In the parallel to this question in the Jerusalem Talmud and in the Tosefta, the name “Rabbi Eleazar ben Tadai”[87] occurs; this sage is mentioned several times in Halakhah and Aggadah, together with sages of the Yavneh generation.[88]

Detail of "Map of Palestine According to Talmudic Sources," in the Jewish Encyclopedia (ed. Isidore Singer; Funk & Wagnalls, 1905), 9:496.
Detail of “Map of Palestine According to Talmudic Sources,” in the Jewish Encyclopedia (ed. Isidore Singer; Funk & Wagnalls, 1905), 9:496.

Another sage, “Rabbi Jose ben Tadai of Tiberias,” is mentioned only once. In a question he asked of Rabban Gamaliel, he attempted to ridicule the qal wa-homerform of proof: “And Rabban Gamaliel excommunicated him.”[89]

We must add Rabbi Zakkai of Kavul to the list of Galilee sages who were active during or shortly before the Yavneh generation. He is mentioned only a few times. Genealogists of the Tannaim and Amoraim usually list him much later among the sages in the first generation of Amoraim, for Tractate Semahot relates that Judah and Hillel, sons of Rabban Gamaliel, went to Rabbi Zakkai in Kavul (Semahot 8:4). Talmudic literature mentions a number of stories connected with the visit to Galilee of those two brothers.[90] Since they are commonly assumed to have been sons of the Rabban Gamaliel who was the son of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi and followed him as Nasi around the year 220-225, their visit to Rabbi Zakkai in Kavul would have occurred during the first generation of Amoraim. Elsewhere,[91] however, we have shown that they are sons of Rabban Gamaliel of Yavneh, who came from Judea to Galilee to visit several places such as Beit Anat, Biri and Kavul.

They encounter the strict practice of the inhabitants of Galilee. Out of respect and politeness, however, they do not tell them that the things the Galileans forbid are permitted, but rather accept upon themselves the strict Galilean practice. During their visit they are received in Kavul by Rabbi Zakkai, who is known to us from one law that is transmitted in his name and from a sermon he delivered at the funeral of the son of one of “the great ones of Kavul” who died during a wedding feast.[92]

Rabbi Jose ha-Galili

The last on our list is Rabbi Jose ha-Galili, whom scholars commonly assume to have been the only sage to come from Galilee and who was, therefore, called “ha-Galili,” meaning “of Galilee.” As we have seen, however, he was far from being the only one. His appellation “ha-Galili” may instead be understood to mean that he came from the city of Galil. This was a settlement in Upper Galilee which is mentioned in the list of the markers of the boundaries of the Land of Israel in a baraita, where it appears in its Aramaic form as “the fort of Galila.”[93] Its name in Arabic is Jalil. It is located about eight miles to the northeast of the village of al-Kabri, which is mentioned before it in the list. This was an especially large settlement during the later Roman period.[94]

He is, however, the Galilean sage from the Yavneh period who is mentioned the most often in tannaitic literature and is frequently mentioned in the meetings of the “premier speakers” during the Yavneh period, whether in Yavneh or in Lod. He is also mentioned extensively regarding his teaching in Galilee and his meetings with people in Galilee, just as he cites teachings by sages from Galilee and vice versa.[95] From the extensive and fine literary material on Rabbi Jose ha-Galili’s first appearance in Yavneh, it is clear that by then he was already an outstanding sage who astounded the sages of Yavneh with his knowledge and sharpness.[96]

The Mishnah discusses whether poultry is prohibited with milk (Hullin 8:1, 4). Beit Shammai are among the lenient and allow that poultry may be brought to the table together with cheese. Rabbi Jose ha-Galili is still more lenient, holding that it may even be eaten together with cheese.[97] The Babylonian Talmud, commenting on this issue,[98] relates that in Rabbi Jose ha-Galili’s home they would “eat the meat of poultry in milk.” It adds that Levi, the disciple of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, stated that in Babylonia he came to the home of a well-known person where he was served poultry in milk. When asked by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi why he had not excommunicated them for this disregard of the law, Levi explained that this was the home of Rabbi Judah ben Batyra, whom he assumed to be following the opinion of Rabbi Jose ha-Galili.

Tomb of Judah Ha-Nasi in Beit She'arim. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.)
Tomb of Judah Ha-Nasi in Beit She’arim. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.)

We may draw several conclusions from this story. Rabbi Jose ha-Galili had influence and standing, for in his home they ruled and practiced in accordance with his opinion. The well-known Babylonian sage Rabbi Judah ben Batyra apparently also instituted Rabbi Jose ha-Galili’s practices in his home. We also learn that “ha-Galili” indeed does not mean a Galilean, but rather is a reference to a specific location as suggested above. If it had been the general practice in Galilee to eat poultry with milk, Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi would not have wondered at Levi’s not having excommunicated them for such a practice, especially since Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi was born and was active in Galilee. “Ha-Galili,” therefore, refers to a specific place in Galilee; it is possible that during the time of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi (approximately 100 years after Rabbi Jose ha-Galili), this local practice had already vanished.

Had the eating of poultry with milk been a general Galilean practice, it would have been reflected more extensively in the literature, and it need not have vanished by the time of Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi. But the local practice of the city of Galil, lying at the end of the northern boundary of Upper Galilee, could have more quickly been forgotten or almost forgotten with the spread of the law in accordance with Beit Hillel at the end of the Yavneh period.[99] Beit Hillel held that poultry may not even be brought to the table together with cheese.[100]

Nor should sweeping conclusions be drawn from the expression “foolish Galilean” which Beruriah applied to Rabbi Jose ha-Galili when he spoke excessively in her presence.[101] Even if this expression is a denigration applied to Galilee as a whole,[102] we cannot draw conclusions regarding the Jewish cultural reality of Galilee. First, it must be stated that Beruriah herself was a Galilean. Second, even if we infer that this was an idiomatic expression, it is not of great significance, for in all cultures and among all peoples the inhabitants of certain regions show habitual scorn for the inhabitants of others. We cannot learn from such appellations about the real characteristics of their targets, and certainly not when all the historical facts prove the opposite.

Rabbi Jose ha-Galili’s contemporaries, including central figures of the Oral Torah such as Rabbi Akiva, speak extensively of and are impressed by his sharpness and wisdom. He is also to be found in the most important gatherings of the sages of Yavneh in which basic elements of tannaitic thought were formulated.[103] Thus he was certainly no “fool,” even if the question he put to Beruriah could, in her opinion, have been stated in a more concise manner.


The above list of sages is not complete. Others could be added, either with complete certainty or as a reasonable possibility. When we compiled[104] a list of the sages known to us from the first century until the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt, noting alongside each one his place of origin or activity (when there is mention of it in the sources), it became clear that if Jerusalem is excluded, most of the sages about whom there is evidence of their origin and activity either were Galileans or were especially active in Galilee.

Torah Study in Galilee

We shall now turn to the evidence of Torah study in Galilee, whether in small groups of pupils or among the public at large. In the talmudic tradition there are very few references from the Second Temple period to public Torah study outside Jerusalem, apart from the context of the reading of the Torah in the synagogue. Yet there undoubtedly was study by groups of pupils, and teachers and pupils, throughout the Land of Israel. Evidence of this is found in an early saying by one of the first Pairs of Sages: “Let your house be a meeting place for the sages, and sit amidst the dust of their feet” (m. Avot 1:4).

Permanent Academies

There are very few hints to the existence of a permanent academy outside Jerusalem during the Temple period. One hint comes in a portion of Sifrei Zuta from the Genizah, which mentions “Edomite pupils from Beit Shammai,” i.e., ones who resided in the South.[105] That group of pupils outside of Jerusalem may be assumed to date from the time of the disagreements between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, that is from before the destruction of the Temple. There is evidence of a gathering of sages in Jericho,[106] but not of the permanent residence of a sage outside Jerusalem.

In fact, the sole definite evidence of a permanent academy is the statement cited above about the residence of Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai in Arav, in Lower Galilee. According to the statement by the Amora Ulla, he lived there for eighteen years and complained that not many people came to him to ask regarding the law. Even if we do not accept as fact the figure of eighteen years, we nevertheless have here a tradition of a prolonged residence in Arav. As we have seen, Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, a sage who was already active during the time of the Temple, having brought a gift to the Temple with the miraculous aid of angels,[107] sat before him.

Teachers and Pupils

There are numerous testimonies regarding the teaching of Torah in all parts of Galilee in the generation after the destruction of the Temple. At least a portion of these testimonies is undoubtedly a continuation of the reality preceding the destruction, and only testimonies of that kind will be mentioned here.

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was one of the sages with numerous ties to Galilee. Although he came from the South where his property was located,[108] we find him several times in Galilee where he had disciples. When he was suspected of being a Christian, arrested by the authorities and released, he acknowledged the rightness of the judgment, for he remembered that once he had been walking in the public road of Sepphoris and began to talk with Jacob of Kefar Sikhnin, who transmitted to him a teaching in the name of “Jeshua Panteri,” that is, Jesus of Nazareth.[109] This incident may date from the time of the Temple, for he speaks as of something done many years previously when tension with the Jewish Christians was not great and a sage could have stopped to hear a teaching in the name of Jesus. Almost certainly the main purpose of his walking in the public road of Sepphoris was to teach Torah, as is witnessed by the traditions we shall cite below.

The Tosefta states: “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer was reclining in the sukkah of [Rabbi][110] Johanan ben Ilai in Caesaria”[111] (t. Sukkah 2:9).[112] A tradition of similar content, ascribed to “the rabbis,” relates:

It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer, who resided in Upper Galilee, was asked thirty laws of the laws of the sukkah. Regarding twelve of them he told them, “I heard,” and regarding eighteen he said, “I did not hear.” Rabbi Jose the son of Rabbi Judah says the opposite. Regarding eighteen things he said to them, “I heard,” regarding twelve things he said to them, “I did not hear.” (b. Sukkah 28a)

Here are a group of pupils in Upper Galilee who ask many questions, some of which Rabbi Eliezer was not capable of answering. Although it not stated, almost certainly the discussion took place on or close to the festival of Sukkot, and they asked him topical questions.

Elsewhere in the Tosefta (t. Kelim Bava Metzia 2:1 and in the parallel passage in b. Shabbat 52b) we read: “One of the pupils from the pupils of Upper Galilee said in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer….” Further (ibid., 2:2): “One of the pupils from the pupils of Upper Galilee also said…,” and Rabbi Eliezer corrects the teaching they had heard. While these may be traditions from a visit of Rabbi Eliezer’s pupils to their teacher in Lod, they could come from his previously mentioned visit, or another one, to Upper Galilee when his pupils discussed laws in his presence.

In either event, clear evidence of a concentration of a large number of knowledgeable pupils in Galilee occurs in a tradition found only in the Babylonian Talmud.[113] The administrator of King Agrippa inquired of Rabbi Eliezer the details of the laws of dwelling in the sukkah, including the question: “I have two wives, one in Tiberias and one in Sepphoris, and I have two sukkot, one in Tiberias and one in Sepphoris….” The reference is certainly to Agrippa II who ruled in Galilee and whose administrator lived in Tiberias and in Sepphoris, the two leading Jewish cities in Galilee. Almost certainly, too, those questions about the laws of the sukkahwere posed during Rabbi Eliezer’s visit in Galilee on or close to the Festival of Sukkot. The questions asked by the administrator are not those of an uneducated person. The reply of Rabbi Eliezer expresses his own strict opinion on the issues, whereas the majority of the sages did not obligate the eating of fourteen meals in thesukkah, nor did they obligate the eating of all the meals in one sukkah.[114]

Several legal traditions are connected with Rabbi Eliezer’s going to Ovelin in Lower Galilee. In the Tosefta, at the beginning of Eruvin: “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer went to Joseph ben Perida, to Ovelin”; and: “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer went to his pupil Rabbi Jose ben Perida, to Ovelin” (b. Eruvin 11b and j. Eruvin 1:19a). Here, too, he is stringent, in keeping with his opinion. In Tractate Tefillin (Higger ed., p. 48): “It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer went to Oveli[n] to one householder. He was accustomed to immerse in a cave…. He said to him: ‘My master, the water in this cave is better than that of this one.’” In Ovelin, accordingly, there was not only a pupil of Rabbi Eliezer, but even an ordinary householder who practiced ritual purity and immersed in a cave.

We have already discussed whether Elisha ben Avuyah taught Torah in the academy in Tiberias, citing the tradition that he sat and taught in the valley of Ginosar.[115] It reflects the prevalent reality in the world of the sages during the Temple period and following its destruction, with them sitting and teaching Torah in every possible place—in the academy or outside, in the garden, on the road, “under the fig tree” or “under the olive tree,” and in the marketplace.[116] A sage came from this same Ginosar and asked a legal question of the sages in Yavneh: “Rabbi Jose said: ‘Jonathan ben Harsha of Ginosar asked in the presence of the Elders in Yavneh regarding the case of two tufts of hemp….’”[117] In the continuation of this same baraita, Jonathan of Ginosar asks about additional details, all on the subject of ritual purity and impurity. Another source mentions a law concerning ma’aserot, where once again Rabbi Jose of Sepphoris testifies: “Jonathan ben Harsha of Ginosar asked Rabban Gamaliel and the sages in Yavneh.” These two questions are asked by an outstanding sage from Galilee of the sages during the period of Rabban Gamaliel in Yavneh.[118]

It is noted in several places in the Babylonian Talmud that Amoraim are proud to be “like Ben Azzai in the marketplace of Tiberias,” that is like his teaching of Torah in that place.[119] Ben Azzai was one of the sages of Yavneh, but the marketplace of Tiberias provided a broad venue for his activity. It can be assumed that this was part of the ongoing reality of a place in which Torah was taught.

We also find, regarding Rabbi Jose ha-Galili, that “One time Rabbi Jose ha-Galili was sitting and expounding on the [red] heifer in Tiberias, and Rabbi Simeon ben Hanina was sitting with him.”[120] The continuation makes it clear that this was not an exposition of trite, well-known matters, but rather novel interpretations and a scriptural exposition of the laws of the red heifer.

Rabbinic Courts

Twice there is mention in the tannaitic tradition of courts of sages—which were also academies—in Galilee during or before the Yavneh generation. We mentioned above the court of Rabbi Hanina ben Teradyon in Sikhnin, and of Elisha ben Avuyah. To these reports we must add the testimony of Rabbi Simeon Shezori:[121] “Rabbi [Simeon Shezori][122] said, ‘Father’s household was one of the households in [Upper][123] Galilee. And why were they destroyed? Because they grazed in forests and judged monetary lawsuits before a single judge.’”

Although Rabbi Simeon Shezori here seeks to list the faults or sins of his father’s household that led to its destruction, those “sins” did not exceed the normative behavior of the sages. There were sages who judged monetary lawsuits with only a single judge,[124] and there were sages in the Yavneh generation who made light of the prohibition against raising “small cattle” (sheep and goats) in the Land of Israel. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, whom we have found in Galilee where he had pupils, evaded answering the question whether it is prohibited to raise small cattle.[125] Rabbi Simeon Shezori’s ascription of supposed sins to his father’s household does not diminish the fact of the existence of a court in Upper Galilee, which was a place of teaching and study.

Rabbi Simeon Shezori may be included among the generation of the sages of Usha in Galilee, for we have found him disagreeing with the sages of the Usha generation[126] although he was older than them. He says of an incident that happened to him, “and I asked Rabbi Tarfon,”[127] and Rabbi Jose ben Kippar transmits in his name.[128] The story about his father’s household may refer to the period of destruction in Galilee during the Bar Kokhba revolt.[129] But it may instead have an earlier reference, for he speaks of an event belonging to the past, and the “householders” had been destroyed mainly during the war that accompanied the destruction of the Temple.


Whether or not there were many permanent academies of Torah study in Galilee before the destruction of the Second Temple, we have seen that there was undoubtedly widespread and serious interest in clarifying issues of Halakhah. Rabbis visiting from elsewhere would find an audience in public places, as well as being engaged in discussions by the local sages and groups of pupils.

Galilean Attachment to Judaism

Now we shall consider the question of the attachment of Galileans to observance of the commandments of Judaism and to Jewish cultural life. In this category fall also the connections between Galilee and the Temple worship and the similarities in halakhic practice between Galilee and Jerusalem. We shall see that in all those respects the attachment to Judaism in Galilee, far from being uncultured and ignorant, was marked and exemplary.

Galilee, Jerusalem and the Temple

We may start with the halakhic similarities that linked Galilee with Jerusalem. Scholars[130] have already noted that regarding marriage practices and the degree of obligation of the husband, the Galileans adopted fine and praiseworthy customs, like those of the men of Jerusalem in contrast with those of the men of Judea. Special note should be taken of the practice of Jerusalemites and Galileans alike to promise in the ketubbah (marriage contract) that the widow was to be maintained and could live in her husband’s house for as long as she wished, in contrast to the practice of the men of Judea who gave the heirs the right to free themselves from their obligation by the payment of the money of the ketubbah. The Jerusalem Talmud adds regarding this practice: “The Galileans [and with them the men of Jerusalem] had consideration for their honor and did not have consideration for their money; the men of Judea had consideration for their money and did not have consideration for their honor.”[131]

A similar statement regarding funeral practices is quoted from Rabbi Judah:

In Jerusalem they would say, “Do [good] before your bier,” and in Judea they would say, “Do [good] after your bier.” But in Jerusalem they would recite only the actual deeds of the deceased before his bier, while in Judea they would state things that applied to him, and things that did not apply to him.[132]

In other words, in Jerusalem they would say that if a person wanted others to praise him at his funeral, he should perform good deeds before he died, for in Jerusalem they were particular to praise the dead person only regarding things he had actually done. In this as well, the Galileans acted as the people of Jerusalem: “Galileans say, ‘Do things before your bier,’ the men of Judea say, ‘Do things after your bier.’”[133]

It goes without saying that when the talmudic traditions speak of the practices of Jerusalem, they refer to the time prior to the destruction of the Temple. The adoption by the Galileans of those practices testifies not only to the level of Jewish cultural life in this region during the first century, but also to the strong ties between Galilee and Jerusalem, of which we learn from many sources. Those ties indeed expressed themselves in many spheres. Since the facts concerned have been stated in the scholarly literature,[134] we shall restrict ourselves to a short listing of the sources, adding comments as required.

Talmudic tradition mentions only two instances in which someone replaced the High Priest for the Yom Kippur service because the latter had become ritually unclean. Rabbi Jose relates: “It once happened that Joseph ben Ilim of Sepphoris served as High Priest for a short time.”[135] This is also mentioned by Josephus,[136] from whose statement we learn that the High Priest at the time was Mattathias ben Theophilus, who served during the years 5-4 B.C.E., at the end of the reign of Herod the Great. Josephus further relates that this Joseph ben Ilim (Ἰώσηπος ὁ τοῦ Ἐλλήμου) was a relative of the High Priest. Important for our discussion is the Galilean connection of the person who substituted in that important function.

The Mishnah further relates, regarding the leading of the goat for Azazel:[137]

All are fit to lead it, but the High Priests would make a fixed [practice], and they would not let an Israelite lead it. Rabbi Jose said: “It once happened that Arsela [of Sepphoris] led it, and he was an Israelite.”[138]

The High Priests, viewing this as an important part of the Yom Kippur service, made a fixed practice of reserving it for the priests. Previously, however, there was an occurrence in which an Israelite from Sepphoris was permitted to perform this work. There was also an occurrence in which a priest acted improperly in the distribution of the showbread: “It once happened that one priest from Sepphoris took his portion and the portion of his fellow.”[139]

Various traditions from the Land of Israel in the Jerusalem Talmud and in Lamentations Rabbah[140] teach of the special ties of three cities in Lower Galilee—Kavul, Sikhnin and Migdal Zevaya—which would contribute large quantities of gifts to the Temple. Similarly the people of Arav would “make vowed offerings and free-will offerings.” Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, who saw them, also wanted to bring a gift to the Temple.[141] It should be emphasized that the talmudic tradition speaks of various men and women[142] who brought gifts, but there is otherwise no mention of whole localities that offered gifts with great ceremoniousness.

To their eagerness in offering gifts we must add the many reports of pilgrimages and the presence of Galileans in Jerusalem. The reports are found in the talmudic tradition, in Josephus and in the New Testament.[143] Moreover, there are instructive traditions about the miracles connected with the pilgrimages to Jerusalem of individuals and of a group of women from Sepphoris, not necessarily during the days of the festivals but as a fixed practice on every Sabbath eve, in which they spent the Sabbath in the Temple and then returned to their homes, beginning their work before others at the start of the new week.[144] However we judge the historicity of the miraculous element, such stories attest to the continuous ties of Galilee with Jerusalem, especially when added to the evidence of literary sources and archaeological inscriptions.[145]

The tannaitic tradition includes long passages about the sources of supply for the Temple.[146] Most of the places enumerated are, of course, in Judea, whether because of its geographical proximity or because of the fact that earlier the Jewish settlement was mainly in Judea. Nevertheless, the listing includes “Tekoa is the best for oil” and, in one tradition, “Gush Halav in Galilee was third to it.”[147] Also, when a Gaon was asked the reason for the establishment of the eight days of Hanukkah, he replied:

Because the oils come from the portion of Asher, as it is written, “May he dip his foot in oil” [Deut. 33:24], and he had a place which was called Tekoa, as they said, “Tekoa is the best for oil”…and from there to Jerusalem was a round-trip journey of eight days.[148]

Regarding the sources of the wine supply, the Mishnah states: “And from where would they bring the wine? Kerutim and Hatulim are the best for wine. Second to them is Beit Rimah and Beit Lavan on the mountain, and Kefar Signah in the valley” (Menahot 8:6). “Kefar Signah” is undoubtedly Sogane (Σωγάη), which Josephus fortified. It may be assumed that this is identical with Sikhnin, which is called by this name in the later tannaitic sources and which was the central settlement in the Sikhnin Valley in Lower Galilee. The phonetic difference between “Signah” and “Sikhnin” is not great, and Josephus’ description of the location of Sogane suits Sikhnin. Even the Mishnah places “Signah in the valley.”[149]

The supply of the Temple’s needs of oil and wine was critically dependent upon the reliability of the workers’ and suppliers’ ritual cleanness. There are traditions regarding Galileans selling ritually clean foodstuffs for the needs of pilgrims going to Jerusalem. In the group of traditions about ties between cities in Galilee and Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Talmud quotes from Rabbi Hiyya bar Ba the statement that “there were eighty shops of sellers of ritually clean items in Kefar Imra.” Lamentations Rabbah quotes from Rabbi Huna that “there were three hundred shops of sellers of ritually clean items in Migdal Zevaya, and there were three hundred shops of curtain weavers in Kefar Nimrah.”[150] It seems that the former version is to be preferred, for the weaving of the curtains was done within the precincts of the Temple and was entrusted to ritually clean maidens.[151] The version of Lamentations Rabbah, however, furnishes the correct name of the place, which is Kefar Nimrah or Nimrin near Tiberias.

The reference is not to sellers of foodstuffs and similar items to those eating non-sanctified food in a state of ritual cleanness, but rather to sellers of ritually clean items to those making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as additions to the sacrifices such as wine and oil for the libations. These traditions were taught together with the traditions about the cedars on Har ha-Mishhah (i.e., the Mount of Olives), from which the fledglings were taken to nest and underneath which there were “four shops of pure things.” This entire topic concerns the bringing of sacrifices and gifts to the Temple.

Also in the Jerusalem Talmud, instead of “the weavers of curtains” we have “the weavers of palgas.” As palgas has no meaning, it should rather be read palnas, as scholars have suggested, which is φαιλόνης.[152] It may reasonably be as­sumed that these were the weavers of garments as gifts for the apparel of the priests.

The general picture in the sources[153] is as follows: the traditions attest not only to close ties between Galilee and Jerusalem, but also to the preparation by Galileans, in a state of ritual cleanness, of garments and items required for the Temple sacrifices.[154]

Strictness of Galilean Observance

The degree of the close ties with Jerusalem matches the picture that emerges from many tannaitic sources regarding the scrupulous observance of the commandments in Galilee. Most of the testimonies are from the Yavneh period, but several date from before the destruction of the Temple. “Observance” is not restricted to the commandments enumerated explicitly in the Torah; it also includes the observance of the commandments as they were transmitted, understood and formulated in the tradition of the Oral Torah, including the laws of ritual cleanness, which even the Oral Torah did not make incumbent upon all Israel but only upon those who assumed these laws and the practice of the setting aside of the ma’aserot (tithes). They were not observed in their entirety by many people who were termed amei ha-aretz, “the ignorant,” by the tradition.

Here as well we shall not list all the testimonies, especially not those which are almost certainly from the second generation of the Yavneh period, that is from the beginning of the second century until the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. We shall mainly discuss the testimonies from the period of the Temple and from the first generation of the Yavneh period.

Chronologically the best testimonies are the questions, cited above, that Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai was asked when he resided in Arav. We do not know how many years before the destruction of the Temple Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai came from Arav to Jerusalem, but it may be assumed that he spent a considerable number of years in Jerusalem. At any rate he was already in Jerusalem during the time of Hanan ben Hanan (63 C.E.), according to the Pharisees.[155] The time of his residence in Arav was approximately the fifties or perhaps even earlier. The two questions regarding Sabbath laws testify, in practice, to a scrupulous observance in Galilee of the Sabbath with all its stringencies, and even Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai could not say whether these two cases were actually prohibited.

The Midrash relates about Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, who was from the same city and generation as Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, that “some ass-drivers came from Arav to Sepphoris and stated that Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa had already begun the Sabbath in his town.”[156] This testifies not only to the Sabbath observance of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa who would begin his Sabbath prayers before the beginning of the Sabbath, but also to the atmosphere of Sabbath observance in the two cities of Arav and Sepphoris.

A clearer testimony of general significance is the narrative about the fire or fires in Kefar Signah. The Mishnah teaches a disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and the sages: Rabbi Eliezer holds that terumah may be given from the clean for the unclean, while the sages hold that this is prohibited (Terumot 2:1).[157] In the Tosefta (3:18), Rabbi Eliezer brings support for his opinion: “It once happened that a fire erupted in the threshing-floors of Kefar Signah,[158] and they gave terumah from the clean for the unclean.” The threshing-floors in Kefar Signah were in a state of cleanness, and when the fire erupted, both people who were particular regarding cleanness and others who were not particular came to extinguish the fire; it was no longer possible to set aside terumah in a state of cleanness from those threshing-floors, for they might have become unclean. In order to be sure of having ritually clean terumah, they separated from the clean produce that had been guarded even for these threshing-floors which had been saved from the fire. This presents us with the highest ideal of cleanness that the Pharisee sages could describe. The threshing-floors were kept in a state of cleanness, and only as a result of the fire which many people extinguished was there a fear of contact with amei ha-aretz who had not taken upon themselves the observance of the laws of cleanness. This is just like the situation presented by the Mishnah regarding the Temple vessels which were put on public display during the festivals in the Temple Courtyard.[159]

The Tosefta also explains why the sages disagree with Rabbi Eliezer; they hold that the occurrence in Kefar Signah does not constitute a proof, because they “set aside terumah from them for them,” in other words they set aside for themselves terumah from the threshing-floors which had possibly become unclean. This disagreement about the facts of the case indicates that the event had taken place a number of years previously. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was born during the time of the Temple and died at the beginning of the second century. Thus the event goes back to the early Yavneh period or possibly even earlier to when the Temple still stood.

A similar event is related in Tractate Kelim:

If an oven is heated from outside, or was heated not with his intent, or was heated in the house of the craftsman, it is unclean. It once happened that a fire took place in the ovens of Kefar Signah, and the event came to Yavneh, and Rabban Gamaliel declared them unclean. (m. Kelim 5:4, as t. Kelim 4:4)[160]

It seems that in Kefar Signah there was a workshop containing ovens that had not yet been heated and, therefore, had not acquired uncleanness, but then they were heated unintentionally. There was a fear that the amei ha-aretz had touched them, the ovens thereby becoming unclean, and once again the question arose: were they prepared and, therefore, capable of acquiring uncleanness? This question was brought before Rabban Gamaliel in Yavneh. As we have already learned, there were people in Signah who observed the laws of ritual cleanness. Accordingly, they were particular that the ovens would not be prepared and capable of acquiring uncleanness until they had been handed over to their owners. It was only when the fire erupted that they were touched also by other people who did not observe the rules of cleanness.

Possibly the two occurrences took place during one large conflagration which reached both the threshing-floors and the workshop containing ovens, as has been assumed by one scholar.[161] Threshing floors, however, were made in the fields, while a workshop for ovens would be located within or close to the city. Thus they may indeed be two separate traditions, each of them reflecting the same attitude to matters of ritual cleanness in Kefar Signah.

Practices regarding cleanness in Galilee can be learnt, too, from a question that came before Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradyon who was asked whether the mikveh(ritual bath) in the heights of Beit Anath was clean.[162]

Rabbi Jose ben Halafta testifies that the people of Sepphoris took care in the gathering of vegetables from the field and in the treatment of legumes not to wet them with water so that they would not be capable of acquiring uncleanness.[163] He speaks of those practices “at first,” possibly referring merely to the time immediately before him during the last days of Yavneh, yet possibly referring to an earlier tradition.

The beginning of Tosefta Kelim[164] cites two traditions about legal rulings; one, delivered by a student in the district of Ariah adjoining Tiberias, and the second, delivered by a pupil who taught in the marketplaces (or the thickets) of Sepphoris,[165] that is within the area of the irrigated fields of Sepphoris. These two questions deal with the laws of kilayim—the forbidden junction of plants or animals. As they seemed to be stringent rulings to the inhabitants of each place, they addressed queries to Yavneh. In the first case the sages in Yavneh agreed with the ruling of the pupil, but in the second they termed it a stringent ruling of Beit Shammai. At any rate, the growers of produce in those different localities in Galilee were particular regarding the details of the laws of kilayim.

In Tosefta Eruvin, Rabbi Judah relates:

It once happened in the house of Mammal and the house of Gurion in Ruma that they were distributing dried figs to the poor people who were there during a drought, and they were the poor of Shihin.[166] They would go out and make an eruv [i.e., a Sabbath station] with their feet, and they would enter and eat when night fell.[167]

The geographical location may be clarified. Ruma is ῾Ρούμα, which is mentioned by Josephus;[168] it was in the southwest of the Beit Netofah Valley. Two wealthy families lived there, Mammal and Gurion, and they distributed dried figs on the Sabbath during two drought years. The poor of Shihin,[169] which was located nearby, not more than twice the distance of the Sabbath bounds (4,000 amot, about 2 kilometers) from Ruma, would go forth from their houses on the Sabbath eve and establish their “home,” as it were, in the middle of the way, so that they would be permitted to walk on the Sabbath the distance of the Sabbath bounds (2,000 amot) in either direction from this point, both to Ruma and to Shihin. We learn from this tradition about the observance of the giving of charity by these two families, but also about the care taken by the poor of the village of Shihin to observe scrupulously the laws of the eruv, pursuant with the rulings of the sages.

It is possible that Rabbi Judah relates an event from the previous generation of the Yavneh period, but it is more likely to be a tradition from the time of the Temple, for we hear about the wealthy Gurion family from the end of the Temple period.[170] Another tradition regarding Rabbi Judah[171] is close to this one:

It once happened that the maidservant of an oppressor in Damin[172] threw her prematurely-born child into a pit, and a priest came and looked to see what she had thrown down, and the case came before the sages, and they declared him clean.

Here as well, the question arose due to scrupulous observance of the laws of cleanness. This, however, is apparently a tradition from the period after the destruction of the Temple when there were many “oppressors,” those who possessed the lands of Jews who had lost them in the war of the destruction.[173]

The Tosefta, Talmuds and Midrash[174] relate how the Sabbath was observed in Shihin beyond the strict requirements of the law. According to the Halakhah: “If a non-Jew comes to extinguish [a fire on the Sabbath], they do not tell him to extinguish and [they do not tell him] not to extinguish.” Jews are prohibited to tell the Gentile to extinguish, but not obliged to tell him not to extinguish and allowed to let him extinguish the fire. The baraita adds:

It once happened that a fire erupted in the courtyard of Joseph ben Simai of Shihin, and the [Gentile] people of the fort of Sepphoris came to extinguish it, but he did not allow them. A cloud descended and extinguished. The sages said: “It was not necessary.” Nevertheless, when the Sabbath went out, he sent a sela to each one of them, and to the commander among them he sent fifty dinarim.

The Babylonian Talmud adds “because he was the administrator of the king.” The latter can be assumed to have been Agrippa II, who died in the year 92, when all of his property passed over to the government. It is thus almost certain that the tradition predates 92 and that Joseph ben Simai was the same “administrator of the king,” mentioned above, who asked legal questions of Rabbi Eliezer.

From the combination of the traditions regarding the visits by Rabban Gamaliel of Yavneh and by his two sons Judah and Hillel to various cities in Galilee, we receive a broad picture of commandments being observed more scrupulously and strictly there than in Judea and in the academy of the sages in Yavneh.[175] The first of the following five traditions is about Rabban Gamaliel, the other four are about his sons:

And it once happened that Rabban Gamaliel was sitting on a bench[176] of the non-Jews on the Sabbath in Acre. They said to him, that they were not accustomed to sit on a bench of the non-Jews on the Sabbath. And he did not want to say, “You are permitted,” rather he stood and went away.[177]

It once happened that Judah and Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, went in to bathe in Kavul. They said to them that they were not accustomed to have two brothers go in together to bathe. They did not want to say to them, “You are permitted,” rather they went in and bathed one after the other.[178]

Once again, it happened that Judah and Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, were going forth in gilt slippers on the Sabbath in Biri. They said to them that they were not accustomed to go forth in gilt slippers on the Sabbath. They did not want to tell them, “You are permitted,” rather they sent them by the hand of their servants.[179]

They lead wine and oil through pipes before grooms and brides, and this is not considered to be the ways of the Amorite. It once happened that Judah and Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, went in [to Rabbi Zakkai] in Kavul, and the people of the town drew wine and oil in pipes before them.[180]

It once happened that Judah and his brother Hillel, the sons of Rabban Gamaliel, were walking along in the district of Oni.[181] They found one man whose tomb had opened within his field. Thy said to him, “Collect each bone, and everything is clean.”[182]

The first three of these five narratives appear in the Tosefta (and in the parallels) as one unit; their purpose is to relate to us that people in different cities in Galilee—Acre, Kavul and Beri—were stringent in matters in which the sages of Yavneh were lenient.[183] Rabban Gamaliel and his sons did not, however, wish to tell them that they were being more stringent than necessary. Thus the three narratives jointly testify to the scrupulous observance of the laws pertaining to the Sabbath and modesty in various places in Galilee. The latter two narratives about Rabban Gamaliel’s sons testify that Galileans observed the commandments concerned in accordance with the rulings of the sages, for the Mishnah and the Tosefta teach that the practices in question are permitted.

All five narratives date from the period around the end of the first century during which Rabban Gamaliel was active. It is reasonable to assume, however, that they describe strict practices of the Galileans that had established themselves earlier, before the destruction of the Temple.

From this or another journey by Rabban Gamaliel to Galilee come three more narratives connected with the route of his trip from Acre via Kheziv to the Ladder of Tyre promontory. Two are connected with his companion Rabbi Ilai, while one has been transmitted by Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Ilai’s son. The first two are to be found in Tosefta Pesahim and parallels,[184] the third in Tosefta Terumot.[185] One concerns gluskin, a fine type of bread; in the second a person wants to be released from his vow; the third tells of Segavyon, the head of the synagogue, who purchased a vineyard from a non-Jew and asked what action was to be taken regarding the produce.

We shall end our discussion of this topic by citing the well-known mishnaic statement (m. Pesahim 4:1) that “[in] a place in which they were accustomed to do work on the Eve of Passover until midday, they may do; [in] a place in which they were accustomed not to do, they may not do.” The Mishnah adds (ibid., 4:5): “And the sages say: ‘In Judea they would do work on the Eve of Passover until midday, and in Galilee they would not do so at all.’” In the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 55a), however, Rabbi Johanan explains that those two statements express the opposed views of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah respectively. Rabbi Judah is undoubtedly referring to the time of the Second Temple, for the Mishnah immediately notes that Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai disagreed over the details: In Galilee, is work already prohibited from the preceding night, like every festival that begins at night, or is it prohibited only from sunrise on? The disagreements between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel belong to the Temple period. Also the language (“they would do work”) indicates a tradition about practices in Galilee and Judea during the past.


We have examined testimonies anchored in the tannaitic tradition about the practices of individuals, of cities and of Galilee as a whole during the Second Temple period. They provide ample evidence both that Galilee had close ties with Jerusalem, including the ritual needs of the Temple, and that its religious and social life was rooted in a tradition of the Oral Torah which was indeed superior to the tradition of Judea.

Galilean Pietism and Jesus of Nazareth

Now we shall return to an issue which we have clarified elsewhere,[186] that of the pietist movement or trend known as Hasidim. We found that Jesus was extremely close to this trend or to the mood reflected in the intellectual foundations of the pietist movement.

We showed in those previous studies that regarding all the pietists and their teachers from the Second Temple period, whatever evidence we possess of their origin and activity concerns Galilee. Such are Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa from Arav; Abba Hilkiah, the grandson of Honi ha-Me’aggel, who is the pietist from Kefar Imi, also known as Kefar Yama (Yavniel in Lower Galilee); and the pietist priest from Ramat Beit Anat. To this list we may add Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings and miraculous acts exemplify several of the characteristic lines that we have found in the teachings and acts of the pietists. Their pietism is not to be viewed as springing from a world empty of Torah, despite the impression suggested at times by the arguments of their opponents, but rather from within a creative Jewish culture, innovative in both thought and conduct, as in the personalities of Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa, Abba Hilkiah and Jesus of Nazareth.

This same picture emerges from the books of the New Testament, both from the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. It is common knowledge that scholars are not always unanimous about the location of individual events in which Jesus was involved. The question, of course, is not simply whether the Gospels place an event within the context of Jesus’ stay in Jerusalem or of his wanderings in the cities of Galilee and around the shores of the Sea of Galilee, but rather where the episode was placed in the earlier levels of the tradition.

Partially reconstructed ruins of Corazin synagogue. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.)
Partially reconstructed ruins of Corazin synagogue. (Photo courtesy of Joshua N. Tilton.)

It can be established with certainty, however, regarding several traditions that the geographical context of the event is Galilee, whether because the rule of Herod Antipas is in the background of the narrative (for he did not rule in Judea) or because the event is connected with specific places in Galilee: the Sea of Galilee, Kanah, Kefar Nahum (Capernaum), Korazim (Chorazin), Bethsaida and similar places or places in which the Sea of Galilee is in the background. Those traditions with a clear Galilean background, however, accord with the tannaitic evidence already presented in testifying that Jewish life in Galilee was conducted in accordance with the formulation of Judaism during the Second Temple under the influence of and pursuant to the teachings of the Pharisaic sages. This picture is common to all the Gospels, but is especially clear in the narrative of Luke which contains more of the everyday reality than do the others.

Synagogues in Galilee

The most prominent fact from this daily life is the existence of synagogues in the cities of Galilee. Tannaitic literature mainly emphasizes the reading of the Torah and study in the synagogue.[187] The context in which synagogue matters are mentioned is the laws not of prayer but of the reading of the Torah. The same appears clearly in all four Gospels: Jesus comes several times to a synagogue, yet his visit is always connected with the reading of the Torah and Prophets and with public teaching.[188] Synagogues are to be found in Nazareth, Capernaum and in all the cities of Galilee.[189]

The synagogue was one of the great innovations of Second Temple Judaism. It was fashioned totally in accordance with the spirit and content of the tradition of the Oral Torah and the Pharisaic sages. Indeed, the oldest testimony regarding the existence of synagogues in every settlement is the narratives about Jesus’ actions in Galilee. The practice of reading in the Torah, followed by the reading in the Prophets, is mentioned for the first time in the narrative about Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in Nazareth.[190]

A reading of the Gospels reveals that the synagogues function normally, and that they are filled with men and women coming to serve the Lord. Whereas the Gospels address severe charges against the practices and leadership of the Temple, no criticism of the synagogues or of the synagogue leadership is to be found in them. This is exactly the reality of tannaitic literature. The tradition contains harsh criticism directed against the High Priests and their underlings, the amarkalim, the gizbarim and the other officials, but no criticism of the synagogue leadership or procedures.

Galilean Observance of Halakhah

One of the major spheres of religious activity during the Second Temple period was that of ritual cleanness or uncleanness. Many laws on this subject were innovations of the Pharisees and were not practiced by the Sadducees or the Essenes. One of the outstanding laws in this sphere is netilat yadayim, the washing of hands; not only was it not practiced by the Sadducees and the Essenes, it was even unknown to the author of the Book of Judith.[191] In the Halakhah of the Oral Torah it is discussed extensively; however, we also find an instance of a person who “made light of” it.[192]

In the New Testament, the washing of hands serves as the occasion for one of Jesus’ famous sayings, that it is not what comes to the body of a man that makes unclean, but rather what comes forth from it.[193] For the purposes of our discussion we shall merely indicate that we learn from Jesus’ dispute regarding the washing of hands (which apparently took place in Galilee, for he argues with Pharisees and “Scribes who came from Jerusalem”)[194] that “the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat without the washing of hands, holding to the tradition of the Elders.” Mark’s statements about the practices of all Israel in matters of ritual cleanness appear to be exaggerated.[195] At any rate, the picture that emerges from all three synoptic Gospels is that the washing of hands was a widespread practice in Galilee just as in Judea.

Important testimony regarding the observance in Galilee of the practices of ritual cleanness is provided by the narrative in John 2 about the miracle of the jars of wine. Verse 6 states that there were six stone water jars in the place where a wedding was held in Cana, in accordance with the practices of ritual cleanness of the Jews. Indeed, according to the law taught in many places in tannaitic and amoraitic literature, stone vessels do not acquire ritual uncleanness. This law is not stated explicitly in the Torah, but is understood in the tannaitic tradition and serves as the basis for many laws.[196] At the wedding they could prepare stone jugs for the water, with no fear about their being touched by amei ha-aretz and by all the many people coming to the wedding.

The Jewish practice of naming a newborn boy at the circumcision ceremony, which is in force to this day, is mentioned only in later Jewish sources. We learn from Luke’s Gospel, however, that this practice was already observed in Judea when John the Baptist and Jesus were named.[197]

It should be noted that in most of the narratives of Jesus’ acts of healing when the act was done on the Sabbath, it is stated that the Pharisees or the head of the synagogue opposed him for breaking the Sabbath.[198] Yet none of the cases mentioned are instances of the desecration of the Sabbath according to the Halakhah of talmudic literature. It is possible that the Galileans inclined to strictness regarding the Sabbath, just as we have seen them to have been strict regarding other laws. At any rate, we receive a picture of scrupulous Sabbath observance in various places in Galilee.[199] The fact that Friday is called “the day of preparation” (ἡ παρασκευή) in the Gospels[200] also testifies to the standing of the Sabbath in terms of the preparations made on its eve.[201]

The nativity story in Luke adds that the circumcision took place on the eighth day, as was indeed the custom, and that the days of cleanness were completed, and mentions the redemption of the male child (1:21-22). Only Luke (2:41-48) preserves the tradition that Jesus disappeared at the end of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover; his parents found him among those studying Torah in the Temple, listening to their teaching and asking questions that amazed them. As we saw above, he could have studied Torah at his leisure in his city, Nazareth, or nearby.

Pharisees in Galilee

We learn from the narratives in the Gospels, especially from Luke, that Pharisees were also present in Galilee. It is stressed, however, that the Pharisees were native to the region, while the Scribes came from Jerusalem. Regarding the dispute about the washing of hands, Matthew 15:1 states that “the Scribes and the Pharisees who came from Jerusalem” came to him. In Mark 7:1, however, it is stated that the Pharisees and some Scribes who had come from Jerusalem came to him. In Luke 11:37-38 a Pharisee invites Jesus to dine with him, and during the meal he is surprised because Jesus does not wash his hands. Similarly it is stated in Mark 3:22 that the Scribes who came from Jerusalem said that Jesus was driving out demons by the power of Baal-Zebub, but in Matthew 12:24 mention is made merely of “Pharisees.” It is stated in Luke 5:17 that when Jesus taught Torah, those sitting before him were Pharisees and teachers of the Torah who came from all the villages of Galilee, from Judea and from Jerusalem; these details are lacking in the parallels (Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12). In the sequel, it is stated in all three of the parallel passages that the Scribes and the Pharisees complained when Jesus and his disciples sat down to a meal with tax collectors and sinners;[202] there is no suggestion that they came from Jerusalem, rather the impression is that they were native to Galilee.

Similarly in the narrative about the parched ears on the Sabbath, it is stated that the Pharisees, or some of them, asked why the disciples of Jesus were doing something that was not permitted. Here as well, there is no suggestion in the three parallel texts that these Pharisees were not native to the region.[203]

Luke 7:35-50 relates the episode of the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet and anointed his feet with oil. This occurrence has parallels in the other Gospels;[204] in Luke, however, it is stated that he was in the house of a Pharisee who had invited him to a meal.[205] Luke 14:1-14 again tells of Jesus going to a meal in the home of a leading Pharisee: he turns to “the masters of Torah and the Pharisees.” Finally, it is related in Luke 13:31 that the Pharisees came to Jesus and warned him that Herod wanted to kill him.

We have not exhausted all the testimonies regarding the Pharisees in Galilee, but it is clear that we can learn about their presence there from the traditions in the New Testament. Emissaries also come to Galilee from Jerusalem, just as in many testimonies regarding the sages, mainly in the Yavneh generation, but Pharisees and masters of the Torah also reside in Galilee.

In John 7 there are denigratory expressions regarding Galilee. The question of verse 41, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee?,” is not an actual denigration of Galilee, but just an inference from the tradition that “the Messiah will come from the seed of David and from Bethlehem, where David was” (verse 42). At the end of the chapter, however, the Pharisees say to Nicodemus: “Are you also from Galilee? Search [i.e., expound the Scriptures] and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”[206] This is indeed a denigratory remark about Galilee, but no more so than the statements we have found in talmudic literature making light of Galilee and other places, but which could not be taken seriously.

Josephus on Galilee

Josephus was appointed to head the army in Galilee, where he remained until it fell. His autobiographical book deals mainly with the course of historical events in Galilee, but also contains some information about the cultural and social life in various cities and in Galilee as a whole. There is no doubt that the picture given in all those writings is one in which Galileans follow a Jewish religious life and observe the commandments according to their interpretation and formulation in the Oral Torah.

It should come as no surprise to find in Tiberias a large synagogue in which people gathered on the Sabbath, also to discuss current issues.[207] Chapter 54 of Josephus’ Life, moreover, contains a specific detail testifying to the lifestyle found also in the Jerusalem Talmud. He tells of a stormy assembly that was stopped “with the arrival of the sixth hour, in which it is our custom to eat the morning meal on the Sabbath.” While the people did not eat in the morning before the time of prayer, it was prohibited to fast “until the sixth hour” on the Sabbath, as the Amora Rabbi Jose bar Haninah teaches.[208]

Sabbath observance exceeding the demands of the talmudic Halakhah is mentioned a number of times during the course of the war in Galilee. Josephus relates in chapter 32 of his Life that he did not want to leave his soldiers in Migdal on the Sabbath, so that they would not constitute a burden upon the residents of the city. Once he has dismissed them on Sabbath eve, he can no longer assemble them, because the weekday has already passed, and on the following Sabbath day they cannot bear arms, because “our laws” prohibit this even in a time of distress. In another place he relates that Johanan persuaded Titus to stop the fighting on the Sabbath, because the Jews not merely could not go forth to fight on the Sabbath, but were forbidden even to conduct peace negotiations on the Sabbath.[209]

In chapter 12 of the Life, Josephus relates that he was about to destroy the palace of the tetrarch Herod in Tiberias because of the presence of depictions of animals, but Joshua ben Sapphias, who headed the group of sailors, acted before him.[210] He adds that the delegates who were sent with him from Jerusalem collected great riches from the tithes that were given them. There were ma’aserot that the amei ha-aretz did not set aside; what Josephus states thus accords with what we have found in tannaitic literature, that the tithes (ma’aserot) were given to the priests and not to the Levites as is stated in the Torah.[211] In section 56 Josephus describes the proclamation of a fast day and the assembly in the synagogue, matching the description of such a proclamation in the later books of the Scriptures[212] and in Mishnah Ta’anit 2.

Josephus’ Life and Jewish War admittedly contain only meagre material about the daily religious life in Galilee. Nevertheless, it certainly corresponds to the Halakhah and practice that we have found in the Oral Torah and in the religious and cultural life of the Jews in the first century.


An anonymous teaching in Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (27:43a) relates:

Because at first they would say, “Breadstuff in Judea, straw in Galilee, and chaff in Transjordan,” they later said, “There is no grain in Judea, but rather stubble; and there is no straw in Galilee, but rather chaff, and neither one nor the other in Transjordan.”

This baraita intends to teach us that Judea is better than Galilee and Galilee is better than Transjordan, and that even when a decline occurred (the time of this decline is not stated), Judea was still on a higher level than Galilee. As used in the literature of the time, the term “Judea” sometimes includes Jerusalem and sometimes means the land of Judea outside Jerusalem. Only in the former sense of “Judea” can the teaching of the baraita reflect historical and cultural reality. The many facts cited in this article show that, apart from Jerusalem, Galilee was in all respects equal to or excelled all other areas of the Land of Israel where Jews dwelled.

This article originally appeared in The New Testament and Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Studies in Honor of David Flusser, Immanuel 24/25 (1990): 147-186. Jerusalem Perspective wishes to thank Rev. Dr. Petra Heldt and The Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel, publishers of Immanuel journal (edited by Prof. Malcolm Lowe), for permission to publish the article in electronic format. Readers can purchase the print version of Immanuel 24/25 at

  • [1] This article was translated from Hebrew by Edward Levine. Recently published books that bear directly upon the subject of this article include: F. Malinowski, Galilean Judaism in the Writings of Flavius Josephus (Ann Arbor, 1973); G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew (London, 1977); E. M. Meyeres and J. F. Strange, Archaeology, the Rabbis and Early Christianity (Nashville, 1981); S. Freyne, Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian (Notre Dame, Indiana, 1987); R. Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer (Tübingen, 1987); M. Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee A.D. 132-212 (Totowa, New Jersey, 1983); W. Bosen, Galiläa als Lebensraum und Wirkungsfeld Jesu (Basel and Vienna, 1985).
  • [2] G. Alon, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Eretz Yisrael bi-Tekufat ha-Mishnah we-ha-Talmud (“The History of the Jews in the Land of Israel During the Period of the Mishnah and the Talmud”; Tel Aviv, 1953), 1:318-323. Regarding the Torah sages in Galilee before the revolt, see also A. Büchler, Am ha-Aretz ha-Galili (“The Galilean am ha-aretz”; Jerusalem, 1964), 193-240 (the pagination is according to the Hebrew translation; I did not have access to the German original during the writing of this article). See also A. Oppenheimer, The Am ha-Aretz (Leiden, 1977), 2-7, 200-217; and “Ha-Yishuv ha-Yehudi ba-Galil bi-Tekufat Yavneh u-Mered Bar Kokhba” (“The Jewish Community in Galilee During the Period of Yavneh and the Bar Kokhba Revolt”), Katedra 4 (1977): 53-66; Z. Safrai, Pirqei Galil (“Chapters on Galilee”; Ma’alot, 1972), 19-26.
  • [3] m. Shabbat 16:7; 22:3.
  • [4] See Alon, loc. cit., 53-71 and his articles “Halikhato shel Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai le-Yavneh” (“Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai’s Going to Yavneh”); “Nesiuto shel Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai” (“Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai’s Term as Nasi”), in Mekhkarim be-Toledot Yisrael (“Studies in Jewish History”; Tel Aviv, 1957), 1:219-273.
  • [5] See especially Genesis Rabbah 6:84.
  • [6] Matt. 15:1; Mark 3:22; 7:1; Luke 5:17.
  • [7] The 18 years stated by the Amora Ulla (see below) is not necessarily an exact number.
  • [8] See the mishnaic references in note 3. It becomes clear in b. Shabbat 121b that the sages who permitted this, and the pietists who were not pleased by it, disagreed on this issue. See below.
  • [9] When, during the period following the destruction of the Second Temple, a person wished to say that he had sinned, he would write on his board: “Ishmael ben Elisha trimmed the lamp on the Sabbath, when the Temple shall be rebuilt he shall bring a hatat (sin-offering)” (t. Shabbat 1:13 and the parallels in the Talmuds).
  • [10] j. Shabbat 16:15d.
  • [11] See especially Sifre Deuteronomy 357:425-427.
  • [12] j. Pesahim 5:32a. A similar passage also appears in b. Pesahim 62b.
  • [13] j. Sanhedrin 1:18c.
  • [14] See, e.g., j. Eruvin 6:23c; b. Hullin 132b Pesiqta Rabbati 29 (138b) and many other passages.
  • [15] j. Ta’anit 4:69b; j. Moed Katan 3:82d; j. Shevi’it 5:35d and many other passages. See S. Lieberman, Sifrei Zuta (New York, 1968), especially pp. 92-94.
  • [16] j. Ta’anit 3:66c.
  • [17] b. Shabbat 121b; see S. Safrai, “Teaching of Pietistics in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33.
  • [18] m. Avot 2:5. See S. Safrai, “Hasidim we-Anshei Ma’aseh” (“Pietists and Miracle-Workers”), Zion 50 (1985): 152-154. Regarding Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, see Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, A:12 (28b), B:27 (40b). See Safrai, ibid., 132-136.
  • [19] m. Ta’anit 2:5; see also t. Ta’anit 2:13; b. Ta’anit 16b; b. Rosh Ha-Shanah 27a.
  • [20] t. Shabbat 13:2; b. Shabbat 115a.; j. Shabbat 16:15c brings the event involving Rabban Gamaliel the Elder at the Temple Mount without the narrative regarding Rabbi Halafta’s visit to Tiberias.
  • [21] t. Ma’aser Sheni 1:13; t. Bava Batra 2:6 (= b. Bava Batra 56b); t. Ahilot 5:7; t. Kelim Bava Metzia 1:5.
  • [22] He lived until the time of Rabbi Judah the Nasi, all of the traditions regarding whom are after the time of the revolt. See t. Sukkah 2:2; j. Sanhedrin 7:24b.
  • [23] Thus the Commentary by Rabbi Simeon of Sens on the Mishnah 22:9 and in Yehusei Tannaim we-Amoraim, s.v. Haggai (Maimon ed., p. 234) and Hutzpit (ibid., p. 441).
  • [24] Thus in Rabbi Simeon of Sens, loc. cit.
  • [25] Thus in Rabbi Simeon of Sens, loc. cit.
  • [26] t. Kelim Bava Batra 2:2.
  • [27] See Alon, op. cit., 262.
  • [28] See note 19 above.
  • [29] b. Sanhedrin 32b.
  • [30] t. Miqwaot 6:3.
  • [31] t. Kelim Bava Metzia 1:6 and Bava Qamma 4:17; b. Pesahim 62b.
  • [32] According to the traditions in the Babylonian Talmud, Beruriah was the wife of Rabbi Meir; however, there is no allusion to this in the Jerusalem Talmud. Beruriah was years older than Rabbi Meir, who was active mainly after the revolt. See S. Safrai, Eretz Yisrael we-Hakhameha (“The Land of Israel and Its Sages”; Tel Aviv, 1984), 179.
  • [33] See Lamentations Rabbah 13:10; Semahot 12:13, 199-200; see also Alon, op. cit., (Tel Aviv, 1955), 2:1-2.
  • [34] j. Berakhot 4:7d; b. Berakhot 27b-28a.
  • [35] Sixteen, according to the Jerusalem Talmud; and eighteen, according to the Babylonian Talmud.
  • [36] Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, tract. 1 of pasha, sect. 16:59.
  • [37] j. Berakhot 1:3d.
  • [38] See b. Bekhorot 53b; b. Shabbat 54b. Rabbenu Tam discussed this contradiction in b. Shabbat 54b, capt. Hayah Ma’aseh. The “contradiction” came into existence only because Rabbenu Tam interpreted literally the statement that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was eighteen years old at the time of his appointment in place of Rabban Gamaliel.
  • [39] b. Megillah 26a. The wording “Rav Eleazar ben Azariah” appears in all the MSS; in the commentary of Rabbenu Hananel in Ravayah, part 2, para. 590, 316; in Or Zaro’a, part 2, para. 385 (79c); in Meiri, ad. loc.; in Teshuvot Maharam mi-Rotenburg, Crimona, para. 165; in t. Megillah 2 (3):17. In j. Megillah 3:71d Rabbi Judah transmits that Rabbi Eleazar ben Rabbi Zadok purchased a synagogue of Alexandrians in Jerusalem. It is possible that this is a different version of the same tradition or perhaps two different traditions. The same difficulty which was perceived by Rabbeinu Tam was also perceived by Lieberman, who proposed a forced answer (Tosefta Ki-Fshutah: Moed, p. 1162). He also was forced into this difficulty only because he accepted as historical fact the legend that Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah was appointed at the age of sixteen or eighteen.
  • [40] Genesis Rabbah 17:152-154; Leviticus Rabbah 34:802-806; j. Ketuvot 11:34b. The narrative in the Jerusalem Talmud is related concisely, while Genesis Rabbah contains two versions, one long and the other short. This narrative is alluded to by the author of Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 139, as Ish Shalom has already seen, loc. cit., n. 30.
  • [41] And t. Sotah 15:3; b. Berakhot 57b; b. Kiddushin 49b; b. Shabbat 54b.
  • [42] j. Yevamot 1:3b. The tradition regarding his appointment in place of the deposed Rabban Gamaliel stresses that he attained this because of his lineage (Jerusalem Talmud) and his wisdom and his wealth (Babylonian Talmud).
  • [43] t. Sotah 7:10 (and parallels); Avot de-Rabbi Nathan A:18 (33b), et al.
  • [44] m. Ma’aser Sheni 5:9; b. Sukkah 41b; t. Betzah 2:12; Sifrei Numbers 43:94, et al. See also S. Safrai, “Biqqureihem shel Hakhmei Yavneh be-Roma,” Studies in the History of the Jews of Italy in Memory of U.S. Nahon, (Jerusalem, 1978), 151-167.
  • [45] Sifrei, ibid., 75; b. Makkot 24a; Lamentations Rabbah 5:159.
  • [46] b. Yevamot 16a.
  • [47] t. Yoma 1:12, also 1:4; Sifrei Numbers 141:222; j. Yoma 2:39d; b. Yoma 23a.
  • [48] b. Gittin 56b; Lamentations Rabbah 1:68. According to the Babylonian Talmud, he fasted for forty years so that Jerusalem would not be destroyed. It is stated in Lamentations Rabbah, according to the printed versions, that Vespasian asked Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai why he arose before “this shrivelled old man.” This is the source of the prevalent opinion that Rabbi Zadok was very advanced in years at the time of the destruction of the Temple. In order to match this fact with the other traditions regarding Rabbi Zadok, two “Rabbi Zadoks” were created, a grandfather and a grandson. But there is not necessarily a chronological difficulty. Even if we were to receive as historical fact the tradition which transmits that Rabbi Zadok fasted for forty years, there is no justification to our accepting as fact that he actually fasted for forty years, for “forty years” is a round number which appears in many places—that is, if he had fasted for only five years or less, the tradition would have related that he had fasted for forty years. Regarding the “shrivelled old man (sabba tzurata),” the word sabba (old man) does not appear in the Buber edition, nor in He-Arukh, s.v. Tzaitor (vol. 3, p. 15). Lamentations Rabbah does not state that he fasted for forty years, only that he was shrivelled from the fasts.
  • [49] t. Sanhedrin 8:1; j. Sanhedrin 1:19c.
  • [50] Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Yitro, tractate of Amalek, 1:195; Sifrei Deuteronomy 38:24; b. Kiddushin 32b. See also b. Pesahim 37a and 49a.
  • [51] t. Sukkah 2:3; t. Eduyot 2:2; b. Yevamot 15b.
  • [52] t. Niddah 4:3-4. See m. Eduyot 8:4; t. Eduyot 3:3; t. Arakhin 11:2.
  • [53] m. Makhshirin 1:3 and the interpretation of halikopri: a metal merchant (χαλκωπώλης).
  • [54] See m. Eduyot 8:4; t. Eduyot 3:3; t. Arakhin 11:2.
  • [55] Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai also was in Galilee on his missions. See Avot de-Rabbi Nathan A:12 (28b) and B:13 (ibid.).
  • [56] t. Betzah 3:8; j. Betzah 3:62b.
  • [57] t. Megillah 3(4):15; Semahot 12:5; b. Sukkah 41a; b. Pesahim 116a; b. Bava Batra 14a; b. Menahot 40a. He is the sage who spoke the most extensively about Jerusalem and the Temple.
  • [58] t. Megillah 2(3):17; j. Megillah 3:1d.
  • [59] t. Ketuvot 5:10; j. Ketuvot 5:30c; b. Ketuvot 67a; Lamentations Rabbah 1 (43b); Pesiqta Rabbati 29 (140a). The city of Acre is not mentioned in all the parallels.
  • [60] t. Hagigah 2:3; j. Hagigah 2:77b-c; b. Hagigah 15a-b; Ruth Rabbah 6; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7.
  • [61] Thus in the Jerusalem Talmud and in Ruth Rabbah, Kohelet Zuta 135 and Yalqut Makhiri on Psalms 90:84.
  • [62] In MS Oxford 164. See the edition by M. B. Lerner (dissertation, Hebrew University, 1971), 2:174 and the notes, 3:61.
  • [63] b. Moed Katan 20a; b. Nazir 44a; Semahot 12, 2:194.
  • [64] Thus in the baraita in b. Nazir.
  • [65] This interpretation was already offered by Rabbi Jacob Emden in his annotations on b. Moed Katan 20a and by many scholars after him. They raised this only because they followed the version in Babylonian Talmud, understanding it literally. According to this it follows that he already was very old during the time of the Temple. As we have clarified, however, there is no basis for this determination. See note 48 above.
  • [66] We can learn of Elisha ben Avuyah’s uniqueness from his aggadic dicta (m. Avot 4:20; Avot de-Rabbi Nathan A:24 and B:34) and from the fact that one of the outstanding sages, Rabbi Meir, a central figure in the Mishnah, remained loyal to Elisha ben Avuyah even after he “went forth from his world.” See the sources listed in note 60.
  • [67] j. Berakhot 4:7c-d; b. Berakhot 27b-28a; see also b. Bekhorot 36a.
  • [68] b. Avodah Zarah 18a.
  • [69] b. Yevamot 96b; j. Sheqalim 2:47a. The Jerusalem Talmud does not mention Tiberias, but rather the synagogue of the Tarsians. This refers, however, to the mishnaic statement in Eruvin, in which Tiberias is mentioned. We may possibly conclude that this refers to a synagogue of Tarsians (after the name of the city Tarsus or after the profession—artistic weavers) in Tiberias. The passage in the Jerusalem Talmud does not mention the name of the city Tiberias because the incident in which the tradition is placed took place in Tiberias in a conversation among Rabbi Elhanan, Rabbi Eleazar ben Pedat, Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi, all of whom were Tiberian sages in the second half of the third century. They, therefore, mentioned only that this occurred in the synagogue of the Tarsians. The Jerusalem Talmud version is also found in Yalqut Makhiri on Psalm 61:3 (156a).
  • [70] Thus according to the emendation of the text in the two Talmuds.
  • [71] Tanhuma, wa-yishalah 8 (Buber ed., 83b). This tradition is to be found also in b. Sanhedrin 98a, but the latter source does not explicitly mention the name of the city Tiberias. We copy from the more complete version in Yalqut Makhiri on Obadiah, published by M. Gaster in Revue des Etudes Juives 25 (1892): 63-64. We find in the MSS that the passage is taken from Tanhuma. It was reprinted in Yalqut Makhiri, published by A. W. Greenup (London, 1909), p. 4.
  • [72] Song of Songs Rabbah 2; Semahot 11, 4:188; t. Megillah 2:8, et al.
  • [73] t. Peah 3:2; b. Pesahim 38b, et al.
  • [74] t. Zevahim 2:16-17; b. Menahot 18a.
  • [75] t. Sukkah 2:1 and parallels in the Talmuds.
  • [76] t. Pesahim 2 (1):15; j. Avodah Zarah 1:40a; b. Eruvin 64b.
  • [77] Sifrei Deuteronomy 16:26 (see note by Finkelstein, ibid.); b. Eruvin 41a; Sifrei Deuteronomy 1:4, et al.
  • [78] t. Orlah 3:8; b. Kiddushin 39a; t. Kelim Bava Qamma 6:3, et al.
  • [79] See above and note 21.
  • [80] t. Terumah 7:14; t. Sukkah 2:2. Regarding the formulation, see S. Safrai, “Beit Shearim ba-Sifrut ha-Talmudit” (“Beit Shearim in the Talmudic Literature”), Eretz Yisrael 5 (1959): 208 and n. 17.
  • [81] Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, ba-hodesh 2:210; Avot de-Rabbi Nathan A:32 (47a), et al.
  • [82] b. Avodah Zarah 17b.
  • [83] Tanhuma, Masai 1 (Buber ed., 81a).
  • [84] Thus in the printed editions. This is also what may be assumed from the issue itself, for the question is when may a person who is persecuted by the non-Jews desecrate the Sabbath; the answer is that he may flee, and mention is made of the narrative regarding Rabbi Eleazar ben Parta, who hinted to them to flee.
  • [85] j. Gittin 7:48d.
  • [86] See Büchler, 200.
  • [87] j. Sotah 1:16c; t. Gittin 5 (7):4.
  • [88] j. Shabbat 1:5d; b. Shabbat 123a; b. Eruvin 71b; Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, shirah 1:119.
  • [89] Tractate Derekh Eretz 1. In the Higger edition of the Tosefta, Derekh Eretz 3:267. Büchler, ibid., erroneously joined this to Rabbi Eliezer ben Tadai. Regarding the exchange Teradyon-Tadion-Taddai, see J. N. Epstein, “Perurim Talmudiyim” (“Talmudic Crumbs”), Tarbiz 3 (1932): 111.
  • [90] See below.
  • [91] See Shmuel and Ze’ev Safrai, “Beit Anat,” Sinai 40 (1976): 18-34, especially 21-22.
  • [92] Leviticus Rabbah 2:451.
  • [93] t. Shevi’it 4:11 (and parallels). The name “Katzra de-Galila” is found in all the parallels in the literature, including in the mosaic floor found in the Beit Shean valley near Tel Rehov. See Y. Sussman, “Ketovet Hilkhatit me-Emek Beit-Shean” (“A Halakhic Inscription from the Beit Shean Valley”), Tarbiz 43 (1973-4): 158.
  • [94] An archaeological report of relatively broad scope is to be found in V. Guerin, Description de la Palestine, Galilée (Paris, 1880), vol. 7, part 3, t. 2, p. 157. The main thrust of his comments are cited almost verbatim in the British Survey of Western Palestine, 1 (1981): 154. A short report on the site was also written by Tzvi Gitzov, in M. Yedayah ed., Ma’aravo shel Galil (“The West of Galilee”; 1961), 53. A more comprehensive description was written by Tzvi Ilan: Hurvat Galil—Zihuyehah u-Mimtza’ehah (“The Ruins of Galil—Its Identification and Finds”), in M. Yedayah ed., Kadmoniyot ha-Galil ha-Ma’aravi (“Antiquities of Western Galilee”; Haifa, 1986), 516-520. Even during later periods when Galilee was the center of Judaism and of Torah study, there were sages who were named after the city of Galil. See j. Shabbat 3:6a, b. Shabbat 46a, j. Berakhot 3:6a, et al.
  • [95] m. Avodah Zarah 3:5; t. Gittin 7 (9):1; t. Miqwaot 7:11; t. Orlah 1:8; b. Moed Qatan 28b, et al.
  • [96] Sifrei Numbers 118:141. In his commentary on Isa. 8:14, Jerome includes Rabbi Jose ha-Galili in his short list of the greatest Tannaim. See A. Geiger, “Über Judentum und Christentum,” Jüdische Zeitschrift 5 (1867): 273.
  • [97] Regarding this issue, see b. Hullin 116a. Rabbi Jose ha-Galili’s opinion is also held by a sage named Apikulos in t. Hullin 8:2 (he is not mentioned elsewhere in our literature).
  • [98] b. Hullin 116a; Yevamot 14a.
  • [99] See S. Safrai, “Ha-Hakhra’ah ke-Veit Hillel” (“The Decision in Accordance with Beit Hillel”), in Proceedings of the Seventh World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, 1981), 27-44.
  • [100] m. Hullin 5:1; m. Eduyot 5:2.
  • [101] b. Eruvin 53b.
  • [102] In the same passage in b. Eruvin 53b. It should be mentioned once again that the expression “foolish Galilean,” in its Aramaic form, was applied to a merchant who came to sell his wares in Judea and said “amar to someone.” It was not clear whether he meant hamar (for in the Galilean accent there was no distinction between the letter ח “het” and the letter א “alef“) for drinking (wine) or hamar (ass) for riding or amar (with the initial letter ע “ayin“, wool). It is possible that the later passage used Beruriah’s expression, but it is also possible that this was an expression in general use. We can learn nothing from this, because the lack of differentiation between the letters alef, ayin and het prevents us from learning about a poor cultural state (see below). See J. N. Epstein, Mavo le-Nusah ha-Mishnah (“Introduction to the Text of the Mishnah”; Jerusalem, 1948), part 1, 183-185.
  • [103] Sifrei Deuteronomy 41:85. See notes 90-91 above.
  • [104] With the assistance of my son Ze’ev.
  • [105] A portion from the Genizah published by J. N. Epstein in Tarbiz 1 (1930): 70. See ibid., n. 17 and the introduction, 52-53.
  • [106] t. Sotah 3:3; j. Sotah 9:24b; b. Sotah 48b.
  • [107] Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1; Song of Songs Rabbah 1.
  • [108] b. Sanhedrin 32b; t. Sukkah 2:1; Midrash on Psalm 25:13 (107b), et al. Regarding his property in the region, see t. Ma’aser Sheni 5:16.
  • [109] t. Hullin 2:24; b. Avodah Zarah 16b.
  • [110] Thus in MS London and in the Rishonim. At any rate it seems that he was a sage, and the deed he performed of spreading a sheet over the sukkah against the sun corresponds to the statement in m. Sukkah 1:3; see also Tosafot 10aPires alav sadin.
  • [111] In b. Sukkah 27b: “In Upper Galilee, in the sukkah of Johanan ben Rabbi Ilai, in Kesari, or as some say, in Kesarion.”
  • [112] And in the parallel in b. Sukkah 27b.
  • [113] b. Sukkah 27a.
  • [114] See ibid., 27b. Regarding his identification, see below.
  • [115] See above and notes 61-62. Regarding his identification, see below.
  • [116] b. Moed Qatan 16a-b; see A. Büchler, “Learning and Teaching in Open Air in Palestine,” Jewish Quarterly Review 4 (1914): 485-491.
  • [117] t. Kelim Bava Batra 3:6.
  • [118] j. Ma’aserot 1:48d.
  • [119] b. Eruvin 29a; b. Sotah 48a; b. Kiddushin 20a; b. Arakhin 30b. Cf. j. Bikkurim 2:65a.
  • [120] Sifrei Zuta 302. Ibid., 305, there is an additional reference to the group of sages and “Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob sits and expounds regarding the [red] heifer in Tiberias.” This latter incident, however, occurred after the Bar Kokhba Revolt.
  • [121] t. Bava Qamma 8:17; b. Bava Qamma 80a; j. Sotah 9:24a.
  • [122] Thus as correct in MS Vienna, in first ed. of the Tosefta, and in MS Hamburg of the Babylonian Talmud and in Maharshal, citing other books; and similarly in the Jerusalem Talmud.
  • [123] Thus in the printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud, and MS Vatican and Maharshal, citing other books. Similarly, it seems that Shezor is on the boundary between Lower and Upper Galilee; Rabbi Simeon Shezori speaks of his family’s properties which were in Upper Galilee.
  • [124] See the passage in b. Sanhedrin 4b-5a and j. Sanhedrin 1:18b.
  • [125] t. Yevamot 3:1. See G. Alon, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Eretz Yisrael bi-Tekufat ha-Mishnah we-ha-Talmud (“History of the Jews in the Land of Israel During the Period of the Mishnah and the Talmud”; Tel Aviv, 1967), 1:174.
  • [126] m. Kelim 18:1; m. Taharot 3:2, et al.
  • [127] j. Demai 5:24d.
  • [128] t. Shevi’it 2:5; b. Rosh Ha-Shanah 13b. Rabbi Jose ben Kippar was sent, shortly after the Bar Kokhba revolt, to persuade Hananiah, the nephew of Rabbi Joshua, to stop independently intercalating years and proclaiming new months in Babylonia, but instead to rely upon the sages in the Land of Israel (b. Berakhot 63a). By that time he already was a sage whose opinion was heeded.
  • [129] See Alon, Toledot ha-Yehudim, 19.
  • [130] Alon, ibid., 321, et al.
  • [131] m. Ketuvot 4:12; j. Ketuvot 29b. Regarding other wedding practices in which the Galileans followed the practices of the Jerusalemites, see t. Ketuvot 1:4, j. Ketuvot 1:29a, b. Ketuvot 12a. All the practices of Galilee are more refined and better than those in Judea.
  • [132] Semahot 3:6 111-112.
  • [133] b. Shabbat 153a; see the commentary by Rashi, loc. cit.
  • [134] See S. Klein, Eretz ha-Galil (“The Land of Galilee”; Jerusalem, 1967), 169-176; S. Safrai, Ha-Aliyah la-Regel bi-Yemei ha-Bayit ha-Sheni (“Pilgrimage in the Days of the Second Temple”; Tel Aviv, 1965), 50-53.
  • [135] t. Yoma 1:4; j. Yoma 1:38c; b. Yoma 12b and in the parallel 9b.
  • [136] Antiq. 17:165. See S. Lieberman in Tosefta Ki-Fshutah: Moed, 723-726.
  • [137] m. Yoma 6:3.
  • [138] Thus in the Mishnah of the Jerusalem Talmud, MS Cambridge A and B, Naples printing, et al.
  • [139] t. Sotah 13:8; j. Yoma 6:3c; b. Yoma 39a; b. Kiddushin 53a.
  • [140] j. Ta’anit 4:69a; Lamentations Rabbah 2.
  • [141] See above and note 107.
  • [142] See m. Yoma 3:4; t. Yoma 2:2-4.
  • [143] See Safrai, loc. cit. (note 128).
  • [144] j. Ma’aser Sheni 5:56a; Lamentations Rabbah 3:63a-b.
  • [145] Regarding the inscriptions, see Safrai, loc. cit., 53.
  • [146] b. Menahot ch. 8; t. Menahot ch. 9.
  • [147] m. Menahot ch. 8 and t. Menahot 8:5. This is undoubtedly the Tekoa in Galilee and not the one in Judea, for it also was listed among the places in which olives were grown in Galilee regarding the matter of shemittah (the Sabbatical year: t. Shevi’it 7:15, b. Pesahim 23a). The Judean Tekoa, which borders the Judean Desert, was not known for its oil. The Babylonian Talmud (b. Menahot 85b) understood from the statement of Rabbi Johanan that this was the Galilean Tekoa. The Jerusalem Talmud, on the other hand (Hagigah 3:79b), understood that this was the Judean Tekoa: see S. Lieberman, Tarbiz 2 (1931): 110.
  • [148] Teshuvat ha-Geonim (Leck), sec. 104. The responsum was printed in Otzar ha-Geonim on Shabbat, the section of responsa, p. 23; see addenda on p. 163. Several of the Rishonim cite this tradition in the name of the Jerusalem Talmud. This does not appear in our editions of the latter, and it seems that it appears chiefly in a midrash that is not extant. See G. Alon, Mehkarim, section 2, 24 n. 16.
  • [149] Life 188. See also S. Klein, Eretz ha-Galil (“The Land of Galilee”; Jerusalem, 1967), 39 ff. He was preceded by A. Schlatter, Die Hebräischen Namen bei Josephus (photocopy ed., Darmstadt, 1970), 82-83; see below.
  • [150] See note 139.
  • [151] These things are not explicitly stated in a halakhic ruling, but they can almost certainly be learned from talmudic literature, with assistance being provided by the Christian tradition and the Apocalypse of Baruch. See m. Sheqalim 8:5 and the exposition of S. Lieberman in Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York, 1950), 167; S. Safrai, Ha-Aliyah la-Regel, 28 n. 94.
  • [152] See Klein, loc. cit., 52.
  • [153] t. Yoma 1:23; 1 Mac. 3:49. See Safrai, loc. cit., p. 78, n. 96.
  • [154] It would seem that this contradicts the statement of the Mishnah (Hagigah 3:4), which states that the people of Judea, both haverim (who maintained the ritual cleanness of the terumah) and amei ha-aretz, were regarded as reliable concerning the cleanness of the wine and the oil used in the sacrifices in the Temple all the days of the year, while the Galileans were not regarded as reliable. The two Talmuds offer a reason for the unreliability of the Galileans: because “a strip of the Cutheans separates,” and sacrifices were not brought through the Land of the Cutheans (Samaria). In another place (Ha-Aliyah la-Regel, 44-46 and nn. on p. 25) I have shown that this is not in accordance with the Halakhah and the reality of the Temple period, in which sacrifices were brought from Galilee. Rather, those who prepared the wine and oil in Judea were more aware of the possibility that their wine and oil would go to the Temple, and, therefore, there were many people who were particular to maintain their cleanness, while the Galileans ordinarily were not aware of this, and, therefore, whoever was not a haver was not regarded as reliable for this matter. But there were people who prepared these items for the Temple as well and brought them to Jerusalem through the Land of the Cutheans.
  • [155] See H. Graetz, 2:749-752 n. 19.
  • [156] Genesis Rabbah 10:84.
  • [157] Rabbi Eliezer repeats his opinion in m. Hallah 2:8. Similarly, Rabbi Ilai cites in his name that they would give terumah from the clean for the unclean, even from wet produce (t. Terumah 3:18).
  • [158] Thus in MS Vienna; this was distorted in MS Erfurt. It refers to “threshing-floors” in the plural and similarly in Melekhet Shelomo on m. Terumah 2:1: In the threshing-floors of Kefar Signah.
  • [159] See m. Hagigah 3:8.
  • [160] MS Erfurt has in the Tosefta tanur (sing.), but MS Vienna has tanurim (pl.).
  • [161] F. Rosenthal, in Sefer Yovel le-David Tzvi Hoffmann (Berlin, 1914), 367.
  • [162] t. Miqwaot 6:2.
  • [163] t. Makhshirin 2:5.
  • [164] t. Kilayim 1:4; j. Kilayim 1:24d.
  • [165] See J. N. Epstein, “Mi-Dikdukei Yerushalmi,” Tarbiz 5 (1934): 269-270.
  • [166] The Babylonian Talmud also includes the poor of Kefar Hananiah; this was written only as a slip of the tongue from other places in which Kefar Hananiah is mentioned together with Kefar Shihin (b. Shabbat 120b; b. Bava Metzia 74a), for Kefar Hananiah is much farther than the distance of two “Sabbath bounds” from Rumah, and it was not possible to go from Kefar Hananiah to Rumah on the Sabbath: see S. Lieberman, Tosefta Ki-Fshutah: Moed, 361.
  • [167] t. Eruvin 3 (4):17; j. Eruvin 4:22a; b. Eruvin 50b.
  • [168] War 3:233.
  • [169] Regarding the identification of Shihin, see Lieberman, loc. cit., 360-361, following those who preceded him; see also the critical comments by Ze’ev Safrai, Pirqei Galil, 69-71.
  • [170] See S. Klein, Eretz ha-Galil, 32.
  • [171] t. Ahilot 16:13; j. Pesahim 1:26c; b. Pesahim 9a; b. Avodah Zarah 42a.
  • [172] Thus in the version of MS Vienna and in the Rishonim, and not Rimon, as in our text. It is in the bounds of Tiberias; see the narrative also in t. Miqwaot 6:2.
  • [173] See Sifrei Deuteronomy 327:425-426.
  • [174] t. Shabbat 13 (14):9; j. Shabbat 16:15d; b. Yoma 8:5b; j. Nedarim 4:38d; b. Shabbat 121a; Deuteronomy Rabbah, Lieberman ed., p. 20.
  • [175] Judah and Hillel were the sons of Rabban Gamaliel of Yavneh. See above and note 91.
  • [176] A bench upon which merchandise is sold.
  • [177] t. Moed Katan 2:15; j. Pesahim 4:30d; b. Pesahim 51a.
  • [178] See note 177.
  • [179] See note 177.
  • [180] t. Shabbat 7 (8):17; Semahot 8:4, 150. The addition appears only in Semahot. See Maimon ed., Sefer Yihusei Tannaim wa-Amoraim (Jerusalem, 1963), 153 and n. 172a.
  • [181] This is Beit Anat. See the article mentioned in note 91 above.
  • [182] t. Ahilot 16:13.
  • [183] Regarding sitting on benches on the Sabbath, it was stated explicitly (t. Moed Katan 2:14) that they were accustomed to be stringent until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that it was permitted.
  • [184] t. Pesahim 2(1):15; j. Avodah Zarah 1:40a; b. Eruvin 64b.
  • [185] t. Terumot 2:13.
  • [186] See my articles cited in notes 17 and 18 above.
  • [187] See t. Megillah 2(3):18 and parallels. Matters connected with the synagogue are not mentioned in the first chapters of Tractate Berakhot, which deal with matters relating to prayer, but rather in the last two chapters of Tractate Megillah, which deal with the reading of the Torah. See S. Safrai, “Gathering in the Synagogues on Festivals, Sabbaths and Weekdays in Ancient Synagogues in Israel,” in Ancient Synagogues in Israel Third-Seventh Century C.E.; Proceedings of Symposium, University of Haifa, May 1987., (ed. Rachel Hachlili; British Archaeological Reports International Series 499; Oxford: 1989), 7-15.
  • [188] Matt. 4:23 and 9:35; Mark 1:21, 39 and 6:1; Luke 4:15, 16, 31; 6:6 and 13:10; John 6:59.
  • [189] Mark 1:21 and 6:1; Luke 4:21; John 6:59. See the references in the preceding note.
  • [190] Luke 4:16-17.
  • [191] The earliest testimony is found in the Letter of Aristeas, 304-306. Yehudit goes forth and immerses. See ibid., 14:11-15.
  • [192] m. Eduyot 5:6.
  • [193] Mark 7:15-20; Matt. 15:17-20.
  • [194] Mark 7:1; cf. Matt. 9:1; Luke 11:37.
  • [195] Mark 7:20.
  • [196] m. Betzah 2:3; m. Ahilot 5:5, et al.
  • [197] Luke 1:59 and 2:21.
  • [198] Matt. 12:1; Luke 14:2-6 and 13:11-16; John 7:23.
  • [199] A general survey is provided by J. N. Epstein, Mevo’ot le-Sifrut ha-Tanna’im (“Introductions to the Literature of the Tannaim”; Jerusalem, 1957), 280-281; S. Safrai, “Religion in Everyday Life” in The Jewish People in the First Century (CRINT I.2; Assen, 1976), 804-807.
  • [200] Matt. 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31. The name is connected to the narrative of the crucifixion, and it is possible that the appellation existed only in Jerusalem.
  • [201] The name is also to be found in Josephus, Antiq. 16:163.
  • [202] Luke 5:27-32; Mark 2:13-17; Matt. 9:9-13.
  • [203] Luke 6:1-5; Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28. However, in his book Jesus in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1968), 44, David Flusser argues that these Pharisees followed a stricter Halakhah on this point than the Galilean practice of the disciples of Jesus.
  • [204] Mark 14:3-9; Matt. 26:6-13; John 12:1-8.
  • [205] In the parallels, the entire narrative is inserted in a different context.
  • [206] In contrast with this statement, Rabbi Eliezer emphasizes in b. Sukkah 27b that there is no tribe in Israel that has not produced a judge; in Seder Olam Rabbah 21 (Katner ed., 46a), that you have no city in the Land of Israel in which there were no prophets.
  • [207] Life 54. b. Shabbat 150a states: “Rabbi Johanan said, ‘It is permitted to supervise matters of life and death and matters of communal urgency on the Sabbath, and it is permitted to go to synagogues to deal with communal affairs on the Sabbath.’”
  • [208] j. Ta’anit 3:67a; j. Nedarim 8:40d.
  • [209] War 4:87-102. M. D. Herr, in his article “Le-Va’ayat Hilkhot Milhamah ba-Shabbat bi-Yemei Bayit Sheni u-bi-Tekufat ha-Mishnah we-ha-Talmud” (“Regarding the Problem of the Laws of War on the Sabbath in the Days of the Second Temple and in the Period of the Mishnah and the Talmud”), Tarbiz 30 (1961): 255-256, holds that this statement by Johanan was only a ploy in order to escape, and that it was not an actual halakhic ruling. It is true that in the period under discussion the ruling had already been issued that it is permitted to engage in a defensive war on the Sabbath, and that a war which has been begun three days prior to the Sabbath is to be continued on the Sabbath; and wars were indeed waged on the Sabbath. Johanan as well fought on the Sabbath, and Josephus himself also fought on the Sabbath. Thus there is no justification for saying that it was not an actual halakhic ruling; some were lenient in the matter, while others were stringent. Johanan, however, indeed said this to Titus as a ploy in order to escape, as he did in fact do, but there was a basis for his statement. See the statements by J. N. Epstein and A. D. Melamed, which are cited by Herr, 256 and n. 62.
  • [210] Josephus, of course, accuses them of a desire to rob.
  • [211] See also Josephus’ comments at the beginning of ch. 16, ibid. Regarding the law and practice of giving ma’aser to the priests, see m. Yevamot 6:1-2; b. Ketuvot 26a; b. Bava Batra 61b; b. Hullin 131b; t. Peah 4:5, et al.
  • [212] Joel 1:14; Isa. 58:3.

A Call for New Conversation

Attentive readers of Matthew, Mark and Luke know that Jesus relished speaking about the kingdom of heaven. Responding to his emphasis, prominent New Testament scholars made it a major theme of inquiry in their research. Among such 20th-century scholars were Albert Schweitzer, Charles Dodd, and Joachim Jeremias. They tried to clarify the kingdom of heaven’s temporal nature: Was it a present reality, an approaching eschatological event, or some abstruse fusion of both?[1]

This academic conversation, attempting to reconcile the kingdom of heaven’s presence with its futurity, enhanced our understanding of Jesus’ teachings. To supplement its contribution, however, other conversations should be initiated as well. For example, entering the kingdom of heaven could be compared to and contrasted with inheriting eternal life. I have carried out this exercise and concluded—provisionally—that these two achievements may be described as complementary modes of the same Christian life.[2]

To pursue this idea further, consider what Charles Janeway Stillé, a 19th-century attorney and historian, who served as the tenth Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, once wrote in a chapter on monasticism, chivalry, and the crusades:

In all ages of the world, in all countries, and in nearly all religions, there has been one form of the religious life for the few, and another for the many, although the same religious creed or belief was common to both classes. In most of the religions of the world the line which separated these two classes was that upon one side of which was found asceticism in its highest sense as the rule and practice of religious life, and on the other side a thoroughly orthodox belief combined with a practice by which the ordinary duties of life could be performed and its pleasures enjoyed without a consciousness of violating the obligations of duty.[3]

In this respect, namely, one track for the majority of his supporters and another, more rigorous track for the minority—referred to in Synoptic parlance as “disciples”—Jesus’ teachings may not have been unique.

According to the first three Gospels, entering the kingdom of heaven required sacrifice and discipline. When young men accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow, that is, to enter the kingdom of heaven, they left behind family, property, and careers. Shmuel Safrai, a former professor of Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, already noted similarities between Jesus’ habits and those of other Jewish sages who embraced hasidut, a type of piety favoring poverty and associated with miracle working.[4]

Jesus emphasized the kingdom of heaven, but occasionally he spoke of eternal life. On one occasion, he described the coming of the Son of Man and those who would inherit—note the verb and absolute construction of its object—the kingdom (Matt. 25:34). On another, he fielded a question from a rich young man who sought to know what was necessary for inheriting eternal life (Luke 18:18). To inherit eternal life, the kingdom mentioned in Matthew 25:34—a potentially confusing usage of the word for English readers of this essay—Jesus prescribed merciful, charitable, and upright conduct, but not necessarily celibacy or poverty. A person could keep the Ten Commandments without postponing marriage or liquidating assets and scattering their proceeds to the poor. To echo the language of Stillé, a person could be a fine candidate for obtaining eternal life while engaged in life’s ordinary duties and enjoying its pleasures.

The way in which Stillé paired life’s ordinary duties with enjoying its pleasures reminded me of a verse from Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower, a teaching that may deal with aspects of the kingdom of heaven. In Luke 8:14, Jesus metaphorically spoke of cares (μεριμνῶν) and pleasures (ἡδονῶν) of life (τοῦ βίου). “Cares,” in this context, may be paraphrased as worries that afflict people as they strive to fulfill their responsibilities in life. If my interpolation is accurate, then the Mishnaic Hebrew phrase, “yoke of ordinary duties,” which Rabbi Nehuniah once used in a saying about devotion to Torah (m. Avot 3:5), should be treated as a relevant parallel to Luke’s “cares of life.”

These three men, although separated by many years, addressed conceptually aligned subject matter. Rabbi Nehuniah spoke of two sets of yokes. A man must bear one of them, either that of Torah (עול תורה) or that of ordinary duties (עול דרך ארץ) and ruling (governmental) authority (עול מלכות). He does not carry both; he chooses one set. Accepting, therefore, the yoke of Torah releases him from the yokes of ordinary duties and ruling authority, but casting it aside subjects him to the other two. Stillé wrote of duties and pleasures that cannot be pursued as part of an ascetic life. Jesus compared anxieties and the pursuits of pleasure and material abundance (πλούτου) to thistles that came forth and choked a sower’s seed. These thistles exploited the fertility of the good soil, a possible metaphor for a person who was basically fit to enter the kingdom of heaven, but declined to do so.

When perusing the Synoptic Gospels, most readers proceed unaware that two tracks inhere in Jesus’ teachings. No effort is made, therefore, to keep them in focus simultaneously. This lack of awareness can be attributed, in large part, to the activity of first-century scribes and, in subsequent centuries, to preachers and commentators. The earlier group edited the Synoptic Gospels; the latter broadcasted influential interpretations based upon them. Nevertheless, I am not the first modern expositor to recognize the advantage of adopting this approach for interpreting Jesus’ words.

Professor Krister Stendahl, former dean at Harvard University’s Divinity School, once wrote an essay in which he tried to make sense of the Sermon on the Mount, in particular its most vexing verses. Leading up to the essay’s conclusion, Stendahl noted the closeness between his solution, which he called messianic license, and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

There is much wisdom in the Roman Catholic distinction between the commandments for the majority and the counsels for those in orders, since the messianic license should not be transformed into a command for everyone. It may well be that such a distinction in itself is a valid one, and that without it the Sermon on the Mount and many other words of the NT lose their serious specificity and become hopelessly watered down to general principles or maxims, which are seldom taken seriously. We may fall into a dishonest romanticism, in which we read and sing about the costly discipleship, but little happens, and the structures of the world quench the Spirit. It may well be that what was wrong with the distinction between “commandments” and “counsels”—the latter understood as messianic license—was not the distinction itself, but the way in which it became institutionalized and identified with the ecclesiastical structures of the Roman tradition.[5]

This distinction between commandments and counsels strikes me as foundational to the interpretive task. I would recommend, however, substitutions in Stendahl’s vocabulary. Those following the commandments are candidates for eternal life, whereas adherents to counsels resemble those who have entered the kingdom of heaven, an achievement that requires more and that cannot be institutionalized. Unfortunately for us, Stendahl did not elaborate upon his insight.

In our renewed conversation, I tried to remove our vantage point to elevated ground, beyond the thicket. The uneven data in the Synoptic Gospels makes the shift in perspective necessary. In some passages, the kingdom of heaven is tied to the present (Luke 11:20). In others, it is eschatological in character (Luke 19:11). In Matthew 18:9 and Mark 9:47, essentially identical verses recorded by two different Synoptic writers, life (eternal) stands in parallel to the kingdom of heaven (God), giving the impression that the phrases are synonymous![6] Within this wild textual environment, irregularities buffalo layman and scholar alike. In the face of these challenges, I recommend stepping back from the data in order to obtain a commanding perspective, one that is conceptually coherent and interdisciplinary, as well as synchronic and diachronic. The results may allow us to locate a useful foothold for surmounting an old interpretive impasse.[7]

*This essay is dedicated as an expression of gratitude to Professor Joseph Faulds of Northeastern State University. I profited much from his courage, curiosity and friendship.

  • [1] Brad H. Young, Jesus and His Jewish Parables: Rediscovering the Roots of Jesus’ Teaching (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 189-99.
  • [2] The phrase “modes of the same Christian life” was intended to echo the passage that Charles Janeway Stillé wrote. To articulate the essence of the idea in language derived from the Synoptic Tradition (Matthew, Mark and Luke), I would describe these two groups of achievers, those who will inherit eternal life and those who have entered the kingdom of heaven, as constituting the same edah (עדה). Robert L. Lindsey, former pastor of the Narkis Street Congregation in Jerusalem, Israel, and Bible translator, suggested that the biblical Hebrew word edah, which refers to a group or body of witnesses, may lie beneath the Greek word ecclesia (ἐκκλησία) in Matthew 16:18. I concur in the main thrust of Lindsey’s conjecture, but disagree—cordially and respectfully—with one of his points.

    In a chapter dealing with Peter’s famous declaration of Jesus’ identity as God’s messiah (Luke 9:20), Lindsey wrote, “Here he [Jesus] appears to equate the Kingdom of Heaven with his Edah” (Robert L. Lindsey, Jesus, Rabbi and Lord: A Lifetime’s Search for the Meaning of Jesus’ Words, 138.) I would offer one caution: when the kingdom of heaven connotes a community, collectively, those who have entered the sphere of God’s reign, it constitutes part of Jesus’ edah. The other part comprises those who have embraced Jesus’ messianic claims and, because of a lifestyle in harmony with the Ten Commandments, stand as fine candidates for inheriting eternal life. What unites both groups as one witnessing body is a shared redemptive experience and a common testimony of lordship.

    This edah is aligned with God’s will. It is a community of facilitators who, among other things, promote the expansion of God’s reign by supporting and nurturing the service of those who have entered the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven, therefore, characterizes Jesus’ edah. It can be spoken of as both being part of his edah and suffusing it; however, I would refrain from linking the two with an equal sign. Consider congregations, such as the one in Corinth, that the Apostle Paul addressed in his letters. They probably were early examples of edot (plural of edah), but should we describe them as synonymous with the kingdom of heaven?

  • [3] Charles J. Stillé, Studies in Medieval History (3rd ed.; Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1906), 334. Italics mine.
  • [4] For a general introduction to hasidut, see Shmuel Safrai, “Teaching of Pietists in Mishnaic Literature,” Journal of Jewish Studies 16 (1965): 15-33. For a study centering on Jesus and his relationship to hasidut, see Shmuel Safrai, “ישו והתנועה החסידית” Proceedings of the World Union of Jewish Studies, div. B, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1990), 1-7. In the latter article, written in modern Hebrew, Safrai noted that this stream of hasidut began in the first century B.C.E. and faded from rabbinic Judaism in the beginning of the third century C.E.
  • [5] Krister Stendahl, Meanings: The Bible as Document and as Guide (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 95.
  • [6] Compare Matthew 5:29, 30; 18:8, 9 and Mark 9:43, 45 with the verses cited above. These verses (and others) motivated me to use the adjective “wild.” Here I will add that an accurate understanding of the kingdom of heaven is not only important for interpreting the Synoptic Tradition, but the Acts of the Apostles, too. The fifth book of the New Testament opens with (Acts 1:3) Jesus speaking about the kingdom of heaven (God) and closes with (Acts 28:31) Paul preaching it.
  • [7] One of David Flusser’s strengths as a scholar was his ability to traverse a morass of details. He strove to reconstruct the larger picture. For example, he gave a very helpful comparison and contrast of Jesus’ approach to discipleship with the social ideology and practice of the Essenes. His conclusions are relevant for this essay (see David Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1988), 165-67.

Elijah Prays About Rain

Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. (James 5:17-18)[1]

Elijah: An Unlikely Example

Toward the end of his Epistle, James exhorts his readers to pray with faith for the healing of the sick. When we read that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), we might have expected James to cite the example of Abraham.[2] Genesis 20:17 might have served as the perfect prooftext: “Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech.” Citing Abraham as an example to prove that the prayer of faith offered by a righteous man is powerful would seem the obvious choice given the combination of faith and righteousness exhibited by Abraham (Gen. 15:6).[3] The example of Elijah that was provided by James, however, seems less obvious and more difficult. Less obvious because the example of Elijah does not fit James’ case very neatly—What, after all, do prayers about rain have to do with prayers for healing?—and more difficult, because what James relates about Elijah—that he actually prayed that the rains would cease, that the drought lasted for three and a half years, and that finally he prayed that the rains would return—is not actually reported in the Hebrew Bible. Clearly there is something strange about the example of Elijah that is offered by James. In this article we will examine James’ treatment of Elijah in the light of ancient Jewish sources and attempt to understand what lies behind the surprising claims that James makes about the famous prophet.

A Man of Prayer

The most shocking element with regard to James’ treatment of Elijah surely must be the assertion that Elijah prayed about rain. According to 1 Kings 17:1, Elijah swore an oath before King Ahab that there would be a drought in the land: “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word,” but we do not learn that any prayer was uttered by the prophet. Similarly in 1 Kings 18:41, after the contest with the priests of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel, Elijah merely announced to Ahab that the rains would return, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” We do not read that the rains returned as a result of Elijah’s prayer. Thus while Scripture clearly indicates that it was Elijah who was responsible for the drought and, after three years, its cessation, in neither case does Scripture say that Elijah’s power over rain was in any way connected with prayer. Nevertheless, there are prayers that Scripture does attribute to Elijah. 1 Kings 17 reports how Elijah prayed on behalf of a widow’s dead son, and how, in response to his prayer, the child was restored to life. Elijah’s prayers are answered again in 1 Kings 18, when fire descends from heaven and consumes the offering on Mt. Carmel. Furthermore, it should be noted that from an early period there seems to be evidence that in Jewish tradition the number and importance of Elijah’s prayers was expanded. Already in the Wisdom of Ben Sira we read the following:

The prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch. He brought a famine upon them, and by his zeal he made them few in number. By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens, and also three times brought down fire. How glorious you were, O Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! And who has the right to boast which you have? You who raised a corpse from death and from Hades, by the word of the Most High. (Sir. 48:1-5)

Although Ben Sira does not say that Elijah’s extraordinary deeds were accomplished by prayer, of those deeds that were accomplished by the “word of the Lord,” the raising of the widow’s son and the fire on Mt. Carmel certainly did involve prayer. Did Ben Sira understand that the shutting of the heavens and the calling of fire down upon King Ahaziah’s soldiers involved prayer as well? While it is impossible to say with certainty, it seems that Ben Sira believed that all of Elijah’s miraculous feats were accomplished via the same means, and we do know that later traditions attributed these miraculous deeds to prayer.

It is, perhaps, easiest to understand how Jewish tradition might attribute Elijah’s summons of fire to the power of prayer. The first time this miracle was accomplished by the prophet, Scripture records the words of Elijah’s prayer (1 Kgs. 18:36-37). When 2 Kings 1 reports how Elijah twice called down fire on King Ahaziah’s men, Jewish readers might naturally have assumed that Elijah accomplished these miracles too only by prayer, even though the biblical text does not explicitly say so. And indeed, in Josephus’ retelling of 2 Kings, he is careful to mention the role of prayer in the confrontation:

And, when the officer who had been sent found Elijah sitting on the top of a hill, he ordered him to come down and go to the king, saying that he had so ordered, and, if he refused, he would force him to go against his will. But Elijah said to him that to prove whether he was a true prophet he would pray for fire to fall from heaven and destroy both his soldiers and himself; and when he prayed, a whirlwind of fire came down and consumed both the officer and those with him. When the destruction of these men was reported to the king, he became very angry and sent against Elijah another officer with the same number of soldiers as he had sent with the first one. And when this one also threatened the prophet that he would seize him by force and take him away if he did not come down willingly, Elijah prayed against him, and a fire destroyed him as it had the officer before him. (Ant. 9.2.1 §23-24; italics mine)[4]

Elijah Prays For Rain

Elijah’s prayer for fire to descend on Mt. Carmel seems to have been important for the attribution of other prayers to Elijah as well. 1 Kings 18:37 records that as Elijah prayed for God to prove his supremacy over Ba‘al, the prophet pleaded, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that thou, O LORD, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back.” Believing that no word in the Bible is superfluous, ancient Jewish exegetes wondered why Elijah needed to repeat himself saying, “Answer me, O LORD, answer me,” when “Answer me,” would have sufficed. Targum Yonatan resolved this difficulty by rendering 1 Kings 18:37 as follows:

Receive my prayer, Lord, with the fire; receive my prayer, Lord, with rain; and may this people know by your doing for them the sign, that you, Lord, are God’…[5]

In this way the targum not only improved Elijah’s prayer by making explicit mention of the need for heavenly fire, but an exegetical basis for the tradition of Elijah’s prayer for rain was established.[6] Elijah’s prayer for rain is attested in other Jewish sources as well. The apocalyptic work 4 Ezra, which was written in the wake of the Temple’s destruction, includes Elijah in a list of the righteous (cf. v. 41[111]) whose prayers were answered. “Elijah,” we are told, “[prayed—JNT] for those who received the rain, and for the one who was dead, that he might live” (7:39 [109]). A tradition preserved in m. Ta’anit 2:4, also seems to suggest that Elijah prayed for rain when it says,

May he that answered Elijah in Carmel answer you and hearken to the voice of your crying this day. Blessed art thou, O Lord, that hearest prayer![7]

Elijah Prays for the Rains to Cease

Along with the early Jewish traditions of Elijah’s prayers for rain, we also find traditions that had Elijah pray for the rains to stop. We have already made reference to Ben Sira which includes the shutting up of the heavens among those deeds which were accomplished by the “word of the Lord.” These deeds were associated with prayer either in Scripture or in later traditions, and Ben Sira’s testimony indicates that from an early period Elijah’s miracles were all lumped into the same category, suggesting, perhaps, that they were all accomplished by similar means. But if we find only a hint from Ben Sira that Elijah prayed that the rains would cease, this claim is made explicit in talmudic literature. A rabbinic retelling of Elijah’s story tells us that after Elijah announced the drought to the king of Israel “he prayed, and the key of rain was given to him” (b. Sanhedrin 113a).[8] Similarly we find that in contexts where prayers for rain are discussed Elijah is often cited, giving the impression that the Rabbis believed that Elijah had prayed that the rains would cease.[9] What these sources tell us is that when James claimed that Elijah prayed about rain he was reading the Bible in the same way other Jewish interpreters were reading it. James belonged to a tradition that attributed the quality of prayerfulness to Elijah, emphasizing the prayers that are mentioned in Scripture, and finding prayers where they were not explicitly mentioned in Scripture. Coming from such a tradition it was only natural that James would cite Elijah when he sought for a biblical example of a praying saint whose prayers were powerful in their effects.[10]

What Sort of Man Was Elijah?

The Jerusalem Talmud preserves a tradition that seems to indicate some tension between the tradition that the shutting up of the heavens was accomplished by prayer and the more scriptural version that Elijah had authority of his own to cause the rains to cease:

It is written, “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.’” (1 Kings 17:1). R. Berekhiah said, “R. Yosé and rabbis: One said that he was listened to both as to dew and as to rain. The other said, ‘As to rain, he was listened to, but as to dew, he was not listened to.’” He who said, “As to rain he was listened to, and as to dew, he was not listened to,” derives support from the following verse: